Insert Column Name Here – How Are Those Resolutions Comin’?

Read The Ferrett every Monday... at StarCityGames.com!On New Year’s Eve, I made a promise to myself: I would follow four very simple rules. Those rules have already raised my Magic play – and in ways I didn’t expect. Of course, when you get an insane deck to go along with it, featuring everyone’s favorite Nameless Inversion recursion engine, what else could you learn from a weasel?

“Jane, since I’ve met you I’ve noticed things that I never knew were there before. Birds, singing! Dew, glistening on a newly formed leaf! Stoplights!”

Lieutenant Frank Drebin, Police Squad

You may remember my New Year’s Resolution, wherein I promised to do four things in every game:

1) Actually pay attention when I play, instead of emailing people, watching old South Park episodes, and downloading videos whilst I MODO.

2) Take ten seconds to decide whether to mulligan.

3) Write down every card my opponents play.

4) Take at least fifteen minutes to build my decks.

The results, at least thus far, have been very strong. My play is a lot stronger, mainly because these four have erased the dippy mistakes I make when I look at a hand and just shrug. Forcing myself to turn off Otto the Autopilot is making me open up a little more.

The ten-second mulligan is probably the strongest rule I’ve devised, since I’m noticing that I’m actually winning a lot more when I go down to six, and sometimes five. The reason why is that before, I went down to six only when it was so blazingly obvious that I shouldn’t keep the hand… And now I’m mulliganing because this hand has too little action, which sometimes launches me into a better six-card hand.

In other words, I’m not retreating to a mulligan only when the battle is so obviously lost I have no other choice. I’m actually going, “This hand’s crap, and I’d better try to work with something else.” Which, in turn, doesn’t make a six-card mulligan good, exactly, but it means that when I do go to six it has much better odds of working properly than the original seven-carder.

But the real surprise is the “Writing down every card my opponent plays,” which I didn’t think would do that much… But oh, how it does. Especially for a run-of-the-mill player like me, it helps a lot.

There’s the obvious benefit that when you walk into the sideboarding scenarios, you know everything that’s in your opponent’s deck. All of it is there, in a nice little notebook pad.

But the less obvious benefit is that writing this stuff down — and I mean writing it down with a pen, which drills it straight into your brain — slows the pace of the game down. I’ve played about twelve matches under this new system, and taking my attention away from the game to look at a sheet of legal pad actually made me look at the game afresh when I returned. Yeah, it was a two-second interruption, but that interruption sometimes made me look at the cards out there and go, “Wait a minute, if I attack all-in and then Nameless Inversion my Battlewand Oak, I totally win this.”

That’s something I might not have seen before. My games tend to settle into rhythms; I make my long-term plans and then work towards them, sometimes not noticing that a plan that would function perfectly fine at fourteen life is a little risky at twelve life. Or I’ll get into a pattern of attack, trade, attack, trade and not realize that whoah, one combat trick and I am completely messed up.

Going away to write down what just happened gives me fresh eyes. I return, and when I return there’s the faintest flicker of, “Is this board position really what you think it is?” If I’m cocky, it makes me think twice. If I’m defeated, it helps me to scour that playfield for some kind of out.

Yet even on top of that writingly whipped cream, there is a cherry — a third benefit that I never would have thought of in a million years. And that upside is pure psychology.

See, when I get pounded by a deck, I think of it as unbeatable. That motherfudger just drew everything he needed, and his deck is so nuts, who could take it? But writing everything down shows me that I really overestimate the strength of my opponent’s cards. Generally, I look at the tabulation and go, “He got a Mulldrifter, a Nameless Inversion, and a Wings of Velis Vel when he needed them… Which is good, but not unstoppable.” When you analyze the cards that go into most people’s decks, you’ll find the same sorts of commons that most folks get in a decent deck — there are decks that are crazy powerful, natch, but most of the time a string of solid cards in a row is something one should expect. You just get disheartened when they happen to you.

My confidence level rises when I search the cards. I’ve got at least 40% of his deck, and probably the worst of it. It turns the insurmountable into something doable, and probably makes me look a little harder.

So how’d I do? What did I get in this format that no longer matters? Well, let’s go to the card pool.

Solid Playables: Cloudgoat Ranger, Goldmeadow Harrier, Hillcomber Giant, Kithkin Harbinger, Kithkin Healer, Knight of Meadowgrain, Neck Snap, Plover Knights, Surge of Thoughtweft

Actually, it’s a pretty good set of White, except that White is so terrible in this set. I’ve tried White a lot of times and it never seems to work out for me — and really, considering how many of the cards depending on the combat phase to work well, I can’t blame it.

Cloudgoat Ranger is great, especially when paired with a Galepowder Mage…. But the other strong cards here are vanilla guys with an advantage in the Red Zone. Knight of Meadowgrain, Plover Knights, Hillcomber Giant and the rest depend on going live, and then they don’t do much against a 4/4 except for hope they don’t have to fight.

We could go a Kithkin route. But I don’t wanna. Hopefully, we have some better options.

Solid Playables: Glimmerdust Nap, Merrow Harbinger, Mulldrifter, Paperfin Rascal, Ponder, Sentinels of Glen Elendra, Streambed Architects, Wings of Velis Vel

Whoo. We got good, but we got thin. Ponder and Mulldrifter will certainly help us get the good cards — but the thing you must remember about card drawing is that you have to want to draw the cards you get. Filtering through your deck to get to the Harbinger that will get you a single Streambed Architects and not much else? Not so good. Mulldriftering into a Glimmerdust Nap isn’t bad, but I’d really like to have better cards to work with.

And splashing card drawing? Almost always a bad idea unless it’s Stroke of Genius.

Solid Playables: Dreamspoiler Witches, Footbottom Feast, Ghostly Changeling, Makeshift Mannequin, Nameless Inversion, Skeletal Changeling, Warren Pilferers, Weed Strangle

Hmm. Between Footbottom Feast and Warren Pilferers we have a lot of recursion here, and a lot of Changelings to fill in blanks in some other mail color that wants to trigger off of critter type X. That provides us with some workable options, since Changelings — as you now all know — are good for filling in blanks in Sealed. And Ghostly Changeling, as a 2/2 that pumps for a semi-reasonable price, is a strong Changeling card.

Nameless Inversion and Weed Strangle are, of course, such powerhouse kill-a-dude cards that it’s hard to think about not using them.

What we have here is a color that’s not particularly strong in itself, but could be potent when combined with some other color. Preferably a color with really, really good men to fetch back and some sort of tribal theme to utilize the changelings.

Oh, and Makeshift Mannequin? A house. Thankew!

Solid Playables: Flamekin Harbinger, Mudbutton Torchrunner, Smokebraider, Soulbright Flamekin, Stinkdrinker Daredevil

This Red is thinner than Natalie Portman before a major film role. My eternal curse is to get a lot of Elemental fetchers without any actual good elementals, and barring Mulldrifter we don’t have a lot to fetch with either the Harbinger or to activate with the Smokebraider. Bootastic.

I loves me some Mudbutt, but even with two of ‘em we’re gonna need more here before I can continue.

Oh, and a note: One Mister Zvi Mowshowitz thinks that Hurly-Burly is criminally underplayed. I think it’s all right (and heck, maybe it’s better in Draft), but that sorcery speed really hurts it. It just seems that unless I’m on the attack — in which case I’m generally winning, or my opponent’s not blocking — the Burly is too slow to work. What the heck?

Solid Playables: Battlewand Oak, Gilt-Leaf Ambush, Imperious Prefect, Masked Admirers, Nath’s Elite, Oakgnarl Warrior, Rootgrapple, Woodland Changeling

Remember when I said we wanted a color to pair with Green? Something that had a lot of guys that triggered off of tribes and some huge men to bring back? All right, this is it.

On its own, the minor Elf theme and the minor Treefolk theme might not be enough, but fill in the gaps with some changelings and recursion and it’s starting to look like a plan. Besides, Imperious Prefect is pretty much an army on his own; I’ve won many a game simply by putting him out and doing nothing else until my opponent was forced to deal with him. Three turns, and it hurt.

Plus, with not one but two Gilt-Leaf Ambushes, that can make for a very nasty turn 5 on the play if your opponent’s gotten off to a slow start — third-turn Prefect, fourth-turn Prefect-and-Ambush, fifth-turn attack for six with more on the way.

…And The Rest
Solid Playables: Runed Stalactite, Springleaf Drum, Wort, Boggart Auntie

Okay. I didn’t like the Red. But you throw Wort, Boggart Auntie in there, and the words “Nameless Inversion you every turn” come to mind. And then, as if illuminated by the dawn of a new day, the words “Double-Mudbutt” look positively stunning. How many times can I bring back a Lightning Bolt to be sacrificed with Facevaulter? A lot.

So what kind of a deck did I build? Well, a far better one than I would have, thanks to my New Year’s Resolution. I spent more time on it than average; generally, I’ve had one or two cards I regretted putting in, but this time everything was about what it should be.

8 Forest
3 Mountain
6 Swamp
1 Battlewand Oak
1 Dreamspoiler Witches
1 Facevaulter
1 Footbottom Feast
1 Ghostly Changeling
2 Gilt-Leaf Ambush
1 Imperious Perfect
1 Makeshift Mannequin
1 Masked Admirers
2 Mudbutton Torchrunner
1 Nameless Inversion
1 Nath’s Elite
1 Oakgnarl Warrior
1 Rootgrapple
1 Runed Stalactite
1 Skeletal Changeling
1 Springleaf Drum
1 Warren Pilferers
1 Warren-Scourge Elf
1 Weed Strangle
1 Woodland Changeling

1 Wort, Boggart Auntie

So How’d I Do?
Heh. The interesting down side to my new-found play attention is that I’m back in misclick land. There’s something about putting my head in the game that seems to take my hand off the mouse — and so my plays were rife with awfuls, including at least two “sacrifice-Facevaulter-to-itself” plays and one “Wanted to mulligan a one-land hand, kept it because I was a millimeter to the right.”

That game in particular was a heartbreaker, since I lost the first game, slammed down in the second, and the third was so close I could taste it. Who knows what would have happened had I not dropped the first game thanks to a left-click of doom?

Bleah. And so I only went 8-3.

Funny thing is, my plays obviously matter. That third blown match was thanks to me watching Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan with my daughter, and I began bobbling plays right and left right during the final showdown with Khan Noonien Singh. Once my mind was on Spock, my game was on the fall.

The best match, however, was my fifth one. My opponent came out with a strong start, hammering down with all the best Merfolk — Reejerey, two Merrow Harbingers, Summon the School, Judge of Currents, and a host of other tricksy cards.

At the end of the first game, he said, “I have another match I’m playing in shortly — do you mind conceding?”

“Why don’t you concede?” I asked.

“Because I’m going to win with this deck,” he typed. “It’s nuts. Why bother making me play in two games simultaneously?”

I probably wasn’t going to concede in any case, but that sealed it. I was gonna at least try. (Thankfully, his rating of roughly 1700 gave me a little confidence — mine is actually just under 1600 range on MODO, but since I only play in Leagues and those don’t give points, I’m above my stats on paper. Apparently, drafting when a new set comes out to see how I do at it isn’t a way to boost my ratings.)

And so, despite his objections, we went on to the second game, which was a total win for me. We were both short on land — he was stuck on four, I was stuck at three — but my deck fired on all cylinders with three, giving me Facevaulters and Mudbutts and Footbottoms by the score, and I burned everything he played.

The third game was particularly frustrating, since he got the hot hand. He came out with a fourth-turn Merrow Harbinger for Summon the School with a Merrow Reejerey out, and then played another Harbinger.

“Kill my Reejerey,” he said. “I don’t care. I’ll still win.”

What followed was truly amusing, since he attacked with two 3/4 Merrow Harbingers into my sole board of Facevaulter. I Makeshift Mannequined a Mudbutton back into play, blocked both the Harbingers, sacrificed the Mudbutt to the Facevaulter to off his Reejerey, and then the other one died in combat.

Then I played, if I recall, Hurly-Burly to clear his board the next turn after drawing my second Mudbutt, at which point a Warren Pilferers enabled me to win the game.

I was nice. I didn’t say anything snippy. But I’ve lost many a time to a cocky kid with a great deck — this time, I stole a victory and perhaps gave him a slight measure of understanding of the game.

‘Twas nice.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]StarCityGames.com
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