I want to start out this week with an update on the Jon Elden story. Last week I talked about what was an apparently open-and-shut case of some savage cheating and what you can do to make sure you aren’t similarly cheated.
The day the article went live, Corbin and I recorded Episode 15 of Brainstorm Brewery along with our friends Marcel and Ryan. The main topic of conversation was Jon Elden’s conduct in Detroit and our genuine desire to have Elden defend himself on the cast. As quick as I was to condemn Elden, in the spirit of fairness I think it is essential to hear Elden’s side of it.
In the days that followed the event in question, his brother constructed a wordpress blog site where Elden wrote a semblance of an explanation found here. His bother, David, wrote a treatise in his defense on the same site.
Facing One’s Accuser
Whether or not you find their arguments compelling it is important to get their side of the story. I have made repeated attempts to contact Elden to allow him to explain himself in one of my articles and/or on the podcast, so far to no avail. I imagine he may be reluctant to do so and would rather put the incident behind him. But with an impending suspension or ban announcement likely, that may not be a possibility.
My intentions are not to further condemn Elden or gang up on him on the podcast; I merely find the entire incident fascinating and I am eager to learn as much as I can and no one knows more about what happened that day than he does.
I will continue to follow this story as it develops. It may be that there is more to the incident than was apparent initially and it’s exciting to see what the future has in store for us.
Sam Black is Better at Magic Than You
I know this has happened to you. You are daydreaming and all of a sudden two previously unconnected ideas join in your head and a deck idea coalesces. Excited, you grab the nearest thing to write on and a decklist pours out of your brain onto the paper. The ideas come forth effortlessly and within a minute you have a rough idea of a maindeck sketched out.
“How could no one else have come up with this before?” you wonder as you jot down what you imagine is the next breakout deck. Visions of top-eights, deck tech interviews with BDM and future articles about your divine inspiration dance dizzily in your head.
As you begin to revise the list though, your enthusiasm fades. After a few minor changes you quickly realize there is a reason this particular seventy-five has never graced the top eight of a Grand Prix. After optimizing some of the spells and the mana base, you’re left gazing at 51 of the 60 cards in the most popular tournament deck.
Countless players have had the same idea as you, and the logical conclusion every one of them came to lead them exactly where you are now and that’s the deck everyone is playing. It doesn’t exactly take divine inspiration to come up with a bad version of Delver sporting Fettergeist or a few copies of Lone Revenant to screw up your mana curve.
I am here to tell you that we’ve all been there. I’ve gotten incredibly excited about jamming Slivers in Legacy only to discover it’s a Merfolk deck with horrible mana and four fewer lords. I’ve brewed a deck with Threaten effects and Ooze Garden only to realize that once I splashed black I was running a clunkier version of the Jund Sarkhan Vol, Nantuko Husk and Torrent of Souls pile Ryan Bushard and I had run 3 months earlier at Regionals. It’s frustrating.
I am also here to tell you that you absolutely can not stop brewing.
Succumbing to the Hive Mind
The internet is both the best and worst thing to happen to Magic. It created a closely-knit community and ushered in an era of information sharing that has led to the game catching on in a way no one could have predicted back in 1993. It has also led to a hive mind mentality that has stifled creativity.
Most of what brewers come up with are bad versions of better decks, or ideas that won’t work at all in practice. That’s why a lot of people stop brewing and end up as yet another netdeck zombie.
That doesn’t mean all of your ideas are bad. If you brew a lot, you will accumulate several good ideas and contribute to the game in a positive way. Does U/W Delver put five decks in the Top 8 at a nonprofessional event because it’s the best deck, or because it’s the deck the hive mind has decided everyone should be playing?
What Sam Black Does Better
When Sam Black has an idea for a deck, he makes the deck and tests it. He’s had a lot of bad ideas. He’s had more bad ideas than you, I bet. He’s probably had more deck ideas that didn’t pan out. He’s been teased by his playtest partners way more than you have. He’s slapped his own forehead more times for not realizing he spent ten minutes building a bad version of a good deck.
So if he hasn’t given up on brewing, why should you?
Sam Black thought that Blood Artist was a good card, just like you did when you first read it. The difference is that when you both wondered if it was playable in Legacy, you probably thought, “If it were, someone would have come up with an idea by now,” and he thought, “Let’s test it.”
Later in the article where I discuss decks from the weekend, I’ll talk more about how Sam Black is my hero.
My Own Foibles
Normally I wouldn’t discuss brewing at all and the pressure that fear of failure can put on you, but Sam Black’s deck from the GP had quite an impact on me.
Recently, Ryan Bushard and I were trying to break Modern and we decided Zombie Infestation was the way to do it. We had [card Squee, Goblin Nabob]Squee[/card], Bloodghast, Gravecrawler, Faithless Looting, etc. and we had a good time brainstorming cards for it. I thought for half a second “Would this deck be better in Legacy?” and I immediately shot the idea down. If Bloodghast and Gravecrawler were Legacy playable, surely someone else would have come up with the idea already.
I don’t dare imply that I would have come up with the deck Sam Black used to take the Legacy GP by storm. The idea to run a discard suite, including Tidehollow Sculler (which is a zombie!), and build it is as card advantage deck rather than the pseudo-dredge deck Ryan and I wanted to build in Modern, was inspired. I doubt I would have come up with as good a list as Sam did.
But I never gave myself a chance to even get close. Where I dismissed looking at how the Legacy card pool could improve the deck, Sam Black top-eighted a GP with a totally unique deck.
Most of my ideas are bad. But even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Go, brew something.
First up we have a t-shirt bleached by Redditor Eander. That’s a seriously ridiculous bleach job. I’m impressed with how it turned out. Great job, Eander!
Redditor “Redditorwhatever” points out that if you want to print out your DOTP six-card booster voucher, you may as well just buy the thing for what the ink would cost you. Black text on a white background is so 2011.
Redditor The_Red_Comet has very sharp eyes. He caught a very cool idea artist Karl Kopinski had for some art he was commissioned to do for M13. Nice catch, The_Red_Comet!
What Happens in Atlanta Affects All of Us
The Legacy GP in Atlanta drew players from all over, tallying one of the biggest crowds for a Legacy GP in recent memory. Was it a mistake not to ban Griselbrand? How much did Land Tax affect the format? Why did I spend half an article talking about Sam Black? Let’s find out!
There is a lot less to talk about here than I would like. Anyone who reads a lot of Twitter will note that there were a ton of copies of Karakas in evidence in Atlanta, which had two results.
Maverick is still the deck I would play in Legacy right now as it has the tools to beat everything. It’s the best Karakas deck and it has gobs of hate for the rest of the format.
A reason not to play Maverick? It dies to all the hate that Sam Black’s new brew may bring to Legacy in the future. I don’t know what he called it so I am going with:
Sam Black Legacy GP Atlanta 2012
3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Marsh Flats
3 Polluted Delta
1 Undiscovered Paradise
3 Verdant Catacombs
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Faithless Looting
3 Goblin Bombardment
4 Lingering Souls
1 Tragic Slip
22 other spells
With more synergy than you can shake a stick at, this deck is easily the most fun-looking new Legacy deck I have seen in the past five years.
Generating two damage per creature with Goblin Bombardment plus Blood Artist, you can make quick work of an opponent who took a few early jabs from your zombies. Bloodghast + Undiscovered Paradise is a fun interaction. Making good use of Bitterblossom as well, this deck has a powerful discard suite, silly recurring creatures and several good sacrifice outlets, all of which add up to card advantage even blue has a tough time keeping up with.
The event was won by RUG Delver, piloted by Gaudenis Vidugiris. Interestingly enough, Gaudenis Vidugiris expressed interest in running Sam Black’s “Zombardment” deck (I like that name and hope it catches on so I’m going to pretend that was always the name), but Black himself talked him out of it. Good thing, too, as the RUG deck he ran instead took him all the way to the top.
There were only three copies of Land Tax in the Top 32, which surprised a lot of people who I bet are starting to regret paying $45 apiece for theirs this week. I am going to give people a little more time to brew with this card because there is a sick amount of advantage there waiting to be unlocked. That can be your homework for this week, speculators.
Zombieless in Seattle
There was also a StarCity Open in Seattle this weekend, so let’s see if the Legacy brewers there came to some different conclusions.
Initial signs point to yes. The Top 8 included seven different decks, only one RUG Delver build, and two Merfolk lists, including that of eventual winner Ian Kendall. The event really couldn’t have been more different than GP Atlanta.
Martin Goldman-Kirst played an Aluren build I really like, putting the deck back in the spotlight after it had languished in obscurity for a few years. Great job, Martin!
Maybe Delver isn’t the elephant in the room after all. Managing four copies in the Top 8 in Legacy and four in Standard, it appears the flying nacatl may be beatable after all. Although Nick Harlow took Delver all the way to the finals, he was ultimately done in by Nathan Anderson’s G/R Aggro deck.
Also in the Top 8 were three different types of pod decks. RUG, Naya and Zombie all made the cut. The Zombie Pod deck could have used more Gloom Surgeon if you ask me, but its use of Mortarpod is a good choice and propelled the deck into the Top 8.
Eight unique decks in the Top 8 point to a healthy and diverse format. I am pleased with these results.
Someone else who is going to be pleased soon is Phillip Johnson, the pilot of a monoblack deck that is only going to get better with Mutilate. Making use of Increasing Ambition and Sever the Bloodline, this deck is a great blueprint for making your own homebrew that may use some neglected cards with real potential.
That’s All, Folks!
Join me next week when I will have more metagame developments to discuss and possibly a followup to the Jon Elden story. With M13 just around the corner, there will be a lot of exciting stuff to talk about in future weeks.
If you have a homebrew you’ve been working on but were afraid to share with anyone, post it in the comments. I’ll post my own to get us started. No judgments, just brainstorming. Remember, most of your ideas are bad. That means some of them are good.
Until next week!