Everything is weird.
The last few weeks of Magic have felt in relative flux, and just when things started to make sense, they got all wonky again.
With so much going on, it seems like a Quick Hits is in order. I have too much to say on too many topics, so broadening the spectrum is usually just what the doctor ordered.
This week I want to get as interactive with you all as possible, so each Quick Hit is going to have something in it that I would love to have your opinions on. I like to think of myself as a player of the players, and my dealings with readers always make things feel a thousand times more fun and entertaining.
Without further ado . . .
Quick Hit #1: Crackgate
It feels like the horse has died and people are just beating it, doesn’t it?
This week the interwebs have been awash with opinions regarding the actions of a small group of players that brought light to some of the cracks in our community, no pun (just kidding pun totally) intended.
What transpired were pictures of a person kneeling next to players that were exposing a little more behind than society appreciates. The pictures quickly went viral all over Reddit, Facebook, and even Time freaking Magazine’s website. Serious. Time.
Time, was there nothing better in the news that day? Russian invasion of Crimea? MH370’s disappearance? Impending billion dollar March Madness bracketology?
The issue divided the community in a far greater sense than just normal bannings or stale formats. This came down to two camps: those who think what this guy did was bullying and those who believe that he was just having good fun and people shouldn’t be so sensitive.
On one hand, he did bring attention to an issue in our community, which is hygiene. It’s a topic that gets brought up a fairly great deal, and aside from the usual fare of “wear deodorant and take showers,” people wearing extremely loose-fitting clothing that bares too much when they sit down can be a pretty bad thing for the eyes to feast on.
Does it perpetuate the stereotype that gamers are unkempt slobs and that we can’t dress ourselves? I wouldn’t go that far, but it doesn’t look good on our collective resume.
Children play this game, and a parent friend of mine that has been an avid Magic player for over fifteen years doesn’t like that his kids, who love to come to big tournaments, are subjected to players who are unable to keep their pants up.
As a whole it makes us all look worse when something like this happens. People aren’t discriminate. When a person who may have been interested in Magic reads an article on Time Magazine’s website featuring this kind of press, they may be prone to want to stay away from the game entirely. Is that fair to them? Should this community just thicken its skin and pass this off as something harmless that drew attention to an issue?
Then there’s the other side of the coin.
This was bullying. You might not like it. It might be a buzzword that gets thrown around way too much, but plain and simple this guy took pictures without the consent of the players that were in them. He did it to shame these people. He did it to make them look bad.
I’ve heard the argument “they should just wear a belt.”
Really? It’s that easy, huh? SCG should start selling belts with little logos on them. That’ll solve this conundrum.
Magic tournaments are places you go to be around thousands of people who love the same game you do.
Magic tournaments are places where you should feel safe.
Magic tournaments are places that shaming behaviors do not belong. Ever.
In a world where bullying is taken very seriously, does exhibiting behavior indicative of it sound like a good idea?
His ban, which last I heard is at eighteen months, was handed down from Wizards, and it has further divided the community as to what should have been done. One very interesting thought that I read was if this person was doing something to punish people for their behavior, should people be surprised that he was punished for his?
You’ve heard both arguments. What are your thoughts?
Quick Hits #2: New Decks Making A Move
For as solved as it sometimes feels, this Standard format keeps throwing curveballs at people with what decks are performing well. In order to master the Standard portion of the SCG Invitational in Charlotte, you’re going to have to identify some of the lesser known decks that have been dashing through various tournaments as of late.
This past Thursday I battled at a local tournament with R/W Burn and won every match (only losing a single game) up until the finals, which I split with my friend. I promptly touted on Facebook about how awesome the deck felt.
Then it won SCG Standard Open: Seattle.
This list is a pretty interesting deviation from what I’ve been writing about for a few weeks, not to mention what Australian player James Fazzolari has been using to demolish Magic Online.
Neil decided to bring Boros Reckoner back to the maindeck, which I like. There’s a mess of G/R Monsters out there still, and Reckoner does a great job of blocking and pushing through the last few points of damage needed to kill the opponent. Traditionally G/R Monsters hasn’t been the best matchup for R/W Burn, but in this situation your three-drop Reckoner can do a ton of work.
Neil kept the hits coming with maindeck Stormbreath Dragon, which might have been too greedy for the older incarnations of just straight burn spell-based R/W, but his addition of a 24th land along with playing Chandra, Pyromaster makes casting it a lot easier. With the plethora of burn in the deck, it should be easy to keep the skies clear for your Dragon to take huge chunks out of your opponent’s life.
His sideboard feels pretty standard until you get to Fated Conflagration.
Take a minute.
Two cards that R/W Burn has trouble with are Jace, Architect of Thought and Polukranos, World Eater. Against Jace decks, your usual plan is to bring in Firedrinker Satyr. The little one-drop can get through a fair bit of uncontested damage, but Jace’s +1 shuts that down and makes all future creatures like Chandra’s Phoenix worse.
Polukranos does the same kind of thing, usually demanding two spells to kill. If they untap, it’s entirely possible that he can race you after a monstrous pump.
Know what kills the hell out of both of them?
Fated Conflagration! Boooom! Dead Bang!
For just four mana, you can eliminate the cards that cause you the biggest headache. I wouldn’t be surprised if this tech makes its way into further iterations of the deck. It was right in front of us the whole time!
Down south in Buenos Aires, Philippe Monlevade did his best Johnny Rico impression, slaying monsters with superior firepower.
Remember Jund Monsters?
After Born of the Gods came out, it shook up the format, but it seemingly has taken a bit of a backseat to its G/R counterpart. Philippe decided to dust off Blood Crypt and demolish a Grand Prix field, not to mention Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, on his route to claiming a championship.
- 1 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
- 2 Reaper of the Wilds
- 1 Xenagos, God of Revels
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
One strong choice that Philippe made was doing what G/R Monsters used to do that made it so powerful in a field of control decks: jam planeswalkers.
Given that most Esper Control decks have cut cards like Hero’s Downfall in favor of cheaper and more economical cards like Ultimate Price and Doom Blade, they are primed to get picked apart by the advantage generated by Domri Rade and Xenagos, the Reveler. Vraska the Unseen reemerges as a great way to destroy opposing nonland permanents, specifically ones named “Detention Sphere.”
While his sideboard is everything we’ve come to expect, the really cute addition that I like is Bow of Nylea. R/W Burn has seen a heavy upsurge lately, and the Bow is an excellent way to gain a stream of life and beat them before they can overload you with spells. Remember, gaining three life against them a turn can end the game very quickly in your favor.
What decks do you think will be pushed to the forefront of the format soon?
Quick Hit #3: Tiddlywinks & Lollipops
When Patrick Chapin said “tiddlywinks and lollipops” during coverage this past weekend, I laughed so hard I spit water on my computer screen.
It was either that or choke on it.
Is this the funniest thing to ever happen during a weekend of Magic streaming?
Quick Hit #4: My FNM Fate Is In Your Hands
A few weeks ago I asked you what kind of new content you’d like to see. Videos were your number two choice, so I’m looking into how to make that a reality to share with everyone.
However, your first choice was pretty resounding.
You want to pick the decks I play at FNMs and hear how I did with them.
This week the quest begins, and I hope you don’t let me down. Make sure you let me know your pick so this week I can battle with it!
Your choices are going to range from the normal decks you expect to see at FNM to the ones you probably don’t.
I’m trusting you. Don’t let me down.
Don’t be cruel.
Quick Hit #5: Modern Is Too Damn Expensive
Grand Prix Richmond was a ridiculous success. As the largest Constructed GP ever, the masses have declared that they love Modern.
How long will that honeymoon last?
One of the biggest and most common complaints I’ve read over the last week is that Modern, which was supposed to be an improvement on old Extended and a cheaper format than Legacy, has reached a critical mass of expensiveness.
Nonblue fetch lands are at their cheapest $60.
Cryptic Command is $60.
Does this sound cheap to you?
Modern Masters was supposed to shore up some of the ridiculous costs of cards in this format, and to an extent it has but very loosely. Arcbound Ravager is every bit the $25 he was a year ago, and Mox Opal just broke $60 recently, making one of the “cheap” decks in Modern still have a pretty steep entry.
So now what?
One reaction is that Wizards will hopefully reprint fetch lands in an upcoming set, but it’s unrealistic to believe that will happen before the shock lands rotate. This means Modern PTQ season will happen without anything to stem the cost of the format.
These cards are most likely going to get even more expensive.
Some of these cards at least have the excuse of being huge in Legacy as well, but for the cards out there like Twilight Mire that just sit at $25, it’s a trend that things aren’t going to get better unless something drastic happens.
Modern Masters proved to be a Band-Aid on a bleeding wound, but the blood is soaking through. Will new players pay this price to enjoy one of the most interesting and fun formats in Magic, and if not will it cause its demise?
Would you pay these prices if you were a new player?
Quick Hit #6: Y’all Almost Made Me Cry
It might sound silly, but the reaction I got from last week’s piece was about a thousand times more positive than I could have ever expected. I’m never worried about the articles I work on, but for once I put something out there that was different than everything else I do and expected it to be met with raised eyebrows and chastising.
The outpouring of positive responses, kind words about Pap, and compliments gave me a much needed boost in an otherwise very difficult week. If it wasn’t for you guys along with my wife, I probably would have come out much worse for wear.
I’m going to start moving forward with more pieces like that one. I’ve even named your narrator. His name is Fischer.
Is that something you’d all be interested in?
For now, though, I’m about to go start looking for my copies of Maze’s End.
I have this craaaaaaaazy feeling that I’m going to need them this week.
Hopefully I don’t need them, but who am I kidding?
We all know where this is going.