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Great Magic Writing of the Week, August 31


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 International Alterations

Most of us are familiar with some of the bigger names in Magic alterations - Eric Klug, Sandreline, Cardkitty, and more. This week Mike takes a closer look at some of the up-and-comers in the alteration community - you may not know their names, but you've definitely seen their art! If you're looking to commission your own, unique piece of Magic culture, look no further than these awesome artists.

GatheringMagic.com: Mike Linnemann (@VorthosMike)- International Alterists

A fellow Vorthos and one of my former Art Cabal members Jeremy Froggatt used to do a monthly review here on Gathering Magic on alterations. He’d cover the month in review and pick the best things each week, talking about changes in style and people swinging for the fences. In short, it was reddit before /r/magictcg took off. He’s since moved on, raising children and facing Canadian winters. I hear he plays Magic from time to time, when able. I miss ya, bud; hope you can pop in sometime soon.

An article he wrote two years ago was the Alterist Directory. I think it’s time we updated it a bit with some stellar new talent and see how skill has changed over a mere two-year span.

His list contained: Adunakhor, BigUp, Blackbull, Blackwing Studio, Bristol, Cardkitty, Crooked Cross Cards, Demonium, Dewil, Eric Klug, Marta Molina, Ondal the Fool, Poxy, Sandreline, Seesic, Tom Gartin, Toni Micol, and Yurius....

I’m all for giving new talent some face time. Remember that what keeps Todd Lockwood’s dragons incredible isn’t always just his work ethic. He knows that young bucks are at his heels and want his jobs, his commissions, and his income. So he hustles harder. Remember that members of the alteration community all know about each other and will borrow styles from time to time when a commissioner requests it. Inching into someone else’s market share because that person is busy puts you at a level at which you know you made it—not just that you’re busy for now. Competition is good here.

I’d like to add a few new folks to the mix: Cereal Alters, Gamo Kristofferson, Modfly Alters, Mr Shy, Tila Tola, Ondal the Love Fool, Toriy Alters, and Luis H R Morais (Pimp My Deck).

These alteration artists are all on Facebook because most of them live outside the USA. International talent has exceeded expectations and stepped a head above the average alteration person at your local store. In 2014, since we have social media so easily accessed, Facebook eliminated most barriers for talent all over hell to be in touch. Since Facebook is on every phone, it’s the best medium for talking with international artists. They all have accounts, and you can get an artist’s attention because Facebook messages are nearly impossible to ignore compared to e-mails. Since many altering artists are backlogged months down the road, e-mails will be ignored, but a break into social media is always heard.

Onward we go!

On Deck Selection

Choosing a deck is hard. Before your games even start, there's a large number of small choices you can make that have a significant effect on the outcome of your tournament. This week Tom "The Boss" Ross outlines all of the things he considers when he's choosing a deck for a large tournament. What's the deck that's best for you? Tom might not have the answer, but he can certainly help you puzzle it out.

StarCityGames.com: Tom Ross (@Boss_MTG) - Choosing the Perfect Deck For You

Why do people prefer to play different decks?

It's not that the best deck in the format may be a suboptimal deck for a particular person to play. Some just don't want to be "that guy" (or gal), genuinely believe the deck is not that good, don't have the cards for it, would rather play what they know, or have the deck that beats the best deck. Today I'm going to break down the many factors that lead to a person's deck choice. I'd love to attach real numbers and percentages to the importance of each category, but as of now, I only have an intangible feeling of how to weigh each. I do know that I'm happy to sacrifice a few assumed match win percentage points here and there if I feel more experienced with a deck rather than jumping ship at the last minute, regardless of how strong the new deck is.

On New Blocks

Everything is changing. In his Making Magic column this week, Mark Rosewater announced the end of three-block sets. Khans of Tarkir will be the last set with a large set in the fall followed by two small sets in the winter and spring. Not only that, but Magic 2016 will be the last Core Set, and Standard is going to get shaken up in a big way. Find out what exactly is changing and why Wizards has decided this is the best direction for Magic to move forward in. This is one article you absolutely cannot miss.

DailyMTG.com: Mark Rosewater (@maro254) - Metamorphisis

Magic is, at its core, a game about change. I believe the reason that Magicis as healthy as it is (and has lasted as long as it has) stems from the fact that R&D accepts that Magic is an ever-evolving system. We don't fight change but rather allow it to be a tool that lets the game constantly reinvent itself. We use this as an opportunity to keep making Magic better and better.

Today is a special article because Magicis about to go through a metamorphosis. Our little caterpillar is getting ready to wrap itself into a cocoon and I am honored to be the one to introduce you to the new butterfly that will emerge. Yes, big change is coming and it's pretty damn exciting!

Big change? How big? Very big. I'll put it this way. This is the kind of article where when you finish (and please, please, please read the whole thing) you're going immediately go to social media to discuss it because it's that much of a game changer. At this point, I'm guessing some of you are thinking I'm exaggerating a little. As you will soon see, I am not.

On Wedge Development

Shard of Alara was a wildly popular block that gave a distinct identity to the five three-color shards of allied colors: Bant, Naya, Grixis, Jund, and Esper. This week, Sam Stoddard looks forward to Khans of Tarkir and discusses why wedges are so much harder to design cards for than Shards. Sam looks back at previous attempts with a critical eye and promises spectacular things to come in the fall set.

DailyMTG.com: Sam Stoddard (@samstod) - Developing Wedges

One of the hardest parts of making a wedge set like Khans of Tarkir is that there isn't a ton of design space in many of the three-color combinations. The enemy colors are generally best defined by what they are not, as compared to each other, so putting one color with its two enemies doesn't lead to natural designs like shards do. Not that the shard cards were all perfect, but figuring out what one primary color has in common with two secondary colors is a much easier exercise than figuring out how to make wedge cards.

Creating wedge cards can quickly become a box-checking exercise, if you aren't careful. Want to make a wedge card? Take a creature with pretty regular stats and give it one keyword from each color. Lightning Angel, for example, falls into this category—a flying (blue), haste (red), and vigilance (white) 3/4 for four mana. Making a few cards like this is acceptable, but it's not something we wanted to build an entire set around. Development didn't want to get into a situation where we couldn't change the cards we were given from design, ether because no more keywords existed or because the design space was too limited.

One solution that we hit upon, and that Mark Rosewater and the design team were happy with, was making sure that our wedge cards first and foremost felt like they belonged in their respective clans. Shards actually hit upon this same thing, as they needed to make three sets with shard cards, and finding that much design space was also difficult. They definitely stretched some cards by using the flavor and mechanics of each shard to make them work, but I think they were (overall) very successful. Exalted on a blue creature wasn't the most intuitive thing from a flavor perspective, but it worked as part of the total package. I believe Khans was more than able to find satisfying places for its wedge cards by using that criteria, and I am excited for you to start seeing them very soon.

On New Standard

The structure of Blocks is changing, and with it the rotation of Standard and Draft formats. Luis Scott-Vargas wrote a quick recacp of the changes and their implications for more enthusiastic followers of Standard and Limited. Are these changes all upside? What can we expect things to look like this time next year? Check out LSV's thoughts.

ChannelFireball.com: Luis Scott-Vargas (@lsv) - The New Standard

Mark Rosewater announced some pretty exciting news today, so if you haven’t read his article, take a look. I just want to briefly talk about some of the effects of this change, particularly from the perspective of someone who plays a ton of Standard (and will likely play more as a result of these changes).

On Yisan

When Reid Duke sets out to build a new deck, he does not mess around. Reid Duke's newest take on Yisan, the Wanderer Bard is powerul, interesting, and has a great story attached to it. Find out how Reid ended up with this particular list and find out if this is the deck you want to close out the Standard season with.

ChannelFireball.com: Reid Duke (@ReidDuke) - The Wanderer Bard

If you're looking for something a little bit different in the final weeks before Standard rotates, I have just the thing!

“Fun,” and “different,” are one-hundred-percent guarantees with this deck. However, it's also a competitive strategy that has great matchups against much of the Standard field. It's a challenging deck that rewards practice, intimate knowledge of the deck, and tight technical play. It's also highly customizable for anyone looking to improve the deck, gear it for an expected metagame, or simply make it their own.

The Wanderer Bard is the deck I played last weekend at the SCG Open in Washington, D.C., but the story starts long before that.

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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