Not The Online Outlook — New Beginnings

That’s right, folks… I’m back! After a prolonged article hiatus, I’ll back to delivering the goods on a weekly basis. However, the old Online Outlook format is no more… Instead, I’m touching on all things Magical. Today, I’d like your help with some clerical duties, and I bring you a triumphant Top 8 Champs report!

So, it turns out that you can stop the signal. Who knew?

It’s been a while since I’ve written a Magic article. Real life decided to intervene in the form of a house move, and my temperamental computer reduced itself to little more than a babbling farce. Now the house has been moved, and the computer tamed (in a fashion), I’m pleased to report that I’m back!

Your indifference is palpable.

Towards the end of the run of Online Outlook columns, I was beginning to view their writing with a sense of dread. Not because I don’t enjoy the task of writing about Magic — far from it. The foreboding that pooled deep stemmed from the research needed to compile those infernal Premier Event Top 8 lists. I mean, I enjoy watching Magic replays as much as the next guy, and I gorge on them come PTQ time… but when working to a deadline, and having to trawl through endless games and events, the lustre fades quick. And it sure eats up the hours.

Soon, it came to a choice. Research the article but have no time to write it, make stuff up that’s of little use to anyone, or simply leave the wordsmithery for another day. I settled on the third.

Never fear! I’m back! With a vengeance! With a bang! In fact, I’m back with a Vengeance Bang, which is one of the more satisfying bangs you can have.

However, when I say “never fear,” I actually mean… fear. Because while I’m back, I’m not back with the Online Outlook.

“Boo,” I hear you cry, “We need statistics! We want Top 8 data! If Luvs2Splooge defeats BorgQueen69 with his Moonglove Mishra deck in a 2x Premier Event, we must be told immediately!”

Tough luck, buck. Ain’t gonna happen. Too much preparation, too little time. Instead, my weekly article will be about…

… hold on, I’m thinking…

… Magic?

We can discuss content needs from the readership at large later in the article, and in the forums. As it’s my first article back, I’m gonna run through a few points of order before moving on to my Champs performance a mere two days ago.

Column Title

Y’know my favorite Magic column title?

Magical Hack.

Sure, Removed From Game runs it close, as does Deep Analysis, but Magical Hack — at least as far as a title goes — is perfect. Magic card, play on words, short and sweet… brilliant. Damn you, Sean McKeown.

I’ve had a few column titles. The first, Sealed Revealed, was my stock-in-trade before Ferrett stole my shtick and made it his own over at Insert Column Name Here. I don’t mind so much, at least not lately. I’m finding it hard to be funny about Lorwyn cards. I see a Kithkin card and can’t get past the foreheads of doooom. Sure, the jokes are there, writhing beneath the surface like jaunty tapeworms, but I see those shiny domes and just wanna slap them good and hard.

And Elves? Elves are Nazis.

“Ooooh, look at us, with our blond hair and pure Aryan skullshape, and our ridiculous iconography and intolerance for others! We’re sodding off to our own special island, away from you half-breeds and scum. Screw you guys, we’re going home!”

Yeah, I’ve always hated them.

Anyway, back to the column name…

As I’m not concentrating on the Online metagame, I need a pithy new title.

When StarCityGames.com went to the column-based format, a lot of the column names we generated were supplied by the writers themselves. Some, of course, suggested themselves immediately. Flores Friday, for example, was already there. At first we tried to emulate that style across the board… Feldman Friday, McKeown Monday, that sort of thing. Of course, that led to most people having columns on Saturday (Stevenson, Sanchez, Sullivan, Silvestri, Smith, Sargent). The Innovator was relegated to Chapin Tuesday, and poor Evan was Every Day Erwin. I’m sure we’d love that as viewers, but after a month or so of frenetic daily updates, the Magic Show would’ve descended into madness and despair. I don’t care how great Evan is, I for one don’t relish the prospect of watching Evan wearing nothing but a tinfoil hat, gently crying while he rubs faeces into his eyes.

The christening of columns without names, and with writers struggling for title inspiration, fell to me. I consulted with the writers involved, of course, and we worked together on some pearlers. Nick Eisel refused to run with “The Eisel Tower,” Zac Hill wasn’t happy with “Zac Hill Giant,” and while Bennie Smith loved “Smithic Proportions,” it was changed at the last minute. Even the Online Outlook had a different beginning, and was so nearly called “MODO Bandit Warlord.” (With the benefit of hindsight, that name was great.)

I’m handing the task of naming the column to you, dear readers. Come to the forums and spill your suggestions, and I’ll choose the best one for next week.

Some guidelines to help you along:

1) I enjoy column titles that have Magic Cards or Terms in them, especially if they are funny and/or relevant to the writer (i.e. Magical Hack, Deep Analysis, Removed From Game).

2) I enjoy column titles that play on the writer’s name or nickname, or reputation (i.e. Flores Friday, From The Lab).

3) Bonus points are awarded for funny names.

I’ve tried coming up with a few that incorporate Magic cards and my own name / nickname. Sadly, they suck. So far, I’ve had “(St)Even(son) The Odds,” “Dimir Scouse Guard*,” and the best of a bad bunch that is “Engineered Craig.”

Put your thinking caps on, and come to the forums!

Next up, we move to States…

A West Yorkshire Championship Report

This past Saturday, I played in the West Yorkshire Standard Champs. Yup, States are called Champs in England. The English do not have States, apart from the all-encompassing State of Denial in which we all live. The sun was shining, in a fashion. I was armed with the best control deck in the format that didn’t run 66 cards… Grim Teachings, courtesy of Patrick Chapin.

Here’s my build. I changed a few cards, so I’m crediting it to myself. After all, that’s what innovation is all about.

I’ve even renamed it “Scouse Teachings.” How’dya like them apples! Innovative enough for ya?!

With compliments to Patrick, of course. I love the deck to pieces.

The tournament itself took place in a quiet room at Bradford University, as do most of my local tourneys. Sometimes it’s packed to the rafters (sixty-four players or so). Other times, like today, the turnout is lower.

Eleven players.


Before everyone screams “OMG you lucky scrub, my local tourneys have a million players, I so wish I lived in England so I could play in small events,” allow me to offer a pre-emptive rebuttal.

No. You don’t.

I don’t know about you, but I started playing this game because it was fun. When I’m geared for an event, especially a “fun” event like States that has little more than pride on the line, I’m hoping for a day full of excitement and hard-fought battles.

You think you get that from four rounds of Swiss then a cut to the Top 8?

I was chatting online to Joshua Claytor the night before States, and he told me that the best thing about States was the fun times with friends that’ve traveled far to be there. The After-States party. Drinking the night away, then crashing at someone’s hotel room in the wee small hours.

You think you get that with eleven players? Players that have traveled for no more that 30 minutes to get there?

At events such as these, I want to play Magic. One of the players at this event got a bye in the first round, lost the second round, then IDed into the Top 8. Where’s the fun in that?

I wanna battle eight rounds, facing more difficult and honed opposition at every step. I want making Top 8 to mean something. And if I scrub our early, I want the chance to play side events. I want more Magic.

You envy me, for these tiny affairs? I envy you for your large ones.

Man, I’ve not said that since gym class.

(Okay, sure… low turnout PTQs are a little different. We get between 30 and 70 for any given PTQ, usually hovering at the lower end of the spectrum. And yes, I’ve played at PTQs with four rounds of Swiss. I generally love most of these events, but even then, anything below twenty players leaves a sour taste in my mouth.)

Four rounds of Swiss, cut to the Top 8. Shouldn’t be too difficult.

And it wasn’t.

I’m not going to dwell on the Swiss rounds, but I suppose a recap is in order. In Round 1, I played a guy running a budget Red/Blue suspend deck. Reality Acids, Deep Sea Krakens, that sort of thing. Rune Snagging that hard-cast ten-mana bad boy felt very good indeed. I took my sweet time in game 1, winning with ten minutes on the round. Of course, I stumbled on mana in the second, and his excellent opening hand took us to a third game with five minutes left. I was in control of the third, but time was against me.

Round 2 I played a guy running a Red/Green Pandemonium deck full of haste guys like Groundbreaker and Lightning Serpent. I knew I’d win this on turn 2 of game 1, when his two-drop wasn’t Tarmogoyf… it was Viashino Sandscout. It did make my Damnations look foolish, I admit.

Round 3 I played a lady piloting a stock Green/Black Elves deck. My Damnations came when needed, and she let her head drop when I killed her stuff.

Round 4 I faced a guy playing a Haakon Inversion deck, and I looked forward to testing out my maindeck Desert (for Oona’s Prowler) and Extirpate (for Haakon), but he asked for an ID as he had a splitting headache. I was keen to play, but I’m not an evil man. He went for some fresh air, and I watched the other tables.

I made Top 8 in third position. My rounds 1, 2, and 3 opponents finished 9th, 10th, and 11th.

For the quarterfinal, I faced my teammate and travel companion, Paul “Ool” Wray. He was running Benjamin Peebles-Mundy’s Green/White Non-Kithkin list from this article. We only had three Gaddock Teegs between us, so Paul took out a Stonewood Invocation and added two Loxodon Warhammers. The lure of the TrollHammer is large. He’d been my testing partner before the event, and while I feel I’m a better player than him, he’s improving greatly of late.

Game 1 was very close. My first Damnation took the wind out of his sails, but he’d saved resources like a good boy for a second wave. I held him off with Teferi, and Shriekmawed a few guys, but Teeg put a crimp in my plans. I drew Triskelavus, and managed to take him down while at a precarious two life, even though he was threatening the win on a number of occasions with multiple Saffis to protect his Serra Avenger.

Game 2 was were it came crashing down.

My opener was passable, but a little slow. I had all three Tolaria Wests in hand, plus Damnation, Urborg, and Teachings. I made two Wests (Fred and Rose) in the early game, drawing Cryptic Command and feeling good. Unfortunately, the beats came quickly, backed by a Thorn of Amethyst. I had mana coming out of my ears, but all my spells cost four. I sat back for four turns, doing nothing, while Paul beat me to death with monsters.

It wasn’t until I was shuffling for game three that I remembered that Tolaria West fetched more than mere lands.

This was a colossal mistake. A hideous, eye-gouging error. I felt as if I’d been stabbed in the helmet.

Why did I make it? I have no idea. A part of me wants to blame the tournament itself: how can I expect to be on my A-Game when playing with ten other people? Of course, that’s just so much bunkum. I’d fetched Pacts both Slaughterous and Negative many a time during the Swiss… this time, I simply dropped the ball.

Game 3 was an anticlimax. A Troll Ascetic came down when I was tapped for mana acceleration, a Griffin Guide joined it, and I didn’t draw the Damnation. I had Cryptic Command in hand the turn I died, but couldn’t muster a third Blue source.

Paul went on to lose in the semifinal to someone playing a Doran deck. 0/3 Treefolk Harbingers and 0/5 Wall of Roots are pretty good at stalling the game. We left shortly after, before the second semifinal was finished.

Bringing you my view of the metagame, from an eleven-player tournament, seems rather redundant. However, I can at least bring you the decks that each competitor chose to run. There was:

1 Doran deck
2 G/B Elves decks
1 G/W Non-Kithkin deck (Paul)
1 G/W Kithkin deck
1 Scouse Teachings deck (Moi)
1 U/W Sacred Mesa Control deck
2 Haakon Inversion decks
1 Budget Suspend deck
1 G/R Pandemonium deck

The final was between the Doran deck and one of the Haakon decks — the Haakon players faced off in the second semifinal.

Final Thoughts

This week, I’d planned to bring you a Standard round-up from information gleaned at the West Yorkshire Champs. I hope you can understand why that’s not exactly worked as I’d hoped. But what of next week, and the series progressing?

Well… what would you like to read about?

Come let me know what you’d like me to tackle. While I’m gonna lay off the MTGO Top 8 reporting, I still play most of my Magic online… If you’ve any cool topics you’d like me to investigate, say the word.

Man, it’s good to be back. And remember… you can’t stop the signal. Except for those time when you can.

Until next week…

Thanks for listening.

Craig Stevenson
Scouseboy on MTGO
Mail us at https://sales.starcitygames.com/contactus/contactform.php?emailid=2

PS: It’s the foot of the article. What does that mean? Webcomic plug time, baby!

In today’s edition of Ungrateful Dead, our hero Tim battles with his heavy metal bandmates over the suggestion that they shoudl include… *gasp!* … keyboards in their music. For the love of God, will this madness ever end?

* Yeah, Scouse rhymes with House. That info may help.