Dragon Gold: Bad Player, Good Player
Unfortunately, due to my opponent granting me a forfeit in the online tournament that I am engaged in, I have no match report for this week. I can't say I blame him, though - he is currently in the process of moving, which can obviously make an Internet connection difficult to come by. Next week I'll be able to update you on my status, as I have an exciting match against mono-blue control coming up, which promises to both take a really, really long time - and should also be mind-numbingly boring over Apprentice.
For this week's article, I am going to be making a few casual observations and then expanding on them. There's not really a 'theme' per se in any of this, but I don't really have anything worth talking for several pages about at the moment. That being said, you are now graced with a smattering of gibberish from me.
People who play with inferior cards do so because they don't understand how their deck should really work. Anyone who knows me or visits Beyond Dominia will laugh at this because I have been ranting about it all week online and for a few months in real life. Take the example of Goblin Cadets and Goblin Patrols in a Sligh deck: Since the basis of the deck is a mana curve that allows you to cast as many damage sources per turn as possible, Cadets are clearly superior since they lack echo. A second-turn Patrol means no third-turn Ball Lightning, which is clearly something you'd want to cast on the third turn most of the time. The argument that I have received is that Cadets can't block, or attack if the opponent has a blocker (well, they can, but that's not always a good idea). Seeing how a Type One Sligh deck should never ever have to declare blockers, the first half of that argument gets thrown out on the basis that if you have to block with Sligh, you have more problems with your deck than Goblin Patrols.
The second half of this is deeply rooted in my hypothesis about not knowing how a deck should really work - to say that with four Chain Lightnings, Lightning Bolts, Incinerates, and Mogg Fanatics that there should even BE a blocker in the opponent's way is nonsense. This is a case of someone not realizing that the best way to play their deck is not to throw burn at the opponent and hope it kills them, but to put out as many PERMANENT sources of damage (namely, creatures), and use the burn to clear the way for them - and then be a finisher once the creatures have done their work. The problem is that mindlessly bolting the opponent and playing with sub-optimal cards will beat many average players, so the person never thinks anything is wrong with their deck or style. Then when they get their ass handed to them time and time again, they think it's only because the other person is a better player... but the possibility that he's a better deckbuilder doesn't occur to them. If your Type One Sligh loses consistently to Pox, maybe it's not them. Maybe it's you.
Of course, in some cases Wastelands and Strip Mines aren't used at all (can't sac to Fireblast), and Shock is preferred over Gorilla Shamans (two damage once versus one to twenty attacks plus disruption - apparently too complicated), but that's just a complete ignorance I can't even begin to fathom. In all honesty, Sligh is NOT a top tier Type One deck (at least mono-red isn't), and not including disruptive measures makes a second-tier deck third-rate - it CAN win quickly, but more often than not it won't win at all against a good opponent. You'll still run over a person who isn't prepared for it, of course, but who goes to a tournament not expecting Sligh? The moral of the story is that stubbornness will only make you lose. Heck, I'm supposed to be some sort of Type One expert or something, and I still listen to the opinions of others - you can't go it alone, ever, because your perspective is going to get myopic. I've changed the Franchise significantly as the result of other people's opinions to make it better, even though an inferior version would still have won most of the tournaments I was participating in.
There's something else that I noticed a while back that I'd like to mention now as well. You can tell whom you are playing against by how they lose. Now, obviously you should know the name of your opponent and so forth - what I mean is that you can determine where they rank on the local pecking order and what kind of person they are by how they handle defeat.
For example, a fairly casual player who enjoys playing weird decks that are not necessarily good decks will become bored and stop caring about the game as soon as they start to have to play a long game - especially against a control deck. They won't even try to pull out a win and will generally just go with the flow until they lose.
Another tell-tale sign for personality type is the guy who takes a really long time during each of his turns as soon as he starts to come close to losing. In the beginning of the game, things will usually be going fairly quickly, but on the turn before you are going to kill him, rest assured that he will stare at his hand for a long time, shuffle it around, and generally take way too long to realize that the four Disenchants he's holding aren't that helpful against your Serendib Efreet. Whenever this happens, you know two things about your opponent that can help you in the next round: 1) He's probably a top dog for the store and isn't used to losing, and 2) he doesn't handle it very well. You can use this to your advantage by playing up the luck you had in winning ("I can't believe I killed you with my Icatian Javelineers!"), and if you feel you can be convincing, this is a perfect opportunity to mention how you had absolutely no way of dealing with removal he might have had drawn. Odds are he'll become flustered and lose to you all night long.
The guy to be scared of is the one with a very good deck and is a very skilled player, but doesn't care if he wins or loses. Or to be more precise, the guy who wants to win but isn't bothered if he loses. This is the most dangerous player out there, because you can't throw him off his game. It takes a while to reach this stage, and it's rare, but I guarantee that everyone out there knows at least one person who just seems to always win effortlessly and doesn't seem to care when they lose. Watch this guy, and learn. He's the real threat at any table.
Darren Di Battista
Azhrei at www.bdominia.com
Team Iron Chef