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Great Magic Writing of the Week, March 2

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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 The New Black

Modern is a diverse format, full of a myriad interesting strategies across colors and archetypes. But all of them clash. Either the flavor isn't right. The reds are too green. It's just not right. Join MJ as she channels her inner-Spike and defines what it is to be a competitive Vorthos. What's a stylish, flavor-minded planeswalker like MJ to do in a wide open format like Modern? MJ is ready to return to the color of class and sophistication - Black is back.

GatheringMagic.com: MJ Scott (@moxymtg) - The Competitive Vorthos: Loving Lili's Rack in Modern

I’m a Vorthos who likes to win.

I am never going to play a pet deck that is simply awful. But I might claw my eyes a bit at having to choose Simian Spirit Guide and its Planet of the Apes rave art over Pyretic Ritual when there is no other green at all in my deck—anywhere. I need my lands and tokens to match, for my sleeves to be fashionable as well as functional, and I prefer it when the card art of my carefully engineered brews complement, or at least don’t offensively contradict, each other.

And art should support what the card does. Lingering Souls? Come on, the guy with the meat cleaver in his back doesn’t have flying, obviously. He just has a bad attitude. I also demand that decks I play feel right according to what the cards conceptually represent. There’s nothing more annoying than slinging something labeled Burn when during actual gameplay it feels as though you’re taking minor jabs at your opponent, armed only with single-use sharpened twigs.

Another good example is Storm. I was excited to watch Kai Budde pilot the deck this past weekend at Pro Tour Born of the Gods and see what it was all about—after all, with a name like Storm, it could be nothing short of epic on the level of an episode of Game of Thrones, right?

You can imagine my deep disappointment when I watched Budde count cards for minutes on end, his opponent even stepping in to help out with tallying at one point. That wasn’t a storm. That was reliving the hell of my past life as an accountant. Seeing Budde methodically laying card after card and making copious tick marks on his phone was the Magic version of counting screws and chain link for hours in an industrial warehouse. No thanks. Something called Storm should feel like you’re flying high with Ororo Munroe, baby, nothing less.


On Magic Caves

What components are required to build a suitable Magic cave? Join Mike and make sure your Magic cave is up to specs. Space and Storage. Lighting and Ambiance. How can you class up the space you use for your gaming nights? Mike runs down the requirements for his ideal gaming space.

GatheringMagic.com: Mike Linnemann (@VorthosMike) - Creating Your Magic Cave

What Are the Must-Haves for a Magic Cave?

I find the term “man cave” to be one for NASCAR sports fans and folks from Wisconsin who really love their Miller High Life. I’m not against their wishing to have a separate space, but rather, the term doesn’t really fit what I’m writing about today. I realized that I’m making my own Magic cave and, well, since I’m going through all these thought processes, I figure it could be fun for you to come along with me!

Let’s go.


On Modern Data

The best and worst thing about Pro Tours is that they mix formats. Suddenly, the very best players in the room rise to the top of the standings more consistently. This means better competition. The problem is that the draft portions muck up perfectly good data on the performance of Modern decks! This is a problem for Adrian Sullivan, who wants to be armed with knowledge heading into Grand Prix Richmond. Consequently, Adrian has broken down the results of Pro Tour Born of the Gods ignoring the draft portion to find the top performing Modern decks and strategies at the Pro Tour.

StarCityGames.com: Adrian Sullivan (@AdrianLSullivan) - Data Mining for Modern in Valenica

What Is Good In Modern?

This is the question that serious tournament players always ask themselves about whichever format they're addressing. Sometimes people's understanding of a format simply isn't attached to reality because they are only getting a very narrow picture.

To understand what I mean, let's take a quick glance at the highest-profile decks in the event: the eight decks that played in the Top 8.

1st: Shaun McLaren – U/W/R Control

2nd: Jacob Wilson – Melira Pod

3rd: Patrick Dickmann – Splinter Twin

4th: Anssi Alkio – Splinter Twin

5th: Lee Shi Tian – U/R Control

6th: Christian Seibold – Affinity

7th: Chris Fennell – Storm

8th: Tim Rivera – Splinter Twin

The problem? Well, if you isolate for just the Modern portion of the event, half of the players in that list would not even be included among the very top portion of the field. For example, Shaun McLaren sits at 31st place among competitors if one just counts Modern.

Of course, even isolating for any particular Constructed portion of an event is a difficult proposition. When you're dealing with mixed format events, you stop actually having the equivalent of "cream rising to the top" when it comes to successful decks. Mixed format events are better at discovering who the best players are in an event but less successful at helping to unravel what the best decks are. A big part of the reason for this is that even the best performing deck might not have been playing against other decks that were performing just as well.

If you're a whiz at Draft, you might end up 6-0 in Draft and find yourself paired in round 12 against an opponent who went 2-4 in Draft; you both may have a 7-4 record going into the round, but your opponent went 5-0 in Constructed, while you went 1-4. Even outside of that, if we compare two players with 7-2 records in Constructed after round 15, this topsy-turvy nature of one's opposition means that you really can't tell how strong their opposition was overall.

The best solution I have to this problem is to simply accept it, go through the hard work of figuring out the Constructed strength of the opposition, and use that to create the equivalent of a tiebreaker based on the performance of only Modern. This does mean that the data isn't perfect, but it's probably as good as you're going to be able to do without simply ignoring all of the data and waiting for Grand Prix Richmond to sort it all out.

Well, I'm not sure about you, but I tend to prefer walking into those events with good data in hand rather than walking out of them waiting for the data after the fact.


On Restrictions

Restrictions breed creativity. Mark Rosewater said it, and it has become the mantra of designers, Johnnies, and casual players the world around. Commander is already a format about restrictions. Singletons only. Legendary Creatures. Color identity. But what happens when you heap additional restrictions on top of the ones already built into the format? That's what Adam Styborski is taking a look this week: decks that push creativity a step further by using the most extreme of restrictions.

DailyMTG.com: Adam Styborski (@the_stybs) - Juicing Creativity

I love these words.

 

Commander is a restrictive format. Take another look at all the rules for deck construction and play: It's a lengthy list that's a daunting task to remember when you first learn about the format. But for those of us who have built hundreds or thousands of deck, and spent countless hours trawling Gatherer for cards we may have missed along the way, Commander can still feel vast.

The restrictions of Commander aren't always restrictive enough to slake the thirst of voracious deck builders.

Adding additional boundaries to stay within forces us to make different, difficult decisions for cards. These are some of the ways—and decks—that you shared that resulted from the extra effort.

On Being Correct

What goes into finding the correct play? Not the one that feels best, seems best, or leaves you with some outs. The mathematically correct play that gives you the extra one, two, or half-percentage points to win the game. Mike Flores has started a new column on TCGPlayer.com called Make the Play Monday, where he introduces a game state, runs down how you got to that point, and asks you to make the play. On Friday, he runs down all of the reasonable options and recruits one of Magic's best to weigh in on the situation.

If you're looking for a chance to step up your critical thinking about Magic, this column promises to be a weekly exercise in maximizing your chance of winning by paying attention to the most subtle of details in sequencing, strategy, and more.

Magic.TCGPlayer.com: Michael Flores (@fivewithflores) - Apologies in Advance Part One, Part Two

On turn five things seem to be looking up in our world! Magma Jet! Certainly this will win the game on the spot!

The opponent draws, produces a wide grin, and sends in his two Tarmogoyfs, bringing us to 14. He then plays Temple Garden and shows us what he just drew: Tribal Flames for five to our grill via the improbable rainbow of Overgrown Tomb, Hallowed Fountain, and basic Mountain (and the now-redundant Temple Garden), knocking us down to nine.

Immediately he sees his mistake. "Oh, my God..."

How to respond?

"Don't worry about it. You're dead anyway." (flashing the Jet)

or

"Yeah, you missed a couple..." (acknowledging his error in order)

or

"Hey, at least we're not on camera!" (comically)

...we choose Silence and point the Magma Jet to his face, revealing...

Two. More. Mountains

Argh!

How unlucky!

ONE. TIME. DEALER.

We push both to the bottom of our deck, and draw...

Arid Mesa.

Our life total - 9

Our hand - Arid Mesa

Our graveyard - Searing Blaze, Searing Blaze, Goblin Guide, Magma Jet

Our board - Mountain, Mountain, Teetering Peaks, Mountain, Mountain

Opponent's life total - 2

Opponent's hand - 0 cards

Opponent's graveyard - Wild Nacatl, Wild Nacatl, Lightning Bolt, Tribal Flames

Opponent's board - Hallowed Fountain, Overgrown Tomb, Mountain, Temple Garden, two 3/4 Tarmogoyfs

We have not revealed any cards with Goblin Guide that are not noted above; the opponent never drew any extra land cards either. In fact he has been whining that his double mulligan was compounded by not drawing any extra lands off of our terrible Goblin Guide!

How do you play this turn and to what specific intent next turn?


On Modern Misfits

Frank Karsten played Affinity at Pro Tour Born of the Gods, but it wasn't necessarily his first choice. Frank and team ChannelFireball ran through a number of different decks on the way to their various selections for the Modern Pro Tour, and this week Frank runs down the decks that weren't quite good enough. From Amulet of Vigor and Goryo's Vengeance to Lava Spike and Wild Nacatl, what strategies came just a little bit short?

ChannelFireball.com: Frank Karsten (@karsten_frank) - The Island of Modern Misfits

I just returned from Valencia, where I finished the Pro Tour in 41st place. As I have a lot of topics to tackle, I'm going to split up my Pro Tour report into three parts. Today, I will go over interesting Modern decks that I brewed up, playtested, and eventually discarded. Next week, I will discuss the Affinity list that I actually registered for the Modern portion of the event. And in two weeks from now, I will present and discuss my pick order list for Born of the Gods Limited.

Although I ended up playing Affinity, it was merely my plan B from the beginning. The deck was solid and I had prior experience with it, but it was nothing special. I only ended up running it because plan A (break the format and find a novel, powerful deck with excellent matchups across the field) failed.

Born of the Gods didn't bring many relevant cards for Modern except for Courser of Kruphix and a few fringe cards, but the unbanning of Wild Nacatl and Bitterblossom and the banning of Deathrite Shaman shook things up quite a bit, and I hoped that it would open up new opportunities in the Modern format. This article will treat my failed attempts.


 

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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