Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Deck Archetypes) # 4 - "G/R Dinosaurs and Wurms Primer"

Hello gang and welcome back to the latest edition of the Cardboard Witch.  As regular readers may be aware I've recently been working on an ongoing series about deck archetypes in SoM booster draft; "Gotta Catch them All".  Now that we've finished with the most obvious archetypes in the format I thought it might be fun to look at one of the "rogue" strategies that seemed to develop in real-time several *weeks* after SoM was released; G/R Dinosaurs and Wurms.  I have to admit that when the set first came out I didn't give this deck-type much of a second glance until local drafters Meyer Mechanic and Lucas Ma showed me otherwise, at least a month before Ari Lax went 2nd at GP Nashville with a similar idea.  Since then it has become a regular part of the rotation at our local drafts; appearing at least once every other night and sometimes more frequently than that.

Description:  In a format that's primarily about artifacts, weenie aggro rush decks and fast cheap spells to kill those cards sometimes the best idea is to go retro and force out a giant Green Dinosaur on turn 4 or 5.  Another example of a "classic" deck archetype finding it's way into SoM limited, G/R Dinosaurs is all about dominating the board with on-color Fatties and daring your opponent to do something about it.  This deck actively metagames against all the artifact hate in SoM simply by choosing to use G/R "widebodys" to push it's way to victory; often making it's opponent's best spells ineffective or marginal at best.  Typically this deck will also have some form of mana acceleration to ensure it can cast all of it's giant monsters; either mana Myr or Horizon Spellbombs.  Finally while this decktype is usually chained to Red because it offers a pile of removal and another "Dinosaur" in the Flameborn Hellion I've also played against G/W and G/B versions of the build.  Most of the key cards in the build are Green so it's mostly a question of where you get your removal; Red has more than either Black or White and it's generally easier to draft this combination because of that.

Key Cards:  This deck is primarily comprised of 3 key parts; giant monsters, mana ramping cards and removal.  To that effect you'll want to prioritize these cards higher in your draft order to ensure that you get them.  Additionally I've found that toughness boosting equipment and a few chump blockers/walls make the deck considerably more effective.

Top end commons in this build are obviously going to be mostly removal cards; Galvanic Blast, Sylvok Replica, Perilous Myr, Shatter and Turn to Slag should all be on your immediate radar.  Tumble Magnet is also decent in this build as a way to buy time until you drop a fat dinosaur into play but it's generally less effective here than in a weenie rush (Infect/Metalcraft) deck and shouldn't be chosen ahead of the 5 listed removal spells.  As far as creatures go Alpha Tyrranax and Molder Beast are the "Dinosaurs" from the deck's title and both are incredibly important for this deck archetype.  Early on in SoM drafts I found that both of these cards would consistently table but that is simply no longer the case now that people know how strong this deck is; be prepared to take Molder Beast between picks 3-6 and Alpha Tyrranax by about pick 9 these days.  Mana acceleration is also very important to this build making it important to value on-color mana Myr and Horizon Spellbombs pretty highly; I'm not going to first pick these cards but I won't blink about taking them between picks 3-5 if it's necissary.  Off color mana Myr are also useful in this build but shouldn't be drafted quite as highly, pick 6 or later would be a reasonable time to grab them.  As far as equipment goes both Sylvok Lifestaff and Strider Harness have decent value here but are nothing special.  Accorder's Shield and Bladed Pinions on the other hand can be GAME breaking when combined with a huge "Fattie" and should be drafted slightly higher than usual as a result.

In terms of uncommons this deck again values removal quite highly; Arc Trail, Oxidda Scrapmelter, Slice in Twain, Contagion Clasp, Acid Web Spider, Necropede and Rust Tick are all viable early picks for this build.  Depending on how many artifacts you have Embersmith and Barrage Ogre can also be strong but usually I find it difficult to get enough artifacts to make either particularly effective.  My favorite uncommon "beatstick" in this archetype is probably the Bellowing Tanglewurm; not only does he make your other Green creatures a little bit better he's also a pretty good value at 5 mana in his own right.  Golem Artisan and Darksteel Sentinel are both legitimate options in any beat-down deck with enough mana to use them so they work out decently here; although the Artisan is clearly the better card by miles.  Of course the Artisan remains vulnerable to artifact hate but he's simply too good to pass up in a deck like this simply because you prefer your finishing creatures to be Green.  As far as mana excel goes the Palladium Myr is better in this deck than almost any other deck in the format because you can actually jump ahead TWO turns and drop a 6CC monster on turn 4 with it; something this archetype has in abundance.  Oddly enough most of the uncommon Equipment cards in this format have very little added value in this archetype; although it can be fun to put a Darksteel Axe or a Grafted Exoskeleton on a Molder Beast.  Ditto for Trigon of Rage; if your creatures aren't being blocked this deck is winning and unless they have Trample increasing their power doesn't help much when they *are* blocked.      

As far as rares go in this archetype the key remains to be open minded and take what the packs are offering.  While the best rares in this deck are going to be on-color monsters like Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Engulfing Slagwurm and even Liege of the Tangle don't ignore powerful game finishers just because they're artifacts!  Chimeric Mass, Steel Hellkite , Myr Resevoir, Molten-Tail Masticore, Wurmcoil Engine and Precursor Golem work *very* well in a beatdown deck designed to ramp mana.  Otherwise you should be drafting all of the usual suspects; Kuldotha Phoenix/Ezuri's Brigade (who cares if you have Metalcraft?), Koth of the Hammer, Spikeshot Elder, Contagion Engine and Mimic Vat.  Additionally while many decktypes have trouble squeezing value out of Cerebral Eruption and Asceticism they're both very strong in properly built versions of this archetype.  Finally in terms of rare equipment this deck probably gets the most value out of Nim Deathmantle and Sword of Body and Mind although it's perfectly acceptable to "just make your creatures bigger" with Livewire Lash or Strata Scythe.    

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Archetypes) # 3 - "U/W Skies"

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Today we're going to continue with our multi-part series on deck archetypes in triple SoM drafts; "Gotta Catch Em All".  We started by talking about the near-ubiquitous "Frontrunners" in the format; B/G Infect and R/W Metalcraft.  This time I'd like to look at a deck that's only slightly less popular than those two and a perennial favorite in limited regardless of the format; U/W Skies.  To stretch our previous "Cola Wars" analogy to the very limit; if Infect is Coca-Cola and R/W Metalcraft is Pepsi than U/W Skies is probably 7UP or Sprite.

Description:  While I can't say for sure, I'm willing to bet that this deck-style was played in the very first 8 man booster drafts ever conducted on this planet; that's how old/battle-tested U/W Skies is as an archetype.  The basic concept is very simple; play cheap effective flyers, muck up the ground with "walls"/defensive cards and use spot removal and tempo effects to keep your opponent from getting back into the game.  While traditionally annoying to most "dirtfarming groundpounder" aggro decks this combination of fast/evasive aggro creatures and time wasting defensive strategies makes it almost impossible to outrace this kind of deck in Limited; even with a much cheaper curve!  The only real solution is to kill the opponent's flyer's and then drop a massive bomb to reclaim board control; which is exactly why most U/W Skies decks run a couple counterspells to ruin the late game comeback party.  While you will often draft enough artifacts to trigger Metalcraft in the late game this deck is primarily composed of colored cards with it's preferred artifacts being power-boosting Equipment cards.      

Key Cards: While I haven't drafted this deck very often in Scars I have played *against* it at least 30 times simply because it's so popular.  One of the best reasons to play this archetype here in SoM is because none of the key creatures are rated all that highly in other decks in the format; this allows you to load up on removal and equipment cards with your first few picks before filling out your deck from pick 5 and on.

The absolute best commons in this archetype are probably Arrest, Tumble Magnet, Revoke Existence and Stoic Rebuttal.  These cards form the core of U/W Skies control package and along with Sky-Eel School, Glint Hawk Idol and Slyvok Lifestaff represent the only commons you'll really have to compete for while drafting.  Pick these cards early and often; the rest of the deck is pretty interchangeable but these represent the very best options U/W Skies has in terms of commons.  Assuming you do managed to grab some equipment Sunspear Shikari works fine in this build and will also have to be drafted sometime around picks 4-6 if you want to get one.  Neurok Replica, Soliton and Wall of Tanglechord are also all excellent additions to this archetype in the common slot and likely can be had mid-pack quite easily.

The best uncommons for this archetype are powerful control cards like Volition Reins, Rust Tick, Dispense Justice (even if you're only killing 1 guy), Contagion Clasp or Trigon of Corruption.  Additionally any deck built around a significant number of flying creatures will want to prioritize power-boosting cards like Darksteel Axe, Trigon of Rage or Barbed Battlegear.  Assuming you manage to snag a few copies of Solition you'll also want to try and grab a copy of Heavy Arbalest; while both decent cards in their own right they form a game winning combo when combined.  The top two creatures in the uncommon slot for this deck are probably Razor Hippogriff and Darkslick Drake; not necessarily in that order.  Golem Artisan is also a fine "man" with the ability to turn himself or other artifact creatures into a Flyer with a 2 mana investment.  While not suitable for every U/W Skies decks it's also worth noting that the Glimmerpoint Stag is amazing in pretty much any deck with either 187 effects (cards that say "when X enters the battlefield) or counters of any kind (for example Tumble Magnet).        

In terms of rares this deck wants to steer away from Metalcraft or artifact specific cards like Tempered Steel and Grand Architect.  Don't mistake the forest for the trees however; a card like Argent Sphinx is going to be very strong in this deck-type even if you *never* reach Metalcraft.  In fact it's pretty much a given that if it's rare, on color/artifact and it flies you'll want it; Indomitable Archangel, Sunblast Angel and Steel Hellkite can all win you games in this format very easily.  Finally of course rare equipment cards that boost power are just as highly sought after as their uncommon/common counterparts.  Strata Scythe/Sword of Body and Mind are probably the best of the lot but there's no reason to pass Argentum Armor, Livewire Lash or Nim Deathmantle in this build.  Other excellent choices include Elspeth, Kemba Kha Regent (assuming some equipment), True Conviction, Quicksilver Gargantuan, Venser, Contagion Engine, Mimic Vat, Molten-Tail Masticore, Myr Battlesphere, Precursor Golem and everyone's favorite; Wurmcoil Engine.  If this seems like most of the non Proliferate/Metalcraft dependant on-color/artifact rares in the format that's because almost any such "gold" card will fit into this archetype; feel free to draft and play virtually any bombs you open!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Deck Archetypes) # 2 - "R/W Metalcraft Primer"

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  For those of you just joining us this is part 2 in an ongoing series of articles about deck archetypes in SoM booster draft.  Last time we looked at most popular deck in the format; B/G Infect.  This time let's take a look at the *other* most popular deck in SoM booster draft; R/W Metalcraft.  If Infect is the "Coca-Cola" of this format than this deck is almost certainly it's "Pepsi".

Red/White Metalcraft

Description:  Only marginally harder to draft/play than Infect the secret to R/W Metalcraft's success is very simple; access to to ridiculous amounts of cheap and effective removal.  Between these two colors there are 5 excellent removal spells in the common slot alone; Shatter, Revoke Existence, Arrest, Galvanic Blast and Turn the Slag.  This combines seamlessly with cheap flyers and some of the best colored artifact enablers (Myrsmith/Embersmith, Razor Hippogriff) and Metalcraft cards (Galvanic Blast, Dispense Justice) in the format to create a very formidable deck archetype.  To my knowledge there has never been a time in the history of Magic where swarming your opponent with cheap creatures while killing all of his "mans" has been a bad idea; this format is no exception.

Key Cards:  One of the first things I noticed about drafting this deck is that both Red and White are so deep in SoM packs that you will invariably draft more playable colored cards than you can possibly run in a single deck.  Additionally the value of these cards goes way up or down depending on the artifact density of your build; the best cards for a 12 artifact deck are at least somewhat different than the best cards for an 18 artifact build.  For the purposes of this article let's assume we're talking about a deck with a high density of artifacts (15-18), later on we'll discuss more traditional R/W aggro in it's own article.

Top commons in this archetype include the previously mentioned 5 removal spells (Shatter, Revoke Existence, Galvanic Blast, Arrest and Turn to Slag) and the ever popular Tumble Magnet.  Cheap flyers are also very important in this build; especially Glint Hawks, Glint Hawk Idols, Snapsail Gliders and in some decks the Auriok Sunchaser.  Additionally like most metalcraft decks on-color mana Myr provide extra value as artifacts in this archetype while still helping you accelerate your mana production.  In terms of "groundpounders" Chrome Steed, Origin Spellbomb, Perilous Myr, Vulshok Replica and with the right equipment Sunspear Shikari are all excellent "mans" to draft onto your team.  Regardless of how many Shikari's you have R/W makes excellent use of Sylvok Lifestaff, Strider Harness and even Accorder's Sheild; which can be used to "turn on" Metalcraft cards more quickly than expected.

While the commons in this deck-type are strong it's the never-ending "Hit Parade" of Uncommons that really push R/W Metalcraft over the top.  As far as removal spells go, Arc Trail is probably the single best card in the format and I'll rarely take anything that isn't worth a significant amount of money over it in pack 1.  Dispense Justice is also a fine spell and certainly stronger than many experts have declared it during early set reviews.  Contagion Clasp and Trigon of Corruption are also very strong in this archetype; particularly when combined with Glint Hawk.  In terms of uncommon creatures however this deck enjoys an embarrassment of riches; Glimmerpoint Stag, Razor Hippogriff, Myrsmith, Embersmith, Oxidda Scrapmelter, Golem Artisan, Rusted Relic, Necropede, Palladium Myr and Rust Tick all blend perfectly into this design.  Finally of course no weenie rush Metacraft deck will be hurt by the inclusion of power boosting artifacts like Darksteel Axe, Barbed Battlegear or Trigon of Rage.

As far as rares go you'd almost be better off asking what *doesn't* work well in R/W Metalcraft.  I'm particularly fond of cards like Tempered Steel, Kuldotha Phoenix, Darksteel Juggernaut and Indomitable Archangel but those are really just the "Metalcraft" specific rares that work well in the deck.  Other possible options include Elspeth Tirel, Koth of the Hammer, Precursor Golem, Sword of Body and Mind, Kemba Kha Regent, Sunblast Angel, Nim Deathmantle True Conviction, Hoard-Smelter Dragon, Spikeshot Elder, Wurmcoil Engine, Strata Scythe, Steel Hellkite, Myr Battlesphere, Molten Tail Masticore, Mimic Vat, Livewire Lash and Etched Champion.  As you can see there's simply no shortage of strong rares this archetype could play.

Gotta Catch Em All (SoM Deck Archetypes) # 1 - "B/G Infect Primer"

Hello everyone and welcome back to another exciting edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Recently a friend of mine who reads this blog had "an amazing idea for an article I could write that would really help people get better at drafting".  He suggested that since so much of SoM draft was about valuing cards according to your deck archetype I could write an article explaining all the different archetypes available in the format.  Then I could compare them and offer brief notes on how to build and play each archetype.  I thought this was an amazing idea at the time; after all he was right in that Scars of Mirrodin was all about archetypes and it would be an amazing learning tool if I could help people learn about them all in one article.  Incredibly excited I sat down to list all the various archetypes I had either seen or played myself in SoM draft and came back with the staggering number of 14.  After polling some friends this number rose to 15 and it became painfully clear that there was no way I could properly cover each archetype in a single article.  Not wanting to throw away such an amazing idea I decided the only logical thing to do was to write a "mini" article about each archetype on it's own.  I'd start with the "Frontrunners" and work my way through all 15 archetypes as quickly as possible.  This is the first article in the series so I thought I'd start with everyone's favorite little monster:

Black/Green - Infect

Description:  This is probably the single most obvious deck archetype in the entire format; if you haven't seen one by now you really need to get out and draft SoM more often.  Typically this deck will be built around 11+ creatures with the keyword "Infect", a few Equipment artifacts and as much removal as the "poison" player can steal while still drafting Infect creatures.  Generally this deck will have a higher concentration of colored cards than most although key Infect creatures and removal effects (ie Ichorclaw Myr, Sylvok Replica) may well be artifacts.  While typically B/G I've also seen this deck splash either Red or Blue quite successfully with Horizon Spellbombs.  This allows for either more/better removal spells or the inclusion of cards that say Proliferate respectively; both powerful additions to the Infect arsenal.

Key Cards:  While any Infect deck will clearly be stronger with one of the 3 rare "bombs" (Skithiryx, Hand of the Praetors or Putrefax) most of the best cards in this deck are common.  Cystbearer slightly edges out Plague Stinger for the title of "best Infect common" in the format but both cards are spectacular in this archetype.  Just behind those two in terms of value, Ichorclaw Myr and Corpse Cur are both strong additions to virtually any "poison" deck in the format.  Unfortunately the fact that these two creatures are artifacts will more often be a drawback in this deck than an asset; simply because your opponent will have almost nothing else to spend his artifact removal effects on. In terms of creature control cards like Grasp of Darkness, Sylvok Replica, Instill Infection and Tumble Magnet are all very strong in this archetype.  You will however have to fight for them because removal is also pretty important to B and G Metalcraft decks.

As for Uncommons the two best creatures are probably Tangle Angler and Necropede, albeit for completely different reasons.  In most situations the Necropede is basically an improved version of Ichorclaw Myr; a 1 power "poison" creature your opponent will have little interest in blocking.  When your opponent does finally drop a removal spell on it however you get the added bonus of throwing a -1/-1 counter on another creature in play.  Additionally the fear of losing 1 toughness creatures to the -1/-1 token can typically prevent your opponent from attacking into a Necropede with "groundpounders"; allowing it to fill a valuable defensive role that Ichorclaw Myr simply can not.  Alternately Tangle Angler functions as both creature control and a game winning "finisher" while still having a high enough toughness (5) to block aggro creatures all day.  Early in the game the Angler's "Lure" ability allows you to pick off enemy weenies while allowing your tiny poison monsters to keep getting through.  Once your opponent has hit a critical mass of poison tokens you can simply activate the Angler's ability multiple times to force the entire enemy team to block him and allowing the rest of your creatures to finish off a poison victory. As far as uncommon removal goes both Skinrender and Slice in Twain are amazing cards but again you *will* be forced to pick them quite highly as they're awesome in virtually any on color deck.

Finally of course the very nature of a poison victory makes any card that can boost your creature's power *twice* as effective as it would be in a traditional damage deck.  While the most obvious example is the game-breaking Untamed Might its hardly the only good way for a poison player to end the game before it starts.  Other options include power boosting equipment cards like Darksteel Axe, Sylvok Lifestaff and Livewire Lash.  Alternately if you have enough creatures to simply swarm your opponent I've found that Trigon of Rage can end games incredibly quickly simply by giving whoever isn't blocked +3 power!  

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Of Limited Interest #14 - Ain't Goin' Out Like That

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to the latest edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Unfortunately it's cold/rainy so I've come up sick again and I won't be attending Friday Night Magic this weekend.  Instead I've decided to stay in tonight and catch up on some writing.

Shifting our focus from Standard for a moment lets take a look at a draft I actually participated in a couple weeks ago.  Previously we've talked about how to play the Infect deck  in triple SOM drafts including what signs or signals should cause you to either force or jump into "poison" early in pack 1.  Additionally drafting Infect has become a hot button topic in the online Magic community with arguments both for and against playing "poison" raging through both Limited strategy articles and the comments sections below them.  The general consensus is that forcing Infect from pick 1 can be a very risky strategy; it's better to wait a few picks into the draft for a clear signal that the players on your right are indeed passing Poison cards.  So what happens when multiple players read the poison signal; all in the same way and all at the exact same time?  Complete and total chaos as half a table's worth of drafters suddenly find themselves scrambling for a "Plan B".  Let's take a look at the "Infect" draft that wasn't and how I managed to avoid a messy train wreck by knowing when to quit:

I probably should have known this draft was going to be weird from the very first pick.  After rolling for seating I promptly opened a pack with 4 first pick white cards; including an Arrest, a Glimmerpoint Stag, a foil Razor Hippogriff and finally an Elspeth Tirel.  Even the lone Gold Myr in the pack produced white mana!  Making matters worse the only colored cards in the same league as those were a Turn to Slag and an Instill Infection.  With the draft being a "keeper" (no re-draft) it was pretty much a given I was going to take the Elspeth for pure dollar value; while simultaneously creating 3 other white drafters on my left to compete with.  The next pack was full of powerful artifact creatures, a Dispense Justice and a Darksteel Axe.  I took the Axe simply because game breaking equipment cards are very hard to come by in SoM drafts while artifact creatures are not.  Of course, it pained me to pass a Golem Artisan but ultimately the Axe is just the stronger card both in terms of power and utility.  Unfortunately packs 3, 4 and 5 would almost finish my draft before it even started.  The 3rd pack for example was incredibly weak; comprised almost entirely of random replicas, Saberclaw Golem/Soliton type creatures and some pretty marginal colored spells.  The single best card in the pack was a lone Plague Stinger and with almost nothing to lose I decided to take it.  If I ended up in "poison" the Stinger would make an amazing combo with my Darksteel Axe and if I didn't I hadn't exactly passed up anything spectacular to take it.  If pack 3 was the setup punch then Pack 4 was surely the body blow; surrounded by solid U/W/R Metalcraft cards I found a lonely Cystbearer winking at me and without hesitation I quickly snatched it up.  The simple truth is that Cystbearer is the best Infect common in the format and I felt that seeing a 4th pick 'Bearer was a strong signal that nobody to my right was playing "poison".  Pick 5 seemed to confirm my suspicion when I took a Corpse Cur over a Bladed Pinions and an incredibly late Volition Reins.  Unfortunately the next pack was completely devoid of Infect creatures but I did managed to snag a somewhat late Flesh Allergy.  While I'm not a huge fan of the card in "poison" decks it's actually quite good with Necropede or Perilous Myr.  Even without those key "bonus" removal effects it's still a legitimate answers to a huge # of "bomb" creatures in the format and thus playable in any Black deck.  My very next pick was an Ichorclaw Myr and I would draft a very late Carrion Call but otherwise I saw absolutely no more creatures with Infect in pack 1.  I did manage to table the Gold Myr from the pack I opened and I decided to take it just in case I opened a 6CC bomb in a future pack.  I also snagged a Strider Harness in between random G/B support cards like Tainted Strike and Tel-Jilhad Defiance.  Finally my 2nd last pick was a lonely unwanted Ghalma's Warden that I took primarily because "he isn't a land" but was pretty surprised to see at that point regardless.

Pack 2 continued along the same lines as pack 1 for the first few picks.  After opening a pretty mediocre rare I found myself excited to nab a Skinrender with my pick.  While not a poison creature himself he serves an important function in the Infect deck; acting as both spot removal when he comes into play and then serving as a fairly effective blocker against enemy weenies/Hill Giants.  At this point I was still pretty sure I was playing poison despite the "soft" pack 1 and I rationalized that if nothing else I'd need a few non Infect creatures to take proper advantage of Tainted Strike.  Of course my opponent to the left then proceeded to pass me a terrible pack with no relevant Infect, black or green cards whatsoever.  I probably should have taken this as a signal but I decided to "deny" draft the best card in the pack instead; a Myrsmith.  I then took Grasp of Darkness and Sylvok Lifestaff back to back before coming to a very sobering realization by pick 5; despite having passed zero Infect creatures throughout pack 2 I hadn't drafted a single "poison" monster in the entire pack.  Faced with yet another pack with no Infect creatures I was finally forced to accept the obvious; despite the very clear early signal that "poison" was open I was clearly being cut out of the strategy completely by someone on my left.  Frustrated and more than a little nervous I quickly began to catalog the cards I'd already drafted based on sheer power while purposely ignoring "poison" as a viable strategy.  Once I'd given up on fighting for the Infect deck completely it quickly became obvious that 4 of my 5 best cards we either white or black; Elspeth, Myrsmith, Skinrender and Grasp of Darkness.  My only legitimate option at this point was to play some sort of w/b token/equipment deck and without hesitation I quickly snatched a 2nd Gold Myr out of the pack.  Of course I'd already sent a very strong signal that white was open from my direction in pack 1 but I honestly felt I didn't have much of a choice at that point; I would be playing with both the Myrsmith and Elspeth even if I drafted no other white cards.  I spent the rest of the pack aggressively drafting b/w playables and came away with an Auriok Replica, a Glint Hawk, a Kemba's Skyguard and a Bleak Coven Vampires.  For the second pack in a row my last non-land pickup would be a card that eventually made my deck; in this case a Trigon of Mending.

Going into pack 3 I felt pretty lucky to have recovered so well from a near disastrous pack 1.  While I wasn't exactly happy with my deck I felt I was anywhere from 8-10 playables away from building a decent deck.  Opening an Arrest was certainly a nice start but real salvation wasn't achieved until I was passed a second copy in the very next pack!  Unfortunately both of these picks again left me passing strong artifact creatures and Metalcraft cards but none of them came close to Arrest in terms of raw power.  My 3rd pick out of a weak pack 3 was a Sunspear Shikari followed by a Trigon of Corruption.  The rest of the pack was pretty mediocre; netting me a 3rd Gold Myr, an Origin Spellbomb and a couple of random replicas.  Unfortunately despite the strong start pack 3 had left me just shy of 24 good cards and I'd be forced to run about 5 cards that I didn't want to.  After going back and forth on several marginal cards I finally sleeved up 24 cards, added 16 land and entered the tournament with the following deck:                         
W/B Token Aggro:

Creatures - 13 (14):

1x Glint Hawk
3x Gold Myr
1x Myrsmith
1x Sunspear Shikari
2x Auriok Replica
1x Kemba's Skyguard
1x Vulshok Replica
1x Ghalma's Warden
1x Skinrender
1x Bleak Coven Vampires

Spells - 11 (10):

1x Darksteel Axe
1x Origin Spellbomb
1x Sylvok Lifestaff
1x Grasp of Darkness
1x Trigon of Mending
2x Arrest
1x Strider Harness
1x Flesh Allergy
1x Trigon of Corruption
1x Elspeth Tirel

Lands - 16:

8x Plains
8x Swamp

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Standard Deviations #6 - Friday Night FireFight

Hello everyone and welcome back for another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Unfortunately the strange combination of a very hectic week at work and a torturous bout of writer's block have conspired to keep me away from blogging for the past few days.  Confused and frustrated I decided the only logical solution to this problem was to grab a Standard deck and attend a Friday Night Magic event at the Hairy T North.

Due to illness, it'd been quite a while since I'd played in a Standard tournament and I found myself looking forward to playing competitive constructed Magic again.  In my opinion the current Standard is one of the most wide open formats in years despite the many (mine included) early predictions that it would be all about Jace TMS and Primeval Titan. While those cards are certainly format defining, post-Scars Standard in my opinion actually has about 10-12 viable deck choices and the meta-game goes way beyond "how do I stop blue and green?".  In fact this "variety" of possible opponents was my chief problem while trying to decide what deck I was going to play late Wednesday evening.  My local environment is particularly wild; with aggro combo builds (WW Affinity, Kuldotha Red) being as popular or possibly more popular than Jace/Primeval Titan decks.  Unfortunately this was countered by the fact that many of the more skilled players area were likely to be playing Jace or Titan based strategies as well.  Quite literally I needed a deck that could beat "everything" and "anything" under the sun; a very tall order in the current format.

Ultimately I decided that my best bet was to play a U/B Control deck with a modified sideboard; essentially conceding game 1 against aggro combo decks to ensure a better match against control.  My logic was that if I had to win 2 games in a row I'd much rather it be against decks that can't outrun me to Jace.  Of course this would necessitate a *very* strong sideboard against fast aggro swarm strategies; slipping up even once after game 1 would mean losing the round entirely.  I started with the following list (scroll down): Dimir KISS and tinkered it slightly for the environment I expected to see on Friday:

Maindeck:  - 2x Volition Reins, +2 Into the Roil

I also changed the SB completely:

3x Memoricide
2x Volition Reins
2x Consume the Meek
2x Ratchet Bomb
2x Disfigure
2x Smother
1x Jace Berelen
1x Brittle Effigy

Obviously the Smothers, Disfigures, Ratchet Bombs and Consume the Meeks were included to deal with weenie swarm aggro decks; I chose to split my 4 "extra kill" slots between Smother and Disfigure to help with cards like Leatherback Baloth, Celestial Colonnade and Raging Ravine while still keeping overall mana costs down. I did the same with the mass board wipe by combining 2x Ratchet Bombs to deal with Kudoltha Rebirth decks and 2x Consume the Meek to choke out more traditional aggro.  Pretty much every other card in the sideboard is about beating enemy Jace the Mind Sculptors and Titans/Wurmcoil Engines; winning the Jace/Titan war is simply THAT important in this format.

After spending an hour on the subway with my friend and fellow competitor Tommy I was a little disappointed to find out that we only had 7 players.  Not only was this an awkward number but we wouldn't be able to sanction the event with the DCI.  While my current rating is a little unimpressive I've developed a mild interest in improving it since I learned that it can earn you up to 3 byes at a Grand Prix! :)  Unfortunately once it became clear an 8th player wasn't going to salvage our tournament Kelly graciously agreed to drop and we sat down to battle for Championship of the Universe.

Round 1 - Scott: RUG Titan Control  

By sheer stroke of luck my round 1 opponent turned out to be famous Eh Team podcaster ScottyMac and he'd arrived "loaded for bear".  From chatting on twitter I knew that Scott had recently switched to a version of RUG Titan as a direct response to our wacky "all-in" control or aggro format.  Unfortunately this didn't exactly bode well for me as one of RUG Titan's best match-ups is U/B Control.  Additionally while it was true that I'd read several articles about RUG Titan online; I'd never actually playtested a game against one simply because nobody had brought a copy by the store recently.  Finally of course I had to address the fact that my opponent had a final trump card I'd hadn't accounted for; an awesome  Movember mustache.  I felt that my nonstandard build of U/B (8 Counters, 4 maindeck Duress and extra card draw) might be able to steal game 1 from Scott's deck on a good draw but I had absolutely no counter for his mustache.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Of Limited Interest #13 - "Lack of Forward Progress"

(Dear readers, some of you may have noticed that this article appears out of sequence.  This is because I wrote it while waiting for another Website to publish "Of Limited Interest #12".  Rather than make everyone wait until the editor of the other site posts my article I've decided to just go ahead and post the next one anyways.  I've been assured that #12 will be posted sometime this weekend and while all my writing is by nature sequential there's nothing in that article you need to know to understand/enjoy this one.  Alternately feel free to assume I forgot how to count and to poke fun at my math skills in the comments section! :) )

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome back for another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Recently I mentioned that due to some sort of technical "glitch" many readers were apparently unable to post comments here on this blog.  I asked these readers to simply email me their comments so I could post and respond to them as part of the regular column.  Until now, nobody has taken me up on this offer.  This morning at 9 AM I received the following email from Darren:

"Can you post my comment please: "Do you ever lose a draft?  I like your blog but it seems like you only pick the drafts you win to write about.  I think people could learn more if you posted some of your bad drafts too, just my opinion.  Thanks for writing draft articles.""

Well Darren I hate to admit this but you raise a good point.  While I certainly have posted articles about losing drafts in the past it's been a little while since I've written about one that I lost.  I'm pretty sure this is a subconscious decision since frankly I tend to remember games I've lost in way more intricate detail than games I've won; making it much easier to write about them.  In light of this glaring injustice I've decided to write an article about not 1 but 2 triple SoM draft decks that simply "didn't get there".  Thanks for your comment Darren and please enjoy my failures:

W/B Flying Metalcraft Aggro :

Creatures - 16 (17)

2x Fumespitter   
2x Glint Hawk
1x Glint Hawk Idol (in a W deck it's usually a creature)
1x Gold Myr
2x Painsmith
2x Perilous Myr
1x Kemba Skyguard
2x Moriok Replica
1x Necrogen Scudder
1x Palladium Myr
1x Rust Tick
1x Golem Artisan

Spells - 7:

1x Contagion Clasp
2x Grasp of Darkness
1x Revoke Existence
1x Dispense Justice
1x Instill Infection
1x Trigon of Corruption

Land - 16:

8x Plains
8x Swamp

Coming out of the draft portion of this tournament I was pretty sure I was going to waffle-stomp all 4 of my opponents and cruise to an easy victory in 8 or 9 games.  This deck was fast and evasive with a pile of excellent removal and typically that's a draft winning combination here in Scars of Mirrodin. On the downside playing only 11 artifacts to combine with 2x Glint Hawk and 2x Painsmith made me feel a little naked but I simply didn't have better options in the sideboard.  I figured it wouldn't be a serious issue anyways since the only 2 cards that had no value without an artifact in play were the Glint Hawks.  Besides you'd really only need to get through with a Painsmith augmented flying creature 2-3 times to ice a game.

My first two rounds went pretty much exactly like I predicted they would; I won the roll and dropped some creatures.  My opponents decks were both slower than mine and I'd usually be up 2-4 life by the time they were in a position to start swinging back.  I'd drop a removal spell or two, spill out more damage/flyers and the games were ending on turns 5-7. Because the games ended so quickly I"m a little fuzzy on the details but I'm pretty sure my first round opponent was running r/g "Stompy" aggro with few artifacts and my second opponent was running a more traditional R/W "Metalcraft" build but with very few flying creatures.

My third round opponent was playing a slower primarily blue Metalcraft deck with multiple copies of Vedalken Certarch and Sky-Eel Schools. He also had at least 2 Neurok Replicas because in our first game he held me off for what seemed like years with a pair of them.  Additionally because his flyers were simply larger than mine I couldn't count on them to close out the game like they had in the first two rounds.  At one point my opponent had 2x Replicas, 2x Sky-Eel Schools and a Certarch in play while my board was something like a couple of 2/2 Flyers, a Moriok Replica and a Palladium Myr.  I was pretty close to conceding when something remarkable started to happen; namely I drew virtually every piece of removal in my deck one after another while my opponent topdecked nothing but land.  Unfortunately game 2 was a travesty as my opponent got stuck on 2 land and then 4 land for multiple turns each time.  When he finally did play his 5th land I was simply too far ahead on life to catch; my opponent showed me 2 Sky-Eel Schools and a Volition Reins before conceding.  I think it's fair to say my opponent's deck was more powerful than mine; albeit not as fast.

By the time the finals rolled around my estimation of my deck's power level had diminished slightly.  While it's true I had a number of solid flying creatures none of the monsters in my deck were actually very big.  Making matters worse I had struck out on power boosting equipment yet again; a sure sign I don't draft these cards quickly enough.  This left me depending on one of 3 things to win: my opponent's having no flyers themselves, my deck feeding me enough kill to clear the path for my tiny guys or me sticking a Painsmith/Golem Artisan and riding it to victory over 3-4 turns.  I still felt I had a tournament winning deck in my hands, I just wouldn't describe is as "broken" anymore upon further examination.  Round 4 however was to be my "comeuppance" when I faced off against my arch-nemesis; Kelly Ackerman rocking the single most disgusting B/G Poison deck I have ever seen.  Kelly had everything; including doubles of Plague Stinger, Ichorclaw Myr, Cystbearer and Corpse Cur.  He also had a a pretty sweet removal package with at least one Grasp of Darkness, at least one Tangle Angler, a couple Slice in Twains and a Flesh Allergy.  Finally of course pushing the deck right over the top Kelly had not 1 but 2 copies of Hand of the Praetors and making matters worse I'd actually PASSED him one of them in pack 3 so I could pick up my 2nd Grasp of Darkness.  In fact I'd also passed him a pack 1 Grasp when I stopped to take a 1st pick Arc Trail and then never saw another relevant red card all draft.  Our first game was at least close; Kelly of course seized control of the early game and began giving me poison counters.  I responded by playing my own creatures; several of which who double as removal (Fume Spitters/Perilous Myr).  We began an elaborate multi-turn battle for board control; trading creatures and removal spells with both of us playing at a very high level.  I honestly feel I got the better of him during combat for 3 or 4 turns in a row because of the Myrs "explosion" effect in particular but ultimately it didn't matter.  I died by poison despite having sent 12 of Kelly's creatures to the graveyard and exiling 1 of them from the game (Corpse Cur).  Game 2 can be summed up by saying that Kelly drew roughly the same number of infect monsters as in game 1 while I drew about 1/3 as many removal cards; in other words this game ended very quickly and no I did not win.

3-1 (7-2) LVP:  My opponent's deck being broken 8 ways from Sunday combined with my own overestimation of the strength of my build.  The deck desperately needed more flyers, some equipment or a Trigon of Rage.

W/R Equipment Aggro

Creatures - 12 (14):

1x Origin Spellbomb
2x Glint Hawk Idol
1x Perilous Myr
1x Silver Myr
1x Sunspear Shikari
1x Auriok Replica
1x Kemba' Skyguard
1x Vulshok Replica
2x Bloodshot Trainee
1x Ghalma's Warden
1x Barrage Ogre
1x Saberclaw Golem

Spells - 10:

1x Darksteel Axe
3x Galvanic Blast
2x Sylvok Lifestaff
1x Shatter
1x Trigon of Rage
1x Arrest
1x Tumble Magnet

Land - 17:

8x Mountain
9x Plains

This deck on the other hand had me quite worried coming out of the draft process.  I'm not sure if it was because the packs were light or because my opponents were adopting a "take all of the artifacts" strategy but I found myself scrambling all draft for non-colored cards.  In fact I left several decent Metalcraft cards in the Sideboard simply because I never expected to trigger their bonus in time; including a couple of Auriok Sunchasers and another Ghalma's Warden.  On the plus side I had managed to draft way more power-boosting equipment than usual and through sheer luck I'd been handed a late Bloodshot Trainee in both packs 1 and 3; picks 9 and 11 respectively. 

My first round opponent was playing a green/blue infect deck with a bunch of awesome proliferate cards.  Unfortunately in both our games he struggled with his mana in the early going and I was able to draw enough removal to keep myself clear of poison in the early game.  By the mid game his hand was full of proliferate cards with nothing on board to proliferate.  Ultimately I don't think his deck was that good although it did have a number of powerful interactions; you really want a LOT of infect creatures when you're trying to win by poison.  Alternately maybe he just didn't draw very well and his deck actually had hordes of them; our games were over too fast for me to say for sure.

My next opponent was essentially playing the same deck I was except it was bigger and unfortunately slower.  This was his first draft since the pre-release and I could kind of tell by the way he built his deck that he was till stuck in M11 mode.  Essentially he'd drafted 4x Flameborn Hellions, several Mana Myr and some removal to keep himself in the game long enough to beat his opponent down with Hellions.  Unfortunately Scars is a *much* faster environment than M11 was; by aggressively attacking his mana Myr I was able to end both games before he could cast a 2nd Hellion. Additionally my creatures are all pretty interchangeable and many of them weren't artifacts; making his Shatters and Turn to Slag somewhat awkward to use in both games.

My opponent in the finals turned out to be "the other white" player; running a very powerful U/W Metalcraft deck that unfortunately outclassed mine in every single way.  Highlights include: 2x Halt Order, 2x Sky-Eel School, 2x Razor Hippogriiff, 2x Soliton (and 1x Heavy Arbalest :( ), 3x Neurok Replica, a Perilous Myr, a Rust Tick, an Argentum Armor, an Arrest, a Mimic Vat and finally a Steel Hellkite.  Needless to say I did not win any games against this deck and finished this tournament in a distant 2nd place.  The most frustrating part of the entire experience is that Leon had drafted that monstrosity exactly 2 seats away from me and I had no idea he was even playing those colors.  I'd been so focused on maxing out on Galvanic Blasts and power-boosting Equipment that I'd let an opponent "built a significantly better mousetrap" than I should have.

2-1 (4-2) LVP: Overestimating the importance of speed here in the Scars of Mirrodin draft format.  While I never saw the Hellkite or the Mimic Vat many of the cards Leon used to beat me originally came from my packs.  I'd passed on a pack 1 Razor Hippogriff in favor of the much cheaper Galvanic Blast and ignored blue as a possible 2nd color even though it was clearly open simply because "Sky-Eel Schools and Solitons are too expensive".  Probably worst of all I'd passed the Argentum Armor after opening it in pack 2 in favor of a Darksteel Axe because I was afraid of investing 6 mana in an easy to destroy artifact.  Ultimately this made my opponent's deck significantly stronger than mine.

Well folks there you have it, definitive evidence that I do in fact lose drafts from time to time.  I'd like to thank Darren for emailing in the comment that inspired this article and I'd like to encourage readers out there who might be having trouble with the Comments box on this blog to email their posts to me like Darren did.  My email address is kyuden.tarantula@gmail.com.  Thanks again for reading and until next time remember that 3x Galvanic Blasts doesn't always mean you're going to win the whole draft; even if it should.


Of Limited Interest #12 - "Shake the Disease"

Hello everyone and welcome back for a very special edition of The Cardboard Witch.  As part of our ongoing efforts to branch out online I've agreed to write a Cardboard Witch article for the website 60cards.com.  They sponsor and help make the wildly popular Eh Team (Magic) podcast that I reference on this blog from time to time and Mr Scotty Mac was nice enough to give us a shout out during a recent broadcast.  For regular readers looking to check out the latest Cardboard Witch article please click on the following link: 60cards.com Shake the Disease  While you're there feel free to check out some of the other amazing and 100% free content available on the site including decklists, strategy articles and previous episodes of The Eh Team podcast.  

For those of you who've ended up here by following the link from the article posted on 60cards.com: Welcome!  This is the blog I mentioned in the article; while obviously this isn't the best post to start with feel free to click around and check the place out.  While I can't rightly say myself I've been told by readers that the following two posts are some of my best work:



Hopefully that helps and again welcome to The Cardboard Witch.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Standard Deviations #5 - Dimir KISS (Keep it Strictly Simple)

Hello everyone and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  Those of you who've been reading this blog the past month of so know that almost all of my recent time has been devoted to playing Scars of Mirrodin Sealed/Draft in preparation for the Grand Prix.  Now that GP Toronto is over I'd like to switch gears again for a column or two and talk a little bit about Standard.  Don't worry I'll get back to the "GP Conclusions" article I promised to write last time; I learned a lot about what it takes to compete at a higher level of Magic during this event and I certainly want to share it.  Unfortunately even someone who dearly loves Limited Magic can get sick of writing about it from time to time and I figured talking a little bit about Standard for a while might help recharge my batteries a little bit.  

While it hasn't come up much I've actually been playtesting "Type 2" decks off and on for the past month or so; mostly at work while I'm standing behind the counter. Obviously the level of competition varies wildly in this type of setting but it simply can't be beat for sheer number of games and deck variety.  As a result I've managed to squeeze in a couple hundred games both with and against a wide array of decks; including internet copies of many of the best builds in the format.  Additionally of course like many of you out there reading this blog I devour new online Magic content like an addict; reading as many as 10-15 articles a day and examining the decklists typically provided.  In particular I've found myself fascinated with the sheer number of U/B control decks suddenly bursting out into cyberspace.  Don't get me wrong; I'm not really surprised that U/B control is popular in the current format because it's very strong against both "Ramp" and other control decks.  What surprises me more than anything are the decklists themselves and how complicated they are.  In my opinion U/B Control is potentially one of the simplest and most direct builds in the format; virtually every card in the deck is designed to attack other top tier decks in Standard.

Of course I'm not one to argue with results; many of the U/B lists recently published have performed well at State Championships or Open cash tournaments (very competitive).  It's also quite possible that I'm just not bright enough to recognize the genius behind running cards like Archive Trap, Trinket Mage and Elixir of Immortality (what a terrible card!).  With that having been noted however I'd like to share the "simple" version of U/B control I've recently been testing with and talk about why I prefer it to the many variations I've seen online.  First lets look at the list itself:

Dimir KISS   

Creatures - 4:

2x Frost Titan
2x Grave Titan

Spells - 34:

4x Duress
4x Preordain
2x Brittle Effigy
4x Doomblade
4x Mana Leak
2x Cancel
2x Stoic Rebuttal
4x Jace the Mind Sculptor
2x Jace's Ingenuity
2x Volition Reins

Lands - 26:

4x Creeping Tar Pit
4x Darkslick Shores
4x Drowned Catacomb
4x Tectonic Edge
5x Island
3x Swamp
2x Terramorphic Expanse

Sideboard - 15: 

1x Frost Titan
1x Grave Titan
1x Brittle Effigy
3x Ratchet Bomb
3x Flashfreeze 
2x Into the Roil
4x Disfigure

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Of Limited Interest #11 - "The Icarus Principle" - Grand Prix Toronto Report Part 2

Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome back to another edition of The Cardboard Witch.  For those of you just joining us this article is a continuation of my Grand Prix Toronto report; you can find the first part here Nina's GP Toronto Report part 1.  When we last left our intrepid heroine she was preparing to face off with 1300+ other people in round 1 of Grand Prix Toronto:

Round 1: Andrew - R/W Aggro:

Despite being in no real rush to push my way through the crowds I still managed to arrive at the table for my round 1 match before my opponent.  This gave me a moment to unpack my supplies, settle into my chair and really take in the room around me.  I'd never seen 1350 Magic players all playing at the same time before and the effect was somewhat humbling; it instantly dawned on me just how unlikely winning an event of this size would be.  Unfortunately a few minutes later when time had actually started my opponent had still not arrived at the table and I was advised by people sitting around me to call a judge.  The judge was friendly enough; explaining to me that the size of the tournament might cause some delays and requesting I wait a few more minutes for my opponent to arrive at the table.  I explain that I really wasn't looking for a free game win so much as making sure I was complying with the general tournament rules.  At that exact moment as if out of a comedy script my opponent stumbles to the table calling "I'm here" out ahead of himself.  We introduce ourselves and my first impression is that Andrew is an extremely relaxed and friendly person.  I'm almost ashamed to admit that this initially made me a little wary; I've certainly played enough Magic to recognize a "playing persona" in action.  Many players will adopt relaxed and friendly attitude when playing against an unfamiliar opponent; even going so far as to appear disinterested in the final result or alternately appearing to play very loose/poorly in the early going.  This is designed to lull you into a false sense of security; encouraging you to play loosely as well and to focus on something other than the final result of the game.  Of course when push comes to shove this type of player will suddenly become incredibly focused/serious and use the "casual" nature of the game prior to club you to death at just the right moment.  Thankfully once we started playing it became apparent to me that Andrew was exactly who he appeared to be: a nice player with a decent sealed pool here to enjoy the GP just like me. 

Game 1: In what would become a day long pattern I lost the roll to determined who would go first in game 1 and found myself on the draw in the R/W aggro mirror against a deck faster than mine; not good.   Thankfully Andrew's draw was reasonably slow and we started trading cheap creatures and removal spells for the first few turns.  Eventually I started dropping "Hill Giants" and threatening to swing in for 6+ damage a turn which forced Andrew to play an Auriok Sunchaser and dump out enough "extra' artifacts to protect his Metalcraft status.  It was pretty obvious he intended to trade it for my Blade-Tribe Bersekers and to just keep chumping my Saberclaw Golem.  I'd been nursing a Turn to Slag the entire game and while I didn't really want to waste damage on a 3/3 Flyer, I also really didn't want to lose my Blade-Tribe Bersekers.  Sighing slightly I dropped the Turn to Slag on the Sunchaser and swung in with most of my team, sticking 7 or 8 damage.  Of course my opponent promptly untapped, dropped a Strata Scythe and exiled a Mountain to turn a random Iron Myr into a 7/7 monstrosity.  This wouldn't have been an issue if I had saved the Turn to Slag but of course I didn't and for a couple turns I was really worried I'd blown the game entirely.  Unfortunately he was simply way behind in creatures at this point and had to leave all of his monsters back to defend.  When he drew 4 more lands and I drew even more creatures the game ended pretty quickly.

Game 2: Sadly while I remember our first game in some detail the second game is a bit of a blur.  I recall that both Andrew and I started slower this time but I quickly played a couple flyers and he didn't.  Eventually I managed to get a Trigon of Corruption into play and Andrew responded by announcing an Eslpeth Tirel with 3 creatures in play, one of which is a 1/1 mana Myr.  Reflexively I said "wow Elspeth, really?  That's an amazing pull sir, what an awesome card" and then I killed his Mana Myr in response.  I'm not sure he understood me however because he seemed to think I meant after Elspeth was already in play.  I explained that I understood how priorities worked and clarified "when you announce Elspeth, I kill the mana Myr with the Trigon token."  He seemed satisfied that I was playing fairly but I decided to note the lesson I'd just learned; kill your opponent's creature *first* and *then* comment "wow what a bomb rare" after to avoid confusion.  Thankfully by that time I was drawing removal and it was pretty easy to clear out Andrew's blockers and murder Elspeth before she could wipe the board.  Denied his game-saving "Wrath" effect and still struggling to draw creatures from the top of his deck Andrew conceded a couple turns later and I was on to round 2.

1-0 (2-0)  MVP: A relaxed opponent who helped make my first match "just another friendly game of Magic".  I was very nervous at the start of the tournament and playing someone else who was just there to have a good time certainly helped take the edge off my entire day.

Unfortunately round 1 brought mixed news for our merry band of wayward mages; while both Beau and I won our first matches almost everyone else we played with struggled through unlikely losses.  I was particularly devastated to find that Leon had lost after winning game 1, losing a super tight game 2 and then mana flooding out of the match in game 3.  Even Stephen got robbed; finding out at the very last minute that he only had a 1 round bye instead of 2 because the T.O. from State Championships hadn't submitted the results on time.  With a heavy heart I wished my friends the very best of luck and quickly found my table for round 2.