This article probably won’t make me any friends… But I am a big fan of DCI Judge Colin Jackson. I like the way he put his foot down at US Nationals, and I wish everyone was like him. That being said, there haven’t really been any serious suspensions or bannings of top-level players in a while. I seem to remember Massimo Esposito getting a lifetime ban… But let’s be serious. If his name had been, say, Jon Finkel or (insert Pro Tour winner here) would that have happened? Well, no, cause Jon wouldn’t DO that — but the fact is, there has been (and always will be) inequity between the Pros and the almost-Pros when it comes to punishment for crimes. And one of the quietest crimes out there is stalling.
I’ll bet almost anyone who has played Magic has been a victim of stalling. I really disliked it until very recently, when I saw people actually getting match wins out of it (you win your first game, then stall out the second, then win the match because you won the first game) or even draws. The fact is, stalling is small potatoes when it comes to cheating. The judges can’t really make you play faster, and until chess clocks or a defined reasonable time limit is made, they will have to go on a case-by-case basis to determine who is or isn’t stalling.
So my advice is… STALL!!!!!!! Stall to your heart’s content!
If the powers that be will not ban or suspend anyone who habitually stalls, and I know MANY such people, then that is a clear signal that they do not care how long you take to come to a decision. Magic is great for this, because there are so many facets that come into play in a match. Obviously you can’t rush, especially at a high-level event, so take your time. Try not to be TOO obvious, though, or you will make a name for yourself.
The good points to stalling? You can win a match through it, plain and simple. As stated earlier, I believe that winning the first game will give you the match if game 2 does not end in time. Assume that an average game lasts between five and ten minutes. That means that after ten minutes, you start game 2. Assuming a good randomization/shuffle of your deck, which can take up to five minutes, and another shuffle of your opponent’s deck, you have spent close to twenty minutes already! That leaves thirty minutes for the match to end… An ample amount of time for anyone to win. Now the problem is, if you have LOST game one, your play will have to be noticeably quicker to get to game 3. Let’s take a best-case scenario, and assume you win game 1, and manage to stall out game 2 to a match win. The judges will be looking at you at some point, so make sure in your NEXT match, you play a LITTLE less slowly than you have been, and you should get away with it.
Now that we know we CAN stall, what decktypes and cards lend themselves best to this strategy? I will list a few here with some opinions on the matter:
1) Blue/White Control, with Millstone as the kill. This deck is ideal because its kill mechanism is INCREDIBLY slow, and the fact you can’t mindlessly counter everything and have to think out your options means games can get very long. This is all good for you, Mister Potential Stalling Machine. In a mirror match, it’s the first to the Millstone, so just play lands until your opponent has to do something.
2) CounterRebels: Again, the whole mechanic of the deck means that you can keep shuffling your library and recovering your creatures. Deal enough damage through enough attack phases that your opponent suffers damage, but never rush yourself. After all, there is a right rebel for every situation, and you don’t want to tap out anytime to get the Jhovall Queen. It gets even better when you can dig with Lin-Sivvi, then search, et cetera, et cetera…Great for slow play!
3) Whirlpool Creatures. These are a gift from the higher powers, to be sure. For two to three mana each, each deck can splash one of these buddies and potentially stall the game by shuffling, shuffling, riffle shuffling, cutting, etc. Important note: Don’t play these when you are TOO behind, because your opponents and the judge may catch on you are trying to buy time! As an added bonus, these work quite well with Gating creatures, such as Silver Drake, since you can reshuffle later. Imagine them in a Rebel or Counter Rebel deck? You could potentially:
a) Search with Lin-Sivvi, and spend a good two minutes shuffling.
b) Play a Whirlpool Warrior or such, spend ANOTHER two to three minutes shuffling, then search again. If this doesn’t throw your opponent off his game, then just shuffle again!
4) Lack of sleep. Everyone knows that tournaments can take a long time, if you haven’t slept properly, your play may be more scattered and somewhat slower. But you will have a reasonable excuse for it! Make mistakes, though, as it will reinforce your fatigued status.
Well, I hope that this article has been at least amusing, and perhaps infuriating, to the Magic community at large. Hopefully some serious suspensions and banning will come from the DCI soon — because so far, Casey McCarrel is getting off virtually scot-free… And that’s wrong, folks. If enough people stall, maybe the DCI will take serious measures or place chess clocks or similar apparatus at each table. Best to all, and hope to meet some of you at Canadian Nationals. I’ll be the one who will blush if accused of stalling. 🙂