Magic Online Musings: This Week on MTGO #35

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Fresh from his exertions at Grand Prix: Sydney, the incomparable blisterguy brings us news from the Magic Online metagame, fresh card pricing information for the electronic consumer, and a host of photos from the Grand Prix itself.

(This week was brought to you while under the influence of “Prison Break, series one”)

Grand Prix: Sydney has come and gone and I am still in one piece. I’ll let you in on a little secret, I was pretty nervous going into the event. It sounds strange I know, because I have already covered one Grand Prix solo (Kuala Lumpur in June this year), helped on another (Brisbane 2004). I helped at Worlds last year, and was a part of the coverage team at Pro Tour: Honolulu this year, so I can’t for the life of me think why I was worried.

Actually, that’s not true, I can think of plenty of reasons why. One: Time Spiral is a brand new set. So much so that I don’t actually recognize many of the cards by their pictures. Two: Time Spiral is a brand new set, and this is the first time it’s been played under the spotlight. Not only that, but so far it’s the only time it’s been played under the spotlight, so anyone wanting to know anything about the format is no doubt going to be reading my coverage. Three: I’m not actually that confidant that my writing is any good. Before you go trying to tell me otherwise, worry yourselves not. Anyone who creates anything thinks that about their work, but it always factors into the equation. Four: you gotta watch our for drop bears.

(Drop bears are small Australian Marsupials, very similar to koalas but much more vicious. They can be found hidden in trees, and they assault their prey by literally dropping onto their heads and attacking it with their sharp, pointy teeth. The Australian Tourism Board tries to put tell everyone that they’re a myth, but that’s only to prevent their Tourism Dollars from spiraling down the toilet. In the opposite direction, obviously.)

Thankfully, no drop bears befell me and I somehow got away with not knowing most of the cards at a glance by taking notes that tended to read something like “three mana White guy with a blue-ish background” and so on. I’d then wander back to my laptop and refer to a copy of the little pictorial guide you get from a Fat Pack to figure out which card was what. I had planned on purchasing a Fat Pack before I left good ol’ En Zed, but they didn’t come through from the distributor in time. Well, maybe they did, because I wasn’t technically allowed to buy one before I left, but as I know the owner of our local store really well, he was gonna bring one with him and I was gonna buy it from him on the Friday (release day). Sadly for Tall Mike and I, they didn’t come through to the store before we left. Luckily for me, one of the Hasbro employees (thanks Rob!) had someone from the office (thanks Adam!) send over Rob’s personal copy for my use (in a Duel Masters bag – your thanks are revoked Adam, bah!)

But enough of that for now; the Grand Prix was all about the Limited events, Sealed and Draft. I don’t typically deal too much with the Limited side of things on Magic Online in this column, as there are those who cover it so much better than I ever could (Benjamin Peebles-Mundy, omg). All you get from me are some half-baked musings about however I may have done at a prerelease or whatever, so let’s get that Standard Premier Events recap data down on (digital) paper to see what’s going on these days in that area.

Interestingly enough, the quality of decks in play should be on the rise for the next wee while, as the Qualifier Tournaments for the World Champs Qualifier (that’s bit of a mouthful) are playing out as we speak. Attendance was up for the Standard Events this week, mostly because the Top 8 of these Qualifier for the Qualifier events qualify for the actual World Champs Qualifier event. Oh, that’s one terrible sentence. I’ll try not to write another one like it anytime soon. At least not for another few paragraphs.

17 (8) Satanic Sligh (Rakdos Burn)
16 (11) Solar Flare (Blue/Black/White Control)
10 (1) Hand in Hand (Black/White Aggro Control)
9 (1) Selesnya Aggro Control (Green/White Aggro Control)
7 (3) Sea Stompy (Green/Red/Blue Aggro Control)
7 (2) Izzetron (Blue/Red Urzatron Control)
6 (2) Counterbalance Control (Blue/Black/White Control, sometimes without the Black)
5 (3) Magnivore (Blue/Red Land Destruction Control)
4 (10) Simic Aggro Control (Blue/Green)
4 (4) Simic Snake Aggro Control (Green/Blue)
3 (0) Golgari Aggro Control (Green/Black Aggro Control)
3 (0) Dimir Reanimator (Blue/Black get big guys in the yard, Zombify ‘em into play)
2 (4) Heartbeat (Heartbeat of Spring/Early Harvest Combo)
2 (3) Zoo (Green/White/Red Aggro)
2 (2) Azorius Enduring Ideal Control
2 (2) Simic Erayo Ninja (The mBracht special)
2 (0) Boros Red Wins (Red/White Aggro)
1 (3) Ghost Dad (Black/White Tallowisp Aggro)
1 (2) Battle of Wits (Yes, a 230 – 250 card deck…)
1 (0) Simic Aggro Control, splash Black
1 (0) Izzet Control (Blue/Red Control)
1 (0) Orzhov Husk (Black/White Aggro Control with Nantuko Husk and Promise of Bunrei)
1 (0) Azorius Aggro Control (White Weenies with Blue Counter backup)
1 (0) Mono White Tron (See below…)
1 (0) Blue/White/Green Control (Kind of like the Creatureless Control that showed up at Australian and New Zealand Nationals, but this one at least had a Meloku in it)
1 (0) Azorius Control (Blue/White Control)
1 (0) Unknown (This time it seemed like someone had a deal going… grumble, grumble)
1 (0) Gruul Snow Aggro Control (I hope that sums it up)
0 (1) Mono Blue Snow Control (Just Blue, and like, Snow)
0 (1) Dimir Aggro Control (Blue/Black Aggro Control)
0 (1) Dimir Control (Blue/Black Control)

The Satanic Sligh deck has gotten so steadily popular that it now seems to have (finally) overtaken Solar Flare in the numbers game for Premier Event Top 8s. In other news, I can’t quite explain why sometimes decks just spring back in popularity, just as Hand in Hand and Selesnya Aggro Control have done this week for example. It seems to happen quite regularly, and would usually point to some shift in the metagame, like if deck X becomes popular and deck Y is finally good again, or whatever. However, I wouldn’t have put Hand in Hand on the same agenda as Selesnya Aggro Control as far as hating out the same deck. I guess it could be more that some people or groups or clans find some tech or tweak that helps a deck achieve better results than others do, who knows?

The Mono White Tron deck was an interesting one. I saw something similar a week or two ago, with the Proclamation of Rebirth, Kami of False Hope, and Martyr of Sands combo. This time it also had Millstone, Howling Mine, and Jesters Cap to make the win condition decking instead of 1/1 beatdown (heh). Admittedly, this may have been the case last time too, but you can’t always get all of the info on the deck you need from the replays alone. Interestingly enough, the deck could still work quite nicely without Kami of False Hope, so it could be worth considering for State Champs in a few weeks after Kamigawa block rotates out.

(Knowing nod and wink routine.)

(Seriously, don’t trust anything I say… like I’d know anything!)

Anyway, from the Grand Prix, there were one or two little outtakes that either didn’t make it into the coverage due to time constraints or it just not being, and how should I put this, suitable for official Wizards coverage, if you know what I mean.

First up, the artists. Both were great guys, and I only really got to know them while we were at dinner (every other moment was taken up with me frantically flailing at my laptop), but it was definitely enough for me to think highly of both of them. Mark Poole has a great history with the Magical cards (Ancestral Recall) but Warren Mahy you probably don’t know a great deal about. Apparently he’s only illustrated something like eleven Magic cards, and half of those haven’t even been printed yet, but what he has done actually lies with the Movies.

I’d say you’re all pretty much familiar with Peter Jackson and his Lord of the Rings trilogy, right? Behind Jackson is his special effects studio Weta Digital, and while their staff has since swelled to something like several hundred or more, it was once just a handful of people. Mahy was a conceptual artist amongst that small yet influential handful. It seemed a shame then to watch as people lined up to get their Mark Poole cards signed, and Warren Mahy just sat there with his work in front and behind him, possibly dreaming of the day people would know and want his work too.

Right Said Fred sign autographs for a loyal fan

Mark Poole adds a personal touch to some cards for Judge Nathan Brewer.

While sitting around signing cards all day sounds like a cruisy wee number, it’s probably a sure-fire recipe for repetitive strain injury and therefore the artists need a break from time to time. Here Judge Ryan Dare does his best impersonation of an artist, practicing his signature on a pile of Mahy’s cards.

The Judge Exam gets more interactive every year

I guess Ryan has to hope Mahy never reads this lol.

While wandering about the city trying to find a scenic shot for the top of the coverage page (which has now been replaced by a picture of winner James Zhang) I saw a pamphlet on the sidewalk. It reads “Come and find out what Scientology is.” I couldn’t help but wonder why someone could have abandoned such an item.

Tom Cruise Woz Ere

I’ll pass this time, thanks Mr. Hubbard!

The venue for the event was the Sydney Masonic Center. You know, the home of the Masons. Well, not their home, I’m sure they live in regular houses and apartments like everyone else, but you know what I mean. It seems that they are moving on with the times like the rest of the world, which is cool, but parts of the venue still had that “old-school” touch to it.

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On one hand, Grand Prix banners. On the other, a painting of some old Mason guy, or something.

Some parts of the venue were just downright weird… Also note that Kenji Tsumura tried to ruin the picture for me, but I had taken a few so it didn’t matter. I decided to use this one anyway, because it’s kinda cute. That little guy makes me laugh any time I see him at an event these days.

The Stained Glass Accountant devours another unsuspecting victim...

I’m sure it’s innocent, but it looked a little… creepy to me.

Speaking of Japanese powerhouses, Tomoharu Saito asked me to get this picture of him, but I couldn’t find anywhere to put it in the coverage. Saito is kinda different to the other Japanese players I have encountered. He has this intensity to him; a certain poise. Other than the fact that he slaps himself in the face while playing, perhaps to help keep his attention on the game or something, he also has a firm hand shake and bows slightly when he’s thanking you. I dunno, but I gained a heap of respect for the guy over the weekend, possibly because of the amount of respect he forwarded to me first.

I am twice as good as you...

Tomoharu Saito probably does Martial Arts and Stuff.

When we went to randomly pair the Top 8, we found that the new version of DCI reporter we were running wasn’t especially user friendly in the matter. I’m sure we could have spent a while trying to figure out how to make it do what we wanted, but Head Judge Mark Brown decided to show some adaptability and busted out the marker pen and numbered up some basic lands, just like you would in a casual draft.

The head judge - beard is optional

You get to be Head Judge when you can think on your feet as well as this man. The beard helps too, I think.

And lastly, a bit of an in-joke.

Has anyone seen my glasses?

Have you seen Cameron Veigel’s pen? It’s engraved.

Oh wait, card prices.

The numbers shown, for instance, as 2-4, are the price people are buying the card for, followed by the price people are selling the card for. The prices shown in parenthesis, like this (2-4), are the prices from last week. If a card and its prices have been bolded, it’s because there has been a change in price from the week before to help you differentiate those cards from the others that are a little more… static in their movements. Card prices are in Tickets, because that’s what most people buy and sell with on Magic Online. Also note that prices can fluctuate based on the time of day, depending on just how many people are online selling at the time. Due to my uniquely antipodean location down here in the Pacific, and my tendency to hold down a regular nine-to-five job, the prices below end up being more of a general indication of what’s going on than an exact science.

Pithing Needle 13-16 (14-16)
Umezawa’s Jitte 5-7 (5-7)

It’s odd, but people are kinda only paying 4.5 for the Jitte, but that doesn’t really work with my pricing system very well. They way that works is they’ll give you 9 for two Jittes, but only 4 for one, or maybe 5 for a Jitte and something else they’re paying 0.5 for. It can get a little messy, I trust you will agree.

Cranial Extraction 2-4 (3-4)
Dark Confidant 4-5 (4-5)

Meloku the Clouded Mirror 2-4 (2-4)
Keiga, the Tide Star 1-3 (2-4)

Kamigawa block cards are taking a noticeable drop in price, now that Time Spiral is on its way.

Simic Sky Swallower 3-5 (3-5)
Giant Solifuge 3-5 (3-4)
Loxodon Hierarch 3-4 (3-4)
Burning-Tree Shaman 2-3 (1-3)
Ghost Council of Orzhova 1-2 (1-3)

Ohran Viper 9-12 (9-10)
Birds of Paradise 4-6 (4-6)

Demonfire 4-5 (4-5)
Wildfire 2-3 (2-3)
Magnivore 2-3 (2-4)

Wrath of God 10-12 (10-12)
Paladin En-Vec 5-7 (5-6)
Adarkar Valkyrie 2-4 (2-4)
Yosei, the Morning Star 1-3 (2-4)

Scrying Sheets 5-7 (6-7)
Breeding Pool 13-15 (13-15)
Hallowed Fountain 11-12 (10-12)
Blood Crypt 9-10 (9-10)
Godless Shrine 7-9 (7-9)
Shivan Reef 7-9 (7-8)
Steam Vents 7-9 (7-8)
Stomping Ground 7-8 (6-8)
Yavimaya Coast 5-7 (5-7)
Caves of Koilos 5-7 (5-7)
Watery Grave 5-7 (5-6)
Temple Garden 5-7 (5-6)
Overgrown Tomb 5-7 (5-6)
Sacred Foundry 5-6 (5-6)
Karplusan Forest 4-5 (3-5)
Forge[/author]“]Battlefield [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author] 3-5 (4-5)
Underground River 3-5 (4-5)
Llanowar Wastes 3-5 (3-5)
Sulfurous Springs 3-5 (3-4)
Adarkar Wastes 3-5 (3-4)
Brushland 3-4 (3-4)

Whew, so there you go, the usual stuff and some other stuff. Once again it’s time for me to go off to bed. I really need to remember to start these things earlier in the evening instead of watching DVD boxed sets I happened to pick up in Australia. The good news is that I’m up to the last episode in Prison Break (no, I didn’t start today, there was a bit of time spent watching it while waiting in airports as well) so yay, small victory there or something. Anyhow, catch you all next week. I’m just looking forward to having a nice weekend to myself, without typing a single thing, at all.