Before I get started, let me give a shout-out to Star City’s editor (a.k.a. “The Man”) Craig Stevenson for his Top 16 performance at this weekend’s Great Britain Nationals, no small feat amongst a gang of very scrappy Brits! It was great hearing your voice on the podcast coverage too. [Heh, cheers Bennie… although losing my last two rounds when a win in either placed me in Top 8 feels more like a defeat than a victory — Craig.]
Ah, so it’s the season for the Hall of Fame selections for this year! You know, with all the bizarre moves that Wizards seems to be making of late, I’m a little bit surprised that the Hall of Fame has survived (though to be fair, I guess it really isn’t that big an expense). I have to admit, as someone who’s been playing the game and writing about it as long as anyone outside of Mike Flores (by maybe a hair), I’m a bit jealous that I’ve not gotten the opportunity to be involved in the selection process. Perhaps it’s my criticism of Wizards for their Pro-centric bias? Ah well, the price of speaking truth to power I suppose. It is fun though to speculate on whom I would pick if I were on the Selection Committee this year. After dwelling on the list and my own feelings on who deserves the honor of being selected, here are the five names that strike me as worthy additions to the Hall:
Below are the reasons for my selections as someone who’s long been an observer of Magic without ever having the opportunity to know these guys or see them in person, so I fully admit to the possibility of totally having the wrong impression.
Legends of the Game: Hacker, Price, Turian
Finkel, Kai, Zvi, Maher, Olle, Kastle, Buehler, Humphries… most of the guys who’ve made the Hall so far are such legends of the game that you can summon their persona by a single word. Looking over the ballot, there are certainly a good number of people there who could also be considered legends of the game, but there is another criteria I think is important to the game, and that is player integrity. The Hall of Fame is something that is still being “formed” by the makeup of its inductees, but I think most people involved in making this program happen would agree that induction into the Hall should be a great honor; these guys (and maybe one day, gals) are to be people that Magic players through the years will want to read about for inspiration, and aspire to one day stand beside them as one of the game’s greats. For me, greatness isn’t just about play skill, it’s also about sportsmanship and positive contributions to the entire Magic experience. That’s why I totally didn’t buy Mark Rosewater rationale for voting for Mike Long; Mike’s gross lack of integrity and sportsmanship during his heyday should forever bar him from the honor of being a permanent member of the Magic Pro Tour. In terms of integrity, the name that jumps out to me on the list of legends is Dave Price. Not only was he well known for his honest play, he was also a warrior for integrity; Team Deadguy was well known for going after the cheaters and the shady play that was so prominent in the early days of professional Magic. Dave’s story is also inspirational, earning the nickname King of the Qualifiers by often having to qualify for the Pro Tour by constantly hitting PTQs in search of the blue envelope as opposed to riding the Gravy Train. Dave was a “workingman’s pro” in that manner that I think it more accessible to most Magic players than the superhuman play skills of a Finkel or Kai. Dave also gave back to the Magic community in his writing and editing for a budding Magic web presence.
Rounding out the list I’d pick Brian Hacker and Mike Turian; both of these guys certainly qualify as legendary names from the early pro tour, and both are “characters” that I’d love to read about dropping in on random future Pro Tours. Hacker was an early pioneer of Limited formats at a time when the conventional wisdom was that they weren’t very skill intensive, and he wrote killer tournament reports. Turian is considered one of the best Limited players to ever play the game, and in the coverage he always seemed to be having an absolute fantastic time; then he hopped over to having a ball making the game.
For the Love of the Game: Snepvangers and Ruel
For me, love for the game of Magic is very important, and nothing draws me to a pro player than when he so obviously enjoys actually playing Magic. So we come to Bram Snepvangers – the man has played in 54 Pro Tours, including the most recent Pro Tour: Hollywood! This guy strikes me as someone who would play Pro Magic until his nursing home doctor finally put his foot down and ordered him to permanent bed rest for his remaining golden years. So let’s give him the chance! And last there is Olivier Ruel, whose passion for the game and longevity is also legendary. Both of these guys I have no doubt would totally use their permanent place on the Pro Tour to keep playing the game they love.
Block Constructed for PTQ
Last week I mentioned the “deck tech” from GP: Denver featuring Conley Woods‘ Kelpie deck. I found it really exciting since I’d been kicking around the idea that River Kelpie hadn’t been getting the respect it deserved as a card advantage engine, not only just for Persist cards and Makeshift Mannequin, but the also the new Retrace mechanic. Conley finished up in 34th place, well out of Top 8 and therefore well off most people’s radar, but considering there were 600 people there, 34th is a great performance for a rogue deck. In case you missed the coverage, here is the Kelpie deck:
Conley Woods (34th)
4 Secluded Glen
4 Sunken Ruins
2 Puppeteer Clique
3 River Kelpie
4 Soul Snuffers
4 Cryptic Command
4 Makeshift Mannequin
2 Profane Command
4 Raven’s Crime
1 Oona, Queen of the Fae
1 Puppeteer Clique
3 Sower of Temptation
1 Syphon Life (he stated in the coverage this was not helpful)
Conley’s deck is basically a Makeshift Mannequin deck… and here we go with Cryptic Command again! My approach is different, but what intrigued me the most was his use of 4 copies of Raven’s Crime. This is a card I think has a lot of potential in a deck designed to maximize its effectiveness, and combined with Thoughtseize ought to be a beating against these Cryptic Command decks (at least, that’s the theory). Here’s my take on it, with a distinctively more Retrace flair:
Yep, that’s a lot of lands, but you want enough lands to both develop your mana and retrace Crime early on, with Tilling Treefolk in the mix to keep the retrace action (or later game mana development) flowing. I have to admit to being smitten with Spitting Image, and the idea of making a Sower of Temptation or Shriekmaw turn after turn after turn — after having stripped away my opponent’s hand with Crime and Thoughtseize.
I ended up trimming the Kelpies for the earlier play potential of Mulldrifter, and Oona’s Grace, a card I saw in action this weekend and was highly impressed – it was like all your lands were given cycling 3! With the addition of Mulldrifter, you have to ask yourself why not play Reveillark? Well, why not indeed? How about trading a land or two for some extra Reveillarks? Kelpie just kept getting muscled out the way, but she’s still hanging on to a few slots.
While I know Makeshift Mannequin is a potent card on the back of its instant-ness, I have a hunch that, in this sort of deck, Spitting Image is just flat out better; not only does it play nicely with all your comes-into-play special ability creatures, but it can also pick some handy stuff on the other side of the board. Take advantage of the legend rule and nuke your opponent’s Oona or Vendilion Clique. Take to the air with Demigod of Revenge or hold the ground with Cloudthresher.
I may still put a few Mannequins in the sideboard though for the Faerie matchup.
I’ve got another version of Raven’s Crime/Retrace featuring Creakwood Liege I’m still fleshing out, but the idea of stripping your opponent’s hand and then making Spitting Image copies of Creakwood Lieges turn after turn after turn sounds like muy bueno times indeed!
Very Limited Limited Skills
Before I sign off, I wanted to again demonstrate my pathetic Limited skills in the hopes that some of my more learned readers could help me perform better. This past FNM I got the opportunity to play Shadowmoor/Eventide Sealed Deck for the first time.
Here was my cardpool:
Artifacts: Trip Noose, Hoof Skulkin, Wingrattle Scarecrow, Thornwatch Scarecrow
Black: Merrow Bonegnawer, Sickle Ripper, Disturbing Plot, Talara’s Bane, Crowd of Cinders, Loch Korrigan, Ashenmoor Cohort
Green: Viridescent Wisps, Nurturer Initiate, Presence of Gond, Tower Above
Red: Flame Jab, Bloodshed Fever, Heartlash Cinder, Puncture Blast, Elemental Mastery, Wild Swing, Hotheaded Giant, Ember Gale, Blistering Dieflyn, Impelled Giant
Blue: Banishing Knack x2, Drowner Initiate, Briarberry Cohort, Spell Syphon, Consign to Dream, Parapet Watchers, Advice from the Fae, Dream Thief, Merrow Wavebreakers, Whimwader
White: Niveous Wisps, Mine Excavation, Safehold Sentry, Springjack Shepherd, Cenn’s Enlistment, Kithkin Spellduster
Red/Green: Fossil Find, Giantbaiting, Boggart Ram-Gang, Boartusk Liege, Mudbrawler Raiders, Morselhoarder, Loamdragger Giant
Red/Black: Ashenmoor Liege, Cultbrand Cinder
Red/Blue: Call the Skybreaker
Red/White: Battlegate Mimic, Waves of Aggression
Green/Blue: Slippery Bogle, Favor of the Overbeing, Snakeform, Grazing Kelpie, Sturdy Hatchling
Blue/White: Zealous Guardian, AEthertow, Glamer Spinners, Thoughtweft Gambit, Nip Gwyllion, Restless Apparition, Harvest Gwyllion x2
White/Green: Barkshell Blessing, Safehold Elite
Green/Black: Rendclaw Trow, Canker Abomination, Noxious Hatchling, Gift of the Deity
Black/Blue: Wasp Lancer
First off, as a Constructed fan, I was profoundly disappointed I didn’t crack open any hot rares, but the rares looked to be pretty decent for Limited… and decidedly Red. Coupled with Flame Jab and Puncture Blast, Red was going to be the biggest color (though not quite so deep that I could go Mono-Red). When casting about for a color to pair with the Red, I was torn between Green and Blue, and ended up going with Blue because of the additional removal spells along with the Q-shenanigans offered with Merrow Wavebreakers.
This is what I played:
Artifact: Trip Noose
Green: Presence of Gond
Red: Flame Jab, Puncture Blast, Elemental Mastery, Wild Swing
Red/Green: Boggart Ram-Gang, Boartusk Liege, Mudbrawler Raiders, Morselhoarder, Loamdragger Giant
Red/Black: Ashenmoor Liege
Red/Blue: Call the Skybreaker
Blue: Banishing Knack x2, Briarberry Cohort, Consign to Dream, Merrow Wavebreakers
Blue/Green: Snakeform, Grazing Kelpie
Blue/White: AEthertow, Glamer Spinners
18 lands: 9 Mountains, 7 Island, 1 Forest, 1 Sapseep Forest
It was probably dumb to squeeze in Presence of Gond, but I’ve had good luck with the card in Shadowmoor Limited and wanted a little extra juice for my Wavebreakers. I ended up going 0-2 before Mr. Bye gave me my first win (so much for trying to play-to-learn), and then managed to win my last match in three hard-fought games. Most of the time I felt just outclassed on the creature front, especially in the early game. If I survived the mid-game I had a fighting chance, especially the one time where I played turn 4 Mudbrawler Raiders, turn 5 Boartusk Liege, turn 6 Ashenmoor Liege. Beats!
I did “live the dream” one game by slapping Elemental Mastery on Ashenmoor Liege, tapping to make four 2/2 hasty dudes each turn.
In retrospect I think perhaps I should have gone with Red/Green instead; I could keep Snakeform and Grazing Kelpie, while adding some additional creature choices. Is it worth losing the Knacks and Consign to Dream? I really have no idea. What do you think? And do you think my card pool was on par for the format, below or above par?
One interesting twist, while I was writing up this section I realized that I could actually build a Mono-Green deck out of this card pool, check it out:
1 mana: Nurturer Initiate, Slippery Bogle, Barkshell Blessing, Fossil Find
2 mana: Trip Noose, Safehold Elite
3 mana: Boggart Ram-Gang, Rendclaw Trow, Hoof Skulkin, Tower Above, Presence of Gond, Giant Baiting, Snakeform
4 mana: Boartusk Liege, Mudbrawler Raiders, Grazing Kelpie, Canker Abomination, Sturdy Hatchling, Noxious Hatchling
5 mana: Gift of the Deity
6 mana: Morselhoarder, Thornwatch Scarecrow
7 mana: Loamdragger Giant
17 lands: 16 Forest, 1 Sapseep Forest
Is this worth doing? It doesn’t seem too bad actually, even if you are leaving some good stuff on the bench.
Okay, that’s it for this week, join me next week as I hone in on my deck choice for the Richmond PTQ on August 30th, god help me!
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