Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #297 – The Online Community Challenge Stunner

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Thursday, October 15th – A week or so ago, I got an email from Wizards PR, asking me if I wanted to participate in a “Community Challenge” event at Wizards HQ. I was invited “as a member of our press community to come out and participate.” No details, so I assumed it was some sort of community outreach / PR meeting. I figured it was a chance to hear some announcements, get some article ideas, and maybe a shirt. I was wrong.

A week or so ago, I got an email from Wizards PR, asking me if I wanted to participate in a “Community Challenge” event at Wizards HQ. I was invited “as a member of our press community to come out and participate.” No details, so I assumed it was some sort of community outreach / PR meeting. I figured it was a chance to hear some announcements, get some article ideas, and maybe a shirt. I was wrong.

The first inkling that the event might be more was when I was trying to arrange a flight. I needed to work on Wednesday, and really needed to be back on Saturday, so I asked about flying home Friday. The email response was interesting: “no problem coming out on Wed. evening — game play would take place on Thursday and Friday.”

“Game play.” It wasn’t some going to be some PR event to drum up support for a new local community building event, which was my first thought. Game play means Magic — which, I guessed, meant some new format or something. Cooler than a meet and greet or PR lecture.

The reality is way cooler than that.

Full details are here. The short version:

Eight members of the Magic Online community — four writers and four volunteer community leaders — are flying to Renton to face eight Wizards folks in a two day tournament.





It’s been almost 24 hours now since I heard details, and I’m still stunned.

It’s WotC versus the faces of the online community!

Us verses real WotC, playing Magic!

Stunned — I barely coherent.

Here’s the team (a.k.a. the folks that will carry me to victory):

Gaming and/or Magic Online Press
John Baichtal — WIRED GeekDad
Sam McCarl – writer for Gaming Angels
Hamtastic – writer for Pure MTGO and MTGO Community VCL
One million words (me) – writer for Star City Games and Pure MTGO

Magic Online Community leaders
Bubba0077 — Wizards of the Coast MTGO Community VCL
Dangerlinto — founder of www.classicquarter.com
SpikeBoyM — Pauper and PDC community leader
Tweaker — founder of www.mymtgo.com

We don’t know who will be on the other team. We do know that they are Wizards employees, and are described as “the creators.” I sort of suspect that does not mean WotC will be pulling temps from the mail room and warehouse.

I feel a bit intimidated. I almost beat Aaron Forsythe in round 4 of PT: Detroit, which was Invasion Block Sealed. Had I drawn just one Swamp to Terminate his dude… but I didn’t. That is also as close as I have ever come to beating any of the WotC folks.

On the other hand, we will be getting some help. The WotC forums have a thread about this event. Here. This will be especially useful, since we have some interesting formats to play.

The Formats

The first Limited format is pretty straightforward: Zendikar draft. I haven’t actually had time to do any yet, but that will change. My goal is to draft after hours at PT: Austin. And after I return.

The other Limited format is Invasion block. It has been a long time since I drafted Invasion block. I’m hoping someone remembers, and is willing to give some advice. Better yet — if anyone wrote primers or analysis, back in the day — give us some links.

I have seven draft sets of Invasion block squirreled away. I need to get another set, then find some good drafters. Of course, this is Madison, so that won’t be a huge problem. I may also be able to draft Invasion online, with the other team members. WotC has given us special accounts, with four of everything, hopefully including some draft packs. If not, maybe we can beg for some.

I have been able to get in a few online drafts recently — mainly MEDIII and M10. My rating hovers around 1700. That has got to have the WotC crew shaking in their boots.

The constructed formats are more interesting. We will be playing Standard and Classic Singleton. That sounds easy — but it’s not. It’s Unified Standard and Unified Singleton. Here are the format rules.

* For the Classic Singleton Unified Constructed tournament, each team must create eight (8) 100-card Singleton decks with 15-card sideboards (one for each player) using a card pool that only contains one (1) of each Classic-legal card available on Magic Online.

**For the Standard Unified Constructed tournament, each team must create eight (8) 60-card decks with 15-card sideboards (one for each player) using a card pool that only contains four (4) of each Standard-legal card available on Magic Online.

That does make things a bit more interesting.

Zendikar will be online when this occurs, so Standard will be Alara block, M10, and Zendikar. There are enough cards in the format to make 8 decks, but the decks are going to fight over the good ones.

The tricky part will probably be the mana. If we play even a couple landfall decks, they will eat all the fetchlands and the good mana fixing, like Harrow. Five fetchlands in Zendikar, plus the new Coastal Towers, plus the Alara lands and Terramorphic Expanse. That’s great for one deck, but not for eight.

My first thought on assessing the format was to look at the Top 8 decks from the StarCityGames.com $5000 Standard Open in Philadelphia. Cool — but we can’t all play Jund! Jund placed first, fourth, fifth, sixth, and eighth at that event. Someone should probably play it, but not everyone.

A few cards are critical to that deck, but won’t be played anywhere else. Broodmate Dragon is a fine example — the deck can have it. The ones that are of more concern, though, are probably the lands and the utility cards. The deck wants 7 of the available 20 M10 duals — 4 Rootbound Crags and 3 Dragonskull Summits. It also wants the GB fetches. That’s a good chunk of the manabase, considering that we need to make eight decks.

Of course, we do have other lands. We could replace some of the duals and fetches with a small number of the Zendikar enters-the-battlefield-tapped-but-you-gain-a-life lands, and a Ruptured Spire or two. It would slow the deck down, but the other side will face the same problems. It won’t be possible to build eight, or even four, really fast decks.

The second place deck was “Boros Bushwhacker” — a RW weenie beatdown with burn deck. It is also a fast deck. It has some landfall cards — so Boros Bushwhacker plays 12 of the available 20 fetchlands, and a playset of Teetering Peaks. Once again — all eight decks can’t do that.

Like Jund, the creatures in Boros Bushwhacker are not really in demand (except maybe for Ranger of Eos.) The problem is the utility cards. The Jund decks play Lightning Bolt. So does BB, and the others. Seven of the eight decks played Lightning Bolt. The one that did not was Vampires — but even Vampires fights with Jund for some cards, like Duress out of the sideboard.

Three decks from the Top 10 or so look interesting, from the perspective of UNIFIED Standard. I’ve mentioned Vampires. The third place deck was Mono Red — and mono-colored decks seem good, since they won’t fight for fetches as much. Another option is Mono White Control, which placed tenth. The Vampire and Mono-Red decks all use fetchlands for mana thinning, but that is not critically necessary if the unified format is slower than regular Standard.

I got the email with the formats late yesterday, and I spent most of those intervening hours asleep or at work, so I haven’t put in a lot of effort on this, yet. I also haven’t discussed this with the others, but I do have a first draft. Here’s where I would start my building.

Jund: It is really good. It can still be just fine with a minor reduction in the mana and sharing some burn. The lands can be part enters-the-battlefield-tapped, or we can play Jund Panorama.

Mono-White Control: It may have to share O-Rings, Paths, and Baneslayer Angels, but otherwise this deck is not too greedy.

Red Deck Wins: This deck should work with fewer fetches. It might also be worth considering Punishing Fire, the new Shock that returns to hand when an opponent gains life. We may end up playing against a lot of lands that gain 1 life when played.

Vampires: I haven’t played it much, but this seems like a solid aggro deck that does not need much from other decks.

UW Control: I’m not sure, but this seems strong. It will fight with mono-white for Day of Judgment and the like, but I can’t imagine that we can’t get a UW Control deck to work in the format.

GWx Cascade: I loved my GWBur cascade deck. Pretty much the entire manabase for that deck is gone, but we can rebuild it. We have the technology. (Of course, the concept might be as dated as that reference to the 70’s TV show.)

UB Mill: This seems marginal, but imagine Kathari Remnant cascading into Tome Scour or Mind Funeral. Now imagine Haunting Echoes. Not necessarily good, but it won’t fight for cards. Testing will be required.

Green beats: Again, I’m not sure there is a deck here, but we are not using a lot of the Green creatures. Zendikar has some amazing fat, and Shroud tricks. It would be fun to play, and would be a fine deck to give to some of our team that has not played much constructed.

I can think of a number of other options. For example, the Time Sieve combo deck is still around, although it lost some draw spells. It has lost some speed, but this format should be slower. TurboFog is still possible, depending on what cards the decks are fighting over. Maybe.

I’ll work more later.

We can also use community help. Over at the mothership forums, we have a thread for Online Community Challenge strategy. It exists to let the community help us out. The WotC team have promised not to read it, and — if we win — anyone posting in the forum gets loot. Check it out.

100 Card Unified Singleton

The unified rules for Singleton are even harsher — one copy of any given card across all decklists. Even with the classic format, that could be harsh.

I pulled the decklists from the last Singleton PE, and did some analysis. That Top 8 had two copies of the Goblin deck, but the other decks varied. Nonetheless, a lot of cards appeared in multiple decks.

The first concern would be duals and fetches. We have 10 fetches, plus the Mirage block versions (e.g. Rocky Tar Pit.) We can play the 10 original duals, plus the Ravnica duals, plus all the two-colored painlands, random other two-colored lands, City of Brass variants and so forth. That seems like a lot, until you divide by eight decks. The PE winning deck — pre-Zendikar — played all five available fetches and seven duals. In a three-color deck.

The non-land cards will also be tight. I’ll ignore the duplicates between Goblin decks, but even so a lot of cards ended up in a lot of decks. For example:

Arc Slogger — 5 decks
Boggart Ram Gang — 5 decks
Dwarven Blastminer and Dwarven Miner — 4 each
Eternal Witness — 6 decks
Flametongue Kavu — 5 decks
Krosan Grip — 5 decks
Kitchen Finks — 6 decks
Lightning Bolt — 5 decks
Mishra’s Factory — 5 decks
Primal Command — 5 decks
Tarmogoyf — 7 decks
Treetop Village — 5 decks
Wasteland — all 8 decks

The last two are lands, but they were not played for thier mana fixing.

I don’t even have ideas for the unified Singleton decks, yet. I have cool concepts — things like Tooth and Nail into Painter’s Servant and Iona, Shield of Emeria — but that would probably be a good stuff deck, and I don’t know how many of those we would be able to field. Worse yet, if we put too much of the good stuff into that deck, I don’t know what else we could play.

Still, it’s early days.

I’m off to Austin shortly. I have a ton of stuff to do before I can leave, so I have to wrap it up here.

Help us out in the forums, both here and at the mothership.


“one million words” on MTGO