Entries Tagged 'Drawing' ↓

II. August [something] 1989

It would take a tremendous amount of triangulation of old credit card receipts from the pre-digital age, or at least poring through my parents’ scrapbooks in deepest darkest Cleveland (and an essentially zero-EV endeavor at that) to determine a particular day for this one, so we will have to just work with a month, which was August; and a year, which was 1989.

My family was on vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine, and I decided one day to go climbing on some mountain trail which allegedly didn’t require any particular equipment or expertise, despite ultimately giving you the first look at dawn in North America on account of being a combination of maximally Eastward and maximally tall (or something).

So “not requiring any climbing equipment” meant to the thirteen-year-old me that I could run it in a pair of gray Sebagos deck shoes. I remember that pair of shoes like no other pair my entire life. I always wanted a pair of Sebagos (which were the hip kind at my Catholic school, where you couldn’t wear sneakers day-to-day) but my parents always bought me the cheap off-brand version from like Payless. We weren’t poor or anything; in fact both of my parents are award-winning and / or pioneering physicians (which means that at least up until this year, I have been a constant disappointment in all non-grandchildren-producing endeavors)… But they weren’t hip to buying non-off-brand leather (?) boat shoes for their grade schoolers.

Anyway, there was a pair of not-popular gray Sebagos IN MY SIZE at a hole-in-the-wall shoe store where the local Al Bundy had been a 1970s Penthouse model (complete with mullet and porn stache). Thirteen-year-old michaelj begged his mom for the $14 Sebagos, and proceeded to wear them always, with or without socks, everywhere… apparently including mountain climbing.

artist’s interpretation of the deadly shoe

So in case you haven’t been paying attention, we are talking about an overweight, nearsighted, thirteen-year-old in tread-less boat shoes… Climbing the tallest smooth rock on the East Coast of North America, jutting over the coast of Maine during a wet morning at the end of the summer.

At some point in the expedition, I realized I was halfway across a flat expanse of boulder that was simply too wide for me to bridge. I hugged the side of its sheer face with my entire body; with every crevice of the fingerprints of my increasingly sweaty hands; as I could feel myself inching down it, the first tumble of an inevitable avalanche of human doom. I looked down between my legs, ending in those poorly-chosen gray Sebagos, and saw nothing but jagged rocks, ragged evergreens, destiny, and death.

I am going to die.

I am thirteen years old, and I am going to die.

My life didn’t flash before my eyes or anything. It was just serene. Serene oblivion… And I was okay with it.

And then, before I could even finish being okay with it; I felt my dad’s hand around my wrist, and he yanked me back onto the path.

Unsurprisingly, we headed back down the mountain, before reaching The Precipice.

How to Grow Taller:
Live. Ya ain’t getting any bigger fallin’ down no mountains.

How to Grow Darker:
It was actually comparatively sunny for Maine that summer; you could go to the beach (albeit a rocky beach relative to, say, Pro Tour Honolulu or even any random weekend in Florida or Long Island).

How to Get More Handsome:
There is basically nothing more unattractive than fear.

Girls can smell fear. That’s why they don’t like you.

I was talking to BDM once about how this girl I liked in high school went out with this ridiculous, no-shower, skater pothead. If he had been in another crowd, he would have been a thug. He got bad grades, I couldn’t see any horizon for him, I don’t think he had his own car or anything… I just didn’t understand it. Was a black leather coat and packet of Marlboro Reds really so fetching?

BDM didn’t know the boy, but he could speculate.

“You know, when you are fumbling around with a girl, not knowing what you are doing?”

I mean sure, everyone knows. I am 35 and that is basically still my level of skills.

“Do you think girls like that?”

I mean obviously not. But you know…

“You know what?”

Nothin. I guess.

But there is one thing I can say about that dude. He weren’t scared. No sir.

By the time I had hit my one good dating year (2000-2001, and it actually lasted less than one year), I had finally realized how to harness the power of fearlessness, in at least this one regard.

For years, for all the bullying I endured (man, 1992 was tough); all the disappointments (like that time I cried myself to sleep in 1994 after my off-key audition with “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”); the bait-and-switches (I literally spent 1998 out-living a highly in-demand girl’s boyfriends – a girl I then intended to marry – until she called me the day of my kid sister’s high school graduation – and said “I already paid for my apartment in Chicago all summer; but we had a fight. I’m not going to have any money, and I don’t know what I want to do, but I know finally I want to be with you. Come pick me up.”

I didn’t know what to do… but my mommy asked me if I was crazy and why I wasn’t already gassing up the Mighty Saturn and getting maps together. What are you waiting for? You ALREDY HAVE an invitation? Within one hour she called me back, told me they had made up, and they were going to try to make it work. And to be fair, her rent was paid up for the whole summer. I married someone else [awesome]).

Magical Aftermath:
Fear gets you absolutely nowhere.

The biggest fear I see and think of on a regular basis is around mulligans.

A few years ago, GerryT posted a comment on this here blog about what he thinks about every single game of grinding, and what he thinks about when evaluating an opening hand; it literally changed my life. GerryT is so awesome.

At US Nationals last year, I mulled to four against an opponent with three Lightning Bolts… In his opening hand. I had to win the match to stay alive going into Day Two. Got there! His first play was Crystal Ball. My first play was Manic Vandal. It didn’t get any better for him after that, as I showed him how come first pick Foresee was so good in that format.

People still ask me about my Edison Open Series match against Lewis Laskin in Edison (which I lost / spoilers).

I won Game One on the third turn but had a series of terrible hands in the second… I ended up settling on three cards. I would mull to three every time given that situation. I couldn’t win the game with my seven, six, five, or four card hands. My mull to three was a goldfish win on turn three or four! If Lewis didn’t have so much resistance – and obviously he did, no lack of respect there – I would have just killed him. What if he was a no Force of Will deck like Zoo or Goblins?

Man, that would have been a story!

But you know what? I am proud of both the mull to four and the mull to three (though more proud of the mull to four, though I probably shouldn’t be), not based on winning or losing (though see the three, above)… But because I made the fearless – and gosh darn it, right – decisions in both cases. Other players would have balked, but they wouldn’t have been right. In the four, I won; in the three, I had the cards to win when the seven, six, five, and four didn’t (Lewis just had the cards to stop me… two or three times over, actually). You have to put yourself in the best position you can to winj; and fear, like tilt, bad deck decisions, and lack of sleep will leech that from you, no matter how many Jaces are in your deck.

Never fear! (Mike is here!)


#WorldsDraft2011 Recap Mania!

So the 2011 World Championships — the last “real” World Championships — is going to be upon us in just a few hours.

As is typical behavior, a bunch of us misers got together on Twitter for #WorldsDraft2011

The Drafters:

  1. Paul Rietzl – Pro Tour Champion, writer of the bestest tournament report in 10 years
  2. Tom Martell – TrollSlayer
  3. Osyp Lebedowicz – Pro Tour Champion emeritus, Latin Dance Champion, and creator of the television show Seinfeld; noted liar
  4. Phil Napoli – finalist in last weekend’s PTQ; basically the only adult I know who can spike a PTQ regularly, actually. All around good man.
  5. Yours Truly – Champion of many a PT Draft (no other credentials)

Being in fifth position is kind of horrible in this draft. Paul has a huge leg up as we were not playing the “LSV is banned” rule; so of course he was going to take first pick LSV.

Tom took the predictable second-pick PVDDR pick; I took Juza over PVDDR in a similar position in last year’s Worlds Draft, and despite PV making Top 4 (and Juza not making Top 8 ) I was able to win that one. In the same spot I would have probably taken Jon Finkel way out of position [more on that later].

Osyp took PoY leader Owen Turtenwald, Phil took the aforementioned Juza, and left me with the wheel.

In wheel position I was planning to take Jon Finkel and Martin Juza, but of course Phil had just taken Juza.

Round One:

  1. Luis Scott-Vargas
  2. PVDDR
  3. Owen Turtenwald
  4. Martin Juza
  5. Jon Finkel

I went with Shouta Yasooka for my wheel pick. In hindsight this was only an okay pick; I could see taking Neeman, Watanabe, or Wrapter in that spot easily (I took Wrapter second pick in last year’s draft and he was a pivotal Top 16).

Phil took Shuuhei Nakamura, Osyp took a mighty Jeremy Neeman, Tom got Watanabe, and Paul finished out the second round with CawBlade PT Champion Ben Stark (a fine choice).

Round Two:

  1. Shouta Yasooka
  2. Shuuhei Nakamura
  3. Jeremy Neeman
  4. Yuya Watanabe
  5. Ben Stark

Paul wheeled Brian Kibler, Tom went with the first fellow drafter by taking Paul, Osyp took Wrapter (probably the second- or third-best pick of the draft), Phil took Patrick Chapin (completing the New Jersey one-two punch of taking my next two intended picks), and I finished off with Anton Jonsson.

Here is the secret of PT Draft. Well, the second part of the secret, anyway. The first part is to never take a player you are not willing to cheer for (same as in real life). The other one is to take the players you want to take, even if you are seemingly out of position. Like last time I took second-pick Wrapter and some people were like WTF was that pick… If I hadn’t taken him there, I would certainly have lost him to Chapin. While I wanted Wrapter, Chapin, and Juza, the only two players I absolutely unconditionally wanted for my draft were Finkel and Anton (I intended to take Anton last). So I just took him third there, whatever.

Round Three:

  1. Brian Kibler
  2. Paul Rietzl
  3. Josh Utter-Leyton
  4. Patrick Chapin
  5. Anton Jonsson

For the second half of my wheel pick, I went with David Ochoa. Ocho is the US National Finalist, giving him a little extra skin in the game; plus he is on the right team, etc.

Phil followed up with Gau (superb pick… a force auto-pick I made for the Nagoya draft, helping me lock that one up); Osyp went with PT Philadelphia poisoner Sam Black, Tom picked himself, and Paul stole a late-pick Gabriel Nassif. I think you can see the superb value that many of my competitors bogarted on this round. Tom picking Tom ensured he would lead all #WorldsDraft2011 participants in number of drafters drafted… and Tom is a great pick regardless!

Round Four:

  1. David Ochoa
  2. Gudenis Vidugiris
  3. Sam Black
  4. Tom Martell
  5. Gabriel Nassif

Paul thought he had the wheel, and took Lukas Jaklovsky; I tried to stop the draft at this point, but Tom said “did you really want Kenny Oberg” and left to go pick up Gabriel Nassif at the train station. Osyp said to just continue the draft and took Lucas Blohon. Phil took last year’s overall first pick Brad Nelson, and I got who I wanted for last pick, anyway: MTGO superstud Reid Duke. I playtested a little with Reid for this one and he beat me like a drum. He was also one of the most impressive players I have sat across the table from this year. I was very happy to nab Reid with my last pick.

Round Five:

  1. Lukas Jaklovsky
  2. Kenny Oberg
  3. Lucas Blohon
  4. Brad Nelson
  5. Reid Duke

Final Teams:

  • Paul Rietzl: Luis Scott-Vargas, Ben Stark, Brian Kibler, Gabriel Nassif, Lukas Jaklovsky
  • Tom Martell: PVDDR, Yuya Watanabe, Paul Rietzl, Tom Martell, Kenny Oberg
  • Osyp Lebedowicz: Owen Turtenwald, Jeremy Neeman, Josh Utter-Leyton, Sam Black, Lucas Blohon
  • Phil Napoli: Martin Juza, Shuuhei Nakamura, Patrick Chapin, Gaudenis Vidugiris, Brad Nelson
  • Michael J Flores: Jon Finkel, Shouta Yasooka, Anton Jonsson, David Ochoa, Reid Duke

Paul made great use of his first pick, and has an overall superb team of LSV headlining a squad of 80% past and future HoF’ers.

Tom’s team is just gross. He could easily blow this one out of the water; probably has three guys in the Top 16 or better.

Osyp’s team is pretty good; originally I thought he had the worst team, but now I think Phil does. Sorry bros!

I am obv going to win (as usual). [actually, I think tonight’s draft went rough for YT]

What do you guys at home think?

Original Spreadsheet at http://bit.ly/worldsdraft2011
Follow it on Twitter: #WorldsDraft


Post Script

Forgot to attach a sketch to the rasslin’ post :/

Here is a re-draw (brush style) of the Iron Man action figure one I posted a few weeks back:

Five Reasons Batterskull > Wurmcoil Engine

A few weeks ago in Nashville, my old buddy Brian Kibler and I were discussing Brian Sondag’s now format-making Wolf Run Ramp deck. One of the things I wanted to discuss was Sondag’s 3/3 split on Primeval Titan and Wurmcoil Engine. Overall I said that I wanted to play (at the very least) the fourth Primeval Titan [probably at the cost of a Wurmcoil Engine] — I mean if I played Green and stuff, which I don’t.

I don’t really like Wurmcoil Engine that much in Standard, and if you have looked at some of the deck lists I have put out in recent weeks, they all have things like one Batterskull in the main deck, maybe one or more in the sideboard and no Wurmcoil Engines anywhere. I made a suggestion to Kibs in the booth that I would consider Batterskull in the Wolf Run main but he stood in Solidarity with the other Brian on that one.

Sondag later stepped into the booth and talked about initially playing with four Primeval Titans but rolling it back to three, especially given how effective a four-pack of Green Sun’s Zeniths were / are in his deck list.

Now if you look at the most recent Open winner by Ben Friedman you will see many of the changes that I suggested put into reality (Batterskull‘s inclusion, fourth Primeval Titan, blah blah blah):

Wolf Run Green – Ben Friedman

4 Dungrove Elder
4 Garruk, Primal Hunter
4 Primeval Titan
19 Forest
4 Rampant Growth
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Llanowar Elves
2 Mountain
3 Beast Within
2 Batterskull
2 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Acidic Slime
3 Green Sun’s Zenith
2 Inkmoth Nexus
3 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Wurmcoil Engine

1 Beast Within
1 Karn Liberated
1 Tree of Redemption
1 Acidic Slime
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Viridian Corrupter
2 Ancient Grudge
3 Gut Shot

Of course, the enemy has shifted. When Sondag won, Red Decks were still making Open Top 8s. Today, the enemy is… Wolf Run (and Primeval Titan is one of the best men in the mirror).

Maybe you think you know where I am going with this blog post. Maybe you read the title and actually do know. Regardless of being in Wolf Run or control or wherever I just want to talk about some of the reasons why I favor Batterskull (in general) over Wurmcoil Engine in Standard.


  1. Speaking of “Five,” it costs five, not six.
  2. The card Mana Leak exists.
  3. It’s way better against bad Solar Flare decks.
  4. It looks like a robot, but is actually a Black man.
  5. Mise!

Speaking of “Five,” it costs five, not six.

As it costs five mana rather than six mana, I would generally want a Batterskull more than a Wurmcoil Engine in most matchup situations (saving one, which we will get to at the end).

Against beatdown, I just want to tap for it as soon as possible. I am going to have to take a stand at some point and I would rather do that one turn earlier. Everything the opponent can do to me the turn I tap out for Batterskull, he can do the turn I tap out for Wurmcoil Engine (Koth of the Hammer or whatnot). Against [another] control deck (or six deck), most of what the opponent can do to me (especially if I am on the play) is less significant. For instance, six against six, I can just tap out for Batterskull on turn five and what is he going to do to me? If I tap for Wurmcoil Engine he can do something terrible, like play a real Titan and trump me (Frost Titan and Primeval Titan are especially atrocious, though there are many Sun Titan situations that are also going to make me want to quit for tapping out for a stupid Wurmcoil Engine, e.g. a Phantasmal Image to deuce or double).

At seven mana I can tap with the ability to Mana Leak back; with a Wurmcoil Engine I would have to wait until eight (and this all gets so much more nebulous as the mana climbs).

Mostly, you want this kind of card against a Red beatdown deck and I really just want my Batterskull more often there, because of its speed.

The card Mana Leak exists.

Now even though “eight” is nebulous, think about how much better Batterskull is when you and your opponent are basically spent, and you hit eight. You go “Ho hum, I guess I am going to play this stupid Batterskull” and your opponent is like “Mana… Oh never mind. Resolves.”

You can just Attrition him forever with a Batterskull here. Even if he has something big, you can block, gain four, and re-play over and over until he has a legitimate answer.

I was actually inspired to start playing Batterskull over Wurmcoil Engine watching Medina v. Bertoncini in Nashville. Bertoncini’s Wurmcoil Engine came down on that narrow fifth turn and seemed to take over the game… Until Alex just up and decided to quit for whatever reason :/

It’s way better against bad Solar Flare decks.

As above.

It looks like a robot, but is actually a Black man.

This is a bit of a tricky one.

A few months ago Wurmcoil Engine might get some points because people were playing Go for the Throat to dodge Spellskite (so they could kill Deceiver Exarch), and Dismember was a four-of in almost every deck. Dismember is pretty bad against Wurmcoil Engine as well.

Doesn’t matter though: Most people play a Doom Blade now, and there are almost no Dismembers to be seen.

It is not “wrong” to play a Doom Blade, especially when people are killing each other with an Inkmoth Nexus every other table. However if they aren’t going to play Go for the Throat and / or Dismember (i.e. cards that can hit a Batterskull), you might as well take advantage of that.

The reality is that none of Doom Blade, Go for the Throat, or Dismember are great long term against either of these cards, but sometimes you are going to be on the wrong end of the opponent’s tempo play, and some of the time that is going to kill you. So you might as well pick the kind of card that is going to be on the wrong end much less often… and that is the one that can’t be hit by the more commonly played one (i.e. doesn’t die to Doom Blade).


Batterskull is an equipment.

That means you have all kinds of mise-tacular plays available that Wurmcoil Engine just doesn’t have.

Like, even if your opponent answers the Living Weapon, you can just move it onto your Inkmoth Nexus and make your opponent take 100 poison while you gain DI life (or your Snapcaster Mage or whatever).

Another cool thing is when your Red Deck opponent thinks he is all clever against six decks / Titans and has some kind of Threaten. Congratulations on not dealing me any damage… You might have stolen my Germ Token, but I still control the equipment.

On the other hand, he is just going to kill you to death with your own Wurmcoil Engine.

For all of these reasons and more, I favor Batterskull over Wurmcoil Engine, in general, in Standard.

Now there is one card that I can think of where Batterskull might be much worse, and that is against Keldon Vandals. Your opponent doesn’t really want to 187 the big 6/6 only to yield two 3/3 Yo! MTG Taps tokens. I mean he will do that sometimes, but he doesn’t want to, ever. On the other hand he is going to be rocking in his seat all foaming at the mouth to do the same to your poor Batterskull the turn you tap out for it. Yes, that is kind of ooh sucky sucky, but no one said one card was strictly better than the other in all situations or anything.

On the other hand, look at how much better Batterskull is in most other cases against point removal, especially Revoke Existence.

Just think about that one!


A while back BDM suggested I start drawing action figures. You can pose them and do cool stuff and get better at drawing figures via, you know, action figures. Here is my first attempt:

[Speaking of robots, equipment, etc.] – Tony


Being Filipino in America is kind of weird. When I was a little kid growing up in the foothills of the Appalachians, the White folk would scratch their heads trying to decide if whatever I had just claimed to be meant “Chinese”, “Japanese”, or when you really get cosmopolitan, Korean. Other Asians don’t really know what to make of you, either. Do you even count as Asian? A college professor once asked me if I was from Samoa.

For those of you who don’t know anything about the Philippines… Well… I am not really going to use this blog post to either propagate any stereotypes or give you boring information that you could just Google for yourself on, you know, Wikipedia.

This is more a story about Yoshinoya.

For those of you who don’t remember, Yoshinoya was a regular location for the Top 8 Magic podcast in the early years. Back in 2006 or so BDM and I would walk about twenty blocks up from the then-Top 8 Magic offices (near the then-site of Neutral Ground), maybe end a long evening of chatting plus jackhammers and car traffic with a late-nite double dinner at the Times Square Yoshinoya. These days BDM refuses to go there (something about a cockroach the size of the palm of your hand crawling up the wall, and this one time when we got literally gas-attacked by some weirdo with — you know — a gas can). However I never held it against “the Yosh” and continue to eat there, albeit not very often; admittedly.

* Bella recently convinced Clark to have lunch at Yoshinoya by claiming it was a Super Mario Brothers-themed restaurant (it isn’t). He was disappointed at the absence of egg-eating dinosaurs and refused to eat his lunch in protest.

Yoshinoya is ostensibly a Japanese restaurant. They basically serve bowls of rice with some kind of meat (beef or chicken), soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, maybe some pickled ginger. It is also just a restaurant in New York City, which means that in addition to the Japanese staff, there are Hispanic (probably Mexican) people working the counter as well.

Remember when I said I am Filipino?

I don’t know what that means to you, but it might be interesting to think about what it means to one of the two most common kinds of Yoshinoya servers:

  • Every time I get a Japanese server, she gives me a fork.
  • Every time I get a Mexican one, she gives me chopsticks.

This has been tested to statistical significance.

That’s it.



You Make the Play – Easy Game is Easy


You probably figured out an possible solution to the conundrum presented in You Make the Play – Phantasmal Image is Hero’s Demise.

Before we continue, Easy Game may be Easy, but michaelj… err… um…

What I wanted people to see — and I was pretty sure they wouldn’t necessarily see it immediate-like — was that you could spend two of your eight mana to play a Phantasmal Image on the Batterskull, have that piece go to the graveyard, set up ye olde Morbid mechanic, and then have at it with Brimstone Volley.

Now it turns out that based on the way I set up the hypothetical that is maybe the third most efficient thing you can do. For example — and many of you beloved readers pointed this out — you can just attack with the Batterskull. If the opponent doesn’t block, he is dead to double Brimstone Volley regardless. If he does, you set up Morbid (and without actually having to spend your Phantasmal Image).

I was very fixated on the notion of using the Living Weapon on the Batterskull to set up a sexy Phantasmal Image play that I didn’t notice that I gave you all an incredibly straightforward (and probably “just better”) way of solving the problem.

Now here comes the interesting part (isn’t it interesting how interesting stuff can come up even when michaelj screws up?)…

For the sake of this “solution” I am going to ignore all the (presumably good-natured) solutions involving Dismember, Gut Shot, and other cards that we don’t actually play in the U/R deck. To be fair, I never put a list on this site, and not every reader has StarCityGames.com Premium 🙂

Resource Management 101

Line 3 (intended line)

  • Use 2/8 to play Phantasmal Image, copying Living Weapon on Batterskull; Phantasmal Image goes to the graveyard (setting up Morbid).
  • Use 3/6 to play Brimstone Volley targeting the opponent; opponent on 5.
  • Use 3/3 to play Brimstone Volley targeting the opponent; opponent on 0

Total resources used: eight mana and three cards

Line 2 (generally accepted line)

Attack with Batterskull.

  • If opponent blocks, some Spirit enables Morbid.
  • Use 3/8 to play Brimstone Volley targeting the opponent; opponent on 5.
  • Use 3/5 to play Brimstone Volley targeting the opponent; opponent on 0.

Total resources used: six mana and two cards.

  • If the opponent DOESN’T block, opponent falls to 6.
  • Use 3/8 to play Brimstone Volley targeting the opponent; opponent on 3.
  • Use 3/5 to play Brimstone Volley targeting the opponent; opponent on 0.

Total resources used: six mana and two cards.

Line 1 (the line nobody mentioned)

You can do the exact same thing as in Line 2 (with the decision on the opponent as to whether or not he should block)… But instead of “double Brimstone Volley” you can do this:

  • Use 3/8 to play Brimstone Volley targeting the opponent (for 3 or 5).
  • Use 2/5 to play Snapcaster Mage, giving Brimstone Volley flashback.
  • Use 3/3 to play Brimstone Volley targeting the opponent (for lethal).

Total resources used: eight mana and one card.

Obviously any of the three lines will — at least based on the presumed reality of this hypothetical — kill the opponent to death. Sorry about that. I will try to do better next time..

As any of the three lines will end the poor other guy, it is difficult to say which is better between the last two (though I think either of them is better than the one I intended, because we don’t throw away a Phantasmal Image, so we don’t give up that piece of information if we are going into another game, and we don’t use a third card). You really have to ask yourself whether it is better long-run to use two Brimstone Volleys or only one, but giving up the potential flexibility of a later Snapcaster Mage. I would tend to think Line 1 is the best, but, again, all three get us to the same “B” in this case.

Thanks for reading. You guys all warm my heart.


PS Speaking of warmed hearts, check out Gavin Verhey’s final article at Star City today. Gavin alludes to a dinner at US Nationals last year that was incredibly memorable for a bunch of us. So memorable that I included it as the last chapter of my upcoming book, The Official Miser’s Guide; up to, and including the question Gavin credits to me. I am 80% sure this dinner also produced the birth of Flores Rewards (which will come back at some point).


PPS – Dick

a sketch

You Make the Play – Phantasmal Image is Hero’s Demise

OF COURSE I figured out Phantasmal Image by myself.

But I hadn’t figured it out at the point that I sent in my article, which went up on Tuesday on Star City. I in fact figured out Phantasmal Image before New York States, but ultimately decided against it because “I wasn’t a Sun Titan deck” … I was thinking more on the amount of value you get from having a Phantasmal Image in your deck, rather than the fact that you can Hero’s Demise someone with it (TM Brian Kibler)… Phantasmal Image kills Thrun, the Last Troll and Geist of St. Traft dead as doorknobs.

Obviously I would have loved to have a Phantasmal Image while losing to a U/W Humans deck to miss Top 8, in a matchup where almost everything but Geist of St. Traft was dead to my innumerable Shocks!

Anyway — You Make the Play!

… something fun with Phantasmal Image.

Phantasmal Image kills Legendary Creatures, dead.

  • Opponent’s Life Total: 10
  • Opponent’s Board: Two Honor the Pure, two 1/1 Spirits from Moorland Haunt (now 3/3)… six untapped mana including two Moorland Haunts and the ability to activate them.
  • Opponent’s Hand: Nil
  • Opponent’s Graveyard: Enough.

  • Your Life Total: 26
  • Your Board: Eight lands that can produce whatever you want, Druidic Satchel, Batterskull (with Living Weapon).
  • Your Hand: Brimstone Volley, Brimstone Volley, Snapcaster Mage, Phantasmal Image.
  • Your Graveyard: All of it; you can go crazy with that Snapcaster Mage for what you wish. Funny thing about this game, you have milled, Satchel’d, and drawn your way to your last card. You have this card Phantasmal Image to kill his Geists but one never showed up.

Can you win before he does?

Comments below, etc.


P.S. Still looks like a diaper…


The Card is Druidic Satchel

Do you remember a few weeks ago when Evan Erwin said to get your Kessig Wolf Runs?

Your old buddy michaelj is going to do you twice that solid right now: Buy Druidic Satchel while it is less than a dollar. I myself bought 20 last night for about $.44 each!

You can get a Druidic Satchel on Amazon.com for as low as $.29!

This card is going to be one of THE top cards in the format for the next year or so, mark my words.

I got Druidic Satchel tech from Sean McKeown literally five minutes before New York States started, and I was super glad that I swapped my three main deck Frost Titans out for them (full deck list, report, and so on will be up on Star City tomorrow). Remember what Drew Levin asked about Frost Titan, and how much removal a Solar Flare opponent might have when we play our Titan?

When you swap for Druidic Satchel it is a non-issue.

Also, you can tap for Druidic Satchel on turn three in a lot of matchups and there is little-to-no risk. In fact, I played around in between rounds and most opponents — at least before they saw me play — just let it resolve even if they had a Mana Leak.

(not correct, BTW)

Druidic Satchel does so many things; and it does them well.

Sometimes it is a little bit Elspeth, Kight-Errant, and other times it is a little Ajani Goldmane. Much of the time it is kind of a cross between Jace Beleren and Garruk Wildspeaker… But most importantly, it is a “Planeswalker” that the opponent can’t actually attack.

The way the Thawing out land ability works, Druidic Satchel starts to pay for its own activations fairly quickly (which is awesome). It helps you against Control, and it helps you even more against Beatdown.

I tried to optimize for Druidic Satchel in my imagination over the past day or two… But I think I already had it right going U/R. Obviously you want to be playing Snapcaster Mage and Druidic Satchel (that much is obvious)… But Red not only has Brimstone Volley (another Top 10 if not Top 5 card in Standard), but is the only Control color that can legitimately / consistently mise an Ancient Grudge (you know, to win the Satchel fights).

Trust me, this is going to be important.

Some Druidic Satchel basics:

  1. Hitting a spell is great… Not only do you get two life (good in some matchups), but you know not only that you are drawing a spell (great mid-game!), but which spell it is.
  2. Hitting a land is great… Because now you are going to topdeck a spell (probably). Also you get some card advantage this way.
  3. Making a 1/1 sap is the best of all… Because you are going to mise a Snapcaster Mage in all likelihood. When I mise a little 1/1 guy, I will typically use Druidic Satchel again on my upkeep so as to make more and more 1/1 guys. These guys not only give you another way to win, but bodies to hassle or sacrifice in combat (which can help turn on Brimstone Volley).

Anyway… The “secret card” is Druidic Satchel.

On Saturday at New York States, I inquired about some at the end of the day, and they had been long sold out.

The next day at Comicon… The Troll and Toad booth didn’t have any, either.

Mark my words: The Internet may just not have caught up yet. Even if Druidic Satchel “only” goes to $1-2, since you can get them for less than a dollar now, you can make a nice ROI on the investment, if you choose to buy more than four.

[still] Coming Soon: The Now-Famous Supermodel NipSlip Incident of 1995
Coming Sooner: My Sunday at Comicon


Post Script:

As a kindergartener I recall being put in the thinking chair / corner / whatever and sitting quietly. Some boys were squirmy when put in the corner, made lots of noise, complained even worse than whatever they did to get there in the first place.

Not me — I sat quietly.

A year later, I hid from my mommy and daddy.

We “only” had two television sets, one of which was black and white. The grownups wanted to watch the Sunday afternoon football game, so I could “only” watch my television program on the little black and white set. This caused me to, you know, go apespit, and I hid under a bed, but did so with great discipline.

This is one of the clearest memories of my childhood: I had to summon up tremendous restraint in order to stay hidden, even as my mommy stressed and called the police station. Eventually I fell asleep, but my resolve eventually broke when it was supper time and my mom had made steaks for the company.

What was I thinking about when I was so quiet in the kindergarten thinking chair? My teacher assumed it was “about what I had done” but it wasn’t.

What show was it that had me so incensed that the thought of having to consume it in black and white fashion pushed me to the razor edge of six-year-old asshole-dom?

Wonder Woman.

I am pretty sure Lynda Carter was my first real celebrity crush.


I found some old photos of Lynda in her Wonder Woman getup and swiped them for some daily sketches.

Man, she was hot… for a chick who looks like she’s wearing a diaper.


Five With Flores Friday: 5.5 Burning Questions at the 11th Hour

Today we will answer five-and-a-half burning questions that burn like, you know (um, never mind):

Free Preview:

  1. Can You Send Me That Blog Post You Took Down?
  2. What Are You Playing At States and can I have the list?
  3. What is The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard and how do I get one?
  4. Strange, is that a Shock or three in your sideboard? I thought that you were ‘Doubtful that the card Shock is good enough to play as a sideboard card in 2011.”
  5. Also, how many removal spells do we think they’re holding when we cast our Frost Titan?

Let’s go!

Can You Send Me That Blog Post You Took Down?

Well… Probably not.

I already let @famouspj and @grousehaus read it; plus there were approximately DI of you who read it before I took it down.

Like I said before, pending approval from @chicgrit I might do an audio-only version and put that up. But we are watching “Horrible Bosses” tonight and I haven’t gotten around to reading the now-disappeared blog post to her.

Updates when I have them (if I have them) of course.

What Are You Playing At States and can I have the list?

I posted the list to my Star City Games column Flores Friday earlier today, you can read all about it here.

Because the column this week was basically just my deck list, I wouldn’t feel right posting it here at this point; however there are some changes I am probably going to put into place for tomorrow. Per some head-scratching (and lots of people in the forums picked up on this separately even though I had decided to do it myself previously), I am going to move around some of the removal spells.

This is what to do:

  • From the main deck, move all the Arc Trails to the sideboard.
  • From the sideboard, move one Ancient Grudge to the main deck; in addition, move all the Shocks from the sideboard into the main deck. We are not changing around any numbers… Just where the cards are.
  • Additionally, add one more, each of the M10 dual lands; remove one each of the basic lands. Thanks @G3rryT!

Wait a minute, did you just say Brimstone Volley is the second-best card in Standard?

I didn’t say that here, but I did sort of imply that in the column… Like so:

I certainly think Brimstone Volley is a Top 10 card in Standard (probably Top 5), but I would sooner see Dismember at Number Two (but maybe that’s just me).

What is The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard and how do I get one?

Enterprising superfan @hamiltonianurst put together some funny Flores-isms from my various podcast appearances. If you check out The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard you will be able to hear me say such-and-such is a bad card, my deck was awesome, other people are buffoons, or that I will play Blue.

Lots of fun.

The Unofficial Michael J. Flores Soundboard

And yes, this made its way around the office last week…

Strange, is that a Shock or three in your sideboard? I thought that you were ‘Doubtful that the card Shock is good enough to play as a sideboard card in 2011.”

Larry Swasey is bringing into the open something that I shared to him — presumably just between the two of us — in a personal Facebook communique. I am typing out this paragraph as I wipe a tear from my right eye, so wounded and betrayed to I feel by Larry bringing our brewing out into the forums like a common G/W deck idea.

Oh well, as above, I actually don’t have any Shocks in my sideboard any more. Ting!

Also, how many removal spells do we think they’re holding when we cast our Frost Titan?

Drew Levin’s question really is something to think about. I am going to be bringing my extra Burning Vengeances and Desperate Ravings to States; but I really like Frost Titan in the Primeval Titan matchups more than I dislike it, you know, elsewhere.

Wish me luck tomorrow,



The Pros and ConMen of Building Your Own Mulldrifter

So sorry for the bait-and-switch recently of mad updates followed by the lull the last couple of days (for anyone reading this, that is — which means you, if you are reading this)… Especially the short-lived / zoink! of the hilarious-but-tragic tale of How I Missed My Flight to the Star City Open (no, no don’t bother — it’s still gone).

One of my all-time favorite songs, originally recommended by Joshua Ravitz, and previously embedded on this here blog(sphere):

[He’s Gone]

Originally I wanted to post How I Missed My Flight to the Star City Open on Friday night, ideally from the airport, in order to create a furor and fever across the Internet… Only to triumphantly appear on camera on Saturday morning, next to my man Joey Pasco.

For no reason whatsoever:

Just putting it out there.

No, Evan didn’t *ahem* bite when I asked if SCG would reimburse my $50 change fee for, you know, missing the original flight that they had booked for me.

It is actually possible that I will release some audio-only version of the events, as Joey could not contain himself [so great was the hilarity] when I read it out loud, and even attempted to immortalize the above by photo-stalking YT from our hotel room as I read the tearful tale into… the iPad mic which I had my hand over.

Listening to @fivewithflores record an audio version of his n... on Twitpic
Pics or it didn’t happen. Happened.

The objections from @chicgrit (previously @craftyK) and @famousPJ got me to pull it down; the story — as written — seemed too negative (keep in mind these are nicer people than I am)… But it is possible that with different vocal inflection everything would fall into place like Dominoes. Written and spoken words can be quite different. The anger and violence that you might imagine reading my telling you to…

“Shut up.”

Can be quite different from Elaine from Seinfeld’s trademark ejaculation, even as she shoves a larger man in the chest.

We’ll see.

None of that has anything to do with today’s actual topic, though; which is the politic delta between Think Twice in Standard versus Caleb Durward’s re-adoption of vanilla Counsel of the Soratami, Divination.

U/B Control, by Caleb Durward

2 Grave Titan
8 Island
9 Swamp
1 Spellskite
1 Karn Liberated
3 Dismember
2 Victim of Night
1 Tribute to Hunger
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Liliana of the Veil
1 Doom Blade
2 Divination
4 Drowned Catacomb
1 Dissipate
2 Consecrated Sphinx
1 Go for the Throat
3 Black Sun’s Zenith
1 Solemn Simulacrum
3 Nihil Spellbomb
4 Darkslick Shores
1 Twisted Image
1 Skinrender
2 Mana Leak

SB: 2 Sorin’s Thirst
SB: 3 Azure Mage
SB: 2 Spellskite
SB: 2 Surgical Extraction
SB: 2 Flashfreeze
SB: 1 Dissipate
SB: 1 Black Sun’s Zenith
SB: 1 Negate
SB: 1 Volition Reins

Divination is a comically-low penny on Amazon.

Anywho, the default in the format is Think Twice; and for the most part, Think Twice + Forbidden Alchemy. You will sometimes even see three copies of Think Twice / four copies of Forbidden Alchemy; this can happen. Caleb Durward, with his brilliant B/U anti-creatures control deck opted to develop his board (or stunt his opponent’s board) with his first couple of mana, rather than “merely” sculpting his hand. He played neither.

Caleb is quick to make the point that you get an actual two cards for three mana with Divination, rather than two cards for five mana with Think Twice. And of course you can “build your own Mulldrifter” with Snapcaster Mage + Divination, which is great (though this Mulldrifter requires a preexisting Divination, is only 2/1, and doesn’t fly). His arguments are strong and probably fit for his deck style; perhaps most compellingly, Caleb only spent two slots on Divinations where most B/U or Solar Flare-style decks gobble up 6-8 slots on hand-sculpting Flashback card draw.

Obviously there are potential arguments for either card.

Just a couple of points to make from the Devil’s Advocate side (BTW I qualified for US Nationals the last time I played with Divination [Cougar Town], but this Saturday I intend to play with the full eight Think Twice and Forbidden Alchemy):

  1. There is no loss of mana when you are playing against another control deck. That is, you can do nothing with two mana in a Divination deck (you have no play), or you can play the front half of a Think Twice; there isn’t much difference. At the point you pay the back half of the Think Twice or you tap out for Divination on your third turn (which you probably wouldn’t do in a world of Liliana of the Veil), you haven’t actually been forced to back up the three-versus-five difference on the two spells.
  2. This is a not-irrelevant point, and one of the things that has always made Think Twice so compelling for me, personally: It is a legitimate Xerox cantrip. Think Twice is a one- or two- (in this case two mana) mana cantrip that can help you hit your land drops. Whatever other virtues Divination has as a self-contained spell, it lacks this one. There are lots of reasonable two-land hands you can keep with removal spells and a Think Twice, etc. Divination doesn’t always get you there.

So… All mad respect to Caleb for producing another out-of-the-box implementation of available cards (and of course a happy high five for Top 8 on Saturday).

Further thoughts on Think Twice and Divination? Comment below (if you dare).



Color Theory (and bad girls), Guest Starring Clark Flores

Most of you know I have an awesome daughter, Bella Flores. She guest stars in videos sometimes, and famously asked Steve Sadin if he was actually interested in winning at PT Paris when she found out he played with Vector Asp instead of “Big Jace, Little Jace, Baneslayer Angel, and some Swords.”

However I have another awesome kid, Clark Flores!

“Ha, ha.” Sometimes people ask us if we named Clark after Superman. It’s not actually that funny — because we did!

Clark (age four) colored this:

I absolutely adore how he colored this xylophone. It is so reserved; it looks like an indie rock band CD cover.

Clark and I were spitballing last week and we went back to, you know, coloring. He decided to color a princess as a “bad girl” … to this result:

“That’s about as bad as you can color a princess,” mused Clark.

I decided to one-up him.


“Oh,” he concluded. “That is White Queen.”

Firestarter: Whose princess is badder?


P.S. More screwing around with colors / superhero bad girl Natalia “Natasha” Alianovna Romanova

The Black Widow