Skip to main content
Report this ad

See also:

My hundred favorite Magic cards, number 99: Squealing Devil

Must resist "Ex-Girlfriend in Bed" joke...
Must resist "Ex-Girlfriend in Bed" joke...

Last time, I invited you to come on the long, strange trip I'm beginning with regard to my Magic memories as I talked at length about a certain story-critical rare artifact from Apocalypse. As I said to introduce myself:

I love Magic, of course - that's the major reason why I've written about it for as long as I have - and probably most of my readers do too. There are a lot of reasons to love this game, and everyone has their own, but Magic is principally dependent on its cards, so a fondness for individual cards in fact underpins most of our feelings. I have been playing Magic a long time, and, well, I've seen a lot of cards come and go. This means I have a lot of favorites. So I've decided to recount my one hundred favorite Magic cards of all time, tell the stories behind them as best as I can, and hopefully articulate some kind of greater lesson about each of them.

There is no one reason to love or hate a Magic card - there's the flavor, the elegance of the design or its power, the uniqueness of it, how impressive and awe-inspiring it is, or entirely different and personal ones. As nobody fits any of the player psychographic profiles perfectly well, I'll probably talk like a Timmy, Johnny, Spike, Melvin, and Vorthos at different times and in different combinations about these cards.

By contrast, the next card in my top-hundred list is not a memorable flavor-driven card like Legacy Weapon. It's an obscure Limited-fodder uncommon that happens to be from a set that holds a lot of good memories for me and that employs many of my favorite design tools of all time. That card is Squealing Devil, and it pushes a ton of my Melvin buttons.

You see, as a longtime custom card designer and as a game design nerd, I appreciate offbeat cards a lot. They may not be particularly powerful or otherwise noteworthy but they're blazing their own trail and doing things in a way nothing else does them, and creativity for its own sake (or any of the other things that make a Magic card offbeat - deliberately being an old-school throwback, enabling an odd strategy...) is a noble goal, in my opinion. So what makes Squealing Devil so strange and so cool?

One, it's part of a huge, huge cycle (freaking twenty cards!) called the "enhanced spells" from the original Ravnica block. These were a kicker variant that opened up a lot of design space because they cared about how you cast them. If the colorless mana cost was paid with in part with at least one off-color mana, you got an extra effect, related to the off color. This was a new approach to multicolor and a signal of a bolder era of design. It made me swoon a little thinking of the possibilities, and I designed plenty of my own goofy takeoffs on it (including a whole creature type called Reagents that effectively made all your spells of a certain color enhanced).

Ravnica's guilds had the obvious instants and sorceries, Guildpact's had creatures that got an off-color enters the battlefield triggered ability (or "comes into play" as it was templated then). Dissension's enhanced spells took it a step further, as they were creatures with an on-color enters the battlefield triggered ability and another off-color ability that you only got to keep around if you paid the right mana.

Squealing Devil was the most out-there of them all. It was the second Devil creature, ever. Before Innistrad block used them as small red creatures to replace Goblins, there was only Stone-Throwing Devils, which was so old it almost didn't count. There was my box for one-off or nearly-one-off creature types checked. Then there was the mystique of having a technically monored creature with fear, which was entirely unheard of. And the enters the battlefield ability being effectively an X-spell, using that beautifully awkward templating because of stack-to-battlefield memory issues? It was a lot of bizarre and even ugly things coming together to make a card. Not a game-changing card, but one that was fun to read and think about and have on the board in a Limited match.

So most of the psychographics don't "get" it and it makes elegance-oriented Melvins cringe. It deeply appeals to one person - me - and therefore is a successful design. The takeaway here? Chase after designs that make someone love them, or, better yet, that turn players into those that are capable of loving those designs.

Report this ad