Rarely Good

Everyone is bad. You have heard that a thousand times before, but it is true. Many of you are reading this saying,”I’m not bad, he must just be bad and bitter.” Well I have some bad news for you. You are bad. I mean really bad. You are so bad that you don’t even know how bad you are.

Everyone is bad. You have heard that a thousand times before, but it is true. Many of you are reading this saying,”I’m not bad, he must just be bad and bitter.” Well I have some bad news for you. You are bad. I mean really bad. You are so bad that you don’t even know how bad you are.

Don’t feel bad. You aren’t alone. As I said, everyone is bad. Some people are just less bad than others. Why are we all so bad? Why do we lose these games? We are intelligent people. We know the theory outside the game. We often see the mistakes after we make them. What goes so wrong? I don’t know, I’m not a doctor, but I know what doesn’t lose us these games, bombs.

The Disease

Sure sometimes a bomb will hit the table or be cast, and it just ends the game, but many times these bombs cause us to panic. It is that effect that loses us the game more often than the bomb itself. We drown ourselves in self-pity, curse our opponent’s good luck and lament that we never get bombs like that. I want to analyze some”bombs” from recent sets and tell you some stories, and hopefully give you some advice for avoiding the psychological disadvantage these cards puts you at.

Loxodon Warhammer

You have heard me mouth off about this card and talk about how the card just isn’t good. Well I take it all back. This card is good, but it isn’t good because of the mechanic. It is good because everyone says it is. I win almost every game I cast it. I don’t know why I ever called it a bad card. Oh, wait. I do know why. I called it a bad card because I have never lost to it alone. Sure I lost a game or two when it was cast, but those were generally lost anyway. One time my opponent’s board also sported a Pentavus and a Glissa Sunseeker, and you know what, I had three (ok, only one after the Pentavus) turns to top-deck a card for the win. Warhammer has been cast against me more times than I can say, and it has either not affected the game or actually given me an advantage.

“How is this possible, Ken? The card destroys me every time I see it.” Well gentle reader (hi Geordie), I have bad news for you. You destroy you. This card has put so much fear in the heart of people that the mere sight of it puts them in a hopeless state of mind. I have seen player after player practically concede on the spot when it is cast. Sure they go through the motions, but they’re heart is not in the game by any stretch of the imagination.

This card is incredibly burdensome. Three to cast is not that much, but three to equip is certainly the high end. If you spend a turn casting this, then another turn equipping it and something goes wrong, you are in a whole world of hurt. Or if you just take six mana out of your busy schedule to do it all in one turn, it can be even more crippling.

Centaur Glade

This was a painfully slow card in a format that was often absurdly fast. My friend was the most vocal proponent of this card. He is a control player, and a darn decent one. He saw a Green card that was capable of generating a large amount of card advantage that also gave you board advantage in the long run. What he failed to see was the severe tempo disadvantage resulting from this card.

My friend was in game three of a match in Friday Night Magic. He had a powerful and explosive mono-Black deck. His opponent was playing first. My friend played a turn 4 Screeching Buzzard. His opponent followed with a turn 5 Centaur Glade. My friend had in his hand a Crown of Suspicion and a Gluttonous Zombie. My friend chose to Crown the Buzzard and say”go,” Allowing a trade if his opponent would attack. Now this is obviously not a great play. He could have cast the Zombie and easily raced the slow Centaur Glade. He was already ahead in life, and the large amount of unblockable damage would have sealed the deal. Even if his opponent could deal with one of the creatures there is no way you win the long game against Glade. After his inevitable loss with this strategy he said,”See, Centaur Glade is insane.”

I simply replied with,”I guess,” and proceeded to show him the flaw in his strategy. Now my friend is a passive player, but not to the point where he makes such poor combat decisions as this. What had happened was that his psychological hang-up with Centaur Glade had caused him to fall off his game and throw in the towel several turns before the last point of damage was dealt.

Akroma’s Vengeance

I realize you all think I must be daft with this card. Okay, I’ll admit, unlike with the previous two cards, I do not think that this card is bad. I do, however, think that this card is overrated.

Onslaught was a format in which tempo was more important than it had ever been. This card, while great at gaining you card advantage and pulling your butt out of the fire, could not recover from tempo disadvantage. Having this card cost six hurts the effect a great deal. You would take your turn six, cast Vengeance, pass the turn, and your opponent would then cast two morphs and pass the turn (assuming they didn’t over-extend). Even if you followed suit the next turn, they get to untap first and attack you, and you are likely losing the race at this point, since you have been playing around your own Wrath. Once they know you have it, it nearly becomes a liability against a good player. You may never have an opportunity to cast it and you run a much bigger risk of playing into unfavorable situations.

The advantage gained by this card, however, is mostly against players who panic faced with the concept of it. When they know you have it, often they will play as though they have control of it. This can be exploited by keeping yourself at a slightly advantageous board position. They will be so afraid of over committing they will overestimate what they have already committed in fear of losing an advantage to Akroma’s Vengeance.

The Immunization

“But Ken,” you are asking,”how did you avoid this pandemic that has plagued the Magic community?” Well fellow wizards, I was lucky enough in the early going to have bad experiences with these cards. In Grand Prix: Philadelphia that Jeff Cunningham won, I had a Centaur Glade in my sealed deck. I drew it every match and each and every time I drew it I would have preferred a vanilla 3/3 for five. It was at this point I made up my mind that Glade was nothing more than a flash in the pan.

Loxodon Warhammer was more of a process. I would cast it, and I would win. It was hard for me to argue those results. What I didn’t file away is how many of those times my opponent could have won had they played properly. After defeating the card a few times I just decided that it wasn’t that good. A major turning point for me was in a PTQ. My only creature was a Leonin Den-Guard. I had Warhammer and Vulshok Battlegear in my hand. I opted to bait the removal with the Battlegear and then drop the Warhammer. Well my plan went off without a hitch. Except one small one. The Battlegear was far superior in this situation. Since I only had one man, it was no skin off my opponent’s nose to double block it. I did wind up winning eventually, but the game would have been over several turns earlier if I had baited with the Warhammer.

I am not trying to say Battlegear is better than Warhammer. Far from it. I hate Battlegear more than I hate Warhammer. I mean, I really hate Battlegear. The fact that a card I hate so much could be so far superior to Warhammer in a not uncommon situation (when you only have one creature) is enough for me to damn the Hammer.

The Cure

“But Ken,” you ask again,”what can we do once we have caught this deadliest of diseases?” Well first I would point you to this article by [author name="Nick Eisel"]Nick Eisel[/author]. While I don’t love the way this article was presented, it makes an important point. If you try hard enough you will find a way to win.

When one of these non-bombs hits say to yourself,”Self, how can I win this game?” Figure out your best path to victory and head towards it. Usually you will have the tools in front of you to overcome these cards. That is what you should look at first. On the occasions that they aren’t there, and you see a losing path, think about what you can draw. Once you figure out what you need to draw to win, start playing as though you already have it so you are in the best possible position when you do draw it.

Overcoming the psychological barriers will be the hardest part. Even if you know logically that the Hammer is not game over, training your subconscious to not release the hormones it does when the card hits is tough. You have to fight your body’s natural inclinations and let logic take over. Once you have beaten the card a few times it will stop affecting you. For me it is a crusade at this point. I simply will not allow myself to lose to Loxodon Warhammer. You should prep yourself before a PTQ, because you will see one, and tell yourself,”This card will not beat me anymore!”

The Conclusion

I realize that this sounds like a lot of self-help drivel and I am sure many of you are scoffing at this advice. But the quicker you learn that Magic is far more than pieces of cardboard, the sooner you will take your game to the next level.


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