Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Changing it Up

By Norman Ralph

Weeks 3 and 4 of my FNM story have shown me how difficult a challenge this is going to be. Having missed a week to play Modern at FNM in order to prepare for a couple of big modern events in Chesterfield and Manchester, I went back to the standard tournament at Travelling Man with high hopes of another top 4 finish and another profitable evening. I went 1-3 and cam second last. I should have gone 3-1 and come in the top 4 but I punted a game where I had the win in hand and discarded a mountain to Faithless Looting when I should have pitched the Island that I kept. In the other game I lost that I should have won I just screwed my maths up and ended up being a spell short on the killer blow. Though the maths was made complicated with an on line Trading Post there was really no excuse.

I am not going to go into a long tournament report for week 3 as most of the decks and match ups are ones I've spoken about before and my own deck's weaknesses and strengths haven't changed. I still would really want a set of Boros Reckoners or Geists of Saint Traft in the sideboard to beat a control deck and I am still really wanting to upgrade some of the Guildgates into other lands, but with rotation so close I don't think either is a good plan just yet.

Speaking of rotation, week 4 saw me change tactic and eschew the standard event for an M14 booster draft. The main reason for this change was the fact that I need cards in my pool for post rotation and also some trade/sale fodder to fix my deck when Theros hits at the end of September. With a steep entry cost compared to prize credit (£11.50 in and max £10 credit) it was a risky manoeuvre but essential if I want to take FNM Hero into the new set.

My gamble paid off as I drafted a very solid UW deck with 2 Scroll Thieves, a couple of Air Servants and Divinations, 4 Celestial Flare and 2 Pacifism. The big win for the draft was a foil Archangel of Thune. Not only is it a high value card in terms of money, but also won me the game every time it resolved.

This was my final 40:

1 Archangel of Thune
2 Scroll Thief
2 Master of Diversion
2 Griffin Sentinel
2 Charging Griffin
2 Air Servant
1 Wall of Swords
1 Trained Condor

3 Celestial Flare
2 Divination
2 Pacifism
1 Cancel
1 Disperse
1 Claustrophobia

8 Islands
9 Plains

Unsurprisingly I went 3-0 and came top.

Entry: £11.50
Prizes: £10 + Dimir Charm FNM Promo

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Playing to your (meta) Strengths

By Norman Ralph

Week 2 of my FNM Hero series was a roller coaster ride. I again ended up going 2-2 but this time without the help of a bye and yet still managing to come fourth in the Swiss, meaning I made my first ever FNM Hero profit!

My sideboard is still causing me headaches and removal heavy decks are still trouncing me in every match up, but against mid range and aggressive decks that are light on removal I have the edge pre-board and on the play, so winning 2-1 is my usual course.

One of the biggest lessons I have learnt so far in FNM Hero is that I really should have considered the local meta when deciding on my deck. My main deck Pillar of Flames are the cards I take out most often, along with my Guttersnipes. Pillar comes out as we have a Voice of Resurgence light meta (although Strangleroot Geist appears in a couple of local decks) and getting red on turn 1 to kill the mana elves is awkward the majority of the time. Making the decision between turn 1/2 Pillar of Flame and Thought Scour/Izzet Charm/Faithless Looting is also a really tough one against a lot of match ups. I wonder whether this would be better as an Unsummon or similar. or even a set of Mizzium Skin across the main deck and board. I am always disappointed to draw a Guttersnipe as I feel that if the game goes long enough where the damage from Guttersnipe is relevant, then I have already lost. In an ideal world, I would swap these out for Geists of Saint Traft, but seeing as I have £20 to play with, I doubt that I could manage that, even if I got super lucky on eBay. The other priority is the mana base. The Guildgates are great and help fix the mana better than basic lands, but after turns 1 or 2 I usually prefer to throw them away to a Faithless Looting than a basic. Ensuring a more stable access to white to allow me to play cards like Nevermore or Blind Obedience is something that I am considering too.

R1: UG Tempo, won 2-0
R2: Jund, lost 2-0
R3: Bulletproof Eggs, lost 2-1
R4: RG Aggro, won 2-0

Round 1
I was playing a brand new player and it was barely a contest. In game 1, I won with Young Pyromancer and Elemental Token beat down. Game 2 saw me combo off turn 5. In neither game did my opponent play a threat. 

Round 2
This was the match up I had been fearing since I picked this deck. The combination of efficient threats and excellent removal package is tough for me to fight through. In game 1 I was in with a shout, despite multiple Huntsmasters of the Fells, until he found a Mizzium Mortars with enough red up to overload it. I had the combo in hand to win the next turn. With a flipped Huntmaster on the table and no bodies in my hand I scooped in my draw step on hitting a blank and being dead on board. Game 2 was not as close, my opponent kept the nut draw for Jund and won at a canter.

Round 3
This was a match up that I wasn't expecting in our local meta, but the Bulletproof Eggs deck should be a good match up for me as I actually benefit from having Electrickery in the sideboard and being a turn faster to win. This was borne out in game 1 where I won the race comfortably. After sideboarding in Electrickery's and Wear // Tear I was confidant of game 2. I was even more confidant when my opponent then mulliganed to 5 on the play. Unfortunately, the 5 he kept was 3 land, hexproof 1 drop and Unflinching Courage. The lifegain was just too much for me to race and I drew my Electrickery turn 3, a whole turn too late. Game 3 was just a horrible draw for me and I lost the race after flooding out.

Round 4
My favourite match up, RG Aggro. I won quite comfortably in 2 games after my opponent kept a 1 lander in his 6 cards after a mulligan in game 1 and then he drew no red mana in game 2.

Cost to enter: £3.50
Prizes: £5.00

Friday, 9 August 2013

The Best Laid Plans

By Norman Ralph

My first FNM with my Izzet Blitz deck was at my local games store, Travelling Man. They offer a relatively good prize structure of two boosters in the prize pool per player and will pay out store credit in lieu of boosters if so desired. They charge £3.50 for entry, so I needed to get two booster's worth of prizes to make my first profit.

The list I took to FNM was slightly different to the list I posted last time due me to having some excellent luck on eBay in the first half of the week. I managed to pick up my Steam Vents really cheaply, which meant I could also splash out on a Hallowed Fountain and a cheap sideboard plan.

+1 Hallowed Fountain
-1 Plains

My sideboard looks like this:

2 Izzet Staticaster
3 Electrickery
2 Faith's Shield
2 Turn // Burn
2 Wear // Tear
2 Shock
2 Skullcrack

Some of that is redundant, some of it is just space filling, but having tested thoroughly online for the last week I decided I needed some answers to Bant Hexprood (Wear // Tear for the enchantments and Electrickery for the Invisible Stalkers). I also found that my Jund match up was awful due to their plethora of removal. I decided to try out Faith's Shield in the sideboard to try and use up their removal before I combo'd out.

I also picked up some sleeves and a deckbox. You can see the most up to date list and transaction tracker here.

There were four rounds of standard at the FNM and I did OK going 2-2 with a bye. I only faced one T1 deck, RWU flash, against which I made a good fist of both games. My sideboard plan definitely needs to include some number of cpopies of Nevermore as in all the match ups I was dead to pretty much a single card.

R1: RWU Flash, lost 2-0
R2: BUG Control, lost 2-0
R3: Bye
R4: RG Aggro, won 2-0

Round 1
A tough match up against Warleader's Helix and Snapcaster Mage as the 4 damage is pretty much the only card that kills Nivix Cyclops. Saw all of my opponents copies of these plus saw them flashed back with Snapcaster Mage. Warleader's Helix is definitely a Nevermore target.

Round 2
This was an un-winnable match up against a hard control deck running at least 16 removal spells plus a set of Liliana of the Veil. There was no point in this game that I felt I had a chance.

Round 4
The aggro match up feels my most winnable as unless they hit their nut draw I can just combo faster than they can kill me. I got to combo twice in my 2-0 win, the second game saw me hit my nut draw and combo'd off turn 4!

Cost to enter: £3.50
Prizes: £2.50

Sunday, 28 July 2013

It's an Izzet Blitz

By Norman Ralph

Deck decision made. I have decided to blow a lot of my budget on building a deck from scratch. It's likely to blow £60 ($55 on cards, plus sleeves and a deck box) of my £75 budget, which will leave me with about 4 weeks of capital to buy into events, meaning I will need to average 2 boosters per week in prizes to get through to Theros to replace about half of my deck. This, like my deck, means I am all in on this strategy.

My deck list:

Creatures (11)
4 Nvix Cyclops
4 Young Pyromancer
3 Guttersnipe

Spells (27)
4 Boros Charm
4 Izzet Charm
3 Artful Dodge
3 Feelings of Dread
4 Pillar of Flame
1 Shock
4 Faithless Looting
4 Thought Scour

Lands (22)
2 Steam Vents
1 Glacial Fortress
2 Azorius Guildgate
2 Boros Guildgate
2 Izzet Guildgate
3 Plains
4 Mountain
6 Island

I have been testing the deck online a lot and have found that Young Pyromancer is an all star - it wins a lot of games by playing nicely with the removal suite. I kill one of their guys and make one of my own with a single card spent.

The main thrust of the deck, however, is to play a Nivix Cyclops and untap with him so you can attack with an artful dodge (cast and flashed back) plus a Boros Charm's double strike mode which deals 20 damage from a creature that can't be blocked. Some of the lists online run Faith's shield instead of the 22nd land to try and protect the combo from removal, but I found that I almost never drew it when I wanted it and when I did draw it I really just wanted a charm or a Faithless Looting instead. I think it might be right to play some copies in the sideboard for games 2 and 3, but a sideboard is a bit of a luxury I can't afford right now.

Talking of sideboards, at the moment I don't have any cards for it, but I definitely need ways of interacting with control decks and protecting myself against the super aggressive match ups. For the control decks, I think a Delver based conversion might be the way to go. For the aggro decks, several copies of Electrickery are in order.

As usual, any comments are more than welcome.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Picking a Deck

By Norman Ralph

Having made my call to arms last month, FNM Hero Team Leeds style is starting to warm up. M14 has been released bringing with it the official start date for my challenge. From release day onwards, any Planeswalker Points I earn will be with my FNM Hero deck.

Talking of decks, the Event Deck for M14 has now been spoiled. In terms of cards per pound Event Decks are almost certainly the best way to go but, as with a lot of the recent Event Decks, I have been left unimpressed with the offering. Whilst there are some good cards in the deck, I feel that they could have been stronger. My thoughts on Event Decks for the last few sets have focussed on why Wizards keep producing decks that are OK but are missing some glaringly obvious cards. I want an Event Deck to be a strong deck out of the box whilst being open to improvement. I understand that Wizards won't just package up a fully powered Jund deck or similar and I would not want them to. I appreciate a budget deck that works without the more powerful additions. I would love them to make a R/G deck that plays well against the big boys straight out of the box, not because it is stuffed fall of bombs and mythics but because it is built with synergy and fluidity in mind.

Having said all of that, I am quite tempted to start off with this Event Deck mainly due to the fact that all of cards are going to be Standard legal for the whole of the coming year which means that I can focus my initial budget and any winnings on replacing cards with better options rather than having to replace cards once they rotate out. The other option is to build an Izzet aggro deck built around Young Pyromancer, Nivix Cyclops and Guttersnipe. This has the benefit of fitting my play style better as well as being relatively cheap to build. It does, however, rely on some cards that will rotate out of Standard in September.

I have created my tracking documents for people to follow my card pool and budget. You can them on my Google Drive.

As we are now fully underway on FNM Hero I will be bringing you updates on a weekly basis from now on, so get this added to your feed reader, or favourite the site, and keep up with the fun and frolics of the next 12 months.

Comments are always welcome.

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Team Leeds Challenge: Pauper!

I love commons.

The meat and potatoes of any deck, these unsung heroes are the glue that hold the pile of expensive rares together to produce the top level decks.

Where would standard be without Farseek?  Legacy without Brainstorm?

I'm on a mission to encourage more people to take up this much neglected format in paper. I have built a pauper cube to help spread the virtues of pauper as an accessible format for all.

More recently there has been a push to make standard pauper a thing, providing the perfect place for a new player to start. Low investment, lots of fun.

So what is pauper?

It is a format of decks made from only commons. In standard pauper this includes the last two blocks (taken today that is Return to Ravnica and Innistrad) as well as current standard legal core sets (At present M13 and M14).

Classic pauper is more like legacy; any card printed at common in the history of magic (apart from Cranial Plating) is legal.

So why play pauper?

1.       It’s cheap: 75 commons isn’t going to put you back a lot. Hang around after a draft and you will more than likely be able to pick these cards up for free.

2.       It’s the perfect place for new players to get to grips with tournament magic play due to its accessibility and generally less complex nature (although there is plenty of scope for combo).

3.       Ample of scope for creativity, without compromising on quality. All deck types can be played using the available card pool.

If you are interested drop me an email @ MangaraLock@gmail.com.

The pauper cube will launch August 11th . Hope to see you at Patriot Games Leeds. Currently 7 seats remaining. 

Friday, 5 July 2013

[FNM Hero] Lets see how this will evolve….

Too late to back down now! I’ve committed. My deck is pre-ordered through Patriot Games Leeds and awaiting my pickup. I also brought a deck box, and theoretically brought sleeves (I have plenty in a box at home but I‘ll take them from the budget).

Starting budget:  £75


4 x Bred for the Hunt (Bred for the Hunt)  = £2.00
4 x Hands of Binding (Hands of Binding)  = £0.80
4 x Spell Rupture (Spell Rupture)  = £0.80
4 x Simic Charm (Simic Charm)  = £2.00
4 x Rapid Hybridization (Rapid Hybridization)  = £2.00
4 x Elusive Krasis (Elusive Krasis)  = £2.00
1 x Ultra Pro Deck Box: Gatecrash -Simic Zameck Guildmage (simic deckbox
#86040)  = £2.00
4 x Young Wolf (Young Wolf)  = £0.80
4 x Strangleroot Geist (Strangleroot Geist)  = £4.00
4 x Zameck Guildmage (Zameck Guildmage)  = £2.00
4 x Cloudfin Raptor (Cloudfin Raptor)  = £0.80
4 x Experiment One (Experiment One)  = £4.00
100x Ultra-Pro sleeves, Black = £3.50

Total = £26.70

Remaining = £48.30

So I’ve got a deck, a box, sleeves and a plan. Obvious improvements to this deck are:

1: The manabase: a set of shocks wouldn't go amiss.

2: Some better sideboard options apart from Island and Forest.

3. M14 bringing me Scavenging Ooze.

Proposed Deck List

Creature (24)
4x Cloudfin Raptor
4x Elusive Krasis
4x Experiment One
4x Strangleroot Geist
4x Young Wolf
4x Zameck Guildmage

Land (23)
10x Forest
9x Island
4x Simic Guildgate

Instant (8)
2x Rapid Hybridization
4x Simic Charm
2x Spell Rupture

Sorcery (2)
2x Hands of Binding

Enchantment (3)
3x Bred for the Hunt


2 Rapid Hybridization
2 Spell Rupture
2 Hands of Binding
1 Sanctuary Cat (Foil!)
Bred for the Hunt
6 Island

Next installment I’ll talk about my card choices, interactions and plan. Maybe I’ll get some play testing in soon to see how much of an abomination my creation is! If anything it will be fun! Thanks for your time! @MagicMander

Saturday, 22 June 2013

FNM Hero: The Pledge

Unfortunately, due to work commitments, I’ve been away from the game for about 9 months. In this time I’ve drifted away from the game a little, my attentions drawn by other game systems, my time eaten up by adult life.

But things are about to change. I have a new job. I will be able to attend FNM from now until eternity. No more shift work!

So what better way to return than as a new player would, by picking up an event deck and trying to mould it into something to suit my playing style and using its success to improve it piece by piece.  I only ventured briefly into standard in the past, and so this is uncharted territory for me.

If anyone knows me well, they know I like the underdog. I also like working on restricted card pools, and I like to try to play on a budget. 

By the magic player classification I am very much a Jonny, I am forever being told my card choices are sub-optimal. In a world of Spikes it is hard to keep that creative edge, as success at any cost seems the mantra of Friday nights.

I thrive on playing janky homebrews, from Séance Self Mill to Kangee EDH, I like to push uderused and undervalued cards to the maximum. Despite knowing this is not the best course of action, nothing can beat that feeling when your rogue brew pulls a win from nowhere and a card becomes a personal cult icon!

I'm not claiming I'll be successful in this venture, but I'm pledging my commitment to join the challenge proposed by Norman Ralph. I know I'll have a heck of fun regardless of my standings, and look forward to my deck becoming a loyal companion in my quest for FNM glory!

I plan to document my adventures here, and you can also follow me on twitter, @MagicMander

FNM Hero

By Norman Ralph

Can you remember being a new player? It was only eighteen months ago that I was sitting down at my very first draft at my first FNM as a registered player. I had played at the pre-release for Innistrad the week before with some friends for my first taste of magic in several years and the experience got me hooked.

The thrill of building that sealed pool and then drafting the set the week after was a great feeling. However, the real excitement for me came when I had to put my first standard deck together, an horrific mono blue mill deck that went 1-3. Building a deck after playing magic for two weeks with cards pulled from a pre-release and a draft, plus a handful of boosters I'd picked up was a challenge that I relished at the time and was the sticking point (that moment when your allegiance to a hobby goes from passing interest to a full on commitment). Winning the match, even though it was effectively a dead rubber, was such a high that I wanted to do it again and again. Unfortunately, it took a while to replicate that success in standard but it did come and the lessons I learnt from that early period in my Magic career have shaped it ever since.

After speaking to some fellow members of Team Leeds, and having read the brilliant series on SCG by Adam Prosak by the same name, I decided to try and recreate that new player feeling by issuing a challenge.

Can you become an FNM Hero?

The goal is simple. Relive that first year of your Magic life by starting again from nothing. This is Team Leeds, and as we are a competitive bunch at heart, there will be a twist.  With a small budget to buy cards, accessories and entry fees, aim to cover the cost of your FNM's for a year with the aim of getting enough Planeswalker Points off the back of those FNM's (and any other tournaments you enter using the FNM Hero budget) to qualify for a place on next year's WMCQs.

As I have set the challenge, it is only right and proper that I partake, so you can read my exploits over a series of articles over the coming weeks and months. I will maintain a public card pool and list of transactions so you can see how I am doing, along with a variety of tournament reports and other odds and ends.

If you are up for the challenge, or have any thoughts on the series, then leave a comment here, or contact me on Facebook or Twitter and let me know what you think.

The Rules

1. Starting Budget

The initial capital for this challenge will be £75. This means you will have a maximum starting budget for the year of £75 with which to buy all cards, product, accessories etc. as well as cover any entry fees to FNM or other tournaments. You may not add any additional funds of your own to this budget, but you may add any prize-money or store credit you win through playing in the challenge to it.

2. Card Pool

Any cards you buy, product you open or prize support you receive will be added to your card pool for the challenge. This card pool is the only source of cards you may use for building decks, trading or selling. You may not use personal collections nor may you borrow cards from other players or receive free cards as gifts. You may add to this pool through trading and buying cards from either vendors or other players by following the Trading/Buying rules below.

3. Trading (inc. Buying/Selling)

You may buy or sell cards to vendors without restriction, except that any cards you sell to a vendor must have been played in a minimum of two tournaments within the challenge (this does not apply to door prizes, promo cards or tokens that are opened/awarded).

You may trade to and from other players using a recognised website for valuation (e.g. SCG, Patriot Games etc.). Again, any cards you trade away must have seen play in at least two tournaments and, again, this won't apply to promos etc.

When buying or selling to players then this must be done at market value. Buying must be done at retail buy prices (eBay completed listing prices for example) and selling must be done at Buy List prices (e.g. SCG, Patriot Games etc.).