My Yearly Wrap-Up

Grand Prix Charlotte winner Frank Skarren writes about the goals he achieved in Magic this year and sets new ones for next year. Check them out!

This is my first time closing out a year as a writer for StarCityGames.com. As the calendar marches toward the end of December and the start of January, it seems like most of the hard-hitting topics have been covered. Today I’d like to emulate my team captain Ari Lax and write an article similar to his piece from a little over a week ago.

Since I just started writing for SCG this year, I don’t have a written-out set of goals from last year, but I did accomplish quite a few things that I wanted to work on. Let’s start with the big one:

1. Achieve a breakout finish

I’m talking of course about coming in first place at Grand Prix Charlotte. I’ve played Magic for a little over ten years now, the last two of which have been on a competitive level. Getting that big win means a lot to me and has done a lot to shape my Magic career since then. I’ve had a stronger drive than ever to compete in more high-level tournaments. It also opened up a lot of doors for me as a player, which brings me to my next two achievements.

2. Become a writer for StarCityGames.com

As an adamant lover and player of Magic, it has always been a dream of mine to write for SCG. I love sharing my ideas and knowledge with other players on a large scale. I knew I would need a big notch on my resume to get the opportunity to do so, and Charlotte definitely helped out in a big way there. Being able to say I get a steady paycheck thanks to my childhood hobby is nothing to scoff at either! [Editor’s Note: You earned it buddy.]

3. Join a Pro Tour team

This was a pretty big one for me. This year I played in my third, fourth, and fifth Pro Tours between Montreal, San Diego and Dublin. Up until Dublin I had worked primarily on my own for testing and deckbuilding, and I know that it had a largely negative impact on my performance. Getting to join Team Luxurious Hair (name change pending) is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. Although we didn’t have the best showing at Pro Tour Theros, I’ve become friends with a great group of guys who I look forward to seeing at every tournament. It has really added a new level to the tournament travel experience knowing I’ll get to hang out with so many awesome people. I don’t want to call any shots just yet, but I have a deep feeling that 2014 is going to be our year.

4. Stay consistent

Let’s take a look at the Grand Prix I traveled to throughout this year:

GP Atlantic City – Top 64 with Dark Realms Midrange in Standard
GP Charlotte – 1st Sealed Deck
GP Pittsburgh – Top 64 Sealed Deck
GP Providence – Missed day 2 Team Sealed
GP Miami – Top 32 with Esper Control in Standard
GP Washington DC – Missed win and in for Top 64 with Shardless BUG in Legacy
GP Toronto – Top 64 Sealed Deck

Although I only managed one Top 8 on the year, I have to say I’m pleased with my results overall. Cashing five out of seven Grand Prix represents a level of consistency I’d like to continue. As you can see, Limited is my strong suite, and I’d like to be able to branch out a little more into other formats moving forward.

The finish that upsets me the most is by far the Team Sealed in Providence. It marked the second GP ever that I haven’t managed to day 2 and was all in all a comedy of errors. Alec Nezin, Joe Demestrio, and I were feeling pretty good about the Team Sealed format coming off of our finals appearance in the SCG Team Sealed Open earlier in the year. However, a weak sealed pool, a double deck registration error, and a poor judge call sent us home a little earlier than we would have liked.

5. Play Legacy

Up until the SCG Open in Baltimore, I had never so much as played a game of Legacy before in my life. A lot of people I respect highly kept telling me how great the format is, so I had no choice left but to try it for myself. I can’t say I’ve been disappointed. Legacy is an amazingly fun and skillful format and has quickly become my favorite format next to Limited. I used to think it was all degenerate combo decks winning on turn 1, but that isn’t the case at all. If you haven’t tried the format and have the opportunity to do so, I strongly recommend it.


Overall, I feel like this was a setup year for me. I got to experience some mild levels of success and become part of a sweet team for tournaments moving forward. Although my level of consistency was respectable, I’d like to try to take it up a notch and at minimum start turning some of those Top 64s into 32s and 16s.

Getting to write for SCG is a pretty big goal to mark off the checklist, and I’ve been very happy with my position. I know that my writing has improved noticeably since my first article, and that’s something I’m proud to be able to say.

One big thing I can see looking back is that I need to diversify more. Being good at Limited is awesome, but having a strong Constructed game is just as important. Playing my inaugural Legacy and Pauper matches this year has got me thinking that I shouldn’t be so quick to judge a format by its cover. I wouldn’t call it a goal per se, but it might be time to take a deeper look into formats such as Modern or even Commander.

Goals For Next Year

1. Get back on the Pro Tour and put up a strong finish

Unfortunately I was unable to obtain an invite to Pro Tour Born of the Gods. Although this has been a pretty big bummer for me, I’m not going to let it keep me down. I plan on becoming a Pro Tour mainstay for years to come, and I’m going to put everything I’ve got into getting back on the train.

Just getting back on isn’t the bottom line here however. Although I’ve been able to reach day 2 in four out of five tries at the Pro Tour, a great showing has so far eluded me. Obviously a Top 8 would be phenomenal, but I’m looking to at least lock up a Top 25 finish. Picking up some Pro Points and having success on Magic’s biggest stage seems like a good place to start the year’s goals.

2. Improve as a writer

This is an incredibly important goal for me. I’m very self-conscious about my writing and want to make sure I’m providing content that people enjoy reading and can learn from easily. As I said, I know I’ve improved since day one, but there is still a lot of room to grow before I hit the ceiling. So far my focus has been heavily on Limited Magic since I consider that my area of expertise, but I’m going to try to branch out as often as possible.

If there is any feedback you guys could give me, I’d greatly appreciate it and use it to improve. I always read every comment on my articles and respond to them as best as possible.

3. Attend more Grand Prix & SCG Open Series

If you look at the list of Grand Prix I attended from the previous section, you’ll see that they all took place on the East Coast within a semi-close distance from my hometown in New York. The only GP on the list that I didn’t actually drive to is Grand Prix Miami. The way I look at it is that if I want to continue to improve at Magic and establish myself as a high-level player I’m going to need to start traveling a little bit farther.

My results have shown me that I have the potential to put up big finishes, but my odds of replicating that success are much lower if I don’t get out there and try. Traveling long distances to chase Pro Points and play in Magic tournaments is definitely a big-time money investment, but it’s one that I think it is the correct time for me to make. A second and maybe even a third Grand Prix Top 8 are definitely goals I’d like to meet this year.

As for SCG Tour® naments, 2013 also marks the first time I ever played in an Open. I definitely didn’t get to attend as many as I would have liked this year, and doing the same thing for 2014 would be foolish. The locality of the tournaments combined with the added incentive of the end of the year Players’ Championship makes this an easy call for me. Plus I only have two SCG Open Top 8s under my belt so far, and that is downright unacceptable.

4. Travel to fewer PTQs

There was a point about a month ago that I was traveling to PTQs nonstop. Weekend after weekend I found myself at PTQ double headers many hours from my house, and it’s safe to say that I got a little burnt out. Although I’ll still be attending my fair share of PTQs in accordance with my efforts to get back on the Pro Tour, I’m going to be aiming on getting my qualifications from Grand Prix.

Next year’s travel goal: quality over quantity.

5. Crush Grand Prix Barcelona

Of all the Grand Prix coming up next year, GP Barcelona is the one that I’m looking forward to the most. The format is Team Sealed, and it’s safe to say I’m looking for some vengeance. Unfortunately a new girlfriend and high sense of frugality will be keeping Alec Nezin at home, but my new teammate and Magic all-star Seth Manfield is stepping in to fill his shoes. You heard it here first—when you look at the pairings board in Barcelona, you better hope not to see Demestrio, Manfield, or Skarren across from your name.

6. Play in a Grand Prix with a sweet homebrew

Although it wasn’t my best showing, GP Atlantic City was probably the most fun I had actually playing Magic this year. There’s just something so awesome about playing a deck of your own design and getting the job done with it. Now, this doesn’t mean that I’m going to brew up some random pile and take it to a high-level event. A lot of hard work and play testing went into my Dark Realms deck, and I wouldn’t have taken it to a major tournament if I hadn’t have thought it could get the job done. The real challenge here is actually going to be creating the sweet deck in the first place. If I can pull it off, I’m sure it will give me an awesome topic to write an article about to boot!

7. Play something other than Shardless BUG in Legacy

Speaking of diversifying my skills, this is an area I need to work on. Ever since diving into the awesomeness that is Legacy, I have only ever played Shardless BUG. I like the deck a lot, but I know I’m going to be missing out if I don’t try to switch it up a bit. Thanks to my good friend Morgan Chang, I have pretty much every Legacy deck as an option, so there’s no reason to remain a one-trick pony. I’d love to hear some suggestions for a sweet deck to play; I’m thinking it might be time for some combo.

8. Maintain Silver & aim for Gold

This one is simple enough and ties into all of my other goals. I was able to accumulate enough Pro Points to end last season as Silver in the Pro Players Club. Silver level is nice and I don’t want to regress, but there’s no reason I can’t aim a little higher this time around. Missing out on Pro Tour Born of the Gods is going to put me on the back foot, but as long as the rest of my goals come to fruition, I should have a reasonable chance of getting there. Traveling farther distances for GPs should greatly help in this department.

2014 is shaping up to be a big year for Magic. With a lot of hard work, I know that I can make it a year to remember.