The insiders among you may have benefited from a timely e-mail blast on Saturday morning regarding Rhox Faithmender -- a card that graced the Seance deck's sideboard for many months but only began to see mainstream play last week. Turning Thragtusk into twice the lifegain machine and making Sphinx's Revelation doubly backbreaking, Faithmender has a big enough butt to survive most combats and has the added benefit of costing a mere dollar.
I watched every dealer in the room sell out of this card before 9 am on Saturday and soon it was trading at around $4. I alerted the QS team immediately to give us all time to take advantage of pre-spike pricing. A dollar seemed like an excellent entry point, so I bought out a popular retail website's entire stock.
Now, if this site had said "We don't like your kind, speculator" on Saturday when I placed the order, I would have had time to place another order somewhere else. But they didn't inform me until Monday that my order was being cancelled, leaving me with 120 fewer copies than I'd anticipated having. I trusted this website, having placed several large orders with them in the past and never having an order cancelled like this.
In the speculation game, it's important to have sites you trust who will honor their original price after a spike rather than weasel their way out with statements like, "You should have contacted us to ask us if you could order so many copies of a card." Another popular retail website canceled my order of 15 Scavenging Oozes at $18 apiece the last day of GP Indianapolis because they "couldn't verify [my] shipping address was the same as [my] billing address." Sure enough, those 15 Oozes went back on their site the next day -- priced at $40 apiece.
My advice moving forward is to avoid ordering from tier one retail sites if your order is speculative. It's a mistake to assume they will go out of their way to protect their reputation. They do too much business for one person to hurt them financially and I can't inform enough people of my story without giving them grounds for legal retaliation. Instead I get to sullenly lick my wounds and look for another retail site I can trust.
To that end, TCGPlayer seems like a good choice for speculative buys of quantity. The cards come from a large number of small, individual sellers who are less likely to cancel an order hoping to relist it at a higher price, and more likely to be glad someone bought all their Rhox Faithmenders.
You pay a lot more in shipping this way, but if I could have paid the site I ordered from an extra $10 "don't be douchebags" fee not to cancel my order, I gladly would have. Higher shipping prices can also be mitigated if the site qualifies for the Super Saver Shipping... thing TCGPlayer has. I'm not well versed in this offer, but I wouldn't mind hearing more about it in the comments or the forums.
Your Triggers, Your Responsibility
Redditors will know about a recent kerfuffle involving Owen Turtenwald and a Pyreheart Wolf that happened in San Antonio.
Read his opponent's side of the story and then read Owen's side before we move on. Without taking a side in the matter it bears mentioning that you can miss triggers. At a Grand Prix rules enforcement level (REL), the new rules state that you need to explicitly state your lapsing triggers if you want them to happen.
A lot of discussion has been going on about why pros feel differently about this new rule than most people, much of it suggesting it's because they're scummy. In the reddit post, the guy clearly feels like day-twoing the GP was a huge accomplishment and the only thing that kept him from prize money was that dastardly professional rules lawyer. This feeling likely stems from the belief that he's unlikely to day two a GP again and consequently that he was robbed of something he won't get back. The player seems to feel that Owen, a pro, exploited a loophole in the rules to cheat him.
I really think that isn't the case, and it has something to do with the difference between pro players and non-pros, but probably not what you think.
Author Kevin Dutton wrote an excellent book about the traits that people suffering from psycopathy have in common with Fortune 500 CEOs. Something innate in a psychopath's brain structure makes them less empathetic than a normal person, more free to stab others in the back and take risks heedless of potential consequences -- all things that lead to success in the business world. A startling percentage of Fortune 500 CEOs have more than the minimum number of traits necessary to be clinically classified as a psychopath. In essence, something about being psychopathic makes someone a successful businessperson.
There is a similar feeling in the Magic community -- a feeling that pro players are somehow different, the kind of scumbags who use rules tricks to get an edge rather than outplaying their opponents. A lot of players view Magic pros as somehow different (in his reddit post, the author goes out of his way to mention that he treated Owen just like a regular person; because he's not?) and they're missing the point.
Owen Turtenwald didn't call his opponent on the missed trigger because he's a scumbag. He noticed it because he's more accustomed to playing at a high level where missing an optional trigger often results in a loss, whether enforced by the judge or not. That one damage from the Lobber Crew you didn't untap, that missed Ash Zealot trigger, that land in the graveyard you could have exiled with Deathrite Shaman when you were a mana short -- these things matter and they can spell the difference between a win and a loss.
I agree with Owen that it's miserable to remind a forgetful player to kill you. The new rules give the more vigilant player an edge which is how I think it should be. There is a fine line that pro and grinder alike are discovering and a bit of painful adjustment will be involved until everyone is on the same page. Jackie Lee's disqualification, the result of unfamiliarity with the new rules on her and her opponent's part, surprised a lot of people. But as we don't see a DQ for something similar every few minutes, clearly people are learning.
Remember your triggers, and remember the real difference between pros and less successful players is one part preparation and one part in-depth analysis of the game state. Pros see those missable triggers because they see everything, and if this game had been between two players of Owen's skill level, the judge would not have been called. Either both players would have remembered their triggers, or the player who missed one would have acknowledged it, learned from his mistake, and moved on.
You can't improve as a player by blaming someone else for noticing your mistake and calling a judge to enforce the rules. The only way to improve is to vow to play tighter and pay attention to those crucial details.
Deck the Halls
Get it? Because it's December and Magic is played with decks, and... because it's a pun and.... I don't have to impress you. You're reading my article so you're a fan already. Let's see you come up with entertaining puns every week.
Once again, TCG Player fails at what I like to call the name game. First they decided to call a deck with twice as many copies of Séance as Unburial Rites "Junk Rites," next they name a Bant-colored deck with a singleton Nephalia Drownyard "Dark Bant," which is actually idiotic. I should be nice, but come on. "Dark" Bant? "I screwed up my mana base because I'm not creative enough to run Sands of Delirium in my sideboard Bant" and "Let's deal with Thragtusk by making it gain 10 life instead of 5 Bant" would be worse, but at least they're descriptive.
Bant was the boogeyman at this event, but it was UWR, or "American Midrange" --A name likely to piss of France, Great Britain, Australia and the 59 other countries with red, white and blue flags-- that took the top three spots. It seems the players who can't admit Delver is gone have moved on to this style of control deck, which avoids having to deal a million damage in the long game by using permission to answer Thragtusk. Although it's not my favorite, it's likely the better Sphinx's Revelation deck which potentially makes it the best choice for people skilled enough to pilot it. It requires very tight play.
Missing from the top eight is our good friend Kenta Horoki who was in first place going into round nine before going down in flames. He's been on this deck for weeks, illustrating the importance of dedicating a lot of time to learn the deck. I'd also recommend thinking about something interesting Kenta told me about the deck -- "I have such a hard time dealing with Reanimator I decided not to waste any sideboard slots on it."
He got a bad bounce and had to play Reanimator twice early on day two which likely cost him a seat in the top eight. While you're playing a million games to learn the ins and outs of this deck, work on the sideboard. I don't know how to tune it for a meta that will likely feature Reanimator for the next year, but ignore that matchup at your peril.
Proving it wasn't just a flash in the pan, players continue to brew with Nightshade Peddler. Chris Benzinger's and Jeff Levine's decks are pretty dissimilar but both found a use for [card Nightshade Peddler]Peddler[/card] beyond Izzet Staticaster. Thundermaw Hellkite is my favorite pairing, but I hadn't considered Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells as a possibility and it looks like it paid dividends. There are a ton of ways to build this deck so get brewing. I think Peddler decks are at minimum a fine choice for FNM but this event proves they can finish in the money at large events too.
Fighting through Thragtusks and [card Rhox Faithmender]Faithmender[/card]s all day were a lot more aggro decks than I'd expected to see in the top sixteen. Players will continue to brew the beatdown, and with Boros promising to be the fastest of the ten guilds and Gruul slated as the third (the second fastest is obviously Rakdos), I don't see that changing post-Gatecrash.
I won't dwell on this a ton since they haven't included the top eight lists at the time of writing and most people just jammed their deck from Saturday's X-3 drop performance. I included this as bonus content because I'm a swell guy like that. People are clamoring for Jackie Lee's list, a deck designed by Adrian Sullivan (or "Sully" as I have begun telling people he likes to be called; let's see if this one sticks better than "Zombardment"). When that gets posted I'll likely chime in with my two cents in the comments section. Now that's bonus content. Suck it, Avengers Blu Ray.
Down to "The Wire"
The Wire being the only thing I know about Baltimore, besides "For the love of God, stay out of Baltimore."
You guessed it, there was an SCG event in Baltimore, the city of brotherly stabbings.
The new layout is really kind of atrocious, but we'll get used to it, in time.
Naya Midrange took the thing down. I've said before I'm excited that Naya is a deck now, because Gruul and Boros will only give it more options. All good stuff, all the time, this deck jams four-of efficient beaters with a little ramp and some removal. Perfection.
There are a lot more Thundermaw Hellkites in Baltimore than there were in Indianapolis. Naya, Jund -- this card is everywhere. I think they're peaking now but they could hit $30. I'm not banking on it though, mine are all gone.
Ali Antzari's Five-Color Control is the most interesting list and makes me excited for the possibilities when Gatecrash gives us more gold cards and better mana bases. I am surprised that I don't see Unburial Rites in a list that runs [card Gisela, Blade of Goldnight]Gisela[/card] and [card Griselbrand]Grizzle fer Shizzle[/card]. His games must have gone pretty long, but clearly he was winning them as a ton of draws don't see you make third place.
Half of the top eight is B/R Zombies?! WUT?! In a Thragtusk-infested Standard this deck usually lacks the reach to deal 30 damage reliably or 20 quickly enough to beat the first Thragtusk down. I suspect that once the pros who were slinging Bant in Indianapolis are in the mix, Zombies doesn't stand much of a chance. I think the UWR decks that dominated Indy also curbstomp Zombies so it's a bad metagame choice once people digest all the new info.
Speaking of half of the top eight, what's with all the BUG all of a sudden? Shaheen Soorani took it down with Esper Stoneblade (ugh) but there were 4 BUG decks in the top eight. Two were Delver and two were control, but the common theme is a healthy dose of Deathrite Shaman and Abrupt Decay -- cards I always said would impact the Legacy meta more than they would Standard. It took a while, but people are finally jamming them in Legacy and I think the meta is shifting.
Abrupt Decay is unbelievably good in Legacy right now and Deathrite Shaman is unbelievably good everywhere. I think Deathrite, instead of being good in Maverick, is probably going to be the death of Maverick. Already underperforming recently, Knight of the Reliquary decks will struggle even more in a meta infested with Deathrite Shaman. However, the smug little emo kid (seriously, look at Deathrite Shaman's art; he's even wearing a hoodie) can be easily domed by a Punishing Fire, so the meta may be ripe for the return of Punishing Maverick. Fire also deals with [card Dark Confidant]Bob[/card], [card Vendilion Clique]Clique[/card] and life totals. Brew, Legacy players, BREW!
The stars aligned for a Dredge deck to top eight. I love it when pet decks get there, which seems to be roughly once per event. Whether it's Belcher, Lands, High Tide, Dredge or Enchantress, some tier two deck top eights on the back of the pilot's copious experience with it and a stroke of luck. This makes investing time, energy and a lot of money into a Legacy deck worth it. The meta hasn't undergone a tectonic shift with the addition of good green/black cards and pet decks can still get there. So get there!
Is BUG the new RUG? None of the RUG Delver decks in the top sixteen breached top eight. Also under-performing is Show and Tell, although it hasn't been doing that well for a few months. Carlo Fuentes nearly got there with Cephalid Breakfast, a deck with more copies in the top thirty-two this weekend than Academy Rectors. Is that card up so much just because of Vintage? I can't imagine that. I have my suspicions that Rector's price bump was artificially instigated and not the result of an open market dictating an increase in demand.
A deck that delighted me was Josh Cho's, which SCG (poorly) titled "UB Tempo," belying the simple elegance of a deck with 16 lands, 12 creatures and all the spells on earth. Designed to win and win quickly, Cho pays a lot of life for his spells which can make Death's Shadow a real monster.
Nivmagus Elemental may be more playable than we gave it credit for in Legacy. I like it as a way to get rid of spells your opponent has countered, but paying 2 life for Gitaxian Probe only to strap it to elemental seems fine as a way to reduce both your life total and theirs.
Snuff Out does work here and I imagine the whole idea is to get your life total to around 8 to make Death's Shadow bigger than Tarmogoyf and swing with it, Niv and [card Delver of Secrets]Delver[/card]. Removal and permission prevent them from KOing you at your precarious life total. I Imagine the [card Erayo, Soratami Ascendant]Erayo[/card] in the board is to combat Mono Red, which can put a damper on your plans to play Death's Shadow for value. All in all this deck looks like fun and I'll likely sleeve it up soon.
The last thing I'll mention is that Sam Castrucci had the sack to sleeve up Scapeshift Valakut. Anything so good it was banned in Modern is probably unfair enough to jam in Legacy. I like this concept a lot.
Another Perfectly Good Day Wasted Reading 3000 of My Words
Get back to whatever you were doing before. Learn from mistakes and brew, dammit. Hit me up in the comments, let's talk about this Jackie Lee deck people are clamoring for. If you correctly guess the site I tried to order Faithmenders from, I'll be sure to respond with a cryptic "maybe" -- the same response I'll give if you're wrong. What fun!