Down And Dirty – Why MTGO Is The End Of Magic

Read Kyle Sanchez every Monday... at StarCityGames.com!
When did the MTGO crash become so frequent? It seems like it happens every few hours, and it’s so pathetic. Think about the insane amount of income Wizards get from Magic Online. In the draft room alone, a some form of draft starts every 2-3 minutes. That’s twenty times an hour that Wizards made roughly $13, multiplied by eight for each draft. That’s $49,920 a day, from the draft room alone. It seems like they could afford a decent server, given how long Magic Online has been operational.

I’d planned on this article being a video draft. It started fine. I had an awesome U/W/r Sliver deck that was going to be a blast to play. I was doing the draft as a joke, and forcing slivers, but it actually turned out pretty ridiculous. I first picked a Telekinetic over several more powerful cards like Temporal Isolation, Deep-Sea Kraken, and Crookclaw Transmuter, and then second picked a Quilled Sliver and never looked back. I ended that pack with a pair of Screeching Slivers, a Two-Head Sliver, and two more Sidewinder Slivers, along with the Telekinetic and Quilled. The Deep-Sea Kraken actually tabled, which makes me question if he actually is good. I honestly haven’t drafted since Nationals. Before that was GP: Montreal. Before that was GP: Not-Boston. I really haven’t been playing Magic Online at all this year.

Pack 2 I get a pair of Shaper Parasites and Erratic Mutations, along with two Sinew Sliver and a Frenetic Sliver. Dreamscape Artist also makes my way into my deck, which lets me stretch the manabase to possibly include the Two-Headed Sliver. Pack 3 was even more gas, giving me a Ghostfire and some Infiltraitor il-Kors, along with the underrated Mesmeric Sliver to lock my opponents and Homing Sliver to tutor for whatever slivers I needed.

Before game 1, my opponent took the time to take fifteen minutes of my life to talk to someone on the phone. While waiting I recorded some classic Gerard Fabiano stories on AIM, like how he has pooped his pants on multiple occasions when going to work. I also managed to talk about some Block Constructed with Ben Lundquist. All in all it was looking pretty good, but then I had to play…

My opponent came back, and I had to mulligan to five. I get completely gut-punched, drawing all my Plains and Mountains while having several Blue spells stranded in my hand, like the ironic Dreamscape Artist and Big Kraks. Then around turn 89 or so, I finally suspend Big Kraks. All this time I’ve just been trading my Slivers and misclicking through combat. After a few turns, Big Kraks looks like he’ll actually come in… then MTGO crashes.

A couple of hours later, after trying to log in every 10-15 minutes, MTGO is finally up and running again.

When did this become so frequent? I remember it crashing back when I was a hardcore MTGOer, drafting six or more times a day, but now it seems like it happens every few hours, and it’s so pathetic. Think about the insane amount of income Wizards get from Magic Online. In the draft room alone, a some form of draft starts every 2-3 minutes. That’s twenty times an hour that Wizards made roughly $13, multiplied by eight for each draft. That’s $49,920 a day, from the draft room alone. It seems like they could afford a decent server, given how long Magic Online has been operational.

I come back to my game, and I am sideboarding. I click the check mark, and my opponent is gone so I win game 2 by timing him out. At this point he has 3 minutes left on his game clock, and he comes back during sideboarding. I kind of feel jerky about winning game 2 on time, and how sh***y it is for him to have to play so fast with only three minutes left, but what can you do? He made me wait fifteen minutes to start game one, so it seemed justified.

He gets a pretty aggressive draw with his Mono Black deck, but is running dangerously low on time. He has an Urborg Syphon-Mage out and I’m sitting on nine life. He’s got the board moderately stalled, one minute left on his clock, and things are looking bad for me. Luckily I draw into an Erratic Mutation, kill it, then he disconnects.

It wasn’t so bad because he only prolonged the next round by 30 seconds, but still, a disconnect is a disconnect, and it still feels sh***y when you’re a victim. MTGO crashed and I got disconnected, not too bad for my first draft match back in six months.

Round 2 starts and I’m playing against an average 1750 player. I can’t really talk down about 1750’s, since my rating is steady at an intimidating 1694, but I’ve only played a dozen or so events with it. But perhaps he has only played a handful of events on his, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt with the title “average 1750.”

I don’t remember what he was playing. I just completely killed myself. I didn’t notice it in my first round, because I was completely inactive both games that I actually got to play, but against this guy I had the nut high sliver draw each game, which meant I had to play with all these insane funky abilities on Magic Online that I’ve never played with before. At one point I had Telekinetic Sliver, Poultice Sliver, Frenetic Sliver, Screeching Sliver, Sinew Sliver, Cautery Sliver, and random donk Saltfield Recluse in play, and a Lymph Sliver and Synchronous Sliver coming into play shortly.

I lost that game.

I’m not sure if the average MTGO player makes as many misclicks as I do, but with me it happens multiple times each game. Whenever I went to tap one of his permanents and click on a Sliver, one-hundred and eighty seven random abilities pop up:







It’s only natural to get overwhelmed by those kind of options. Morphling’s activated abilities are so easy, you know what you wanna do. With these kind of decisions you get so many tempting options that you almost feel like the guy at the supermarket who always puts a Reece’s or Snickers, or perhaps some Tic-Tacs or Starburst, in his shopping cart while approaching the checkout line.

There was one point in the game where he played Faceless Butcher, targeting my Poultice Sliver. I had an Erratic Mutation in my hand, so I could either set him up for a situation down the line by having the Poultice come in at an insanely opportune time, or I could just end of turn kill the Butcher and get my Sliver back. So I clicked on the Poultice to tap a permanent and I saw that little 0: activated ability at the bottom.

Why not?

I had to fight the rest of my game without a Poultice Sliver in play, thats why not, and I was too stupid to realize it at the time because I was blinded by all those voluptuous abilities.

No biggie. I had plenty of backups… until, of course, I misclicked on my Screeching during attackers. I meant to tap a permanent, but because Poultice Sliver was gone they switched their positions, and I lost that coin flip too. After the coin flip was over I went to tap another creature with Telekinetic, but because Screeching Sliver had left their positions had changed again… So in response to the coin flip I made sure to use my Frenetic Sliver to tap down his Sengir Nosferatu, but MTGO was lagging badly. I clicked on the ability, but it wasn’t responding, so I clicked it a couple of times. This resulted in my Frenetic Sliver using his tap ability to tap himself. Luckily I had random donk Saltfield Recluse to prevent two of the damage from the vampire.

Oh, and I lost the coin flip to keep Telekinetic in play too.

Next turn, after Cautery met a timely death in combat, I accidentally clicked on my Lymph Sliver, and since Frenetic was the only activated ability Sliver in play, it automatically assumed I was trying to save it before damage was on the stack and I lost yet another coin flip. Apparently, picking heads four times in a row just doesn’t cut it.

I actually felt like crying and/or vomiting. I went from having the nut high sliver board to having an average board with sh***y slivers that don’t do anything since their brothers were misclicked away. Meanwhile the treacherous Frenetic Sliver survived, when it was his ability that lead his brothers to death.

I’m actually really disgusted with Magic Online. I’d like to think of myself as a pretty good magician “irl,” but whenever I play on MTGO I feel like I’m playing in a FNM at the school for the blind, in the middle of winter, wearing nothing but shorts and sandals, with the wind blowing as boogery ice hangs from my nose. It really just takes all the magic out of Magic. It should be fun and carefree, and you shouldn’t have to worry about your clock running out, or the event crashing before you finish. You have tons of other stuff to worry about, like how many turns before your opponent’s Infiltraitor il-Kor takes you down, or how you have no outs to Sprout Swarm. The playability of the game should never have to come up, and it just kills the entire expirence for me.

That’s my reason for not posting the video. That, and I also made a ton of misclicks during the actual drafting process. I would occasionally get caught up in funny AIM convos that I wanted to develop for those watching, which ended up in me taking inferior cards each time, but I guess it all worked out since my deck ended up decent enough, but my misclicks led me to abandon the entire project.

Maybe next time, when Magic Online doesn’t suck it harder than someone who sucks real hard in a sucking contest. Digest that last sentence for a second.

YouTube Video of the Week

Because MTV doesn’t play it enough…

I quite fancy a girl with redish-orangish-yellowish-blackish hair though, especially one with one of those awkard cute gaps in between her front two teeth.

For reals.

I can actually copy her exact pitch and key, I swear.

These one-liners are pretty lame, but I actually like the song.

In an “acquired-taste-can’t-stop-listening-to-it-cuz-it’s-like-crack-for-your-brain-like-Natalie-Portman” kind of way.

Ah, sweet Hayley.

It just feel soOooOOoOo…

The Sanchez Gallery

My backup plan for this article was to talk about my PTQ experience this weekend. But I didn’t actually make the four-hour drive to the PTQ in Dallas… not by choice, mind you. I wish it was a cool excuse like I had a date, or I was just confident enough in my chance at the PTQ next weekend in my hometown, but I had actually planned to go to Dallas this weekend. That is, until…

I woke up Thursday morning at 8am with a pain coming from my backyard region. I had once been bitten by a spider while I was sleeping, and woke up with a large red pus-filled bump on my left cheek. This time, however, when I reached down to find out the pain’s origin I touch an even larger bump.

At first I thought it was a tumor or something, but after a very healthy conversation with the parents about awkard bodily things they informed me that it was in fact a hemorrhoid, and a particularly large one at that. It was the size of my thumb, and after consulting the doctor he classified it as a Grade 1 External Hemorrhoid

There is a great deal of confusion that runs hand in hand with hemorrhoids, and I’d just like to set the record straight. I’ve talked to several friends about my strange situation, and some of them actually attributed it to my meeting with Diana, as if it was some sort of STD. It’s actually something that can just happen from time to time. Of course, there are things you can do to help prevent them, like eating an appropriate amount of fiber, but it can really happen to anyone at anytime.

“Charlie was an astronaut, worked til he was overwrought.
Finally got caught by the military juggernaught.
Made him nervous, so he quit the service but not soon enough.
Charlie got an itch, it was a b*tch, he couldn’t scratch it.
So he gave a little twitch and he cut it with a hatchet.
And he let out all of his air, and he’s still out there somewhere.
In the asteroids, he got hemorrhoids.
If you ever sat on one you know it ain’t no fun to get hemorrhoids.”

Hemorrhoids for 500, Alex!

Here is the deck I was going to play at the PTQ, and will probably play at next week’s PTQ… Why am I listing this? My competition will metagame against me!

I initially got this list from Gerry Thompson 1st place deck from some random Midwestern PTQ. I really liked his innovation of Hellkite, and Ancient Grudge in the sideboard, but I was busy testing for Nationals so I didn’t really look into it. The week before the PTQ, Kyle Goodman second place deck from PTQ Detroit is sent to me, and I liked it a lot.

I added Shadowmage Infiltraitors to his list and tested a lot with it in some local groups, and on Magic Workstation and Apprentice. After a few dozen games against Pickles I was completely sick of Shadowmage. Every time I had one they would drop Serrated Arrows, to essentially kill three Shadowmages. It was so annoying, so I added a Disenchant to the sideboard to combat their Arrows. After boarding a few times it became painfully obvious at how inefficient it was to play with them, so I opted for Foresee, Void #3, and another Slaughter Pact.

I honestly haven’t changed the build too much, other than making some sideboard adjustments. I really wanted to have a plan for the Teachings mirrors, so I browsed around and saw Boom / Bust, and it fit perfectly. It either kills their Factory or helps you set up an unwinnable board situation for them, such as dropping an end of turn Teferi then casting Bust on the following turn, then using Ancient Grudge to clean up their artifact sources.

If they have Finkel, then you have Serrated Arrows to kill them. I’ve really only connected a few times with the Specter, but so far he has been really good. One time I caught my opponent with two Mystical Teachings in his hand, so he couldn’t just cast it in response and recover with a Temporal Isolation or something.

Void is also especially strong in the current format. Against G/W/R decks like Josh Ravtiz’s PTQ-winning deck, a Void for two is usually the game since it hits Riftsweeper, Kavu Predator, Serra Avenger, and (most notably) Tarmogoyf. Against Ben Lundquist U/G deck, it hits Riftsweeper, Tarmogoyf, Looter il-Kor, and Delay. It’s not very good in the Relic mirror, but you can slow-roll your Relics and then sweep theirs away along with their Shadowmage Infiltraitors, or just name four to nab their card-drawing, Damnations, and possible Vensers.

Pull From Eternity isn’t very appealing right now, but I’ve seen several decks that resemble Frank Karsten’s PT: Yokohama list wandering around with full compliments of Void and Damnation, along with Aeon Chroniclers as the main card-drawing engine. Aeon Chronicler in general doesn’t seem like a good card choice with all the Riftsweeper running around, but I could definitely see that deck giving this deck a hard time since it plays virtually the same game as me, except it has Chroniclers for an undisrupted engine. Pull is very good against Pickles, but I’m not sure that I need that kind of help in that matchup with 4 Spell Burst already coming in against them. It’ll probably end up turning into another Pact of Negation, since it is an essential tool in resolving a game-breaking Haunting Hymn most of the time.

Playing this control deck is a lot different than playing a more traditional control deck like Dralnu. Basically, kill stuff when you need to kill it, and draw cards when theres nothing else to do. That’s really all this deck is. Wrath effects like Void and Damnation, along with tutorable removal spells like Slaughter Pact and Tendrils of Corruption, and card draw in Careful Consideration, Foresee, and Mystical Teachings.

It’s so simple, and the best part is that there aren’t any decks that can sneak a ton of damage in very easily. G/W/R Kavu Predator can make a large Kavu out of nowhere, but other than that U/G’s Psionic Blast is really the only “burn” you have to play around (with Mono Red virtually extinct). Another interesting noticeable trend is that with Mono Red gone, what is there to control the very quick Mono White deck from pre-Yokohama? I just don’t understand how Pickles keeps winning online. I tried playing the mirror match a few days ago and my head almost exploded. It’s so confusing with a zillion morphs running around, and the threat of having your Brine hijacked by their Shapeshifters.

Thats all I got for this week. I could write more about the Block deck, but it’s actually a really simple deck. Removal and card draw. The only question is what one-ofs you want to play, and what sideboard plans you want to run. It’s also a very good deck to play at a PTQ, since most of the time your game wins will come from opponents making mistakes, rather than playing perfect Magic, which is a pretty easy thing to do with a deck like this.

Have fun sitting down all week. I know I won’t…

I didn’t win the Storyteller Ballot for the Invitational, but for those curious, this would have been my card submission.

Zany Heckles
Creature – Wizard
Zany Heckles comes into play with 2 cheat counters.
UU, Remove a cheat counter: Search the top four cards of your library for an instant card, reveal it, then resolve it, then shuffle the reamaining cards into your library. (All targets are declared on resolution and this spell cannot be responded to.)


Top 5 Picks

1) The Irony Of It All by The Streets
2) US Placers by CRS (Lupe Fiasco, Kanye West, and Pharrell) ft. Thom Yorke
3) Misery Business (acoustic) by Paramore
4) Fade Into You by Mazzy Star
5) Frenchy I’m Faking by Arcitecture in Helsinki

* Why the hell is the Magic text on some cards so freaking careful about gender? Let’s not kid ourselves here, one or two people could get offended at that in the entire Magic World, so why do we have to keep catering to the needs of the most miniscule of minorities?