Luck And Magic
What can I say? At first I read Friggin Rizzo's article with some gentle amusement. Why yes, says I to me, I remember telling folks that they need to go back and reexamine the old cards. Yes, it does seem like it is time to remind folks of that idea once again. Go and reexamine the cards that you rejected as chaff during the last expansion, or Type II season, or whatever. Yes, go now and do it!
Well, because in a new environment old cards have a way of getting to be good when combined with the new cards, or new decks, or whatever.
The card I talked about in my article was Vitalize (G, instant, untap all creatures you control). Vitalize was a card that I had tried in a few decks and decided wasn't any good. By the looks of the net decks at the time, everyone else came to the same conclusion. Then, for a while, we had those nasty squirrel prison decks. The ones that tapped all of your creatures while their owners slapped you around with a Morphling. Suddenly, Vitalize looks like a brilliant sideboard choice.
"Hee hee, you evil squirrel prison player! So you've tapped all of my land and critters with your nasty tricks. How about I just play a land and untap my swarm of critters so that they can come and visit you? What's that, you say? You tapped out tapping my stuff and can't stop my attack? Oh, I feel soooooo sorry for you."
Yes, it pays to re-evaluate those old trash cards every time a new set comes out. Sometimes yesterday's trash is tomorrow's treasure.
Ankh of Mishra is another card that got a lot of yawns for a long time. It is okay all by itself, but strictly a second-tier choice for most Constructed formats. But put it together with Parallax Tide, and suddenly you have a deadly, deadly combo that terrorizes your opponent.
So Rizzo talks about Fog, a card that I play more than just about anybody else. A lot of times I get looked at funny. My best deckbuilding advisers pull it out, and I put it back in when they aren't looking. In a creature-heavy environment, it causes some problems for my opponent, confusing their strategy and leaving them vulnerable to a counterattack. It is some fun to watch their faces as you not only stop their attack without taking a point of damage, but also leave them vulnerable to an all-out counter attack.
Giant Growth is a lot of fun, too.
Turn 1: Forest, Elf
Turn 2: Forest, Giant Growth, Giant Growth, attack for seven.
Now, that doesn't win the game all by itself, but it sure puts your opponent on a short clock when Blastoderm hits the table on the next turn!
But, as I continued reading Rizzo's article, my amusement slowly turned to anger.
Because Rizzo was giving away lots of potentially great tech in a single article!
Sure, he is the King of Rogue, and this is his way of getting people to think about cards that aren't on the current top 10 most playable list. But really, he names like 18 cards! (Maybe 17, 19, or 20 - I kept getting different counts and settled on 18.)
Do you realize what this does to his fellow writers?
It guts us of new things to say. (Arguably, there isn't a whole lot of new stuff in most of these articles to begin with - but really, why compound the problem?)
I was looking at Aether Flash, one of the cards Rizzo mentions. I was starting to play around with deck ideas. I was going to build a deck around it, playtest it some, and write a whole article about how cool this card was and my deck was. I was going to take much credit for discovering a great "new" tech.
But now? Well, now all I can do is try building, playing, and writing about the deck before Rizzo's legion of readers beat me to it.
You know the ones. They are already building this deck. They'll be playing it tonight. (Tonight is the day I write this, which is the same day that Rizzo's article appeared.) So, today is Wednesday... they'll test tonight, rebuild Thursday evening, and take the deck to Friday Night Magic in its revised form, rebuild again on Saturday, and play once more on Sunday. Sunday night, they'll type a report up and email it to Ferrett on Monday.
Ferrett will see the article, like the synergy with Rizzo's piece, and post it on the Wednesday or Thursday following Rizzo's original article.
Great, you say!
Well, yeah, sure, great for you. You get a new net deck to play.
But what about me?
I'm trying to get a regular article done here. I don't get to play three times a week, more like once. Twice if I'm lucky. So I need three weeks to build, test, rebuild, retest, and rebuild my deck... and THEN get an article written and off to Ferrett. (This is why I sometimes have three or four decks built at any one time. If I play all of them each time, I play I still average one deck per week.) By the time I do that, the Aether Flash deck will be an established net deck complete with fifteen variations and sideboards specific to different metagames. (This outcome would, of course, make Rizzo cringe and possibly cry.)
So what you say? It is, after all, only one card! Rizzo mentioned eighteen cards and there must be dozens more. Go find them and write articles about those!
Well, I'd like to. But, there really aren't dozens of good and undiscovered cards out there. Most of the ones that are out there do not warrant building a new deck; they merely enhance an existing deck in some way. Looking at Rizzo's list again, I think most of the cards mentioned fit that latter category. You cannot build a deck around Fog, but in a creature-heavy environment it can enhance your Stampy/Stompy deck in some interesting ways.
Likewise, Natural Affinity seems to enhance a Stampy-style deck rather than demanding that a new deck be built to take advantage of it. Pestilence, ditto.
"So what?" says you again. I want my tech and I want it now. I don't care if Rizzo hurt your feelings or keeps you off the net for a couple of weeks because he scooped you on some overlooked cards. That is your problem; stop whining to me about it.
Okay, I'll stop whining and, if you've read this far, let you in on a little secret.
The overlooked cards can make great tech - rogue tech.
What did you expect, the winning numbers to next week's lottery? If I knew those I would OWN StarCity - not just write for it. (Or, better yet, I'd buy a major piece of Hasbro and put myself on the board of directors so I could tell WotC what to do with some actual authority.)
Overlooked cards can make great tech because nobody is expecting them. They've been written off as no good, and they often don't show up on anybody's radar screen. Use them in a tournament, and you have a good chance of winning. If you want to build an original deck that has a chance of winning, don't just pick up a random pile of suboptimal cards; pick some good but overlooked cards.
Giant Strength isn't widely used, but it makes 2/2 critters Shock-proof and Wumpus-proof... that can't be a bad thing if Shocks and Wumpi are common. Maybe such a card is the missing piece in your almost good deck; the deck that always loses by just a few points of damage.
Any number of cards that were "should have been good, but weren't" cards might have just become good. Just because you tried a card last year and it stunk doesn't mean that it still stinks. Check and see. Who knows, you might just stumble on the next great tech to inspire the next great net deck! Even if you don't, you might provide some nasty surprises for your opponent and win a few rounds at the next tournament.
Michael owns shares of Hasbro Inc, parent of WotC.