Schlagwort-Archiv: Magic Online

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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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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I’m outta Standard again

Roughly one year ago, when Khans of Tarkir came to Magic Online, I decided that I would get into Standard again. The main reason for this was that, thanks to a very generous longtime reader who gifted me his well-stocked account, I suddenly had the necessary resources at my disposal. The deciding motivational factor, however, was that I wanted to be able to produce more varied content for the now defunct German site Magic Universe by chronicling my Standard endeavors.

As it turned out, I had some fun building and tuning a few decks and learning to play them, and I even reached the point where I was confident that I had found my own tier-1 deck whose strength was only diluted by its pilot’s lack of skills. That was before Magic Origins, however, and then I suddenly found myself unable to use Magic Online for a few months, and when I finally returned I had essentially missed drafting that set and would have been required to buy everything I needed for Standard (which mostly meant four each of Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, Hangarback Walker and Abbot of Keral Keep; plus a couple of Nissa, Vastwood Seer, Liliana, Heretical Healer, Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh and Languish).

Initially, I had planned to get most of the cards I needed for Standard via drafting, and that had worked out reasonably well in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged, but I was already quite a bit behind in Dragons of Tarkir. Now, outright buying cards from Magic Origins just didn’t feel right and made me ponder how much I really wanted to keep playing Standard, now that my stint as editor of Magic Universe was over. As it turned out: Not very much. Yes, building and tuning decks would still be fun for me, but I realized that I would not play that format nearly enough to justify spending this much money on it. Even so far I had only entered 2-men-queues when I had run out of boosters, and then just played until I won enough so that I could draft again. Now, with the introduction of play points that wasn’t even possible anymore.

I delayed that decision (or, more precisely, consciously thinking about it) for a while, drafting Battle for Zendikar and selling all valuable cards immediately with the reasoning that, on average, I would be able to rebuy them later for less. Finally, though, it dawned on me that, by this exact logic, I was burning money maintaining a card pool for Standard (or even just one or two decks) while almost never actually playing it. While it is true that in the long run it is a lot more cost-efficient to play Standard instead of Draft, and while I was overall probably barely good enough to even make a small profit from it on average (owing to my deckbuilding skills, certainly not to my play skills), I would have needed to play it roughly a hundred times as often as I was willing to, just to break even with regards to my financial loss from buying cards when everyone needed them, and later selling them when noone did.

So I decided to sell my collection while most of it was still valuable – and boy, had there been money tied up in it! I am probably a bit in the red compared to where I was before I entered Standard (and even a bit more compared to what would have been if I had immediately sold all valuable cards), but I mostly recouped my losses and am now ticket-rich again, so that I can probably keep drafting until the end of my days unless my win ratio drops sharply – which it might, though, since I play a little worse every year, but what can you do about aging?

I also gave up the idea of trying out Pauper. It might be the most cost-efficient format, but I am just not really interested in it, and since the Magic Online bottleneck for me is time, not tickets (that time as much restricted by the server allowing me to play without lag or disconnects as by my own schedule), there is simply no reason left to do anything else with that program than what I like most to do with it: Draft!

 

Oh, and totally unrelated another mini-update to my Limited Card Pool: I realized Common Bond was too close to Abzan Charm for my taste, so I replaced it with Reap What Is Sown, and subsequently Sigil Blessing with Gerrard’s Command to keep my Selesnya instants more different from each other.

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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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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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