An apology to Spaniards everywhere
I received the following letter in response to my review of Kamigawa lands (see “Championing Kamigawa, Part II“):
rakso said: “Take that, patriarchal, Spanish machismo-influenced Philippine society!”
I live in spain and, while I use to say I am Catalan (Catalonia is a beautiful region in southeastern spain), I think your statement is very unfair. I hoped spain was no more seen as a country where people wear mexican hats, torero outfit and dance flamenco all day.
That was NEVER true.
“spanish-machismo” is bullsh**. We didn’t invent it. It never existed. We’re not latin-lovers. Chinese people dont’ eat babies nor put bamboo sticks between your fingernails. Yankees aren’t as stupid as they seem.
They call it STEREOTYPES. And wise men don’t use ’em. I used to think you were a wise man, a vintage guru and a renaissance man. But the above statement is ridiculous.
Sincerely, your ex-fan:
I made the offending comment while recalling my talk with a mainland Chinese medical student about gender equality in the Chinese medical profession. To explain, the Philippines was colonized by Spain for about three hundred years, and Philippine feminists blame that period for a change in women’s social status. They say, for example, that this was the time the woman was cast as the meek housekeeper whose place was the home and the church. Original Philippine tribal structure, they argue, was not patriarchal as women had their own spheres, especially those pertaining to culture, worship and lore.
And so, today, Philippine political and social commentators commonly decry a “macho culture,” down to the effect of sleazy movies and liquor advertisements.
I hope the comment was taken in the light, self-deprecating spirit it was meant, and apologize to Jair and other Spaniards out there who might have taken offense.
Sigh. My own editor tells me I’ve been in a terrible mood these past two weeks. To tell the short version of the story, after the last Bar examinations on the last Sunday of September, a freshman fraternity brother of mine was mauled by almost twenty members of another fraternity carrying pipes and beer bottles, in the middle of a busy street. Sorority girls actually tried to intervene, but they got pushed and bruised for their trouble. The brunt of the attack was actually directed at a younger brother who was already down on the ground at the time, and he tried to shield the guy instead of running.
Someone hit him on the head with a pipe or bottle, and he spent four days in a hospital. He is now walking around the college with a gigantic head bandage, and you can’t shake the feeling the kid almost died. To add idiocy to lunacy, some disreputable souls spread the rumor that he got into a fight started by those sorority girls.
Championing Kamigawa, Part III
For less insane discussion, let’s go back to 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“).
I always open set reviews with the creatures since they deal largely with Rule 1 and power-to-mana ratios. Today, let’s move on to sorceries, which often open new doors for us, leading to Rule 2. The parallel “Firing up Fifth Dawn” column was okay in hindsight, since its high point was really just Night’s Whisper, which was no Gush even to the most optimistic reviewers.
I think JP Meyer is representative of the initial reaction to Cranial Extraction (see “The Obligatory Vintage Champions of Kamigawa Review“):
“With the mana acceleration in Type 1, this has the potential to make a lot of matchups really random until people mix up their win conditions. While I could see say, 4 Color Control going down to 1 Exalted Angel, 1 Decree of Justice, and 1 Goblin Trenches or Mono-Blue having to beat down with some combination of Ophidian, Control Magic, and Old Man of the Sea, there really isn’t a good way for say, Control Slaver to operate without its Goblin Welders.”
Obviously, Extraction is something that would make you squirm if it hit you, in the same way past search-and-remove-from-library effects did, from Jester’s Cap to Lobotomy and Quash. I’d like to cast the initial reaction in a theoretical discussion, however.
Quoting from the original column:
“Play: You cast Control Magic on an opponent’s creature. He does nothing. WTF?
-1 (Rule 2: Your opponent’s creature leaves his side of the board.)
Total CA: CA (you) – CA (opponent) = 0 – -1 = +1 CA
Play: You cast Bribery on an opponent. He does nothing. WTF?
-1 (Rule 1: Bribery leaves your hand)
+1 (Rule 2: Your opponent’s creature moves to your side of the board)
-0 (Rule 5: The card removed from your opponent’s library isn’t counted.)
Total CA: CA (you) – CA (opponent) = 0 – 0 = +0 CA
With Bribery, the opponent doesn’t really lose anything; again, the creature might have been at the bottom of his library for all he knew.”
Now apply this thinking to Jester’s Cap. While it might feel like rape and there is the old ruling that you can concede at faster-than-interrupt speed so your opponent can’t look through your deck, Jester’s Cap is simply -1 CA – card disadvantage!
Yes, yes, card advantage isn’t everything, and it’s obvious that if you only had three victory cards like the original “The Deck” twin Serra Angels and single Braingeyser (see “The Control Player’s Bible, Part II“), you’re screwed.
But consider why Jester’s Cap is generally useless against an aggro deck.
The most amusing example is Roy “Random-Miser” Spires losing after double-Capping me in one memorable online game (see “Sucking With the Power Nine“), precisely because he failed to get control of the board while focusing his resources on my library. He eventually got killed by Rootwater Thief damage, my last victory condition.
Thus, unless Cranial Extraction strips a card from the opponent’s hand, it is just -1 CA, and you spent four mana and a card to remove cards that the opponent does not yet have access to.
Now, let’s compare Extraction to its closest predecessor, Lobotomy. The original incarnation saw use in slower decks like RecSur (Recurring Nightmare / Survival of the Fittest).
Darwin Kastle, 5-Color Kastle, Dojo Deck to Beat, August 1998
4 Hermit Druid
4 Wall of Blossoms
2 Spike Feeders
1 Uktabi Orangutan
4 Survival of the Fittest
2 Fallen Angel
4 Living Death
2 Tradewind Rider
1 Cloudchaser Eagle
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Wall of Roots
4 City of Brass
Brian Selden, RecSur, 1998 World Championships
1 Thrull Surgeon
1 Spirit of the Night
1 Tradewind Rider
1 Cloudchaser Eagle
1 Orcish Settler
1 Verdant Force
1 Spike Weaver
2 Spike Feeder
2 Uktabi Orangutan
4 Wall of Blossoms
However, you saw Lobotomy more often in sideboards than in main decks. In the same period, further, Mike Donais explicitly wrote that he removed Lobotomy from his Donais U5C control deck, an old archetype I referred to as a “The Deck” inheritor (see “The Control Player’s Bible, Part III“). Mike said:
“I removed all the lobotomies. Lobotomy has single handedly won many games against many decks, like necro prison, bloom, maro-geddon and really any slow control deck. The environment has changed though. People use scroll instead of orb or geddon and lobotomy is not useful for stopping cursed scroll and useless in general against cursed scroll decks. Lobotomy will have to stay in the sideboard. Versus control decks it is good but so is another counter. I have a very strong deck versus control because I have no permanents, lots of counters, 4 whispers and half of my anti creature spells are cantrips (wall of blossoms).”
In the same Dojo report, Mike attributed a stronger game against Sligh to the removal of Lobotomy, precisely following the above card advantage discussion. And note, “…so is another counter.”
From the theoretical discussion, it seems to be best explored in a slower deck, one that can afford the immediate -1 CA and four mana penalty because its longer-term plan can capitalize on the effect. Other decks will just run Duress and try to win before the other copies can come into play, foregoing the additional three mana.
For obvious reasons, this rules out aggro and combo. Aggro-control decks with Blue and Black might try it as a midgame card like some old Counter-Sliver decks, but they aim to win pretty quickly as well. So that leaves control… “The Deck” probably, and possibly others like Control Slaver or some mono-Blue with a small splash, though that weakens the mana base.
There are a couple more considerations, however. First, you have the “Meddling Mage” problem, and you have to practice to name the right card given incomplete information. Second, you have to gauge your metagame, and see if even naming the right card might be suboptimal. There are decks that would lose considerable tempo if Extractioned early enough (Goblin Welder), and some would be unable to win, period (Goblin Charbelcher, Psychatog, and Quirion Dryad to some extent).
However, looking over the archetypes, many are not as easily hosed. Madness decks have multiple threats and enablers. Dragon will likely board in Verdant Force against the decks that would try Extraction. Against control decks, you can try to take Mana Drains or draw cards, but that’s still not dominating, and taking their win cards early is often worrying about the late game when you don’t even have control of the board.
In fact, Belcher aside, consider combo:
MeanDeath, Steve Menendian, “The Case for MeanDeath“, September
4 Gemstone Mine
4 City of Brass
1 Underground Sea
1 Tolarian Academy
1 Black Lotus
1 Chrome Mox
1 Lion’s Eye Diamond
1 Lotus Petal
1 Mana Crypt
1 Mana Vault
1 Mox Diamond
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Sol Ring
2 Elvish Spirit Guide
1 Crop Rotation
4 Dark Ritual
1 Tendrils of Agony
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Tendrils of Agony
4 Xantid Swarm
Here, since the combo player has another Tendrils of Agony in the sideboard, the most damage you can do is name Death Wish. Even assuming you can get the jump on him with Extraction, you lost a card and probably tapped out while he still has Burning Wish and a maindeck Tendrils. Again, modern combo decks have more diverse engines, and are more resilient to disruption.
Parenthetically, Lobotomy was not a complete solution against combo in its time, either. Federico Dato’s famous Pro Tour Rome 1998 report with High Tide described Round 13: “[H]e successfully casts a Lobotomy targeting my MoMa (Mind Over Matter); I eventually win the game thanks to several Turnabouts, High Tides and Time Spirals.”
To end, I think there are two likely outcomes, without discounting that Extraction might find a different niche.
First, Extraction might be a strong card that will not find a place in Type I. In a lot of decks, Duress would do the same job, as explained.
Second, Extraction might find a niche as a one-of bomb to be tutored for, the way Mind Twist and Yawgmoth’s Will run now. One problem I have is that you cannot have too many bombs because they are very conditional, and control decks have become very streamlined over the years. Extraction seems to overlap with some of them such as Mind Twist, which may lead to it losing out in the numbers crunch or used only in a very specific metagame.
Parenthetically, the way unrestrictions have been going, I wonder if Mind Twist will be next. At present, you see it mainly as a “The Deck” bomb, and it’s a dead draw in a number of situations. It’s a conditional card I doubt anyone would run more than one of, and it’s useless in combo.
Pat Kolson, Food Chain Goblins, 4th place, 2004-06-19 Kalamazoo
4 Food Chain
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Warchief
4 Goblin Ringleader
4 Goblin Recruiter
4 Goblin Piledriver
3 Skirk Prospector
2 Siege-gang Commander
2 Gempalm Incinerator
2 Goblin Matron
2 Goblin Sharpshooter
Again, however, I’d like to give you a beginner’s theoretical context. You might have heard of the 1997 ProsBloom deck, whose key cards were Squandered Resources, Natural Balance, Cadaverous Bloom, and Prosperity and other draw cards. Guess which card was banned?
That’s right, Squandered Resources, the first card in the chain.
If you examine combo decks, you’ll notice that it is more important for them to get a lot of mana out first, since drawing a lot of cards follows after that – note threats against them like Null Rod and Trinisphere. What Glimpse of Nature provides a way to draw cards, but not the mana to play them.
Looking at the above decklist, consider what Glimpse of Nature would do in various cases.
First, what happens if Food Chain is not on the table yet?
It may just cantrip itself, and only turns into a conditional Night’s Whisper early if you have two cheap Goblins and three colored mana.
Second, what happens if Food Chain is already on the table? If you already have Goblin Recruiter, then you’re set to go off, and the Goblin Ringleaders in the deck are all you need. Glimpse seems to be a “win more” here, since it’s not integrated into the Recruiter action, and there are Ringleader-Food Chain tricks you can pull against things like Trinisphere to save mana.
Now, what if you have Food Chain but no Recruiter? This is probably the best use for Glimpse, letting you filter through goblins until you can set up the combo.
The question now, however, is whether you would rather have Glimpse over any other card when you have Food Chain but no Recruiter. Note that playing Glimpse in this situation might win you the game that turn, but this is not guaranteed because you might stall and draw mana or some other non-goblin.
Thus, despite the initial reaction, you might very well conclude that Glimpse doesn’t even help as much as Matron or Skirk Prospector. Even in the above narrow situation where you might want to gamble on Glimpse to win in the current turn, you might even get the same effect by, say, boarding in disruption like Blood Moon.
This probably reminds you of cards like Squandered Resources, Rain of Filth in the earliest attempts at Oath of Druids combos, and Renounce in old Yawgmoth’s Bargain decks. The problem, however, is that Mana Seism runs on lands.
As a beginner’s note, we did have old combos that ran on getting a certain number of land into play, like ProsBloom, High Tide, and Palinflare (Palinchron / Mana Flare). However, any combo restricted by the number of land in play today is useless because you can only play one land a turn, and Type I combos now aim to win by turn 1 or 2, after playing just the first or second land.
This is useless given Duress. Moreover, Hymn to Tourach is out of use, and another set of Duress that also costs BB isn’t going to see much use because of the double colored mana and tempo issues.
This is honestly the most useful Arcane sorcery I saw after my first run through the spoiler (after Cranial Extraction, of course), and a White Tranquility isn’t even all that much (and not in Type I). We’ll talk about Splice a bit more when we go to Instants, but there don’t seem to be promising Splice partners due to the higher mana costs, unless you want to talk about Lava Spike.
Token Desert note
Not all of my China trip photos reflected the local culture. Some were just the result of several hundred overseas Chinese students goofing off together. For example, imagine a couple hundred of you bunked in a unisex train, in triple bunks, together with mainland Chinese. You can carry on a good Intellectual Property Law conversation with the Hong Kong law student in the top bunk while everyone walks underneath you.
The plane trip from the desert back to Beijing was even nuttier, and some of the local Chinese students were singing what seemed to be a fusion of Mandarin rap and rock songs in the aisle.
Finally, this is one of my most memorable photos. It’s the only evidence I have of anything intellectually productive in the ten-day trip (that’s half a day spent discussing law and economics, and nine and a half spent goofing off, do the math).
Until next week! I hope!
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