Saturday, 15 October 2011

Controlling Red inn Standard - One Game

By Wagz

Hi all, the new Standard is shaping up and I believe the format is fairly under-explored. When a ramp deck with Primeval Titan can take the format by surprise it's indicative that people aren't really thinking about it, since that style of deck was extremely constraining for the entirety of the last season. Although I'm happy to just play whatever the best deck is (or at least the best deck I have available to me, as with my Zoo forays in Legacy), regardless of deck archetype, I am often at my happiest playing Control. Mostly Aggro-Control, but pure Control is good too.

When building a control deck in an uncontrolled format, you have to account for all the possible avenues of attack. One of the fore-runners in aggressive decks is the Red Deck. An emergent deck in any format, since some people are just that way inclined, this plays aggressively-costed damage-dealing permanents and cheap, efficient burn spells. There is still some discussion on the optimal builds of current Red decks, but the important cards appear to be Stromkirk Noble, Stormblood Berserker, Shrine of Burning Rage, Brimstone Volley, and Koth of the Hammer. After that people are filling out their curves with an array of cards from Furnace Scamp to Volt Charge. Personally I think they're all fairly interchangeable so long as you have a good aggressive curve and match your own personal play style.

I have been playing on Cockatrice with Manaleak store owner Tu Nguyen a lot, mostly in control mirrors, but I occasionally throw other decks at him for the lols. This time around I played the role of the Red deck versus his Grixis control list. So here begins our one game:

My opening hand had no one drop, but it had two copies of the dreaded Shrine. Also, I was on the play so I could sneak one under a Mana Leak and then see what happened later on to resolve the second one. While this hand may not look really powerful, it has a plan and Tu doesn't know if my plan is Stromkirk Noble into Stormblood Berserker, or Goblin Arsonist into Shrine. This sort of dilemma is exactly why it's hard to build a control deck right now - if you want to be a deck with the right answers then you have to defend against creatures of all sizes and speeds, Artifacts, Planeswalkers, really all sorts.

I made my Shrine on turn 2 and had drawn a Koth and then a Grim Lavamancer. Although slightly fearful of a counter, I manned up and cast my second Shrine, which resolved alongside my Lavamancer to charge up the Shrines. At this point my plan was to merely cast my spells and get damage in where I could, but at some point I would be able to simply deal enough damage with the Shrines.

On my previous turn I had attacked for one, then got an Arc Trail Dissipated and landed a Spikeshot Elder. This turn I had drawn a third Shrine, but I didn't really need this one. I held up the mana to shoot Tu for one damage with my Elder because my Shrines were getting me to the point that a single damage really was giving Tu one less turn to draw out of things.

My Spikeshot got killed at the end of Tu's turn, but without drawing another Mountain I was content to attack with Lavamancer and pass the turn to keep mana open for my Shrines. This game really was all about them, and as we see:

Tu luckily draws the Geistflame in the last possible turn to kill both my Shrines and I'm forced to concede. I mentioned earlier the great draw of turn 1 Noble into turn 2 Berserker, and if we look at the cards Tu's drawn then he would have handily handled that curve (though I still have all these in my hand). Control decks really need to be able to answer a lot of different things right now if they want to stay reactive, which is why a lot of the decks that appear controlling (e.g. Solar Flare) are really quite proactive in what they're trying to achieve. It remains to be seen how people choose to make a true control deck in this format (if it is achievable and/or good) but my thoughts are heavily in favour of a draw-go style deck with a lot of Flashback going on since Snapcaster Mage really is the best creature in Standard (all the best creatures ever cost 2 it seems).

Monday, 3 October 2011

Dwarven Trader – Investing In Innistrad

By Dan Hiscutt

Greetings, and welcome to my first article on Magic finance. It’s geared mainly towards newer players, but hopefully everyone will find one or two of these tips useful.
I will be concentrating on buying cards for cash, rather than trading, as this is my forte. As long as you carry a smartphone or a printout of Starcity Games latest buy/sell list, trading should be simple and relatively hassle free.


The Magic year

Let’s kick things off with the yearly cycle of set releases :-

The “Big” Autumn set – this set – currently Innistrad, is drafted roughly a million times more than the others, Innistrad sealed is also the format for the coming PTQ season. There will be a lot of this set around for trade and purchase, keeping the prices reasonably low. Look at the price of Scars of Mirrodin cards now to see the kind of values Innistrad cards will eventually level out too.
Although there is not so much of a rush to pick up Innistrad cards compared to other sets in the block, there is still an opportunity to get yourself a pre-order bargain. Simply because people are slow to evaluate all the new mechanics and interactions at the start of a block, and often mis-price cards.

The middle set – “Dark Ascension”. This set will strengthen and add nuances to the themes in Innistrad, cards will generally be evaluated quickly, they will fall straight into existing decks and will be priced correctly much sooner. You will have to be quick to grab a bargain.

The last set – currently unknown name. Drafted the least, I highly recommend picking up any cards you need from this set as soon as you can, as the prices will only go up.

The core set – Wizards seem to use this set to experiment and plug gaps, as they (in theory) can pull a card from the next year’s core set if it becomes a problem. In practice they seem to keep popular (and/or financially expensive) cards in for two years, so they don’t anger players. See Baneslayer Angel and the Titan cycle. It will have a few key cards for standard, but plenty of junk rares and reprints too.

Trading tips

So then, in no particular order, here are some tips.
  • The day before the pre-release is the best time to pre-order cards (before anyone has a chance to actually play with them and re-evaluate). Buying as early as possible gives the most reward, but also the most risk! As a rule of thumb, ignore the 6-8 most expensive rares in the set, and also the 20-30 or so cheapest. Crap rares are evaluated quickly, and chase rares can be subject to irrational cardlust. I’d recommend picking up anything from the middle section that appeals to your tastes, if it also displays card advantage, appears undercosted, or has powerful synergy with the rest of the set.
  • Planeswalkers are risky, they usually drop in price after release, sometimes massively. Liliana 2.0 is proving me wrong so far though, she was $20 at one point!
  • About a month before a new set is released, just as the very first spoilers appear (typically the buy a box promo, pre release card or something to do with Duel of the Planeswalkers) take time to look back through previous sets in the block and the rest of standard. You would be surprised how many cards are forgotten about until an old block leaving standard re-invigorates them. Tips like this lead to £7 Elspeth Tirel’s and many other bargains.
  • Use Twitter. It will often give you a one day lead on the pack, and let you grab cards before some webstores adjust their prices. I bought my Splinter Twins for $1 each, a day later they were nearly $10. @mtgmedina, @thejrrr, @NextLevelSpec are worth following – but I recommend following all the pro players too, as they are more carefree with their tips (the speculators only go public after they have bought what they want). Last Thursday for example, I read a retweet from a webstore owner to Brian Kibler – mentioning that he saw Kiblers name on one of his invoices, buying up his entire stock of Daybreak Ranger. At this point the card was $0.79 on some stores. On Friday Kibler published his article on Starcity Games Premium regarding Daybreak Ranger, it’s now $3.99. Information and timing are important!
  • While eBay can be a bargain, think about how many transactions you make, ten different purchases from several different traders leads to an awful lot of postage charges. Sometimes it’s better to buy in bulk from a single webstore.
  • If you don’t draft much, consider buying a 4x common/uncommon playset rather than random boosters. This will set you back somewhere in the region of £24 plus postage on ebay, less for small and core sets. Almost every set has a “power uncommon” Kitchen Finks, Bloodbraid Elf, Path to Exile, Inquisition of Kozilek, Dismember and so on. The price of a 4x playset of these alone can often be in the region of £12-£15 at their peak of popularity.
  • Buy from America if you can. No, really. Prices are literally half of those over here.
  • It’s worth your time looking for a “mom & pop” Magic webstore who are slow to update their prices. When a junk rare becomes a pivotal piece of a new deck or strategy overnight (especially true of Modern and Legacy), you can grab them at the junk rare price if you are lucky. My current store for this is, although I’m sure they will tighten up their act eventually and I will have to find somewhere else - £6 Vesuva’s when everyone else raised them to £25+ , yes please!

Just to hammer home the point about buying from America, consider my Innistrad preorders:
CardTCG Warehouse 23/09/2011Magic Madhouse 23/09/2011Magic Madhouse 04/10/2011
Hinterland Harbor3.565.995.99
Isolated Chapel3.535.995.99
Sulfur Falls3.535.995.99
Woodland Cemetery3.535.995.49
Clifftop Retreat3.215.995.99
Heartless Summoning2.243.993.99
Mentor of the Meek2.244.993.99
Bloodline Keeper // Lord of Lineage1.993.994.99
Tree of Redemption1.764.993.99
Army of the Damned1.603.993.99
Champion of the Parish1.602.992.99
Stromkirk Noble1.602.494.99
Moorland Haunt1.442.992.99
Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha1.253.493.99
Stony Silence0.961.491.49
Kessig Wolf Run0.891.991.99
Cackling Counterpart0.832.491.99
Kruin Outlaw // Terror of Kruin Pass0.801.992.99
Gavony Township0.641.991.99
Nephalia Drownyard0.641.991.49
Unbreathing Horde0.642.491.99
Curse of Stalked Prey0.571.491.49
Stensia Bloodhall0.480.990.99
Falkenrath Marauders0.320.990.99
(All prices are in £)

TCG Warehouse was the American webstore I used this time round, with the comparison function on I mostly use to be honest, but they were undercut by many other traders on Innistrad. Magic Madhouse prices are given to show typical UK prices in comparison.
Most of the above is baseless speculation and hedging before a metagame develops, but really, at these prices there is little that can go wrong. Trading them on for profit if they fail to deliver is pretty easy. I seem to have lucked out on Stormkirk Noble in particular  Edit: it’s now a $10 card on American websites, ker-ching!

And lastly, trading magic cards is a gamble. Don’t risk what you can’t afford and never go into debt. Because for every one of these;
Or these;
Or even these;
There is almost always one of these!