Category Archives: limited

Doubling_Cube

MTGO Videos – Cube Draft 4

Hey Guys, I recently had another opportunity to cube draft thanks to Thea Steele (@wmap on twitter).  Notable guests in this draft were Tim Pskowski (Recent StarCityGames Standard Open winner) and AJ Kerrigan (One of the best young minds in the game, famous for his performance at various SCG opens).

Playlist! – The volume starts out kind of loud – you have been warned!

I hope you guys enjoy the games, and I hope to bring some more content out in the next little while.  As always, remember that I stream Magic Online games live every Monday at www.justin.tv/zturchan or www.twitchtv.com/zturchan for at least an hour at 5PM mountain, 7PM eastern, 4PM pacific.  Check it out!

As always, feel free to contact me via email (zak-AT-power9pro.com), via twitter (@zturchan) or in the comments below.  I’m also on MTGO a great deal so feel free to message me there (zturchan).

Cheers,

Zak

Chaos Drafting: Starting from Scratch

A few months ago I was lucky enough to score an invite to Tristan Shaun Gregson’s Historical Draft at Mythic Games in Santa Cruz, California.  Mythic is a great new store that just opened up and they’ve got a nice space to play.  Maybe 40 seats or so, give or take, with some sweet leather couches and some of the best Pizza in Santa Cruz right across the way at Woodstock’s. TSG, is, well, TSG and I’m very greatful for the opportunity to play in that draft.

The historical draft is essentially a pack of every set Ice Age and forward, and sans Scars block, – essentially a 60 pack Chaos draft.  I’m a pretty huge fan of Chaos Drafting (drafting from random sets as opposed to Block Drafting), so I jumped at the opportunity, and I’ve run my own 50 pack draft since then as well.

If you build it, they will come…

On the drive down to Santa Cruz from San Francisco, my friend Sean asked me if I had any tips for drafting a format where you’re opening such random packs.  You could start with spirit dragons in Kamigawa and end up with a five color disaster in Ravinca.  Do you try to get Rhystic cards from Masques block to work?  What about all the cards you’ve never seen before?  How do you evaluate them in a vacuum?    Was there any strategy to Chaos drafting at all?

Well surprisingly, I actually did have a strategy.  Now, before I move forward I should be honest – I’m not a master drafter.   My limited rating’s in the lower 1700′s, meaning I generally win more than I lose, but I’m not a 3-0 baller and you won’t see me outside of the 4-3-2-2 queues on MTGO.   I’ve also drafted a decent amount of random pack drafts, and the advice I came up with was useful to both Sean and myself, and we finished with pretty solid decks.  I even placed second in the draft (out of 12 players) with a fantastic mono red deck.

One thing to keep in mind is that the historical draft had a larger number of packs going in, (5 packs each) so unlike most chaos drafts where you might be  scouring for value, it actually felt more like a cube where you had an abundance of cards in your pool and the deck building was more about getting down to the right 23.  Despite these differences,  I’m of the opinion that the basic theories that I had for the Historical draft apply to regular chaos drafting as well.

Theory 1: There are less bombs available in a chaos draft than in a block draft.

I came to this conclusion because there are sets with rare bombs that are good only if you could build synergy around them (Mirrodin and Kamigawa block come to mind) or that you’ll have access to mana fixing (Invasion and Shards) In addition, the further you go back, the more likely you are to open sub-par cards in the rare slot – cards that used to be good but have been outclassed (Chronicles comes to mind) .  For example, In Mirrodin block draft you have been VERY happy to see this guy.  In chaos draft, you’ll have to polish very hard before this particular turd will shine.


Corollary:  With less powerful bombs available, creating a consistent deck is more important than a powerful deck.

Having the leisure to draft more than three colors has always been format dependent, and in Chaos I judge it too much of a risk to purposefully draft that way.  It’s far less risky to just try to go with a single strong color base and splash for a second color as needed.  This also means if you start with a mono colored deck that looks a little underwhelming, you stick with it rather than screw up your mana base trying to fit in something that’s marginally more powerful.

I actually put Balance in my mono red and it did win me a game, but I also lost my second game in the finals because I was short a land. – I actually had a fetch in play that was there to get my plains, but with my plains already in play it was a dead card.  If it just been a flush of mountains I would have won with my disintegrate.  But Balance is a pretty loose example – it’s practically Power and you won’t have the opportunity to draft a bomb that solid very often.   (Fireball is one that’s been reprinted enough times to bring up.  And yes, I would splash for that. But that’s an exception, not the rule.)

One of these cards is not like the other….


Corollary: Pick your archetype early, and stay in it.

In short, the basic archetypes for Chaos are:

Aggro (weenies, removal, individual and mass pump, discard if applicable)

Skies (flyers)

Stompy (efficient, undercosted fatties)

Ramp (early elves and mana fixing into huge monsters)

Control (removal, counters, discard, turtles, late game finishers)

Rock (Fatties + removal, with an emphasis on card advantage)

Tempo (usually blue based aggro/control, with an emphasis on bounce or removal – essentially get a creature down, and deny your opponent attack and steps by bouncing, tapping, or killing opposing creatures, so that your creatures can go all the way)

To be honest, I’d be happy with a deck of any single color (even mono green)  as long as the archetype was clear.  But jumping in early and staking your claim is foremost – cutting out a color from a pack if you can goes a long way.  You don’t want to switch colors just to get a slightly better card.  If I’m  already heavily into green and my choice is between a late pick Llanowar Elf and a late Doom Blade, I’d probably stick with the elf –  Taking that Doom Blade might makes your deck better given the cards that you’ve picked, but if you’re clearly passing black and cutting green, you’re that much more likely to end up with more solid green picks (or even a bomb) on the pass back.  I’d  rather have options in my deck building  rather than cobble together a deck that is half decent and half horrible because I sent bad signals.

If, however, there really isn’t a compelling pick for your deck, you’re not going to send a bad signal, or it looks like your original color is drying up, then by all means take Doom Blade.

Theory 2:  Quality at common goes out the window in a chaos draft


… Though it’s not as bad as you might think. It’s not all a bunch of 1/1′s for 3 out there.  Actually it’s for the same reasons as listed above.  There are going to be a ton of creatures at Common that are meant to be role-players in a synergy deck that just get worse when you take their set away.



Yes, there will be uncommons and rares with better stats for their cost but we don’t get as many chances at those. Obviously good cards will almost always get picked, so it’s critical to have a strategy when drafting the Commons – which is:

Corollary:  Hill Giant is king.

Or: the power to toughness ratio vs. casting cost of the creature can be more important than the creature ability.  This a gross oversimplification of draft theory, but a drafter with knowledge reaching back over the years starts to see a pattern – the same creatures always show up in some form or another.


the 2/2 for 2 (the grizzly bear!)
the 2/2 for 2 with a drawback (usually in red or black)
the 2/2 for 3 (the grey ogre or scathe zombie, usually bad enough now to get an ability)
the 1/4 for 3 (the horned turtle)
the 2/2 flyer for 3
the 3/3 for 4 (the Hill Giant)
the 3/3 flyer for 5 (most recently sky-eel school.  But wizards has gotten better at hiding them – in Shadowmoor it was Merrow Wavebreakers- In Dissension it was Helium Squirter, in Lorywn it was Plover Knights.  My personal favorite “flyer” is Elven Riders :D

So why the Hill Giant?  Because at its commonality, it’s consistently the best power and toughness for its cost.  And there are a lot of them out there.    Yes, you’re going to draft creatures of all shapes and sizes and powers and toughnesses, but at Common, which is where the majority of our bread and butter creatures are going to be, toughness and power usually max out at 3 unless you’re Green.  Regardless of what archetype you’re in, stalemates start to occur, (or break down) when you start hitting this size of creature.  If your deck is all speed and gas, you want evasion and removal to get past these monsters.  If you’re the heavy, you want acceleration in order to plop down your big guys and outrace the speedy deck. And if you’re both at the same class and hit a stalemate, you’ll do better if you have more Giants to throw away, vs. waiting for that bomb, removal, or evasion.

Speaking of stalemates:

Corollary: Overcosted removal is still removal, and overcosted evasion is still evasion.


This was my first pick in TSG’s Historical draft.  I can’t really remember much of what else was in the Visions pack, but it wasn’t anything outstanding – there was a single Breezekeeper in the pack if I wanted to cut blue, and evasion is evasion…

But then I realized that this guy would probably make my deck regardless of what archetype I built out – He’d be another flyer to deal with in skies, for example, or an evasiony creature in basically any deck that wanted to attack..  and 59 cards later, he made my main. I think there is tendency to look at this guy and think it’s not worth the pick, because he’s slightly overcosted (we’d expect him to be at least a Wind Drake) but as it turned out, this guy was fine. Given the scope of creature availability in a Chaos draft, he either traded with creatures that posed more of a threat than him, or ate a piece of removal.  The Chimera just added to the overall aggro strategy of my deck and got in some crucial damage, or best of all – they had no answer and he went all the way.

Don’t forget that card draw and filtering is still really good as well – people constantly underestimate looters and draw spells.

A decent start..




Drafting a deck full of removal or evasion is still a great plan, if you can manage it.  But even if you’ve accomplished building a great deck, you need to carry that momentum into the battles themselves.  Which brings us, finally to:


Some Magic Basics:

Misassignment of Role = Game Loss
(A Mike Flores Classic)

In short, know what your role is going into the game.   If you’re the aggro deck, then choose to play first, and try to end the game as quickly as possible.  You generally want to utilize your removal in a way that will maximize damage dealt. If your opponent has a creature that slows you down (like a wall), calculate whether you want to just get it out of the way in exchange for dealing more damage in the long run, or whether you want to save your removal for a true threat.  Can your opponent wrath you?  Maybe you want to get in there asap.  Could your opponent play a big dragon that you can’t deal with?   Maybe you just want to swarm around the wall and save your removal for when it really matters.

If your opponent has the capability to race you, evaluate the board state – given what you’ve seen, can they beat you in a straight race?  Can they kill you before you kill them?  If not, then get your guys in there.  Take whatever they give. Don’t save guys to chump unless you’re about to die. Do the math!  Your chump block could be dealing damage!!

If you’re an aggro deck that’s been outclassed by bigger threats, don’t give up.  We’ll get to that in a sec.

If you’re the “control” deck (i.e. the other deck is more aggro then you), or your deck isn’t consistent, or you don’t have enough information about the other deck to know what to do, choose to draw first – your plan against the other deck is to exhaust them of threats and leave them in topdeck mode while you still have threats.  Your life is a resource.  Don’t chump block unless they’re about to hit you for lethal damage (or might be threatening lethal damage with pump spells or direct damage)

If your path to winning isn’t obvious, that doesn’t mean you’ve lost.

I’ve been watching so many players just sort of give up mentally before they’ve actually lost the game.  At this level or play, they understand how to win and are engaged in the game for as long as they are ahead – but if they reach a stalemate or fall behind they lose interest or just give up “because the game was already over.”

This is usually far from the truth.  Start trading creatures, wear them out, picture what you need to draw in order to stabilize or even win the game.

If you can’t figure out how to beat your opponent, keep a steady head.  Remember that your opponent still needs to figure out how to beat YOU. If you can make that process as difficult as possible, force bad trades, use tricks to win in combat, kill evasive creatures that can go all the way, then you can still win it.

And with that I’ll finish up.  I hope that some of this strategy is useful to whoever reads it.  Questions/comments/vehement disagreement is welcome. ;)

Magic Online Videos – Masters Edition 4 Draft 1 (64 Man)

Hello everyone.  I’ve really been enjoying drafting Masters Edition 4 online.  For those of you who haven’t tried it, I highly suggest you do, as it’s a blast to play.  Here’s a 64 man draft I did a few weeks ago, unfortunately schoolwork prevented me from getting it up until now.

I’ll hopefully be bringing you more content, both in video and text form soon.

As always, feel free to contact me with any suggestions, comments or questions in the comments below, via email (zakATpower9pro.com) or via twitter (twitter.com/zturchan).

Mirrodin Beseiged Prerelease Albuquerque Tournament Report

War!  Mirrodin is under attack and this past weekend was the first chance players had to finally pick a side in the war.  The Mirrodin Beseiged Prerelease was very different from any event Wizards has ever organized before.  Players were asked to pick a side in the Mirran v. Phyrexian war, and that side would determine what packs the players would have access to.

ThrunIwantyou

Chatting with other players around the hall it quickly seemed that the sides were evenly matched.  People went with Mirran because of better spot removal, better mythic rares, deeper card pool from Scars, and the more expensive prerelease foil.  People joined Phyrexia because of better sweepers and of course infect.  “It seems good when your opponent starts at 10 life,” one player told me, making the argument for infect.  The consensus was that If you picked Phyrexian you would be playing infect.  I decided to go Phyrexian because I want the third set in the block to be a dark evil place, entirely a flavor choice.  I loved the Phyrexian threat from the entire Weatherlight Saga and I was glad to see their return to Mirrodin.

For the sealed pool each player got three packs of Scars of Mirrodin and three faction packs based on their choice of allegiance.  No matter what faction a card belonged to you could play it if it was in your pool.  Here was my pool:

Artifacts

Colored

The first thing I looked at was how many creatures with infect I had; nine. Nine? Really?  I was sure that if I went Phyrexian I would end up with a solid amount of infect creatures.  Too bad.  Trying to keep my dream alive I looked at all of the the other cards that added poison or proliferated; seven more.  I realized that if I stuck with the infect game plan that I would force myself to play cards that were not good.  I usually do not try to force an archetype.  I decided to go back to square one and evaluate the cards the way I always do.

Bombs.  I was lucky to crack two bombs that can end the game on their own.  Carnifex Demon can wipe away the opposing board with ease.  This monster is also awkward for other infect decks to play against since any block he makes will reload him for more devastation.  Myr Battlesphere is a giant threat that will win you the game without too much effort.

Removal.  I was lucky here with plenty of good choices for spot removal and a Wrath-like effect in Creeping Corrosion (Foil).

Monsters.  I had a mixed bag of infect and non-infect guys that were all over the mana curve.  Flyers in white, but not much else.  Four mana myr would go nice with my Battlesphere.

Goodies.  Darksteel Axe was going in no matter what.  Livewire Lash too.  Other than that I was pretty flexible.

Colors.  Carnifex Demon ensured I would play Black.  I also had three Black removal spells.  Virulent wound is great at killing mana myr and opponents little infect guys.  I liked the game swing that Creeping Corrosion offers so I decided to go Green.  White was cut after that since the most important cards required WW and even though I had mana myr I did not want to loose out on black mana.  Blue was not deep enough, only Corrupted Conscience had game changing potential and I wanted to be as aggressive as possible with my curve.  I only had four Red cards  total and two Red mana myr, but those cards were all removal (one on a stick) so I decided to splash Red.  Deciding on Jund, here is what my deck looked like.

It seems like this build is not focused enough on one game plan but I just had to change my mindset.  My goal was not to poison out my opponent but rather to use my infect creatures as a from of removal.  I wanted to force my opponents into bad blocking situations to eliminate the threats from their guys and then break through with one of my bombs or equip a smaller guy to go to work.  I tried to maximize the value of each one of my cards with symmetry.

Virulent Wound can reload Carnifex Demon, can kill an Emissary to tutor up a missing land, and is removal.  Bloodshot Trainee, once equipped with the Axe or the Lash can deal with almost any threat.  Lash on any one of my infect creatures is extra awesome with Untamed Might.  Viridian Emissary was awesome for me since people would take the damage early thinking I was infect.

Took this build to a 4-0 finish at the tournament.  I won with poison counters twice and with good ol’ damage the rest of the time.  I only lost one game with it all morning.  The lesson here is to not be distracted by forcing an archetype.  Going into the tournament it was a given that if you were picking Phrexian you were picking infect.  In sealed format, it is more important to evaluate which cards have the most value through symmetry.  In draft it tends to be easier to force a specific build since you have control over what cards you will take.  I hope you all had fun at your prerelease tournaments over the weekend.  If you have any cool stories just leave a comment below.

Magic Online Videos – Cube Draft 1

Hello everyone!  I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year, and for my first set of videos for 2011 I’m happy to present a cube draft.  For those of you who don’t know, Evan Erwin has a great introduction to the cube at his site www.cubedrafting.com, which does a far better job of explaining this wonderful format than I ever could.

While Cube Draft is not an officially supported MTGO format, StarCityGames columnist and magic blogger Thea Steele has started using  www.tappedout.net as a way to start up a draft, and then the cards are exported to Magic Online where the games are played out.  I’d like to thank Thea for letting us use her cube, and for hosting this draft.

Enjoy!

Grand Prix Toronto – Tournament Report (Scars of Mirrodin Sealed)

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of traveling across Canada to Toronto, a city I had never visited save the airport. I left Edmonton shortly after my first class on Friday, and met up with my uncle who was my traveling partner for the weekend. He had an old friend in Mississauga (A city adjacent to Toronto where the event was actually held) and we decided to go together.

Our flight was rather uneventful, and rather than make the 30-minute walk down from our hotel to the International Center, we decided to spend the evening relaxing after the 4 hour flight. Unfortunately this meant I didn’t get one of the sick Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon playmats they were giving out, but I was thankful for the rest.

In the morning, we bussed down to see the center filled with people. Already I could see that this event would be the largest I had ever been to, making the 100 person PTQs back in Alberta seem like an FNM.

Slightly bigger than a 100-man PTQ.
Slightly bigger than a 100-man PTQ.

When the seatings were posted for deck construction, I was surprised to see that I only had 1 bye (from rating) when I should have had 3 (from winning a GPT). After a walk by the judges station, I found out that several other players had the same problem, and the judges assured me that everything would be sorted out after deck construction.

Before handing out product, we were informed that 1462 players had sat down to battle Scars of Mirrodin sealed deck. After registering and swapping sealed decks, this is what I was presented with:

“If I was in my local store and opened an Opal I would jump for joy, but I did not travel 1000 miles to open an Opal,” – Brad Nelson

While I can’t say I was as disappointed as Mr. Nelson who ended up losing in the finals of this event, I was much more excited at the prospect of winning games with Hoard-Smelter Dragon than I was at tapping my Mox Opal.

The first thing I (and many other players) do when looking at a sealed pool is to look at the rares. A powerful rare like the aforementioned Dragon can highly incentivize the playing of one colour over another. Unlike Magic Online, I can’t apply sorting filters to my sealed pool instantly, so I looked through my pool to find Copperline Gorge, Myr Propagator, Tempered Steel and Livewire Lash in addition to the dragon and mox. Of those, the only ones which really shone were the steel and the dragon, so I kept those red and white cards in mind as I persued the rest of my pool.

Looking at my white I only had a few spells that I would be happy to maindeck: Glimmerpoint Stag, Kembas Skyguard, Tempered Steel, and Arrest. While I’m sorely tempted by the Steel, I don’t think I’ll be able to play white unless I have a Gold Myr or some other fixing to consistently get double white on turn 3. In addition, I would need a sizable number of artifact creatures to boost up. While splashing the Arrest was a possibility, I moved white to the side.

In blue we have a few playable cards, the best of which is the Riddlesmith. Bonds of Quicksilver, Disperse, Sky-Eel School and Lumengrid Drake are all playable, but nothing spectacular.

Our black is pretty underwhelming as well. There are only a few poison cards and the non-poison cards don’t exactly get me excited. Flesh Allergy is fine, but it’s not splashable and there’s really nothing else I’d be able to back it up with. I had to start hoping that my red, green, and artifacts would be enough to carry this deck, as my pool wasn’t looking very promising.

Red looked like it could provide the makings of a base colour. We have some good removal in the form of double Shatter and a Galvanic Blast. We also have Bloodshot Trainee, a card which I think is being vastly underrated. If you get the guy online, he will win you the game. Simple. There are so many ways to get him going, most obviously equipment, but less obviously so Vulshok Heartstoker, Untamed Might and Trigon of Rage, two of which our pool has. I’m a fan of the Heartstoker, as it allows you to push through some extra damage in the early game, in addition to turning on the trainee. Barrage Ogre is a card that I haven’t had a ton of experience with, but the few results I have have been relatively positive. Finally, Blade-Tribe Berserkers is a card that’s been really good for me, as sometimes a Hill Giant just gets there, and the metalcraft bonus is extremely relevant when it triggers. Red definitely looked like it had the potential to be a main colour, and I moved on to green.

Green had some solid cards, namely Untamed Might,Slice in Twain, and Acid Web Spider, along with pseudo-green card Sylvok Replica. There is also the Alpha Tyrranax a card I personally underrated until very recently, as the only real answers to it are Turn to Slag and Arrest. Again our green doesn’t have enough depth to support an infect deck, so it looks like red, followed by green and white are our best colours.

Looking at the artifacts, we a fair bit of decent equipment in the form of Livewire Lash, Grafted Exoskeleton, Strider Harness, Barbed Battlegear and Bladed Pinions. I’m especially a huge fan of the battlegear, as it turns any creature into a fighting force. Unfortunately, you have to ensure that your deck had enough creatures with 2 or more toughness to make sure that you can equip it with any regularity. We have a couple of Myr, one of which is on-colour, as well as a Contagion Clasp. This was the first Clasp I had opened in a limited event, and I was suitably happy about it.

Here’s the list I ended up registering:

A few notes about this deck.

1. It is built incorrectly. I realized after that I probably should have splashed the Arrest, as I didn’t have any answers to large, non-artifact bombs. As well, I might’ve liked Alpha Tyrannax mainboard, although that might have made my deck to top-heavy. I probably could’ve cut the Saberclaw Golem and/or a Blade-Tribe Berserkers for either of these options. Wall of Tanglecord was also a consideration.

2. Liquimetal Coating plays a role as an aggressive card here. This lets us turn all the artifact removal we have into Vindicate, and it also lets us get a great deal more value out of our Barrage Ogre. Although we can use it to turn on our 3 metalcraft spells, that wasn’t its intended primary function.

3. Barbed Battlegear only kills our 2 mana myr, and nothing else. Therefore it’s operating at pretty much max efficiency.

4. Bloodshot Trainee has 4 ways to get online including 2 equipment and 2 one-shot effects. I’ve found as long as you have 2 equipment for him, everything else is just gravy.

5. Although many players have advocated running 16 land in a for what with a bunch of myr to serve as acceleration, my testing group and I found out that you almost always still want 17 land, as an early Embersmith or Contagion Clasp can crush your dreams of making your 4th land drop. Patrick Chapin recently wrote an article about people cheating on their land bases by playing too few, and complaining about mana screws afterwords. With our slightly higher curve we want to make land drops consistently, so 17 land is definitely warranted.

Let’s get to the action, shall we?

Rounds 1-3

Chippy (front) and Steve Argyle (back) sign cards for players.  Chippy's line was easily an hour long.
Chippy (front) and Steve Argyle (back) sign cards for players. Chippy's line was easily an hour long.

The problem with the byes was fixed, but the tournament organizers messed up everyone’s country. I was playing for the states and many other players were also playing for countries in which they did not reside. This never did end up getting fixed, and I can only hope that for events like worlds they get this straightened out. Anyway, I used my byes to get a ton of cards signed by artists Chippy (famous pieces include Lotus Cobra, Abyssal Persecutor and Doom Blade) and Steve Argyle (famous pieces include Slave of Bolas, Admonition Angel, and Chandra Ablaze). It was really great being able to meet and talk with them face-to-face, and I look forward to meeting more artists in the future.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs James

I came into this round relatively happy with my deck. Action starts early in the game with me Galvanic Blasting his myr after he missed a land drop to put him on 2 mountains for mana. I followed that up with a Liquimetal Coating and attempted to further exacerbate his mana screw by Shattering a land. Naturally, he drew runner-runner land and was back in it. I was beating in with a 5/5 Acid Web Spider thanks to Livewire Lash. He brings the beatdown with a metal army boosting up Ezuris Brigade to an 8/8. When he attacks I cast[ Untamed Might on my tapped spider to trigger the lash and Shock his Snapsail Glider, taking him off metalcraft. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough as shortly afterwards my opponent aimed a metalcrafted Galvanic Blast at me to finish me off.

In game 2 I bring in a couple plains and the Arrest, and we battle back and forth for a bit. I cast Contagion Clasp for the first time in my life to take out an Embersmith and keep augmenting my board presence. In the end, there’s a situation where he’s at 6 and I’m at 15. He has a Vulshok Replica and I had some relevant creature, I forgot to note down which. I debate my various lines of attack (I had some other relevant spell in my hand i could use to ensure the win next turn[/card], but I could run the option of attacking and winning with Untamed Might if he didn’t block. He fell for it and we were shuffling up for game 3.

A note on Untamed Might: everyone knows this card is insnae in the infect deck. However, some people claim that it’s not good in any other archetype. Those people are mistaken, as Untamed Might is a solid combat trick that can serve as removal for some of the bigger threats in the set. A combat trick that scales makes it also very possible to simply steal games from nowhere as I have done on multiple occasions. Seriously, the card is really good.

In game 3 I’m the beatdown as I one again equip Livewire Lash on a guy and start beating in. When he taps out for Turn to Slag to kill my lashed beater, I realize that I’ve got the game won. I cast Galvanic Blast at his face in response before my metalcraft goes offline, and use the Lash trigger to Shock him. I then untap and use Untamed Might on a myr to finish the game.

4 – 0

Round 5: vs Matt Nass

This was my first match against a pro so to speak, and I was a little nervous when facing down the Channel Fireball writer. We made some nice conversation before the round started and then we were off to the races.

Matt took the draw and came out strong by Contagion Clasping my turn 2 myr. His Golem Artisan was quickly dispatched by my Bloodshot Trainee (powered by Vulshok Heartstoker). He dropped double Darksteel Axe with no creatures to but them on, until the next turn where he dropped Myr Battlesphere. However, it wasn’t enough to stop a Golem Artisan from flying over and taking out the rest of his life.

In game 2, Matt leads with a Darksteel Axe, and follows up with a Glint Hawk Idol. I have a Sylvok Replica which I crack to kill the idol. Maty misses his third land drop for a few turns and I’m forced to run out an Acid-Web Spider without killing anything to keep up the beats. I resolve my Hoard-Smelter Dragon which starts to dominate the game from there. Matt showed me his hand afterwards which was full of goodies like Myr Battlesphere that very well might have beat me had he hit his land drops. However, I’m not one to turn down a win, and I thanked Matt for the games.

5 – 0

Round 6: vs Thomas

In the 6th round, I start off with a myr on turn 2, although I miss my 4th land drop. I Slice in Twain his Chrome Steed only for him to buy it back with a Razor Hippogriff. In order to deal with the flier, I used my Liquimetal Coating and Sylvok Replica in combination. However, he gets double Chrome Steed to resolve with metalcraft, and his 4/4s overwhelm me.

In game 3 we trade pretty evenly for a while and I stabilize behind a sideboarded Wall of Tanglecord equipped with both a Bladed Pinions and a [/card]Livewire Lash[/card]. However, my defense is decimated upon his casting a Carnifex Demon, which pretty much beats me out from there.

5 – 1

Round 7: vs Mitchell

Mitchell and I talk before our match and it turns out that he used to live in Edmonton too before moving to eastern Canada. Early on he Trinket Mages for Darksteel Axe, but I reply with my Bloodshot Trainee and equip it with my Livewire Lash. My machine-gun quickly decimates his board and pretty much carries the game.

Games 2 and 3 were very similar, but for him. Both games he got his Darksteel Axe via Trinket Mage and pumped up his own Bloodshot Trainee. Again, the 4 damage per turn just destroys every threat I can play, and I’m quickly scooping up my cards. As well, I mulliganned to 4 in game 3, which made it slightly harder to pull out a win.

5 – 2

Round 8: vs Samuel

In round 8, both my opponent and I need to win 2 more rounds to make day 2. I keep a slower hand than I would like (I should’ve mulliganned, I just hated the prospect of mulling in such a crucial match). While I’ve become better at taking mulligans in the past year or so, I think I still need to take more when I get hands that in all likelihood won’t win me the game.

Samuel leads off with a Riddlesmith and a Trinket Mage for Sylvok Lifestaff, while I try and mount a defense with with an equipped Blade-Tribe Berserkers. He has the Turn to Slag, and punishes my slow draw to the point where I can’t recover.

In game 3 I don’t have many notes, but what I do remember is going slightly on tilt after he cast a Darksteel Myr. Normally this isn’t a card I’m terribly afraid of but I was racking my brain to see what my deck had to deal with it and I came up with nothing. Was I going to lose this match because I couldn’t get through a Darksteel Myr? Of course, in hindsight I had Contagion Clasp, Golem Artisan and Hoard-Smelter Dragon as outs, as well as my sideboarded Arrest. However, he had enough removal to deal with my team and then cast a few relevant spells that shot me down.

Final Record: 5 – 3.

So there it is. I was out of the running for day 2, and my final standing was 273rd out of 1426. I chatted with a few friends and then headed back to my hotel room, ready for a day of drafting and legacy. I also took in the judge booth, which is an experimental feature where you get asked 3 rules questions, and get awarded prizes based on the number you got correct. Seeing as I’m set to take my level 1 Judge test this Sunday (wish me luck), I knew I had to ace the questions. Of course I did and walked away with a couple of foils and a pack for my troubles.

For those of you that haven’t attended a GP yet, I highly encourage you to do so. It was a fantastic experience except for the fact that our plane heading back got hit by lightning, causing us to return to the Toronto airport. What would’ve had me home at 11PM local time had me home at 4AM instead, with a class the next morning – yay.

This was my first major event and it really only whetted my appetite for more. The 2011 GP Schedule has been announced and I’d love to make it to Montreal for the GP there. I’m PTQing this weekend in Calgary, so I’ll have another report sometime up next week.

Major thanks go to my testing team at Wizard’s Comics who helped me prepare: Matt, Brian, Blaine, Stephen, Jim, and everyone else. Thanks so much. Thanks also to Skyfox Games who put on a great tournament considering the attendance, and for quickly fixing the hiccough with the byes. Thanks to the judges who did anadmirable job, who worked nonstop for most of the weekend. In talking to my friend Matt who judged, I discovered that they worked full days on both days, and I really appreciate all the work judges do.

As always, you can feel free to contact me with any questions, comments, or article suggestions via email (zak-AT-power9pro.com), via twitter (www.twitter.com/zturchan), or in Magic Online (zturchan).

Cheers,

Zak

The Championship Chronicles – Part 2 (Two-Headed Giant M11 Draft)

For those of you who missed part 1 of this article, you can read about the standard portion here.

The second event of the championship was a Two-Headed Giant Draft. For those of you unfamiliar with the 2HG format, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the rules.

1. Players are seated in teams of 2, each team consisting of an ‘A’ and a ‘B’ player. The A player makes all final decisions and can veto the actions of his partner. Who gets which role is usually decided before the event starts, and usually is the more experienced player.
2. Players share turns, as well as a combined life total of 30. The only other thing players share is information. Permanents, mana, and other objects are treated as normal.
3. Combat is performed as a team, and you attack the other team, not a player, unless an effect requires you to make that distinction (such as Ulamogs Crusher or Hypnotic Specter). The defending team blocks as a team, and can combine blocks as they wish.
4. Each player may take a free mulligan, but both players on a team must decide on their mulligans at the same time.
5. If one player loses the game, the team loses the game.

Two-Headed Giant is a great format in that it allows for several awesome interactions that simply don’t happen in normal Magic. For example, the card Breath of Malfegor in Alara block 2HG was insane, dealing 10 damage at instant speed for 5 mana. Not quite as bomby is the M11 superstar Blood Tithe which generates a 12 point life swing for 4 mana, and do I need to mention how broken Serra Ascendant is in this format?

I’m actually going to take a bit of time and address this 1 mana monstrosity, because it shows how a design that’s fine in most formats can be downright degenerate in others, which I believe is an example of poor design. Simply put, a team with Serra Ascendant in their pool will mulligan aggressively to it, with the help of the free mulligan. The other deck will play countermagic, and with Negate, Mana Leak and Cancel at common, it’s not exactly hard to come by out of 6 or 8 packs (draft/sealed respectively) . This means that the only way to defeat this card without fear is to aggressively mulligan into your Deathmark. What if you didn’t open one? That’s too bad. If you’re on the play you can get off a turn 2 Doom Blade, but on the draw you’re going to get wrecked if the blue mage has countermagic.

Having played against the card myself, I can vouch that it makes magic just plain not fun. I know that for some people, magic isn’t fun, but that’s not the type of player I am. I’ve said repeatedly that while I’m a competitive player, I’ll quit Magic as soon as I can’t enjoy myself playing it in any way. I’ve been on the receiving end of a turn 1 Serra, and have taken 18 points of damage (a 36 life point swing) before I could get a removal spell. By that time, the game was too far out of reach that our team just died. While Jacob van Lunen and Chris Lachmann may have stormed a Pro Tour by winning their matches in 5 minutes, they did so with a strategy that nobody respected, and I give the props for that. In a modern-day Time Spiral block 2HG draft, everyone would try and go slivers, or at least hate them higher than normal. When you can have a 5 minute game jut my opening one rare, I don’t enjoy it as much.

My 2HG partner contacted Wizards customer service and was informed that Serra Ascendant was never tested in 2HG limited. It was tested in EDH (a non-sanctioned format) and 2HG constructed (another format that sees almost zero play), but never in 2HG limited. There are only 5 formats available for TOs to run at FNM (Standard, Draft, Sealed, 2HG Standard and 2HG Sealed), and that you would test a card in an unsanctioned (albeit popular and fun) format like EDH and not in a format played at FNMs (where many players are introduced to the game) seems lazy. Serra Ascendant has dominated every M11 2HG tournament I’ve played in (3-4) and it not only makes the players who play against it feel bad, but the players who open it often feel a hint of remorse because of the fact that the card is just so powerful. What would have been the solution to this card? Making it mythic would’ve been a good start, as the card certainly feels mythic to me, although with 2 cycles of mythic in M11 there isn’t a ton of room for any more. I don’t know how I would reword the text of it to make it still good in standard but not broken in 2HG, but that’s why I’m not a developer. Anyway, that’s my mid-article rant. I’m sorry if I come across as whiny, but the fact of the matter is this card is absurdly powerful in one of my favourite formats.

Onto the tournament report! I was paired with Buddy, a player form the Sherwood Park store who’s quite good. Going into the draft portion we were informed that only nonverbal signals would be allowed, i.e. you can’t talk to your teammates. Because I’m unfamiliar with Buddy’s drafting style, I didn’t know what colours he favoured, etc. For those of you who don’t know, you draft 6 packs and pick 2 cards at a time from each pack. The only real disagreement we had was in the last pack with 4 cards left in it, one of which was a Time Reversal. Having played Time Reversal in 2HG limited before (a format with which Buddy was not as experienced), I wanted to take it, because it’s a solid card. Not great, but if you can play it at the right time it can be very solid. Buddy was having none of it, and since we couldn’t talk we passed it.

Our decks turned out pretty solid. Buddy got a white-black deck with double Serra Angel, double Doom Blade, and the all-important Blood Tithe. I had a blue-green deck with Stormtide Leviathan (another card that’s sick in 2HG) and Overwhelming Stampede (a card that’s slightly worse in 2HG). I also had double Scroll Thief and double Dryads Favor. now I know you’re all going to say I’m crazy for playing this last-pick enchantment, but hear me out. Landwalk abilities are extremely important in 2HG, because if either of your opponents has the right type of land, your creature is unblockable. Your opponents will almost always play at least 4 out of the 5 basic land types, and usually one will splash for something else. Nighthaze was a card I always wanted one of in my Rise of the Eldrazi 2HG decks, and River Boa was undeniably powerful in Zendikar-Worldwake. While not quite as awesome as Volcanic Strength, Dryad’s favour is a card I’m not ashamed to sleeve up in 2HG limited, one of the few formats where that card will see any play.

Round 1

In round 1 we faced off against Attila and Blaine, two of my friends from the Edmonton Wizard’s location. They start out quickly with a turn 2 Augury Owl and Garruks Companion. Buddy is able to play one of our 2 War Priest of Thunes, hoping to trade with the Companion, but a Volcanic Strength from the other team makes trading impossible, and we take 6 damage on turn 3. Luckily, I try to Aether Adept the enchanted companion, which meets a Cancel and Buddy is forced to lay his second War Priest to destroy the enchantment. While this was one of the few times that a landwalk ability in 2HG was actually irrelevant, it’s always nice to get some value out of a card like the priest. The next turn results in us successfully trading the priest for the companion, and Attila casts a Duress, only able to take my Dryads Favor.

On the next turn Buddy casts a Lilianas Specter, another card which is much that much better in 2HG. We happily trade it with their Augury Owl, only to cast Rise from the Grave next turn forcing them to discard again, while I add to our flying force with an Air Servant. They bring out a Scared Pegasus which holds our specter back, but we keep bringing the Air Servant beats. The eventually draw into a Fireball for my elemental, and I get my Stormtide Leviathan Cancelled, putting everyone more or less in topdeck mode.

My next draw is a much-needed Jaces Ingenuity, which nets me a Cancel for their Giant Spider, and we manage to kill them with fliers and card advantage in a few more turns.

1 – 0

Round 2
Round 2 has us facing Matt and Brian, a team (like ours) made of 2 people from different stores. Unfortunately, I must’ve gotten distracted and/or depressed by how badly we lost as my notes are very sparse. I have them playing a turn 2 Garruks Companion and a number of Infantery Veterans which broke through our sparse defences, as our team suffered from mana screw pretty hard. My life sheet from this game has us getting hit 7 times before dying, while we dealt a total 1 damage to them. Fun stuff.

1 – 1

In round 3, we take an intentional draw to ensure our continuation into day 2.

Final Record: 1 – 1 – 1
Final Record on the day: 3 – 3 – 1

After the elimination of the last place team, Matt (the TO, not my second-round opponent) calls up the top 2 teams from the 2HG rounds. With 12 players left, the next day will start with team Trios constructed, with the formats being Legacy, Extended, and Standard. The top 4 players are to draft their teammates form the remaining players, and Matt (my second-round opponent) uses his first pick to take me on his team. I was surprised by this, as Matt doesn’t know me extremely well, as we only see each other from time to time, but I was definitely happy to be on a team with him, as I have a lot of respect for him as a player. Our third teammate is my 2HG partner Buddy, and we decide that Buddy will play Standard (pretty much the only constructed format he plays regularly), Matt will play Extended, and I’ll play Legacy, as not only do I have a tier 1 deck pretty much built, but I have a relatively solid knowledge of the metagame and interactions, although I am by no means an expert. It’s also a format that I enjoy immensely, and I wish that the barrier to entry was lower so that our monthly Legacy tournaments would have more entrants.

That’s it for part 2, part 3 should be up soon, provided that school doesn’t throw a curveball at me. I’m in my first year of Computing Science at the University of Alberta, and I’m still getting used to university life.

Remember you can always email me at zak-AT-power9pro.com with any comments, questions, or article suggestions, or you can find me on twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak