Friday, November 30, 2012

Et tu, Planeswalker?

We've got a new giveaway posted on Steamgifts, and this one should be right up your alley. This time around, you can win Deck Pack 2 for Magic 2012.

Good luck, and don't forget to join us tonight at 9:00 PM EST for playing Magic Online and carrying on!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


At this time of year, it's important to give thanks for the things we have. But it's also important to give thanks for the things we don't have yet, but might win if we're lucky. Go check out our giveaway on if you haven't already. We're offering a free copy of Ghost Master to anybody who wishes to join the giveaway!

Since probably a lot of you haven't heard of Ghost Master, I'll be streaming it either late tonight or early tomorrow (Thanksgiving), so you can get a look at it, and so James gets off my back about streaming more often.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Return to Ravnica Draft Toss-Up: Corpsejack Menace vs. Wayfaring Temple

It took me a while, but I found two rare cards that are similar enough in both draft position and function that they qualify as a "toss-up" topic. Are you guys jacked? Hope we fare well.

God, that was awful.  vs.

First, I wanted to point out how they're similar, and how I justified comparing them. Draft position was the easiest: Bestiaire has them back-to-back at #32 and #33 overall, with Corpsejack holding the slight edge. They're both creatures, they're both multicolored, and most importantly, they both offer a bonus to particular deck archetypes.

Wayfaring Temple fits squarely into a Selesnya deck. Selesnya lives on amassing an army of creatures, and Temple helps with both creating creatures and benefiting from them. Corpsejack meanwhile is a pure fit into a Golgari guild because of his mana, but also gives a bump to the Rakdos keyword of Unleash, adding a second +1/+1 counter on unleashed creatures.

Corpsejack's bonus is easier to proc. There are dozens of easy ways to stack counters on your creatures, from Dead Reveler to Slitherhead to Sewer Shambler. And if you're splashing some white, Common Bond turns into a titan of a card. By the same token, though, the immense value of Corpsejack's passive ability makes it risky to swing or block with him. That means a 4/4 creature is going to be sitting on the sidelines for part of the time. Rough deal.

Populate is a stronger mechanic than dropping an extra +1/+1 counter, but the method for getting it to hit is considerably more difficult. Obviously if the opponent has no blockers, that would help, but that's not a likely scenario for a 2-color 3-drop. So you're stuck with a couple situations. First, that you can make your guy bigger than your opponent's creatures, and that he'd rather keep his guys and let you populate rather than block your guy (not super common).

The other option would be to use other cards to create ways to get damage in. Detain helps, so you'd definitely want Azorius Arrester and Azorius Justiciar in your draft. You can also use trample to get in, using Selesnya Charm or Chorus of Might. But truthfully, you can't really count on those cards coming through. So, more likely, you're looking at Wayfaring Temple as just being a */* creature who can use some of those populate cards as combat tricks (like Eyes in the Skies turns into a +2/+2 instant bump). Definitely has value, but the secondary function of populating on combat damage isn't likely to come into play very often.

In the end, I'm taking Corpsejack. While Wayfaring Temple creates some interesting possibilities, it seems like the kind of card that seems really good, but comes up short when you're playing against an actual person with his own plans and cards and removal. Corpsejack helps a lot of cards get better, and as a 4-drop, it's not the kind of card you'll find yourself waiting forever to play. I can see Wayfaring Temple being a great treat for a deck already firmly in Selesnya, but I can't see moving into Selesnya for it. Corpsejack, I could see moving into Golgari for.

Joe's pick: Corpsejack Menace

Friday, November 16, 2012

Return to Ravnica Draft Toss-Up: Vassal Soul vs. Sunspire Griffin

Enough tooling around with the middling cards of Return to Ravnica. Let's dance with a couple of the most highly draft cards in the set.  vs.

As usual, start out with the samesies (ratings from

Vassal Soul is rated #110 overall (#8 among commons); Sunspire Griffin is almost right behind it at #115 (#13 among commons). They're both 2-power, three-drop flyers, with creature types that, in draft, don't matter.

Vassal Soul comes in at a mana cost that is functionally a little bit lower, because those hybrid mana fit into a few more decks, and fit perfectly into an Azorius deck. But it also has the flexibility to fit decently well into Izzet- or Selesnya-heavy decks, especially if you find you can reasonably splash white or blue (respectively). Sunspire, meanwhile, really can't slide into as many decks, and in a draft scenario (where you're always going to play more than one color), double-white is a pretty tall order; you'll just as often find yourself able to play it on turn three as turn seven, or later.

The other advantage Vassal Soul has is with regards to removal. Obviously both cards are susceptible to Annihilating Fire or Launch Party. However, Sunspire Griffin can be eliminated by Ultimate Price (though that's probably an unwise use of such a strong kill spell). Additionally, Sunspire Griffin survives Stab Wound (our pick for the best removal spell in RtR). This means that when stabbed, you have an 0/1 flyer who deals 2 damage to you every turn. It's completely negated outside of chump-blocking, and it becomes a considerable liability if you can't get rid of it.

If we were talking about the two cards in general, I might lean towards Sunspire Griffin with its extra toughness. But in a Return to Ravnica draft format, I think Vassal Soul's flexibility and its ability to be slightly less of a liability with RtR removal puts it a tick above Griffin in this set.

Joe's pick: Vassal Soul

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Joe Mandi's 2012 MLB Award Winners

AL Rookie of the Year - Mike Trout, OF, LA Angels

Pretty much a no brainer here, since Trout was arguably the most dominant and disruptive player in baseball.  To understand how much better he was check this out.  Trout: 18 HR, 23 SB, 72 R, 43 RBI Yoenis Cespades: 23 HR, 16 SB, 70 R, 82 RBI.  Sure those numbers favor Cespades, but the kicker is that those are Cespades full 2012 numbers against what Trout put up post All Star break...yeah, dominant.

NL Rookie of the Year - Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

Wade Miley put together a nice season in Arizona, but ultimately I'm going with the everyday guy on a playoff team.  It also helps when that guy hits 22 bombs, steals 18 and scores 98 runs.

AL Manager of the Year - Terry Francona

Sure Francona didn't manage in 2012, but Boston finished with 21 fewer wins in 2012 under the not so capable direction of Bobby Valentine than they did with Francona in 2011.  I'm also hoping Francona will use some of the good mojo of being the Joe Mandi 2012 AL Manager of the Year as he leads the Indians in 2013, can't hurt.

NL Manager of the Year - Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals

His team won the most games in baseball, not too shabby.

AL Cy Young - Justin Verlander, SP, Detroit Tigers 

Verlander and David Price put up very similar numbers, Price had more wins (for whatever that's worth...which is apparently a lot to baseball writers) and a better ERA, while Verlander had more Ks, a better WHIP and a better opponents batting average.  I give the nod to Verlander due to his impressive September (5-1, 1.93 ERA) to lead his team to the playoffs.

NL Cy Young - Clayton Kershaw, SP, LA Dodgers

Another tough choice between Kershaw and R.A. Dickey, but Kershaw had a better ERA, WHIP and opponent's batting average.  Also, Dickey gets by with a gimmick knuckleball, his award is that he gets to make a living throwing 65 miles per hour.

AL Most Valuable Player - Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

If Mike Trout starts the season in The Show he's probably the AL MVP.  Seriously, Trout might have scored 150 runs...which would have been nearly 40% better than the next best player in the AL (Cabrera at 109) and put him in the company of only 11 players since 1900, pretty impressive since he also added 30 homers and 49 RBI in his abbreviated season.  But the Angels kept Trout in AAA for nearly a month and Miguel Cabrera was pretty darn impressive in his own know, like Triple Crown impressive.  Cabrera hit for average, he hit for power, he hit when runners were in scoring position and he hit his team into the playoffs, if that's not an MVP then I don't know what is.

NL Most Valuable Player - Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
 Braun just had the best numbers in the NL.  He had more runs, RBI and HRs than Andrew McCutchen and Buster Posey, while slightly trailing those two in batting average.  Posey, as a catcher, will garner some attention, but there isn't one GM in MLB that would take Posey and an average OF over Braun and an average catcher.  Braun was just that far ahead of everyone else in the NL this year.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Return to Ravnica Draft Toss-Up: Towering Indrik vs. Trestle Troll

After dabbling in comparing a couple of unexciting cards, let's bring it back to cards that make their ways into a lot of decks. And deservedly so; they're good cards.  vs.

Towering Indrik rates 160th overall, and Trestle Troll is just behind it at 166th. They rate 45th and 50th among commons, respectively. Obviously Towering Indrik is just a clone of Giant Spider, which I think tricks some people into thinking it's not very good. Trestle Troll is new, and noticeably different, so it intrigues drafters. But which one is actually better?

First, let's say what's not different. They're both 4-toughness creatures with reach. They're essentially the same mana cost, with Trestle Troll rolling a little bit cheaper because mana-fixing is pretty prominent in RtR (Guildgates, Keyrunes, Axebane, etc).

Now, how are they different? Well, Indrik has that extra point of power, which kills Runewing, Vassal Soul, and an unleashed Chainwalker. It also kills any Guildmage that attacks, which reduces them to basically artifacts. And those are all cards you're going to see in opposing decks in drafts.

Trestle Troll has a different appeal. It's more suited to sitting around taking beats. The regeneration option is fairly reasonably priced, which means he can block over and over again if you need him to. He's well-suited to green decks (Golgari and Selesnya) where you need some time for your plans to come together.

There's one more feature of Trestle Troll that complicates matters slightly: Defender. In most sets, this would be a flat negative, as Indrik can serve a more versatile purpose if the board allows; the Troll has to stay back. But, in Return to Ravnica, there are two common cards that specifically benefit from having a large number of defenders, most importantly the aforementioned Axebane Guardian. Trestle Troll helps you speed up your ramping as well as providing a sturdy blocker to hold off your opponent while you work towards that eleven-drop Worldspine Wurm.

This decision is razor thin. As with some other potential discussions, a lot of it is going to come down to the rest of your deck. But in a vacuum, I think that extra power and the ability to attack is better than the regeneration. The possibility of the card working with other cards isn't enough to overtake Indrik.

Joe's Pick: Towering Indrik

Joe Mattingly's 2012 MLB Award Winners

So, it's been a little while, but I'm back to give you another piece of my mind...the piece that talks about MLB award winners. Mind you, these aren't the people who I think will win the awards; these are the people whom I believe should win the awards.

The finalists for each award were announced Wednesday.

AL Rookie of the Year - Mike Trout, OF, California Angels
(yeah, I'm still doing that)

There's really no contest here. Cespedes and Darvish had nice rookie seasons, but Trout was far and away the best rookie. The fact that he's a finalist for the AL MVP speaks to that. You don't need me to explain it...but I will, down in the AL MVP discussion.

NL Rookie of the Year - Wade Miley, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks

I'm going against my hometown flavor, electing the former first round pick for the D-Backs over phenom Bryce Harper. My reasoning is fairly simple; I believe Miley's statistics were less replaceable than Harper's. Miley picked up 16 wins for a .500 team, maintained an ERA under 3.50 and a WHIP under 1.20. To me, that makes him more impressive than Harper, with his .270-22-59 in 139 games. Harper will almost certainly be the better long-term player, but as far as 2012, Miley's my guy.

AL Manager of the Year - Buck Showalter, Baltimore Orioles

I'm sure my two Manager of the Year picks are skewed by local media, but I don't care. These are my picks.

Showalter's work started at the end of last season, going 15-13 in September, but nobody expected what happened in 2012. The Orioles were competitive all year, staying in the hunt for the AL East right up until a pitiful showing by the Red Sox against the Yankees to end the season. They beat the defending AL champion Texas Rangers in the AL's first ever Wild Card game, and pushed the Yankees to five games before bowing out in the AL Division Series.

Bob Melvin had a great year for the Oakland A's, but honestly, the "magic" of the Athletics is sort of played out. It's been a long time since there's been Orioles Magic.

NL Manager of the Year - Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals.

In his first full season as Nationals manager, Johnson led a perennially disappointing Nationals team to the best record in baseball in 2012. He managed young players and veterans, and got his team into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the National League. The team was eventually undone by curiously ineffective pitching performances, but I don't blame Johnson for that at all. Guys are just going to have a bad night sometimes, and the Cardinals gave a lot of pitchers bad nights.

In the real voting, I think the one thing that will count against Johnson is how Stephen Strasburg was managed, whether Johnson was the driving force behind that decision or not (we don't really know, but probably not). For me, that was a long-term management decision, and really, Strasburg was pitching pretty poorly there at the end anyways. Johnson made a Washington team the best regular season team in the league this year, and whenever that's happened in the past five years (Bruce Boudreau), that guy's won coach of the year.

AL Cy Young - David Price, SP, Tampa Bay Rays

This was a tough one. If I were picking a pitcher to pitch one game for me, it'd probably be Justin Verlander, but that's not what this award is. The Cy Young award is to give credit to the pitcher who had the most impressive season this year, and I think David Price just barely edges Justin Verlander in that regard.

Price beat out Verlander in wins (20 versus 17), and ERA (2.56 to 2.64). Verlander held the edge in WHIP (1.06 to 1.10) and strikeouts (239 to 205). At a basic level, a pitcher's job is to win games and to prevent the other team from scoring runs, not to prevent baserunners and strike people out. So Price has the advantage in what I believe are "better" categories. And to tip the scales, Price pitched in a considerably tougher division than the AL Central. Verlander squared off against three 90 loss teams.

Jered Weaver had a great season, but he's third.

NL Cy Young - R.A. Dickey, SP, New York Mets

Dickey gets my vote mostly because I was sure there was no way he would earn it. He started out hot, but I expected him to fade quickly. He had his insane back-to-back one-hitters, and I expected him to fall off after that. When he posted an ERA of 5.13 in July, I figured he was turning back into a pumpkin...

...then he posted back-to-back sub-3.00 ERA months, and finished the season leading the NL in IPs and Ks, and winding up second in wins and ERA. Gio Gonzalez led his team to the playoffs, and Kershaw is unquestionably the guy I'd want to have on my team out of these three, but Dickey's season was the only one worthy of this year's NL Cy Young Award. He was literally unbelievably good.

AL Most Valuable Player - Miguel Cabrera, 3B, Detroit Tigers

I hemmed and hawed over this decision, not sure if I was being swayed by the whole mystique of the Triple Crown. So what I did was I put Cabrera's numbers next to Trout's and Hamilton's and Beltre's and evaluated them. And it's Cabrera.

Cabrera led the league in a lot of stuff. He finished fourth in on-base percentage, and second in runs (to Trout), but he led the AL in batting average, home runs, RBI, and slugging percentage. He also led the majors in Switches By Star Players to 3B Without Whining Like Hanley Ramirez...not an official category, but I think it's noteworthy that he was perfectly willing to move across the diamond to make room for Prince Fielder, for the better of his team.

Probably the thing that turned me around, though, was something Jim Leyland said about Cabrera on PTI. I'm paraphrasing here, but it was something like this:
I know people are always talking about how you need help to get all those RBI. But listen, if you watch postgame press conferences around the league from losing teams, the thing you'll hear across the board is, "We got some guys on base, but we couldn't drive 'em in." Driving in runs is how you win games.
Well said, sir.

NL Most Valuable Player - Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers

This pisses me the hell off. Matt Kemp was far and away the best player on the planet in 2011, but Ryan Braun got the MVP award. The only explanation that holds any water for that was that the Brewers made the playoffs; la dee frickin' da. We're fine giving a Cy Young award to Felix Hernandez, a 13-win pitcher on a 61-win team, but the MVP has some other connotation? Ridiculous. And then there was the whole performance-enhancing substance deal this past offseason, but because they couldn't do anything with the 2011 award, this year's award is going to go to Yadier Molina or Buster Posey, because the baseball writers are a curmudgeonly group.

Ugh. Anyways, Braun is incredible, and deserves the award this year. He was far and away the best hitter statistically, posting amazing numbers across the board, and in general making people upset that he won last year's MVP. He deserves it this year; just wish we could go back and fix 2011.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Return to Ravnica Draft Toss-Up: Pyroconvergence vs. Sphere of Safety

Last time, we addressed a couple of well-appreciated common Rakdos creatures. This time around, we're going to look at a couple of less lauded cards. Like, a lot less lauded. As in, people mostly hate these cards. Once again, I'm using to judge the various cards' appeal to the general drafting public.  vs.

That's right, this is the battle of the underwhelming 5-drop enchantments.

Pyroconvergence comes in at #69 among uncommons in Return to Ravnica, while Sphere of Safety rates as the 63rd uncommon in the set (out of 80). So, neither one is getting anybody hot and bothered. And really, that's appropriate. Neither of these cards is the kind of card that fits well into a drafted deck. I could see them helping in certain constructed decks, but that's not what we do. So which card is stronger in a draft scenario?

For me, the way to judge these cards is to look at what their effect would be at the point in which they'd be on the battlefield. Most likely, you wouldn't see either card before turn 4 even if they're in your opening hand. And since they're expensive cards, you'd probably be weighing them against other, strong cards that might be more effective. So, in general, I think you'd expect to play these cards on turn 5, with probably 3-4 cards in hand.

With Pyroconvergence, at that point you've got at most two multicolored spells in hand. If you had Rakdos Shred-Freak or Frostburn Weird, you've already played them. You're more likely to be sitting on Explosive Impact or Street Spasm. Pyroconvergence could potentially be useful if you're a strongly Izzet deck with lots of tricks and higher cost spells, but that kind of deck can get you in trouble.

Now let's look at Sphere of Safety. If you drop it in turn 5, you may have already had a chance to put down an enchantment or two. Security Blockade and Arrest are two particularly useful enchantments that help make Sphere of Safety much more useful, (in addition to themselves being vastly superior to either of these enchantments). Additionally, most draft decks you play against put their enchantment removal in their sideboard. So at least in most game 1s, once the Sphere is out there, it's out there.

Between Axebane Guardian and the various keyrunes, there's enough mana-fixing and mana-ramping that Sphere of Safety loses its mustard, particularly as the game progresses and mana becomes easier to find. But if you find yourself in a Selesnya deck without many ways to get to the late game, where you own, Sphere of Safety becomes a fairly useful card.

In the end, neither of these cards are cards you really want to play. They rely so heavily on the makeup of the rest of your deck that there are precious few circumstances when you'll want to employ them. But in a vacuum, assuming all things equal, give me the one that I can actually see working to my advantage.

Joe's Pick: Sphere of Safety

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Return to Ravnica Draft Toss-Up: Gore-House Chainwalker vs. Rakdos Shred-Freak

Here's a new feature for you guys. I'm going to name a couple cards that have some similarity in a set, and declare which card I think is better and why. Presumably, I'll have input from the other bros in the comments section; all of you are welcome to chime in as well.

Here we go.  vs.

So here are a couple of cards that are rated back-to-back at, a favorite low-tech draft simulator site of mine. Gore-House Chainwalker is the 15th overall common, and Rakdos Shred-Freak is 16th overall. Both cards are 2/1 creatures, and both have a converted mana cost of 2. And, really, they're both cards that fit into the same mentality: aggressive, Rakdos decks. So is there really that big a difference between them?


First, let's dispense with the differences in mana cost. Two hybrid black/red manas is roughly the same as the 1R cost as far as mana availability. They're both very red cards and belong in red decks, so you're most likely going to have the mana you need for either of them. So neither one is noticeably more or less of a mana problem than the other.

So, this really comes down to a battle between Haste and Unleash, two keywords that again fit into aggressive decks. But Unleash is miles more useful here. The way I like to think of it is this: either way, you're creating what amounts to a repeatable burn spell. You're going to attack most turns with these two guys. Either your opponent will decline to block and you'll get in for beats, or they'll block and try to defray the damage, or destroy your creature, or both.

So, you can either have a 3/2 creature bashing away, dealing 3 damage to the face, or challenging a defending player to trade his centaur token, or his Guildmage, or his Vassal Soul. Or, you have a 2/1 that gets to attack a round earlier, but can be disposed of by all of those 3/3 centaur tokens without a second thought, or blocked without repercussion by Axebane Guardian, Concordia Pegasus, or a leashed Dead Reveler.

In most red decks, and in Rakdos decks in particular, the goal is to put pressure on your opponent early and often. I feel like nine times out of ten, you put a lot more pressure on your opponent with a 3/2 attacker than with a 2/1 hasty guy.

Joe's pick: Gore-House Chainwalker

2023 In Review - Movies

Along with TV shows, this year was a pretty good year for me with movies. I have a lifetime of all-time classics that I've never seen, a...