Making Goals For The New Year

Friday, December 31st – On the last day of 2010, Level 6 Pro Michael makes a list of the goals he needs to attain in 2011 – and explains why making goals is so important. Plus, some Scars of Mirrodin Block discussion for MODO grinders!


Four Pro Tours.
Hundreds of pro points.
Eight player levels.
Twenty-one Grand Prixs.
Twelve Magic Online Championship Series Qualifiers.
Dozens of Pro tour Qualifiers.
Fifty-two Friday Night Magics
Four new Magic sets.

Those are just the Wizards of the Coast-sponsored events! This does not even include all the $1k, $5k, Midwest Master Series, or even the StarCityGames.com Opens and Invitationals.

It can be a bit overwhelming to take in all at once — which is why it’s helpful to spend some time before all the ruckus starts to plan ahead, and set goals for what you want to accomplish. Many people’s plans are just to have fun, others are to win their local FNMs. Most StarCityGames.com Premium subscribers want to have greater success in either single-slot PTQs or Grand Prix-style top 16s.

Reading strategy and having basic knowledge of your formats helps — but you also need the dedication to learn, and the determination to keep going after failing time and again. Magic is a hard game, and you’re going to make mistakes. Minimizing the tilt factor of losing and maximizing your chances by traveling to multiple events are the ways to raise your odds of victory.

Not everyone can apply theory from reading articles, however (including myself), and that is why I am trying to bring the visual element with my weekly video series. Even if you are not interested in the matchups I play each week, it is still useful to at least browse over the games to learn about the thought process behind the plays, and the tells each of my opponents give for the decisions they make.

The new year fills me with renewed hope and vigor, and the best outlook I have ever had to get what I desire, the coveted title of “Professional Magic the Gathering Player.” I feel like I’ve set myself up to win, and I just need to follow through to make sure it all comes down like I want it to. Here’s a look-see at what my goals have been the past few years:

Goal for 2009

Attain level 7 Pro Player status

Two years ago, I decided to start taking Magic seriously, and made a New Year’s resolution to do whatever it took to live the life of a Pro. Still riding high off a Team Worlds 2008 win and brimming with self-confidence, I had great success in the Grand Prix circuit with multiple top 8s.

But when it came to crunch time in the big leagues, I got crushed. My skills were nowhere near enough to get the big money finishes I yearned for, as time and again I made poor deck choices and even worse play errors.

The year was salvaged only through a miracle 6-0 Extended run on the final day of Worlds, culminating in a win over Brad Nelson to attain level 6. Deflated by reality hitting hard, I understood that money finishes at Pro Tours would take a different method than the one to get where I was.

Goal for 2010

Top 8 a Pro Tour

Last year I resolved to focus my efforts upon Pro Tour successes instead of the tertiary Grand Prixs. This meant I needed to practice with people who were better than me, so that I could learn through trial and error the ways of the true masters. My networking paid off, as I was able to test with the west coast for San Juan, finish well, and get valuable experience in how to create a Pro Tour-winning decklist.

This all came at a price, however. Trying to find my expert Magic style led me to take great risks in the Grand Prix circuit, brewing and playing decks I had no prior knowledge of how to handle. This meant I was playing suboptimal decklists poorly against well-tuned decks played competently, which can only end one way.

Day two was elusive for me at all the Grand Prixs I attended (sans Legacy in Columbus) and despite my success in Amsterdam, I just barely acquired the thirty pro points required to stay a level 6 mage.

Goal for 2011

Level 7 Pro Player status

Combining networking and a solid understanding of my own style of play, this year I plan on acquiring the vaunted Level 7. No longer will I play a different deck than everyone else “just because” (like a certain Conley Woods). I will play what I am comfortable with, to the best of my ability. My Standard Worlds results (where I went 4-2 with R/U/G) proved that even terrible matchups (like Valakut that I 3-1ed) can be turned around with tight play and intimate knowledge of the match up.

Not messing with success, I will also stick with the green hat — the source of my power.*

Most importantly, I promise to listen to DarkestMage. His guidance got me to the top 8 of Amsterdam, where I promptly punted two games in the top 8 by not listening to the soothsayer within.

To accomplish this goal, I’ve put myself into the position of writing Jacob’s Ladder and doing the weekly video content that you’ll see here on StarCityGames.com. By treating Magic as a job, I am laying the groundwork for achieving my goals by reinforcing the type of prudence I need to maintain throughout the year to win.

Qualifying for (and winning) the Magic Online Championship Series

A neat side benefit of staying abreast on current Magic technology by writing and participating in Magic Online with the weekly video segment, is how well it primes me to participate in the forgotten Pro Tour — the Magic Online Championship Series. The prizes are huge for amount of rounds you have to win, and Wizards even rewards grinders who can get a profit on Magic Online but can’t quite cut the mustard to translate that into real-life success.

The best way to do this is to get 45 points every month and go into the ten-round tournament with three byes, hopefully only needing 5-2 to top 8 (though I do not know how likely that is). This is a significant time investment, but getting 45 points means having profited a non-zero amount, so it becomes easier to justify.

Doing only one thing on Magic Online is hardly an optimal usage of resources, as there is a

of down time between rounds, so double-queueing is common. On that front, you’ll need an additional format (other than standard) to battle and rack up the QPs, as you can’t use the same cards for multiple tournaments. Extended events rarely fire, though being a PTQ format means that will probably change. This leaves Scars of Mirrodin Block constructed to battle with for the near future.

Scars of Mirrodin Block is only a single set currently, which means it is completely irrelevant to real life Magic. The format exists solely for grinders to get cheap product to pawn off so they can purchase what they actually need: 75-ticket Jace, the Mind Sculptors and 35-ticket Primeval Titans. This also means that the competition is pretty soft and innovation will go a long way towards some free wins.

Scars of Mirrodin Block

I wanted to break new ground instead of starting with my white aggro deck from previous excursions into the field. Precursor Golem really impressed me from testing standard U/B last week, so I built a deck around him in Scars of Mirrodin block. Card advantage is nearly nonexistent, so I thought the InQuest combo of Precursor Golem / Twisted Image could be decent, along with the green Inspiration, Horizon Spellbomb. Galvanic Blast rounded things off, providing a much-needed way to kill duders and errant planeswalkers.

WARNING: This deck list is a



attempt this at home.

Here are the observations I garnered from four grueling rounds, going 2-2 in a daily event:

  • Flooded. Every. Single. Game. Forty mana does that.
  • On a related note, Silver Myr was awful and boarded out at every opportunity.
  • Iron Myr was a cool cat. Several times, he provided the red I needed to Galvanic Blast. This leads me to believe if I utilize a Myr in the next version of the deck, it should be the off-color and not the main one.
  • Mox Opal was absolutely awful with a mere nineteen artifacts. Horizon Spellbomb being four of them did not help, nor did the fragile mana Myrs. Has potential if I start utilizing Liquimetal Coating or Origin Spellbomb.

  • Everyone

    plays artifacts, and so the Halt Orders came in and were awesome every round. Mayhap they should be maindecked…
  • Oxidda Scrapmelter was quite bad. It was sorcery-speed, it cost far more than the artifacts it destroys, and was only usable if the opponent had a target. That was too many strikes for this animal.
  • Stoic Rebuttal was sweet and would be even better if I could make it cost two instead.
  • Twisted Image / Precursor Golem was totally awesome. Twisted Image even cycled on Grand Architect for a free two damage on multiple occasions.
  • Horizon Spellbomb was not nearly as good as advertised. The activation cost was too much, especially if I was already flooded. Sacrifice effects would be nice to get some more use out of this. It may be fodder for Slice in Twain if there aren’t any enemy targets in play.
  • Argent Sphinx seemed like a bad Kuldotha Phoenix. I don’t know if that is good or bad yet.
  • Grand Architect was great, but that was due to his high power level rather than any real synergy with the deck itself. It would be like sticking Jace in a W/G Quest for the Holy Relic deck. Great and all, but not the plan.

I didn’t view recent deck lists before brewing this clunker, but now the industry standard seems to be Mono-Blue with Twisted Image to smooth out draws and to combo with Precursor Golem. Perhaps they got it from observing my matches, or they came to it through their own means. Regardless, this is certainly a direction that warrants more exploration, perhaps with supplementary cantrips Tel Jilad Defiance and Slice in Twain.

Wacky specialty formats are also terrific for racking up qualifying points. This past week I had a lot of fun in the Master’s Edition 64-man single elimination tournaments. Drafting G/x aggro every time, I ended up making top 8 in all three events. Here was my favorite:

1 Centaur Archer
1 Dragon Engine
2 Fyndhorn Elves
3 Ghazban Ogre
1 Ifh-Biff Efreet
2 Spectral Bears
1 Su-Chi
2 Thorn Thallid
2 Wyluli Wolf
1 Yavimaya Ants

1 Ashnod’s Transmogrant
1 Ankh of Mishra
2 Bestial Fury
1 Copper Tablet
1 Nature’s Lore
2 Roots

5 Mountain
11 Forest

Copper Tablet and Ankh of Mishra were awesome, and Ifh-Biff Efreet was just a 7/1 flier for 2GG. Ghazban Ogre and Spectral Bears are oldies but goodies, and would probably see play in Standard if they were legal.

Masters Edition 4 is coming soon to MODO, and is also the format for this month’s championship. I have around twenty-five points so far, so twenty more should not be too difficult to acquire. It falls on the same weekend as StarCityGames.com Open: San Jose, so that means I will not be making the trip to sunny California in favor of spinning the ME4 Sealed wheel in the comfort of my pajamas.

I will however be attending StarCityGames.com Open: Kansas City. For Standard, I will come equipped with the R/U/G deck from
my video this week

, my second choice being W/G Quest. I haven’t played a single game with the latter, but from battling against it I am impressed with its Plan A and B. U/B Control seems like a poor way to spend a day, as I hate mirror matches and every game without a Mana Leak in the top ten cards ends in defeat.

Day two of these tournaments is either Legacy or Scars of Mirrodin draft. My hatred of Scars is well-known, but I may still try my luck with forty rather than hustle up the cards I need to play in a format I know nothing about.

The biggest hurdle Legacy has to me is the huge amount of “playable” decks, each with different avenues to victory. I prefer crafting a weapon that defeats a metagame, rather than bringing the sharpest sword I have and hoping to not run into brick walls. Maybe Gerry Thompson can toss me a list…

Grand Prix: Atlanta is coming, which means I need to dabble a bit in Extended. I would like to start testing on Magic Online, but the cards are so incredibly expensive due to the prereleases being disrupted from the transition of MODO 2.5 to 3.0. This means Shadowmoor Block staples like Cryptic Command and Prismatic Omen will be prohibitively expensive to acquire, limiting my desire to even begin tackling the format.

It’s okay if you do not want to try your deck-building mettle with Extended, as you can instead roll the dice and be lucky with SOM Sealed PTQs.

That’s right! Half the Magic Online PTQs will utilize the “worst sealed format I have ever played in.” (Michael Jacob in 2010, StarCityGames.com Columnist). This is a strange precedent, as I don’t recall Pro Tours having multiple PTQ formats feeding them before. This sort of defeats the prospect of having qualifying “seasons,” as you’re supposed to be able to miss one and still be around the same level as your competition.

Speaking of terrible things and Magic Online, there is
hope on the horizon

. Magic 4.0 is nearing completion! The
time table seems to be a working beta in three months, and possibly a working client in nine to twelve months. MODO 4.0 may even have a
Planeswalker tab in the deck editor

— something we have only dreamt of in the three years since their introduction.

I look forward to spending the next year with you, and I wish all of good luck in all of our endeavors…. Unless your goal is beating me, because that is not happening.

* – Many ask why I continue to wear such head gear, even in the warmest of climes, to which I reply with a sad story from my ill-spent youth:

I had moved to Michigan from Louisiana when I was eleven. My Michiganian abode was located in the middle of an apartment complex, and the bus stop was nearly a mile away at the entrance to the subdivision. Snow was new to me (having lived my life up to that point in a furnace), so I was unaware the dangers it posed to my health. One wintry day I took the scenic route home from my stop, frolicking about in the white powder to my foolish heart’s content.

I arrived home to a surprised mother, who inquired what I had done to my ears. Tragically, I had caught
le frostbite

. This is an experience that few of you have had the pleasure in partaking, and I will save you the effort of trying it yourself by describing it as merely hellish. Sleeping, thinking, talking was nigh-impossible through feeling of needles being jammed into my head every second for days on end. That is why I always wear a hat, no matter the weather, season, in or out of doors.

Now you know the back story of why I always don the
green beanie of power +5.

No one can fight the tide forever