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?

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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?

Gods, heroes, monters and magic. Sounds like fun to me!

Not an image from Theros... but Elspeth is the planewalker in the center, and she has been said to have a large role in Theros.

Not an image from Theros… but Elspeth is the planeswalker in the center, and she has been said to have a large role in Theros.

I thought I’d have more time to explore Innistrad before information about Theros started coming out, but I was wrong. So I’m going to have to jump ship on the Innistrad posts and focus my attention on Theros. There is definitely not as much known about Theros yet, but that makes it more exciting! There are two parts published from the Planeswalker’s Guide to Theros, but it’s different reading them before the set is released — all the art could be on cards, but maybe not. And all the names and places mentioned could also be found on cards… but then again, I have no idea. It’s almost like a fun game. But one thing that we do know: the gods will actually be cards. So that seems like a good place to start looking at the Vorthos of Theros.

THE GODS

There are five main gods on Theros: Heliod, Thassa, Erebos, Purphoros and Nylea. Each of them match up with a color in MTG. They are said to live in the Land of Nyx, where humans sometimes visit in their dreams. The gods are also believed to be living enchantments, so both enchantments and dreams are seen as gifts from the gods. Enchantments are seen as a special, more divine form of magic, which makes sense since Wizards has said that Theros is going to be an enchantment-based block. The one god card that has been spoiled is Thassa, and she her card type is a legendary enchantment creature, which seems like it could be really cool to play with, but also definitely goes along with the Vorthos aspect of Theros, which is really cool. I’m excited to see what the other god cards are like. For now, I’ll just speculate based on the descriptions of the gods released…

Heliod, God of the Sun —  Heliod is associated with justice, and his domain includes family honor, morality and even marriages. He wields Khrusor, the Sun Spear, and it’s said that he can throw it down from Nyx and hit any point in Theros. Apparently there are legends that say Heliod destroyed a whole city, or Polis, with Khrusor. Heliod’s personality is self-assured and proud, and he has an aura of brilliance. But Heliod is said to be very fickle… “Heliod’s greatest ally today might be the target of his retribution tomorrow.” That doesn’t stop almost everyone from worshipping him at least a little, even if it’s just a wink in the direction of the dawn light in the morning as a sign of respect. The summer solstice is dedicated to celebrating Heliod, and is three full days of feasts, weddings and declarations of devotion.

Thassa, God of the Sea — Along with the obvious domain of the sea, Thassa is also said to be the god of ancient knowledge, introspection and the passage of time. She is discontent with how things are, but isn’t one to act quickly or rashly. She is dedicated to gradual change. She wields Dekella, a powerful bident that allows her to control the tides and whirlpools. But there is a legend that she turned a sailor’s whole family to eels after he stole Thassa’s bident to destroy an enemy fleet. Thassa is hard to anger, but impossible to placate once she is. Tritons are Thassa’s biggest worshipers, but she shows no favoritism to them. Anyone traveling out to sea also makes a point to honor Thassa.

Erebos, God of the Underworld — As Heliod is the god of the sun, Erebos is the god of the shadow. Erebos accepts his role, and even stands behind Heliod. Erebos is the god of death, obviously, but he’s also the god of misfortune, envy, wealth and other vices. Erebos carries Mastix, an impossibly long and powerful whip that is more often used to keep reluctant dead in the underworld than actually inflict pain. Even though Erebos daydreams about the sun, he finds peace in the fact that every mortal will join him eventually. And suffering doesn’t bring him delight, but he knows it brings others understanding of him and his position in the world. His worshipers belong to three groups: “those who exalt death, those who desire wealth, and those who pray for acceptance of their fates.” The first is the most dangerous, the second is the largest, but the third group is closest to Erebos’s heart.

Purphoros, God of the Forge — Purphoros’s domain is over fire, the forge and “restless earth”. “[Purphoros] rules the raw creative force of heat and energy that fills the souls of sentient beings. His energy emerges as chaos, something to be harnessed and shaped by labor and passion.” Because of this, he’s also the god of creation and destruction, artists and obsession. Purphoros’s signature item is really cool — he wields Akmon, a hammer that is insanely powerful. A blow from Akmon can reduce earth to its molten form and when it strikes metal each spark becomes an enchantment. Purphoros inspires those who come into his presence. He creates beautiful items, but immediately destroys them to start again. He always thinks there is something more to be said or created and he is forever stretching the “bounds of mortal imagination”. This can leave him frustrated, though, and he can lash out with raw power and destruction. His main worshipers are smiths, who brought both bronze and iron to Theros, but he is also worships by artists when they’re creating pieces of work and warriors when they’re lighting fires.

Nylea, God of the Hunt — Nylea controls the seasons and the forests. She is seen as the god of rebirth because of her control over the seasons, and the god of predation and hunger because of her control of the forests. She is Theros’s finest archer, wielding the shortbow Exphixis. And although Nylea has no problem with hunting for food, she does not allow hunting for sport. If you don’t ask for her blessing to hunt the animals in the forest, she will hunt you down. Nylea is easy to anger if humans are interfering too much with her realm. She allows Puphoros to unleash fires in parts of her realm, if she doesn’t like what’s going on. Nymphs and humanoid creatures, like Centaurs and Satyrs, worship Nylea for the most part, but humans do as well, especially when they want the seasons to cooperate. There are no temples built in her honor, and she hates sacrifices. In fact, Nylea is very hard to please. But Nylea is not always mean — she is often playful and joyful. She just likes things happening in their natural order.

So there you have it. Theros’s five main gods. In the guide there was another god mentioned: Karametra, god of the hearth (who doesn’t get along with Nylea), so I think there will be demigods, which makes sense since Theros is MTG’s take on Greek mythology. And looking at the gods, you can definitely see the inspiration. I love Greek mythology, so I’m really excited to learn more about Theros.

All for now,
Bale

Which god do you like the best? What do you think of Theros so far? 

I’ve never been more excited for pick-a-pack.

It was a disappointing night, but I still had fun. And really, that's the most important part of a hobby, right?

It was a disappointing night, but I still had fun. And really, that’s the most important part of a hobby, right?

Last Friday was not a successful night. Again, I thought my draft went well, but the matches didn’t go as well as anticipated. But hey, at least I got to hang out with my friends, right? Good thing I wrote my last post before going to another FNM … it was a good reminder that Magic is actually supposed to be a FUN hobby, not something to torture myself with. So I still managed to have fun, even if my record was terrible. (And not entirely because of the bar down the street from my LGS, but it didn’t hurt 😉 )

THE DRAFT

Pack One — I opened a Shivan Dragon, which I was pretty happy about. I had to pass A TON of good removal, including Shock, Chandra’s Outrage AND Volcanic Geyser, but I couldn’t pass up on the dragon. I noticed pretty early that black was also open, so I got a few Liturgy of Bloods, and some other really strong black cards. Going into pack two I was pretty confident I’d be able to get plenty of good playables.

Pack Two — I opened another Scavenging Ooze. I was happy, despite not being able to play it. But again, I had to pass up some really good things I wanted in my deck, including more removal and a Blood Bairn. I’d picked up an Act of Treason in pack one, so I was really looking for some sacrifice outlets. Luckily, I was able to pick up a couple really strong creatures — including a Goblin Diplomats, two Corpse Haulers and two Academy Raiders — in pack two, in addition to a couple Altar’s Reaps.

Pack Three — I got incredibly lucky with my pack: I opened Liliana! I was already in black and I got the black planeswalker. So awesome. And even though she’s not the best, having a planeswalker in limited is very good. I also got some other good creatures to fill out my curve and top end, including some Minotaur Abominations, a Pitchburn Devils and a Regathan Firecat. I also got a Fireshrieker, which makes every creature better. I also passed a pretty late Bogbrew Witch because I didn’t have any of the combo pieces, but I did pick up a Guardian of the Ages.

THE MATCHES

I’ll go through these quickly — nothing too notable happened, and despite it being six rounds, I didn’t actually play two of them.

Match one (0-2) — The first game was close. I got ahead, but didn’t anticipate a main boarded Lava Axe, which ended up killing me. The second game was not close at all. I mulled down to six and kept a two land hand with a two drop and a three drop, but never actually drew a third land.

Match two (2-0, technically) — My opponent didn’t show up, so I got the win by default. I ended up playing a match for fun. My new opponent was playing a really strong Sliver deck. I won our match 2-1, but she faltered on mana both times, and I curved out perfectly. It was great. The game I lost was frustrating — I wasn’t dead on board, but could have killed one of her three Blur Slivers on board with a Liturgy. I didn’t, though, cause I was at 14 life, so I didn’t think it would really make a difference — even if I killed one all her slivers would still have haste. The next turn she played Battle Sliver and got through a lethal alpha because she still had all those Blur Slivers. Oh well, it was just for fun.

Match three (2-1) — The first two games were won because one or the other of us had mana issues. They weren’t really games at all. In the game I won, though, I got out Liliana on turn four, which was satisfying. The third game was frustrating for me because my opponent was playing a fairly strong U/B control deck with lots of quality removal/ counter spells. Every time I tried to cast a creature I was pretty much unsuccessful. Then he played out Bogbrew Witch, which I used my Liliana to kill — he didn’t have the cauldron, but he had the newts and a Blood Bairn as a sac outlet. Then he cast Opportunity, followed by an Elixir of Immortality that he used, even though he wasn’t really in any danger of dying. As a result, he actually got to cast Opportunity again. There’s really no coming back from that.

Match four (2-0, paired against Steve) — I played well, but my deck just didn’t get there. Game one was long because we both stalled and kept drawing lands, but he got out of it sooner and was able to get rid of basically my whole board (a Corpse hauler, a Firecat and Guardian of the Ages) by using Flames of the Firebrand, attacking and then making me sacrifice my Guardian with Celestial Flare. The game was over pretty quickly after that. The second game wasn’t as good as the first, even though I got Liliana out. Again, I played well (as far as I can remember), but it just didn’t work out. After the match, Steve and I decided to go and drink some beer — neither of us was having a great night and as Nummy’s tweet pointed out, the best thing to do when on tilt from Magic is just drink beer. YEAH.

Match five (2-0, technically) — My opponent didn’t want to play, so he gave me the match. End of story. No playing for fun this time, since I went down to the bar to hang out with other friends who’d dropped/ weren’t playing the round.

Match six (0-2, technically) — I was pretty good friends with the guy I was paired up with, and since he’d been paired down and needed to win the match to make top 12, I gave it to him. Even if I won, I didn’t have a chance. We played for fun and he got it 2-1, but the game I won was really epic. I played my Shivan Dragon (that I hadn’t seen all night) out THREE TIMES. He kept killing it, but I brought it back with my Corpse Haulers. And when he played his not-as-awesome dragon, I was able to Act of Treason it AND sacrifice it with Alters Reap. It was wonderful.

So even though I had a crappy record, I still had a fairly fun evening. The games I won were good games, and so were most of the games I lost. It seems like I still haven’t gotten the hang of this set, so I’ve been thinking about drafting online. I think it could really up my game, and I might (MIGHT) even stream if I feel like it. I’ve been watching a lot of streams lately, and I think it could be fun. I don’t have a great set up, but I do have everything I need on my computer to stream since Astro and I thought we would at the beginning. Who knows though — I’m running out of steam on my three posts a week schedule already. But drafting online would be a really good way to improve my skills, and if I want to play well at the GP in Oklahoma City, I probably should. I’ll keep you guys updated, of course.

All for now,
Bale

How do you avoid tilting when playing games? Do you watch Magic streams or other game streams online? 

 

Why I keep playing, even when I lose.

PLAY ALL THE CARDS. Standard Sealed is a crazy format, but really awesome because I got to play Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. Did I get them both out at once? No... but it would have been awesome! (But when I was playing for fun and switched decks with a friend, he did... and it was not awesome.)

PLAY ALL THE CARDS. Standard Sealed is a crazy format, but really awesome because I got to play Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. Did I get them both out at once? No… but it would have been awesome! (But when I was playing for fun and switched decks with a friend, he did… and it was not awesome.)

I’ve devoted a bunch of my posts over the past several months to tracking my progress at FNM. Every week, save for a couple exceptions, I wrote down how my draft went, my record and what I’d learned from the night. It has helped me think critically and analyze my playing and that has probably helped me become a stronger player.

But if I wrote my normal recap this week I might get so discouraged I won’t want to go back to FNM on Friday. I might throw my draft deck across my room. And I might just become inexplicably annoyed for the rest of the day. So I’m going to save Astro and my coworkers from that and just not. But I do owe you guys a post about this weekend, simply because I played A LOT of Magic. I went to draft on Friday (obviously) and then on Saturday I decided to play in my LGS’s Standard Sealed tournament. Which meant I spent nearly 16 hours at my LGS over those two days.

On Friday I went 1-3-1 with a deck a U/W deck I thought was fairly strong. I had mana troubles again, but the biggest issue was the fact I only had two or three creatures that could really count as win conditions. I was really good at stalling (hence the unintentional draw), and creating a board presence that was impossible for my opponent to get through, but if I didn’t get my good creatures out all I was able to do was delay the inevitable. Which, as you might have guessed, was very frustrating. My cards of note were Opportunity, Serra Angel, Pacifism and Water Servant. The Pacifism actually tabled for me in my second pack, I was astonished. However, I found out later that the guy to my right was hate drafting white all night — he said he picked up TWO Serra Angels and an Angelic Accord. I was really annoyed, but it made sense: I knew white was open, but I wasn’t getting many extremely good cards because of him. And at our LGS we have so many people hate drafting is not even helpful; I didn’t play him all night, and all he did was make my deck worse. I was especially annoyed when I remembered I’d drafted to the right of him last week too. Who knows what picks I missed out on!

On Saturday I tried my hand at sealed again. The only other times I’ve played in sealed tournaments have been the prereleases. So I don’t really have much experience even with a normal six-pact sealed environment. The Standard Sealed pool was a booster of each set in standard right now, which is eight packs. And I only started playing at the very end of RTR, so there were a lot of packs I haven’t played much with. (Thank goodness of pick-a-pack!) That meant I had to cut down a pool of 100+ cards to only 23. It was stressful, but I managed to make my deck with only a small amount of input from my neighbors. I didn’t want to depend on other people because when I go to the GP in Oklahoma City I won’t be able to at all. Luckily it was really easy for me to pick red as my main color — I had basically all the red removal and some really strong creatures, including Mondronen Shaman. It was between black and blue for my second color — I had more removal in both colors and some really strong creatures as well. Plus, I had Duskmantle Seer and Haunter of the Night Veil, so I knew I would probably splash for those no matter what. I ended up picking blue because I had some good control cards, like Opportunity, but I decided to take out the Seer and just splash black for Doom Blade and the Night Veil. One of the guys building next to me suggested taking out the seer because it could go very badly for me, too. I ended up only going 2-3, but I had a really good time overall.

On both Friday and Saturday I had moments of huge disappointment. I was annoyed at myself because I thought my decks were decent and I just could not get there. I had mana issues both days (out of all the packs I opened, I got zero fixing) and it’s just as hard to play your cards when you’re stuck on three mana as it is when you just don’t draw spells. But I never conceded a game because I tend to think there is a chance I could draw SOMETHING that could help me, and if I play well I could still have a chance. But that doesn’t make the losses any less frustrating. In fact, it kind of makes it worse, because I had moments where I was just convinced I was a terrible Magic player. But I kept playing. I couldn’t help it… I have only dropped once, and I regretted it almost immediately. Every game is an opportunity to learn.

After I scrubbed out of the tournament on Saturday, I stuck around while the Top Eight was played out and hung out with the guy who runs our tournaments. He’s super nice and really helpful. We played a couple matches, and despite the fact I lost most of them I had a lot of fun. After a couple of matches with my original deck, he looked through my pool and swapped the blue out for the black. What he came up with a red/ black control deck with a blue splash for the Duskmantle Seer, Clone and Haunter of the Night Veil. We played several more matches and swapped decks to play more. I don’t even remember how many games we played, but it was a lot. And I lost a lot, but since it was not in a competitive situation I didn’t get nearly as frustrated when I didn’t pull any of my blue mana and when we swapped decks he had no color issues. So not fair. But it reminded me that it is just part of the game — when all of your blue mana is at the bottom of the library, it’s kind of hard to draw it.

Playing all of those games and talking to the judge also made me realize that I really am still kind of a MTG newbie. I’d finally gotten the hang of drafting the RTR block when M14 came out, and I’m having a harder time adjusting to the new format than I expected. But it makes sense — it’s my first non multicolored set and the drafting strategies are different because of that.

And when my LGS’s judge messaged me later apologizing for not explaining more elaborately about his changes to my deck because it wouldn’t help me later, I realized how awesome my LGS really is. The people I play Magic with there are one of the main reasons I play every week. Not because I need to be the best, but because Magic people are awesome. My play group is full of wonderful people who genuinely care about each other. They’re helpful, awesome and very good at cheering me up when I’m frustrated.

I’ve been pretty hard on myself lately, and partly it’s because of my recaps. I want to be improving, and I want you guys to read about successful nights, not failures. It’s increased the pressure I put on myself to win matches, which makes it harder when I lose. As a result, I don’t have as much fun because I’m too hard on myself. At the end of the day, it’s just a game. And it shouldn’t be ALL about winning, but also about having fun and enjoying the company of my friends.

So next Friday I’ll try to keep that in mind. After all, if I didn’t like the people at my LGS, I probably wouldn’t have gotten so into the game. So screw you, mana problems and annoying hate drafters… you can’t ruin my fun! My friends are too awesome for that.

All for now,
Bale

Why do you keep playing MTG (or other games) when you hit a losing streak? What brings you back to the game?

FNM Recap: Aug 9… Sometimes things just don’t work.

Another rough night for me. Still figuring out M14... it's a different beast than RTR block for sure!

Another rough night for me. Still figuring out M14… it’s a different beast than RTR block for sure!

I need to start by saying I thought my deck was fantastic, and I was extremely pleased with the draft portion of the night. Over the past week I’d done a lot of research about M14 limited. I read several articles, watched a couple streamed drafts and listened to hours of the podcast “Limited Resources“. (I discovered listening to podcasts is pretty much the best way to pass time at work.) LR is a very good podcast that I recommend to anyone as obsessed with draft as I am. I just discovered it, so I had a lot to catch up on. The biggest thing: their M14 set review. The hosts took several hours to go through and talk about every single card in M14 and what their impressions of it was. I thought it was very helpful, even if I didn’t necessarily agree with them 100 percent of the time. But it was full of information, and I felt more prepared (by far) than last week. (Not hard, I suppose.)

The draft went really well. I’d decided I kind of wanted to play green this week and I was lucky because it was wide open. The only other committed green drafter at the table was completely opposite me, so we didn’t cut each other off at all. I first-picked a Rumbling Baloth over Silence, which is terrible, a Kalonian Tusker and an Opportunity. Some people questioned it, but my reasoning was straightforward: the tusker is awesome, but getting double green on turn two is hard unless you’re very committed to green. I didn’t want to do that right off the bat. Double green by turn four is more likely, and I felt more comfortable taking that. I didn’t take the Opportunity because I was worried blue would be over drafted — it’s one of the strongest colors in the set and people really like the Opportunity deck. I also knew that by passing it I would be signaling very well to the person to my left, and might actually force him into drafting blue. I’m not sure that is actually what made him go blue, but he did actually end up drafting a very strong blue card-draw deck. And I ended up getting two Kalonian Tuskers anyway, so I was very happy. I actually also ended up with a Marauding Maulhorn as well, so I had four beasts with an Advocate of the Beast. Not bad, considering how few beasts are actually in the format. I also got passed a Megantic Sliver in pack two, which made me very aware that Slivers were probably open. I’d picked up a couple already — some are just good on their own — so I just picked up a couple more. I didn’t force them, but if there wasn’t a better green or red card in the pack, I went with the sliver. I ended up getting a couple very strong slivers, too. I also opened a Witchstalker, which was awesome because it make a great target for my Lightning Talons. I even picked up a Howl of the Night Pack, which can just completely take over games. So overall, I was very happy after the draft and building my deck. I had a couple cards in my sideboard that I was kind of sad not to run, but I figured if my deck didn’t work out, I could always side them in. A good plan, but I never did… even though it might actually have helped me. Oops. (Among that list: A Fleshpulper Giant, a Dragon Egg and a couple slivers.)

Match one got off to a spectacular start. I couldn’t ask for a better start than turn two Kalonian Tusker and turn three Advocate. I was able to put the pressure on him early, and it was great. Unfortunately, my plans were foiled when he played an Enlarge on turn five. He got me down to one life, and so I couldn’t attack all out like I was hoping. And he had the white creature that causes your opponent’s creatures to come into the battlefield tapped, so I was very vulnerable. I couldn’t attack the following turn because I had to block with my creatures that weren’t tapped. Very frustrating. But definitely not as frustrating when he plays ANOTHER Enlarge. I could block all but one of the damage. I wasn’t too discouraged going into game two, though. I knew the chances of that happening again were fairly slim, and he hadn’t actually played too many creatures. I was able to get another turn two Tusker, which was nice. I followed it with a turn three Rootwalla, which wasn’t too bad either. Unfortunately, I never got another land. I also made a pretty big error while attacking into his slivers. He double blocked my Rootwalla with the toughness booster and the vigilance sliver. I could have pumped my Rootwalla and killed one of them, but instead played Thunder Strike on my Tusker to put him down to six. If I’d pumped my Rootwalla, I probably would have killed his vigilant sliver, which might have been the better play. I don’t know if it would have ultimately made a difference since I was never able to play another creature and he had the Master of Diversion so he could tap my blocker every time he attacked, but it might have allowed me to get some more damage through. So all in all, it was a pretty disappointing first round, but I wasn’t too discouraged… just annoyed.

Round two was my only win of the night, even though it started off poorly. I had to mulligan down to five cards on the play, which was painful. It was still a close game, despite that though. My slivers were kind of working for me — I had the red pump sliver and my sliver construct out. My opponent won by casting Act of Treason and getting my red pump sliver. Game two was the opposite — my opponent mulled down to five. But my starting hand was great again. I got my Witchstalker out, and was able immediately put Lightening Talons on him. My opponent never even got the chance to play a blocker, and on turn three I cast another creature so turn four was lethal. Game three was similar, except this time it was my Baloth doing the beating. I felt bad for my opponent — it sucks to lose because of mana issues and unlucky draws, but it’s all part of the game. I tried to keep reminding myself of that throughout the night.

I played the blue drafter at my table during my next match. It was pretty brutal. I never saw the Opportunity, but I did see multiple Divinations. He was playing blue/ black, and I got a good start in game one, but the board state got stalled. He eventually got me with his Water Servant, two Blood Bairns and a Tenacious Dead that he was able to sacrifice multiple times. Game two was a lot more promising and I was able to build up a strong board state with my slivers. But then I stopped drawing anything but lands, which gave him the chance to build up his defense and his board. I top-decked my Megantic Sliver, which would have won me the game straight up, but was so excited I forgot to check his mana. Sure enough, he had Essence Scatter in hand, and my epic Sliver move was thwarted. He got me 2-0, so maybe I should have drafted the blue/ black deck. Oh well. In game I played a Blur Sliver as if it didn’t have haste, which my opponent pointed out later. It probably wouldn’t have mattered since he was at six at the end, but you never know.

The fourth round went a little better just because I lost 2-1 instead of 2-0. The first game was a really good one. It was close, and we both had good attacks. It was pretty much your standard race, but he ended up coming out ahead because of well-timed Time Ebb on my Giant Spider. I dominated him in my second game. I got my Witchstalker out and my Blur Sliver. He didn’t get any good blockers out, so it was over fairly quickly. Game three was not really a good game for either of us. Both of us got mana flooded. Several turns were just us saying “land for turn, OK go”. The board was pretty stalled out, but what changed the tide was when he top-decked his Air Servant. He was hovering at five life throughout this stalemate, so had I pulled my Volcanic Geyser it would have been over. Or my Howl of the Night Pack. Or any number of things in my deck, actually.

My last opponent didn’t show up, so I got the win by default. I took the time to just hang out with my friends, which was nice. And while we were discussing how the night was going, one reminded me that records don’t always reflect the skill of the player. I’m pretty hard on myself when I lose sometimes, but sometimes there is nothing you can do. Your deck just didn’t work out as you planned and unexpected things come up. Like two Enlarges. Or getting mana flooded. It’s part of Magic, and if it wasn’t the game wouldn’t be the same. But I did make some misplays, so I’m definitely not blaming the night on bad luck. I just need to learn how to anticipate longer games better, and not get discouraged or sloppy.

All for now,
Bale

How did your FNM go? What do you think is the most frustrating way to lose a game of Magic?