Stay Cool, Be Real

Thursday, October 21st – Gerard Fabiano has some lessons for ya’ll in communication, innovation, and more. He builds a Venser deck and a white weenie deck for your consideration for the upcoming StarCityGames.com Standard Open: Charlotte.

Most of my articles have been pretty solid as of late. How do I know this? Well Kyle Boggemes writes
on my Facebook wall daily telling me so; he also adds a “Puertooooo Ricooooo” for good measure.

A little over a week ago, I wrote about this awesome
U/W deck I tested

and reasons why you should play it. To my pleasure, U/W was a dominant force at States, and My List or lists very close to it put up great
results. I heard both Kyle and his friend D.J made
Top 4

with a list very close to mine, and it also
won Canadian Provincials

by up-and-comer Justin Richardson.

For myself I was a bit disappointed in my finish; I started off 5-0 knowing I’d only need one more
win and a draw to lock up Top 8. In round 6 I played against a pretty cool dude with U/W. How did I know he was a pretty cool dude? Well he was playing
U/W, and Kyle Boggemes plays U/W, so I just put two and two together.

His deck however was super teched out for the mirror with Venser, the Sojourner and Luminarch
Ascension, two cards I didn’t have in my list and two cards that are good in the mirror. I lost in three games and found myself at 5-1. Round 7 I played
against Mass Polymorph, a match that favors U/W, since Spell Pierce/Negate/Mana Leak are all really good at stopping them from resolving important
spells. Flashfreeze also stops some mana ramp cards and Awakening Zone.

I won and found myself at 6-1. (Touchdown!) When standings and pairings went up, I was somehow
paired against the only 6-1 player who couldn’t draw, since his breakers were somewhere in the 40s (fumble). Starting off 5-0, I figured I would’ve had
good breakers, but I was wrong.

I ended up losing in game three to runner-runner Frost Titan when I thought I had the game locked
up, so I ended up in tenth place, winning nine packs, six of which I used to pay off a debt to Dr. Lachman and the other three I decided to crack open at
a red light on the way home (never crack and drive, kids; wait until your car comes to a complete stop).

My three rares totaled up to a value that couldn’t even cover the one-dollar toll on the Garden
State Parkway, but the fresh smell of the cards was well worth it.

The next day was Sunday, and I had a bunch of things to do (probably not, but okay). However Magic
was still on my mind, and since my current job is about as much fun as that of the man who stamps the “M” on M&Ms, I knew I’d be thinking about
Magic all through the workweek as well to keep me busy.

I’m beginning to think lots of people think their job is the nut-low and pick up a hobby so they
have something they actually enjoy. Skee-Ball, anyone?

Speaking of Skee-Ball and on a completely unrelated note, does anyone else remember how easy it was
to cheat at some arcades? I remember seeing kids my age who went up the side of the Skee-Ball machine and dropped the heavy brown ball in the 100 slot,
or even better watching grandmas wave their hands under the basketball net as their grandson would brick shot after shot just to get a few more
tickets. It was a sight to see, and can be compared to Pro Tours back in the 90’s. I’m glad to see how much the Pro Tour and Dave & Buster’s truly have
in common and how they, for the most part, decided to clean up the scene.

Stay Cool

I wanted to see why I come so close to doing well, but always seem to fall short. I started to think
that maybe it was my attitude, and that at certain times, I’d lose focus or not play my hardest for whatever reason.

And when I say not playing my hardest, I don’t mean that I or you should try super hard, ’cause lots
of times when you’re trying too hard at something, it often backfires, and you lose. That’s why I figured you just got to play it cool. If it’s tough
for you to play it cool, try to envision this. Think of the one guy or girl you really like ’cause you think they’re just so cool. It could be Vince from


all the way down to Jesse from Jesse and the Rippers with M.I.A. somewhere in between. Just remember: be cool. Some crazy white guy
last week in the streets of New York yelled at me, “HEY MAN, DO YOU LIKE WHITE PEOPLE!?!” So I stayed calm and just said, “No thanks, man. I’m cool.”

This is something important to remember when you’re playing. If you make a mistake, then catch it
immediately after, don’t worry about it then, or if your opponent plays a bomb in Limited, don’t get flustered. Just stay cool, think of ways you can
beat it, and play your game.

Going by the Book and Communication

On a side note, I’m going to take a break right here. I just read the section from Jeff Cunningham
article about how one of his opponents did some very shady stuff, and the judges did nothing about it. I feel that the judging system is flawed, and
they should call another meeting with some experienced tournament players to find out more information. Kind of like on the

when the FBI decided to team up with Tony to help prevent some terrorist actions. I’m not saying I’m the Tony Soprano of Magic, but I do like cannoli.

I feel judges need to be trained to the fullest before they go off to tournaments, not only by
filling out some quiz and getting all the answers correct. I’m talking about being trained on how to interact with players in certain situations. It’s
like the cop who tries to give a man a speeding ticket, since he was speeding with his wife pregnant in the back seat. Sure, the book says to give
him a ticket, but humans need to understand when they should follow the book and when it needs to be adjusted.

Do you guys really think it was fair for Drew Levin to get disqualified? (I don’t want to hear your
answer, ’cause it’s over with, but just as an example.) Maybe the book says yes, but should we always follow the book?

It’s kind of like when a girl says her heart says yes, but her head says no. I still don’t know what
that means, but it probably has some correlation to what I’m trying to say here.

A kid has a game-winning board position, then accidently uses Jace pre-combat and draws four cards
by mistake when his opponent is on five life, completely tapped out with no cards in his hand, and the kid who drew the fourth card has a
Baneslayer in play. Is it fair for him to get a game loss for this? Who knows? But what I’m saying is that in Life (Magic included), there aren’t often many
answers that are directly yes or no.

Players will often message me and say, “Hey, I’m going to tournament X this week; what should I
play?” I usually say, “Whatever you want.” ‘Cause that’s how I honestly feel.

I will, of course, help them out if they were to ask me, “Hey man, I want to play U/W Control. Got
any tips regarding this mana base?” Then I could actually help them. But a question like, “What should I play?” doesn’t make sense.

Even something like “Hey Giggity Gfabs, what do you think is the best deck in Standard?” would be
slightly better. If you’ve never played a combo deck in your life, and I answer your question with “Dredge,” you’ll most likely do bad. Instead of trying
to get a free answer that won’t ever help you, try to get some knowledge that will.

Judges should also not be afraid to “get in trouble.” By that, what I really mean is doing something
similar to working in a store and being afraid to call over the manager to handle a small complaint. I feel this is one of the main flaws in our
society, our communication. With today’s technology, such as Facebook and Twitter, people may ask, “Gerard, what do you mean people have problems with
communication?” Well let me tell you a story that will help explain it.

About six months ago, my friend and former pro Antonino DeRosa came to visit me. We ended up at The
Garden State Plaza, which is one of the many malls in New Jersey.

Antonino wanted to get some stuff at Champs Sports, so I followed him in. At the counter I saw a
display of four different types of sneaker cleaner. Two cans of the sneaker cleaner looked brand new, and the other two had their caps off. I, like most
people, would assume that these were samples for you to try on your sneakers to see if they actually worked, so that’s exactly what I did.

I went to sit down on one of the benches in the middle of the store while Antonino finished up his
purchase, and I cleaned my sneakers when a worker from the store came up to me. He was young and foolish to be disrespecting Gfabs and in a tone of
voice that wouldn’t fly with your mother said, “Hey yo, you know yous gonna half to pay for dat.”

Stop right there… did he just call me “Hey Yo????” At

very minimum, “Mr. Pro”
would’ve been expected.

But I let it slide, and I told him I thought it was a sample, since it was already opened and was
separate from where all the other sneaker cleaners were. I also politely informed him that I used very little, and the can wasn’t filled to begin with,
since the cap was already off.

He didn’t want to hear me out, and he just repeatedly told me I would be 100% forced to pay for it.
I again tried to explain the situation to him and my thoughts, but he just wouldn’t listen.

This is a perfect example of people not only being brainwashed, but also not willing to learn or be
open. If this guy played Magic, he’d be in the 0-X bracket complaining about how he just always gets mana-screwed and plays perfectly, but still loses.

Antonino, age making him noncontroversial, simply came over, and said he’d spend the eight dollars
and purchase it, while I made an offer to the employee to call the cops so we could discuss this after he refused to let me to speak to his

You see, in life some people will be reasonable, and some people won’t. You’ll come across many
different types of people, and sometimes there’s nothing you can say or do to make someone reasonable; all you can really do is try to be reasonable

Time after time I tell tournament organizers and judges that having standings go up for three
minutes in the last round of Swiss then taken down while refusing to let anyone look at them is just ridiculous, but they don’t listen to me.

Even after I informed them that ten other players just took pictures of the standings with their
iPhones. Are they going to punish the people who take pictures of the standings with their iPhone? Of course not. So what they’re trying to prevent
punishes some of the players but not all. Why are some people not reasonable and refuse to hear me out? It’s really baffling, but who knows?

Sometimes I’ll make a statement; if someone hears me out, and my statement or idea in fact doesn’t
make any sense, that’s fine; the fact that the person I’m speaking with takes the time to listen is very important to be successful.

Why do you think Conley Woods is such a creative and good deckbuilder? Because he doesn’t spend time
around people who say, “Cruel Ultimatum and Violent Ultimatum in the same deck??!?!! You’re stupid, and shut up!!!1!!1″ Instead, he actually
spends time deckbuilding and sharing ideas with Dave Williams.

Look at Dave, and look at his successes. The best way to describe him is smart. Not only is he
smart, he’s also willing to learn, which is the combination for success.

The man at the Champs store could’ve been smart (personally I doubt it), and it was clear he didn’t
want to learn, as I politely tried to explain the situation to him, but he wouldn’t listen because he’s brainwashed. By what, I don’t know —
maybe his boss, maybe himself, but it’s tough trying to un-brainwash people so the best advice I can give to you is to try not to be.

Don’t be afraid to stand up and make a difference; don’t be afraid to brew up a new deck and test it
out even if it might suck and other players might look at you funny.

Innovation is something that we can all have if we want to have it. Chapin is so good at it for a
few reasons:

1.) He doesn’t care what you say about him. If you told him he was terrible at building decks he’d
probably say something like, “Oh, nice man, that’s a neat idea, but I’m going to continue what I’m doing. I’ll continue to work hard and think of new
decks and test them, and you can continue to do what you’re doing, and thanks for sharing your opinion with me even if I don’t agree.”

2.) He gives credit where credit is due. Sure he has his own playtesting group, but you can also see
him test with players he just met at a GP or PTQ for a format that’s coming up because he’s willing to accept new ideas from new players even if they
may not be as good as him at Magic or building decks. You can also see in his articles that he gives credit to players for coming up with new ideas
that he thinks can be format defining.

Why do you think Sheldon Menery became one of the best judges in the game and has a great deal of
respect from many of the top players and experienced players? Because he was willing to come and talk with many of the players and discuss his concerns.

I remember one time coming home from a PT where Sheldon, I, and a bunch of other well-respected,
non-cheating pros were talking, and Sheldon asked, “Who’s the shadiest man on the Pro Tour?”

About 8 of the 10 players there all had the same answer. Sheldon used this information, discussed it
with other people/judges who were willing to listen, and closely started to watch this player. A few months later, this player was banned from
the DCI for six months. I know six months isn’t a lot, but it’s something. This cleaned up the game, and it all started with Sheldon. The fact that he
was willing to listen, and he wanted to learn which players were cheating speaks many words toward his character and shows his love for the game.

What I’m saying here is: try not to be someone who won’t listen, and think outside the box while
listening to people in certain situations, and try to be open-minded.

This advice can carry over to Magic and help you become a better player and deckbuilder.

Applying it to Standard Today

If we take a look at most of the decks in Standard, even after the rotation, they all look pretty
much the same except for Jund, since it lost almost everything, and there are only a few new decks emerging.

I was very happy with some of the results from States, as I saw decks playing Mindslaver, Genesis
Wave, and Mimic Vat.

But what’s up with Venser and Elspeth? They’re both $40-50 cards, and the only deck you see them in
is U/W with a few copies thrown in.

Why hasn’t anyone taken the time to build and test a mono-white beatdown deck? Or a beatdown Venser
deck? Your first instinct may be that those decks will suck, but don’t be so sure.

Did you know that often when a new set comes out, R&D have a bunch of Standard decks that they
build in Future Future League that never get built during actual Standard? At a certain point, players stop innovating. Not all, but most.

As I was looking through the States results, I was impressed by some of the decks. One that I
thought was pretty neat was this list by Justin Kame who finished in the Top 4 of Arizona States.

My first question is where are the Vensers? In a list like this, splashing white would be pretty
easy and would add a huge late game to this deck. In addition, adding Spreading Seas would also help the Valakut and Eldrazi matchup while providing
another card to combo with Venser. He already has one Acidic Slime in the board, but imagine if he had four how much easier his control and ramp matchups
would become. My initial list would look like this.

This is an actual deck that can abuse Venser and not just have it throw in because it fits the
colors and can be pretty good in the current metagame. It’s something different and new, leaving your opponent guessing on how exactly they should play
against you.

Now that States is over, we now know the metagame for the most part (U/W Control, Mono-Red,
Naya/Bant Shaman decks, Eldrazi Green, and Titan/Valakut). We can try to figure out the best way to build this white weenie deck I’ve been working on that
takes a different approach than the ones with Quest and focuses more on Elspeth.

As you can see, I decided to play sixteen one-drops, which I think is the right number, since you
want to have a one-drop on turn 1. You can also can play two one-drops on turn 2, or play a two-drop and a one-drop on turn 3, which is also nice.
Overall they’re cheap and important to the deck, since they’ll apply the fastest damage, and with Honor of the Pure to pump them, your opponent will be on
a clock they might not be able to handle.

Elite Vanguard is nice because it’s a two-power one-drop all the time; Savannah Lions always made a
hit in white weenie decks, and the Vanguard should, too. Steppe Lynx is nice because we have eight fetchlands to make it into a four-power attacker.
With Honor of the Pure, it can attack through a Baneslayer Angel and overall will deal a large amount of damage. Serra Ascendant is nice here
because it combines well with Ajani Pridemate, Ajani Goldmane, and Elspeth Tirel and can become a huge attacker that can help win you the game. Finally,
there’s Student of Warfare. I like him because he’s a one-drop, and it also serves as something you can dump your mana into. Warfare is good and has
never really seen much play, but I think with this deck, it can all change. The deck kind of has an old-school feel to it that I like. I feel it has
the resilience and power to run with the top decks.

This might be a surprise, but yes there are only four creatures in the two-drop slot and zero
creature/non-creature drops in the three slot, which may seem weird. However, the way the deck plays out I think it’s actually fine. Lots of decks in
Standard don’t have a perfect curve, and games play out very differently in actual games than they do on paper, with the upper end of the curve looking
something like this.

The one Molten-Tail Masticore is kind of random, but this is another card that hasn’t made its way
into many decks, but with time, it will. I like it here, because it can push through some damage late game and can also deal with important creatures.
Emeria Angel is just a powerhouse with Honor of the Pure, Ajani Goldmane, and Elspeth.

This deck can come out really fast, but it also has a great deal of resilience. The mana base is
pretty straightforward, and the eight fetchlands to help power up Steppe Lynx is more important than playing Leonin Arbiter to try to screw ramp decks.
You have four Edges to help slow them down, and much of the time, you’re just faster than them. The Valakut decks have Bolt and Pyroclasm to slow
you down, but with six planeswalkers, you’ll almost never run out of steam. Along with helping your Steppe Lynx, the eight fetchlands will help thin out
your deck, so you don’t flood out late game.

This deck is fun, good, and something different, again giving you another option in Standard and
getting what I think is max value out of Elspeth.

Your sideboard is pretty straightforward but real solid.

Kor Firewalkers are good against Mono-Red, U/R Force, and Valakut decks. Linvala and the extra
Journey are good against Elves and any other Fauna Shaman-based decks, while stopping Sparkmage from wrecking you. Luminarch is a nightmare for most
U/W decks when combined with Revoke Existence to attack their Chalices, Wurmcoil Engine, or Ratchet Bombs. World Queller is nice against Eldrazi
Green or any other slower matchup.


1 Journey to Nowhere
4 Kor Firewalker
3 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
3 Luminarch Ascension
2 Revoke Existence
2 World Queller

I’m still a huge fan of U/W Control in Standard, but I think both of these decks are completive in
the metagame, are fun to play, and are something different.

In conclusion, the lessons I wanted you to learn from this article is to be open, willing to listen
and learn, and not be afraid to take chances.

Until next time…..

Who will be the first player to 500 pro points?

Will Osyp Lebedowicz make a return to StarCityGames.com to give Cunningham a run for his money?

Who is the Taco Master as seen in the GGsLive chat room?

Will my prediction of seven known pros in the Top 8 of GP: Toronto hold up?

Does Christian Calcano have what it takes to bring home the Rookie of the Year title to America?

Is MODO being audited by the IRS for making too much money on the 500-man PTQs?

And when will Time Reversal skyrocket in price?

This and much, much more next time.

Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the forums.