The Magic Show #77 – The Best of 2007 & A ‘Tide Of Spoilers

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Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going to take a look at my Top 10 articles a year, recap Flores’ wacky theorems, and we ride the wave of an incredible outbreak of new Morningtide spoilers. You ready for some kick ass 2007 goodness along with some 2008 hype? Let’s go!

Hello everybody, and welcome to another edition of the Magic Show. This week we’re going to take a look at my Top 10 articles a year, recap Flores’ wacky theorems, and we ride the wave of an incredible outbreak of new Morningtide spoilers. You ready for some kick ass 2007 goodness along with some 2008 hype? Let’s go!

My Top 10 Articles of 2007

2007, man, what a year. It’s the year in which the Magic Show really came into its own, the year the show went from a few funny slides and some wonky audio to a full entertainment experience. This came from my trial and error and your never-ending support. But this section isn’t about me, it’s about the Top 10 articles by other people. We can recap our favorite moments some other time.

So with no further ado, let’s get started!

#10 — Creating A Fearless Magic Inventory, by Sam Stoddard

In this article, Sam does what no one thought possible: He describes, in detail, his mistakes. He picks apart his game, his playstyle, his failures. He tries to both explain and rectify his shortcomings through what I describe as a therapeutic exercise in the loves and losses of a modern Magic player. Sam is no “king donk” as some would describe yours truly, this man has won PTQs, been the Pro Tour, and then lost the spark. So how did Sam get his groove back? You’ll have to read it to find out.

#9 – Three Ways To Think Faster, by Tom LaPille

In his first article as a featured writer for StarCityGames, Tom LaPille knocks it out of the park as he gives you some incredibly easy to use and insightful information. With this article you’ll learn how to Think Ahead, Think Generally, and Think At The Right Time. With these three concepts as well as easy to follow examples, Tom shows us how to apply this to our actual games.

Here’s a choice quote: “…if you have a Ponder in your hand and you have plenty of mana, you should just cast the Ponder before you do any other kinds of pondering. You’ll see new cards that will inform all the thinking you do after that. Time spent thinking before doing something that gives you more information can be wasted, which we want to avoid.”

#8 — Five Ways To Fix Green, by Ben Bleiweiss

In this article from February, Ben shows us not only how right he can be, but how forward-thinking he really is. Take a look at the things he outlined in this article: Keyword the “web” ability that we now know as reach. Keyword untargetability that we now know as Shroud. Keyword the Poison ability that we now know as Poisonous. This last point is why Ben made the list this year. Take a look at a subtle point on poison cards that hasn’t been thought about much:

“With the exception of Swamp Mosquito in Time Spiral, the “If any player has ten or more poison counters, he or she loses the game.” is a static effect on the card, and not part of the rules reminder. It would be extremely simple to remove the rules for poison entirely, and make it function similarly to Arcane spells in that in-and-of itself, it does nothing. This would free up design space for Poison, while allowing every single poison card in Magic (except for the Time Spiral Swamp Mosquito) to function as written!”

Now take a look at what Ben has right in this article, and take a look at what he might be right about, and consider this was all long before Future Sight even hit the rumor sites. Poison looks like a mechanic just aching to take over Magic playmats everywhere, and I think Ben called it right here.

Quick Aside: Flores’ Crazy Theorems from 2007, Part 1 – Trump

In our first installment of Flores’ crazy 2007 theorems on Magic, we take a look at Trump. Trump was detailed in Flores’s article titled “The Big Idea” and I’m not really sure everyone got the Big Idea. Here’s Flores’ explanation of Trump:

“Trump is a term related to power, ultimately – pardon the term — trumping the Fundamental Turn given the right conditions. Resource, offensive, and defensive speed obviously remain operational… But Trump, when it comes into play, is the most important element in any game that has not actually been decided.”

He then gives a few examples of how you are screwed when your opponent has the Trump, and culminates with this: “Today’s sections outline some of the techniques that I, personally, try to use in order to create efficient decks. For about the last three years, my decks have tended to approach tournaments with greater share value than archetype decks, even when they play weird cards or combinations of cards, and that value comes from attacking the format from different angles than might be expected, utilizing forgotten linears, and positioning in such a way that the opponents’ expected cards and strategies are least effective, wherever possible.”

For all those out there kicking ass in Magic tournaments ‘utilizing forgotten linears,’ I salute you!

#7 – Practice Doesn’t Make Perfect, by Paul Jordan

In this article, Paul details his testing strategies, methodologies, and explains how these processes can help your own testing. How often do you allow take-backs in your testing sessions? What about ‘free’ mulligans? What sort of distractions do you have around you at the time? What about keeping track of life totals and plays on paper? These are all questions in which Paul gives you the right answer for testing your decks better and achieving more from your practice sessions than you normally would. Here’s a choice quote:

“An important nugget to remember through all of this is that, assuming you are not currently utilizing all of these recommendations; the way you practice is having a negative impact on some aspect of your game. Your body and mind are keeping track of every short-cut, take-back, and rushed play and logging it in your psyche along with every other game you have played under the heading “How to play Magic: The Gathering.””

Just fantastic stuff.

#6 — I’ll Take “Magic Writers on Jeopardy!” for $200: My Experiences on America’s Favorite Game Show, by Dave Meddish

This article isn’t actually an article. It’s a 5-day series from the now-defunct “Daily” series that used to run on StarCityGames. The Daily Series were stopped a week or so after this ran, and it certainly went out with a bang. Dave Meddish delivers on one of the funniest, most entertaining articles you’ll read on a Magic site, even if the series itself doesn’t always pertain to Magic: The Gathering. Wonderful work!

#5 — Everyone Makes Mistakes by Stephen Menendian

Stephen knocks it out of the park with this article, the culmination of his article from the previous week that was just as brilliant, Understanding How We Play Magic. I chose this one as it’s a bit easier to grok, and reading this article will lead you to his previous effort that was just as awesome. That said, what does this article cover? It covers complex systems and how Magic decks are just exactly that. He details how difficult it is to “make optimal strategic decisions in a world of dynamic complexity.” He then explains this by using examples like MIT’s use of the Beer Distribution Game, how world-class thinkers can believe in untrue conditions through inferring rather than investigation. Fantastic work at the end of 2007 from the Vintage master.

Quick Aside: Flores’ Crazy Theorems from 2007, Part 2 — Vectors!

In Part 2 of our rundown of Flores’ wacky theorems, we talk about the strangest one, Vectors. Now vectors, as Flores describes them, aren’t really ah…vectors at all. I guess you would call them ‘angles of attack,’ to borrow an oft-used phrase. But let’s have Mike try to explain just what these MS Paint drawings really mean, particularly regarding this big 10 versus 3 thing here.

“Look instead back to Figure 2, above. 3 is zipping along at a weird angle. It’s not just a quantity but a vector. No one is aiming at 3, but 3 can knock big old 10 down because he is sneaky. He isn’t going to win any pure power fights, but that’s not the fight he wants. 3 is an assassin, a surgeon, an imaginative ambulance-chaser, not some kind of clod with a giant mallet (no offense, 10).”

So for those who like to pack ambulance chasers, I wish you luck with this new theorem. Let’s get back to the list.

#4 — Investment, by Richard Feldman

In this article the brilliant Richard Feldman takes us through a story about a girl. And you just know a Magic article is good when it’s about a girl. Anyway, this one involves the story of how much time you invest in a deck. How long do you stick it out with old faithful before jumping ship to something else? When is it time to say goodbye to that old deck for the new, shiny tech? Haven’t you heard the story of how some Rock players just play Rock forever, changing and tweaking a bit each set since the release of Pernicious Deed? This one involves the trials of Richard and his Eyebrow-Piercing Girl and details how he met his Fiancée, all while teaching you good Magic. Another Feldman classic.

#3 — How to Win A PTQ, by Mike Flores

Yes, I can both appreciate and make fun of the Magic writing crew, and when Michael J does well I am the first to cheerlead. This is a fantastic article for those wondering “how it’s done” by the people who’ve been there, and those who wish to improve themselves. This is why you pay to read Michael’s words, and his insight into how to not screw up or bring the wrong deck to the tournament is a must-read for 2007. This is how it’s done by the professionals.

#2 — Identifying and Applying a Game Plan in Limited, by Tiago Chan

I’ll let Tiago speak for himself on this one: “From my experience, successful Limited players, generally speaking, are the ones who play Limited like it’s Constructed. This means that, in Limited as well as Constructed, it’s possible to identify a metagame of decks and establish different game plans for playing with or against them. It’s not the easiest thing to think ahead in a game of Constructed, but it’s even harder to do it in Limited, where most of the time we make our decisions on the fly, without thinking, simply because a certain play seems better for creating a tempo or card advantage.”

This article then goes on to explain how to identify archetypes in Limited, how to draft them, how to stop them, how to sideboard against them, and how you can apply this information for future formats, such as I did for my recent Drafting with Evan article and its focus on the U/W Merfolk archetype. Tiago is one of the best writing today, and this article proves it many times over. Incredible work!

Quick Aside: Flores’ Crazy Theorems from 2007, Part 3 — Phases!

Before we get to my favorite article of the year, we can’t finish Flores’ Crazy Theorems without featuring his latest, Phases. This is where he classifies decks as moving from one phase to another. Now stay with me and see if you can see a pattern here:

Phase 1 is “Basically Manascrewed” where a deck struggles to reach, quote, “Minimum Game Threshold,” unquote.

Phase 2 is “Mostly Errors.” Mike describes this as “…typically the longest part of the game. It encompasses everything in between first not being manascrewed, then actually winning…”

Phase 3 is “Trump Mode” where Mike says it’s “a special point that exists for some decks where that deck is actively dictating the field of battle and only a small subset of the opponent’s cards still matter.”

Now for those following along at home, I believe we’ve had these “Phases” for awhile. They’re called Early Game, Mid-Game, and Late Game. The only difference is we never described the act of decks going “in and out” of those states. I guess this fills that void, right?


Where’s Orson Wells when you need him?

#1 — One Game, by Richard Feldman

In what I dub the article of the year, Richard Feldman walks us through your average game. A game in which a lesser player would simply say “I got flooded” turns into the most dazzling investigation of how we play that I’ve come across in a long time. Why is it important to represent cards? What are your tells, and what do you tell your opponent about your deck with the first card you played this game?

Richard tops off an incredible run of articles with what I consider my favorite of the year. This is an article that, like many others on the list, I can actually see myself going back to read, and enjoying it just as much if not more. I wouldn’t call it Who’s The Beatdown, but I would call it recommended reading for those who want to get better at the game. I’ve played with Invitationalists and at a Pro Tour, and those experiences taught me a lot, but this taught me even more. Thanks Richard!

And that’s my Top 10 for 2007. I would like to thank all of the Magic writers on the net, not just at StarCityGames, and their inspiring work over the past year. I know it’s been a good 2007 for the Magic Show, and I only hope that continues.

Morningtide Spoilers

Oh boy, it’s been a busy, busy week for the rumor lovers out there, and do I have some awesome cards to share with you.

The first is the Prerelease Foil. You ready to see what card Timmy is going to go absolutely ape over? Let’s take a look:

Door of Destinies
As Door of Destinies comes into play, choose a creature type.
Whenever you play a spell of that type, put a charge counter on Door of Destinies.
Creatures you control of that type get +1/+1 for each charge counter on Door of Destinies.

Now that’s what I call a satisfying card. It hits all the high points of a good release card: It’s unbelievably exciting for Timmy, Johnny can’t wait to see how big he can make his creatures, and Spike is wondering if this can actually work. I personally think it’s a kick ass card for all sorts of situations. Firstly it rocks the kitchen table hard, and secondly it might make Green/Black Elves even stronger. Can you imagine playing something like Gilt-Leaf Ambush and getting 5/5’s out of it? Don’t be too quick to trade these away, as I think they’ll be surprising a lot of players in the coming months.

But what about the Release card? For Lorwyn we got Shriekmaw, but for Morningtide it’s something else entirely—and it’s based on the Prowl mechanic. Let’s look:

Earwig Squad
Creature – Goblin Rogue
Prowl 2B
When Earwig Squad comes into play, if it’s prowl cost was paid search target opponent’s library for three cards and remove them from the game. Then that player shuffles his or her library.

Now, as far as I can tell, the Prowl mechanic here is just to get you a 5/3 for three mana. I don’t think many players are going to get excited about the Jester’s Cap on a stick going on here, but there are lots of possibilities. What kind of possibilities? Take a look at this upcoming card:

Graceful Reprieve
When target creature is put into a graveyard this turn, return that card to play under its owner’s control.

Yes, also known as Momentary Blink 2.0, this guy will be insane in draft and could very well hit constructed like a ton of bricks. It may wait until Momentary Blink has left us before you see it in winning 75’s, but I would definitely keep an eye on it.

However, what about Wizards’ own spoilers from their Preview site? Check out this monster of a Kithkin:

Kinsbaile Bodyguard
Creature — Kithkin Soldier
Kinsbaile Borderguard comes into play with a +1/+1 counter on it for each other Kithkin you control.
When Kinsbaile Borderguard is put into a graveyard from play, put a 1/1 white Kithkin Soldier creature token into play for each counter on it.

Now that’s what I call a kick ass white weenie. This is exactly the type of card Kithkin decks were hoping for: A Call of the Claw in the “right” colors. With this guy you could do some absurd things with last week’s highlighted Preemptive Captain and this week’s Graceful Reprieve

But the real star this week has the strangest name. Take a look at what is bound to be a new chase rare, Maralen of the Mornsong:

Maralen of the Mornsong
Legendary Creature — Elf Wizard
Players can’t draw cards.
At the beginning of each player’s draw step, that player loses 3 life, searches his or her library for a card, puts it into his or her hand, then shuffles his or her library.

Now for those scratching their heads, imagine this sequence of events: End of your turn, Teferi. Untap, pass, end of your turn, Maralen. Tutor up whatever I need with Maralen, then use Mystical Teachings to find however many counters I need to keep Maralen alive. Good game.

Holy cow, is this girl scary. While she’s of course still unrealized potential at this point, I smell what the Blue/Black control decks can do with this girl, and it doesn’t smell good at all.

Speaking of chase rares, I’ll close this week out with another one with an odd name: Mutavault

T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
1: Mutavault becomes a 2/2 creature with all creature types until end of turn. It’s still a land.

Now that’s what I’m talking about, baby! This spicy meatball of a card allows you to rock a mono-white Kithkin deck with a creature that doesn’t die to Wrath of God, gives a Treetop Village/Faerie Conclave-esque card to those colors who have done without, and is the closest thing we’ve seen to Mishra’s Factory this side of a Blinkmoth Nexus, another card that fetched $12-$15 in its prime. Snatch these up at the prerelease, because you’re going to need a playset.

And that’s enough for this week everybody. Next week we’ll talk more about Morningtide from those who created it, and feature a Magic puzzle by the puzzle master himself, Jeff Till. Should be a ton of fun.

So until next time Magic players, this is Evan Erwin, tapping the cards so you don’t have to.

dubya dubya dubya dot misterorange dot com
eerwin +at+ gmail +dot+ com
Written in awe of my fellow scribes

Music Credits:
Title — “Come Alive” by Foo Fighters
Post-Title — “Lake Michigan” by Rogue Wave
Flores Bumps — “Absolutely Cuckoo” by The Magnetic Fields
Morningtide — “Ball and Biscuit” by The White Stripes