Another set of issues. I’m all over the place this time. So grab a bag of Mission tortilla chips, some good salsa, and several pints of your favorite beverage.
Issue The First: Learning From The Pros
I’ve been testing a lot for Regionals – I mean, tons. So much so, in fact, that I am bored out of my gourd with testing Standard decks. I don’t even want to play Magic right now. I am uninterested.
How do pros do this all the time?
How can they play the same deck over and over and over and over and over without wanting to just pick up a shovel and go ape-friggin’-s**t on the guy sitting across from them? “Tossing a Wonder into the graveyard for your Mongrel, huh? I don’t think so. Why not? Because, if you’ll look to your right, you’ll see that I just set your entire graveyard on fire, you piece of flying wurm dung! BWAH-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!”
Please, someone who’s won money on the Pro Tour, please, please, please tell me how you guys do all that testing without getting thrown into jail. Thanks.
Issue The Second: Not Learning From The Pros
On the flip side, the Pro Tour Players have one big advantage over those of us who play in the topsy-turvy world of local Saturday tourneys, States, and Regionals: They know that they’re playing against other pros. I know that sounds counterintuitive; how can it be a good thing to play against people who do this for a living?
For starters, they tend not to play silly decks like the ones I play, so their metagame is a much smaller set of decks. During testing for States and now Regionals, my playtest partners are constantly focused on decks like ‘Tog, U/G Madness, and Astral Slide. So I ask,”Um, what are you gonna do about Elves?” Invariably, such a suggestion is met with stares followed by,”That deck sucks. Concentrate on the best decks.”
Okay, I agree. You have to focus most of your energy on the best decks. But, you still have to give some thought to weird deck ideas that might pop up. Why? Because anyone can play at Regionals. Anyone. (Except for a select few who have distinguished themselves by being lying and/or thieving and/or cheating assmunches.)
My friend Karl Allen, the 2000 Tennessee State Champ – which I always point out as a way to show you that he knows a thing or two – always says,”Concentrate on the best decks. The bad decks will start 0 -2. You’ll start 2-0, and you’ll never have to face them.”
Oh, if only that were true! The problem that I have with that is simply this: Someone has to play against that Goblin deck with Airdrop Condor in the first round. It might be me. What do I do about that? What about the Elf deck that drops a third-turn Slate of Ancestry or Coat of Arms on me? What then? I can’t just hope that I can start 2-0 and completely avoid those decks. Can I?
The Pro Tour Playas don’t have to worry about this dilemma. They know they probably won’t even face those rogue decks. They know it as surely as I know that I’m having fun with the Liebowski twins on Saturday night. (She calls ’em”the twins,” anyway; it’s so cute when she calls them that.) They know that 97.5% of the field will be the four or five Tier 1 decks. Out of a hundred decks, three might be completely unknown in a Pro Tour field – and those decks will be the new unbeatable tech. In that case, you do indeed play the odds. And, odds are, you will only face the best decks. If you’re unlucky enough to face that one Merfolk deck, you just have to hope that you’re good enough to beat it.
But Regionals is a different story. In the Southeast, for example, I expect between five and six hundred people… And I fully expect a quarter to a half of the field to be rogue decks. So how do you plan for that? Do you water your sideboard down with cards for every occasion? Or do you still go with the PTP plan of concentrating on the best decks and hoping that you can just outplay the rogues. Besides U/G Madness, R/G, ‘Tog, Slide, and MBC, here’s my test gauntlet. I ask myself these questions:
What Do I Do Against Maindeck Worship?
If you don’t have maindeck enchantment hate, how do you win game one? Can you make them creatureless so that Worship becomes useless? Or do you realize that you have no answer and move on to game two?
What Do I Do Against Maindeck Ensnaring Bridge?
You think that’s funny, punk? Let me tell you, I’ve seen the most recent Burning Bridges deck. It’s nasty. [HINT: If someone tosses Chain of Plasma at you and has either a single red mana up – or, worse, three mana and two are red – you don’t want to continue the Chain.] In other words, can you win without creatures? Or can you make them keep cards in their hand? (Sorry, no decklist for this one. I promised to keep it a secret until after Regionals.)
How Do I Deal With Glory In The Graveyard?
If you don’t have an answer to that one, white or white/green can just wreck your world.
Do I Have Enough Lands?
You will face a land destruction deck. I can almost guarantee that. Can your deck recover from having a land or two popped off on turns 3 and 4. And your answer had better not be”I have Birds and Elves.” I have seen too many decks get their first-turn Birds of Paradise popped off by Lava Dart (my new favorite instant-timed burn spell) and the turn 2 Llanowar Elves get Firebolted. This is usually followed by the Birds/Elves player getting stuck on two lands (since she only runs twenty-two lands ’cause”I have Birds and Elves”). Then comes the turn 3 Stone Rain, the turn 4 Pillage, and soon thereafter, the end of the game. My advice is this. Whatever number of lands you think your deck is comfortable with, add one.
Can I Handle Coat Of Arms?
Mass removal is the best way to do that. And when I say”mass removal,” I mean”Wrath of God.” Sadly, once the Coat is on, even a deck with Mutilate often has a hard time ridding itself of creatures.
These questions are asked in addition to the inevitable ones about flying Wurms and Upheaval. Sure, you could hope to just be better than your first two opponents… But I don’t have that luxury. I can safely say that most of my opponents will be better than I am.
So, while the Pros can theorize about what the best players will be doing, those of us down here have to wonder how we’re going to handle it when a guy puts Serra’s Embrace on his Phantom Centaur. (Yes, I got pounded by that a couple of weeks ago.)
Issue The Third: Fixing Astral Slide
Well, as you know by now, Astral Slide is the king of Onslaught block. Thanks to Osyp Lebedowicz for confirming what most people already knew. You know what else we all know? Astral Slide decks are just wrong. As many people have pointed out, getting a 4/5 lifegaining flier or a 13/13 behemoth for 3W or 3R is simply ludicrous, ridiculous, outrageous, and whatever other -ouses my thesaurus can find.
But I know what can fix all of that: It’s a simple rule change. As it stands, when a creature goes from the in-play zone to the removed-from-play zone and then back, it comes back into play face-up. All we need to do is change the rule so that a creature that goes from in-play to removed-from-the-game and back comes back into play in the same state (face-up or face-down) in which it left. It’s that simple.
Many times, I have read that the Wizards R&D guys say that they don’t like changing the rules for a single card. It’s bad for the game. Better to just ban the card. And normally, I agree. But this face-down/leave play/come back face-up thing never mattered before Astral Slide. Ever. Never. At all. Not once. No, don’t tell me about that time at your kitchen table when someone dropped that silly artifact from Alpha or Beta or Gamma or whatever set it was. As my pal Charlie would say,”I choose not to believe your apocryphal tale.” I’m tellin’ you it never mattered before Onslaught was released.
So let’s just fix this rule before Astral Slide has to be banned in Onslaught Block Constructed. You’ll still be able to play Astral Slide. It will still be a great way to save your creatures or to remove your opponent’s creatures temporarily. But, sadly, you won’t get an Exalted Angel for 3R.
(For one thing, this isn’t fixing it, it’s neutralizing an entire decktype – and for another, why start screwing with a block when six decktypes made the Top 8? – The Ferrett, always astounded when people get all antsy about a single card)
Issue The Fourth: Why Do You Care About Venice?
No one listened to me. A bunch of pros went and played in a tourney that was Onslaught and Legions only, a format that none of us Regular Joes will ever get to play. We have to have Scourge with our Onslaught Block Constructed tourneys. But since you’re so interested, let me break it down:
Blue’s countermagic in Onslaught and Legions is so bad that Michael Jackson wants to dangle it from a balcony. This makes Astral Slide the control deck. But, it’s a control deck without counterspells. Since there is no reliable countermagic, people can do silly things like play seven or eight dragons in their decks…. And make Top 8 at a Pro Tour! Well, shave my poodle!
A part of me hopes that this trend continues. Any format in which Tephraderm and Canopy Crawler are good is oh-tay by me. But I fear that Scourge will be just chock-full of good countermagic to make up for the lack of it in Onslaught and Legions. Which means that people like me (i.e. people who suck and will never play on the Pro Tour) will never get to make plays like turn 3 Explosive Vegetation followed by a turn 4 Silvos.
Issue The Fifth: Sneaky Bastard Editors Who Pull Sneaky April Fool’s Jokes
While I am glad that Mr. The Ferrett has not decided to leave StarCity for a necrophilia web site, I am saddened by the fact that the sneaky mammal got me with an April Fool’s Day prank that apparently didn’t sucker grade-schoolers. I was actually ready to resign from writing simply because I was sure that any new editor would clean house and fire people”like me.” (When I say”like me,” I don’t mean”oversexed white males.” I mean,”writers with zero Pro Tour experience and ratings under 1700.”) Better to quit than be fired, right?
But, he’s staying, he likes my writing, and I want to keep writing. I just need to keep my antennae up come 04/01/04.
Issue The Sixth: The Kind Folks Out In Reader Land
I got lots and lots of get well wishes from folks following my”atypical cardiac event.” It really warmed my heart (pun intended). Of course, there’s always a joker or two (or twelve) in the crowd. A few folks said,”Dammit. I was hoping you’d die.” For them, I have an ancient Arabic curse: May telemarketers call you every night, waking you from sleep, pulling you off of the toilet, and/or interrupting coitus.
I’m doing very well. There are no lingering effects. I can still play tennis. I’m still stunningly good looking. However, I often find myself pinching women’s’ butts. I try to explain that it’s a muscle malfunction from the”cardiac event.” Then they take pity on me. I like pity.
Issue The Seventh: Where Are The Sliver Decks?
This group of Slivers in Legions has some mighty strong abilities. I am (SURPRISE!) very impressed with the green and white ones. The ability to play a Sliver with instant timing (Quick Sliver) plus the ability to give all Slivers protection from a color (Ward Sliver) has incredible synergy. Where are the Sliver decks? Stay tuned . . . .
Issue The Eighth: The Troops
I’ve kept my mouth shut about the war against Iraq for several reasons. First and foremost, I don’t think a Magic web site is the proper place for such a discourse. Heck, Mr. The Ferrett may even excise this section. I wouldn’t fault him for that. That’s why I put it last; it’ll be easier for him to do that. But, given my passion about the subject of world peace, people all getting along, making love, not war, et al, and the fact that my brother is in the Navy, I feel compelled to say something. So here it is.
You might think that we darn well should be in Iraq kicking Saddam’s assein. You might even think we should have been doing it a long time ago. Or you might think that we have no business being there, that we’re sticking our noses in where they don’t belong.
Whatever you think, please, remember, there are real people fighting over there. Some of them have seen their wives and husbands for the last time. They will never again hug their parents or their children.
And they don’t even know it yet.
As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Don’t forget to floss before you go beddie-bye.