I’m a middling Magic player. I haven’t played on the Pro Tour and haven’t tried a PT qualifier, but I have been contemplating that and how I would approach it. It might be an experience to go there with many others. I’ll just go and see what it is like. It could be something more, but if that’s the case then I want to know what I’m doing and what the commitment is. I do know that if you want to win, it takes a lot…
Guys at the top who win are immersed in the game. I’m getting there. I’m trying to know them. A few weeks back I pretended that I knew a little bit about some guys like Finkel and Flores. Then Flores returned to writing for the Dojo, and his work was so detailed and well thought out, complete scads above my own, I felt like a fool for even attempting such an idea. (With Sullivan, Flores, and co. the Dojo is well worth reading again by the way.) (Most definitely – kudos to Chris Senhouse! –The Ferrett) I wrote Mr. Flores, who doesn’t know me from Adam, and apologized for trying to take a peek into what his mind might even be like. I’m feeling a bit better now about the general ideas that I presented then, but I’d just like to take the time to make it clear. Mike Flores is a great deck builder, one of the best, and his knowledge of the game is probably a whole lot better than most folks and mine. He’s also one of the top writers on the subject with, it seems, a grand sense of humor. Read him…
The Right Brain
"Luke, let go… use the Force" Obi Wan
For anyone that’s on the track leading to playing at the higher levels of Magic, let me suggest that you read Scott Johns PT: NY article on Mindripper.
Johns claims to a sort of recent epiphany of playing at the highest level, where the game moves from conscious analytical to intuitive "art." This was something that I was trying to point to previously, and perhaps a bit of how to get there. The idea smacks of another film, "The Karate Kid," where after Mr. Myogi has Daniel do a bunch of "dumb" exercises like "Paint the fence," "Sand the deck," and "Wax on, wax off," in strange ways, Daniel realizes finally in a flash of insight that those "dumb" repetitions were a foundation for the "art" of karate. Scott Johns made a similar revelation; After going through the mechanics of playing for so long, he made a breakthrough in the link between his conscious and unconscious Magic "selves," and the game for him has proceeded from the mechanics of rote memory to the "art" of intuitive play… and he knows that he’s playing better. That is what one has to achieve if you want to be more than a good player and move into greatness. Some have it quite easily and naturally. I recently was reading someone’s article about how they practiced very little but went to a PT, were quite relaxed, had fun, and did very well. I think Johns will find that since his epiphany, he will be much more relaxed and that the game will be more fun, he’ll make less mistakes… in short, everything will be better.
I think most folks hit the tourney scene and have the fun sapped out of the game because they are tense about performing. They cannot "let go" into a zone of comfort and that tension becomes the very real thing that weighs them down. It took Johns years of playing by "mechanics" to make that breakthrough. If I’m going to try the qualifiers I’d like to shortcut some of that with a little insight. Still the rote learning is daunting enough, MUST be done, and it’s a bit why I theorized that perhaps deckbuilding and playing were possibly divergent paths. They are related but at the same time different, and if you want to be a player then you need to play.
I’m trying to decide if I’m perhaps not a bit too much of a deckbuilder that likes to do weird things to win and risk losing too much in the process. I’m guessing I’m naturally more "Friggin Rizzo" than Finkel and that’s what is making my choice uneasy. In the end I should probably not even make a choice but just "Do or do not."
Upstairs Wednesday Night Grand Melee
This was the old days when about eight to twelve guys would come over, and dueling was relegated to those who had got bounced from the Grand Melee early. It was great fun. So let me rehash some more. In that article a few weeks back I touched a chord with the Ferrett that seemed to launch through a bit of Magic’s web-based writing community. (And ye Gods, do I wish I’d gotten that column right the first time – The Ferrett, vowing to never again write a hasty column to fill in an otherwise content-light day) In it, I suggested that the "company" should do more to support the multiplayer game in the form of more organized competitions. This touched off the old debate of fun vs. competition, which made a small reverberation. The Ferrett made some great points about the meeting of competition and fun and made me rethink my position somewhat or more specifically want to restate it. (Hey, if we were some ancient Greeks, we’d have to now go out and perhaps argue the point to near-intoxication.)
One part of this was that I wanted Wizards to take up something that I should actually do on my own, which is to organize some melee magic. One part is that I think it could make a good tool for teaching the novice how to play. Of course, that takes some willing souls with a knack for teaching. One part was that I thought it might be, with some rules, a bit less likely to be dominated by a few folks as was the problem originally detailed to me by my good friend Greg Smith. I like tournaments, for I’ve become fearless in losing – but in that I think I’m in a minority. No one wants to get their head bashed in week after week. So after the failure of several attempts by the "company" to have a casual environment, I’m going to posit my solution one more time:
Guys. Fellas. Since you have rankings, you need to use a handicap system to make things "more equal" between the newcomer and Joe Powergamer playing FNM with a DCI rating of 1800 plus. An example would be that you would start games with altered life totals, give the lower-ranked player more cards and the higher-ranked player less, perhaps let the lower guy go first and draw for every game win or lose – or a combination of the above. Shrink the K value even further (even though I believe that it’s incredibly low now, right?) because after all it’s just for fun, right? I think the challenge of winning under those circumstances should benefit Joe P, and hopefully enough of the "newbies" win that they keep coming back to the tourneys and aren’t run off from the game.
To Port or not to Port
Greg Smith, David Sutcliffe, and I are trading emails on deck building when we get to discussing some of the recent past standards like Port, Tangle Wire, and Parallax Tide, and how they are going to work in the Invasion era. First off, Tide was always a very specialized card that only appeared in Replenish and Ankh Tide decks. After that we moved to Wire and Port, and David and I met in debate. We, and others, believe that the environment is slower and less explosive. What does that do to the "power" of these cards? We pretty much agreed that Tangle Wire is just plainly less effective, since there is less to do early and less of a fear of getting combo’d out on turn 4. More often than not, it’s not giving the advantage that it once did. It runs out too quickly, and recovery is much easier to accomplish than it was during the Masques era. Late game, it is quite a dead card.
Port was a differing question where David and I disagreed. I applied the same above logic to Port. It’s not as powerful in the early game. Its other power would be to prevent the multicolor player from achieving two or more colors – this and the Waters soft lock were the two main reasons it was a powerhouse in MBC, and finally banned. I believe that things have changed as well on this front, too. With Invasion, the "tapped" lands of Invasion (like Coastal Tower) are added to the "pain" multilands in 6th edition, like Adarkar Wastes. In my opinion that makes Port less powerful, because where it once had parity with allied multilands, it is now outnumbered two to one. It becomes a lot less likely that you will cut a player off from a color in a significant way. This is compounded by the proliferation of green mana-producing creatures. To top that off, there is now the chance that someone will be playing Tsabo’s Web or Teferi’s Response and you can get screwed by some hate for the card. I concluded that Port isn’t what it was…but make no mistake, it still has a place. Hate for it is kind of limited, and since it can be useful as a land it is rarely bad. David thought that is has gained in power with the multicolored nature of the environment. It can and will cut people off from colors in a much more multicolored environment, the threat of hate is not all that much, and that it appears that City of Brass will be prevalent enough that it will get you some dirty damage on occasion.
Invasion Era Zur’s Temple
Again I’ll rehash (pretty soon I’ll be showing you my "Wayback" machine!) an old topic.
4x Zur’s Weirding
1x Seal of Cleansing
2x Memory Lapse
3x Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
1x Ramosian Sky Marshal
1x Thermal Glider
1x Nightwind Glider
1x Lin-Sivvi, Defiant Hero
2x Defiant Falcon
4x Ramosian Sergeant
4x Rejuvenation Chamber
4x Fact or Fiction
2x Enlightened Tutor
3x Parallax Wave
1x Teferi’s Moat
I think this version is superior to the one I had during Masques. Hanna really makes it go. With her, any enchantment that gets smacked by your opponent can be recurred. I think that this will be the backbone of some U/W control decks, and I’ve used it here. Since the environment is slowed, counters have gained in power, especially in the Zur’s scenario. Both Hanna and the Rebels skirt the Weirding, as does Fact or Fiction. The recurring lifegain that you can get from the Rejuvenation Chambers will cut off opponent’s cards.
I consider myself a pioneer of this deck and a, one of its foremost players. That admission tells you what I was doing during the Masques era – playing an inferior deck. It had a moment when both Replenish and Bargain were popular, as it beat those decks…. But that waned quite quickly.
As of this point is looks like the only combo/neo-combo deck that is on the edge of the collective Magic consciousness, so I’ll give my opinion on how this deck looks as an option…
I don’t know.
It should have gained with the slower environment but that is offset by what should be a plethora of green mana critters, Disenchants, and racing Armageddons. It can work, though. Chris Cade came up with Parallax Prison, a U/B version which was a response, in part, to mana-critter green decks during Masques. That might work here as well. U/W also has strong merit, with Enlightened Tutor and Hanna’s ability to recur the necessary parts, along with the control of Parallax Wave…or you could move straight to Wrath of God. After all the time I spent on the deck, I’m not working on it now… but I guess I’m thinking about it now…
Some people are posting their November era Invasion-inclusive constructions, but I’m guessing that there is a lot of unseen tech that is humming the net now and isn’t seeing print. That will break real quick in November, and we’ll have a real deluge of decks to choose among from that point on. Invasion is bending and breaking old rules of convention about the environment, and looks like it will severely shake up the metagame and many metagame conventions.
I’ve seen few impressive November decks yet, although Meddish’s builds looked intriguing (is that scary or what!?). So far BlackenedFish with Vodalian Zombie and the Lord looks like a pretty safe bet to be good (I was fooling with U/B discard and it PUMMELED that one, a deck that I hadn’t lost with.) I played against an interesting 5cG deck but dropped it with discard. Look for Wash Out to be a sleeper card of the set as it can actually stall the Blasty and gives Blue something for the Rebel chain. I’m going to work on both U/B and U/W Ankh Tide decks and probably talk about them next week.
Born of Dear October
Like throwing your hand into the wind
unclutching of seeds and dust ago
life times itself out
and sounds never far in your ear
with silence still a thing with a voice
born of dear October
where words still somehow "worm off the pages"
and the stars familiar shine
and sometimes you can see your breath