Frustrated Magic players of the world, hear me now, and hear me well. When you’re slumped down in your seat at the table, face festooned in a mask that is half grimace and half five o’clock shadow, eyes downcast, head shaking incredulously, don’t give up your mental game and just take what comes.
It will not balance out, despite what the law of averages might say. Lady Luck owes you nothing, and if pressed, she will pay you nothing. If you really want to be at the top of the game, you must learn to win in spite of her cruel tricks. After all, any assclown can win with her help.
Let me tell you a quick story.
Tonight, I lost in the finals of an eight-man draft. Before the final round was over, I had thrown my cards in disgust, flipped my opponent the bird, and walked out of the store. I was owed nothing, and I was paid nothing. My mistake was acting like I deserved some luck. That will get you every time.
In game 1, I’m well on the way to victory with a U/W control deck featuring three 3/3 Blue flyers, two Hallowed Healers, a Second Thoughts, Syncopate, Aether Burst, Repel. The deck also has three Floating Shields and an Auramancer (this is an underrated mechanic, and when you can’t get any Shelters it works quite well), as well as a Compulsion. Oh, and Embolden, Sandstone Deadfall, and the 2/4 Nomad Mystic guy.
Lack of Shelters aside (and with Floating Shield partially filling the same holes), the major piece missing from the deck was Psionic Gift – a very important tool for the U/W draft archetype. There were no Psionic Gifts to be seen at the entire table. That’s a little bit of bad luck, and I knew that I’d be in trouble once the Odyssey packs had come and gone. Painbringer, Cabal Torturer, Bomb Squad… These cards just win against U/W without Gifts.
Luckily, the first two rounds were played against a U/G beatdown deck and another U/W control deck with less card quality. They did their best, but it was only a matter of time.
Then in the finals I was up against a pretty average R/G beatdown deck. He’d beaten a double-mulligan (twice) opponent in the first round and managed to claw his way through a R/B deck in Round 2. I was expecting to win.
In game 1, I’m on my way to taking control of the game when the R/G player, with hand empty and me holding Second Thoughts (which I expect to use on his Rabid Elephant or, if I’m lucky, his Chainflinger), rips Overrun off the top (!!!) and sends with three guys. I remove the Elephant, take nine, and I’m finished off by Chainflinger after I have to flash back Embolden to stop a Firebolt. Any other card off the top and I win that game, my hand was full of gas.
Even one turn later, I would have had the Syncopate (it was the next card). I die holding four good cards while he has nothing.
In the grand tradition of Lady Luck whipping boys everywhere, the first thing I do is start whining about what a”bullsh*t” topdeck that was. No other card in his deck would have done as much for him. Oh well, I’ll get my own back, right?
I get to sideboard in Sphere of Law and Pilgrim of Justice, and his deck isn’t that good… It has a couple of Reckless Charges, a Rites, and an Overrun, but his creature selection is pretty sub-par… No Mongrel, Rootwalla, or even things like Seton’s Scout. Compared to many R/G decks, it’s poor in creature combat and can only do big damage when you have no blockers. I have plenty of blockers, many with high toughness. Plus Floating Shields, which are better than Shelter when it comes to protecting Hallowed Healers from Chainflinger.
Game 2. I draw an opening hand of three Islands and four very good White cards. I’m playing first. What do I say to myself?
“I’m due for some luck. I will draw a Plains in the next few turns (I have nine in the deck – the chances of drawing one every turn is between 20 and 25%. The chances of drawing one in the opening hand are very high) and everything will be alright.”
And of course, the kicker:
“After his bullsh*t topdeck, I’m not going to mulligan. I deserve to draw a plains.”
Wrong. The law of averages says I should draw a plains. Karma says I should draw a plains. I hope I will draw a plains. I need to draw a plains. But…
…I am owed nothing.
I was paid nothing.
I drew a Plains about seven turns too late. What did I do then? I walked right out of the store, because I was mad as hell. First of all, I was playing against the guy who I hate losing to more than anyone else. Second, I was just disgusted with how I had just lost to pure luck in both games. So I threw my cards, I told my opponent”f*ck you” (we’re pretty friendly with each other, so this isn’t the end of the world, but it wasn’t at the height of sportsmanship), and grabbed my stuff and walked out.
Let me tell all, right now. When you play Magic at a competitive level, your job isn’t to be subject to the swirls and eddies of the luck maelstrom. Your job is to minimize those effects.
Your job, gentle reader, is to win DESPITE the random nature of Magic. And you can only do that if you play in a technically perfect manner.
A more self-deluded player might write his report like this:
Game 1: BS Overrun topdeck. I lose.
Game 2: Massive color screw. I lose. Enjoy your winnings, a**hole.
But in hindsight, I know better. Here’s how it SHOULD be written.
Game 1: He has a Rabid Elephant, a Woodland Druid, and a Chainflinger out. He has no cards in hand. I am at eleven life. I swing with my Dreamwinder and my Aven Windreader, leaving no blockers. I have Second Thoughts ready. I want to get him to attack with his Chainflinger so I can remove it, draw a card and lay my Hallowed Healer next turn. I have Embolden in the graveyard. He draws: Overrun, the best possible card he could draw. I remove his Elephant from the game and take nine from the remaining creatures. He has a Firebolt in the graveyard, but I can prevent that with my Embolden. Unfortunately, I draw no help and he kills me with Chainflinger over the next two turns.
What I should have done is remove his Chainflinger and take ten damage, going to 1. Next turn one Embolden the Firebolt and chumpblock his Elephant. Then I lay Hallowed Healer and hope a Floating Shield has turned up to avoid another chump blocking of the Elephant. Or maybe Repel to buy some time. Or Aether Burst. At least I’m not dead from the Chainflinger.
I could have won this game. He got lucky, but with better play I could have won it.
Game 2: I keep a three-Island, four-white spell hand. I don’t draw a Plains until too late. I should have mulliganed that hand.
I could have won this game. I got unlucky, but with better play I could have won it.
Hell, I could have drawn my six and seen one Plains, two Islands, Hallowed Healer, Sphere of Law, Aether Burst. Then I could have topdecked my Compulsion and Mystic Zealot after that. Then maybe Floating Shield for the Healer. It could have been that good. Anything would have been better than sitting there with my thumb lodged firmly in my nether regions while I was made the unwilling bitch of two very randy Chatter tokens.
While I don’t intend to apologize to Jean-Marc for handing him the draft and then telling him to perform (to use sportswriter Mike Kopf’s phrase)”the usual anatomically impossible act,” I’m sure it will be okay. Considering his penchant for strong draws, he’s used to such behaviour from his opponents, most of whom want to reach over the table and disembowel him with a rusty spoon sometime after Game 2.
Final summation – take your bad beats. Being beaten by strong draws is nothing to be frustrated about or ashamed of. What you need to do is learn to win the ones where it’s even.
Okay, enough philosophic prose. Let’s talk about Judgement Green. Just remember what I said.
Your six-land opening hand will hand you four more land before you’re run over by creatures.
- Your color screw hand will stay that way.
- Your one-land hand will stay dry for just long enough to lose you the game.
- Meanwhile, your opponent’s draw will be strong.
- Being stubborn will get you nothing.
- You aren’t owed a damn thing.
- The move isn’t to hang on in vain – it’s to mulligan, and mulligan hard.
- …And play your best no matter how upset you are.
No regrets. You made the right move. You made the right plays. Remember – any jackass can win with good draws. It takes a player to win with poor ones.
Apparently, I have a ways to go.
Five Articles In Five Days: Green Judgement All-Stars…Plus Gold Cards!
Creature – Beast
Threshold – Anurid Barkripper gets +2/+2
When it croaks, so do you.
I listed Treacherous Werewolf as possibly having potential before, and I think that might have been a mistake. After all, this thing is about the same and it doesn’t seem very good compared to Werebear. I guess the Werewolf, easier to cast and in a color that needs efficient creatures, is more attractive. I’d rather cast Call of the Herd than this any day.
Call isn’t the only comparable alternative. In a world where five toughness is the big deal, how much better is this guy than say, Trained Armodon? Or Anurid Scavenger? This creature needed to be 2/3 to put it over the top.
Creature – Incarnation
As long as Brawn is in your graveyard and you control a Forest, creatures you control have trample.
“‘I have arrived’ bellowed Brawn, and the plane shuddered”
-Scroll of Beginnings
Brawn is a much more efficient creature than any of the other non-green Incarnations… But compared to Anger, he’s nothing special. The thing to remember about the Incarnations is that they’re not creatures so much as Enchantments that take effect as long as they’re in the graveyard.
Having said that… Did anyone here play Primal Rage, that pile of junk from Stronghold that gave all your creatures trample?
Exactly. I could eat Mark Rosewater design notes and pass better cards than Primal Rage in my stool. Brawn is a step behind Anger.
People play recursion, so they will play Genesis.
People played Mother of Runes, so they may play Glory (although it’s much harder on the mana).
People played Fires of Yavimaya, so they will play Anger.
No one played Levitation, so no one will play Wonder.
No one played Primal Rage, so no one will play Brawn.
No one played Leshrac’s Rite, so no one will play Filth.
The only reason I’m mentioning Brawn is because people might be tempted to play him with Spiritmonger. I think deck slots would be better spent on other things.
Enchanted creature gets +3/+3.
When enchanted creature is put into a graveyard, put a 3/3 green Elephant creature token into play.
Nature’s strength outlives the strong.
Call Of The Herd redux? Elephant Guide may be the next coming of playable creature enchantments. Traditionally, playable creature enchantments have to possess two out of the following three criteria:
- Powerful effect
- Immunity to card disadvantage (unless the creature is killed in response)
- Efficient casting cost
Rancor, Curiosity, Armadillo Cloak, and Empyreal Armor… And now maybe Elephant Guide?
Elephant Guide has a lot going for it – it makes any creature into a serious threat, and then comes back for more once the creature is dealt with. Imagine the following scenarios:
1st turn: Swamp.
2nd turn: Llanowar Wastes, Ravenous Rat.
3rd turn: Tainted Wood, Elephant Guide on Ravenous Rat, swing for 4.
And if the Rat dies, you’ve got an Elephant! It’s like being a Nigerian pet owner.
You’ve got a great target for the guide – the Wild Mongrel. It’s hard to kill in response to the Guide:
1st turn: Forest.
2nd turn: Mountain, Wild Mongrel.
3rd turn: Karplusan Forest, Elephant Guide on Mongrel, attack for 5.
Not too shabby! It doesn’t end there. In U/G, you’ve got another target in Aquamoeba. In W/G, you can try it out on stuff like Longbow Archers (5/5 First strike?).
Here’s the downside…and in the current environment, it’s a pretty big downside. This card sucks against bounce. At least Rancor was only dead if the creature was bounced in response. Elephant Guide just falls off and does nothing if your creature should meet Aether Burst, Repulse, or Rushing River. That makes it poor against almost any deck with Blue in it. You’ll need to have something to sideboard in.
I suggest Seedtime.
Let’s move on – Elephant Guide is strong. Good luck in finding the best place to use it.
Creature – Djinn
At the beginning of your upkeep, target non-Wall creature an opponent controls gains forestwalk until your next upkeep.
He provides a safe passage to nowhere.
And Ernie returns. The key stat here is the five toughness. No Flametongue death.
He still isn’t great.
Will this card fit in your deck? No matter the color, the Ernham has some stiff competition, with R/G having the least room. Skizzik and Flametongue Kavu have traditionally made up the top of the R/G beatdown deck’s mana curve, and they are just better than the Ernham in most situations.
Heck with it. I’m not really sure what, if anything, the return of Ernham Djinn is going to contribute. I don’t think R/G needs him very much. I don’t think any deck needs him very much. When I think about additions to my Green decks, I’m much more excited about cards like Genesis, Elephant Guide, Phantom Skeleton, or Exoskeletal Armor. I’ll be leaving this guy in the binder.
Enchanted creature gets +X/+X, where X is the number of creatures in all graveyards.
“We only use what we need-but in times of strife, out need becomes great.”
Remember how bad Mortivore would house R/G once you sideboarded it in? Well, now Green decks can sideboard it in against each other!
This card turns any of your creatures into a Lhurgoyf – and that’s a huge beating in the mirror. Even a lowly Birds Of Paradise can become a 10/11 giant!
I expect to see this card show up in maindecks and sideboards for the same reasons Mortivore used to… Except now you don’t need BB to cast it, just 1G. In a way, it will serve the same purpose that Armadillo Cloak used to in beatdown mirror matches… To serve up the win against opponents with only burn-based removal.
Creature – Incarnation
At the beginning of your upkeep, if Genesis is in your graveyard, you may pay 2G, if you do, return target creature card from your graveyard to your hand.
Genesis is an amazing card. To find out what I think of it, check out my other article.
Creature – Insect
When Ironshell Beetle comes into play, put a +1/+1 counter on target creature.
“Why waste time creating weapons? Nature provides us with all we need.”
This might remind you of another card that saw a little bit of play – Urza’s Destiny’s Hunting Moa. The Moa was better, granting a counter when it left play as well, but this card isn’t bad.
As you’ll see below,”isn’t bad” won’t cut it, especially when Aether Burst returns the creature you put the counters on.
2/1 and 2/2 creatures are the meat and potatoes of many a beatdown deck. Here are your options.
Seeker Of Skybreak
With that sort of competition for the two slot, are you going to play Ironshell Beetle?
No way. And don’t even try to pull tricks with gating… It’s not worth it.
Choose a creature or land card you own from outside the game, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. Remove Living Wish from the game.
He wished for growth, but not for a way to control it.
is a card with a lot of
. You can expect to see it in the maindecks and sideboards of such decks as
. I think this puppy is the
, and I’m not afraid to say so.
…and don’t even get me STARTED on what this sucker can do in that most broken
as soon as you can.
Creature – Insect Druid
When Nantuko Tracer comes into play, you may put target card from a graveyard
on the bottom of its owner’s library.
Your past is a map to where you will go
Gets rid of opposing Call of the Herd, Firebolt, Chainer’s Edict, Aether Burst, removes opposing threshold.
With Wild Mongrel already in my 2CC slot and ten others rarin’ to go, this card would have to dance the friggin’ Charleston to make it into my deck.
Creature – Centaur Spirit
Protection from Black
Phantom Centaur comes into play with three +1/+1 counters on it.
If damage would be dealt to Phantom Centaur, prevent that damage. Remove a +1/+1 counter from Phantom Centaur.
Now we’re talking. Another Flametongue-immune creature that swings harder, this guy is the new monster I want to try in my green decks. Phantom Centaur shrugs off attempts to trade, laughs at Fiery Tempers and Violent Eruptions, and even if you damage him twice (and remember, most creatures fold after being damaged once), he still swings for three. Sign me up.
There was another green creature a while back that would get three counters when it came into play, ignore burn and Flametongues, and just win. What was that card again? Oh yeah. Blastoderm. This is a worthy successor.
To kill Phantom Centaur with combat damage, you have to block it three times. What is going to survive five, four, and then three damage? To kill it with burn, you have to burn it three times.
Bottom line, this thing is a beating, and it’s as close to Blastoderm as we’re even likely to get again. Grab four of them and set those Skizziks aside for a while you give ’em a shot in your R/G. Heck, this guy is a beating in any G/x deck.
Oh, did I mention that if you stick an Elephant Guide on this guy, he stays alive even after all counters are removed, and you just prevent all damage to him until the end of time? Godly.
Creature – Spirit Cat
Phantom Tiger comes into play with two +1/+1 counters on it.
If damage would be dealt to Phantom Tiger, prevent that damage. Remove a +1/+1 counter from Phantom Tiger.
Good for the same reasons as Phantom Centaur, though not quite as good. Same deal with creature enchantments too – even if they lose all the counters, the enchantment will keep Phantom Tiger alive, and you still prevent all damage!
Play Seedtime only on your turn. If an opponent played a blue spell this turn, take an additional turn after this one.
If you hate Blue, you’ll love this, and it’s going to be legal for a good long time.
The reason this card is good is pretty easy to understand… Blue can’t tap out at the end of your turn as long as you can threaten a Seedtime. If they do and you cast it, you can take another turn right away and drop a few bombs on them!
Look for this card to put a hurting on Zevatog and other”end-step-happy” control and tempo decks. What else is there to say? They did a good job with that Fact or Fiction hoser.
They counter, you Seedtime. They bounce during your attack phase, you Seedtime. They Fact or Fiction during your end step? You Seedtime. You get the idea. Enjoy.
Creature – Wizard
Sacrifice a land: Target creature you control can’t be the target of spells or abilities until end of turn.
Rade’s card. This is the real anti-bounce menace, and I’m loving it. Zevatog’s creature defenses may have to gravitate more towards Sickening Dreams to hate from cards like this, and Seedtime above. Luckily, the Phantom creatures shrug off Sickening Dreams. Should be interesting.
Obviously, this card is also excellent against decks with a lot of spot removal, and it’s a good defense against Flametongue Kavu as well. I hate Flametongue Kavu, so that’s good…and I think it’s well worth sacrificing a land or two to make an opposing Flametongue kill itself.
Man, anti-bounce cards, anti-Flametongue cards…Green in Judgement is the sugar!
Creature – Beast
Discard two cards from your hand: Remove Anurid Brushhopper from the game. Return it to play under its owner’s control at end of turn.
It’s so tough it frightens itself into hiding.
Wow, this guy is efficient. Another good defense against Flametongue Kavu, provided you have the cards. Stellar in creature combat. Great with madness cards. Helps achieve threshold. Tremendous beatdown in a 3CC package.
Did anyone else look at the spoiler and immediately think about Frenetic Efreet? This is a very similar card, well-nigh unkillable. Here’s the thing…how good is the G/W deck? If the cards don’t come together, this guy isn’t going to see play no matter how amazing he seems to be.
What reasons are there to play G/W as opposed to R/G? This would be one, and then there’s the fact that you have better sideboard cards against Black. Plus, you have better sideboard cards against R/G (though that may not be true with Exoskeletal Armor throwing its ante into the pot).
Anurid Brushhopper is better than Noble Panther, and Noble Panther was good, so perhaps it’s enough to push the G/W deck into the top tier. Time and testing will tell. For now, I think I’d rather play Red for access to the incomparable Flametongue.
Threshold – Whenever an opponent plays a spell, you may put a creature card from your hand into play.
In the heavy hush of Krosa, drawing on mana is like ringing a dinner bell.
Looks good at first glance, doesn’t it?
Here’s what you have to play to get this sucker working:
- Big, normally uncastable creatures
- Ways to get threshold instantly
Do you think that’s going to work? No way. You cast your Breakthrough or Tolarian Winds or whatever – and then you better have about three Crosis, The Purger in hand, or it’s over. Don’t even get me started on how bad the Hunting Ground deck is if you don’t draw the Hunting Ground, or if you draw Hunting Ground and no way to get Threshold.
Are there any other uses for this dog? What about as a sideboard card against counterspells? Well, even then it doesn’t work, because it’s only good in the late-game. Counters are, after all, usually a way to buy time until your more powerful game-winners can get online.
But hey… Hunting Ground + 2x Mystic Snake + Equilibrium + threshold = COMBO!!!!
Creatures you control get +1/+1.
Whenever you tap a land for mana, add one mana to your mana pool of any type that land produced.
The land drank power from the Mirari as though it had thirsted for it forever
Nope; sorry. Would you want to rip this off the top when you’re in desperate need of answers? At 1GW, it would be a very strong card. The extra two mana just ruins it. In other words, it fails the Morphling test… It costs five, it better win you the game, or be Morphling. Or both.
Hope you enjoyed”Five Articles In Five Days.” I’ll spend this weekend taking a much-needed break from the grind of cranking this stuff out. In the meantime, you can take a break from the grind of reading it. Have a good one.
And hey, if Lady Luck flips you the bird, flip it right back at her and play your best Magic anyway. It’s like Williams from”Enter The Dragon” says: If and when defeat comes, you won’t even notice it. You’ll be too busy lookin’ good.
Five for five.
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