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The letter I!'ve been trying to think of ways, beyond reader mail, that you all can participate in a Serious Fun column. Something, you know, fun. After all, it's tax day here in America, which isn't much fun for many people, even if you're getting a refund.

Mirage

Quick tax story in celebration of the "holiday": A while ago, my past work at The Dojo (the granddaddy of all Magic websites) came back to haunt me. Somebody at the IRS misread the 1099 form that The Dojo's parent company USA Networks sent off and put me down as earning $60,000 one year instead of $600.00. So I got a tax bill for $30,000 plus interest and all the penalties for not telling the federal government of my amazing windfall for that year. So I cut a deal with the federal agent for my case, who was very pleasant -- if she could get me that $60,000 from USA Networks, I would be happy to cut her in for $30,000. Heck, I would have given her $40,000! Anyway, the truth came out, and no one wants to seize my assets anymore. But don't tell Aaron that I didn't make $60K in my first Magic writing job – I've got him up to a Friends-esque $1,000 per weekly article, and he thinks I'm being generous in taking an $8,000 pay cut. Thanks. (He's kidding. I "pay" him using Fallen Empires packs. He should almost have a full set by now! –Aaron)

Anyway, yesterday afternoon, while I was watching my children chase the dog around the backyard, it hit me: During Mirage week, I should have you all chasing something and doing stuff. You know, searching for an oasis, or something similarly appropriate to the set's flavor.

That would be fun, right? Sure it would. Keep reading.

THE RULES OF THE GAME

Here's how it will work. I will be intently reading the message board for this column this week. (We will be extra-certain that the link below sends you to the right topic. Promise!) I mean, I always read it, but this time I'll be really, really reading it. I kind of want a ten-page message board, this time around. (No particular reason, ten's just a nice round number.) If you haven't been, you can read the message boards easily -- and it's also very easy to sign up and post, if you have the inclination.

Well, to do this game, you'll have to have the inclination. Below you will find Alongi Fun Facts™ about fifteen lesser-known Mirage cards. (Statement is not a guarantee that you will find Alongi Fun Facts to be, in fact, fun. But I do guarantee each is accurate and based on Oracle rulings.) After each Alongi Fun Fact, there is an assignment. Complete any or all assignments by posting on the message boards, and show off your creativity. I'll be looking over the boards for the most original completion of each assignment.

You don't have to chase after every assignment. Just the ones you want. One post per item is probably a good idea.

I don't believe the message threads live very long -- about a week. So we'd better set a deadline of next Monday, April 21, to post any response to any assignment. My last read of the message board will be that evening, and I'll make my choices then, revealing them as bonus features at the end of one or more future columns.

Assignments are not to be emailed to me. If you email me an assignment, I will take my sweet time (sometime after I finish Multi-Lab emails) and then I'll let you know sometime during calendar year 2005 that you forgot to follow directions. If you have questions (for example, "What's Type 1 legal?"), post them to the message board and either I or someone else will answer you.

Do I really need to come up with more rules? Just behave, and click on the link to the message boards below when you're ready.

Oh, wait, one more rule: Anyone with a signature longer than his or her actual post (and/or Milton's Paradise Lost) will receive a thorough mocking.

THE GAME BEGINS



Card #1: Asmira, Holy Avenger. A lovely complement to Caller of the Claw, which also takes advantage of mass removal.

Alongi Fun Fact: The creatures can be destroyed before you play Asmira, and you still get the bonus. This works like Khabal Ghoul.

Assignment:We'll start with an easy one. Give me five Type 1 - legal creature cards with synergy in an Asmira deck (bonus points for synergy with Caller of the Claw).

You may assume that mana cost is no object, though I reserve the right to be impressed if you keep all the cards at a lower converted mana cost than Asmira herself, in a sensible color scheme, and at a high quality.



Card #2: Bazaar of Wonders. One of the last Enchant World cards printed, this card always makes players say, "What does that do again?" and turn it around so they can read it.

Alongi Fun Fact: If a spell is on the stack, it is not in play or in a graveyard.

Assignment: Design a one-night casual format in which you can reap spectacular results with this card. Pretend you're suggesting the format to your friends, and try not to be so obvious that the other players in your group realize what you're up to.

You don't have to submit a deck for this; the format itself should make it clear what sorts of decks you have in mind.



Card #3: Bone Harvest. Okay, I've waxed fanatic about this card in the past.

Alongi Fun Fact: You don't have to show the order of the cards, just the cards themselves.

Assignment: You're in a five-player chaos game using Type 1 - legal decks. Everybody is at 5 life, controls two of each basic land and two 3/3 Kobold tokens and no other permanents, and has and empty hand. You are the only player with a graveyard, everyone else has six cards left in his or her library, and you have four fewer cards in your library than anyone else. The creatures in your graveyard are Wall of Blossoms, Xira Arien, Limestone Golem, and Lord of Tresserhorn. How many of the four do you put back on top of your library, in what order, and why?

Don't assume I have one specific answer in mind.

Bonus Assignment: How did everyone get those 3/3 Kobold tokens?



Card #4: Celestial Dawn. When everything just absolutely must be white.

Alongi Fun Fact: You know, for this one, you're on your own.

Assignment: Pretend you're the guy in R&D who thought up this card. In twenty words or less, justify it. If you think it will help, feel free to make use of Ersatz Gnomes, another Mirage card, in your explanation, Go ahead. Take your time.

Bonus Assignment: Now pretend you're the guy in R&D who thought up False Dawn. In ten words or less, justify that. Note how you can't use the "I didn't know!" defense this time around . . .

(Note: Keep it clean. Show us you can be both witty and mature.)



Card #5: Dream Fighter. One of the most elegant "don't bother attacking me" blockers.

Alongi Fun Fact: If Dream Fighter blocks in a situation where it looks to die right away to an ability that triggers on blocking (such as flanking), the active player's ability goes on the stack first, then the phasing -- so both creatures phase out before Dream Fighter can die.

Assignment: Dream Fighter is a blue Soldier. Can you build a Type 1 - legal nonwhite Soldier deck? What four or five key creatures would you start with? You don't have to build the whole deck, just give us the start of one.



Card #6: Flash. In essence, convert a 1 Mana to a Blue Mana in a creature's mana cost, and you can play it at instant speed!

Alongi Fun Fact: You are allowed to play creatures, such as Simian Grunts, with Flash that you normally could at instant speed. (In this case, you'd end up paying 1 ManaBlue ManaGreen Mana.) I have no idea why you would want to do this. I just wanted to sound the "all clear!" for those of you who might want to.

Assignment: Post your top three Creatures I Would Like to Play at Instant Speed list. Any Magic card ever printed will do.



Card #7: Forbidden Crypt. Use your graveyard as your library! Use the removed-from-game zone as your graveyard! Ignore your library completely!

Alongi Fun Fact: Cards never get to go to your graveyard this way -- it's a replacement effect, which Rune can tell you more about some Saturday when he's not eluding his college sorority fans. (Look at his picture! How can he not have sorority fans? He's so dreamy!)

Assignment: Using any Type 1 - legal card, generate a combo using exactly seven cards that takes advantage of the replacement effect -- the fact that a card doesn't ever hit the graveyard, and/or that it is removed from game. No superfluous pieces -- the combo must be a real seven-card chain!



Card #8: Jungle Patrol. Make Wood Wall creatures. Burn them.

Alongi Fun Fact: I haven't looked this up officially, but I don't think there are many other Magic cards that are or refer to a double-type creature for which Wall is one of them. (Set Mistform Ultimus aside, as we'll always have to do in examples like this.) Maybe there's an Illusion Wall or something like that out there from the Onslaught set, but I mean something cool, like Wood Wall, Goblin Wall, or Griffin Wall. And why not a Wall of Griffins?

Editor's Fun Fact: There are, in fact, four Magic cards that can create Wall tokens that have a second creature type -- and three of those cards are in the Mirage set! Basalt Golem makes Stone Wall tokens, and Tidal Wave makes a Wave Wall token. You've already seen Jungle Patrol. The final member of this group is the Homelands favorite Wall of Kelp, which makes Kelp Wall tokens. Sadly, Wall of Kelp isn't itself a Kelp.

Assignment: Come up with at least eight uses in the Magic world for a Wood Wall. "The Magic world" can be either your imagination of what a game represents (for example, wizards battling each other on a mystical plane) or an actual card combo that doesn't involve Jungle Patrol -- just the Wood Wall token and any other Magic card(s).



Mist Dragon

Card #9: Mist Dragon. Give it flying. Take away flying. Repeat as many times as you like. When you get bored, pay some mana to phase it out.

Alongi Fun Fact: Don't forget that when you pick a number of times to give/take away flying, you cannot say "infinity." You must pick an actual, arbitrarily large, positive whole number. It probably can't be prime either, so 41 is out.

Assignment: Tell a true story about a time when you needed to either give flying to or take flying from a Mist Dragon you controlled within the same turn, at least three times. (That is, either the giving or the taking away had to happen at least twice.) Tell us the truth: Didn't you feel just a little bit silly?



Polymorph

Card #10: Polymorph. One of the most amusing creature removal cards ever. I really hope blue sees more stuff like this some day, but I suppose it feels out of flavor now.

Alongi Fun Fact: There are no Rabbit creature cards in tournament-legal Magic games. Zodiac Rabbit is a kick-ass forestwalker from the Portal Three Kingdoms set who'll make you wish you never thought of the color green. And it's common! What were they thinking? I mean, it's a common, green 1/1 for Green Mana with a special ability -- it must be great, right?

Assignment: Please help me come up with a way to remove Zodiac Rabbit! I mean, Steely Resolve naming "Rabbits" is just too darn good. All right, I'm just having fun. I know Wellwisher is a bit better. But Zodiac Rabbit . . . I mean, come on . . . it's got big teeth!



Purgatory

Card #11: Purgatory. An interesting variant on "graveyard" recursion, without the annoying graveyard.

Alongi Fun Fact: If an opponent takes control of this card and plays the upkeep ability, the creatures will come into play under your opponent's control even if you removed them.

Assignment: Come up with four Type 1 - legal cards printed before the Mirage set that would work well with this card. You may not use life gain.



Superior Numbers

Card #12: Superior Numbers. Why do green mages complain? They have creature removal.

Alongi Fun Fact: If the number of creatures either player controls changes before the spell resolves, the amount of damage changes, too.

Assignment: Build a deck around this card for any format, using any noncreature Magic cards ever printed. Hint: I'm leaving some obvious loopholes, and I'll be more impressed by those message board posts that go one or two steps further than the first thing we all think of.



Card #13: Tainted Specter. Universal weenie removal for your Specter theme deck.

Alongi Fun Fact: This card's ability does not involve an actual "discard." Also, I had no idea this card existed until I wrote this article. Thought I'd learned 'em all (or at least further back than Mirage!).

Assignment: Pick an argument: in a multiplayer game, it's better to target yourself with the ability, or it's better to target another player. Defend your position in twenty words or less.



Card #14: Teeka's Dragon: I don't really have an entry for this card. I just think it's funny how this now looks small next to Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Ditto Spirit of the Night. But I still love the oldies just fine.



Card #15: Zuberi, Golden Feather. Topper for the ubiquitous Griffin deck, which is more choked at the four-mana slot than just about any "tribal" deck I know.

Alongi Fun Fact: One anagram of "Zuberi" is "zubier," which is what something becomes when another something shows up that's just a bit less zuby. Four-mana Griffins are pretty darn zuby, so it's easy for one of them to be comparatively zubier when another creature shows up in a morose, unzubiesque funk.

Assignment: Design an efficient but reasonable two-mana Griffin, so that we can all finally build a decent Griffin deck out here in the wild. Your creature may have other creature types in addition to Griffin.



I will say it again: Don't send your assignments to my email address. Send anything else there that you like; but realize that this contest is taking place on the message boards.

Thanks for running around the oasis with me. To the message boards!



Anthony may be reached at seriousfun@wizards.com. But don't send him any mail.
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