Sideboards: Fifteen is Better than Zero

Patrick “The Innovator” Chapin deserts his premium post to bring us an amusing article in which he chats with some of the great and good of the Magic elite. Warning – this article may cause you to snort milk out of your nose…

This past week, I broke into the computer room with the help of a hacker. I, of course, seized this opportunity to log on to mIRC (well, after downloading Vida Guerra’s recent Playboy pictorial).

But, where to find good chats? Logically, I started by looking for cathyn, who was allegedly in some room of Europeans. I found them quite amusing, but she was afk, so I moved on.

Next step? #starcitygames

<pchapin> Hello!
<RidiculousHat> pchapin!?! You have Internet access?
<pchapin> Long story… So hey, what’s new?
<RidiculousHat> Coldsnap!
<pchapin> Sure, but that has been “new” forever now. Everyone has been talking about draft, T2 even T1 with CSP.
<RidiculousHat> Ah, but what about the most important Coldsnap format of them all?
<pchapin> ?
<RidiculousHat> Block!
<pchapin> Coldsnap Block?
<RidiculousHat> Ice Age Block! We here on MTGO have broken the format, though those silly paper-based mages down seem to fully grasp our Ice Dad deck.
<pchapin> Ice Dad?
<RidiculousHat> Yeah, we approached the format the way we always do. We looked for the two primary ways to secure an advantage in Magic.
<pchapin> Card advantage and tempo?
<RidiculousHat> Auras and spell sub-types!
<pchapin> What?
<RidiculousHat> See, we are all about synergy between the two, so we went with an aggro control, mid-range, strategy that utilized the best B/W auras and Snow cards.
<pchapin> …
<RidiculousHat> We pack such gems as Gelid Shackles, Rime Transfusion, Glacial Plating, Withering Wisps, Rimebound Dead, Phyrexian Ironfoot, Chilling Shade, Scrying Sheets, Adarkar Valkyrie, Fylgia, and so on.
<pchapin> So, appr?

Infernalator, suggested by Patrick Chapin for Ice Age Block Constructed

4 Necropotence
4 Demonic Consultation
4 Dark Ritual
4 Knight of Stromgald
4 Stromgald Crusader
4 Icequake
4 Soul Burn
4 Contagion
3 Soul Spike
2 Infernal Darkness
2 Lake of the Dead
21 Swamp

The deck is relatively straightforward, with the only major point of interest being Infernal Darkness. Pretty much, it is just game over for non-Black players if you have any sort of action. If you play it, they can’t cast Jokulhaups.

Let’s just say when your Block deck has legitimate game versus most 1.5 decks, it is a good time.

<RidiculousHat> Ice Dad is a good deck, it is just for a different metagame.
<pchapin> You mean you don’t expect much Necro in your Ice Age metagame?
<RidiculousHat> No one plays Necro (online). It just isn’t good any more and perhaps never was. Sure, it has the god draws, but most people play R/G beatdown or Red sorceries that blow up stuff for 4RR.

At this point I received the following IM.

<Polari> You’ve got to do a Ravnica Limited article, now that Coldsnap is legal.
<pchapin> Why? It isn’t relevant.
<Polari> Isn’t that your MO?
<pchapin> No I mean my thoughts on Ravnica Limited are pretty irrelevant. I’ve never played it. Otherwise, I would. It looks fun. I hear mana fixers are good.
<Polari> Oh. What about a Limited format you have played?
<pchapin> I dunno. I’ve been out for a few years now. If I saved this log and reprinted it in an article, a fair bit of it would be before the time of many readers who are not mired in the history of the game. Hell, I’m before a lot of people’s time.
<Polari> So? What was draft like when you were in my shoes?
<pchapin> When I was your age, we had to walk ten miles to draft, barefoot, in the snow, uphill both ways.
<Polari> See, it’s sentences like that that make me wish you would just list and test decks, instead of talking.
<pchapin> Oh, sorry. Here is a deck I drafted with the original CMU guys:

R/U, suggested by Patrick Chapin for Te-Te-St Limited

1 Shock
1 Lightning Blast
1 Fling
1 Seething Anger
1 Flowstone Blade
1 Giant Strength
1 Mogg Conscript
1 Wall of Diffusion
1 Flowstone Shambler
1 Flowstone Giant
1 Lowland Giant
3 Counterspell
2 Mind Games
1 Capsize
1 Dismiss
1 Mana Leak
1 Sift
1 Wind Drake
1 Dream Prowler
9 Mountain
9 Island

It’s been 8.5 years, so I don’t remember the matches, but I 3-0’d Randy Buehler, Erik Lauer, and Mike Turian.

We (Team CMU) came to the conclusion, eventually, that U/R Control was the absolute nuts (of course we didn’t use poker slang in those days). Keep in mind that Exodus hadn’t been released.

The key to U/R was card advantage, usually lots of buyback. Also, you want a lot of removal, and counters are easy to acquire. Creatures like Mogg Conscript, Wall of Diffusion, and Dream Prowler are good on defense. Giants are obviously always great. Seething Anger is surprisingly effective, despite so few targets. Dream Prowler, Wind Drake, and Fling are all good combos. The best part of this strategy initially was that many of its key cards were undervalued and could be sent around the table. Ah, Te-Te-St drafts while eating fries at the “O.” Good times.

<Polari> I see why you don’t write Limited articles. Please try to write about the same stuff everybody else does. Thoughts on B/W aggro v. UrzaTron?
<hand2dciv> pchapin! I have been enjoying your innovative articles, but recently you tested sideboarded games in one. This troubles me because many people place too large a value on sideboarded games. Remember the 60 you start with are 100% of your cards game one and 75-100% games 2 and 3. Your sideboard is at most 25% 2/3s of the time.
<pchapin> Interesting…
<hand2dciv> Besides, when you are trying new ideas, sideboarded games create a secondary variable that skews playtesting. There is also often more disparity among sideboarded games and maindeck ones.
<pchapin> Yes, but aren’t sideboard cards particularly crucial, given you are adding them specifically to combat that opponent?
<hand2dciv> Actually, no. I now realize sideboards are dumb. You shouldn’t use one.
<pchapin> Actually, I am a Pro and have been since Year 1 of the Pro Tour. After a Deckade of playing Magical Cards, I have come to the conclusion that when it comes to sideboards, fifteen is better than zero.
<hand2dciv> I’m not convinced. How about you give me a deck for this tournament that is about to start? Include a sideboard. If I win, you are right. If I lose, you are wrong.
<pchapin> What is the format?
<hand2dciv> Dark-lite.
<pchapin> Dark-lite?
<hand2dciv> You know, the Dark + Weatherlight Constructed.
<pchapin> Oh, okay. Play this:

yyyy1.dec Suggested by Patrick Chapin for Dark-lite

3 Flood
4 Phantom Wings
4 Abduction
2 Ancestral Memories
1 Amnesia
4 Ophidian
4 Vodalian Illusionist
4 Ghost Ship
4 Mind Stone
4 Serrated Biskellion
4 Maze of Ith
22 Island

1 Flood
3 Abjure
4 Merfolk Traders
2 Amnesia
2 Ancestral Memories
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Barl’s Cage
1 Sorrow’s Path

After e-mailing misterorange, esternaefil, NorrYtt, Adriaan, and a few others, I went back to chatting a bit. Edt and Platy were trying to convince me to move in with them in some house on the beach in southern California. Sadly, leaving this mountain is difficult. I did appreciate the offer, though. Maybe KK can take my place, for the time being.

<hand2dciv> I won!
<pchapin> Congratulations.
<hand2dciv> Round 1, I smashed some 11-year-old playing Merfolk Assassin + War Barge. He wasn’t even born when these cards were printed.
Round 2 was tougher. She was playing Preacher, Aura of Silence, Abduction, Phantom Wings, and Skull of Orm. Her mana was sketchy and Abjures were tech, despite appearing janky as hell.
In the finals I faced some Dave guy playing Goblins with Ball Lightnings, Lava Hounds, Orcish Settlers, and Thunderbolts. Fortunately, there is almost no Red removal in this format. Game 1, I beat him with the ol’ turn 1 Flood, turn 2 Mind Stone, turn 3 Ophidian + Maze of Ith. He rolled over me game 2, but game 3, my sideboard Merfolk were gas. 1/2s trump 1/1s.
I guess you are right. Sideboards: Fifteen is better than zero.

<ffej> Hey, got a minute?
<pchapin> Jeff Cunningham! For you, I will make one.
<ffej> pchapin, you know I respect you as a gentleman, a scholar, and a writer, but you are dumb as are ProdigalT, Talen Lee, FoxAK, ChichiriMuyo, securitron_ch, Anusien, smcke0wn, michaelj, chockworksimon, Vrax, Tsavong Lah, 2weiX, Lackeos, Aten, Rising Phoenix, Kyle_Sanchez, flurk, aultslimb, Sti, and edt.
You may have misinterpreted my argument as a well-reasoned possible exception to conventional wisdom. In reality, my point is that 70-card decks are better than deck with less than 60 (given that we are allowing it).
<pchapin> But you see, the argument in favor of a 70-card Gifts deck is logical, but only if you assume you have to use the 60 listed. In reality, if Gifts’s deck kernel was somehow more than 60, which is exceedingly unlikely, then by necessity, the deck is built wrong to begin with unless you gain some incredible advantage (a la Battle of Wits). In reality, there has never been a properly built Tier 1 deck with more than 60. Ever.
<ffej> I challenge you to a duel! My 70 card Gifts deck versus your less than 60 card Gifts deck. One game for all the marbles. Loser ships a bucket of original recipe Kentucky Fried Chicken at Worlds next year, to the winner.

This is what Jeff played:

Ffej Gifts, suggested Jeff Cunningham

4 Gifts Ungiven
4 Wrath of God
4 Yosei, the Morning Star
3 Kokusho, the Evening Star
4 Goryo’s Vengeance
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Farseek
4 Kodama’s Reach
4 Greater Good
1 Wear Away
1 Reclaim
1 Recollect
2 Loxodon Hierarch
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
3 Temple Garden
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Breeding Pool
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Watery Grave
2 Godless Shrine
2 Tendo Ice Bridge
2 Llanowar Wastes
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
5 Forest
2 Plains
2 Swamp
1 Island
1 Brushland

This is what I played:

Chapin Gifts

1 Gifts Ungiven
1 Lightning Serpent
2 Blazing Shoal
2 Myojin of Infinite Rage
1 Mountain

I’ll let you figure out how that one went.

Jeff, I want my bucket of chicken next year!

After downloading Denise Richards’s Playboy photo shoot from 2004, I joined #mtgfloresisgod.

<michaelj> Patrick! Let me just tell you about this 8-man I was just in.
<pchapin> Err… Hi!
<michaelj> So I’m playing Flores Winner Winner Chicken Dinner White Wafo-Tapa Deluxe Flores Blue White Control Azorius Flores Counter Dragon Draw – SoFloresOrNo.dec. My first round opponent is playing a bad version of Critical Mass. He only uses about nine of the same cards, but I invented U/G creature decks. Anyway he only has half the counters I do, so I wreck him.
<pchapin> Um, I’m not supposed to be here, so I kinda have to hurry.
<michaelj> So my second round opponent was playing UrzaTron. Obviously he copied the deck I built for Osyp, that I made, that he 8-0d with, that was my design, as is clear from any general extrapolation of my premise, that may be surmised.
<pchapin> That’s nice. How’s Katherine?
<michaelj> So in the finals, I played someone running an almost mono-Blue Jushi deck with Cranials in the side. U/B? Mise well rip off Bad Player Flores, am I right?
<pchapin> Yes Flores, you are right. You are always right when you ask mise well am I right.
<michaelj> So the random guy gets a god draw and I get manascrewed, otherwise this is a 100% matchup in my favor. Do you realize what this means?
<pchapin>That apparently anyone who uses Blue cards copied you?
<michaelj> No, actually I also invented R/W, G/W, B/W, mono-B, most three-color combinations, and Icatian Moneychanger + COP: White. What I meant was that I lost to some scrub, so now I am free to draft.
<pchapin> Flores, I haven’t actually drafted since the Clinton administration. Not a lot of boosters in here. Actually there are a lot of “boosters,” but they boost things other than Magic cards.
<michaelj> Actually, I am at Finkel Draft and we have some particularly hip guests. They want to draft tunes.
<pchapin> I’m in!
<michaelj> First, remind me again of your thoughts on my book.
<pchapin> Deckade is fascinating, offering not only strategy and articles aimed at improving one’s skill, but with some of the most colorful characters in the game. Plus, I’m in it!

I first picked “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson, thinking I’d go pop. My second pick was the highly overpowered “You Don’t Know Me,” by Armand Van Helden, a broken rare, but one that would require a commitment to electronic music. Third through sixth I stayed techno, picking up “Up to the Wild Style” by the Porn Kings w/ DJ Supreme, “Necessary Evil” by Armand Van Helden, “Pumpin” by Novy vs. Eniac, and “Cowgirl” by Underworld. Seventh I mised “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson.

I wheeled two Fatboy Slim tracks, “Rockafeller Skank” and “Renegade Master,” tenth was a fortunate “Little Bit of Luck,” by DJ Luck.

A couple of late jungle tracks made it to me, so I grabbed Aphrodite’s “Darkside Style ‘98” and Roni Size’s “Brown Paper Bag.”

I couldn’t pass a thirteenth pick “In the End (Hip Hop Remix)” by Linkin Park w/ Motion Man. My final two picks are a little surprising, but very playable. Mariah Carey’s “We Belong Together” and Cat Stevens’s “Moon Shadow.”

I wish I would have opened some Nine Inch Nails or Mindless Self-Indulgence, but I know my play list was tight.

First round, I faced edt. His (tape) deck was completely random, featuring Aqua, the Cardigans, the Bloodhound Gang, and William Shatner. I rolled him over, as he had no synergy.

Second round I played Flores, who was running nothing but lesbian rock I’m not cool enough to have heard of. I just kept tapping Michael Jackson and attacking for two.

Flores claimed he got manascrewed and that I was a bad pairing. His playlist is supposedly the best list he has ever made. Its only flaw is that it loses to the second and third best lists in the format.

In the finals I squared off against Dave Price. His list was mostly Heavy Kill Your Neighbor’s Dog Death Metal including three Dead Guy tracks. He splashed for Natalie Imbruglia and Soul Coughing, which I definitely didn’t see coming.

I won a tight first game going long, and he beat me down in the second. The third was back and forth, but the turn before I kold, I topdecked Cat Stevens.

So there you have it. Five formats, five broken lists.

RidiculousHat, Polari, hand2dciv, Jeff Cunningham, and michaelj – Thanks for the good chats. I appreciate the support. You know I love you!
People that post in my forums. I truly appreciate the feedback, whether critical or praise.
Sideboards – Fifteen is better than zero. Trust me on this.
Talen Lee – Ask Flores for my digits.
John “Friggin” Rizzo – Does one need a reason?

edt – Who doesn’t write articles?
Anyone who tries to deny the above-mentioned mIRC chats or prints counterfeit Chapin quotes.

You guys are great. Take care,

Patrick Chapin
“The Innovator”