Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #251 – Thankful

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Thursday, November 27th – This should go up on Thanksgiving, when (at least in my part of the world) we give thanks for our blessings. Since this is a Magic site, let’s look at the state of Magic right now. Anything to be thankful for there? I think so.

This should go up on Thanksgiving, when (at least in my part of the world) we give thanks for our blessings. Since this is a Magic site, let’s look at the state of Magic right now. Anything to be thankful for there?

I think so.

Wizards Listened, Part I:

Last year, when Wizards announced the loss of a Pro Tour (and the whole “acquisition” strategy), I looked at the trend in the number of Grand Prix tournaments over the last few years. At that point, the number had been dropping, but Wizards had not announced all of this year’s GPs. Now, Wizards has released the Grand Prix Schedule for 2009. Sweet. First of all, we have 19 GPs, which is up. GPs are one of the most accessible and popular large tournament formats, and it is great to see lots of them.

Second, I like the locations. I even like Minneapolis in November. It may be cold as hell then, and buried in a blizzard, but the burn players will keep us warm. Besides, Minneapolis in November beats no Minneapolis.

Third, Wizards has changed the cut. Previously, the cut was to Top 64 or 128, depending on attendance. Starting next year, in LA, anyone with a x-2 or better record will make Day 2. This is a huge improvement for players attempting to compete without byes, since byes always help your tiebreakers, and players with an x-2 record earned without byes always lost on tiebreakers to a player with an x-2 record if that player had byes.

MTGO Fixes and Improvements

I just saw the build notes for the MTGO upgrade for 11/25/08. It includes a bit more than just introducing the Jace vs. Chandra set — and a new format for playing the Jace, Chandra, Elves or Goblins special precons. The update also includes a couple dozen fixes for a whole bunch of old bugs. A few of those have cost me matches — for instance, I have been playing Tooth and Nail in a Mono-Green 100 card Singleton deck. Tooth was bugged.

The nice part is that Wizards has gotten around to fixing these minor bugs. Tooth and Nail is not Tier 1 in any format any more, and the fact that discarding a split card to One With Nothing could hang the game probably had very little impact on any game anywhere — but it s nice to see that Wizards has gotten down to this level.

This follows a number of upgrades and improvements. At PT: Berlin, I listened to Wizards people proudly showing off the look and feel improvements to the interface. True, it was mainly a new skin, since it will take a ton more work to fix the structural problems, but it was a good sign — both that they had made some changes, and that they wanted to show the world the fact that they were working on them. Sure, there is a lot left to do, but Wizards is doing it. That’s a change for the past, and one I’m thankful for.

The Format is Just Fine, Part I:

I have been playing for a decade, and I have played through a number of the bad times. I remember the narrow formats and the dominant decks. I’m thankful that the current Standard metagame is pretty diverse.

Really, it is.

By now, most of you have probably seen the various articles breaking down the Top 8s from States across the country (e.g. States in a Nutshell.) Last week, I talked about a Game in the Gulf Cruise Qualifier, and featured BK’s deck. So did a lot of other writers. Since that time, we have had a number of tournaments online. Let’s look at how those Top 8s break down. (The OLS QEs are qualifiers for an Onslaught / Legions / Scourge sealed event.)

Standard: 11/12/08: Demigod Red x 2, Faeries x 3, Furystokens, RWB Reveillark.

OLS QE: 11/13/08: Kithkin, Furystokens, Cruel Control x 3, Faeries x 2, Mannequin.

Standard: 11/13/08: Kithkin x 2, Faeries x 2, Cruel Control, Elves, Demigod Red x 2.

OLS QE: 11/14/08: RW Reveillark, Kithkin, Merfolk, Demigod Red x 3, Faerie Control, Kithkin.

OLS QE: 11/14/08: Faeries x 4, Demigod Red, Quillspike, Kithkin, Divinity of Pride.

OLS QE: 11/15/08: Faeries x 2, Demigod Red x 2, Mannequin Control, GB Elves, Merfolk, Kithkin.

Standard: 11/15/08: Faeries x 2, Demigod Red x 1, Elves, Planeswalkers, Realm Razer, Furystoken, RW Beats

Standard: 11/15/08: Realm Razer, Faeries x 3, GB Elves, Demigod Red, Anthem Tokens, Kithkin.

OLS QE: 11/16/08: Merfolk, Painter’s Servant Reveillark, Jund Ramp, Faeries x 2, Demigod Red x 2, Faeries Control.

OLS QE: 11/16/08: Elves, Jund Ramp, Demigod Red x 3, GB Elves, Faeries, RW Reveillark.

OLS QE: 11/17/08: Demigod Red x 2, GB Elves, Furystokens, Faerie Control, Kithkin, Faeries, Blightning.

The format is reasonably wide. It has a few strong decks, which we all know, but other decks are playable and can win. I have been playing in the tournament practice room with my random fun decks, and I am seeing a huge variety of decks. I have played for hours without seeing an archetype twice. That’s pretty good.

Sure beats the Affinity / Tooth metagame.

MTGO Usage is Up:

Algona tracks MTGO usage and posts the results in the Wizards forums. His analysis is limited by his stunted access to core data, and limited sample player counts, but he has a pretty good data set going. Recently, the number of drafts, PES and Constructed 8 man and 4 man events firing have all been up over past periods — and even over the numbers before v3.0.

At the same time, the price of Constructed cards is rising, despite the continuing lack of redemption. That indicates that the number of players looking for Constructed cards is rising faster than drafts can add cards to the pool. That is also a good sign.

We will see whether the servers can handle it, but it looks good.

Wizards Listened, Part II:

As many of you will have heard, the prereleases were a mixed bag. On the plus side, far more players played at these prereleases than every before. Overall, numbers were up. That’s a success.

Those of us that used to attend the big releases — the giant rooms full of players getting a first crack at the cards — we missed that experience, and were not happy about the change. We complained.

Wizards listened. Wizards will try to strike a balance: little prereleases everywhere, so the players who don’t like to travel have a local event, and big events scattered around the world. It seems like a reasonable compromise. It’s not going to be ideal for everyone (ideal for me would be a big prerelease in my barn, so I wouldn’t have to travel and Wizards could pay me rent in cards), but it should work.

More great news: drafts will be back. And more: the prerelease and release events will have different foils. Finally, prize support will get better. I know that the prize support was equalized across the world, but in my particular area, we used to get more. That makes it feel like an entitlement, but I’ll settle for a bit more than we got last time. And I’ll be thankful for that.

The Format is Fine, Part II

The Extended format also seems to be shaping up well. After Elves had an insane showing at PT: Berlin, I doubted that would be the case, but it now appears that Elves are not unstoppable. I actually have a couple of complete Extended decks online, and have been playing competitively. Elves is common, but by no means everywhere, nor is it unstoppable.

More significantly, MTGO held an Extended OLS QE on November 15, 2008. It didn’t look much like the Top 8 in Berlin. The winner played a RWG Zoo deck. Second place was Dark Zoo. Third place was a Blue Control Faeries deck. Fourth & Sixth were more RGW Zoo decks, while Fifth was a Mono-Red Burn deck. Affinity ended up in Seventh, while Eighth place was yet another Dark Zoo deck. Elves did not make the Top 8. Neither did Tezzerator.

We’ll see what Worlds brings, but maybe we won’t see bannings in January.

Rules Enforcement on MTGO:

I often gripe because I don’t have all the cards I want on MTGO. On the other hand, I am so thankful that MTGO actually enforces the rules. I have played on those other online “Magic” programs, but I have pretty much stopped. I may be a judge, but I don’t actually like arguing about the rules. I especially hate people getting the rules wrong, then insulting me and yelling about it.

Sure, sometimes it is fun to remember when we thought Dark Ritual was the best card ever, because you played it turn 1, then — once it was over its summoning sickness — you could tap it for BBB every turn. I also remember trying to explain that you had to tap Library of Alexandria when you drew a card, not just when you wanted mana. Etc.

Riki Hayasi chronicled all the weird rules questions he got at California States. That’s cool — and answering questions like that is a lot of the fun of judging. A lot of what makes it fun, however, is that players recognize the role of a judge. Player versus player on one of those other programs is completely different, and not fun. I have no desire to explain change of control and summoning sickness to my opponent one more time. I’m very thankful that the rules engine on MTGO means I don’t have to.

The Community, Part I:

First off, I am thankful for the efforts of a lot of tournament organizers over the last few months. When Wizards shifted their emphasis towards acquisition, and away from organized play, it was the TOs that stepped in. A lot of large events exist solely because of the actions and effort of the TOs.

States is simply the biggest example. Wizards cut States. Glenn Goddard organized the TOs nationwide, and they recreated States — and States was a huge success.

TO action dates back long before the resurrection of States, however. Pete Hoefling and StarCity Games took action last year, and created big non-Wizards events, with the various SCG $5ks. These were, in effect, private Grand Prix, and they have been very popular. Other TOs may have had similar events, but the $5ks were the first independent events I have seen to create a nationwide draw.

Most recently, Steve Port and Lindsey Kary over at Legion Events have created the Game in the Gulf Cruise outing. This will be a fantastic event, mixing a vacation, a ton of Magic and a release event. It will even have a PTQ — and one with a fairly limited number of participants, so your chances of qualifying could well be higher on the Cruise than elsewhere. (Hopefully Patrick Chapin, who will be on the cruise, won’t play in the PTQ. Other celebrities, like Mike Turian or Wizard R&D, won’t be eligible.)

Whatever, it will be fun, and it is really great to see the TOs stepping up to create these types of events.

It is also nice to see the community stepping forward. The numbers of Magic writers, podcasters and video artists is higher — and the overall quality better — than I can remember in the past. Assistance is readily available in the forums, and the community has stepped forward to write FAQs and even solve problems on MTGO. The community-led “skin your dreams” project, and the community actions to fix art errors online, have both been very successful. I’m thankful that the number of decent human beings is actually higher than the number of forum trolls online. I never expected to see that.

Online Promo Cards:

I heard about this, and now I have been able to check. Wizards is bringing most of the past DCI, FNM and some judge foils online. By setting the number owned to zero and clicking on the promo tab in my collection, I can see textless Mutavaults, Cryptic Commands, and Vindicates. I have no idea what we will have to do to get them, but just the fact that Wizards is doing some sort of player rewards is highly gratifying.

The Format is Just Fine, Part III:

Okay, Shards block is not yet shaping up just fine. It appears to be dominated by just two Shards, which pound on the others. That would be a problem, except that the format is only played online by a few enthusiasts. It won’t be a seriously played format until after the next expansion is released. I can live with a problem format for a while, provided I don’t have to play it at a PT or PTQ until after it evolves.

NIX TIX Drafts:

One final thing to be grateful for: Wizards is bringing back free (NIX TIX) drafts over the holiday weekend. Sweet. If you are a marginal drafter, you should definitely take advantage of this opportunity. If you are a good drafter, on the other hand, avoid this. You don’t want to have to draft against nOObs all day (and I don’t want to have to play against you).



“one million words” on MTGO