Magic’s greatest crank makes a return today dissecting Magic Online etiquette, the difference between a bad draft and a Nick Eisel draft, and instructs you how to raise your Magic Online rating by an easy 20 points in one simple step. If you’ve never read a Jon Becker article before you are in for a treat, and if you have, how can you not click?

As part of my community service requirement, I am bound to deliver Ted one article per forty seven hundred pleading e-mails I receive. Here ya go Teddy, merry merry.

I. MODO Etiquette

Look, I am (I think) as sportsmanlike as the next guy. But I am not generally a disingenuous person. I am not going to wish you luck, so please don’t get bent out of shape about it. I don’t want you to be lucky. I want you to mulligan to four every hand. Ninety percent of you also secretly want me to mulligan to four, but you wish me luck just the same. I don’t understand how you falsely wishing me luck is more sportsmanlike like than me not saying anything to you about it. When someone wishes me luck in real life, I say “thanks, I’ll probably need it, heh,” and move on. As long as your opponent remains friendly, which I think I do, whether or not he wishes you luck should be irrelevant.

Also, please – it is the loser’s prerogative to offer the “good game.” The last thing you want to hear after getting outpeeled, outplayed, or whatever is “good game.” If you lose, and you think it was a good game, then by all means gg-away. If you savagely mana screw someone and smash their face, for goodness sakes, don’t initiate the gg. It WASN’T a good game. It was a crappy game, and your opponent feels angry enough without imagining your disingenuous little smirk. If you win, and someone says gg to you, by all means respond in kind. Whether you want to feign sympathy for their mana issues or whatever is up to you, but in this case, if the screwee is willing to gg it, it seems only fair to return the sentiment as the screwer.

You should almost never talk in the main room because if you do, most of the time you will be considered a stupid noob. If you do (yeah, I occasionally pipe in when something gets my goat) for goodness sakes, don’t complain about the shuffler. We all know and hate the shuffler, as it knows and hates us. You are not shedding any light on the game, you are not going to elicit any sympathy from the other stupid noobs. We all know the shuffler is poo and such. Let it go.

If someone is soliciting players for a queue, never bother to say “I will join if you give me packs and/or tix to play with :D” This has never been funny, ever, and the last time someone had to momentarily stop to think if it was amusing was something like 1963. Just don’t.

II. Poor Nick. How Can He Ever Win?

Eisel, in his regular column, writes a lot about drafts gone wrong or what to do if you don’t get what you wanted for a particular deck. Invariably, Nick wins anyway. Just as invariably, in Nick’s “train wreck” drafts, he has a retarded bomb anyway. How about this one:

Dripping-Tongue Zubera

Hearth Kami

Orochi Sustainer

Soratami Cloudskater

Ronin Houndmaster

Orochi Eggwatcher

Matsu-Tribe Decoy

Kami of the Hunt

Order of the Sacred Bell

2x Kami of Fire’s Roar


Jugan,the Rising Star

Orbweaver Kumo

Vine Kami

Kodama’s Reach

Petals of Insight

Time of Need

Strength of Cedars


Serpent Skin

Uncontrollable Anger

Honor-Worn Shaku

Man, having to struggle by with Jugan and Cedars – whew – tough break buddy. OK, he did have to play horrible Orbweaver Kumo, Boo hoo.

How about a few of his (non) Dampen Thoughts decks (OK, to be fair to Nick, he says that this is an archetype he stumbled upon when trying to draft the terrible Dampen Thoughts deck (thought Nick may be one of the few that can draft a good version of the deck – see below) which while looking janky, actually – gasp – play out well. As such, these might be characterized as other than “train wrecks”, but as we will see, all of them seem fairly busty to me :/)?

Reach Through Mists

2 Ethereal Haze

Blessed Breath

Psychic Puppetry

Peer Through Depths

Hisoka’s Defiance

Glacial Ray

Candles’ Glow

3 River Kaijin

Callous Deceiver

Sift Through Sands


Eerie Procession

Soratami Savant

Soratami Mirror-Mage

Honden of Cleansing Fire

Blind with Anger

Kumano, Master Yamabushi

Petals of Insight

Sire of the Storm

Can you believe he won with this? I don’t see how he could he manage to pull this one out with only Masticore, Blind with Anger, Red Honden, trips River Kaijin, Sire of the Storm and Glacial Ray. Sigh. The conditions under which we are forced to work. Why would you want to jank this deck up with Dampen Thoughts? It is a freaking house!

2 Reach Through Mists

Ethereal Haze

Floating Dream Zubera

Consuming Vortex

Candles’ Glow

Soratami Cloudskater

Soratami Rainshaper

Ghostly Prison

2 River Kaijin

Callous Deceiver

Honden of Cleansing Fire

Harsh Deceiver

Mothrider Samurai

Jade Idol

Blind with Anger

Soratami Mirror-Guard

Strength of Cedars

Hundred-Talon Kami

Kami of the Painted Road

Petals of Insight

Uyo, Silent Prophet

Once again, Nick is stuck with only Uyo, Retarded Prophet, White Honden, Blind with Anger, Ghostly Prison, and a bunch of flyers. How does he do it?

Reach Through Mists

Ethereal Haze

Psychic Puppetry

2 Peer Through Depths

Soratami Cloudskater

Hisoka’s Defiance

Candles’ Glow

Consuming Vortex

River Kaijin

Kitsune Blademaster

Callous Deceiver

Cage of Hands


Counsel of the Soratami

Mothrider Samurai

Soratami Mirror-Guard

Honden of Cleansing Fire

Harsh Deceiver

Soratami Seer

Petals of Insight

Keiga, the Tide Star

Time Stop

Ouch. Hate having to rely on White Honden, and Keiga to pull one out, if your five other flyers don’t manage it.

Nick, all of the decks you post are good. This is likely, for the most part, a testament to your draft ability. But please stop telling us how sketchy the decks are, when they are almost never anything nearly as bad as half the decks one ends up playing against on a daily basis in MODO land. Also, Ragged Veins is horrible – I am sure you were secretly giggling at your ability to make people draft such dreck, while scooping up all the later pick Indomitable Wills people passed on to run the Ragged tech. But, you say, “you guys are missing out. This card has single-handedly won me many games by acting as a tricky dome spell.” Funny how none of the decks you list in your articles have any Ragged Veins. But then, when Nick also offers you such gems as “I would take Kodama’s Might over Orochi Sustainer if I already had 2-3 manafixers in my deck.” Instead of “I would take Kodama’s Might over Orochi Sustainer unless someone had a gun to my head.” You have to learn to take internet draft advice with a grain of salt.

But, at least Nick writes. Whereas I am a lazy sack of poop. So honestly, I probably lack standing to complain.

By the way, I have my own theory on how to not get shafted drafting the Dampen Thoughts deck. Well, assuming that, unlike Nick, you don’t have a dragon (Uyo is essentially a dragon) and a White Honden in your stack: Stop trying to draft the Dampen Thoughts deck. Honestly. It is almost always terrible (further details below). I promise you. Really, not lying.

III. Separated At Birth?


World Champ Julien Nuijten and…

Whale Rider Keisha Castle-Hughes?


Magic Recluse Olle Rade and…

School of Rock’s Caitlin Hale?


IV. A Little More Etiquette, Being Open Minded About Card Valuation and Looking for Your Own Mistakes

Also, if someone beats you with a card you don’t like, don’t just bash their deck as being bad. Okay, it might be bad, but where does it get you to say, “You are so lucky, my deck is so good and your deck is so terrible”. Nowhere. Complain to your clan, or your friends or whatever, but leave the poor shmuck alone. More than likely, your loss is your fault anyway, since you kept a hand you should have shipped, or made a mistake you are not seeing yet. Sure, sometimes you get the stick, drawing two lands or twelve lands, or your opponent draws the nuts. It is possible, also, that you misvalue the card you got beaten with. For example, early in the season, I didn’t like Sensei’s Divining Top. Now, I love the Top. Also, early in the season, I gave a friend of mine a hard time for cheesing me out with double Red Zubera, another Spirit, and Devouring Rage. Now, we have all seen this is a powerful effect, and often try to include it in drafts. Here is one I don’t think almost anyone appreciates: Hankyu. Obviously, it is not a Longbow, and just as obviously, its pretty crappy most of the time. But in certain decks with no removal like U/W or G/W, it can provide some and it can occasionally dome. In decks that generate a ton of mana, it can be a decent removal option.

In my last match online, I was playing B/G splash U (for Blue Honden and Eerie Procession) against my opponent’s seemingly strong B/U deck, featuring Seizan, Dance of Shadows, Devouring Greed and a bunch of random flyers and spirits. Knowing my opponent was playing a deck with Greed, and having drawn a lot of lands, I opted to Hankyu a bunch of my opponent’s Rain-guards and miscellaneous small spirits (mostly Zubera) instead of casting other stuff, hiding behind a Burr Grafter and an Orochi Sustainer, with a Mystically Restrained Kokusho on board. After I had whittled him down to 14 (I was at 8), I cast my Greed saccing Kokusho and Grafter (11) and using the last three tokens on the Hankyu to win. He said “you are so lucky, I have Greed in hand” (His board was River Kaijin and Ashen-Skin Zubera) I said “why do you think I have been killing your spirits?” He said “Cause you didn’t draw anything else,” revealing his hand to be Greed and (snicker) Horobi. He knew I had the Greed in hand, as I had tutored for it with Eerie Procession about three turns earlier, but I did have five other cards (including Hideous Laughter, Serpent Skin and two other animals).

So, was I lucky to have inadvertently doofused into killing his spirits, or did he misplay by not Greeding me when, if he counted, I had lethal and unstoppable damage next turn? This isn’t to say that he necessarily would have won, but I would have been at two, he would have been at 20, and my men had a total of three power. I knew he had a Seizan in his deck (since he won game 1 with it) which would have been lethal for me (post Greed) unless I had decided to rack up Hankyu counters instead of attacking into an empty board. His conclusion wasn’t “I messed up; I should have Greeded you,” but rather “lucky bad deck wins.” Not that I don’t play some pretty ugly decks, but I think that this might not have been totally accurate in this case. He was clearly frustrated at losing to a what he perceived as an unplayable card – so frustrated, in fact, that he didn’t consider whether he had made a mistake.

I had a similar experience two days ago, when I was playing B/R speed beatdown with the full compliment of what are considered by many to be near unplayables – multiples of Battle-Mad Ronin, Unearthly Blizzard, Akki Avalancher, and a mittful of Lava Spikes. When I finished my W/U opponent off with a double Lava Spike, he said, “I can’t believe I lost to double Spike.” Which was fine, since I did draw two, and really pretty much had to have two to win. But then he added, “That card is so bad. You shouldn’t even be playing one, let alone two.” I said, “actually, I have four; they seem good in this sort of deck.” He said, “you are terrible” and left the match.

Now, he is right in a away – I am terrible – but my Magical deficiencies have nothing to do with, nor are they evidenced by, my playing Lava Spike, and the board had developed to the point where I had a limited number of outs barring some significant error on his part (he had played a White Honden two turns previously). So, having one Spike in hand when the Honden cam down, I played for the second Spike or a Blizzard, throwing away men and sacking lands for bits of damage. If he had been willing to sacrifice one of his high quality men – his freshly cast Kabuto Moth, or even his Mothrider Samurai, I couldn’t have Spiked him out that turn – of course, my board position would have been a little better, but my chances were still not all that good. Did he make a mistake? I think he did. If he lives through the turn, I think I am almost assuredly done, so in his position, I would have sacrificed a blocker. But, he may have said to himself, “I can only lose to double Spike, and what are the odds? I am willing to live with that.” I think that instead he didn’t bother to consider it, because he considered Spikes to be unplayable, and was inwardly snickering at how much better all of his cards were than mine. However, there really was no reason to give me a bashing when he lost because of either his failing to consider the cards I might have or being unwilling to make an unpleasant trade of his first pick Moth for my thirteenth pick Akki Avalancher and a land. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

The previous match, I had back-to-back Unearthly Blizzarded with a Kami of Fire’s Roar on the table to win, and got the same sort of comment “why would you play that card, it’s just terrible”. Actually, Mr. Four Fat Blockers, it’s not. Sorry, that’s the late Mr. Four Fat Blockers.

The most baffling thing is that these comments came from players who were rated over 1700, but at least 70 points lower than me. If you are over 1700, I would hope that you would be open minded enough to reconsider your card valuations if you see a situation in which a card seems better or worse than it may have originally appeared (and maybe even savvy enough to have figured out Spike is actually pretty good in any deck with a lot of spliceable cards like Ray or Might or in a deck with Kamis of the Hunt or Soilshaper, or in many other similar situations). If you are rated 70 or so points beneath your opponent, you might consider that they have some vague idea what they are doing relative to you, and you will come of as bitter or childish if you make comments such as were made above. Plus, you won’t examine your game to see if you screwed something up, which would tend to make you better. But then again, they probably don’t care about either of these things. This is not to say that I don’t draft crappy decks – but if I do, I am not shy about letting my opponent know while he is bashing me that I drafted terribly. Also, just because a player is rated higher than you or lower than you doesn’t mean he is better or worse, per se. But if you are playing a guy in the mid-1800s, you can be confident that he didn’t get the rating by accident.

Looking at the bigger picture, being willing to revisit your card valuations is really important in becoming a better Limited player. Not only will it allow you to maybe find hidden gems before the general populace is told about them by someone or other, but when a new set comes out (Betrayers, for example) you will be able to adjust your old card valuations based on the presence of the new cards much more rapidly than those persons who are more rigid. Its okay to be wrong on a few cards, but only if you are willing to realize that you might be in error if you see evidence to that effect. One of my friends, Josh Ravitz, is a terrific player, but the least flexible person I know with respect to card valuation. He makes up his mind about a card in the first two or three days of a set, and unless you are Kai Budde, who seems to have a lot of sway with Josh (go figure), you cannot change his mind about his valuations, try as you might. In MD5, you could not pay Josh to play Arcane Spyglass or Darksteel Pendant, under any circumstances. It seemed to me that some decks really wanted a Pendant, other decks really wanted a Spyglass, and most decks wanted neither. But to Josh, no decks ever wanted either. I think that this is one of the few things that may be hampering Ravitz in making that final hurdle (though he is tearing up teams with Pikula and Frayman as the Max Fischer Players, and has a number of excellent finishes including third place at GP: Detroit last year – which means he is in the neighborhood of nine hundred times better than me). I think that because Josh is better than most of the people he has to play, it doesn’t come up as often as it probably does for the average/aspiring PTQ player. But I can guarantee that if high level players have a problem with it, a lot of lower level players have a problem with it too.

Of course, lower level players suffer much more from playing cards that legitimately are terrible than from not playing cards which look terrible, but may not be. Whenever my opponent casts a Jukai Messenger on me, I start looking ahead to the next round. It probably doesn’t help the Jukai Messenger mage that he makes a lot of play errors to boot. When my opponent taps out pre-combat for something which cannot have any bearing on combat, I mentally chalk up a win. When my opponent lays his last card turn after turn, and its always a land – so he isn’t saving a bluff card – it becomes so much harder for him to win than if he just held that thirteenth land to make me play around whatever demonic trick my mid can conjure up as a potential wrench in the works. Although it’s tough to work on all these parts of your game at the same time, if you want to get better, you have to suck it up and do it.

Man, do I babble. Look, be nice to each other online, be willing to reevaluate cards that you might have misvalued, and play tightly. Much clearer, no? You would think I was paid by the word.

V. How to raise your MTGO rating twenty points.

Stop drafting that infernally bad Dampen Thoughts deck. You don’t know how to do it.

Okay, a few of you know how to do it, but even for you, everything has to fall exactly correctly for your deck to make it. The problem is that many people play say, zero to five men, which simply isn’t enough to put pressure on the average opponent, so when, say, your opponent boards up to seventy cards or so, you are almost always screwed. I have played against DT something like fourteen or fifteen times, and have won all of the matches but two (in one, my opponent had a great critter set of 3 River Kaijin, 2 Callous Deceiver, Soratami Cloudskater, Keiga, the Tide Star and Hikari, Twilight Guardian, and worked me far harder with Candles’ Glow than with Dampen Thoughts. In the other, my opponent had double DT, and drew them both in the opener in the two games he won). I won something like twelve game 1’s because I try to draft decks capable of killing my opponent before turn nine hundred. After board, I go to sixty-five or seventy or seventy-five cards – generally 3 colors and about 30-35 lands, and the DT player is almost always done. Of course, you risk that the opponent has eight good men in the board, and can try to race you, but this seems to be the exception more than the rule. Plus, the DT player thinks you are an idiot, and they will almost never think about this until game 3 – which, since you drafted a pressure deck and you boarded up to seventy cards for game two, they will never reach.

Practically speaking, unless your DT opponent is very lucky, they can’t even start DTing you until around turn 4, and they have to do it at least six times. So, if you can kill them before turn 8 or 9, you should be fine. Obviously, the faster the better. Save your burn for the end, since it can’t be Ethereal Hazed.

So, since you can’t draft it well, and now you can beat it fairly simply, leave it be. Easiest 20 points you ever made.

VI. The Random Editorial Victim

Since Jay Schneider seems to be laying low recently – which is odd, because whenever I get motivated to write something, Jay seems to conveniently supply me with a target – I needed to find another article to rouse my rye-soaked muse. The lucky winner this month was Mark Young recent article “When Bad Drafts Attack“. While not an un-noble effort, the article contained a number of simply ludicrous statements. For example:

Cards such as Mystic Restraints, Kami of Lunacy, and Kitsune Diviner – all of which I have been forced to first-pick out of terrible packs – may be playable in most decks, but they do not necessarily scream out, ‘draft this color!’

This is obviously wrong. Not that he hasn’t first-picked these cards, rather that they were the best cards in the pack. As was pointed out by one of the forum guys, with the online print runs, next to Mystic Restraints you get Frostwielder and either Ronin Houndmaster or Feral Deceiver – all of which are almost always better than Restraints. But let’s say he was Blue and wasn’t Red or Green – meaning he was either White or Black in addition to the Blue. I simply cannot believe that there wasn’t a better Black or White card in the pack. Okay, maybe there were no Rends, Mothrider, Blademaster, Cutthroat, Akuba or Cruel Deceiver. Or Cage, Moth, Blessed Breath, Indomitable Will, or Soulless Revival. Probably no Pull Under or Hundred-Talon Kami or Kami of the Waning Moon or Kami of Ancient Law. Of course, there certainly couldn’t have been a better Blue card, like any Blue flyer at all, or Consuming Vortex or a River Kaijin. Honestly. And Kitsune Diviner first? Not conceivably correct. I would honestly pick a potential splash card or hate a strong card out of the pack before first picking a Diviner.

I second-picked Sakura-Tribe Elder, shipping Kitsune Blademaster and some junk.

Also patently incorrect.

I [third] picked a mediocre Blue card – Soratami Seer,

which he acknowledged as incorrect. He is correct that he is incorrect. It is the fourth pick now, and he has no picks better than a fourth pick (ok, Elder is occasionally higher) – Mystic Restraints, Elder, Seer. Bleah. Now that is a draft gone awry. He needs Eisel to come open him a dragon. Or two.

Later, he is talking about telling a R/W teammate not to have played Wrath-of-God-guy:

And, what’s more, if you have very aggressive Red/White cards after packs 1 and 2, and you open the Myojin and a Kami of Fire’s Roar in pack three, you absolutely should pass the Myojin. I don’t want to belabor this point because Clair touched on it, but the deck you’re trying to draft doesn’t even want games to last eight turns, let alone last long enough for you to draw eight lands. Picking the Myojin would be a move that could easily turn your draft in an ugly direction.

This is also, imo, incorrect. If you don’t have any KFRs, maybe you pass the Myojin. If your deck is all four-mana or less, and you have a trump card in Myojin, that is fine. Whether or not you pass Myojin is far from clear or absolute here. (Kusari-Gama is generally crap, so I won’t get into that). If you have played any of the beatdown archetypes – and there are a bunch of them – you have experienced drawing 6 lands by turn 9, in which case your rush strategy is just about kold. The Myojin becomes a viable alternate path at this point. I think that I would always play the Myojin in a R/W beats deck, barring some really stupidly powerful multiple Glacial Ray, no weak cards build. Whether or not you want a game to go to eight turns is irrelevant. I want my opponents to never hit their third land drop ever again, but I’m not building my decks like it’s going to happen.

However, this being said, it seems pretty evident that other expensive bombish type cards probably won’t make the cut in such a build. Dragon Fang, for example, will most likely sit on the sidelines, largely because when you cast it, it has no immediate impact. The moment you cast Myojin, you can wrath at will. Dragon Fang takes all your mana for multiple turns to get rolling, and generally, that is something that any beatdown deck cannot afford.

Later, Mark discusses making difficult choices for your decks:

Of course, it’s easy for me to say this after the fact. It’s another thing entirely to actually force your hands to pass Kumano, Master Yamabushi in favor of Consuming Vortex (a decision I saw a U/G drafter forced to make the other day). And yet, if you are to avoid bad drafts, these are the decisions you must make.” No, you mustn’t. Your hands are in the right here. Don’t pass Kumano, Master Yamabushi. Ever. Don’t do it.

As a matter of fact, here is a short list of cards you may never pass again. Either you are playing them, or they are sitting on your bench rooting for you, and not beating your brains in:

1) Meloku, Clouded Mirror of Victory

2) Kumano, Ridiculous Masticore

3) Eight and a Half “Laughter or No?” Tails

There ya go. Never pass them. Ever. You will be much happier for it.

I could expand that list, but there are arguments that can be made with almost every other card. Okay, Keiga, Porn Star, should probably be on there, but we are going just for the never ever ever ever cards. Okay. You win. Add her too.

4) Keiga, Porn Star

Now, there are cards I hate to pass, like Nagao, Blind With Anger, Dragons Other Than Keiga (including Uyo) and obviously Glacial Ray, but occasionally, you have to do what you have to do, and the pass happens. Third pack, cracking Jugan, not having any Green, with a decent in color pick available, Jugan goes packing. Not true for the big 3(4). [And dear God, don’t you ever ever ever pass one of those bombs in a team booster draft. You take your life in your own hands when you do that, particularly if you conveniently forget to tell your teammates ahead of time like some people I know. – Knut, cranky]

Finally, Mark makes an attempt at justification for taking a card perceived by many as weaker over a card perceived by many as a stronger card:

Zvi Moshowitz was seen taking Leonin Bola over Fireball at US Nationals 2004, and people said in the features for the website that he was crazy. But, if you check the “results” portion of the Nationals website, you’ll also see that he scored 6-1 in the draft portion of that event.”

Well, you could attribute that to the Bola > Fireball pick, but that is more likely attributable to the fact that Zvi is a better Magic player than most people he has to face. I think if you polled the pros about Fireball or Bola, assuming the Fireball was in-color or an easy splash, you would get a fair number of votes for each, and both choices would arguably be correct. This is a far cry from Hana Kami vs. Honden of Seeing Winds – not exactly an issue dividing the Magic community.

So, after spending all this time bashing poor Mark, let me say that (like Nick) at least Mark writes, which is more than I can say for you. To be fair, its also more than I can say for me, since I am, according to our esteemed editor “criminally lazy” – a characterization with which I cannot, in good conscience take issue. So keep at it little buckaroo. You are bound to be right eventually.

A Question

I am sure someone knows the answer to this question: On MODO, why is the creature type line on Sokenzan Bruiser blue text when he is in play, when all of the other cards type lines are black text?

Thanks for reading. Feedback always welcome at [email protected]

Jon Becker

Tongo’s Counsel