Monday, March 30, 2015

Czech Legacy/Vintage Weekend - Grixis Delver

This weekend there was an eternal format event in Cerny Rytir. I participated in the Legacy tournament. Because of the release of Dragons of Tarkir that Friday I was pretty exhausted and that is why I did not expect a good record. But I wanted to participate and have some fun (that was a success).

I sleeved the following deck (ok with the exception 2 Flooded Strands, I played 4x Delta IRL, had only 2 digital ones when I was taking the screenshot - for those nitpicks that actually saw my decklist). But right before the tournament I decided to cut Forked Bolt and play Pyroblast instead of it main deck. When I played UR Delver at Prague Eternal it was a good decision but nowadays I'm not really sure about it even though that I encountered one non-blue based deck in the tourney (maverick).

When I arrived to Black Knight (Cerny Rytir) it was already past the official start of the tournament (I got stuck in subway because of some maraton event). But the organizer wasn't present so we had to wait for him (he participated in the event). I registered and went to see who came to play in the tournament and was shocked to see the store full of teenagers, children and some older players. I was like what the hell is going on? Pokemon Regionals was held there. Before the tournament started it was really horrible there. The players were loud and running all over the place. I started to regret that I registered for the Legacy tournament (I can't concentrate in such ruckus). But after pairings were posted the players quieted (and concentrated on their own game). But it also seemed for a while that we (legacy players) wouldn't fit in there...In the end there were only 30 players so we managed to squeeze in somehow. There wasn't much free space but we managed.

After trying not to trample anyone around I managed to sit down for the first round. I played against Ondra and his Merfolk. I expected to terribly die to either 'too many lords' or to Chalice of the Void. But none of the scenarios happened. I had enough burn spells to take care of the merfolk game 1 and win. In the second game I tried my best to survive by playing Cabal Therapy but I managed not to discard Echoing Truth that killed me later because it bounced Lord of Atlantis (that I wanted to kill) that unfortunately gives Mutavaults Islandwalk (Lord was replayed a turn later and I couldn't counter it nor kill it). I did not realize that all my lands are islands (played Jund before) and lost the game in this silly way. (I tried saving myself by finding Lightning Bolt to kill it but there was none in the top 4 cards of my library). In that game I did not manage to deal a single point of damage^_^. In game three I did not encounter any Chalice and won (glad I did not encounter too many True-Name Nemesis).

In Round 2 I played against Maverick. I lost the first game not being able to deal with all the threats (Umezawa's Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice mainly). In the second game I wrecked my opponent's board with Virtue's Ruin and that was more or less it. In the deciding game my opponent started with Noble Hierarch. I was wondering what combination of two cards can possibly kill me and couldn't come up with it so I let the Hierarch stay in play. T2 my opponent played Deathrite Shaman and Umezawa's Jitte. I killed Deathrite Shaman (Forked Bolt) but unfortunately Noble Hierarch still attacks for one and that means none of my creatures would survive in play. I tried looking for another Bolt but none showed up. I had to play a creature from time to time to get rid of Jitte's counters and in the end I had to chump with Tasigur otherwise I would lose the game. The turn later I drew Rakdos Charm but it was too late because both Tasigurs were already dead and Jitte had two counters on it already. I lost the match and was quite sad about it...

Next round I played against a reanimator deck. The player had no idea what he's doing but still drawing Entomb and Exhume was all he needed. I kept aggressive hand without disruption and after my Gitaxian Probe I knew that I'm dead. Brainstorm did not find any counterspell either so I lost the first game. In game two I sided in Rakdos Charm, Grafdigger's Cage and Cabal Therapies but I did not get the chance to play either of the cards because Griselbrand showed up too early on the board once again. His Careful Study found Reanimate and Entomb. I had Rakdos Charm on top of my library, but I was a turn late so I died once again. My opponent was really slow even though all he had to do was play discard, entomb and reanimate and occasional counterspell so I did not manage to get something to eat.

I did not feel like playing any other game and was hungry. Nevertheless I continued in the tournament and ended up facing Cloudpost deck. These games were actually pretty fun and very interesting. I obviously lost the first game because I don't have any information written about it (except one life total). In the second game I tried to deal as much damage as possible before Ugin, Emrakul or any other Eldrazi would show up. I had counterspell for only one Show and Tell but I knew that I could deal with Primeval Titan (he had 2 Show and Tell, Primeval Titan and Ugin in his hand). I couldn't deal with Ugin though. In the end it came down to my opponent playing Ugin. My only card in my hand was Dig Through Time so I played it. The before last card was Force of Will so I countered the spell and killed him a turn later. In game three I got rid of Force of Will, Brainstorm, Sensei's Divining Top and Repeal leaving him with Emrakul and Kozilek. I hoped that this would buy me enough time to kill him. A turn later he played Dryad Militant. I was glad that this card did not hit the table on t1 because that would really be annoying and Cabal Therapies wouldn't be that good (and I sided out Bolts and sided in Price of Progress). Few turns later I managed to play Tasigur. Later I played more creatures and felt pretty safe with 3x Pyroblast, Force of Will and a blue card in my hand (Probe). I won^_^.

In the last round three surprises happened. First my opponent lay down on the table a playmat I painted (that he bought at Prague Eternal). Second - he played Illusions of Grandeur/Donate deck. I expected to win because I run Force of Wills, discard and Pyroblasts but I had no idea how his deck actually looked like (except Intuition, FoWs, Ponders/Preordains/Brainstorms etc). When I saw his opener with Illusions, Fow and Misdirection I wasn't afraid at all. So I played all the creatures and burn spells I could and that was good enough. In the second game I could only swing for 10 but after a quite a counter battle over a Misdirected Lightning Bolt my Monastery Swiftspears became huge and killed my opponent. After this he went through my binder and bought one of the Dark Rituals I painted and even found (bought it/traded it later when I wasn't around) another Dark Ritual to replace it (one in a pretty bad shape, perfect for altering^_~).

Even though this tournament cost me 300CZK and I did not win anything it was nice. I enjoyed it very much even though the Pokemon players were pretty scary at first^_^. The second part of this Series on Sunday was a complete failure for me though. -_-.

In the next local legacy tournament I wanted to try Gurmag Angler instead of Tasigur but I forgot about it and just brought the deck the way it was put together for the Czech Legacy/Vintage Series. Even though I faced Angler in one game I did not regret having Tasigur in my deck. But I saw that 4/5 might not be enough and Karakas is a card that is played (even though not that much). Maverick, Death and Taxes and few other decks run it. And those decks are usually present at the local tournaments here. At first I did not want to play Dig Through Time in three copies but I changed my mind finally. The card is definitely worth it.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Magic: The Gathering Online and Duels of the Planeswalkers

There's been a discussion about Magic: The Gathering marketing and casual players on one of the forums I visit. One of the topics discussed was Magic Online (I'll use MODO as abbreviation because I'm used to it) and Duels of the Planeswalkers (dotp). It seems that people think that MODO will scare new players or casual players and Duels of the Planeswalkers is aimed at computer/video game players that are new to Magic and does not have much to offer to casual players. I personally think that casual players can play casual and fun games on both MODO and DotP.

I used to play on Magic Online from time to time when there was no one around who would or could play paper Magic with me. My experience with MODO at that time was ok. I'm a person who takes ages to assess a board situation in any digital form and that is why I was afraid I couldn't play on MODO. But I could play a game without a problem and finish it in time since the very first game I played. At that time I wasn't trading or buying much but still it seemed pretty straightforward to me. The complexity of 'operating the game' and 'trading' were one of the most stated reasons why MODO scares people.

As for Duels of the Planeswalkers. I bought all the games (that pretty much sums up my Steam account with the exception of Counterstrike, Total War and SolForge) and played them from the beginning till the end. I went through all the content but never really came back to the game after finishing it. No matter what I do not regret paying 10USD for those games. Anyway DotP was the more problematic software for me for many reasons that were later solved or at least partly.

As a Magic player who plays on MODO and played all the DotP games I can actually speak about this matter but I found out that my take on MODO or DotP is different from many people. Anyway I will write something about both Magic Online and Duels of the Planeswalker games.

Well, first MODO is not a game. Most people call it a game but it is not. It is a client that allows players to play a game of Magic (simulation of). Duels of the Planeswalkers on the other hand is a game. So if there is someone who expects MODO to be a game he will soon find out that it is not true. You pay for everything on MODO. It is just a virtual version of paper Magic. You need to get cards and pay for them if you want a deck to play with and you pay to enter a tournament and you win prizes. If you are not good enough to place well, playing on MODO can cost you a lot of money. In some ways though MODO can be easier and take less time to collect cards. You just need to find the right bots and buy the cards. This can be tiresome sometimes but still way less than IRL. You don't need to buy the real cards online or ask players in person if they have the card or not and then argue about the price. (I still understand that for most people having the paper cards is way more appealing than having a digital copy. For many it does not seem fair to pay high prices for digital cards).
Duels of the Planeswalkers (most of the time) is a game. You buy the game, you play the game. Yes, there is content that you can buy but it is not necessary (unless you want to play more sealed decks in dotp15?). The content sometimes actually is special (thus one cannot unlock it during gameplay) By playing the game you unlock a collection of cards that you can use. So if you are a Magic player who does not have others to play against and want some Magic experience you can try DotP out. If this won't be suffiecient you can try MODO. The new Magic Origins (new Magic game) is going to be free to play though. We will see how much F2P it will be in the end^^

MODO is not for new players. (that is also why it WotC site will redirect anyone who clicks on 'no Magic experience' to the current DotP game) MODO won't teach you how to play Magic so if you don't know the rules enough to play a game of Magic forget about MODO for a while. (see paragraphs above why). But MODO can teach you to play better if you already know how to play. The full enforcement of rules is something priceless. This will help some understand the game better and there is no need to argue with people at your LGS and such. There are many players that don't even know what priority is. But when playing on MODO that is one of the things you discover immediately. Duels of the Planeswalkers though will teach you how to play Magic and won't really make a better player (because it does not enforce the rules fully and sometimes does not do it right). So if you are interested in trying Magic and you don't have a friend who can teach you just try this game (there is actually a demo of Magic that is based on DotP that was for free, might still be around). It has a tutorial (and each player has to go through it in the newer games - for iOS this is for free) which is quite good actually and some challenges that let players find out how certain abilities or rules work (for example First Strike, Deathtouch and Trample). The game will teach the basics and does many things for you. It won't tell you though that in the real game there are many more things going on. For example there is nothing like upkeep or the possibility to stack your own triggers. As far as I remember the first game that allowed tapping lands as you want won't even tell you that you can tap your lands yourself. The game can thus create some misconceptions but there won't be that many of them and you will learn enough to be able to play paper Magic (there is also free mulligan in DotP, that's not how it works in the real game of Magic). I actually met quite some players that started playing paper Magic later after playing DotP for some time. Those players actually had a healthy attitude to Magic. They wanted to explore the game, build new decks and have fun. Such players though will get crushed at tournaments or MODO. Finding out what competitive play is can be very hard for some. This is one of the reasons why people say MODO is not for beginners (the level of competitiveness there is very high). There are many people that just play to win or test their decks to win some other events. Participating in such a tournament can be frustrating for some players (or dotp convertees). Anyway the skill level of players varies quite a lot. If you participate in swiss tournaments the level will be overally lower. BTW there are tournaments organized in DotP as well by certain communities. Still the power level of the decks is nowhere near tier 1 decks of any format but this shows that the community is alive. (I really wonder how people are capable of spending hours and hours on such a game, but they do.) There are similar communities using MODO for their tournaments and such.
EDIT: When talking about MODO with the LGS owner he noted one thing...His first experience with MODO was quite bad. He knew what he could do in the game IRL but did not know how to activate Icy Manipulator when he wanted to because he did not have a stop at 'beginning of combat'. This is one of the things players will need to get used to. If there is something you want to do at a certain point you need to place a stop there otherwise it will just pass that step or phase. And some players don't even know that there is something like Upkeep or Beginning of Combat.

Many people also say that MODO does not look nice graphically and that it hasn't changed since 2008 (the above screenshot is from MODO and DotP15). I agree in a way but on the other hand who cares? Obviously some people do. I use MODO to play Magic and what I need is to be able to recognize the cards and to see when something happens (yes, wotc should solve the card text one day...). For that I don't need any nice shiny animations or cool graphics. DotP has this kind of appeal and it seems that there are many players that actually appreciate that and yes I would expect something cool and nice from a game. It is something one is supposed to enjoy. I guess it wouldn't sell much if it would look like MODO :-). But personally I don't want MODO to look like DotP. I want to play a smooth game and not be distracted by anything else or slowed down by anything else (those animations and such slow the game hell a lot). There are many players who try to compare MODO with Hearthstone. I don't like that comparison much. Even though Hearthstone is somewhere in between DotP and MODO it is still a game. A game aimed at masses even though it has a professional scene (which so far I find really ridiculous - a bot can play and win). It is really nice to look at and play but how much pro players care about how the game looks? Maybe they do, but I highly doubt it (even though I can be terribly mistaken... because the fact that people complain about the look of MODO shocked me)

Is MODO suited for casual players? In my opinion I would say yes (because simply it simulates Magic and Magic can be played casually) even though I can state a 'million' reasons why not (hopefully will be written in the text that follows). If you are a magic player with a paper collection you will find out that on MODO you have to start from the beginning. After you register, pay 12 bucks or so and run MODO you get a starter pack. There are some cards, 5 tickets and new player points and some Planeswalker cards (haven't played that format so I cannot really write about that). But if you want to play let's say Standard you need to get cards for your deck. First you either need to play some drafts to get some cards and packs (so you can trade) or buy the cards right away (if you are not good enough to go 2:1 or 3:0 this might be difficult). When it comes to buying and trading it can be quite confusing to some. It wasn't for me but there were players that came to LGS and asked me how the hell MODO works. There are many bots that sell or buy cards and if you want some help you can check for prices.
BTW If you just want to try out MODO you don't need to pay anything. Just download the client (which can be a bit difficult as always with WotC and their websites) and click on 'Free Trial'. It will let you choose one of five decks to play with against other players trying MODO for free. The chat does not seem to work during that but you have access 'Help'. This is something I would advise people to read (if you haven't looked for something online beforehand). At least read what each shortcut does and use them. Or at least use F2. This will save you a lot of time. You can also set the keys in the settings. BTW DotP also has some shortcuts that come handy and settings that can help (for example setting a stop when priority is passed, I'm not good with playing counterspells in DotP). Unfortunately no F2/F4/F6 and the like.

As a casual player I wouldn't actually mind buying cards for a deck for those 5 tix and play with it. In the Play Lobby under Constructed Open Play there are four different categories - Just Starting Out, Just For Fun, Getting Serious and Tournament Practice. Depending on your deck's power level you can choose one of these categories and host a match. This way you limit the power level a bit. In DotP the card collection is the same for all players (well not always as some people have the expansions and some don't) so the power level of the decks is more or less the same. The sealed pools can differ quite a lot but still it's not like playing crappy draft deck against tier 1 legacy. On MODO you can play against someone with expensive and good cards but under the right category in the most cases you will find games that are actually fun. Or at least that happens to me when I try to play some casual games. It will certainly depend on the format (if the format is not supported by WotC you can save your decklist as Freeform and play that. For example if you and your friend want to play French EDH and the cards you have in your deck are banned in the official EDH). If you want to play casual legacy (or any eternal format with the exception of pauper) it will mean that the power level of opponent's cards can be way higher than yours for example but you need to keep that in mind. Still it can be lots f fun. Some players stated that casual playing is more about a social aspect. In this case playing either 'game' won't be good enough I guess but if there is no other way for your friends to play at one place, you can still use MODO or DotP and have fun (I haven't tried the Invite player in DotP, always played against random opponents, but it supposedly let's you play against someone you want to play).
I have to say that the primary reason why I came back to MODO is that I was fed up with the players at the local tournaments. I just couldn't stand them and that is why I decided to play on MODO so I wouldn't need to listen to them.

In the era of tablets and phones being able to run complex games one would expect the possibility to play MODO on such a device. I wouldn't personally but there are people that actually told me that this is an issue. I personally cannot imagine playing MODO on my cell phone. I need to be somewhere where it is calm and I'm not distracted by many other things. WotC though should make MODO work on iOS (or at least last time I checked few years ago it wasn't compatible). Seriously I sometimes wonder if they test the new sets. Because many times there are bugs that are really HUGE problems. When talking about bugs...DotP is actually even more bugged than MODO. Sometimes it will do something that should not happen at all or just crashes. I played DotP on both computer and iOS and both versions were problematic.

So do Wizards of the Coast want more players playing on MODO? If yes, they really should start to do something about it. Nowadays there are other digital card games that have some kind of player base. In some cases huge (Hearthstone) and in some cases small (SolForge) but well WotC should see that there starts to be a competition. Or maybe they do not care, there will always be few million people playing MODO...

tl;tr: MODO is for those who want to experience the full Magic experience no matter if that is for casual playing or competitive one. Surely most players will be highly competitive. Being good and winning tournaments means that one can play for free. Otherwise it costs a fortune, same way it costs IRL. MODO simulates fully paper magic so it comes with everything from playing different formats casually, competitively, trading (secondary market) or buying product from wotc. It is free to try but otherwise you pay for everything.
DotP is a game that for a small fee (10USD) can allow a player to experience some kind of casual Magic games either against AI or other players from all around the world be it 1-on-1 games or multiplayer. Each DotP has different modes and decks so the variety is actually pretty big (there is Planechase and Archenemy available for example). I honestly like dotp12 the most because of its decks. The earlier games in general have access to more powerful cards or more cards from kinda everywhere than the newer games. The newer games though are more suited for beginning players and allow more 'deckbuilding' experience and the games are more balanced. None of these games though will allow you the real deckbuilding experience (who knows what Magic Origins will be like) but that also avoids the fact that your deck gets wrecked by tier 1 legacy deck. DotP games have expansions and those bring new cards. Those cards are not from core sets usually so they bring more variability.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

New Home T2 and draft

Disclaimer: this post is more of a rant...

Najada store recently moved to a new location. To celebrate that there were tournaments with better price/prize ratio. One could play type 2 or draft. I participated in one type 2 event and a draft that followed.

My mood was far from being the best one. I got upset easily. I really hate when someone starts to pick on someone or just be rude or something (happens all the time) or that someone just comes to me to watch our match. So I was prepared to leave the store if there would be too high density of people I did not want to play against (lately happens more often then not). I also wasn't really sure what deck to play but in the end I decided for Abzan Control. The reason was that for the high entry fee that there was I wanted to play with a deck I really wanted to play with (I know that playing with a deck I don't like or a deck using a strategy I just don't like much is my worst enemy - learned from playing another TCG named Legend of the Five Rings) and not something I did not really trust much (UW Heroic).

At local FNM I actually played with that UW Heroic because all my other type 2 decks were in my flat and I haven't been there for quite some time. I decided to play with it for the fun of it and to see if playing with the deck is worth 6 tix (and what it can do in competitive environment). To my surprise it was actually quite fun (even 'budget' version was good enough for all those Junks, and RWs). The decisions were quite simple. I either try to win or die horribly. I played with this on MTGO so I had an idea how to play with it. At first I wasn't really sure how much I want to force something but I found out quite soon that one can actually play it from the safe side and that worked well. The deck draws cards and scries hell a lot (even without scry lands, even though I missed those a lot). I came up second idea how^_^. So it wasn't bad but do I think this deck is good? I'm not convinced yet. That is the reason why I chose Abzan Control for the New Home Standard rather than UW Heroic even though I knew that cards like Whisperwood Elemental would just kill me.

In round 1 I played against 4c Sidisi/Soul of Theros deck which I really like actually. But I find it having the same problem as Sidisi Whip. It has a really cool cards and can do pretty cool stuff but there is not much control over the game. I really don't like that and even if this deck is quite 'wrath of god proof' it just isn't enough for me. Due to my opponent's misplays I managed to win the match though. Then I lost against mono red hell. I usually cannot win the first game unless my opponent gets screwed somehow. It gets way better for me after sideboarding. Unfortunately I mulled to five and terrible died. I won 4 consecutive games against the same deck and pilot afterwards^^. After this Temur Ascendancy awaited me. My opponent managed a huge misplay once again but unfortunately for me I did not have what I needed and lost. Next I played against Boros aggro that I actually beat somehow. Next I faced green hell^_^... All this does not sound very well for me but I actually ended up in the top 8 and won some packs (not worth much). I'm ready to stop playing Abzan Control...or t2 altogether. (I really wish to play Legacy. But there wasn't time for that due to me being somewhere 'completely' elsewhere)

After type 2 we drafted ktk block. I opened Temur War Shaman so I picked that and wondered what I would be playing. I was passed Pyrotechnics so I decided to go for red. I got mostly red cards from the first pack and good ones. I expected to end up mardu, but these colors were not really coming in pack 2 (so the player to my left was in some or all of those colors). In the second pack I opened Surrak so I picked that. But at that time I hardly had anything green (I had red, black cards and fixation for mardu). Anyway I started slowing picking green cards and occasional blue card. In pack three I had no idea what to pick as my deck was really a hybrid (mono red aggro and something midrange). I ended up in Temur colors and the deck was really insane. I just can't describe it. When drafting this I wasn't prepared to actually play 6 drops so I passed cards I would actually normally pick and play as they win the game on their own (Mob Rule and Flamerush Rider). Those were the cards that killed me in the finals (I expected that) but it was epic nonetheless. The deck needed 18 lands which I realized after the first game. I was usually cutting Ainok Tracker for an Island.

Anyway during these two tournaments some players had some remarks about some plays (they were right) and games and it wasn't nice at all to find out that those people are highly competitive and do not understand the aspect of fun not to mention that they weren't nice at all when saying this or that. I had a really great deck which was fun to play with and actually a 3:0 material but I wasn't there to win. I was there to explore and have fun and for the majority of time I managed to ignore all the negativity from other players. But in the end, during the finals, I have to say that those people just ruined my very good mood at that time and it hurts even now. Also for all this money (not the draft but t2) I'm not sure if it actually is worth playing 'for fun'. Because this really calls for 'winning'. It seems that my 'competitiveness' has its limits and no one seems to understand that nor respect that.

Najada Store

Last weekend Najada game store was moving to a new place near Jiriho z Podebrad (Ondrickova 14). I among others helped with moving the store. At 10am we started packing all the stuff, dismantling what could be dismantled etc. I have to say that after two weeks of epic fails and days that I'm glad are over this was an activity that actually felt worth doing.

After several hours we managed to fill one room with boxes full stuff and dismantled tables.

In the afternoon it was time to fit all that into a van. Miro was the one who had the great opportunity to play tetris with very big pieces^_^. One more person was helping him to arrange stuff and the rest of us was bringing all the stuff from the store to the van. As usual when the car was full there were still many many other things still in the store (with other furniture included)

When the van was loaded we seperated and all went to the new location. All of us was like 'wow'.

It was time to unload everything. I was starving by that time and it was my time to eat so I got a great Vietnamese food from nearby and ate most of it. Afterwards I tried to help as well. When everything was in the new place we had to wait till majority of the people would assemble (metal) shelves (max three people at once could work on one rack). I have to say good job to all those who participated because that was a really difficult task to do and it involved gloves and a hammer. (I also have cuts on my hands from that, the edges were pretty sharp). If someone would be listening to the sounds from the room he would wonder what the hell is going on. It sounded like someone was being tortured.

The most heavy items were drawers full of cards...

Assembly of the Najada's counter was very intricate thing as well I have to say....and the drawers were marked with coordinates (^_^).

New tables arrived and were also assembled (and many other things happened during that as well). They are pretty cool! We have a red zone now! (black zone...). There was so many things one could not even imagine that were needed to be done. And for that I admire all those who made that possible.

After all that running around with stuff my step counter was showing this number ->