“The Rock” revived in Manila
No, not the deck or the wrestler, but the movie.
As some of you know, some 296 soldiers took over a building in the center of Metro Manila’s commercial district last Sunday, and they negotiated a return to barracks shortly before 10:00 p.m. These were fully-armed troops led by elite junior officers, and bombs were placed in the building. The country ground to a halt and everyone was glued to the TVs.
Fortunately, I live in the next city, but that was exactly the area I interned in last summer. No one had any idea that something like that could happen, and it’s fortunately the great many who sympathized with the young soldiers’ gripes about corruption didn’t take to the streets in a repeat of the demonstrations that ousted Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada. Heck, I was dropping a female classmate home Saturday evening when a couple of trucks loaded with fully-armed troops cut us off very near where I live. It was unnerving, but my classmate just joked there’d be a coup d’etat so classes would be called off Monday. (They were!)
Strangely enough, Manila probably remains a wonderful tourist spot, especially given the exchange rate. In true Filipino fashion, bystanders did check out the massing soldiers, including the rogues, and camera crews circulated freely to get everything, down to soldiers waving with their M-16s. The Philippine Military Academy classmates of the rebels entered the building, tried to talk to them, and exchanged hugs and laughs on camera. The following day, the front pages described the mutinying officers as young, idealistic and good-looking.
Oh, and on the fateful night, the leaders’ mother went to President Gloria Arroyo to beg for an extension of the surrender deadline, accompanied by former president and general Fidel Ramos.
Hard to believe an assault in the biggest mall district would actually have taken place. As one American journalist described the ouster of Estrada, Philippine mobs are as nice as they come (not that the people in the streets appreciate being called a mob).
Of course, we were colonized by the United States for half a century, so I can always joke that we got some of our lunacy from you guys.
The Vintage Conundrum: The Individual
(Classic) BattleTech fans might recall the momentous battle of Coventry in 3058, the victory that set the stage for the unified Inner Sphere strike against the Clans. Faced with an impossible war of attrition, Prince Victor Steiner-Davion turned to Khan Phelan Ward of the Wolf-in-Exile, and received a great military asset.
A single warrior.
And that single warrior was all it took.
Crazy Carl Winter, Hulk Smash, Vintage World Champion
Counters and disruption (11)
4 Mana Drain
4 Force of Will
Other spells (22)
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Mystical Tutor
1 Time Walk
2 Merchant Scroll
3 Cunning Wish
4 Accumulated Knowledge
2 Deep Analysis
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mox Pearl
1 Sol Ring
1 Library of Alexandria
2 Polluted Delta
3 Flooded Strand
4 Underground Sea
3 Volcanic Island
2 Tropical Island
1 Fire / Ice
1 Blue Elemental Blast
1 Mind Twist
3 Coffin Purge
1 Lim-Dul’s Vault
2 Pernicious Deed
1 Artifact Mutation
3 Red Elemental Blast
You might say Carl Winter was all it took to single-handedly win the GenCon Type I Championship, armed with the Paragon-prescribed Hulk Smash evolution, and with the group’s hardcore control players from all around the world present in spirit: JP Meyer, Matt D’Avanzo and Eric Wilkinson from New York, Darren Di Battista, a.k.a. Azhrei from Virginia, Steve Menendian, a.k.a. Smmenen from London, myself from Manila, and Steve O'Connell, a.k.a. Zherbus from TheManaDrain.com.
Congratulations Winter. As predicted, the only question was,”What are we going to do with a piece of Lotus art?”
Congratulations to Shane Stoots, a.k.a. TripleS, who placed second with black splash Vengeur Masque, a deck designed by Paragon Carl Devos from Belgium. Congratulations, too, to Dave Allen, a.k.a. Thorme who made Top 8 with Tainted Mask, and Josh Reynolds, a.k.a. Sliverking who dropped after three bad Hulk Smash mirrors and went on to win the $250 Type I Tournament that same day.
It’s a wonderful feeling, seeing Carl standing there with his Black Lotus sketch (the real painting comes later in the mail), and seeing where Darren’s little e-group led to, from a modest refuge from the whiners and loudmouths of Beyond Dominia years back.
Yeah, yeah – with no less than the annoying Type II card Meyer’s been playing with for the last eighteen months. Seriously, though, it’s hard to dispute Hulk’s effectiveness; it plays the control game as well as any other deck out there, but with cheaper and more consistent components. It’s more focused, eschewing removal and other elements like mana denial for a straightforward Berserked punch. And it races everything up to Phyrexian Dreadnought and out-combos everything else.
‘Tog is a one-card combo, in case you haven’t noticed from its long Type II and Extended runs. The rest of the combo is the cards you draw – something any good Type I deck should have no trouble doing.
When Gush was restricted, I said that whether or not it was the best decision hinged on the performance of two decks come July: Whatever Growing ‘Tog evolved into, and Hulk Smash. You might say I had an answer at the time, but you’ll understand if I couldn’t voice it.
Anyway, my main contribution comes when the dust clears, as usual, and it’s time to gather the underlying intellectual threads of GenCon 2003, and make sense of it for posterity.
Steve painted a picture of the teamwork, so I’ll talk a bit about the individual players’ efforts.
The Individual: Deck Technology
From the above description, it was clear Carl Winter had the best tech going in. His final decklist came a long way from the original list JP cloned off Eugene Harvey’s Extended build. A lot of reasoning put Duress back in, cemented the red splash, fixed the sideboard, maindecked Deep Analysis, and settled a myriad other miscellaneous sub-issues down to Intuition plays and the need for specific cards like Shallow Grave.
A lesson from the Type I Championship, though, is that Magic is not a game of perfect information – in the broad sense.
While not everyone has the benefit of the Paragon think tank and e-mail archives, there is still a vast array of free tech out there that a player can mine if he makes a structured search.
Case in point:”The Deck.”
Readers have e-mailed what happened to it (and I haven’t answered because I set the e-mails aside but inadvertently deleted them), and I can’t give a solid answer because we only have the Top 8 decklists – and”The Deck” was not there.
We get a hint, though, from Ben Bleiweiss metagame breakdown:”…once they get a hand full of Mana Drains, Force of Wills, and Misdirections, the game is just about over for their opponent.”
He wasn’t talking about just one person in particular, so I really have to ask what that was doing there.
Two weeks before the tournament, I wrote a detailed heads-up for”The Deck” players, and it specifically pointed out that there were no Misdirection targets left in the metagame. Rather, the emerging new disruption pick was Duress, a Meyer throwback from a couple of years back.
Had you been following Type I sources in the month before GenCon, you would’ve known that. Had you simply read the article, you would’ve known, too – and it even had commentary on Jamie Schnitzius’s metagamed build that won an Origins tournament.
Lacking decklists, we can only speculate about some control players being a crucial month or months behind in tech. Lacking multiple Brainstorms and Cunning Wishes would result in a severe flexibility reduction, and I know one guy seemed to replace Cunning Wish with Impulse.
Impulse! Again,”format-defining” and”revolutionized how every blue-based control deck played” cannot be reiterated enough!
Lacking Gorilla Shaman, as some dropped in Growing ‘Tog days, would be a grave liability against the many combo and Stax decks.
Lacking the optimal fetch land-based mana base and maybe still having five colors would have hampered consistency.
Heck, I hope no one still had that maindeck Dismantling Blow!
I know a lot of dedicated”The Deck” players switched to what they felt would be a better metagame choice – or to Hulk, simply – or were intimidated by having to play a complex deck consistently for eight rounds. However, I was so personally disappointed by the many who stuck to it, since no one can deny that the information was all there.
A little tech can make or break a matchup, even the difference of a single card.
Even if you assume that having the most up-to-date tech will add just 5% to the rough probability of winning each game, that adds up over eight matches, wouldn’t you think?
We know from the decklists who had solid tech, but let’s take the metagame estimate and play a little more Devil’s Advocate.
Ben Bleiweiss said there were twelve Suicide Black decks there, but his list of spells curiously didn’t have Null Rod. Did the aggro players think to run this one in the face of Stax, artifact mana-heavy combo decks, and Illusionary Mask?
There were twenty-three Sligh decks, and a very inspired Goblin build even hit the Top 8. Did everyone pack the proper anti-aggro measures, or was more than one player killed too easily by a Reckless Charged Goblin Piledriver?
Let’s be a bit more pointed.
Out of ten Academy Rector-based decks, half still had the original Illusions of Grandeur + Donate combo instead of Tendrils of Agony. I understand it had something to do with Sphere of Resistance, but did I also understand there was an eleventh guy who did not pack Yawgmoth’s Bargain for Rector?
Harsher question to the Academy players: Half of the eight still seemed to be with dated Neo-Academy instead of retooling around Mind’s Desire.
A lot of people asked why the much-hyped combo decks were barely represented in the Top 8. I’ll have to ask who took ProsBloom (Squandered Resources + Natural Balance + Cadaverous Bloom + Prosperity + Drain Life), a six year-old archtype that was never streamlined enough for Type I, ever.
Moving to other categories, why did I see something that sounded like Super Grow in one Feature Match, quite a long time after Growing ‘Tog has come and gone.
The Type I Championship’s upper brackets made for a very challenging gauntlet of decks, but from the breakdown, you ask too many questions to give the 183-person turnout full credit (but not to say that, say, a hundred is anywhere near poor).
Again, despite all that information out there, how many”The Deck” players were really playing”The Deck” that day?
The Individual: Metagame Knowledge
My”The Deck” writeup for July 2003 didn’t advocate a particular decklist, but described a range of choices. A lot of your decisions, regardless of the deck you played, would have depended on your metagame projection.
“Know thyself,” said Sun Tzu, but that was just half of it.”Know thy enemy” rounds it out.
In other words, even the best tech advantage dulls if the player misreads the field. More importantly, you’ll be caught clueless after boarding, and you play more games in that configuration.
Again, it’s easy to see that the Paragons read the metagame perfectly (well, except for the Dragon). If you casually followed the Type I traffic over the preceding month, so would you.
First, Academy Rector was one of the most anticipated cards, making graveyard removal even more important than when every deck first had to pack it against Tools ‘n’ Tubbies. No problem, Carl Winter had three Coffin Purges ready, which could all be fetched and recycled off Cunning Wish Game 1. (He didn’t have Stifle, Orim’s Chant, or something similar against the weaker Mind’s Desire-based builds, but that’s because you could disrupt them and keep them down, barring random mana-mana-mana-Storm topdecks.)
Second, Stax received a lot of mileage especially after Origins, making artifact hate important. Carl had Artifact Mutation, which was also Wishable, and this breaks any Tangle Wire or Smokestack lock. Pernicious Deed was in the board to sweep, too.
Third, Blood Moon was also expected, and every deck that could would use it as an easy sideboard against every control and combo deck. Carl had two basic Islands and the usual”The Deck” tech of Cunning Wish and Blue Elemental Blast.
Carl was even more than prepared for the mirror match, with Intuition for Deep Analysis maindecked – and true enough, his toughest matchup was the Hulk mirror. He even had a ready script for anti-Hulk cards. Maze of Ith, for example, could be neutered with Cunning Wish for Ice (Roland Bode’s original tech), or even a pump to twenty, Time Walk, pump to ten and Berserk finish. The rest of the Wish targets could handle surprise utility creatures, plus a too-early pair of weenies or Phyrexian Dreadnought.
Now, you had to be prepared for at least the three July 2003-specific issues above in addition to the usual issues, and you’ll see most of the Top 8 had something. Heck, Kevin Cron even had Divert (yes, initially my eyebrows shot up, too) to hedge against the Artifact Mutations and other lockbreakers that would be boarded against him.
Now, those twenty-five”The Deck” players are hopefully in bathed in tears of remorse at this point (Let Menendian call me geriatric, will you? Hang up your Moxen in shame!) so we’ll pick on someone else.
[email protected] de Graff, Goblin Sligh, 7th Place, GenCon 2003 Type I Championship
4 Goblin Lackey
4 Goblin Cadet
4 Mogg Fanatic
4 Raging Goblin
4 Goblin Piledriver
3 Siege-Gang Commander
Burn and pump (16)
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Chain Lightning
4 Goblin Grenade
4 Reckless Charge
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Mox Ruby
4 Barbarian Ring
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Wooded Foothills
1 Volcanic Island
4 Rack and Ruin
4 Null Rod
3 Blood Moon
Whoa – and Roland Bode and I both thought only Roland Bode plays Gobbos for fun! I confess, I initially thought [email protected] was a jerk, what with the @, the power card mashing during shuffles, and the janky Type II card that was Siege-Gang Commander (yes, guilty, Psychatog, fine). I was soon told, however, that he was a nice guy with a nicer story.
It goes that he arrived completely clueless in GenCon, so spent Thursday and Friday just watched all the tables. Carl Winter e-mailed that it was funny, since people brought out their alternate decks – Carl himself was playing with a dated, un-teched Hulk – so it was a lot of combo and combo hate. Nevertheless, it’d give you a good idea, and you can see my three basic points covered by [email protected]’s inspired build (Rack and Ruin against Stax, Null Rod against combo, and basic land against Blood Moon – though I’d just like to ask if he sided Scald and Blood Moon in against the same decks). Not only that, Siege-Gang Commander is actually great against Smokestack and Tangle Wire as seen in the feature matches, though that was probably not intentional and put there for synergy with Goblin Piledriver (like Raging Goblin, though I’d prefer the Pups).
Better late than never – but Jamie Schnitzius won Origins handily with the same scouting, right? So more power to you, [email protected], and we admire your balls for playing a deck one step removed from Stompy – just as we revile the”The Deck” players who may have complacently skimped on the anti-aggro.
(Seriously, [email protected] just became the poster boy of budget players everywhere, and it’s well-deserved. I named Stompy because Goblin Sligh really is one step away in terms of narrow aggro strategy, so don’t mistake this for condescencion. Roland and I had a light IRC moment over this decklist.)
Richard Mattiuzzo, Dragon, 4th Place, GenCon 2003 Type I Championship
Combo pieces (13)
4 Worldgorger Dragon
1 Ambassador Laquatus
3 Animate Dead
3 Dance of the Dead
4 Squee, Goblin Nabob
4 Bazaar of Baghdad
4 Force of Will
1 Ancestral Recall
1 Time Walk
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Vampiric Tutor
1 Rushing River
1 Black Lotus
1 Mox Jet
1 Mox Sapphire
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby
1 Mox Emerald
1 Mana Crypt
1 Sol Ring
1 Strip Mine
4 Polluted Delta
4 Underground Sea
3 Underground River
4 Illusionary Mask
4 Phyrexian Dreadnought
4 Phyrexian Negator
3 Tormod’s Crypt
If [email protected]’s deck came together well, I’m afraid I have a little criticism against Richard, also known as Shockwave and an old #bdchat and Mana Drain hand. Many Type I players feel that the restriction of Entomb was wholly unnecessary since Dragon was one of the weaker combo strategies. Although Red Elemental Blast is not completely effective against it, consider that Swords to Plowshares brutally hoses it, for example. Roland, who tried to develop his own variant of Dragon a long time ago, felt the decklist was mediocre, and I agree somewhat based on metagame considerations.
(I don’t know if the above decklist is accurate as it’s not at sixty cards; the original listed two Ancestral Recalls.)
First of all, I mentioned that every forewarned player was packing some kind of graveyard hate aimed at Academy Rector. Thus, it seems pointless to run a rogue deck that will run smack into all that hate. In fairness, the above Dragon build dodges a few anti-combo cards such as Arcane Laboratory, Meddling Mage (for Burning Wish against BangBus) and Sphere of Resistance – but as you saw, Carl Winter triple-Coffin Purge strategy worked wonders in the Semis.
Second, the Bazaar and Compulsion draw engine is an inspired choice that dates back to Koichiro Maki’s PandeBurst, but running this with the transformational sideboard looks weak. Again, I’d keep my Swords to Plowshares or some other instant removal against Dragon, because responding to its trigger with Swords removes all the Dragon player’s permanents. Thus, the decks you’d transform against aren’t as surprised as you think.
Third, you do see Tormod’s Crypt there against the Rectors, but little else against other combo decks. Note that a lot of decks have been increasing the disruption count and adding Duress; Richard has just four Force of Will to fight with.
Fourth, he had just basic Island and a single Rushing River to try to head off Blood Moon, and not a lot of tutoring. Blood Moon did singlehandedly defeat him in Game 2 of his quarterfinal match against Kevin Cron. Note, again, that his only protection was four Force of Will, and further that Blood Moon shuts down his Bazaars as well. Fortunately for him, he had one of two instant Necromancies in hand for Game 3, thwarting Tangle Wire.
Thus, while the deck is solid, you might agree with me that it ignores a lot of metagame factors (again, as opposed to a lack of deckbuilding skill). Richard still went all the way to the semis, but maybe it could’ve been easier.
I’m sure you can spot a few other metagame moves even with just the Top 8 decklists and the coverage. For example, compare Ryan Austin and Kevin Cron’s sideboard strategies for the Stax mirror. Ryan had three Rack and Ruin, basically. Kevin, however, had a Rack and Ruin, a Shattering Pulse, and three Fire / Ice to hit the crucial Goblin Welders (and probably pesky weenies like Goblin Lackey while he was at it).
On the other hand, a forever anonymous”The Deck” player sent me a confession via private message. Not as familiar with Stax, he forgot to side out Misdirection against it – and Stax has just the single Ancestral Recall for a Mis-D target.
Next time StarCityGame covers a big Type I tournament, I’ll make sure to have a bottle of 80-proof brandy beside me before I read. A big bottle…
The Individual: Play Skill
This last one is the most obvious one, but also the one that no one can just translate into HTML and post on StarCityGames. I tried, and whipped up a quick set of refresher scenarios that covered everything from Rector to Hulk. Sadly, it wasn’t enough for some people, and the rest of the Magic community was there to see it.
Again, Carl, a veteran”The Deck” Paragon, had play skill ready, and he polished any rough edges before heading to Indianapolis. He had all the scripts in his head, except maybe for Dragon. There was no”world’s best topdecker” about Carl. This is Type I, broken things happen – but chance favors the prepared mind.
Contrast it with what The Ferrett – and quite a number of people – called the comedy of errors that was Vintage.
It’s really too bad that Ferrett couldn’t resist the temptation to feature Roy Spires, a.k.a. Random-Miser in Round 1. (But who could? Especially since you had to catch him fast before he dropped.) With one of the lousiest mana bases in the game, who keeps a hand with just Mox Ruby for the colored mana source? Then walks Sedge Trolls into Lightning Bolts without a Swamp in play? And so on.
And I’m afraid I have to indict his opponent as well. What kind of Sligh player keeps a hand of Gorilla Shaman, Incinerate and all land? (One that wins that game against Incredibly Crappy Troll, apparently.)
Of course, we assume that not everyone is Roy Spires. As Morphling.de webmaster Oliver Daems put it,”Miser’s 1-2 drop is better than expected ;)” However, in one of the most embarrassing ways, some players were on the same level as Miser.
In that historic winning match against Sligh, for example, Roy had to call a judge to explain how to stack his and an opponent’s upkeep effects, which is very basic since effects like The Abyss are common. However, it appears he could have done a lot worse.
Ferrett called out [email protected] on a painful Quarterfinal error. He could have responded to the Smokestack sacrifice during his upkeep by using Barbarian Ring, but didn’t know he could, and went on to lose the match.
The Semifinals were even more frustrating. Ryan Austin, it was revealed, didn’t know that you could pay for the costs Sphere of Resistance added with Mishra’s Workshop. Now this bordered on ridiculous because they were both in his own deck, and that ruling has been around since 1995, for Powersink and Nether Void, in fact.
All very basic rules notes, and all blunders at crucial moments.
Lesson: Knowing the relevant rulings on your own cards, at the very least, is just par for the course.
But there’s a lot more.
There were subtle play mistakes made, and the StarCityGames commentary didn’t catch all of them. Here’s one heartbreaker I immediately pointed out to Steve Menendian:
“Richard started off game three with a couple of Moxes and a Time Walk, but did nothing on the extra turn besides drawing a card. Kevin used that freaking broken Workshop and played a Tangle Wire. Richard cast Intuition in response to Tangle Wire on the stack, getting double Dragon and Ambassador. The Dragon went into his hand, and Richard showed the Necromancy for the turn 2 kill.”
Did you see it?
Basically, the deck needs only one Dragon in the graveyard to go infinite, so it doesn’t matter how many there are in there. Thus, there’s no reason not to let him keep Ambassador Laquatus in hand, unless you’re letting him hit the graveyard so you can Coffin Purge it away. Had Kevin done that, Richard would still need a Compulsion or Bazaar to discard it. Desperate, but anything is better than losing, right?
This is a very subtle error, though, especially considering the lack of serious Dragon play for a long time plus the strain of hours of Magic. There were a lot of other errors that make you ask whether the players had their eyes open, aside from the string of comments in Ryan Austin’s Semifinals match.
The most common was immediately using Wasteland on a dual land, without an obvious purpose such as having two plus a Shaman in hand. This was worse where the opponent had special lands like Bazaar and it was too early to tell if they were mana light and if that situation could be exploited.
How about this? You are playing Rector-Trix (Illusions of Grandeur + Donate), and your opponent casts Duress, taking Donate. You curse your hand, because you now have nothing but land and two Illusions.
I won’t comment. Instead, I’ll quote Michael Bower, a.k.a. mikephoen’s original Trix primer for Beyond Dominia, written in 2000:
Trix is a difficult deck to play correctly…
Here’s another sample draw:
Illusions of Grandeur
Red Elemental Blast
Take a few moments to consider how to play this hand. If you answered”Paris this thing, it’s a piece of crap!” then you may be a Trix player. It may look tempting to play the Sol Ring with the Mox on turn 1, drop the Crypt turn 2 (assuming you don’t top deck land) and play the Illusions, burning for one. Then pay the upkeep turn 3 and donate the Illusions.
Turn 3 kill, right? Unless you know your opponent has no Disenchant-type effects, no counters, no life gain, and no discard effects, this is a pretty risky move. Most likely a counter or Disenchant will ruin your day if you kept that hand.
It was good three years ago, and it’s still good today.
Moving to another combo, who plays PandeBurst (see Dragon reasoning, above) and boards in Meddling Mage against Forbiddian, then names Burning Wish against a non-ICT player who pitched a Cunning Wish to Misdirection the previous game? (This was a tech move, but only against BangBus and Yawgmoth’s Will for all those Lion’s Eye Diamonds.) And then names Yawgmoth’s Will, to boot, against a deck that didn’t seem to have black?
Certainly, a lot of players were looking at whoever stuck to combo after the Thursday and Friday tournaments, and I said I wasn’t writing off the new Storm-driven designs yet. I hate to say it, but it’s because it may not have been the likes of Roland Bode you’re pinning combo’s reputation on. Oliver Daems e-mailed to remind me that these combo decks are extremely complex, and he isn’t fully confident he can play them to the edge of the envelope (and he’s considered a fine combo player on the other end of the Atlantic).
We did have, at least, Kenny Oberg, who played perfectly (though I can only make this conclusion after three incredulous e-mails to him). Yes, he lost to Sligh playing combo, and your first reaction is, "What a moron." However, it appears he really couldn’t draw anything but land against [email protected], but maximized his chances, anyway.
You might’ve seen the unbelievable Game 1, where he lost to Mogg Fanatic. It was really the best he could’ve done, after having no play despite Necro’ing up to fourteen cards. He was down to eight life and tried to set up a second Tendrils of Agony, leading with Dark Ritual. He even cast Brainstorm and Necroed away the top two cards instead of using Impulse to flush them away, because the former play digs deeper. Despite a Brainstorm and two Impulses, though, the last Impulse only grabbed Vampiric Tutor, and he had to go down to three life (against Raging Goblin and Mogg Fanatic) and hope the opponent would somehow forget to use Fanatic and let him play the bomb.
Yoda he wasn’t, but he still didn’t concede.
His Game 2 was equally unbelievable, and you should hear it from him since even I initially thought he was a scrub who didn’t know what a mulligan was:
In the second game, my opening hand contained Land, Duress, Fetch, Therapy, Mana Vault, Black Lotus, Brainstorm, Impulse. The only Non-mana-producing cards I drew that whole game were both Blue Elemental Blasts. I played two Brainstorm that game, but it did not matter. For the Impulse, I even put three lands on the bottom of my library, and the last Brainstorm gave me three mana producers. And all my draw steps gave me mana.
Tough luck, but I was humbly informed Kenny is the #1 ranked player in Sweden (I’m also told that high Type I ratings actually mean something in many parts of Europe), and he won his GenCon airfare off Chris Flaaten’s tough Norwegian crowd. Unfortunately, while we’d love to hear more from the Swedes in the future, Kenny was an outlier, and we can’t draw general conclusions about combo’s performance from him. (It was a Vintage World Championships where the world wasn’t really invited, as a ManaDrain wisecracker put it.)
In summary, while some solid Mana Drain regulars were spotted at the top tables at GenCon, the coverage revealed a lot of embarrassing plays, and it’s not the kind of publicity we want if we want the format to be taken seriously. And again, some of these blunders were seen in the semifinals, and on the level of not knowing you can play Basking Rootwalla using Wild Mongrel.
The Individual: Putting it all together with Andy Stokinger
Success isn’t a 100% improvement overnight. It’s a 1% improvement day after day.
The above lessons (some learned the very hard way, but learned nonetheless) show exactly this. Assume every person has a 50% chance to win. If he can push that up by 5% by improving tech, another 5% by teching up for the right metagame, and milking another 5% out of play skill, you suddenly push your ratio to two-thirds.
Little things add up.
In the closest duels, in fact, it’ll be the little things that make or break. You might remember my “Head to Head: Growing ‘Tog” with Steve Menendian piloting aggro-control. The featured game ended with these lines:
Facing another deck that’s broken as hell and forced to recover from a first-turn Library on the wrong side of the table, stunted mana development, and a bum Yawgmoth’s Will,”The Deck” plays out the battle to a single probability play, and the scales are tipped slightly in its favor.
Time seems to slow to a halt one both ends of the Pacific Ocean as the imaginary coin spins in the air…
Steve won, but it was very clear that play skill cancelled out in that feature. It hinged, actually, on him having one more or one less counter, and his tuned build sported all four Misdirections. The deck I used then was completely unmetagamed, but using Duress at that time would have made a difference, too.
(Chris Flaaten e-mailed that he misjudged the metagame at the Norweigian GenCon qualifier. Had he correctly predicted the many Growing ‘Tog decks, he would have ditched Growing ‘Tog himself and played”The Deck,” and had a merry time boarding in Red Elemental Blasts and Swords to Plowshares.)
Winning a mirror with superior play… Winning a bad matchup with superior sideboard cards… Winning a good matchup that was made good by up-to-date tech…
Little things add up.
Apparently, however, despite the success of the first Type I Championship with a record-breaking 183-man turnout, there are still a lot of little things we need to polish as a community – and I’m talking to more than 183 people. I’m sure you all saw Andy Stokinger’s little comment and wondered what it was doing there:
Type One is like a sealed pocket of non-resistance. For the most part, the format has stayed non-competitive for the last seven years or so since they have started developing other formats. People have only been playing type one on a relatively casual level up until now. It’s time for the”Pro Tour 1 Decks” of Type One to be created. There is going to be a metagame there once real and widespread testing groups start testing, but there isn’t yet.
You wonder where Andy was coming from because, ironically, he netdecked his own Stax build off Steve Menendian, and StarCityGames was posting metagame overviews weeks in advance. It was Eric“Danger” Taylor who commented that Type I moves like molasses a few years back, immediately after the Sydney Invitational… But that was also the time when Beyond Dominia was expanding and a solid Type I community was consolidating.
Again, years ago.
No real testing groups? Who built your deck, Andy?
The little piece meant well, but it came off obnoxious and hypocritical. Heck, it came off like the Magic equivalent of parachute journalism, where a Pro player drops into another format and starts voicing the first things that come to mind.
It’s all old, really.
I covered a lot of it a hundred and one columns ago, discussing why you shouldn’t Force of Will a Channeled Fireball.
However, much as we to admit it, Andy’s outsider viewpoint has a kernel of truth underneath.
You just had a turning point in Type I, and you saw great play, awesome tech, and the efforts of one great team among others. However, again, you also saw a lot of outdated and obsolete tech, ignorance of the metagame, and inexplicable blunders.
None of these comments should dampen the enthusiasm built during GenCon 2003, but they should serve as a challenge because enthusiasm alone will not sustain Type I. If you want to move its reputation beyond a”casual” format, then you have to do your homework and brush up on your skills when the time comes to strut your stuff, since the Feature Matches aren’t at the top tables alone. Again, the Internet makes it easy, anyway.
I believe that”casual,” in our Type I context, should refer to a love for a format you can play on a slower pace, one that doesn’t demand daily trading, weekly deck switches, and hours of regular playtesting. It shouldn’t imply a lower caliber of skill. GenCon highlighted the very best of Type I outside the game, a banter and camaraderie in a hall full of fans. It showed the important thing, that Type I is fun, but remember that you’ll have more fun with a fuller understanding of the game.
It’s up to all of you to make this little philosophy the norm.
Anyway, Ferrett emphasized that Andy Stokinger was the only Pro he could find in GenCon. I’ll note, however, that Andy is far from the only Pro in Type I. Back in the day, Alex Shvartsman enlisted Beyond Dominia regulars for his Invitational Type I playtesting. Patrick Chapin participated in #bdchat on mIRC. Tom Van de Logt has an account on The Mana Drain. To this day, John Ormerod loves dropping short e-mails about Type I picks with each new expansion.
(Mike Pustilnik’s infamous Keeper deck? Hello? – The Ferrett)
Perhaps the most interesting anecdote involves Kai Budde. He was supposed to lend cards to a friend for the July 21, 2002 DÃ¼lmen, but his friend didn’t show so Kai decided to play himself. It really was a spur-of-the-moment decision because he arrived with Extended Trix components, Type I power cards, and a really lousy sideboard made up of whatever was within reach.
And so he placed only sixth that day, actually defeating blue-based opponents, but falling to a TnT deck’s first-turn Elvish Lyrist.
I caught him on IRC to ask him about his Type I experience, and he gamely recounted everything. At the end, however, he asked that no one suddenly play up that DÃ¼lmen tournament only because Kai Budde showed up. So we didn’t; we all reported that Kai Budde showed up with this self-admitted godawful Trix deck.
So if it means anything to you, yes, Pros play the same format you do. They enjoy the change of pace just as you do. And, I’m positive they see as much competitive potential as you do.
I also hope you see the above lessons from GenCon in the Pros as well. Apparently, Kai Budde is second-to-none in terms of play skill, but even Kai Budde needs good tech. I can personally attest to Pat Chapin’s own play skill, but he had to admit to a very myopic view of the metagame (and I think he did; he was e-mailing me about Chapin Grow 2003 with a white splash before he suddenly disappeared, and I’m sure he cheered Growing ‘Tog when Bode invented it). So if Kai can’t just randomly walk into a Type I tournament and clean up, there’s no way you can, either.
I hope you’re primed enough for the Paragons’ title defense next year. We’ll be ready for you, so I hope you’re ready for us.
Especially twenty-five forever anonymous”The Deck” players who have some serious reading ahead of them.
E-mail: Rakso at StarCityGames.com
IRC: rakso on #BDChat on EFNet
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