CASUAL FRIDAYS #99: The Five-Color Article

Five topics, five moods, one sanity-challenged author.


“The Magic Invitational,” by The Cheerleader

I can’t wait for that super-duper Invitational! A couple of guys in our group suggested that I actually put myself up for voting; but with no pro points, such an effort would only be disruptive. And I’m a get-along kinda guy! So instead, I figured I’d lend a helping hand to those of you who are just too puckered out mentally to figure out who to vote for.

First, the people I actually voted for. They’re just super! Give ’em a hand, folks, okely-dokely?

Katsuhiro Mori: At Worlds, he clinched Rookie of the Year. I like seeing fresh new faces, and it would be just knock-me-down-and-color-me-tickled to see Mr. Rosewater make a permanent Rookie of the Year slot. That would turn a few frowns upside down!

Ben Rubin: The winner of two Masters series this past season, the ladies agree: This guy’s just too darn cute to leave at home! Someone take him to South Africa whether he makes it or not, okay? Thanks.

Gary Wise and Michael Turian: Two excellent players who have contributed a great deal to the Magic community through their writing. They will play well, and they’ll write informative, entertaining reports. I just know it!

There are lots of other choices that I would heartily endorse. Gee, I just wish we could vote for sixteen or twenty of these super-duper fellows! (Am I saying super-duper too much? Golly, I don’t know what’s gotten into me…)

Andrew Cuneo: Christopher Hearns wrote a splend-o-riffic endorsement of this player last week. And Hearns is right: Cuneo is an excellent choice. Vote for him. Had I remembered this incident while I was voting, I certainly would have.

Dave Price: My children are at the age where I’m encouraging them to”take turns.” By that logic, Dave could take a year off. But as top player/writer hybrid, and one who samples the whole Magic community for his card ideas, Dave deserves every single vote he gets.

Noah Weil: My hometown boy. Go, team! What – you don’t know this guy? Well, you should. Noah, if you can make out the words to his high-speed mumbling, will tell you that he’s played in more DCI-sanctioned matches than anyone else in the World. I have no idea if this is true, or even verifiable. But it’s gotta be worth something.

So anyway, I hope those choices help you Sit-on-the-Fence Franks and Can’t-Decide Charlies make a super-duper decision!

Have a super-duper day!


“The Dave Williams Incident” by The Pessimist

As the reporter covering the World Championship quarterfinals matchup where David Williams and Tom Van de Logt played four games before Williams was disqualified, I have a word or two to offer on the topic.

First, I’m wildly depressed that Williams was disqualified, whatever the truth of the matter. Williams is a personality of the game. He has always had a foot in the dark, with his aggressive attitude and pushy comments to opponents; but most of him has stuck around in the light, where his youthfulness is charming and the banter more or less sportsmanlike. Unlike a few regular pros I could name, he has always been willing to talk about a matchup and answer questions, give his insights on sideboarding, and so on. He is a blast to watch, and an interesting player to do coverage on. And, of course, he’s very, very good. The spectator and reporter in me hated to see his success at Worlds end in a humiliating disqualification.

My brain is telling me he did cheat intentionally… But my spirit is telling me he did not. That’s a pretty naïve spirit, I imagine; but Williams had other, rather impressive, character witnesses on site, including Bob Maher and the incorruptible Steven O’Mahoney-Schwartz. Until we see a pattern develop in Williams at tournaments, I would prefer to think of him as a man who made a single mistake (and is paying for it), and leave it at that.

The costs of these sorts of incidents continue to pile up. Because of the DCI’s (very necessary) approach to players who are penalized for deck manipulation, Williams will miss what had been a guaranteed shot at the Magic Invitational in South Africa. Pros and amateurs alike who follow Williams with interest took a blow to their hopes that they could cheer him on to victory, at Worlds or the Invitational. (One of the most depressing things I’ve seen happen in Magic was when Bob Maher came up to the Feature Match area in his white-letters-on-black”Dave Williams Fan Club…Generate for Nine!” T-shirt, to collect his colleague’s possessions from the table. Meanwhile, Mike Donais was announcing the penalty as he changed the game score on the board from 2-2 to 3-0.) Even Tom Van de Logt, who proved himself absolutely deserving of the Championship, must have been frustrated that he did not get the chance to test his excellent deck and champion’s skills in a fifth game against that Saproling-Opposition deck. Up to that point, it was a heck of a match.

Even judges and staff are affected by something like this. As for Jeff Donais, he was in phenomenally low spirits the rest of the day. I am not his spokesman, but I do know that he is a big fan of Williams. I can’t imagine he, his brother Mike, or anyone else involved in the decision, ruled as they did without looking for some other way. Many people who blow steam at the DCI or Wizards never get to see their very real emotions as they make these calls. It is not pretty.

We should also spare a thought for John Ormerod of the United Kingdom, who placed ninth in the individual standings and was automatically bumped up to Top 8 – but too late to play any more. He might have liked a chance to compete on that final Sunday.

One disqualification from deck manipulation. Tons of wreckage. I hope players around the world are watching this carefully.

And this, of course, on the heels of U.S. Nationals. How many more high-level events will withstand a Top 8 disqualification before some top-name players decide they don’t want to risk thousands of dollars playing against cheaters, or before the DCI decides it should not hold so many events, with so much prize money and publicity, just to see the integrity of the game torn down again and again?

One last word on this, which I will leave intentionally open to each reader’s interpretation: As I was leaving the tournament area for my flight (the semi-finals were finishing up, with Van de Logt and Borteh clinching wins), I ran into Dave and a few friends near the exit. He had the posture of a broken man. Still, he smiled faintly as I approached, and was willing to talk. After passing on my regrets, I suggested to him that he find a place to clear his mind, far away from the tournament, like up in that needle tower Toronto has, or wherever. You know, think about something else besides Magic. He shook his head firmly.

“I’m going to go over to the side event area,” he said.”I want to play. But I don’t know if anyone will want to play with me.”


“A Growth Experience” by The Two-Headed Heartland Beast

All weekend, I was bugging Toby Wachter, Josh Bennett, and Sean McKeown to play.”I wanna draft,” I’d buzz, and then they’d shoo me away.

Buzzzzzz…“Come draft with me! I’m gonna do a side event.”


They were too tired, too poor, too scared, or whatever. Finally, on Saturday night, we found out that some free packs were available. I jumped on this.

“FREE packs!” I said, or something to that effect.

This got them on board. While a few other Sideboard staff slimed out on us (cough *Omeed* cough), Toby and Sean pointed out that we could still do a team draft.

“Team draft?” I inquired.”What’s that?”

With knowing glances at each other, they suggested Josh and I pair up against them and find out.

Now, I know I live in Minnesota, but I grew up on the East Coast. I am not stupid. I know how New Yorkers think. (That is to say, not very much and not very well.) Any chance they can team together to show the rest of the world just how cool New York is, and how it must be the best city in the world, blah blah-blah blah-blah….zzzzzz….

Their proposal amused me, because it was the worst possible position they could put themselves in. With all due respect to Mr. Bennett (I mean, I could have been paired with an OMS brother and it still wouldn’t have made a damn bit of difference; any team I’m on has a handicap), the odds were against us. We were the clear underdogs. Here these guys were, big-shot Mindripper authors (Mindripper’s still a site, right?), with their reverent metagame analyses and deep Goo-Goo Dolls lyrics, and poor Josh and I from the North American heartland (I’m fairly certain Canada has a heartland and that Josh is from it, or identifies with it, or jumped around on a haystack out there a few times) were just hicks being led to the slaughter.

Josh and I leapt at the offer, and we set up shop in the hotel room. For those who need a primer on the format: Four players, teammates sit across from each other, booster draft normally (with each player opening one pack of each expansion, pass Invasion to left, Planeshift to right, Apocalypse to left, etc.), then play A vs. B and C vs. D, then A vs. D and B vs. C, and pick your”champion” for a tiebreaker if necessary.

I opened a mediocre pack: Exotic Curse was the only removal, and the only black card. So I take it. Then Sean passes me a Thornscape Master.

You city folks, you’re not too bright, are you?

(Sean later revealed that he had first-picked a Faerie Squadron. Now before I lump all New Yorkers together, I should mention that Toby agreed with Josh and me that passing the Master was inadvisable. Sean continues to defend his position, as is his right under laws governing the mentally ill.)

Green beef followed thereafter. I very quickly decided upon green-red, looking to black to splash in preparation for Apocalypse. I let some rather good white go, hoping to flood Toby to my left so that Josh would still get good pickin’s for what I desperately hoped was his blue-white-black deck. Blue was pretty firmly shut off rather early, so I was guessing both Sean and Josh were there.

In Planeshift, I picked up two Darigaaz’s Charms around sixth and seventh, and at that point I was fairly certain I knew how everyone was sitting. (I guessed Toby green/white, ready for five-color; Sean blue/black; and Josh blue/white. I wasn’t horribly far off: Toby was green/white/red, Sean was four colors, including blue and black, and Josh had opened Dromar.) I also knew I was really well set for any black/green I got in Apocalypse.

I open… Spiritmonger.

(And the hayseed crowd cheers!)

While opening a rare like that is obviously lucky, let me take a quick moment to gloat over how well I set myself up for such great luck. I mean, if I had opened, say, a Faerie Squadron, and chosen that over, say, a Thornscape Master, well then, there would be no way I could both pick and play the ‘Monger by now. I would have to either let it go, or hate draft it and lose a playable pick.

So I was a happy guy. My deck had a beautiful curve (black came late), two bombs, plenty of removal, and even an Urborg Uprising if things went wrong.

In the first round, I was paired against Toby, while Josh was paired against Sean.

Highlight of my match against Toby: First game, he plays a fifth-turn Shivan Wurm, says,”what are you going to do about THAT?”, and I respond by burning the only other creature he has in play. Did you know the Wurm makes a satisfying SPROING sound as it gates itself back to its owner’s hand?

The following turn, seeing two cards in his hand, I play Thunderscape Battlemage with black kicker. Did you also know that a 7/7 creature makes a satisfying SPLAT sound when it hits the graveyard and puts the owner in topdeck mode?

Josh and I both won our matches, which led to a scoreboard that looked a little something like this:



And that’s the end of my report. Really! I’m thrilled with how well I did my first time in the format, and felt Josh was a fantastic partner. I’d love to do this again.

Of course, if Toby and Sean want to tell the story of how they pulled it out (and they did, in fact, pull it out – congratulations to both of them), then they can bring up this escapade in their own columns, where I’m sure their recounting of this horrible scare will include excuses involving the words”Spiritmonger” (which didn’t have to show up in the first match against Toby) and”Dromar” (which showed up in Josh’s next match against Toby, but didn’t help us).

I know why we lost the games we did: We met up with solid players, with well-designed decks. And I’m certain – absolutely certain, I tell you – that Toby and Sean feel the same way.

Josh, Sean, Toby: Thanks for the terrific games, and for introducing me to a great format. Let’s dance again, soon.


TO: Governor Jesse Ventura

FROM: Your valued Analyst employee

RE: Evolution of Schism deck

DATE: August 24, 2001

Several articles ago, I posted the first version of a multiplayer”card advantage” deck I called Schism. The deck used cards like Fact or Fiction, Urborg Uprising, Fungal Shambler, Raven Familiar, and Doomsday Specter to compensate for the fact that any given player with more than one opponent faces inherent card disadvantage. Your office inquired into changes made to the deck; following are my adjustments, and recommendations for future testing.

Please be advised, Governor, that the complete record of this deck, throughout all changes, is 5-2 in 5+ player chaos (current three-game win streak), and 2-0 in team (two-headed giant, shared life). I therefore consider these results to be preliminary, and not at all a guarantee of future performance. Sort of like your XFL career.

Evolution #1: Four Deeds In

A sound decision based on any criteria, four copies of Pernicious Deed were integrated into the deck as rapidly as acquisition allowed. The original reason for their inclusion was to counteract devastating artifacts and/or enchantments that this creature-based deck could not fend off with Mystic Snake and Temporal Spring.

In practice, these Deeds have accomplished a great deal more than their original mission. They have made the two copies of Anavolver in the deck even more powerful (as well as the two copies of Fungal Shambler… Ironically, high casting cost serves the impractical prerelease card well); and the bounce elements of the deck allow for preservation of key utility creatures (e.g., Man o War, Mystic Snake).

The Deeds are proven house-sweepers, Governor. But they still won’t help you pass your unicameral legislature proposal.

Evolution #2: Four Springs Out

In order to test the theories of multiplayer card advantage in a purer fashion, I had to take out the Temporal Springs. These are tempo cards, not card advantage cards; and the Deeds did the Spring’ job much more impressively.

The Springs may be suitable in an Emperor-style, or other team, deck. They may also form the basis for an excellent”Super-Spring Death Match” feature for the World Wrestling Federation, which you could referee.

Evolution #3: Different Recursion

The mana curve of the deck was very high. Based on the recommendation of Annoying Card Expert Todd Petit, Bone Harvests replaced Urborg Uprising. While Uprising is a very impressive card, Harvest fits the deck better for four reasons:

  • It’s cheaper;

  • It can be cast at instant speed;

  • It can undo even the worst calamity; and

  • It can take advantage of the”any order” phrase to have you dig up your creatures in, say, the following order: Mystic Snake (you’ll draw it at the beginning of upkeep off of Bone Harvest, and can use it to protect the rest of this), Raven Familiar (for the normal draw), and Jungle Barrier (which you get off the Raven”Impulse”; if it’s the best card of the three, you keep it, play it, and draw deeper; if there’s a better card from the Raven, then you’re already ahead).

While the card placement possibilities are not spectacular, they are very suitable for the deck. Here,”card advantage” comes more from the response to whatever card advantage spell another player cast (e.g., Wrath of God), than it does from the self-contained advantage of the Uprising.

Bottom line, Gov: The Bone Harvest is not the”38DD cup bra” you were hoping for from your Playboy interview; but it should fit your reincarnation needs just fine, anyway.

Evolution #4: Playing Specters Later

Less a deck design than a play pacing issue, my decision to hold onto Doomsday Specters for longer and longer in each game played with the deck led to better and better results once they were played.

This may sound counterintuitive, since logic demands that with more cards in hand for the early game, the Specter can pull better cards. But a huge counterweight to that is the enormous amount of effort spent by opponents in getting rid of Mystic Snakes, Anavolvers, and Fungal Shamblers. In the mid- to late game, with only one or two (preferably blue) creatures under your control, a Doomsday Specter often finds its enemies spent of easy removal. Better yet, a player can play the gated Man o’ War next turn, bounce a nasty air-blocker (e.g., Crosis the Purger), and then swing in to take it out of the defender’s hand.

Restraint pays, I guess. No, Governor; I don’t get it, either.

Evolution #5: Preparation for the Mill

A very real danger in playing this deck, particularly in large group games, is that the controller will mill himself. While no games have been lost yet to inability to draw, one win happened with no cards left in the library, and another with six cards left. (The length of both games was more a function of the Desolation Angels and Wash Outs that hit the board earlier, and less any clearing from Pernicious Deed. Schism is capable of stall, but it prefers to smash with creatures.)

Bone Harvest, mentioned above, already helps a great deal with this issue. Also helpful is a thorough air defense, which works in conjunction with an active Deed to keep opponents attacking each other, not unlike Republicans and Democrats. Vive le movement de la Partie d’Independence!

Here, then, is the final deck:


2x Fungal Shambler

2x Anavolver

4x Doomsday Specter

4x Mystic Snake

4x Jungle Barrier

4x Man o’ War

3x Raven Familiar

4x Gaea’s Skyfolk

4x Pernicious Deed

2x Bone Harvest

2x Fact or Fiction

The 25 lands include a few old duals, a few Apocalypse pain lands, and plenty of basic lands (since non-basic land is a current metagame target) The black is late, and gets about 25%; the blue and green split the remaining 75% fairly evenly.

While some of these colors’ numbers may go up depending on response in the field; I would not recommend to any of them a brash Presidential run in 2004.


“The Vengeance Deck” by The Hothead

About six months ago, I threw together a creatureless deck with Repercussion and Pyroclasm. There was nothing particularly phat about that, even though I had March of Souls in it, which was pretty funny.

Anyway, I decided what the deck needed was… More white.

Yes, more white. What, you didn’t hear me the first time, chief? (Whoops, sorry; channeled the wrong hothead.)

Mirror Strike and Captain’s Maneuver, fresh from their bone-tingling tour of the Hall of Fame, are now here to show what white could do if it had some fire in its belly.

4x Repercussion

4x Seal of Fire

2x Aether Flash

4x Pyroclasm

3x Wave of Reckoning

2x Fault Line

4x Captain’s Maneuver

4x Swords to Plowshares

4x Mirror Strike

1x Replenish

1x Fork

1x Enlightened Tutor

1x Fire Diamond

1x Pearl Diamond

4x Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]

9x Plains

10x Mountain

I know there are more efficient Replenish decks out there; but I wanted to use this com-bo-ring card in a revolutionary way: I just want the damn Repercussions, Flashes, and Seals back.

I haven’t played this deck yet, but I already know how it’s gonna go:

ME: Play Repercussion.

CARL: End of your turn, Disenchant.

ME: That’s a big ten-four, jerk.

Five minutes later…

ME: Play another copy of Repercussion.

THEO: Counterspell.

ME: That’s a big seven-eleven, dork.

An hour later…

ME: Wow, it looks like everyone has their six-piece board lock mechanisms in place. Tight.

Two hours later…

ME: Finally, we got rid of Carl and Theo! Okay, Replenish? Good. With two Repercussions out, I’ll play Wave of Reckoning. Gary, your Multani will deal fourteen to itself, and then each Repercussion will deal fourteen more to you, for twenty-eight total.

GARY: In response, I’ll play Evacuation.

ME: Hear ya loud and clear, butthead.

The Ivory Masks that used to be in this deck were terrible with Captain’s Maneuver in, so I took the Masks out. That leaves the deck wide open to very large, player-directed burn or significant milling. If your group plays a lot of this, put in a Mask or two (the Tutor can also fetch), pull out two Maneuvers, and deal with the awkwardness of it all. I’m not your mother.



“Peace” by Anthony Alongi

[email protected]