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Picks of the Week, 4/5/2015


Dragons have arrived and there's a Pro Tour on the horizon. Soon Magic's best will be assembling in Brussels to battle for supremacy with Elder Dragons at their beck and call. This is an exciting time to be playing Magic we have a new Standard format to explore, and plenty of new interactions from Dragons of Tarkir to consider. However, with big teams keeping their technology on lockdown, that excitement may have to wait for next weekend. In the meantime, Team Gathering Magic is excited to share their favorite games, content, and culture from this week.

Picks of the Week: April 5, 2015

Carlos Gutierrez is an Associate Editor for Gathering Magic, an engineer-in-training, and a Commander and Pauper enthusiast. By day, he works as a STEM educator, but he spends his weekends hitting all his land drops and trying new board games, puzzles, and video games. You can find all of him sharing Commander craziness, baked goods on Twitter, and complaints about graduate school at @cag5383.


Standard by the Records

Frank Karsten is one of my favorite Magic players. I learned to play the style of decks that I enjoy by watching Frank play Gifts Ungiven is Kamigawa Block, Ravnica-Champions Standard, and old Extended formats. I admire the analytic way with which he approaches the game, and I learn more from his Magic Math articles than most other articles about metagames, new brews, and corner case interactions.

This week, Frank takes a look at what the Standard metagame looks like with the addition of Dragons of Tarkir, but weights the results by record, which is an interesting way to look at what the format looks like among the best performing decks without completing ignoring the decks you're going to run into during the first few rounds. If you're looking to get ahead in this Standard format, Frank's breakdown is a great place to start.

Life lessons. Magic musings.

It continues to amaze me how many of the things that I learn from Magic and other games are applicable to other aspects of my life. Patience. Balance. Weighing decisions quickly and efficiently. Committing to a decision. These are all things I learned while building decks, casting Grizzly Bears, and deciding whether or not I had to Counterspell something.

It's also interesting to think about what kind of lessons can be learned elsewhere and applied to Magic. That's what Matt Sperling has written about this week. I think you'd be hard-pressed not to learn something about effective communication, finding your own voice, and managing conflict from Matt's article. Even if those lessons aren't useful to you, learning to shift your mindset and look for these kinds of connections is a valuable tool that may serve you well in many different aspects of life.

Dear Boss

I love deduction games. Ever since my uncles first played Clue with me when I was very young, I've loved trying to solve a puzzle. There's no feeling quite like that moment where you find the last piece of information and all the pieces fall into place. This analogy is particularly ironic, since actual jigsaw puzzles give me a headache like nothing else in the world.

The most recent deduction game that my family has picked up is Letters from Whitechapel, an awesome game oozing with flavor from the turn of the 19th century. One player takes up the role of Jack the Ripper while the other one to five players assume the role of police officers. The whole game plays out on a map that is based on the Whitechapel district of London, and the key points on the map were selected to mimic those associated with the murders canonically attributed to Jack the Ripper.

The game begins with the player playing Jack stalking a victim and scouting out police locations. Once he selects a victim for the first night, the chase is on! The location of Jack on the board is not denoted by any pieces, but rather is secretly recorded by Jack. The police try to track him down, and find clues on spaces that Jack has been to during that night. If Jack can weave his way through the police dragnet back to his hideout, the clues are cleared away and a new night begins. The police use clues obtained during previous nights to try to pinpoint Jack's hideout and catch him on subsequent nights.

This creates an awesome game of cat-and-mouse, where Jack tries to lead players on a merry chase around the board, doubling back and looping around to obscure to location of his hideout. If the police can figure out what Jack is trying to do and catch him before the end of the fourth night, they win. Otherwise, a murderer gets to roam free.

Sick Reads

My last pick for this week is a two-player game that I've had for the longest time, but that my girlfriend and I are just beginning to get back into: Yomi. I'm a huge fan of fighting games, and have learned a lot about how to play Magic and handle many other kinds of situations from playing Super Smash Bros. Melee, and there's little I enjoy more than spending a Saturday afternoon watching top level Melee.

However, some people just don't enjoy that kind of game. Some people don't want to invest the time in learning the technical aspects of the game, much less the more abstract mental game of conditioning, maximizing 50/50's, and making big reads. My girlfriend is one of those people. She just does not enjoy those games the same way I do. Yomi is a great game for us.

The game is built on a Rock-Paper-Scissors mechanic, where attacks beat throws, throws beat dodges or blocks, and blocks and dodges beat attacks. From there there's an interesting combo system that can chain into powerful finisher, knockdowns, or other mixups. There are eight characters in the base set, each with a completely unique ability, deck, and flavor. I love the more combotastic characters, like Setsuki Hiruki and Valerie Rose, while Becca loves the gambling panda, Lum Bam-Foo.

The game is easy to learn, plays very quickly, and is a fantastic two-player game that has the same back-and-forth feeling as an intense fighter. Everything can change with the flip of a card. You can lead the entire game and get smashed with an enormous combo at the very end, or you can play a super tight game that's decided by chippping away at blocks and eating away at your opponent's options. The best part? The decks are so small that you could easily toss a few in a backpack to carry around for a Grand Prix or other large event.

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