In a couple of hours, I’ll be catching a plane bound for Beijing, and from there, another plane to the Silk Road. See, it’s summer vacation now in the United States, but it’s the middle of the first semester (and typhoon season) here in the Philippines.
Four years ago, when I was a college Senior, I did the same thing and took a month off in the middle of first semester to join this China Synergy Programme, a month-long tour of China sponsored by Hong Kong universities and its Jockey Club. That had to be up there in my list of most recklessly enjoyable college stunts (though I’m not sure it’s because the first time I met my bus seatmate, she was in a mini-skirt length robe and black lingerie, or because I managed to graduate with honors somehow).
So a few hours ago, I called up my Dean, and off I am again-for the China Synergy Reunion Programme.
Sorry if vacations get in the way of this column, but I am just so hoping for more European female students who can’t stand the Oriental heat except in paper-thin sleeveless blouses.
Anyway, let me try to wrap this up and maybe somehow produce a belated anniversary column…
Firing Up Fifth Dawn
Again, our two rules for sizing up new cards:
Is the card more efficient than an established benchmark? (Or, do I get more bang from my buck?)
Does the card do something no past card ever did, and if it does, is this new card playable?
And, for the more general discussion, refer to”Shadow Prices” (see”Counting Shadow Prices“).
Moving to our second-to-the-last category, we examine enchantments the way we do artifacts and utility creatures, though artifacts admittedly have an edge thanks to Mishra’s Workshop and other brown support.
So… you overstock your library with cheap artifacts and somehow win with the ability to swap Black Lotus for Magma Mine and vice-versa? It just sounds so limited that the best it might do is set up a weak combo with Myr Servitor. Okay, so maybe it could actually set up some infinite combo with Black Lotus and Lion’s Eye Diamond. But even then, with an activation cost twice as expensive as Survival, it’s hardly amazing even for just dumping stuff into the graveyard.
Moreover, there’s no cheap artifact analog of Squee, Goblin Nabob.
Eyes of the Watcher
Okay, so I feel guilty about leaving Ben’s pet enchantment all by its lonesome in this segment. But then again, can you honestly tell me why Eyes of the Watcher isn’t all that amazing?
So what do you get from Eyes of the Watcher? You exchange a card to make all your spells cost one more, and you get Scry as a consolation. Now, if you looked up my Soothsaying delusion, you know Scry doesn’t net you any cards.
It’s very easy to convince yourself. Hey, I set myself up with a next counter. Hey, I sent land back to the bottom and topdecked another burn spell. Hey, hey, hey!
Eventually, you’ll realize it’s awkward and you may as well not Spiketail Hatchling yourself since you should be playing with good cards, anyway. Even assuming the first couple of Scrys tips your topdecks just enough to win, doesn’t that just mean something more immediate should’ve been in the Eyes slot?
Firing Up Fifth Dawn: Instants
As for instants, they’re the workhorse class of Type I spells. R&D limits their power to balance their flexibility, so watch for something simple but brutally efficient, like Thirst for Knowledge, for example.
I want one of these just so I can have something with its casting cost in my display binder.
Other than that, the song that’s playing is,”Anything you can do, Hurkyl can do better…” Considering the dearth of Hurkyl’s Recall decks right now, you can take it as a sign. There aren’t any artifacts you’d put all those resources in just to keep untapping, either.
Devour in Shadow
When you talk about instants, you inevitably have to factor in Cunning Wish. It’s cheap enough, it’s an instant, and it’s even been proposed for the restriction list, though the unique mechanic is self-limiting.
Cheap Black removal, even newer ones like Vendetta, have seen a lot of play in Wish sideboards that can’t use White spells (namely Swords to Plowshares). Devour in Shadow isn’t flashy, but it offers a solid alternative to Smother and Diabolic Edict. In general, in fact, it’s nice to have a maindeck-worthy Terror that can off pesky utility creatures more reliably than Edict, albeit one you can’t splash.
Plunge Into Darkness
This readily reminds you of Spoils of the Vault and Tainted Pact, and the seemingly obvious combo here is Academy Rector. Use Plunge as an uber-Impulse that tutors up a Rector, then off the old man with a second Plunge. Amazing, no?
Well, first of all, there’s no longer a need to salivate over an okay effect that can incidentally serve up your own Academy Rector. The combo got that with Cabal Therapy already (long after Urza Block), and Rector still isn’t in the higher tiers of combo at the moment.
Second, while you do get three life, the uber-Impulse option has to eat up a lot of life to be effective. Wait, what do you mean, Oscar, aren’t you an old school player who played ProsBloom casually in that Golden Age when you could cast a forty-point Drain Life while at -2 life?
Okay, bear with me. Your theory would be, although the uber-Impulse eats up all your life, you’ll win the game anyway once Rector is set up. Why Rector, the skeptical Mr. Tan asks? Pretending you have no idea who he is, you laugh in his face and scream:
“Because it fetches Yawgmoth’s Bargain, stupid n00b!”
Oh, Bargain and no life, what a wonderful combo indeed.
Here’s another solid card, and it draws obvious comparisons to Oxidize and Naturalize. Let’s simplify things a bit by assuming you can factor out enchantments, and leave out the argument of Naturalize over Tel-Jilad Justice. So which is better?
I see Justice, though, having potential in a strategy where you need to remove a pesky artifact, but can’t afford to skip a beat, thanks to the free Scry. Maybe Green-based aggro-control is a place to start, since you get disruption that helps you topdeck and maintain the beatdown, where one more turn might have been enough.
Condescend’s strength is similar to Tel-Jilad Justice’s, and you want it in a deck where you just need to keep up the pressure since one or two more turns can clinch it for your quick offense. If anywhere, I’d think about some combo deck where X for one or two is enough disruption, and then you can take advantage of the attached Scry.
Fold Into Aether
Must. Resist. No…
Okay, I have to comment.
This is even worse than Arcane Denial, except it’s less tempting to play.
You have a very inefficient four-mana counter, and you want to give your opponent an even bigger tempo boost by letting him play a creature for free?
Or are you countering your own spells now, like how you once cycled Arcane Denial?
Beacon of Immortality
Okay, technically, this is the most powerful life-gaining instant ever printed.
Of course,”double” is only as impressive as what you already have. Back in Beyond Dominia days, we’d joke every week that my salary was getting doubled, and I was truly proud to keep getting double of nothing.
If you ever consider Beacon as a Wish target, find something more practical since doubling your last shreds of life isn’t much, either.
Well, that’s it for this week. Enjoy this weekend’s big tournament; I’ll be with you in spirit from the deserts of Western China.
Frankly, though, I think it’s a blessing in disguise that I’ll be on vacation (again) while the tournament runs its course, and won’t be in any position to do quick coverage or matchup analysis. This means I don’t have to report Paragons doing an Evil Feeds Upon Itself number.
How did you feel when the Beatles broke up? I ask that question since I doubt the majority of you readers have at least one divorce under your belts. Maybe I should ask if you’ve ever felt like you’ve lost your best friend?
Okay, seriously, you know the Paragons as the team that oozed glory and machismo the last time they held a Vintage Championships. Now, unfortunately, certain personality issues have ripped Type I’s equivalent of PCL apart. Irrevocably, held only by the threads of demoralized but neutral members like myself.
Where you once had the almighty Paragons of Vintage, you now have Team Short Bus (Marc Perez, Dave Allen, Josh Reynolds, and Shane Stoots) and Team Mean Deck (“Crazy” Carl Winter, JP”Polluted” Meyer, Rian Litchard, Steve Menendian, and Steve O'Connell a.k.a. Zherbus). I guess it was inevitable, but it’s just eerie to see exchanges like this.
Sayeth our (well, formerly) own Phantom Tape Worm:
“And by MeanDeck, he means Misreport.
“Believe me, your matchslip tech will not win you anything this time around. I think there’s an elephant in the living room here that really needs to be addressed because everyone is thinking it: the only reason team Misreport was able to do so well at Origins was because Shortbus could not be present. And hear me out, because this is important. Now, I know all of you guys are great players in your own right, and while you can”pwn” your local”n00bs” with your”tech”, the simple fact is you guys just aren’t on the same level as the Shortbus members; you’re not the same calibur of player, and to put be perfectly frank, you’re not as good. I was so happy when Meandeck swept origins, because it gave you guys some legitmacy. After the last two large events that you guys totally scrubbed out in (the ECC and the CCC), the entire vintage community was beginning to doubt your team’s authority.
“Now personally, I can’t blame you guys for scrubbing out like you did at those particular events. Shortbus was there, and I certainly know what that means for a top 8. But perhaps the rest of the community didn’t, and so it has to be said: Meandeck is a phenominal team, their players are leaps and bounds ahead of the standard type 1 player as was evidenced by their showing at Origins. BUT, as good as they are, they really cannot compete on the same level as the Shortbus players. Shortbus is THE team in vintage. Shortbus is America’s Team.
“Meandeck is the second best team in vintage. Meandeck is a number 2, if you will. And maybe I shouldn’t use the term”number 2” because that makes me think of feces…and I don’t want to relate meandeck to feces…or imply that they are a shitty team when compared to Shortbus…although that’s probably a fair statement. Hrm, I guess it is appropriate. But, ya know, I’m not about that, I don’t want to give the impression that you guys suck compared to us…although you certainly did suck at the last couple of events we were both at. But you guys don’t suck, I mean, you guys are really good…you just got owned really really hard by Shortbus last time. Actually I shouldn’t be talking like that, the past is not an accurate predictor of the future, I mean just because you got your asses handed to you by shortbus at the CCC doesn’t mean _neccessarily_ that you are likely to get your asses handed to you again at SCG…even though you guys got stomped at ECG and then got your anuses raped by us again at CCC. I mean…you know…the butt.
“The fact of the matter is the more I think about it, the more I realize just how little a chance Meandeck has of winning anything at SCG. While you guys are the second best vintage has to offer, you guys are an inferior team in the strictest sense of the word. You will come to Richmond in two weeks, our home court, and you will get served, just like you did last time.
“Cue. MY. Music.”
I don’t know, it’s hard to express how I feel, but you can guess it’s everything but tech floating around the Paragon list now. Back in Beyond Dominia days, the comment went that spammers who wanted to trash strategy attacked Darren, while spammers who wanted to attack the community singled me out.
Well, nothing is permanent but change.
To my former compatriots, may you duel with honor. I certainly hope I’m not right in saying I’m glad not to be there when all the bad blood gets splattered around. Matchslip tech and feces, sigh…
Or maybe I am just getting too old and sentimental.
I’ll send you a postcard from China, people.
Oscar Tan (e-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com)
rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
Paragon of Vintage
University of the Philippines, College of Law
Forum Administrator, Star City Games
Featured Writer, Star City Games
Author of the Control Player’s Bible
Maintainer, Beyond Dominia (R.I.P.)
Proud member of the Casual Player’s Alliance