Category Archives: interview

Taking 2nd Place at the Boston $5K

Last week I discussed my preparation for the big TCGPlayer.com 5k / PTQ weekend in Boston, MA. All week I was pretty certain that I would be sleeving up UW tapout for Saturday but was contemplating some Mythic for Sunday. I also talked about my helping friend and former pro tour-er Blaine Hatab get Kiln Fiend into a winning deck. Well, Blaine and my testing (or lack thereof) worked out as he finished 9th and I came in second losing in the finals to JUND when I couldn’t rip one of 14 outs to take home my first Magic Trophy.

First I’ll start with the list I brought to the tournament Saturday and some discussion of it.

you can see me discuss the list here.

My big insistance in the deck was to run 4 Oblivion rings. I really like the Obring vs. just about every deck out there right now. Even against mono red or R/x, being able to oblivion ring a Kiln fiend is invaluable. I wouldn’t leave all four in postboard vs. red decks, and I’d only cut them all if I didn’t see kiln fiend in games 1 and 2. But Planeswalkers are everywhere right now, and so aren’t baneslayers; Obring is just a good catch all, I even Obring’d a 1/1 Goblin Token vs. polymorph once last weekend.

I also liked 2 path and considered 3 just because of how good mythic is, and how an unchecked baneslayer angel can simply rule the mirror.

Probably the strangest thing about my list is the inclusion of 4 total fetchlands, 2 white and 2 blue. This is for a number of reasons. 1 they make both Jace and Sphinx of Jwar Isle better. Sometimes the sphinx just isnt enough late game and that’s when you have most of your card advantage. Numerous times on the weekend I would end up with a sphinx and some fetches and they would give me the chance to see more cards. Same goes with Jace, I once Jace: brainstormed 3 times in a row and got all lands each time, luckily the third time yielded a fetch so I could mix things up and ended up taking the game down despite not havnig a single threat for a few turns.

My Board was as follows:

Nothing really crazy in here except the 2 Jace Beleren. Those are in there for the control match to vindicate their jace and net me some cards when I can slap em down and get it done. I also ended up bringing them in vs. UR polymorph b/c in game 1 my opponent seemed really reliant on Jace to find his stuff.

This tournament really started off on the wrong foot for me. Out of 228 players I got paired up aganist my best friend Steve Baroni in round 1 and he was playing Open the Vaults / Time Sieve, the one deck that UW has almost no chance of beating.

Steve started with a mull to 4 or 5 and dropped game 1, then proceeded to take game 2 easily. As we began to shuffle up for game 3 Steve wanted to reboard some cards and when he reached for his deckbox it was gone. Someone had taken his box with his postboarded deck and he was missing some important hard to find commons and unless he replaced them would’ve had to scoop from the tournament. As we played game 3 Blaine tried to track some cards down, after coming up with nothing Steve decided to scoop to me and drop from the tournament to do some free drafting.

Then I proceded to drop my second game to the UW mirror after I couldn’t handle my opponent’s baneslayer angels in either of the second or third game.

I was not feeling great at this point, clearly I should’ve been 0-2 drop but with one win I *simply* had to win out…

I ended up beating, in no particular order, UW Tapout x2, Mythic, Jund, Naya SHallies, and White weenie to finish up 7-1 and able to draw with eventual champ Josh Herr into the top 8.

I was pretty nervous for the top 8 simply because I had played so horribly in the 8th round. I faced a good local player I knew and had beaten the last two times we faced (Dustin Taylor – 1859). I played really poorly against Dustin who was in it to win it. He gave me a real run for my money in game 1 after he mulled to 3 and I had a fairly slow start. In game 2 he rolled me on the play and in game 3 I ripped running baneslayer angels to give him no hope of top eighting. Most of my good fortune on Satudray was due to my supreme rips and not having to mull once.

In the top 8 meeting we were discussing splits and Gerard Fabiano was undecided on a split himself. I proposed we each take 500 and put the final 200 in the pot and play a winner-take-all top 8 event. Everyone eventually agreed to this and we were off.

Quarter Finals vs. Jund

I was pretty confident about Jund going into this event and was glad to see it in the first round of the top 8. Now that I had $500 in my pocket the pressure was off and I was able to just do work. If you watch my opponent’s interview he said he felt like he got outjunded this match and mabye that’s true because there weren’t any difficult decisions to be made during these games. It was all about surviving blightnings and casting as many spreading seas as I could to get to my Baneslayer Angels and Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

Semifinals vs. UW Tapout.

This is the only match other than mythic that I 2-0′d all day. In game 1 I stuck a Baneslayer Angel on 5 and then he played one on his turn 5. I laid down a jace the mind sculptor and bounced his angel then swang. At this point the lock was on as he could either try and take out my jace or keep dropping his Baneslayer. He dropped the baneslayer again and I didn’t have to play another card the rest of the match because of Negate in my hand and no reason to tap.

In game 2 it was more of the same, I answered his baneslayers but he couldn’t answer my 5/5 fliers. On the game winning turn I had a Sphinx and a Slayer vs. his Slayer. With plenty of Mana I cast mind spring for 4 leaving 3 mana open in hopes of ripping a path or an oblivion ring, the fourth card I drew was an Obring and that was that.

Finals vs. Jund

He takes down game 1 after casting Blightning once from his hand and another off of a cascade. In game 2 I have 7 mana on the turn after he drops Malakir Bloodwitch to a pretty full board facing down my baneslayer angel. I drop a Wall of Omens drawing Mind Control taking his bloodwitch and he scoops us into game 3.

Game 3 was a little nuts as he has the triple Putrid Leech Start after my Spreading Seas suck on the draw. Between all his Putride Leech activations and a swing from my Baneslayer Angel we’re both sitting under 10 life. I have a Colonnade on the board but my only other lands are plains and tectonic edges. I can draw any one of 3 islands, 2 blue fetches, 4 Glacial Fortresses or 3 Wrath of Gods to even this game up. I draw a blank and he’s able to burn me with Siege Gang Comander and have more than enough to swing in for the win and the trophy (though he and I split the final $200).

All in all I was pretty happy with UW tapout. I sleeved it up again on Sunday but it did not perform as well, I had to mulligan a lot and my draws weren’t very optimal and I was out by the sixth round. If I had to sleeve it up again I would definitely include a Gideon Jura in my Maindeck and likely a second martial coup. Martial Coup is really important in the mirror and my opponents having multiples took me down plenty of times over the two day weekend. I think I would cut down to 2 mind spring and try to throw in a Divination. Some potential cuts are 1x Baneslayer Angel, 1x Day of Judgment or an Oblivion Ring. I really like the maindeck negates so I wouldn’t personally cut those but I can see why people would not want them in the big 60.

This weekend I’ve got another PTQ in Hartford Connectictu, I’ll be wearing my bright orange Power9pro tshirt but I’ll likely be sleeving up Mythic Bant. I haven’t decided about which version I’m going to run, I’m leaning towards the Eldrazi Conscription version but with at least 1 Rafiq of the Many to give it more of a threat level if I can’t find my Sovereigns of Lost ALara during a game.

Thanks for reading

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
bobbysapphire on MTGO.

Naya Boss by LSV: Official Deck Analysis and Discussion

In this video interview with Luis Scott-Vargas, we take a look at the deck strategy and play techniques for the Naya Boss build that propelled LSV to a remarkable 17-1 record at Pro Tour San Diego.

Hear LSV’s reasons for including one Basilisk Collar or Sejiri Steppe

One major comment I have is that back in mid-2009, LSV was claiming that players need to stop trying to play so much mid-range and focus on control. He basically implied that mid-range was a losing strategy. I suppose like everything related to Magic, it’s all format dependent.

Thoughts? Comments? We’d love to hear them in the comments below. :)

Rules Changes for Magic: the Gathering — Team Discussion

For this post, I thought I thought it would be interesting if I pooled a number of different perspectives from the Power 9 Pro team. In that sense, we have a virtual round table discussion of the recent rules changes.

I’ll start the discussion.

James:
So, team, we have a new set of rules rolling into place with the release of M10. This set is really starting to create waves; first we were told that the core set would contain a slew of new cards and now we’re getting hit with a series of, in some cases, very drastic changes.
Most notable of which is the elimination of the combat damage & stack. Wizards also eliminated the splitting of damage among various creatures, except so far as Deathtouch is concerned. What do you guys think of these changes?

Sean:
Right away I can tell you my biggest problem with this whole thing is the elimination of damage stacking. Think of a deck like boat brew that runs 4 mogg fanatics. This deck is instantly much worse. This also goes for utility cards like qasali pridemage and call to heel. The change also limits your strategic options. For example, I could easily see a situation in core set limited where a spined wurm gets team blocked by a pair of giant spiders and a pyroclasm can no longer wipe the board.

James:
Keep in mind, Sean, that during the declare blockers step, you still have the option to play an instance at that moment. This is still considered a step and so there is an exchange of priority. It’s only at the time of “damage step” that players are no longer able to make responses. This definitely lowers the value of cards like Qasali Pridemage, though.

Dillon:
I have been thinking about the rules changes all morning. The way the
“declare blockers” step is set-up right now, I can attack with a 7/7
Cloudthresher and then my opponent declares their blockers. Lets say
they have Wall of Denial, 0/8, and then seven 1/1 insect tokens. If
they block with their entire horde of dudes, putting the Wall of
Denial first in the order, I have to assign 7 damage to the wall. Then
Cloudthresher gets eaten by insects.

Zak:
Actually, it is the attacker who choses the blocker numbers, so your Thresher will still kill the insects.

James:
Yeah, it’s important to understand that the attacker gets to choose the “stack” of blockers when there are multiple blockers to one attacker.

Dillon:
I am glad I misread.
[Still it's] Kind of goofy. It makes abilities like indestructible, a lot better…Same goes for regeneration.

Joe:
The combat damage change is harder to swallow since for over a decade many of us have learned to use the stack to our advantage at the end of the combat phase… but I think this will also prove to be a good change for the same reason. As the announcement said, it never made sense that a creature could throw a punch, then disappear completely only to have his punch land. Doesn’t make sense in the metaphor of creatures battling. Attachement to old-style combat tricks is just that: sentimental attachment. It’s arbitrary.

James:
There have been a lot of comments about people “quitting” the game because of these rules changes. Even a petition started with threats of quitting and boycotting WotC. Whereas I do think that’s a bit drastic–I mean, how much did you really like the game if “the combat stack” was the only allure–it is worth taking fairly seriously in the sense that the player base is not generally happy about these changes. Or maybe the people who are unhappy about this are just vocalizing more than the rest?

Joe:
Over the years I’ve seen wave after wave of changes to the game, whether rules changes or layout changes, bring cries of agony and pledges to quit the game forever from the peanut gallery of morons out there, only to see, time and time again, that the changes in question improved the game dramatically. In some cases, like the new card borders, they make some mistakes. At the time, white and artifact cards were painful to distinguish, and they rectified this problem in the next printing. Overall, the changes have consistently been for the better. This comes as no surprise, given that the team responsible for making the game has grown in number and sophistication over the years. I have developed a certain amount of trust in WotC R&D, and I believe they make these changes only after thoughtful deliberation and careful testing. Thus, I met the current wave of revulsion at these new rules changes with a healthy dose of skepticism.

The simple terminology changes are great. They bring the flavor and the mechanics of the game into closer alignment, making the metaphor of two mages dueling in a fantasy setting more apt to intuitively convey the proper game mechanics. Who could ask for a better change?

James:
What is your perspective on some of the other changes? Such as mana pool’s no longer burning before emptying between phases, the introduction of the “Battlefield” and “casting” versus “playing”?

Sean:
So far as the Mulligans – Good idea. They tested this at nats last year and everyone said it seemed to work fine.
Terminology Changes…I don’t really mind. I could see this making things easier for new players and the functional changes are slight.
I think the Mana Pool Changes is dumb, especially with mistbind clique in the format and functional changes to cards like valleymaker. I don’t know about anyone else but I have personally floated mana in response to clique to then draw an instant speed answer to it.
As for token ownership – Good idea. It was pretty counterintuitive before.
Deathtouch – Only necessary because of damage stacking changes.
Lifelink – Undecided. It is a large functional change that effects more than just corner cases. On the one hand lifelink now works in a more intuitive way, on the other hand loxodon warhammer on rhox war monk (AKA the love rhino) isn’t quite what it used to be.

Joe:
Lifelink and deathtouch are likewise good fits flavor wise, and will result in more players intuitively playing correctly without deep rules knowledge.

James:
Deathtouch just became one of the most powerful abilities for a creature to possess–especially if you can give a deathtouch creature first strike such as Pestilent Kathari–only that’s a 1/1 so not that hot. Bad example but y’all get my meaning.
So far as lifelink is concerned, I think this makes more sense. Other abilities such as flying, trample, forest walk, etc didn’t have such a meaningful impact if they stacked. Lifelink stacking doesn’t make much sense in the first place but overall it has such a HUGE advantage in a game where life totals are a resource to be managed in and of itself. I’ll never forget what you told me, Joe, when you were first teaching me to play: “You’re just as powerful at 1 or 2 life as at 20; just focus on managing your lifetotal like your lands and spells and you’ll be a better player. Don’t worry so much about losing one or two life. It doesn’t affect your ability to damage, and ultimately, kill me.”

Dillon:
Deathtouch became my favorite ability overnight.

Joe:
The only real rules issue I don’t fully grasp is why it was necessary to force an attacking creature to deal full lethal damage to each creature in the blocking line before moving to the next. I don’t see why this was necessary from a flavor standpoint. An attacker who recognizes his imminent demise might choose to wound many blocking creatures rather than kill a few and only wound one… and enforcing this new rule eliminates the viability of things like doing 2 damage to 3 of your opponent’s x/4 creatures, only to cast infest in your second main phase. Previously you would have wiped the board. Now it doesn’t quite work, and I’m not sure why they chose to do this. Still, I’m willing to roll with it.

James:
I agree completely but the reason may be that if your creature’s “weapon” (or whatever) can’t cut through the creature completely, how is it cutting through the next one? Did i magically (doh, bad pun) skip to the next enemy? It’s probably just an attempt to streamline the functionality of combat generally–again, right along with the elimination of the combat stack.
However, it is worth noting the rules changes so far as splitting damage is concerned is contradicted by allowing deathtouch creatures to divide their damage. Meaning, R&D addressed some of the issues w/ damage allocation but then found itself backed into a cornered with creatures like Kederekt Creeper. It’s a fairly blatant “breech” of the rules and I’m finding it hard to swallow myself.

Any final last comments?

Zak:
I think these are great. As a player who routinely teaches new players, these rules are a blessing, and although I’ll need to get used to them, I’m sure they’ll work out fine.

Joe:
Final point. The rules are always the given. You try to use the rules to your advantage. Now that the rules are different, you’ll have different ways to (ab)use them to your advantage, and previous ways of doing so may vanish entirely. Big deal. Don’t fret and make silly promises to quit magic before you see the full extent of the changes and give them a chance to grow on you! I just keep thinking of interrupts. Who would argue that the game was ruined when they dropped interrupts?

James:
I don’t like the elimination of manaburn. That is a very relevant factor in the game. In fact, the loss of a point or two of damage has won me a game or two in the past. I’m sorry to see that go. In fact, I don’t see the justification for it’s dropping…

That’s it for now. We’d love to hear alternative perspectives and opinions. Let us know what you think!
You can also join us in the discussion on twitter. It’s awesome for all those not “in the loop” as it’s SUPER easy to engage big-names like Flores and Brian David Marshal.

Exclusive Interview with Volkan Baga at Grand Prix LA

joe and i were able to meet with volkan baga for a sitdown interview.  we discussed everything from his Magic the Gathering work to art in general.  if you ever have the chance to meet him, he’s very approachable.  great to speak with.  you can also look at the pieces he has available on his website where a number of his other projects are also listed.  at grand prix la he had the doomed necromancer on display which looked unbelievably sick.

doomed necromancer by volkan baga
doomed necromancer by volkan baga

we’re going to break up the conversation we had into at least two parts.  the first is focused on his work with Magic the Gathering and his more recently completed project The Name of the Rose (Der Name Der Rose).  in addition to those recent projects, he also worked on the re-release of the Settlers of Catan game (cover work, not the pieces).  volkan baga is definitely someone to keep an eye out for as a new rising star in the sci-fi/fantasy art world.

hope you enjoy the conversation as much as we did!