Back In The Saddle Again

Ashley Morway is returning to Magic after a break, so she’s here to share her thoughts on how to go about getting back into the game and to give some fresh perspective on M13.

I’ve taken a break from Magic a number of times. Back in 1997 I stopped for a few years, and in 2002 I stopped for a while as well, both times selling my entire collection and having to start over. I’ve also stopped playing several times without going to the extreme of selling all my cards. Building up a collection is difficult and time consuming, so whenever I need a break from Magic these days, I remind myself to just set the cards aside for a later date—it’s only a matter of time before I hear Magic’s siren call again.

I stopped playing again this past year. I suspected that would be necessary and hinted at it here, and I was right. Life got in the way, as it is wont to do, and I had to tend to more pressing matters. However, I took this break with full awareness that I would be playing Magic soon enough, and I set my cards and dreams aside until the time came when I could pick them back up again.

So here I am, at that point, and I’m ready and excited to start traveling to PTQs and SCG Open Series and even FNMs, but how do I go about getting familiar with the game (and metagame) all over again? It’s something I’m somewhat accustomed to since I’ve had to do it many times, so I wanted to share my thoughts on how to go about it and also to give some fresh perspective on M13, looking at it as I am, through the eyes of someone who hasn’t played in several months.

Getting Back Into Magic

Okay, so first up, getting back into Magic. How should you go about it? Well, if you’re going to do it, you’re in one of two main camps: either you have a collection to work with or you don’t. It’s obviously harder if you sold all your cards and now want to start playing again, but I can promise you, from personal experience, that I’ve done it before and had a lot of success, so just be patient and try to persevere through the early card shortage.

Having cards is like having skill; some people are blessed with more than others, but the ones who are less blessed can make up the difference. They just have to work harder.

#1: Acquiring Cards — Let’s talk about this for a minute. If you haven’t been playing for a while, your collection has likely fallen a bit behind. If you have some kind of collection, you can start trading for cards you’re going to need. Find out what cards, in particular rares, are showing up often in winning decks, make a list, and go shopping—either literally or figuratively. If you have the money, start adding cards to your cart to your heart’s content. If you don’t have the money, attend a few events or game nights and try to trade for what you need. One type of event in particular should merit attention:

#2: Limited Events – Try to read up on the current Limited format, learn as many of the tricks as you can, find out what people like to draft and why, and then start hitting up some events. You don’t need to have a great collection to come out a winner, and your collection will have grown even if you come out a loser, often more than just opening packs alone. People may pass you rares you need for your collection just because they don’t need them for their decks. In the beginning, you may not win events often so the occasional, opportunistic rare draft can really work out to your benefit. I’ve passed a $20 card just to draft the perfect deck. Likewise, you can sometimes get good cards without sacrificing much in deck quality. While we’re talking about Limited events, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention…

#3: Prereleases — My local store charges $25 for a Prerelease. We get six packs. Not a great deal when you look at the box prices online. HOWEVER, I frequently win 12-18 packs, making a Prerelease an exceptional deal, not to mention all the good trading that goes on at such events. A lot can be said about trading and it’s really worth many articles all on its own, but I will say that it’s important to be sure of what cards you need. I’ve seen many people waste trades on cards they didn’t wind up using. To help avoid this problem:

#4: Proxy Decks — Spend a $1. Buy a Sharpie. Take a stack of basic lands or crap commons and start practicing right away. Don’t wait until you have the best collection. Try to figure out what’s going on with the metagame right now. Start by…

#5: Reading Articles and Tournament Reports — The StarCityGames.com Open Series is a great source of current deck tech, and SCG has online coverage right here. MagicTheGathering.com also hosts Grand Prix and Pro Tour coverage where you can learn about what’s hot in the deckbuilding world. You don’t have to copy those decks but, at the very least, you will understand why certain cards are trending high or low and what it might take to beat those decks. Then you will have something to actually proxy. Make a gauntlet, smash decks into each other, and find what works for you. What’s your style? What do you like? Regardless of your preference, this approach will work to get you back in the swing of things right away. On that note—

#6: Don’t Wait to Attend Constructed Events — You may not have the perfect deck and you may lose a lot, but you’re going to need more than just cards and theory crafting to compete. The best practice is the kind you get at a tournament site. I wouldn’t suggest blowing $2,000 on travel to a GP in order to shake the rust off, but several FNMs should do it. If you happen to have a PTQ, GP, or SCG Open Series nearby, however, take advantage of the opportunity! These are by far the best places to play and trade for cards.

#7: Reinvent Yourself — Lastly, use your time away from Magic to think about what you might have been doing (or not doing!) that was holding you back from success. Sometimes a break from the game gives you a great opportunity to get real with yourself. Were you not mulliganing aggressively enough? Or did you mulligan too much? Did you have the proper winning attitude? Or were you attributing most of your losses to bad luck? Now you have not only a chance to be a better Magic player, but also to be a better person. Were you a poor sport before? Were you known for ripping people off in trades? Every moment of every day you have a choice. You don’t have to be the same person if you don’t want to be. Getting back into the game can be a fresh start all the way around, and you’ll find that when you don’t let old attitudes limit you that you can have success that you never dared dream of before!

Bonus: Look Good! — By all means, pay the most attention to your internal world and getting that in order, but changing your look is a great way to demonstrate a new persona to the world, and, if you do wind up having success, you’ll look great in the feature match area!

A Fresh Look at M13

So I’ve heard that Delver decks are really good these days…but I haven’t played much in the past few months. I haven’t even had a SCG Premium subscription, so maybe I’m just out of the loop. I’m sure I won’t be looking at M13 in quite the same way as my Magic colleagues, who may be thinking about which cards go IN Delver or what new decks and strategies may work AGAINST Delver.

It’s like I’m a kid again. WOW! Look at that Master of the Pearl Trident! He’s just like Lord of Atlantis! Merfolk are good sometimes, right? Throw in some Delver of Secrets and Ponder and you have a deck! (Kidding…kidding…)

But seriously, some of these cards have a real nostalgia factor. Battle of Wits? Will it ever be a real deck? Probably not. But players are going to try. Quirion Dryad? She’s pretty cool. I remember the days of Miracle Gro and Super Gro. With Snapcaster Mages and Phyrexian mana spells, she could make a real comeback. What about Mutilate and the long prophesied return of Mono-Black Control?

Phylactery Lich hasn’t had its day to shine yet, but maybe it’s finally good enough. I certainly wouldn’t bet against a three-mana 5/5. Talrand, Sky Summoner is bonkers in a world of Gitaxian Probes. Of course, Thragtusk is great, since all the Ravenous Baloth / Obstinate Baloth / Loxodon Hierarch variants find their way into tournament winning decks, even if it’s just to ruin a red mage’s day.

Speaking of red mages, they’ll probably pass on Firewing Phoenix since it compares unfavorably to Hellrider and Hound of Griselbrand, but they’ll probably love Thundermaw Hellkite—as long as they’re playing something reminiscent of Big Red decks instead of the frequently more popular Red Deck Wins style decks. But there’s really no reason to limit yourself to something mono-color. The Hellkite fits perfectly in some kind of G/R Ramp strategy where you’re dropping Huntmasters and Hellkites all day long.

What about exalted? That’s coming back. Will that be a deck? Certainly people are going to try. However, it seems to lack some of the tools that were available to it the first time around: Noble Hierarch, Rafiq of the Many, and Finest Hour, to name a few. I don’t think that Cathedral of War is good enough—I don’t like how it comes down tapped and only produces colorless—but Sublime Archangel is pretty sweet and very aggressively costed, even if you’re not using any other exalted cards.

But let’s not just look at rares and mythics. Rancor is coming back. I’m sure that has people talking. I can just imagine the Rancored Delvers coming through the air now…

Flames of the Firebrand also strikes me as a pretty neat tool to have at one’s disposal versus those swarms of little creatures, especially when you’ve got a swarm of your own.

In the long run (if you can call a few months the "long run"), Mana Leak and Flashfreeze are leaving the format. Essence Scatter isn’t really going to take their place, but right now we have access to all three!

Duress is also back from a year vacation, but with so many aggressive options it’s probably going to find itself relegated to sideboards, at least at first.

There are some fun cards for Commander in M13 also.

We have Spelltwine, which will likely be used to pull off different shenanigans in every game from drawing cards to taking extra turns. It’s so versatile, really, why wouldn’t you use it if you’re playing blue?

Gilded Lotus is another popular Commander card. Sure, it costs five mana, but you get three of it back right away and it helps set you up for an even bigger turn. In Commander, playing big spells is what it’s all about!

Worldfire might be broken in Commander. The nine casting cost is a bit prohibitive if your opponents are playing countermagic, but there are many combinations where you can just end the game on the spot. Even if you’re playing the card in some "fair" way, games are sure to get REAL interesting!

Omniscience is my favorite pick for Commander. Yes, it is expensive to cast and probably difficult to resolve, but it’s just mean if it lands. Your opponents will probably get to watch you play solitaire Magic for a while if they don’t just concede. Sure, maybe that’s not really in the spirit of Commander (if you believe in such things—I certainly don’t! hehe), but everyone should do it at least once!

Anyway, these are just random observations from a person who is trying to reignite their Magic fire. I am in the position of someone who has fallen out of the loop and is trying to find her footing again, so you’ll certainly see me taking my own advice. For now, I’m limited to playing Magic with friends at home. I’m recovering from major surgery, and it’ll be a several weeks before I can even travel to FNM (which, to be fair, is an hour away from me), so I’m not just working at getting back into Magic; I’m working at getting back into life!

Until things are back to normal, I hope that you will understand that it takes time for anyone, including myself, to get back in the saddle again.

And Just ‘Cause I Love Quirion Dryad So Much

This deck is mostly stock Delver with Quirion Dryad added just to try it out. It’s probably not worth making the mana base worse just for the Dryad, but we won’t know if we don’t try and really, it’s too cool to not at least try!

The sideboard is probably a bit random but seems like a decent starting point, at least until I get a good feel for what decks I’m likely to face. If I were to play in a Standard FNM right now, I’d definitely give this a shot.

And I guess I lied about having a completely different perspective on M13, since I still went ahead and built a Delver deck the first chance I got, but one can do worse than the commonly accepted "best deck." C’est la vie!

(Or, if you’d rather, just tell your friends it’s a Dryad deck, not a Delver deck!)