Feature Article — These Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty

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Today’s Feature Article sees John Friggin’ Rizzo is fine fettle. HE questions some of the more prosaic names appearing in the forthcoming Lorwyn expansion, he shares some last gasp Standard decks before the rotation, he wades into the 4/1 versus 3/2 card debate, and he shows us just why Tarmogoyf is the cod’s pods. All in his own firebrand signature style…

When I first heard Lorwyn was doing the tribal land of 1000 dances, I sighed. If there is a theme I like less than tribal, it can only be teh Limited. Fortunately, teh Limited isn’t in the Constructed card pool, whew that was close! On the other hand, after seeing the Wizards’ g-spot teasers and sneaking a peek at MTGSalvation’s stolen scans, I may have to reconsider.

I recognize that the flashy new rares that appear to be game-altering (i.e., Heartwood Storyteller) often cause the cool kids to get their smegma on, but my nipples are, as I type this, rated “11” on the Mohs scale, and are currently attempting to cut diamonds. Watch it live on YouTube!

I could offer pre-preview opinions on what I’ve seen, but that would not be the epitome of journalistic integrity. Then again, I’m not a journalist. More like a blogger, actually. With free web hosting. And they pay me. OMG best scam ever!

Clearly, any discussion of White cards is not, nor will ever be, germane to any rap session comin’ out yer speakers. Likewise, Blue cards need no dialogue — they’re retarded, broken, and will ensure that there will still be that chap/bloke/mate/uberchyk who goes to time at the PTQ when you just got rolled in six minutes (Dougie Fresh, you’re on) and have to mill around looking like a guy with a cup in his hand, which is what you are since if you simply played Blue you’d still be playing instead of being cup boy.

We’re talking Black. The color of men. Men who would saw off their own foot like Westley, or at least give me somethin’ to break like Donnie. I miss Donnie-slash-The Rebel – you know, hangin’ with Flava Flav, smoking, drinking, and shooting those curt glances to the camera as he lip syncs his syrupy boy band lyrics.

I would like to, before I get too far ahead of myself, take this opportunity to give props to the naming department.

Neck Snap?

All right, Magic is no longer all “demonic;” it’s moved straight into Hostel territory. Heh, “Hostel territory.” I am such the wordsmith.

White Command?

Okay, as long as the DCI continues to offer that 5% Ku Klux Klan MTGO discount! [I’d be surprised if this was the final name — Craig.]


It’s apparent they were going for the “steal yer goat” deal, otherwise Wizards would have gone with “Goatsucker,” which is a nocturnal, insectivorous bird of the family Caprimulgidae. Duh.

Ingot Chewer?

Rumor has it that Slab Gnawer and Pig Iron Masticator lacked the linguistic panache the namers were seeking. I dare not consider the ways this card will go to bars in tough parts of town around closing time and call the biggest, baddest, grossest bastard around an Ingot Chewer and see what happens. I mean, after he’s done laughing his ass off.

Spring Cleaning?

Is it just me, or does “clash with an opponent” seem too… jousty? Obviously, inserting a bit of randomness into the effect of a spell is something I enjoy (omg flip another coin, yo!), but this mechanic doesn’t seem too well-suited for Sensei’s Divining Top, which isn’t really good without spoon-fed mechanics.

Warren Pilferer?

Wasn’t he that kid who had a full beard in eighth grade?

Mad Auntie?

If this is part of a “dysfunctional Manson-style family members” cycle, I’mma fly to Renton and get Janet Reno on their asses. While we’d all love to see Super Horny Uncle, Stoned Brother-in-Law With A Shotgun Beside His Recliner, and Skin-Tight Tiger-Stripe-Pantsuit-And-Too-Much-Jewelry-Wearing Grandmother, part of the allure of the Future-shifted cards was that maybe they weren’t really serious!

On a more upbeat note: Shapeshifters plus Steamflogger Boss equals combomania!

Speaking of make believe, why does Wizards feel the need to create worlds for the characters, when there is an abundance of real-life locales with otherworldly auras to plunder? It’s not like they’re trying to make a killing with Ravnica-themed merchandise, such as Simic Cereal, Boros Barbie, or Plant Zombie bedsheets. Though, note to higher ups: look into it.

Expand your minds — ask “what if?” Resist the urge to create a world, for there are worlds among us that have yet to be fully explored, let alone conquered. How about an Inner City Block? Obviously, Red’s the Crips and Blue is the Bloods; White would be law-abiding Caucasians; Black would be, well, law-abiding Blacks, while Green could be the millions of illegal immigrants. Get it, “Green card?” Artifacts could be everyone and everything else — holy catch-all a la carte potpourri go freakin’ wild Rosewater!

Best way to get tased ever alert:

When a half-dozen rent-a-cops try to escort you out of a John Kerry speech, instead of going along peacefully, protest your innocence, resist like breakdancing is still cool, scream “help me” like a freakin’ idiot, and then say “don’t tase me!” This stratagem can also be modified to “the best way to get beaten senseless ever” after a high-speed police chase. Just a tip to make your nightlife sizzle.

Would it kill the average Magic artist to draw a chyk with, say, a mere C-cup instead of flotation-device-like fun bags? Seriously, these girls are going to hurt their backs, and then how are they going to beat up and/or kill things?

Can you imagine poor Radha, who was slain in battle because she swung her axe, but missed because her boobs got in the way? Or what about Liliana — she was just about to Vampiric for you, but her overly swollen breasts, in conjunction with her monthly visitor, led her to call in sick, lounge on the couch, and pop Pamprin all day. Perhaps Blade of the Sixth Pride was in mid-pounce on the bad guy, but her boob recoil knocked herself unconscious and the good guys lost.

Artist: Okay, let’s draw a lioness…
Artist 2: … who stands like a woman…
Artist 3: … and has, like, really big boobies!

Dear Magic artists,

Stop being twelve, and draw a real woman. You know, the kind that, after a day of butchering Agent-Smith-like Phyrexians, slaughtering coked-up Goblins, and generally rippin’ sh** up, can come home and proudly declare: “I am not a D-cup, and if you don’t like it, I’ll cut off your f***in’ head!”

Sensitive Lover

Tournament Hierarchy, Baby:

Crossroads is holding a Wizards Gold Tier tourney this weekend — the format is Stagnant Standard. Gold Tier, aside from sounding like the frequent flyer program at the local brothel, may be something of a misnomer, even if they are giving away an assload of product. I mean, the format is lying in the gutter with its teeth kicked in waiting to get rolled by a homeless guy, hit by a city bus, and liquefied by a street sweeper. On that warm and fuzzy image, here’s one deck I’m considering playing:

4 Mind Stone
3 Prismatic Lens
4 Cruel Edict
4 Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
4 Damnation
3 Graveborn Muse
3 Tendrils of Corruption
3 Twisted Abomination
2 Beacon of Unrest
2 Lord of the Undead
3 Consume Spirit
2 Loxodon Warhammer
23 Swamp

I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. So long as you’re thinking “omg Rizzo, you’ve done it again!” Please note that there are no Ravnica block cards in the list. Which is why you think it sucks. I like it, though, and since it’s all about me, s’all good.

Deck Two

4 Birds
3 Lawnmowers
4 Rite of Flame
3 Boom/Bust
3 Simian Spirit Guide
4 Yavimaya Dryad
4 Troll Ascetic
2 Warhammer
4 Darwin
4 Mwonvuli Acid-Moss
3 Shivan Wumpus
23 lands but only one Stomping Grounds ‘cause it don’t tap for Black mana

A turn 2 Acid-Moss on the play is so freakin’ good that turn 3 Wumpus should elicit a scoop. Too bad that never happens because this deck has three phases of play:

Sucks only a little.
Sucks only a lot.
Is that really Simian Spirit Guide in your deck?

Deck Three

3 Scorched Rusalka
4 Fanatic
4 Rift Bolt
4 Seal of Fire
4 War Marshal
3 Marauders
3 Rakdos Guildmage
4 Incinerate
4 Goblin Boggart King
4 Char
2 Siege-Gang
21 lands

This one isn’t too bad, since it possesses many lands that tap for Red mana, which has a tendency to own or peter out and draw 1/1s on turn 6 when your opponent’s all the way down to fourteen life. On the plus side, it’s mostly tribal before Wizards built our mostly tribal decks for us.

I guess the best I can hope for is to skip the event, play Legacy and lose to a lucksack 13 year-old who has yet to realize that spending forty minutes in the bathroom is, well, quite frankly, a little suspicious.

Regardless, I want the 0/5-slash-5/5 guy, Mister “no Wraths allowed,” and that Blue “choose two” thing. I’m sure I’ll never use any of them, but Tarmogoyf used to be $2. I should have listened to everyone when they said “buy him now!” Yeah, jerky, I did listen. Too bad Crossroads has had a total of one in the case since the release, and I’ve seen a total of one in a trade binder.

Hey, did you know that StarCityGames.com sells cards? You can order online and everything!

Because I am a suave investor, I’ll wait until ‘Goyf rotates out of Standard. At that point, his price will plummet because he won’t see play in Extended and Legacy oh wait yes he will for like ever but at least I own one that I can tutor for with Dimir Infiltrator or Shred Memory.

By the time ‘Goyfs are available in this “free market” economy, Wizards will likely have upped the power curve another notch:

Guy: Remember when Tarmogoyf was actually good?
Kid: He was? Wow, I’m glad I didn’t play back then!

Swap in Juggernaut, Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire, or Ophidian, and what you’d have is Magic moving forward. How far forward this trend can continue is up for debate, but eventually the upward mobility must reach a ceiling. They can’t make a 6/6 trampler with shroud and regeneration for 1B, can they? Well, they could, and I’m sure it would win games when it wasn’t busy getting killed to death by that new 2cc Wrath of God.

From the Life Imitates Art Or Maybe It Doesn’t department:

Stephen Achorn, the kid who answered my video question: “Have you ever beaten me, ever?” with “no,” well, beat me. Turn 2 Troll Ascetic, turn 3 Rancor. Look at all the ways Mono Black has to deal with that. It’s like El Innovatorio commenting that “sure, you can hate dredge, but it’ll hate you worse.” At least he didn’t do the same thing in game 2, but with an Armadillo Cloak just for fun.

That makes two small children who professed my Magic greatness to the world that have since owned me like Brit had a marvelous performance at the VMAs. Sometimes I get the urge to be the guy that saves Brit. But mostly I want to be the guy that’s with her when she passes out drunk. Then posts her nudie shots online.

I have a confession to make:

I don’t have a Goblin deck. Gawd, you’ll never look at me the same again!

I’m 32-36 this year in sanctioned tourneys, only some of which are Limited and only two of which are concessions. That’s like, real bad, but not 1075 bad. Conversely, being the bastion of half-full personified, add my 48-15 from beating up children in Legacy and I’m sitting pretty with a respectable 80-51. Wait, no, that’s not very respectable. I think I need to net deck more often. Or, well, at least once, just to see.

(For the record, that’s 29 games over .500 — enough to nab the wild card!)

I don’t want to say that I’m net deck-curious, but, much like that odd moment of eye contact in the shower after gym class, some things speak for themselves and are better left unsaid and remembered or pretended to be forgotten forever.

What if I do indeed net deck and experience rousing or even moderate success? Will this mean that all my years of ravin’ and rantin’ from Vanessa at New Detroit Stampin’ were for naught? Will my Magic socio-politico views be proven not only incorrect, but foolishly misguided? Must I reinvent myself yet again but I’m fresh out of gimmicks so now what? Now, if I can just find a net deck that doesn’t use Tarmogoyf.

Speaking of everyone’s favorite creature without evasion, Extended is looming large in the winter of our discontent. One thing I like about Extended is the constantly shifting metagame. By “constantly shifting” I mean: by the time Flores hits send on his latest “Swimming With Sharks” wrap-up of the previous weekend, the information is already outdated, but by the time it gets to MagictheGathering.com, it’s up-to-the-minute because the metagame warped four times and back in that timeframe. Sure, it’s a small period of time in real life, but in the Extended metagame, it’s a freakin’ eternity.

Or it could be that Flores punches off Chuck Norris’s head, peels off the skin, sucks out the brain and uses the bored-out skull to bend light so his article is accurate.

I guess what I mean to say is the format is vibrancy personified, as much as something that is completely intangible – and yet both omni and exo-present — can be personified. What’s the opposite of “omni?” Pretty sure it’s not “exo,” but close enough natch blame Craigers.

Anyway, people seem to think dredge is like, fast or something, and that if you’re not geared up to take a turn 2 pasting, then stay home…or just come to the PTQ for comic relief and to split the gas money.

Then again, any deck that can spit out more turn 3 wins than some metaphor I can’t come up with deserves to be recognized as The Clock. Obviously, the only reasonable approach to fighting dredge is to mulligan into Force of Will or lose. Due to card-availability issues, we’ll choose another route:

Mulligan into Tarmogoyf or lose.

Oh, wait, you mean he’s not faster than dredge?

Guy: Remember when Tarmogoyf was actually good?
Kid: Yeah, well, last week was a long time ago.

I dunno about Extended, though I imagine Harry Chapin, Flores via the skull of Chuck Norris, Marty Feldman, The Dirty Sanchez, Sean Puffy McKeown, John L. Sullivan and a host of others will have a field day with the format. I recommend reading their articles — it’s a given they’ll have some pertinent information to share. I, on the other hand, aside from starting three sentences in a row with “I,” will probably believe everything that is written about Extended because I am not only moderately gullible, susceptible to flattery, and a very average lover, but often find myself besieged by the innumerable choices in the speed-of-light format.

But it’ll be fun, nevertheless.

I’m running out of things to write, so perhaps I should babble a card from my hand at random. Or, given that this article clocked in at a tidy ten-ish pages, close here and leave you wanting more. Like that 4/4 elf guy for five that gives Hyppie a run for his money and is even immune to Slaughter Pact, the new best card in teh 4evah!

A quick dissertation on the 4/1, 2/3 debate that’s been cutting much mustard as of late:

4 Birds and
1 Elf is pretty much the same as

4 Birds but a little better
though not as good as

3 Birds and
2 Elves

4 Slaughter Pact and
1 Terror is pretty much the same as

4 Slaughter Pact but a little better
though not as good as

3 Slaughter Pact and
2 Terror

4 Damnation and
1 Wrath of God is pretty much the same as

4 Damnation but a little better
though not as good as

3 Damnation and
2 Wrath of God

Any questions?

The talk of 4/1 et al reminded me of a time when I believed that everything in life could be condensed into a percentage. This was back in the days when all I sought was to be Johnny Professional Gamblin’ Man. I recall, fondly now, but not so then, trying to wise up suckers (impossible BTW) who had systems to beat craps, roulette and, I’m not kidding, the lottery.

If I took a deep breath, I could nearly step outside of myself and watch as I urgently tried to reach these hapless marks. House percentage (or “PC” in the industry) was a term I strutted about with reckless abandon. I knew the odds on everything that could ever come to pass, and a few things that couldn’t. I wasn’t merely the sickness, yo, I was the germ that mutated into the virus that became the strain and the cancer and the cure all in one.

Hours were spent in vain, until I finally discovered the most succinct way to explain a simple concept that was convoluted by numbers:

Say you and I decide to flip a coin. If I win, you pay me a dollar. If you win, I’ll pay you ninety cents. It won’t take long, regardless of your bankroll, for you to go broke. And that, dear readers, is the house percentage.

But, to most, even that never sunk in, even if we’d flip coins for a few minutes as a demonstration. PC, it appears, is as ruthless to your mind as it is to your bankroll.

And I want Magic to be like that. I want to be able to break down and analyze not only decklists to find optimal mathematical synergies, but to apply PC to the game itself. I no longer wish to “educate” those who seek to piss away percentage points, but instead seek to discipline those who think lottery balls and dice and the roulette wheel have a memory. Know what — ain’t happenin’.

While the game is somewhat friendly on the math tip (mana source colors and numbers), and offers potential benefits to those who can, ahem, do the math, it’s much bigger than a breadbox. There are too many intangibles, at least for complete human non-Kai-in-his-prime comprehension.

Then again, this 4/1 talk could spiral a glimmer of hope, much like the 60/62 card deck debate did, or tried to do, or to this day tries to do.

Magic isn’t a game of PC, and while there will always be one mathematically correct play, it’s a game of people. Inasmuch as people are flawed and numbers are (theoretically) not, the game will continue to provide questions that may or may not have a correct answer. That’s part of the fun — trying to find the elusive Omega code that will obliterate everything we know about Magic so everyone can quit and we can all go home.

But we wouldn’t, would we?

As such, tribal is the new-fangled deal, and since this is Wizards’ world and we are mere residents, we’ll take it like a man, and while we’re at it, like it like a man just to prove a point — which is: add some tribal sorceries and instants and grow that ‘Goyf to both epic and mythic proportions, the likes of which have not been seen outside of Renton.

And watch him get blocked all day by Augur of Skulls.

The Win ftw,
John Friggin’ Rizzo