Double or Nothing: Last Gasp

Two days to Regionals. Down to three decks. Which one to choose?

Two days…

As I write this, there are just two days left before the Bath Regional Qualifier. I’ve got the whole of Friday off to playtest, I played yesterday, and I’m getting a little playing in today. All in all, I think I’ve done as much as I can.

I managed to get rid of my Sideboard Sickness in the end by going out a lot. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Out every day, away from Magical cards, away from sideboards, decklistings and Magic articles. When I started up again, I read everything for the past week, and jumped into testing again – this time feeling fresh. It seems to have worked.

I’m looking forward to Saturday now. I have two decks I could play and a third that, although I’d love to give it a shot, may have to wait until the Nationals. The first two? Well, one of them is R/G Beats and the other is… I’ve got to have some element of surprise, haven’t I? The third is a version of the UW Control deck I posted at the end of my last article.

A lot of people emailed me about the deck, and after a few emails back and forth it’s changed to look like this:

U/W Control

Spells (36):

3x Millstone

1x Jayemdae Tome

4x Wrath of God

1x Rout

4x Counterspell

4x Absorb

4x Syncopate

4x Fact or Fiction

4x Peek

4x Life Burst

1x Ancestral Tribute

2x Teferi’s Moat

Land (24):

4x Coastal Tower

4x Adarkar Wastes

2x Cephalid Coliseum

8x Island

6x Plains

Thanks go out to the following people for their ideas and feedback on this one: Michael Potter, Frank Gilson, Jacob, and Amos. Cheers, guys.

The addition of a fourth Wrath and two Moats makes the games versus mono-black and R/G beats much easier. As much as I liked the Force Spikes, they found themselves sitting in my hand too often in the mid- and late-game, and whilst ‘Tog loves to put another card in its graveyard, this deck needs to counter and kill things.

The Moti and Persuasion came out to give many opponents more dead cards in their hands. Millstones are difficult to get rid of for most decks in game one, and often they only have two or three sideboard spells to help them out.

The Coliseums are staying, as they help against Legacy Weapon so well. I added them originally for a little digging, and I thought they might be good, but they’re better than I hoped. Legacy Weapon just doesn’t work against this deck at all.

I added the Tome for old time’s sake, and found that just one seemed to be great later on in the game. Your opponent will want to keep what little artifact removal they have for your Millstones, and so the Tome should net you quite a few free cards. A friend of mine played the deck, and I warned him that there would be an old favourite for him to play with. Midway through the match, he piped up:

“Wow, haven’t seen one of those for a while. Nice one, Jim.”

“S’ok mate, thought you’d like it.”

A few people asked what it was.

“Jayemdae Tome,” was my reply.

“A what Tome?”

It seems that although it’s been available to play for a long time, some people just don’t know what it does. I guess that’s bound to happen, though, with so many new cards every few months. I recommend sitting down and taking the time to go through the list of what’s in Seventh. You only have to look at the ‘net to see how many useful cards people are staring to use: Compost, Moti, Wildfire – all cards that we were sad to see leave and they’re all back! I can’t wait to see what they put into Eighth.

Testing is also showing us that ‘Tog is very much alive and kicking. The only decks it seems to have real problems with are B/x decks. B/W, B/U and B/R aren’t so much of a problem, but aggro mono-black with Ichorids can cause big problems in the first game, whilst B/G with Spiritmongers, Nantuko Shade, Duress, Rats, Fiends, Deeds, Edicts and other assorted Black and Green goodies seems to cause real problems, especially after sideboarding.

It may be too late for some, but if anyone has any good ideas against these decks, I’d be grateful for them; I’ll give them a playtest and post any encouraging results in my column.

Paying for Content

On a final note, I’d like to share some thoughts about Magic Online and paying for content and games in general.

There seems to be a culture on the ‘net that content is free. I agree with this in many cases: I wouldn’t want to have to pay for the news, I wouldn’t want to have to pay to see deck lists, go to Amazon, download Shakespeare quotes, or even to look up words in a dictionary or encyclopaedia. These are all things that people have put work into and, in many cases, have been paid to produce.

On the other hand, I see nothing wrong with paying to play a game. I’ve been playing Asheron’s Call for nearly two years, and I don’t have a problem paying $9.95 a month for it. I buy games and play them all the time. I buy boosters and play Magic – I don’t expect them to be free. In fact, I compare all my fun activities to the cost of renting a video for an evening. Renting a brand new video or DVD costs us around $5 for two nights. I’ll probably watch it once and it’ll be about two hours, so I’m paying $2.50 for an hour’s entertainment.

Watching a film in a cinema will cost me $8 plus food and drinks; going to a real life tourney will cost me $6 entrance, plus the cost of my deck; playing a draft in Magic Online is going to cost me about $10. If I make it through the first round, I’m paying over $3 an hour – that’s quite expensive, but not out of the question – but if I make the finals, I’ve got down to my $2.50 per hour benchmark and I’ve earned product to make my next draft cheaper.

Magic Online isn’t a replacement for Apprentice; it isn’t aimed at people who want to playtest Standard, Extended, or Vintage matchups for hours and hours and hours. Wizards has quite clearly stated that it’s aimed at a different market. Sure, a lot of us would use it more after the release if it was free, but we already have the tools we need to play the way we want. As it is, I’ll be buying a CD of Magic Online, installing the full version on my computer, and playing when I feel like it. I normally only get to play one full tourney a month, sometimes two, and getting eight people together for a draft (although easier than in the past) is hard work. Playing when I want will allow me to spend a few pleasant hours brushing up on my drafting skills at the weekend. It’ll be great.

I hope that Magic Online works; I’m sure they’ll be some price changes at some point, more or less servers, and more or less people using both. It fills a purpose, however, and much as people say they can live without it, I’d rather the Magic Community and associated websites and services strived to be as big as it can, rather than shrinking to one or two niche web sites.

Next Week: How will I get on at Regionals? What deck will I play? Will there be any new decks out there?

Cheers, Jim.

Team PhatBeats.

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