FNM Recap: April 19… Last Gatecrash Draft!

I picked Wojek over the white primordial, and Mugging over the Boros guildmage. I opened Obzedat third pack, so I kept it, but didn't end up playing it.

I picked Wojek over the Luminate Primordial, and Mugging over the Boros guildmage. I opened Obzedat third pack, so I kept it, but didn’t end up playing it. Would you have made those picks?

I finally drafted Boros. It was the first Friday night I’d actually attempted to go Boros, and the last Gatecrash draft. I ran Boros during the prerelease, so I guess it was fitting to go out on Boros as well.

I ended up with a pretty awesome deck. I was very confident with my draft. I first-picked a Wojek Halberdier and immediately got passed a Truefire Paladin and another Wojek. I also managed to draft two Skyknight Legionnaires, two Muggings, a Madcap Skills and more! I couldn’t have really asked for a smoother Boros draft. There was only one other Boros drafter at my table, and he was on the opposite side. Both of us ended up with really strong decks. I’m happy I drafted Boros when it was open. I’d avoided drafting it most of the set because I knew it was pretty much always overdrafted.  But not on Friday! So going into my matches I was fairly confident. I think that made the night seem even more brutal than it actually was.

I got off to a rough start, losing my first match 2-0 to a good Gruul deck. I just couldn’t draw my creatures. I only triggered battalion a couple times, and once was because I used Act of Treason to steal my opponent’s good blocker as the third creature. It was a good move: It made my Daring Skyjek a flyer and I had a Skyknight on board, so I had five unblockable damage, and my opponent ended up trading with his own creature, which was great for me. But he continued to draw creatures, and I did not. Paired with his bloodrush I didn’t have much of a chance. I got mana flooded both games, which was just bad luck.

I won my second match, and my third. So I felt pretty awesome, especially since it was reaffirming my belief that my deck was really solid and could crush my opponents fairly easily. In my second match (against Dimir) I lost a game to the Duskmantle Guildmage, which was frustrating… but I shut him down fast in game three, so I was happy. My third match was over fairly quickly — my opponent didn’t seem to be drawing what he needed and I was. The second game was pretty close — he got me down to two using Skullcracks and his one creature. My board presence was really strong though, and even though he was at 14, I hit him for lethal using my battalion abilities and sheer power — he blocked one creature, but I was still getting through with 10 damage, so I used my one bloodrush creature (a Scorchwalker) to boost my doublestriker (Ordruun Veteran), so it went from dealing six damage to dealing  16. He didn’t really have much of a chance. (I probably should have just boosted a different creature, but hey — when was I going to get that chance again?)

My fourth match was frustrating — the first game was really good and close, but I lost. Then I got color screwed really bad in the second game. I had to mulligan, and ended up keeping a hand with two mountains, a Bomber Corps, a Madcap Skills and two multi-colored cards. Not bad, but I didn’t draw a single Plains all game. My seven mountains were really helpful though…

My fifth match was the most crushing though. I lost in two games. My opponent milled me out both times. The first time, he was at ONE life. I would have gotten him the next turn. The second time he was at FOUR life. I most likely would have gotten him the next turn. It was devastating, and I may have gone to the bathroom and cried a little. I wish I was joking. Stupid mill decks.

My last win was to an opponent who was dropping, but didn’t tell the judge. I like to think I would have won, but who knows. Since I had some free time, though, I ended up playing the judge and crushing him before his mill deck got a chance to kill me. It cheered me up a bit. Then we played two-headed giant with a couple guys, and my team won. We crushed them with a Boros Charm and a Glaring Spotlight, coupled with my super agressive deck. It was really fun.

Unfortunately, since I’m such a competitive person, it didn’t really help me get past the awful mill match or my terribly unlucky draws all night. OH WELL. I just have to reread my post on why it’s OK to lose, I guess.

All for now,
Bale

 

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FNM recap — April 12.

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Gideon and a foil Treasury Thrull! Pretty lucky, I’d say.

Friday was definitely a better night than the week before. First, I opened Gideon in my first pack, allowing me to build a deck he would work in, which was handy. I drafted mostly white during the first pack because I couldn’t decide whether Boros or Orzhov was open. In the end I ended up with a pretty solid Orzhov deck. I didn’t have as much extort as I would have liked, but I had some very strong late-game cards (Treasury Thrull, Ogre Slumlord), which was a nice change compared to last week and my army of two-drops.

The main things I learned Friday were:

  • View your planeswalkers as a way to take damage for you. If your opponent spends two or three turns just trying to kill a planeswalker you control, that means you basically are two or three turns ahead of them in damage. My third match of the night (my first loss) went into game three, and had I used Gideon’s plus one ability one more time I could have forced my opponent to attack him again, getting me one more turn. Instead, my thought process was “well, he’s going to die next turn anyway, I want to use him to get some damage in”. So I attacked and left myself pretty vulnerable. My opponent, unconcerned about Gideon anymore, attacked me for lethal on his next turn. Obviously I don’t know what would have happened if I used Gideon’s plus one ability again, but it was likely I would have at least gotten another turn, and since I had my Treasury Thrull on board, that could have turned the game around in my favor. 
  • Pay attention to your opponent’s mana. I am getting better at paying attention to mana, but I still have my moments. In one of my matches I held back my blocker because I thought my opponent could pump all of his Frilled Oculouses. He couldn’t, so I could have at least probably saved myself one point of damage. I don’t know whether that would have made a big difference in the game, but it definitely reminded me to pay more attention.
  • Don’t let other people get to you. I usually don’t have a problem with my opponent, but I do get rather distracted when I realize people are watching me. I know they’re judging my every move, and I get nervous. I’ve gotten better at handling that, but that often leads to another scenario I really dislike: after my match sometimes the people watching will give me unsolicited advice (i.e.: if you’d attacked there, you could have done x, which would have led to y, which might have won you the match). It was helpful when I was first starting, but now I’d rather just ask my opponent directly, and see what they think. Or I’d at least like to ask you for your opinion. Oh well, people will do what they do, so I need to learn how to take it with a grain of salt and move on.
  • Don’t miss triggers. I seem to need to learn this over and over again. I missed several extort triggers, which would have been helpful to remember. Oh well.

 

Overall, my deck was really fun to play. My opponent’s reactions when I’d get Gideon out were great. And even when I didn’t get him out, my deck still put up a good fight. It’s been pretty strong in casual play this week, too, which is always fun.

All for now,
Bale

p.s. Only one more Gatecrash draft left! Then Dragon’s Maze comes out. Where did the time go?!

I’ve been a little stressed lately.

Books

Books = stress relief!

Life is stressful. Even the good parts of life can be a bit stressful  — at a couple FNMs I’ve gotten really bad headaches from the tension (I think) — and when add work stress, blog stress and moving stress to that you get one really stressed out Bale.

Everyone handles stress differently. Lately, my secret weapon has been a combination of yoga and reading. It’s a surprisingly effective combination.

And, according to this article, reading is definitely a good weapon to have in your arsenal against stress. It makes a lot of sense, too.

As the article points out, technology is a big source of stress that is almost impossible to avoid. With smart phones, social media, email, news alerts and other updates follow us around all day. (I have a love-hate relationship with mine..) Even ‘relaxing’ often involves screen time: watching Netflix or Hulu and browsing Reddit are big culprits. (I am happy to report, though, that I have successfully reduced my Netflix and Hulu time quite dramatically since my post proclaiming I would.) And even though Reddit is awesome, and can entertain me for hours, it’s not the best way to actually relax. More often than I’d like to admit, though, I find myself browsing Reddit way too late, which cuts into both my sleep and reading time.

But I always find that I sleep better when I read before bed. When I get a chance to step into another world, at least for a few minutes. The study the article cites, supports my claim, too:

 It took only six minutes of silent reading to slow down their heart rate and relax their muscles. Reading decreased the subjects’ stress levels by 68%, follwed by listening to music (61%), tea or coffee (54%), taking a walk (42%) and playing video games (21%).

Basically reading is just awesome, and great at relieving stress. So if you like me, and have nights where you can’t really get to sleep because of all the thoughts going through your head, apparently taking six minutes to read will do you all sorts of good.

Plus, imagination rocks.

All for now,
Bale

FNM Recap: April 5

Stomping Ground, YEAH!

Stomping Ground, YEAH!

Sometimes things just don’t work, and you don’t get lucky. That was me on Friday.

I guess I was due for a terrible an anticlimactic night after my last few good FNMs. My first pick was my shock land, but I ended up playing those colors anyway. I made a questionable draft decision late in the third pack by picking a Burning-Tree Emissary over the Rubblebelt Raiders, but since I had five Disciple of the Old Ways, I figured Burning Tree would fit better in my deck. Plus I hadn’t ever heard anything about the raiders, and figured if it was really THAT amazing I would have. I asked around about the pick throughout the night, and the reactions were split… but I think if I had taken it I would have had more late-game options. I sided in my Giant Adephage later in the night, but never ended up seeing it.

And my night wasn’t terrible. I still learned a lot. As I’ve said before it really is OK to lose. The important part  is to take things away from your matches. I made some mistakes that I (hopefully) won’t make again. Once, I tapped all my red mana once and left a swamp untapped so I couldn’t make my disciple have first strike. I didn’t notice until I attacked, so my opponent blocked and killed it. Oops. Another time, I had two Disciples out and an Ivy Lane Denizen and I’d put one +1/+1 counter on one of my Disciples, and was debating whether to put a second counter on the one Disciple or put one counter on the other Disciple. It was a hard decision, and I ended up putting the counter on the one without a +1/+1 counter so I had two 3/3 creatures on board. However, with my opponent’s board presence (he had creatures that could block 3/3s easily) it probably would have been better to just create one 4/4. After the match I asked my opponent about it, and he said the 4/4 probably would have been better so I could have started getting some damage through.

I don’t think my deck was really that bad, but I also just got a little unlucky. I had bad draws, and got mana screwed a couple times and just couldn’t manage to win. But it was still a good night — I got to play magic!  And not all nights can be good. I am a little disappointed in myself that I dropped… but even though losing is OK, it still kind of stinks to be beat down match after match. And I didn’t have all that much fun playing my last match, so I figured it was OK to call it a night. Magic is supposed to be fun, after all.

And there’s always next week!

All for now,
Bale

Street cred: Tolkien style.

Stephen Colbert, James Franco and I have something in common. We all know the names of at least a few of the Valar.

OK, OK. I probably don’t have quite the same amount of Tolkien street cred as Colbert. And probably not even as much as Franco. But I do know who the Valar are, even if I can’t really pronounce all their names and I haven’t actually read any farther in “The Silmarillion” than the first book. But that should get me at least a little, right?

I know that the Valar Colbert so expertly rattled off were very powerful and sound pretty badass. They sound very similar to the Greek or Roman gods, which makes a lot of sense. “The Silmarillion” is supposed to be the mythology of Middle Earth. For example, Arda (Middle Earth) was supposedly made through a really cool song that the Ainuar sang. The Ainuar were created by Ilúvatar, and later became the Valar when they were given the option to go down to Arda.

I know that Melkor (later called Morgoth) first started creating dissonance in the world when the Ainuar were singing — he was the greatest among them, and was able to think for himself and see more parts of the song. Ilúvatar put him in his place then, though. But he was still a jerk, and when all the other Valar were trying to create Arda, he was busy tearing down the mountains, filling up the canyons and just basically being all “NOPE, you want a cool landscape? TOO BAD.”

So that adds up to some Tolkien street cred, right? I’m no Colbert, but I’m getting there.

“The Silmarillion” has been pretty slow going so far. But it’s starting to pick up a little, and I’ve gotten used to the style of writing. I’m excited to read more about the Valar and the old, very powerful world. I’ve hear that there are epic battles between Balrogs and single elves. I’m imagining a crazy one-on-one tooth and nail fight.

I guess I’ll just have to read more to find out.

All for now,
Bale

FNM Recap: March 29… I got packs!

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Friday was pick a pack week for draft. I’ve only drafted pick a pack two other times, one of which was my first draft ever. The last time I did fairly well by drafting a strong blue-white deck. I went 3-2, and was really happy with it. But this week was even better: I got 7th place, which means I technically got my first Top 8 finish! But since there were only 22 people in the tournament the normal Top 8 prizes were only for the Top 4, so I only got two packs. Whatever… I’m still very proud of myself!

The draft itself was a bit awkward. I didn’t really know what color I wanted to draft besides blue until really late in the first pack. I picked up a few white cards before settling into red. I ended up getting some really good red creatures, so I was pretty happy with my decision. I was also exceptionally happy when I pulled Jace, Architect of Thought in my third pack — a planeswalker in my colors? Awesome!

There were a couple misplays throughout the night — I overextended on one attack with Teleportal, and I accidentally killed my Scourge of Geier Reach when I blocked with him  — but overall I was pretty happy with how I played. Last time I ran a planeswalker I was running an awkward blue-green-red deck to splash for Domri, and every time he got played I just got confused and didn’t really know how to take advantage of all his abilities. With Jace on Friday I just used his +1 ability (until your next turn, whenever a creature an opponent controls attacks, it gets -1/-0 until end of turn) and let people attack him instead of me, while I just attacked them. I never got to use his ultimate ability, but he served me well. My second pack, pick one was Talrand, Sky Summoner,  who produces 2/2 flying drakes every time its controller casts an instant or sorcery spell. I got to use him a couple times and, except for the game I overextended with Teleportal, he pretty much dominated once I got him out.

Basically my deck was just really fun to play and I’m excited I did so well. I had a great time, and I would have been content with just coming out with a good deck and a 3-2 record like the past few weeks, but I’m even more excited that I technically got my first Top 8 finish and a small prize. It was a good night.

All for now,
Bale