Insider — Losing… on Purpose

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Welcome back readers. Hopefully the title of this article caught your eye. Many of you are probably wondering, 1) why on earth this is an Insider article; 2) what possible financial knowledge you can gain from this; and 3) why you would trust someone who loses on purpose to give you financial advice in the first place. I will answer the last two, I got nothing on #1.

When I say "lose on purpose," I don't mean through poor in-game decisions, like refusing to block or cast spells. No, when I lose on purpose it's because I've chosen to play a less-than-competitive deck (more often than not you can thank Mr. Travis Woo and his brews for that). I still enter the tournament with the desire to win, but I value the fun of playing a janky or off-the-wall deck.

One thing you'll notice, especially if you have a more casual store in your area, is that these are exactly the types of decks casual players love to play. And guess what, they are the same decks casual players want to build after they see them going off.

Appealing to the Casual Base

Understanding the difference between casual and competitive players is a critical skill for any trader. Competitive players just want to win consistently and will do whatever it takes to do so. But casual players like to win big; it doesn't matter if they only win one in ten games as long as that one win is epic, exciting or memorable.

The old trader's trick is to trade with casual players for competitive staples and competitive players for casual staples. It's not hard to identify what competitive players will be looking for, between Wizards' site, third-party store sites and published tournament results. But the casual player is a much harder nut to crack.

Some cards are obvious casual favorites (Avacyn, Angel of Hope). But more often than not the casual player only wants cards that go into their deck, often cards not worth much. When the smartphones come out there's no way you're getting staples in exchange for the pile of bulk rares they've pulled out. So you can pack it in, think to yourself how you've wasted fifteen minutes for nothing, or you can learn to excite the casual players with new and fun ideas.

Enter the janky deck. I bring these to the more casual FNMs, making sure to carry extras of the deck's key cards in my trade binder. After rounds, players will frequently ask to see my binder and fixate on the cards they've just seen me play. As the tournament is a casual FNM, I'm all too happy to share my decklist and ideas with them while they're searching my binder. In many cases, this strategy allows me to turn several cards from the deck into staples in other formats, which I put in my binder for competitive players to enjoy.

I've had success with strategy running lots of different decks, like Epic Experiment, Wolf Run Black, Wolf Run White, and Mono-Green Elves in Valakut's heyday. (This strategy has the added bonus of reminding us all that, at the end of the day, Magic is just a game and should be fun.)

Now, I know many of you are thinking, couldn't you just play a competitive deck and tell people about the cards? You could, but a picture is worth a thousand words and it's a great deal more exciting to see a janky deck going off than to be told of "the possibilities." You also lose credibility by extolling the "awesome possibilities" of some idea when you're merely playing last week's SCG Open winning deck.

The Jank

With that being said, here are some fun "janky" decks which often cause players to immediately ask if you have extras of the key cards.

Epic Experiment -- this deck is a blast to play and can do some really unfair things. Unfortunately it's pretty awful in a fast aggro environment (at least in the old iteration), but it can just win out of nowhere and you mainly just ramp and hide until you win.

Black Wolf Run -- A deck that actively tries to cast Disciple of Griselbrand in Standard (the old-fashioned, eight-mana way). It's fun, but from the recent beats I've received seems very bad to fast aggro (to win you need a turn two Farseek followed by a turn three Mutilate for three or more.)

Omnidoor -- Another ramp deck that wants to cast Omniscience, this deck is a blast to play but is again demanding on stemming the initial bloodflow of all the aggro decks. It does play fogs, which can help tremendously.

And pretty much any deck that runs Deadeye Navigator (which is the next one I'll be working on).

If you choose to build any of these decks, the key cards to have in your trade binder are the following:

  1. Temporal Mastery (it's in both Epic Experiment and Omnidoor)
  2. Disciple of Griselbrand
  3. Epic Experiment
  4. Crypt Ghast
  5. Door to Nothingness
  6. Gilded Lotus
  7. Supreme Verdict
  8. Deadeye Navigator
  9. Kessig Wolf-Run
  10. Omniscience

Some of these are less janky than others, but most see only a little play in Standard currently (except for Supreme Verdict). And that's my two cents on losing on purpose.

13 thoughts on “Insider — Losing… on Purpose

    1. Well thanks. I always appreciate feedback (good or bad). I am contemplating a ‘series’ on trading strategies in general, though they’ll probably be spread out rather than back to back.

    1. I actually liked that game a lot (I still have my cards…but most aren’t worth a whole lot). My LGS didn’t have a big following for the game though and this tactic wouldn’t have worked (as we pretty much picked one character and a favorite style…I was big on Black Mastery’s)

    1. That is an excellent point. To be honest, I did think about adding decklists, but many would be old/out of date and my concern would be that they might be sooo bad you wouldn’t really excite anyone, although Omnidoor might be very well positioned right now thanks to it’s plethora of mass removal and fog effects (though you would need to be weary of a Boros Charm wrecking your day).

  1. I think you could go deeper on this subject. This reminds me when tinker was benned in extended and I build a deck with it and darksteel colossus. and every player in my school love it.

    1. I agree. I could make an entire series on fun/exciting standard interactions, however, the issue is that unless the interaction is incredibly powerful, you run the risk of building a bad deck around one fun interaction. I can’t speak for all, but unfortunately, my free time is much more limited (due to full time work) so I don’t have enough time to devout to building janky fun decks that are competitive, instead I lean on Travis Woo to lay the ground work and I just tend to tweak his decks to suit my needs. However, I choose to play these decks to excite the casual players. They need to be relatively competitive decks or you run the risk of doing one cool thing in one game out of 15 and even the casual players don’t like those odds…so you need to be powerful/consistent enough to provide incentive for others to build the deck.

  2. I found this article quite interesting and definitely had some comments I was tempted to reply with but tend to be sparing with my discussions in response to these articles because of my desire for privacy. Our real names show up in these responses rather than our user names. As a general rule I like my internet foot print to be as faint as possible since anything we say on online is difficult to undo.

    1. I’ll mention that to Doug (they probably had a reason for that initially, but given they can track a username to an account internally, there may be less reason to not allow people to maintain their privacy via username).

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