Eighteen Hour Days In The City That Never Sleeps
Hey gang, welcome to another installment of Weapons of Mass Distraction. This week: I'll go over my PTNY experiences in a meandering sort of way, plus dish out more Type 2 ideas for the upcoming season.
The long delay in this column comes from two things: I spent the last weekend of September covering PTNY for the Sideboard, and then I came home Monday and spent the next week prepping for a satellite launch. As a result, it's just now that I'm getting around to writing my thoughts down.
I'm not sure how much I will end up writing. My adventures are seriously lacking, but I did learn a lot from the weekend.
First and foremost, I learned a lot simply by sitting and watching the Pro Tour players in their games. Because we were covering multiple formats across the weekend, I got the chance to really see where their mind processes were taking them in the game. Often times I could see one player's hand, and so I would make mental decisions on what *I* would do, and most times the player would NEVER make my play. =) I tried to take something away from each match I covered, although whether I'll remember it long enough to influence my play remains to be seen.
Thursday night was the first two rounds of the Masters Series. I had never really covered Feature Matches before, so I tried to log everything that happened, and then write something entertaining once the match was over. I quickly found my first problem: I couldn't identify dual lands readily by picture only, and the cards were far enough away that I couldn't make out the name because of the dopey font Wizards continues to use. This problem would plague me throughout the Masters Series, although I did eventually come to recognize Tropical Island versus Volcanic Island. Savannah was probably the most misidentified card over the weekend. But it got me in the spirit.
Friday was day one of the Pro Tour, and I encountered my second problem: How exactly do you introduce yourself to big-time players, in a way that doesn't sound TOO hokey, and tell them you're going to be sitting over their shoulders watching them draft, construct, or play? Obviously it's something that happens at every Pro Tour, but at the beginning I still felt like an outsider to this world. I mean, I can identify a few Pro Tour players, mostly ones who write and have pictures associated with them, but by and large I only know most of these people by name only, and I'm pretty confident they don't know me. And it's hard for me to be inconspicuous, being 6' 4" and all. So I sucked it up and did the best I could. Hopefully not too many players were giving me dirty looks by the end of the weekend.
Fortunately I got around to meeting a lot of players, if only by covering them. Everyone I met was genuinely friendly, and didn't mind answering the bone-headed questions I had. Hopefully I did them justice in the reporting. I was fortunate enough to get to cover the winners, including both sets of matches between Potato Nation and Draften und Spielen (day one / day three), and I also got to cover William "Baby Huey" Jensen as he tore through the Masters Series. All four winners were nice guys and good sports.
One last thing: the tiny little jail cell they set up for us as the "Press Room" had serious lack-of-space problems. There were a half-dozen reporters for the Sideboard at LEAST, plus writers for the Dojo and Neutral Ground, and we all just crammed in there. Added to that was Jeff Donais, who kept closing the door and turning out the lights for his "inspirational speeches." The only thing separating the press room from prison was that no one had a nightstick. At least not with them.
Quote of the weekend: "I hope we win, because wouldn't Mike Turian make the most adorable Pro Tour champion ever?" - Gary Wise
I met Seth Burn, sort of, and was totally mystified. His picture on Mindripper made me think he must be about 6' 6".
Gary Wise can take a chair shot like no Pro Tour player I've ever seen. Gary, if you ever decide to head to the wrestling circuit and want a tag-team partner, look me up. I've even actually been accepted at a wrestling school.
All said and done, I was exhausted, but it was a lot of fun. I got to draft some Invasion after work let out Sunday, and drafted red/green with a splash of black for some extra removal, but I learned the hard way what the breaking cards of the format were. Or should I say, "card." I drafted two Yavimaya Kavu, and so I ended up overextending myself in order to make these guys beefy. I had drafted a Saproling Symbiosis to use as a fun little surprise to make my Kavus bigger, and got to use it both games to affect combat, which was fun. The first game I had out a Kavu and a Voracious Cobra, which was holding his guys off, and then he said, "Rout?"... and that was pretty much it. In the second game I got out both Kavus, and they were 6/8 and he was on the ropes. He chumped with that white guy you can draw cards off of, drew his card, said "Rout?" and I died. What exactly do you say to Rout except to extend your hand? Sheesh.
A good experience. Hopefully I'll get to do more. =)
SATURDAY MORNING CARTOONS
A couple of people last weekend were talking about making a cartoon out of Magic, and having written an article about the subject it's something I still think could be marketable. So I've decided to write a treatment at least, and maybe a script for an episode or two. The focus will definitely be on the five colors, separating them out into five distinct areas of influence. If you have any ideas you'd like to pass along, or specific cards/people you'd like to see eventually, drop me a mail.
INVASION TAKES OVER TYPE TWO
It's becoming tougher and tougher to see into the crystal ball of the post-November Standard environment. With the tempo slowing to a crawl, it almost appears that control decks should have the strongest chances going into PT-Chicago and State Championships. Blue/white appears to be the favored son in this category, splashing the white for Disenchant and multiple Wraths, and winning with Millstone (cringe). But I'd wager that black/blue control, particularly a version of Nether-Go modified to include Invasion cards, will do better in the environment. Here's why:
1) Nether Spirit is a more reliable form of kill than Millstone. The deck I played against last weekend had two Millstones as their only way to win - and once you are able to destroy or counter those two, blue/white has no other option. Nether Spirit can't really be countered effectively, and comes back from blue/white's regular board-killing cards like Rout and Wrath of God. It also provides better defense against creature decks, because you KNOW there will be creature decks out there.
2) Access to global plus targeted creature removal. The flexibility beyond just "Wrath and Rout" gives black/blue a lot more options, and doesn't force the deck into spending a lot of mana for the effect. New Invasion cards like Do or Die, plus the old staple of Forced March (and maybe even Plague Wind) give the deck the global removal if it needs it. For targeted removal, I'd use Snuff Out and Sever Soul over Vendetta because I think the deck is already at least a mid-game deck, and probably will need to regain some of the life it loses early on. The Snuff Out is there to be alternately cast if an immediate threat needs removing. Also, remember that Do or Die kills Blastoderms (maybe).
3) Better gold cards. Lobotomy, Recoil, and Undermine all fit into the decktype, and a case could even be made for Barrin's Spite, as it can target black creatures. Blue/White gets Absorb added as another counterspell, but probably relies too much on Teferi's Moat for protection. Because black/blue gains a recurring blocker in Nether Spirit, the need for the Moat is less.
Here's an early draft of a potential black/blue control deck:
3x Nether Spirit
4x Fact or Fiction
4x Snuff Out
3x Do or Die
3x Sever Soul
2x Forced March
4x Salt Marsh
2x Rootwater Depths
Now, for those of you who read my articles regularly (and hatemail me every so often to keep me from getting cocky), you probably know that this type of deck is SO not my style. I like that Invasion (and Masques before it) have slowed the game down, but I don't like the idea that the entire next YEAR of tournament play is going to be bogged down in control vs. control games, where even the fastest players still take the entire fifty minutes (plus overlap time) just to draw out their second game. That being said, I think maybe I ought to look at some of the faster decks that might see play.
Of course Rebels make the top of the list. There really isn't much to add to the deck with Invasion, and the deck does lose the acceleration it had with Gaea's Cradle - but at least the MBC version gets back Lin-Sivvi, so there's at least something to rejoice about. The question is, with all the control that's bound to be about, do you really WANT a deck that has to wait until mid-game to start cranking out its army?
Probably not. But Invasion didn't supplement our weenie selection AT ALL, unless you want to count the gold 2/2's, and we could arguably use those. If you figure we'd use Longbow Archer, Fresh Volunteers, and Steadfast Guards, splashing green or blue to get four more 2/2's is definitely not bad. I'm leaning towards green because it would give us stuff like Birds of Paradise and Giant Growth if we want them, or Wax/Wane.
So let's try this out:
4x Steadfast Guard
4x Longbow Archer
4x Fresh Volunteers
4x Ramosian Sergeant
4x Llanowar Knight
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Giant Growth
2x Elfhame Sanctuary
2x Elfhame Palace
Does Armadillo Cloak fit in this deck? It might, in sort of the same vein that Empyrial Armor worked in traditional White Weenie. Test it out.
Another possibility, again along the lines of using Llanowar Knight, would be to try to make an Elf deck, using Elvish Champion in place of the Crusades. I think it's going to be safe to say that there will be quite a few decks using Forests in the near future, so the Forestwalk certainly is a factor (much like it was with Lumbering Satyr, only you're not handing it over to your opponents. Unless they control elves.) The problem is that there are so few elves worth playing. Starting with Elvish Archer and Nomadic Elf, then adding Llanowar Knight or Yavimaya Barbarian ... seems kinda hopeless. You could use (and this is going to seem silly) Skyshroud Sentinels, which bumps your curve up a bit, but ensures that you at least have a chance to outnumber your opponent.
Another weenie deck idea I like is Merfolk. Now I have always been a fan of Merfolk, playing it when Academy was in full force, and there is a possibility that it could still be a playable decktype. Having foil, black-bordered Lords of Atlantis around certainly makes it intriguing. Here are the Merfolk we can consider:
Along with the Lords, this seems a pretty solid creature base. Seahunter would be another interesting option, but I think it's a little mana-intensive for where I'm about to go.
See, Merfolk decks have always needed some disruption, much like White Weenie classically used Armageddon to rob their opponents of any way to answer their creature rush. I've played Merfolk decks that used Cursed Scroll, Mana Breach, and Winter Orb... and now I think you know where I'm going. That's right: Rising Waters. Building off the aggro Waters decks from MBC, we can swap the creature base into something that we might be able to cast one of every turn, while still maintaining the disruption and the artifact mana, as well as the counterspells.
4x Lord of Atlantis
3x Rootwater Thief
2x Vodalian Merchant
4x Saprazzan Heir
4x Galina's Knight
2x Troublesome Spirit
4x Rising Waters
4x Seashell Cameo
4x Adarkar Wastes
1x Kor Haven
I looked for a moment at Samite Archer, thinking about how I used to enchant Rootwater Hunters with Curiosity and use them to draw extra cards every turn. You could do the same with Samite Archer and Coastal Piracy, although you'd have to mix the mana a little differently. I didn't use Coastal Palaces, although you could also use those. In the old Merfolk decks you had a lot of one-drops, but all the Merfolk in this deck are two casting cost, so you could use Coastal Palaces and play them on turn one and not lose a lot of tempo.
Another brief thought on the mana mix: I'm really unsure of all the non-islands, simply because of Gush and Thwart. Probably a better idea is to run straight counterspells in place of the Thwarts, and use Fact or Fiction instead of Gush. Or you could keep the Gushes and just adjust the mana a little so you have more Islands.
Well, we'll just keep spitting out New T2 decks, won't we? I keep going through the spoiler list, trying to find cards that work well together, and then come up with decks for them. My friend Doug Beyer, who works for Wizards and with whom I've built decks before, seems to think that this is the season for midgame deck builders like me and him, since ALL of the decks will probably be midgame. And so I'm going to keep throwing ideas out there until one sticks.
Until next week! (er)