Force of Will: Happy New Year

Some new decks, some ruminations on house buying, and the state of the industry.

It’s the end of the Holidays and I’m beat like the rental mule…(You’ll find the deck/tech talk in this article down at the bottom, feeding)

The Whirlwind

I’m going to do this first part in case one of you muggers actually gets a big tourney check and wants to turn it into fast cash.

Dateline December 22nd: I finally get my house sold and make off with almost $17,000. It could have been more or it could have been less, so like all deals there was a little haggling at the end. To this end, I had to cut my profitability and took a check and then proceeded to run around for some time trying to get it in a liquid form so that I’d have spending cash for the holidays. It was late Friday and a simple deposit wouldn’t give me the access of funds to make Santa appear for my kids. I went to the bank the account was written from, thinking that I could get some cash and the rest written as a cashiers check. Unh-unh. Nope. They wouldn’t split the check. "Okay," I tell them, "I guess I’ll take the cash." I guess the cashier was kind of new and so she leaves for some time and then returns. I find out that they won’t do a check to cash transaction for over $10,000 without a signature guarantee from my bank, plus some paperwork for the Department of the Treasury. I leave, drive to my bank, get the guarantee, and get back to the first bank shortly before they close, driving around in heavy late Friday traffic during a snowfall. Fun. My wife is with me and she’s all geeked up over the deal and how banks operate. I’m trying not to melt all the snow. Finally, with the bank closing, I stuff the almost $17,000 into my black leather jacket and, wary of someone looking to jump me for the load, exit the bank.

My wife LOVES to gamble, and our finances haven’t allowed it for some time. Seeing that we live an hour from the St. Louis shopping sprawl and muddy water we have made plans to shop, get a room, and gamble at Harrah’s, then shop some more on the morrow. Luckily, I win almost as much as my wife loses and we leave the next day not too much in the hole. We buy a LOT of gifts and do WAY too much wrapping over the next two days. We also do too much dragging our three kids (all of five years of age or less) around with too much stuff shoved in the van. I feel like a sled dog mushed by Susan Butcher. There is more running around and more stuff of that nature. I get hit with some rush biz for my home printing operations. The kids have made daily wrecking of the house an art form, and my Mother in Law is going to come down to watch the little rugrats for New Years’ Eve and the place needs a real cleaning.

I somehow find time to buy a guy out of a completely disorganized collection that is mostly Urza’s block stuff and some Masques. I get a moderate cold that is followed by mild bronchitis. I don’t feel up to making the trek to the free Normal, IL extended PTQ with Binary 21 team members Mike and Scott. I do go down to the local place, Books Galore, and trade a mish-mash Wax Rebel deck for a foil Crusade. I had built the Wax Rebel deck for eleven-year-old Shane, and he’d won the card at the JSS by landing the under 12-sportsmanship award. Now until I can pass on the card or something, I don’t have the important parts for a Rebel deck…

The Rams lose and the Saints win. Mike is happy. Many Rams fans are upset and taking it out on each other in cyberspace clobbering each other. For every "We’ll get em next year!", there are lashings of "I don’t wanna hear that we stink!" I write occasionally for Fantasy Football Mastermind. With all this hurly-burly going on, plus my wife’s foot broken in three places, I haven’t the time to play – and forgot my Sandbox team, Jeffco Brown Liquor, some weeks back. Faulk is god.

My Mother in Law shows up and we make the New Years Eve run start with a stop at the theater for Cast Away. Yes, most of the cast IS away for most of the movie as Tom Hanks struggles to make fire… Later at the New Years festivities we add that for some time there’s been a rift in our circle of friends, centering around issues that evolved from Cool Daddy Ray’s best friend starting to date Cool Daddy’s sister. The manifestation is that there is this point that somehow, we are all vying for his time on the holidays. So after they show up at the party place of choice for a few minutes, Ray’s best friend, his sister, and a few other friends take their party and go home, leaving a lot of the rest of the group either miffed or perplexed or both. Exhausted and full of a tad too much alcohol, I pull a Ray and fall out to la-la land shortly after midnight when the party should just get going…

Magic the Issues

The health and state of the game.

Of course, shortly after the Hasbro cuts and the 5% layoff of some folks at WotC there was an outcry about the state of the game. That cry seems to have been fairly quickly muffled. Rizzo and others were all about writing a letter to Hasbro and telling them how they felt sort of thing. Go ahead, I say, send them your love, while I was having the same old feeling that that doesn’t make the kind of difference that you would really like. If you really want to get some attention on the game, then what you have to do is show them your wallet and then lots of other wallets as well. You wanna influence Hasbro and WotC? Then I think you organize a "Go out and buy more Magic" day where everyone spends a little money that maybe they wouldn’t on the game to keep it healthy, because SALES is the end-all, be-all of what will keep the game healthy. (Of course this is related to design as well, but I think we can all agree that R&D has done a decent job of late). Let me suggest, though, Tom Guevin’s nice piece on the Dojo.


He asks the pointed question as to whether the infusion of cash at the top end of the Pro Tour wouldn’t have benefited a lot more folks if it had been used at the grass-roots level. So let me throw in a bit on what I’ve been shown at the grass roots.

When I took my kids to the Junior Super Series, somebody pointed out that that the participation looked like it doubled the previous year’s turnout. This was backed up by NG owner Brian David Marshall in a rather excitedly stated e-mail (and BDM has generally come across to me as rather stoic), where he also said that the JSS he had held had its participation level roughly double over last year. Yes folks, this might be the trickle-down effect of the greatly maligned Pokemon. If that game really has doubled the under-sixteen participation in Magic: the Gathering, then I think one doesn’t need to worry about the future of Magic so much. A doubling of that player pool should be quite an influential influx of players in general, leading to more cards sold and a better general health for the game.

If we go back to Guevin, I think his opinion might not have surfaced at a better time and WotC needs to strike while the iron is hot to help nurture and keep this group of new players interested and informed about the game at the grass-roots level. One Pro Tour was eliminated for various reasons – including the fact that the "pros" have a hard time making all of the events. IF that’s true, then doesn’t it stand to reason – as Guevin states – that instead of pooling all of the money into a few events at the top of the chain, the money needs to be spread out more in the local events? Here locally I know one thing. Alderac Entertainment is giving out TONS of local grass roots support for the 7th Sea CCG, and in my town at least it seems to be working as that game is picking up players. Meanwhile, my local store owner is telling me that he’s reading correspondences in a circle of small shop owners, and apparently they aren’t all that happy with how Friday Night Magic is being supported and run. Something to think about…

Great post to read on CPA:


A part of why I went on my life ramble above was to say that after gaining my wad of cash I went in to the local store and spent a decent chunk of it on a box of Invasion, Harry Potter tapes for my family, and Mage Knight for my cousin. I could have probably gotten all of those things cheaper somewhere else in the "Big City" – but as I rather cherish my local store and the respite that it gives me from the regular world, I feel compelled to pay for it…and that is what you have to do. Anything that you like and want to keep takes an investment – whether it’s a friend, a car, or a game and the store that sells it. (Don’t forget that keeping the sites that give you all these cool strategy articles and whatnot require cash flow, too – The Ferrett, pointing to your right at our "singles" section on the right) To keep Magic and local stores alive, their patrons must buy the product and patronize those places with their dollars – and likewise, I believe WotC must invest in the grass-roots levels of play. I believe that they will get what they will give. IF some investment at this level will get folks to stay with the game – and then buy more and more cards – then it can be returned to the top of the Pro Tour with both an influx of cash and new talent.


I’m still trying to pick up on extended but I guess for the most part that that will now have to wait for next season. (There is some talk about having a series of St Louis area "grudge" matches in this format, though.) In my buyout I got some stuff that would help including a couple of Masticores, a couple of Morphlings, four Powder Kegs, four Deranged Hermits, three Donates and some other stuff like that. I also received a lot of uncommons that I traded with the local shop for some stuff that might also come in handy like Price of Progress and Living Death to name a few cards. I was going to go to the Normal PTQ before a cold got me down, right?

What I would have played:

4x Ramosian Sergeant
3x Defiant Falcon
2x Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
1x Rappelling Scouts
3x Deranged Hermit
1x Skyshroud Poacher
4x Land Grant
2x Elvish Lyrist
2x Quirion Elves
4x Priest of Titania
4x Llanowar Elves
3x Heart Warden
3x Enlightened Tutor
4x Intruder Alarm
3x Fires of Yavimaya
2x Tropical Island
2x Taiga
3x Tundra
4x Savannah
2x Gemstone Mine
4x City of Brass

4x Seal of Cleansing
3x Honorable Passage
4x Refreshing Rain
1x Absolute Law
1x Ivory Mask
1x Rappelling Scouts
1x Quirion Ranger

This deck idea was first formulated by my teammate Scott Forster. His initial idea had the elves, most importantly the Priest of Titania, Intruder Alarm, and a scads of Rebel white bears. Scott’s build had at the point that you have the ability to generate three creature mana, have a Rebel searcher, and Intruder Alarm all activate the ability to empty all of the deck’s Rebels out onto the pitch and roll them over your opponent on the next turn (unless they are using the secret Mason tech of Hail Storm). In my case I made the deck a little more interesting, and probably not a whole lot better, by adding Fires of Yavamaya and a big Rebel chain so that the whole lot could attack the turn they come into play, including going through the Rebel chain to Skyshroud Poacher to Deranged Hermit. When I first started playing it the deck just rolled for a couple of days winning whatever Mike and Scott could throw at it. Later on it turned south, and I had trouble with it losing to the likes of Three-Deuce and Mikes Survival decks. In the end, we thought that perhaps it would be better to go with three or so maindecked Seal of Cleansing and about as many Swords to Plowshares. My health going under the weather left things so that that testing wasn’t necessary.

In our conversations about the deck with many Star City friends, the cards that were in contention were the Fires of Yavimaya card (which Scott thought was unnecessary), the Heart Warden (which I thought might work well with Enlightened Tutors to get any card I wanted directly into my hand), and the Rappelling Scouts (which Mike and I love but which few others like). In this case, its redeeming value is that it is one of the few creatures that can block Morphling repeatedly. Considering the number of decks that use that as the kill card, I included it.

John Chabot also built a similar but more explosive deck with only elves with Natural Order to get the Poacher into play, and then churn out a ton of squirrels. In the end, I like the options white afforded over his version, giving me cards like Seal of Cleansing and the red hate offered with cards like Honorable Passage and Absolute Law.

As far as Extended goes, I’m darn close to having the cards for the loved/reviled Trix deck, and my abysmal rating could stand a few wins…

Some Standard Fun

The deck is called Clear-A-Geddon, and it started with my friend Greg Smith’s old NGO piece and joke deck that utilized Armageddon and Dingus Egg plus Teferi’s Puzzle Box (is this the most useless card ever?) (No, that’s RakaliteThe Ferrett), plus a lot of other wacky artifacts. I did take five minutes to streamline that idea into an actual G/W land control deck that was still pretty much relegated to a novelty. Later, to my surprise Chet Skolos posited a similar idea through our group mail, and I took off with the idea once again as it also contained that most broken goodness: Ankh of Mishra.

The basic idea was this: Play an early Ankh. After that you would both Clear the Land with Ankh in play, and then ‘Geddon with a Dingus Egg. As you are the priority player, the damage from any such event could be stacked so that your opponent would take damage first. We backed this up with some lifegain, especially the new gold Hero’s Reunion. The bad thing is that Clear the Land gives a mana-hungry environment more power to cast its spells, and an early Blasty would usually do one in.

I was later reading the post-PT: Chicago thoughts of some of the top players, and it seemed that one of the most feared cards was Blinding Angel. With Green creature mana acceleration and Clear I thought it might be worthwhile to look at throwing the Angel in the deck to see what happened. The deck now jumped from complete joke to fun respectability. Let’s have a look…


4x Birds of Paradise
2x Quirion Elves
4x Blinding Angel
2x Enlightened Tutor
3x Armadillo Cloak
2x Cho-Manno’s Blessing
4x Heroes’ Reunion
3x Dingus Egg
4x Ankh of Mishra
4x Fallow Earth
4x Armageddon
4x Clear the Land
4x Brushland
2x Elfhame Palace
2x Kor Haven
2x Dust Bowl
6x Forest
4x Plains

In early play, the deck has done surprisingly well, hanging with everything that Mike could throw at it. It probably has some trouble with any deck running Islands, as it is rather low on actual threats. I did win one match by getting out an Ankh and casting Clear the Land three times! I went for the old Trinity early play with Birds of Paradise and Fallow Earth, but that might be better served by Parallax Wave.

I was then further moved when I was looking at New Wave and saw that a similar G/W Angel control idea was used to make a top 8 showing at an iMagic online event. I’ve dubbed the idea "Accelerated Angel," and used it for the base of an enchantment overload G/W control deck – a deck that shows even more promise. Furthermore, I have started toying with the idea that this basis could possibly work as the foundation for a mono-white design with the amount and availability of creature control and removal in that color.

Next up: Seer Rebels.

Will Rieffer