Ask Ken, 05/14/2004

Ken, please help me stop making so many mistakes!

Welcome back to the most controversial”Ask” column on the internet. I’m your host, Ken Krouner. My good friend Gary Talim took a stab at writing this column yesterday and clearly met some resistance. I’ll give him another crack at it next Thursday, but for now you’ll have to deal with me. That heavy weight I feel on my shoulders can mean one of only two things. Either I’m starting a panic attack, or I’m gonna answer two pieces of Reader Mail! Hey! Good, because I would hate to think I took anything in life seriously enough to get to me that badly.

Our first question comes to us from an anonymous author. He/she writes:

Hey Ken,

I have a problem I always make mistakes. One time I was playing Tooth and Nail, my opponent was at 20 and I had five Pentavus tokens, a Darksteel Colossus and a Fireball in my hand that I could do 12 damage with. He had a Myr Enforcer. I attacked with the Colossus but forgot about the Pentavites. He blocked with the Myr Enforcer bringing him to thirteen. I then Fireball’d for 12. Next turn he Shrapnel Blasted me for the win. How can I stop mistakes like this?

One more thing, can you give me some tips on playtesting?

Thank You

Well, I wish I could tell you how to stop making mistakes. I myself haven’t completely learned yet. The fact of the matter is there is no way to completely stop making mistakes. Magic is an incredibly hard game, and everyone from Kai Budde down to the fellow that came in dead last in the last Friday Night Magic in your area makes mistakes.

I can help you with this specific example. I’d be willing to bet that you used counters, coins, or little pieces of paper to represent your Pentavites. Get yourself some tokens. Either trade for the ones that are available from Player Rewards, or buy some from StarCityGames.com. You will be amazed how much easier it is to figure out board situations when your token creatures are represented by cards that are of the same size and shape of your other creatures.

While you will never eliminate mistakes from your game completely, the best way to reduce them is with lots of practice. Just keep playing. Have people watch your games too. Ask them to comment. Even if you disagree with their assessment, the discussion alone will do wonders.

This goes hand in hand with playtesting. The more comfortable you are with a deck, the less mistakes you will make. The most important thing when playtest is getting in games. The more you play the better off you are. And remember to play games post sideboard.

My last hint on reducing mistakes – before you make any play, figure out what the game state will be after you make the play. If you can visualize what the board will look like afterwards it is easier to tell if your play is a good one.

The source on making lots and lots of mistakes,


Our next question comes to us from Laurence Potter in Jolly Ole England. Laurence writes:

Hello Ken,

First off, just a word to say I enjoy your column, particularly when you roundly took the pi$$ out of my friend Dan the other week for 1st picking the ‘belcher.

The scenario is this.  I play drafts at my local club, but nothing too competitive.  I had drafted a solid R/B MMD deck with a lot of removal, but lacking ideal creatures.  The first match I was playing a guy I didn’t recognise.  He said he’d played magic way back, but not drafted recently.  He apologised in advance if he was unfamiliar with the cards.  He was playing a W/U evasion deck.  Game 1 I removed everything he put on the table and killed him with a pair of high power Nim.  My deck was working to plan.

Game 2, he made a play error whereby he tried tapping my Granite Shard with an Auriok Transfixer.  In response to this, I activated the shard to kill the Transfixer.  He seemed perplexed by this, and I explained the stack to him.  And I let him take the move back.

Later that game, I failed to Barbed Lightning a creature of his because I didn’t see the Aether Spellbomb on his side of the table (I thought it was in his graveyard).  I didn’t even consider asking to take back the play.

I lost the game and then the match.

I had demonstrated double standards.  I didn’t want to be too aggressive to someone who was perhaps a less experienced player, but I didn’t want my own mistakes to go unpunished because then I wouldn’t learn from them.  Bearing in mind that this is the sort of club where most people play with a beer to hand, what would you advise in these situations?



Well Laurence, there is no easy answer to this one. These types of problems exist everywhere. Get cozy and let me tell you a story. Back at Pro Tour: Houston I was paired against Baby Huey first round. Huey is a great friend of mine. Game two, I made a play error. I meant to cast Pernicious Deed, but instead grabbed the Recurring Nightmare out of my hand. The plan was to bait a Counterspell with the Deed. I realized right away. I considered asking to take it back, as he debated countering the Recur, but I decided against it. Partially because I felt so stupid, and partially because I didn’t want to put my friend in that awkward position. This mistake cost me the game, and we moved onto game three.

In this particular game, I cast a Yavimaya Elder on turn 3. Huey then cast Smother on it at the end of my turn. As soon as he cast it he said,”You still get the land don’t you?” and must have felt as silly as I did. I was going to have to sacrifice the Elder to get land, as I was stalled on three, so Huey wasted his Smother. I went on to win, because he had no Smother for my Mesmeric Fiend. After the game, Huey told me that he didn’t want to ask to take his mistake back, because he knew I would say yes and didn’t want to put me in that situation. I then recounted my story of the misclick in real life. We had a good laugh, and I won a match capitalizing on an extremely rare mistake by Billy Jensen.

This was on a Pro Tour and yet the dilemma reflects what you experienced. My advice to you is do what seems right. When I play with my friends at home, we take back dumb mistakes all the time. In fact, we often point them out to our opponents. This discussion, we feel, improves our game more than holding each other to the mistakes. This also allows us to have more fun.

So to sum it up, use your gut. No one is going to think less of you if you ask to take something back in a friendly game, but if you feel that is being to easy on yourself then don’t do it. As far as letting the other player take back his mistake, kudos to you, that is exactly what I would have done.

The source on sticky situations,


Man alive, that was a lot of work. I hope you all enjoyed this double dose of Ask Ken. Have a great weekend Everybody!

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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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