Ask Ken, 08/04/2004

If you’ve managed to draft a sunburst deck, is it better to play or draw?

First of all, you can never go too far. And second of all, if I’m gonna get busted, it is not gonna be by a guy like that. Welcome to the raucous, no holds barred, take no prisoners advice column known as Ask Ken. I’m your host, Kenneth Krouner. Enjoy your days folks, life is too short and too precious to put all your eggs in one basket. Experience all you can. Enough with the motivational sh**, let’s look at some mail.

Today’s short, but oh so sweet question comes to us from Geraint Morgan from Jolly Ole England. Geraint writes:

In the current block if you’ve managed to draft a sunburst deck, is it better to play or draw?

Well Geraint, I am not sure I am the best person to answer this question. There isn’t a person in the world I think that values tempo more than I do. If anything, I value it to a fault. I have advocated playing first in almost every format since the play/draw rule was introduced.

The reason I feel this way is that I think board position is the most important factor to winning or losing. I also think that in Limited, particularly this format, card quality is more important than card advantage. When you are on the play, the quality of all your spells is higher, since you get to play them first. Your creatures become attackers sooner, you get blockers on the table sooner, you are always one step ahead of your opponent.

I realize why you specifically asked about the Sunburst deck. Do you want to draw first in order to make your mana smoother? I generally don’t think this is worth it. Most Sunburst decks are one or two main colors with some Sunburst cards in them. I haven’t seen a lot of Sunburst decks with cards from all the colors. As such, I still feel it is more important to develop your board than get smooth draws.

The only tricky part is that your cards get more powerful, the more colors of mana you have. I am not sure how to reconcile this. It has made me rethink my decision to play first more than any situation, deck or mechanic before it so I may be wrong. For now I am sticking with what has worked.

The source on the game before the game,


That about does it for today. Look for an extra special guest star tomorrow. G’night everybody!

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Can I interest anyone in any fruit or desert? This is the critically acclaimed advice column, Ask Ken. I’m your humble host, Kartin’ Ken Krouner. I learned in a trial this weekend that my Constructed skills are about on par with my basketball skills. It was a harsh lesson, but one worth learning. Let’s get on to something I am good at, like answering your letters.

Today’s letter comes to us from Ben Zalin of the United Kingdom. Ben writes:

Hi Ken,

I wonder if you could furnish me with your wisdom on a mulligan decision. I’d finally broken my abysmal online run at MD5 (I’ve managed to get my rating down from 1775 to 1720 since the new set) and got to a final. This was my deck:


Somber Hoverguard

Pewter Golem

Dross Golem

Scavenging Scarab

Cackling Imp

Chittering Rats

Nim Abomination

2 Fleshgrafter

Suntouched Myr

Soldier Replica

Thought Courier

Blind Creeper

Arcbound Worker

Disciple of the Vault

Murderous Spoils

Infused Arrows


Darksteel Ingot

Stasis Cocoon

Raise the Alarm


Echoing Decay

9 Swamp

4 Island

3 Plains

I had a hand of:

Infused Arrows

Suntouched Myr

Thought Courier

Raise the Alarm

Arcbound Worker

2 Swamp

It looks initially like a keeper – two lands and a turn 1 play on the draw. The problem is that if you fail to draw any of your 7 Plains and Islands or the Darksteel Ingot (or draw the Ingot but no more land) then you’re shafted. It’s also not terribly good if you draw Swamps unless you also get some action. Having said that, an early Island or Darksteel Ingot allowing the Courier will be very good and there actually aren’t many more colored spells – just Arrest, Stasis Cocoon, Somber Hoverguard and Qumulox and no more sunburst stuff. So there are eight cards that will sort you out almost totally (even Plains allowing Raise the Alarm will then make Suntouched Myr and Infused Arrows acceptable) and only four really dead draws. The complication is that drawing several of the remaining seven Swamps may not be all that hot either. That still leaves 2/3 of the deck good for you with the proviso that no more land even for 3-4 draws will be bad whatever else you draw apart from Terror and Blind Creeper. I obviously only drew Swamps, Stasis Cocoon, and Arrest until turn 6 where a Nim Abomination was somewhat unhelpful.

Thanks for your help. Sorry if this is a bit long for the column and feel free to cut any of my blather if needed.


Well Ben, you came to the right place. I don’t claim to have many skills in this game, but one I feel I possess to a great degree is mulligan decisions.

You say it seems like a keep at first glance, but I am not sure why. If I had to make the decision in a split second I’d ship it, but I think that even with analysis this is an easy mulligan.

The only spell in your hand that you can cast is an Arcbound Worker. Odds are you will have the mana to cast the Suntouched Myr, but it is as likely to be a 1/1 as a 2/2 and very unlikely for it to be a 3/3. Even if you get one of the seven lands that will let you play one of your two-drops, you still have the other one there that won’t ever get cast because you have the Myr and the Arrows.

I would send this hand in a heartbeat and be glad my decision was so easy.

Still the source of mulligan decisions,


Stay tuned throughout the week for more quotes, questions, and quibbles, and get ready for an extra special guest and a true legend in the game of Magic on Thursday. G’night everybody!

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Avoid the Clappe. – Jimmy Dugan

Hey, that’s good advice. Speaking of advice, this is Ask Ken. I’m your host, Ken Krouner. I know you all tuned in today to hear an exciting question, so I won’t keep you in suspense any longer.

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

What’s your take on Darksteel Pendant in Limited? I didn’t think much of it at first, but I lost a match this weekend because my opponent used it to dig through his deck and find the one card he needed to save himself. It seems like having a permanent scry every turn is good, but is it better than having another good creature or spell?


Well Seb, This is an age-old question. This was asked of the pros at Pro Tour: Amsterdam, and the decision was pretty split. I was shocked and appalled at this. I don’t think Darksteel Pendant is even worth taking as a late pick, I’d rather have a situational sideboard card like Nourish than Darksteel Pendant. I realize that there are times when this card can be good, but I can’t see it.

This card, when you draw it, is essentially a mulligan. You are giving up a card to improve your card quality. That is precisely what a mulligan is. Now, I am the world’s biggest mulligan advocate, and I still hate this card. Why? The reason I hate it is that unlike a mulligan the first use costs three and it costs one for every use after that. Moreover, you aren’t getting six new cards – you are getting one for each activation.

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I use my mana every turn in this format, and so should you.

The source of mulligans, both mid-game and pre-game,


Short and sweet, just like I like my women. That’s all the time I have for today. G’night everybody!

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