Deconstructing Constructed – Worlds: Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo

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My initial reaction to the Worlds Standard decklists was to write about the undefeated and Top 8 decks. Unfortunately for me, Craigers already did the first part and Chapin is writing an article on the coolest deck from the second. So I decided to focus on some of the notable things from Worlds coverage. Not the decks or players, but rather the coverage and events themselves. Starting with…

My initial reaction to the Worlds Standard decklists was to write about the undefeated and Top 8 decks. Unfortunately for me, Craigers already did the first part and Chapin is writing an article on the coolest deck from the second. So I decided to focus on some of the notable things from Worlds coverage. Not the decks or players, but rather the coverage and events themselves. Starting with…

The Good

* From the writers I actually enjoy reading category… Chapin made the finals, Levy made Top 16, and Zac Hill finished 43rd. Great job guys!

* The featured matches that did get up were enjoyable to read and contained only a few typo errors (usually). This beats the crud out of some of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage spectators are subjected to, where reporters mess up sequences of events or manage to mis-report who won before edits are made.

* The semifinals match between Chapin and Nassif was ridiculous.

* In the finals where Chapin basically calling out the commentary when the audio was bleeding in the loudspeaker.

For those who didn’t watch the live webcast, here’s the gist of it. The audio from the commentary was bleeding into the loudspeaker, which included various cards in people’s hands and later strategy. The turn where Chapin basically wins game 1, he begins to talk about how he can hear pretty much everything they’re saying. General reaction from the IRC channel was laughter for about a minute, then this quick discussion:

{YTheAlien} Hydra, the announcers were echoing so the players could hear it
{Anusien} He told them they sucked and they cut the feed?
{[T00L]} we’re watching the live coverage of the worlds finals
{YTheAlien} and chapin started talking about peleg’s hand
{[T00L]} and the audio is bleeding to the loud speaker
{[T00L]} and the players heard stuff
{Smi|ey} yeah
{modargo} and chapin basically just owned them
{Anusien} rofl
{[T00L]} and chapin started talking about it
{Smi|ey} at least chapin did
{modargo} they were questioning his play
{Veggies} chapin was like, ‘yeah so I can hear the commentators discussing our plays’
{Smi|ey} lol chapin, MIND GAMES!
{[Klep]} ooh
{[Klep]} nice
{YTheAlien} “wouldn’t want you to untap any lands and profane command anything”

PC: “Wow, the commentators are really loud. In case you guys are wondering, I killed Garruk so he didn’t untap and Profane Command for seven.”

So there you go, definitely the best moment in live webcast history.

The Bad

* The Legacy Coverage was wretched.

You know what’s awesome? Seeing decks that were seeing play and updates two or more years ago be heralded as new tech. Welder Survival is innovative? Sure, it really was back when the German players did it in Vintage in 2002 and when the Legacy model was created (a significant deviation from the original, so no disrespect when mentioning the Vintage model first). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anything about the Pros here, because they aren’t the ones naming the decks or throwing around credit on the website. Parallel deck builds have been known to happen in other formats; the same can easily happen in the less visible ones.

Merely that when doing deck breakdowns or write-ups of the decklists, or when showcasing tech, you have Google and the StarCityGames.com deck database at your disposal. And of course, with a little more effort invested, the entirety of The Source for Legacy… and even The Mana Drain to a lesser extent. I’d have more sympathy if the decks weren’t named exactly the same as the original, making them easy to find even via normal search engines.

“That’s not to say the pros weren’t up for innovating a bit themselves. A contingent of French players showed up with a mono-Red deck intent on making big plays via Moxes and two-mana lands like Ancient Tomb and City of Traitors, usually in the form of disruptive spells like Trinisphere, Chalice of the Void, or either Blood Moon effect (Magus of and the original enchantment) before powering into larger threats like Arc-Slogger. They even utilized rituals like Seething Song to make sure their overpowered cards hit the table quickly.”

Dragon Stompy had been created months before, and was easy to find on The Source by just searching for the name on a normal search engine. I did so, and found a thread from early November talking about the newest builds, which are really only a little off from the Pro lists. Total time it’d of taken to find out that near identical decklists already existed? Less than 30 seconds on a fast connection. That said, I can understand why they didn’t. I mean it’s not out there as much as, say, if it were featured recently on StarCityGames.com or MTG.com. If we’re getting delays in the coverage (more on this later), I think it would have been nice to at least run a rudimentary search. Then again, maybe this is a sign that when doing coverage on the Eternal formats, one or two people who regularly play the format might be wanted as consultants.

“What’s Sea Drake?”

Seriously, come on. I get that the entire Legacy segment was a bit tongue in cheek, but at some point every other line felt like OMG LOOK AT THAT, IT’S [email protected]! I’m not expecting a lot of top-notch fresh strategy here; I just expect the Legacy version of the strategy broadcast to match up the tone and quality of the ones on Draft and Standard. If Wizards is going to make the effort to showcase the format at Worlds, I would think they would want to give it due consideration from the coverage angle as well. Otherwise what’s the point? You might as well just go back to Extended and throw Legacy players their one GP every eighteen months.

I posted elsewhere that I’d be writing an article about the coverage, and to ship me any specific complaints, and I did end up getting a few good ones. The one that I haven’t covered so far I’ll list for you now.

User Clark Kant sent me this:

“In the description of Worlds, Wizards promised live coverage and said to check back frequently on “What Standard and Legacy decks are at the top of the standings?”

Well now, where the heck is the info on what Legacy decks are at the top of the standings? It’s been a full day since the five rounds of Legacy ended. And Wizards has yet to post a single decklist of what performed the best out of those five rounds. That’s not live coverage.

This isn’t some FNM draft. It’s freaking Worlds. It’s been 48 hours and Wizards still can’t post the info?

Now obviously we got the information and you might say, “But they posted it eventually you bunch of whiners!” but consider the time frame the Standard and Draft decks were posted, and then when the Legacy ones appeared. Considering how few major events Legacy gets, let alone one where the best players in the world are going to be playing the format, this information is quite valuable to those who enjoy and play the format.

The other main issue from many who actually play Legacy was the lack of detail on the metagame breakdown page. General information is nice, but the usefulness is incredibly limited when you have no idea what versions of Threshold are doing well (there’s at least 3 significant variations, and a 4th if you count G/U/B). Nobody has a clue what White-Blue-Black means, or even what archetype field to put it under. There are a few other instances of this, but you get the idea. I’ve been told someone e-mailed Bill Stark about this, and that he gave a courteous reply, and we might see some of the data in an article later this week. I appreciate the effort here, and would like to say thanks in advance.

The Ugly

With the original loudspeaker problem and Legacy issues out of the way, you may think that would be the end of the problems. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.

The coverage at Worlds was atrocious. Not just my opinion, but many people have also gone into on various forums and chat rooms I’m paraphrasing here, but in one of the initial blog posts someone said that because of how the pairings were randomized, you could see about a dozen worthy feature matches within 50 feet of one another. If this is true, and I have no doubt it was, why do we get to see one a round? That’s downright pathetic. This is the World Championships: if you ever wanted to splurge and show off your product at its highest level of play, this would be the best place to do it… correct?

Anyone who wanted to see what was going on at the World Championships, either because they had friends attending / playing or just wanted to know what was going on, had to wait hours for accurate standings updates. Unless you knew somebody at the site who wasn’t busy and you could call, you were basically SOL on the whole affair. I knew who won Worlds over an hour before the site got around to updating the finals match-up.

On Saturday there was a total of two blog updates by 9:20 PM EST. There hadn’t been a podcast in about eight hours. Where are the undefeated Legacy decklists? How the heck does nobody have anything interesting to say at Worlds? It’d take about a minute to update the blog with a short quip about something, but we don’t even get that. Since Wizards has seen it fit to only put up one feature match a round at Worlds still. I’d think somebody would be free to spend five minutes writing a blog post. During the Finals of the whole thing,

In fact, why even call these little event logs blogs? Half the posts aren’t even very interesting, and even them seemed to be completely neglected of reasonably timed updates after a day and a half. Since there obviously isn’t enough coverage to do anything on the side events, how about throwing some blog attention over to those? Certainly the Win a Car tournament was a big draw this year, so how was that going? How many pros dropped out to play in it? Are there any notable qualifiers thus far? Things like that could have easily filled a few posts up, but instead we get insufferable white space.

We have all this technology now, and yet there were more prompt updates and more featured matches from the last time Patrick Chapin was in a Grand Prix Top 8. There has got to be a way to get more writers on this, or at least an increase in the stand-alone video coverage there is. Maybe just mic up two players, stick them under the cameras, and let them go at it? This is much more reasonable than it was a few years ago and other than a slight delay at the beginning and end of matches shouldn’t be a big deal.

As for the video coverage itself, there was no live quarterfinals coverage which was a real disappointment. I know it’s impossible to use those wonderful top-down cameras for the live webcast coverage, but I’d have to say it would be nice even with no verbal commentary just to go with some of the written games. Again, I think with Worlds it would just be a huge boon to get the most out of YouTube and the increased ease of video editing programs for coverage. They’ve been making strides with the Deck Tech segments and such, but they could be doing so much more with a decent video camera and a few more people actively going around and looking for stories, covering them right away. Sort of like “Evan Erwin at PT: Valencia” type of coverage.

Also in the video coverage, would it be so hard to put up a small little video overlay of player’s hands after a while? Be like the poker shows, put a camera right under the table looking up and have the players just sweep their hands over it once or twice.

As for the actual live coverage in the webcast… I’ll go to the IRC again.

{Veggies} hate these guys
{Smi|ey} HAHA +3/+3 warhammer
{MadAsAHat} wow
{Veggies} soooooooooo much
{MadAsAHat} lol
{Veggies} I’m NOT SURE?
{Veggies} are you kidding?
{[Roxas]} lol
{[Roxas]} loooool
{Katzby} lol
{Veggies} open up gatherer you &@*##
{[Klep]} nice
{Smi|ey} I @*!*IN SAID IT
{YTheAlien} {jb^3} randy must have Alzheimer’s…
{Veggies} “REALLY WHY?”
{Anusien} This is not a hard interaction
{Smi|ey} REALLY WHY? learn to read
{MadAsAHat} this is amazing
{MadAsAHat} i love it
{Smi|ey} 5 + 0 = 5
{Smi|ey} so bad

Other than the gaffe earlier, throughout the finals we were treated to hilarious commentary from what sounded like two guys who didn’t know Standard. I mean, I figured they would, but some of the statements you couldn’t help but laugh at. Not knowing exactly what Garruk Wildspeaker did when it’s by far the most played Planeswalker seemed ridiculous. At absolute worst, they should’ve had a way to check the cards quickly rather than calling for someone off-screen (which the audience could still hear) to double check. It’s not like they don’t have the lists at their disposal after all.

Hopefully this article isn’t seen as just an attack, but rather some honest feedback from someone who likes reading coverage and a few suggestions to consider in the future. I’d like to thank the TMD channel for the IRC quotes, various Source members for helping to gather information and thoughts, and Brassman for not being a pile.

P.S. The title is the original Italian for the movie The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Just in case you were curious.

Josh Silvestri
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom
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