The Daily Shot: Who The Hell Is Team Member #3?

I could stumble into the patent office, high on crack, and trip over a better idea than Stern Judge as a”hoser” for monoblack. What was R&D doing? I guess they were too busy grooming Benevolent Bodyguard to be the second coming of Savannah Lion, or taking rotating hits off of someone’s exhaust pipe, or something like that.

Welcome back to the Daily Shot, where dated references abound. Today we’re going to get all”six months ago” and casually mention that someone set us up the bomb. This one is brought to you by Zero Wing, because no one can mangle the English language quite like a video game translator who just doesn’t care anymore. Not even me.

This morning and probably for a couple of Mondays down the road we’re banging this sum’bitch out without regard for public safety. Anything and everything fit to grumble about will be mentioned and none are safe. Kid Rock would ask, “Are you scared?” if he wasn’t too busy dodging questions about Hepatitis C. Let’s kick it off.

First, I have to write, and at length, about something that I expected a lot of other people to pick up on.

Research and development had some interesting things to say regarding the reason behind putting Stern Judge in Torment. Interesting as in,”hey, look at that train wreck.” Though many editions of “Ask Wizards” have left me shaking my head with doubt regarding the survival of the human race, the August 27th offering was enough to make me want to enroll in night school to study Slavic languages. After all, when you’re this clueless about the effects of certain cards, can total destabilization of the North American way of life be far behind?

Just who is”Team Member 3″? I want to know who this guy is so we can get him hooked on phonics or something of that nature. This is from Henry Stern, a member of R & D. The parts in bold are my emphasis mine:

“When we made Torment, we knew we were also creating a pretty good mono black deck archetype. Nantuko Shade, Mutilate, and Mind Sludge where all created during development with this mono black deck in mind. Now this all makes sense, considering that Torment was supposed to be the ‘black’ set. Flash-forward to the middle of Torment development, we had this white weenie card named ‘Super Stud’ that was showing up as one of the best cards in the set. Since we knew that Judgment was going to be the ‘green/white’ set, we decided to ship this Super Stud off to Judgment — where it eventually wound up as Benevolent Bodyguard.

We now had a hole we needed to fill in Torment.” We have discovered that when you deliberately create an archetype that you know is going to be good (like the mono black deck from Torment), its usually a good idea to make sure there is something that can be used to fight against that archetype, a safety valve of sorts. The conversation in Torment development went something like this:

Team Lead: Well, what’s a good white card that can be used against mono black?

Team Member1: Hrmm… Karma was always pretty good.

Team Member2: Yeah, Karma was cool, but we shouldn’t exactly repeat Karma, should we?

Team Member3: Karma would be much too good in this set.

Team Lead: How about a Karma on legs, maybe 2WW for a 2/2?

Team Member3: That creature would be much too good against mono black

Team Member1: Maybe we could make it a tap effect.

Team Member2: Sure, but it should be cheaper then, 2W probably.

And thus, Stern Judge was born.”

I don’t even know where to begin with this foolishness. I’m a no-nonsense writer who is being confronted with nonsense at every turn. Why not start with the evident complete lack of R & D ability to gauge the effect that this so-called”hoser” card would actually have? Who is Team Member 3 trying to kid? And Team Member 1 is out of touch with reality. I think he was sniffing glue in the parking lot before this particular R&D summit.

Ghastly Demise and Innocent Blood in Odyssey. Cabal Coffers, Chainer’s Edict, Faceless Butcher and Mutilate printed in Torment. Soul Burn and Corrupt legal in Standard… And these guys are worried about a 2/2 Karma on legs? My god, that is just abysmally bad. Team Member 3 is worried about the lack of instant-speed removal, but for the love of god, Ghastly Demise and Execute are legal in block! In Standard, the black deck can actually race this guy with Corrupt and Soul Burn. I swear, are these Renton guys using their heads to store old rags or what?

Heaven forbid a black deck actually have to sideboard Execute instead of the eight hundred Braids and Fiends or whatever they sideboard against each other because they wreck everything else. Did I mention that Mesmeric Fiend can take the Karma guy and White can’t do anything to get it back except say”please”?

Was this not tested?

I’ll tell you what…. I’d love to know the exact nature of the playtesting that lead to the decision to declare a 2/2 Karma creature to be”too good” against Monoblack. How hard could it have been to actually test it before giving it the veto? Throw together a Future Future league Black deck with all the trimmings, make sure you put four Executes in the sideboard (remember, you’re assuming your hoser is going to be good – something that will actually scare monoblack) and then run it up against the white weenie deck of your choice. If the results would have been any better than 50/50, I’d be really surprised. Of course, I’m willing to bet this testing never happened – I guess they were too busy grooming Benevolent Bodyguard to be the second coming of Savannah Lion, or taking rotating hits off of someone’s exhaust pipe, or something like that.

That being said, Stern mentions that he wanted a”safety valve.” What rule says that this card must be a creature? Are monoblack decks required by law to be above splashing to remove opposing hosers? How good would Compost be if it were a 2/2 creature for 2G? These clowns printed a semi-cycle of”Tainted Lands” just aching to be used to Deed away/Disenchant/Frantic Purification/and so on away. Karma, while at the same time keeping the power of the black deck in check and encouraging a bunch of different versions of the deck (much like B/x Braids had like five different versions), and instead they made the Black hoser a creature so the Black deck didn’t have to splash worth beans.

I could stumble into the patent office, high on crack, and trip over a better idea than that. Rooting for Stern Judge is like rooting for Iraq: They might win one once in a while, but in the end you know they’re going to get creamed. Stern Judge dies so fast that he almost has cycling. When the chips are down and the match is on the line against Monoblack, our friendly neighborhood cleric hits the graveyard faster than a liquored-up necrophiliac on a three-day weekend.

That being said, I also love how Benevolent Bodyguard was getting the rub by R&D as the next big thing, when the simple fact was that they’d printed three pieces of untargeted removal for Black in two sets and that his ability was useless. What little targeted removal does exist – the red variety – is almost useless because Standard and Block decks now have more Wurms than Jamie Wakefield dogs. Assuming they tested all of Torment together, how was Benevolent Bodyguard shaping up to be one of the best cards in the set? He trades one-for-one with a piece of targeted removal or an Edict… Except the Edict can be flashed back. Maybe they saw the Bodyguard counter the Flametongue Kavu fat guy outta control top rope elbow a few times, and got it in their heads that it would dominate on those grounds alone. Or maybe the rolling papers for the day were laced with something.

I have the benefit of hindsight, true, but come on – there’s only so much I can take before I have to start wondering what in God’s name those guys were thinking.

Then there’s this line- the famous last words:

“When we made Torment, we knew we were also creating a pretty good mono black deck archetype.”

It goes really well up on the R & D wall of fame, with classics like:

“When we made Apocalypse, we knew we were creating a pretty good B/W or B/G or B/W/g deck archetype.”


“When we made Invasion, we knew we were creating a pretty good Domain archetype.”

And of course:

“When we made Masques and Nemesis, we knew we were creating a pretty good Rebel archetype.”

Oh yeah – let’s not forget:

“When we made Urza’s Saga, we knew we were…. Well, actually, no we didn’t.”

If they can occasionally do such a good job of balancing the strength of a deck (like they did with the Apocalypse B/W”Necro”) or balancing and hosing it (as with Domain), why in the name of all things holy do they fail so spectacularly on other occasions? Mercenary Informant ended up as mirror match tech, and the deck was ridiculously overpowered – especially in Block. All efforts to hose monoblack have failed miserably.

They booted Armageddon (probably rightfully so, with Werebear being printed), so Monoblack does not have to fear it. The current black hosers are garbage. Stern Judge, as already discussed, if put into a wet paper bag, couldn’t hose his way out if it. What else is there? Protection from Black creatures? That ability couldn’t be more useless. I’ve already mentioned in this column that they just die.

But hey, that’s just my opinion – I could be wrong. See you tomorrow.

Geordie Tait

[email protected]

P.S.: Heck, I’ll fight Szigeti at GP Cleveland. At last count, I have at least two parts of my body that can fire”Hadookens,” and one of them is real easy to aim.