Ask Ken, 06/11/2004

Is it wrong to change decks the morning of a tournament?

Can you feel the love tonight? I sure can. I love Ronald Reagan. Because of this great man (and a Republican Governor), I have today off. What I don’t have today off from is answering your provocative questions. You can’t imagine what a rush it is to open up an e-mail and see the text, wondering halfway through if I will be able to thoroughly answer your questions. I get myself all worked up reading line after line, sweat pouring out of every inch of my body until I can’t… ahem, moving on.

Today’s question comes to us from Mike Edinger. Mike writes:

I was at the NAC this past weekend too (experimenting punk chicks rule, btw). I had every intention of playing Elf and Nail because I was expecting a field of Ravager. After I got to the store, however, I saw a few goblin decks and audibled to Mono White Control because I thought it had a better (read: winnable) match-up against goblins. This wasn’t a one-time thing.

I’m rather known in my store for changing my deck or sideboard right before a tourney based on scouting. I ended up going 5-2, but just because you can swing 20 turns in a row with Carrier Pigeons doesn’t mean you should run it. Do you think I was and am justified in switching decks and cards right before a tournament?

Thanks for the question Mike, you don’t know what these do for me. You are not alone in your little disease. I know many people who do this the morning of a tournament. Its correctness depends on your preparation. If you were equally comfortable with Mono-White, then this decision was fine. If you play-tested Elf and Nail more, that this was likely a mistake.

Since it is impossible to predict your personal metagame unless you are Nicholas Labarre, audibling into a deck you are less than confident with is a bad play. No matter how inundated a field is, you can never be completely sure what you will face.

Not that this has anything to do with the question, but in an established metagame where there is a clear best deck, there is no real reason to play anything else. You should have been playing Affinity in this tournament, since it is so much better than everything else.

The short answer to your question, however, is yes. There is nothing wrong with audibling if you are comfortable with the deck you are switching to.

The source for tournament prep,


That wraps up another week here at Ask Ken. Enjoy the weekend everybody!

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Hello and welcome to the Internet!

I mean, um, Ask Ken: Thursday edition. I’m your guest host, old standby Iain Telfer. Just one of SCG’s myriad of faceless, unimportant featured writers who for some reason gets along rather well with Ken. Today I get to answer a question near and dear to my heart, but, well it’s probably near and dear to all of our hearts.


I enjoy playing Magic as much as the next guy… well maybe not That One Guy, but pretty much like any normal, everyday, young-enough-to-play-but-old-enough-to-do-pretty-much-anything-else-as-well fella. There’s one question that I haven’t found a good answer to, yet, that I thought maybe someone (or a group of someones) might be able to think long and hard about and come to some semblance of a plan.

Magic is overwhelmingly a Man’s Game. There is very little diversity in the players of this fine game, and time and time again when I find myself trying to explain the game of Magic to a woman, I am met with confusion, impatience, and an obvious desire to do something (anything) else. And that’s from women who actually enjoy games ranging from RPGs to Poker.

There are clearly many smart, reasonably attractive and witty people who play the game – the types of guys women seem to always say they’re looking to meet. One would think that learning Magic would be an excellent way to meet men with those qualities.

So what is it that makes Magic so seemingly woman-resistant? Is it the nature of any collectible card game (since collecting anything that isn’t a plush cute stuffed animal or doll is primarily a male trait), the culture of the game (the language, people who make and play it, online culture, etc) or is it just that the game’s grown too complex to make any explanation palatable to reluctant beginners?

What’s your take on the lack o the ladies and how would you introduce the game to a sister/girlfriend in such a manner to pique her interest?

Hurricane Andrew

Well, to answer your first question, it’s mostly a matter of how people are raised and the friends they keep. How did you get into Magic? For the vast majority of us, it doesn’t involve just randomly walking into a store and buying packs. Instead, it usually involves a friends, who wants to get us into the game so he has someone to play with, or being introduced to it via school. Usually, this occurs at a young age, anywhere between ten and fourteen.

Women don’t have those sort of friends, or they didn’t for a long time. As they lack those sort of friends, they do not have the background to seriously get into the game or develop an attitude welcome to playing the game. However, all is not lost! As gaming continues to penetrate the mainstream, more and more female gamers are addicted to them at a young age. With this trend in mind, I have seen an increasing number of female gamers over the last couple years getting into Magic, mostly transitioning from the kiddy card games like Yu Gi Oh, Pokemon, or Duel Masters.

If that trend continues, and Magic doesn’t die out in a horrible factory fire destroying all of Wizard’s IP and R&D, it’s fairly likely that eventually we will see a much greater number of female gamers. We will never see an equal number, however, as the average female brain chemistry, while certainly more than intelligent enough to play Magic, tends to be less interested in hanging out in the overall gamer atmosphere replete with sweaty men. This internal bias will forever keep the game somewhat male dominated.

As to getting my sister or girlfriend into the game, well, my sister actually did play Magic when she was younger. Girlfriendwise, I would suggest trying to get her into it by making it a friendly, non-competitive activity between the two of you, and eventually turn her on to the idea of beating you at it. But then, personally, I’d never want to date a girl who played Magic. Just think of the messy break up! What happened if you left your Arcbound Ravagers at her house? You’d never be getting those puppies back.

Iain Telfer, Eternally useless source of advice on all things ranging from cooking to astrology


Hi, this is Ask Ken, the daily column that strives to give you the very best in entertainment and insight. I like to dabble in every aspect of Magic when it comes to answering questions. I think that this column has the widest range of questions addressed, and we here at Ask Ken are pleased to give it to you five days a week. Today I am going to answer a little question about myself.

Today’s letter comes to us from Nick Salazar. Nick writes:

I read in the PT Boston coverage that you are a Project Coordinator, New York State Energy Research & Development Authority. What is this? Also, why is the worst part about your job that you sometimes don’t have enough to do?


Nick Salazar

Well Nick, I am what you would call an office administrator. I work in the Residential Energy Affordability Program in NYSERDA. I work in the Low-Income and Communities department. My direct supervisor is the Program Manager. I also work with five Project Managers and assist them with their specific projects. Most of the work I do is in contracts and negotiations. I am also responsible for preparing the monthly report for our department.

Our programs deal with helping low-income families afford heat and electricity. It also deals with a grass roots campaign to inform homeowners about different energy-efficiency programs that we offer.

The reason my biggest complaint was having nothing to do, was because entire days would go by when I had no work at all to do. In addition to draining money from the State Budget that could have been used for something else, this also bothered me because the days would go by so slowly.

Since that interview, things have picked up and I keep myself quite busy.

The source on KK,


Hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my life. I know you all love hearing about me every bit as much as I love telling you about me! Tomorrow we have a guest star from the pages of StarCityGames.com. G’night everybody!

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Welcome back to Ask Ken, the column that dares to be different. I’m your host, Kartin Ken. I played in the North American Challenge this past weekend. While I must compliment Tom Shea and Nat Fairbanks on a very well run tourney, I have to say that I was reminded why I don’t like PTQs. Wake up at 6am, drive 2.5+ hours, sit in a room of smelly men for the better part of a day, then screw up and miss top 8 just to make the same long drive home. This tournament did have something most Magic tournaments do not: Young women experimenting with their sexuality in a public place! So thanks again to Tom Shea! That look I am getting from my editor can mean only one thing. This bit is old, let’s open some mail.

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

Hey Kartin’ Ken, I’m Mike from Newfoundland, Canada. I have a question for you about Sealed deck construction.

When you need to splash a small number of cards and you don’t have any Myrs/Talisman of those colors or any Chromatic Sphere or other mana fixers, how do you do it? What do you do if in Sealed, for example, you’re only decent red card is Fireball and you want to splash it by itself?


Well Mike, since we aren’t all named Nash, adding mana to a deck is less than an exact science. With the addition of Fifth Dawn there is even more to consider. Before all this artifact craziness, the average Sealed deck was two main colors and a splash. These decks would play seventeen or eighteen land. The standard number of lands for the splash color was three to four.

Things are a bit trickier now. There are rewards for playing artifact lands that don’t reside in any of your colors. It is possible you could be playing Black as a main color with only four spells. Before Fifth Dawn, it was fairly easy as you could often overload on your splash color since your main colors were often shallow as well. Now you have to consider off-color artifact lands.

If you have no mana fixing at all, play between two and three Mountains for that splashed Fireball. But that splash card better be on par with Fireball to warrant splashing with no fixers.

The source on the build,


If any of you are interested, I was a miserable failure at the NAC. The highlight of my weekend was mulliganing to three on the play in the Affinity mirror, then screwing up twice to lose. Most players would blame the mull to three (actually most players would have kept a horrendous six-card hand), but I will own up to my mistakes. G’night everybody!

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Welcome back to the phenomenon that is sweeping the world. I’m your host, Ken Krouner. I am extremely pleased with all the positive feedback I have been getting about Ask Ken…

“Great advice, thanks.”

“Your column is a laugh riot, and your guest stars are spectacular.”

“Damn baby, you got it goin’ on!”

“Sir, could you please move you are blocking out the sun.”

…You get the idea. Those groans of agony I hear can mean one of only two things. Either this shtick has finally gotten old, or it’s time for a little Reader Mail! Hey! Alright! I get to keep feeding you this line until we both vomit.

Today’s question comes to us all the way from Greece. John Pateros writes:

Hi Ken,

My name is John and I’m from Greece. I will be competing in PT Seattle and I would like you explain to me how we can share the colors in Team Rochester draft?


Great question John, short and sweet. Fifth Dawn offers us a unique opportunity not seen since Invasion Block. This is the opportunity to draft more than two colors. I think a great way to split up the colors would be to put Multi-Colored Green on the left. The reason for this is four-fold:

1) Green is at its best in Mirrodin.

2) Green has the most access to mana-fixers.

3) Fifth Dawn is where you are rewarded for drafting multiple colors.

4) It puts you in the position to cut off any potential bombs that would be passed to the other team, and actually play them regardless of the colors.

The only potential problem with this theory is that it puts a rather large onus on the C seat. Blue has a few cards capable of helping your mana. It is possible that you could have two mages drafting three or more colors. You are probably going to want White in the middle, as it is the most consistently strong of all the decks. This would put Blue in the A seat and White in the middle and Green the C.

Black and Red show be distributed as needed to fill in empty holes in the deck. Remember this is all theory, so check your local listings before heading out to the theaters.

The source on Team Rochester,


Keep it right here at StarCityGames.com for more of your probing questions, and out guest star of the week. G’night everybody!

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