Category Archives: random

Garruk Wildspeaker Not Included in “the Garruk Wildspeaker Deck” WotC: WTF?

Wizards has announced the decklist of ‘Teeth of the Predator,’ one of their new “Duels of the Planeswalkers” series of pre-constructed, 60-card decks. These decks are a spinoff of their xBox 360 title, Duels of the Planeswalkers. However, in a dumbfounding and likely ill-fated move, none of the decks will actually contain the planeswalkers they are branded with.

The packaging was announced on Monday the 19th of April. Immediately, in comments below this announcement, the dubious trick was highlighted: that while the packages all feature prominently the planeswalkers whose decks these allegedly are, none of the decks actually contain the planeswalkers in question.

Yep, that’s right. Garruk’s deck has exactly zero copies of Garruk Wildspeaker. And yes, that’s a huge picture of Garruk on the cover of the box. Check out the Garruk box:

Don’t be fooled by the phrase “The Garruk Wildspeaker Deck.” This doesn’t mean “deck featuring Garruk Wildspeaker” as we might reasonably presume, but rather something along the lines of “a deck someone like Garruk Wildspeaker might play.”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I share the sentiment of Andrade, the first poster on the blog announcing the packaging:

There will be a lot of disappointed people if the decks don’t include a Planeswalker card. If I buy “The Nissa Revane deck” with a huge picture of Nissa on the box then I would expect to find a Nissa in there.

“Disappointed” is a bit of an understatement if you ask me. I’d substitute “pissed.” I, for one, would feel utterly deceived and cheated by this blatant near-false-advertising.

The biggest problem here is that this will inevitably only infuriate n00bs who are just getting into Magic, to whom these products appeal greatly as a way to supplement their nascent collections. Someone who is “in the know” and keeps up with Magic culture is far less likely to blindly buy a product on a whim without knowing the specific contents of that product. In short, experienced players won’t be duped by this crap. But the n00b just sees the picture and buys it. This is speculation, but it seems consistent with purchasing behaviors I’ve observed in an unscientific, personal way over the years.

So, WotC, shame on you for peddling this inferior and deceptive product. I don’t know who made this decision, or what their blood-alcohol level was at the time they made it, but you can bet this lemon of a product will tarnish the brand, and in a just world, those responsible for this trash would be purged from the company.


Tilting Hard, and Dealing with it.

Tilt n (tlt): a state of mental confusion or frustration in which a player adopts a less than optimal strategy, usually resulting in the player becoming over-aggressive.

I hate it when poker terms bleed out into real life situations. I cringe anytime someone (including myself) says that they were “all-in” on something that isn’t a no-limit pot. I have to actively restrain myself from whipping out my pimp-hand when someone says something is “the nut,” but there’s just no better way to describe being tilted other than to say you’re on tilt, and having to admit that I’m on tilt when I am only makes me tilt harder.

I haven’t picked up a magic card in nearly two weeks because I’m on tilt. Hard.

That statement isn’t entirely true, because some friends and I team drafted at a hip bar in Boston a couple of weeks ago; I wasn’t happy about it, but I thought having some fun with magic might help my issue.

This all started after I had been killing it on Magic Online last month. After my online PTQ top 8 things had been steady, I was winning a bit but drafting a bit and not winning so everything kind of offset. Then I won a limited premiere event and my account was actually pretty respectable. I already had JUND built online so I really didn’t need to invest in anything, I could just pay entry fees to try and build the account to what I envisioned as a most ludcrious state by “going infinite” in daily events.

It had also been my goal since I got into MTGO to participate in a Magic Online Championship Series Event, something you have to qualify for by winning events online and earning points. In march after just a few days I had 11 out of the needed 15 points to participate; three weeks later I was holding steady at 11, the season over and my account nearly zeroed out of packs and tix.

This alone is enough to piss someone right off, but this is just the end to justify the means. The path that I took is what drove me into a downward spiral of Anger, Fear and Aggression: The Dark Path.

Anger. Don’t think you’re better than the game:

Magic is a quick game, often times over within 8 turns for each player. With so many fast decks out there the game can end even earlier. A lot of times when we lose there was something we could’ve done to win, but sometimes you just lose. If, after a loss, you open your mind to the idea that losses are inevitable you can avoid tilting.

But if you’re really angry about a loss, instead of jumping in another 8-man queue, go watch your games and see if there was any other play you could’ve made.

Fear. Don’t make stupid decisions because you are afraid to lose, these will only make you madder:


I have bad decisions tattooed on my arm; no joke. A lot of these were life decisions, but damned if I wasn’t sitting in that chair thinking about how it applies to my card career too. When you know you’re playing against vampires and you keep a hand with NO removal even though it’s a “good matchup” and you lose, it’s easy for someone to say “you can’t be mad, you decided to keep a bad hand.” SCREW that. You just did a stupid thing, and it’s infuriating. Most of my losses to vampires and allies are because I kept a hand without removal despite knowing my matchup and knowing I boarded in extra creature kill. And when I do this it only serves to piss me off, even if my mana was tight.

Aggression. Don’t reload:

I used to play a bunch of poker and when I was running bad I knew to just do something else. I have plenty of hobbies I can do something else with my time. I find it a lot harder to walk away from Magic because it’s such a proving ground for me. It’s the first card game I’ve played that I haven’t been able to excel at. So when I start losing it’s harder for me to not jump in an 8-man queue with 6 people in it or a Daily event that’s firing in 10 minutes.

I’ll harken back to the definition of Tilt I posted above and how it mentions aggressiveness. I most identify this with being too aggressive with your actual iterations of playing. If you’re angry and you are losing, just stop reloading beacuse even if you win a game or two, is it really going to pull you out of tilt, or is it going to make you reload again? It’s like false positive reinforcement, yeah that didn’t go so bad but when you find yourself still in your swoon you’re going to be up ranting and raving on facebook chat to your friends about how bullshit you are at yourself for keeping 6 lands and a bloodbraid elf.

That ranting and raving thing is a true story, only it happened on Gmail chat. I went through about 80 tickets in three days trying to qualify for the MOCS, and when I clicked open the Magic Online store to bust into my paypal account I had to draw the line and unplug my laptop. I like to pride myself on being a pretty cool customer, almost completely unflappable, but we all have weaknesses and as much of a gracious loser I think I am, I HATE losing; it bends me out of shape.

So I’m Magic Free for two weeks, even though I am a bit regretful that I cannot attend any Rise of Eldrazi pre-releases. I really enjoyed posting my pools from the Worldwake prereleases and writing about them for power9pro but I have an engagement with another card game that I must attend, and to be honest I don’t think I’m ready to strap back into a magic seat yet. I’m still pretty frustrated with myself for allowing my account to go nuclear instead of playing some xbox or reading, but I need to open myself up to the fact that playing for the sake of playing isn’t going to make me a better magic player. I’m going to sit back down when I really want to give it a stab… or on Sunday when the first standard PTQ online fires.

Mike Gemme

Bobbysapphire on MTGO

The New Rise of Eldrazi Mechanics

So, everybody wants to be a Figure of Destiny.

I just spent a week down in my favorite city in the world (New Orleans) and on my shaky flights home I took notes on an article I’ve been meaning to write since I landed this gig at p9p. However, when I got home and punched “Daily MTG” into google for the first time in eight days and found the Rise of Eldrazi visual spoiler and some crazy new mechanics, I knew that I’d once again have to shelve that other article and talk about power levelling.

So far we’ve got three Light Warriors who can level up at will (well, sorcery speed will):

Guul Draz Assasin Lighthouse ChronologistKnight of Cliffhaven

It’s pretty tough to analyze these guys after only seeing three of them, but their rarity speaks to me a bit. One mythic, one rare and one common; there will likely be a fair number of these guys in the set, maybe 2-3 per color.

I think the major thing to consider about this mechanic is how exactly to play it (even before we consider how good this mechanic really is or isn’t). For example, take a look at Guul Draz Assasin. When are we playing this guy? Play him on one, level him up maybe on 2, then on 3 you level him up again and make their 2 drop -2/-2. That’s obviously one streamlined option, but does this guy get worse if you can’t play him on turn 1? Maybe not. Turn 3 you can play him and pump him once, then on turn 4 you can pump him again and still have the option to make a guy -2/-2 which can make combat really tricky that turn if they can’t kill him. The main question we need to ask ourselves at this point is how does our board look? Is a casting cost of 2BBB worth it to have a 2/2 that can run shop on the board?

What this mechanic really is, is “slow-kicker.” The fact that the rare ones seem color-intensive could make things really problematic, but the common Knight of Cliffhaven (anybody else thinking of Cliff Claven?) levels for three colorless mana, making him a much better limited card even if his level up cost is pretty expensive. We’ve seen 2/2′s for 2cc go a long way in limited over the years, and we’ve seen 2/3 flyers do pretty well too. But a 2/3 flyer for 5 mana? Eh. If your curve falters it’s fine, and if you’re really struggling to stop a flyer he is obviously very handy, but really I think most times this guy is going to be a good limited staple (since we’re drafting triple ROE) for white but no real practical constructed application.

This mechanic gives us a new template which is cool if not fugly, and I think the power level of the rares will be the deciding factor on whether or not these guys can hang in constructed standard, because I’m sure some will be usable in block.

Dennis Rodman plays magic?!

Rebound is the only new mechanic with the potential to do really unfair things. This is what we have so far:

Prey's VengeanceVirulent Swipe

Right now we only have things that are pumps, which is fine because so far they’re both forms of removal that are really good when you play it on your opponent’s turn and rebound it on your turn.

I don’t think I really have to go too in depth into this, as it’s pretty obvious that if you can block, play Preys Vengeance to go +2/+2 to kill a creature and keep your guy alive, rebound into your guy being +2/+2 again and attack in bigger than anyone on the board you’re going to be looking pretty good. Same with Virulent Swipe, you can play it on defense to force a trade and then swing in the next turn with someone else and make them trade with you again or take some damage. It seems like a good way to make use of a guy who has become outclassed by the other creatures on the board.

It’ll be interesting to see what else they do with this mechanic. The two cards we have are uncommon so I wonder if there will be just one uncommon Rebound card in each color that’s some form of pump. It’s easy to assume that the white card will give us lifelink and the blue card will give us flying, but maybe R/D will be a little more inventive than that.

But it would be really cool if they gave us real board changing cards with rebound. Like a blue card that bounces a creature, a black that kills, a red that burns etc. It is a really cool, strong mechanic that doesn’t seem TOO powerful.

I’ve already said something on totem armor in the power9pro spoiler article two weeks ago, but this new card is exactly what I was looking for to think that this mechanic has potential:

Hyena Umbra

First strike is one of the most powerful of the most used keywords on creatures. It can absolutely rule combat, so casting Hyena Umbra to give a guy +1/+1 and first strike and “Regenerate for free” makes this a nifty little power package at a very, very low cost. Kindled Fury was one of my absolute favorite cards in M10 draft and won me many a pack on MTGO, this card reminds me of that. And, since it’s white I like it as a card that can make Knight of the Reliquary even better. I’m interested to see what the other colors with this mechanic have to offer, especially at such low costs.

The only other new mechanic is Annihilator and I think it’s pretty obvious that it’s one of the most powerful Mechanics magic has ever printed. Obviously it’s main hindrance is that none of the cards it’s printed on cost less than 8, nor do they have haste, so you’re not going to be Annihilating anything without great effort.

There’s also a little something going on with Defender, but that’s not exactly new or exciting, just that they’re getting really into defender for this set, which (with apologies) doesn’t excite me whatsoever. Though this card was spoiled today by WOTC:

Guard Duty

That’s it for me, I’m always excited about new cards even if I’m not excited about their constructed applications. I’m hoping we get a lot more out of rebound and some interesting Level Uppers in all the colors, until then I’ll be cascading.

Mike Gemme
BobbySapphire on MTGO

PS: here’s a link to the WOTC Visiual Spoiler, check it often.

How to Successfully Prepare for a Magic Tournament

I wasn’t planning on writing another article so soon after the double-Worldwake prereleases over the previous weekend, but I received a twitter message from @thephoenix5 asking if I had a sort of “event checklist” to ensure that I didn’t forget anything when I went out to a tournament. While I consider most of this to be second-nature, I understand that forgetting something can ruin what would otherwise be a good day of Magic.

The first thing I’d like to address is the variety of events that are out there. I will pack differently for a prerelease than I would an FNM, which would still be different from how I would pack for a PTQ. However, there are some fundamental things that one should always bring to a tournament, regardless of type.

Zak’s Universal Magic Checklist
[ ] If the event is constructed, a deck, sleeved, with sideboard. If the event is limited, enough sleeves to sleeve a limited deck.
[ ] Extra sleeves. If a sleeve breaks or you end up playing a 41 card draft deck or something like that, it can’t hurt.
[ ] If the event is constructed, sideboarding notes. These have recently been allowed so that you may make your sideboard choices quickly and effectively.
[ ] Pen/Pencil/Paper. After getting into disputes over life totals when my opponent and I used dice or other life counting methods, I’ve decided to go the old fashioned way. Also makes a great place to take notes, say after resolving a Duress.
[ ] Dice/Beads. It is imperative that both players are aware of the number of counters on cards, and should your opponent forget, you’ll always be there with dice so as to avoid misrepresenting the game state.
[ ] If the deck you are playing calls for them, bring tokens. For limited events, I use a set of generic Power 9 Pro tokens that can act as whatever I want. If you need generic tokens, You can try erasing a basic land and drawing a little picture on it, which always makes for fun times. I dislike using beads/dice for tokens because they are easily overlooked, and cannot easily be seen as tapped/untapped.
[ ] Wallet. This is self explanatory. Have enough cash to cover event costs and other purchases you might make.
[ ] DCI number. If you don’t have it memorized, bring your card with you. It saves organizers tons of time if they don’t have to look up your number in the reporter software.

All of the above fits nicely into a Dragon’s Egg, which is now on sale at its lowest price yet.

However, there is one thing which I don’t auto-bring to ever tournament, and that is my binder of cards for trade. This is because a large binder is bulky and annoying to carry around, and I find that at my local shop, everyone has done all the trades they want, because we see each other so often. Thus bringing a trade binder to small, local tournaments is often fruitless. Of course, you could just fill deckboxes or other Dragon’s Egg compartments with traders, but I don’t like having other players rapidly flipping through my cards – the risk for damage is simply too great. On the other hand, if the tournament is larger such as a PTQ, Regionals, or even a local prerelease, I always bring the binder because there are more people with whom I have not traded with.

If you envision a big turnout at the tournament, it is prudent to have something to do between rounds. Personally, I like to bring a DC10 stack so that as many people can play without needing to bring their own decks. This is a great way to make friends and have fun during slow periods.

Unfortunately, the biggest tournaments also have a knack for attracting n’er-do-wells and thieves who would gladly take your $1000 trade binder off your hands. Thus, if the tournament is standard, I only bring a binder with standard cards, likewise for extended, etc. In short, don’t bring more stuff than you can reliably keep track of.

I hope you enjoyed this brief primer on how to pack for an event, and it just goes to show how a single reader can have an effect on articles. So if you have an article you’d like written, email me at zak -AT- or via my twitter feed at

Cheers, and I hope everyone has a great Worldwake Launch Party!

Top 2 iPhone Apps for Magic Players

This has been a long time coming and I apologize to everyone for the delay.

The benefit of this delay is a longer period of use, so my analysis will ultimately be more accurate.

I don’t have any personal disclaimers because I’m not currently working on any applications related to the tallying of life totals, generating random numbers/coin-flips, etc–the focus of all these mtg iPhone apps. I can say that I have been working on and off as time permits on an iPhone app so before I get into the details of my review, I want to thank all the mtg-developers out there for devoting the time needed to create iPhone apps for mtg. It’s not an easy undertaking and massive-props to each of you for taking the challenge.

I know of a few iPhone apps for mtg that are currently under development and not yet available to the public at large. This review has not included those apps within the scope. I will update/re-publish this review from time to time as new apps become available or if I find from usage that previous “non-top-iPhone-apps” become better through updates and so warrant inclusion on this list.

For clarity sake, these are the iPhone apps included in my review (no particular order):

  • MTG Life
  • M: tba
  • TCGBuddy
  • MtG Tools
  • CCGSeer
  • Sylvan Archives (which is an aggregate of a number of mini-apps published by the same developer)
  • Life Counter
  • Deck Builder
  • If you see an iPhone app not included on this list, please notify me and I will certainly give the app a spin. Without further ado…

    Honorable Mentions here goes to MTG Life and M:tba (which I think was a mistake…tba? wtf? name your app, fool!).

    MTG Life:
    The application, though not my favorite is simple and in my opinion simple will always trump overly complicated (KISS). The UI is straight forward, tracking life totals via a scroll wheel. I don’t give this a “highly recommended” as I do the “top-two” because there’s no undo or “history tracking”. Those two pieces of functionality are pretty important. Just having a life total up isn’t enough. Players need to see the history in case there’s a dispute.

    M: tba:
    This app also does not keep track of a history of life loss/gain. I give a partial recommendation of this app for two reasons–and it’s despite a bug which I’ll get to in a moment.
    First, I like the graphical interface. It reminds of me of Zelda and nostalgia can have more pull than people realize. The hearts used for keeping track of life look straight out of Zelda actually. I also like the look of the dice. They have a worn look which makes me think they’ve seen a lot of game-play. lol. That’s not really a reason for getting this app though.
    Second, I recommend this app for people who play a lot of multiplayer games because the app allows you to easily add more than two players. Pretty useful in my opinion.
    Generally speaking the UI is pretty good and, as I mentioned, includes a dice roll. There is a bug in this app: if you tap the dice multiple times in a row, they will enter an infinite loop and never stop spinning. Bummer. So far as the development side goes, I would recommend de-activating the spin function until it stops. Either that, or track down what’s causing the infinite loop. My only other recommendation to the developer (if he/she is reading this) is to enable the search on the comp-rules. That, or hyperlink the sections so if a user needs to jump to a specific section, it’s easily done and doesn’t require TONS of scrolling. (Creating an index based on each section could easily accomplish this).

    Second-place for best iPhone, mtg-app is

    MtG tools

    The UI is very simple, including a life counter tracking gain/loss. The gain/loss includes an undo if you make a mistake and displays a history of the loss (i.e. -2, +6, etc). This application also includes a coin-flip for “who goes first”–or those random mtg-cards that include flipping a coin…but nobody plays those so who cares. ;-)

    If you’re a TEPS player or just really have short-term memory problems, the app also includes a mana counter for keeping track of how much mana you have in your pool. I do see the reason for including this when the apps were being developed because TEPS was indeed running rampant but I personally would never use this aspect of the application. I would just use a dice or tally on a peice of paper. Reason being, it’s a bit labor-intensive to use the mana counters. This goes for ALL the apps where this piece of functionality was included.

    First-place for best iPhone, mtg-app is


    I will say this application is the most expensive but the time taken by the developer to make a solid app is worth the cost. The developer obviously spent time to thoroughly debug his app (I know he’s a dude so no back-talk about sexism). As a fellow programmer, I appreciate the labor required to debug and add polish to an application. In the end, that polish does shine through and makes this app more than worth the cost.
    This application also includes a tracking of life totals (history of gain/loss) and includes an undo button. (That really is useful, folks). Going above and beyond the call for a history-track of gain/loss, users can insert notes on what was happening. This can be pretty dang useful in itself, if entering into game 3 you need to reference what was happening game 1 or game 2–for example, what cards do you need to play around, etc. It’s also an excellent tool for tournament reports.

    TCG Buddy also includes a 20-sided die for who-goes-first. I feel like I can trust this dice whereas with others, I felt the randomization was a tad dubious. This anxiety may be driven by my anal, is it really random mentality.

    As an example of “going above and beyond,” TCGBuddy also includes a TON of preferences, such as round limits, starting life totals and saving match-histories. If you run a lot of “private drafts” or are trying to get your play-group use to actual drafting times, this application also includes a timer, tracking both draft-times AND round times. Very usesful.

    TCG Buddy didn’t stop there though! If you’re a PTQ’r and looking to Q based off DCI ranking, here’s a tool you can use for calcuating your DCI ranking after each round (if you’re considering a 2-0 drop or 3-0 drop). You can also access the Gatherer, track mana pools (again, not so useful to me but there’s probably people out there who would love this functionality). Dang, this app has everything a player needs for mtg.

    Now, if you feel that your app is better than I gave it props for here, please contact me directly (james[AT]power9pro[DOT][NOSPAMPLEASE]com) and I’ll take another look at your application. For the most part, I feel that a number of applications were either rushed to the market and so corners were cut either in design or QA or the application didn’t’ make sense to me. (I won’t name any names but stick to the apps on this recommend list and you’ll be fine…otherwise, buyer beware).
    If you’re not a developer of any of these apps and you have opposing opinions, feel free to leave a comment here. Developers, please contact me directly. I don’t want to start a shit-fight in the comments section.

    Firestarter: Where’s You Dragon’s Egg Been?

    Power 9 Pro Just announced a contest where you show off where your Dragon’s Egg has been, with the winner getting some free N-Dexers.. I went to South America over spring break, and here are some photos that I took to help get you guys into the picture-snapping mood.

    I’m sorry that they spill over into the margins, but I really love the quality that the bigger size affords you.  And no, I really didn’t want to crop these pictures.


    Me, A Galapagos Tortoise, and the Dragon's Egg.  Santa Crux Island, Galapagos, Ecuador.
    Me, A Galapagos Tortoise, and the Dragon's Egg. Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos, Ecuador.
    Me, The Dragon's Egg, and a Pre-Incan Temple in the middle of Lima, Peru.
    Me, The Dragon's Egg, and a Pre-Incan Temple in the middle of Lima, Peru.
    With the stunning view of Machu Picchu in the background, I got one last shot of me and the Egg.
    With the stunning view of Machu Picchu in the background, I got one last shot of me and the Egg.

    For those of you that needer more convincing, I used the Dragon’s Egg to carry sunscreen, insect repellant, my wallet, and a plethora of utility items during my trip.  Hooray for not having to bring a giant backpack with me all the time!

    I’m looking forward to see the submissions for the contest, so do your best to impress us.



    Is it a plane? No, It’s a Magic Format!

    Well loyal readers, I’m back to talk about the more casual side of Magic.  The subject of today’s discussion will be what is almost undoubtedly my favourite Magic variant format.  This format can be played as a duel, or in multiplayer games.  Similar to Elder Dragon Highlander, cards that are generally seen as sub-par are stars of the show.  Like Pauper, it’s great for new players, and as long as one person is willing to put in the time beforehand to make it work, games can be played at any time, for as long as you want with little set-up.  Like Type 4, a turn-one Akroma, Angel of Wrath is quite possible, as is a turn-two Wrath of God to send her to the graveyard. The format can be explained in a few short sentences, which makes it much more accessible to a wide range of Magic players.  This format is a favourite of players at my local shop, and it has only been discussed a handful of times on the internet, and not nearly in enough detail.  This format is known as DC10.

    I can’t honestly say that I know where the name DC10 comes from, but I do know that this format is a great way to kill time between rounds.  If I see someone who’s done their match at a tournament, I usually ask if they’ll play DC10.  When they ask what it is, I say the following:

    1. Communal Deck & Graveyard
    2. Players have infinite mana
    3. Players do not draw an opening hand
    4. Everything else is like normal Magic.

    I then proceed to take out my DC10 stack and we’ll play a few games, and sure enough I’ll have more players for the next time there is extra time to kill.

    However, in order for this to work, someone (in this case me, but 2 or 3 other people at my store have as well) must make a DC10 stack.  The following are the guidelines I use when deciding whether or not a card makes it into my stack.

    1. The card must not be broken.

    New players always ask me what happens in DC10 when someone plays Fireball.  My answer is simple – Fireball is not in the deck.  Nor are Blaze, Demonfire, Banefire, Disintegrate, or anything remotely resembling Firebreathing.  These cards are obviously broken in a format with infinite mana, and they would make the game a whole lot less fun.

    2. The card must be fun and sufficiently powerful.

    Nobody wants to play a Llanowar Elves in a format with infinite mana, as it would soon get outclassed.  For this reason, common judgement should be used when deciding to put a card into the stack.  I ask myself, “Would I be happy to draw this card in 90% of all situations?”  If the answer is no, the card does not make the cut.  Another card that, while not terribly weak, but just not fun would be Traumatize.  Sure, a player could then proceed to flashback or unearth a bunch of cards and win that way, but then you have to go through the process of milling half the stack, and that takes up time that could be spent playing.

    3. There must only be one copy of the card in a deck.

    This helps keep games fun and varying.  Playing a playset of each card is not nearly as fun as having 4 times as many different cards.  Thus, I consider DC10 to be a singleton format.

    Another thing that players quickly find out about DC10 is that card drawing is extremely powerful.  Thus, cards like Tidings and Concentrate are not put in the stack.  However, I have begun to include Esper Charm in mine, because it can do other things, even if it just trades for two more cards most of the time.  An exception to this rule is Biomantic Mastery (pictured), because how many times are you ever going to resolve that in your lifetime?  As well, although it usually helps a person win the game, it paints a giant target on their face in a multiplayer game.

    It should be noted that cards that involve all players drawing cards should be included, as they make for some wild and wacky combos that would otherwise never see the light of play.  I’m talking about cards like Wheel of Fortune, Temporal Cascade, Memory Jar, Sway of the Stars, etc.

    Each group has its own rules regarding search effects.  I personally do not include “carte blanche” tutors, like Diabolic Tutor or Demonic Tutor.  However, I believe there is a certain skill in using restrictive tutors like Summoners Pact, Idyllic Tutor, and Knowledge Exploitation.  We usually impose a time limit of one minute on search effects, as well as limiting the player to searching only the stack which has been placed on the table (Due to the large nature of the stack, only a handful of cards are placed on the table for each game, and the rest are kept in a box for when the stack runs low).

    Another mistake that new players make is that there are no lands in the deck.  This is simply not true.  Many games are decided by an activated Svogthos, the Restless Tomb, and Prahv, Spires of Order have been known to give a player enough time to get back on their feet.

    Where card draw is extremely powerful in DC10, discard is extremely poor.  Most times, players will not have any cards in their hand, and thus will render a Thoughtseize or Duress useless.  The only cards a player is likely to hold back are cards that can be played at instant speed, and will thus make discard spells often fizzle.

    While it’s great to have cards like Sphinx of the Steel Wind and Titanic Ultimatum in the deck, it is important to include lots of removal for these types of cards.  It is important to not discriminate against cards because of other ones.  For example, if you were to include Terror in your stack, Dark Banishing is still a fine addition, as it still has a purpose, and a player will be as happy to draw it as they would a Terror.  The same goes for countermagic: Cancel, Counterspell and Cryptic Command all have a place in the deck.

    Because DC10 is often played with more than two people, it does a reasonable job of teaching newer players how priority and the stack work.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the mechanics of a multiplayer game, priority goes in Active Player, Non-Active Player order in a clockwise fashion.  In short, the person whose turn it is gets a chance to play abilities when the stack is empty, and after any other effect is added to the stack, players may respond by going clockwise from the effect’s controller.  Thus, it is important for the active player to know about graveyard effects such as flashback, because they are the ones who get to play them, lest they pass their turn (and the effects in question) to their opponents.

    When creating a DC10 stack of your own, it is important to remember a few logistical principles.  First and foremost: sleeve your stack.  Because cards like Wrath of God, Cryptic Command, and Force of Will are often included in DC10 stacks, sleeving is important should you ever need the cards for a constructed purpose.  I personally use penny sleeves for my stack, as they are cheap and relatively effective at protecting your cards.  However, if you have some extra cash, go ahead and by some nicer sleeves.

    The second principle is to keep your stack relatively together.  Do you remember the boxes from the 10th Edition Release event with Kamahl, Pit Fighter on them?  That’s what I use for my stack.  However, over a year or so of wear, I’m needing to find a new box, which will probably be one of those long card-storage boxes you find at game shops.

    Then comes the unfortunate matter of shuffling.  Because stacks tend to be quite large, it can be an ordeal to randomize it.  Unfortunately, not randomizing it will ned up with you playing the same game over and over again, and randomness is a large part of what makes DC10 fun.  Thus, if you have some time will watching TV to kill, give the stack a good pile shuffle, I personally create between thirty and fifty stacks when I do this.  If this seems too daunting, one of the things I do is break it out before the tournament starts.  People who know what your stack is are almost always willing to help shuffle as long as they get to get in on the action when it’s done.

    I wanted to show you a sample game of DC10, so I sat down at our kitchen table with my brother.  I had gotten a bunch of cards shipped in that day, so I was eager to see how they played out.  Unfortunately, reliable is one thing that DC10 is not, and so I will show you what my notes looked like for game 1.

    That’s right, I drew and played a turn 1 Barren Glory.  With my brother Jay’s draw yielding an irrelevant spell (and by irrelevant, I mean non-Disenchant), we were a little dumbfounded.  Coincidentally, Barren Glory was one of the cards that had been shipped in that day and added to the stack.

    Although moments like that do occur in DC10, they are not what the format is all about.    So we put the two cards from the first game aside and started again.

    Jay and I both passed our first turns, and Jay made a Synod Sanctum on his second turn.  I then cast Rivers Grasp to make him discard a Battle Mastery.  He resolved a Windbrisk Raptor on his turn which threatened to swing the game in his favour.  Luckily I had a Fissure for the raptor and a Shadowmage Infiltrator to add to my board.  Jay put his Raptor underneath his Sanctum in response to my kill spell, so I had to make sure I saved removal for when it came back.

    Jay got a Saltblast on his next turn, and when he tried to draw on his next turn I was waiting with a Plagiarize in the upkeep.  After passing a couple turns Jay called back his raptor off his sanctum at my end step and attacked on his turn.  Then he added insult to injury by casting a Heroes Remembered.

    On my turn I cast a Necrotic Sliver, but before taking out his raptor, I used Pentarch Ward to draw an extra card.  The card I drew was a Steelshapers Gift, and I searched out a Heartseeker.  The Sliver then traded with the Raptor and it was Jay’s play.

    Because the 25 life Jay had gained thus far was clearly not enough, he then cast a Tower of Eons for another 10 life.

    I was enthralled to draw Azami, Lady of Scrolls, which I promptly played and turned sideways to draw a card.  The Wirefly Hive I drew got played and a Gerrards Command untapped my wizard, which drew me another card.  After failing the toss on the Hive, I passed the turn.

    Jay gained another 10 life on his upkeep, and cast Vulturous Zombie, which was met with Incinerate from myself.  Azami proved her usefulness again on my turn by drawing me another card, and I was able to cycle Resounding Thunder to burn Jay for 6.  A Trevas charm pulled a Merfolk Looter impression into a Harmonic Sliver, which would halt any more shenanigans from his Tower.  Jungle Weaver cycled for another card, and Dralnu, Lich Lord came down on my side.  Lastly, a Wirefly token hit my side.

    Jay Gloomlanced Dralnu and played a Weight of Conscience on my Sliver.  I drew another extra card on my turn and used Heartseeker to pump my token, and then swung in for 4.  Afterwards, I played a Copperhoof Vorrac to bolster my forces.

    My double draw effect was matched by a Scepter of Insight from Jay, and a Hamletback Goliath came down on the opposite side of the field.  Heartseeker took it down and my Vorrac attacked Jay.  He made a Teneb, the Harvester and a Kederekt Creeper.  I shot both of them, courtesy of Heartseeker.  A Blood Tyrant came down for me, and Jay was able to cast a Tower of Champions.  He was able to kill my equipment with a Demolish, and I was able to untap with Blood Tyrant in play, and he became a 7/7.  I also cast a Murkfiend Liege and a Ronom Hulk after swinging in with my vampire.

    Jay’s turn saw him play a Spike Tiller and a Bringer of the Red Dawn, and I drew a new card with the newly-untapped Azami at the end of turn.  After powering up my Blood Tyrant, I cast Iname as One, searching out Divinity of PrideAethermages Touch then netted me a copy of Wort, the Raidmother.  I finally cast a Violent Ultimatum, and drew the concession from Jay.

    Not all DC10 games are like this.  Some are much longer, and others (like the first game mentioned above) are extremely short.  Nevertheless, DC10 is one of the greatest casual formats ever, and I’ve been known to get 5 or 6 player games extremely easily at my school whenever I bring the stack.  In the next week or so I’ll work at typing up a list of my stack and putting it online, but with 300-400 cards (an estimate) I don’t have the time for it right now.  I encourage all of you to try making a DC10 stack, and either post in the comments or email me about your experiences with the format.  A DC10 stack does not have to be expensive, and some of the best cards in my stack come out of the dollar rare bin at my local card shop.  You’ll gain lots of friends at tournaments really fast if you have a stack, not to mention the hours of fun DC10 can provide.

    If you have any questions or comments about today’s article, or any suggestions for future articles, email me at zak -at-  You can also message me on twitter, my account is

    Why Power 9 Pro? part 1

    i thought it would be a good idea to discuss the various reasons for forming power 9 pro. i don’t think the full explanation would do well in a single blog post, and so i’m going to make this a series of posts–making this part one.

    before discussing the various allures that entrepreneurial activities have on my personality, priorities and decisions, i thought i might take a step away from that question and first answer the question, “why magic?” it’s in answering this question that will give everyone a short answer of “why power 9 pro?”

    why magic?

    aside from magic the gathering being the best game ever created–it’s complexity and nearly-infinite combination of play interactions and mechanics alone should make chess feel ashamed of calling itself a “strategy game”–there’s a lot to magic the gathering that is completely missed by non-players. maybe even new players too. what’s missed?

    the depth.

    1. the game is amazingly developed and designed. it’s in the 4x annually updated and expanded sets that providepart of this depth. obviously without the game designers (and richard garfield + team for alpha/beta/etc), there would be no game.
    2. players enthusiastically [and impatiently] await these new releases
    3. players see that magic the gathering isn’t “just a game” or “just a game for kids.” there’s more to it than that.

    the first couple of points are pretty straight-forward so i won’t spend time dissecting them (at this time). number 3 is the most important on that list.
    magic the gathering isn’t “just a game” and it’s definitely not a game “just for kids.” in fact as most serious players point out all too quickly, kids can be a gray area for the game. many of the mechanics in magic are intellectually difficult to execute correctly. if even seasoned players, many of which are adults, still make mistakes, then it’s a lot to ask a 10 – 13 year old to figure out.

    this isn’t to say that children are unable to play, btw! i don’t want any lip-service about how i’m bashing kids. i’m not. i’m simply trying to make it very clear that magic the gathering is not necessarily even a game for children (as the target market). it’s a very complex game requiring a mature (or nearly-matured) mind to fully exploit. this means that the player base is not full of a bunch of kids. adults really like challenges, and a mtg match can be one of the hardest, most fun to solve. it’s for that reason that tournaments attract players from hundred’s of miles away.

    when i was a kid, the general stigma surrounding magic was that it was for kids and for “dorky kids” only. many people i meet as an adult are fairly shocked to learn that i not only play magic now but that i can’t get enough. probably near 50% of these people try to make fun of me right away, asking me if i, “hang out with a bunch of 13 year olds all day.” of course, i can smugly tell them i am hardly the oldest player where i play. it’s nearly unbelievable to the uninitiated that there are [gasp] 30+ people playing and even [shock, horror!] retirees playing. (they have to do something with all that free time).

    if the tables are mostly filled with adults (i’ll be REALLY generous and count the 16 to 19 group…and partially generous by lumping the 20 to 22′s in there too), then we can’t treat the market like a bunch of “mushy brained” kids (that was what my dad use to say i was–a mushy brained kid. thanks dad). one of the things i always got the impression of was that magic suppliers didn’t really respect or “get” what the players were all about. we were an enigma to them. and maybe we partially are.

    to take a step back and again address the complexity of the game with specific cards rising to dominance and not seeing print again, what we’ve all seen develop are very, very stable markets for our cards. richard garfield wanted that too. (see the video below for some a great interview conducted by the “i came to game” team.) now what’s the big difference between how an adult treats his/her things and a kid? the most obvious is the care a person takes in maintaining the value of that possession. this isn’t to say that all adult players cherish and preserve their cards. that’s just not the case. as in all things, there’s a big range of personalities. but for the most part, i see adult players treating and interacting with cards differently than children. heck, i know a ton of players who treat their cards better than their cars, apartments/houses, and (sadly) bodies/health. moreover, it’s a rare child who can convince his/her parents that the “power 9” cards are the perfect birthday present

    that’s actually only part of the issue though. the other important factor is that children act differently than adults. children, for the most part, are not competitive players. and, more importantly, they’re very likely to drop the game as they get older–interests can change dramatically but time & availability changes as well. that being said, i must hear it at least once a month that so-and-so player who wins PTQs, GPTs, etc actually stopped playing for a period only to return (as an adult) as an extremely competitive player.

    along these lines, something special happened when the complexity of the game, the rarity/value of cards solidified, coupled with adults dominating the play-field: we have now a unique culture.

    interestingly, i’m not entirely convinced that this culture would be as large or as tightly knit were it not for the internet; however, the community of magic players exists and is unique to itself.

    with that statement, let me conclude that it’s the blending of these reasons for power 9 pro’s focus within magic. the most iconoclastic, polarizing name within magic refers to a grouping of cards, the power 9. the name of the company seemed obvious after we realized what we were aiming to achieve: a magic-focused company that can address the real player concerns from player perspectives.
    now i have answered the question “why magic” and hopefully provided a breif answer to the question “why power 9 pro?” there’s more to being a company though–and i’d like to discuss this with the community so keep an eye out for more updates. :)

    that cool interview with mr. garfield:

    Magic the Gathering on XBox — 6 reasons not buy it

    there’s not too much news out this week for magic the gathering…so i thought i would do a review ofMagic: the Gathering – Battlegrounds.

    from the title of the post, you can tell that i’m not down with this shameless attempt at milking more money from the magic the gathering player base.

    so why do i feel it’s a shameless money-making scheme with no real value for players? everything appealing about mtg is missing:

    1. you’re not actually playing magic…at all
    2. no collectible cards
    3. no unique art (“cool graphic” != “unique art”)
    4. there’s no social aspect to it.  might as well play any video game
    5. step backwards in developing fantasy-based games.  (there’s NOTHING new here so far as fantasy-games are concerned; it’s all old hat)
    6. how can i be a spike in such a “well rounded, no broken affect” world?

    Details on each point:

    1)  example:  there aren’t instants, no deck-constructing (it’s all “duel decks.”  PUKE) …all i can think is “it’s not even magic the gathering.”  it’s just a really bad licensing attempt.  for those of you not familiar with licensing, it’s basically what made disney the powerhouse it is today.  think “mickey mouse”  now think about all the products that have had mickey’s face plastered to it throughout the years.  that “face-plastering” is licensing.  Mr. Jonny Sells-Alot wants to make a t-shirt w/ mickey’s face on it.  disney says, “okay, pays Lots of Money.”  that’s what wizards did here.  they didn’t have atari make a new mtgo–because why do that when they can make money on mtgo AND mtg-battlegrounds?  well, in the attempt to figure out a way to make a magic the gathering game that didn’t affect the monoply wizards has for [legitimized] online play, atari made a bastardized, dumb-down version.

    2)  there’s no cards.  this reinforces point 1.

    3)  no art!?  wtf!?  no offense to the design team at atari who i’m sure worked their asses off to make this a solid game, but there’s a huge, huge, HUGE difference between graphics for a video game and art for collectible sake.  just listen to how volkan baga talks about his art. from speaking with mark hyzer at the conflux pre-release, this is something that the art team at wizards is actually very aware of as well.  (notice i’m trying to distinguish between the art team and the business team at wizards…)

    4)  part of what makes magic awesome is the communal interaction we get sitting across from someone slinging spells at us.  if we’ve already established that it’s not even magic the gathering, why would i play the atari fantasy game simply named “magic the gathering” when i can play way better (read as more thoroughly developed) fantasy-based games?  for example, the elder scroll games.  they’re consistent and i’ve been playing them since arena.  this game might as well be an elder scroll game, developed and released by bethseda because this atari look-alike has 1/2 the game play mechanics (read as 1/2 the fun).

    5)  hate to be labor the point but what’s so damn special about this game?  enchantments? creature-spells?  sorceries?  again, all that stuff has been in the fantasy-game world since…FOREVER.  originality:  get some.

    i honestly don’t know any players who sit around thinking about the “magical fantasy” part of the game.  wizards, spells, etc are just the context of the game.  they’re elements that our human brains use to abstract into a situation where we can use our puzzle solving skills.  sure.  there’s some cool stuff with dragons and demon dragons and wizards but that stuff is just cool in up to a certain point. is it really truely possible that the people at wizards and atari don’t get that?  magic isn’t the same thing as “general fantasy.”  it’s MORE THAN THAT.  it’s more than the sum of it’s parts, and that’s why we all love it so much.  if we just wanted fantsy–and any fantasy would work–we could just play d&d anyway…

    6)  uh, i can’t be a spike when the game is morphed into some sort of bastard version of magic the gathering.  only 70 spells!!??  wtf!?

    anyone else have any points i missed?  is there a list of 6 reasons TO buy it?

    A hot mtg player kicking some ass

    we decided to give everyone a different spin on the dragon’s egg. this is a short video depicting a lone mtg player making her way through the rough city, culminating in a battle between our heroine and the stocking  jealous and lustful hoodlum. enjoy. :)

    side note and comment: really, i can’t stop laughing when i watch this.  big thanks to my gracious and lovely wife for agreeing to be in this. if everyone likes, we can make a series w/ her staring as the heroine. sounds fun to me!

    Magic and Winning

    so before the news gets to be too stale, just a quick update on the last two PTQs i attended.  i didn’t do so well.  at the ptq in LA on the 27th i went a very sad 2-3 drop.  i was trying to be a bit more creative with my deck builds but it bit in the butt.  <obviously>  since color selection can be so flexible, i really wanted to see if i could pull off something different than previous sealed builds.  i failed.  :\

    in LA, i was also able to meet up with my team mate roberto–you’ll come to know him in time when he starts posting here.  he’s got a TON of information that’s going to be really helpful for players looking to get an edge on their game, so we’re looking forward to sharing that with you.

    when reviewing my experience at PTQs the last month, i thought that there were a few things i didn’t do correctly on the “preparation side.”  i then came across an oldish article by mike flores that really drove home what i had done incorrectly.  you can get the whole article here (tipped by a mtgsalvation post)but the summary is that you have to “think” and “believe” that you won’t just top-8 but that you’ll win.  it’s pretty common in business and sports that if you aim for “top 5 finishers” that you’ll fall a bit short–this is really true when it comes to sales.   (you have to aim for 2-3x your quota or you’ll NEVER hit quota).  it’s a sad reality of life.

    what stood out to me was the mental “i deserve this” that flores touches on.  he also mentions that when he wasn’t mentally prepared, wasn’t intrinically convinced of his superiority AND destiny to win that he’d lose, or fall just short of the goal.  at the PTQ i was actually prepared for (late November), i was also aiming for top8–because i figured that was the “next round.”  Ended in the top16…which is strictly “meh.”

    his goal was to win.  and often he would.  i think this is SO important.  i was talking with a friend at the last PTQ (in san jose) who had a great pool.  his pool was really strong.  in fact, he’d beaten out a friend of mine who’s not only won PTQs in the past but he had a pool that looked poised to go all the way.  here’s the clincher.  after round 4 (where he beat friend 1) my friend says, “i’ll be happy if i top 8.”  he didn’t say, “i am going to top 8 with this deck.”  he was aiming for satisfaction at top8.  where did he end with his killer-consistent pool?  10th.  just short of his goal.  good showing, won a bunch of packs but he still fell short of his goal.

    next ptq–or in this case Grand Prix LA–i’m going to win.  WIN.

    as i mentioned, whether we’re talking sports, business or magic, you have to aim for the highest possible goal.  otherwise, you’re aiming for mediocre.  and nobody wants to be mediocre.

    cheers & happy new years.  :)

    Comment of the Week on MTG Salvation

    i got the comment of the week award on mtgsalvation.  totally unexpected but i’m happy to see it was one of my more relevant comments that won (though that’s obviously the object of their award).

    for those too lazy to click over to mtgsalvation, here’s my comment.

    i’ve played with people with egos. it’s actually REALLY obnoxious to play with these people. maybe it’s just me but i ALWAYS say “good game.” even if i just got blown out. it’s called good sportsmanship. and far toooooo many players lack this. i get comments like “not really. just got mana screwed.” or <eyes rolling> “i guess. you steamrolled me.” wtf? what’s the big deal? it’s not like you have to loose a left-testie because i just won.

    i think the best way to handle jerks is to just kick their butt. also smoother them with happiness and kindness. (they typically come around).

    and since i can spend a bit more time on the topic, i think the number one rule of ANY competition is sports-person-ship.  (i’d use sportsmanship but i don’t want to exclude women’s equal responsibility to live up to the responsiblity of good sportspersonship).  maybe it’s just me though…i mean, i’m really good at anything i pick up so maybe it’s just my opinioin that people should be a bit more humble–there will ALWAYS be someone who’s better than you no matter how good you think you are.  i think being able to tell an opponent, whether you won or lost, that you had a “good game” or “fun playing with you” or whatever is super important.  i mean, even professional soccer players shake hands–heck, professional football players will spank eachother right on the field.  now, before you reach across to spank your opponent for a good play, my point is really just one about civility.  what’s wrong with being a bit more civil?

    anyone with a contrarian opinion?