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Picks of the Week, 8/2/2015


Picks of the Week: August 2, 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.

Pro Tour Picks

The Swiss is over. The top 8 has been determined. Players are resting, teams are testing matchups, and it's time for people to start calling their shots. If I'm being honest, I think that Kentaro Yamamoto is the player with the best matchups throughout the top 8. Siege Rhino is a great card to be playing, and Languish is going to be insane against the mana creatures, small Red creatures, and thopter tokens that the other players have brought to the table.

Seriously though, who wants to pull for reasonably established decks like Abzan, Mono-Red, or Green devotion when there's a sweet new deck in the top 8? Blue-Red Artifacts is the breakout deck of the event, with Whirler Rogue and Ensoul Artifact taking Standard by storm. There are two copies of the deck in the Top 8, piloted by Stephen Berrios and Mike Sigrist. Of the two, I prefer Stephen Berrios's build. Berrios's copies of Pia and Kiran Nalaar and Thopter Engineer seem like they will help gum up the ground against Red decks and grind out Abzan decks more effectively.

The card that I'm most excited about is Tomb of the Spirit Dragon, which seems absolutely insane in a Top 8 with three copies of Mono-Red Aggro. Profaner of the Dead seems absurd in the mirror, Disdainful Stroke does a fine impression of Stubborn Denial, and while you might miss Seismic Rupture against the Red decks, Wild Slash is a fine substitute.

While I think Kentaro Yamamoto has the best deck for the Top 8, Stephen Berios is the player I'm pulling for. Pro Tour Magic Origins has been full of sweet decks, very few of which made the Top 8. Hopefully by this time tomorrow, we'll see one of the good guys hoisting the trophy.

Cuneo Did it Again

There are few things that I love more than an Andrew Cuneo control deck. From the Scars of Mirrodin era Pristine Talisman control deck to the Return to Ravnica era Sphinx's Revelation deck, to the various Trading Post/Haunted Plate Mail/Mutavault brews at the end of last Standard, there has not been a Cuneo control deck that I have not been excited about. This weekend he unveiled something that is head and shoulders above everything else as far as I'm concerned. This weekend he unleashed Sphinx's Tutelage on Standard.

How can you not love casting Alhammarret's Archive in Standard? Especially when it doubles up Treasure Cruise, turns Magmatic Insight and Tormenting Voice into card advantage engines, and allows Radiant Fountain and Swiftwater Cliffs to keep aggro decks at bay. The best part? The win condition is something as absurd as Sphinx's Tutelage. With that card in play, you literally value your opponent to death by burying them in card advantage.

I love value. I love card selection. I love do-nothing control decks. This deck has all of those things in spades, and is easily my favorite part of Pro Tour Magic Origins

On the Difficulty of Pro Tour

During Hall of Fame discussions, something that inevitably comes up is how the Pro Tour has changed since its inception. Pro Tours are bigger now, and it is argued that the average quality of the players is substantially higher. Other people argue that cards like Hero's Downfall and Siege Rhino are not as skill intensive as cards like Fact or Fiction and Tinker. These changes, combined with the fact that many old school players have faded from the public eye, makes it difficult to draw meaningful comparisons and truly understand the relative difficulty of achievements.

At least until now. Henry Druschel has written a number of interesting statistically driven articles this week studying things like how Pro Tour performance varies with age. I was most interested in his piece on how the difficulty of the Pro Tour has changed in the last ten years. So has the difficulty really stepped up? Henry has crunched the numbers; read on to find out what conclusions he was able to draw!

Games Done Quick

I stumbled onto speedrunning last summer at Summer Games Done Quick 2014. I was browsing Twitch, and saw a channel with tens of thousands of viewers watching Megaman X, a classic SNES game that was an enormous part of my childhood. At family congregations, my cousins and I would spend hours passing the controller around, writing down save codes, and trying to work our way through the end of the game. We never did beat that game, but the guys at SGDQ crushed the game in under an hour. The precision and speed of execution was unbelievable, the games brought up all kinds of nostalgia, and it's for a great cause.

Summer Games Done Quick is an incredible, week-long charity event, raising upwards of one million dollars for its organization of choice - Doctors Without Borders for this year. The event has all kinds of sweet incentives, making routes more difficult, selecting or naming characters, or even adding races or games to the roster. This year, my favorites were the Tetris block, the Zelda games, and the Pokemon Blue run where all 151 Pokemon were caught in two hours.

As I'm writing this, there are just a few hours left in the event, but those hours feature some of the most exciting games of the week: Super Mario 64 and Super Metroid. When this goes live, Chrono Trigger will be the only game left. Fortunately, most of the runs will be on the GamesDoneQuick Youtube channel. So take some time to check out the archives and keep an eye out for the next Awesome Games Done Quick or Summer Games Done Quick event. These events truly showcase some of the most amazing feats of gaming expertise, and channel people's passions for games and nostalgia to do something truly good. Gamers are capable of incredible things when we put our minds to it, and this is just one inspirational example.

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