Category Archives: Uncategorized

Power9Pro Goes Live

For those of you who haven’t heard yet, popular streaming site www.justin.tv has just launched a streaming service called TwitchTV, targetted especially towards competitive gamers. I think that Magic has a lot to learn from other games such as starcraft 2, where many players stream their games live. AJ Sacher has already started his version of the Day[9] Daily, a popular SC2 commentary show, and I hope that many Magic players will start to stream Magic Online live in addition to producing Videos-On-Demand (VODs).

I’m here to announce that every Monday – including tonight, I will be streaming at least an hour of Magic: Online content. Whether it be drafts, pauper, momir basic, or something else, I’ll be there. Obviously everything will be recorded with commentary and posted to my youtube channel youtube.com/zturchan.

My stream is available at TwitchTV.com/zturchan and you’ll know whenever I’m going live from my twitter: Twitter.com/zturchan.. I’ll be streaming Mondays at 5:00 PM Mountain/ 7:00 Eastern / 4:00 Pacific, in addition to random other times throughout the week.

Cheers,

Zak

Sleeving Up U/W for Grand Prix D.C.

After my top 2 finish at the Boston 5k a few weeks ago, I was looking good going into the GP with at least one bye and if I played well in any of the PTQs on the following two weekends I could be looking at 2 byes. That didn’t happen.

The day after the 5k I was pretty beat, sleeved up mostly the same 75 from the day before and went 2-2 drop at a PTQ. The following weekend was another PTQ in connecticut and I decided to switch to mythic. Mythic was a bit more complicated than I estimated and while it was capable of those blowout, turn 3 Eldrazi Conscription wins- playing a deck that just turns sideways was not what I was used to in standard and I coughed up a couple wins by simply not attacking in with my lotus cobra, forgoing one exalted trigger and losing with my opponent at 1.

Those kind of things drive me crazy and I am in no mood to play the Conscription deck again after going 0-2 in a PTQ and 2-2 drop in a WPN qualifier (losing to grixis 3 times, which is just a brutal matchup post board when you have to face down 4 lightning bolt, 4 terminate and the rest of the b/r goods and jace, the mind sculptor).

To be quite honest I’m a little torn what to do right now. Jund is certainly back on the rise and a couple of my teammates here in Mass really like it (and I’ve always considered them blue mages). It’s certainly very good as the results don’t lie, and going into the 5k weekend earlier in the month, Jund kind of punched me in the teeth a little, as I thought it was a very favorable matchup for UW Tapout; but really, nothing is favorable enough vs. cascade.

For the first time maybe ever, we’re bringing all 7 members of our squad to the same tournament, so decks are pretty sparse. We can put together two Junds or a Jund and a Naya, but I likely won’t be sleeving up anything green. There is plenty of time to play Jund for me at the online PTQs next month.

So unless I want to sleeve up some devastating summons, and I don’t think I do without having a card to kill baneslayer; I don’t really want to rely on mark of mutiny and a swing FTW to beat any deck with baneslayer angel in it, I’m going to be playing UW TAPOUT.

I’ve made some tweaks, and made some pretty brutal decisions (and I still have a couple more to make I fear), but I’ll talk about the deck a bit and what changes I’ve made and why.

I really liked UW control the weekend that I played it. I always felt like there was something I could do, or that I could draw (plus ways to draw it) that would bail me out of whatever situation I found myself in. I don’t feel like that has really changed. I like cantripping on turn 2 as much as I can. I love oblivion ring and mind spring, and while people can tell me all day that Baneslayer Angel sucks, she doesn’t and she’s a baller, and I love her.

I think that UW is fine vs. most matchups, I don’t think Dauntless Escort is very hard to play around in mythic with the right answers. I think UW can still beat Jund just fine if you gear it to the aggro matchup (and I don’t think wrath effects are nearly as bad as many people think they are vs. the deck). Furthermore, creature decks are all the rage right now with jund, naya and conscription running rampant at regionals and on MTGO.

The biggest issue I’ve stuggled with is how to deal with the creatures. I know a lot of people say to just run Sphinx of Jwar Isle and not baneslayer b/c it just gives opponent’s dead cards, but most jund players are already cutting terminates and just running maelstrom pulse x4. I think that a deck that maindecks a bunch of terminates is rough, don’t get me wrong; but the meta seems to be going the other way. People are now expecting UW tapout to not run baneslayers and the UWR Planeswalker deck doesn’t (Even though they should run them out of the board), and this could be the weekend to re-capitalize on running a full squad of Baneslayers.

So I’ve decided to neglect Sphinx of Jwar Isle despite how “good” (read: unkillable) it is against Jund. If you don’t hit several sphinx of Jwar Isle it’s really hard to actaully beat in against Jund with your 5/5. Which is why I like Baneslayer, even if they have a couple answers to it, you can turn it sideways and not fear that you’re going to die on the swing back.

I’ve upped the Planeswalker count to be a little strong against the aggro decks and put them on difficult decisions. Gideon works best with baneslayer on the table to kill one of their attackers. Elspeth is just a difficult planeswalker to kill. This also presents far more Pulse targets, making my baneslayers a bit better.

I cut an oblivion ring, conceding that creature decks are far more popular than the control decks right now, and a lot better. Instead of just upping a Path to exile however, I decided to toss in an Into the Roil. I like into the roil for a number of reasons. It’s as good as removal vs. Mythic and it’s just a lot better than path against the control matchups. Being able to bounce my own obring to legend rule a planeswalker and reload my removal seems really strong. It’s one more maindecked blue answer to a polymorphed Iona naming white and in plenty of situations itll draw me a card.

I’ve cut a mind spring, because games where I draw 2 in my opening hand were driving me a little nuts and while I know it’s practically a win condition, the cantripping in the rest of the deck will hopefully get me there.

I really loved the 2 negates maindeck when I played it and I don’t want to cut them, they’re only really bad against Conscription and Naya, but they’re great in the mirror and against jund, so I like them in the front 60.

I’ve decided to cut a Day of judgment to add in a martial coup which is a little worse against jund and mythic and to be honest, the one maindeck change I’m likely to make is to go back to three DOJ, one martial coup, I just don’t like making myself worse in the control mirrors, especially since right now I haven’t been able to fit one of the Eldrazi gods into my sideboard.

Speaking of Sideboard:

The only matchup I really don’t like is the Vengevine Naya matchup. I’m not really sure what I want to be doing vs. that post board but I’m going to get some testing in tonight and friday before the GP.

This is geared pretty heavily towards the control matchups, in which I like more negates, another into the roil, the sanctifiers and the Luminarchs. A few weeks ago I thought luminarchs were trash but looking at lists, people are cutting an oblivion ring or two from their 75 and enchantment destruction is almost non-existant. Some people are adopting into the roil, which could be an issue, but with 4 negates I should be able to back it up. I like keeping the sanctifiers for the mirror to deal with luminarchs and obrings still. I think that the firewalkers and the purges will be enough for the jund matchup, combined with leaving DOJ in and bringing in the Mind Control.

Maybe some more testing this weekend will tell me I’m wrong, but I’m hoping the white planeswalkers and arsenal of celestial purge in the board will help swing the Jund matchup a little bit, it’s possible that it’s not enough.

I’m pretty excited about the GP, GP Trials and even a fallback ptq on sunday, and I’m happy to be sleeving up this deck on the real battlefield. I’ll likely switch to Jund talk next week as ONline PTQs start back up and I’ve already traded for my Sarkhan the Mads and Consuming Vapors.

Til next time,

Mike Gemme
Mike@Power9Pro.com
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

Taking 2nd Place at the Boston $5K

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

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

you can see me discuss the list here.

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

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

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

My Board was as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quarter Finals vs. Jund

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

Semifinals vs. UW Tapout.

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

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

Finals vs. Jund

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
bobbysapphire on MTGO.

Reconciling the Limits of Play and Flavors of Power

As players of this great game, we pay cost and make choices based on cards that contain ways to modify the rules and state of the game so we can advance our plan to win the game. As Planeswalkers, we are casting magic and spells of all magnitude to survive and vanquish our opponents. I’m going to talk through some thoughts I’ve had on flavor and attempt to craft a flavorful view that will incorporate some of the rules and ideas that often float around in our game play.

There are plenty of articles and thoughts about how Planeswalkers use land and draw on mana, so I’m not going to talk much about that. It suffices to say that Planeswalkers make bonds with lands with which they are familiar and can draw the power of those lands to aid in their spellcraft. In general, an open field is an open field, regardless of the Plane you are on, but there are occasionally aspects of some lands that have secondary effects. How Khalni Garden comes with a Plant creature and how Academy Ruins lets you salvage artifacts are questions that I believe are answered by drawing a parallel between these special lands and the way I imagine spells work, in that they are events and unique patterns .

We see cards in Magic’s history that give us a strong starting point for considering the intended way for us to think about the flavor of spells and casting. Those cards that affect our or our opponent’s unplayed cards and hands often refer to the mental domain. Memory Sluice, Thoughtseize, Ancestral Recall, Mind Spring, ect. From this, we can assume that the spells are things that Planeswalkers hold in their mind, and that they come from memory. The first point seems to be a given, but the second point is interesting for the flavor of our spells and how Planeswalkers must acquire and use these spells.

The various spell types we have to consider are Instants and Sorceries, which can be grouped together for our purposes, Enchantments, Artifacts, and Creatures. Now, I do not include Planeswalkers on this list because they do not function the same as these other spell types flavorfully nor literally. I’ll address them a bit below. For now, let’s begin with the permanents.

Stepping into the mental shoes of a Planeswalker, when we are on a plane we are surrounded by matter. Real, tangible, exigent things with which we can interact. These things have an on-going nature, persisting over time, even if the nature of the thing makes that time short, they have a duration of existence. We can look at, touch, and smell the goblin, old books, and aura of magic sitting in the room with us.

Now, I believe that it is through the Planeswalkers memory that spells are ‘drawn,’ and as such, the best way to learn how to put such spells into memory is through examination. In this case, we can examine the goblin, taking in its form, behavior, and capabilities. This would not be enough however. We can remember details about the goblin when we are on another plane, but that will not suffice if we have a beast bearing down on us. What we need to do as we examine the goblin, is examine the flow of mana that comprises his existence.

I believe Planeswalkers are creatures of magic. They can literally see the threads and flows of mana that make up a creature or thing. If they study and internalize the memory of a creature and its make up, they can use mana in another place to create that creature again from their memory. Now, this is at odds with the idea of summoning a creature, but I think it fits much better when you consider applying this theory to other permanents, sorceries, and instants. Instead of yanking a Raging Goblin across the Blind Eternities to us, we are remembering what makes a Raging Goblin in way of the organization and shape of his mana, and forming the mana we have to give that memory and mana life. We are essentially cloning him using his mana DNA.

This same thing applies to artifacts and enchantments. A Planeswalker finds something useful and while they might be able to pocket an artifact, they can also just create the thing once they understand it in the place where it is required.

If we understand the spellcraft of permanents as replicating naturally occurring mana patterns that a Planeswalker encounters, then this also can lend us a hand in understanding the spellcraft of Sorceries and Instants. Sorceries and Instants, in the game, have a variety of different flavors to them but they tend to always be events and occurrences.

Disaster Radius, for example, has the flavor to me of either a massive attack from one of the Eldrazi Legends, or perhaps the fall out from one such as Emrakul falling under the force of an attack. The art, the effect and the cost all give me these as possible flavors for the card. As such, I can imagine that the Planeswalker who watches such an event could, in the moment or in the replay of memory, remember and study the activity of the mana that flowed around the event. As such, when faced with a swarm of beasts coming for him, he can shape and direct the mana, channel the memory of a powerful creature that he has the pattern at the ready to create a replay of the original event.

Now, understanding how spells work, I want to talk about a flavorizing of the deck, card limits, and the Legend rule.

If the world around the Planeswalker is one of mana patterns, we could quite easily fill amind with hundreds of patterns, spells, some of which would be great and some of which would not be the most efficient and effective use of effort. Such is true for the game, as we have thousands of cards available, hundreds in a smaller format like Standard, and not all of them are good in practical use. A Planeswalker however can control their preparation for action, pruning down thoughts and actions that would be less useful and readying themselves for those that are more likely to aid them in combat. A Planeswalker is a mental and magical martial artists, and they can hone their readied memories much the same as a Grand Master can select stances and styles to fit the opponent and environment at hand.

This gives us a flavorful way to understand the need to create concise decks using few powerful and efficient cards as a general rule. If the Planeswalker needs a Goblin, but cannot get all of the irrelevant events he’s seen out of his head, he likely not last very long. Another aspect of deck building is the four copy limit, which will touch on another flavorful concept.

We can include up to four copies of any one card into our decks, but this does not mean the Planeswalker must examine four Raging Goblins specifically to have a full preparation of them in his mind. Rather, I view each copy of a card as increased reliance and mastery of the memory of that mana pattern. A Planeswalker who has deeply studied a Knight of the Reliquary is the one most capable to bring that memory to life. This is reflected in our increased ability to draw the card when running four copies. Of course, there is only so much mastery that can be accomplished, and when understanding and reliance are at their fullest nothing more can be achieved.

This explains why we are limited to four copies, save the pocket cases of the Relentless Rats and Limited where you can have more. These exceptions can be explained first as a nature of the mana pattern of the rats and their tendency to swarm, and for Limited, in a fledgling environment where resources are scarce, the Planeswalker is sometimes forced to rely heavily on what he has managed to grasp, bending the rule of a typical orderly mind with the desperateness of making do in tough situations.

Now, as for the cases of the Legendary, we can understand that the point of legendary-ness is that it expresses uniqueness. There may have been dozens of Boggart Ram-gang running around Shadowmoor, all of them having the same typical pattern of mana. However, there was only one Wort, the Raidmother, and her abilities on the plane where unique to her alone. There was a special quirk in her pattern that expressed her uniqueness. While her having a pattern that the Planeswalker can study allows him to reconstruct her from mana and memory on a far removed plane, that specificness in the pattern keeps another Wort from being able to exist there too. In fact, if two Worts attempt to exist in the same place at once, the quirk, the uniqueness of both patterns unravels and takes the rest of the pattern with it.

Planeswalker cards pose a unique flavor translation issue, but I believe that what they represent is an alliance and a contract to enforce that alliance. Planeswalkers are too complex and unique, due to the spark, to be simple spells. Their mana pattern cannot just be recreated. Instead, we can conceptualize the Planeswalkers as having met and agreeing to a contractual calling for assistance. The spell that is cast is the call that gets sent across the Blind Eternities informing the Planeswalker that his obligation is being called upon. The Planeswalker is capable of transversing the Blind Eternities, so we can actually read this as a summoning of a single very unique creature.

The Planeswalker rule is just a little bit different from the Legend rule conceptually and functionally. The Planeswalker can be called to fulfill the role agreed based on the call that went out, thus having Ajani Vengant, the Warrior Mage, and Ajani Goldmane, the Soldierly General. He is the same person, but his roles are different. As such, the uniqueness applies to both forms. This matters because if he has a contract called by someone else who is involved in hostilities, he must leave the battle, as he becomes incapable of fulfilling both roles for both allies at once.

Finally, the only thing left to consider is the graveyard. Here the discarded and used thoughts go. I do have a hard time conceptualizing the graveyard in a flavorful way for anything other than played and subsequently destroyed creatures. I suppose that it is more a record of what has passed, as I know I have used it that way before in playing when I need to check my record keeping. Most of the memories that have been remembered, served their purpose and subsequently forgotten as the Planeswalker turns his attention to the next matter.

I’ll be honest in saying I struggle to add the Graveyard element to our flavorful exercise. Perhaps there are some Vorthos friends out there whom have given this some more thought and could help me out? Give me your thoughts in the comments! I’d love to hear other imaginings of what the Planeswalker’s experience must be and how we can reconcile that with our experiences.

Kicking Off the Standard Season

Here we go again.

It’s another season here on the PTQC and the grinding begins this weekend at the TCGPlayer 5k in Boston followed by a Sunday Funday PTQ.

Right now, public enemy #1 is UW Tapout; a deck that you can barely damage in the early game and is nigh untouchable in the mid-late game due to the hand sculpting card advantage given to the deck by cantrippers Wall of Omens and Spreading Seas, as well as Divination and Mind Spring, and of course Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Those, along with three-time all-star Oblivion Ring, and hall of famer Wrath of God there just isn’t a whole lot you can do to this deck before they resolve Baneslayer Angel or Sphinx of Jwar Isle.

Since I took this gig, I’ve been pushing Jund hard. Play the best deck I always say, and that deck is Jund. Well, unfortunately, it’s not anymore and I’ve been contemplating dumping my Maelstrom Pulses online for a cool 66 tickets though I’m not abandoning the bandwagon just yet. I am however, probably going to sleeve up UW Tapout this weekend at the 5k, so if you’re at the event and you see a better looking guy than you sitting across the table in a bright orange power9pro tshirt, mulligan appropriately.

That isn’t to say that I haven’t been trying like hell to brew up something spicy for one of these two events, because I have. I wish I had a better head start on things but life sometimes gets in the way and I was left with just a couple weeks to prepare for “The New Standard” as you see it called around the internets.

When Prophetic Prism was spoiled, old-school Open the Vaults / Time Sieve popped into my head because of its ability to replace elsewhere flask. I got the team involved because my brother had top 8′d an Australian PTQ with the deck last year and got to seeing if we could make it work in Standard where UW is what everyone is trying to do. We put a list together, tried some different things, and like I suspected it ran shop against UW Tapout. I was struggling against Jund a bit, but I wasn’t really comfortable with what hands I should’ve been keeping and what hands I should’ve been shipping. I passed it across the table to my buddy Steve and he immediately was feeling the deck. One of his big hangups has been that he really didn’t like any deck and he wanted to hit the 5k with something spicy and off the radar. And while Open the Vaults with Filligree Angel is certainly a deck right now, it’s possible to lose despite climbing to absurd amounts of life. The Tezzerator concoction simply never passes the turn back because of Time Sieve.

Mike Siever is not very spicy, and this is pretty much just a drummed up old list with some prophetic prisms and a couple extra glassdust hulk, but it gets the job done. We found that the Hulk is pretty much the key to beating jund. They have so much disruption that it’s not exactly feasable to get the Time Sieve loop going, but if you can beat in for a couple turns with the Hulk while ramping and possibly rocking out an Open the Vaults, you simply catch the Jund Player unawares and tapped out and eventually at 0 life. Depending on how Steve does with this bear I might run it on Sunday.

Another buddy of mine fell in love with a new ROE card: Kiln Fiend. We pretty much spent an entire 24 hours discussing and testing decks with this guy trying to make him work. Sometimes he was just broken. If Jund tapped out for a sprouting thrinax on turn 3, he could straight up end the game with Distortion Strike[card], [card]Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning; attack take 15, you’re pretty damn dead. Distortion strike makes him very good but in games you don’t draw the card, or in games that your opponent has like, a lightning bolt, things get ugly quick. We sleeved up just about every 1cc spell for red and blue (what’s up Burst of Speed ) and it was just too flimsy against Jund. There’s a possibility that this guy could be really good in Boros because you have a lot of other creatres to use who are strong and Emerge Unscathed takes the place of Distortion Strike, but outside of lightning bolt, burn spells are so underwhelming in standard that Boros doesn’t seem very well placed.

I’ve given MBC some serious thought this week but haven’t had any time to test it, once ROE comes out online I’ll probably sleeve this up virtually at some point and see how it does b/c I have most every card for it and somehow Abyssal Persecutor is like $10 less than it is IRL

I really like Contaminated Ground, this deck is trying to nickel and dime the opponent, and maybe bash in with an abyssal once or twice. Contaminated Ground goes a long way and works as a removal spell for a turn 1 Celestial Colonnade. I love Ob Nixlis and Sorin Markov and this deck is just filled with good stuff. I think if you’re running Mind Sludge (which you should) then just don’t bother with tactonic edge, but this is definitely an archtype that could embrace the edge with a different approach.

My other option this weekend? Mythic Bant. The deck is pretty narrow, but it can sure as shit steamroll people. I haven’t played any games with it, which is against my motto for this season, but it is tournament one with a new set and I have to start somewhere. It does look like a pretty fun deck. If you haven’t seen the version with Sovereigns of Lost Alara and Edlrazi Conscription, I suggest you check it out because that looks like even more of a blast; “does my Sovereigns of Lost Alara Trigger Resolve? +10/+10 trample, Annihilate 2, thanks for playing” sounds like a fun mantra to repeat on the weekend. I think if anything I’d go with the Thronling version because it owns Jund, but I have to come up with a couple Rafiq of the Many if so because nobody ever seems to have that card.

I’ll let y’all know how things go next week, thanks for letting me air out my thoughts on the format and as always feel free to slam me or give me some better ideas.

Mike Gemme
Mike@power9pro.com
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

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:

1271254281947

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

mike@power9pro.com

Bobbysapphire on MTGO

How Joining Twitter Will Improve Your Magic Game

As Lauren Lee (@Mulldrifting) said recently in her article over at Mananation (@Mananation), there are two ways of improving your Magic playing skills. You can practice playing, or you can learn by parsing related knowledge and information from others. Her article focuses on how to parse the information and why you should do so. I will show you one valuable channel for locating that information and how to get considerable mileage out of it. That information channel is the Magic community on Twitter.

Twitter is a hot social media tool that should be grabbing your attention as a Magic player. If you seek innovation in deck building, Twitter has it. If you seek to read articles before anyone else, Twitter has them. If you want to have access to the thoughts of the Magic Community’s best and brightest, you need to get on Twitter.

The Twitter Magic community is very diverse and you will find all manner of personalities and perspectives amongst them. Wizards of the Coast employees, Pro Tour Champions, deck building innovators, PTQ grinders, community content producers, site managers, and folks interested in every niche format in a long running continuous chat about the game we all love. At the end of this article and throughout I will list some of the folks I follow and why you should follow them as well. The username for a Twitter account is denoted with ‘@’ followed by the username, and each will link to that user’s timeline. First, an overview of how Twitter works from a Magic player’s perspective.

Twitter is really a tool of discovery for the Magic player. Part of the point behind Twitter is that in revealing small quips about what is on one’s mind, those around that one will learn new things about the one and start discussion about things that may never have come up otherwise. In the Magic community, each person you’ll want to follow will usually have magic on the mind more often than anything else.  This is one of the reasons it is so good at spreading spoilers, new decks and deck tech, articles, and announcements from the Magic community. Yes, occasionally Mike Flores (@fivewithflores) and Conley Woods(@Conley81) or Brian David-Marshall (@Top8Games) will have a debate over the merits of a particular basketball team’s performance, and occasionally someone will mention that their pancakes didn’t turn out very well this morning, but these types of things come up in the conversation of a crowded game store as well, so if you aren’t particularly interested, just glaze over it to the next Magic related topic.

Twitter serves as a kind of news aggregate for the Magic community, as many magic related websites post links to their articles in tweets and many players at various levels will report any interesting developments at the various tournaments that they attend. Professional oriented sites and various entities from WotC also post Twitter updates direct from the floor of major tournaments, providing you with the benefits of boots on the ground without driving or flying to wherever the hotspot is at the moment.

Managing your Twitter account is a fairly simple affair as you can use your Twitter homepage quite directly and easily. If you are more tech savvy and on the go, you can use on of any number of mobile applications to keep tabs from SMS text to the more popular TweetDeck. I have a iGoogle homepage customized with a Twitter gadget built into it, and use Echofon on my Ipod Touch. My point is that it is easy to use both simply and with multiple access points and features.

Now that we have the overview out of the way, let’s get down to specifics. First, if you like spoiler season, Twitter is a delight because not only will you have WotC employees like Mark Rosewater (@maro254), Kenneth Nagle (@NorrYtt), Mike Turian (@mturian) Tom LaPille (@tomlapille) and Aaron Forsythe (@mtgaaron) dropping hints and spoiling cards at any given moment, and not only because all the spoiler tracking sites and bloggers will post any new spoilers they come across, but also because you can get instant evaluations from players at all different levels of play. In fact, not only do these various players give feedback on new cards, rotated or new formats and new sets in their entirety, but also on new tech as it comes up.

What this means is that when something is on the bleeding edge of Magic tech, you’ll be amongst the first to know about it. To give an example, I was following Pro Tour Austin on Twitter when Evan Erwin (@misterorange) mentioned that he was witnessing a breakout performance by a deck running the new card, at the time, Punishing Fire. Quickly a discussion broke out on Twitter evaluating this new tech that seemed to come out of nowhere. That’s when Kelly Reid (@kellyreid) of Quiet Speculation made the call to ‘Buy Grove of the Burnwillows‘. After a quick analysis of his logic and the situation, I followed his advice. Within an hour or two a Grove of the Burnwillows could not be found for less than five dollars, and within a day after Brian Kibler (@bmkibler) won Pro Tour Austin, the price for Groves had reached strange new heights. I had my playset, which I did not have previously, and sold two additional playsets I had ordered on Ebay for twenty-four dollars each. That’s a three-fold increase over the under two dollars a card price I bought them for, and I had the latest tech to play with myself.

These sorts of things happen on occasion, thanks to floor reports via twitter from the various Pros and content providers who work Magic’s big tournaments. What happens more often is that you will have good players discussing new decks and strategies, WotC policies, and Tournament experiences. You will also be amongst the first to know when a new article is posted on an number of reputable and popular sites like Power9pro (@power9pro), Mananation, Star City Games (@starcitygames), Channel Fireball (@ChannelFireball), The Starkington Post (@Starkpo), and many of the excellent independent Magic community bloggers like AffinityforIslands (@AffinityForBlue), MTG Color Pie (@mtgcolorpie), and Gathering Magic (@GatheringMagic), amongst others mentioned above.

Think you are ready for some Twitter information flow? Here is a listing of some interesting folks I follow, and I’ll break them down into groups for you so you can get started. (If you aren’t listed here and I follow you, I’m sorry but there is a need to limit the lists.)This will by no means be exhaustive, and I suggest looking for your local players as well once you are comfortable. If you don’t find them, get them to read this article and see what they are missing.

Wizards of the Coasts Employees and Official Support

Mark Rosewater (@maro254)

Kenneth Nagle (@NorrYtt)

Mike Turian (@mturian)

Tom LaPille (@tomlapille)

Aaron Forsythe (@mtgaaron)

Elaine Chase (@ElaineChase)

Magic Pro Tour Floor Reports (@MagicProTour)

Daily MTG Web Team (@DailyMTG)

DCI Judges (@DCIJudges)

Pro Tour Players

Brian Kibler (@bmkibler)

Conley Woods (@Conley81)

Patrick Chapin (@thepchapin)

Adam Styborski (@the_stybs)

Luis Scott-Vargas (@LuisScottVargas)

Zvi Mowshowitz (@TheZvi)

Sites and Bloggers

Power9Pro (@power9pro)

Star City Games (@starcitygames)

Mananation (@Mananation)

Channel Fireball (@ChannelFireball)

MTG Salvation (@mtgsalvation)

Bill Stark, The Starkington Post (@Starkpo)

Evan Erwin, The Magic Show (@misterorange)

MTG Color Pie (@mtgcolorpie)

Lauren  Lee, Mananation, Quiet Speculation, Mulldrifting (@Mulldrifting)

Kelly Reid, The Dragon’s Den, Mananation, Quiet Speculation (@kellyreid)

Johnathan Medina, MTG Metagame (@mtgmetagame)

Russell Tassicker, Gwafa’s Bazaar (@rtassicker)

Neale Wrongwaygoback (@wrongwaygoback)

EDH Central (@edhcentral)

Podcasts, Article Aggregates, Video coverage

MTGFeeds, Article Aggregate (@MTGFeeds)

MTGBattlefield, Article Aggregate (@MtgBattlefield)

Alex, Deck Construct Podcast (@DeckConstruct)

Yo! MTG Taps!, Podcast (@YoMTGTaps)

DrawGo Radio, Podcast (@drawgoradio)

MTGRadio, Podcast (@mtgradio)

MTGCast, Podcast Aggregate (@mtgcast)

Good Games Live, Live Event Coverage (@GGSLive)

Interesting Community Personalities

Rivnix Izzet, Goblin Planeswalker (@Rivnix)

Don Wiggins (@TheSundry)

Alaric Stein (@PlatypusJedi)

David Campano (@dcampa93)

Riki Hayashi, DCI Judge (@Riskypedia)

Dr. Jeebus, formerly of MTGSalvation forums fame (@dr_jeebus)

Chris McNutt (@Fatecreatr)

Jonathan Richmond, The Thieving Magpie guy (@norbert88)

Rob Davis (@ArtosKincaid)

Dylan Lerch (@dtlerch)

Greg Haenig, Urzassedatives of MTG Salvation’s Rumor Mill (@uselessend)

As you can see just by the size of this brief list that the Magic community on Twitter is alive and thriving, just waiting for you to join and gain the benefits of all the knowledge and discussion that it generates and shares. And as always, you can follow me as well, @RobJelf. If you join up to Twitter after reading this, send me a tweet and let me know.

P.S. Here is a link to a Twitter list with all the account above in one timeline.

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
mike@power9pro.com

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

Drafting ZZW (in a 64-Man Premiere Event on MTGO)

When I applied to write for Power9pro.com I highlighted the fact that I attended drafts pretty often and would be glad to write about them. One of the local stores has draft FNMs as well as a draft every Tuesday night as well. But with LOST moving to Tuesdays and trying to factor in dating with PTQs every saturday, my draft nights have been few and far between.

One of the great things about Magic Online (MODO from here on out) is it’s super easy to get in a draft. UNLESS those drafts happen to be the 64 man release event drafts. Those you have to sign up for days in advance. I haven’t had a chance to do one of these since I top 4′d an M10 64-man. What a top 4 in these events does is qualify you for the set release championship. It’s a sealed tournament where first place is a foil playset of the new set. Not bad. So my ultimate goal was to qualify for this. And being on a hot run of limited lately, I thought my chances were pretty good.

I had monday off so I spent it running errands and cleaning my apartment and playing MODO. I kind of got sick of that so I started playing xbox. I did this thinking I had all afternoon free b/c I signed up for the 8pm 64-man draft. Only I didn’t, I signed up for the 4pm. So when I got up to check my email for a second and saw the MODO tab blinking I was pretty pissed. Luckily I only missed one pick. I didn’t have my draft recorder set at the time (reformatted my CPU recently) but I can only imagine what I passed someone for the very sweet autopick of Soaring *Bleeping* Seacliffs.

Already disenchanted, I did my best with what I could scrounge up and ended up Red/Black with 2 plated geopede, 2 corrupted zendikon and light black removal. I had to pass 2 searing blaze because I was extremely low on creatures. I did end up with chain reaction, which I figure would get me back into games I was behind, but I only drew it once and I never cast it.

I never had to. I went 2-0, 2-0, 2-0 winning my pod and top 8ing.

Here’s the deck I ended up with. It’s missing a card but 3 of my game replays from the first pod were missing and whatever the card is, I never ever drew it in those three games.

Notable sideboard cards were Mind Sludge, Mire Toll and Bog Tatters. I don’t pick mire toll early, but it can deal with a guy who is otherwise undealwithable.

Now a few words about my personal feelings on Zendikar Block Limited.

-I really, REALLY like blue. All it’s good creatures are excellent. They have a lot of tricks with bouncing and tapping down and paralyzing. Vapor Snare might be the best non-rare in limited right now.Everything they do is really strong but you have to stay aggressive with them. I think that UB or UR are exactly what I want to be seeing and while I’m not willing to force it, I feel like if I can get blue even if it’s UW I’m going to be happy with having the chance to play into the top 4.

-I think white is really strong, but I don’t ever know what to couple it with. I’ve never been able to pull off mono white but I think if one could pull that off it’d be pretty awesome. White has some great stuff and I’d e happy to open any white.

-Unless I’m mono green I don’t really want anything to do with it.

-Above all else, I want to open Ob Nixlis he is the card I pray for every time I queue a draft or sign up for a sealed.

The draft converter software online does not come out well on our webblog here so I’m pasting the good old MODO converter text below so you can check out my picks with commentary!

Pack 1 pick 1:
–> Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
Piranha Marsh
Sky Ruin Drake
Journey to Nowhere
Makindi Shieldmate
Caller of Gales
Mark of Mutiny
Bladetusk Boar
Needlebite Trap
Grazing Gladehart
Desecrated Earth
Cobra Trap
Forest
Cliff Threader
Turntimber Grove

1 – I barely looked at the rest of the pack and saw I was sending Journey and mostly junk. I don’t like BG so I didn’t care about the gladehart, but I do like Black with any other color and wanted to be cognizent of what was shipping. Ob Nixlis is my favorite first pick. He’s the guy I pray for every time I start a draft. I even joked to my friend Andy about likely passing him in the first draft when I missed my pick.

Pack 1 pick 2:
Ruinous Minotaur
Slaughter Cry
Blade of the Bloodchief
Joraga Bard
Stonework Puma
Feast of Blood
Scythe Tiger
Akoum Refuge
Mire Blight
Sunspring Expedition
Paralyzing Grasp
–> Mark of Mutiny
Pillarfield Ox
Mountain

2 – This pack blows. My options are paralyzing grasp, mark of mutiny, stonework puma, slaughter cry or blade of the bloodchief. Forcing vampires is hard, so blade and feast of blood are off the table. I narrow it to mark and grasp, I’d really like to be UB but I don’t want to force it and I take the mark.

Pack 1 pick 3:
Ior Ruin Expedition
Swamp
–> Disfigure
Pillarfield Ox
Explorer’s Scope
Punishing Fire
Trapmaker’s Snare
Vampire Lacerator
Kor Hookmaster
Bala Ged Thief
Brave the Elements
Sky Ruin Drake
Timbermaw Larva

3 – I don’t like lacerator much and it’s not nearly as much a signal as disfigure, as disfigure rules combat so well. For disfigure to get 2 packs to the left means I should have no problem getting enough black to justify my bomb.

Pack 1 pick 4:
Seascape Aerialist
Noble Vestige
Merfolk Wayfinder
Tempest Owl
Shatterskull Giant
Spell Pierce
Zektar Shrine Expedition
Hedron Scrabbler
Plains (FOIL)
–> Giant Scorpion
Bloodghast
Swamp

4 – I go back and forth on this pick quite a bit and I actually originalyl almost slam-clicked bloodghast. Bloodghast is fine but like lacerator gets outclassed quickly so I take the scorpion who is usually a great piece of removal.

Pack 1 pick 5:
Kabira Crossroads
Mold Shambler
–> Windrider Eel
Goblin Ruinblaster
Hagra Crocodile
Graypelt Refuge
Cliff Threader
Soaring Seacliff
Island
Oran-Rief Recluse
Teetering Peaks

5 – It could be wrong but I took the presence of EEL to be a signal. Eel is great if they don’t have removal and can end games on his own. I really would like to be blue over any other color so I slam this down figuring the croc will wheel if I really want it.

Pack 1 pick 6:
Swamp
Unstable Footing
Beast Hunt
Cancel
Quest for Ancient Secrets
–> Bog Tatters
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Crypt of Agadeem
Slaughter Cry
Kor Outfitter

6 – Even if I’m not playing black this guy blocks big guys well and is a force to be reckoned with when turned sideways.

Pack 1 pick 7:
Vampire Lacerator
Highland Berserker
Landbind Ritual
Vastwood Gorger
Harrow
Trailblazer’s Boots
Kor Cartographer
Island
–> Whiplash Trap

7 – Another tough one, again I don’t like lacerator and though my deck isn’t aggressive right now, I don’t expect it to stay that way and I windmill slam one of my favorite cards in the format.

Pack 1 pick 8:
–> Goblin Shortcutter
Plains
Desecrated Earth
Caller of Gales
Spidersilk Net
Caravan Hurda
Trailblazer’s Boots
Narrow Escape

Pack 1 pick 9:
Piranha Marsh
–> Sky Ruin Drake
Caller of Gales
Needlebite Trap
Cobra Trap
Forest
Turntimber Grove

9 – one of my favorite blue cards, should be called Stabilizer Drake.

Pack 1 pick 10:
Scythe Tiger
–> Akoum Refuge
Mire Blight
Sunspring Expedition
Pillarfield Ox
Mountain

Pack 1 pick 11:
Ior Ruin Expedition
Swamp
Explorer’s Scope
Trapmaker’s Snare
–> Bala Ged Thief

11 – She could make it if I end up with some Umara Raptors or other allies.

Pack 1 pick 12:
Noble Vestige
–> Tempest Owl
Plains (FOIL)
Swamp

I don’t hate tempest owl as a board card when I’m playing a deck that will just stall the board out.

Pack 1 pick 13:
Kabira Crossroads
–> Soaring Seacliff
Island

Pack 1 pick 14:
Swamp
–> Quest for Ancient Secrets

Pack 1 pick 15:
–> Island

—— ZEN ——

Pack 2 pick 1:
Bog Tatters
Archmage Ascension
Shoal Serpent
Khalni Gem
Grim Discovery
Kor Outfitter
River Boa
Spell Pierce
Runeflare Trap
Torch Slinger
–> Crypt Ripper
Forest
Demolish
Territorial Baloth
Soaring Seacliff

16 – Pretty bad pack, but I’m heavy black and would like to stay that way and Ripper is just fine for that. He also commands the board if I run 10+ swamps.

Pack 2 pick 2:
Heartstabber Mosquito
Beast Hunt
Gomazoa
Summoning Trap
–> Welkin Tern
Forest
Needlebite Trap
Spidersilk Net
Soul Stair Expedition
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Shoal Serpent
Plated Geopede
Molten Ravager
Sejiri Refuge

17 – Tough call here, but as I said before I’d like to be aggressive and welkin tern is the most aggressive 2 drop that blue has.

Pack 2 pick 3:
Turntimber Basilisk
Highland Berserker
Reckless Scholar
Magma Rift
Savage Silhouette
Zendikar Farguide
Shieldmate’s Blessing
–> Mind Sludge
Bog Tatters
Mountain
Slaughter Cry
Kabira Crossroads
Cancel

18 – Awful pack. I don’t much like reckless scholar, and in the off chance I am nearly mono black I take the sludge.

Pack 2 pick 4:
–> Guul Draz Vampire
Tuktuk Grunts
Narrow Escape
Expedition Map
Blood Seeker
Kazandu Refuge
Spreading Seas
Harrow
Island
Seismic Shudder
Hagra Diabolist
Goblin Shortcutter

19 – I’m not a huge fan of guul draz but I don’t love blood seeker either. Guul draz has a lot more upside so I snag it.

Pack 2 pick 5:
Ior Ruin Expedition
Scythe Tiger
Nimbus Wings
Harrow
Relic Crush
–> Summoner’s Bane
Frontier Guide
Trapfinder’s Trick
Vampire’s Bite
Mountain
Spire Barrage

20 – I don’t love this pick but it is a great sideboard card and a tempo swing. Vampire’s bite is possible but I didn’t see myself running it as most of my guys have some form of evasion so far.

Pack 2 pick 6:
Magma Rift
Baloth Cage Trap
Mountain
Mire Blight
Zendikar Farguide
Soul Stair Expedition
Khalni Heart Expedition
–> Jwar Isle Refuge
Quest for Pure Flame
Molten Ravager

21 – this pack sucks but I’ll take the fixing.

Pack 2 pick 7:
Plains
Goblin Shortcutter
Lethargy Trap
Tanglesap
Hellfire Mongrel
Goblin Bushwhacker
–> Crypt Ripper
Blood Seeker
Spidersilk Net

22 – Was really excited to see this guy, at pick 7 in this pack I’m likely the only heavy black drafter.

Pack 2 pick 8:
Savage Silhouette
Ravenous Trap (FOIL)
Hagra Crocodile
Island
–> Windrider Eel
Stonework Puma
Quest for Pure Flame
Kor Cartographer

23 – Though I now have a lot of high drops, they’re all top notch.

Pack 2 pick 9:
Archmage Ascension
Shoal Serpent
–> Spell Pierce
Runeflare Trap
Forest
Demolish
Soaring Seacliff

Pack 2 pick 10:
Beast Hunt
Forest
–> Needlebite Trap
Spidersilk Net
Shoal Serpent
Sejiri Refuge

Pack 2 pick 11:
Savage Silhouette
Shieldmate’s Blessing
Bog Tatters
Mountain
–> Cancel

Pack 2 pick 12:
Expedition Map
–> Blood Seeker
Island
Seismic Shudder

Pack 2 pick 13:
Scythe Tiger
–> Trapfinder’s Trick
Mountain

Pack 2 pick 14:
Mountain
–> Mire Blight

Pack 2 pick 15:
–> Plains

—— WWK ——

Pack 3 pick 1:
Surrakar Banisher
Jagwasp Swarm
Nature’s Claim
Kitesail Apprentice
Eye of Ugin
Corrupted Zendikon
Swamp
Kitesail
Smoldering Spires
Crusher Zendikon
–> Bloodhusk Ritualist
Join the Ranks
Refraction Trap
Cosi’s Ravager
Ricochet Trap

31 – This pack is brutal. I love corrupted Zendikon and I really want it, and it would go along with my “be aggressive” aim here, but Bloodhusk ritualist is a blowout, look for it to win me a game down the road.

Pack 3 pick 2:
–> Horizon Drake
Claws of Valakut
Mordant Dragon
Groundswell
Veteran’s Reflexes
Quest for Renewal
Surrakar Banisher
Fledgling Griffin
Grotag Thrasher
Snapping Creeper
Plains
Halimar Excavator
Shoreline Salvager
Khalni Garden

32 – Shoreline salvager is awesome and obviously with UB he’s so premium, but is a 3/3 four drop really going to compare with 2 rippers and 2 eels? probably not. Though horizon drake is tougher on my mana, he makes the three best Zendikons look so stupid, and he gets in for 3 in the air.

Pack 3 pick 3:
Mire’s Toll
Battle Hurda
Island
Halimar Depths
Quag Vampires (FOIL)
Twitch
–> Dead Reckoning
Leatherback Baloth
Permafrost Trap
Refraction Trap
Akoum Battlesinger
Explore
Agadeem Occultist

33 – I hate to see a second refraction trap get passed as it’s probably the biggest blow out instant in the format, but I love dead reckoning, especially with Ob Nixlis considering I couldn’t snag any grim discoveries.

Pack 3 pick 4:
Swamp
Kitesail
Enclave Elite
Nemesis Trap
Dread Statuary
Bojuka Bog
Ruthless Cullblade
Grappler Spider
Hedron Rover
Bull Rush
–> Caustic Crawler
Iona’s Judgment

34 – Another high drop, but he has so much value in this format. there are hundres if not thousands of creatures in Zendikar and Worldwake with just 1 toughness. But it was tough to pass a two drop.

Pack 3 pick 5:
Walking Atlas
Ruthless Cullblade
Hedron Rover
Roiling Terrain
Sejiri Steppe
Battle Hurda
–> Urge to Feed
Dispel
Forest
Calcite Snapper
Sejiri Merfolk

35 – Here I pass another ruthless cullblade for urge to feed because I’m really removal light. Calcite snapper was another option but I would rather not double blue.

Pack 3 pick 6:
Grotag Thrasher
Surrakar Banisher
Forest
Veteran’s Reflexes
Vastwood Animist
Selective Memory (FOIL)
Snapping Creeper
Perimeter Captain
Khalni Garden
–> Halimar Excavator

36 – Halimar Excavator is fine, he blocks a ton of guys. I don’t end up maindeckiing him but I board him in every match.

Pack 3 pick 7:
Bull Rush
Iona’s Judgment
Island
Grappler Spider
Scrib Nibblers
Bojuka Bog
–> Ruthless Cullblade
Enclave Elite
Spell Contortion

37 – Finally I take a ruthless Cullblade.

Pack 3 pick 8:
Perimeter Captain
Forest
Cosi’s Ravager
Kitesail Apprentice
Grappler Spider
Mysteries of the Deep
–> Æther Tradewinds
Halimar Depths

38 – I’m not going to run mysteries and I really like tradewinds, bounce in general is good when you’re trying to be aggressive.

Pack 3 pick 9:
Surrakar Banisher
Nature’s Claim
–> Corrupted Zendikon
Swamp
Smoldering Spires
Cosi’s Ravager
Ricochet Trap

39 – Never have I been so happy to see a card wheel.

Pack 3 pick 10:
Veteran’s Reflexes
Quest for Renewal
–> Surrakar Banisher
Snapping Creeper
Plains
Khalni Garden

40 – He won’t make the cut.

Pack 3 pick 11:
Mire’s Toll
Island
Halimar Depths
–> Quag Vampires (FOIL)
Twitch

41 – This guy is an all-star and I got him 11th pick, makes my curve so much better with his presence.

Pack 3 pick 12:
Swamp
–> Enclave Elite
Bojuka Bog
Bull Rush

42 – Same potential as the vampires but not as good and could come in out of the board.

Pack 3 pick 13:
Roiling Terrain
–> Dispel
Forest

43 – Awesome. In case of refraction trap!!!

Pack 3 pick 14:
Forest
–> Veteran’s Reflexes

Pack 3 pick 15:
–> Island

Here’s the 40 I end up with:

I ran the maindeck cancel over mind sludge b/c if I drop Ob Nixlis with Cancel backup they only have one turn to kill him before he’s going to end the game. Also it’s just good for dealing with bombs that my deck is not built to handle very well. Also cancel is just a huge tempo swing when you have crypt rippers beating in next turn.

I ended up boarding out Guul Draz Vampire almost every match for Halimar Excavator. the 1/3 is just too good of a statline to ignore and I never drew GDV.

Top 8 Round 1 vs. LAB103

Game 1 I kept 2 swamp, 2 island, Jwar Isle Refuge, Urge to Feed, Windrider Eel on the draw.

He starts with Bojuka Brigand on turns 2 and 3 but he never sees a third land. I drop a topdecked Welkin Tern on 2, urge to feed his 3/3 on 3, drop my eel on four, then on 5 drop a land with corrupted Zendkon and crush.

Game 2 I brought in Bog Tatters for Guul Draz Vampire and kept this on the draw: 2 Island, Jwar Isle Refuge, Windrider Eel, Bloodhusk Ritualist, Cancel, Bog Tatters.

He gets stuck on land again after leading with a Bojuka Brigand and Corrupted Zendkon. I trade Death Scorption with his 3/3, then Curve into Eel then Bog Tatters. He has hideous end for the Eel, so I drop a cullblade leaving cancel mana up. He taps out for Nimana Sell-Sword and I cancel it, then drop ripper and strike him down to 4. He has gatekeeper to pare down my board but he has nothing for Bog Tatters who swing in ftw.

So I’m qualified for the Worldwake championship, which was my goal. I missed the 64 man drafts for Zendikar, but I got to the top 4 in an m10 64-man. That time I bounced out due to bad keeps in the top 4 when I had an extremely strong deck. I didn’t want that to happen this time.

Round 2 vs. Ace of Drafts

Game 1 is missing from my recaps but I know I got there with Ob Nixlis despite his Felidar Sovereign. I know I was really low so I had to triple block the Sovereign to kill it even though I feared refraction trap, luckily he didn’t have it and Ob Nix went the distance.

Game 2 I decided not to bring in dispel b/c I didn’t see refraction trap but I did bring in the excavator. I kept: 2 Swamp, 1 Island, Eel, Drake, Crawler, Whiplash trap.

Definitely a slow hand, but he had a slow w/r deck game 1. This game he comes out swinging with Kazaandu Blademaster followed by cliff treader. He swings on 3 and tries to Join the Ranks to pump his blademaster but I cancel it.I drop my eel and trade with his treader, which may have been a mistake b/c when he dropped Grotag Thrasher next turn I really was behind in combat for the rest of the game. I stabilized a bit until he dropped Bladetusk Boar who went the distance.

Game 3 I keep 3 swamp, ripper, crawler, bloodhusk ritualist, halimar excavator on the play.

Not the best hand but it’s fine and I almost never mulligan in limited. He has a turn 2 steppe lynx, I play a turn 3 Corrupted Zendikon and a turn 4 blood seeker without a fourth land and swing with the Zendikon. He swings with his lynx and on my turn I rip blue and drop the excavator after swinging with Zendikon, seeker. He join the ranks and trades a token with my seeker. He swings in with his lynx and a hellfire mongrel he played the previous turn. I block the lynx with the excavator and disfigure the mongrel. He has no play so I drop ripper and swing him down to four, still fearing a refraction trap that never comes. Then he drops Felidar Sovereign. Great. So he has 2 card in hand, I have 5 lands out but one is the Zendikon. I can Bloodhusk Ritualist him out of a hand, but he’ll definitely be able to swing in with his Sovereign, I decide on this and he discards Land, Brave the Elements which would’ve had me calling my mama if he had the chance to play it.
On his turn he swings and goes up to 8 and I’m at 8. I go in with just the ripper with 4 swamps up, he chumps with the ally token. I pass b/c I just ripped urge to feed. He comes in with sovereign after Passing Ionas Judgement on my Zendikon. I block with Ritualist and Excavator, Urge to Feed pumping my Ritualist and he scoops to his dead Sovereign despite being at 9 life.

Finals vs. DutchMojo – This guy was cool, one of the cool few people I’ve come across on modo. He wasn’t spiteful about my bombs and even pointed out when I handed im game 2. He said he doesnt modo a lot but I threw him on my buddylist b/c I like to see when ppl are in certain rooms playing events. I’m a total stalker.

Game 1 on the draw I keep – 1 island, soaring seacliffs, jwar isle refuge, disfigure, ob nixlis, ritualist, ripper.

His first two turns he spits out Adventuring gear and Trusty machete, with no guys, and only mountains.

He plays a goblin shortcutter on 3 and equips the gear, figuring he’s short on guys I disfigure it. I rip cullblade and drop that. He pays three for a goblin torchslinger. I attack and he doesnt block, so I drop ritualist kicking once, he discards grazing gladeheart. He double equips the slinger and beats me down to 15. I swing him down to 14 and drop ripper in main 2 with a swamp up so I can trade if he doesn’t hit a land. He hits a forest and swings me down to 9 and drops summit apes. I’ve got ob nixlis and 2 islands in hand. I drop my ob nix and make him a 6/6. he double equips the apes, plays a land making him a 9/5 and swings. I trade my cullblade, my ripper and my ritualist for the apes. My turn comes I rip whiplash trap, make Ob nix a 9/9 and drop a welkin tern that I drew the turn before. He drops oren-rief recluse and passes. In his endstep I whiplash his 2 blockers and alpha ftw.

Game 2 on the draw I keep 2 swamp, Island, Jwar Isle Refuge, 2 rippers and Aether Tradewinds.

He leads with a shortcutter and I rip bloodseeker and drop it. He plays claws hitting me for 5. I swing for 1. He drops goblin guide and swings in. He gives me a swamp and I tradewinds the bloodseeker and his shortcutter getting rid of his claws. He redrops shortcutter in main 2. I rip horizon drake and drop it hoping to block and trade b/c I don’t want to trade either of my rippers who will totally outclass his 2 power guys on turn 5 becuase I can pump and control the board. I trade with his goblin guide after it reveals Quag Vampires. I decide instead of ripper to drop the Quag as a 2/2 and drop bloodseeker, hoping to trade across the board and then let my crypt rippers reign supreme. In his main 2 he drops a slinger for 3 and passes. I do my aforementioned play but he has a second shortcutter to mess up my blocks. I play a ripper next turn and swing pumping once and drop my second ripper with just 2 islands in my hand. He drops adventuring gear, equips and passes. I swing with a ripper for 3 and drop a windrider eel keeping my 2 lands in play. He plays a land and swings with his equipped shortcutter which I chump with bloodseeker. Then he drops summit apes.

Here’s where my opponent says I screwed the pooch and after rewatching I totally did. He’s at 11 with a summit apes and a goblin shortcutter. I have eel, and 2 crypt ripper with 7 black mana sources. I dropped an island making my Eel 4/4 and decided not to swing with just the eel. But If I had done the math I would’ve realize that he had to block both my guys or he dies. As a result he ended up dropping two more guys and being able to get me to 4 and spire barrage me out. so I lose game 2.

Game 3 on the play I keep 2 swamp, 1 Island, death scorpion, crypt ripper, urge to feed, whiplash trap.

He has a turn 1 goblin guide (for the record has anyone ever won with a turn 1 goblin guide in limited? I know I haven’t) revealing halimar excavator which I play on turn 2. His turn 2 is Basilisk Collar. SERIOUSLY?!. I swing w/ my 1/3 and drop another 1/3 in Death Scorpion. Instead of equipping he plays claws of valakut putting me to 14 since I can’t block it. His GG gives me a swamp and I rip another swamp on my turn. I attack him to 17 with my army of 1/3s and urge to feed his goblin guide. He has no play on turn 4 so I drop the ripper with one swamp up but I choose not to pump for fear of punishing fire or burst lightning or something. (while I haven’t seen these cards, I almost never tap out with ripper on the board if I can help it, he’s too important to let die).

On his turn he drops highland bezerker and equips the basilisk collar. I rip jwar isle refuge, drop it and then aether tradewinds it and his bezerker so I can beat in for 5 and catch him down to 8. He plays Spire Barrage on my ripper then passes and I swing him to 6. I topdeck dead reckoning which I use to get back my ripper and shoot his bezerker for 2 but he has groundswell to keep it alive! Haymakers are going left and right right now and I’m out of answers to his basilisk collar for the moment.

He goes, equip gear, plays a land and drops shortcutter and goes up to 10. My hand is whiplash trap and swamp with Crypt Ripper on top of my deck. I drop my ripper but he moved his collar to the shortcutter to hold me off. This turn he swings in and trades with my scoprion but goes up to 14. Then he equips his bezerker and passes. My draw is ritualist, so if I wait on attacks and whiplash trapping, I can let him gain more life but will be able to bounce in his end step, then make him discard his whole hand, basically taking him out of the game. So I wait again and he swings again and I don’t block so it’s 18-8 in favor of him and I’m pretty sure he thinks he has the game. He drops Crusher Zendikon in main 2 and passes. In his end step I bounce his enchanted land and his bezerker, then in my main2 I discard his hand with ritualist after swinging for 10. On his turn he rips a shortcutter and equips but I drew disfigure so I kill it and swing in for the win before he can try and re-stabilize with life gain.

So I win my first ever premiere event, pocketing 20 packs and 6 QPs. I’ve come up short on QPs the last two seasons with 7 each, but this season I’m already at 9 and it hasn’t even been a week, so at this point I’ll be just trying not to choke. But with a trip to New Orleans slated for next week I’m going to be hard pressed to fit in MODO. I’m also going to be missing one of almost a dozen PTQs online and in New England over the next two weeks, which is kind of a bummer, but I already let magic affect my every day life well… every day, I really don’t want to let it affect the special plans I make to take trips and do things with friends and/or babes.

Thanks for reading,

Mike Gemme
mike@power9pro.com
Bobbysapphire on MTGO

Pack War: Tool for Teaching Magic the Gathering

I work a lot.  Such is life in the restaurant industry.  Managing a bar means working late at night (Friday and Saturday) and that means less time for me to enjoy my favorite hobby.  Luckily for me, my wife is always willing to flop cards with me.  Now my wife is not Pro-Tour caliber, she doesn’t get excited over the latest expansion and everyday things don’t make her think of Magic cards.  However, my wife has an EDH deck (Sliver Overlord), she has her favorite card (Avatar of Woe),  and will pilot any deck I give her so I can practice.  In short, my wife is a casual player, really casual, ranking magic with Monopoly or Clue.  She sees it as a game; something to pass the time with on a rainy afternoon.  This is easy for me to understand but hard for me to relate with (how can she read Wild Mongrel and not get excited?).

One thing I have found to be difficult for the casual player is the release of new expansions every quarter.  Magic is a game that constantly evolves.  Each new card brings with it a text block of new rules which can be overwhelming for the casual player.  The casual player doesn’t tend to read spoilers or set reviews.  Living with a casual player has led me to find a great format for teaching/learning the newest set without needing to learn new cards in advance.  I am referring to Pack War (also called Booster War or MiniMaster).

Pack War is really simple:  Each player takes one booster pack and three of each basic land.  This will give a thirty card deck.  The rest is just plain old Magic; normal life totals, phases, and rules.  My wife and I keep the cards from the booster face down so we won’t know what is in our “deck” before hand, which adds an extra level of excitement.  There are many variations of the Pack War rules.  Some people do not allow Mulligans, others have a smaller starting hand size, I have even read about allowing all players access to as much mana of any color they want so there is no need to add land (Fireball = autowin).  When my wife and I were opening Shards of Alara we decided to only use two of each basic land since the color fixing was so good.  Pack War offers plenty of options for people wanting to play a quick game.

packs

Pack War is a great way to make opening boosters a lot more fun.  It is even possible to squeeze in Pack War between rounds at a tournament.  It also gives really bad cards a chance to see some play (Feral Contest, Goblin Game).  Sure there is a bit more randomness to it, but I think that it adds to the charm.  Bojuka Brigand equipped with Kitesail ftw.

My favorite aspect of Pack War is that it is an easy way to teach the game of Magic.  I am always willing to teach people how to play and I find Pack War is simple without being overwhelming.  It allows us to focus on what the cards do and the basic mechanics of the game.  Pack War as a teaching tool is much more effective than using U/W Chapin vs. Jund.

Magic is my hobby and I devote a large amount of time towards it.  I research decks, use draft simulators, follow players on facebook, read articles and so on.  The casual player is not going to do these things.  When Wizards of the Coast decided to print less cards per year, they were addressing concerns from new/casual players.  Those players felt that the amount of cards was overwhelming.  Those players felt that they were too far behind and out of the loop.  Pack War addresses these concerns with its simplicity.  Pack War is a way to keep casual players somewhat up to date and it lets us teach the game without having to reference thousands of cards.  The next time you get some boosters, set some aside and try out Pack War.

While I was proofreading this article, I really got the itch to battle it out with some booster packs.  I went to the closest comic store and picked up their last two packs of Worldwake.  My wife and I used three of each basic land and got down to business.

My pack:

Bojuka Bog is not great in Pack War, but I liked the Angel and the Drake.

My wife’s pack:

O.O
Well, obviously my wife opened a great pack. Removal, check. Evasion, check. Chase Rare, check. Looks good. Which card had the biggest impact? It wasn’t old Blue Eyes. It was Brink of Disaster targeting my Graypelt Hunter to stop my early aggro. Caustic Crawler came down a turn later to prevent me from getting a decent block. The Crawler and the Shaman got me into the red zone pretty quick after that. Good stuff.  Go try Pack War for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

San Juan PTQ Top 8 Report – Tribal Zoo

When I found out that I was going to be able to write about cards for a real website on commission after ten years of playing cards, I swore I wasn’t going to allow myself to be one of those writers who drums up his personal life with exuberant stories of booze, broads and ballyhoo. However, my first PTQ top 8 happened to be occur when I was completely wasted, built my deck wrong, and stayed up 32 hours straight: From .08 to top 8.

My Magic weekend started at FNM, which was a draft event. We had three full pods and I split in the finals of mine with the guy I had beaten to get into the top 8 of New Hampshire States last month snagging $35 in credit. I didn’t do anything that night because I had to get up at 630 to make it to Boston for the first flight of the Pre Release so that I could do two and win as many Worldwake packs for team drafting in San Diego as I could. (I have a bad, bad habit of opening packs too often. So far I’ve only opened two Worldwake packs and I have 12 left so, if you see me in SD scrounging for packs, you know that I’m back off the wagon).

I get home around 10:30 (you can read about my escapades here) and immediately crack Lienenkugel Fireside Nut Brown (my favorite seasonal beer) and make some calls to see what’s what. My friend Steviegets is heading out to some bars with his babe, my brother is partying at college and my friend Justin is going to bed early so he can play in the 4am PTQ [/foreshadowing].

I decide to meet up with Steve at the bar and get there first grabbing a Guinness and wandering around for a few until he gets there. Though I’m Italian, I’m currently addicted to Guinness and my liquor or choice is Jameson’s Irish Whiskey; my grandmother would not approve.

Once Steve showed up with his gal and her friends things got a little saucier, apparently some girls were there for a bachelorette party at a random townie bar in central Massachusetts with a limo… so making fun of them was an immediate ice-breaker. Though it was my birthday in a couple days steve refused to do any shots with me, but one of his babe’s friends was into it and we ended up racing jagerbombs. I wish I could remember a lot after that, but the next thing I knew it was 2am in the morning, Steve was gone, the Jagerbomb girl was gone, I was in no shape to drive and I somehow remembered to close my tab that just happened to have all the jagerbombs on it (even when girls say they’re gonna split, they often don’t and I got burned).

I end up getting a ride home from a girl who does not like me and makes no qualms about bitching me out the entire ride home for what happened the last time we saw each other (censored) but let’s just say I took her out for Lobster dinner and never called her again.

So it’s about 3am and Justin is already up for the ptq and he’s amped up to play dark depths/foundry (DDT from here on out). I’m drunk talking to him online and also talking to my buddy and Pro Tour dream crusher Jason Ford who is at college in Minnesota and also wasted. He’s telling me about how he just spent about 70 tix putting Faeries together to play in the ptq. Well I’m jealous and I’m awake (and have been since 6:30) so now I’m playing in the ptq. I steal a bunch of zoo stuff from my friend andy’s account and sent him a pretty simple email: “I stole the zoo deck to play in this _____ ptq.”

So I’m building the deck and I realize that I need a hallowed fountain, so I go back on and take the hallowed fountain because I want [card]meddling mage [/card in my sideboard. here’s the list I ended up with:

Notice the omission of the hallowed fountain. Meaning that I had only one blue source for my 4x meddling mage in the sideboard. Notice that there are only 20 land in a 4x steppe lynx deck.

Here’s the Sideboard

Everyone and Everyone have been playing DDT online lately and I had been talking about extended at the PreRe and how I thought fast zoo would be a great answer to that as I felt it could really get in there if it could survive the first few rounds. This sideboard is pretty standard and every card did work for me during the tournament at some point.

Well it’s 4am and I’m already dead tired, dreaming about things that I can do in between rounds to stay awake but really hoping that I don’t do mediocre and stay up all day for no reason.

Round 1 vs. Failtego – Scapeshift w/ blue

Game 1 I keep Goyf, Path, Lynx and 4 land.

I lead with lynx and he casts condescend my goyf on 2. Next turn I drop Kird ape and Goblin Guide and hit in, pathing his tribe elder to get more damage in, seeing as it’s going to fetch him a land anyway. He refeals firespout and repeals my guide. On his turn he casts firespout, I beat in with goblin guide on mine. He gets to 7 land and casts scapeshift and I win.

I board in meddling mages for paths and some ghost quarters in the off chance I can catch him without a basic mountain when he goes off.

Game 2 I keep a 1 lander with lynx, 2 lightning bolt, goyf, goblin guide and tribal flames

I lead with the guide. I draw a land on 2 and lay the goyf. I get him down to 8 and he firespouts and I rip my second tribal flames, playing both in consecutive turns to finish him out.

Game 3 I mull to 5 and keep Nactl, Teeg, Helix, Meddling Mage, which is a pretty bad 5 but if I draw 1 land I can get everything going. Unless that land is Ghost Quarter which was my first draw. My second draw is a verdant catacombs and I run gaddock teeg into remand two turns in a row. I finally land teeg after playing a goblin guide and beating in with it revealing scapeshift on the top. So in my end step I ghost quarters him to take him off mana or take shift off the top. Luckily he searches up the land buying me time and I’m able to get in for the win with gaddock teeg/meddling mage beats.

1-0

Round 2 vs. Backstreet playing hive mind.

I keept 3 land, flames, goblin guide and gaddock teeg x2.

I rip goyf with my first draw and decide to play it on turn 2 thinking that hive mind cannot possibly combo off on turn 2. Obviously the guy has rite of flame, seething song x2, hive mind, pact of the titan and I lose with 2 teegs in my hand.

Game 2 I keep 3 land, guide, goyf, helix, lynx.

That’s a pretty gassy hand and I beat up on him pretty fast. He can’t go off on turn 3 and I kill him on turn 4 as a result. No interactions.

Game 3 I keep 3 land, 2 goblin guide, steppe lynx, medding mage

He leads with telling time on turns 1 and 2. I go goblin guide and reveal a firespout so I drop meddling mage naming firespout. On my turn 3 I rip a kird ape and drop lynx, ape, guide and he’s got one turn to combo off and doesnt and I win on turn 4.

2-0

Round 3 vs. Nullname playing smallpox.

I keep 2 land, teeg, path, lynx, might of alara in game 1.

He wins the roll and thoughtseizes gaddock teeg away. I drop my links and he casts cry of contrition on it and then putrify to strip my hand. I draw another teeg and play it, next turn I beat in with might of alara to do some damage. He drops Kitchen Finks to recoup a bit then duresses me. I double bolt him in response to get him to 1 but he putrifies teeg and drops a goyf and I cannot catch up to two swings in a row with Goyf/Finks/Treetop Village.

I board in ancient grudges for the rack but that’s about it.

Game 2 I keep a one lander, which wasn’t smart but since he hadn’t cast smallpox in game 1 I kind of forgot about it. I kept: 1 Land, kird ape, tarmogoyf, goblin guide, lightning bolt, path, ancient grudge which is a pretty sweet one.

So i lead with kird ape and turn 2 I put the goblin guide out there. He smallpoxes and I lose the guide and my only land. So my board is just one GIANT kird ape. I don’t know if you’ve ever had just one creature on table, but they expand it to your whole board on MTGO and it’s pretty funny. He’s got no hand at this point so it’s draw, beat for 1, go. Eventually, I draw a bloodcrypt before I have to discard and he topdecks a goyf and starts beating in. I draw a second land, fetch up white and path it. I drop my own goyf which gets answered with a kitchen finks, which I path. He casts cry of contrition leaving me with just helix in my hand. I beat in with goyf before he can come up with a removal and end it next turn.

3-0

Round 4 vs. Gmomemo playing All in Red

This guy ended up with the Whammy (9th).

I didn’t rewatch these games, they were too painful.

Game 1 he hit an early deus, I pathed it and beat in before he could do anything other than cast a late blood moon.

it’s about this time I realized I just ran Juza’s list which runs a basic mountain and not a basic forest, which pretty much bones this deck. It was my friend Justin’s idea to start running basic forest in this over the mountain and I wish I thought of it when I was drunk 4 hours ago.

Game 2 he casts a turn 1 blood moon on the play and I can’t do anything but lose.

Game 3 I have meddling mage in my opener, I lay a land but have no play. He gets another turn 1 blood moon and I never play a spell. Lame.

3-1.

Here’s where my fast zoo vs. DDT theory will burn or bust (spoiler warning: it burns) out as I face 3 copies of the deck in a row.

Round 5 vs. BadDrafter playing DDT

The first game of this match is missing but I remember not playing around EE very well and still winning off of a topdecked path to exile to kill his token when I was otherwise (obviously) dead.

for all three of these games my boarding plan was as follows:

-2 might of alara
-4 steppe lynx
-1 mountain
-1 scalding tarn
-3 Gaddock Teeg

+3 Ghost Quarters
+4 Meddling mage
+3 Ancient Grudge
+1 Yixlid Jailer

Game 2 was a shitshow. I kept Nacatl, Flames, Meddling Mage, Goyf, Helix and 2 lands. He opens with double bob. I have no drop but I name meddling mage on thopter on turn 2. He EEs killing both his bobs and my meddling mage and goyf, leaving me with just Nacatl. He drops hexmage and depths but doesnt crack the token… which a lot of ppl don’t do (I used to not do it, but I learned that there’s usually not a reason to hold it in a lot of cases). Short story: I topdeck ghost quarter, play it, and beat him down with the nacatl and burn before he can find another way to beat me.

4-1

It’s about this time that I realize that my car is in the middle of downtown Worcester, MA and I need a ride. I call steve to come get me to bring me to my car and we get back to my place with seconds to spare. he goes home to shower and get coffee and will come back later on.

Round 6 vs. SipitHolla w/ DDT

Again game 1 is missing, but I know I won the game, I’m just not sure how.

Game 2 I have to mull to 4 and never get anything going. he gets the thopter combo when he’s still at 14 and I really just lose. (this is the only game in the swiss portion of the tournament that I lose to DDT)

Game 3 I keept Land, Land, Goyf, Ape, Flames, Ancient Grudge.

I lead with ape and follow it up with goyf. These guys beat in uncontested for a bit and then I cast tribal flames to put the nail in the coffin.

5-1

Round 7 vs. Fabian playing DDT

Game 1 I keep land x2, Kird ape x2, Bolt x2, Lightning Helix

I drop my apes and start beating in, eventually I get him to 11 with 3 lands in play and he drops hexmage and depths and pops the token. Luckily I’m still holding my two bolts and my helix, and I topdeck tribal flames for the overkill.

Unfortunately game 2 was missing from my replays =(. I do remember that I almost ran out of time and got disconnected, and reconnected with less than a minute left. I had Meddling mage on Engineered Explosives with a nacatl and then a second meddling mage, steve and I couldn’t really decide what to name. I thought thopter but he said it didnt matter (thought I can’t remember why), turns out he did have a thopter and it slowed me down a bit, but I was able to drop Yixlid Jailer beats to finish the game with less than 30 seconds left.

So now I’m in round 8 and kind of freaking out. I’ve been close to a top 8 before, but then I’d been well rested, I’d eaten and hydrated during the day. At this point it’s about 11:30 am and I’ve been up for 29 hours. In between rounds I’ve done stupid shit like dishes, trying to sleep (which didn’t happen once) and talking on the phone to justin and jason. I even played some standard games in the casual room but that just made me more tired.

Round 8 vs. Sergio_Dominaria playing Mystical Teachings

I keep 7 with Kird ape, Land x2, Teeg, Goblin Guide, Steppe Lynx and Might of alara.

I lead with ape which he paths. Then I drop lynx and beat in with it plus might. he drops engineered explosives so I attack and he pops it, then I play tribal flames to get him to 2 and drop a kird ape that I was holding back from when he dropped Engineered Explosives. I swing in with the ape but he plays teaching for Path to Exile tapping out. I drop Gaddock Teeg and he has nothing and Teeg does the last two.

I keep in the Teegs for this game but bring in Meddling mages, Tormod’s crypt and ancient grudges.

In game 2 I keept Kird ape x2, goyf, lightning bolt, flames and 2 land.

my first draw is tormod’s crypt, so I lay it and kird ape, then I pop a fetch hoping to play my goyf but he plays shadow of doubt to stop me so I just lay the second ape. Next turn I swing and he paths one (kind of counter intuitive to his shadow of doubt play) and I fetch up a plains and bolt him and pass. I draw a second goyf so I run the other one out there to get mana leaked in my second main phase. I keep pounding away at him with my kird ape which he decides to repeal. I then drop Teeg and Kird ape holding Flames, Helix and Goyf.

Teeg and Kird ape beat him down to 7 and he drops finks to go to 9. So I helix it in my end step and pop tormod’s crypt with the trigger on the stop so it can’t persist. I rip Goblin guide and swing to drop him to 3 then Drop my goyf hoping to draw out a counter but the goyf sticks and I have 10 attack on table with a tribal flames that can do 4 damage, but he still has 2 mana up so I pass. He taps 5 for baneslayer angel which now puts him out of range of my attacks. I rip meddling mage and drop it, he thinks for a bit and lets it stick. I have a decision to make: he has two mana up. I have seen one counter all game and that’s mana leak, so the odds would say to name spell snare. The odds always end up screwing me, but I name spell snare anyway and go for it with the flames and I win and I’m in the top 8.

I decide to take a shower but keep all the same clothes on, but I feel I might’ve washed most of my luck off of me. I won round 8 very quickly and it was a long wait to top 8. We went over the decks and in the top 8 were five DDT decks, my zoo, the mystical teachings I beat in round 8 and the UB control deck that went 8-0.

I finish in third after swiss and get paired against Tezzerator, the guy that beat my friend in round 4. He’s playing DDT.

I keep Lynx, Lynx Goyf and lands on the draw and rip a goyf so my luck is obviously still around. I lead with lynx and decide to go for the blitz after I rip might of alara and swing for 8, but he has the repeal, so I just redrop Lynx and pass. I swing and drop Lynx and a goyf on 3 with him at 18. He taps out his four lands to play thopter and sword. I play a fetch, cast tribal flames and swing for 12 to put him on 2 and finish him off with a bolt, dealing 18 damage in one turn. Suck on that Loam Lion.

So obviously my luck is still with me and I’m feeling really good after that total asskicking…….

Game 2 I Keep goblin guide, keeping 3 land, bolt, meddling mage, goyf

my first draw is helix. and I lead with the guide. He reveals depths. Turn 2 I swing in and he reveals hexmage, so I cast meddling mage naming Hexmage, which he deathmarks. I goyf then lay a freshly ripped ghost quarters. He deathmarks the goyf and I swing in with goblin guide which he repeals. He drops the thopter combo while at about 14 life and I can’t touch him from there.

I’m pretty bummed that my hot hand got stomped so quickly, but I have high hopes as that’s the only game I’ve lost where I haven’t had to mull to 4 vs. this deck…………………………………

Game 3 I mull to 5 and probably should’ve kept but boy my brother and steve convinced me that I couldn’t win with it, so I kept going to 4 and didnt hit a land. I never got to play a spell that game despite the game going for like 10 turns and my ptq run was over.

After losing, my focus and adrenaline went away and I felt really sick, like hungover. I was up for 32 hours straight, I got wasted and sobered up in an 8 hour span of wakedness (something I think your body usually recovers from when you sleep) and I crashed hard.

Some thoughts about zoo. I’ve ran with it a little bit since then and while it has been good vs. DDT, other things are still out there that give it problems.

One strategy I’ve seen work is to put damping matrix (some people have them in the main, this might be a stretch) and Bloodbraids to try and give yourself more chances to get it out. Damping matrix does blow out DDT a bit, but it’s not that hard to play around because DDT runs Echoing Truth and Into the Roil which bounce it and can be searched out by muddle.

If I were to continue running this list, I’d stick with Steppe Lynx over Loam Lion because of it’s explosiveness. I know I also errantly ran 20 lands, but I’ve run 21 lands since then and have been wholly disappointed as to how much flooding I’ve faced. I know I ran really hot in this ptq and had some really lucky topdecks and got past opponents who I played poorly against, but I felt the deck gave me a lot of chances to do that. I also wouldn’t run might of alara anymore, because of repeal and echoing truth being really popular right now.

That’s it for me.

Mike Gemme
Bobbysapphire on MODO
mike@power9pro.com

Book Reviews: The Purifying Fire

I just finished the book recently, and I must that it almost – almost reads like something you’d encounter in an English class. Seriously, it’s that deep IMO.  Magic fiction is better than it’s ever been, with 3 great novels in a row.  I look forward to the next Planeswalker novel, to feature Liliana Vess.

The Purifying Fire is the second installment in the planeswalker series of novels, following Ari Marmell’s Agents of Artifice. Written by Laura Resnick, an acclaimed fantasy and romance writer, this book is the tale of Chandra Nalaar, a pyromancer who seeks to hone her skills both at fire magic and the art of planeswalking.

PurifyingFire

The story begins in Regatha, a plane where the legendary Jaya Ballard once came to showcase her powers as one of the best pyromancers in history. Here, she founded the Kirilian monastery, where many practitioners of “the art of boom” seek to become the best they can be. Devoted to her craft, Chandra Nalaar has now planeswalked to Regatha in the hopes of learning to control the immense power that she has been given as a planeswalker.

However, all is not well in Regatha. A society called the Order of Heliud, comprised primarily of white mages, has decided that it is their duty to “bring peace and harmony to the land”. Sure enough, they attempt to outlaw the practicing of fire magic, because of the supposed inherently violent nature of anyone who wields it.

A free spirit with a fiery temper, Chandra will not stand for this, and engages on a reckless crusade to drive the dictators out of the plane she has learned to call home. However, there are those who would do anything in their power to stop her, from hordes of angry ouphes to fellow planeswalkers with allegiances and backgrounds more cryptic than those of Chandra herself.

Among them is a planeswalker named Gideon, a white mage who seems to be fighting both alongside and against the fiery heroine’s attempts at survival. Through her acquaintance with Gideon, Chandra becomes stronger on her quest to self-realization, while learning more about the Multiverse around her and the many different sides of white magic.

The Purifying Fire is unique in that it truly explores the mind of a planeswalker. Every single thought and feeling of Chandra is eloquently presented, and that’s what makes Resnick’s novel so intriguing. Although there are some obvious differences between planeswalkers and humans, the humanization of Chandra is quite remarkable. She suffers through many of the same trials and tribulations that humans must endure, and for this I must commend Mrs. Resnick.

Through the lands of Regatha, Kephalai, and Diraden, Chandra and the enigmatic Gideon showcase very different behaviors from their traditional colour stereotypes. Although she has the reckless passion known to red mages, she has a strong sense of loyalty to her fellow mages. Gideon on the other hand, promises peace and order in a way that Thomas Hobbes would have admired, the concepts of which are very white-aligned, but the means used to achieve that end most definitely are not. This intrigues my inner vorthos, as we see Chandra take on many traits not native to red, such as white’s sense of right and wrong, and blue’s love of knowledge. Gideon, on the other hand, is not as “pure” as he would have people believe; he shows many traces of black characteristics, such as the willingness to sacrifice human life to further their own agenda.

The Purifying Fire is a must-read for those of you who enjoy the rich storyline of Magic and the Multiverse. Whether you’re interested in the innermost workings of a planeswalkers mind, or are simply a fan of giant fireballs and explosions, you’ll love The Purifying Fire, on bookshelves now.

If you have any questions, comments or suggestions for future articles, email me at zak-AT-power9pro.com, or via my twitter feed at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak