Jason’s Article: Fully Covered

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Greetings, Spectators!

Did you catch any of the video coverage from the Grand Prix over the weekend? Of course not.

On Balls That Were Dropped

Being from Michigan, the TO of my local events has always been PES (Professional Events Services). PES isn't great, but having been to other events run by other TOs, it may be the case that PES is the worst TO except for every single other TO. My last few years going to nearly every North American GP has given me a new appreciation for PES and how they do business. I haven't forgiven those ballbags for giving The Godslayer and me 34 packs for Top 4 of a 2HG PTQ and not just rounding up to 36 so we could sell the sealed box, but that doesn't mean I'm not glad they do some things well.

PES got a lot of flak this weekend for stuff that wasn't their fault.

Apparently being 100% sure that multiple people told you a lie is compelling evidence

If you can't tell the difference between one of the 15 vendors around the floor who were free to buy and sell mats and the TO, maybe you should stay home and stick to a game like MODO which untaps your lands for you. I'm not going to stump for PES or anything, but, come on. If you want to be upset for something they did a terrible job at, feel free. You'll find something to be upset about and you won't even have to look that hard. But don't run your mouth off without getting the facts. PES was never going to be responsible for coverage at GP Detroit. It's not the TO's purview.

Well, if this is not the fault of the TO, who is to blame?

I thought Wizards should have done more to cover the event, and when I saw Helene Bergeot in the hall I marched right up to her and gave her a piece of my mind. The conversation went a little something like this.

Me: Hello, Helene. Nice to see you again. Where have you been hiding all weekend?

Helene: Hello Jason. Everyone keeps asking me why I was hiding! We were at a conference all weekend with all of the TOs to talk about the events for the next year.

Me: Oh, I hope that wasn't too boring.

She was being evasive, dodging the issue of coverage. I wasn't about to let her off the hook that easily.

Me: So attendance here is pretty good, huh?

Helene: Yes, we didn't expect to get so many people. This is a very nice city. Did you play in the main event?

Perfect. I had her on the ropes. Time to go in for the kill.

Me: No, I'm just doing a little trading and selling. We're looking to have a lot more content on and I'm here talking to people about writing for us, maybe getting R.K. Post to design a token.

Helene: That sounds exciting. Did you travel far to get here?

Me: No, it was only a few hours.

-They announce my side event is about to start-

Me: Well, that's me. I better take off. It was nice seeing you.

Helene: You, too. Good luck!

BOOM ladies and gentlemen. That's how you do the kind of hard-hitting investigative journalism that wins Pulitzers. You skewer your subject and you don't let them get away until they answer the tough questions.

Yeah, maybe this makes me a gigantic wuss, but honestly, considering I didn't even give her grief on twitter, the odds of me giving her grief in person were next to nothing. Besides, I'm not entirely convinced Wizards is to blame for opting not to have video coverage for the event.

Who Did It Wrong And What I Did About It

Adam Styborski is a busy guy. He works a full-time job, has a young child and writes for on top of editing dozens of submissions for When I heard he was going to be in charge of the text coverage for GP Detroit, I thought "Wow, they're going to have the killer text coverage from Adam on top of the video coverage? Wizards must really want to make Modern a popular format!" I thought this because I am incredibly naive sometimes.

In reality, they hired Adam to do some killer text coverage because they simply did not budget for video coverage at GP Detroit.

They didn't expect attendance to flirt with 1,400. In fact, it wasn't projected to exceed the 1,200 player cap that triggers the "39 point rule" as it's being called.

Do you want to know why WotC didn't think that many people would go to GP Detroit? Because they listened to the community. They saw crap like this passed around on facebook.

Oh, I get it. Because of all the murders

They saw a post on reddit (since taken down) where a player said he wasn't going to the GP because his family told him he'd be mugged or shot if he went near Detroit.

True. Actual. Story.

Never mind the fact that Cobo Hall is in the middle of the business district of Detroit, flanked on one side by a four-star hotel and on the other by Joe Louis arena, a concert and sports venue and home of the Detroit Red Wings. Sure, that close to all the banks and the hockey arena you might have your pension stolen or your jersey pulled over your head, but you're not likely to get shot. Our hotel was 12 block away, across from a liquor store and I walked to Cobo and back and didn't feel unsafe.

Never mind that the neighborhood where they held the last GP Atlanta was two blocks away from a large group of homeless dudes drinking out of paper bags and playing dice in the street and our hotel, again, two blocks from the venue, had a four-foot iron fence around the parking lot and an armed guard 24/7. Never mind that GP Baltimore was only a few blocks away from a notoriously bad part of that city where people who work at Johns Hopkins won't park on the back side of the hospital because every time they do their cars are broken into. Nope, let's make all the crime jokes about Detroit because Robocop.

So what we have is a situation where Wizards has a finite budget for event coverage and they strategically chose not to cover Detroit. Not because it was Modern and they don't care about Modern, but because you people said you weren't going to go.

Wizards didn't drop the ball. We did.

The Coverage That Was

Let's ignore the fact that Wizards did text coverage--high quality and largely ignored, much to the chagrin of Styborski fans. If Wizards didn't do any video coverage, who did?

The internet was full of whining this morning about no coverage, but there was a lot more coverage than people realized, they just didn't bother to look.

The Mothership did full text coverage here.

Brian Kibler, perennial smartass, did his own "bootleg event coverage" in his hotel room with a smartphone. check out the deck tech.

Speaking of deck techs, Inside the Deck managed an insanely-fast turnaround time to get the video edited and up on Gathering Magic within a day and they even interviewed Brainstorm Brewery team member Jeff Hoogland about his U/R Fairies deck when Jeff was 5-0 on day one. Rich managed to find quite a few interesting decks that were more entertaining to me than the parade of Deathrite Shaman decks that made up the Top 8.

There was all kind of coverage, not to mention finance tidbits being tweeted from the floor. Did you catch Nick Becvar's tweet about Hallowed Burial going up? Because Hallowed Burial doubled over the weekend.

So I guess if you managed to ignore all of that, I can see why you might have the opinion that there was "no coverage." It's perfectly understandable for you to be upset that there was no video coverage for you to watch. I just want you to understand that having that attitude is like starving to death in the middle of an all-you-can-eat buffet because no one came over to put the food into your mouth and work your jaw for you.

A Sad Note

I received some bad news via Facebook this morning.

Steve was a dedicated grinder and family man, and back in May he managed to win the SCG Open in Charlotte. I didn't know him well, but it's always sobering when this community loses one of our own and my thoughts are with his young son and his fiancee.

It's a lot of fun that this game affords so many of us the opportunity to travel, but remember to be careful out there. Don't let your friends drive drunk and take every opportunity you have at events to spend time with as many of the friends you've made in this community as you can.

What Happened in Detroit

There was a Grand Prix, and you're going to absolutely love the diversity in the Top 8.

First of all, before I get into coverage at all I would like to have a moment of silence. Local Kalamazoo player and member of Team Perfect Storm, Tristan Woodsmith had the hilarious misfortune of getting 9th on breakers. 9th Feels bad. 9th with the exact same record as 7th and 8th feels worse. Sorry about your luck, Tristan. I hope qualifying for the PT on PW points as a result of finishing 9th is a nice consolation prize.

Anyway, here is the link to coverage. Again.

The Top 8 could not be less diverse, considering the most-played deck in the room appeared to be Tron variants and a whopping zero made the Top 8. Even more worrying, six of the Top 8 decks were essentially the same deck. G/B rock is a Jund deck with a little less red. So we had a Monty Python sketch for a Top 8.

Player 1: What kind of Top 8 should we have?
Player 2: I'm going to have a Top 8 with Jund, Tron, Pod, Naya, Fish, Fairies, Affinity and Zoo.
Player 1: That's got jund in it!
Player 3: Surely not as much Jund as a Top 8 with just Jund in it.
Player 1: I don't want ANY Jund decks!
Player 3: Fish is weak to Deathrite Shaman.
Player 2: How about Jund, Jund, Tron, Pod, Naya, Affinity, Fairies and Zoo?
Player 3: Wild Nacatl got banned.
Player 2: Right, so no zoo. Why not Jund instead?
Player 3: Naya didn't make the Top 8 either.
Player 2: Jund it is, then.
Player 3: No fairies, either. It really struggled against the white splash, can't beat Lingering Souls.
Player 1: "White Splash?" That sounds nice. What's that?
Player 2: That is a jund deck splashing white for lingering souls and/or Ajani Vengeant.
Player 1: Can't we just have a deck with Lingering Souls and Ajani without the Jund?
Player 3: Uggggh!
Player 1: What do you mean "Ugggh?" I don't like Jund!
Player 2: Right, so with the substitutions we're having Jund, Jund, Jund, Jund, Pod, Jund, Affinity and Jund
Player 1: I would like to register a complaint
Player 3: Wrong sketch

There isn't a ton to talk about. People assumed the rush to publish the Banned and Restricted list a little early was to rush out a banning of Deathrite Shaman, or, even more ridiculously, Tarmogoyf. If you think about it for more than a millisecond it makes zero sense. They want to snap-ban something oppressive the night a GP ends so they rush to get the B&R out early giving them less time to debate the merits of such a decision? That made sense to people?

Nothing got banned in real formats (yes, I don't consider Pauper a real format) and that means the metagame will continue to diversify. That is to say, the kinds of Jund decks people are going to play will continue to get more diverse.

After Reuben Bresler rocked people like a hurricane using Chandra, Pyromaster in Legacy Painted Stone I said to watch Chandra. The amount of people wishing they'd played more of her in Modern Jund only solidifies this as a card to watch.

While Jace, Architect of Thought is creeping up due to buyouts from speculators, Chandra, Pyromaster is creeping up less quickly from her historic low of $12.50. I think she could see $20+ again, but I don't know if I want to buy in around $15. Still, you save $20 on a playset if you want them to play with and didn't buy them at $12.50. If it hits $25, they'll still be $21 on TCG Player netting me like $4 a copy, so with that as my out I'm not super jazzed about buying in now. I think these will trade super well, so if that is your planned out, buy at TCG and trade at SCG and you should have a good time.

Hallowed Burial doubled over the weekend. If you can still snag cheap copies, you might want to get on that. I have a $5 copy or two in my display case at the store where I sell singles and I know I won't get out there until Thursday to pull it out, but, if the $7 Shardless Agent that sat in there for two months is any indication, it will be safe for another few days.

Sometimes I just can't even give away value, and the Desecration Demons I pulled out of the dollar box to sell on TCG Player for $5 are a great example of that. Not every store is going to look up Burial on SCG when you ask for it, so if you find a store like that, go back every time a card spikes.

Despite being an overwhelming 75% of the top 8, Deathrite Shaman decks lost out to Melira-Pod, which makes me smile. Pod may start to run Archangel of Thune more often, but don't expect one copy in one deck to maintain its current high price. That is almost entirely due to casual appeal. Sublime Archangel commanded a similar price for much of its time in Standard and that saw even less play. Not much opportunity here, unless you bust boosters.

All in all, Modern is a pretty lame format. There is a lot of diversity at the bottom and people battle it out with pet decks, but unlike Legacy, sideboards aren't enough to shore up bad matches and oppressive cards like Thoughtseize and Deathrite Shaman mean that there always will be a consensus "best deck" to play (Jund variants.)

You can play a pet deck, you can even win a GP with it provided it's as unfair as pod, but you can't hope to even compete if you can't win the three or four matches you're going to play against Jund. Welcome to Standard circa 2009.

Astonishingly, there were 37 different archetypes played at the start of Day 2. 37 became four awfully fast. If you want to play Modern, be able to beat Jund or join it.

SCG Atlanta

I half expected to see an Atlanta metagame that was equally lousy with Top 8 Jund decks in Standard and was delighted to be proven wrong.

SCG Open Atlanta Standard Top 16

Naya took it down, piloted by Rudy Briksza. While the deck will lose a lot, with all of Theros spoiled we already know there are quite a few one-for-one replacements slated to plug holes left by rotation. With a new dragon, a new Searing Spear, and Elvish Mystic, the deck loses some of its mana fixing and may not be able to carry on without a replacement for Bonfire, but I'm sure people will try. Expect people to lean on Domri Rade even more than they do now.

Desecration Demon is going to be everywhere. There was a lot of dissent in the QS forums when this card was discussed and it was compared to a lot of bad cards that weren't applicable. Folks, speculation is less about your individual perception of a card and more about how the metagame as a whole embraces the card.

If tomorrow everyone decided that Aquus Steed needed to be a four-of in blue control decks, are you going to argue about how bad a card Aquus Steed is? If you see the metagame go in a certain direction, you just buy the cards and sell into hype. The Vizkopa Guildmage/Exquisite Blood deck never even got built. That didn't stop me from buying Exquisite Blood at $0.50 and selling them for $3.

You can argue about how a card is bad. You can even argue that the metagame trending toward it means they're making a mistake. You could even be right. But there's no money in being right if you don't buy Desecration Demon at $1.50 and selling them at the absurd $8 they are today. Let this card be a lesson.

Lifebane Zombie is another card that's way up. Seeing a card that's $12 on Star City and $6 TCG Low makes me laugh until I remember my Lifebane Zombies are going to sell for $6 if I list them. You say you hate trading at Star City prices? I sure don't! I love when I can trade a $6 Lifebane Zombie that's $12 on SCG for a $10.50 Overgrown Tomb that's $12 on SCG. If they are going to put pretend double prices on cards, the least you can do is punish the people who want to trade at those prices.

U/W and U/W/R Flash are losing 100% of their creature base. The days of a midrange deck with a lot of countermagic and card drawing are over. Expect these color combinations to get more control-oriented. The spread on Detention Sphere is practically non-existent. Dealers want them, you should pay attention to that. Supreme Verdict is another card to target heavily.

Most of the archetypes in the Top 16 in Atlanta are going away. Monored is going to actually get stronger, and I think with aggressive decks wanting to be able to smooth bad draws by using the new Theros scry lands, Burning Earth in Monored got a lot better. A replacement for Searing Spear and the newfound popularity of Chandra all point toward Chandra's Phoenix being a potential all-star and Magma Jet doesn't hurt at all. Phoenix is currently worth nothing and I think there is a lot of upside here, especially with a new dragon as a possible inclusion.

Let's talk about Legacy already.

SCG Open Atlanta Legacy Top 16

Burn got 3rd?! Smiling might jesus that's a laugh. I love when a $30 deck nearly wins a Legacy tourney. Anyone who complains that Legacy is too expensive and doesn't have a copy of this deck built is just making excuses not to have fun. Why not spend $30 and build this deck to lend to people? It's no biggie if it gets swiped, it doesn't tie up your resources keeping it built and it could be the "first taste is free" gateway deck that makes someone a dedicated Legacy player. Sure this deck is harder to play than it looks, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be the Pet deck of the week winner. The sideboard just screams "my only bad matchups are Show and Tell and Deathrite decks".

Merfolk in the Top 8 and no Goblins to be found? I don't know why I decided that their performance relative to each other was noteworthy, but I've been doing it for months and no one has sent an angry e-mail or told me I'm fired so I'll keep it up. Besides, everyone knows that when Merfolk makes a Top 8, a Buffalo Wild Wings waitress in Oklahoma gets an 18% tip.

I think it's great that Shardless BUG is making me so much money. All those $20 Chaos Reigns and Night of the Ninja decks I snagged from Target over the course of months and months looks like a smart investment. With the previously-underwhelming G/W Planechase decks now yielding a Kor Spiritdancer, it looks like all of them are a good investment. When the next Planechase and Commander decks come out, buy a bunch. You practically can't lose.

Legacy is a pretty nuanced format when you look at which decks tend to do better regionally. Geography plays a much greater role in the metagame for Legacy and Vintage than anyone really knows. If there were a way to track that information, you'd have a good shot at optimizing your sideboard based on where the SCG Open is.

I realize that using sabermetrics on a children's card game seems like overkill, but there are cash prizes on the line and if you know that Atlanta won't have a ton of Blade decks at the top tables, you can board better. Only one Blade deck and at 9th place no less seems to be geographical more than anything. That or all the best Blade players were at the GP. Either way, it feels wrong to me and I bet we see more next week.

Conversely, Delver is everywhere. Not much financial opportunity in that, either. Just be aware. I don't know why people weren't playing Grim Lavamancer all along, but it murders Delvers and Deathrites and probably had a lot to do with the success of the burn deck. Punishing Fire is a good choice now as well. Grove probably can't go up again, but maybe pimp versions of Punishing Fire like the ones in the Knights vs. Dragons decks are rare enough to see a bump. But don't ask me. I still play Punishing Maverick.

Show and Tell doesn't look like it's going anywhere. With Wizards saying they are no longer printing cards with Legacy specifically in mind, don't expect a hoser any time soon. We're going to have to innovate a way to beat the unfair decks. If we're not willing to develop decks in the metagame that can beat all the various unfair things Show and Tell decks can do, we can't really say that Wizards dropped the ball.

We did.

10 thoughts on “Jason’s Article: Fully Covered

  1. Loved the article. One point to bring up about the Legacy burn deck that got 3rd…he wasn’t even running the red fetches (that most burn decks do) so this really is the most budget burn deck available. I love how his ability to beat a Leyline of Sanctity is just simply…run more creatures.

  2. Jason,

    I’m the guy who helpfully suggested that it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Glad to see you’re still here. It looks like you can toss modern onto that ash heap too. Keep doing what you do. I’m still going to go out on a limb and say this is the best weekly article in magic. And that bdubs comment? Exquisite.

    Backseat Critic

  3. Great article.

    Concerning the non-existent video coverage: It simply shocked me that WotC’s reaction was “Oh, hey, people showed up to this Modern GP… It’s as if we’ve been pouring money into promoting this format and it’s one of the only ones held in the US for the rest of this year…”

    Say what you will about The Mothership not being prepared or their expectations being low due to photo jokes on Reddit, the lack of foresight was astonishing and quite sad. Being a businessman myself, I suppose I have high expectations for WotC and their business practices. They cannot play the “we are a small potatoes game” card forever…

    So, did we as fans drop the ball and give a false representation as to our true feelings about GP Detroit? Possibly. But c’mon, for the past few weeks, when Modern was discussed by the various pros within the community, they mentioned their attendance at the GP. Who cares if Joe Blow from Wisconsin is afraid of getting shot in Detriot, if Brian Kibler, Josh Utter-Leyton, Owen Turtenwald, Reid Duke, Willy Edel, Patrick Chapin, LSV, etc. are attending, you MIGHT want video coverage… /rant

    1. Well, Pros show up to every GP, though. So saying we needed coverage at Detroit because Pros were there isn\’t super compelling considering they, due to their budget, have to skip a GP or three, and that means skipping a GP with lots of Pro Players. Now, spending money to cover a Limited GP and not spending that money to cover a Modern GP when they are trying to make Modern popular makes no sense. The only thing that made sense to me, coupled with clues from my conversation with Helene and her tweets this week, was that they didn\’t expect anyone to show up to GP Detroit.

      Now, the premise of the entire \”We don\’t have the budget\” argument is flimsy. The game grew 35% last year and Hasbro can\’t give you a few more dollars for your advertising budget? I\’d say you have proof positive that money spent on advertising in the form of GP coverage is working. But when you have a company like Hasbro signing all of your checks, stupid shit happens, and WoTC as a brand has to grin and pretend stupid things that weren\’t their idea were their idea. The backlash from this is an important lesson for them. They screwed up, they know it, and they are owning it. Helene Bergeot\’s twitter stream is going to suck for her to read for a few weeks but they\’re owning it. I admire that.


        What if wizards blacked out GP Detroit, because *gasp* they knew modern wasn’t ready for prime time.

        DUN DUN DUN

        Seriously though, I like the idea of modern and what wizards is trying to do, but what in the world do they ban next to make this format somewhat interesting? Or maybe they do some unbans, or maybe new printings.

        Jason hit in right on the head when he said that there’s a bunch of awesome tier two decks battling it out at the losers’ tables. Those decks were the promise of modern, and everyone was happy to jump on board to brew and play some crazy stuff. I’m afraid that NWO design seems to have a limiting effect on playable archetypes due to a focus group designated concept of fun. Also, the ban list may be preventing greater catastrophe, but it stifles the openness of the format. It looks like the further we go down the rabbit hole of new design the more 3+ color good stuff ‘midrange’ will always be the best (with black and green in the lead).

        Legacy, the big sky is falling format, supposedly dominated by blue, force of will, turn 1 combos, mana bases worth more than a kidney, and monocle clad Brahmins has the diversity that’s reserved for the kids’ table in modern. Not to mention it was nearly won by the $30 solution.

        I hope wizards, which has overall done a lot to make a great product, does some soul searching with modern.

        Also, I’m pretty sure Lee Harvey Oswald was trying to steal the Jack Ruby.

        Backseat Critic

  4. Great as always Jason, I’d willingly pay for the information you give so freely. I personally think your on to something with the locality of Metagames. It’s a phenomenon I noted myself. At SCG Baltimore there were an abundance of junk lists, and the last time the open series was there brad nelson won using junk aristocrats. I think further research is in order

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