Rise of Eldrazi – Limited Impressions

Just a quick dump of my impressions of RoE limited from the prerelease. I’ll probably post a more detailed analysis later.

The RoE limited format is fun and it is slower than Zendikar, but you still need to keep an eye on your curve (even though that curve may now end with 7-8-9-and up instead of 5-6…). Lots of ground stalls, so guys with evasion are much more valuable.

I think a good limited deck would revolve around a number of good leveler creatures, as these guys are basically must-kill before they get to the long game. Excellently designed and easy to underrate, you should probably play all the common levelers. Except possibly the common guys that have Level Up 4, they take forever to grow up. Good instant-speed removal is also pretty scarce, and a lot of it is sorcery speed, making levelers pretty good. (Hint: I don’t consider Smite to be “good”)

Totem Armor is pretty sweet too, and you need to note that only blue, white and black have common ways to get rid of guys with Totem Armors on. (Blue bounce, Oust, Induce Despair). I find Snake Umbra particularly annoying. I never want to give him extra cards!

Rebound is…well, extra spells are good I guess, and I actually saw someone get like 18 soldiers off Nomads Assembly, but the rebound cards are so few and far between and a lot of them have marginal effects. As a mechanic, it feels unnecessary and it doesn’t seem to fit any of Zendikar’s themes even. Maybe it’ll be better in constructed? (Only Consuming Vapors seems promising to me though.)

Rise of Eldrazi Prerelease Report

I played in the Rise of Eldrazi Prerelease Event yesterday at Eton Cyberpod in the Ortigas area. It was a new mall, so I went there a bit before opening time in case I had trouble finding the venue. Turns out that wouldn’t be a problem as there were a bunch of Magic players outside the mall waiting for it to open when I got there. It turns out that the mall had recently changed it’s opening hours from 10 AM to 11 AM though, so we all had to wait outside in the heat for an additional hour before we could start the event. =/

Annoying mall policies aside, here’s my prerelease sealed pool:

Lord of Shatterskull Pass and Conquering Manticore are pretty much Dragon-class bombs and red had some cheap removal going for it (2 Flame Slash, etc.), so I figured I’d be playing red. I needed more removal to take out larger guys, so I chose between white and black for the second color. Black seemed shallow creature-wise, while White had 2 Souls Attendants which would really help me survive long games, so I went with white. I wanted to play with all the Eldrazi cards I had, and I also wanted to try out the wall subtheme. Here’s the list I submitted:

To battle!

Round 1 vs R/G/W. We both have Kabira Vindicator so our games go long with lots of creatures gumming up the board. He tries to breakthrough a stalled game three by latching an Ogres Cleaver to an Aura Gnarlid. I take the first hit, then use Traitorous Instinct to strike back with the same guy, winning the game. 1-0 matches, 2-1 games.

Round 2 vs Monogreen. (Yep, monogreen). He opens with Nest Invader into Awakening Zone into Wildheart Invoker and I feel pretty screwed, as he can overrun me easily in a few turns, and my deck doesn’t have the capacity to race that. I have a pair of Souls Attendants keeping my life pretty high, but he manages to play Pathrazer of Ulamog with all the Eldrazi Spawn and the big guy just overruns me. I board in a forest and a Naturalize for the spawn-blossom, but it’s irrelevant as he gets the overrun dude early again and ramps to 8 mana easily. 1-1 matches, 2-3 games.

My lack of review about the limited format shows up here, as I misread the green invoker and thought it was an overrun effect at common. What was I thinking? Not sure if it would have affected the outcome though, my opponent played the invoker correctly (I don’t even think he was aware of my misunderstanding) Still, green ramps up pretty quickly; I could easily see a draft archetype in major green relying on cards like Nest Invader, Kozileks Predator, Growth Spasm and Wildheart Invoker.

Round 3 vs U/W/r. Game one he has a slow start, stuck on three lands, while I get a cleaver on a Rapacious One and start making ridiculous numbers of Eldrazi Spawn and I take the win. But games 2 and 3 he takes easily on the back of common blue and white levelers, Knight of Cliffhaven and Skywatcher Adept paired with some Champion’s Drakes. Another possible draft archetype could be based on these UW fliers. 1-2 matches, 3-5 games.

Round 4 vs G/R/W. He takes a quick game one, but I manage to stall out game two with a 2 Souls Attendants start. He has a lot of Eldrazi spawn generation going so I gain something like 20 life off of them before I finish the game by getting Lord of Shatterskull Pass to level 6. We have only around 15 minutes left for game 3, but unfortunately I have to mull to six and start with a two-lander. I don’t draw lands for the first 5-6 turns, but stay alive due to cheap removal and drawing the 2 Souls Attendants again. I finally start drawing lands and claw my way back, eventually managing to play a [card/Conquering Manticore[/card] that can break through the sky and he’s unable to answer it. 2-2 matches, 5-6 games.

I’m disappointed with my performance – I think this has been my worst prerelease in a while.My 2-2 record wins me only two packs, where I got these not-so-awesome rares:

Next: I’ll post more detailed thoughts on RoE limited.

Rise of Eldrazi Review: Inquisition of Kozilek

I chose to start MTG blogging again right in the middle of spoiler season for the upcoming set Rise of the Eldrazi, so let me start out by reviewing some new cards. Let’s take a look at the card previewed in this week’s The Week That Was by Brian David-Marshall, Inquisition of Kozilek:

Nobody expected the Kozilek inquisition!

BDM of course already pointed out the obvious comparisons to Thoughtseize, which is the premier pinpoint discard spell at this mana point; Thoughtseize has the advantage in versatility (can get any card) versus the slight drawback of giving up 2 points of life. That being said, if Inquisition of Kozilek had existed in Standard in place of Thoughtseize, it would still be good enough to take the same place in the one-two-three punch of the good ol’ Faerie menace:

Turn One: Inquisition of Kozilek

Turn Two: Bitterblossom

Turn Three: Jace Beleren

What did Faeries really want to take on turn one anyway? In the mirror match, you of course wanted to take out the ubiquitous Bitterblossom; when fighting the other aggro deck of the time, you’d want to pull out a Figure of Destiny, or at least a Wizened Cenn; when faced with the opposing five-color control, you’d take away his Negate or Broken Ambitions to push through your own ‘Blossom on turn two.

This is where pinpoint discard is at it’s best – in the early turns, protecting your early plays. In all of these cases, the Inquisition might as well be Thoughtseize, with the added benefit of keeping your precious two life!

Sure, it’s suboptimal as a topdeck in the late game, but so was Thoughtseize! And luckily, it’s uncommon this time around, and won’t cost you a bundle of cash like Thoughtseize did in it’s heyday.

Of course, you might want to note that unlike the generic-flavored Thoughtseize, Inquisition of Kozilek has almost no chance of being reprinted in a future set, unless the Eldrazi make some sort of second coming down the line!

Aside from the hypothetical comparison to Thoughtseize (in truth, the only relationship those two cards would ever have would be for Inquisition to be Thoughtseize #5-8 in an extended deck that just can’t get enough), what of the implications for future standard? Among the existing decks I think the Inquisition can find a home in the current public enemy number one, Jund. Why? To proactively take out the new hindrance, referring of course to Wall of Omens:

Future bane of aggressive decks everywhere!

As I see it, the inquisition is currently the only way to take out the defensive beast without giving the opponent the sweet card advantage he was looking for! Aside from Jund, other black aggressive decks such as Vampires will find a good use for the new pinpoint discarder. And I reckon it’s going to play a role in any new black decks that emerge as well. Patrick Chapin(@thepchapin on twitter) referred to Wall of Omens as among the top 5 cards in the upcoming standard, I’m thinking Inquisition of Kozilek might be right behind it!

By way of introduction

I’m a long-time Magic player from the Philippines. I used to blog at my personal website, but I had this domain so I just decided to use it.

My magic blogging used to consist mostly of tournament reports (I like to play both limited and constructed). For this blog, I’d like to write more design/card analysis and about events in the Magic community. Most of online Magic community writing is geared towards an American/western audience, so I’d also like to write stuff relevant to the Asian magic scene if I get the chance.

Enjoy!

Nix Tix Alara Draft (Swiss): 3-0 and Draft Conversion Tools

Now, this is a bit awkward. One of the side projects that’s been in my backlog for a long time has been to work on an improved version of the MTGO Draft Converter at zizibaloob. I thought I would get started on that today, and in fact already had quite a bit of javascript done for the draft widget when I read a new post by Brian David-Marshall over on top8magic and found out that there was already a new draft recorder website: RareDraft. I got myself an invite and tried it out, it has many of the features I was planning and more! Ah, now I don’t know whether it’s worth continuing my own project. =/

Anyway, here’s the link to the unfinished, unrefined (but working!) MtgStorm draft converter. (if you’ve been following me on twitter, you know that I created a new username “mtgstorm” for MTG-related stuff)

To see how far ahead RareDraft’s offering is, here’s a recent Alara block draft I 3-0’d on MTGO. The first output is by the MtgStorm draft converter, the second is by RareDraft.


Powered by MtgStorm Draft Converter

In hindsight, mine might be better in some cases because I’m using pure JavaScript, while theirs is using flash (and does not seem to resize to fit the containing column)…yeah, technical jargon.

Netdecking

There was a recent thread over on the Neutral Grounds forums about how Filipino MTG players often “netdeck” or use decklists off the internet. To anyone who starts playing MTG, the ability to build your own decks has always been one of the primary appeals. For this reason, every MTG player would like to think that they have in themselves some level of deckbuilding “skills” and that using netdecks should be treated as a loss of pride in one’s own work.

I don’t feel strongly about this issue; I’ve used both netdecks and my own homebrew designs in tournaments before. Checking my own stats (one advantage of this blog is that I have a record of every tournament I ever played): I have a 59% match win rate when using a netdeck, and 54% when using my own homebrew designs. There’s a statistically signficant difference, so I can’t claim that I am an awesome deck designer. (Maybe in the future.)

I think that netdecking makes more sense the less time you can dedicate to Magic. For people like me who barely have one hour a week to playtest before playing in tournaments, netdecking makes a lot of sense. Definitely, if you have the time and inclination to design and develop your own original decks, you should do so, especially since having a Filipino-designed deck taking the world stage would be a big source of pride to local Magic players.

But for people like me especially at times like these when I’m busy with work, if I try bringing a self-designed deck to a tournament with minimal preparation, usually disaster happens . For the time being, I should focus on learning the ins and outs of the known decks so that I can make less mistakes and choose a good deck to play in the coming GP Trials and Nationals Qualifiers.

Above Average

Above average – a level of competency at a given subject such that:

  1. You are good enough that average people look at your work and tell you “You’ve got a lot of talent!”
  2. You are good enough that you know there’s a huge gap between you and those who are truly excellent.

I was wondering the other day whether being above average was a curse. It’s like being good enough to be in movies, but never good enough to be the star. Everyone around you is happy that they know someone who appears in movies, but deep inside you wish you were the star.

I don’t think anyone ever dreams of being above average. Unfortunately most of the time there’s a huge gap between “above average” and “excellent” that requires so much more effort for incremental gain. When looking at that plateau, it may seem insurmountable so many people just settle for being above average.

I find myself thinking about this now because I’m often faced with one of those plateaus in one aspect of life or another. And when you’re there looking at that plateau you need to ask yourself: Is it worth it to devote your time and energy to becoming the best you can be in this particular area?

My curse then, is that there are many areas where I consider myself “above average”, such that it’s difficult for me to decide on the path I want to take in life. I don’t want to have to choose just one path, I don’t want to choose just one area to be excellent in. I’m greedy; I want it all damn it! And this might be why I’m cursed to remain merely above average.

For now.

Free Wi-fi @HK International Airport

I’m blogging from an airport; I feel like such a seasoned traveler. Actually I’m writing this post just so that I can claim to post on the internet from airports.

I am of course flying back to Manila after a short 3-day visit to Hong Kong. People always ask me where I plan to go while in HK, even though I always come here to work. It’s even worse this time, as I flew in Sunday evening, attending a three-day seminar until Wednesday, working during the evenings then flying back Thursday morning. Not much time to do anything really.
Continue reading “Free Wi-fi @HK International Airport”

Laptop Keyboards Suck

Seriously. Having to hit an extra key just to use “Home” or “End”? For some reason, PrintScreen and CapsLock keys are higher priority than Home and End, meaning you don’t need to use “Fn” to access them. Do people not use Ctrl+Shift+Home and Ctrl+Shift+End all the time? I’m sure a lot of developers do. Whenever I’m on this laptop and need to use Home or End, I mentally pronounce “Fn” as a seven-letter word starting with “F” and ending with “ing”.

I like laptops, but keyboards need to improve in some way. My suggestion? Remove the trackpad and have an extra row for those keys that you would have relegated to “Fn” status.  While using the keyboard is around 200 times more productive than using the mouse (citation needed), the mouse is around 200 times more productive than the trackpad.

Who designs these interfaces anyway? Do Mac users have similar issues?