With the Future Sight prerelease tomorrow and Standardizing Future Sight beginning on Monday, I thought today would be a good time to rundown a few things I am hoping to get from the set. Let's go straight to the first one.
Wish List Item #1: Kill Dragonstorm
Standard is a very good format. However, it's not quite at the level it was a few months ago, and this almost entirely due to Dragonstorm firmly positioning itself as the number one deck in all of the land. Combo decks ruin formats like no other deck type. Having a full fifth of a format occupied by a sole combo deck in the form of Dragonstorm translates to at least two rounds of it at Regionals if you count the top eight. That amounts to a lot of frustration over the course of the day, especially when you consider how dumb Dragonstorm is.
Let me emphasize that—Dragonstorm is the dumbest deck in my recent memory. I began somewhat serious Regionals testing last week, and my team thinks we've found the best deck in the format. We've only encountered one bad matchup—Dragonstorm. Ideally we'll have this case solved before Regionals rolls around (whenever that date is), but we need to playtest a billion games against Dragonstorm before then to get to that point.
That said, “playtesting” is a bit of a misnomer. Really, what we've begun doing is playing our turns somewhat simultaneously. Like any good combo deck, the amount of interactivity in games featuring Dragonstorm is pretty low. As such, we can save time and effort if we just play out our turns at the same time, and I have even been considering switching to where we just play with our hands revealed to get things over with even faster. After having done this what feels like a thousand times this week, I can safely say that this creates a very dumb playing environment.
I think the worst part is that Dragonstorm isn't fully like the ridiculous Tinker or PT Rome combo decks of the past where you seriously can solitaire it. No, Dragonstorm has the slightest bit of interactivity with cards like Repeal, Remand, and Gigadrowse to tease you into believing you are playing a legitimate game of Magic. That triplet makes the deck kind of, sort of feel like Dragonstorm and its opponent are interacting when really that's just tricking you into believing you are having some sort of scuffle with your opponent when in fact you are playing against a number like a golfer or bowler would.
A few notes on this:
1) How much did Wizards know about Dragonstorm, and when did they know it?
Dragonstorm in its more or less current form was built in a couple of weeks by the Magic community for Champs. Considering DS practically came together on its own, you have to wonder if R&D's Future League had a version. If they did have it, did they really think Dragonstorm was an acceptable card to have in this format?
2) Dark Ritual is stupidly good.
Although this isn't particularly relevant to today, Dark Ritual is absurd. Think of it this way—Seething Song, the “acceptable” version of Dark Ritual, produces five mana for three, or a 67% gain. Dark Ritual, generating three mana for one, did it at 200% clip. Oh, and by the way, Dark Ritual was tournament legal all the way up until Mercadian Masques.
3) Storm is more stupidly good. Or something.
Time Spiral should be the last block that contains Storm cards; the mechanic just lends itself to be broken into a million pieces too much to go any further. If you need any proof of this, look no further than Storm in Time Spiral block. Not counting Future Sight, there are six cards with the ability. Dragonstorm is the center of the best deck in Standard right now. Empty the Warrens from what I hear is really good in Extended, and it also makes a splash in Standard every now and then. Pretty much the same goes for Grapeshot. Ignite Memories is similar, and it might be public enemy number one in Standard right now if it weren't for the fact that Dragonstorm is better. (We'll talk about the last three cards in conjunction in a moment.) Volcanic Awakening is the most hated card of Two-Headed Giant. The one exception is Ground Rift, which doesn't do anything offensive enough to be broken. This is made up for by another Storm card in Future Sight that could be part of a combo engine. More on that in a moment.
Bottom line: I've had enough with Storm, and I think the community feels the same way. Here's hoping something in Time Spiral puts an end to Dragonstorm in Standard, whether it's a good hoser or just a metagame shift caused by the set.
I am not going to comment whether this is good or bad, but as I was researching the Storm cards in Time Spiral, I noticed that Gatherer now runs Google ads. Hmm.
This Is What Writers Do in Their Spare Time
Here is a copy of a conversation “Risky” Riki Hayashi and I had earlier this week:
Riki: Why did my Microsoft Word just capitalize "timeshifted"?
Riki: Is my computer possessed by The Flower Man?
MM: You probably set it to autocorrect a while ago.
MM: I did that back when I cared about the vast difference between Aether and Æther.
MM: Either that or TFM is taking over the world.
Riki: Microsoft Flores?
MM: I would think he'd call it Flores Word.
Riki: No, I am accusing him of being an android of Gates' creation.
MM: Ah. My mistake.
MM: I think this is going in MM this week.
TFM: Not Making Any Sense for the 25th Consecutive Week
We're a quarter of the way to a hundred, and I'm still waiting for The Flower Man to make any logical sense. Here is his opening line to his article yesterday:
I don't really know how to introduce [Pact of Negation] but to say that it is a serious contender for strongest non-restricted, non-banned card ever printed.
I am going to wait a moment before introducing the text of the card to you, as whatever the Pact of Negation does the sentence still makes no sense whatsoever. The card isn't even printed yet. How can you say it's the “strongest non-restricted, non-banned card ever printed”? How do you know it's never going to be banned or restricted anyway?
Standardizing FS Sneak Preview #1
Standardizing Future Sight begins on Monday, so I can't go all of today without peeking into it. Here is the aforementioned Pact of Negation:
The Flower Man said “Pact of Negation is better [than Force of Will],” and on those grounds alone I think it's a pretty safe assumption that Pact of Negation is, in fact, worse than Force of Will. Unnecessary TFM bashing aside, Pact of Negation is good for one thing and one thing alone: protecting a combo as you are going off. That's it. That's all. Nothing more. (Well, that may be a bit of an exaggeration. TFM seems to think that it could go into an aggro deck, as he compared the card to Final Fortune. I would like to note that [a] you will lose the game if you use it to protect yourself from Wrath of God on the fourth turn and no one has ever really played Final Fortune much anyway.] If you ever play Pact of Negation you'd better damn well be winning before this phase is over, never mind having the game get to your next upkeep. To sum it up, Pact of Negation is good only in a specific slot, and (with apologizes to Nickelback) it's only good there for all the wrong reasons, which leads me to my next point…
Wish List Item #2: No Combo Enablers
This is a point I am going to lose, and that makes me sad.
Because this has been a recurring theme on MM lately, I am just going to refer back to MM #11 (the first here at TCGplayer for trivia buffs) to describe what I am talking about here:
The MM Law of Good Things states that something that is absurdly good is actually absurdly bad, you just don't know why yet. Obviously, every new set has me worried.
I often go back in my head to something that Randy Buehler told me eight months ago. I mentioned to him that I was concerned that adding Coldsnap to the Standard risk inflated the number of cards in the format, which tends to shift everything towards degenerate aggro decks and (bad) thoroughly broken combo engines (worse). He said that I shouldn't worry; R&D has built itself up pretty well over the years with the best of the best, and that this manpower allowed them to make sure nothing snuck through.
In reality, I think Randy just knew something I didn't know: Coldsnap sucked. Hard.
Then Time Spiral came. The already record-sized Standard format was inundated by even more cards, this time a result of the timeshifted subset. Even more cards, even higher chances of something going wrong. And this time, I knew what the cards were, and they weren't nearly as bad as Coldsnap's. Something's going to have to give, so I thought. Then the State Champs came back, and I was proven completely wrong.
Now we're at round three, so it seems. Planar Chaos may be a normally sized set with an incredibly odd distribution pattern, but the power level of the cards that we've seen so far is something ridiculous. Off of the top of my head, Wrath of God (x2), Ball Lightning, and Blastoderm are about to reenter the Standard arena. That's exciting, even exhilarating. Time Spiral made me close to having an active desire to physically crack open booster packs, and I think Planar Chaos might have sent me over the edge.
But in the back of my mind, I hear a faint voice saying “this is gonna be bad,” and the little voice is right—we're one Arcbound Ravager away from having to trudge through puke-infested Standard waters for a year.
And no we trudge through round four, this potential disaster called Future Sight, and my personal list of probable offenders is large despite not having read through the full spoiler yet. Pact of Negation, as I alluded to just a moment ago, worries me because its nearly sole purpose is to make combo decks even more difficult to stop. I have three others that I want to talk about. See if you can find what ties them together:
Magus of the Vineyard
Because having a card that costs one green mana and adds GG to every player's mana pool at the beginning of their precombat main phase has never been used in a broken combo deck before, Wizards put Eladamri's Vineyard on a stick. But that's alright! I mean, hey, now they can Wrath on the second turn. Now that you mention it officer, Aluren is gone anyway, must be fine.
Well, now that you mention it officer, I could in fact use another creature to pull off my combo. And if you don't think I should have to spend any mana on it, then I don't think I should either. Because, you know, the Pact cards are going to be played exclusively in situations where you'll pay the upkeep cost. Really, they totally lend themselves to not ending the game right here and now. Much better for the long term.
Well, now that you mention it officer, I don't think Summoner's Pact is enough. No, I need another cheap and reliable way to find creatures. Might it come in the form of a two mana sorcery? Isn't it so balanced because you can't play it at instant speed? Have I really just talked about the two cards TFM has previewed?
If you looked at those three cards and thought to yourself, “geez, that dumb Project X deck that uses Saffi Eriksdotter and Crypt Champion could be really good now,” then you would be right. Although it's still too early to call in the jury, Future Sight looks like it's full of powerful cards. Ordinarily that would be a cause for celebration, but this time it makes me want to crawl in a cocoon and wait a couple years before emerging and heading back into Standard.
Guarantee of the Week
At least one person at your prerelease will lose the game after forgetting to pay the upkeep on Summoner's Pact. Whoops!
Rogue Deck of the Week
I found this one on Magic Online. Some guy named .Archangel scored two top eights last week (including a first place split) with a thoroughly odd deck containing pretty much all of the red Storm cards except for Dragonstorm. This being Magic Online, I don't have an exact decklist, but I have seen the following cards:
Rite of Flame
Empty the Warrens
Mogg War Marshall
If we just build it straight up from there, his decklist could be something like:
The Red Storm
4 Wild Cantor
4 Mogg War Marshall
4 Greater Gargadon
4 Lotus Bloom
4 Rite of Flame
4 Rift Bolt
4 Seething Song
4 Empty the Warrens
4 Ignite Memories
4 Molten Slagheap
That decklist is probably wrong somewhere. I never saw the Ignite Memories in a game one of his, so it's possible that it's in the sideboard. Outside of that, .Archangel likely has some random one-ofs, some of the four-ofs could be threes instead, and there's probably some two-two combination of storage lands rather than just four Molten Slagheaps.
Regardless, the deck does some crazy things despite it looking like a pile of jank on paper. The Red Storm aims to pound out an early Storm spell faster than even Dragonstorm does, setting up a load of 1/1s on the board with Empty the Warrens or going for a quick random kill with Ignite Memories. Besides that, .Archangel uses Greater Gargadon to do some random things, as it has nice synergy with Mogg War Marshall and Empty the Warrens. With such strong synergy and the deck's ability to haphazardly explode, I really recommend you shuffling it up and trying a game.
Kind words out of the way, my biggest concern is how erratic the deck is at times. We'll see if this prevents the deck from shedding that awful label of "rogue" and becoming "tech."
Future Sight: Making Eyes Bleed Everywhere
Our first reader feedback segment is brought to you by Jon Myers:
The new card design is terrible. I hate, hate, hate, hate it. As a graphic designer, the placement of the mana symbols scream in my eyes. For 13 years, Wizards has taught us that the mana symbols belong in the upper right hand corner. Now they want us to look in the middle of the card on the left hand side. It clashes with what we have been told and accepted for 13 years. Don't get me wrong—I love the new card design, but Wizards messed fundamentally with their brand. Now everyone who has played for more than one year will struggle to play. It literally took me five minutes to figure out what the cost of playing one of these cards. I pray that Wizards realize this huge mistake and put the mana cost back where it belongs.
Jon has something right here—it took me a good minute or two to figure out where the mana cost was on the card, then another few seconds to find the rest of the of the symbols beyond the first. On the other hand, one thing missing from this argument is how placing mana costs on the left side of the frame allows players to fan their cards in their hand while still having part of the card name and the cost visible. For the better part of a decade now I've heard rumors Wizards would make this change for that very reason, but it's worth noting how entirely unbeneficial it is to simultaneously have both types of frames. See the visuals:
So, umm, how much does that Heartwood Storyteller cost again?
2BB, 2WW, 3UU, and 2RRR. Now good luck having a mana base that can cast all of that.
Jumbled mess. But isn't the cat so cute?
Draw your own conclusions from that.
Statistic of the Week According to Frank Karsten, a recent 4x Time Spiral Block Constructed tournament on Magic Online attracted 115 players, a healthy amount for such an undefined format. What did the top eight look like? Wonderful question.
1/2) White Weenie
1/2) White Weenie
3/4) White Weenie
3/4) White Weenie
5-8) White Weenie
5-8) White Weenie
5-8) White Weenie
5-8) White Weenie
So much for “undefined format.”
This Is Here Because I Have to Say Something about PT Yokohama
By the time you are reading this, Pro Tour Yokohama has already started or is about to finish. As such, I will now make two bold predictions about what will happen. First, White Weenie will dominate the format even worse than Lin Sivvi did at PT New York '00, which was ubiquitously dubbed “PT Rebels.” Two, the MM Law of Picking Winners states the player with the longest or most complicated name to pronounce is most likely to win, so I will hazard a guess the player with the longest or most complicated name to pronounce in the top eight will win the tournament.
Standardizing FS Sneak Preview #2
Because I am a model employee of the Ascension Gaming Network, here is my Standardizing Future Sight sneak preview for TCGplayer's exclusive preview card, Simian Specter:
We apologize, but MM's secretary misplaced the actual card. Try here.
Riki Hayashi told me that Shimian Specter is the perfect preview card: it looks good from the outset, but it turns out to be pretty bad. While I am not as high on it as some others are, I am not so quick to dismiss it as unplayable. Considering this Specter pretty much tromps combo decks and some control decks as well if it goes through unblocked just once, I at least see sideboard potential out of it; the fact that it's a creature and at minimum forces your opponent to point a burn spell at the flyer makes me believe there's a chance it could go in some maindecks. I only wish it were the true Dragonstorm killer I was hoping for, as the evil UR deck will wind up Remanding/Repealing/and Gigadrowsing it into nothing until they go off unimpeded anyway.
Correction of the Week #1
I made a note last week that the mana slots on the new frame only go up to six spaces, meaning the mana costs of cards like the elder dragons. That theory got blown out of the water when some vanilla creatures without text boxes got thrown into the mix with room for nine mana, so conceivably we could have a creature that costs 1WWWWWWWW…just don't expect it to have any abilities.
Correction of the Week #2
It seems I owe Mr. Entitlement an apology. Last week, I quoted him from the message boards about another entitlement situation. When I tried to rationally expand on the facts Mr. Entitlement laid out in front of me, I got a key part of it wrong. One of his cronies called me on it, and I would like to thank him because the actual situation ironically makes Mr. Entitlement more of a jerk, idiot, and hypocrite than any of us had initially suspected.
Here's what I had to say last week. I'll make the correction in a second:
I'm not sure if there was a single person who disagreed with me on [the issue of entitlement] except for Mr. Entitlement himself. Case in point, he posted on our boards:
“I am by no means the only Memphian who has a problem with [Tuan Nguyen, the ‘pint-sized' Vietnamese crusader]. He actually cakked Alex Kim—who had defended him to the end on numerous occasions—out of a slot the weekend after I wrote my article. If you asked around the city you'd find that my opinion is echoed very strongly. Does this provide justification for it? No, of course not, but it is one of many inditia [sic] that perhaps Tuan isn't this nice little innocent bystander like many of y'all make him out to be.”
I've talked on and on about how finding scapegoats for our failures—chiefly cheating and luck—blind us from becoming better Magic players. Apparently there is now a third: entitlement. Mr. Entitlement and Alex Kim are playing in PTQs, and all they need is a win in the final round to advance to the top eight. Both lose to a man's man named Tuan Nguyen. Mr. Entitlement runs around and cries about not having his “pint-sized Vietnamese crusader” lay down for him or Alex.
In truth, when Entitlement told us that Tuan “cakked Alex Kim…out of a slot,” he wasn't saying Tuan refused to concede to Alex Kim…no, Tuan intentionally drew with another guy, thereby preventing Alex Kim from making the top eight! This is so ripe with hypocrisy, but forum user JTW already put it succinctly:
In "this" instance, when YOU [Mr. Entitlement] needed Tuan to play out his last round (Alex's case), and he didn't do what YOU needed, that was just completely awful. (How dare he!)
But in "that" instance, when YOU instead "needed Tuan to NOT play out his last round" (Zac's case), and this time yet again (!) he didn't do what YOU needed, well that was just as bad! (Horrific. Really.)
So from this we gather that your so-called "PTQ generally-understood culturally-normalized rules for concession/ID" basically boil down to: everyone has the privilege and responsibility of doing exactly what YOU say in order to best benefit YOU at every given tournament. (Gee! Thanks! *bounce*)
That is so hypocritical it is disgusting.
Meanwhile, now that we know Tuan Nguyen one week refused to concede and the next week decided to intentionally draw, he may not be the anti-match fixing hero I once portrayed him as. If that's not what's going on here, the draw put him in the top eight, in which case he is playing to win the game. Or Tuan felt he would likely lose the next matchup, so logically the best thing to do to preserve ratings points by drawing with a willing opponent. Or he could just really hate Mr. Entitlement, and he has made it his life goal to screw Zac at every opportunity available. (Of course, Mr. Entitlement is a very lovable character, so who knows why he would want to be like that.)
And I still have no idea what “cakked” means.
Empty Threat, Or Violation of DCI Policy
JTW has another worthwhile note:
If you berate your opponent for the reason of not conceding to you (or more truthfully due to YOUR inability to civilly accept that perfectly reasonable decision which was not yours to make), you may be violating additional DCI rules.
* UTR 142 Unsporting - Major
* Philosophy: Undirected aggressive behavior needs to be curtailed.
* Penalty: Game Loss
There is no doubt in my mind that Zac's article contained clear "undirected aggressive behavior." If any of those statements had been made in person at time of tournament, I would definitely have given him a game loss. The purpose of the personal characterizations was not to describe/identify anything at all; it was to make the target feel small. [Hence the very aggressive focus on the otherwise completely meaningless fact that the person is small (physically). It really can't be any more obvious, friends and Freudians.]
I asked JTW directly if he felt the threatening remarks Mr. Entitlement made during his article (the “I'm going out of my way at every event I ever attend to ensure that Mr. Nguyen doesn't receive a single favor from anybody. He's free to call my bluff and see what happens” part) is in violation of DCI policy. His short answer was “no” as it is too vague. However, the idea that someone can go online through a legitimate Magic website and broadcast such language can affect tournament attendance in a negative way, so the DCI should consider taking a second look at their policy for members' conduct outside the tournament site. It also reflects very poorly on that guy across the pond editing La Ciudad de Las Estrellas con Juegos.
More Policy Revision
One final note on the Mr. Entitlement slate for the week: the response thread for last week's article included a wonderfully intelligent deliberation between JTW and BJSnyder. To sum it up, BJSynder argues the Magic community should adopt certain cultural rules regarding what should be acceptable when it comes to fixing games, while JTW takes the side of a realist who knows that none of that matters as long as players play to win the game. It's a good read, and I suggest you take a look at it.
Wizards, I once again strongly urge you to look at adopting stricter guidelines as to what you can or cannot do during the last couple rounds of a tournament, as I outlined two weeks ago. Specifically, if we just made it so that at no point a player can give anything to another player who has conceded or intentionally drawn a match, then a lot of this will be cut down immediately.
Game 1 x3
Rule of Four
Not in the Dictionary
Wait, where is everything? With only three unique hits for what makes The Flower Man famous, this certainly is a disappointment. On the plus side, I think our pleas to get him back to using real English may be working seeing as “tier two” wasn't capitalized for the first time I can remember. On the other hand, this article was only 1,300 words. While I am certainly not questioning TFM's manhood or work ethic for writing such a short piece, I should note that this week's edition of MM is peaking at more than 4,500. Just for the record.
And Finally…A Moment of Silence
For this week anyway, we are all Hokies. I'm sure by now all of you have heard more than you'd like to about the tragedy that happed at Virginia Tech on Monday, so I am going to leave you with one question: how can Fox News Channel and Facebook possibly think it's a good idea to profit from the massacre?
Crap like this just makes you lose faith in the world.
Send Us Feedback!
Have a comment about one of the topics? Do you know the answer to a question that I posed but did not know the answer to? Or would you care to just rant away at me? Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and don't forget to include your name and location. Say something intelligent and you may just find yourself in next week's column!
MM never rests. Standardizing Future Sight begins on Monday and runs all week, including a double duty on Friday with the next Magic Musings. I am going to try to not explode facing that workload. Wish me luck.
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