Force of Will: Sayonara, Dark Ritual

There were some things that I meant to talk about in my last article, which explored black as a possible metagame call in the current standard environment that I didn’t get to. Basically it is this… THERE IS NO DARK RITUAL IN INVASION! This probably means that there will not be any more of this…

There were some things that I meant to talk about in my last article, which explored black as a possible metagame call in the current standard environment that I didn’t get to. Basically it is this…


This probably means that there will not be any more of this notorious black mana accelerant printed ever again. That makes things tough for black. For one thing, I think Invasion’s black cards were made with Dark Ritual in mind. They had to be, as it was printed in the Masques block. I think Invasion was also pretty well on its way to being a complete set when Dark Ritual was banned in the Extended format – and that when that decision was made, it was made with the idea in mind that Dark Ritual would cease to exist in the long-term future… and of all the original ‘three for one’ spells, Dark Ritual is going to be the most painful one to exorcise from the game.

Why? Because for YEARS the game has had black designed with the Ritual in mind. Ever notice how many Black power cards cost 3 mana? Lots. I’ll perhaps just mention Phyrexian Negator and Necropotence. While the statistical probability was a bit less than 50 percent that you opened with a Dark Ritual and the three-casting-cost killing black spell of choice that proceeded to wreck opponents, this gamble usually paid off in a crushing defeat of ones’ opponent when you did get the opening Ritual plus the random Black card that smashes your face in. If we are to believe that Wizards R&D purposefully has the colors alternately wax and wane, then I’m pretty much proposing that black is down (look at the number of swamps played at Chicago; it’s barely more than the number of Ports), and it will remain down until it is revamped in a year or two to be strong again sans the Ritual…

The Black Response Experiment

I did say that I thought there was a black response deck that was either monocolor or multicolored for the environment. I’m not sure yet if I spoke too soon, but I’m working on the idea and noticing that there’s not a lot of synergy between the more powerful black spells. I like Plague Spitter for the root of this idea, but it gives way under Massacre and I’m not happy that I have to have The Big Tick fall under this scenario. Perhaps I’m just not finding the groove of the black mage, where seeing things fall to the graveyard should be no big deal. Anyway, I have a mono black deck that seems to smash Rebels quite well, but my impression is that it will wilt against the Fires deck. I’m alternately hit with the feeling that there is perhaps the symmetry to pull off this idea, and then pummeled with further fits of melancholy that the task is indeed rather hopeless. As I said before, it may take the next set to add some punch to the black lineup to combat both Rebels and fast Blasties…

My take on Standard in the Windy City

A few bright spots amidst the plains and forests.

Bob Maher, Jr. is now a favorite of mine. After watching my baby (and I know there are a lot of parents involved in this one) Ankh Tide get generally maligned or slighted by the upper crust of the Magic world, Mr. Maher takes the little combo that couldn’t and places a fine 11th. So here’s my kudos. We could, I guess, quibble that he was in fact running a Blue Skies variant with Tide backed into it – but I don’t care. In my "Definitive Ankh Tide Sourcebook," I had at least remarked on that possibility among others. Now due to the heroic efforts of Scott Forster*, who has spreadsheeted every day two game for analysis, I can see that Bob’s only unfavorable matchup was the more old-school U/W control decks. Not bad for a field dominated by assorted Rebels and R/G Fires decks. It’ll be interesting if he makes any comments about the choice and what his choice will mean to the deck’s popularity.

Jay Elarar’s Aggro-Waters deck was something that I had thought wasn’t a good choice. Kudos to Jay for making and taking the deck. From what I read, most of the top 8 field felt like the deck had favorable matchups in the finals and seemed to fear this deck the most. Elarar wound up bowing out to eventual champ Kai Budde Rebels in a tough match.

In general, I feel rather split on what this tournament means to the game. Two or three deck themes dominated the field. Rebels and Red Green "Fires" made up almost half of the opening field (48%) and with Fatty ‘Geddon thrown in, these three decks accounted for 67% of all the decks. The interesting part though was that even though a few themes dominated, there were a lot of variations on that theme. There were a lot of pretty drastic differences between similar decks, which allowed things like the Two Headed Dragon to make a worthwhile appearance in certain Fires builds (including an appearance in the top 8), and for Rith, the Awakener to likewise appear in the top 8 in a R/G build sporting a tad of white for the big Dragon, Armadillo Cloak, and Armageddon.

Surprisingly, only one deck that sported Red and Black with an ability to cast the highly touted Void made day two. Is "Machine Head" dead already?

I had been asking myself – and anyone that cared to listen – over and over whether or not Counter Rebels was really "good" and just "not bad," the latter being something that I was sure of. I got an answer to the former question in that the finals did contain a Counter Rebels build piloted by Kamiel Cornelissen. Surprisingly, to me at least, the deck was fairly popular. Surprising, because I kept prodding my internet hangouts about it and getting little response… of course, a lot of its pilots were European.

In the end I felt like the Chicago results verified to me that I made quite a jump in my understanding of the game. I was happy that I’d written about Ankh Tide and Counter Rebels here on Star City when little else was published on these decks anywhere else that I could find on the ‘net. I was terribly surprised that my own build of Fires, which sported three Two Headed Dragons and three Earthquakes appeared in the finals, with Zvi Mowshowitz piloting it. On that one, I had felt that I was approaching sheer ridicule…

But hey, with friends like Friggin’ Rizzo, the most influential man in internet Magic, we find ourselves putting things like Big Red Dragons in otherwise highly efficient "net decks" to throw people off and so we can gloat when that "mugger" gets his comeuppance with a "kid card."

Long live the Dragons!


* – My first below-the-name asterisk! It’s contagious folks! Keep your eyes peeled right here. Sometime around this article both Mike Mason and Scott Forster are both working on mind-blowing analysis of PT Chicago.

You would not believe the Ferrett’s powers. (Technically, it’s the WRITERS’ powers, because all of my editing doesn’t mean jack if they don’t send me great stuff – and they do, God bless ’em – The Ferrett)  Not a day after he lamented Star City to be suffering from a gap in its hardcore tournament analysis, Forster and Mason stepped to the fore with scintillating results. Having perused Forster’s spreadsheet OF EVERY DAY TWO MATCH, I will say it’s the most broken piece of analytical goodness that I’ve ever witnessed. Broken. Broken. Broken. It cross-references every deck type in mondo detail. IF it’s preceded me (Which it hasn’t – The Ferrett), find it and print it. If not, then stay tuned right here as good old Star City is, I believe, getting ready to blow its critics, who downplay this site as "the fun site," out of the proverbial water with some bomb diggity hardcore analysis that’s as good – if not better – than that found anywhere else.