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Pojo's Magic The Gathering

Questions & Answers
by The Mad Hatter

Hello! This is The Mad Hatter. :)

I've got a lot of time on my hands these days, so I'm going to do an article or a few for The Pojo. If you have any questions, comments, or anything else, just send them to Hatter@hub.ofthe.net and I will answer them as soon as I can. I have no idea how many articles I'm going to write; that
will completely depend on my free time, inspiration, and the feedback that I get from y'all. I am also not sure if the articles will have a central motif or if they will be completely different from each other; once again, that will depend on my inspiration and feedback from y'all. If y'all want to see any particular articles, just e-mail myself and/or this site. I have a very colorful and long history with this game that would lend itself to just about any number of different articles and perspectives.
This article will be on a philosophical point. That point is Questions and Answers.

Anybody who knows me _at_all_ knows that I hate blue with a passion. I have always hated blue. Back in the very beginning of Magic, the first weekend that it was out, my friend, Sparky, and I played the first game of Magic in Lubbock. He had two decks and a few boosters of cards which WOTC had sent him since he was such an advocate of Ars Magica (which WOTC owned at the time). Anyways, he built a Blue deck and told me to build a deck. I built a white deck (White was the only color that I played for the first nine months of Magic). We played and he beat me to a pulp. His whole strategy was to put a bunch of PsychicVenoms on my land, and then to Twiddle
it until I died. This was a very effective strategy. I tried to Consecrate Land the poor plains with all of the Psychic Venoms on it, but he would just Counterspell the Consecrate Land. He continued to play this particular strategy for about six months until I soundly defeated him in the first tournament that I ever ran, January 14th, 1994, with a deck that had no land whatsoever (just Moxes, Lotuses, and Sol Rings), but that's another story altogether. Anyhow, I have always hated blue since then, and I refuse to play it, and I hate playing against it. After years of thinking about Blue's strength, I have finally come to a full understanding of why the color is so broken. It's all about Questions and Answers.

I'm sure by this point that you're saying "you keep saying Questions and Answers, but what does it mean?". It's very simple, really. Magic has only three basic types of cards: Resources, Questions, and Answers. Resources help you do things. Lands are the most basic type of Resource card. Without lands, you can't cast most cards. Questions are cards that your opponent has to deal with. A great example of a Question card is just about any creature. If you have a creature on the board and your opponent does not, then he will eventually lose unless he finds a way to deal with it. Black Vise is another Question card. So is Cursed Scroll. They are cards that your opponent will have to deal with if he is going to survive.

Simply put, Answers are ways of dealing with Questions. A good example of an Answer card is Wrath of God. If your opponent has played many Questions in the form of creatures, one good Answer, a Wrath of God, can deal with (answer) all of those Questions quite satisfactorily. As shown by the previous example, Answers can answer more than one Question. An Upheaval can effectively answer several creatures, a Cursed Scroll or two, and a Black Vise (albeit temporarily on the Vise). :) :) The Question is really "how are you going to deal with this and not die?" The Answer is really "By destroying all creatures without the possibility of regeneration." 

Some cards can be more than one type. I really, really love the card Catalyst Stone. The reason for this is two very effective card types (more like two and a half). It is a resource by effectively paying two colorless mana for any card in my graveyard that I want to cast. While not explicitly a Question in and of itself, it allows me to ask a lot more Questions a lot  more quickly (hence the half). Also, it is a nice Answer. Question: "How are you going to stop me from beating you down with a discard/cast Roar of The Wurm?" Answer: "By making it too expensive for you to play the Roar of The Wurm." In this case, you've almost pre-empted the Question by not allowing it to hit the board. This is what discard decks do.

All of the colors have their Questions, and they all have their Answers. Red has Inferno, Blue has Upheaval, White has Wrath of God, Black has Massacre, and Green has Fog, Moment's Peace, and Tangle to deal with pesky creatures. Not all colors have Answers for all Questions. Black has a lot of trouble with artifacts and enchantments, for example. I am sure that you, noble reader, can see all of this for yourself, and can envision the simple process, under the understanding of this philosophy, which is a game of Magic. It all comes down to this: Can you Answer your opponent's Questions, and can he Answer yours? He who Answers last, laughs loudest. A good deck will contain both Questions and Answers. It will be able to attack and defend with the ratio weighted towards the Questions, since one Answer can take care of several Questions. The exceptions to this would be a Sligh deck (which may play only Questions- and God help them if their
Opponent can keep up with Answers!) or a Control deck within which are almost all Answers and just a few Questions.

My problem with Blue in this scenario is that it has the singular ability to disallow the Answers. Counterspells are very, very powerful cards. Counterspells would not be so bad at all if they could only counter Questions. The problem is that they can also counter Answers. If I am playing against a Blue player and I play creatures, he will Will play an Answer to my Questions (be it Upheaval or Wrath of God or whatever). And he can expend one Answer for many Questions. However, once he has a Question or two on the board, all of my Answers will be countered (at least if he knows
what he is doing- only a novice blue player will waste all of his counterspells countering my Questions- that's what his Answers are for!). This give the control of the game and the win almost always to the Blue player. The ability to deny the opponent his Answers is a broken one. But, you say, if that is true, then isn't the game unbalanced? Yes, it is. Since the beginning of the game, Blue has predominated. There are The Power Nine. Six are artifacts and three are Blue cards. This should tell you how broken Blue is. A modern example: I went to Albuquerque this year for Regionals (I go there every even year and Dallas every odd year- being halfway inbetween here in Lubbock), and, thus, I was not at Dallas this year. However, from my friends who went to Dallas, I learned (without suprise) that almost all, if not all, of the top eight decks were playing Blue. The only times in the past when Blue was not the predominent color is when another color could produce Questions _way_ too fast for Blue to Answer all of them. Black Summer is a great example of this, when fast Black Necropotence decks were everywhere. Another example is when Red/Green fires tore up the field recently. However, generally there is an abscence of these
decks and Blue predominates for it's ability to counter it's opponent's Answers.

In the history of Magic, we have had two uncounterable Answers, Urza's Rage and Obliterate. This is, sadly, not enough. I personally think that, with the three or four counterspells that we get _every_single_set_, that we should get three or four cards that can't be countered. It's not much of a balance considering how versatile the counterspells are and how many other cards that they can stop, but it would be a vast improvement over the ratio that we get now. To me, it would make the game a little more balanced. In the abscence of this, however, I have taken to, lately, playing an
absolute ton of Flashback cards. Of the new abilities, Threshold and Madness are Blue abilities and Flashback is the anti-Blue ability. This is because Blue can feed it's graveyard _so_incredibly_quickly_ that it is the obvious favorite color to create Threshold (hence, the Blue/Green OBC Threshold decks that are going around). Also, with Blue's Metagame ability of
discarding cards to draw cards, Blue is the obvious favorite for Madness "I draw two cards, discard two cards, and play the two Basking Rootwallas that I discarded".

Flashback is the anti-Blue ability because it allows you to play every card _Twice_. Blue may be able to have enough counterspells to deal with all of your cards and enough Answers to deal with your Questions, but can it do all of that twice over? That is what I've been Asking the Blue players
lately. :) :) The deck that I played at the PTQ in Houston a couple of weekends ago was just tons of Flashback token creatures. All of my Questions (Call of the Herd, Beast Attack, Elephant Ambush, etc.) have Flashback. All of my Answers (Moment's Peace, Krosan Reclamation, and Ray of Revelation) have Flashback. This gives people fits as they have to deal with every single Question and Answer twice. The deck is a lot of fun to play, too. (By the way, I play for fun and style points- my entire main deck is foil and I don't play sleeves.) Here's the decklist:

"Pea Soup" - The Mad Hatter
4- Chatter of The Squirrels
4- Call of The Herds
4- Elephant Ambushes
4- Beast Attacks
4- Catalyst Stones
4- Squirrel Nests
4- Moment's Peaces
4- Krosan Reclamations
2- Parallel Evolutions
2- Ray of Revelations
16- Forests
4- Plains
3- Krosan Verges
2- Deserted Temples

3- Seedtimes
2- Parallel Evolutions
2- Ray of Revelations
4- Chastises
4- Morning Tides

The deck is one of my own creation (I only play Hatter original decks) and I have a lot of fun with it. At Origins, I was beating Type II decks with it because they had no way to deal with so many Questions and Answers. It was great.

Try a deck like this out. See how many Questions you can throw at your opponent. See if they can Answer every card twice! Think about the game in terms of Questions and Answers and see how it affects your game-play. OBC is a great enviornment because the counterspells are limited and the
Flashback is everywhere. If I see you at one of the OBC PTQs in Albuquerque, Dallas, or Lubbock (I am running the one in Lubbock on September 14th), I'll show you the deck. If I play against you in Dallas or Albuquerque, you'll get to see my new creation, simply called "Dune". I hope to see you there, and until next time, keep playing Magic! :) :) :)

The Mad Hatter




Copyright 2001 Pojo.com

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