Thursday, January 30, 2014

Inspired by Inspired?

The full spoiler for Born of the Gods was released late last week, and as a result I am hard at work on my full review of the set for Standard Pauper. In the mean time, all this week, I will be bringing you previews from my article, which should be up soon on

Today I want to talk more about the Inspired mechanic from this set. I posted some initial thoughts on it a few weeks back when the first Common spoiler appeared. Now, having looked at the entire set in general and all of the Common Inspired creatures, I feel like I have a much clearer understanding of this interesting mechanic.

In my upcoming review of the set for Standard Pauper, out of the seven creatures with the Inspired ability word at Common, I wrote that only two will see widespread play. Here's why:
  1. By far the most frequent way to activate this ability is by attacking. This means that the creature must be able to survive combat and still be around to untap on your following turn.
  2. Since none of these creatures have Haste, the earliest you will get the effect is on your second Upkeep after you cast it. That's almost two full turns, during which a lot can happen to remove the creature before you get any value out of the ability.
  3. Generally speaking then, the only solid Inspired creatures are those that are already good attackers before getting any value out of Inspired.
Now wait, you might be thinking, aren't there some tricks that enable you to tap an Inspired creature without attacking? Well, yes. Those come in three flavors:
  • Spells that regenerate creatures, which cause them to tap if the actually get destroyed.
  • Creatures that can tap or untap one of your own creatures.
  • Spells that can tap or untap one of your own creatures.
Problem is, these effects generally aren't worth the cost of a card. Playing a bad card to enable a bad card to be good isn't typically a great strategy. Furthermore, all this does is save you the liability of attacking with the Inspired creature. It doesn't do anything to sidestep the slow speed or fragile nature of activating the Inspired ability word.

So what's my verdict? I am, in fact, NOT inspired by Inspired. It is not a mechanic that will make much, if any, of an impact in the Standard Pauper format. At least, that's my initial assessment.

However, remember that I did grade two of the Inspired creatures as good enough to see widespread play in Standard Pauper. Any guesses as to which two I picked?

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

What Has Born of the Gods Bestowed Upon Us?

The full spoiler for Born of the Gods was released late last week, and as a result I am hard at work on my full review of the set for Standard Pauper. In the mean time, all this week, I will be bringing you previews from my article, which should be up first thing next week on

Today, I want to talk about Bestow creatures. If you read my initial thoughts on Theros, you may remember that I was quite impressed with this Common cycle of Bestow creatures:

All of these ended up being quite playable in the format, although Cavern Lampad saw the least amount of play. Each of these were solid enough as creatures thanks to their keyword abilities. Further, as Auras they were also quite strong, particularly given the presence of Ethereal Armor in the same format.

Naturally, once I learned that another cycle of Common Bestow creatures was present in Born of the Gods, I had pretty high hopes. Let's take a look:

After a quick glance, it didn't take long for disappointment to set in. While their stats are solid enough, it is the lack of abilities that is the biggest difference between these two sets of cards. While there may be some marginal utility in a dedicated Aura deck, as a whole I doubt these will make nearly the impact their brethren from Theros made in the format. Nyxborn Shieldmate, at least, is cheap enough that it may find slots in the White Weenie Aura deck that has been popular as of late. Similarly, if a RDW-style deck built around Akroan Crusader continues to see play, Nyxborn Rollicker might be aggressive enough to warrant testing. But on the whole, these Bestow creatures probably aren't good enough to see serious play.

But hey, I'd love to be proven wrong. What do you think?

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Agricola Week, Part Three

It's Agricola Week here at Writer Adept! Tuesday, I posted my review of the game. Thursday, I discussed the value of getting three different decks of cards and two variants all included out of the box. And today I want to conclude by talking about my favorite way to play this great game: on my iPad!

Agricola for the iOS is priced at $6.99, which is somewhat expensive for an app. However, the game has been brilliantly transported to Apple mobile devices. Rather than simply creating a functional reprint of the game, the various action spaces have been recreated as a beautifully rendered village, complete with farm animals, moving scenery, and seasons that correspond to different stages of the game. The sounds effects are also quite good, ranging from simple sounds to acknowledge movements to the noises of various barnyard animals to the sounds of sawing and hammering.

For those unfamiliar with Agricola, the app includes a good tutorial, a full set of rules, and an index of all the various options and elements in the game. Given the overall complexity of this game, learning how to play on this app might be the easiest way to play.

Like most board games republished as video games, you can play single player against three difficulty levels of AI, multiplayer with all of you gathered around the device, or challenge other people online. It also faithfully recreates all three of the decks and variants included in the base game, although the interactive and complex decks do required an additional $1.99 purchase each.The AI opponents aren't incredibly smart, but should present a good challenge for novices and moderately-skilled players.

Finally, the app keeps track of a variety of statistics and achievements, allowing you to view your progress over time and motivating you to master all of the various elements of the game. The achievements in particular are challenging enough that it will take many hours of play for most people before they complete all of them.

Overall, other than the expense of buying the app itself, Agricola for the iOS is highly recommended. As I mentioned, it's by far my favorite way to play the game. If any of my readers own and play this app, let me know - I'd love to play against you sometime!

Next week I will be back with a sneak peek at my current project: a review of the newly revealed spoiler for Born of the Gods for Standard Pauper. See you then!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Agricola Week, Part Two

Last time, I introduced the German-style board game Agricola, which has rapidly become one of my favorite board games of all time. The reason for this, however, might surprise you. It's not because of the strategy and depth of the game, although these elements are certainly strong. It's not even the replayability of the game, although here too Agricola shines with over 300 different cards that can be played over the lifetime of the game. No, for me, what makes this such a remarkable game is the value one gets from just purchasing the base game.

It has become customary among board games of this type to include only the basic game in your initial purchase, and then make a host of expansions or accessories to fill out the experience or to provide new life once you've played it several dozen times. And while apparently such expansions do exist for Agricola, the need for them seems much less. Why?

Agricola comes with two expansions and two variants, all in the basic game.

As I mentioned last time, the minor improvements and occupations are divided into three different decks: E, which is the basic game; I, which is for a more interactive (and thus more competitive) game; and K, which is for a more complex game. While there is some similarity between these three decks, just choosing which of the three decks you wish to play with dramatically alters the way the game plays out. And since each player only gets dealt 14 of these cards each game, it will take several games with a single deck before you even see all of the cards, much less the various beneficial combinations of them.

And then there's the two variants. The first is what they term the Family Game, which is simply played without one of the three decks at all and involves a game board with more friendly and less competitive options. The second is the solo variant, which can be played either a single game or as an ongoing series of games, in which a single occupation from the previous game carries over to the next one in the series and each time requires you to achieve an increasing number of points to continue the series.

I have played a great deal of the Solo Series variant, and I have been very impressed by how this is integrated into the design of the cards. Certain cards with very difficult requirements for a single game, suddenly become much more accessible when your number of occupations grows over time. You can therefore pull off combinations that would be impossible in the regular game, making the solo experience all the more interesting.

I don't know of any other board game where you get that level of value and replayability right out of the original game box. That alone makes this Agricola a gem among board games.

I will wrap up Agricola week with a post on my favorite way to play this great game. See you then.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Agricola Week, Part One

Welcome to Agricola Week here at Writer Adept!

What is Agricola? First off, it's pronounced /aˈɡ Like this: . Second, it's the Latin word typically translated as farmer. But most importantly, it's a German-style board game (think Settlers of Catan) by Uwe Rosenburg in which players compete to develop the most productive farm from raw materials and supplies.

The gameplay is relatively simple. Each round, a player may place each of his family members on a particular action, which consist of either taking materials or using those materials to develop something new. One can plow and sow grain or vegetables, raise sheep, boars, and goats, renovate your house, build improvements like ovens or stables, and increase the size of your family. Along the way, one must also grow enough food to sustain your growing family.

To assist you in this task are occupations and minor improvements, which allow you to bypass certain restrictions, take additional actions in a turn, or provide free or reduced-cost materials. You might be a Baker, specializing in cooking grain into bread; a Stable Hand, who allows you to build additional stables; or a Grocer, able to convert food into other types of useful resources. With 169 occupation and 139 minor improvements in the base game, these create a surprising amount of variance between games.

Still, at its heart, Agricola is a game that involves very little luck. While there is some variation as to when certain options become available, otherwise the only difference from one game to the next will be the occupations and improvements that the players have access to.

At the end of the game, a player receives points based on what he or she has built and acquired over the course of the game. Diversity is favored over specialization, since any resource that has been ignored will be penalized, while the total points for any particular resource are capped. Certain cards can also provide bonus points, but even these are almost always tied to some resource or another.

The quality of the components of the game is quite high. The cards for the occupations and resources are thick cardstock (and feel and smell much like Magic the Gathering cards), which the other components are solid wood. The artwork is similarly good, evoking the rough 17th century European setting in which people are final recovering from the Great Plague that swept the continent.

Overall this is an amazing game, and one that I highly recommend. It can be played with anywhere from 2-5 players, with two different single player variants as well. The occupations and minor improvements are also organized into three different decks, which can be mixed altogether or used separately for any given game. There is even a beginner version of the game, complete with its own board, for newcomers. All of these options are included in the base game, and it's this variety, more than anything else, that makes this game such a gem. More on that next time.

Intrigued? Check out Agricola's page from, watch this video on how to play the game, or purchase the game using using this link, and a portion of your proceeds will go to support Writer Adept!

Have any of you ever played this game before? What did you think? As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading.

Friday, January 17, 2014

How I Create Trophies for MPDC, Part Two

Last time, I discussed the circumstances that led me to start creating trophies for Monday Pauper Deck Challenge and then posted links to all the tools I use in my process. As I mentioned last time, my hope is that through reading this post others, possessing greater artistic talent than myself, will recognize just how woeful my efforts are and take over this job from me. Or, failing that, at the least others will be able to step up and create trophies for other Player Run Events on PDCMagic.

For the sake of this post, I will be creating a trophy for SPDC 20.01. You reference, you can view the winning decklist here.

The first step is to pick the card art for the trophy. The best source for this is, which has larger scans of every Magic card available. For this season, we have already determined that White Weenie decks will use art from Auramancer, so that's the art that I will download.

Next, I open up the template file I referenced last time for Standard, which has a default name of standardblank.psd. Opening this in, you arrive at a screen like this:

Now, we need to input the card art into the template. Select "File, Open" and click on the Auramancer artwork. Using the rectangle select tool, select only the artwork itself, then click on "Edit, Cut." In the upper-right hand corner, click back to the trophy template.

Next, select "Edit, Paste into New Layer." In the dialog box that pops up, select "Keep canvas size." By default, it will paste the artwork into the lowest layer, which means that it may not be visible at this moment. In the "Layers" window on the right, unselect the check boxes for all of the other card art until the picture of the Auramancer is visible. Your screen should now look something like this:

Now then, we want to slide the artwork around until it looks right. This mostly personal preference, but it does make a difference.

At this stage, you can also tweak the artwork itself by increasing the Brightness and/or Contrast, or even tweak the Hue. You can find all of these options under "Adjustments" in the upper menu. I usually won't alter any of these more than 5-10 points or so. It's subtle, but it's often worth spending a few minutes playing with these to get a better result. In this case, I bumped up the Contrast by 10, decreased the Brightness by 10, and increased the Hue by 10.

With that, the hard work is already done. So now we need to take out the previous text and add in the right text for this event. Back in the Layers window, click on the "Deck" layer. Then, using the Eraser tool, remove the previous deck name. You'll notice that with this layer selected, none of the other elements are effected.

Now, to replace it. Select the Text tool, then select your Font and Size from just below the Menu Bar. For this trophy, I will select the "Arial Black" font at size 20. Next, select the color white. Then, type out the deck name ("White Weenie"). You'll notice right away that with the light card artwork, the font is difficult to read. To fix this, we want to create an outline around the text.

The easiest way to do that is to create a new layer just below the "Deck" layer. For reference, rename this "Deck Outline." Then, in this new layer, once again use the Text tool to write the deck name, with the same font and size, but with the color black. Once you type it out, you can actually move the letters around until it acts as an outline for the deck name.

Use this same process to change the Event and Player layers to the corresponding information. Typically you use a different font for these. I'll go ahead and use the "Elegance" font.  If you're following along at home, the Event is SPDC 20.01 and the Player is xelz. When you finish, your trophy will look something like this:

Not too shabby, but there's a couple nice features we can add.

First off, let's add the most recent expansion symbol to make it clear when this deck was from. To do this, you want to find the Theros Common Expansion symbol. Once you have a copy of it, open it, resize it to 20 x 20, then copy/paste it into the "Symbol" layer. To make it transparent, simply double-click the "Symbol" layer, then drop the "Opacity" down to 200. Using the "Move Selected Pixels" tool, you can move the symbol around until it looks appropriate.

Second, let's add the White Mana symbol to the trophy. In, open up the Mana-Symbols file that I linked to last time. Using the "Ellipse Select," select just the White Mana symbol, copy/paste it into a new document, resize it to 20 x 20, then paste it into the trophy template as a new layer. Rename this layer "Mana Symbols," then move around the symbol to where you want it.

At this point, you can add any additional tweaks here that you wish. Typically for SPDC I include a long line across the Player name and Event name to help differentiate it from MPDC trophies. So, create a new layer called "Line," then draw a straight line using the "Line/Curve" tool. I made mine White with a width of 3.

Finally, you can tweak the placement of any particular element by using the "Move Selected Pixels" tool with the proper layer selected.

And, at last, you have the final product I previewed at the top of this post. Just two last steps. First, go ahead and save the template, to speed things along next time. Second, you need to save the template as a gif file to upload. Click "File, Save As," select "GIF" in the "Save as type" box, and give it a name. When the next window pops up, just select "OK," then select "Flatten" on the next window. And there you have it! A .gif file ready to be uploaded to PDCMagic!

Hope you enjoyed this tutorial, and that it inspires you to create your own trophies. See you next time!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

How I Create Trophies for MPDC, Part One

Back in October, after much deliberation, I resumed my duties as host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, which is one of the most popular current Player Run Events on Magic Online. While I had done extensive hosting previously, there was one major responsibility that I had never undertaken: creating the "trophy" images for the winner of each event, like the one you see above. In the past, this duty had been taken on by various other members of the community, including a previous host of this event. But, these artists had long ago departed, and no one had yet stepped up to take over their role.

I am not sure at what point this became a normal feature for PDCMagic events, but I do know that trophies were created for the very first season of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge. Given such a long-standing tradition, it seemed a shame to neglect it going into the future. So, although I do not consider myself by any means skilled in artwork, digital or otherwise, I decided to take on the long-neglected duty of creating trophies each week.

I managed to uncover a few helpful hints buried in the Artwork forums over at PDCMagic, along with some old fonts and templates. Then, with a little more research, I found a free, open-source graphics program powerful enough to do the job without having the overwhelming complexity of something like Photoshop. After that, after about an hour of playing around, I was able to create my first trophy.

So, with that as a preamble, I decided to write a quick two-part post on how I create trophies for MPDC. Perhaps it will inspire others to create them for other Player Run Events. Or maybe someone will come along with real artistic gifts, give me a pat on the head for my feeble efforts, and quietly take this role away from me...

Anyway, the first step, naturally, is assembling all the pieces you'll need. Here they are:
  1. A graphics program. I ended up using, which is free, intuitive, and powerful. While it doesn't support the Photoshop file type natively, there is a free plugin that remedies that issue, allowing you to make use of the template below.
  2. Fonts. While not strictly necessary, to provide some connection to previous trophies, I found it helpful to download this particular batch of fonts. Currently, I make use of Elegance and Magic Medieval.
  3. Templates. Previous templates exist that were used for Standard, Classic, and Extended. These are blank Photoshop files that will save you a tremendous amount of time. My trophies are based off the Standard template.
  4. Mana Symbols. I also wanted some nice looking mana symbols for the trophies, and I found this particular set by FRAGment2K to be particularly good.
And that's it! With just those resources, you have all you need to easily create new trophies. Next time, I'll walk you through exactly how I do that.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

To Tap or Not To Tap

It's spoiler season again, this time for the forthcoming Born of the Gods. As always, the early spoilers mostly consist of rares and mythic rares, with only a handful of commons to illustrate some of the new mechanics.

Today I want to talk about the first Common spoiled for this set: Oreskos Sun Guide. For the most part, it's not particularly interesting. It's a 2/2 for 1W, which is found in almost every recent set in either White or Green (or both). However, as is also customary, it also includes one of the new mechanics: Inspired.

Inspired is a fairly simple keyword ability. Whenever the creature gets untapped, a particular effect goes on the stack.

In this instance, whenever this Cat Monk untaps, you gain 2 Life. Obviously, for a creature to untap (which typically takes place at the start of your turn), it must first become tapped. While the most common way for this to occur is by attacking, other options certainly exist. In the existing cardpool, this includes White creatures with a tapping activated ability, regeneration effects, and Hidden Strings. Similarly, cards like Act of Treason or Savage Surge which untap a creature directly, although this still requires the creature to be tapped beforehand.

It is also worth pointing out that tapping the creature doesn't guarantee you'll get the effect. The creature has to actually survive until the start of your next turn before it untaps as thus triggers the effect. This is pretty key to understanding this effect.

The most recent analogs to this card include Cathedral Sanctifier and Lone Missionary. The latter saw frequent play, while the former did not. In my estimation, the difference was probably the Missionary's Power and Toughness, which certainly bodes well for Oreskos Sun Guide. On the other hand, the fact that you have to go through extra steps to gain the Life, rather than just receiving it upon entering the battlefield, makes this a tougher sell. Of course, the fact that you could potentially gain the Life multiple times certainly mitigates this extra work.

I will hold off making a final evaluation until the rest of the cardpool is spoiled. If there is a reasonable, repeatable way to tap your own creatures at Instant speed, this could end up being pretty good. If not, I am uncertain as to how much play it will see.

What do you think?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fate Foretold

Today I want to write about an interaction I recently learned about as an exercise in card evaluation. The interaction in question comes from GodZo's Azorius Fortress deck, that took the trophy for the final event of SPDC last season.

But to start out with, let's take a look at the key card for that interaction - Fate Foretold. This Blue Common is part of a cycle of Common Auras that replace themselves when they enter the battlefield. In general, this is good value, as the card always at least replaces itself, assuming of course it resolves.

Now what's interesting about this card is that it literally has no effect on the creature it enchants. Instead, it replaces the creature with another card when that creature dies. A build-your-own Runewing Drake, if you will.

The closest analog to this card is actually Altar's Reap. For the same converted mana cost, when the creature in question dies, you draw two cards. Clearly Fate Foretold is generally weaker, since it casts at Sorcery speed and doesn't give you control over when the creature dies.

Anyway, on to the interaction. What happens when you cast a Fate Foretold on a Keening Apparition?

Keening Apparition is a card that has seen quite a bit of play since its release way back in Return to Ravnica. A 2/2 creature for 1W is reasonable, and the fact that you can use it to destroy any Enchantment at Instant speed is quite useful.

With Fate Foretold enchanting Keening Apparition, you can sacrifice this spirit at any time to destroy the Fate Foretold, sending both to the graveyard and drawing a card in the process. You've spent two cards, drew two cards, and got some incidental value out of the creature. This is probably the low-end of this interaction. Chump blocking creates the same result.

On the other hand, if you use the Keening Apparition to trade with another creature, you've spent two cards, drew two cards, and sent an opponent's card to the graveyard. Essentially, you are up a card on that exchange. Using the Keening Apparition to destroy a pesky enchantment of your opponent's works in a similar way, and is probably the maximum value of this interaction.

So of what value is this interaction? Honestly, at the end of the day, it's about the same value as a Divination. You've spent a card that replaces itself and then draws an additional card. In doing so, though, you've taken on the risk of having the creature destroyed before the Aura resolves as well as never drawing the creature in the first place.

In the end, while using Fate Foretold may make your opponent hesitate to destroy the creature it enchants, that alone isn't enough to justify the risk and extra steps.

Of course, Fate Foretold does have one other advantage that might be enough to justify its inclusion. In a deck running Ethereal Armor, Fate Foretold also increases your Enchantment count; similarly, in a deck running Auramancer, you can retrieve Fate Foretold from the Graveyard to use again. Given the right draw, this can certainly be pretty sick value. But unless you're taking advantage of these synergies, Fate Foretold simply isn't worth playing.

Did I miss anything in my evaluation? If so, I'd love to hear about it in the comments below. And thanks for reading!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mana Bases, Applied

Last time, I wrote about an excellent article by ChannelFireball's Frank Karsten on creating mana bases. I ended the post with the intention of applying his numbers and analysis to a specific decklist from a recent Monday Pauper Deck Challenge event.

Of course, I should have realized that this would be more challenging than I expected. As it turns out, most of the successful decklists right now in the metagame are either mono- or dual-colored, with pretty simply color requirements.

Fortunately, the Dimir Mill archetype is just complex enough to be worth applying Karsten's numbers. For reference, here's the exact decklist I'm referencing, which took 2nd place in Monday's MPDC 23.10:

Dimir Mill
2nd place by Ajcapra in MPDC 23.10
4 Archaeomancer
4 cards

Other Spells
4 Devour Flesh
4 Essence Scatter
4 Grisly Spectacle
4 Pharika's Cure
4 Pilfered Plans
4 Psychic Strike
3 Thassa's Bounty
2 Cancel
2 Crypt Incursion
1 Tome Scour
32 cards
11 Swamp
9 Island
4 Dimir Guildgate
24 cards

Psychic Strike

So, what are the mana requirements for this decklist?
  • Access to either B or U on Turn 2 (for Devour Flesh or Essence Scatter)
  • Access to both B and U on Turn 3 (for Psychic Strike and Pilfered Plans)
  • Access to BB on Turn 2 (for Pharika's Cure)
  • Access to UU on Turn 3 (for Cancel)
Based on Karsten's numbers, here's the total number of colored sources corresponding to each of these requirements:
  • 13 sources of Black and Blue
  • 12 sources of Black and Blue
  • 20 sources of Black
  • 19 sources of Blue
As written, the decklist certainly falls short of these recommendations. It has 15 Black sources and 13 Blue sources. So what are our options?

Well, playing 39 Lands isn't going to happen.  And even with the dual-colored Gates, that only reduces the Basics needed to 16 Black and 15 Blue, which is still excessive. So the question is, how important are these last two requirements?

Turn 2 Pharika's Cure is helpful, but certainly not necessary for this decklist to function, especially since Devour Flesh accomplishes a similar role. In the same way, a Turn 3 Cancel isn't a requirement, since Psychic Strike is a much more viable Turn 3 play.  As it stands, the deck should practically always have access to Pharika's Cure by Turn 6, and Cancel by Turn 8. This same guideline applies to both Grisly Spectacle and Archaeomancer. Is this good enough?

I actually think this is correct as built. With only 2 Cancels in the main, and with Archaeomancer being a late play for this archetype, favoring Black sources over Blue seems to be the right choice. Considering how controlling this archetype is, I might even be tempted to run a 25th Land for a Swamp, easing the BB threshold to Turn 5. What do you think?

I hope you've found this application of Karsten's article to be helpful. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mana Bases

Today I want to write about mana bases. What's a mana base? Here's how it's defined over on  the MTG Salvation Wiki:

The Mana base of a deck consists of all the cards which produce mana to cast spells. This obviously includes lands, but also counts artifacts, creatures, and even enchantments that have a mana ability attached to them.

Further, and I quote, "The mana base is...the most essential part of a deck as a deck that is unable to achieve the requirements to cast its spells is rendered effectively useless."

While the complexity of a mana base is obviously directly related to the complexity of the deck itself, to construct a proper mana base you need to answer three questions:
  1. How many Lands do I need to reliably cast my spells on time?
  2. How many different color-sources do I need to reliably cast my spells on time?
  3. What options do I have that would allow me to use a single card as a source for more than one color?
Needless to say, constructing a solid mana base is essential to success in Magic. And unless you're copying a well-tested deck from someone else, it can be one of the most difficult aspects of deckbuilding.

This past week I read an excellent article over at ChannelFireball by Frank Karsten about mana-bases. While I am certainly familiar with some of the theory behind mana-bases, this was the first time I saw anyone attempt to mathematically demonstrate the numbers behind some of the theory. If you have the time, I strongly suggest you read his article. But if you just want the gist of his analysis, read on:
Obviously this is taken directly from his article, so full credit goes to Frank Karsten.

So what's the baseline? For a simple two color deck that wants access to both color by Turn 3 (with only one of a particular colored mana symbol in any spell in the decklist), you should play 12 basics for each color, leaving you with a reasonable 24 Lands in your deck. But what about a three color deck? If all you have access to are Basic Lands, you would need to play 36 of them to have access to all three by Turn 3! Obviously that's not going to work.

Which is why Lands that produce more than one color mana are so important. For that same three color deck, if you have 4 Nylea's Presence and 8 Gates covering all three colors, you squeeze in 8 colored sources for each color, leaving you with only 4 basics of each color needed to reach the requirements. Once again, this leaves you with 24 Lands in your deck.

Of course, if you have one or more spells that require multiple instances of a single color mana to cast, the calculation becomes even more complex!

I will leave you to these calculations for now. But next time, I want to use this information to analyze some recent decklists from Standard Pauper and see how the theory holds up! In the meantime, if you have some advice or resources to share about mana bases, I'd love to see it in the comments below.

See you next time.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Resolutions for Writer Adept

Earlier this week, I wrote about New Years resolutions in general, and specifically the right kind of resolutions for those involved in creative endeavors. I quoted from my brothers' blog three criteria for making New Years resolutions:

1. Create a measurable goal
2. Make your goal something you have control over
3. Boil it down to the most important.
4. Get help.

So the question I want to answer today is this: what resolution should I make for this blog?

Perhaps the most obvious goal would be to finally see the Standard Pauper format become a sanctioned event for Magic Online. That is certainly measurable, important, and something I would need help achieving. Problem is, in the end, I have no control over whether or not that occurs. I can certainly have an influence, but in the end I lack the ability to decisively act on that goal.

Another thought I considered was to set a goal related to my fantasy writing. One of the things I intended to use this blog for was to discuss my own endeavors to write and eventually publish fiction in the fantasy genre. But with all of the craziness of life over the past twelve months, this goal has taken a backseat to my Magic hobby. A goal for fantasy writing is measurable, something I can control, and something I can seek out help to accomplish. But it is really what is most important?

Third times the charm. Having rejected the first two goals, I decided on something I believe will actually push me towards both of the above goals. And it's this: create more content. This is measurable, within my control, something for which I can seek help from experts. Best of all, the simple goal of creating more content is probably the most important thing I can do.

So here's how that goal will play out in 2014:
  • I will post three blog updates instead of two. My goal will be to publish on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. I actually already accomplished this one for this week.
  • I will submit and publish at least one article per month on PureMTGO. For January, this is my New Player Primer 2014.
  • I will write between 40,000-50,000 words in fantasy fiction.
There you have it. That is my resolution for Writer Adept for 2014. What about you? What goals did you make for 2014? I'd love to hear about it in the comments. Thanks for reading.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

New Years Resolutions for Artists

It's that time of year again.

A year ago, I made a New Years resolution to start a blog to discuss Magic the Gathering, the Standard Pauper format, the fantasy genre, and writing. A year later, having celebrated over 100 posts for 2013, I would have to say that I met that resolution with flying colors.

Which brings me to the first of a two-part post for 2014. What resolution(s) will I make regarding this blog for the upcoming year?

As I was pondering this topic, I came across this excellent blog post by my brother. In case you missed my first post about his work, my brother runs a recording studio in the Nashville area and blogs about the music industry from the perspective of the artist. Anyway, in his final post of 2013, he discussed three ways that artists can make better New Years Resolutions:
  1. Create a measurable goal, rather than a vague idea. It should be something quantifiable and something you actually have control over.
  2. Rather than creating a bunch of different goals, focus on one goal that addresses what really matters. This also frees you from having to keep track of a bunch of different goals.
  3. Find someone who has the experience or resources you'll need to accomplish your goal. Rather than finding yourself frustrated in February, tap into the accountability and encouragement that others can bring to what you're trying to accomplish.
My brother ends with a great reminder:

Nailing your new years resolutions feels great, but it never comes cheap. 

You’re gonna miss some great television. You may have to skip some happy hours. And don’t get me started on sleep deprivation.

But it really does feel great when it happens.

So, with that in mind, I will be back later this week with my resolution for Writer Adept for 2014.