I didn't like anything this week.
What's Not To Like?
Despite being married to a cinephobe I managed to make it to three different movies last week, more than I've seen in theaters in the last year. I found Flight, which looked like total Oscar bait but compelling nonetheless, to be deeply flawed. Its serious moments were spoiled by poor dialogue and unintentional comic moments, which made the deliberate attempts at humor even more jarring. I expected a little better and was disappointed.
After Avengers, the movie I looked forward to the most in 2012 was Skyfall, and even that left me feeling let down. Instead of epitomizing British style and sophistication, the franchise comes back from the brink of oblivion (read more here) by borrowing from Hollywood's lowest common denominator cliches. The "computers can do anything" hacker subplot, the Goldbergian booby traps from Nightmare on Elm Street, the haphazard throwback to classic Bond films.
It all leaves you wondering whether this movie belongs to the new continuity started by Casino Royale or the 50-year-long "many actors, one Bond" continuity with more questions than answers. James Bond isn't the "James Bourne" of Casino or Quantum but rather a stern-faced and stoic mish-mash of John McClane in Die Hard 4 and Kevin McCallister in Home Alone --a combination that should result in more comic one-liners yet somehow results in fewer.
The only movie I actually liked was Wreck-It Ralph. I'm not sure adults need to see this one unless they're accompanying their children, but at least it left me entertained.
All this exposition seems necessary to explain how this week, I'm used to disappointment.
Announcing Dragon's Maze
"Oh, that's so cool! They kept the 'R-G-D' scheme the same as the last block."
-- Lots of you, for some reason
I'd like to be done crapping on everything so I'm actually doing my level best to get swept up in the wave of enthusiasm that surrounded Wizard's announcement this weekend.
Initially I allowed snark to take over and my first reaction was "Wow, they've really outdone themselves. I didn't think it was possible to come up with a worse set name than "Gatecrash" but somehow they managed to beat the odds." Then, something curious happened.
Saved By... Reddit?
That's right, Reddit.com, home to kickass deckboxes, fan-made expansion sets and its new patron saint, artist Noah Bradley. I have a very curious relationship with Reddit, which took on a whole new dynamic this week.
At first I was keen to find as much good Magic content on reddit as I could and share it with all of you, but as the well dried up, I found myself going all the way to page 20 every week just to find a paltry three or four things of interest. Increasingly annoyed by the high volume of obvious rules questions and other "brand new player" content, I sought refuge in r/spikes -- a subreddit for the serious tournament player.
What I found there was the "Magic is srs bsns" crew but not the content I was looking for. Tournament reports and deckbuilding queries may be more worthwhile than posts asking what happens if you Prey Upon a creature with first strike, but I don't actually want to read them. If I wanted to read tournament reports, I'd go to a website with reports written by people I actually recognize.
Frustrated, I headed back to the main r/magictcg subreddit. What I found there surprised me.
Since I was feeling snarky about the new set's stupid name (on Twitter Joe Spanier said even "Dragon Maze" would have sounded better) I was totally unprepared for the wave of relentless enthusiasm I encountered in the reddit post announcing this set.
Here, read the entire comment section. It's sweeter than a bag of Skittles mixed in a can of Mountain Dew, but it sure cheered me up. At first I was taken aback by people's sheer earnest glee at the announcement.
Who the $%#^ is that?
But Maro said Nicol Bolas wasn't going to be in this block at all!
And they kept coming. People super excited about the name, the symbol, the stupid RGD letters, "OMG Same as last time!" I really couldn't help but be caught up along with them.
Most of the people in the Magic subreddit aren't the best Magic players. Most of them aren't even good at all. But that's not why you go on reddit, is it? It's not a hub of tournament reports, finance information or discussions about Limited pick orders. It is, however, a haven for people that genuinely love the $%*& out of this game and want nothing more than to talk about their excitement for the new set.
Five minutes in the right thread in that subreddit is like a cool dip in a desert oasis. All the accumulated grime of disappointment and the false sense of superiority is washed away and you're left with a clean, optimistic feeling.
There's merit to reveling in the casual aspects of this game. There's also merit to checking yourself occasionally when you find you're not as bright-eyed and in awe as you used to be. Maybe you don't let your attitude get as bad as I do sometimes, but we all need to take five from time to time and remember-- this is a card game and games are supposed to be fun.
- "Gatecrash" may sound more like a mechanic than a set name, but it's still better than "Saviors of Kamigawa."
- "Dragon's Maze" may sound more like a 4RRR enchantment than a set name, but it's still better than "Mercadian Masques."
- Skyfall may have featured a "computer expert" who plugs a strange laptop into the entire network before asking "how did he access our network?" but it's still a better movie than Quantum of Solace
So what if it can get confusing for a second or two when you mention an RGD draft. If they ask which one, you can always say "The one that cost less than $36".
My Commitment Not to Be Snarky Tested
The finals at the Chicago GP was a 74-card Jund mirror. Seriously? What am I supposed to do with that?
The controversial Edgar Flores made Top 8 with the same U/W durdlefest that top-eighted the last Modern event. I kind of like this deck, a throwback to the U/W Tapout decks of a few years ago. I thought it was a good idea to snatch up [card Baneslayer Angel]Baneslayers[/card] but if you do, get them in trade because they're still around $8-$10 retail. Casuals do so love their angels. I couldn't play a deck like this for ten rounds, but it looks like fun.
Can we stop calling Affinity "Robots" please? Even if someone played an artifact creature deck with zero creatures and zero spells with the affinity mechanic I still won't call it "Robots". Stop it.
I rather liked Shane McDermott's Rites Ungiven reanimator deck (I made the name up, but it's still better than Robots). This seems like a fun strategy in Modern since the format lacks much of the graveyard hate that's so prominent in Legacy. While many of the same cards are legal, Reanimator and Dredge aren't very dominant or popular, so the impetus to run hate is low. Modern also gives you better access to fun reanimation targets than Standard. Who else already misses [card Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite]Norn[/card]?
Modern is becoming a format with an established best deck, but where pet decks can still be competitive. R/G Tron, for example, doesn't seem to depend on the meta but rather on ducking 'unfair' matchups and getting paired against decks that can't quite deal with the formidable threats it presents early. Jund has a lot of hand disruption but they can't stop your topdecks and if you make the game go long, you have a good shot.
To that end, Splinter Twin makes a heartwarming comeback. I like when this deck is the scrappy underdog and not the format-warping deck-to-beat behemoth. Right when they printed Splinter Twin I ran the deck in Extended, before we had access to Spellskite and Deceiver Exarch. It was a game of "Show me Path to Exile or let's shuffle up for the next one." Spoiler alert, they had Path a lot. Turns out Cryptic Command is poor backup for a four-mana enchantment when you've run out of Dispels.
There were seven decks in the Top 8 at Chicago. Modern is really shaping up to be a good, healthy format. Great job, everyone.
P.S. Did anyone notice the best card in Jund right now is white?
Don't Mess With-- Sorry. It Was This or a "Who Shot JR?" Joke
As the title poorly implies, there was an SCG Open this weekend in Dallas.
Not a bad Top 8. For all the whining about "Ban Thragtusk!" there were exactly eight of a possible thirty-two in the Top 8 of this event.
I was a little thrown by how fast U/W/R Miracles, the first real control deck of the season, came out. I expected it to take until about now for control to get figured out. Far beyond "figured out," these decks are already the decks to beat, muscling out all but the least fair aggro decks.
Jund, unfair in its inherent card advantage and G/W, unfair in its sheer explosiveness. Turn three Rancor on [card Loxodon Smiter]Smiter[/card], cast [card Silverblade Paladin]Silverblade[/card], swing for 12 is pretty good when your opponent only has two lands in play.
That said, the event was won by a control deck I thought fringe at first as the players wielding it were those who missed Delver the most and were having trouble letting go. This deck is the real deal though, as a [card Runechanters Pike]Pike[/card] and a pile of spent instants in your yard is good in conjunction with any dude, not just a flying nacatl. It doesn't hurt that Pike makes your [card Snapcaster Mage]Snapcaster[/card] a Thragtusk murder machine and an Augur of Bolas can handle nearly any first (or double) striker with its huge butt.
Lyev Skyknight is a human? Sure, why not? He joins a different take on the "too fast to be fair" deck that G/W has taken over but which really started with U/W Humans. It's a tossup which of the two is less fair-- Loxodon Smiter and Rancor or Geist of Saint Traft and War Falcon. That's a super unfair comparison, I know. What is also unfair is free rolling a Smiter. With Rakdos's Return gaining traction I might lean toward G/W over U/W, although Geist is so good with Sublime Archangel (otherwise known as "curving out" but better than that term usually implies). When Geist swings as a 5/5, he does so with impunity.
This time the ratio of U/W Midrange decks splashing red to straight U/W is 2:1. Thundermaw Hellkite is too legit to quit, and if the Top 8 is full of durdly angel decks (Even the Humans deck had Sublime Archangel and [card Lyev Skyknight]Skyknight[/card]), punching through them to connect to the domus is legit. Both of the midrange decks with red did better than the one without, again. Take note, metagame.
Reanimator will never disappear entirely. It's too much fun to reanimate an Angel of Serenity with Unburial Rites or "Oops, I win" a Craterhoof Behemoth with Seance. Deathrite Shaman goes up a buck or two each week accordingly. Where's the ceiling? All I know is I bought them at $4 and I bought them hard. (That sounds dirty. I just mean I bought a lot of them.) These puppies trade out above $10 no matter which site people use. Pick them up el cheapo if you can.
Despite being the most popular Magic website, StarCity can't seem to properly name decks in their coverage or post the Top 8 in the correct order. Apparently Joe Bass was not in a 4-way tie for 8th place, but rather won the event with U/W Miracles. Sorry Corbin, Merfolk didn't win, it got 3rd.
Merfolk did Top 8, though, as did Goblins, to the delight of old school Legacy players everywhere.
Wait, two High Tide decks? That's more High Tide in the Top 8 than in most Legacy Top 64s. I can dig it. High Tide may be difficult to wield, but at least it's annoying as balls to play against.
Worth mentioning is the RUG Grove deck in the Top 16 piloted by Marcus Kozminski. RUG is good; Punishing Grove is good. Those two things in the same 75 seems good. I wish he'd done better, but this may catch on, which I think is exciting.
The front page says Joe Bass played U/W/R Miracleblade. What is going on with this coverage? I guess they're saying it's U/W/R with the R standing for "a few Pyroblasts in the board". No Spinal Villain? Have you guys read that card?
Miracles are good though, and they'll continue to plague Legacy. While all Legacy players could see at first was "OMG Time Walk!", eventually they calmed down and realized Terminus and [card Entreat the Angels]Entreat[/card] were much better bargains and impacted the game more. Expect this list to continue to develop.
Where are the Sneak Attacks and Show and Tells? Where are the Academy Rectors? Interesting meta they have in Texas, although I suspect this is more indicative of the way Legacy as a whole is shifting. I wouldn't expect Sneak and Show to maintain their bloated price tags, although Legacy prices rarely drop. Bubbles don't burst in old formats, they just remain high and unjustified.
That's All, Folks
Don't be a sourpuss. Magic is supposed to be fun. Next time you find yourself hating some aspect of it, head to the saccharine dunk tank that is the Magic subreddit. It's like spending a week as the Kindergarten Cop. I defy you to have a bad time after seeing a pile of grown men high fiving each other over a picture of Ral Zarek.
Have fun and stay safe.