Pro Magic doesn’t have the rivalries, whether between testing teams or individuals, that draw people to watch pro sports. If it does have them, the coverage channels do little to highlight and/or encourage those rivalries and thus the viewers aren’t encouraged to pick sides and really root for their favourites. The one time the rivalry between CFB and SCG was promoted, it was not sustained and the interest waned. It doesn’t have the good vs evil conflicts that draw us to dramatic television, and on the rare occasion that any player is interviewed in depth they all come across as super-nice guys with nary a bad word to say about other pros. Say what you will about people like Mike Long, but if here were playing now there would be people watching him on stream either to catch him cheating or to hope he lost. Same goes for Alex Bertoncini, a man who is likely unfairly profiled as a career cheat and is something of a pariah, being kept off coverage until it’s unavoidable.

To some extent, the game of Magic doesn’t allow for much of a good-evil conflict. With the exception of shady players, there won’t be many people who are anxious to portray themselves as evil. Why would anyone want to attract the increased scrutiny that comes with such a reputation, when even the smallest honest mistake is seen as blatant cheating and punishable by a lifetime ban? Pros like Eric Froelich and Owen Turtenwald, who have been somewhat abrasive on Twitter in the past, shy away from that in front of the camera. In other sports we see people who toe the line between cheating and gamesmanship get vilified by fans; in Magic, this practice is often praised. In part it’s because Magic is a more cerebral game than any other, but perhaps it’s also because (often nerdy) Magic players by and large are more used to having to outsmart people than their jock counterparts in pro sports?

Contrast the treatment of an alleged cheat a couple of weekends back by Alex Bertoncini, who did something fishy and is being lambasted for it, and that of Sam Black. Sam illegally attacked with a summoning-sick Elvish Visionary on camera in an important match when he was in serious danger of losing. It looked for all intents and purposes like he had cheated, but because he has no reputation for such things his article on Wednesday was widely received with cries of “I believe you Sam” and offers of support. I doubt Sam did cheat, I know the guy and have a tremendous amount of respect for him. Just remember this next time you see a less virtuous or popular pro on camera making a mistake that looks bad, and realise that even the best players in the world make honest mistakes.

Has something happened to Channel Fireball Classic, or are our expectations of them too high? It’s been a long time since Brian Kibler had any degree of success, Wrapter and Ochoa are always floating near the top but haven’t really had the top 8 showings we’ve grown to expect from them, and both LSV and PV have had a couple of top 8s and not gone any further. Shuuhei and Juza are still doing their thing, and I believe Shuuhei has a win this year, but they seem to be the flagbearers for this once-unstoppable force. Four of those people are Hall of Famers, which perhaps unfairly increases what we consider to be a successful year. Kibler himself has commented on his lack of good showings, but you have to wonder how the team’s morale will be impacted when they meet to test for Atlanta.

Spoiler season is upon us! Rejoice at the lovely new cards! Be enraged at the prices of the shiny new mythics! Dispute the playability of the splashy new rares! Lament the stupidity of everyone who disagrees with you! If you can do all this and not lose the common touch, yours is the set and everything that’s in it. And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son.

In all seriousness, I am looking forward to sinking my teeth into some of the juicier fruits from this set in a couple of spoiler articles in the next few weeks. Standby for that, I enjoy writing those articles more than most others and they guide my deck choices for the next few weeks. Plus you get to call me bad.

I have no idea how anyone can stand to watch Michael Jacob streaming. The man is abrasive, condescending, rude and not at all entertaining. He spends more time staring at the monitor saying nothing than he does engaging with his audience, and when he does engage it is often to belittle someone. Dzy is a little better, at least he is not insulting, but for sheer entertainment value you can’t beat Kenji Egashira, Numot the Nummy. Go watch him.

How stacked was the top 8 of GP Philadelphia? Six of the 8 had previous Grand Prix wins, three (arguably four) were big-name pros. I’m not sure how many more times this needs to happen before people understand that limited GPs are possibly MORE skill-intensive than constructed ones.

It was also pretty sweet to see first a 15-year-old, then a 13-year-old in the feature match spotlight at GP Philly. The younger kid even had a win-and-in for top 8, losing to Huey Jensen. No shame in that for even the most seasoned grinder, but I have to wonder if Huey at any point considered the scoop. Not sure what the story would have been coming out of that, but it would have been an interesting decision to have to make.

I’m not a speculator in the “buy 100 copies of a card then sell them to a buylist in a few weeks” vein, but if I think something will go up I don’t mind picking up a dozen or so and trading for a few. Recently I have been chasing Gild (very strong in block, unique effect, black ramp), Fated Intervention (6 power for 5 mana at instant speed, occasional scry, triggers constellation) and Tymaret, the Murder King (hard to deal with, inevitable, cheap).

Mana Confluence

I have not yet built BUG Mill in Standard. This seems to be a horrible oversight on my part and one that needs to be corrected as soon as possible. Building around defenders lets you power Phenax, gives you mana for a big Mind Grind, makes Doorkeeper dangerous AND keeps you alive. Turn 2 Ashiok is also a thing I want to do at least once, and Mana Confluence makes that more likely.

I played a sweet deck at FNM this past Friday which I hope to write about in the next couple of days. It’s nothing amazing but it was fun and attacked the format from a slightly unorthodox angle. Let’s just say I made multiple plays that I knew were right but that appeared on the face of it to be misplays…until the next turn. Nothing like making people think you messed up to instill some misplaced confidence.

I think we will leave it there, with that well-placed teaser. I’ll be back in a few days with a decklist and perhaps even some spoilery goodness. As always, thanks for stopping by.