Kategorie-Archiv: Draft

Some winning OOB draft decks

No, this doesn’t mean that my „fixing cards“ series has already ended. I just wanted to uphold the tradition of posting decks which won me drafts, and since the format isn’t exactly brand new anymore, it’s time now.

I haven’t drafted nearly as much as I wanted during the last months due to real life reasons, but I did watch a boatload of videos and streams to confirm my outlook on the environment. To make this short: It is slow, certainly slower than triple Battle for Zendikar draft, and possibly the slowest since the infamous and unparalleled Magic 2014. Note, though, that „slow“ does not mean that you can ignore the existence of aggressive decks and completetly eschew early defense – it just means that defensive decks are generally favored over aggressive ones, and that you need to address the lategame and boardstall situations more extensively than in fast formats, which are mainly about not falling back early and winning races.

I usually, although not always, choose to draw in this format. Making your land drops is very important, since your higher mana slots will be well-filled, and mulligans hurt – the new mulligan rule notwithstanding – since you need both your lands and your spells. Also, most decks stretch their mana bases quite a bit (which makes sense, because you prefer power over consistency a little more in slower formats), and the „sixth color“ Grey compounds this. Being on the draw allows you to keep more 7-card-hands (or rather, makes bad but necessary keeps a little less bad – I’m not actually sure how often I would mulligan a hand on the play which I would keep on the draw).

If you look closely at my winning decks, you will probably notice a trend. (Okay, you don’t need to look THAT closely.) I assure you that most of the six other decks I drafted looked differently – but then again, those went all only 2-1 each, so there’s that…

 

Bunt

Note that I drew Mana Confluence only once and then didn’t play it, because my mana worked out perfectly fine without it. Skyrider Elf disappointed me by never showing up in a deck where he would have been really excellent.

 

Auchziemlichbunt

If you thought Deathless Behemoth was good in the previous format, try it in this! Having the biggest creature on both offense and defense is… well, big.

 

Warcalleroutonce

In the finals, I sided the Warcaller out – not because he was too slow against an aggressive deck, but because he didn’t have enough impact in an extremely grindy attrition matchup.

 

Greenagain

Fall was great, although I never needed to cast it with X>2. I never cast Serpentine Spike, though, although that was the card which finally cemented me in GR instead of UG/r. While I firstpicked those rares, I unbelievably got Outnumber very late, and Press even tabled. People are deeply stupid!

That’s it for now, but I promise to return to Arabian Nights soon!

 

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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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How to Support Gray in Next Level Cubes

It seems my motivation to blog about Magic fluctuates more wildly than I anticipated… Well, these are interesting times for cubebuilders, so let’s roll while the momentum persists!

When I talk about „Gray“ as a Magic color, I refer to those early spoilers from Oath of the Gatewatch, which I believe will turn out to be real, and which I already analyzed here, coming to the conclusion that their new mana symbol stands without reasonable doubt for one colorless mana. I used to refer to that symbol as „<>“, because this is how it was written in the original MTGSalvation thread discussing it, but seeing as this is unwieldy (especially so in any editor with HTML tags), I will switch to the simpler „#“ for the time being. It seems possible, though, that the official shorthand for it will be „C“, since that letter has not too long ago been removed from official references to chaos mana, and obviously I would conform to that, but as of now, „#“ will do.

Just as preliminary is my choice of „Gray“ as a pseudo-color word for spells requiring colorless mana, which I will use in contrast to „Clear“ for colorless spells without that requirement – if I’m really unlucky, the „official“ terminology might actually end up the other way around… However, for the moment, „#“ and „Gray“ it is!

With Wastes as a new basic land, I have little doubt that gray cards will not be confined to Oath of the Gatewatch alone, although they will not necessarily show up in every future expansion, and maybe only in small quantities, like multicolor cards in many sets. This means I will likely want to use them in my Next Level Cubes as well, although this certainly depends on how they will be designed – with only two examples to go by so far, the jury is still out on them: Mirrorpool seems decent, albeit not escpecially a bread-and-butter example for this „new color“, while Kozilek, the Great Distortion is far beyond anything I want in my Limited Card Pool. There will probably be a decent number of usable commons and uncommons, though, and I find myself already planning how to integrate those gray spells into my cubes.

You see, this is actually not easy! I’m afraid it would even be outright impossible if Gray turned out to be a full-fledged color featuring #-intensive early drops in the vein of Leonin Skyhunter, but I do not see that happen in limited (a few rares of that kind might be an option for constructed, though) – there are both design space issues and gameplay issues making this unlikely. Instead, I mainly expect a relatively small number of midgame cards costing #, and an even smaller number of ## lategame cards at higher rarities. Gray will thus serve a role as a splash or at most tertiary color, and not enable six extra viable color pairs (Gray-Blue etc.) in draft, because the former is doable with some design effort, while the latter seems impossible to me.

And yet, even this presents me with sizeable issues, because of the differences between Two-Thirds-Drafts and normal draft. Remember, I created this special draft variant for four players after juggling a lot of numbers, since it is impossible to give those four drafters access to the same number of cards as in normal draft without making the majority of their picks irrelevant. If we consider a normal draft using 14-card boosters (assuming there is a basic land slot which does not contribute to players‘ decks), each drafter gets to see 3*(14+13+12+11+10+9+8+7) different cards – that’s 252. (With 15-card packs, it would be 276.) In Two-Thirds-Draft, even using my new standard of 13-card boosters instead of 12-card boosters, they only get to see 4*(13+12+11+10) different cards, for a total of 184! This is already a stark compromise, made possible by completely eliminating downright unplayables and not maindeckable sideboard cards. And note that even with that smaller number it’s only the two-thirds-mechanic which makes sure that all pick decisions are still relevant.

However, this also means that each player drafts only 36 cards, while in a normal draft he would get 42 or 45. This is usually not an issue because in a normal draft those extra cards will be of no consequence – unplayables, almost never used sideboard cards, redundant filler-level maindeck candidates, and hatepicks of minor relevance. The first two categories do not exist in Next Level Cubes, while the latter two hide among the undrafted cards.

All this changes, though, if drafters are suddenly required to draft a high amount of lands (or other mana cards)! We are not talking about the usual 2-5 picks invested in manafixing or utility lands which happen in most draft environments, we’re talking about 6-10 picks required to make running an additional (pseudo-)color possible! While you may still get what you need in only 36 picks, obviously your margin for errors is a LOT smaller, and you might easily end up with too little manafixing, too few spells, or an overall untuned deck.

I expect Gray to be supported in normal draft just like snow was in Coldsnap: A good number of basic lands inserted in the common slot to average out roughly 1 per booster (Wastes actually is denoted as common on the card itself) in addition to a couple of more interesting cards which just happen to also provide that kind of mana. This is, however, exactly what NOT works in Next Level Cubes! Or, to be more precise, it only works in very specialized Next Level Cubes explicitly designed to make it work. I once designed just this kind of cube with a snow theme, so I know what I’m talking about… That cube worked fine, but it really was a one-of-a-kind thing, and more an experiment than a blueprint for future cubes. Normally, I want more variance in my cubes for higher replay value, and including Gray in a cube should not mean that it has to be as dominant as snow was in that one. Also, I do not think anymore it’s a great idea to make players draft uninteresting cards like basic lands, and addiionally I do not like putting several copies of one card in a cube for aesthetic reasons. If you want to take that route, though, I suggest using eight copies of Wastes (together with a generous amount of basic-land-searchers, just as in my snow cube) overall, ideally as a one-per-booster in the third and fourth booster round. Together with a couple of more specialized #-producers, this should easily support two Gray drafters, and with a medium amount of struggling, three.

If I do not want players to draft basic lands, though, I only have one choice: I have to provide a certain number of Wastes to them for free! I already provide 15 copies each of Plains, Swamp, Forest, Island and Mountain to every player, and I can just add a couple of Wastes here (I hope there will be 4 different pictures…) After long deliberation, I have decided that three Wastes per player is the optimal number (and yes, fitting exactly 78 sleeved cards into a deckbox without issues was a minor consideration). That way, drafters still have to invest a few picks into mana cards (which is kinda the point of Gray, I feel), but not so many that the payoff is no longer worth the effort.

Three Wastes are just enough to support a Gray splash without fixing via a 8-7-3 or 9-6-3 mana distribution, but just one or two fixers will noticeably stabilize that mana base and probably allow for cutting a land. On the other hand, you usually do not even want more than three Wastes in your deck, seeing that you probably run a two-color-deck and have the option to pick up more attractive producers of # like utility lands and mana stones. Instead, you will probably be on the lookout for basic land searchers like Evolving Wilds, Traveler’s Amulet or Pilgrim’s Eye, which can either fetch your Wastes or your main colors.

With this setup, I actually do not need many new entries into my Limited Card Pool to support Gray. I already have enough basic land searchers (especially the Gleam of Resistance cycle does excellent work here) and a generous selection of mana stones and utility lands producing #. If Oath of the Gatewatch makes me want to include Gray in my Limited Card Pool, there are only a couple of additional cards I will need (assuming that there won’t be better options in that set itself):

For cubes which focus on certain color pairs, I will need an additional dualland cycle to complement Adarkar Wastes and co. – this will be the filter lands cycle (Mystic Gate etc.). I parted with those lands not too long ago, not because they did not play well, but because I did not see how I would need them in addition to all those other dualland cycles, and because they were kinda expensive. Well, bad luck: They did not get cheaper in the meantime, but their ability to produce colorless mana makes them valuable again to me!

Another cycle I already had considered for different reasons which would go extremely well with Cubes featuring Gray are the original bouncelands, like Karoo – they’re essentially „duallands“ here, but require commitment to a main color, which is good. They will go a long way towards enabling Gray splashes.

Lastly, I will probably acquire Grand Coliseum and Blasted Landscape again. The former suddenly plays consideraby different from City of Brass, while the latter is just what you want if you need to make sure you have a source of #, but are not really interested in drawing multiples of those.

There is a large number of other cards which suddenly may take up a new role in a cube thanks to the introduction of Gray, and it is a lot of fun to look through a card database and identify them, but these are the ones which work especially well with our new „sixth color“.

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Commander 2015 Entries into my Limited Card Pool

Well, if I get asked directly to write about a specific topic, and it isn’t too much work, that is usually already enough to motivate me – in the end, I like to blog about Magic, making it a hard habit to break.

So, Commander 2015! I do not expect too much from this kind of product, which is targeted at an audience valuing very different things in this game than I, consists mainly of cards explicitly designed for multiplayer, and tends to go way overboard with regards to power level. However, there also is a certain degree of extra design freedom noticeable, allowing for cards which could not be printed in a regular set, and thus there might just be something fitting my needs.

This time, though, an unimpressive total of two cards made it into my Limited Card Pool:

Bloodspore Thrinax

While mainly designed to be used in token/sacrifice decks, I want to try this in environments with counter synergies. I thought long and hard if it might be too swingy, but I do not believe so. I think it is even quite weak in draft unless supporting strong synergies, which makes it a good buil-around pick.

Arjun, the Shifting Flame

I had trouble finding a fitting second Izzet rare (besides Prophetic Bolt) for years, and wasn’t entirely happy with my previous solution Dack’s Duplicate. This is much better. Its strange ability might look very strong from a casual deckbuilder’s perspective, but should be merely good and interesting in draft.

Now, this would be a really short entry if I stopped here, so I will additionally mention a few cards I at least thought about for a while:

Shielded by Faith

This card would work, but it does not lead to especially great gameplay, and I just see no need for it.

AEthersnatch

I almost replaced Desertion with this, since it is a cleaner design, but it lost out in the crunch because Desertion fits better in between Dismiss and Draining Whelk.

Daxos’s Torment

I would have loved to add an effect like this to my black enchanment synergies, but this is just way too powerful.

Deadly Tempest

This would have fitted my crunch as an alternative to Barter in Blood and Languish, but I realized I do not really need a black Wrath of God.

Mizzix’s Mastery

An interesting option among red instery synergy cards, but Black needed Sins of the Past more, which is also a cleaner version.

Great Oak Guardian

I tried to convince myself way too long that this weren’t overpowered, but rightly failed. It just does too many great things at once.

Unrelated, I will keep up my tradition of posting winning draft decks. After my latest post, there were three more, bringing my draft win ratio to 16/70 so far:

DimirBorosAbzan

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Pictures of Winning BFZ Draft Decks

Funny – I was already wondering if posting a bunch of pictures might not be a good compromise between writing a lot of stuff few people seem to be interested in, and not blogging at all. That seemingly almost noone who visits Magicblogs is interested in Battle for Zendikar drafts is pretty demotivating, since that is what’s been on my mind for the last few weeks and probably will be for a couple more. Such an annoying, frustrating, and yes fascinating environment!

And now it happened that Chris Pikula asked on Twitter for the very thing I had contemplated to publish: Pictures of winning Battle for Zendikar draft decks. Oh, it takes so little to provoke me into blogging about Magic

For context: These 13 decks are from a total of 58 drafts (4 decks I already posted in earlier entries, but I wanted to have them all in one place here). Of the drafts I didn’t win, I went 2-1 in all but 4 or so (the match history feature of MTGO isn’t entirely reliable because it breaks down after relogs). Make of that what you want, but be reminded that I am an excellent drafter and deck builder, albeit a lousy player; and my experiences with this format are that an outrageous percentage of games – won or lost – were non-games, which in my opinion contributes noticeably to equalizing win percentages.

So here we go:

AzoriusDimirRakdosIzzetBorosComvergeIslandforCascadeMischmaschNoInsightNoTwinCastOrzhovSimicUlamog
A few notes: The decks dubbed „NoInsight“ and „NoTwincast“ got their names because I never got to cast those cards. In „Islandforcascade“ I took the picture before I replaced the last Skyline Cascade with a third Island (because I realized it was important to find it with Fertile Thicket).

Four of those thirteen decks contain Green, which I consider a typical ratio (compare with the 3-0 decks from Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar). It is no doubt the weakest color, but it does support two drafters per table.

If anyone wants to talk about that format: That’s why I’m here. (Even if it is only me.)

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A few Snippets about This and That

I will continue my series about CML’s eye-opening blog post when I have a little more time, and just keep this blog going with a few things on my mind right now.

But let me at least address a few remarks from the comment section of my latest entry: I have no idea why someone who writes about Magic needs to be compared with Hunter S. Thompson (and it’s actually already saying something good if he is), and I also never claimed CML was a „great writer“ – although, to be fair, if you hold him to reasonable standards pertaining Magic articles, that is a very defensible position. Interestingly, I consciously declined to praise his writing style too much to avoid that very comparison to „serious“ writers, understating his abilities by only saying that he writes „quite well“. That is most certainly true even for „serious“ writing (albeit not necessarily for the highest publishing standards), but there should be nothing left to discuss considering we are talking about Magic articles here!

Regarding „real“ professional sports and the opporunity to make big money there: I admit I was thinking of conventional, physical sports here, like football, basketball or tennis. I have next to none knowledge about the e-sports scene. However, I would still be surprised if the higher payouts and the more professional sponsoring there wouldn’t enable at least a few of the top players to actually make enough money during their active time to set it aside (I’m not talking about „retiring“ afterwards, though, just coming out ahead). Anyway, the comparison between e-sports and Magic is better suited to highlight the value WotC places on their professional tournaments, which will probably be the topic of my next entry in that series. By the way, there seems to be at least some interest for this, judging by the fact that I actually got a few comments. Sadly, this is already remarkable! Just compare with the number of comments which the latest few articles on PlanetMTG – the only left publishing platform for editorial German Magic content – got:

PlanetMTG

In the meanwhile, I have done a couple of Battle for Zendikar drafts – seven, to be precise. I won two of them, went 2-1 in four more and would very probably have gone 2-1 in the seventh as well, if MTGO hadn’t decided to stop me from playing in the last round while I was 1-0 in the lead and in a very strong position in the second game. When I write this, I have been filing for reimbursement over 16 hours ago and not got an answer yet (other than the automatically generated email) – this used to go a lot faster a year or so ago! But alas, even one of the few things MTGO was to be commended for (fast reimbursement) has gone bad now.

These were my two winning decks:

Dimir

Azorius

Most of my other drafts I was more focussed on aggression, with Red and/or White as a foundation, and while I admittedly didn’t face the toughest opposition (and made several really stupid playing mistakes), my match losses were usually to back to back egregious instances of mana issues. Thus, I feel that overall I cannot really judge the format fairly yet, but my impression so far is that drafting it is fun, but playing the games rather annoying. It may be tainted by my frustration with the MTGO shuffler, though, which is having fun colorscrewing my two-color decks every second game (not even including the ones where I’m generally manascrewed), while my opponents lay down a third turn 3/4 Tajuru Stalwart off a splashed rare land every second game (alright, that is probably not the frequency that this really happens, but it feels that way). I just absoulutely hate it when I build my deck for consistency and am still struggling to cast my spells, while my opponents seemingly run haphazard mana bases without issues…

Objectively, though, I shouldn’t complain. I have a very decent win ratio so far, and in my very first draft I managed to grab a couple of (then-) money rares and sold them immediately afterwards, when they were still absurdly expensive. I never opened anything really valuable again, though, but I was one of the lucky recipients of the mistakenly awarded Gideon, Ally of Zendikar – those were supposed to be use- and worthless avatars, but some moron at WotC mixed those up, to the delight of some players and the dismay of most traders. I even managed to sell it before its price plummeted!

As for the dynamics of Battle for Zendikar draft: The format seems medium fast. You probably do not want to put some of its really expensive spells in your deck if you do not have a good plan how to support them, but you are also not required to run mediocre 2-drops if you do not intend to be aggressive, and most 2-drops are actually actively bad if you do not specifically focus on ending the game fast and being able to break through a solid defense. The colors seem reasonably balanced to me so far, but unfortunately the booster packs aren’t – some drafters are going to end up with five or more bomb-level picks, while others stare at empty packs each firstpick which do not even contain a good common. On the bright side, though, reading signals seems to work well, and thus you should usually get access to enough picks in your colors that you can finetune your deck for focus, curve and synergies, while still being able to snatch up a few useful sideboard cards and extra full-art lands.

Finally, an addendum to my Battle for Zendikar Limited Pool update: I decided to give Swarm Surge a chance as a black card synergizing with artifacts. Without eldrazi scion tokens, it will not be too exciting, but Black really needs it.

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Not „an“ Apocalypse. „The“ Apocalypse.

Remember when I used to start my Magic articles with a more or less fitting quote from Buffy? Yes? Congratulations – you were a part of the Germam internet community for Magic: The Gathering when it still existed, and even thrived and was productive!

This is what I want to get at by using that quote (which is actually from Angel, not Buffy) as the title of this entry: Some of my readers have mentioned that there are still player communities, using Whatsapp or something similar to exchange information and prepare for events in isolated circles. These communities weren’t gone, but simply moved to less visible and harder to reach places.

Do you spot the fallacy here? No? Not even looking at that quote from Angel (or, to be more precise, from Lindsey McDonald in the episode Underneath)? Okay, I’ll explain: Such a group might or might not be rightfully called „a“ community, but that was never what I was talking about. I bemoan the loss of „the“ German community, a gathering of players from all of DACHland (Germany, Austria and the German-speaking part of Switzerland), and with all backgrounds from professional player (or at least players on the gravy train – I’m not really sure we had any actual „pros“ since the Phoenix Foundation retired) to die-hard casual. That community met in a couple of connected places which held appeal for all of them, or at least tried to – admittedly, the mostly pointless quarreling between casual players and tournament players didn’t represent the community’s finest hours, but at least they were in the same place and did talk to each other! There was article content galore, and even more blogs, with strategy content for grinders, beginners and in-betweens; and there were lively discussions under most articles (okay, especially under mine) with everyone from Kai Budde to Christopher Eucken chiming in.

I do not entertain the illusion that all knowledge from team playtesting was available to the public in that time: Certainly there were also already smaller groups back then – you may call them „communities“, if you like – where more or less secret tech was disseminated among the deserving and the chosen. However, almost everyone who played Magic and knew how to operate a browser would visit the two large sites with article content, one or two of the larger forums, and probably a couple of blogs, all of which would routinely link to, talk about and criticize each other. Sure, not everything was sunshine and roses in that community – far from it! – but there WAS a community, or rather, there was THE community.

Now there no longer is. Casual players have nearly totally disconnected from tournament players (with possibly the last real meeting point being drafts), and there seems to be almost no interest at all in either providing strategic content (when was the last time someone not me published a German set preview? What was the last German strategy article not edited by me for publication on Magic Universe?), receiving it, or discussing it. I’m not sure how much developments specifically in Germany are at fault, and how much this is simply the result of yet another change in social media culture, but an undeniable fact is that the German Magic community – THE community! – is dead.

After clearing that up, let me tell you where this blog will be going in the near future. I think I will continue to post screenshots of succesful draft decks, although I’m unlikely to delve into much detail talking about those decks. Also, I draft a lot less at the moment than I did half a year or so ago, so this isn’t going to provide too much content. However, things may change again in the not-too-far future.

What I mostly busy myself with right now is finalizing my newest update to my Limited Card Pool. My next entry should be about inductees from Magic Origins, which will be quite a lot – for one thing, because that set really contains a lot of well-designed cards; but also because I mostly had to rebuild my card pool from the ground after making the mistake of reducing it too much. However, that was a great learning experience, because now I see much more clearly which elements and inclusion/exclusion rules are important to me, and where I overshot the mark in my desire for elegance, efficiency and consistency.

I’ll leave you for today with a screenshot of a deck which took second place in an 8-4 (I did only three Magic Origins drafts so far – the other two were prerelease swiss drafts where I went 2-1 each):

Azorius 2-1

As befits a deck with Sentinel of the Eternal Watch, Kytheon’s Irregulars, Separatist Voidmage and three Celestial Flare, it lost two games in the finals to a creature with two auras stapled to it.

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An unbelievable chain of MTGO bugs

I have put this blog here on hold while I’m busy managing the editorial side of the German Magic site Magic Universe, but I really do not want to withhold this absolutely hilarious client behaviour from you! I’ll just copy/paste my mail to WotC customer service here:

Dear customer support,

this is getting ridiculous. All of the following things happened during one single draft today (note that the draft I had done immediately before went without any hiccups):

1. I was disconnected from MTGO during the third booster round of the draft. I restarted the client as fast as possible, but missed a couple picks around pack 4-6, I believe. I can’t say for sure because of the multiple further issues happening afterwards and confusing me. One thing is for sure, though, that the program had picked a basic land for me while I was disconnected, since I now had three in my possession and only last-picked them before.

2. When I finally got back into the draft, I was teased by a Meandering Towershell in my pack which I wanted to draft, and rushed by the clock showing I only had 2 seconds left to draft. I frantically clicked on the Towershell, but the screen was frozen.

3. Then the screen changed to a later pack, the Towershell was not added to my picks, and I could finally continue to draft.

4. After I took my 41st card, I never got to see my last pick of the third booster, with the screen immediately switching over to deck-building. I’m not sure if I got a card at all – I still had only three basic lands, but I can’t swear I consciously pciked 4 copies of Taigan’s Scheming, for example.

4. After salvaging my draft as well as I could, I then proceeded to deck-building. When I submitted, I got the „unexpected error occured“ message (was that bug not supposed to be fixed?) and had to restart the client again.

5. I got back to my deck-building screen. Obviously, all cards were in my sideboard. I frantically rebuilt my deck. The first card I added was a Treasure Cruise I had drafted during the first booster round, and which had always been part of my pool. After I had added a dozen or so cards to my deck, the screen froze again for a few seconds, and then changed. Most cards I had added to my deck were there, but the Treasure Cruise was gone (and no, it was not in the hidden area, or anywhere else. I quadruple-checked all screen areas in all views!)

6. On the other hand, that Meandering Towershell was suddenly in my card pool, which it hadn’t been a few seconds ago! I had to build the deck without Treasure Cruise, but could use the Towershell at least. Still, there was a reason I ran two Scout the Borders, and the Cruise had been a high pick I took.

7. When I got to sideboard after the first game, Treasure Cruise had miraculously re-appeared in my card pool, but in the sideboard, not the deck (and Towershell was also still there).

8. After losing the first round, I was then disconnected AGAIN from MTGO during the second round. It took me half a dozen tries to get back to my game after 6 minutes or so.

9. A few minutes later, during the same game, I got disconnected AGAIN. Fortunately, this time I could return a lot faster.

10. When later looking at my deck in the freeform binder, the Meandering Towershell was not there. Neither in the deck, nor in the sideboard! Note that I won several games with this creature which MTGO says was not part of my drafted cards!

11. Then again, Treasure Cruise was shown there. As part of my DECK, not my sideboard. It seems the deck saved to my folder was that of my first (failed) submission.

12. Oh, and I had 39 cards which were not basic lands in my pool (meaning I did not get a last-pick basic land during the first-booster round), obviously not couting the Towershell which had meandered out of my card pool.

13. Of course, I now wanted to know if that Meandering Towershell had been added to my collection at all! There had been none on my account before, so I could say with certainty that I had… TWO now?

14. Okay, wrong numbers of card copies in the collection is yet another annoying, but known bug, so I restarted the client AGAIN and found out that I am now correctly in possession of ONE Meandering Towershell.

15. But can you guess what card had NOT been added to my collection? Right, Treasure Cruise was missing! (I know for certain that I already owned a playset before that draft, and I now still had four. Note that I actually DREW Treasure Cruise in a draft game (although I don’t know if this was a game where I had also drawn Meandering Towershell).

While this all is borderline hilarious, I hope you understand how deeply unhappy I am with the performance of the client, especially because I am currently at 13 qualifier points this season and have likely been losing at least one of those points to its repeated buggy behaviour.

Best regards,
Andreas

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I’ve Been Busy Elsewhere

My activity on 00zero has become very sparse lately, and while I’m certain this will change again some time, I feel no immediate pressure – that was the whole point of closing down Zeromagic and starting over at MagicBlogs, as you might remember.

However, just in case that you didn’t notice that I have been publishing Magic-related content elsewhere in the meanwhile, I wanted to assure you that I’m still alive, and link to those articles and videos! They’re in German, though, so if you’re one of my few (but existing) international readers unable to understand German, you might be disappointed – sorry!

All of these articles have appeared on Magic Universe.

Firstly, I wrote a three-part draft preview of Born of the Gods, where I discussed in great detail the dynamics of that environment. While some of my early card evaluations naturally were a little off the mark, I still believe that this series is a great place to start if you want to understand how to draft succesfully with this block.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Then I recorded two videos of drafts in that format, which turned out to be very instructive. I dubbed over my commentation afterwards to make sure that I could deliver a maximum of analysis.

Draft 1

Draft 2

Lastly (so far), there is another small draft preview series – only two parts this time – for Journey into Nyx. I tried to get a grasp of how the new set would change the dynamics of the environment, but found myself asking questions more than I could deliver answers. However, asking the right questions is an important first step of every analysis, and I made sure to really think about every single card before writing my statement about it, so I think these articles are a good read anyway, especially if you want to start a little ahead of the competition when exploring the new draft metagame.

Part 1

Part 2

As far as I can see, it is really likely that if I write about Magic over the next months, it will be in German and get published on Magic Universe (there might be the odd exception or two, though, if a topic isn’t suited for that site). Barring language issues, I hope you will follow my efforts there!

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Analysis of a video draft by Pierre Liebsch

Pierre asked me for feedback on his newest draft video at Magic Universe, but since we’re both publishing drafts there now (after endless delay, I really hope my video will finally be up tomorrow! – edit: and here it is!), I don’t think I should comment directly at that site. Instead, I decided to do a full-on analysis here at 00zero.

(Please note that all content on Magic Universe is in German.)

Drafting

First booster round:

Pick 1:

Bolt of Keranos seems the correct pick to me. However, I do not agree with Pierre that this booster is „below average“. With a reasonable selection of strong maindeck cards, albeit no outstanding first pick, this is rather typical Born of the Gods fare.

P2:

Picking Pinnacle of Rage is totally wrong here – Pierre completely overestimates a card I would only grudgingly maindeck at all! Better picks in order are Akroan Skyguard, Nyxborn Triton, Asphyxiate, Vanguard of Brimaz, Setessan Oathsworn, Rise to the Challenge & Mortal’s Resolve; all but the last one being cards which will generally make my maindeck in contrast to Pinnacle.

P3:

Pierre complains there is „no good red card“ – well, there IS a Nyxborn Rollicker, which is good, if not exciting, and Pharagax Giant is not bad as he says (it’s average), but of course the white cards are stronger. Picking Elite Skirmisher is fine, but with Oreskos Sun Guide as competition it’s close (and NOT „without competition“, as Pierre claims).

P4:

The triple-red mana cost in Fated Conflagration is a serious issue and should make one consider other options. I believe going with Archetype of Aggression would have been better here.

P5:

Taking Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass to cut Red is okay.

P6:

God-Favored General is close to unplayable – I have no idea what put the idea in Pierre’s mind that this stinker was good at all! At this time, White does not seem to be open, so it might be a good idea to branch into Black with Felhide Brawler. Alternatively, one could take Springleaf Drum, which is a solid accelerator helping with awkward mana costs (like that of the Conflagration).

P7:

Okay, so maybe White IS open? You want the excellent 2-drop Akroan Skyguard over Akroan Phalanx, though, especially since Red should not be taken for granted at this time, with Bolt of Keranos the only really good card here (Conflagration might not make even a red deck if Red is not the primary color).

P8:

Taking Rise to the Challenge is okay, since Black (which offers the stronger Nyxborn Eidolon) is less likely to be played than White now.

P9:

I can see Mortal’s Ardor here, which might make a White-based deck short on tricks and heroic enablers, but I don’t think it would’ve been too late to pick up Nyxborn Eidolon here in case that Black might replace White or Red. Ardor would certainly be no big loss.

P10:

Excoriate is decidedly wrong; that’s a card no aggressive deck should ever maindeck. Due to the low creature count so far the correct pick would have been Reckless Reveler; with a different selection of cards in the pool, Rise to the Challenge would have been more attractive.

P11:

Another big fail: Taking the almost unplayable Siren Song Lyre over Pharagax Giant is wrong on principle, but especially with a low creature count!

Not much to say about the rest of the picks in the first booster round, but I’m irritated by Pierre hiding Hold at Bay immediately, seeing how he keeps way worse cards on display.

Second booster round:

Pick 1:

Lightning Strike over Heliod’s Emissary is wrong in general – Pierre obviously does not realize how valuable a card which so aggressively gets you closer to winning the game is! With his low creature count, a bad pick becomes a catastrophic one.

P2:

Wingsteed Rider is a good pick. At this time, it’s important to realize that Red as the main color has become distinctly less appealing, so the double-red cards in Pierre’s pool (other than Bolt of Keranos) must be considered expendable.

P3:

As strong as Wingsteed Rider is, and as urgently as Pierre needs creatures, this is an unbelievably terrible pick. A reliable removal for one mana like Chained to the Rocks can not be prized highly enough in this environment!

P4:

Getting another Wingsteed Rider is great, but now at the latest Pierre should have realized that White has become his main color, and evaluated his earlier picks accordingly.

P5:

Arena Athlete is the correct pick.

P6:

Lagonna-Band Elder is okay, but only because of Pierre’s still low creature count. When I draft RW, I usually notice early if I need a redundant 3-drop, and the Elder is one of the lowest options on my list here, so I will often be in a situation where I can go for the sideboard card (Ray of Dissolution).

P7:

As Pierre mentions, taking Ray of Dissolution would have been correct, but he prefers to goof around here for whatever reason. If you want to hatepick, there are actually good options, but as far as Opaline Unicorn is concerned: If soemeone wants to build a deck which needs it, LET HIM DO IT! Why prevent people from playing bad decks?

P8:

Flamespeaker Adept is reasonable here.

P9:

Leonin Snarecaster is the correct choice.

P11:

It’s simple: If Pierre thinks Akroan Crusader is bad, it does NOT mean that the card is bad, but rather that Pierre is! It also demonstrates Pierre’s unwillingness to improve, since he’s obviously aware that his assessment is unusual. The Crusader does not make every red deck, but in many builds it is a solid choice. By the way, it is especially hilarious that Pierre at the same time likes God-Favored General so much!

Not much more to say for this booster round.

Third booster round:

Pick 1:

Magma Jet is correct. What’s wrong is Pierre’s idea that this card was anywhere close to Divine Verdict in power level! For an aggressive (the vast majority) white deck which has come together as it should, the white card is something nice to have one copy of in the sideboard, and that’s it.

P2:

Coordinated Assault is still better than Observant Alseid. Third best choice would have been Chosen by Heliod.

P3:

Unless your RW deck is low on heroic and high on Two-Headed Cerberus / Flamespeaker Adept, it usually wants Chosen by Heliod over Titan’s Strength (if it isn’t short on power-enhancing cards overall). If it has no less than THREE Wingsteed Rider, there is no excuse to take the instant over the aura!

P4:

And again, it is wrong to pick Titan’s Strength, this time over the solid 2-drop Traveling Philosopher, which Pierre’s Deck needs more.

P5:

Deathbellow Raider is fine.

P6:

Last Breath is also fine. Note that with the three Riders, that card is actually reasonable in the maindeck!

P7:

Spearpoint Oread is fine again.

P8:

None of those cards constitutes an urgent hatepick, so it would have been correct to pick Silent Artisan for the sideboard (sometimes – rarely, but it happens! – you want the tough 5-drop).

P9:

Traveling Philosopher is fine.

P10:

Satyr Rambler is fine.

P11:

Hatepicking Felhide Minotaur makes some sense, but Pierre overrates the strength of that card against his deck. Wild Celebrants are a useful sideboard card, and that’s what he should have taken!

Deckbuilding

After a rather rocky draft, Pierre proceeds to completely misbuild his deck with awkward mana, not enough focus, and bad card choices in general. There is simply no way, and also no necessity to try and make Fated Conflagration work in a deck with 3 Wingsteed Rider!

Here is what he should have built:

Lagonna-Band Elder, Great Hart, Mortal’s Ardor, Last Breath: These cards are concessions to bad drafting; usually they don’t make a good RW deck, but they’re serviceable.

Closest cuts: Hold at Bay, Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass.

Sideboard cards to keep in mind: Pinnacle of Rage, Excoriate, Silent Artisan.

While there were several chances missed in the draft, the resulting deck would still have been pretty solid and could, with some luck, take down a draft!

A few remarks about the Games

Game 1:

Not offering to trade Arena Athlete for Daxos of Meletis by tapping the legend before combat is terrible. Best play might’ve been to keep two potential blockers back, though, since you cannot race an active Daxos and need to do everything in your power to stop him from connecting. Things worked out for Pierre this time, but that does not mean he made the right play!

Not offering to trade Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass for Wavecrash Triton is also bad, since Triton dominates Pierre’s creature-light board (also, the opponent probably would have let Cyclops through for fear of of a trick; which makes not attacking doubly bad, since you volunteer the information that way that you hold no trick).

Bestowing Spearpoint Oread on the Cyclops against the Triton when the opponent has five cards in hand is practically a concession, since your opponent now only has one creature to deal with by tapping it down, which you must expect him to be able to do!

Pierre then walks into a telegraphed Divine Verdict, which he will do again later, and then complain how hard it is to play around that card: It is not! You simply do NOT attack (and, if you can, add to your board). If your opponent insists on not playing any cards by keeping Verdict-mana open at all times, fine! Use these turns to get board advantage. Alternatively, if you feel that waiting game does not favor you, you might offer him a less relevant creature. Do NOT just play into your opponent’s hands by allowing him to get your best creature! Playing around Divine Verdict is actually really easy (this is why it isn’t really a great card, not even in Theros, where people tend to grow large attackers). You just have to do it!

A bit later, not using Pinnacle of Rage + Magma Jet to kill two of the opponent’s creatures (and scry) then finally IS the concession, since Pierre takes now too much damage next turn and has no way to get back into that game. He might have lost anyway, since he was extremely flooded, but he played worse against a quite bad opponent and thus deserved to lose.

Sideboarding:

Coming from the deck list I posted above, I would exchange Great Hart for Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass to punch through those high-toughness creatures. (Yup, that’s exactly the card Pierre TOOK OUT!)

Game 2:

That Mulligan is obvious, and it also demonstrates nicely why you should never build your deck in the way Pierre did!

When the game starts, Pierre should use Bolt of Keranos on the Oreskos Sun Guide to keep his momentum going (and scry), since he has no trick in hand and thus cannot rely on blocking succesfully with Traveling Philosopher against any number of possible tricks, including the two Chosen by Heliod he already saw the game before. Actually, Chosen on the Guide would almost win the game for the opponent right there! Things again worked out nicely for Pierre, especially with Daxos of Meletis coming down next turn, but he was just lucky with a bad play which only seemed to redeem itself later.

When Pierre refuses to play around Divine Verdict for the second time, this might have been the moment he lost that game and match.

It is also bad to scry away a creature which was able to attack into that 2/6 Wavecrash Triton. You must work with what you have!

Then, not using Magma Jet on Battlewise Hoplite when his opponent is tapped down to Gods Willing as the only possible trick is also unspeakably terrible. What more does Pierre expect the Jet to do? And if there IS Gods Willing – will the Jet ever do anything then? Why does Pierre take several rounds worth of damage from one of the best possible targets for his Jet instead of just using it? This allows his opponent to go on the offense instead of playing defense – exactly what Pierre must avoid!

Later, Pierre uses his Pinnacle of Rage in the probably most inefficent way – but maybe at least it dawned to him after these games that this 6-mana sorcery is just not good!

Again, it’s unclear if Pierre could have won that game against Hopeful Eidolon and later Hundred-Handed One, but since he tried everything in his power to lose it, he has no right to complain.

Overall, I’m still anything but impressed by Pierre’s drafting, deckbuilding and playing skills. There is still a lot of room for improvement at all fronts!

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