52 FNMs – The Roof, the Roof

We’re heading out of the Standard Pro Tour Qualifier season and into a PTQ season of Magic 2013/Return to Ravnica Sealed. This is worth mentioning because, for the first time in a while, I’m just not looking forward to playing Standard.

I usually do my best to try not to complain about environments; if you don’t totally believe that everything can be played around, why are you playing competitively? That said, it really sucks to drive hundreds of miles to play in a PTQ, an event for which the prize payouts are so laughably one-sided, only to be blown out by your opponent ripping an Entreat the Angels off the top.

Magic might have always been this way. Maybe the miracle mechanic just exacerbates that. That truth still doesn’t make a revealed Bonfire of the Damned any less obnoxious.

The more I think about it, the less appealing Standard looks to me. Birthing Pod has been heralded as a pure win in design and execution, but I just can’t stand playing against it. If you brick on drawing whatever artifact removal you sided in, you have to start playing a Magic subgame called “Birthing Pod,” in which if you don’t have removal for all the opponent’s 1-drops, it slowly morphs into an Inferno Titan over the course of eleventy-billion turns. That is NOT great hustle, gang.

Last week, during my Round 1 match against Bret Weed, Al French and I watched as I basically was manhandled by his draw with two Lingering Souls. Al wondered aloud what was going to keep token decks in check after Ratchet Bomb, and . . . yeah, I have no idea. Rancor? Flames of the Firebrand? Chandra's Fury?

This line of thought led me to wonder what control decks are going to look like with Return to Ravnica; my theory is that we’ll be revisiting a lot of the same tap-out-control-style decks that were popular during Lorwyn/Shards of Alara Standard. I base this on the insane sorceries available in Standard—Entreat the Angels, Temporal Mastery—in concert with the rapidly disappearing amount of counter-magic in Standard. Mana Leak will be gone. Cavern of Souls, however, will remain.

And above all else, Essence Scatter is still Remove Soul, and Remove Soul still blows.

I mention all of this because for the first time in a while, I don’t have a bunch of Standard events on the horizon, and it’s quite a relief. I began this column while Magic 2011 and Magic 2012 were both legal. I didn’t like the two-core-set Standard then, and I don’t like it now, although I can’t quantify why. It just doesn’t feel right. Maybe it’s because it doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. If they just set it up so that core sets pushed each other out of Standard and blocks pushed each other out of Standard, would that really confuse anyone?

Complaining aside, I gleaned some good news from last Friday’s brief excursion.

Talrand, Sky Summoner is fucking nuts.

Talrand, Sky Summoner
Even though it’s only one color (I have no idea what you bring in Restoration Angel against, I just brought them in always because it’s fucking Restoration Angel), this deck felt like the natural progression from the one I played last week. However, instead of fueling a huge-ass Quirion Dryad, you’re instead going infinite, so to speak, with a Talrand, Sky Summoner.

Both plans have their merits. They are both pretty explosive; if you untap with either creature in play, as unlikely as that is, you’re in excellent shape. Decks containing either creature will be similar in build—they’ll both have a lot of free spells as well as a play set of Snapcaster Mage. The difference is that with Quirion Dryad, you’re loading your value into one basket, whereas with Talrand, Sky Summoner, you’re getting a bunch of flyers. On the other side of the coin, Talrand, Sky Summoner is a blue 4-drop.

Those of you who play Standard probably notice that most expensive cards outside of blue feel cheaper. That is due to the fact that every fucking deck in the known galaxy runs eight 1-drop mana dorks these days. With all the mana sinks Standard has to offer (Kessig Wolf Run, Gavony Township), why not? I mention this because while green gets its expensive creatures at a virtual discount, a 4-mana blue drop always costs 4 mana. Often on the draw, that’s just not fast enough, especially when the rest of your deck’s a bunch of 1-mana cantrips intended to fuel Talrand, Sky Summoner.

But if that Talrand, Sky Summoner isn’t Vapor Snagged? Ohhh man. Oh man oh man oh man.

I stand by that response; the choice to push the land count below twenty in a non-Legacy, three-colored deck is bizarre to me. If I had to start somewhere with R/U/G Delver in Standard:

That list is totally rough, and I’m sure the mana’s terrible, but I do know two things.

  • If I’m playing red, I want as many copies of Bonfire of the Damned as is reasonably possible.
  • If I’m playing R/G, I’m supposed to win with creatures, and if I’m not playing Huntmaster of the Fells, I feel as if I’ve messed up somehow.

I’m a simple man. For example, here’s my favorite deck I’ve ever played:

Goddammit, that deck is sexy. LOOK AT IT. Yosei, the Morning Star? Check. Kodama of the North Tree? Present. Four Shining Shoal? FUCK AND YES. I miss that deck.

I know, I know. The games, the games, get to the games!

I have some bad news about that.

Okay, it’s not a fire sale, but Arrested Development is my favorite television program of all time, and I enjoy Tobias’s interpretation of what a fire sale is.

No, what actually happened is that in the middle of Round 4, at which point I was 1–1–1 and staring down the barrel at a Game 1 loss to a mono-green deck that had drawn two Rancors, the picture-framing business across from Cloud City caught on fire. We couldn’t see the fire, but there was a lot of smoke everywhere, and we were told to evacuate, at which point I called up my lady, and we went to iHop with a bunch of Magicbros. I ordered French toast with a thick layer of cinnamon on it because I am a foodie just like David Ochoa.

See you next week!

Jon Corpora
Pronounced Ca-pora

Oh man!

Mutagenic Growth
You wanted some Magic, didn’t you?

Okay, here’s what happened. Well, what I can remember of what happened. The smoke cloud was thick.

Round 1, I played that super-reactive (read: shitty) R/G deck I played against when I was on Zombie Pod all those weeks ago. I swept him in two easy games because he kept, like, one green source in our first game. I guess he didn’t anticipate the possibility of his Llanowar Elves (read: 1/1s) ever dying. Mutagenic Growths served as quasi-counterspells, Mental Missteps served as actual counterspells, and I sealed my first win of the night.

My second round was against a good friend JJ playing a weird Frites deck that had no green; the deck was all-in on reanimating Griselbrand. He got me in two games, but our first one took FOREVER—he had an early Griselbrand and domed himself for 7 early on. I had a lot of Vapor Snags and Phantasmal Images to deal with his Griselbrand, but he just kept on replaying it, and eventually, he exhausted me of cards. Game 2 was a lot easier for him, as I just never had any Vapor Snags.

Lately, I find myself thinking a lot, “Damn, if only I’d have had Vapor Snag that game,” which is . . . weird. Is Unsummon really that good? Am I an idiot? ARE YOU THERE, GOD?

I was 1–1 headed into Round 3, whereupon I played another good friend Ryan, who was playing a deck that was handed to him before the event started. True to his story, the sleeves on the deck he was using were pretty grimy. I made an inward note that I really hope this whole universal health care thing starts soon because I just got Hep C from cutting his deck.

Lord of Lineage
The deck Ryan was given turned out to be someone’s Vampire brew, and I soon discovered just how cold my deck is to not one, but two Bloodline Keepers. It didn’t matter that Ryan wasn’t even given a sideboard; nothing prepared me for the cold, hard truth that Bloodline Keeper just kills me dead, no matter how many Drakes I throw at them. Our match went to time and ended in a draw because Ryan neglected to transform his pair of Game 3 Bloodline Keepers. In his own words, “I had no idea there was even another side to it!”

Between rounds, a friend of mine Steve (alias: Scuba Steve), who works at the pretzel shop, came by and told me to come grab some pretzel dogs because the kid can’t stop fucking calling me Joe all the time, so I work his guilt into free pretzel dogs for me—every time he calls me Joe, I get a pretzel dog. In case you don’t know what a pretzel dog is because you’re a moron, what happens is whoever’s working at Auntie Anne’s wraps a bunch of dough around a hot dog and then: BAM! Pretzel dog.

On our way over to the pretzel stand, we ended up walking through a cloud of blackish smoke. We assumed the fire department, who was there at that point, was taking care of it. I got my pretzel dogs, and on the way back, I started eating one. This turned out to be a massive error in judgment, as I ended up inadvertently eating a lot of smoke along with my pretzel dog. The smoke tasted a lot like I imagine a battery full of little tiny batteries would taste, if I were ever to eat one of those. Coming to the slow realization that I probably just digested pure cancer, I sat down across from my Round 4 opponent Josh.

Josh is a solid dude. He says he reads my articles a lot and that he likes them. On the other hand, he also likes to walk around the store, whispering the word “swag” to himself repeatedly. Another time, I caught him walking around, saying aloud, “Dude’s a fucking house; dude’s a fucking house.”

Feeling particularly brash as I sat down, I let him know that I wasn’t going to stand for any more of his “serial-killer-type behavior” and that I was going to beat him in Magic and “show him what a man of action really is.” I followed this screed by promptly dropping Game 1 in about three minutes of total game time. I blame the smoke. And Rancor. That card is nutso.

During sideboarding, I realized I wasn’t going to be winning that match and that the dull headache I was feeling was probably the side effects of early-stage brain cancer brought on by digested chemical smoke.

But I was saved! Saved by the mall telling us to evacuate. Like being in the electric chair during a power outage. I blessed my good fortune and ran out with my tail between my legs.

You’ll never catch me, 1–2–1 record!

Jon Corpora
Pronounced Ca-pora