Demolition Man

I was reading this guy’s article from Tuesday, and the first thing that came to my mind while reading it was the same phrase once uttered by Mr. Simon Phoenix in a San Angeles phone booth. I won’t repeat it here, but if you’re conversant with the universe where all restaurants are Taco Bell and Schwarzenegger is president (as opposed to governor), I’m sure you probably know exactly what I said on that cold Canadian morning when, with the sun just cresting over the frost-ringed horizon, I clicked on”Use Your Head: What’s So Horribly Wrong With The Web”.

Rick, what the hell is your boggle?

“We are not used to touch greetings.”

Rick Grace, you have been fined one credit for violation of the article morality statute.

I was reading this guy’s article from Tuesday, and the first thing that came to my mind while reading it was the same phrase once uttered by Mr. Simon Phoenix in a San Angeles phone booth. I won’t repeat it here, but if you’re conversant with the universe where all restaurants are Taco Bell and Schwarzenegger is president (as opposed to governor), I’m sure you probably know exactly what I said on that cold Canadian morning when, with the sun just cresting over the frost-ringed horizon, I clicked on Use Your Head: What’s So Horribly Wrong With The Web“.

Rick, what the hell is your boggle?

No one, and I mean no one, anywhere on the net, has written any original, enlightened material for more than two months of writing. I mean sure, there’s your Limited articles out there, the Dilemma series, but really… how much is racking your brain over the pick orders of the colors actually gonna teach you anything?

Bzzzzzzt. You’re 100% wrong in saying that”racking your brain” over pick orders isn’t going to teach you anything. Not only can it teach you a lot about card evaluation and what is important in the format (in the case of the dilemma articles, each choice in the pick order tree – and not just the two under more direct scrutiny – is accompanied by a short blurb explaining the position, and these are very helpful). Mike Turian take on Deconstruct vs. Tel-Jilad Archers didn’t just say “Haha, pick Archers because Shlomo is good!” It explained why Tel-Jilad Archers is the correct pick. And if you know the characteristics that make Tel-Jilad Archers a good pick, then you can apply that to your evaluation of other cards.

Pick orders teach you nothing about drafting at all, in fact they swing you into a tendency to take the wrong cards for your deck at least twenty percent of the time (I plucked that figure out of mid-air, but it seems right – feel free to argue this point), and particularly in booster draft cause you to send incorrect signals to your neighbors, completely throwing your draft in the fry-pan.

So all pick orders are useless? There’s no way that’s right – I’ve improved my game a lot by reading articles by (in alphabetical order) Aten, Eisel, Krouner, Turian, and before that, Gary Wise. Gee, I guess I was just wasting my time. Maybe I should instead subscribe to the Rick Grace school of drafting, where you pass the best card in the pack 100% of the time if there is another good card in the same color, and take the Consume Spirit instead. Look at this train wreck of an example:

So now you have this pack sitting in front of you, and you remember back to the fact that the Archers is better than the Deconstruct (lets assume this is first pack, first pick), so you take the Archers. The guy next to you first-picked a Duplicant. He gets passed this pack with no relevant cards other than the Deconstruct and takes it. The next pack you receive contains Fangren Hunter, Trolls of Tel-Jilad, and a Goblin Replica, so you take the Fangren Hunter. The guy next to you scoops up the Trolls and ships the replica because he knows he shipped a Shatter in the pack before with the Duplicant. The draft continues, you end up with a G/B deck that’s looking okay.

But you forgot one thing:

Remember those first packs you let stuff go through? Like the Moriok Scavengers, Nim Shriekers, and the Nim Replicas? Well, that guy two to your left has been drafting Black, and he’s too close to you. Suddenly your draft goes pear shaped and you draft a three-color mess with a lot of sub par cards.

First of all, I’m sorry for passing a powerhouse like Nim Replica and not noting it. I hope you’ll forgive me. Would it help if I sent you a candygram? Obviously that card is a bomb that is going to put people on my left into Black.

More importantly, though – the day I’m concerned about what the guy on my left is drafting in a Mirrodin draft is the day that they stick me in the cold, dead Canadian ground.

The guy on my left is my footstool. I am the knight and he’s my serf, I am the duke, the archbishop, I’m the king. [Who loves ya, baby? – Knut] I own the land and he works it. I own the shop, he comes in to use the can every so often. I am his father, his mother, and his mother-in-law. I am Michael Jackson and he is Tito. I am dangling babies off of a balcony, he is working at 7-11. I rule his universe. I am the draft doctor, he is the orderly wiping diaper leavings off the rear ends of the incontinent patients. I don’t care if he takes the Deconstruct after I take the Archers (or vice versa), I am his Lord and Master!

Rick, you’re saying, the guy two to my left is too close to me if he’s also in Black?

(I personally wouldn’t be caught dead drafting G/B unless I was getting passed insane Black, but I guess an article about the best color combinations wouldn’t be”useful” to Rick – after all, what can you learn from it? Rick Grace wants more articles about signaling, dammit. Get to work, Krouner!)

What the hell are you talking about, Rick? You’re saying that some guy, two spots to my left, the guy who will be taking the best Black card (not even the best Green one!) for three out of the fifteen picks I see in pack two… is too close? That he’s going to reach over from the left side of the table and just devastate my draft?

Let that be a lesson to you, would-be drafters! Play the”Rick Grace way”. If you suspect some guy two spots to your left will be taking the best card in your secondary color about half the time (I’m assuming he has a second color as well, plus there are things in Mirrodin called”artifacts”) during picks 3-15 of Pack 2, (or less than 1/3rd of the draft), then it’s over! Your draft is ruined! You should have taken the Consume Spirit!

Let’s unthaw our CryoCon a little and come back to reality.

You know all the things that have to go right for that first-pick Deconstruct/Archers to work out well? Twice as many things have to go right for a first-pick Consume Spirit to be any good. The guy on your right is always going to have a pick. If you take Archers/Deconstruct and he takes Molder Slug|, at least you can splash. If you take Consume Spirit and he takes Reiver Demon/Betrayal Of Flesh/Terror, you just wasted a first-pick.

Please, Ken and Mike, it would add two more paragraphs to your writing if, instead of talking directly about the pick orders in your draft, you put some draft theory in there too.


“Screw the specifics! I want to dumb it down a shade! Let’s talk about the same crap that never changes from format to format!”

Rick, you’ve got it backwards. Everyone already knows about draft theory. It’s a one article course. You read about signaling and hate drafting and bouncing picks on the wheel, and you’re done.

The really useful draft articles are those that talk about the relative values of specific cards, the best archetypes, and the synergies that exist in the format.

Those are the articles you will find on StarCityGames.com. The fact that you’re complaining about this says a lot about you as a player.

Still, fine. I guess articles about what to do”in practice” are out of bounds. Useless. We need to get”draft theory” in there. So what about an article about the basics? These”horrible” pick order articles can’t help anyone, what we really need is something that talks about the fundamentals!

This is where my articles get taken to that magical, wonderful place we can only call”Graceland.”

Remember earlier how I was talking about simplifying things to make them more readable and comprehendible? Apparently, Geordie Tait and Oscar Tan have completely lost that ability.

Ouch. Is it getting cold in here, or is it just me? First of all, I’m sure Oscar is bristling at his articles being lumped in with mine, but beyond that, there’s nothing very amusing to be found in your criticism, at least for me.

C’mon guys, your card advantage theories have no real relevance to becoming better at the game….[t]his will not teach people that card advantage is good, or show people that a card is better than another, figuring out how much card advantage a particular broken card gets is pointless. You are both trying to sell these ideas as essential and have even given them fun names (I mean what, T.H.E.F.U.C.C?), but it’s not teaching anybody anything. I myself have come up with a card advantage theory: it’s called”card advantage.” It says that if you use one card to deal with two, that’s good, and if you can get better than that, then you’re stylin’!

Well gee, since you’ve broken the card advantage theory format wide open, I guess I better just quit. There’s no room to examine the minutiae when Rick Grace is on the job with stunning theorums like the above.

Rick, even if delving into card advantage were completely useless from the standpoint of practical application (which it isn’t – I can’t stress this enough), there is something to be said for”learning for the sake of learning.” Part of me, when faced with such complaints as the above, wants to give the same answer that Socrates supposedly gave to one of his students, a young man who committed the sin of questioning the practical usefulness of one of the many mathematical theorems taught by the aged scholar. After listening to the young man’s question, Socrates approached an aid and said “Give this man a penny so that he might feel he has gained something from my teachings, and then expel him.”

Since I’m not Socrates (and who is? The man had a part in”Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”, which is more than I can say for myself), I’ll instead offer the opinion that:

a) You’re wrong when you say I’m trying to sell my idea as”essential” – I’ve never done anything of the kind. I do think it’s very useful.

b) Your card advantage theory isn’t a theory at all, it’s a vague idea.

Haven’t you ever wanted to dig around in your hobby and figure out what really makes stuff tick? I want to know why a good play is a good play. I want to be able to quantify a good play. You just say”Luh luh luh I get two for one, good! Derf.”

So yeah, these theoretical scribblings of ours:

How much are you paying to read ’em, Rick?

How much time have you been”forced” to put into them?

How many times have you had a gun put to your head, stale breath in your right ear, saying”Read those card advantage-related forums or you’re a grease spot?”

I’ll guess nothing, none, and none. Rick, I have no problem with the concept of”the critic.” When Roger Ebert gives a movie half a star, I do not mail him and say “Well Roger, if it’s so bad, why don’t you contribute something better?”

The problem I have with your article is that your criticisms are simply wrong.

Witness the following:

An extension of this theory is”virtual card advantage.” This says that if you can use a card to essentially deal with two, that’s good too! And if you can deal with more, you’re really stylin’! I suppose some explanation is needed for this, like if you have a Circle of Protection out and they only have cards of that color, you will probably win! If you Counterspell a Wrath of God that would kill your whole team, you essentially gained your whole team back!

So instead of calling Counterspell for Wrath of God a one for one trade, you would refer to it as “-X for you while Wrath of God is on the stack, where X is the number of creatures you control. If you counter the Wrath of God, +X for you, where X is the number of creatures you control.”

Gee, now that you’ve simplified the concept for us, we can all sleep at night! I’m sure glad you came along – I was about to break down and weep about my inability to grasp the difficult concept of Counterspell vs. Wrath of God. Can I study under you? It’ll be like Goodwill Hunting – I’ll be Professor Lambeau and you can be the wily upstart with a dynamite brain and a heart of gold!

Rick, what you just described is not Virtual Card Advantage at all. No theorist in history, from EDT to Adrian Sullivan and back around again, would claim that it is. You are full of what makes the grass grow green, sir.

Heh – Rick doesn’t know how to use the three seashells.

Sure, card advantage wins games, but so does blatant disregard for it, good modern day examples are Chrome Mox, Shrapnel Blast, and Skirk Prospector. I’m sure there are plenty of other examples here too, even more so in Limited (Waste Away from Torment was a good example, Barbarian Bully, Stalking Bloodsucker also do much the same thing), and it is far from essential to winning every game. Sure you can define other variables by using card advantage, but would it really be useful for you if instead of measuring your car efficiency in miles per gallon, if I measured it in cubic meters?

See, I’m working on the theory that Tempo is actually just Virtual Card Advantage, so stuff like Shrapnel Blast actually gains you card advantage because it makes more opposing lines of play useless. I really think this is worthwhile to investigate, and even if you don’t, no one is grabbing you by the testes and forcing your face up to the screen. That aside, the last sentence of the above paragraph is your best argument in this entire rant, and actually partially redeems it, preventing the entire thing from being a waste of my time.

Basically, Rick is saying that reclassifying Tempo as Virtual Card Advantage doesn’t do any good, because it’s not useful to anyone. I disagree, though – if Cubic Meters is easier to understand, or more robust, a measuring system than miles per gallon, it’s worthwhile to check it out. If it turns out to be a bust, no harm done. If it’s better – hey! Well worth our time!

Tempo as a function of Virtual Card Advantage is the same thing. If you view beatdown as leaving opponents with fewer outs and lines of play, as opposed to whatever it was before, it might be more useful. It’s worth looking at. So Rick, I think you’re totally wrong to say that the articles were disgusting or a waste of time.

Heck, you’re wrong about a lot of things.

Maybe you should read more pick orders and card advantage articles.


Geordie Tait

[email protected]


GT_ on #mtgwacky