The Weekly Shift Sift: Hi, I’m Really Not Anthony

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StarCityGames.com!In which The Ferrett impersonates the old multiplayer writer at Magicthegathering.com, stealing his very identity in order to do well with a card pool so good he can completely misbuild it and still walk away with a winning record.

I should be thrilled about Time Spiral being available online, I really should. I like opening the cards, I like seeing what new items I’ll be adding to my Magic Online account, and I like playing for the first time with old cards in a new MODO interface. It feels poppin’ fresh.

But this time, the thrill? Not there. And you know why?

It’s because I write for Magic: the Gathering.

You see, when you become a regular columnist for The Official Wizards Site, you get hooked up with the Super Account — a special login with a full set of four of everything. You want the rarest avatar? You got it. Vanguard stuff? Absolutely! The world is yours!

So imagine my surprise when I eagerly logged into my MODO and found second-hand goods.

I didn’t get a fresh and new account to call my own; no, I inherited Anthony Alongi old account, complete with his settings, friends lists, and record.

I know. It sounds petty, and it is. But I love stripping the shrinkwrap off of DVDs so much that I will not buy second-hand unless I have no other option. I know I could save money by waiting a month and fishing it out from the sale bin at Hollywood video, but dammit — I want to remove the dogbone sticker. I want that fresh smell of plastic, stinking of a factory in Bangkok. I want to know the virginal pleasures of my DVD were reserved for me and me alone.

Instead? I felt like Scott Johns had handed me my older brother’s overalls and said, “No, they’re still good! Look, they fit!”

I poked around in Anthony’s old settings. Anthony was pals with a lot of people from Minnesota, not surprisingly. And being a Magic Online columnist apparently makes you a lot of enemies, since Anthony’s “banned” list was about four pages long; I know that Anthony’s a darned nice guy in real life, having met him, so I can only assume that some folks on MODO are real jerkwads.

I couldn’t take staying around there, though. I felt as if I was wearing an Alongimask, feigning a Serious Funitude that I did not actually possess. What if Anthony’s old pals saw “him” online and started discussing personal secrets with me?

MINNESOTA_MINNIE: Hey Anthony? Remember that time I killed a trucker and hid the body in my basement? I did it again.

I freaked out. I couldn’t be Anthony. So I retreated, ignominiously, to my own account. And began to play some danged Time Spiral Sealed.

As me. A more losing me, but a me nonetheless! And here are the cards I opened!

Hmm. That’s actually pretty good.

Solid Playables: Amrou Scout, Amrou Seekers, Castle Raptors, Griffin Guide, Gustcloak Cavalier, Zhalfrin Commander

I feel bad about some of these “solid” playables because, you know, they’re not flashy. Zhalfrin Commander can be nifty and certainly Amrou Seekers get in for damage against non-white decks, but really they’re there because they’re cheap early drops. Likewise, Amrou Scout isn’t quite a solid playable in a deck where there are no Rebels, but what the heck.

(Although I will say that she’s one of those rare creatures that might be worth it if you don’t have Rebels to complete her theme, since most experienced players will zap her on sight, leaving them to burn removal on what is just a glorified 2/1. But I don’t know about that.)

Gustcloak Cavalier I was on the fence about, since he’s pretty expensive, but his abilities have completely won me over. Yeah, he dies a lot, but if he lives he starts neutralizing your opponents’ offense in a major way, shoving his biggest hitter out of combat so you can smack him about his face. Definitely one of those “on paper, okay, but in real life, golden” situations.

Icatian Crier, on the other hand… Well, I have people who swear by her, but I don’t think I’ve ever activated her once. I keep putting her out, but she’s a fragile 1/1 that makes other fragile 1/1s, and I have to pay both mana and a card for it. Meh.

Solid Playables: Cancel, Fathom Seer, Riftwing Cloudskate, Spiketail Drakeling, Stormcloud Djinn, Telekinetic Sliver, Think Twice, Viscerid Deepwalker

Whoo! That’s some deep Blue (which can play chess, apparently). And it’s got a lot of the solid creatures we’ve come to expect from Blue: Viscerid Deepwalker is a house if you have Islands, and Riftwing Cloudskate is easily the most annoying creature Blue has to offer in this set. (Bounce your best permanent and get a flyer? Oh, thank you.)

We have a strong “Annoying Flyer” theme to this deck, but it requires commitment; the Spiketail, the Riftwing, and the non-flying Telekinetic and Viscerid all need multiple Blue mana, making this a much Bluer deck than I’d usually prefer. Still, he says, scratching his chin, there is all that power….

Lord of Atlantis, well… Thanks for including him, Wizards, but you could have given him other merfolk to play with. Coral Trickster and another Timeshifted card do not a theme make.

Shadow Sliver sounds really cool, but I’ve seen it bite people in the butt. It’s all cool and whatnot when you’re on offense, turning your Slivers into unstoppable offense… But if something changes and suddenly you need those guys to block, well, good luck. I find it a little risky to categorize as a “solid” playable.

Also, I know Fathom Seer is good because Nick Eisel told me so.

Solid Playables: Corpulent Corpse, Mana Skimmer

Smell that stench? It’s not the usual fetid odor of Black’s zombies and undead, but the awful reek of a color that’s weaker than Stephen Hawking on roofies. This has only two cards worth considering, and both of them can be marginal.

Corpulent Corpse is the marginal one; sometimes it takes way too long to arrive. Mana Skimmer is perfectly fine, since in Sealed you’ll frequently need to go into a splash of a third color, and it can lock your opponent down something fierce.

Mindstab is perfectly good, but I’d define “Solidly playable” as “the kind of card that pulls me into a color.” Mindstab is, “Hey, I’m in Black, total bonus!” Smallpox, while perfectly awesome in Constructed, is not my eel’s ankle here. And Tendrils of Corruption? Playable if you’re in Black, and not if you’re not.

Solid Playables:

Okay, let’s reverse that. Here’s how good Red is:

Unsolid Unplayables: Sedge Sliver, Subterannean Shambler

Almost every card here’s a winner, the only truly questionable ones being Thick-Skinned Goblin (which I’ve come to like as an early blocker) and Tectonic Fiend (which serves as a one-turn wall all too often, tying up your mana, but when it gets online it usually does quite nicely).

Empty the Warrens is a card that I initially stayed away from, but have since come to abso-lutely adore. It’s integral to a lot of Red strategies, since given just a light dosage of Suspend you can easily get a storm count of two, or even three or four if you send your Suspended guy off into battle and your opponent bites. The 1/1 tokens aren’t particularly useful in the beefier Time Spiral environment, but they can seal an early lead or just provide a lot of chump blockers. I’m diggin’ ‘em.

Likewise Grapeshot. I’ve found it’s best not to get too greedy with the grapes (as any wine-loving AA member will tell you), but if you can take out a couple of 1/1s (or, ideally, a 2/2 and a 1/1), then it’s done it’s job. I keep thinking it’s an instant, which would make it truly insane, but fortunately until now I have managed to RTFC.

Solid Playables: Durkwood Baloth, Havenwood Wurm, Molder, Nantuko Shaman, Search for Tomorrow, Thrill of the Hunt

Well, actually, I’m not so sure about Havenwood Wurm. It’s big and juicy, but it’s also seven frickin’ mana — a lot to ask even in this relatively slow Sealed format. And when it comes down, it’s not quite as beefy as it could be, given all of the Suspended things running amuck.

Note the Might Sliver. Man, that would be good — if I had other Slivers. As it is, my opponent’s far more likely to get the benefit than I am, even if my current G/R/W Ghostway-and-Loxodon Hierarch-based Sliver deck is doing okay in my multiplayer group. (Even play a four-player game where three players have Slivers? It’s insane, man.)

Spike Feeder has been totally and utterly awesome for me; usually, it’s a quick four-point life boost to swing a mostly-even race in my direction, but if the Simic Guild has taught me anything, it’s that shifting +1/+1 counters onto other creatures can be good times. (Except against Blue and its bouncy tricksiness.)

Molder is such an automatic side-in that some days I think I should just run it main. I don’t know about you, but every game I face either Clockword Hydra, which is annoying, or — and this is odd — Stormbind. (Six opponents? Three Stormbinds.) It may be my luck of the draw, but my need for Molder seems to outweigh its sideboard potential.

I’m not doin’ it yet, though.

Gold and Artifacts And Lands, Oh My!
Solid Playables: Stuffy Doll, Weatherseed Totem

I am convinced that if you gave me a deck with twenty-three Norin the Waries and a Stuffy Doll, I could win with it. This is the second Sealed deck I’ve cracked it in, and it continues to be insane; it’s the world’s best wall combined with the world’s slowest win condition. Drop it, and the ground traffic clogs up like New York at rush hour. The Doll has won me unwinnable games, and I totally abide by it.

Weatherseed Totem? Excellent for upping a Storm count, as are any of the Totems; cast it, get the mana, and cast another spell. Whee!

So with all of that, obviously I went with Blue, right? Hell, I’m writing this and I’m going, “Wow, I’m sure glad I went with Blue!” But as it turns out, for whatever crazy reason I had at the time, I ignored the Blue. Here’s what I actually ran:

4 Forest
6 Mountain
5 Plains
1 Spike Feeder
1 Wildfire Emissary
1 Zhalfirin Commander
1 Amrou Scout
1 Amrou Seekers
1 Castle Raptors
1 Durkwood Baloth
1 Empty the Warrens
1 Flickering Spirit
1 Fungal Reaches
1 Grapeshot
1 Griffin Guide
1 Gustcloak Cavalier
1 Havenwood Wurm
1 Icatian Crier
1 Keldon Halberdier
1 Nantuko Shaman
1 Orcish Cannonade
1 Search for Tomorrow
1 Stuffy Doll
1 Tectonic Fiend
1 Thick-Skinned Goblin
1 Thrill of the Hunt
1 Viashino Bladescout
1 Weatherseed Totem

I’m honestly not sure why I chose the Red as the main color over the Blue; I think the logic was something like “The Blue has a lot of double-Colors,” but that doesn’t quite explain why I then used Orcish Cannonade, the Viashino Bladescout, and the more-questionable Keldon Halberdier. (Or, as is probably more likely, I just lost horrifically with a Blue-based Suspend deck – which I’ll tell you about next week – where I had everything Suspended and lost a lot waiting for them to resolve.) Truth is, I probably should have gone U/R, with maybe a W splash.

The good thing is, though, it’s such a potent card pool that I began winning with it. My current record with this little deck is 9-4, with two of those matches being to horrendous manascrew.

This deck is capable of some amazing storm plays; the reasonably short Suspend times have allowed me to resolve a Keldon Halberdier, a Nantuko Shaman, and a Search for Tomorrow, and then Grapeshot for four and then Empty the Warrens. (That may be the most bone-satisfying play I’ve made in Sealed in a while.) I usually have enough evasion and tricks to get through to people’s faces, but the Stuffy Doll ensures that I win any long-term fiasco. (I always keep a Thrill of the Hunt and/or Spike Feeder handy against any Black trickses.)

The Weekly Plug Bug
Alas, Roni and I changed our schedule at the last minute. We had intended to do “Movin’ Out,” the next storyline, which dealt with one of the major characters moving into a new apartment and all the psychodrama that this would cause. But then we got to thinking: “What’s new? And can we mock it sufficiently?”

So instead, we’re mocking the new nerd-cred movement of National Novel-Writing Month. Go check it out.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
[email protected]
The Here Is Not Anthony Alongi Guy