Ask the Editor, 11/09/2004

How much do you think Cranial Extraction will limit the types of decks that are viable?

As of right now, I’m probably sitting in an airport during a miserable layover at either Washington Dulles or LAX, wishing I had bothered to buy a Gameboy before heading out on Quantas Airlines, which – loosely translated from the original Australian — means “You are never getting off this plane.” Anyway, give me a fleeting thought as you use your freedom of movement today, as I’ll mostly be stuffed into uncomfortable airplane/airport seats trying desperately to occupy my mind while my body sits tragically idle. Enough with the preamble, on with the show.

How much do you think Cranial Extraction will limit the types of decks that are viable?

-Josh Edwards

Wow, this is an open-ended question that doesn’t refer to a specific format – that makes it much harder. Let me warm up here with some background information before I delve into the meaty parts.

One of my favorite cards of all time is Cabal Therapy, possibly the best skill-testing discard spell of all time. You have no idea how many times Jim and I have lamented the absence of Therapy from Constructed formats, and the lack of this awesome discard spell is often the straw that breaks the Red Sox fan’s back when it comes to running Black in most Type Two formats.

Anyway, my point here is that Cabal Therapy is awesome, but it never really had a distorting effect on a format, aside from making decks that run Black spells a little better. Cranial Extraction is both the same and different. It’s clearly an awesome card (and well-costed — nice work, R&D) that fits with the concept of skill-testing discard. Any Black deck that can run them in Standard will probably pack a full set of four somewhere between the maindeck and the sideboard, though they are not always strong enough to steal maindeck space from cards that are a little more focused on say… killing your opponent. That said, Extraction does adjust the format in a way Therapy never did. As long as there are good decks that can run Black in the format, all other decks must diversify their threat base enough so that one or even two Extractions will not wreck them. Some Pros were even bitching about the card at Pro Tour: Columbus, though in the end it proved to be a bit too slow in most cases to really impact most decks.

My feeling about Extraction is that in the end, it will not limit the types of decks that are viable, but it will limit the builds of various decks that can win in an Extraction-heavy environment. Whether we will see one of those remains to be seen.

By this time last year, right before Mirrodin came in, Star City had done Event Coverage for three Grand Prix – the Extended GP at New Orleans, the Block Constructed GP at Detroit, and the Standard GP at Atlanta (those last two with some especially fine “from their hands” coverage of the finals). But Star City has not covered an American Premiere Event since then – Instead, we see “by Ted Knutson” an awful lot on the magicthegathering.com coverage.

[Yes, there’s the terrific Type I coverage, but there’s some big differences between a major Type 1 event and a Grand Prix; proxies, for one.]

So my question is, what happened? Is it not cost-effective for Star City to do that kind of coverage? I imagine it’s hard to marshal the writers and resources; is it simply easier to farm yourself out to the Sideboard? And, when you do write stuff for the Sideboard/magic.com, are you doing it on Star City’s nickel or do the WotC pay you?

Mark Young

Ooo, a tasty one (and one that I have to be careful in answering for various reasons I can’t go into here). For starters, when I’m writing for MagictheGathering.com, I’m on their dime, though SCG clearly reaps some benefit from my presence there, since it allows me to pester awesome people like [author name="Ruud Warmenhoven"]Ruud Warmenhoven[/author] and [author name="Gadiel Szleifer"]Gadiel Szleifer[/author] for reports and articles about their decks and the format.

Regarding coverage by StarCityGames.com, it disappeared because the human resources we would normally use to cover an event were tasked to other projects. Ferrett’s most important project since I took over the editing and he moved to webmaster has been coding the new shopping cart that we use, so his time was taken by that. We’re still a small company, and we have to be really careful with resource management if we every want to add new (non-content) material to the website. Oh, and Ben Bleiweiss got mono just before Worlds 2004, or else we would have covered San Francisco, so it’s not as if we’ve completely abandoned the idea… it just hasn’t worked out very well lately.

As for future coverage of events, it’s something we are weighing carefully. It’s not a cheap undertaking because you have travel costs for a whole team, room and board expenses, and Ferrett’s habit of ordering hundreds of dollars in porn from the hotel’s Pay-Per-View system and then blaming everyone else who roomed with him — that adds up to real money rather quickly. Since event coverage comes out of Wizards’ advertising budget, it’s much easier for them to pay for event coverage than for SCG.com to do so. That said, we haven’t ruled out future coverage — we simply have yet to free the resources needed to do it, or to determine what exactly we will be covering. I can guarantee you one thing though: when we do cover, it will be good.

Teddy Cardgame

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