The Weekly Guild Build: Why You Are Irrelevant
As the editor-in-chief of this site here, it's my job to get your feedback... And in general, I enjoy it. My goal is to make this site better in every single way, so even when you email me to say, “THE PREMIUM ARTICLES SUCK MONKEY BUTT THIS WEEK,” I look at it as a happy challenge. What didn't you like about the Premium articles? How can I fix it?
Which is why it pains me to tell you that when it comes to complaining about the latest awful thing that Wizards has done, you are irrelevant.
Okay, you're not irrelevant; I just said that to get your attention. (I like overstating things.) What you actually are, most likely, is a minority viewpoint, and that should inform the way that you complain. See, there's this weird perception among the Magic community that if four people complain in a forum, they speak for some silent army of people, all quietly seething about the latest change to Magic.
In my six-year tenure as editor of this site, I've seen people complain bitterly about every and any change to Magic, no matter how slight — whether that's the non-discounted price of MODO packs to the artwork change to the new templating to Sixth Edition rules to the new judging rules to, yes, the latest anti-spoiler lawsuit they've uncorked.
But whatever horrible thing Wizards has done this week, there's always the same pattern:
- One person writes an article or forum post denouncing this awful new practice.
- Several people chime in, each agreeing that it's horrible, each speaking as if they represent the entire Magic community.
- At least one person threatens to quit Magic over this terrible, awful change.
- There is much fulminating, and Wizards usually doesn't budge, at which point there is a hue and cry over how Wizards doesn't listen to anyone and they're an eeeeevil corporation.
Now, let's get the first item out of the way: merely by reading this article, you are in a severe minority of Magic players. Most Magic players don't visit Magicthegathering.com on a regular basis; they simply aren't as obsessed as you are. Still fewer visit the ancillary Magic sites like StarCityGames.com, meaning that merely by clicking the link that brought you here, you are probably in a small group of players that is maybe 3 to 5% of all active Magic players.
We love you dearly. But if we were to statistically compile an average Magic player, he would not have heard of StarCityGames.com. (We're working on that, of course.)
“But all my friends read StarCityGames.com!” you may cry, but you're forgetting something important: you self-select your friends. Chances are good that you are friends with someone because they share your hobbies and interests. Thus, if all of your friends read StarCityGames.com or vote Democratic or juggle old aerosol bottles, that does not mean that the world does it; it means that you personally are attracted to the sort of people who juggle.
Yes, everyone you know may really love Robot Chicken or Arrested Development or Buffy the Vampire Slayer... But that doesn't mean that they're #1 in the ratings. In the greater scheme of things, they were all minor-level hits that attracted a cult fan base, but add the number of people who watched all three shows together and you still don't have half of a CSI.
Everyone you know may not represent the whole.
So when you complain about Wizards, talking as if your personal preferences are what everyone likes does not make it true. It's been hammered home time and time again that a crap rare for one is a golden gem for another, because we all have different play styles. Yes, you may be hideously aggravated by a particular decision that Wizards of the Coast has made... But there may be ninety-nine other people who actually approve of what they're doing.
“But wait!” you say. “If they approved, why don't they post their support in the forums!” And that's also easily answered.
You're at a restaurant. You get great service. So what do you do? You leave a good tip, and thank your waitress.
You're at a restaurant, and the waitress hocks a loogie in your cappuccino. So what do you do? Chances are much better that you call the manager to complain, because this has irritated you and you don't want the waitress to get away with her rampant loogie-hocking!
Nobody calls the manager over to say, “This waitress did a stellar job! Promote her!”
Likewise, when you are satisfied with something, you're not likely to leave a comment in a forum, because you sound stupid. I know I read a lot of good Magic articles at StarCityGames.com, but somehow it feels kind of silly to write, “Well done! I have nothing else to say!” repeatedly in the forums. Only the absolute most spectacular articles will warrant even the tersest of “You moved me” replies.
But if I disagree with someone? Oh, I'm at the forums in a heartbeat. I want them to know where they're wrong.
Furthermore, when a couple of negative forum posts have been made in a row, the people who agree with Wizards are reluctant to get involved. Do I really want to spend my time fighting with a bunch of people when I'm not going to change their mind? they ask... And they're right to. Why should they get into a big argument for no reason? It's not like they're arguing with the CEO of Wizards — they're just clashing with another Joe Magic player like themselves, and it probably won't change a darned thing.
So the supporters quietly file out, leaving the complainers to gripe and grumble.
Mark Rosewater says his fan mail is about 90% positive, and I believe him... So why are the Wizards forums so uniformly negative? Well, because if you want to compliment someone, you'll write to them personally in the hopes of getting a response. If you want to criticize someone, you want to do it in a public arena so that the author can't sandblast you with a bunch of insults.
Thus, when you see the hordes of criticisms in a forum, they don't represent the spectrum of opinions. Forums tend to slant very negative.
Now, that doesn't mean that you're helpless. (Or irrelevant. I told you I like to overblow things.) Because you are dedicated enough to visit some independent site to read a couple of thousand words on Magic every day, chances are also good that you're a super customer. In many businesses, 10% of the customers buy 90% of the product — and while I suspect it's not quite that weighted for Wizards, the fact is you probably buy more packs and decks and cards than just about anyone else.
That means your opinion does count. At StarCityGames.com, we've seen the people raise their voices as one, and Wizards has backed down when enough people have yelled (when their profitability isn't on the line, of course — they're not going to reduce prices just ‘cause you say so). They make a lot of changes to satisfy you, and if you can build enough of a consensus you can get them to do almost everything.
But you have to realize that when it comes to yelling, you may not be in the majority. You may hold a cranky minority opinion that Wizards has to ignore because they need to keep the other 95% of the crowd happy. That doesn't mean they don't listen; in fact, they may be listening better than you know.
Thus, you can't speak as if you are the world. You should be trying to convince people to your side, not shouting them down because obviously they don't know what real players would want. The more people you can get to agree with you, the better.
The one thing I've learned from helming SCG is that you can't satisfy everyone. We've tried, but you folks want contradictory things! Heck, if you just look at the game of Magic, you want Blue to be stronger and Blue to be weaker. You want a faster game and a slower game. You want Wizards to not build your decks for you, yet somehow at every States the most popular decks are built around a pre-built mechanic, whether it's any good or not.
In the end, your opinion does very much matter. Both Wizards and StarCityGames.com try very very hard to keep you happy. But you may get overruled by other people's opinions.
That's business for ya.
I should mention once again that I have a new webcomic out called Home on the Strange. You should visit, if you're an adult (since today's comic deals with female issues in science fiction). You'd definitely be a majority viewpoint then, because we're just getting started and hardly anyone knows about us. Thus, as one person complaining, you could be like 10% of our audience! Think of the awesome power you could wield just by visiting Home on the Strange right now!
Ravnica Sealed Pool
Yeah, like you care. I mean, Guildpact Guildpact Guildpact. I'll be headed down to Grand Prix: Richmond next week to scrub out and do tourney reporting in Round 5, so watch for me there! In the meantime, I have this Limited exercise for those of you, like me, who are stuck on Magic Online.
Hey, and why not premiere the snazzy new Sealed Deck Display I've developed, which allows you to not only see all the cards in one column, but invites you to download my card pool and see what you can make of it? Coming up just now....
- 1 Boros Recruit
- 2 Centaur Safeguard
- 1 Conclave Equenaut
- 1 Dimir Doppelganger
- 1 Dimir Infiltrator
- 1 Drake Familiar
- 1 Elves of Deep Shadow
- 1 Goblin Fire Fiend
- 1 Golgari Rotwurm
- 1 Grayscaled Gharial
- 1 Greater Forgeling
- 1 Grozoth
- 1 Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi
- 1 Indentured Oaf
- 1 Mausoleum Turnkey
- 1 Molten Sentry
- 2 Mortipede
- 1 Ordruun Commando
- 1 Roofstalker Wight
- 1 Root-Kin Ally
- 1 Sadistic Augermage
- 1 Screeching Griffin
- 1 Selesnya Evangel
- 1 Selesnya Sagittars
- 1 Shambling Shell
- 1 Skyknight Legionnaire
- 1 Sparkmage Apprentice
- 1 Stinkweed Imp
- 1 Stone-Seeder Hierophant
- 2 Tattered Drake
- 1 Terraformer
- 1 Thoughtpicker Witch
- 1 Thundersong Trumpeter
- 1 Torpid Moloch
- 1 Trophy Hunter
- 1 Veteran Armorer
- 1 Wojek Apothecary
- 1 Zephyr Spirit
- 1 Boros Signet
- 1 Dimir Signet
- 1 Golgari Signet
- 1 Selesnya Signet
- 1 Fists of Ironwood
- 1 Galvanic Arc
- 1 Golgari Germination
- 1 Mark of Eviction
- 1 Chant of Vitu-Ghazi
- 1 Disembowel
- 2 Dogpile
- 1 Flash Conscription
- 1 Induce Paranoia
- 1 Leave No Trace
- 1 Master Warcraft
- 2 Muddle the Mixture
- 1 Peel from Reality
- 1 Putrefy
- 1 Shred Memory
- 1 Smash
- 1 Sundering Vitae
- 1 Wojek Siren
- 1 Incite Hysteria
- 1 Rain of Embers
- 1 Recollect
- 1 Seismic Spike
- 1 Vigor Mortis
So let's look at the various colors:
It's got some of the ol' staple cards in the form of Veteran Armorer, Conclave Equenaut, and Screeching Griffin... And frankly, one of the things I like to see when I'm looking at a color is not a lot of cards, but a lot of staple cards.
In addition, we have the living paradoxes of Chant of Vitu-Ghazi and Wojek Siren — two cards that I think are probably pretty good but haven't played with enough to be sold on them. That means that whenever I'm looking to cut cards to get down to forty, I chop these guys out, which means that I never actually get sold on them.
They could be great. I guess I'll never know.
Actually, I have played enough with Wojek Siren to know that it comes in handy sometimes, but not nearly as often as I'd like. It seems like just the trick to turn a Saproling alpha strike into an insta-fatality, and it yoinks your little dude out of Last Gasp or Galvanic Arc range at the last moment. The problem is that usually, a +1/+1 bonus isn't enough to save the guys you want to save (note that +1/+1 won't save your Selesnya Evangel from either card), and it usually helps some of your opponent's creatures, too, unless you have pinpoint color accuracy on the board.
It's good, but I don't think it's that good.
Whereas the Chant is like that guy on American Idol who has a lot of fans, but not quite enough to get him into the final showdown. I know of people who swear by the Chant, but to me it seems really expensive, and I'm only playing it either when I'm losing or in turn 12 of an endless standoff, when I have the eight mana without tapping anything. I'm not saying it's bad — it's certainly swingy — just that I can't envision enough circumstances where I'd really be happy to draw it.
I look at it as “Drop an attack phase: Gain two turns.” Which isn't really the best way of utilizing my resources, I think.
And then we have the Wojek Apothecary, which looks okay but is four mana for a 1/1... I mean, that's a lot. And even then it may help out my opponent, too! I'd rather sideboard this sucker.
The Blue is very, very nice. The first thing I did was to look at the Drake Familiar, then I hunted quickly for a Galvanic Arc. I had it! I could recur the Arc multiple times, smashing critters all the way! And — OMG! — I had a Mark of Eviction!
The words popped up in my head: FLAWLESS VICTORY.
But then I started looking at the rest of what Blue had to offer, and it wasn't that good for a Red splash. Two Tattered Drakes are great, but only if I'm playing Black, and there aren't any B/R guilds yet and the U/R guilds have yet to arrive... Which would force me into an ugly set of colors. Grozoth is okay if Blue's your main color, but I ain't seeing that happening in such an instant-heavy color.
If Green has some magnificent mana-fixing, it's a strong consideration. But I am not going with a main color that has no creatures.
Once again, we have a color telling us that we have to be in another color. I mean, I like double-Mortipede and Vigor Mortis, but unless I'm playin' Green they're useless. Stinkweed Imp and Disembowel are classic Black cards, and I've seen Mausoleum Turnkey used on me enough to know that it's good, but the rest? Eh.
It all comes down to Green, really. If Green's got some good mana-fixing, we can splash for the Blue stuff and be a real house with the Black-friendly cards.
Okay, Trophy Hunter's nice. And I won't turn down the neat little combo that Wizards has handed me in Fists of Ironwood and Root-Kin Ally — “Here! Have a trampling 5/5!” But overall, this ain't enough to carry a color.
I should note that my Blue wants me to play Red and Black, my Black wants me to play Green, and my Green wants to go cry in the corner. Life hates me. But let's see how the Red looks!
Ahhhh, that's the ticket. As I said, we have the Arc, and this is full of juicy beef in the form of Indentured Oaf, Greater Forgeling, Ordruun Commando, and the tetchy Molten Sentry (who, I am assured, can be something other than a fat wall, but I have yet to see this myself). Plus, I am told that Flash Conscription is a bomb.
It's gonna have to come down to the Gold cards.
Okay, all the Selesnya cards are good. I'll never turn down an Evangel or Guardian in Sealed, and the Selesnya Sagittars have saved me many a time. Oh, and double-Centaur Safeguard is nice, ensuring my life totals will be replenished on a regular basis. Perhaps neither Green nor White are particularly strong, but combined they could be quite nice....
Master Warcraft. I have been the Master's bee-yotch so many times that I am thrilled to open him up. Particularly in a deck with a lot of little 1/1s (and, say, we have a Selesnya), he can cause fatal Alpha strikes.
Skyknight's okay. I mean, I like him, but a 2/2 flier doesn't rock my world.
On the other hand, Thundersong Trumpeter is a great little gem of a card; it's fragile, but nobody ever wants to burn him because it seems like you should be able to work around him. But he serves a great double-duty; when you're on the back foot, he buys you time by stalling your opponent's beefiest dude, and when you're ready to go charging in he'll ensure the most annoying guy can't block. He's especially fun at shorting out Mortipede attacks.
Dimir Doppleganger, as I have noted, is the total bomb. Dimir Infiltrator? It's the total decent, moving to bomb if you have some sort of huge enchantment to lay upon it to make it beefy — which, you will note, we do not possess here.
This is the first dual land I have opened. I now cherish it.
Now, what to do? There are several routes we can take here:
Although the Mark of Eviction/Galvanic Arc is a beautiful combo indeed, I cannot guarantee that I'll get it. (If only my sweet, sweet love had arrived in this deck!) Building a deck around a combo that you get off once may satiate Johnny's lustful needs, but me? I gotta get my Spike on.
Aside from that, what it leaves me with is a pool that's weak on offense, since only the Red creatures are big enough to survive combat with anything, and we only have a few removal spells. I think, regretfully, I'll pass.
The triple-tier of allied colors sounded good, but... Then I miss out on all the strong Selesnya and Boros colors. It's certainly not something I'd regret going into, since we'd have a lot of strong creatures backed by good recursion... But at the same time, once you remove the couple of Red beefy critters, what's left are a bunch of small fry. (Root-Kin Ally won't be nearly as good without his Saproling support squad.) I'd be worried about finishing someone off, even though the double-Mortipede would help out significantly.
I went with this in the end, though I'm not sure it was the right choice. It had a lot of beef and a lot of ability to power through to the late game — but on the other hand, it's lower on removal, and that could screw me if I need to Disembowel something.
What really made my decision was, as it always is these days, mana. Which mana base would be easier to handle? We don't have any Green fetching, but it came down to the Elves of Deep Shadow versus the two Centaurs and the Master Warcraft. That won. This was my deck:
1 Boros Signet
2 Centaur Safeguard
1 Conclave Equenaut
1 Fists of Ironwood
1 Flash Conscription
1 Galvanic Arc
1 Greater Forgeling
1 Guardian of Vitu-Ghazi
1 Indentured Oaf
1 Master Warcraft
1 Molten Sentry
1 Ordruun Commando
1 Root-Kin Ally
1 Screeching Griffin
1 Selesnya Evangel
1 Selesnya Sagittars
1 Selesnya Signet
1 Skyknight Legionnaire
1 Sparkmage Apprentice
1 Thundersong Trumpeter
1 Trophy Hunter
1 Veteran Armorer
How'd I do? Well, I went a miserable 1-4, but in this case I will say that I kept running into opponents with ridiculous decks and draws. There was this one guy who had Vulturous Zombie, Szadek, Lord of Secrets, and Dimir Doppleganger in his deck, with Vigor Mortis to recur Szadek three times in a row.
And that was the guy I beat.
Of the remaining four, I faced not one but two decks packing Loxodon Hierarch (and they drew them in every damn game without exception — no fooling!), and a deck that, in the final game, pulled double-Last Gasp, a Selesnya Guildmage, and a Gather Courage in a deck splashing Black when she also drew three 2/2 fliers... By turn 8. I don't think there was a way I could have won that game.
Still, the games were close. I usually was in them, even if I didn't do as well as I'd hoped, and I never got so mana-screwed that I was locked out of a game. I'll have to try this one next week with an additional pack, and see whether I made the right choice, because when your opponent has Loxodon Hierarch and a Golgari Rotwurm, it's hard to Flash Conscription anything. Perhaps the Disembowel was really needed.
What do you think? Tell me in the forums, as usual.