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Great Magic Writing of the Week, June 8

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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 Multiplayer

Is Conspiracy the best thing to happen to casual Magic since Commander? Or is it indicative of a problem in the way that Wizards sees multiplayer Magic? Daryl thinks both cases are true. Conspiracy is an incredible product, but it also demonstrates some misconceptions that R&D have about casual multiplayer games. In this article, Daryl spells out his issues with the design and opens up the discussion about what good multiplayer design looks like.

GatheringMagic.com: Daryl Bockett (@the_casual_guy") - Why Wizards Still Doesn't Get Multiplayer

As I write this, every casual player is salivating at the thought of Conspiracy! As a proud member of the Casual Tribe, I look forward to forking over many rupees when Conspiracy hits my LGS. But now that the set has been spoiled in all its glory, take a second to look under the hood.

The reprints are fanfriggintastic; you had me at Pernicious Deed, but there are also some very smart pieces of multiplayer technology at the lower rarities. Some of my favorites are Mana Geyser, Victimize, and Respite.

The Draft cards are a little bit different; they’re brilliant (at least three of them making me laugh out loud in public when I first saw them), although they only work in Draft, so once you play them, you may need to play more Draft formats, make a Cube, or forget about them.

But naturally, I most want to talk about the new multiplayer cards. It’s a great set, and I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but some of the cards rub me the wrong way, because the ideas behind the cards make it clear that Wizards of the Cost is full of folks who don’t really understand casual multiplayer. The majority of Magic players are casual, but the majority of card designers and developers are tourney types, and there is a cultural difference between us that I think makes it hard for them to design multiplayer cards. My goals today are to show that, at some level, Wizards doesn’t fully understand casual play, explain how this hurts their multiplayer card designs, and suggest how they could’ve been designed better.


On Vintage

Moxen. Ancestral Recall. Black Lotus. Vintage is coming to Magic Online, and you'd best be prepared. In this article, Jimi Brady provides an introduction to Vintage for players who have never played the format; giving you an idea of what the pillars of the format are and what to expect in your first forays into Magic's most busted format.

GatheringMagic.com: Jimi Brady (@JimiBrady) - Priming for Vintage

Watching a Vintage tournament is a little bit like visiting a private art gallery: You see people using decks worth thousands of dollars with cards that they’ve probably spent years saving up for—or otherwise have won through tournaments. While smaller events allow a certain number of proxied cards, the reality of being a Vintage player means pursuing and owning the Power Nine, which are often the grand prizes at small and large tournaments alike.

For the uninitiated, the Power Nine are Time Walk, Ancestral Recall, Timetwister, Mox Pearl, Mox Sapphire, Mox Ruby, Mox Jet, Mox Emerald, and Black Lotus. These cards are largely considered the most powerful ever printed, though Timetwister is often contended in favor of cards such as Library of Alexandria and Yawgmoth’s Will.

In the world of Vintage, owning pieces of the Power Nine is the ultimate goal, much like winning a Grand Prix or qualifying for the Pro Tour is for the average competitive Magic player. Due to the prohibitive costs of cards in Vintage, however, the format has remained largely unnoticed by the Magic community, and the player base is relatively small. Large events top out at three hundred players, while most other events draw anywhere between thirty and one hundred. The majority of these events are located in Europe, which can be problematic for those who live elsewhere.

So, as you can imagine, Vintage Masters is about to shake things up.


On Modern

Modern PTQ season is upon us, and that can only mean one thing: it's time to break out your Splinter Twins and Birthing Pods and start brewing up tech for the combo mirrors, right? Adrian Sullivan might not necessarily agree. This week, Adrian has looked at hundreds of decks and results from recent Modern events to determine what really defines a successful deck in Modern.

StarCityGames.com: Adrian Sullivan (@AdrianLSullivan) - 320 Modern Decks. 4 Lessons.

If you know me, you know that I am a huge fan of data. While I'm also someone who approaches Magic from a very theoretical standpoint, being grounded in reality matters a lot. Bridging that gap is important.

Several years ago, I wrote an article Good and Bad Magic that talked about striking that balance between theory and empirical evidence. We don't have to be going to "grand theory" or to incredibly rich and detailed evidence, though, to draw some important conclusions.

In the simplest case, we can talk about metagames.

Now, it is important to note that there are absolutely regional metagames. Speaking for the greater Midwest, Chicago-land has always had more people casting Lightning Bolt than your typical area, Indianapolis has generally had way more swarming decks, Minneapolis more controlling decks. You might have a sense of the ways in which your area has its specific preferences, and even if a deck like, say Bogles, is fairly unpopular, in the context of your area, if people like it, they like it, and you have to respect it. This is just the way it is, and while we can see larger trends based on online events and large tournaments, they aren't going to be blindly adhered to universally.

In talking about, say, the Modern metagame, people have said to me all of the following as important evidence for or against a deck selection:

"Yeah, it's a great deck, and it can't lose to Burn."

"I think that deck is a really bad call, because what are you going to do about Ascension?"

"Zoo is a horrible matchup."

"Don't you just lose to Twin?"

While all of the statements may have been true, once you see the popularity of the various archetypes, perhaps the only one that probably matters is that last one, "Don't you just lose to Twin?" When it really boils down to it, against all but the most popular decks, our match results are really just trivia.

I went and looked at 15 recent Modern events, including Magic Online Premiere and Daily events, and the Grand Prix in Minneapolis and recorded archetypes and final results, only accounting for the top portion of the field.



On Banned and Restricted

Over the last few months, Caleb Durward has put together a series of videos in which he tests cards that have been banned in Legacy against the top tier of the current format to see just how good these cards are. Some, like Gush and Tolarian Academy, were just as overpowered as expected. Others were much more reasonable and fun. Which cards are too good for a format of turn two Emrakuls? Which ones might be unbanned by this time next year? Check out Caleb's recap of his results and find out.

ChannelFireball.com: Caleb Durward (@CalebDMTG) - Concluding the Banned Series

I started the Banned Series with Bronson back in April. Every week, I built decks around a couple individual cards off the Legacy banned list and we ran them against a mini gauntlet of tier-one decks. It was a ton of fun and I learned a lot.

Going in, we weren't trying to prove anything so much as get a better feel for the cards and how they might work in the current Legacy scene. Naturally, two guys testing various matchups aren't going to reach the polished lists that the worldwide community would come up with, but it was a step up from pure conjecture, which is what most banned list talk boils down to.

Basically, my goals were:

1) Fun and entertainment.

2) To get some hands-on experience jamming old brokenness into a new world of power creep.

Some weeks were harder than others. We tested cards that have never really been legal in Legacy, cards mostly absent from Vintage, cards that were banned in Extended so fast that an optimal list was never agreed upon.

As the series wound on, there were a number of requests for an article with more developed thoughts and conclusions based on what I learned. While I maintain that the series has its flaws, including a small sample size and finite time for tuning, I do have a better feel for these cards and a follow-up article makes a lot of sense.


On Comebacks

Well, Jamie Parke did it. Not only did he immediately put up another Top 8 finish after qualifying for Pro Tour Journey into Nyx, he's also upped the bar for every major tournament report published from here on out. There are no sideboarding notes here. No lengthy descriptions of convoluted board states and decisions. Jamie took a completely different route and enlisted the help of Patrick Chapin and Spruke to produce his Pro Tour "Rap" Up.

ChannelFireball.com: Jamie Parke (@JamieParke) - PT Journey into Ny "Rap" Up


On Elves and Ogres

Selvala was caught up in a tangled web of lies and treachery and has ended up a prisoner. What did she do? Who is her guard? Who wanted to capture her? Can she work out the details behind this Conspiracy before it's too late?

DailyMTG.com: Shawn Main - Blood Will Have Blood

Three days felt like a long time ago.

"Deadly fawn. Vicious fawn. Murder fawn."

She focused on her breathing and tried not to listen to the sound of the dungeon keeper just beyond her cell door. She knew he was watching from the bars, squat face pressed close, keys clanking at his side.

"Don't you want your supper, Fawn?"

She wondered if she could move fast enough to reach the door before he could react, wondered if she could get a shard of bone into his skull while he was still so close.

"Certainly," said Selvala. She swallowed. She hadn't spoken in three days and her voice was like rocks. "Why don't you come in here and give it to me?"

The dungeon keeper chortled. His disembodied voice echoed from beyond the heavy door.

"Oh fawn, what do you take me for? You took the eye of one my best agents. What do you have smuggled in there, knitting needles?"

Selvala smiled and fingered the crudely sharpened weapon at her side. "A femur."

"Ha!" he cried. "Bone to the eye! I knew you would be good. A master! The others said you were all talk, yet here you are: my perfect assassin."

Her smile dissipated. She didn't look at her jailer's face, but she imagined it. Yellow teeth, bulging eyes, breath hot and putrid. He wasn't made for Paliano either.

"Well, your uncle Grenzo forgives you," said the dungeon keeper. "What's a little blood between friends?"


 

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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