What’s really in a name?

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About a year ago, Brian Kibler of Magic Hall of Fame fame, wrote an article entitled “What’s in a name?” on his blog BMK gaming. I wholeheartedly recommend that blog to everyone, by the way, Kibler is an excellent writer and has great insight in both Magic and game design in general. In his article, Kibler argues that deck names matter. He lists a whole bunch of Magic decks, almost all of them Legacy, and asks the reader to identify the main proponents of each deck. He also sneaks in a bunch of nonsense names and finishes the list by listing different flavours of breakfast cereal. The humour, in no way lost on me, drives home Kibler’s point – to him, deck names like “RUG Delver” are better because they are more informative than “Canadian Threshold”.

namelessone.hqI agree with Kibler to a certain extent. To some newer players, deck names like “Tin Fins”, “Maverick”, “Team America” or “Death and Taxes” are at best nonsensical or uninformative, and at worst directly misleading. This is not a good thing, but this isn’t the only way to approach the subject. There are plenty of players of the format that would easily understand these deck names, and would gather a lot of information from just the name. For example “GB Midrange” could be most any deck that has a midrange strategy and happens to be green and black, while “Nic Fit” specifically is a deck that uses Veteran Explorer through Cabal Therapy to overwhelm the opponent with huge spells.

Moreover, the StarCityGames policy of using the wedge names from Khans of Tarkir actually goes against Kibler’s idea of clarity. “Jeskai Miracles” is certainly a perfectly fine name for Patriot, as long as you have involved yourself enough with Khans of Tarkir to understand “Jeskai”. To a new player, maybe “UWr Miracles” is a better name.

Imagine for a moment, that you’re at a local Legacy event. You’ve been eliminated from the T8 through some bad luck, but you decide to stick around and root for your friend who’s playing in the semifinals. A rookie player approaches the table and asks you, one of the spectators, “What’s he playing?” referring to your friend. You answer “Team America”.

Imagine you instead answered “Sultai Delver”.

Which of these answers is more likely to prompt a “Oh, what’s that?”, leading to you informing the newer player what the deck’s components are. In fact “Sultai Delver” is quite misleading, what if the player doesn’t know the Khans wedges by heart? Further, Delver of Secrets is arguably the worst card in the deck – some are even experimenting with cutting it entirely for a more midrange approach.

Imagine also that the newer player picks up his phone and googles “BUG Delver”. On the first page of hits, there are eight related hits, eight hits that would lead the player to a page of either a tournament report with a player playing Team America, or a deck list that could be called “Team America” in a pinch. However, he also finds a couple of Modern decks. The same is true if you google “RUG Delver”. If he had googled “Canadian Threshold”, however, he’d find only Legacy decklists or articles relating to the same. Googleing “Team America” is of no use in this case, as he’d find only a particularly hilarious film by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, but googling “Team America Magic” nets all the proper results.

My point is that “BUG Delver” or “Sultai Delver” are names of archetypes that could exist within several formats, Legacy, Vintage, Modern, Pauper, you name it. “Team America” is a specific deck that has a rich history in the format, and the name itself is an interesting story about the deck’s origins. I say keep calling the decks what the community has decided to call them, whatever that may be. I think even new players will be tickled by the trivia knowledge hidden within deck names like “Solidarity”, “Team America”, or “TES”

What do you think of the naming convention applied by StarCityGames these days? What do you think of the names mentioned in the post? Leave a comment!

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3 Comments

  1. psykopatmullvad

     /  October 10, 2014

    I want to say that i do not like the new Khans-inspired names myself. I don’t really like the name the decks had before (like Team America and Death and Taxes) either. Both are to me (even tho i know what they are) uninformative. In my dreamworld all decks are named after the colors in them, like UWr Miracles, that name works fine. And Goblins, Merfolks and Elves. Tribaldecks are easy to name 😀

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    • I don’t think you read my entire post. What if someone built a specific build of say, Goblins, WBR, characterized by a card suite specific enough to differentiate it from regular Goblins. This person calls it “Hot Soup”, and as long as you are familiar with this specific build, you will know exactly what someone means when they say “Hot Soup”.

      Wouldn’t that make “Hot Soup” a good name? Better than just “WBR Goblins” that could, in theory, be any kind of mardu-coloured Goblins.

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  2. Grim Lavamancer

     /  October 13, 2014

    I agree. The more specific names the better. It serves as an instant recognition factor when you talk about the deck without having to go in too deep about the specifics.

    Oh, and a proper deck name should not only be recognisable, it should also have an intimidating factor to it. R/G Stompy only gives you a vague idea of what the deck is going to contain and as such isn’t very frightening. Gruul Sternum Cruschers.deck on the other hand, well, I am personally quite attached to my Sternum and wouldn’t like to see a Gruul Ragebeast turn it into chunky salsa.

    B/U Control could mean a lot of things so not only would a name like “Doktor Proktor.dec” hint at it’s capabilities to surgically remove cards from your deck and hand, it would make you a bit more unwilling to face this master of probing at a tournament. And then, when you finally do? Your opponent greets you in broken English “Vell… Let us, how do you say ze vörd? …Play? A game of magic, ja?” then he draws seven and breaks out into a shrill maniacal laughter. You know that this deck is going to hurt you more deeply than a mere B/U Control could ever do.

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