A healthier life.

There are a bunch of stereotypes when it comes to nerds, and they’re not all positive. We’re some of the nicest, coolest people you could ever meet, but unfortunately that’s not necessarily what people first think of when someone is described as a ‘gamer’. What often comes to mind is an overweight man, sitting in front of a game console or computer, with a bunch of soda and junk food surrounding him as he takes on the next level. And the stereotype isn’t that much different for MTG players or for girls, either.

I don’t like this. But stereotypes exist for a reason, and because a lot of nerdy hobbies are sedentary in nature it makes sense that we may not be as active or healthy as the athletes of the world. That doesn’t mean we can’t be, though; obesity is almost entirely preventable. In a wonderful article, “The Health of Magic”, level three judge Riki Hyayshi addressed this issue. Obesity is a huge issue in today’s society (according to the World Health Organization 35% of adults aged 20 and over were overweight in 2008, and 11% were obese, and being obese or overweight kills more people than being underweight), but it’s a difficult topic to breach with people, and an even harder one to fix.

In his article, Hyayshi points out that MTG is very sedentary in nature. Players spend hours sitting around play testing for tournaments, playing in tournaments, reading articles, playing MTGO or watching streams, etc. And the same can be said for people who love video games, reading, playing board games and a myriad of other nerdy activities. Despite being invigorating for the mind, they’re often very lazy for our bodies. Plus, let’s face it: reading the end of a good book is way more fun than going to the gym. I’m definitely guilty of prioritizing the former above the latter. And it’s not just our hobbies that are influencing our health. I have a full-time job where I have to sit in front of a computer screen all day. Definitely sedentary. So there goes 40 hours of my week devoted to sitting around. What happens to the rest of the time? Well, I try to write every day… that’s sedentary. I go to FNM every week… that’s pretty sedentary. And I play MTG outside of FNM and read. A lot. Most of my hobbies nowadays are not very physical. But I still try to go to the gym. It’s not always easy, but I learned my lesson my freshman year of college.

I was very active growing up. I played outside a lot, played soccer for while, and I took ballet from age 5 through high school. In high school I was at my studio nearly every day, and I loved it. Unfortunately, when I went off to college that stopped. I didn’t have enough open credits to enroll in the ballet classes offered at my school, and I didn’t have the time, or money, to find a local studio to dance at. I tried to go to the gym, but after they closed the pool I stopped going. I hated running, and I felt ridiculous. So I just stopped. And by the time I went home for the summer I noticed that I’d gained a lot of weight. Going from doing hours of physical activity every day to almost none was horrible. That, combined with the unhealthy habits of a college student, wreaked havoc on my body. But luckily, I had some great inspiration to help me get back on track: my mom. After my twin sister and I left for college, she had more time on her hands than she’d had in ages, and she worked hard all year to get in shape. When I arrived home, she looked great. The best she’d looked for almost as long as I could remember, in fact. She also felt great. And I felt terrible.

So even though I had a full-time internship that summer, I invested myself in the effort to get back in shape. My mom got me a membership to her gym, and she encouraged me and went with me. It was hard, but I slowly started to gain more confidence while at the gym. I lifted weights and did both the elliptical machine and the treadmill. At home, I made sure to eat healthy — something I hardly had to worry about in high school — and I always packed a healthy lunch for work. And everything worked, I gradually lost most of the weight I’d gained. I didn’t lose all of it, but that was OK. I was healthier, stronger and happier. And when I went back to school I continued to try to fit in gym time as much as I could. It was never easy, but it always felt good.

That’s what I try to remind myself when I don’t want to go to the gym: it’s worth the time and the effort. Not just for my physical health, but my mental health, too. I’m always more confident and happier when I’ve been good at going to the gym. Unfortunately, working out is always the easiest thing to cross off of a busy to-do list. Life gets in the way a lot, but it’s important not to let it. (And as I edit this post months after I started it, I am very guilty of letting life, the holidays and everything in between get in my way.)

Even though I didn't go to the gym over the holidays, I did make some delicious (and fairly healthy) treats. I also made a lot of unhealthy treats... but it WAS the holidays.

Even though I didn’t go to the gym over the holidays, I did make some delicious (and fairly healthy) treats. 

Hyayshi and I share the opinion that we need to start promoting healthier lifestyles throughout the MTG and gamer communities. As I said above, nerds are some of the nicest, most caring and wonderful people in the world. The games we play enrich our lives, so why not make sure our lives last as long as possible? Of course, it’s hard to broach the topic with people without hurting their feelings or offending them, which is totally understandable. Nobody wants to hear they’re overweight, and often they already know it. The best thing to do, in my opinion, is take care of yourself. Promote a healthy lifestyle by living it. Going to a game night? Bring healthy snacks. Show the people around you what a positive change living a more active, healthier lifestyle can be. Share articles like Hyayshi’s for motivation. In the end, living a healthy lifestyle is up to the individual. But communities like MTG can encourage individuals through, as Hyayshi recommends, promoting a culture of fitness at home. Let’s shake those unhealthy stereotypes, and really take the time to treat our bodies well. After all, they’re what really get us through the marathon tournaments!

My plan to start living healthier is simple: get back into the routine of going to the gym three times a week, start cooking more meals at home, and pack healthy snacks for FNM. In an effort to try new meals, I am participating in Reddit’s r/52weeksofcooking, which gives a category each week for you to find and prepare a meal from. I’m going to blog about the challenge in an effort to hold myself accountable, share the experience, and encourage others.after all, the only way to get better at cooking is to practice, and practicing helps make healthy habits.

So here’s to being healthy and breaking stereotypes in 2014!

All for now,
Bale

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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?

Goodbye, M14. Hello, Theros.

I picked black as my prerelease color. The most harpies I got off my Abhorrent Overlord was seven, but I was so far behind it didn't even help me win the game. SADNESS.

I picked black as my prerelease color. The most harpies I got off my Abhorrent Overlord was seven, but I was so far behind it didn’t even help me win the game. SADNESS.

I’m getting to this a tad much later than I would have liked, but last weekend was full of Magic. I went to FNM like normal, and then I went to the noon prerelease at my LGS on Saturday. I’ve done the midnight thing, and while it’s very fun, I like my sleep too much. (I have a weird enough sleep schedule as it is!)

Friday was the last day of drafting M14, and I’m not sad to see it go. I did finally figure out the format, but that’s what keeps MTG so interesting: every time you think you’ve got a handle on things, it changes. Thankfully, Theros will be around a bit longer, though. So far it seems really fun and different.

I am not going to do a full recap of the prerelease or FNM… that’d be an absolutely massive post, and I’m late enough posting as it is. Instead, here’s a quick rundown of my MTG-filled weekend.

FRIDAY NIGHT MAGIC

THE DRAFT

There were only 19 people drafting, so even though it was still five rounds there were far fewer people than normal. I was at a table of six instead of eight, which was a bit awkward. I opened a Bonescyth Sliver pack one and decided to go the red/white sliver route almost immediately. Things got a little awkward when: 1) I realized green slivers were WIDE open — nobody was picking up those Predatory Slivers — so I started grabbing them, 2) I picked an Ogre Battledriver over a Battle Sliver and 3) the only fixing I had was a Manaweft Sliver, which was in my third color. So instead of the solid W/R sliver deck featuring the Battle Sliver, I had an awkward three color sliver deck with a random Battledriver and no Battle Sliver. Not bad, just not as synergistic as possible… I did have 12 slivers though, which is quite the feat in a six-person table, I’d say.  Oh, and I opened Ajani, so of course I was playing him. (I opened him pack two, right before getting the pack with the Battledriver/ Sliver decision.) I was way behind building my deck, so going into my first match I was still figuring out my mana, which was stressful, but I knew if it worked out my deck would be pretty solid.

THE MATCHES (final record: 3-2) 

My first opponent was the person who sat on my right in draft, which almost never happens at our store. I was only a little annoyed because I knew he was in red as well and had taken ALL my removal from me. (I only had one Shock.) Plus I knew I’d passed him some REALLY good red cards — I took my Ajani over a Shiv’s Embrace and I think an Chandra’s Outrage. It also turned out he was in white as well, which is why I didn’t see much. Sigh. I still put up a good fight, but I couldn’t quite beat the Shiv’s Embrace. I got him really close to dead, but he stabilized both games and then beat me. I did have one

Round two was another loss, this time to a really strong B/G beast deck with all the Advocates to back it up. I stabilized at two life game two with Ajani, but my opponent was able to Opportunity and play his Phantom Warrior. I didn’t quite have enough to kill him on my alpha strike, and I was dead to the unblockable creature. A close game, but frustrating.

I got the bye during round three, and was fairly certain there was NO WAY I would get top eight, but I kept playing.

The fourth round was a sliver mirror match. The first game I just got luckier with my mana and draws than my opponent, so I finally won. He had a Megantic sliver, though, so I sided in my two Act of Treasons, hoping to pull off the epic steal. Game two I had a sick opening hand: Blur Sliver, Act of Treason, Bonescythe Sliver and the mana to cast it all. I was able to cast everything on curve, and then my opponent played a turn five Megantic Sliver as his only blocker. (He’d managed to stay alive by casting and sacrificing the Elixir of Immortality twice.) So, in my most epic play in a while, I cast my Act on his Sliver and swung in for 32 damage on turn five. It was beautiful.

My last opponent was playing a blue tempo deck. I actually forget what his second color was… maybe white? Anyway, he was beating me pretty bad, but I was able to stabilize with Ajani and pump up my fliers to fly over for the win. It was pretty fun. And game two was my ideal curve: Sentinel sliver, Blur sliver and predatory sliver. I had the right mana, and it was great. I attacked with my Predatory sliver the turn it came down, which could have been bad if my opponent had blocked correctly with his creature, but instead he chumped the Sentinel and basically gave me the game. Afterwards, he realized his mistake pretty quickly and was annoyed because he had lots of gas in his hand he could have played had the game gone a bit longer. Oh well. I’m not complaining.

My final record was 3-2, which is not my best, but also not terrible. And because there were so few people it ended up getting me sixth place! Only two packs, and with the prerelease that night we couldn’t play it out, but still. My last two weeks on M14 were successful, and it was great to end on a high note.

Hello, Theros

The prerelease was fun, but disappointing. I didn’t get any bomb rare in my pool except the Abhorrent Overlord that was guaranteed when I picked black. In fact, I played only two of my six rares. It was unfortunate, but I still ended up with what I thought would be a decent deck. I had a fairly good late game with my Nighthowler, two Erebos’s Emissaries and several other bestow creatures, but my early game was crappy and I didn’t really have many creatures to bestow onto besides other bestow creatures.

Deckbuilding was really challenging for me because I did get some good rares, but they were ALL off color. I had by far the most playables in black and the second most playables in red. My good rares were G/U, G/W and R/W. (I don’t have them with me and don’t know the names well enough yet to rattle them off from memory.) Still, I was pretty happy with my build going into the matches. I didn’t know how the set would play, and I had plenty of ramp to get to my late game, so I was hopeful.

Unfortunately my hopefulness was squashed out of my fairly quickly. My first match wasn’t even close — I thought I’d stabilized the second game and my U/W opponent finally played his Kraken. That, paired with some fliers, made it impossible for me to come back. My Lightening Strikes were not up to par, and it was too hard to reliably hit my Sip of Hemlock mana. Sigh.

I actually won match two, but it was because I drew my Abhorrent Overlord the turn after my opponent played his and my devotion to black was much higher. I got five harpies out of the deal and was able to overwhelm him with fliers.

Match three was against Steve, which is always annoying because both of us always want the other to have a great record, and being paired up against each other makes it harder. I got one game of the match by using my intimidate bestow guy, but the other ones weren’t close. Fliers, man. They get you.

My fourth match was frustrating because I won the first game easily and then games two and three he managed to get out his Nylea, her bow and the 10/10 Golem defender that becomes a 20/20 trample when it goes monstrous. It was bad.

By this point everyone I came with was doing poorly, so we opted to go out to eat instead of finish the last round.  I think it was the best decision for everyone’s sanity.

I am really looking forward to drafting Theros. I think there are some cool possibilities for deck archetypes and epic late game battles. We’ll see though.  I definitely don’t have a good read on the format yet, but I’ll be drafting at FNM and a team draft this weekend, so hopefully that helps.

Only a week and a half until my first Grand Prix! So excited.

All for now,
Bale

How did you fare at the prerelease?
Do you have any epic moves that you’ll remember for a long time? 

A dramatic turnaround: From jinxing myself to success.

I took a week off posting because I was frustrated, worn out and annoyed with Magic. I even debated taking the week off of FNM, too. M14 has not been easy for me, and I have a couple theories about why.

The first is the logical explanation: I’m still a new player and I learned to draft in a super fast format (RTR block) and M14 is super slow. The pace of the format changes a lot of things, including card evaluation and knowing which decks will actually be successful. In RTR, I had the best success with really fast decks. In M14, the format is more geared toward the late game, and it’s taken me pretty much the whole time to figure out how to build a decent draft deck for that. M14 is also the first mono-colored block I’ve played in, so that changes things a bit, too. So, logically, being a new player made the transition to a new set of cards harder for me.

The second is more emotional. I’d had a bad time from the start of the set, which was hard because I had just tasted some amount of routine success. I’d top 8’d a few times and really understood how to draft RTR, and even pick a pack. And everyone told me that I wouldn’t have a problem with M14: Core sets are meant for beginners, so it will be easy. But it wasn’t, so I felt like I failed. And for several weeks I was really hard on myself. Because of that, I think I kind of jinxed myself. I had an expectation that I would do poorly, so I did. Even last week: I started out 2-0 and then lost every single other match. It sucked, and it made me realize I needed to change something.

So I took the week off from posting. I knew posting a recap would make me relive it, and frustrate me even more, so I just didn’t. And then I had a three days off from work so I treated myself to a few days of relaxing and regeneration. I watched a lot of “Charmed”, read a lot and didn’t watch any MTG streams or listen to any MTG podcasts. I hardly even looked at the Theros spoilers or Reddit. And so by Friday, while I wasn’t exactly STOKED to play M14, I felt ready for a fresh try.

And guess what?? I got FIRST PLACE!!!

That’s right, after weeks of sucking ass, I pulled it together, used my brain to draft well and play well and it paid off. And it felt AMAZING. Even better: I played it out for the foil, AND WON. So I have my first hard-earned FNM promo foil to show for a great night of MTG. It’s icing on the cake that it’s an Experiment One, which is one of my favorite cards.

So, without further ado, here’s my recap for September 13. (Apparently Friday the Thirteenth is lucky for me?)

YEAH FOIL! First time winning the match for the foil, and first time making legit first place.

YEAH FOIL! First time winning the match for the foil, and first time making legit first place.

THE DRAFT

Pack One — I first-picked a Sengir Vampire over my rare, a Grim Return. A 4/4 flier for five with upside is just too good to pass. Plus I like black in M14; I think it’s strong and has a lot of good cards. From there, I second-picked a Barrage of Expendables because there wasn’t much else in the pack and if I decided to draft the B/R sacrifice deck it’d be good. I third-picked an Ajani’s Chosen. I felt it was early enough to build around if I wanted and I already had one enchantment. But I wasn’t convinced — I didn’t want to start picking not-so-strong cards because of one strong one. So I spent the rest of the pack picking up the best red and black cards, with the occasional white card. But when I got a really late Divination, I started picking up some blue, too. I didn’t really have a solid game plan, but with cards like Sengir Vampire, Gnawing Zombie and Liturgy of Blood, I was pretty sure I wanted to be in black at least.

Pack Two — I was rewarded for sticking with black by opening a Lifebane Zombie, so I was pretty stoked for that. My second color was picked for me by the person to my left passing me an Ogre Battledriver for my second pick. I had some strong cards in red already, so it just solidified my plan. From there I picked up a fairly late Young Pyromancer, a Molten Birth, a couple Act of Treasons and an Academy Raider to help my red.

Pack Three — I don’t remember what I opened or took for my last first pick, but I think it might have been a Flames of the Firebrand because I needed more removal. I do remember that I finally was able to pick up a Corpse Hauler, got my Corrupt, a Marauding Maulhorn and my second Barrage of Expendables in that pack, though. I also picked up a Darksteel Ingot in case I wanted to splash some blue, a Child of Night and a Nightwing Shade. Nothing too spicy, but all things that were very helpful in my deck.

I ended up running just a straight-up R/B deck, and when Steve saw it he said there was no reason I shouldn’t get top 8 if I played well. He said something along the lines of ‘just don’t make stupid mistakes and you’ll get there’. So I was pretty happy going into the matches.

Check out the complete deck here.

THE MATCHES (Final record: 4-1)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t anticipating doing as well as I did, so I did not take notes, but I’ll do my best from my life totals and memory.

Match One (2-1) — I started off the night with a strong game in my first match. I kept a pretty fast hand and quickly started the race by playing Child of Night and immediately putting Lightening Talons on it. My opponent was playing a B/G deck though, and was able to put Troll Hide on his Rumbling Baloth to shut that down. It came down to an old fashioned race, but I was so far ahead it didn’t end up well for my opponent. His deck worked much better for him in game two — I kept a pretty slow hand, and he curved out very well. I got my Barrage out, which was the only way I dealt him damage the whole time. He was racing, and I didn’t get any good creatures to block, so I’d chump and then sacrifice my creatures, hoping to stay in the game long enough to pull something good. The next game was basically the same, but in reverse. I curved out well and he played two Dark Prophecies and only a couple creatures. After the match, my opponent

Match Two (0-2) — My only match loss of the night was to a U/W deck that was super tempo-y and had all the answers. I had a great start game one — I got my Battledriver out and everything — but eventually my opponent was able to deal with it and pretty much every other creature I tried to play, or even got on board. To top it off, her top end was complete with an Air Servant and a Serra Angel. Oh well. I had to mulligan game two, and I kept a hand that I thought could get there, but never did. It was unfortunate, but it happens. She ended up getting 9th place, so she obviously had a decent deck, too.

Match Three (2-1) — I actually started off the round by losing my first game. My opponent was running R/W slivers, but neither of us hit anything really nuts. He was able to kill me because the only creature I drew the whole time was my Maulhorn. I even Lightening Talon’d it up, but couldn’t win the race because by the time I got it out, he was too far ahead. But it was close — he ended the game at three life. Game two was also close. A well-timed Corrupt swung the race in my favor and I was able to win. Game three was kind of unfortunate for my opponent — he had to mulligan down to five, and didn’t really stand a chance against my hand if I drew a third land, which I immediately did. I had Barrage, a Blur Sliver and a couple Act of Treasons to start and I stole, attacked with and sacrificed everything he got out. It was hardly fair, but felt good anyway.

Match Four (2-0) — This match was fun. My opponent was playing a U/W deck with Jace in it, which I knew going in. I was only slightly intimidated, but knew if I got the cards I needed, I would be OK. In game one he managed to set up quite the defense — a Wall of Frost and an Angelic Wall — but my Academy Raider and Barrage were able to get through. He got Jace out and milled me twice, but because of that I was able to use my Corpse Hauler to get back my Sengir Vampire and kill Jace before he was able to mill me out completely. He shut down the Sengir with Pacifism before I was able to kill him outright, but I was able to sacrifice that and the other creatures he’d enchanted to my Barrage and killed him with three cards left in my library. Game two was a bit more grindy than game one. He set up another massive defense with two Wall of Frosts, but I had my Raider again and was able to get damage through slowly. I was able to two-for-one him with Flames, so that helped get some early damage through, but that was all reversed when he put Divine Favor on his Griffin Sentinel. I got my Sengir out eventually, and was able to make some headway — he didn’t block with his Sentinal once, and that put him in range of just pure burn range — I had Barrage and Gnawing Zombie out, so I was able to sac all my creatures to deal him four damage to end the game.

Match Five (2-1) — Going into this match, my opponent offered the intentional draw into top 8. I would probably have made it, but there was a chance I’d be knocked out if we didn’t, so I decided to play it out. My opponent was also nice enough to say that if things started going badly for me, he’d offer the draw again. (I think he knew how much of a big deal getting top 8 would be, and he usually gets it when he plays.) But I’m glad I played it out — it was an epic match against a really good player, and I’m proud I was able to win. Game one wasn’t looking too good for me — he was winning the race, and I didn’t have many answers for his fliers. He was playing blue, with Opportunity and a lot of counters. I saved my ass by killing one of his fliers with Corrupt while he was tapped out — that took me from two life to six. I had Barrage on Board, so I was really hoping to pull an Act of Treason to turn things around. I had a couple other removal spells that helped me stay alive, and he was at six life as well. When he played his Sengir Vampire, I thankfully top-decked my Act of Treason and was able to sacrifice it. I won by sacrificing three creatures to Barrage and killing him. It was awesome. Game two wasn’t so great. I started off OK, but he played Rod of Ruin, which just killed me. A lot of the creatures I played that game were 1-toughness, and everytime I got something out he was all NOPE, gonna kill that before it can even block. I sided in Demolish, just for that game three. I didn’t end up needing it, though, because I got out my Sengir on time and had other creatures to back him up. I even put Lightening Talons on it, so all my opponents fliers turned into chump blockers. (I forgot to put counters on my Sengir though… oops.) Apparently I could have killed him a turn earlier by taking advantage of my sacrifice outlets more, though: I’d played a Blur Sliver, but I could have sacrificed my creatures to my Barrage and Gnawing Zombie instead and killed him. I was at six life at the end, so my opponent said there could have been a way for him to get back in the game after I didn’t kill him when I had the chance. Luckily that didn’t happen though. It was a good match, and when I told the judge I won, his response was “Really? That’s awesome, [my opponent] is really good, this is a top 8 you should be proud of.”

And I was really proud. It was a really good feeling and when I played for the foil, I felt confident in myself and my deck. That match went well, too. It was slow and grindy, but I still won. Observers pointed out that I could have been more aggressive with my attacks because of my Barrage, which probably would have been smart. But I still won, so I’m not too worried. It’s definitely something to keep in mind though. Just because going slow is working, doesn’t mean it’s going to win the match — the more draw steps you give your opponent, the more chances you give them to get back in the game.

I got lucky that my opponents never did. But my success wasn’t due to luck, it was due to playing well, drafting well and trusting myself. I am a good Magic player, so I just have to remember that. Confidence — not cockiness — is key. Good luck is just a bonus. (And fun fact: I actually lost most of my die rolls all night, and only got Molten Birth back to my hand a couple times.)

All for now,
Bale

What are your biggest lessons from misplays? Have you ever thrown a game because you didn’t just win when you could?

Theros: the plane with all the flavor.

Theros is all about the flavor. Mark Rosewater (aka MaRo and the head of design for MTG) said at the SDCC panel that “…if you don’t like Theros block then there’s no hope, Vorthos players”, and I can see why. Maybe it’s because I’m paying more attention to it this time around, but there is a lot to be excited about for Vorthos players. The cards spoiled so far have some incredible flavor, and so do the set mechanics themselves! I’m stoked. And when I first saw the official set trailer for Theros, I got even more excited.

Theros is shaping up to be a great world with an awesome storyline.

Now, I could spend all of this week’s post talking about the second part to the “Planeswalker’s Guide to Theros”, but you guys should go read that for yourself. It’s all about the three poleis. If you want to know more specifics about Meletis, Akros and Setessa, it’s a great breakdown of the three communities. I’m sure I’ll talk about them more later, but right now I’m too excited about the spoiled set info!

THE MECHANICS

I am obviously not sure how these will be while actually playing, but flavor-wise, they’re pretty awesome.

Bestow — A mechanic found the new enchantment creatures that enables players to either cast the card as a creature for its normal mana cost, or as an enchantment for its bestow cost. The bonus is that unlike other enchantments, the spell doesn’t fizzle if the target it killed in response; it just enters the battlefield as a creature instead. I really like this mechanic’s flavor because the cards like a gift from the gods. And the enchantment creatures even have special borders and art elements to indicate they’re divine and from Nyx.

Some examples of the enchantment creatures: the cycle of common nymphs!

Heroic — As Heliod said in the trailer, Theros is full of heroes. So wizards created a mechanic just for them, and it seems pretty cool. The mechanic triggers abilities whenever the creature (or hero) with heroic is targeted by a spell you cast. My interpretation of the flavor behind this mechanic is that heroes are the leaders on the battlefield, so when you do something to help them it should influence the battlefield in more than one way.

go heroes!

Monstrosity — You can’t have heroes without monsters, after all. And monsters are big, bad and powerful. The monstrosity mechanic is basically one that makes the monsters even more scary. The player can pay to make the monster “monstrous” and it gets a certain number of +1/+1 counters on it and triggers an effect that influences the battlefield for that turn. I think this is great because in battle monsters are scary, and in my mind they’re probably getting more and more pissed of as the fight progresses. Once they hit their breaking point, BAM they’re legit terrifying. 

ahhh scary monsters!

 

Devotion — Some cards, like the gods, only do certain things when the devotion its color is high enough. None of the gods are creatures until the devotion is high enough, for example. Devotion is determined by the number of colored mana symbols on the battlefield in mana costs. So if you play a triple black mana card, it would raise the devotion to black up three points. The idea is really cool, especially in regards to the god cards. The gods can fight for you, but only if you are devout enough… basically if you worship them enough. There are other cards with devotion, too, and they all reward you for playing a lot of a certain color.

Being devout can get you all sorts of things…

Scry — Scry is a returning mechanic, but it falls right into the Theros flavor. Scrying is the ability to look at the top few cards of your library, then deciding whether you actually want to draw them. If you don’t, you can put them at the bottom of your library. Pretty cool! It fits into Theros well because of Greek prophecies and oracles. In mythology, there is a lot of examples of predicting the future, and scry basically does that.

She looks like she’s making a prophecy, right?

 

As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about all the mechanics. They seem like they’ll be cool to play with, and they appeal to my Vorthos side!

All for now,
Bale

What do you think about Theros and its mechanics so far? 

I finally tried standard FNM, folks.

For my first standard FNM, I played a Selesnya token deck, with a black splash. (Mainly for the lingering souls.)

For my first standard FNM, I played a Selesnya token deck, with a black splash. (Mainly for the lingering souls.)

This won’t be a normal recap because I didn’t have my normal FNM draft experience. Despite top 8’ing July’s pick-a-pack, I decided to forgo August’s in favor of finally trying standard at FNM. I’d found a deck I liked online (Travis Woo’s Supertoken deck), and one of my friends at my LGS helped me build something similar. I only actually played with the deck for one quick game before the tournament started, so not only was it the first standard tournament I’d entered, I didn’t really have any practice playing with my deck. I felt very out of my element.

THE DECK 

I had a lot of fun playing my version of the token deck. I don’t have the full decklist, unfortunately, and I’m not so familiar with it I can rattle it off by heart, but I can tell you a few key players. Its power comes from Collective Blessing and Intangible Virtue, powerful enchantments to make my tokens more beefy. I ran Lingering Souls, Call of the Conclave, Midnight Haunting, Advent of the Wurm, Gather the Townsfolk and Increasing Devotion as my main token generators. I also had Selesnya Charms in there and other cards like Rootborn Defenses to help protect them. I only ran a few actual creatures: Sublime Archangel, Trostani and Mikaeus. I also had Gavony Townships to make my tokens stronger. I felt pretty good going into the matches because  in the one game I did play with the deck before the tournament I absolutely smashed the aristocrats deck. I got two Intangible Virtues on board with an Advent of the Wurm and then played Trostani and populated. It was awesome. Turns out two 7/7 tramplers can just win games.

I was excited because I thought my deck could do some really awesome things, but I was also nervous. I’m not a regular standard player, so I had no idea what to expect. Except that everyone would probably side in Ratchet Bomb against me, if possible.

THE TOURNAMENT (Overall record: 1-4) 

Round one (0-2) — I got stomped by a very talented player and an awesome Jund deck. I didn’t really have a chance. The first game he got out his Huntmaster, and it almost immediately flipped. I survived for a couple of turns, but not long. Game two, I started off a bit better. But when he played his Olivia on curve and I didn’t have a single answer, it was pretty much game over then, too. Like I said, I got STOMPED. But it wasn’t really a good matchup for my deck, and I learned that the sheer power of standard decks is higher than that of limited decks. I kind of knew that going in, but it didn’t really hit me until that match.

Round two (2-1) — My only match win! I was up against a fairly strong sliver deck. I won game one through careful defensive strategies and patience while I assembled a large token army. He had curved out really well and had the sliver that gave his guys flying, two Predatory Slivers, the Bonescythe Sliver and the one that gives all his slivers vigilance. I didn’t do much attacking — I had and Intangible Virtue out, and was slowly building an army of spirit tokens. I was able to whittle down his forces through mostly defensive plays and careful trades. I started sending in my centaur token after I played another Intangible Virtue, offering some good trades. And when I played my Advent of the Wurm, things swung in my favor. He’d locked up the air, but I forced him to deal with my Wurm token with trample, which knocked out enough of his slivers I was able to finally get through. Games two and three weren’t as good or as skill-intensive. I just wasn’t able to keep up with his slivers game two. I missed a couple land drops and he killed my enchanment, so my tokens were weenie. Plus all his slivers were flying, and I just wasn’t able to get enough spirit tokens to make a difference. Game three was great for me — I got plenty of tokens and a wurm right away, and he had no responses…. but that was because he kept a one-land hand and wasn’t able to draw the second in time to stabilize.

Round three (1-2) — I want to start by saying I’m really proud of how I played in this match, despite some misplays. But as many people pointed out to me, FNM is where you need to make those mistakes, so you can learn from them and not make them at bigger tournaments. That said, the first game was not close. I had a GREAT start, but was soon just crushed by Supreme Verdict and was never able to recover. He got out a Jace, Architect of Thought, and I couldn’t avoid it ultimating so my opponent was able to play my own Trostani and his Aetherling, and it was game over. Game two was much better. I started by making a few spirit tokens and then immediately following those with my Sublime Archangel. I also had Gavony Township on board, which I could have used to pump my guys. Instead, though, I just sent the Archangel in. I think I would have killed him faster had I used Township, but I still killed him before he found his Supreme Verdict or another answer. If I were in that situation again, though, I think I would opt for the faster method. I don’t want to give my opponents any more chances than necessary to find an answer! Game three was pretty epic. I had sided in Duress to try and get his board wipes out of his hand, and it worked. I got one Supreme Verdict out of his hand fairly early. I don’t remember the beginning of the game too well, but I did keep the pressure on him as much as possible despite knowing he had two Sphinx’s Revelations in hand. There are are a few key moments I remember, though. The first was when he cast Syncopate in response to my Advent of the Wurm at the end of his turn. I had Intangible Virtue on board, and he really didn’t want a 6/6 trample guy on board. I had another in hand and he was tapped out. On my turn I decided I didn’t want to main phase an instant, though, and instead cast Lingering Souls and passed. I think I should have played the Wurm there, but I don’t know if it would have made a difference. Fast forward several turns and I’m at 5 life and I’ve managed to finally play the Advent of the Wurm I’ve been holding and populate it. He’s at 16, but I’ve knocked him down to 4 with my two 6/6 trample Wurms. I notice he’s still tapped out and play Trostani and then Gathering Townsfolk, gaining 10 life because of Fateful Hour and Intagible Virtue on board. So basically he is super dead unless he can find an answer. Which he did. He played a whole bunch of card draw spells, including Sphinx’s Revelation, and he slammed the Supreme Verdict when he found it, and my army was dead. I was left at 15 life with no blockers, and didn’t find any in time to live. Overall, It was a good match against a very good player at my LGS, so I’m just proud I was able to avoid another blowout.

Round four (1-2) — My opponent was playing an awkward Dimir mill deck. I don’t think he played a single creature in any of the games, but he had TONS of black removal. Doom Blade, Tragic Slip, Mutilate, Murder, you name it and he probably had it. The first game I got really close to killing him, despite all the board wipes I suffered with Mutilate — he was at 5 when he finally milled me to death using four Nephalia Drownyards. It was frustrating. He got out Jace, Memory Adept the second game, but I managed to kill both Jace and my opponent before he was able to mill me out. Game three he also successfully milled me out, but I think I made a critical error that cost me the game. I had Collective Blessing on board with two spirit tokens. He played Ratchet Bomb, which I cast Abrupt Decay on. In response, he sacrificed it to destroy my tokens and I… I just let that happen. He milled me at his end step and my upkeep to kill me. But I had, IN MY HAND, Rootborn Defenses. Ratchet Bomb, unlike a lot of his other removal (like Mutilate), “destroys” the creatures. So it would have countered it and populated, giving me three  1/1 spirits with +3/+3 from the Blessing. Had I remembered, and he didn’t have a counter, I would have won the game. Oops.

Round five (0-2) — My opponents deck was just faster and stronger than mine. He ramped up using elves and played HUGE creatures early. His creatures also had enter the battlefield effects like “destroy target non-creature permanent”. I just couldn’t get past him. There might have been a way for my deck to win, but I didn’t find it. Maybe next time.

Overall, I think I did really well, considering it was my first time playing standard. I kind of set a self-fulfilling prophecy, though. I went in saying I’d be happy if I just won one match. And that’s what I did. But I wasn’t really happy. If I do play standard again, I think I will definitely go in with a more positive attitude. My matches were close, for the most part. I played some great players, but only felt outplayed a couple times. I know I have the skills to do better than 1-4, so next time I’ll hold myself to a higher standard.

All for now,
Bale

Do you remember your first standard FNM? What was it like? And do you think going into games with an expectation of losing/ winning influences the outcome?