Ever since the theme weeks for DailyMTG.com were made public to the content managers of the bigger Magic websites, those of us who choose to indulge in the rampant misinformation/selling of snake oil that is “Magic articles” have recently become bombarded with lots of similar articles in the span of a given week.
For example, Selesnya Week; the article will either be A History Of Great Selesnya Decks, or Here’s A Totally Untested Selesnya Brew For Standard/Modern/Legacy/Rainbow Stairwell. If the theme lends itself to any sort of pun, there will be no shortage of lazy writers to use it: “I’ve got a title for an article, stay with me for a second: ‘Izzet Live, Or Izzet Vorinclex?’ Can you believe that’s the first title I thought of?”
This week will be no different; it’s Thanksgiving Week here at GatheringMagic.com, as well as everyfuckingwhere else, and I’ll be detailing just a few of the things I’m thankful for as we celebrate the anniversary of some serious pilgrim blowouts. USA! USA!
No More Ponder In Standard
A format is only as good as its ability to trick you into thinking you don’t need to play blue, and last season, Ponder took that illusion and smashed its head with a toaster. Near the end of last season’s Standard, the decks were all fairly linear, and The Best Deck stole a lot of games by using Ponder to smooth out draws and flip Delver of Secrets way earlier than intended. How many times did you lose to the following sequence last summer?
Turn one: They play Delver of Secrets.
Turn four “HOHOHO I THINK I GOTCHA.”
Not fun. It was just a format of linears, and Ponder provided the gas for the best ones.
I am in a predominantly Italian family full of women that have to periodically shave their faces and diabetic men who still enjoy wine, cigars, and cooking. The stuffing our family makes at Thanksgiving doesn’t really compare to any other stuffing I’ve ever had. I didn’t realize this until I went to my girlfriend’s parents’ for Thanksgiving years ago and was served stuffing with bread in it. “What the fuck’s with all the bread in here,” I wondered inwardly. As it turns out, that’s actually traditional stuffing.
This piqued my interest, so last Thanksgiving, I watched my grandfather make the stuffing. He had all the vegetables and bread already chopped up. I watched him take a pot and put it on the stove.
Pop Pop: “Okay, first we add hot Italian sausage.”
Pop Pop: “Yes. Then, for every part sausage, we add three parts ground beef.”
Pop Pop: [puts some sausage into the pot] “Now, that’s one pound of sausage.”
Me: [does some quick math] “JESUS CHRIST.”
Apparently, normal stuffing doesn’t really have quite that much meat in it. I never really knew what I’d been eating all these years, I just knew it tasted really good, and if you froze it, you could put a frozen slice on a frying pan, fry it, and eat it on a sandwich with some mayonnaise. Just thinking about that now is making my arteries clog up.
I imagine all the “stuffing” I’ve ever eaten thus far has accounted for approximately seven years off my life, give or take.
Will I exercise caution and restraint at the Thanksgiving table this year? FUCK. NO. As an American, gluttony is my goddamn birthright. My mother will ask me how much wine I’ve had. My girlfriend will hide her face in her hands when I loudly insist that my cousin should “ladle out that gravy like [he’s] got a pair.” I will go to the bathroom multiple times, purely to check fantasy football scores, dick around on Twitter, and get away from everyone.
An Interesting Limited Format
I feel very strongly that Return to Ravnica Limited is skill-testing and dynamic. The guilds generally have guidelines that demand to be built around, but they’re vague and pretty flexible. An example of this that comes up pretty commonly is that while Rakdos feels like a very aggressive guild, with commons like Gore-House Chainwalker and Rakdos Shred-Freak, you can also build a Rakdos deck to “go big” and overwhelm an opponent with ample underrated (and underdrafted) red and black fatties, like Spawn of Rix Maadi and Tenement Crasher.
Another hallmark of Return to Ravnica Limited is that the emphasis is off of removal, and more on combat tricks, which, in turn, makes being able to correctly read an opponent and interpret their plays pretty valuable. Playing around cards that aren’t there can also spell disaster; there’s nothing worse than giving your opponent a free end step to cast Inspiration when you neglected to attack out of fear of a Hussar Patrol. The emphasis on combat tricks also makes stuff like Cancel, and even Dispel, very solid.
The rares and mythics in the set aren’t totally frustrating to play against. Sure, there are things like Pack Rat and Mizzium Mortars, but for the most part, the rares and mythics are fairly balanced. Just like in Ravnica: City of Guilds, you’d probably rather have one of the two-mana uncommon guildmages instead of a fair amount of rares. Seemingly underwhelming cards, like Martial Law or Growing Ranks, are actually quite good.
Anyone that follows me on Twitter knows at this point that for three hours on every Sunday in the fall I become a manic-depressive human as I watch my favorite football team, the Buffalo Bills, implode week after week. Despite having the personnel of a true contender, the Bills will routinely play their opponent very closely in the first half, only to get their lids blown off in the second half by their opponents’ halftime adjustments, because Buffalo coach Chan Gailey got fired from lofty Georgia Tech and sort of failed his way upwards into an NFL head coaching position (real story – any coach with any sort of capability would rather stay retired than move to Western New York. I cannot blame them.). It’s like watching The Deer Hunter every weekend, only Christopher Walken is your favorite football team.
However, Buffalo doesn’t play on Thanksgiving. The two teams that traditionally do are Detroit and Dallas, both of whom host games on Thanksgiving. After the Cowboys game, there’s a random late game, and then it’s time to go to bed. This year’s slate of Thanksgiving games:
12:30 - Houston Texans @ Detroit Lions
4:15 – Washington Redskins @ Dallas Cowboys
8:20 – New England Patriots @ New York Jets
Houston will lay waste to Detroit and the Patriots will crush the Jets, but the Redskins/Cowboys game promises to be a fun one, as both teams are inconsistent hot messes with two mobile, fun to watch quarterbacks. Both teams will run around quite a bit, as you and your food baby sit in your La-Z Boy reclining chair, feeling very fat.
As far as watching something with the full intention of lapsing into a food coma during it, you can’t do much better than football, and sitting around a television, however antisocial, still beats the hell out of listening to your uncles aggressively agree on how free health care is ruining America.
Oh yeah, if you’re one of those that doesn’t like football, go ahead and take the computer you’re reading this on and throw it out the window, and then gouge your own eyes out. You don’t deserve the gift of sight.
A Standard Format With A Fundamental Turn Of Five
For those of you paying attention at home, the casting cost of Thragtusk just so happens to be five. Thragtusk also just so happens to be the best card in Standard, and when the best card in Standard costs five, doesn’t win the game by itself, and lengthens the span of a given game by design, it makes for longer games. Getting past a Thragtusk while still retaining a healthy chance of winning requires a decent plan.
Is Thragtusk oppressive? I don’t think so. If the results of last weekend’s Grands Prix are any indication, red decks are doing just fine. Thragtusk in conjunction with Restoration Angel is kind of obnoxious, but you can certainly go over the top of that plan, thanks to similarly busted cards, like Sphinx's Revelation.
I’m thankful for the current Standard format. Weirdly low turnout at Grand Prix: Charleston aside, it’s a fun format, and there’s a ton of room for crazy innovations.