An Open Letter to Sol Malka

It doesn’t take a genius to guess the best of the Tier Two Rogues will be drawn to playing B/G this year. That’s where you come in, Sol. Only you can help me. If you were to publicly declare B/G dead in Type Two, all of this could be avoided. These people will listen to you, Sol. You’re practically the pope of B/G. Every freakin’ B/G deck ends up being called The Rock. That’s kinda your fault, right? So, the way I see it, you’re responsible for the well being of anyone who chooses to play those colors. They are your flock, as it were. You must save them from themselves.

Okay, before I start, I just want to say up front that it was not my idea to write this letter. A friend put me up to this. Well, maybe he’s a friend. We’ll see if he keeps his position after I see the reaction to this thing. I said,”Hey, why don’t I just send him an email or something, Jack” and he said,”No, no, you’ll never get his attention that way” and I said,”Are you sure,” and he said,”I’m sure, dude, the open letter is the solid choice,” so here it is and I’m already forming run-on sentences in the first paragraph. Sorry about that.

Regionals is coming up in May. I sort of need your help with that. Not directly. I’m not asking for a decklist or anything like that. I need… well, it’s kind of a weird thing to ask. I’m probably wasting my time.

Bear with me. I’ll ease into my request. I just need to ramble a bit whilst I dredge up some courage.

Okay, Type Two. Darksteel. Deep breath, here we go.

Someone mentioned to me when the Darksteel spoiler was new that it was the”Johnny set.” I could see the point, but then again every new set gets a honeymoon period where everyone does nothing but make decks with the new cards just because they can.

The honeymoon is over. The excitement of discovery and exploration of Darksteel that awakened the inner Johnnies of many a deckbuilder has been replaced by the unforgiving evidence of testing, and the imperceptible sound of falling grains of sand in an hourglass marking the closing distance of time between the everchanging now and the date of Regionals. Everyone woke up this morning and wanted to be Spike. Well, almost everyone.

Since the romance has died, the forces of logic have roughly hewn the environment that will exist come May. There are still questions to be answered, tweaking to be done, and some shifts in the platform before all is set in stone, but there are certain realities everyone must face. Skullclamp has given life to weenies of various colors. Goblins, which didn’t need any help, now has it. Elves are now viable, even dangerous. Even White Weenie is looking decent. Obviously, this has affected the control decks, and new cards must be found to support the Big Five White Ass Kickers. Fortunately, that isn’t a problem. Lastly, Affinity has just gotten better, faster, stronger.

The point is that most everyone is getting serious about whom to take to the Big Spring Dance. While Myr Matrix and Darksteel Reactor seemed very doable companions in February, anyone found trying to break them come the Ides of March will be considered a fool. That’s time better spent figuring the optimum number of Mindslavers to include in the main, or figuring out if Twelvepost will work its wonders in Type Two. Having a cool deck is now secondary to having a deck that wins. Everyone agrees on this.

Okay, not everyone agrees. If everyone did, I wouldn’t be writing this letter. It’s the ones who won’t conform and choose the most popular archetypes that keep me awake at night. It’s The Rogues that bother me. I’ll explain.

Emotions run high in this game. In fact, they run high long before a major tournament begins. Unable to escape the fundamental constraints of human nature, Magic players will often make decisions based largely on emotion, even when those decisions fly in the face of conventional wisdom. Every year, a certain percentage of the field will be players who just couldn’t bring themselves to give the Lodestone Myr deck its walking papers. Otherwise all of the hours spent perfecting it since the last pre-release would have been spent in vain. This is the one of the most common images Magic players have of The Rogue: The player who would rather play an original deck than play one he could have netdecked. Granted, these folks exist, but they don’t scare me.

Of course, The Rogue is made up of far more elements than the above type. Everyone may have been a Johnny looking at the Darksteel spoiler, but some people are always Johnny. There are players that will bring a deck that cannot win more than a few matches, but those few matches are all the reward that is necessary. Whether it be a bizarre combo or some other interesting twist to the deck’s design, these Rogues will be at Regionals grinning like Cheshire cats. They are a different breed. They don’t scare me, either.

Either of the above Rogues will not be much of a concern after the first round or two. Even the Rogue type who is over-reacting to months of losing to one specific deck and has decided to bring its nemesis is of little consequence. No, there is only one type of Rogue that scares me.

I call him the Tier Two Rogue. I know him well, for I have often been him. The Tier Two Rogue is a player who has forsaken the commonly accepted best decks and opted for an archetype that has a proven track record. This isn’t a decision based purely on emotion. This player would not abandon the idea of playing Affinity (for example) without feeling like the deck he brings to the table in its place has a chance of winning. This guy scares the bejeezus out of me. He won’t take home the crown at the end of the day, but he may not be out of it until the last round or two. Hence, he is not as easily avoided as the other Rogues.

Now, here’s the thing. Weenie hordes relying on an artifact to draw threats and to refresh the hand. Sledgehammer control decks conspicuously short on card drawing with a powerful artifact or two in the main. A deck composed almost entirely of artifacts. It doesn’t take a genius to guess the best of the Tier Two Rogues will be drawn to playing B/G this year.

It isn’t as if the archetype is lacking a cult following, regardless of what the environment looks like. That’s annoying enough, but now it looks like the number of Oversold Cemeteries is going to be inflated by players looking for something”original,” but good. I don’t relish the thought of trying to play Affinity against somebody who can search out his Viridian Shaman or Viridian Zealot practically at will. [And draw two cards to boot. – Knut] I really don’t relish the thought of the four Naturalizes waiting in his board (or Oxidize, but I’m assuming he wants something for Slide). I also don’t like the thought of playing a weenie deck against Bane of the Living and Infest, and I won’t bother to mention Patriarch’s Bidding due to Withered Wretch. Also, I never want any of my W/x Control decks to face recurring hand disruption. In short, I don’t want to see Swamps and Forests paired up at Regionals. But I know I will, unless I can do something to stop it.

That’s where you come in, Sol. Only you can help me.

If you were to publicly declare B/G dead in Type Two, all of this could be avoided. These people will listen to you, Sol. You’re practically the pope of B/G. Every freakin’ B/G deck ends up being called The Rock. That’s kinda your fault, right? So, the way I see it, you’re responsible for the well being of anyone who chooses to play those colors. They are your flock, as it were. You must save them from themselves.

Remember, not everyone can play B/G as well as you. Not everyone has been laying down Swamps next to Forests since Clinton’s first term in office. You do it very, very well. But you’re Sol Malka. Most everyone else is not.

Wait, that didn’t make sense. Crap, I can’t even suck up right.

Back to my point. Yes, I have one.

The archetype is not an easy one to play. It is not very forgiving of mistakes. The B/G player is always one poor choice away from total disaster. Even assuming flawless play, B/G is not a deck that”just wins sometimes.” The slow, plodding, mid-range control card advantage game is an exhaustive task, and I’m just talking about one match. Regionals is more like ten matches (some places more, some places less, but it’s a long freakin’ day regardless).

I don’t mean to whip out the Eastern philosophies on ya, but thinking of the Tao of this deck, I don’t see it putting more than one or two people in Canadian and US Nats combined. Those one or two people will certainly have earned their slot, in my opinion. It’s all the others that are on my mind. The good players, better than most, that have the skills to put themselves in the top 8 of the Regional Championship tournament, but decided to play B/G and get hit by a Ravager Affinity deck that won’t be denied. I would feel bad for those people, knowing they probably could have gone all the way if they made a more conventional choice when selecting a deck.

Okay, that’s a lie. I wouldn’t feel bad for those people at all. I would feel bad for the Skullclamp packin’ Goblin player who just didn’t realize he needed to test the B/G matchup. And the Affinity player who didn’t realize that artifact hate and creature kill could live in one deck. And the W/x control player who didn’t realize Pulse of the Fields could be trumped by Ravenous Rats.

Okay, those are lies, too. The fact is, I feel it’s just a losing situation for everyone. All the top tier decks get hit with a tough matchup that has probably been undertested. Undoubtedly, that will take its toll on the records of that group. The Tier Two Rogues with the B/G decks get a long, long day of trying to grind out match wins in the face of adversity. Certainly, that will take its toll on that group. Looking at it from a big picture standpoint, it seems like the only purpose B/G would serve if it were to be represented in any significant numbers at Regionals would be to separate the wheat from the chaff of the first group (those piloting the top tier archetypes). Honestly, is that how you want the world to perceive your favorite color combination? I think not.

So, I make this simple plea to you, Sol Malka. Save everyone a lot of headaches. Fix this horrible metagame anomaly before it has a body count. Write an article. It doesn’t have to be long or particularly well written. Just say”Hey, guys. B/G is not the way to go for Regionals. It’s good, but not good enough,” or something similar. You don’t even have to support your claim. It isn’t even important whether or not you agree with the sentiment. You’ll be saving lives. Well, not literally, but figuratively. You’ll be a hero. Okay, maybe not a hero, but you’ll shake things up. Just think of it: Sol Malka nixes The Rock for Regionals. It’d be like when Nixon went to China. No one will have foreseen it, and it will secure your place in history.

It takes a big man to side against his pet deck. It really does. I know you can do it.

Not motivated to do it, are you? What do want? You want me to beg? You want me to get on my knees and beg? Fine. Here I am, typing on my knees. I’m typing on my knees for you, Sol. Are you happy now?

Just do this for me, please? Just one little article. That’s all it takes.


Aaagh! I admit it! I have problems facing Swamps and Forests! It doesn’t matter what I’m playing, B/G just beats me! It’s like I have a mental block or something. But I need your help to get fewer people playing that damn deck! I mean, what would it hurt? Huh? Would it kill you to help me warp the environment into something more to my liking? Jeez, you’re selfish.

I didn’t mean that. Selfish is a harsh word. Completely unfair of me. I apologize. I just get a little crazed when I realize there is second-tier deck that is undoubtedly going to make a strong showing at such a major event, and I have to be prepared for it. It isn’t like Mind’s Desire or something, which will turn up in much smaller numbers. B/G has a cult following, plain and simple. It’s easy for me to see where a good player looking for something different to play, but still wanting to remain competitive, could pick the deck up and run with it. It’s just one more threat for me to worry about, and I’d rather not have to, you know?

Anyway, thanks for hearing me out, and if you do decide to help me out and come out against the archetype you are forever linked with, I thank you.

And if you don’t, may all of your hair fall out, all at once. Soon.

Pale Mage