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Great Magic Writing of the Week, May 11

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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 Bad Beats

We all know that Magic players love telling a good bad beats story, but what about artists? What kind of misfortune, bad luck, and misadventures can befall the more artistically inclined of the Magic community? This week Mike Linnemann explores just that, sharing some of the unfortunate series of events ever to befall Magic artists.

GatheringMagic.com: Mike Linnemann (@VorthosMike") - Bad Art Beats

There are few things that connect Magic players better than a bad-beats story. It’s a poker term meaning a story that tell of a time you had success in your hands and then had it torn out by a silver bullet—by your opponent having the perfect combination of cards—to steal a win. An article series I would love to see reimagined somewhere is a crazy-old article by Paul Sottosanti, former Wizards designer, discussing some bad beats. Maybe that could be a thing on Tumblr, as tweets are too short. Perhaps a video crew could make an ending scene with one story for each posting they make—or a podcast.

I generally like hearing bad-beats stories when I’m playing the Limited format because it’s the difference between being prepared for Triton Tactics and losing out on a Top 8 because you fell asleep to 1 blue mana being available to your opponent. In Constructed play, I'm less interested; it’s akin to retelling a dream. It’s longwinded and terribly uninteresting, and people feign interest at best. There isn’t much to gain from the story, and you are waiting for the line, “And then I found ten dollars.”

So why the hell are we here today, and why am I writing about them?


On Amy Weber

Who is Amy Weber and why is she a big deal? This week, James Arnold got a chance to sit down with a Magic artist from all the way back at the origins of the game and catch up with her about style and experience of working on Magic as well as her current projects. What is it like to be part of the team that created the flavorful world upon which contemporary Magic is built? Join James Arnold to find out.

GatheringMagic.com: James Arnold (@thatguyjames2) - Art Heroes: Amy Weber

A source of joy for many in the Vorthos community is the genuine artistry that went into the creation of the Magic cards we fell in love with. It’s always a treat to make contact with one of the highly creative minds that have been a part of our beloved game—doubly so when the artist in question was one of the founding members who helped define this amazing world some twenty years ago. I recently became one of the lucky ones to find myself (digitally) in the presence of Amy Weber.


On Humans

Sometimes the sickest decks are built under the most dire of circumstances. Last year, Casey Laughman found himself in a terrible situation. His technology had been made public on the internet the week before. His budget was stretched to the limit. Time was running short. A quick Gatherer search, a trip to the card shop, and suddenly Laughman had a deck that he's been working on over the past year. He thinks his deck is ready for the spotlight. Are you inclined to agree?

StarCityGames.com: Casey Laughman (@caseylaughman) - Stupid Human Tricks

In the interest of full disclosure, this is all Drew Levin's fault.

See, about a year ago I was working on a Modern deck for an upcoming PTQ. I had in mind a Grixis Delver deck that was shaping up to be OK, but there was something missing.

Then, I started to see references to a Grixis Delver list that Drew and Zac Hill had concocted, which Drew took to the finals of a PTQ the weekend before the one I was preparing for. I quickly realized two things:

1. It was much better than mine.

2. There was no way that I could come up with everything I needed for it in time. (At least not if I wanted to stay married.)

Back to the drawing board. I needed something cheap, easy to acquire quickly and competitive. No problem, right? I quickly came up with this list of possibilities:

1. Burn

2. Ummm ...

But, in the way that these things often happen, a stray thought led me in a completely unexpected direction. While reading coverage of GP Quebec City, won by Nico Christiansen's Naya Blitz deck, I thought, "wouldn't it be great if you could use Lightning Bolt and Mutagenic Growth instead of Searing Spear and Giant Growth?

"Say. That gives me a really bad idea. To Gatherer!"

One search for "humans" in format "Modern" later, I had the rough outline of a deck. I finished throwing it together, tweaked it here and there to help shore up what I thought would be common matchups, then went to my local shop, Xtreme Games in Lindenhurst, Illinois, to test it out the night before the PTQ.

And proceeded to get absolutely stomped.

But, at that point, I was committed. So I went with it, and very quickly realized that I had stumbled onto something when I won Round 1 by killing my opponent on Turn 3 of Game 3 with a Gut Shot.

You read that correctly.


On MTGJOU Standard

How is Standard evolving now that we've got our first week of results with Journey into Nyx to work with? Where is the metagame headed? Which brews are positioned to become players? Jim Davis breaks down the results of the weekend and discusses what they mean for your next Standard event.

StarCityGames.com: Jim Davis (@jimdownside - The First Eight

And the first eight are in.

The Open Series in Cincinnati went down last weekend and gave us the first major results from our new Journey into Nyx Standard format. Back in the day, a set wouldn't be legal for a week or two after it was released, which allowed people time to get the cards they needed and flesh out their decks. That was quite a long time ago, as now we get thrown right into the gauntlet right away.

It's much more fun this way, isn't it?

This means that innovation slowly trickles in, as those who are reluctant to adopt new ideas stick with their guns while the brave innovate. While there wasn't a whole lot of innovation in Cincinnati, let's take a look at our first Top 4 and see where new cards slotted in and might slot in in the future.


On Assigning Roles

Who's the beatdown? Games are won and lost in the margins of role assignment. When do you start trying to end games? When do you ease up on the aggression and play for a later game? As tempo and midrange decks become more prevalent in Magic's constructed formats, the ability to correctly determine your role is becoming increasingly important for high level play. In formats where Delver of Secrets is legal, Matt Costa has put up some of the most consistent high finishes, which makes him a great person to listen to when it comes to being the beatdown.

ChannelFireball.com: Matt Costa (@mattccosta) - Switching Gears

One of the reasons I've chosen to talk about switching gears is that I think it's one of the most important skills in Magic. Every time you watch a control deck "stabilize," this is essentially what is happening. Aggro decks come out of the gates quickly and apply pressure from turn one, but once the opponent stabilizes, they have very little shot at winning.

On a basic level, control decks are the opposite—they have basically no way to pressure the opponent, but once they stabilize and "get going," the control deck will inevitably win. I'm sure this is all pretty obvious—but these are the two base cases of decks that don't switch gears well. They are typically very good at operating in one gear and pretty bad in the other. Aggro decks rely on winning before the switch is flipped, while control decks can't win unless that happens.

I definitely have a reputation for playing decks that fall in the middle of this spectrum, and will often switch back and forth multiple times per game—or at least at a different point in each game or each matchup.


On Modern Tricks

Some cards do exactly what they say. Divination draws two cards. Some cards like Brainstorm or Oracle of Mul Daya have quite a bit of hidden text. Knowing the corner-case applications of your cards can very easily be the difference in a format as expansive as Modern, and this week Frank Karsten is breaking down his favorite tricky interactions and hidden applications for cards in the most popular Modern decks. Even veterans of the format can find some interesting trick to take away from this exhaustive article by one of Magic's most analytical minds.

ChannelFireball.com: Frank Karsten (@karsten_frank) - Tips and Tricks for Modern

With Grand Prix Minneapolis and the Modern PTQ season coming up, today is a good time to look at interesting interactions, cool plays, and funky maneuvers for Modern.

Some of these will be obvious—others will be more obscure. However, I expect that everyone should be able to take at least one new piece of advice from this article.

I'll start off with a bunch of blue cards and then move to tips and tricks related to other colors.


On Cuts

Sometimes cutting cards from Commander decks feels like choosing a favorite child. Adam Styborksi asked stories about how players go about making difficult cuts and sweeping changes to their decks. From swapping Commanders to re-vamping themes and engines, there are gems of wisdom for every Commander player. Whether you're building a deck from scratch or just tinkering around with improvements, these stories just might help you figure out how to approach tough changes.

DailyyMTG.com: Adam Styborski (@the_stybs) - Premeditated Murder

When adding something new to a Commander deck, choosing what to cut can be the hardest part of the process.

Cutting cards is an infuriating process for me. I already like all the cards in a deck I have built and put them there for a reason to begin with. It's rare that one card is "simply better" than another, so changing one card for a similar one becomes a debate about nuance, circumstances, and pragmatism.

If it sounds like I go in circles over changing cards, that's because I do.

Some of you share in the brutal agony that is this process, while others have no problems slaughtering at will across decks. (Mogis be praised.) This is what you had to share.


 

If you have suggestions for next week's recap you can mention us on Twitter, or share throughout the week in the comments below.


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