I have a joke for you!
Q: What's funnier than a bunch of Magic Players clearly thinking someone got an invite to the Pro Tour just because she's a woman, but don't want to say it out loud?
A: She X-0's day one and makes top eight.
Let's Not Spend Too Much Time on This
If you thought Melissa DeTora only got invited to play on the Pro Tour because she's a woman, that's understandable. I get that. But if you said that out loud in front of another person, or worse, on Twitter or Facebook, understand that you're a bad person. Is her inclusion based on "community contribution" unfair to people with much better records for the season who didn't qualify? Sure, I guess. But understand one thing.
The Pro Tour is WoTC's event. Do you know which part of WoTC's budget these events come out of? That's right, Marketing. The Pro Tour is a three-day commercial for a Hasbro product. I don't mean that cynically, I happen to love the concept. The event is considered "advertising" and that's ultimately what the event accomplishes. Decisions that affect the impact these marketing dollars have on sales, future event attendance and general reception of the game are made with respect to growing the brand. If you lose sight of that for a second and start to view the PT as anything else, it's a lot easier to get butthurt about someone who didn't qualify for the PT getting invited. Twitter was full of a lot of "If she gets invited, I should definitely have been invited! I had blah blah blah more top eights this year" and not only is that whiny and sad, it also kind of misses the point.
DeTora's invite wasn't about WoTC relaxing their standards to a lower level to make an exception for one person. If you had the same (or a better) record this PT qualifying season and you didn't qualify, stop pretending you should have been invited, too. This was a case of WoTC wanting a popular player who has been grinding hard for over a decade to be at the event --partly-- because she may make high-level Magic seem less inaccessible to female players. When you remember that WoTC used money from their advertising budget to include her in the event, you may see where they're coming from as a brand.
To whom is that actually unfair? If you didn't qualify, you didn't qualify. If you didn't qualify and additionally weren't granted an invite for your contribution to the community, it's probably because you didn't contribute as much as DeTora. Play better next season and make it on the Tour. This entire ugly incident exposed the underbelly of a male-dominated game once again and the sense of entitlement and covert sexism (honestly, overt as well) came to the fore as it so often does these days.
However, the simple fact remains that someone who didn't qualify for the Pro Tour got to play on the Pro Tour. Do I think Melissa being a woman contributed to her inclusion? It probably did. But I don't think that's a bad thing. I think she is an inspiration to other female magic players (an endangered species) and she should be an inspiration to men, too. She isn't just some random sorority girl they thought was photogenic and shoved in front of a camera with a deck in her hands. She's a good f%^$ing Magic player.
Ask me how I know. That's right, she X-0'd day one and made the top eight. On the Pro Tour. An event where a lot of people spent the last week pretending she didn't belong. Make no mistake, Melissa belongs on the Tour. WoTC gambled with this discretionary invite, it paid huge dividends, and the people who were most wrong about the whole incident were the most cynical among us and they deserve to be wrong. This was good for WoTC and it was good for Magic, and anything that's good for Magic can't be that bad.
- Ask yourself if anyone would have cared if Finkel hadn't qualified and WoTC gave him a "community contribution" invite. Would anyone have even noticed?
- Ask yourself if anyone would have called Finkel a "cheater" and a "disgrace" if he had cast Grisly Spectacle on an artifact creature. Did you know that card couldn't hit artifact creatures? I won't pretend I did.
- Ask yourself if there is another single person whose invitation to the event would have been better advertising for WoTC.
It's up to us to allow WoTC to bask in the glory of their gamble that paid off. Let's understand what they were going for and actively make this game accessible to females on the upper echelons of competitive play. Let's not embarrass out entire gender by being a bunch of crybabies at best and sexist douchebags at worst. I realize I'm likely preaching to the choir here, but I'm also preaching to the part of everyone's brain, sexist or not, who thought "Oh, man. I bet I can guess why she got invited". Melissa's top eight was good for all of us, so you should thank Wizards for inviting her. I know I do.
So, About That Pro Tour
Apparently the one person in America who agrees with Marcel and me about Mutilate is Conley Woods, and his start to the PT was....not strong. His undefeated Day 2 got a lot less coverage than Melissa's undefeated Day 1 but it was no less remarkable. Conley finished 14th overall.
If you don't have a ton of Falkenrath Aristocrats right now, I'd advise you to scoop them before they hit $25 again. This deck is the real deal and it put a ton of people in the top sixteen at SCG Cinci (more on that later) and won the Pro Tour for Tom Martell. This deck laughs at Supreme Verdict, and the other sweepers get countered by the midrange decks like Melissa's Wolf Run Bant (I know I'm harping on her a lot but she had the only Bant deck in the top eight).
Verdict is bad against Boros Charm, though. Why exactly is everyone running Verdict? Is this why Planar Cleansing sold out of every dealer's table at the PT? I can't answer these questions for you. What I will say is that both Mutilate and Planar Cleansing are very good against The Aristocrats (especially the versions running Assemble the Legion) and if that deck dominates the way I expect it will, you'll want a backup plan for when your Supreme Verdict leads to you getting KO'd by a 13/12 indestructible Aristocrat or maniacal laughter as your Wrath makes you die to Blood Artist. There are a lot of ways to build this deck, and I for one am brewing with a list I saw in Cinci, although Martel's list isn't a bad place to start (it obviously gets there).
Also in the top eight we had Naya, Esper, two Junds, two RUW and a Bant deck. I like Efro's list a ton and Burning Tree Emissary continues to be a contender. Apparently being able to cascade into a card in your hand appeals to people right now in Gruul and Naya. Reckoner was everywhere, trading as high as $40 at one point at the PT (things were calmer in Cinci as SCG had them in their case at $25 all weekend and had copies to spare the whole time at that price) and the Friday coverage showing Sam Black lose to Martin Juza after Juza cast a 14-point Harvest Pyre on his own Boros Reckoner had a lot of people audibling into RUW before Saturday in Cinci.
[card Obzedat, Ghost Council]Obzedat[/card] may be the most disappointing card in the set since I had the highest hopes for him ([card Prime Speaker Zegana]Zegana[/card] is a close second). He's largely relegated to sideboards as he may be "too little, too late" a lot of the time in this aggro-heavy metagame. I'd like to see him get played more, but I doubt he can maintain a $25 pricetag for long. Armada Wurm was $25 once, too, and SCG had those in their case for $3 this weekend. The bigger they are... All of which confused me I suppose because initially when I hit the trade floor in Cinci I had a lot of people ask me for Obzedat right before the event.
I guess my biggest takeaway from the PT is that even the pros are still just adding Gatecrash cards to their pre-Gatecrash decks right now. I don't see a ton of new archetypes. The Aristocrats is new and it runs exactly three new cards outside of the manabase --to be fair, one of them is a titular creature; "The Aristocrat" sounds like a MAD TV ripoff of a Christopher Walken sketch from SNL. I expect more innovation to come. So far no one has attempted cipher, battalion, extort, or even bloodrush as a central element to any successful build. Sure, Blind Obedience and Ghor-Clan Rampager get play, but they are just too good not to play and Rampager isn't exactly in a bloodrush deck but more included because he is absurdly good. I hope to see more innovation as the meta struggles to deal with Boros Reckoner in a way other than, "run your own Reckoners, herp."
I'd recommend taking the time to peruse the coverage archive on the mothership and watch some of it unfold. I kept up via Twitter from the trade tables and it informed what I picked up.
Speaking Of Trade Tables
Supreme Verdict at $3 seemed absurd, and I don't think reality can sustain the simultaneous $8 Inquisition of Kozilek/$5-$6 Cabal Therapy situation we currently have. $10 Therapy seems more like it. Buy accordingly. For whatever reason, people balked at $15 on Deathrite Shaman but the same people snapped Thragtusk at $15 without even thinking. Those people are wrong, but they are in the majority right now so if you can trade a Tusk straight across for a Deathrite, you do it. If you can get a Deathrite plus a throw-in for Thragtusk, do that, frankly.
Price memory is keeping Thragtusk higher than it deserves right now and I would come off of them before it hits $10. Deathrite is on an upward trajectory and $15 will likely be the buylist price in a few months. Most people think Reckoner's price is absurd and he's tough to move in trade for value, but he's still the most requested card. I want out of Reckoner and I traded them out aggressively. Pick up Blind Obedience right now, too. That is a card you'll want a ton of in the next two weeks. Assemble the Legion is the card I target as a throw-in when we're off a bit in a trade (something I try to make happen on purpose if I can) and that could hit a few bucks very easily given how good it is coupled with Aristocrats. This should still be relevant information for Indianapolis in two weeks because I imagine the same crowd will hit both events.
Oh, yeah. I guess a few people decided to play Magic while I was having two absolutely insane days of trading. Their loss, I suppose.
I like this B/W Zombies deck a lot. Cartel Aristocrat is seeing a lot of play as a sac outlet and Blood Artist thanks it for doing so much work. I plan to jam a few Blood Artists in my Aristocrats build for FNM this week and they do just as much work in this deck. In addition to being generally a good card, I imagine Restoration Angel does some real work with Geralf's Messenger.
I'm not going to congratulate Ray Perez on his top four finish with Esper because he audibled into the deck at literally the last minute, and when you're trying to help lend him cards it makes you want to karate chop him in the neck. Still, not bad for no practice. The deck choice got there, representing the only duplicate archetype in the top eight.
A lot of people clearly watched some Friday PT coverage. I see a few familiar decks here. It's fun to see the metagame adapt in under twenty-four hours.
Even Jund is running Falkenrath. If you needed more incentive to scoop these, this is probably it.
I like how the meta looks in the top eight, but if you went to the floor and watched a lot of matches, nearly every playmat had Reckoner on it. I learned by watching a lot of matches that Reckoner belongs in maybe 45% of the decks that ran it in Cinci, and a few people who were boarding him in wished he hadn't been on the sidelines in the first place. If you're fast, be fast. Don't board in a blocker. Once the initial hype around Reckoner dies down, the decks continuing to run him will be those that best utilize him. He sure is fun to steal with a Zealous Conscripts, attack with, then sac to an Aristocrat, though.
Congrats to all high finishers and if you're around the Midwest, stop by and watch QS' own Mike Lanigan living the dream. He never recovered from losing a clutch X-1 round to Caleb Durward, but there is always next week. While you're doing that, come say hi to me at the trade tables. Or just come to events at all, frankly, because events are great value, and you can imagine how full trade binders are when there is only one buyer in the room. With a GP in Charlotte and an Open in Indianapolis the weekend after that you have no excuse. Other than, you know, myriad legitimate excuses. You know what I meant.
Watching Michael Tabler go off with High Tide on two lands will always be funny to me. I hate that deck and I want it to die, but I still got a chuckle out of watching. High Tide is another one of those pet decks that can get there any given Sunday, and that's perhaps the best thing about Legacy. I wish Maverick weren't a pet deck right now, but it looks like it is. Still, Evan Wagstaff got there, so bravo, Evan.
I think there were more copies of Esper Stoneblade in this top eight than the last three top eights combined. Is the deck getting better, are its bad matchups losing earlier or was it a fluke? Hard to tell, but the deck has game.
Forget Stoneblade, I want to talk about Stiflenought! How much fun is that? All of it, that's how! Is Vision Charm tech I don't know about? I don't judge; I used to run Piracy Charm in Canadian Threshold and it did work.
Honestly, as healthy as Legacy is, it needs a shot in the arm. The event in Cinci was so under-attended it made me rethink how I felt about SCG's decision to do a rotation of Sunday events. Legacy is really expensive, and prices on almost everything have doubled in the last fourteen months. That's not sustainable price growth and the format as a whole could suffer if a price bubble bursts. Even Modern, seen as a cost-effective way to play Eternal, is getting ridiculous. The law of supply and demand is ruling the day, but we could be on the precipice of a major event that could take the game down if we're not careful. I still see Legacy staples as more stable long-term investments than any newer card, but I'm a bit nervous having so much of them. I'm starting to feel like my money would be safer in my mattress.
Don't despair, however, because cheap, Legacy-viable decks exist. Build them for someone at your LGS, take them with you to their first Sunday at a SCG Open and watch them realize why people play Legacy -- it truly is Magic at its best.
That's All For Now
Tune in next week where I'll let you know how things went at a GP in Charlotte, NC.