REVERSE FERRETT ENGINEERING
In recent months, I’ve been at a loss of what to write. Unlike some of my contemporaries here at Star City, I can’t get worked up about the number of byes for Grand Prixs, or get excited about banning Force of Will from Extended. And there’s no local Magic scene for me to even talk about, what with Southern Jersey being mostly vacationers in the summer and rednecks in the winter.
A few weeks ago, I read an article here at Star City by Scott English, and I guess I’m feeling something similar. Why DID I start playing Magic? It certainly wasn’t to go out and compete for cash prizes – heck, I don’t even think I realized people played Magic for money when I bought my Portal kit back in 1997. And it wasn’t to become a famous (cough) Internet author, because I don’t think StarCityGames.com existed back then either. I started playing because it looked like a lot of fun. I have to get back to that.
Most recently, my favorite Magic time was when I got my initial boxes of Invasion. My brother and I spent two entire nights, opening packs, building little Limited decks of five packs each, and just playing. No time limits, no sleeves, and most of all, no constant thinking. We just PLAYED. That is something I haven’t done in a long time. Playtesting, yes; PLAYING, no. Tournaments don’t count, since they’re more thinking than playing.
So I’ve decided to go the Ferretty Way, only in reverse. Instead of dedicating my weeknights to making the Pro Tour, I’m going to instead put aside some time each week to building up a local casual game. We’ll see what happens. I’ve found a local shop that still runs the Arena system, and is trying to set up Friday Night Magic. Hopefully this will be the first step to rediscovering that initial magic (no pun intended).
THE DOJO IN RETROSPECT
So, the Dojo is dying.
Well, dead, really, since it’s not like we can hook it up to a life-support machine or breathe new life into it. Truth is, the Dojo never fully recovered from its last brush with death. It’s too bad really, because the Senseis since then (Tuna, Chris Senhouse) really worked on it. My guess is that, once you bow to the whole corporate sponsorship, it’s either fish or cut bait. Meet the bottom line… Or get out of the way. Then again, USA Networks let WWF programming slip from their channels, so these guys ain’t exactly brain surgeons.
I’m in the process of archiving my own stuff off of the Dojo. There’s not a whole lot; a lot of it has this cheery "I’m so new to Magic you can still smell the Starter bubble wrap on my fingers!" tone. If anything, the Dojo gives you a great time-lapse picture of the great writers who have been around for a while. Search on my name and you get 41 matches and around a dozen actual articles; Jamie Wakefield yields almost 1200. The good Reverend Toby Wachter: 143. Anthony Alongi: 88. You get the idea. (Searching on Rizzo yields, oddly enough, gives 41, which leads me down a frightening "alternate universe" train of thought.) If there are any writers you can’t get enough of now, check out the Dojo while you still can and peruse their long-lost nuggets of wisdom.
It will be interesting to see where the Dojo’s current writing staff shows up next. Mike Flores and Adrian Sullivan are probably the two most established and noteworthy ones, but also folks like YMG’s Rob Dougherty, Lauren Passmore, and Tom Guevin. Hopefully these writers will continue to provide at another site. (They will – The Ferrett)
NEW BRUNSWICK PRERELEASE
I played in New Brunswick’s Planeshift Prerelease the weekend of January 27th, and had an absolute blast. It was unclear at the start whether we’d be keeping our initial packs, but I was very glad when they announced we’d be keeping our decks. Talk about a set of cards building themselves. Remembering that B/U/R was the color combo of choice in this block, I pretty much knew the route I was going to take when I opened a Void and some good uncommons in my Invasion pack, and coupled it up with some fun Gating creatures and Familiars in the Planeshift boosters. Here’s what I played:
No pictures of me in dope gang poses here, but I did go 4-1, and that was enough to take home a little product. Always a nice treat, and a boost to that oh-so-non-stellar Limited rating.
Realization number one: Gating creatures are a lot of fun, if taken in moderation. You can’t just stuff all the Gating creatures into your deck despite the fact that they’re really undercosted, or else you’ll end up with nothing to bounce, which did occur to me once or twice. I used the two Gating creatures above, and usually had some fun trick to pull with them without them becoming overly annoying.
Realization number two: The Familiars really mess up your mana curve, but in a good sort of way. And it’s something that takes getting used to. Most of the familiars are playable, and playing with two really messed with my math. I would stall myself, trying to remember to save regeneration mana, and not casting spells despite having the Familiar out to cheapen it.
Realization number three: Burger King has no idea that they are considered "fast food." There was twenty minutes left between rounds, and I still nearly missed my last round thanks to the incompetence of a certain drive-thru worker. All I wanted was a couple of cheeseburgers! I fought traffic back to the tourney site and walked in – I had two minutes left until the judge would have disqualified me. Talk about a close call.
SINGLE-CARD STRATEGIES: QUESTING PHELDDAGRIF
I think this is probably the first time that Wizards has actually put together a usable card for its Prerelease giveaway. Questing Phelddagrif just begs for a deck to be built around it, and I had most of the pieces in place by the time I left New Brunswick’s prerelease last weekend. But first the question: Is Questing Phelddagrif the new Morphling? It’s cheaper (albeit tougher) to cast, has a point better in power AND toughness, can pump itself and take to the air, can protect itself from removal… The Phelddagrif is an absolute beating in Type 2.
Here’s the first decklist, with card strategy to follow:
The mana acceleration is a necessity, as you want to be able to pump up the Phelddagrif as much as possible, as soon as possible. I currently am operating off of zero Birds of Paradise, and so you see the resulting choices. Given the choice, I’d probably go four Birds, four Trees, and remove the Elves – but since they produce Green mana, they get the nod.
Chimeric Idol and Treva are simply backups to the real offense, the Questing Phelddagrif. I really can’t say enough about this guy – a 4/4 for four mana, with the ability to fly and beef himself up, and he can protect himself from most of the removal seeing use? Sign me up. The Idols are nice in that they can be searched out if you’re really in a bind for offense. Hanna is in there to recycle some of the key control aspects of the deck, like the Parallax Waves and the Seals of Cleansing and the Dueling Grounds.
Speaking of Dueling Grounds, that’s the second part of the backbone of the deck. Essentially you’re making the 1/1 Hippo tokens a moot point, because they can’t overwhelm you after attacking with the Phelddagrif for ten. Parallax Wave and Wave of Reckoning are your other creature control choices. There’s plenty of enchantment search with the Tutors. The Power Sinks are for absolute game-wreckers, as the Giant Flying Hippo can protect himself most of the time. The Pulses of Llanowar are a trial insertion, used under the assumption that they can turn early Plains and Islands into green-producing Hippo-pumpers as well.
The mana base is pretty solid, with a good number of choices for multiple colors of mana. Because the whole offense is centered around a huge flying Phelddagrif, it doesn’t matter that the dual lands come into play tapped, as we don’t even need the extra mana from Trees or Birds until after the Phelddagrif comes out around turn four.
After actually playing with the deck, here’s what I’ve learned. The deck has a good time against Fires because of the control aspect of the deck. Parallax Wave and Wave of Reckoning are harsh mistresses, and it doesn’t hurt that you’re reducing them to only one attacker. Wave of Reckoning, I’ve learned, kills SO many things… From Blastoderm to Jade Leech to Kavu Titan to Avatar of Woe (!) to Multani, Maro Sorcerer (!!), and for that reason I may try and find a spot to squeeze another in. Because the Phelddagrif can protect itself from burn and because he can take to the air, Fires has a hard time removing him. In a similar vein, decks that rely on black removal also have a tough time removing the Phelddagrif. It had (surprisingly) a tough time against a Type I deck with Juggernauts and Copy Artifacts. Go figure. (I actually came close to winning Game 2, I had Hanna recursing Parallax Waves and Seals, but then he went and cast Timetwister and pretty much ruined my recursion fun. Booya.)
What it needs, however, is a way to get to the Phelddagrif faster. Because of the blue content, I’m considering adding in card drawing (either Fact or Fiction or Accumulated Knowledge) in an effort to hit the Phelddagrif faster. I’d really like to use Eladamri’s Call, but I think the overall card-drawing may help a little more (for searching out a Tutor or a Wave when needed).
Expect to see more on this deck in the coming weeks, as I think it’s a possible contender for at least Tier II if not Tier I. Also, next week I’ll present the Coalition Victory deck that I should have sent in to Anthony Alongi. Until next week!