My Brush with Greatness (And My Take on Invasion)

So there I was at the tourney, having gone 3-0, winning all six games in straight sets. I was the number-one player at the tourney so far, and sat at table Number One – a rarified air, believe you me – waiting for my next opponent to step up to the plate. I had just…

So there I was at the tourney, having gone 3-0, winning all six games in straight sets. I was the number-one player at the tourney so far, and sat at table Number One – a rarified air, believe you me – waiting for my next opponent to step up to the plate. I had just had my first Feature Match, and won it.

Wouldn’t you think I’d be happy?

Of course not. I sat there, nervously shuffling my cards, saying to myself: How the hell am I going to keep my status as a tourney-hating jerk if I actually WIN one?

Fortunately, I lost that one due to total mana-screw – oh sure, that sounds like the sour grapes you’d find in a bottle of unrefrigerated Night Train, but more on that in a moment – and then went on to be trounced by two decks that I genuinely couldn’t handle. I finished up with a 4-3 record, which was enough to get me three packs and a pat on the back.

Thank God I kept my status as a scrub. I’d never live it down.

So now I’ve played with Invasion, seen the cards, and from what I hear tell my local metagame’s gone more gold-crazy than Fort Knox. The Net is spewing happiness about Invasion like a broken oil pipe, and those who dare to criticize it are hammered down like the worms they are. (Sutcliffe, trust me, I feel your pain.)

But here is a bag of chips.

I will now place Invasion next to it.

Invasion is most certainly not all of this and the bag. Invasion might be worth, say, a lone Frito… but it is, in the end, simply an okay set.

(On a side note, does anyone find it funny that Doritos are leading the anti-drug crusade? I mean, if it wasn’t for THC, nobody would ever eat one of their damn chips. Doritos suck – even the cool three-dimensional chips. They taste like sawdust-and-cheese flavoring smeared into a potato chip that’s been left at the back of the warehouse for so long. Only a stoner, or a teenager who still thinks McDonald’s is the height of haute cuisine, could love a Dorito. End rant.)

Now keep in mind that I am not opposed to slowing the game down, and I believe that straining out any combos that may present themselves is a positive development. Likewise, the number of weird and creative cards are just ducky. It’s interesting.

But the problems I have with Invasion are the same ones I had in the Masques block:

I now know that I am going to have to kill every frickin’ red mage before land drop #8, because if he casts Obliterate there isn’t a thing I can do about it. I know that every time I play black I’m going to eventually have to deal with some 12/12 "protection from black" Knight that someone casts for a measly four mana – and the reverse whenever I play White. Every single time some moron drops a gold card, I’m going to have to hold back a counterspell for that Coalition Victory.

These are all cards that are going to make it much more unfun to play in multiplayer. Cards that are, in their own way, every bit as broken as Tolarian Academy was in Urza’s. Cards meant for a slower environment with more buildup, and more players. And as stated, the DCI can never ban these cards, nor do they have incentive to. This irritates me.

You thought Congregate was broken? More is coming. It’s getting worse, multiplayer freaks.

Parallax Wave. Lin-Sivvi. Blastoderm. Rising Waters. Thrashing Wumpus. Rishadan Port.

I can tell you as an editor that reading MBC tourney reports was akin to balancing your checkbook – worthwhile and necessary, but certainly not something you loved to do. All of the reports were the same – and although a constantly-shifting metagame livened it up for folks a bit, every deck centered around the same seven or eight power cards. If you were playing white, you went with the Wave no matter what. Black? Wumpus. Green? Blastoderm.

I foresee the same thing happening in Invasion. It encourages very creative deck design, but in a low-power environs the power cards are gonna rise to the top like cream in a cow’s udder. Again. And again. And again.

You can already see the frenzies of trading going on over Void, Blazing Spectre, Kavu Titan, Undermine and Absorb… so I think we’ll see the same thing writ large for Invasion. Every deck of a particular color will HAVE to feature the same narrow set of cards to be competitive, which annoys me.

(Holds envelope to head in Amazing Carnac-style prediction) I predict the new cards we’ll hear about all the time are Armageddon, Blastoderm, Perish, Void, the Spectre, Fact or Fiction, Foil. Maybe the Port.

I could be wrong about the specific cards, but before this next season is done we’ll all be sick of seeing CERTAIN cards.

I forget which Neutral Ground writer compared Invasion to Ice Age – they’re both huge sets with a bunch of really good cards wrapped in a bigger bunch of crap. Who’s gonna play with Llanowar Elite? Anyone really festering for a Strength of Unity? Is Hypnotic Cloud clawing its way out of anyone’s binder?

(Another minor bitch: Most of the great cards are rares, although Wizards seems to throw us the odd bone for cards they know will be hot. Blastoderm was in Prophecy, and Invasion gives us uncommon duals and Fact or Fictions. Thanks, guys.)

4) KAVU.
Wow. That much fuss for cards that suck this bad? They’re just regular creatures, guys, most of ’em Ogres or Hill Giants. I mean, I’m not OPPOSED to the beefy little suckers, but when they get hyped as much as they did I was expecting something along the lines of Shadow creatures…

Now let’s go over the good stuff.

Love the new dual lands. They look cool, and they’re a reasonable fix. I agree that we probably won’t see as many of them around as we might think – as Jeff Moeller pointed out in his extremely good analysis of the set, they slow down your early game and can cripple a late one – but it’s about time we got something good.

Really. I have never seen a nicer-looking set from Wizards, and I’m including my all-time favorite, The Dark. Beautiful stuff. (It’s my theory that Wizards took all the good artists out of circulation for Mercadian Masques – a set that makes Abe Vigoda look like Ricky Martin – and set them to work on third-edition AD&D, which is simply breathtaking. Have you SEEN those books? The portraits of the monsters actually look scary, as opposed to looking like bad xeroxes taken from old "Conan" comic books…)

Finally, the basic set is more than old reprints. Now that the environment is in gear with Sixth Edition’s power, the decks I’ve seen really seem to be drawing from ALL areas of tourney-legal cards, not just a couple of fillers thrown in from Sixth. Way to go.

Mercadian was horrendously slow. I think we’ll see a more-reasonable seven-to-twelve-turn game clock for most games when you combine ALL of the Type II-legal cards, which is enough time to set yourself up and possibly come back.

The Elder Dragons were crap – too expensive, and too tough to keep up. Six mana for a 6/6 flyer is really good. Now I have to get my Awakener. I know that I will see Dragons and be afraid, as opposed to:

"I cast my Vaevictus. TREMBLE!"
"Desert Twister your only forest."

Wait. That was Sheldon’s fault. He did a good job.

So now that I’m on the topic, let’s talk tourney, shall we?

Capashen Unicorn
Prison Barricade
Benalish Heralds
2x Razorfoot Griffin
Samite Ministration
Protective Sphere
Dismantling Blow
Pledge of Loyalty
Holy Day

Shimmering Wings
Wash Out
Stormscape Apprentice
Worldly Counsel
Vodalian Serpent
Shoreline Raider
Vodalian Merchant
Vodalian Hypnotist

Fertile Ground
Whip Silk
Wandering Stream
Jade Leech
Llanowar Vanguard
Thornscape Apprentice
Llanowar Elite
Quirion Elves
Quirion Sentinel
Aggressive Urge
Serpentine Kavu

Shivan Harvest
2x Zap
Breath of Darigaaz
Kavu Monarch
Thunderscape Apprentice
Hooded Kavu
Kavu Aggressor
Kavu Scout
Slimy Kavu

Bog Initiate
Tainted Well
Hypnotic Cloud
Ravenous Rats
2x Soul Burn
Agonizing Demise
2x Firescreamer
Urborg Skeleton

Darigaaz, the Igniter
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
Frenzied Tilling
2x Galina’s Knight
Llanowar Knight
Wings of Hope
Vodalian Zombie
Armadillo Cloak
Sleeper’s Robe
Riptide Crab
Horned Cheetah


Chromatic Sphere
Crosis’s Attendant

Sulfur Vent
2x Elfhame Palace

So what would you do with this pack? I’d give you space – but what the heck, it seems obvious to me. Hell with it. Skip the space.

I looked at the Darigaaz, the Agonizing Demise, the TWO Soul Burns, the Breath of Darigaaz, and the double-Zaps, and said to myself: "Self, God wants you to play removal."

Then I looked at the rest of my stuff. Not so good. Nothing to deal with large flying creatures except for the mana-heavy Soul Burns, Demises, and Darigaaz’ Breath. I had no large ground creatures in those colors, either. If someone got something big with protection out, I could be in trouble, although with the Kavu Monarch I had a shot at making very large and ugly trampling Firescreamers.

What about other colors? Weak. Small creatures, not enough removal. Armadillo Cloak was good, but I didn’t have anything major to play it on. White was okay with the two Griffins, but blue had nothing. Removal it was, then. I’d splash in Green for the Serpentine Kavu and the Elf mana.

With so many small creatures and cheap removal, I vowed to go with the mana curve. I would throw out as many small creatures as I could, concentrating on the three-cost Kavus, and burn or crash my way through anything that got in my way before they could set up a more potent defense, finishing them off with a Burn, a Kickered Demise, or a Darigaaz.

I was kind of like Mike Tyson – if I came out swinging, I had a good shot at taking my opponent down. But if I stalled or took a few hits, I’d be reduced to ear-biting.

Having read the spoiler, I decided that there weren’t that many enchantments or killer artifacts in the environment, so I put the Overload and Tranquility in the sideboard, chancing that I’d be able to work around anything until Game 2. The Leech’s double-mana cost scared me.

So what did I build?

Dej Kavu.dec**:

The "Kavu Madness" Section:
Kavu Monarch (Graa! Me hide in deck! Me no like coming out until very end of game like regal jerk me am!)
Kavu Aggressor
Slimy Kavu
Serpentine Kavu
Kavu Scout (Kind of like a Boy Scout, but more tolerant of alternative Kavu lifestyles)
Hooded Kavu
2x Firescreamer (GAAAAAH!)

Other Critters:
Quirion Elf
Quirion Sentinel (worked wonders with the Quirion Elves, but posed problems for a second-turn drop)
Thunderscape Apprentice (tick… tick… tick… I’m not touching you….
Urborg Skeleton
Darigaaz, the Igniter (Igniter? He never Ignit once. More like Darigaaz, the Targeted)
Crosis’s Attendant (Generally sideboarded out, as it was too slow for the deck)
Bog Initiate

2x Zap (Not quite as useful as I woulda liked)
2x Soul Burn
Agonizing Demise
Breath of Darigaaz

Aggressive Urge (pathetic, no?)


Now, rather than giving you a tourney report, I’ll learn ya what I learned in the various games, point by point:


Thing #1: Hey, My Article Works!
"Weren’t you the guy who wrote the ‘How to Survive the Prerelease’ article?" you might say – and by God, it was. But I wasn’t sure whether my own advice worked. Did anyone else find what I wrote useful?

Thing #2: The Creature Rush Works!
I go up against a guy who has a slower, more controllish deck – and run right over him. This deck’s tendency was to pump out three 3/2 critters by turn five most of the time, which is tough when I’m blasting smaller creatures to clear the way.

Thing #3: Finding A Card To Sign Quickly Is Really Weird.
A really nice player from Fairbanks recognized me and wanted me to sign a card – but he didn’t have a card, so I had to quickly go through his leftover pile and find an Invasion card to sign. (Note to Wizards: For the fifth straight set in a row, you have released a set without any ferrets in it. How can you live with yourselves?) I forgot what I signed, but it was kind of nice to be recognized. Most people don’t even know who I am around here.


Thing #1: Not Everyone Read My Article.
I played against a spacey-looking chick who had thrown together a deck out of fifty cards (most of them four-cost and up) and twenty mana. She was, not surprisingly, totally mana-screwed both games and played like a zombie on mescaline, leading me to wonder how the heck she won game one. Game was over in five minutes.

Thing #2: Some People Are Just Really Weird.
I offered to help her with her deck after I trounced her and she admitted she couldn’t play it – so I asked to take a look at her deck. I took it apart, split it into piles, then made suggestions, but she stared off into space and made sort of bizarre, floaty comments. When I put cards aside, at the end she shuffled them all back together.


Thing #1: Sheldon Is A Big Fat Jerk.
Okay, maybe not – but Sheldon, the judge of the tourney, did put me in my own Feature Match, since I was the anti-tourney guy and I was leading the pack. Suddenly I’m at this card table at the front of the room, and he makes a big deal about how once everyone’s done they can come look at me. Agh. The pressure is on.

Thing #2: Some People Crack Under The Pressure…
My opponent was very nervous this round, and I kept pressing the advantage by continually asking at every phase, "You done yet?" (I maintain that I could be the world’s greatest trashtalker, if only I could convince myself to be rude enough to let loose. Plus, I think my rep could work for me: "Wow, can you really stand to lose to a scrub like me? I mean, I know *I* suck, but I thought better of you….") My deck went along with the strategy, helpfully providing a threat a turn for every turn I played.

He made a couple of bad mistakes which I carefully did not point out – as I’ve said, you gotta be a jerk in tourneys – and was flabbergasted when he actually conceded a game he could have won. I forget the exact circumstances, but he gave up when there was a minor lock – he was low on life, but I had no overwhelming threats and he had a chance at pulling it out. I was astounded.

Thing #3: …But I Didn’t.
I played flawlessly, which sounds like it’s boasting… but really, it amazes me as much as it does you. I analyzed every move, didn’t do anything that made me go ‘doh!’ afterwards, and played better than I normally do on Friday nights.

Thing #4: Columns Get More Interesting When You Lose.
When you win three games in a row, what can you say? "Everything went great." But don’t worry, actual STRATEGY comes up next.


Thing #1: Manascrew Happens.
It’s funny how I don’t remember exactly how I won, but boy oh boy do I remember how I lost. It sits in my stomach like a bad burrito dinner, just sort of pushing its noxious way to the fore periodically. First game, I start off with a three-land hand and that’s ALL I see. Second game, all Elves -no forests. The guy stomps me.

Thing #2: Manascrew Happens To Decks You Can Beat.
I was facing off against a guy with another Dragon deck, but again… kind of slow-paced, and my flood o’Kavus swarmed him. How do I know this?

Because I played the mothasucka FOUR TIMES IN CASUAL GAMES AFTERWARDS AND SMASHED HIM EVERY TIME. He did not get manascrewed. We both played. On fair ground my deck bashed him him like Stone Cold knocks a referee over… and he sort of looked at my deck afterwards warily, much in the same way that one looks at a bus that comes within three feet of running you over. "Good thing I won when I could," he said.


Thing #3: Manascrew Happens To Decks You Can Beat, But Bad Players Have Messed It Up For Everyone.
After I got smashed, I promptly went around to everyone, who were all saying eagerly, "So how’d ya do?" and said, "I got manascrewed bad." Nobody believed me. Manascrew is the excuse for bad play, and I can’t say as I blamed the boys, but it’s still annoying.

Saying you got manascrewed is kind of like saying, "Sorry, honey – this has never happened before." Maybe it’s the truth. But she’s not believing you.

Thing #4: Manascrew Happens To Decks You Can Beat, But Bad Players Have Messed It Up For Everyone, And In Retrospect Some Of It MAY Be My Fault, Which Is Even MORE Annoying.
Thanks to the wondrous articles d’Sean McKeown, I realized later that maybe I should have yanked a spell out and gone to seventeen land to support the high-mana spells like Agonizing and Soul, and perhaps if I had my deck woulda been better.


Thing #1: Power Armor is Broken in this Environment.
Well, not really. But it sure ruined my day.

Thing #2: Read The Cards, Slapnuts.
This gent’s deck was a white-blue flyer-heavy deck, and I waited a long time for him to build up before I finally cast Breath of Darigaaz. Then, just as I was about to cast it triumphantly, I realized it didn’t hurt flyers.

Well, shoot.

What I wouldn’t have given for a Spellshaper to pitch that card to….

Thing #3: If Your Deck Consists Of An All-Out Attack And You’re Going Up Against A Slower Deck, Hold Your Removal.
Burning away everyone’s defenses had worked before, but frankly it blew chunks in a slower deck. The right play would have been to trade creatures and hold removal UNTIL he started getting out his big stuff, but instead I’d spent all of my good cards clearing a path for critters who couldn’t carry the game through. I’d gotten overeager. And I paid for it in the second game, which unfortunately was my last chance. 2-0.

Thing #4: I Was Right About Enchantment Removal
The guy got out a Teferi’s Moat, and it really didn’t slow me. I could work around it. Nothing in this game, or the tourney, made me sideboard in my Tranquility until round 7.

Thing #5: I Was Wrong About Darigaaz
For the fourth time this tourney, he comes out, and for the third time he goes down in a pile of flames. Okay, he got Shackled. Is it fair that the same chains that can hold Gerrard down are chaining a dragon? Little teeny chains that I could snap like those cheap charm bracelets you buy for $3.49 at your local flea market? Oh, I tried to argue that this enchantment should cost more, but he wasn’t buying it. Damn tourney players.

Thing #6: I Hate Tapdancers.
Little tappy Apprentices suck. Just so’s ya know.


Thing #1: Tourney Reports Take A Long Time To Write.
Okay, I didn’t learn this EXACTLY in Round Six. But you know, before I launched into this stupid thing, I could have sworn I would have finished this article by Tuesday.

And so many tourney reports SUCK!

I mean, I stand with mouth agape at the number of morons who dutifully spend hours transcribing their Phantastique Tourney Plays in monosyllablic detail on, I don’t know, stone rocks or whatever other technology they have about their caveman houses, wasting their remaining days to share comments like these with the audience:

"I mise & pull of a topdek &beat him."

Is it worth it, Gumbo? Give it up.

Thing #2: Occasionally You Can’t Even Remember What Your Opponent Looks Like.
To the best of my recollection, my opponent wore a sleek black leather jacket, wore dark sunglasses, had a severe asthma problem, and had a deep, resonant voice… wait, I’m thinking of Darth Vader.

Nope. Don’t remember him or the game. Must’ve been the pizza.

Thing #3: But You Always Remember How The Match Went.
I won.

Thing #4: And Wonder How You Would Have Done Had You Not Been Manascrewed.
Say, would I have been able to beat the guys in the upper echelons HAD I actually won? I bet I would have. If it wasn’t for that stupid bout of manascrew, I bet I’d be sitting in LA right now at the next Pro Tour Stop. Right now. You know.


Thing #1: Rush Decks Really Die Against Charging Troll.
My opponent works at one of my local shops, so at least this one was friendly. Besides, it was the last round, so what the heck. My deck fired, I did really well, I pulled out two Kavu, and began to go in… when a big fat honkin’ Troll pulled up in front of me and said, "You know, not only will I come over and smack you about the head and ears like Mister T on a crack binge, but I will also stay back on defense and make your Kavu useless."

Wow. That sucked. But you know what sucks worse?

Thing #2: Rush Decks Really Die Against A Charging Troll And An Armadillo Cloak.
Boy, they sure do, don’t they? My only hope was my Agonizing Demise, which I drew. And blew away his Troll. Hee! I ran in….

Thing #3: I Still Really Can’t Figure Out How A Guy With THREE Charging Trolls And Two Armadillo Cloaks Was 3-3 Like I Was.
How the heck do you lose with a deck like that? I mean, HOW DO YOU LOSE? Jesus. I lost twice, played four more games with him, and won once. Man was I outgunned. I could barrel in, but with regenerating burly guys on defense AND offense, I was doomed.

Thing #4: Royalty Sure Is Tetchy
Just to show me up, neither Darigaaz or the Monarch showed their regal little heads. Bastards.

So I went 4-3, as stated. The finals had my friend Adam (of David Phifer fame) playing against the guy who asked me for my autograph, so I at least had the satisfaction of knowing that folks I liked were in the running. The autograph guy won with a TRULY audacious deck – he won most of his games with a Ghitu Fire, but didn’t actually have any mountains. He had a Quirion Elf and a Dream Thrush, and that was it – but since it was only one red mana, it was enough. And Adam, not knowing this, had the opportunity to wipe out the Dream Thrush but didn’t do it… and got Ghitu’d the next round.

My friend, a deck like that was ballsy, audacious, and well-done. You deserved the win. And besides, had Adam won we’d never have heard the end of it.

So that’s my tournament report. It is now my due right to give slops and props.

False pieces of furniture and/or acoutrement intended to simulate a real environment in theatrical productions.

Food waste and garbage, generally consisting of semiedibles such as potato peels and newspaper clippings, to be fed to pigs for the intent of fattening them up.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
Too Exhausted For His Usual Block Quote
However, Next Week’s Article Is MegaWeird

* — Is there some way of writing these cards that’s standardized? I’ve seen Stand/Deliver, Stand & Deliver, Stand-Deliver, Stand Deliver, and a host of others.

** — The funniest pun in this article, dammit!