Deckade: A Review
I hope it doesn't ruin the suspense: I enjoyed Deckade a great deal. The book is a compendium of every Flores article written from February 1995 to February 2005, broken into six Sections: The Usenet era, The Magic Dojo era, the Psylum Dojo era, the Neutral Ground era, the Brainburst era, and the StarCityGames era. Each section is introduced by a Magic luminary – John Shuler, BDM, and Zvi, among others - and concluded with a comment by Mike.
The very first “article” is a brief Usenet post involving, of all things, Icatian Moneychanger. Go ahead and click the link… I know you don't know what that card does. What's more, Mike wasn't talking about how truly awful it is. Instead, he was talking about one of his decks that included it, and specifically talking about its favorable interaction with Circle of Protection: White. Ten years and 670 pages later, the book ends with an article on the Extended metagame in February 2005.
Of course, those aren't what make the book good. In fact, the farther I got in the book, the more familiar everything became. I read “Who's the Beatdown?” when it was first published, and it was the first thing I downloaded when the Dojo announced it was closing up shop. It's the theory articles – most recently “Philosophy of Fire,” but older gems like “We All Learned to Break the Rule of Four” and “Investment” - that make this worth owning. Sure, a savvy Internet user might be able to find this stuff wading through endless broken archive.org links, but you can't take that on the subway with you.
It also has some of Flores finest tournament reports, including the epic ninth place finish at US Nationals 1999, and many very old ones when almost all qualifiers were two-slotters, where Mike would lose in the finals but get an invite anyway. There are deck histories; fun stories involving Shuler, Altran, and many more old-schoolers; his infatuation with chick rock; and earlier on… some real live cursing. I was especially tickled when I saw Mike's report of the Philadelphia Tempest prerelease, which happened to be my first sanctioned tournament ever.
So, that's the good….
The bad may be little more than nitpicking, but it's worth mentioning.
First, the layout of the book is pretty awful. It's as if it were put together purely by cut and paste. You'll see the title of an article at the bottom of a page, and the actual article doesn't start until the next page. This looks terrible and rather unprofessional. Understandably, Usenet posts can often be short and more than one can fit on a page, but once that era is over everything is a full-length article, and should therefore get its own starting page.
Second, tech was a highly guarded secret when Mike started writing, so many of his earlier tournament reports include no decklists. This can be frustrating. All I knew about the “Pile of Bitches” deck was that it included Aeolipile and Serra Angel with some other beaters. Happily, Mike does a deck history about a hundred pages later, so it works out. Still, an Editor's Note pointing you to the relevant entry in Mike's historical recap - or a footnote containing the decklist itself - would have made things more comprehensible. Similarly, Mike played a High Tide deck where he codenamed some of the cards in his report, presumably to hide tech. (I figured out “Jamie” was the codename for Palinchron.) However, we never discover the true identity of the other cards named after famous gamers.
The only other complaint is out of Mike's hands: it doesn't include any of the writing he did for the Sideboard (I assume Wizards retains copyright on those articles)… but those are also freely available intact on the web.
Now for the real question: Is it worth $25? It depends. If you're solely interested in tech for the here-and-now, you won't get much. Even the most recent article in the book is unlocked to non-Premium subscribers. StarCityGames even reprinted “Who's the Beatdown?”
That doesn't mean you can't learn anything, though. Mike's theory is second-to-none and he wrote some really excellent stuff during his tenures on other sites, a great deal of which no longer remain. A little over a month ago, Flores wrote an article that broke down the metagame for every Block Constructed season since the format existed. If you liked that article, this is the book for you. If, on the other hand, you were confused by the ancient cards and felt that Flores expected a little too much from the reader, save your money.
Consider the following passage from the article:
“Sean Fleischman lost the Pro Tour by successfully executing on his plan [of casting Ivory Gargoyle followed by Jokulhaups], only to be locked out of ever drawing another card by Olle Rade's brilliant follow-up of Forest, Llanowar Fyndhorn Elves. NICE. DECK.
At first I was confused by this. Elves don't block Gargoyle, they don't kill it if it blocks them, and they certainly can't kill the Gargoyle every turn. Was Sean at one life, or something? Then I remembered Rade's deck. He had a Stormbind in play. Now if you're Flores, or very old school, this might be considered obvious, but old as I am (I started playing around Ice Age), I never played Ice Age Block and I didn't follow tournament Magic back then.
Similarly, he mentions several other decks over the years, such as “George” in Tempest block or “PatrickJ.dec” in Urza Block without mentioning what they do. You may find yourself in the same boat for parts of Deckade, especially when Mike talks about formats like Mirage Sealed (what does Locust Swarm do again?). Newer players may also find some earlier articles confusing regarding rules (what is this “stack” you speak of?).
However, gamers that have been on the scene as long as Mike will likely relish in the memories conjured by this book – of the halcyon days of five-round two-slot PTQ's - and even those who aren't nostalgic may enjoy watching Flores evolve from someone who played Icatian Moneychanger to one of the best writers, theorists, and deck designers in the game, as well as being an all-around good guy. He may not be an all-star, but I couldn't say he doesn't deserve a chance to have a crack at designing a card for a change.
timgillam at gmail dot com