On the dangers of not sleeping.

•April 29, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Friday, April 26, 23:50

I am sitting in Gunslinger Games, packing up my stuff and getting ready for a sweet prerelease event that starts at midnight. I am wearing my Gruul pin and eagerly waiting the chance to play some sweet sweet bizarro-land sealed deck.

Saturday, April 27, 00:00

My sealed pool is presented – Gruul, just as I requested. I flip it over – Rakdos, just as I desired. “Dragon’s Maze Pre-Release Players, you may open your pool and begin building!” This is like Christmas morning, when your folks hand you the first present and they want you to kick off this year’s present exchange. I excitedly tear open my nifty little box and greedily begin going through my two guild packs, then my 4 packs of Dragon’s Maze.

Saturday, April 27, 00:25

Sealed build time is ended. I have my deck assembled in front of me, Aggro Jund. My curve stops at 4, I have a nice suite of  Bloodrush creatures to ruin combat math and close the game out quickly.

Saturday, April 27, 03:00

I receive my first loss. I am now tired, at 3-1 overall. There are still two more rounds of swiss and I can still make the top 8.

Saturday, April 27, 04:00

My second loss puts me at 3-2. I have to win the next round to get prize.

Saturday, April 27, 05:00

I win! I scrape into number 8 after getting paired up and winning. We agree to split the prize payout and go home, like reasonable people. Oh wait no, this is Andrew Couture who is writing this. Reason has no place at Pre-Release Weekend. I grab Trey Filbeck, and 4 others, and we head to Denny’s for some much needed caffeine and bacon.

Saturday, April 27, 06:00

We finally settle into Denny’s and we have our coffee and our food is on the way, time to do the thing that we came here to do. Team Draft with the new format. We crack out our draft sets, old favorites of Gatecrash and Return to Ravnica together for the first time, and the beautiful gold color of the Dragon’s Maze packs completing the family. I comment on how good they look in their primary colored foil wrappings. We tear open the first pack.

Saturday, April 27, 08:00

I have defeated my first opponent after a long and grinding match 2-1.

Saturday, April 27, 09:00

My team is victorious! We split up the rares opened by the table, I end up with some random cards and an Abrupt Decay. The next Pre-Release starts at noon. Time to occupy ourselves in the mean-time. We decide to head over to Wal-Mart and play the Wal-Mart Game. I had never heard of this game before, and I learned that apparently, everyone goes into Wal-Mart, each player looks around for the most obscure item(s) in the store that come to less than 5 dollars before tax. They then buy that item, and meet up again in the parking lot. They vote on who bought the most ridiculous item(s), and that person wins.

Saturday, April 27, 9:30

We meet up in the parking lot again. I found 5 sticks of 5′ bamboo for 5.25. I am really proud of myself, but I know that I have already lost because I ran into Paul in Wal-Mart and selecting my items. Paul is the person with experience in this game, our teacher. He informs me that he already knows what he is doing, but needs to find a few more items to complete his ensemble, since he is way under the $5 mark. He ends up winning with his horrible ensemble, and then has to return all this garbage to the store.

Saturday, April 27, 10:30

The store opens in 30 minutes, we spent the last hour driving around and picking up Red Bulls. Bring it.

Saturday, April 27, 12:00

I open my next packs and begin the second pre-release of the weekend.

Saturday, April 27, 12:25

Deck building ends, I have an American midrange deck that is very powerful.

Saturday, April 27, 12:30

I get the bye. Time to watch some Magic.

Saturday, April 27, 14:30

My opponent has successfully played slow enough to draw the round. I am 1-1.

Saturday, April 27, 16:30

I am undefeated in the last round of swiss. I decide to play for standings in the top 8. I win after I make a mistake in game 1 that I end up getting a takesies-backsies on since it was a pre-release and I had never cast the card before. Voices were raised and judges were called. My opponent was furious. I had my last Red Bull an hour ago, and I can feel myself slipping. He mulligans to 5 game 2 and we play the match in silence. He dies on turn 6 after getting stuck on lands. It is awkward and sad and I am still mad at him for being a jerk and mad at myself for making the mistake in the first place.

Saturday, April 27, 17:30

After not splitting the top 8, I beat my first opponent.

Saturday, April 27, 18:30

I beat my second top 8 opponent, as did the guy from the last round of swiss. We are paired in the finals, and we decide to split. I would normally have played this out, but I didn’t want to interact with this gentleman for another 45 minutes so, I left the store to get some margaritas and tex-mex. Before I left, I signed up for the last pre-release of the day. At this point, I am exhausted and only running on adrenaline. I also want to complete my set of pins. I select hardmode- Dimir. This guild is so bad that its almost impossible to construct a playable deck if you get the wrong secret ally. Trey Filbeck, who has had a similar amount of sleep, decides to join me.

Saturday, April 27, 19:30

Two 1.50 margaritas, a plate of nachos, and two Dr. Peppers later, I am feeling much better. I get my hardmode packs, and turn them over to reveal… Golgari. I have the worst possible pairings. This should be quick, and brutal. Hardmode activated. Trey has also flipped over his packs to reveal Golgari. I am so sorry.

Saturday, April 27, 20:00

I have my deck. It is 4 colors and absolutely unplayable. Behold, the list of misery.

Trestle Troll
Haunter of Nightveil
Spell Rupture
Deathcult Rogue
Runner’s Bane
Pilfered Plans
Psychic Strike
Opal Lake Gatekeepers
Ubul Sar Gatekeepers
Thrashing Mossdog
Dreg Mangler
Launch Party
Gateway Shade
Golgari Keyrune
Call of the Nightwing
Rakdos Drake
Balustrade Spy
Gatecreeper Vine
Sluiceway Scorpion (MVP)
Death’s Approach
Undercity Plague
Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Teysa, Envoy of Orzhov

Azorious Guildgate
Golgari Guildgate
Orzhov Guildgate
Simic Guildgate
Dimir Guildgate
Some variety of basic lands.

April 27, 21:00

My opponent is a new player and assembles a UR deck full of defenders and countermagic. He doesn’t really do anything, then I randomly mill away his Dragonshift. He loses in 2. I am 1-0.

April 27, 22:00

I have no memory of this match. I won it. 2-0. Trey and I are both 2-0 with similar piles of garbage. What is happening? The store owner has put a bounty on Trey’s and my head. Any player who defeats us gets a bonus pack. I don’t know why this happened, but whatever.

April 27, 23:00

I get paired against Albert Huang, a good friend of mine, and in three very grinding games, I manage to defeat him. I only took the match because he was mana-screwed game 1, but unfortunately, that is Magic. I am 3-0 now. Trey lost his match, putting him at 2:1. The fact that we are the only players in the room playing Dimir means that the two of us finish the race through the Dragon’s Maze anyway.

April 28, 01:00

I have no memory of this match. I am now 4-0 and Trey is 3-1.

April 28, 02:00

I defeat a player who had a very strange pool with very powerful cards. I had the exact cards that I needed when I needed them and managed to take it in three. It was easily one of the hardest matches of Magic I have ever played, but I have gone undefeated in swiss, Hardmode Achieved. We agree to split the t8 because I am no longer able to play in any sense of rationality.

April 28, 02:30

I have dropped Trey off and put my laundry in the wash. I pass out. I have a tournament Sunday at 12:00.

That 26 hour period was awesome and I loved almost every minute of it. I have the best friends I could have asked for.

-Andrew

Filling Holes

•April 17, 2013 • 1 Comment

A good Cube is a well oiled and focused limited environment, ideally allowing each archetype enough cards to be conceivably draftable. This means that sometimes you need to play some cards that are very narrow in order for there to be a critical mass of cards for a certain archetype. I have covered this idea at length in relation to the card Wild Dogs, which now that I have added a small amount of extra support to G/x aggro/tempo decks has received significantly less vitriol.

But what happens when you draft an archetype, and there is a card that you need so that your deck does not fold to a particular card. Example: Opponent slams a Geist of St. Traft. This means that you either need a sacrifice effect, or a board wipe, or some resilient blockers. Fortunately, in Magic, all colors have access to at least one of these types of cards. This means that Cubes have several answers for a card like this, allowing players to not fear (too much) and particular type of card. Almost.

Red has no answers for enchantments. This is the very reason why I do not run Moat in my Cube (I also do not have a Moat, but that is a different story). The mono-red deck is also usually aggressive enough to deal with any problem enchantments by simply killing the opposing player.

Black on the other hand does not have access to enchantment or artifact removal due to its place in the color pie. The color pie is listed as one of the reasons why Magic is as successful as it is. I agree the the color pie is important to the game as a whole, and I certainly do not promote abolishing the color pie and giving everyone efficient answers to all threats. What I do promote, is giving everyone answers to all threats with varying levels of efficiency.

After drafting the mono-black deck several times and straight up losing to enchantments and artifacts, I decided that something needed to be done to make Mono-B able to keep up with decks that don’t attack on the creature angle. I poured through the card database, and came across Gate to Phyrexia, which is undeniably sweet, but is glacially slow, and still does not answer enchantments. After a lot of pondering what to do, I decided to design my own card that fills this hole in black’s ability.

Meet Dark Recompense.

Dark Recompense.This is also the card that I submitted to this year’s You Make the Card that WotC is offering. It gives black access to threat answers of any type, and does it in a very black way. The card looks very efficient until you realize that to use it the turn you play it, you need to pay 1BBBB, and lose out on a permanent you control. This card is exceptionally powerful in a deck featuring recursive creatures like Bloodghast and Reassembling Skeleton, but so are many other cards. So far this card has been insane, but not any more insane than the rest of Cube.

Remember Cube designers, it’s your format, and you can do what you want. This card initially really upset my players because it does not exist in Magic and therefore was “cheating.” They drafted it anyway to “test it” and the fussing stopped soon afterwards.

-Andrew

 

Gatecrash 8-4 1st Attempt

•February 19, 2013 • Leave a Comment

I bring you my first recorded draft. I apologize for the level of quality that is absent in these vids. If you want to hear my thought process, you are welcome to listen to the draft.

First, the Draft:

Then Round 1:

As you can see, I had some bad luck and made a poor mulligan decision. I hope to have my quality issues taken care of by next week.

Once More Into the Breach

•January 30, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Working full time, playing full time, sleeping part time.

I am not yet a “grinder,” I have my plans on initiating the grind in the near future, but for now, I am simply a wannabe wannabe. However, I do play Magic 5 nights a week now. Wednesday- Standard, Thursdays- Modern, Friday- Standard, and Saturday- Standard. I also try to work in a cube draft whenever I can, but those have been falling flat for the last couple weeks.

I work 40 hours a week selling PCs and PC accessories (yes, I sell Macs too, but those don’t work as well with the King of the Hill joke). And, since I am playing 5 tournaments a week, each being approximately 4 hours, I do not have a whole lot of free time, especially since when I am not at work, I am busy staying current on metagames and testing.

This post is not so much about Magic as it is about [my] life. I feel like I am at a crossroads. On one path lies the scheduled “adventure” of a grinder, and on the other is the scheduled routine of the semi-competitive. Every choice that I have made for the last two years has been to try and land the WotC dream job. I feel like I have made some progress, but I am still so far from Renton.

I apologize for the lack of updates to this semi-derelict blog, but updating this is rather low on my list of priorities.

Here is my tentative Schedule for the GTC PTQ season into summer:

PTQ: San Antonio
PTQ Lubbock (God I hope not)
GP San Diego (Maybe)
GP Houston
GP Vegas

Here I stand, on the raggedy edge.
-Andrew

Barnyard Voltron in RTR Limited

•November 18, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Before I get into what I did yesterday, here are some sample quotes about my deck from my opponents:  “Yeah, I guess that’s a card.” “Really?” “Oh God, this is embarrassing.” And here are my two defining quotes: “I am pretty sure that I built this wrong, but I don’t care.” “If you cant crush dreams with good cards, destroy them with bad cards.”

Now, it’s story time. I worked from 12-8 on Friday, came home, changed, threw some stuff in my bag, and was dropped off at the local gaming store by 9:00. We jumped in the car and headed south to Austin. We got there, and realized that everything was fully booked AND was obscenely expensive due to the F1 circuit opening there this weekend. We (4 grown men) slept in the car (an old sedan) in front of Pat’s Games’ parking lot. We woke up bright and early due mainly to the fact that it was approx 32 degrees and we were all incredibly uncomfortable. We headed over to the tournament venue, since the tournament is too big for Pat to host in her actual building.

That morning, we were all out of it after a pretty poor night’s sleep. My back was all wonky and  I spent a good portion of yesterday cracking it and trying to work the knot out of it. Fast-forward an hour or so, and the tournament begins. Since this is a Competitive level limited event, we do not get to play the cards we open, instead, you register what you open, and pass the product.

I open the most insane blue/green/white control deck. The rares included: Supreme Verdict x2, Martial Law, Growing Ranks, Grove of the Guardian, Precinct Captain, plus the generally awesome w/u/g commons and uncommons. Passing that was sad, since the deck pretty much built itself, but hey, I was not passing any money, and I might get a sweet pool.

Nope.

This is what I built with what was passed to me:

Precinct Captain
Righteous Authority
Teleportal
Trained Caracal (hereby referred to as Kitty)
Dispel
Sunspire Griffin
Runewing x2
Ethereal Armor
Pursuit of Flight x2
Frostburn Weird
Gore-House Chainwalker
Splatter Thug
Goblin Rally
Soulsworn Spirit
Tenement Crasher
Skyline Predator
Keening Apparition
Knightly Valor
Dramatic Rescue
Isperia’s Skywatch
Azorius Arrester
Transguild Promenade
Izzet Guildgate x2
Plains x6
Island x5
Mountain x3

Then these are the cards that I boarded in after seeing what my opp was doing game 1:
Pithing Needle (just for Vraska)
Electrickery
Traitorous Instinct
Cobblebrute

(And once I tried boarding in Stab Wound x2 and Swamp x2, but that was because he had real cards in his deck)

Then these are the 4 cards that I boarded in EVERY SINGLE GAME 2 and 3:
Kitty x2
Judge’s Familiar (hereby referred to as Derp Owl)
Pursuit of Flight

And… these are the rest of my cards:
Overgrown Tomb
Rest in Peace
Phantom General
Archweaver
Risen Sanctuary
Rubbleback Rhino
Korozda Monitor x2
Courser’s Accord
Common Bond
Brushstrider
Gatecreeper Vine
Giant Growth x3
Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage
Tower Drake
Rootborn Defenses
Golgari Keyrune
Tablet of the Guilds
Aquus Steed
Chronic Flooding (John LaPlant’s invitational card) x2
Crosstown Courier
Drainpipe Vermin
Perilous Shadow
Shrieking Affliction
Survey the Wreckage
Vandalblast
Horncaller’s Chant
Fall of the Gavel
Rakdos Charm
Search Warrant
Skull Rend
Sluiceway Scorpion
Trestle Troll
Rakdos Shred-Freak
Dreg Mangler x2
Goblin Electromancer
Tenement Crasher
Daggerdrome Imp
Grim Roustabout
Launch Party
Ogre Jailbreaker
Auger Spree

So yeah. That build was hard. I had like 60% of 3 different decks, and since I was not happy playing decks with only 18 actual playable cards, and after trying out 4 different iterations of the deck (Grixis Aggro became Jund, then became Junk tokens, then became Barnyard Voltron) I settled on playing derp creatures and putting suits on them. As I was sitting there, holding my head in my hands, I had to ask myself “How much derp do I want in this deck?” I eventually settled on only one maindeck derp creature, so that I could get a feel of their deck before really going all-in on Derp Owl and Kitty beat-down. Maybe that was wrong, I don’t know. I boarded out my double color spells to make my mana better games 2 and three.

The deck was so bad that I felt bad every time that I played a spell, but when your deck can actually do nothing for 5 turns, then stabilize behind a 2/2 and some enchantments after your opponent taps out… That’s some real power there…  And then post board you have the awesome draws of Kitty or Derp Owl into a turn 2 Pursuit of Flight, and you’re off to the races. </sarcasm>

My overall record yesterday was 6-2, and every opponent that I beat immediately dropped. One signed the drop slip “Meow” after laughing as I beat him down with stupid crap. I apologized to every opponent that I beat, shook their hands, and walked away with a slip, often signed 2-0.

The two decks that I lost to had real cards. One had 2 Skymark Rocs, and a pile of removal and the other had Jace + Mizzium Mortars, and a pile of removal.

The games I won consisted of jamming dorks into their face until they died from it. The MVPs over the course of the day were Knightly Valor, Pursuit of Flight, Skyline Predator, and Tenement Crasher. I think that the Crasher is better than Isperia’s Skywatch, but I wanted the Detain for getting in the final bits of damage. Teleportal and Righteous authority both won me 2 games. Dispel is also really good when you need to jam an enchantment into their open mana.

Here is a picture of this deck’s mana curve pre-boarding.

Image

Black Magic Woman

•October 8, 2012 • 2 Comments

Recently the Cube community has realized that black in cube is pretty much rubbish. I and several others like me have started fiddling around with black to make it less rubbish and more awesome. Some have cut black aggro, turning it into a control and midrange color exclusively. Some, like me, went to ValueTown, running only cards that 2 for 1- SkinrenderNekrataalShriekmaw etc. Unfortunately, one can only run so many Flame Tongue Kavus before the Cube gets clogged with value.

Then I realized something interesting about black. This MIGHT be a shocker, but black has a theme about life payment. Now, Vampire Nighthawk has been a Cube staple for a long time, because he is efficient, trades up, evasive, and flies. So I started testing out another flying black vampire that gains life- Sangromancer. She rewards the Black Mage for doing what he loves to do- death and discard. She really performed, and I was very pleasantly surprised, because everyone knows that lifegain is a casual mechanic- but lifegain suddenly becomes a lot more important when you are trading away your life for victory- Phyrexian ArenaDark ConfidantBitterblossom, etc. Wizards even noticed it when they created the “ultimate” life payment card.

So, we have established that lifegain is good in black, black loves killing things, and forcing discard, and generally sowing discord. This brings me to what some famous cube personalities were doing: Pox, accompanied by Smallpox and Contamination. These three cards attack a player’s hand, life total, and general ability to play the game, with the pretense they they are mirrored effects and totally reasonable. These were of course made entirely one sided and unreasonable by including cards like: BitterblossomBloodghast and Gravecrawler, and to a lesser extent: Crucible of Worlds, all of which I already had in my Cube- I also grabbed a Squee, Goblin Nabob, and I was off to the races.

I drafted Mono-Black last night and was not disappointed. I had this archetype sold as “the most fun anyone has ever had drafting black,” and oh man. It was.

Here is the beauty that has seduced me, my Black Magic Woman.

Liliana of Dark Realms
Bloodghast
Bitterblossom
Squee, Goblin Nabob
Pox
Smallpox
Contamination
Shriekmaw
Diabolic Edict
Go for the Throat
Dark Confidant
Disciple of Bolas (Another Black Lifegain card)
Phyrexian Revoker
Massacre Wurm
Loxodon Warhammer
Mortarpod
Diregraf Ghoul
Pack Rat
Cursed Scroll
Okiba-Gang Shinobi
Wurmcoil Engine
Profane Command
Blood Artist
Hymn to Tourach
Inkmoth Nexus
Barren Moor
Mishra’s Factory
14x Swamp

I piloted this deck to a disappointing 1-2 finish. The games that I won were not close. As amazing as this deck was, it still could not handle artifacts or enchantments, but that is an article for another day; Smokestack and Braids are in the mail.

Returning to Ravnica

•September 29, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hey y’all, sorry about the long absence again, but nothing interesting has really happened on the Cube front until yesterday evening. What happened? We Returned to Ravnica.

Ravnica was one of the most popular MtG settings of all time because it was a multicolor block, it featured some very powerful effects, and it truly defined the color pie in a way that people had not thought of before. People know what being Red meant, and people know what being Blue meant, but now, people could identify what it meant to be Red/Blue.
-Paraphrased from Mark Rosewater, lead designer of Magic

So, what does this mean for Cube? It means… that I can fix some multicolor sections that run confusing cards! That’s really about it. Here is my deck that went undefeated last night. I have never opened a stronger pool. I think that their idea to give out guild packs and allow players to use their promo was a good one, but I saw a lot of games where Hypersonic Dragon killed people and much fewer games lost to any of the other promos.

Without Further Ado:
Grixis Aggro-Control
Promo: Hypersonic Dragon
Mizzium Mortars
Azor’s Elocutors
Annihilating Fire
Stab Wound x2
Electrickery x2
Voidwielder
Goblin Electromancer
Splatter Thug x2
Auger Spree
Nivix Guildmage
Assassin’s Strike
Ogre Jailbreaker
Syncopate
Stealer of Secrets
Rakdos Ragemutt
Runewing
Mercurial Chemister

Izzet Keyrune x2
Izzet Guildgate
Rakdos Guildgate
Island x6
Swamp x4
Mountain x5

Notable sideboard cards:
Voidwielder
Counterflux

I boarded in these cards against decks where Electrickery didn’t do anything.

Some notes on the evening: Mortars is very good, As is Cyclonic Rift, which I had played against me. The unleash guys are very powerful, and Rakdos has some very fast starts backed up by sweet removal. the UR cards that I had besides my non-rares were pretty meh, but I do like the repeatable looting on the Guildmage.

I killed 2 players with Life loss from Stab Wound, and I killed 2 players with filibuster counters off of Elecutors. The Izzet Keyrunes are very very good. I like having mana fixing that can turn into Ophidians. Oh, and Mercurial Chemister is a stupid good card. I probably drew 14 or 16 cards off of him over the course of the evening.

The only games that I lost whether just for fun or in matches were the two that I milliganed a one lander into a two lander stocked with 3 drops and never saw land number three.

Some notes on the format:
Selesnya seems like a trap- populate is a very powerful effect, but it is expensive, and sometimes is a literal do nothing. Izzet seems pretty poor at common/uncommon, but the Izzet aligned rares are ridiculous, as is Izzet Charm. Rakdos can put out a whole lot of damage really fast and kill you if your game plan is to do nothing until turn 4 or 5. Golgari seems strong, but I found myself mostly unimpressed sitting across the table from scavenge cards because of my plethora of removal. Azorius has some very powerful flyers and I think that it is a solid choice for sealed, but I am worried that it might be a little weak to draft because of the hard color commitments and the fact that evasion is good, and everyone wants some of it.

TL;DR: My deck was awesome and I love Grixis.