I’m getting old.
In the past I would of been quite happy to write a hit-piece. In fact, I would of reveled in it. I would of taken extreme, perverse joy in the tearing down of someone.
But I’m getting old and by sheer incidence of time and existence, I’ve now interacted with various Magic personalities and WotC people and found them almost universally friendly, helpful and all-round good people. While I’m sure Jacob Van Lunen is equally friendly, helpful and an all-round good guy, he is not one of the people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, and thus I have no emotional hang-ups about tearing the poor bastard a new one.
Building On A Budget, as written by Jacob Van Lunen, is one of the worst Magic columns on the web today.
Dear God I used to love Building on a Budget. It was, without a doubt, my favourite column on the mothership, back when Ben Bleiweiss was at the helm (having taken over from Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar).
By the end of his lengthy run, Ben had really got the heart of what Building on a Budget was all about – tight constraints on deck budget, interesting decks that attacked the metagame from unique angles, and keeping it fun.
Ben seemed to really love that little column, endlessly testing and tinkering with some ridiculously decks, playing up to 20 games and showing how the deck evolved over time. Sure, he had his weak points – his match writeups were really just chicken scratchings – but his smart and funny writing, combined with the level of effort he put into most columns really made the column come alive. When I think about my EDH decks, I can see just how that cheap-ass column really influenced my building style.
Jacob Van Lunen is no Ben Bleiweiss.
Jacob has been writing the column since Ben gave up the job in 2008 and since then the quality has just dropped and dropped to the point that I think Ben really doesn’t have his heart in it. Jacob’s style has certainly been more about the originally deckbuilding thought process than the gameplay and deck evolution that Ben emphasised, but recently even that has started to be relatively weak.
Where Ben had a great time discussing his budget and what he could cram into it (even spending time discussing the MtGO bots and where to find the cards on the cheap), there is nary a discussion in Jacob’s columns. How much does Jacob’s latest deck cost? No idea. Being mono-red it looks pretty cheap, but who knows? Certainly his deck from the week before couldn’t have been that cheap, starting with 4 x Venser the Sojourner. That’s about $30 right there, which would of generally blown Ben’s tight cap out of the water. As a result the ‘Budget’ part of ‘Building on a Budget’ doesn’t really exist anymore.
Then there are the decks themselves. Mono-Red Burn. UW Venser Control. Cheaper Delver. These aren’t exactly originally ideas. And while occasionally something new and interesting pops up – his Modern faithless looting deck is pretty unique – most of the decks are simply cheap versions of existing archetypes rather than anything new. Or fun.
Combine that with some very dry writing, very few match reports or deck evolutions, and long laundry lists of hypothetical match-up sideboards that we never get to see and you get the worlds most boring column.
So what would I do with the column?
Two things come to mind.
1. Find a writer who wants to write this stuff and can be as humorous and innovative as Ben. I mean, if I were to give someone like Patrick Chapin a trial-run on the mothership, this would be the perfect column for him. Funny, insightful, informative, and unique, Patrick would lend a lot to the column. My only fear would be that he’d see BoaB as a little below his unique talents, though neither do I know if he’s that precious. Unfortunately there aren’t a lot of Patrick’s around. Someone like Conley Woods, who has been know to attack the metagame using cards no-one else would touch with a ten-foot barge-poll, might also be attractive, or a young up-and-coming deckbuilder like Smi77y, might be the one. I’m sure there are people out there who would shiv a guy just to write for the mothership. Does anyone know how well Jackie Lee writes?
2. MtGO happens to have a thriving format called Pauper. A few months ago, when people like LSV took a renewed interest in the format, the Pauper scene exploded. I can think of no better subject for Building on a Budget than Pauper, which has so many avenues of attack, and changes with every set release. Hiring someone like LSV to write Pauper articles for the mothership for Building on a Budget would give the format renewed legitimacy and would be perfect for the column.
Either way, something has to change. After almost 4 years I just don’t think Jacob’s heart is in it anymore, and the quality of the column reflects that. However I don’t want to see that little column, that won my heart so many years ago, die-off from neglect. Let’s get Jacob off onto bigger and better things and find someone eager to reclaim BoaBs former glory by seeking innovation in constraint and fun in failure.
BoaB deserves better than this.