I am going to be getting on a plane in about two days and going down to relatively sunny Orlando, Florida for almost two weeks. I am taking the kiddies to Disney World and also visiting with family over the Christmas holiday.
Chances of playing much Magic while I am gone are next to nada, but there is something I have been wanting to post for a couple of weeks.
Sharp readers probably recall I posted a few weeks back that I was re-reading The Hobbit. Boy is that book superb!
If you buy The Hobbit now from Amazon.com, I will make millions and never return from vacation.
I had read The Hobbit previously, of course, but I remember not liking it that much (I liked The Lord of the Rings on first read, but The Silmarillion I actively disliked on first reading but loved on subsequent reading). Anyway, for some reason if you re-read The Hobbit at 33 it goes very quickly… I read it in a matter of hours and loved every second.
Now the reason I got back into all the JRR stuff is that I was actually telling Bella the story of The Lord of the Rings on a train ride home one day and she was completely captivated. This got Katherine and me to pull out the Peter Jackson DVDs and start the reels turning, but of course Bella (at five) is too young for the good stuff.
But what about the also-good stuff?
While I didn’t have a really solid memory of The Hobbit the book before re-reading this time around, I have had for as long as I can remember (before kindergarten, certainly) a very specific memory of The Hobbit the story. And that picture comes from the Rankin/Bass version from my childhood.
If you haven’t seen the Rankin/Bass version, you’re in for a treat! My mom still sings me songs from it, and it has been about 30 years since we first saw it together, when I was younger than Bella.
Because this is 2009 — almost 2010 — you can find basically anything on YouTube… Including the entire Rankin/Bass version of The Hobbit… I’m embedding all of it below. If you have about 90 minutes and a hankering for a pocket full of joy, I suggest you bust out some microwave popcorn and enjoy the show.
I was medium terrified of the villainst in this version when I was in the single digits, and thirty-ish years later, I still find even Elrond creepy. The animation doesn’t look “modern” but it is still quite nice to look at… I still enjoy it, and I think they did a great job with the characters; in particular Gandalf, who is played distinctively by John Huston.
I had an open from Mrs. MichaelJ, but I opted out of playing Magic on consecutive weekends (speaking of which, I will probably update on the New York State Championships… not that there was much of a story there). I haven’t had a lot of opportunities to spend a lot of time with my daughter the past couple of months. She is up and out the door to school (you know… showing no mercy at chess and all that) before I am even up, and I am typically home after she goes to sleep. So it felt kind of going in different directions to bitch about not being able to see my daughter and then opt out of one of the two days per week I can actually see her.
As correct as I feel like that decision was, I still would have liked to have played in the Philly 5K. I put a decent amount of work into Standard even after States, and I think that I had the right deck to play.
For anyone who has any kind of Standard action going on, I heartily recommend this Shaheen Redux:
3 Sphinx of Lost Truths
2 Quest for Ancient Secrets
4 Celestial Purge
2 Kabira Crossroads
My man GRat (friend who I ironically met at the Philly 5K last year) pointed out that the last post was missing three cards… He wasn’t sure if they were Jace Beleren or Oblivion Ring! Obviously they were — and remain — Jace.
This deck is quite good even against other control decks.
At first I was having problems with Grixis-style control decks. However those get easier if you play according to the old Carlos Romao rules. If you concentrate on fighting their Sphinxes with your Essence Scatters and their Cruel Ultimatums with your Flashfreezes, you will be ahead of the game; there is some issue about a four color version presenting also Ajani Vengeants… Probably you have to fight those with Flashfreeze early, and then hope to draw into more Flashfreezes… Otherwise you’ll probably get pinned by the Cruel Ultimatum anyway (but see below about trying to overload back).
However your early game card advantage is just so much better than theirs… Knight of the White Orchid hitting is just so spectacular! For sure you have too much creature kill, but you can get value against a Sphinx with a Martial Coup, say… and you can run the bonus on Path to Exile on ye olde Baneslayer Angel if that is going to come up.
The tough version of Grixis control to beat is the one with main deck Sedraxis Specter; dunno what to say about that noise… I certainly haven’t figured out how to beat it! Chalk it up to a bad matchup.
Jacerator is basically impossible in game one. I think you should concede on the spot in order to preserve time to win the sideboarded games; speaking of which, I was able to win handily with just three Cancels and one Quest for Ancient Secrets (took the four spots held by Luminarch Ascension in the previous version). However you still have a super awkward deck against them. Basically I was siding in Wall of Reverence to potentially block Baneslayer Angel… not that that ever came up.
With three Cancels and a Quest, I was pretty capable of fighting potentially lethal Archive Traps, protecting my Jace from his Jace, and sometimes even getting the lockdown with Iona (typically name White to prevent Fog effects and Wrath). Again, not a hard matchup after sideboarded (at least not relative to Game One, which is nigh-unwinnable). The present version of the sideboard reflects the fact that there are just so many dead cards… I tried to build with an eye to flexibility across other matchups.
Which brings us to the bonus Kabira Crossroads.
This land card is positively spell-like.
When I was playing Barely Boros and thereabouts, I absolutely hated seeing that card come up. My rationale with it now is that it is a smasher against beatdown decks, but also useful against other control. Really against another control deck you just want to hit land drops, and this is — hey — two more lands.
As to fighting other control decks, this is what I’ve found:
You don’t have a Cruel Ultimatum. That is pretty obvious by looking at the deck list. However between Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Mind Spring, you play like you have a relatively effective threat tandem. I have even found that Flashfreeze can be pretty good as a Force of Will. It’s generally most useful for fighting Ajani Vengeant and / or Cruel Ultimatum depending on which control version they are. However since many of these decks rely on Double Negative as a defensive card, you can sometimes Counterspell their Counterspell with Flashfreeze… Double Negative is Red!
I still don’t like the other version of the Sphinx.
I may be a bit too greedy with Sphinx of Lost Truths, but I just can’t cotton to playing the six mana Keiga wannabe in this deck. I have just faced off against too many six mana Sphinxes with my five mana Baneslayer Angel and come out on top. I understand that it is relatively monolithic against Jund, but drawing three extra cards while containing their treats can be pretty goood, too! Jund is obviously the soft matchup… Not bad, but not spectacular like Red Deck Wins or the G/W-based decks (which in my experience, are not difficult), nor extremely challenging like Jacerator. Jund can go either way, but Shaheen thought enough of the matchup to remove Spreading Seas. I think that success is probably best ensured by staying out of the way of Blightning as best you can (go figure).
The other thing is, this Shaheen deck is super fun to play!
I have played Shaheen-esque U/W decks across the different formats that he has been able to successfully brew (even Extended), and even with cumbersome cards like Mind Spring, this one is my favorite of the lot. Its ragged curve makes for interesting games with a lot of interactivity. I have really enjoyed setting up games to resolve multiple copies of Knight of the White Orchid [with value]. This is also basically the only deck I have played where I am perfectly comfortable playing Jace as a base -1 Planeswalker rather than a +2 to start (even against Red Decks). The ability to refill with Mind Spring, especially after getting value with Jace gives you enough card advantage redundancy that you have the rare liberty to expose your Planeswalker to more direct interaction.
So for what it’s worth… That’s what I would have run.
Basically Shaheen Soorani’s deck… But with more Sphinx of Lost Truths 🙂
Just another super quick post for now.
Though I will get up a report — such that it is / will be — on States (probably later in the week).
I was working on Top Decks tonight, which features the Shaheen Soorani U/W deck (U/W from Shaheen… go figure). Evan Erwin shipped the deck to me before States but I kind of dismissed it due to hating Islands in this format. However in order to write a halfway intelligible article I played Shaheen’s deck about five matches in the Tournament Practice Room… won them all easily (though for some reason no one gamed with Jund).
Does anyone know the Jund matchup for this deck?
I am considering playing it at the Philly 5K this weekend.
Anyway, here is “my” version… With Sphinx of Lost Truths. I generally dislike Sphinx of Jwar Isle due to its being expensive and crappy. The other Sphinx is more mana efficient and also fits better in the theme of progressive card advantage. I also cut the Cancels from the sideboard due to their, you know, also being crappy.
I just wanted to make sure I got up the deck before tomorrow AM for those who are interested.
Not much commentary on this (need to get my beauty sleep), but I decided after the events of Sixteen Again on ChannelFireball.com that I needed to speed up my defensive speed.
Barely Boros lost [perhaps predictably] to beloved Naya Lightsaber, and the other Boros deck won it all.
That led me to believe that Act of Treason would not be the right tool for this tournament. There is relatively little worth aiming an Act of Treason at in the other Boros deck, and against Lightsaber, it’s probably worth it just to point a Plow rather than a Threaten at the big babe.
Plus, Sean McKeown offered me the use of his Baneslayer Angels for my sideboard.
Selling out much?
Yeah, but I plan to win tomorrow, and all the decks that did best in my testing had Baneslayer Angels.
This is the 75 I plan to sleeve up manana, provided I can find Lightning Bolts:
Culmination of a lot of the tech I have been working on for Standard. No Sylvan Caryatids is a nod to Patrick Chapin. Nothing but two-for-ones. Wish I could have gotten this in the hands of a good pilot for the GP but just finished it.
I had a day off this weekend from shooting Supernatural, and I was walking around downtown Vancouver on Saturday, sampling all the artisan coffee I could get my throat around. At one point I saw a pair of guys walking towards me wearing gamer shirts. Black short-sleeved, one Halo and one Call of…