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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Repack Walk Through- Week 12 A Word from Maro

This week Mark Rosewater presented a design article addressing the impact of design on the draft environment. In addition to my normal weekly exercise, I will be discussing some of Maro's points from the Repack Draft Perspective.


Layering
...To understand layering let's begin by talking about a new axis, the number of concepts in a set. On one end of the axis is one idea. (It can't be zero as a set has to have at least one idea in it.) A set on this end of the spectrum has every card dedicated to this idea. On the other end of the spectrum is a set where every card is about a separate idea. Neither end of the spectrum makes for very good Magic.

To understand why, let's look through each extreme through the eyes of drafting. ... The second extreme creates a draft where there are no inherent strategies. The set has no identity or cohesion and, as such, there are no through-lines to draft. No cards change value based upon deck types, and the draft boils down to taking the best cards, all of which are basically the same to each player. This extreme also creates a draft environment without legs that players stop drafting after a short time.

I'm sorry Mark, but I think you have it wrong here. The second extreme described, is exactly what repack strives for. Its this lack of layered design that allows Repack to present an unpredictable, fresh, and fun draft pool every time. Certain design space exists almost universally through out Magic. Aggro and Control for instance are present in every period of Magic, and nearly every card printed can be applied towards one of these two strategies. In greater depth strategies like Overrun, Rock, Ramp, and Mill can show up with surprising consistency. The idea that cards don't change in value is absolutely wrong. The value of any given card is defined, not only by the deck constructed by a player, but also by all the other decks in construction with in the pool. Many of these core decisions are a product of Branching decisions as discussed later in the article. These will create values with out layering.


Linear Themes vs. "Build Around Me's"
...Linear themes...are themes that strongly encourage players to put certain cards with other specific cards... An important part of making a fun draft experience is giving people through-lines to draft. While linear themes are not the only way to do this, they are the ones that players grab onto the quickest... The most common card designed for draft is what I call a "build around me." These cards usually go in uncommon and their role is to create a draft deck. The idea is that if players draft this early, they will be set up to draft around it. Decks built around these cards won't happen often, but when they do they allow players to explore completely different facets of the set.

Players don't need to be feed prepackaged linear design strategies like Boros, Merfolk, Slivers, Esper, and Landfall. I find that I get tired of a particular draft set very quickly, often after as few as 2-3 experiences. I get tired of playing the same linear design every time, and facing the same few deck archetypes supported by the design space. Repack is able to create a fresh environment more consistently. A player is unlikely to force a base concept consistently, due to table drafting forces pushing him different cards. Secondly, even if a player does play "Big Green" every time, the decks will be significantly different due to the vastly wider card potential. The BG player has more fun, seeing if they can make the base concept work with radically different creatures each time, and opponents don't get killed by Craw Wurm every time!
________________________________________

We Now return to our normally scheduled Repack discussion. Each week I crack a repack, and do a walk through of the contents. I've seen these sort of draft walk through done a lot of different ways, but in my mind, there is one critical question to ask about every card. Should this wheel and why? I use a three point system to analyze a pack  In a "normal" pack, there should be 5 cards of each grade in them.



1) Shouldn't Wheel- these are the best cards in the pack, and should be scooped up before the pack comes back around. Your first pick should almost always come from this group, since odds are you shouldn't see any of them again. If one of these does come back around, and it still fits your developing plan, it's almost a sure thing to pick up on the wheel. One of these coming around may also indicate an open color, or deck strategy, and always worth giving a little thought to.

2) May Wheel-I put these at a 50/50 to wheel. your second pick in the pack will usually come from this group, since the #1 in the pack should already be gone. This group will tell you more about the other decks forming at the table then any other source of information. When the pack wheels around to you in pick nine, there should only be two cards from his group left, picks 9 and 10. The three that are already gone tell you a lot about the "best decks" being built by players 6, 7, and 8. Like wise the card you don't pick, will give you a clue to the "best deck" to be built by the player in position 2. This for all intensive purposes gives you a peek at 4 other decks being constructed. Counting your own deck, this gives you some degree of contrived knowledge about 5 out of 8 decks. If you do this type of thinking for all three packs int he draft, in addition to having perfect knowledge of your deck, you have had 3 peeks at 2 decks (positions 2, and 8), 2 peeks at 2 decks (positions 6, and 7), and one peek at 2 additional decks (positions 3, and 4). It's not a perfect world, and certainly as much art as science, but that is a lot of potential information. Since Repack is main deck mod, you should have a good idea of what you may face against nearly any other player at the table.

3) Should Wheel- This is the crap of the crap. If it wheels, it's exactly what I expected, and increases the likeliness of the predictions made from group 2. If it doesn't it makes things a bit more interesting. In essence it tells me that one or more persons isn't building their "best deck" instead making sub-optimal picks. In this case you are much more likely to have four "bester" decks, those that benefited from better then expected late picks, and then four "worster" decks, those making bad picks, or getting the shaft as others jump on cards expected for their "best" deck.
Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper 2
Simic Basilisk 2
Animate Artifact 3
Overwhelm 2
Armor of Thorns 1
Minitaur Tactician 3
Flight 2
Mystic Visionary 2
Reins of the Vinesteed 3
Brainspoils 1
Stone-Seeder Hierophant 2
Kithkin Greatheart 2
Glorious Charge1
Elvish Visionary 1
Devine Verdict 1

Wow, what this pack lacks in color diversity, it makes up for in mid-range power, a massive 7 level 2 cards, and only 3 lowest tier cards, all of which exceed expectations in the right deck. My first pick here would be Glorious Charge. Combat trick, and alpha striker in one, It easily supports any creature based strategy, but is easy to splash into a variety of X/w options which may present itself later.

Friday, March 19, 2010

History of Magic Formats: Moving towards the Next Step

Periodically, this great game of ours finds itself in a position which requires a change. With Wizards recently announced back peddle to more stringently enforce the Reserved list, I believe the game finds itself at the precipice of just such a change.

Brief History of Magic Formats:
  • 1993 (290 cards) Magic debut with Alpha
  • late 1994 (1 year, 9 sets, 985 cards) Magic deck construction rules are formalized and Standardized by the Duelist Convocation, giving birth to what would later be called type 1.
  • late 1995 (2 years, 14 sets, 1,446 cards) Magic deck construction rules were officially split into 2 separate formats, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 2 was later called Standard, Type 1 Eternal. (Type 1.5 was also used to signify a format with which the type 1 restricted list was instead banned)
  • late 1996 (3 years, 16 sets, 1,903 cards) Extended was created as a format. Standard had a rotation of approximately 1 year, Extended 2 years.
  • 2002 (~8 years, ~45 sets, 6,056 cards) Standard and Extended rotations changed to a convoluted system ~2/6 years in each format.
  • 2004 (~11 years, ~55 sets 7,364 cards) Eternal were officially split Type 1 becoming Vintage, Type 1.5 becoming Legacy.
  • 2008 (~15 years, ~75 sets, 10,028 cards) Standard and Extended rotations changed to a simpler 2/7 year system.
So here we are in 2010 with an expected ~92 major releases and approaching 12,000 cards by the end of the year. As you can see, as the game continues to grow, the DCI create new plateau formats to allow players to compete on level ground. I expect that some time between now and the end of 2012, the DCI will create a new Eternal format in order to address Reserve List cards. This new format will most likely inherit the Legacy banned list, and add all the cards on the reserved list. Alternatively, this format could simply ban all cards from Urza Block and older sets.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Repack Walk Through- Week 11

Sorry folks, I missed last week. it was just crazy and something had to give. So here we are in Week Eleven, and lets see what the pack gods brought us.Each week I crack a repack, and do a walk through of the contents. I've seen these sort of draft walk through done a lot of different ways, but in my mind, there is one critical question to ask about every card. Should this wheel and why? I use a three point system to analyze a pack  In a "normal" pack, there should be 5 cards of each grade in them.


1) Shouldn't Wheel- these are the best cards in the pack, and should be scooped up before the pack comes back around. Your first pick should almost always come from this group, since odds are you shouldn't see any of them again. If one of these does come back around, and it still fits your developing plan, it's almost a sure thing to pick up on the wheel. One of these coming around may also indicate an open color, or deck strategy, and always worth giving a little thought to.

2) May Wheel-I put these at a 50/50 to wheel. your second pick in the pack will usually come from this group, since the #1 in the pack should already be gone. This group will tell you more about the other decks forming at the table then any other source of information. When the pack wheels around to you in pick nine, there should only be two cards from his group left, picks 9 and 10. The three that are already gone tell you a lot about the "best decks" being built by players 6, 7, and 8. Like wise the card you don't pick, will give you a clue to the "best deck" to be built by the player in position 2. This for all intensive purposes gives you a peek at 4 other decks being constructed. Counting your own deck, this gives you some degree of contrived knowledge about 5 out of 8 decks. If you do this type of thinking for all three packs int he draft, in addition to having perfect knowledge of your deck, you have had 3 peeks at 2 decks (positions 2, and 8), 2 peeks at 2 decks (positions 6, and 7), and one peek at 2 additional decks (positions 3, and 4). It's not a perfect world, and certainly as much art as science, but that is a lot of potential information. Since Repack is main deck mod, you should have a good idea of what you may face against nearly any other player at the table.

3) Should Wheel- This is the crap of the crap. If it wheels, it's exactly what I expected, and increases the likeliness of the predictions made from group 2. If it doesn't it makes things a bit more interesting. In essence it tells me that one or more persons isn't building their "best deck" instead making sub-optimal picks. In this case you are much more likely to have four "bester" decks, those that benefited from better then expected late picks, and then four "worster" decks, those making bad picks, or getting the shaft as others jump on cards expected for their "best" deck.
Sensation Gorger- 3
Familiar's Ruse- 2

Blue Elemental Blast- 2
Sage of Fables- 3
Iron Star- 3
Shatter- 3
Rootwalla- 2
Primal Order- 3
Brighthearth Bannerat- 2
Quiet Purity- 2
Kumano's Blessing- 2
Holy Strength- 2
Volcanic Submersion- 2
Silvercoat Lion- 2
Skeletal Kathari- 2

Wow, this pack sucks. There is just no other way to say it. There is not a single strong first pick in the pack, colors aren't balanced, and there are very few creatures. This pack is so bad, I am simply going to take it apart, and try again next week.

Monday, March 8, 2010

My life in the Zoo: Legacy Pt.12- Going Infinite?

So I decided to take my fully powered list to the SciFi Weekly Legacy event, and see what happens. The new prize structure was just too much to pass up. This is the final list I used for the event.

Creatures:
Kavu Predator x4
Kird Ape x4
Tarmogoyf x4
Qasali Pridemage x4
Wild Nacatl x4
Grim Lavamancer x3

Spells:
Invigorate x3
Lightning Bolt x4
Sylvan Library x2
Swords to Plowshares x3
Punishing Fire x3
Umezawa's Jitte x2

Land:
Arid Mesa x4
Grove of the Burnwillows x4
Plateau x3
Savannah x2
T-A-I-G-A x2
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Forest, Mountain, Plains 1 each.
Sideboard
Pithing Needle x4
Tormad's Crypt x2
Relic of Progenitus x3
Krosen Grip x2
Pyroclasm x3
Wind Shards
I really like this list, and it just hammers home how good Goyf is for this deck. Wing Shards seems like on-color tech against Progenitus, which appears to be a growing segment of the meta, both local and regional. I may be running a bit to much graveyard hate, but with Reanimator one of the top decks in the meta, and dredge always a possible threat, it seems reasonable for the moment. I really didn't expect to see Richard, there, but he and ANT made the appearance. I really need to get a couple of Teegs.

We had 9 players in total, so four rounds would make the day. Round one I faced Wes's W/B griefer deck, but I was able to eventually play around it, and get there in 2. Round two put me across from one of our new players, Chris, who was piloting Hatfield's Zoo build. Having spent some time observing this deck, and speaking with it's designer last weekend, I knew my deck (which is tuned against the mirror) had a real leg up. I have to admit that Chris's reputation as a Legacy player, and writer but me on the edge of tilt. Despite several play mistakes on my part, I was able to put it away in two.

Round three put me across from the other undefeated player of the day, Damion piloting CounterTop Progenitus. Man I hate this list! game one Progenitus ate my face, but I was able to put him off the combo long enough, that I was pretty ahead of the curve racing the deck. I had three turns to try and top deck the answer I needed to win, and just couldn't get there. If my Sylvan Library had resolved earlier in the game, I may have pulled it out. Maybe Hatfield is right about the 3rd copy? I swear I think Damion keeps Path in his shoe!? Game two my side board tech bought me the extra turns I needed to get there, and my burn kept him of Progenitus. Game three was another tight one. I literally won a single turn ahead, staring a lethal Progenitus in the face. If Damion hadn't fetched out of desperation, it may have gone the other way, as I was about out of gas. Never saw the Wing Shards, but I need more copies.

The players took a vote to end, as we had a clear winner, or continue. I lost that vote, and we went to round four. I drew Dr. Luudes, with his awesome Dream Halls deck. We did some quick math and determined that even if he won, which was my expected out come, He would most likely end up in 3rd, and me in second off of tie breakers. On the other hand, if we ID'ed, I'd have a lock on 1st, and he would almost surely slide into 4th on points/breakers. Since 3rd and 4th have the same support, we took the ID. Math for the Win!

Roanoke Results

Prior to the event I did a lot of work, attempting to predict the meta. it's difficult to predict an event this large, due to the shear volume of factors, but all and all I think I did pretty good.

My Predictions

My Data

Richmond Field, Top 16 Deck Lists

First off, I think I really nailed Merfolk, and it's conversion rate was even higher then I expected. Zoo also showed up in droves, and converted much higher then I think anyone really expected. I had observed this in the local meta, but was surprised to see the same trend in the broader field. Hatfield's list appeared to be the superior one, and is worth spending some time on.

CounterTop was in the room about like I expected, but Progenitus builds were clearly the supperior build, having much higher conversion rates then expected. I was really wrong on that call, and I'm going to have to adjust my game plan accordingly.

Loam was clearly not the sleeper of the event. Not only did it show up significantly less then I expected, but it didn't convert. Reanimator was definitely the sleeper on the event, showing up nearly 3x more then predicted, and converted even higher. Most of my other calls were pretty on point, but equally inconsequential.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My Life in the Zoo: Legacy Pt.11- Richmond Rebound

Sunday in Richmond was really a great time. I went 2-2 drop, which honestly was better then I had expected. I was able to do some real trading, picking up a promo Jitte, my last two dual lands, and my last two fetch lands. Now I have a one of set of duals, and fetches. I also picked up a pair of textless Lightning Bolts, and about a dozen other cards from my shopping list.

Oh and there was tournament also! Going in there were certain match ups which I simply new were not good ones. CounterTop Progenitus was one of those match ups, and there it was across the table from me in round one. Game one all I could do was cross my fingers and race. I got lucky, and got him as low as 10, despite a Warmonk on the board, before he was able to resolve a late game Progenitus. Game two, I brought in the side board tech, and used my main list Kavu's for a surprise factor, which I road for the win. Game three was a different matter, on turn two I was looking across at 2 lands and a hierarch. I had two strong turn two plays, Goyf and Punishing Fire. I could kill his Hierarch, or drop the Goyf to have a strong board position. I new that the odds were against him having the turn three Proginitus, so I dropped the Goyf. Next turn I found out that Proginitus has protection from math, and it ate my face.

So off I went to the losers bracket, to face my next opponent. Game one, turn 2 Merit Lage?!? Really, is everyone at this event rocking some beatstick making combo deck. At least it didn't have haste. Man If only I had a Kavu in hand, that would have looked so good next to the plow I was gripping! I dropped what ever creature I had in hand, and did my best to look beaten, as I passed turn.Merit Lage went to the red zone, and promptly got a first class ticket to RFG. Boy, it would have felt good to put 20 counters on Kavu, but it just wasn't meant to be. I remember his comment of how "lucky" I was to have the removal. Yeah, all luck, I just tripped over this deck walking through the door this morning. I know that as a Zoo player, I really didn't feel lucky facing an opponent with 35 life after 3 turns. With one win under my belt, I brought the sideboard in, and mulled to 6 to get a turn one Pithing Needle, naming "Vampire Hexmage". I loved the look on his face, like a puppy scared of the rain, you could tell he had the combo in hand. "Just Lucky" I said. A couple of minutes later, we had a miss play that resulted in the 20 minute judge call from hell. I really didn't care, I had this and I knew it, it was only a matter of time. Time was called and we were playing into our time extension, and it ended with me being a turn ahead of his clock, despite being on the draw, and taking a mull to get the needle. Take that Combo Boy!

Round three I actually get to move up the tables. I sit down with Ray, nice guy piloting CounterTop. Dang, I can't buy a decent match up today. Isn't anyone playing fish? Anyway, Ray was a great guy, and a good player, but Zoo kept him on his back foot through both games, and I was able to take the match in two. Game 4 brought me, yep you guessed it, a combo deck. It wasn't Belcher, and it wasn't ANT. It was a R/B  Goblin storm of some sort, and i was on my back foot through the entire match. Combo is rough to begin with, and not knowing what it was made it even harder to fight.

I chose to end my day with the 2-2 record. I probably could have played on with an outside chance of making it to the top 16, if I won out through the remainder of the day. I figured it was better to quit while I was even, hoping to protect my DCI points. This bet paid, and I broke 1700 for the first time ever. Not the day I dreamed of, but not a nightmare either, all in all, a pretty good day. I learned a lot, and I don't have to worry about so much Progenitus and combo in my local meta-game.

Speaking of which, the team was able to attract a lot of new players while in Richmond, and SciFi has made some great changes. While I really don't have another event in my budget at thtis time, the prospects of SciFi's Sunday Legacy event is very promising, so I'm going to stretch a bit, and see what happens. I can always cut an event later if need be. I've tweaked the deck a little, adding the second Jitte, and tuning the board for the local opponents. Crispy's Reanimator deck is clearly king of the hill, and with Dick on injured reserve, combo is not much of a factor. I'll be running the following list.

Creatures:
Kavu Predator x4
Kird Ape x4
Tarmogoyf x4
Qasali Pridemage x4
Wild Nacatl x4
Grim Lavamancer x3

Spells:
Invigorate x3
Lightning Bolt x4
Sylvan Library x2
Swords to Plowshares x3
Punishing Fire x3
Umezawa's Jitte x2

Land:
Arid Mesa x4
Grove of the Burnwillows x4
Plateau x3
Savannah x2
Tiaga x2
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Forest, Mountain, Plains 1 each.

Sideboard
Pithing Needle x4
Tormad's Crypt x2
Relic of Progenitus x3
Krosen Grip x2
Pyroclasm x4

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Repack Walk Through- Week 9

I really hope you all are enjoying this weekly series as much as I am. Welcome to Repack Walk Through Week Nine. Each week I crack a repack, and do a walk through of the contents. I've seen these sort of draft walk through done a lot of different ways, but in my mind, there is one critical question to ask about every card. Should this wheel and why? I use a three point system to analyze a pack  In a "normal" pack, there should be 5 cards of each grade in them.

1) Shouldn't Wheel- these are the best cards in the pack, and should be scooped up before the pack comes back around. Your first pick should almost always come from this group, since odds are you shouldn't see any of them again. If one of these does come back around, and it still fits your developing plan, it's almost a sure thing to pick up on the wheel. One of these coming around may also indicate an open color, or deck strategy, and always worth giving a little thought to.

2) May Wheel-I put these at a 50/50 to wheel. your second pick in the pack will usually come from this group, since the #1 in the pack should already be gone. This group will tell you more about the other decks forming at the table then any other source of information. When the pack wheels around to you in pick nine, there should only be two cards from his group left, picks 9 and 10. The three that are already gone tell you a lot about the "best decks" being built by players 6, 7, and 8. Like wise the card you don't pick, will give you a clue to the "best deck" to be built by the player in position 2. This for all intensive purposes gives you a peek at 4 other decks being constructed. Counting your own deck, this gives you some degree of contrived knowledge about 5 out of 8 decks. If you do this type of thinking for all three packs int he draft, in addition to having perfect knowledge of your deck, you have had 3 peeks at 2 decks (positions 2, and 8), 2 peeks at 2 decks (positions 6, and 7), and one peek at 2 additional decks (positions 3, and 4). It's not a perfect world, and certainly as much art as science, but that is a lot of potential information. Since Repack is main deck mod, you should have a good idea of what you may face against nearly any other player at the table.

3) Should Wheel- This is the crap of the crap. If it wheels, it's exactly what I expected, and increases the likeliness of the predictions made from group 2. If it doesn't it makes things a bit more interesting. In essence it tells me that one or more persons isn't building their "best deck" instead making sub-optimal picks. In this case you are much more likely to have four "bester" decks, those that benefited from better then expected late picks, and then four "worster" decks, those making bad picks, or getting the shaft as others jump on cards expected for their "best" deck.
Animate Wall 3
Gathering Graces 2
Seed Spark 3
Primeval Light 3
Stalking Tiger 1
Hush 2
Looming Shade 1
Meteor Shower 1
Rock Badger 1
Heal the Scars 2
Steamcore Weird 2
Warren-Scourge Elf 2
Fiery Hellhound 2
Convincing Mirage 3
Grazing Kelpie 1


I have mixed feelings about this pack. It's color spread is heavy towards green, and very weak on black. It has a good color spread, but all the good power cards appear as commons, the uncommons and rare are about as close to duds as possible. There are several good first pick cards here, but the wheel is going to be a bit weak, and heavily white and green. I think I would have to take the meteor shower, and see what comes back around.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rise of the Eldrazi is all Colorless!?!


Now that's Big!

Please note the card number is 6 of 248. This means if they stick with traditional set numbering, that this set is most likely all colorless, having no colored mana symbols in the costs. It could also indicate that there have been a change to the numbering system, and that either colorless creatures come first, or that all Mythics or Eldrazi spells come first. My money is on all colorless, after all they just did the first all gold set!

Please note how the art extends into the frame. I love it! is this something we will see on all future cards, just this set, just Eldrazi? Don't know but I like it.

In other news, this little corner of the Multiverse had another stellar month. Both January and February generated +1400 unique hits to the site.