Breaking the Format Three Times Over

What do Mike Flores and StarCityGames.com have in store for you in the weeks leading up to States? How can you get Mike to buy you a beer and introduce you to hot chicks? Is there anything on earth cuter than Flores’s baby? I’m not sure if he answers all these questions inside or not, but you don’t want to miss what we have planned for you and the site in the coming weeks!

Part I of III, Editor’s Choice

“You can never go back to editing, you know.”

Ted Knutson

Some years ago, when I was the editor of a Magic website, I decided to give some of my best writers an assignment. Now most of you, certainly those of you who have submitted content to Magic websites yourselves over the years, probably know that most sites sort of wait around for their writers to produce. Some of the time you have some ridiculous stud on your staff who seems to churn out classics at the snap of a finger. When you’re very lucky, as I was in November of 1999, you have maybe ten or even twenty regular columnists and ten or twenty thousand regular contributors in the community who might grow into being the voices of the next generation. But for even the best editors, Magic at the end of the summer sort of d r a g s o n.

November = Necropotence. September = Sorrow’s Path.

So I had this idea during the Urza’s Block Constructed season wherein I would recruit three of my top guys and have them all do the same thing. In this case, I told Jamie Wakefield, Eric Taylor, and David Price to make mono-red beatdown decks.

Here they are:

Jamie Wakefield

Eric Taylor

David Price

Secretly, I would have liked to see Jamie make some sort of fatty 26/62 deck, but he actually followed instructions and built his deck according to a legitimate curve. edt, as expected, wrote a book and spent most of the time in his article talking about how, despite the fact that he was in fact completing the assignment, a mono-Red beatdown deck would be more-or-less a poor choice. Dave, for his part, just made a great deck.

The great irony was that Jamie, the most irregular of the three, was actually riding Extended rating, edt was qualified in some dinosaur way that I don’t recall, and Dave, the Pro Tour champion, was the odd man out. The greater irony is that Dave played Stompy in the PTQ he attended the next weekend rather than his own mono-Red deck… but someone else qualified with it immediately!

Rob Lawling wins Dallas PTQ!

The lesson? The assignment that I had put together just to have some readable content at the tail end of a long, slow, August not only produced some good decks, not only put the fire under some of my best guys, But Qualified An Attentive Reader For The Pro Tour.

What else can an editor ask for?

I know what you’re thinking.

Where is the Chris Pikula retrospective? Well don’t worry. It’s coming. Just not this week, next week, the week after, or probably the week after that. You probably already figured out that the Chris Pikula piece was a request from Ted as part of a larger project, and you’ll see by the end of this article that he and I are both going to have our hands full in the next couple of weeks.

Part II of III, Part 2K4 of Three

Ted and I are going to run a similar project to my Urza’s Block mono-Red beatdown assignment in the weeks prior to the 2004 State Championships. Now that Champions of Kamigawa is out, it is our sincere hope that we can get some interest back into the art of deck building. Hopefully, by the end of this project, we will be able to point at some deck or other and make a recommendation other than”4 Aether Vial, 4 Arcbound Ravager…”

Ted is going to assign a deck archetype, set of colors, or idea to his staff. Those people are going to put together stacks of sixty that they think will be good looks for States, given the constraints of any assignment. They are going to share their ideas with you in Actual Strategy Articles, here on Star City Games dot com.

And then we’re going to tear them up.

The coolest part is that we are going to subject these poor decks to an abridged gauntlet, similar to the project that I brought up but never really realized back in Regionals, Metagames, and the John of Death.

In Rob Hahn’s 1999 model for metagames, the Legend said that the perfect format is one where beatdown, combo, and control are in balance, with no one completely overpowering the other two wings of the metagame. I don’t really think that we have a very strong combo wing right now, and Ironworks seems to be about it. So I’m not going to structure the playtest around this. But I am probably going to run each deck in about 3-4 matchups, depending. Definitely every deck is going to have to go head to head with an Affinity deck before it gets through the ringer, and just like in a real tournament, there is no guarantee that the matchups are going to be fair. Someone is going to get to play against his best matchup in a variable round and someone else is going to have to face his worst. And it will show.

I am actually really excited about this, but I could use some help. Ted is going to start a thread called”If States Were Tomorrow, What Would You Play?”, and in this thread, you post what you would play. You can say”Affinity” (say, if you had good sense), or you could say whatever wonky deck you would play. Some of you will even post decks in the thread, and Ted will draw from this thread example decks that we can throw at the archetypes that the writers produce. Yes, your Relentless Rats deck might just manascrew CENSORED.

We are pulling out the big guns on this project, so you will see your favorite designers shake off the cobwebs. Our goal is to get some of your favorite writers involved, and I think we’ll have a surprise or two. More than that, we’re bound to repeat Dave’s feat from 1999. Let’s be honest, with more writers involved – including some top flight designers just like Dave Price on Sligh – the quality of decks we produce is going to be high.

And let’s face it: States ain’t no PTQ. Just ask Bennie.

The gauntlet gets thrown down next Friday with my column. I will be kicking off with our first assignment, CENSORED.

Part III of III, *****/******

You may remember back in Two Bits that I pimped my friend Marianne’s Anti-Valentine’s Day Album Release Party at Luna Lounge. Well, as I attended that show, I know for certain that you weren’t there, except for you, you, you… and I think you. But a bunch of gamers did appear, and we all had a great time. As advertised, I purchased attendees shiny beers. As advertised, Luna Lounge was, and continues to be, around the corner from Katz’s Deli.

This Sunday, as in two days from now, Marianne is going to play a show, well, Across The Street from Katz’s Deli at Mercury Lounge. Mercury Lounge is a great opportunity that plays host to everyone from Elvis Costello to Sid Straw. Marianne will be packing her brand new band, and they are, how shall we say? Very good. Cool kids will attend:


Sunday * Sept. 26th * 9:00pm * Mercury Lounge

217 East Houston St. | NYC | 212-260-4700


Now the last time I pimped one of her shows, my baby sister met not one, but two ridiculously good looking chicks. The thing that struck me about them was how different they were from one another. One of them was the soft and cute cut and the other one had a nose ring and a bad attitude. What is my sister going to do with such new friends? She’s not even gay! Where were these chicks when I was single? Back then, my little sister only had insane codependent and considerably less good looking friends to choose from.

The point? Single chicks abound at Marianne Pillsbury shows.

In fact, I went to a small show at Pianos last week, which is down the street from Katz’s Deli (what can I say? The Lower East Side has a lot of cool clubs). I saw quite a few of these:

Mmm, belly rings

Let me repeat: They are attached to SINGLE GIRLS. At a club ACROSS THE STREET FROM KATZ’S.

But don’t take my word for it, why not ask BellaJ? What is your opinion dear?

I Love Daddy


We know you love Daddy, Bella. But what do you think about Marianne’s music?

So cute

There you have it. Once again, cool kids will go to:


Sunday * Sept. 26th * 9:00pm * Mercury Lounge

217 East Houston St. | NYC | 212-260-4700