FNM recap — May 24… an attitude adjustment.

 Note to self: if you know you won't play a card, don't pick it!

Note to self: if you know you won’t play a card, don’t pick it!

As a whole, Friday was a fairly typical FNM for me. I went 3-3 and ended up 15th/41. My deck was solid even though I wasn’t confident my draft was that good. I made a few questionable decisions, which probably influenced my draft somewhat, but I’m not sure how much. Pack 1, pick 1 was Obzedat’s Aid, even though I knew I didn’t like it. I took it over a Beetleform Mage, which was unfortunate considering I ended up running a straight Simic deck. Pack 2, pick 1 was Lord of the Void. I thought I might switch into black for it… but I didn’t. I passed a Frilled Oculus that would have been great in my actual deck. It also caused me to pick up more mana fixing and gates than I ended up needing or wanting. Oh well. I still ended up with a strong deck that held up fairly well. I had an army of fliers and other strong Simic creatures — I still ended up with two Beetleform Mages, even. It was a simple two colored deck that didn’t try to do anything fancy.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with how the night went. My last loss was disappointing — it went to game three and I was thinking I had it in the bag (a bunch of fliers and my Beetles were out and he had no blockers for them) and he went and played Supreme Verdict. And all I pulled after that was land.  It was a hell of a move on his part, though — he held a lot of good creatures in his hand that he could play right away and just stomp me.

But the biggest difference between Friday’s tournament and the one before was my attitude.

Last week I read a really good article by Louis Kaplan, who recently won the Iowa State Tournament, about how a player’s attitude and expectations can influence their game. Kaplan had lost in the semi-finals and finals of large tournaments a lot, so he started expecting it. But he was reminded by a fellow player that he was good enough to win those matches and shouldn’t have been losing them all the time. So going into states Kaplan reminded himself that he was good enough to take it all, and kept that thought in his head all day. And he ended up winning.

Kaplan’s article reminded me that sometimes we are our own worst enemies. I’ve been feeling discouraged lately and I think last week it really showed. I still enjoyed myself, but after my first loss of the night I basically told myself I’d have mana problems all night, and had an overall negative attitude during my actual matches. I also went through a spell where I blamed a lot of my losses on bad luck. I almost wrote an article about it, actually. But what it came down to is that I don’t know what I can do to get better at this point.

I’m a fairly strong player, considering how long I’ve been playing. My first draft was the last FNM in November, and I only went to a couple in December. Before that I played extremely casual Magic with Astro with preconstructed decks. And I didn’t start drafting consistently until after Gatecrash was released. So I’m pretty proud of the fact I can already routinely go 3-3 and 3-2 in a fairly competitive LGS. And that’s what I kept reminding myself on Friday. Yes, I want to get into the top 8. I want to start going 4-2. I want to get better. But I’m pretty good already, and the only way to get better is to keep playing.

I’m particularly proud of one of my matches Friday: it was against a guy who is really good. He’s been playing for forever, and has beaten me before. He’s also one of the many good friends I’ve made through playing at my LGS. Every game of the match was close. I won the first one by remembering I had my one scavenge creature in play (Drudge Beetle). So I chose not to block all the damage coming at me (it was a lot, and he had Necropolis Regent on board) knowing that if I blocked with the Beetle, let it die and then scavanged onto my remaining creature I could get him for lethal the next turn. I lost the second match to the Necropolis Regent — I just couldn’t deal with it. I was really close to losing the last game too, but, in a move similar to game one, I decided not to block with all my creatures because I had Totally Lost in hand. I almost played it when he attacked (again with his Regent) but I realized I could get him for lethal by saving it until my mainphase and removing his only blocker.

I’m really happy with my decision making in that match, which is why I’m so proud of it. And those are the things I need to keep reminding myself. While I still need to take note of mistakes, I also need to remember my good decision making. And keep in mind that I’m actually a decent Magic player after all.

All for now,
Bale

p.s. Another guy from my LGS posted something about this in our Facebook group too. He read Kaplan’s article too, and went into the Game Day tournament with an “I’m gonna win” mindset… and he did! Positive attitudes win games, people.

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FNM recap and prep.

Guys, it’s OK. I’m alive. I had a wonderful trip home, and a successful move to a new apartment. (I’m living with Astro now! Yay!) But we had no internet access for this whole week, which was only a little unfortunate. Not that I had much time to write anyway — moving is hard work! But I’m looking at the move as a chance to reset. I’m going to beef up my posting schedule by making sure I write every day. Write, not post, mind you. But hopefully that will help avoid these long dry spells. But moving on to the more important topic of the day: MAGIC.

Last Friday was tough. I had practices a little bit with online full set drafts, but I still felt unprepared going in. I ended up with a strong Naya deck, but had mana problems. I was playing just a little too much white to only splash and only drafted two gates. My first pick was Tajic, which was good. I second picked a my Zhur-Taa Druid, picked up my Boros and Gruul guildgates and a Weapon Surge, but I didn’t use much else from my first pack.

The Gatecrash portion of my draft was great. I passed Five Alarm Fire, choosing an Experiment One over it. I then got passed two more Experiment Ones, which was great. I also picked up some strong bloodrush (Zhur-Taa Swine, Viashino Shanktail) and a couple combat tricks (two Martial Glories). I didn’t really know what my deck was going to do at this point, though. I’d picked up a Blaze Commando in the first pack, but I didn’t have anything to trigger its ability.

I got lucky in my RTR pack and opened a Wild Beastmaster, which basically solidified my strategy. It made all my combat tricks even more valuable, and made some really awesome combos possible. The other cards I picked up during RTR were mostly creatures and enchantments to beef up my beastmaster. I did pick up two Goblin Rallies, though, which have done some work for me. My deck turned out to be really fun to play, so even through I had mana troubles throughout the night, I still had a blast.

I ended up going 1-4, which is my worst record in a while, but I’m still figuring out how to draft this format, so I’m not being too hard on myself. Plus, my deck has been a beating in almost all the matches I’ve played for fun — even in between rounds last Friday. I beat the guy who ended in second place when we played for fun, and my deck has beaten another top 8 deck repeatedly this week. I’m not going to say that I did poorly because of bad luck, because mana problems are only partly bad luck. The other part is just the fact I drafted an awkward three color deck without enough fixing.

But seriously — when I got my beastmaster to go off, it was awesome. Once, I put both counters from Common Bond on it when I had a fairly large board presence, and then also played Weapon Surge overloaded the same attack. It was awesome. Another time I bloodrushed it with my Zhur-Taa Swine, which was amazing. It was just a lot of fun, so I’m happy with my draft even though I didn’t end up with a good record.

Going into tonight, I’m a little more prepared. I’ve read a couple different articles about how to draft the set, and I’m hoping it will help. I’ve also thought a lot about my attitude playing over the past week as well. I seem to do a bit better when I’m playing ‘just for fun’, so I’m going to keep that in mind tonight. Sure, it’s a tournament setting, but I’m there to hang out with my friends and play a game I love. That’s what it’s really all about, after all.

Wish me luck!
Bale

FNM Recap — May 3 (Finally.)

propped up on one of the many boxes in my apartment.

propped up on one of the many boxes in my apartment.

Sorry for the delay guys, but I thought it would be nice to hold off for a bit since I won’t be going to Magic tomorrow night… which means there won’t be another recap for a while.

It’s been a hectic week — I’m going on vacation and moving all in the next week. I still had time for Magic though! And I’ve finally found the time to share with you guys my draft from last week.

As you saw above, my first pick was a Godless Shrine. There was no way I was going to pass a shock land. Especially cause it’s apparently even more rare to open them during Dragon’s Maze, and we were drafting triple DGM. That, by the way, was a mess.

While drafting I couldn’t decide which colors were open. I never got a clear signal because I don’t think anyone at my table knew how to draft triple DGM. I didn’t — I had practiced for the DGM-GTC-RTR draft set up. And with all the gates and cluestones getting passed around, practically everyone went four or five colors. I went four myself. It ended up OK. I had a decent opening and a strong late game.

My MVPs were definitely Gleam of Battle (which I took over Obzedat’s Aid), Jelenn Sphinx, Fluxcharger, Viashino Firstblade and Tajic (thanks, pack three). The combo with Gleam of Battle and the sphinx was awesome. All my attackers would get huge. I also played the Fluxcharger and got it to switch a few times. I had Blast of Genius, too, which helped me finish off an opponent or two, especially with my Fluxcharger out there.

My deck was really fun to play and I had a pretty good night. I went 3-3, yes, but it was a higher quality 3-3 than my recent nights. I started off 2-0 and was in the winner’s bracket, which is harder in general. So I was really proud of myself that I got such a strong start.

My third match was really close and went to game three, but I forgot to side in Wear/Tear against my opponent’s Unflinching Courage and couldn’t handle that very well. You live and learn. And since it was a decent match I thought I played well, which is all I can hope for.

Match four was my hardest match of the night — I got paired up against a 3-0 player when I was 2-1. And I always forget this guy’s name, but he is really, really good. I thought I had him game one — he was down to five or six and I had my Fluxcharger out and cast Blast of Genius. I discarded a four drop, and he countered it so he wouldn’t take the damage somehow (I forget exactly how…) and then he had the creature out that says “creatures your opponents control get -1/-1” so my Fluxcharger only hit for four. He came back and beat me, and then game two was over fairly quickly.

I did take the opportunity to talk to him about my playing, though. I have been paired up against him before, and we’d talked about how I was fairly new and he has been playing forever, so I figured it was worth asking what I could do better. He gave me this advice: try to bluff more. He could always tell when I didn’t have tricks up my sleeve because even though I had a defender out, I wouldn’t attack into his 1/4 with my 3/3 because I knew it wouldn’t do anything. His recommendation was to attack more and try to get an extra few points of damage in if I have a defender and wouldn’t need the other creature to block. Because even if I didn’t have any tricks, my opponent might think I do — why else would I be attacking into his 1/4 — and take the damage.  It’s definitely worth thinking about. He went on to be either first or second place that night, so I really don’t feel bad that I lost to him.

After that match my opponent’s match win percentage was ridiculously high — like 70 percent or something. That meant everyone I played was good. At that point I was 2-2 and had played some very good players, so I was still proud of myself. I got paired down for my fifth match and beat my opponent easily 2-0, and he ruined that percentage, but that’s OK.

My final match was close. It went to game three, and in the second game I got the Gleam of Battle-Sphinx combo out, with Tajic just to add to the damage. I even remembered to side in Wear/ Tear after I saw his Gruul War Chant. So when he pulled it out game three, I was actually able to play it. I thought I was going to be able to come back, but then on his turn he played ANOTHER one, and proceeded to kill me. Oh well.

I still got 14th place (so close to packs!), learned some more and played well. That’s really what FNM is all about, right? And next week, when we draft the full set, I’ll be prepared.

All for now,
Bale

FNM, prerelease edition: Sealed is hard. And luck can be shitty.

That’s about the overall theme of my Dragon Maze (midnight) prerelease.

I still had fun, but I have a hard time controlling my emotions running on no sleep, so I really let my losses get to me. And I lost, a lot. My record was 2-4. I didn’t drop though, mostly because I my two wins were rounds four and five so I had a slim chance of going 3-3 and wanted to give it a shot. So I stayed all the way through until 7 a.m. Luckily, I didn’t have to work until 1 p.m., but it’s still taken me a little while to recover and be able to think about the night without getting a little sad about my record. Sigh.

Since it was only my second sealed experience (the first being the Gatecrash prerelease) I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. I had a really good pool, but had a really hard time building my deck. I chose Orzhov as my guild, and got Azorius as my allied guild. I pulled some really good cards in pretty much all the colors. I ended up going white-black-blue, and just running with my guilds. I had a massive amount of gates and cluestones, but I didn’t run all of them and I didn’t run any cluestones. (I am not a fan of the cluestones.) I also pulled a lot of good red cards, but more on that later.

My deck seemed decent — I had a ton of fliers and a few great bombs (Teysa, Alms Beast and Palisade Giant), so I was fairly confident going into the first match. But things just didn’t go my way: In three of my four losses I got mana screwed for at least one game.  Overall my games were close, but that made losing even harder.

I got dominated my first match, admittedly  The first game I thought I was doing alright: I got my fliers out and was hitting him with a good amount of damage each turn. But then he played his Alms Beast and immediately put Gift of Orzhova on it. The second game he enchanted a 3/3 centaur token with Unflinching Courage  then got Gift or Orzhova on that as well. It was GG pretty fast.

My second match was pretty good. My opponent got me the first game, and then I dominated him with my Alms Beast and fliers the second game. I was feeling good going into game three, and then got totally mana flooded. I had a ridiculous amount of mana out by the end. It was to the point that if I drew any of my bombs I could play them and stabilize really easily. But I never did. My opponent even mentioned it afterwards… he said something along the lines of “your deck is awesome, had you drawn into anything, I was screwed.” Nice to hear, but I still lost.

My third match was also really close, and also went to game three. I dominated the first game, and the second game was really close. I got her down to two life, and thought I had it in the bag, but then she fused Armed and Dangerous and hit me for an absurd amount. Game three was another mana screw… I was stuck on three lands. Curiously, none were basic. Two guildgates and my Transguild Promenade. I had my Ubul Sal Gatekeeper in hand, too. I just never drew that last land. It was painful.

My next two matches were fun, just because I crushed both of my opponents pretty solidly. Both matches were 2-0, and I was feeling really confident going into my last match. It went to game three, though, and I got mana screwed again. This time even worse: I got stuck on two lands. It was terrible. Especially since I crushed him game 2 and game 1 was close, despite me mulling down to five. Cue epic sigh.

Looking back, I definitely didn’t do quite as terrible I thought. I just got very unlucky. I don’t really like to blame all my losses on luck, but it definitely played a part Friday. Luck’s huge role in Magic is something I’m still getting used to. Oh well. I also still make rook mistakes. Like not knowing that I could enchant my creature with hexproof… I was convinced all night that I could not. It was only after the fact when I was talking about it that my friend corrected me. Only my opponents can’t target my creature. Which makes hexproof a much better ability than I thought, and made me kick myself for not enchanting my Ascended Lawmage all night. Oops.

Anyways, after everything was over, I still had a feeling I could make a stronger deck with my pool. I had bombs like Exava, Weapon Surge and Unflinching Courage, some strong creatures like three Riot Pikers and all the mana fixing I could have hoped for. Seriously. I got five of the ten guildgates, Prophetic Prisim and Transguild Promenade.

Yeah, I built a five-color deck. What of it?

Yeah, I built a five-color deck. What of it?

So Monday night I got my pool out, and with the help of my friend Steve (who went 4-1-1 with an intentional draw to place and get lots of packs) we built a new deck. And it’s awesome. I’m calling it my “5-color madness” deck because I’ve never run a five color deck before. It’s really fun. And it’s beaten Steve’s 4-1-1 deck a lot already! Bonus. I’ve only had a couple instances where I couldn’t cast a spell in my hand, but I always had something else to cast so it wasn’t a big deal.

I obviously don’t know whether I would have done any better with that deck at the prerelease, but it’s still cool I could build it! Which deck do you think is stronger? I’m still deciding. I haven’t gotten mana screwed with this deck yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

All for now,
Bale