I didn’t play FNM last week. Instead, I took part in Ted Knutson’s boycott, information about which can be found here. I wouldn’t be surprised if Innistrad’s been in the making for five years and Wizards just said, “Okay, boys, we’re about to make a lot of really bad Organized Play decisions without any planning—all in a row. It’s already done. Not going back on that. What we need to soften the blow of all that is a set that plays flawlessly in both Limited and Constructed and that’s a skill-tester while also still being fun. The reason: If we drop all these changes during a set that people don’t love more than their immediate families, they’re all fucking quitting.”
Oh, yeah, and I don’t consider a weekend-long boycott to be an “act of war,” or anything resembling an embargo, because that’s fucking insane.
Before you start reading this, if you play Magic and you don’t have a Twitter account, I strongly recommend that you get on the train. I know—Twitter is lame, and every idiot has one, and what the fuck is the point of a hashtag, but honestly, only tools use hashtags in every Tweet, and if you want to be involved in high-level discussions about Magic, you need a Twitter account. I went and hung out at Cloud City before my FNM, and no one had even heard of the boycott I was participating in. I don’t think the fact that none of them had Twitter accounts was unrelated.
There’s a Twitter account I follow called @DadBoner, and it’s one of the few accounts I follow that I actually couldn’t live without.
The standard function of Twitter is for people to be able to express themselves and connect to one another . . . 140 characters at a time. An average Joe like me can look at other people on Twitter and start to figure out the tendencies of the people I follow, based on things they commonly Tweet about. For example, I know that @Jonnymagic00 is politically very leftist, that @thepchapin is a staunch Libertarian, that @prolepsis9 is a bit of a foodie, that @mikelinnemann really likes all things Minnesota, that @dieplstks and @KillGoldfish are forever dissatisfied with [fill in the blank with whatever you want—chances are it’ll apply], and that @mixedknuts just likes to rile people up. It’s what a person chooses to talk about that most reveals his or her character.
But what happens when we change the definition of Twitter and why people use it?
@DadBoner is a fictional character—a caricature of a man, named Karl Welzein. He’s from Detroit, he’s divorced, and he’s currently got a roommate named Dave. He works with a nosy lady, whose name is only ever “Nosy Lady,” and Vernon, a guy with whom Karl inadvertently seems to be working through a lot of his own misconceptions about black men. But Karl’s a dumb white guy in his forties from Michigan, and this is to be expected.
Karl Welzein is recently divorced, and he hasn’t been single for a while, so he’s just trying to play the field at the moment. It’s not going well.
Karl considers himself a foodie; every Wednesday, he gets anywhere from eight to twenty-four wings for lunch because his local wing place does “Wing Wednesday.” He loves Guy Fieri and considers himself a connoisseur of “bold flavors,” but he assigns the compliment of “bold flavors” to things like McRibs and Cooler Ranch Doritos. He’s always pitching new ideas for foods, an example of which is the McWing (six buffalo chicken wings, fused together on a bun). Karl’s restaurant idea is Kaptain Karl’s Pizza Ship, a pirate-themed restaurant known for its pizza bowls, which follow the same idea as a KFC Bowl—but instead of a chicken, you just put a pizza and all of its toppings into a bowl, mash it up, and serve it.
Some guy out in the world imagined, “What would happen if you gave a recently divorced father in his forties a Twitter account and told him to express himself? What would that man talk about?” @DadBoner is that guy’s best approximation, and it never fails to get a laugh.
There’s an inherent brilliance in taking a medium centered on self-expression and simultaneously inserting yourself into and removing yourself from that format. The brain behind the account is technically working the account—he’s typing the words and developing the storylines (Vernon getting stabbed outside of the office is one of my favorites), but they’re presented as real stories that happened to a real person: Karl Welzein. Even the accounts he follows—Justin Verlander, Guy Fieri, Miracle Whip—are all consistent to his character. It’s fundamentally different than, say, an account pretending to be an undead Abe Lincoln. Everyone knows that’s not really zombie Abe Lincoln’s Twitter account. But with @DadBoner, there’s a funny kind of illusion at play, one that makes you feel that this guy could really exist.
The kind of Magic formats I dig are those that are matured, where you know what’s going to be coming so that you can attack it at a certain angle. Standard’s not quite there yet, and from the looks of things, I don’t know if it’ll ever be. On Monday, Mike Flores said (on Twitter, of all mediums) that the game is moving away from giving advantages to players looking to exploit linear synergies (it’s worth noting that R&D tries to avoid those) and more toward players “[figuring] out which cards are best and [playing] them in an unstable environment.” My first instinct is to be bummed out about that, but as I’ve noted before, I have no idea what it is that I actually want. One of the reasons I dislike Legacy is that Legacy has always been like this. The format is simply too big, with too many viable decks and powerful interactions, to be attacked outright. You just have to play the best deck with the most powerful spells and interactions you can think of and pray that you don’t run into Dredge, a Tendrils of Agony deck, a G/W Maverick, or fucking Pox, or whatever. Any time Legacy becomes stagnant, it has less to do with what strategy is the best, since Legacy players just grind their pet decks and become very good at playing with them, and more to do with a new card that warps the format. Recent examples include Vengevine and, most notably, Mental Misstep.
The point could also be argued that Legacy has reached a certain type of maturity—one where there are five to six viable decks that rotate and jockey for pole position based on what’s being played.
I can recognize and accept the fact that the vast majority of people don’t like stagnant formats—that they can accept the chance to lose to random decks they hadn’t anticipated in exchange for fun, a wide variety of decks, and foreign interactions. Believe me—I like a good match of Block battles (except for when one of the decks has planeswalkers and the other doesn’t, because old Block decks have no way of dealing with fucking planeswalkers, but that’s a gripe for another article), but I wouldn’t play Block battles for tens. However, I like attacking a metagame, and I don’t enjoy the idea of having to play against unknown entities every round. I can also see the upside of it because I know the upside of Block battles: Seeing how different cards interact is fun. Seeing a lot of different interactions is also fun. It’s the unexpected ones that annoy me, and they annoy me because I have control issues and I feel entitled to wins.
Both styles of Magic metagames have their advantages. A game based on synergies rewards a correct read on a metagame, whereas one based on jamming the best cards into a pile of sixty rewards deck familiarity and player adaptability to opposing strategies. One isn’t better than the other—they’re just different.
You see a format, but you see it changing, hurdling headlong in a certain direction. You’re poised to take advantage of it. How do you do it?
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Inferno Titan
4 Primeval Titan
4 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Galvanic Blast
2 Devil's Play
2 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Rampant Growth
4 Sphere of the Suns
3 Kessig Wolf Run
4 Copperline Gorge
4 Inkmoth Nexus
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Viridian Corrupter
2 Tree of Redemption
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Beast Within
2 Ancient Grudge
4 Autumn's Veil
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
It’s a little flawed to draw comparisons between Twitter and Magic; Magic is a game, and because of that, you can distinguish levels of mastery at it. With Twitter, mastery doesn’t really exist; there are Twitter feeds you like and Twitter feeds you don’t like. While there isn’t really any advantage to moving away from what Twitter is and toward what it’s becoming, the advantages of being ahead of the curve in Magic are fairly obvious.
If we accept the thesis statement that competitive Magic is moving toward identifying the most powerful cards and playing as many of them as possible, Jun’ya Iyanaga’s interpretation of the Wolf Run deck is the first paragraph of the body of our essay. I was planning on playing this deck at FNM ever since I saw that it went undefeated through Day 1, but it’s only fitting that it won Worlds. It’s a really interesting example in deck design—Iyanaga eschewed the strong but conditional Dungrove Elder for a more consistent threat in Inferno Titan. The fact that he leaned on more of an even R/G split allowed him to run not only Slagstorm, but also five Shocks and two Devil's Play—a very powerful card in the abstract. He even cut Viridian Emissary, a card that isn’t always guaranteed to ramp you, for the much more consistent Sphere of the Suns. This list lets raw power speak for itself.
The deck is pretty much pre-boarded against any kind of aggressive deck, and the sideboard is to shore up against control, which is ostensibly its toughest matchup. I’ll be playing this deck at FNM, so I’ll let you know how it goes.