Cut to the chase

One of the things that surprised me a little when I returned to Magic after my long hiatus was the inclusion of foil cards. I pretty quickly decided I didn’t like them. They’re not as pliable as normal cards, they tend to warp like crazy, and the foiling effect makes the art hard to see. I also subscribe to the idea that all the copies of a given card in your deck should be the same art, same language, same edition, so that you don’t give away information about your hand or deck during a game.
That said, I support the inclusion of foil chase cards in Magic, because some people like them, and that drives up purchasing of Magic boosters, which keeps Wizards in business and keeps my favorite game around. A win all around.
In this deck tech from this year’s German nationals, Thomas Jungmann talks about one bit of essential tech for his tournament deck:
“I de-foiled the deck before the tournament to avoid game losses.”
Wizards has been shifting things around to make their prerelease and release bonus cards be some of the more exciting rares from the set. Thus, our foils this time around included Demigod of Revenge and Figure of Destiny, both staples of the kind of mono-red deck (sometimes “Demigod Red”) that Jungmann brought to his nationals, and both staples of similar mono-red decks in the Berlin 2008 PTQ season.
Unfortunately, if your only foils are, say, four Demigods, then a judge may be able to cut to them consistently, yielding a game loss for marked cards. That’s been happening, and it really sucks. One solution is to pepper your deck with other foils — but the other, cheaper solution is to just do what Thomas did, and play without foils.
Not an issue for me, except that I have two prerelease Demigods just hanging out in my collection at this point. Maybe they should go on the auction block, to be played with and loved by folks who like the chase.

Two from the rock garden

While I’ve been thinking about the legendary midrange, and generally shying away from Elves in these B/G/x decks, I’ve been considering the value of different additions to pure B/G Rock builds as well as what happens when you start splashing for other colors.
In the extended, we have two concepts. The first is Dryad Rock, which eschews everyone’s favorite Wayfinder in favor of someone who delivers the goods right now. The second is Bombs, a red-splashing variant that brings the, well, bombs. Click through for more.

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It’s going to be Legen…wait for it…DARY

For a set that was worth a lot of money right when it came out and that gave us one of the enduring power cards of Vintage, Legends is pretty godawful. Its flaws are many, and not really worth going into in depth right now. Just pull it up on Gatherer and you’ll quickly notice the poor costing, the utter lack of removal, and so forth. After all, in addition to the afore-mentioned cash card, this set also has one of the reigning candidates for worst creature ever (although if you start that conversation on a message board, you’d best be prepared to hear about the edge case that makes it so much better than this guy).
As I’ve been thinking about midrange Rock builds lately, it suddenly occurred to me to ask if I could make a reasonable Rock deck purely from the Legends set.
More in the extended. You’re on notice now — it’s not exactly good.

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The 2009 Magic Pro Tour schedule

In this article, Brian David-Marshall introduces the 2009 Pro Tour schedule. The big update this time around is that in an effort to combine players’ interest in Limited play with the larger playing audience’s greater interest in coverage of Constructed events, each PT in the coming year will be a hybrid event, featuring a mix of Constructed and Limited rounds.
This seems fine to me, as it will make each Pro Tour more skill testing overall, and I’ll still be interested in a significant portion of the coverage. I thought it was interesting that apparently I am not alone in finding Limited coverage kind of unengaging:
Our coverage audience absolutely devours Constructed decklists from top players. The written and video deck tech pieces we do blow away a lot of the other stuff we do on the coverage side, and unfortunately all-Limited events just aren’t as captivating to that at-home audience, regardless of how fun they are to play in.
That’s Aaron Forsythe. For me, I find Limited coverage less interesting because although one can have a general draft plan (e.g. “value Slivers more than your opponents do”), you don’t get to come into a match with as much of a plan. When I’m watching a Limited match and someone wins, the actual cards they use feel fairly random. In contrast, in a Constructed event you get to see a player try to unfurl their plan, adapt it to new situations, and so forth. There’s more to latch onto, as a viewer.
Pro Tour Qualifiers will still be single format. Here’s the schedule for next year:
Kyoto, Japan (February 27, 2009)
Formats: Standard, Draft
Top 8: Standard
Qualifier Format: Sealed (presumably, Shards of Alara)
Qualifier Dates: October 4 through December 28, 2008
Honolulu, USA (June 5, 2009)
Formats: Block, Draft
Top 8: Draft
Qualifier Format: Extended (the new Extended — very exciting)
Qualifier Dates: January 3 through April 19, 2009
Austin, USA (October 16, 2009)
Formats: Extended, Draft
Top 8: Extended
Qualifier Format: Standard (awesome)
Qualifier Dates: May 2 through September 6, 2009
Worlds – Rome, Italy (November 19, 2009)
Formats: Standard, Draft, Extended
Top 8: Standard
(As always, you qualify for Worlds via your country’s Nationals and rating)

Nomenclature and style

Naming is a quirky thing. Specific fields generate jargon over time that operates as an effective shorthand for people who already know what’s going on, but serves to obfuscate the topic terribly for someone just getting into it.
In its decade and a half, Magic has picked up its share of moderately to completely impenetrable jargon. Ask someone what they’re playing, and if they say “Red Deck Wins” you might nod knowingly, or say, “What? That’s an assertion, not a title.” That someone might then resort to the more descriptive “mono red aggro” label (which assumes you can figure out what “aggro” means in this context, but is otherwise pretty clear).
As I got back into the game over the last couple years, I found out that the type of deck for which I have the greatest affinity — a green/black/sometimes other affair with a mix of disruption, removal, and threats — is called “The Rock.” This is a pretty stable label these days, such that someone can ask what you’re playing, and you can say “The Rock” and they’ll have a good idea what you mean.
What? Why? That’s substantially more opaque than “Red Deck Wins,” and drastically less clear than say, “Teachings,” the shorthand description of the Time Spiral block blue/black/other deck that was built around Mystical Teachings at its core.
Of course, names come about in quirky ways. Some decks are named by their creators or populizers. When Manuel Bucher designed a five-color control deck he got to name it after a menu choice at a French-Belgian fast food chain. Entirely opaque. The Rock has a similar story.
Intuitively, people like to relate the name to the Rock-Scissors-Paper idea, especially to the wonderful Bart Simpson quote on the reliability of “rock” in kai bai bo. Consider Russ Davies’ Good Old Rock from the recent UK nationals top eight.
As related by Frank Karsten at the end of this article, The Rock is named after Dwayne Johnson. Yeah, that Rock. In other words, as Mr. Johnson appears in more and more movies away from his wrestling persona, the name will make even less sense.
In the original naming model, The Rock was fully named “The Rock and its Millions,” normally a reference to the wrestler and his fans. In this case, The Rock is Phyrexian Plaguelord, and the “millions” are the tokens generated by Deranged Hermit. The deck (here’s a list) is a black-green build that features extensive color- and mana-fixing, disruption, reanimation, and a creature-chewing engine in the form of feeding the Hermit’s Squirrels to the Plaguelord to liberally hand out -1/-1 counters.
Since then, any green-black deck that takes a “midrange” approach (itself a piece of jargon), combining removal, disruption, and incremental advantage through N-for-1 trades, has been termed a “Rock” build. More broadly, decks are often called “Rock” decks even when they aren’t cleaving very closely to this approach, yet still have black, green, removal, and some creatures.
This is the case, of course, even when a modern Rock deck lacks a solid Dwayne Johnson core, as most of them do. Garruk could be Mr. Johnson’s stand-in for the newer builds. For me, I prefer to hearken back to my youth and center my decks around Miss Soco and her magic mirror (which appears to be rather more focused on discard and less on which kids will be appearng on the show next week, but no matter).
Click through to the extended for an up-to-date, non-Elf Rock / Romper Room build for Coldsnap-Eventide Standard.

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And the winner was…

Deck lists from Bay Area Magic events typically don’t make it on the Wizards site proper. My understanding is that’s down to whether or not the TO forwards them the lists. That said, the top eight decks from our recent PTQ for Berlin 2008 have appeared here at It was Faeries taking the envelope as the sole representative of that archetype, with the rest of the top eight a decent mix of Kithkin, blue-white Retrace action, Doran, five-color control, and Merfolk. Notably, no red decks, despite their prevalence on the day.
My report from that event is here.

Tournament report — Romper Room at PTQ Berlin 2008

I just returned early from the final PTQ I’ll be attending for the 2008 Berlin PTQ season. I brought my latest iteration of a Planeswalker-centric control deck. Overall, I think it performed as well as it could have, but I should have made some different design decisions and a few different play decisions as well. Click through to the extended for the decklist, some explanations about that decklist, five rounds of tournament report, and then a revised decklist that I’d use if I went again.

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Aachen is pessimal, Montreal is red

Two interesting sets of results from Berlin Pro Tour Qualifier top eights came in this week. First, we have the top eight from a 58-person PTQ in Aachen:
1. Faeries
2. Faeries
3. Faeries
4. Faeries
5. Faeries
6. Kithkin
7. Kithkin
8. Kithkin
So what were the two best decks in the format again?
However, a second set of results from a 110-person PTQ in Montreal says that we aren’t stuck in a mire of Faeries and Hobbits:
1. UG Merfolk (including that chunkiest of Merfolk, the Chameleon Colossus)
2. Red
3. Faeries
4. Red
5. Kithkin
6. Red
7. Edge of the Divinity (that is, black/white)
8. Red
Click through on either link for full deck lists.

A thousand blooms – infinite mana in Lorwyn block

Everyone is already familiar at this point with the arbitarily-large-critter combo of Devoted Druid with Quillspike. Even before the full set spoiler came out, I suggested a Project-X-inspired Quillspike build here. Now, an arbitrarily large creature is a lot of fun, but can we set our sights even higher and shoot for an arbitrarily large amount of mana?
Yes. Read the extended for the somewhat-misleadingly named Thousand Bloom combo, all packaged and ready to go.

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