My Top Ten Mistakes from Mirrodin Block Limited

We all make mistakes – some of us are just better at admitting them. Therefore, I bring you the top 10 mistakes made by Kartin’ Ken Krouner during Mirrodin Block Limited.

Lame ducks aren’t quite as lame as they once were. Magic: Online has given formats an extra month of life. As such, I don’t feel that bad writing about Mirrodin during the weeks of Champions of Kamigawa previews. There are some things I want to go over before I go into my discussion on this Limited format.

Mirrodin Block’s Affect on Magic

I think everyone is pretty mad about the affect on Constructed. There are four types of Block players: Those who know what Arcbound Ravager is and choose to play it because they are very good with the deck, those who don’t know what the deck is and think it is a miser’s delight that they can randomly peel wins with, those who know what the deck is and recognize that they aren’t good enough to succeed with it in the long run, and those who don’t know what it is and don’t play it because their”testing” showed it was a bad deck. Kudos to groups 1 and 3, and best of luck to groups 2 and 4.

I originally wrote this section before the banning of Skullclamp and Metalworker in Extended. It was also before day one of Worlds. I think that I have been proven wrong in my theory that Affinity would be dominant. However, I think that CMU-TOGIT made a huge mistake, and had they stuck with Affinity I think you’d see a far less diverse top 20. I am glad the DCI saw the light and got rid of Clamp in Extended. When you have to ban a card drawing card in Block and Standard, it stands to reason that it should go in Extended and be restricted in Vintage. The cards you are drawing are better and in a bigger format, the hate can’t be as focused. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know anything about Vintage, but I have barely heard a peep about Affinity, and I can’t imagine it isn’t a tier one deck there.

Mirrodin Block Limited is pretty bad. I know I have said this before only to be refuted by people citing Anton Jonsson, Mike Turian, and Nicolai Herzog as examples. To them I say,”Go suck a lemon.” Magic is a game of streaks. All the best players go on hot and cold streaks, just like the rest of us. Jon Finkel top 8’d both Onslaught Limited PTs and no one dared to claim that format was skill intensive.

I understand there is more evidence to support the claim on the PT, but I have to say that in the wider sample, Magic: Online, the proof is in the pudding. Everyone I know wins and loses with seemingly no correlation to the draft. They will draft similar decks and lose or win by the will of the fates alone. I don’t just mean players at my skill level, I am talking about some of the best players in the world. A format with too many playables is unhealthy; it is as simple as that. You shouldn’t be able to”goofgrab” an entire deck and have enough cards to make a solid deck. You shouldn’t be rewarded for playing bad mana. And you definitely shouldn’t be able to win multiple games with a card like Vorrac Battlehorns in the top 8 of a GP Trial.

That’s right. I won a Trial for GP: Austin this past weekend with the wonderful piece of Equipment that we have nicknamed the Mustache of Truth. Vorrac Battlehorns was a joke, a literal joke. I drafted a deck which included 2 Sawtooth Thresher, 1 Lunar Avenger, 1 Tyrannax, 1 One Dozen Eyes, 1 Fangren Firstborn, and 1 Fangren Hunter. The Mustache was good in this deck. Especially since I was the only one at the table with a relevant amount of fat (and not just in my deck, that was a skinny top 8). Do you know how far a format has fallen when a card like Vorrac Battlehorns is listed among the playables? This format was miserable. Everyone who complained about unplayable cards, look what you have done. See how bad it gets when 95% of the cards in a block are playable?

Mirrodin Block slew Constructed and slew Limited. The last time this happened was Urza’s Block, and even that had a very good Limited format once Legacy was released. I know Wizards doesn’t like banning cards to attack certain strategies, but I think it is called for here. Just get rid of Disciple of the Vault, Skullclamp, and either Arcbound Ravager or Cranial Plating in all formats. Affinity will still be a deck, just more beatable. I haven’t played much outside of Block, but in Block it is nearly impossible to beat an Affinity player if they don’t make a mistake with anything besides another Affinity deck.

The Vs. Credit system

Wake up DCI, this is a great way of doing it. Will it require a little more work? Yes, but it won’t require much. I don’t much care for the idea of the maximum, or at least not a maximum as low as 50, but the concept is pretty damn good. During the qualifier season for Pro Tour Tinker 1 Chris Senhouse top 8’d 5 PTQs and ended the season without a slot. This is patently ridiculous. The worst thing Magic can do is try to brush Vs. off like a fly. It should learn from the things that Vs. is clearly improving. The credit system is a big one.

[The problematic thing about the Vs. Credit system in Magic is that people would just skip the PTs that are difficult to travel to. You might find Kai never leaving Europe, no Americans would make the trip to Japan, and fewer Japanese might leave the country. There are definitely good things about the system, but the Star Power factor might take a big hit because of it. – Knut]

Old Formats

I needed a little extra cash so I went to this store that is about a 45-minute drive away from my house. They had tons of old packs there. What I wound up doing instead of selling cards to the store for cash was essentially trading for four draft sets of IPA and four draft sets of OTJ. I absolutely love old formats. But these were merely my 3rd and 4th favorite formats. Tempest and Urza’s Blocks were the best, but this store didn’t have complete sets.

I love that Magic is a living game. I love that it evolves over time. But I hate that you can’t really go home again. Some old sets are prohibitively costed on the secondary market, and some sets you can’t find at all. Even if you are lucky enough to track them down, you have to find a group of people who are willing to crack these overcosted packs to draft them. It is so difficult.

I miss old Constructed formats too. Every time there is a new Extended format I pray that Counter-Phoenix will be viable again, but it never is. Mark Rosewater was famous for making up new and interesting Constructed formats for the invitational, but those formats aren’t supported at all in the real world. Bring Your Own Block and Block Party were awesome, but I hate that I need to win a Pro Tour for the chance to play them semi-competitively.

This problem I don’t really have a remedy for. I suppose they could re-release the sets, but I don’t know how many people feel the same way I do. I also don’t know how much collectors would be crushed, but I don’t care if these cards are white bordered, differently backed or even differently sized. I just want to play the format again. C’mon Wizards, hook a brutha up!

The Point?

Okay I think that is more than enough venting for one article. I don’t tend to vent in my strategy articles too much, but since Ask Ken is on the shelf for a while, I just wanted to get these things off my chest.

There isn’t much left to be discovered about general draft theory for Mirrodin Block. The amazing part is that this is true despite such little discussion. Pick specific discussion is likely more important at this stage of the game. I hope you all learned to have the discipline to pass a Skullclamp in a deck gunning for Trinket Mage for a six-mana, off-color spell.

Ok, ok, we all make mistakes. Some of us are just better at admitting them. Therefore, I bring you the top 10 mistakes made by Kartin’ Ken Krouner during Mirrodin Block Limited.

10. Healer’s Headdress isn’t that good.

I said this was possibly the best White common in the set. As it turns out it is merely a decent Black common. Most of my White decks don’t really want this card. And there is nearly always a better card in the pack. In White decks this card is quite good against bad players. I am sure all you MTGO 4-3-2-2 faithful are sitting at home scratching your heads remarking that the card has won you so many games. Well in that arena you can keep drafting it, in real life drafts you can let it go. It is a mediocre card in a sea of mediocre cards.

9. Iron-Barbed Hellion isn’t bad.

I made a very common mistake with this card. I let some initial bad experiences taint my view. Nick Eisel did the same thing in Onslaught Block when he claimed Krosan Tusker was better than Elvish Warrior simply because he didn’t have his second Forest on turn 2 a few times. Hellion can, in fact, win you games you were losing. It can swing the race in your favor in a way no other card in the set outside of Empyrial Plate and Lunar Avenger can.

8. Regress is not better than Aether Spellbomb.

This one I have an excuse for. When Mirrodin was first released I was caught up in the Equipment craze just like everyone else. With the thought that expensive Equipment was good, it is conceivable that Regress was better. Oops again.

7. Leonin Den-Guard and Skyhunter Cub are not the 3rd and 4th best commons in White.

I am going to shamelessly plug something here. I was one of the first to know that Blinding Beam was one of the premier commons in the Block. That being said I followed it up with these two cards. Skyhunter Patrol is light-years better than either of these cards. I was right about Den-Guard being the better card, but I was way off on how good he was. These guys are worse than Auriok Transfixer and Raise the Alarm and come dangerously close to Awe Strike.

6. Hematite Golem is not better than Pyrite Spellbomb.

I won’t spend too long on this one. I just wanted to make sure everyone got at least one laugh from this article.

5. Skullclamp is ridiculous.

When I saw Brian David-Marshall preview this card, I think my brain seized up. This card looked so good on paper that I figured something was up. I figured R&D would never let a card that was as good as this looked out the door. I was clearly missing something. Well that”something” I was missing was the fact that Wizards isn’t perfect. This card is broken in ever format in which it is legal. Make no mistake; it is easy to choose from the Murderous Spoils/Skullclamp run. Pick the Spoils, especially if you are Blue and looking for Trinket Mages.

4. White is a fine color.

Is it the worst color? Maybe. But the fact is all the colors in this block are playable. You can’t get too stuck with any color. Sadly that is part of what makes this Limited format so atrocious. Colors don’t matter, signaling doesn’t matter, and deck building doesn’t matter. Everyone’s deck will end up with at least 23 playables. Just play your best Magic and don’t get land screwed.

3. 5-color Green decks shouldn’t have 5 colors of spells.

This isn’t Invasion Block. When you draft a Sunburst deck, with some exceptions, all your cards should be of two colors with the off color lands only there to support Sunburst. Exceptions include cards like Grab the Reins, Fireball, Betrayal of Flesh, Blinding Beam, and other such splashable bombs.

2. Horned Helm is a good Leonin Scimitar.

After playing Vorrac Battlehorns this weekend I learned that this card is a lot better than I gave it credit for a few short weeks ago. This card, particularly in Green decks, should make the cut more often than not.

And the number one thing I screwed up about MD5 is…

1. Leonin Bola is a full-blown bomb

I realize this piece won’t give you much insight into the format. It is widely known that this is by far and away the best common in the Block, but I had to list it because I, like everyone else, undervalued this card by a lot. I know I wasn’t alone, but I am still embarrassed that such a bomb escaped my sight for so long.

Maybe there wasn’t enough strategy here, maybe I spent too much time venting, and maybe I’ll find this posted under issues. I don’t really know. It has been a while since I wrote an article like this. This is what is known as a stream of consciousness. I just sat down, put finger to keyboard, and went at it. I hope y’all like the way it turned out. Take care!

[email protected]