Entries from March 2012 ↓

Three Ways to Bluff With Sword of War and Peace

Tom Champheng is the original Magical lemonade stand salesman.

In the 1996 World Championships, Champheng, playing a White Weenie deck, misregistered his deck, forgetting to add Adarkar Wastes to the list.

… stranded

That stranded the card Sleight of Mind — Tom had one copy in his main deck and one copy in his sideboard — as being un-cast-able.

So life gave him lemons… Tom Champheng decided to make lemonade!

He played with his Sleight of Mind face-up on his sideboard, so that any and all possible Necropotence players could see it. He couldn’t avoid sometimes drawing the one in his main deck, but he could always side it out.

Why was this a useful ploy?

Let me segue into a very different story before wheeling back to Champheng…

[TIMEFRAME REDACTED], at the [TOURNAMENT NAME REDACTED] [SOMEONE YOU MIGHT KNOW] was privy to a great conversation between two PT greats (one would eventually become a PT champion… and get banned and stuff; the other was also a PT Top 8 competitor, who had previously run afoul of a top WotC executive).

They agreed that Magic was just about who could cheat better.

They were playing each other in the quarterfinals of [TOURNAMENT NAME REDACTED].

The two friends — filthy cheaters both — spat into their palms and agreed that the best cheater should win. Their Top 8 match would be a battle not of superior deck design, technology, technique, or knowledge of the force.

Their battle of white-against-black would instead be one of black-against-black (as it were).

The banned-PT-Champion-to-be gave himself an aggro nut draw. All his fast drops were waiting to spring on his opponent.

His opponent?

… Just gave himself a first-turn Gloom.

Try beating this piece on the first turn.

So, essentially, the white mage maybe got a Savannah Lions out of his draw… and then never cast anything ever again.

Do you see what Tom Champheng did to gain an advantage here? His opponents, if they were black mages, might be scared of putting in Gloom (for fear of having their hateful sideboard cards turned against them with Sleight of Mind). And everyone else? It’s not like Tom could actually play Sleight of Mind… The drop of information was no information at all.

Okay, now we are in 2012.

If you are following anything (Twitter, podcasts, Star City Games Premium, the Invitational coverage) you know that my live / physical play… could use some rust knocked off. However once upon a time I was a deft practitioner of the mental game.

How can we intersect a little bit of that with some actual good deck technology?

Consider this card:

Sword of War and Peace

I did reasonably well in Standard (lost playing for Top 8 of the Standard Open), playing a straightforward U/W Delver of Secrets deck.

I can tell you that the least impressive aspect of my deck (actually basically Matt Costa’s deck) was the Invisible Stalker + equipment aspect.

However the card Sword of War and Peace is very strong, in particular against beatdown strategies.

Here’s the problem: Beatdown strategies can often pack an Ancient Grudge.

I was able to beat back-to-back-to-back G/R decks, in part, by stranding their Ancient Grudges. I had enough sideboard cards to side in a respectable fashion, and upon winning each of these matchups, my opponents showed me Ancient Grudge in their hands (when I had no Invisible Stalkers or equipment).

Just a thought… What about playing with Sword of War and Peace as your bottom card, but “accidentally” revealing it when you pull out your deck?

What kind of information are you giving away with a Sword of War and Peace?

You could literally be anything!

Delver plays it, sure… But so does G/R Aggro. So does Mono-Green Aggro, and some Humans, and some Zombies… Lots of folks play Sword of War and Peace. So your sloppy reveal of the card (as with Tom Champheng’s Sleight of Mind back in 1996) reveals very little.

… But if the opponent is a G/R deck?

You better believe those Ancient Grudges are going to be in!

Like I said before, I liked the Invisible Stalker part of my deck least. You can cut like three of those guys, and the other three equipment, in order to make room for awesome stuff that you actually want / like.

If your opponent is not G/R? If you want to leave your one Sword in… That’s up to you.

As promised, three ways to bluff:

  1. Revealing a Sword of War and Peace implies you are playing more equipment (where there is none). I mean, who plays just one piece of equipment?
  2. Revealing the Sword actually reveals very little, as so many different decks can play it. That said, even though its 1/75 presence is intended as a bluff, it is still a pretty good card, especially when teaming up with Geist of Saint Traft.
  3. The goal of the reveal is to, of course, get potential G/R opponents to side in Ancient Grudge (which will suck against you). Typically that means you should be siding out your one Sword of War and Peace!



P.S. Oh, and lemonade salesman Tom Champheng? The reason we remember him is that he became the 1996 World Champion! Those two Sleights didn’t stop Tom and his White Weenie deck from running roughshod over the swarm of Black Summer Necropotence decks… Even if he couldn’t actually burn them on Gloom

Is Inquisition of Kozilek Broken?

Inquisition of Kozilek

So on the way back from the Star City Games Invitational in Baltimore, MD last week, I had an interesting conversation* with Top 8 competitor Joshua Ravitz.

Josh asked… Is Inquisition of Kozilek broken?

Well, maybe he didn’t say “broken” but “too good” or some similar (you get it).

After all, Josh had just smashed many a Legacy face with his update to Tom Martell’s Esper StoneBlade / Lingering Souls deck… Which included Inquisition of Kozilek.

Once upon a time, Duress — then Cabal Therapy — was the front line of Black disruption. Once Thoughtseize was printed, it saw mass adoption across the many formats (and up until quite recently, was a favorite in Extended for Faeries and most decks of that stripe).

… But today?

Inquisition of Kozilek.

Legacy has Inquisition of Kozilek in its leading U/W deck.

Modern Jund has Inquisition of Kozilek.

The mighty Raven’s Crime engine of the darling Seismic Assault deck? Inquisition of Kozilek.

Now obviously long ago I was a big fan of Duress, and at one point, was a fine mechanic with a Cabal Therapy** (“you name what beats you”). That said, I never at any point liked a Thoughtseize; you can read a little bit of a window why in my treatise on equivalencies at SCG.

Here’s the cool thing about Inquisition of Kozilek:

Imagine everyone only plays cheap cards… Inquisition of Kozilek is like a Duress / Cabal Therapy that never misses. It is like a Thoughtseize that never costs you two points.

That certainly seems like a good deal!

… Now all you have to do is get everyone to play exclusively cheap cards.

Here is my take:

Inquisition of Kozilek was always pretty good, but it has recently gained value because of the popularity of Delver of Secrets and Snapcaster Mage. Tournament Magic has always been about cheap instants and sorceries, but these two cards, in recent months (and across multiple formats up to and including Legacy) encourage players to do so at unprecedented levels. Ergo, a good card is more good than it ever has been before; in fact, Inquisition of Kozilek is actually a fine teammate to either Delver or Snapcaster (and, of course, they are so often played in concert together). Ergo, Inquisition of Kozilek (already good) looks better than ever.

While it rarely misses, Inquisition of Kozilek certainly isn’t a perfect Magical spell. Unlike with the typically less accurate Cabal Therapy, you can never take a breaker like Bloodbraid Elf or Jace, the Mind Sculptor. It might hit, but it doesn’t necessarily take the card that beats you…

… Unless, of course, your opponent plays all cheapies (like he is supposed to).


* A bit more than an hour of which will soon be up in podcast form for Top 8 Magic.

** I once won a game with my B/G Quirion Dryad deck missing with both Duress and Cabal Therapy in the same turn.