Sullivan’s Satchel: Despise VS Duress, Arabian Nights Mountains, And The Worst Sports City

Patrick Sullivan answers mailbag questions on miserable sports cities, his signature Arabian Nights Mountains, and the merits of Despise and Duress.

Despise, illustrated by by Todd Lockwood

Hello, and welcome to this week’s installment of Sullivan’s Satchel. Endless lockdown and general ennui have pushed me towards playing control decks on Magic Online. I’m timing out a ton. However, there’s something for stimulating mental muscles that have been left dormant for about twenty years, and being on “the other side” is valuable experience for playing against these decks with aggressive strategies more generally. I think I’m getting outplayed a lot by competent players but there’s something weirdly satisfying about that as well. It’s good to feel like you’re learning something.

I know control decks have certain play pattern stigmas and I do think they’ve been overrepresented in Magic’s history, but the Dimir decks in Standard are a pretty powerful proof-of-concept on how to do it “the right way.” You pull ahead but you never have the game completely locked, the deck is littered with blind spots, and there’s a lot of incentive to play two or three copies of a bunch of cards to address gaps or due to diminishing returns. Just an interesting thing to unpack.

As usual, thank you to the readers/reply guys/trolls for filling out the content here, and as usual the Question of the Week receives $25 in SCG credit. With that:

From Matt N:

What city has a legitimate claim to the worst overall (including all major professional leagues) sports franchise history.

This question has become noticably harder since Cleveland won an NBA title after the return of a transcedental local talent against a historically great opponent. At least for now, I’d take them off the table. I’d also exclude any city with only one franchise — -there’s something for being the only game in town and it’s hard to compare the suffering of San Diego or Orlando to some cities that have year-round misery. Off the top of my head:

  • Washington, DC. Very likely would have been my selection had the Nationals not won the World Series in 2019. The Wizards have not won 50 games since the 1970s, which I thought was a typo before double- and triple-checking basketball-reference.com. The Washington Football Team is, you know. Still, too recent of a title.
  • Houston. Irrevocably tarnished World Series championship, perhaps the worst-run franchise in professional football, and a weird intersection of “gripping” and “unwatchable” on the basketball floor. You aren’t the worst if they let you keep your soiled pennants, however.
  • Atlanta. Forgettable and forgotten NBA experience since the 80s, historical Super Bowl collapse. Braves are too good now and historically though.
  • Milwaukee. Too many recent and active superstars, in spite of a lack of postseason success.
  • Charlotte. It’s impossible to imagine the trajectory that gets any franchise into title contention in the near future. This pick might be bad but the Hornets are so rudderless and the Panthers don’t make up for it, in spite of semi-sustained semi-success. Barely kept off the bottom due to the Hurricanes’ win about fifteen years ago.
  • Cincinnati. With some reluctance I’m going here. Three decades since the last title and lots of unwatchable teams since then. I don’t know if I’d land here if they had a less passionate fan base; Cincinnati takes this sort of sustained failure much harder than more ambivalent bases.

From Ryan Potter:

How many Arabian Nights Mountains do you have and are there any cool stories you have involving them?

Twenty-something? I’ve divested myself of some of them through charity giveaways and gifts to friends. I think I had around 30 at my peak. My “cool stories” are all the same — I paid considerably less for them than what they’re worth now, hence the divestment. Frankly at this point they make me a little uncomfortable and I’d be surprised if I held any of them five years from now. I’ve picked up some of my favorites from Mirage as far as more affordable options go.

From Craig Krempels:

You get to host the first live tournament when this thing is over. Which city is it in? What format(s)? Who’s doing coverage? Where are we eating each night?

Atlanta (Duluth), Pioneer, Cedric and I are doing coverage after monopolizing the shows in a naked power move neither of us really wants, and we are eating at Carabba’s Friday and Saturday night, Sunday as well if we get out early enough, Uber to Olive Garden otherwise. Nightcap at that bar that sucks near the hotel we always end up at for whatever reason. (CEDitor’s Note: I’ll pick up the drinks for the entire weekend if this happens before 2022.)

From Connor:

What are the lessons you’ve learned from Magic that have been most applicable to your life outside gaming?

That as much as I value cross-pollination, activities can be their own discrete thing, and trying to draw throughlines between essentially isolated activities and your life more generally can get you into bad spots. This is especially true for something like Magic, which gives you a bunch of rules and architecture with the veneer of being applicable more broadly but are really siloed things. I guess I wish I had been kinder more and put less “social equity” or whatever you want to call it towards or against people based on how good they were at the game. That’s applicable in general, but also I hope I would have gotten there without Magic.

From Danny Batterman:

Here’s a question for you – following up on one of your previous answers about evergreen Standard staples, why did you pick Despise over Duress in black? That’s a noted shift in priority of what cards our pinpoint discard is trying to hit, so why make that change? How do you think that would affect Standard overall if Despise > Duress becomes the norm

Honestly, Duress is just a better answer. I tried to worm my way through some “Well, if you’re so committed to printing cantrip creatures, you need to have some axis where black lines up well…” but yeah, Duress is just a better backstop, has higher value-over-replacement than Despise when removal is so abundant, and incentivizes better stuff. Thanks buddy.

From The Coach:

Has there ever been a more embarrassing sports situation then the Broncos not having an active QB this past weekend?

If you mean the game itself, I thought the Broncos played hard and devised a reasonable gameplan under the circumstances. If you mean the reckless stupidity that leads to all your quarterbacks risking out of playing, it is really bad, but I do recall Donald Sterling sounding like Racist Master Shake a few years back and I don’t think this takes the crown away.

Lastly, the Question of the Week and winner of $25 in SCG credit, from Jesse Easter:

Would this kind of effect be annoying fun interesting or both

CARDNAME CREATURE “when your opponent’s creatures die, put them on the battlefield under your control. when CARDNAME dies, put it on the battlefield under your opponent’s control’. (made me giggle)

Jesse regularly suggests designs that tease out the edges of the rules or flips the game on its head or otherwise have some intense Future Sight energy and this one is no different. I think there’s something to this concept if people are playing “honest” (that is, both players are playing creatures and doing stuff), with the issues that:

  1. This is incredibly stressful and makes the game about little else than managing this card, assuming both players are playing with creatures and removal. That isn’t fundamentally a deal-breaker but would make me reticent to put a lot of rate into something like this, but more importantly…
  2. This seems so much stronger playing with no other creatures and a ton of removal than just about anything else. Hard to solve the incentives on this one unless there’s some patch on it that prices you into/requires you to play with other creatures somehow.