Let’s be honest. My favorite part of Magic the Gathering is taking an idea, whether it be mainstream or completely original, and finding ways to explore and even redefine it. Creativity and Innovation are the defining attributes that I treasure in deckbuilding. When I meet people that have similar aspirations, there seems to be an instant *click or instant sense of camaraderie. With Morten (you may know him from the Skred builds) and Edward (Tutor’s Library) this bond quickly established through musing over deck ideas and brainstorming solutions.
Deckbuilders seem to get each other. To us, there isn’t a “wrong” way to go about exploring an idea. Even ideas that completely fail, ended up as a great experience to exercise our creative muscle, learn from what didn’t exactly work, and even find hidden gems that otherwise would have remained hidden. Some of my greatest accomplishments as a Deckbuilder have come from deck ideas that ended up as complete disasters. My Immortal Servitude decks were one such idea. If you look back at the history of how the decks started, the original idea was a miserable failure. However, it did lead to an idea, that lead to an idea, that lead to another idea and so forth, eventually even being spotlighted by LSV on the Magic the Gathering website itself.
I started “The Rogue Deckbuilder” youtube channel as a way to try and find other like-minded folks who understood this. Unfortunately up to this point, my Magic the Gathering experience had consisted mainly of being shouted at by the more “Spike” demographic for not playing more traditional decks. This seem to happen at every level of play, even Game Days and FNMs and to an even greater extent, the 2 and 8 man Queues on MTGO.
The catalyst story behind what pushed me to creating a Youtube channel to try and harbor a like-minded community of brewers, free from the Spike harassment, was playing at GP Salt Lake City in 2012. I was in round number three of a Grinder, playing a Green White ramp deck that tried to cheat out an early Hero of Bladehold with a opening hand revealing Chancellor of the Tangle – allowing me to cast two mana dorks on turn 1. I admit, the strategy was very greedy, but sometimes greed IS good!
Lady Luck was definitely rolling on my side all day long, as in this particular matchup, I was able to reveal the Chancellor both games, effectively slamming a Hero of Bladehold on turn 2 which survived his futile attempts to slagstorm my board. The match quickly ended with my opponent in complete disgust, announcing to the world something to the effect of “Why did you come with a deck that can’t win a Grinder. You just wasted me $25 on that pile of crap. Have fun losing your next round.” He then slammed in his chair and stormed off, letting everyone in the room know about the “injustice” that just happened to him.
Well, the deck didn’t lose the next round. In fact, I went on to win the entire six round grinder. The next day, in my first ever Grand Prix experience, I was able to finish a respectable 6-3 finish, barely missing out a chance at day two. Although I did end up dropping the chancellors the next day at the Star City Open, I was able to “cash” my first ever tournament, placing 12th in a field of over 300 participants.
A very common mentality in the competitive scene of MTG is that there is ONE way to choose a deck, the “best” way. If you read the description of a “Spike” over at reddit/r/spikes you will find that, “Spike is the competitive player. Spike plays to win. Spike enjoys winning. To accomplish this, Spike will play whatever the best deck is. Spike will copy decks off the Internet. Spike will borrow other players’ decks.”
One of the explicit rules of the community at /r/spikes is that if you submit a “rogue deck” it better be, “prepared with sufficient rationale as to why your deck is competitive”. This pretty much sums it up. Spikes want a deck that has already proven itself, already top 8 or won a major tournament, and is currently crushing the meta! This leaves very little room for brewers who learn by creating bad decks and moving forward. Basically, the spike community has no place for a Rogue Deckbuilder.
This brings me to a person I was delighted to meet at Grand Prix Las Vegas. It was Thursday, the first day of the Grand Prix side events and grinders. Basically, a “grinder” is a way for a player who does not have two byes from planeswalker points, to earn them through winning a GP Grinder. Not having even one bye myself, I decided I better win a grinder so I could start off the Grand Prix not having to play the first two rounds. In a nine round tournament, this plays a huge advantage starting off 2-0 and able to sleep in.
I met Adrian (https://www.youtube.com/user/gwarzalezmagic) in one of these grinders.
To say that Thursday was nothing short of pure chaos would be an accurate description. Judges were, I kid you not, reporting and keeping track of grinders with pen and paper! The disorganization led for some really long waits in between rounds. During the sheer boredom of such, all of the players in our grinder began to chit-chat, in which Adrian introduced himself to me and let me know he too ran a youtube channel. When I asked him what his content was about, he explained that he plays Affinity in every format possible, from Pauper to Legacy, to Modern and Standard. If he could play Affinity, he would get it to work.
I was more than a bit amused by this and he went on to explain that he tries every imaginable strategy in these formats, and was currently working on a Tempered Steel list. I guess a few of our peers overheard our conversation which led to a huge debate about the current “acceptable” form of Affinity in modern. Whether it be Steel Overseer, Ensoul Artifact, Etched Champion or Master of Etherium, the Spikes were busily debating the merits of each card and arguing which version was the best.
When the topic of if Tempered Steel was brought up, the spikes quickly dismissed it, saying things such as “it will never work” or “it is too slow” or “it dies to abrupt decay” etc etc etc. They even used buzz phrases like “the card sucks” and “tempered steel decks are terrible“. Ahhhh the joys of Spikes in action! The frenzy had started and it was clear — Tempered Steel was NOT an acceptable option.
Without missing a beat, Adrian leaned in and whispered to me, “I am playing tempered steel, and it is awesome.” At this point, I knew Adrian was a stand up dude, someone that I would get along great with! He was unfazed by the spike disapproval. He didn’t need their validation, because he KNEW it worked!
It is with this that I am proud to present a person that I feel will be a great addition to the community! Please give a warm welcome to Gwarzalez Magic!
I hope all of you will check out his channel and help him feel welcomed into our great community!
The Rogue Deckbuilder