Guess who’s back – that’s right, it’s Zvi. You forgot about Zvi. I can’t say I blame you; I was gone for quite a while, but now I’m back. I won’t be playing on the Pro Tour, but it’s not because I couldn’t qualify – I no longer have any desire to compete. What interests me is theory and deckbuilding and writing, so not only will I be writing again, I won’t be holding back any of my creations. Whatever I know, you will know.
As a public service, I’ve been asked to begin with Affinity.
Those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. Therefore before I begin, I will summarize the history of Affinity:
I can’t believe my deck lost to Affinity! That guy is so lucky!
It’s not quite that simple, because it has been stopped in its tracks once in Kobe. Kobe was unique because the card pool and metagame left players no choice but to deal with the Affinity problem properly. The format was all about artifacts, which allowed it to be ruled in the end by a deck whose primary reason for existence was to wipe all the artifacts off the board.
After that, people relaxed. They didn’t realize that Affinity didn’t fail in Kobe because it wasn’t good enough; it failed because it was good enough to trigger a reaction large enough to kill it, and for the first time the players had no choice but to stop a dominant deck in its tracks. To beat Affinity you have to choose to beat Affinity, and you can gain in all your other matchups by “cheating” against Affinity and weakening your matchup. Just what this trade-off amounts to varies from format to format, but the same dynamic remains, but the temptation will always be to “defect” and let Affinity be competitive with you – or even win.
Such a defection will be rewarded if you avoid Affinity, but you were not punished for defecting in Kobe. Soon everyone who couldn’t stop the deck was gone with the possible exception of Nassif, who blinded his opponents’ artifacts in a yellow haze and playing impossibly good Magic. It also helped that the natural second-best deck in the format was Big Red, and that deck naturally had enough game against Affinity to remain intact while hating Affinity out. You paid a price, but you didn’t quite have to sell your soul.
When the next major format came around, you did have to sell your soul – and Magic players hate doing that. They think they might need it some day. Maybe they’re worried about the Wrath of God or other such non-Affinity possibilities, but a sideboard that can deal with other decks is a Good Thing. Give a player a choice of how many of his fifteen sideboard and sixty maindeck slots to devote to beating Affinity, and he’ll try to find a balance. If the answer is that you need fifteen slots to create a fair matchup, how many players will bite the bullet and find a way to spend twenty? The answer is “not many.” If it takes ten to tie and fifteen to win, how many will, as I refer to losing the right to use your sideboard for other things, sell their soul?
There are also other problems with beating Affinity. When block came around again, and Affinity came back without Skullclamp, the same problems came back again.
When Extended time came, the tools finally existed to stop Affinity cold. Energy Flux. Serenity. Meltdown. Pulverize! Now those are weapons of mass destruction. I like weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, Affinity was never going to work. Why even bother? And then everyone proceeded to ignore that nagging feeling in the back of their heads that said, “Wait a minute, if everyone thinks that…. ” and walked into the tournament. Randy Buehler smiled that Affinity was nowhere in sight. Then what happens?
I can’t believe Affinity won again! That guy is so lucky!
Yes, of course was, but you know what? No one wins a Pro Tour without luck. He played the right deck, he found a key card to make it better, and you didn’t. So give him his giant check and hope he has a good evil laugh for his walk to the bank. He earned every penny, and now everyone is once again forgetting the lessons of Affinity’s history. They are doomed to repeat it. I’m not guessing.
Here are Five Good Reasons that Affinity will be a great deck in Extended:
1. Affinity is highly unfair.
This has always been number one and always will be. If it stops being true, the rest of the list is moot. To see this in action, see Vintage. Nothing about Affinity is unfair in Vintage, and the response by that community is a universal shrug, as well it should be. They’ve dealt with much worse. But even in a format like Extended, Affinity allows you to do obscene things and do them quickly. Feel free to make all the arguments you want about how other decks do broken and powerful things, but Affinity is not fair. That is why we get to have this discussion in the first place.
Madness decks have been described by the people who advocate them as “Affinity, but not as good.” Not as good, you say? They then claim their sideboards and avoidance of hate make it okay, but playing catch-up is hard.
2. The cards that hurt Affinity are mostly harmless against other decks, and your space has many demands on it no matter what deck you play.
Energy Flux, Pulverize, and Meltdown are cool, but what else do they do? They tear down Chrome Mox and Isochron Scepter, but there are a ton of places where they do nothing at all or they do a very bad job. In a format like Extended, there are a lot of jobs to do, and that makes it hard to spare a lot of space.
The good news is that the weapons against Affinity are real and not just stopgaps. If you Pulverize an Affinity player, things tend to look bad for him. Affinity can fight against those weapons in turn – even if you invest in four or so slots, which lets you draw the card half the time, that doesn’t mean you automatically get to use it. And even if you do use them, they aren’t always automatic wins.
3. Evil can be defeated but can never be destroyed.
A deck that is kept in check only by hate cannot be kept in check for long unless that hate is the result of splash damage. The moment the deck is down, it will be played less, and players will have incentive to stop playing the hate cards and the cycle begins again. The equilibrium point tends to be one in which the deck is popular enough to force a reaction but not overwhelming enough to be killed by that reaction. In Extended, that’s a pretty big reaction and a big part of the metagame – probably enough to be the number one deck.
4. Affinity is harder to build, sideboard, and play than people think. It is far less universal in its construction than it looks, and those changes matter – a lot. What works against one build and player of Affinity may not work on another. This causes them to underestimate it, and makes it harder to stop.
This one is a little tricky. Affinity is easy to win matches with, because you have cards like Arcbound Ravager that step in and save you from yourself. Affinity gets to be a lucksack every now and then, and this disguises how much it helps to have a tight build and a tight player. A tight build gets you those “oops” draws more often and gives you better draws while giving you the weapons you need. Bad players often waste four or even eight slots in their deck on cards that do very little and as many in their sideboard on cards that often actively get in the way, and they get away with it – but it’s that much harder to beat someone who doesn’t do that.
Better builds and players also lead to better sideboarding, which is vital. They also just lead to better play. Affinity players make lots of decisions, especially how big to go in, how to mulligan, and – silly as it sounds – just doing all the technical stuff properly.
You cannot just take any old Affinity deck, give it to whoever happens to be around in your test group, smash it, and claim you beat Affinity. You can’t even take a good version and do that. That’s especially true because “beating” Affinity tends to mean having an edge, not an overwhelming advantage. Affinity is too explosive to crush without sacrificing too much against other decks. No reason to overpay for the matchup. That causes people to think they’ve done enough when they haven’t, and it causes them to underestimate how good Affinity is, which in turn causes them to prepare for it even less.
It is very hard to overestimate Affinity. Can you handle it when it’s packing Meddling Mage? When it’s using Tangle Wire? When it uses Ornithopter and Cabal Therapy? When it’s a Vampiric Tutor deck that can go around your blockers and fetch silver bullets? Perhaps even when it’s a bizarre flying version with Qumulox?
5. Affinity is an “oops” deck.
By that I mean that every so often, the Affinity player will dump his entire hand onto the table around turn 2 or 3 and win the game either on the spot or the next attack. Oops. Nothing you can do about that, unless you get to do something on the same level. That makes it impossible to gain too large an edge on the deck without overpaying for it, and it makes the deck seem random and worse than it is. On a good day, it will win eight games of every ten but look lucky doing it. The next day it will win three or four, and you’ll think it’s a pile unworthy of another thought. Your deck has been tuned and now you can handle it.
A term I use for this is “having a Tinker day.” Tinker was a lot easier to keep down, until its later days when it learned how not to be. Then it was trouble. What happens then is that those that beat you can still be beaten – but those that don’t can only hope you fizzle. This is where you want to be. You can be under 50% against more than half the field and still end up winning far more than your fair share, and people forget that.
All of this also means that the players who most understand the Affinity problem…. just play it. Oops again.
What You Gonna Do When They Come For You?
It’s time to see what everyone is planning to do about this little problem known as Affinity….
Combo Decks: The Race Is On
Aluren, Mind’s Desire, Cephalid Breakfast, and Life all have essentially the same game plan: Stall with whatever tools they have, trying to slow down your assault until they can win the game. Now, Life is a deck that I have a very hard time respecting. You could even try and defeat Life with the infinite combination of Myr Retriever, Disciple of the Vault, and Krark-Clan Ironworks after sideboarding. What are they going to do about it? I thought so.
I’m not saying that is worth doing, because it isn’t, but I hate Life. No matter how much of it you may think you have, you’re a puny human and puny humans can be killed. There are few things more fun in Magic than responding to your opponent gaining ten million life with a casual “Okay, are you done?”
The bad news is that with their combo reliable and resilient, no version can do that much to them. Meddling Mage is a laugh. You can have Cabal Therapy, but you have to guess and they might go off even if you guess right. Tangle Wire is better, but this is probably still the one thing you fear most outside of true hate. It is not that you cannot win, just that he is more likely to. When Life is in trouble, it’s in big trouble, as in 90/10 trouble.
Desire at least has the good sense and decency to actually kill you. I respect that. Again, the race is on. You have Meddling Mage if you choose to pack it, which in turn forces them to worry about removing them. Even more annoying is to leave Aether Vial ready on two, so they don’t know if they have a Mage to deal with or not until they commit to enough spells that they better cast Desire right about now – or you can use it with two Mages to force them to use three bounce spells. Meanwhile, their defenses aren’t going to stall you for long and the only card that worries you at all is their bounce. Their bounce is busy. Leave a message at the beep.
If they’re going to beat you, it’s likely going to have to be with hate. They don’t seem to be able to pack it, so with Cabal Therapy ready in your sideboard this one looks good, too. If they packed four Energy Fluxes, you might actually have to sweat a tiny bit.
As for Aluren, or what is left of it, once again Meddling Mage is hell, Cabal Therapy is waiting for them and their defenses can’t stall you for long. Affinity doesn’t just attack – it attacks with overwhelming force and sometimes it goes around all blockers doing it. Kami of Ancient Law even comes out for free under Aluren, forcing them to pack backup they are unlikely to have. Pernicious Deed gives them a little life after sideboarding, but I can’t see that being enough. Cephalid Breakfast seems more dangerous because it can come out so fast, but your tools are strong and I have a hard time believing you won’t be fine, short of them deciding to win at any price.
In short, you have a natural advantage here because you are more consistent, you have universal and natural weapons that attack them, and they have to choose to sacrifice space to attack you. That seems hardly fair. Other than Life, I wouldn’t worry about these matchups too much. To win they have to choose to win, and even then they don’t have easy answers. This category is in your favor under normal conditions. Life is not quite normal conditions, because it cheats with its kill in a way you can’t punish him for, but I’ve never seen a deck that loses its section of the RPS triangle succeed for long.
Reanimator is like you in that it dares you to take the space to deal with it, and you can devote that space if you wish. He can as well, and if anything you have an easier time doing it than he does unless Affinity is a much bigger threat. It might be an odd statement, but whoever is playing the less-popular deck may have the edge there. I read that people were getting Phantom Nishoba against Affinity rather than Akroma, Angel of Wrath – which to me is simple insanity. A Nishoba is not that big a threat to you, and Akroma is, but you can beat up on it if you have to. Sometimes you can beat it in a fight with an Ornithopter. How embarrassing. A good enough Affinity draw beats any reanimated creature that’s been tried so far, even if the creature comes out on the second turn.
Trying for a Fight
Blue/Green at heart is a bad version of you. They’re trying to attack with unfairly large creatures at low, low prices. That’s so cute! Head to head, your deck will roll over his, so he’s going to need to bring out that hate. With Chrome Mox to get out Energy Flux (yes, oddly enough, it’s a combo), Oxidize to stall for time, and Daze and Circular Logic to protect it they should have a solid game. I wouldn’t go get lunch or anything, but I also wouldn’t pencil in the win yet.
The plan of using Oxidize and Powder Keg seems to be gaining popularity, but I have no doubt that those using it think it is a lot better than it is. They should turn it into a game I suppose, but you get the first one free. Ironically, you do better against better Blue/Green players who are smart enough to follow the advice of Jeff Cunningham, who knows Blue/Green better than anyone and concludes that every card that happens to annoy Affinity just isn’t worth the trouble. If I was running Blue/Green, I would agree. If you choose U/G, you’re making a statement that Affinity cannot be run due to hate cards, or else you would have played it. If you can’t play Affinity and you’re such hot stuff, what makes you think anyone else will survive with it for long?
The biggest thing I simply don’t understand is the matchup against “Red Deck Wins.” I put it in quotes because everyone seems to believe that it does – but it does not. If there had been a betting line on the finals of Columbus with a large enough limit, I would have won more money then Canali. The pure power of Affinity makes it just better than RDW. If you think you’re controlling Affinity’s mana in time, you’re fooling yourself – and no matter how you fool yourself, it means you won’t be prepared with a sideboard that can help your matchup while Affinity picks up at least Chill. That’s not a good exchange.
Control is not going to work against Affinity without hate of some kind. A Psychatog deck would have to stop you with Energy Flux or go down in flames, and it’s hard for them to even protect it against Cabal Therapy, let alone have it for two games. It’s not like they have a lot of time to draw into another one, and if you open with an Aether Vial the game is all but over. Those are some good reasons you don’t see these people around much anymore.
Rock at least gets to try if it wants to, with a lot of ways to stall for time and Pernicious Deed to put you away. A Rock player is one of the few players who can realistically pack enough hate to make your life a living hell without giving away the farm everywhere else. It would still hurt, but they can do it. Luckily for you, a quick glance around the web indicates they’re not doing anything of the kind. Their decks are also bad, because the world didn’t fully digest the Columbus memo on this deck yet. Remie can play it because it means you’re playing in his house. There’s nothing to worry about, but this is one of the first places real resistance is capable of showing up.
Isochron Scepter decks present a natural threat to you, since you can’t beat Scepter recursion if you didn’t get a Vial out there first and even then you need to get pretty damn lucky and go through the rest of his deck. Even Fire is a serious long-term problem if he gets to keep casting it. You then have the same problem as everyone else: Artifact removal doesn’t do all that much except for here and the mirror, so how do you pack it? The other option is to just use your usual tools, safe in the knowledge that you’ve faced worse back in Standard. If he wanted to sideboard heavily, he could put you face-to-face with your ultimate nightmare and win a lot more than he loses – but he can’t afford that.
The best news is that your biggest enemy’s biggest foe is… your presence in the metagame! He can’t deal with the hate for you very well, and he has a much harder time just damning the torpedoes. The threat of the mirror also lets you prepare for him for the same reason. Too many things (as in at least two things) have to go right for him to win half the time.
Now that I’ve looked over the field, why didn’t Affinity roll over everyone? There are three reasons.
The first is that almost no one had a good Extended version yet. They still don’t, unless they did the work, because the version that won the Pro Tour is no longer correct. Packing the right tools helps a ton in a lot of places. The second reason is that everyone worried about the hate and assumed that the deck had been dealt with, which leads into the most basic reason: No one played it! Consider how few players took Affinity, how many of them likely had awful versions for the format, and then consider their record. It was rather amazing – one of the best deck performances in Pro Tour history, especially if you consider the resumes of those who played it. I can’t think of a good reason why Affinity won’t roll over the field to open the PTQ season, at least to the extent that decks roll over people. Affinity is not going to start winning every match and taking every slot. Instead, it will take far more than its fair share of both, until it warps things enough to simply be very good.
For those who have been convinced that this is the right place to start the season, what version should you play? For those who realize the threat but have not the time to prepare (or the desire to join the dark side) to try and earn a slot, how do you stem the tide? Those are the questions you ask once you accept what is about to happen. While I have spent a decent amount of time looking at the situation, I cannot devote the amount of time it would take to figure out which version would be best. Magic at the PTQ level is a game for the fanatic who wants to spend his free time trying to make it back, and I am no longer that person. Any Pro who tells you he’s done the kind of work it takes to succeed in a situation like this is almost certainly lying. Instead, I will lay out the options.
Canali’s Build from Columbus
4 Seat Of The Synod
4 Vault Of Whispers
2 Ancient Den
4 Darksteel Citadel
1 City Of Brass
2 Blinkmoth Nexus
4 Arcbound Worker
4 Disciple Of The Vault
4 Arcbound Ravager
4 Meddling Mage
3 Myr Enforcer
3 Somber Hoverguard
3 Cranial Plating
4 Aether Vial
4 Chromatic Sphere
3 Kami of Ancient Law
3 Cabal Therapy
3 Engineered Plague
1 City Of Brass
2 Seal Of Removal
Option one is the Meddling Mage build, with less of the Hoverguards and Enforcers as detailed by the winner. His instinct to use Ornithopter – because of what becomes four Plating and, after boarding, Therapy – lines up with mine as well.
The other question is, what about that mana base? Can it possibly be right? He did a bold thing, accepting that his mana did not quite work in order to have a shield against those who would attack it. If everyone is neglecting you, you can gamble and run four Ancient Dens, solving the Meddling Mage problem. Yes, I know that by solving, I mean “make it only bad instead of awful” – but that will have to do. If the threats are around, especially Deed from Rock, you may have to bite the bullet and keep all four Citadels and both Nexus, which would force you to take the gamble on drawing white. Remember, you can’t win every game – you can only maximize your chances.
The other choice is Hoverguard against Enforcer. Enforcer should help you against damage-based removal (but not with much else), and my guess on the metagame is that Hoverguard wins this fight – but for now, I’d like to keep splitting the difference. Also helping there is that you get major sideboard help against red because of Chill, which you will doubtless have four copies of. The fact that my instincts and Canali’s line up is a very good sign for both of us. I’ve got a Myr Enforcer in my sideboard because I feel that tuning Affinity after sideboarding is a very good thing and there is nothing else that I feel as if I need in its place. The fourth Cabal Therapy will tax me too much unless I use more Ornithopters, which I don’t want to do because of the mana count which I want to fight people who attack my lands.
If I chose to run a Canali variant right now, I would build it like this – but I’ve always been one to run with the colored mana over the safe mana:
15 sideboard cards
To go over the obvious quickly, against RDW you put in Enforcer, Chill and City for Hoverguard, Ornithopter, and Mage. Against Life, you need to figure out how best to hope for a miracle. Ideally, I think you’d just go for pure speed and try to kill them before they gain life, since the only sideboard card that has a big impact would be False Cure – and you don’t have that kind of room even in the Vampiric Tutor builds (unless you do; you can consider it there). Cabal Therapy gives you a fighting chance at disruption, so I suppose you bring it in – but you aren’t too happy about it. I’d go down a Darksteel Citadel in an attempt to help myself get lucky, then pull the Enforcers. Their ability to block on the ground is too strong.
Another question is whether they intend to run out Serenity against you, since anything suggested in writing by someone as good as BDM will see at least some play – at which point, you have no choice but to use Kami of Ancient Law. If they use Energy Flux, it’s a lot less bad for you, but the same applies. My guess is at least a large percentage of opponents will do neither, since they don’t feel they need to care. If you do run into Blue/Green, Myr Enforcer is good for you and Somber Hoverguard is less so, making a swap worthwhile but you aren’t the one who needs his sideboard here.
Against Desire, I would pull two lands because I’m putting in a City – and again, my land is not under attack, which means I need two more cards to take out for Cabal Therapy. Hoverguard is clearly the slow link here. The basics don’t change from there on in. Once you’ve established you don’t need all the copies in a matchup, Hoverguard becomes vulnerable when you need space.
Option two is to use Tangle Wire, and option three is Cabal Therapy. Both are very strong in their own way and get around all your mana issues. They solve different problems then the Mage, so it’s going to come down to what the threats out there are and how well each tests. Tangle Wire is not an option I recommend, but I have to respect it. Cabal Therapy makes a lot of sense to me – and if you did use it, you would run four Ornithopters and four Cranial Platings, for obvious reasons. The mana base can go down by a land, with the understanding that you would almost always board one out if not under attack, and Ancient Den gets thrown in the wastebasket for Darksteel Citadels and Blinkmoth Nexus which you can sack to Therapy if you need to. You would not run four Hoverguards because you fear hate less and already have more fliers – which, together with Meddling Mage being gone and a smaller land count, gives you the space to run your Ornithopters:
Again, when you’re sideboarding remember the light touch and remember to adjust your mana base to the level it will be attacked. The sideboard may look weird – but remember that you can’t afford to overboard, ever. It will be rare that you’ll want to take out Cabal Therapy, given the presence of Ornithopter – but do consider going down to two or sometimes one if you need some space. Taking from the non-Affinity section of the deck is far safer than going after the core.
Option four will be to use Vampiric Tutor to make you draw your core more often and smooth out your draws, knowing that you can get Thoughtcast if you must – so it’s hard for a castable Vampiric Tutor to hurt you, and your sideboard is now vastly improved. Cards you’ll want to have to get include Atog, Fling, and Shrapnel Blast along with Cabal Therapy and probably Tangle Wire… but caution is key. If you try to fit in a lot of bullets, especially if they are not good when randomly drawn, you will ruin your deck, so don’t run more than three Tutors and go easy on the targets.
A speculative Vampiric Tutor build might look like this:
While extensive matchup testing has not been done, a lot of goldfishing and theoretical work have been. The mana will come down to the third Citadel against the fourth Furnace. City beats Glimmervoid because I want to be able to play City on the first turn to Vampiric Tutor. One Nexus is likely all you can afford – but it can be the right Tutor, target especially if you have a Plating and nothing to put it on.
Speaking of Plating, I’m on the edge of cutting down to two of them, and if I needed one other card I would, because you still have two Atogs. I figure that you can’t afford too many cards in the Plating-Atog-Ravager complex, and with the ability to Vampiric for Fling and the additional spells, you want to lean to the potentially-large man. One Ornithopter won’t get tutored for often – although with Therapy and Plating (or even just being one artifact short) anything is possible. It’s more a card I wouldn’t mind more of than a card I want to go get, and it might just become a different creature. Two Vampiric Tutors are a little less than I want, but three are very hard to fit and take full advantage of, so I say start conservative. You also don’t want to draw two of them. It also might just be good to slip one Vampiric into a normal build, especially if you already have Fling – or even better, Fling and Atog.
The sideboard is more speculative, but the basic principle is obvious. If you have Aether Vial then you can cast anything in any color, so using Vampiric for Meddling Mage becomes an interesting idea – especially when you’re packing Therapies. The third Plating is there just because it’s too good not to have. Rack and Ruin is for Scepter and Affinity, and while there could easily be a better option I can’t think of one. I am sure that this list can be refined from here – but once again, I cannot repeat enough that if you are not very careful you will ruin the deck by oversideboarding, so use extreme caution and try to swap non-Affinity card for non-Affinity card when you can.
The final solution was presented yesterday – a version built around Atog and Fling. If you’re going to do this, Vampiric Tutor goes from “speculative” to “just a good idea.” What you’d be claiming is that my list above didn’t go far enough, so let’s put the blitzkrieg variant on the table.
The one thing I didn’t get about Clair’s build was not including the maximum of Cranial Platings and some number of Ornithopters. If you’re going to do something, do it right. Killing on turn 3 means maximum artifact dumping, maximum speed, and maximum quick Affinity, giving you a build like this:
The list from yesterday (and no, I haven’t looked at the comments below, why do you ask?) was lacking in a few ways so I fixed it. He was claiming you “could steal” games two and three against RDW, so clearly Chill is in order – and while his sideboard had some interesting cards in it, that board represented a world we have not yet reached. If that belief is incorrect, then Overload is a nice card to consider in all versions.
The fourth Ornithopter feels like it should be in there, as does the second Vampiric, but space is tight (as it always is when your Affinity deck gets delusions of a theme). Enforcer is already gone, because the theory of a model like this is that you don’t have that kind of time, but the sideboard is ready to bring it back if the Fling plan is too dangerous.
Without white mana, your sideboard space is available. The most ironic part of this whole plan is that while both of us are aware of Shrapnel Blast’s existence, it is too slow. If you’re going through the plan, then building up will kill them faster than doing an extra five.
Sideboarding this version means knowing to stick to your guns most of the time. Start messing with some of the red cards, and the whole deck starts to get worse. Against RDW you now have City, Enforcer, and Chill to bring in for Fling and Ornithopter with the last slots being an Atog and, I actually think, a Disciple due to what they run. The Vampiric Tutor is now the fifth Chill.
Life means going for pure speed. I’m no longer sure you even want Cabal Therapy on this plan here, but if you do you lose Thoughtcast to get it. Blink and this game will be over. If you’re in a matchup where Therapy is obviously good but you have nothing to take out and speed is key, you’ll need to find three slots. Often, one of them is a net loss of one land, particularly the Nexus. After that, you’ll need two more. Vampiric Tutor can go since you no longer can afford the card loss and keep reliable critical mass as much, and your black mana is busy. The last slot is hard, but often I think it will have to be the fourth Plating or third Fling because you have little choice. Otherwise it would be a creature, and you’re now sacrificing three of them.
For those who want to be Part of the Solution rather than Part of the Problem, the job is easy enough: Be prepared. You already know the best tools, and the key is to not grow complacent or – even worse – arrogant. This is one place you want to pay what it takes to win.
Before I draw things to a conclusion, I want to sound off on StarCity Premium and StarCity in general. There is no such thing as a free lunch, and this day had to come eventually. StarCityGames.com performs an invaluable service to the community, posting and in a real way creating content that otherwise would not exist at all. Without StarCity, there would be far less worth reading in the Magical section of the web. I love reading Rosewater, Forsythe, and friends, and occasionally a third website will have something worth my time, but the majority of real strategy is here. That’s hard work, and you can’t expect it all for free.
I didn’t come back for the glory, I didn’t come back for the money, and I didn’t come back to try and get an Invitational slot. (In all seriousness, while I would love to go, I took six months off – and if I still deserve the writer’s slot, then all is not well in the Magic writing world. I encourage you to send Mike Flores.) I came back for two reasons: One of them is that writing is fun for me, along with working on the theoretical problems of Magic. The Pro Tour is not something I want to compete in again; I have had my fill and wish to give others that opportunity. The other reason is because I want to help out Ted and everyone else here at Star City. Already, they’ve treated me well and made me feel at home.
Now, for those who are wondering: Where did all my time go? It’s been over six months since you’ve seen me last on the internet, so what have I been up to? I will be answering that to the extent that I can, but for now two things can be said: One is that my recent writing time has been largely tied up writing a review of Betrayers of Kamigawa, and writing articles about Constructed formats too far in advance does no good. The other is, well, Super Bowl XXXIX.
Join me during the next week for my Betrayers of Kamigawa review. I know it’s a little late, but hopefully you will agree that it is worth it. (I’ve seen the beginning, and it is – The Ferrett, happily editing the first Zvi article on SCG)