Sorry about the no article last week. I had this one all written up, but my computer was down so I had no way to access the article, and I couldn’t just write up a new one because my laptop was also broken. No Internet for four days was pretty miserable, but I did manage to get some quality time in with Mother playing several riveting games of Scrabble. So it wasn’t a total loss. I also found out about “obfuscate,” and it’s definitely on my top five list of favorite words, or at the very least tied for sixth with “aa.”
I wanna be the very best, like no one ever was… (dum, dum, dum)
To win cash is my real quest, to gravy train is my cause…
I will net deck to the top, searching far and wide.
To find the perfect seventy-five, and the power that lies inside.
Gotta make the PT!
I know it’s my destiny!!!
MTG-O, you’re my best friend,
On the server crashes depend.
My heart’s so true!
My top decks will pull me through!
You’ll attack me, and I’ll attack you!
Every tournament along the way,
With courage I will face.
I will play test every day,
To claim my rightful place.
Come with me, the time is right.
There’s no better team.
Arm in arm we’ll win the fight,
It’s always been our dream!
Gotta make the PT!
I know it’s my destiny!!!
MTG-O, you’re my best friend,
On the server crashes depend.
My heart’s so true!
My top decks will pull me through!
You’ll attack me, and I’ll attack you!
Gotta play the game!!
Gotta see the World!!
I came to a startling realization at my PTQ last weekend that I will never be very very good at this game. Odds are I’ll never be very good at this game either, but that’s another story. It happened in round 4, when I was in the tank for the Relic Teachings mirror. The game was going just as I wanted it. I had cast Pact of Negation a few times already and shuffled it back in with Gaea’s Blessing, and used Tolaria West and Mystical Teachings to get it again. I had plenty of mana, and seven cards in my hand for the entire game. When “ten minutes left in the round” was called, I felt a bit rushed, but I had Triskelavus going with Academy Ruins, so I was going to finish the game eventually. Then, as I looked across the table at my grizzly unshaven opponent, the fire in his eyes with his desire to win so apparent, it hit me.
I don’t want it bad enough.
I felt like I was playing just to play. I could have won the game easily, and around when time was called I conceded to him. We both already had a draw, and another is essentially the same thing as a loss, since I would still have to win out to make Top 8. I told my grizzly bear opponent after I conceded to him that if he was going to win this PTQ, he had to want it more than anything else. He said he did, and he won the PTQ several hours later.
The desire to win is what makes a true competitor. The desire for fame, fortune, and respect from his peers. I just don’t want any of that… well, I’d obviously like all of that, but I don’t really want to work for it. At least as far as slinging spells is concerned. I’ve been having a lot of fun traveling to far-off corners of the U.S. for events this past year, and I lost track of what I was actually traveling there for: to play Magic. It seems like now I just go to hang out, with the tournament in the distant background. I haven’t really tried to play my heart out since I started having fun with Magic, and it became less about the wins and more about the people, the stories, the exotic locations, and writing up the most far-fetched tournament report my dwindling mind can think of.
I’ve been having a lot of fun with Magic recently, and my results have slipped because of it. Last year I was locked into the mindset of getting to that next level. I got 3rd at Grand Prix: Toronto, then followed it up with enough points to make Top 8 of GP: St. Louis, but lost on tiebreakers. Sure, I’ve moneyed every GP I’ve played in this year (three), but it was done on marginal play and little preparation. At my events last year I wanted to win so badly, but thankfully, as the saying goes, when you shoot for the stars, if you miss, you’ll still land on the moon.
Er, something like that.
This actually led to an interesting theory I have about the current state of United States Magic. Paul Cheon and LSV are holding the mighty flag right now, and doing so quite well. When you are watching them play you can tell they want it much more than their opponents do. Now take a look at some other Americans: Gadiel, Fabiano, Antonino, Jelger, Herberholz, Osyp. None of them have had big time finishes in awhile except Herberholz, and none of them have the fire in their eyes like Cheon and LSV.
Have you ever seen Kenji play a match? Usually he will mount himself atop his left foot, or perch himself in the chair. This helps him not only see the board more clearly (he is a little guy after all), but it also gives him an uncomfortable position to sit in, which will hone his senses and enable him to make the best plays possible. Now take Gadiel’s posture. You will usually find him leaned back in his chair, feet kicked up on the table, sippin’ some Jack n’ Coke, just waiting for his opponent to make a mistake so he can give it to him quick and lethal. Now look over at Fabiano. He is constantly slouched over with his head resting on his left hand, with his cards in his right. As if he needs his left hand to keep him from falling asleep.
This formula really works for whatever very successful foreigner you put in the mix.
Saitou? He slaps himself before matches to get his head in the game. Check.
Levy? Not many people know this, but Levy actually goes through a period of binge eating before major tournaments to make the weigh-in. Although it’s a ritual that he didn’t start until earlier this year. Check.
Olivier? It is hard to find someone more dedicated than Olivier, but his tactics are a bit more subtle than most. He uses stuffed animals to drive the attention of his opponents away from the match. All the while you can find him deeply concentrated on the events that are unfolding. Check.
Shuhei? So he’s not having the most spectacular year so far, but you can learn a lot from watching him play. He doesn’t try any shenanigans like Olivier. His strength is his quiet demeanor, accompanied by bright smiles out of nowhere. I swear, a Shuhei match is like guessing when he will burst, and for how long it will last. He’ll be in the tank completely silent until turn 10 or so, then he’ll play a Leashling, or Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, or something equally embarrassing, and his eyes will squint up tighter than a size 0 dress on a pregnant mother, with his mouth stretching from ear to ear. Then, in an instant, it will disappear as quick as it came. Check.
Another trend I’ve noticed is that Americans are far more fun to hang out with than most foreigners. So fun in fact that most Americans just travel to GP’s to hang out with other Americans, which is where the foreigners like the Japanese, French, or Dutch come in and sweep our legs out. Then give us a spear to the chest like that guy who was riding on a horse in 300. Leonidas (Kenji) threw a spear at him from ten football fields away and nailed him (average U.S. pro) square in the heart, hurling him from his horse (The United States). Take Tim Aten, for example. He went all the way to Montreal and Baltimore just so he could hang out with fellow Magicians. He didn’t even play! May I add that he was also the one that was “forcing” Cheon to attend GP Montreal? If Aten hadn’t pushed him to go, and actually driven Cheon there, we wouldn’t have had the chance to lose to Brazil in the finals.
I blame my poor results primarily on Type 4. It’s an infectious disease that corrupts the soul and leaves you wanting more, like a coke-baby craving, well, coke. I’d planned on doing an article about it at some point, but the more and more I think about it, the more and more I put it off. Plus the card list for our Type 4 stack is on my lappy, and it’s having some weird power issues. If anyone in the Magic community would feel so inclined to help me with my problems I would greatly appreciate it. It’s an HP, and the power is dead. An orange light is blinking in the front part, and for some reason it isn’t charging. I’m guessing its a problem with either the charger, which is tangled to hell, or the little holey thingy where you plug the charger in, which seems to be a little loose. Sense made?
The Sanchez Gallery
I came to another startling realization – dripping wet, covered in pomegranate suds with a thick lathering of Aussie’s 5-Minute Conditioner – while in the shower today. I peeked through the shower curtain to look into the mirror. I saw myself. Nothing out of the ordinary; I had the typical shower mo-hawk, which was formed via the thick conditioner. I was covered in the aforementioned suds, and my nipples were erect. Why this has any prudence to my story I’ll never know, but far be it for me to turn down a juicy description of myself in the shower.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not your average brick, mind you. I’m talking an enormous boulder-sized bricks with jagged spikes jetting out of the stony structure. If you get hit with these kind of bricks you’re down for the count, and not getting up before the ref counts to ten. Bricks so massive that the mere sight of them makes your pelvis hurt. Not your ordinary throbbing hurt, either… I’m talking sharp pain, “bleeding profusely” hurt. The kind of hurt that you have to go to a doctor for, and he’ll say:
“Wow, in my seventeen years of practice I’ve never seen anything like this.”
You know you’re screwed when you have this kind of hurt.
It really didn’t hit me that hard. It was more like I was hit by your average stampeding elephants. Which is more along the lines of a deep “OMG my arm has just been stepped on by an elephant and all my bones are shattered” kind of pain. Not quite as sharp as the spiky brick-boulders, but still have a hard enough hit to get the point across that you’re up the creek without a paddle, and the boat is on fire, and your in piranha-infested waters, and they haven’t eaten in over a year. Which is really a testament to the resilience of the piranhas. Most species would have died after a year of not eating, but these piranhas are such ballers that they managed to somehow survive, but they are terribly hungry and are just eying you on that boat that is going up in flames. And those damned piranhas hid the paddle from you at the bottom of the river.
So you have a few options:
1) Try and swim to shore, perhaps using some kind of decoy, like throwing your infant son in the water as a distraction.
2) Try and put the fire out with your boot, which will probably result in getting lit on fire yourself, which would mean you have to jump into the piranha-infested waters just to extinguish the flames that are engulfing your body. Which would either kill you, or leave you so disfigured that your precious infant son won’t be able to recognize you. Imagine the shame of going to Donuts for Dad’s when your son starts in Kindergarten, and all the kids are looking at you funny. That kind of shame will stick with your son until he’s in college, and everyone will know him as the kid who’s father got f***ed up by a pack of perilous piranhas
3) Throw your infant son to shore, and make a swim for it. If you die, then hopefully some tribe will find him and raise him as their own. Teaching him the ins and outs of hunting wild boar, wrestling bears, and making those hand-woven bracelets out of hemp. But he’ll always know his skin is a little different from theirs, so one day the tribe chief will sit your son down and tell him the true story of how he came to be in the tribe, and how he hopes he will stay. Regrettably, your son must take to a new World, and journey to the land of his father. Only after searching for years and years he finds your relatives, but they look down on him as if some sort of vagrant. So he journeys back to the place he truly calls home, to a chief who he truly feels is his family…
Or he would just get swallowed by a passing anaconda, and that would be the end of it.
It hit that I really have nothing to talk about this week. Stone nothing is happening in Magic to be talked about. Standard will be an entirely different format in a month. TPF is like that bitter taste you want to get out of your mouth by drenching your tongue in Listerine. Type 1 and 1.5 aren’t my bag, baby. And I’m one of those rare people who doesn’t like to see the cards that are gonna come out until the prerelease. Liliana Vess, Liliana Schmess. Makes the event much more meaningful and much more exciting. I can understand the importance if there is a Limited GP or PTQ coming up soon after, and you need to learn all the commons, and make pick lists, and so forth. But I truly pity all those people who go out and start a new thread on forums about such and such card, and how it’s going to break such and such format. I mean really, all you’re doing is adding to Wizards propaganda! Fools! That’s what they want you to do! Bunch of corporate malarkey!
Speaking of malarkey, I’d like to talk about the Standard deck I’ve been playing with the past two weeks. It’s my good buddy Mike’s deck, and he told me to play it, so I did, and I’ve been killing people on turn 4 and 5 pretty consistently.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Giant Solifuge
- 2 Boreal Druid
- 4 Primal Forcemage
- 4 Scryb Ranger
- 4 Groundbreaker
- 4 Timbermare
- 4 Uktabi Drake
- 4 Tarmogoyf
It’s a lot of fun to play, and my rounds are over in about ten minutes, five of which is shuffling and sideboarding. Tarmogoyf isn’t that hawt in there, but there are a lot of U/X Control and Blink decks around here, and this deck can just maul them. Most of the time they have to Wrath Primal Forcemage because they can’t risk the any of the hasty guys coming out and wrecking their day. The sideboard is pretty random but it has a pretty direct focus. Spectral Force and Blanchwood for the mirror(ish) matches like G/R and Mono-Green. Gaea’s Herald is for all the possible counter-heavy decks that could show up, like U/W or U/B. Utopia Vow is for big dudes I can’t deal with, like Numot, Lightning Angel, and Angel of Despair. No clue what Krosan Grip is in there for, but it looks more like a sideboard card than anything else on that list.
I think this is my first time ever actually playing with a Mono-Green deck, and the Blue mage in me has been thrown off course. I feel so helpless with no cards and my hand with them at two life, with a tiny handful of cards. This deck is prone to banking on topdecks, I suppose. There are a lot of big game-breaking hits of damage you can happen into, and a pretty low land count so that you’ll hit them frequently.
I’ve gotten the nuts draw several times already. Turn 1 Llanowar Elves, turn 2 Primal Forcemage, turn 3 Uktabi Drake and Groundbreaker, or two Uktabi Drakes and two Might of Old Krosa. And they’re just sitting there with their Azorius Chancery and an untapped Island with that face like they just got kicked in the gnards.
I feel like I’m writing for the casual corner or something… who am I kidding, this deck sucks. Mono-Green decks always suck. And now this article sucks because of it.
Did I mention I didn’t win either of those FNMs? I lost to freaking control decks with good cards. Against one guy I dealt him 48 damage before turn 10, and he was still able to win at a healthy six life. Sure, he drew three Martyr of Sands and gained twelve life, nine life, nine life, and another four life with a Faith’s Fetters on my Scryb Ranger. If I were playing a control deck, how silly would those stupid Martyrs look?
Moral of the story? I don’t really have one, but I recommend you play Islands whenever possible.
I was going to end the article here, but instead I’ll show an Extended deck that I haven’t been working on. It’s still in the theory stage.
- 3 Sensei's Divining Top
- 3 Call of the Herd
- 4 Cabal Therapy
- 1 Tormod's Crypt
- 1 Engineered Explosives
- 1 Pithing Needle
- 4 Spell Snare
- 4 Counterbalance
Counterbalance + Top is one of the strongest two card combos that has ever existed (I think, but my knowledge of combos starts with Ravager + Disciple of the Vault, so I really have no clue if there were any power players pre-Mirrodin). Counterbalance / Top is so powerful that I’ve been trying to graft the combo onto every possible deck I could think of. Yes, even Zoo. This was one of the best I could come up with, but the really exciting part about this deck is the transformational sideboard.
You have a lot of mediocre cards against hardcore aggro decks game 1, like Therapy, multiple Counterbalance, and Top. So game 2 you bring in a totally different combo with Scepter and Chant, along with Lightning Helix. The goal is to play a turn 3 Scepter with either Chant or Helix on it, and win the game from there, since most likely they won’t bring in artifact hate. Another interesting aspect of the sideboard is that Orim’s Chant doubles against any potential combo decks that need to play multiple spells in one turn, as well as giving you Wrath protection for a turn if needed.
The truth is there isn’t really a set Extended field right now, which makes deckbuilding rather difficult. I’m more of the “metagaming” type of deckbuilder, and when you approach an unknown format you have to broaden a deck’s game plan to be able to handle a number of different possible scenarios. This is another reason that Counterbalance is very good in this format: it just deals with the majority of spells that your opponent could possibly play.
I guess the real reason to play this deck is because it has so many good cards. Spell Snare counters so many big spells it’s insane… it seems like every big spell in this format costs two mana. It also protects your spells that you need to resolve, like Counterbalance or Tarmogoyf.
Cabal Therapy is one of the cards that really stands out in this deck as not really contributing to the overall plan. I put it in there mainly because it makes all of your sh**ty creatures a little bit better, but since Spell Snare is in the deck I don’t really see any need to have another protection type card. So if I were going to make room for some better cards, Cabal Therapy would probably be the first to go. I would probably replace it with something like a pair of Umezawa’s Jitte, a fourth Call of the Herd, and another Trinket Mage target like Chalice of the Void, or maybe a singleton Sword of Fire and Ice. The goal of those four card slots is to make your sh**ty creatures a little bit better in the late game, so equipment was the first thing that came to mind. Opposition is another option. Taking out the Therapies for another Call and three Opposition actually doesn’t seem that bad, but having a ton of impacting enchantments main-deck also hurts the Scepter plan post board, since they are more likely to board in artifact/enchantment removal.
Tribal Flames is another card that popped to mind. Being able to stall the game out and just casting Tribal Flames a couple of times after sifting through the deck with Top and shuffle effects seems like it would be a pretty good strategy. The thing is that the manabase can pretty much support any number of options, which is one of the reasons I like this type of deck so much. You can really adjust the deck to whatever metagame you’ll play in.
Top 5 Picks
1) Method Acting, by Bright Eyes
2) On the Beach, by Radiohead
3) The Center of the World, by Bright Eyes
4) Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh, by Bright Eyes
5) Fade Into You, by Mazzy Star*
* I know what you’re thinking. “Woah Sanchez, you put that up two weeks ago… what gives?!” Well, I’ll tell you what gives! Lord of War is what gives! Y’know, that awesome movie with a one NICHOLAS CAGE?!? Does that give enough info for ya? Just so happens that “Fade Into You” makes an appearance in that movie. It’s around the middle after that FBI dude comes and visits Cage’s wife and tells her he’s one of the leading arms dealers in the World. The song comes on as Nicholas is entering his Manhattan apartment overlooking Central Park and walks in on his wife, who is completely nude. Long story short, her parents were killed by guns that someone “like” Cage supplied to the muggers or some such. And she doesn’t want to wear clothes that were sponsored by an arms dealer. Sense made? Yeah I didn’t get it either.