Topdeck quality assurance

I did a little testing of my Gifts build with friends yesterday and one thing became quite clear:
In other words, the value of a topdecked Thoughtseize drops precipitously as the game goes past the first couple turns. Facing down a kill-it-or-die creature? Thoughtseize is terrible. Just gained control, and looking to ice the game? Terrible. In one game, I died when almost any other non-land card in the deck would have been good. In another, I ended up with two Thoughtseizes in hand, just waiting slooowly for a real card to come up.
This is not to say that Thoughtseize isn’t valuable, but I found it was such a depressingly poor topdeck that I’d prefer to just cede some turn-one value against certain decks (say, Storm) to increase the value of my deck in the late game, which is where i wanted to win anyway.
After Gab Nassif’s topdeck to win game five of the quarterfinals at Kyoto, Randy Buehler commented that his breed of five-color control was built to have good topdecks. As I look at my upcoming PTQ opportunity next week, this is something I want to make sure I engineer into my main deck. That is, the ideal card, even one that’s meant for the early game, should also be a solid late-game topdeck.
I never regretted seeing a Path, whether it was the first or the tenth turn, and that’s the kind of thing I want in a card.
So, Thoughtseize, it’s off to the sideboard for you.

Sideboard card of the week

Reviewing the most recent crop of PTQ-topping deck lists at DeckCheck, I found a list that top eighted at this PTQ in Munchen that had a singularly fascinating sideboard card:
We don’t normally expect to see Furious Akroma running around in Extended (although her Wrathful version makes an appearance as a finisher in Dredge decks from time to time). What’s really amazing is that Akroma is a sideboard card in a TEPS deck.
Kudos to Sebastian Mattes for a quirky and completely unexpected sideboard choice.
I imagine the concept here is that in game two, you side in Akroma with the idea that your opponent will be piling on the countermagic, disruption, and storm hate. Then, if they manage to damage your combo and keep you from going off, you can use your acceleration to just flat-out play an uncounterable firebreathing trampler that can’t be Pathed, Sowered, Cryptic Commanded, or otherwise dealt with in any reasonable fashion before it just kills your opponent.
In a lot of environments, opponents will be wary of a transformational sideboard move out of a combo deck (e.g. a Heartbeat deck siding into big creatures), but I think that’s so far off the normal TEPS plan that people just aren’t going to look for it. Certainly, my anti-Storm sideboard plan doesn’t have anything for a 6/6.

How to never play Magic, ever again

Bill Stark has been following the drama of the Magic theft ring over at the Starkington Post (you can read about it here and here. The short version is that a ring has been hitting major North American events, stealing bags, personal effects, and, of course, cards. At GP Chicago, one of the thieves was finally caught, and the word is that he gave up his companions.
While criminal charges are in the works, the DCI has already acted, handing out lifetime bans to four individuals. Bill talks about it here, and you can check the DCI Suspension list here.
According to judge Adam Shaw in the Starkington Post forums, these individuals are also banned from the premises at any WotC event, with a probable follow-on effort among TOs to keep them off all tournament grounds.
Seems good.

West coast represent

In the last year or so in Northern California, Superstars has really boosted support for the local Magic scene, giving us a steady home for all our PTQs, and hosting multiple $1K events each month and now bringing us a Standard $5K event.
Now the kind folks on 3rd street are bringing us, a content-rich site with many of your favorite writers and some very talented newer authors as well. The “beta” launch of the site includes these excellent articles:
Zaiem Beg discusses the post-Conflux Extended scene and the contentious topic of just how good Path to Exile is
Josh Utter-Leyton (nicknamed “Uber-Leyton” by BDM) teaches us all about 5CC in Shards draft
Riki Hayashi tells us how we, too, can be judges
Luis Scott-Vargas reveals what his pre-Kyoto thought process looked like
Eric Levine answers all our tricky rules questions
I’m personally excited to see the rest of the Magic world getting a sampling of our excellent Northern California community, judges and players alike. I’m adding ChannelFireball to my daily Magic roundup, and strongly encourage you to do the same.

Back-to-back season

Gabriel Nassif just won Grand Prix Chicago just a week after his victory at Pro Tour Kyoto.
The coverage suggests that this put Nassif one-up on our own Luis Scott-Vargas, who did a similar back-to-back last year with Berlin and Atlanta. Of course, Luis still managed 10th place in Chicago, which makes me wonder how the two scored at this combination of events.
Pro Tour Berlin – Luis in 1st, Gab in 23rd
GP Atlanta – Luis in 1st, Gab in 173rd
Pro Tour Kyoto – Gab in 1st, Luis in 2nd
GP Chicago – Gab in 1st, Luis in 10th
I’ll expand on that by adding in the other PTs from 2008:
Worlds – Luis in 11th, Gab in 297th
Hollywood – Luis in 47th, Gab in 51st
Kuala Lumpur – Gab in 44th, Luis in 169th
The general conclusion to draw here is mainly that they’re both very good players, but I think it’s easy to underrate how consistent Luis has been over the past year or so (he also took 3rd in California States).
I think it’s great seeing either (or both!) of them in the top eight of a major event; I look forward to more from both in the future.

Play Yu-Gi-Oh, see the (Magic) world

Following the announcement that the Yu-Gi-Oh! national championships were canceled, Wizards of the Coast issued a press release inviting all players who qualified for US or Canadian Yu-Gi-Oh! nationals to attend their respective Magic nationals:
“We respect the accomplishments of all high-level tournament players,” said Chris Galvin, VP of Organized Play for Wizards of the Coast. “We’d like to do what we can to honor their achievements and keep them gaming.”
Konami, publisher of Yu-Gi-Oh!, insists that it is trying to arrange national championships for the game despite the announced cancellation, but Wizards is sticking to the offer, in hopes of keeping competitive trading card game players in the game, whether that game is Magic or something else.
I’m curious about how much overlap there is between the Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh! communities. I know that Superstars schedules major Magic and Yu-Gi-Oh! events in parallel, and I haven’t really noticed a lot of crossover in our two local player groups (at the same time, it’s not as if there’s any acrimony or disrespect, either). More generally, if you’re an expert Yu-Gi-Oh! player who’s never played Magic before, how much effort would it take to get up to speed?

Siege Team

The upcoming Superstars $5K in a little less than two weeks, combined with PT Kyoto, has put my mind back on the topic of Standard (more or less). As a result, I’ve decided to push myself to come up with reasonable and interesting designs as we head into that event, with an eye toward expanding the range of deck types I’ll consider (since I tend to hover around certain build types).
I know I’ll still tend toward certain design decisions – preferring board control to counterspells, and discard to drawing cards – but I still think it’ll expand how I think about the game.
In this post, I’ve included an aggressive WBG deck that hopes to strike with fatties, benefit from exalted, and backstop its aggression with planeswalkers. Click through to the extended for deck list and commentary.

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