Author

About the Author
@JasonEAlt     -     Email     -     Articles Jason is a financier living in Michigan. You can find his work on Gathering Magic, Quiet Speculation, and MTG Price. Jason brings several years of MTG finance experience to the podcast as well as his signature wit and comic relief. Jason joined the podcast as a guest on Episode 10 and again on Episode 12 and it was clear that the group had a great dynamic. He became a permanent member of the cast soon after and the world of MTG finance hasn’t been the same since. Jason is also a disgruntled former member of Team Simic.

Why Spoilers Suck

Trick Jarrett published an interesting article today and having had some time to digest the piece and the feedback (blowback?) from it, I’ve decided my opinion on the matter would be laborious and difficult to Tweet. What’s the point of owning a soapbox if you only ever pay other people to stand on it? I happen to align my views with Trick, and while it may seem like I’m piling on, I have heard a lot of dissent and criticism of his viewpoints and the manner in which he expressed them. I didn’t think it would be controversial to come out on the side of “Don’t spoil cards that aren’t your cards to spoil, you enormous prick” but Donald Trump is leading in the polls, it’s raining in December and people who aren’t fans of Star Wars are targets of ridicule so nothing surprises me anymore.

Speaking of Star Wars and surprises, I saw the new movie on Monday night and it was incredible. Disney is a corporation who knows how to manage leaks pretty well and Wizards could take a page out of their book. Thousands of people worked on the movie and have seen it through all phases of completion from the script draft phase to the finished product and lots of people saw the movie Monday when I did but here it is Wednesday night and I still haven’t seen anyone online saying that Luke Skywalker wasn’t in any of the trailers because he is wearing his father’s old mask and going by the name “Kylo Ren,” a fact I’m really surprised hasn’t leaked online.

kylo-ren-header

OK, I made that up. As far as I know that’s not true, but I bet I pissed a few people off when they thought I spoiled the movie before you got a chance to see it. And isn’t that kind of the point? I don’t know about you, but spoilers piss me off.

Is it the best possible defense of a subject to continue to make jokes and evoke “feels” rather than present facts? Obviously not, and I’m aware of that fact. In this case, though, it seems appropriate because if we’re trying to make the case that spoilers cause harm and I am making the further case that the harm caused is emotional harm, we need to talk about our feelings. Have you ever had anything spoiled for you? It’s a bittersweet feeling, like unwrapping all of your gifts on Christmas Eve. Sure, it’s fun, I guess, but then you come downstairs on Christmas morning to play with your new toys and you already know what everything is. The magic is gone. That’s why my parents had us open only one gift on Christmas Eve and the rest on Christmas Day. That’s how you handle “reveal” season. Give them a taste to whet their appetite and keep them wanting more.

The community has largely embraced the concept of getting spoilers fed to us slowly. We’re so numb to the concept that we haven’t even stopped using the word “spoiler” to describe what’s going on. It’s an ugly word.

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This is what leaking a ton of cards all at one does, right? The word “harm” is even listed as a synonym for spoil.

Over the Line

I think a lot of people were a little shocked at the tone of Trick’s piece today. I think that is because people have very short memories. Remember Rancored Elf? If you’re not familiar, read this piece (actually, read it either way) and compare its tone to the tone of Trick’s piece today. They brought a law suit against a guy who was spoiling cards. For years, Rancored Elf was Magic the Gathering’s Loki, finding early images and spoiling them. I’m not sure what he got out of it, besides a lawsuit, but there had to have been some modicum of personal gratification and increased website traffic. While the lawsuit looks like a harsh reaction, Rancored Elf gave Wizards of the Coast the opportunity to do something pretty ingenious, and that was adopt a “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” mentality. Instead of wringing their hands and lamenting spoiled cards, they got out in front of it, strategically revealing cards to get people excited. You want the set to break sales records? Show everyone that the set will have fetch land reprints while there is still time to pre-order cases. This system worked pretty well for a while.

What’s interesting to me is that people were basically universally outraged when they heard about Guillaume Wafo-Tapa and his “God Book” shenanigans. When a pro player gave a teammate the entire set early to study and write about, people seemed to think an 18-month ban wasn’t enough and the unfair advantage he gave his team was deplorable.

Today, Trick says that Wizards is going to give much longer bans and describes early leaks as disenfranchising certain players and people seem to be categorically rolling their eyes. While I’m not inclined to defend every point Trick made in his article, because I don’t want to have to agree with all of them, I think the overall tone came through. Spoilers suck because they ruin the magic of reveal season. I like getting a few new cards every once in a while, with new mechanics being revealed at times of Wizards’ choosing and allowing them to tie in releases with their Uncharted Realms Vorthos series. They are building an experience for us, and that takes time and expense. That all goes to waste as does our potential enjoyment of the experience when someone jumps the gun. Not only did they jump the gun in this case, they spoiled 8 of the 9 remaining unspoiled mythic rares. Thanks, guy. Hope it was worth it.

TL;DR Culture

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We certainly don’t like to wait, do we? There are a lot of people out there who are not only unsympathetic to those of us who preferred our cards revealed at a moderate pace to build excitement (and give some of  us time to do some analysis), but they relish the spoiler dump. I’ve already likened that to opening your Christmas presents on Christmas Eve, but when you consider the fact that someone external to Wizards of the Coast made the dump, the metaphor shifts in my view. Someone didn’t just open your presents for you, they wrote a letter saying “Santa’s not real, neither is the Easter Bunny, neither is Jesus and you didn’t get an N64, you got a Sega Saturn and socks.” As a member of the content creation community as well as the MTG Finance community, I can’t just plug my ears and refuse to look at spoilers like I’m doing for Star Wars, (I’m seeing it in just under 36 hours and if one of you spoils anything for me… I have no recourse. Just don’t do it.) I am compelled to analyze the new cards and talk about their financial and gameplay impact. All of us do. Once the cards are spoiled, the spell is broken and there’s no un-ringing the bell or finding a third clumsy metaphor. It’s like eating candy for dinner – it sounds like it would be fun but afterward you’re left feeling sick. I guess that’s why I feel sort of sick when there is a big spoiler dump.

It isn’t just the content consumers who have their parade peed on, either. These dumps deprive websites who were granted exclusive spoilers of their traffic and ad revenue. The people who perpetrated these leaks quite literally stole money from people. I don’t think it’s silly or hyperbolic to say that, either. Why isn’t this obvious to everyone? Why are people so divided on this topic?

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I think this is absolutely part of it. I think a fundamental lack of empathy among non-content creators (which is not a malicious lack of empathy nor am I deriding anyone) because from a content-consumer standpoint, they were always going to have every card revealed to them.

I think there are a few irrelevant arguments that are tripping (no pun intended) us up in this debate and we should identify what they are.

Irrelevant Point #1 – The Topic of “Blame”

Wizards of the Coast screwed up. They have to know they screwed up. What most likely happened is someone fished cards out of a dumpster or took pics of cards that were thought to have been destroyed. This has happened in the past and the fact that the cards seem damaged seems to support that theory.

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See how jacked up the card looks on the edges?

Whether or not Wizards is to blame for not vetting the printer that allowed this fiasco to happen or the printer is to blame or the dumpster diver is to blame for being a scumbag is kind of irrelevant. Don’t let your debates get caught in this quagmire. WotC messed up and they are getting more punitive with people who leak these images. Hopefully they’ll try to see if they can run a tighter ship going forward. I want cards spoiled, but I want them spoiled on WotC’s terms. It’s a better experience. I’m old enough to know candy for dinner is bad for me and I don’t particularly enjoy the fact that the candy was gavaged down my throat in this instance.

Irrelevant Point #2 – “Professionalism”

A few people seemed jarred by Trick calling whoever perpetrated this dastardly offense against all of us a “terrible human being” by comparing them to someone who announced someone else’s pregnancy on social media. Maybe it’s unprofessional for someone in Trick’s position to call someone a terrible human being, maybe it’s not. What I do know is that I’m not in Trick’s position. Whoever did this is a terrible human being. I mean, that’s an opinion, but to imply that Trick can’t indirectly imply that what the leaker did was horrible and that by extension makes them a horrible human being doesn’t smack authentic to me. I’m glad some emotion made it through the editing process. He’s making an emotional appeal to people not to do antisocial things, after all.

Irrelevant Point #3 – The “Enfranchised”

This one is actually one of Trick’s points. He said;

Leaks create an unfair advantage as—because they do not go out over official channels—they are not as widely distributed to less-enfranchised players, thus creating an unfair advantage for some players.

and I think that’s a pretty specious argument. I’m not going to pretend it isn’t because he made other good points. Let’s leave this out of the debate and keep it on track. There’s no way he actually thinks the official channels have more reach than the whole of the internet when official channels use some of the same sites that published leaked photos eventually, which is where most of us saw them.

Irrelevant Point #4 – Scale

I think a lot of people got mired in the gigantic difference in the scale of spoiling someone’s pregnancy and therefore a huge, life event and ruining some surprises in a children’s card game played by adults for some reason. Don’t go too far down this rabbit hole. If you want to say the example failed because it was too hyperbolic, fine, but don’t let it derail the debate. Hindsight has probably made Trick realize this came across kind of tone-deaf.

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But I actually don’t think it totally fails as a point. The truth is you wouldn’t spoil someone’s pregnancy announcement because you understand how inappropriate that is, and while spoiling these cards isn’t as bad, you’re still robbing someone of an experience, doing something it’s not your place to do and depriving everyone of a much better experience than some rando blurting out “They’s totes pregs, guise!” which is what dumping a bunch of grainy cell phone pics on your lame gamer blog equates to.

Hugging and Learning

I need to wrap this up, but I feel like there is a good debate to be had here. Let’s keep it civil, remember it’s mostly our friends we’re debating with and let’s remember that all of us lost in this situation. Whether you’re a “candy for dinner” kind of person or a patient person who wants to open all of their presents on Christmas morning and not have the new Star Wars movie spoiled for them, we all could have been treated to a much better spoiler season experience and someone deprived us of that, selfishly. Let’s remember that in an ideal world, we would have gotten the cards spoonfed to us, lots of different websites, publications and podcasts (Not my podcast, but, whatever) could have gotten their own exclusive spoilers and maybe a few bucks in ad revenue and increased traffic. We could have had the weird diamond mana symbol explained to us as soon as we saw it instead of wildly speculating amongst ourselves for weeks. Let’s try and do better next set and let’s try not to be horrible human beings.

Blackhat

A taut, cat-and-mouse tech thriller set in the aftermath of a fictional but plausible attack on a Chinese nuclear reactor, Michael Mann’s Blackhat is easily the most underrated movie of 2015. The January release of the film makes it easy to make such a declaration, but a combination of trailer that was far from compelling and its release in January, historically a graveyard for mediocre film projects (the exception being the critically-lauded American Sniper which became the second film in a week to become the “highest grossing January release ever” after the banal and predictable Taken 3) have all but condemned the film to obscurity. The film deserved better, but its release speaks to Hollywood’s tiring of Michael Mann’s shtick as much as the merits of the film itself.

Love it or hate it, Michael Mann has a shtick. His penchant for formulaic protagonists and an almost pathological adherence to the same major plot points have earned him both acclaim as a technically proficient and successful director and also, as Slate film critic Daniel Engber put it so eloquently, “Hollywood’s greatest hack.” In Engber’s view, the greatest feat of hacking in Blackhat isn’t accomplished at a computer terminal but rather behind the camera. Is Engber right? Well, yes, and I’m not going to argue that. That’s actually not an altogether bad thing.

The word “hack” has negative connotation but there is a bit more nuance to its use than is typically applied. The dictionary definition of a hack is “a writer or journalist producing dull, unoriginal work”. It’s impossible to discuss Mann’s work, even to laud him, without confronting the fact that it’s not terribly original.  After all, being discussed is a director who literally made the same movie twice; 1989’s made-for-TV film LA Takedown amounted to little more than the rough draft for the full-length motion picture that was released as 1995’s Heat, a film that earned both critical acclaim and $70 million at the box office in the United States alone. Not content with the legacy of Miami Vice as one of the 1980s most entertaining television series Mann inspired himself to make a Miami Vice motion picture, set in 2006 and complete with a modern cover to Genesis’ “In the air tonight”, the musical backdrop to one of the television program’s most memorable scenes. The film hardly broke new ground or tied up loose ends, rather it was a cash-grab reboot of the series which ran from 1984-1990 which banked on appealing to nostalgia. Bank on nostaliga it did, grossing $63 million domestically (impressive but less than half of its reported $135 million runaway budget). If all Michael Mann seems to want to do is tell the same story over and over again, why do we keep letting him?

The answer is that even though Mann relies on a lot of the same tropes and tricks, it’s unfair to say he hasn’t matured as a filmmaker. Nowhere is that more evident than in Blackhat, a film that applies the “Mann filter” to the most ambitious story to date. Rather than chronicle the activities of a police department trying to catch drug runners and pimps or detail the “catch me if you can” story of a medium-time crook and the cops who want to nail him (a trope seen in 1981’s Thief, 1986’s Manhunter and, most famously, 1995’s Heat) Blackhat is the story of a grandiose world domination plot that spans the entire globe. In a lot of ways the complexity of the story shows development in the kinds of projects Mann wants to tackle and in others, Blackhat feels like branching too far out of his comfort zone makes it seem like he is in over his head.

Make no mistake; Blackhat is vintage Mann. All of his signatures are present from his gorgeous, helicopter-assisted establishing shots of the vibrant lights of a bustling metropolis cutting through the night sky to his use of a crescendo of synthesizer music to punctuate pauses in conversation, especially when the male protagonist first meets the love interest. The film is an ecstatic visual feast and every scene in the 148 minutes is integral to the plot even if every shot is not. No one sets a mood better than Mann who has mastered the art of using low-light filters and a lot of nighttime shots to make even a city as large as Los Angeles seem utterly abandoned and the characters in it utterly alone. Mann’s up to all of his old tricks and fans of his work will feel right at home in the mood he creates, a real feat if you consider how the backdrop shifts rapidly to cities all around the globe, a real departure from his conventional film which is usually encapsulated in one major city. As much as a lot of the film felt old and familiar, though, a lot felt new, and that wasn’t always a good thing.

Tom Cruise in Collateral

Blackhat centers around a sudden cyber attack on a nuclear facility and the involvement of the one man who can bring the perpetrator to justice; played by “Thor” himself, Chris Hemsworth. Hemsworth’s Nick Hathaway is in the physical condition of his life and up-to-date on all of the latest technological advancements despite spending years locked in a maximum security prison, a facility which doesn’t manage to stop him from using a smuggled cell phone to get up to hijinks like hacking into the prison’s commissary to pad the balances of himself and his friends. As adept a hacker as ever, Hathaway is also lethal in hand to hand combat and nearly indestructible which he demonstrates in scenes where he fights off several armed thugs in a Chinese restaurant or survives the extreme heat of the control room in the damaged nuclear reactor while everyone else is succumbing to heat stroke. This is familiar fare for Hemsworth who is used to portraying the omnipotent, handsome lead in Hollywood movies who can shrug off bullets and keep his hair perfectly coiffed. It’s unfamiliar ground for Mann, though, a director who is used to keeping the odds more heavily stacked against the protagonist. The real threat to Hathaway in Blackhat is uncertainty and the knowledge that if he fails to bring the perpetrator to justice, his chances of getting his prison sentence commuted vanish.

DeNiro in Heat

It’s apparent that Mann is in unfamiliar territory with the story arc of the character and Hathaway is treated differently than almost any Mann film protagonist ever. Two of the best Mann protagonists are undoubtedly Collateral’s Vincent played by Tom Cruise and Heat‘s Neil McCauley played by Robert DeNiro (though Mann borrowed the name “Vincent” from Pacino’s Heat character, Detective Vincent Hanna; he borrows from himself quite a bit). Part of what made those characters so compelling was the dispassionate way Mann told the story from the side of the criminal and how his refusal to condemn those characters cloaked them in a kind of moral ambiguity. Mann went even farther, cloaking them in a costume that personified the moral grey area quite literally. The characters in both Heat and Collateral wear an identical grey suit in a not-so-subtle blurring of the line between black and white, good and evil.

No such nuance exists in Blackhat’s Hathaway who spends the entire film clad in clean, pastel shirts and khakis that make him look more like a cashier at Banana Republic than a convicted computer hacker doing hard time in a super max when he’s not getting out on furlough to engage in hand-to-hand combat with thugs and foil global terrorism plots.

Speaking of the terrorism plot, it’s a much more ambitious premise than Mann’s used to tackling and feels more like it should have been left up to James Bond to thwart, not an MIT dropout and his college roommate. The sheer grandiosity of the plot that reveals itself slowly as the heroes chip away at its layers and try to get to its heart feels like an unwelcome departure from Mann’s usual fare. I was reminded of the movie Adaptation where Charlie Kauffman created a fictional twin brother to represent the desire to take the easy way out and make the boring, formulaic plot that Hollywood wanted. In a way, Michael Mann has discarded one predictable formula for another, and it looks unlikely that he’ll be rewarded at the box office for his efforts.

It’s not all “bad new”, though. As much as the film centers around the prototypical, indestructible Hollywood badass, the film’s love interest played by Wei Tang is a radical departure from Mann’s typical device of using the female love interest as an Achilles Heel. Wei Tang is Hathaway’s partner as well as lover and her involvement in the unraveling of the sinister plot serves to focus Hathaway and remind him that the stakes are incredibly high if he should fail. The bad guy gets away, he goes back to prison and to quote another  character in the film, Wei Tang’s brother Chen played by Leehom Wang, “what kind of life would that be for her?” Not only is Wei the most three-dimensional female character Mann’s ever portrayed, this may be the first of Mann’s films that passes the Bechdel Test.

Blackhat’s biggest crime of all is its trailer. Audiences were turned off by a trailer that attempted to summarize an intricate plot but instead served to marginalize it. It got across the point that this was a movie about a “Blackhat hacker named Hathaway” but not that it’s not not the formulaic “hack the Gibson” movie that they’re expecting. The problem? It is kind of the formulaic “hack the Gibson” movie that they’re expecting, and there isn’t enough footage in the movie to disabuse people of that notion with a better trailer. As awkward as Mann felt with Hemsworth’s nigh-invincible Ubermensch hacker who can also kung fu fight he’s even less comfortable extolling the virtues of his own work in the trailer and ticket sales have suffered greatly with a disappointing $4 million opening weekend for a movie with a $100 million budget. Chris Hemsworth is a box office draw, but not in every context.

In a lot of ways, Hemsworth is even more of a liability than all that. He’s not believable as an MIT-educated computer hacker any more than he’s believable as someone who won’t spend the whole movie punching faces. Those who give the movie a chance beyond the trailer are treated to Hemsworth using the same look on his face to regard a difficult puzzle as he does his female costar; a look that comes off more bewildered than pensive. Instead of looking like he’s concentrating on divining the significance of a signal transmitter he finds in a potted plant he looks like a Chimpanzee examining an iPad for the first time. Hemsworth’s involvement in the film only seeks to give the film’s detractors more ammunition, and it doesn’t help that it sounds like he took American-accent elocution lessons from John Wayne. Mann gambled with Hemsworth’s box office cachet and lost.

All in all, Blackhat is a very enjoyable film. It’s hard to know whether Mann was thrown off course by a predictable Hollywood plot written by Morgan Davis Foehl or if he made it his own and gave it his thumbprint. What is clear is that this is a beautiful and carefully-crafted film. While long at 148 minutes, it’s also dense and engaging and doesn’t drag on like many films of similar lengths might. Whether you consider Mann being a hack a good thing or a bad one (It might be fairly obvious that I don’t mind if he only knows how to make one movie because I love that movie), Blackhat is one of the year’s best efforts so far and well worth the investment of your time. On a scale from 1-10, I give it a B-

Khans of Tarkir Cheat Sheet – European Edition

Writer Sander Van Der Zee took some time today out of his busy schedule of winning PTQs and talking with his funny Dutch accent to replicate the Khans of Tarkir prerelease cheat sheet from Quiet Speculation but with prices from MCM so that European players would not be left out.

There are several very notable price differences that reflect the projected meta and differences in card selection choices between the two metagames. While a card like [card]Crackling Doom[/card] sold out several times on Star City’s prerelease site, causing the price to go up several times, [card]Crackling Doom[/card] is still at its original presale price on MCM. Despite that, [card]Deflecting Palm[/card] is above a bulk rare.

There are lots of odd discrepancies, so hopefully some of our European readers can exploit the differences between the two lists and trade for cards that are already spiked in the US and which are very likely to spike on MCM soon and dump those [card]Deflecting Palm[/card]s while they’re still worth twice as much as [card]Crackling Doom[/card].

Take a look at the European prices. They are in Euros, but I feel silly even telling you that. Chances are if you’re interested in the European market, you’re aware. For reference, the current exchange rate puts 1 USD at 0.78 Euro.

Feel free to print, share and reference this list at the prerelease tonight

European cheat sheet

SCG Worcester Report – 14th Place with Boros Burn by Timothy Mezoff

The r/spikes series continues with a great report from Timothy Mezoff. Going from a disappointing 0-3 scoop to an impressive 8-2, 14th place finish in a short time, Timothy discusses his day filled with lucky topdecks, missed triggers and a Magic mountain that reminded him to keep his head and power through tilt. Enjoy! -Jason

 

Last month, I decided to go to the Star City Games Open in Providence Rhode Island. I dropped after round three without winning a single match. I had decided to play burn at the tournament and after playing against a Junk deck that maindecked [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] and a black white humans deck that mained [card]Fiendslayer Paladin[/card], I wasn’t feeling much up to continuing.

This past weekend, I decided that I’m a glutton for punishment and to sleeved up Boros Burn once again for my run into SCG Worcester. I honestly haven’t kept up with recent tournament results and decided to play what I was comfortable with. The list I played looked like this:

[deck title= Boros Burn – SCG Open Worcester 2014]
[Creatures]
*4 Chandra’s Phoenix
*4 Young Pyromancer
[/Creatures]
[Spells]
*3 Chained to the Rocks
*4 Boros Charm
*4 Lightning Strike
*4 Magma Jet
*3 Searing Blood
*3 Shock
*4 Skullcrack
*4 Warleader’s Helix
*1 Mizzium Mortars
[/Spells]
[Land]
*7 Mountain
*1 Boros Guildgate
*1 Mana Confluence
*3 Mutavault
*4 Sacred Foundry
*2 Temple of Malice
*4 Temple of Triumph
[/Land]
[Sideboard]
*2 Spark Trooper
*1 Banishing Light
*2 Nyx-Fleece Ram
*4 Satyr Firedancer
*1 Searing Blood
*2 Wear
*1 Act of Treason
*2 Toil
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Going into the tournament, I felt good about my maindeck but unsure of the sideboard. Just a month ago, Burn was in huge numbers at the Open in Providence so I gave it a nod with the added Nyx-Fleece Rams. The deck is a lot tougher to pilot well than it is given credit for. With so many lines of play that can ruin the maximum output of damage the deck is capable of in the first few turns, most simply chalk the deck up to autopilot. But Burn has been good to me in the past and with a little luck and a lot of superstition, I went head-first into the fray.

Round 1 vs Bant Control

This match was a blur. I won game one in the typical Burn vs Control fashion. Game two he landed a turn two [card]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/card] which promptly ate a Wear//Tear. Eventually he on- for-oned all of my important spells with counters, kept my [card]Mutavault[/card] a land with a Kiora the Crashing Wave and I was out of gas. A few turns later he freed my Mutavault and released some Krakens swinging in for game. Game three played out very much like the first one. He played no Rams to slow his impending demise.
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Round 2 vs RG devotion

I was never a fan of this matchup. While burn can be fast and hit you for 3+ every turn, after turn 2 a well-sculpted devotion list can hit you for 5 every turn after turn 3, which doesn’t make for a good race. Game one my opponent leads with turn 1 [card]Elvish Mystic[/card] into turn two [card]Burning-Tree Emissary[/card], Burning-Tree Emissary, [card]Nykthos Shrine to Nyx[/card] into [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card]. As I look at my board of land, land, Young Pyromancer I decide if I don’t draw a Chained to the Rocks I’m just dead. DRAW! I’m just dead. Game 2 ends in similar fashion, except instead of a turn 3 Polukranos he sticks a turn 4 [card]Ruric-Thar the Unbowed[/card]. GG.

1-1

Round 3 vs Mono Blue Devotion

My opponent leads game one off with turn 1 land into [card]Cloudfin Raptor[/card] and my response was a Mutavault. Turn 2 he plays a land and passes. No evolve triggers, no nothing. I think about what he could have in hand and decided it must be all 3 drops. I activate my Mutavault and swing into a Rapid Hybridization on his Raptor. I immediately go on tilt for not seeing that play. His next few turns are runner, runner Master of Waves while mine are spent just trying to keep up. With my head down I decide to go to game 2. I’ve always known that Mono Blue isn’t an amazing matchup for me, but I know I can beat it with a little luck. Game two I look at my opening 7 and see double Young Pyro and a [card]Shock[/card] with enough lands to curve it out perfectly on turn 3. Eventually, double Pyromancer does an impressive impression of Master of Waves and I grind a win. Game 3 I’m once again feeling good about my starting hand as I look at an almost exact copy of that beautiful turn 3 curve. I lead off with turn 2 Pyro into turn 3 [card]Satyr Firedancer[/card] while my opponent looks on as all my spells hit him to the face, kill one of his creatures and give me a dude.

2-1

Round 4 vs Izzet Midrange

My opponent shows up late and receives a game loss. My opponent goes first and leads off with a turn one [card]Steam Vents[/card] which throws me for a loop. His turn two Island into Frostborn Weird had me peg him on Blue Devotion splashing red for Purphoros. Boy was I wrong. He promptly played a [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] and started to smash in. I traded attacks with his dragon for as long as I could with my Phoenix, eventually getting him to 11 life. End of his turn, I [card]Boros Charm[/card]ed him to 7 and knew I had to draw a burn spell off the top to win. I draw. Burn spell. I cast the burn that was in my hand and the one I drew and took the game from my opponent.

3-1

Round 5 vs Mono Black Devotion

My opponent leads off with a first turn [card]Thoughtseize[/card] and grimaces at my hand. He takes a [card]Skullcrack[/card] over my [card]Magma Jet[/card] after I show him only two lands. I make a mental note of Grey Merchant most likely being in his hand and go through the motions. I Magma Jet into another Magma Jet which finds me a Skullcrack just in time for him to slam a [card]Grey Merchant of Asphodel[/card]. Game two is mostly uneventful. He hits me twice with a [card]Desecration Demon[/card] before I can kill him.

4-1

Round 6 vs Jund Monsters

Game one, my opponent plays an accelerated Polukranos into Stormbreath. Needless to say, I lose. After game one I only saw Red and Green lands so I put him on RG monsters and side in [card]Spark Trooper[/card] for the cute plays. He leads game two off with a BG scryland and I kick myself. He slams Ruric Thar down while sitting at a comfortable life total and I can’t race without killing myself.

At this point in the tournament I walk over and chat with my friend who only came to trade. We chat for a while and when I go to walk away I notice a lone mountain sitting on a table. I pick it up and casually walk away. As I sit down to play my opponent I put it on the table in between the table numbers and play my game.

4-2

Round 7 vs Jund

I lose game one and wasn’t looking forward to playing this matchup twice in a row after a loss. Game two was extremely close. He had a [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] eating creatures and gaining life. I eventually closed out the game at 3 life. Game 3 was very much the same. At one point my friend came over and watched the game over my shoulder. I had been mana screwed out of white and soon took a [card]Rakdos’ Return[/card] to the face for 4, discarding two Chained to the Rocks and a Mountain. Soon after that play my buddy walked away thinking I had lost. What he had missed was my drawing of a [card]Temple of Triumph[/card]. I slammed it down and looked at my top card. [card]Warleader’s Helix[/card]. I had done a good job stalling to this point with Elemental tokens from a long dead Pyromancer. He swings in with a giant Scavenging Ooze and a Monstrous’d Stormbreath. I block the Ooze with my last token and go to 3 life. I end of turn [card]Lightning Strike[/card] him to 2 and he eats more creatures to go back to 4 after seeing I had no cards in hand. I untap and cast my spell for exactly lethal. I take my slip and shake his hand. Packing up I remember the mountain and take it as a token of luck. I hand in my slip and bump into my friend. He’s shocked and ecstatic that I somehow went from mana screw and a 1/1, facing down a monstrous’d dragon and giant Ooze, to victory. I take my Mountain and roll it up tight and tuck it behind my ear for the rest of the tournament.

5-2

Round 8 vs Mono Blue Devotion

This had to have been what truly made me think my Mountain was lucky. As I had said, mono Blue isn’t really a good matchup for my deck, but I looked at my opening seven of game one and saw Young Pyro, Young Pyro and Magma Jet. I curve out with Young Pyro followed by next turn Pyro, followed by next turn Pyro and Magma Jet. Each spell I cast from that point on got me three tokens. By the time he hit his Master, my army was more impressive. Game two couldn’t possibly be as lucky for me, could it? Turn 2 Young Pyromancer, turn 3 Satyr Firedancer and shock. Kill a guy, get a guy. My turn 4? Satyr Firedancer and Boros Charm. Better lucky than good.
6-2

Round 9 vs Mono Black Devotion

Game one I ended up missing a Phoenix trigger on my opponent’s attack step. I had cast a Warleader’s Helix during the attack, marked the life changes and asked him total damage so I could mark that too while I was writing. Finished with the change I pointed at my Chandra’s Phoenix and announced my trigger. My opponent shook his finger and said “uh, uh uh. You missed the trigger.” I was taken aback. I immediately started to tilt. Game 2 started to go the same way. I had missed a Young Pyromancer trigger and almost lost again. I had cast a Magma Jet with the ‘mancer on the field. I had marked the damage when I realized I hadn’t announced the trigger. I took a deep breath and reached my hand behind my ear and felt the Mountain secure in its place. I told my opponent I wasn’t finished resolving the spell and scried a scry I had almost missed as well. My head started to clear and I barely won. I cast a Magma Jet while I was stuck on 3 lands with Boros Charm and Lightning Strike in hand. I looked at the top two and saw the fourth land I so desperately needed. I untap draw and play my land and double burn him for the win. Game 3 was a true test of my Mountain’s power. I tried to cast Shock on my opponents Pack Rat to which he responded by tapping Mutavaults to make it a 3/3. I held it together and took that misplay with my chin up. Eventually I had one card in hand and he sat back with two Pack Rats, a Whip of Erebos and a Grey Merchant in the bin. On my turn I played a scry land and kept a Warleader’s Helix on top. I passed turn and he played a Duress. I respond with the only card that could have saved me. I Skullcrack. This time my opponent goes on tilt and thinks about what he can do. After a moment of mulling over his cracked skull he asks me. “Do you have a burn spell?” I tell him there is one on top of my library. “Show me.” He says. I become cautious at this time. The entire time we were playing he seemed a little shady and seemed like he would do anything for the win. I ask him if he is passing turn. He asks me to show him again and my response is the same. Eventually he tells me he passes turn and I flip over my Helix. He scoops up his cards and congratulates me for having the one card that would have won me the game.

7-2

Round 10 vs Mono Red Devotion

These games played out fast and furious. I lost game one to a giant hit from a [card]Fanatic of Xenagos[/card]. Took game 2 with some burn to the face and finally wound up the tournament with a game 3 win. These games were close but eventually I was able to control the amount of damage I took while still managing to kill my opponent.

8-2 and 14th place.

I took my lucky Mountain and my prize and went home for the night. I have always been a superstitious person while playing this game. I don’t honestly believe there was some magical property in the Mountain but do concede to the fact that just by having it lead me to have a more focused mentality. It saved me from going full tilt after a ton of my games. This event truly showed me the negative effects of tilt and how a simple token such as a Mountain can completely change your perspective and make you play better.

Going forward with the deck I would cut the [card]Act of Treason[/card] and the [card]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/card]s from the sideboard for two [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] and possibly a third Toil//Trouble. While I didn’t bring in the Troubles often, it is a card that you really want to cast on turn three and the more copies the better chances of drawing them. I really didn’t use my sideboard to its full potential. Against the aggressive decks, I cut the Chandra’s Phoenixes and brought in the Satyr Firedancers. I sideboard the Phoenixes out so I did not dilute the decks already tight requirements. If I had left them in, my Pyromancers, Phoenixes and Firedancers would all be weaker and I felt that in those given situations, Firedancer/Pyromancer was the stronger option. Against the midrange decks I didn’t side in much except the Act of Treason but never got to cast it. I felt the overall sideboard was weak for the matches I played and only brought in the Firedancers and [card]Searing Blood[/card] consistently. That said I do not think they warrant a spot in the maindeck, while they are strong in the matches they are good against, they are extremely weak against the matches in which they are bad against making the overall power of the deck a lot worse game one.

I feel the deck is still strong given the current Meta and only going to get stronger in the few months after M15 is released before rotation. I’m going to keep playing the deck for now while I watch the world Burn. Good luck to everyone playing the deck.

Philadelphia Zoo – Max Perlmutter

This is another installment in our series of submissions from the r/spikes subreddit. This is a two-fer; Max Perlmutter played the same 75 in two back-to-back events and learned a lot about how Big Zoo fares in the Modern meta in the Philadelphia area. Enjoy! -Jason

Philadelphia Zoo

Hey people!

Let’s start out by getting these formalities out of the way. My name is Max Perlmutter.” I got into Magic in September of 2011 at the outset of Innistrad Block thanks to two friends and teachers; my Physics teacher Zach Cullimore a former competitive player/Judge and my English teacher Jeremy Collins a former Comic shop owner. I identify most with the Timmy psychographic yet somehow I found myself living in and loving the world of competitive Magic. I hope through my articles I can share the knowledge I have gained and my love of attacking with [card]Wild Nacatl[/card], [card]Tarmogoyf[/card], and [/card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card].

SCG IQ/Boston GPT
Six Feet Under Games
New Holland PA

[deck title= Philadelphia Zoo]
[Creatures]
*4 Wild Nacatl
*4 Noble Hierarch
*4 Tarmogoyf
*4 Scavenging Ooze
*4 Qasali Pridemage
*4 Knight of the Reliquary
*1 Thundermaw Hellkite
[/Creatures]

[Spells]
*4 Lightning Bolt
*4 Path to Exile
*3 Lightning Helix
*2 Chandra Pyromaster
[/Spells]

[Land]
*4 Misty Rainforest
*4 Arid Mesa
*3 Verdant Catacombs
*1 Marsh Flats
*2 Stomping Ground
*1 Temple Garden
*1 Sacred Foundry
*2 Forest
*2 Plains
*1 Kessig Wolf Run
*1 Horizon Canopy
[/Land]

[Sideboard]
*3 Choke
*2 Blood Moon
*2 Stony Silence
*2 Ancient Grudge
*2 Batterskull
*2 Spellskite
*2 Grafdiggers Cage
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Sideboarding Guide:
[card]Choke[/card] – Choke is obviously solid against most blue decks in the format can take blue players completely out of the game. I recommend bringing it in against all versions of Twin as well as Control, Delver, UR Fae, U-Tron, Merfolk, and anything else that requires Islands.

[card]Blood Moon[/card] – Blood Moon serves a similar role to Choke and in many matchups I will bring both in together to lock someone out. I like Blood Moon against Control, BGx, real Faeries (UB), both Pod decks, Affinity, Ad Nauseam, Living End, and any deck requiring large amounts of nonbasic land to function.

[card]Stony Silence[/card] – Stony is very strong in both Tron matchups by turning off their cantrips, board wiping ability, and in Mono U’s case win conditions. I also like to bring it in for both Pod decks, Affinity, and Ad Nauseam to completely shut them down.

[card]Ancient Grudge[/card] – Grudge is good for blowing out Affinity and just beefing up your removal against decks like U Tron and RG Tron for their limited number of threats. The card is borderline playable vs. Pod decks but with 4 Qasali Pridemage you don’t really need it.

[card]Batterskull[/card] – Batterskull is great when you need to go big and I like it when you need a resilient threat against decks like Control, Living End, BGx, Melira Pod, RUG Twin, Big Zoo, Merfolk, BW Midrange (not tokens), and decks where a late game bomb crushes them.

[card]Spellskite[/card] – I like using the cute little guy against Splinter Twin, Boggles, Ad Nauseam, and some control and mid range decks depending on how removal heavy and board wipe heavy there are. If Affinity decks are slamming Etched Champion these little guys are solid blockers and can also attempt to steal modular counters if your opponent isn’t thinking.

[card]Grafdigger’s Cage[/card] – This card slot could go to [card]Relic of Progenitus[/card] or [card]Rest in Peace[/card] but I really don’t care enough about [card]Living End[/card] because I know how to fight the creature battle there so well. I like Cage against both Pod decks and if someone has a reanimator deck running around you have solid tech against that. Because Living End exiles creatures from the graveyard before they come back you cannot stop it with this. If Living End becomes a problem for you locally because it is one of our worst matchups I recommend [card]Eidolon of Rhetoric[/card] to stop them casting off of cascade or if they are heavy on creature removal but not Beast Within go for the harder to remove Rule of Law. I only like the Eidolon more because they can Living End it back for you if you deal with their threats.

Round 1 – [card]Ad Nauseam[/card]

Played by Sam Savage.

Before the tournament I decided to not add extra hate for either storm or Ad Nauseam.

Game 1 I kept a hand of 2 [card]Tarmogoyf[/card]s 1 [card]Path to Exile[/card], 1 [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and 3 lands. While strong, this hand almost bit me in the butt. I drew, resolved a few two drops followed by [card]Knight of the Reliquary[/card] and [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card], then quickly revealed [card]Lightning Helix[/card] and Lighting Bolt off of Chandra, Pyromaster for the win. My Opponent tried to have a “GOTCHA!” moment against me with Conflagrate targeting my [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card] and even tried arguing a with the judge that it had already resolved. Luckily the judge ruled in my favor and I killed his [card]Phyrexian Unlife[/card] to let me get in with the bolts off of Chandra.

I brought in Spellskite, Ancient Grudge, Stony Silence and Blood Moon. I boarded out 4 Path to Exile and 4 Scavenging Ooze. This was the first time I had ever played against Ad Nauseam and I found that those cards were mostly dead in the match up nothing fancy about the sideboard plan there.

Game 2, I was able to get a turn 4 Blood Moon on him to lock him out and closed out the game with my turn 1 2/2 Wild Nacatl. 1-0

Round 2 – BW Wescoe Midrange

Played by Zach Dobbin

Game 1 I had the nuts and ran him over with 2 Goyfs and an 8/8 KOTR; no contest. I wish I had more to add here but I will save that for (Spoiler Alert) the Top 8.

Game 2 I mulled to 5 and almost was able to grind it out until he drew 2 [card]Mutavault[/card]s for the win.

Game 3 I went turn 1 [card]Noble Hierarch[/card], turn 2 Qasali Pridemage and start beating with exalted. I ran him out of cards and he only had Mutavault, Swamp and [card]Godless Shrine[/card] in play. I played Blood Moon and got the concession.

4-1 on games 2-0 on matches.

I boarded in 2 Batterskull and 2 Blood Moon and removed Qasali Pridemage Game 2, but I got blown out by Rest In Peace, so I swapped the Pridemage for [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] and it all worked out. This match-up is definitely hit or miss. You have to get an aggro hand with burn to end it before they can get online with [card]Vault of the Archangel[/card].

Round 3 – UG Infect

Played by Ben Schaeffer.

Game 1 I kept a greedy 7 of 4 fetches a Plains KOTR and a Chandra. I lucked my way into Path To Exile to kill a [card]Blighted Agent[/card] and then followed it by using Qasali Pridemage to do away with a [card]Wild Defiance[/card]. I dropped Chandra to kill another 1/1 and rode KOTR to victory.

Game 2 he comboed me out quickly; no contest.

Game 3 I landed turn two Spellskite but he almost got me with [card]Pendlehaven[/card] and exalted Blighted Agent. I have two Knights and used one to get [card]Kessig Wold Run[/card] and win the game.

Sideboarding against Infect is very straightforward. I added 2 Spellskite and cut 2 Scavenging Oozes. In this match up I feel it is best to mulligan aggressively for disruption if your 7 isn’t solid, but it’s definitely possible to mulligan your way out of the game, so be cautious.

Round 4 – RG Tron

Played by Michael Hunter.

Mike is a friend of mine who I travel to events with all the time. We decided to draw because that locked us both for Top 8 with 10 points.

Game 1 of the Tron match up you want to be aggro on the play and hope you don’t get blown out.
Games 2-3 you want to bring in disruption like Stony Silence, Blood Moon, and Ancient Grudge. I like to take out 2 Lightning Helix here and the full set of Scavenging Ooze.

Round 5 – UB Faeries

Played by Barrett Goss.

I was paired down against Barrett and with him at 9 points I offered to draw him into Top 8. Barrett is another friend of mine and also my driving and hotel buddy so this was a no brainer because I like seeing my friends succeed.

Game 1 you want to deploy threats with the key thing trying to play multiple 1 drops or a 3 drop on turn 2 or even just bait the spell snare.

Games 2-3 I want to bring in Blood Moons and Batterskull while again taking out the Scavenging Oozes. The reason you do not [card]Choke[/card] Faeries is because good lists only run 4-5 actual Islands and it is, at best, a [card]Stone Rain[/card] in the match-up.

[Editor’s Note] – Boo! We want to see blood! Murder your friends!

Round 6 – Top 8 BW Wescoe Midrange

Played by Zach Dobbin.

Game 1 I stumbled on lands and lost to [card]Lingering Souls[/card] and spot removal.

Game 2 we attritionws the hell out of each other until we hit a top deck war. I endws up staring at 6 spirits but I playws Batterskull and top-decked a Knight to fetch up Kessig Wolf Run and start trampling shortly after.

Game 3 was a true formality. He got a spirit with a [card]Sword Of Fire and Ice[/card] on it and blew past Chandra and me to a victory.

I did not change my Sideboarding plan since my first game 3 against him and I don’t know yet how to view this match-up. I like to think this is a solid match up for me but Zach is a phenomenal player and earned his wins here through and through.

Barrett ended up beating Zach in the Semis before beating Mike in the finals to win 2 byes for Boston and an invite to an SCG Invitational.

PTQ Time!

Alternate Universes Double Tree Hilton
Wilmington Delaware.

Round 1 GW Hatebears

I hate this match up and it can come down a lot to who is on the play. I wasn’t. Game 1 I kept what felt like a strong 7 although it was lacking in removal. I saw a turn one [card]Ghost Quarter[/card] into [card]Aether Vial[/card], which was followed by a [card]Leonin Arbiter[/card] to keep me locked out until he could beat down.

Game 2 I kept a hyper aggressive hand, which almost blew up in my face. I ended up drawing 2 fetches with a [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] stuck in my hand staring down 2 [card]Flickerwisp[/card] and an [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card]. I luckily top-decked a Stomping Ground to win the game.

Game 3 was mostly a repeat of game 1 and was no contest, with him winning even through my removal.

This match-up I am not a big fan of. I sideboarded into 2 Blood Moons and 2 Batterskull while removing 2 Chandra and 2 Oozes. I think cutting the Ooze was wrong there and maybe not siding in Batterskull is the stronger play. 0-1. Not starting off strong…

Round 2 RG Tron

Game 1 my opponent was able to resolve multiple [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]s and grind me out quickly.

I boarded in 2 Blood Moon, 2 Stony Silence, and 2 Ancient Grudge. I took out 2 Helix and 4 Scavenging Ooze.

Game 2 I kept a hand of 2 lands, 1 Nacatl, 1 Stony Silence, 2 Ancient Grudge, and 1 Lightning Bolt on the play.

I lost.

My opponent mulliganed/drew into natural Tron and cast [card]All Is Dust[/card] to clear my board and unlock his artifacts. Each time I stabilized, he would cast another [card]Oblivion Stone[/card] and there was nothing I could do. A play I really liked in this game was when my opponent was tapped out and had Wurmcoil and O-Stone in play while I had 2 ¾ Tarmogoyfs. I had 5 mana open 2 red 2 plains and a Forest and I top-decked Chandra so I saw my lines of play as being either play her and tick up, bringing my opponent down to 1 life and letting them wrath the board and get 2 Wurm tokens after attacking me for 6 or I use her +0 and try to rip Path to Exile off of my deck. I flipped Noble Hierarch instead and lost the game but I still think that play was what gave me the best chance to win.

0-2- Playing for points and prizes.

Round 3 Scapeshift

Game 1 I was able to get on the aggro beat down plan unimpeded with 2 Tarmogoyf. I made a mistake; when I attacked him, he flashed a [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] in which I killed before blocks, but only assigned 6 damage instead of 8 to my opponent. I caught it in my opponent’s upkeep and we both got warnings but I was able to untap and bolt him to death so it all worked out.

I boarded in 3 Chokes and 2 Blood Moons and took out 4 Qasali Pridemage and a Lightning Helix.

Game 2 I resolved a turn 3 Blood Moon and while my opponent furiously rushed to combo out, I beat him down with Tarmogoyfs for the win. After the match I corrected his play that he could not combo through Blood Moon.

1-2; on the board!

Round 4 UWR Kiki Control

Game 1 I got on the aggro beatdown plan and flooded my board to kill him ASAP while convincing him I was on Kiki Pod because all I used was 1 Qasali, 1 ‘Goyf and 2 Nobles.

In this match up I really like bringing in 3 Chokes and 2 Blood Moons and 2 Batterskull while cutting 4 Qasali Pridemage and 3 Scavenging Ooze. Game 3 if it gets there I would bring back Pridemages or Ancient Grudge if I get shown a worthy target.

Game 2 I played turn 1 Wild Nacatl, so the cat was out of the bag. My Nacatl ate a bolt but I was able to drop another the following turn. Turn 3 my opponent Snapcasters to bolt my Nacatl and I cast Choke turn 3. I resolved a Batterskull and Knight of the Reliquary and ran to victory unimpeded.

2-2; can I win out?

Round 5 Jund

Game 1 developed into a top-decking war and my opponent challenged me to out-top-deck him. I ripped Nacatl followed by Kessig and crushed him.

I cut 4 Qasali Pridemage and boarded in 2 Batterskull and 2 Blood Moon.

Game 2 he ripped my hand apart and I had no good plays against him.

Game 3 I mulliganed to 3 cards and played the game as a formality.

I consider this match up 40-45% in our favor and is highly dependent on game 1 and seeing sideboard cards game 2.

2-3

Round 6 RUG Twin

Game 1 my opponent got starved on land and I beat him down quickly.

This match up I bring in 3 Chokes and 2 Spellskite and remove 2 Chandra 1 Lighting Helix and 2 Scavenging Ooze.

Game 2 He boarded out the combo, but I still brought in Spellskite just to be safe. I resolved an early KOTR and was able to bash face a couple times and get the quick win.

3-3

Round 7 UB Tezzerator

Game 1 my opponent lead with [card]Creeping Tar Pit[/card] into [card]River of Tears[/card] and [card]Bitterblossom[/card] so naturally I assumed Faeries and cracked a Qasali Pridemage to get rid of it. I then overextend into Damnation. Off the top of my deck I ripped 2 Noble Hierarchs and Kessig Wolf Run while my opponent played Ensnaring Bridge. Noble beat down got there.

In this Match up I like Blood Moon, Ancient Grudge, and Batterskull. I took out 4 Scavenging Ooze and 2 Lightning Helix. This game is about the grind but when they have no creatures, those spells just aren’t as good.

Game 2 we got in a staring contest with my 6/7 Goyf vs. his 5/5 [card]Darksteel Citadel[/card]. Eventually, after beating in with Qasali and Goyf, I top decked Kessig Wolf Run to trample over to win. My favorite play this match was easily when he Ghost Quartered my only red source I cast Ancient Grudge on his Citadel so I would still be able to flash it back. The play worked out and I was able to kill an Ensnaring Bridge.

4-3

Round 8 UR Vial Faeries Kiki Combo

Game 1 [card]Mistbind Clique[/card], [card]Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker[/card] and Mutavault locked me out.

I brought in Choke and Blood Moon and took out Qasali and 1 Ooze but I didn’t see Aether Vial until game 3 so in the future I would take out 4 Ooze and only 1 Qasali or 4 Ooze and a Lightning Helix.

Game 2 I was able to build a big board state and crush him with no resistance.

Game 3 My Blood Moon was countered when I tried to lock him off of blue mana. He ended up stealing my 5/5 Scavenging Ooze and just crushing me.

I really enjoyed the list I played this weekend and although my overall record on the weekend was 7-5-2 I still felt like each match I sat down in I felt confident could be won with Big Zoo. A change I have been mulling over is changing up the number of Chokes and Blood Moons in the sideboard. Splinter Twin and Boggles still feel like my worst matchups and those cards when landed early can shut them out to steal a win. If I were to play a tournament tomorrow it would probably be nearly this same 75 but cutting something like 1 stony silence for a 3rd Blood Moon I don’t think should be out of the question especially when you need to turn off Boggles before they can get going. Another more narrow hate card I like in the Boggles matchup is [card]Back to Nature[/card]. The card is a blowout and it is pretty straightforward how it works but it just feels too narrow to include in my sideboard.

If you are playing this deck and your local meta is centered more strongly in Combo/Control instead of Midrange/Combo, I suggest changing the maindeck Thundermaw Hellkite into a [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] and changing one of the Batterskulls into a second copy. Another way to be stronger in a control-heavy meta is by adding [card]Loxodon Smiter[/card] while removing cards like Lightning Helix or even Qasali Pridemage if you do not expect to see a lot of Splinter Twin. I really like [card]Ajani Vengeant[/card] over Chandra for a control-dominated meta and the main play to go for is locking them out of a land or creature and ticking up to use his ultimate. By shooting for Ajani’s ultimate, you put a lot of pressure on them to use their burn spells on him, letting your other creatures squeak through to steal games or you just [card]Armageddon[/card] and get the same results.

I hope this has been interesting to you all and that you enjoyed hearing about a lesser-played archetype in the format but can still pack a punch and take many people by surprise.

If you have any further questions about the deck please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section and I will try to check in and answer whatever I can.

B/g Midrange Tournament Report – Benjamin Sullivan

This is the first in what promises to be a series of submissions from Reddit’s r/spikes community. We’re excited to host the reports on our site and expose this work to a larger audience. There are a lot of up-and-comers in the reddit spikes community and we’re proud to feature them here on Brainstorm Brewery. Enjoy! – Jason

 

Hello, Brainstorm Brewery readers! My name is Benjamin Sullivan and my reddit username is /u/BenEBeats. This is my first foray into actually sitting down and writing out my thoughts about MtG, much less writing an actual article for people to read. My Magic career has been one of competitive mediocrity. An 80 person IQ top 8, a 4-4 drop SCG Open, and my best finish was 28th out of 250 people. Going into any larger tournament I can depend on not being the most skilled player in the room. I know that I need to play tight, to my outs, and I need to have those outs show up more often than not if I am to do well. Knowing all this I wanted to go into the [TCG Player] 5k [in Fort Worth]  to improve, to focus on my play and to keep it tight all day even if I went 0-X I wanted to know what my mistakes were and how I could not make those mistakes again.

I’m sure that B/g has been beaten to death and the list has been hammered out and discussed by many people. Still, a few of the minor things that may stand out is the lack of [card]Devour Flesh[/card] in my 75. In testing for the tournament, Devour flesh was the worst 2 cmc removal in the list. It usually just picked off [card]Sylvan Caryatids[/card] instead of its main target, [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card]. The decks that run Braon now also run 4 Sylvan Caryatid making Devour Flesh a poor way to deal with the Baron. When Esper and Orzhov control ran Baron in the sideboard as tech against Mono-B Devotion it was much better, but now that the meta has shifted to Junk and Jund, it is dead with a Caryatid on board. I still needed a way to deal with Blood Baron, so I dropped the playset of [card]Nightveil Specter[/card]s and sleeved up [card]Lifebane Zombie[/card]s and made all of my removal targeted to deal with a wider range of threats. The addition of Zombie gave me a way to deal with a drawn Blood Baron before turn 4-5 if [card]Thoughtseize[/card] misses. I was more comfortable with this list and it performed much better than the configuration with 4 Nightveil Specter and 2 Devour Flesh.

I tested against all the major decks in the meta, including Mono-U, the mirror with the Green, White, and no splash, U/W/x, Jund, Sligh, Burn, and Junk. The U/W/x matchup was the only matchup I had trouble with and I completely missed playing against the Planar Cleansing list, but I trusted the list enough to be able to muddle through and pull out some wins.

After all that explanation here’s the list I ended up piloting:

[deck title= B/g Midrange]
[Creatures]
4 Pack Rat
4 Lifebane Zombie
4 Desecration Demon
4 Grey Merchant of Asphodel
[/Creatures]

[Spells]
4 Thoughtseize
3 Abrupt Decay
2 Bile Blight
2 Ultimate Price
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Underworld Connections
[/Spells]

[Land]
12 Swamp
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Temple of Malady
1 Golgari Guildgate
4 Mutavault
[/Land]

[Sideboard]
4 Duress
3 Pharika’s Cure
1 Abrupt Decay
2 Doom blade
2 Drown in Sorrow
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
1 Whip of Erebos
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Round 1 vs Esper Control (0-0)

We sit down and introduce ourselves and he goes first, playing a Temple of Enlightenment and I start hoping he’s on U/w or W/u aggro. On my turn I ‘Seize him to see [card]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/card], [card]Aetherling[/card], [card]Banishing Light[/card], and [card]Dissolve[/card]. With [card]Mutavault[/card] and [card[Pack Rat[/card] in hand I take the [card]Banishing Light[/card] to try and put some pressure on him underneath his Dissolve. I put some early pressure on him and resolve some threats after he deals with mine. I draw him out with a resolved Underworld Connections and he never manages to find a [card]Sphinx’s Revelation[/card] to draw into more gas. I end the game after I attack with my Mutavault a few times, and Downfall the Aetherling he played on his last turn to blink it and take him to 0. Game 2 plays out the same way except Erebos gets in through 3 Banishing Lights that are taken care of with Abrupt Decay. I resolve two Underworld Connections to keep Erebos on line long enough to beat him down to 0.

In

4 Duress
2 Erebos
1 Whip
1 Abrupt Decay

Out

2 Bile Blight
2 Ultimate Price
2 Pack Rat
2 Grey Merchant

Round 2 vs Junk Midrange (1-0)

I [card]Thoughtseize[/card] turn one to see a Hero’s Downfall, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, [card]Courser of Kruphix[/card], [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] and a [card]Reaper of the Wilds[/card]. I take the Baron, and then draw nothing really relevant the rest of the game after my only threat dies to the Downfall. Game 2 I Thoughtseize him take his Reaper, his only creature, leaving him a grip full of removal. I jam threat after threat, beat him down and resolve a Grey Merchant to take him to zero. Game 3 presented me with the most interesting Thoughtseize decision of the day when I Thoughtseize into a hand of Sin Collector, Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Reaper of the Wilds, and a Hero’s Downfall. I take his Sin Collector. With a Lifebane Zombie and a Downfall in hand I decide the best line of play is to take his Sin Collector, get the BBoV with Lifebane and force him to play Reaper before he has enough mana to play and protect it. I jump on that plan and it turns out to be the correct play and I take Game 3.

In

2 Doomblade
1 Whip

Out

1 Abrupt Decay
2 Bile Blight

Round 3 vs Burn (2-0)

He mulls down to 5 and I Thoughtseize him turn 1 to see [card]Young Pyromancer[/card], [card]Chain to the Rocks[/card], [card]Skullcrack[/card], and [card]Magma Jet[/card]. I take the jet and only take 2 damage the entire game. Game 2, I [card]Duress[/card] him and take Skullcrack, and [card]Pharika’s Cure[/card] on my turn the Young Pyro he plays on his. Grey Merchants and Cures get there and I finish him with Merchant beats.

In

3 Pharika’s Cures
4 Duress
1 Whip

Out

4 Lifebane Zombie
2 Pack Rat
2 Underworld Connections

Round 4 vs Mono-B (3-0)

Game 1, I Thoughtseize and kill everything he plays, Merchant for 4 and just beat him to death with Pack Rats. Game 2 he beats me with Demon and Nightveils as I can’t stick anything for long enough to stop the Demon from turning sideways into my life total. Game 3 is long and grindy. I stick a Pack Rat late enough to dodge Bile Blight and then play around it. I rip a Bile Blight late in the game to take care of the 2 Nightveils he has on board and swing into him for game.

In

1 Abrupt Decay
2 Erebos
1 Whip

Out

4 Lifebane Zombie

Round 5 vs Gruul Monsters (4-0)

I’m actually more comfortable against the Jund version of this deck, because it’s a little slower than the G/R version, and it showed here. He kills me quickly Game 1 and Game 2. [card]Ghor-Clan Rampager[/card] is one of the hardest threats for me to deal with Game 1 and he killed me with it by tapping my Demon down with Xenagos tokens and then Flesh/Blooding a [card]Polukranos, World Eater[/card] to my face. Game 2 was much more explosive from his side of the table after I kept a sketchy but keepable hand of Lifebane into Demon. He drops his green creatures before I can Lifebane them and beats me to death the same way he did Game 1 and I fold. The G/R version of Monsters is much more explosive and if you stumble on removal it punishes you dearly. Going forward, Ghor-Clan needs to be dealt with easier. A 4cmc multi-colored beater is only answered by 4 pieces of removal main board and 6 post board does not seem to be enough.

In

2 Doom Blade

Out

2 Bile Blight

Round 6 vs Jund Monsters (4-1)

This is the Monsters list I am most comfortable with. Game 1 he gets an explosive hand and takes me to 8 with a [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card] then shows me the second dragon on his turn and I scoop. This game played out much differently. I Thoughtseize him, take his only threat, and play creatures into his removal until I can finally make a Pack Rat stick. After a few turns of Pack Rat beats, it was onto Game 3. Game 3 is another grinder and I ping him for 1 with the loneliest Pack Rat for a few turns as he kills any copies and then finish him with a Merchant plus Rat beats when he draws into no threats that I can’t deal with.

In

2 Doom Blade

Out

2 Bile Blight

Round 7 vs Mono-B (5-1)

Game 1, I’m in the driver’s seat as I kill 2 [card]Desecration Demon[/card]s while keeping mine on the table. It was uneventful with no one playing a Thoughtseize. Game 2 we trade kill spells for dudes until he stabilizes with back-to-back top-decked Gray Merchants and then a Nightveil swing to finish me off. Game 3 is a nail-biter that comes down to the last two turns of time. We have a stalled board with several rats on each side of the board. His rats have triple Mutavault backups to my one. On his last turn, he has lethal with 2 rats a merchant and an online Erebos versus my two rats Merchant and Erebos. I have a Bile Blight to deal with his Mutavaults and swamp in hand to make another rat to survive. He thinks for a while, mans up his Mutavaults and swings in for lethal. I Bile Blight his vaults, make a rat to block Erebos and survive with apparent lethal damage on board. He has one card in hand and 2 swamps open. Here’s where my mistakes for the day begin: at the end of his turn I draw a card with Connections to draw into a Thoughtseize, but I miss my draw for turn. I fire off a precombat Thoughtseize to play around a Bile Blight or any other shenanigans he may blow me out with. He shows me Connections and I swing in for the match.

This game I should have first off drawn for turn and kept the Thoughtseize in hand to still play around Bile Blight and still deliver lethal, instead of firing it off and manning up my Mutavault in response, which was my original plan. Nerves were affecting me and it was a detriment to my play. Even though it didn’t cost me the match it was still disappointing.

In

2 Doom Blade

Out

2 Bile Blight

Round 8 vs Planar Cleansing U/W (6-1)

This is my win and in and my lack of play testing against this deck becomes painfully apparent. He wins Game 1 and I sideboard like I would if he was playing a full suite of [card]Detention Sphere[/card]s and Banishing Lights. I bring in Erebos the Whip and the last Abrupt Decay. He is playing none of the 3CMC enchantments and my Decays are completely dead. Luckily, Game 2 I open a hand of Temple of Malady, Mutavault, 3 Duress, and 2 Lifebane Zombies. I Temple, pass, draw into a Swamp and double Duress and then begin to beat him turn 4 with Lifebane + Mutavault. He draws pretty much only lands and can’t do anything relevant and he dies to Zombie beats. Game 3 my board plan kills me. I draw 3 Decays this game and the lack of action ends my top 8 run. He [card]Planar Cleansing[/card]s and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]s all of my threats away and I roll over and die to Aetherling.

In

1 Abrupt Decay
2 Erebos
1 Whip of Erebos

Out

2 Bile Blight
2 Ultimate Price

Round 9 vs Naya Tokens (6-2)

I have never played nor tested this matchup, and it showed. He plays [card]Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice[/card] and the combination of Voice tokens and Trostani kills me putting me to 6-3 for the day.

In

2 Doom Blade

Out

2 Ultimate Price

Overall, I played well for most of the day. The deck is extremely powerful and ran very well. The green splash is awesome and I was never disappointed to have Abrupt Decay except when I boarded poorly. Going forward I need to play test more thoroughly. Drown in Sorrow was never brought in and I think that Sligh plans were hated out by over-preparation. Those slots should have been [card]Golgari Charm[/card]s. The versatility provided by the Charms would have been much better than Drown in Sorrow.

I can see the improvement in my play. I’m getting better at playing to my outs, understanding tempo and dealing with unfavorable board states. I’m disappointed in my play in the last rounds of the tournament, but next time I know to be better prepared. If you have any comments or questions about the list or lines of play, let me know on reddit at /u/BenEBeats or in the comments.

Late Night Packs- Tokens Revealed

Brainstorm Brewery is blowing up all over the internet! Our latest is a feature on the Quad9s Youtube Channel.

Quad9s is a channel that profiles some MTGO gameplay. There are a lot of good Cube videos in the “Like a Johnny” series. The channel also features a lot of booster pack opening vids, and let’s face it; who doesn’t love to watch other people open packs? I totally, unironically do. If someone busts a pack of Beta and gets a Mox like MTG Headquarters did when Jeremy opened a Beta Ruby, you share in their jubilation. When they open a Deathlace like, well, MTG Headquarters also did, you get a little Schadenfreude to enjoy and you also get to think “I’m glad that wasn’t my $800”.

Quad9s recently ordered some of our tokens and opened them up as well as some booster packs in a ceremony that is as good as any to serve as a debut of our Rk Post Kraken tokens. Kiora is making waves (that pun was unintentional, I promise, but I’m going to leave it) at the Pro Tour right now, and if you plan to make a splash (last one, I promise) with Kiora in the new, post-rotation Standard, you don’t want to be playing some trifling 9/9 kraken you got in a booster pack like a poor person. You’re a fan of finance, and finance fans make tokens in style. Windmill one of our krakens, or, if that’s not your style, find an excuse to jimmy jam with a 1/1 Ray Perez Soldier by Derfington, a 1/1 flying Spirit by Inkwell Looter or a 2/2 Satyr token by Brian Clymer.

Here is the Quad9s video. Like it, share it, subscribe to the channel; go nuts. Let’s show our supporters some support and make the phrase “Brainstorm Brewery Bump” a real thing and not just something I say ironically when one of our writers get 2 new twitter followers. We sold a ton of tokens already over at our store and we have more on order as well as redesigned playmat. Watch the video and listen for episode 100 of the podcast coming next week.

This is your Brainstorm Brewery Overlord, Jason Alt signing off.

Investing 203: Marcel vs. Jason, Round 1

“William has already made us $15k. Cool, you want me to break something else?”

“Do you think it will work? It would take a miracle.”

“When will then be now? Soon!”

Timing is everything in investing. The difference between making 100% and losing 50% can be as little as 24 hours. Being in the right place at the right time can mean selling an Elspeth for $40 because the tournament is starting in 20 minutes.

Marcel is involved in MTG finance mainly on MTGO. This gives him some extra benefits because he can buy and sell quickly. However, he is also limited because he can’t click over to TCGplayer and buy 30 copies of a near-mint mythic.  Jason is able to flip his wares quickly, too, but because he buys and sell at events. Jason also runs his MTG business so that he can be in tune with what his potential clients will want. This is necessary in order to not be sitting on a stack of worthless cardboard at rotation. Profit per trade means more trades (or volume) is key.

This first round, we will compare Marcel and Jason from the period starting November 1, 2012, going through April 30th, 2012.  During this time, each individual made a different number of calls.  As before, we are going to pretend like you went out and spent $100 on each and every card they said buy, and by coincidence you sold exactly $100 worth of every card they said to sell (if you are spazzing about the math here please read Investing 201). Then we’ll divide the profits by the number of trades.

Let’s start with the short-term results:

Marcel’s average return 30 days after his calls:
8.4% profit  per trade

Jason’s average return 30 days after his calls:
27.6%  profit per trade

Based on these short-term results, you might think that Marcel should stick to smooth jazz radio stations. But don’t turn on the Kenny G just yet. Marcel’s picks are meant for longer terms and are low-risk specs. This way, he doesn’t have to micromanage his portfolio. Jason, on the other hand, pays the bills on turning cards quickly. Making 27.6% on one’s investments per month will pay a lot of bills.

Despite a large variance in returns, they actually have similar prediction ratios:

Marcel correctly called the direction of a cards price 37.5% of the time.

Jason correctly predicted the direction of a card price 40% of the time.

Some Examples

Here are some examples of buy recommendations to show why the returns are so different (all price changes are the prices 30 days after the call):

Marcel:

[card]Birthing Pod[/card] (MTGO): $2 –> $4.  (100% profit)
[card]Underworld Connections[/card] (MTGO): $0.40 –> $0.40  (0% profit)
[card]Lilliana of the Veil[/card] (MTGO): $35 –> $40.   (14% profit)

Jason:

[card]Invisible Stalker[/card]: price $1.50  –> $3.50 (133% profit)
[card]Spellskite[/card]: $3.50 –> $10.00    (185.71% profits)
[card]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/card]: $25.00 –> $15.00   (-40% losses)

So far, Jason’s short-term business approach for his calls is beating Marcel’s slow-and-steady approach. Lets take at look at the percentages at rotation. Remember that we are looking at a period starting in November 2012 to April 2013, so all picks were at least six months old upon the release of Theros.

Marcel’s  returns on picks through rotation:
79% profit per trade.
Correct buy/sell calls: 56.25% of the time

Jason’s  returns on picks through rotation:
1.6% profit per trade
Correct buy/sell calls: 36%  of the time

Wait, what? What happened?

A very high 78% of Jason’s picks peaked shortly after he called them, but they all dropped by rotation. Marcel’s picks, on the other hand, rose steadily. He did hit 500% profit on his [card]Counterflux[/card] call (starting price of $0.05), but even if we remove that one, he still earned an average of 48.7% per trade.

Here are some examples of cards Marcel and Jason called, their prices 30 days later, and their prices at rotation.

Marcel:

[card]Craterhoof Behemoth[/card] (sell recommendation): price, $18 –> 30 days later, $12 (33% value preserved) –> price at rotation, $5 (72% value saved).

[card]Liliana of the Veil[/card] (buy recommendation): price, $35 –> price at rotation, $55 (57% profit).

[card]Mutilate [/card] (buy recommendation): price, $2 –> 30 days later, $3 –> price at rotation, $4 (100% profit).

Jason:

[card]Invisible Stalker[/card] (buy recommendation): price, $1.50 –> 30 days later, $3.50 (133% profit) –> at rotation, $1 (-33% loss).

[card]Rhox Faithmender[/card] (buy recommendation): price, $1 –> 30 days later, $3.50 (250% profit) –> at rotation, $0.50 (50% loss).

[card]Chalice of the Void[/card] (buy recommendation): price, $9 –> 30 days later, $10 (11% profits) –> at rotation, $4 (-55% loss).

Conclusion

Marcel is a classic Alex-profile investor. His picks seem to favor low-risk, long-term growth. Though he makes fewer sell calls, he’s a buy-and-hold investor, not a buy-and-forget guy. Jason, on he other hand, is almost single-handedly building the Gordon psychographic from scratch. If you want to flip short-term specs, Jason seems to have it down. His picks turn fast, so “leave the last 10% for the next guy.”  While an Alex type will advise you with less risk and more upside, a Gordon will get bored waiting for results.

Join me next time when we watch two more Brew Crew members face off!

-Brian Dale

Brian Dale – Investing 202: Corbin v.s Ryan, Round 1

Go big or go home. Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights do make a left. I am never going to see a merman, ever!

The Dow is up due to speculators. Oil is down due to speculators. These are common phrases in today’s investment  world. One would think that speculators are responsible for everything since the dinosaurs died off.  But with the exception of the rare “London whale,” the markets are moving based on 10,000 different factors and most speculators are just trying to scry the patterns.

A few, like the Brew Crew, put themselves out there as someone who should be followed. Today we are starting with Corbin ” It’s a Merfolk” Hosler versus Ryan “Baby Face” Bushard.   Click the “Hosts” link at the top of this page if you don’t know them. We are only looking at results today.

Before we dig into the results, some context. The Major League Baseball Hall of Fame is filled to the brim with players who failed at bat seven out of every 10 times. The highest-paid hedge funds in 2013 underperformed the markets by almost 20%. Donald Trump has filed for bankruptcy four times.  The bar for success in life is often very low. The expectations, on the other hand, are often very high.  Speculating on MTG cards is the act of guessing the drive and finances of 13 million people at the same time.

On To The Battle

This first round we will compare Corbin versus Ryan from the period starting Nov 1, 2012 going through,April 30th, 2013. During this time, each individual made a different number of calls.  So we are going to pretend like you went out and spent $100 on each and every card they said buy, and by coincidence you sold exactly $100 worth of every card they said to sell (If your are spazzing about the math here, please read Investing 201). Then we divided the profits by the number of trades.  We are going to start with the short-term results:

Ryan’s 30-day returns: 7% per trade

Corbin’s 30-day returns: 26% per trade

Okay, if we stopped here, everybody would be joining the cult of merfolk. Corbin’s average return per trade in the first 30 days was on average more then three times higher then  Ryan’s. Let’s take a look at some of Corbin’s average buy calls:

[card]Tree of Redemption[/card]: $0.50 –> $2.00 (300% profit)
[card]Cryptic Command[/card]: $18.00 –> $12.00 (-33% loss)

Here’s Ryan’s:

[card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card]: $25 –> $30 (21% profit)
[card]Deathrite Shaman[/card]: $10 –> $14 (40% profit)

Corbin seems to be swinging for the fences, while Ryan is targeting cards with incremental value.  Next, let’s look at some sell calls.

Corbin:

[card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card]: $30 –> $38  (-26% lost profit)
[card]Hellrider[/card]: $15 –> $6 (+60% added value)

Ryan:

Shock lands: $10.00 –> $9.00 (+10% added value)
[card]Mind Grind[/card]: $3.50 -> $2.50( +28% added value)

Again,  Ryan is going for incremental and Corbin is pointing to left field (I think that should be last baseball reference). Here’s the 30-day final call rates:

Corbin correctly called the direction of a card’s price 35% of the time.

Ryan correctly predicted the direction of a card’s price 37% of the time!

Remember that each card had to move 20% or more before we counted it as a win for each of these guys.

Now, using the assumption that you will hold cards more then 30 days, let’s look at the rest of our time line. Ryan is  more likely to give a target price and to change his opinion when the price changed dramatically. Corbin is more likely to double down. For example, Corbin said to sell [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] at $30 in episode 33 and then picked it again as a sell at $40 in episode 35.

Let’s look at the card values at rotation. Corbin’s returns on picks through rotation were 41% per trade. He made the correct buy/sell calls 56% of the time. Ryan’s returns on picks through rotation were 21% per trade. He made the correct buy/sell calls 62% of the time

Again, Corbin’s returns are stronger, except they are little misleading. If you remove Corbin’s [card]Aven Mindcensor[/card] call ( 300%!), his returns drop to 32% per trade on average.  And 75% of his picks move more then 50% up or down after he picked them, while the Magic universe at large moved less the 20% in any one direction.  In the investment world, we call this a high Beta.

Conclusions

Corbin’s picks during this round were more high-risk, high-reward, while Ryan’s pick were incremental and value-driven.  A gambler (Gordon profile) will more then likely find Ryan’s pick unsatisfying. While an investor (Alex profile) who fears risk more then he desires gains will jettison Corbin’s picks too quickly to realize gains.

Join as next time we pit more Brew Crew members against each other!

Brian Dale – Investing 201: Tracking

Investing 201: Tracking

Buy low sell, high. Double down when the dealer shows a six. Never get involved in a land war in Asia, but only slightly less well known is this—always track your progress. Ahahahahahaha…..haha…..ha………….

In today’s world of investing, the media will all too often glorify a wild call that went right. A hedge-fund manager can make dozens of bad investments, but if he calls the surprise fall of a major company, then he becomes the hero of Wall Street. In fact, unless it’s a high-profile individual, the media almost never tracks results. This leads many investors to jump on a bandwagon with three flat tires (or the Wild West equivalent).

This leads us to where we are now.

You are looking for ways to improve your MTG finance skills. You are learning the ropes and listening to Brainstorm Brewery (if not, then you can’t be very serious about it).  The Brew Crew each have thriving business interests and MTG finance cred in the community. And while they each track their own investments, this is the first time that they are taking the steps to review their podcast picks and share the results with the readers.

Methodology

Valuing

Every MTG financier purchases from different sites and trades for different values.  Some pick up a copy of a card at FNM, others buy 100 deep from TCG Player. However, most sites move up and down together over time.  So while the difference between TCG Player and Star City Games makes a difference for a single trade, for our tracking purposes all that matters is that we use the same source and the same investment amount for each trade. We are also using retail prices without accounting for commissions, fees, or buy-listing. We are assuming the retail value of the cards is the value of your portfolio.

Investing

In order to keep the high-value cards from overshadowing the cheaper cards, we will be “investing” $100 into each pick, buying two $50 cards or 10 $10 cards. This will sometimes lead to odd card amounts. For example, we would need 22.22 of a $4.50 card. You might be thinking, you can’t buy .22 of a card! Don’t freak out. The percentages scale just fine. “What about sales?” you ask. “You can’t profit from selling!”

On the contrary: If you sell a $100 card for cash, and then it drops to $1, your cash value is 100 times more than if you had done nothing. Also, if you know a way to short-sell magic cards, please call me ASAP!

Timing

Unless a ‘Crew member specifically mentions a change in opinion or an initial target price, we are assuming that you held onto or avoided the card based on the original recommendations. To that end, there will be two time-frames examined: the 30 days following the recommendation and the value of the card at rotation. Why rotation? Two reasons:

1. Standard card values are directly affected.

2. In this batch, rotation is at least six months following the Brew Crew pick.

Measuring Performance

There are many ways to measure performance. You could list total right and wrong. But what if someone is right 51% of the time, but all the bad picks drop 90%? What if someone is wrong 75% of the time but their wins are all 1000% gainers? Here’s the plan: we will be listing the Brew Crew’s win/loss percentages and their total combined returns. So, a 50% gain on card A and a -25% loss on card B will result in a portfolio gain of 25% and a win loss of 50/50.  Also, due to market inefficiency and transaction cost, any moves under +/-20% are considered “flat performers” for our purposes.

Results

Every person who plays Magic has a little MTG finance in them. Much like the player psychographics made famous by Mark Rosewater (Timmy, Johnny, Spike) there are also MTG finance psychographics: Alex and Gordon. Alex is the guy who, as a kid during Alpha, lost a little value when he traded his extra Mox for 10 awesome creatures to finish his collection.  Gordon (greed is good) Gecco is the guy who offers you buylist prices for your cards and SCG prices for his. More on these guys later.

Please remember these results are from a short time frame—a season if you like. Every season will have different challenges and timing.

Here are some teasers to whet your appetite:

  • Which Brew Crew member had a better season average than the Baseball Hall of Fame hitter Hugh Duffy?
  • Which Brew Crew member did in six months what Wall Street titans couldn’t do in 12?
  • Which Brew Crew member offered three trades on one podcast that EACH returned over 90% in under six months?

Stay tuned for future installments to see how the Crew members did on their picks!

 

Remember when we asked podcast listeners to volunteer to listen to old Brainstorm Brewery episodes and to tell us what our picks of the week were and what we said to do? Well, the data is in and Brian Dale has analyzed it and above is the introduction to his series where he will present the data and help you figure out which kind of investor you are and whose opinion you find yourself agreeing with more. Is one of the ‘Crew under or over-performing consistently? Are all four members making a net profit with their picks? The most important component of MTG Finance is accountability, and this series looks to keep the ‘Crew on their toestheir picks will be scrutinized. What’s going to come out? That’s half the fun! On behalf of Brainstorm Brewery, I would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to everyone who volunteered to mine our old episodes for this data. We hope when you see how it’s presented in this series you will agree it was worth it. – Jason Alt

Michael Cuevas – Weekend Recap 12/13-12/15

 

My name is Michael Cuevas, and like many other players, I remember playing Magic: the Gathering, as a young kid.  I also remember giving my collection away around the age of 14 because cool kids weren’t supposed to play magic; wow do I regret that decision. I am 27 now, and a couple of years ago, due to a bit of nostalgia, and a coupon that came in the mail from my LGS, I decided to buy a few booster packs. Remember kids, the first one is always free. I then played a couple of FNMs with a white weenie pre-con from the Innistrad block, which of course snowballed into me picking up the game again.

Building a collection of Magic cards can be a daunting task and can be very expensive no matter what kind of budget you are working with.  It is equally frustrating when the cards you purchase lose their value within mere months.  I learned very quickly how to parlay the value of my cards from one standard rotation to the next, and through that process, became quite involved with the financial aspect of the game.  Following the release of Return to Ravnica, I began a “pack to power” project, with a pack a friend had decided had  no value and gave to me. [card]Wild Beastmaster[/card] was the rare.  The only card of note was a [card]Selesnya charm[/card], which became a [card]Lingering Souls[/card], which started the chain of trades.  Around nine months later, I finished my project, trading the contents of my binder for a Beta [card]Time Twister [/card]with moderate play.  (Full disclosure, the twister’s border was inked by a previous owner to cover the wear on the whitening edges, but I still consider this a success.)  I’ve also spent some time traveling to magic events across the Midwest.

Through my experience, I will look to provide insight into which cards are poised to move based on tournament results.  The purpose of this column, will be to recap the events of the weekend, point out cards on the move, and identify emerging archetypes.  This weekend in particular was choc-full of magic events, with both the Star City open and invitational events taking place in Las Vegas.

The safe bet this weekend in standard was once again Mono-black devotion which was the deck of choice for both Timothy Rivera, the Standard Open champion, and Maxwell Brown, the Invitational champ.  Both players moved to four mainboard copies of [card]Pack Rat[/card].  This is something that Mono-black has been trending toward, and something that Haibing Hu had done last week in his Mono Black list he Top 8’d with at Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth.  In the finals of the invitational, Max Brown was quite dominant, not dropping a single game throughout the Top 8. Despite the Mono-black deck’s dominance this weekend, Standard has been quite diverse as of late.

Consider Jim Davis’ Naya Devotion decklist.   He was able to pilot this list to a 7-1 record through the standard portion of the tournament, a record that no mono-black pilot was able to match.  This deck ran two copies of [card]Mindsparker[/card];  not a card that has seen a lot of attention at the top tables, but one can see how this card can be effective in this shell, and the 3/2 first strike with upside can be an effective clock on its own.  This deck also has access to [card]Domri Rade[/card], [card]Chandra, Pyromaster[/card] and [card]Xenagos, the Reveler[/card].  Chandra’s first two abilities are very powerful, and as demonstrated by the price spike this card made earlier this year, I am not the only one who feels that this card has the potential to dominate the standard format.  The planeswalkers that this Naya deck presents are resilient threats in a removal-heavy format.  The premise of the Naya devotion deck is essentially the same as the R/W devotion list, and as many players were packing the R/W, this Naya list could potentially just be better suited to the meta-game that has developed.

Andrew Shrout brought a unique take on the G/W aggro archetype to the invitational this weekend.  His build seems like an effective way to combat the Esper, U/W control, and the Mono-blue decklists that made up a larger part of the meta-game at the invitational.  This deck is pre-boarded for basically any blue deck with 4 [card]Skylasher[/card], and 4 [card]Mistcutter Hydra[/card] in the mainboard.  [card]Skylasher[/card] currently is a bulk rare.  With the U/W and the G/W scry land seeing print in the next set, smoothing out the mana for the U/W control list, as well as the G/W creature based decks that would be interested in the ‘lasher, this could be a relevant threat.  At bulk rare prices, [card]Skylasher[/card] can’t go any lower.  At any rate, I like the idea of acquiring a few extra playsets of the cards that are staples in the G/W archetype.  TCG is listing [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card] at $2.71 with shipping included, copies of [card]Fleecemane Lion[/card] can be picked up at $2.73, and [card]Boon Satyr[/card] at $2.34.  I don’t necessarily advocate buying these cards in cash, but these are cards I am targeting out of trade binders.  When a new set is released, aggressive decks are often successful in the first few weeks, and this is when I would be looking to see the G/W cards see a spike in their values.  Shrout’s deck was also innovative in that it had a transformational sideboard to where it could become a pseudo-hexproof deck.  Capitalizing on the same enchantment, [card]Unflinching Courage[/card] that was quite popular before the last rotation.  This transformational strategy was likely quite useful in matchups against other aggressive strategies.

[card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] made an appearance as a 3-of in the sideboard of Gregory Hatch’s Mono-blue decklist.  [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] answers a vast number of threats, and frees threats from [card]Detention Sphere[/card].  In a recent article, Reid Duke identified [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] as a “hidden gem” of standard.  I tend to agree and have been baffled why this card hasn’t seen more attention.  Copies can be picked up for $1.49 on TCGplayer.  On its versatility alone, [card]Ratchet Bomb[/card] is probably a safe trade target, and it may see more attention if the aforementioned G/W aggro strategies are token based, or adapt Shrout’s hexproof approach.

We also saw a lot of Legacy this weekend.  Likely as a nod to [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card], Jund made a resurgence this weekend.  Jund packs several answers to the mini-[card]Progenitus[/card] and is a potent strategy in its own right.  The problem with Jund is that it is weaker to combo strategies, and many players who wish to ignore [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card] outright have moved to combo strategies.  That didn’t stop two of the players who made the cut to top 8 at the invitational from piloting the deck successfully through the legacy portion of the tournament.  Notably, [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] is a four-of in Jund, Elves, and Esper Death-Blade lists. That’s just legacy.  It also sees a ton of play in Modern in some of the most successful archetypes, and it’s still standard legal.

Max Brown, the eventual winner of the invitational decided to run Omni-tell this weekend, and proclaimed that part of the allure of the deck was the lack of following that it had.  I think this is the deck’s appeal over the Sneak and Show version.  It is of note that Brian Braun-Duin utilized [card]Ashen Rider[/card] out of the sideboard in his Sneak and Show list.  This is an adaptation that many are making in their sideboards to combat the sneak and show strategy.  [card]Ashen Rider[/card] has nearly reached bulk mythic prices, and is poised to see as much attention as [card]Angel of Despair[/card] from competitive players.  What is curious to me is whether the driving force behind [card]Angel of Despair[/card]’s value is due to competitive play, or rather, due to its casual appeal.  Either way, picking up [card]Ashen Rider[/card]s at their current value in trade is likely a safe long-term play.  It is probable that you can get these as throw-ins in trades from disinterested players.

The Legacy open maintained the trend we saw earlier in the weekend with two copies of Jund in the top 8.  I think it is very telling when a grizzled RUG Delver veteran, such as Jacob Wilson moves away from playing RUG, and opts for a different deck.  Moving to the top 4 of the Legacy open, three of the four players were on a Delver variant.  One of Jund’s best matchups is RUG Delver.  RUG generally has very few ways to create card advantage, and Jund will simply one for one with them gaining card advantage at every turn.  Facing down three Delver players, I felt that this was Jund’s tournament to lose.  Ultimately the Jund player, Cory Teran, fell to Jacob Wilson in the finals.  I think Jund at least for now, is the format’s answer to [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card].

I can imagine a day where players opt to play [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] over [card]True-name nemesis[/card] because the former doesn’t die to [card]Golgari Charm[/card].  The Legacy meta-game is shifting due to [card]True-Name Nemesis[/card], and the full impact of the card on the format is likely yet to be seen.

I am very excited at the opportunity that the gang from Brainstorm Brewery has presented me in bringing you a synopsis of the action from the weekend, and giving some insight in what cards are trending.  I look forward to feedback from readers and providing more analysis to you in the upcoming weeks.

 

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MTGO Zero – The Cost of Doing Nothing

Welcome back, loyal readers!

You guys are doing a pretty bad job of laughing at me.

What We Learned Last Week

Last week the MODO powers that be announced that in the wake of a few events that crashed in the middle of gameplay and one of those crashes affecting someone whose opinion they care about, MODO would be transitioned to limited capabilities while they fixed a few things. The system was long overdue for an overhaul, but people voted with their dollars and let Wizards know that while they wanted their MODO experience to be better, they wanted a fixed MODO less than they wanted an uninterrupted MODO.

After the announcement was made, people took to Twitter to complain. This is all a matter of record, you know all of this. What you may not know is that this had an effect on MODO prices in a lot more ways than anyone had anticipated.

  1. A large segment of the population, based in countries like Brazil, can make up to ten times minimum wage grinding MODO all day. Eliminating daily events was a significant blow to their income. When there is financial incentive to do things in the MODO economy, people will do them. Without those people turning tickets into packs into cards into tickets into money, the flow of cards and tickets is hampered.
  2. Without daily events firing, packs are opened much less. The price of sealed packs went nuts but seems to have normalized a bit.
  3. A lot of people panic sold their MODO cards and the panic depressed the prices of everything in the short term. Warren Buffet says to be fearful when people are greedy and greedy when people are fearful. A lot of people got fearful and tanked prices, which made a lot of other people get greedy, which made me get fearful. Circle of life.

I didn’t have much confidence in my understanding of the market and decided to opt out of trying to capitalize on a one-time phenomenon like the crash precipitated by the shutdown for a few reasons. Firstly, I didn’t understand all the forces at play and was not about to lose money from my limited bankroll by making uneducated buys in a tumultuous market. Secondly, if I did happen to win big, my gains would not be particularly instructive. I realize most of you know more than I do right now, but a lot of you don’t and I don’t want the take-away lesson from one of my articles to be “wait until MODO is taken offline for a huge, once-in-a-lifetime overhaul and pounce on low prices when people panic sell.” That really doesn’t teach either of us skills to help us make money at this after this week. I enlisted help.

Unlikely Sources

Instead of laughing at me, a lot of you were pretty helpful. I’m grateful, but it’s not really in the spirit of the exercise. But it seems like you’d rather see me succeed than fail, which is nice. It feels like cheating, honestly, but I don’t mind if you don’t mind. First of all, apparently only jackasses pay an entire dollar for a ticket. People are all over Twitter and Facebook trying to out their tix for cash and they’ll take 90 cents on the dollar sometimes. Just know that you can always pay $1 in the store. If you’re Marshall Sutcliffe, people are lined up to ship you tix for 89 cents. If you’re the MTGO Zero, maybe not. I bought from the store partially because I wanted to learn how.

I got a lot of other good tips, and rather than list them, I invite you to check the comments section of each of these installments. They’re filled with great tips from readers and will help more MODO noobs than just me. Thank you all for everything you do to support the MTGO Zero in his quest to learn a foreign language – keep the tips coming because they help everyone.

A Likely Source

I enlisted the help of Ryan Bushard to guide me through the post-pricepocalypse. I decided that there were still a few mythics that were underpriced and we agreed that it felt safe to peel off 30 tix and try to make some mythic magic happen. Ryan is a Brainstorm Brewery cast member, a writer here on Brainstorm Brewery, and also a writer on Gathering Magic. Ryan is a full-time financier, buying and selling cards. He’s been on MODO since 2003 and he knows all about the system and how the market operates, although most of his experience with MODO is using it to play and he’s still relatively new to MODO finance himself. He was the perfect person to help us with this preliminary step in our journey.

Ryan did not recommend necessarily that I peel off a mere 30 tix from my bankroll, however. He advises that if something seems relatively certain to go up, you should go deep because you can get your money back out again quickly. The ability to cash in on your speculations at instant speed makes it possible to make more transactions per day which allows us to sell at lower margins. If you buy Sphinx’s Revelation in paper for $12, are you going to sell at $13? Probably not. You might buylist them for $13 when the card hits $20 but you will wait weeks to get paid (unless you do it at a GP, which is not something you can do every day). You pay shipping. You wait for the cards to arrive, wait for them to go out, wait for the money to come back. You can sell for $20 on a retail site, but you’ll do a lot of work, pay a lot of fees, and wait a lot of days to see a return. On MODO, however, if you can buy for $12 and the bots are buying for $13 the next day, ship! (I know Sphinx’s Rev is like 33 tix, don’t get hung up on the example or you’ll never learn anything.) You will clear one ticket in profit per iteration so why not? And if you will clear that ticket, why not do it with most or all of your bankroll?

Ryan advised that the crash may have interrupted the trajectory of cards that would have moved had things gone uninterrupted. I checked the graphs on MTGgoldfish.com and they have marked the spot on each graph where the MODO events were suspended. Therefore, cards that were on an upward or flat trajectory before this point and which dropped after this point are our ideal investments. Cards that were already on a downward trajectory are less optimal. However, a bit of metagaming took place. We discussed [card]Underworld Cerberus[/card] as a card that was getting adopted before the players migrated away from MODO. It was poised to go up and didn’t because of the interruption. This seemed like a good place to park some tix. I didn’t want to spend all 30 in one place even though it’s a portion of my bankroll. I liked [card]Ashen Rider[/card] at .88 tix and bought 10 of those for 8.8 leaving me with 20 tix and the change in credit with various bots. [card]Underworld Cerberus[/card] was at about 1.3 tix so 20 tix only bought me 15 copies, which I am fine with. I am going to keep a close eye on the price and move at the first sign of an upward trajectory.

Finally, Ryan advised that for the purposes of this exercise, maybe turning 30 tix into 60 isn’t the immediate goal. What I think I would really rather do is turn 30 tix back into 30 tix in a week or two and have the rest of my equity parked in long-term holds. With redemption coming up, having key cheap mythics seems like a good strategy because mythics are essential to the redemption process and will go up in price as redemption approaches. Having key mythics and my original bankroll intact seems ideal and if I can accomplish that, I’m well on my way to competence and eventually, money.

Next week, I will delve deeper into redemption and maybe in the meantime I will get to sell something. If I can figure out how to do that, you know I’ll come back at you with it. Hell, even if I can’t figure it out you know I’m going to ask someone. Until then, digest some of what we covered this week, and don’t hesitate to hit me up with questions, comments, or this community’s trademark snark. I can take it – I’m starting at zero.

@JasonEAlt

[email protected]

 

Jason Alt – The MTGO Zero Gets Online

The MTGO Zero Gets Online

Wassup, adoring public?

We’re now two installments deep on this crazy project and this week I went through the process of getting everything set up so we can go to town on some MODO finance. Before I start mentally spending my millions, I decided to make sure I had everything in place for when I made my first card purchases. I am starting from literal scratch, never having even downloaded MODO in my life. I’m sure I’m like a lot of you in that regard. Given my relative lack of experience I decided not to get any help because I thought it would be funny if I fumbled around like a total noob, but fortunately for me and unfortunately for those of you who were looking forward to me making a hilarious, embarrassing mistake that you probably also made, but get to pretend you didn’t, it’s actually not that hard to get started.

I figured the most intuitive place to go would be the mothership. It was simpler than I could have dreamed; I navigated over to the “Digital Games” tab and clear as day, right in the middle of the page I found an icon to help me create an account. I figured that was probably the best first step, but as it turns out, it wasn’t necessary yet. If you type something like “Download Magic Online” into Google, you can download the software without making an account. When you install and open the software, you’ll get the following screen:

Home screen

The prompts at the bottom will either let you play a free trial or create an account. I feel silly telling all of you this because there’s a good chance you know it already, but shut up, I didn’t.

Now I went through the process of creating an account. I ended up with the username JAlt, but only because there was an issue with trying to pay with Paypal. Every time I selected it as my payment method and tried to pay, it kicked me off of the screen, but said the username I had picked was already taken. So I went through JasonEAlt, JasonEAltMTG and xXBigSexyDaddyXx before I finally got it to accept a username and payment method combination that didn’t give it a conniption fit. We were off to a pretty rocky start. I’d like to tell you the MODO Beta Client is easy to use, free from bugs, and runs smoothly and expeditiously, and also that the sisters left Andy Dufresne alone, but life is not a fairy tale. I’m using the MODO Beta Client instead of V3 because if you’re downloading this as late as I am, you have to use it, and I’m no MTGO Zero if I’m not on MTGO.

I restarted my computer after the installation process and logged in. I told you all my username because you’ll never guess in a million year that my password is “Kittensarecute.” Log in and you’ll get to a different screen. Eventually. Hopefully.

Your entire collection is stored on the server, which is probably wise because if it were stored on your computer it would be vulnerable to tomfoolery and possibly even hijinks. Upon logging in, the weird, Bruce Willis-with-hair-looking Gideon is replaced with a weird, Bill Nighy-looking Gideon and you’ll see a bar at the top of the screen with a bunch of options:

Home, Collection, Play Lobby, Store, Trade, Account, Help, Chat.

I had next to nothing on my home screen. It featured a tournament that was half over, displayed my buddies (I don’t have any yet but add me if you want), and had a few brief announcements. I figured “Collection” was where it’s at, so I clicked over.

I had nothing in my collection except a “New Player Stimulus Package” or whatever they call it. Clicking on it gave me the option to open it up. Inside I found five generic tickets (they’re called tix or ticks. I’m not sure which. I don’t see it spelled that often) and 20 “New Player Points” which get you into special noob drafts or sealed events so you can learn the interface without getting your pants pulled down by some pro who is double queuing and makes you wait until his round clock is nearly out before he comes over to spank you. You’ll also get some avatars which I guess you can use as your face. They may or may not be random – I didn’t see one I liked. It’s not certain I’ll be playing matches so avatar be damned, let’s see what else we got. “What else we got” amounts to a pile of poop – random M14 commons and uncommons. People tell me you can’t sell them because they’re tied to your account, but there was no value there anyway.

So I had five generic tix to my name. Not the most auspicious way to start a card empire, but a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. If I’m going to Journey all the way to Nyx…no, there’s no way to make that funny. Moving on. If I’m going to actually make any money at this I am going to need a lot more buying power than five tix. Even if I had money, I’m not sure I would know what to do with it.

The next tab is “Play Lobby” and I noped right out of there in a hurry. It’s full of people, playing Magic, and that’s not really something I want any part of.

The next tab after that is “Store” and we need to go to this tab. For those of you playing along at home, you’ll need to decide your budget right now. Or, later, I guess, but I decided my budget already so I knew what to do right away. There are a bunch of categories of products in a menu on the left. The very top one is “event ticket” and while I don’t know if I’ll be playing events, I’m pretty sure this is the in-game currency everyone refers to as “tix.” I wanted to be sure so I looked around for other kinds of tickets and couldn’t find any. Priced at $1 a ticket these will be our bankroll. I put 100 of the bad boys in my shopping cart and bought them.

Armed with 105 tickets I was ready to conquer the world. But before I could turn in for the night, I knew I had a bit more investigation to do. I ignored the “Accounts,” “Help,” and “Chat” tabs and stared with intent at “Trade” which I could only assume was what I was looking for.

Ladies and gentlemen, “Trade” is going to be our home for the duration of this experiment. I am going to buy cards with my “tix” and see how long I can go buying and selling until I run out or make enough money that I can sell my tix and buy a private island that I can stock with poor people whom I will hunt for sport.

I figured before I called it a night (it had been a long one at this point – MODO runs at its own pace), I should try and figure out how to buy a card. It was not as easy as I had thought. The procedure, I figured out, went like this:

Right away, I messed up by not knowing my tix weren’t tradeable. Go to collection, right click on the tix and select “add all to active trade binder.” This makes them tradeable.

If you want to buy a card, say, Rubblebelt Raiders because you think it will go up, type the card’s name into the search bar. It will bring up bots and people who are advertising that card. I recommend finding a bot with a large inventory. Click “trade” over on the left and it will take you to a screen with the bot’s inventory and a chat window. You need to pay attention to both. If your computer wigs out and keeps the chat window behind the inventory screen you’re going to be confused as hell. When you click a card, the bot will display the price in the chat window, or the human will tell you what they want for it. Double clicking the card will add it to the trade inventory on the left. I found a bot that was selling four copies of [card]Rubblebelt Raiders[/card] for 0.05 tix each. A nickel for a rare? That’s not bad! I jammed all four copies into my trade area and waited for something to happen.

Nothing happened. I read every line of text on the chat window and it turns out the bot had given me instructions for how to prompt it. Every bot seems different, but the one I traded with told me to type “done” when I had enough cards. Since the four [card]Rubblebelt Raiders[/card] only cost 0.05 tix and it had to take a whole ticket, it banked 0.80 tix as “credit” for future purchases. This meant I had to remember this bot. I added it to my buddy list by going to “add buddy” on the home page and pasting its name in. Now whenever I want to buy more cards, I can click on its icon on the home page and start a trade with my banked credit.

I figured out how to make an account, download the client, trade tix, buy cards, bank credit, and add a buddy. This was a productive day. I have 104 tix, four [card]Rubblebelt Raiders[/card], 0.80 tix in banked credit and a lot of work ahead of me. I want to start being a little more aggressive with my buys in the meantime because I want to be ahead of MODO redemption. The next installment should be a barn burner. I think. I actually don’t get that idiom at all. If I owned a barn, I can’t imagine I’d want it burned. Wait a minute, what if it’s a terrible barn and I have it insured? Okay, makes sense now. Next installment will be more value than burning down your barn for the insurance money. See you then!

Josh Milliken- Brewing With Young Pyromancer

Brewing with Young Pyromancer

It started out as a joke; something fun to play at a Modern tournament at one of my local shops. As I played it I was joking around and my opponents were laughing as well. My record with the deck is no laughing matter though, as I went 11-1 in matches over the course of three tournaments.

I had haphazardly thrown this list together in about twenty minutes a couples days before the tournament since I wouldn’t have time to build anything else because of my work schedule. I had been wondering for a couple days what to play for the upcoming Modern tournament waffling between my norm of RUG Delver and something with [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] or [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] when it hit me that I could just run Izzet with [card]Young Pyromancer[/card]. This led me to the thought that I would be playing strictly tempo as there would be no beefy win condition like I had in RUG Delver with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].

This is where I ended up after that mad twenty minutes of brewing.

[deck title= Izzet Pyromancer 1.0]

[Lands]
*4 Steam Vents
*1 Sulfur Falls
*4 Misty Rainforest
*4 Scalding Tarn
*4 Island
*1 Mountain

[/Lands]

[Creatures]

*2 Grim Lavamancer
*4 Delver of Secrets
*4 Young Pyromancer
*4 Snapcaster Mage
*3 Vendilion Clique

[/Creatures]

[Spells]
*3 Vapor Snag
*4 Gitaxian Probe
*4 Serum Visions
*4 Lightning Bolt
*3 Izzet Charm
*4 Remand
*3 Electrolyze

[/Spells]

[Sideboard]

*1 Grim Lavamancer
*1 Vapor Snag
*2 Spell Pierce
*2 Smash to Smithereens
*2 Jace Beleren
*2 Vedalken Shackles
*3 Blood Moon
*2 Dismember

[/Sideboard]

[/deck]

Tournaments

Tournament #1

Round 1 – Selesnya Hatebears 2-0

Round 2 – Simic Delver 2-0

Round 3 – R/W/U Control 2-0

Round 4 – Mono Green Aggro 2-1

I felt like I was going to get crushed going into the tournament, but was pleasantly surprised when I ended up dropping only a single game due to my own negligence against Mono Green. I did however feel like my sideboard needed a lot of work afterwards. I also only played against one deck I would expect to play against at a high-level Modern tournament, which may be one reason why the deck did so well.

After giving it a try for the first tournament I decided some changes were in order, mostly for the sideboard. So the next day I spent three hours or so poring over the cards that want to be in the main and what I needed in the sideboard. Some of the cards I looked at pretty hard but they didn’t quite make it due to a lack of space.

Here’s where I ended up after I looked over everything, and what I played the next three weeks for Modern.

[deck title= Izzet Pyromancer 2.0]

[Lands]
*4 Steam Vents
*1 Sulfur Falls
*4 Misty Rainforest
*4 Scalding Tarn
*4 Island
*1 Mountain

[/Lands]

[Creatures]
*2 Grim Lavamancer
*4 Delver of Secrets
*4 Young Pyromancer
*4 Snapcaster Mage
*2 Vendilion Clique

[/Creatures]

[Spells]

*4 Vapor Snag
*4 Gitaxian Probe
*4 Serum Visions
*4 Lightning Bolt
*3 Izzet Charm
*4 Remand
*3 Electrolyze

[/Spells]

[Sideboard]
*1 Grim Lavamancer
*2 Pillar of Flame
*3 Spell Snare
*2 Smash to Smithereens
*2 Deprive
*2 Dismember
*3 Blood Moon

[/Sideboard]

[/deck]

The [card]Vendilion Clique[/card], while good, just didn’t do as much work as the [card]Vapor Snag[/card] did; I felt like the deck was a little creature-heavy as well. This sideboard was better thought-out after seeing some of the deck’s strengths and weaknesses, though I still need to play against some combo decks to get a better idea of whether anything else is needed.

The Mana Base

After playing RUG Delver for almost the entirety of the Modern formats existence I knew I wanted to run as few lands as possible. Keeping the deck two colors allowed me to go as low as eighteen lands as long as I ran a significant amount of cantrips and I didn’t add any lands that produce colorless mana. Being in two colors also means I need to run four [card]Steam Vents[/card] and eight fetchlands to hit my mana consistently, and running the eight blue fetchlands allows the deck to run [card]Blood Moon[/card] without having to worry about getting hurt by it. I still needed two more red sources, so I put in a [card]Sulfur Falls[/card] and a [card]Mountain[/card], then rounded the mana base out with four [card]Island[/card].

The other lands I considered were [card]Faerie Conclave[/card], [card]Desolate Lighthouse[/card], [card]Halimar Depths[/card], [card]Mutavault[/card], and [card]Ghitu Encampment[/card]. Some number of these may prove to be useful in the future, but as of right now there’s just not enough room in the mana base for them.

The Creatures

It was pretty easy to pick the creatures this deck needed to function, using [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] as a starting place. I knew I needed to play a lot of spells quickly, so keeping the instant and sorcery high limited me to which creatures I could play. With that in mind I needed to find a way to use this to my advantage. The core creatures became [card]Delver of Secrets[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] to team up with those [card]Young Pyromancer[/card] in an aggressive way. Some form of disruption was needed to keep creatures off the board and nasty cards out of my opponents’ hands, and that led to [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] and [card]Vendilion Clique[/card].

The other creatures I considered were [card]Goblin Guide[/card] and [card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card], which, while they do play well with the rest of the deck the other creatures, are just better choices when considering what the vision of the deck is.

The Spells

I knew to maximize the effectiveness of [card]Young Pyromancer[/card], I needed to run a bunch of cheap spells and cantrips. The starting point was the two most efficient of each in the format [card]Lightning Bolt[/card] and [card]Serum Visions[/card]. It was a little more difficult from there as there were a lot of close choices. One of the tough choices was in [card]Remand[/card] versus [card]Mana Leak[/card], but the tempo of [card]Remand[/card] won out in the end. Another was [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] versus [card]Thought Scour[/card], but being able to cast [card]Gitaxian Probe[/card] for free and the information it gets you in game one felt a lot more important than getting extra cards into the graveyard. As it became more of a tempo deck [card]Vapor Snag[/card] became a great choice to fight bigger creatures and clear the board for the onslaught of weenies. I still felt like there was still some more removal, counterspells, card draw needed, and [card]Izzet Charm[/card] fit the bill as an all-in-one stop. And to top out the curve I decided some [card]Electrolyze[/card] were needed to slow creature assaults and to get an edge on some of the decks that it takes longer to win against.

There were quite a few more spells that I considered that didn’t make it like [card]Into the Roil[/card], [card]Dispel[/card], [card]Burst Lightning[/card], [card]Forked Bolt[/card], [card]Flame Slash[/card], [card]Turn/Burn[/card], [card]Searing Blaze[/card], [card]Mizzium Skin[/card], [card]Cryptic Command[/card], and [card]Sage’s Dowsing[/card]. Many of these I intend to try out in the future, but testing that many cards one event per week could take the rest of the year.

The Sideboard

There were a lot of cards I wanted in my sideboard, but I ended up having to shave numbers to cover all the major bases. The first auto include was [card]Blood Moon[/card] to steal a lot of games the deck doesn’t have any business winning otherwise. The next was [card]Dismember[/card], as big creatures like [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and [card]Restoration Angel[/card] are pretty difficult to deal with in Blue and Red. After testing I felt like a hard counter was needed against other decks with counterspells and combo decks, the winner there was [card]Deprive[/card] due to it only costing two mana. Next, I needed a way to deal with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card] and [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] without letting them resolve, this led to [card]Spell Snare[/card] which lets me deal with lots of things even when I’m on the draw. Next was dealing with artifacts in a semi-profitable way; there are a few other options but I felt like [card]Smash to Smithereens[/card] was the best use of resources. Playing against [card]Kitchen Finks[/card] and [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card] made me realize that I needed [card]Pillar of Flame[/card] to not get destroyed by card disadvantage against them. And lastly, I decided an extra [card]Grim Lavamancer[/card] was needed against the aggressive decks, because if he sticks for a turn he can turn the whole game around quite quickly.

Tournament #2

Round 1 – Mono Green Aggro 2-0

Round 2 – Red Affinity 2-1

Round 3 – Jund 2-0

Round 4 – Gruul Zoo 2-1

Round 5 – R/W/U Control 2-1

With another tournament undefeated I really couldn’t think of any changes I wanted to make to the deck that would benefit against a normal metagame. I did play against four decks I would expect to see at a high level of play this time though, leaving me with a few more game losses than the last tournament.

Tournament #3

Round 1 – Mono Black Vampires 2-0

Round 2 – Mono Green Aggro 2-0

Round 3 – Bogles 1-2

I had been researching ways to fight the Bogle deck if I were to play against it for a few days prior to this tournament, and had heard about the card [card]Aura Barbs[/card] but was unable to get any to try. I also learned that [card]Hibernation[/card] is Modern-legal as well after this event, and would definitely consider it if you expect a lot of Bogles running rampant. This time I only played against one deck I would expect to see, and I lost to it due to keeping one land hands in both games two and three. I would expect to lose to this deck pretty consistently though, as it had some pretty terrible draws against me.

After my loss to Bogles I felt I needed more ways to interact after Sideboard so I added black to disrupt my opponent’s plans. This gives an added advantage against the combo decks in the format as well as the ability to cast [card]Dismember[/card] without losing any life.

[deck title= Izzet Pyromancer 3.0]

[Lands]

*3 Steam Vents
*2 Watery Grave
*4 Misty Rainforest
*4 Scalding Tarn
*4 Island
*1 Mountain

[/Lands]

[Creatures]
*2 Grim Lavamancer
*4 Delver of Secrets
*4 Young Pyromancer
*4 Snapcaster Mage
*2 Vendilion Clique

[/Creatures]

[Spells]
*3 Vapor Snag
*4 Gitaxian Probe
*4 Serum Visions
*4 Lightning Bolt
*2 Spell Snare
*2 Izzet Charm
*4 Remand
*1 Dismember
*2 Electrolyze

[/Spells]

[Sideboard]
*3 Thoughtseize
*2 Pillar of Flame
*2 Smelt
*2 Devour Flesh
*2 Bonfire of the Damned
*3 Blood Moon
*1 Dismember

[/Sideboard]

[/deck]

If you want something fun to try out for your next Modern tournament I would suggest giving Izzet Pyromancer a try, I’m not sure I want to play anything right else now.
If you have any questions or comments feel free to leave them below, and I will try to get to them.

Thanks for Reading,

Josh Milliken
@joshuamilliken of Twitter

Jason Alt – MTGO Zero

MTGO Zero

You see what I did there? I made a clever pun at the expense of “FNM Hero” which was a series about someone who fancied himself very good at trading and winning FNM.

You all know me. I don’t have to actually poll all of you to know the answer to the question “How much would you like an article series from me about my experiences playing Magic?” would be “somewhere between “Hepatitis from licking a toilet seat” and “Shotgun blast to the torso.” I know that. I want to write that series roughly as much. The only thing I play right now is EDH, and we all know I play EDH for the same reason that guys in their 30s suddenly take up whiffleball – sometimes it’s the only way to get someone to play with you. For me it’s not a three-year-old like in the whiffleball scenario but rather someone who has roughly the same table manners as a three-year-old – my wife, Brittany. If I want to play Magic and include her at all, it’s going to be EDH and she is going to use the same general for the rest of her life. One a scale from 1-10 in terms of mental stimulation with 1 being watching MtV for 30 minutes and 10 being differential equations, it’s rapidly approaching 1, but really, it’s not that bad. It’s not like I’m desperate to play some really high quality games of EDH and she is holding me back.

I just don’t play a ton. That’s fine – for a guy who doesn’t really play a ton of Magic I’ve managed to go pretty deep on this game. If I were still grinding the PTQ circuit you would never have heard of me. So, great, I’ve managed to carve out a bit of a niche for myself. Financier, podcaster, curmudgeon. Who needs to play?

But isn’t actually playing Magic well and consistently the greatest possible challenge? Does it get any more difficult than unseating Finkel and Budde as the greatest of all time, and at this point in my life? Not in terms of Magic, no. But we’ve already established that no one wants me to try. You wouldn’t be interested in the process, and I would be, frankly, out of my depth taking another run at it. No, I was never super serious about playing this game to perfection and it’s best that I don’t pretend I ever was. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t a longing there – a desire to be challenged.

The idea came on very suddenly, but I immediately recognized it as my destiny.

I am going to enter the world of Magic Online Finance.

And I am going to fall on my ass.

At least at first. I don’t have Magic Online installed on my computer. I don’t know anything about buying or selling cards on MODO other than that I know that “bots” are involved. I am vaguely aware that the currency is “tickets” which people call “tix” because they think that sounds cool (they’re kinda right) and sometimes when a card is the equivalent people call it “a tick” which I think is silly and fun. I know a few websites to check prices and I know that the prices are going to confuse the heck out of me. I know that set redemption is a big deal and how to prepare for it. And I know that it’s a much more efficient market than paper and it moves at the speed of light. This is the closest I can get to the stock market without abandoning all of my knowledge about the game and wading into the shark-infested waters of the NYSE or the FTSE (how funny is it that they call it the “footsie?”).

Some of you know a lot about MODO finance. You’re probably going to laugh at me at first. Good. I welcome it. This is going to be a real shit show at first and people who know a lot about MODO are going to get an even bigger kick out of it than most people. It will be like a private, inside joke that the two of us will share. I welcome your ridicule – it will fill me with purpose and make me resolve to make you rue the day you scorned me by building an impressive MODO portfolio that has so much value that I can afford to hire someone to kill you.

Some of you know very little about MODO finance. You’re probably going to get as much out of this as the people who are laughing at me for being a total noob at first. You can learn along with me, and best of all, you can watch me make mistakes with my own money and learn costly lessons for free. We can grow as MODO financiers together, you and I. It will be like a private study session the two of us share. You can send me tips, warn me of mistakes I am about to make, or thank me for teaching you something new. If it’s really obvious, this thing you’re thanking me for teaching you, the experienced guys might laugh at us. Don’t worry about it, I already indicated that I’m going to have them killed. I’m thinking I’ll have the hitman choke them out but then turn on some porn on their computer and pull their pants down to simulate what the coroner is going to euphemistically refer to as a “death by misadventure” and their parents will get really quiet when people ask what happened…but I’m getting ahead of myself, here. Back to the article. But, you know, between you and me, there will be rueing.

The initial plan for this article series was for it to be a once-a-month series, but that doesn’t seem like it holds much value. The market moves super fast and going a month between installments is not going to get there. But I certainly don’t want to write these weekly, especially given that I am the guy who pays people on this website and if I paid myself what I’d like to be paid for these, words like “embezzlement” and “police” and “not as good as his QS articles” are going to get thrown around and no one wants that. So I think we can all live with two of these a month. That will be frequently enough that it will feel like a smooth learning curve and infrequently enough that I don’t climb a clock tower.

Was this entire article a delay tactic to distract from the fact that I still haven’t downloaded MODO? Not really, considering I could have published this whenever I wanted. No, readers, this is to serve as an announcement of my intention to add another skill to my toolbox and bring something to the podcast as well. Lots of you want to hear more about MODO on the podcast, and I hear you loud and clear. This series is going to chronicle my journey and hopefully in a few months I’ll be chiming in with Marcel on MODO finance tips.

  • I will be building a virtual portfolio and tracking the cards I keep, buy and sell.
  • In the spirit of the “hero” series I am lampooning, I am going to start with a fixed budget of 100 tickets and if I run out. Ummmm…. what did Medina do when he ran out? Anyway, I’m not going to run out because you aren’t going to let me do anything that stupid. Remember, this is about those of you who know a lot about this helping to teach people who don’t, so you’re going to advise me not to do anything stupid. Besides, this isn’t a totally new game, it’s just a different market.
  • I am going to try and hijack the podcast every once in a while to give updates on how my portfolio is doing. If I can’t do that, I’ll at least update on Twitter. You all follow me there, right? @JasonEAlt ? Ringing any bells? If you’re not following me on twitter, follow me now and I’ll pretend like I didn’t notice. If you don’ have a twitter account, have a twitter account. They’re useful. I will be tweeting and retweeting about finance, both #MTGFinance and #MODOFinance. Those are like 140 character bonus articles except I can write them on the toilet.
  • A year from now I am going to cash out all of my tix (I already love typing that) and throw all of you a pizza party!
  • I probably won’t throw all of you a pizza party.

And that’s really all there is to it! The comments field on this article is a great place to ask questions, troll me preliminarily, and get engaged with this silly project I’m embarking on. If you think this is incredibly derivative of project that Jon Medina and Chas Andres have done already, I guess all I can do is point out that the value in this is watching me learn how to engage in MODO finance and not so much in coming up with an entirely new premise. Like anyone can come up with a new premise in Magic writing at this point. Besides, I think I may be the first person doing a series like this to show how bad they are. This is going to be fun, I just know it.