The Weekly Spiral File: The Stress-Medical Tournament Hitch

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StarCityGames.com!Strange events in The Ferrett’s life lead to a less-than-perfect tournament environment. Read on for a tale of ugly skin and heart-pounding plays!

I’m usually pretty good about dealing with stress. If there’s something bad and I have some idea how to deal with it, then I can usually keep my head long enough to handle it. And if there’s something so out-of-control that there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it, then I can usually just sit back and say that God’s gonna bring me what He brings me, and there’s nothing more I can do to affect it.

What absolutely drives me nuts, however – the one thing that will clamp my heart in a vise and gift me with endless nights of insomnia – are the situations that I’m almost capable of solving.

Those will kill me.

The best example I can give is in Year Two of my marriage, when my wife and I were skating towards a quickie divorce. We both had severe personal issues to work out, and considering that I’m usually good at giving advice to friends, I was sure that there was some way to solve this – some revelation I could have that would spur Gini in turn to have her own revelation, and then our marriage would be healed.

But I didn’t know what that was. I was simply not self-aware enough to know what to do yet. But because I thought that I should be able to psychoanalyze myself, I spent every waking moment analyzing every word and gesture that passed between my wife and I. I tried to find still moments to relax, but then I realized that your marriage is dying your true love is slipping away and gosh, if I didn’t figure it out soon it would all be over.

Twenty-four hours a day. Every moment I spent thinking about something, anything other than the marriage was tugged rudely back to the subject of how do we save this? I could not concentrate on other things, which made things worse because – for the record – part of having a good marriage involves being able to put that churning question of The Relationship aside for a bit and just have a good time. You need to be able to kick back and remember why you love this person in the first place, but that’s impossible when you’re trying to figure out why you had your last fight and how could you have avoided it?

Fortunately, Gini and I worked it out, and we just passed our seventh anniversary in a sugary bliss. (If you want the gritty details on how we worked it out, you can get the full skinny here, in an essay which contains one rude word not fit for children.)

Unfortunately, I’ve been going through another non-marriage-related stress moment recently. I can’t talk about the specifics of it since it’s not quite done yet, but suffice it to say that once again I was placed into a dire situation with a lot at stake. And once again, I was in way over my head, but felt as if I should be able to solve it by the stunning power of my brainmeats alone, even if that was blatantly Not True.

I called the doctor to see about going on some medications, and to check my heart, which felt a little poundier than usual. And as it turns out, the Stress Faeries brought me a little gift:


No, not the tar-laden layers of stuff you find on top of houses – we’re talking medical shingles, which appear in tight clusters of bright purple blisters across your skin. If you’ve ever had chicken pox and survived it, there’s about a 7% chance that the chicken pox virus is still floating dormant in your spinal fluid, just and waiting for a moment of reduced immune system efficiency (usually caused by – you guessed it – stress). At moments like this, it will squirm out of your follow your nerve endings all the way down to your skin to cause patches of pustules to break out.

It is, in a word, Not Fun.

The thing about shingles is that because it is a nerve issue, it burns even when you’re not doing anything – a stinging pain like nettles. You can take aspirin, but the itching and burning on top of blisters is not fun. And if it happens over a wide-scale area, you may need morphine to handle the pain.

Why am I telling you this, you ask? Fair question. This is pretty self-revelatory for a Magic strategy article, I agree. But the answer is simple:

Shingles, when it breaks out, can also cause a widespread body illness. And when I woke up to go to the Time Spiral release tournament, I had that illness. Oh, my friends, I was sick to my stomach and had a crushing headache and ripples of anguish along my exposed skin, and I opted to stay at home.

Thus, although I’d love to tell you that I opened Time Spiral at a release tournament and tell you how I did, I stayed at home dead sick with blisters. And I hate that, because when I commit to a weekly article, I like to at least be able to tell you how the cards actually played as opposed to doing some silly self-reflexive exercise.

I wish I could tell you, “Wow, this card looked great on paper, but sucked in actual play! And this card looked terrible, but worked better than I thought!” But alas, theory is all that I can give you this week.

My apologies.

Damn stress.

But Wait! What About Wizards?
“But Ferrett,” you say. “As the new Magicthegathering.com casual writer, don’t you get a super-secret MODO account with all the cards and are automatically on the beta test?” And the answer is yes, I do.

Unfortunately, I started writing just during a major staff change, and they have yet to supersize my account. It doesn’t bother me all that much, since I haven’t really gotten on their case about it. And I didn’t think I’d need it, since I was planning to play Fer Real this weekend anyhow.


So What Do We Have For The Fans, Alex?
Well, let’s look at the cards we have to work with this week:

Okay. Not the greatest card pool, but there’s enough here to work with.

Solid Playables: Celestial Crusader, Flickering Spirit, Gustcloak Cavalier, Icatian Crier, Outrider en-Kor, Temporal Isolation, Tivadar of Thorn

There’s reasonably strong white here, with a decent Air Force in the double-Crusader and the Flickering Spirit. The Spirit’s a little slow and mana-intensive to be quite top-shelf in this format – spending eight mana to cast him and keep him safe on the same turn is a little much – but still, he’s a 2/2 flier with a reasonable ability.

I also like the idea of the mini-Rebel chain here, with Amrou Scout fetching Children of Korlis to completely neutralize what might be a decimating (but not fatal) attack, but that’s probably in my inner Johnny working overtime.

What I do not like is Restore Balance. Yeah, I know, Balance is the coolest card ever! But you know, Balance was good because you could set up for it and cast it when you wanted. Giving your opponent six turns to prepare for the Balance of Doom does not strike me as being wise strategy in Limited. You might be able to squeeze some sort of Balancing Act-style deck out of it in Constructed (though I doubt it), but in this deck? I do not think so.

I do not ever expect to pop a Goblin with Tivadar, but who cares? He’s still a 2/2 first-striker with protection from Red. Good enough, say I!

Solid Playables: Cancel, Careful Consideration, Crookclaw Transmuter, Errant Ephemeron, Stormcloud Djinn

Ah, the dangers of theory. There are a bunch of cards in this mix that look good, but I’m not sure if they are good. Deep-Sea Kraken seems like it could be reasonably inexpensive way to bank a creature, but not having played with it I can’t say. Likewise, I know Nick Eisel has told me that Fathom Seer is better than you’d think, and I really want to like Fool’s Demise. I envision all sorts of situations where I steal a huge creature back from the brink of disaster, which is usually the sign of a very bad card.

I’ve seen Crookclaw Transmuter in action, and it usually spells something very bad in combat. I don’t mind it. Stormcloud Djinn is still a reasonably-priced 3/3 flier, which I won’t complain about. And Careful Consideration I’ve already seen used well.

There is the consideration of Voidmage Prodigy for a minor Wizard theme to counter spells – we have four of them. But unfortunately, three of them (including the Voidmage – sorry, Kai) pretty much suck.

Solid Playables: Havenwood Wurm, Search for Tomorrow, Yavimaya Dryad, Wurmcalling,

Ooh. Not good. I want fatties and search with my Green, and we don’t have a lot of it here. Wurmcalling could be spectacular in a game gone long, but first we need the game to get long. Aside from that, we have Scarwood Treefolk – which might be decent, since the drawback isn’t too bad for the size – and a flashy Wurm, and that’s it.

I should add that I’ve been playing a lot of Search for Tomorrow in my casual decks, and by God it’s quite nice. I don’t know if it’s Constructed-worthy, but it’s a great land-thinner in slower (read: multiplayer) decks.

Solid Playables: Ancient Grudge, Aetherflame Wall, Basalt Gargoyle, Flowstone Channeler, Sulfurous Blast

The big question here is whether Empty the Warrens is worth it. At four mana, I don’t think so, but the Storm thing could be bigger in the late game. It’s not that I think this is good, but rather than I’d like to try it out for a bit.

Aetherflame Wall isn’t bad, since it can pretty much kill any Shadow creature out there bar that huge 5/5 ludicrosity.

I also like the idea of Grapeshot…. In a combo deck. But not as a sorcery on my turn.

Solid Playables: Call to the Netherworld, Deathspore Thallid, Drudge Reavers, Evil Eye of Urborg, Premature Burial, Strangling Soot, Trespasser il-Vec

Again, more questions. My gut tells me that I’d be hard-pressed to have enough Black cards in hand when I cast Nightshade Assassin, but you never know. And I saw an awful lot of people casting Pit Keeper and never actually fetching anything with him, but he is cheap for the price.

I do know that Evil Eye of Urborg is a bit of a gamble, but I saw at least two folks at the prerelease doing pretty well with him. Barring some sort of White or Blue freezing enchantment, the drawback ain’t that bad, although it can lock down your entire board if it gets neutralized but not graveyarded.

Gold And Artifacts And Lands, Oh My
Solid Playables: Clockwork Hydra, Gemstone Mine, Mystic Enforcer, Sol’kanar the Swamp King, Terramorphic Expanse

Sol’kanar – which I initially typed in as “Sol’kanar the Swamp Thing” – is a standard in multiplayer, and it’s probably not bad in Limited… Assuming it’s in your colors. I haven’t played with Clockwork Hydra yet, but the price is right and it seems like it has a useful ability.

Gemstone Mine and Terramorphic Expanse are just good mana-fixers. What about Vesuva? Boy, I woulda played the crap out of it.

So What Would My Deck Be?
I’d go W/U/b, because I wub dat combination of colors.

2 Celestial Crusader
1 Sidewinder Sliver
1 Tivadar of Thorn
1 Icatian Crier
1 Gustcloak Cavalier
1 Outrider en-Kor
1 Flickering Spirit
1 Temporal Isolation

1 Careful Consideration
1 Fool’s Demise
1 Deep-Sea Kraken
1 Cancel
1 Stormcloud Djinn
1 Errant Ephemeron
1 Crookclaw Transmuter

1 Strangling Soot
1 Premature Burial
1 Pit Keeper
1 Corpulent Corpse
1 Evil Eye of Urborg
1 Call to the Netherworld
1 Trespasser il-Vec
1 Deathspore Thallid
1 Drudge Reavers

1 Clockwork Hydra

1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Gemstone Mine
5 Swamp
5 Island
5 Plains

There is the temptation to rely on the Terramorphic Expanse and the Gemstone Mine to fetch me an extra Mountain for Sol’kanar and the flashback on Strangling Soot, but in my experience I never get that lucky.

And that’s it.

The Weekly Plug Bug
Last week, Home on the Strange saw Tom, the former punk-turned-wedding photographer, and Izzy, former-artist-turned-graphic-artist, go to “Die Arthaus” to try to recapture the magic of complete artistic freedom. What they found was pretention galore (including the closest-to-breaking-our-PG-13-rating comic ever published).

This week? The revenge begins.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
The Here Edits This Here Site Here Guy