Dr Strangetog Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb

After creating last week’s baked tourney experiment, what can Ted do when he’s straight? The usual bouillabaise of strange observations, plus a look at Hot Tog and how it will (or won’t) survive the rotation…

I suck. I’ve been sucking for a while. I’ve thought about sucking, I’ve talked about sucking, I’ve written about sucking, and I still haven’t stopped sucking. Not a pleasant phase in my Magic life, really, but I’ve been having so much fun at the tournaments I attend that I don’t want to step away from the game like I have when this problem has occurred in the past.

(A note from the Ferrett: In honor of last week’s strange experiment, Ken Tyburski created this card in honor of Ted:

(?We now return you to Ted’s article – The Ferrett)

That left me with the options of continuing to play and lose, or figuring out what was wrong and starting to win.

So what was wrong?

Well, during my 0-6 losing streak I went 0-3 at a tournament I practiced for while playing a deck that landed three players in the Top 8 at that tournament. I’m blaming that one on sucking and bad matchups, and not on deck choice.

Then during the last tournament I went 0-2 drop with a deck that I hadn’t playtested at all while playing against 2 players that made the Top 8. I’m blaming that one on sucking, not playtesting, and playing against good players.

Overall, my own analysis told me nothing except that I was sucking – and that fact I was already well aware of.

So I gave up Block a week early because I wasn’t winning a damned thing and I wasn’t very happy with how OBC was playing out. I half-heartedly tried to get a couple of real world drafts running at the store to use up my last two draft sets, but everyone seemed more excited about playing 3 v 3 basketball, so that didn’t work either. Finally I just decided to suck (that word again) things up, grab a Tog deck for the cash money Type 2 tournament on Sunday, and see where that led me.

I did some research into the Tog decks that did well at Worlds and eventually decided that I wanted to play Zvi’s Burning Tog design. Looking at the decklist, I figured out that it was something that I could play and enjoy while still being powerful enough to win.

Yeah, I used the phrase”play and enjoy” to describe a Burning Tog design. Ya see, my problem was that I had forgotten what type of player I am, and it was costing me. I have two rules about my play style that I should be following, but often can’t seem to remember:

Rule 1) In open environments, always (if at all possible) play an Aggro-Control deck that features a hefty amount of beats and some good disruption.

I learned this playing Sky Tide in 2000 and then cemented the rule at Regionals this year with the Smoke and Fog design. Even Martha Stewart can be considered an Aggro-Control deck with strong disruptive elements that your opponent has to find an answer for or else they will end up losing.

Rule 2) In environments where the metagame is relatively fixed (like the current Type 2 environment), play the best control deck out there and set up your sideboard to beat other control decks.

This is what I’ve been playing when I’ve been successful, and when I veer away from these rules I tend to lose. Fair ’nuff, you say… But why choose a Tog deck?

Well, Burning Tog feels a bit similar to the R/U/B control deck that came out of Amateurs last year (no, you nimrod, not just because of the colors), and after the first match I felt completely comfortable playing it. Most of the plays that I should be making seemed clear, and the deck was able to respond to just about everything that my opponents threw at me. This was a welcome change to my play over the last month where I was generally making wrong choices at the wrong times, and ending up overwhelmed by opponents with”skillz.”

Decklist time…

4 Flametongue Kavu

4 Nightscape Familiar

4 Psychatog

3 Burning Wish

2 Chainer’s Edict

4 Circular Logic

2 Deep Analysis

4 Fact or Fiction

4 Fire/Ice

3 Memory Lapse

2 Repulse

2 Darkwater Catacombs

8 Island

2 Salt Marsh

2 Shadowblood Ridge

4 Shivan Reef

2 Sulfurous Springs

4 Urborg Volcano


4 Duress

3 Engineered Plague

2 Gainsay

1 Sudden Impact (Should have been Pyroclasm)

1 Obliterate

1 Persecute

1 Upheaval

1 Chainer’s Edict

1 Deep Analysis

In my first match I got paired with Sammy G, who has been playing White Weenie decks since he was in the womb. He parised down to a five-card hand, and things were looking good for the home team. Unfortunately, Grif decided that this was the game where his five-card draw would be really good and my seven-card draw would be a bit weak, and he proceeded to show me how annoying lots of token creatures can be. The next game I couldn’t draw an Engineered Plague or enough removal to save myself… And Glory decided to show up and complicate things further.

Thus continueth the losing streak to 0-7.

While shooting the shizzy with Jimmy Bean between rounds, I told him I was now at 0-7 for the last month, and that the Magic Gods were certain to pair me against him in the next round. Before the tournament, Jim (who happened to be playing the same deck as me), was originally going to run a Mutilate or two in the sideboard to take care of beatdown until I pointed out to him just how many Swamps the deck was running (that would be zero). Jim was clearly not on his game this day…

As usual, I was exactly right about this (you have to respect the streak,) and Jim and I sat down for some hot Tog-on-Tog action. I’ll skip the details and say that we unintentionally drew by splitting the first two games and running out of time before we started game 3.

Now I’m not one to rip on my friends (oh wait, yes I am), but Jim has been taking the Dave Humphreys School of Magic to heart far too much lately, and this was at least a small factor in why we drew. I would occasionally urge him to speed things up in a friendly way, like saying”Dammit, you moron, you only have two cards! Make a decision!

But Jim’s response was always,”You can’t rush success,” a line that is still making me chuckle three days later (Jim went 0-2-1 on the day against actual opponents and got a free victory from Mr. Bye.) Combine that with his 0-2-1 from the last PTQ we attended and Jim is officially carrying the”good player on a bad run” torch.

So anyway, I’m at 0-1-1 at this point, winless in eight matches, in the middle of a 120-point free fall in my constructed rating, and get paired down against a new guy playing a W/G deck that I proceed to smash.

Let me repeat that:”I finally won.”

I’m going to Hawaii, yay!

Or not. Jim, on the other hand, has to face a Stompy deck that crushes him in Game 3 by having six (!) creatures out on turn 3 (Basking Rootwalla, two Llanowar Elves, two Wild Mongrels, and a Squirrel), and slaps him around like he was Mystikal’s girlfriend. Thus endeth Jimbo’s day.

Round 4 sees me paired up against John Henry (who sounds like a railroad worker, but in actuality is just a little blonde kid), who happens to be playing a Land Destruction deck. As I’ve recounted before, LD is rarely good against Tog (too much acceleration from Nightscape Familiars and too much card drawing), and I proceed to crush Mr. Henry as well and mise my way into the semi-finals on the back of my draw with Jimbo and victories against two kids still learning the game.

I’m not implying this is some awe-inspiring story that everyone should emulate; all I am saying is that I broke my losing streak. For this day, that was enough.

The semi-finals see me matched up against Jared, who is playing Deep Dog with a splash of red. I hadn’t faced this matchup yet, so I didn’t know what to expect, but it turns out that Burning Tog is designed to crush it. With the way the maindeck was setup, I didn’t actually need to sideboard anything after giving him a beating in game 1. Game 2 saw me get a Familiar on the board along with two Flametongues that killed a Mongrel and an Arrogant Wurm, which lead to a quick victory.

Sammy G somehow downed another Tog deck in his semi-final (hmm… I’m thinking Pyroclasm is a necessity in the board and that Tog doesn’t handle masses of token creatures very well… But you probably already knew that), and then decided not to press his luck and split the prizes with me in the finals (50 bills and two packs of Onslaught each). I technically got the win, but it didn’t really matter as we both wanted to hop outside and play some ball before everyone left.

So what did I learn? Well, I learned that Burning Tog is a great deck. It’s not as painful to play as Zevatog was (Standstill, lay land, bounce stuff, counter stuff, Upheaval for the win), it has a lot of versatility, and the bomb factor is very high.

In fact, the spells that you can go fetch with Burning Wish are so powerful that it feels a little bit like you are cheating. Burning Wish essentially creates three extra copies of all the Sorcery bombs that you want to fetch… And really, who doesn’t want extra copies of Deep Analysis, Persecute, Chainer’s Edict, Duress, and Upheaval? If you already plucked a card out of your Sideboard with the first Wish, just remove it from your grumper (and from the game) with a Tog and go fetch it again.

The only problem with the Wish design is that it takes away a little bit of tempo from the deck, and forces you to telegraph Wish plays before they happen. However, the power of the spells more than makes up for the fact that your opponent knows what’s coming, and if you are Wishing late enough in the game, you can cast your Wish that was granted on the same turn and the point is practically moot.

From a creature perspective, the constituents of this deck are pure efficiency. Flametongue acts as removal and pressure at the same time, Nightscape Familiar makes the casting cost of most of your spells completely unfair, and Tog acts as another blocker or his more classic Mr. Finisher role.

This point has been stressed before, but should be made again… Casting a Fact for 1U, an FTK for 2R, Upheaval for 2UU, or leaving a single U open for a Memory Lapse or Repulse is blatantly unfair. This is one of the reasons why Tog has been the dominant control deck for all of 2002… it has cheaper resources than any other deck not running Nightscape Familiar, and if you are running Nightscape Familiar and trying to be a control deck, you may as well just run Mr. Smiley as well.

I also learned that I probably should have been playing Tog decks for the last four months, if my main goal was to win. Regardless of my sketchy motivation this summer, once I got tired of losing I grabbed the best deck out there and decided to run with it in order to stop the bleeding.

Thankfully, I played relatively well with it and managed to win some cash in the process. Once again it gets me to thinking that maybe I should be doing this all the time (choosing the best deck and running with it), but that sort of thought doesn’t sit very well with the creative side of me that likes to make up new decks and expand formats. Tragically, the creative side always sits in conflict with the schedule of a life that leaves far too little time for testing and tweaking Magic decks. Go figure…

Alright, so you now know that Burning Tog is amazing, and that I’ll probably continue playing it until November 1st… But what happens after that date? Will there still be some sort of viable Psychatog deck out there that runs Red, Black, and Blue?

I’m going to cop out and say that I don’t know, but looking at what the deck is losing, I will say that the design of the post November 1st deck will look radically different. When Invasion Block goes away, the deck loses:

4 Flametongue Kavu

4 Nightscape Familiar

4 Fact or Fiction

4 Fire and Ice

2 Repulse

2 Salt Marsh

4 Shivan Reef

4 Urborg Volcano

2 Gainsay

1 Obliterate

Ye gods, man! That’s eighteen spells from the maindeck, ten land (almost all the lands that have Red in them), and three sideboard spells. For those who are bad at math, that’s half the spells in the deck, and that’s never a good sign for survival when a set rotation occurs.

Yes, Read the Runes is tailor-made for Tog decks, and there are some bombs in Blue that could prove helpful (Future Sight, anyone?), but the loss of the Familiar and Fact or Fiction will ensure that ‘Tog 2003 looks a bit different than ‘Tog 2002 has.

While on the subject of set rotations, I’d say this is a nice time to segue into a remembrance of my favorite block of all time (Invasion) and wish it a fond farewell.

The Holy Kanoot’s Top 10 Invasion cards

  1. Fact or Fiction. This card consistently stirred up debate on whether or not it should be banned, it was featured in practically every deck running Blue, and it proved itself to be fantastic fuel to power Mr. Smiley. All the Blue haters in Magic have been waiting for this bad boy to rotate out since it was printed, and November 1st will finally grant their wish.

  2. Flametongue Kavu. Maybe the best creature ever printed, this card defined the environment like almost no creature ever has. There’s a reason that playing expensive creatures with a toughness of four or less was considered a real risk, and the FTK is it. Combine his coming-into-play effect with a four-power body and you have a creature that made opponents miserable for two straight years. I, for one, will not be sad to only see Flametongues played in casual or Extended matches.

  3. Pernicious Deed. As those who have been reading my columns for a while know, I love board-clearing spells… And this one is amazing. As long as you had the mana, popping the Deed would clear the board of every annoying permanent out there that didn’t regenerate. This spell will continue to see play in Extended for years to come.

  4. Apocalypse painlands. Completely responsible for opening up deckbuilding options that hadn’t been available since the original dual lands left Standard. Here’s to hoping they reappear as a permanent part of the base set.

  5. Urza’s Rage. Uncounterable, unpreventable damage… I can dig it. And it gave you the option of using it as a late game finisher, provided you could ever pay its kicker cost.

  6. Absorb/Undermine. Counterspells with a bonus. They fell out of favor when Odyssey came into effect because those playing Tog didn’t want to have to pay all that colored mana for Undermine, and Ro-gain officially became too weak to play. However, there was a reason both of these spells commanded $15 each for a long time, and that’s because they were hard counters that offered something extra. You will be wishing these were still around until some decent counterspells are printed again.

  7. Vindicate. Reasonably priced (1WB) and the most versatile removal around, players cringed when they got mana-screwed and their opponent was playing White and Black. The only drawback was that it couldn’t kill regenerators.

  8. Spiritmonger. Ahhh, fatties. Regenerating fatties that are black, but can change colors (read: protection from Circles of Protection). Oh yeah, and it’s a 6/6 for 3GB. Fantastic creature and fun for the whole family. His only problem was that he couldn’t trample. He will be missed.

  9. Repulse. The defining bounce spell. Saw play for the entire time it was available in Standard. Was part of the best decks in block format and the best decks in Type 2. Probably was played in Blue decks almost as much as Fact or Fiction. It will be interesting to see what Blue decks look like when this is gone.

  10. Fire/Ice. This may be a controversial decision in light of the fact that there’s still a lot of available power cards in the set to choose from, but I’m going to stick to it. If you had access to both colors of mana on the card, it was the best two casting-cost burn spell around that also could be cycled if necessary. I also approve of the split cards cycle, as these proved to be a lot of fun in both limited and constructed.

Whether or not you agree with my picks, if you played Invasion Limited, you will probably agree that the whole format was an inspired work of genius from R&D. Here’s to hoping that more sets that are just as good will be released in the future, and that everything else we get is still fun.

Fun things to do at the Miss Universe Webite

Alright, for those of you playing along at home, go here (trust me, it’s worth it): http://www.missuniverse.com/missuniverse/index.html

Up at the top you will see the”Delegates” drop-down menu, where you should feel free to select your country of interest. Then click on Photos, and you’ll get a choice of National Costume (fantastic stuff), Swimsuit (not as thrilling as expected since I’m a leg man myself), and Evening Gown (typical runway clothing).

Here are my notes on the whole thing:

The national costume for the Bahamas is hilarious. The picture says,”I’m smiling because I’m scared.”

Alright, I have no problem with Canada’s costume, except that it makes me wonder where the hell you would actually wear that thing in Canada and not die of exposure? Shouldn’t that girl be dressed in some sort of sexy parka/whaleskin design? By the way, Miss Canada is pretty buff.

Croatia:”They’re real, and they’re spectacular.”

Cyprus: Hey, they brought back the long-lost female pirate look. I’m thinking they should lose it again. Also”No padding required.”

El Salvador:”Under da sea…”

France:”My national costume is like a feathered Baby New Year, and my evening gown is a pant suit, but I’m French, I’m beautiful, and you will love me anyway.”

Finland’s National Costume reminds me of Bjork’s Oscar swan… But isn’t Bjork from Iceland? Is there some Scandinavian swan fetish that I should be aware of (being that Knutson is a good Norwegian name)?

Germany:”Who knew Fruit of the Loom made women’s underwear?” and the shocking”Wait a second… there are hot German girls?”

Hungary and Italy both get a big”Wow!”

India gets at least three jawdrops. Probably the highlight of the pageant, along with the amazing Miss Panama (who is currently Miss Universe after Miss Russia was dropped for”Not performing her duties.” Yep, I’ve learned far too much about this pageant (check that; scholarship program) in the last hour).

Hey, the Irish national costume is kinda trampy… good for them!

Poland: Whoa (Keanu Reeves moment), she looks like a hot Janice Soprano.

Russia gets three jawdrops, but is mitigated by the fact that a) She’s a police officer (insert handcuff joke here), and b) she’s apparently a crack shot with an AK. She’s way hot, but I’m a big wuss.

Singapore and Trinidad and Tobago are to be avoided. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Uruguay: Probably my favorite set of pictures on the whole site.

National Costume:”No, I did not fart!”

Swimsuit:”God, stop staring at my breasts, you pervert.”

Evening Gown:”Alright, that’s it… I’m outta here.”

The Kitchen Sink

My wife is of the opinion that Eddie Bauer’s clothing line for women should be renamed”Volvo.” Ladies, if the message that you want to send is”Boxy, but safe,” then this is the clothing line for you. Definitely not the favorite catalog to arrive at the Knutson household.

Alright, I’ll say it… Right now there are too many shows on television that are worth watching. TiVo just makes this situation worse (but better as well, since hour-long shows are compressed into 45 minutes of commercial free viewing… But I digress). I’m currently watching Alias, Sopranos, CSI: Miami, Buffy, Enterprise (also known as Enterpoop in my household, but that’s just me stealing from Bloom County) West Wing, Friends, CSI, Firefly (though it may fall off the list if it doesn’t improve soon), John Doe (better than expected provided it doesn’t turn into Pretender), Smallville, Angel, and (yep, I’m gonna take flack for this) The Gilmore Girls.

(It’s the witty dialogue, I swear!).

Combine that with rabid sports watching (Baseball playoffs, College and Pro Football, Boxing, NFL Primetime), and I’m rapidly turning into couch potato. All of this extra TV goodness has to come at the expense of something, therefore I have not seen many movies lately, nor have I read any books. Even my Madden 2003 time has suffered. What is this world coming to? At this point, if you find yourself liking television, and you don’t own a TiVo, I would advise you stay as far away from that particular beast as possible. Your social life may never recover.

The most disturbing moment of the TV season thus far has to be the sex scene on The Sopranos between Janice and Ralph Cifaretto (played by the amazing Joey Pants). Let’s just say that Janice and Ralph were spooning, there was some dirty talk, an oil check was going on, and Ralph was playing the part of the car. I think I was blinded for about two minutes directly afterwards, but thanks to the glory of TiVo I could hit”rewind” and watch the rest of the scene to catch what I missed. Needless to say, I chose not to.

Between that scene on the Sopranos, and the fact that one of my friends has taken to regularly watching”Queer as Folk” lately (not a bad show if you ignore the sex scenes (and yes, I’m disturbed by the fact that I’m not disturbed by the show)), I’ve been seeing more sphincter action than a punk in prison. This is a TV trend that need not continue.

Something to think about: Have you ever seen an unattractive woman driving a new BMW? (Yes; you have to live in Connecticut for that, though. – The Ferrett)

File under things that scare me.

Isn’t it about time that Kai was put on the Banned list? I mean, he’s been restricted from the start, but that hasn’t stopped the dominance. To steal a phrase from Josh Bennett, Kai just displays too much facesmashery to be allowed to continue.

On an alternate note, Marco Blume does not qualify as a 6’2″ Blonde Bombshell that Kai refers to only as his”manager.” Let’s stamp a big fat”No” on that one and move on.

By The Way, the picture listed above for Blume may be the best one ever taken by the Sideboard team. Fantastic work!

If there was any question whether Team Academy sees the world through beer goggles or not, their photo coverage of PT Boston provides an answer. Did somebody put Vaseline on the camera lens? And if they did, what were they carrying around Vaseline for any…

Never mind. It’s better not to know.

Apparently my dry-cleaner has decided that there is no discernable line between”heavy starch” and cardboard. My pant legs are more like cardboard cylinders these days than cotton.

Okay, I’ll admit it… I want Josh Bennett hair. I’ve always been jealous of other people’s ability to grow a ‘fro.


That would be”Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance” being performed at the Wang Center for Performing Arts. Michael Flatley… Wang… Some things are too funny to make up.”Hey, you want to go see Lord of the Dance… it’s playing at the Wang!””You want to go to the Wang?””I hear the Wang had a huge opening this weekend.” Okay, I’m beating this one into the ground. Expect to see updates of what’s playing at the big Wang for a while…


Google is amazing. I mean where else am I going to be able to enter in my name and get subject headings of”convict size”,”brine shrimp,””more stupid questions”,”polishing using a vibrating tumbler” (um…), and”Hong Kong girl please pay attention!)” I’m not sure what any of those means, but most of them sound distinctly kinky. Treee-mendous! (Yep, I’m stealing a catch phrase from The Sports Guy again.)

Speaking of the Sports Guy, does anyone know where I can get a copy of his classic”Grading the Wimbledon Babes” article? If you can track it down (I’ve googled the hell out of it and come up with bupkiss), I’ll post the link plus your name and ship you a random rare card from my collection.

Is it just me, or does Hans Blix, chief weapons inspector for the United Nations, sound an awful lot like Alan Rickman’s character in Die Hard? Every time I hear an interview with this guy, I keep picturing him saying,”Shiess den Fenster. Sigh… Shoot the glass, you eediot!” They could be twins (and the last surviving member of the Gruber family, now that Bruce Willis has killed Rickman and Jeremy Irons). I think I smell sequel potential here…

Roughly translated, Panera means”gain 10 extra pounds.”

Call off the search… There has been a Toby Wachter sighting.

Reader Tim Gillam is of the opinion that Mario Sunshine and herbal therapy are two things that should be experienced together. My first thought was”Where the hell am I going to find someone with a GameCube?” Anyway, this needs to happen…

(Is the irony that Ted finds it harder to acquire a Game Cube than an illegal substance killing anyone else here? – The Ferrett)

The next scheduled Knutson magic sighting will be in Richmond, VA at the PT: Chicago qualifier on October 19th, and then again in Richmond on November 2nd for State Championships. I’ll be bringing the whole crew with me (Porn Star Jimmy Bean Ferraiolo, Sammy G Griffith, Andy Gibb, and maybe even Sam Fog), so check us out if you happen to be in town.

Speaking of Gibb, when last I checked he was torn between playing in his last home High School football game and attending PT: Houston. I’d make fun of him, but that’s a freaking hard choice for anyone to have to make, and I’m kinda glad I’m not stuck in his position.

Two notes of creative genius… 1) The ads on the new Star City are highly amusing, as the ones on the current StarCity have been for some time, and 2) The Mike Long pictures at theendgames.com crack me up every week… there seems to be a definite monkey theme going on. I need to talk to Sam Fog about creating an archive of the article pictures so I have some place to go when I’m feeling down.

Baseball playoff predictions (to be taken with a grain of salt):

National League – Atlanta beats SF, the Cardinals will beat Arizona (St. Lou has dead guy (Daryl Kile) mojo working for them). Then the Cards will beat Atlanta in six.

American League – The A’s will beat the Twins (I’m still not feeling this Minnesota thing), and the Yanks will beat the Angels. Then the A’s will finally beat the Yankees for once in the playoffs (in 7 games of course, because the Yankees are the toughest team ever to beat in the postseason) and face the Cardinals in the Series.

Sports Rule 10 clearly states”No matter how improbable a victory might seem, never write off a team with dead-guy mojo on their side.”

That should tell you who my pick is to win the series, even if it seems unlikely.

I’m thinking that’s enough randomness for this week. From here on out, I’m going to get over my do-it-yourself hang-up and learn to love the bomb. You should too. Tune in next time when I might actually have some deck ideas for November Type 2.

The Holy Kanoot

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