As we bid farewell a little early

You know, I’d been looking forward to playing Gifts Ungiven in one more Extended qualifier season next year. Tsk.
You’ve seen the new Extended format right?
Short version – Extended is now four years of Magic instead of seven. This means that starting next month, Extended will be:
Time Spiral Block
Lorwyn Block
Alara Block
Zendikar Block
10th Edition
M10
There was a mad rush immediately after the announcement to hit up buy lists and drop product. As I explained over at Quiet Speculation, I don’t sell cards, so I didn’t rush to get rid of anything – but I did preemptively pick up some Bitterblossoms and Mutavaults on the hunch that for the next two years of Extended, Faeries will be a good deck.
This may be especially likely in light of what’s happening to the mana in Extended. As of July first, here’s what we have by way of decent lands:
Time Spiral
Academy Ruins
Calciform Pools and the other storage lands
Flagstones of Trokair
Gemstone Mine
Grove of the Burnwillows
Horizon Canopy
Keldon Megaliths
Nimbus Maze
Pendelhaven
River of Tears
Terramorphic Expanse
Tolaria West
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Urza’s Factory
Vesuva
Lorywn-Shadowmoor
Auntie’s Hovel and the other Tribal duals
Mosswort Bridge and the other Hideaway lands
Murmuring Bosk
Mutavault
Rustic Clachan
Fetid Heath and the other Shadowmoor duals
Reflecting Pool
…and, of course, the Vivids
Shards
Ancient Ziggurat
Arcane Sanctum and the other tri-lands
Exotic Orchard
Zendikar
Akoum Refuge and the other “gain a life” duals
Arid Mesa and the other fetches
Celestial Colonnade and the other creature duals
Crypt of Agadeem
Eldrazi Temple
Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Evolving Wilds
Eye of Ugin
Halimar Depths and the other ETB-effect lands
Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
Tenth Edition
Adarkar Wastes and the other painlands
Faerie Conclave and the other mono-color creature lands
M10
Dragonskull Summit and the other M10 duals
Gargoyle Castle
This is why my no-sell policy exists — I’d hate to have to buy all this stuff all over again at increased prices now that it’s suddenly viable.
Overall, I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the new Extended. Hopefully, we’ll see either informal or Wizards-supported events in an intermediate “Traditional” format that is something on the order of the Masques+ environment that’s been discussed in the past year.
Still sad to see Gifts exit early, though.

Conceding

Luis’s most recent Initial Technology is an excellent article about playing faster…with an unfortunate, brief discussion of when one might want to concede a match. Despite Luis’s disclaimer, this has spawned another tired debate about conceding. Luis’s basic point was that you might want to concede a match that’s going to time if:

  • A draw will knock you both out of contention
  • The opponent has you pretty much dead on board

In most other situations, a concession comes down to a negotiation. For example, in a recent Superstars event I went to time in the round and was basically dead on board. I’d normally concede there, except I’d been paired down, so I had the better chance of winning overall. I discussed this with my opponent, and he agreed that that seemed like a good enough reason and conceded to me.
The comments on Luis’s article have include all sorts of arguments concerning why it’s rational to concede in terms of developing good will over time and so forth. However, I’m struck by people who get upset by the concept that if you concede and it lets someone into the top eight, or day two, someone else may be bumped.
This is normally expressed as “You’re bumping someone who deserves to get in.”
The problem with this idea is that the way to actually make sure you “deserve” to get in is to perform well enough to lock the position. Lock up the top eight, or day two, with wins. If you’re in any other position, then you’re relying on the performance of others, whether it’s looking at match draws, concessions, or hoping your OMW percentage spikes far enough to get you in on tie-breakers. Do you somehow “deserve” the top eight if you’re knocked out by someone else’s concession, but not “deserve” the top eight if you’re knocked out by someone else’s win?
In either case, your position was not steady enough to survive someone else’s match result. It’s your job to bulwark your position with wins so that you don’t have to spend time hoping one or more other matches work out in your favor. You control your play, and the rest is just weather. If someone concedes a match out of politeness, or because they hope it builds good will, or because they really want to go get dinner, none of that adds to or takes away from the strength of your play.
Luis made the top eight of PT Berlin 2008 because Kenny Oberg dream crushed another player. Did that other player deserve a concession instead, because Kenny had locked up top eight? If Kenny makes that concession and it bumps Luis, is Luis less deserving?
I think it’s all a little silly. The only way to “deserve” a top eight is to simply play yourself out of the range of chance. Anything else is a misplaced sense of entitlement.

Mind Shattering and Soul Stairing

Do you know about the MTGO What’s Happening? page? If not, click through and take a look. I’ll wait.
MTGO players may want to check in on that page from time to time to see what big events are coming, but all Magic players should check in on that extensive column of event results on the right side, each one rich with deck lists. Most of the time, you’re going to see a lot of the same thing (“Hey, more Jund!”), but every so often someone offers up a very interesting deck choice.
The usual caveat applies, of course — for a given Daily event, a deck is listed if it went 3-1 or 4-0, which is solid for FNM, but isn’t PTQ/GP/SCG open/Superstars $5K win territory.
The deck that caught my eye this time around showed up in this daily event. It’s yoav’s take on Junk (that is, B/G/W).
Click through to the extended entry for the deck list and a few comments.

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Play Magic, feed the hungry

If you’re in Northern California and want to play for cool prizes and feed the hungry this weekend, come on over to Superstars in San Jose this Sunday and play in their winter charity event. Here are the details:
Time: 12pm, Sunday, December 20th
Cost: $10
Proceeds to benefit Second Harvest Food Bank
Prizes include:
2 Zendikar boxes for first place
1 Zendikar box for second place
And a bunch of boosters for 3rd through 8th, with other prizes based on attendance, as well as a draft among the top eight from a pool of DCI Judge Promo foils.
I’ll be out of town already by Sunday, but if I were around at all, I’d be there. I already donate to Second Harvest, and getting to do so while slinging some cards is just icing on an already rewarding charity cake.

Leaving your fifties on the table

After about thirteen weeks of column writing over at ChannelFireball, I’m starting to wish for the ability to not just label my deck lists but to also watermark them over the cards themselves, with some kind of tag that suggests that the list will make the most sense in the context of the full article.
This is, of course, nothing new for Magic articles. People like deck lists, and like to skim for them.
I’m discovering that a really effective way to antagonize some subset of my readers is to leave out nominal “best” cards for the deck in question. These days, it’s been the absence of Baneslayers in my GWx lists that’s torquing people off. I’m expecting to annoy people with the abandonment of Tarmogoyfs as we roll into Extended (although, to be clear, if I put together a Zoo deck it’s almost certainly going to have Goyfs).
Given that the entire point of this week’s article was about how threat superiority is not the best path to winning the mirror, I am especially struck by the dogmatic sticking to Baneslayers as a must for the deck.
Honestly, if I could play Arashi or North Side I would; they’d both be better choices. I’d even be happier if I could magically run some combination of four more Emerias and Knights.
If you haven’t read the article, head over and take a look.

Jund tunes itself to pieces

One of the interesting — and, from an oppositional point of view, exciting — things I’ve noticed in testing the Jund matchup is that variations on Jund that attempt to enhance its performance in the mirror frequently reduce its performance everywhere else. This feels markedly different from Faeries, for example, where the mirror was heavily determined on the basis of play skill rather than design skill, meaning that you didn’t have to cripple your off matches to enhance your mirror performance.
You can see some of why this happens if you look at Ochoa’s “default Jund” list as I’ve cited it in this week’s In Development. His main deck features 27 N-for-1s, and all of the creatures are N-for-1s. Compare that to some of the other lists from the top Standard decks at Worlds.
Saito’s Jund trades away three slots that could go to N-for-1s for Rampant Growth, a card that helps the deck ramp up to its Siege-Gangs, but which is itself a 1-for-1 and a hit to the incremental value of Bloodbraid Elf.
Cynic Kim’s deck, like a number of Jund builds, has multiple Great Sable Stags. Stag dodges a lot of removal in the mirror match (Terminate, Maelstrom Pulse), but is a simple 1-for-1 that is not especially exceptional otherwise. As an aside, I always find the anglicized version of Kim’s name funny. Cynic? Really, his name is properly more like Kim Shin-Ik.
Remi Fortier’s deck tries to be explosive with Lotus Cobras, but once again, that’s three fewer N-for-1 card slots. Those Cobras can be pretty good in some circumstances, but are otherwise pretty unexceptional.
I’ve noticed that the G/W Walkers match up with a default Jund like (like Ochoa’s) is a real fight, but all these variations that attempt to enhance the mirror make the match up just so much better from my end.
I figure it’s a good sign if it’s hard to broadly optimize a deck. Jund is powerful, but attempts to make the deck more resilient against the mirror consistently make it less so everywhere else. This seems fine.