SCG Talent Search – A Limited Article: My Catapult to Stardom

Tuesday, November 2nd – So I opened a pretty nutty Sealed pool. Being an attention whore, I announced all my rares to my neighbors. This may not be the best strategy ever conceived, but it’s what I did.

I just sat down at a table in the cafeteria to start writing this. Waiting for me at the table is a napkin with a note on it. The note reads: “IT WAS WEll IntEndEd (fold in the napkin) BUT BAD ADVICE.” How very cryptic. Who was this note

It was just here when I sat down. Is someone with limited knowledge of where to put capital letters trying to keep me from parceling some potentially bad advice?

. With that happy thought in mind, time to deal some advice!

Rereading my own material is a lot like when I hear a recording of my voice somewhere: It’s horrible, and it makes me want to die. Since I wrote
my last piece,
“A Limited Article,”

Dwayne Bowe has 189 receiving yards and four touchdowns, Orcish Settlers cannot be played off a lone Taiga, and Andy Reid is now headlining a touring parenting seminar called “Bad Parenting for Bad Parents.” Despite those missteps, I’m now in a fight to the death against five other solid writers, all of whom are better at Magic than myself. It’s like Survivor but sexier, and we get to eat whatever we want.

When we last left this column, A Limited Article, I was victimizing beautiful, young women, giving them fake sets of keys and false information as to where to find a brand-new 2001 Ford Taurus in order to procure four precious Jace, the Mind Sculptors for myself for a weekend, just so I could play freakin’ Grixis. My opponents were casting Orcish Settlers for the low, low price of one red mana (apparently not possible, I’m told) while I failed to keep what could’ve been a fun, casual format casual. Hat trick o’ failure right there.

To be honest, I’m probably the most embarrassed about the Orcish Settlers thing. Now what precious little credibility I got while making jokes about Evan Erwin and Osyp Lebedowicz and not drafting artifacts to go with Vedalken Certarchs is gone. And with that whole “no credibility” thing in mind, here’s some advice! Tentative Title? “A Limited Article: My Catapult to Stardom.”

* * *

A cubicle. That John Belushi “COLLEGE” poster from

Animal House
is up; somehow it fits in a cubicle. That’s really not up to me to figure out. JON is hard at work at a typewriter, like the O.G. that he is. TED enters.

TED: Hey, Jon!

JON: (a la Pauly Shore) Hey, buuuuddy.

TED: Oh, man, The Weasel!! Dude, I haven’t heard that one in


JON smiles a smile that has absolutely no trace of humility left in it.

JON: Whatcha need, boss?

TED: Lemme just start by saying… your last article… was


JON: Thanks very much, Ted Ka-bro-tsen.

TED: (starts laughing his head off)
That is hilarious!

Ka-bro-tsen! HAH! That’s great stuff, Jon, just great work. You know, people always have a hard time thinking up nicknames for me, but you… you’re a natural, man.

JON: Anytime, chief. Was there something you needed?

TED: Nope. Just popped in to say hi.

JON: Right on.

TED: You’re a brilliant beacon of light.

* * *

I daydream a lot.

In all seriousness, I was

the Sunday I got the e-mail saying I made the cut. I screamed YES lots of times, my girlfriend gave me a hug, and I exclaimed that now Buffalo could lose,

I could lose my fantasy football matchup and still have a great day. This of course, was a total lie. I quickly recanted and told my girlfriend that if both those things happened, I’d be forced to find the nearest drifter and brutally murder him. She said nothing and gave a knowing, solemn nod.

In my last article I mentioned cracking an insanely good Sealed pool at the Scars Prerelease — one so good that only an idiot could mess up. Guess who messed it up?

I’m the type of guy that, when opening a Sealed pool, I immediately take note of my rare in each pack, then put the pack on the table and move to the next pack. I’m still not sure if that approach is correct, but I’ll be damned if it isn’t speedy.

So I opened a pretty nutty Sealed pool. Being an attention whore, I tend to call a lot of attention to myself out of pure necessity, so I announced all my rares to my neighbors. This may not be the best strategy ever conceived, but it’s what I did. Imagine their surprise when I rattled off Molten-Tail Masticore, Steel Hellkite, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, Sunblast Angel, and Myr Battlesphere. I took special care to assure them all that, yes, I do deserve this pool because I’m awesome.

I like rules in Sealed formats. For example, the rules of Ravnica Block Sealed were to construct your deck with a base of eighteen lands in mind. For every Karoo, cut a land. For every Signet, cut half a land, rounding your land count up to the nearest land. So if you got two Karoos and one Signet, you’d play sixteen lands. If you cracked one Karoo and three Signets, you’d also play sixteen lands.

There are no such established rules when you go to a Prerelease. You can try and glean as much information from the spoiler as you can as far as what tricks to watch out for and to get a better idea what the set’s all about, but I’m certainly not gifted enough at Magic to be able to set concrete guidelines for myself based on a spoiler.

What I was able to recognize was that, much like Mirrodin, there’s not a whole lot of removal in the set. There’s some Disenchants, and there’s obviously Shatter, but there’s not a whole lot going on in the way of straight-up removal. The best one is definitely Arc Trail with Galvanic Blast firmly in second, but then there’s a lot of removal that’s suboptimal for these small, stupid reasons. Slice in Twain costs four, Revoke Existence is a sorcery, Grasp of Darkness is black, etc. I geared myself up for some serious army Magic. The lack of low-curve fliers confirmed this belief in me.

All of this aside, that pool has “as long as I don’t get hit by a mail truck or fall in a manhole, I could definitely make Day 2” written all over it. The thing is, though, that I’m so used to horrible luck, of having to string along all these piecemeal Sealed decks together, that when an X-0 pool falls into my lap, I have no idea what to do with it and immediately become enamored with all the shiny things.

A few years ago, at GP Massachusetts, my teammate (oh yes, it was the 2HG one) and I got a pretty abysmal Sealed pool and decided the way to go would be for me to splash for Magus of the Disk and Mangara of Corondor. White had absolutely no other cards to support it in that pool. We may have had an Aven Riftwatcher or something like that, but that was about it for the white. This experiment did not end well.

Did I learn from my mistake? Christ, no! That was four years ago! The demons spawned in The Middle of Nowhere, Massachusetts, no longer haunt this form! I EMBRACE SHINY THINGS ONCE AGAIN!

And so, like all the greats, I too manage to tune out every collective piece of knowledge I’d ever gained about life and completely falter under the bright lights of a 32-man Sealed Deck tournament at a Prerelease. I rolled with a W/B concoction featuring hits like one Contagious Nim, a Blackcleave Goblin, and a Tainted Strike (figured it’d be good with a guy like Myr Battlesphere or Steel Hellkite). Suffice it to say that Contagious Nim and Blackcleave Goblin weren’t blocked very often that day. It’s pretty embarrassing to write that with the full knowledge that other people that play Magic will read it. What was I

There’s a way to build this deck in a manner so that you can have your shininess and eat it, too. I’m not sure why you’d want to eat shininess, but there you go.

2 Chrome Steed
1 Gold Myr
2 Iron Myr
1 Leaden Myr
1 Molten-Tail Masticore
1 Myr Galvanizer
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Myrsmith
1 Neurok Replica
2 Perilous Myr
1 Salvage Scout
2 Sky-Eel School
1 Snapsail Glider
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Sunblast Angel

1 Contagion Clasp
1 Origin Spellbomb
2 Volition Reins

10 Island
7 Plains

There are lots of decisions that will go against the grain of my contemporaries. Is that because I’m the one that’s wrong? Probably, but an almost delusional sense of self (see above daydream) permits me to inform you, dear reader, that I’m the one that is correct. Here are some of my more questionable starts in this deck, and why I’m right:

To start off with, I’m rolling four mana Myr, three of which are off-color. I noticed a lot of people don’t like mana Myr because they’re useless in the late game. This might be right, but that doesn’t stop me from drafting them fairly early and sticking them all in my deck. Acceleration is your friend, and in a format where creatures matter, a 1/1 that accelerates you can be a big deal. Metalcraft is also a concern.

There’s a valid argument that you probably shouldn’t stuff all your mana Myr into a deck and call it good. But the chances of a turn 4 Steel Hellkite or Myr Battlesphere is just too enticing for me. Plus these Myr draw their removal, which I’m almost positive is incorrect. Unless

that that mana Myr is providing splash mana, or they’re stumbling on mana somehow,
save that Shatter for the card that’s gonna kill you.

Unless your deck is blazing fast, they’re going to get to that Wurmcoil Engine regardless of whether you got a little tempo in the short-term by Shattering their Copper Myr.

At this point, you’re probably going, “Hey idiot, if they’re going to get to their bombs anyway, then why are

playing four mana Myr?”

Excellent point. The four mana Myr play is designed to give you an explosive element while potentially drawing their removal. If they sense your Iron Myr is supporting a splash for Galvanic Blast, and they Shatter it, good for you. That’s a Shatter they didn’t use on your Steel Hellkite.

Ten Islands, seven Plains. This could easily be a 9/8 split, but the idea of being able to hit Sky-Eel School on turn 4 and Volition Reins on turn 6 with absolute consistency makes me happy. Like, Christina-Hendricks-finally-decided-to-go-nude-in-a-film-with-a-graphic-sex-scene-in-it-oh-and-she’s-in-that-scene happy.

You probably also noticed that I’m rolling with seventeen lands. That’s quite a bit for a deck with four mana Myr. I could definitely get flooded pretty easily. There are two reasons to play seventeen lands in this deck. Reason one: All my bombs are inherent card advantage. Reason two, the biggest one: This deck will only lose if I miss two land drops. I’m not high on playing sixteen lands in Limited unless my curve is extremely low, and there’s no way I could win a long game. I know lots of people who feel perfectly at home playing sixteen lands in Limited. So why can’t I? Conservatism, scaredy-catedness… call this character trait what you will. I’m sure our forum commenters know of some more colorful adjectives.

That deck is also starting a man that draws a fair amount of ire from players much better than I: Myr Galvanizer. The reasons to dislike this guy are obvious: Sometimes, he’s just a Gray Ogre. However, I feel like the deck is crafted in such a way that it maximizes his value, which isn’t to say that I made the deck a little crappier by allowing him to be able to thrive just because I like the card.

Let’s assume I cut Galvanizer and two off-color mana Myr. What do I run in their place? Probably Lumengrid Drake, Tumble Magnet, and let’s just say Glint Hawk gets the nod over Kemba’s Skyguard because bouncing an Arrested artifact gives Glint Hawk some added value. The way my deck is setup now, that pair of Chrome Steeds will

be 4/4. I’m just not a fan of Lumengrid Drake and all these other colored guys that depend on artifacts themselves. If my guy’s gonna depend on metalcraft, then I either want him to be an artifact, or I want him to be a base 4/4 for four.

I could also cut Origin Spellbomb, and Lumengrid Drake might still work. Hell, I could definitely even cut one of the two Sky-Eel Schools. I’m a firm believer that I need to get to my bombs. I have a Molten-Tail Masticore. I have a Myr Battlesphere. I have a Sunblast Angel. I have a Steel Hellkite. I
have two Volition Reins. Why wouldn’t I love the card drawing? If I get one of those cards to stick, I’m in great shape. If I get

to stick,
I’m going to win.

Lots of people don’t like Infiltration Lens. I’m not one of those people. There are certainly lots of good reasons to hate Infiltration Lens. Yup, it’s definitely a bad Skullclamp. But Skullclamp is ridiculous! It could’ve been in ****ing Urza’s Saga!

How bad can a bad Skullclamp be? In this deck, it gets pretty bad. The only early creatures in my deck someone would even consider blocking are Myrsmith and Myr Galvanizer, two cards that can win the game on their own. Slapping an Infiltration Lens on one of those guys and swinging in the hopes of a block would be correct less than half the time. If I’m going to play a card in a deck as good as this one, I need to get maximum value out of it, and this deck just doesn’t let me do that with Infiltration Lens.

Salvage Scout gets back a game-changer. That guy seemed like a no-brainer.

Tumble Magnet is certainly one of the more controversial guys riding the bench. Honestly, I just don’t like the card, especially without the room for Glint Hawk. Admittedly, it would work pretty well in my game plan of “stall their board till I draw one of the six cards I didn’t deserve to open,” and it would be pretty easy to cut the Leaden Myr for it. I guess I just like the idea of consistently being able to roll out six drops early better than a three-shot Icy Manipulator.

It’s important to note the bluffing capabilities that mana Myr provide, especially Iron Myr. Let’s say your opponent is attacking you with Chrome Steed. He has exactly three artifacts in play. You have an untapped Island, an untapped Iron Myr, and zero Shatters in your deck. You have every intention of just taking four to the dome. But you go into the tank anyway. You think. You start to tap Iron Myr. “Gaaah.” You hastily untap it and take four.

Congratulations. Your opponent now has you on Shatter, or Galvanic Blast. He’ll almost certainly play you differently now. Maybe he takes a more cautious approach. Maybe he’ll even waste a removal spell on that Myr. These are the kinds of small advantages mana Myr provide that aren’t obvious. Got a Copper Myr and lots of lands untapped? Start counting them! Now you have Untamed Might! You

but the guy sitting across from you doesn’t know that.

It’s not too difficult to crack a really good Sealed pool in this format. Most of the rares are artifacts, and thus won’t pull you into all different colors like most other Sealed formats. When you do get a good Sealed pool, like this one, it’s important to remember your game plan: You’ve got bombs. All the creatures and spells high on your curve are game-changers. How do you want to get to them? In this specific case, cantrips seem like the right call.

I mentioned rules of formats before. I also mentioned being a fan of them. This is a sure sign of a poor Magic player. How many Pro Tours are won using conventional wisdom? Alright, I’m sure there are

but I can’t think of any off the top of my head, which means that there actually are none. The Pro Tours I’m familiar with were won because a group of brilliant minds broke the format, defied conventional wisdom, and were correct about it.

So many Magicians are better than how they play. A lot of guys across the world that play lots of Magic can know lots of things about a given format, ideas that they came to on their own just by playing the game. And then they go out and netdeck anyway. Don’t be afraid to break away from the
norm! One of the great things about Magic is that it rewards innovation

much. If you’ve got an idea about a format,
trust it,

and act on it

Odds are that idea didn’t just come from nowhere.

If any of you guys see me at an upcoming PTQ in the northeast US, don’t hesitate to come say hi and tell me how your girlfriend/fleshlight wishes you were more like me. I’ll be the one at the back tables splashing for Hoard-Smelter Dragon.

Jon Corpora