Ask Ken, 04/29/2004

Rumor has it that today’s guest star might be funnier than Osyp. Rumor also has it that he might also be short, well-dressed, and Canadian. Guess you’ll just have to click on the link and make up your own mind.

Welcome to today’s”Ask Ken.” I, Jeff Cunningham, am filling in today. Because Ken, Ken is sick. He’s sick. He’s sick of all your stupid ridiculous retarded questions.

Case in point, look at what I pulled out of today’s mailbag:

I’ll take Ken Krouner for the Block,

Me and my boys, Knowledge Ltd., are at a team qualifier for Seattle. I am staring at this hottie, who happens to be in the tournament, and I am rubbing elbows with Ben”Dump-Truck” Rubin. Needless to say I am totally distracted. I over hear Ben say something about Money-Drafts. Then I zone out cause this fine woman across from me is putting the front of her baby blue t-shirt in a stress test, and smart money is on a shirt rupture.

My Questions. So what is this Money Drafting I read and hear about? Is there a circuit? Is it like”Rounders”? How do we get more women into MTG?

– Smokey The Bear (A.K.A. Justin Sligh) San Jose, CA

Dear Smokey the Bear/ Justin Sligh

I’m not really sure how to answer your question. I am very confused. What’s with the mystifying”ken on the block” opener of your letter? Is this some sort of J. Lo reference?

What’s that about sitting beside Ben Rubin a PTQ in Seattle? He doesn’t live near Seattle. Is the situation described in your letter supposed to be allegorical or is this just a name drop?

What’s with that bit about the girl? I mean, it’s pretty much self-explanatory as to why so few women play Magic. Was the idea of a woman in a tight shirt really so amusing that you had to cook up an entire gag Ask Ken letter to display it in?

I don’t really get the whole tone of the letter. I feel like I’m talking to the class clown. It’s like you’re trying to set Ken up for some half-funny tongue in cheek response, alley oop style. Hey Ken! Make some self-deprecating remark about your squalid love life! Haha.. Girls… a tight shirt… that’s rich.

All I can say is that this is the biggest limp-d**k Ask Ken letter I’ve ever seen and that if you don’t have something at least semi-intelligent or genuine to Ask Ken then please, please, don’t bother. If you do have a question you want answered, ask it; keep offensive anecdotes about a good looking girl you may or may not have seen to yourself.

Actually, maybe it’s not your fault. It’s like, when someone just writes some stupid stuff on one of those”how did we do?” questionnaires at a fast food place or something, I mean those should get weeded out before they even get to the head office. In fact, Ken Krouner probably hand-picked this letter, which he knew was just dumb, for my one-time stint on Ask Ken so that *I* would come up with a half-funny tongue in cheek response, which I guess is what I’m doing. This is just a long line of half-ass gags. What a c**kslap.

Anyway, enough BS. I’m sorry for all this.

Let’s get to the heart of the question:”What is moneydraft?”

Money draft is a format that exists mainly on the Pro Tour and Grand Prix circuits. It is, in essence, as the name suggests – drafting (and playing) for money. Usually for $20 (per person) and all the cards in the draft (for the winning team,) although money drafts have been played for as much as $350 per person. They can also be played for as little as all the cards in the draft.

Money draft is the earliest team drafting format. It is always booster draft, and almost always 2v2 or 3v3. You’ll occasionally see the sloppy 4v4 or 5v5 formats though. Unlike team Rochester draft where teams sit opposite each other, in Money draft players are seated randomly, and every player with two players from the other team on each side.

Both 2v2 and 3v3 are best of three games, round robin format (2v2, four total matches are player, and 3v3 nine.) Because of the even rounds in 2v2 moneydraft, a tiebreak is occasionally warranted. In this case, each team chooses one player to play a fifth match, winner takes all.

Kai Budde, despite being the best player in the world, is notoriously poor at moneydraft– he doesn’t play it very often. It is a unique format and has unique strategy, that is not entirely represented by Pro Tour formats.”Hooking,” for instance; passing a good card of one color to an opposing team member and then taking all subsequent cards of that color, in order to trick them into using a mediocre foundation for their deck. Hook me once, shame on you, hook me twice, shame on me, as Gary Talim’s old adage goes.

There’re more, so many more… but I digress.

For further reading I’ve included a link to Brian Hacker’s fantastic article”The New Pool Halls: Gambling and Magic” and Gary Wise excellent US Nationals 1998 ATM Report which both delve further into the specifics of Moneydraft, and reveal the origins of some of the romanticism that still surrounds it. It’s the closest Magic ever comes to Poker. Many Magic players like to fantasize about being poker players.

Seeya in SD,

Jeff Cunningham

[email protected]


Welcome to Wednesday’s edition of Ask Ken. I’m your host, Ken Krouner. Wednesday is always a nice day here at Ask Ken. No, not because of the anticipation of tomorrow’s guest host, but rather that the week is half done. Heck every other week Wednesday is payday here at NYSERDA! Sadly, this is not one of those days. The nervous anticipation I feel right now can only mean one of two things. Either I am about to be called down from the audience on the Price is Right, or it’s time for a little Reader Mail! Hey!

Today’s letter comes to us from Casey Cannon. Casey writes:


What’s up with the price increase… again?


Well Casey, you took a risk sending such a verbose message. Despite its lengthy nature I will try to explain this in a clean concise manner.

You see Casey, believe it or not, Wizards of the Coast is a Business. I know we’d all like to think that they are just in it for fun, but the fact is they have to turn a profit. As time goes on, inflation causes money to be worth less. As this devaluation of money occurs, businesses have to increase their prices. Their suppliers are doing the same.

Without getting too much into business theory, understand that there is a value chain. Wizards contracts companies to produce the product. These contractors purchase raw materials from suppliers. So when supplier increases their prices due to inflation, then the contractors’ costs go up. When the cost increases for the contractor, they need more money from Wizards. When Wizards’ costs go up, they must increase the price of the product.

Over the course of Magic’s ten-plus years there have only been three price increases on packs of 15 cards. It started at $2.50, then went to $2.99, then to $3.29, and now it is at $3.69. The packs cost just over a dollar more than they did when it was a brand new genre of product that no one knew about. Add the explosive success of the game, and inflation, I’d say Wizards is letting us off easy. [When compared to inflation, Ken’s ideas don’t hold true, but it’s not my column, sooo… – Knut]

But as we all know this price increase will drive millions of people away from the game effectively ending Magic’s ten-year run.

When you own a business, you will see the need for these periodic price increases on products where the technologies don’t become cheaper.

The source for business strategy,


That’s about all the undergrad business theory my brain can spew out for today. Join us tomorrow, when a very special guest star gives us a piece of his mind. G’night Everybody!

[email protected]


Welcome to Tuesday’s edition of Ask Ken. I’m your host, Ken Krouner. Tuesday is possibly my favorite day of the week. It is always, and without fail, the first non-Monday to roll along. Every Tuesday this strange sensation comes over me. I feel like I am skiing over hundreds of moguls with the crisp Swiss Alp air blowing in my face. This can mean one of only two things. Either I’ve just bitten into a York Peppermint Patty, or it’s time to answer a little Reader Mail! Hey!

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

Hey Ken,

For some reason, my limited game has been suffering terribly since Darksteel was released. When drafting MMM on Magic Online, I rarely ever missed the semis, made the finals about half the time, and won a handful. My rating jumped from about 1620 to 1775.

Enter Darksteel. Now I’m back down to 1660.

I’ve probably played about fifteen MMD drafts, and I think that I’ve made the semis maybe twice and lost every other draft. I never lost that much even in OLS, and I *really* sucked at OLS. What am I doing wrong? Has something changed significantly in proper drafting strategy, or have I just forgotten how to play the game?



Well Schmitty, you probably aren’t going to like the answer to this. The reason you are losing is because you either aren’t playing well, aren’t drafting well, or most likely, a combination of both.

The harsh reality, that myself and countless other writers have always tried to convey, is that you are bad, and you will never get any better until you admit you are bad.

I realize this is of no help at all, so I will do my best to try and make you better. Bear in mind my record in Limited post Darksteel is about as good as yours. I made no PTQ top 8’s, went 0-4 day 2 of GP: Columbus, had a losing record in nearly all money drafts I played in, and have won less matches on Magic Online in this format than any other.

I did something I generally hate to do. When Darksteel came out, I analyzed the power of the colors and swore off drafting White and Green. This was a grievous error. I think the most important thing in this format is to be flexible on colors.

The next piece of advice I will give is to constantly be thinking about Darksteel. When you see a lot of Blue sent your way, you may want to consider the Engineer and the Behemoth, as those tend to come later than the Prodigy and the Spire Golem. If you see a lot of White coming through, avoid committing to heavily to a second color, and to artifact lands so you can get those Razor Golems out on turn 3 consistently. When you decide to draft Black, do it from a position of what Black is coming through, not trying to cut it off. Your best Black will come in pack three. Darksteel, more often than not, will make or break your deck, so stay focused.

My last bit of advice is: stop losing, it really cuts into your winning.

The source for breaking new formats without ever actually winning a match,


Well that is all the self-deprecation I can handle for one day. Join me tomorrow when I delve into the issue of the price increase on Magic packs. G’night Everybody!

[email protected]


Welcome to another week of Ask Ken. I’m your host, Ken Krouner. This week will finish up our second month here at Ask Ken. I think you will all be pleased with our Thursday guest columnist – I know I am. We are going to do our best to not offend anyone this week, but believe it or not, we always try to do that. Anyway I am getting a funny feeling in my stomach. Either that squid I ate for lunch was a little too old, or it’s time for a little Reader Mail! Hey!

Today’s letter comes to us all the way from Amsterdam. Dimitri Reinderman writes:

Hi Ken,

A draft scenario which I haven’t seen discussed a lot is that the best three cards in your first booster are of the same color. Molder Slug, Deconstruct and Fangren Hunter, or Megatog, Grab the Reins and Electrostatic Bolt, or Slith Attendant, Skyhunter Patrol and Blinding Beam. Would you take the best card, or a lesser card in another color? Or only take the best card in such a case if it’s really a bomb?And what if you receive a booster like this for the second pick? Would you be more inclined to take the best card then?

By the way, I really like your column. Keep up the good work!

Regards, Dimitri Reinderman

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Well Dimitri, this is an age-old draft question. And it is tough to answer, particularly in this block. I am not a big fan of taking colored cards first pick unless absolutely necessary. I think that there is a lot of room to be flexible in this block. However you listed some powerful cards up there, so I am going to delve into the particulars of each before I give my general stance.

In your first example, this is a no-brainer. Slug is one of the best cards in the set, and Green is the consensus worst color in Limited, so the guy to your right may not even take a Green card. Especially since they may worry between your first pick rare and the fact that there are two high-quality Green cards that they might get trapped.

In your second example there were two tier-one bombs. Again, I think you have to go ahead and take the best card. Grab the Reins is one of the top two cards in the set, you really can’t ever afford to pass it, even if it means a splash or a color switch. Is the person to your right going to take Megatog? Absolutely. Can you live with that? Sure. You get to feed him in pack three where a lot of the powerful Red cards come, and you should have a second color, if it comes down to it, develop that color and make Red your support color.

You third example is the trickiest. You have three powerful White cards, and while I love drafting White currently, this is a risky pick. In fact, I am not even sure what is better, Patrol or Beam. Later in the draft, the pick is easier as it depends on your deck, but first pick first pack, it is tricky. I would look in another direction here. If there is no other direction, I think you have to take the Patrol, but you really want to take a card that isn’t White.

In general, and in this block more than others, taking a card from a color that is heavy in the pack isn’t that bad. This being the artifact set, you will often find yourself with only seven cards in your primary color, since artifacts take up so much of your deck. Don’t necessarily take this advice into the next block, but for now, feel free to dip into the deep colors in your opening pack.

Sharing is caring boys, and girls.

Still the source for advanced draft strategy,


Well I am tuckered out kids. I hope y’all enjoyed my peek into some of the inner-workings of my brain. Join me tomorrow when I try to explain why those of you who thought you were good now suck! G’night everybody!

[email protected]