Friday, October 21, 2011

The Extra 2%: Last Man Standing

I don’t get a lot of comments about the articles on this website (I’m still trying to decide how disappointing that is) but one person (she doesn’t even play Magic) did message me on Facebook with a lesson that stuck with me enough to want to talk about more in depth.
Essentially, her position was that for someone who spends as much time and effort on the game as I do, I come across as not enjoying it that much.  Her advice was to remind myself of what I love about the game and maybe I would have fun again.

I’m not sure, to quote somewhere I can’t remember, if this is “Alanis irony” or “real irony”, but ironically, after submitting my rant Sunday afternoon, I’ve gone on an incredible streak on MTGO with UW Shape Anew.

As of this writing, I have won 28 Standard 2-man queues and lost only 4.  Here’s the breakdown:

Opposing Deck
Match Score
Game Score
Game Win Percentage
Wolf Run Ramp
Township Tokens
Mono-Red Aggro
UW Blade
UW Control
UB Control
Mono Black Infect

Basically, this is exactly what I needed to happen in order to make me feel like quite an idiot for writing the whole 4,000 word opus I sent in on Sunday.

Some Analysis

Wolf Run Ramp is a plague on MTGO right now.  I made the mistake of not recording the names of the players I squared off against, so I may have been playing the same guy over and over, but I highly doubt that.  I’m genuinely surprised by its popularity, since it really isn’t that fun to play.  But, as Sondag proved during the SCG Open, you can play like an idiot and the deck will still pull wins out of its ass for you, so maybe that explains the prevalence of the archetype.

·         More importantly, as you can tell by the results, I’m extremely happy every time my opponent opens with Copperline Gorge.  The deck has almost no way to beat UW Anew.  It plays 6 relevant cards in 3 Beast Within and 3 Slagstorm, and if they are holding up mana to cast those spells in response to your Shape Anew, then they aren’t casting any spells at all, and eventually you can Shape Anew with counterspell back up, or Snapcaster Mage it back after they blow their relevant cards.  Sometimes, you just slowly kill them with Myr and Blade Splicers because they know that if they tap out at any point, they’ll be staring down the ichor-dripping maw of a Big Dirty Robot. 

·         The deck initially ran 2 maindeck Twisted Image as a way to deal with Spellskite on the draw.  Spellskite is currently becoming more popular again, but Wolf Run doesn’t play them often.  The losses to the UW and UB decks were primarily because of Spellskite, as my current build does not have a lot of ways to deal with it.  So, lesson number two?  I’m adding Twisted Image back into the sideboard, and they may even find their way to the main (the imagined expression I see on my opponent’s face when I block their Nexus with mine and Twisted Image theirs after they pump it with Wolf Run is so hilarious that even thinking about it makes babies smile).

·         Mono-Black Infect’s Memoricides are annoying, but hardly the end of the world.  If they turn two Distress into Surgical Extraction, into Memoricide, it becomes much more difficult to deal with.  As Mono-Black Infect grows in popularity, Mental Misstep may be needed to curb Surgical Extraction issues.  You don’t want to Mana Leak an Extraction and walk into Memoricide…

·         The Goblins deck I played against was interesting, although it had no real way of winning against me.  But it drove me nuts that he was playing with Shock over Galvanic Blast.  I’ve said this a million times, but it bears mentioning again.  Even if all you have are 4 Inkmoth Nexus and 4 Shrine of Burning Rage, you have to run Blast.  Even if you only have 3 Shrine and no Inkmoths, you run Blast.  Basically, there is never a situation in which Shock is better than Galvanic Blast, and you should never be playing it, unless you already have 4 Galvanic Blast in your deck, and need more for some really bizarre reason.  Or if you forgot that Galvanic Blast existed.  Which I totally didn’t when I first started testing the new Standard.  (Ok, yeah, I did)

Why I’m Grinning Like an Idiot Again

If you, for some very strange reason, are reading this without having read my “History Lesson” from Monday, go back and take a look.  But to sum it up briefly, one of the reasons I was so angry and disappointed by Zac Hill’s development article that was featured on the Mothership was because he listed a bunch of things that Wizards has essentially solemnly sworn to never allow to happen again, all of which happened to be the things that made Magic fun for me in the first place.

I was obviously aware of this deck by that point (I had been writing about it for two weeks) but since MTGO didn’t really have Innistrad yet, I had only played it in one live tournament and a couple of playtesting sessions.  I mean no disrespect to the people I played with, but they weren’t exactly fantastic players, either.  So, while I presented them as such, the results weren’t really spectacular.  Now, having played in some Gold queues and 32 2-man events, I can say that I feel like my deck is the best deck in Standard and actually have data to back that up.

What’s even better is that I said something about making the cards seem bad, so that only a small group of players (mostly my friends and readers) would have access to the deck.  This is exactly what happened.  Out of the fifty or so matches I’ve played total online (including Tournament Practice matches) approximately forty of my opponents have conceded to lethal Blightsteel with a “play real cards, noob” or “you are such a f-c-u-k-i-n-g bad player” or “I can’t believe you spent 80 tickets on Snapcaster for that pile, you idiot”. 

Hey, thanks to Elspeth jumping from 12 to 20 tickets, I’ve already made my monthly goal of 200 tix.  (Unfortunately, the Liliana’s I bought at 35 are down to 17, so I lost a bit there, but I’ll hold them for a while, mise)

Innistrad Limited:

After playing two PTQs, a Sealed event, and a dozen drafts, I can fairly honestly say that the format is robust, entertaining, and dramatic in ways that I haven’t experienced playing Magic before.  There is a huge difference between the skilled players and amateurs, and I am excited to keep going with the drafts and Sealed deck events.

A few notes:

·         Invisible Stalker:  This is the worst card in the format to play against and the best card to have in your deck.  Like Snapcaster Mage in Constructed, having one or two of these feels like cheating, and once you have any relevant equipment, it actually is cheating.  Rolling Tremblor and Tribute to Night are the only realistic methods of dealing with the card, and Tribute doesn’t even work after turn three.  Yes, Blasphemous Act can kill it, so sure, we’ll put that on the list, but if you are resolving Blasphemous Act, then you were going to win any way.  Same goes for any of the other rares or Mythics that can take him down.  The biggest thing I have to put in this section is: DO NOT PASS INVISIBLE STALKER OVER ANY NON-MYTHIC INCLUDING MOST RARES.  If you do, expect to lose to it, every time.  In 14 Innistrad drafts, I’ve had Invisible Stalker 8 times.  I’ve won all 8 of those drafts, almost always on the back of the 1/1 for 1U.  I’ve lost 4 drafts, and in every case, I lost to Invisible Stalker. 

·         The other rares and Mythics are not nearly as gamebreaking as Invisible Stalker.  For one, if you are playing blue, Dissipate and Lost in Mist are real cards, and they are worth playing.  Frightful Delusion is not a real card, but if you don’t think that they will play around it (even accidently), then you can side that in, too. 
·         Some key cards I recommend always picking up when you have a chance:

·         Rolling Tremblor – Against R/B Aggro, Army of the Damned, Invisible Stalker, Humans
·         Naturalize  and Urgent Exorcism– This format has tons of relevant enchantments and artifacts.  I play Naturalize main in most decks, Urgent Exorcism I play main in all decks.
·         Purify the Grave – Goes around the table usually, but it’s a key counter to many cards.

I’ll add more to the list, and suggest some building strategies possibly next week. 

The Infinite Challenge

                Most writers seem to be doing this, so I thought I’d have some fun with it as well.  I started with $100 and 9 packs of Innistrad.  Through investing and playing, my goal is 1000 tickets by the end of November.  In this section, I’ll list any speculation I’m doing, and also track my performance in the queues.  So far this week I am at 76 tickets and 24 packs.

                There is a PTQ in Arizona this weekend, so I should be in the Mesa/Tempe area on Saturday.  If you game in the area, come on over and say hi, and hopefully I’ll be able to show you my PTQ winning deck with 3 Invisible Stalkers and 2 Silver-Inlaid Daggers (I really don’t care what else is in the deck at all if it has those five cards, it should never lose a game).  

                Until next time,

                 @snglmaltproof, BJSnyder8478 at gmail dot com, or Stormskull on MTGO

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