Hello, and welcome to Sullivan’s Satchel. It is now 2021, which means this column has run over one year, with no missed deadlines, more or less (CEDitor’s Note: Good use of more or less…). This outcome would have fetched long odds on any betting house’s booking action based on my continued employment, engagement with Magic, remaining in SCG’s good graces, and whatever other factors would contribute to me not being here right now, and so I’d like to tip my hat to myself on an overperformance in 2020, and here’s to 2021 and all that.
I’d like to give a shout-out to Emma Handy, whom I had the pleasure of sending a message to in the Wizards of the Coast (WotC) chat this morning, now that she’s formally #WotCstaff and all that. I’m in the strange position of losing her as a co-worker in one respect but gaining her as one in another, but no longer working with her on “this side” of things is painful nonetheless. There just aren’t a whole lot of smart, talented, empathetic people who are thirsty to learn in Magic, which of course is all the stuff that makes her an ideal Play Design candidate. Still, SCG lost a good one and for all your contributions over the years, thank you.
With that, the questions. As usual, you can send yours to me over at [email protected] or DM me over on Twitter @BasicMountain. Each week I’ll pick one question as the Question of the Week, and that writer will receive $25 in SCG credit. With that,
Real baseball heads will remember a few years ago, when a Padres team fresh off of winning about 45% percent of their games for the 11th straight year decide to go “all-in” on a variety of bewildering moves that depleted their farm system and lead them to win about 45% of their games once again. Some harm mitigation took place and a few great moves on the margins (Rodney for Paddack, of course Shields for Tatis Jr.) unspun most of the harm, but the moves set the Padres back a few years and made them something of a punchline for a spell.
Trading for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell isn’t the same as a literally-unable-to-run Matt Kemp, but it’s hard to not to have some hesitation after what happened during the last spending spree. The good news is that the Padres were able to keep Mackenzie Gore out of these deals, whom I’ve already earmarked for at least two Cy Young awards, and San Diego’s everyday players are good enough that concentrating on starting pitching addresses the most obvious room for improvement. The deals are pricey but that’s what it takes to get top-flight talent in their prime years, or close to it.
I think the timing is about right. The Padres have a number of good players on bargain-basement contracts and that’s supposed to be the time to shove if you’re in a “small market” (San Diego is in fact large and quite affluent, and the Padres are the only game in town, and draw well even when the team sucks, etc.). There’s the possibility that diminished revenue from COVID-19 will cause more teams to be sellers rather than buyers, and I respect the courage it takes to go at the Dodgers without hesitation. I’ve been burnt before, but I’m very excited about the coming year.
From Brandon Krussow:
The Nets are far from a lock. I think the Bucks are a better team in absolute terms and are an atrocious matchup for the Nets (perhaps the two best wing defenders in the league for Kyrie and Durant, not the same set of switchable, coordinated defenders that gave Milwaukee so much trouble against the Heat), and Miami is quite good and has the assets to make a significant move (I expect to hear Beal to Miami rumors near the deadline, given the Wizards’ awful start). The Sixers look great so far. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Nets took the East, but I’m not sure I would take them at even money to make the conference finals, much less book them as locks to go to the NBA Finals.
I think Clippers/Lakers is happening. Ibaka over Harrell is a significant upgrade in terms of absolute quality, fit, and need against the Lakers and Nuggets, and Kennard is a much-needed boost of secondary playmaking on the wing. I think my guys look awesome. I expect the Lakers to make the Western Finals barring a terrible injury to LeBron or AD. None of the teams below them are in a position to make significant upgrades if the Nuggets are committed to keeping Michael Porter Jr. out of trades, and I think the gap between the LA teams and everyone else is too great.
I would strongly bet against big Magic events by Q2 2021. I think it’s more likely we’re in another protracted lockdown in May than attending SCG Open Weekends, vaccine and all. Distribution is going to be uncoordinated and sporadic most likely, and the news of a vaccine along with extended lockdown and generally intolerable circumstances is going to give people the go-ahead to behave way too recklessly way too soon.
From Friend of the Stachel, Carla Luu:
Happy Holidays to you as well, thank you for your support and interest as always.
From Actual Friend of the Satchel, Marc-Andre Pelletier:
Setting aside format specifics and legality, I think Skullclamp is #1 by a fair bit, and then Umezawa’s Jitte outclasses the rest of the field from there. If you’re just looking to add some generic power to decks that attack and block, the Swords (Fire and Ice, etc.) are a pretty safe bet. I think Lightning Greaves is fun and pretty underrated. Equipment has been noticeably turned down in recent years – Embercleave as an exception – and so you’ve got to play older formats where the barrier to any card being “good” is much higher or play in casual settings where no one really cares what the legal sets are.
Lastly, the Question of the Week, from Kevin Bell:
I wouldn’t characterize it as “finding myself” when I actively enjoy casinos (until The Madness sets in, I start disassociating, which takes roughly 2-48 hours to set in) and go regularly on behalf of the SCG Tour, as the “Philadelphia” Open is held at the Valley Forge Casino and Resort. Doesn’t need to be a big to-do; Valley Forge is well south of “fancy” and I used to enjoy the Ocean’s 11 card room in Oceanside, CA back when I lived there. Depending on my mood and company there’s some variability, but my power ranking is:
- Loiter in the sportsbook, maybe drop a few bucks on a game, grab a drink, and watch.
- Poker, slight preference for NL, slight preference for short-ish-handed, pretty low stakes.
It is extremely rare for me to do anything beyond that.
There are absolutely Magic player archetypes that I’ve noticed. Valley Forge gives me the chance to watch large crowds after tournaments, and patterns start to emerge.
- Control Player who fancies themselves to be good or who is actually good but self-serious: Poker.
- Midrange player looking to throw jabs with some decision making but a ton of randomness: Blackjack.
- All-in aggro player/person who loves the tactile experience of holding cards and shuffling things around/social, friendly pink sleeves player/backwards hat/person with their own name tattoo’d on themselves someplace visible: Craps. Craps Craps Craps. I’ve never played due to the combination of complexity and the fact that I’ve never witnessed any outcome than all my friends losing all of their money within minutes of getting to the table but it is extremely fun to watch.
- Person who likes to squeal “free value” when they save $10 with the Early Bird GP Registration option, setting aside that the tournament still costs $70 to enter and pays out an average of $3.47 per participant: Pai Gow. This is a fun game to play with the right group but its primary function is to be the lowest-risk, slowest-bleed game if you want to drink at the table for a few hours, which is plenty of people at the average SCG Tour event.