Jason’s Alticle – The Only Way to Win

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Greetings, Defibrillators,

Anyone play in the MOCS this weekend?

We're Still Surprised

If you don't have a Twitter account, I am going to have to insist you get around to it, and sooner is better than later. I don't want to harp on it too much, considering that telling people how to live their lives is literally all I do on Gathering Magic, but seriously, get it together. Twitter is a useful tool and you miss out on a lot of great info if you abstain.

You know what else you miss out on? A lot of good drama. I give the drama on Twitter this weekend a 10/10.

This weekend, a relatively unknown new player was 7-0 in the Magic Online Championship Series. He became disappointed when the event crashed and he couldn't finish it despite being a lock for Top 8. That player ultimately took it well and graciously accepted the consolation of ten boosters, a Scrubland and free entry into the event when it's rescheduled.

Just kidding, it happened to Brian Kibler and he lost his mind.

All hyperbole aside, Mr. Kibler was (understandably) upset about how things went down. Free entry in a make-up event just serves to take up two weekends instead of one, especially given that he chose to play the MOCS instead of attending Blizzcon, which I'm told is some manner of convention, but not for meteorologists, so I'm not interested. Skipping Blizzcon is a bit of a sacrifice; skipping Blizzcon and Grand Prix DC, the only Legacy GP a year they deign to give us, is untenable.

Do I think Mr. Kibler handled this in the most mature way conceivable? Probably not. Look at what he titled his blog post for example. "I had a bad time, so let's torch MODO and salt the earth so that no online game may grow in its place?" But does he have a point?

Separating Fact from Fiction

Let's look at a few facts. Magic Online is over ten years old at this point. That's a fact. It's also a fact that the new Beta client is a bag of dicks. That may sound like an opinion, but when an opinion is shared universally, it starts to be accepted as a fact. In this case it's one few dispute.

Kibler points to the example a League of Legends event that had connectivity issues and the result was that the team recoded portions of it to run smoother. If you really take an objective look at the crux of his argument, what he wants is simple.



Maybe the sensationalist nature of the blog post's title threw people, but all he is really asking is for WotC to fix their tech and make sure the game can run on the interwebs. That's not super unfair, and if someone is going to use a bully pulpit to complain about something, I'd rather it resulted in affecting change that benefits all of us.

The twitterverse was not without lots of hyperbole today, though.



Tweets like this come with a free tin foil hat
Tweets like this come with a free tin foil hat.

p sully

What Did We Learn?

Nothing, clearly. How do I know? Because there was a MODO PTQ on Sunday, the day after the MOCS crashed.

Can you guess what happened?


We learned that MODO is broken. No official word on what Wizards is doing to address the broken nature, but in the meantime, we should steer clear. We learned that Wizards is more likely to pay attention to one man if that one man is Brian Kibler, but that is not to say the rest of us are totally powerless, especially if we can raise our collective voices to a loud enough din.

Wizards will have to fix Magic Online. This will cost money. What we have to do is make it clear that it will cost more money not to fix it.

Something tells me, though, that we're not going to have to make too much racket. They know something is wrong, and they aren't so insane as to hold a makeup event that's also doomed to crash rather than change anything. In the meantime, if your time is too valuable to accept, "Here's a free event entry, some packs and a promo," then I would steer clear of MODO.

It's worth noting, however, that this is not the first time a MOCS event has crashed. It's something like the third or fourth, and the MODO PTQ crapping the bed that was still slightly damp from the MOCS crapping the selfsame bed the previous night looks really bad.

Surely WotC knows there is a problem. What's not as certain is exactly what they're doing to fix it. This is apparently not a new phenomenon, but it is one of the first times that someone has made quite so public a stink about it. I think it may force Wizards' hand a bit, which is great. If it doesn't, there is a much greater awareness now and future failures to finish events will only cause an increase in stink-making.

Sure, the tech platform is old, but it's not as though this is the only online game, and it's not as though it has the most traffic either. There are people who know how to fix this, the only question being whether or not they'll be brought in to help. If they aren't, and MODO's flagship tournament ends up crashing more often than Billy Joel after a week-long bender (he wrecks into people's houses a lot--look it up) then the future of MODO is pretty uncertain.

Logical Reactions

The lack of a credible alternative to MODO has made people complacent, both in the player base and at WotC. I saw this sentiment echoed a lot over the weekend.



Right now the community is like a patron at a restaurant who calls the waiter over to complain about their entree, but when the waiter picks up the plate to take it back to the kitchen starts whining, "Hey, I was eating that..."

We're going to have to pick. We can either patronize MODO and tolerate how bad it is or we can complain and hope it gets better. As long as we're willing to accept things as they aren't they won't change. As much as the twitterverse gave Kibler a hard time for speaking out, he got a dialogue started that is likely going to result in some changes happening, either a tech upgrade to MODO or an exodus away from it.

Going 7-0 in an event isn't good enough to win the way things are currently going. Right now, the only way to win is to not play.

Paper Is Different

It's totally possible to win in way other than "not playing" if your format of choice is paper Magic. Card-based Magic the Gathering has a 0% "cataclysmic event failure" rate, at least due to the interface crashing. Sure, the reporter software craps out, and I think there was a South American GP that got flooded out or something nutty, but paper is still your best bet.

The was a Grand Prix in Valencia, but, lucky for me, it was Limited. There aren't too many financial implications of a Limited Grand Prix, so I feel pretty good about skipping it.

The weekend wasn't all shattered dreams and booster drafts, however, as some people gathered in Dallas to sling some cardboard.

SCG Dallas Standard Top 16

Hal Brady took it down with a solid if unimaginative green-red list that has been showing up consistently since it was debuted by Team Japan at the PT. I think ten planeswalkers is an awful lot when the best abilities depend on a high creature count, but with no spells besides creatures and walkers, you won't whiff too often with Domri Rade, one hopes.

I was initially underwhelmed with Xenagos, the Reveler and still am--I think he's very narrow. However, this is the deck that wants him and he is acceptable here. Voyaging Satyr to untap Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx continues to get there, and monstrous mana seems pretty easy to produce.

R/W Devotion continues to be a red devotion deck that occasionally chains something to some rocks or assembles some legions. I am not sure how much I like Aurelia's Fury, but some people swear by it and it's hard to argue with results.

As decks continue to get ballsy and splash other colors without hurting devotion and running Nykthos, they gradually run fewer and fewer copies of Burning Earth. I think that's probably a mistake, but maybe the addition of white is more relevant than the pain you put on decks with Burning Earth. This R/W build seems like it's been outperforming Mono-Red lately, so Burning Earth's day may have come and gone already. Odd in a format laden with Nykthos, kind of understandable in a format with mono-color devotion decks.

U/W Control seems like it shouldn't be as good as Esper without access to Thoughtseize, but if you compare the third place U/W with the fourth place Esper deck, the U/W has better mana and no Blood Baron and that's about all. A little more counter magic to replace the spot removal may be well positioned in the current format where it's more important to stop big spells from happening than to take them out one-for-one. Could Mistcutter Hydra start to get there if Esper transitions toward U/W? I think Esper has a better sideboard.

I like the white-red aggro decks a bit more than the devotion build. Cards like Daring Skyjek are getting there, which I think is fun. Soldier of the Pantheon is down 33% from its peak--if these hit $2 you likely buy in. However, with so many possible decks, so many copies of non-mythics and so many copies about to be infused with the upcoming redemption, it seems likely that the heyday of the $5 staple rare may be behind us. Still, I think Soldier of the Pantheon is a sleeper--there are a lot of indications that Journey into Nyx will have a lot more multicolored spells and creatures.

U/G Devotion looks even more like a draft deck I would have liked to play than Mono-Blue devotion did. Adding Frilled Oculus seems cheesy. What's wrong, was the shop out of Beetleform Mage? Master Biomancer is clearly the big payoff here. Biomancer is simply bonkers with Master of Waves, but is that worth running Temples and Pools?

I sure hope Burning Earth plummets because I think it's got some room for growth above where it is now and I want to buy in cheap. Mana bases are getting greedy.

Chris Jabr got 9th with a deck that looks awfully similar to this build and I for one welcome our populating overlords. I think the deck is a fine choice, and with the format speeding up, Trostani is poised to do a lot of work.

Ryan does a good job of breaking down card choices and it's good to see someone else give the strategy a shot. If the best weapon Esper has is Supreme Verdict, Rootborn Defenses is GG. Call of the Conclave isn't in Ryan's build; I would look at both lists and see which way you're inclined to lean.

Jody Keith is another person who realizes you don't need to be mono-black to trigger the same amount of devotion as you would if you were, so he shored up bad matches with Abrupt Decay and Golgari Charm, both of which do work against the format. Greedy, greedy manabases are popping up--this list is 55% non-basic. Fanatic of Mogis, Chandra's Phoenix and Burning Earth are calling my name.

I think the takeaway lesson here is that the new trend is to splash a color into mono-colored devotion decks to give them more reach. Temples plummeted from $6ish to around $3ish and I think now is an excellent time to buy in, or trade in if you're not feeling that ballsy. Mono-color ain't what it used to be, and if people are willing to run guildgates, they'll run temples.

To that end, I think the temples in the next set will take a cue from the temples in this set. If these temples don't go up too much before the next set comes out, I think they will be underpriced initially. Combine that with them being in a smaller set and I think those temples have even more growth potential, and being in RTR colors doesn't hurt either. GB, GW, UR, UW and BR are all content to run guildgates now--they'd love a strict upgrade.

Let's look at Legacy while we're at it. I want to see how many Merfolk decks made the Top 8.

SCG Open Dallas Legacy Top 16

One Merfolk deck, packing two copies of True-Name Nemesis. This bodes well for the continued sales of Commander decks and for the gigantic pile of Master of the Pearl Trident I bought to make Corbin look like a jackass. I seriously overbought and they are sitting in my box of shame now. They haven't gone down from where I bought in, which makes me feel good. They should be on their way up, which makes me feel great. But was this Merfolk deck in 5th the only deck packing Nemesis?

Nope! The winning U/W Stoneblade deck found a way to jam some of them and why not? True-Name Nemesis can hold a piece of equipment as well as the rest of them. On the podcast last week Corbin and Ryan disagreed about whether Merfolk wanted to add white to jam Stoneforge Mystic. I'd like to say they were both wrong, but it's more accurate to say they were both right.

Corbin was right that Merfolk won't trifle with Stoneforge, which slows the deck down and jacks with the mana base. Ryan was right that True-Name Nemesis plus Stoneforge plus equipment is nutty. He was wrong about the exact deck it would go in, but it makes sense. Why mess around with a few silly merfolk lords when True-Name Nemesis plus Jitte or Batterskull is enough of a clock on its own?

The U/W Stoneblade deck was already in place. I expect it to get a little more popular, the big potential gainer being Stoneforge Mystic. Let's not rule out TNN-SFM teamups in other UW decks. Anything can happen. The format is a living thing.

Avery Williams wasn't able to deal with the permission and the clock that U/W came with. I like ANT and it is a boilerplate deck in Legacy. I am calling it the Pet Deck of the Week because it nearly won and because too many people played Reanimator, which makes it seem like a regional choice more than anything.

I love the Suicide Blue Black deck. Going super greedy with Thoughtseize, Gitaxian Probe, Dismember, Force of Will and Snuff Out allows you to play a Death's Shadow that may actually live when cast.

This is a classic blue-black permission deck with a modern twist. I love how much work Baleful Strix does here, and Tombstalker is an excellent choice. Paradoxically, Dark Confidant would probably deal too much damage in the deck despite you wanting to have a precarious life total. Making a decision to take 2 from Probe is one thing. Topdecking Tombstalker to your Bob reveal is another. Gerry T would jam Bob, though. You think you're better than Gerry T?

Why not add a little black to the Stoneblade deck? Strix can jam a sword as well as Nemesis, which also showed up in Kyle Edwards' list. I think True-Name Nemesis is here to stay, which is fine with me. I love a good race.

Tombstalker is also popping up in BUG Delver lists. I think if I'm GBx in Legacy, I want to be on red for Punishing Fire, but giving them life may be too painful when racing a Nemesis. How long until people start to jam Bant with Stoneforge, Nemesis and Tajuru Preserver? Suck it, Liliana! Until that day, expect Edict effects to be the best way to deal with your Nemesis.

I think U/W/R Miracles is decently-positioned as well. However, the fact that True-Name Nemesis is blue means they have a decent shot at countering your hail mary Terminus, which is probably why the U/W deck won this event. U/W/R will figure it out eventually. I don't know whether it's a Tier 1 deck right now--a raft of good, uncounterable spells came along and made me less jazzed about running Counterbalance. Still, sweepers will get better.

Jody Keith who also top-sixteened Standard made Top 8 with Tezzerator. I like that deck and it's getting more affordable with copies of Transmute Artifact being injected back into the market and Strix getting cheaper. Better get City of Traitors now, if you intend to. Barring a reprint, those are poised for another jump.

Legacy is a dynamic format no matter what anyone says. With Commander decks selling like hotcakes, any worries about stores like Walmart holding back copies of Mind Seize because no one is buying the unpopular Naya deck--it has a half-assed Doubling Season though, which I think is a sleeper--should be laid to rest. The decks will all sell and we'll have plenty of True-Name Nemeses to go around.

I wouldn't hold these at all. Remember, True-Name Nemesis is this set's Flusterstorm and we have no idea which card is the Scavenging Ooze yet. GP DC should tell us that info if history is to be believed. One of the other four Commander decks has a single in it that will get popular but it's hard to know which. Right now, you might as well buy them all. That may be the only way to win.

26 thoughts on “Jason’s Alticle – The Only Way to Win

  1. Great article and I’m not surprised to see TNN added to Stoneblade style decks. I think the Scavenging Ooze is of this set is Toxic Deluge (personally).

  2. I thought I wanted to buy into MTGO just to have more readily-available MTG than the LGS 40+ miles from my home provide, but I feel the same way: sinking money into digital products like that is starting to feel bad. I may just make a Theros redemption set and cash that in. Then I won’t have to worry about any premier events I join crashing when I’m 7-0 (cause face it, if I’M ever 7-0, a crash would be required to balance out the universe)!

    1. Well, in light of Wizards’ MTGO announcement this morning I’d say our hesitancy to enter MTGO was 100% justified. I feel vindicated, but I regret that it’s at the expense of many others in the community.

      1. “It’s totally possible to win in way other than “not playing” if your format of choice is paper Magic. Card-based Magic the Gathering has a 0% “cataclysmic event failure” rate, at least due to the interface crashing. Sure, the reporter software craps out, and I think there was a South American GP that got flooded out or something nutty, but paper is still your best bet.”

        Just over a year ago, the Philly GP was handled poorly due to the Superstorm. Rather than make an effort to fairly cut the weekend to a day 1 only, they kept a lot of people in the city, unable to leave the city if they decided to show up day 2.

        It’s pretty clear to me that WotC doesn’t care about the playerbase…. unless it’s Brian Kibler whining, then they do something. And this is another in a long series of BK rants that resulted in immediate WotC action the following week. Meanwhile we’ve all been complaining about these issues for quite sometime. It’s rather insulting to me, maybe others.

        1. I was at that GP in Philly. Lots of people left due to the storm but that was by choice. People left GP Pitt trying to stay ahead of a blizzard. Again, by choice. Those events weren\’t ended abruptly in the middle due to a technical failure.

          As far as Kibler spurring them to action, all it did was finally cause them to say \”screw it, we\’re doing this now\”. People complained before but they also kept playing in record numbers. The number of people bitching now should tell you people want broken modo more than they want no modo and they have repeatedly demonstrated that with their wallets.

          1. I feel like they probably have known for sometime MtGO is ‘broken’. With the failure rate increasing enough with the bad PR combined with new competition from SolForge and Hearthstone prompted them to pull the plug. I wonder how much in fees they had to refund from the weekend if any? There is likely a less vocal majority that is being shouted over by grinders that would like to see MtGO really improve – hopefully the resources will be directed to this. I also think they should use the opportunity to really rebuild from the ground up. How much more business could they get if you could play easily on an iPad?

    1. Nice catch. I bought all of them but haven\’t opened any yet!

      Anecdotally, I went to a Walmart today and the shelves were bare except for 4 copies of the Esper one. To say I was surprised is to reinvent the understatement.

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