A staggering amount of Magic content is published each day each day on a plethora of content sites, blogs, podcasts, and discussion forums. No matter how honest an effort you make, it's easy to fall behind and miss incredible articles because there just isn't enough time to read everything.
To that end, we've collected some of the best articles of the week covering a broad range of topics. If you're looking for articles, these are the ones you don't want to miss!
On the Play
It is generally accepted that being on the play is a huge advantage, but is that necessarily true? Florian Koch is putting this piece of common knowledge to the test using statistical analysis of Magic Online results. So how much does the die roll actually matter? Does that answer change depending on how strong of a player you or your opponent are? Florian answers these questions and more in his article.
To do this properly, we need a hypothesis. An easy hypothesis would be: “The player playing first has a higher chance to win the game than the player on the draw.” The null hypothesis would then be: “Being on the play does not influence a player’s chances of winning.”
On Return to Ravnica Block Draft
Last time on Ars Arcanum, Matthew Watkins took a look at Dragon's Maze as a set and speculate on what that might mean headed into the prerelease. This time Matt is delving into how Dragon's Maze, Gatecrash, and Return to Ravnica may interact as part of a draft format. In this article, Matt looks back at what the Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash formats looked like and uses graphics to draw comparisons between Dragon's Maze and the previous two sets. Matt's articles are a huge boon to anyone who's looking to start grinding drafts on Magic Online, and are a great resource for finding your footing in a new Draft format.
The two charts above show the average number of creatures at each converted mana cost in a given DGR draft. The second chart compares DGR with both RTR and GTC. The first thing that we should notice is how similar these three formats appear when we look at charts of their converted mana costs. The full block format is definitely skewed slightly to the right, but it has very similar numbers to the other three sets on each part of the curve, with only the six drop slot being a true exception, which is mostly due to Dragon’s Maze having the common maze elemental cycle. However, although the average converted mana costs look very similar, this should not lead us to believe that the full block will have the same speed as the other two sets. We can just compare RTR and GTC for an example; the two sets have fairly similar CMC charts, but they play out at vastly different speeds.
On Having a Plan
Magic is about more than techy sideboard cards and strong technical play. Many times the difference between winning and losing is having a plan and knowing how to execute it. Knowing how a hand fits into your deck's strategy, how you want your hand to play out, how you want to sideboard, and being able to adapt those ideas to changing circumstances is where many games are won and lost. This article by Brian Braun-Duin is an exploration of the importance of imagining and executing a strategy, complemented by the humor and great storytelling that we've come to expect from Brian.
When I was struggling my way through college, I got asked the questions "what are you going to do when you get out?" and "where do you see yourself in five years?" roughly seventeen million times. My answer was always "I don't know" followed by some generic potential line of work to hopefully appease the person asking the question. If that didn't work, then I kind of stammered out some unintelligible phrases for a while, hoping they would take pity on my poor soul. If that didn't work, I began convulsing uncontrollably until the subject was changed. That always worked.
I had no clue what the future held for me, and my mind kind of just melted down when I tried to think seriously about it.
Thankfully, in a much more controlled environment—say a good old game of Magic: The Gathering—I was able to do a bit better in coming up with some long-term plans. Coming up with a plan is something that doesn't get touched on that often, but I believe it is one of the most important skills for a Magic player to have and one that a lot of players simply don't even think about.
On Legacy with Dragon's Maze
While everyone else is busy trying to figure out how Dragon's Maze fits in to Standard and Modern, Adam Prosak is busy brewing for Legacy. Which cards are poised to revive old archetypes or create new ones? Is there another Deathrite Shaman-esque card poised to take the format by storm? In this article Adam takes a look at Varolz, the Scar-Striped, Beck//Call, and Ral Zarek and shows you show of the shells that they might fit in to:
That's right, the most fun Magic: The Gathering card ever printed returns! Don't you just LOVE Stasis?The key to this deck is the interaction between our new friend Ral Zarek's +1 ability and Stasis itself. Untapping a permanent per turn allows Stasis to be paid for indefinitely, while the tap ability is somewhat kismet. Once your opponent is locked, there are a few ways to win.1) Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Probably the easiest path.2) Get a bunch of lands in play, and then use Chain of Vapor to bounce your own Stasis, giving you an untap step so that you can pay for your Stasis for a while without the help of Ral Zarek. Then do one of the following:a) Use Ral Zarek's -2 a bunch of times. It's not unreasonable to get Ral well into double digits just keeping your Stasis alive.b) Attack with a creature stolen from Vedalken Shackles, using Ral to untap the creature.
On the Prerelease Experience
If there's one thing Magic players can agree on, it's that prereleases are awesome. This is never more true than when you're a new player who is excitedly anticipating a new and exciting Planeswalker or giant monster or looking for more populate cards for their Selesnya deck. In addition to knowing his way around a multiplayer game, Bruce Richard is also a tournament organizer and for the last few sets he's run a junior prerelease for some of the younger players. These are the kinds of articles that bring back all kinds of nostalgia and reminds us of the joy of discovery from when we first started cracking packs.
Our prize structure is fairly flat. What I mean by "flat" is that I don't give out most of the prizes to the few players at the top. Everyone, no matter where they place, gets a free pack. For every match you win, you get another free pack. While this means that a player going 4–0 will only get five packs, it does mean that the players at 0–3 still have a chance to win a pack. I also offer what I call "Consolation Boosters." For every match a player loses (or ties), he or she receives a booster that includes ten older commons, three older uncommons, a rare, and a foil card. These cards are provided by me and players in my regular Thursday night play group. Many of the foil cards are promos that were left over from previous tournaments, so the occasional Mayor of Avabruck or Wurmcoil Engine can end up in a pack you received for losing a match.
What's so unique about that?
The average age of the players at my Prerelease was twelve.
On Hidden Treasure
Magic culture is a pretty awesome thing, and the community around this game is only growing larger and more diverse. As that happens, there are going to be more people doing awesome things. Treasure Hunt is a weekly collection of awesome pieces of Magic culture assembled by Michael Roblesfrom across the internet for your enjoyment. If you like the idea of a stuffed Fblthp, custom deck boxes, and Magic moments captured on film, this is an article you won't want to miss.
Forget Ral Zarek, forget Aurelia, the Warleader, forget Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius. Everyone knows who the real hero of the Return to Ravnica block is. We just have a hard time saying his name. Fblthp, the runaway star of Gatecrash, has taken the community by storm. He’s spawned websites, he has his own Twitter account, and his story gave us all the feels. It was only a matter of time before someone made this little homunculus a reality. That’s where Tally comes into play. Tally is known as the “crafty one” from LoadingReadyRun. Her monsters, beasties, and other items are extremely high-quality, and she continues to impress any community she’s making monsters for. This life-sized Fblthp looks amazing! I just want to give him a big hug and whisper, “Shh . . . Don’t worry, little guy. Everything is going to be okay.” It’s adorable, and I want it.
On Navigating the Maze
With a new set comes another infographic, and James Arnold has knocked it out of the park again. If you ever wanted to know anything about Dragon's Maze, this is the place to get it. James goes through everything from creature types and converted mana costs to guild representation. James even reveals who he believes will emerge victorious from the Implicit Maze. James manages to condense an incredible amount of information into a small package with great humor and artistic flair, and his infographics are always worth a click.