I don’t live in a particularly nice part of Edinburgh. I moved in with my long-suffering girlfriend about 3 years ago, and we’ve lived in the same place since then. On the plus side, we own, so at least we’re not paying someone else’s mortgage, but still, it’s not great.
We live above a pub, which, while convenient when I fancy a pint, means that we’re constantly surrounded by the underclass shouting at each other after they’ve downed stupid quantities of fizzy lager and alcopops. Fortuitously, we live alongside a river known as ‘The Water of Leith’, which basically bisects the city. What this means is that there’s plenty of space for them to dump their old, formerly expensive electronic devices and to vomit into. Last weekend, I went downstairs to head to the shops, only to be met with the sight of someone I’d approximate to be around 15 years old vomiting into the river. How pleasant.
I live in a block of flats, and I assume that at least 1 of them is being used as a council property. My next door neighbours, who live less than 4 feet away from me don’t work, have obvious intravenous drug habits, and the girl has just told us ‘I’m pregnant’. She told me while she was outside the stair smoking…
When I found out I was going to become a father, I was terrified. My girlfriend at the time and I had just bought a house, and were stretched to the limit financially. I didn’t think that we could support a child financially, at that point in our lives. They don’t have that concern. I’m not entirely sure how old they are; their drug use has aged them to the point that I wouldn’t be surprised if they were anywhere between 18 and 50. Drugs are bad kids.
The problem is, they know full well that the state will provide them with another flat (the one they’re in is only 1-bedroom), and will give them plenty of money to look after this offspring, while supporting their own desires not to work, and to continue their own heavy drug use.
The problem, as I see it, is that these two ‘people’ are a depressingly common thing in modern society. They’ve been taught that society owes them a favour, and that they don’t need to work to earn anything. Kat and I work hard for what we’ve got, and we don’t expect things to be handed to us on a silver platter. We’ve both come from pretty stable backgrounds. Our parents loved us to the extent that we had rules, we had boundaries and we had consistent meal times that didn’t consist of McDonalds, KFC or Pizza Hut for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
So after having been neglected at home, they’re now being neglected as adults. They’re handed regular benefits, and are actually being rewarded for bringing a new life into the squalor that they’re currently in. They’re handled poorly by a government system which fights to preserve the independence of the underclass, and their ability to make ‘informed decisions’. The problem being, the choices they make are, almost without exception, the wrong ones, and the result of this is the systematic neglect of young children, and the disproportionate growth of the underclass.
Anyway, this particular strain of moron will be gone soon, inevitably off to greener pastures, and we can expect new neighbours. Anyone want to take any bets that this lot will be worse than the last? One good thing about this lot, their drug use tended to keep them pretty quiet, aside from the 2-3 times a week one had locked the other out of the house and the one on the inside had passed out, precipitating at times up to 6 hours of banging on the doorstep, screaming ‘Jay, open the f*cking door’ at 9 in the morning. While I was working nights.
‘So what does this somewhat depressing social commentary have to do with Magic’, I hear you ask?
Well, since you asked nicely, I’ll tenuously try to tie it to something, in an effort to disguise that I just wanted to complain about my neighbours. Hmm, how to do that? Well, these people have made a series of poor choices, why don’t I talk some about the poor choices I made while playing Magic yesterday. That’ll probably work.
I’m starting to write this on the morning after the Scottish WMCQ, hosted by Black Lion Games in Edinburgh. The tournament itself was very well run, with only some computer problems marring an otherwise straightforward day. How did I do? Not well. I’d been testing the Solar Flare deck a lot in the run up to the tournament, but I didn’t really like it all that much. It was good, but the format was becoming a lot more hostile to it than I’d have liked, and I didn’t have a list with Sun Titan in it that I particularly liked. I’d brewed an Esper Miracles deck that I’d only had the chance to play with once, and while the initial few hours testing had been favourable, and the deck was very fun to play, I didn’t want to play it at the WMCQ’s, as it was still far too raw.
On the Friday night, before the tournament, I’d been sent an email with a 5-colour control deck in it, that Andy Morrison (our team captain) had said was very well positioned, and that he’d recommend. Given that, at that stage, I didn’t want to play any of the decks, and was going to throw together a 4-5 colour singleton deck for a bit of a laugh, I was quite happy to take Andy’s advice on what to play, as he’s generally much better at deck selection than I am. I made a couple of changes, because I wasn’t taking it particularly seriously, and wanted to try out as many cards as possible. The Scottish PTQ is in 2-weeks, if memory serves, so trying out as many cards as possible is a good thing.
The decklist I played was as follows:-
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
3 Desperate Ravings
1 Doom Blade
1 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Go for the Throat
2 Liliana of the Veil
1 Karn Liberated
2 Mana Leak
2 Pillar of Flame
2 Pristine Talisman
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
3 Think Twice
4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Darkslick Shores
2 Drowned Catacomb
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Rootbound Crag
2 Shimmering Grotto
4 Sulfur Falls
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Blue Sun’s Zenith
1 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Pillar of Flame
1 Ray of Revelation
1 Sever the Bloodline
1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sag
1 Volition Rein
The deck seemed pretty good, though I don’t think I piloted it particularly well. I made a few mistakes when using the removal spells, ending up with a Doom Blade in hand looking at a Mirran Crusader having used a Pillar of Flam on a Silverblade Paladin with the aim of maximising mana efficiency. Overall, nothing particularly awful that wouldn’t be weeded out with more testing and familiarity with the format wouldn’t fix. I played a lot of 1-2 ofs, as seeing more of what works in a competitive environment is pretty valuable.
I had one particularly interesting game one where, after turn 6, I’d had to use both my Slagstorms and Pillar of Flames, and had Desperate Ravings’d away my Grave Titans and Consecrated Sphinx, leaving only the two Olivia Voldaren as ways to deal damage left in my deck. My opponent developed a board, and I cast Forbidden Alchemy in an effort to find something to deal with it.
I was looking at a Black Sun’s Zenith and an Olivia, but some quick calculations saw that even with the Olivia, I’d die before I could stabilise, so I had to take the Zenith. I had been upping a Tamiyo’s loyalty to keep his mana development slowed down. I drew another Olivia shortly after, and played her onto an empty board.
The following turn, he cast a Garruk Relentless, and I didn’t have any ways to kill my opponent left any more. I had a quick think, and decided that I’d need to draw my Karn, then subsequently ultimate him, and win it in the sub-game. I ended this game with a Black Sun’s Zenith in my Library, which I drew every turn while I messed around with Karn for a few turns. We restarted, and I had a Champion of the Parish, a Liliana of the Veil and a Tamiyo, the Moon Sage in play on turn 1. It wasn’t close.
What can we learn from this? Play to your outs. If there is a way to win, find it, and play to it. You should know what’s in your deck well enough to make that call. Sometimes, you’ll not be able to win the game you’re in, but if you’ve still got a Karn Liberated… My opponent and I had spoken briefly before the match. He’d seen the tattoo I have of Freddie Mercury on my leg, and was complimenting it. He informed me that he was the last person to see Freddie. I asked ‘How so?’, and he informed me that he’d been the undertaker who’d closed his casket. I’m a massive Queen fan, so that was pretty cool.
A few things I learned about Standard from this tournament:-
1. Restoration Angel is nuts.
Seriously, absolutely insane. Every time a white deck has mana open, I was having to consider this, and there were frequently times that I had to play into it, thinking ‘If they’ve got it, I’m dead’. This is not a card to be taken lightly, and I’m pretty sure it’s a format defining card. It’s probably one for the more aggressive decks, but I could see it making a splash in some sort of UWx Venser deck, blinking Blade Splicers and the like, but in the aggressive decks, it spent far too much time blanking my removal for my liking. Time to move to sacrifice effects and sweepers?
2. So is Tamiyo.
I had one in the maindeck, and one in the board, and I sided the second copy in in literally every match I played. I’m not entirely sure that’s correct, but I almost always wanted to draw her. It seems to me that casting a sweeper on turn 4, and following it up with a Tamiyo is almost unbeatable for a lot of the aggressive decks. I knew she was good, but I didn’t realise quite how good. I’ll be experimenting with her quite a bit in the next few weeks.
I expect ‘What happens if it gets Zealous Conscripted?’ to be quite a common saying for the next year. I had a Grave Titan Conscripted in one game, and that wasn’t a good feeling. I don’t know that it’s at the stage where I should only be playing things that don’t effectively end the game immediately when stolen, but it’s certainly something to consider.
Other than that, it seems pretty much like business as usual. I’m quite excited for the next few weeks. I need to see if I can manage to make the trip down to Nottingham, but the week after that is the Scottish PTQ, and then there’s the third WMCQ a few weeks after that, so there’s plenty of reasons to be playing Standard, which can’t be a bad thing.
The Next Version
I’d be tempted to play a deck like mine again, but I’d probably want to do something with the mana, to make it slightly better, and ease up on the 17-colours a bit. 3 is plenty, and I don’t necessarily think it’s worth playing white just for Ray of Revelation.
My next point of experimentation would be something like:-
2 Black Sun’s Zenith
2 Curse of Death’s Hold
4 Desperate Ravings
2 Doom Blade
2 Forbidden Alchemy
1 Karn Liberated
2 Liliana of the Veil
3 Mana Leak
4 Pillar of Flame
2 Ratchet Bomb
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
The move away from Slagstorm makes the mana a little bit better, as you’re not looking for the RR on turn 3 anymore. On the flipside, it means that you’re somewhat softer to the Human decks, which didn’t seem like a particularly great matchup to me anyway. I’m hopeful that transitioning into a more Snapcaster Mage friendly build will help in that regard anyway, as I’ll be able to cast Pillar of Flame more often, as I can re-buy later on anyway. Basically, Delver and Champion etc need to die on Turn 1, which has precipitated the addition of the 3rd and 4th Pillar. I was really impressed by the card on the weekend. It’s really good against RG as well, and anything that’s using Strangleroot Geist.
It’s obviously still in the early stages, but I wasn’t really too put off by my shockingly bad performance at the weekend to abandon the deck entirely. I think that a deck like this needs to be constantly evolving anyway, to keep up with the metagame shifts, and there is certainly room to make allowances for personal play style.
To be honest, I’m not even sure that Grixis is the right colour combination for the deck. It’s possible to add better Planeswalkers in white, and outside of Curse of Death’s Hold, there’s not really too much in Black that I’m particularly married to. I really don’t know how well control is positioned generally, but basically all I want to do for the PTQ is beat Delver, so I’m just going to try and find a deck that beats Delver somewhat consistently and isn’t awful against the rest of the field. I don’t think that the metagame at the WMCQ I played in was particularly representative of the field as a whole on a larger stage, so it’s possible that I’m walking down the wrong path entirely. If there’s no viable alternative, I might just have to play Delver myself, but I’d really rather not.