From Right Field: Where Have You Been, Dom DiMaggio? — A Look Back at 2004

Romeo stops back by to take a look back at 2004, otherwise known as “the year I got married in a Red Sox jersey and the Sox won the World Series.” On a more related note, he also includes two new rogue decks he’s been fiddling with for the last few months and some advice for the DCI.

From Right Field: Where Have You Been, Dom DiMaggio? – A Look Back at 2004 from the Guy in Right Field

What will I, Christopher B. Romeo, J.D., remember most about 2004? Because I am a (fairly) smart man who is very attached to his testicles, I will have to say that far and away it has to be that I got married to a wonderful, beautiful, funny, sassy woman named . . . um . . . Luanne. That’s right. Her name is Luanne! (Man, I hope she skips this one or that she really does have the sense of humor that she seems to have.) May 14th, 2004. How could I ever forget it? I can’t. I won’t! At her suggestion – and to all of the women who have sent e-mails calling “Bull$h**,” yes, really and for true, at her suggestion – we got married in personalized Red Sox jerseys. Many friends, jokingly, I hope, said that this doomed our marriage to failure. Or at the very least it meant that we would be extremely disappointed every October.

This, of course, leads me to the second thing I will remember most about 2004. The Boston Red Sox won The World Series for the first time in the lifetimes of most people living today. I, for one, didn’t think it would happen. Not this year anyway. I still have no idea how they became the first team in Major League history to win a best-of-seven series after going down 0-3. And against the **pa-tooie** Yankees, no less. Fortunately for us Red Sox fans, as Get Fuzzy‘s Darby Conley pointed out, The Red Sox had Jesus batting lead-off. I was also wearing my lucky boxers the whole time.

Of course, it didn’t matter, I was sure, because the Red Sox had to play The Cardinals in the World Series. This was one of the most potent teams to ever play in the National League. In fact, The Cardinals had the most wins by an NL team since – get this – the 1986 Mets. You might remember that the Red Sox lost to that team in seven games in that year’s World Series. Interestingly, the 1986 Mets had the most wins by an NL team since the 1975 Reds . . . to whom the Red Sox lost in seven games in that year’s World Series. In fact, The Red Sox have played in the World Series against the NL team that had won the most games in a single season in the 1960’s (1967 Cardinals), the 1970’s (’75 Reds), 1980’s (’86 Mets), and (so far) the Double-Noughts (2004 Cardinals). The Sox lost all three of those previous ones in seven games. (The only other one they’ve played in since they last won was in 1946 against The Cardinals. The Red Sox also lost that in seven games.) There was no way that The Red Sox were getting past The Cardinals of Pujols, Rolen, Edmonds, Walker, et al.

Yet, somehow, my boys swept them, finishing with an unlikely shutout in game four.

I still have no idea how this happened. I also don’t know what to do for 2005. Do I continue The Red Sox Sulk, this time with the mantra “they’ll never repeat” instead of “they’ll never win”? Or do I help my brother and his hapless Cleveland Indians and turn some of my mojo north to Lake Erie?

October was the month that Champions of Gonorrhea would became tourney legal. It was also the month of States or Provincials or Marsupials or whatever they’re called in those other places that I never get to visit because I’m in debt up to my nubblies. I didn’t get to play in States. That Saturday, October 23rd, my brother-in-law got shipped out to Iraq, and we went to the departure ceremony. Whether you agree with the war on Iraq or not, it’s gut-wrenching to see a man hug his wife and children and not know if it’s the last time he’ll ever get to do that.

Yes, I cried.

Besides marriage, baseball and war, I will remember 2004 as the year that I won constructed tourneys with Dragon Roost and Mobilization. Yeah, really. In September and October, after I started my hiatus from writing, I played with some Onslaught-block token-makin’ cards not named Decree of Justice. They were Dragon Roost and Mobilization. I figured that, after Labor Day, I had about six or seven tourneys in which I could use Onslaught stuff. I had been dying to make those two cards work. So, I had to get a-movin’.

First up was Dragon Roost. An enchantment that costs 4RR to cast and requires 5RR to make an uncounterable, flying, 5/5 Dragon just screams “Control!” So, along with three Roosts I threw in twelve land destruction spells, four Electrostatic Bolts, four Shocks, four Grab the Reins, four Starstorms, and four Slice and Dice. (Note to Unbelievers: S&D is some good, killing Decree-spawned Soldier tokens with instant timing during the same end-of-turn step in which they’re created and killing Decree-spawned Angels before they can attack.) Over the course of two weeks, I went 5-1-2. The only loss was to a Goblin Bidding deck. The games I lost were so close that I was literally the next card away from winning. In both of those games, had I gotten to my next turn, the top card (Shock in one case, Grab the Reins in the other) would have won the game. That is close. So, I was not disappointed in the least.

Oh, and, the two draws were to G/W Slide. **yawn**

Next, I moved on – or, rather, back – to another token-makin’ deck that I had tried almost two years ago. It uses Soldiers and Mobilization. In honor of the strategery that it takes to play the deck, I called it Soldierization.

The funny thing about this deck was that I played it on the exact same day that Aaron Forsythe wrote about the top ten cards from Onslaught that Wizards R&D had overrated. “Hey,” I thought, “three of the cards my deck was built around [Whipcorder, Mobilization, and Shared Triumph] are on that list! Oh, happy happy joy joy.”

So, after the way the official Magic web site essential said my deck was a tub of Terry Forster-like goo (obscure Letterman/Atlanta Braves reference), I was ready to get pummeled. Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! I went 3-0-1 that night with the one draw being against – well, you probably know what it was – G/W Slide.

I also vaguely remember that some sort of election was held in late 2004. Somebody won. I forget who it was, but, whoever he is, he has way more money than I do.

I will always remember 2004 (and probably 2005) as The Black Year of the Colorless Cards of Affinity. Or to put it like Osyp did just before States, “Week Two of the 2004 States Deck Challenge, otherwise known as ‘more decks you can test against before you ultimately decide to play Affinity.'”

Speaking of Black, did you know that Osyp is Black? I didn’t. I thought he was Lebanese. Not that there’s anything wrong with that . . . .

Dr. Romeo Rants About Affinity

In recent weeks, I’ve read even more theories from pros and others on why Affinity is so good, and I’ve gone back and read older stuff from when Mirrodin and then Darksteel were released. It came up again when people theorized that more Affinity cards would be banned in December. (That thunderous silence you hear is nothing happening on the bannings front. Affinity is alive and well in Standard and Extended and wrecking your deck as we speak. Yes, even if you’re not playing Magic right now, an Affinity deck is rummaging around in your deck box and pretty much ripping the other decks to shreds.)

You’d think that after a year of this, we’d be done analyzing Affinity, but nope. As we are wont to do, we have to know what one, single thing it is in the Ravager-Affinity deck that just makes it so darn wrong. I mean, it has to be just one thing, right? For some reason, no one remembers synergy. At least the way they talk and write about Affinity makes it seem that way.

Several commentators have pointed out that the artifact lands are the big problem behind Affinity decks. They’re free to get into play and help make other spells free, too. A 2/2 creature on turn 1 for free?!? Free, in a game of resource management is A Bad Thing.

Really, though, many will say, Disciple of the Vault is the culprit. You can’t even cast Wrath of God without losing six or seven life if one of those guys is on the board. Don’t even think about what happens if two are out.

No, wait. Arcbound Ravager is the problem. He can eat other artifacts, making himself bigger while he causes you to lose life if his little Cleric buddy is out. Affinity doesn’t even need to attack to win. Sometimes, it acts like a combo deck. Sheesh.

No, that’s not it. It’s Modular. That’s at the heart of the problem. Most recently, some big names have weighed in with the argument that the Modular ability of the Arcbound guys is the real problem. Typically, when you lose a creature, your side of the board loses that power and toughness, too. Someone Terror-ized your Serra Angel? Your side just got smaller by 4/4. People tend not to want to lose creatures. (There’s that whole “game of resource management” thing again.) Not with Modular, though. That power and toughness just gets transferred to another creature.

You know what I think? I think that sometimes people try too hard to make things simple. We live in a Microwave Society now. “All problems solved in three and a half minutes or less, or your therapy’s free!” I have a secret for you. Sometimes life isn’t simple. Sometimes it’s messy and complicated. As far as Ravager-Affinity decks go, it isn’t any one of those card or ability that makes the deck so wrong. It’s all of them together. Any two of the things mentioned above would be nice together. Three is amazing. But five things? Just ridiculous. Synergy, baby, synergy.

Wanna know what makes Affinity decks so maddeningly good? It’s each and every one of those things. It’s artifact lands, Modular, Arcbound Ravager, Disciple of the Vault, and free Affinity spells. It’s the fact that the deck can act as a beatdown deck or a combo deck or whatever it needs to be. As long as those tools are available to the Ravager-Affinity players, the deck will be molten hot. Since there isn’t any good way to neuter the deck without banning about eight cards, we have to live with it for the next eleven months.

(AN OPEN NOTE TO THE DCI: This might be a good time to start looking at banning certain cards in combination in addition to the single cards you ban. For example, you wouldn’t simply ban Disciple of the Vault. That would punish folks who find non-Ravager Affinity ways to use the Disciple. Rather, you could start banning decks that contained both Disciple of the Vault and Arcbound Ravager. How would you enforce that sort of thing? Easy: the same way you do it now. If someone has a banned card in a deck now, there’s a certain penalty based on the Rules Enforcement Level of the event, and they take out the offending card or cards and replace them. In a case of a banned combination of cards, they would have to remove one or the other offending sets and replace those. Just an idea…)

This was also the year that I started getting decent stuff in the boxes of cards I bought from the first set of a block. My history of getting rooked on hot rares in the big sets is well-documented. Not so with Champions. So far, I have opened two full boxes and fourteen more packs from Champions. I haven’t gotten a Kiki-Jiki, a Marrow-Gnawer, or a Kokusho, and the fact that I only got one each of certain of the hottest uncommons (Ghostly Prison, Samurai of the Pale Curtain, all of the Shrines) was a little disturbing. On the other hand, I got did get Cranial Extraction, Gifts Ungiven, Time Stop, Kumano, Horobi, two Kikus, and one of each of the rare lands. I also got three Journeyer’s Kites. (Boy, that better turn out to be a good card.) Special thanks to Pete and Ben for picking me a couple of boxes that were true winners. Remember: buy your cards from StarCityGames.com. (I hope this trend continues for me. However, I expect to find that this is just an aberration, and, come next Fall, I’ll be getting hosed out of the best rares again.)

In terms of writing, I’ll remember 2004 as the year that I channeled Rizzo so well that some folks thought that the April Fool’s joke was the JFR was actually the one who the piece. Heh. It must have been a well-read piece. You see, in it, I linked to the Merriam-Webter definition of the wonderful word callipygian, and it ended up on the M-W list of Favorite Words of 2004 at number six. Double heh.

Dear Mr. Romeo,

Where have you been? I miss reading your stuff. Even though I never liked your decks, you’re a funny, funny man.


Epstein’s Mother

Part of the reason – okay, the reason – that I quit writing when I did was Champions of Kamigawa. Or rather, to be more specific, the lack of impact that Champions had on reigning in Ravager Affinity.

I don’t want you to think that there aren’t any cards that tickle my fancy in the set. I like the Horobis, the Kiki-Jikis, the Kokushos, the Tartinkers, the Wangdoofers. Hey, kids! It’s the Dr. Seuss block! I have a tongue-gasm just saying the names of these cards. I can’t wait to see what great and gargantuan garbounding grinchiness we get in the next two sets.

Regardless of how happy I get saying the names, though, there’s still nothing that hurts Affinity enough that I can say, “Hey, kids! Look at this cheap, rogue deck that can sometimes beat Affinity and can often beat other decks.” Trust me. Imi Statue doesn’t do it. “Oh, I can only untap one artifact? Let me untap the Ornithopter that’s wearing the Cranial Plating and swing for 14.” So, I really haven’t been working on any decks.

You know what? I’m full of crap. There is actually one archetype that I’m excited about thanks to Champions. Surprise! It’s White Weenie. I played a White Weenie deck that my friend Joe came up with based on some States results. (See Radford Ellenburg’s Alabama State Champion deck and Alex Nastetsky’s Maryland State runner-up deck.) Given the fact that I went 2-1-1 and 3-0-1 in two tourneys with White Weenie, I’d have to say that he’s on the right track.

The key is Samurai of the Pale Curtain. That single card won me matches against Affinity and G/B Evening Star decks. The Samurai’s Affinity-hosing ability is well-documented. Heck, Tom Brokaw even did a piece on it right before he retired. (Dan Rather did, too, but that report has been discredited because Rather’s source said the Samurai was not, indeed, good against Affinity.) As we all know by now, if the artifacts don’t hit the ‘yard, you don’t lose life from the Disciple of the Vault and Modular counters don’t get to move. Since the SPC’s ability is a replacement effect, nothing hits the ‘yard. This also hoses decks built around Kokusho, since those decks win by dropping a second one into play and watching a twenty-point swing in life (minus ten for you, plus ten for them). The variation that the oft-mentioned Karl Allen and I have been working on is a White Skies deck based around all of the efficient fliers (Suntail Hawk, Lantern Kami, Leonin Skyhunter) backed up with Glorious Anthem, Roar of the Kha (what a suh-weet trick), Ethereal Haze, and Holy Day. It can pack a wallop, boy, let me tell you what. It can also get – this is such a good pun – blown out of the sky. **tee hee**

Lately, we’ve been working on a Millstone deck with another friend named Jeff Wiles. Jeff loves Millstone decks. So, when we started reading about the new draft decks that run no creatures and kill with Spliced Dampen Thoughts, we wondered, “Could we do this in Standard now?” Of course, the Standard decks are fifty percent bigger. So, we’d have to have many more ways to mill as well as more ways to stay in the game. Luckily, we have Millstone as well as possibly the best Millstone ever, Mesmeric Orb. We also knew, however, that we’d need to have a lot of Arcane spells. In fact, every non-permanent in the maindeck ended up being Arcane. This is what we came up with:

Recombinant DNA (’cause it survives by splicing and splicing and splicing . . . .)

25 Lands

4 Coastal Tower

2 Cloudcrest Lake

10 Island

9 Plains

0 Creatures

36 Other Spells

4 Ethereal Haze

4 Reach Through Mists

4 Dampen Thought

4 Consuming Vortex

4 Candle’s Glow

4 Mesmeric Orb

4 Millstone

4 Howling Mine

4 Wrath of God

15 Sideboard

4 Cleanfall

4 Altar’s Light

4 Scrabbling Claws

3 Karma

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. “Look at all those rares.” Other than the Orb, which is from Mirrodin, I’ve had my entire Magic-playing life (almost six years) to get those Millstones, Howling Mines, and Wraths. Now that I have ’em, I’m using them. Nanny nanny boo boo.

I’ve only played this in one tourney so far, but I did go 2-1 (without facing Affinity, sadly). Had I not miscounted (it was 10:15 PM, well past my bed time), I probably would have won game three of match three. Instead, I milled myself out. Yeah. I know. That may be the big problem with Mesmeric Orb. On the one hand, like the Howling Mine, it hits the opponent first. On the other hand, you have to be careful not to mill yourself. For example, with two Orbs out, if I cast Reach Through Mists and Splice Dampen Thought onto it, I mill my opponent for four while I draw a card and then mill myself for six. You have to stay on your toes with this deck.

All this success has led to my rating going up over one hundred points in the last three months. (Woo-hoo! Sixteen-fifty-eight! Sixteen-seventy-five, here I come!) This, in turn, means that it’s time for me to sabotage my rating by playing some of my sub-optimal-but-fun decks again.

As usual, you’ve been a great audience. Please, leave all weapons of mass destruction with the coat check girl. And have a Happy and Safe New Year.

Chris Romeo


P.S. It’s Dom DiMaggio because he played for the beloved Red Sox, unlike his brother Joe who sold his soul to the damn Yankees.