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Red:

Ember Beast

 

Massive Raid

 

Wrecking Ogre

 

Mugging

 

Viashino Shanktail

 

Madcap Skills

 

2 x Scorchwalker

 

Warmind Infantry

 

Towering Thunderfist

 

Skinbrand Goblin

 

Foundry Street Denizen

 

Tin Street Market

 

Five Alarm Fire

 

 

Boros:

 

Skylight Legionnaire

 

Truefire Paladin

 

Shattering Blow

 

 

White:

 

Assault Griffin

 

Smite

 

2 x Daring Skyjek

 

Urbis Protector

 

Knight Watch

 

Nav Squad Commandos

 

Zarichi Tiger

 

Righteous Charge

 

Orzhov:

 

One Thousand Lashes

 

Vizkopa Guildmage

 

2 x Kingpin’s Pet

 

Treasury Thrull

 

Vizkopa Confessor

 

Purge the Profane

 

Black:

 

Corpse Blockade

 

2 x Slate Street Ruffian

 

Lord of the Void

 

Wight of Precinct Six

 

Mental Vapors

 

Illness in the ranks

 

Contaminated Ranks

 

Dimir:

 

Psychic Strike

 

Duskmantle Guildmage

 

Mind Grind

 

Deathcult Rogue

 

 

Blue:

 

2xSpell Rupture

 

2x Hands of Binding

 

Keymaster Rogue

 

2xLast Thoughts

 

Leyline Phantasm

 

Skygames

 

Scatter Arc

 

Clinging Anemones

 

Totally Lost

 

 

Simic:

 

Bioshift

 

Hydroform

 

Shambleshark

 

Urban Evolution

 

Green:

 

Alpha Authority

 

Skarrg Goliath

 

Serene Rememberance

 

2xNaturalize

 

Verdant Haven

 

Hindervines

 

Predator’s Rapport

 

Burst of Strength

 

Crowned Ceratok

 

Greenside Watcher

 

Ivy Lane Denizen

 

Gruul:

 

Primal Visitation

 

Ground Assault

 

Pit Fight

 

 

Artifact:

Razortip Whip

 

Orzhov Keyrune

 

Skyblinder Staff 

 

2xDimir Guildgate

Boros Guildgate

Orzhov Guilgate

A few months ago, for work reasons, I had to move away from Lancaster and to a reasonably small town called Stafford. This was where I grew up, so I knew about the Local Game Store (Too Fat Goblinz – highly recommended) and had even attended an event or two there. However, this has had a major effect on my ability to play Magic. Phil, who runs the store, runs alternate Standard/Drafts meaning that unfortunately I only get to play Standard there twice a month. Partly because of this and because I was spending too much money for a hobby I only got to play infrequently, I have made the decision to stop playing competitive constructed magic, at least in paper form. It was a sad day when I decided this, but the amount of money I was spending for approximately five or six hours per month of playing was simply not enough. I am keeping some of my paper collection and selling some, some are future EDH cards and some will be going into my cube.
Wait a minute… what was that? You heard me right, I’m building a cube. After playing online with the Holiday cube, I have decided that cube is a good format for me. It is not so constantly expensive and I’ll just get the cards when I want and when they are cheaper. I’m pretty excited, I have around 10,000+ cards from revised to RtR which means that I can choose the cards I love for the cube. I am still going to be able to play casually at a University society and I hope in a few months I will be able to take my cube with me. I am in no huge rush to complete, it is a project which will take some time.

 

I am also continuing to play limited online. I love limited and even though I am not the best RtR limited player. M13 was my peak, I nearly reached 1800 rating and since RtR, my rating fell to just above 1600. Not good! But I am looking forward to being able to spend a bit more online after cutting my paper habit. I am selling my cards and some of the money from that will go towards online. It is a shame my LGS runs 12 man drafts but I can just play online any time of day or night.

Patrick Chapin recently posted a list of the top 5 Standard cards since the release of Return to Ravnica. The list is as follows.

1. Thragtusk

2. Restoration Angel

3. Jace, Architect of Thought

4. Geist of Saint Traft

5. Sphinx’s Revelation.

 

Over the weekend, while listening to the SCG coverage I heard the commentators more than once refer to magic at the moment as ‘Trade Binder Magic’ and it really struck a chord with me. Over the last month or so I have built 2 pretty competitive decks and whilst looking through them, noticed how many of the cards were rare. In my Jund list, just Farseek and Rakdos Keyrune were not rare. Then I had 3 basic land. This meant that in my 60 card main deck I was running a total of 9 cards which were not Rare or Mythic Rare. It was a similar story with my UWR control list. Although I am currently enjoying Standard, I feel that the barrier to entry into the top tier is extremely high. The best removal is at Rare (Dreadbore, Abrupt Decay, Sever the Bloodline, Terminus, Mizzium Mortars etc.) and most of the good creatures are rare. Even though the top tier deck of the last season delver had a few pricy cards, it was still relatively cheap, due to the high number of commons and uncommons even the best decks used. It saddens me that decks are almost strictly better at the moment if they have had more spent on the cards in them.

 

Also, there doesn’t seem much in the way of innovative decks available which rely on good synergy, rather than just having better cards than your opponent. My friend runs a Bant Control deck which currently runs in at over $600. Most of the cards in the deck are simply not replaceable with cheaper cards. This really saddens me. I don’t know if it is simply because there is not the selection of cards available, or whether this is what we have to look forward to for the next year. It just seems that there is a bad case of midrange across the magic community, with players gaining 10+ life per game and making games go long. I am all for exciting board states, but the current slew of Reanimator/Bant/Junk lists, where there can be 5+ creatures in a stalemate on both sides of the board is not a good direction for magic to go in. I am playing in a tournament tomorrow where there are 40 minute rounds and I am very worried about losing out because of time issues, because of the life-gain midrange nature of Standard due to cards like Thragusk and Restoration Angel.

 

What are your opinions? I do not get to play as much Standard as I would like, but I watch a lot and it seems that we have reached a difficult cross-roads where everybody is playing Thragtusk because the card offers so much value and not because it actually fits into their deck in any way. I am not totally against Thragtusk but I feel that the card is warping Standard by not allowing Aggro decks to stand any chance. This leaves the majority of players running midrange decks with Thragtusk in them and in my opinion, this is not the direction Magic wants to be moving in.

 

Looking back at the list, this shows why Midrange decks are doing so well currently – Because targeted removal simply does not work. Your targets are either Hexproof, or can be blinked out with Restoration Angel. Having no good common removal spells is also really having an effect on a large player group and has led to a “join us or lose to us” philosophy with rare removal. At the moment, UWx or Jund seems the only real direction to go in and I hope that this changes over the next few months, or at least after Gatecrash arrives. I don’t want to play a game where I feel like my deck is based on just pulling the best cards out of my (not for)  trade binder. My main love in Magic is innovating interesting decks such as my clone deck from Scars block standard. I have watched players such as Travis Woo playtesting RDW and they simply lose out in the current Lifegain based format. Aggro seems very difficult to do well with and there is not really a Tier One competitive combo deck at the moment.

 

This was not meant as a rant, just a comment on my current opinions. I enjoy Standard, but mainly because I have the cards which allow me to enjoy it. I know others are certainly not enjoying it because they cannot find decks which are interesting and good, except the extremely high budget decks.

Went to the RtR game day this weekend, really hoping to win the playmat. Unfortunately, it was not to happen but I had a great time with a good, fun deck. I went and had to decide whether I wanted to play UWR control or Jund. Jund was missing a couple of copies of Thragtusk and maybe a Huntmaster. Decided after playtesting with a new player and having the Emblem from Tamiyo, the Moon sage that the UWR deck was the one for me. The main drawback being that we only had 40 minutes per round. Anyway, on to the report.

 

Match 1 was against the new guy who I had been helping out before we started. He bought 3 decks with him and sat down opposite me with an unsleeved UW ‘control’ deck. He then, after time had started, went and bought sleeves and proceded to sleeve up this deck. After this, he decided that the deck was too big to shuffle and that he should use his Vampire deck anyway. I was not at all impressed, maybe 10 minutes had gone into the 2 of us sleeving up his 100 card deck and then he didn’t use it anyway. But it was his first tournament so I didn’t make a big deal. Anyway, absolutely crushed his deck. Detention Sphere netted me 2 Vampire Nighthawks and I killed him with 2 Azorious keyrunes and then an Entreat the Angels for 9. Game 2, he mulliganed and didn’t really play anything of note.

 

Match 2 was against Lewis, a good player, certainly one of the better ones from Stafford. He was running Esper Control with Sorin, Lord of Innistrad and Lingering Souls and this meant we had very interesting games. We both were running Tamiyo and Jace 4.0 so had to be worried about the Legend rule and I knew he would be running sever the bloodline. It was during these games that I realised that the weakness of my deck was that most of my actual win-conditions were creatures and that every time I got one of my win conditions on the board, it died. Whether that was Entreat the Angels, Isperia, Supreme Judge or Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. I struggled to beat his because I’d dig until I got a win con, play the card and then by the time I wanted to attack it had died. Keyrunes were excellent here though. Sideboarding was very interesting, I really was not very prepared for this style of deck but my sideboarding obviously worked as I took a good game 2 to tie it up at 1-1. Time was called and we finished 1-1, but I conceded it to allow my opponent to stand a chance of winning overall. His deck had cards like Augur of Bolas which I had not considered and I think he learnt quite a lot from my deck, picking up a few ideas.

 

Match 3 was against Selesnya. After 2 very close games, carefully using my life total as a resource I won 2-0. Cards such as Azorious Charm were excellent against various tokens and the board sweepers were also excellent. The populate deck really struggled and I capitalised, even though my life total was quite low in both games this is a good matchup for my deck. So far the deck had been fun to play, with lots of tension and not too many miracles. Was 2-0-1 at this point (even if that wasn’t true officially).

 

Match 4 was against the deck I had been sat next to during the previous round a pretty terrifying looking Jund deck concentrating on removal. Game 1 was not a tight affair. Stole the game with an Entreat for 3 on T5 and 2 turns later my opponent was dead. My opponent sideboarded 11 cards in and I spread out my win conditions as much as possible, trying to stop my opponent from shutting me down with Slaughter Games which I knew he was running. I even surprised myself by removing Entreat the Angels. This ‘next level’ play I was quite proud of, as I had sideboarded for a card I expected my opponent to bring in. With a more diverse selection of threats we played out game 2, but his slaughter games stripped out most of my ways to win, including Tamiyo and Entreat the Angels. Being Jund, he had removal for individual creatures. I conceded with about 25 cards left in my library but with only 1 threat (a single Niv Mizzet). Time was short so we went to game 3. I re-sideboarded into the maximum number of Entreat the Angels, thinking my opponent might sideboard out of the Slaughter Games if he realised that I had sideboarded out my Entreats. I only had 5 minutes left. We played super quickly and had a great game, the key moment which surprised my opponent being when I used Niv Mizzet to hit him for 3, rather than kill his attacking Thragtusk. I had done the maths and worked out that if he didn’t have a removal spell for it (he’d used 2 x Dreadbore previously in the game) then he would be exactly dead 2 turns later with my Niv Mizzer, and I would be left on 2. This was exactly how it worked out, with me flashing back Feeling of Dread to tap his creatures on a key turn and allowing me to kill him with exactly lethal. This round showed me how little instant speed removal I had, his Rakdos Keyrunes were excellent against me, as my Terminus and Mizzium Mortars were not good. This is something I hope to address with the next version of the deck.

 

Overall I was very happy with the deck. I had zero testing, it was full of random 1-ofs which I thought would be cool, rather than necessarily being good. The deck seemed to play out extremely well. I was expecting a very aggressive field but it was much more midrange than I expected, which made a few of my cards less useful than they normally would be. However, considering I built the deck with no knowledge of the meta etc I feel that it went very well. The deck needed a little less removal and a few more win conditions which is something I will work on. Anyway, in all of its glory here is my UWR Control deck.

 

Creatures:

1 x Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

1 x Isperia, Supreme Judge

 

Artifacts

3 x Azorious Keyrune

 

Enchantments

3 Detention Sphere

 

Planeswalkers

3 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

2 Jace, Architect of Thought

 

Spells

1 Thoughtflare

1 Dissipate

1 Syncopate

3 Azorious Charm

3 Terminus

1 Negate

3 Supreme Verdict

1 Sphinx’s Revelation

2 Entreat the Angels

3 Mizzium Mortars

2 Feeling of Dread

1 Pillar of Flame

1 Thought Scour

 

Sideboard

2 Feeling of Dread

1 Syncopate

1 Negate

1 Oblivion Ring

1 Sphinx’s Revelation

1 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

3 Rest in Peace

1 Clone

1 Martial Law

1 Snapcaster Mage

1 Blustersquall

1 Entreat the Angels

 

My next post is hopefully going to be a break down of which cards were good, which were bad and what I am doing next. I have an extra Jace now which is great.

Won my first Stafford FNM last night, netting myself 2 boosters (opened Odric and Silklash Spider) with my clone wars brew (which has done well at the Lancaster FNM before). Deck has some of the Zombies base, but I was running the full 4 Phyrexian Metamorphs and 4 Phantasmal Images, as this was the last opportunity I would have to play with them in Standard. I love these cards and am sad to see them go.

 

Round 1: 2-0 (actually about 5-0) Against GR Aggro. The guy had been playing for a while but it was a fairly Janky deck, hoping for quick beats and cheap wins. Unfortunately, my midrange control took care of the fast aggro and I beat him fairly easily 2-0. We then played a few more games and I didn’t lose one against him. Cards such as Strangleroot Geist are difficult to deal with, but I still did fine. He had quite a lot of targeted removal, which isn’t great against Zombies. I managed to win game 2 by doing 16 due to Black Sun’s Zenith for 1 with what was effectively 4 Blood Artist out (using the clone cards). Looked at his deck afterwards and offered him a few tips, especially with his sideboard which fell into the age old trap of “cards I couldn’t quite fit into the main deck”.

 

Round 2: 2-0 Against Zombie Pod. Won a cheap game 1, smashing face with plenty of Zombies and winning the race due to having more blood artists than my opponent. Game 2, sideboarded into Surgical Extraction and Nihil Spellbomb and out of some of my removal. Much more exciting game. Highlight of which was having in play a Phantasmal Image copying a Geralf’s Messenger. Then playing Phyrexian Metamorph, copying my opponent’s Disciple of Bolas, sacrificing my Phantasmal Imaged Messenger to gain 3 life and draw 3 cards, which came back due to undying, copying the disciple again, then sacrificing a gravecrawler to draw 2 more, gain 2 more life. Then play a land which I drew and recast the Gravecrawler from my graveyard. My opponent was actually impressed by this play! Was pretty awesome and I won on 1 life. My opponent kind of misplayed (which I spotted :)). He had a Birthing Pod and after a board wipe, chose to have his undying phyrexian metamorph come back as a copy of Butcher Ghoul, whereas he should have just had it come back as a 1/1 metamorph, which he could sacrifice as a 4 drop to the birthing pod to get Thragtusk.

 

Round 3, Lost 1-2 against UB trading post/zombies. Our decks were fairly similar, midrange Zombies and there was lots of copying (both of us running metamorphs) but the fact that he had massive card advantage in the late game meant that I lost. Very close games but no remarkable plays, I sided out the midrange to go more aggro for game 2 and 3 but he managed to hang on until the late game in game 3, where he has a much better game than I.

 

Round 4: Won 2-0 Played super fast green aggro, running elves and Strangleroot Geist and Rancor and basically hoping to over-run people super quickly. I won game 1 due to a few well timed board wipes with Mutilate and Black Sun’s Zenith. Game 2, I sideboarded out all of my one drop Zombies and sideboarded myself into a control deck. I was not going to be able to out race him (Zombies don’t block Strangleroot Geists very well), his deck was simply too fast so I sided into all my control/midrange, took out Diregraf Ghoul and Gravecrawler. My opening hand had 2 Black Sun’s Zenith and a Phyrexian Obliterator and I was fairly confident I would win with that. Just let him play out his dudes, BSZ them and then drop the Obliterator. Game went BSZ T3 to kill an Elf and a Rancored Strangeroot Geist, T4 Phyrexian Obliterator (which he swung into and killed with the Rancored Geist), leaving himself with 1 land, then T5 Curse of Death’s Hold which pretty much locked him out of the game. Killed him in the end with Falkenrath Nobles flying in for the win, with double Phyrexian Obliterator left back to Block his Triple Rancored Strangleroot Geist.

 

Anyway, 3-1 was enough to net me the top spot due to tiebreakers (my game win %) and got my first FNM Stafford win. What a fitting way to say goodbye to Scars + Innistrad Constructed and a fond farewell to Phyrexian Metamorph and Phantasmal Image, as well as the last time I’ll play with Phyrexian Obliterator.

 

Deck List.

Creatures:

3 x Diregraf Ghoul

3 x Gravecrawler

4 x Blood Artist

4 x Phantasmal Image

4 x Geralf’s Messenger

4 x Phyrexian Metamorph

4 x Phyrexian Obliterator

4 x Falkenrath Noble

 

Spells:

3 x Mutilate

3 x Black Sun’s Zenith

1 x Killing Wave

 

Lands:

4 x Drowned Catacomb

4 x Darkslick Shores

1 x Island

X x Swamp

 

Sideboard

2 x Gravecrawler

1 x Diregraf Ghoul

2 x Surgical Extraction

3 x Nihil Spellbomb

1 x Sever the Bloodline (note: not good in the Zombie Mirror. Exiles ALL cards with the same name)

2 x Mortarpod

2 x Curse of Death’s Hold

1 x Killing Wave

1 x Diabolic Revelation (In case I faced control/grindy Trading Post and could just go and get 4 x Blood Artist or whatever)

 

Bit of a random brew. If I played it again, I’d lose the one of Island for a swamp, but it wasn’t meant to be a super tuned deck, just a fun one. Did well so can’t complain.

Went to the Magic Celebration at my LGS. Had a pretty good time, went 3-0 but wasn’t really all that pleased. Fairly “random” based format but I didn’t lose a game all afternoon which is good.

 

Sat down with my booster and 15 lands and started game 1 without looking at my deck. Mulliganed my first hand (with a Vampire Nighthawk and no swamps) away and drew 6, which included a Talrand’s Invocation and a Crimson Muckwader. Pretty happy with my uncommons, couldn’t really have chosen 4 better uncommons (maybe a Flames of the Firebrand instead of the invocation due to it’s easier mana cost). Took down the first game fairly easily, second game, looked like I was going to lose, started to chump block, then got the Vampire Nighthawk, swung the game (I’d been on 2 life) and just ground out my opponent with the Nighthawk. 1-0. Could have played tighter, but learnt from my mistakes.

 

Opened my second booster, took out Blue and ended up running a deck with 24 land and 16 non-land cards. Decided I’d rather get more mana than more cards I couldn’t play, and I was running 2 Liliana’s Shade as well as a Vampire Nighthawk, so needed plenty of black mana. This seemed the right decision my opponents in all games complained about being stuck for colours and I think that removing a colour was a good choice. My favourite play in these 2 games was to play a non-lethal Magmaquake in response to a titanic growth on a vastwood gorger (against my duskdale wurm) in order to make it so that my wurm could trample over for lethal damage. Pretty awesome :)

 

Opened my third booster and cut most of my red (except for a searing spear and a Crimson Muckwader).  Tormented Soul + Knight of Glory won me game 1 and duskdale wurm won game 2. Both of my last opponents weren’t great opponents which led to a revelation. I like playing good players. Even though I played 3 matches and won all of them 2-0, I didn’t feel proud because my last 2 opponents weren’t of a very high skill level. I had a below average rare pool (maybe an above average uncommon pool) and still won without losing a single game.

 

My tips for next time at a Magic Celebration

1) Play fast. No, faster than that. If you have a slow opponent, you have to play super fast to get a match in within 30 mins, including adding new cards into your deck. Draws are terrible for both of you. Seriously, roll a die or flip a coin rather than draw

2) Cut colours as soon as possible. People lose more to their own colour screw than to bombs. Double mana costs are really terrible

3) Draw first, the format is super slow so the extra card is super useful.

4) Don’t open Phylactory Lich and no Artifacts in your first booster.

 

My deck in the end was:

Green

Arbor Elf

 

Primal Huntbeast

 

Prey Upon

 

Deadly Recluse

 

Vastwood Gorger

 

Duskdale Wurm

 

Sentinel Spider

 

Black

Bloodhunter Bat

 

Tormented Soul

 

2 x Liliana’s Shade

 

Vampire Nighthawk

 

Disentomb

 

 

White

2 x Aven Squire

 

2 x Knight of Glory

 

Safe Passage

 

Show of Valor

 

Searing Spear

 

Crimson Muckwader

 

and

 

Jayemdae Tome

 

+ Land

I was listening to the Limited Resources podcast the other day (http://www.mtgcast.com/topics/mtgcast-podcast-shows/active-podcast-shows/limited-resources) and they were talking about results oriented thinking. This was a topic I found really interesting and drafting tonight has made me think about it.

 

Results Oriented Thinking is a psychology term, often used for Poker, which describes the human condition whereas we closely link the outcome of a task to how well we did the task. So if we are successful when employing a particular strategy, then often the next time we will use the same strategy. Equally, if we use a strategy and it doesn’t work, then we avoid that strategy. The problem with this when applied to a game where luck is a factor (such as Magic or Poker), is that the decision we made may have been the correct one and we lost, or it may have been a weaker play and we won. We then carry this “win” or “loss” onwards and employ the same tactics again, possibly to our detriment.

 

My favourite example of this is to do with Mulligans. In Magic, the widely accepted mulligan system is where you shuffle your hand back into your library and draw a new hand with a card less. So, imagine the following 2 situations:

 

You look at your opening 7 cards and you only have 1 land. You have the choice to mulligan or keep. There are the following possibilities

i) you mulliganed and win

ii) you mulligan and lose

iii) you keep and win

iv) you keep and lose

This is a fairly common situation. Sometimes you will keep a one land hand and win, sometimes you lose. Say for example you decide to keep and you win. Hurray! You got lucky, mathematically it is probably more likely that you would lose keeping a one lander but it didn’t matter, because you won. Next time the situation comes up, what are you going to do? Your brain associated keeping the one land hand with winning, so even though the maths says that you stand a high chance of not drawing a land, because it worked last time, you are likely to do the same again. You are making a bad decision because of the result that happened the last time you did it. You might win again, but in the long run, you are likely making a bad choice by keeping that hand and this will make you more likely to lose at Magic. Obviously there are other factors, some hands are fine with just one land, but you need to be careful to analyse the decision whether to keep the hand or not based on that hand, not what happened last time you did it.

The same can happen the opposite way. Say you mulliganed away a hand with 2 land and you win with your 6 card hand. Next time you draw a 2 land hand, you might remember the time that you mulliganed the two lander and won, so you mulligan again, this is just as bad as not mulliganing enough, by being too cautious you give your opponent a better chance of winning.

The lesson here is that you should evaluate every hand as though it is the first time you have mulliganed. Evaluate the hand properly, because this kind of randomness has no memory. What worked last time, might not work this time so you need to give yourself the best chance.

The same can happen with individual cards. This is especially true in limited. Fog is a great example of a card that people rate too highly. It doesn’t do a lot, except stall for a turn most of the time. Most of the time, you are about to die, you fog, stall for a turn and then die the turn after. Once in a while however, fog will blow the opponent out and you’ll win because of it. This is when you remember it and this is when you make the mistake of drafting it. For every 1 blowout you may have 9 times where it does nothing, but because that one time you totally wrecked your opponent because of it, your valuation of the card is much too high. 9 times out of 10, it has done nothing useful but once you have it set in your mind that a card is good, it is difficult to change that opinion. My personal card for this from m13 was Battleflight Eagle. I won a game because of it and I feel that this meant I rated it too highly. The card is not a terrible card, but I think I overated it for quite a while before realising that it was not too great. All this because I won once with it. It is this kind of critical thinking that makes the difference when drafting between winning and losing.

Another area that this is important is when playing. Sometimes you will take a deck you think is great to FNM or a tournament and it will be terrible. You know it’s a good deck, it was good in testing but you went 1-3 with it. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you played wrong, that the deck is bad, it could just mean that you got unlucky. This is something you have to be careful about though. Sometimes a deck loses because you played badly, sometimes your deck loses because it floods or screws mana and sometimes a deck loses because it is not a good deck. The trick is being able to tell the difference between these 3. Even the best pros have a win percentage around 60%, because Magic is still a game of chance at it’s heart, the decks are random (hopefully) and sometimes the deck works for you and sometimes it does not. You need to, as a player, sit down and analyse what happened. Why did you win? Why did you lose? Were you lucky with your 1 land keep and should you have played differently? Reflection is a critical area of your game which is needed to improve you as a player of the great game of Magic the Gathering

 

Apologies, it has been quite some time since I have blogged. I don’t think I have many regular readers but my apologies if you have missed me but I have moved house for my new job and so haven’t played much magic. However, I have recently started up playing Magic Online so I decided I would blog with a few tips if you are considering moving online.

 

Firstly, Magic Online is basically the same as paper magic. You buy boosters, collect cards and the game is exactly the same. In fact, it is possibly better than paper magic a lot of the time, because you cannot break rules, even accidentally. I find this helps tighten up your play in terms of playing with paper magic (there is a downfall, I’ll come onto this later). This means that it does cost money. How much money depends on what you want to do. You can build a constructed deck and there are various rooms which you can play in, with no pressure, no reward etc. Just for fun (or improving your game/deck). With these constructed cards, it is possible to also enter (often daily) tournaments and win other prizes, in the form of virtual boosters. The other choice is limited tournaments. You can enter using tickets, which are the currency of the game, or boosters. These are the same as drafts or sealed events, insofar as the format plays exactly the same. You have 8 man pods and although there are different prize payouts, the more you win, the more you get back. You play 3 matches and depending on how risky or confident you are feeling before you start, winning those matches could net you 8 boosters or 3 boosters, depending on the type of pool you enter. The payouts are on the Wizards website. I personally try to make my monetary input go a long way, so I tend to enter swiss drafts or 4 booster sealed events, as it is normally fairly low risk as long as you are a reasonable player. The 4 booster sealed, which I often do has a 4 booster entry cost. If you go 3-0, you win 5 boosters, 2-1 gets you 3 boosters, 1-2 gets you 1 booster and 0-3 gets you nothing. However, you do open boosters, the cards inside of which do have value. Often, as long as you can go 2-1 or better, you don’t really lose much entering these. It is low risk, low reward. I would highly recommend this format if you want to stretch your limited funds out (see what I did there?) and get the most play time for your money.

 

There is a trade system, through “Classifieds” where cards can be bought and sold. With so many cards opened through limited events such as drafts and sealed events there is an abundance of unwanted cards. These are bought and sold on a market by both humans and bots (computer programs, simulating humans, buying and selling cards) for event tix. Event tickets or tix are the currency of Magic Online and they are worth approximately $1. Whole number of tix are tradable. Part tix are not tradable, however, upon leaving a bot, they do save any remaining credit for next time you return to the same bot. You can use these markets to get the cards you want for constructed or to sell the cards which you open in your drafts. Some of the bots do have websites where you can check prices which helps a lot. I recommend supernovabots and mtgotraders, both are excellent for gathering information from in order to help you make decisions.

 

Overall I have been very impressed with the Magic Online experience. Impressed enough actually, to consider switching away from paper magic into it. I like the way it all works, automatically adjusting life totals, putting tokens into play etc. I also like how easy it is to just drop into a game. Within logging on you can be in a game in seconds and this is great. I can start a game at midnight if I like (and often do). This is a big draw for me. It doesn’t quite have the same social aspect as paper magic, trading is harder and less fun but overall I would say the experience is an excellent one. Sure, the graphics are a little outdated but it works extremely well under the skin and there is probably an update coming soon (MTGO V3).

 

Top tips if you are considering starting up on MTGO

1) Set a budget and stick to it. It could get out of control very easily

2) Use websites to scope of the bots prices. As a rule, know what things are worth as you might sometimes take a card that is worth something over a card that is not worth something if you are drafting

3) Write down which bots owe you partial credits so you can go back to them again

4) Learn the interface before competing. Play a few rounds with the free planeswalker deck in the new players room, get used to the interface and the controls etc.

5) Ask for help if you need it. Wizards employ “ORC”s to help people out, use the chat window on the right hand side in any room and an ORC will probably help you out.

 

I will post more about what I have been doing soon. I just felt it had been a while. Any questions or comments are appreciated

Miracles

 

This week a ran UWr Miracle control and had an absolute blast. The deck was very thought intensive and a lot of decisions I made really mattered, whether good or bad. I had a really great time, only went 2-2 but I had so much fun playing with the deck. The other nice things was that 2 of my friends came up to me afterwards ad said that it was one of the most fun decks they had ever played against. I think as skill intensive as it is to play, it is equally skill intensive to play against.

 

Quick report – Match 1 was one of the most epic matches of magic I have ever played. From my revelation of “I’m running 3 torpor orbs maindeck” against Ed Guise, a pod player, to having both of my Entreat the Angels followed up by my opponent’s sever the bloodline, it just always seemed like we both had the right answers at the right time. I knew Ed was a good player, so I hoped he’d realise I had no creatures and sideboard out all of his removal. To combat this, I sided into my secret sideboard tech of 2 Sun Titans and 3 Phantasmal Images. That was quite a surprise for Ed, but again made for a very exciting game. Lost 0-2, but definitely the best 0-2 loss I’ve ever had. Such close games. Read his report at http://wrongwaygoback.com/edguise88/

 

Match 2 was against a blink deck. When I dropped Torpor Orb Turn 2 both games, she was well beat. Stopped Restoration Angel and Acidic Slime blink shenanigans and pretty much stopped her deck dead in it’s tracks. Helped that I had Tamiyo the Moonsage go Ultimate and won with an Entreat the Angels for 9.

 

Match 3 was against another good friend, Gabriel. He had a solid GW human build that he piloted very well, not overextending. Both games I lost to Increasing Savagery, which is fairly nightmare-ish for a “wrath” control deck. Game 1, I decided that my life total was safe enough with a Gideon out so didn’t Terminus, thinking I would wait a turn. Lo and behold, Oblivion Ring on Gideon and then Savagery and swing for lethal. 0-2, but another very enjoyable match against an opponent who played against my deck very well. Game 2 he won with me having a Tamiyo Emblem and Terminus in hand, by End of Turn casting midnight haunting, then flashing back increasing savagery to swing for an exactly lethal 12. I’m not 100% sure I have this match correct, I remember there being a very difficult to deal with Sigarda, Host of Herons at some point.

 

Match 4 was against Alex, a member of our little “team” that we have going. He had a good deck which just didn’t get anywhere game 3 unfortunately. I enjoyed the game, can’t remember too much, but I think I took the macth 2-1, with Alex playing a very tight game.

 

Anyway, all in all I loved playing the deck, my opponents seemed to enjoy playing against it too. My sideboard switch seemed to work as a surprise tactic. Running Sphere of the Suns was great, an excellent decision as it allowed me to be a turn faster with Terminus hard cast or the Planeswalkers. I won most with Gideon, but Entreat also worked hard. Torpor Orb was the all star. At my local FNM everybody seems to be loving enter the battlefield abilities and it is just so good. It also means that opponents often sideboard into artifact hate, which is good for me, as I only have 3 Torpor Orbs as artifacts they’d want to hit. And when I want to side into plan B of Sun Titan and Phantasmal Image, it is an easy 3 cards to cut and they’d be sat with Artifact removal in their deck with on Sphere of the Suns to target.

 

I will add a deck list later – not at home at the moment.

 

Part 2 – Why I play magic…

 

Why do I play this great game of Magic the Gathering. I read an article on Star City Games the other day where a player asked himself the exact same question. For me it is an interesting one.

First, a little about me. I used to play magic at high school. We had a little Magic the Gathering club run by a teacher after school and then when the teacher left, we carried on for a year or 2. Back then, it was all about rummaging through the 5p cards at my local game store and building decks. This was awesome fun. We kinda grew out of it/stopped being allowed to play and my cards lived in a box under the bed for some time. Then, at university my friend went to a gaming convention and came back with a starter pack. I bought my cards back up from home and started getting back into magic. We infected another of my flatmates so the three of us spent many a night playing with very budget, all cards allowed decks. I remembered how much I enjoyed the challenge of deck building and was surprised that in the back of my mind I still knew what most of the cards I owned and had not played with for 6 years did. Played Dual of the Planeswalkers on the PC as well at this time. Again, this subsided as I progressed through University. I then went working and travelling for a year, before starting a PGCE and “learning how to teach”. While I was living at home, I still played Magic occasionally with my flatmate and his friend Dan. Me and Dan went to the M12 pre-release and I was hooked again. I had never taken part in tournament magic, much less a limited tournament and this was great fun. I then moved away, back to Lancaster and wanted to play again. I hunted down the Local Game Store, which was closing and found out that FNM was held just around the corner in a small Cafe. I went along one Friday and became hooked on Competitive (Standard mainly) magic. I have now also started drafting on MTGO recently.

Hopefully that wasn’t too boring. Anyway, back to my original question. Why do I love playing Magic so much?

  • I love playing. This may seem like a stupid response, but I enjoy strategy games and board games and I like the thinking involved in playing. With so many cards and so many different possible interactions I find the game itself incredibly rewarding to play. I love the intensity and the concentration of tournament play and the laughs and jokes in casual play.
  • I love brewing. I enjoy brewing and thinking about magic just as much as I enjoy playing it. I have lists in various pockets of clothes, where I have a spare 5 mins a jot down a deck idea, or think about some new cards to include. I enjoy standard, with it’s wide but not too wide card pool and have a large enough collection to mean I can throw most decks together pretty quickly.
  • I enjoy watching magic being played. With the internet being much faster than when I used to play, streaming live video of tournaments from SCG or Wizards is fantastic. I love watching both sides of the game pan out and thinking about the decisions I would have made. Also, the commentators discussing sideboarding and deck choices really helps and interests me.
  • I enjoy reading about magic. I am a regular lurker on MTG Salvation, reading through threads that interest me and hyping up about the new sets. Most days I read the SCG articles which interest me and I find blogging about Magic very relaxing.
  • My number one reason to play Magic is……… Friends. Playing magic is a great social experience. I have met many great people through FNM and it is often the highlight of my week. I love trading, talking and playing and this is just a great environment. Credit to the players at my local store for being competitive and friendly, it is sometimes a difficult balance to find and the FNM group are nearly all great guys who have a lot of fun.

I play magic because it is a focus. I find that I have spent much less time playing video games now that I am regularly playing MTG, because I’d rather be brewing or meeting up with friends for a few games. Or lately, playing online. Unfortunately, I am moving town soon and I hope that the new town brings equal amounts of fun at FNM, although I have my doubts. I could switch to playing online, but that will be a big decision as I would have to sell off large parts of my collection to fund this. I will miss it if I do not get to play competitively and brew so I will endeavour to find people with a similar outlook to me with their magic playing.

This week I took along a deck I called Clone Wars. The aim of the deck was to use cards such as Blood Artist and Falkenrath Noble which gain you 1 life and lose the opponents 1 life. Then to clone these using cards such as Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph because these guys in multiples make it really difficult for opponents to kill you creatures. Then to win, either Black Sun’s Zenith, or Killing Wave, so that all of your creatures die at the same time, so all of the triggers stack at the same time. E.g. If there are 4 of the lose 1 life, gain one life cards out (Blood Artist or Falkenrath Noble) and one other creature. Then by killing them all at the same time, the opponent loses 20 life and you gain 20, because when one creature dies, there are 4 separate triggers causing the opponent to lose 1 life each. This happens for each of the 5 creatures, so the opponent loses 20 and you gain 20.

 

The reason I wanted to run this was because last week I ran my usual Zombies list, except I made it mono-black and added in the Blood Artists and the Falkenrath Noble. The all-stars last week were both of those cards. So I just decided I wanted more of them, so I put cards in which could copy them. They are just so good in multiples. That and the fact that Phyrexian Metamorph and Phantasmal Image are 2 of my favourite cards in standard. Also, life gain is really well placed in our FNM, as there is a lot of aggro at the moment.

 

I’m not going to do a full report, other than to say I went 3-1. losing out in the final to a UW control/Golems list, and losing out both times to a resolved Karn Liberated. There was just nothing my deck could do against Karn. However, I was very happy with the deck. I had the chance to stabilise in the last game with a Black Sun’s Zenith, which I was 1 mana short on being able to leave mana open to pay for the Mana Leak which stopped me. I beat a mono-red list, which the guy was a bit annoyed about, because I came out of nowhere to kill him by losing the full 20 life in one turn. Match 2, I beat turbo-fog, by hitting my opponent for over 40 life in one turn. Match 3 was against a Pod list, which I beat turn 4 on the play :) Something like T1 Gravecrawler, T2 2 x Diregraf Ghoul, swing for 2. T3 Geralf’s Messenger, swing for 6 (opponent on 10 life). T4 play blood artist, swing for 9, then Killing Wave for x=0 to win. He sided very heavily, beat me game 2 and then I won a close game 3. Final match lost out to Karn Liberated. My deck is very threat dense and is very good against the board sweepers such as Day of Judgment, but has no answer against Karn.

 

My reasons for posting today was to talk about blogging itself. I started writing for this blog in February and since then I have seen my results just get better and better. I think that blogging has really improved my deck building, as it really make you think about what you are doing with your deck, think about what went well, which cards beat you etc. I do genuinely think that blogging about my Magic playing has really improved my game. I feel like I am now one of the most consistent players at my FNM and since March have a 70% win percentage in all competitions, including GP Manchester and limited tournaments. I have not been worst than 2-2 since March and have only gone 2-2 once.

 

Since March

2-2 = Once

3-1 = Seven Times

3-2 = Once

4-0 = Once

6-3 = Once

 

That is a pretty good record in my opinion, considering I am playing a brew of my own and considering the diversity of the decks I have to play against. This is also including limited tournaments too. My top tips to anybody trying to improve their Magic would be these below

1) Blog about your Magic, it does genuinely improve your game. Or at least reflect on why you won/lost. Self reflection, as long as it is honest, is very important to improving at anything.

2) Know your deck well, that way you can play to your outs, you know what you need to win in various situations. This comes about by playing a deck quite a lot. I would suggest to do this, play a deck you enjoy playing.

3) Play carefully, think about what signs you are giving to your opponent and don’t rush, or allow your opponent to rush you. You should be in control and if you need 2 minutes to sit there and work out what to do, then do that. Just don’t do it all of the time.

4) Don’t just net deck the ‘best’ deck. Play a deck you enjoy playing with, some people like control, some like aggro, some like combo. Learn what you like and don’t like.

5) Use your life total as a resource. This is probably my number one game tip, as people generally are not very good at allowing their life total to decrease. I let a red deck get me to 4 life this week, because I knew that I could win the turn after. It was a risk, but a calculated one, as I knew he had one card in hand, and not enough untapped mana to play it.