Another year in review (2013 edition)
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.
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.