Welcome to this special Jubilee edition of my column, here on StarCityGames.com. For those of you that haven’t been keeping count, this is the 25th edition of the column that is made by both you, the reader, and myself, making this milestone our achievement. When I started, the naysayers commented that I wouldn’t make it past four editions…
We proved them wrong, didn’t we!
At the same time, this article is a day late, and for that I would like to apologize. I have been sick the last couple of days, and I felt like I wouldn’t do your questions (or myself) justice by answering them in the state I was in. I feel much better right now, so I am ready to go. Next week I’ll be back on Wednesday, as always. Please keep feeding me with questions, as we are starting to run low again: the address, as always, is [email protected].
This week’s first questions are by Michael Baker:
I’ve noticed, in a lot of Standard decklists recently, that a lot of people are playing Snow basic lands instead of regular basics, and they’re doing it in situations where there’s no direct advantage in doing so: no Scrying Sheets, no Skred, no snow activations of any kind. Why is this? Is there a specific card out there that they’re building around, or is it for misdirection, or what?
My other question isn’t about Standard per se, but you seem like the right person to ask. How do you pronounce Julien Nuijten last name? My guess is that it’s similar to “Newton,” but I don’t speak a single word of Dutch.
Hello Michael, and thanks for writing.
People tend to play Snow lands without gain for a couple of reasons, some of which are:
Playing Snow lands really doesn’t bring any disadvantages with it, as there are no real cards to hose the snow strategy that are seeing play. This means that they are exactly the same as basic lands, with the exception that when you play them you get people guessing as to why they are there. If only one in twenty opponents starts playing around Skred thanks to a first turn Snow-Covered Mountain, you have reached your goal.
Last Minute Changes
I know that at Japanese Nationals this year one Top 8 competitor (at least) had Snow-Covered lands in his deck because he had planned to play Phyrexian Ironfoot in his sideboard. These were pulled at the last moment, but he kept the Snow-Covered lands anyway, due to time constraints.
They Have the Same Picture
People like to have a pretty deck, and they like to have the same pictures of lands for that reason. There’s also the fact that players don’t want to give away information (for example: when you search for a land to put in you hand with a card like Civic Wayfinder, and then have to keep track of which lands you played with which picture, etc). Snow-Covered lands are an easy foil to this problem, since they all have the same picture. It doesn’t matter that much in real life, but on MTGO it’s hard to get the regular lands in you collection “synched up” in this fashion.
If you have some kind of Control Magic-like effect in your deck, like Dream Leash or Confiscate, you can play Snow-Covered lands just in case you have to steal a Phyrexian Ironfoot (or similar).
Basically, running Snow-Covered lands doesn’t hurt you, and it does have minor advantages sometimes. So why not?
As for Julien’s name, it is one of the most mispronounced names around, and that has to do with the Dutch language more than anything else. The “uij” part of his name looks like three letters that would make a “ew” sound, but in reality they combine to only make a single sound, which is something like the “uy” sound in the word Buy.
This means that his name is pronounced like: Julien N-uy-ten. A lot less difficult than people think when they see it.
To remind everyone, my name is pronounced Juh-Roon Ruh-me.
Next up, a question by Brandon Todesca:
I was wondering if you had any tips for avoiding tournament fatigue. I’ve played in a number of tournaments in the past, and my performance drops considerably around the ten-hour mark. For example, I did fairly well at Legacy Worlds, but essentially threw my match away in the semis as I began playing Goblin Ringleaders like Court Hussars and not calculating damage correctly. I was wondering if you get bogged down by tournament burn-out, and if so, if you have any strategies that help you avoid playing like crap in the later rounds. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
Hey Brandon. I’m not gonna lie, the same thing has happened to me on many an occasion. This especially happens at GPs, where the days are long, as is the waiting, and there aren’t many obvious breaks. The way I see it, the standard rules are the best at preventing fatigue:
- Get lots of sleep before the tournament. Sure, you hear a lot of people doing great on no sleep at all… but seriously? That is bogus.
- Wake up in time, so you will have shaken the sleep before the first round.
- Don’t drink a couple of days before tourneys. The alcohol will remain in your system for a few days, and it will weaken you.
- Make sure you eat and drink a lot during the day itself. Make sure that after every round, you get something to drink, and eat at least a couple of times a day – it keeps you on your feet.
- Avoid sugar. While sugar can pick you up very easily, it also crashes you down as soon as you stop taking it, meaning you will play great after a can of coke, but the next round you’ll already start feeling worse.
- Meditate. Nah, that was just a joke. Just try and stay focused on what you are there to do, and try not to get distracted by bringing the girlfriend along or something. I don’t think anyone has ever done well when they’ve had their girlfriend at an event.
The next question came to me by way of Phillip Parish:
I am having trouble determining the best strategies for each color combination in Time Spiral draft. Which color combinations are better for a control style deck and which are better for the aggro style, and at what point in the draft would you decided to focus your deck on way or the other?
The way a deck goes usually depends on which cards you are adding to your stack with every pick. For instance, your B/R deck can be very aggressive, with lots of Bears and early drops with removal to back them up, or can be very controllish if you have a bunch of card advantage spells like Strangling Soot, Candles of Leng, or stuff like that. Basically, I try to focus as early as possible during a draft as to what strategy I want to be taking, but most of the time I am also able to switch as soon as I pick up plenty of cards that lead me in the other direction. That is why cards like Strangling Soot and Pit Keeper are so good in B/R decks – they tend to fill multiple roles.
Note that the fact if you are a beatdown or control deck can also change during a match, where your opponent forces you to adapt into a certain role. You can be an aggressive B/R deck, with lots of two-mana 2/1s, but when you are playing against the more aggressive White Weenie deck, you will have to stay alive until you gain the opportunity to begin to kill them, as they tend to be faster at killing you. For insight into the role of attacking, I recommend reading Mike Flores great article “Who’s the Beatdown.”
Of course, decks still tend to have a basic strategy, and I’ll list what each color pairing is best at in this format, and what color pairings can play both ways.
Aggro. They don’t have the card advantage to make you want to go long.
Both ways. Tempo and little guys means aggro, but Blue also offers great card advantage and flyers for the late game.
The worst combination in the format, this really doesn’t do much of either.
Aggro. Cheap, fast, efficient guys, and solid burn to end the game fast.
Just take a look at the PT: Kobe Top 8 to see this thrives as an Aggro deck. It can also sometimes be more controlling, but it doesn’t really have the removal for that and needs a splash in that case.
Both ways, but both very poorly. Also not a great combination. Penumbra Spiders help a lot.
Both ways, both very well. It has the tempo cards, the card advantage cards, and simply the best cards as well.
Both sides as well, as I explained earlier.
Control. This is basically a madness deck, which leans on controlling the board.
As you can see, most of the time, you will have to lean towards aggro in this format. That’s why it is so fast.
It’s Garfield Lee with the next question…
I am finding Triple Time Spiral drafting very difficult.
By the end of Ravnica I was winning most of my drafts with a consistent strategy. I knew I would be Izzet in pack 2, so I would pick the best Red and Blue cards in Pack 1, filling in preferably with Green or sometimes Black depending on what cards showed up. If there was no good Blue or Red in pack 1, I knew I would get awesome Izzet cards, so I was patient and waited. My draft decks were often 50 to 60% cards from pack 2. Sometimes I only had three or four playables from pack 1, but it worked, and I could hold the faith, while everyone else jumped into White and Black and had to pass all the awesome Izzet cards.
In Triple Time Spiral I am directionless, jumping from game plan to game plan, and then not ready when the good cards I wanted come later. I find there is so much power and depth that just picking the best card is hard (there are often five great cards), and the quality of the deck is more about how it all fits together. Also I always end up with extra playables, so maybe I should stay more open after pack 1 having faith that my cards will come later. It is almost like Coldsnap that there are enough playables so you can afford to throw some picks away gambling on getting an archetype.
You say never draft Black. Why is that? I always get sucked into the juicy removal it offers. But it does not seem to be working for me.
What you seem to struggle with is what everyone goes through when a new block comes around. You don’t know what works and what doesn’t, and that is why you jump around and panic. My advice to you is this…
As you said, there are so many playables, missing a couple because you want to stay on track doesn’t really matter. You will end up with enough playables anyway.
As I said before in an earlier article, I like to stay open during pack 1, and pick what I feel are the best cards out of each booster so I can see what is open. I move in once I know what to do. You didn’t care that you only had four playables after pack 1 in Ravnica, and you shouldn’t really worry this time around either. Just be sure you’re in the right colors.
My ideas are: Keep drafting, stick with it, and eventually you will know what to do in which situation, and how to see what cards are good in which combinations. Reading a lot, especially stuff like Rich Hoaen Drafting With Rich articles, or the stuff I write here every week, will help you.
As for Black… Black, Black, Black. It is the worst color in the format for Limited, and it shows in the creature department. None of the creatures are really good, and all are at least in some way just worse than similar offerings in other colors. Even the removal isn’t that good, as Tendrils wants you to go heavy Black, Assassinate is bad on the attack, and Dark Withering is heavily overrated as it is much worse without a Madness outlet. We really only have Strangling Soot as an actual “good card.” All that combined, plus what I have been saying in many articles past, means I just don’t think Black is worth it.
Finally, I got a weird email from a guy called Doctor Mox…
I’m a Magic player and writer of some renown. Sadly, that renown doesn’t hold water in today’s forward-thinking modern climate. Indeed, whenever I tell folk I’m adept at Magic, they ask me to “do a trick for them.” Believe me, that meant something a LOT different in my youth… and all I can muster nowadays is the vaguely threatening reply “ask me that again, and I’ll make your teeth disappear.”
Still, to business.
I am a man of hearty appetites. However, of late my Swiss ladyfriend Jetta refuses my ham-fisted attempts at seduction, preferring the company of her growing collection of cacti. This seems rather strange to me, especially as she’s forever complaining about “being sick to death of little pricks,” but I digress. At least botany takes her mind off her fast-approaching court appearance (she’s only got herself to blame, of course – whenever she spies a prankster in a clown suit, the red mist will descend…).
You look like a ladies man, and the flirtatious nature of the Dutch is stuff of legend. I am attempting to gain re-entry into my Swiss ladyfriend’s boudoir… can you suggest a song or a piece of music that will augment my seductive prowess?
You think you have it bad? Try playing your game somewhere public! People wander up to you ask you to predict their future. Sure, there is a skull on my card right here, but that doesn’t make it the “Death” card, now does it…?
While I do appear to be a ladies many to many a fellow, it is hard to transfer such prowess with the female form across to other people that do not share the sheer powers of seduction with which I was blessed. The “being Dutch” thing has something to do with it of course, as the scented musk of “elsewhere forbidden” contrabands make our targets weak at the knees (or high —I’m not sure which). I also blame it on the fact that I exude the powerful combination of physical strength yet cuddliness, which seems to be irresistible to most womenfolk (yeah, I wish… lol).
As for music… Ah, music! I have a secret seductive iPod filled with tracks that will get you not only to the boudoir, but they will also grant you the key to the back door. Yes sir, the back door.
My first suggestion would be Air Supply. These geniuses of “love music” make anyone swoon with desire, and their epic called “All Out of Love” is pure magic.
After that, try the Dutch poet Andre Hazes. If you do not know him, I suggest you try and find his legendary song called “Zij gelooft in mij” on the Internet somewhere, as it is a guaranteed success.
To finish it all off, go with the magic of Kanye West, and his Slow Jams. If that song doesn’t get you there, buddy… nothing will.
Of course, the real work is still up to you. This is no free ride to success. Get in the game!
On that note, we close shop for the day. I hope you enjoyed our 25th episode, and I would love to make 25 more. Keep those questions coming to [email protected].
PS: The Pro Player card is the actual babe magnet, obv.
PPS: Yeah, I wish…