Mixed kNuts: Houston, We Have a Problem

Today, I’m going to do some initial analysis of what went down at U.S. and Canadian Regionals. I will also regale you with some of the better stories that came out of my own Regionals experience before shifting gears into the usual (and sorely neglected) Mixed kNuts treatment. But first I get to do something I’ve never done before – I’m going to play chicken little and tell you why I think Skullclamp is likely to get banned.

Today, I’m going to do some initial analysis of what went down at U.S. and Canadian Regionals. I will also regale you with some of the better stories that came out of my own Regionals experience before shifting gears into the usual (and sorely neglected) Mixed kNuts treatment. But first I get to do something I’ve never done before – namely, talk about the”B” and the”R” words with regard to Type Two.

Usually when I want to prove a point, I tend to include lots of numbers to obfuscate my argument. Don’t agree with what I have to say? Well, I have numbers, so nyah! My numbers don’t agree with what I have to say? Lies! The numbers always agree and never lie! (Mostly.)

So, uh… Let’s start with some numbers!

2003 – Numbers From Eleven U.S. Regionals

25% – U/G

16% – Wake

2002 – Numbers From My Regionals Roundup Article

R/G – 21.3

Tog – 18.6

U/G/R – 14.2

U/G – 13.7

Braids – 10.4

(If you combine the U/G results, you get 28%)

2001 – Brief Analysis from Alex Shvartsman Week in Review

“Based on what is available so far, Nether Go and Fires were probably the most common decks to qualify players for Nationals. A fair amount of U-W, NetherHaups, CounterRebels, and other strategies The Sideboard covered in recent weeks also showed up.”

2000 – Analysis by”Sideboard Staff”

“Of the 138 Nationals-qualifying decks, Replenish shows up the most, at thirty-seven. Next is Accelerated Blue, at twenty-two. There are eighteen Stompy decks, and Control Black and WW Rebels are tied at fourteen. Bargain has eight, Ponza has five, and a number of other decks have fewer.”

Replenish – 26.8%

Accelerated Blue – 16%

Stompy – 13%

Control Black – 10.1%

White Weenie Rebels – 10.2%

So looking at the numbers, the dominant Regionals deck for the last four years (though 2001 isn’t very detailed) has generally come in at less than 30% of top 8 slots.

2004 – Preliminary Numbers


# Ravager


SB Clamp





Northern California



Southern California










Great Lakes




















New England










Canada Pacific



Canada Central



Canada Quebec







Percent of T8 Decks




Now, these numbers are preliminary because all the data isn’t in yet, but everything that I’ve seen suggests that the trends are universal. Ravager took 56% of top 8 slots, and the average number of decks packing four Skullclamps in the top 8 is a ridiculous 72%. If you include the decks packing Clamps in sideboards, you end up with a whopping 75%.

For a while this afternoon, I thought that I was going overboard with my estimations of the effect Affinity and Skullclamp had on the environment, but then I ran the numbers and realized how ridiculous they are.

What Does It Mean?

It’s a little hard to judge at the moment because this sort of dominance is unprecedented in recent Regionals history (I only have data for the last four years here). Psychatog was this dominant in the Type Two format at Worlds two years ago, but Wizards knew that Invasion Block was going to rotate out of the format shortly, and many of the best engine cards from ‘Tog would be gutted (Fact or Fiction, Nightscape Familiar, Flametongue Kavu), resulting in a deck that was still strong but no longer overwhelming . There will be no such rotation this time.

To give a recent parallel from the Pro Tour, PT: New Orleans 2003 featured seven Tinker decks in the top 8, resulting in large swathes of that deck being neutered (Tinker, Grim Monolith, Ancient Tomb). So we know that seven out of eight in the top 8 of a Pro Tour will definitely get you some bannings in Extended, especially if the deck in question is a combo deck with a regular turn 3 kill.

The question is, what gets you banned in Type Two?

Well, the last Type Two bannings came out of combo winter in 1999, where the completely broken Memory Jar, Tolarian Academy, etc nastiness occurred. That was five years ago, before R&D was doing heavy playtesting prior to releasing new sets. We have not seen a Type Two banning in the modern era of R&D – though as I stated earlier, a good case could have been made for ‘Tog in 2002. This leaves us in new territory.

What Gets Banned and Why?

Unfortunately, you can’t verify this anywhere, but Ravager certainly didn’t look like it comprised fifty or sixty percent of the decks in the field at Mid-Atlantic Regionals. If it did, then we’d merely be seeing a proportional representation of the deck in the top 8, which would mean banning probably isn’t necessary (though Ravager would remain disturbing simply because it constrains alternative deck design, though Zvi rightly points out that this isn’t usually a good enough reason for banning).

But as far as I can tell, I think Ravager represented closer to 40% of the Regionals field. If this is true, that means the deck outperformed its proportion by a significant degree – something that hasn’t been seen for at least the last five years. U/G certainly didn’t do it last year…

Ravager Affinity is blisteringly fast (for Type Two) and surprisingly consistent for a deck that only runs sixteen to twenty lands. It is also powerful enough to fight through dedicated hate decks, which is a little alarming. The deck I played at Regionals has a very strong matchup against Ravager, but winning against a good Ravager player still depends on drawing an Oxidize/Wing Shards, following it up with an immediate Wrath of God, and then either another Wrath or an Akroma’s Vengeance. If you miss a land drop or draw a Wrath a turn late, you will die to a good Ravager draw; it’s that simple.

What this means is that any new deck that is developed has to do one of two things: It either has to destroy Ravager through hate (which, as I’ve already stated, is difficult to do consistently, and naturally weakens a deck against other archetypes) or it has to win before the Affinity player does. Fifth Dawn has been touted as a combo set, but in order for a new combo deck to compete, it would have to have a fundamental turn of four, and it would have to avoid being disrupted by the natural artifact hate in the environment.

Given previous statements from R&D about their concern with combo decks as a whole, I’d be a little surprised if they presented us with a combo deck that was able to win consistently (say 50% of the time) on turn 4, and I’d be even more surprised if it were able to succeed in an anti-Ravager/anti-artifact environment. Combine that with the fact that they already overcosted a possible answer to part of the problem in Aether Snap, and the fact that there are already enough good artifact kill spells in the environment to choke a small horse, and I think you’ll see where this leads.

Skullclamp has got to go.

Why the Clamp? Quite frankly, because it’s broken. For an investment of one card and X+1 mana, you are able to turn X one-toughness creature into X times two cards. If you have a method to sacrifice creatures (as both Goblins and Ravager do), you can remove the”one-toughness” clause from the earlier statement and come up with x mana + x creatures = 2x cards. In our game, that equation is broken, and I wouldn’t be remotely surprised to see some enterprising Type One player figure out a consistent turn 2 or 3 combo deck from it.

Skullclamp is the catalyst that lets Ravager Affinity explode into regular turn 4 kills, lets it recover from hate, and makes certain that control decks are always on their back foot when playing against this deck. Simply put, Skullclamp prevents the possibility that Ravager decks can be hated out of the environment. If the current trends hold up and Clamp appears in 65% to 75% of the top 8 decks, I think there’s little question that it should be banned.

To go back to the data above, six out of every eight decks in the top 8s of U.S. and Canadian Regionals played a set of four Clamps. The new rule here? Play Skullclamp, or go home.

Does Arcbound Ravager Have To Go As Well?

This is a much tougher and more controversial question than the Skullclamp one. I was talking to Zvi about this issue earlier, and he said that it’s much tougher to justify quashing a creature, particularly one that has been declared fully-tested with the likely combo cards, and given a clean bill of health.

First, you have to assume that Clamp will be banned. If it is, what happens to the Ravager deck? Does it suddenly decrease in power level enough to open up the metagame, or is it still a ridiculous deck that has the best (and most consistent)”I Win” draw in modern times? My opinion is that even if Clamp is banned, Ravager will remain too powerful, and here’s why.

When Skullclamp disappears, Ravager decks will simply add Thirst for Knowledge and Chrome Mox to replace the lost card drawing. Will they be as good as before? No – but they’ll still be plenty good enough to rule the environment. As was shown at States, Affinity was a very strong mechanic before Darksteel appeared, but the Modular mechanic (and Arcbound Ravager in specific) broke things in half. Now there are plenty of people who won’t agree with this assessment, and right now, I don’t have any playtesting data to back things up, it’s more of a gut feeling, and my feeling says Ravager Affinity will remain ridiculous without Skullclamp.

There are two separate bannings that would neuter Ravager decks enough to make the rest of the field competitive again. The first one is Ravager itself, while the second card to get rid of is Disciple of the Vault. Without Disciple, Ravager decks lose their ability to combo someone out, and their fundamental turn increases by about .75. It also takes away the pain from Akroma’s Vengeancing away the board, meaning control decks once again become stronger. I think it’s highly unlikely that you’ll see Disciple get the boot before Ravager, but in my mind getting rid of”The Little Cleric That Could, Did, and Will Do It Again” would definitely knock the power level of Ravager decks down a notch.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit that Ravager decks are beatable, but the way the environment exists right now, you either play a Ravager deck, or you play a deck that is solely designed to beat this deck. There is no Rock, Paper, Scissors metagame right now, it’s just Scissors (which cuts through the hate), and everything else trying to keep up.

Is This An Emergency?

The only way that the bannings would affect the various Nationals tournaments around the world is if they were done as emergency bannings, because the next Banned and Restricted List isn’t announced until June 1, and doesn’t take effect until July 1. Randy Buehler has said in the past that he’s pretty resistant to this sort of thing, which is why there has only been one emergency banning in history. The format probably isn’t degenerate enough to warrant any emergency actions, but considering that Affinity will be around for another year and a half, I would be shocked if no bannings whatsoever occurred. Tragically, this means we’ll see the same boring format at U.S. Nationals, but maybe the Pros will spice things up like they did last year.

Then again, that’s just my opinion… I could be wrong.

What Happens Now?

If both Clamp and Ravager get the boot, Broodstar makes a mini-comeback (Affinity as an archetype certainly isn’t going away), Goblins gets a healthy boost, White control and Tooth and Nail get to duke it out for position at the”I have lots of mana” end of the scale, and Fifth Dawn probably shakes up the format like a good third set is supposed to do. Rumors have already been flying that R&D may have left a”mistake” or two in 5D, but I’ll reserve judgment until I get to play the actual cards.

Personally, I’m not a big fan of going back to the old days where White Control was the best deck on the block, but compared to facing 50% Ravager at any given tourney, I’ll definitely accept the former as the lesser of two evils.

If only Clamp gets the boot, then things remain pretty ugly, and the same design constraints will continue to exist, meaning that we’ll be stuck with Ravager decks for pretty much eternity. Make mine Marvel!

If R&D gets really cheeky and decides to ban a goblin as well (Goblin Warchief, Siege-Gang Commander, and Goblin Sharpshooter are all interesting choices), then all hell would break loose, and (if the bannings were emergency and took place in the next month), U.S. and Canadian Nationals would suddenly become very interesting.

The final idea that I think is the least likely would be to neuter Ravager and Goblins, but leave Clamp in place so that other aggro decks can use it.

Whatever the case, the dominance of a single deck at the 2004 Regionals is completely unprecedented over the last five years, and is a very strong indicator that a problem exists, and that something will have to be done to fix things in the near future. Then again, R&D may decided that they don’t mind having one king deck and a bunch of usurpers to the throne. It’s certainly not the sort of environment that they shot for in the past, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be conservative on this issue and wait to see how Fifth Dawn sorts things out.

Random Note From Regionals Data

Apparently there really was a good build of R/G to be found. Go figure…

My Regionals Experience

Alright, now that I’m done playing chicken little *waves cheerfully at Zvi*, I can fill you in (briefly) on what happened to me at Mid-Atlantic Regionals.

I played the W/g control deck that Flores discussed giving up on last week. Apparently I’m stubborn to a fault, and wouldn’t let the deck go because, um, well… Just because, I guess. Jim helped me build the thing the night before and (I can already see Mike saying,”You are so awful, Knutson… you ruined my deck.”), we took out the maindeck Scrabbling Claws and a land (going to twenty-six land) and replaced them with three Solemn Simulacrums and two Damping Matrix. We then shifted around the sideboard to include three Duplicants and three Claws, dropping to two Naturalizes, no Gilded Lights, three Tooth and Nails (probably the right number), and uh, probably something else I’m too lazy to look up.

Do not do what Flores did and cut the Sacred Grounds. I’m not sure what he was smoking, but that was probably the worst cut available to make – and yet poof! There they went…

It was my opinion that the deck was very strong and had a good matchup not only against Affinity (which it does have, believe it or not), but also against Regionals randomness, which is always a big deal for me.

That said, I started out 0-2, losing to the slowest Tooth and Nail player ever, and some little kid playing mono-Red LD. I was absolutely livid at this point, since I hadn’t screwed up in my games, I just got shafted. Weeks of actual playtesting down the drain to the first two rounds facing 1600 players. Fan-f**king-tastico. What to do now? I could always just drop and root for friends, or I could play a little more and see if the deck was really as bad as its record. I chose to play, but not before informing Jim that I’d be ready to leave after my next loss.

Then I went 7-0-1, earning nine hours worth of curses from my one of my closest friends… Good times, good times.

Random notes from the tournament:

  • I played against Tony Vicario in round eight or so. Now Tony was playing Astral Slide – and having talked a lot about this matchup with Flores, I knew the right tactics to earn me a win here. In game 1, I started out both land- and dragon-screwed, while Tony attacked me a few turns with an Exalted Angel (thus giving me a huge advantage with Pulse of the Fields), and kept playing out a single Lightning Rift at a time, which I responded to by Vengeancing them away (after I drew out of my land issues). Tony clearly didn’t know he was supposed to hold Rifts in his hand, which meant I had a good chance to win the match… Until I got stoopid and started attacking him, thus negating my Pulse advantage. Sigh. Eventually I lost game 1 with seven minutes left in the round, when I should have conceded much earlier – as soon as I realized my tactical mistake would probably cost me the game.

However… Those who have played the deck know that there is a nice backup plan. I started out game 2 with all lands and no pressure. Tony attacked me once with an Exalted Angel, but I got rid of it, and he was content to chill since he had an Obliterate and a land in his hand and seven mana already on the table. In his mind, there was literally nothing I could cast that would trouble him… Until I plopped a Temple of the False God on the table, tapped nine mana, and slapped down Tooth and Nail with Entwine, fetching a Darksteel Colossus and Akroma, Angel of Boobs. Bam! He Wrathed Akroma away, but I plucked another Tooth off the top like a champeen, and smacked him again, earning myself a draw exactly as time was called on the round. Needless to say, Tony was a little miffed at me, and didn’t appreciate my recounting the tale to the Richmond crew every time he was around.

  • In round 10 I played a swell fellow by the name of Chris Kerr, who managed to destroy sixteen of my lands in game 2, but could not manage to stop me from killing him with a hard-cast Akroma for the win. Thank you, Eternal Dragon! I actually had a small audience for this game, but none of them could really understand why I sided in Scrabbling Claws for this matchup. My thought on the Claws were that they cycled, which was a helluva lot better than leaving four dead Oxidize and two dead Damping Matrices in the deck. This was also the match where fatigue really started to set in for both players, as Chris killed one of my lands with Sacred Ground on the board, and I actually forgot to attack with Akroma directly after casting her. Nice work, Knutson, real clever…

  • I faced Vishu Doshi in round 11, who handed me my first Ravager loss of the day (I went 3-1 versus Affinity) with an insane draw game 1, and a five-card hand for me in game 2. In all honesty, all I wanted to do was split with him so that I could assure myself of prizes (which were awarded down to 44th place), since I had abysmal tiebreakers, and knew I might not get any prize if we didn’t split. However, since this was a John Carter event (whom I actually like), splits after round 1 were not allowed (which I detest). So I lost to Vishu, finished at 7-3-1, which equated to… 47th place. Two years ago I finished 28th, when prizes were awarded down to 27th. At 2002 States I finished in 9th and received no prizes at all. I think I have minor-league Krempels syndrome or something.

  • A member of my local play crew qualified again this year – except instead of Jim, this time the Nationals competitor was none other than Andy”Herr Beano” Hall. This junior Prince of Beatdown only managed to pickup Ravager Affinity the night before the tournament before piloting it to a 9-1-1 record on the day. Since we stopped letting him play control decks, all Gibb does is win. Congrats as well to Hal White for winning the whole thing, Ian Bennet for a brutal ninth-place finish, and John Matthew Upton, for taking bad cards and making strangely good decks.

  • Pulse of the Fields may be the most annoying card in existence. I swear I gained at least eighty points of life in one game against Slide, and probably gained three or four hundred extra life over the course of the day. Then again, John Matthew kept going to”yay” life with his deck, so my three hundred is pretty unimpressive.

Okay, story time…

One of my friends was in the downstairs bathroom at the Best Western Slum, Conference Center, and Greyhound Bus Terminal, dropping a deuce and possibly rolling something smoky at the same time. (Do you know where your friends roll their smokes?)

A few stalls over, he hears a lot of grunting and groaning, but finishes his business and exits the bathroom, forgetting the whole thing… Until a couple of hours later, we’re all sitting around waiting for the next round to begin, when another friend brings up the fact that he overheard two guys getting some man-lovin’ on in that same bathroom earlier.

At this point, unknowing friend asks,”How did you know it was two guys getting it on?”

“I heard the guys say ‘Deeper, yeah… just like that’ and ‘Naw, man, I don’t get down like that’.”

“Oh my God, I did hear that, but I didn’t pay attention. I just thought it was some dude having a really hard time dropping a load. I sat there dropping bombs while two guys got it on in the stalls right by me! I think I’m scarred for life!”

This story was confirmed by at least three other individuals, since someone thought it would be funny to send their friends into the bathroom during this time to get an earful. Thankfully, I was upstairs playing the whole time.

And you thought your Regionals bathrooms were bad…

The Kitchen Sink

I don’t know who redesigned the Sideboard page on magicthegathering.com, but whoever did it destroyed the old archived articles and put a craptastic search feature in place that is beyond awful. Instead of returning the results I’m looking for, it gives me seemingly random data that is never useful when I’m looking for specific articles. Additionally, when I want to look for articles by specific authors, it seems to pull up every single time that name has appeared in match coverage as well, which is extremely annoying, since Gary Wise has only been in every friggin’ Pro Tour imaginable.

Since the search feature is so bad, I’ve been reduced to going through the old sideboard.com archives on archive.org – which is fine, I guess, except searching via that method is slow as molasses and is missing about a third of the damned articles you want to read. If anybody who works on MTG.com is reading this, please fix it as soon as possible. There were too many good articles on that site to have them essentially lost to an awful search engine.

(I completely agree – The Ferrett, who occasionally searches himself for sumpin’)

(And for some reason searching for them via the”site:” on Google doesn’t seem to work any longer either. What gives?)

If I was Daniel Myers, I would have found”an opportunity to work on a cool project with another company that I can’t pass up” a lot sooner. Best of luck with that… you can be assured that whatever it is, it works better than Magic Online does. [Abstaining from political joke here. Courteously.]

This doesn’t even need a caption, except maybe to wonder if he’s got a catheter hooked up somewhere in that rig.

I was going to post this as my newest extremely guilty pleasure anyway, but then Flores sent me his own pic (apparently found by the eternally grumpy Rabbit) that is even more guilty and pleasurable and shows things that Ferrett won’t let me publish. Email me (or Flores… he loves e-mail) for details, if you’re old enough. She was just seventeeeeen, if you know what I meeean…

(To be fair, if anyone wants the latest pics of Charisma Carpenter, they can check their newsstand any day now. – The Ferrett)

And while dealing with the touch of the younger kind (no, I’m not posting Olsen twin pictures), I figure I should help my buddy Sheldon out and post this incredible piece of va-va-voom!

Yeah, I feel bad for being attracted to girls under twenty, but if my wife ever leaves me (which is certain to happen sooner or later because, hey, I like football, and porno, and books about war), I’m going right back to college, and not even giving it a second thought. Helllllooooooo coeds!

Besides, if you think I’m bad, ask half the guys who write for this site what they think of the girl who plays Hermione in the Harry Potter movie.

I take it the sound of those crickets chirping means you’re guilty as well…

On the other hand, I will use any excuse possible to get more pics of Kate Beckinsdale (and Josie Maran) into this column. Ree-diculous!

This is an actual quote from my ninth round opponent, as posted in our forums:”I left at 7-3 at the mid atlantic regionals because my ride was leaving but at least I got to play ole Knutson. Hes not what his picture would let you think, hes kinda short and kinda fat, wears glasses and has that quiet lisp sorta like mike tyson. hes also not as funny as his articles would let you think either.”

Apparently to certain people, I look like George Costanza and sound like Iron Mike. Go figure. At least he got part of it right… I’m not funny.

Now let me get this straight… Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, and Uma Thurman all broke up with their husbands because they were being cheated on? Is this even possible? I would think that if you married any one of these women, you’d place a chastity belt on yourself and give your wife the only key.”Oh, hot girl wants to sleep with me… sorry, I’m married to Halle f***ing Berry, I’m gonna have to pass.”

Yes, yes, I know that men aren’t bred to be monogamous, but exceptions exist, people. Buy some porn, love your supermodel wife, have beautiful babies, and thank God every damned morning that you got so lucky. I know I do.

Ben Affleck looks mah-velous!

Alright, random poll time: Who’s hotter… Janeane Garafalo or Tina Fey? Personally, I see this one as a toss-up, but I’m willing to listen to arguments on both sides.

Oh my God, it’s the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak!

Random Editorial Irritations (and just to clarify, I ain’t mad atcha; this is just stuff that comes up all the time):

1) A surprisingly large percentage of you still don’t know the difference between rogue and rouge.

2) There are no creatures of Tel-Jihad in Mirrodin Block. Honest.

3) In spite of six months of harping against it, people still start a lot of sentences in the same article with”and” or”but.” And they still spell a lot”alot.”

4) I actually had to send out multiple e-mails this week instructing folks that we only accept articles that include capitalization, punctuation, proper spelling, and complete sentences. Seriously.

5) Everyone still insists on using ALLCAPS. I think it’s just a conspiracy to wear down my resistance to the silliness, but I’m far more stubborn than I look.

6) When did we stop writing color archetypes as U/G and start putting them UG, U-G, Blue-Green, etc? Did I miss the memo on this one? Use the forward slash people… I know yer all rebel Linux and Max users anyway, you’d think our people would be hip to this hop, yo.

7) It’s Regionals time, which means I’m less communicative than normal. If I don’t get back to you on something, I apologize, but right now there are a limited amount of hours in the day.

This remains one of the more amusing pictures I’ve seen in the last three months.

After seeing pictures of Charisma Carpenter’s Playboy shoot, I think I can now definitively say that they are real and they are fantastic, as is she. Have you seen those legs? Dear God, those could kill a man! (And what a wonderful death it would be.)

For those who are unaware, Darth Junior (A.K.A. P-diddy Hoefling, A.K.A. The Man That’s Never Seen the Godfather) got hitched a couple of weekends ago. Yes, I know many of you may find that shocking, but a lovely woman with more heart than sense took the Dark Lord as her husband. Take heart, young gamers, hope is not lost!

Contrary to popular reports, this is not Pete’s bride, but merely”The Bride.”

Bleiweiss may have said this in his LiveJournal about Pete’s bride:”Crystal is Pete’s first cousin from West Virginia.” He may or may not have been kidding.

Hmm… I’m suddenly wondering if I’ll still have a job tomorrow. Alas, I must press on. Getting Poitr completely sh**faced at his bachelor party was not enough.

And yet… Now that I think of it, Crystal is the one who signs and sends my checks on time. I hereby rescind every bad thing I said above. You guys are swell! Congrats to the happy couple!

All right – time to wrap this up, kiddies. Until next time, remember,”If ya hold the head steady Ima milk the cow!”

Ted Knutson

The Holy Kanoot

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