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By: Paul Leicht, Paul Emerson Leicht
Sep 26 2014 12:00pm
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Welcome to the End! (Now, begin again.)
By Paul Emerson Leicht, September 2014

Drawing by Paul Emerson Leicht, hosted on DeviantArt.com

Introduction:
When we heard about Return to Ravnica (RTR) we all got very excited. Because we loved the original block very much. And really Ravnica was a great block because it appealed to so many players. So RTR came and we were happy. Because we had enough of other sets by then and we wanted the comfort of home. Something familiar and fun and gold.

Yes I did not stutter. The main thing that I loved about RTR was its large quantity of Gold bordered cards. I won't lie, I obtained all of the Rav lands I could get a hold of as soon as they were reasonably priced again. I am a Gold mage when it comes to casting preferences and building preferences too. I want to have Abrupt Decay in the same decks as Supreme Verdict and Unexpected Results. 

I am very comfortable building with RTR cards. Gatecrash and Dragon's Maze, less so but they too are of the golden ilk and bring something to the table I admire and want to use. Adding Blast of Genius to the above mix for example. But alas, this block is rotating out of Standard and while it will be available in the older formats its specialness won't be the same there where it mixes in with thousands of other cards.

I entitled this as I did because I am going to talk some more about change and how it affects us in the MTG community and on MTGO. RTR leaving is a huge scary thing since it leaves a gap. And KTK the replacing set while interesting does not have same level of "KPOW!!" That RTR brought. That is not to say I hate KTK. How could I?? It has a plethora of gold cards and promises to be as interesting as Shards of Alara if not more so. (It may be time to rethink Kscope now that we are getting another infusion.) This is the end of an era. And the beginning of a new one.

All of those wonderful strategies we have gotten used to building with and around will be unavailable and in their stead are a brand new set of ideas, somewhat powered by M15 as well. (Yisan, Wandering Bard and Genesis Hydra I see you.)

The Community Wins again!
By a very narrow margin the Community invitees to the CCC brought the Hamtastic Cup back home again. Well done team!! And I am hoping we see our prize (Foil promo Survival of the Fittest) soon. Meanwhile, I have to say the most fun part about watching the events on the twitch.tv/magic channel was the Iron Root Judging explained.


This is what happens when you let people video cast from other planes...

I know that Erik would be proud and so are the rest of the community. While we had almost 0 participation in the event itself** and are basically disenfranchised witnesses, it is always fun to see WOTC lose again and after such a spirited attempt to come from behind. Say this for the Wizards, they fight as if their lives depend on it...wonder who will replace the fallen gladiators next year? Or perhaps they will be cloned once again? ... though we all know clones fall apart after too many copies have been made... which could explain some other oddities.

**(Though there was an ancillary pre-prerelease KTK event, Sunday to help people feel connected. Which was a nice thought. Since it was a pay to play event I didn't bother as I don't care for burning tixs (I am that bad a sealed player.))

Paper magic, wot?
A friend convinced me to come out and join him at Compleat Strategist and then later  Montassy comics (both in midtown Manhattan) for the pre-release events. Initially I only intended to help him draft his winnings but then we decided to do a sealed at Montassy. However the only clans available were Sultai () and Jeskai () which left us no real choice at all. We both played Jeskai...NOT. I kid. We both played Sultai but perhaps we would have fared better with the Jeskai seeded packs.

The Stores:
The Compleat Strategist is a legendary store (E 33rd off of 5th avenue) that looks like if you pull out  a game box the whole thing will collapse. It is really cluttered and crowded with everything from self-published RPGs to very big name boxed sets of every game imaginable. They have modelling gear for the warhammer crowd and stacks of hex based strategy game books. Not to mention all kinds of table top props. They carry a huge stock of D&D based products from all the d20 producers, WOTC, and lots and lots of other RPGs too. So where I wondered was the space for a prerelease? Turns out the store has a basement. Thirty two years or so I have been buying stuff at that store and never knew. I knew there was a play area for gamers off to the side (sort of like an afterthought really.)

I must have passed by the crowded little antechamber where D&D and wargames are occasionally held, hundreds of times. I never once noticed the staircase leading down. And below I encountered an old friend and fellow Neutral Ground alumnus, Eric Smith, judging the event as he has been doing for decades now. The man looks almost no different at all from when we hung out after hours at Neutral Ground in the 90s. Still the space while big enough to host a dozen or so really large wargamer tables (for laying out Warhammer 40k games, etc) seemed a little cramped. Maybe because they also had the weekly Netrunner tourney going on at the same time.

In the back, the most charming part of the store is a shelf full of 40k props and other sundry RPG items. That kids, is a bit of history. If the tourney wasn't in progress I would have taken pictures but I didn't want to disturb the players. I did watch my friend take down one opponent and then split in the finals with another.

Montassy Comics (5th Avenue just north of 39th on the 2nd floor)  is a nice medium sized place with lots of old school comics (Superman, Xmen, Action Comics, Ironman, etc) and Magic products all over the place and a bunch of rickety tables squeezed in the back. The chairs were the kind you know are going to cause buttcrack photos no matter how well dressed you may be unless you are really good at sitting on them. Honestly they could not be less comfortable if they tried. But hey a place to play MTG in midtown Manhattan that is not Compleat Strategist. And the prices of things seem reasonable if a little gimmicky. Lots of rares I associate with bulk here online go for more serious prices there. ($3 for a Magister Sphinx??) But then paper magic economics are vastly different from MTGO.

On Seeded Sealed:
Honestly I don't like this method of sealed deck. It feels like the seed packs are either insanely good or horrible and there is no medium ground. Though my friend's overall pool was clearly better than my own.  I managed to go 1-2-1. I don't recall drawing often in Sealed and my PP points didn't budge much (+6!) but here is my scorecard:

Which leaves me at 697 Planeswalker points, 3 away from level 28! (At some point the above graphic will change, to reflect a new level if I keep coming to events.) No actual benefits for getting there but isn't it fun to progress? Honestly I am not sure what the point is (pardon the pun) but I suppose it does add some tenuous motivation to go and play again. If I had won one more match I'd be there already. Would I still feel the impetus (however meager) to gather more points? In fact the PP system reminds me a bit of the old RPGA system of player levels and dungeon master levels. (I never did progress far in that system either. I think I was level 2 as a player and level 1 as a judge.)  But hey people like "achievements". For example I gained an achievement just for attending the Prerelease. (It is the first icon in the above graphic.)

The Beta aka What we live with now:
Two months ago (in the July article) I created a cartoon showing how fickle we magic players can be. I expected/predicted the MTGO client would go on and it has. No surprises right? And have some small things improved? Perhaps. But as Pete Jahn (One Million Words) so eloquently put it last State of the Program: "...  the collection tool rarity sort is a fail, and why fixing it will be hard." It is very hard to disagree with Pete's basic premise. I mean we can see from the video in his opinion section just how annoyingly bad the filter system is.

While I can imagine it being fixed I would not bet on it happening soon because as Pete points out: the Wizards who work on MTGO programming/design decisions are completely out of touch with what it means to manage a large collection. My collection is dwarfed by comparison to Pete's but I can definitely identify with some of the issues already. The speed issues alone are pretty deadly when I have anywhere from 3-30 other games (many utterly free and not merely free to pay) claiming my already short attention span.  If it takes long enough for the screen to return from whited out to not whited out I will click the x and open Dungeon Crawl (Stone Soup) or perhaps Shadowrun Returns (User Generated Content). Or the Humble Bundle giveaway game of the month. (This month it is Tropico 3),

Now I am not really a contributing member of the magic society as I pay very little into the ante for the Wizards to do their magic. I mostly just add a little monthly content via these articles and help new players occasionally. Sometimes I stir up conversations in chat or the forums or here. But aside from some money I spent a few years ago, I don't buy new packs from the store, nor tix, nor specials. So why should they care what I do or don't like?

I am sure they don't but they might care if all the players like me were to voice our complaints. Or perhaps not. As someone in the comments recently put it, they have known since the very first open beta that things were not sitting right with the players. But only time will tell if they respond to the problems or let them get worse. I expect players to continue using the client and I expect the client to improve in small increments. I mean "Leagues in 2015!! AmIright?"
 

three hundred thousand plus marchers

300,000+ people is a lot of folks!

Changes.
As a group we players tend to be a little insulated from bigger issues. We solve the problems in front of us. How to kill my opponent before he forces me to lose or draw or the time runs out. How to bring about the result I want. How to build this deck to avoid xyz situation. How to dodge the bullet when facing potential sideboards we don't like. Etc. But when it comes to larger issues we can be myopic. I don't mean we are selfish. But perhaps a bit more self-absorbed than is healthy. We are also disparate and perhaps in our disparity feel somewhat powerless. Only as a group can we make change on a large scale happen.

The city of lights.

NYC: The city of lights. This is what it looks like when people get together...

This weekend, my Dad who was in town for the Climate Change March, instead decided to come visit me for a nice Sunday afternoon lunch (at Vanessa's on 14th street) and stroll to Union Square and beyond. He was going to be meeting his fellow Quakers to be in the march together but apparently there were so many people (300k+) that groups started moving out early and they ended up not where they thought they were going to be and so a lucky break for me. But it is astounding to me that so many different folks showed up for this momentous event. They came in costume and carrying signs and while there were some Anarchists they reportedly were well behaved. They had their day on Monday. My Dad said there were wizards, and skeletons, and dragons and other bizarre costumes and plenty of signs and banners. People were very creative, positive and energetic.

I am not a marcher. (I would find it difficult to do so as far as they did) Nor do I believe in "revolution" as a positive force. (Though I sit here wearing Che Guevara (ironic much?).) I think change needs to happen in the hearts and minds and souls of people before it will take place for the good in the physical realm. If it does not happen internally it will not mean the same thing as you intended. Also I always remember this "be careful what you wish for when you are making such plans." (Invoking the laws of unintended consequences.) So when I hear about a protest here, or a protest there I may in fact be in sympathy but I am not a joiner. (I wrote a song about this quite a while ago.)

Costumes and banners every where.

Costumes and Banners everywhere!

But thinking about this one: How does this affect the average Magic Online player? Are we insulated so that the melting of the ice caps is just a bad joke to us? I am curious if there are among us those who do care and are hoping to join the voices of the many millions around the world asking for government support and policy change? I know this is a site about MTGO and about our beloved game but I don't believe in the separation of events. I think every event affects us all in some way.

How do you feel? Do you worry that the city/town you visited last year for a Grand Prix or even just vacation may have difficulties associated with Climate Change? Do you worry about the plight of the last spirit bears on Earth? Do you feel it is all a hoax or way blown out of proportion? If so why? Just some questions for the idle and the curious. And the curiously idle.

And now that you have been thoroughly boggled and beset with perplexities I am ready to show you the last of the Twilight Standard decks I have devised and other formats too. I even brewed a Modern deck, just because...

Deck Tech:

Twilight Standard:
In keeping with the theme of Apocalyptic tidings I decided to start with a deck I like to call...

 

Bearer of the Heavens is the Journey into Nyx version of Atlas the titan of Strength and counterpart to the Midgardt Serpent. Keeping our world safe from the Heavens. In the art this giant is holding up the sky from falling...was WOTC making a little fun of the Chicken Littles of our community without coming out and laughing at them? Perhaps. But what I do know is that just when this format is ending and another beginning I found this wacky concept. What is better than a one-sided Day of Judgment? (Or Planar Cleansing for that matter?) A one-sided Armageddon bonus tacked on to it. Admittedly this deck usually just folds to Aggro decks since sometimes it just doesn't get the chance to perform its very complicated trick.

Armageddon Day of Judgment Planar Cleansing

The idea is to discard Bearer or mill him and then get and keep a guy on the board long enough to Rescue from the Underworld. During the fast effects steps after your opponent's Blockers declaration step is usually ideal. But sometimes to get it work properly you need to do it on your own turn. Not at the Beginning of the End Step mind you. You see the trigger happens at the Beginning of the next end step so you want to time it so that it advantages you while not helping your opponent. I have had at least one game where I did the sac during my opponent's turn and then just lost because they had the finishing touch before the end of their turn.

Indestructible and regenerating creatures on your side make this deck resilient to the effect while hopefully making life difficult for your opponent. If your opponent Banishing Light's something of yours, all to the better. Life's Legacy and Trading Post provide methods of getting things in the graveyard, drawing cards and in Trading Post's case maybe even netting you some life. Necromancer's Stockpile helps in most regards as well but since the deck only has 4 "Lol" trolls as zombies I kept the numbers low.

I expect this deck to be rebuildable post Khans because the only cards that are essential will still be Standard legal after rotation. However, I have yet to give Khans true consideration because it isn't in the editor yet to play around with. The RTR duals will be sorely missed but somehow we will muddle onward. It may be a tough winter for Gold mages however I expect between the trilands, common duals and fetches something will work itself out. I am not a huge fan of the Invasion Painlands, so I have no intention of picking up sets of them, but that should not stop you if you feel they suit your needs.

As some of you may have already discerned from last month's article, I am a big fan of Genesis Hydra and I have been thinking long and hard about how to use him. I came up with this deck when I started thinking about how to use Generator Servant to make the hydra better: 

 

Being fairly aggro with fast starts allows turn 2 Rabblemaster or Courser. Which you might assume would always lead you to be the beat down. But really it is comfortable as the control, with plans to stymie your opponent via life gain, blowing things up, wise blocks, etc, before moving on to victory via stompage. The configuration might not be ideal if you want to maximize effectiveness but the deck is fairly versatile. The fact that you can play turn 1 elf, turn 2 BTE into Generator or Rabblemaster means turns 3-4 can be dedicated to casting a Hydra, or playing a trading post or Purphorous or Polukranos. However we know that this is probably going to be an archetype that is much explored over the next year, so let's move on to Zombies!

 

With Mono Black Devotion as the darling of the ball for the last 8 months or so, I haven't wanted to touch this subject. After all who likes to reinvent the wheel? Not I. This deck does win with Gary often enough but mainly it is the synergy between different zombies that make it tick. Plus Necromancer's Stockpile which is a fun card but does a few very important things: it draws a card, fills the graveyard and gives you a token. Purphorous usually helps put the cap on the end by dealing nearly inevitable damage to your opponent either directly or by giving your attackers +1/+0 per activation.

And that's it for Standard this month. On to the Modern format and Slivers!
I keep running into these guys in Standard and while I like the idea I don't think the little guys really hit hard enough to make it fun ... The deck is great fun in modern: 

Attack for Lethal
A Modern format deck by Winter.Wolf

Creatures
4 Hellrider
4 Pulse Tracker
4 Bomber Corps
4 Leeching Sliver
4 Thorncaster Sliver
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Hivestone
4 Skullcrack
2 Leyline of Punishment
2 Everlasting Torment
3 Lightning Bolt
1 Corrupt
16 cards
Lands
4 Blood Crypt
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
8 Mountain
4 Lavaclaw Reaches
24 cards
 
Thorncaster Sliver

 

If you want to be really nasty you can toss in some deathtouch via Basilisk Collar or other equipments. That turns all those Thorncaster powered Slivers into little Cannons.  In my Standard format deck I added green for Manaweft slivers and  Bow of Nylea which was pretty funny as sometimes people didn't realize the little guys all had deathtouch. Unfortunately Standard lacks Hellrider, Leyline of Punishment and Everlasting Torment and of course Lightning Bolt.

The focus of this deck is: pain. Mainly directed to your opponent's head and usually through attack step triggers. It doesn't really have a long game plan despite the cost of Thorncaster (really 5cmc is too much to spend to cast it but once it hits the table attacking for lethal should not be too hard).

Tribal Wars Legacy:
I was going to discuss my paper commander Derevi, Empyrial Tactician deck but it really isn't very good yet. I was able to tweak the list with my online collection, but the offline cards I currently have access to, are not nearly as good. So instead here are a few Tribal Wars decks I have been working on. This first one is called:


This deck idea came about due a discussion in Diaries of the Apocalypse, where the various combos with Yisan were mentioned. I asked for a list but never got one. This plus a discussion with my resident adviser on Tribal matters (AJ_Impy) led to a list featuring +many Wrath effects but no recursion. I eventually decided I needed some of my pet cards (Living Death, Karmic Guide) to help smooth the later game. There are a couple of threads running through this deck. The first one is that the creatures are selected mostly for their ability to enable synergies or at the very least let Yisan continue doing what he does so well: fetching timely help. Hex Parasite helps with that. As does Planar Guide while wiping out enemy tokens.

Grand Abolisher helps with pesky control and burn-on-your-turn decks. Mangara of Corondor is my exiler plan. Hopefully with Quirion Ranger and Thousand-Year Elixir support. Karakas helps with that plan too (Tap Mangara, targeting something and then Karakas in response targeting Mangara). Wheel of Sun and Moon is situationally intended either to shut down enemy recursion (and aid Living Death) or if dealing with enemy discard/removal help you recover guys taken out too early.

Saffi Eriksdotter lets you return Dauntless Escort if needed or occasionally some other guy removed by the enemy. Meanwhile Dauntless combos with Magus of the Disk. Puppeteer Clique's presence is to instant speed snatch an opponent's guy from the graveyard (and then exile it at the end of the turn). Karmic Guide helps recur Dauntless or other missing pieces in case Living Death doesn't show up. The tribe is Humans if it isn't obvious.

Then I had a "brilliant" idea involving Celestial Dawn. What if you could get it to work with Gods? That would be pretty insane with all the gods giving each other devotion. Alas that is not how Celestial Dawn works. :( grrrr. So I squished that idea. Next came a Genesis Hydra deck (below):


The composition of the non-creatures in this deck may seem a little nonsensical because when I was building it I was changing bits of it a lot at a time. This mix just seemed to work best. Curse is to hold off enemy tokens but to be honest I don't expect to get it down very quickly. If it does come down quickly blame the defenders. Mercy Killing combines with the singleton Phytotitan to make many fine tokens but they are also good impromptu removal for pesky enemy critters. The single Recurring Nightmare is my alternative plan for using Phytotitan. Overgrown Battlement isn't a plant but imho it should be. Still it helps since there are 7 other defenders to combine with.

And that's all the deck lists I have for you this month but expect many more to come as Khans rolls in mid October.

Cruel Ultimatum Disciple of Deceit Splinter Twin

Best of Pure for August/September:
Puremtgo.com has consistently attracted some high quality writers for quite a few years and that trend has not stopped lately. This month I want you to all go read a new (ish) writer who has been making splashes with very cool articles. His second far improved upon his first though the third was good too. I refer you to one Francis Law. Frankie has a great grasp for innovation and also explaining his tweaks. He tells a story and reels you in, and suddenly you realize you've read a whole article and have a dozen ideas of your own to go run off and try. I should clarify that I am only paying attention to his current series as I never even read the article from February and it doesn't as far as I can see connect to his MTG Brews Series.

I highly recommend you read his articles and become inspired too.

Conclusions (Life, Change and Everything):
We all die. Everything ends. Someday even the world will end as we know it. And yet the focus should not be on what ends but on what you can begin. And how to continue on. I have spent a lot more time than I ever expected to, thinking about mortality and how it serves me. I have had enough brushes with death/dying to understand that it is a reality.

If I were immortal, would I go insane over time after realizing there would eventually be nothing I could not do, no skill I could not master, no place I could not explore? Would boredom replace a love for learning and curiosity that pushes me to seek out the unknown? Would existence merely become a contest to see how stuck in my mud I'd become, exchanging freedom of spirit for comforts of the body? I think all of these might be possible. It is also possible that after a certain amount of time I would find a way to actively become mortal again. Somehow I hope I never find out.

I say these things not to bring us down but to uplift us. We spend a lot of energy hiding from what is plain to see. Change is eternal. Without change we would be terrible people and joy would be a disaster. Change moves us along the river of time and makes sure we do what we came to do whatever that may be. If ever you find yourself lost, just ask yourself, is this what I am meant to be doing? Is this where I am meant to be. If not then change. Change is your friend while perhaps being your most deep fear. Not all change is for the good and so it is incumbent upon us to help guide change to be more to our advantage. But this is a balancing act. Too much attention spent to trying to influence change could backfire and cause you to fail to notice what is most important and right before you.

Overcome your fear by embracing the experiences life offers you. We are living in a world that will potentially wipe us out if we don't adapt and change our mode of using it. Our very ability to govern our lives may end abruptly someday if we sit back and pretend nothing is happening. That said I don't want anyone to feel alarmed. As I said, change is eternal and we should embrace the concept. That doesn't make it easy and perhaps gradual changes are better than sooner, faster changes.

Like MTG with RTR leaving we have had our farewell party and we have now welcomed in the new with Khans of Tarkir. And Khans will be the last 3 set cycle after which we will only have 2 sets per story cycle and change will happen faster. There are people who found that change to be most upsetting. I think those people need some perspective. After all while it is true, Standard will become more expensive with more mythics and chase rares to obtain to have all the necessary ingredients for competitive play, I expect we will learn how to adjust. Perhaps the cost will spread out more by resulting in cheaper individual prices. If not then we will have to find ways to compete with less.

It beats having to give up the hobby due to stagnation as many games have died once they ran out of creative room for development. Whatever you do, don't let it get you down. Until next month, stay tight,

Magically,
Paul Emerson Leicht aka Winter.Wolf and Telir on MTGO. You may add me on Steam as WinterWolf if you so desire. Just message me first so I know who you are and don't just assume you're some spam bot.

2 Comments

Good stuff as always, nice by Leviathan at Fri, 09/26/2014 - 16:58
Leviathan's picture
5

Good stuff as always, nice life lessons as usual. And you know I love the drawings!

Thanks Levi :) I need to pull by Paul Leicht at Sat, 09/27/2014 - 13:35
Paul Leicht's picture

Thanks Levi :) I need to pull out the art supplies and do more drawing at some point. My urge to do so waxes and wanes quite a bit.