Ask Ken, 03/10/2004

People always say to get better I need to play with people that are better than me. The thing is no one wants to play with bad players, so how do I get them to play with me?

Welcome back to yet another edition of Ask Ken. Thanks for tuning in every day to get the very best my brain has to offer. In a couple of years, Martha Stewart can tell you the best way to dress your prison life partner, but in the meantime, listen to me ramble about some Reader Mail! Hey!

Today’s letter comes to us from Matt Gunn. Matt writes:

People always say to get better I need to play with people that are

better than me. The thing is no one wants to play with bad players, so how do I get them to play with me?


Well Nirien, or Matt, or whatever you call yourself these days, you present an interesting problem here. There are two reasons pros don’t like to play with non-pros. First is laziness. Many pros don’t care much for casual play, and some don’t even practice before Pro-Tours. You will never get these players to play against you. They are a lost cause and a general drain on the community. Just kick them in the shins and be done with them.

The second, and more understandable reason is that Pros, while very good at Magic, are not perfect. They also need to improve their game. The only way they will accomplish this is by playing against players around their level. A good way to get in a game or two with the Pros is to go to your local PTQs, and when you see them milling around, ask for a game. Most players who are qualified and still show up at PTQs would be happy to oblige you.

If you want to get into a regular testing group with Pros, then that is much tougher. You need to prove yourself. Gone are the days where you can just follow them around, lending them cards, being really nice and doing them favors to get them to accept you… unless your name is Josh Ravitz.



That’s all I have for today. Tune in tomorrow when I dish some dirt about some PT players. G’night everybody!


Wow has another day gone by already? You have to be kidding me! Well we here at Ask Ken are going to do our best to ensure you get the very best answers to your questions day in and day out. We love to hear from you and our crack team of me is here to deliver you the very best in advice, answers, and dirt.

One thing I haven’t delved into too much here is Constructed. But I sure do want to. So with that in mind it’s time for a little Reader Mail! Hey!

Today’s letter comes to us from Michael Benedetti. Mike writes:


Ah muppets. Beautiful. Just beautiful. Thanks for the laugh. I read and enjoy every day.

Now to my question…

I am a card player going on nine years (of playing Magic, not age). I think I have a fairly decent grasp of the game and I can win a few drafts here and there but why oh why do my constructed ideas fail? I have a great idea for a deck for Type Two or Block Constructed. I work on it in my basement laboratory for days. After much churning and bubbling and a few rounds of animal testing I actually test it against a”good” (read internet) decklist and *poof* my deck is trounced horribly. Are there only a finite number of good decks and do the pros think of all of them? Are my good ideas actually terrible because I am a very very bad person? Is netdecking the only way to be competitive in a tournament? Gosh, what’s a guy to do? Help me Obi-Ken Kenobi, you’re my only hope!


Thanks for the compliments Mike, I sure do appreciate it, and as the reference to yesterday’s column shows, the more you suck up, the quicker your question will be answered! [Oh dear, did we really want to set this precedent? – Knut, afraid]

There are many reasons our mad genius fails us. The most common I have found is that often times our vision is too narrow. You haven’t provided me with a list, so I can’t say for certain why your decks fail. But many times people will find two cards that work powerfully together and decide they want to build a deck around them. The key to Constructed is to find sixty cards that work together in harmony, not just two (or eight). People find their combos and try to get them to work together.

The decks you find on the internet have been tested and re-tested to become the powerhouses that regularly top 8 events. They are developed with an overarching concept rather than focusing around a few cards. The exception to this rule is when the combo ends the game for a small resource commitment. In this instance, you want to build your deck around getting to, and supporting these cards.

Another problem people often encounter also related to narrow vision are hate decks. Someone might take a deck that includes

4 Shatter

4 Oxidize

4 Echoing Ruin

4 Detonate

and so on because they are sick of losing to Affinity. All of the sudden, that person has to play a match against Goblin Bidding or MWC and you get taken out like the trash.

The third major flaw in deck building is a general lack of synergy. You build a deck that has a little something for every archetype, but no way to control what parts of the deck you draw. This leads to inconsistent results.

The best way to develop a winning deck is to not give up after the net decks hand you your rump. Keep playing. Let them smash you fifteen, twenty, fifty times. Find out what works, what doesn’t and move things around. Don’t give up. High Tide, Senor Stompy, Illusions-Donate, these were all decks in a rough form in the mind of a mad genius at one point.


Karting Kenneth

Well that’s about all the juice I have for today. Keep those e-mails coming, I have some in the vault, but I am always looking for fresh meat! G’night everybody!

[email protected]


Well it’s on to week two here at Ask Ken. Keep those questions comin’ kids, because you can’t get them answered if you don’t write in. Speaking of writing in, it’s time for a little Reader Mail! Hey!

Today’s question comes to us from Elmo. Elmo took time out of his busy schedule on Sesame Street to write:


In a recent two-on-two money draft (MMD) my first pack contained
Luminous Angel, Fangren Hunter, Pyrite Spellbomb, Silver Myr, Vulshok Battlegear, and Creeping Mold. What do you think best card in the pack, and what would you first pick?



Well Elmo, there are a lot of things to consider when doing money draft, much more than those in a regular draft. In a money draft you have a smaller set of opponents, and you know exactly who they are. This means that in addition to drafting a good deck for yourself, you want to make sure that your opponent’s decks are as weak as possible. I have learned that in this format you generally want to avoid Green. If you take the Luminous Angel, odds are the person to your left will take one of the two Green cards and then you run the risk of your partner taking the other one and getting cut off in two of the packs.

The way I would handle this is to take the Pyrite Spellbomb. Then I would move into White cutting off the person to your left, stranding the Angel in the sideboard. This also has the added bonus of allowing your teammate to put the person on his left in Green, and then cutting him off.

The Pyrite Spellbomb is the pick, but it is a difficult thing to see at first glance. Of course if you are drafting against experienced money drafters like Bert and Ernie, you will have to rethink things, as the Luminous Angel would send a big warning sign.

Tell Big Bird hi, and tell Oscar to chill the f*** out.

Your Pal,


It is nice to see Magic growing in the muppet community. I eagerly await the time they will capture their first top 8 slot. So keep those e-mails coming, and remember it’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. So long!

[email protected]