What’s in a Name?

Abzan vs Junk     I had an interesting experience a little while ago.  I was on Facebook in a discussion about Magic, and happened to mention that I like playing “Junk” (BWG) decks.
     “Don’t you mean Abzan?” came the reply. “Or are you using the old word?”  The operative word here is “OLD.”  I unexpectedly felt myself getting a little peeved. Not because of the question, which I suppose is a valid one. But because of the separation it implies.
     “The old word.” Is Junk as a term “old”?
     With the Khans of Tarkir block, Wizards of the Coast has finally put a name to what we’ve, for years, been referring to as the “enemy color” wedges. We’ve had some rather haphazard names for these tri­color combinations.  Green/White/Black, for instance, for years has been called “Junk.” The name arose, or so the legend has it, because those colors lacked synergy, and the combination of cards in the decks ended up being…well… junky.
     Now, however, it’s been given a name – Abzan, after one of the clans of old Tarkir before the rearranged timeline – and a philosophy, that of outlasting opponents with counters and tokens.  Or take the combination of Red/Blue/White. It was, rather lovingly, referred to by some as American, Patriotism, British and French. Now, however, the combination is “Jeskai,” again after a Tarkir clan.
     This all started during the Shards of Alara block. At that time, the allied color combinations were given names like Esper, Grixis, and Naya – and, whether or not the decks adhere to the philosophies of those shards as denoted in the corresponding sets, those names have stuck for decks using those colors. Naya Zoo, for example, or Esper Control are typical deck archetypes that you’ll see in Modern.  The names have stuck less when it comes to two­color combinations, strangely.  Blue/Red is simply called Blue/Red, not Izzet; Black/White is not Orzhov – unless they are especially heavy on Ravnica flavor. Maybe because these two-­color combinations are so common, the “official” names haven’t stuck so well?
     Will the new Khans brandings of the enemy wedge colors stick for years in the future?  Only time will tell. Already “Abzan Midrange” is a popular strategy in Modern, so we’ll see.  But, in the meantime, I’m still calling G/B/W “Junk.”
     And nothing in the multiverse can stop me.

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