Hey all. It’s been a while, but finally I am back writing again. As most of you all know, I was part of the Hawaii Beach House crew, staying there with some of the best minds in the game preparing for the Pro Tour. Despite us winning the PT and putting another player in the Top 8, our main deck didn’t perform as we wanted it to, and may even have been a wrong choice for a tournament like this. This fact, plus other things that happened while staying there, had me turn away from Magic for a while. I lost the fire that was needed to win, and I also lost the fun I used to have playing. I started looking for other reasons that may have explained this “funk” I found myself in, and I decided it was time for a change. So here I am, back at the site I once wrote an article for before going back to the competition… back at the site that is mostly known for having a more open reader base, accepting more fun and new things over pure strategy articles.
That was what I was looking for.
The editors and I decided that we wanted to try something relatively new. Something that has been tried before, but not for quite a while… Something that might be what you guys want to on a regular basis.
When I started out as an aspiring tournament player, I found that the best way to learn stuff, to get better, is to ask the pros and the players more skilful than you anything you want or need to know. I also found the stories they told about the PT, or about other people, were simply awesome, and they made me aspire even more to become a part of this PT thing.
That is what we are offering you right now: an “Ask Jeroen” column.
Each week, I’ll be writing an article based on the questions you guys ask me. These questions can be anything; you can ask me about deck advice, metagame analyses, draft strategy, or general game situations. But not just that… Want some dirt on some of your favourite pro players? Just ask! I have stories to tell you wouldn’t believe. I’m right in the middle of the pro scene, and I know just about everything. I’ll generally try and be the pro player you would love to have at your local store, but who just isn’t there right now. I also watch a lot of movies, am a huge comic book geek, and heck, you can even ask me about girls or your homework… *grin*
In this article, I’ll try and give you a little idea of what this series is going to be like… as well as ask y’all to start sending those questions.
A week ago, a distraught StarWarsKid (Chris McDaniel to his parents) asked me on IRC how on earth he would ever have a shot at Pro Tour Prague. He hadn’t drafted the format before, and he generally thought his level of Limited play was just horrible. I mean, one of the hopes of American magic was even thinking about skipping this Pro Tour. That’s when I decided to give him some rules for this format, as I had learned them from our million drafts in the Hawaii Beach House with some of the best drafters in the world.
Rule 1. It’s all about card advantage.
Most draft formats have a different flow to them; in one format tempo can be more important, but in another it can be all about bomb spells. This format sets itself apart by being all about card advantage. Sure, tempo can win you a game or two, but generally, if no strange things happen, the deck that has the most card advantage will win. Card advantage can be gotten in a lot of ways. As my fellow Premium writer Martin Dingler has said, fatties and chump blocking are card advantage. If all you have is a bunch of fatties and your opponent has to get two-for-one’d with every kill, you are getting huge amounts of card advantage that way, and you will win. Other ways (of course) are cantrips, 187 creatures, bounce lands, or card drawing spells… which brings me to the next couple of rules.
Rule 2. Spells are the way to win.
The most efficient way of gaining card advantage has always been spells. Creatures are inefficient and always offer you what you expect them to give you, but nothing more. If you play a Snapping Drake, you know that no matter what, it will not give you any card advantage unless your opponent decides to block it with two Mourning Thrulls… which doesn’t happen all that often, does it? Spells like removal, tricks, and bounce are perfect for gaining that card advantage you need when played at the right time, which means they are at a premium in this format. Even creatures like Izzet Chronarch, Steamcore Weird, and Keening Banshee are – despite having bodies – more like spells, as they will often sit in your hand until their abilities will be relevant.
Rule 3. Blue is the best color.
And it is, no matter what you say. Blue has the best spells, and the best ways to gain card advantage, and thus it is the best color in the current format. Not every player at the table can be Blue, of course, but with the amount of mana fixing that is available, you can always splash the best the color has to offer.
Rule 4. You are wrong about how good the bounce lands are.
They are better.
I have been trying to see how high you have to pick these bad boys, given as how a deck with three or four of these can never lose to a deck that doesn’t carry these super color-fixers… but the only thing I spotted was that you even have to take them as high as first pick most of the time. They are just that good. Many a draft I have taken Orzhov Basilica first pick, leaving premium cards like Blind Hunter and Douse in Gloom in the pack, and felt that it was 100% the right pick. They are your best mana fixers, as well as being helpful in your quest to play fewer lands. They are also the easiest way of gaining card advantage without even playing a spell. All these things are important in this format; the lands are a straight up two-for-one, meaning more spells in your deck, as well as excellent fixing in a heavy multicolor format. These are the best commons by far. Take them as such.
All these rules give a great overview about what the format is about, and also lead to a couple of conclusions. For one, Signets are not very good right now, since all they do is fix colors. Tempo is not important, so the tempo they provide isn’t either, and they cost you a slot in your deck! Since I gave SWK these rules, he has since then turned his three packs into at least twenty, with a rating boost of 100 points and an account full of rares. Of course, he is also a formidable player, which helped him a lot… but following these rules definitely helped him.
The great ffeJ.
Everyone knows by now how Jeff Cunningham won a slot in this year’s version of the Invitational, and that emotions ran high in the election leading to this. I wanted to give you a view of how funny this man really is, and what was going on way before he got voted in, right after the Resident Genius vote was announced:
<jeroenr> did they just put Flores in the invitational?
<ffeJ2> 2005 Pro Points: 2 (tied for 796th place)
<jeroenr> like, there’s no way he doesn’t win the vote
<jeroenr> he writes for the site the vote is on!
<ffeJ2> resident ffej
<ffeJ2> that’s the only way I’m getting in
<Riptide> if they had a twin vote, you and the Greek dude could get in.
<ffeJ2> if it was Resident ffeJ
<ffeJ2> Vasilis Fatouras would be going to the invitational
<ffeJ2> that’s about how close I am
(Aside on Vasilis Fatouros: For those of you who do not know how the PT works, every time a new player comes on, he obviously comes under discussion of a lot of the PT Gravy Trainers, and gets compared to people we already know. When Carlos Romao first surfaced in Australia, he was already known as Brazilian Huey for his likeness to William Jensen, known as Baby Huey. When Vasilis was first seen, he was immediately dubbed Bizarro ffeJ, for reasons not really surprising..:) They could be twins easily. He is still known to most simply as that: Bizarro ffeJ.)
<ffeJ2> they need a vote for Longest Running Joke on the Pro Tour
<ffeJ2> they need a Vasilis Fatouras Look-Alike vote
<jeroenr> but like ffej, seriously, it doesn’t even look like you play anymore
<jeroenr> you’re not at half the pt’s, and you never write anymore
<jeroenr> the only reason I know you play is once every two months you pop in here asking for phone magic
<ffeJ2> I’m missed one PT in 10 years
<ffeJ2> day in, day out
<ffeJ2> #apprentice 8 hours a day
<jeroenr> do I just not see you?
<jeroenr> you gotta pop up on the radar man
<ffeJ2> think about it
<jeroenr> right now you are a PT ninja
<jeroenr> no-one notices you
<jeroenr> you are in the corner of people’s eyes
<jeroenr> step up!
<jeroenr> get big!
<ffeJ2> stepped on a goomba
<ffeJ2> got small
<jeroenr> man… 🙁
<jeroenr> should jumped on him
<jeroenr> at least eat a star, man… be impressive and small
<ffeJ2> ate a star
<ffeJ2> fell in a pit
<ffeJ2> I wouldn’t even make the femvitational
<ffeJ2> I tried to start writing again
<ffeJ2> I emailed every Pro in the f***ing book
<ffeJ2> no one’s returning my calls
<Riptide> I think there’s a reason why
<Riptide> on the femvitational thing
<Riptide> unless you know something I don’t.
<ffeJ2> one word
<jeroenr> I never got an email
<jeroenr> guess I don’t count in your book
<ffeJ2> yeah… because you still play
<jeroenr> ffej, you used to be golden….
<jeroenr> golden boy ffej we used to say. He is such a master, we said
<jeroenr> then Fatouros showed up
<ffeJ2> then he made a top 8.
<ffeJ2> then I died
<jeroenr> is he your other?
<ffeJ2> he is my sun my moon my stars
<ffeJ2> my soulmate
<jeroenr> that’s not what I meant. Can you not win when he does, and vice versa?
<jeroenr> never saw him around when you won events
<jeroenr> he wasn’t even q’d then
<ffeJ2> he’s only ever cashed at one tourney
<ffeJ2> including pre-releases and 5-man round robins at friend’s houses
<jeroenr> they play for money at his friend’s house?
<ffeJ2> everyone puts in 1 euro
The great ffeJ. Who knew he would make it this year…
So there you go. This is the general idea for these articles will be like: a little strategy, a little fun… basically, all you all want it to be.
Send all your questions to: [email protected]. Of course, you can post them in the forums, but this will not guarantee a response. I will try and write about your questions if usable within the week, or if they are not usable I will respond to it through email. Together we can turn this idea into a bunch of amazing articles, and I am very excited about it.
Until next week,