Mixed kNuts: Mental Block

Ted gives his usual dose of”strategic excuses to post pictures of scantily-clad women,” discussing Onslaught Block and the futility of his attempts to win at it, and dissecting a recent Roanoke PTQ to see what the field looks like these days.

We interrupt this article for a late-breaking rant:

I’ve avoided this topic for some time because I was giving Wizards, Leaping Lizards, et al the benefit of the doubt, but the grace period on that has passed…

Congratulations to Wizards of the Coast and the MODO 2.0 team for going a long way towards breaking the finest addictive cash cow since some Asian poppy farmer said,”Hey, I wonder what would happen if I were to grind this up and smoke it?” Hell hath no fury like a junkie who’s unable to get his fix because you broke the goddamned program!!!

Ahem. I feel a little better now.

I’d feel a lot better, though, if I could remove the 4-3-2-2 queue from my rectum, but I think Wizards used superglue on that sonuvabitch. Can you at least change it to a 5-3-2-2 queue as a consolation prize for completely screwing up the MODO 2.0″upgrade” and then trying to tell us you are enhancing our gaming pleasure?

I’m not one to call people lying sacks of s**t, but removing elements of consumer choice while telling us you are improving the system, and while decreasing the actual prize payout sure smells like fecal material to me. Did Karl Rove design the upgrade plan or something?

Now that I’m all revved up, let’s take a trip in the wayback machine to February 28th, where Randy Buehler said:

In addition to providing more options for players, we think this new queue will be much less attractive to”sharks.” Many players on Magic Online seem to live in constant fear that they will run into Pro Tour players when they draft, and would have no chance to win… We recognize that this may intimidate some players into avoiding booster draft queues entirely (even if that intimidation isn’t wholly called for) so we’re setting up this new queue with prizes that won’t be nearly as attractive to the Pros.

What an interesting statement… The 4-3-2-2 queue was supposedly developed so that casual drafters could avoid sharks. To rephrase: they created a lesser-paying queue in order to give more casual players a lesser chance of facing Pro players (while making sure you couldn’t know whether you would be facing Pros anymore by introducing queue anonymity, but that’s a story for another time). I was pretty skeptical of Randy’s logic at the time, but again, Wizards has been doing quality work for a while now, and I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.


Their next development was the creation of the 1800 Room and its accompanying 9-5 queues, and the abolition of the 8-4 queue in favor of 100% 4-3-2-2 queues for people rated 1799 or lower (about 90% of the MODO population). They developed a whole new, exclusive room for Pro players, complete with a larger payout, thus creating a massive incentive for those players to draft the 9-5 queue. If players were to simply split in the second and third rounds (not likely, but it could happen), they’d average 3.5 packs each, thus recouping their investment for simply winning one round, while getting a greater payout than all but the winner of the 4-3-2-2 queue. Sounds like it would be pretty easy to go infinite from there, eh? Assuming they ever get to draft in the 1800 room (and with the amount of people qualified for that room, that could be a pretty big assumption), there is practically no incentive for sharks to troll the 4-3-2-2 queue.

And yet the general MODO populace is still stuck with an eleven-pack queue! Why?!? They figured out a very clever method for keeping the sharks away, but then they still removed the twelve-pack 8-4 queue and are forcing people to draft the eleven-pack queue.

Is it so the scrubs can subsidize the new fourteen-pack queue in the 1800 Room? Is it simply an oversight on the fact that they have invalidated their original argument for the 4-3-2-2 queue itself and have yet to rectify the situation? Or is it yet another attempt by a corporation to pad profit margins while hoping their customers will be too busy or too apathetic to notice?

Whatever it is, the rationale we were presented with for the creation of a queue that pays less than twelve packs no longer holds. There is no payout incentive, (repeat: none, zero, zilch) for Pros to draft a twelve-pack queue now. So why is our only choice for sanctioned drafting an eleven-pack queue? And why aren’t you spitting bullets about it?

Anyway, it’s clear that I’m not too busy to notice or to say something about it, and I’m guessing you aren’t either. If you are pissed off by this (and you should be), then start by saying something about it on the StarCityGames boards. Then write to the folks at Wizards and let them know about your complaints. Numerous people continue to take Wizards to task for the unfortunate debacle that is the MODO 2.0 upgrade, but the ridiculousness of the queue situation is probably the foulest-smelling piece of the upgrade, and I’m just not willing to let it slide without making a strong complaint about it.

Unfortunately I have had a difficult time finding actual human beings (attached to e-mail addresses, of course) who might address my complaints, as all communication about MODO seems to be funneled through their message boards where attached Wizards personnel do not leave e-mail addresses through which to be contacted. However, you always have [email protected] to complain to, and [email protected] didn’t bounce, so maybe that’s a good place as well.

Regardless, let ’em know how tired you are of being shafted and treated like you are idiots while still being expected to throw the same money you’ve been throwing at them all along, except now you get lesser service and are forced into fewer prizes. The time for cutting them some slack has passed, it is now time for the MODO folks to stop filling our ears with PR bulls**t and hypocritical arguments and to start making sense.

That’s my opinion, anyway… I could be wrong.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled, well-planned strategic excuse to post pictures of scantily-clad women (well, that’s what Iain Telfer calls them anyway).

Oooo, Block Constructed Season. You can smell it in the air, on your clothes, the aroma of Block Constructed permeates everything that has to do with Magic, and each year it dominates the dreams of PTQers everywhere from late summer to early fall. To some of you, the aroma of Block Constructed may smell like cookies, or your girlfriend’s perfume, or the sweetest, dankest nug of blueberry chronic you’ve ever had the privilege to puff. To my nose, it smells worse than Mid-Atlantic Regionals with no air conditioning during a heat wave.

Why, you ask? Isn’t Constructed supposed to be my bag? Am I not the metagame master, capable of building (or borrowing, or stealing) Constructed decks designed to dominate whatever the field may feature? Well, no, probably not. But if asked, I would definitely say I’m a better Constructed player than Limited. Furthermore, I’d also say that, of all the Constructed formats, Block is probably the simplest of the bunch, and therefore should lend itself readily to my talents and skills. Unfortunately, reality has other thoughts on this matter.

During Invasion Block (my first Block Constructed season), I think I went 7-5, a respectable record for your first time out. Since then (and since becoming a reasonably well-known internet writer) I have compiled an approximate record of 4-14-1. Wait – it gets better! The four wins listed there all came at the first Q I attended for Odyssey Block, where I went 4-3 playing Jeroen Remie (he’s so passe) U/G Worlds deck. Since that tournament I’m something like 0-11-1 in four Block Constructed tournaments, including an 0-4 this past weekend.

Excuse me while I throw up in my mouth.

So what’s the deal? How does someone who has generally proven himself to be good at Constructed events (11-4-3 at Regionals in the last two years, 4-1-1 at 2002 States, consistent money finishes in local $500 tournaments, etc), and who also studies the game intensely, turn in such incredibly awful PTQ results?

I. Don’t. Know.

Seriously, I don’t have a clue. It’s not that I play bad decks, because I don’t. Copies of the exact same decks as the ones I’m playing frequently make the Top 8 (or, in Jimmy Bean’s case, Top 9) of tournaments.

It’s not that I’m making poor metagame calls, because those decks are doing well at the very same tournaments where I’m hitting the Bean Bracket with such ferocity that Mary Jane is now afraid of me and my Spider-Man costume.

It’s not that I’m not preparing for the tournaments, because I’ve practiced the decks that I’m going to play pretty consistently prior to running them at the qualifiers, and I’m playing them precisely because they are winning during playtesting.

The only rationales that I’m left with are a combination of bad luck and awful play, and despite the fact that those aren’t particularly inviting reasons, those are probably the correct answers to the brutal question of”Why do I keep losing?”

This past weekend I lost to Slide in Round 1, after being up a game, because I kept two land hands in Games 2 and 3 and never drew land number 3 in order to start cycling Krosan Tuskers and getting the engine running. I lost Round 2 because I screwed up and didn’t cycle a Krosan Tusker main phase to find and play my sixth land so I could cast the two Infests in my hand and then lay Visara, thus dominating the board.

I lost Round 3 (after staying in the tournament to try and learn some more about the deck and the format) to another Slide deck that outplayed me in Game 1 and then recovered from Head Games in Game 2. I lost Round 4 to Turn 6 Form of the Dragon, Turn 7 Rorix – or, alternatively, Turn 6 Form, Turn 7 Form. For those playing the home game, that’s two losses to poor play and two losses to a bit of tough luck.

The lesson here is clear enough: I suck. You don’t lose go winless for twelve straight matches unless that is the case. But there has to be something more than that… I’ve never gone on an awful streak like this in Standard, nor in Limited. If I scrub out of a Sealed event (a formerly frequent occurrence), I usually win at the draft tables. In Standard events, I just don’t lose like this, so what’s the deal, schlameel? What is this Yin to my Yang?

Perhaps the answer is that I’m playing against my type. Most players have a specific type of deck that they feel more comfortable playing, and they post their best results when playing decks that conform to that type. For example, occasional Pro Magic player (and professional Beano) Andy Gibb has been restricted to playing Aggressive decks at PTQs by his teammates. Gibb tried for the longest time to break out of this mold and play control and combo decks at qualifiers, and he would post respectable records, but we figured out that when playing aggro decks, Gibb became a gold mine for Top 8 appearances.

The question I must now ask is, what is my type? I generally gravitate toward control decks, but that’s often a response to a perceived metagame instead of conscious choice by me to follow my strengths. In the past I’ve posted solid results with sundry aggro and aggro-control decks (Sky Tide, Smoke and Fog), so it’s not like I can’t do well playing various different deck archetypes.

I just can’t do well playing Block.

So, after all that ruminating, what am I going to do? Well, I opened an Eternal Dragon and a Foil Eternal Dragon out of my draft winnings, so maybe that’s a sign to play Maher. Or maybe I should just simplify and choose to tap the little red men instead. Regardless, a twelve-match winless streak means something drastic needs to be done… I just haven’t figured out what that is yet.

Useful Info About Onslaught Block

Okay, enough”I am teh sux0r,” it’s time to give you some 4-1-1 that might actually be useful to you… like, for example, the breakdown of decks played at the recent StarCityGames PTQ.

When Jim and I discussed the metagame, we decided that our primary focus should be on beating Goblins and Slide. His first instinct was to run U/B Zombie Bidding, as that has the tools to do it, but in my testing, I started to figure out that we couldn’t do both in the main deck. You either sell out for the Goblins matchup and play Uncle Fester and Infest, or you go the other way and tweak the control matchup by catching VD. Slide and Maher simply cannot handle the VD (Vengeful Dead), but Goblins was like”Oh good, an overcosted 3/2 creature… Please play that!” So Z-Bidd was ruled out.

Next Jim started to go rogue, and worked on a deck featuring Discard, Removal, and Lavaborn Muse (he has a Muse fetish, I swear). Not good enough.

Then on Wednesday he says to me, this Jim guy, he says,”Ya know… The Jarrod Bright deck isn’t half-bad.”

I immediately do the required scoffing,”Jarrod Bright, ha ha,” but then he says,”Seven maindeck Infest effects, and Oversold Cemetery with tutoring for six-drops…” Hmmm. Did Jarrod find another Block diamond?

The short answer is maybe – but since I bageled the day while Jim went 5-2, it’s a little tough to tell at the moment. Jim’s two losses were to nasty topdecks from Goblins, but a lot of decks in the format will lose to that sort of thing. Since I have nothing to add about how the deck functions beyond what Jarrod already said about it, I figured I would instead take a look at how the metagame for the actual PTQ broke down and give you a glimpse behind what you might be facing in the near future.

And big ups to me main men Judge David Taylor, and the loudest Ivy Leaguer in the South, Israel Marques for doing the breakdown for me.

13 U/B or Mono-B Zombies

11 Maher

11 Goblins

7 Bad Form

4 Slide


4 B/G Cemetery

2 Goblin Bidding

Sooo, to start with, I probably should mention that the two Goblin Bidding decks went 10-4, with one making the Top 8 and the other making Top 16. It appears that I may have been a bit hasty in dismissing the deck, as it does fairly well against a field with a great deal of R/W, Z-Bidd (provided they never draw Withered Wretch), and Bad Form. It’s a Tier 2 metagame deck that rolls over and dies to the Goblin mirror, but it has legitimate game against the control archetypes. So uhhh, yeah, in spite of Stokinger’s testing (avoid the three-color unless you have a pact with Satan to smooth your mana draws) and our own, this deck may be good enough to qualify somebody. Moving on…

In no way, shape, or form did I expect Zombie Bidding to make a heavy appearance, as during testing, we simply couldn’t get it to stand up to R/W + Form + Goblins. It appears that the other players didn’t figure that out or they were too poor to build the good decks (Jim’s theory).

Anyway, in some ways this is exactly the metagame we expected (lots of Maher/Slide and Goblins), and in other ways, it’s radically different (the aforementioned surge of Zombie Bidding, the fact that four (four!) Bad Form decks were in contention for the Top 8 until the final round, and the disappearance of Mono-White Control). I don’t really know what it means right now, but it’s something to keep an eye on as the qualifier season progresses.

The Top 8 looked like this, with R/W Control + Exalted Angels taking the slot.

1) Jason Brooks – R/W Control

2) Jared Dunn – Bad Form

T4) Andy Hall – Goblins

T4) Rich Jacques – MWC

T8) Ian Bennett – Bad Form

T8) Lance Shrader – Slide

T8) Jonathan Delano – Goblin Bidding

T8) Ken Nowell – U/B Zombie Bidding

(Note that we have the complete decks hereThe Ferrett)

At this time, it looks like the Onslaught Block metagame remains diverse, and we continue to see a variety of different decks make Top8 appearances. I expect this trend to continue, and actually believe we will start seeing more B/G Cemetery decks scattered through Top 8s for the rest of the season. The one fact that can’t really be argued with right now is that Maher Control is the top deck. Is there a deck out there than can contend with it, or should we simply relegate ourselves to another six weeks of mirror matches? Remember, I bageled the tournament, so you tell me…

Fun facts from this weekend’s trip (if you dislike potty humor, skip the first few paragraphs):

Literally fifteen minutes outside of town on I-64, Jim looks at me and says,”You may need to find a place to stop.” I look baffled and ask him why, to which he replies,”I may need to drop a deuce.” I make all sorts of exclamations about how he must be ten years old, and lacks normal sphincter control, but as his eyes begin to bulge, I point out the napkins in my glove compartment and pull off to the side of the highway. Jim scampers off into the woods, while Fog and Gibb wake up to ask what the hell is going on, and then join me in cackling about Jim and his commando dumping habits.

Approximately three minutes later, Jim comes back out of the woods looking refreshed and our trip is resumed. In total, my Number 1 (assuming I am the captain of Starship Intrepid 1996-STD) took a number 2 an amazing nine times on the day before we returned home to the glory that is C-Ville. I’ve helped raise two babies (the other other white meat) in my life, and let me tell you – six-month olds with diarrhea don’t crap as much as Jimmy Bean. They may dump in bright rainbow colors (Jello water is amazing stuff), but their frequency can’t even come close to matching him.

Hats off to James Ferraiolo, modern medical marvel and commando crapper!

A nameless member of my car may or may not have made up an entirely new use for the word”blunted” when he said,”Grand Prix: Atlanta may be the most blunted trip ever.”

Five hundred and forty miles of road, eight hours, three beanos, Grif, and me. You do the math.

The conceding player for the slot to New Orleans may have decided to take the money because”My mom wouldn’t want me to go, and she’s paying for my college,” even though he is, in fact, a college student, and the trip is to New Friggin’ Orleans! Jared Dunn, in the immortal words of Major League 2,”You have no MAH-bles!”

Fortunately for Jared, he’s infinitely better at Magic than I am, so where I have mere insults, he has an extra $250 and leet skills to boot.

Big Daddy Bennie Smith may or may not now drive a pimped-out 1985 Caddie that he bought for $1.

Tim Kryzwicki may have drafted an excellent B/W draft after scrubbing out of the tournament only to lose to Tybuc’s crappy U/G deck in the first round.”Good deck, first-round loss… This is just like MODO,” may or may not have been his only comment.

The nice boys at StarCityGames may or may not have run the second annual”Ted Knutson Memorial Draft” to better commemorate my Block Constructed exploits.

Pete Hoefling Sr. may be the biggest ball-buster since Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

The Columbian Cheesecake Section

Sofia Vergara, gentlemen. Never heard of her? Fair ’nuff. You’ve probably seen her, though, as she’s been doing calendar work and modeling for some time, but has only recently broken into film work with a bad Tim Allen movie and a great deal of future projects including”Chasing Papi.” She looks a bit like a Latin Denise Richards, really, and if you ask me, the world needs more smart Denise-Richards-looking women.

The future holds great things for this senorita, and it’s possible that only a few are directly due to the grace of her curves.

Mmm, tousled and sandy

2002 was a great year.

Anybody else have fantasies about swimsuit models clad only in cowboy hats and a pair of chaps? Yeah, me neither…

There are two things that make Latin women so incredibly sexy: The first one is the eyes, and the second is the comfort they have with voluptuous figures. *bites fist*

I swear to God, anybody in Hollywood that suggests she needs to lose weight will be summarily executed with no opportunity for appeal. After the Teri Hatcher and Christina Ricci incidents, I’m a little bitter at the people pushing these women to constantly get thinner. Do we really need more Lara Flynn Boyles and Callista Flockharts in the world? I think not!

Bonus MacGyver pic found while researching.

And yet another one of Sam Elliott possessing Richard Dean Anderson’s body, alternately titled”Macgyver’s first name was Wyatt.”

The Kitchen Sink

It’s too damn late to apologize… but it’s almost over now!

If you aren’t watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy on Bravo, you’re missing one of the funniest shows on television. The amount of guys I know that are in desperate need of the kind of help the”Fab 5″ give approaches infinite, but my buddies Lug and Dennis are at the front of the line, (with Jimmy Bean’s hair standing right behind them). Even if you’re a homophobe the show is fun, because you sometimes get to see other homophobic guys squirm while five gay guys take them to get a makeover, new wardrobe, and remodel their apartments, and then present them back to their girlfriends. In case you need more incentive, here’s a snippet of dialogue from this week’s episode where they found Ferrett’s, erm, I mean Andrew’s”snug fit” condom supply:

“Oooo, snuggly little ones for that nice, little, tight grip. I bet he’s hung like a bee.” Priceless!

Oddly enough, my wife and I first started watching the show after some of the sportswriters on Around The Horn commented on it. Watch a sports commentary show, get suggestions for TV programs starring five gay guys… Go figure.

My vote for the best thing about being a celebrity or sports superstar in two words or less? Playboy Mansion.

Here’s a bit of market advice: Nekrataal is probably worth more than the two tix you have to pay for it on MODO right now.

I think I figured out a new Over/Under for Grand Prix: Atlanta that should be nearly as amusing as the last one…

If I were the Sean Paul of Magic writers, my writing would have fierce tribal beatings, the sexay ladies would want to bawl wit me, and I’d be completely unintelligible (hey, wait a second…). That said, reading my articles would cause serious booty-shaking to ensue, and you couldn’t stop listening to me. It makes no sense, but I still like it…

Speaking of music, the new Neptunes album is due to hit stores on August 19th, and from the preview cuts I’ve heard, it may be the hottest album to hit the face of the planet this year.

Proving that I’m still twelve, I’ve led The Monkeyspank University Pooflingers to back-to-back National Championships on NCAA 2004. Created Schools are pretty spiffy. Honestly though, that comment was just an excuse for me to complain about the remaining two weeks until college football season starts. Sigh.

On the other hand, the English Premiere League starts play this Saturday! After splashing out 65 million Euros in transfers so far this off-season, Chelsea may now be the team to beat, with Manchester United, Liverpool, and Newcastle strong contenders. Arsenal, who spent almost no money on off-season transfers, look as though they will be lucky to gain a spot in the Champions League next season. Whatever happens, it should make for some very interesting footie.

Apparently I was onto something with the Turkish girl cheesecake last time, because behold, The Turkish National Champion, Eda Bilsel.

However, this girl (reportedly named Rebecca Wissner) not only goes in the book of Top 10 women seen playing Magic, but she’s also playing the cleavage card, which some of us simply cannot beat.

Alternate (and better) caption from Monkster on IRC:”All right, who Photoshopped this in?”

The lesson? There are cute girls who play Magic – you just have to live in foreign countries to see them.

At the PTQ, some dude came up to me and was like,”Hey, aren’t you that dude…” and I was like,”Yeah, whatevah!”

When I read this statement from Randy Buehler Worlds Report”I know many of you are too young to remember when the Berlin Wall came down…” I was thinking to myself,”Not possible, Randy’s just pandering to the kids.” Then I remembered that the Berlin Wall came down foyrreenyears ago with David Hasselhoff helping the festivities along with an impromptu concert and realized that I am very old. Not edt or Bennie Smith old, mind you, but things like Hair Metal, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Say Anything remain vivid images in my head.

Been a while since I did this one… Appearing at The Wang Center in September will be Mariah Carey (what a non-surprise), Miss Saigon (another non-surprise), and in October those lucky bastards in Boston will be privy to five nights of executive transvestite and Top 5 on my list of funniest people on the planet, Eddie Izzard’s new show. I am more than a little bit jealous.

This week’s crystal clear sign that the apocalypse is upon us? Both the White Sox and the Cubs are in the pennant race at the same time. If they both actually make the playoffs, you’ll find me on a beach in the Caribbean drinking Mai Tais and making sure that my last few days on Earth are pleasant ones.

Last but certainly not least, this may be the best picture associated with a Magic event ever taken. My mind completely exploded when I tried to pick just one caption for it, but you should feel free to figure out your own and post it in the forums.

Oh yeah, and mail Wizards about removing the 4-3-2-2 queue from the anal spincter of the common man!

The Holy Kanoot

Ted Knutson

Worst. Block. Player. Ever.

[email protected]