My favorite Magic: the Gathering author goes by the name of Jarred Bright. He writes a lot for Brainburst’s website, covering all kinds of decks that he’s designed. I have never once played any of the decks he recommended. Why is he my favorite author? He is absolutely hilarious. Over the course of one month, Bright released a dozen or so articles about what he considered to be the best decks in Odyssey Block Constructed, where he claimed that he personally playtested each and every one of the designs. The problem is that the number of hours he cited as playtesting time over the course of a single month added up to over 1000 hours of actual playtesting time. Given that, during this time period, that figure equates to double the number hours that a normal person is awake, how logical is his figure? I suppose that he could have insomnia and stay up all night long playtesting his decks and doing nothing else whatsoever, but somehow, that just doesn’t seem right.
People love Jarred Bright despite the fact that he clearly has no estimate of time, and I’ve seen dozens of deluded players playing his (mostly awful) deck ideas time and time again. He once admitted in one of his articles that he had just top 8ed in his first PTQ a month before his article was posted. Why take advice from people who have never done well in a major tournament?
These authors are all over the net. Exaggerated experiences written up by players who don’t win tournaments is not the kind of advice on how to play the game. That said, someone who may not ever have written an article before may have the next new idea which breaks the format (it’s unlikely, but certainly possible). What do you do? I suggest a simple test of the validity of the article. You want to check for a number of things:
1. Exaggerations: If a deck is good, why need to exaggerate your experience with playing it, or exaggerate it’s matchups. Any deck that has better than 80% against more than one matchup in an environment is a little out-of-touch with reality.
2. High mana costs: Decks which play lots of cards with high mana costs are probably not optimal. I watched authors like Jarred Bright extol the glories of a three card combo which lets you draw one extra card per turn for 5 mana. Sure, each of the cards was okay on it’s own, but running those cards together makes no sense unless you’re not playing against decks which actively do anything! This made it clear that he never actually playtested his deck, because in almost any situation, the mana he was using for his little combo would have gone to better use elsewhere.
3. Bad Sideboards – Often, you’ll see people who will write articles about their decks and include the most generic color-hosing sideboard they could have possibly come up with. Look through their decklist, and try to find out which cards you’d be taking out and putting in against a particular matchup. Typically, the good articles will balance, while the bad articles will show that you’ll want to take out five cards against a matchup while wanting to put in nine or ten cards. This means that they didn’t spend any time playing against that matchup, and therefore didn’t test enough.
4. Estimated matchup percentages – I see a number of people who seem to think that they can estimate their matchup percentage without ever playing a game against a certain deck. I see lots of people who thought that you could throw together a bunch of color hosers and that by doing so, you’d have auto wins against popular decks. That rarely works, so beware of authors who love color hosers and like to assume that they will win.
5.Legitimacy of the Author – Many authors will brag about their 1700 rating like it’s something special. Sure it’s higher than most players, but it’s also 450 points away from some of the top ranked players in the world. People with low ratings, or people who fail to produce consistently good records in tournaments should not be trusted as experts.
6. Author’s motivation – I’ve heard a number of players who write prominent articles in order to try to convince other players that a certain deck is really good, when in fact it is quite susceptible to whatever deck that player and his friends are playing. This is rare, but it has happened in the past. Other times players are required by certain websites to write a certain amount of articles in a certain time period in order to get paid for their services. Towards the end of that period, look for a number of articles about sub-par decks because these authors have obviously written them in for the sole purpose of getting paid.
7. First time authors – Most people who are in the game of Magic are in it for one reason: Fame. If given the opportunity, they’d love nothing more than to be a respected author for a good MTG website. Don’t give them the opportunity. These people are going to spend a long time on their articles, and they’ll make their argument convincing, but in the end, their decks are probably no better than Jarred Bright’s.
Most if not all of the bad articles will be written by the same pool of authors. I try to remember authors who I’ve dismissed in the past, and only look to them to see what kinds of decks I should possibly sideboard against. This is one of the advantages of having all these bad decks running about: they’re bad! Learn to beat them (usually it’s pretty simple) or even better, improve them. If you can take someone’s basic idea and make it better, then you’ll have a lot of people expecting an easy matchup and they won’t get it.