As someone who plays one heck of a lot of Magic The Gathering online I fancy myself a heavy user. I also generally spend $300+ a month playing MTGO, building a collection and streaming to Twitch.tv/MTGHeadQuarters. While I do have a local place to play Magic The Gathering, I choose to play online as it fits my unique schedule, and late night demand of drafting. The one event I usually always attend at my locals is Pre-Release, in fact I try to attend 2 or more Pre-Release sessions when I can. Now that you know I play a lot of Magic, let’s get to my gripe. I love pre-release time, I love the event, the people, the hype, the late nights, the junk food, literally everything about Pre-Release! I am also a heavy Magic Online player, far moreso than my locals, either way, I am spending a heck of a lot of money on Magic these days.
While I am not a formal “blogger”, or even a fan of the written word, I decided it was time to pay attention to my blog and try to bring some more entertainment to it. With only borderline grasp of writing, let’s talk about that opening hand at your Khans Pre-Release.
Normally I would tell you “Mulling is for the Weak” but I have begun to soften a bit more in my old age. After losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars drafting over the past year I have finally learned my lesson. (Even though I am certain that MTGO shuffler has it out for me)
I still haven’t totally looked over all the new cards and potential deck types the various clans will have at the Khans of Tarkir Pre-Release but after seeing the cards played, and learning some lessons in M15 I have a few tips for you.
Have Something Meaningful to Do On Turns 2 & 3
Whether you have solid 2 and 3 drop creatures, 2 decent low level removal spells, or some combination of the two, when you look at your opening hand it’s going to be time to ship it away if you don’t have em. In my experience in Pre-Release in general, even playing vanilla creatures on turn 2 and turn 3 is extremely powerful, that is especially true if you are on the other side of things playing a land and saying “go” as your opponent builds their boards.
If you see a longer term play like some sort of board wipe or tempo play, you can risk it and hold on to your hands but it’s really easy to get overwhelmed even by vanilla 2/2’s in this format.
Have Enough Land
Many people who have played the set are saying it’s better to play 18 lands in these pre-release decks. Part of that is many people are playing at least 3 colors and the other reason is there is simply a pretty high curve on a lot of the creatures you are going to want to play. Any less than 3 lands should make you a little nervous, unless of course you hand is full of 2 and 3 drops so you can continue to advance the board, you have some removal, or a way to ramp.
Such a sweet card, fun for limited and likely on the fringes of standard. Thoughts?
Greetings all! This is the start of a formal weekly schedule writing for MTGHeadquarters.com! I’ll be filling you in on tournament results, spoilers and everything Magic the Gathering related so you can be ahead of the game we all know and love.
A Sligh of Hand to Take the Invitational
COLUMBUS, Ohio –
This weekend was chock full of tournaments. Starting with the Star City Games Invitational that had some of the top players vying for a spot for the Players Championship and their likeness on a token. After a grueling sixteen rounds of Standard and Legacy, the Top 8 was set with many familiar names. Jared Boettcher continued his absolute rampage of recent tournaments (Top 8ing two straight SCG Invitationals, 10th in Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, 2nd place in Grand Prix DC) with his new take on B/R Devotion. Following the shell that was already around, he chose to add red for Mizzium Mortars, Rakdos's Return, Dreadbore, and a singleton copy of Chandra, Pyromaster. Both Brad Nelson and Alex Bertoncini took Jund Monsters out to successful records, and Reid Duke (after a beautiful match with U/W/R Miracles in the final round of the Legacy portion) piloted UW Control. Ben Friedman earned the support of many viewers by donating all of his winnings to the Mariah Pagliocco Fundraiser. Ultimately though, the event was won by Tom ‘The Boss’ Ross with his extreme take on Mono-Red: Boss Sligh. Running full playsets of such classic draft staples of Dragon Mantle, Titan's Strength, and Akroan Crusader, he had one goal: kill his opponents really, really fast. Throughout the entire Top 8, he played incredibly well and was able to keep the pressure on his opponents and never allowed them the opportunity to stabilize.
Going forward, do not expect this deck to be as powerful as it might seem. This sort of extreme strategy comes with many risks. ‘The Boss’ was able to prey on the fact that his opponents did not have nearly enough removal or lifegain, and had to constantly be wary of the ever-popular Golgari Charm. For the coming events, keep your eyes open for cards like Nylea's Disciple and Drown in Sorrow to start invading sideboards, and plan accordingly!
Black is Back…Or Rather, it Never Left
COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Meanwhile, the top tables of the SCG Standard Open were dominated by Gray Merchant of Asphodel, with 20 copies in the Top 8! As opposed to the Invitational, where it seemed as though B/W Devotion was the strongest strategy, B/G and normal Mono-Black were the strongest 75. However, the winner, Festus Resendez, chose to play Mountains instead, and dominated the Top 8 with his Mono-Red Aggro deck, not dropping a single game in the final three rounds.
Death and Taxes Outlasts a Delver-Infested Legacy Open
COLUMBUS, Ohio –
During the Legacy Open, one card decided to soar over the opposition: Delver of Secrets. Whether it be BUG or RUG or U/W/R, this impressive bug-man-thing decided to smash life totals all throughout the weekend, with six of the top decks utilizing it.
Only two brave souls decided to fight the wave of incoming 3/2 fliers: Owen Turtenwald piloting U/W Miracles and the eventual winner, Jason Smith with Death and Taxes. We also see the first new Conspiracy card making an appearance at the top tables, with Council's Judgment making a brief one-of in his sideboard to help fight True-Name Nemesis.
The Helix Heard ‘Round the World… Again! at GP Moscow
Even though this event was held across the globe from the SCG events, there is a sort of eerie similarity between them. A lone red aggressive player, Igor Gorbunov makes the Top 8. The rest of the field is riddled with B/x Devotion variants, Jund Monsters, and a pair of control decks. (Given, Efim Kashapov’s 4-color brew is pretty spicy, )
The road to the finals is a pretty fun one to watch, and the finals themselves are epic. Reaching a board stall and each player at or under 5 life, Igor topdecked Warleader's Helix to lock up the win over B/G Devotion in truly epic fashion, rivaling the classic ‘Topdeck Lightning Helix of the Century.’
Popping Power on Magic Online
Vintage Masters finally released on Magic Online on Thursday to critical acclaim. Apart from the opportunity to pull a legendary piece of the fabled Power 9 online, the format itself is incredibly fun to play. It was a little awkward watching the MTGO Twitter account pull a Big Brother on us… stalking people that opened foils…
Beware all…. Worth is watching…
Some Shameless Speculation on a Black Garruk
Running around the internet has been a photo of a new Plague Wind coming in M15: In Garruk’s Wake.
Now, while it is perhaps a little overcosted for Standard (Read: it won’t see Standard play), there is something to note about it. In the past with all other cards in core sets that reference planeswalkers, the color of the card matched the color of the appropriate ‘walker. Now, this leads me to believe that Garruk has embraced his dark side in the upcoming set, and that we will see a new one. Does this mean Nissa gets a chance to be in the spotlight? Will Wizards bust out a new character? We will (hopefully) find out soon!
I hope you guys enjoyed the post. If you have any comments, type ‘em below. I always enjoy hearing other perspectives!
I’ve been gone a little while, but we’re back! And since Journey Into Nyx has come out we’ve gotten a few results from Grand Prix and SCG Opens in addition to news on Judge Foils, Vintage Masters, and the return to competitive of Magic of one of the game’s greats. All that and more in The Rundown!
Park Shifts Into Gear in Minneapolis!
MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota – While you may not have expected Scapeshift and Jund to mix it up in the finals of Grand Prix Minneapolis with all of the recent success of Birthing Pod and Splinter Twin in Modern recently, but that’s exactly what happened as Jun Young Park took RUG Scapeshift to victory over Andrew Huska’s midrange menace. Third time’s the charm for Park, who picked up the win in his third Grand Prix top 8 berth.
Also picking up top 8 appearances are defending Pro Tour champ Shaun McLaren, SCG house pro Brian Braun-Duin and former Modern GP champ Nathan Holiday. 15th ranked player Willy Edel added a top 16 to his 2014 resume, while big names Luis Scott-Vargas and Valentin Mackl both did as well.Other players earning Pro Points this weekend include Vidianto Wijaya, Pat Cox, Harry Corvese, Brian Kibler, with two points each and Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Eric Froehlich, David Ochoa, Lee Shi Tian, and Josh Utter-Leyton each adding a paltry point to their career totals.
In spite of the finals being a bit of an aberration, the big boys’ presence was still felt: 7 of the top 16 played copies of Birthing Pod, meaning that you should still be anticipating several copies near the top tables of your local Modern events. One interesting development is that the decks can’t realistically be called “Melira Pod” anymore, because many players (most notably Luis Scott-Vargas in the top 16) have cut the last remaining human on Mirrodin from their 75. This is the logical conclusion of a trend that’s been happening for nearly a year of Pod decks moving away from combo finishes and instead focus on becoming resilient value aggro decks. LSV still had access to Archangel of Thune and Spike Feeder if he really wanted infinite life, but the Sylvok Outcast did not make an appearance.
So where does Modern go from here? Well, aggro has not seen a resurgence in a while. Wild Nacatl did not have the comeback that many anticipated, Affinity only put one player in the top 16 and generally hasn’t been dominant since last summer, and fighting through endless swarms of Kitchen Finks isn’t fun for fans of attacking for two such as myself. Add to that the fact that Scapeshift, a deck that has gamebreakers like Obstinate Baloth and Firespout at the ready, just won the most recent GP and it all adds up to les aggro. My guess is Midrange will remain king until a deck can figure out how to trump the value, such as a fast combo deck like Ad Nauseum or an aggro-control deck like Faeries. That means more Jund, Pod, and Junk for the forseeable future. Which isn’t so bad, since all of those matchups are pretty skill intensive.
To read more into the Grand Prix Minneapolis and the news stories therein, check out the event coverage page on DailyMTG.
Anteri Antes up in Warsaw!
WARSAW, Poland – Just like Park, Fabrizio Anteri also reached his third career Grand Prix top 8 this weekend, and he also added a win to his resume in Warsaw. The format was Theros limited with Journey Into Nyx, the first such GP, and the Italian took it down in style behind some heavy hitters like Mistcutter Hydra in the top 8. Other notable top 8ers in Warsaw include 2014 GP Paris winner Javier Dominguez and Slovakian pro Ivan Floch.
After that, the remaining results are a little spartan when it comes to notable names, thanks to a lot of the European pros making the early trip to the US in anticipation of the Pro Tour. Former PT champ Stanislav Cifka clocked a top 16, and Magic writer Frank Karsten, Japanese all-star Tomoharu Saito, and PT finalist Joel Larsson added top 64 notches to their bedposts.
I have played Journey Into Nyx sealed twice now, once at the prerelease and once at last weekend’s Las Vegas PTQ (won by none other than Kenny ‘The Dragon’ Hsiung), and I have gleaned a few things that also made themselves apparent in Warsaw. The biggest is this: whereas TTT and BTT draft used to often come down to who could make the biggest baddest Voltron, that is no longer the case. Not only are there a plethora of new and efficient answers, such as Feast of Dreams, Hubris, Akroan Mastiff (and those are just a few commons), but the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Zord plan is also not helped much by Journey. There are a total of zero common bestow creatures, and the Boon-style auras like Armament of Nyx are not nearly as impressive on offense as on defense.
This is particularly evident in Anteri’s deck. He has a total of two bestow creatures, one of them being the instant speed Boon Satyr that gets around most of the new (and old) ways to punish bestow. Cards like the Emissary cycle or Celestial Archon are still very good, but they aren’t the flashing “Game Over” screen they used to be.
I will be very interested to see if this dynamic changes and how the draft metagame adapts to this sudden reversion to, y’know, normal average everyday draft games rather than Pacific Rim style battles.
For more on the first limited Grand Prix featuring Journey Into Nyx, there’s coverage courtesy of DailyMTG on the Wizards of the Coast homepage.
Tenjum, Nystrom Win in Cincy!
CINCINNATI, Ohio – The first Standard and Legacy events with the third set of Theros block came and went, and… well what do you know? Mono Black remains on top.
This time around it’s the green splash that was popular towards the end of last year before everyone realized that Golgari Guildgate just doesn’t cut the mustard in a format where Temples exist. But now that AJ Sacher’s hometown Temple of Malady is in the format it’s fair game to start running Abrupt Decay! SCGINVI finalist Andrew Tenjum is the first big winner of the new format using the new green splash, as he took down fellow Open Series regular Eric Rill in the finals. It was a power-packed top 8, with Dan Musser, Jeff Hoogland, and Michael Belfatto also making the knockout stages.
It can’t really be gleaned from these results whether Journey made a huge difference. While U/W/R Control and Junk Midrange weren’t huge players before and both made top 8 in Cincinnati, Mono-Black Devotion and U/W Control decks still featured highly. We’ll have to get a few more weeks of results to see whether Big Black can be dethroned.
The following day, Per Nystrom became the second European-born player ever to take an Open Series trophy, after Michael Bonde won last year in Providence with Junk Aristocrats. And like Michael, Per is a big fan of Death & Taxes… which he used to go from the 8-seed to the winner’s circle. Journey Into Nyx did not have much of an effect on the Legacy Open, but Nystrom’s deck has both Spirit of the Labyrinth and Brimaz, Hero of Oreskos so it’s safe to say that Born of the Gods certainly has made its presence known.
Plenty more where that came from in the coverage from SCGCIN, so check out the coverage page on Star City Games’ website:
Schneider, Winn Winners in Knoxville!
KNOXVILLE, Tennessee – A week later the Open Series made a trip down to Tennessee, and there ain’t no place I’d rather be. Neither would Tyler Winn, who used a R/W Burn deck to take first prize in the Standard Open. Eidolon of the Great Revel was a major piece of the puzzle, and was particularly good in the finals against his opponent Jaime Arnold’s Brave Naya deck. Who would have guessed that a deck full of cheap creatures, shock lands, and Mana Confluence would have trouble versus the new Pyrostatic Pillar?
Black Devotion fans do not despair however, as three copies of the new hotness made their way into the playoffs too. A bunch of Junk and Jund decks also made it into the top 16, proving that Temple of Malady might be the most important card to come out of the new set after all. From a points perspective, Cam Adkins and Alex Bertoncini both picked up top 8s in the Standard Open. Both players find themselves ranked in the top 16 of the Players’ Championship race for this season, so the finishes certainly help.
On Sunday, Andrew Schneider did something few people ever even get a chance to do: win three Opens with the same deck. The U/R Burn aficionado added the trophy to his mantlepiece by defeating Arthur Reynolds’ R/U Painter deck in the finals. Andrew’s feat is all the more impressive considering the fact that, well, basically no one else even plays the deck anymore! Legacy is a format nearly devoid of true aggro decks, so the tricky aggro decks are the closest things we have. If Goblin Guide needs Force of Will to back it up to make sure 2/2s for one are playable, I’m all for it!
Tyler Wilkerson added another nice finish to his 2014 campaign, this time with a R/W Painter deck that I supplied the list for! Also earning points were 9th place Eric Rill and 12th place Alex Bertoncini, with both players in the hunt for byes and SCGPC points.
There’s always another Open around the next bend, so be sure to check out all of the coverage and archived footage from Knoxville on SCG.
Judge Foil Mania!
RENTON, Washington – Perhaps the most exciting announcement of the past few weeks came not from an event, but in the form of the new Judge Foil packets. Every year, Wizards of the Coast chooses popular cardsfrom Magic’s past and present to give the foil promotional treatment, sometimes with special art, in order to thank the Magic Judge community. And this year, there are some big ones. And there’s one massive one:
Foil promotional Force of Will is finally here!
Yes, among the promos being sent out is Force of Will, featuring the art by Matt Stewart originally commissioned for the 2011 Legacy Championship. Those promos are not in the normal judge packet, but rather the Forces are being shipped out to special members of the judge community who helped register new judges over the last decade or so to grow their ranks to an important milestone reached this year: 5,000 DCI-registered judges worldwide!
The other promos include Riku of the Two Reflections; Greater Good; an old bordered version of Sword of Feast and Famine; Oloro, Ageless Ascetic; a version of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite written in her native Phyrexian; Nekusar, the Mindrazer; and Hanna, Ship’s Navigator featuring the popular art from Terese Nielsen originally used for Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013.
The announcement came from Trick Jarrett last week, so be sure to check out the article provided and maybe look into becoming a Magic judge yourself!
Vintage Masters (and Power 9) is Coming!
RENTON, Washington – Speaking of long awaited releases finally coming to fruition, the Power 9 is finally coming to Magic Online!
In a move originally announced way back when the Powered MTGO Cube (aka Holiday Cube) first came out, MTGO is finally ready to bring the original Power cards to Magic Online. Those cards, for those unaware, are Black Lotus, Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, Mox Jet, Mox Ruby (hey, that’s me!), Mox Emerald, Time Walk, Ancestral Recall, and Timetwister. These cards will have ‘Special’ rarity, which is explained as being even more rare than mythic.
The Power will be released as part of Vintage Masters, which is a MTGO-only expansion set to be released June 16, 2014, with the prerelease events coming the weekend prior. 325 cards will be a part of the set, including Necropotence (spoiled on DailyMTG by Mike Flores) and several of the cards from the upcoming Conspiracy expansion (like Dack Fayden) that wouldn’t have been able to be released online otherwise.
The move is intended to bolster Vintage online, which hasn’t really been possible since several huge pieces are simply not available. Well, not anymore! This is truly an exciting time to be entering drafts, and players will be crossing their fingers harder than ever in the hopes of maybe, just maybe, opening a foil Black Lotus.
I’m getting all hot and bothered just thinking about it.
I have compiled a few resources below for your reading pleasure concerning Vintage Masters and its inclusion of the Power 9.
GerryT’s Back, & in the Booth!
ROANOKE, Virginia – You may have heard on Cedric Phillips’ podcast CEDTalks that one Gerry Thompson is back from beyond the pale. Well, it’s true… but there are a few snags. You see, Gerry, one of the game’s preeminent deck designers and personalities, went off to see the Wizards for an internship at Wizards of the Coast but has since returned to play. Some of the terms of his return include the fact that he is unable to enter tournaments right after sets are released… like Pro Tours. Daggers.
But Gerry’s loss is SCGLive’s gain, as the official coverage team of the StarCityGames.com Open Series gets to include the dulcet tones of one Geraldine Thompson, Esq., for two special weekends later this summer. Gerry will be commentating at SCGDC in late August and at SCGATL a few weeks later. I for one am very excited to hear what Gerry has to say whenever he speaks, and putting him in the booth for hours and hours on end talking about Magic is can’t miss TV for anyone who considers themselves a Magic fan.
Of course, don’t expect to only see Gerry behind the table in the booth when it comes to the Open Series. He’s been known to enter the feature match area a few times in his day as well.
Check out the news item on the topic below.
Well I tell you what, that does it for me this week. Thanks for putting up with my absence, as I am still settling in to my new digs and trying to get my job situation sorted out. I’ll be back on the same bat channel at the same bat time next week, so until then remember: don’t feed the trolls!