Kategorie-Archiv: Allgemein

Verweise

Zweieinhalb Monate ist es nun her, dass ich meine englischsprachige Blog-Aktivität zum Thema Magic – und das bedeutet, deren überwiegenden Großteil – auf mein neues/altes Blog ZEROMAGIC zurückverlagert habe. (Falls Ihr das irgendwie verpasst haben solltet: Gleich Link klicken, bookmarken und regelmäßig aufsuchen!) Wie hat sich das auf MagicBlogs ausgewirkt? Fehle ich einfach nur, oder habe ich stattdessen mehr Raum für deutschsprachige Blogger geschaffen? Ich poste da mal einen Screenshot:

Armut

Ormus‘ jüngster privater Eintrag, der bereits fast ein halbes Jahr her ist, ist nur zur besseren zeitlichen Einordnung noch mit im Bild. Der oberste Eintrag von florbot gehört natürlich zum „offiziellen“ News-Blog dieser Seite. Was dann noch übrig bleibt, und mit welcher Frequenz diese Blogs aktiv sind, erscheint mir äußerst bescheiden.

Aber andererseits… Mit PlanetMTG ist ja nun nur noch eine einzige deutsche Magic-Seite mit regelmäßigem redaktionellen Content aktiv, und da habe ich ebenfalls einen Screenshot für Euch:

Leere

Dies sind die Threads zu den veröffentlichten Artikeln. Beachtenswert ist, dass neuer Content durchaus noch mit einer guten Häufigkeit erscheint, und die Autoren sind (logischerweise abgesehen von der Regelkolumne) durchaus namhafte und kompetente Spieler! An der Qualität von Inhalt und redaktioneller Betreuung kann man natürlich so einiges zu mäkeln finden, und auch die Auswahl der Inhalte sehe ganz besonders ich kritisch, aber trotzdem muss man konstatieren: Namhafte, kompetente Autoren veröffentlichen häufig und regelmäßig Content, für den es Publikum gibt.

…und nun schaut Euch das Feedback an, welches diese Autoren für ihre Mühe erhalten! Gut, der zuoberst verlinkte Artikel war bei der Erstellung dieses Screenshots erst knapp sechs Stunden online (unterdessen sind es sieben, und es hat sich nichts geändert). Ich finde eigentlich, dass dies ein mehr als ausreichendes Zeitfenster zum Lesen und Kommentieren ist, und der Artikel ist ja auch nicht gerade mitten in der Nacht online gegangen, aber ignorieren wir ihn und schauen uns die übrigen Threads an. Und da sehen wir, dass gerade einmal drei von neunzehn Artikeln überhaupt einen Kommentar erhalten haben – und das sind exakt die „Toffeldrafts“! (Es hat ja auch seinen Grund, dass ich von der „Generation Toffel“ geschrieben habe, und nicht von der „Generation Bohny“ oder so.) Selbst, als bei einer von Bohny’s Veröffentlichungen ein Video nicht funktioniert hat, hat keine Sau darauf hingewiesen (und natürlich hat die Redaktion es nicht von alleine bemerkt).

Wie viel Desinteresse geht noch? Und kommt mir nicht schon wieder mit der Szene, die heutzutage „woanders“ wäre – wenn die Szene nicht da ist, wo regelmäßig Content von Top-Spielern (bzw. was immer im deutschen Sprachraum mit einigem guten Willen unterdessen dafür durchgehen muss) veröffentlicht wird, dann gibt es diese Szene nicht mehr. Und wenn Toffel dann halt das macht, worauf er (im Gegensatz zu anderem Content) überhaupt noch Resonanz erhält, dann ist das zwar auch nicht unbedingt hilfreich, aber wie ich auch bereits schrieb, durchaus verständlich.

Es liegt nahe zu vermuten, dass diese Feedback-Faulheit auch auf MagicBlogs eine relevante Mitursache dafür ist, dass hier so wenig passiert. Und wenn Ormus irgendwann einmal die Lust an diesem Projekt verlieren sollte, und somit ein weiterer Pfeiler der ehemaligen deutschen Magic-Gemeinde im Sumpf von deren Apathie versinkt, dann dürft Ihr Euch alle an Eure eigenen Nasen fassen.

Zu den Stichworten „Pfeiler“ und „ehemalig“: Der eigentliche Anlass, hier mal wieder etwas zu veröffentlichen, war dass ich Euch ein Link zu einem Text präsentieren wollte, von dem ich befürchtete, er sei mit der unangekündigten Schließung und Löschung von Magic Universe verloren gegangen. Er stammt von Phips (Philipp Summereder) und ist mir als derjenige Artikel im Gedächtnis geblieben, dessen Verschwinden ich am meisten bedauerte (abgesehen natürlich von meinen eigenen, die sich allerdings alle zumindest noch in einer Rohfassung auf meiner Festplatte befinden). Ich habe ihn auf Phips‘ Blog gefunden (was im Wesentlichen bedeutet, ich habe Phips‘ altes Blog wiederentdeckt) und bin mir nicht ganz sicher, inwieweit er sich von der als Artikel veröffentlichten Fassung möglicherweise unterscheidet – in meiner Erinnerung las jene sich etwas flüssiger und pointierter, aber das ist vielleicht auch nur auf nostalgische Verklärung zurückzuführen. Wie auch immer, er ist weiterhin zeitlos aktuell und unterhaltsam!

Leitfaden zum Verärgern einer Mehrspielerrunde

Zum Abschluss will ich noch einmal auf mein anderes deutschsprachiges Blog hinweisen, welches sich nicht mit Magic befasst (Schock!!!), und dem ich mich so nach und nach wieder verstärkt zuzuwenden gedenke. Aktuell beschäftige ich mich gedanklich besonders mit Fußball, aber das ist lediglich saisonbedingt und wird sich spätestens nach Beendigung der Europameisterschaft auch wieder ändern. Schaut es Euch an – es gibt da viel zu entdecken!

Ein Platz für Andi

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Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad aus deutscher Sicht

Ich hatte ja gesagt, wenn mir etwas einfällt, worüber auf Deutsch zu bloggen mir sinnvoll erscheint, dann werde ich das hier auch tun, also tue ich es hiermit! Okay, eigentlich hatte ich nicht wirklich einen Blogeintrag zu diesem Thema geplant, aber nachdem ich mir den größten Teil der Arbeit aus Neugierde eh bereits gemacht hatte, kann ich auch gleich einen Post daraus fabrizieren.

Zugegeben, der Niedergang des deutschen Magic interessiert außer mir kaum noch jemanden, und angesichts der jüngsten Verlautbarung zum Thema „professionelles Magic“ dürfte sich das Problem eh in absehbarer Zeit von selbst erledigen, aber ich habe das Abschneiden der deutschen Spieler bei der Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad in tabellarischer Form festgehalten und ausgewertet und teile die Ergebnisse nun mit euch. Dabei verlasse ich mich bei der Zuordnung der Nationalitäten auf die Informationen aus der Coverage – bei Pro Touren ist diese im Gegensatz zu Grand Prixs eigentlich recht zuverlässig. Für die exakte Schreibweise der Namen dürfte das nicht gelten, aber der Einfachheit halber habe ich auch hier die in der Coverage verwendeten Schreibungen übernommen.

Die Pro Tour hatte 378 Teilnehmer, darunter 14 Deutsche. Gespielt wurden jeweils 3 Runden Draft gefolgt von 5 Runden Standard an Tag eins und zwei; am dritten Tag spielten die Top 8 im K.O.-System den Sieger aus. Für einen Matchsieg erhielt ein Spieler an Tag eins oder zwei 3 Punkte, für ein Unentschieden (kam bei den deutschen Teilnehmern nicht vor) 1 Punkt, für eine Niederlage 0 Punkte. Am Ende des ersten Tages schieden alle Spieler mit weniger als 12 Punkten aus. Teilnehmer, die keine Möglichkeit mehr sahen, ein erstrebenswertes Ziel zu erreichen, schieden häufig freilwillig aus („droppten“).

Meine erste Grafik zeigt das Abschneiden der einzelnen deutschen Spieler im Turnier:

Stats1

Sieben von vierzehn Deutschen (50%) erreichten also Tag zwei. Insgesamt gelang dies 236 der 378 Teilnehmer (62,43%). Wir haben hier demnach weit unterdurchschnittlich abgeschnitten – schon ziemlich peinlich für eine einst große Magic-Nation!

Meine zweite Grafik zeigt das Abschneiden der deutschen Teilnehmer insgesamt, aufgeschlüsselt nach den vier einzelnen Abschnitten der Pro Tour (okay, eigentlich waren es ja fünf, aber in den Top 8 war ja kein deutscher Spieler vertreten), und in Blöcken nach Format bzw. Tag zusammengefasst:

Stats2JPG

Dabei sind die interessanten Werte jeweils diejenigen, welche „Punkte pro Runde“ angeben. Lässt man Unentschieden außen vor, so befindet sich deren turnierweiter Durchschnitt offensichtlich bei 1,5. Auch hier zeigt sich, wie weit unterdurchschnittlich die deutschen Teilnehmer liegen. Dabei erscheinen die Unterschiede zwischen Tag eins und Tag zwei nicht allzu signifikant – wohl aber diejenigen zwischen Draft und Standard! Während Deutschland im Constructed-Format nur knapp den Durchschnittswert unterschreitet, offenbart es im Draft massive Defizite. Die Ergebnisse von vierzehn Spielern bei einem Turnier sind natürlich nur bedingt repräsentativ, aber der Ausschlag nach unten ist doch schon ziemlich deutlich, und irgendwie passt er auch zur „Generation Toffel“, die dem strategischen Gehalt von Limited-Content völlig unkritisch gegenübersteht, weil es ihr nur darauf ankommt, von Clownerien unterhalten zu werden. Decklisten zu kopieren und spielen zu üben, das reicht für durchschnittliche Ergebnisse auf Pro-Tour-Niveau aus, aber das Verständnis für die Dynamiken eines Draft-Environments erlangt man nicht durch Daddeln allein.

Insgesamt positiv hervorzuheben ist allerdings zumindest der kontinuierliche Erfolg von Patrick Dickmann, der uns zuletzt die erste Pro Tour Top 8 mit deutscher Beteiligung seit gefühlten Ewigkeiten beschert hatte, und der mit seinem guten Abschneiden hier in Madrid als erster (und sehr wahrscheinlich einziger) deutscher Spieler die Schwelle zum Gold-Pro nächstes Jahr überschritten hat! Zu schade, dass dieser ganze Aufwand die Mühe nun wohl nicht mehr wert gewesen sein wird…

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Zeromagic is active again

Zeromagic

 

My first entry after almost three years on Zeromagic has just gone online, comments are reenabled, and everything should be working again the way it’s supposed to! This means I will no longer blog in English on 00zero – time will tell if I find reasons to blog about Magic in German again, which I would still do here. (I explained my motivation for this change in my last entry, in its second part, written in German.) If you’re interested in my English Magic content, please follow me to my new old blog!

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Sideboarding in MTGO Sealed Leagues, and a Return to Zeromagic

(This entry has two parts; the latter being written in German. If you happen to be an international reader, it should not be of much interest to you.)

A few weeks ago, sealed leagues finally returned to Magic Online after many years, and instantly became a smash hit. Now, sealed deck is actually a rather poor format compared to draft, but the convenient structure of league play is such a big allure, and I was drawn in by it just as almost everybody else.

While sealed leagues still have a few kinks to work out, like the pairing algorithm, or the relatively top-heavy payout, they are overall clearly the most comfortable experience among Magic Online play, and one feature which contributes heavily to this is the option to prebuild and save several versions of your sealed deck, so that you can easily switch between those versions during sideboarding. That is an extremely powerful tool, and you will be able to use it to gain a large advantage over opponents who are ignorant of it or too lazy to use it. (You will obviously still want to modify your prebuilds by switching individual cards out and in.)

I will illustrate this principle by showing you screenshots of the decks I used in my first league, where I made especially extensive use of it. I opened a clearly underaverage pool there, but got lucky both with pairings and the shuffler during games, managing an astonishing 4-1 score. However, my ability to adapt to my opponents‘ strategies, while surprising them with radical strategical changes of my own played also an important role in achieving that success.

This was my default build for this league:

Basis

That is a lategame-oriented deck unfortunately suffering from a total lack of actual removal. It does a good job stabilizing and winning attrition wars against decks without bombs, but unfortunately, sealed deck tends to be a lot about bombs… Still, it won me a couple of games while allowing me to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition.

Greedy

When I got the impression that my opponent’s deck was not likely to overrun me too fast, and was trying to out-attrition me, I would sideboard into this version with quite a greedy mana base, but clearly higher overall card quality, and most importantly, some real removal supplied by White. Note that this approach comes with a certain amount of risk, since my opponents could be switching between radically different decks themselves – but most players fortunately don’t.

There were several instances when I believed it was a better idea to become faster instead of slower, though. Possibly, my opponent’s deck would still be stronger than mine in the lategame, and I thus had to hope to beat them before they could drop their bombs. On the other side of the spectrum, I could be facing a deck so fast that I needed to focus even more on surviving the earlygame than with my default build. Lastly, especially in a third game (and I had a lot of third games that league!), I had to factor in the possibility that my opponent would be able to successfully adapt to my lategame-based strategy, and that I needed to throw them a curveball.

I built no less than three distinct aggro versions:

Big Aggro

The most clumsy and most powerful version is this here. It was my choice against the combination of cheap removal, medium-sized creatures and too powerful bombs (especially planeswalkers). It walks a tightrope line between applying early pressure and punching through defenses with sheer power. It is clearly less powerful than my former two builds, due to low overall card quality and being a bit light on early drops for an aggresive deck, but there are some matchups where stomping your opponent with big creatures is the best approach.

Fast Aggro

When I believed pure speed was paramount, I switched to this version. There are still a couple lategame cards, though – it’s sealed deck, after all. With the highest number of 2-drops, this was my best bet against both other very fast decks (the pump spells would become Containment Membrane in that case), and against very powerful, but very slow decks – namely, what I expected some of my opponents to sideboard into after they had encountered my greedy lategame version. Note that it does terribly against the kind of decks with efficient removal and medium-sized creatures I wanted my big aggro version for! Also, it just isn’t a good deck, with low card quality, too few creatures, and too high a curve, but I had to work with what I opened.

Evasive Aggro

This is probably the generally strongest of my aggro builds, although its card quality is still pitiable by sealed deck standards, and it has too few creatures again. It features the most consistent mana base, though, as well as the most evasive creatures, and it gives me access to my white removal. I chose it when I assessed my opponent’s deck to be slow and powerful, but not quite as slow that I could rely on ground-based beatdown, and with a dearth of efficient removal and blockers for flying creatures. While this is a rather large number of restrictions to be met, it actually describes a good amount of sealed decks one will face. I still had to rely on good draws with this build, but lucklily I did get those.

In the end, each one of my builds won at least one game and contributed to a score I would not have believed to be possible when I saw that crappy card pool. The lesson here (besides „better lucky than good“, of course!) is that in a sealed league, your deckbuilding is not done once you find the strongest deck hiding in your pool, because favorable matchup dynamics will make up for sizeable deck deficiencies. Being well-prepared and sideboarding attentively and creatively thus will noticeably improve your chances!

What follows now is the second part of this entry, wherein I explain to my German-speaking readers my decision to shift the majority of my blogging activities back from 00zero to my old blog Zeromagic.

 

 

Meine Rückkehr zu Zeromagic

Dies ist mein letzter englischsprachiger Blogeintrag auf 00zero, und damit möglicherweise mein letzter Eintrag hier überhaupt oder zumindest für lange Zeit (okay, ich werde sicherlich noch eine Ankündigung verfassen, wenn mein Umzug zurück zu Zeromagic vollzogen ist und dort mein erster neuer Artikel erscheint). Der hauptsächliche Grund dafür ist, dass sich meine Erwartungen nach dem Wechsel zu diesem von MagicBlogs gehosteten Blog nicht erfüllt haben.

Bevor ich darauf näher eingehe, muss ich wohl klarstellen, dass ich streng genommen nicht wirklich von Zeromagic hierher umgezogen war, sondern dass ich ursprünglich beabsichtigt hatte, das Bloggen über Magic generell einzustellen, und Zeromagic deswegen schloss; dass ich jedoch schon bald feststellte, dass ich nicht einfach komplett mit dem Schreiben über mein zweitliebstes Hobby aufhören konnte, und dann einen Neuanfang hier bei 00Zero machte. (Dieser wurde dann ebenfalls recht bald durch meine Tätigkeit als Redakteur für das nun nicht mehr existierende Magic Universe für längere Zeit unterbrochen, aber das ist noch einmal ein anderes, trauriges Thema.)

Im Wesentlichen ist mein Abschied von Zeromagic aus heutiger Sicht eine Fehlentscheidung gewesen, die darauf beruhte, dass ich mein Mitteilungsbedürfnis in Sachen Magic unterschätzte. Dass ich dann etwas später stattdessen hier auf 00zero neu begann, mag ein wenig mit dem Unwillen zu tun gehabt haben, mir diesen Fehler einzugestehen, aber letztlich erscheinen mir meine Gründe dafür auch in der Rückschau noch sinnvoll: Ich wollte hauptsächlich den Druck von mir nehmen, häufig und regelmäßig veröffentlichen zu müssen, um mein Publikum zu behalten. Weiterhin wollte ich meinen Teil dazu beitragen, MagicBlogs zu unterstützen, denn diese Seite war im Endeffekt die letzte Bastion der deutschsprachigen Magic-Community im Internet mit integrativer Funktion (noch einmal: der Community, nicht einer Community inmitten einer fragmentierten Szene). Schließlich erhoffte ich mir natürlich auch, mir hier eine neue Leserschaft erschließen zu können.

Der erste dieser Punkte war mir dabei der wichtigste gewesen. Ich kam mit der expliziten Intention hierher, nur ein Blogger unter vielen zu sein, und eben nicht mehr ein Alleinunterhalter. Wenn ich einmal ein paar Wochen lang mit Veröffentlichungen pausieren würde ging ich davon aus, dass trotzdem in dieser Zeit ausreichend Content veröffentlicht werden würde, und dass die Seite MagicBlogs kontinuierlich Besucher anzog, ob ich nun gerade aktiv war oder nicht.

In diesem Licht muss auch meine damalige Entscheidung verstanden werden, weiterhin (hauptsächlich) auf Englisch zu schreiben, wie ich es bereits längere Zeit auf Zeromagic praktiziert hatte, obgleich MagicBlogs sich primär der Förderung deutschprachigen Contents verschrieben hatte. (Und selbstverständlich hatte ich Ormus im Vorhinein gefragt, ob dass für ihn in Ordnung ginge!) Ich erwartete, dass ich damit eine Ausnahme unter den MagicBlogs-Schreibern darstellen würde; dass ich einen Beitrag zur Vielfalt des Angebots der Seite lieferte.

Nun, die Dinge sind leider völlig anders gekommen. Unterdessen erscheinen hier seit Monaten neben meinen Einträgen nur noch News-Artikel. Ich bin nicht etwa ein Blogger auf MagicBlogs, ich bin der Blogger. Das ist absolut das Gegenteil von dem, was ich mir gewünscht hatte! Auch das kürzlich erfolgte Update der Seite stellte offensichtlich keine Initialzündung dar, wie ich es mir erhofft hatte. (Oder zumindest hatte ich versucht, mir diese Hoffnung einzureden…)

Dementsprechend lastet auf mir unterdessen längst wieder der gleiche Druck zur regelmäßigen Veröffentlichung wie einst auf Zeromagic. Der Unterschied ist lediglich, dass mein aktuelles Blog eigentlich gar nicht wirklich mein Blog ist, auch wenn Ormus sich natürlich große Mühe gibt, ein zuvorkommender und hilfreicher Gastgeber zu sein.

Als Konsequenz ist damit auch der Content auf MagicBlogs jetzt zu ca. 50% englisch (und vor der Preview-Saison war dieser Anteil noch einmal deutlich größer). Das war niemals der Sinn der Sache! Nun kann man argumentieren, englischsprachiger Content sei besser als gar kein Content, aber ich denke nicht, dass diese Argumentation noch gültig ist, wenn sich der Charakter der Seite grundlegend ändert. Der Untertitel von MagicBlogs lautet immer noch „Deutsche Magic Blogs“ – aber der einzige, allgegenwärtige Blogger verfasst seine Einträge auf englisch? Das passt nicht mehr. (Und nein, ich werde nicht wieder auf deutsch bloggen – das würde auch die anderen, größeren Probleme nicht lösen.)

Meine Hoffnung auf ein neues, größeres Publikum hat sich ebenfalls nicht erfüllt. Von Anfang an waren meine Klickzahlen auf 00zero schlechter, als sie es bei Zeromagic gewesen waren, und unterdessen sind sie selbst bei meinen beliebtesten Artikeln bestenfalls untermittelprächtig. Tatsächlich lässt sich abschätzen, dass die Anzahl meiner Leser (eine weit kleinere Zahl als die Klickzahlen) sich tief im zweistelligen Bereich befindet, wahrscheinlich sogar im tiefen zweistelligen Bereich. Wer immer der Ansicht ist, dass sein Besuch auf meiner Seite mir Anreiz genug sein müsse, damit ich weiter veröffentliche, und dass Feedback in Kommentaren daher nicht notwendig sei, dem sei gesagt, dass die bloßen Statistiken eine unüberhörbare Aufforderung darstellen, mit dieser Zeitverschwendung endlich aufzuhören!

Besonders frustrierend ist übrigens, wie gründlich die Anzahl der Klicks auf 00zero zurückgeht, wenn mein jüngster Eintrag dort mehr als ein paar Tage alt ist. Dieser tägliche Grundstrom an Besuchern ist weniger als doppelt so hoch wie der auf Zeromagic – und das ist seit knapp drei Jahren geschlossen! Nun war es zwar niemals mein Ziel gewesen, 00zero einfach als Ersatz für Zeromagic zu etablieren, aber nachdem es sich ja nun ergeben hat, dass ich effektiv meine Aktivitäten lediglich verlagert habe anstatt sie qualitativ zu ändern, muss ich konstatieren, dass dies auch unter dem Gesichtspunkt der Besucherzahlen ein kompletter Flop ist.

All dies führe ich letztlich aber nur an um zu erläutern, weswegen es keinen Vorteil mehr für mich bietet, 00zero an Stelle von Zeromagic weiterzuführen. Der einzige wirklich relevante Grund für meine Entscheidung jedoch ist, dass ich auf MagicBlogs kein Teil einer Blog-Community bin, wie ich es gehofft hatte, und dass ich hier nicht den Alleinunterhalter spielen möchte – das kann und will ich – wenn überhaupt – stattdessen auf meinem eigenen Blog tun. Wie aktiv ich dort wieder sein werde, hängt dabei wie immer von meiner aktuellen Motivation ab (die ebenfalls wie immer stark von Eurem Feedback beeinflusst werden wird).

Ach ja, einen Punkt gibt es noch anzusprechen, nämlich meinen Beweggrund MagicBlogs und damit Ormus zu unterstützen. Das habe bzw. hätte ich sehr gerne getan, denn dieses Projekt ist äußerst lobenswert und mit viel Fleiß und Liebe betreut, aber unterdessen bin ich mir tatsächlich nicht sicher, wie viel ich als Blogger wirklich dazu beigetragen habe. Wie gesagt, die Klickzahlen meiner Einträge sind vergleichsweise unspektakulär, und die effektive Verenglischung der Seite ist vermutlich eher kontraproduktiv. Ich hoffe, dass Ormus nicht trotzdem allzu schlimm enttäuscht ist, und ich möchte ihm an dieser Stelle ausdrücklich dafür danken, wie er sich um 00zero und mich bislang gekümmert hat!

Was allerdings die Gesamt-Community angeht – nun, da muss ich vermeiden, mich allzu sehr zu wiederholen, denn zu diesem Thema habe ich mich bereits mehrfach ausführlich geäußert: Dieses Pferd ist tot, und dies bereits deutlich länger, als ich es wahrhaben wollte. Der Rückgang nicht-Pischnerscher Blogaktivität bei MagicBlogs auf den absoluten Nullpunkt macht es jedoch erneut unübersehbar. Hier gibt es einfach nichts mehr zu unterstützen.

Ich werde 00zero allerdings nicht schließen, so wie ich es mit Zeromagic getan habe. Tatsächlich werde ich dieses Blog weiterhin für deutschsprachige Einträge zu Magic-Themen nutzen, falls – FALLS! – ich solche in Zukunft verfassen sollte. Hier liegt natürlich der Hase im Pfeffer: Der einzige Grund, den ich sehe, über Magic auf deutsch zu bloggen, wäre wenn ich ein Thema behandeln würde, welches speziell die deutsch(sprachig)e Community betrifft. ABER DIE GIBT ES BLÖDERWEISE JA NICHT MEHR! Diesen Umstand selbst habe ich häufig genug thematisiert – also was gäbe es noch zu sagen? Nun, wenn mir da doch noch etwas einfällt, dann steht 00zero als Bühne dafür weiterhin bereit. Alle, die sich für meine Gedanken zu Magic-Strategie, Kartendesign und selbstentworfenen Limited-Umgebungen interessieren, werden mir aber hoffentlich in der Zwischenzeit zurück zu Zeromagic folgen!

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Kamigawa Remastered

10e_chk_island_pilcerova3_lg

 

This is a followup to my article All that was wrong with Kamigawa. Therein, I claimed that this setting was not so much doomed to be a failure from its very conception, but instead just misdesigned and, most of all, terribly developed. To underscore this, I put in the effort to design a remastered version of Kamigawa block, following the precedent Wizards did set with Tempest Remastered. While obviously I could not address all the issues Kamigawa had this way, I feel it’s surprising how much more fun this environment looks if you just reduce its contents to the better designs (and shuffle a few rarities around). Honestly, I believe that my Kamigawa Remastered would even play better than the lukewarm received Tempest Remastered, because the structural issues of that ancient, venerable environment were actually greater, even though its contributing sets were far more liked!

When crunching numbers for my Kamigawa Remastered set, I adhered somewhat closely to existing formulas, only fudging a little with the rares and mythic rares, because there was no real reason not to – Tempest Remasterd never got printed, only published on Magic Online, so its numbers did not need to add up in a way conforming to printsheets. I’m not even sure that is generally still a concern nowadays, but I am aware that with the usual 53-15 distribution of rares and mythic rares in big sets, you get to print two copies of each rare and one of each mythic rare on that good old 11*11 printsheet which used to dictate set sizes and rarity distributions in Magic’s early era.

If that would ever become a real issue, I certainly could cut nine cards from among the rares and mythic rares in my Kamigawa Remastered set, but since it will almost assuredly never be, I allowed myself to deviate a little from that formula for symmetry reasons, while of course still observing the rule that the frequency with which a specific mythic rare shows up should be (very closely to) half of that with which a specific rare shows up, assuming that still every eighth rare will be replaced by a mythic rare in booster packs. This is how I got to my 60-17 distribution that fulfills this condition just as well as 53-15 does.

Umezawa's JitteSo, my set has 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 60 rares and 17 mythic rares. With the commons and uncommons, I still had to cut quite a bit of decent stuff in some colors (especially Green), while already running rather thin on others (namely Blue), and this numbers happened not only to be the usual ones, but also the best solution overall for this set. A general note about my choices: The large majority of cards is in there to enhance limited play (the designated main purpose of my set, just like with Tempest Remeastered) and to focus on recognizable aspects of the original environment (which were worth being brought back), but a few rares and mythic rares I put in there as „value“ cards – that is, cards people would be happy to open and which could drive interest into the set in addition to its appeal for drafting. (I had to do a little research here, since I’m not too familar with MTGO singles prices, especially from older sets, and there were a few cards which surprised me.) One card a thought I just had to include, even though it would have ruined nearly every limited game when it was cast, was Umezawa’s Jitte, but when I looked it up I realized with much relief that it is actually not that valuable, and could be left off my list.

Not all themes or good single designs made it, although I managed to include most of them, especially at lower rarities – the percentage of utter trash in the original expansions was so large that I had been able to cut down the number of candidates to an already reasonably-looking number after the first pass. Possibly the most glaring ommission are the common zuberas, and (relatedly) Devouring Greed. The set just had enough power-1-creatures without them, and the very linear strategy making the best use of them wouldn’t have made for good gameplay. In Modern Masters 2015, the overall density of spirits had been lower, while at the same time the overall power level of decks was much higher, so Devouring Greed was acceptable there, but it would not have been in Kamigawa Remastered. Waxmane Baku fell to the wayside for the same reason, although I wasn’t too keen on that cycle in general, since I wanted to cut down on the number of counters used in games.

Dampen ThoughtsThe other big omission was Dampen Thought. If you weren’t around at that time: This instant was to triple Champions of Kamigawa draft what Spider Spawning was to triple Innistrad draft – a build-around uncommon leading to a very unique deck which was really hard to interact with. Many people call that „fun“, while I call it „shitty gameplay“. I did not only cull that card to avoid those non-interactive games, though: Just like Waxmane Baku it had already been strong when you had to struggle to get enough playable cards synergizing with it, but in a set with plenty of such playables it would have been repressively overpowered.

Another theme that had to be adjusted for similar reasons is soulshift, whose creatures mostly moved from common to uncommon. Spiritcraft is now a bit less unevenly spread over the colors, which required a few unexpected cuts (for example, Elder Pine of Jukai lost out in the crunch), and splice onto arcane should play an important part in the environment. Samurai and snake tribal are now on much more equal footing with other themes, and ogre/demon synergies should work more reliable as well. I also moved a few more legendary creatures down to uncommon, to finally make that theme relevant. Ninjas will show up quite frequently (but not too frequently). Soratami, Hondens, Genjus and spirit dragons are all still there at rarities which make sense, the more playable of those weird equipments have made it, and each color got at least one cool flip card.

One thing I did was to adjust the set’s removal – it’s important that there’s plenty of it, so I upped its frequency, but the original rarities didn’t always check out. Even more important was to give each color a solid creature base, which proved a bit tougher – the overall quality mostly works out, I believe, but I could not prevent a noticeable weakness of Red in the lategame, and a similar weakness of Blue in the earlygame. However, in 2-color-decks one should be able to find balanced decks with those colors as well.

Kodama's ReachThat reminds me of a third big omission: Green manafixing, specifically via Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kodama’s Reach. Now, if you follow my thoughts on cube-building, you know that I do not like Green being the color enabling you to play other colors, but I did not design Kamigawa Remastered in the way I design one of my Next Level Cubes. The thing is just – these cards are too good in an environment which features practically no other fixing (yes, those lands are just unplayable), forcing non-green drafters to restrict themselves to two colors, and even heavily encouraging them to priorize one of those. I had them at uncommon for that reason, so that they enabled at least a buildaround multicolor archetype, but I realized they still would have made it too easy to play the best-of splice deck while ramping you towards big legendary creatures and incidentally allowing you to use all Hondens. Also, Green was the one color which was absolutely crammed with solid designs (compared to the other colors), and something had to go. In the end, it wasn’t a tough choice.

You might want to compare my design decisions with the remarks I made towards specific mechanics in my previous article. Obviously, I couldn’t get rid of everything I considered a mistake – Kamigawa Remastered is still roughly 50/50 about spirits and non-spirits, and I embraced slice onto arcane instead of cutting it – but the most glaring issues should be solved. I was a bit concerned that without the handsize matters theme Saviors of Kamigawa might not contribute much, but while it certainly suffered somewhat, there are still many cards from that expansion in my set.

A file with the complete list of my set is at the end of this entry.

Commons, Teil 1:

Commons Teil 1

Commons, Teil 2:

Commons Teil 2

Commons, Teil 3:

Commons Teil 3

Uncommons, Teil 1:

Uncommons Teil 1

Uncommons, Teil 2:

Uncommons Teil 2

Rares, Teil 1:

Rares Teil 1

Rares, Teil 2:

Rares Teil 2

Mythic Rares:

Mythic Rares

 

Die XLS-Datei:

Kamigawa Remastered

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The OGW Leaks – why do People Support Wrongdoers so Strongly?

Possibly the most interesting thing about the Oath of the Gatewatch card leaks is the attitude large parts of the community have shown in their aftermath, especially in response to Trick Jarrett’s article. The reactions towards Wizards of the Coast, although that company has objectively been wronged by people deliberately breaking their trust, show an amount of hateful glee which is remarkable and suprised even me, who has been a staunch and vocal critic of Wizards for many years. I have been thinking a bit about what is going on here.

Firstly, let’s get some facts straight: During the last couple of years, early leaks of cards from new sets have become quite a rare occurence compared to earlier times. Especially, big surprises have not been spoiled for us since the New Phyrexia godbook leak, if I remember correctly. Wizards have really tightened their security around their intellectual property.

Coming Oath of the Gatewatch, they have failed. There were several separate instances of leaked cards already, weeks before offical preview weeks begin. Some of those were rather minor (unless they’re somehow connected to bigger leaks), but two stand out: The reveal of the new Kozilek and the new basic land Wastes a month ago, and the reveal of all expeditions and almost all mythic rares (plus a couple of lands at lower rarities) a few days ago.

Now, there was originally some indication that the first leak might have been orchestrated, but in retrospective this seems very unlikely now. Yes, spoiling Kozilek and Wastes (and concurrently, albeit apparently from another source, Mirrorpool) at the same time suggested that there was a plan behind these reveals, but we now know that this plan included spoiling those very cards officially, and the seeming coincidence that specifically those two cards were leaked is well explained by the very plans to spoil them offically, pinpointing the source of the leak as someone who was involved in those plans.

Also, the idea that Wizards wanted to get the community to talk and speculate about the meaning of the new mana symbol has merit, but with every day passing it became clearer that it could not be in that company’s interest to maintain the enormous confusion resulting for several weeks without clarification. If the leaks had been orchestrated, Wizards would have found a way to clear up all those misconceptions after a week or so at the latest (even without admitting that this had been an intentional leak). Generating buzz is one thing, but allowing players to form pet theories they fiercely cling to, and then disappointing them with a „boring“, obvious explanation is another, and instigating major rules confusion all over the community is even worse. Wizards are incompetent in some areas where they do not allocate enough resources (Magic Online, their web presence etc.), but they are emphatically not incompetent in their marketing decisions. Claiming that the bedlam which ensued after those leaks was either planned or not anticipated by them is just ignorant.

Their reaction to that leak was certainly telling: Evading all questions for several weeks, then offically presenting the two cards as if nothing had happened before, and later admitting and condemning that leak specifically in a clearly butthurt article. There is no way this is playing on with some kind of PR stunt – they make themselves look way too bad here.

Note that this article did not address the much bigger second leak at all, although that certainly hurt the company even more, revealing almost all mythics and expeditions – the major selling points of the new set! – in one fell swoop. That is simply because they do not want to validate these cards or draw attention to them, since they have not officially been spoiled so far (which is in line with their actions after the first leak). You need to be aware, though, that this article still vents the anger about that leak as well, which explains some passages that might seem a bit overblown if only put in the context of the first leak.

Concerning the source of those leaks, it is possible that the first one (Kozilek and Wastes) happened due to negligence – someone involved in preparing the official representation left a file in a place where they shouldn’t have left it, and someone else stumbled over it. It is extremely likely, however, that at least the second leak happened because somewone violated an NDA which had been a requirement to get access to those cards in the first place. If you seriously consider that person a „hero“, your moral compass is way, way off! It doesn’t make you a hero either if you publish info which you came across accidentally, but hey – you’re not owing the big, bad, soulless company anything. I can get behind that. But if you consciously break the trust someone put in you (for example, if you visit a Wizards employee friend and take a picture of a yet unrevealed card which happens to be lying around), you’re a scumbag; and if you explicitly break an NDA in a major way, you’re a criminal, too.

And yet, many people celebrate any and all leakers as heroes. Why is that?

There are many levels of answers to that question. The most obvious is egoism: People want to see cards from the next set as early as possible, no matter what. Once again, I can get behind that! I am a deeply involved Magic player, and that means I spend a lot of time thinking about this game. The earlier I get to know a card, the more time I can put into evaluating it and putting those evaluations into different contexts. I am an information-processing machine craving data. If there is something to be known, I do want to know it – now! Still, I am a far cry from publically endorsing scumbags and criminals.

Then, there is the pent-up frustration with a company which treats its customers as drug addicts, not caring about providing the best possible experience for them (no matter how often they claim to do so), but only about maximizing their profits. This is the company which has been keeping Magic Online continuously in a state of barely playable for one and a half decades, simply because this is the most cost-efficient way to maintain it. It is also the company that has been making sure that competitive play became ever more expensive over the years, and that has been consciously rigging high level play to make sure that players from their home market will completely dominate it. There are many more smaller – but sometimes clearly more evil – things Wizards are responsible for (for one example, google the Zach Jesse ban), and once again, I can get behind that frustration.

There is an issue, though: Humans really like to perceive things as polar – good vs evil, right vs wrong, company vs customers. So, someone hurt Wizards somehow? Applause – they obviously deserved it! It is a typical gut reaction, but people should pause and reflect a little before they allow themselves to voice such statements. Evil companies are evil because they do evil things, and because doing evil things is bad. If someone else does an evil thing, even if it happens to hurt an evil company, that is still bad. Worse – whatever justification that person might have to do those evil things could turn out to be the exact same justification which made that evil company do their evil deeds. Identifying right vs wrong is not about choosing sides once and then feeling morally superior for the rest of your life. (That is wrong.)

And then, things tend to be always a bit more complicated than we would like them to. Shockingly, an evil company is not made up exclusively of evil people. So, even if hurting that company overall seems morally justified, it doesn’t mean that hurting the people working for it is, some of whom may actually be doing their best to improve things from the inside! Allowing our (completely justified) frustration to turn into unreflected general hatred is actually one of the more evil things we humans do.

However, between the very personal satisfaction of seeing new cards earlier, and the vague general frustration with the big evil company, there seems to be a reason to support leaks which I had overlooked so far, but have become aware of recently. To understand it, we have first to be clear that leaks actually do hurt Wizards! There is a lot of poorly thought-out rationalizing why leaks would actually not be a bad thing for them, but once again, people readily assume that Wizards have no clue how to market their products best, which is an ignorant and downright stupid assumption. Also note that we are not talking about a random common leaked a week earlier here or there, but about leaks of the magnitude we have been seeing with Oath of the Gatewatch: Previewing a major (and probably the most spectacular) theme of the new set several weeks early; and showing practically all cards of highest interest at once weeks before their official previews start. Especially the latter completely destroys the whole marketing strategy of Wizards for this set. Say, who of you truly believe that marketing strategies do not influence sales? You might want to not get into this discussion in the first place – it’s a waste of time to argue with people who completely ignore reality around them.

Those very marketing strategies, though, are what put Wizards at odd with their customers. Why exactly do they profit so much from their own carefully crafted revealing scheme? Well, they are obviously generating hype, but what I didn’t realize (because I was never affected by it) before somone else pointed it out is that they generate that hype at the exact best time to induce people to make impulse, and worse, panic buys!

There is a German term which I’m not completely sure is translated absolutely correctly with „promotional trip“: „Kaffeefahrt“. Another one – „Haustürgeschaft“ – is probably exactly translated with „doorstep deal“. Both refer to businesses which consciously exploit the fear of people to miss a good deal if they do not make it right now, and which would run very badly if those people had enough time to think about that deal and analyze its advantages and disadvantages.

This is exactly what Wizards is setting up with every new set. It is why they show us one or two mythic rares per day, hyping them as much as possible – not always for the competitive crowd, but mainly for the casual players who tend to be more easily impressed. These players believe they need those impressive cards, and they believe they need to preorder them right away, before they get much more expensive. That wouldn’t work if those cards had been known and thoroughly discussed for a week or two before it became necessary (or possible) to preorder.

It would be naive to doubt that Wizards‚ sales are actually hurt by leaks, but it pays to think about why exactly that is the case. A new Magic set is not a movie, where getting spoilers beforehand would ruin your enjoyment of the plot. Its appeal, however, is strongly determined by subjective impressions. It makes a heck of a difference if a large segment of the player base perceives the new Kozilek as using some incredibly convoluted new mana of a pseudo-sixth color which requires massive functional errata of hundreds of old cards to work at all, or if Wizards get the opportunity from the very beginning to explain that some costs may now require colorless mana (and that’s all). The absurd overthinking which happened in the wake of this unplanned reveal will stay for a long while with many players, and color their perceptions of Oath of the Gatewatch. However, this is the case where a leak actually hurt both company and customers.

As to the spoiled expeditions and mythics, Wizards are right to remind us that a couple of people who had been working to present these cards in an especially interesting way were bereft of the fruits of their labor – but in this case, the interests of company and customers are not the same. Yes, some people might prefer to see a few cards spoiled per day instead of a whole bunch at one time, and maybe get some spicy flavor or cool additional information with the reveals. But mostly, what is happening is that we get to look closely at this impressively-looking set of kitchen knives a few weeks before we can buy it, and realize during that time that, actually, we do not need it at all (and that it is likely not nearly as good a deal as we were led to believe at first). People getting time to think before they need to buy isn’t good for many businesses, and Wizards is one of those.

So, I can partly also get behind people considering leakers as some kind of Robin Hoods protecting unwary customers from the marketing schemes of a greedy company. Many opinions voiced are still woefully unreflected, but I am starting to comprehend where those people come from. Wizards‚ way to handle spoiler season is largely a means of artificially increasing demand, and I understand why some people perceive early leaks as a form of protection against this kind of manipulation. It is extremely unlikely, on the other hand, that this is what the leakers‘ motivation is rooted in. They undoubtedly have their own petty, egoistic motives, so we might not want to canonize them for what they are doing.

One last thing: There are additional reasons to get angry about Trick Jarrett’s article. He is creating the impression that people sharing available info about leaks are doing something wrong, and even seems to threaten those, which is unacceptable. He also writes a lot of bullshit about what journalism is and what it is not, and he uses the term „theft“ for something which, while possibly illegal, is most certainly not. He also pleads solidarity with a few writers and owners of small sites when his real concerns are obviously his company’s profits. These are points which are valid to address with criticism, and once again I can get behind people who feel little empathy with Trick or the company he represents – and yes, they brought this on by themselves. Still, it makes me feel uneasy when I see by how much many people overreact here.

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The Misery of German Magic by Numbers

During the first day of the World Magic Cup, a tweet caught my eye.

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I immediately thought: This can surely not be a tweet of pride, right? After just five rounds, all the German team had achieved so far was reaching day 2 with (almost) absolute certainty. So this had to mean that we had failed to make day 2 in each of the preceding three years! I looked it up, and yes, that was actually the case. That is no reason for pride, but for shame.

Now, of course, Magic is a game of luck and variance, but being among the most successful 32 nations in the World Cup is still a very reasonable outcome to expect for a large and wealthy nation with a rich Magic history, and missing that goal three years in a row seems quite significant. I decided to compare Germany’s results with that of other nations, looking up 24 countries overall, including the most prestigious Magic countries in the world, the biggest nations from Europe, and our closest neighbors. This is what I found:

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To better compare these results, I decided to give 1 point to each country for each time they reached stage 1 of group play on day two, another point for reaching stage 2, a third for being in the quarterfinals, a fourth for playing in the semis, a fifth for reaching the finals, and a sixth for taking the trophy home. Then I sorted this table by total points and got this here:

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Admittedly, we’re not the only nation underperforming at the World Cup, but being at the very bottom of those rankings is still nothing short of embarassing!

But how much have we really been underperforming? Maybe we have actually gone from playing second fiddle internationally to being outright Magic backwater? (I admit I’m not that great with metaphors in English…)

To put things in perspective: There used to be a time when Germany was one of the four big Magic nations. The United States were – Kai Budde notwithstanding – clearly the overall number one for obvious reasons; Japan safely secured the number two spot after a few years; and France never quite gave up the headstart they had when cards had been printed in French before they were available in German; but noone else would oust us. We were (and, I believe, still are) one of the biggest markets for the game worldwide, and as a consequence were among the most succesful countries in competitive play (even excluding Kai). But alas, we have taken a big fall, and I decided to find out just how big that fall was. So I looked up the number of players who had secured gold and platinum status during the latest four seasons for the countries above.

Two caveats: For one thing, Wizards have consciously rigged high level play during the last few years to massively favor North American players, so it is not exactly fair to compare the rest of the world to the United States and – to a little lesser extent – Canada. Of course, density of organized play has always been a factor, but things have gotten ridiculous lately.

Secondly, while I did my best to find out the correct thresholds for gold and platinum in those earlier seasons, this proved to be a much harder task than I expected it to be, and I might have gotten something wrong. To the best of my knowlegde, those point thresholds were 25/40 in the 2011-2012 season, 30/45 in 2012-2013, 35/45 in 2013-2014, and 35/46 in 2014-2015, and I applied those to the final Player of the Year standings each season. If I missed the mark here, any consequential errors are at least not systematic.

To produce a ranking, I gave each country 2 points for each player who achieved platinum status during a season, and 1 point for each who made gold.

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The picture is clear: We count among the also-ran Magic nations nowadays, despite our large size and proud history. Of course, getting no high level events on our home turf anymore hurts, but as there are still a lot of Grand Prixs happening each year in driving distance, it’s hard to see why we should be so extremely disadvantaged compared to, for example, Sweden or Slovakia.

I still hold that the downfall of the German Magic internet community is a factor here (although causality probably goes both ways): No tournament reports, no strategy articles, no active forum appealing to competitive players anymore – and what’s worst, almost noone but me missing these things! A small circle of road warriors is still regularly hitting Grand Prixs and PPTQs, but with little reward in relation to their effort. Some even seem to have given up on the idea of own success, contenting themselves with being part of the playtest groups of succesful players from other countries, having lost any sense of belonging to a German Magic community. The desire for both disseminating and absorbing knowledge among fellow Germans is dead.

The current season is still young, but so far it really does not look as if Germany would get a gold pro again, while smaller countries like Denmark, Sweden, Austria and the Czech Republic have reasons to be optimistic. (Actually, Denmark’s Martin Muller has already secured gold during the World Cup!) But hey – it’s probably my fault in some way, right? Oh, and Germany’s Magic glory is probably not even really gone at all – it only hides in places where I can’t see it, just like its community. Or its common sense…

***

But enough ranting for this time. I finally finished my set of 100 Battle for Zendikar drafts with an overall disappointing tournament win ratio of 21%. These are my latest winning decks:

BeyondOrBlademaster

(I sided out the green splash for a red splash to run the Blademaster in two matches.)

DimirAlways

(Here I always sided out Green because I felt my deck was much more powerful anyway and would only lose to bad mana draws.)

NoWarcaller

(No, the Warcaller in the sideboard isn’t a mistake. This deck didn’t want it. Note that I never played the Hydra or the Greenwarden, but Sower and Ulamog were great, and I won two close games with massive Rumbler attacks thanks to Sower or Woodland.)

Simic

(No color combination is truly weak if you’re in the right seat for it!)

SowerNoBreaker

(The Breaker never showed up, but the Shepherd brought back the Sower once, which was one of the more absurd things I’ve ever seen a draft deck do.)

DidntWinButShouldHave

Okay, that last deck only went 2-1, but the match it lost was due to MTGO freezing on me in this situation:

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Considering the utter absurdity of this deck, and the egregious injustice of the situation, I present it among the winners. Sue me!

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Why „<>“ is the New Symbol for one Colorless Mana

Alright, it seems I’m not ready – yet – to entirely quit blogging about Magic, having put my hiatus on hiatus. I just cannot not talk about this, and I am deeply bewildered that it hasn’t been made a topic yet in what’s left of the German Magic internet community (meaning MagicBlogs & PlanetMTG). Obviously, people only bother to use their keyboards if asked to post a spam comment in order to participate in some kind of lottery for free…

I cannot imagine how this can not be on the mind of every moderately invested Magic player; and as it has been on MY mind continuously for several days now, I do what I must and write about it. I am, of course, talking about those Oath of the Gatewatch cards which have been spoiled very early, and specifically about the meaning of the new mana symbol they feature. The first two cards were originally tweeted by @Mtgfocus (before that tweet was taken down again), while the third has been posted directly to MTGSalvation, from whose spoiler page I have taken these pictures. There is overwhelming consensus that these cards are real (including a confirmation by some shadowy authority with an excellent track record, which MTGSalvation has access to), and there are actually good reasons to believe that this may be an officially orchestrated „leak“, but I will not go into that. I will instead explain, why – assuming the authenticity of these cards – the new mana symbol shown on them is extremely likely to mean exactly one colorless mana, and nothing else, which is a hotly (and poorly) discussed topic in the Magic internet community where such a thing still exists.

The new cards

635834472657386509635834473120670477635834487868176026

Why I am absolutely convinced: There is overwhelming evidence for simply equating „<>“with colorless mana, while at the same time no evidence at all that it is anything else. There are, additionally, good arguments against any theories of it carrying any different meaning, while the arguments against the simple hypothesis do not hold at all. In fact, ca. 95% of all people arguing against it simply do not understand the rules of Magic, another 4% entertain additional misconceptions about the gravity of consequences from this change with regard to card errata, and maybe 1% actually have something like a valid argument, but one which is easily trumped by the arguments supporting this hypothesis.

Rules Brush-up

First, let me clarify the rules: There are exactly six types of mana in Magic – white mana, black mana, green mana, blue mana, red mana and colorless mana. No matter how mana is produced in this game, it will always have exactly one of those types, although it may carry additional restrictions (like being usable only to cast creature spells, for example), or aspects (like being snow).

Mana costs, however, may reference not only these types of mana, but additional categories which are neither necessarily inclusive nor exclusive with those types. The most prominent of those is generic mana, which means „mana of an unspecified type“. Others are hybrid mana (mana of either one or another specified type), snow mana (mana generated from a source with the snow supertype), and phyrexian mana (mana which can instead be paid for with 2 life). These categories of mana have their own symbols.

As of now, one type of mana shares a symbol with a category of mana: (1) etc. is used to denote colorless mana when referencing produced mana, but to denote generic mana when referencing a mana cost. This confusing double use of a mana symbol (or rather, a set of symbols, since it can be used with any natural number, and even with placeholders for numbers like X or Y) has – so far – only been possible because generic mana is never produced, and colorless mana has – so far! – never been part of a mana cost.

These are the basics everyone weighing in on this discussion needs to understand, and if they do not, their opinion is worthless, disturbing noise. Thus, you can safely ignore any reasonings including made-up terms like „true colorless“, „strictly colorless“ or „dedicated colorless“; and most importantly, the whole argument that errata of old cards producing colorless mana to use the new symbol would in any way be a „functional change“! (Caveat: „Dedicated colorless“ makes sense when referring to cards requiring colorless mana to cast or activate abilities. There is no need for any further specification of „colorless mana“, though.)

Arguments not rooted in poor rules knowledge

After getting those 95% out of the way, let me now address the 4% who say that, even if if it is only a templating change, such an errata would not happen. These people actually do not have a real argument, since similar (and even more drastic) changes HAVE happened repeatedly during the last years, and even for worse reasons, clearly showing WotC’s willingness to mass-errata cards for future gain. Just remember things like „cast“, „activate“ and „battlefield“! With „<>“ becoming the symbol for colorless mana, there will be a few hundred cards getting a new template, which isn’t unprecedented or outrageous at all; and even more importantly, this errata will finally remove the unnecessary ambiguity of the set of symbols which right now has two different meanings in different contexts. Even if this change would not open up a ton of new design space by finally introducing colorless mana in costs, it would have been long overdue.

This brings us to the 1% actually having something like a valid point: Why make this change in the middle of a block? Isn’t it unnecessarily confusing to have two different templates for cards producing colorless mana in the same draft evironment? Well, yes, it may be a bit confusing, but it is done for good reasons. When is the best time to introduce something fundamentally new like an additional mana symbol? Obviously, when you introduce cards which make a fundamentally new use of it! While an introduction midblock isn’t especially elegant, these concerns pale compared to the desire to align such fundamental, connected changes. So, the only question left is if, just to avoid some temporary confusion, it would not have been a requirement to introduce both the new symbol and the new kind of mana cost in the first set of this block. Again, it seems pretty obvious to me that the desire to evolve the block mechanics for the second set in a flashy way to give that set a more interesting identity trumps these concerns. So, yes, one aspect of the timing of this change is an argument against it, but another aspect of this very timing is a much better argument for it, leaving this point maybe not completely refuted, but very weak.

Edit: Some people consider it a real argument that the new symbol would somehow be graphically associated with the eldrazi, pointing to its identity as „eldrazi mana“ or something. I thought this was just trolling, but just in case, I will refute it: 1) This is a very simple, graphically abstract symbol, just as befits a symbol for colorless mana. 2) It actually has no real semblance to the hedron symbol of Zendikar, having rounded instead of straight edges, being concave instead of convex, and showing symmetry with regard to four axes instead of just one. 3) The hedrons are not even of eldrazi origin – they are the things built by Nahiri to contain them, which would make them an exceptionally poor choice to base an eldrazi mana symbol upon.

The evidence of Kozilek

Now that I have explained why there are no good reasons to rule the hypothesis “ „<>“ is the symbol for one colorless mana“ out, let me elaborate how everything we know points towards it: First of all, the new Kozilek is unambiguously colorless because of flavor, but also because this is shown by the color of its frame (since it does not have devoid). So, whatever „<>“ stands for can not be colored mana at all (I think noone believes this anyway). The only question left is if this symbol possibly denotes colorless mana with an additional aspect. The most popular theory here is that „<>“  is a specific type of colorless mana which can either be paid for with „<>“ (obviously), or with two colorless mana. This is by far the least unlikely competing theory and shares fundamental aspects with all other dissenting ideas, so I will let it stand in for those here.

Edit: The theory that „<>“ means „can only be payed with „<>“ (but can be used as generic mana)“, while still being different from already existing colorless mana, is again considerably less likely, because this would effectively create a new color, making Kozilek not colorless. (Or it would create two different kinds of colorless mana, one of which shares a symbol with generic mana, which would be incredibly confusing and poor design.) It would also mean that this new mechanic is even more parasitic. This idea just shows how far out you need to go to deny the obvious, simple explanation.

However, this theory is exceptionally weak from the very start! Before Oath of the Gatewatch, we have not had colorless mana in costs at all – and now, instead of introducing those as the first step, we get an additional tweak on the thing that we did not even have before? (And yes, it would be „instead“, not additionally, because otherwise we would need yet another new symbol for „simple“ colorless mana introduced in the same set – I shouldn’t need to explain why this idea is completely absurd…) This is already immensely unlikely.

The evidence of the Wastes

But then, we also have that new basic land to look at. A BASIC land! We know that WotC have been extremely cautious with this fundamental kind of card after being burned by snow-covered lands. Now, assuming that they would use that concept on a card producing a both very specific and complicated type of mana (instead of a simple, fundamental colorless mana), which then would very likely be tied to the flavor of the eldrazi (or even just Kozilek), and thus to not only one block, but one set, is downright absurd. There is parasitic, and there is extremely parasitic, and WotC have been very conscious about implementing parasitic mechanics during the last years. Using up the uniqueness of introducing a new basic land for such a narrow concept is downright inconceivable. 1995 was a different era, but when WotC nowadays prints a new basic land, it is meant to be relevant forever!

Even more importantly, cards costing „<>“ would be downright unplayable in draft, since this format uses only one booster from the new set. (In sealed it would probably not be much better, either.) Everyone who doesn’t realize this just lacks enough experience as a limited player (or, better, as a cube builder). It will never be worth it to go for both the cards costing and those producing it. (And no, you will not be provided the new basic lands by your tournament organizer any more than you would in a Coldsnap draft. This is not only logistically impossible, it also defeats the very purpose of such a mechanic.) Of course, you could just default to paying double on this mana, but that would mean that this completely new type of mana, spectacularily introduced just for this one set, would not even matter! I really do not agree with all of WotC’s designs, but such an epic design fail is definitely beyond them.

Edit: It has been brought to my attention that this block will be drafted new set/new set/old set, other than former formats. This means that „unplayable“ becomes merely „playing badly“, which is still not something we should expect.

On the other hand, „<>“ just meaning one colorless mana plays great in draft. Notice all those eldrazi scion tokens? The Blighted lands? And especially (since we are looking at the new Kozilek) Kozilek’s Channeler? Oh, and you should also take note that Evolving Wilds can fetch this new basic land. The latter doesn’t make a difference to both theories directly, but it addresses another concern which has been voiced:

Why print a land which is clearly inferior to a gazillion existing lands? Well, DUH, it is not! Being basic is an extremely relevant advantage, both in limited and in constructed. Evolving Wilds, Fertile Thicket, Blighted Woodland and Natural Connection prove the former. In constructed, there are also many cards specifically looking for basic lands. Oh, and let us not forget the new dual land cycle which just happens to care for basic lands as well! Saying that such a land is useless is stupid even before considering its value for commander players running a colorless general (which might actually have been a major impetus to creating this land).

Okay, it breaks the rule „non-basic lands should not be clearly superior to basic lands if you disregard the quality basic“. Note, though, that this rule was driven by the desire not to make basic lands obsolete, and applied to the design of new non-basic lands to make sure those did not get too powerful! Applying it inversely to not print a new basic land which is needed for other reasons makes no sense. That rule was never meant to be an end unto itself. And this basic land was long overdue: There are six types of mana in Magic, five of which have been associated with a basic land producing it since the beginning of the game. With the introduction of colorless mana as a specific cost requirement, finally filling this gap became inevitable.

Summary

1) “ „<>“ equals 1 colorless mana“ is by far the simplest explanation.

2) Errata to old cards producing colorless mana is not just possible, it is needed, even without considering a new type of cost; because of the old template’s ambiguity, and the confusion it evidently causes all over the player base.

3) This is a fundamental, yet simple change to the game which opens up enormous future design space, while the alternative theory would imply a complicated, extremely parasitic and short-lived gimmick actually obstructing future design space.

4) A new basic land simply producing one colorless mana has been a gap to be filled anyway, but has also specific uses in both limited and constructed.

5) „<>“ as just colorless mana plays great in both limited and constructed, while the alternative sucks in limited, and only a bit less in constructed.

6) The timing of this change is easily explained by marketing concerns trumping temporary confusion concerns. (And I’m sure WotC will go out of their way to explain how things work prior to the Oath of the Gatewatch prerelease.)

If these cards are the real deal (which I am convinced of), „<>“ is now the symbol for one colorless mana. End of story.

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Hiatus

I explained a couple of times during the last few years that the desire to write stems from internal as well as external motivations, and the latter are right now at an all-time low, with the former no longer making up for it. I don’t get paid to blog, obviously, and I get very little feedback lately. So why should I keep going? Right now, I do not have a good answer for that. It is entirely possible that this will change again, maybe even sooner than later, but at the moment I just do not feel like putting any time into typing stuff which seemingly no one is interested in.

I concede that not everything I write is of general interest, but that is the prerogative of (non-commercial) bloggers. However, I was rather surprised that no one was willing to chime in on the discussion of Magic Online bots. Aren’t you drafting on MTGO, too? Do you not sell many of (if not all) your drafted cards to recoup your losses (or bolster your profits if you’re especially succesful), like I do? Are you not either happy to read other people’s recommendations here, or willing to provide some yourself, or maybe both?

Apparently you are not. I said it before, but I wasn’t aware just how completely I was right: There is no German community for „serious“ players anymore. Ormus has proven that you can get a gazillion of comments if you ask a question which is as impossibly to answer incorrectly as it is futile to discuss (and throw in something for free), but that is as far away from Magic-related topics which are of interest to me as it gets. I am, as before, very interested in drafting, including designing Next Level Cubes, quite a little less in Sealed, moderately interested in constructed formats (albeit only from a spectator’s point of view again), and extremely interested in what might still be called community issues. On the other hand, I really do not care about commander, unwrittten-rules casual, shiny foils and gimmicky accessoires. All in all, what is still left of the German Magic community has drifted far way from me. We just do not care even remotely about the same things anymore.

To those very few who still do, my apologies, but I am not beholden to anyone for anything anymore. After all, blogging is still a hobby, and hobbies are supposed to be fun. During times when they aren’t, an enthusiastic community can keep you going until that fun returns, but I’m on my own here, and I am not having fun right now. Thus, I am putting this blog on indefinite hiatus, neither ruling out that I will return in a few weeks or even earlier, nor that I never will.

I have another blog which needs my attention badly, but 00ZERO has somehow managed to consistently claim priority, probably because Magic is on my mind constantly. I hope this will change when I stop blogging about it, though. That blog is Ein Platz für Andi (it’s in German, obviously), and you should find me there a lot more often in the future. I hope.

To not conclude this entry without any real Magic content, here are two more 3-0 Battle for Zendikar draft decks. Tournament wins are rare for me in this format – I go 2-1  about 80% of the time. This time, the two decks which made it are both devoid-based, but that does not mean anything, since I draft all kinds of different decks and typically my lost matches are due to stark mana issues (to be fair, that is also true for many of my wins). I do not believe that any archetypes in this format are flat-out stronger than others, because their power is largely determined by booster contents and unpredictable draft dynamics. Do your best to position yourself well, hope that the cards which get to you are the ones you need, and have a backup plan to salvage your draft as much as possible in case they don’t.

Until whenever.

Rakdos

Izzet

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My Recommendations for Magic Online Buybots

This is one of the topics I wanted to write about for quite some time, but couldn’t do so on Magic Universe for reasons that should be obvious. Maybe some of you will find my experiences helpful, and maybe you will even have something to add. There are a lot of MTGO trading bots out there, and it is very possible that I have missed a really good chain so far.

I write this mostly from the point of view of someone selling cards for tickets. Great buying bots may be bad selling bots and vice versa, but I wouldn’t know much about it. I will list those bot chains with which I have a trading history, starting with some I no longer use:

1. SupernovaBots

It is very long ago that I did business with that chain (and I am actually not even 100% if I ever really traded with them or only looked up their prices). They have a very unassuming website, which is not user-friendly at all, but is allegedly updated every 15 minutes.

I stopped visiting them because I found the way they displayed their offers too confusing – there always seemed to be an additional calculation involved which wasn’t properly explained, and which made, for example, a ticket cost more than one ticket. Since their offers weren’t good anyway, I did not bother to find out what this was all about.

Judging by a quick check of the more expensive Battle for Zendikar cards, their buying prices are still not competitive today, so I see no reason to give them another chance.

2. The MTGO Bazaar

I used to do business with that chain for a while, but I do not anymore, and I do not recommend them.

It has been quite some time that I sold cards to one of their bots, but in my memory their offers were usually not competitive at all. Once in a while, though, they unexpectedly would give you the best deal (this is also true for every bot chain I mention hereafter, and shows that it pays to compare prizes). However, this chain committed one of the cardinal sins of buying bots: They were often not stocked with tickets! You could still trade away your cards for other cards, but I usually would not want to do so (and I’m sceptical about their selection and selling prices, but I cannot say anything definite about that). Of course, you could just sell stuff to them for credit, but I really want to warn you against trusting any bot in that way. Losing up to a ticket is acceptable, but anything more it is an unnecessary risk. Some reputable bots will not even allow you to build up more than 1 ticket credit.

It is really annoying having to remember to check if a bot is actually able to buy your cards each time. I finally gave up on this chain when their bots were online for a few weeks without having ANYTHING in stock, but were still offering to „buy“ your cards. They have restocked on cards in the meantime, but I still didn’t see any tickets, so I decided to spend my leftover credit on a few rares I might be able to resell, and deleted them from my buddy list.

Another thing I remember is that their bots would quite frequently accept your trade offer, then do nothing and also not respond to your commands until you realized you had to give up and close the trade.

They have a website, but that contains practically no information and has not been updated for many years. All in all, everything about them looks really unprofessional to me.

3. AboshanBot

As far as I can tell, this chain is now defunct, since I haven’t seen any of its bots online for months. (It still owes me a little over half a ticket…)

AboshanBot used to claim that they paid the highest buying prices, and in my experience that was almost always true (and in the very few cases where I found a better offer that was just a bit higher, and it was only a single one). The flip side, however, was that they only bought a few select cards currently on their buying list. It definitely paid to check them out, though!

I cannot remember if there used to be a webpage for this chain (I think there was, but I’m not sure). If so, it does not seem to exist anymore. That does not bode well for a possible return of this chain, which is a pity.

One more thing: This info might be completely outdated and/or wrong in the first place, but I once stumbled upon a rumor that there were a number of fake accounts pretending to belong to this chain (with corresponding bot names) which would screw over their customers. I have no idea if those ever really existed or still exist, but I wanted to mention it. The real accounts went by the names AboshanBot, AboshanBot2 and AboshanBot3.

Now about the bots I visit regularly at the moment:

4. MTGOTraders

If you do not like to take the time to compare prices, and just want to sell all your cards in one fell swoop as fast as possible, this is the bot chain I would recommend. However, unless your time is really valuable, it is always a better idea to invest a couple of extra minutes and look at the offers of several different chains.

Prices

The offers from MTGOTraders‚ buybots are frequently the best I can find, and with most cards they do at least not underbid the competition too spectacularly, but you can get clearly better deals a lot of the time nonetheless. A big plus is that they usually will buy all cards you can reasonably expect any bot to buy. All bots in that family will offer you the same price for the same card.

Service

I am fine with MTGOTraders clearly differentiating between their sellbots and buybots, but it is quite annoying (and a bit greedy) that those two bot groups do not share credit with each other (but bots in each group do). Other than that, their service is good. They immediately take your cards and list their prices, much faster than with any other bot I know. Also, you can have them put back cards you do not wish to sell for that price, so that you do not need to cancel trade, remove those cards from your trade binder, and reenter trade. This should be a standard feature of every buybot, but some do not offer it. A small minus, however, is that their comparably few bots are often busy, and sometimes you have to try ten minutes or more until you can successfully initiate a trade with one of them. Most of the time it doesn’t take that long, though.

Contact

They do have a very user-friendly and large website allowing you to filter and sort cards according to several criteria, and their prices also seem to be mostly up-to-date, although they do not always make perfect sense (for example, I often wonder how prices for items they do not have in stock can continously go down). There is also a non-bot MTGO Traders account which is online frequently, and where you can talk to real persons. This might be the most professional MTGO bot chain.

5. GoatBots

Prices

On average, they pay less than MTGOTraders, but their offers are still comparable, and frequently they outbid the competition. This is the chain I have been using for the shortest time, so I may be a little off in my evaluation, but it seems to me that they are willing to buy a bit fewer cards than MTGOTraders, although they always make an offer for rares from a newer set. All their bots offer the same prices.

Service

It takes a few seconds for their bots to grab your cards, but not excessively long, and you can have them put cards back. While their bots are rather busy, they have such a large number of them that you should always be able to enter trade successfully with one in a few seconds. All their bots share credit.

Contact

Their website looks very nice and user-friendly and seems to get updated frequently. However, their filtering/sorting options are a bit poor, and you can not look at the cards like you can at MTGOTraders. Still, everything looks quite professional, and I consider them the number two among buy bot chains.

6. ClanTeamBooster

Prices

This chain is a valuable asset if you are careful. For cards in great demand, their offers are usually at least okay, and sometimes they pay best by a considerable margin. I also found that they tend to pay premium on foil uncommons for some reason. On the other hand, for cards in less demand their offers are often so bad that it feels like a scam, and you should never unload cards blindly here. Sometimes they will make you a stepped offer – a better price for the first 2 copies of a card, for example, and a slightly worse for the rest. All bots offer the same prices. They claim they buy absolutely everything, which I find more of a minus than a plus, since it means they will spam your chat window with tons of ridiculously low offers.

Service

These are bots you have to explicitly tell that you intend to sell cards, and it takes a moment until they are ready for that command, and then again some time while they pick your cards. Especially if you offer them a lot of cards, this can take so long that you will be tempted to do stuff in other windows on your computer while you wait – and then, you suddenly get the message that the trade was cancelled because the bot had finally been done and not detected activity by you for a minute! That is mildly annoying. Also, these bots do not enable you to make them put cards back, which is even more annoying. Lastly, they sometimes make you wait and nothing happens, forcing you to cancel trade, or cancelling it themselves after several minutes. This happens rarely, though.

Contact

Their website gives a semi-professional impression, with limited sorting options and no card pictures. I am not sure how often it gets updated; they say nothing about it, but since they trace stock per bot it SHOULD be rather frequently.

7. TheCardNexus

This is a rather large family, and I do business with them for just a few weeks so far. I only use those whose name start with TheCardNexusBooster. In theory, everything I say should apply to all their buying bots, but I have no experience with the other members.

Prices

The offers from this chain are distinctly lower than that of the competition all over the spectrum, but most noticeably with older cards. When I sold my collection a couple days ago, I found that MTGOTraders offered the best price for ca. 40% on the cards, and GoatBots and ClanTeamBooster for ca. 30% each, while TheCardNexus did it for every 40th card or so. Furthermore, their offers were most of the time the lowest among all bots I checked for newer cards (for older cards in less demand, ClanTeamBooster would often take last place instead) and would even regularly cross over into „feels like a scam“ territory. Finally, those bots often were not interested at all in cards every other bot would buy (for example, Shambling Vent a week ago). But at least all their bots make the same offers.

Service

These bots take extraordinarily long before they take your cards, citing Magic Online lag as the source of the issue (which somehow seems to only affect them). Also, I already had a few cases where I waited several minutes and nothing happened. You do have the option to have them put cards back, though. While there are quite many bots in this family, they seem to go offline rather frequently and erratically, which means it may take a little longer to enter a trade with them than you would suspect with so many bots. They all share credit.

Contact

The bot owner has a twitter account where he is online and active quite often, which is how I found this chain. He also has a website, which (by his own admission) is quite the mess, with Khans of Tarkir the newest set which can be filtered and sorted, a woefully incomplete list of their bots, links which do not work, and generally an unintuitive and impracticable outline. I have a bit of a hard time to believe that the info shown there is actually correct and up-to-date, but this is just due to the generally bad impression it makes.

The only reason why I still use this bot chain is that I haven’t found anything better so far, and that I want to have at least four chains to compare offers. Overall, however, the (very) occasional better deal does not seem worth the hassle, and I will gladly replace this chain with anything reasonable. Does anyone have a good suggestion?

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