Ask The Drama — Future Sight, Mono-Green, and Play-Styles

Today’s instalment of Ask The Drama has Jeroen waxing lyrical on a number of important topics, both Magical and non-Magical. Does Future Sight bring anything to the Mono-Green Aggro decks? What’s the best way to begin building a midrange deck? Is age and gender a barrier to success in this wonderful game? And is it difficult to learn Dutch? All this, and more, answered within!

I was a little slow getting started on this week’s article, because… well, the new Heroes came out, and I had to watch that first. I was a little disappointed – mainly because of the long wait, I think – and the cliffhanger really didn’t develop as well as I though it would. Oh well, the show is still awesome. I just expected more stuff to happen.

Last weekend I played in a Future Sight Prerelease, in which I went 5-1 with a very unexciting deck. I played U/G with a splash for a Griffin Guide, and I tried making up for my lack of bombs by playing as much evasion as possible. My best cards were my two Infiltrator il-Kors. I mostly won via tempo, which is always so good in formats like this, where everyone loves to play their fun bombs.

The set looks awesome for Limited, as all the cards are very tricky and have a lot of text, which usually means it is very skill intensive. Add a bunch of scry, and the format is even better. It’s going to be fun seeing how the format is going to develop. [Okay… who are you, and what have you done with the real Jeroen Remie? – Craig.]

For Constructed though, I am not sure just yet. [Ah, there he is… – Craig, amused.]

There seem to be some cards that look like they could be problematic in the future, mostly in Vintage, which I know very little about. Stuff like free counterspells. Other than that, there doesn’t seem to be all that much for the formats I tend to play. It seems a little light for a third set, with very few expensive cards besides the new set of duals. Thank god they made the U/B one the worst…

Speaking of which, this past weekends PT definitely showed that this is a very decent Block format. There was a lot of great talent in the Top 8, with some of the best Constructed players in the world represented. To me, the skill level of the people in the Top 8 is still the best way to measure the health of a format, and this block format passed with flying covers.

Once again, I have to thank all of you for sending me so many questions. I actually have a bunch saved up for the next few weeks! That’s great, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want more, especially on the subject of the PT and the new set! Be sure to send them to [email protected].

This week’s first question was sent by Greg Squire

I have a problem that I’m hoping you can help with. A good buddy of mine, who I playtest with incessantly, can’t find a deck he enjoys playing that’s competitive in Standard. I tried to help him put something together, but wasn’t up to the challenge.

Basically, he’s interested in playing a midrange deck. The obvious problem with that is that the format is incredibly hostile to midrange right now. Glacially slow control and lightning-fast combo are its worst enemies, and they are in ascendance.

If you could talk through your approach to building a midrange deck, and maybe throw out a few ideas or deck skeletons for Standard, I’d really appreciate it.

Hey Greg. As you might know, I love a good midrange deck. Whenever possible I try and see if one might work, as it is my favorite type of deck. As you also know, the good matchups for a midrange deck tend to be creature decks, and therefore they thrive in formats where there are a lot of creature decks. This is not the case right now.

The first thing I tend to do when looking to build a midrange deck is (obviously) look at the cards that are available, for both my deck and the other decks in the format. Usually you will see one or two cards – Glare of Subdual and Loxodon Hierarch, for instance – and try and work them into a deck. A great tool to see what is out there is Magic Online, where you can easily check the last couple of tournaments and see what is possible. Frank Karsten does this every couple of weeks on MagictheGathering.com, And Craig does the same each Monday on this very site. Those columns should give you a good idea of the decks that you need to beat.

The Top 4 decks in Frank’s last article are Dragonstorm, Izzetron, R/G Aggro, and Dralnu. If you want to do well, you have to beat at least two of these decks, and have a passable matchup against the other two.

What you do next is look at the vulnerabilities of these decks, and see if you can exploit them. From what I can tell, the three non-aggro decks really dislike efficient discard spells, so discard might be a good plan towards beating these. Checking the decks that are already out there, we spot very few midrange decks. The closest that we can get is something like Angelfire (which is more like control) or Dredge (which is more like combo).

Then, after you spot the weaknesses, it’s all about trying to get your deck to work. All you can do at that point is test, test, test some more, and adjust. Right now seems like the worst time to look for midrange type decks, what with the power level being so high, but who knows… you might be able to find something!

I also suggest reading Jamie Wakefield articles on this very site, as he is currently trying to find the perfect midrange deck himself, and he also goes through these steps every week.

Good luck!

John Klauk wants some tips on Two-Headed Giant draft:

How do you feel about hate-drafting in Two-Headed Giant? My question stems from mainly from the following example. My partner and I are drafting the sliver decks at the table during the MS 2HG Champs event. Between us, we have abandoned Black as a color by the time we are to open the Planar Chaos packs. We open our first Planar Chaos pack, and it has Damnation in it, among other goodies. We eventually draft the Damnation and a Sinew Sliver.

My opinion is that there is a lot of wiggle room for hate-drafting in the Top 4 portion. You are more likely to have to play versus a card you decide to yank out, as there are only three other opponents instead of the usual seven. In addition, you get to remove one card while still getting a quality card for one of your decks. I’m not advocating hating every pick, but from our practice sessions, it “feels” correct sometimes. How do you feel about it?

Happy side note: we won our Champs event with our disgusting Sliver decks. Both matches ended on turn 6! We would have won one even if our opponents had forty life, and in the finals we were on the play!

The way Two-Headed Giant draft works is that you are playing almost all the colors almost all of the time, which means that hate drafting seldom really happens as you will be able to play most cards you see. Even if it is the first Planar Chaos pack, this means that you can still easily switch most of the time, and try and fit one of the extreme bombs in any deck.

Also, Two-Headed Giant draft uses six packs, which totals ninety cards. Of these ninety cards, you will only play around forty to fifty most of the time, which means you will not play half of the cards you draft. This format has a lot of playables, which means you will almost always be over the amount you need and will have to cut fine cards.

This means that you can easily hate-draft, because:

A) It might make your decks anyway, and
B) You will have plenty of playables no matter what.

This is why our strategy is to simply take the best card, and work out what will and won’t fit into what decks later on. In our strategy, White is usually the color we leave out, but we are definitely still open to picking White cards. You never know what’ll happen during those last packs.

Peter Gudlewski has a huge stack of things he wants to know:

If I had to start watching, via DVD, either Lost or 24, which would you recommend? And why?

I would recommend going for a better show, like House or Sopranos! I feel like both shows have their problems, while still being pretty decent entertainment. 24 to me is a slave to its format, where the “24 hour gimmick” can lead to boring episodes and longwinded storylines. Lost started out really strong, with an amazing first season, and then slid off a little bit during the following seasons. It started picking up again in the last couple of weeks though, which means that at this point I would have to say Lost.

But like I said, there is a lot of stuff out there that is even better…

Do you hate Logan Echols? Like, in your soul? (Most people I know are like "He’s such an *sshole, but I love him anyway.")

Like Veronica Mars! To be honest, it has been quite a while since I have watched. The break has been so long. But no, I don’t hate Logan at all. He is a pretty standup guy that maybe did some things wrong, but he doesn’t strike me as evil.

How intense is the English language education in the Netherlands? When do you start learning, etc.? Do you have a native speaker of English proof your columns? (Not counting the Esteemed Editor.)

We get a fair amount of English, as early as our 10th or 11th year, but in general we learn from watching TV and Movies. I myself also read a huge amount of comic books, and I play Magic so I have even more contact with the language. In general, because of the media, every Dutchie speaks English very well. I myself like to think I am fluent in English, and I don’t use a proofreader at all. Though my typing skills leave somewhat to desire, which I am sure irritates the editor plenty of times. [I’m saying nothing. – Craig.]

Could I learn to speak Dutch? And do you happen to know the linguistic family to which it belongs?

Sure you could, though I have heard from many people that it is the hardest non-Asian language in the world. Especially our pronunciation, with the hard CHHR sounds, as they are difficult for anyone not native to the Netherlands, Belgium, or Germany. Dutch is basically a mix of languages that are seen everywhere in Europe, and it has traces of English, French, and obviously German. It is a Germanic Language.

In ten years, do you see yourself still playing actively? And (obligatory Rock-related question) do you still see yourself working to break The Rock in a variety of formats? And if / when you have a family, do you think you’d introduce your children to the game? How would you do so? And at what age?

I don’t play as actively as I used to anymore, so no, I don’t think so. I am pretty sure that I will still play it in one form or the other casually, as long as my friends do. Basically, Magic is all about friendships, and it’s an excuse to hang with my friends that I have had since we started playing together, and also an excuse to hang with the friends I’ve made all over the world playing this game…

As for kids…wow, I really haven’t thought about that yet. Let’s cross that bridge when we get there, okay?

This is less a question and more a recommendation: watch Arrested Development scene by scene, rewatching each scene once or twice. I recently had the opportunity to do so with a friend from Japan (in order to explain the jokes) and I caught so many jokes that just would have otherwise flashed by.

I have just finished all the seasons (in one week), and I must say the show is pretty awesome. Watching them this close together means I picked up on almost every inside joke, which is so worth it. The show is pretty awesome, and I just can’t stop saying Bob Loblaw Lawbllog in my head…

With Block Constructed the next PTQ season, why isn’t there more discussion on the format? Is it due to Future Sight’s forthcoming release? What is lacking in MGA for block? I feel like I might be missing something, but I’ve been teasing the decklist out of my skull for about three weeks. And I like it, but I feel like it might be terrible in reality. Here it is:

14 Forest
4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Desert

4 Groundbreaker
4 Primal Forcemage
4 Timbermare
4 Uktabi Drake
4 Giant Dustwasp

3 Avoid Fate
3 Evolution Charm
3 Harmonize
4 Might of Old Krosa
3 Lotus Bloom
2 Squall Line

I don’t have a sideboard for it. Any suggests/thoughts? (Feel free to include "scrap the whole thing and play DeckX.")

The reason there was no discussion about block was basically the upcoming Pro Tour, which was this weekend. Expect the articles to show up in bunches now that everyone can talk about their tech freely. It also gives you a great place to look for what is good and bad right now. The deck you listed here has a bunch of huge problem. It’s too slow, and it has an inability to win against some decks. The biggest problem is in the cards: they really cannot stand on their own. Primal Forcemage is fun with a hasty guy, but by itself it’s just horrible…

Scrap the deck and take a look at the Yokohama Top 8…

Your TV Top 10 included only American shows. Is that a product of your expected audience? Or is American TV just that big in other places? (Or do you live in America and I’ve lived under a rock this whole time?)

I live in the Netherlands, but the reason I included only American shows is twofold. The first part is indeed my expected audience, as there is very little use in listing a bunch of Dutch shows when only a handful of readers have access to them. The other reason is that I don’t actually watch a lot of television, and really only watch DVDs and downloaded TV shows. Dutch TV is pretty sub-par, apart from the American shows we get, and I don’t enjoy it as much. All I really tend to sit down to watch is soccer!

Do you enjoy reading? What are your favorite / most recently read books?

I don’t really enjoy reading novels, but I do love reading Comic Books. I don’t really know why that is, but I’m not drawn to novels at all. Maybe it has to do with me being forced to read so much in high school, which basically made me sick of reading for life. The last books I read are Tournaments for Magic the Gathering by Jamie Wakefield, and Deckade by Mike Flores. Wow, am I a geek!

I also read all of Frank Miller’s Daredevil, which I can also recommend!

If I dislike playing MTGO, but would like to take my game to the next level without a vibrant Magic community in my area, are there ways I can take the Next Step? Or do they all start in MO and end in DO?

No, of course not. It all comes down to playing as much as possible. The reason you hear MTGO so much, from other pros and myself, is that it allows anyone at any time to find a game and play, but playing in real life is just as good for your development. Really, the only way to get good is to play as much as possible.

Next up is Janet:

I started playing at age 45 (3 years ago) and I was wondering if there were many older players at the Pro Tour level. Most of the ones I see in the blogs are quite young. Also, are there many women that play at that level?

Hey Janet, good to hear from you! It is always nice to hear from the not-so-standard public.

I am going to be short here… no, there are not a lot of older players or female players at the absolute top level. The reason for this is pretty simple. Playing Magic well takes a lot of time. You to play as much as possible to get as good as you can, maybe even playing for hours every day, and the only people that really have time for this are pros and students. This means that everyone that is really good either started young or is still young, simply because they have more time.

As for females… well, we are a sport dominated by men, which always scares away the women. Couple this with the fact that a lot of the players can be very immature…

Oh, and the “fantasy and geek” aspect doesn’t help either.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. Older players, like the infamous Eric “Danger” Taylor and the YMG squad, have proven time and again that it is possible to succeed when you’re older, and female players like Alana Burman, Kate Sullivan, and (recently) Analynn Bustamante have shown that females are around, and that they are good enough to make it to the PT! These are all still the minority though, although to me it seems that I see more females at tournaments these days.

No matter your age or gender, if you practice as much as possible you will get better… and who knows? Maybe I’ll see you at the next Pro Tour!

Ryan Gleason asks this week’s final question:

I was wondering about play-styles amongst pro players. Are there styles of play that differ from one pro to another, to the point where most plays beyond the obvious are almost always going to be different? If so, what characterizes these different play-styles (and which do you find the most effective)? Or do you feel that most pros are trying to work towards a consensus on right / wrong Magic?

Finally, Prodigal Pyromancer or Dead / Gone?

There is no such thing as perfect Magic. Quentin Martin recently wrote an article on magicthegathering.com about a simple combat situation where a bunch of options were discussed, and even professional players disagreed on the correct play. If a simple situation like that can cause pros to disagree, you can bet that most every player will play a game of Magic differently.

Some people play fast, other people play slow. Some people play aggressive, others try to be a little more conservative. There are as many different play-styles as there are Magic players. Which play-style is the best? That depends entirely on the situation. Sometimes Player A makes the correct call, and sometimes Player B will be right. The player that is right most of the times ends up being the better player with the better play-style.

The best players tend to be those that understand the uses of different styles of play, and master them all. This does not mean that they are always right, because that is the beauty of this game… there is no such thing as perfect Magic.

As for your last question, I think Dead / Gone is a much better card. Pyromancer, while great, is very vulnerable, while Dead / Gone is always a great spell.

And that’s it for this week. Keep those questions coming to [email protected], and I’ll make sure to keep answering them!