I’ve been putting off writing this report. I didn’t do well, the playtest group that I was involved with didn’t do well. We failed. I do it plenty, don’t get my wrong, and I learn from it and I get better. But failure is embarrassing, nonetheless. While some have the excuse that they didn’t try, I have no such excuse. I’m excited about Magic and I’m trying my best to win, and in the instance of PT-NY, I failed. Its frustrating.
To help you understand the rest of this report, I’ve included some handy definitions that I’ve obtained from an online dictionary.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines:
ADJECTIVE: Inflected forms: la·zi·er, la·zi·est. 1. Resistant to work or exertion; disposed to idleness. 2. Slow-moving; sluggish: "a lazy river." 3. Conducive to idleness or indolence: "a lazy summer day." 4. Depicted as reclining or lying on its side. Used of a brand on livestock.
NOUN: Overbearing pride or presumption; arrogance:“There is no safety in unlimited technological hubris”—McGeorge Bundy
NOUN: 1. A feeling of contentment or self-satisfaction, especially when coupled with an unawareness of danger or trouble. 2. An instance of contented self-satisfaction.
These three words are incredibly important for understanding my failure and the failure of my teammates. Make sure to read them carefully.
I like Sundays. Not because of church or football, mind you, but because its such a lazy day. You sleep in, you wake up when you are well-rested, you aren’t in a hurry and you don’t even care what time it is, because you haven’t any place to go. I try to model my life after Sunday. I don’t own a watch or an alarm clock. I play cards and write for a living and I do these things on MY OWN time. To be fair, I have a bit of lazy streak myself and I tend to surround myself with similar minded people.
The thing about lazy people, is that it takes very little to give them a sense of accomplishment. Something as small as paying the bills, going down to the post office and mailing a letter, or going grocery shopping gives people like me a very satisfying feeling. Contentment. The smug feeling of a job well done.
One of our first decks for Mercadian Masques Constructed was a Control Black deck, which initially performed very well. It originally had Kyren Archive, but by the very end, I had decided that I didn’t like them in the deck. If I had decided to play the Black deck at Pro Tour – New York, this is what I would’ve played:
4 Peat Bog
4 Tower of the Magistrate
2 Dust Bowl
1 Rath’s Edge
4 Dark Ritual
4 Snuff Out
2 Forced March
4 Complex Automaton
4 Thrashing Wumpus
4 Ascendant Evincar
I really liked this deck, a number of us did. It wasn’t simply a slow black control deck, it had the ability to be explosive with Peat Bogs, Dark Rituals and quick Automatons and Wumpuses, keeping it competitive against non-Rebel decks. Tower of Magistrate kept the deck from getting hosed by Distorting Lenses or something as silly as a Predator Flagship. It had an answer to everything.
In the beginning, we would play 10 games between our control black deck and our rebel deck, and the black deck would win 7-3 or 6-4. And we felt satisfied. We thought to ourselves, "Black beats Rebels. A job well done." And a week or so later, we would play 10 more games, and the result would be the same and we would once again feel satisfied, despite the fact that 20 games is statistically insignificant. Finally, a week or so before the Pro Tour, Jon Finkel and I sat down and played MANY, MANY more games and the results shook our confidence in the deck. By the end of 50 games, the Rebel deck was beating the Black deck 26-24 and the lead increased after that.
What gives? Our black deck was inconsistent, it was streaky. It started off on a tear against Rebels and we mistakenly thought that it won the matchup. Not so, apparently.
It was good that we found out that our Black deck wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. That way, we didn’t play it in the Pro Tour and get beaten again and again by Rebels.
Still, the fact that we believed that Black was so good for so long, REALLY SCREWED UP our playtesting. Only in an environment where the Black deck is good, is Distorting Lens a good main deck card for the Rebel deck. The interaction between Distorting Lens and Law/Lightbringer and Thermal/Nightwind Glider was certainly good, but it wasn’t worth it unless the Distorting Lenses were also good on their own. If there was lots of black, then the Distorting Lens also served to foil the opponent’s targeted black removal spells like Vendetta and Snuff Out, keep them from killing you with a Rath’s Edge or an artifact creature once you got Story Circle on the board, etc. THAT made it worthwhile.
Unfortunately, when we discovered that black was no longer good, we didn’t take the time to think about how this would impact our white deck. So, we played a crappy control Rebel deck that was nowhere near tuned enough.
4 Rishadan Port
2 Dust Bowl
1 Rath’s Edge
4 Ramosian Sergeant
3 Ramosian Lieutenant
2 Defiant Falcon
2 Steadfast Guard
4 Lin Sivvi
1 Thermal Glider
1 Nightwind Glider
1 Defiant Vanguard
1 Rappelling Scouts
1 Jhovall Queen
4 Parallax Wave
3 Distorting Lens
1 Story Circle
This was the deck that I played, for better or for worse. Mostly for worse. We had a control rebel deck that performed well against all of our decks, including control black. We thought it was good. We thought to ourselves, we are some of the best Magic players in the world and this deck beats every other deck that we have in playtesting. Its gotta be good.
Nope. No it doesn’t.
Not only was it a bad rebel deck, but having not playtested with TIME LIMITS, I didn’t quite realize how excruciatingly painful my day was going to be. I played the mirror match 5 times in 7 rounds, to an amazing 1-1-3. I split the other two matches 1-1, leaving me with a 2-2-3 record, finishing up at 184th place.
After I won Pro Tour – Los Angeles a few years back, I learned a bit about complacency. I had a big head, I took the opportunity of playing professional Magic for granted, I blew off a few Pro Tours and my performance suffered accordingly. I backpacked around Europe for two months, showed up in Rome and had Jon Finkel and Chris Pikula hand me a deck, which I naturally did miserably with.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret backpacking around Europe. It was good for me as person, but bad for me as a Magic player. And I would do it again. But I know that if I want to do well at Magic, I need to play and practice. I can’t survive on natural talent and past glories. Still, there are always plenty of people in the world of professional Magic who haven’t yet learned this lesson, or who don’t care.
We discovered one deck the week before Pro Tour – New York that beat the crap out of Rebels and it was fun as hell and my gut told me to play it. I don’t always trust my gut, but I should’ve this time. The deck was an enchantmentless combo deck developed by Brian David Marshall based around Natural Affinity and Ensnare. It had a card drawing/ground stall mechanism with Skyshroud Sentinels, Howling Wolves, and Nesting Wurms combined with Brainstorm and Credit Voucher. If I could go back in time, I would’ve played this deck.
The idea of the deck, aside from Nesting Wurm beatdown and gaining an insane amount of card advantage with Credit Voucher and Brainstorm, is to get two Islands and a ton of Forests into play with Skyshroud Claim, cast Natural Affinity, attack with 20 or more power worth of creatures, return two Islands to your hand to cast Ensnare, and WIN.
Simple as that. The deck had lots of fours (which I like) and it worked surprisingly well.
I should’ve gone with my gut. At least I would’ve had fun. I learn from my mistakes. I’m going to go with my gut next time. And my gut is telling me to playtest with people who I like and who still enjoy playing Magic, and I think I’m going to do just that for the next big event.
Until next time,
King of the Qualifiers