Ask Ken, 08/06/2004

I open some random stuff and Detonate, Solemn Simulacrum, Blinding Beam. Which bomb do you draft?

My job consists, basically, of masking my contempt for the assholes in charge, and once a day retiring to the men’s room to [censored] while fanaticizing about a life that doesn’t so closely resemble hell. This is still Ask Ken, I’m still Ken Krouner, and I still answer your questions. Speaking of which…

Today’s question comes to us from Jon of Albany, NY. Jon writes:

Okay, Mirrodin/5Dawn/5Dawn Shark draft (extract rares/premiums after tournament, draft as prizes in finishing order), Pack one. I open some random stuff and: Detonate, Solemn Simulacrum, Blinding Beam.

Which bomb do you draft? I decided to draft Sunburst/Cog-White since with 2 Fifth Dawn I concluded I had a decent chance of drafting a Salvager (which I subsequently achieved).

White was completely under-drafted by my opponents; the tournament is on hold since the store closed before we could finish round two of three last night.

Well Jon, that’s some tricky stuff. When I try a new format, I try to analyze the relative power levels and synergies of colors from a theoretical standpoint. The most powerful color in Fifth Dawn is likely Black, but it is relatively weak in Mirrodin. Straight up, White is probably the second most powerful color, but you can’t discount Sunburst.

I am not entirely sure what you mean by a Shark Draft. I assume you mean that all the players in the draft have at least some clue of what they are doing. With this in mind, I would take the Solemn Simulacrum. Beam is the most powerful card, but Solemn is the most versatile. When I am playing new formats, I err on the side of versatility.

I don’t think Detonate is on anywhere near the same level as the other two. I don’t consider it a bomb in MD5, and it only gets worse by removing Darksteel. Red is also by far and away the shallowest color in Fifth Dawn, so I wouldn’t look twice at Detonate.

My vote’s for Solemn, but I wouldn’t call anyone crazy for taking the Beam.

The source on all draft formats,


Well folks, enjoy your weekend and keep drafting!

[email protected]


Today’s Ask Ken guest stars (yes, there are two) are none other than U.K. Coverage machine (and dead sexy poker star) Mark Wraith, and the man, the myth, the IRC legend… Dan Bridy. Wraith’s picture is linked above, but for those of you wishing to picture Bridy, think of him as a taller, cleaner, less hairy Brock Parker. I submitted the same question to these two gents, and in spite of being on entirely different continents and speaking complete different languages (English and Philly), they had very similar answers for you. Anyway, prepare for the double dose of man lovin’… er, I mean Magic Advice heading your way!

Dear Ken

You have been playing magic for a long time. So i figured that i would ask u, i have recently started to hate the game magic the gathering. I have been playing for about 7 years now. Its been fun real fun. But as of late it has been looseing that charm it has had for so many years. Do you get tired of the game, what do you do to make the game fun again. Also on a side note, any cool new lingo out there.

Your Friend Black Bear

Dear Mr. Bear

I’ve been playing Magic even longer than you, for around nine years. I certainly know what you mean about Magic getting stale sometimes. I personally find it most exciting when a new set comes out, or even better, a whole new block like Mirrodin. Even after ten years, it seems to me that the Research and Development guys do a great job coming up with interesting new mechanics and ideas.

Every time a new set comes out, I hit Magic Online hard for a few weeks to try out the cards, but after a while you get used to all the cards, and it can seem like the same thing every time. You didn’t mention in your letter what type of Magic you usually play; (Casual, Drafting, serious Constructed), but whichever it is, I find a good way to liven things up is to try a new format. Remember that you don’t have to stick with any of the official sanctioned ones, so I’ll present as an idea a format my friends and I have had a lot of fun with recently.

Go through all your old cards and take out around 500 of the best ones, but only use one of each card. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t got all of the expensive cards, or if you wanted to you could proxy them up (or buy them from StarCityGames.com). Then sleeve them up, shuffle them, and divide them randomly into some fifteen card”packs”. Invite some friends around and do a regular booster draft with them. It’s certainly interesting when every fifteenth pick you get is playable. I’ve always found this format (called Cube Draft) an exciting cross between Limited and Constructed.

If trying new formats isn’t doing it for you, there’s nothing wrong with taking a break for a while. I’ve done the same and enjoyed the game a whole lot more when I came back.

As for new lingo, it seems that the current trend is some sort of crossover between Magic and Poker. A gentleman who was previously a scrub is now a”Donkey” or perhaps a”buffoon”. These days, a great play is more likely to be met with a cry of”oh, that’s suited” than with a”mise”. If you manage to make it into the 1700 room on Magic Online, you will frequently be greeted with the message”xxxxx has lost the connection”, which isn’t so much lingo as it is a fact of life when you play many players online. You know who you are…

Anyway, I hope you find some way to spice up your games and get that enjoyment back into Magic.


Mark Wraith

Yo Bear,

I have personally been playing Magic for close to eight years myself, and let me tell you, it has its ups and downs. For me, I always find the game fun and entertaining to some degree, but there are times when I wish was just playing Madden or interacting with females.

At any given time in Magic, there are lots of different formats that can be played. Right now for example, you can be playing Standard, Mirrodin Block Constructed, or just drafting with your buddies. Depending upon your level of play (casual or professional/semi professional), you can always find something interesting to do. If you are a casual player, try making up a new deck or a new format that you and your friends can enjoy. If you are a professional/semi professional player, try testing out that deck or matchup that you left out of your testing gauntlet, or sharpening your Limited game.

If all else fails, take a break. Taking a small break from Magic is usually beneficial, since when you come back there will hopefully be something new, like popular new decks, or a new set!

As far as cool new lingo is concerned, I think it’s basically just the same old mise/tings/chickwings kind of thing. I don’t really use much lingo myself, but one popular term nowadays is to”rubes.” This clever term refers to going to Ruby Tuesdays, a delicious eatery frequented by people such as myself, Morgan Douglass, and Brock Parker. If you really wanna”Rubes,” order three Chocolate Tall Cakes like Brock or Morgan. If you enjoy the experience, feel free to rerubes your companions for additional tasty delights.

One other linquistic gem that I like to use is the term”vomit.” Basically, whenever anything bad happens, just”vomit” – it makes you feel much better. Dude across from you peeled Tooth and Nail off the top? Vomit. Your friend just stomped your Thallid deck for the tenth time with his Initiate of the Ebon Hand combo deck? Vomit.

Anyway, thank you for your questions, and I hope I was able to answer them for you.

Dan Bridy


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!

[email protected]


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!

[email protected]


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!

[email protected]