Ask Ken, 05/12/2004

As a pro, how would you prefer Wizards balance card design between casual and tournament-level power?

Welcome back! It is hump day yet again here at Ask Ken. I’m your host, Ken Krouner. You know, I am asked all the time why on earth I keep pushing my name out there long after my career has hit the gutter. Well frankly, I don’t have a good excuse. But I want my name out there, in case I ever make the Invitational ballot again! That lightheaded haze that is coming over me can mean one of only two things. Either my hopes have once again gone too far, or it’s time for a little Reader Mail! Hey! Good, I’ll keep shootin’ for the stars, despite falling in the holes.

Today’s letter comes to us from Christopher Horton. Chris writes:

Hey Ken,

Got a question for ya. As a pro, how would you prefer Wizards balance card design between casual and tournament-level power, and as a player in general? As a casual player, it’s annoying for me to read pros and other competitive players dismiss card after card that work pretty well in casual games, or are flavorful, just because they’re not”good” enough, especially before the release of a new set when spoilers run rampant. It gets aggravating after a while.

Christopher Horton

Well Chris, I have to say I think you are blowing things out of proportion. The pros you speak of are writing articles for the competitive community. If hearing what they have to say frustrates you, then don’t read it. What they are saying doesn’t apply to casual. There are plenty of casual writers and articles out there. If you want to know about those cards not used in tournament play that could serve your casual games check out the musings of Anthony Alongi, Bennie Smith, Peter Jahn, Mark Gottlieb, Abe Sargent, and many more.

If pros did what you are essentially asking and didn’t dismiss those cards, they would be doing a disservice to their readership. If it is their opinion that a card is trash, they shouldn’t lie in their articles and say it isn’t. That helps no one.

I think Wizards does a spectacular job of keeping the tournament environment healthy, while allowing the casual player room to use those cards that the pros denounce. As if that isn’t enough, you have the release of Unhinged to look forward to. This set is designed exclusively for casual play. Expect to see your favorite casual writers dip into this set with great enthusiasm.

The source for bridging the gap between serious and casual,


Stay tuned tomorrow for a guest star you probably don’t expect, but surely won’t regret. G’night Everybody!

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Hi and welcome back. I’m your host, Kartin Ken. I hope someday that this column will become an institution in the game. Perhaps I am setting my hopes to high, perhaps I should start winning matches of Magic again. I don’t really know the answer. That twitching in my eye can mean one of only two things. Either Osyp Lebedowicz is about to win the Invitational, or it’s time for a little Reader Mail! Hey! Good, because I don’t think I could take a lifetime of staring at his ugly mug on a card.

Today’s question comes to us from Uncle Joey in San Francisco. Ranger Joe writes:

Yo Ken,

Is Ravager Affinity really all that or are Magic players just incredibly lazy? It seems that Ravager took 50%-60% of the Regionals metagame (figures depending on source). My questions are, in no particular order: Is Ravager really that powerful? Did the average Magic player choose Ravager as their Regionals deck simply because the internet told them it was good? Or maybe ’cause it’s cheap to build? Did WotC intentionally create the deck? (And would that be a surprise considering the hype they give the white weenie archetype and how”good” it is?) Is Ravager really that good? Is there no deck that can reasonably compete with Ravager on a regular basis?

I have my own opinions but I would like to know yours.



First, I wanted to say good job in hurting Alannis Morrisette so badly that she wrote a whole song about how pissed she was. That is talent. But onto more pressing matters.

What your e-mail essentially boils down to is the question”Is Ravager Affinity all it is cracked up to be?” Well, I played the deck this weekend in a North American Challenge qualifier, and I have to say it is. Since I first started playing the deck, I knew it reminded me of something, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. As I played it this weekend, it came to me. The deck is a lot like ProsBloom in Mirage Block. ProsBloom was the best deck by far, but if you didn’t play it well, you wouldn’t win consistently with it.

The inconsistency comes in the games where it seems like you can’t win, but with my experience the pieces are almost always there to win (assuming you mulliganed properly), the tough part is putting them together properly to steal a win from the most bleak of positions.

Does the fact that this deck requires skill to win with consistently mean it wasn’t a mistake? No. Even Squandered Resources was banned in Mirage Block because the deck was just too powerful. I think Wizards likes to push their new mechanics. It keeps Standard fresh when a deck comes out as tier one using a mechanic that was just created. Did they know it would be this powerful? Clearly not.

The card Skullclamp simply needs to get banned. The fact there is a debate raging on the internet is absurd. It meets every qualification that a card needs to meet to get banned. There is no argument here. The card needs to go.

What is questionable is should Arcbound Ravager itself go. The card is clearly over-powered. It is so powerful that it needs to get banned? I’m not really sure. The card never existed in a non-Clamp world. I haven’t played many games in which the Ravager dominated if Clamp wasn’t around, but I would leave Ravager on the watch list after Clamp goes.

Are there other decks to play in Type Two? Not really. There are decks out there that beat Ravager – for example Mike Flores‘ White/Green control deck, and Mono-Red control both have favorable matchups. The problem with these decks is that they don’t beat the second best deck in the format, Goblin Bidding. Is the format so degenerate that it is worth playing a deck that loses to the second best deck in the format just to beat the best deck? You bet it is. The best deck is so much better than anything else that a metagame deck actually is viable in this format.

The source on broken goodness,


That’s all the time we have for today. Join us tomorrow for more probing questions. If you are really lucky, I’ll even pay the kicker. G’ngiht Everybody!

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Welcome back to another edge-of-your-seat week of Ask Ken. I’m your host, Ken Krouner. I want to thank you all for answering the call to arms I made on Friday. My inbox filled up quicker than Tim Aten at a Chinese Buffet. That cold chill of death I feel can mean one of only two things. Either Skullclamp isn’t going to be banned starting June 20th or it’s time for a little Reader Mail! Hey! Dodged a bullet there, all we need is another year and a half of that card breaking Standard in two.

Today’s Question comes to us from Derek Rollins of Philadelphia, PA. Derek writes:

Kartin Ken,

Where did your nickname come from? I have had the pleasure of seeing you play the famed Mario Kart so I am fairly certain your name couldn’t have come from your proficiency at this great game. Please fill us in, inquiring minds want to know.

Best Regards


Well Wario, your suspicions are correct. The nickname indeed doesn’t come from my skills in that game as they are sorely lacking. The precise origin of the name is as vague as a lot of Magic lingo. But here is what is known:

The speds, before the team all quit playing, consisted of Jamie Parke, Ben Farkas, Joe Weber, Bryan Manolokos, Adam Lemke, Dennis Speigel, and Lyle Cohen. These fine men were all addicted to the Mario Kart franchise. They became so entrenched in the world of Mario Kart that they took to switching every hard”c” sound to a”k” when it was in print. In fact, they were kompletely obsessed with the letter”k.”

When they met me and saw that my initials were KK, well that was all I needed to bekome part of the group. I was never officially a sped, but I was one of their greatest supporters.

We would often go to PTQs together in the same car. In my younger years, I was kwite the speed demon. I would routinely drive over ninety miles an hour to get to a PTQ on time. It was from this penchant for speed that I was given my moniker. There is still a lot of debate over which sped actually gave me the name. Jamie, Mano, and Lyle all klaim patent rights on the name. This debate will likely never be settled, but now you know as much of the origin as I do.

The source on all things KK,


That’s about all for today. I hope you all enjoyed this extra special glimpse into my life. G’ngiht Everybody!

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