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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Big Deck Hunting: Casualy Competitive

Recently I have been giving a lot of thought about a very normal topic, staying competitive. The odd part about this is that rather then taking the perspective of fine tuning a deck like the edge of a sword, I have been thinking about it from the idea of keeping a deck competitive in the community sense. Just last week a person whom I am proud to call both a friend and colleague, humbled me by asking for my opinion of a deck he had created.

He asked for my honest opinion, and I really took the time to explore examine this deck from the perspective of the other people at the table. The worst part was after I had critiqued his deck, I was left asking the same questions about my own casual deck. It really left me with a sense that our community is really just the sum of the impressions at each table, and their impact on what we play, who we play, and even if we continue to play. I have come to a realization that a deck can be too good. To this end there are a few topics I would like to address. These thoughts are part of the on going results of my own "fearless Magic inventory". It represent my own self inventory of my game and it's impact on the community, and is not intended as an indictment of any other player(s). It has given me something to think about, and has changed me as a player. Perhaps you too can find some thing to think about here.

Combos

I am going to keep this one short and simple. Combo decks are not fun for anyone else at the table. The point of a game is to interact. While your busy make you 900,000 token creature, taking your 5th consecutive turn, or completing your 18th major action in a turnl, all the other players are bored of their ever loving asses, just waiting for you to finish. It's like letting a dog hump your leg. We aren't getting anything out of it, and we are just hoping that given enough time you will finish, and we can go on with our game. Now combo/control decks have their place in competitive magic, and that really isn't the point. In casual try playing something else.

Proxy cards

Proxies have their place in casual, and like all good things in life, it's brief. Proxy up that new deck, see if it works, tune it out. In the end Magic: the Gathering is a little thing we call a CCG, for those of you who may be new to this concept that's a Collectible Card Game. This implies that at some point you are expected to accumulate the cards you want to be able to play. If everyone just proxies up every deck they ever wanted to own, it just lowers the overall game, and makes those special cards just that much less special. Hey if everyone can use the proxy, why ever bother buying any real cards. You take this thinking to the extreme, and this game dies two deaths. One- the game comes to a halt, because they won't develop, and produce a product that has no market. Second- the game will become a stagnant pool of over power unimaginative super decks, that anyone can own, and everyone gets tired of playing.

On this same topic, you as a Magic player are expected to own some cards. I really do mean just some. Any real player has a small box of stuff, and can field at least one deck that they enjoy playing. It doesn't have to be good, or even ready for a FNM event, but have something to shuffle up. The community really doesn't take serious a player that shows up at game time, and wants to bum a deck to play. Borrowing a deck to see how it works, or to play something new is great, and we all learn a lot from doing that. Trying to borrow a deck that cost $100's of dollars from people you hardly know so you can go play in a major tournament just days ahead of time puts you in a parasitic category. Either tie in to a community on a regular basis, join a team, or otherwise contribute other then gracing with an occasional presence.

Don't get me wrong, I don't expect every new person to show up and poor hundreds of dollars into a new game. I start a lot of new players, at least 1-2 a year, but I really don't put much time into them until they are willing to buy their first few packs/cards. I am willing to provide a support system for new players, but they have to put some effort and resources in up front. You can build a playable fun deck in this game for $5, and that really isn't a lot to put into a hobby. From that point you can build as slow as you want, or have to. Nearly 90% of every card ever printed can be purchased for $2 or less. Not sure how to get started on a budget?- hang out for a while because this is one of my favorite topics, which is close to my heart by necessity.

Power Plays

Now we get to the part that I have found myself guilty of most recently. This game is not an arms race. He who dies with the most toys still dies. If you spend too much of your time building in flawless constructs full of flashy, high powered, or expensive cards you will soon be the best player that no one wants to play against. It's not fun to play a game you are certain you will struggle in and ultimately lose. Everyone wants to be able to win, especially at the casual table. On any given Wednesday night anyone should be able to walk away with a great casual story of how they were the last player standing, or at least how they almost one. When games, especially big games feel this way, everyone has a good time, learn something, or are otherwise willing to play again.

Magic communities die every day, because a minority of players who are so caught up in their own evolutions of the game, cut out the rest of the community, who either can't compete, or don't want to. Communities like ours have thrived, and will continue to do so, by keeping this game accessible and fun for everyone. Flawless consistent victories at the round table ultimately may mean that you are losing the larger game of building and supporting your community. Next time you build a deck, try thinking about it from any of the other chairs a the table. Try building one that is fun to play with as well as against. I promise, in the end you will have more fun, and next time you take a head count, you will find more players then you expected. If not you may look around one day, and wonder where everyone else went, and have no one to blame but your self.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Cheap.dec: Sliver Changelings

There has been a lot of buzz lately about building decks without a lot of expensive rares which has inspire me to start this series of articles. From time to time I will publish a deck exploring a synergy of un/commons. I will target the deck list to 28 commons 8 uncommons, and 24 basic lands. This would give the deck a rough cost of $5 or less. I will also make an effort to avoid using chase un/commons that would inadvertently make the deck components harder to assemble. These decks will often be designed as mono-color for both budget, and ease of play. The basic design will be 7 pockets of commons (4 each) 3 pockets of uncommons (2 each), and a complement of basic lands.


This week I am going to explore the unique synergy in Standard between Changelings who have all creature types, and slivers, who convey abilities to all other slivers in play. The basic concept is that every creature in play have the sliver creature type, and that all natural slivers would "lord" abilities to every other creature you control. A quick survey of the Sliver uncommons currently available reveals a total of 15 options. 5 mono-color, 5 allied color pairs, and 5 enemy color pairs. Since a dual color in a key card would make this deck much harder to play, I will narrow the to just the 5 mono color options, each of these is an excellent option, and could be built around.

Red: Fury Sliver
Green: Might Sliver
White: Quiled Sliver
Blue: Telekenetic Sliver
Black: Vamperic Sliver

Of these options, I have no doubt that the best option is Red's Fury Sliver and it's lord ability of double strike. Dropping one of these gives each of our creatures a first strike ability which will often protect them from combat damage, and make unblocked slivers kill that much quicker. Now on to the uncommon Changelings, to see what they may add. This reveals another cycle of 5 mono-colored changelings in the uncommon slot. Three of the five involve the Champion mechanic to summon. If I am going to remove a creature from play, it is going to have to represent a major upgrade.

Red: Changeling Berserker
Green: Changeling Titan
White: Changeling Hero
Blue: Turtleshell Changeling
Black: Ghostly Changeling

Once again it's red for the win, as Changeling Berserker's haste ability lets him swing out of the gate. So with 2 of 3 of our uncommons selected, it's time to take a look at our 7 common slots that will form the bulk of our deck. I will begin by reviewing the common slivers currently available to see what other lord abilities we may be able to capitalize on. Battering, Bonesplitter, Homing, and Two-Headed our our available slivers. In the changeling category we find Firebelly, and Warspike. I will not be using is the Homing, because it doesn't allow us to search for changelings, has no board relevant lord ability, and may be complicated for a new user to get. I will also pass on the Warspike because it adds to the already high mana curve, and it's first strike ability becomes irrelevant when Fury Sliver is in play. To fill out my deck I select Lashout, Puncture Bolt, Brute Force, Haze of Rage, and Dead//Gone.

The final deck list has a cost of $5 and consists of the following list. This deck is about as budget friendly as it gets. It has a nice removal package to keep the red zone clear, and can pound home damage of 10 plus per turn. It is severly limited against control, damage prevention and CoP red will ruin it. Over all it's a great deck for the resources invested, but has holes that one would expect from such an extreme budget deck.

24 mountains
(4 each)
Battering Sliver
Bonesplitter Sliver
Two-Headed Sliver
Firebelly Changeling
Lashout
Puncture Bolt
Brute Force
(2 each)
Dead//Gone
Fury Sliver
Changeling Berserker
Baldavian Rage
Haze of Rage

Monday, July 28, 2008

Deck Evolution: Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Block Deck

The voting was pretty cut and dry with the Quillspike combo coming out on top. I have to say I was a little surprised at how little interest was shown for Faeries, and Kithkin, and how much was for Merfolk and Goblins.

This will be an interesting test of our card pool, and will really stretch the limits of our utility card base. This combo did not exist in any sense prior to eventide, and black is definitely one of our least supported colors in our card pool.

I have reviewed our available card pool, and opted to go with a very basic build. This deck will revolve around the combo, and have a few support cards to help put the combo together, and few few tricks to help stabilize if things go badly. The basic idea is to drop Devoted Druid on turn two, followed next turn by Quillspike, and combo off for the large creature win, or rites out shortly after. This deck really has to go off with in the first 5 turns, or it really starts to flounder, the good news is that is can go off roughly 40% of the time with in those few turns. Once quillspike resolves, there is very little disruption that can put this in check short of a hard counter spell on the rites.

4 Vivid Grove
16 Forests
4 Swamps
4 Devoted Druid
4 Quillspike
4 Rites of Consumption
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Scuttlemut
4 Terror
4 Civic Wayfinder
4 Gravedigger
4 Kitchen Finks

I have been testing this deck againts what I perceive as the strongest block decks out there, Faeries, Kithkin, and Merfolk. Both Faeries, and Merfolk present enough control to cause a stumble, but Kithkin is pretty much a toss up. Tune in next week, when I will report the results against each member of the field, look for answers in out pool, and address a side board to answer the field for better win ratios.

Friday, July 25, 2008

State Of Magic: Saying Goodbye to Friends

Magic is a game in which we see many people come and go. They leave, and often come back for a variety of reasons. This week I have the duty of wishing one of our mutual friends from the Scifi Community farewell, and good luck. Nick, or Nagi as many of you know him, is moving on from his duties as lead Magic Organizer, and Judge to explore other options as he transitions from his recent High school Graduation to College. Since Nick will be staying in the area, I hope he stops in from time to time for a visit, and if we are lucky he can join us for FNM from time to time.

It was nearly 3 years ago when I stopped in for my first FNM at SciFi. On that particular night it was myself, my son (just turned 7 at that time), Zac (then organizer and Judge), and Kirk (now on sabbatical from Magic). We had a good game that night, but were unable to sanction with DCI due to a shortage of players. Over the next couple of months SciFi's Magic Community, grew to the point of being regularly sanctioned, and Zac opted to step down his duties for personal reasons. We still see Zac from time to time, but not as often as the old timers like myself would like. Nick, scruffy haired kid that he was, stepped up to fill Zac's illustrious shoes. There have been some growing pains, but through it all Nick has seen us through. Since that time our fledgling community has grown to garner some recognition from DCI and has become a focal point for the Magic Community in North Carolina. This goes out as a thank you to Nick for shepherding our little flock as we have grown, and to SciFi for giving Nick, and the Magic Community at large the room to grow.

I do not know exactly what the future holds for Magic at SciFi, but I do know that there is a future to be had. Magic at SciFi has grown to have a life of it's own, it no longer stands upon any one mans shoulders. It still amazes me each week, the number of new faces coming in, and the way this community never fails to welcome them in, and offer support for those learning the trade. We have been through it before, and we will go through it more times than this. There will be growing pains, errors, but in the end it will be the good times we remember, and relate to the newest members among our community, like ancient Greeks telling of their histories and legends.

This Just In

Thursday Scifi announced several updates which are outlined below, originaly posted by Zack Boyd.

1) Thank you to Nick for seeing us through the past many moons of Magic and being there to let Jennifer and I know what's going on with the Magic community. His last Friday night shift will be on August 1st.

2) In Nick's absence, I'm going to need your guys' help. If there's something that's bugging you, something you'd like to see at FNM, a Magic event you'd like us to run, or just to kick around some ideas, send Jennifer or I a PM/e-mail and let us know. Or, let Pam know. Which brings me to #3.

3) Pam will start working Friday nights this week. She will be Sci-Fi's MtG "lead organizer" after Nick departs. It will take her a while to get into the swing of things, but I'm sure she'll do fine once she does.

4) In the near future, we will be setting up a laptop at the counter for FNM. This laptop will have DCI on it for running tournaments and internet access so you can check StarCityGames and whatnot when you need to.

5) As a few people have said, we're not looking to hire someone for FNM. If any of the level one judges would like to judge the events (even on an occasional basis), we'll be happy to put him down as Head Judge on DCI for any events he presides over. We will keep the actual running of the event in-house, so that there will be no obligation for anyone to show up and run the event who is not actually on staff. And for when our level one judges aren't here, everyone pretty much already knows which people to defer to about rulings.

Congratulations to Pam, and I will see you all tonight.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

News for the Nebies: Champions

Submitted By
Cassa Hild (waterwolf on Scifigenre.com, cassa.hild@gmail.com)

Hello All, and thank you for stopping by. Our little community has had many new players joining in of late. With so many new folks, it becomes even more important to remember many of the not so new tricks, that may otherwise be overlooked by folks focused on the newest set. One such item is the Champion mechanic from Lorwyn in the current block. Without further intriduction Cassa has prepared a primer on Champions for those who may no yet be familiar with the potentially powerful concept. -the_magi


Some champions such as Unstoppable Ash and Changeling Titan can be a big assistance in a deck but they need to be supported. There are counter spells that can stop a player from championing a creature which will really blow that combo play you’re working on. Lets say that you have played a Gem hide sliver, this is a 1/1 creature, an opponent can use Shock to kill the Gem hide after you have tapped the land to play the Changeling Titan, you are now SOL, your only choice is to choose another target for the Champion and if you have no other creatures on the board then the champion fizzles and you loose the land and both creatures. Champions also have summoning sickness unless the card specifically states that they don’t like with Changeling Berserker, so you may have a big creature out there but he’s a blocker till next turn so don’t rely solely on this.

There is also a time and a place for Champions, it never hurts to attack with the creature that your going to champion before you do so. This being said consider the other cards on the deck, don’t attack with a creature unless your opponent has nothing that can kill the creature. Remember the card you champion can not be used until the champion dies, so attack when you can.

There is also a method to the madness with certain cards like Highway Robber, Keldon Marauders and other creatures that deal direct damage when they come into play. These creatures can make great champion holders. Let’s say you have Keldon Marauders out, the key would be to champion him right as his 2 time counters run out, so instead of him fizzling out, champion him and then if your champion dies, Keldon comes back into play and deals his damage again.

Some of the key champions are:
Boggart Mob
Changeling Berserker, Titan, Hero
Lightning Crafter
Nova Chaser
Unstoppable Ash
Mistbind Clique
Thoughtweft Trio
Wanderwine Prophets
Wren's Run Packmaster

If you’re playing a Sliver deck with any green in it then Changeling Titan is a must, but makes room to run 4 if possible. The Berserker is great in a red/burn deck due to the haste and the Keldon Marauder champion idea. The Trio is great with a kith kin deck and the Unstoppable Ash is also a must in any Tree folk based or elf deck. If playing a elf based deck the Wren's Run Packmaster is great with it's creature multiplier and can go broken easily. If your playing a Merefolk or control deck the Wanderwine Prophets is a good choice and if you like running blue Faeries then add in a Mistbind Clique or 4.

Remember to play smart though as these creatures may make you the main threat once they are on the board so be sure that your hand can protect the cards that are in play.

Champions and EDH really don't go together well from my experience unless you run doppelgangers or copy spells with some library search or Tutor cards. If you have the copy spells and tutors going and you are running an elf, Faerie, treefolk or burn deck I would try to run some champions just to see what was possible.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Multiplayer Diplomatic Neutrality

Submitted by
Jed Humphries (jedijed2187 on Scifigenre.com,
jhumphries2187@yahoo.com)

Most people who play multiplayer know politics is an important part of the multiplayer experience. Over the past few months, I have been using what I like to call Multiplayer Diplomatic Neutrality, which is a type of play style where just sit back let everybody kill each other. Occasionally I will disrupt the game with some board clearing spell and gain some life along the way. The key is not to overplay and get squashed (which I guess is key to most Magic games anyway). I have really only been playing since Timespiral, many of the cards I will mention will be from there forward. Let me know if there are older cards could fit into Multiplayer Diplomatic Neutrality.I have also developed a point system for those who violate “Diplomatic Neutrality” against you (and bombs to play against them). More on that Later.


When building a deck around Multiplayer Diplomatic Neutrality”, you need to keep a few things in mind:
gaining life is good (the more subtle, the better)

don’t hurt me cards are good

a limited number of directed cards (most cards/abilities should be blanket effects)

X-factor cards (cards with X in the casting cost)

Life Gain –
Soul/Essence Warden are hands-down the best continuous life giving card (Who doesn’t play creatures in a multiplayer deck?). They have always been my favorites to play in multiplayer (especially on turn one). The 10th Edition cycle of artifacts giving you a life when a whatever colored spell is player (Dragon’s Tooth, Kraken’s Eye, Wurm’s Tooth, Demon’s Horn and Angel’s Feather) are good to include. I like these 7 cards because you gain 1 here and there and hopefully, if you only have a two or three of them out, it doesn’t put too big a target on you. Contasted by playing some cards, like Boon Reflection, will immediately put a target on you. I still include it because there is much potential there for great life gain if someone doesn’t have an answer. Urborg Syphon-mage is a good card for life gain and a blanket effect of hurting, but it could have the side effect of getting everyone else mad at you, so use cautiously. Heroes Remembered is an auto include (20 life from 1 card. Who could resist in a life gain deck?) The Fracturing Gust, Enchanted Evening combo has the dual effect of board clearing and gaining life, so I include them.


“Don’t Hurt Me” Cards –
I think it was JK who was the first I heard call them this. “Don’t Hurt Me” Cards are all the various cards preventing all damage or combat damage in a given turn. These cards are great if you happen to become the target of other player’s hate and need to buy a turn or two. The main ones are Fog, Dawn Charm, Holy Day, Chameleon Blur, and Darkness. Another favorite of mine is Hissing Miasma because it makes players think twice before attacking me, since the player attacking me will lose 1 life per creature attacking me.

Blanket Effects and Disruption –
These cards are played when someone gets out of control or you just feel like pressing the restart button. The are few different type of board clearers – creature destruction (.Wrath of God, Damnation Firesprout and Incendiary Command), artifact and enchantment destruction (Fracturing Gust and Austere Command), and land destruction ( Armageddon and Boom//Bust), Magus of the Disk is a creature worth classifying as a blank effect since it destroys all creatures, artifact and enchantments.

X-Factors –
These cards are usually a combination of the previous groups, but mainly follow the form of gain X life or lose X life or deal X damage. Molten Disaster is the ultimate win condition for this deck. You should be able to achieve this fairly easily by gain lots of life, and then play molten disaster for the max life of any other player FTW (with extra red for split second). Consume Spirit is a nice swing card if you have Urborg, Tomb of Yawgonath. Other nice X factor cards include Fireball, Blaze, Oracle of Nectars, and Dawnglow Infusion.

Bomb Creatures –
These are the creatures used to attack players who have received points. These are self-explanatory: Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Bogardon Hellkite, Colossus of Sardia, Chameleon Colossus, etc.

Under the Radar –
I prefer playing this deck under the radar meaning, don’t be the strongest, and don’t be the weakest. Strive for mediocrity! I am by no means saying that I think everyone should play a deck like this just like this. I am just merely looking at a different way to play the game in a fun, casual environment.

The Points System –
I started this back when we were playing the casual league as a humorous way of “politically deterring” people from attacking or targeting me. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t, but I’ve always enjoyed it. A player gains a point when they hurt me in one way or another (kill creatures or discard cards or whatever I deem as bad for me). Players who have points lose a point when I deal damage to them by one way or another (or I do something to them to merits losing a point).

I hope this article has encouraged people out there to experiment with different play styles in casual, because is always fun to try new things.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Timespiral Shopping List

The time is close at hand when Standard will say goodbye to another block and usher in Shards of Alara to take it's place. While it is no secret that I am really looking forward to this transition, and That I think it is a much needed boost for Standard, it does present a critical time for new player, and budget minded veterans. Now is the time to pick up key un/commons from these four sets, before they begin to disappear. Thats right I said for sets; Timespiral, Planarchaos, Futuresight, and the often overlooked Coldsnap.

I will start with the must have un/commons for the block. If you don't know these cards, you need to get them, and use them. They are that good, and you are missing out if you continue to not use them. These will continue to have an impact for years to come. It will be difficult to find these in the singles boxes at almost any store, so you may have to trade for them. They are still worth having, and you can probably pick up a handful for any of those rare cards you aren't currently playing.

Gemhide Sliver (more on Slivers later)
Grim Harvest
Martyr of Ash
Momentary Blink
Mystical Teachings
Rift Bolt
Rite of Flame
Rune Snag
Tendrils of Corruption
Virolent Sliver (yep, another Sliver)
Blood Knight
Calciderm
Celestial Crusader
Counterbalance
Delay
Dread Return
Harmonize
Juniper Order Druid
Knight of the Holy Nimbus
Krosen Grip
Might of Old Krossa
Might Sliver (you may be picking up on a sliver trend by now)
Mishra's Bauble
Necrotic Sliver (I promise I will talk about these more)
Paradox Haze
Perilous Research
Rebuff the Wicked
Reckless Worm
Riftwing Cloudskate
Scryb Ranger
Smallpox
Stromgald Crusader
Sudden Death
Sudden Shock
Sulfer Elemental
Sulferous Blast
Telekenetic Sliver (really, just hang in there)
Toleria West

Alright, I know that is a huge list, and I don't honestly expect everyone to get a playset of each of these. Every card on that list has impacted Standard more then was expected, and may never see print again. I intentionaly didn't list anything that was printed in 10th, or cards which I really expect to see print again. At the very least you owe it to your self to take a look (or perhaps another look) at everyone of these cards. You may wish you had them sooner then later.

And now a word on Slivers;

"YES"
Are Slivers worth adding to your collection? Yes. Slivers make a great deck concept that is easy for begginers, and offers enough potential complexity for even the most seasoned player. Will Slivers hold or increase their value? Yes. Slivers have gone through several generations, and some have even seen reprinting. These cards don't go down in value, even when reprinted. More often then not Slivers represent some of the best value growth. Simply put, any sliver you come across is worthy of your consideration. Those listed above a really are must haves.

Snow-more

With Coldsnap set to cycle out of standard, the snow based effects of the set are expected to leave Standard for all time. While it is possible that these items will see print again, it is very unlikely. These cards will continue to see casual play for many years to come, and will become prized items in some circles, simply because of their scarcity. Snow Basic Lands, Snow Dual Lands, Cold Steel Heart, Skred, Into the North, Borel Druid, Chilling Shade, Gelid Shackles, Gutless Ghoul, Thermal Flux, Thermapod, and Zombie Musher are all nice cards to have, and will fill niche decks for years.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Deck Evolution: Eventide Pt. Two

Good Day, and welcome to our on going experiment to take budget play to it's limits. Over the last few weeks we have stretched our $20 budget to it's to the extreme by attending each prerelease event and participating in open dueling. So far we have attended Lorwyn, Morningtide, and Shadowmoor. With these three event uder our belts we have amanged to assemble a pretty incredilble card pool. We have a playable card pool in all five colors, with strong utility support in each.

This week we are attending the Eventide Prerelease, and receive the U/B Life Drain deck, a randome booster pack, and the Overbearing of Myth promo card, leaving us with $5 to selectivly spend on singles. The sealed product contents are detailed below.

2 Apothecary Initiate
Archon of Justice
Divinity of Pride
Flickerwisp
Goldmeadow Moth
2 Gwellion Hedge-Mage
2 Kithkin Zealot
3 Nip Gwyllion
Resident Mentor
Restless Apparition
2 Safehold Sentry
2 Smolder Initiate
Soul Snuffers
Suture Spirit
2 Voracios Hatchling
Woeleecher
Batwing Brume
Beckon Apparition
Endure
2 Recumbant Bliss
Rite of Consumption
2 Soul Reap
2 Syphon Life
2 Unmake
14 Plains
10 Swamps
Nettle Sentinel
Unmake
Cinder Pyromancer
Monstrify
Fire at Will
Inside Out
Edge of Divinity
Antler Skulkin
Oona's Grace
Snake Form
Kithkin Zeolot
Merrow Bonegnawer
Voracious Hatchling
Spitemare
Twinblade
Rugged Praire

Now the first thing to do here is trade of our Promo Overbeing of Myth, Divinity of Pride, Archon of Justice, Rugged Praire, and our prior Rhy's the Redeemed for a grand total of $27.50 in trade value. I am going to finish out our playsets of Unmake, Voracious Hatchling, Spitemare, and Twinblade from the current set. These add strong support to our new W/B theme and our Elf theme.

Since I still have $21 in trade value I want to look back over the block for items that will enhance our collection. I select the following cards to round out our trade value.

4 Knight of the Meadowgrain
4 Wizened Cenn
2 Drove of Elves
Imperious Perfect
2 each of the white, blue, black, and red vivid lands
4 Icy Manipulator

We are now left with our last $5 to spend on average singles to added to our collection. First off I want to round out play-sets of Right of Consumption, Devoted Druid, and Quilspike. This combo is just too good to resist and adds a nice option to our deck contructions. This our remaining $2.80 I select the following cards to enhance our options.

2 Gwyllion Hedge Mage
4 Cenn's Enlistment
4 Double Cleave
3 Edge of Divinity
3 Merrow Bonegnawer
Nip Gwyllion
4 Scourge of the Nobilis
4 Dream Thief
3 Monstrify
3 Oona's Grace
4 Puncture Blast
3 Snakeform

This final card pool really excedes all my expectations. We have well over 450 cards in our collection, not including basic lands. Of these all but about 11 cards fit nicley into a reasonably strong deck concept. That is roughly 98% highly playable. We can easily play all 5 colors in either a primary or support role, and can field 4-10 deck concepts, from any of the following which I have place in order of my perceived strength;

Warriors
Elf Token
WB Life Gain
GW Untapper
GB Quilspike Combo
RW agro
Kithkin (mono white, or W/U)
Rogues
Faeries
Merfolk
Goblins

Starting today I will set up a poll asking you the readers to select the five decks that interest you the most. I will build the top contenders as of 5 oclock on Tuesday, and test them against other casual decks, and report the results next week. Thanks to everyone for their help in this ongoing project.

Friday, July 18, 2008

State of Magic:Eventide

Thank you for joining me today, and welcome to the largest Standard Environment in the history of the current Magic game. By my estimate, there is over 2300 cards currently in Standard. Ironically enough, I can't recall a time when meta game was more narrow. In recent year(s) the meta game has been defined by 3-5 top tier decks, and for nearly a year the meta has been defined by Faeries. If someone said they were not playing faeries in the last year the correct response was "why ?".

The real question to ask at this point is what impact Eventide will have on Standard, and I think the short answer is, not much. I really don't see anything in this set to 1) un-hing the current faeries build, 2)promote any other current deck concept to better compete with faeries, or 3) inspire any new build to adequately address the faeries dominance. Tribal was such a strong linear concept, and faeries was in the right place at the right time. They had the best selection of dual lands, support cards, and had no tribal color shift in Shadowmoor. This collectively gave them the largest pool of available playable cards of any deck concept currently seeing main stream play.

There really are some great cards, and many neat concepts in this set, but nothing that I really expect to challenge the place in the sun which faeries has enjoyed for so long. Most of the cards currently getting attention, seem to be Johnnie cards, and not Spike cards. I think most of our meta game is, like myself, looking forward to the Shards release this fall to finally provide some stimulus to Standard. The Spikes of the Standard environment seem to be checking out in droves, for a 3 month vacation prior to Shards.

Tune is next week for a sneak preview of the Shards concepts, and a summary of the rumors, the facts, and the theories. I may not all be right, but it is interesting. Standard needs a real shot of interesting right about now, and I think a healthy dose is coming our way.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tater's Take: Eventide

Those of you who know me are aware that I have a son whom I affectionately call Tater. I am writing this from his perspective of a younger player, and talking about the new Johnny cards of the Eventide set.

First up is Helix Pinnacle, with a rating of awesome. This card lets you use your extra man to build up to an alternate win condition, and is already inspiring the Johnny's out there to cook up decks built around the card. All you have to do is play it on turn one, then set back and dump mana into it every turn until you win, and try not to die while you are waiting. Hey it's green so mana acceleration may be an option. In a word AWESOME!

Second up, also with a rating of awesome is Waves of Aggression. This card is great, I get a second attack phase, that's two times to smash face in the same turn. I get double work out of all my "until end of turn" stuff. Usually a turn is untap, draw, stuff, pound, maybe more stuff, go. Now it's untap, draw, stuff, pound, maybe more stuff, Pound Again, stuff again, go. With any luck they are dead before they get to go. Try it you'll like it, it's what all the cool kids are doing. It's awesome!

The last card I am going to talk about today is Doomgape. This card gets a rating of awesome. Yes they all get rating of awesome, that's just how we role here at Tater's Take. It's a 10/10, and gains me life for every creature I sac to it. I swing and deal ten damage, with trample so even if they have chump blockers, I get some through to the dome. So it's 10/10 with Trample, and I get life gain. Did I mention it's a 10/10? It defines Awesome.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Big Deck Hunting: Eventide

Good day folks. Today we are going to take a crack at Eventide from the Big Deck perspective. Before we get started I wanted to touch on my recent Tooth and Nail article. I find that I like this concept so much, and get such a great effect from it that I decided to take it to the next level. Enter Defense of the Heart. Next week I promise to go into this in more detail.

Now onto the Eventide. I will leave the individual card choices to you since they will very according to your decks. Instead I will focus on the major concepts of the set. Off the top the rare dual lands are a good addition to any 5 color concept, but are weak color fixes in the broader terms of the vintage card pool. Speaking of weak, Chroma will only offer answers to very focused mono colored Highlander deck. Now Retrace has real potential for the Big Deck player, and warrants a careful look at each card.

I have to say that when I sat down to research this article, I was really surprised to find just how few retrace cards actually made it into print, twelve to be exact. A few of these have no place in a big deck but many show promise.

Mostrocity, Oona's Grace, at the common slots will make a late game land an playable option. Savage Consumption, and Syphon Life and both very playable in the uncommon slots. Rare is where things really get interesting. Spitting Image, Waves of Aggression, and Worm Harvest all have "abuse me" written in the fine print.

The addition of Crucible of Worlds makes this concept hum like a fine tuned machine. I am looking forward to putting all 7 of these cards into my deck, and I think they all warrant you consideration as well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Eventide: The Budget List

Today we are going to talk about he top 3 cards in each rarity to acquire from the budget perspective. In each case, these are the cards that are either already chase, and expected to go even higher, or the ones that are sleepers.

In commons the early stand out is Unmake. This is going to see play in Standard, and maybe post standard extended. Next up is Quillspike. Any card that enables an infinite combo at the common level is going to get a second look, and is bound to be a chase card in the near future. Last but not least is Snake form. It's removal and card draw in a nice under-cost package. This one may not go up in value, but it is going to get hard to find quick. This could easily be a first pick in pack three for many folks.

Uncommons bring more to the party, although we will not see the ridiculous uncommons of Shadowmoor. Spitemare is a house, garage, and pool in a great neighborhood, with good schools. In other words it's worth picking up. It has already become a chase item, and I don't think it is anywhere near done yet. No very rare, still pink in the middle. Look for this one to go over a dollar in a future near you. Think of Voracious Hatchling as the low mileage trade in at your local car lot. Not only does this thing have the potential to be the most efficient beat stick in the box at the uncommon level, but it is a great source of negative counters to boot. Do we know a color that likes to play with negative counter? Oh yeah, Black- 'nough said. The last pick is a toss up, and depends on what Shards has in store for us. If I'm right about Shards, then Twinblade slasher is a late addition to the Elves deck, and may not have a real glory day, making Dream Fracture the best pick in the long term. Could go either way at this point, so place your bets!

Now on to the Rares! This may be the last set that we have chase rares, but they gave us some good ones. Everyone knows the lands are good, and the prices already reflect that, we will move on. Bloom Tender has mana abuse potential all over it. If anything the problem may be what to do with all the mana, in a Standard that is not X intensive. If this card doesn't see $8-10 I will be shocked. B/W is just to much potential not to have someone break it for a really effective deck, and I'm betting that Divinity of Pride is going to be in it. When it happens (yes when, not if) this card is going to double overnight and then some. The biggest shocker of the set is Wake Thrasher. The headline reads "Blue gets an under-costed Beat Stick: Goyf unavailable for comment." Waker may not hit Goyf prices, but is will hit strong double digits, and take the wind out of Goyf's sails. If it was only in a color that was known for tapping and uptapping permanents to abusive potential...oh wait it is in Blue!

Folks if you heard it hear first- great, if not hear it again: Extended isn't even expected to wake up for another 3 months, but when the sleeping giant gets hold of these cards they are going through the roof.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Deck Evolution: Eventide Pt. One

This weekend I attended the Eventide Pre-release, and spent my time at the open dueling station. I have to say I was very impressed with the over all balance and power of all the theme decks. There really didn't seem to be a dominate deck, each was able to win against the field. The deciding factor often appeared to be which deck got off to a smooth early start. In this article I will discuss the over all strengths of each deck, and how they contribute to our existing card pool from the Lorwyn and Shadowmoor super block.

First up is my MVP deck, the B/W Life Drain. This deck ties into our Kithkin, but has a strong enough concept to be playable with no other support needed. Both the rares, several uncommons, and even a few of the commons have the potential to be chase items in the near future. This is heads and shoulders above the others from the budget player perspective.

Next up is what I believe to be the dark horse of the precons this season, the B/G Death March. Both the rares in this deck are playable, and I think the infinite combo possibilities with Quillspike will make this deck a favorite with budget players. This decks retrace functions will also couple well with the dredge mechanic of the casual or extended table.

Not surprisingly R/W Battle Blitz is our corner deck. This is a good marriage of red beat down and white weenie, but is predictable and leaves very little room for growth or creativity. Ironically it is very weak against removal heavy decks, and plays loose against the mirror.

Next up is the U/G Super Abundance deck. This deck needs some time to get going, but ties in well with our existing token generating cards. Monstrocity, and snakeform have the potential to be abused by the right deck, but I'm not sure we have the right card pool to pull it off.

Pulling up the rear is the R/U Sidestep. This deck clearly offers the least to our card pool, only weakly supported by our basic utility spells in these colors. We do have a loose tie in with the rogue theme, but is not heavily supported by this deck.

Tune is next Monday as we add one of these decks selected at random, a booster pack of Eventide Cards and the foil promo to our prior card pool to see what value and fun we can add to our experiment.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Form the Wire to the Soapbox: Eventide Pre-release

As I'm sure everyone knows by now we get first chance to play with Eventide this Saturday July 12, 2008 at the. For sneak peeks, you can check out the officially released previews on the mother-ship, and the unofficial spoiler provide by mtgs.

If you are unsure where to play this weekend, check out the pre-release event schedule. I'm an really looking forward to the event, but so far am a little unimpressed with the set itself.

Next week I'll be stealing a page from the mother-ship, and bring you our first theme week focused on Eventide. There will be articles on pre-con evolution, plus card reviews from the Pauper, Big Game, Johnnie, and Budget perspectives. The week will wrap up with an impact analysis for Standard.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Magic the Intervention: Organization

I have recently had the opportunity to see just how important it is to keep a collection like Magic the Gathering. i spent this last Saturday assisting a friend in organizing his collection. This step was long overdue, and I hope that maybe it will inspire you to get your collection organized. I had often comment that my friend did not live in a home, but in a card box. Literally everywhere you look, there was stacks of cards. We even found some the pantry.

Okay, so rather then spending this entire article ranting about what had been done wrong, please allow me to discuss best practices which I have found, and allow you to work them into your own collection.

First up, know your limit. No matter what your budget is, or how great an individual card is, there is a limit to how many copies you need. My limit is four. I don't mind cards being shared between decks, because I tend not to run similar decks that often, and I rarely run more the 2-3 decks in a given season. I don't care what you limit is, or how you establish it, but if you don't have one I guarantee you have cards that you don't even want, much less need. In my recent intervention we filtered out nearly 10,000 cards that simply weren't needed. Those extra copies really add up. We figure that those bulk unwanted cards will turn into a $50 credit to be applied towards more fun with the game.

Basic land is another important limit, and we all pile up more then we need. Make sure to keep enough to support the number of decks you normally keep built, plus some extra for newbies. If it's selling off the bulk, supporting newbies, or donating to your local stores land box, get rid of the extra.

Another important thing to think about here is the core sets. These cards are by definition reprints, and may be effected by your card limits. I don't care if you keep the oldest, newest, best art, foil, or promo copies-but stick to your limits. I keep the core sets built through extended, that's 3-4 sets at any given time. Right now I have 10th in a separate box that I keep with my Standard cards. Then I have my 9th cards which aren't in standard legal, and my 8th that aren't in either standard, or 9th. I think you get the idea. I move my older cards forward to their most recent printing, and eliminate the unwanted duplication.

Next up, have a system for storing your cards. This not only makes it easier to find what you need, but also to put things away when you are not using them. There is nothing more frustrating then having to buy cards for a deck, that you know you already have. I find that using a 2000-3000 card box for each block works really well for standard, and extended legal cards. Once a set rotates out of Extended, it finds a home in a 5000 count box with my other vintage cards. I tend to have a different limit for cards once they hit vintage, and sell a lot of rares off as they cycle out. I find that I rarely care which sets card came from, so organizing by block is normally enough separation for me, especially since legalities change as a block rather then a set. I like the white top load card boxes, because they really tend to last, and I can use them for a new set, as it's old contents cycle to Vintage. The box can easily be labeled for their contents, and label stickers can be changes as the contents change over time.

The number one best tip I can give to keep you collection organized is to use a "waiting to be filed box" What ever system you use to keep your collection organized, there are always going to be cards that have not made it into that system yet. It's important to capture those cards, and process them into the system for time to time. Busting packs, altering decks, buying singles, and bring new cards. I drop all these cards into one single box, and file them out about once a month. My box is a single 500 count box, which is perfect for me because I don't bust many packs, and I keep a low deck count that doesn't change often.

I hope this helps you to avoid the problems that many of us CCG'ers have, or to dig you way out if you have found yourself living in a card box.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Big Game Hunting: Tooth and Nail

Many of you out there may have recently become acquainted with my Deck of Many Things. I have wanted to write an article detailing the card choices in the deck, but have found it to be to large a task for one shot. Over the next few weeks, I intend to put out several articles discussing utility cards in the deck, and using them to discuss the contents of the deck in broader terms. One other the key functions of any deck this size is being able to search out particular answers for the current game state. This allows you to balance the power of the table, or allow you to take an advantage.

Tooth and Nail is beyond question one of the most powerful creature search tools available to any Magic Arsenal. For an entwined 9 mana this spell allows you to search out any 2 creatures, and put them directly into play. This can be used for any two creatures in the deck, but for today, I am only going to talk about those with a converted casting cost of 5 or greater, since they make the best use of our invested 9 mana.

First up I'll quickly cover the 2 weakest options of Kavu Climber, and it's delayed card draw, and Angel of Mercy's life gain. The DoMT also supports several great utility options. Magus of the Jar works both as card draw for me and a virtual mill for my opponents. Thorn Elemantal allows me to get past silly chump blockers. Platinum Angel make sit impossible to lose until your opponent deals with it. Stonehewer Giant adds an additional search option to the board, and will be talked about at length in it's own time.

The most obvious options are creatures with on-board direct damage. Razormane Masticore, turns any dead card in hand into a lightening bolt each upkeep. Silklash spider can spin up a Hurricane effect at instant speed. Crimson Hellkite can spit up a red mana fireball targeting a creature at instant speed. Scourge of Kher Ridge wings around with 2 for ground pounding, and 6 for other flyers. Bothe these functions are at instant speed, and repeatable. I recently had the pleasure of giving this guy life link, it was broken. Bogarian Hellkite is simply 5 points of removal on a stick. Make that a flying stick, a flying stick that can come down at instant speed when it's hardcast. Last up in this category is Arc-Slogger, and it's pockets full of shocks, while filling the graveyard with goodies. This little beast will also have it's own day in the sun, to highlight it more fully.

Vesuvan Doppleganger, and Vesuvan Shapeshifter each allow me to copy a creature in play, and to upgrade to a new creature later in the game as my needs change. These also allow me the option of taking out a Legendary creature, but at a significant cost to my own board position.

Speaking of legends, there are several good options for Tooth and Nail;

Oros, the Avenger- with it's pro white board sweeping functions.
Intet, the Dreamer-with a better then card draw option
Kaervek, the Merciless punishes my opponents for playing the game.
Sol'knar the Swamp King is a substantial swampwalker, and potential life gain.
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir gives my creatures flash, and removes instants from my opponents arsenal, forcing them to play almost entirely in their own turn.

These creatures are all good options, but all play second fiddle to my Tooth and Nail creatures of choice. Reya Dawnbringer is and MVP for her ability to recycle creatures from my graveyard. Bringer of the Blue Dawn not only has an impressive 5/5 body, and the Trample to make it count but brings with him an unbelievable card draw advantage.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

At the End of the Day: Statistical Failure

Once upon a time there were two friends passing an evening playing pack wars. If you don't know pack wars is a Magic variation that takes 3 of each basic land and shuffle sit into a newly opened pack of Magic cards. That is 15 basic lands, and 15 other cards. In this particular game I had pile shuffled twice followed by a bridge shuffle, and a cut from my opponent.

I then preceded to draw all land for my opening hand, confident that my next few cards would be gas, I kept the hand, and my opponent played first. I drew a land, and passed turn. I then proceeded to draw every land card, all 15 over my next few turns, before I finally drew any kind of real spell.

Just for S&G's I figured up the odds of this happening at approximately 155.1 million to one. Failure of epic proportions.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Deck Evolution: Shadowmoor Turnabout

Over the last couple of weeks we began what will continue to be a series of article centered around the concept of pre-con decks, and evolving them through out the block. For the basic concepts, and the beginning of the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Super block, please read last weeks post. So far we have taken our $20 budget and attended the Lorwyn, and Morningtide Pre-release events, and ended up with a very playable collection of cards. We have a very good green/red deck option with a good contingent of white for second decks, or color combination options. We have a splashable black option, and very little blue. I was a little concerned with our collection with such week offerings in both black and blue. This could make 3 of the 5 deck options for Shadowmoor less then ideal for our collection. This week we will take our $20 an attend the Shadowmoor pre-release, and see what we fun and value can be had for our minimal investment.

In this case we win the virtual lottery, and receive the Turnabout (G/W) deck. Not only does this support our strongest color and complement a solid second color in our collection, but it has the most solid card pool of any of the pre-con decks from this set. The Demigod of Revenge promo card from the event is another solid addition. The deck contents, plus our randomly generated booster pack are listed below.


Sapseep Forest
Barrenton Medic
2 devoted Druid
2 Drove of Elves
Elvish Hex hunter
2 Old Ghastbark
2 Pale Wayfarer
2 Pili-Pala
Resplendent Mentor
Rhys the Redeemed
2 Safehold Duo
3 Safehold Sentry
Seedcradle Witch
Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers
Wilt-Leaf Liege
Barkshell Blessing
Dawnglow Infusion
2 Gleeful Sabotage
Gloomwidow's Feast
2 Mercy Killing
3 Presence of Gond
Reveling Horn
Shield of the Oversoul
Toil of Renown
Umbral Mantle
11 Forests
12 Plains
Foxfire Oak
Blazethorn Scarecrow
Paraphet Watchers
Thornwatch Scarecrow
Nurturer Initiate
Rite of Consumption
Briarberry Cohort
Zealous Guardian
Elsewhere Flask
Splitting Headache
Steel of the Godhead
Tower Above
Kitchen Finks
Firespout
Deus of Calamity

As always the first thing to do is examine our new card pool and decide what to put up for trade, and what to try and acquire with our trade value. The Wilt-leaf Liege, Demigod of Revenge promo, Dues of Calamity, along with our prior Rhy's the Exiled, and promo Wren's Run Packmaster gives us an unmatched $31 in trade value to work with. My first priority is to finish our play-sets of Kitchen Finks, Firespout, and Wilt-leak Liege. These are each incredible cards that bring not only value to our collection but complement our strongest color combinations with real utility strengths. It is widely believed that Eventide will complement Shadowmoor with the "enemy" color combinations. We were very luck so far having 2 week colors, but Eventides expected combinations will make 4 out of the 5 decks weak options for our collects presenting some combination of either black or blue. We have to take this opportunity to address this weakness in our collection.

For this reason I opt to pick up the following cards, heavy in blue and black with a focus on strong utility cards worthy of splashing, rather then focusing on particular deck strategy;

4 Mulldrifter
4 Oblivian Ring
4 Ponder
4 Makeshift Manequin
4 Terror
3 Shield of the Oversoul

Now with my remaining $5 I will look to the common box to further strengthen my weak colors, and pickup some generic utility and mana fixing. Be sure to pick up enough Islands, and Swamps to play with, because these additions make them both easy splashes, or playable color in their own right.

4 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Chainbreaker
4 Scuttlemutt
4 Shimmering Gratto
4 Amoeboid Changeling
3 Aphotic Wisps
4 Ashenmoor Cohort
3 Briarberry Cohort
4 Cancell
3 Drowner Initiate
2 Eyeblights Ending
4 Faerie Macabre
3 Face Vaulter
3 Festering Goblin
4 Frogtosser Banneret
3 Gravedigger
3 Ink Dissolver
3 Latchkey Faerie
3 Merfolk Looter
3 Merrow Witsniper
4 Mothdust Changeling
4 Nameless Inversion
4 Pestermite
4 Prickley Boggart
3 Scarsdale Ritual
4 Silkbind Faeries
2 Smolder Initiate
4 Spell Stutter Sprite
3 Weed-prunner Poplar

We now have a incredibly strong collection which is playable in all five color, and support 3-8 decks. Our greatest strength is clearly in green, but with strong support and utility available in every other color, and adequate mana fixing to make any splash or two color combination feasible. We have a collection of cards in excess of 350 cards not including basic lands, and only about 17 cards are marginal, and do not fit directly in to a strong deck option;

Elf Token
Warriors
Faeries
Merfolk
Goblins
Rogues
GW untappers
Kithkin

Our new precon creates a lot of over lap with our existing Elves, and Warriors builds which can easily be adapted to either include white, or replace red in the mix. Depending on your local game, and the decks that you face a number of quality card mixes exist. I honestly believe that our G/R Warriors build is our strongest option, but we should consider finding spots for the following new cards in our collection.

Devoted Druid
Drove of Elves
Elvish Hexhunter
Old Ghastbark
Safehold Duo
Seedcradle Witch
Wilt-leaf Cavaliers
Presence of Gond
Shield of the Oversoul

Join me next week, when we will take our $20 budget an attend the Eventide pre-release, and see what new fun and value the next expansion will include. Many of you may have missed the release of the Eventide Pre-con contents, and the promo cards is widely believed to be Figure of Destiny.

Friday, July 4, 2008

From the Wire to the Soapbox: Changes to Pre/Release Events

co-written by
Jeff Darran (Phfantom on Scifi Genre and jcdarran@gmail.com ) and
the_magi


Wizards made another recent announcement regarding changes to the pre/release schedule, which has caused a lot of discussion. If you have not read the announcement, you may wish to do so prior to continuing this article. Wizards has opened the field to a broader range of organizers to run events for thesepre/release times, and has narrowed the time frame between pre-release and release event from two weeks to one week. One of the regions highest level organizers, James Bailey of shuffleupevents.com, has taken the time to organize his thoughts and conerns on this issue. The following article is written in a dueling banjos style of point, counter-point by myself, and with Jeff presenting the opposing opinion. We have had numerous board,IM , and telephone conversations here, and have compiled and recreated the spirit of those discussions in order to present a fair and balance perspective on a subject that will have major impact on the community. We invite you to hear both sides with an open mind, and form your own opinion.


the_magi and Jeff Darran


I think this is a change has a great promise, but that only time will tell if that promise is kept. It is important to remember that this is an effort to expand the community, not for it to compete would each other. I love the idea of more people able to run the traditionally big events. I would love to see a "regional" level organizer running an event on Saturday, with a "local" level organizer running an event the next day. I think the bottom line for organizers here is not to try and compete head-2-head. The idea here is to diversify the offerings of the events. Not to run 15 mirrored tournaments at the same time all over the region.

I actually agree with part of what Phil said, about the local pre-releases being on Sunday, but only to an extent. I wouldn't be able to if the Release is 6 days away. Let's look at a typical pre-release. I attended the Morningtide Pre-release in January 2008, in Durham, NC. I got there at 835am, and discovered when i registered, that Flight 1 was already full, and I was one of the last people that signed up for Flight #2. GREAT! 8:35am, and we are already on Flight #3! That means at this point that there are already 64+ people here. Over the course of the day people left and new people came in. They wound up running 10 flights that day. I played in 2 of them. I also did 2 booster drafts that day. I'm not going to get that at apre -release at my local store. The Release at my local store has generated between 16 and 40 people in the past 5 I went to ( I was out of the game for a period of time, got back in shortly after Time Spiral hit) which is great. The problem is that those 40 people play for 4 hours, and are then ready to move on. Not all, but some. Enough that I won't get to play a second tournament at a local store. I get 1 round, like it or not.


There are those that are going to want to attend the big event, because its the big event, regardless of what the local store is doing. Local stores are going to have to decide to compete with the big boys, or not but at least there is a decision to be made know. There is also a group of players that will attend at the store level, and never even thought about attending a big event. These are the players that are added to the equation, and where the local events can added to the community. The smart organizers are going to find ways to "step it up" by finding a niche. Simply offering more prize support is very short sided, because somebody is always going to be able to trump you. The kind of steps I would be thinking about is offering different events, and bring other factors to the table. Artists and celebrities have been making appearances at events for years, and contributing to larger attendance all the while. Creative people will find creative answers to problems. It's called marketing. I know I often travel for events that feature artists, there really is no limit to the incentives that could be offered for attendance to a particular event.

I am not opposed to "change" as long as its change for the better. I don't believe that all of this is change for the better. I support the local stores, as I realize its not conducive to have a large tournament every month. I would be happy to have more 16k type tournaments at the local level. However, this is not the change Wizards is making. Wizards is reducing the major tournaments and reducing the number of paths to get to the ones that still exist. I go play inPTQ's a lot. They are great and I get more practice and better at the game. Am I a Pro Tour player? Not by any stretch of the imagination....... YET. Would I like to be at that level, HELL YES. How do you get to that level? Honestly, by getting your feet wet, and playing at the Major level tournaments. You don't know what to expect unless you've been to one. That said, you should have some idea of how your deck works before you take it to a big tournament. Do all of you know that Wizards has cut out States from the line of Tournaments this year? States didn't offer huge prizes like aPTQ did, it was geared towards the more casual crowd. Is there such a thing as a casual big tournament? Yes, there is, its called STATES. But its gone now. Wizards is cutting out the tournaments that the casual folks play. Granted there were 180 people at States, but with nothing related to a Pro Tour at stake, people came and played for bragging rights as well as booster boxes.

Wizards is making changes that will wind up hurting the game. For example, the Pre-release is now 6 days before the official Release date. This is a change that hurts EVERYONE. I will acknowledge that the economy is in a slump, that not everyone has a crap-ton of spending cash. I will acknowledge that i do tend to spend a decent amount at thePre -releases, however, with the 13 days in between, i can pull that from one paycheck, and spend on my booster box and Release tourney with the other paycheck. I plan this out 2 months in advance. If the events are only 6 days apart now, I have to choose between thePre -release weekend of madness, and supporting my local retailer with a booster box and Release tournament. I don't know which i will choose.


I totally agree with the issues raised on the timing of the events. Putting these two existing events, and potentially more events closer together is a mistake for Wizards. I can only hope that they realize this fairly quickly, so that it can be corrected before it does to much damage. As a budget player myself, I have no doubt that this will effect many of the very players that Wizards is trying to target.

We also need to keep in mind that Wizards has not released all the information regarding the play network. There is a lot of speculation that Wizards is going to offer different levels and forms of support for each of the organizer levels. There has been concern that players won't travel to events, if they can simply attend a local event. I bet they would if they got a different promo card at that event. What if higher level organizers had other official prizes? There is a lot of possibilities here.

When ever Wizards and DCI make a change folks come out of the wood work to explain how it spells the doom for the game. This is still the longest runningTCG in the industry, and Wizards/DCI has made mistakes in the past that didn't destroy it. Change can be a good think, and good organizers and good communities will find a way to thrive in the new environment. Frankly, any "big event" organizer that can't find a way to compete with Mom&Pop size stores, and grassroots organizers, may not be as big as they think they are. I'm not saying this about James and company. I have had very little personal contact with their events, but have always had good experience, and always heard good things about their events and staff. I simply refuse to believe that organizations like these are going to be toppled by little folks like me, or the ripples of scheduling. Many people with in the community, who are have been comfortable for years in what, how, when and why they do things are now watching the landscape shift around them. They may be forced to compete with the new surroundings, and like everyone, they are scared of the unknown.

Phil pointed out that he "...simply refuses to believe that organizations like these are going to be toppled by little folks like me." He's right. The Tournament Organizers aren't going to be toppled by little folks like any of us. They will get toppled by Wizards, who has managed to form an angry mob. Lets say you go to aPre-release at a local store. Let's say that in the RDU area, all 4 of the major stores get the Pre -release Tournament go ahead from Wizards. Are the 4 stores going to work together to not overlap who starts when so as not to be in direct competition. A game needs 8 people to beDCI sanctioned. What happens when only 7 show up. They don't get to play? If the stores do work together and stagger them all over the time frames, so as not to be in direct competition, what happens when 3 people show up at the last of the stores. Conversely, what happens if 100 people show up? At this point every storethats going to run a tournament has to have enough product on hand so that everyone can play. But how do they know how much thats going to be. No one is made of money, they can't afford to order 5 cases of tournament packs and 5 booster boxes to supply 60 people. Lets look at another part of this situation. Why is it that Wizards moved thePre-release and Release date so close for the future? Perhaps its a lack of control issue.&nbsp ; With the big tournament organizers, they can project how many will show up, and they get product accordingly (including extra for growth of the events, and to not run out). At the end of the event they send all the unused product back. If Wizards is going to start providing to each and every store at the local level who is holding an event, they no longer have the promise that they will get the leftover product back. There will be retailers (not in our area) that won't send the excess product back, they will start selling it. I would wager this is why the shortness between events. Its so that they can control the release of cards into the community better. I am not saying that the retailers in our area would do this. BUT there will be some that will.



In the end this promise will be kept or broken, not by the DCI, or Wizards, but by the community. A far better man then I once made note, that "Bravery is not the absence of fear, but the actions you take in spite of the fear". In every example of evolution you can see that those that adapt to change, not only survive, but flourish. If we stand together as a community, pool our resources, and explore our newly expanded option together, we can ultimately grow our community. Each member of this community will make these decisions for themselves, but will be impacted by the decisions of those around them. Do we hesitate due to fear, or do we press on despite it? Do we stand together, or quibble over fiefdoms? Do we evolve or wait for extinction? I have made my choice, and in this vein I conclude this article with a modest proposal.


To every event organizer with in the sound of voice, and view of my written word. From the smallest newest budding organizers like myself, to the biggest regional organizers like James, and every store in between, I say simply, lets pool our resources. Instead of running separate events, lets run the single biggest best damn event the south east has ever seen. Lets bring it all together (or multiple locations as needed), and set the new standard for events like this for the entire Magic universe. The Carolina region has a broad enough community to really make this work, in a way Wizards probably hasn't even dreamed of. Grassroots newbie scrubs like myself are perfect for running event segments like open dueling, and other low impact activities. We have a working knowledge of the game, and if we screw up a ruling, there is limited impact. We could do this on a volunteer basis, gaining valuable contacts and experience, and freeing up the judge resources for higher impact activities. Store organizers could handle things like the side events, from booster drafts, two-headed-giant, and side constructed events of all sorts. The typical 8-man pod for this kind of event is just the speed (or smaller) then what they are used to. They have the knowledge, experience, and resources to make this event segment work, again freeing up the limited Judge resources for more crucial activities. Both of these game segments can be run from beginning to end by separate organizers, sharing costs, responsibilities and work load. Both of these examples give invaluable experience to a wide range of folks, and seeds the ground for future potential rules advisers, and judge applicants. Lets not forget, that in addition to more judge power for the main event, this will increase the crowds for our little endeavor, since they will not be lined up at different locations all over the immediate area. We can bring them in for one event, and keep them there with a broad, and deep offering of events from dawn to dusk. Now I realize that this is a completely different concept from any event I have ever seen offered in the magic community, but it has the potential to redefine what we mean by "big event". It is going to takeun-matched organization, communication, and cooperation to make this work. We have the resources, but are we willing to try?


I disagree here to a point, but only part of the point. I don't like the comparison of this situation to fear or bravery. I like his idea, I think its a great idea on paper. The problem with this is that this is what is already happening at a pre-release. I am not trying to be negative, but how does the judging staff become less burdened? Tournament organizers aren't judges, they hire the judges. I also ask on your idea, what are the local stores in this sense bringing to the table? Volunteer work to organize something that still has to run through the computer by James and his staff? Are the locals helping with the costs of the events. Do you have any idea how expensive these venues are? There is a lot that goes into these events. Wizards has not put any thoughts into this set of decisions. Back to the beginning point. At the typicalPre -release tournament, I get the options of open dueling, flights, and 2 headed giant right from the beginning. booster drafts start at 2-4pm depending on demand. and when people have gone up and asked about it, that's generally when they will take names and start running them. These events are already staffed and while the judging resources are slim, maybe they would like one or 2 more, but there is still great judging, and i have never had to wait more than a minute or 90 seconds for one to appear after i yell judge and raise my arm. Part of the "crucial activities" that Phil refers to is running the side events. Again, the idea looks tempting on paper, but there are still big questions. What do the smaller retailers bring to the table in this plan? I don't see this bringing in more players. I see fewer showing up due to costs. Sadly costs are going to be a killing instrument in this equation. That means fewer whole dollars to pay for a venue. Fewer dollars to pay for the judges. Fewer dollars to pay for everything. In conclusion, I just don't see this change being anywhere remotely close to good.

Like I said earlier, there are many questions to be addressed. I hope we can bring the interested parties together to explore the answers. I think this is feasible if everyone is willing to work together. We can share the overall costs, responsibilities and hopefully create larger rewards together, then multiple single efforts could generate. If you are interested in joining a round table discussion to explore this issue, please email me at

the_magi@aegisholdings.com

Thank you all for taking the time to read our thoughts on this important issue to our Magic Community. Now that you have explored the many sides to the issues, I hope you have a better understanding of the key issues, and have formed your own opinions about how you can best deal with the coming changes. Please feel free to post your comments.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Road Warrior in Roanoke

Submited by J Darran.

Last week, Shoebox called me "hardcore." I had been to my 4th major tournament in 3 weekends. Not letting up on the pace at all, this past weekend found me at both the PTQ-Berlin event on Saturday in Roanoke, VA, and the Sunday event that was being held for Richie Proffitt. Both events were good for me as I learned alot about myself that weekend. I will share my experiences from the weekend as i usually do. Then i will share what I learned.


Saturday.
Kithkinweave decided it was going to go sit in the corner and poop itself (thanks Crispy, i love that description). I faced 4 different decks in the six rounds I played. Yea, I don't normally drop from anything, but I had my reasons. Round 1 I got paired against Barkshell Blessing deck. I actually did very well against him and won round one. I think i swept him, but i don't remember, and i can't find my notes. Round 2 I drew Peter Ackley, one of our occasional FNM players here at Sci-Fi. in a very hard fought battle, kithkinweave lost its first match ever against faeries. Peter played exceptionally well, and my deck shot itself in the foot. I don't think I actually made any play errors against Peter. I know i did later tho. Round 3 I drew Quick n Toast, and it was quick and I was toast. Round 4 was another faeries matchup. I was anxious to prove to myself that my loss to Peter was just an anomaly. Nope, I win game one, but lose two and three. I'm upset now, and at 1-3 ready to drop. However Justin has won, and is playing the next round, so I stay in. Round 5 brings another Barkshell deck, and I handle it 2-1, however we have gone to time, and I don't know that Justin has lost again and has dropped, and I wind up staying in for the next round. Round 6 brings the mirror. He wins game 1. He scooped in game 2 even tho I think he could have recovered and won. Game 3, I can't find my deck. Where is my deck. OH there it is, in the corner, sucking its thumb. I go 2-4, dropping, and hoping to preserve my constructed rating. I looked earlier, I dropped 39 points, back down to 1682.

Sunday.
Sunday is the Richie Proffitt Memorial Tournament. Evan Erwin is there taping and doing his thing for the webcast he does. I got to meet and talk to him too. He is a really nice guy. During the intro to the tourney, and the announcement that we have raised $8,200 to help his family, Evan proposes making it an annual event, and donating the proceeds to the American Diabetes Association, to help find a cure. Diabetes is what got Richie (PolarBearGod on most magic related forums) and Evan would like to fund research for a cure, with the Magic Community. As a Magic player with Diabetes, I am all in favor of this endeavor. On to the tourney. Today I'm playing Flame Broiled (aka red deck burns). Round 1 I drew the Fae. I narrowly escape death, only to find out that we both let game state fall out in game one, which would have had me winning the game. Apparently, when you Mistbind Clique your Bitterblossom at 1 life, the Loss of life still goes on the stack (who knew?) and he wound up winning that game. But I got him on the next 2 to win 2-1. Round 2 i faced Wyt, another familiar face from Sci-Fi. He destroyed me with a very well built 5 color Revillark deck. Round 3 I fought against merfolk and won, making me 2-1. Round 4 round 5 and round 6 were faeries. I lost 1 and won 2 (rounds 5 & 6) to put myself at 4-2. This is the point where the heat in the star city games center really started taking its toll. It's 85 degrees inside. My shirt is sticking to me, and its actually getting a little harder to breathe. Round 7 I drew Red green mana ramp, and despite getting him down low in life I can't pull off the victory. Round 8 my opponent sits down accross from me, complaining about facing red decks, cause he is 0-2 against them. I give him his first win against red. I got swept, but to add insult to injury, I managed to get him to 1 both games. I just can't finish the deal. I can't draw a damn burn spell to save myself. He was playing Merfolk, as was my Round 9 opponent. By Round 9 I was so tired and exhausted, I was making BAD play mistakes. One I'm bound and determined to become famous for. Turn the creatures sideways. All I had to do in game 2 for the damn win, was turn my creature sideways. I didn't and he topdecked a forge tender (pro red). My deck topdecks...... (all I need is one of 15 burn spells in the damn deck) ......... a mountain. YAY MOUNTAIN!

So, What I've learned is this. In Major Tournaments where the temperature is above 73 degrees, I am made of fail. Specifically I am 2-4-1, 2-4, and 4-5. In events where it is cooler than 73, I am 4-3-2 (limited) and 5-3-1. I have also learned that after 2 straight days of Magic, in the heat, I am fairly exhausted. I drive home and sleep alot.

That is it for a while for major Tourneys, as the next one for me looks like August 30th, but I'm sure that silly Magi will have me writing more soon!
Till next time I leave you with the following JohnnyK advice - "When building a deck, its either a creature, or it kills creatures. Take the creatures and turn them sideways. That's how you win!" Well put JK.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Pauper Perspetive: Bridging to Extended

One of the interesting things happening recently in our Casual Game, is the developing interest in older cards. Both the developing highlander, and blossoming 5-Color decks have spurred an interest in Vintage Cards. While there are those flinging a lot of high dollars cards, and power pieces, it really isn't necessary to spend large dollars on single cards to increase the scope and power of your collection. Many of the best cards are commons, and to learn about commons and combinations of theme you have only to turn to Pauper, or Peasant Magic.

For those of you who don't know Pauper is an alternative deck construction limit. You must build decks of at least 60 cards and follow the normal 4 copy. In addition you deck must be constructed of commons, but allows for 5 uncommons. That's right, no rares! These people get very creative, and work out the power of often over looked cards.

I have talked several times about introducing the extended card concepts to our group with use of the Pauper restrictions, so everyone could compete on a fairly level ground. Give people a chance to get their feet wet with the deck concepts, without the need to invest heavily in expensive rare basis which exist for many of the popular extended decks.

In the hopes that this may catch on, and to support the communities interest in older cards, I am linking to several Pauper inspired resources for the Extended legal sets of Ravnica block, Kamigawa block, and Mirrodin block. These articles will give you and idea about many of the best commons from each block.

The MVP common of the Ravnica block would be Guardian of the Guildpact. It's protection from mono-colored makes it a house blocker, virtually un-blockable attacker, and extremely resistant to removal. When combined with the even older Armadillo Cloak, it simply wins games.

Mirodin brought us a number of cards of notice. The artifact lands are worth picking up along with the Land Affinity Golems (Dross, Oxidda, Razor, Spire, and Tangle). The Darksteel indestructible items like the Ingot, and Pendant are also heavy contenders which will see play for years in the casual world. Likewise the Arcbound creatures are all worth considering in any artifact creature heavy build. If I had to pick one common from this block to pick up, it would be Trinket Mage. It's repeatable comes into play fetch ability makes your deck that much smaller, while bringing some of the best artifacts available out.

Kamigawa block has a similar problem in choosing an MVP, but for the opposite reason. Instead of there being a wealth of highly playable commons like Mirodin, there are no huge stand outs in this block. The three leading contenders from the block are Kodama's Reach, Sakura-Tribe Elder, and Ninja of the Deep Hours. Each is playable, but easily replaceable by other cards having similar functions.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Eventide on the Horizon

Eventide will be with us shortly, and half the set has already been leaked. There are a number of cards to keep and eye. One of the best spoilers is maintained by mtgsalvation.

I am really surprised that Death Rattle and Thornweald Archer are not included. Puncture bolt has the making of being the best direct damage, creature removal printed in recent history. I think this may rival Lightningbolt, but only time will tell.

Tilling Treefolk will be a hot limited pick to partner with the new retrace mechanic;
Retrace (You may play this card from your graveyard by discarding a land card in addition to paying its other costs.) Retrace has the potential for breaking, but he chroma mechanic looks to be very week, and narrow. It may provide some narrow sideboard options for future standard.

Cauldron's Haze, and it's instant persist has the making of a chase uncommon, as a combo with either Wraith of God, or Damnation for instant board advantage. Instant speed also makes it a great answer for Firespout.

Nip Gwyllion is similar to Mourning Thrull, but without the flying will not have the same impact. Edge of Divinity has the potential to replace Un/Holy Strength as a core set addition. It really is not clear if hybrid's will make it to core set, but it looks like a solid attempt to print a 2-4-1 replacement to long time core staples.

The rare lands are going to be worth getting in any color combination which you play, but everyone sorta saw this coming, and I expect the best ones were printed in Shadowmoor.

So far the common scarecrows are an utter disappointment, and the other artifacts of the set are not expected to be much better. You expect the hybrids to be a little underpowered in order to balance cost for their added versatility, but the real surprise is a lack of solid mono-colored spells. This set looks kinda week so far, but there is still hope for the later half of the cards.

I find myself more interested in Shards of Alara then I am Eventide.