Credit Where Credit Is Due

Jesse Smith, better known as Smi77y on Magic Online, explains why he loves brewing up new decks and what his goals are as a Magic player so you can better understand his deckbuilding intentions.

It’s quite possible this will be the most terrifying article I’ll write. Many people know me as a "self-promoter" when it comes to cards and deck ideas, and many misunderstand the reasoning behind this. I’m hoping this article explains my intentions and reasons why I am the person I am.

Determination is a funny thing, and it’s not something that you can conjure up. I believe you have to possess a determination from within to accomplish what you wish to. I’m unsure why I have a passion for building decks, and my passion has only grown stronger as I’ve become better. One of my goals in the long run is to make a "best deck." Whether it is for a single tournament or a legendary Caw-Blade type deck, it really doesn’t matter to me.

For The Glory

A lot people think I’m in it for the fame. I’ve considered this strongly, and I think that comes with the idea of wanting respect. When you aren’t a person who can grind real life events due to family, work, etc., how else are you supposed to get noticed? I do it for the game because I love it, and it’s not enough for me to want to just win games and small tournaments. I want to be known for my contributions in five, ten, twenty years, and beyond. The only way to get there is to work hard and be noticed. It’s the reason I built an entire website dedicated to letting people express their ideas, particularly my own.

Mike Flores has had success in a similar fashion throughout his career. I didn’t start out thinking, "I want to be like Mike." In fact I didn’t even know who he was until I started to delve deeper into the community and Magic’s history. That said, Mike has been an inspiration on all levels. He’s oft misunderstood, but he’s one of the greatest guys I’ve met online since finding my place inside the world of Magic. His contributions to my skill level haven’t been matched by anyone. If my Magic career ends up ten percent as good as Mike’s, I’d die a happy man.

What’s interesting here is whether you love him or hate him, most people respect him. And if you don’t, you’re just close-minded. He’s built Pro Tour winning decklists, and if you don’t respect that then you won’t respect anything. This polarization is something I’m finding in my climb to the top, so to speak. It’s something I’m ok with because you can’t make everyone happy, but you can earn respect.

It takes thick skin, determination, hard work, and passion to be public with your work. This is something I’m unafraid of; however, that’s not to say I don’t get bothered by a lot of comments or criticisms.

I won’t lie: a lot of my criticism is well deserved and a lot of people just don’t enjoy the way I go about promoting myself. You either can bear it or you can’t. And I fully understand that. This action by me is something you’d see in real life too; it’s who I am. I tend to get very excited by a lot of things, and on top of that one of my prior jobs was being a salesperson. I think it’s a natural trait of mine that I fully accept and understand. If I wasn’t having fun doing it the way I’m doing it, then I would change it.

Credit Versus Respect

Recently, I had a conversation on Twitter regarding credit and how pointless credit is when someone "discovers" a card. There are millions of people playing Magic, and of course no one is ever the first person to try a card. However, winning a tournament or proving that a card is good publicly is quite a different scenario. When we speak about Squadron Hawks, who do we think of? I bet most of you get that. But why does it matter? One word: respect.

When somebody sees something before the rest, it subtly can build your Magic resume in terms of people trusting you and respecting your choices, and that’s something that matters to me. But there is a fine line between respect and fame for whatever motives one may have.

I’m of the belief that if I wasn’t loud via Twitter and my articles that too few people would notice the work I’m putting in. If people don’t know what I’m doing, then the respect won’t be there in the masses either.

A lot of where the issues have come from seem to be when I find an idea that I’ve tested and really like. What tends to happen is I get giddy with excitement at the potential possibilities. This excitement habitually happens when I’m actually on to something; the problem is I get excited too early a lot of the time. It’s not always the case, but most of the time it is. This also leads to a "cry wolf" problem that’s another issue for another day. And it’s for this reason a lot of people probably don’t respect me. To be honest, I find it interesting that I’ve pretty much been a solo brewer since I began. I occasionally work with people for small events, but besides my good friend Mat Marr I’ve never helped anyone on a more serious level.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not looking for sympathy because I do what I do for fun and respect. I don’t have to have my cake and eat it too. I’m often happy with the amount of respect I do get from people and websites (especially this one! I mean, I’m writing for StarCitygames.com!). I’m also a firm believer in people getting credit for decks when things are obviously theirs. I’ve been fortunate that a lot of my friends and fans have backed me up when they see a lack of mentions where they should be.

Spreading The Joy

One of the biggest arguments against all the aforementioned information is the fact that respect would come with good decks and actual results. My issue with people always bringing this up is a fact I mentioned earlier: I have too many restrictions when it comes to grinding real life events. Fortunately, one of my outlets to prove my decks is Magic Online. What generally happens is I work on succeeding in Premiere Events, PTQs, or even Daily Events and then watch the decks catch fire. It’s the ones that are actually good that this happens to. The point of shouting my results is to get people to notice, because it only takes a few. They then grind the deck, and eventually enough people see it on mtgonline.com that the decks end up hitting paper. Mono-Black Infect is my best example.

All this said I believe people enjoy getting excited about ideas and also being early adopters. Despite all the shouting, what’s also happening is that I’m enjoying my deck so much I truly wish to share it and have others experience that excitement. New ideas that win; who doesn’t want that? One of the best feelings is people letting me know they won their FNM or better. They feel that excitement too, like they are a part of the deck’s rise to stardom. Other people’s advice also helps improve my decks as days and weeks go by.

The reason I wrote this article is because this conversation comes up all too often. I also believe some people that I respect have shunned me, which doesn’t help my chances in being a part of any team. Being a part of a team is something I wish to experience.

I’m hoping whoever reads this and wants to brew and succeed can take something from this. There are plenty of different routes one can take, but they are all confined to your resources, whether it is time or money. All I know is I’m doing my best as a brewer. The road is bumpy, but the sky is bright. I’ve earned my share of credit, and I hope I’m earning your respect.


Speaking of decks that are trying to find their place in the metagame, my Kamikaze list has shown some real results on the PTQ circuit, and similar ideas popped up at Grand Prix Minneapolis. A lot of people have requested a sideboard guide. Here is my latest 75 cards and a short but sweet guide for all of you on #TeamBloodArtist.

All credit where it is due: Chewie from Monday Night Magic came up with the Whipflare technology out of the sideboard. And boy does it work. It can act as a better Killing Wave in certain situations. Speaking of which, congratulations to Chewie on a PTQ Top 8 with Kamikaze.

Please note: use your judgment on these strategies. Not every deck is the same, but this should help in giving you a feel of how the matchups play out.

Versus Ramp Variants

-3 Dismember
+3 Act of Aggression

I don’t often like to get cute in this situation with Despise. Though if you run into cards like Gideon in a ramp deck and sometimes Wurmcoil Engine, it doesn’t hurt to bring these in. I’d probably cut Killing Wave for Despise if I felt Despise was needed. Act of Aggression wins countless games.

Versus Delver Variants

-2 Soulcage Fiend
-2 Falkenrath Aristocrat
+4 Whipflare

Whipflare deals with all of their creatures, whereas Falkenrath Aristocrat can get annoyingly chump blocked or Vapor Snagged. Soulcage Fiend is also a little too awkward and slow against their bounce spells, and on the draw you almost never want Soulcage Fiend against another aggro deck that can outrace you.

Versus Birthing Pod Variants

-2 Soulcage Fiend
+2 Manic Vandal

Our matchup here is actually pretty good. Our midrange game is much more game ending than theirs surprisingly. But you have to get pressure on early. I only cut Soulcage Fiend because Manic Vandal then replaces him on the curve well.

Versus Esper Control and Similar Control Decks

-3 Dismember
-1 Killing Wave
+2 Act of Aggression
+2 Crypt Creeper

It may surprise some that I’d keep in two Killing Waves. The thing is the card is a combo piece to the deck where we can wipe our whole team. Not only that, it is really good against Sun Titan filling up the board via Phantasmal Images and similar plays. Once the board has two plus creatures on it, Killing Wave can often finish the game because their choice becomes less and less optimal. It also opens people up to misplays. Someday I’ll have to write an article explaining how incredible Killing Wave is. It’s a very deep card.

I hope that helps give an idea of how I’m sideboarding versus different archetypes. Like I said about Despise—it’s often for trouble creatures and planeswalkers where you see fit. A catchall if you will. Ratchet Bomb is primarily for tokens, as I like it better than Whipflare because on a later turn you can wipe their board in addition to using your mana for the turn.