Magic is hard. It’s OK to lose.

Several weeks ago I went to a draft at a different LGS than I normally go to. It was weird, I was out of my comfort zone and I lost. A lot. But there weren’t many people there, and they were all good — one of the people who beat me qualified for the Dragon Maze ProTour. And we went to game three. No big deal.

But the reason I’m bringing this up is not to brag (though I still think it’s cool), but because it reminded me about the most important thing new magic players have to remember: It’s OK to lose.

By nature, I’m a very competitive person. I try to be a gracious loser, but sometimes it’s hard. When I was first starting I didn’t mind losing at all — I was learning so much about the game every match that that was enough for me. Now losing can sometimes be a bit more frustrating, simply because I can recognize my misplays. I frequently have to remind myself that I am still a relatively new magic player, so having a 3-2 record at draft should still be seen as an accomplishment. I’m still learning how cards interact, and how to make the most out of abilities, triggers and other spells. Magic is a very intricate game, which is part of its charm, but it’s also why it’s so hard for new players.

So many decisions! The flyer or the extort creature?

So many decisions! The flyer or the extort creature?

At the mentioned draft above, after exclaiming “look it’s a girl magic player!”, one of my opponents asked me what the hardest part of Magic is for new players. I think I said something along the lines of just knowing how cards interact, and I stick by that statement. It’s especially important in the draft format because it takes some knowledge of triggers and abilities to be able to choose cards that will interact well together. And in building standard decks that’s the main thing a player needs to think about: what is this card doing for my deck, and how will it interact with my other cards.

But new players don’t have that background knowledge, and don’t have enough playing experience to really know what makes a card good. When I first started, I’d read a card and think “well, that sounds cool” about 90 percent of the time. Now, I have a little more discretion. New players also don’t necessarily recognize good opportunities to play cards. I still get a little overexcited with my bloodrush occasionally, or spells that might be good early, but great during the late game.

The guild charms are good examples of cards that are great, but are hard for new players to use. First, you have to choose when you want to play it in the game and then you have to choose which ability to use. I’ve used charms too early and I’ve used them and then realized their other ability might have been loads better. It’s all part of the learning experience. Experiment One is another example of a card that really good players value highly, but a newer player might not. While I was playing my Simic deck with two Experiment Ones in it, I traded it too early many times because I may have forgotten about its regenerate ability. I knew it was a good card, but I didn’t really realize how good it was until later.

Magic is all about making decisions. Every turn you have several decisions to make: whether you want to attack, when you want to attack, when you want to play the land for the turn and whether you want to take advantage of the second main phase, etc. And that’s just the beginning. New players often don’t even realize there IS a second main phase. I know I didn’t. Magic is so full of decisions, it’s a little ridiculous. It’s also why I tend to play slowly and would often go to time when I was first starting. I like to think things through, and as a new player the best moves are not always obvious to me. The judge at my normal LGS still gives me crap about it when I report well before time, but he also gave me some really good advice: play fast enough to actually finish your matches. He told me that a night when I went 1-2-3. Yes, that’s right, I had three draws. I’ve gotten a lot better since then! But I’ve also lost a lot since then.

So what are the hardest parts about being a new Magic player? 1: Being OK with losing, 2: learning how cards interact and 3: figuring out how to use that information in your decisions. In other words, Magic is just plain hard.

But the only way to get better is to keep playing (and keep losing), so I don’t plan on stopping any time soon!

All for now,

Bale

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Identity crisis.

Ok guys. Truth time: I’m not really sure what direction “The Nerd Maids” will take going forward.

As I mentioned before, I’m not really into all the things Astro is, so posts will probably become less diverse. I’m only one nerd, after all! But I also figure that now is the perfect time to see what you guys, the awesome readers of “The Nerd Maids”, actually want to read. So if you would take a moment to give me an idea of what you want by taking the poll and/ or commenting with ideas, I would really appreciate it!

I’ve already gotten an incredible amount of support from you guys, and I can’t even say how thankful I am for that. Seriously, you guys rock. Especially “The Nerd Maids” biggest fan (whom I’ll call K)… K has been cheering me (and Astro, too) on since the beginning. And when she found out Astro left, she jumped in and immediately offered to help me come up with ideas. By her doing that, it made me realize that I have a whole support group out there already, and lots of people who’d probably be willing to shoot me ideas. So seriously, comment, or if you want extra bonus points, send me an email at nerdmaids@gmail.com.

Me and K at FNM a couple weeks ago. She's one incredible girl, and is full of great ideas! :)

Me and K at FNM a couple weeks ago. She’s one incredible girl, and is full of great ideas! 🙂

In the meantime, I’ll continue writing about Magic, and trying to get through enough of “The Silmarillion” to actually write a thoughtful reflection. (I haven’t forgotten about that project, I promise!)

All for now,
Bale

FNM Recap: March 22

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I picked the Thrull Parasite over Enter the Infinite, and ended up running a pretty freaking awesome Orzhov deck. Lost one match by not throwing back a hand that really needed it (two swamps and several two drops that needed plains). Lost the second match to assemble the legion and bad draws. But it’s all part of the game, right?

I’ll be honest: Last night I wasn’t too happy with my playing. My deck was awesome, but I made several mistakes that I don’t feel like I should have made. I’m usually fairly aggressive when it comes to mulligans, but for some reason in my second match I spazzed and kept a pretty much unplayable hand. I also had several good cards in my sideboard that I kept being debating about putting in/ taking out. As a result I asked for advice when I probably could have trusted my gut. It didn’t cost me any games, but I realized I am getting to the point where my deck building is fairly strong, and getting advice from other players might not be the best idea anymore. Or if I do, I shouldn’t just take their word on things, I should think about it myself.

The deck listed here is the deck I ended the night with. At one point I had both Angelic Edicts in and Aerial Maneuver instead of the Executioner’s Swings. I also started the night playing the Shadow Alley Denizen over the Gutter Skulk, which I think I liked better. At one point someone suggested I should take out the Vizkopa Guidmage, and I actually did. Luckily, I didn’t lose the match I played without it, and as soon as I put it back in it won me a couple games — once you can pay for both abilities, it’s pretty powerful, especially when you give the 4/4 Angel from Urbis Protector lifelink. I wish I’d had a chance to cast Grisly Spectacle, but I never drew it. (That card is so good, most of the pros at the PTQ in Pittsburgh said it was the best card to open in a sealed tournament, and I got it really late in the draft!).  The Merciless Eviction saved me from Assemble the Legion once, but the second time my opponent cast the Legion, I was not so lucky.

Overall, last night was fairly successful for me. I’m proud of my winning record (2nd week in a row going 3-2 and getting 14th place and this time I actually played for all three wins!), and I know my drafting skills have gotten a lot better, especially lately. Hopefully I keep getting better!

All for now,
Bale

What cards would you have played from my sideboard? Would you have changed anything? 

Nerdmaid. Singular, now.

"Nerd Maids" is going through a bit of an identity crisis...

“Nerd Maids” is going through a bit of an identity crisis…

Bale here. I have some sad news from the Nerdmaid Lagoon: Astro is retiring. She has decided she is not cut out for blogging, and that “Nerd Maids” added an unnecessary element of stress to her hobbies. I’m sad, but the last thing I want to do is make her do something she really doesn’t want to do — it would be unpleasant for everyone. And probably not healthy for our friendship, which is more important than the blog.

But don’t worry: I’m not retiring. I love this blog, and have been blown away by the support it’s gotten. So if you’re still in this, I’m still in this. The posts won’t be as frequent, and I probably won’t post about video games (sorry gamers), but I’ll continue to write about Magic, Tolkien and whatever other nerdy things I like! And I’d love suggestions — if you have something you think I’d like, or would make a good post, let me know!

I have lots of ideas for “Nerd Maids” — it won’t be the same without Astro, and it may go through as slight identity crisis as I figure out how to run this awesome blog on my own, but I hope you all will stick with me! Look for a post tomorrow about FNM tonight! I’m going to try out a new FNM post format that I’m pretty excited about, so I’d love to hear your feedback.

All for now,
Bale

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Drafting, drafting and more drafting.

What would you pick from these options?

What would you pick from these options? Image from magicgeneral.blogspot.com

As I mentioned earlier, deck building is my favorite part of Magic. There are just so many different ways that cards can interact, it’s incredible. And it’s why drafting is so freaking fun.

You may have figured out by now that when I go to FNM, I draft. At first it was because I knew I didn’t have a standard deck (or the skills) to be  remotely competitive in the standard tournament. But now it’s just because I love the process of drafting and the nature of the tournament. Everyone comes in with nothing, has to build a deck from scratch and competes with that. As a result, the playing field is a lot more fair — there are no super powerful, super expensive decks pitted against budget decks. It comes down to the skills of the player: how they draft AND how they play. And I would argue the draft part is probably the more important of the two, simply because it’s easier to play good decks, so if an OK player drafts a good deck they’ll do better than if they draft a crappy deck.

I drafted this last week because I was in white and blue, and knew its ability would come in handy. Plus flying.

Lately I’ve started gaining more and more confidence in my drafting skills. The last couple FNM drafts I’ve gone to I’ve come out with winning records, which is really exciting. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m able to think about how the cards I’m picking will interact during a game. I also don’t go in with any expectations; I don’t plan which colors I’m going to run and I’m not afraid to switch colors. (For the record, that’s only happened once… but I didn’t hesitate!) I let the first few picks direct my draft, and from there I just build on whatever colors those led to. Last week I drafted blue and white. I ended up with a very control-based deck with strong defenders and some great creatures. There wasn’t major synergy because it was pick a pack, but everything worked fairly well together. And as I was drafting, I kept in mind that since it was a control deck I needed to draft more defensive cards than normal, but I also needed cards that would get me the win. And while the Gruul deck I mentioned a few weeks ago, I was definitely concentrating on getting powerful creatures and had a much more aggressive strategy.

But the most important (and best) thing to remember is to always read and reread the cards. Just because you think you know what a card does, doesn’t mean it actually does that. And in between packs I usually go through and at least glance at my picks. I usually sort them into creature and non-creature spells, just to give me an idea of what I need to look out for in the next pack.

Obviously I’m not an expert yet, but I am happy with how far I’ve come since my first draft. All I was thinking about then was drafting only two colors.

All for now,
Bale

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