Last week, I played in the Moron Championships, where I got to see what a complete buffoon I was with every turn. But that’s because David and I were being honest with each other.
See, this was a practice game with a friend, and we were playing practice for keeps. That meant that every time I made a bad move, David asked, “So why did you just do that?” And then I had to tell him the logic behind my play, and he would tell me how badly I had screwed it up. I couldn’t take back my move — that would have been asking too much.
No, I had to live with this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad play.
See, in a match between equals, your opponent frequently has a much better idea of what your optimal play is. That’s because your opponent knows precisely what he doesn’t want you to do — living under the gun makes you excruciatingly aware of where it should be aimed. So when David told me how he had been hoping I wouldn’t do X, and then explained why X was the better play, he was usually spot-on about how terrible my play was.
Then it would be David’s turn. And I would tell him about the awful, wretched play he had just made. And after about ten turns of this detailed analysis, both of us felt like utterly incompetent turds.
Keep in mind that these were not obvious mistakes. It was tapping the wrong land, or holding a single creature back when I should have sent it in, or casting a spell a turn too late or too early. Yet successful Magic rests on the back of the tiny details.
We’d bicker back and forth, discussing the pros and cons of each move, and sometimes I’d get it right. There was rarely a flat-out bad play; it’s just that there was a line from “efficient” to “non-efficient,” and there were plays that were incrementally better.
Then I played my friend Dmitri, and I tore him to shreds in a game that he could have taken because he made three mistakes that allowed me to seize control, and it taught him how “knowing when to attack” is critical. (He didn’t go all-in when he should have, and then went all-in the next turn when he shouldn’t. Between that and tapping the mana for a main phase Scatter the Seeds before he changed his mind, that was it.)
I miss that on MODO.
Oh, Magic Online is a good testing tool, because you get to play a lot of games, and it teaches you to be precise. (At the real-life Dissension prerelease, I met a guy who talked his way through each phase, and I kept expecting him to try and thumb an F2 button on my nose.) But I do miss that real-life play group done casually, outside a tournament, where you analyze and debate each turn to find out what could have been done. I like being instructed by serious players.
Maybe one day I’ll have it again. But until then, I have this electronic methadone. It’s not bad.
At least I’m reasonably confident in my deckbuilding. But my play? I need to squeeze some more efficiency out of it. And that’s tough to do in a vacuum.
So what do we have for this week?
- 1 Elves of Deep Shadow
- 1 Goblin Spelunkers
- 1 Belltower Sphinx
- 1 Caregiver
- 1 Circu, Dimir Lobotomist
- 1 Civic Wayfinder
- 1 Conclave Phalanx
- 1 Dimir Guildmage
- 1 Dimir House Guard
- 1 Divebomber Griffin
- 1 Drake Familiar
- 1 Dromad Purebred
- 1 Goblin Fire Fiend
- 1 Golgari Rotwurm
- 1 Grayscaled Gharial
- 1 Greater Mossdog
- 1 Nullmage Shepherd
- 1 Screeching Griffin
- 1 Selesnya Evangel
- 1 Terraformer
- 1 Thoughtpicker Witch
- 1 Vedalken Dismisser
- 1 Vedalken Entrancer
- 1 Veteran Armorer
- 1 Votary of the Conclave
- 1 War-Torch Goblin
- 1 Aetherplasm
- 1 Burning-Tree Bloodscale
- 1 Exhumer Thrull
- 1 Ghor-Clan Savage
- 1 Gruul Guildmage
- 1 Izzet Chronarch
- 1 Ogre Savant
- 1 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
- 1 Tin Street Hooligan
- 1 Azorius Aethermage
- 1 Court Hussar
- 1 Drekavac
- 1 Enigma Eidolon
- 1 Guardian of the Guildpact
- 1 Minister of Impediments
- 1 Slaughterhouse Bouncer
- 1 Whiptail Moloch
- 1 Seal of Fire
- 1 Cremate
- 1 Clutch of the Undercity
- 1 Dogpile
- 1 Doubling Season
- 1 Dryad's Caress
- 1 Fists of Ironwood
- 1 Flight of Fancy
- 1 Galvanic Arc
- 1 Gaze of the Gorgon
- 1 Last Gasp
- 1 Necromantic Thirst
- 1 Peel from Reality
- 1 Perilous Forays
- 1 Perplex
- 1 Remand
- 1 Reroute
- 1 Stasis Cell
- 1 Three Dreams
- 1 Voyager Staff
- 1 Benediction of Moons
- 1 Gruul Signet
- 1 Mizzium Transreliquat
- 1 Necromancer's Magemark
- 1 Repeal
- 1 Plumes of Peace
- 1 Shielding Plax
- 1 Simic Signet
- 1 Utopia Sprawl
- 1 Writ of Passage
When you’re a Magic writer, the term to apply to this collection of cards is “shallow but powerful” — which is another way of saying, “The good cards are really good, and the bad cards are unplayable.” It’s hard to build a winning deck on the back of all-star hits like Benediction of Moons, Caregiver, and Votary of the Conclave.
If you look at this incredibly-potent Blue and say anything other than “I’m running it,” then I do not understand your play at all. This is an extremely sweet Blue, especially when you consider the Drake Familiar that allows you to bounce a Flight of Fancy for a four-card gain.
The only tricky card here is Aetherplasm, which I’m still not sure of. I heard at the Guildpact release that this card was decent, but I’ve never had the opportunity to play it. Still won’t, either. I’ll experiment for many cards, but not for this one.
I should also note that I did not open Ocular Halo this time around, but there was a lot of love for that card in the forums, telling me that I was riotously underevaluating it. I’ve played a few Halo games since then (if not on the X-Box), and I gotta say my opinion has not changed. It can break a game open, which is cool, but sometimes you just wait around way too long to drop it safely on something. It’s good. Not great, but good.
Such is the power of Last Gasp that I am tempted to play Black to gain its power alone. And yet the rest is so weak that I cannot justify it. Boo.
Nick Eisel said that Thoughtpicker Witch wasn’t good, but I’m not sure whether that’s a) the difference between Sealed and Draft, b) an honest difference of opinion between two players, or c) Nick going crazy, as he is prone to doing just often enough to make you worry. Usually, Nick’s on the ball, but every once in a while he makes some sort of strange call that I never agree with.
In this case, I suspect it’s a little of a) and b), with a little of d) tossed in — namely, that Guildpact and Dissension have changed the environment so that the best usage of a Thoughtpicker Witch (tossing spare Selesnya-created Saprolings at someone’s deck), have warped it. Still, Sealed’s a little slower and clunkier, and I don’t usually mind wasting an already-dying critter anyway to try to steal my opponent’s next good draw.
As I have mentioned before too many times to list, the problem with Red is that it’s conditionally good — as in, Ogre Savant is excellent with Blue, but not great otherwise. War-Torch Goblin’s perfectly okay in a fast deck, but in a slow controllish deck it hits the sideboard as a matter of course.
This, however, is good support Red. It’s got decent power for a splash, and if I had to maindeck it I wouldn’t weep. This will probably make the cut.
I am, surprisingly, torn on Whiptail Moloch. It looks terrible, but I keep envisioning a Saproling-heavy build that turns this into “Sacrifice a Saproling when Whiptail Moloch comes into play.” That sounds better, doesn’t it? For a 6/3 that you can then lay a nice Galvanic Arc on?
Okay, not in this deck. But still. It could work.
Okay, God. I finally open a Doubling Season, and you give me no Simic creatures? Where’s the love, Jehova?
That said, this is excellent Green. Given that we have excellent Green and excellent Blue, with decent Red for a splash, this means that barring some sort of whacky Gold card shortage, it’s gonna be U/G/r.
I am torn on the Shielding Plax. There are those who tell me that it’s not worth it, but in my experience thus far it’s been decent against Rakdos-heavy decks that want to slaughter everything I cast. Against other decks, well, it replaces itself. But I wouldn’t normally maindeck it.
Minister of Impediments, however, is an auto-play if I’m playing Blue or White. It’s cheap, and it really screws the combat up in a lot of ways — for some reasons, tap effects just seem more powerful in this Sealed environment. Or maybe that it’s just that I haven’t seen that much tappy-tappy action outside of the hated Glare of Subdual in this format.
Gaze of the Gorgon, on the other hand, is quite the niceness in Sealed. I will cut it if I have to, but Sealed is slower and sometimes you just don’t have the tools to be able to axe a creature outside of combat. It serves as a good combat trick, and it can occasionally save your critter from a stray Pyromatics or Seal of Fire; as it was, I just won a game by casting a Gruul Guildmage on turn 6, then Gazing him to save him from the Fiery Conclusion.
(EDITOR’S NOTE: In the initial version of this article, I was trying to remember what terribly clever play the Gaze had saved me in, and I thought, “Ah, heck with it. The precise destruction spell doesn’t matter, so I’ll just say it was a Seal of Fire.” Which, of course, makes me look like a buffoon for wasting a spell when I could have just pumped the Guildmage in response. Which is a lesson in writing articles; if you’re going to fudge an irrelevant detail, make darned sure it’s actually irrelevant.)
(EDITOR’S OTHER NOTE: One of the nice things about being an editor of your own article is that you can revamp articles on the fly to ensure that your readers never know the mistakes you made. Unless, of course, you decide that it’s more amusing to leave it in. But only a buffoon would do that, right?)
The Final Build
I usually try to examine some of the possibilities here, but who am I kidding? Look at the way these cards fit together!
- Drake Familiar can return Galvanic Arc, Fists of Ironwood, or Flight of Fancy — three enchantments you want to come into play multiple times.
- Izzet Chronarch can return Repeal or Peel From Reality…
- ….which can return Vedalken Dismisser or Drake Familiar to reuse their comes-into-play effects…
- …which can reuse Galvanic Arc, Fists of Ironwood, or Flight of Fancy.
I’ve played five games with this deck thus far, and gone x-1, only losing to a hideous manascrew where I went to five in all three games. (And won one of them, much to my amazement.*) Being able to recycle Galvanic Arc three times (as I did in one particularly entertaining game) will win any number of things.
The final deck?
The Value Of Luck
In one particularly irritating game, I played against an opponent who told me that every move I made was “luck.” Okay, the dude had to mulligan down to five in the first game, which sucked, but he was bitching about his “luck” when he opened a Gleancrawler, a Rotwurm, a Seal of Doom, a Trophy Hunter, a Selesnya Guildmage, and a Hit / Run, among other things. He had an incredibly strong deck.
But still. Every play I made was “luck,” and I was “so lucky.” But here’s what I wanted to say to him.
“Dear Mister Luck:
“On turn 4, I cast Greater Mossdog after mulliganing to six. I had a Gruul Guildmage in my hand when you cast Seal of Doom, but I decided to see how stupid you were — so I cast the Belltower Sphinx to see whether you’d waste the Seal on it. Sure enough, you did, and I cast the Guildmage with Repeal mana open, which allowed me to keep it alive long enough to win the game.
“That doesn’t take into account the middle game, where you cast a Gleancrawler with four other creatures out and then attacked with the Gleancrawler. That let me use Gaze of the Gorgon to kill it. Even though I still lost (I didn’t have enough creatures to stabilize and the Hit / Run finished me off), you left yourself way open.
“Admittedly, I blew it in the second game, where I attacked with the wrong creature and left myself open for the wrong trade, which later killed me. But that’s just more proof that the game is not all luck. A lot of it is skill.
“And every time you bitched about luck, you weren’t seeing how I was outplaying you.
The Weekly Plug Bug
The longest running storyline in Home on the Strange history has finished, leaving us to our usual series of goofy single-gag strips until we start up our next Big Event. Today’s strip deals with a TV show all good people have come to know and love…. And if you don’t know it, to heck with ya.
* – Okay, x-2, technically. But that counts the unfortunate incident where I clicked “looking for a game,” then my wife called me and I wandered away to return to a lost game forty-five minutes later. I am deeply apologetic to my opponent, whose time I wasted by mistake, but I do not consider his 2-0 triumph over me to be a test of skill.