Since this is the end (beginning) of year article, instead of just a normal review, I want to make up for my lack of lists in my articles with an entire article consisting of them. It works for the rest of the internet!
Favorite Cards of This Year
While I may dislike the design of the Holiday Cube immensely, it was unmatched for sheer comedy potential and broken things. Turn two Blightsteel Colossus, storm kills in draft on turn four, casually beating players who lost all their permanents, and other absurdities abounded these past two weeks. My favorite card to go nuts with once power was reintroduced was easily Balance, and I remembered why Balance is fondly known as one of the most broken cards of all time.
4. Spider Spawning
The spawner of my favorite draft strategy of all time, and made for a good many Starcraft references.
3. Cavern of Souls
A card I actually think is a little too good makes my list easily, because it’s one of the few really strong anti-countermagic cards I’ve seen printed. Even situational counters can be incredibly powerful given the right format (see the Essence Scatter comeback tour for proof of that), and while R&D has defanged counterspells, they still see plenty of love in top-tier strategies. This card is balanced nicely for those that want to just bash in with creatures, with a real cost of inclusion that people constantly underrated—not to mention the predictions of doom for all blue decks when the card first came out, which amused me to no end.
Hey, sometimes you’ve just gotta floop it.
1. Restoration Angel
Easily my favorite kind of card, one that isn’t incredibly overpowered, with versatility based on its stats and great ability. She ended up being in an even greater variety of decks than I first imagined, due to Birthing Pod, and I was thrilled to see how great she worked in practice. Any card that reminds me of Vendilion Clique or the better Fae is going to rank highly in my book.
Five Cards I Can’t Stand
Before we begin, I’d like to pass out some dishonorable mentions:
Why these cards? Not because of anything that the cards themselves accomplished or didn’t accomplish, rather I group these together because they remind me that in every spoiler season there are a handful of cards that get ridiculous amounts of hype and doom and gloom predictions that make reasoned discussions about them close to impossible. After about a month, things die down, and by then everything is put into proper perspective*.
There are plenty more of these from the last few sets and even current Gatecrash spoilers, but these were the biggest offenders. Evaluating cards before they hit play can be very difficult and I’ve certainly whiffed on some, but it’s important to be able to back off a card once you get more information about its place in the metagame.
5. Invisible Stalker
Stalker perfectly represents negative interaction, and isn’t even mechanically interesting to look at like a High Tide or Dredge player ripping your guts out for the first time. It makes the list this time because of the sheer depths of despair it caused at GP: Anaheim, where everyone I knew playing with or playing against Bant was having no fun at all. It was also miserable to deal with in Limited, but it took losing a game to a [card increasing savagery]10/10[/card] Invisible Stalker to really appreciate that disgust.
4. Geist of Saint Traft
Similar to Invisible Stalker, except that Geist didn’t need much help to make people feel helpless, and has continued to perform across multiple formats. Geist is polarizing because there’s just enough interaction available to opponents to not consistently lose to it, but it remains one of the easiest and best free win cards printed in a while.
3. Huntmaster of the Fells
I actually think the card design is great and I liked playing with him. What gets him on this list is how many questions I’ve had to anwser about him and the transform mechanic—it’s also brought up active/non-active players and what that actually means more in a month than I’d ever heard as a judge or player up to that point.
1 & 2. Bonfire of the Damned
Miracle. One-sided board sweeper/X-spell. Immortal gif.
Favorite Judge Calls
I covered a handful in my article on the proper way to play Friday Night Magic, but these are some of my favorites that stood out this year:
• The Die Roll of Doom
This still gets me. At Friday Night Magic, we do a basic pack-per-match-win prize structure for drafters, which also helps encourage faster play since draws don’t net either player a pack. Unfortunately, this prize structure also encourages newer players to engage in the time-honored tradition of dice rolling once time is called to see if they can get disqualified from the event. A spectator decided to make his voice known and encouraged two players to figure out who won their match as they ran out of extra turns, which they turned into a high-roll competition. I was not party to this shenaniganary until I was called over for this exchange:
“Judge, we were rolling dice to see who won the match. I rolled a 20, but somebody bumped the table and now it’s a 14, I still get a 20 though right?”
Once I double-checked that we all still existed in what’s known as ‘The Real World,’ the two were DQ’d, refunded, and given a proper lesson on why this is a bad thing. Thankfully both of them took it well and haven’t had any issues since.
• Someone Speaks to Garruk Wildspeaker
This didn’t happen to me, but it was told to me later and caused a good laugh:
P: Judge, I only have one land in play, can I use Garruk Wildspeaker‘s first ability?
For reference – +1: Untap two target lands.
J: You need two legal targets for Garruk’s ability to be used.
P: So can I use it?
J: You need two legal targets for Garruk’s ability to be used.
P: No really, can I use it?
P2: You can target your opponent’s lands you know.
(One Outside Assistance penalty later)
P: *Without using Garruk* Ok, I end my turn.
• Splicer Kid
This is from last year, but is so good I don’t mind running it back. We had a rare double DQ on the same person at two separate events within the span of a few months. The first involved my good friend Eric ‘Raging’ Levine, and is one of the many reasons why he gets raging at people sometimes. During a Magic 2012 draft, Eric is called over to investigate some weirdness in a draft pod. Apparently someone took an extra card out of a pack and swapped it with a Magic 2010 Griffin Sentinel.
What also may have given it away was the word ‘Splicer’ written on the back of it, implying that the card had been used as a proxy at one time or another. After a quick investigation, Eric got creative with it and had everyone do a quick handwriting test for the word Splicer.
Clearly the person who did it wrote it as neatly as they possibly could, and there’s noooo way this could ever work. Except he just compared it to the handwriting on the draft sign-up sheet to the word Splicer on the card, and got a pretty easy match. Then, taking that result and comparing it to the never-writes-this-way-in-a-million-years sample made it pretty clear who it was. DQ for the cheats, have a nice day. He did get suspended for this, which was good, because when the cheats are this blatant, it sets a good example.
Flash-forward a couple of months, and I was taking over for the esteemed Eric Levine while he was off at a Grand Prix. A familiar player walks through the doors of our establishment. One of our regulars quickly recognizes him, and I look over at who he signed up as. Not wanting to be wrong, as human memory is a fickle thing, I call out to this person under his real name, ‘Hey, Splicer Kid!’ which got an immediate response of ‘Yes?’
So… Why did you sign up under a fake name and new DCI number?
That conversation and DQ ended about as you would imagine.
The Five Lessons from This Year I Hope Finally Sink Into My Brain
1. Playing tight and eeking out small advantages is more important than anything outside of deck selection.
2. Stop ignoring entire metagame segments when building a deck, even if I personally think those decks are outdated or terrible choices for a tournament.
3. Don’t play linear strategies if you don’t want to learn proper mulliganing with that deck, since it’s one of the few spots that separate an average player from a great one.
4. Have a sideboard plan for every match, not just a handful and wing the rest.
5. Having proper threat assessment is great! It doesn’t help if you don’t have the patience to pull it off.
While I could go in-depth for these lessons, frankly someone like PV is better suited to write about them. These are just the five that I felt I hadn’t taken fully to heart, and only do so for some tournaments while just rolling the dice for others.
That’s it for today, I enjoyed my break from Constructed for a few weeks, and next week I’ll be back with a refreshed view of the last few Standard events and what Gatecrash will bring to the table.
Email me at: joshDOTsilvestriATgmailDOTcom