This week’s In Development – You gotta have a plan!

I’ve been traveling this week, so I didn’t get a chance to link you all to this week’s In Development!
This week, we’re all about planning. What does it mean to have a plan, and how can you make sure you have one? To try and make it another educational experience for all of us, I’ve included some handy graphics and three video excerpts that highlight aspects of planning (or, in one case, failing to revise a plan).
So far, the article has been very well received. I trust my readers more than my own judgment on this kind of thing, so if the people who’ve already read it liked it, you probably will, too.
Click here to read it, and then find me on twitter to let me know what you think.

Bay Area Magic events this weekend

This weekend features one “big” event of note and one “little” event that I wanted to highlight. I’ll start with “big” and move on from there.
This Saturday, the ChannelFireball Summer series culminates in a 5K at Superstars in San Jose. Unlike the 1Ks leading up to it, this event starts at 10am – so don’t show up two hours late as a super-sad panda. If you’re in the running for the overall series championship, remember that each match win at the 5K is worth 2 points instead of 1.
On the “small” side, we have the premier of Stanford FNM, courtesy of the Stanford Gaming Society. They’re a nice, chill group, and they’ve already been holding weekly drafts for a while now. This is an actual FNM, with an M11 draft, promo foils and everything. The event is at 7pm in Nitery 210, and if you’re coming, you might want to let Forrest Lin know (forrestl (at) I think it’s cool that Forrest and SGS are getting this together, so if you’re on campus or in the area, you might want to head on by and give it a shot.

This week’s In Development – Is a five-mana planeswalker always bad?

It’s In Development time again, and this week we’re looking at planeswalkers.
All the planeswalkers.
As we enter into a new set with two exciting planeswalkers that also have the misfortune to cost five mana, I’ve taken a walk in to the moderately theoretical to ask whether the mythical four-mana mark really distinguishes between good and bad when it comes to planeswalkers.
Click here to read the article.
If you’d like to see the guts behind how I tried to launder everyone’s favorite planeswalkers into their worth in virtual mana, you can click here to download the file. It’s a Numbers file, which I suspect should import reasonably well into other spreadsheet applications.
So go check out the article and then find me on twitter and let me know what you think.

Goodall Jund at the 1K (aka “Why did I take the card out of my sideboard?”)

I’ve been enjoying the ChannelFireball Summer Series events, when I can make them, and this weekend my schedule was open enough to let me go to the Standard 1K on Saturday. I played Goodall Jund, and was doing reasonably well until I wasn’t. I had a great time, either way.
Click through to the extended entry for the list I ran and a round-by-round report.

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This week’s In Development – When a Vengevine replaces a Thrinax

Looking for something to do with your Jund cards in the last month (or two, if you’re online) of Shards-Zendikar Standard? Check out this week’s In Development for my latest deck design, which fuses the card quality of Jund with the power of the Fauna Shaman / Vengevine engine (conveniently, these concepts come partially pre-fused, as outside Mythic, who uses Fauna Shaman without Bloodbraid?).
As I recently alluded to in my discussion of Terry Soh’s Extended Fauna Shaman deck from PT Amsterdam, in building this hybrid Shaman / Jund design, I found myself wishing for more creatures with nifty functional effects in the current Standard. As it happens, the deck is powerful even in the absence of such basic standards as some kind of Nekrataal.
Click here to read the article, and then find me on twitter to let me know what you think.

Fauna Shaman evokes a response at Amsterdam

With the sudden departure of my favorite card from the Extended format and the release of M11, I’ve had my eye on the possibilities for Fauna Shaman going forward into the new Extended. This isn’t just a random look forward, but is also a consequence of my wishing for more functional creatures to fuel the deck I’ll be presenting in this week’s In Development (which you can look for this Wednesday evening). Specifically, Fauna Shaman seems like a perfect fit with the elementals from the Lorwyn-Shadowmoor superblock.
Turns out, Terry Soh had an idea very much along those lines, and ran it to tenth place at PT Amsterdam 2010.
Click through to the extended entry for Terry’s list and some remarks.

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Elspeth Tirel

“Spoilers,” as they say.
In addition to a stellar outcome for Paul Rietzel, last weekend saw the second version of this lady (or, perhaps, “dame” in the British sense):
In case you missed it, here’s the text for the latest iteration of our favorite Knight-Errant:
Elspeth Tirel (3WW)
Planeswalker – Elspeth
+2: You gain 1 life for each creature you control.
-2: Put three 1/1 white Soldier creature tokens onto the battlefield.
-5: Destroy all other permanents except for lands and tokens.
Interesting card. Right now, she’s pre-retailing for an exorbitant amount, as is the way with planeswalkers these days, but I don’t think she’ll stick at that price. However, she does offer some interesting possibilities. She is…
A delayed Wrath
Really, more of a delayed Pernicious Deed. Unlike the first version of Elspeth, where I was fascinated by her “all upside” suite of abilities, I pretty much shot down to the bottom of the list on Elspeth Tirel. Although she doesn’t have nearly the “keep me alive right now!” power that a Day of Judgment or Eldrazi-Temple-fed All is Dust does, she does offer the possibility of successfully counter-sweeping an entire board full of control and control-fighting elements such as opposing planeswalkers, Luminarch Ascensions, annoying leylines, and so on.
You just need to keep her around for one whole turn.
On the one hand this makes her an easy include into a control deck. On the other hand, she’s otherwise not particularly well-suited to generating inevitability. The unpleasant side of facing down Elspeth, Knight-Errant from the other side of the board is that same “all upsideness” I mentioned above. If she makes a blocker, she becomes harder to take out via damage, and goes one step closer to her ultimate. Likewise, if she’s swinging dudes overhead for the kill, she’s also getting bigger and badder.
Curiously, Sarkhan the Mad ends up being very similar to Elspeth, Knight-Errant in practice, except that his version of “all upside” is “all burn.” Sort of like a Silicon Valley startup.
The value of Dame Tirel’s first and second abilities is actually impossible to judge in isolation – without knowing the context of the remainder of Scars (and Scars block, really) we can’t say much about them. I’m certainly unwilling to come down on either side of “tokens aggro is back” when we have a small handful of cards ot work with.
That said, the third ability is pretty cool in isolation, enough so that I’m excited to see this new take on Elspeth coming into the format. A Wrath with “suspend 1” is pretty good, and I like the sheer idea of nuking nearly everything else as an ultimate.

PT Amsterdam – Results from the Swiss

So the first two days of PT Amsterdam 2010 are done, and we’re going to have an amazing top eight tomorrow, featuring Brad Nelson, Paul Rietzl, Michael Jacob, Marijn Lybaert, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, Brian Kibler, Thomas Ma, and Kai Budde.
So how did everyone else do?
Well, you can read the full standings after the Swiss rounds here. I’m going to take a moment to highlight some of the results of interest to me.
Team ChannelFireball
Although Conley couldn’t maintain his pristine record coming out of day one, ChannelFireball nonetheless had a decent showing. We have:
Brad Nelson – 1st, 40 points (the only 40 pointer in the group)
Luis Scott-Vargas – 11th, 36 points
Matt Sperling – 19th, 33 points
Conley Woods – 22nd, 33 points
Travis Woo – 72nd place, 30 points
Tom Martell – 94th, 27 points
Tomoharu Saito – 103rd, 27 points
Matt Nass – 219th, 12 points
Tom Raney – 259th, 12 points
David Ochoa – 272, 10 points
Zaiem Beg – 298, 9 points
John Pham – 355th, 6 points
So that’s four players in the top 32, and Luis falling just short of the top eight, being, like in Berlin, in the points range of players who could make it in depending on tiebreakers. From the coverage it sounds like David’s control deck had trouble getting to the finish line in time.
Although I spoke to Zaiem just ahead of his trip to Europe, I don’t know what deck he settled on. I’ll look forward to reading about his tournament experience in his column.
The Hall of Fame
Kai Budde – 8th, 37 points
Raphael Levy – 31st, 33 points
Frank Karsten – 47th, 31 points
Ben Rubin – 54th, 30 points
Olivier Ruel – 87th, 27 points
Antoine Ruel – 110th, 27 points
This is a reasonable distribution of finishes in the upper quarter for our attending Hall of Famers. I’m especially happy to see Kai in the top eight and Karsten in the top 50, as solid performances by Hall of Fame members make me feel good about their being in the Hall – they’re not just showing up to events, they’re trying hard and clearly having a good time.
Special Interest
Katsuhiro Mori – 65th, 30 points
Julien Nuijten – 68th, 30 points
Kenji Tsumura – 160th, 18 points
Patrick Chapin – 178th, 12 points
Lauren Lee – 339th, 9 points
Mori is the odd one out on this list, as my interest in his finish has less to do with wondering about his deck choice or play skill, and more to do with other considerations. I’d really love to see a tally of Warnings he accumulated during the event, if any. He wasn’t DQed, at any rate.
I thought Nuijten had a solid finish, given that most of his time goes necessarily to poker rather than Magic. He’s also interesting in that, following his breakout year, he didn’t make a big mark on the competitive scene.
Kenji is always worth watching. He may or may not do well, but I expect him to play something interesting and to generate cool stories, be they about drunken singing or about doing his level best to make sure none of his opponents miss their pact triggers. Notably, this is the last major event for quite a while where Kenji will have to face that concern.
Patrick Chapin is always on my “how’d be do?” watch list. Looks like he split his four day one losses evenly between Constructed and Limited, which kind of fits the general impression about his play strengths.
Finally, Lauren Lee, aka mulldrifting, took her critical losses during the Constructed portion and was out by the time Limited rolled around. I expect we’ll hear more from her on SCG in the coming week, and I expect she’ll Q for Paris and be back on the Tour soon enough.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow and a stellar top eight, although given the time difference, I’m likely to be coming in somewhere toward the tail end and watching most of it after the fact.

Call a judge. Right. Right? (on Mori and cheating)

Rich Hagon is one of my favorite members in the meta-community of Magic. He’s the reason I know the name of many more players than we see in the coverage and than I have met personally. He’s why, anytime a player finally “breaks through” in the text coverage, I tend to find myself thinking, “Wait, I already know this name…right, because Rich interviewed him last year in his podcast coverage for a GP!”
Rich Hagon’s article this week is about the Hall of Fame. It’s not about his vote in particular so much as, in appropriate Rich Hagon style, it is about all the candidates.
Hagon on Mori
Since Rich is also a super-nice guy, the kind who is loathe to say anything negative about anyone, his commentary about Katsuhiro Mori really stands out:
Katsuhiro Mori

This week’s In Development – Tagging! Friends! More!

This week’s In Development is up a day early (to fill in the gaps caused by many of our team being in Europe, I imagine). This time around I’m suggesting a way we can help each other improve by “building a character sheet” that describes our friends’ play strengths. Also, it’s survey time once more as I ask you to do the same thing with members of the Hall of Fame.
As a special bonus, check out that word cloud of cards played by Frank Karsten. Click on it if you’d like to see the bigger (more readable) version. The cloud was generated with Jonathan Feinberg’s Wordle, which is just tons of fun to play with. Give it a try.
As always, you can click here to read the article, and then click here to find me on twitter and let me know what you think.