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.