As I mentioned in my previous post, it’s time to start discussing the problems currently appearing in Magic design and I think the best place to take our first look is in Standard, mostly because it’s a cross section of a bunch of recent sets. The pushed cards rise to the top and make a picture we can dissect a little bit. As you peruse, gentle reader, please consider the thesis I’m working from- that Magic is a perfectly fine game, but if it’s the sort of thing we want to last FOREVER, it needs depth and subtlety of play, even if it occasionally comes at the cost of providing a “feel bad” for a given player.

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This article is the first in a series, and it’s really an attempt to define some feelings me and many of my friends have been having about ~*the state of the game*~ recently. Bitching about how Magic is dying has been a popular hobby of the game’s practitioners since slightly before Alpha came out, so I was hesitant to write this just because I don’t really want to be associated with the stereotypical neckbeard who angrily coats himself in cheeto dust and bangs out fiery screeds between an endless stream of modo 2-mans and epic tier WoW raids. But seriously. Something is wrong with Magic.

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What I’m Jammin’

March 30, 2013

Figured I’d toss up my current standard list.

4 Experiment One

4 Strangleroot Geist

4 Flinthoof Boar

4 Burning-Tree Emissary

4 Wandering Wolf

4 Ghor-Clan Rampager

4 Hellrider

3 Wolfir Silverheart

3 Domri Rade

3 Rancor

4 Kessig Wolf Run

4 Stomping Ground

4 Rootbound Crag

7 Forest

8 Mountain

Deck is sweet. Wandering Wolf has Silverheart, Wolf Run, Rancor and beginning of combat/declare attackers step Ghor-Clan Rampager to become pretty unblockable a lot of the time. Emissary continues to be the absolute nuts. Strangleroot Geist can double evolve Experiment One and regularly picks up two for ones against other aggro decks. Firepig is amazing as either a Watchwolf or as a Dreg Mangler and along with Emissary lets you cheat a ton on your mana curve and gives you lots of flexibility in how you curve out turns 1-3 (having an explosive turn 2 more than overcomes only running a single 4-of as a one drop.). Domri is completely filthy against control decks that can’t pressure it  while you draw cards 50+% of the time and credibly threaten ultimate. It’s also fine against aggro decks since your dudes tend to be 3/3s and their dudes tend to be 2/2s. Kessig Wolf Run/Rancor/Wolfir make your 2/2s into something that forces a trade with Thragtusk and Loxodon Smiter, which tend to be the worst cards to see. Resto Angel no bueno too. Hellrider+Wolfir happens occasionally and it utterly dominates midrange decks.

I’ve genuinely considered Madcap Skills in this one. Seems like it’s going reeeeeal deep though. SB is whatever, usually involving Chandra’s Fury, Skullcrack and some form of graveyard hate. Tormod’s Crypt, sure.

Good matchups:
Naya Blitz and assorted fast aggro strategies. Your guys are bigger and you just dominate combat. Rampager is just fine as a 4/4 because that’s usually big enough to completely take over the board. put_pants_on_my_Invisible_Stalker.dec is basically a coinflip, you both have crazy starts and all hexproof on their side turns off Domri’s fight mode so you literally just both try and kill each other as fast as possible while ignoring what the other is doing. COOL. Against other aggro it’s almost always correct to just clog the board and bait them into attacking into your wall of pigs/geists/oozes.

Esper/America/Sphinx’s Revelation control. Boros Reckoner is thorny and some decks can really capitalize on protecting it or maneuvering you into a blowout. Those decks are a crummy matchup unless you can clown them with Wandering Wolf. The other versions just can’t put up enough of an early defense to stabilize at a high enough life total to where Wolf Run and Domri can’t take over. Domri is the blade against Azorius Charm, especially when so many of your duders have haste. There’s never any need to play more than two creatures at a time, unless your third creature is Hellrider.

OK matchups:

Reanimator. If they have Griselbrand (or any board dominating fatty really) and lots of fast Thragtusks it’s rough but there’s plenty of opportunities for you to win games, especially if they really can’t do anything reasonable against your turn 2 and 3 plays. Humanimator is interesting and I haven’t played against it yet, but I’d imagine Huntmaster is slightly worse than Tusk while Cartel Aristocrat is ok but not ruinous for you. I genuinely don’t know how consistent and fast their combo is though, but you should be able to race it.

Bad matchups:
Boros Reckoner, Thragtusk, Loxodon Smiter and Resto Angel. All of these cards can just completely and utterly wreck you and there is very little you can do about it. Incidentally, it’s this fearsome foursome (minus Reckoner, fuk u Reckoner t(‘-‘) ) that makes Kessig Wolf Run the best card in the deck. If you can get away with trading only one of your dudes for one of these, you’ll get super far ahead. Alternatively you can set up a big attacking turn with Wandering Wolf, Silverheart, or Hellrider and just bypass them entirely.

Note: This is an email in response to this, posted on Grantland last Thursday.

Dear Brian,

 
First off, I’m sending this to the editors@ email because I couldn’t locate a personal address after a ten second cursory search on Google and I feel that anything more than that would be stalkerish. I hope this reaches you and doesn’t bounce off a spam filter or something. 

I read your letter to me. I know it was to me, because I’ve lived in the 206/425 area code since my father packed us up from San Diego and moved us up to the cloudy, forgotten corner of the country in 1995. I’m technically not a Seattle native by TRUE mossback standards, but I’ve been here longer than most people so I tell myself I’m a local. 

 
1995 was a big year for Seattle sports. I was in 3rd grade, with vague feelings that Tony Gwinn was the best Padre of all time but also that the 49ers were the coolest football team ever, being recent Super Bowl champions and having Steve Young, who totally rocked. I lacked the geographic unity that defines the worst sort of sports fan, but Seattle was quick to remedy that for me. That fall, I remember sitting in my classroom, surrounded by strangers, listening on the radio with rapt attention as an upstart band of youngsters led by a charismatic center fielder drove towards glory. Joey Cora, Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr, Randy Johnson, and my favorite, a young dude named Alex Rodriguez, made an improbable playoff run and drew the attention of the entire city as they pulled off a fantastic upset and went to the American League championship round. You’d have to have been there, but even me, a dorky, non-sports inclined third grader new to town, was caught up in the romance of it all. You’ve probably heard it, but we have a song to commemorate the occasion. It sums things up nicely. 
 
I took to Seattle quickly. It was a town with ambition outsize to its population and geographic remoteness. There weren’t a lot of us, and it was a long flight to get to anywhere, but if you went to any city in America, you’d find computers running Windows, Boeing planes, and Starbucks lattes. We were proud of that. The Seahawks hadn’t found their current (competent) ownership group and languished towards the bottom of the league, the Sounders were but a gleam in Drew Carey’s eye, and the Mariners were young and full of potential, but hadn’t backed up that promise with anything concrete. In the meantime, we had the Sonics.
Oh. my. god. The Sonics. They were our heroes. All through the latter half of the 90s, the Sonics were THE Seattle team to follow, to scream at, to dream about. Between rounds of Goldeneye 64, childhood sleepovers were dominated by endless, perpetual, futile debates between the supremacy of Gary Payton and Sean Kemp (Gary Payton, of course, being the best player on the team, bar none). We were a team of fantastic promise but karmic failure, the price of being the best non-Michael Jordan team in the league. For a city that always, always, always had something to prove, the Sonics were our soul. The Mariners never made the World Series. The Sonics had everything except for the best player in the history of the game and paid the price for that, ending up an interesting trivia side note in the enormous, mid-90’s monument to the utter supremacy of JORDAN. When we faced them for the championship, our highlight was being able to break all the brooms that Chicago fans had brought to game 4. That was fine though, because our team was still in its prime, and its prodigious talent was girded by genuine camaraderie and city pride. 
 
Then came the righteous motherfucker. I don’t blame Oklahoma, which is a place that no one should have to live and I can’t possibly fault for enjoying their one nice thing. I don’t even blame Clay Bennett, much as I don’t fault a mosquito for spreading malaria or an anaconda for eating babies (the parable of the scorpion and the frog seems particularly apropos). I do, however, blame Howard Schultz. That fucker. That slimy, spineless little shrew of a man couldn’t handle managing a team of superstar egos, and his neverending fits of pique slowly drained us of our goodwill while in the meantime the Mariners racked up a historically untouchable season behind Ichiro and the Seahawks climbed out of the grave that had been readied for them. Yes, as sports fans we are short sighted and dumb, but that doesn’t mean we don’t love our teams in that weird, unconditional, fucked-up way you might love a beat up alley cat or particularly ugly child. The Sonics went fallow amidst a culture of poor management, shortsightedness and personal vendetta, but they weren’t forgotten. 
 
 
 
 
…You know all this. Anyone who’s put the tiniest modicum of attention to the life and death of the Sonics knows this. Everything I’ve written up to this point has basically been public knowledge. But it needs to be said to get to this point. Your essay on Thursday has sat with me like a rock in my stomach. I’ve been following the playoffs and for the first time in my life I’ve found myself rooting for the Lakers. Of course, all of us up here will say this was OUR team like the OKC group somehow didn’t manage it since it was stolen from us. Of course none of us can root for the last Sonics team we ever saw, now wearing strange colors and surrounded by fans not from our city. But just as true is the fact that there is no way that anyone, least of all a current fan of the team, can tell us to get over it, to make it stop hurting, to pretend like we don’t have a physical reaction to the mere news of hearing about the success of the team that was once ours. Because it’s not a new team.
 
My childhood now belongs 50% to a city that didn’t experience it. My memories now belong to them. According to the league, Gary Payton and Sean Kemp once played for the Oklahoma City Thunder. The single, solitary championship in Seattle sports history (1917 Stanley Cup nonwithstanding, because really, come on), is no longer ours. Our ONE championship. 
 
You’re a soccer fan, Brian. American sports are all about the franchise, but spend an hour with any sports fan in our country and try to convince them that their team is a fungible asset. This is ridiculous city pride talking, but that goes double in Seattle. It’s not a coincidence we have the loudest arena in the NFL, the smuggest, most infuriating fanbase in the MLS and a face-paint and sign-waving travelling baseball contingent. We’re a city obsessed with proving ourselves to the rest of the country. We’ve only ever won one championship, and it was stolen from us in a deal that had nothing to do with fan support, market size or realistic stadium requirements and everything to do with the egos and civic obsessions of a pair of unscrupulous millionaires. So, while you were making cracks about our weather (do one about Nirvana next), we as a city are currently doing everything we can to bring an NBA team back. They’ll be the Sonics, because that was the one solitary thing we were allowed to keep entirely to ourselves when our team was taken away. But they won’t be the Sonics. They’ll have won the championship in 1979, but a team in a city far away will have also won that championship. They’ll probably be decrepit, and neglected, and many years away from being championship contenders. Meanwhile, the team they share a history with will be young, and vibrant, and drafted in Seattle too. That will never in a million years stop hurting. 
 
Your open letter to Sonics fans read less like a letter to us and more like a letter to yourself, Brian. You want to be able to root in good conscience for a team that was first put together in a different city and dropped unceremoniously in yours. You don’t want to feel bad for exulting in the success of a group of athletes that are currently claiming your town, your colors, and your community. I’m not gonna let you do that. Because every time you think about how good the Thunder is doing, the game they just won or the championship they just threatened, I also want you to think of a ten year old boy who was just discovering how great sports could be and who was falling in love with a team for the first time. Because according to David Stern and the NBA, that team is half yours, and half no longer his. 
 
 
 
Sincerely,
 
 
Nick Andrews
1121 N 85th St
Seattle, Washington

We’re All Nerds Now.

March 17, 2011

So I read this article and was immediately impressed by the quality of writing and the general thrust of the piece. However, being a bitter contrarian I was disappointed in a lack of satisfying conclusion or any real message to take away from the whole thing. Time to dust off my degree and write a little essay.

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Monday Rumor Roundup

August 16, 2010

So we now know that the first small set in Scars block is going to be Mirrodin Besieged. What does this mean for the Mirrodin Pure/New Phyrexia speculation?

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The biggest fatty of all time is very bad design. Here’s why.

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Quick Hiatus

August 5, 2010

I’ll be out of town from Friday through Monday, so no updates this weekend. Expect content to return with a new Under the Hood on Wednesday.

In the meantime, I think Max McCall had the article of the week. Interesting stuff and definitely a topic I want to explore a little bit in the future.

I realized we haven’t discussed a spell at all with this series, so I decided to rectify that situation.

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Monday Rumor Roundup

August 2, 2010

Not a lot of concrete information this week, so it’s time to indulge in some total speculation.

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