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? 

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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? 

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?

GP Vegas: From the inside

While I was at home watching from GP Vegas afar, my boyfriend, Steve, and several close friends from my LGS were there. Actually playing in the largest TCG event ever. I was cheering for them all, hoping they’d make day 2 and show everyone who’s boss. And I know how awesome my LGS is, especially at limited, so I thought they had somewhat of a good chance. While they all did OK, only Steve made day 2. So being the awesome guy he is, he agreed to let me ask him a few questions about the experience for “Nerd Maids”. (He’s not a girl, but I counted and only maybe five girls made day 2 of GP Vegas… I included a few gender-neutral names in that count, too.) And after making Steve show me his sealed deck, and let me play with his draft decks from Vegas, I finally got him to sit down and do this. Yay! 🙂 I hope you enjoy his story as much as I do! – B

The playmat from GP Vegas. The guys got there in time to get their playmats, and they're freaking sweet. The art is from the Sword of Fire and Ice -- one of the famous sword artifacts from Modern Masters.

The playmat from GP Vegas. The guys got there in time to get their playmats, and they’re freaking sweet. The art is from the Sword of Fire and Ice — one of the famous sword artifacts from Modern Masters.

How long have you been playing Magic?

I’m a grizzled veteran of the magic scene.  I started playing casually around 1995.  Back in those days, my friends and I would make amazing five color, 200 card decks where we would shove every Elder Dragon Legend we had into them and just hope for the best.  Yeah, we were really good.  I started playing semi-competitively during Invasion block.  That’s the time I learned about drafting.  I still remember my first pick of my first draft: Rith, the Awakener, a naya colored dragon. I just drafted around those colors and actually ended up with a playable deck.  I even won my first round!  I’ve been hooked ever since.

What made you want to go to GP Vegas?

Although I’ve been playing magic for so long, I had never gone to a large competitive tournament.  The biggest tournament I had ever been to was the Torment prerelease in Kansas City.  After hearing success stories from many of my FNM friends playing at GPs and PTQs, I started to get the itch to test myself at a bigger event.  I pretty much only play draft and sealed magic, so I kept my eyes out for a GP or PTQ that was a limited format.  When I heard about GP Vegas, Modern Masters sealed, I knew I had to go.

Were you familiar with the cards in Modern Masters?

As many people who play magic know, sometimes you get burned out and have to quit the game from time to time.  Many of the cards from Modern Masters were from sets that I sat out.  I would say that I was familiar with about 40% of  the cards.

So how did you prepare?

I did as many draft simulations on bestiare.org as I could.  This sometimes meant not eating or sleeping for days at a time.  OK, maybe I only did like 20 total.  I also did a draft with some friends out of a box one of them purchased and did one phantom draft on Magic Online.  Although I was probably less prepared than many of the other 4499 players that went to Vegas, I was relying on my superior card evaluation skills to pull me through.

How did it feel going into day 1 knowing you had 4499 opponents, and were part of the largest TCG tournament ever?

I probably would have felt super excited if I wasn’t completely brain-dead from the 20+ hour drive it took to get there.

So you felt good?

Yes.

Awesome. Can you tell me a little about how the sealed part of the GP works?

First, I had to find my name on a list of all the players and see what color section I would be in.  Then I had to go to that section and find my name on another list that told me what table number I would be on.   After everyone found their seats, we all received a fancy white paper bag filled with 6 packs of Modern Masters and a checklist with every card in the set.  Then we had exactly 30 minutes to organize all the cards alphabetically into colors, non-basic lands and artifacts. Then I had to mark down the contents on the checklist.   I was pretty stressed out when they called out “five minutes left” and I still had plenty left to sort and record, but I did finish on time.  The pool I opened was very strong.  It had 3 rare fairies, including Oona, Queen of the Fae and Vendilion Clique.  It’s important to remember however that this is not the pool I got to make my deck with.  The people that opened the foil Tarmogoyfs and immediately dropped definitely remembered that fact.  After the 30 minutes were up, everyone put all the cards and the checklist back into the paper bag and passed it to the left.  Then it was time to build our decks.

What process did you use to build your deck?

My usual process is to separate the cards by color then go through each color and take out the unplayable cards and go from there.   This was a little different because the cards were already sorted by color for me and there were barely any unplayable cards because Modern Masters is a very powerful set.  It seemed I could have made a decent deck no matter what colors I played but I knew that I wanted to play with my Cryptic Command and Meloku the Clouded Mirror (not to mention my three Aethersnipes) so blue was the first color I decided on playing.  I finally narrowed it down to green or red for my second color.  I had to choose between the solid removal I had in red or the efficient creatures in green but it was Tromp the Domains that solidified green as my second color.  Some other notables in green were Woodfall Primus, two Search for Tomorrows and a Penumbra Spider.  I ended up splashing black for a Drag Down because instant speed removal is good and the extra color would power up my Tromp the Domains.

How did your matches go?

I was a little worried because my deck was very light on early drops and extremely top heavy.  But I quickly realized that this was a slow format and when I got up to six mana I could completely take over games using my superior late game spells.  While my Meloku and Tromp won me many games, I’d have to say the MVPs of my deck were my Search for Tomorrows.  Those let me reliably accelerate up to my magic number of six lands and after that my Aethersnipes and other bad boys gave my opponents headaches all day.  I went 6-0 before I finally lost a match and then won the last two for a final day 1 record of 8-1.  You wouldn’t believe how many swords I had to beat to get there.

It must have felt pretty good to have that kind of run. Were you expecting to make day 2?

It was unbelievable!  I knew the odds of making day 2 were pretty low but I wanted to stay positive.  I wouldn’t say I expected to make it but I thought I had a decent chance.

How were you feeling going into day 2?

I was feeling great before my group made it back to the hotel and realized that my last match had been recorded incorrectly.  That caused me quite a bit of stress and I lost some sleep over the whole thing.  Everything got taken care of once we arrived the next day and I started feeling good again right before the draft started.  I felt like I was going to win the whole thing and was already deciding what to do with all the money!  I just want Bale to know that, even though I was in Vegas without her, I never thought of spending that money on hookers or blackjack even once 🙂

Awww thanks. What was it like drafting at that level? How did your drafts go? 

I wish every draft I played in was that organized and rigid with the rules.  There was absolutely no table talk allowed and that is just how I like it.  There was also a strict time limit to make your picks, another thing I really liked.  I ended up making a blue/white tempo deck with Cryptic Command (pack 1, pick 2), two Mulldrifters, two Vedalken Dismissers, two Veteran Armorers, two Blinding Beams and other goodness.  I was lacking bombs but I figured I would win by keeping my opponent off balance but it didn’t go exactly as planned.  I ended up going 1-2 and killed my chances at the top 8.  I still had an outside chance at top 64 and some money but I would have had to go 3-0 in my next draft pod.  I built an almost mono-black aggro goblin deck with some blue tricks but ended up 1-2 in that draft as well.  I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Even though you didn’t end up in the money, you still placed in the top six percent of the tournament. How does that make you feel? 

Considering it was my first major tournament, I have to feel pretty satisfied with how it turned out.  I’m looking forward to playing in another GP soon.  Bale turned me on to a limited GP in Oklahoma City in October so that’s probably the next step from here.

Did you learn a lot? 

I did.  The most important thing I learned is that I can step my game up when I really need to.  I beat at least a couple guys that have played in pro-tours and I didn’t miss a single suspend trigger until my 15th match of the tournament.  Magic is serious business at GPs and I felt like I actually belonged there.

What was the most memorable part of GP Vegas? 

Probably all of the dreams I crushed and the tears I drank on the way to making day 2 of the biggest TCG tournament of all time!

 

GP Vegas: From the outside.

From the #GPVegas twitter stream. So many people!

From the #GPVegas twitter stream. So many people!

The biggest Magic: The Gathering tournament ever. The biggest trading card tournament ever. And the first GP I watched coverage of online.

As I mentioned on my last post, several of my close friends from my LGS attended GP Vegas. I probably bugged them a lot with all of my texts, but I’d be damned if I didn’t hear how they were doing.  And after doing my girly things on Saturday (seeing Emma Watson’s new movie and going shopping) I got home, tuned into the online coverage and went into full nermaid mode.

I only stopped when my friends arrived for game night, close to midnight (they all work late). And that still probably counts as nerdmaid mode, now that I think about it. (Settlers of Catan!)

I’d never really gotten into the whole online coverage for magic; I didn’t see how it could be THAT entertaining. But boy, was I proven wrong. I tuned in as they were explaining the archetypes of Modern Masters, and was immediately hooked. I’d drafted Modern Masters once, when a guy at my LGS had a box he needed to open, but I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.  But through watching the coverage, I learned I’d actually drafted one of the archetypes of Modern Masters: R/W Giants. Imagine that!

When they finally showed an actual match, I felt like I sort of had an idea of what was going on. Plus, the commentators were actually really good at explaining what was happening. When a card came into play that was really interesting, they’d show it on screen, and I looked up a lot of cards on my own as well so I could understand what the plays and decisions made. I learned more about Modern Masters watching the coverage of the GP than I thought I ever would.

Paired with that, I was also getting text updates from my buddies actually in Vegas. It sounded like they were having a blast, and I was insanely jealous. But I was rooting for them as best I could from my futon several states away. And when I found out that my boyfriend, Steve  (whom I met at my first FNM), was on a winning streak, I was so excited I could hardly sit still. After watching the featured match of the round, I’d wait not-so-patiently for an update to hear how everyone was doing. Steve didn’t lose a match until round seven!

Steve ended up 8-1 after day one, qualifying for day two of the largest GP ever. I was incredibly proud. In his seventh round, he was even placed at table 1 of his flight (the tournament was separated into four smaller groups), meaning he had one of the two best records of his group!! And to top that off, it was his first GP ever. But I’ll let him tell more of his story for himself later.

Let’s pause for a sec. In case you didn’t know, GP Vegas was a limited tournament. The first day players got a sealed pool of cards they had to make a deck out of. Players had to have a record of 7-2 or better to make it to day two. On day two all the qualifying players got to participate in two 3-round drafts. So basically it was two days of lots of deck-building and magic-playing greatness. (I would imagine, obviously I don’t know first-hand.)

So anyways, I watched some really good players on the featured matches. It was really interesting watching how they played, and listening to the commentators. I feel like I learned a lot just through observing, so I can only imagine how actually playing would have been.

On day two I got to watch Sam Black and Melissa DeTora draft, which was also very interesting. I also got to watch them both win their first matches after the drafts, so I got to see their decks in action. It was neat following their draft and then getting to see how all their picks ended up working.

Most of the time I ignored the stream chat, but I couldn’t help but notice that a lot of people on the stream chat would complain about having to watch Melissa. I don’t know why, but I actually think it might be because she’s a girl. It seemed like some of the people had an attitude of “oh, we have to watch a girl play… there are so many better choices!”. So lame. But whatever, Melissa still did great, and remains one of my biggest Magic inspirations. Only a handful of girls made day 2, and Melissa ended up 22nd. And for a tournament of 4500 people, that’s awesome.

And for that matter, the whole Top 8 group inspired me. A lot of them hadn’t had any notable Magic achievements. The overall winner, Neal Oliver, actually went into the tournament without any byes (I think most pros had at least three… even a couple guys from my LGS had that many!) and lost his first round. He said he almost dropped! But instead he kept going and ended up winning 15 matches in a row, with an intentional draw into Top 8… it’s just crazy.  It made me feel like there is actually hope for me (or Steve) to make Top 8 at a big tournament and “go pro” with Magic. I’m not sure that’s in the cards, but I’m at least going to attend some GPs… that’s for sure. It seems like such a good time, and a great way to get more Magic experience.

But all I really want to do right now is play some Modern Masters!

All for now,
Bale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All for now,
Bale