Skip to content

Not just another rant about Magic Online

January 3, 2015

I want to make a confession. When this post is published it has been a full year since the last time I booted up Magic Online. And how do I feel about that? Well, this tweet that I retweeted the other day capture my current state of mind pretty well:

I’m in the boat that a growing amount of players, with varying amount of chagrin and contempt, have found themselves in; we love Magic and we want the ability to play it digitally as well, but the offered product for doing that doesn’t meet our expectations. And I mean, most of us are willing to overlook quite a lot, but there is a line somewhere exactly how much one is willing to overlook for the required input of time and money. That line has passed for me personally, along with several others at this point.

I’m not writing this to pile on comments regarding what the interface of Magic Online leaves to be desired, the stability issues and more. A lot has already been said around the Internets and to most of the constructive feedback and complaints that have been mentioned and raised I can only solemnly nod to in agreement.

No, I’m writing this to put some light on another area of potential improvement of Magic Online that isn’t as much discussed. Let me get into it by first posing a question; is it important that Magic Online accurately replicates the experience of playing the paperback version of the game?

Right now, Magic Online is in most aspects a very close replica of “the real thing” in the ways of how the game works, how tournaments are run, how trading work etc. The largest deviations between the two in my book is the renown in-game clock, together with the they way triggers are much more clearly announced and handled on Magic Online compared to the paper version but with the cost of being much more time consuming to handle and in extreme cases downright unmanageable. These deviations have in a few cases led to popular decks and combos in the paper version not having the same success and popularity online as the shenanigans these decks and combos are trying to pull off might not be feasibly executable in a timely fashion on Magic Online (Elf combo or Project X of past formats comes to mind as examples of this phenomena). I’m not necessarily saying this is for the better or the worse, that’s just how it is. But disregarding these things, at large paperback Magic and Magic Online are the same in the way that they operate (or at least try to).

Personally my answer to the above question is in the line of “not very”. I mean, I don’t want to mix with the core functionality of the game, but I’d be happy to switch things around with the surrounding settings if it would lead to a better user experience.

Now, let us fast forward to a (hopefully not too distant) future where most of the fundamental kinks that Magic Online currently has have been sorted out and amended in a pleasing fashion. How could Magic Online and its functionality further be tinkered with to increase the user experience? Assuming that the consensus answer to the question above is on the “no” side of the spectrum, I think there are some interesting things one could consider.

During the past year I have picked up Solforge and playing that game has been a common pastime of mine for hours every now and then previously occupied by playing Magic Online. In that game, or other up-and-coming online TCGs/CCGs and/or whatnot like Hearthstone, everyday tournaments are run significantly differently compared to Magic Online. On the latter “queues” and Daily Events are currently run very much in the same fashion as pick-up events and other public events during Grand Prixs are being run in real life.

The way typical Swiss rounds works means that there is overall a significant amount of time between rounds that any given player will spend not actually playing Magic: the Gathering. Time which if not used for a visit to a bathroom or grabbing some food is time that any given player will feel as largely wasted. There are some clear administrative benefits of running events in this fashion in the flesh, but can’t we streamline things for the digital version?

If we go back to Solforge and Hearthstone, these games have everyday “events” based on asynchronicity. You enter an event, either with a constructed deck or first you do some sort of drafting from a limited card pool, which subsequently puts you in a matchmaking queue which pairs you against a player (that have also enter the same type of event) with an identical record to you or at least closely to your record (with “closely” being broader the longer time you spend in the matchmaking queue). Each of these events are set to a certain amount of rounds per player, which means that once this set amount of rounds have been played by a player, said player is done with the event and then get some sort of prizes depending on how fell he or she fared.

In addition, there is no requirement that any player play through all of these rounds at once. After each and every round the player has the choice of entering the matchmaking queue again, which means that a player may for example settle with only playing a couple of the total amount of rounds during one sitting. He or she can then log off and return later to finish the event. This asynchronous event structure means that the time between rounds is almost completely in the hand of the players, which largely means less time sitting around feeling like they are not doing anything.

Now imagine Daily Events and 8-man queues on Magic Online being run on a similar principle as described above? Wouldn’t that be sweet, or what? Of course this asynchronous model isn’t really applicable for higher profile tournaments like PTQs or MOCS events, or for typical booster drafts as you want to constrict the player field to only to the players that were drafting from the same pool of cards. But for everyday constructed and sealed events this seems to me like that it would be a solid improvement for the total user experience. And heck, I’d imagine that Wizards would get more players to play in random events on Magic Online if each and every player would get more freedom on how many rounds they have to play during a day, in addition with nothing really having to care about any Daily Event schedule.

I’m only scratching the surface here with mentioning what could be done with the tournament structures on Magic Online, there are surely several more areas where there are room for improvement and innovation if we allow ourselves to deviate from the paper version of the game.

I think the question I presented earlier is going to be a crucial one for Magic Online moving forward considering future development. Of course as I mentioned at the start of this post, Magic Online has some basic issues that need to be addressed first and foremost, but that aside I feel that Magic Online is handicapped in several aspects in comparison to similar competing games like Hearthstone because of the bond with the paper version of the game. If said bond with the paperback version could be given some more slack I think there are some interesting places future development could take Magic Online.

Credits were credits are due to the games and teams behind Hearthstone, Solforge and more, but to a certain extent I feel like that the hype and limelight these games are receiving is part of Magic Online being in the state that it’s in right now. And I think that is a pity, considering how good of a game Magic is.

To return to the tweet that I kicked off this post with; I love Magic, and I really wish my feelings for Magic Online were even remotely on the same level as for the paperback version of the game. One day, maybe?

Another year in review (2013 edition)

December 30, 2013

Hey ya. Another year has gone by and that means it’s time for my annual “this year in review”-post!

Longtime followers of this blog might wonder why this post is a little delayed as I have for 4 years straight been posting this chronicle on the 26th of December, which is the birthday of this very blog. The reason for that is that my grandfather got ill just a couple of days before Christmas Eve. It wasn’t anything super serious, but he was ill enough for my grandparents to opt out of going to Stockholm for Christmas and the traditional family Christmas celebration. To amend this unfortunate situation, the family opted to beside having the traditional Christmas lunch in Stockholm on Christmas Eve also go visit them in Gävle on the 26th. Now that meant that my 26th of December, which is usually a day of pure relaxation and doing whatever you see fit within my family, got filled up with other stuff. But that’s alright, we had a good time with my grandparent, my grandfather is better now and I think this blog won’t succumb to the fact that this post ended up being a couple of days late. I think.

So, what had 2013 in store for me? Because Magic is much more than just a game to play for me at this point, I feel like I need to break this year’s story in two parts. Let’s start with “Bernhard the player’s perspective”.

Ironically, the year started out with a lot of none playing on my part. Sure, I played in a non-zero amount of local events but beside GP London, there wasn’t a whole lot of GPs and PTQs I could feasibly go to due to their scheduling and my own schedule. In the end, for the first 3 months GP London ended up being just the one larger event I went to. I couldn’t even make it to one (1) real life PTQ that season, which hasn’t happened for me since 2007. When I realized that I was kinda bummed.

Now, I’m a fan of several of the changes to organized play that have happen recently and/or the way organized play is heading, but there is a couple of things I’m unhappy of the current situation that we are in and/or the way we are heading. At least from a non-North America perspective, the PTQ system is one of them. There are more players in the Magic community than ever, both here in Sweden and in the world, but the number of PTQs per season have never been so low. We are right now just down to one PTQ per season here in Sweden, and because not all Magic players in Sweden lives in the Stockholm area the one PTQ have to move around a bit to please everyone. That season the PTQ was in Malmö, which is borderline too far way for me (~6h car drive) to go for just a single PTQ. Factor in a economic and time situation that weren’t the best along with the fact that I just hadn’t been playing that much Modern since the bannings and the release of Gatecrash, it wasn’t too hard for me to say no to that PTQ. And by saying no to that PTQ it meant, sadly, saying no to playing in a real life PTQ for that whole season. Frowny face.

Alas, GP London wasn’t a smash hit playing wise. I ended up being dead running after the penultimate round of the day 1 swiss. I felt like I played the actual games alright, but looking back I’m not sure if I built my sealed deck properly. I mean, my sealed pool wasn’t the greatest to start with but I feel like there was a little more mileage to be squeezed out of that pool.

Then, starting in April there was a sleeve of Standard events, as both the former PTQ and WMCQ season was in Standard. From playing in a couple of local events and paying close attention to tournaments results and coverage, I relatively early in the season concluded that being aggressive was what I wanted to be doing that season. Between the aggressive option, which basically were Naya Blitz and Gruul Aggro, I liked the more stable option more and stuck with Gruul Aggro for the majority of the season. In terms of win percentage, I ran pretty well with the deck (reaching a ~74% win rate in DCI sanctioned matches) but unfortunately not enough of those wins ended up stacking up in a single event and in the end a WMCQ Top8 was the best individual result I had to show for it. I took some solace in the fact that I got Olle Råde hooked on the archetype and then he went on to win the WMCQ I top8ed, which in turn got Elias Watsfeldt to play the deck in the following WMCQ…which he in turn went on to win.

That was the spring, and then the summer kicked off with Sweden’s own GP for the year; this one in the city of Gothenburg. That event went pretty well; I mean, it’s hard for a non-ringer to complain on going 7-2 and the 2-1 both drafts on day 2 and then walk away with some cash. I felt like I played pretty well during the weekend, baring a slip or two which ended up not mattering on day 1 and then being a little too attached to white in my second draft. I have to say though that my sealed pool was pretty sweet and that certainly helped my performance that weekend. I mean, the pool wasn’t insanely good but certainly above average, so mise.

During the middle of summer there wasn’t much going on for me Magic wise as work got pretty hectic. As I was the guy appointed to hold the fort while everybody else were on vacation, I had for the most part quite a lot on my plate and hence taking time off for going to GP Rimini or Warsaw wasn’t an option. I did however get the chance to go to Prague, which was an amazing trip even though playing wise it was a bit of a letdown. After enjoying the two byes I had I just beelined towards the X-3 bracket. Frankly I felt a bit under prepared regarding the format (M14 Limited) so it didn’t feel totally undeserved, but those 3 matches felt like I did what my deck wanted to do and while my opponents did his/hers corresponding thing, and then he/she just ended up on top in 3 matches straight. There weren’t that many big decisions to be made from my side during those matches. I felt like there wasn’t much I could have done differently with the tools I had to work with, so I kinda shrugged it off. Magic is like that sometimes and you just got to say c’est la vie when it happens.

The fall wasn’t too action packed either. Work has been kind of uneven during the last few months so it was hard to make any plans. I really wanted to go to Vienna, but alas I couldn’t make it in the end. So for playing two local PTQs was it for me; one in Theros Limited and one in Standard. I showed no excellency in neither of those events, so I don’t really have much to say about them either.

As for non-playing activities that I have been up to that are relevant to the Magic community, there are really two things/events from 2013 I would like to mention. The first is my apparent departure from writing for blackborder.com.

If you didn’t know, I wrote a monthly column for blackborder.com since the summer of 2011 and ran that column continuously bar a two month break in the fall of 2012 until March this year, titled “The Daily Grind”. There wasn’t much drama regarding the departure, as it was on my initiative. In April I asked my editor for permission to take a, effective immediately, indefinite break from my column, which I was graciously granted. Initially I thought to address this in a post here on the blog, but for months I went back and forth in my head about what I wanted to share, how I would frame my thoughts and feelings, if it was something people would care to read about and even if I wanted say anything at all. During this time period I would start a draft and then write a couple of paragraphs, take a break for a few days, come back and write a couple of more, take another break for a few days, come back, delete half I had written, write a paragraph or two and so on and so forth.

After doing that for, well months really, I decided that I would just scrap the whole draft and say a couple of words about it all here and now in the annual chronicle instead. I still don’t feel like going into deep about the reason why I decided to put my column on ice, so here is the short story. Sometime in February/March this year I realized that I just didn’t have the same fire for playing the game as I had a year or two ago when I started the column, and hence I have naturally slowly been playing less and less Magic in general. About this time I decided that I had reached a point where I felt like I wasn’t playing enough for regularly having enough content of value to be writing a column called “The Daily Grind”. This epiphany along with the fact that I felt like there wasn’t enough incentives neither from blackborder’s side nor the readers to motivate me to make the efforts to continue my column, led me to the decision I took in April.

Now I don’t want you to read too much into this “losing fire” bit; I still very much enjoy playing Magic and the competitive aspect of the game, and I don’t see myself stop playing in tournaments anytime soon. But the reality is that I feel a bit worn out in the sense that I have been playing in PTQs and whatnot for quite a while now and the initial glamour and promises these events had for me previously just isn’t there anymore. By the way the game, the community and organized play have developed in last couple of years, it’s harder than ever to qualify for the Pro Tour and it’s harder than ever to stay on it. That has sort of killed the gravy train dream for me, so instead I’m valuing each individual event I’m attending higher. Therefore it’s harder for me these days to justify traveling far to “just” play a single PTQ, for example.

I will get back to this in a second but to move things along let me get into the other event from 2013 I wanted to mention. In early September, there was an event at the local watering hole called the Dragon’s Lair Summer Championships. Actually it was a series of events that culminated in a final event which was in the beginning of September. The guy in charge of said event had the vision of having live coverage from the final event and I volunteered to be a part of the coverage crew. I have in the past done some coverage-y type things for svenskamagic.com, so it wasn’t a completely new experience for me but working the stream for an extended period of time was.

Now it turned out that the technology wasn’t cooperating with us for the first day of play so we had to revert to doing text coverage only for day 1, which I personally was totally fine with. Don’t get me wrong, live streams at all of the larger Magic events from day 1 to the finals is like the best thing that has happen to Magic coverage since there actually being coverage at all. But that doesn’t make text coverage unimportant or secondary, which I know is a common sentiment. I personally feel like text coverage has things going for it that will keep it relevant and important for years to come. Among other things, while live streams with good commentary is terrific at conveying what is happening right this instance, I personally think text coverage usually stands the test of time better.

Anyways, we got the stream up and running on the second day and we ended up doing a pretty good job covering the event live on the second day given our amateurish equipment and limited skill set in field of live commentating. For those interested, you can find bits and pieces from the coverage from the Summer Championships Finals here. It was a fun and very educating experience, and it certified my respect I have for people doing coverage for Magic. You frequently read or hear about people bashing the guys doing coverage for Magic or just Magic coverage in general. The thing is that I don’t think most of those people bashing coverage realized how much preparation and effort it takes to deliver a high class of coverage, and how hard it’s just in general. So I feel people are generally selling the guys that do coverage at most events too short. Now, I’m not arguing that coverage can’t be done differently (some will say better) in general, but that’s another discussion in my mind.

That said, I want to segue this into what I expected out of me for 2014, Magic wise. Just right off the bat I will be doing coverage at the Scandinavian Open, happening just next weekend here in Stockholm. I’m very excited about this event and this project just in general, which I happen to have a toe dipped into from a organizing point of view. It would be really cool to see as many as possible show up to this event and give this hope to a Scandinavian tournament circuit a flying start. If this first edition of the Scandinavian Open goes well I will be looking into working for and at future events as well.

..

.

Did I tell you I’m excited about this event?

For other stuff related to 2014, I will as I allude earlier continue playing in as many events as I can as long they feel exciting enough. My radius these days for how long I’m willing to travel and the amount of other sacrifices I’m willing to make for attending tournaments isn’t what it has been previously, but doesn’t mean you won’t see my face at various events in the coming year. Get me excited one way or another and I’ll probably show up.

As for writing and The Exploration goes, I will continue with the stance I have had recently; if I have something in the back of my head that I feel like it’s worth writing about and publish, I will more than likely do so. I still very much like writing, even though I have as I’m writing this not the ambition or real incentives to make regular updates. But a year is pretty long time and I don’t see it being impossible that I might be alluded to change my stance or pickup writing a column somewhere. As I have said, I like writing and if a big enough of a carrot materializes, who know?

This is where I will put an end to this annual review of mine. I hope it was to your entertainment and delight. Finally I hope you had a marvelous Christmas and that New Year’s will treat you just as good.

Cheers!

PS. Before I hit the publish-button I would like to give my editor at blackborder.com, Andy, a shout out for being so understanding and just cool about my relatively sudden departure from that website earlier this year. Thank you for that and I wish you and blackborder.com nothing but the best for the future. DS.

Hyperbolism and Magic

November 15, 2013

If you are regularly reading articles and tweets, and/or listening to podcasts and/or watching streams that contains strategy advice about our beloved card game, you have probably noticed that the authors of these works often use very “definite” descriptions when they try to offer you as a consumer advice or when they try to convey their points. I’m going to rattle off a couple of the classic ones below:

“I have been nothing but crushing dailies with this deck.”

“This matchup is unlosable.”

“This matchup is so bad for them, they can’t possibly win.”

“(Insert card name) is just bad.”

“(Insert card name) is just strictly worse than (Insert other card name).”

Sounds familiar, right? This phenomena within the Magic community have been on my mind a lot lately, because when people use these hyperbolic expressions they are more often than not just vastly exaggerating their claims or even just straight up lying about it. And this upsets me quite a bit. Well, at least enough for me to write a blog post about it.

I have been playing Magic for a while know, roughly 7 years straight by this point, and as long I can remember strategy related content about Magic have always been filled with adamant adjectives and descriptions. Why does this upset me? What’s my problem with this practice? Well, it’s simple really: very few things in the world of Magic are actually so definitive that they may be explain in such a manner.

I’m not saying that there is no space for descriptive words such as “crush” or “utterly destroys” in when it comes to talking about strategy for Magic. What I’m saying though is that I think these words are far too loosely used.

Every so often tweets will appear on my feed that have people saying something in the lines of:

“I have been crushing the last few dailies on MTGO with (insert deck name). This deck is insane!”

However, what they really mean is something in the lines of:

“I went 4-0 and 3-1 in the last two dailies I played with (insert deck name). Half of the matches was against Mono Red Aggro, and I won all of them.”

So, it turns out that a “few dailies” were actually just two of them, which in great scheme of things are not a whole lot of matches. In fact I would even say it’s still a relatively small sample size of matches. Further on it turns out that the sample size of decks played against were also quite small, with half of the matches against the same deck. Please note that I’m not suggesting that Mono Red Aggro is a “bad” deck in this example. Mono Red however tends to be a very one dimensional deck, which means that given enough dedication to beat said deck, it’s not something that is too hard to pull off.

Anyways, given the “clarification” above regarding the original statement, would you say that words such as “crush” and “insane” are suitable to use here? Unless Mono Red Aggro is actually a huge portion of the metagame, it’s not in my book. Hell, even if it were I would still be careful to say something like that in this context. There are still so many variables to consider before I feel comfortable saying something so definitive about a deck.

Because of the frequent use of hardlined descriptive words and being exposed to them constantly for so many years, the meaning of words such as “crush” have been so watered down in my head. I understand why players choose to use them; often they will be talking about a deck, some cards or a general strategy that they want to sell to their audience. From a sales perspective this manner makes perfect sense. I mean, you don’t hear car salesmen describing their cars they want to sell as “alright”, right? No matter what though, even if the manner of using hardlined descriptive words in Magic is understandable, I feel bad about it being this way.

The reason for me to writing these words about hyperbolism and Magic is not to start a crusade for a paradigm shift in content creation for Magic or to make authors and other vocal players within the Magic community feel bad though. Want I want with these words is to create an awareness to newer players in the community that haven’t yet been extensively exposed to this manner to see beyond the hardlined words. Much like as they taught you in school to be critical of what you are reading/hearing/watching, both off- and online, you also need to be critical when reading, listening and watching strategy related content when it comes to Magic. Although you should of course take the advise and teaching of what someone who is more experience than you in great consideration, it doesn’t mean that every sentence they utter is divine truth. Particularly if they are using a lot of definitive descriptions.

P.S. In the text above I have had the usage of hardlined descriptive words when it comes to strategy related content in mind. Of course I don’t have any issues or want to raise any flags regarding using such a language for comedic effect and whatnot. On the contrary, in that context hardlined descriptive words can be pure gold. Who doesn’t love a bit sarcasm every now and then?😉

Even big names have humble beginnings

October 3, 2013

More story time!

Many moons ago on an early August weekend there was a Nationals Qualifier at my local watering hole in Stockholm, Dragon’s Lair. For you new kids on the block, Nationals and it’s qualifiers were basically the precursors to the current World Magic Cup. Anyhow, I was in attendance but I’m not the protagonist of this story. I was just a witness and am today just the bard telling you this story of great courage and determination…and young foolishness. The protagonist is none other than the perhaps currently brightest Swedish star on the Magic Pro Tour scene. You may know him as Guile. Others may know him as Swedish Kibler. His real name though, and what he was merely known as back then, is Joel Larsson.

The format of the qualifier was Standard, and as you might remember or have read/heard about the Standard format in mid-2008, Faeries was the clear bogeyman of the format. I however wasn’t piloting the blue-back menace at this occasion. Instead I was wielding the Demigod Red Deck originally designed by deck designer extraordinaire Tomoharu Saito. For the record, the Darkest Mage would win US Nationals the same weekend with a refined version of the deck and said deck would explode onto the Standard scene and shape it until the rotation.  Anyhow, I started off the tournament with a fairly quick and simple 2-0 start, vanquishing a Faerie deck and a (lesser) red deck. After those two rounds there was a lunch break which I enjoyed without any shenanigans. It’s after that lunch break though this story really kicks in.

So, I got back to the store from my lunch without any huzzle and with plenty of minutes to spare. The judges had by that time already posted the pairings for round 3, so I went on to check my pairing and then went off to my table and got seated. As I was shuffling up for the round and the start time for said round was drawing nearer, I noticed that the chair next to mine was empty. I also soon learned from the player sitting across from the empty chair that it was Joel that was supposed to be sitting there and playing against him. I didn’t think much about it at the time. I mean, it’s not exactly uncommon that players only manage to get to their seat in the last second. Instead I turned my focus to my match, which turned out to be a hard fought battle against a mono black deck featuring among other things Tendrils of Corruption, Corrupt and Demigod of Revenge. Ergo a lot of cards you don’t really want to be playing against when you are wielding a red deck. I did manage to win though after winning both the sideboarded games on the back of Manabarbs. After the third game I picked up my cards and could after a sigh of relief happily report the match result to the scorekeeper.

Soon after that though I learned that Joel had been given a match loss (or two game losses I suppose if I’m to be technically correct) for tardiness, i.e. he hadn’t showed up at all for the round! Joel was simply nowhere to be found. I didn’t have his phone number at the time so I couldn’t call and check on him, but I wasn’t really that worried. I thought it was more likely that he just might have got held up at lunch and/or forgot the time the upcoming round was supposed to start.

After I spent a couple of minutes birding the players that were still playing in the round, Joel had suddenly materialized in the building. After he asked the judges not to drop him from the event, I made my way over to him to inquire why he hadn’t showed up for the round. As he turned his face towards me I noticed that he was quite badly bruised around the left side of his lips. What in the world had happened to him?

“Hey, what’s up? Why were you not here for the round?”

He made a quick inhale before responding with a calm and gathered voice:

“I have been to the emergency room of Södersjukhuset (a hospital in southern parts of Stockholm City).”

One of my eyebrows were automatically raised by the unexpected response.

“What happened? Did you fall or something?”

Joel squirmed a little before continuing with the same collected voice:

“At lunch I tried to open a bottle with my teeth as I couldn’t find a bottle opener. But as I bit into the cap I lost my grip with my teeth and I ended up breaking the bottleneck with them instead, and in the process I gashed my lips and the inside of my cheeks on the broken glass. I was at the emergency room to get patched up.”

At this point both my eyebrows were elevated in utter shock by the explanation Joel just had provided. It took a second before my brain had really grasped the gravity of the turn of events that had just been spelled out right in front of me; had he broke a bottleneck with his mouth? Is this reality? All my believing but astounded mind could bring my mouth to say was:

“Wow…really?” 

Joel sort of shrugged and replied a bit dejectedly:

“…yeah.”

But despite the tumultuous lunch Joel rallied and managed to secure two wins in the upcoming rounds before finally being able to intentionally draw the final round and by doing so qualifying himself for Nationals (and so did I, for that matter). So despite running bad while thinking, as it’s all so common for youngsters to do every now and then, he strode through the consequences of his poor decision making and got the job done. As I hinted in the prelude, it was an act that can only be described as courageous, inspiring and completely ridiculous. So you see, even big names have humble beginnings. Even the names on the big scoreboards were certainly simple mortals at one point in their lives. Just like the rest of us.

Fin.

…and oh, for goodness’s sake; DON’T TRY TO OPEN CAPS WITH YOUR TEETH. It’s just not worth it. You can call up Joel any day and he will tell you that.😉

“Guys, hold it. I think something is wrong.”

September 17, 2013

Story time!

The scene is Worlds 2010 in Chiba, Japan. The end of day 1 is almost over but there is one more team round to play before myself along with my fellow team members representing team Sweden Anders Melin and Love Janse can return to the hotel for the night. Despite having already played 7 rounds of premiere level of play we were still pretty amped as we had won the previous round, which was also the first team round of the event, against team Brazil.

A small note for those of you who are newer to the game; the old structure for what was commonly known as the Magic World Championship back then was very close to how a regular Pro Tour is run nowadays except there was 3 days of swiss play and there was no elimination before the cut to top8. Also, sandwiched between the swiss rounds of the individual portion were the team portion which nowadays have been (thankfully) turned into a independent event. Much like last year’s edition of the World Magic Cup for the constructed team rounds, the team rounds at Worlds in 2010 was played by a 3-person team playing a format each; one player played Standard, one player played (small) Extended and one player played Legacy.

I had been tasked to play Extended for the team portion, or rather Love wanted to play Standard more than both Anders and myself wanted to so we let him do that and then I basically won (or lose, depending on who you ask I suppose) the coinflip against Anders to decide who doesn’t have to play Legacy. I personally had lost my match against Brazil in 3 fairly lopsided games. I got multiple Mistbind Cliqued to a quick death in game 1, then my trusty Elves exploded on to the board in game 2 and were followed by land harassment via Primal Command to even the score. The final game was much like the first, Mistbind Cliques came down in numbers and no Path to Exile could be found by yours truly. But nevertheless we won as a team as Love managed to win the Primeval Titan-mirror in Standard at the same time as Anders, like a boss, led his Merfolks to a narrow victory against his Survival of the Fittest playing opponent.

After the victory there were the hive fives between us as you would expect but soon enough the pairings for the second team round were up and our game faces were back on. We were up against team Chinese Taipei which were led by a man much more famous these days than he was back then, one Mr. Tzu Ching Kuo.

We had beforehand decided that if we were allowed to choose, I would sit in the middle with Anders and Love seated to the right and left of me as per the usual 3-man team setup. There was a couple of reasons for this, but mostly due to I was deemed to have the best multitasking skills among us. Anyways, the important thing for the story is that we wanted to sit, if possible, in a certain way. As we approached the table we were supposed to sit at, we saw that the opposing team were already seated. Naturally I went ahead and asked how they were seated to which we learned that they wanted to have the Legacy player in the middle, which for them was Tzu Ching Kuo. Because there was a disagreement on the seatings between us, we rolled a die to determine which team could decide who should sit where. Unfortunately we lost the roll and their captain Kuo announced while pointing with his hand that Extended should be on the left side of him (from his perspective) and Standard to his right, so we got ourselves seated accordingly.

Without much other action, I and my opponent were soon shuffled up and ready to start our match. I was on the draw and had to take a mulligan, but my six card hand was pretty reasonable. My opponent led with just a Mountain before passing while I had a Llanowar Elves off a Razorverge Thicket to start things out with. On my end step my opponent pointed a Lightning Bolt to my face before he untapped into a fetchland to get another basic Mountain to cast Searing Blaze to kill my elf and send me down to 14 life. At that point I was a bit worried as my hand was fairly expensive at the time and I just lost my only cheap mana producing elf. But to my joy, I plucked the one-off Burrenton Forge-Tender in my maindeck of the top of the deck and went on to happily play it and a Forest before passing. My opponent untapped and played another basic Mountain before he looked over at the card I just played. He took a good look at it before he entered the infamous “tank”.

At this point I’m snapped out of my game focused mindset as I heard Anders who was sitting in the middle seat saying with a slight confusion in his voice:

“Guys, hold it. I think something is wrong.”

I turned over to my left and saw Anders looking over to his left at Love’s match. I tried to catch what the issue might have been but I couldn’t get a good look at Love’s table as it was two tables to my left. I would soon be informed though, as Anders shortly turned around and said:

“Love’s opponent just played a Mistbind Clique.”

I took a couple of seconds before I made the connection in my mind.

“Oh, snap. Love is playing against their Extended player! But hey…that must mean I’m playing against their Standard player!”

After realizing this I became confused again. While Llanowar Elves and Razorverge Thicket (and Forest, of course) were Standard legal at the time, Burrenton Forge-Tender was certainly not but my opponent didn’t seem to take notice even after leaning over to get a better look at the card. While Burrenton Forge-Tender had been out of Standard for roughly two years at that point, it was a frequently played card in it’s time so unless the player that were sitting across of me had been playing for less than 2 years (which seemed improbable as this was Worlds after all) he should recognize the card…at least that was my thought process at the time. After a couple of further moments of total retardation, we managed to summon a judge to hopefully sort everything out.

In a joint effort we informed the judge of our predicament and once he realized what had happened he gave us a look I can best describe with “What is wrong with you?”, before instructing us to shuffle up our cards and get seated as we should have been seated from the beginning. To this day I don’t really understand how this could have happened. Did Kuo forget what his teammates were playing or did his teammates not hear what he said when he called out each format per seat? Or maybe we messed up and didn’t caught what he said? In any case, the peanut gallery had a hearty chuckle about our little situation and once the match was over for real, so did we.

My Grand Prix Prague 2013

September 10, 2013

The other weekend I was in Prague for the Grand Prix and I felt like doing a little recap from my trip there even though (SPOILER ALERT) I didn’t do too well at the main event.

If we go back to earlier in August, it looked for the longest time that I wouldn’t be able to make it to the GP due to a combination of work and a recent move to a new apartment had been soaking up a lot of my time recently as well as a lack of traveling companions. I was pretty bummed over this prospect as I had already missed the GP in Warsaw earlier in the month due to the first two mentioned reasons. I hadn’t played in a paper tournament with bigger stakes since GP Gothenburg in early June, so my fingers were aching over slinging some serious cardboard. But fortunately for me, it all came together in the end. A traveling companion materialized, I got the necessary days off work and the prices for flight and hotel were still within reasonable limits so I found myself booked roughly a week prior to the GP.

Prague Castle

Prague Castle

We arrived around noon on the Friday prior to the main event, and because we arrived so relatively early we decided to use the afternoon to do some sightseeing in the old part of Prague. While I had been in Prague once before, 2 years earlier for the last GP Prague, I hadn’t actually seen much of the city due to time constrictions during my last trip there, so I truly enjoyed myself working around the Jewish quarters, the old town square, the Charles bridge and seeing Prague Castle. The old parts of Prague remains virtually intact architecture-wise from the late 16th and 17th century, which is for someone like me who is bit of a history geek incredible to see. After walking around for most of the afternoon and having a delicious lunch/dinner of the local cuisine, we headed back to the site to get ourselves registered before spending the rest of the evening chilling out at our nearby hotel.

So, Saturday and time for Magic. The tournament got off fairly quickly without much delay (although Saturday morning went pretty smoothly this time around, I’m so glad that moving forward Wizards have decided to remove registration on Saturday morning and replacing it with online registration…should make all GP Saturdays start earlier and thus end earlier as well) and soon enough me along with rest of the 1504 players participating in this GP were seated and beginning to register our pools. After registering and shipping away in a traditional bad beats fashion a better than average pool consisting of among other things double Air Servant and 16 other playable blue cards, I ended up with what I would say a bit below average pool. Unfortunately I don’t have the pool left to list here, but I can say this; Lifebane Zombie was head and shoulder the best card individual card in my pool. Now, Lifebane Zombie is certainly no slouch, but there are certainly bigger fish in the format if you know what I’m saying.

On top of this, the pool was fairly tricky to build. I decided fairly quickly though that I had to play black as I had the Lifebane Zombie and 2 Corrupts along with enough black playables to be solidly in black and thus consistently making the Corrupts powerful enough to write home about. Then what to play with the black was really a close call. Every other color felt about as powerful in a vacuum as one another and there were no real standout card in any of the colors. After repeatedly laying out all the different pairs in front of me to try to determine what to play for much of the deck building period, I went with red as black’s partner in crime in the end. The final call of going with the red was partly due to how well Act of Treason works with the black sacrifice-outlets but more so that the red cards were mostly single color cards and thus would allow me to be have a decent amount of Swamps in the deck to fuel the Corrupts without risking having a bunch of uncastable cards in my hand all the time. These cards ended up being the 40 cards I registered to be my maindeck:

My deck for the main event.

My deck for the main event.

As I picked up my cards after handing in the registration sheet, I remember feeling like while I certainly didn’t have a top-notch pool or deck, the end product might still be good enough for going 7-2 and carrying me to the draft portion. During the bye rounds I spent some time with fellow Swedish veteran Oskar Sköld, in Sweden perhaps better known as Bitzi, battling a couple games and discussing our pools. The deck felt pretty okay during the games we played and Oskar gave me some valuable advice; he recommended that I should always draw first if I had the choice and that the Dark Prophecy I had left in the sideboard should be boarded in against pretty much everybody. After listening to his reasoning, I agreed to both his point. While constructing my deck I though I would win most games during the day by being aggressive and then using Gnawing Zombie and the Corrupts to deal the final points of damage, but the Act of Treason part of my deck and drawing enough Swamps to make the Corrupts impactful certainly speaks for drawing as many cards as possible. Then regarding the Dark Prophecy, my initial reluctance to put in in my maindeck was simply due to inexperience with the card. Due to it being a rare and a very hard play for most decks due to the BBB casting cost, it’s not a card that’s easy to get a lot of experience with. But Oskar swore by it and I trusted him, simply as that. I ended up boarding out Goblin Shortcutter and a Mountain for it and a Swamp for every round, for the most part to my delight.

With some playtesting done, a sideboarding plan in my head and at least some amount of confidence in my deck and my chance I sat down to play for round 3 to kick off my tournament. I then proceeded to lose that round. And then the next one. And the one after that.

Yeah… By round 5 I was as they say dead as a rock. My round 3 RG opponent had turn 4 Chandra, Pyromaster in both game 2 and 3. If you take another look at my deck you will notice an awful lot of X/1s and thus Chandra just completely destroyed me. In the following round I faced an opponent who had what looked like a very sold UB deck to me. I saw the early defenses you want, the Divinations, the counterspells and the big fliers to seal the deal with, among them Air Servant and Jace’s Mindseeker. Although I felt fairly outclassed on card quality, the games weren’t complete stompovers but my opponent got there in the end. To be brutally honest, I did in hindsight prematurely concede the second game. I could theoretically have drawn Corrupt into Shock for my opponent’s fliers and if my opponent  literally had nothing for the next 3 turns I could have stabilized. Of course a very far-fetched series of draws but nevertheless, I should have let that possibility be a thing and it was pretty bad of me to not think of this line of play. Then in round 5 my opponent had a fast Kalonian Hydra with Ranger’s Guile backup in both games 1 and 3, a 2 card combo to which I basically couldn’t do anything about. I made a minor misplay in game 1 with me doing a poor block in the midgame due to me overseeing that my opponent had 2 copies of Predatory Sliver and not just 1. Thankfully it didn’t end up mattering due to the hydra but still not the tightest of plays from my part.

Well, I DID order a tall one...

Well, I DID order a tall one…

Although I certainly didn’t play optimally in these matches and despite my round 3 and 5 opponents had literally the perfect series of draws to beat me in the deciding games, I wasn’t really on tilt or whatever after losing these 3 straight matches. I don’t know why really, but I didn’t feel like I was finished mentally so I kept on playing. After beating my next 4 opponents in a fairly convincing fashion I could leave the tournament hall with some pride recouped with a 6-3 result. No day 2 for me, but with the pool that I had it wasn’t completely unexpected either. I’m still glad though I could end the day on a winning streak.

I spent the next day running well in the 8-man drafts, watching GP Gothenburg finalist Mats Törnros making a run for top8 which unfortunately ended in the final round of the swiss against Kai Mokrusch and drinking a respectable amount of cheap Czech beer (sooo good). All in all, not a bad day although I of course wish I had been continuing playing in the main event.

Come Monday it was time to head home to Sweden, and the return trip was uneventful but smooth so no complaints there. GP Prague 2013 will certainly not go down in my history as the best GP ever result-wise but I had a good time regardless. Big kudos to my traveling companion Felix and everybody else I interacted with down there in Prague for making it so! Prague is a lovely city, much to see and the prices on food and hotels and whatnot are cheap. I will definitely make another visit sometime in the future and I would highly urge you to pay Prague a visit if you haven’t!

Until next time!

Bernhard

My GP Gothenburg 2013

June 18, 2013

Two weekends ago I was in the Gothenburg playing in the Grand Prix, and those who follow me on Twitter know that I had a pretty good weekend:

Therefore I thought I would do a little recap of my Grand Prix Gothenburg 2013 experience.

The GP weekend started for me with me jolting from work in Kista (just northwest out of Stockholm City) at 15:45 to catch my train to Gothenburg that would leave Stockholm Central Station at 16:14. It was a bit too stressful for my taste but I got there at least. The rest of the trip to the famous backside of Sweden was uneventful but pleasant, and once I arrived at the venue of the Grand Prix I got myself registered to the main event and met up with my roommates for the weekends. Once all of us were registered and content at the venue, we went for a evening snack before heading to the hotel to call it a night.

Gothia Towers/Svenska Mässan, the venue for GP Gothenburg 2013.

Gothia Towers/Svenska Mässan, the venue for GP Gothenburg 2013.

After getting almost 8 hours of sleep (which is quite a lot for me these days, as I normally work on 6½ – 7 hours worth of sleep on workdays), I woke up energized and soon was devouring a delightful breakfast buffet. When our stomachs were content we headed to the site and soon without much delay I was in my seat with a pen in my hand ready to fill out deck registration sheets. Once I had opened up my received product, registered it and noting its bland nature, I was ready to receive the tools I would have to work with for the day. And I have to say that I was fairly pleased with the pool of cards that was eventually passed to me:

My day 1 Sealed Deck @ GP Gothenburg 2013.

My day 1 Sealed Deck @ GP Gothenburg 2013.

With the trio of Chaos Imps, Domri Rade and Savageborn Hydra staring back at me it wasn’t hard to conclude that playing red and green was something I probably wanted to do. Shortly enough I had laid out the green and red playables and found I had about 16 to 18 of them, and the curve looked alright to boot. Then the question was to figure out what to round out the deck with. The white cards in this pool were just not spectacular at all with a One Thousand Lashes as the clear best card. Since that card in particular need not only white mana but also black, I quickly set the white cards aside and was left looking at the blue and the black cards.

The biggest selling point of the latter was the available manafixing for black. Beside the trio of black guildgates you can see above, there was another 2 copies of Rakdos Guildgate in the pool. The sheer number of black guildgates would make casting any black card very effortless to do. However, in comparison to the available blue cards in the pool the black ones were almost laughable in comparison. The best black card I had (considering I’m splashing black, that is) was a Ubal Sar Gatekeepers, which just doesn’t stack up versus double Voidwielder, Urban Evolution or Soulsworn Spirit. In this choice between consistency and power, I went for power and let a couple of blue cards finish up my deck.

Some notable cards that didn’t end up making the main deck were Frilled Oculus, Wind Drake, Miming Slime, Ruination Wurm and Simic Cluestone. I came very close to maindeck either Frilled Oculus and Wind Drake but I choose Elusive Krasis for that slot in the end. In hindsight I’m not sure I like that call as Elusive Krasis, while certainly more powerful overall compared to the former mentioned cards, usually not as good of a card when played in the later turns of a game, which is something you need to consider for cards you are essentially splashing for. Elusive Krasis worked out fine for me but I’m quite sure either Frilled Oculus or Wind Drake would have worked out just fine if not better. Besides that I thought briefly about playing a Simic Cluestone over Viashino Racketeer but decided on the little viashino rouge as I wanted more early plays against any aggressive deck I might face plus I wanted more bodies for Domri Rade’s +1 ability.

I won’t go too in-depth into the games and matches, but I started out fairly strong with winning 3 straight matches (after my first round bye) in which I felt like I only dropped a game because of sever flooding. After that strong start my faith faltered a bit as I got defeated by Mizzium Mortars in two games straight in round 5 and then I lost 2 very disappointing games in the 6th round. In game one I was facing down a turn 4 Obzedat, Ghost Council on the draw but despite that I was about to win on my 7th turn with the aid of a fused Armed//Dangerous. On the opponents 6th turn he was a tapping a bit of mana and I was thinking “go head, play any guy or even multiple guys, I got you”, until my opponent revealed his play of Sin Collector. Frowntown. After that I died slowly out of Obzedat flipping in and out, unable to penetrate my opponents defenses. In the second game I kept a juicy one the play with Dimir Guildgate, Transguild Promenade, Frilled Oculus (boarded in), Domri Rade, Thrashing Mossdog and 2 5-drops. Granted I needed to draw a red or green source in the first 2-3 drawsteps to make that hand really good but the oppertune of having a turn 3 Domri Rade against his relatively slow deck just seemed too good to pass up on so I quickly kept. As it played out, I missed my 3rd land drop for 4 turns and once I started to get to 4 and 5 mana, I was just too far behind and died to evasive beats in the form of Dimir Keyrune and Mindeye Drake with +1/+1 counters on it.

I did recoup after that bitter defeat though with a quite decisive win the the 7th round and then got there in 2 games in the 8th after my opponent probably tossed away the 2nd game by undervaluing his Gideon, Champion of Justice and not defending it properly. The 9th round was intense, not just because I was playing for day 2 but my opponent also had a quite aggressive deck, certainly the most aggressive deck I had faced all day. I was a bit bottlenecked on mana in game 1 and were for a couple of turn in grave danger of just dying to a Annihilating Fire or something to the dome but I eventually ripped Saruli Gatekeepers, got an additional 7 life which let me afford spending the entire following turn to just cast Urban Evolution. After I had resolved the might card draw spell I had both the cards and mana resources to take over and close the game out. In game 2 my deck was just chugging and after I went turn 5 and 6 kill your flier with Punish the Enemy and then had Runner’s Bane for his Boros Reckoner, I had the game on a plate.

After shaking final opponent’s hand, signing the slip and letting out an exhale, I rounded up a crew of friends and headed out for a late dinner. After I had filled my belly with some much needed food and a fine pint of beer, it was time to go to bed. Unfortunately playing in day 2 meant going up almost an hour earlier than the day before so I didn’t quite get as much sleep as I would have liked.

Day 2 Draft #1 @ GP Gothenburg 2013.

Day 2 Draft #1 @ GP Gothenburg 2013.

After the usual morning business I found myself sitting down for the first draft of day 2. My opening pack wasn’t very exciting and I ended up somewhat reluctantly first picking Melek, Izzet Paragon out of that. From the previous limited experience I have with Melek prior to this draft, I have found the card to be quite powerful if you can pick him up early enough to mold your entire draft and subsequent deck around maximizing him, but he’s certainly not a card I perceive as a slam pick. After that I blue flowed fairly well in the first pack and in the second pack I was treated by a Assemble the Legion and then got passed a Sunhome Guildmage, fitting well into what looked to be a very controlling deck. The whole last pack was a bit weak for every color except green (hello there 6th pick Collective Blessing, which I snagged away in an otherwise empty pack for me) which left me in the end short of a playable or two down in the lower part of my curve. Despite that I was fairly happy with the end product and compared to what I had seen in the packs I was confident I could 2-1 with this deck and have a shot a going 3-0.

Notable card that were left in my sideboard was a Isperia’s Skywatch, a Towering Thunderfist and a Dynacharge. I was very tempted at fitting in the Dynacharge because of it’s wonderful synergies with Assemble the Legion, Sunhome Guildmage, Goblin Rally and the fact that it was an additional instant/sorcery for Melek, but I deemed my deck too controlling and powerful enough already to squeeze such a relatively small card into my deck.

The rounds started off on the bitter end with me losing round 10 in a overall close match, even though game 2 and 3 were fairly one-sided beatings. Game 1 came down to my opponent finding a removal spell early enough for my Sunhome Guildmage before I could assemble a critical mass of flying, thanks to Maze Glider, Soldier tokens and seal the deal with Massive Raid. After the guildmage was binned I had to start blocking to stay alive and use Massive Raid defensively in hope of draw Assemble the Legion, which didn’t happen. I got game 2 off a turn 4 Goblin Rally into turn 5 Sunhome Guildmage, attack plus pump and in the decider I couldn’t find a card to deal with my opponents early Varolz, the Scar-Striped.

I was a little sour as I felt I could have totally won that match if we were to play again but I shook that off and went off to win my following two rounds, in which 3 of the games I won was on the back off the mighty Assemble the Legion.

Day 2 Draft #2 @ GP Gothenburg 2013.

Day 2 Draft #2 @ GP Gothenburg 2013.

After that it was time for the second and final draft of the tournament, as I was knocked out of top8 contention with my third loss but I was still playing for a finish in the money. To my horror, as well as I thought the first draft had gone, as bad I felt the second draft went. I first picked Scion of Vitu-Ghazi out of the first pack and then got a little too fond of my first pick and couldn’t realize during the draft that I should have abandoned white by the end of the first pack. In the second and third pack both blue and black was flowing more than any of the other colors, and my whole draft would have ended up so much better if I could just have let go of my Scion of Vitu-Ghazi. But alas I kept on fighting for white and was left with a very unspectacular deck. Sure, I could certainly steal a game or two with Armed//Dangerous but overall I wasn’t very happy with my deck and thought I would have a very hard time going 2-1 or better in this draft. Notable card left in the sideboard were a Azorius Guildgate, a Sundering Growth, a Rubbleback Rhino, a Beetleform Mage, a Nimbus Swimmer, a Shambleshark, Mindstatic and a Spell Rupture.

Round 13th became a rematch against my opponent who I had earlier played in round 10, but I couldn’t get this one either. His deck was just a tad better overall than mine and won in the end 2-1 after I had stole game 1 with the aforementioned Armed//Dangerous. I could have had a shot in game 3 but I bricked on red mana all game and was subsequently unable to play the Punish the Enemy in my hand to kill his clutch Skymark Roc.

Another defeat but once again I recouped and went on to end the draft on a high note, winning both round 14 and 15 in the end by simply playing a more conservative manabase than my opponent. I felt pretty lucky to be able to go 2-1 with this deck, but then again this is the kind of format where you will get a couple of free wins every once in a while by simply playing less ambitious manabase than your opponent. And certainly didn’t mind scooping up the free wins then and there.

Just like that, I had gone 11-4 in the Grand Prix which was good enough for 51st place and a top64 prize payout. You might wonder why I didn’t drew in the last round to ensure top64 and the reason for that was that my tiebreakers towards the end of the tournament were horrible. From the limited time I had looking over the standings prior to round 15 I couldn’t make out if a draw would be good enough for me to top64 hence I opted to play. I did work out in the end though so nothing to bang my head against the wall about. Overall I thought I played fairly well over the course of the weekend and didn’t make too many mistakes excluding the tunnelvision in the second draft, which is always a good feeling. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about the format beforehand and playing during the weekends didn’t change my opinion about it all that much. It’s certainly not a bad format, it’s just that I’m not that fond about multicolor sets in Limited. But hey, maybe that’s just me.

Before signing off I want to make a shout-out to long time Magic friend and frequent Stockholm opponent Mats Törnros for his second place finish at the Grand Prix. Too bad you couldn’t go all the way but at least you got the ticket to Dublin! Make the most of it!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 93 other followers