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Picks of the Week, 5/24/2015

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It's been a quiet week in Magic. We're in the eye of the storm between the Magic Online Championship and the crazy Modern Masters 2015 weekend that kicks off an incredible summer of Magic events. Classes are beginning to wind down, and the air is getting thick with spells. Find out how Team Gathering Magic is gearing up for a summer of magical madness.

Picks of the Week: May 24, 2015

Alex Ullman is Associate Editor for Gathering Magic, a renowned Pauper (cube and Constructed) player, and member of the victorious 2009 Magic Online Community Cup team.You can find him on Twitter as @nerdtothecore.

As we stand on the precipice of Modern Masters 2015 Weekend, I want to take this time to reflect on some of the changes I have seen in Magic during my 20 years in the game.

When I opened my first Revised Starter deck and starting tapping my Sol Ring on the asphalt of the grade school playground (and yes, there were duals as well), I thought Magic was just going to be a fad and I'm pretty sure my parents felt the same way. Somehow though the blunt edges of the cards found a foothold in my brain.

As the years went on I continued to play. Junior Super Series, Pro Tour Qualifiers, Prereleases, and Magic Online – the venue did not matter I just loved the game. Despite it all, I never imagined that one day this game I loved, something I felt belonged to me in some insignificant way, would be popular enough to support thousands upon thousands of players in three countries on a single day.

Magic, when I found it, was not for the cool kids. I was not a cool kid. Today, though, I've matured past my awkward phase and so has Magic. The greatest game has grown to the point where it isn't played in the corner of the blacktop anymore. Now it is primed to be on the biggest stage its ever had – all three of them (four if you count Las Vegas twice).

And I cannot wait to see what the next 20 years holds.

Millencolin - “True Brew”

Sweden is home to some wonderful things, and I'm not talking about Joel Larsson. Millencolin, a skate punk band that helped score the earlies “Tony Hawk” video games also hails from the country. I was exposed to their sounds during my stage crew days in high school. Someone put “Fingers Crossed” on the radio and I fell instantly head over heels in love.

The accented vocals and driving drums lured me in. I eventually found a copy of “Home from Home” and wore that CD down. In the age of the internet I managed to snag “Pennybridge Pioneers” - an absolute classic in the skate punk genre.

Once I was fully entrenched in fandom they released their album “Kingwood” and it was only recently that I was able to love that album as well. The record is a commentary on the creative process and as I write more and more, the words ring ever more true.

Then grad school happened and so did a new record - “Machine 15.”

For me, it fell completely flat. Other bands took up residence in my ears and while I would go back and listen to my old favorites again, I was content to let that be the story of Millencolin in my life.

Late last year I heard they were coming out with a new record.

Then I heard the record.

I was blown away.

“True Brew” is exactly what I wanted it to be. It is a more evolved and mature sound and the lyrics reflect the aging of the band. The members are getting older and their lives are changing (shocker – mine is too) and the songs reflect that. While I can't pick just one track, the closing song “Believe in John” hits me right in the feels every time.

I dare you to not sing along with the closing refrain.


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.

This has been a crazy week. I pulled more all-nighters this week than I have since my last semester of college. I defended my thesis. I got my first scholarly journal article published. I put in my first letter of resignation at my part time job. At this time next week, I'll be taking the first step on my to something resembling adulthood: starting an actual career. My life has stayed relatively static for such a long time. Now, all of a sudden, everything is changing all at once.

Upheaval is equal parts terrifying and exciting. It promises new opportunities and experiences, but at the cost of what is familiar and comfortable. But growing up? That's for next week. Until then, I've got a week off to finally catch up on my reading, my gaming, and some much needed sleep. If you need me for the next few days, I'll be heading down to the nearby cedar lake and cracking open some paperbacks. If you've got good suggestions, be sure to pass them along!

Pauper

Pauper has been my favorite constructed format for quite awhile now. I love formats that feel high-powered, but actually aren't. Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of power in Pauper. After all, cards like Gush, Lightning Bolt, and Brainstorm are legal. That said, Chittering Rats has been a staple of the format for as long as I can remember. There are top tier decks that play Kor Skyfisher. If that doesn't speak to the range of viable strategies, I don't know what does. The best thing? Decks are generally pretty cheap. Whether in Paper or Online, powerful Pauper decks can be built for anywhere between $10 and $50. The sheer breadth of viable strategies and tactical depth of the decks has made them ideal for teaching blossoming competitive players.

Ever since the banning of Cloudpost, I'd moved on to Temur Tron. If there was a variant that did well in a daily event, I played a few matches with it. I scoured sideboards, tweaked the numbers, and came up with a list I was supremely happy with for the Treasure Cruise format. Then people started playing durdley Moment's Peace plus Jace's Erasure decks, and I ragequit the format for awhile. As with most Magic though, it's hard to stay away for long.

Upon defending my thesis, I hopped back on Magic Online and started grinding out games again. For those who are interested, here's the Temur Tron list I like, given the matches that I've played:

All told, I've been pretty happy with this list. Deep Analysis is a fine, if awkward, replacement for Treasure Cruise. I haven't tried Compulsive Research yet, but I'm confident that I like the additional cantrips and Deep Analysis over Sea Gate Oracle. Fangren Marauder is still one of the most underrated cards in Pauper, and certainly my favorite part about this deck. As long as Pauper is a format where you can spend the first three turns cantripping into Tron Lands, this is an awesome thing to be doing.

Unfortunately, it's not. Players have access to hyper efficient, linear strategies like Kiln Fiend, Slippery Bogle, and Fireblast. You can get locked under Spellstutter Sprite plus Ninja of the Deep Hours. Pauper is not a format that is friendly to durdling. Consequently, you have to be more aggressively interactive.

Enter Alex Ullman. Alex and I don't always agree on how Pauper decks should be built - although usually I'm wrong and it's only a matter of time before I come around. This Friday Alex shared an awesome deck that I've been having a blast messing around with. After all, who doesn't love casting Mystical Teachings for Whispers of the Muse? If you want to try burying your opponents in cards, at instant speed, one at a time, keep an eye out for Alex's next article - it's going to be a sweet one.


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