Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What To Do With MTGO Traders Gift Certificates

As most of you are aware, prizes for Monday Pauper Deck Challenge are sponsored by MTGO Traders, a fantastic online store that sells cards and tickets for Magic Online. MTGO Traders has been a long time supporter of the format and is the premiere online seller for Magic Online. They have amazing customer service, competitive prices, and a great staff. Definitely use them for all your Magic Online needs!

After you place in the Top 4 in one of our events, you will receive an initial Email from me as host confirming that your information has been submitted to MTGO Traders. Within 48 hours (and often much faster), you will receive a second Email, this one containing a gift certificate code which can be redeemed just like cash on their site.

But you might be asking, what should I spend my gift certificates on? After all, since most cards in the format can be purchased for a couple of pennies, with even the chase cards being less than a quarter in almost every case, it won't take long at all for you to own a playset of every card in the Standard Pauper format and still have money to spend. So what can you do?
  1. Bling out your collection. Take your favorite archetype and then purchase foil copies of every card in the decklist. While this isn't for everyone, many players take great satisfaction in owning a premium copy of their favorite cards or deck.
  2. Invest in another casual format. While you would have to take home the trophy every week for our prizes to support playing most competitive Constructed formats, classic Pauper is much less expensive and thus well within reach. By dropping a few dollars here and there, it wouldn't take long at all to collect many of the staples of that format. Mormir also used to be a popular choice, but I am unaware if it is still officially supported.
  3. Fund a Limited habit.  Rather than investing in cards themselves, you can instead purchase credit on MTGO Trader's family of automated bots. While you can't directly buy tickets, you can purchase booster packs and then use those to play your favorite Limited formats. This can be a great way to reduce the cost of regularly drafting to be much more manageable.
  4. Convert them to cash. If you amass a significant amount of gift certificates, you can also actually convert them to cash, although the process is somewhat involved. First, once again you need to purchase credit on MTGO Traders' bots. Second, spend that credit on valuable singles. Third, sell those singles back for tickets. And finally, sell the tickets back to MTGO Traders for Paypal credit by messaging their online seller. While you do lose a percentage from these transactions, the fact that you can actually cash out your winnings is a pretty good deal.
So what do you spend your MTGO Traders gift certificates on? Let me know in the comments below. See you next time.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Weekly Metagame Updates Might Be Too Much...

So for about the last five months, I've been dedicated my Thursday blog post to a weekly update of the Standard Pauper metagame, analyzing the data from our weekly Player Run Events to create a snapshot of what's going on. But as I sat down tonight to write today's update, I realized that the whole process feel like it's become pretty stale.

Why I am feeling this way? Possibly, this is simply because this is one of the longer stretches between the release of new sets due to the holiday season. Similarly, while there are still some interesting innovations going on, for the most part the metagame has become pretty stable, with similar decks making the playoffs each week. I suppose it's even related to the whole debacle with Self-Assembler, which most people agree is having a negative effect on the metagame as a whole. But for whatever reason, I think the time to write these weekly updates may be at an end.

Now that's not to say I won't be writing future metagame updates. But I think that once a week is probably too often. So how often would be ideal? Honestly, I'm not sure. If you have an opinion on the matter, I'd love to hear it! For the moment, I would think a monthly snapshot would probably be sufficient.

Also, I will probably take a break as well from my weekly Standard Pauper Deck Tech videos over on PureMTGO, at least until after the holidays. It takes a lot of time and energy to create those, and I don't want to burn myself out keeping up with the need to publish one every week. Probably twice a month would be a more healthy frequency. But here again, if you have some thoughts on that, I'd enjoy hearing them. Let me know in the comments below.

Thanks for bearing with this somewhat introspective and rambling post today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Is It Time To Ban Self-Assembler?

Almost exactly a month ago, I wrote about the growing concern that Self-Assembler would be bad for Standard Pauper. Right from the start of the season, many players were calling for the card to be banned. Since that time, the card has been played in nearly every winning deck in our weekly tournaments, while attendance has been on a slow but noticeable decline.

So, in consultation with Chris Baker and rremedio1, the co-hosts of SPDC, we have decided to temporarily ban Self-Assembler for next week's events. The goal will be to collect data on how this shapes the metagame and gauge player reaction to these changes. It's also worth noting that to really collect some good data, we'll probably have to extend the ban for several weeks, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. To recap: Self-Assembler will be banned in SPDC on Sunday, December 4th and in MPDC on Monday, December 5th.

Also, for whatever it's worth, I offered my players this past Monday a single ticket bounty if they would drop Self-Assembler from their decklists and still make Top 4. Although one of the four players is having issues with Gatherling and as such I don't yet have that list, none of the other three players took me up on my offer. That alone says something significant about the perceived power level of this card. It might be time to change my mind on this card.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Week of November 20th in Standard Pauper

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers in the United States. Even though it's Turkey Day, after falling way behind last week, I wanted to make sure I got my weekly Standard Pauper metagame update out in a timely fashion this week, so here we are. Attendance continues to be on a slow decline, and it's hard not to think that the growing frustration with Self-Assembler isn't somehow too blame. More about that in a bit. Anyway, neither SPDC nor MPDC had enough players this week to cut to a Top 8, so there are only eight deck that survived into the playoffs. Let's take a look.

Esper Artifacts was the big winner this week, accounting for half of the decks in consideration. Moromete's build took 2nd place in both events this week, with both Storm_blade and JackSlagel finishing in the Top 4 with similar builds. Interestingly enough, Storm_blade's build tried to have it all, splashing into Green for a lone Pulse of Murasa, with two more in the Sideboard as well as three copies of Root Out. But in all four decks, it's the recursion value generated by Aviary Mechanic and Ironclad Slayer that makes these decks so good.

First place in SPDC this week was won once again by DrChrisBaker playing MonoRed, which utilizes its aggressive creatures and Madness cards like Fiery Temper to push through for damage while quickly refueling with both Cathartic Reunion and Tormenting Voice. But the deck also includes the controversial Flame Lash, a card that is very difficult to get online unless one is willing to invest in the Planeswalker deck for Kaladesh.

Meanwhile, first place in MPDC went to AlwaysFace's Sultai Control, which adds Black to the mix of the more typical Simic Big Stuff deck popularized by littlefield and Storm_blade to give the deck not only a significant removal suite but also some potential for sacrifice synergies as well. This newest iteration included Prophetic Prism, a card that is increasingly popular thanks to its ability to cycle, turn on Artifact synergies, and fix for colors all at a very reasonable cost.

The other two entries completing the eight decks in the playoffs was littlefield's aforementioned Simic Big Stuff and an Izzet Spells deck piloted by frycek.

Not surprisingly, all these decks included a full playset of Self-Assembler. While I personally am still unconvinced that this card deserves to be banned, I do think its presence is discouraging a lot of players from participating. To that end, as I announced at MPDC this week, I think we should implement a one-week ban on the card and see what difference that makes in the metagame. I will be reaching out to DrChrisBaker and rremedio1 to coordinate our efforts so we can get data from both tournaments. More on that as soon as I have confirmation on the temporary ban.

Special thanks to this great community that keeps this format alive! You guys are the reason that I'm still playing this game!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Eternal Releases on Steam

After six months of closed beta, late last week the new digital card game Eternal released on Steam in open beta, meaning that now anyone who wants to can download the game. As part of the transition, all of the existing accounts were reset, putting new players and veterans alike basically on the same footing. Digital Direwolf also made a ton of balance changes to the game, which included removing a ton of marginal cards, tweaking a bunch of others, and even "nerfing" a handful of cards to help diversify the metagame.

I've already written quite a bit on this game, so if you're curious what I have to say, feel free to check out some of my previous blog posts on the topic. There's a great quote from Numot Gaming that summarizes my thoughts on the game quite well: "Eternal is the game we all wanted Hearthstone to be, and the experience we all wanted Magic Online to become.” 

There are also a ton of great resources to help new players get a feel for the game and hit the ground running. In addition to a surprisingly friendly and helpful Reddit page, there are also guides for players transitioning from Hearthstone or from Magic the Gathering as well as a great video series designed to teach you the basics.

I continue to really enjoy this game, and would love to see others from the Standard Pauper community get into it as well. Who knows, maybe someday I'll even organize a special all-Commons tournament!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

The Week of November 13th in Standard Pauper

Welcome back to this week's look at the Standard Pauper metagame, based upon the results of our two weekly Player Run Events. Once again SPDC is proving to be the more popular event, with just enough players to cut to Top 8, while MPDC fell short with only 12. That leaves us with 12 decks that survived the cutoff and made it into this week's metagame update. Sorry too for the delay in getting this post out, but it's been one of those weekends. But enough preamble. Let's take a look at this week's Standard Pauper metagame.

It seems that Izzet Control may once again be the deck to beat, winning 1st place in both events. Congrats to both Arctic_Ghost and Bubalix on their respective wins. Panoslennon also placed in Top 8 with yet another Izzet build. While there were slight differences among these three builds, each of them relief upon a strong base of removal spells and card draw, including Fiery Temper, Galvanic Bombardment, Take Inventory, and Tormenting Voice, all of which enable multiple activations of Thermo-Alchemist.

littlefield went right back to work with his Simic Good Stuff build, making the playoffs in both events by claiming Top 8 in SPDC and Top 4 in MPDC. This deck is all about the big creatures like Peema Outrider, Wretched Gryff, and Self-Assembler, backed up with a full set of Take Inventory and some removal.

Surprisingly, the remaining eight decks were all unique from one another. Reco91 took 2nd place in SPDC with his Bant tokens build that first made its appearance last week, while Storm_blade took 2nd place in MPDC with the Esper Artifacts archetype. For SPDC, Dimir Control, MonoBlack Control, Orzhov Allies, and Gruul Monsters made up the remaining decks in the playoffs, with Rakdos Control taking the final playoff spot in MPDC. Also of note is the fact that MonoRed did not appear at all in the top decks, despite taking 1st place in both events last week.

So now the question becomes whether or not Self-Assembler is constraining the metagame into only allowing certain decks to prevail, as well as whether or not its presence is causing a downward trend in the number of players in these events. Perhaps it is indeed time to seriously consider taking action on this card, even if it's just to try a week without it or even offering a bounty for winning decklists that don't include it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Writing Assignment - The Sphinx's Game

So my friend Phil and I have been working through the Master class episodes of Writing Excuses, which is a series of fifteen minute podcasts designed to cover the essential elements of what it takes to be a good genre fiction writer. Each week includes a specific writing prompt that connects to that week's topic.

Today I want to share my homework from Episode 6, where the prompt was to take a recent gaming experience where you lost and use the thought process behind that experience to inspire the elements of a story. I ended up with a piece that sounds almost like a transcript from someone's most recent D&D campaign. It's somewhat lighthearted, and I liked the way it turned out. I hope you do too. And at just over 1,000 words, it's a pretty quick read.

The Sphinx’s Game

            The beautiful ruby clutched in the hands of the jackal-headed statue made a stark contrast to the gigantic leonine figure whose sharp claws were, at that moment, shredding apart the remains of Bard and stuffing chunks of his corpse into the mouth of her shockingly beautiful face.
            “Guess that wasn’t the right answer,” was the best I could come up with at that moment. “Any ideas, Wizard?”
            My companion, robed in robes so purple they appeared black, had pulled out a musty tome from his pack and was quickly scanning the pages. “There’s got to be answer in ones of these books. Make yourself useful Rogue and help me look.”
            I shook my head, but she didn’t even notice, engrossed as she was. I doubt this monstrosity would ask a question whose answer could be found in one of Wizard’s books, but I’d been wrong about such things before.
            “We’re wasting our time,” Warrior complained, his greatsword gripped in both hands. “Bard may be dead, but we can still fell this beast. With the reward for that ruby, we can probably even afford a resurrection spell once we get back into town. What we need to do is come up with a plan.”
            At that moment, the large creature finished her meal and simply sat back on her haunches, her crystal blue eyes staring back at us coolly.
            “Let’s listen to the riddle one more time. Maybe the Divine will reveal something to me,” Cleric suggested. Without waiting for reply, he began approaching the magnificent beast.
            “Perfect! Cleric is the distraction, Rogue. When he gets close, strike from behind, and then I’ll draw her attacks. We can do this, but we’ve got to work together!”
            I glanced at Warrior, but shook my head. “You’re all crazy. Everyone knows that the best way to win is to cheat. And if you can’t cheat, you change the game entirely.”
            “Will you two shut up!” Wizard shouted. “I’m trying to concentrate!”
            And with that I dashed away, hugging the walls of the large cavern, hoping my cloak and hood might disguise my approach. Near the ruby, the monstrosity had just finished reciting her damned riddle again, but it seemed only Cleric had really been listening. She bowed before it, then slowly backed away towards where Warrior and Wizard were arguing.
            I reached the back of the cavern, and best I could tell the creature hadn’t noticed my approach. I slowly crept forward, thinking perhaps I could grab the gem and escape unseen. But all such hopes were dashed as the creature’s feminine head turned towards me and placed her two paws between me and the ruby. So much for that approach. Guess it was time to improvise.
            I threw back my hood and raised my hands, hoping the creature would interpret the gesture as meaning I was no threat. It was quite innerving to see her blonde hair, blue eyes, and perfect skin atop the body of an enormous lion, and the wings that soared above her only made her all the more intimidating. But I put on my most winsome smile and approached.
            “Such beauty is unexpected in a place such as this. Might this poor mortal hear the sound of your name, beautiful one?”
            The creature licked its teeth, and for a moment I feared it would attack. But then it replied, “I am Sphinx. You are either an intruder, or perhaps, a welcome guest. Have you an answer to my riddle?”
            “Sphinx? Such a name hardly befits one such as magnificent as you. One who is so wise, so beautiful, so fierce, and so strong. Tell me, madam, who has imprisoned you in this dark place? Surely you are not here on your own will. Would not the rugged peaks or the verdant forest be so much more to your liking?”
            Her face softened into a smile, and I swear to the Divine that I heard her purr before she replied, “You are well spoken for a human. Such fair words for such a small creature. I might ask the same of you. Why have you come to these depths?”
            “Great Sphinx, you must know that those who live above crave such trinkets as the ruby that stands before you. While I have no need of such frippery, alas I bound by my pledge to bring it back to the surface. But one such as you surely has no need for such a trinket. You are far more wondrous than any dirty stone.”
            “Little human, you think I shall simply give it to you in exchange for your kind words? I am not so easily charmed.”
            I gulped. “Of course not, magnificent one. Instead…instead I offer my companions. They are the ones that have forced me against my will to intrude upon you. Do with them what you will. Allow me to take this ruby, and if they cannot answer your riddle, do with them as you will. I only ask that you spare your humble servant.”
            I glanced back at them. Warrior and Cleric were closer than I thought, and Cleric’s eyes were wide. Maybe I hadn’t been as quiet with my words as I should have been. Wizard was now seated on the ground, a pile of books around him. He tossed another one aside and picked another one up, seemingly at random.
            “You amuse me, human. It has been a long time since I have enjoyed another’s company. You are certain, however, that you do not instead wish to answer my riddle?”
            “I am unworthy, Sphinx. For surely there are none who are as wise as you.”
            She smiled, and then her paw whipped out at me, knocking me off my feet and pinning me to the ground.  “Adventurers,” she said. “Have you an answer to my riddle?”
            They made no reply.
            Finally, she continued, “Then I propose a new bargain. Your friend here has decided to stay with me. In exchange for his service, I offer you the ruby you seek. Take it and be gone.”
            My three companions glanced at each other. Cleric shook her head, but Warrior just shrugged. Wizard quickly stowed his books, then approached. He slowly walked up to the statue and removed the gem. He bowed to the creature and then glanced at me.
            “Flattery works on dragons, Rogue. Not on a sphinx.”
            With that he turned and walked away. All too soon I was alone with this monster.
            “Now,” Sphinx said, releasing me from her grip with a wicked smile. “Let us talk.”