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Picks of the Week, 5/3/2015

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This has been an exciting week for Magic. From the breakout of 5-Color Dragons as a real deck in Standard to the spoiling of a number of exciting Modern Masters cards, there are plenty of reasons to get hyped. But that's not all! There was also plenty of unique and interesting content that ran the gamut from Magic's role in people's lives to breaking down the fundamentals of Control mirrors. No matter what your Magical interests are, this is the content you won't want to miss. Spend your Sunday catching up on Team Gathering Magic's picks of the week.

Picks of the Week: May 3, 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.

Taking Control of the Control Mirror with Reid Duke

I am an unabashed Control enthusiast. There's nothing I love more than hitting land drops, countering spells, and jamming powerful trumps like Karn Liberated or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. My favorite deck that I've ever played was Blue-Red Cloudpost in Pauper. It's been a long time since I've played a deck that powerful and flexible. Once Invigorate and Grapeshot were banned, it was the best deck in Pauper by country mile, and the ensuing arms race for mirror technology is something that I absolutely loved.

Control mirrors are my favorite kind of Magic because there are so many things to balance. You have to hit land drops, sculpt your hand, and make critical decisions about what actually matters as games go long. This week, Reid Duke breaks down control mirrors in a way that makes them much easier to grok and discuss. Reid is a spectacular writer, and has an incredible knack for making high level concepts understandable and relate-able.

The idea that Control mirrors are all about balancing the passive and active phase is particularly salient. While the general idea is that players want to hit land drops, resolve card draw spells, and make it to the late game relatively unscathed, the real meat of control mirrors is the back and forth that ensues when someone tries to resolve something. What you really want are instants or cheap sorceries that can force your opponent to give you an opening to resolve a haymaker. In Standard, we have Thoughtseize. We previously had Restoration Angel and Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir as flash threats.

In Pauper, many players tried to get out ahead in the post mirror by using Stone Rain and Earth Rift to stay ahead until you could Capsize-lock your opponent. I found that those cards never really did enough, and that I'd prefer to allow land destruction and card drawing to resolve. After all, Capsize was the only card that really mattered. At least until someone found Temporal Fissure. That card was the perfect means by which you could break open the passive phase without being punished when your opponent untapped.

Finding technology like Temporal Fissure is what I enjoy most in Magic. I love looking for the small edges and trying crazy things to see if I can solve the puzzle of what the most important cards and interactions are. Choosing where to pick your fights is of critical importance, and Reid makes it easier to talk about when the pace of the game is shifting and to understand how players are trying to push the game to different places along the spectrum between active and passive.

Jim Davis's Cube Compendium

In general, I am not an enormous fan of Limited. I make an exception where Cube is concerned, and Cube is actually one of my favorite ways to enjoy Magic. That players can jointly design the kind of experience they're interested in having before they even sit down to deal out packs and start passing to their left is absolutely incredible. As someone who has started building many different themed cubes, I'm excited to see what Jim Davis has to say about balancing power, fun, and theme.

So far, he has touched on the ideas of avoiding excessive redundancy and homogeneity, of ensuring that the cube maximizes the potential for interaction, and of including cards which are flexible. In particular, you're always on the lookout for cards that are good on their own, but absolutely amazing if you pick them up early and build around them. These straightforward principles make it easier for me to understand where I went wrong in my previous attempts and what I can do better next time.


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