The Champions Laser or Dragon Dilemma: Dragon!

I’m not here to argue that dragons are the panacea to save an otherwise completely wretched deck; that’s simply not true. You can’t just play draw-go for the first five turns and win when you thump down your turn 6 Jugan. In an otherwise healthy deck, though, there are few better cards you could ask for than six-mana 5/5 fliers, and a Shock certainly isn’t one of those.

Well, this isn’t what I expected. I thought Mr. David-Marshall and I were just going to talk about silly little pieces of cardboard; I hadn’t really considered that we’d be researching the other person and musing on his accomplishments. I have it on good authority, for instance, that BDM asked Joshua “Insert Nickname Only Flores Calls Him Here” Ravitz how old I was, evidently for the purpose of adding perspective to the amused* tone he utilized when segueing into the song lyrics at the end of his column. The whole “sizing-up” process seems like a lot of work, especially when your adversary’s credentials are difficult to examine because he spends most of his time cowering behind a computer screen instead of grabbing a pointy hat and wand and making goblins and ogres appear out of nothingness.

I don’t really respond well to praise. Compliments either make me incredibly abashed or cause my ego to swell like Bigger Boo from Super Mario World Two** with virtually nothing in between these ends of the spectrum. In addition, as some of you may have noticed (and as Ted bemoans daily), I’m in a bit of a writing slump lately, so lauding my skills as a writer in particular only creates extra pressure for me. I don’t like it when people have lofty expectations. That notwithstanding, I would like to take a moment to thank BDM for his kind words. And tell him that he is dead wrong about Glacial Ray.

It seems that, of late, lots of people have been coming down on our flying friends. Everyone’s whipped into a frenzy about that elusive concept of “tempo,” thumbing their noses at cards that cost more than four mana, especially if (as is the case with the Blue Honden) “it doesn’t even do anything the turn it comes into play.” Here’s some interesting news, though. Your opponent will not “curve out” every game. As a corollary, sometimes you yourself will curve out. I’m not here to argue that dragons are the panacea to save an otherwise completely wretched deck; that’s simply not true. You can’t just play draw-go for the first five turns and win when you thump down your turn 6 Jugan. In an otherwise healthy deck, though, there are few better cards you could ask for than six-mana 5/5 fliers, and a Shock certainly isn’t one of those.

Unless you build your deck around it, Glacial Ray is just an average, run-of-the-mill removal spell. Granted, in just about any deck, you will occasionally be able to splice it onto a Blessed Breath or Rend Flesh or other random card that happens to be arcane and in your hand at the time. However, most decks lack the capacity to consistently utilize the same Ray multiple times per game. You only have so many non-creature slots per deck, and these are often occupied by Hondens, Indomitable Wills, Yamabushi’s Flames, and less-than-optimal splice vessels like Devouring Greed or Rage.

If you do decide to build your deck around the Ray, you will probably be playing some pretty janky cards. Cards like Lava Spike and Unearthly Blizzard are okay in the most dedicated beatdown decks, but they aren’t so hot on their own. In many cases, draft decks lack the focus to adhere loyally to the Philosophy of Fire, making such cards all the more painful to play. I prefer to draft cards that stand well on their own in addition to being synergistic with the rest of my deck. Sometimes the deck you were trying for evaporates before you have accrued the requisite 23-24 cards (the Dampen deck being an extreme case of this), and sometimes you just get inconsistent draws. Decks in which each individual card is quality don’t need to worry about the four land, Unearthly Blizzard, Battle-Mad Ronin, Ashen-Skin Zubera draw. When you draft a Glacial Ray deck, you have to ask yourself: “What happens if I don’t draw the Ray?”

The point of all that mumbo jumbo is, first-picking Glacial Ray narrows your options considerably more than first-picking a dragon, assuming you plan on getting the most out of your first pick. The most attractive option is Blue/Red since Blue features many splice vessels that replace themselves (such as Peer Through Depths) as well as the best compliment to Ray in the format, Eerie Procession. With most other color combinations, you’ll fall short of optimizing the Ray. Blessed Breath is a decent combo with the Ray, but how many Breaths do you really want to play in a deck? When I have Blessed Breath or Candles’ Glow in hand with my Glacial Ray, I often find myself burning the White Arcane to basically no effect as though it were a Reach Through Mists without the handy “Draw a card” clause.

Kodama’s Might is ridiculous, but it’s virtually all Green has. Incidentally, neither Might nor Consuming Vortex is a “late-pick spliceable” as BDM would have you believe. If you see either of those cards much later than fourth, chances are you won’t need Glacial Ray or Keiga, the Tide Star to mop up the draft.

I can’t recall whether it was Taka Sato or Tim Bulger who recently vocalized the following argument, but I have to agree. Red has a handful of very powerful commons and uncommons, then a significant dropoff. This setup is conducive to people snatching up “first-pick caliber” cards like Yamabushi’s Flame and Glacial Ray then watching in dismay as the color dries up completely. In short, while alluring, Red just isn’t deep enough to share with half the table. If the person on your right cracks open a Hanabi Blast, you may find yourself either abandoning your first pick Glacial Ray or trying to splash it, and I honestly don’t know which of those is worse. This argument isn’t relevant when discussing the relative merits of Glacial Ray and Ryusei, but I’m afraid I can’t advocate taking Ryusei over Glacial Ray anyway. Any other dragon, sure, but Ryusei’s death “bonus” is a drawback in many decks, and usually in those in which it isn’t (specifically, Red/Blue), Glacial Ray is likely to be abusable.

Speaking of “abusable,” it’s now time to take advantage of having seen BDM’s article before writing mine. I get the opportunity to single out a few specific passages from his article for refutation. I don’t plan on doing this every time, nor do I look forward to him exacting revenge in kind next week, but I’m feelin’ a little frisky right now.

BDM mentioned that he would consider taking a dragon over Glacial Ray in a team draft because of the unfavorable reaction teammates would have about a dragon being shipped to the other team. Personally, I too would be more upset if my teammate passed a dragon than a Glacial Ray. This is because we would rather play against a deck with Ray than a deck with a dragon. Unless our logic is completely flawed, it would seem that this is because the dragon is a superior card.*** Barring the aforementioned Red/Blue deck that abuses the Ray, which card would you prefer to be in your opponent’s stack of 40?

Also, give up the dream of trying to get multiple Glacial Rays. Unless there’s a dragon or a Nagao in the pack, the card just isn’t going to get passed. Stop trying to make fetch happen.

Finally, you don’t need green accelerators or Devouring Greed to make Kokusho or any of the other dragons good. That whole argument reminds me of a Mitch Hedberg bit. He said, “On the back of a box of Ritz crackers it has all these suggestions as to what to put on top of the Ritz. It says ‘put some lunch meat up there. Try some peanut butter up on there, man.’ But I like crackers. That’s why I got them, man. You got no faith in the product itself.” You don’t need the dragon on turn 5, and you don’t need to make it a 6/6 first striker with Okina and Shinka. Unlike the Ray, a dragon is extremely powerful all by itself. As I mentioned, this is not to say you can neglect your curve and expect the dragon to bail you out of any predicament you find yourself in, but you can’t exactly do that with Glacial Ray either.

So that’s that. Under the right circumstances, Glacial Ray is superior to Kokusho, the Evening Star, but those “right cirumstances” don’t occur nearly enough to warrant taking the boring instant over the noble scaly monster. If you see a dragon, take it, put it in your deck; it is awesome.

I had wanted to title this article “She Shut Your Eyes” since I love making extraordinarily contrived references to songs only about five people have heard, but this is not the time for that. Heck, I wanted to title my GP: Chicago report that too, but it wouldn’t have applied in the least, plus, y’know, I didn’t actually write a report for GP: Chicago. Despite the fact that directly spelling out the meaning behind the reference crosses the line from “cool and detached” into “super duper nerd” (in this case, anyway), I feel somewhat obligated to end this article with a somewhat fitting song lyric.**** And I will do so…now.

“Now you’re sick of lying

Tonight a star is shining

On a heart that’s dying

The Morning Star is shining again.”

–Blindside, “She Shut Your Eyes”

Tim Aten


The Most Diabolical Hater This Side of the Mississippi

I don’t use AIM because it’s the devil.

RealAsTheStreets on MODO

[email protected]

And as always, the email address is real but everything else is probably a flagrant lie. Except for the part about being a hater. It is my life’s calling.

*There’s a better word for it, but I’m an idiot.

**Does anyone actually have any clue what I’m talking about? I was staring at the screen for half an hour trying to come up with a good simile, and in the end, this was all I could think of. Well, actually, I thought of a few other things, but this is a family website even if it does post Gadiel’s articles. Heh heh heh.

*** That’s right, folks. I’m using in-duction in lieu of de-duction for this particular argument. I like to switch it up.

****Perhaps someday I will write a comprehensive guide to coolness. There are rules, man.