Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Modern, 2/25/13

Greetings and/or salutations!

So I played my second EVAR Modern event last night. I rocked my U/W/R Delver deck, and finished 3-1. Here's the breakdown:

Round 1: vs. Bant Splicers. Huh? Okay, this guy mostly plays casually (Commander), and tossed together a bunch of cool Splicer-themed cards mostly from Scars of Mirrodin block. It had a very high curve and not nearly enough lands. I think he played maybe 4 spells the whole match. 1-0.

Round 2: vs. Selesnya Aggro. Okay, this guy is a regular at the Standard tournaments, and brought his Standard deck to a Modern tournament. Sometimes it works, but this time, not so much. Most of his critters died to my removal and/or countermagic. 2-0.

Round 3: vs. Junk. Looked kinda like a "good stuff" deck, with Noble Hierarch, Deathrite Shaman, Kitchen Finks, Knight of the Reliquary, and Liliana of the Veil. This was a really close, back & forth match. Game one, I got a Steppe Lynx and a Geist to take a nice chunk out of his lifetotal, but Liliana and Path to Exile cleared my board and finished off my hand. Game two I think I just Kitty-rushed him, and benefitted from some well-timed (and admittedly VERY risky) topdecks of fetchlands. Game three I got him down to one life, swung with my Geist, and he Reliquary'd in a Vault of the Archangel. Between that and the crackback, he ended up at 17 life, and my hand was empty. Owch. Really good, close, fun match. A+++ would lose again. 2-1.

Round 4: vs. Mono-Red Burn. I think this list was similar to another deck I played against the first Modern tournament I played at, and this time, I was better prepared. I had more countermagic, and more basic lands so I didn't die to Blood Moon. Well, sure enough I had Blood Moon and Magus of the Moon attempted against me, and both times I had the counter and/or burn for them. The match was pretty close, going to three games. I probably could have won the one game I lost, though, but I didn't realize there was a Split Second burn card (see Sudden Shock, above) when I allowed myself to hover at 2 life. Oups. :( Anyway, it was really close, with both of us whittling each other down with critters and burn. Ultimately, I prevailed with my combination of creatures and counterspell backup. And it didn't help him that Geist of Saint Traft has Hexproof. A close, fun, well-fought game. 3-1.

So yeah, I went 3-1, which was good enough for 3 prize packs. Yayyy. I don't think I cracked anything terribly exciting. But the experience was fun. I enjoyed the change of pace of playing in a different format with lower expectations of myself and my deck, and I had a lot of fun. I'll feel better about my chances of actually not doing terribly if/when I can get Molten Rains for the sideboard for Tron.

I think I'm about ready to play in a Pauper tournament now, too. I acquired two Curfews for my mono-blue Delver deck, and though I'd like a third, I think it'll do for now.

Cool. Thanks for reading!

Monday, February 25, 2013

FNM 2/22/13, Game Day 2/23/13

Hi everybody!

So, my downward slide is continuing. Honestly, I'm not entirely sure what's going on, but I suspect that my deck might be trying to do too many things. Or maybe people are figuring out how to beat my deck. Or maybe I've been getting unlucky. I'm not sure. But, I went 1-3 at FNM and 0-3 at Game Day. So yeah, I was still playing Sphinx's Spam (Bant Control splashing black for Nephalia Drownyard and Merciless Eviction). I put a Garruk, Primal Hunter in the sideboard instead of Blind Obedience to battle Midrange and Control, and I sub'd a Deathrite Shaman for a Purify the Grave (admittedly, an experiment).

FNM, Round 1: vs. R/g aggro. The guy I played had been in and out of Magic tournaments for a while, and I think he was fairly new to the Standard scene. His deck seemed pretty good, but maybe he didn't play it optimally, or maybe I played mine optimally? Anyway, I was able to stabilize pretty well both games, gain a ton of life, and beat down with doodz. 1-0.

Round 2: vs. ... I forget, I think Naya Midrange. Yeah, I don't remember this match that well. I'm pretty sure it was Naya Midrange. Usually part of my gameplan is to run them out of cards with lots of X-for-1s (board wipes, Sphinx's, etc.). But for whatever reason, it didn't work out. I think I didn't draw into the Sphinx's and/or board wipes, and he landed Garruk. 1-1.

Round 3: vs. Aristocrats. First time seeing this deck in action, and I'm still not entirely sure what happened. I may have taken him to 3 games, but I'm not sure. 1-2.

Round 4: vs. Selesnya Aggro. I don't remember much about this matchup either, but it was similar to round 2. For whatever reason, my usual gameplan just didn't work. I'm pretty sure Elephants were involved. 1-3.

So that was frustrating. But chalked it up to bad luck. Tomorrow should be better, right?

Game Day, Round 1: vs. Humanimator. Ugh, reanimator is back. Well, I definitely needed more than a Rest in Peace and Deathrite Shaman to win this one. This might be one of those matchups where it's worth it to jam a bunch of hate in the board even if it's not that great against other decks, just because I hate losing to this stupid deck. Also, I didn't realize that you could use Zealous Conscripts as part of the combo to steal all your opponents' lands, and give all your creatures haste, and give yourself infinite mana. Needs moar Rest in Peace. 0-1.

Round 2: vs. Rakdos Zombies. I should be okay with this one, right? Well, I can beat a couple of Falkenrath Aristocrats, but not three of them. Especially when I'm not drawing into my Termini or Revelations. Also, I'm starting to not really like Feeling of Dread. Stalling is fine, but not if I don't draw into what I need to get to. Then I'm just throwing away cards and putting off the inevitable. 0-2.

Round 3: vs. Selesnya Aggro. This is another matchup where I should just roll, but for whatever reason it didn't work out. I needed to draw into more board wipes and Sphinx's. 0-3.

So I dropped after that point. I put on a happy face and laughed it off, but after I got home, I sunk into a pretty bad depressed funk. Apologies to my lovely girlfriend for subjecting her to my bad mood. :(

But you know, this kind of depression often serves as a catalyst to reevaluate our situation and motivate us to make changes. So I think I'm going to pull the trigger and play the Wolf Run version of this deck. I played a handful of test games against some of the newer popular decks, and I think it'll do okay. I'm not sure when I'll get to play Standard next, though. I'm going to take Tuesday off this week, and I kinda want to draft at FNM (since I've only gotten to draft Gatecrash once so far), and there's a Modern PTQ this weekend that I wanna try out.

So, Modern. I've got my U/W/R Delver deck, but I've been remiss at getting the cards I need to finish out the deck. Mostly I need Molten Rain to battle crap like Tron, and maybe a Suppression Field to battle Eggs and Pod. I'm not terribly excited about the deck, or my chances to do well. I'd rather run the midrange version, but .. you know, Vendilion Clique .. $50 card .. probably gonna get reprinted in Modern Masters .. probably gonna drop after the PTQ season anyway. But .. we'll try Delver and see how it goes.

Speaking of Delver, I haven't gotten a chance to do much with Magic Online. I've done a few matches in the Tournament Practice room, with mixed results. I'm realizing that my Delver deck really doesn't have many ways to deal with creatures. It wants to use countermagic to deal with stuff. Sometimes I can Snap and then counter, but that's not that great. But the big thing is, I pretty much just lose to the Hexproof decks out there. They cast their dood on turn one, and then jack it up with enchantments. Sometimes I can keep up with countermagic, but if they land an Armadillo Cloak, I'm pretty much dead. So I need to spring for those Curfews. At some point, too, I might want to try out the Post deck, which I have most of the cards for too. That deck looks like a lot of fun, and might be more my style than Delver (generate tons of mana, draw lots of cards, end with a bang .. plus, Mulldrifter).

Okay, well that's it for now. Modern tonight, then a brief break until FNM and PTQ this weekend. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Standard, 2/19/13

Hi everybody!

So I played the $10 Buy-A-Box Standard event last night, rocking the usual Sphinx's Spam deck. I made exactly one change since last Tuesday: I swapped a Rhox Faithmender out of the sideboard for a Tamiyo. I figured I could use some more game against midrange, and landing a Tamiyo against a Wolf Run or even Drownyard seems pretty legit. Anyway, here's what happened:

Round 1: vs. R/w Aggro. Cacklers, Zealots, Reckoners, Hellriders, oh my! Well, it seemed as though I got the perfect draw both games against him, and it didn't seem like it was that close. I stalled, gained some life, swept the board, gained more life, etc. I think I beat him down with Thragtusk and friends one game and milled him out the other. I'm starting to think my deck is stabilizing nicely against the myriad red-based aggro decks of the field. 1-0.

Round 2: vs. Esper Control. Cool! Unlike a lot of others, I actually like control mirrors. So much more interesting tension than whether or not I draw the sweeper before I die to beats. Anyway, this one was kinda like pulling teeth. I was the beatdown deck, since all he played for creatures was Lingering Souls and Obzedat. I dealt with one Obz, but he played another one. I tried beating down with 'tusks and Angels, but he kept finding ways to keep his life total out of range. I tried landing Jace, but I probably went for it too quickly, and I was unable to protect him from the Detention Sphere that came down, and I wasted a counter-bait on an Oblivion Ring trying to free him. Then, I couldn't quite finish the beatdown before I got Drown'd. Game two we ran out of time. I had board position, but he stalled me just long enough to keep from dying. I had been holding onto Merciless Eviction, thinking about using it to get rid of his two Blind Obediences, but for whatever reason I didn't pull the trigger. I probably should have--he probably extorted me 10 times over the course of that game, and almost as many during the first game. The ETB-tapped thing was a minor inconvenience, but the extort was just annoying. 1-1.

Round 3: vs. Boros. I had good draws and he didn't. Neither game was really that close. I landed a Sphinx's Revelation for 10, and he volunteered to scoop if I just showed him the Thragtusk. I showed him 2-3 plus a Rhino Monk. After the match, the judge asked me, "You're done already?" I pointed out that against red deck, the games are over one way or the other after like turn 5. Either I'm at 0 life and I lost or I'm at 20+ and I won. Also, Thragtusk is really good. 2-1.

Round 4: vs. Naya Midrange. I felt pretty good about this. It's like Jund Midrange, but without Rakdos's Return. Well unfortunately, they have the Loxodon Smiter to apply significantly more pressure, and between that and Garruk, Primal Hunter and Kessig Wolf Run, I just couldn't keep up. One game, I managed to wipe his board and catch him in topdeck mode and got there with a single Thragtusk, but the other two games, I just couldn't draw my sweepers. 2-2.
Some thoughts:

I think my aggro matchup is pretty decent now. I need to focus on midrange and control now.

Oh! So there was a Pro Tour this weekend, right? Yeah, so I was pleased as punch that Melissa De Tora got Top 8, both for the glass-ceiling-breakage, but also because it was with Bant Control! Of course, her version (that others were also running) was much more creature-centric than my version. I'm happy to just stall and mill out. They want to win Wolf-Running a dood. I think it's a pretty solid plan, but I was skeptical about the efficacy of it with Boros Reckoner in the format. That guy *wants* me to play creatures and try to block. But after losing horribly to Esper, I can see why they wanted more red-zone action. Esper is much better at playing for the long game .. stalling and milling. Plus, they have Obzedat. Dude's annoying.

So, what do I do? Do I change my deck and play more creatures? I had already decided I wanted to play *less* creatures prior to last week's tournament. I don't know.

The other thing is Naya Midrange. I thought my deck was pretty favorable against that one, since they seem to rely more on creatures, and I rely on sweepers. I think maybe I just got bad draws. I know the first game of that match I kept a questionable hand game one, which had no green source to cast my Farseek until turn 4-5. If I'd had the green source turn 1-2, I think I was holding onto a couple of board wipes. I could have saved my O-Ring for Garruk instead of Huntmaster ... So I dunno. Maybe I don't need to change anything there.

So .. Esper. I wonder, then, if I should go on the Geist plan against them. Obviously, they can't kill it directly. I could hold onto Azorius Charms for their Souls blockers. I do like the Merciless Eviction against them, though. They run all kinds of random crap that I would like to be able to get rid of (okay, mostly enchantments and planeswalkers). Sometimes I wonder if I need more countermagic. I love countermagic. Maybe a Dispel? Maybe another Jace?

Along those lines, I also don't think I like Blind Obedience in my own deck. I think between Feelings of Dread, A-Charms, and board wipes, I should be able to stem early tides against red aggro. Hellrider sucks, but if they kill me on turn four with it, I was probably dead anyway, right? I thought about it .. the Extort doesn't really matter against them that much. Red decks are all about mana efficiency: they want to get as much damage as they can with as little mana as they can. I have to play the reverse role: prevent as much damage as I can with as little mana as I can. Blind Obedience doesn't do that. Best case, it'll stop maybe 2-4 damage from haste critters. Thalia-ing myself just to drain a point of life isn't what I want to do. It's not a good path to victory--that's what Thragtusk and Mill are for.

I think I'll leave my deck the way it is for now. There are a few more events coming up within the next week, so depending on how I do there, I may or may not tweak it. Friday I'll probably play FNM at Mox Mania again, and then Game Day and Gatecrash Draft at Mox on Saturday, and of course, next week's Win-A-Box. There's also a Modern PTQ coming up, so I think I'll give my Modern deck a whirl next Monday at Mox in preparation for that; well, if I don't help out as a Judge for that event, that is.

Anyway, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Gatecrash Sealed 2/11, Standard 2/12

A couple of things to report.

First, I played a casual Gatecrash Sealed event at a friend's house Monday night. My pool was kind of strange. I opened Zegana (making it I think the 3rd time I've opened her in a Sealed pool .. out of 3 GTC Sealed events I've played), but the Simic wasn't there. There were a fair number of good green and white creatures, and some good Gruul and Boros rares, so I ended up going Naya. Over the first match or two, I was realizing that the Boros stuff on the low end of the curve was making me have mana issues, so I made it into more of a W/G/r deck.

Some highlights:
* I played 5 of the rares I opened, and each one was great. Frontline Medic is a bomb 3-drop that enabled me to attack with wild abandon and force through a ton of damage. Orzhov's big-butt creatures slowed that down, though.
* I was able to set up a very threatening Rubblebelt Raiders several times, but each time I got her out, she died before she could do her thing.
* Signal the Clans did a lot of work for me. Most of the time, I'd cast it on turn 3-4 to find one of my bombs to try to set up an endgame. I was happy with it. It reminded me of Pack Rat--not because it wins games if unanswered, but it turns a bad card into a good card. In Constructed, you play good cards, so cards like Pack Rat and Signal the Clans are less necessary. I guess this is kind of like a Looter in that respect, too. It was good. Not a bomb, but definitely quality.
* Foundry Champion was pretty great. He was one of the few removal options I had (the others being two Smite), and he was a big threatening creature, too. Most of the time I cast him into a board where I wasn't already almost-dead, I won.
* Glaring Spotlight is this set's Teleportal. Except it's colorless. Good stuff.
* Prophetic Prism did a *lot* of work in the deck. It drew me into stuff I needed (lands, creatures), triggered Extort (I had a couple of Extort doodz), and fixed my mana so I could cast my red stuff and/or use Extort more and/or use Foundry Champion better. Cool card. I was glad I played two, but I think three would have been too many.

So yeah, I ended up going 4-2, losing to a Naya deck with Aurelia, and to an Esper deck with too much Extort, and both the blue and white Primordials.

Then, I played the $10 Win-a-Box at Mox Mania last night. I played Sphinx's Spam again, with a few minor changes. I think I took out a Detention Sphere and the Elixir of Immortality for two Feeling of Dread, I made a few sideboard tweaks, and I bought a Godless Shrine to replace one of my Watery Graves.

Round 1: vs. Jund. I misplayed in game one, and I didn't really recover. He had a Vampire Nighthawk out, and cast Olivia Voldaren. I had a Dissipate and Supreme Verdict in hand. For some reason, I wanted to keep my life total high, so I countered her. Two turns later, I got Rakdos's Return'd. I managed to slow the bleeding with some decent topdecks, but the damage was done. I got him game two after I killed a bunch of his creatures, Negate'd his Rakdos's Returns, and then I think I milled him out. Game three I didn't draw terribly well, I think I got Return'd again, and he finished me off in extra turns. 0-1.

Round 2: vs. Boros Deck. Game one I slowed him down, wiped his board, gained some life, landed a Thragtusk, and he scooped. Game two he killed me with a turn four Hellrider. Game three was more like the first. Quick and easy. 1-1.

Round 3: vs. Esper Control. A lot of people dread these kinds of matchups, myself included, but I didn't mind. It's much a much more interesting game, because the angles of play are so much different. Do I tap out? What instant-speed play do I repreresent? Does he have a counter? Can I protect my win condition. Apparently, I answered those questions better than he did, and I got him in two, somewhat long and grindy games. I had been worried about Obzedat going into Gatecrash Standard, but he presented no problem for me. I got him twice with A-Charm -> Drownyard, and Refuge -> O-Ring/Verdict a couple other times. Game one, I had to mill him for 3 a turn with Drownyard, and game two I found Jace early on, and was able to protect him with multiple counterspells. 2-1.

Round 4: vs. Mono-Black Exalted. Same younger fellow I played last week with the Simic deck, who again got pair up against me. This week his deck reminded me of a nuts M13 draft deck, with lots of Duty-Bound Dead, Servant of Nepharox, Liliana's Shade, Sign in Blood, Vampire Nighthawk, Murder, and Cathedral of War. He was able to knock me down to some pretty low life totals, but each time I was able to get out of it with a board wipe and/or Sphinx's Revelation. It's kind of unfortunate that to have success in Standard these days, the better cards cost quite a bit of money. I probably had close to $150-200 worth of cards in my manabase alone. Add in playsets of Sphinx's Revelation and Thragtusk, and it adds up quickly. 3-1.

So yeah, with just the two Feelings of Dread, I feel like my percentage against red aggro has done a decent uptick. I didn't have the displeasure of facing off against R/g though, so I'm still not sure about that one. I think it's still decent.

I was also able to trade in my 2x Boros Reckoners to the store for a couple of Godless Shrines and a little bit of leftover store credit. Reckoner topped off at about $27 yesterday, but today it seems like they're starting to float back down in price. I think it's a good card, but I don't see that it's worth that much. It's more like Thragtusk than Snapcaster Mage, but even Thragtusk is still fetching close to $20. So .. I dunno. I guess we'll see. I just hope I don't end up wanting to play something down the line that requires more than 1-2 of him and then I have to pony up another $50+ to finish a playset.

Now that I have 3 Godless Shrines, I've go the manabase to be able to play Esper now. It's really tempting, because I enjoy taking control of games, and it seems like Esper does that pretty well (it has better removal, at least). I just really like Thragtusk, Farseek, and Alchemist's Refuge, and I don't want to give them up. And I just can't bring myself to play four colors. Not without some kind of Reflecting Pool-type land. So for now, I'm still enjoying Bant and having success with it, so I'll keep going with that.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

FNM: 2/8/13

Hi everybody!

So here's my first actual current report. This Friday I played Friday Night Magic at Mox Mania here in Madison. I was gonna go to Misty Mountain to do draft, but the weather has been yuck lately, so I figured I'd go with the "not drive across town in crappy weather" option. So, it's Standard at Mox, and I played with my Bant Control deck that's been doing well for me lately. Mox's metagame seems to lean towards aggro, with a smattering of control, combo, and midrange, so I skew my deck to be able to deal with lots of critters nibbling at my ankles and throwing burn in my face, mostly with lots of lifegain. I call the deck Sphinx's Spam. Here's the list I ran:

25 Land (including 2 Alchemist's Refuge and 2 Nephalia Drownyard)

1 Elixir of Immortality

4 Farseek
4 Azorius Charm
1 Snapcaster Mage
1 Syncopate

2 Centaur Healer
2 Dissipate
2 Detention Sphere
1 Oblivion Ring

4 Supreme Verdict
2 Restoration Angel
1 Rhox Faithmender

1 Jace, Memory Adept
4 Thragtusk
4 Sphinx's Revelation
1 Terminus

3 Rhox Faithmender
1 Centaur Healer
3 Negate
1 Curse of Echoes
1 Psychic Spiral
2 Terminus
1 Merciless Eviction
1 Rest in Peace
1 Purify the Grave
1 Ray of Revelation

I don't remember the exact mix of lands, but I had 2 Alchemist's Refuges, 2 Nephalia Drownyards, 2 Water Graves, and typical Bant-colored things.

So my plan is: stall early, boost my life total a little, wipe the board, then either start beating face with 'tusks, and/or start milling. I had been doing very well with this plan, not having lost a match in the previous two Standard events I played at, but sadly, my luck was to run out. Here's how it played out.

Round 1: vs. Jund Midrange. Cool! I've been wanting to play this matchup for a while, but dreading it .. but .. still wanting to get a feel for it. Previously, control decks I've played have struggled against Jund. Mostly because my sweepers tend not to be awesome value against them, and planeswalkers are hard to deal with (I run D-Spheres and an O-Ring, but they run Abrupt Decay, and sometimes Golgari Charm post-board). Oh yeah, and Rakdos's Return. >_< Anyway, my opponent admitted that he was somewhat new to the deck, and wasn't sure if he was making optimal plays. I'm not sure if he did or didn't, but my deck actually played out very well against him. I suspect he overextended a little bit, because I did 3-for-1 him with a Verdict, and he didn't draw the Return. For game two, I sided out a lot of my lifegain stuff and brought in the Negates, the Curse (admittedly an experiment), and the Eviction (for planeswalkers and other random shenanigans). Well, I drew into all my counters (thanks Sphinx's-es!), and countered everything that I needed to (planeswalkers and Rakdos's Return). At least one game I won via mill. Maybe both. I like having the Memory Adept in there, though I *really* miss Tamiyo. 1-0.

Round 2: vs. Azorius Aggro. Finally got to play this matchup too. I felt pretty good about it, being slightly slower than your typical R/x aggro, and very creature heavy. Problem is, they are a bit more explosive with stuff like Sublime Archangel, Geist of Saint Traft, and Silverblade Paladin. Well, I was able to keep him off-balance enough to keep my life total high, sweep the board multiple times, and start chaining Sphinx's-es. I think I won via mill. Second game was more of the same, but with time kinda short, I went on the aggro plan after I wiped the board a couple times, and ended up with a board full of Thragtusks, Beast tokens, and Restoration Angels, and beating down for 10+ a turn. 2-0.

So far, so good! I think this was 10 straight matches (or more) without a loss. But now I'm facing other winning players, so things should be a bit tighter.

Round 3: vs. R/g Aggro. I played against this deck earlier in the week, and beat it pretty handily with my stall + lifegain plan, so I was feeling pretty good about it. It worked great game one, but I kept a bad hand game two and lost to a pretty explosive start. Game three I kept a much better hand, but he came out SO FAST. I think I was able to start stabilizing somewhere around 5 life with a Faithmender in play. I drew a Terminus, and chose to cast it to get rid of his two (relatively small) doodz, but also my Faithmender. I wasn't sure if that was the right play, and in retrospect, I don't think it was. He's got much better (i.e., hastier) topdecks than I do, and I could have used the Faithmender to keep my life total up. I don't remember how it ended, but I think it involved a bloodrush'd dood and/or Skullcrack, with Sphinx's as my next draw. 2-1.

Round 4: vs. R/g Aggro. Yup, same deck. I don't remember much about what happened, but it came down to a close game three again. This time, I misplayed against Pyreheart Wolf. I forgot it had undying when I Verdict'd, and then I played a Thragtusk, forgetting about the Pyreheart ability. Turns out that he's not just a 1/1 for 3 mana. Who knew? Well anyway, I think I died to a bloodrush'd dood and/or a Skullcrack. 2-2.

Well all that was good enough for 9th place overall, with by far the best tiebreakers in the room (2 of my opponents fininshed 3-1, and one finished 3-0-1). So I got 2 prize packs, and cracked a Prime Speaker Zegana (completing my playset). Yayyy.

So yeah, I still like this deck a lot, but I'm starting to wonder about the Centaur Healers. They combo great with Faithmenders, but I think I need a better speedbump. With these aggro decks, they can Spear the Healer, and do a ton of damage with creatures. Others play Feeling of Dread in the "speedbump" role, and I think that's probably better. I'll take an extra burn spell to the dome, but I can stop two attackers two different times, which is probably worth around 8-10 life total. Then, I don't cost myself creatures when I have to sweep the board with a Healer in play.

So if I'm gonna change what I'm doing with the lifegain, maybe I should consider other changes. Like, if I'm increasing my spell count, maybe I should try Augur of Bolas? He's a good blink target for Resto, and it's good card advantage. Well, sometimes anyway. Yeah, I think I'll try testing with that. I think the Healers are still worth keeping around, but I don't think I can rely on them quite as much as I used to, in the same way that I used to. We'll see.

Then, I've been slowly but steadily getting into Magic Online. I've read that Pauper and Momir Vig Basic are the "cheap" formats to get into. So I've been dabbling. I've played a little bit of competitive Momir Vig, and I've done okay. I 0-2-drop'd the first 4-found daily event I played in, and went 2-1 in the three 2-man queues I tried later on. It's pretty cool, because the strategies are subtle, and a lot of it comes down to playing the percentages. It really does help teach combat math, though, which is definitely something I could stand to get tighter with.

For Pauper, I decided on Mono-Blue Delver. I've only played it in the Tournament Practice room so far, as I'm trying to get used to how it plays. But I like it so far. Delver is of course a really good card, and I love playing with cards like Brainstorm and Counterspell. I'm a little nervous about the Cloudpost matchup, though, since they play a bunch of creatures that are hard to punch through with 1/1 dorks, and they play so many X-for-1s: Mulldrifter, Sea Gate Oracle, Serrated Arrows. I noted in one game that Mulldrifter was a 6-for-1: for one spell, he got a dood, 2 cards, and blank 3 of my creatures. Yikes. :/ But ... maybe I just need to be diligent about countering the right things (letting Sea Gate Oracle resolve, but saving counters for Mulldrifters).

I'm gonna try Momir Vig again tonight, then play Gatecrash Sealed tomorrow at a friend's house, then maybe Standard again on Tuesday.

Cool. Well that's it for now. Thanks for reading! Feel free to leave comments.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


Greetings and/or salutations! I am Professor Shine, and I play Magic: the Gathering. This blog is a place for me to collect my thoughts about my experiences with the game, and to braindump for the whole world to see.

So, a little history about who I am, and what my experiences with the game have been. I started playing in 1994, when my friend called me up over Christmas break and said that our acquaintance wanted to show us this new game. It's called Magic, and it's played with cards. Cards? Hmmm, okay, whatever. So we played a few games, and I almost immediately fell in love. I had always enjoyed games in the fantasy genre, including Dungeons & Dragons, board games, and role-playing video games. And this was the same thing, but with cards .. and modular and customizable! Two of my favorite things in the whole world.

Unfortunately, most stores in the area were sold out of the core set (at the time, the perhaps inappropriately named "Unlimited"). I think some stores still had whatever expansion was out at the time (Arabian Nights and/or Antiquities), but our friend recommended starting with the core set. In retrospect, I kinda wish I had immediately cashed in my life savings and scoured the region for every single thing I could find. That stuff is worth so much money now.

Anyway, it wasn't until Revised Edition came out that spring that we could start getting into the game. And that we did. That spring and summer, every time we'd go to Madison, we'd come back with a few more packs of cards. We'd build decks, play them against each, and generally have lots of fun in the process. At Gen Con that year, we did lots of trading and playing with the swarms of other Magic players were infiltrating the hobby gaming scene in droves. I got introduced to all kinds crazy cards and archetypes that I didn't even know existed, like Urzatron (back when the best thing you could do with that was Colossus of Sardia!).

A year later, though, none of my friends were that into it anymore. I tried playing casually with a group I learned about from another guy on campus, but I never felt like I really "fit in." Around the same time, Wizards were greatly lowering the power level of the game, and nothing in the new sets (Ice Age, Homelands, Alliances) was exciting me at the time. So I packed up my cards and filed them away.

Flash forward about 8-10 years. I was in a heavy born-again-Christian phase, and I was taught that "Satanic footholds" might be causing me spiritual problems that might be exacerbating personal problems I was struggling with at the time. So I went through this process of purging things from my life that were deemed unholy. Magic had a lot of influence and symbolism of the occult, so ... I chucked my cards. (Yes, I had several dual lands, but no Power Nine or anything like that.)

Flash forward to 2008-9. I was separated from my [now ex-]wife, and forced to live with my parents. I was digging through my old stuff in the basement and .. I came across some Magic cards that hadn't been filed away with the other boxes I'd had. So I looked through them. Yeah, this was fun. And hey, I never got to play this Elves deck I put together (it ramped into Force of Will and Craw Wurm!). So I got bored one day and looked it up on the Internet. Huh, they're still making this game! I looked at some of the newer cards. Wow, that looks like fun!

So I visited Pegasus Games here in Madison and awkwardly asked the clerk about it. He sold me a couple of janky intro deck type things, which I excitedly opened up and started taking in. I found out about Friday Night Magic, and tried my hand. Unfortunately, at Pegasus, the format was draft with the new Conflux set, and I didn't really know what I was doing. I knew good bomby cards when I saw them, but I didn't really know how to draft or construct a deck. I did manage to get my Ethersworn Adjudicator out one game, but it died immediately. Aw. :( I went 0-2, got a bye in the 3rd round, and wasn't terribly excited about drafting after that.

Instead, I started attending their Thursday "casual play and trade" thingy, and I had a lot of fun with that. Lots of random players just hanging around, mostly much younger than myself, but still fun to play with. I started buying more cards, and attended the Alara Reborn sealed events. I started getting a little better at the game, and tried drafting a couple more times, this time at Misty Mountain Games on the other side of town. I still didn't really know how to prioritize my picks, and never put together a deck that won a match.

I enjoyed playing, but I wanted to get better. So I started reading articles on Channel Fireball about drafting. In particular, David Ochoa's "good vs. evil" articles were incredibly helpful in illustrating what kinds of cards to look for: bomb creatures/spells, removal, evasion, card advantage. The M10 Core Set came out, and I won my first Draft match with a blue/black control deck. Wow! I think I was hooked for good.

Then I met a nice fellow at (I think) M10 Game Day who invited me to do some casual playing at his place. I'm pretty socially awkward, so actually giving him a call was one of the more difficult things I've done, but he was really friendly about it. He invited me to play in their casual Monday night group, and I started doing that every other week (they usually stay up playing pretty late, so it was hard for me to justify doing that every week and being tired at work every Tuesday).

In the meantime, I was drafting more, playing more Standard, and winning on a pretty regular basis. Tournaments where I'd finish 0-X were getting pretty rare. I bought singles online to complete a crazy Landfall deck that was capable of flooding the board with Beast and/or Bird tokens by turn four. (Then I'd lose to Day of Judgment, but hey! It was fun when it worked.)

I continued growing as a player, learning more nuances about drafting, deckbuilding, and playing. I started trying to build and play Good Decks, instead of just Fun Decks (though if a deck is both Good and Fun, bonus!). I think at this point, 4 years after I started playing again, I've become Good. I can win very consistently against newer players, and I can hold my own against the better ones. I can go to a competitive tournament and finish with a .500 or better record most of the time (except for maybe Sealed... I haven't had much luck with that yet).

At some point, I started posting a lot online about my experiences in various Magic events, on internet forums I frequent such as The Shizz and MTG Salvation, and in my personal blog. I started playing in other formats (Legacy, Modern, and Online). I've become pretty good with the rules of the game, and I have Judge aspirations. My level of activity (in both breadth and depth) with the game is at an all-time high. So, I figured it was about time to document everything in one place. Both to streamline what I write about online, as well as for my own self-reflection.

I have no idea if anybody will actually read this or care about it. I think if I can get a few of my online friends to read and get some value out of it, and possibly get some dialogue going about various things, then that'll be great. If nothing else, it'll be like a journal, good for introspection if for nothing else.

So, Reader, whoever/wherever you are, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoy. :)