At The Gathering – Magic in 2010

The StarCityGames.com Open Series returns to Dallas/Fort Worth!
Wednesday, January 6th – At the beginning of 2009, I had a lot of goals before me, and I laid them out in an article, so that I and my readers could see what I hoped for in the coming year. This week, I’m going to lay out what my goals were from 2009, whether or not I achieved those goals, and then what goals are coming forth for 2010.

The past year has been an interesting one for me from a Magical perspective. At the beginning of 2009, I had a lot of goals before me, and I laid them out in an article, so that I and my readers could see what I hoped for in the coming year. This week, I’m going to lay out what my goals were from 2009, whether or not I achieved those goals, and then what goals are coming forth for 2010.

1) Attend 3 Grand Prix / Pro Tour Events: FAIL. I only attended one Grand Prix this year, Grand Prix: Seattle in May. This goal involved me traveling a lot more than I was able to, combined with a few airline cutbacks that eliminated some cheap options to fly to what would have been affordable Grand Prix (Minneapolis, for instance.) Perhaps I should expand this goal this year.

2) Make Day 2 of a Grand Prix/ Pro Tour: FAIL. I did go 6-3 at Grand Prix: Seattle, so one more win and I could have made it, but nonetheless, this one is a failure.

3) Win a PTQ or GPT: FAIL. Man, 0 for 3 so far on goals. I did make Top 8 of two GPTs, and Top 4 of one, but neither was a win. Zendikar Sealed kicked my face in for PTQs, but more on that later.

4) Win Article of the Month: PASS. This hearkens back to my days as a writer for MTGSalvation.com. Honestly, this goal was superseded by my coming over to write for StarCityGames.com, which I considered meeting the goal.

5) Qualify for Nationals: FAIL. I was 4-2 at my Regionals, but failed to seal the deal. I did learn an important lesson there, but still, a failure is a failure.

6) Achieve a Constructed DCI Rating of over 1800: PASS. At the time, I had a 1741, so it was certainly feasible to hit 1800, and I did, more than once. As of right now, I’m at 1799, but once the latest FNM goes in, I’ll be back over 1800.

7) Achieve a Limited DCI Rating of over 1700: PASS. This goal was twofold; become a better Limited player, and actually play more Limited. I did achieve a 1700 at one point during the year, but as mentioned, Zendikar Limited really wrecked me. I did manage to get a number of drafts in, though, and so I was overall happy with my Limited performance over the year, 2 PTQ washouts aside.

In addition, let’s look at some of the lessons I learned this year.

First up were the difficulties I’ve had with Zendikar Limited. In draft, I tend to perform somewhat strongly, but never quite there. I always end up a playable short, or just barely lacking in power. I believe I have some sort of flaw in the way I am evaluating the format, and I may be trying to look at it from the wrong angles. I played some MTGO Zen Drafts, and pretty much just wasted money. I thought perhaps I was just worse than I thought, but I do consistently good in the M10, ALA block, ME3, and other 8-man draft pods, which leads me to believe it may be a format I still haven’t fully grasped, despite having possibly the most experience with. After a lot of discussion and introspection, I realized I’m overanalyzing the format, far more than any other format, which is causing me to look for signals and archetypes that aren’t there. I’m not forcing, but I’m trying more than ever to peg down my opponents archetypes, something I can usually do in other formats, but not so much in this format. I’m looking forward to Worldwake coming out, and bringing fresh new perspective to the format.

In Sealed, I find myself again overanalyzing the options, and trying to force a deck that isn’t there, instead of letting the cards guide me to the deck I should play. I also believe an unfamiliarity with sealed overall is a weakness. Practice builds would have been a good idea.

On the Constructed side, I spent much of my summer tournaments playing well early, only to lose to “clincher” match and then fall out of contention. Twice I was X-1 with a win allowing me to draw into the Top 8, and both times I lost the following two rounds to remove me from even prizes. The lesson there was learning to perform, and following through on goals. I went to those tournaments hoping to be in contention, and once I hit that goal, once I showed that I could play in the top tables, I played far looser than I had earlier. I wanted to prove I wasn’t just another Magic player, I could do something.

Gerry Thompson once wrote a story about his first Top 8, and how once he made it, he immediately lost, because he had done what he came to do: make Top 8. I was a step below even that, as I just wanted to show that I could make Top 8, that I could be in contention. I was ready to actually make Top 8, and I’m looking forward to the next major tournament in order to do so. Unfortunately, illness really messed with the next major Constructed tournament I played in, but I am still looking forward to a chance to redeem myself.

The final lesson I learned this year that I want to share is to practice. The tournaments I have done the best in, the times when I’ve won and won often, I have played a deck that I have practiced with often. At Seattle, I went 6-3 with Cascade Swans (in a somewhat hate-filled environment, too) because I played that deck a ton in grinders the night before after an audible off B/W Tokens, and then even more testing afterwards. At the Extended PTQ, I started 4-1 with a Zoo deck I had played for over a year, and knew the deck list by heart, as well as intricate knowledge of match ups. Even at States, where I played a Jund deck despite testing mostly with Boros, I had tested against the deck a lot, and played FNM and the previous night of testing with it as well. Even now, as I pilot WUR Control, the more I play with it, the more comfortable I feel.

Before I move on to the Resolutions for this year, I want to put out a little Calendar I put together for all of you, as well as myself, which lists all of the Pro Tour, Grand Prix, and StarCityGames.com Open Weekend dates for the coming year. Sam Black mentioned last week about making a Calendar for preparation, and this is a good template to start with. Just add Regionals, Nationals, and your local PTQ schedule as they come along, and you have yourself a competitive calendar for Magic in 2010!

Note that I have also included format where applicable.

Jan. 2-3: SCG 10K LA USA Standard, Legacy
Jan 9-10: SCG 10K Dallas USA Standard, Legacy
Feb. 13-14: GP: Oakland USA Extended
Feb. 19-21: PT San Diego USA Standard, Booster Draft
Feb. 27-28: GP: Madrid Spain Legacy
Feb. 27-28: SCG 10K Richmond USA Standard, Legacy
March 13-14: GP: Kuala Lumpur Malaysia Standard
March 13-14: SCG 10K Indianapolis USA Standard, Legacy
March 20-21: GP: Yokohama Japan Extended
March 27-28: GP: Brussels Belgium Standard
April 3-4: GP: Houston USA Extended
May 1-2: SCG 10K Atlanta USA Standard, Legacy
May 8-9: GP: Lyon France “Prosper” Limited
May 22-23: GP: Baltimore USA Standard
May 28-30: PT San Juan Puerto Rico Block Constructed, Booster Draft
June 5-6: GP: Sendai Japan Standard
June 5-6: SCG 10K Philadelphia USA Standard, Legacy
June 12-13: GP: Manila Philippines Standard
June 12-13: SCG 10K Seattle USA Standard, Legacy
June 26-67: SCG 10K St Louis USA Standard, Legacy
July 31-Aug. 1: GP: Columbus USA Legacy
Aug. 21-22: SCG 10K Denver USA Standard, Legacy
Aug. 28-29: GP: Gothenburg Sweden M11 Limited
Aug. 28-29: SCG 10K Minneapolis USA Standard, Legacy
Sept. 3-5: PT Amsterdam Netherlands Extended, Booster Draft
Sept. 11-12: GP: Portland USA M11 Limited
Oct. 9-10: GP: Sydney Australia “Lights” Limited
Oct. 16-17: SCG 10K Nashville USA Standard, Legacy
Oct. 23-24: GP: Toronto Canada “Lights” Limited
Oct. 30-31: GP: Bochum Germany “Lights” Limited
Oct. 30-31: SCG 10K Charlotte USA Standard, Legacy
Nov. 6-7: SCG 10K Boston USA Standard, Legacy
Nov. 13-14: GP: Nashville USA “Lights” Limited
Nov 20-12: SCG 10K Baltimore USA Standard, Legacy
Nov. 27-28: GP: Florence Italy “Lights” Limited
Dec. 3-5: SCG Invitational Richmond USA Standard
Dec. 9-12: Worlds Chiba Japan Special

I realize this calendar is probably most beneficial for US based readers, but I know at least a few players who are planning on adding the SCG Open weekends into their travel schedules for the year, myself included. Also, crazy kudos goes out to Pete Hoefling and StarCityGames.com for this amazing tournament series, which is basically how most pro leagues got started, with barnstorming Pros playing locals with prizes and pride on the line. Again, amazing, and I look forward to its growth.

So without any further ado, let’s get down to the New Year’s resolutions, tacky as they may be.

1) Attend 4 of the above listed tournaments: I’ve expanded from last year to 4, even though I failed, because I plan to make at least 2 of the SCG events. One in Seattle, and one in Denver, combined with GP Oakland and hopefully GP Portland. I have a few backups just in case, but realistically, those are my four best shots (PTQ win not withstanding) After a very weird 2009, financially speaking, 2010 seems to be both more stable, and hopefully more profitable, allowing me to free up some extra money for flights. Also, for those not in the know, check out Bill Stark primer on Frequent Flyer miles programs, which can be amazingly beneficial.

2) 2 or more PTQ/Regionals Top 8s. There are three PTQ seasons this year, San Juan, Amsterdam, and PT #1 2011. I plan to play in 5 of the possible 6 PTQs (the 6th is the same weekend as GP Oakland), plus Regionals, and hope to make top -8 in two of them. I’d like to win them, but I think this is a solid goal for now. (I’d also like to have more of them closer, but I realize that two within a three hour drive isn’t bad.)

3) Constructed rating over 1900: This one will require some serious work, and a little luck, but I believe that with some serious devotion I can achieve it. I’d really like to get some automatic byes at Grand Prix (I was 1789 for Seattle, regrettably) and this would certainly help.

4) Win a high caliber tournament: Whether its Regionals, a 10K, or a PTQ, I want to win some sort of tournament with high-caliber play, higher than my local FNM. I am trying to get a 1K tournament going locally, so something like that would even count, as we’re bound to have ringers show up from other areas.

5) Innovate a new Deck: I would really like to come out with something new and fresh, even if it is just a one week wonder or meta- game call. I felt I brewed some decent ideas in 2009, but never really had the exact list quite right. Hopefully, with more big tournaments will come more dutiful practice, and hopefully one idea shines through.

Thanks for reading, and until next time, this is Jeff Phillips, reminding you: Don’t make the Loser Choice.