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Jim's Holiday Mailbag


Happy Holidays everyone!

Usually, I'm here to write about what's on my mind in Magic; decks I'm playing, strategic concepts I'm thinking about, new cards I'm interested in, but not today. With Christmas being last week and being in the spirit of the holidays I've decided to open the floor up to you fine folks to ask me about anything and everything! I posted about this a few days ago on my Twitter, my YouTube Community Tab, and in my Piledrivers Discord, which is where all of today's questions will come from.

I can't get to every question due to time and space restraints, but huge thanks to everyone who took the time to ask one. Let's go!

Ah yes, my Cube nemesis Jonathan Brostaff. If you don't know JBro he is a streamer who is consistently one of the trophy leaders whenever Cube is up on Magic Online and we did a big #Cube4Charity Challenge this past weekend to raise money for Charity with LSV, CalebD, NumotTheNummy, Emma Handy, and more.

So, what can you learn as far as "serious" Magic goes when you Cube?

Oracle of Mul Daya

The biggest things are understanding what makes a deck, rather than just a pile of cards. Good Cube draft decks have a cohesive plan, and in order to put them together you need to often pass up on cards that are objectively more powerful but less powerful in the context of the deck you are putting together. This forces you to constantly evaluate both every card in your deck in the context of your current plan, and how that plan may change based around the cards you currently have. Cube drafting also forces you to work with limited resources, which forces you to be resourceful.

Cube Drafting is a great resource to improve as a deck-builder, just be sure you flex your wings and try to draft all different kinds of decks!

Our next question comes from YouTube viewer xtremev1:

This is an interesting question because the context of "making it" in Magic is extremely unclear. "Making it" to one person may not be "making it" to another, so it mostly comes down to personal context.

The point I felt I began to "make it" in Magic was when, after a few years of playing in Pro Tour Qualifiers all along the east coast, I finally punched my ticket to my first Pro Tour playing in a hotel basement somewhere in eastern Pennsylvania.

Extended had just rotated and Aether Vial was banned, but my trusty Goblins were able to take it down.

As a poor 22 year old, getting on that plane alone to go fly to Hawaii and play in my first Pro Tour was a dream come true, as was the following years of flying all around the world playing in Pro Tours. However, realistically I only won a few thousand dollars in this time period and never had a Pro Tour top 8. Was this making it? For your average Magic player this sounds like the dream, but to a serious pro this sounds like an aggressively mediocre career.

For now, I would say I have made it, because I am fortunate enough to get to play Magic as a career. Not by playing and competing in events and hoping to scrape up enough prize money to get by, but rather by running myself like a business and producing the best content that I can across multiple platforms. It's been hard work the last five or so years, but I am astoundingly fortunate to be where I am now.

So, thank you all who are reading and supporting me!

Our next question comes from @Reuxben via Twitter:

For those who don't know, I've played in quite a few bands over the years, as well as hosting a weekly college radio show for a number of years at Stony Brook University. If you'd like to hear more about my music adventures over the last decade or so please check out the Parallel Lives podcast where I was a guest discussing just that:

So how does that translate to Magic? Two major ways.

First, working with a band is very similar to working with a team or testing group. Some members take on a leadership role while others need to be pressured to work harder, and you learn a lot about how to work in a group and manage different personalities for a common goal. Having done this for years with bands led to very transferable skills when I started working with different Magic teams. I was also usually the responsible member of my bands who did most of the logistic work while everyone else was busy doing drugs, so this translated well into helping to ringleader my Magic teams as well.

Secondly, you learn a lot about trying to play to the right crowd. There's a lot more to being in a band than just being a good musician and writing good songs. You can be the best band in the world, but if you don't have some business sense and wherewithal to find the good places to play and get your music out into the world, nobody will ever hear you. Conversely, there have been tons of bands that weren't necessarily great, but met all the right people and made all the right plays when it came to promotion and ended up getting big regardless.

This is essentially mirrored in Magic content creation as well. You can have the best stream ever or write the best articles, but if nobody is watching or reading it just doesn't matter. Learning how to properly promote yourself and mix that in with making great content is very important, as is understanding how people will interact and view your content/listen to your music.

Our next question comes from Leo M odern on YouTube:

Okay, we can do an actual Magic question.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is a format pillar in both Modern and Legacy, but doesn't see much play in Historic. The reason for this is twofold.

One, she doesn't really have a home. There really isn't a deck that Thalia slots into naturally, as without Aether Vial or a critical mass of good creatures she can be awkward. Many of the good threats in Historic are also non-creatures like planeswalkers, Heart of Kiran, or Collected Company, making her far less one-sided than you'd like her to be.

Secondly, she just lines up poorly against many of the top decks in the format. She is awful against both Goblins and any Mayhem Devil deck, which is at least a quarter of the field. Even the control decks play a good amount of creatures like Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and lots of removal, and there aren't a lot of cheap cantrips to tax.

Don't worry! As Historic gets more powerful and gets more tools, Thalia will likely have her day.

Our next question is from @SonicRPika, one of my excellent Warchiefs (stream moderators), via Twitter:

It might sound silly, but my favorite holiday activity is simply getting to sit back and relax. With all the chaos of the holiday season and getting things together with family and all the other pomp and circumstance, I actually feel okay being like "okay, things aren't getting done right now, no reason to even stress about them until the new year."

As someone who tends to work too much and underestimates how much work various things are, and as such is often stressed all the time trying to get everything done, this is a welcome reprieve. I get to give myself permission to take some time off and that is very enjoyable.

Oh, and as for the card:

Santa's Little Helpers


Snow Creature - Goblin

When Santa's Little Helpers enters the battlefield, create a 1/1 Goblin snow creature token.


Our next question is from another Warchief, G_Lavamancer via my Discord:

As a big fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Thor in particular, I'd love to see something pertaining to Thor or especially Mjolnir.

Colossus Hammer

I'm sure that some sort of legendary hammer equipment could be really cool; maybe it deals three damage to any target whenever the creature it's on attacks or something? I'm not exactly sure, but I am pretty excited for the flavor of Kaldheim and seeing all the places they take it.

While the power level of recent sets hasn't always hit right, they've done a very nice job with the thematic design and world building.

It's a moderator parade! Our last question comes from @pyrojack6 via Twitter:

One of the saddest days in Magic for me was when they banned the use of headphones during tournaments. I get it, as in theory you could have someone on a phone telling you your opponent's hand or whatever, but it sucks. One of my favorite things to do was to be playing a serious Magic event while listening to music; never loud or impeding communication with my opponent, but enough to get a good vibe going. Listening to music always helped to ground me and make me focus, rather than letting me get distracted by other external factors like my stake in the tournament or who is watching.

As for what I like to listen to during tournaments it depends. Something heavy or upbeat like Glassjaw or At the Drive-In is good to get the blood flowing, but I do also like a lot of instrumental drone/post-rock and laid back hip-hop. Some examples of my favorites:

The more chill stuff is my go-to now. The heavier stuff is good to get your blood going, but it can also get you going too hot so if something goes wrong in the game, be it a mistake or just an unlucky occurrence, it can snap you out of your groove and make it hard to get back in it. The goal is to keep a level head be able to laser focus on your game.

Happy Holidays!

As this is something I don't think I've ever done before here on CoolStuffInc.com, please let me know what you think of doing an article like this once and a while! It's always fun to talk Magic and not Magic, and answering unexpected questions can draw out interesting answers about things I wasn't necessarily thinking about.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday! Stay safe and enjoy the Magic Online Cube drafts!

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