Blog Fanatic: Forget the Set Review, Bring on the Reader Mailbag!

Ben opens up the reader mailbag, where he answers your pressing questions! Thrill along with Ben as he responds to the burning issues such as this one from Christopher Feliciano, who writes “You are a stupid *** fat bald **** who knows nothing about magic and needs to go kill himself and get it over with! Your articles on starcitygames are pointless and suck! – A better player than you.”

The other day, I finished up my set review for Champions of Kamigawa for the Vintage environment. After it was published, I was generally dissatisfied – not because of the review itself, but for another reason. It took me a day to figure out the source of my unease, but finally it came to me – Blog Fanatic isn’t about set reviews. Blog Fanatic is about people and the game. When I started this column, I wanted to share some stories from my past, talk about the people of Magic, and connect to a community in more intimate way than by saying”Ghostly Prison is the best card in Standard out of Champions of Kamigawa”. To get this column back on track, let’s open up the reader mailbag!

The first thing I’d like to do is send thanks to the many people who wrote and e-mailed my mom birthday wishes! She appreciated each and every one of them, and it really made her birthday something even more special than usual this year! So many”thank yous” go out to, in alphabetical order, Brian Langley, Colin Petersen (of Queensland, Australia), David”Vasa” Verstraeten (of Temse, Belgium) Jeff Till (of New York), and Jeff Zandi (The Sheriff of Texas).

Jeffrey from Orange, California writes,”What’s the worst play you’ve ever made? The best play?”

Good question Jeffrey! I have two worst plays that really stick out in my mind. The first occurred during the semi-finals of a Pro Tour Qualifier during Masques Sealed Deck season (straight Masques/Masques/Masques). My opponent had drafted a Green/White/Red deck based around multiple enchantments including several Ancestral Masks. I had a White/Blue deck with some flyers and a small Rebel chain.

In game three, I got Devout Witness into play, and started taking out key enchantments on my opponent’s side of the board. He did get me down in life quickly, but I was about to stabilize the game and had begun turning things around with flyers. My opponent was left with two enchantments left in play – an Ancestral Mask on a Snorting Gahr, and a Noble Purpose. My opponent drew and before he swung for the turn, he hit the Witness with a Lunge. I had a choice – I could either kill the Noble Purpose, which would leave the Gahr as a much more threatening figure, should other enchantments hit the board, or I could kill the Mask and try to race with life totals. I killed the Mask, and ended up losing the game by two life, while my opponent gained about fifteen or so life off the Purpose over the course of the rest of the game. I made a blazingly bad call, and it still haunts me.

The other worst play I made was at Pro Tour: Mainz, during the last draft of the Swiss rounds. I was at table number one at the draft, with a very good shot of making Top 8 with a win in either of my first two rounds. I drafted a Black/Green deck, but took Coffin Queen over Dauthi Marauder as one of my first picks. Later in the draft, Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz took away a Trained Armodon as a late pick that was sure to reach me, which left me with Pincher Beetles instead. He apologized to me after the draft (we were on good terms back then – not that we aren’t now, but he knew he shouldn’t have counterdrafted me). I ended up losing twice because I drew the Beetles when I needed a creature with a toughness greater than one, and I kept regretting every time I drew my Coffin Queen instead of the Dauthi Marauder I should have had in my deck. I ended up going 0-2-1 in that final pod to finish 23rd or 24th at that Pro Tour.

My best play ever? It probably was during my match against a guy named Gabe at the first Pro Tour Qualifier ever – but that’s a story I’m going to tell in a couple of weeks.

Erik Hjalmers from Sweden writes,”How did you become an internet writer?”

Good question Erik! It all started during the usenet days, when groups like rec.games.deckmaster ruled the roost, and I would frequently post about decks, people, and Magic in general. I submitted a few tournament reports and articles to The Dojo, but didn’t write for a few years until Mark Rosewater lent me a gracious invitation to write for MagicTheGathering.com. That gig led to freelance writing for The Sideboard, and I eventually started a column at StarCityGames.com for Pete Hoefling once I came under his employ. This reign of writing, under both 18,000 Words and Blog Fanatic, has led to a mass defection of readership, critical disdain, and death threats levied against my cats, Sir Charles and Jean Luc. Witness the following piece of mail!

Bark Rosewater from Renton, Washington writes,”Woof woof woof arf! Arf woof bow wow arf arf bark arf woof woof arooooooooooooooo!”

Que lastima senor perro! Solamente hablo espanol, y no hablo su lengua loco!

Christopher Feliciano writes,”You are a stupid *** fat bald **** who knows nothing about magic and needs to go kill himself and get it over with! Your articles on starcitygames are pointless and suck! – A better player than you

Confidential to Chris: How did you know that your naughty words are just what I needed to get me through these lonely nights with my girlfriend an hour away? Kate, I might need to leave you for this mystery man who has such a way with the words! Chris, you also forgot to mention that I’m middle-aged, I have athlete’s foot, and that I resemble a hybrid of The Critic (Jay Sherman) and The Penguin (of Bat-Man fame). Please, next time you want to write me a love letter, be sure to include those references!

A.F. from Renton, Washington (wow, a lot of these today!) writes:”Where’s my article? You can’t keep turning in things with 5 minutes left to go a week past deadline!”

Let me officially apologize to A.F. from Renton for this lack of responsibility, and let this question answer the question,”Why aren’t you writing for MTG.com anymore?” This is an unofficial answer – the parting was amicable on both ends. Reading between the lines, I certainly was having problems keeping a weekly schedule at the time. With age comes more of a sense of responsibility, so now I’m writing 3-6 columns a week with virtually no deadline problems.

Aaron Harleman writes,”Hello again, long time no see. You may not remember it, but you and I were in The Source together on Asheron’s Call. I was TheCatt, I played on Harvestgain first and then later on Darktide after everyone moved over. Unfortunately I had to quit after a little over a year to leave for Marine Corps boot camp. I was Goswal on Dark age of Camelot for a short time as well. Anyway, long story short I am now stationed in Fallujah Iraq as a Combat Illustrator and have gotten back into Magic in a big way (I won a PTQ for the first time but had to come out here instead of going to San Diego *frown*). Thanks to my position as a illustrator I have access to a computer and limited internet. I read www.starcitygames.com just about everyday on my down time to keep myself busy and keep up on all things magic. This last week though has been really slow so I needed to have something more to fill my time. I saw that you were running a specialized tourney that looked really cool so I thought I would put a deck together for it even though I could not play. Well I think the deck I put together is pretty powerful but it may be inconsistent. A few cards are for nostagils sake (Lord of Tresserhorn, Mano’war) but most of the deck is packed with good stuff that has some great synergy. The only questionable card is Uthden Troll, it says”Bosh” in the Flavor text (the first card to do so) but is not really talking about him.

So anyway, I was wondering if you could do me a favor since I am all the way out here. I was hoping that you could put this deck together and play it at the tournament or loan it to someone else who wants to play but doesn’t have a deck. That way maybe I can feel like I am playing in a tournament vicariously.

Take care,

 Aaron Harleman

TheCatt just about anywhere online”

Aaron’s referring to my Scavenger Hunt tournament from a few weeks back. I did indeed end up playing Aaron’s deck, which was a collaboration between his original decklist and a couple of tweaks on my end. Pete Hoefling ended up playing the deck I originally built, and I played Aaron’s deck, straight from Iraq.

Aaron and Ben’s Scavenger Hunt Decklist!


1 Avalanche Riders

1 Cabal Inquisitors

1 Crater Hellion

1 Crypt Angel

2 Flametongue Kavu

1 Goblin Sharpshooter

1 Gwendolyn DiCorci

1 Man-o’-War

1 Morphling

1 Nekrataal

2 Nightscape Familiar

2 Psychatog

1 Shadowmage Infiltrator

2 Thought Courier

1 Tradewind Rider

1 Uthden Troll


1 Barbed Lightning

2 Cursed Scroll

1 Demonic Tutor

1 Electrostatic Bolt

1 Engineered Explosives

1 Lightning Surge

1 Mox Jet

3 Nevinyrral’s Disk

1 Recurring Nightmare

1 Soul Foundry

1 Sword of Fire and Ice

1 Treachery

1 Unsummon

1 Yawgmoth’s Will


1 City of Brass

1 Forest

1 Gemstone Mine

1 Grand Coliseum

6 Island

5 Mountain

1 Plains

5 Swamp

1 Thawing Glaciers

1 Volcanic Island


1 Acid Rain

1 Anger

1 Black Lotus

1 Chimney Imp

2 Crypt Angel

1 Dystopia

1 Fireball

1 Flashfires

1 Mind Twist

1 Nekrataal

1 Odylic Wraith

1 Perish

1 Recurring Nightmare

1 Wonder

I ended up winning the tournament, winning each of the four rounds. Highlights included locking down people with Recurring Nightmare/Man-O-War/Avalanche Riders, dropping a second turn Morphling with Black Lotus, and Perishing away nearly a half dozen creatures at once again a Green player.

Congrats, Aaron! Your deck won!

Thank you to everyone for all the great questions and comments! If I didn’t get to your e-mail this time, I’ll be sure to get to it in the future – and as always, I can be reached at [email protected] for all comments, questions, and feedback!

Ben can be reached at [email protected]. Yes, we know he just said that. Too bad, you have to see his e-mail twice. How about a third time? [email protected] is where you can reach Ben. Ben is thinking about legally changing his name to [email protected]. All inspirations go to The Mad Hatter, former Texas tournament organizer. Yes, he did legally change his name to The Mad Hatter. He also once possessed the world’s largest collection of Quarum Trench Gnomes. You can’t reach The Mad Hatter at [email protected], but you can reach Ben at [email protected].