Well, I was inspired by PV's Pro Tour Aether Revolt tournament report. It's all about nonsense with a light sprinkling of strategy, which is by far my favorite recipe (also, 11 Top 8s? What's it like being the luckiest Magic player to ever draw an opening seven?). That made me realize that I hadn't written about nonsense in a while, so today we are going to indulge ourselves in the highest-quality nonsense I have to offer. Have no fear—there will be some strategy, but only the bare minimum in order to meet rigorous ChannelFireball.com standards (we do offer the best free strategy content, after all).
On Invasion-Planeshift-Apocalypse Draft
This was the format for flashback Drafts on MTGO this week, and I snagged myself a couple of trophies (and recorded a few videos). As much as I do enjoy it, I'm aware of what it is—insanely powerful spells, abysmal creatures, and the worst mana of any format I've ever played. And I've played basically all of them. You are always 3+ colors, as the gold cards are awesome and there aren't an abundance of playables, and here are the non-green mana fixers available:
Yep, bad Obelisks, taplands that you have to sacrifice in order to get other colors out of them, and bouncelands that set you back a turn.
Half the games in the format involve one of the players being screwed, and one of the reasons it's still fun to play is that when both players are screwed you still have a good game. Plus, the creatures are really bad and many of the spells catch you up, so even if you're stuck on lands for a while, Jilt with kicker on their random 2/2 and their Horned Kavu will buy you plenty more time.
Pro Magic is a tough game. Some people, Silver Pros even, can't handle the swings. There was a real concern that Wrapter was going to miss a few Pro Tours before his inevitable Hall of Fame induction (forgive me for being presumptuous, but let's be real). Cut to 2 weeks later, and he's added trophies from GP Vancouver and the Magic Online Championship to his trophy shelf, alongside his Nationals Trophy and whatever stuffed animals he chose to go with it. Wrapter is now Platinum, locked for Worlds, and locked for next year's MOCS.
As for what changed?
He mostly credits it to caring more, trying harder, and momentum.
I've been on a bit of a hiatus, but I expect to be back soon. I picked up prints of some of my favorite Magic and Eternal art, so Goblinslide won't be so lonely. The bear hasn't ridden his last bike yet—I'll just say that.
On Ranking Things
If I had to rank things, ranking things would be very high on the list. Of course, you never have to rank things, but that's part of why it's so great. It's never useful, it leads to inane arguments, and it's utterly subjective—at least when other people do it. Let's rank some things:
2. Reid Duke (hockey player)
1. Reid Duke (Magic player)
Reid Duke has a real shot of overtaking Reid Duke, but given that his pro hockey career is just starting, I have to give the nod to Reid Duke. As a well-established Magic pro, he's got a long resume of great finishes, and is one of the most skilled and popular players on the Pro Tour (despite being tier 3, as per PV's official rankings). Plus, the rest of the roster of the Las Vegas Kings isn't known, while the real kings of Las Vegas, Huey Jensen and Owen Turtenwald, have proven to be a formidable set of teammates. Regardless, I expect nothing but excellence from Reid Duke(s).
Players Without a Pro Tour Top 8
5. Corey Burkhart
4. Matt Nass
3. Oliver Tiu
2. Shahar Shenhar
1. Paul Cheon
These are all excellent players, and despite me teasing Paul every few weeks, I do truly respect him as a Magic player. All of these players have significant accomplishments (Shahar's back-to-back Worlds wins being the most impressive, followed by Paul's Team Worlds win in a format he didn't know, playing a deck that wasn't good), but all of them are missing that one check mark: a Pro Tour Top 8. I'm sure they will get there, and as close friends with at least four of them, I'm rooting for (almost) all of them.*
*Jokes aside, I am a big fan of all of these guys, and would love it if they cracked the next top 8.
5. Attack Step
I guess this has to make the list, because attacking can be kind of nice, and it does lead to you eventually winning. I'll allow it, begrudgingly.
4. Opponent's End-of-Turn Step
I like this step because it means I'm playing a deck with sweet instants, which is becoming more rare these days. Nothing much felt better than casting Collected Company end of turn and hitting two 3-drops, or so I'm told—I counted myself lucky if I got a lone Blisterpod.
3. Opponent's Upkeep Step
This is the shenanigans step for sure. If you stop your opponent then it's bad news for them. They are about to get Deep-Fiended or otherwise messed with, and at the very least you are casting a removal spell. A+ step, would upkeep again.
2. Draw Step
1. Opponent's Discard Step
*Not included—beginning of combat step. It might have cracked the list, but I wasn't allowed to stop there under the new rules.
I initially thought that draw step was the best, because drawing a card is the single best action you can take in Magic, but if you are playing for anything you care about, it's gotta be the opponent's discard step. You only go there when they have to discard to hand size, which 98% of the time means that they are horrifically mana screwed (the other 2% of the time you are probably dead, as they resolved some massive draw spell in the middle of the game). As much as I like drawing cards, the discard step is the winner here.
Aside on Mana Screw
My thoughts on mana screw and mulligans are thus: if all my opponents did was mull to 5 and get mana screwed, well, I'd be lucky Paulo. That wouldn't be any fun, and I don't think I'd find Magic rewarding. I play for the awesome games, the ones where you mount an incredible comeback or have to play your best to narrowly win. That said, when I'm playing for Top 8 of the Pro Tour, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hoping my opponent just doesn't play a land on turn 2.
I know that some percentage of the time that'll be me, and winning is also rewarding, so I'll take 'em as they come. If that's all it was, I'd be out, but given that it's going to happen some of the time, I hope it's to my opponent when I'm playing for high stakes. Yes, I enjoyed playing intense Magic against Owen in the Top 4 of PT Eldritch Moon, but we both joked that we hoped the other person would just get horribly mana screwed for a reason—we weren't exactly joking. I'd rather win an awesome game than a dumb one, but I'd rather win a dumb game than lose an awesome one when the stakes are so high.
After patronizing all of these establishments, here are the official rankings. One caveat is that I never got a chance to go to the old Burt's, nor have I tried the reboot, so those aren't included in the field.
5. Gino’s East
3. Lou Malnatis
Zachary's is an unconventional choice, but I truly believe it can go toe-to-toe with Chicago pizza. The spinach and mushroom deep dish is a sight to behold (well, to consume—most deep dish pizzas don't look all that impressive), and I'd suggest trying it before crying foul. As for the winner, there's a reason that Giordano's is the most popular and numerous, and therefore it easily takes top billing. Pequods and Lou Malnatis are decent too, along with Gino’s East.
I hope that suffices for nonsense today—I'll be providing more soon, I'm sure. Until then, may your rankings be as accurate and unbiased as mine.