Breaking Through – Hectic Holidays

This time of the year is always quite different than the rest. Both as a gamer and a non-gamer, things can get a bit hectic. Whether you are dealing with family or just are overwhelmed with shopping, one thing that probably doesn’t interfere with your schedule is Magic. During the holidays, the number of events always drops off, so much so in this case that I won’t be playing in anything for a month or so until Grand Prix Sacramento.

This makes this time of the year even weirder because despite having a bunch on my mind, there is not really enough going on to generate an article. I can’t write about the deck I am playing in event X next week or anything like that so I am stuck with many fragmented thoughts on many subjects all bouncing around in the old skull.

That sounds like an article! Right? Eh, close enough, let’s go!

The Holiday Cube

The Holiday Cube is up and that is always awesome. Over the next few weeks, you should expect a flurry of screenshots, Tweets, and Facebook statuses, because it is too fun not to. If you have ever played with the Cube, you know what I am talking about, but it’s time to discuss etiquette.

I understand people get upset when they lose. We all do to some degree, but our reactions and the way we deal with defeat is what defines us. However, when we are talking about something like a Holiday Cube, the spirit of it is really taken away when your opponent rages at you.

Obviously this is mostly anecdotal, but due to the loose confines I have set for this article, allow me to tell you about my night last night. I logged on to Magic Online to record a draft with my first opportunity. I drafted a pretty sweet [ccProd]Upheaval[/ccProd] deck with 7 different pieces of artifact mana. I submitted my deck and went to play round 1.

Literally before I had cast a spell, my opponent was complaining about his not drawing a land after his opener. He then begins to tell me I’m lucky and that his deck is better, blah blah blah. You guys know the routine. The ranting, whining, and cursing he did throughout the match made it completely un-postable. I cannot remember not being able to post a video due to an opponent’s behavior before.

The thing is; I am playing on an account with my name attached to it. This generally means people tend to be nicer to me, whether that is fair or not, it is the truth. If someone is willing to go out of their way to try to ruin my experience, what is going on in the world with random Magic Online matches?

I will not sit here and try to convince the world to stop trolling, or being ragers, but can we make an exception for the Holiday Cube and the Holiday season?

Obviously I don’t expect many ragers to read this and then be enlightened all of a sudden, but we, as spreaders of joy, can be extra nice ourselves. I wished my raging opponent a happy holiday and said “good luck” before leaving, despite every ounce of me wanting to rage back. There just is no room to be mean to people, especially at a time of the year when everyone is stressed out enough as is.

Reach out and be a good person, if only for this season. You might even find out that you like it!

Grand Prix Pro Points

Earlier this year, the new system for gaining Pro Points from Grand Prix went into place. Basically, only Pro Points earned from your top 5 GP finishes count toward your total for rewards level etc. at the end of the year. Initially, the idea seemed like an improvement, but I still had to experience it to know for sure and now that six months of the format have passed, I wanted to revisit that thought.

First of all, let me say that I am one of the people this rule theoretically helped. I am no longer a grinder trying to attend as many events as humanly possible. Instead, I want to attend most North American Grand Prix and all Pro Tours, which is still some 30 to 35 weekends out of the year.

In the first half of this season, I have not done very well. Adjustments in my personal and work life have probably hurt me too much when it comes to results and my GP Pro Points have been lackluster in return. In fact, I don’t have a single one at this point. Now, looking back at the schedule thus far, I have attended and played in 9 Grand Prix. In addition to that, I had flights and hotels planned for another 3 Grand Prix that I did not make due to illness or travel restrictions.

The first event I missed, the new system was really felt. “No big deal, I can make that up later.” However, as my results continued to be fruitless, missing in Toronto and then Dallas really began to sting. There are 11 more Grand Prix that I can reasonably attend throughout the rest of the season, so we are effectively halfway through and the pressure to put up results is high.

I have been in this situation before. Prior to Worlds 2011, I risked falling off the train. A Top 4 finish there gave me Level 6 privileges for the following year though and all was well. Under this new system, I know there is less of a chance of that. While Pro Tours still offer big spikes (I have 6 points from PT Theros), I still feel like I need to do well at a lot of these Grand Prix to make sure I have good standing at the end of the year.

It is important to note that this is how I feel, not some fact, so it could easily be the case that this pressure is lifted as the year rolls on, but as of right now, I certainly feel it.

That said, I do feel like I was able to miss a Grand Prix or two and not to be totally punished. If I had any reasonable amount of points (a.k.a. did not suck), those couple of misses would not be a big deal. If I had 7 points from three Grand Prix for example, I would not be stressing at all at this point.

If it takes that much trouble, to both be putting up bad results AND missing events due to acts of God for people to really feel stressed out, then perhaps this system is totally fine. If there is anyone who has a decent set of points from Grand Prix that also missed Dallas (or other GPs) and is worried about their end of the year status as a result, I would definitely love to hear from you.

GB Dredge

As I wrote about last week, I was unfortunately not able to make it to the Invitation in Vegas to try out GB Dredge. I did post an updated list though, which is what I would still stick with this week, if you are into that sort of thing. For reference, this is where I am at:

[deck]Main Deck
4 Deathrite Shaman
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
1 Manaweft Sliver
4 Lotleth Troll
4 Nighthowler
3 Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
2 Shadowborn Demon
4 Nemesis of Mortals
3 Thoughtseize
4 Grisly Salvage
4 Commune with the Gods
4 Overgrown Tomb
7 Swamp
8 Forest
3 Golgari Charm
4 Skylasher
2 Shadowborn Demon
1 Hero’s Downfall
1 Ultimate Price
2 Deadbridge Chant
2 Nylea’s Disciple[/deck]

The results of Vegas don’t really have me wanting to change much. Control was very popular and will likely continue to be so for the next week or two. With [ccProd]Thoughtseize[/ccProd] and [ccProd]Lotleth Troll[/ccProd] now in the main deck, control matchups like Esper, Mono-Black, and UW are things I want to be facing every round. If they can play double duty and help keep Mono-Blue off my back, even better!

I will say that based on the range of aggressive decks that are now being played, I am pretty sure I would swap out [ccProd]Nylea’s Disciple[/ccProd] for [ccProd]Gift of Orzhova[/ccProd] at this point. I like having more creatures in my graveyard and in my deck, but Disciple does so little against the tempo decks with disruption and a decent clock. Gift, on the other hand, can win the game in a single swing due to how large your guys get and granting evasion against decks that play a ton of guys to stall the ground is also nice.

The only other change I am leaning toward is possibly cutting a single copy of [ccProd]Deadbridge Chant[/ccProd] in favor of another card against aggro. Now that the deck has leaned so heavily into beating control, making sure I have enough tools to beat the aggressive decks looking to prey upon control is important.

Looking ahead, Vancouver is the next Standard tournament where I could play this, although a month in the Standard metagame might have it looking completely different by then, so I am unsure of whether or not this will be a solid choice come that time.

Gamer Christmas

I identify as a gamer. I would say that’s mostly mental, as I actually do not play a lot of games in the traditional sense. Instead, everything in my life is turned into some sort of a game and I evaluate things based on principles I learned from gaming (such as expected value, opportunity cost, etc.). I have no problems with gamers that play a bunch of games—I am just not one of them.

But come Christmas time, (or my birthday, which is only 2 days before Christmas), I can be sure to expect some amount of gamer gear that I have no use for or desire to own. I have gotten Anniversary Editions of popular board games like Monopoly and Scrabble. I have been given digital dice for use in games like D&D or Warhammer 40k. I have even been given books written for teenagers because they have some reference to a game in the title. I don’t really care of course. I usually just laugh. But that doesn’t mean I want to keep receiving similar gifts. They are appreciated on a meta level, but if I am never going to get use out of these things, it is probably correct to clarify the situation to potential gift givers.

This is an important thing to do as a gamer. The genre is incredibly broad. Perhaps you really want a new keyboard for your PC gaming, or maybe you just need some sleeves for your Magic decks. You know these things, but the non-gamers in your life definitely do not. The world to them is foreign, aside from what you tell them.

My advice to any gamer is to be rather explicit with people around the holidays. If you want sleeves or specific singles, being blunt is a much better tactic. If you don’t care what you get, by all means, remain silent, but buying for a gamer when you are not one is already a daunting task. These people are likely taking a stab in the dark and hoping they get you something you like and can use. It might seem awkward to drop blatant hints, but when that person gets you something you actually are excited for, that will make them happier than any pasted on smile as you receive a backup set of pieces for Risk that you haven’t played in 11 years.

Wrap Up

Next week will be a busy one, but I will be back with my year in review, so check back then. As always, thanks for reading and happy holidays!

Conley Woods

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