One Wacky Environment, Two Stupid Letters
Playing around with this environment, along with paying attention to tournaments both locally and around the world, I’ve once again learned that an environment that I’d thought stagnant can be a lot more open than I had expected.
Don’t get me wrong, Ravager/Affinity (or Raffinity, whatever stupid name you want to call it) is going to be the primary representative of a pretty large archetype of Affinity decks. People are starting to describe Ravager as a card that actually might not belong in the deck, an argument I’m not really prepared to get into at this time. The Affinity archetype is still the easiest deck to build on a budget, and probably the easiest deck to sit down with minimal experience and just smash face because of aggression.
The result of this? I’m unsure at this point, but I have two general theories about it. The first (and semi-optimistic one) is that the people who work hardest to practice these matchups, and who have the highest level of comfort with their deck, are going to make the most prominent results at regionals. An example of this might be Zvi’s version of Goblins that takes out the Skullclamps in favor of Echoing Ruin.
The other theory is that a lot of people will very possibly be going to the U.S. Nationals with very little effort actually having been expended in playtesting, more so than have accomplished this in recent years. Affinity can bring a lot of people to the Promised Land because of its power, and random versions of the deck (like those with Somber Hoverguard and such) might actually succeed simply due to the fact that they avoid the various forms of hate out there.
These aside, I have to work to retract a statement that was previously a firm belief I had regarding standard. I had become reasonably certain that control had, for the most part, become a dream in standard, something that we were just going to have to wait a while to see come back again. What, then, do we see happen? Looking at the Berlin regionals, we see multiple U/W control decks making the top eight. Mono-white has also seen a resurgence of success. This hasn’t been limited to this locale, but has been something that has occurred in major events around the world.
The way I like to see it, the best way to break an environment for a week is to take an archetype that everyone has forgotten about, and somehow make it fit in again. There has been a number of ways that this has been made to work, from Mindslaver to Damping Matrix to Pulse of the Fields, even including such hits as Sunbeam Spellbomb. Whichever way they do the job, the white decks have managed to worm their way back into the lead in constructed.
At the same time, we’re seeing various decks with Death Cloud sneaking up on the field. G/B control has managed to find enough maindeck hate to deal with Affinity, in the form of Viridian Shamans and Zealots, along with Oxidize. And, of course, any deck with access to copies of Ravenous Baloth and Withered Wretch will give Goblins (with or without Bidding) some difficulty. The removal of Sulfuric Vortex from Goblins has made recurring Baloths a much more profitable venture. The black deck that I previously posted has also seen some success in a number of incarnations.
An example of a (mostly) successful W/u control deck is this:
Frank Schäfer, 2nd Place, Berlin Regionals
3 Eternal Dragon
4 Akroma’s Vengeance
4 Decree of Justice
4 Oblivion Stone
2 Pulse of the Fields
4 Renewed Faith
4 Thirst for Knowledge
4 Wrath of God
4 Temple of the False God
3 Coastal Tower
4 Flooded Strand
4 Circle of Protection: Red
2 Sacred Ground
4 Weathered Wayfarer
Obviously, the blue is a pretty minor component of this deck, but other versions exist that run strong compliments of counterspells. The bottom line is that, in fields where Affinity and goblins do exist, decks outside of that small box have managed to power their way through those fields and establish themselves as viable archetypes. For someone who has said that control is dead, to see this occur appears to be quite an accomplishment.
Now…on to the second part of this article, something which involves what has rapidly become my least favorite part of playing Magic. Let’s say you are playing in a draft…it’s turn two, and you’ve just dropped your second land, a grip of powerful three-mana spells ready to go. Come turn seven…you’re still at two land. The Goblin Striker and other gems that your opponent has played have whittled your life down to single digits. If you’re like me, you are feeling enormous frustration at this point. So, maybe you come back a bit, but the game’s already pretty much been in the bag for several turns.
The next thing that happens comes out of your opponent’s mouth is the inevitable phrase, that most irritating of phrases. “Good game,” or, more irritating and distastefully, “Gee gee,” the internetification of the same phrase (look! I’m verbing today!).
It’s been a standard for quite some time that one would say this at the end of game. Looked at logically, if a losing player were to say this to the victor in the match, then it might be a recognition of some aspect of skill exercised during the match. I’d say that this is probably the sporting approach to take to the experience; it definitely takes a fair amount of discipline to be able to congratulate someone who’s just beaten you (I know it’s difficult for me a lot of the time).
If you’re a winner saying this, on the other hand? At best, this can be viewed as patronizing; at worst, ignorant. It doesn’t take a great deal of common sense and knowledge to be able to determine if the situation warrants this kind of statement. Do you really think that your opponent had a good game along with you, or are you just telling them that you enjoyed beating them? Are you really showing them any sort of respect by patronizing them?
Personally, I’ve come to view this as a fantastic form of dishonesty in the game. Deluding yourself into thinking that wishing your opponent a “good game,” whether or not one actually occurred, has simply become a practice that does nothing for sportsmanship or class. You diminish your own integrity, as well as the integrity of the game, by trying to humor an opponent with statements like this.
If more people were able to wish their victorious opponent luck and compliment them on a game well played, then we’re making progress here. That is the essence of sportsmanship and class; what we see nowadays is a perversion of these values. What we see commonly is an exercise of arrogance, of ignorance, of immaturity. Basically, this epitomizes a great deal of the negative image that Magic players have managed to create, and why many stores no longer desire players to frequent their stores. Yu Gi Oh players may be younger and more work, but at least they spend money. And they do act their age.
People might say, “But Magic is a social game. What should I say?” If I’m beating my opponent, most of the time I’ll simply wish my opponent good luck in the future. Losing, I’ll make a strong effort remain silent (no matter how much I want to say what I think of the game, good or not). If you need to talk, there are plenty of topics to discuss outside of the game just played.
However, if you feel the need to tell the guy you just beat, “Good game,” the simplest solution is probably the best one: keep your mouth shut. Believe me, it’s best for everyone involved.
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