A note about my move
Do not adjust your monitor; you’re still at Star City, and now so am I. I plan to stay here, too, at least until the Ferrett or Pete give me the boot. The reason I made the move is three-fold, I guess:
1) I want to be a Featured Writer, and as such I hope to one day be compensated for it. To me, compensation is a strong indicator that people think that your work is really worthwhile.
2) I could end up being a compensated Featured Writer at Brainburst, but only if I published for their Premium side. Unfortunately, I do not want to publish for any Premium side.
3) I wanted to work with the Rodent-in-Chief over here at Star City. (Rodent in Chief? And Flores says they don’t take me seriously – The Ferrett, waving hello at Ted)
So those are my reasons. I was one of the first Premium members over at Brainburst, and will continue to be one. I even think that Scott and Chedy (who have been completely cool throughout) are doing the right things over at their site; I simply couldn’t reconcile writing for the premium audience alone and achieving my goals. So there you have it – it ended up being a simple matter of choice on my part and is no big deal.
It has taken me a while to get around to writing this article. Not because I haven’t had the time (I’ve written two other articles already that you may see soon), but mostly because I couldn’t get up for it and Viagra wasn’t helping. Writing this article was feeling like work, and I already work my 40+ hour weeks – why should I want to do extra work in my off-time? Why should you care what happened at U.S. Regionals anymore? They’re gone, poof, goodbye, good riddance. The only people that should really care about Standard at the moment are those that are qualified for their countries’ Nationals (not me) and the die-hard Friday Night Magic player (oh, wait; I’m one of those too). Besides, I promised to review my Regionals predictions in the round-up article, and I hate making fun of myself on cue (then again, if I had been correct I wouldn’t have to tear myself down. Lessons to remember…)
So there I was, avoiding this work by writing other things (and mailing cards – soooo many cards) when I finally sat down and started reading through the Judgment Spoiler. By the end of it, I felt like Susan Sarandon did in Bull Durham after Kevin Costner gives his little speech about”long, slow, wet kisses that last three days.”
Oh my… what a large – ahem – amount of brokenness you have, Mr. Judgment.
The spoiler got me thinking about ways to break Judgment, which in turn got me thinking about Standard again, which in turn landed me right back at writing this article.
The lessons of the future are firmly grounded in the details of the past.
The Breakdown (blatantly swiped from the Sideboard):
Red-Green Beatdown: 39 (13 splashing black and 5 splashing white mostly for Mystic Enforcer)
Braids (including Black-Green, Black-White, and Black-Green-Red variants): 19
Red-White-Blue (Star-Spangled Slaughter): 7
Black Control: 6
Mystic Enforcer: 5
Wild Research: 2
Bridge Decks: 2
Black Control: 3.3
Wild Research: 1.1
Bridge Decks: 1.1
These numbers include all but two Regions that participated in North American Regionals, which means I’m missing about 9% of the results. Before I get to the meaty analysis part, I’ll take a moment to review my predictions:
(Aside: I am not an expert in anything. Real experts don’t make predictions; they tell you probabilities and then they point to variations in the expected vs. actual data to explain why things didn’t turn out with the most probable outcome. I could do that, but it wouldn’t be terribly interesting. I already have flashback nightmares from my grad school statistics courses, and there’s no reason the rest of you should suffer. However, since I’m choosing to go balls-out and make actual predictions – and will continue to do so – I will frequently be wrong. I’m okay with that though, because it just makes it that much more entertaining to make fun of myself afterwards.)
- Instant-speed burn and creature removal will play a more important role this weekend than anyone has talked about. Haste is going to be a method that the best R/G decks use to get around Chainer’s Edict, and it seems like fully half the best creatures in the environment have butts of one or two (with Braids, Shades, Ichorids, Birds, Elves, Lynxes, Rootwallas, FTKs, and Werebears representing the tip of the proverbial iceberg). If you play a deck that is able to efficiently deal with one-toughness creatures, you will drastically improve your chances of winning.
- Enchantments and the ability to deal with them will be another important and understated theme. There aren’t a lot of great enchantments in the environment, but there are enough power enchantments out there (Teferi’s Moat, Opposition, Zombie Infestation, CoPs, Squirrel Nest) that if your deck can’t deal with them, you will probably lose to them.
- Braids/x will qualify more people than any other deck. It is that good, and it is that popular, in spite of the fact that it is also receiving a lot of backlash because people are sick of it. I still think the best variant of this deck is B/G, and at this point I’m basing that assessment on a mountain of playtesting results. Whether people will have enough confidence to show up with it is out of my hands.
Yep, I was right. R/G and U/G/R combined to steal 35.5% of the qualifying slots. A surprising number of the R/G decks included Violent Eruption and Fire/Ice, which means they were paying close attention to the metagame in the weeks leading up to Regionals and made the right call.
I’m thinking I missed the boat on this one. There were assorted enchantments like Opposition, Squirrel Nest, and Goblin Trenches in various Top 8s… But not enough to be significant. Not only that, but most decks didn’t seem to have any enchantment removal hanging out in their maindecks or their sideboards. Judgment should change this.
All right, people – what the hell happened to Braids?!? It is still a good deck… So where did all those people who thought about playing Braids disappear to? If you opted to play ‘Tog instead, then I salute you… But if you weenied out and went with R/G, I hope you went home with your tail between your legs.
At least I was correct in tabbing B/G as the best variant of the deck.
I hadn’t realized that the backlash against Braids was quite as strong as it turned out to be. Apparently, a lot of people who got beat by this deck when they were testing decided that they hated it too much to play it themselves. That, or nobody felt like paying exorbitant prices for Nantuko Shades. Whatever the case, I know that I saw a lot fewer Braids decks running around in Baltimore than I expected and have heard reports like that from across the nation(s). It’s not that Braids is a bad deck; people simply chose not to play it.
4) R/G, Tog, and U/G Upheaval decks will round out the top four most popular decks, but there will be a LOT of rogue decks that qualify. Assuming that all decks not listed in the Top four are considered”rogue”, I’ll say 25% or more of the qualifying decks will be rogue.
I almost got this one right – and I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn’t been for those blasted kids. Or in this case, the Kibler elf. The R/G/U madness deck that Flores talks about in his article is the best deck to come out of Regionals, and qualified a ridiculous amount of people for being a relative unknown going into the tournament. Also, I know that a lot of you aren’t lucky enough to receive decks dropped in your lap by one of the top Constructed designers in the world, so you deserve full credit for putting together similar designs on your own. The combination of undercosted beasties, burn, and card drawing that the archetype gives you (and the sheer speed that it beats with) will make this deck a serious contender in Standard’s near-term future.
There were also a boatload of Rogue designs that qualified people – and if you include the U/G/R decks, the aggregate is well over 25%. This makes for a healthy Standard environment, at least from a diversity standpoint. It’s highly unhealthy if you are trying to wrap your brain around the metagame, though.
- There will not be a new archetype that comes out of Regionals unless you consider decks similar to what I’ll be playing a new archetype. There will be 2000 variations on established themes, but none of them will be truly new .
Kibler’s deck is close enough in the mechanics it abuses to the deck that I played (Smoke and Fog) that I get credit for this one on a technicality.
6) I will make at least two serious play mistakes (and probably closer to six) that cost me a game.
Actually it was closer to 2. I played poorly in my second match of the day and played relatively well from that point forward, particularly if you excuse my ignorant sideboarding.
- I will make some dumb trades (for cards), like I always do. If you have Euro lands for trade and you will be in Baltimore, look me up. Don’t go asking for crappy rares, though, because if I do well I will have none to spare.
This is pretty baffling to me, but I made zero trades on the day. I love trading at big tournaments because the local crowd so rarely have anything worthwhile, but since I played all day at Regionals and ran out in between for food breaks, I never ended up trading for a thing. Oh yeah – and I definitely have no crappy rares to spare. Maybe next year…
Record: 3-4. Not so good, but it was, um, my first tournament predictions. Yeah, that’s the ticket! And I was, uh, chased by wild dogs while making them so I didn’t have much time to think about them. Riiigght. (Gotta love John Lovitz.)
A few themes were made evident after all the results were tallied this year.
Theme 1: Beatdown is Good.
Just look at what qualified. Have you ever seen so much beatdown in your lives? Everything in the top half except Tog is Aggro or Aggro-Control, which means that you either needed to be playing the better Aggro deck, or you needed to be playing a deck that could handle the speed and still win.
Theme 2: Tog is better.
You knew this, right? McKeown told you it wasn’t dead, I told you it wasn’t dead… The little smiley Tog on your cards even spoke up and said”Hey, buddy, don’t write me off just yet.” Love it or hate it, this deck is here to stay and if you can’t beat it you will definitely get pummeled by it. Now, I told you how to beat it before Regionals, but did you listen??? Nope; you left Braids at home and played R/G instead. I’m thinking that Nationals won’t see the same thing happen, as pro players generally favor Control or Aggro-Control.
By the way, if you don’t like ‘Tog, don’t blame me – blame Zev Gurwitz. He’s the kid that gave the deck mouth-to-mouth and revived it so that it Mr. Smiley could step forth and smash faces again. If you would like to send him angry messages and such, his e-mail can be found at the bottom of this article.
Theme 3: Too many people, too few slots.
I have to admit I get really annoyed when I hear that Jim Grimmett played in a Regional over in the UK that qualified 19 of 84 people for their National. That’s 22.6% of the entrants. Most locations in the United States qualified closer to 2% of the entrants for Nationals. Is it just me, or is there something funky about those numbers?
[author name="Bennie Smith"]Bennie Smith[/author] has been complaining for a while (years, actually) about making States more worthwhile by qualifying the top 32 in each state for a Regional Championship, which would in turn qualify people for Nationals. To me, this makes sense, though you still get a population skew that says people in California, Texas, and New York should have a lot more qualifiers for Regionals than anywhere else – and they are getting the shaft if you don’t do that.
Personally, I don’t care how Wizards goes about fixing things, but the system is most certainly broken. I think there either needs to be a second layer of qualifying added on the road to Nationals so that people (like [author name="Will Rieffer"]Will Rieffer[/author]) in the U.S. and Canada don’t have to drive four to six hours to their qualifiers, Or more people need to be able to qualify at each Regional. Just do something. Not that I foresee things changing in the coming years, but as usual, I can whine, bitch, and ask nicely (please?) until they do.
Strange fact: Puerto Rico had more attendees at their event (96) than Vancouver, Canada (90). Both had more than the Bath regional mentioned above.
Theme 4: Judgment will change everything.
I’m not doing a set review because there are plenty of people out there who do them better than I do, and I would find writing one more tedious than I can bear. However, if you haven’t done so, once you get finished reading this article you need to go find a corner, sit your ass down, and spend some quality time with the Spoiler.
Apocalypse was a cool set that had a lot of power, but overall it felt balanced. Judgment doesn’t feel that way at all. Just by looking at the Wishes, Incarnations, and Enchantments you can tell something is going on there… But once you check out the crazy creatures, the strange red punisher cards, and (believe it or not) what they developed for G/W, you will begin to understand that this set might very well be B-R to the old oaken bucket. If, while reading, you find your peepers passing over (shh) Quiet Speculation and Cephalid Constable, quickly avert them. If you read the descriptions on those cards, your mind might just pack up and leave to take up a full-time job in some other state trying to break them.
Wizards deserves full props for making the last two years of Magic into a challenging and competitive environment. The IPA and OTJ cycles have not only been great fun to apply to constructed, but they’ve been a blast to draft as well. I just wanted to say this now in case Judgment makes me change my mind.
Without the excited hyperbole my opinion is this: Judgment will radically affect the Standard environment as we know it. It might even swing it so far that the best archetypes seen in Regionals won’t even bear a resemblance to the best Standard decks to come out Post-Judgment. I doubt that this will be true in every case, but it just might…
Calling Flores and all other Magic Historians
Last week, [author name="Mike Flores"]Mike Flores[/author] took the Ferrett to task for a variety of things – not the least of which was Rizzo’s place in the history of writing about the game. While I didn’t agree with everything that Mike had to say, I thought that he stated his arguments well (as always), and he did seem to have some valid points about the history of the game. If you are a relative newcomer (perhaps defined as post-Dojo), then you probably have no idea who the people that Flores is talking about actually were… And why should you? They don’t write anything relevant to the current environment, so unless someone has actually pointed these articles and tournament reports out to you, you have no reason to go look them up for yourselves.
This made me realize that we currently have a gap in the coverage of the game today. There is no sense of the historic moments, at least not when it comes to the written works of the game. I’m sure that this has occurred to a bunch of you before, but it seems that either no one has done anything about it, or it’s out there but no one talks about it. I’m all for bitching about things, but occasionally it helps to bitch about things constructively, especially when the problem seems to have a ready solution. Time to get out the hammer and wrench and fix things.
There’s no reason not to have a repository of all the great material that has ever been written about the game, whether it’s humorous, serious, a tournament report, strategy, deckbuilding 101, whatever. I want to know the seminal written pieces about the game of Magic (there’s a joke about Sea Men to be had here – but dammit, this is the serious part of the article). All it takes is a link to connect back to the piece, but if those don’t exist, send me the text and perhaps we can find a way to post the article, provided that we get the permission of the original author.
Here’s the call: Send me a link to every article that you consider to be truly amazing that happens to be about the game of Magic. Obviously those of you who have been around for a while should have the longest memories, so hop in your wayback machine and figure out what everyone should be reading from back in the day. You newer people aren’t excluded, though, as the repository is intended to be all-inclusive. If it represents a shining example of how an article about the game or the community should be written, send me a link. If it provides an example as to how all tournament reports should be written, send it to me. If it is the funniest thing ever written about the game of Magic, or is a great retelling of some humorous anecdote relating to the game (see Gary Wise John Shuler story in Flores’ most recent Sideboard article), I want to see it.
When you send your link, please tell me why you feel it is a worthwhile addition to the history of Magic. I will then read all articles and attempt to compile a categorized listing of the worthwhile articles, and even attempt to write a short abstract for each article as well. Obviously this project will entail a ton of work, so if some notable volunteers decided they had time to help (nudges Flores) it would greatly appreciated. At this time I don’t know where the project will be hosted but you’ll be the first to hear about it when I do.
Please send all submissions to [email protected].
That’s it for the round-up, but before I head off into the sunset I’ll leave you with this:
Summer Movies are Coming!
I’m a big movie fan, though I’m not necessarily a fan of Big movies. This summer looks to have an incredible slate of movies that could become instant classics, and I felt it was my duty to share with you the ten movies that I’m most excited about. If movies are not your bag, then feel free to swing on out of here.
Speaking of swinging, how about everybody’s favorite webslinger finally getting his own movie? Oh yeah, and it’s directed by Sam Raimi (Army of Darkness, Darkman). It even gets better, as the you get to see Kirsten Dunst in non teen-flavored fare. Sign my ass up!
2) Star Wars: Episode 2
Okay, let’s just get this out in the air… The first movie sucked. The only good part about the movie was the FX, and if I want FX porn I’ll go watch the (equally frustrating) Final Fantasy movie. However, Episode 2: Attack of the Stoopid Name looks to change all this. They mostly cut out Jar Jar, took the dialogue off stilts, added an extra helping of Natalie Portman, and they might even have a decent plot. The only problem seems to be that Anakin is nearly as whiny and annoying as Luke was in Episode 4. Oh well, you can’t have everything.
If you haven’t seen Memento, then allow me to beat you soundly about the head while driving you to the video store to rent the best movie of last year (no, you can’t borrow my DVD). Then let me tell you that this movie is directed by the same Christopher Nolan that directed Memento. Oh yeah; it also features Al Pacino as the poorly-sleeping protagonist and (believe it or not) Robin Williams as the villain. Toss in some Hillary Swank and a spooky trailer, and you’ve got me hooked.
4) About a Boy
If you haven’t read any of Nick Hornby’s books, then I pity you. Lucky for you though, they generally translate into great movies (High Fidelity, Fever Pitch). This one features Hugh Grant (yeah yeah, I know you all hate Hugh Grant) as a completely unrepentant bachelor playboy that happens to cross paths with a twelve-year-old boy in his quest to pick up women. My guess is that this movie will turn out to be just as good as the other two, but its box office will get crushed under the weight of Spiderman and Episode 2.
5) Austin Powers in Goldmember
Did you see the first two? Expect more of the same, which to me makes this a must-see comedy.
Written and Directed by the same fellow that made Sixth Sense and Unbreakable (which I actually liked), M. Night Shyamalan is back with a movie about crop circles starring Mel Gibson. Night hasn’t really made any mistakes thus far and it doesn’t look like he’ll slip up here, either.
7) Road to Perdition
Tom Hanks as a mob hitman? Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty)? Okay, twist my arm.
8) The Sum of All Fears
I’m that guy that thinks Alec Baldwin made a much better Jack Ryan than Harrison Ford. That said, I don’t think Ben Affleck has the intelligence to pull off Ryan. I’ll go watch the movie anyway, though, just to see if I’m wrong or if they screw up another Clancy book.
9) The Bourne Identity
I liked the first book of Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy, but it’s been ten years since I read it, so the way that movies always gloss over the best parts of book plots won’t annoy me nearly as much as if I just read it. Not only that, but I’m curious to see if Matt Damon can pull off an action flick on his own. Splash in the incredibly cool Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) AND Clive Owen (The Croupier, Gosford Park, and Wing Commander: Privateer 2) and you get a pretty interesting cast around what could be the start of a good series.
Yeah, I’m a sucker for John Woo movies. You should be too.
10a) Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
Because my wife demands that I at least give a nod to the possible female audience. This is what you get for being married and making your wife edit your work.
Other Notables: Scooby Doo, Simone, Minority Report, MIB: 2, One Hour Photo.
That’s a wrap for this week.