Friday, October 7, 2011

Fall 2011 Rotation Update: Welcome to Innistrad

So Fall has come around, and along with the cool weather is the annual rotation. So Zendikar has rotated out of, wait what do you call it, oh yeah Standard. The good news is, this has next to no impact on me at all. I've slowly come to the realization that Standard just holds no interest for me, so I've written it off completely. I've been toying with the ideas of waiting until after the Standard rotation of a set before even really worrying about picking up any new rares or mythics for my casual deck. This should allow me to miss out on all the Standard price inflation, and pick up some much better values on the cards. Secondly, I should have a much better idea of what cards I really want, and cut back on things that end up in the bulk sell bin before they are even used. When I go back over my notes from Zendikar block, I find that my initial lists are much larger then what I really want now.

So what is there on my acquire list for the rotated block? Great question, glad you asked! The good news is this list is really small, since I have already managed to trade into a one-of-set of all the lands I wanted. The mythics consist of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and a Lotus Cobra. Only two mythics out of a block containing over a 100. Wow, I only want less the 2% of the magic cards being printed. It's a shame that these two cards carry a combined price of $65, if I'm lucky enough to find used copies, but that is still way better then getting these even a month ago. When it comes to rares, I find that not only is there not a single one I want that I have not already traded into, but that I have dozens which I no longer want.

This brings me to the annual Fall purge of cards, and wow do I think this is going to be a big one! I expect I will be down to a little over 1000 cards total after this one. This will basicly be an even split between proven casual cards, my Standard legal cards plus my Legacy Zoo deck. This sell off should not only cover everything on my acquisitions list, but also all the organized play I expect to do for the next year, with a good bit left over.

Next up, the Innistrad set. I opted not to play in any of the Prerelease events, primarily as the promo card was not of interest to me, and thus the event didn't represent stellar value for me. My son and I did decide to play in the release draft, mostly as a source of entertainment, not as a Magic decision. We both played miserably and dropped with 1-2 records after the 3rd round. I did manage to draft 2 of the new rare dual lands, essentially covering my cost of entry, and we did have fun despite our miserable win record.
I found the set to be very flavor full, and fun to draft. I found the new flip cards to be a hassle from a play perspective, because of the constant upkeep checks in every turn. I expect the up coming seasons including these cards will be filled with many game state warnings.

Lastly on my magic mind today, are some updates to the site. Extended has again proven to be less then relivent over the last year, not only to me but to the community at large. For this reason it is being eliminated as a searchable article tag. In related new, the new Modern format has not yet proven it's relivence to me, and I have opted not to add it at this time. I am going to keep the Standard blocks as searchable tags at this time. Despite my own lack of interest in the format, the vast majority of organized Magic played in the world continues to be in the Standard format.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Welcome Back?

Man, it has been such a long time since I wrote anything for this outlet, mostly because it has been a really long time since I carried enough to have anything to say. I really had to look back over my last few posts to even remind me what had been going on, then I remembered why I hadn't cared in a while.

I had come to the conclusion to stay an active force in this game, as a budget player, you had to play Standard and win packs. Then I was reminded how, with just a little resources, I had managed to brew up a fairly original Standard deck. It was really coming along, developing a winning record, and the ability to bring home packs consistently. Then...they banned my deck. Well, they didn't ban the whole deck, but the one card that made the the whole thing work.

I simply will never understand why DCI takes the approach of banning utility cards, which allow for creative deck building instead of banning the problematic work horse card. Stoneforger Mystic was a utility card that made budget decks possible. A few copies of this allowed you to play with single copies of expensive Mythic cards, and still have a working deck. The banning of that card forced the acquisition of hundreds of dollars in cards in order to keep the design viable. In other words, the ban-hammer closed Standard to budget players. I guess it really comes down to Wizards doesn't want players to be able to function with out having hundreds of dollars of Mythic cards?

I guess that leaves me with Legacy. My Zoo deck, will be morphed back to Grove Level Zoo the next time I pick it up. My Merfolk deck can probably still be finished over the next year. Merfolk gives me a more controlling option to go along with my agro deck. Goblins, despite being almost fully completed, will most likely be sold off. I just can't see it ever being as good of an agro option as Zoo is, and it's components just aren't used in much else. The same case can be made for Affinity, were the very existence of Nullrod, makes the deck too inconsistent.

I find the Fall rotation approaching, and all I want to do is get rid of even more cards. I estimate my collection to be about 10000 cards right now, and I wouldn't be surprised if that drops by 50-80% this fall. I've found that my lack of investment in new cards really hasn't diminished my ability to play, because even my highest levels of investment simply weren't enough to stay viable in today's Standard environment. I now find myself becoming comfortable with the thought of just having one transformable Eternal deck. My current thinking is that Tendrils could be viable in both Eternal formats with very few cards which didn't overlap. My other thought is to sell it all off, maybe keep a casual deck, and just play limited when the block formats are fun.

This leads my thinking even further down the road. If I can be comfortable today with 2000 cards, how low am I really willing and able to go.?

Could 500 cards be enough to address the occasional need to play:
  • DoMT/EDH collection ..............300 cards
  • Transformable Eternal Deck.......100 cards
  • Transformable Warp World........100 cards

Or could I be happy just not owning any cards, counting on friends to spot me a deck for those few times a year that I wanted to play constructed?

If that's the case, should I even play limited, knowing I'm just going to get rid of most or all of the cards?

I don't know what the magic number is, but I am really beginning to think that the step I am prepared for this Fall, is really just another stepping stone in this journey.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

What a Difference a few tweaks make, back at my Standard.

So after a strikingly unimpressive, and bordering on humiliating showing at FNM a few weeks ago, I tuned my deck up again, and decided to make another run at it. Special props to my little Mage for cracking a Batterskull and a Mental Misstep from a a pack during packwars. Hooray for $30 packs! I made some last minute tweaks to the manabase which I hadn't talked about yet, so let me start with a full list.
19 Plains
2 Mox Opal

4 Signal Pests
4 Ornnithopter
4 Memnite
4 Steel Overseer
4 Porcelain Legionaire
3 Stoneforge Mystic
2 Etched Champion
Hex Parasite
Darksteel Juggernaut
Wurmcoil Engine
Myr Battlsphere
Vault Skirge

4 Tempered Steel
Sword of Vengence
Sword of Body and Mind
Sword of Feast and Famine
This build did so much better. It had less explosive potential, but far higher consistency. The multiple Tempered Steels were crushing when backing multiple affected creatures. The combination of Stoneforge, and Batterskull was nothing short of amazing. I ended the night 3-1, having 2 shutout rounds, and only folding to RDW. WTH is that about, the mono-budget deck I refused to play kicked my teeth in? Got to do something about that. Time to brew a side board, but first the tweaks to the main.

First thing is my missing sword, which I was so missing during the RDW match. Making a creature proRed, and getting life swing would have been so good! I lucked up that someone there was happy to take my extra Doubling Season straight up for a Sword of War and Peace. That finished my cycle of Swords, and adds a much needed tool to this Standard deck. It should be a clear upgrade from the existing Sword of Vengeance  I also want to pick up 2 additional Etched Champions, as it simply walks across so many tables, and shakes off most board removal. I have a line on the missing two, and with any luck should be able to trade into them with little relevant outlay this Wednesday at casual night. I've also really been underwhelmed with the one of toolbox finisher package I've been running, and plan to either refine it a great deal, or scrap it all together for more aggro options. These may be better off in the board?

What this deck really wants is a 4th Stoneforge, and a 3rd Opal, but each has it's problems. Opal is pretty clear cut, $20 is just too much for a third copy of this card right now. Standard has it's price inflated, and while it is used in Legacy Affinity, it will be cheaper later. Stoneforge faces a similar problem with it's $15 price tag, plus the added complication of the rumored ban-hammer, and expected rotation with the Fall set. In addition, this deck may also loses Overseer, and Thopters with the Fall rotation, which may easily make the deck unplayable in it's current concept. In short I wont be putting any cash into this deck for the time being, depending instead on trade prowess to tweak it up. In any case it looks like I have a Standard deck for the foreseeable future

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Standard and I are still not Friends

I tried folks, I really tried. I found myself with no plans for a friday night, and a desire not to sit at home. So I decided to play constructed FNM. After a bit of research, and a quick glance through my meager Standard collection, I found that I could put something together drawing on the affinity concepts, and throw in a blade package for a certain leg up.

The synergy between certain low cost artifact creatures, Signal Pest, and Steel Overseer is simply too strong to be denied. Toss in some singleton cards I wanted to test out like Tempered Steel, and a variety of high end threats, and I felt like I had a deck worth plopping down 5 bucks and trying to make a run at it. Turns out I was on the right track, but still falling short.

The deck was capable of some explosive starts, often having 3+ power on the aggro available to swing on turn2. I was very often able to put my opponent on their back foot right out of the gate, but lacked the ability to finish out the game, no matter how good my opening position was. Eventually I would watch my team dissolve to removal, and couldn't survive their counter attacks long enough to drop any of my high end threats. If not for the consistent blade package, I don't thing I would have one a single game.

What this deck really wants is an early Tempered Steel. Dropping one on turn 2-3 just pushes the team over the top, shaving at least one one, and often multiple, turns off the kill. Potentially more important is it pushes the artifact weenie team out of the rang of much of the removal floating around out there, allowing the team to simply win on their own merits, or buying enough time for the high end hitt3rs to drop. My singleton copy of Tempered Steel simply was not going to cut it, so after an unremarkable 0-2 Drop evening, I set on making the deck better. A quick trade with a strong Standard player, looking to make the break into Legacy, turned two extra StP into another 3 copies of Steel, and I look forward to testing the improved build.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Skipping the Hype

So I managed to not attend a Prerelease even, and some how I survived. I don't even feel like I really missed out on anything. My Sealed skills have been so poor for so long, I mostly saved myself the frustration of watching my pool laugh at me all day long.

I've been giving the card selections for the new set a bit of thought. I've found that I can get a un/common set for about $35. Given that the one playset I know I want will run $20, this seems like a good way to go, and all but eliminates the need to open packs, or attempt to draft the set. In other words, for the cost of one playset, and one draft, I can have the whole set. Seems good.

I'm also thinking about doing the release event, but will most likely come down to what Tater wants to do. The draft could be a lot of fun for us both, and the promo card seems like a good addition to both of our collections.What ever excess cards we happen to get, could simply go to tater's box, as fodder for what ever deck he wants to builds at the moment. It would at the very least be a fairly inexpensive, and entertaining way to spend a Saturday.

In all, I've been very please with my decision, and ability to simply consume less cards. My collection for this block to date, still fits in a 500 ct box, making it roughly half the size I would normally have at this point. While I have resigned myself to not actively purge my collection again until next fall, I really find myself beginning to question my "need" for anything in the Extend field. My current collection is about 1/3 per Standard, Extended and Vintage. Dropping one format, which is really not on my radar int he first place, could easily allow me to drop three to four thousand cards with the fall rotation. Certainly worth considering. As much as I would love to drop another 80% this fall, I think anything over 50% may simply be too aggressive. Oh well, time will tell.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Doing Something Different

Okay, here is something you have never seem on this blog before:

Put down the Magic cards cause it's free comic book day!

In a more topical vein, Wizards has released a Magic related comic as on of the freebies.

 What a great way to encourage reading in kids of all ages.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Some new set: Prerelease Weekend

I titled this article this way, because for the life of me I can't remember what this set is called. After all the hype about who would win the war, and what this set would look like, I don't even know what it's called. I find that this is really indicative of my overall attitude about this set: I just don't care.

I really just don't care. There is hardly a handful of cards which even peek my interest. The cycle of Praetors seem kinda cool and swingy, but I think I can pick most of them up in trade. The fact that 60% of the Mythics in the set are Legendary (Karn) sends a clear signal that my suspicion about the next block will be Legendary matters is correct. Batterskull seems like a great equipment, but Standard not withstanding, is not worth it's current price. If Stoneforger Mystic rotates, it should drop like a rock. I really think there is a good case to be made that Stonforger will be reprinted in M12, but nothing definitive. The Sword is the last piece of a long cycle, and as such is nearly a must have.

The rares have a similar picture.  The Chancellors seem neat, but I suspect I can get them in trades for years to come, so no rush there. If I was going to play Standard, Hex parasite seems like the way to go. Standard not withstand, I expect I will still get one. Most of the other rares seem sort of niche, and there is no real way to know which (or more likely none) will take hold.

I think the one must own card in the set is Mental Misstep, as it is bound to have cross format impact. I have not really done the math yet, but it may make busting packs worth wild on it's own? With all this in mind, I'm not sure if I will be going to the Prerelease or if I just want to throw a few bucks at packs?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grove Level Zoo becomes Zenith Zoo

This month I had the unexpected opportunity to travel to Roanoke for a Legacy GPT. Recent set releases had a lot of new ideas floating around my head, but I really hadn't played enough over the last few months to evaluate such changes. I ended this small tournament day with a 2-3 record, having scooped a team member into the top8 in the last round. (Congrats to Jeff to winning the GPT!, good luck in the GP.) It became really clear that even my possible 3-2 finish for the day, my deck had become under-matched, and really needed to be brought up to date. Let the work begin! My prior list can be found here, the only difference being that a fourth Goyf replaced the fourth Lavamancer.

I began by pulling the Grave package, and replacing it with a more traditional Zoo utility lineup. I'm not sure this is the correct call, but the surprise value of the Grove Package has run it's course on the local level, so it's time to at least test other options.
  • -4 Grove of the Burnwillows
  • -2 Invigorate
  • -4 Swords to Plowshares
  • -3 Punishing Fire
  • +4 Path to Exile
  • +4 Lightning Helix
  • +1 each Taiga, Wooded Foothills, Sacred Foundry, Stomping Ground, and Dryad Arbor.

Some of these land choices are just temporary. They are what I had, and I don't want to purchase new duals or fetches until I am reasonably sure I have my card selections and mana balance correct. Wastelands may even be good considerations, depending on how deck selections shift over the coming months. It is also worth noting that 100% of the land now represent a basic land type. Next up were my changes to the creature base.

  • -4 Kavu Predator
  • -2 Umezawa'a Jitte
  • -1 Kird Ape
  • +3 Green Sun's Zenith
  • +1 each Gaddock Teeg, Knight of the Reliquary, Harmonic Sliver, and Farhaven Elf.

The Zenith Package not only makes my creature drops far more reliable, it also gives me on demand access to ~74% of the creatures in my deck. This allows me to run a tool box of utility creatures, and experiment with different mixes. I really think this is the future of Zoo decks, and deserves a great deal of test consideration. If they ever print a green creature which gets strong with the presence of a plains, it could easily replace the Kird Apes, and a Lavamancer. The deck would not only be much less dependent on red mana, but would give Green Sun's Zenith access to roughly 91% of the creatures in the deck. That may well be reason enough for Wizards to never print such a card. As it stands, if GSZ are counted as creatures, as they practically are, creatures represent ~43% of the main deck. This number jumps even higher, an even 50%, considering 4 of the fetchlands can grab Dryad Arbor too.

Last up is the adjustments to the sideboard. Since the creation of this deck, my sideboard has simply been a cobbled up collection of hate for what ever decks I thought I may face on any given day. I had no real plan. I had long wanted to develop a toolbox style sideboard with effective silver bullet cards, and a plan to implement them. It just never really happened. Enlightened Tutor seemed like a great way to accomplish this goal, but I really had nothing beyond a basic concept. I borrowed some ideas from Outlaw, and jumped ahead several months in testing with the following board.
  • 3 Enlightened Tutor
  • 2 Umezawa's Jitte
  • 1 each Ethersworn Canonist, Null Rod, Pithing Needle, Wheel of Sun and Moon, and Gaea's Blessing.
  • 1 each Eternal Witness, Ghostly Prison, Vexing Shusher, and Meekstone as experimental slots.
  • 1 slot yet to be determined
This still has a ways to go, but thanks to Mr. Outlaw, it is way better then anything I ever had before. My guess is Eternal Witness may be a better maindeck call then the mana fixer. Meetstone also seems like a nombo with the deck concept, and needs to be replaced with a better answer to huge creatures. I have my eye on Broodhatch Nantuko to hill this role? I am also very interested in the new Mental Misstep as a way out against combo. That has been a matchup without answers for way to long.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Warp WorlEDH

Well the long sought day has finally come. I have found my signature 5color card, and it is none other then Warp World.

I have been in the process of retooling my deck to accommodate this adjustment. The current deck list can be found here. DoMT has now become a story of three decks. There is two fully functional EDH/Commander decks shuffled with 100 fill in cards. Each of the stand alone decks has it's own sleeve color, to allow for easy pull out and separate play. The final 100 is split into two sleeve groups, one for "non-EDH consideration" cards, and the other for everything else. My hope is, this will make the EDH fine tuning process easier, so I don't have to look up card legality on the fly.

Items removed since my last posting: Not all of these are gone forever. Many simply represent their current usage in a more vital deck, or have been bumped to test new interactions.

Arid Mesa
Benediction of Moons
Brion Stoutarm
Civic Wayfinder
Conquering Manticore
Cranial Plating
Darksteel Colossus
Dauntless Escort
Dwarven Miner
Ethersworn Adjudicator
Gift of Estates
Halimar Dapths
Helm of Kaldra
Highway Robber
Jund Charm
Leyline of the Void
Life // Death
Lighthouse Chronologist
Mirror Entity
Order // Chaos
Paladin en-Vec
Rith, the Awakener
Sarkhan Vol
Scroll Rack
Selesnya Guildmage
Shield of Kaldra
Snake Basket
Spawning Pit
Spawnsire of Ulamog
Splinter Twin
Sprout Swarm
Steelshaper's Gift
Sword of Kaldra
Sylvan Library
Sylvan Ranger
Sylvok Explorer
Syphon Mind
Tatsumasa, the Dragon's Fang
Windswept Heath
Wolfbriar Elemental
World Queller

List of recent additions is still in the works...

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Thinning the Herd

I can't believe it took as long as it did, but it was well worth the work. After nearly 4 months of sorting, I now find myself a little over 40,000 Magic cards lighter. This bulk of excess cards has become a $200 store credit with CFB, a finished Legacy Merfolk deck, a fourth Goyf, 4 blue Onslaught fetches, several restricted Vintage cards, most of the cards I wanted from the current Scars block to date, and a handful of casual cards. Most importantly, all this bulk of under utilized cards is gone, and the room it took up is now empty. Not only can I actually find what I'm looking for far easier, even when a card has been misplaced. I also have discovered that the two bookcases in my office, are now empty, their sole purpose in life having been to house my massive Magic collection. They have found a better home else where.
Before the Purge
It was really amazing, not to mention startling, to discover just how much good stuff I had that I really and truly didn't even know about.
  • Oh look, a Bob. 
  • What's this? Nearly all the cards for a Legacy MR Goblins, don't mind if I do. 
  • Vintage cards: well, I guess I can take these off my buy list. 
In all, I probably found hundreds of dollars with of very playable cards, hiding right under my nose. They had simply been lost in all the clutter. My buy list has now shrunk back below $100, and I have the majority of my fetchlands.

I also located a small zippered binder, while in VA to sell this mass of cards. I had long since wanted one of these, in which to house the majority of my Legacy cards. What a difference all this makes. The core value of my collection can now be carried in a backpack, not a U-haul!
After 80% reduction

I have started to assemble no less then three new Legacy decks, with the ability to make any one of them main deck playable, with about $100. These decks hadn't even been on my radar, prior to this purge. Speaking as a person who only recently struggled to put together my first Legacy deck, I can truly say that options are good. Even in their current semi-proxied form, these represent a valuable testing resource for me, and the rapidly developing local Legacy community. I even have my eye on a Standard deck, based on the log standing Affinity archetype. My hope is the final expansion of the current block, will push this over the top.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

FreeRelease: Mirrodin Besieged

That's right folks, no typo there. I used a $25 store credit to pay my entry, and despite not opening any super chase cards, I still managed to open or trade for $32 in cards specifically on my shopping list. Of course, that is in addition to the $11 in trade-bait rares I added to my binder, and the more then 70 un/commons for my personal collection. This was a definitive win value wise, unfortunately that did not translate to match results.

It has long ago come to my attention that Sealed is not my format, having not produced a winning record since the release of Xth edition. Yes really, it's been that long. My seemingly limitless lack of skill, coupled with my need to maximize my value/cost relationship of my Magic efforts, I tend to not play in these events unless there is a clear value added. This most often comes in the form of the special foil promo card distributed for participation. The card of this event, Hero of Bladehold, having a $10 value and already being on my shopping list, made this an event worth entering. In addition, I got to play Eternal formats for roughly 6 hours waiting for midnight to roll around, and had the well enjoyed opportunity to share food and libations with good friends. Not a bad evening in my opinion, even if I didn't find my bed until 5am.

One of the unexpected shifts when they reintroduced basic lands into packs, and dropped the common count by one, was the reduction in removal options in sealed. It has been the most frustrating aspect of recent sealed deck evens for me, and many others I've spoken with. Assuming the construction of a 2 color deck, the expected playable on-color quality removal options has statistically been reduced from 3 to 2. True, this is only a reduction of one quality card for your deck, but from another perspective, it's a 33% reduction in your good removal. This not only leads directly to lost games and matches, it is an obstacle which I have yet to overcome. The inclusion of a common colorless quality creature removal spell in each set would solve this problem for the majority of sealed pools. This "artifact" block has yet to provide a single one. What the heck Wizards? It's an artifact block, and we don't get good colorless removal. What more of an excuse do you need?

The last issue effects Sealed, but is far more visible in Draft, pertaining to the print/pack runs of commons. Players have long since known that Wizards R&D develops cards with several play options in mind. Maro has described these as Limited, Constructed/Niche, and Skill Testing cards. With 10 commons in the pack, the ideal would be to have 3-4 of each type per pack. This would give each pack very normalized playability. There is nothing more frustrating for a player then opening a pack in limited which adds little to nothing to your optimal deck. When there is not enough attention given to the print/pack runs, it creates pockets of above/below average cards. You get packs with 5+ very playable cards in them, and even worse packs with 0-2 playable cards. A sub-par pack means that in an 8 man pod, at best, only 25% of the players are happy with even on of their picks. This is an easy opportunity to shift from a recruitment stand point, to one of retention. I can't imagine many things more likely to blow a player out of a draft format then for any of there first 3 picks to be total crap.

While this issue may be harder to spot in Sealed then in Draft, it is far more devastating. Now we aren't talking about 1-2 wasted picks, you could be looking at 14 wasted cards! Lets look at a couple of different players potential pools. Lets assume an above average pack has 5+ highly playable cards, and average pack has 3-4, and a sub-par pack has 0-2. In addition lets assume an average pool contains 2 of each pack type, yielding an expected 16-22+ highly playable cards. I think most any player would feel good about having opened that pool.

Now lets look at what happens when poorly designed print/pack runs shake up the normal pool a bit. First up lets look at a lucky player, who gets just one of his sub packs replaced by an above average pack, thus yielding a pool of 21-25+ highly playable cards. Yes, they may have to cut highly playable cards in order to run enough basic lands, and still come in at 40 total cards. Now lets look at the poor unfortunate who gets one of his above-average packs replaced by a sub-par pack. It yields a pool of 11-19 highly playable cards. Still not to bad at face value. This does mean that a player with as few as 11 playable cards may well sit across the table from the guy with 25+. A poor pool could easily be 15-65% worse then a good pool. Numbers like that can be impossible to overcome.

Do you think, all else being equal, that both of these players are having the same level of fun? Do you think both these players are equally likely to be repeat players at these types of events? It's an issue. It is effecting playability of your product. It can't be that hard to fix, since card types are pretty much already identified in the development process. It can't take that much time to provide a better balance to print/pack runs. Get on it Wizards, this is an easy fix that will have positive impact for your players, product, and sales!