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Great Magic Writing of the Week, February 16

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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 Valentine's Day

Share some Valentine's Day Magic with the special people in your life with some help from Polish Tamales. Whether you're looking for Jace, Chandra, Elspeth, Polish Tamales has a Valentine for everyone. As always, Polish Tamales has put together an adorable tribute to the sweetest characters in the Magic multiverse. Be sure to check out his second set of valentines on Mana Deprived as well.

GatheringMagic.com: Heather Lafferty and Polish Tamales (@revisedangel and @PolishTamales - Valentines from the Multiverse

Happy Valentine’s Day! Gathering Magic would like to present you with special Planeswalker Valentine’s cards, crafted by the amazing artist Polish Tamales. You have 365 days a year to be cynical but let’s minus that by one and spend today reveling in the cuteness. Just for you, a Magical Valentine’s Card to print out, post on your best friend’s face book or tweet to your sweetums. Maybe simply send yourself a Valentine and remind yourself why you are magical, because you are magical. You are magical to me.


On Spanning Generations

Magic is more than twenty years old. Take a second to think about what that means. It means that the newest players are significantly younger than the game they are playing. It means that players who got at the beginning are growing up; becoming adults; having children. It means that a new generation of Magic  is beginning. This week, Anthony Willier shares his experiences when it came to teaching a new generation of players about the greatest game ever devised.

GatheringMagic.com: Tony Willier - Generational Magic

Sharing the game of Magic is generally a very positive thing; you make new friends, you support your local game store, and of course, you create memories. I’ve been able to share a lot of great memories since I began playing—ranging from the first coffee table game to my first Pro Tour Qualifier and finally into the present day. I’ve had the bust-a-gut laughing six-man road trips, crazy, fifteen-man multiplayer chaos games, and a ton of others. Of course, there were a few that weren’t so magical. Upsetting my wife for playing way late when I said I would be home earlier and the scary six-man car rides through snowstorms would be on that list. Even with those small bumps, Magic has been great fun for a long time.

Now that I’m coming into my twentieth year playing, I’ve had the good fortune to be able to share this game with my boys. Chase, my oldest, entered his first Draft back during Magic 2010, and Jarod, my twelve-year-old, cut his teeth on the Innistrad prerelease. I’ve been playing before either of them was born, so they’ve always had Magic in their lives. The majority of the time, Magic: The Gathering was just “that card game that Dad plays” and made a mess of on the living room floor. Every so often, they’d ask questions and show a little interest, but they’d then go back to whatever else they were doing. I’ve always been willing to share it with them, but I’ve never forced it . . . it just doesn’t work. Still, at about ten years old, they were asking more often. The big push for each of them began when they started watching Yu-Gi-Oh! on Saturday mornings. They would occasionally ask if we could grab a few packs during an occasional grocery run. Finally, once they got a hang of that, they started asking more about what I was playing and wanted to join in.

Fated Retribution Chase’s most recent favorite card. He came back from behind (5 to 26) to win his match at the Born of the Gods prerelease.

Now I was able to share one of my most enjoyable hobbies with two of the most important people in my life. Even though it’s not really something you’d shed a tear for, it was still a nice feeling to be able to include them in this fun part of my life—not as a child to a parent or adult to kid, but as peers.


On Xenagos

Forget tricks. Forget synergy and recursion. Somtimes you just have to smash things. Bennie Smith has started exploring Modern for Grand Prix Richmond, but his constructed brewings only led back to Commander. Join Bennie as he takes Xenagos, God of Revels for a spin to find out just how aggressive things can get. Will be prepared, or will you join the ranks of opponents that Xenagos has broken?

StarCityGames.com: Bennie Smith (@blairwitchgreen)- I Must Break You

In light of the upcoming Grand Prix in Richmond—shaping up to be the most kickass Magic event of the year right here in my own backyard!—I've been noodling around with various decks trying to figure out what Modern deck I want to play. Since my man Deathrite Shaman has been banned, Necrotic Ooze is definitely in the running, but right now the deck that I'm digging the most is a G/R Devotion deck, which was heavily influenced by a sweet deck Adrian Sullivan wrote about a couple years back called Ivan Drago:

The deck was named after the insanely buff giant Russian boxer that Rocky Balboa squared off against in the fourth Rocky movie, a dude who was more machine than man and engineered to crush mercilessly. His catchphrase was "I must break you."


On Jund

Born of the Gods is here, and has brought with it all manner of awesome brews. So with all these new toys, where is Tom Ross beginning his brews? Sphinx's Revelation? Master of Waves? Pack Rat? No. Tom doesn't want to mess around with devotion-enabled shenanigans - he'd rather just jam some of the most powerful cards in the format. Check out Tom's take on Jund, featuring hard hitters like Courser of Kruphix and Rakdos's Return.

StarCityGames.com: Tom Ross (@CitrusX)- The Jund Machine

As formats develop and the card pool gets bigger, players have access to stronger cards and are able to build more synergistic decks. Jund has always remained a constant among formats for its sheer power, proactive card advantage, and ability to dismantle the plans of your opponent.

Standard Jund has been missing a proactive card advantage source for quite some time now. Without Thragtusk, Huntmaster of the Fells, or something like Bloodbraid Elf, we mostly had a pile of good cards that would run out of steam or draw the wrong answers at the wrong times.

The last time that Jund was seen and talked about in Standard was when Matt Costa won the SCG Standard Open in Providence last year. A few things have changed since then, notably the introduction of Courser of Kruphix, access to a second scry Temple, and the format becoming soft to Rakdos's Return. By getting more value out of playing defensively, you can lean less on hard threats like Stormbreath Dragon.


On #PTBNG

What can we expect to see next weekend at Pro Tour Born of the Gods? Pro Tour Historian Brian David-Marshall took this week to sit down with the coverage team and find out which cards, teams, and strategies they expect to overperform in Valencia next weekend. Who better to speculate on the changing landscape of the highest levels of competitive Magic than those who get to see it up close and personal?

DailyMTG.com: Brian David-Marshall (@Top8Games)- Pro Tour Born of the Gods Coverage Roundtable

 this article goes live it will be just a few hours before the undoubtedly massive Grand Prix Paris begins and just one week away from cracking that first pack of Born of the Godsfor the opening draft of the eponymous Pro Tour in Valencia, Spain. Most of the teams—many of which we looked in on last week—will already be in Spain, trying to understand the new draft format and break the radically changed Modern metagame.

Players are not the only ones getting ready for the big weekend. Equipment is en route, show manager to-do lists are being triple checked, and formats and teams are being dissected by a dedicated coverage team that will be bringing you wall-to-wall coverage of the event. On video and in text, there will be coverage of every round—from the very first draft pick to the crowning of a champion on Sunday—and for the first time in PT history we will be bringing you every game of every match in the Top 8. I got together online with some of the people who will be responsible for bringing you that coverage to get a sense of what to expect next weekend.

Joining me for the Roundtable were text coverage reporters Mike Rosenberg and Blake Rasmussen, two stalwarts of the both GP and PT coverage. Text coverage can be a thankless job in this era of video coverage, but time and time again each year it is their work I return to, to revisit old events, and they are the Wolverines of their craft. On the video side, I am joined by Pro Tour Statistician Rich Hagon and Pro Tour Hall of Famer Randy Buehler—who returns to the Pro Tour scene for the first time in too many years—as well as Limited Information author Marshall Sutcliffe and former Magic R&D member Zac Hill.

On the Commander Banned List

Along with the changes to the Modern banned and restricted list, Sylvan Primordial joined the ranks of cards banned in Commander. Is this a good direction for the format to be heading in? There has always been a certain amount of controversy surrounding the Commander banned list, and this week David Lee shares his thoughts on the Banned List as it stands, and shares his vision of what he'd like to see in the future.

ManaDeprived.com: Dave Lee (@derfington - The Commander Banned List Is a Joke

The Commander ban list is a joke. Everyone knows this. The people playing the format know it, and the people not playing the format definitely know it. The ban list is a joke, and its absurdity is made only more apparent and egregious with the latest ban of Sylvan Primordial.

But it’s a joke for a different reason than you might think. In regular constructed formats, ban lists are required to regulate the Balance of Power and encourage diversity. In Commander, the ban list is meant to be a universal guideline to strengthen and convey the social contract of the format: that every game should be fun for all players.

The social nature underlying the Commander ban list correlates to the social nature of Commander as a multiplayer format. While many players have their own tight-knit playgroups where house rules can be readily agreed upon, Commander has grown so much as a casual format that pickup games are likely more commonplace. For a multiplayer format with so many participants, a universal guideline such as the official ban list is necessary to keep games among random players from devolving into a filthy, hot, arguing mess about whether or not someone should be playing Sundering Titan or Painter’s Servant.

Despite its noble intentions, however, the official ban list is a joke because its porous, inconsistent nature hinders it from carrying out its purpose to any relevant extent. Yes, cards like Worldfire, Biorhythm, and Limited Resources are obviously format-breaking and should be unquestionably banned. Emrakul and Griselbrand are examples of creatures that warp a game merely by being played, and in my eyes were ban-worthy. The line begins to blur, however, when cards like Primeval Titan and Sylvan Primordial are banned.


On Sixty Cards

Play sixty cards. Always.

This is one of the first lessons we learn as aspring magicians. You always want to play the minimum number of cards required so that you maximize your chances of drawing your best cards and minimize variance. This week, Frank Karsten turns his analytical musings to this fundamental piece of Magic wisdom. Is it really always correct to cut down to sixty cards? Or are there situations where it is, in fact, correct to play more cards?

ChannelFireball.com: Frank Karsten (@karsten_frank)- Is Playing More Than 60 Cards Always a Bad Idea?

One of the first things that every Magic player learns is that you must play a minimum of 60 cards in Constructed and a minimum of 40 cards in Limited. One of the next things you learn is that it’s best to stick to that minimum. The reasoning for that is simple: adding more cards will decrease the consistency of your deck, in particular the probability of drawing your best cards.

But does this wisdom always apply? Or are there exceptions where playing more than the minimum number of cards is better?

Before I begin, I need a huge disclaimer: I will consider bizarre, niche examples that I had to rack the internet to find. Please do not think this gives you a justifiable reason to play more than the minimum number of cards—you need a specific set of reasons for that.


 

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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