What A Relief
I won’t lie—I’m pretty happy with the thoughtfulness of the responses to my article from last week. Article comments are a lot like the comments on a given Magic stream: the more viewers there are, the higher the density of dumb comments becomes. However, you guys all pleasantly surprised me with your level of discourse. So pat yourselves on the back! You are all miracles!
Three weeks ago, I shared with you a spreadsheet of my activity on Magic Online. I’ve been able to add to it a little bit.
Hoo boy, that’s a lot of losing. Let’s sneak a peek into what that sample really represents.
Sweet Jesus, that’s awful. I should be locked up. My total win percentage rests at 54.24%, but even that’s down ~4% from three weeks ago. Yup, it’s been lots of Maalox moments in a row for me. A round one exit of a Shadowmoor-Shadowmoor-Eventide draft, getting swept by Nate Holt in Momir Basic and subsequently being reminded “still undefeated against you jon” before he logs off—a series of events like this will certainly do their best to break your spirit and destroy what little bit of your self-respect that survived never getting asked to a Sadie Hawkins dance in high school.
But I’m not one to dwell on the bad stuff. As always, it’s about transparency, not making you think I’m awesome. You already know that I’m quite mediocre.
This recent run was not without its upsides, though. If you’re into Cube drafting at all, check out this 3-0 deck I drafted:
As intimidating as it can seem to a newcomer, Cube is honestly just like any other Limited format. As long as you know the archetypes, you can always identify and subsequently exploit the idiosyncrasies of any given draft. It’s just that in Cube, the archetypes are generally really broken with obscure interactions. This usually means drafting the deck that’s wide open. In the case of the deck above, no one else seemed to want any part of was the green ramp deck. [card]Nature’s Lore[/card]s and [card]Cultivate[/card]s lapped the table in plentiful numbers, to my unchecked delight. There are plenty of different directions I could’ve gone with this build—[card]Tooth and Nail[/card] should almost certainly be maindeck—but I was comfortable with the deck. I was even able to board “down” in some matchups by lowering my curve and bringing in a second game-ending equipment, the [card]Behemoth Sledge[/card]. The whole tournament, including the draft, can be found here.
The non-[card]Angel of Serenity[/card] MVP actually was [card]Great Sable Stag[/card], as I ended up fighting two U/x decks en route to a finals matchup against a mono-black deck sporting [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card], [card]Aether Vial[/card], [card]Kokusho, the Evening Star[/card], and [card]Phyrexian Obliterator[/card]. The deciding play of the third game of the finals was a [card]Tooth and Nail[/card], unentwined, putting a [card]Fauna Shaman[/card] and a [card]Woodfall Primus[/card] (killing [card]Recurring Nightmare[/card]!) into play from my hand. It felt great, I deserved it, etc.
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“Armatage Shanks,” by Green Day. When Gadiel Szleifer and I were 15 and he was winning a Pro Tour (he is about one PT Top 8 short of a HoF career, no one realizes this), I was staying at my uncle’s house in Maine while he prepared to open a bakery. One day, he and his wife left for the day to run some errands, so I grabbed the keys to her ’99 Volkswagen Jetta, put Green Day’s Insomniac into the CD player, and took it out for a spin, whereupon I almost got hit by a car. It was the first time I’d ever driven a car by myself. This song was playing. It was weird. But the freedom was intoxicating. HALFTIME OVER.
Maybe This Is Right
I haven’t gotten a chance to watch any of the coverage from SCG’s Team Limited tournament from last Sunday, but here are my thoughts on Team RTR Block Sealed, which is the Day One format of GP Providence, which I’d better see you at (I’ll be the fat one giving out all the hugs, hugs are the currency with which I convince people to let me borrow cards). These are all idealized situations, and don’t necessarily apply if your pool is either really, really good or completely miserable. Here we go:
• You have to split up white. White is the best color, and comprises half of the two best guilds (Selesnya and Orzhov). Since the color is so deep in all three sets, you will be invariably forced to split the color across two decks. Because it’s so deep, it’ll be easy to split, at least.
• None of the decks should be G/W/B. As I mentioned before, the two best guilds are Selesnya and Orzhov. I feel like you’d rather split them up and make two good decks, as opposed to making one deck really top-heavy and subsequently relying on one of two mediocre decks to get you the actual match win. Orzhov paired with Selesnya seems like overkill anyway, it will be rare for an Orzhov deck to need so much help closing out a game that you need to splash green. Esper and Naya seem like a natural place for these two decks to end up.
• Your third deck will likely be on the aggressive side. It’ll probably be a Rakdos/Boros type of brew, depending on which of the two guilds the packs see fit to give you, with Jund being the ideal, as the aggressiveness of the Gruul cards—the bloodrushers in particular—compliments Rakdos pretty well without taking too many green cards you’d want in your Selesnya deck.
• I have no idea what to do in the draft portion. It’s true. Team drafting is a whole different animal, and if you’ve never done it, then you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. The amount of cards you simply cannot pass becomes way higher. Messing up your neighbor’s draft is more important. My advice to you is to bug Matt Sperling to write about it.
This Saturday, I will be at the Syracuse, NY PTQ. If you’re there, I encourage you to come and say hi; I will be the fat drunk one (in my defense, there is a bar next door) trying to steal chicken wings from the judging staff. However, it’s in my home turf, so I’m laying down some ground rules for you, if you do decide to come. I don’t think I’m asking too much with these.
• The player’s meeting is not a conversation. I have no idea what it is about a player’s meeting that tells a player, “hey, you know what? This would be a great time to workshop some of these hilarious Magic card jokes I’ve been working on!” but it’s a really unfortunate and common occurrence. Please, please don’t be this guy. It’s really not the time or the place. The head judge is only opening up the floor for questions as a formality. You are not Joel Hodgson, and the world is not your personal Manos: Hands of Fate for you to riff on. Be warned that if you do plan on cracking wise during the player’s meeting that I will boo you vociferously. Sure, you’ll pretend to not care in the moment, but we’ll both know how much the open vitriol crushes you. It’ll be our little secret.
• Please stop looking at my cards when I shuffle. I’ve been playing this game too long to not show all 60 cards every time I riffle shuffle, and yet, there they are, for you to look at. I’m just asking you to do me a solid here and not look. I’m gonna go on the honor system with this one.
• Just don’t cheat, all right? Speaking of the honor system—don’t cheat me, and I’ll try my damndest not to cheat you. Playing a known cheater is super-stressful and it makes me hate Magic, and I don’t want to hate Magic, because Magic is one of those rare games that rewards positive social behavior. All the players at the top of the game are not only socially aware, but empathetic, rational, and intelligent. I do not think this is a coincidence. Example: Jon Finkel v. Michael Jordan. Of all the accounts we have of him—most notably, his behavior between games four and five of his PT Top 8 semifinals appearance in Barcelona—we see a man that has mastered the game with apparent (note: not actual) ease, yet respects it enough to want to see it played out properly at all times.
On the other side of the coin, we have Michael Jordan, who, if this account is to be believed, is really just a full-blown sociopath, hell-bent on winning no matter what the cost, perfectly comfortable with any type of intimidation he can use to eke out an advantage on his opponent. He is right at home yelling at the top of his lungs as he drives to the basket in order to increase the odds of drawing the foul as well as emasculating whichever defender was unlucky enough to draw his number. This bullet point went on longer than I wanted it to but the point is that we should all be lucky enough to play a game where the best player in its history is Jon Finkel.
I’ll also be at the PTQ in Massachusetts on Sunday, but I’m not imposing any rules for that one. Maybe I’ll see you there.
See you next week.