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Sadomasochism: Or why judges shouldn't play magic

by Jeremy McDonough
09.03.2008

My name is Jeremy. I'm a judge, and quite often the bane of other people's existence. This isn't because of rulings, but moreso because I have this nasty tendency to occasionally play- which causes problems. After seeing Mike make the mistake of asking for more content (which after this article, he may not repeat again *maniacal laughing here*) I decided to submit something.

It's a well known fact that judges for the most part are not very good at actually playing magic. To go along with this we have the problem of being a bit... different when creating decks. Judges don't take the actual act of them playing magic seriously, and instead try and do things that cause interesting rules concepts to come up, or flat out just do weird things with decks. Normally this would be ok with most people, but there's that occasional inability to explain why a certain card might be chosen, or one week I might have a silly deck when the next week I show up with something so odd it actually works.

An example of this is the month of August. I played in FNM a few times this August- 2 of which were constructed. The first time I was not taking things seriously at all, and showed up with a R/G warpworld deck that was just... bizarre but hilarious when it works. The list looked like this:

4 Farhaven Elf
1 Deadwood Treefolk
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Wort, the Raid Mother
4 Siege-Gang Commander
4 Wall of Roots
4 Nucklavee
2 Bogardan Hellkite

2 Coalition Relic
4 Prismatic Lens

4 Warp World
2 Harmonize

8 Forest
8 Mountain
1 Kher Keep
1 Urza's Factory
4 Terramorphic Expanse
2 Fungal Reaches

As you can see, while this deck may have good cards in it, it is definitely not something most would play competitively (not to say that it couldn't be, just saying that it is untuned). I accomplished a massive 1-2 record, and my win was because the poor guy had to leave on personal business (so really, I don't count it as a win, but the DCI does).

But aside from the nonsense of random warpworld decks, occasionally my convoluted mind (as happens with judges when they play) spits out something that actually turns out well. I call this deck Sadism.

Sadism (Mono White Control with Transformational Board):

3 Runed Halo
3 Story Circle
4 Oversoul of Dusk
4 Voice of All
4 Kitchen Finks
3 Loxodon Warhammer
4 Unmake
4 Condemn
4 Wrath of God
4 Oblivion Ring
2 Mistveil Plains
2 Urza's Factory
19 Plains

SB:
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
4 Paladin En-Vec
4 Soltari Priest
3 Seht's Tiger (These have since been replaced by 3 Wispmare)

This is the deck that Bud mentioned in his article that reported about this last FNM. The premise is pretty straight forward- I really don't want you to play cards, and the cards that you DO play really need to not be relevant. As many people heard me say, Voice of All did NOT need to be reprinted. It's not that it's overly good, it's that she hits the board and WRECKS people left and right. Mike had to use his SB cards meant to wipe out entire boards to take out a single voice of all. She's nuts, and in combination with Story Circle she tends to cause problems- more so when she picks up elephant hammers.

Here's how my matches went at FNM:

Round 1: Winston (Idontknowyourlastname) with G/W Elves Winston is new in relative terms to the crowd who shows up at the shop. He's getting better every week and I fully expect him to really put up results some day... When he sticks to one deck and tunes it. He was really knocking my crap around hard until I resolved Story Circle for green both games, then voices of all came down and made the day end for poor Winston. 2-0 me.

Round 2: Bud with R/B Goblins (Mono-Blue Snidds) Bud led off with um, beats. Lots of beats. While I could attempt to throw up some semblance of defense, he just rolled me like a guy wrapping his own cigarettes. But I came prepared- I figured aggro would give me fits (especially that with red), so I brought in 4 Knight of Meadowgrain, 4 Soltari Priest, and 4 Paladin En-Vec. Game 2 was fairly ridiculous with several pro-red guys causing Bud problems. Game 3 was really close as we kept blowing up each others dudes. Eventually factory game online and a few topdecks later the game was over (but just barely). 2-1 me.

Round 3: Jesse Rhodes with B/W Eventide Special Jesse bought a box of Eventide or some such, and then made a ridiculous b/w aggro deck that mainly uses the synergies to cause problems. I don't even board this matchup because everything in the maindeck seems to be enough to handle his guys- even if they do put me on the ropes several times. A few very large Oversoul of Dusk with elephant hammers ruin his day though. 2-0 me.

Round 4: Billy Jean... errrrm Will Ryan with Mono-White Aggro Will lays down a plains, and I immediately start thinking "oh god, this is going to suck- 2 mwc decks...". But thankfully for the sanity of all present it was just mono-white aggro vs mono-white control. Story Circles come down in all 3 games naming white, and Voices of All shouted from the heavens, but if it wasn't for the massive removal suite I was packing, Will would have easily made this 3 game match into a 2 game sweep as he would have swept me aside. Needless to say, his self-pumping enchantment was ridiculous, and I'm glad that his guys did not stick to the table. Sadly however, this last loss put Will out of top 4 contention. 2-1 me.

So I'm undefeated after swiss, but this surely can't last.

Or can it? Out of the 4 decks in top 4, 2 of them deal most of their damage through red sources, surely I'll get one of those right?

Wrong, I Mike ninjas into top 4 with mono-black and him and I sit down for the most painful match of the night.

Semifinals: Mike Bishop with Mono-Black Aggro! (I'm sure he has a far cooler name for this deck) Mike lays a swamp, from then on everything comes down naming black. I get off an early voice of all with some backup, and we quickly go to game 2. Game 2 Mike shows me the dark side, and shows me what a beating really is. Game 3 is full of controversy as it alone takes like, an hour or more of just slogging. His deck is made to rush out, but he has late game as well. My deck is made for board control. Needless to say we get nowhere fast and he even kills 3 pro-black voice of all. After forever, it gets to the point where I'm making tokens, and he's starting to bring guys back, but I have answers to his stuff, where he has blockers for me. In eventuality it really could have gone either way, but I think with my Mistveil plains and remaining removal I could make a strong case for me taking it.

By this point it's almost 11pm, and I am very tired. My opponent is of course playing a red deck, but offers the split which I take him up on- fighting over 2 packs is rather pointless and even with the split I'll be in "official" first place since I was undefeated in swiss.

I'd like to give props to everyone who participated in this event- even those of you who were just filled with hate against my deck because of what it did and some of the card choices. The reason I call the deck Sadism is because really it sits there and puts the opponent in misery- as they have to figure out how to wade through all of the obstacles I put in front of them, while at the same time I derive entertainment from this suffering.

Sure, I could have played something like bad faeries or warp world or some other deck, but that's the masochist part of being a judge playing magic- you simply don't want to play some preestablished thing, you want to make things that bend the rules and often bring derision upon yourself- knowing that you'll get joy out of it win or lose.

Will people purposely bring hate for my deck? Possibly, but that is part of the difficulty of winning. If they do, I think it rather sad really- not because I don't think my deck is competitive, but because white is in such a minority around here deck-wise that I think it would be a ginormous waste of time to sideboard against a single person. Anyone who copies the deck and brings up a mirror match of it however should immediately concede to me, as they are being a dick and that match will take forever +2.

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