A Brief Review To End IBC
I did well gaining some 200 ratings points over the season. I continued to play the neo-Solution deck throughout the season with some tweaking during the whole run. My finishing tournaments occurred on one day, in Normal, IL at a tournament that saw Moy Events, run by Barrett Moy, raised over $7000 for relief efforts in the wake of the recent tragedy. The several thousands of dollars that were spent by gamers at the event were gladly passed on by Moy Events, who also organized obtaining matching funds from the RJ Reynolds Company. I was very happy to be a part of this – and besides being a very fine tourney organizer, Moy Events gets another feather in their cap. Again, I’d like to thank them for helping me and many others feel even better for playing this great game and also doing something out of the ordinary with is which is make a positive effect on the greater world. I have been quite proud at how the entire Magic community has responded during these times.
On to the games.
The deck this time received both tweaks of my own and those from a top-tier pro – and one of Magic’s more original designers – namely, Zvi Mowshowitz. His idea was that in an environment dominated by 2/2 guys, Lashknife Barrier would be a better card than Fact or Fiction. This felt right to me, and thus I made the change. Also, I was never a great fan of Repulse for some reason. For all the good that the card could do, it also seemed to be gummed up by the lack of targets that you really could (or would) want to use it on. I had a new version of my deck and was testing it against the Price”Liquid Tempo” deck that my teammate Scott was piloting. I continually wound up with boards where it would be my Meddling Mages letting his Mongooses and Titans go by, and Repulse was only marginally effective. I needed something else. Hoping that the Barrier would come up and swing board position, I really wanted to keep my guys actually on the table. In continuing to look at this matchup, I realized that the Liquid Tempo deck didn’t have any creatures that were either targetable or that you’d want to bounce. Blurred Mongoose, Kavu Titan, Mystic Snake… And Flametongue out of the sideboard. Are you kidding me?
We discussed Confound and found it lacking. It wouldn’t work a lot of times, and it wouldn’t save one of my guys when a board-clearing spell like Rout would resolve. Didn’t work on Flametongue, either. As Mike often types,”Hurmmm.”
Then I stumbled on Stand/Deliver… And I had my card.
Now for one white mana, I had a card that would often rid the board of a Blurred Mongoose. Rage my Meddling Mage? I don’t think so. The cards let me use a single white mana and retain board position. Neo-Solution decks were aggro control, and despite the defensive nature of the spell, it helped my bears stay down better and often cheaper than Repulse. If you read Eric Taylor’s fine article on tempo on the Sideboard, you’ll have a better idea of what I’m talking about. I could use one white mana to accomplish what 2U Repulse normally did, and often times more. I also got more flexibility in a bounce effect.
The Deliver side of the card also had other positive effects. I won at least one game by tying up and opponent’s mana because of the amount of tap lands that they had to start with. Deliver, unlike Repulse, could target lands. I also beat Domain because I could bounce that Collective Restraint and get in a last attack, or keep them from beginning to clear the board with Legacy Weapon after investing seven mana to do so.
It was also a”rogue” card and this is to be the focus of this article.
Who else was playing Stand/Deliver? No one I know of… And I played it and it worked. Throughout eleven matches between the PTQ and GPQ I was never unhappy to see the card and my opponents were never expecting to see it. I have one white mana and they send their 2/2s at my 2/2′ and 2/1s, thinking that I won’t block with a Meddling Mage or a Lynx I can’t regenerate. Then I pull the block, cut the damage to my guy, and dump their bear, giving me board advantage.
I got beat by”rogue” cards as well. My first opponent appears to be running”Liquid Tempo,” except I didn’t see Repulse, either… But he packed a combination of Jilt and Rushing River, and the difference was just enough to pull out some wins while I had Meddling Mage set to Repulse. Of course I could do that, because I wasn’t running them and I could slough off Rages with Deliver.
At the tourney I met one of the great rogues, Adrian Sullivan, and it was a great experience. He was friendly and played several different pickup games with me and several other players during and between rounds. He hyperactively plays the game all the time, and it’s evident that it’s ’cause he loves it. This is of course how you get good. You play a lot – and Adrian plays a lot.
This is also the guy that told me that”You play rogue because rogue wins.” If you follow along boot stepping with the net decks of this world you’re going to often be at a disadvantage, because smart opponents will often know what you are running and play accordingly. What I’m saying here is that a Magic environment is too fluid, and too many opponents are too smart and savvy to do that. Even small changes in a deck list that you can work into being small surprises can work out to your benefit. Formats will have basic concepts that a player – any player – should take note of. Basic deck archetypes that can and should often be followed or at least known. Domain was always around in the IBC format, but it waxed and waned as new cards were introduced and new ideas were tried, while old ones were shelved. Sullivan was ingenious enough to stick in Sunscape Familiar to both cheapen the powerful Blue spells and have a 0/3 wall that could hold off the plethora of troublesome 2/2s all day long.”Liquid Tempo” was Dave Price’s ingenious reworking of the formerly all-blue/green”Air Bears” deck. Tweaking is a necessity, and if you can’t find a format-breaking new deck then you’d better be fiddling with your deck to both try and make it better – and perhaps more important still, to keep your opponents guessing or surprised as to the deck’s total contents. Changing four, six, or eight cards could be enough, and the funny thing about this game is that there are always other options out there. A card like Repulse might be better replaced by Recoil, Stand/Deliver, or Rushing River – even if those cards might be inferior from a strictly cost for action perspective.
In the first round of the Normal PTQ, I met what I thought was the”Liquid Tempo” deck.”He’s got to have Repulse,” think I, and not running it myself I cast Meddling Mage – naming, of course, Repulse. This guy, however, is running Jilt and Rushing River and uses both spells very effectively to earn a victory.
Good players do this all the time. Mowshowitz may get some ribbing for his writing and all, but I’ve come to notice that one of his greatest strengths is to fearlessly integrate rogue cards into his deck. Just go read about his use of Indentured Djinn at Worlds. Who would want to”Ancestral” their opponent? Obviously, Zvi thought that getting a 4/4 flyer for 1UU worked out in that bargain, and it won him matches at the toughest tourney in the world.
Of Not Being Happy With The Powers That Be
Let’s just say that my acquaintances and I weren’t all that thrilled with the decks selected for the Invitational. The general feeling was that while there were some interesting decks with nice themes going on, that overall the quality of decks and adherence to themes wasn’t that good. Hopefully the play action will be more persuasive that good choices where made than what the raw deck lists presented.
I quit the game for some time years ago because I was terribly disgruntled with a game that hinged so much on a die roll. You have to understand this was back when you still drew when you got to play first, and most of the tourneys were single elimination. That wasn’t much fun and didn’t give you a good feeling. In time that was changed, the play or draw rules were implemented and swiss round parings adopted and things were good or mostly good, warped formats and cheating notwithstanding.
Now, however, with the DCI cracking down on cheating it is operating with doors that only seem to crack open when they want to stick a foot out and give someone a nice swift kick. I had thought to perhaps cover this topic in more detail – but luckily, perhaps for all of us, Scott Johns, Chad Ellis, and Brian Hacker all wrote very important pieces that I agree with wholeheartedly. The crux is that the DCI should be representing us – and at this point, we don’t have the feeling that they are representing us because so much of what they are doing is out of sight. I hear that there are issues of legal repercussions. Why? If the rules are clearly defined and then followed, then what could the DCI fear legally? The most damaging part of the Theron Martin case in terms of this is this.
Kenny Crawford says this:”When I wrote the article, I had not thought Theron a cheater.”
Then he goes on to detail what events brought him to believe that Theron was cheating.
“When Dave directed me to falsify the tournament reports, he commented to me that Theron had asked for ratings help after his less than stellar pro tour performance. I can’t recall which pro tour this was, but Dave was very clear that Theron had asked Dave. I may be incorrect, but I recall the statement as ‘Put Theron down for the win, he told us to use his rating. He took a hit at the PT, and we need to get him back up.’ If they were not these words exactly, then they were something similar, and the meaning was certainly the same.”
Maybe Theron did ask Dave. What we have as the viewing public is Theron denying that he wanted Dave to do anything considered cheating for him. Then we are presented with this idea by what we consider the case’s prime witness – which is that he never directly witnessed Theron cheating. What he gives us is that he takes the central figure of the case, Dave, at his word in regards to Theron. Again, this might be true – but from what Crawford has presented from the outset, I don’t know that Dave is a guy to be believed with regards to any of this. I can only hope that there was someone other than Dave, someone trustworthy, that had direct knowledge that Martin was in fact conspiring to cheat. At this point we don’t.
Ack. At least I got that off my chest.
I went on vacation right when the set appeared, so I was several days behind my teammates. This was kinda daunting at first, but slowly I’ve caught up. It’s an interesting and difficult set, which it seems, is swinging things toward making control a bit harder to achieve. Not impossible, but only harder. Recently, Eric Taylor commented on the Meridian list that what makes a deck difficult is actually the complexity of the branching tree on options. He was making these comments in regard to the perceived difficulty between running control or beatdown. He mentioned the Buehler Blue control deck, which was stocked full of counters. In reality, this sort of control deck didn’t have that much of a branching decision tree. What it had was a lot of countermagic, and you just played them out against whatever your opponent cast every turn.
What Odyssey brings with Flashback and Threshold is more decision branching. It adds effects for the number of cards in a graveyard and spells that can be recast from that same bonepile. While that doesn’t effect beatdown ideas that much (they will always cast what they can, and the graveyard recursion is simple good for them from a card economy standpoint), it does effect what control has to control. Now often what will happen is that a countered spell will actually net its caster card advantage over the counter player. What I see in this is that control is going to be forced into a shift in general tempo considerations in regards to ostensibly hanging on to the old ideas of card advantage. Where before after most spells were countered they were never were on a possible branch for re-appearing, now a whole group of cards is offering that sort of economy over the counter or discard spells.
Binary 21 is working on that now.
Something for now… or later… like States, maybe.
4 Force Spike
4 Memory Lapse
4 Mystic Snake
3 Beast Attack
1 Iridescent Angel
2 Temporal Adept
4 Adarkar Wastes
4 Yavimaya Coast
* – I’ve come to call the set/block Ody. Oh Dee. Try it.