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The Dragon's Den
If Jimmy Jumped Off a Cliff ...

By DeQuan Watson - 4.07.05

Most of you probably had a friend that got you into a lot of trouble growing up.  Don't lie and say you didn't.  If you didn't you probably didn't know enough people.  I know a had a couple of them.  It was always that friend that came up with great ideas.

Well, you usually that it was a great idea at the moment.  However, later while your parents were yelling at you, it didn't seem so good anymore.  But how did that person persuade you to get into trouble?  Easy.  You trusted him.  But that usually ended up with your Mom saying, "If Jimmy (or other friend's name) jumped off a cliff, would you jump too?!?!"

Obviously, you wouldn't follow good ol' Jimmy off the cliff.  Well, I'd like to think that you wouldn't.  However, the truth is that Jimmy had proven his knowledge a few times, so it was easy to follow along and trust him.  But let's assume for a second that Jimmy did jump off a cliff.  Why wouldn't you follow him?  You'd be smart enough to assess the situation for what it was and see the inherent dangers of following along.  

So I've given you a strange run-around.  I know you want Magic related content.  And I promise to deliver.  If you look deep at those statements up top, I'm going to be really sneaky and show you how I was using a real life situation as a metaphor that could possibly help your tournament performance.

Let's assume that Jimmy is an internet writer.  I'm not saying that it's me in particular, but any writer.  Many of you read the internet Magic articles looking for that next great point of advice or deck.  You see this person as revered and full of much more knowledge on the subject that yourself.  So there's the set up.  This is Jimmy telling you it's a good idea to do what he says.

Let's say you see a good deck on this particular day.  Well, from what you are reading, it's a great deck.  But all you have is Jimmy's word to go on.  So, let's say that it's Friday morning and you are looking for something to play in your local Friday Night Magic event later that evening.  You copy it and you are ready to play.  You show up.  You later see that this deck takes you to an 0-4 record.  That's ZERO wins and FOUR losses.  

Why did this happen?  You knew the deck was good.  Heck, Jimmy said it was great.  So why wasn't it?  Well, maybe it was.  Honestly, it may still be.  However, you need to put things into the proper perspective when copying decks from online to play.  

There is usually a lot of underlying into you need to look at.  The deck might be good, but it may not have been good for your local environment.  Remember, many times professional level players are building decks geared for a particular field.  Sometimes it pays off, but sometimes it doesn't.  If the deck you copied down was good against MonoBlue and/or Tooth and Nail you are going to get smashed if everyone shows up with White Weenie to your Friday Night Magic event.  

Also, put the thing into the perspective of when the deck was built.  Sometimes, a deck is good because it carries a surprised factor.  If the deck was played at the latest Pro Tour event, people having usually known about it for a week or two before you even read the article.  I know, a week or two doesn't seem like a whole lot of difference.  In this day and age though it is a huge deal.  We, as a gaming community, know about the decks on the Pro Tour before the event is even done.  That's crazy.  You have to remember that we are in an information age though and this type of information travels fast.

What this means is that just copying a deck and playing it could leave you more vulnerable than where you started.  If you are taking a deck from a hot website, you have to remember that everyone else has seen it as well.  So you have no surprise factor whatsoever.  I'm not saying that surprises will outright win or lose you a game.  I'm just saying that in a few situations, it can help to have one or two sideboard tricks up your sleeve.

And more importantly, don't forget about playing the deck.  If nothing else, use Magic Workstation or Apprentice or even Magic Online to play a few hands with the deck before taking it into your tournament.  I get to watch players do this all the time.  It's so sad watching them go through situations that are unfamiliar to them.  It's such a sad state of affairs.  They will struggle with every decision.  They won't know what card to search for.  They don't know which land they need to kill.  They don't know what spells are scary enough to counter.  Anyone with a couple of hours of good testing with a deck will be able to make these decisions regularly with ease.

I know to some of you this seems like simple advice that everyone should know and understand.  I'm telling you from viewing this type of thing every week that it's not as common knowledge as it should be.  Even worse is that fact that even some of you reading this aren't going to listen.  You are going to be your own Jimmy.  You are going to persuade yourself to take a deck from online and take it to a tournament without and previous understanding of the deck and without any testing.  That's cool though I suppose.  It's all part of the learning process.  I just get to feel good that I've given you fair warning.

All I'm saying is don't follow blindly.  There are many great minds in this game.  Many of them have some good advice to pass on.  Take all of it with a grain of salt.  Put the advice to use and try it out to see how it applies to you and your personal situations.  Just be fair to yourself and try these new theories and decks out when it doesn't cost you money.

The only thing worse than listening to Jimmy is when you ARE Jimmy.

Until next time,

DeQuan Watson
PowrDragn at pojo dot com

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