Jason’s Alticle – Renewed Faith

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Anyone else have their weekend ruined?

{1G} - All Creatures Lose Flying

Since my life now involves celebrating Christmas Ad Nauseum (who am I kidding; Christmas rules!) I spent the weekend at my mother's house on the east side of Michigan. Her place is directly in the path of the snowstorm that threatened to descend over the weekend and bury a swath of the Midwest from Flint, Michigan to Sandusky, Ohio in enough snow to send people to stores to clear the shelves of bottled water and batteries for some reason.

Hailing from the same region as my mother, grinder Jon Johnson decided an eight-hour drive to a PTQ in West Virginia was better than a four-hour drive to Indianapolis for the Star City Games Open.

Snow 1

QS Insider/forum moderator and Indianapolis resident Nick Becvar opted out of the Open and warned other travelers to get out of dodge before the North Pole cast Whiteout on everyone's car.

Some stayed anyway and played some Legacy on Sunday, but a few people I was rooting for, including fan-favorite Ray Perez Jr., left a little early to avoid a terrible driving situation and missed Sunday. A few of my other favorites managed to stay in town (and hopefully made it home afterward) and played some Legacy, but we'll get to that later.

What I think is most important during this season is to check the stupid weather. Our planet's climate is changing and weather events are getting more severe than we're used to. I have been driven out of Philadelphia by a hurricane, out of Pittsburgh by a blizzard and I have abstained from a few other events because inclement weather was forecast.

My winning streak did not last forever, and my drive back home from my mother's place was a 40 MPH parade of cars in a single lane of traffic, flanked on either side by backward and upside-down cars filling the ditches besides the road. Jack-knifed semi trailers, cars buried in snow, minivans engulfed in flames--I've seen it all.

The worst may not be behind us, so make sure you stay safe and make good choices. Jon Johnson's relatively leisurely drive back from West Virginia was probably much easier and less stressful than what would have been a ten-hour, white-knuckle shuffle back from Indianapolis with zero visibility.

No blue envelope is worth the stress of ending up stranded, wrecked, or stuck. People die in bad weather, and not necessarily through any fault of their own.

Countries outside the United States are getting tea-bagged by bad weather systems, too, so no matter where you are, make sure you have a safe weekend or you'll have a bad weekend, no matter how well the tournament goes.

I never used to be a "check the weather reports" guy, but having had my bacon saved by a timely sortie on more than one occasion, I'm now a believer.


It looks like event planners could benefit from checking weather reports occasionally, as well.

Stay safe, stash cold weather gear in your vehicle in case you have to hoof it, and watch out for the other guy, too. It's just a children's card game.

007 Reasons for the Season

What's your favorite James Bond movie? Oh, Casino Royale? Yeah, mine too, actually. I'm clearly trying to steer this somewhere and you're not cooperating.

What was your favorite James Bond movie before the year 2000? From Russia With Love? You're not going to make this easy, are you?

What was your favorite James Bond movie between the years of 1995 and 2000 that had a best-selling videogame based on it and starred Alan Cumming and Sean Bean? Goldeneye? Mine too!

Goldeneye was a surprisingly tolerable film from the Remington Steele years.

The theme song was pretty bad-ass even for people who don't listen to Tina Turner voluntarily. Sean Bean died twice, which was one more time than he usually dies in every single one of his movies with few exceptions. The impetus was something cooler than "I am going to make the world go to war so I can sell newspapers! MWAHAHAHA" and there was a little bit of a history lesson.

Best of all, the mysterious villain was using the alias "Janus", a two-faced Roman God.

The month of January was named for Janus, a god who could look forwards and backwards at the same time. January is a month where we do just that, and while there is a lot of garbage in our rearview mirror, looking back can help us appreciate how much better 2014 is looking already.

Before I get to the source of my optimism, I will report something I'm doing my best to (pretend to) appear neutral about.

waste not
I want not.

The announcement of the "You Pick the Card" finished product was coupled with an announcement that Wizards was changing the borders of Magic cards again, because they got all my letters where I begged them to do that. It's less obvious on a black card, but if you see it on a non-black card, it's more striking.

wall of fire

You will notice a difference between the red card and the black one--all rares and mythic rares will have a holofoil stamp to make them harder to counterfeit. This will force counterfeiters to stick to making copies of pre-M15 cards like Black Lotus and Underground Sea, a stark departure from their current practices.

Okay, snarkiness aside, just today I saw a tweet from Caleb Durward showing a fake MM Goyf next to a real one, distinguishable only by font.


So Wizards is cracking down on counterfeiting, crediting designers as well as artists where relevant and keeping the game fresh. I don't hate the new borders, but I didn't want them, either. I expect much less of a bitch fest than we saw back in 8th Edition, I expect a significant portion of the base to prefer the new look, and I expect the game to grow in 2014, not shrink.

All of Mr. Forsythe's article is worth a read. His 2013 restrospective is solid and he is as hopeful about 2014 as I am.

Why am I so upbeat and optimistic about 2014? Maybe because of the snow that kept my wife from being able to get down our street, forcing her to stay home and interact with me even though I spent all weekend with her including five hours in the car and I am starting to consider calling her downstairs for superfluous reasons hoping a combination of her long pajama pants and the staircase get her... where was I going with this?

Oh, right, the snow seems to have brought with it a cleansing of sorts, and the new year is looking great in terms of Magic the Gathering. I am going to base this all on the results of one tournament, a difficult-to-attend one at that, but since they are giving me hope that formats can truly change, none of you better talk me out of it.

Doesn't "Indianapolis" Sound a Little Greek?

In any case, weather notwithstanding, it seemed like the perfect place to stage a tournament, and the stars were out.

SCG Open Indianapolis Standard Top 8

So why am I so optimistic about the "new" Standard when the same old Owen Turtenwald won with the same old Mono-Black Devotion? Look at the rest of the Top 8!

There were two other boring decks in the form of Mono-Blue Devotion, and a slightly boring U/W control deck (though Levi Gaines at least bothered to run some win conditions). The other half of the Top 8 was Andrew Shrout in second place with a G/W aggro deck that, while it contained zero copies of Scion of Vitu-Ghazi, I thoroughly enjoy. There was a R/W devotion deck jamming Young Pyromancer and Assemble the Legion. There was also a resurgence of a deck we had thought was dead, R/G Monsters.

The Return of Big R/G

Dan Cato and Brian Bruan-Duin ran nearly identical 60s and very close 75s. Is Garruk or Chandra the play? Both seem very effective.

What also seems to be effective is the inclusion of Flesh // Blood. The only way to cast Flesh appears to be off of Caryatid, but with its hexproof ability and relatively high toughness, you can usually count on your tree dork sticking around.

The last time this deck was around it was a bit durdlier, running monstrous dudes like Arbor Colossus. Wannabe speculators seized on this low-hanging fruit, which look to be relegated to the box of shame for the time being.

Poised right on the edge of everyone's consciousness, though, is Mistcutter Hydra, certainly a beating against Mono-Blue decks. Andrew Shrout's deck ran the Hydra as well as Skylasher main, seeming to want to give itself as much game as possible against Mono-Blue, only to fall to Mono-Black. Can't win them all. We are seeing Polukranos and Boon Satyr continue to be mainstays in green-based strategies.

The return (and rebuild) of R/G Monsters makes me hopeful that Standard can continue to evolve. It was silly that Mono-Blue was so good for so long when a deck designed to beat it from the ground up like Shrout's deck could so easily dismantle everything they tried to do.

I don't think the Skylasher is particularly scary against any deck besides Mono-Blue and I might make room for something else, but it's hard to argue with results. Adding cards like Mistcutter Hydra and Banisher Priest give Mono-Blue fits without sacrificing game against other decks.

If Mono-Blue and -Black persist, it's going to make more and more sense to meta-game heavily against those decks. Banisher Priest in particular pulls that deck's pants down in a lot of ways and is never an unwelcome draw.

What's actionable here? I'm not actually all that certain. I think Mistcutter Hydra is a little bit narrow and is likely to be a victim of its own success. If it ever saw enough play that it made sense to buy these above $5, it's likely that they make Mono-Blue less popular, and to an extent that they become less necessary.

I don't like Hydra, even at $3ish, but if you won't bet money that Mono-Blue is going away (not a terrible bet) this is a card to look at. Plus it's a hydra, and those have long-term casual appeal. Will its uncounterability be more relevant than protection from blue post-Born of the Gods? I can't say, but I wouldn't bet against it.

Do as I buy, not as I say, right? I am not buying Mistcutters, but I won't try to talk you out of it. That sounds like I'm hedging, doesn't it? Ok, fine. Don't buy Mistcutters.

White Aggro

All of the B/W decks I expected to do better didn't manage Top 8, but I would ignore decks that the Japanese brew at your peril. I think a future event where people actually attend, I expect a better showing.

All of these W/x decks are making Soldier of the Pantheon a bit more expensive than I would like and I don't see it going down before Born of the Gods comes out. It may be too late to buy in if you haven't already, but if you need these to play with, they're only going up.

Was it just Standard that saw new innovation?

SCG Open Indianapolis Legacy Top 8

Not even a little bit! 2014 was replete with new decks for Legacy as well, with Jeff Hoogland and Tony Wong making prize with a Junk Dark Depths build and the event being won by Kennen Haas with a Jund Dark Depths build. Where did these come from? That doesn't matter, what does matter is there is a new deck in town and it doesn't care about your True-Name Nemesis one iota.

U/W/R Delver was well represented, due in no small part to a certain Nemesis, but that deck is nothing new. Three copies in the Top 8, however, is. RUG Delver, where are you? In the Top 8 as well, as it would turn out.

Jund & Junk

Looking at both the Junk and Jund Dark Depths decks, I don't see a ton of actionables, which is too bad.

Mox Diamond sees like zero play these days but its price hasn't fallen as much as it should have, leading me to believe its current price is largely due to price memory. I don't know how much greater adoption would cause the price to go up.

Thespian's Stage will be a slow gainer, and this deck won't do anything for it. Honestly, as cool as it is to see a new archetype get picked up like this, there probably isn't a ton of money to be made.

Given my druthers, I would go for Junk given how good Knight of the Reliquary is both as a tutor and a beater if something goes wrong and you have a yard full of land and nothing better to use them for.

Jund runs the Punishing-Grove combo I love so much, and there is probably no card I would rather pitch to Liliana than Punishing Fire in Legacy right now. The deck looks like fun and just when Legacy threatened to get a little stale.

I guess ANT is pet deck of the week, and the four-color Loam deck that got 9th could easily jam the Depths combo and probably should.

A New Hope

Legacy looks wide open right now, there is room for innovation in Standard and a new set is on the horizon. 2014 brought some murderous snowstorms but it also brings a feeling of renewed hope.

Magic is constantly changing, and it's not all weird borders, either. Innovation is the lifeblood of the game and it's a good time to be alive.

6 thoughts on “Jason’s Alticle – Renewed Faith

  1. I’m kind of surprised it took so long for the counterfeit story to show up on this site. This feels like a much bigger deal than the spotlight it is receiving. The Reddit topic has a link to Chas’s WWZ parody regarding this subject, and it does paint an interesting picture.

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