Look for the union label

This tickles me in a very “Sergio Aragones” kind of way. I bet you find work like this in the margins of the Phyrexian edition of Mad Magazine.
I agree with Josh – both here and in his Men of Magic interview. I love the flavor and story of Magic, but I tend to love it more the way we encounter it in bits and pieces through the cards. Other than Arena, which I read after buying it to get Sewers of Estark, I haven’t read any other Magic novels. Although I’d like to be able to detect the story from the cards – I realized today I have no idea what underlying plot was actually supposed to be happening during Lorwyn block – I don’t really want the super-drawn-out novel version.
The way we interact with cards is actually the way we interact with a lot of history and the real world – in bits and pieces. When I check in with the BBC, I don’t get the next chapter in our protagonist’s narrative. Instead, I get a story filed by a British reporter who’s stuck in Misratah and hasn’t seen much outside of his apartment block, but who’s been able to check in via phone with the local hospital.
For more about the joys of Magic worlds as seen through these snippets of card, check out the latest Inkwell Looter post.

This week’s In Development – In lieu of Kodamas, Angels

You ever have one of those hazy, busy weeks where you don’t quite notice when the time passes?
Yeah. That’s this week.
Nonetheless, I still got to write about one of my Standard decks of choice this week over at ChannelFireball, and you can read about it by clicking here.
Lately, I’ve been drawn to everyone’s favorite 5/5 angel. In this week’s In Development, you’ll see the product of my fondness for the big lady combined with my appreciation of Magic history as I turn the way-back machine to 2005 in my search for new ways to kill Caw-Blade decks while remaining competitive against everyone else.
As always, click here to read it, and then hit me up on twitter or via email to let me know what you think.

This week’s In Development – How deep is your mana?

In Development time has rolled around again, and this time it comes with some bonus material right here on Gifts Ungiven.
I know it can sometimes seem like I run out this bizarre analyses for the sake of playing with numbers, but it’s really all about figuring out why decks do (or don’t!) work out for me. Why is my mana choking up the way it is? Why are RUG Jace decks clearly powerful and yet so underrepresented in the field?
This week I’m making the case that it’s all about color depth.
For more on color depth, and how it differs from color coverage, click here to read the article.
…and then click here to download the tools I used to explore these concepts of depth and coverage.

Tools for mana base design

It's an ugly hand, but it worked
Welcome, In Development readers. This page contains the spreadsheet that I used to generate the color coverage and color depth data for this week’s column. It’s a simple little tool that lets you monkey with mana bases “in real time” and watch how this impacts your deck’s ability to not just get access to colors, but get the right depth of access to those colors – along with a few other tricks.
Here is the original Numbers spreadsheet that I used to generate the data in the article. The directions for using it are in the spreadsheet itself:
Click here to get the Mana Base Worksheet for Numbers
For Excel users, I’ve made versions in both .xls and .xlsx format:
Click here to get the Mana Base Worksheet as an .xls file
Click here to get the Mana Base Worksheet as an .xlsx file
For the Excel versions, the instructions are not included in the file, so you’ll want those, too:
Click here to get the instructions in PDF format

This week’s In Development – Let’s watch some videos about reading

One of the real joys of the ongoing Magic Effectiveness Project is the opportunity to collect ideas from and write about areas of the game that I’m not necessarily personally strong at. This week, for example, I’m writing about reading your opponent. As I make clear in the introduction, this isn’t something I do with great precision myself — I tend to treat my opponent as a generic opponent — but it is something that certain players do especially well.
…and, as it turns out, “it” is not one specific skill, but rather an amalgam of skills split across two very distinct skill sets.
So, if that interests you, and you’d like to see the topic covered with the help of instructive video excerpts from Pro Tour coverage, then I encourage you to check out this week’s In Development and then let me know what you think.

All roads lead to revenge (or ‘What I played at the PTQ’)

I had a great time at the PTQ in Santa Clara a little over a week ago. My appreciation for PTQs is something I’ve written about before. They’re this great combination of seeing friends you don’t always get to see in person and getting to play against folks who have, by and large, brought their ‘A’ games.
Heading toward the PTQ week, I was working on a Fauna Shaman deck in Extended that didn’t pan out, but which led directly to this Standard list that I presented two weeks ago over at In Development. However, I knew that I wanted one of my options to be a list that used Fauna Shaman, as I have such an affinity for that card. As it happens, the lists that get the most use out of Fauna Shaman in Standard are Naya, which I dislike as being somewhat underpowered, and Jund, which uses the Shaman to pitch and recur Demigod of Revenge.
But I still wasn’t super-excited about Jund lists until Mike Flores posted his most recent take on “Animal Jund.” And while the specific build he presented didn’t quite do it for me, that did give me a test build to be the more aggro half of my pair of decks — the other being a slight update of the Immortal Engine, a blue/white control build.
Click through to Extended to read more about the Fauna Shaman list, what I did with it, and how it performed.

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This week’s In Development – The other side of the coin

So, what’s the corollary to attacking?
Blocking maybe?
Well, when by “attacking” I mean “offensive strength,” a concept I wrote about two weeks ago, then the corollary is resilience.
In this week’s In Development, I write about the concept of resilience in a deck design. What makes a deck “resilient?” Is there an easy test?
Click here to read the article, and then join the discussion in the comments.