Truth and Insanity: The StarCity Deck Clinic

Driven by bad clinics elsewhere and whinings about the state of the internet Magic writing,”Force of” Will Rieffer decides to start up his own deck clinic… With a twist.

I have gone insane. I’m going to do a deck clinic…

There are reasons for it – and in getting to those, we’ll get to the truth part of the matter. At least it will be the truth in my opinion.

The Ferrett advised I open this thing with a rant -and after all, what is a rant but opinion that has the”force” of truth behind it?

Two things kicked this off: First, I recently saw a horrible rendition of a deck clinic. The outcome was confusing to me. The”finished” deck looked worse than the starting one, and the reasons for the changes didn’t make a whole lot of sense.

The second is that Brainburst move to having a premium service has kicked off a new wave of”most internet magic writing sucks.” With that, I will again beg to differ. I think that in general, internet writing relating to Magic has gotten better. I carefully mean that the writing has gotten better. I also feel that the subject matter may be less and less to the taste of many readers. It’s a fine point; I’ll have this gig because of my knack for elaborating.

The starting point is what people want over what they get. Invariably, when someone complains about what is wrong with net writing on Magic, they tell us what they want. And what they want to see is top-notch decks on a platter. They want to know how that deck behaves in the gauntlet of matchups shown by an analysis of hard data. They want a sideboard and all the swaps mapped out in those matchups, and they want all this to be done in a way where they’ll wind up being the man with the upper hand. They want to have a unique kick-ass deck handed to them on a platter.

There’s a reason it’s called secret tech.

Now this idea of”free tech” used to sort of happen sometimes. When the game was young and the internet was likewise young, a lot of bright minds used the latter tool to help their game in the former. The net was so limited in scope without the almost-universal access we see today that if a broken deck were worked out online that few people actually got a look at it before their important tournament. So you could share secret tech and still have a good chance that it would prevail after the die roll. Along with working up good (and broken) decks, some very sharp minds also figured out theories about what plays lead to victories, and wrote eloquently about it. Most of the games theory was thus duly uncovered and published. Card advantage, tempo, and investment were all topics that were covered in fine detail first in the newsgroups and then later most often on The Dojo. Guys like Mike Flores, Eric Taylor, Adrian Sullivan and host of others laid the theoretical base structure out there and elaborated on it.

Now I ask you: When was the last time you saw one of that bunch talk hardcore theory?

It doesn’t happen much anymore if at all, does it? Why? Well, I figure they’ve said their piece and it is neither fun nor interesting to rehash what they’ve already said. So what we are left with is a situation where there used to be a lot of writing on”new” theory that is now, for many, boring old hat. What is left is simply applying all those old theories to specific new card pools: That is why the complainers say what they say. They already have made a study of the theory, and all that’s left is working out the tedious details in a specific card pool.

At that point, I think we can see that if you really know the theory, all that is left for you is to actually practice it. That is, if you want a top-flight deck, just build it!

I think we see the catch is the work on the details.

Putting in the hours playtesting a full gauntlets worth of matchups where the outcome is in doubt. That is the difference between the complaining internet reader and the writer that he wants.

Even after that, there remains the schism between the theory and work put in before the big day and the results. Recently, Alex Shvartsman used to Sideboard Online to have his readers contribute to testing for Odyssey block Constructed. In this, he sought to lessen the chance that he and his mates would overlook a possibly good deck thus leaving it out of their gauntlet. Afterward, he detailed how he was only moderately successful with the endeavor. Concurrently, Zvi Mowshowitz and team Godzilla, one of the best working teams on the planet, admittedly blew their testing run on the same format. If they did such, then you know the game ain’t an exact science, kids – or if it is, then mistakes are still made. If right before the tourney, this icon of internet magic writing had delivered the goods on Odyssey Block Constructed, it would have been a less-than-perfect product. And yet you know that they won’t give you that kind of frontside info anyway. That’s what they actually work for…

Secret Tech.

Kid, you aren’t gonna get what you want.

That’s the game we have. If you can’t find joy in the work trying to break a format so that you can only possibly be the winner and if winning means that much to you, well… Good luck finding that happiness. Some of us will take your complaints on the content of current writing with a grain of salt. And it’s not that there aren’t bad articles. There are – but nostalgia also seems keen to forget that there used to be lots of bad articles in the past as well. Sub-par tournament reports and some yahoo elaborating on a really bad deck. If you get in a couple of years like I am, things have to take on a different flavor. I still read a lot of stuff on the net in regards to the game.

That’s what keeps me up to speed on an ever-changing game.

The quality of the writing has an impact; I enjoy some more than others for sure, but bad writing usually just gets logged into the old noggin into that big pool of just what’s generally going on.”Kid played mono black beatdown against decks x, y, and z and came in second. Check.” Then invariably, I (or you) put the personal critique and stamp on it.”I’d have made the build a little different and done this at this point.” So even bad writing can give a player an exercise toward improvement.

Back to the deck clinic.

Well, what there will always be a need for is Magic writing that introduces the newer player to that older theory. Yeah, it winds up being a rehash of stuff a lot of you will find boring… But it also helps that newbie climb the ranks. What I hope to accomplish is to have the clinic be inspirational in helping me to elaborate on general theory, keeping it fresh and alive on the net. In helping newer players learn what works and why, hopefully they won’t be as inclined to give the game up because they are getting clobbered at the local hangout.

All that’s left now is to put forth the framework for sending in decks for the clinic. Really all that probably needs to be said is that the more information you give me, the more likely it will be that I will select a deck to discuss. Tell me everything. In what format is the deck to be played? What sort of card pool you have? What decks are you having trouble against – and similarly, what decks are popular where you play, i.e. what is the general scope of your metagame? What sort of further resources do you have, that is, are you willing to spend money to upgrade the deck… And how much?

My intent is to do this in addition to my more general writing on the game – and at this point, I envision presenting the clinic every other week or so. And at this point, since I’m not yet completely insane, I’m looking forward to it.


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