Insert Column Name Here – 0 For 10 In 10th

Read The Ferrett every Monday... at StarCityGames.com!Eighteen games, all of which ended in horrific face-beatings. And here’s where the sadomasochism kicks in: Honestly, I wanted to know how bad it could get. How long could I endure playing with this same set of cards before the universe broke down and handed me a win? It was Tenth Edition — would I go zero-for-ten on Tenth? The writer in me went, “Wow, that’s a pretty good title,” even as the player in me cringed….

A quick search reveals that the words “sadomasochistic instinct” have never been used in a Magic article on StarCityGames.com before… And I think that’s for the best. While there are a few cute women in Magic, by and large the population of Magic players consists of Really Fat Guys and Really Weedy Guys, with the occasional sprinkling of Balding Guys and SCA Drop-Outs. A Grand Prix looks like the place where guys tried out for “Revenge of the Nerds” but were rejected on the basis of being too unattractive for the role.

Hence, there are many sites devoted to the baser instincts in human nature, but “HotMagicPlayers.com” would be a web page consisting of the sounds of chirping crickets. Or, perhaps, a single picture of Brian Kibler.

So the idea of exploring the sadomasochistic urges of Magic players is a part of the psyche that most people want to stay far away from. They’re ugly enough without imagining them in the Gimp suit.

And yet, unbelievably enough, there have been articles on just this topic. The urges, anyway.

The most famous by far is John “I Didn’t Win The Invitational, But Isn’t It Nice To Be Friggin’ asked?” Rizzo’s “Stuck In The Middle With Bruce,” wherein he reveals the reasons we self-sabotage. Some of us want to be punished, and thus we make stupid moves we shouldn’t.

We all know that instinct. “Aw, I should mulligan this, but I’ll keep.” Why did you keep? You thought you were lucky? You know better, son.

So it was that I found myself digging to the bottom of a losing streak, just to see how bad it could get.

It was Tenth Edition League, and I’d cracked open some markedly substandard cards. Take a look at this:

I’m not going to get into the specifics of cards, but let’s analyze the pool here by asking a simple question: Once a big creature hits the board, what can we do about it? Please note that these answers consist of the whole of everything they can do about it, not just one card in the pool.

White: “I can turn it into an unbreakable wall until they draw enchantment removal! Or make them pay two mana to attack!”

Blue: “I can make it ‘not untap’… Unless they also draw enchantment removal or don’t need it to tap!”

Black: “I can give it -1/-1 or do three damage to it! What’s a Terror, anyway?”

Red: “If someone is stupid enough to kill my Bogardan Firefiend, I can do two damage to it!”

Green: “Bupkiss! I don’t even have a Giant Growth effect!”

Artifacts: “If you have seven mana and all five colors, I can… Wait, if you have seven mana and all five colors, why haven’t you won the game?”

All right, so we’re pretty light on removal, and have precisely three tricks in the entire card pool that can be used at instant speed during combat. Not so good. If a guy hits the board, we’re hoping we draw the one or no cards in each color that might do something about it, and praying they don’t have a countertrick – since a single Giant Growth trumps Afflict, Warriors’ Honor, and Uncontrollable Anger. But wait! Let’s ask another question!

Say, card pool? What’s your biggest creature in each color?

White: “2/3. But they fly!”

Blue: “3/3. It, too, flies!”

Black: “2/2. But you don’t want to block with one, and can’t block with the other.”

Green: “5/4. One of them. After that? Rootwalla!”

Red: “3/3.”

So, card pool – what do we do if the other guy has, say, a large creature?

“Hope you draw one of the cards that might work – because if he has something than 3/3 most of the time, you’re going to get punked. And if he has his own trick, that Essence Drain is gonna be a waste….”

The thing is, this card pool isn’t entirely unsalvageable. Having received a card pool with not one, but three Wandering Ones at one point, I’ll cheerfully look at a card pool and abandon it. But this has some good cards. It has a lot of fliers. It has Windborn Muse. It has some tricks.

Surely, it must win at some point. So I wasn’t thinking this was a 5-0 pool, but surely it was a something-other-than-zero/something pool.

I went into the first round entirely happy, with a U/W/b that splashed for Essence Drain and Afflict. I went in, and lo! Turns out my entire army of fliers gets trumped by a Giant Spider!

Who knew? ‘Cause, you know, it’s not like he’s going to attack with it, so I can’t tap with Dehydration. And when I Essence Drained it, of course he had his own Giant Growth. His Rootwalla trumped my whole dang army.

Okay, fine. I lose the first match. But match #2? Yeah, we’ll get those guys!

We didn’t. This was a B/R deck that said, “Whoo! Let’s go nuts with Terror and Incinerate, then mop up with Hill Giants that trump your whole army!” Because seriously, I had one 3/3 in the entire deck.

I was 0-2. I’d been there before. But this was a League, so I could retool.

I went back and revamped. Clearly, the Blue was nice but it wasn’t panning out – I liked the idea of Sift and Dehydration and Aven Windreader and Cloud Elemental, but the card quality fell off rapidly after that. So time to retool.

I came out for 0-3 with a redecked build that focused on Green’s fatties and White’s fliers, hoping the “fatties” – *cough cough* – would hold the fort. They didn’t. I lost the next two matches, thanks to one match where my opponent proudly paraded his insane rares before me, and another where I just, you know, lost.

Some of this was doubtlessly play style. But we had pride on the line here, and these two decks didn’t feel right to me. I can’t always tell during the building process, but when I’m playing Limited, I usually have an instinct about whether a deck is good or not that has little to do with how I’m doing at the time. There’s a way I pilot it that makes me go, “Wow, I’m confident that this deck will deliver” or “This deck is never going to give me what I want.”

This was a shaky deck. Time for the final transformation.

This time, I realized that the Green and White would have to make room for Black – I mean, come on, I had a Llanowar Wastes, what better sign did I need? I went into that room, tricked out as best as I could make my deck, and wham!


I bombed out, 0-5 for the official stats of the League. Which is humiliating; that doesn’t happen often. Oh, I’ve been known to go 1-4 or 2-3, but going five matches without even coming close?

That shouldn’t happen.

This wasn’t that terrible a deck. And I am not that terrible a player. I mean, sure, I can go 0-3 drop at a Grand Prix, when people who actually are devoted to play come along. But League play consists of a mixture of good players messing around and terrible players who don’t know any better.

I’m not saying I’m awesome. But statistically speaking, I should run across Timmy And His Amazing Ten-Land Deck periodically in League. That should give me a win.

But there was nothing. And this had some okay Green; the Spider, the Wurm, the Rootwalla, the Civic Wayfinder. The Black had some nice cards.

Here, bubbling up from the cauldrons of my subconscious, was the deadly thought:

It shouldn’t be like this.

Okay, you know, arguably I built the deck wrong. (Another path might have been a U/G/b build, which would have provided a little more support both for the Spined Wurm and the Enchantress in the form of Shimmering Wings.) But even though it wasn’t the strongest of decks, it didn’t deserve to be relegated to the 0-5 pile of fetid history.

I can win with this.

So I set out into the League again – I’d done my duty for StarCityGames, but I was going to show that this pool and this player were not that terrible. It was bad, yeah, but not 0-5 bad.

I’d win the next match for sure.

….a drubbing. Of course it was. They had a 4/4! What was I supposed to do? I could only block with my face.

Round Seven. I thought I was finally in. I had a great start; fourth-turn Blanchwood Armor on a Wild Griffin, followed by some Rampant Growths to make it into a 6/6 soon. I was in the lead, he was down to nine life, and wham.

Shivan Hellkite.

Not a problem, though; it was 5/5, and I had the Essence Drain in my hand. Even if he blocked and had the Growth, I could kill the Dragon and fly through the air with my other guys to win in two turns. So I attacked, he didn’t block to preserve the trick he had (and no doubt praying that I didn’t have a Giant Growth of my own), and then the next turn I went all-in.

What’s that, Charlie? Might Of Oaks followed by manascrew in the second game?

So close.

All right; now I was 0-7. A little voice whispered in my head:

Maybe you wanna change the deck. I told you, try the U/G/b build! Maybe that’ll work!

But no. The thing was, I was now committed to this deck. I was in a zero-for-seven hole, a losing streak I had not had with a single deck in… well, God knows how long.

Zero for seven. That’s not seven games – that’s at least fourteen games, and probably closer to twenty, all of which ended in horrific face-beatings. And here’s where the sadomasochism kicks in:

Honestly, I wanted to know how bad it could get.

How long could I endure playing with this same set of cards before the universe broke down and handed me a win? It was Tenth Edition – would I go zero-for-ten on Tenth? The writer in me went, “Wow, that’s a pretty good title,” but the player in me cringed.

Walk away.

No. I won’t. I’m gonna ride this damn deck all the way down. Through manascrew and poor card choices and my own substandard playing ability, I am going to see how bad this can get.

Can I go zero-for-twenty? Zero-for-one-hundred?

If I changed the deck, I would never know how bad this deck was. If I won now, it would be because I’d changed the criteria of the experiment. Sure, I’d tweaked a little bit in the beginning, but that was when I thought I could be winning.

Now that I was thinking about losing, and losing spectacularly, I could not alter it. Those forty cards were my savior, my angel, my damned lover of spite… For I was hell-bent for this path. I had to see.

And so I delved back into the room, feeling the sickening twist of knowing that yes, my inner Bruce was riding me like a jockey with a whip made of carbonite steel, smashing my ego in the name of pure science.

The eighth round, I don’t even remember. It was a blur of suck. He may have had better cards, he may have had better skills, he may have just punched me in the thighs and left. I don’t remember. But it was gone.

Nine was tough. “Tough” as in “I mulliganed to three after hands of six, five, and four, had no lands.” Then I just shrugged. Why try? I conceded to save time, moved onto the next round, got a light shaving of manascrew (fourth land, where did you go?) and then dove into the next round.

I was a little disappointed to find myself winning.

My opponent was manascrewed, and I didn’t help him much by Creeping Molding his sole Mountain. It took me a while to get the guys in gear, and he did rally towards the end, but eventually a Spined Wurm and a Blanchwood Armored Steadfast Guard did him in.

He had a rating of 1790. That, I remember, because I was sure he’d deliver on my pummelling.

And in the second game, he gave me that salt-encrusted wound-scrubbing that I was so deserving of. What did he have? Oh, yes – Stampeding Wildebeests. Which pretty much made all of my removal useless. I’ll enchant it, you’ll return it. I’ll Essence Drain it, you’ll… Well, you won’t really care, because that’s not enough to kill it in one shot, and you’re always attacking with it. I’ll be dead in a few rounds, thanks.

(He put Arcane Teachings on a guy, and I Heart of Lighted it. That was pretty funny. Until he bounced it.)

The third game, however, was down to the wire.

He was lightly mana-screwed, if by lightly you mean “Had only six lands when he had a Stampeding Wildebeests on the table, and I had a Windborn Muse out.” Every turn, you could see the wheels turn as he agonized – I had nothing that could block his Wildebeests effectively, but committing to an all-out assault meant re-casting his three-mana Elf and then paying the two to attack. Meanwhile, I was building up a merry army, gaining life with Soul Warden while I put out more guys to attack in the air past the guy he couldn’t afford to block with.

Eventually, he went all-in, not re-casting his elf. I blocked with everything, and he had Might of Oaks.

I, however, had a Bandage and an Afflict – which left me at one life. And I won the next turn.

There was a strange feeling of letdown. A 0-10 losing streak was something appropriately round and solemn, but 0-9? That was just plain suck. I felt as though I had set out to scourge myself, and had only inflicted a flurry of papercuts.

A nine-match losing streak. In League. Surely, I could do worse.

We’ll get ‘em next time. Or, should I say, they’ll get us.

The Weekly Plug Bug
Last week, Tom and Karla decided to safeguard Tanner from his own horrific instincts at Tanner’s upcoming party, as Tanner explained to an old friend why they couldn’t attend. This week, Izzy invites someone new to the upcoming Party of Doom as events begin to cohere….

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy