Crowd Favorites – how a live audience might make Magic coverage better

November 8, 2013 3 comments

This morning I wanted start my day off with a smile.  So I put this on my TV, the greatest match of Magic on YouTube:

If you have never watched this, you owe it to yourself to do so, and if you’re really cramped on time, just watch Games 1, 2 and 5.

My fiancee asked me what I was watching, and then asked why I thought it was the greatest match ever.  And while it’s amazing that Bob Maher had to utilize every tactic and edge available to steal the three games he won, and did so while maintaining a stoic, confident table presence in front of his young opponent who crumbled over the five-game set, there’s something in the video that is hardly present in any SCG, GP, or Pro Tour coverage today: the crowd reaction.  The audience MAKES this video.

One of my favorite moments (and there are a lot of good ones) is when Bob draws Ivory Mask in Game 1 after exhausting Davis’s drain effects and how the crowd erupts when he flicks it on to the table.  You can even hear Bob take a jab at Brian before he plays his card – “Can you hear that?” and then knock his good luck charm Miser’s Cage the way Rafael Nadal might fist pump after a huge break.

Imagine watching tennis without a crowd encouraging the players on and the players feeding off of that.  Imagine a basketball game ending in a buzzer beater, but the arena’s empty.  Imagine a soccer game without the hum of raucous hooligans.  It’s silly right?  The crowd enhances the experience for everyone watching the game.  Now imagine the Ivory Mask play without an audience reaction.  It’d be too mathematical for me, it’d be like watching a replay on Magic Online, or a playtesting match.  Actually, if I wanted something like that, I’d just mute the video, and I don’t know about you but that’s not interesting for me to watch.  When I watch Magic coverage, I want to be excited and entertained, not like I’m in the chair trying to win, which arguably is place you don’t want to feel emotions – if I wanted to do those things, I’d just play a match of Magic myself.

When talking about the state of Magic video commentary, the challenge of telling a story or constructing a narrative for the viewer is brought up a lot.  What’s exciting to the viewer?  What should they care about?  This becomes a lot easier for the booth when a live audience makes it clear what the exciting parts are.  If I’m a fairly casual player without good knowledge of the cards in each player’s deck, it will take me longer to either figure out what the big plays and draws or or wait for the commentators to tell me what the big draws are.  But take the beginning of Game 5 when Brian Davis peels an Unmask to complete his god draw – since the crowd reacted so strongly, my reaction might be “OH SNAP, what happened?  What happened?” instead of waiting for an explanation and then saying to myself “Hmm, yes, that was quite a strong play.”

Another unique aspect of this match is the “hometown kid” narrative applied to Bob Maher, and it’s pretty clear that the crowd is rooting for Bob.  Watching sports and games are more fun for most people when they have a horse in the race, and the hometown guy that the crowd is rooting for is an easy one for casual viewers to latch on to.  You see it in sports where a team has a home court advantage, but crowd and fan favorites have a similar effect – Phil Mickelson in golf comes to mind and how friendly he and the crowd are to each other when he’s winning.  I don’t know anyone who’s watched this match and was rooting for Brian Davis, it’s just too obvious who the good guy is.

So yeah, Magic events would be way more watchable if there were a better, more active live audience.  But what are the barriers to this?

  • Competitive disadvantage – This is pretty clear, and you see it in the video where Randy Buehler has to shush the crowd so that they don’t give away strategic information when Brian Davis Drain Lifes for 4 at the end of Game 2.  At Worlds 2009, champion Andre Coimbra’s team was cheering his opponent’s draw step and telegraphing to the stage that it was a brick.  If you wanted to encourage a bigger audience and more active audience, maybe we need to take a page from Starcraft 2 events and soundproof matches into booths.  Hope you aren’t claustrophobic!
  • Sportsmanship – Most Magic players are nice to each other, but sometimes we aren’t.  Billy Moreno got booed at Pro Tour Los Angeles for playing very sloppily in his Semifinals match and still managing to win.  While booing is certainly a thing in other spectator sports, it might not have a place in Magic where the players aren’t actually professionals getting paid millions of dollars to play their game.  A basketball player is paid to put a product on the field for paying fans, but a Magic competitor is actually the paying customer.
  • Audiences would rather play side events or “see the world” than sit and watch Magic – If you’re competing at the Pro Tour, you’re likely free to watch the Top 8 on Sunday, but you also probably want to relax and roam around the amazing city that Wizards flew you to.  If you’re at a Grand Prix, you’re probably in one of the awesome Super Sunday side events.  If you’re at an SCG Open, you’re probably too tired to stick around for the Top 8 at the end of the night or the entire weekend.  What if tournament organizers had a nice stage and setup to encourage audience viewing and gave away freebies like promos or t-shirts in between games to encourage people to be in the audience?  What if you could have food and drinks (dare I say adult drinks too) brought to the audience like at a football game?
  • Closed Pro Tours – I wish Pro Tours were open to the public, but I’ve spoken with folks from Organized Play who have told me it will likely not happen again (Dublin being an exception because of the small market) because the players actually like the logistics of it – smaller venue, less noise from other events, and clear announcements for the main event.  I wonder if OP has investigated whether there is an opportunity for making Sunday of the Pro Tour open to the public for viewing (potentially even charging admission).

Obviously, aspects of other traditional sports and e-sports aren’t going to translate over to Magic, and tournament organizers and Wizards of the Coast might have other priorities than making their product more engaging to watch (like making their tournaments better for their paying participants).  But it’s interesting to see the effort put into Magic’s current spectator offerings and then look all the way back to 1999 and see what they pulled off, without those years of experience in broadcasting and event coverage, with the Maher vs. Davis match.

Advertisements
Categories: Magic

The Muggle World Part 1 – Magic and high school

November 7, 2013 Leave a comment

When I got to high school, after playing Pokemon all through middle school, I picked up Magic because supposedly that was the children’s card game of choice among adults.  I got into it seeing coverage of the World Championship that Jon Finkel won, and I saw myself growing into someone like that.  Why can’t I grow up and keep playing cards?  Look at these guys, they’re really cool – I mean, he won a lot of money doing it, and he’s wearing a tie!

I liked playing online and at my local game store which happened to be an older, adult crowd, but I saw the kind of people who played at my school during lunch in the cafeteria – the typical Dungeons and Dragons crowd that were not popular in the conventional manner (which, as we all know, was defined by the popular crowd).  I didn’t want to tell people I played Magic and think I was like THOSE guys.  I wanted to be cool, like Jon!  But my fear was that if I tell people I played Magic, they wouldn’t give me a chance to explain things and I’d have effectively committed social suicide.  So for four years, because of that awkward high school desperation of wanting to not just be cool, but look cool*, I kept my Magic life and social life separate.

* (This is super ironic because instead I strongly associated myself with being a band geek.)

And it worked.  Or more accurately, I was successful at doing this.  Except toward the end…

On the last day of my senior year my best friends and I went out to lunch downtown, and to my horror, the clerk was a guy I played the weekend before at a Saturday tournament.  My heart sank.  “Please don’t say anything, please don’t say anything, I’ve come so far!” I thought to myself.  But this is North Carolina – no one pretends to be a stranger, especially if you’re not actually a stranger.

“Hey, I played you last Saturday.  Your Mono-Blue deck was really good, really had me scratching my head.”

“Wait, what are you guys talking about?”

The cat’s out of the bag.  “Yea, I played him at a Magic tournament,” I admitted.  I couldn’t believe it – my best efforts at keeping my social life and Magic life separate have been foiled on the last freaking day of school!

The fear of humiliation was allayed by one of my friend’s college friends who was tagging along. “Wow, Magic: the Gathering?  That’s really cool, I play a little.”   My friends were bewildered they didn’t know this about me after all this time.  But the college guy speaking up and legitimizing it made me feel tons better about it.  And my friends thought nothing less of me, outside of a jab here and there.  This didn’t turn into a social crime scene!  Maybe we really had grown up, maybe high school truly was coming to an end.

I think it was an important event in my life – it taught me that I don’t need to be ashamed of the things I’m passionate about.  Sometimes you’ll get harshly judged for it (even Jon!), but those people aren’t worth associating with.  But some people might actually relate to it!  And if they don’t, you have an opportunity to show them something new and reveal things about yourself that others might think are cool.

I’ll write another post about how my Magic life interacts with my non-Magic life and my non-Magic friends in another post, but I’ll end with another instance shortly after high school where Magic crept into my social life: I’m home for the summer after my first year college and I’m in the finals of a RGD draft at the local game store.  I get a call from a girl who wanted to get people together to kick it at her house that night.  It’s in the middle of my match, so (get this) to not be rude, I answered the phone, quickly said “Can’t talk”, and hung up on her and got back to my match.  She called back immediately, but this time I spoke in complete sentences:

Friend: “Did you just hang up on me?!?!?!”

Me: “I’m so sorry, I know we’re hanging out tonight, but I can’t talk right now.  Can I call you back in 15?”

Friend: “Fine, but call me back.”

(I won the draft, BTW.)  That night she really wanted to know what the hell I was doing that I couldn’t talk to her for two minutes.  I told her I was playing Magic and she burst out laughing.  “You hung up on me because of a MAGIC game???”

This game has taught me a lot of things, but one thing it never taught me was how to talk to girls.

Categories: Magic

Draft Recap – Theros Swiss Draft #1

November 6, 2013 Leave a comment

After getting my head bashed in two drafts on Saturday, I asked people about the format and watched my replays to see how other people are winning in the format.  It really looks like the popular strategy, especially since the removal isn’t very good, is to keep trying to get bigger than your opponent by bestowing your early drops or growing your Heroic and Monstrous guys.  Armed with the knowledge of what cards I was losing to a lot and the gist of the rules of Theros, I dove into another Swiss draft on Sunday.

I’m going to be going over an analysis of what I think (or was probably thinking) of each pick, and then checking myself against Frank Karsten’s Theros pick order.  Yea, I railed on pick orders and spreadsheets yesterday, but after thinking about it it’s not different than asking an extremely good Magic player what they think of your picks, and because the tiers are pretty broad in the list, there’s still tons to think about and not everything’s an autopick.  I expect to use the list when reviewing drafts (and most certainly not during drafts) until I internalize what the premier cards are and can start evaluating cards against what I know of the format (and deviate when appropriate).

I think it’s like using an answer key to math homework – yes you could just copy the work from key, or you could give your homework your best effort and then check against the key.  In the latter case I learned to do math and built a foundation for future lessons and classes, but in the former case I might have gotten a 100 on the assignment, but I didn’t learn anything and I’ll flounder with more advanced math later (or just keep needing cheat sheets).

Pack 1 pick 1:

Read more…

Limited picks orders and cheat sheets

November 5, 2013 Leave a comment

My friend asked me this in response to my initial post about Theros Limited.  It gave me the idea that maybe I should try and see what I can learn on my own with this set.

And then I stumbled upon Josh Silvestri’s Theros Limited stats (second half of article), gleaned from Magic Online replays.  The kind of stats I’ve dreamed of for years of playing MODO.  In a nutshell, the spreadsheet has win-loss records for every time a card was played in a game, attempting to measure the impactfulness of that card in the format.  I immediately copied the spreadsheet to my own account and started playing around with it, but then I questioned the absolute value of it.  Was I seriously sitting on a true cheat sheet for the format?

I remember when I was in high school in 2005 (the draft set was full Kamigawa block) I read a pick order for green.  (Pick orders used to be a lot more popular back then.)  And it said Shinen of Life’s Roar was the best Green common for the third pack.  In a draft at my local game store, I ended up with a Green deck with four of those, so I thought my deck had to be super awesome, until I actually laid out my deck and struggled to get 23 cards that I liked together.  One of the better players looked at my deck and started cutting cards for me, starting with my Shinen’s.  “Isn’t that the best card in the set?”

“Yea, but where are your fatties?  He’s not that good by himself and with what you’ve got in your deck.”  I 1-3’d with my pile in a lot of games where my 1/2’s did effectively nothing.

I think back then, if I had gotten my hands on this spreadsheet, I would have taken this and tried to apply it as literally as possible, just like I did with pick orders – always take the card with the highest win and call it a deck.  Numbers never lie, right?  Moneyball anyone?  But they do lie sometimes!

Gods WillingTake God’s Willing for example.  If you filter the spreadsheet by White commons, God’s Willing wins the most in the games it was played, with a whopping 58.5%. and it makes sense – it’s so cheap it’s easy to leave up the mana and create a blowout situation.  But someone with a lot of drafting experience, or deckbuilding experience in general, should know that you wouldn’t want as many as you can get in your deck – I’d rather have 6 Wingsteed Guards (the second winningest White common) than 6 God’s Willings.

And you can kind of get that from the spreadsheet – God’s Willing shows up in half as many games as Wingsteed Rider, which shows up much more than any other White common.  What the spreasheet also doesn’t capture is the times God’s Willing flounders in someone’s hand because it was a blank.  They tried to bias against expensive bombs since you won’t always get to cast those spells, but it would have been nice to also bias against combat tricks not doing anything and sitting in hand.

Similar to not wanting to take 6 God’s Willings is taking cards based on your mana curve, or other situations.  A premier four-drop like Rumbling Baloth in M14 might be the best card in a vacuum in a pack, but if my pile already has a lot of great four drops, I might be more inclined to take something to fill out the lower parts of my curve, like a ramp spell.  Other times, the value of a card is very specific to the strategy your going for – Dream Twist in Innistrad was great in self-mill decks but chaff in more standard decks.  Such a spreadsheet doesn’t express these situations.

Besides the caveats of purely looking at the numbers, the spreadsheet (and pick orders in general) are kind of a crutch.

They don’t force me to do my own card evaluations.  In my first drafts of Theros (and most sets in general), I usually get my face bashed when I have what I thought were decent looking decks, and I’m forced to examine why I’m losing and why my opponents are winning.  Some of the questions I had were things like “How impactful is are the expensive and situational removal spells?” and “Are bigger vanilla creatures as impactful as building a big man with Bestow?”  By looking at the spreadsheet, I can easily see that Bestow creatures are often the best cards at common, and the expensive and situational removal spells are mediocre to bad.

And I guess it would have been a valuable learning experience for me to draw my own conclusions.  But it’s not all that different from asking friends who have played a lot their opinions on cards and strategies in general.  On the one hand, the spreadsheet aggregates lots of opinions into cold hard win percentages.  But on the other hand, when I talk to a human I get to ask them why and build my knowledge base for future sets, and so I form an idea of when to deviate from the common use case.

Along the same lines, from the spreadsheet I can pick out what would be a strong signal that a color is open.  Without it, I either need someone to tell me what they think the signals are in the format, or have such confident card evaluation skills to know that a particular card shouldn’t still be in the pack, or I need to go over a draft and see what colors would have been the ones to be in, and go back and see what cards would have indicated that (and sometimes this can be wrong, because of particularly strong or weak packs).  But now I can just use the win percentage data and look at a middle pick in pack 1 and see that a certain card wins too much and is played too often for it to still be in the pack.

Dream TwistFinally, the spreadsheet would prevent me from getting creative and going deep with new deck strategies.  If I stuck with the standard pick orders for standard attacking and blocking decks and the packs didn’t give me good rares or a lot of premium commons, I might just throw my hands up and say “Welp, packs were bad.”  But what there are certain cards that are good in certain kinds of other cards, as long as I know to draft with those fringe cards in mind?  The spreadsheet doesn’t capture that.  And what about offbeat decks that pull together a lot of weird parts to do something very powerful, like a Trading Post control deck, or the Spider Spawning self-mill deck from Innistrad?  Cards for those decks aren’t going to make sense in a general pick order for a format (and often the presence and strength of those kinds of strategies are the hallmark of a great draft format).

The point I’ve been trying to make is that this spreadsheet (and pick orders in general) are a fine tool for getting a jump start on learning the format, but they don’t always tell the whole story of cards in a format, and they aren’t the be-all, end-all source of truth for a format.  There’s too much value to be gained outside of what a pick order to lean on it, and it’d be silly for someone who wants to grow as a player to rely on them and other aggregate measures of the metagame instead of learning and debating what makes cards, decks, and entire formats tick.  Magic’s too deep to distill down to averages.

Categories: Magic Tags: ,

Judging mistakes in win-and-in rounds

November 4, 2013 Leave a comment

I don’t intend to only write about how much judges at competitive Magic tournaments suck – they mean well, and they usually don’t suck.  But this situation was also on my mind and I thought it was worth diving into.

Sometimes you and your opponent are X-1 going into the final Swiss round of single-day tournament with a cut to Top 8, like a Pro Tour Qualifier or SCG Open.  But your tiebreakers are so bad that if all the X-1’s drew and you drew your match, one or both of you would end up outside of the Top 8 on tiebreakers.  The thing is, if you play your match and someone wins, and all the other X-1’s draw, one of THEM might be in ninth.  This creates a weird situation where multiple matches at the top tables will want one of the other matches to finish with a winner so that they can safely intentionally draw in.

There was an article on Star City from the Open Series in Seattle about judges advising players in the final round to not use match results from the seats next to them and not to agree to a draw based on match results from other tables.

They informed me that determining the result of our match based on outside information, like the result of Martin’s match, was A Very Bad Thing. Granted, players are allowed to draw for any reason and at any time during a match. But seeking outside information once players have been seated is A Very Bad Thing.

I always thought drawing based on the results of other matches was standard practice, so I looked up the relevant rules.

From the MTG Tournament Rules:

5.2 Collusion and Bribery

Players may not reach an agreement in conjunction with other matches. Players can make use of information regarding match or game scores of other tables. However, players are not allowed to leave their seats during their match or go to great lengths to obtain this information.

I was pretty sure of the first rules quote when I first read the article: it SPECIFICALLY ALLOWS players to use match results from other tables.  People made the claim, however, that Outside Assistance includes someone telling you what happens in another match.

From the Infraction Procedure Guide:

3.2 Tournament Error — Outside Assistance
Definition
A player, spectator, or other tournament participant does any of the following:

• Seeks play advice or hidden information about his or her match from others once he or she has sat for his or her match.
• Gives play advice or reveals hidden information to players who have sat for their match.
• During a game, refers to notes (other than Oracle™ pages) made before the official beginning of the current match.

Well, this looks pretty cut and dry – match results are mentioned NOWHERE in the definition of Outside Assistance.

By the letter of the law, in this situation, it looks like you are allowed to:

  • Agree with your opponent to draw if another match finishes with a winner.
  • Ask other players the result of a match.
  • Tell a player in a match about the result of your match.

However, these things are still against the rules:

  • See players get up from a match, and leave your match (or otherwise be disruptive) to find out what their result was.
  • Coordinate a draw with another ongoing match, to screw out another table playing it out, or otherwise fix the standings.
  • Solicit advice outside the match about whether you should draw or not.
  • Slow play to wait for another match to finish so you can safely draw.

If a judge tells you otherwise, you can point them to the rules I’ve cited.

This is an example of players not knowing the rules losing an advantage because the floor judges get the rules wrong.  As a player, it behooves you to know the rules well enough to call BS on a ruling that isn’t in your favor or when a floor judge doesn’t see how your opponent is taking advantage of you – a lot of floor judges at PTQs don’t know the rules as well as they should, and they have never played at the cutthroat level you’ve played at.  They don’t intend to be unfair to you, but you need to protect yourself.

You should also probably appeal any kind of game loss or major fixing of the game state that isn’t in your favor to the head judge, since those things are not reversible.  I had a judge give my opponent a game loss for looking at an extra card, then come back at the beginning of the next game and say he was wrong and that we should just restart the previous game.  I appealed that ruling and the head judge apologized to my opponent for the initial bad ruling, but the game loss had to stand since we moved on.

Finally, if you think the head judge of an event still got something wrong, you should respectfully ask them after the match how to provide feedback to the DCI on their judging.  Judges sometimes make mistakes, and they can’t learn from them if they don’t get feedback from players AND from judges.  Berating a judge after the fact will likely do nothing (not to mention it being poor form), but written feedback that other judges can weigh in on will encourage them to get better at running events.

I get that judging is very difficult and sometimes thankless, but ultimately you as a player are the customer of the tournament, and you should expect a fair tournament experience at every match and every event you attend.

Categories: Magic

A drunk Magician’s words – a tale of industrial espionage

November 3, 2013 Leave a comment

Turning 21 was a funny time for me – besides moving out and becoming a fully functional adult, it was when I really started taking Magic seriously and formed a lot of my best friends, and it was also the age when I could buy and consume alcohol whenever I wanted.  As a result, a lot of my most memorable Magic stories are also alcohol stories.  Here’s one of them.

It’s spring 2011 – for those of you who do better with Magic sets than actual dates, New Phyrexia was the next set about to come out.   I was living in Seattle, and my friend calls to tell me that the much-hyped Card Kingdom/Cafe Mox/”the Magic bar” was having an industry-only grand opening party that night.  He had an invitation and plus-one for being a Magic writer at the time, and since his significant other was occupied that night, he asks me if I would be interested in Magic and beer that night.  It didn’t take much convincing to get me to spend my evening there.

I’ll refer you to the post I wrote back when it did open if you want to know more, but long story short, I really hadn’t seen anything like this – nothing that big, nothing that nicely furnished, and nothing that served alcohol.  I walk up to the bar and ask for a beer and pull out my wallet, and the barmaid smiles and puts out her hand.  “Oh no, all drinks are free tonight.”  Yep , this is going to be a good night.

I get pulled into a cube draft with various WotC employees, and everyone’s having a good time christening the new tournament tables with spells.  The wait staff is making sure I always have a full beer in front of me, and it’s a miracle (FORESHADOWING) I didn’t douse Tom LaPille’s* actually-powered cube in booze.  After 3-0’ing, I stand up and announce the beginning of my drunk step.

* (I don’t know him super well, but that night he did relate to me his fear that, due to my circle of WotC friends, the first word spoken by Alexis Janson’s new child would be “dicks”.)

After cubing, I’m wandering around talking to anyone who will lend an ear.  Some people call this “mingling”, a basic social skill that many people can do when sober, but not this guy.  I think I tried to say words to Richard Garfield but it was probably nonsense.  I’m sure multiple times I hijacked the conversations of people I actually knew by proclaiming “COWARDS CAN’T BLOCK WARRIORS”, a favorite of mine when drunk.

“Well, yea it’s obviously very bad for the company, but now I get to talk about the really cool cards that I’ve known about for years like Batterskull and Elesh Norn.”And then my friend and I start talking to this guy from WotC I didn’t recognize, who was probably equally as drunk as me.  The New Phyrexia godbook leak was hot news at the time, so I asked him about what the office was like when it happened.

Alright, that’s an interesting take on the situation.

“But yea, like, we’re working on this new mechanic where you can play a spell as you draw it.”

…. wait, what?  I look to my friend (who hadn’t had anything to drink) to make sure I heard myself right.  First of all, was this guy seriously talking about cards in development?  Second, I could have sworn I read a Mark Rosewater article about how things that trigger when a certain card is drawn had been tried and proven unfeasible.  And third of all, weren’t we JUST TALKING ABOUT how shitty leaks are for Magic and WotC, the company that pays this guy’s bills?

At the end of the night, my friend and I look at each other in the car.  “That guy… those cards aren’t real, right?”  I put the chances that he was telling the truth at about 10%.

When Innistrad came out that fall and the double-sided cards were revealed, I asked my friend if he thought this was really the mechanic that the drunk WotC guy was talking about.  I figured this was unique and flashy enough that it probably was what he was trying to explain, and coupled with the fact that I could have sworn the spells-as-you-draw-them mechanic had been tried and failed, I dismissed what that sloshed man told me in Seattle.

Until May 2012.  Remember what set was coming out then?  Remember the big mechanic from that?

I messaged my friend as soon as I saw the new card something to the effect of “DID YOU SEE THE MIRACLE CARDS FROM AVACYN RESTORED?  THAT GUY WAS TELLING THE TRUTH.  IF I EVER SEE HIM AGAIN I WILL BUY HIM ALL THE BEER HE WANTS.”

We could have made this into Magic’s version of the iPhone 4 bar leak, but I didn’t make a big deal over it, besides having a new drunk Magic story to tell.  The guy just really liked Magic cards.  And beer, lots of it.  I also like those things.

Categories: Magic

First impressions of Theros limited

November 2, 2013 Leave a comment

I only devote so much of my free time to Magic, and with last weekend’s SCG Invitational being the biggest Magic event of my year, I spent the last four weeks of my Magic time working on Legacy and Standard decks and not playing any form of Theros limited.  Tonight was my first opportunity to draft the new set, and since everyone else on Magic Online has had a few weeks to play with the cards, I’d be a little behind on figuring out what cards are good in this new environment.

Starting out in the Swiss queues, this was my first deck:

I won Round 1 on the back of Heliod, God of the Sun and Evangel of Heliod, but Round 2 and 3 I got crushed, but I got a good idea of what I think people were trying to do in the format – building better creatures than their opponents.

  • A lot of the auras are really efficient and find ways to replace themselves, like Dragon Mantle and the Ordeals, and there isn’t cheap Doom Blade-type removal, so cards like Last Breath and Lightning Strike have to be cast at instant speed in response to the aura.  The auras are also much better than I can remember them ever being in Limited.
  • The Heroic creatures like Wingsteed Rider, Akroan Crusader, and Staunch-Hearted Warrior get much better than their “vanilla test” stats when they get activated with things like the aforementioned Auras, cheap combat tricks, and Bestow creatures.
  • In the later game, the Bestow spells let you go bigger than your opponent with whatever creatures you happen to have on the board, and they aren’t as susceptible to removal spells in response since you still get the Bestow creature when it fizzles.

This deck didn’t really get any of these points very well, hence my 1-2 record.

Armed with an idea of what did win in the format, I bought into another Swiss draft and drafted this:

This played better than first, but I was the victim to some poor draws and still only went 1-2.  I had some decisions in deck building that I didn’t know the answer to – do I still play 18 lands in this deck so I can get to my Bestow mana?  Are there cheaper spells I can cut to make room for more Rage of Purphoroses or my six-mana Bounty of Thassa and Shipbreaker Kraken?

I’ll be reviewing the replays of these games and the draft replays to start forming my ideas of what cards are better and more valuable than others.  I think I’d also like to start learning what are the best ways to counteract the really fast starts, particularly the ones involving the Ordeals or other good cheap Enchantments, and ways to deal with big Bestowed creatures, or whether the strategy in this format is just to draft my decks to do those things better and more often than my opponents.  Either way, Theros is pretty different than the last couple years of Limited, and I think I’m going to like digging into it.

Categories: Magic