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Kyle's Mailbag

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Hey everyone!

I'm currently focused on Modern for upcoming Mythic Championship Qualifiers and Magic Fest: Indianapolis, but the upcoming banned & restricted announcement will likely change the format shortly. I'm teaming with Clay Spicklemire and Max McVety in Indy to form Big KB and the Kids Table.

Today I'm going to try my hand at a mailbag article.

I used Facebook and Twitter (@Boggememes) to ask for questions; here's what I got:

Rudy Briksza

Off to a strong start...

Rudy is a fellow CoolStuff author; we teamed with Joe Lossett in the past for an SCG Tour event.

Yes, Rudy did a mailbag article and it sounded fun. I'm typically all business, but thought this would be a nice change of pace. My last article about the importance of looking back on your journey was well received and I hope to chronicle the next ten years at a later date. The mailbag is a less serious way to let you, the reader, know a little more about me.

Jaren White

Do you believe Arena is the future of Magic and do you believe Arena and paper can co-exist?

Jaren is a Michigan grinder. If I'm playing an MCQ or local SCG Tour event I can expect to see him in attendance.

There's a lot to unpack here, but a great question.

Analog Versus Digital

On the surface we have a question of digital replacing analog gaming or simply living in harmony. Magic Online came out in 2003 which emboldened paper Magic. As a grinder I would use MODO as a tool to prepare for upcoming events and reinforce relationships with other serious players.

Arena is primarily used to play Standard and currently missing the boat on Modern. What I have observed is less paper Standard events, but Modern is alive and well on the SCG Tour, Magic Fests, and more casual LGS tournaments.

The only reason I had to build a Standard deck last season was to compete in Mythic Championship Qualifiers. This season of MCQs are Modern which means I can save my money until rotation.

There's also something to be said about the local crowds for Legacy and Pauper. These two formats have a diehard following; I'm not sure that community aspect can be replicated online.

MF Doom

There's also a marketing and momentum aspect. The rebranding of Grand Prixs to Magic Fests makes it clear WOTC is able to quickly change our behavior by shifting incentives. My first Magic Fest was in Detroit and it was a very different feeling than the Grand Prix of the past.

I'm hesitant to adopt new terminology, but I now call the new events Magic Fests as the amount of professionals in attendance have been greatly reduced. I traveled to MF Detroit with Andrew Elenbogen and Max McVety; they represented two-thirds of the players in the main event with three byes. That. Is. Absurd. The Magic Fest felt more like the recent RPTQs I played in Chicago as the same opponents I would face at the top tables were making deep runs for the top eight.

I'm pointing this out not to show paper Magic a relic of the past, but how WOTC is able to change course so quickly. It is my belief they want paper Magic to exist, but currently rethinking the overall role. The rebranding of the Player's Tour is further evidence of keeping paper Magic alive.

Computer Crash

I spend plenty of time in the office for work which means going home to play online is not appealing. There's something to be said about going to your LGS and interacting with human beings.

Magic social media can be exhausting and the same goes for battling on the computer. I try to unplug as often as possible as balance is always key.

Not everyone works a desk job so the opposite may hold true for them. If I had a customer-facing job it would be relaxing to not have to talk to my opponent. The same goes for people who work night or swing shifts; LGS schedules may not be accommodating.

Two of my friends recently had their first baby and Arena was a helpful outlet to compete without leaving the house. In fact, they both play more Magic than before as the flexibility is key when watching a newborn.

The two platforms can live in harmony. Arena is here to stay.

David Jackson

Next up, David Jackson, my former roommate now working at Amazon in Washington.

The Best Deck

The best time to play the "best deck" is the week before it becomes popular. In the case of Modern Izzet Phoenix there was time just after Krark-Clan Ironworks was banned where it was the clear top choice. The metagame hadn't fully adapted and you had free reign to crush with Thing in the Ice.

Brian DeMars came out of competitive Magic retirement to crush Grand Prix Tampa Bay. He said he was playing a deck far more powerful than the competition and wasn't wrong.

I teamed up with Kazu Negri and Jon Rosum a couple weeks later and had a more difficult time winning with Izzet Phoenix. By that time the cat was out of the bag and the number of good matchups dwindled.

Lightning Bolts were replaced by Flame Slash to kill my Thing in the Ice. Burn and Tron surged in popularity. Gut Shot didn't have many good targets. It went from being the best deck to a midrange deck very quickly. By that I mean every matchup felt even because I would either face a hateful deck or a bad matchup. Picture yourself playing Jund except your upside is nonexistent as nobody in the room would dare register Humans.

Hogaak was a slightly different animal because it was quickly discovered before we could even get our hands on Modern Horizons cards. Everyone knew this deck was busted before playing against it a single time. It was such a powerful deck that it would beat modest levels of graveyard hate which came as a surprise to many. Imagine how much graveyard hate you need to beat Hogaak and then add two more. In this case the surprise factor was it's incredible resilience.

The Metagame Deck

I don't like to play metagame decks because rarely will you face the best deck more than half of the rounds of a tournament. The deck you bring still needs to compete against the rest of the field.

When there is a deck with a target on its head I want to play a strategy that gets to ignore the hate and have a passable matchup against the boogeyman. Humans was an excellent choice when Hogaak came on the scene because it was proactive. I was able to beat the best deck with a strong opening and didn't fear graveyard hate.

It's important to evaluate the other decks with natural advantages against the boogeyman.

Tron wasn't favored against Hogaak which was the matchup I didn't want to face with Humans. Jund was still very under the radar as well; Joslyn Lambaria and Raja Sulaiman were the only people I know playing it at the time. It doesn't take much for Joslyn to be convinced Jund is good and Raja loves a good fair deck.

The deck spiking in popularity to fight Hogaak early on were various flavors of Urza. Chalice of the Void out of Eldrazi Tron was potentially more back-breaking than Leyline of the Void as many of the zombies cost one mana. Humans wants to face both of those decks. The winner's metagame will feature more than just the top deck so I try to think what it will look like ahead of the event.

Max McVety

Next up we have a question from Max McVety. MF Indianapolis will be our second time teaming for a tournament, but we have worked on many decks in the past.

This is an easy one for me:


Team Ann Arbor piloted this beast at Pro Tour: Magic Origins. It all started with a Pascal Maynard article when Magic Origins was spoiled. He actually posted a nearly identical sixty cards as a thought experiment, but it didn't have a sideboard.

Stu Parnes played the deck at an SCG Tour event ahead of the Pro Tour with a rough draft of the sideboard. It was decided the deck was incredibly synergistic which meant the sideboard cards could be narrow as you didn't want to over-sideboard.

We ran Constructed testing camps for the Pro Tour and Stu was crushing everyone with the deck. One by one we got on board with G/W Constellation. Stu, Max, and I all played the deck at the Pro Tour and posted the highest win percentage in the event. I finished that PT 11-5 which is one of my better finishes.

My favorite part about the deck was how different it was compared to what I traditionally play. I have never been a fan of Enchantress decks, but this list was awesome. It was even more fun as a majority of the competitors showed up with Izzet Thopters - our best matchup. I'm not afraid of turn two 5/5 indestructible lands thanks to Silkwrap. We didn't know this was going to be the case and was only a happy accident.

Our team was featured on coverage: https://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/ptori/deck-tech-green-white-constellation-2015-08-01

I also got to do a deck tech which was a lot of fun:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVNnyDGqag4

In a strange coincidence I'm wearing the Pro Tour Magic Origins shirt at work as I write this article.

Brian DeMars

The worst deck I have registered was at Pro Tour: Nagoya in 2011. The format was Scars of Mirrodin Block Constructed. DJ Kastner and I worked on a ub Control deck that had a pretty good matchup against the top deck : Tempered Steel Aggro. It was also favored against the Red decks preying on artifacts as it played zero.

I couldn't find the decklist online because I didn't do much winning. I looked through my old articles and it wasn't discussed either for good reason. It played Karn Liberated and Consecrated Sphinx along with good interaction.

I should have heeded my own advice as there were more than two decks in the format because it wasn't solidified. I ended up beating Tempered Steel and rg Control, but lost to various midrange piles with plenty of Go for the Throats for my Consecrated Sphinx.

The deck felt so bad against bg Midrange strategies that I actually considered not activating the Karn Liberated ultimate because I felt lucky to be in a winning position and didn't want to restart the game.

It was a risk that didn't pan out. We didn't expect Go for the Throat to be popular because the main deck featured an army of artifact creatures. If the matchups swung a different way it may have been my crowning achievement, but that's a risk of playing control.

Mike Turian

There are many ways to answer this question so I'm going to assume a context of how to succeed at tournament Magic. I will answer it with a tweet by Andrew Elenbogen:

Magic has never changed faster than it does today. The latest organized play changes would have turned the world upside down a few years ago, but it's now what we have come to expect: Sweeping overhauls every few months. It's important to adapt and extrapolate because we don't have the luxury of learning by watching things play out to their natural conclusion anymore.

Andrew Elenbogen

Finally we have someone asking the hard-hitting questions. Andrew knows how to cut me deep as we drive to nearly every tournament together as he lives less than a mile from me in Ann Arbor.

I would say I hate driving more than expensive food. I moved to Ann Arbor nine years ago and pedestrians walking in front of me at any point is a very frustrating experience. Being from the suburbs meant getting a driver's license at sixteen was a rite of passage. It was a ticket to freedom.

Ann Arbor is the opposite experience for me. I feel like I have less recourse as a driver because all of the downtown events cause me grief. Work is less than two miles from my apartment which means I walk about eight months out of the year and bus when it's too cold. It's a good way to stay in shape as I sit at a desk for so many hours per week.

I also like value. The best way to save on car insurance is to not have a car. As soon as my first car died five years ago I didn't replace it. My license has been expired for about a year and I haven't missed being behind the wheel one bit.

Expensive food is also something I don't like. There's a Chipotle a block from the office and I eat there about twenty-five times per month. Here's the list I'm currently running:

  • Two burrito shells
  • two scoops of brown rice
  • two scoops of black beans
  • grilled fajitas
  • a light amount of mild, medium, and hot salsa
  • corn
  • guacamole

Nothing on that list is an upcharge. There's also no dairy or meat because I eat it so often; I would prefer to keep it less heavy.

My mom once went into Chipotle and showed the girl behind the counter a picture of me and she made this burrito from memory.

This burrito is very large and I don't need to eat a second meal. It also happens to be the cheapest main entree on the menu.

I also have the rewards app which gets me at least one free burrito per month.

Value.

Yes.

All I can say is that the ceiling on beta dual lands were not $500.

Amir got my Beta Savannah for a month of rent back in the day.

Modern

Before I go I wanted to share my list I'm currently testing for the upcoming MCQs:


Tron has many good matchups and higher raw power due to the London Mulligan. Since I will mulligan more often my flex slots are payoffs. Oblivion Stone and Walking Ballista get the nod over Dismember. The second Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is preferred to the third Relic of Progenitus. I want to be able to operate on fewer cards each game.

I'm trying just three Forest because Blast Zone, Ghost Quarter, and Sanctum of Ugin are all very powerful. The Nurturing Peatland is my desired land to search when the game is in a stalemate and I'm searching for a payoff. The Black mana allows me to pay less life with Dismember and a single chromatic artifact casts Leyline of the Void.

Field of Ruin and Path to Exile are relevant against Azorius Control, but is a relatively small metagame share. This is the matchup where missing the fourth Forest will bite me. I think Emrakul, the Promised End and Veil of Summer greatly improve the matchup so it's a reasonable price to pay.

I also like Tron at MF: Indianapolis because the floor of the deck is very powerful. Even if I have a temporary lapse of judgment, it's easier to recover than with a slower deck like Azorius Control which I expect to leave me exhausted for most of the weekend.

That's all for today. I hope you had fun with this article. Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading,

Kyle