Dear readers: It has come to light through several mails that it wasn’t clear that when my last article ended, the decklist that I gave for the control white deck "Pork" was considered a failure. I had started by trying to use the elements of white control in combination with accelerating towards an early Blinding Angel to win games. The idea to do this came from a desire for consistency (since a mono-colored deck didn’t have to worry about manascrew) and my desire to include the Angel, which several writers – including Mowshowitz and Burn – had expressed worry about when building their Fires deck. I left my readers with a very poor decklist that was the result of trying to evolve and make a go of staying with the Skies variants while still making the Fires deck fret. The end conclusion was that I thought there was already a different white deck that would, or could, perhaps, accomplish this – namely, the short-chain Rebels (or "White Bears") version that backed these quick threats with ‘Geddon. Sean McKeown had talked about and played this deck earlier in the Standard season.
"Pork" was done…or was it?
The real thing that came to light in this failure was that while I seemed to be dredging up some intuitive feelings on the why and how of the decks strategy, I needed to do something to make these feelings somehow more conscious and concrete. I wanted a more definitive structure of the basics of why "Pork" – or really ANY deck – performed well or poorly in games and matches. I wanted to see better how decks fit into a metagame, HOW to metagame better, and what to do with a sideboard. I dredged my memory. There was something there, and it probably had something to do with the Dojo.
I went back. I had myself explored this topic before as an offshoot of another person’s ideas. I sifted through my old files and I searched the Dojo. The best idea I thought for explaining what I thought I needed to know came from two sources. The first was Leon Workman’s "Metagame clock" article.
This was an offshoot of a topic that was initially posed by the one and only Mike Flores in his article "Who’s the Beatdown?" This is a classic article and a must read. It is also a good prep piece for our forthcoming article…
Flores and his recent plea to keep the old articles alive are absolutely correct. WE need to archive what we can from the Dojo, and I’m going to try and elaborate on why. I will do this a bit here, talking about how writers and readers see Magic: the Gathering and the internet tied. I, with the fine help of my Binary 21 teammate Mike Mason, some great input from Aaron Forsythe, and a plethora of fine suggestions from many of the Star City writers, will present in the very near future what we hope is a real classic article on these topics that will that will help a lot of players to understand the game better and therefore play better, build better decks, win more, and have more fun and find themselves engaged in even more interesting conversations with their magic buddies.
Here is in part the "Why" of doing this…
This weekend I took my three junior players to the Junior Super Series qualifier. They did not do well even though I had for them various versions of good decks. (Cand!man U/W, Fires, and Rebels with both Powersink and Wax/Wane.) As I couldn’t play, I took the time to trade, draft, and play some standard Constructed pickup games, mostly doing fairly well using Mason’s wonderful God deck and garnering a plethora of priceless looks from folks while I routinely whipped out turn two maindecked Cursed Totem – a card which hurts perhaps as many as 80-90% of the decks being played. It also makes the Glittering Cats nigh-on indestructible. At a point, though, I thought that I better check on my charges. I had been staying away, in part because I didn’t want to get accused of coaching them during matches. I found Kyle, who was the Fires player of the group, playing a match versus a Skies variant with the all the weeniest of blue fliers. Really. I never saw so much as a Rishadan Airship in the fellow’s deck. It was all about Fairies and Hatchlings. After Kyle lost in the third game to this deck I looked at his sideboard. It contained three Simoons, two Hurricanes, two Obliterates, and of course the two Silt Crawlers that I had main decked just to be able to apply more even early beats versus just such control and aggro control decks! Ahhhh!!!
I also found out that a mono white control deck finished ninth. The tourney, Mr. Ripley, was won by mono BLACK discard control!
I blame myself for not having my players better prepared. I do what I can. I try and coach them as much as I can, but as of now there hasn’t been enough time. They haven’t had enough time playing yet. To be a better coach, I needed to be clearer on the topics that I was going to delve into… And I did delve.
It seems that this thing, this need for a real blowout article on these ideas of metagaming, playing and building, will come to great fruition. I wanted to know the answers as to why decks perform certain ways in certain matchups. Intuitively, I knew that in the Fires vs. Skies matchup that the Fires player needed to "shorten" up their deck’s mana curve and that the Skies player REALLY wanted to reset the Fires side of the board with a Wash Out. I had been playing Mason’s "God" deck with good results, and while in one way I knew specifically how and why it worked, in a broader sense I was also kind of clueless as to why it was a good choice for the current standard environment. What it was was that the concise EXPLANATION of just why these things were just wasn’t there. I believe a good explanation of a much of this is coming. So this is a prelude of sorts to that article… But there is something else that I wish to talk about.
Something keeps coming to my attention. It’s a sort of nostalgia with a funny bent. As the Dojo is closing, I think this is a good time to talk about it.
I’ll give you an example – I got this from a popular listserv:
"I honestly believe that a solid part of the reason why you no longer see the reports/articles by the excellent players and theorists who used to write is due to the poor articles that get constantly posted on these sites. Who wants their article next to a twelve-year old’s who calls River Boa tech and has a longer Props section than their poorly- used, Magic-jargon-filled article? A while back, Peter Szigeti wrote an article on NewWave about how internet writers are all horrible, which received quite a few flames. With the exception of those who have become writers because of an excellent performance at a major event (Zvi Mowshowitz, for example) and a few other anomalies, I’d have to say that I’m inclined to agree."
There is a sort of growing problem in that seasoned older players seem to have quite a bit of disdain for a lot of the sites and writers currently in place on the internet. Why should that be? Why don’t they get as much satisfaction as they used to in the "good old days"?
Could it be perhaps that they already know and have ingrained much of the best theory? I think so.
There is little that it new to them. Why do players relish in new expansions and new Limited formats? They, like many, want the new and constructed strategy is really getting old for a lot of folks. Well I can’t listen to the complaints of jaded old Magic players. I don’t write for them. THEY DON’T NEED ME. I write for the kid who just started playing six months ago or a year ago who wants to get better.
The other problem is rather getting old as well too. The top tier of players aren’t sharing their "tech," and they aren’t going to start sharing their "tech" any time soon. And you know, I don’t blame them. Why should they help anyone get on the "gravy train"?
We got Mowshowitz’s "My Fires" after the fact. This really isn’t a bad thing. What you are supposed to get is the process of building a good deck – ANY good deck – and while Zvi chose to talk about this in a specific way about a specific deck, we are going to try with our Metagame Clock article to do that in a more general way. Again, I’ll remind you that even though we will present this in a new way with deck archetypes from the current Standard Constructed, that the basis for our ideas first appeared on the net around a year ago.
That brings up another point: What writer is going to want to continually rehash their old theory? I’m not sure. Perhaps this is why great veteran players and writers like Adrian Sullivan and Eric Taylor, among others, just aren’t writing much or as much anymore. I’d have to guess that for the most part, they have said what they are going to say and that as such they aren’t going to say it again. Well, perhaps that is what the community is going to be left with – guys like me rehashing old topics. For some of you jaded seasoned players, I guess I could say something, but I’m not sure what it is. For all of you junior players all I can say is this. Stay tuned. We are going to keep trying to help you with your game even as we try and better ourselves.
We’ve been hashing out that subject, too. The pool of writers here at Star City is all over the map, rating-wise. I think I’m the lowest-rated player. (HAH! – The Ferrett) Maybe you shouldn’t listen to me. I, knowledgeable to this fact, spent most of the last year just having fun and getting a grasp on all that happened in the time that I was away from the game…And that was the time when a lot of the theory was coalesced into what the seasoned players take for granted now. Many of the rest of us have to catch up. The trickle-down from Pokemon is going to mean that a lot of new players are going to want to read about real theory as it relates to the current environment – and I’m trying to write for that audience. I’ll let you know that the opportunity is there for anyone to displace me and any of the other scrubs that write for internet Magic sites. If you’ve got the high rating and wanna knock me out of this spot, then I say go for it. The opinion is there. Displace the twelve-year-old misers…
The Pork deck? Well, it may need a transformational sideboard to deal with aggro control decks. I hope to explain the why of this and more in the very near future. Stay tuned…