Feature Article – Innovate This

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John Friggin Rizzo, the innovator behind the popular Extended Friggorid deck, returns with an article packed with his usual wit and wisdom. Today he shares some intriguing Standard and Block Constructed technology, and suggests that all theory articles may be pointless. Do you agree? And has Rizzo broke the format once more? Read on to find out!

Perhaps you may have noticed a disturbing trend among Magic articles in which the author prefaces his musings with a drawn-out anecdote that seems to go nowhere but eventually ties in to the body of text which follows. While this is oftentimes cleverly done, most authors break the cardinal rule of Magic introductory paragraph writing, which is simply stated:

You must begin your article with a pointless story that is completely irrelevant to what follows. Bonus points if you lie your ass off.

I mean, c’mon fellas — this is the freakin’ Internet. Act like it.

This is where I would put my pointless story that is completely irrelevant to what follows and lie my ass off, but feel that, due to my enormous archived volume of musings (exhibits “A” through “Zzzx” or so), I will rest on my laurels. Perhaps I’ll slip one or two in later.

I missed Regionals.
But not like John Waite’s “Missing You.”
More like “Gorillas in the Mist.”

I finally became convinced that Hypnotic Specter was just about unplayable in the current metagame, thus audibled to Orzhov Suicide Squad. I was not excited to be playing someone else’s deck, even if it actually became my deck because I couldn’t find my fourth Paladin en-Vec and thought Tivadar of Thorn would be a comparable replacement. I changed one card = screw you Feldman, this sh**’s mine now!

I mean really, what’s Feldman ever done anyway?

My ride no-showed who cares whatever thanks for saving me a 3-6 day I’ll go beat up on children in the Legacy tourney and win packs. lol @ beating children! Figuratively.

With Regionals done (and Mikey M finishing a respectable 14th with four maindeck Hyppies), I focused on Block, since that was both the upcoming PTQ season and the North American Challenge series format that’s exactly like the Kentucky Open except it’s not in Kentucky and it has a different name. At NAC Qualifier 1, I played a Korlashy control with a splash of Red for Void and Disintegrate.

Eight totems.
Four Lens.
Two Enslave.
Four Wretch.
Didn’t do too well.
But much better than I expected.

At the next qualifier, I went with a Korlashy control with Blue and a splash of Gaea’s Blessing because I believed Adrian’s hype. He was right: I am bad at Magic.

Side note:

Play a turn 2 Wretch against G/W Tarmogoyf. They actually slump. Then beat you with Mystic Enforcer/Tarmogoyf anyway/Griffin Guide/pump spell of choice. Or turn 4, 5, and 6 Calciderms.

I was now left with only white or green as the Komplementary Korlashy Kontrol Kolor omg alliterate much. This is what happens when left to my own devices, and keep in mind that I thought it was extremely techy:

4 Withered Wretch
4 Darkheart Sliver
4 Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
1 Thelonite Hermit
1 Jolrael, Empress of Beasts
1 Jedit Ojanen of Efrava
3 Verdeloth the Ancient
2 Sudden Death
1 Slaughter Pact
4 Damnation
3 Tendrils of Corruption
2 Evolution Charm
4 Gaea’s Blessing
4 Harmonize
9 Swamp
7 Forest
3 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Urza’s Factory

Jolrael and Damnation — I don’t care how infrequently it happens, if it (ever) does, I will bask and boast and brag and pimp my ride so much then submit a “question” to Ask Wizards:

“Dear Wizards, omg listen to this combo I invented: Jolrael/Damnation!”

Jedit brings friends, and Forestwalk is not entirely insignificant, and Hermit has sowed his oats enough, but the big question mark is obviously Verdeloth. Best top deck ever. Okay, Disintegrate ain’t bad either, but why flat out win the game when you can give your opponent one complete turn to respond?

Did you happen to notice that when you flip Hermit, he creates Saproling tokens? Hey, those are the same kind of tokens that Verdeloth brings to the party! And both guys give them +1/+1!

“Dear Wizards, omg listen to this other combo I invented: Thelonite Hermit/Verdeloth!”

I actually paid 25 bucks to complete my set of Damnations. And I’m still pissed:

“Dear Wizards, omg why do you make the rare cards cost so much!”

Did you ever Grandeur Korlash, Charm him, and Grandeur him again at instant speed after no blockers are declared but before the D to the S? It’s almost like casting the Rise part of Rise/Fall after tutoring for it with House Guard! Or just use the Charm as Lay of the Land then Blessing it back in for sexy late game trickery! Chicanery, I tell you!

I know that Teferi’s Moat hates when you give a 10/10 Korlash flying. So they just counter the Charm and you lose anyway, but so close!

The sideboard was pretty bad. So was your mom, said your dad.

I often imitate Evan Erwin. I got the tone and accent down pat, and the clear enunciation and soft-spoken “aw shucks but with a touch of authority” is almost perfect. Picture me, saying over and over and over until I could enter a misterorange voice-over contest and eat more puke than the runner-up at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest…

Tapping the cards, so you don’t have to…

That’s like, the best catch phrase ever. It’s so good that he doesn’t even have to do a show, just open to a white screen and do The Phrase. End credits, see you in the forums.

Tapping the cards, so you don’t have to…

Thanks to Evan, all my cards now have a sort of quasi-vigilance. He should be a White enchantment. omg with morph! Orange got it in the belly!

Anyway, Korlash w/Green didn’t fare too well. I blame manascrew, and I think some of my opponents cheated. Speaking of…

I’m using black sleeves, and up against Brenden, owner of Crossroad Games, and a Level 1 judge no less, using orange sleeves his damned self, and on about turn 6, he goes to draw his card…and draws off my library that was pretty much not very near his library at all. He drew the card, looked at it, and then made a face that indicated something was wrong. Match loss much? We laughed our asses off, for if one cannot lol at vicious, malicious, and spiteful cheating, then really, what’s this life for?

I did, however, file a complaint with the Bunco Squad at Wizards. They said they’d get back to me as soon as someone looked up “bunco.”

Anyway, the next attempt was at PTQ — Valencia, and back to the Blue/Black Teachings with Blessings. In the first round, at the end of my opponent’s turn 5, I tried to flash in Teferi. He had the Pact of Negation. Nonplussed, I drew my card, and dropped an Urborg as a Wasteland. He buried his own target Urborg, and then scooped.

Me: You’re scooping?
Him: Duh, I can’t pay for Pact.
Me: Oh yeah, I mean, I saw that.

Seriously, that’s how bad I am at Magic. Good thing he beat my ass the next two games.

In round 2, I’m paired against Adam Schaff, he of the ride that didn’t show up for Regionals and left me stranded and alone with nothing but Feldman’s My Own Damned Suicide Squad to keep my company. You see, it was simply a misunderstanding, and we have since kissed and made up. I’m such a liberal.

Before we start, the judge asks Adam to c’mere you freakin’ cheater and non-ride shower-upper, and after a short consult, gives him a game loss for misregistering his deck. So, I’m up one-love and know I’m about to get killed anyway, since he’s playing Mono-Black Beats with Bad Moon and shadows and enough discard to piss me right the frig off.

I think he won “game 2” on turn 5, and “game 3” on turn 6.

It was at this point that I decided to drop and get in a free draft since I wasn’t writing a report — why bother, since Craig doesn’t like me anymore, never calls or emails, and won’t let me even log into the site so I can read the premium articles. He’s also trying to get my green card revoked. And to think it all started when Beckham crossed the pond. You know those Brits: don’t mess with their football soccer.

Pack 1, first pick: Serra Avenger
Pack 2, first pick: Damnation
Pack 3, first pick: Korlash

Of course I lost in the first round — who wins when they rare draft?

frigginrizzo: ←Slaughter Pact.

The Tenth Edition Release was quite awful as well, thanks for asking. On the plus side, my rares were so bad that I can’t even remember them. Whatever, this is Magic, and it’s all good when you can use Fanatic and Incinerate and Troll and Beacon of Unrest and Distress and Cho-Manno and Squee and Quirion Dryad and Razormane…in the same deck with reliable mana. Seriously, what an excellent time to be playing Magic. Gee, say that much? Only about once a day since Ravnica block.

The NACs shifted over to Standard for the remainder of the season, and as much I wanted to rebuild Nearly Mono Black In Standard, much of the luster has worn off since everyone “discovered” Persecute. That was my Regionals ’06 technology for a day — a day in which I actually used the element of either surprise or just plain ol’ dumb luck to punch people’s lungs in. Because I am an innovator, and after I innovate, I just get bored.

I really wanted to enjoy my Troll Ascetics that never saw the inside of any of my decks, since I wasn’t around the first time he was Standard legal, and he’s not quite the beating in Extended or Legacy. This is what I ran with:

The basic idea, and one which I think is sound enough that even Chapin and Feldman must agree with but won’t because I’m a scrub, was this:

Turn 1 Birds, turn 2 Troll, protect him until your opponent is dead. You may scoff, but think about how many ways your opponent will have to remove the Troll from play, or put something in his way. That’s right — you just counter every single one of them, often adding a 2/2 to the mix for your trouble.

I won the first two rounds because I am right about many things in Magic, and then lost the next two because my opponents are lucky cheatsacks. Or run more creatures than me, or more counters, or are better players. Still, you’re pretty sure that I’m right on a philosophical level.

By the way, Peel from Reality is probably a typo, and was supposed to be Momentary Blink. Regardless of Craig’s awful editing skills, I’m so much in love with Con-Troll ’07, that I’ll most likely play it for the rest of the qualifier season, and so should you. However, with so many ways to go about building it, I’m left with more questions than answers. That’s what ahem, innovation, is all about. I guess.

How about a shell like this:

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Remand
4 Silhana Ledgewalker
4 Momentary Blink
4 Troll Ascetic
4 Call of the Herd
4 Moldervine Cloak
4 Loxodon Hierarch
4 Mystic Snake

Is that not enough countermagic, or do the Blinks and Ledgewalkers wearing Cloaks make up for it? How does it out-beatdown the beatdown? How does it out-control the control? Where the hell is Venser in this build you douche bag? Don’t you just pack it in to the deathtouch, reachtouch guy? Or discard? Or Project X?

Those are great questions, all, and the answer is: why don’t you just ease up off my grill, you miserable pricks! Okay, maybe you’re right. But wait, oh to the noes omg lookit all the four-ofs! Well, perhaps I can go all fours and call it 4×4, in honor of Teh Knut.

Wow, that’s like, deckbuilding circa 1998, before we even had theorists. All we did back then was call people n00bs on usenet groups and create phony AOL chatrooms for the purpose of pretending we knew Chris Pikula or ripping people off in trades. Then net decks were invented, and it all went to hell.

Speaking of theorists, I’ve often wondered if there is any practical use for Magic theory. Now, before you get my panties all up in a bunch, get your hands out my pants, take off your ‘net muscles, and chill the hell out.

On one hand, Magic has layers of complexity that rival classic games like Chess and Go, sorta, somewhat, okay, it actually does, now that I think about it. With such depth of play, it’s natural that some bright fellers are going to try to bring order to the chaos. On the other, there is much randomness to be had in The Gathering, yo.

Is there enough non-randomness to warrant further study into the intricacies of ever-changing card advantage, linearity, and the metagame clock? “You bet,” say those who’ve studied game theory. “F***in’ A, b*tch,” exclaim the ones who saw the movie “Pi” and thought it was dumbed-down but were glad it was in black-n-white.

Despite the fact that Wizards can release new cards and abilities and rules that completely invalidate any theory that our thinkers can come up with, it’s nonetheless worth doing the thinking, even if all it results in is absolutely nothing of actual, tangible value. Trying to find a breach in the game that’s evolving like Darwin’s amoebas with ‘roid rage is a good cause. Sometimes, a theory or two will not only make sense, but be practical enough to, well, put into practice, which is pretty much what “practical” means.

Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any that I use, or hear people talk about, on a regular basis aside from card advantage, which seems to have taken on a life of its own. It used to mean a Wrath of God that kills two of their guys, but has since been bandied about and beaten about the head chest neck and breast area that dredging double Grave-Troll with Magus of the Bazaar seems like card advantage.

Don’t get me wrong: I like to get my card advantage on as much as the next guy, but I find it difficult to reconcile that Compulsive Research can actually be card neutrality or disadvantage, not even mere “card exchanging” if you will. You use one card to see three, usually keep two, but sometimes only one. Bad business, yo, at least on the face of it.

With that said, I’ll bet on the guy who casts 4x Compulsive Research to win about 4x more than the guy who doesn’t.

“Dear Wizards, omg Compulsive Research/Zombify! Er, wait, or use madness, too!”

When people delve into the inner-workings of the game, it appears they either give Magic too much credit, or not enough. Per usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Two guys can bring their decks made completely of four-ofs, play a million games against each other, and not play the exact same game twice. Pretty freakin’ deep. Or…

Two guys can bring the same decks, and fall into some drastic sort of Groundhog Day, where the game play and results feed into a loop so seemingly infinite that even an eight on its side isn’t suitable for measurement.

Heh, I’m just trying to stir up sh**. And I don’t know why. I think it has something to do with seeing angry people post in the forums. Especially highly intelligent ones who, like, “quote stuff” from “sources” and whatnot. Mostly, I just have a short attention span, and I’ve found that I lack the ability to concentrate on any task for more than about forty minutes at a time. Even a task I enjoy. So in those forty minutes, just throw a bunch of stuff to the wall and figure it out in the forums.

Splash damage, moving around your glass cannons, and fighting land wars in Asia notwithstanding, while I’m interested in most theory articles, I can’t say I’ll be completely on board until someone develops a deck that has a 100% turn 1 kill rate, regardless of which cards you randomly draw in your opening seven.

Build a deck that kills on turn 1, every single game ever, even if you draw your seven “worst” cards. Can the deck have more than six lands? What if you draw all seven lands in your opener — ain’t winning that one, eh?

If someone builds the perfect turn 1 kill every single time ever, I’ll listen to whatever the hell you have to say (and believe it) about anything and everything because you’ll be more right than Newt Gingrich.

And oh, how about some sort of formula to completely eliminate mana screw and flood, pls/k/thx. Not for my own use, but only because I’m sick of hearing people whine about both. I understand that mana screw or flood are the only reasons to ever lose a game of Magic, but c’mon, yo, suck it up and move on. And hope your opponent mulls to five.

Dear Rizzo,

UR a St00pit n00b! No wonder yer teh suxxorz!

Most People Reading Right Now

By the way, I mulled to three on the play at the 10th Release. And almost won. I used to hate to mulligan any hand that had more than zero land, now I actually enjoy it… because it makes me feel like a victim, since I have the perfect excuse when I lose.

Before I forget, I’d like to apologize to Paul Cheon for not being present at Nationals this year. I know that if I was there to shadow his draft, he would have won, but since I wasn’t, he didn’t. If you must blame someone, blame Rosewater: it’s always his fault. Poor Mark, he could retire and go live on a deserted island with a soccer ball and a pair of ice skates, and he’d still get blamed for everything that ever went awry in the world of Magic. Seriously, people, Urza Block was almost ten years ago!

I’d also like to mention that I beat Randy Buehler in an Ice Age Block draft with Dark Depths two games in a row. There might be one or two readers who didn’t know that, so for you ignoramuses, one: welcome to earth, and two: I’m an excellent Limited player.

Since you’ve been such a good audience, I’ll throw in a pointless story, but probably won’t lie — it’s bad form to lie in a pointless story at the end of the article, see?

Beckett Magic the Gathering has ceased publication. I know this because they sent me a postcard telling me I was going to receive Beckett Massive Online Gamer instead of completely screwing me out of my thirty beans because I’m such a valued customer.

I would have been pissed, but realized that they sent Berto a t-shirt with Hyppie artwork on the back that I could use for the Tenth Edition scavenger hunt. Me and my 21 items lost anyway, so maybe I should sue them for a full refund retroactive to the Rath Cycle.

Whatever, that’s what I get for thinking that anyone could make a go of a Magic-only periodical. I mean, the math looks simple, especially if you’re the publisher of said mag:

Yes Man: Sir, there are 6,000,000 players worldwide.
Publisher: We need 3,000,000 subscribers to break even. Can we do it?
Yes Man: Yes, sir!

Anyway, if you have ideas for Con-Troll ’07, want to vent about my ignorance regarding theory, or just simply want to profess some kind of oddball, barely heterosexual man-crush on me, I’ll see you in the forums.

But I’m right that an on-the-play turn 2 Troll with sufficient backup will win every game. Until they print a Cruel Edict variant with split second. In that case, you sac the Birds and still beat their freakin’ teeth in, obv.

Portal Cruel Edicts ftw,
John Friggin’ Rizzo

Thinker and Theorist
For about 40 minutes at a time