Innovations – A Void but Nothing Missing: Looking Back on 2009

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Monday, December 28th – With many holidays coming to a finish, Patrick is taking a wild look back on Magic in 2009, looking at both highs and lows, and showing that what is missing can count just as much as what shows up, all in an unusual fashion that is both astonishing and captivating…

It was 365 days ago that I put out a crazy work to top off 2008. Today, I will hark back to that tradition. Happily, this work will not consist of a difficult-to-grok format; it will stay smooth, and scanning it will stay a snap. I only fall victim to this folly for 1 day out of 365, and I am most thankful to you for your stoicism.

With our World Championships’ long past, Standard has found its way to a world of summons and support. Claims of Jund’s dominant position in our format won’t shock you, but what all that may imply could. Blossom? Mistbind? Mutavault? What about Cryptic Command? It was not so long ago that so many folks found fault with a particularly dominant tribal build… talk was circulating that Standard was no good, until a rotation shook things up.

That world has finally hit us, and now it is a day to find virgin ways of winning, ways that avoid traditional straight aggro, straight control, or typical combo. This format is an odd sort; it has us straddling a chasm, halfway twixt quick aggro and big control. This brings us stumbling blocks to surpass, blocks that stand far from our past. As always, a good way to find inspiration going forward is to look back.

As our look back on 2009 starts, it is January, and 1.X was primarily about Mono-U, Naya, and random combo lists that would vary from day to day. Alarm was abounding and had a hold of Magic’s community about Standard. Mistbind and family, found in Tribal U/B, had built its spot as an astonishingly dominant top dog with no actual trump to crush it.

Prior to Conflux, Manu and I found our way out to Colorado. For two days straight, all rivals that could play fought us in T2, T1, T1.X, Draft, and by invitation, a popular old Dragon format with a limit of 1 on all cards. Obviously, 2009 was an hour in which this format found a way to fulfill its capability. It was to accomplish wins and cross to many crowds that normally would not play such a format. It’s a format that allows participants to try most cards.

Look at T1, a format that “allows” us to play almost all cards, but it’s tricky in that not too many cards actually find play in it. Wizards usually just cast Yawgmoth’s Will and Black Lotus and such. That Dragon format shows us a world with thousands of actual options. With no short supply of twists and wild parts, from your main guy whom you built your list around, to high initial hit points, this format is both cool and fun.

I saw fit to pick a 1-drop mana guy that may surpass Birds, plus Volcanic Fallout, and Path as my top cards of Conflux. Looking back, I was spot on, although I did slightly miss my mark on skill and capacity of Conflux. Ironically, most critics stood just as wrong, but in a contrary way.

In a short month that was to follow, Magic history was born as a ship full of Wizards found a way to sail down a tropical coast. Our 7 day boat trip was not just a Magic Con. It was not just a bunch of drafts. It was not just a good holiday. It was actually a cultural affair. It was about going on a triumphant outing with a 100 fun folks, all with a common hobby and an amazing story to hold. Occasionally, our days would contain lots of cards to play. This was also a common topic to discuss, but such a trip had many an opportunity for things that had nothing to do with cards at all.

It wasn’t a firm and strict jaunt in any way. All of us just did what it took to accomplish our goal of fun in a joyous Magic utopia. I must say, my moons on this world stand particularly fun, and it is not boasting to say that this was among my most fun trips of all.

Our boat trip saga will carry forward in two short months, with our 2nd outing occurring around a fantastic tropical nation, Jamaica. A surplus of Magical fans, an additional day aboard, and colossal amounts of hilarity clinch this as a cultural story to cling to. Small adjusts in our location – and what parts of a ship our party will put into action – allow a small amount of final hour sign-ups, but costs swing up and down, as it is not long until our 2nd month. It’s so soon… I can’t wait!

Moving now to March… Our community saw a man that is among Magic’s high ranks, Gab Nassif, triumph atop a worthy rival, LSV. It was in Japan that 5 Color Control finally saw its spot in history fill out. Nicol Bolas’s Ultimatum found its way into Magic’s history books, most amazingly as Gab calls his shot. Gab’s run didn’t stop so soon, as his glory was to stay on growing with a T1.5 Grand Prix win in Chicago but days to follow.

A particularly big story in 2009 saw a grand victory of T1.5 as a format. Talk about a format which a community has truly found a way to rally around in support! Support was so strong in 2009 that 2010 has by now shown two T1.5 Grand Prix, in addition to 15 $5000 days of this format that SCG has brought to our Magic populous, finishing with a 2010 final Invitational Championships that will crush all top maximum payouts without WotC cash, thanks to its $50,000 in winnings up for grabs. Outstandingly, this will surpass a Grand Prix!

Alara’s 3rd pool of cards finally hit in April, and canny Wizards caught on that Magic was changing. This was to signify a basic shift that was taking hold of Magic. Many claim this is how Magic’s inflation took off, but for all that, this Alara was amongst Magic’s most sturdy card pools of all (though not actually that similar Urza’s Block, obviously).

Draft had to warp around an important fact: cards from this 3rd pack would oft surpass most cards from packs 1 and 2 in unity. In sixty card formats, many took it hard that cascading cards sunk into all parts of Magic. Most folks thought that our claim that cascading was too good, that it was going to ruin Standard, was nothing but alarmism. Was Magic’s sky actually falling?

A fact to pick up on is that “most dominant” is not synonymous with “most fun,” as an awful lot of folks did not find this part of Alara too charming. I was actually particularly fond of Alara draft, using 5 color control and choosing to draw, surprisingly. As tough as all our mana layouts may look, it was still in favor, and it was contrasting with R/B builds that attack so fast you don’t always obtain a good match.

With a look to constructing 60 card lists, our opinion was that cascading was going to mulch things up. That sort of “difficulty” was initially out of sight at first, thanks to a mighty and controlling instant: Cryptic Command. My top picks Bloodbraid, Bituminous Blast, Crisis, a B/G Oblivion Ring variant, and a non-basic hosing wizard that would jump out of my bin to lay a fatal 2nd blow.

WotC’s 3rd look at Alara was hot, and in by May its impact was swift. Cascading Swans took hold at Grand Prix: Spain, with 5 Color Blood arriving soon at a Grand Prix in Washington. Moving forward, all vision was to turn and watch Hawaii for Magic’s Alara Block Pro Tour.

Pro Tour: Honolulu was a big story of our sixth month, with “Affinity Paul” finally obtaining a Pro Tour: Top 8, along with his ally BK (famous for a particular Invasion Dragon — Rith – not Brian Kowal). Zac Hill put a finishing touch on his job as a Magic pro, making a Top 8 on his way to go work for WotC. It was Kazuya Mitamura, though, playing Saito’s G/W agro, who was found walking away with a trophy. You couldn’t miss Jund’s looming shadow, not too far away.

Still, our most significant story for Magic in full was a XBLA Magic product. With 250,000+ units sold, not counting trials, this product is a victory without rival, and it’s symbolic of just how good 2009 was for Magic.

Obviously, I should also sing Hosannahs that I could finally display my book about Magic. All this support and lots of good vibrations folks shoot my way hold my inspiration up. Thanks again!

M10’s launch took off in July, with top quality product and top quantity sold. Much ado was had about M10, and rightfully so. Many critics complain of faults that WotC had in 2008, but it was obvious that 2009 was a span of R&D at top skill. Bringing back flavor in Magic was not only brilliant, but it was brilliantly put to work.

A final story to hold on to was how much a box of Magic cost, jumping from $80 to $125 as our supply could not possibly match our wants. Initially, among M10’s most talk-producing cards was its Stag, simply on account of an actual trump to U/B finally coming to us, and in a fitting form. Kamigawa block’s Kataki was too tardy to bail us out from Mirrodin and Affinity. M10’s Stag, though, found a way to put a hurt on Scion of Oona, Mutavaults, Mistbinds, Cryptic Commands, and so on.

It is M10’s hallmark 5/5 for 3WW that will go down in history as its most important card. Its only rival is Bloodbraid on intrinsic ability, but it is of big impact on account of various implications of its printing. Bloodbraid is just a small slipup on WotC’s part, just a small push too much. Standard will not always focus on cascading, and it will vanish from sight soon.

M10‘s most amazing mythic, though, could transform our basic fabric of Magic. Its actuality shows us part of a bold world, switching things to a far cry from what is past. Magic has grown away from its history.

This flying mythic is not 100% too strong, trumping all additional cards of 2009, but it is champion among all for what it is, a random fatty with no card profit or shrouding skill of any sort… and it’s actually cast, no discount on casting cost. If that card is worthy, what could follow?

Look at this…


Prior to M10, this card would bring laughs, claiming it ruins Magic‘s capability standard, but now I must ask, “Is this actually too strong? Is it actually past that dragonslaying guardian with wings?” No, this is not a card from WWK. It is from my own custom card, from a list of 229 that I built, but it is illustrating my point just dandy.

August follows, and 5 Color’s dominating position was at a climax. Gaming’s big Con in Indy brought a Block championship, and 5 Color was found crushing just about all. Gindy continuing 5 Color’s push was not surprising, as it brought him a U.S. National Championship crown, along with a full National squad of 5 Color Wizards. It was from Wafo-tapa‘s 5 Color list that things built up, which Nakamura took to first position in Japan‘s championships.

This Con was also significant in that it was an hour that would display many big fads in old formats. In T1.5, a boost of Naya and Zoo-ish lists was all around, although Brainstorm builds and 43 Land still found a way to bloom. Up in T1, it was all about Voltaic-Vault, including 2009’s T1 World Champion’s list.

It was not until month 9 that 2009’s top story was still to show up. Magic’s first fully multiplay product hit, which was a good product for its crowd, but it was an arrival of a normal Magic product that was full of win. Z-Block’s first cardpool was Magic’s most triumphant champion.

Many doubts found ways into both kids and adults that thought it absurd that WotC would top M10, but this particular lot did just that. Both thrilling and fun, WotC’s most amazing packs of strong cards, sac lands (Scalding Tarn, Marsh Flats, and so on), random high dollar cards from old products, landfall (a fantastic ability from a play standpoint), all gaining aid from a rush of folks from that XPLA platform plus many good months for MTGO.

As Autumn was unfolding, Worth, a top dog of our MTGO brand, told us about MTGO’s transition towards a boost in its display program. BK (again not Kowal) ran up his amazing jump back to Pro Tour lights with a victory at Pro Tour: Austin. This “Rubin-Zoo” list had a total win count of 31-6!

Portugal’s Coimbra won Magic’s World Championships with Magic’s original MJ’s Naya list. Amusingly, nobody has won a Pro Tour without that M10 mythic flying 5/5 for 3WW, from its birth until today. That is worth studying for our approaching Pro Tour: California. It took 17 months for a Pro Tour win without a lawful Tarmogoyf too. During Tarmogoyf‘s run, LSV and Antti Malin stand as Magic’s only guys that won without it, in any format in which it was lawful (that is 33 months so far!)

Champs was our last month’s high point for Magic, with Jund’s dominating impact known to all at this point. It was on that hour that Magic’s community as a group would say that Magic‘s most strong color was actually cold…

… Just days following, a Mind Sculptor card was found, and it is (as of now) looking that rumors of this color’s passing stand abundantly blown out of proportion.

Will 2010 stand up to a bar from 2009?

I can’t wait to find out!

Happy holidays to all! Catch you in 2010!

Patrick Chapin
“Still Innovating”

PPS: Difficult or foolish? Hard constraints… why not? Okay guys, no instructions on conjugations. A curiously unusual paragraph without doubt. Nothing wrong, though. Good opportunity all around, in all things. No fifth symbol trivial, but no action words obviously truly difficult. Both conjointly?


Thanks for all of this!