snake nerd

Can we talk for a second about Prowling Serpopard and how one key omission in its design has ignited a war between the Vorthos and Mel sides of my brain? 

It doesn’t have deathtouch. 

“So what?” you say. “Green only gets deathtouch at secondary, and there’s nothing about the design of this card that makes it lean towards having deathtouch. It doesn’t synergize with the other rules text, and with a power of 4, it doesn’t really need it. It would just clutter card space.” 

And yes, that’s all 100% true! But then I look at the art and… 

And here’s the thing. You see those stripes? In a discussion on snake identification, the specific order those colors appear in is significant. 

These two snakes are the harmless King Snake and the highly venomous Coral Snake. When looking at them side by side, the difference between them is fairly obvious, but they’re rarely seen side by side. And in the wild, if you see a snake with red, black, and yellow stripes, you probably won’t want to reach for a field guide to figure out what it is. (Admittedly, the best advice for either snake is to just leave it the heck alone, but that’s beside the point.) 

So these two snakes have given rise to a whole host of cutesy rhymes and mnemonic devices over the years to remember which is which. Like this one for example: 

So why does this matter? Because as a former Boy Scout, I had this information pounded into my head on a regular basis. (Never mind the fact that neither of these species is native to where I live, but again, that’s beside the point.) 

So when Prowling Serpopard was released, as soon as I realized it was a cat SNAKE, the first thing I did was look at the order of its stripe colors. And sure enough, it’s got red on yellow. DANGER!! 

So then I expect to see it has deathtouch or some other mechanical representation of its famed venom and lethality, but it doesn’t. 

And then my rational side kicks in and is like, “Yeah, of course it doesn’t have deathtouch. Look at the card. That wouldn’t make any sense, Dave.” And then I’m like, “Shut up rational side of my brain! Look at the stripes!! DANGER!!” 

And now we’re right back where we started. 

What is the point of all this? 

…I dunno. It’s just been buzzing around my brain since yesterday when I saw the card. So I figured I’d share. 

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This is an AMAZING example of how hognose snakes defend themselves! They are totally harmless to humans, but they have several defensive tactics that have earned them a lot of nicknames. They will suck in a bunch of air to inflate themselves and hiss loudly (“Puff Adder”, which is an actual snake species in Africa, and venomous, unlike this guy), then they will start to flatten their head (“Spreadhead”), even more than a cobra. Really, the more scared they are, the flatter their head gets, to the point where it looks absurd. I call the final stage of head-flattening “Maximum Pancake”. Then, finally, they strike… with their mouth shut. So, if the hissing, puffing, ‘Maximum Pancake’, and headbutting hasn’t scared you away, THIS is their last resort…

Just more proof… they are far more scared of you than you are of them!