Culling the Week: Teaming Up and the Curious Case of Old Rutstein

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve slapped down a Culling the Week article. This is mostly because I didn’t feel like I had done anything particularly interesting over the course of the last few weeks. I played some Magic, tested some decks, but it was nothing I hadn’t already written about. In the case of the past week, it was Sealed, which is fairly boring in general.

Still, I want to get back into the fold of things and so here’s another installment in the series. This one may be a bit different. Right now, there is a lull when it comes to Magic. I’ve been playing a lot of Sealed and a lot of Modern lately, but Modern is in a holding pattern waiting for Eldrazi to get banned, and Oath of the Gatewatch Sealed is not necessarily important with Shadows over Innistrad right on the horizon.

Normally I lay things out chronologically, but I’m going to go with a topical arrangement this time.

Team Sealed is Great

This isn’t exactly a surprise. It’s rare to hear someone say they hate Team Sealed. Still, I felt like saying that it was great anyway. If you have a chance to make it to a Team Sealed event, it’s in your best interest to do it.

There are a few rules, though. Team up with people you’ll enjoy playing with all day, make having fun a priority, and don’t get too caught up on who is winning or losing. Those kinds of petty “I’m 5-0 but our team is 3-2” ego measuring contests don’t add anything to the enjoyment of the event for anyone involved. Build up your teammates—don’t tear them down for not having a “good enough” individual record! These records are also very poor indicators of anything meaningful. If your deck has 6 rares, your 5-0 might actually be less impressive than your teammate’s 2-3 with a no-rare, 3-color special.

I played the Team Sealed GP in DC last weekend with Shaheen Soorani and Brandon Nelson—they ended up being great teammates. We lost the last round to finish X-4 in 59th place. I’ve gone X-4 in nearly every single GP I’ve played this year, so I’m well past the point where I can net anything meaningful from it in terms of Pro Points. The event paid out to the Top 58 teams, so we also missed prize by an astronomically small tiebreaker. I have a history of getting 9th, 17th, 33rd, 65th place, and the like. Why not add a 59th to the repertoire?

So, in essence, we got nothing out of the tournament. But that’s not the whole story. For one, it was (mostly) an enjoyable tournament. Building decks and playing matches with teammates is just plain fun. Secondly, they really demonstrated what it meant to be great teammates. I lost. A lot. I lost nearly every single match I played in the entire tournament. Some of them in comical fashion. Almost nothing went right for me the entire event. I mana flooded. I mana screwed. I mulliganed a lot. I had color issues, power level issues, and lost to powerful mythics all across the weekend. Neither of my decks had good removal, which we found out is basically the death knell for any deck in this format no matter how good it looks. Not only did I lose most rounds, most weren’t even close.

Never once did they complain about how much I was getting wrecked or try to measure who was winning or losing more. Part of being a good teammate is realizing that there are other factors at play beyond the individual records, and I appreciate them staying positive throughout the event. That’s what Team Sealed is all about. I also appreciated them winning a lot. I certainly didn’t, and needed them to pull through.

The Eldrazi Rainbow

I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of flavors of Eldrazi. I’ve been literally and figuratively tasting the Eldrazi Rainbow. I won’t go into detail about the literally, but figuratively speaking, I’ve been trying out a bunch of random Eldrazi decks in Modern.

First, I tried out Gerry Thompson’s BW Eldrazi deck that he wrote about last week.

BW Eldrazi

The deck had some sweet synergies, but ultimately it fell short, in my opinion. It was a bit too clunky. The graveyard exiling cards were weak in most matchups. Without them, Wasteland Strangler ended up doing nothing. I never got to assemble Wasteland Strangler + Eldrazi Displacer or Shriekmaw + Displacer so maybe I’m missing the reason why this deck is good, but my opinion is that it’s just too hard to set up the synergies and that this deck doesn’t quite have the raw power that other versions do. I missed having a big card like Drowner of Hope or World Breaker to go over the top.

WR Eldrazi

The other deck I tried was WR Eldrazi. I based this list off of a few lists that had gone 5-0 in Modern Leagues on Magic Online. I played a few matches with it and it seemed all right, but not that great. Aggregate was weaker without Eldrazi Skyspawner and Drowner of Hope to fuel it.

Ultimately, I’ll probably settle for either GR Eldrazi or UW Eldrazi for the MOCS this weekend on Magic Online. Why mess with what works?

This will likely all be a moot point in a few weeks as Eldrazi will almost certainly be smote with the ban hammer.

Old Rutstein is the Savior of Innistrad

Old Rutstein is a character who shows up on some flavor texts from Shadows over Innistrad cards. Neglected Heirloom and Hinterland Logger are 2 spoiled cards so far that sport that special Old Rutstein touch. Don’t ask why, but for some reason, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Old Rutstein over the past few days. I’ve always had a soft spot for “flavor text heroes” in Magic lore. These are the characters that never make it onto a card, but get quoted a handful of times in flavor text. These flavor text heroes always do a great job of painting a picture of the background world that exists for each set. I even wrote an article a while back from the perspective of a flavor text hero.

Why do I care about Old Rutstein? Well, for one, he sounds like a badass. Old Rutstein sounds like the kind of cantankerous old man you’d see at a tavern telling stories of his ridiculous antics from 40 years ago. The next day, he’d be setting up shop on his front porch so he can yell at the neighborhood kids for having too much fun.

I have this idea in my head about Old Rutstein. Innistrad is a horrible place. The average life expectancy for humans who live on Innistrad can’t be very long. Vampires, zombies, werewolves, demons, and now even angels are destroying humans. How did Rutstein manage to live long enough to where he’d be considered old? The second oldest person on Innistrad is about 42 years old, but Rutstein is a good 75.

That’s where my theory comes in. Old Rutstein is this old man who has been selling axes for the past 50 years, making a rough living of it. He is completely oblivious to anything beyond his sphere of influence when it comes to Innistrad, and through sheer luck, he has managed to not only survive the horrors of the plane, but avoid them altogether. He doesn’t know that werewolves, vampires, zombies, or demons even exist.

He couldn’t believe the woman on the Hinterland Logger card didn’t buy his axe. I mean, he was offering up the Babe Ruth of axe deals. Here was this sweet axe, for a steal of a price, and she didn’t want it. Old Rustein had been wracking his brain for hours trying to figure out why she turned his deal down. Never in a million years did it cross his mind that she was a werewolf and thus has no need for an axe. Werewolves don’t exist to Old Rutstein.

Old Rutstein is walking back home to his cozy cottage after the failed deal attempt in the middle of the night, in a dark and ominous woods in Innistrad, yet suffers no harm. All around him, werewolves are gathering to prey on poor Old Rutstein, but they keep breaking their ankles, or falling down ravines, or getting stabbed by jagged tree branches as they tried to get to Rutstein to eat him. Werewolves were dying all around in him in comical fashion and he was just whistling a tune to himself and cavorting along merrily without a care in the world or without any clue about what was transpiring around him. It was like a scene out of Tucker and Dale vs. Evil.

Eventually, one werewolf finally avoids the grisly fates of his friends and gets up close enough to where he can attack and kill Old Rutstein. It readies itself and springs at Rutstein’s face. In one smooth, calm, all-too-casual motion, Old Rutstein pulls out a double barrel shotgun and pumps two shells right into the werewolf’s face as it springs at him. It instantly drops dead. “Wolves ‘round these parts been getting mighty large lately. Must be sommin’ in the water.” Rutstein kicks aside the dead werewolf and walks the rest of the way back to his cottage in peace. He doesn’t lock his door, and settles in for a long, peaceful sleep, completely and utterly undisturbed. Old Rutstein values his sleep. Tomorrow’s a big day for him. He’s got an axe to grind with some of the locals. Literally and figuratively.

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