If you're an old reader of this column you may remember I used to post a lot more content from Reddit.com. The initial pitch for the column was that I would post both QS content on Reddit and Reddit content on QS. This was fine for a while until I ran out of good IAMAs to reference and found myself having to go back two or three weeks to find enough stuff for a weekly column. Luckily I gradually introduced the new format of "I do whatever the hell I want" and no one stopped me or even commented so I went with it. I've got a column I'm happy with here at QS and best of all, I don't have to rely on Reddit for my content.
A Note About Babies and Bathwater
Does this mean Reddit has no merit? I wouldn't go that far. In the subreddit r/magictcg, serious players got so fed up with the plethora of posts like, "Hey, look what I got in this booster pack!" or "Bad Standard 7-card combo," they started their own sub, r/spikes. Despite not being all that jazzed about the original subreddit as a source for enlightenment, I still keep it in my subscription list. My life still heavily revolves around my involvement in this children's card game, so I don't want to lose touch with any Magic community, even one that makes me roll my eyes a lot.
This weekend I was glad r/magictcg was in my rotation because an interesting post popped up on my frontpage. I browse Reddit using the Reddit Enhancement Suite so I just open all picture files and scroll through the posts with the picture files open. It's a superior way to browse (for those of you who are on Reddit enough to bother, yet don't have RES already) and occasionally I see pictures that make me read links I wouldn't have. (On other occasions I see a penis or dead body I wouldn't have otherwise, but such is life.)
I was browsing happily along and ran across this picture:
If it looks like some enterprising folks used a machine to imprint braille onto sleeves to help a blind friend play Magic, that's an oddly specific first impression and you probably saw this story already.
If you haven't, take the time to read the thing, but be warned; you may feel feelings.
It starts out like any other Reddit post -- we did this thing and have no idea if anyone will care, given how often good content is down-voted and garbage makes the front page. Then the initial response is overwhelming, and the obligatory "Wow, I had no idea we'd get so much feedback" edit gets made to the top comment.
Only this time, Trick Jarrett and Pat Chapin got ahold of the story, and after Chapin tweeted it, it kind of blew up. The weekend was a frenzy of activity in the posting -- Trick tried to find out from judges if this sort of thing could be modified to be legal in events, Toby Elliot (yes, Level 5 judge Toby Elliot!) weighed in with suggestions, ideas were bandied about and the originators of the content, Reditor HolyNemo and his friends, sat back in awe.
Two days, 1511 net up-votes and a trip to the front page later, and there is talk of an IAMA. I'd be interested in how the braille machine works and how they managed to only imprint the front of the sleeves, which makes the backs of the sleeves smooth and tournament legal (maybe). Someone bought Nemo Reddit gold, he's been hailed as a "miracle worker" (which seems silly, his friend isn't deaf, too) and the thread blew up with other stories about people working on modified braille sleeves and other blind Magic players they'd encountered in tournaments. Read the whole thing, it's worth it.
All of this started because some dude's blind friend felt left out when they all got together to play Magic. This Reddit post was one of the best things I found this weekend, and I found one of these when I cleaned out a closet yesterday.
So what does this mean for my future as a snarky ex-Reddit content regurgitator? I'm still going to check r/magictcg. This game is a big part of my life, and even though casual players post a lot of content I couldn't possibly care less about, they are my favorite trade partners and in any case, there is a little bit of casual player in all of us. The first time I met Ryan Bushard we brewed a deck that put Boomerang or [card Fire]Fire//Ice[/card] on an Isochron Scepter and killed with [card Zo-Zu, the Punisher]Zo-Zu[/card], and we actually developed it for Extended (spoiler alert -- the only fun I had with this deck was designing it. It lost to all of the decks). If that's not the most casual garbage ever, I don't know what is.
If you're not checking the Magic subreddit now, you should start. If you don't Reddit at all, why not? It's like having a million lackeys search the internet for stuff you'll like and presenting it to you in a Powerpoint presentation. If you want me to move on, I'll totally move on.
Modern Grands Prix Not Worth Leaving the House For
I don't want to harp on this too much since I still have to get to decklists, but I thought this exchange on Twitter was pretty funny.
I'm personally in the "Modern, who needs it?" camp, but I'm still bitter about them getting rid of my favorite formats all the time. Unless the fourth PT next year means Two-Headed Giant or Team Sealed PTQs, that is.
GPs with Fewer Attendees than the Online PTQ
Although that's probably unfair. Anyone can make it to an online PTQ, and MTGO is getting bigger every day. As much of a draw as is sunny San Diego (I made it to three Comic Cons in a row and would love to go back), it can't compare to being battling a PTQ in your underwear.
Anyway, I have to talk about approximately all the events across three formats so let's do this before I stop wanting to.
GP Utrecht was Team Limited. You may still want to read the coverage because Team Limited is approximately the bee's knees and/or the cat's pajamas.
GP San Diego Was Modern (Seek Puns Elsewhere)
So Eggs. Stupid, stupid Eggs. The deck itself is somewhat simple to learn (albeit tougher to master) but the fact remains that you're going to bore a lot of people to death and generally make Magic less fun for everyone is you choose to play this deck. Sometimes game one takes half an hour. There was a story circulating on Twitter about Brian Kibler telling a judge, "I have to go to the bathroom. Can you watch this game and tell me if I died when I get back?"
Eggs managed to win the whole event in the hands of Nathan Holiday. I'm not sure Eggs is super resilient, so people may just have to start packing some hate against the deck. Scooping game one before it hits the half hour mark may help. Honestly, nerfing all the good combo pieces like WoTC did leads to people playing bad, inconsistent, glacially-paced combo decks like this one. People are always going to play combo decks, so let them play good ones. Personally, I'd play Twin or Scapeshift if I wanted to play combo, but I didn't just win a GP. Hard to argue with results and all that.
Brian Kibler innovated a sweet Naya deck that I would actually play if I were inclined towards Modern. As much as I get colossal amounts of static for saying so, Ajani Vengeant is my favorite planeswalker (suck it, Mind Sculptor) and some decks similar to Kibler's ran two or even three copies. The card spiked heavily over the weekend as a result, but since Modern season is all but over, I wouldn't buy into anything Modern at this point unless you're looking to hold long, long term.
Still, Ajani Vengeant is a solid pick, but its printing in Shards, reprinting in Shards foil packs, reprinting as a promo and reprinting in a dual deck make these approximately as rare as basic swamps. Look to trade for them and see if they pick up next season or flip them off quick on the eBays. Kibler's deck is also noteworthy for running Deathrite Shaman, Thundermaw Hellkite and Tarmogoyf and not being just another boring, unimaginative ^$&ing Jund deck. I have always liked me some Naya, and the Dragonmaster himself came through for us. Cheers, Captain Handsome.
Six decks in the top eight? Not bad. This sort of thing leads to people calling Modern more diverse than Legacy, which made me laugh until I realized they weren't kidding and I had to lie down and take a nap because my head started to throb. Despite a diversity in the top eight, the day was full of UWR decks and Jund.
I like the Robots deck in the top eight, as well as seeing another top eight out of Efro himself, our second-favorite poker pro.
Honestly, there isn't a ton new here beside Kibler's pile (Three Domri Rade? Hells yes!). Jund seems old hat, UWR seems stale, Robots is a standard Robots list and Eggs has been ruining Magic for a while now. Next season will surely bring us exciting developments, though, as RTR block surely shook up the format. Would I prefer seven-year Extended or Overextended? Sure, but Modern is so much better than the "Double Standard" Extended format we had before that I welcome our new Modern overlords.
Let's talk Standard.
San Diego: Six Archetypes in the Top 8
I guess Modern wins. A whopping four (you could argue five) archetypes in the top eight.
Looks like the Junk Rites list is here to stay for now. The deck has a lot of inevitability and it's a good meta choice. Still, if you added four Séances to the deck you couldn't get a single person to take it seriously. Funny how the meta works sometimes. Conrgats to David Bauer for winning and beating two other identical decks to do it.
I like the B/W Zombies list a ton. My buddy got his face smish-smashed playing the deck at FNM, but I got my face similarly smish-smashed playing UWR Legions which top-eighted a GP, so clearly luck is a factor. This deck makes the most of Blind Obedience and uses it in conjunction with Lingering Souls, which is something I said initially was a good use of extort spells. Obedience makes you pretty deadly in combat, tapping their blockers, negating haste and generally making it easier to win races. It's a versatile card a lot of people miscalled (myself included if I'm honest although I was an early adopter).
Using Restoration Angel and Geralf's Messenger in perfect harmony (like side-by-side keys on a piano keyboard, baby!) while we still can seems potent. Messenger gets to drop his undying counter and Cartel Aristocrat and A-Blood Artist wrap the game up in short order. I really like any Blood Artist deck, although I suppose I do prefer the Aristocrats (conspicuously absent from this top eight).
I recently listened to an old episode of Brainstorm Brewery where Ryan trolled us all by saying they wouldn't reprint shocklands, either in M13 or in Return to Ravnica. His reasoning wasn't actually that they would not, but merely that they should not. Easy mana makes it too tempting to play 5-color goodstuff, which gets boring.
Arguably the best mana in the history of Standard involved vivid lands, Reflecting Pool and filter lands. I think a lot of the oppressiveness of that 5-color goodstuff came in the form of four maindeck Cryptic Command, a card cost at 1UUU specifically to make it played in heavy blue decks, a restriction that failed horribly when lands like Mystic Gate and Reflecting Pool allowed it to be cast as effortlessly as in mono-blue. Easy mana is bad for the game, Ryan argued, and I can't disagree with him a ton. With the easy mana (easier than last Standard season) from shocklands and M10 duals, decks are approaching the 5-color goodstuff model. "Dark Naya" is a deck that decided between Falkenrath Aristocrat and Restoration Angel by saying "I can't decide," and the mana we have allowed him to jam both.
You want to know the worst part? I love the deck. I took down an FNM (albeit just an FNM) with a 4-color goodstuff pile I threw together with the remnants of three scrapped metagame decks. Why choose between Hellkite, Resto, [card Thragtusk]Tusk[/card], [card Huntmaster of the Fells]Huntmaster[/card], Farseek, [card Supreme Verdict]Verdict[/card], [card Sphinxs Revelation]Revelation[/card] and Centaur Healer when you can be done building right now and just add land? I was one Falkenrath Aristocrat or Deathrite Shaman away from making Bushard's head explode. I wasn't even trying to break the metagame, I was just trying to assemble 75 cards so I could participate in FNM that started in half an hour.
I'm sure more thought than that went into Richard Nguyen's Dark Naya deck. I am merely suggesting that perhaps not a ton more did.
I think I am done trying to predict what this metagame will do. We live in a world where people say, "the mana base isn't right for Mutilate," before tapping three colorless and three white to cast Planar Cleansing. Supreme Verdict is still the Wrath of choice right now. Perhaps Mutilate makes sense in a build that's heavier black and G Fab's Esper Control deck isn't heavy black enough, but I still think Mutilate solves problems that can't be solved by Verdict.
In a metagame with more than zero Aristocrats decks, Verdict looks worse as removal, as do edict effects. The Aristocrats deck hasn't shown up much lately, which leaves it poised to make a comeback if it can figure out a way not to lose to a 63-card unsleeved Naya Blitz deck round one of an Open. With two copies of the Esper Control deck in the top eight, the meta seems ripe for such a deck. Still, this could be DC meta-dependant more than anything else.
Something I hope isn't meta-dependant is this masterpiece. I think it could use a few Slumbering Dragons, but that's me. Slumbering Dragon seems good at leveling up Gyre Sage. Just sayin'. Dumping a ton of counters on Gyre Sage to make it a mana machine or Ghor-Clan Rampager to trample over for a million, Increasing Savagery is cute, but clearly at least a little bit good, too. 12th at an SCG Open is better than most of us have ever finished.
Standard is OK, but let's keep an eye on the mana we have wrecking it. 5-color goodstuff is a possibility, but seems mitigated by the fact that there is just too much good stuff to put in the deck. You could play a 5-color goodstuff EDH deck with the card pool we have in Standard right now for crying out loud.
We only have a finite number of these left until they start to vary the Sunday events, but as a Leagacy proponent I'm glad we still have tournament results to go over for now.
This was miscalled "ANT" by the coverage team approximately every time. Bryant Cook is credited with inventing the deck, so let's call it what it is.
TES is a deck loaded with fewer cantrips and mana than ANT but it has way more ways to stop your opponent from ruining your fun. Why run card disadvantage like Force of Will when you really want to be running A-Buy Your Silence and Xantid Swarm? No good reason. Another advantage of this build is you can Ad Nauseam and draw nearly the entire deck without having to stop, which makes for more turn one wins. Even a big turn one Empty the Warrens usually gets there. I don't know whether I prefer this build to classic ANT, but Epic Storm is a deck you should learn to play or at least learn to beat.
Pet deck of the week is awarded to Romario Neto who played Metalworker to a top eight finish. We can't blame this guy for the price spike in Hall of the Bandit Lord because he isn't running any. Lightning Greaves is a fine choice for making sure one-shot robot connects with the face, though. Nice work, Romario.
The RUG cascade deck is a real throwback to a Bloodbraid Elf deck I saw before they printed Delver of Secrets // Delver of Secrets. Shardless Agent seems perfect as it gives more chances to hit an Ancestral Vision (or form part of a cascade chain initiated by BBE). Legacy is on a Punishing Grove kick right now to deal with Deathrite Shaman, which makes my decision to go super deep on Grove a good decision. Try and get these in trade while you can; all most people know about them is that they're banned in Modern. In fact, RUG Cascade should be called "Banned in Modern" given how many cards it contains that were considered too good for Modern. How bad can they be in Legacy given that distinction? I plan to at least try this in Legacy.
There is a lot of Esper Stoneblade here. I think that is a DC thing, though. The deck is fine, but I think RTR block gave every other deck in the format more than it got and I think it's not the best choice. Again, hard to argue with results, and this deck ran the top 16. Punishing Grove really has a tough time dealing with Geist of Saint Traft, so when Deathrite decks fall off a bit (already?) this could take its place. I'd hate that personally. I remember how lame Standard was before they banned [card Jace the Mind Sculptor]Jace[/card] and Stoneforge Mystic.
Guess I Don't Know What "Finally" Means
Actually finally, no way in hell is Modern anywhere near as diverse as Legacy. Even on a weekend where there were a lot of copies of one particular deck in the top eight, myriad decks could have been there. There are dozens of variations on dozens of archetypes. No format has more possible decks than Legacy and for my money, no format is more fun to play.
My LGS is running the event I advocated for in a few weeks (10$, with ten free proxies and 10 cents for each additional one), and I'll keep you posted. Every new set really shakes Legacy up and I hope SCG's stabbing it in the back doesn't make it just another Vintage. Spending $500 every three months on Standard and complaining that Legacy decks cost $1,000 is ridiculous and isn't helping anyone out. Do something to foster an interest in more formats than just Standard at your LGS and let's keep this game going another 20 years. If we don't, I may have to get a real job.