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SCG Talent Search – Limited Knockout Round 2

Monday, November 22nd – There are four contestants up for elimination this time around, and competition is getting tight. The judges see overall improvement, but someone still has to get kicked off the island…



Jon Corpora


Ted:

You are a lucky boy. Judged on merit alone, your article should have been in the bottom two and probably would have gotten you voted off. As Tim Aten has taught us so many times, introductions to an article might be the hardest part. Your intro was amusing and once again shows that you are a quality writer. In fact, I’ll just step out and say that at this point, no one is going to question your writing chops. You are consistently fun to read. Sadly, the rest of this article felt more like you were completing a school assignment.

The problem comes when you need to start talking about Magic authoritatively. Reading your discussion of Limited (remember, jefe, you put yourself in this category), I have to agree that you sound like you’re still trying to wrap your head around the format, and that hurts your performance. Each of your competitors did a much better job of analyzing what they wanted to discuss than you did, and that’s why you came up short this week. Luckily, your performance in previous weeks means you’re building a little following, and those people pushed you over the hump.

Bring the noise next round, cuddlebug, or you won’t graduate out of the kiddie pool to play with the final 8.


Patrick:

Wow, this felt really short. I loved the intro, but it just felt like the article did not explore many of the areas it could have. I thought it was a pretty interesting look at an archetype that doesn’t get much attention. You could have explained a little bit which archetypal cards you take over which. You could have explained key cards to watch for that make you want to draft this deck. You could have mentioned misc. late picks that you might want for your sideboard. You could have explained how valuable Myr are to this deck (relative to other cards you might pick, like Chrome Steed, Sylvok Replica, or Vedalken Certarch). I did appreciate backing up your claims of blue always being open with the commentary on 8-10th pick quality cards we can expect to find and advice about playing against Arc Trail, and a few minor tactical points.

You have been my favorite Limited writer to read when not talking technology. This was a fairly reasonable article, where my primary complaint is that I wanted more, but if you can’t deliver top-notch strategy, you gotta come hard with the writing angle, a la Rizzo, Ffej.


Ferrett:

You made me laugh out loud in the opening, which was worth my time. I want more of that.

Unfortunately, when you got down to the actual strategy, that… didn’t seem too strong to me. It seemed like a fair amount of Teh Obvious, sprinkled in an article where I thought, “Oh, he’s ramping up to something.” Then I saw your name at the end. And I went, “Huh? How’s that work? We’re DONE?”

So I want better from you next week, sir. You’re going to struggle, because I feel like our DCI ratings are roughly equivalent, and that puts you behind the eight-ball. Merge the amusing and the strategy, because when you set out to amuse, you’re just as good as Tom Reeve – it just needs to be melded more.


Guest Judge Steve Sadin:

Your introduction made me laugh out loud, but the rest of the article was way too slim.

I like your writing, and I want to see more of it; the problem is this felt much more like a blog post than an article. If you’re going to hold a regular column, you’re going to need to figure out ways to make your articles feel like articles, not just short notes.

I think you can do it; you just need to dig a bit deeper into your topics. For example, in this article, you could have spent time talking about card valuations, how many artifacts you need, racing, mulligan decisions, etc.

Remember, word count isn’t the only thing that matters. You can write an incredibly insightful 1,500-1,700 word article, or you can write a very fluffy 8,000 word article (however, be warned that if you do ever write a 8,000-word article that is anything less than spectacular, your editors very well might kill you in your sleep).



Tom Reeve


Ted:

The forums (and presumably the other judges) are going to tell you that you have been doing outstanding work. They are right, but I think you can do better. The analysis was excellent, and I liked the nicknames, but I still feel like you are finding your sea legs when it comes to being fun and breezy while doing the analysis. Adding bonus links is obviously a fan favorite (seriously — I’ll never understand why my style wasn’t copied by more than Romeo — it was wildly popular), and gives you a cool way to add value beyond just your writing. Don’t get complacent though, as your margin of victory was not as large as it was before, and the competition is heating up.


Patrick

: Wow! It wasn’t until just now when I went to write this that I even realized that there were no Schoolgirls or She-Wolves in your article, beyond maybe Sunspear Shikari. You know what? I didn’t even care! I was obviously hooked by the title (an awesome title to be sure, and such an underrated element of article writing), but the article was so entertaining and interesting, I walked away a very satisfied customer. This is excellent food for thought on a fringe archetype that I may or may not ever play, but I am definitely going to think about, and I definitely had fun reading about it. There was plenty of good advice, plenty of takeaways to feel like I “got something out of it,” and some useful analysis that will apply to other decks. My favorite of the week.


Ferrett:

First off: great title. People underestimate the importance of the title in this contest – it’s people’s introduction to you, and if the title is boring then it almost doesn’t matter how good the article it was. And hey, who doesn’t want to read an article with an intro like that?

The article itself? Golden. I’m not sold on the deck, but I am sold on your writing – it kept me entertained and amused so much that I went, “Well, okay, the whole deck can die to a Turn to Slag, but… Oh, that’s FUNNY!” And there was actual strategic content for the current format in there, which was my main complaint about both of your past articles. (And unlike Barry’s article, I have a much greater chance at picking up four Goblin Gaveleers.)

You’re the one to beat thus far. I’d be happy to have you on my team.


Steve:

Tom, really strong work again this week. You demonstrated a good understanding of this Limited format and provided a pretty detailed description on how to draft an underexplored, but still very formidable, archetype.

I was really struck by how you wrote the bit on the effectiveness of Tel-Jilad Defiance as a combat trick against equipment decks, which was short, sweet and well written — it’s exactly the kind of thing that sticks with people long after they’ve finish reading your article (even if they don’t consciously give you any credit because they think it’s an “obvious point” — however the fact remains that points like that are only obvious once you’ve thought about them).

Your prose was sharp, and your instructions on how to draft the deck were clear. This article was a win on pretty much all fronts.

If you can keep up this quality week in and week out, which I have every reason to believe that you can, then I look forward to seeing you on this site for a long time.



Barry Diwell


Ted:

This was a lot better than last round. Obviously it’s a niche archetype you are looking at, but a fun one that you can actually get (even though it centers around a rare) because Grindclocks aren’t exactly in demand. The writing also showed a lot more care than you gave it last time. The pictures were perhaps a bit too silly, but they fit with the style you are developing for yourself.

I have to call this good work. Translated into Australian, I think it sounds more like, ‘Good on ya!’ Since Corpora gave you and Mr. Kirilov the slip, you have certainly made the choice of who to eliminate a lot tougher.


Patrick:

Okay, mixed feelings here. So first I was thinking, okay cool, fringe archetype. But then I was like, “Wow, there are hardly any mill cards at all, am I ever really going to do this?” But then I was like, “Actually this is a pretty thorough explanation, and I will be very happy to have read this if it does come up.” Though just as I was finishing, feeling all satisfied, I realized, the article never addressed what happens if they have a Shatter? There are a LOT of Shatters.


Ferrett:

A good article, but I spent the entire time wondering: How often is this going to come up? How often am I going to see a Grindclock early enough in my draft to start shaping a deck around it, WHEN I don’t have a stronger card to go with? I mean, it’s useful for edge cases, and I’m always happy to see new tech, but this felt almost TOO narrow.

That said, for a narrow topic, you did a damned good job at explaining how to make it work – which is, really, what a good Magic article should do, getting someplace that you haven’t and explaining how to do it. I just don’t know that this case is worth the effort.


Steve:

I like the idea of looking at decks that can be built around unpopular rares — but there just wasn’t enough content here to keep me engaged.

The idea that you can use Grindclock as a victory condition in a control deck is a fine point — but I felt like you stretched that idea a lot further than it wanted to go.  

If you had talked about the viability of blue proliferate decks, and the fact that Grindclock can be an all-star in them, then I think you would have come up with a much stronger article.



Kaloyan Kirilov


Ted:

I found this article to be extremely ambitious. Explaining how to draft the control decks in an entire draft format, especially one as complex as Scars, is a huge task. I’m not really sure you managed to pull it off. Most of the analysis is fine, but I think you would have been better served examining a couple of decks and how they play out instead of getting bogged down in explaining what every card might or might not do.

Another option would be to talk about what the guys at Wizards mentioned for testing the GDS2 commons, where they built decks with two of each to examine the strengths and weaknesses of the cards in play. The deck you DO offer up for analysis is pretty ridiculous in power level, approaching some of the better ones I’ve seen in those colors. At the end of the day I think this article lacked a bit of focus; it was too long to keep the reader’s attention all the way through, and the format you chose wasn’t the best for accomplishing your task.

Don’t get me wrong; the article was certainly readable, but the voters have told me I have to pick between you and Barry this week, and this article was tough to like.


Patrick:

This one didn’t really do it for me. I mean, it was okay, I guess; I just didn’t really get anything out of it. I didn’t feel like I learned anything. I don’t have any idea what to look for to draft some other archetype. It wasn’t a particularly fun read. I even found myself multiple times disagreeing with things that were said and not in a thought provoking way, but rather in a “No, removal is not card advantage, that is just plain wrong.” With an open mind I studied the explanation, and it seems to reveal a fundamental lack of understanding of what card advantage is.

You are talking about quality, not quantity. You aren’t using a land to kill their guy; you are using a spell that could have been another threat in your deck, so all this talk of threat density is silly. As for killing an early-pick creature, you had to use an early-pick removal spell to do it. Do I think removal is awesome? For sure! Is it “just card advantage?” Not remotely, and it is this exact type of stuff that I go out of my way to try to crusade against because while it may seem a semantic argument, your content was semantic in nature. Your point was that removal IS card advantage, which is false, and I believe could hurt people’s understanding of the game.


Ferrett:

I’m not the greatest Scars of Mirrodin drafter, but I didn’t feel like I learned a lot from this article. If we’re talking about drafting control, much of the advice seemed a little – well, not stale, but certainly not filled with the kind of “Oh, wow, who knew?” stuff that I look to a Limited article for. Then again, this late in the Scars season it’s hard to dig new tech out.

What you DID succeed at was a lovely density – there may not have been a lot of new tech, but you went into an admirable level of detail here. Every paragraph contained something potentially useful, meaning that this would be a Godsend introduction for someone just starting. And with so many points of discussion, just by sheer dint of odds, there’s a solid chance for even a mid-list player to pick something new up.

In short, if you can do this week after week, you’re a strong contender for me. It may not be groundbreaking, but this level of detail is what I want in a regular writer.


Steve:

While you definitely had some good ideas in here, the fact remains that a number of the ideas that you put forth were really off-putting and in some cases flat-out wrong.

Card advantage refers specifically to a play, or sequence of plays, which resolve in a player being up physical cards. If an Arc Trail kills a 2/2 and a 1/1, the player who cast the Arc Trail will be up a card — and will thus have gained card advantage.

There are plenty of advantages that can be gained in a game of Magic — but every advantage is not card advantage. Much of what you refer to as “card advantage” in your most recent article is, in fact, a form of resource advantage but not card advantage.

A Grizzly Bear can provide you with a significant advantage if it goes unblocked for several turns. But that damage that the Grizzly Bear dealt gave you a resource advantage (life total) not card advantage. If you use a removal spell to kill a bombish creature that would otherwise kill you, then you might be gaining an advantage in card quality — but that is again distinctly different from card advantage.

While I’m willing to give you a bit of a pass on this issue this week, there is no way that I’m going to be this easy on you next time.


Judgments


Ted:

It’s close, but I thought Barry’s article managed to be more fun and entertaining while conveying as much useful info as Kirilov. I think Kirilov should go.


Patrick:

I was so dissatisfied with Kirilov’s article that I wanted to vote him off out of emotion, but taking a slightly longer view, I have generally been a fan of Kirilov’s work and am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe this article didn’t resonate with me. That said, if his next is anything like this one, I will vote against him for sure. I like Barry Diwell on personality, but unfortunately, none of his articles have really impressed me, and if one has to go, I think it has to be Diwell.


Ferrett:

If I have to vote for someone, it is reluctantly Barry Diwell. He did solid work, and I hate to vote him off the island… But someone has to go, and his collective work is just a little weaker than everyone else’s.


Steve:

Tom had a runaway victory this week. My biggest criticism of Jon’s article was that it should have been longer (if I hadn’t liked his writing, there is no way that I would want to see more of it). And while Kaloyan’s article definitely gave me a lot to gripe about, he had enough good things in his previous pieces that make me think that he could have a very good future in Magic writing.

Unfortunately, this leaves left Barry as the odd man out. While I think there have been some very good ideas contained in Barry’s articles, he just hasn’t done a great job of fleshing out those ideas.