GENERAL MALAISE, CONTINUED

9:11:24 PM Yonathan Krieger: The term for measurement of General Malaise is the Malaise Index
9:14:15 PM Yonathan Krieger: The General Malaise Index (GMI) runs from 0 to 500. The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of general malaise and the greater the health concern. For example, an GMI value of 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health, while an GMI value over 300 represents hazardous air quality.
9:14:40 PM Yonathan Krieger: GMI values below 100 are generally thought of as satisfactory. When GMI values are above 100, air quality is considered to be unhealthy-at first for certain sensitive groups of people, then for everyone as GMI values get higher.
9:15:23 PM Jon Corpora: you are going through something here
9:15:39 PM Yonathan Krieger: i just needed these things defined.

THE GRIND NEVER STOPS

Last weekend's Magic tournament was a TCGplayer Platinum event at the Landmark Theatre in downtown Syracuse. 59 Magicians showed up to battle Standard on the big stage, and when I say stage, I mean a literal stage.



Here's the deck I ran, for completion's sake:

DECKID=1219080

The mana required a little retooling in order to support a Whip and three Thoughtseize out of the 'board, but I think that maindeck is perfect and I wouldn't change a single card. The sideboard's pretty flexible at this point, though; the only things I'd lock in are 2 Arbor Colossus and 4 Nylea's Disciple. I didn't bring in the Thoughtseizes or the Nissas all day, but all that means is that I didn't play the matchup I want to bring them in against.

TEACH ME YOUR MAGIC, O POWERFUL WIZARD

Over on Gathering Magic, The Inimitable Jarvis Yu wrote a great primer on green devotion. In it he explains some of the card choices, as well as how to play the deck. It also includes some neat Nykthos shortcuts. I highly recommend it, mostly so I can skip all that stuff and get right into how I actually feel about this deck.

Green devotion's always dominated the "go big" part of the Standard metagame. It's also the type of deck that will always be kept in check by any format that has all three major archetypes - aggro, control, and midrange - fully-established, with strong cards and a clear vision on where the metagame's at and how to attack it.

For the time being, Standard is not that format.

This is the smallest Standard's going to be; there are only five legal expansions. Naturally, card options are going to be limited as a result. Imagine broadly-defined deck archetypes as your X-axis; It starts at aggro and goes towards control, with midrange firmly in between the two. Right now, there are certainly a healthy number of viable decks, but for the most part, they feel pretty midrange. There are two true outliers that exist now, one on either side of midrange: Sligh and U/B Control. Hopefully this crudely-drawn chart illustrates what I'm talking about. It's important to remember that this isn't a hard-and-fast rule, it's just how Standard tends to trend.

The more cards a format has, the more options you get, and the viability of non-midrange archetypes improves. Luckily, I have another great chart to try and convey this. And to answer your question, yes, we have an awesome graphic design team that could've helped me out with all of this, but I'm already past deadline, and they are lovely, busy people, who I'd hate to make work hard on something that may or may not make any sense whatsoever. It doesn't matter. None of this matters. The point I'm trying to make is that while Standard's leaning so midrange, I cannot see myself playing any other deck. How can a midrange deck ever expect to beat the average Genesis Hydra?

There isn't a time I can remember where winning the die roll, thus getting to be on the play, has mattered so much. Huge creatures are so plentiful in every deck and come out so early that losing the die roll often feels insurmountable. So little removal sees play that a simple 2-3-4 or even a 3-4-5-turn progression of spells has a laughably small amount of real answers; the absence of formerly-ubiquitous two-mana removal spells has pushed big ol' fatties to the forefront of the conversation. Simply put, the existing removal is worse than just playing your own fatty. Any removal that sees play is a concession to versatility (Hero's Downfall) or is only efficient given a specific context (Murderous Cut). Moving the marquee wrath effect the for format from a converted mana cost of four up to five has had a drastic ripple effect.

Green Devotion sees these truths about the format and tries to get its wins by either stealing the play via 12 mana dorks, landing bigger and more creatures than any other deck is capable of, or both. There are cute card advantage engines in the deck gained through Constellation triggers and Courser of Kruphix/fetchland shenanigans, but for the most part, we're a green ramp deck, albeit one with access to some light trickery.

LAME SONG I LISTENED TO ON REPEAT DURING THE PLAYER'S MEETING



"It Must Have Been Love," by Roxette. At the player's meeting, I find myself sitting next to my friend Allie, who I haven't seen in, like, forever. She's here with her girlfriend Chrstine, and I ask if they filled out deck registration sheets. They have not, so I volunteer to register Allie's deck while she registers Christine's. If I hadn't been doing that during the player's meeting, though, I would've certainly been listening to this Roxette song on a loop because I am an awful, awful sap of a human. Stupid Roxette.

ROUND ONE: I HATE YOU

I find myself playing against Allie's girlfriend Christine round one, and am immensely relieved that I chose to register Allie's deck and not Christine's. This is one of Christine's first tournaments, which is generally an awkward spot for me; I like playing Magic as well as possible, which means I don't necessarily banter with my opponents unless the mood strikes me. I just haven't figured out how to simultaneously play tightly and be convivial yet.

Christine's playing mono-black aggro, and starts on double Tormented Hero, Bloodsoaked Champion, and a Gnarled Scarhide. Across the table, I, caught up in being onstage, sing this song under my breath. I have no idea what the origins of that song are - Googling lyrics yields NOTHING - but I remember every word, having sung it in Swing Choir when I was in 7th grade. I give up the possum act on my third turn, dropping a Doomwake Giant, which sparks this dialogue:

Me: "I want to be in the spotliiiiight"
Christine: "I hate you."
Me: "Aww, don't say that."
Christine: "It's true."
Me: "...I want to be in the spotliiiiiiight"
Christine: "..."
Me: "I want to be in the shooooooow"

Game two goes about the same, only instead of a Doomwake Giant, a 9/9 Polukranos fills in for cleanup duty.

1-0

ROUND 2: UHH LET ME MAKE SURE THAT'S RIGHT

Bryant Cook wins lots of matches of Magic: the Gathering. This is common knowledge to anyone that follows Legacy, or Magic, for that matter. As it stands, he is the second-best, if not the greatest Magician in Syracuse right now (That would not make me #1, by the way). Dude can always be counted on to bring his A-game.

He's playing the same Sligh deck he's been on since SCG: NJ. We've played this matchup a handful of times in local events, so there were no real surprises going in.

Bryant wins the die roll and kicks off the match by killing me on turn four. Our neighbors are still getting deck-checked when we're shuffling up for game two.

As bad as losing the die roll seems, in this particular matchup, it's actually not so bad. Game one is absolutely miserable for you anyway; between Dolan and Genesis Hydras you have plenty of cards you simply never want to cast. Genesis Hydra's way too slow and random, and Dolan - a 2/2 for four - is worse than that simply because it doesn't effect the board at all. Here's how I board against the red decks:

+4 Nylea's Disciple
+2 Setessan Tactics
+2 Arbor Colossus

-3 Eidolon of Blossoms
-1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
-4 Genesis Hydra

Getting the two-for-one with Hydra's certainly sweet in theory, but your post-board matchup improves so much that it becomes better to eschew the randomness of Hydra for something like an Arbor Colossus: less splashy, but it's still aggressively-costed and infinitely more consistent.

Sligh's plan against you, at least as Bryant's been playing it, is to pressure your life total immediately, and to keep you from stabilizing behind fatties with tricks like Hammerhand, or even the fear of a Titan's Strength or a Coordinated Assault. Coordinated Assault may not sound too bad for the devotion deck, but if half of it hits a blocked Satyr Hoplite that already has a Dragon Mantle on it, you're in trouble.

Sideboarded games get way better because your mana curve drops precipitously, by virtue of cutting four Genesis Hydras. You could potentially cut Hornet Queens and Pharika for other cards too, but the way the sideboard's set up, there's just not any more cards to bring in. On the bright side, you don't really need more cards to bring in; 4 Nylea's Disciples go a long way to improve the matchup, as long as you're patient with them. There's generally no reason to play them unless you are ABSOLUTELY GOING TO DIE ON YOUR OPPONENT'S next turn.

Doomwake Giant is, as expected, a total blowout. Even after sideboarding, you still retain enough enchantments to "go off" with it.

In the third game of our match, Bryant keeps six cards on the play, and I mulligan to five on the draw. He starts on Monastery Swiftspear, and in his second upkeep, scrys with a Titan's Strength, shipping the card to the bottom. As expected, he's searching for a second land, which is apparent when he simply attacks for five and passes the turn. I play a Voyaging Satyr and pass back to Bryant, who suits the Swiftspear up with a Dragon Mantle, attacks, and passes the turn, missing his second land drop for the second turn in a row.

My draw yields a Setessan Tactics, and I eventually decide on fighting his 1/2 Swiftspear with my 2/3 Voyaging Satyr. I figure he's got more creatures, but the only other action in my mulligan-ravaged hand is a Nylea's Disciple, so I'd rather take out the Swiftspear before an errant Hammerhand puts it out of range.

A couple turns later, I tap out for a Nylea's Disciple for four life, just hoping he won't kill me. Bryant finally hits his second land and slams Frenzied Goblin, Hammerhand on Frenzied Goblin, and hits me for four with the Goblin and a second Swiftspear, putting me to ten.

On my turn, I rip a Courser of Kruphix, making my hand a Courser and a Doomwake Giant - and go into the tank, double-checking my math to make sure it's right. Then I pull some Nykthos+Voyaging Satyr shenanigans in order to cast Doomwake and follow it up with Courser, wrathing his board. Bryant correctly double-checks my math, because sometimes your reputation as an idiot precedes you, but as luck would have it, my math was correct and I was able to take down the match easily from there.

2-0

ROUND 3: SURE, I'LL BLOCK

The matchup is Green Devotion, but he's splashing blue. I never saw what he was splashing for. Being able to play Hornet Queens without having to worry about an impending Doomwake Giant was nice, though. I don't really sideboard much for the mirror anyhow:

+2 Arbor Colossus
+1 Garruk, Apex Predator

-1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
-1 Courser of Kruphix
-1 Doomwake Giant

On the draw, I like having Thoughtseize as well. On the play, you're just looking to tap out for stuff every turn and maintain aggression, but on the draw, you're always a turn too slow. Light disruption coupled with perfect information go a long way to help make up some of the ground you're losing on the draw.

We split the first two games, and game three gets off to an auspicious start, as my opponent blocks my Doomwake Giant with his 4/4 (thanks, constellation triggers!) Arbor Colossus. I eventually take game three with three Doomwake Giants, a pair of Dolans, a 7/7 Genesis Hydra, and a smattering of other green dorks in play. I'm able to generate enough constellation triggers in one turn to kill a fresh Polukranos, even if it did involve some lucky Genesis Hydra cascades.

3-0

HEY HOW'S YOUR WORK PAUPER LEAGUE GOING

Terribly! Here's a tip: If you're going to play Elves, do not mouth off to everyone about how badly you are going to smash them with elves. I have been Nausea'd/Electrickeried enough for a lifetime, and I would like it to stop. There's four more weeks to go.

ROUND 4: ARE YOU GOING TO WRITE ABOUT ME THIS WEEK

I find myself playing Gary, the guy who smashed me in the swiss with reanimator last week. I like playing against Gary because he is super expressive and his crazy exhalations after winning a close game always make me laugh. I guess the games feel a lot closer to him than they do to me, because I always feel like he is straight-up thrashing me.

Game one ends abruptly after Gary dredges a bunch of air into his own graveyard and scoops in disgust; the game ends with Gary at 15 life. I board the same as I do in the mirror, and I'm feeling great in game two when I snap off a Genesis Hydra for 9 into a stalled board, seeing, among other things, a Polukranos and a Whip of Erebos.

Gary confirms he's got one card in his hand. It's been there all game. I'm putting him on Murderous Cut, so I choose Whip of Erebos with Genesis Hydra.

Gary casts the card in his hand. It's an Erase. He soon finds a Whip of his own, and that's it. Game three is a much more clear-cut beatdown, with Gary completely taking me to the woodshed, handing me my first match loss.

3-1

After the match, Gary found me berating my friend Jason for splashing for Duneblast in his otherwise-insane Mardu draft deck, and we shared the following dialogue:

Gary: "Hey, I got to read your blog last week."
Jon: "Thanks, man! I assumed the only people that read those were my co-workers."
Gary: "Yeah, I was kinda disappointed you didn't talk about me at all."
Jon: "Sorry about that."
Gary: "Are you going to talk about me this week?"
Jon: "Nope."

Sorry, Gary. Check back next week!

ROUND 5: SAME AS THE FIRST

This round, I'm paired against local gaming wizard Damus, who's also X-0 in the adjacent Street Fighter tournament. Unfortunately for Damus, he's playing monoblack aggro, which is a breeze matchup thanks to Doomwake Giant. He Thoughtseizes and Despises me for three cards in game two and it still doesn't matter.

4-1

ROUND 6: TEH URN CONFIRMED

My second win-and-in (first one was against Gary), and likely for first-seed going into the top 8, is against Justin, a guy I like a lot and have been playing against for years. On an aggressive Naya homebrew, he kept a three-lander and curved Fleecemane Lion into Courser of Kruphix, never seeing a fourth land. I know this because his Courser showed me every card he drew for the rest of the game - Sarkhan, Banishing Light, Deecemane Lion, Elvish Mystic - none of those are lands. He's able to add a second Deecemane Lion to the board, but can't generate enough early pressure on my life total to deal with back-to-back Genesis Hydras for nine; the first Hydra gets dispatched by a pair Banishing Lights, but the second big Hydra ices the game. I sideboard thusly:

-3 Eidolon of Blossoms
+2 Setessan Tactics
+1 Arbor Colossus

I have no notes on the second game, other than that I won it.

5-1, first seed going into top 8

QUARTERFINALS: PLS

I am paired against a great guy, Jon, that still plays at the card shop I used to work at. He's on the Abzan aggro deck with Fleecemane Lions, Rakshasa Deathdealers, and Heir of the Wilds. At this point, I discover that the play/draw rule is NOT in effect for this tournament, and promptly lose the die roll.

The play/draw rule is something I'm opposed to philosophically - I don't think people should get punished for drawing into top 8s - but I was really hoping it was in effect this time. It wasn't.

I'm starting to see a trend in these top 8 matches - I start to relax, thinking that the tournament's done, and as a result, loosen up considerably. For the second week in a row, I keep a one-lander on the draw and get smashed. Sure, it had two Elvish Mystics and a Sylvan Caryatid, but I really should've just gone to six there. Jon completes the sweep in our second game in a game I don't remember. It's possible I'm repressing it.

HEY WOULD YOU PLAY THIS GOING FORWARD

Yes. I still really like the maindeck a lot, but would aim to retool the sideboard in order to improve the Abzan midrange matchup; it's a popular deck, and it's not as easy as it looks on paper, especially when they're bringing in stuff like End Hostilities. The plan for now:

+3 Nissa, Worldwaker
+2 Arbor Colossus
+1 Garruk, Apex Predator

-4 Doomwake Giant
-1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
-1 Voyaging Satyr

I tried a bunch of different configurations - including cutting Dolan as a way of minimizing the adverse effects of their Drown in Sorrows - but after talking to Jarvis about it a bit, this is what I'm most comfortable with right now. What he basically told me is that the games are a grindfest that comes down to Dolan, and also that Doomwake Giant is just a dumb 4/6 body and nothing else. Hornet Queen remains a legitimate threat they can't answer without Drown in Sorrow, and you can definitely leverage that to your advantage. Their best cards, aside from End Hostilities, are Ajani and Elspeth. Ajani's ultimate is pretty irrelevant, but her other abilities will either make their creatures bigger than yours or generate card advantage for them. Elspeth will wrath you and only you - everything but their Siege Rhinos survives Elspeth's -3 - and still remain in play to make soldiers on the following turn.

On the play, these disadvantages are negligible. They have to answer you. On the draw, they're almost insurmountable.

If you're on the draw as the devotion deck, they land a creature first, and then they can protect it by one-for-oneing you with stuff like Murderous Cut and Hero's Downfall till you're dead. Both players' spells cost so much that they only happen one turn at a time; there are scant few ways for either deck to generate card advantage. One of the devotion deck's best advantage engines - Nykthos - incidentally suffers lots at the hands of all of Abzan's removal. Nissa helps here, but Elspeth and End Hostilities are ever-present. Like I said: it's fine on the play, and abysmal on the draw.

Game one's highly favorable, though. Just win that and you should be fine.

See you next week.

Jon Corpora
pronounced Ca-pora
@feb31st