The Cream Always Rises To The Top (An Apology)

I’m a fucking hypocrite.

After the extended Twitter drama of the last few days (some would say it’s non-stop drama) I started writing a long, emotional entry about how I was misinterpreted and misquoted and how shitstorms seem to always arise around me even though I didn’t do anything wrong. I’m not here to confirm or deny that, though I will say it was written in a very bad state at the end of a very bad four-day stretch and should be taken with a very large pinch of salt.

A very good friend of mine recently told me that writing is catharsis, and I do believe she’s right. Just putting the Twitter events down on digital paper helped me realise that although my points may have been valid, I was coming from a severely unstable and incorrect base. As a result I got into arguments with people I respect and people I consider friends, and I feel terrible about that.

Let me bring you up to speed, in case you missed some or all of the discussion. The details are irrelevant at this point, but suffice it to say that the age-old argument of brewers vs. netdeckers came up again. Having listened to the latest Eh Team (a rare miss in my mind) in which the hosts and guest stated categorically that a certain card was bad, I felt the (perhaps irrational) need to defend said card. At no point was my name mentioned as a defender of the card, but something that has always rankled with me is people thinking that because they don’t like a card, it’s instantly bad. I pointed out the virtues of the card in something of a passive-aggressive way, and then the debate started.

Jay Boosh is a friend of mine, I hope. He has a heart of gold and will do anything he can to help a friend…including giving them a much-needed smack in the chops when they are being pig-headed. His manner may be a little more gruff than some appreciate, but once you know what’s under it you look past that. One thing he is not, however, is willing to play any old card just on the say-so of any old player. And he’s far from alone there. A whole swath of players like to play decks that are recommended by players they trust and respect and that suit their play style. If you’re a brewer but you’re not on their list, they likely don’t want to try your idea. It hasn’t got enough credibility behind it. The cream will always rise to the top, with decks as well as with dairy products, and these decks have done so.

As a brewer, I spend a lot of time (now, though I never used to) testing my ideas. One of the things I am trying to do is filter them so that I only start talking them up once I know they are good. I’m not there yet though. The next step for me, as Smitty so often said was the case for him on The Eh Team, is to get people to play my decks. Also like Smitty, I get frustrated when people write the idea off simply because it came from me…then turn around weeks later and play the same deck because a pro recommended it, all the while talking about how great the deck and its builder are. And sometimes, that frustration escapes.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to talk to some true masters of the craft and have learned a great deal from them. That started with Mike Flores on episode 11 of Horde of Notions, and continued with Jon Finkel (episode 25) and Patrick Chapin (episode 27). You’d be hard-pressed to find three better deckbuilders when in their primes. They taught me a lot about their process and what goes in to every deck they build. You know what though? I’d heard much of it before.

People like Jay, Nina, even Smitty had all told me a lot of the things that the masters were telling me. I ignored it…because they didn’t have the credibility or track record to make me want to listen to them. This realisation is especially jarring to me right now because although I consider Jay and Nina to be friends (and Nina has often had my back in discussions such as these, even if she does vastly overrate my skill), I flat-out look up to Smitty almost as much as I do the Chapins and Flores of the world. I am now where he was 8 months ago, and I’ve been following his path pretty much since I got back into the game. How I managed to ignore him is still a mystery to me. If I’m going to ignore advice from others on the basis of their reputation, who the hell am I to expect them to do things differently?

Not to say my opinion on certain cards has changed. I believe people tend to rate cards in a vacuum or in a given meta, then not revise that rating as things change. That’s a trap. Magic isn’t played in a vacuum, and the quality of a card can and will change as the metagame changes. The list of cards from Scars block alone that are significantly better now then when they came out is rather long: Elspeth, Plague Stinger, Viridian Emissary, the Crusaders, Hero of Bladehold, Lashwrithe, Gut Shot, Vapor Snag, Volt Charge…these are just off the top of my head. There are several that are worse, too. To categorically say a card is bad, or “not a real card” when in fact it is winning events and showing well in others is just inaccurate. But it is patently unfair and hypocritical of me to get angry that people won’t put any trust in my ideas and opinions and won’t respect what I saw when I wasn’t willing to do the same for them.

Jay, Nina, Jeph and anyone else I fought with over this: I’m sorry I got overheated and carried away. Opinions at the end of the day are just that, and you deserve more respect from me than you got.

Brewers: Stop fighting everyone who says no to you. The way to get people to trust your decks is to win with them. If you can’t then ask yourself why. Is it because you’re a bad player, or because the deck itself is bad? Is it both? If the former, you have a tough road ahead. If the latter, scrap it and start again. Once you start winning, people will start trying it. Don’t worry what one or two people think just because they have the loudest opinion. In the end, the truth always rises. Just like the cream.

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