Penetrating Tony Danza: A PTQ Report

The incomparable JFR took his latest baby – Nearly Mono Black in Standard – to a Team PTQ, in an attempt to qualify for Charleston. The deck performed well… but not in the way you’d expect. A report full of wit, invention, and the odd play-tip thrown in for good measure. Did Rizzo and pals take home the bacon? Can Nearly Mono Black make a splash at the approaching Regionals tournaments? The answers lie within…

It’s Wednesday, May 3, and I just spent the last four hours driving. When you’re facing endless

highway and the tunes are blaring (Linkin Park, I’m only partially ashamed to admit), a man’s mind tends

to wander. Random thoughts enter and exit almost as visions, afterthoughts, and perhaps a mirage throw in for good

measure. But my deck, and what’s good and bad about it, couldn’t out damned spot.

I wondered how I would handle certain situations; concocting nightmarish scenarios and attempting to solve them

makes sense when you’ve listened to “Lying From You” seven hundred times in the last three hours.

Mostly I contemplated Husk.

I finally put together a net version and ran it through its paces. After what might have been a hundred games,

certain truths became self-evident. The most important of which was this: it all comes down to the draw. Well, sort


I know it can’t be that simple, for Husk has draws that are much more reliable than mine. If this is the

case, then by default the matchup is, as those kids might say but not mine, like bad. When all of the money spells

(at least against me) cost three or less, you’re liable to be playing a consistent beat machine that does what

it wants to do more often than a deck whose primary win condition is the soup du jour.

But damn if it doesn’t seem like it all comes down to draws.


If I go Elf, Hyppie, and Jitte, Husk will be behind the proverbial eight ball. I realize that opening may be

considered a god hand, or at least a minor deity, but that is the main reason the elves are there. A secondary reason

is to pump out rather large creatures a little earlier than can be expected. The tertiary reason is that a mid-game

elf is not the worst thing in the world after the world has met Wildfire. Nevertheless, going first and dropping Elf,

Hyppie, Jitte will give a number of decks problems. Especially mine.

However, even if I manage to snag the aforementioned hand, Husk is quite prepared to fight its way out. During a

playtesting session in which a die-hard Husk player was present, I took the opportunity to delve into the mysteries

of the deck.

I asked tons of questions, each of which was answered in ways that were meant to demonstrate the resilience of

Husk, and I suppose further cement the idea in his own head that he was doing the right thing, Spike Lee

notwithstanding. But mostly he gave me the information I was seeking: the weaknesses.

What do you do about Jitte?

There’s a million sac effects, so mostly just ignore it.

While I may have missed most of Jitte’s shining moments, I seem to believe that ignoring Jitte is a tad

foolhardy. Any deck that sports so many x/1 and x/2 creatures should worry about Jitte and the vase. My testing has

shown this to be mostly true, since I’m good at testing.

When I get an active Jitte, and granted, sometimes it’s more difficult than it seems, the advantage falls

squarely on my shoulders. It doesn’t always end up as a mark in the win column, but it does make victory that

much harder for Husk. This may appear to be patently obvious to everyone, but had I taken Husk player at his


How does your deck fare against Night of Souls’ Betrayal?

I have seven enchantment killers maindeck, plus Castigate.

That seems like a lot of reasons that it shouldn’t matter. Probably not enough to completely write off a

card that eliminates a major win condition in Promise of Bunrei, but just enough to be comfortable.

My testing has shown that Betrayal is very bad for Husk. It’s certainly not game over by any stretch of the

imagination, but again, it makes it that much harder for them to win.

Naturally, when I can slow down an aggressive deck, I gain the advantage of time: time to let Bob fill my hand;

time to equip and lay waste; time to get the fatties online; and time get to the late game, which is where all of the

above elements can truly sow their oats. And let them top deck an answer.

I tested more against Husk than any other deck, and am left with one conclusion: the match is an


If I can open up a turn 2 Hyppie…
If I drop turn 2 Bob…
If I can ninja in response to Mortify
If I can take out Husk with Putrefy or Shoal before things get silly…
If they don’t wax Bob, Rats and Elf with Pontiff…
If they don’t curve perfectly…

Many matches resulted in a win for the deck that went first. If they get the turn 1 Rusalka, turn 2 Bob, turn 3

Pontiff that kills my board, or they hit me with multiple Castigates, I ordinarily lose. If I can keep their guys

from multiplying exponentially, I ordinarily win. If, if, if…

I like my board of Night of Souls’ Betrayal and Hideous Laughter, with a House Guard to fetch them, not

because it strengthens the matchup, but because it can offer additional outs that may strengthen the

matchup. While I’m certain many of you look at my deck and reflect upon my current drug of choice, there

are good cards in the list.

Llanowar Elves
Ravenous Rats
Dark Confidant
Umezawa’s Jitte
Sickening Shoal
Hypnotic Specter
Yukora, the Prisoner
Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Vulturous Zombie
Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni

I don’t see one bad card. You could make a case for Yukora, Okiba, and Zombie being less than desirable

cards, with maindeck Nekky being equally sketchy, and the case would likely hold water. But we got lungs, yo, not


However, I offer in my defense that Yukora will survive Wildfire, trade with Kodama, block the hell out of Ghost

Council and Hierarch, and looks a might beefy coming out on turn 3.

Likewise, Okiba has his good points, not the least of which is countering removal and making the opponent pitch

two cards. This is not mere theory, nor a pipe dream — it does happen, and not just in my bad testing sessions.

I was testing with a Crossroads regular who ended his turn with a conspicuously empty board, four cards in hand,

and Mortify mana open, against my lone Hyppie.

I cast main phase Rats (he pitched a land), and then served with Hyppie. After he declared no blocks (bad

player!), he predictably cast Mortify and I unpredictably used Okiba to not only save Hyppie, but hit him for three

and completely empty his hand. I believe I let out a sound that can only be described as orgasmic. So would you. I

understand this play is not the norm, though it does come up with more frequency than you would expect, you negative

dream crushers.

A few games later, I was able to return a Rat to ninja out Ink-Eyes, who promptly stole his Yosei. Ninjitsu is

quickly becoming one of my favorite abilities, for when you don’t play very well, the element of surprise often

becomes your saving grace.

As for Vulturous Zombie… He’s my Husk “tech,” and while he might not be technology

proper, he does put a damper on throwing away cards with reckless abandon. The synergy with discard and creature kill

is obvious, but his biggest attribute is that he flies. Oh, and he’s a little better than Seizan in the five cc


While the number of Nekky targets in Husk is almost of no consequence, and he does get sided out, I stand by my

idea that he is the complete nuts against Gruul and Zoo, where he will usually take two cards with him: the creature

he killed, and the burn spell to remove him. Additionally, he’s crazy with Ninjitsu, puts the breaks on

Solifuge, and I dare not revisit the pure carnage that is Nekky wearing Jitte.

Still, very little matters if Husk gets a good-to-great draw and I don’t. Again, they’re more likely

to obtain said draws, while mine are sometimes mired in the regions of “three lands with nothing to immediately

commit to the board.”

If you think the deck is a pile, nothing I wrote is going to convince you otherwise. If you find yourself nodding

in agreement to some of my “claims” (which I doubt), then check your head, but that’s all fine and

good. Theory and playtesting are two sides of the coin, but the most important side is the edge, where courage under

fire is all that matters and performance is easily measured in wins and losses.

Shrugs, two of them.

The decklist:

Someone suggested, in the forums (no less!), that I try Sensei’s Divining Top. I said I would, and true to

my word, I did just that. It was stellar at times, such as late-game playing-off-the-top wars, mediocre or

time-constrained at others — in my opening hand that also contained Elf, Hyppie and a four-drop, but it most

certainly was never awful. To that effect, I can’t envision adding more than two, which will likely be best

served as a singleton copy. Hey, it worked for that Japanese guy, didn’t it?

Another concern with Top was what to take out. I tried a number of ideas — knock off a Jitte, Nekky and two

fatties, or just a Jitte and Nekky, or even some combination of the above. Each of those cards is important to the

deck in that they are action plain and simple, enough so that the utility gained by Top was often eclipsed by the

loss of what was missing. I understand the point is to smooth draws and improve the flow of your game, though

frequently the one-mana investment to peek proved to be one mana too much.

It’s much like a bounceland: usually very good, except for those times when you need to peel a land that

taps for mana, like right the freak now.

I have resigned myself to one of two possibilities:

Use one Top and go to sixty-one cards, or use zero.

Conventional wisdom states that sixty is strictly superior to sixty-one, but what would that wisdom say on turn

15, when I draw the Top and vastly improve my situation? Well, it would likely say, “you’re still a dick

for playing sixty-one cards.”

Sixty is bestest, Hobbitses, quoth Gollum, and he may be right. Then again, he was a goofy looking sumbitch who

was half out his mind, both of them.

I still have three days to decide, while you need only to read for another five minutes to bear the fruit of my

decision. Heh on me for considering that Top-as-sixty-one versus sixty is of the slightest relevance to anyone.

The deck is a pile.
I’m on the wrong track with this deck and have been there for miles.
I’m not very good at Magic.

Yet, this is how I think.


FNM offered the proverbial “final chance to punt and play a real deck” last-minute option. That

wasn’t a realistic option, not because it would throw a wrench into the monkey that is our team, but because I

like the freakin’ thing.

Speaking of team, we have no name, not at least a name that anyone has made me aware of. While I admire those who

go the extra mile to concoct a deliciously obscure or seemingly random name, they are few and far between. I would

offer that “Team 0-3 Lunch” is one of my all-time favorites.

Perhaps “Godzilla vs. Halle Berry?” It’s obscure enough that most people won’t get it,

but those who do will rofl themselves silly. Hey… how about “rofl?” In fact, dare I suggest that it

remain lower case, and perhaps Darwin and Rob could actually set it in italics if that’s not too much trouble?

The thing is I’m funny as hell, but I have yet to determine the exact funny quotient of Cory and Chet.

Chet, being an impressionable twenty-something ready to graduate with a degree in Something Liberal, is like a

delicate flower that may erupt at the slightest inclination of an implied social injustice. An off-color name may

wind my ass in a windowless room with the best the ACLU has to offer. Heh, “the best the ACLU has.” See,

another funny.

Cory, on the other hand, is a workin’-stiff, much like myself; he wasn’t born with a silver spoon in

his ass and a red carpet all the way to Princeton or Yale or Southern Maine Community College like Chet Kennedy Norton. Thus, he may appreciate “man humor,”

especially since he spends his days working with, well, men.

Men who get dirt under their nails and complain about their backs and their “ol’ ladies” and

have likely never heard of nor really wouldn’t give a rat’s ass about Britney and Kevin. Maybe Angelina

and Brad, though.

I’m certain that Chet worries about the strain that Kevin is putting on Britney. Being a complete and utter disgusting slut whore skank omg I can’t stop

puking brand-new and first-time mother, she needs more emotional support than usual from Kevin. And he just

can’t go out and get laid/drunk/in a fight/cut rap records whenever he wants anymore. Sometimes, he’ll

have to stay home with the baby’s cadre of professional nannies, while Brit goes out and stinks up the entire

neighborhood. No wonder Chet is always writing letters to Congress.

The post-Friday Night Magic sing-a-long session saw a frantic conversation involving at least three participants.

It was a raucous, all you can eat kind of discussion, one in which I was an inactive, yet fully cognizant,

contributor. I heard nothing a very crisp and clean phonetically perfect “impenetrable” come from the

lips via the twisted mind of one Chester Peter Norton. “Good word,” commented I, to which Chet

acknowledged with a knowing wink.

I then asked if anyone had an idea for a team name. Chet thought “Tony Danza” would be leet, or

perhaps it’s the first thing that came to his mind; Rorschach test up in here. Clever and witty it was most

likely not, but a few minutes later, he brought it hard:

The Impenetrable Tony Danza

Zarathustra said stuff. Word.

I smashed Heartbeat in the teeth and gums a few games in a row, and then funny times ensued. Playing against

Ghazi-Chord, I managed to do what this deck does best: make you play from the top, hoping to draw a miracle. Shinobi,

Rats, and Bob were exploiting life totals like strippers exploit those who think they’re exploiting them, and

then Brett topped Congregation at Dawn. He cast it for three Yosei.

Why freakin’ bother? I kill all your stuff, strip your hand and pummel you into near oblivion, and you go

and top deck good stuff… That’s this deck’s one glaring weakness: the decks it rapes are filled to

the brim with much better cards than I have, and thus will eventually draw into something good, especially if my

clock consists of beats for three or four per turn. But whatever — making them play off the top feels

like an advantage. Of course, this is probably moot, since card advantage and related archaic philosophies are no

longer relevant. Just top stuff and kill target Rizzo.

Alas, I didn’t add the singleton Top, so the list up there is who I danced with, since it brung me. Chet

played Zoo, with sideboard tech of Hierarch and Glare. Cory went with Wildfire, which was better than playing seven

rounds of the Heartbeat mirror in his mind.

The drive down was uneventful, other than Chet needing to stop every fifteen miles to test the plumbing of each

rest stop and gas station in New Hampshire. That Chet, he’s a fiend for unexplored plumbing situations.

Additionally, I discovered I shared a bond with the boys: it turns out I’m not the only one who’s pee

shy. C’mon, admit it — you’re pee shy too. When you’re at a urinal without a privacy divider

(and sometimes even that’s not enough), and Mr. Confident In His Sexuality steps right beside you and unzips,

if you’re not already flowing, you’re stuck in “pretending I peed and it was everything I always

dreamed of” mode.” You stare straight ahead for a moment, then exhale like you, well, peed, then zip,

flush, and hope that the next time you come in no one is there so you can, well, pee unencumbered.

I suggested that in such situations you simply suck it up and use a stall, where, pee shy or not, you are free to

roam about the cabin at your own pace. This is advice from a man who’s been there, done that, and this

technology has been proven to be the most effective example of defeating pee shy.

When Mike Flores says something about Magic, you’d do well to listen.

Chet said that at random intervals throughout the day, and mostly with little or no provocation. To anyone who

would listen.

So we get into Boston, and apparently it was Official Hot Chyk Jog Day, for every hot chyk within five hundred

miles was, er, jogging. Ogling hot jogging chyx is but one benefit of not driving. It’s very worth the fifteen

buck toll/gas charge that Chet The Liberal imposed. Think of it as a surcharge on your fantasy life. Or something.

We found Brighton, and didn’t even get lost. Score one for the good guys.

Unbeknownst to me, Mike Morissette was actually playing Nearly Mono Black in Standard. I thought he would puss

out and go with Ghazi-Chord, but apparently, the boy has a pair, and came with the man-sized crast, lest he miss what

might be the next Friggorid, even if it’s not and the deck may or may not be in pupa stage.

He had a few instances of technology, namely Hand of Cruelty to laff@Glare and Hierarchs and swing past Yosei,

and Birds instead of the Elves. I like mines better, dawg; however, he did give me co-credit on the space on the


Deck Designer: Mike Morissette/John Rizzo


Still, two Nearly Mono Black decks in Standard in the same room…? We both wondered what the odds

might be of facing the mirror. Forty teams divided by I’m seat B he’s seat C equals zero percent chance.

Or so we thought.

Foreshadowing, yes, glad you noticed.

40 teams/7 rounds/boy is it close up in this sumbitch.

We register and settle in for what we expect to be about an hour delay, for the old saw “if you’re

not early you’re late” comes with kicker: if you’re early, you get to mill around for an hour while

those jerkoff late bloomers amble in at their own mulish pace. Screw it: just be late. There is no punishment.

I start to get a little edgy; I wanna freakin’ play, damnit. Chet’s about to explode, or at least

examine the plumbing of Brighton, Mass, when we’re finally allowed to begin, sort of.

Before we shuffle and deal ‘em, the judge has some announcements. First, he asks everyone to be quiet.

About four percent of the ninety-seven people talking do so. He begins his spiel about this and that, and again

requests that everyone be quiet. About negative one percent of those ninety-odd peeps talking do so.

He continues his dealio for another minute or so, half of which was audible (thx pa system) due to the sheer

volume of the bastards that were, well, not being quiet… He again asks for quiet. He doesn’t get it.

At this I’m ready to stand on a table and scream:

STFU! (or “stoofoo!” to those not down with Aim lingo)

Strangely, I don’t do that, but about thirty seconds later, which is about two full minutes after I would

have given the entire room a match loss, he lowers his microphone and screams at the top of his lungs:

“Everybody shut up!”

It kinda worked, for most people actually shut the hell up. He did his pre-tourney thing and we’re off and


Round 1: Riffraff, Inc.
Tim, G/W/B Control

In the first game, I drop turn 2 Rats and Tim asks his teammates “what deck is this…?”

Do you have any idea how satisfying that is? Probably you don’t.

Meanwhile, he’s played two shock lands the slow way and anticipates being able to cast something. I follow

up with Hyppie, who over the next two turns nabs not one, not two, but three Yosei. Okay, it was only two,

but three sounded more impressive. Just add Jitte to elicit a scoop.

Game 2 saw Tim mulligan, my turn 2 Rat nab Wrath of God, and me scratch my noggin. Multiple Wraths in his opening

hand? Or more better removal?

It would not matter, since I dropped Hyppie and Shinobi’d Rat to obliterate his hand. A Ghost Council was

the cream of the crop that hit the bin, although that Wrath being pitched still confuses me; even if his hand ended

up empty before he could get double White, Wrath seems, er, pretty good.

He did manage to Persecute me on turn 4 and nab, oh, four black cards, which counts for something considering

that Keoni did the same thing in a spate of Crossroads testing. Sometimes it matters when you get hit with a

four-for-one, but I have yet to see an instance where it did.

Meanwhile, Cory’s opponent has a messed up sleeve:

Cory: That sleeve is messed up.
Guy: Hells yes.
Cory: I don’t wanna be an *sshole, but…
Guy: If you don’t wanna be an *sshole, then don’t be an *sshole.


The guy offered that this wasn’t his deck and he didn’t have any extra sleeves and would you like me

to go buy a pack of sleeves right now…?

[author name=

Cory, wise in the ways of this cruel world, knows that sometimes the unscrupulous fellers use the crappy sleeves

for their board cards so they always know when they’re about to draw one, thus believes the world is out to get

him, and it truly is, I asked. Nevertheless, the situation ended before it came to a head: they played and Cory got

smashed because he’s bad at drawing Pyroclasm.

Cory lost to Gruul.
Chet beat Wildfire because he made his opponent tap out to cast Meloku and actually Jedi’d him to block Kami of

Ancient Law with it… I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Helix jump out of a player’s hand that


Mikey beat Greater Good.dec because he is the ninja master

Me: 1-0 at Magic
Team: 1-0

We feels good, y’all.

Round 2: Team ????
Joe, Owling Mine

Joe double mulligans, but manages to drop Howling Mine to attempt to keep some kind of parity with my turn 2 Bob.

I made a mental note to thank him for the additional card, and then promptly Putrefied it. He dropped another the

next turn: again, mental note for the extra card which found me Jitte. I suited up Bob and rode that bad boy to

victory, with some Rat and Shinobi lovin’ throw in for good measure.

The second game saw Joe mulligan again and me cast turn 2 Distress. He had random card and four Exhaustion. Yes,

four Exhaustion. In his hand. I took the white-bordered one, rapidly followed up with Hyppie action, and

finished him off with Ink-Eyes.

Cory lost to Gruul again.
Chet beat Heartbeat .

Our matches were finished in about 13 minutes. Gee, only another freakin’ hour to mill around and find Chad

Ellis to say “sup” but I couldn’t because I think they got smashed and he left before he realized

that my team did better than his and I would never let him live it down. But I would, Chad, I surely would.

Mike lost to Heartbeat because the guy ripped three Savage Twister, Heartbeat, and Maga, all empty handed and

from the top of his deck that loves him. Interesting deal from that match:

Mike had out Yukora and a pair of Hyppies to his opponent’s Keiga. Mike served with everything and the bad

guy started to think. Gee, if I block Yukora, everything dies. But oh, I don’t get to steal anything. Damned if

you do, damned if you don’t, but it’s not really a decision, is it?

He blocked Yukora, Mike Shinobi’d a Hyppie, the dude lost the last three cards in hand and the board was

reset. The next turn Mike cast another Yukora and replayed the Hyppie.

Mike: ninja master.

But he still lost, because Magic is a lucksack.

Me: 2-0 at Magic
Team: 2-0

We feel — well, at least I do — unstoppable.

Round 3: Team The Guys That Won The Shebang
Jonathan Choy, the worst pile of crap ever

Game 1 was one of the best, most enjoyable, hardest fought and intense games I have ever played, despite the fact

that Jonathan was playing such a pile.

He goes first, drops a Tomb or Wastes or some other crappy land that just screams “bad deck!” A turn

2 Bob follows, and my mindset quickly changes to “hey, he’s using a good card!” When he dropped

Rats next turn, I began to think something was amiss. When he Putrefied or Shoaled my very own actual Bob, my dome

got all mushy.

He started to beat the living hell out of me, due to having a huge upper hand thanks to Bob, and got me all the

way to two before I was able to stabilize…with Vulturous Freakin’ Zombie, a.k.a. The Flying Plant.

John was at 18 — two Zombie swings got him to 2. I don’t remember if he let me attack next turn, drew

his card and let me stew in the possibility of a removal spell, or maybe I added a Hyppie to the mix and it

didn’t matter.

Nonetheless, being down and bloodied for about ten consecutive minutes and coming back to win what I thought was

an unwinnable game gave me a woody. Still, I ain’t fer certain he’s playing Nearly Mono Black in

Standard, though John’s an awfully suspicious character and I’d best keep my eye on him.

John ended game two at 2 life, despite having an Arena in play. This game was a complete slaughter, with his

early cards of death easily outclassing my grip of equally powerful spells, though I wasn’t able to refuel as

quickly. I think his Jitte may have been okay against my x/1 and x/2 guys as well.

The jig was finally up when he attacked with Birds, Elves and Hyppie into my two guys. I look at his mana –

suspecting Shoal but what the hell can I do about it — and it hits me like a brick. I look at Chet, who has his

own problems damnit, and say “he can’t have ninjas (can he…?),” and then declare blockers.

This was a situation I encountered many dozens of times in testing, but rarely on the side of the guy who’s

about to lose two cards or a dude from the ‘yard.

Ink-Eyes answers many questions at once, takes my Bob and makes me feel torn like a super hot chyk who actually

happens to be moderately intelligent— I want to be respected for my deck idea mind… as I slink down the street in my hip huggers, tight

belly shirt, clicky-clacking my tongue stud, showing off my naval piercing, and for those who turn their heads and

watch my delicate ass float away: a nice tramp stamp/pull-out target.

I don’t remember much of game 3 other than I kept a semi-slow hand, and John punished the hell out me for

it. I do recall, oddly, playing both Shizo and Grandfather Tree as Wastelands. That’s one hell of a crowning

achievement, huh? For some reason, I want to say John cast the Flying Plant in this game, but before letting myself

die to such an awful creature, I scooped. Maybe.

I asked him about Vulturous Zombie, which was conspicuously absent from the article that I nearly forgot that I

wrote but mentioned in the forums, and he replied, “I read the forums.” Damnit, the forums are not for

reading, they are there for discussion purposes only!

His deck was a card-for-card, sans two pieces of uber-tech: he split the drawing between two Bobs and two Arenas,

with the rationale that Arena is twice as hard to eliminate, and dayum if he doesn’t make Ink-Eyes cost a

measly one life. Likewise, he went two and two of Birds and Elves, and while the two less men to make love to Jitte

can be iffy, the two additional flyers that scream “Ninja!” makes up for it, sometimes in spades.

Arena in Nearly Mono Black in Standard version 2.0? Methinks so. Not so sure about the bird/elf thing, but hey,

he won the freakin’ thing and I’m merely one of the world’s best deck designers.

Cory got rammed by Heartbeat.
Chet got rolled by Husk.

Me: 2-1 at Magic, but this loss doesn’t count so I’m still 2-0
Team: 2-1

Mike beat Ghazi-Chord, and I’m not sure how.

We still feel a’ight, kinda. Until…

Round 4: Team Some Guys From Maine
Aaron Lewis, Ghazi-Chord

I expect to lose to Aaron, for he has won the last three Maine States, dating back two years and

including 2HG. That’s like, some kind of record that even Bennie Smith has to admire.

In the first game, he stops playing land on turn 2, apparently trusting his Elf and Selesnya Guildmage to weather

the storm. At the end of his turn I make a decision: he’s land screwed and I must keep him that way. I remove

Rats to Shoal the Elf, untap and Nekky the ‘Mage, intending to beat him before he can ramp up to Yosei and

whatever else wants to beat me about my poor ass neck.

I get him down to seven — he’s been playing off the top for about five turns now, and I’m

ready to administer the lethal in two turns with Nekky and Okiba. He draws Wood Elves and will have Vitu-Ghazi mana

next turn to help him survive. Annoying, but not the end of the world: I’ll serve, he’ll block, and

woohoo for me.

I didn’t draw removal, so I serve and expect him to block. He doesn’t, goes to two and needs a

tremendous miracle. This turn seemed like a Zvi article, but extremely obvious right now: if he blocks, he loses. If

he doesn’t, he gives himself one more turn to peel that Jitte, which is exactly what the unbelievable freak he did. He serves, gets counters and wonders how

he got so good at Magic.

Me, on the other hand, realize that this hand of lands ain’t gettin’ the job done. He plays Jitte and

token tricks to stave off death and eventually finds Yosei, who does what he does best to both my untapped stuff and

life total.

I mulligan game 2 into two Swamps, double Hyppie, Putrefy, Ink-Eyes. I don’t draw a third land until

irrelevance comes to pass (turn 5 or so), while Aaron plays three consecutive Wood Elves just to taunt me. His fat

comes down when he tires of accelerating, and he makes like Ray Casella and fixes to ease my pain.

In one of games I was again at a Crossroads of Decision:

I have two active guys to Aaron’s single Wood Elves. In my hand is Okiba, Shoal and Ink-Eyes, while

Aaron’s lovingly fondling the last two cards in his hand. I show my hand to Chet and ask, “how badly do I

want him to lose his hand?”

Chet eyes up the situation and seconds my emotion. I overfreakin’kill the Elves: Ink-Eyes for a

1/1?!lol!, then ninja in Okiba and make him dump…

Chord of Calling and Yosei.

That was so worth it.
Even if I still lost.
Because top decking is a lost art.
Except for Aaron Lewis From Staind.

Me: 2-2 at Magic, but this loss doesn’t count either so I’m still 2-0
Team: 2-2

Mike lost to Heartbeat and I don’t know why.

We considered dropping but thought better of it when we were outside commiserating. We all watch as Chet eats

this seriously drippy oozy package of chocolate donuts. He notices our equal parts fear and admiration, and then

informs us that he is merely involved in an episode of emotional eating. Since Chet’s some kind of mental

health shrink professional babbler seducer of hot vulnerable clients, we knew this was a cry for help. We can’t

let one third of The Impenetrable Tony Danza channel his inner child through a pack of sweaty donuts!

The humanity.
We must fight on.
To live another day.

Round 5: Team ????
Aaron, Zur’s Weirding Thing

Game 1 is all well and good: me with double Rats and about to play Jitte, when Aaron drops turn 4 Zur’s

Weirding. I reveal my hand of Jitte, The Flying Plant, Ink-Eyes, and enough lands to eventually do most of it.

Aaron’s hand, however, was two Rewind, two Gifts Ungiven and Wrath of God.

He dropped Firemane Angels into the bin from the Rats, so it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that he

will eventually get me into the Zur’s lock. But the more I look at the board, my hand and his hand, the more I

begin to realize that he really just locked himself, and try as I might, I can’t find a way to lose this game.


He tapped out to play Weirding, so I’m free to roam about the cabin and drop and equip Jitte. There is

nothing he can do about it except Wrath next turn, which he does, but has to tap out to do so.

This allows me to play the Flying Plant and pay two life to both deny him his card and gain a +1/+1 counter for

my trouble. He’s stuck with a completely useless hand, and even though he’s gaining two life each turn,

it won’t be enough to compete with a large equipped Plant.

He takes a bunch over the next two turns, after I deny him two more cards and it doesn’t matter what they

are (counter r00l baby!), and with 10 life left, he casts Gifts. I pick up the card and read it, notice something

about putting stuff into the ‘yard, and try to look like I’m doing math, while I’m secretly

fondling myself. He fetches out Wrath, Devouring Light, Lightning Helix, and another Angel.

Once I realize the Zombie’s about to become a flying 8/8 monster with four Jitte counters to boot, I give

him Helix and Angel, knowing that when I Zur’s his card into the bin and go all 9/9 on his ass and Jitte a plus

fo’/plus fo’, that Helix ain’t nearly enough. Knowwhatimsayin’?

I side in Naturalize and Distress, aiming to take out the Weirding just in case it actually hurts me this game.

He drops an early Circle of Protection: Black, and I realize that er, equipping Bob isn’t the cat’s

ass. What is, however, is Naturalizing that noise. I sneak in a hit, get a couple counters, but don’t

overextend, anticipating Wrath shenanigans. They dutifully show next turn, so I start all over: play Bob, equip,


He drops Weirding, and again I realize that his hand of enchantment removal (??), two Firemanes, and a Pyroclasm

won’t be enough. It’s not, although he is getting the theoretical best of it: I have to take the Bob life

and won’t get the card if it’s relevant. No matter, I hear Jitte wins games.

Cory lost to Neverending Torment.dec I guess huh shut yo’ mouth
Chet beat up on some Gruul and feels better

Me: 3-2 at Magic but in reality it’s 3-0
Team: 3-2

Mike lost to Husk, which is a fifty-fifty anyway so alas.

Our mood was somber despite the victory, until they put up the intentional draw list standings. It turns out we were in twelfth place,

which, while not getting us to Charleston, could result in a top 8 that means nothing except self-esteem points. We

need to top 8 for Chet and his myriad emotional problems. Team The Impenetrable Tony Danza: support group 4L!

We’re checking out the dealer table when the guy with the cards hands the boys a website flyer. I heard the

word “cards” and declined when he offered me one, thinking he was pimping, well, cards.

Me: I have, ya’ know, a guy.
Dealer: Who dat, hooka?
Me: StarCityGames.com
Dealer: I known Pete since I was knee high to your mom, beeyotch.
Some Other Guy: So expensive, StarCity is!

I contemplated spieling the ol’ Ben-Ben lines, but threw in the phrases “I write for them,” and

may have tossed about the word “loyalty” with reckless abandon. At the mention of the final

“L” word, the dealer got all bonding with me:

Dealer: Loyalty is like, omerta, dawg.
Me: Hells to the yes.
Dealer: Rare in this day and age.
Me: Word to The Godfather, consigliore.
Dealer: NewEnglandMagicGroup with the fishes.
Me: Night of the Sicilian Vespers.
Dealer: Word.

We bonded like two old Mafioso cronies, admonishing the current state of throwing mi familia under the bus just

to save a buck fifty on a twenty dollar rare. So tightly did we bond that I bought a playset of Avatar of Discord

‘cause they were only three bucks each and I need them to break Regionals, and as an afterthought, the Standard

environment for the next six years.

Upon further reflection, I realized that I haven’t actually bought any cards from StarCityGames in like,

ever. I made a mental note to do so, just as soon as I no longer have dial-up and it doesn’t take me four hours

to open the shopping cart page.

It turns out the guy was pimping his website which has zero cards for sale. Oh how we rofl’d.

I thought the above situation was apropos, especially considering that The F did a daily piece on just that there

“L” word topic. Word to The F. And Chris Romeo. And hot chyx that want me and wouldn’t write a

report about our sexual adventures.

Round 1:

Rizzo takes off my top and fumbles with my bra strap like a complete virgin. I respond by stripping to my

birthday suit, and instead of getting busy he Looks At Me For Like Three DaysTM.

Props: Reduced room rates.
Slops: Being looked at for like three days instead of carnally digested.


StarCityGames is so expensive!

Maybe, maybe not, but “Pete” rhymes with “neat.” And “l33t.” Metagame


Round 6: Team ????
Neil, Wildfire

I am so friggin’ good at Magic I can’t believe it. I poke Neil with lil’ Rat and Bob beatings,

and stockpile lands in anticipation of Wildfire. When he reaches six mana and is at ten life, he blows up the world.

From my hand of a juicy assortment of lands and sexy others, I drop Tomb, Elf and proceed to come out the closet

like I was playing Sligh at a gender identity tournament. Bob drops, then Jitte, then Neil’s life to zero.

Not to be a nitpicker, but…

Neil is one of those guys who “announces” things. The judge did make it clear that we should do just

that, especially attacking and blocking creatures, and I know it’s good for the game to avoid confusion, but

Compulsive Research, targeting myself” is a phrase that I think rarely needs to be spoken. Particularly

when I heard it five or six times in our three games. Okay, I’m done nitpicking.

I mulligan game 2 and keep an iffy hand of three lands and Hyppie, Jitte, fatty, because I’m still

terrified to mulligan to five, even on the draw. This is not a quality hand versus Wildfire, though since the deck

has no one drops sans Elf, it gives you two draws to find something aggro to drop on turn 2.

When you look at your opening seven and there are no two drops, it’s comforting to know that you really

won’t have any turn 1 action anyway, and it just seems, okay, feels like you’ll draw either Rat

or Bob. Perhaps I’m just being optimistic, because I know that if this deck doesn’t drop Rat or Bob on

turn 2, the tempo of the game swings away from the good guy and right to the bastard cheater across the table.

Regardless, turn 3 Hyppie was my first play. It met an Eye of Nowhere, then Pyroclasm, then a 14/14 ‘Vore

said “sup?”

Slops: losing to Wildfire. Ever.

Just about now, Chet lets out a rather large something, and gets up from the table. It turns out his opponent, at

a precarious two life, ripped a Jitte and equipped. Unfortunately for his opponent, he equipped one of his

two Burning-Tree Shamans and well, killed himself. The guy just sat there like someone spit in his face,

kneed him in the balls, boinked his mother, and killed Old Yeller right in front of him.

I’ve done worse than that. Not today, but the day isn’t over. Still, I feel your pain, dawg.

The third game featured an opening hand of Swamp, Grandpap’s Land, Distress, double Hyppie, Shinobi, and

Putrefy. I should have shipped it back, but it’s awfully hard while I’m on the play: I realize I only

have one turn to draw into Rat or Bob or Jitte, but for some reason I fell in love with that Distress. I showed Chet

the hand, and he agreed that it’s hard to punt. Hard it may be, but right now, in the comfy confines of my

crib, it looks like an auto redo.

I do peel a land, but not until I’ve played my sole freakin’ source of Green that Neil blew up:

Stone Rain, targeting Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers.” Of course, the turn before he kindly

returned a Swamp: Eye of Nowhere, targeting the Swamp.” This was a great play — he

could’ve bounced the Okina, but took the Swamp and cut me off Distress mana for two turns. I don’t know

if this was his logic, but it sure was annoying and pretty much ended the game right there.

In fact, the turn the played Eye, he conferred with his teammates: “to beat this deck, it’s all about

tempo,” or some such was mentioned. When he said that, he was looking at my lands. “Sh**, stop looking at

my lands and play a real freakin’ deck!” thought I, for I don’t like when people look at my stuff

with sinister eyes.

Anyway, he bounced it, then blew up my Green and dropped a large ‘Vore that five Swamps and double Putrefy

in hand simply could not deal with. This was a frustrating loss for many reasons, but mostly because I kept that hand

– and when I go first I should win by de-freakin’-fault. Mostly. I don’t like when people make good plays

and I can’t punish them for it. Wait, shouldn’t that be the other way…

Drain Life for your life total, targeting your creature, Mr. Maher.”
-Brain Davis, PT — Chicago, famous last words

As a bonus, Team Danza 4L! did play a fun game of “announcement” on the ride home.

Stroke of Genius for ten thousand, targeting you.”
Flashback Deep Analysis, targeting myself.”
Persecute, targeting you.”
“When Mike Flores says something about Magic, you’d do well to listen!”
And so on and such.

Me: 3-3 at Magic but really 3-0 ‘cause this loss doesn’t count either I don’t know why.
Chet: 4-2 at Magic.
Cory: 1-5 at Magic and the worst performance of his life. We blame him.
Team: 3-3 and Danza got penetrated

frigginrizzo: ← undefeated against Husk.

A glance around the room verified that yep, we sucked, because everyone was looking at us with “you

suck” eyes. However, of the seven or eight teams from Maine, only Team Aaron Lewis From Staind was still in the

running when we left, which means that we’re the second best Magic team in Maine.

Before we blew this popstand, I asked Jonathan Choy to drop me an email and let me know how the deck did. Since

his team was sitting pretty at 5-0, and ready to ID for the next two hours, I figured they had a legit shot at

winning it all, and man, that’s some kinda sexy. He said he’d think about it, and by the way, you really

are bad at Magic in real life.

We outta here.

On the ride back we, um, got lost. There’s something about the return trip from Brighton that screws with

us every single time. You would think that reversing your direction would get you to I-95, but that theory

doesn’t hold water in Boston.

We ended up in Manchester, actually passing the hotel in which I wrote at least two articles. Oh, such fondness.

Still, we made it back to Crossroads on the same exact day that we left. I call that a bonus.

Phil the former nameless guy allowed me to take a flyer that had the dates and locales of the YMG PTQ —

Kobe events, and I was glad to see that Crossroads was awarded another tourney.

Me: You got another PTQ. Kewl.
Brenden: I did? That’s news to me.
Me: Would you like me to tell you the day you are expected to run a PTQ?

Speaking of being the Rodney Dangerfield of Magic, here’s an article from the Crossroads monthly gazette

(reprinted with implied permission):


Extra! Read all about it!

Depending upon the resolution, some of the above may even be legible.

Oh how Brian and I laughed. I mean, he is in the “fledgling writer” stage, so it’s no big deal

that he got the callout and me, established boy who has pimped Crossroads since like, ever, didn’t.

Heh@ me and the rationale: well, at least we don’t have to pay to read his freakin’ articles, you Premium


Good point, even if one of my decks single handedly won yet another PTQ.

“When Friggin’ Rizzo says something about Magic, you’d do well to listen!”


Ice Ice Baby

On Sunday, I turned thirty-freakin’-seven and how wrong is that. I awoke to breakfast in bed (or not),

followed by some old school lovin’ (or not), and then immediately dozed off (or not), and was reawaken by some

wicked movements under the sheets (or not, but I saw it in a movie once).

A while later, I saw mail from Johnny Flying Plant with “dude, we freakin’ won and you’re so

sexy” in the subject line. But J to the C was not satisfied with mere notification, the nutty bastard actually

wrote a report. Imagine the nerve: going to a PTQ, winning the friggin’ thing, and then writing a report about

it. I’m telling the neighbors.

Oh well, I guess when you win a PTQ or you’re the best deck designer in the world, you should write a

report, even if you only go 3-0 because nearly mono black in Standard is l33t.

The kids got me a pair of Spongebob boxers and a coffee mug.
The wife got me a cake.
And Jonathan Choy won a PTQ with Nearly Mono Black in Standard. [You can read his report on the proceedings

tomorrow! – Craig.]
Weird day. But, much like the previous, it was fun times.

Next week, I’m saddled with the dailies and have started probably fifteen articles. They all suck. But hey,

it’s free.

With Regionals right around the corner, it might be a good time to tweak your Nearly Mono Black in Standard that

you plan on playing, you net deckers you. I know I’ve already added Avatar of Discord and the most elite piece

of technology ever that helps me administer the death-blow when the opponent is playing off the top:

I’m good.

Lurking Informant,

targeting you,
John Friggin’ Rizzo