Saturday, May 31, 2014

Hearthstone: Initial Thoughts

So with all the hype surrounding Hearthstone, I finally decided to download it and see what all the talk was about. And I must say that I was pretty impressed.

First of all, I love the fact that there is so much to do initially that doesn't cost you a thing. Honestly, I expected that anything beyond a tutorial was going to require me to put down at least a token amount of cash to continue. But now having invested around four hours in the game, I still have yet to give Blizzard a dime.

Second, the production values are pretty good. While I felt the over-enthusiastic dwarven innkeeper was a bit over-the-top, it fits the overall tone and atmosphere of the game fairly well. Now, I haven't played in the Warcraft universe since Warcraft 3, but I immediately felt right at home amidst the various characters and card art. The interface is clean, different options are right where you would expect them to be, and I have yet to find myself wondering how to do something. Hearthstone pays attention to all the little details, and it shows.

Third, the gameplay is fast-paced and intuitive, with just the right mix of simplicity and complexity. After all my frustration with the mana system of Magic Online, it's nice to have a game where you don't ever get mana-screwed. The basic cards are simple, but it was apparent pretty quickly that synergy and card-advantage were going to be just as important as they are in Magic. Most of my matches against the AI lasted less than 10 minutes, and the few games I've logged against human opponents are about double that.

Fourth, the option to play against the computer is a nice touch, even if the AI isn't superb. The tutorial and Normal-mode AIs never really posed any difficulty for me, and it wasn't until I had unlocked all the heroes and played my first Expert AI that I ever lost a single game. Even then, it was simply a matter of actually building my own deck (as opposed to using the terrible starter decks that are the default) before I could readily beat even the Expert AI most of the time.

Now, I haven't yet tried the Arena, or cracking packs, or almost anything beyond gaining all the Basic cards and building a custom deck with the Mage. But at this point the game has proven quite enjoyable, to the point where I could even see myself eventually investing money into the game. Granted, it seems like the daily quests may be sufficient to keep me from having to resort to that for some time to come.

Since the game is free and available on multiple platforms, there is very little reason not to try it out. While it doesn't have quite the same depth as Magic the Gathering, it still scratches that same itch. You should try it if you haven't.

Next week, I'll follow up with a discussion on what Wizards should learn from Hearthstone as they move forward with Magic Online.

Finally, don't forget that tomorrow at 11:59pm EST registration for Multicolor Mayhem will close. Be sure to register on Gatherling, input your decklist, and send me an E-mail. Get all the details here.

So what do you think of Hearthstone? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Multicolor Mayhem League

It is with great excitement that I announce a special league-style event for the summer: Multicolor Mayhem League!

A couple weeks ago, we had a special Monday Pauper Deck Challenge in which all the Commons from Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and Dragon's Maze were legal. The format was so fun, and with so many interesting possibilities, that I decided to extend the fun!

So here's how this will work:

1. Registration

To participate in this event, you will need to login to your Gatherling account on (If you don't have an account, you'll need to create one, using the SAME username as your MTGO username). In your Player Control Panel, you will see a listing for Multicolor Mayhem League. Click on "Register," and input your decklist. Once this is complete, send an email to gwyned at gmail dot com, with the subject line: "Registration for Multicolor Mayhem," and include your Magic Online username. This information will be shared with everyone who participates in this event so that individual players can contact one another to arrange for a time to play out their  match. So be sure that you check your E-mail frequently.

Registration is open until 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time on Sunday, June 1st. At that time, any player who has not yet registered a legal decklist will be dropped from the event.

2. Deckbuilding

To be legal for this event, your deck must contain only Commons from any of the following sets: Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, and Dragon's Maze. Of special note, the following cards were printed at Common but are NOT Common in the legal sets and thus are NOT legal for this event: Arrest, Frenzied Tilling, Righteous Charge, Savage Surge, and Syncopate.

And like any Constructed format, you must have a minimum of 60 cards, with no more than four copies of any card (excluding basic lands), and may include a Sideboard of no more than 15 cards.

You will NOT be allowed to change your decklist at any time during the event. Doing so will be grounds for disqualification.

3. Structure

This will be a league-style event, with each Round taking place over the course of one week. Each round will be Swiss style, with the total number of rounds determined by the number of players:
  • With less than 17 players, we will play 4 rounds. 
  • With 17 players or more, we will play 5 rounds.
  • With 33 players or more, we will play 6 rounds.
  • With 65 players or more, we will play 7 rounds.    
  • With 129 players or more, we will play 8 rounds.
After the Swiss rounds are complete, there will be a cut to Top 8 (resulting in three more Single Elimination rounds).

Pairings will be automatically determined by the Gatherling program. When you log into your Player Control Panel, your Pairing for the current Round will be displayed, along with the ability to input your results as well as drop from the event.

Please set up each match as follows; before you join a match, make sure the match is setup correctly.
  • Type: Constructed Modern or Pauper
  • Match Structure: Best 2 out of 3
  • Event Timer: 30 minutes (25 minutes on the Beta client)
  • Allow Watchers
  • Comment: Multicolor Mayhem Round #
It is your responsibility each week to contact your opponent and arrange for a mutual time to play out your match for the week. Afterwards, both players need to report their results via the Player Control Panel. Failure to complete your match by 11:59pm Eastern Standard Time on the Sunday of each week will result in both players being dropped from the event unless you have contacted me.

Should all players complete their match prior to the Sunday deadline, Gatherling will automatically start the next round and update the Pairings accordingly. Nonetheless, the deadline will remain unchanged even if the round begins early.

4. Prizes

Prizes will be awarded for the Top 8 players:
  • 1st: 14 tickets
  • 2nd: 8 tickets
  • Top 4: 4 tickets
  • Top 8: 2 tickets
In addition, one player will be randomly selected each week to receive a special one ticket prize.

Finally, at the end of the event, all players who participated in every Swiss round but did NOT make Top 8 will be eligible for special prizes that will be announced at the beginning of the week of the final Swiss round. 

5. Conduct

It is the responsibility of each player to be aware of all the rules for this event. Ignorance will NOT be an excuse.

This event, like any Player Run Event, relies on the honor system. Please be a good sport.

If you’ve contacted your opponent and have not received a response in 48 hours, please contact me. If only one person contacts me and no results are reported, I will award that player a match win and drop his or her opponent.

If you are having any other problem (such as your opponent not showing up, your opponent dropped connection in the middle of the match, harassment, or anything else), don’t hesitate to contact me. And if you suspect another player is cheating, let me know. But I trust that every player will be a good sport and act in good faith such that I never have to become involved.

6. Questions

Leave any questions in the comments below, or feel free to contact me at gwyned at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Running Player Run Events Using Gatherling

Yesterday was Memorial Day here in the United States. As a result of family obligations, I was unable to host Monday Pauper Deck Challenge. At one point I thought I might have a guest host lined up, but in the end he was unable to make it work. However, in the process, I prepared a quick primer for how to use the Gatherling app on to host events without needing any additional software. In the interest of expanding the pool of players who are able to host Player Run Events, I decided to take today's blog post to make this information available.

Once you've read this over, if you have any questions or feedback, let me know in the comments below, and I will do my best to incorporate them in the next revision. Thanks!

** Note that this does not cover actually creating the event itself, since that requires a higher level of access. If you're interested in actually starting a brand new PRE series and would like help doing just that, let me know and I'd be happy to show you how to set all that up. But what's included below is everything you would need to know to act as a guest host for an event. **

Running Player Run Events Using Gatherling
10 Simple Steps

1. Find the event under Host CP and click on the event in question. Note that the event will only show up here in you have been given host access to this event.

2. Here the host can add players at the bottom of the event page by entering the name where it says "Add:" and clicking "Update Registration." Most of the time this will not be necessary as players can actually register for the event by themselves (see below).

3. The players can also join by finding the event name under the listing "Preregister for Events" in their Player CP and clicking Register.

4. Once the time for registration has expired, click on the "Start Event" button on the event page.

5. When the event is running, the event page has several new options now:
  • Drop player - Remove player from the event
  • Add player - Add a new player (will not be paired until next round)
  • Recalulate Standings - Display updated standings
  • Reset Event - Delete all pairings and start the entire event over

 6. Once you have started an event, if you click on "Match Listing" from the event page, it will display the Pairings for the current Round as well as those of previous rounds. At the bottom of the page is a handy tool to copy/paste the pairings into MTGO chat. From this page, you can also award any unpaired player a bye for the current round.

7. Players will be able to enter their own match results from their Player CP as well as drop from the event by clicking the "Report Result" option under "Active Matches"; as the host, you may also manually enter results on the event page, although you should not need to do so in most cases.

8. Once all results have been entered for a round, Gatherling will automatically pair the next round.

9. When you click on "Standings" from the event page, you can see the current Standings based on the latest completed round.

10. Once the Swiss rounds are over, again Gatherling will automatically pair the Top # Playoffs and continue pairings until the event has completed.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Enchantment Synergy in Journey Into Nyx

Way back when Theros was first released, one of the first decklists to make the rounds in testing was a White-Black-Green Enchantment based deck, running most or all of the new Bestow creatures in those colors along with Ethereal Armor and Auramancer. While quite powerful in initial testing, it didn't take long for the metagame to adapt, and eventually that particular build fell out of favor, replaced by a White Weenie build that took advantage of similar synergies.

Now, with the full block in the cardpool, I wanted to look at two particular Green cards that might just push this archetype back into favor:

1. Kruphix's Insight is one of a long line of Green Sorceries that allow you to dig through a number of cards in your deck and keep one or more of a particular type. In this case, for the same cost as Divination, you can potentially draw up to three enchantment cards (which, of course, includes all Bestow and other Enchantment Creatures) and hopefully discard Lands or other undesirable cards. While this certainly requires a very dedicated build, the explosive potential of refilling your hand rewards you quite well for such a focus. A mere 20 Enchantments in your deck is probably enough to make this good most of the time. Perhaps the only downside is that it does nothing to help you find additional Lands when you really need them.

2. Oakheart Dryads looks fairly innocuous; in fact, I rated it merely as borderline in my set review. But in a deck that is casting an Enchantment basically every turn, the +1 / +1 boost becomes surprisingly relevant. Get two of more of them into play, or cast multiple Enchantments in a turn, and suddenly you are flinging +1 / +1 counters all over the board, allowing you to swing in for massive amounts of damage. And while a 2/3 for 2G is marginal for Green, that extra point of Toughness is certainly not irrelevant in a metagame of 2/2 creatures, Shock, and Pharika's Cure. In a dedicated Enchantment deck, most of the time this creature should almost certainly warrant inclusion.

So what specific list is most likely to be able to take advantage of these synergies? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

During my time as a writer for and as the host of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, I have had extensive experience with, which is one of the largest online stores for Magic the Gathering Online cards, tickets, boosters, and the like. Over the years they have made major investments into the Magic Online community, including sponsoring numerous Player Run Events and providing payment for content writers for PureMTGO. 

Here's how the buying process works. You browse to their website, select the cards or other supplies that you wish to purchase, and then complete your payment just like any other online store. Then, once that transaction is complete, their official account on Magic Online will contact you in-game and initiate a trade to get your purchases to you. You can pay either using PayPal or through Magic Online tickets, and you receive a discount for the former. The whole process is quick, easy, and their employees pay great attention to detail and provide great customer service.

This online vendor also has one of the largest lineup of bots, which are automated trading programs for purchasing Magic Online cards. Through their website, you can purchase online credit at their bots at a 5% discount (or 6% if you purchase 100 credits at a time).

I realize that you have a lot of options when it comes to purchasing Magic Online supplies. Here are just a few reasons why I believe you should give MTGOTraders your business:
  1. They have excellent customer service.
  2. They have been around for a long time and are thus reputable and respected in the community.
  3. They have fair prices and business practices.
  4. They have one of the largest chains of bots on Magic Online, all of which share credit with each other.
  5. Their website is clean, easy-to-navigate, and fast.
  6. Their employees are available almost around the clock on Magic Online.
  7. They support the community; in particular, they sponsor most of the prizes for Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, to the amount of at least $20 every event.
As my own way of supporting and saying thanks for all their great service, I have added a new banner on the right-hand side of my page with a link to their site. And full disclosure - I am NOT being compensated by them for my support here on Writer Adept. Instead, I just want all my readers to hear what I say about MTGOTraders all the time:

"You guys are the best!"

PS - I am still looking for a guest host for MPDC this coming Monday. See here for full details.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Remembering the May 20th Moore Tornado

Today is the one year anniversary of the EF-5 tornado that hit Moore, Oklahoma.

The storm killed 36 people, 7 of whom were children; almost 400 people were injured, and billions of dollars worth of property was damaged. There has been quite a bit of coverage of the storm today from a variety of media outlets, including several stories detailing how the recovery efforts are going.

I wrote about my own experiences of the tornado not that long ago; if you're interested, you can find my account here.

Moore is the birthplace of the Tornado Emergency designation, used during the 1999 EF-5 tornado that also hit the city. In fact, the paths of the two storms are eerily similar. While that designation has since been used across the United States, I believe Moore is the only city to ever have it issued twice.

The National Weather Service in Norman Oklahoma has an excellent recap of the events of the storm, including their forecasts leading up to the day of the storm and the full text of their warnings on not only their own site but social media as well.

Two other recent media pieces concerning the storm are worth checking out:
  1. NBC News has a whole collection of video, interviews, and articles about the storm. 
  2. The Washington Post has a great gallery of pictures showing scenes from right after the tornado and what those same places look like a year later. This one in particular tells the story of how long it can take for a community to recover:

As for me, while I may no longer be a resident of Moore, I am so grateful to the teachers, first-responders, good neighbors, and churches that gave so much in the face of such tragedy. I consider it an honor to have been a part of such an amazing community.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Emperor's Blades

As an aspiring fantasy author, one recommendation that I have taken to heart is to read new authors that are being published in the genre. In fact, when it comes to publishers, I will almost always pick up something new from Tor, and I have yet to be disappointed. And so as I was browsing my local library last week, I came across The Emperor's Blades. I was not disappointed.

The Emperor's Blades tells the story of the three children of the emperor, each of whom have been intentionally placed by their father far from one another to receive the training to protect the empire and preserve their lives. The oldest, Kaden, has lived for years as an acolyte to a mysterious monastic order dedicated to the enigmatic Blank God. The second, Valyn, is a rising cadet among the Kettral, an elite band of assassins named for the giant black hawks they ride into battle. And the third, Adare, serves as an administrator in the capital city, forbidden by her gender from every assuming the throne. But when their father is mysteriously killed, each of his children must rise to fulfill their destiny and unlock the secrets of an ancient immortal race.

The book alternates between these three viewpoints, moving the story through three separate arcs that somewhat come together towards the close of the book. The arcs of the two young men are quite similar, as each must rise through the challenges placed on them by their order while simultaneously trying to deal with suspicious and sinister circumstances. Adare's viewpoint chapters are fewer, but give the reader a large glimpse into exactly what is at stake for the empire and the challenges that they will face with the death of their father.

Overall I enjoyed the book. The world is vivid and unique, and weaves the themes of family, conspiracy, revenge, and coming-of-age into a very compelling tale. Magic is feared and consequently exists only in the margins of society, while technology seems to be on the rise, particularly in the area of explosives. The importance of the long-departed forerunners to the human race is clear from the prologue, but plays only a minor role in the overall tale.

There were two flaws that tempered my enjoyment, however. First, the characters seemed decidedly modern to me. In their speech, mannerisms, and even cultural expectations, at times they seemed too much like those from our own world. Second, while the large confrontation at the end brings a somewhat satisfying conclusion, I felt there was far too much left unresolved at the end. Several new characters emerge in the last few chapters, and the ending seems to be much too abrupt, clearly leading up to the next installment in the series.

Nonetheless, The Emperor's Blades is a great read, and one that I would not hesitate to recommend.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

MPDC 24 Special - Multicolor Mayhem

It has become somewhat of a tradition to hold a special event during the 'end of season' break between the MPDC Worlds event and the start of the next season. As I was considering the format for this event, I wanted to find something interesting and unique. Eventually, I came up with the following idea: wouldn't it be great to take two multicolor blocks and mix them together?

The obvious candidate for such a format would be a double-block of the Return to Ravnica block and the Shards of Alara block. This was particularly compelling to me since Shards of Alara is probably my favorite Standard Pauper block ever, perhaps because it was the last major block before the so-called New World Order dramatically altered the landscape of what was acceptable at Common.

So for the event this coming Monday, all Commos from these two blocks (Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon's Maze, Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn) will be legal. We will play 4 rounds with a cut to Top 8, unless attendance is over 31 players, in which case we will add a 5th round. Prizes will be our normal payout of certificates from MTGOTraders. However, we will also have a special deckbuilder's challenge.

At the end of Round 1, I will randomly select one special "Gold" deck from all those entered into the event. The player selected will be awarded a booster pack of Journey Into Nyx. Here's how to qualify:
  • Your decklist must contain only multicolored cards, not including any lands. This includes not only the obvious 'gold' cards, but any with a hybrid mana cost or with an activated ability that is a different color than the card itself (such as Deviant Glee, Darklit Gargoyle, or even Quenchable Fire) but not any card that only references another color (such as Parasitic Strix). Basically, if there are two or more different colored mana symbols on the card, it qualifies.
  • Your decklist must be entered in full by the end of Round 1.
  • Your decklist must include the words [Gold], including the brackets, in its name.
Of course, you are by no means required to follow these restrictions - this is just an extra challenge for those who enjoy that sort of thing!

Hope to see you on Monday, at 2pm EST / 6pm GMT, in the channel MPDC, for this great event!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

MPDC End of Season 24

And so another season of Monday Pauper Deck Challenge draws to a close.

We had our end of season championship event yesterday, and attendance was one of the highest I've seen for a WORLDS event. The decision to change from an invitation-only double-elimination format to an open-to-all Swiss / Top 8 cutoff seems to have been the right choice.

First, congratulations are in order to our Season 24 Champion Torreth, who piloted the Crouching Cipher Hidden Strings deck to victory with an impressive 8-0 run.

Second but equally impressive, Mundisv accumulated the highest total of Season Points for this season, and as such will walk away with a booster pack from Journey Into Nyx, courtesy of Standard Pauper enthusiast and personal friend joekewwl. Joekewwl also manages the prize pool and Top 8 prizes throughout the season, so I want to extend a special thanks to him.

Third, for myself I had a quick Round 1 loss in the event, but managed to win my next three matches. My tiebreakers were pretty weak, however, and I ended up only placing 11th overall, shut out from the Top 8 cutoff. I thought my own version of the Hidden Strings deck performed quite well, but I can't argue with the success that the original list has achieved.

Fourth, as always, I am grateful to for their sponsorship of this event. They have been very generous with prize support for our event, and even contribute additional funds for each of our end-of-season events. They have amazing customer service, a great line of bots on Magic Online, fair pricing, and a quick response time. I highly recommend them for all your Magic Online needs.

And finally, thanks to each and every person who played in this season of MPDC. Standard Pauper wouldn't exist today without this great community, and I take great pride in being part of it. Here's to another great season!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Terraria's Gone Fishing

The latest update to Terraria came out late last week, and I must confess that I've spent way too much time this weekend trying to master the new fishing mechanics. Hence the lateness of this post.

Fishing has proven to be a lot of fun, but also quite time-consuming. The exact mechanics of it all have proven elusive, even with a large community of people trying to figure it all out. But with some help from one of the beta-testers, here's a quick rundown of how it all works:
  • First, obviously, you need a fishing pole. Some simple ones can be made from wood or iron, but the better ones are rarely sold from particular NPCs or as a reward for completing a high number of fishing quests (see below).
  • Second, you need bait. The logical choice are the insects and worms that typically are found around your base - butterflies, fireflies, grasshoppers, even scorpions. You can also be rewarded better bait from the aforementioned fishing quests.
  • Finally, a number of factors determine what you'll catch:
    1. Quality of your fishing pole
    2. Quality of your bait
    3. Biome where you are fishing
    4. Time of day
    5. Whether or not a fishing quest is active
    6. Amount of water where you are fishing
    7. Random luck
Fishing is also made more interesting by the presence of a fisherman NPC. Each day, he requests that you bring him a particular fish. You have until dawn the next day to complete this task, and the requested item seems to only be available when the quest is active. Upon completion, you are awarded with some loot, usually fishing related. The exact rewards seem to be random, but definitely improve the more quests you complete.

And of course, perhaps the best reason to go fishing is the opportunity to defeat the new boss and gain some new shiny loot...

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Prizes for MPDC 24 Worlds

I am excited to announce that the upcoming Monday Pauper Deck Challenge Season 24 Worlds will have the most prizes we've ever handed out.

As I discussed last time, Magic Online crashed while MPDC 24.11 was in session, causing the tournament to be cancelled. As part of our policy, all prizes from that event are rolled over into the next one.

(As an aside - thanks to everyone who took the time to comment on our server crash policy. Based on the feedback I received, I don't anticipate any changes to the policy going forward).

Season 24 Worlds will be a four round Swiss event open to all comers with a Top 8 playoff, held on Monday, May 12, at 2pm EST / 6pm GMT.  As was the case last season, the eight players with the highest total of Season Points will all receive a Round 1 bye for this event. Journey Into Nyx will not be legal for this event. Here's what the prize payout will look like:

  • 1st: 10 tix + 1 of each Journey Into Nyx Commons (excluding basic lands)
  • 2nd: $8 gift certificate to MTGOTraders + 4 cards from the MPDC Prize Pool
  • Top 4: $4 gift certificate to MTGOTraders + 4 cards from the MPDC Prize Pool
  • Top 8: $2 gift certificate to MTGOTraders + 4 cards from the MPDC Prize Pool
  • Top 16: $1 gift certificate to MTGOTraders  (based on Swiss standings)
  • Door Prize: 1 booster pack of Born of the Gods
That's over $55 in prize money available, paying out all the way down to Top 16. And as always, this event is absolutely free! Now that's good value!

If you're unfamiliar with the current Standard Pauper metagame, be sure and check out this great article by Mundisv which should give you a great rundown on what to expect. Hope to see you on Monday!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Magic Online Crashes During MPDC

When I took over as host for Monday Pauper Deck Challenge, I remember being surprised that we had an official policy for what happens when the Magic Online server crashes in the middle of an event. Yesterday, I was grateful that we did.

In case you missed it, yesterday at approximately 4:35pm EST, Magic Online crashed. MPDC had just started Round 3, and not surprisingly, the event thread immediately was flooded with responses from players who had been disconnected.

Here's the policy for how we handle these sorts of events, taken from the Season Document:

MTGO Crashes & Cancelled Events

  • In the event of a server crash or other technical difficulty with MTGO, the tournament will be suspended for no more than one hour total.
  • In the case of multiple server crashes, if the tournament is within 15 minutes of reaching the one hour suspension-time limit, the final tournament suspension will be 15 minutes.
  • The Standard Forum event thread will be used for tournament communication during the tournament suspension.
  • Once the technical difficulties have ended, an announcement will be made on the appropriate thread, and players will have 10 minutes to rejoin the tournament.
  • If the tournament is cancelled during the first four rounds, then no prizes will be awarded and they will roll into the prize pool for the next event.
  • If the tournament is cancelled after round four, prizes will be awarded according to the current standings.
  • In any crash situation, stay tuned to the event thread for official announcements from the host.
Within just a few minutes after the crash, I created this post under the event thread, and used Twitter as a secondary source of communication. The event was officially delayed, with the maximum suspension time set to expire at 5:35pm EST. At that point, Magic Online was still down, and unfortunately the event had to be cancelled. Finally, at around 7:15pm (almost three hours after the crash), the server came back online.

If you're interested in how things when down on Twitter, here's an editing snapshot of the relevant tweets:
According to the policy, since the event cancelled before four rounds were concluded, the prizes that would have been distributed for this event are rolled into next week. And since next week is our end of the season Worlds event, this means the prizes next week will be sweet indeed. I'll have more info about that next time.

In the mean time, if you have any feedback concerning our server crash policy for MPDC, I'd enjoy hearing them. Let me know in the comments below.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Playing AzAgCon

Last time, I discussed the decklist I piloted to Top 4 in the latest MPDC event. I nicknamed the deck AzAgCon, which stands for Azorius Aggro Control. The deck is based upon the Crouching Cipher Hidden Strings deck that has become fairly popular in the metagame of late, including taking the trophy for MPDC 24.10. If you're interesting in my rationale for the changes I made, you can find my explanations here.

As promised, today I want to give you a quick strategy primer for the deck. For reference, here is my current list:

While this strategy is specifically geared for my life, most of this applies to any of the Crouching Cipher Hidden Strings lists.

The key to the deck is getting several good Heroic cards into play and then targeting them with Hidden Strings to either quickly boost their Power and Toughness or to lock down a key creature on your opponent's side of the board. With multiple ways of protecting your creatures that cost a single mana, it's worth waiting to play one of your Heroic creatures until you've got the extra mana to protect it. Cloudfin Raptor is also quite strong on Turn 1, as you often can pump it up to a 2/3 fairly quickly and force your opponent to deal with it instead of your more potent creatures. Syndic of Tithes also pairs extremely well with Hidden Strings, as you get a "free" trigger whenever the Cipher ability of Hidden Strings resolves.

Knowing when to cast Hidden Strings is probably the key to success with this deck. It can be used for a variety of purposes, especially on the turn it is initially cast:
  • Tapping down an opponent's creature to enable you to activate Cipher that same turn
  • Untapping your Lands to give you additional resources that turn
  • Targeting (but not necessarily tapping) your own Heroic creatures; remember, just because you target it, doesn't mean you actually have to tap or untap it!
  • Tapping down an opponent's untapped Land to cut her off from a color
When to use Essence Scatter is also tricky. Most of the time, I don't want to hold it up until Turn 4 or 5, hoping to net a powerful target like a Gatekeeper or Gray Merchant that could otherwise pose a major problem for the deck. While not particularly good against other Aggro decks, Mono Black shows up with such regularity that it's worth including in the main.

The Sideboard is fairly straightforward. It includes some great Enchantment hate (Keening Apparition, Disperse), some spot removal (Celestial Flare), a bit of Graveyard recursion hate (Beckon Apparition) that can sometimes do double-duty against other aggressive archetypes, some helpful Lifegain (Hopeful Eidolon), and some additional counterspells (Essence Scatter, Negate, Dispel).

As I said last time, if you've never played this deck, it is both fun and surprisingly complex, with some interesting timing decisions to be made. Give it a try. Also, have a plan to deal with this archetype, as it seems to have grown in popularity!

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Top 4 in MPDC 24.10

Over the past couple weeks, I have been writing  about the Crouching Cipher Hidden Strings decklist that has emerged into the Standard Pauper metagame. I presented my own take on the deck and discussed my rationale for the changes that I made.

I ended up running the deck with just a few tweaks in MPDC 24.10, and finished in the Top 4. A build similar to the original version of the deck actually took home the trophy, and I played that deck twice - once in Round 1 where I won 2-1, and then again in Top 4 when I lost 0-2.

Here's the version that I ran:

Overall I was pretty happy with my build. Adding 2 lands to the deck seems to have worked out, as the deck mulliganed much better than previous versions. Essence Scatter also proved it worth several times, and am more confident now that it deserves its place in the main deck. I also was pleased with my decision to add both Swift Justice and Hopeful Eidolon back into the decklist. However, playing 3 copies of Wavecrash Triton seems to be a mistake - I would definitely swap the 4th copy of Vaporkin in its place.

If you haven't tried out this deck before, you should sleeve it up and give it a try. It's surprisingly fun. Later this week, I'll write up a quick deck-tech on exactly how the deck works.

If you've played against this archetype successfully, I'd love to hear what you think works well against it. Let me know in the comments below.