Pulling Open the Kimono


Basically some DVD Extras to “How to Think About Magic

You’ve probably read it already. Like I said on a recent Top 8 Magic Podcast, I was pretty nervous putting this one up; it was a stark left-turn for Top Decks, but my Twitter audience demanded it. So mise.

I said in the article…

One last thing before we begin … I’ve written, read, re-read, and re-written this article four times at this point. Only now do I realize—though, I knew at all times, that I wasn’t using all of my notes—that I was only submitting a portion of the totality of how I think about Magic. I didn’t put in all the stuff about how the line between my “Magic” friends and “friends” blurred as I reached adulthood, about how giving and giving leads to more getting. Nor did I write about never settling, constantly striving for self-improvement, or how each of us is, at least partially, driven by a need for significance (and how all those things intersect and even direct my relationship to Magic). Instead, I guess this stuff is mostly about how I think about strategy, card selection, making decks, choosing decks, and advising my bullets and apprentices. Just so you know, while you’re reading.

So I thought it might be interesting to share some of the notes and concepts that I didn’t use (you know, like the ongoing traits of the best deck we look at on this blog); here — in case you were wondering — are all my notes for the article:

It’s fairly likely you can’t read those — and even if they were hella big you wouldn’t be able to read them — so I’ll help you out:

First Page

  • Drill
  • Signif –> Naya mana base
  • Sieze opportunity
  • Don’t Major in Minor Things
  • Relentless Self-Improvement
  • Logic >
  • Get by GIVING

Second Page

  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • No allegiances – LIMITING
  • Basic #s
  • Long view
  • Friends blur

Third Page

  • Ask the best questions
  • Nobody remembers #2
  • We build for one goal
  • Results-oriented
  • If you can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist
  • All players run in the same –> direction

Fourth Page

  • All meaning –> difference

Anyway, here is a section that I wrote — and was originally the second bullet — but I chose to cut before sending to the Wizards of the Coast editors. I generally stand behind it, but I try to stay positive, and I felt like the segment came off a little too “Tony Robbins” while at the same time overtly negative (which to be fair is the opposite of Robbins), if that makes sense.

Today I was very glad for my policy of not interacting on Internet forums.

If you haven’t read my article TurboLand Again at TCGPlayer yet… I thought it was pretty good. But apparently the forums didn’t? I tested the deck a fair amount and it seemed stupidly powerful to me. However the forums over at TCGPlayer… Oh well. I don’t want to paint all the responders with the same brush (because tydobbs in particular had some productive technology to share)… But for the most part I feel like today’s responders were shall we say less than logical. For example there were several who said my deck would lose to Memoricide; when I beat Memoricide and even Sadistic Glee 2-3 times in the matches outlined; in addition I talked about how you would approach those cards and beat them in Attrition fights (which I did).

I also said that I wasn’t sure the deck was the best implementation, but that I thought it was about the best idea. Which means its Stage Three in particular can be improved (I even posed some ways that it might). Well, whatever. No reason to dwell on the point. I decided at age 11 that I didn’t care what other people think, and — as much as I relish attention — I’m not really going to start now. Here’s the never-was excerpt:

2. Significance is a Fundamental Human Need

Why do I write Magic: The Gathering articles?

There are lots of reasons, actually.

One of them is that they pay me.

It’s great! I get to do this great thing that touches hundreds of thousands of lives — some lives quite significantly — and they actually pay me to do it! It’s basically the life.

Well, they can pay you to do lots of different things.

What makes writing Magic: The Gathering articles special?

Of course I love Magic. As Aaron Forsythe once said, you can track the course of my entire adult life by watching the Internet sites various I have written for over the years… Usenet, The Dojo, Star City Games, The Sideboard, Neutral Ground, Brainburst, Star City Games again, TCGPlayer.com (formerly Brainburst [again]), Five With Flores, Top 8 Magic, Flores Rewards; even Twitter!

Of course I love Magic!

It is a privilege to be able to write Magic articles, to touch hundreds of thousands of lives, to do so in an intersecting fashion. It is much less commercial than it is an exercise in significance.

Everyone wants to feel significant. You can fill this need with the attention of a lover, a parent, a child; you can get a pat on the head at work; you can change the course of mighty rivers, or murder a president.

Or, you can write articles about something that you love, share the almost tactile love for something that you love with other people who also love it; share your years of experience, spirit of innovation, and copious mistakes.

Or, you can be a gigantic raging butthole.

Bullies, nitpickers, etc. gain a feeling of significance by poking at little things, trying to pull down popular public figures, etc.

Earlier in my writing career I engaged a lot on forums. As I wrote, above, I actually cut my Magic writing teeth on Usenet. However I have actively avoided forums for about the past two years. I still read them for the most part, but I no longer spend my life getting in fights on them.

Most of the nitpickers, complainers, detractors, and so on have nothing productive to say. They are limited in their experience or scope, and have nothing to contribute to the conversation. They, however, still feel a burning need for significance; they fill that need by holding up a gigantic neon sign that says:

“Hey! I’m a raging butthole!”

But you have to hand it to them, somebody paid attention.

Well; that’s it… Kimono open.

Ask about other notes and points I didn’t use in the comments below.


facebook comments:


#1 Alfrebaut on 10.26.10 at 1:16 am

“Oh god, he pulled open his kimono, shield your eyes!”

Alright, now that that’s out of the way… what was the big objection to your Turboland deck? Was it the Stage Three plan? I mean… it does seem light without Eldrazi or Avenger to power out. I think it might be the idea that your endgame, Genesis Wave, is probably weaker than the alternative, but it’s still probably a worthwhile exploration.

As far as “bullet point #2,” it’s interesting to think about, but posted here, I can’t think of how it’s exactly related to the rest of the article, which I guess is why it wasn’t included. The thing about forums and internet commentary in general is that the general rules is, around 90% of what is said in any given forum is wrong. Often factually incorrect, or based on a misunderstanding of the topic at hand. It’s as if every internet commenter believes himself to be the beatdown, when he is clearly not. But he keeps insisting that he is. Sometimes, it just can’t be helped.

#2 smeat on 10.26.10 at 8:26 am

It is really hard to take you seriously when you keep calling “Sadistic Sacrament” “Sadistic Glee”. That is two articles in a row, heck you even link to a pop up that shows you the card with a Tempest set symbol on it.

#3 admin on 10.26.10 at 9:11 am

Thanks for raising the bar on useful comments. Your comment is the living embodiment of Finkel’s Law.

#4 juzamjedi on 10.26.10 at 9:55 am

Re: Turboland

When I was looking at your deck I couldn’t help but think “didn’t Travis Woo already build this deck, except with a better end game (Ob Nxiilis)”? Not trying to troll and I didn’t post to tcgplayer forum, but your article went up about a week after his so it was a natural reaction. Here’s the link to his article in case you haven’t seen it yet. http://www.channelfireball.com/articles/twoo-cents-riding-the-wave-top-8/

Re: raging buttholes

Comments from these guys aren’t productive, BUT they produce emotional reactions. Kind of like when your kids do something negative to get your attention… just because any attention is better than none. I’m usually not one of those guys so a lot of my posts go unanswered. I recognize that writers / other forum posters tend to respond more to the buttholes more than they respond to long blobs of text that might actually have some thought put into them. You (and other writers) can’t send personal responses to everyone. Hence, the buttholes usually get responses which is what they wanted :-/

Anyways, I was one of the guys on Twitter that asked for this article and I’m glad you wrote it. I enjoy reading pieces like this and I’m glad you decided to share a bit more here on your blog. Remember that there are a lot of people that enjoy reading your articles and are learning to play better from what you write. I know I am better because of your work. Readers don’t usually comment on a good article they enjoy reading.

#5 smeat on 10.26.10 at 10:10 am

How is pointing out your error on getting the correct card that you are supposed to be able to play around not a valid comment? It really shows the attention to detail involved. Focusing on what matters is the point sure… and attention to detail is something that matters.

#6 admin on 10.26.10 at 10:53 am

I don’t actually agree that Ob Nixilis is better. My deck can go Cobra > Jace and win that way; also most of the suggestions that forum responders made involve being able to hit a 10 point Genesis Wave to be good at all. My Waves are less spectacular but highly predictable and put you very far ahead even if they are not auto-lethal. I can see cards like Frost Titan or Rampaging Baloths as great additions in Stage 3.

Normally I wouldn’t be such a douche but I was having a very stressful AM (nothing to do with Magic actually); however my invocation of Finkel’s Law is that communication was successful. Was I wrong about which card I said? Yes. Sure you can say “attention to detail” but it’s like using slang or whatever… In this context communication was successful IMO and I felt like the name was nitpicking, at least at the time. Also if you had started your comment some way other than “It’s really hard to take you seriously…” you would have probably gotten a different response from YT.

#7 MTGBattlefield on 10.26.10 at 12:13 pm

Pulling Open the Kimono…

Your story has been summoned to the battlefield – Trackback from MTGBattlefield…

#8 AeroWow on 10.27.10 at 8:25 pm

After having typed up the below post, I can definitely appreciate what you mean when you say that you love writing about Magic – when you’re passionate about something, it just “clicks”, and what may seem like work by one account is so much more enjoyable from a perspective of enthusiasm. As for the asses… YEESH. I just now read your article, and thought it was a solid presentation of a deck and some sample plays. But you’re absolutely right – there was so much haterade and jackassery to make a throng of donkeys die from electrolyte poisoning, and the sentiment is completely unfounded and (more importantly) unwarranted.


Some notes on my experiences with a number of iterations of “TurboWave” (Turboland 3.0, Ride The Wave, WavetacularDeckofAwesomeness, what have you):

Some common finishers that synergize with Genesis Wave are Avenger of Zendikar, Ob Nixilis, and even Mindslaver, of all things. There are some less-commonly used ones as well, including Admonition Angel, Rampaging Baloths (meh), Wurmcoil Engine, the other Titans, Wrexial, the Risen Deep (supa-jank), Molten-Tail Masticore (criminally under-utilized in this archetype thus far), and more. The sky’s the limit here. And that was one of the notable things that your deck SEEMED to lack i my opinion – a stereotypical game-changer. (You know, as if laying your deck out in one fell swoop didn’t quite affect the board enough.)

As much as JtMS was such an integral part of the most recent Turboland iteration, I feel it’s not quite such a huge deal when it comes to the latest version that uses Genesis Wave as its core. Big Jace’s most common use in the pre-rotation Turboland was to “fix” the top of the library to get the maximum potential out of your Oracles (and Explores, to a lesser extent), which directly fed into your Cobras, forming a powerful land creation engine. With Genesis Wave being the key player here, that’s no longer our focus. The focus is on flipping your entire deck face-up on the battlefield, as opposed to forcing your lands onto the field through this system. That’s not to say JtMS doesn’t provide value, both in this system and outside of it (bounce, bounce, baby; fateseal madness), but it does mean that it’s no longer an auto-include.

One of the biggest questions when developing this new deck is that of splashage. Black? White? Blue? Heck, I’m sure we’ll see a red one soon enough (read: Bolt/Blast/Burst for Leonin Arbiter/Tunnel Ignus). Or, is a splash even necessary? I would argue that the splash gives a distinct advantage over a non-splash, with the reasoning being that A) The Splash gives access to mechanics that aren’t typically found in green, B) The Splash gives access to particular cards that can’t be matched by green counterparts, and C) The Splash is totally doable given the amount of fetch, ramp, and multicolor mana production that we sling. But as I say that, I’m sure an argument could be made for a MonoG version, and it would still have most of the tools necessary to perform decently, but… it’s probably not optimal.

All of that said, here’s another still-experimental take on TurboWave: http://mtgurl.com/3ba5 I’m not advocating this as a final build, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the sideboard and the color composition (both of which are admittedly pretty freaking schizophrenic), but it includes many different concepts that different approaches can integrate into their strategy, either subtley or overtly.

Some other random cards that could potentially find their way into decks that wasn’t already mentioned or linked to: Brittle Effigy, Into the Roil, Mana Leak (or other), Elixir of Shuffle, Asceticism, Eldrazi Conscription, Conundrum Sphinx (SO MUCH JANK!), Eldrazi Monument, Leyline of Sanctity, Leyline of Anticipation (jankity jank jank!), Autumn’s Veil, Linvala, Keeper of Silence, Mimic Vat, Rite of Replication, Roil Elemental, Silence, Day of Judgment, and Sunblast Angel, just to name a few. Obviously, we value permanents over non-permanents, but if it helps us win despite it not being a permanent, then it doesn’t much matter.

#9 Triphos on 11.03.10 at 1:46 am

I don’t want to get into the tech discussion (TurboLorthos is the only TurboX deck I’ll ever truly love), I just wanted to say I connected with this unposted excerpt on a totally different level. I’ve recently decided to give up internet forums for a while, mostly because I feel like I spend too much time sitting and reading/posting on them instead of getting the writing I actually want to do done, but the entire reason I ever posted on them at all, or why I’m on twitter a lot, is because of significance.

I mean, there’s a screencap of one of my twitter posts on a Mike Flo article, that’s pretty significant, right?

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