Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dragon's Maze Pre-release

Well, another pre-release has come and gone, I hit up my LGS for the midnight as per my norm.  Take a power nap before and then get up at 1130 and roll out.  We only had 20 players this time, down from the norm, but given the set size I kind of expected it.  The owner also changed up how he did the event, you didn't have the option to preorder the guild of your choice, but were given a guild and then we had 10 minutes to trade with the other players.  I was surprised to get Izzet paired with Boros (I opted to keep mine) I was hoping for some really good stuff, but alas no mythics from Dragon's Maze, but I did get another Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius to add to my collection.  I took the same strategy I always do, sort by color, dropped the two colors that weren't in my guilds (so I wound up with a Team America style build), and then started looking at the mana curve, oh and dudes, can't forget dudes (you can't win without turning dudes sideways).  First let me apologize, it was late, i didn't take notes, and I already broke the deck apart.  Typical ramp, several one drops, into two, then three, and four and finally, yes i put in Niv-Mizzet, sadly I was only able to drop him in once and he got dealt with swiftly.

I have to say there were several cards that got played against me that I was thoroughly impressed with;

First I just liked the art and hexproof here on Ascended Lawmage, I think I really want a playset of these in foil...

Now this guys not out of Dragon's Maze, but I kinda liked it, given that it gives all your creatures haste and they have to attack each turn made me stop and think and start casting creatures during my second main phase, something that's always been a problem for me.

Then there was the match that the Maze Abomination came out, and as you can see, that makes the Hellraiser Goblin not as good, especially since the player I played knew to take out my other attackers first so that everyone had to attack and die...

Hidden Strings was a card I actually got two of in my sealed pull, I really liked this and it made it very easy to occasionally get through and attack or untap an attacker and have him ready to block.  especially when I would use it ciphered onto a flyer...

The last card that I encountered that seems to be REALLY good is the Savageborn Hydra, wow, event with 3-4 counters this guy is a beast, and I have to say I want to build a deck around him...

While these aren't all the cards I'm excited about, these are the main ones that I encountered/played at the prerelease and I have to say given the size of the set, at 156 cards minus the 10 guild gates, the 10 Clue Stones, the fact that there are only 10 mono-colored cards for each color, this set still has some good flavor and will make a nice addition to the block.

Now I can't wait to see what M14 has in store for us, I'm hoping for something special given its the anniversary of the game (come on full art land) and then Theros this fall.  I will be sad to see innistrad block drop off, there's some sexy stuff in there!

Take care all, and remember...everyday i'm shufflin!

Oh, and I went 3-1 in the pre-release.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Re-Evaluating How to Play Magic (or going back to square one)

Last Friday at FNM, after having been very frustrated at my results at the TCG Player event, I took a long hard look at myself, my play-style and decided i needed to either get better or get out.  First thing I decided was that I need to become more aware of the board state, and also read my cards.  These are two small details that can lead to big change.  I know it sounds really stupid to have to tell my/yourself to look at the board state and to read your cards, but its that simple.  If you aren't paying attention, you will miss out on something so minute that it could be the difference between winning and losing.  After close consideration I decided to stop running the ultra competitive decks for the time being, I really enjoyed playing the Aristocrats deck and the newest American Midrange was fun, but I feel that in order to hone my craft, I need to take a different approach, given that my FNM is not ultra competitive and most of the stuff run is low cost, kitchen table kind of decks.  So with that in mind, I built a new deck that started off as a mono red, but then decided to splash green and add two Domri Rade to the main board.  So here's a rundown of what I was running.  I don't remember what the original sideboard was, but given all the graveyard shenanigans that are going on at my FNM, I've already made changes

Main Board
4   Rootbound Crag
18 Mountains

4   Thundermaw Hellkite
4   Hellrider
4   Stromkirk Noble
3   Rakdos Cackler
3   Vexing Devil
4   Burning Tree Emissary
1   Boros Reckoner
2   Domri Rade

4   Bonfire of the Damned
1   Mizzium Mortars
4   Searing Spear
4   Pilar of Flame

4   Grafdiggers Cage
3   Ash Zealot
3   Boros Reckoner
1   Staff of Nin
4   Brimstone Volley

I think I need to change the sideboard up a bit, drop to 2 cages, and add in another Staff of Nin and then the fourth Ash Zealot.  I also think, if I'm going to run Reckoner, it needs to be at least a 2 of, if not 3 of.  Also was looking at Archwing Dragon in the 4 spot, since he's not targetable by sorcery speed removal...

So, What do you think?  Oh, I guess I should report how it performed...

Current Record

And here's the breakdown:

Round 1 - Naya Wolves, Game 1 he dropped a Wandering wolf and the dropped 2 rancors on it, but he couldn't keep up with the hellrider bonus damage.  Game 2 ramped into two Thundermaw Hellkites, Hellrider and a Burning Tree Emissary. 1-0

Round 2 - Bant Reanimator - This was a tough matchup, I had no graveyard hate, and once thragtusk hit, the extra lifegain was just too much for me to combat.  I did take out thragtusk with a searing spear, but he just reanimated and thats 5 more life, had a hard time getting ramped up to 5 and drawing a hellkite.  1-1

Round 3 - Orzhov Extort deck, this one went to  3 games, in game two I kept a 2 lander and didnt see more land until turn 5, extort can be very nasty (or very beneficial if your extorting).  2-1

Round 4 - The Aristocrats, this one also went to three, but sadly I never saw him drop a Falkenrath Aristocrat, but man those Skirsdag High Priests scare me, so they were handily destroyed before any shenanigans could go off.  I have to say looking at the top card with Domri really makes it nice, esp if you find that creature...  3-1

Only loss was to reanimator, and the sideboard has been modified to try to combat that.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Dragon's Maze on the Horizon

With pre-release events starting next Friday, and the set releasing the next week, it feels like only yesterday we were all stoked about Gatecrash and the Boros Legion.  Now we're on the cusp of the next release and all the new cards that are going to set the current meta on its head (possibly).  The more I think about this the more I have to wonder how many more shocklands will I get, what is the change to the packs going to do to the pricing of those lands, and will I actually play with Guild Gates?

Given that this was a small set, the spoiler season was much shorter than on the larger sets, but I feel like they've been awesome, there are some real standout cards, at least for me, I'm loving Master of Cruelties, Obzedat's Aid, and Dragonshift (I really lean toward Orzhov lately).

I know there are a ton more that have been revealed through Reddit and of course via official channels, but these are the ones I see myself messing with.  I love that the guild Champions (maze runners) are just rares and not mythics, so we should see a lot of them hitting the boards at FNM and tournament level.  We all know that the weekend the set hits, all the pro players who have sponsorship from the big sites will have all they need of any of these new cards. 

How do you do it when you play the week of a new set, do you hit your shop before FNM and get your cards to start modifying your existing decks or will you hit as many pre-releases you can so you have a good assortment of cards before release?  Me I try to hit at least 2-3 pre-releases and then I usually take the older stuff to that FNM and spend the weekend working though my new stuff and then the following week take some new brew, I'll also be keeping an eye on tournaments that weekend to see what the pros are slinging.  How much product to you buy?  Are you a completionist?  Do you buy singles and just draft the rest of the set out?

Look forward to hearing from you all

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Poor Day at the TCG Player 5k (or man do I really suck at this game)

Those who've been following know that I've been playing Magic again for a little better than a year (plus the 2+ years I played in college around Revised, Ice Age, and on up through Weatherlight).  I admit, I'm not the best player, but I have fun.  But after going to a tourney and going 0-4-drop I just felt a huge punch in the gut, that maybe I don't know what I'm doing, and I need to figure out how to remedy that.  First let me say this and I really mean it;

I'm fat, I sweat, but I don't stink...There was so much nerd funk at the event that in some instances it made my nauseous.  Everyone gets hot, and sweaty, but for the love of Orzhov please put some damned deodorant on.  There is no excuse for a grown person, who can drive and spend the money to buy and play this game to smell like that.  You give us nerds the bad name that we've had to deal with forever, don't perpetuate this.  Next event, whether its TCG or Star City, I think you guys should team up with Old Spice or Axe, or whoever and hand out samples, maybe it will sink in, but hey, it probably won't.

So on to the tournament, first let me say the setup was crazy at first, there were two lines, but no one really knew what to do, there was a slight lack of communication early, but then as more judges arrived, that changed.  I know the TO, but I made the suggestion that they get a bullhorn or some type of amplified mic to make announcements, b/c the noise level pretty much killed anything they said after about the 3rd row of tables, oh and there were 308-309 players, so it was well beyond expectations and that was awesome, which means I assume the tourney turned a profit (308*$30/person - $5k in prizes = money leftover...), so I expect that means they'll bring it back again sometime.

So on to the matches...
Every person I played in the 4 rounds before I dropped were incredibly nice, personable and talkative.  I was worried I'd wind up playing mouth breathing neck-beards all day who could not carry on a conversation with anyone outside of the mouse in their pocket.  But everyone was cool, from the guy who said he'd only been playing 2 weeks running the American Midrange deck to the seasoned player who drove all night from Houston to come play.

I was running The Aristocrats (pretty much the Conley Woods version from last month), in round 1 I got paired with a guy playing American Midrange.  Game 1 I made the biggest boner I could make, I cast Blasphemous Act and not thinking about the Boros Reckoner he had on the board, took 13 to the face and then got Searing Speared and Pillar of Flamed.  On to game 2, a little smoother, we're volleying damage back and forth and then I look at life totals I'm at 15, he's at 11...Harvest Pyre for 12 into a searing spear for the win.


Round 2
Guess what, another American Midrange deck, game one I was on an aggro tear with my Falkenrath Aristocrat and two Boros Reckoners, then they get detentionsphered, but I get Sorin out, pump him a little and then take his Gideon with 5 counters, get to swing a couple of times before he spheres him too, then its like 5 turns of nothing but land and I'm done.  On to game two, this game was over before I could do anything, I was totally flooded with mana, and just had no responses.


Round 3
Guy called his deck Jund Vampires, it really looked cool, I wish I could have gotten a breakdown on it, I'd like to play it at FNM.  I don't have a lot of notes on this one, but I remember it going fast.


Round 4
Naya Humans, this one was crazy, silverblade paladin paired with Wolfir silverheart dealt 12 damage and wow, I had no response.  Game two I took a win with a turn four Falkenrath Aristocrat and Boros Reckoner.  Game three he took it with some early Burning Tree Emmisarys and Mayor of Avabrook.

After this my other two friends and I were all 0-4, 0-4, and 1-3 respectively and we mutually agreed to quit and go drown our sorrows in pizza and play some Cards Against Humanity (which had us all laughing our asses off all night).

Losings not fun, but if I learned one thing this weekend its to look at the cards in play, be mindful of what I'm doing, and know when to mulligan and pile shuffle.  Hoping it gets better, I'm already brewing up some new deck ideas, don't want to spoil incase anyone I play actually reads this.

Until next time.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

FNM Shenanigans (or Selesnyagans)

So, I took the Selesnya decklist from last weeks post to FNM, and I have to say I was really disappointed, it play-tested great, but I didn't account for all the random jank that my LGS has running, all in all the deck finished 1-3, which after thinking about it, most of the onus for those loses falls to me, I was so focused and thinking about the $5k tournament, that I really wasn't paying as much attention as I should have been.  I underutilized my mulligans, and then one match I just got so fed up with the guy I was playing, b/c he kept milling me and putting my mana in the graveyard, or severing my dorks, I just got tired of it and scooped halfway through game two.  A quick breakdown of the four matches follows.

Round 1
Played against a GW, started out with 3 mana in hand, and then proceeded to not draw any more, opponent dropped Champion of the Parish turn 1, Mayor of Avabruck turn two, and Rancor turn three, then it was just some cheap 1 drop humans to pump the Champ, and I was overwhelmed.  Game 2, mulliganed to 6, kept a 2 land hand (my mistake), no mana dorks, took me till turn 4 to draw a land, and by then he was ramped and slamming me down.


Round 2
Boros Battalion matchup
This match was over before it could begin, again had mana problems, I've got to get the mulligan art figured out, but with battalion triggers on every creature, by the time he had 3 out, I just couldn't stop him.  Game 2 was about the same, just couldn't stop the beat down.  This deck looks fast and fun, I may have to build one of my own.


Round 3
RWG Thragtusk/Restoration Angel
Was acually able to get through and deal damage, the mana dorks hit right on turn 1 and got in for damage quick and early with no response, finished him off 2-0, seems my opponent had been plagued by my mana issues from earlier...


Round 4
Played blue/black cheap crap - Duskmantle Seer and Nightveil Spector.  Basically with all his tricks, he was discarding all my land, and severing my creatures, so I dont have a lot to say, other than it was a miserable loss.

I got this deck from Bryan Fry over at Nerdivores MTG podcast, he's 9-1 with this deck at 2 FNM's, I must have been doing something wrong, our the meta at my store is just crazy, but I think I know that is true.  What has this taught me?  Not every deck that looks good, and has a strong play record will do well everywhere.

Oh, and it's spoiler season, I've seen more posts on FB about spoiled cards, and it seems the majority of these are coming out of reddit (the asscrack of the internet).  I'll work up a new post with a few of the cards that I think are going to be game changers.  For now you can look at the official Wizards spoiler page here.

The big $5k tcgplayer tournament is Saturday in Farmers Branch, if you read this and your there, be sure to say hello!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

My First Big Tournament

So, on Saturday, April 13, TCGPlayer is hosting a $5k tournament in Dallas (technically Farmers Branch).  So I'm trying to work out in my head what I want to play, I was thinking about the Aristocrats, but its currently 7/5 at 3 FNM's.  Seeing all the JUND/JUNK going around I thought about running that, but I hate running anything that I haven't had time to test out.  Then I thought about mono red with Reckoners/Thundermaw Hellkites/Hellriders...

Standard has just really become such a varied beast, I just don't know what to brew up, I like the idea of a fast deck that can take control and hit hard and fast and leave nothing, but I also don't want to be a dick.  I like the two decks I posted last week, but I will not have a lot of time to test them out and I just don't want to miss any mechanics or triggers at a tournament.

Those of you who are newer to magic or like me who played 18 years ago and then quit and came back, you missed a lot of content and I also didn't know all the lingo and still don't know it all.  Here is a short primer about deck types/alliances, all of this came out of the Alara block...

  • Bant - Bant is one of the five shards of Alara. It is primarily white-aligned with green and blue as secondary colors.  It is inhabited by humans, aven, rhoxes, the semi-intelligent leotau mounts, and the angels that watch over the plane.
  • Esper - Esper is one of five Shards of Alara. It is primarily blue-aligned, with white and black as secondary colors.  It is primarily inhabited by humans, vedalkens, and sphinxes, and a small race of blue-skinned sentient beings called the homunculi, among others.  It is also the native plane of Tezzeret.The most distinguishing characteristic of its inhabitants is their complete use of etherium to improve their skills and life spans.
  • Grixis - Grixis is one of five shards of Alara.  It is primarily black-aligned, with blue and red as secondary colors.  Due to the predominance of undeath, it is possible to find undead versions of Bant's leotaus and Jund's viashinos in Grixis.  Before Grixis split off from the mega-plane of Alara, things were different. White and green mana still flourished there.  The land was called Vithia, a white-aligned empire of humans and other races, a land proud of its dynasty of wise and honorable monarchs.
  • Jund - Jund is one of five shards of Alara.  It is primarily red-aligned, with black and green as secondary colors.  Most of Jund is covered with active volcanoes that add difficulty to the lives of its human, crocodrillian viashino and rat-like goblin inhabitants, but are of great advantage to the dragons that dominate it.  Life on Jund is a never-ending struggle of survival of the fittest, expressed through the devour mechanic.
  • Naya - Naya is one of five Shards of Alara.  It is primarily green-aligned, with red and white as secondary colors.  It is inhabited by gargantuan beasts, humans, elves who worship the beasts, a feline race called nacatl, and minotaurs that stalk the canyons.  After the Shards realigned and Alara was reborn, some vedalken heretics from Esper migrated to Naya, while the coatl snakes were created from the influx of blue mana.  Naya is Ajani's birthplace.

I hope that this helps clear up any confusion about what your seeing when decklists are posted, and will know where the names come from.  If you have any suggestions about what you'd run at a tournament, I'd love to hear it.