December 22, 2015

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The Grixmas Exchange

Good day again all! With the Christmas holidays fast encroaching on our time and occupations, why not look at the spirit of receiving instead of giving? Yes, a holiday that puts a new twist on the time honoured Secret Santa and turns it into a Secret. Nicol Bolas? This can’t end well, can it? Keep reading and find out!

The Origins of Grixmas’s Random Chatter section spawned this event in 2012, when Tim Proctor decided to host a gift exchange. To keep the costs down, it was decided that you’d be sending something with negligible value and that alters would be de mise. The worse these alters were, the better! You then were asked to submit a list of items you might want to receive, with the caveat that you were likely to never get anything of the sort, and more likely get something that entirely annoyed you. For the first Grixmas, the EDH Rules Committee joined in and decided to personalize a bunch of basic lands. The more readable signatures indicate that Scott Larabee, Gavin Duggan, Sheldon Menery and Toby Elliott were among the ones gracious enough to pitch in their time and signatures to a good 50 odd basic lands (most of them foil!) and send them to the 20+ participants in the exchange.

The process was rather time-consuming for Tim, since in addition to gathering everyone’s names, he also made some alters and collected donations in case some people signed up and didn’t send in order to just game the system. Sadly, this did indeed happen (the not receiving) to your humble scribe and a few others one year, which caused Tim to pass the task on to St. Nic Bolas, a mysterious evil figure who rebranded the event as the Grixmas Exchange. This time, precautions were taken so that no one would be out of the loop. You had to send by registered mail, give your info by a certain date and all users were encouraged to send St. Nic Bolas some random junk as a compensatory package in case anyone got Scrooged. This time around things went much smoother and a meme was born as well!

One lucky recipient got close to a hundred Storm Crows, some of them altered, along with the rest of his items, and this proved to be so hilariously over the top that it became a habit for people to tack in a few Storm Crows with the rest of the goodies they were sending. I obliged this year, adding in a few from Portal sets. The foil versions of this terrible card are worth upwards of $30, apparently, and while I’d like to think the Grixmas Exchange caused this paradigm shift in prices, I’m sure someone would be able to fill me in on any further Storm Crow memes or shenanigans.

Great, great, but what cool stuff have you sent (and received)?

Getting to it! But first, I need to diverge into a tale of a friendly mini-master that occurred years ago with my good friend Kenneth Gallagher. Ken is awesome, I love Ken. Ken loves broken cards probably more than any other MTG player I know, and that’s saying a lot since this game attracts a lot of power gamers and hardcore enthusiasts. One day Ken and I were hanging out at the now-defunct Pagan Playground on Rideau Street. Conveniently located above the McDonald’s, it afforded us a cool spot to game and do some LARPing (there was a regular Vampire: The Masquerade group that started their sessions there on Friday evenings) and to kill some time, we did some mini-mastering. For those unfamiliar with this format, each player takes a booster pack of his or her choice, adds two of each basic land type and shuffles the contents face down. The winner of the match (a single match or two out of three, depending on preference) could either win the entire contents of both boosters or take his or her pick of the rares and so on. I took a pack of Ice Age and Ken grabbed a pack of Alliances. “Haha, I thought, surely this pack of Ice Age will contain some removal in the form of a Dark Banishing, Swords to Plowshares or perhaps even, dare I hope, a flying creature?” But no, it was not to be the case. My best creature was a Shambling Strider, which is by no means anything to sneeze at, but it also lacks reach. So lo and behold, Ken plays a Carrier Pigeon. “Aha, I think. He’ll just deck himself out and that rare from Alliances shall be mine, all mine!” At this stage of the game my life total is perilously low from having taken early beats and he casts Misfortune. I could not choose to lose 4 life since that would have killed me, so I (reluctantly) put a +1/+1 counter on his Carrier Pigeon and hoped, prayed, implored for a removal spell or a flyer. None were coming and I died ingloriously to one of the worst flying creatures ever printed. I ripped up the pigeon on the spot (I know, so unlike me to get upset over a game and overreact...) while Ken laughed and laughed. To this day Ken taunts me by purchasing bulk pigeons and giving them to me see them ripped up. To make things worse, I picked up Paris 1919 the other month, a great book about post World War 1 worldstates, and the opening paragraphs talk of messages being transmitted via carrier pigeon. Yeah, I get it world, I’ll show you though!


In one of the Grixmas Exchanges, I humourously suggested that anything would be fine but I’d prefer a little this or that and by no means do I ever want to have any carrier pigeons in any form mailed to me. This, of course, proved fatal. I received the following (15 of them!) in the mail last year:

Oh, what a great great Grixmas this was...


Needless to say I was NOT IMPRESSED. But yes, we all had a good laugh and I still have a pile of altered pigeons lying around somewhere. In a weird karmic way, I got back what I gave as I got forum troll Joz as my giftee last year, and I sent him a bunch of Burnished Harts (one of his favourite cards) altered to look like Crystal Balls, his least favourite card of all time. So tit for tat I suppose. This year I got a bunch of cool staples for my Horobi deck, such as a much-needed Arabian Nights Cuombajj Witches, altered with Santa hats!

This year's haul, including a red-nosed Camel!


As to the packages I have sent? The first Grixmas saw me sending a foil Masticore and other assorted foils and mana enablers. This year I sent artist-signed Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Thraximundar, Diabolic Edict and a set of “Bands with other Legends” lands, because at least they will produce colourless with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth on the battlefield, if we’re to believe the discussions on the official Commander forums.

Fascinating, really...but where does that leave me exactly?

Well, hopefully in a fairly light-hearted state. Maybe your friends and you have your own exchanges. Who can supply the jankiest addition to a deck? Who has the spiffiest alters? Do you torture your friends by mailing instead of just walking up to them? Are there trick presents, the real ones to be given at a later date? The possibilities are endless and the casual gift giving aspect is already fairly entrenched here, so it’s a small step from there to adding an MTG or Commander touch to the whole event.

You could sign up on the forums simply for next year’s exchange as some have, but note that should I get you as a giftee, it will be sent by registered mail for more anticipation and fun!

Here’s hoping you get some rest and goodies over the holidays, and at the very least get to make some absurdly bomby plays in a game of Commander. Until then, may your local game store be out of stock of Carrier Pigeons.