Stoic Muse

One of the things I did on coming back into Magic after my long hiatus (my collection has a mild hiccup between Ice Age and Time Spiral) was go back through the coverage archives, first video and then text, and read about the recent history of the game. I’ve talked before about my favorite events in the archives, and among them is the top eight of Worlds 2005. I enjoy it because it includes a number of highly interactive matches, and that’s the kind of Magic I like to play — thus my proclivity for playing mid-range, grind-out-a-win-style decks.
Seedborn Muse appeared as a one-of in the sideboard of Mori’s Ghazi-Glare deck in that top eight, and that really caught my attention. Offering the possibility of tapping out on your turn and then Glaring the opposition down on their turn — or of untapping under a Hokori — the Seedborn is an enticingly powerful engine card. Also, it turns out you can accidentally win a free game off of Frank Karsten if everyone misses the interaction between Yosei and Muse. Oops.
The upshot of all this is that I’ve been wanting to use the Muse in a deck where it’s actually a good idea, yet have been disappointed at how often it just isn’t a good choice. However, I think the build I’m going to highlight below represents an instance of proper Muse use in a deck that has a chance to compete with the little blue people and all those technicolor mana bases.
Click through to the extended for a deck list and explanation.

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2009 Magic Grand Prix schedule, and GP day two update

The 2009 Grand Prix schedule has been posted. Click here to read it.
The Extended GP in Los Angeles in January is about the only one I might realistically make it to, unless work travel somehow puts me near one of the others.
Wizards has also updated the rules for making it to day two in a GP. Previously, GPs cut to the top 64 players, or, for GPs of 800 players or more, the top 128. The new rule will be either a cut to 64/128, or a cut to all players at X-2-0 or better, thus avoiding the heartbreaking “Yeah, you managed an X-2 record, but you’re being cut on some marginal tiebreak” situation that popped up a lot this year in the massive European GPs. That seems like a good change.

These are not the triggers you’re looking for

In this earlier post, I highlighted the “lose to my own Glimpse of Nature” play that caught out both Grgur Petric and Zac Hill in their matches against Pascal Vieren. The way it’s told in the coverage, it sounds like most of the story is just a funny bit about losing to part of your own combo. Over on the SCG forums, Zac Hill makes the point that it’s actually about Pascal making an amazing mental play:
No, I was drawing a card every time I played a man. But he’d playtested the exact same decklist and knew what the plan was, and so when I got the correct four guys on the table and activated Entity at 1, Pascal said “Yeah yeah I know the combo. How many times are you going to do it?” I said “100”. He said “you’re dead.” The reason both Grgur and I got “gotten” was the like resigned tone of voice Pascal managed as if he was already in the process of scooping his cards. I told Bill about the massive punt for the WoTC coverage because it was, you know, newsworthy that the G and I had played so terribly, but it really needs to be looked at as a masterful Jedi Mind Trick by Pascal.
I’d already had the impression that this was a “forced” error based on Pascal’s question, but the elaboration on exactly how he forced it makes the story even better.
I’d like to say I wouldn’t let that happen to me, but then, I let someone Prowl out a Notorious Throng off of a Mistbind Clique hit last week, so I’m in no position to talk.

Superstars Standard $1K — 11th place

Today I went to the Superstars November Standard Championship, vying along with 42 or so other players for the $1K prize pool. I brought my white-black disruptive control deck that I’ve named “Ahura”, for which you can find a deck list here. I had a good time and did reasonably well, ending up at 4-2 but missing the top eight on tie breaks and coming in at 11th.
Overall, I think the Ahura build is quite solid, and it fairly cleanly beat the matchups I’d given some thought to ahead of time — Faeries and Lark, while suffering against Merfolk and Tokens.
The take-home message today is that an active Battlegrace Angel is ridiculous.
The full tournament report is in the extended entry.

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New Gatherer

I use Gatherer, Wizards’ official Magic card database, quite a bit. As such, I’ve been wanting for a long time to have it work more like a full database, allowing complex queries, iterative queries, and so forth. I want to be able to search positively for one thing, while requiring the absence of something else. Then I want to be able to sort the results according to my needs.
Apparently, that’s been a common enough request to prompt a revamp. This week, the beta version of a revised Gatherer went live.
Click here for Gatherer beta
The simple search is probably the way many people used the old Gatherer — type in a card name, get the card back. The advanced search, however, is nifty. You’re given a large number of options for things to include in the search, using a boolean AND/OR/NOT to qualify the term. The interface has the search options on the left, then it shows you the search you’re building on the right. Here’s a search I set up earlier this week while I was trying to find creatures in Extended that could potentially serve as Elf ruiners:
This is a search I couldn’t have done in the old Gatherer, where I would not have been able to rule out both Persist and Wither (which tend to clutter up the results, as you can see if you drop those qualifiers back out of the search). Here’s another search (again, in Extended) for cards that have alternate payment options but which are not Suspend cards:
Once you have your results, you can choose display options including text, text plus card (the default), and a pure visual spoiler display. You can also sort as you like — although I haven’t yet figured out how sorts are ordered if you stack them. My default preference — true for old Gatherer as well — is to sort by CMC, in ascending order.
I’m happy to see this new, significantly more powerful tool being made available to players. It’s handy, it’s reasonably intuitive, and it’s really fun to play with. Good job.

In the intersection, a deck

How do you design a deck? Build a core, then look at matchups and try to shore them up with cards from the sideboard?
Last year, Zaiem Beg addressed the topic of sideboarding, discussing the approach of designing a deck for each matchup, then bringing these decks together in a combined core and sideboard. In effect, the goal here is to pick out your likely matchups, then design a number of ideal versions of your deck, each suited to a given matchup. In the current environment, one might want to design to beat Faeries, Five-color Control, Kithkin, Red Deck Wins, and Reveillark.
That’s what I did here:
Click here to see the full spreadsheet in a separate window
Go to the extended entry to see where I went from there.

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Goodbye, Wizkids

WizKids, the gaming company founded by Battletech creator and FASA founder Jordan Weisman, announced today that it is going out of business. Here’s the official word:
The Topps Company announced today that WizKids will immediately cease operations and discontinue its product lines.
Scott Silverstein, CEO of Topps, said

My Elspeth algorithm…

…looks something like this:
When I first saw Elspeth I was most excited by her first ability, which both upped her Loyalty and made guys. Because, hey, making lots of creatures is good! However, in practice, I’ve found that the correct use for Elspeth is outlined above.

California States 2008 – Lark, Lark, drop

Yesterday, I gave a sneak preview of my States deck. Today, I went…and dropped after round four, having hit an unfavorable matchup twice running (can you guess which one?).
This was an eventful States, featuring hundreds of players, a hunt for tables, and a visit from the San Jose fire department. I have a sneaking suspicion it’s still going on even as I post this.
Over on Top 8 Magic, BDM posted about New York States. They had 134 people.
We had 273.
More in the extended.

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