You Lika The Juice? – The Year in Preview

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I’m in awe of people who do “The Year in Review” columns. It takes skill… I don’t even dare contemplate doing a review of what happened in 2007. Instead, I decided to review – preview – what I’m looking forward to in the coming year. Most of this will be Magic-related, but I might sprinkle in some other stuff too. What are you looking forward to in 2008

I’m in awe of people who do “The Year in Review” columns. It takes at least one of three distinct skill sets to produce a good year-end review:

1. Incredibly good foresight and organization. When significant events happen, you make note of it, on a piece of paper or file somewhere… and keep all such notes until the end of the year when you pull them all together and write up your review.
2. Incredibly good memory. You sit down at your keyboard, your eyes roll up to the ceiling and you ponder – hmm, what happened this year? As you trip down memory lane, your review pours forth.
3. An incredible amount of free time. If you didn’t have foresight or a good memory, the other alternative is research. Research takes lots of time. I heart free time because I don’t have any.

Anyway, I’m severely lacking in all of these skill sets, so I don’t even dare contemplate doing a review of what happened in 2007. Instead, I decided to review — preview – what I’m looking forward to in the coming year. Most of this will be Magic-related, but I might sprinkle in some other stuff too. What are you looking forward to in 2008?


First time visiting the Star City Game Center
It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to make my way down to Roanoke to Star City Games, and I have not yet been able to see the kick-ass game center Unca Pete opened a year or so ago. All accounts say it’s an awesome gaming space, and I’m looking forward to grabbing some lunch right there in their “Sideboard.” My game plan is to trek down there for the PT: Hollywood qualifier on January 3rd. Speaking of which…

I’m looking forward to giving Extended a try; all accounts suggests that the format is wide open, which is how I like things. I’m dying to give something like this a try:

4 Duress
3 Cabal Therapy
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Saffi Eriksdotter
4 Oversold Cemetery
4 Oriss, Samite Guardian
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
1 Loxodon Hierarch
1 Deadwood Treefolk
4 Weird Harvest
23 assorted lands

I toyed around with Weird Harvest with the Grandeur mechanic in preparation for Regionals last year, either with Linessa or Oriss since you can basically break the symmetry of Weird Harvest with either of them. In Extended land you’ve got Oversold Cemetery to further fuel your Grandeur. I went with Oriss here because she comes down faster, and going with White allows for Saffi Eriksdotter protection. This color combination also lets you play with the awesome Doran, giving you a potent way to win once you’ve Oriss-locked your opponent. Doran also lets Oriss get her beats on.

I could also add a Living Wish toolbox to the mix I suppose, granting access to mighty silver bullets like Yixlid Jailer and Kataki, War’s Wage.

My other thought is to just play Dredge. Some of you may remember that I pretty much pioneered Dredge as a Constructed strategy back in 2005 State Champs, and I’ve loved the mechanic ever since. However, as it went more and more into combo waters, I found that I liked the strategy less and less. Sure, I could still play what I call “classic” Dredge — a slow grind towards inevitability — but fear of combo Dredge brought graveyard hosers that just happened to hose my strategy even worse since I took much longer to win than combo.

After reading Richard Feldman recent overview of Extended, my take away was basically this – if the metagame is wide slam open, and you don’t have the time to playtest and design a metagame killer, just play a high power deck and maximize your opportunity to “oops, I just won!”

Why not just go ahead and play combo Dredge? I’ve never played it before, and the mechanic has a very warm spot in my heart. This might be the perfect opportunity to go ahead give it a whirl. Embrace my inner Spike.

My buddy Jay playtested Bridge Dredge for Regionals last year and got pretty good at playing around hate, so he can coach me on the same sort of thing.

So, does anybody have a Lorwyn-teched Extended combo Dredge deck they’d be willing to share with me? Currently, this is the build I’m eyeing, posted by Draeknir in the Extended forums:

Two Headed Dredge

2 Cephalid Sage
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Golgari Thug
3 Ichorid
4 Narcomoeba
4 Putrid Imp
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Street Wraith
2 Tireless Tribe
1 Sutured Ghoul
4 Breakthrough
4 Bridge from Below

2 Cabal Therapy
4 Careful Study
3 Dread Return
1 Dragon Breath
2 Darkblast
4 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
2 Tarnished Citadel

I like having both the Sutured Ghoul and the Zealot/Bridge elements in the deck, since if your opponent is playing Mogg Fanatic you can just go with the giant hasty Ghoul attack, and if your opponent is possibly playing bounce or something like Terminate you can instead diversify your attack with Bridges. I have to admit only 10 lands kinda freaks me out; I haven’t actually tested this version yet, can you really get away with just ten?

I normally work myself into a lather worrying about hate, especially when playing a deck as feared as this one, but I’ve been trying to get zen about it all, take The Fear and just boot it out of my mind. Screw it—if I get hated, I get hated. They gotta draw it, and I just may Oops, I win! the turn before they do.

What do you think?

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles

Whoa. Have y’all seen the previews for this thing? It really looks kickass. USA has done some quality original programming — I loved The Dead Zone — so I have high hopes here. Plus, Summer Glau is quite the hottie!


Morningtide Releases!
As always, I’m extremely excited about the upcoming set, especially since Wizards R&D was kind enough to sneak some preview cards while they were gunslinging at Worlds. In case you haven’t seen them, here they are below; you can see the actual cards over at Magicthegathering.com’s Morningtide minisite.

One thing about Morningtide that threw me for a loop is the whole “class matters” focus came a set too early. When Rosewater broke it to us that Lorwyn would be just a two-set block, and that there’d be another two-set block immediately following, he said that the other two-set block would really be tied into Lorwyn, but might share some elements. I cleverly read between the lines and figured that Lorwyn would be all about creature types as tribes, while Shadowmoor and “Donut” would be all about creature classes as professions. All four sets would be concerned about what came after “Creature” in the type line, but each two-set block would have a slightly different focus.

Now… well, I have no clue what the heck is coming in Shadowmoor. And it’s killing me!

Preeminent Captain – 2W (Rare)
Creature – Kithkin Soldier 2/2
First strike
Whenever Preeminent Captain attacks, you may put a Soldier creature card from your hand into play tapped and attacking.

(Okay, so this is actually from a recent magazine ad, but I’m tossing this in too) A soldier Lackey? One that doesn’t even have to deal combat damage to your opponent to get a free creature out there? Color me WOW! There are already a good amount of Kithkin soldiers from Lorwyn, and you can also add fun stuff to the mix like Jotun Grunt (skipping its initial upkeep before its first attack!), and Field Marshal out of nowhere (or rather, 10th Edition and Coldsnap) as a vicious surprise. Does Benalish Commander warrant another look?

Stonybrook Schoolmaster – 2W (Common)
Creature – Merfolk Wizard 1/2
Whenever Stonybrook Schoolmaster becomes tapped, you may put a 1/1 blue Merfolk Wizard creature token into play.

I have to admit to some fondness for the Merfolk; they’re a tribe that wants to have a lot of creatures on the board, each of them doing something cool and interesting with their special abilities. Unfortunately, at this point they just don’t have quite enough mustard to really kick things into high gear, especially in an 8 Wrath format. A card like Stonybrook Schoolmaster has me thinking that Morningtide might change the… er, tide so to speak. Wizards even went so far as to make the name super-obviously good with Summon the School, churning out lots of little Merfolk Wizards. Which has me wonder – should we take another look at Voidmage Prodigy with so many token wizards running around?

Distant Melody – 3U
Sorcery (Common)
Choose a creature type. Draw a card for each permanent you control of that type.

This certainly seems like a great card for block, splashing it into just about any deck imaginable.

Taurean Mauler – 2R (Rare)
Creature – Shapeshifter 2/2
Changeling (This card is every creature type at all times)
Whenever an opponent plays a spell, you may put a +1/+1 counter on Taurean Mauler.

Okay, this little fellow is going to be a monster multiplayer card. Even as a 2/2 he just laughs off Shock or Tarfire.

Chameleon Colossus – 2GG (Rare)
Creature – Shapeshifter 4/4
Changeling (This card is every creature type at all times)
Protection from Black
2GG: Chameleon Colossus gets +X/+X until end of turn, where X is equal to its power.

I can tell in some decks this is going to be a ridiculous strain on people’s math capacities, but even if you’re not generating obscene mana this card is really strong regardless. It’s big enough so that opposing burn spells are going to need multiple cards to kill it, and if you keep 2GG in reserve it’s pretty well immune to burn. Protection from Black makes it extremely resistant to the other color of creature removal. Of course, if your opponent is playing Blue you need to just never bother to activate the ability or else you’ll find yourself having spent eight mana for a creature that’s back in your hand.

The Colossus makes a good argument for putting Llanowar Reborn back into your decks, and his Changeling ability makes him the perfect heavy-hitter for Elf decks. 10/10 Forestwalker anyone?

Primal Beyond (Rare)
As Primal Beyond comes into play, you may reveal an Elemental card from your hand. If you don’t, Primal Beyond comes into play tapped.
{T}: Add {1} to your mana pool.
{T}: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool. Spend this mana only to play Elemental spells or activated abilities of Elementals.

I bent over backwards to get my mana to work in my four-color Turbo Blink deck, which was primarily a G/W deck that splashed blue and black for Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw. This land makes it potentially easy to splash Mulldrifter and Shriekmaw into just about any deck you want to.

It also makes me curious as to whether Treefolk are going to get a land that provides Green, White, or Black mana — how sweet would that be?

Fan Prix Charlotte!
Okay, so technically it’s called StarCityGames.com $5,000 Standard Open in Charlotte, NC on February 23, but I’m calling it “Fan Prix” since I’m predicting the thing to be nearly as big as a Grand Prix. You’ve got cash prizes given out down to 16th place, you’ve got Evan Erwin The Magic Show broadcasting LIVE, you’ve got Box tournaments and drafts. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. One thing I’m going to do is to bring the Magic playmat that Lara Bain from Wizards gave me at Nationals this summer, and ask that all of my readers who happen to come by the tournament, please track me down and sign my playmat. You guys (and gals) are the best, and I would be honored to have your name to cheer me on in future tournaments.

I’m also going to be bringing at least one Elder Dragon Highlander deck with me, so if I scrub out of the main tournament, I’m going to try and organize at least one EDH game, so make sure you bring a deck!


Extended — with Morningtide!
There’s another Extended qualifier for PT: Hollywood, this time right here in my hometown of Richmond, VA. Maybe I’ll play the same deck I played at the January PTQ, or maybe some sick new concoction will hit me the right way using brand new Morningtide technology. I have no idea, but I’ll definitely be here.

Bennie’s 200th Star City article
Some of you may not know this, but I’ve been writing for this here sight a really long time. Go ahead and check out my archives; it goes all the way back to January 6th, 2000 (The Blossoming of Green Card Advantage). I actually started writing for Star City before that, I believe sometime in 1999 (and in the above linked article I mention an article I wrote in August of 1999), but sadly the author archives from prior to 2000 have been lost to the electronic dustbin of old, out of date servers. Which makes me sad, since among the lost writings was my tournament report from when I won States in 1999 (I believe written in two parts). If anyone just so happens to have kept a copy of that report somewhere and could forward it to me, I would be hugely grateful!

Anyway, I have no idea how many articles I wrote for Star City in the year(s) before 2000, and back then it was pretty much write when you wanted to – I may have done articles once a month, three times a month, or whatever. I’m sure I’ve already passed the 200th article landmark sometime this year, but in early March we’ll make it official, with bells, whistles, and cake.


My 10 year wedding anniversary!
Holy moly – has it really been 10 years? For those of you who may get married in the future, here’s a tip from an old geezer – get the date of your wedding engraved on your wedding band; that way, you won’t ever forget.

Yep, it has been 10 years. Holy moly.


Shadowmoor releases!
Since Wizards buckeyed me and made “class matters” in Morningtide, I have zero idea what to expect in Shadowmoor. I am however very excited about seeing what it’s all about…

Pro Tour: Hollywood
Some of you may remember that I’ve long had aspirations for being a screenwriter; I spent a good chunk of the 1990s pouring over screenwriting books, attending seminars, and went to regular meetings with the Virginia Screenwriters Forum. While my free time has atrophied considerably since then, I still hold to the dream, reinforced by every poorly-written movie that hits the big screen.

Thus, I feel like I should have a Karmic edge in winning a qualifier and making Hollywood my very first Pro Tour. Right?


I turn 41…
Wait, let me scratch that from the calendar…

Haha, actually last year, turning 40 was the big one. 40 sounds terribly old. I hated turning 40. It’s harder to discuss young Hollywood hotties at 40 without sounding like a perv. After crossing the 40 threshold, 41 is really no big deal.

Last year we took the kids to the Bayou Boogaloo & Cajun Festival, I hope we can do that again this year. That was a lot of fun.

Doesn’t Donut hit sometime here, the second set in the Shadowmoor block?


Who knows what the rest of the year may bring? The Magic calendars stop filling out this far down the road. We’ve got Nationals in the summer time; it was fun going to it in Baltimore last year, but I imagine it’ll be quite some distance away from Virginia this time around, so I’ll have to just read about it in the coverage unless I manage to qualify somehow. Evan Erwin participation in the Magic Invitational gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, I might be able to sneak my ass in there somehow. I don’t know if I have any rabid fans out there, but feel free to start building up a grassroots network for my nomination.

Sometime this year I hope to start doing a semi-regular Cube draft. My buddy Jay is busy acquiring cards for a real traditional-style Cube, chock full of power cards. I’m kicking around the idea of building a “Bennie cube,” filled with my own flavor of wacky cards, such as Tornado and Ice Cauldron.

The last season of The Shield falls sometime in early 2008; while I’m desperately looking forward to resuming watching Vic Mackey and the crew of the Barn to see what the future holds, I’m also regretting the fact that this fantastic series will soon be drawing to a close.

Lastly, whatever happened to You Make the Card? I thoroughly enjoyed that series, and have been sad that it has not continued since Vanish into Memory was made in 2006. Perhaps 2008 will mark the series comeback?

Anyway, as 2007 comes to a close, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas holiday, and here’s wishing you a seriously fun New Year’s!

Auld Lang Syne
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.
And surely you’ll buy your pint cup!
And surely I’ll buy mine!
And we’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

We two have run about the slopes,
And picked the daisies fine;
But we’ve wandered many a weary foot,
Since auld lang syne.


We two have paddled in the stream,
From morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
Since auld lang syne.


And there’s a hand my trusty friend!
And give us a hand o’ thine!
And we’ll take a right good-will draught,
For auld lang syne.


(Won’t you surprise your friends if you rip loose and actually know the lyrics, perhaps appropriately sung in a thick Scots burr?)

‘til next year…


starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com