I just finished reading Patrick Chapin 100th article — his retrospective. I’m also at a numeric milestone, and I wanted to look back at notable articles I’ve written. I’ll do it a bit differently — I’ll recap all the things I really wish I hadn’t written. I’ll follow that up with a recap of the Cruise qualifier I ran last weekend, and rave about the cruise itself.
This is YW #250, but it is not the 250th article I have written. (By my count, this is Magic article number 428.) It is not even the 250th article for this site — I have written a bunch of daily and commentary pieces that were not numbered. However, 250 is a nice milestone, so I can get away with a retrospective. (Unless Craig sees this differently…) [250 Yawgmoth’s Whimsies… you’re good to go — Craig.]
Casual Play #1: Change Happens
This was my first article for StarCityGames.com. I had been writing for The Dojo, and it folded. This was also my first set review on StarCityGames.com. Set reviews are always endless sources of stupid comments. It has a few good lines, like this one from Noxious Vapors “Bad card! Go sit in the box with Carnival of Souls. (But… But ANTHONY ALONGI likes it! He knows everything! — The Ferrett)” Unfortunately, I also mention that Skyshroud Blessing might see play in Extended. Don’t remember what that does? Don’t worry, no one else does, either. It saw zero play in any format.
This was part prerelease report, part multiplayer stuff, and part diatribe about another writer’s dreadful article. The part that makes this list, though, is the puzzles section. As I said in my next week’s article: “Based on the lack of responses to the puzzles, I won’t be making that mistake again.”
This was the first article where I talked about the fact that Magic costs a fortune. I also included a list of budget cards worth considering. Remember that I was primarily playing casual and multiplayer here — but the list is still strange. I suggested Balance, Sol Ring, Armadillo Cloak and Treetop Village – as well as Arena, Sleeper’s Robe, Grave Servitude, and Zephid’s Embrace. This 2001 article was the first place I wrote about a no-rares Standard Squallmonger deck that I still have sleeved up, and still use to play against newer players and in multiplayer. The only change is that the deck is now only legal in Vintage and Legacy.
#11B: A Tale of Two Cons, Part II
Gencon, Origins, strange formats. It was pretty much all good. The reason it makes this list: I recommended adding J-Tome and/or Urza’s Blueprints to a Type I Stacker deck. I also speculated about Rejuvenation Chamber and Gamble. On the plus side — this was back in the days of sanctioned Type I games actually occurring.
YW Extra Issues Edition: Don’t Worry, Just Buy the Duals!
I wrote about the relative costs of Standard and Extended, and about rotations. I also wrote about the original dual lands. Here’s why this makes the list: “Wizards understands that the reason that the format is so exciting is that the dual lands make multicolored decks possible – without being broken. They make the format interesting. They are one reason that people who have been playing for a while keep playing. Type 2 may suffer from sets like Masques, but Extended is always interesting. I am convinced that Wizards understands this, and that Extended will continue to be all about several expansions, plus the duals. Blocks may rotate out, although Wizards has not said when this will necessarily happen… But the duals should stay.” The duals will never rotate. Sure.
I talk about the idea and implementation. Among other gems, I explain why set redemption will almost never happen, why Wizards will need some method of selling off commons, and why they should allow proxies. I’m also amused by the fact that this was pretty much the last MTGO article I wrote for several years. Now, by contrast, half of what I write is tested on or derived from online.
This article contains more absolutely hideous decks — both in quantity and (lack of) quality — than pretty much anything else I have ever written. It is over 5,000 words, and every single deck is barely playable. One deck revolves around Transcendence, Oath of Lim-Dul, and Carnival of Souls. It is sad to realize that I once built and played decks like this. (It is sadder to realize that — maybe — I still do.)
I start off with a tribute to Rizzo, since he had just quit writing (for the first time). I then talked about how I was at 60 articles, and might run out of ideas myself and have to quit. Then I go on to talk about why Scapelexis is stupid good, and Spelljack is broken. I also pretty much dismiss Quiet Speculation. Ah, set reviews — it took me years to learn not to do them.
Quick Thoughts On DCI Penalties And Enforcement
My first full article on penalties. It is wrong, in one fundamental way: DCI judges generally do not have the ability or authority to modify the penalty to fit the circumstances of the crime. Note that this was written back before I became a judge. For a more accurate take on modifying penalties, read this: Not that Kind of Judge.
This was one of my classic rants — one following Randy Buehler statement that Green was “too good” and that Wizards was making green the color of fatties. It also spells out “investment theory” — which is actually a very strong concept. The article makes the list, however, because it says that Possessed Aven is (maybe) the best 4cc creature in Standard. That’s quite a statement — when you remember just how good Flametongue Kavu was — and it was in the format.
They Killed Extended! The Bast234ds!
This article had another solid metagame prediction: “On rereading this, I seem to give the impression that a lot of decks will be playable. That would be wrong. I think that the new Extended, like the last several type 2 formats, will have two or three dominant base- blue decks, plus one or two other decks that can abuse a mechanic to stay competitive for a while, until the control decks find an answer. Think early Tempest/Saga with Capsize locks and Draw-Go versus Living Death, Masques/Saga with U/W Replenish and Accelerated blue against Rock, Invasion /Masques with Nether-Go versus Fires and Odyssey/Invasion with Psychatog versus, well, maybe control black right now. I strongly suspect that blue decks will dominate the season, all season. Trick decks will appear, then fade, as blue decks find the appropriate sideboard cards.” Great, except that the format was nothing like that.
The long and the short: he didn’t break. It’s a bad deck. This paragraph about sums it up:
What you end up with is pretty typical black control deck with the Soul Burns and some of the utility removed for Buried Alives, Laquatus’ Champions and Balthors. The advantages of this are threefold.
1. If necessary, you can play beatdown with the Champions.
2. The deck is very rogue. Or rouge. Whatever.
3. You get to go home at a reasonable hour, since you won’t have to play in the Top 8.
Why My U/R Wizards Break Open Deck Wins At Least 80% Of The Time
It was an article on playtesting — and how inbred playtest decks and/or playtesting against people who are not good with the netdecks leads to skewed results. The mistake was including a decklist. Too many people actually paid attention to the decklist, and none at all to this paragraph:
“Oh, yeah – for those of you who skip articles and just look for decklists, I’ll include the Wizards, Break Open decklist. This should, of course, never be played for any reason. I have done no playtesting at all – this is just off the top of my head. And for those of you reading the article, and not just skipping down to the decklist, the following three statements are false.
So here’s the decklist that I would play today. It is absolutely devastating. And if anyone qualifies with it, I’ll send them a foil rare of that person’s choice.”
Another set review, because I had not learned that these instant articles were going to bite you in the ass eventually. In the article, I was happy with Arcane Spyglass, and down on Aether Vial. I also wrote “Modular is a nifty mechanic, but there just isn’t much you could do with it…” (Okay, I finished that sentence with “in casual play.” — but still.
This is a classic tournament report — a lost art, if ever there was one. It was also the last time I did really well at a Type 1 tournament. The reason it makes the list is that I basically let someone misrepresent the rules, didn’t catch it, and lost the finals as a result. That aside, it is an interesting bit of nostalgia — Type I from the days of Oscar Tan writing about Keeper, the original Mana Drain website, and a host of names from the past.
This article on bannings and their impact is good, but it includes this: “White Weenie will not work. In any format. Ever again.” The article — which was written the weekend Skullclamp was banned — also acknowledges that I had written a previous article about Affinity, in which I argued that Skullclamp was not necessary. I ran Tooth of Chiss-Goria instead. I am an idiot.
Questionable decklists and Haiku. Need I say more?
I actually spent time ranting about Unhinged cards being unreasonable. I had some good lines; e.g. “Why Wizards would ever print this is beyond me. I guess it “stretches the design space.” Fine, so does this: …. Wizards, free to “push the design space” over a cliff, if you find that therapeutic. Just don’t print the card.” Still, I was writing about combos based off Unhinged cards — and complaining because some of them were stupid. I must have been really hard up for ideas that week.
Diary of an Online nOOb: Day 1
This five part daily series is not bad — but it has some embarrassing parts. I certainly was a nOOb — and a bad drafter to boot. I was also alternately extremely dense and overly excited at minor triumphs. Fun series, though. (And I have gotten a bit better online.) (On the other hand, MTGO has been the source of some of my really bad articles – like the Pimp my Precon series. [no, that is not a joke. I really wrote them.])
I did an elaborate analysis of the number — and value — of rares in the then-current metagame, and compared that to past formats. I found that the number of rares needed to play a competitive deck was significantly higher. I still don’t know if that analysis was any good, or if it suffered from selection bias. I suspect the later, which is why I mention it here.
There was nothing wrong with this five part series — except that too few people read it. Here’s an extract: “It wasn’t that the deck killed you – it was how it killed you. Affinity is probably the worst thing many of you new players remember. Pirates, when it was working, was almost as bad as Affinity – but slower. If Affinity was like being savaged by wolverines on PCP, Pirates was like being gummed to death by a tree sloth on Valium – the pain lasted forever.” It runs down the most hated decks in Magic: Pirates (a personal choice), Hatred, Trix, Stasis and JarGrim.
It includes both the reason I don’t play Poker, and this gem: “You know what MTGO needs? A trace-route zapper. Remember the old Cyberpunk RPG, where net runners could trigger a defensive program that would backtrack them and burn their brains out? Screw up, and zap! MTGO needs that. Maybe not lethal, but good and unpleasant. With a big, bright Zap Him! icon.”
SCG Daily Movie Review Goes XXX
This series had me turning movies into decks — by choosing cards to represent main characters and plot points, and weaving them all together into a deck. Since I could not actually do Gwendolyn De Corci and a hard-core movie, I did Mary Poppins instead. It was just wrong on so many levels. The end paragraph sums up my thoughts on the movie: “Someday, in the not too distant future, computer gaming will allow us to interact with movies – to become part of the action. The characters will even be able to react to our (virtual) presence. The world of Mary Poppins would make a sweet first person shooter.”
Among other drafting blunders, I worked for long hours in the heat, ate nothing, and had a large gin and tonic (or maybe two) before drafting. Drafting while tipsy, verging on drunk, is not a good plan.
Surviving the Ultimate Extended Tourney
The concept of the tourney was simple: the 32 best Extended decks throughout history, in a single elimination tournament. The tournament was fun to set up and a blast to play. In this article, however, I messed up. I caved in to some vocal forum posters who could not accept that PT Junk could beat JarGrim. After two weeks of debate, I advanced both, and it messed up the last couple weeks.
This is a long analysis of what you can do to improve drafting — or, at least, what I can do to improve my drafting. A big part of it boils down to “pay attention, Pete!” On the plus side, the article did feature some good LOLcats.
Part set review, part Green versus Blue rant — you would think I would have learned by now. Among the highlights is this gem: “Knacksaw Clique – Should be very strong in the Faerie mirror match. It also has a fat butt.” A bonus screw-up: “Oversoul of Dusk –
This will move directly from draft deck to trash rare binder.” What’s worse is that, in the end, the stats for Green and Blue really didn’t come out significantly different.
I was writing about MTGO shortly after the change to version 3.0, during the worst of the problems. This quote “I’m pretty confident that — like serious constipation — the MTGO mess will also pass. In the meantime, the analogy holds at a number of levels.” Was pretty accurate, but excessively crude and harsh. The good thing is that many of the problem have gone away.
Is MTGO Magic Done Right? and Intentional Draws and MTGO
I looked at a number of issues in these two, including chess clocks, timed rounds, failure to agree on reality penalties, intentional draws, etc. The one area that I argued strongly for was Swiss draft queues. Wizards never did Swiss draft queues, but it did try Swiss Constructed 8-man events. They were not terribly successful — certainly not as successful as I predicted. Personally, I found time to play in just two. Now they are gone, and I have not played in a con8 or con4 since.
I should know that this is an argument no one wins. Look, people just open packs because they like to open packs. There is nothing wrong with that — and a fair amount right with it. Sure, some people have more fun doing drafts, mini-masters, whatever. To each his own. Alternatively, whatever floats your boat.
Speaking of boats…
The Cruise Qualifier.
As you’re probably aware, in February there’s a week of serious Magic fun being held on a cruise liner in the Gulf. It is a really cool idea. You get a couple of days on a cruise ship playing all sorts of Magic, plus a couple of days in Mexico to play tourist or just swim and tan on the beaches. It even includes a PTQ and a release party, plus lots of drafting, EDH and so forth. Plus Magic celebrities, like Patrick Chapin, Evan Erwin, Chris Richter and others. Ingrid and I plan on attending. Should be a blast.
If you can — go!
Last weekend, I ran a cruise qualifier. First prize — a spot on the boat, for free. (The rest of us have to pay.)
The tournament had a few interesting moments. We did have some new-to-tournament players, and one who had not played since Ice Ages. I keep thinking that we must be running out of players for whom Magic is familiar, but “the stack” is a new concept. I am less surprised when players misunderstand “summoning sickness.” Twice I had players ask whether they could attack with a creature that had been stolen with Sower of Temptation, and just returned. No — not unless you controlled it during your untap phase.
The semi-final rounds had one epic game. It was Faeries (with two Loxodon Warhammer) verses Kithkin (with Elspeth). The game went long, and the Faeries player had both Warhammers in play. The Kithkin player had resolved Elspeth, boosted her loyalty and played the ultimate ability. At one point, the Kithkin player was bashing with 4 Wizened Cenns, a Knight of Meadowgrain and some random dude. He was hitting for a ton, and gaining 8 or so life a turn. The Faerie player was beating with a flier equipped with both Warhammers, so he was also gaining 20 or so life a turn. Eventually, the Faerie player blocked the Knight with a Bitterblossom token, then Peppersmoked his own blocker to prevent the life gain. Next turn, he ripped a Scion, and was able to attack for 20 or so life — exactly enough to win the game. The Kithkin player came back in game 3, however.
Brian Kowal won the spot on the boat, so add BK to the list of celebrities.
I’ll give BK’s decklist in a minute. First, a short interview.
Me: Hey, BK, nice deck.
Me: What inspired you to create this build?
BK: I was working on another deck, but ran out of time, so I just made a list of all the creatures I wanted to play, and threw them together.
Me: How did your playtesting go?
BK: Matt Danner and I played a couple of games while waiting for the tournament to start.
There you go — a peek into the mind of a Constructed genius.
Here’s BK’s list.
Brian Kowal — Winner
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Knight of the White Orchid
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Murderous Redcap
4 Ranger of Eos
4 Ajani Vengeant
3 Siege Gang Commander
4 Mind Stone
1 Burreton Forge Tender
4 Rugged Prairie
4 Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]
4 Windbrisk Heights
3 Reflecting Pool
4 Vithian Stinger
4 Wrath of God
4 Guttural Response
3 Runed Halo
Here’s the second place list — the one that lost while smashing with a full playset of indestructible Wizened Cenns.
Harrison Ehlers – Second Place
2 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
3 Goldmeadow Stalwart
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Wizened Cenn
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
3 Oblivion Ring
4 Spectral Procession
2 Ranger of Eos
2 Ajani Goldmane
2 Thistledown Liege
2 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Cloudgoat Ranger
4 Windbrisk Heights
4 Rustic Clachan
1 Ajani Goldmane
3 Runed Halo
2 Oversoul of Dusk
1 Thistledown Liege
2 Wilt-leaf Liege
2 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
1 Oblivion Ring
I also spoke with Lindsey Kary, the mastermind behind the cruise, who assured me that there would be plenty of Magic, and no hurricanes.
There will be a couple of cruise qualifiers left — one online (don’t play in that, I want to win that slot) and one at Worlds. Play, if you can. If not, or if you don’t win the berth, just go sign up.
See you on the boat.
“one million words” on MTGO