Understanding In A MODO Crash: The Minimums

How many cyclers do you need to run Astral Slide in the maindeck… And how many do you need to make it a good deck? What are the minimum number of soldiers you need before you can reliably use Piety Charm? How many birds must you have before you can play Airborne Ai – okay, that was a trick question. But if you wanna know the bare minimums before you can start putting tribal cards and Peer Pressures in your decks, start here – oh, and I’ll give you ten hints as to how NOT to name your team so you don’t sound lame.

Hello again, everyone. This week’s article will be about situational cards and when and when not to draft and play them. But before we get started with that, there’s a bit of unfinished business from last article…

Team names.

Honestly, you can name your team whatever you wish – but in some cases, you’ll end up looking stupid. If you genuinely don’t care about what other people think, then by all means ignore my Official Guidelines to Team Naming. And I am actually interested in feedback on this part of the article as well, although you’re unlikely to change my opinions on most aspects. But if I left anything off, feel free to let me know.

I suppose the easiest way to do this is to give a”don’t” category and illustrate it with examples.

1. DON’T Name Your Team After A Magic Card.

I’m sure there may be some inside joke that you and your teammates have in regards to Vesuvan Doppelganger or Shepherd of Rot… but no one else will get it. In fact, it probably wasn’t funny to begin with. That said, there is no good reason to name your team after a Magic card; it’s been overdone and it smacks of unoriginality. You have to have something else in common with your teammates other than the fact that you all play Magic; embrace it, run with it.

Examples from the GP trial in Detroit: Aboshan-Go, Vigilant Drake

2. DON’T Give Up On Finding Common Ground.

This goes hand-in-hand with number one. Don’t call yourself”Random Team 4673,” don’t call yourself”Team Needs a Hotel Room,” and don’t call yourselves”Two Guys and a ______.” You’re capable of so much more. And gamer cliches, like not sleeping or showering, are almost as bad as naming yourselves after a Magic card.

Examples from the GP trial: Sleep Deprivation, Random Picks

3. DON’T Pander To The Lowest Common Denominator.

This may just be a personal pet peeve… To an extent. Don’t resort to drug references or barely-allowable obscenities when trying to make A Cool Team Name, dude. Sexual lingo, references to bathroom behaviors, the aforementioned drugs, and”sneaky” names like”Sofa King” are in poor taste and are hideously unimaginative. You’re not breaking any new ground here. If you want to impress your friends, get a tattoo or an STD like everyone else.

Examples from the GP trial: Ghostpimp, I need a drink.com, Dime Bag (was forced to rename)

4. DON’T Use Abbreviations, Or Even Numbers If You Can Help It.

This is perhaps the most cliched method of team naming. When I say”abbreviations,” I’m specifically referring to initials – especially three initials. I’m sure they stand for something provocative, like the first letter in each of the team members’ names, but this takes little or no effort to come up with and is getting tiresome… Like the point not so long ago in music history when every band had a number in its name. You’ll find examples of these in every last team event because people don’t care. Here’s an interesting fact, though: Some of the best teams playskill wise have the best names, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

Examples from the GP trial: L.O.W., MSV Fury, Team VGM, W.U.D.D.Y?, Version 4.0

5. DON’T Reference Current Events Unless You Can Do It In A Clever Manner.

This one speaks for itself. Unless there’s a nice pun, especially one relating to Magic, this is a dangerous road to travel. It’s sort of ironic that current event (and pop culture, which is in the same category) team names (“Mallrats” or”The Maryland Snipers”) and dorky team names, especially Magic card ones (“The Sootfeather Flock”) are incredibly stupid – yet if you can somehow combine the two, it’s brilliant.

Ryan Golden came up with an example of a good combination, although its applications are as yet uncertain:”My Big Fat Geek Wedding.”

6. DON’T Include Overused Magic Lingo.

…Unless you created it. If Kenny Hsiung wants to call his team the”So Her Allstars,” he has my blessing.

7. DON’T Use A Team Member’s Name In The Title.

I almost succumbed to this one myself, but it’s as bad as having an abbreviation. My team was to be called Aten’s Final Indignity because I wanted something that, when abbreviated (strictly theoretical, so as not to violate rule #4) would become AFI. It almost became A Final Indignity, but that’s beside the point.

Example from the GP trial: Johnson ‘n’ Da Boyz (I checked the roster and verified that there was someone surnamed Johnson on said team).

8. DON’T Make Your Team Name A Complete Sentence.

There are exceptions to almost every rule; this is the rule that seems to be most acceptable to break. However, in general, you’ll want your team name to be a noun of some sort. Think of all the sports teams and music groups out there. Did any of them name themselves”We Are Very Good”? No. That would be ignorant.

9. DON’T Include”Team” In Your Team Name.

“Team this” and”team that.” Blah blah blah. On some occasions, it can be fitting, such as the charmingly-hokey”Team Rocket.” But if your team can’t have an intelligent, cohesive name unless you add”team” at the front or back, one word isn’t going to make much of a difference.

Examples from the GP trial: Team IKillYouGuys, Team VGM

10. DON’T Blatantly Rip Off Another Team’s Name And Try To Pass It Off As Your Own Original Idea.

I’ll provide an example of this in the discussion below.

Now that I’ve covered some hard and fast rules, I’d like to spend a moment on the team names that were above-average from the PTQ:

F Vince: This may appear to violate rule #8, but it is beautiful in its simplicity. It is presumably named after a former team member, who, for whatever reason, is no longer with the squad. Succinct and bitter. I give it a B.

RIW Hobbies: I’m pretty sure that this is the name of an actual store or something. What this ordinarily means is that you’re getting sponsored, and that you’re only naming your team this because you’re money-grubbing whores, roped into something over which you have no control. It’s very cool to be able to say”I didn’t want to name my team this… But I had to.” Plus, it means you’re playing for free.

Who Could Love Me?: Also in apparent violation of rule #8, this name has enough spunk to carry it past its disadvantage. It’s actually an inside joke that I’m not privy to going into detail about, but it can stand alone without knowledge of the joke. That’s the true test to naming your team after an inside joke. This was my team name for the trial. When you look at the motley crew of myself, Joe Bags, and Rodman after reading from the slip”Who could love me?” how could you help but grin?

The Schism: I don’t know why, but I just thought this one sounded sorta cool. And it didn’t break any rules. And it was succinct. A solid B.

Pretty Purple Ponies: The best name at the GP trial. This was the team that featured Aaron Breider, edt, and Chris Benafel. Whimsical, unabashedly fruity, ironic… This name has it all. Teams not secure in their masculinity or otherwise low in self-esteem wouldn’t dare try to pull this off. I would guess that edt came up with the name, but it’s possible that Breider did as well. Hats off to these fine individuals.

But a stern finger-shakin’ is in order for The Pretty Tigers, who blatantly ripped off edt’s”‘pretty+animal” formula. And if you’re going to rip someone off, at least have the decency to do a better job than the originators. Judged in a vacuum,”Pretty Purple Ponies” is vastly superior to”The Pretty Tigers” anyway; the fact that the latter wasn’t a remotely creative thought pushes it into the F range. Pretty Purple Ponies itself, however, gets an A.

And now, as is the custom, the”real” article…

But as also is the custom, I’m going to slowroll it.

Recently the”Walk With Me” type articles have come into vogue, and I’d like to appraise someone else’s draft. In order to stimulate a mild bit of interest, I’m willing to reimburse you for the tickets (that’s two, not twelve or more) if you follow the standard procedure and send me a”log” of your draft and I use yours in my article.

This week, we’ll be exploring those cards that make listing sets in terms of Limited power a real pain in the ass. A single card may range from first-pick quality to worthless depending on the composition of your deck. The bare minimum numbers listed are roughly those that would make the cards usable as 22nd or 23rd cards; the”ideal” numbers are the minimum numbers needed for the cards to achieve”solid” to”bomb” status. That said, we’ll jump right into the Onslaught white cards…

Astral Slide:

There’s a reason this one goes late despite its inherent power: In general, you don’t want to load your deck with a bunch of otherwise-worthless cyclers to make a single card work. An exception to this is Lightning Rift, but even then, you’d rather not be playing off-color Hundroogs and Disciples. (Hundroog! – The Ferrett) If you see this when you already have a fair amount of cyclers, it becomes a solid pick, although still not an automatic pick unless you happen to have a bunch of expensive morphs or no other methods of creature control. This is the sort of card you’d rather see pack 2, because sometimes when you take it early, the cyclers don’t come. You don’t want to feel obligated to take Renewed Faith over Gustcloak Harrier to power the Slide.

I don’t end up playing this card a lot, but it’s probably best in blue-white; fly over with bird soldiers while keeping the ground locked up with walls and the Slide. Unlike Invigorating Boon or Rift, this isn’t much of a deterrent to your opponent cycling; they can cycle during your second main phase to minimize its effects. That means that Astral Slide relies on your cyclers to work, so you’ll need a decent amount of them.

Minimum cyclers needed to play Slide: 5

Ideal number of cyclers to play Slide: 8 or more

Doubtless One:

I really like the cleric deck, and nothing makes me happier than when I can play this card – but unfortunately, those situations are few and far between. If you have a Daunting Defender in play, this can become quite the juggernaut, making it impossible for your opponent to race. You really need this to be at least 3/3 for it to be worth your while, especially because one of its drawbacks is that it’s vulnerable to your other clerics dying. Pack one, unless you’re adamant about forcing clerics, I wouldn’t usually take this card until 6th pick or later. In pack two, though, if this looks like it’ll be the nuts in your deck, don’t expect it to come around the table. It can be on par with such other hits as Aven Soulgazer or Daru Lancer in the right deck.

Minimum other clerics to play Doubtless One: 7

Ideal number of other clerics to play Doubtless One: 9-10 or more

Piety Charm:

The”doesn’t tap to attack” ability is rarely the right call. The”destroy target creature enchantment” is powerful and useful, but not good enough to warrant a maindeck. The other ability is the important one – a mini-Giant Growth for your soldiers. We’re all familiar with the benefits of combat tricks, so I won’t bore you with the details. The numbers listed below are the amounts needed to play a single Charm; for two Charms, you’ll want at least eight or nine soldiers, and for three you’ll need at least eleven. Take these anywhere from 4th to 10th.

Minimum soldiers to maindeck Piety Charm: 5

Ideal number of soldiers to maindeck Piety Charm: 6 or more


This card doesn’t hinge on a number of a specific type of other cards; it’s more deck dependent. The strategy for Sandskin is to make it as good as Pacifism; this means that your opponent should not be rewarded with an”infinite blocker.” As such, it’s best in black/white. This deck has an abundance of fliers, and even if you’re forced to Sandskin an opposing Rorix or Aven Fateshaper, you’ll still have fear creatures to break through an otherwise stalemated board. It’s also not bad in blue/white, but even then you’d rather relegate it to the sideboard since there are better cards for the job. In the end, there are few decks that”want” to maindeck Sandskin – but if you have no way to handle giant beasts on the other side of the table, it can be a necessary evil. I’d almost never play more than one maindeck, especially considering the new enchantment-killing morph triggers. Unless the packs are really bad, don’t take this before 9th pick.

Shared Triumph:

Like most cards that give a global bonus to one creature type, this card becomes better if you have mistforms and worse if your opponents have them. Shared Triumph’s effect may not look like much, but the difference that +1/+1 makes on most creatures is amazing. Gluttonous Zombie becomes a five-turn clock, Gustcloak Harrier sails right past Screeching Buzzard or Keeneye Aven; in short, all of the creatures of the appropriate type become more efficient than similar cards that your opponent will play. This card will always be at least moderately useful, but you have to be careful about opponents benefiting from it. If there’s anything you want to sideboard in for the mirror match, you may want to consider taking this one out. Best with evasion creatures, of course. If you can maximize its usefulness with evasion creatures or a solid tribal element, this can be a 2nd-4th pick.

Minimum creatures from same tribe to play Triumph: 6

Ideal number of same-tribe creatures to play Triumph: 8 or more

Unified Strike:

An excellent sideboard card, particularly in the mirror. Only in rare circumstances would you ever want to maindeck this, such as being able to”hit” for three or more on a consistent basis or having no other ways whatsoever to remove creatures. When I first saw the Onslaught spoiler, I thought that this would be a rather high pick; however, it’s not uncommon to see this with only one or two cards left in the pack.

Minimum soldiers to maindeck Strike: 9-10

Ideal number of soldiers to maindeck Strike: 13 or more

Airborne Aid:

As Gary Wise (who I seem to quote more than any living soul in my articles) said, this format is all about tempo. So even if there were somehow three birds in play on turn 5, you don’t want to play this at that time. Before you even consider playing it, there should be at least two or three birds or mistforms in play. There really isn’t any amount of birds that you could have to make this maindeckable; if you have, say, ten quality birds in your card pool, your deck is probably already so preposterous that you won’t need this. In one match on Modo, Nitter (who was playing blue) sided two of these in against me because we both had a large amount of birds. He played them both game three, drawing a total of five cards… And he still didn’t win.

Now, I know there were other factors at work, but a sorcery-speed Inspiration just isn’t cutting it in this format. The bird tribe mirror is the only time you should consider bringing this in.

Aphetto Grifter/Ixidor’s Will:

These would presumably rise in value the more wizards you have in your deck. However, even at their maximum utility, they’re still not worth playing unless your deck is weak. Wizards are a horrible tribe, so you don’t really want to have enough in your deck to make these playable. You want just enough for Lavamancer’s Skill, and then some birds, soldiers, goblins, or whatever.

Minimum wizards to maindeck these cards: 9

Ideal number of wizards to maindeck these cards: N/A

Crafty Pathmage:

Like Unified Strike, there’s no sense in taking this card early since it will come late… Verrrrry late. Like 12th-15th pick. In order to want to play this card – in other words, situations where you’d include this in your deck when you have more than fifteen other playables – you’ll want to have a compelling reason to make a creature unblockable.”Dealing damage to my opponent” is not a compelling reason; that’s what fliers are for. Unless your card pool is weak, you shouldn’t play this unless you have three cards that work very well with it, and the list of those is rather short: Skirk Commando, Cabal Executioner, perhaps Haunted Cadaver and a few others.

Crown of Ascension:

Another solid fourteenth-pick that only belongs in a certain deck as a substitute to a few certain cards. That sentence was sort of cryptic, so allow me to explain.

This card is only good in green/blue, and even then it’s only good when you have very few fliers. And even then, you’ll only be using it as a substitute for Choking Tethers, Essence Fracture, and Echo Tracer if you don’t manage to pick any of those up. But once in a blue moon, there are few things more breathtaking than flying over for the final ten with a Treespring Lorian.

Peer Pressure:

This card exhibits quite a broad range of utility. Unless the pack is pretty weak, don’t take it earlier than fourth or so. If you successfully cast Peer Pressure for two or more creatures, there’s no way you can lose. Even if you get one, the swing can be tremendous, particularly if it’s an elemental or gorgon. However, this card tends to get stuck in your hand – plus, the best way to use it is with Mistforms, which can be rather mana-intensive. Imagecrafter has tremendous synergy with Pressure, and as such it counts as two Mistforms in the below tally. Of course, if you notice that your opponent has similar tribal lines to yours, feel free to side this in.

Minimum mistforms to maindeck Pressure: 5

Ideal number of mistforms to maindeck Pressure: 8 or more

Cabal Slaver:

This card can be pretty spicy in the black/red beatdown deck. Unfortunately, I must say most of my experiences with this card have been good ones, since my opponent was the one who played the 2/1 for three and also the one who was forced to discard, courtesy of Mistforms. In the right deck, this can be taken as early as seventh, but you’re going to be the only person at the table who wants it.

Minimum goblins to play Cabal Slaver: 6

Ideal number of goblins to play Cabal Slaver: 9 or more

Death Match:

If you see this early, take it and force green/black if possible. This card can single-handedly win lots of games, especially in conjunction with cards like Symbiotic Elf and Vitality Charm – not to mention beasts with huge toughness. If you’re black but not green when you see this card, especially in the second pack, pass it along. With a card like this, you have to make sure you’re gaining more from it than your opponent. If they have to use two creatures to kill one of yours on a regular basis, you’re in good shape.

Endemic Plague:

Quite a powerful effect if you can swing it, this ends up getting taken right around 7th-9th. In most cases, this will be a decent sideboard card. Your goal is simply to kill more of your opponent’s creatures than of your own. Of course, this becomes maindeck-worthy in the case of the ubiquitous blue/black deck.

Yes, I know that ubiquitous doesn’t make sense there, but I felt like using it because it sounds sinister. Then I looked it up and found out it meant the exact opposite of what I was attempting to convey, so in retrospect I was being sarcastic.

Minimum mistforms to maindeck Plague: 4

Ideal number of mistforms to maindeck Plague: 5 or more

Feeding Frenzy:

This card experienced quite a jump in power with Legions. Removal is at more of a premium, and there are more zombies now; hence, there is a greater chance that this will be an effective card. Even giving a creature -1/-1 can be rather useful to screw up combat or kill a Sparksmith, but ideally you’ll want to be able to kill morphs with it. Like similar cards, this increases in value in the mirror match. Take it as early as 4th pick if you think it will be able to give -2/-2 consistently.

Minimum zombies to maindeck Frenzy: 5

Ideal number of zombies to maindeck Frenzy: 8 or more

Profane Prayers:

Much of what can be said about Feeding Frenzy is true for the Prayers. In a dedicated Cleric deck, it is capable of doing obscene amounts of damage. Like a lot of situational cards, these won’t be high in demand, so you’re unlikely to want to take one of these before 7th pick.

Minimum clerics to maindeck Prayers: 7

Ideal number of clerics to maindeck Prayers: 10 or more

Shade’s Breath:

In the right deck, this card is a powerhouse. In the wrong deck, it’s pretty bad. Being able to pump any (or all) of your creatures as a surprise combat trick can have a devastating effect on your opponent’s combat math, particularly if you only have swamps untapped. Creature pump spells are versatile, functioning as damage prevention to creatures, direct damage to creatures, and direct damage to players (depending on how blockers are assigned).

The color and type changing ability is noteworthy as well. I once screwed this card up horribly with a Soulless One out; I”pumped” my 6/6 Soulless One all the way up to 3/3 with this. I was gonna lose anyway, but that’s beside the point. The point is to be careful.

Incidentally, this card thwarts Skinthinner for a mere two mana. I wouldn’t play this in a deck where black was anything but the primary color, and I probably wouldn’t take it within the first eight cards. Well, I might… But that’s because I have an unhealthy affinity for drafting monoblack zombie decks in this format. You probably shouldn’t, though.

Minimum swamps to play Breath: 8

Ideal number of swamps to play Breath: 11 or more

Soulless One:

This is probably the most powerful One, if only because it’s not vulnerable to your other creatures dying. It’s a large unRevival-able walking monstrosity.

That sentence has convinced me to perhaps procure a thesaurus. Yeah, that’ll happen.

If it looks like it could be good in your deck, depending on the packs, you can take this as early as second. This is probably a tad too early, for the reason mentioned in the first paragraph.

Minimum other zombies to play Soulless One: 6

Ideal number of other zombies to play Soulless One: 8 or more

Visara the Dreadful:

Sometimes this just sits in your hand; at other times it’s a decent ability on a solid body.

Minimum other gorgons to play Visara: 0

<Pat (from SNL) voice> That’s my little joke. *disturbing moaning noise*

You see that? Sometimes I can’t help but embrace that inner dork. The best writers have to expose their dork side for the world to see in order to realize their full potential and travel down the road to self-actualization. Some of the stuff Geordie Tait writes just makes me shake my head. It’s extraordinarily well written (yes, extraordinarily), yet laced with dorkitude. Bill Shakespeare was another huge, huge dork. He would certainly be a gamer if he were alive today.

Me? Yes, I am a giant dork. But I can’t write like a dork all the time, with clever puns and other romps with wordplay. This is for a few reasons: For starters, I’m not that talented a writer. I mean, I’m okay, I guess, for someone who dropped out of junior high to play kazoo in an all-underage ensemble at the local penitentiary. But I’m just not at the pinnacle. Perhaps I should do a better job editing my stuff (Does anyone have a thesaurus for sale? I have MODO tix), perhaps rewriting it a few times… But then what would Ferrett do with all that extra time? Submit scandalous, racy articles to his own personal website named after himself? Yeah, right.

Another reason I can’t bring myself to be too clever in my articles is that it would simply ruin my street cred. If I came up with the perfect analogy to describe what it feels like to Cephalid Pathmage a Phage the Untouchable for the win, I’d get kudos from a select few, but I’d get berated by Morgy. And my brother for that matter, and a score of other people. You may have read [author name="Adam Prosak"]Adam Prosak’s[/author] report about the Kentucky Open

Tangent: A special thanks goes out to Adam”ihatepants” Prosak for keeping my legacy alive by winning actual tournaments, something I personally haven’t done since the Adams administration (that’s John, not John Quincy), and then mentioning me in the props section. What a guy.

…how am I going to keep my legions of admirers if my writing prowess parallels what you would expect from someone who looks the way I do (a sassy three-hundred pound black woman with the catch phrase”MMM-hmm”)? I couldn’t do it. So I have to suppress the inner dork and try to be cooool.

Do you ever notice how sometimes an author seems to forget what he was talking about mid-paragraph?

Or how he tries to be clever with little one-sentence paragraph interludes?

Oh my God, I’ve done it! I’m a giant dork!! This article must have been fantastic, at least toward the end when I failed miserably to be humorous by being cutesy. Of course, it doesn’t really matter if you’re laughing at me or laughing with me as long as you’re laughing. Heck, I’ll settle for you all to shake your head in mild disgust.

At least it’s something.

Remember, I’m only giving you the two tickets if I use your article, and I’m only going to use your article if you do as good a job listing all the cards and what you chose as Pugg Fuggly did. But please try not to let all the writing during the draft distract you from realizing Your Potential as a Drafter.

I’ll leave you with a song.

“…and you try to SUF-focate and SMO-ther me


When WE collapse our WEAKened hands

Fall together at once abandoned

They’ll FORCE you down and STRAP you in

Now we agree and understand.”

–Finger Eleven,”Suffocate”

That song is insane, even if the lyrics sound as if they’ve been chosen by flipping to a page in the dictionary and pointing at a word blindfolded.

Tim Aten

The Scum of the Earth

[email protected]