Thursday, November 16, 2017

1st Place in Week Five of the MPDC League Season Four

This week the MPDC League shifted to Standard Silverblack Tribal, which is a variation of the Tribal format in which at least one third of the total cards in the deck must contain the same creature subtype. Additionally, the format does not allow for any Sideboards.

The winner this week was Luc3k, who piloted a Rakdos colored deck with the Artificers tribe, making use of this prevalent theme from the Kaladesh block. Let's take a look at his list:

Unlike some recent innovations, this deck is simply about dealing damage as quickly as possible. It's constructed around six aggressive and/or mana efficient creatures: Aether Chaser, Sweatworks Brawler, Weldfast Engineer, Aether Poisoner, and Inventor's Apprentice. Not only do these beaters quickly ramp up the pressure, but each can immediately be equipped with Inventor's Goggles as soon as they enter the battlefield, making them that much more of a threat. But the biggest threats of the list actually come from Sky Skiff and Renegade Freighter, which are among the best Vehicles available in the format, especially since they are so cheap to Crew. Augmenting these threats are Lightning Strike and Unlicensed Disintegration, the latter of which can not only deal with any opposing threat but also levels direct damage to your opponent. Finally, the deck includes a full playset of Ramunap Ruins as well, which has become a staple in any Red-based deck for its dual role as a mana source early and as a direct damage dealer late to deal the final blow to your opponent.

Congratulations are certainly in order for Luc3k, who piloted this deck to a 5-0 finish, earning the 1st place trophy for last week. There is no doubt that the Artificers tribe is among the most powerful available right now, so it will be interesting to see if another tribe can fight through to victory. Hope you've enjoy this brief deck-tech, and I will see you next time.

Friday, November 10, 2017

1st Place in Week Four of the MPDC League Season Four

In the final week of Standard Silverblack for the MPDC League, another deck emerged to once again dethrone Energy. This time, well known Standard Pauper enthusiast joekewwl ran a powerful and streamlined MonoRed deck, taking advantage of the raw strength of various burn spells and one of the best creatures in the format right now: Ahn-Crop Crasher. Let's take a look at his decklist:

Although this list only includes 5 actual burn spells (3 Lightning Strike as well as singletons of Abrade and Magma Spray), a few other cards serve a similar function: Ramunap Ruins, Sand Strangler, Fling, and Struggle // Survive. The bulk of the deck is actually creatures, with a noticeable Artifact creature theme that stand well on their own but also enable utilizing the sweeper Incendiary Sabotage. Of these, both Filigree Familiar and Treasure Keeper provide additional benefits when they come in and leave play, making them excellent sacrifices for Fling. Additionally, Consulate Dreadnought, along with the powerful Charging Monstrosaur, provide two massive threats to finish off your opponent, especially if you can sneak them through using the Exert feature of Ahn-Crop Crasher. And as if these threats are not enough, the deck includes a couple copies of both Siege Modification and Cartouche of Zeal, making your creatures all the more powerful.

For the Sideboard, you have additional copies of Lightning Strike, Abrade, and Magma Spray, along with 3 copies of Blazing Volley to help knock down tokens and Hijack as a nice way to turn your opponent's threats against him. Finally, both Blur of Blades and Furious Reprisal gives the deck some more nuanced ways of dealing with particular creatures.

Congratulations are certainly in order for joekewwl piloting this deck to an impressive 4-1 victory in this last week before we shift over to Standard Silverblack Tribal. It will certainly be interesting to see which tribes emerge as the most powerful. Hope you'll have a chance to participate. See you next time!

Monday, November 6, 2017

MPDC League: Silverblack Tribal Rules

This week the MPDC League switches to the Silverblack Tribal format! Once upon a time, Tribal was actually an official format on Magic Online, existing in both a Standard and Classic variants. This format is all about creature combat, emphasizing a particular sub-type of creature to create what is essentially a theme deck of that particular sub-type. Traditionally, the rules for the Tribal format were as follows:
  1. One third of the total cards in your deck must share a single creature type. Technically this does include non-creature permanents that have a creature type (although no such cards are currently in Standard). Also, "Artifact Creature" is NOT a creature type, as Artifact is a card type, not a creature type.
  2. No Sideboard is allowed.
 For the MPDC League, both of rules will be in effect. Two additional rules exist:
  1. All cards must be either Commons or Uncommons that are currently in the Standard set.
  2. Your chosen creature type cannot be "Human" (although you can include Humans that share a different creature type instead).
And just as before, there are currently no cards banned for the MPDC League.

If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an email at gwyned at gmail dot com. Good luck and have fun!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

1st Place in Week Three of the MPDC League Season Four

For the first time this season, a non-Energy deck managed to go 5-0 in this week's MPDC League. Long-time player smashin piloted a Golgari Rock style deck to victory, combining excellent spot removal, beefy creatures, and creature enhancements in the form of Auras and counters. I personally had the chance to play against this deck, and I can honestly say I got destroyed very quickly in both our games. Let's take a look at the decklist:

This deck definitely utilizes a creature-centric strategy with a nice Merfolk sub-theme. Both Merfolk Branchwalker and Tishana's Wayfinder can pump themselves with Explore, while Vineshaper Mystic further enhances Merfolk and generally comes into play as a 2/4, making it tough for Red decks to deal with effectively. Additionally, both Ridgescale Tusker and Winding Constrictor both synergize well with all these +1 / +1 counters floating around, with Armorcraft Judge being the ultimate payoff if you can assemble the team.

The deck also utilizes Walk the Plank and Fatal Push for removal, Blossoming Defense to protect its creatures, and River Heralds' Boon and Cartouche of Strength to buff its already beefy creatures. Finally, the two copies of Hashep Oasis can also be used in a pinch to push through the last points of damage once you know your opponent can't do anything to stop your creatures.

For the Sideboard, you have the versatile Crushing Canopy to counter either Enchantments or Flying creatures, Lifecrafter's Gift to further spread your counters against opponents with little to no spot removal, and 3 copies of Cartouche of Ambition to allow you to not only deal with tokens or other weenies but also give you some much needed Lifegain against aggressive decks. Additionally, Skittering Heartstopper can serve as another cheap removal, while Destined // Lead gives you additional ways to protect your creatures and can be used to setup the killing blow from your unblocked creatures.

This is definitely a fun deck, and one I highly suggest you check out. With it going 5-0 this past week, it's sure to be a contender, so be sure you're ready to face it!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

My Take on Temur Energy

If you've been participating in the MPDC League (and let's face it, if you're reading this blog, you probably are), by now you are well aware that Energy decks have been the early front-runner for the most dominant deck of our small metagame. This archetype was piloted to back-to-back 5-0 records for the first two weeks of the league, and continued to place well for the third week as well.

As promised, today I want to look at my own version of the Energy deck, inspired mostly by Polyjak's original list. Here's my decklist:

My intent in building this variant was to diversify my threats. I felt Polyjak's version relied too much on winning with a host of Thopter tokens from Whirler Virtuoso, and didn't often do well when that plan didn't come together. So I opted to add in Thriving Rhino as another important threat and Aether Theorist to provide early blocking and card filtering. But more importantly, I also added Empyreal Voyager. This creature not only gives the deck a Flying threat, but also provides a potentially limitless source of additional energy, making all of the other Energy threats that much more powerful and consistent.

To make room for these changes, I had to cut all of the Ahn-Crop Crashers and Rogue Refiners, despite how good the former card is. I also dropped to only 2 copies of Servant of the Conduit, which I felt like was unnecessary considering how much Land the deck consistently drew. Finally, I also wanted the ability to extend the deck better into the mid- and late-game, and opted for Glimmer of Genius.

I changed the Sideboard entirely other than  Sentinel Totem, adding in 2 Shielded Aether Thiefs for more defense and card draw, 3 copies of Manglehorn as my Artifact hate, 3 Blazing Volley to counter rival token decks, and Ice Over as an inefficient but necessary way to deal with creature too large for burn spells to kill.

I've had only middling success with this deck, going 2-3 for the last two weeks with it. But overall it's been decent. If you have any thoughts on how it might be improved, I'd love to hear it.

Next time I'll take a look at the deck that went 5-0 this week. And believe it or not, it wasn't an Energy deck!

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

1st Place in Week Two of the MPDC League Season 4

Once again this week in the MPDC League it was all about the Energy. Congratulations to AEFabricio, who took his own version of the Temur Energy deck from last week to an undefeated 5-0 record in Week Two of the MPDC League Season 4. This is all the more impressive considering that the field of players continues to grow, with 21 total participants for this week. For his version, AEFabricio added two very interesting artifacts that give the deck added reach in the long game and synergize quite well with its overall strategy. Let's look at his list:

As I mentioned, the biggest difference between the two lists is the inclusion of Decoction Module and Fabrication Module. The former guarantees that you'll have a steady supply of Energy, while also allowing you to return your creatures to hand to generate even more. The other one makes the steady supply of Energy even more potent, giving you a +1/+1 counter for each time you generate one or more points of Energy. And, if you have nothing better to do with your mana, you can spend four to generate a single point of it (of course granting you another +1/+1 counter in the process). Additionally, the deck relies upon 2 copies of Trophy Mage to allow you to fetch whichever of these two Artifacts is more helpful at that moment, making it very likely you'll have access to them whenever you need it.

Of course, to make room for these Artifacts, you have to give up a significant number of other cards. Gone entirely are Ahn-Crop Crasher, Abrade, and Blossoming Defense, with 2 fewer copies of Rogue Refiner as well.

This version also has a very different Sideboard plan. Blossoming Defense shows up as a 2-of here, as does Appetite for the Unnatural. Beyond that, you have Manglehorn for additional Artifact hate, Fiery Cannonade as mass removal, Magma Spray for spot removal and some Graveyard Recursion hate, and By Force as a silver bullet against other Artifact-token decks.

If you've played with or against both versions of this deck, I'd love to hear your feedback about which you think is better and why. But it's clear that Energy strategies have become the dominant factor in the MPDC League right now, for better or for worse. In fact, I've got my own version that I've been playing with, and I hope to write about that next time.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

1st Place in Week One of MPDC League Season 4

So despite my best intentions, I didn't manage to get a second blog post done last week. I ended up traveling during the middle of the week, and with my kids all on an extended school break, my time in front of the computer was limited. However, I did want to cover the winning deck from the first week of the new season of the MPDC League, so I figured I would go ahead and get this up today, even though it's several days too late. But better late than never.

For our first week of Season 4 of the MPDC League, Polyjak's Temur Energy deck went 5-0 to earn its 1st place spot. While there's lots of things going on in this deck, its primary path to victory is to create a host of Thopter tokens from Whirler Virtuoso, backed up with several other strong creatures and some potent removal spells. Let's take a look at Polyjak's list:

Obviously the deck's gameplan revolves around creating lots of Energy, and it has several strong ways of doing so. Aether Hub, Attune with Aether, Harnessed Lightning, Rogue Refiner, Servant of the Conduit, and Whirler Virtuoso all produce Energy tokens when they come into play, while  Longtusk Cub gives the deck the ability to produce even more over time. Generally speaking, all that Energy goes to fuel a mass of Thopter tokens, but can also help make Longtusk Cub into a monstrous threat. Or, when all else fails, you can simply smash into your opponent with your diverse threats, utilizing the Falter-effect of Ahn-Crop Crasher to push through damage at an opportune time.

For removal, this deck makes good use of both Abrade and Harnessed Lightning, the former which also gets good use as Artifact-hate. While you only have eight copies between them, generally this will be enough to deal with your opponent's most important threats.

The deck's diverse mana requirements are easily filled by its six enters-the-battlefield-tapped dual lands as well as the fixing provided from Aether Hub and Servant of the Conduit.

Out of the Sideboard, the deck has a nice suite of permissions spells in nearly a full playset of both Negate and Essence Scatter. It also includes Sentinel Totem to help with Graveyard recursion, Appetite for the Unnatural for more Artifact or Enchantment hate, and Raging Swordtooth to give you some options against rival token strategies or just a big beater to throw at your opponent.

While I loved what this deck was doing and certainly couldn't argue with its success, in my own testing it seemed to keep coming up short. So for my own foray back into the league, I developed and piloted my own version of the deck. That's what I want to talk about next time.

Monday, October 16, 2017

What's Up With Gwyned?

It's a question I'm sure many of you have asked yourself in the past couple months: what's up with Gwyned? I've been meaning to write this post for a while, but I kept coming up with excuses or other things to do. But I'm hoping that by finally being honest and open about my situation, I can begin to return to some kind of normal.

Back in June, I learned that my position was being terminated. The organization wasn't happy with my performance, and while many of my co-workers encouraged me that it wasn't really my fault, it still took a pretty big toll. I continued working in my position through the end of September, which at least meant I was collecting a paycheck and had time to search for other positions. But my emotional state was pretty low, and as a result, I stopped doing almost any writing or Magic.

I've made excuses about being busy, but the truth is that it's just been too hard. I've been diagnosed with depression, and I'm on medication for it, and it's helping. But emotionally, my situation is still so draining that it's hard for me to flex my creative muscles. It's easier just to distract myself with other things rather than try to create something. And even worse, I'm afraid that if I fail, if I don't create something good, if I don't succeed, it will just make these feelings worse.

But I'm going to try. That's why I'm writing this post. It's not going to be easy. It's not going to change overnight. But just avoiding the situation isn't going to make things better. So I'll have more content this week, and expect to see me on Magic Online playing in the league again as well.

So that's what's up with me.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

MPDC League Season 4: SilverBlack!

First, a quick disclaimer: I spent the last couple months finishing up my job, and I am now unemployed. For various reasons, this has led me to not be blogging or playing Magic very much. Maybe at some point I will write more about that. But for now, blog updates are going to be very infrequent. My apologies. So with that out of the way...

I am happy to announce that there will be a Season 4 of the MPDC League. Honestly, when I first saw the full card gallery for Ixalan, I was pretty disappointed with the new batch of Commons. So disappointed, in fact, that I'm not even sure it's worth posting a Standard Pauper review of the set. But after consulting with joekewwl, we decided that the best option would be to expand the cardpool in some way.

So for Season 4 of the MPDC League, the format will be Standard SilverBlack. SilverBlack is the common term for allowing all Commons and Uncommons. At one point there was at least one Player Run Event using this format, but as far as I can tell, it is no longer running. Therefore, this seems like a great option to help make up for a somewhat lackluster crop of cards.

Additionally, we are also going to experiment with two short segments of the league with additional rules. For weeks 5-7, we will be doing Standard SilverBlack Tribal, which means that at least one third of the cards in your deck must have a shared creature subtype. Then, for weeks 8-10, we will be doing Standard SilverBlack Monocolored, which means that every card in your deck must either be Colorless or share the same single Color. The exact schedule can be found on the schedule page, along with the new rules for card legality.

Let me answer a few questions regarding this season:

1. Why SilverBlack? Why not just stick with Standard Pauper? In addition to my disappointment with the Ixalan Commons, participation in the league has dropped as of late. Expanding the cardpool seems like a great way to revitalize interest and breathe new life into the league.

2. Doesn't adding Uncommons make decks a lot more expensive? Actually, the cost of most Uncommons isn't much more than the Commons. There are a few Uncommons with a price closer to a dollar each, but most of these are cards that have limited availability online and thus more expensive due to their demand by those trying to redeem sets.

3. Will WotC be offering additional prizes this season? As of right now, we do NOT have any sponsorship from Wizards of the Coast for this season. Thus, the booster packs we awarded during the first three seasons are not part of the prize package for Season 4.

If you have any additional questions, feel free to comment below. I'm looking forward to getting this season started this coming Monday. Hope you will join us!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Mistborn House War - Two Player Variant?

Within just a few days after GenCon, my Kickstarter copy of Mistborn: House War arrived on my porch. While I didn't get a chance to play it this year, I did demo it at last year's GenCon, and its promise hasn't lessened in my mind since then. The game's only problem, however, is that it requires at least three people to play. Which means I'm still waiting for the opportunity in the midst of a very busy schedule to get together with my game group and try it out.

In the mean time though, I've been thinking about how the game might be adapted for only 2 players (or possibly even just one). Having played a lot of Scythe recently, I was intrigued by the Automata feature of that game, which essentially uses a deck of cards to substitute for the actions of a human player. While I wasn't ready to develop something quite that complex, I was curious if I could come up with a simple set of rules to govern a "dummy" player who the two human players would be competing against.

You see, at its heart Mistborn: House War is a social, semi-cooperative resource management game. Everyone's working for the same end, and you work together to solve Problems before they "erupt" and make the overall situation worse. You do this by contributing your own resources and agreeing with everyone else how much Favor you'll receive for your aid out of the total available. But at the same time, you're all individually competing to earn the most Favor, which is awarded for each Problem solved before it "erupts." You can read my review here for more details.

My design strategy looked something like this:
  • Make the "dummy" player always act out a simple script. In this case, it always plays a card during a deal, always gets any Favor that won't divide evenly from any deal it participates in, and only solves Problems during its turn if it can do so without any help. 
  • The human players have to agree on any actions that the dummy takes; if they can't agree, determine the result randomly. Furthermore, they can never decide to target the dummy player with negative consequences unless those consequences are equally applied among all three players.
  • Finally, to incentivize the players to deal with the dummy more often, any time a Problem "erupts," it increases the Unrest track by one. And should that track reach 8, the players lose. This is in addition to whatever the normal consequences printed on the card when it "erupts," even if that includes additional Unrest.
I'll be testing this with my wife over the next few weeks. It's been a fun diversion and let me enjoy playing the game without having to wait for a full group of friends to come together to play.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

MPDC League Season 3 - Esper Artificers, Mark 3

Another week of the MPDC League brings...yet another victory for the Esper Artificers deck, this time piloted by the renown joekewwl. While his version is certainly similar to the one that cRUMMYdUMMY has played over the past few weeks, joekewwl's version definitely has some interesting variations. So I thought for today's post we'd take a quick look at some of his choices.

First, this version adds a couple of new cards into the mix. While earlier versions have typically included several copies of Fireforger's Puzzleknot, joekewwl also included Metalspinner's Puzzleknot, which gives the deck significantly more card draw. He also added Djeru's Resolve to presumably give it some creature protection as well as Compulsory Rest, which serves as an alternate removal spell to Unquenchable Thirst (and as such doesn't require the deck to run any Deserts).

Second, joekewwl's version is more creature light, trimming a single Thraben Inspector, Aether Swooper, and two Aviary Mechanics to make room for the full playset of Self Assembler and almost a full set of both Cartouche of Ambition and Knowledge.

Finally, while his Sideboard was fairly similar, joekewwl's version made room for Dispel, which is one of the better permission spells in a Control vs. Control matchup.

Overall, these changes definitely push the deck towards the Control end of the spectrum. It plays fewer creatures, but draws more cards, and generally will be stronger in the late-game than cRUMMYdUMMY's version. It would be interesting to read the thoughts from both of these players on which version they think is stronger, and why.

Hope my readers are enjoying this third season of the MPDC League.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

GenCon 2017

As I mentioned earlier this week, this past weekend was GenCon here in Indianapolis, Indiana. In case you are unfamiliar with it (and I am always amazed at the people who live in the Indy area and yet have no idea what it is), GenCon is the largest gaming convention in the world. Their motto is, "The Best Four Days in Gaming," and as far as I'm concerned, they live up to that claim 100%. This year was their biggest attendance yet, with well over 200,000 people in attendance over the four days. In fact, for the first time in their history, they sold out of admission badges the week before the event began. This convention is so large that it not only encompasses the entire Indianapolis Convention Center, but spills over into event areas of seven other nearby hotels as well as Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts.

I got the chance to play several great games, including:
  • Scythe, a 7 player asymmetrical civilization and warfare strategy game
  • Clank, a deck-building adventure game (by the same company that makes the CCG Eternal)
  • Ex Libris, a card drafting and set collection game that feels like something from the Harry Potter universe
  • 7-Wonders Duel, a 2 player variant on the popular 7 Wonders civilization strategy game
  • Yamatai, an Asian mythology themed route/network building strategy game that is highly reminiscent of 5 Tribes
  • Imperial Settlers, a asymmetrical civilization card strategy game 
I also have to mention attending the fantastic Writer's Symposium, which is an entire mini-seminar within the conference itself that brings in the top authors in the science fiction and fantasy genre to host topical panels for aspiring and beginning authors. Just like in previous years, my wife and I got sit in on the live recorded sessions of Writing Excuses, which is highly recommended. And for once, they had the whole cast there, which has not happened in previous years.

But the highlight of the weekend was the special panels I got to attend with Patrick Rothfuss, Brandon Sanderson, and the cast of Critical Role. Rothfuss is absolutely hilarious in person; listening to him reading his Princess book is not to be missed. I also managed to get a special promo card from Sanderson for the Mistborn: House Wars board game that just arrived on my doorstep straight from its Kickstarter fulfillment. And last but not least, seeing the amazing cast of Critical Role is an experience that should not be missed.

If you're a gamer of any sort, you should come to GenCon. It's well worth whatever it takes to get you there.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

MPDC League Season Two Results

And just like that, the second season of the MPDC League is over. Thanks to all 22 players who participated, who logged nearly 250 matches over the 5 weeks that we played. For Week Five, cRUMMYdUMMY not only again took the trophy for the week, but also managed to secure the title of Season Two Grand Champion.

Couple of logistical points of interest. First, we're running back-to-back seasons for Hour of Devastation, which means Season 3 has already begun! Second, while all of the HOU booster packs for Season 2 have already been distributed, the Season Total prizes from MTGOTraders won't go out until early next week. joekewwl is also working on getting the Door Prizes from Season 2 distributed to the winning players. If you believe something is in error, please contact me right away at gwyned at gmail dot com.

cRUMMYdUMMY went 5-0 once again with his Esper Artificers deck, using the exact list he mentioned in the comments in my previous post. This deck has proven to be quite strong, so it remains to be seen if the metagame can adapt and find a way to consistently beat it. If you've got some ideas on how to do that, I'd love to hear it in the comments below!

Finally, on a more personal note, I recently was let go from my job, with my current position ending at the end of next month. So in the process of applying for jobs, interviewing, and the like, my blog posts probably will be a bit hit or miss for the next couple months or so. Sadly, this probably isn't that different than what it's been recently - but at least now I have a better excuse!

Anyway, I'll be back later this week with my promised write-up of my experience at GenCon 2017!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

MPDC League Season 2 - Esper Artificers, Take Two

With a short Season 2 of the MPDC League, we're already at the final week for this season. Interestingly enough, this week's winner is once again cRUMMYdUMMY, who piloted a very similar list to the one from Week One to capture the trophy for this week. You can view his original decklist as well as my breakdown of its contents here. So today, I thought I would look at some of the changes that he made for this week.
I. Maindeck:
II. Sideboard:
The two biggest changes are the inclusion of a full playset of Boon of Emrakul and the inclusion of two copies of Ironclad Slayer. Boon of Emrakul seems like a perfect inclusion, as it can serve both as conditional removal (killing any creature with 3 Toughness or less) or as a way of pumping up your own creatures once they are large enough. Ironclad Slayer also seems right at home here, with at least thirteen targets in the deck between the copies of Inventor's Goggles and the Cartouches. The deck is also slightly less controlling with the removal of Brilliant Spectrum and only a single copy of Cartouche of Knowledge remaining in the deck, and that only in the Sideboard. But the most interesting change is the inclusion of 2 copies of Renewed Faith (which is considered Standard Pauper legal thanks to being printed as a Common in Onslaught block). Pure Lifegain spells are usually pretty bad, but the fact that this either grants you a hefty six Life or can instead be cycled and still gain you two Life makes this a pretty reasonable option, particularly against very aggressive decks.

Congrats to cRUMMYdUMMY on his second 1st place finish of this short season!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

MPDC League Season 2 - Bant Sacrifice

The third week of Season 2 of the MPDC League is in the books. This week's 1st place winner is MisterMojoRising, who went undefeated with his Bant Sacrifice list. While I am still waiting for the trophy from Polyjak, I am happy to see that the new visual decklist program is working once more. Definitely let me know if you prefer this style to the 'classic' PureMTGO list that includes links for each of the cards. Anyway, let's take a look at the winning list.

This deck uses a lot of the same sacrifice mechanics as last week's winner. Bloodbriar and Lifecraft Cavalry are the main recipients of such sacrifices, but the theme also synergizes well with Thraben Inspector, Wretched Gryff, Lunarch Mantle, Angelic Purge, and even Renegade Map. But unlike the Black Green version, this deck generates a ton of tokens as fodder for these sacrifices with the  tokens created by Eldrazi Skyspawner and Peema Outrider. Adding to this strategy is some removal in the form of the aforementioned Angelic Purge as well as Rabid Bite and Hunt the Weak.

This variant can also ramp out its creatures faster thanks to the Eldrazi Spawn tokens from the Skyspawner as well as the mana acceleration of Ulvenwald Captive. Even better, the flipside Ulvenwald Abomination is one of the biggest creatures in the format, making this deck a little better in the long game than its BG version.

At its heart though, this is still a fairly aggressive creature based strategy, looking to smash into its opponent with its bigger creatures and leverage the sacrifice mechanic to generate significant advantage along the way. But, should you find yourself paired against a more Control-oriented archetype, the Sideboard does provide some additional resources to help you combat that archetype.

First, the full playset of both Negate and Pulse of Murasa go a long way in keeping you alive in the long game and countering your opponent's specific gameplan. Second, you can augment your removal suite with additional copies of Rapid Bite, Hunt the Weak, and the lone Take Down that specifically targets flyers. Finally, the extra Lunarch Mantle is great if your opponent is light on removal.
So congratulations to MisterMojoRising for piloting this deck to a 5-0 finish and taking the 1st place prize for Week Three of the MPDC League.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Writing and Perfectionism

My wife recently linked me to an article entitled "You Aren't Lazy — You're Just Terrified." The author writes about her own struggles with perfectionism and how impossibly high standards make it so difficult for her to actually write anything. She had three insights that I thought were particularly relevant to most writers, myself included:
  1. Laziness is often a symptom of fear. When we think we're being lazy, the real problem is actually a fear of failure, or at least of not measuring up. Perfectionism whispers, "If you can't do something perfectly, don't do it at all." And since we can't measure up to our own standards, we end up doing nothing. But the problem isn't laziness. It's fear.
  2. Mistakes are a necessary part of the process. The only way to success is to fail. Falling short, missing the mark, not meeting the standard - all these things are a normal part of the process to achieve success. It's not just taking a risk that is necessary; it's failure itself. Failure is, perhaps, the best teacher of all.
  3. Perfectionism is exhausting. It's a whole lot more effort to figure out the perfect way to do something than it is to just sit down and do it. You only have a finite amount of time and energy in a day. You can use that time being productive, or you can use that time figuring out the perfect way to do something. 
The author's last words in the article are particularly poignant:

"It’s the only advice that has worked so far: Do the work. Write the story. Wash your dishes. It will never be perfect, but that does not mean that it can’t be good. Life is a lot better when you allow yourself to live it."

I certainly need the reminder to aim for "good enough" in my writing.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

MPDC League Season 2 - BG Sacrifice

Better late than never, right?

Yesterday's attempt at this post did not go well. The cool visual deck editor program I used last week isn't working for some reason, and it takes quite a bit of finesse to use the old PureMTGO Deck Editor, since it is no longer updated for the new cards. So eventually I gave up and went to bed. Fortunately, things seemed to go much smoother this afternoon, and as a result you're now reading this blogpost.

So for Week 2 of the MPDC League, we actually had two players go undefeated - Armont with a BG Sacrifice deck and afreeAk with a Izzet Spells deck. But Armont narrowly edged out afreeAk in tiebreakers to claim the trophy for this week - which was once again created by Polyjak. Let's take a look at Armont's list:

This deck thrives on Graveyard interactions. Blisterpod, Doomed Dissenter, and Primal Druid are perfect sacrifice targets, replacing themselves with another card while also fueling the boost to Power and Toughness on Bloodbriar, Defiant Salvager, Gavony Unhallowed, and/or Voracious Null. Altar's Reap and Bone Splinters are also perfect additions to this deck, providing needed card draw and creature removal while still synergizing with these creatures. And even once these creatures have entered the Graveyard, Gravedigger is there to return them to play again and again.

This deck is almost entirely creature based, but it does include a few additional spells. Dead Weight and Murder provide a few more choice for creature removal, while Cartouche of Ambition provides not only some much needed Lifegain but also helps to make sure combat is in your favor by shrinking your opponent's creatures while also buffing yours.

From the Sideboard, Festering Mummy and Soulstinger fit right into this deck's strategy of sacrificing creatures for big advantage while gaining a small advantage in the process. It also includes 2 more copies of Murder, as well as a singleton Grasp of Darkness, when you need a more removal-heavy option. Appetite for the Unnatural is there to target Enchantments and Artifacts, while the powerful Pulse of Murasa provides additional Lifegain as well as creature recursion, pushing an otherwise creature-centric deck into a more midrange option than can better survive over a longer game.

So congratulations to Armont for piloting this deck to a 5-0 finish and taking the 1st place prize for Week Two.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Excitement as the Secret to Success

David Farland's Writing Tip for this week offers a simple hint for how to increase your productivity as a writer. For him, he says the key to getting a lot of writing done is simply to be exciting about what your writing. It sounds simple, but actually, for many writers it's easier to be discouraged than it is to be excited. So how do we cultivate excitement? Farland offers three tips:
  1. Blot out negative thinking. This is the big one, I think. Like I said, it seems like it's way easier to be discouraged than to be excited. Writers feel inadequate, inexperienced, unprepared, and under-resourced when it comes to the task of writing something great. And when those fears turn into negative thinking, it's hard to be excited. So relentlessly get rid of all that negative self-talk!
  2. Accept your flaws. One of the most helpful things I discovered as I began to write stories is that first drafts are universally terrible. Seriously. Go find an author who has posted a first draft; even better, one that lets you compare a first draft to the final published work. Even professional writers don't create beautiful prose the first time around. So why would you expect anything different from yourself?
  3. Cultivate excitement. In other words, figure out what makes you excited. Is it imagining how your readers will react to your story? Focus on that. Is it picturing the money you might make, the awards you might win, or the changes it might bring to your life? Keep those thoughts at the front of your mind as you write. Maybe it's just talking with friends or family about your story. But whatever it is that helps you get excited, keep that at the forefront of your mind.
I hope you find these tips as helpful as I did. And if you'd like more of the same, be sure and subscribe to David Farland's Writing Tips, which get delivered weekly via E-mail. And thanks for reading!

Monday, July 24, 2017

MPDC League Season 2 - Esper Artificers

The first week of Season 2 of the MPDC League is in the books. And as promised, we've got some new content to show off. First, we've got a fantastic trophy designed by Polyjak. Second, I've got a new visual decklist graphic as well as a short write-up of cRUMMYdUMMY's winning list from Week One, which we're calling Esper Artificers. Let's take a look at his list:

As its name suggests, this deck is all about Artificers and the Artifacts they control. Aether Swooper, Bastion Inventor, and Aviary Mechanic are all Artificers, giving them an immediate advantage when combined with Inventor's Goggles. Add to this mix a full playset of Self-Assembler, Thraben Inspector, and a single Pilgrim's Eye, and you've got a fairly aggressive creature-based strategy. These creatures can then be further augmented with the Cartouche of Knowledge and of Ambition, making them into an even more formidable threat.

However, that's not to say the deck can't also play the long game. There are seemingly dozens of ways to abuse the "bounce" effect of the Mechanic, generating card advantage from not only your creatures, but from the Cartouches and Prophetic Prisms as well. The list even includes 2 Metallic Rebukes for some "soft" permission and a single Brilliant Spectrum, which thanks to the Prophetic Prisms could potentially draw up to 5 cards.

The Sideboard gives the deck some powerful Artifact/Enchantment hate from Forsake the Worldly, whose Cycling ability ensures it will always be useful. Other options include some additional counter magic from Essence Scatter, Negate, and another two copies of Metallic Rebuke, some helpful removal spells in Grasp of Darkness, and the fourth copy of Cartouche of Ambition for when you really need the extra life granted by Lifelink.

Congratulations to cRUMMYdUMMY for piloting this deck to a 5-0 finish and earning the trophy for Week One.

Finally, don't forget to check out my top picks from Hour of Devastation for Standard Pauper, which is now available over at

Friday, July 21, 2017

Finishing Up My Hour of Devastation Review

Today I am hard at work on my Standard Pauper review of Hour of Devastation for PureMTGO. I am most of the way through it, and assuming all goes according to plan the article should be published this coming Monday. After not doing much writing about Magic for the past few weeks, it feels good to be back at work evaluating cards and thinking about how Hour of Devastation will impact Standard Pauper moving forward.

On the whole though, I haven't been that impressed with this set. I only identified a little more than a dozen cards that will probably see play, and several of those are fringe cards that might be good in a particular archetype but are not worth much outside of that specific strategy. In fact, other than highlighting these particular cards, assigning a ranking to them seems pretty fruitless, as they all fall more or less within the same ranking.

Anyway, here's a preview from the article:

This cycle of creatures (plus the Blue creature Enchantment Aura) are vanilla creatures with an additional ability that turns on whenever you control a Desert or have one in your Graveyard. They are each fairly costed for their stat-lines, but even with the secondary ability they don't offer much benefit for the cost of having to include Deserts in your deck. The Falter-like effect of Gilded Ceredon is probably the most interesting, making this creature more difficult for your opponent to effectively block. But of them, the best is probably Unquenchable Thirst, since it is not only still decent even with a Desert card but is also an effective removal spell for Blue. Overall though this cycle is pretty lackluster, and certainly doesn't give you enough incentive to include Deserts in your deck if you weren't already going to play them.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Season 2 of the MPDC League Begins

So Season 2 of the MPDC League officially started today. As I announced previously, this season will be a short, five-week series rather than a full ten-week series, with the hope that this will make it feel less oppressive to try and catch the early front-runners. Splitting up up like this did mean I had to essentially split the end-of-season prizes between the two seasons,  but overall I think this change will be for the best.

I know several people have requested that I make it easier to view and interpret the results from the Scoreboard each week. I'm sure someone better acquainted with Google Forms might be able to edit the spreadsheets to make it easier to read, but unfortunately I don't know of any way of doing this rather than having to manually edit the spreadsheet constantly, which isn't something I have the time to accomplish. The easiest thing to do is just download a copy to your own computer and then edit it in your own spreadsheet software. If someone can provide me with a better solution, I'd be happy to work on improving this.

I also know that many of you would like more posts about how the metagame is shaping up, and that will be something I will be writing about each Monday going forward. Sorry that I wasn't really able to do that last season.

Finally, all of the prizes (except for the 10 tix owed to afreeAk) have been distributed now from the first season. If you're still missing something, please contact me (gwyned at gmail dot com) and let me know.

Thanks so much! Looking forward to a great Season 2. Maybe I'll even get to play soon!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What I'm Writing This Week

Well I'm back to writing this week, but not exactly what I expected. I ran out of time this past weekend and barely even got started on my Standard Pauper review of Hour of Devastation. My friend and I also still haven't resumed our writing exercises. I do seem to be getting back into the discipline of getting blog posts out on a consistent basis again at least, so I'm seeing some progress there.

But this week in my wife's birthday, and to celebrate, I decided to host a special party with some of our friends and run a one-shot D&D session for them. Which means I'm busy creating a four hour adventure for this group, which looks like it may be as many as eight players.

For this adventure, I'm using two tools I've discussed recently on my blog. I started by browsing the free-use maps from Dyson's Dodecahedron, and then used his adventure hook to brainstorm a specific Five Room Dungeon for the session. I've got the whole thing outlined; now it's just a matter of fleshing it out with text and monsters and descriptions. Assuming the whole thing goes well, I may even throw it up on the Dungeon's Masters Guild.

So while it may not be the writing I was expecting - at least I'm writing!

Finally, as I announced earlier today on Twitter, congratulations to Klimon, who won the free booster pack of Hour of Devastation as the Door Prize for the MPDC League.  All of the booster packs from the league are already waiting for the winning players in their collection, having been added by Wizards of the Coast earlier today. I'm definitely looking forward to the next season of this great event!

Monday, July 10, 2017

MPDC League Season One Results

The first season of the new MPDC League is now in the books. You can view the results of the final week here, or check out the tabulated totals for the entire season. While these totals are still preliminary while I double-check them for accuracy, it would appear that afreeAk is our Season One Champion! Also, if you don't mind, take a minute and check to see that you received the correct total points.

Joekewwl and I have been trading Emails about the current state of the league, and to that end I have a few ideas for what I would like to try.

First, with approximately 10 weeks between the release of Hour of Devastation and Ixalan, I would like to try two five week leagues rather than a single ten week one. It has been noted that the number of participants has been slowly declining over the past few weeks, and part of the rationale behind that is probably an inability to be able to catch the top players. Resetting the scoreboard more often should help alleviate that.

Second, since Season One ended a week earlier than was originally scheduled, I have an extra booster pack of Hour of Devastation from that week. Rather than throwing it back into the prize pool, I thought it would be great to give it away as a Door Prize to one lucky player who didn't finish in the Top 8 for the Season. I will be announcing the winner of the Door Prize later this week, so keep an eye on this blog, the main MPDC League page, and my Twitter.

Third, speaking of Hour of Devastation, the names of the 1st place players from each week of Season One of the MPDC Leagues will be distributed to Wizards of the Coast this week. I am unsure when these will be distributed to the 1st place winners, but they will automatically appear in your collection once this has happened. Once I have a clear estimate of the timing, I will announce that here.

I believe that's it for today. Thanks to everyone who participated in the league. Get out there and purchase your HOU Commons, because they will be legal for Season 2 of the MPDC League, which starts a week from today!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Five Room Dungeon

One of the best tools I've ever found for designing a side-quest or short adventure is the Five Room Dungeon Model, which I believe originated with John Four's Roleplaying Tips website. In case you're unfamiliar with it, here's the short version:

Room 1: Entrance And Guardian
Room 2: Puzzle Or Roleplaying Challenge
Room 3: Red Herring
Room 4: Climax, Big Battle Or Conflict
Room 5: Plot Twist

The idea is that a good adventure includes an opening conflict, an obstacle that you can't just kill or destroy, a distraction or diversion, a face-off against significant odds, and some sort of twist or link to the next adventure. Its brevity, variety, and focus is actually what makes it so good. Your players don't waste time wandering around fighting off random monsters; instead, each encounter is significant, interesting, and engages different types of players. If you're interested, you can actually download an e-book with 88 unique dungeons built using this model.

While this specifically was written for a short dungeon, it actually easily can be used as an outline for a larger dungeon complex, a major adventure arc, or even a campaign. I certainly have made use of it both for individual adventure locations in my current D&D campaign and the overall flow for the adventure. So if this is something you haven't used before, definitely read the whole article and start using it for your own adventures.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

It's Hard to Write About Writing When You're Not Writing

When I decided to resume blogging, I wanted to use my midweek post each week to talk about what I was writing. But unfortunately, since I made that decision, I have done shockingly little writing. My friend and I haven't been meeting for our weekly writing exercises, I haven't been working much on my ongoing D&D campaign since we've taken a break for the summer, and my crazy schedule meant that I didn't even blog much over the past month.

It's hard to write about writing when you're not writing.

It's hard for me to believe now there was a time when I was writing every day. When I could come home from a long day at work and get 1,000 words or more on the page. When writing my weekly blog posts was easy, was fun, and was a great way to share some of my hobbies and interests.

But now I'm hardly doing any of that. So it's hard to write about writing when you're not writing.

So. I guess the solution is just to start writing. To force myself to get out three blog posts a week, even when I don't really feel like I have much to say. To call my friend up and get us back on track as far as our weekly writing. To start work this weekend on my Hour of Devastation review for Standard Pauper and finish it for my Sunday night deadline.

So that when I am writing I will be able to write about my writing.

Monday, July 3, 2017

MPDC League Update

It's well past time for another update regarding the ongoing MPDC League. With the online release of Hour of Devastation next Monday on Magic Online, this will be the final week of Season One of the MPDC League. As has been the case with MPDC for a long time, we will pause the event for one week to allow player's time to purchase the new cards and get familiar with them before resuming the league on Monday, July 17th. Keep an eye on the main page and on my Twitter feed for any additional updates as they happen.

Overall I have been quite pleased with this first season. Going in I had no idea if this would prove to be popular or if the workload would be manageable compared to the time investment of running a six hour event once a week. I'm pleased to say we've had well over 500 matches played in the league since the second week of May, representing 35 different players. While not everyone has played all five matches every week, we've also seen a solid core of players that not only play their maximum number of matches each week, but also contribute by playing extra matches to help out those who haven't reached their maximum yet. Let me extend a big thanks for all of you who have gone the extra mile to help make this event a success!

Starting next season, I will be blogging more about the league metagame and will be adding trophies each week for the first place finisher (similar to how we have in the past). While I'm happy to tackle the trophies myself, if anyone is interested in creating them, please drop me a line (gwyned at gmail dot com) and let me know! I also realized today that we have not been distributing the Door Prizes for each week. At this point I think we will just forego those for this season and start that up for next season. My apologies for the oversight!

If you have any feedback or ways you think we could make the league better, please comment below or feel free to email me (gwyned at gmail dot com). And thanks for your continued support of Standard Pauper!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Eternal - Omens of the Past

Although technically still in beta, the Eternal digital card game by Direwolf Digital is very close to releasing their long-awaiting second card set entitled Omens of the Past. You can read my previous posts about this great game here, or check out the spoilers here.

Anyway, in case you are a fan of this game but haven't been paying attention, this weekend you can actually play with several of the new cards in special preview events. All you need to do is "sleeve-up" a deck that consists of one of the five faction pairs for this new set, and the appropriate new cards of that faction will automatically be added to your deck when you enter the preview event. And through these events, you can start earning booster packs of the new set that will be added to your collection once the new set releases. Best of all, these events are absolutely free!

This is exactly the kind of event that Wizards should be running online instead of their prereleases. It gets players excited about the new cards, gives them a chance to start playing with them right away, and doesn't cost you a thing. Sadly, as I have mentioned before, Wizards of the Coast has a lot to learn when it comes to digital card games.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Common Cycling Lands Back in Standard

Previews have officially started for Hour of Devastation. And while there are several interesting Commons that have already been spoiled, the existence of a cycle of Common Lands that can be cycled will probably make a big difference in the upcoming metagame. One of the perennial problems in Magic is drawing too many Lands in the course of a game. Lands that cycle solve this problem quite elegantly, allowing you to discard them for a new card and a marginal cost. Unless you're playing a very aggressive deck where the fact that these Lands come into play tapped is an issue or need a very finely tuned mana base, including a full playset of these in your deck is probably a good idea.

In this case, the cost to draw the new cards is 2 mana, one of which (presumably) is the same color as the land would have produced. This is somewhat of a blend of the original cycle back in Urza's Saga (which has never been available on Magic Online) that cycled for 2 mana and the newer one from Onslaught that cycled for a single colored mana.

Interestingly enough, it appears that each land in the cycle will also be a Desert, which looks like it will matter for at least a few cards at Common.

Finally, I want to apologize for the lack of content. June has been extremely busy. I haven't had time to open Magic Online in weeks, and all of my other hobbies are suffering as well. The rest of the summer looks quieter fortunately, so I should be back to a more regular schedule from this point forward.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Delay in Updates for Week Six of the MPDC League

I am traveling all of this week, will have only occasional access to the Internet, and almost certainly will not have access to a computer to post the results from Week Five of the MPDC League or restart the Scoreboard for Week Six. So what does this mean?

The results and prizes will be delayed until next weekend. I hope to have it updated by this Friday, but it may be as late as Saturday before everything is updated.

In addition, the Scoreboard will continue to display all of the match results from Week Five, with the new results from Week Six appearing on the same spreadsheet. So if you check the Scoreboard during the week, you will need to scroll down to the bottom to find the new results.

However, this will NOT otherwise affect the league. Continue to use the Results Form as normal, and when I have access to my computer again on Friday afternoon, I will sort everything out.

I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Have a great week!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Sushi Go

My wife and I, being the avid gamers that we are, are slowly introducing our children to our wide collection of "Geek" games. We decided to start them off easy, and the game we picked was Sushi-Go.

Sushi-Go is a quick card drafting game where you select a card from your starting hand, play it face up in front of you, and then pass the rest of the cards to the next player. You then select another card and continue the sequences until all of the cards have been played. You do this over three rounds, keeping score after each round, and then the winner is declared at the end based on the total number of points you selected.

As you might expect from the title, the cards represent different kinds of sushi, each illustrated with a cute picture and coded to a particular color. Some cards are worth points all by themselves, but most of them are only worth points in particular combinations. These combinations range from having the most of a card type, from completing either pairs or sets, playing a multiplier on one particular card type, and even a card that only scores at the very end of the game, awarding the player with the most bonus points and punishing the player with the fewest the same number of points. The game takes its name from the "Chopsticks" card, which allows you to draft two cards during one of your turns rather than just one, requiring you to announce "Sushi-Go!" when you do so.

While not particularly complex, there is definitely some light strategy when it comes to selecting which card types you are going to build towards. You need to pay attention not only to which cards you're passing but also to which combinations your opponent is playing. Since even in the five player version you don't actually see every card, there is a fair bit of randomness involved, but you typically see enough cards that this randomness shouldn't be too much of a factor.

Our kids picked it up quite quickly, and while there was the typical hurt feelings when only one person wins, it was still a fun and easy game to play with them, and one I'm sure we'll return to in the future.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

WIP: Three Gifts

I've written in the past how I've used Magic the Gathering art to inspire some of my writing. Today I want to share with you a work-in-progress based on this particular card image (and you get bonus points if you can name the card without using Google search or something similar).

Looking at this piece of art, I imagined a priest who specialized in identifying and destroying items that contain dangerous or evil arcane energies. This seemed like the perfect setup for a story about a series of objects that the priest encounters, and how he unwittingly falls prey to dark magicks hidden within. Here, then, is the first 150 words or so, which encapsulates the scene from the art. Enjoy!

Berend swung his maul, scattering shards of pottery across the stone chamber and unleashing a burst of sand into the air. A cloud of grit slowly settled amidst the jagged pieces of what had once been a statue, causing the robed figure to cough. He kicked at the debris scattered across the sigil of Piotyr inscribed on the floor, grinding a small fragment under his boot. Satisfied, he turned as two figures approached, burdened by the second of the grotesque statues that had been dragged into the temple after being found outside that morning.

“By the Light, your pride will be the death of you someday, Berend,” the first said. “You didn’t even bother to lay down a Protection sigil?”

He snorted. “You worry too much. Ugly as they are, they're hardly tainted at all. I don’t know why they even bothered sending them up here.”