I'm Back! Regionals, Lame Ducks, And Prophecy
Apologies to those of you who've wondered where I've been; it seems life has gotten in the way of fun as usual. I recently started a new job and while I'm loving it, it has been keeping me insanely busy. Way too busy to play Magic. It's also been mentally draining, which has interfered with me even deeply thinking about Magic. Another problem has been the time of year… as in, right before the next release of a Magic expansion. I find this period of time both exciting and dull at the same time. Exciting because I simply love new Magical cards and the possibilities they bring. Dull because I find no motivation to work on a “dead” format, which is what Standard is to me right now pre-Prophecy. I won't be going to Nationals, so until Prophecy is legal (or at least until there's an “official spoiler” available), I have zero interest in working on Standard. Which is sad, since it's my favorite format. I'm in a holding pattern right now.
For those who are wondering, I did indeed go to Regionals. And never fear, faithful readers, I did not succumb to playing Replenish; instead, I ended up playing what must have been a sub-par Control Green deck. Here's the decklist:
4 Llanowar Elves
2 Birds of Paradise
4 Elvish Lyrist
4 River Boa
2 Deranged Hermit
4 Creeping Mold
2 Reverent Silence
4 Plow Under
3 Crop Rotation
4 Rishadan Port
3 Gaea's Cradle
1 Rath's Edge
The sideboard had more Silences, 4 Ticking Gnomes, 2 Squallmongers, a Hunted Wumpus and a few other things. The deck could have been better, but I didn't have much time to playtest and just threw together something I knew how to play. In case you're wondering about the Rath's Edge, it was my anti-Bargain tech—since they so often Bargain down to 1 during the course of going off, if I had a Rotation in my hand and enough mana (which shouldn't have been a problem), I could steal game one from them. I almost pulled that off, too.
I had 10 main deck answers to enchantments, and still lost to two opponents playing Bargain and Replenish. They were both very close matches that went into the third game each; in the last game of each match, I had multiple chances to top-deck one of numerous cards in my deck to seal the win and… the cards just did not come up. I blame it on my buddy Kevin, who insisted that I run 4 River Boas instead of my beloved Yavimaya Elders. See, the Elders thin the deck and improve your top-decking skills immensely. So, let's all blame Kevin for my defeat :)
Let me stop a moment and say this about the T.O. for the Mid-Atlantic Regionals, Dream Wizards: I was extremely disappointed in the way the tournament was put together this year. Last year they held the tournament at the University of Maryland, in a large hall that accommodated the hordes of Magic players who muster out for these events. There were several vendors on hand, many of who were selling old“trash” cards at bargain-basement prices—diamonds in the rough for those of us who like group games! I was very happy with last year's Regionals. This year was the complete reverse. Regionals was held in a Best Western across the street from the University, in a tiny conference room area. They packed 292 people into this room. That's NEARLY THREE HUNDRED SOULS crammed together like sardines, each of them toting bookbags, notebooks, and other items to increase their personal space requirements. What was Dream Wizards thinking? Sure, tournament attendance to Magic events in general has been in decline, but Regionals has ALWAYS drawn a large crowd. Last year was well over three hundred if I remember correctly. Dream Wizards needs to catch a clue—I know you're in this to make some money, but you need to make sure these events have enough space for the player's comfort. My last two matches I ended up losing while I was extremely uncomfortable and crowded; I don't know if this helped contribute to my loss, but I'm sure it didn't help. As far as I'm concerned, Dream Wizards is on probation—if next year's Regionals is as poorly housed, it will probably be my last Mid-Atlantic Regionals. I hope others will likewise express their displeasure with their arrangements.
If nothing else, though, at least I picked up some cheap group-game cards, right? Wrong. There were no vendors present at all, except for some rude jerk that was selling Type 2 singles for inflated prices. I suspect he worked for Dream Wizards and was just trying to gouge the players trying to pick up some last minute cards to complete their deck. The only thing I bought was a box of green sleeves because… well, they're green sleeves and I was playing a green deck! I paid the $9 (!) for it and enjoyed having the sleeves… even if my local game shop got‘em for the regular price the following week. Cutting-edge green sleeve technology! Yes, I was one of the first.
Anyway, enough of my griping; that was almost a month ago, but it still feels good to get that off my shoulders.
I'm disappointed that over 25% of the people who qualified for Nationals did so with Replenish, despite being well known as The Deck to Beat, and despite all the hate that was packed in main decks and sideboards. Formats dominated by combo decks tend to frustrate many players and tends to be the reason most cited for driving people from the game, so I hate to see these type of results. My hope is that Prophecy will bring to the fore a solid decktype to combat Replenish; hoser cards alone don't seem to be able to do the job. We obviously need another decktype to rise to the challenge.
Prophecy is going to round out the Masques block, and will hopefully help spawn some new decktypes. There have been very little Masques-inspired archetypes that have bled over into Standard, due in large part to the overpowering presence of Urza's broken cards. How can a top-heavy cool deck like the Cabal's Roshambo (from PT NY) stand up to Bargain and Replenish? The answer is, it can't. The only real competitive “Masques block” deck is Rebels, which is nothing more than the latest incarnation of a White Weenie deck and doesn't really count in my book. Masques block is not going to make a splash until the mechanics and concepts are fully fleshed out with Prophecy, and probably won't come into it's own until Saga rotates out.
This reminds me of another beef of mine. Why aren't the constructed block formats for the Pro Tours full blocks? For instance, the format for PT NY is effectively a dead format—there's never going to be an interest in playing a Masques/Nemesis constructed event, and the archetypes developed aren't going to impact Standard or block constructed at all since Prophecy is going to shake up the mix. Why not have a Masques block Pro Tour that corresponds to the release of the full block of Masques/Nemesis/Prophecy? Wouldn't we all be much more interested in seeing what tech the pro's come up with in this format? It's effectively the future of Type 2, and would be exciting to see the best minds in the game go to work on the newest mechanics will the full range of cards available. As it is, does anyone really care what decks did well at New York past the first few weeks after the PT? Not me. Full block constructed Pro Tours would serve the Magic public better as showcases for a new format that's going to stick around for a while, instead of having the pro's waste their time and ours working on a one-shot, lame duck format. It shouldn't be that difficult to line up the Constructed Pro Tour stops with full, exciting and new formats that are relevant to the game. Wizards should be able to correlate set releases with Pro Tours, and fill in the blanks with Extended (a relatively static environment in the scheme of things, barring major changes) and limited formats. I know pro's are going to probably counter this argument by saying that having a PT too soon after a set becomes legal makes it difficult to playtest, but I'll just point out that they have the cards available at least a month before they're legal, and that's plenty of time to evaluate how the last set in a block impacts the whole and build decks around them.
Well, it's 11 days before the pre-release and there's no comprehensive spoiler list for Prophecy yet. There are plenty of rumors running around, but many of them look wrong due to wording or templating. How is the Magic public supposed to function without a decent spoiler available weeks before the release? All kidding aside, this seems to be the first time in a while that we haven't had a near complete spoiler list available, and I'm champing at the bit wanting to think about uses for some Prophecy cards. I'll go out on a limb here and talk about two of my favorite new cards and hope they're actually in the set.
2W Creature-Spellshaper 2/2
1W, T, Discard a card from your hand: Remove target nontoken permanent from the game, then return it to play under its owner's control.
Flicker is one of those cards that some of us look at, think about… and wish it had a little more going for it. A little more oomph. Flicker might have been played if it was an instant, and the Peddler makes it a recurring instant. Imagine the uses here: save a permanent from targeted destruction, reset fading counters, reuse a coming-into-play effect like Bone Shredder or Uktabi Orangutan, regain control of a Treacherous creature. There are lots of good uses for the Peddler to make it a solid companion to many decks. I really like this guy.
3GG, Spellshaper Legend, 3/3
2G, T: discard 2 cards: all Lands target player controls become 3/3 creatures until end of turn
A recurring, one-sided Natural Affinity has many uses; creating a horde of 3/3 creatures can be pretty good. Punish your Accelerated Blue opponent for playing Powder Keg by turning his lands into zero cost critters in response to him Kegging away your squirrel tokens. Or play Kegs yourself for a one-way Armageddon at your leisure. Green's legendary spellshaper should be much easier to play with Groundskeeper and Yavimaya Elder able to feed its cost.
Anyone else have some pre-spoiler favorites?
Hopefully next week we'll have the full Prophecy spoiler available to peruse, and I'll do my traditional evaluation of the cards. I'm really looking forward to the new set.