Breaking the cycle.

It’s time for a change.

I love “Nerdmaids” and I’ve put a lot of work into it, which has made it the most successful blog I’ve ever been part of. I’m very proud of everything I’ve done to this point. Sure, in a perfect world I would have been posting 100 percent consistently, but running a one woman show is hard. Especially if you’re writing everything from scratch and scrambling for posts. And because of that, writing for “Nerdmaids” has started to feel like I’m treading water. The blog is continuing, I’m still writing, but nothing is changing. And while this has been fine for the past few months, lately I’ve realized that I want more.

I want more readers. I want more unique content. I want higher-quality posts. I want to expand my content. I want, I want, I want. But how do I get there?

I’ve been thinking about an answer all week. I have a lot ideas floating around in my head, and I think if I give myself proper time to develop them, they could turn into great things. But in my current posting cycle, it would be impossible to take the time to really work on them. I don’t have any drafts at the moment, so every post is written and published in the same day. It makes it impossible to take the time to really work on a post, which means the quality of my writing takes a hit. But I’ve been telling myself that it’s important to get the posts up to keep my readers and so I don’t let them down. But that’s a cop out. I realized that if I really value my readers, I would take the time to create the best content possible for them.  Especially if I want my blog to continue to grow and develop.

But that means it’s time for some pretty drastic measures. I can’t just turn “Nerdmaids” into my vision overnight. And I can’t even do it in a day or two. I need time to write posts without having to worry about publishing them, and I need time to develop a stock pile of already-written, high-quality posts to publish so I can continue to write posts  without the pressure of publication upon completion.

So for the time being “Nerdmaids” is going to go on a publishing hiatus. I’m going to continue writing posts and developing content, and once I feel like I have enough strong posts to start fresh and continue a better writing/ publishing cycle, I’ll start publishing them. Unfortunately, I don’t know how long this will take. But I do promise to return.  And when I do, it will be awesome, and hopefully with some reinforcements.

I’ve been trying to convince myself for a while that I can make “Nerdmaids” everything I want it to be on my own. But to be honest, it’s hard to do everything by myself. I was spoiled at the beginning because I had Astro’s help, which was wonderful. She brought a completely different aspect to the blog, and her posts about Harvest Moon and Gurren Lagan still bring readers. All I write about is Magic and books, which are both topics that I love, but definitely not the only nerdy things girls love. I won’t ever write about the new Pokemon games because I’ve never been into it. But I know there are a whole lot of people that do care, and would probably read a post or two about all the cool features. And that there might be a girl out there willing to write one for me.

This is my humble cry for help. So girls, if you want to write for “Nerdmaids”, I’d be happy to let you. All you have to do is email me at nerdmaids@gmail.com and tell me what you’d write about, and provide a sample of your writing. Or just send me a post. I’m open to pretty much anything, as long as it’s well-written. And guys out there, if you know someone who might like to write for me, please pass the word on. I want to get as many ‘nerdmaids’ writing for the blog as possible! And if you just want to write one guest post, that’s totally fine too. Just let me know when you email me. You’d still get to be an honorary ‘nerdmaid’.

Seriously. Any questions, just comment or email me at nerdmaids@gmail.com. I want “Nerdmaids” to be the best blog possible, and I can’t do it on my own!

All for now,
Bale

How do you keep posting quality content? Do you stick to a schedule or just post when you can? 

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So. Much. Sealed.

My cool playmat with RK Post's sketch, my decks from the weekend and all eight of my match life total sheets.

My cool playmat with RK Post’s sketch, my decks from the weekend and all eight of my match life total sheets.

My first Grand Prix is over. I went to Oklahoma City hoping for day two, but came away satisfied anyway. Not everyone can be Steve, who made day two of his first GP. I didn’t achieve the 7-2 record needed, but I did end up 5-4, which is a solid showing for my first GP.

I don’t really know how to recap the event — there were too many rounds and too much Magic playing to go through it step by step without writing a novel — but it was definitely memorable. I saw Ben Stark, Marshall Sutcliffe and other big Magic names; I met a ton of neat people; I got RK Post, the artist of the playmat, to sketch on it and sign it; and, of course, I played ALL THE MAGIC.

It’s definitely neat to be part of such a big event. There were more than 1000 players at GP OKC, and it was my first time playing at a higher REL than just FNM. It was only a little intimidating…

It was also my first time having to register a sealed pool of cards. I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to sort, alphabetize and record all the cards in the thirty minutes provided, but I finished in plenty of time. Apparently I’m much better at alphabetizing things than I thought. I was also concerned I would have a hard time building, registering and sleeving my deck in the allotted time, but I finished just as the final calls were being made. At the end of the process, I was already proud of myself for getting everything done, and I was fairly certain I’d built the strongest deck in my pool. It was a tough pool to build, though,  but after my friends looked at it, they said they thought it was the right deck. A kind opponent later wasn’t as sure, but he said the deck I’d built was really strong anyways.

My pool had a couple really good cards that made me want to go B/W (Ashen Rider, Triad of Fates and Phalanx Leader) but not a lot of support for the white. And unfortunately, Ashen Rider and Phalanx Leader are not exactly splashable. My green was really strong, though. I got the Arbor Colossus, which is a bomb if you’re in green, Centaur Battlemaster and Nemesis of Mortals. My red was pretty weak besides a couple Titan’s Strengths and an Anax and Cymede, so I knew I probably wouldn’t be playing it. My blue had a few strong cards — Thassa’s Emissary, Nimbus Naiad and Triton Tactics — but again, not enough support to play it as a main color. My black was pretty strong — I had some removal and good bodies, including Nighthowler, which is awesome to bestow. I really debated playing B/W, but ended up concluding that I would probably never actually play Ashen Rider, and forcing B/W because of it would make me play mediocre cards over strong cards.  Plus,  I had too much solid green to justify not playing it. I ended up splashing for the blue cards mentioned above with the help of a couple Voyaging Satyrs and Traveler’s Amulets.

I was the only player in our group not to have any byes, so when the first pairings were posted, I headed off on my own. I’d checked the table, but not my opponent, so imagine my surprise when I sat down across one of the few other girls at the event. We both thought it was pretty awesome. She’d gone to the modern GP in Kansas City, so it wasn’t her first big tournament, but it was her first limited GP. We chatted a little and I ended up winning the match, so it was a pretty good start to the day.

The middle part of the day kinda stunk. I lost rounds two and three, and my round four opponent was a no-show. It was nice to get the win, but I didn’t really like that I hadn’t won by playing my deck — I wasn’t feeling too confident in it, all things considered. A few of the games had been really close, but I’d stumbled on mana and just been outplayed a couple times.  I was starting to let myself feel intimidated, and it showed in my playing.

My fifth round opponent beat me fast. In the first game he got out Daxos of Meletis and just stomped me — I was stuck on mana and found no answer. And when I finally did, he played MY Sip of Hemlock on it from my library. Tear. Game two was completely different because he sided into an entirely new deck that was even stronger. Throughout the match he was very, very nice though. He could tell I was nervous, and told me to relax. Afterwards he looked at my deck and my pool and said if he’d had the pool he probably would have built the B/W deck, and splashed a couple things. But he was also the guy who said he liked the deck I’d built myself, and had no problems with it.

In the time between rounds, I looked at my options again, but kept on coming up short on playables. I decided to stick with my deck, and I’m glad I did. I won the next three rounds!

I think after I lost the third match and couldn’t possibly make day two, I stopped putting an obnoxious amount of pressure on myself. I just focused on the matches I was in, and focused on having fun and playing well. As a result, I thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

One of the best parts of the event was talking with my opponents. They reminded me why I was there — to play a game. Yes, my goal was to beat them, but it was also to have fun and enjoy myself. Maybe it’s because I was in the bracket that wasn’t going on to day two, but it was full of nice people who just wanted to play good games of Magic.

I got a few confidence boosters by talking to them too. When I told one opponent how long I’d been playing, he said he was impressed at how well I played and understood the game. And when my eight round opponent asked if I’d had any byes and found I didn’t, he responded with something to the extent of ‘wow, you must actually be good!’.

I lost the ninth round, but I was exhausted and ready for the day to be over, so I wasn’t too upset. My last opponent was also really nice, so that helped too. And at the end of the day, I was still really proud of myself for going 5-4 and having a winning record at my first GP.

But the Magic-playing didn’t stop there. Even though we all scrubbed out of the GP, we went back to play in side events on Sunday. I decided to do the standard sealed event, which was fun. Steve actually played Neal Oliver in it, who won GP Vegas and got second place at GP Oakland. Apparently his luck ran out for GP OKC, though. I played a couple good players and a couple not-so-good players, but had a good time overall.

I mean, I was playing Magic all weekend. That’s obviously a good time, no matter what. (Once I’ve gotten past the devastating losses, that is.)

I’m definitely ready for some FNM this week! I’m also working on a standard deck of my own creation, so I’m pretty excited to get that together and playtest it. Because even though limited is awesome, I should probably know how to do well in Constructed as well.

All for now,
Bale.

Do you remember your first big tournament? How did you do, and what did you take away from it? 

Nine confidence boosters.

My sealed spoils.

My sealed spoils.

This weekend was full of Magic: The Gathering. I drafted, I played sealed and I drafted some more. I participated in two sanctioned tournaments: FNM (as usual) and the Release Day Sealed for Theros. I also did a team draft with my play group, a few of which are joining me next weekend in Oklahoma City for the Grand Prix. That means I played a total of a whopping 15 rounds of MTG over the weekend. I’d love to go over them all in detail, but I don’t have the time or patience to write that many recaps. That, and because I played so many matches, a lot of them are blurring together.

Friday Night Magic

The Draft

Drafting Theros was a bit awkward because nobody really knew what they were doing. It took a lot longer than normal because we were all reading the cards and evaluating them for what could easily be the first time. Not only did we have to decide whether the card would be useful in our deck, we also had to decide whether the card was good in general.

My first pick was the Akroan Horse, which I had to read several times and ask the judge to make sure it did what I thought it did before picking it. And because it was an artifact, I didn’t have a clear idea of what colors I would be. Green seemed open, with LOTS of good cards in it, so the next couple picks were green, with a couple red cards sprinkled in. But when I saw a really late Nimbus Naiad, I decided to switch into blue. It had seemed fairly open, but there was usually a green card I wanted more, so I was happy to make the jump. I ended up drafting what seemed to be a really strong U/G deck. It had a good curve — things to do early AND things to do late — but it didn’t really have any crazy bombs. (For the record, I still haven’t opened a God or one of their equipments, but I’m not too torn up about it.) I had a couple monstrous creatures, a couple of great bestow cards and even two Staunch-Hearted Warriors that brought in the heroic mechanic. I was pretty confident going into the matches, but I really didn’t know how things would go.

The Matches (final record, 3-3) 

My first match was really fun. It was a mirror match, but I came out on top. The first game came down to one turn — if I didn’t finish the job on my turn, he was going to on his. Luckily, I top-decked my Nimbus Naiad and gave my guy flying for the alpha strike. Game two went to my opponent, but it was also a good game. The third game was pretty much an epic beat down. I played turn one scorpion, turn two Ordeal of Nylea and attack for two, turn three another Ordeal of Nylea and attack for four (which he blocked and traded) and put FOUR tapped lands into play. On turn four I untapped, played land for turn and had eight lands in play. I played my 5/5 Nemesis of Mortals, passed the turn and then triggered monstrous on my turn and had a 10/10 creature attacking on turn five. Hardly fair, but awesome.

The rest of my matches were not so memorable, although most of them were really close and went to game three. One of them went to time while I was playing an opponent with Elspeth and Triad of Fates. It went all the way to turn five, but he was able to kill me in the end. It was pretty sad, but at least I put up a good fight. My other two losses were to black decks running Mogis’ Marauder, which turns out to be pretty bomb-like at uncommon. It was frustrating, but at least I know to value that card highly if I’m drafting black!

At the end of the night I was slightly disappointed, but 3-3 isn’t a terrible record for the first draft of a set. I was annoyed that Theros seems to be dictated by bombs, and I didn’t have any, but as the set goes on I think that will change. People will figure out the archetypes and not rely on the rare they pulled to finish the game. But one thing is definitely certain: if your match goes long, you better have a good late-game plan or else you will probably lose.

The Release

Unlike the prerelease last week, we didn’t get any color-seeded packs, and nobody got guaranteed bombs due to promo cards. We all just got the normal six boosters to build with.

I was much luckier with my pulls on Saturday than I was at the prerelease. I got several of playable rares that were in colors that my pool was able to support. I knew I needed to play black — I had Hythonia the Cruel and Thoughseize as my rares and a lot of strong uncommons and commons. I also really wanted to play white because I had Celestial Archon. I had a two good multicolor rares, too: Anax and Cymede and Daxos of Meletis, and some fairly strong green cards.

Initially, I just wanted to go straight white black. Those were obviously my strongest colors, and I was confident I had a decent deck with just those. I did have some fixing, though, so I could splash for a third color if I wanted. A friend suggested I splash green because he saw a few strong cards he thought were playable. So for the first round I took his advice, but it didn’t really work out too well. My opponent beat me pretty easily. I was kind of annoyed, but my opponent was a really strong player — one of the guys at my LGS that just doesn’t seem to make mistakes. He asked if he could look at my pool (he didn’t see why I was playing green) and I let him.

Now, I know I’m going to have to build my own deck this weekend, but it was really helpful hearing his opinions. We ended up changing my deck to splash blue instead of green. We put in a Nimbus Naiad, Daxos and Horizon Scholar instead of my green cards and then swapped out a couple of my other not-so-strong cards for a couple Returned Phalax to help me get to my super awesome late game. The changes also smoothed out my curve a lot. (I realized I’d sorted my pool by color, creatures and non-creature spells, but had never actually laid it out to check my curve and it was pretty terrible.) The guy helping me explained exactly why he thought the changes were good, and I definitely agree. The blue was much, much stronger than the green. He did say that my pool was a tough one to build,  but I think what we ended up with was really great. So moving forward, I was really excited to test my deck.

And it ROCKED. I won the rest of my matches, and drew into the top eight. I played the guy I drew with for fun, and beat him, too. I beat a couple people playing the Bow of Nylea, one of whom also got Thassa out at the same time… but it didn’t really help him. In game three of round five my opponent had answers to almost everything I played, but I had so many strong creatures that eventually my deck just got there.

Throughout the day I was careful to keep my head in the game. I kept my focus because I knew that even though my deck was strong, I still needed to play well to back it up. I thought through my decisions, especially about bestow creatures, carefully to decide what needed to happen at that particular point in the game. Every game is different, and just because one thing worked against one opponent, doesn’t mean it will work the same way in all the matches.

The top eight decided not to play it out, but that was fine with me. I got NINE boosters, which is a full three playsets of packs for draft! I’ve never had that many in my stash at once, and I’m happy to be starting Theros off on an upswing. I needed the confidence boost. And as if those weren’t enough, cue the draft I did with my playgroup…

Draft for fun/ GP prep

I opened a Stormbreath Dragon in pack one, which sent me straight into red. Luckily, the only other red drafter was on the opposite side of the table. I picked blue as my second color pretty early and took all the fliers I saw and a lot of scry cards. I picked up two Spellheart Chimeras pretty late, which I almost cut during deck building, but ended up keeping in because of my high number of instants and sorceries. Plus I had other ways to beef them, too. The deck ended up being fairly aggressive — I had two Ordeals (Thassa and Purphorous) and a low curve, plus solid creatures. I wasn’t ever depending on Stormbreath to come out and save me; the times I played him I was already far enough ahead he was just a finisher.

The matched were awesome. My playgroup is full of really strong players — I’m definitely the one with the least MTG experience — but I didn’t lose a single game. We were all playing each other, and I “won” the draft after going 3-0. My fourth opponent chose not to play me — it was getting late and we all wanted to head out, but still, the draft left my overall record for the day at 8-1.

That would get me to day two of GP Oklahoma City!

I’m stoked for this coming weekend, and I plan to post lots of updates on Twitter and a few on Facebook, so follow me there if you want live-action reports!

All for now,
Bale

What do you do to prepare for big tournaments? Any tips?