Crossroads – Quick Hits

Some people hate the metagame right now. Oddly, I don’t, for the first time since Standard was Invasion and Odyssey. I really can’t believe just how diverse everything has been ever since Time Spiral hooked up with Ravnica Block. I’m left to wonder how much of this diversity has to do with the extra cards in Standard, and how much has to do with their “tier-two design” strategy. Either way, I admit I’m impressed.

But I do hate Dragonstorm.

On Dragonstorm

Some people hate the metagame right now. Oddly, I don’t, for the first time since Standard was Invasion and Odyssey. I really can’t believe just how diverse everything has been ever since Time Spiral hooked up with Ravnica Block. I’m left to wonder how much of this diversity has to do with the extra cards in Standard, and how much has to do with their "tier-two design" strategy. Either way, I admit I’m impressed. So no, I don’t hate the metagame.

But I do hate Dragonstorm, but that’s because it’s "too easy" a combo deck to pilot. Heartbeat required some math skill at least. Even Mihari said he picked Dragonstorm because it was easy to play. Every time Dragonstorm wins, it feels to me like the guy across the table didn’t put enough effort into the game to deserve to win.

My favorite matchups are the aggro versus control, I think. I especially enjoy the mental challenges involved from the aggro side. Do they have the Wrath? If I assume they don’t, what do I send in and what do I hold back? If they do, have I gotten them into burn range yet or do I need to plan another assault? They’ve got Teferi mana; does that deck run Teferi? If so, do they have it and will they play it? Do they have a counter? Et cetera. I think trying to outwit the control deck is more challenging (and thus for me, more fun) than being the control deck. Why is this?

As illustrated above, the aggressive deck has a hand full of questions. Even what order to play lands in, which lands to play, which ones to run; the aggro game is very tight. Sure, you can play aggro, make grievous errors, and still win sometimes. To perform consistently well, however, I think aggro has to play a tighter game. One of the primary reasons for this is that there’s a card exchange rate between the typical aggro deck and Draw-Enabled Control (DEC for short). Remand is touted as being the counter that doesn’t cost a card, and thus being super duper uber great. Aggro has a different card economy than DEC does, one where each card costs one card, as opposed to DEC, where draw spells typically cost less than one card, since they provide immediate replacements upon resolution. This is pretty basic card advantage theory dressed up a bit, but bear with me on this. Playing the aggro deck is like playing twenty questions; you keep asking the questions that will reduce as many possibilities (life) as possible, but the control deck ultimately has the answers. You’re trying the assemble The Perfect Game, and you have to know what to drop, when to drop it, when it’s time to pull out the burn, and so forth.

Control, on the other hand, has a hand full of answers. Mana Leak answers this, Cancel answers that, Wrath of God answers this, this, that, and that, and Compulsive Research draws me answers to this, that, and the other. How good. I find that the only real thought in my mind when piloting a control deck is exactly what to use all my answers on; calling the proper Wrath turn, deciding what to Condemn, that sort of thing. I don’t feel as if I have to play the smart, tight game. True, well-built decks will often stretch your answers thin, but that’s what all this planning ahead is for. Draw-go style control isn’t saddled with the burden of winning the game; its goal is simply to survive the early game, since the rest typically takes care of itself if it simply survives. Playing the control deck means you’re trying to answer all the aggro deck’s questions before they solve your riddle.

But from either side, there’s a definite thinking process involved. Both decks are interacting, struggling, very Spy vs. Spy sort of action. The Dragonstorm player just shows up, fondles their deck in public for a few minutes, and spurts out a win, leaving you to clean up the table. Happy happy, joy joy. It’s not that there’s something inherently wrong with the deck, insomuch as it feels dirty playing against it because, like aggro, it’s typically trying to ask twenty questions, but the difference is that you’re left with the feeling that someone slipped them a cheat sheet with half the answers at the beginning of the game. There’s a sense of violation for me in losing to a deck where it feels like the opponent’s only thought was probably "What turn do I Gigadrowse?" – and sometimes they don’t even need to think that. Even Tendrils requires a bit of thinking due to the need of a higher storm count.

On Writing

I had difficulty in deciding what to do this week, so I’ve decided for a quick hits style format, if such is not obvious at this point. Part of my problem is as follows; I play only online, and as such I have certain perspective differences from some of the general community. I have played paper before, but due to several inconveniences such as difficulty finding games, the fact that felines find little pieces of cardboard very interesting, and needing more than four of a card if I want it in multiple decks, I find that just playing online is much easier for me. My issue is that I don’t feel that the online only formats get enough attention. Classic, Prismatic, online Extended, Tribal Standard, of course, and Two-Headed Giant functions under basically obsolete rules. This is just the tip of the iceberg for formats that exist primarily or exclusively online. Note that online Extended is possessed of an entirely different metagame which is due in part to secondary market economy; if you only play paper, let me point out that Orim’s Chant and Pernicious Deed run for $80-100 online, each, and due also to the fact that arbitrarily large combos are generally unplayable (I.E. Life) due to having to physically repeat each action in the loop the desired number of times.

The fact is that very few people write about these formats, and the online metagame is important to me, but I would like to cater to the readership. That said, I’m curious; what format is it that people want covered more? Classic, Prismatic, and Tribal Standard I’ve done varying degrees of before, so I’d be most comfortable with those. I’m not specifically adverse to any online format that has enough call for it to be written about, although there may be budget constraints for Extended/Classic. I doubt I could find many people willing to loan me Orim’s Chants just to test a list. Sound off in the forums so I can decide where to direct my efforts.

DCI Online

Speaking of online only formats, I have my doubts about the level of involvement for these formats when it comes to the DCI. There are cards, for example, in Prismatic (Demand of Supply / Demand and Diabolic Intent come readily to mind), that are more powerful in the aspect of what they do than other cards which are already on the banned list, and yet these cards have been legal for months or years without a banning. Tribal Standard still lists in the deck editor that Umezawa’s Jitte is banned, despite the fact that it hasn’t been Standard legal for at least six weeks now, which is what initially spurred me into this line of thinking.

I understand that there’s been the whole Worlds thing, but something like that should have been fixed in the same update that removed Kamigawa Block from Standard legality. I wonder if the answer isn’t to devote a few members of the DCI to online play and formats to keep an eye out for that which is bah-roken. Having a small forum to interact with them would be ace as well, even if it shouldn’t see much use when everything is going well. Sure, there will be silly posts by people who honestly believe that Sakura-Tribe Elder should have been banned at some point, but I think overall it would be an improvement over the current system where we have no idea what the DCI is or isn’t looking at, aside from the occasional mention by Aaron Forsythe during Worlds coverage that he had his eye on certain cards.


There is a known issue with Evermind – you cannot currently Spice it onto an Arcane spell.

We are working to fix the issue as soon as possible and will post to the Release Notes when it has been resolved.

That’s a direct copy and paste from the bug section of Wizards’ site. Personally I find that the bug itself is friggin’ hilarious.

Obsession, not by Calvin Klein

Am I the only one who still can’t get over how friggin’ awesome that Jaya Ballard, Task Mage art is? I think this is the longest I’ve ever kept a wallpaper on my desktop. I also keep telling myself she’s a really good card even though I can never quite find a deck that provides a good home for her without being janky as all get-out.

PC About PC

That’s "player concerns about Planar Chaos."

From what little information we have in the form of spoilers for Planar Chaos at this point, the only abundantly clear thing is that the color pie is going to continue to be put in "compromising" positions, and I’m pretty sure I’m not happy about that. It just feels wasteful that R&D spent the last several years telling us about the Great and Holy Pie, only to turn around and defile it on its own altar. Not to mention that whenever things in the pie get shifted around, Blue tends to get extra candy in its bag. Many people will tell you Blue is who really came out ahead, even in a set like Torment. I understand that balancing a game of this magnitude is an unenviable prospect as it is, but there’s a limit to how far my sympathy extends, particularly when the same mistakes tend to repeat themselves over and over again. At least they haven’t reprinted Mana Drain… yet. I hope Washington State takes the qualifications of its bus drivers extra seriously is what I’m saying here.

Although that vampire-looking Mirri art is pretty compelling.


I’d love to see some more people pull an Evan Erwin and start making more use of this potentially great thing for Magic analysis. Record and broadcast games to explain play errors made, or show how to properly play a complicated deck. Maybe record an online draft session to show us not only a draft pick order, but how much time the drafter devotes to thinking about their picks, and deck construction. If anyone does this, I’d like to propose using "VMTG:" when making such videos so they can easily be found on YouTube. That stands for "Video Magic the Gathering", if you’re curious.


Supposedly next year will include the Great Release of v3.0 for Magic Online, which has been hyped to the point of being effectively the cure for cancer. One of the expected changes is that Two-Headed Giant will follow its new paper rules so far as simultaneous team turns and whatnot. My question here is if anyone thinks they’d be interested in some Two-Headed Articles about the format at that time.

SCG Writer of the Year?

No, not me. Or at least I don’t think so. My question is this: “who would people nominate for 2006 if such a ballot were to exist?” It seems to me that Pat Chapin would be a favorite to win, at least from what I’ve been told. Perhaps two ballots… one for premium, one for non-premium. I think for the latter my vote would go to Abe Sargent, because he writes about just about everything and does it well. Plus, he’s got that whole "random rare deck" thing going, and the thought exercises he illustrates to us when doing these is priceless. I mean, come on… how else would Living Airship ever get a second look?

Dungeons and Magic?

I know Wizards would like to keep the Dungeons and Dragons and Magic franchises separate, but seriously, how cool would it be to turn a Beholder or Illithid sideways (if not necessarily to attack)? I wonder if there’s any way public opinion could influence this at all. Maybe one of the MagictheGathering.com writers could put up a poll on this some time early next year.

Searching for Jamie Wakefield

Literally, that is. How could he not love Spectral Force? I understand what happened earlier this year… I just miss him. [As do we all. – Craig.] I’m going to feel very incomplete if I don’t see something from him on Spectral Force. Or maybe those crappy Thallids scared him off. I’d understand if this were so.

Man, I sound like a walking chick flick, so I think that’s a sign to call it quits for now.

Signing off,
Rivien Swanson
flawedparadigm a(aye Carumba!)t gmaSPAMSUCKSil d(.)ot co[I like nachos.]m
Flawed Paradigm on MTGO (Remember, /join SCG!)
GodOfAtheism just about everywhere else.