Monday, August 31, 2015

Grand Prix Prague

This year we had a Standard GP in Prague. I don't really have good memories from the previous GPs in our country because the organization was pretty bad and the price/prize ratio was really bad (talking about side events). This time though Mindsports Academy organized the event and they made it right. It was the best GP in terms of organization.

Since this GP was played in the most played format (I guess) many players wanted to come. Many were preparing for the GP and that showed on Standard tournament attendance that almost doubled. I wasn't particularly happy about the format but I decided to actually prepare for the GP a bit and decided to play t2 to find out what I could expect (and stick with one deck if possible). I put together Abzan Control and played with it in a few tournaments both online and 'offline'.

I took a day off on Friday so I could participate in the side events on Friday. The day before though I felt pretty crappy and I knew that this would stick with me for two more days if I would be lucky. That is why I wasn't 100% sure if I want to participate in the GP or play in other events. When I don't feel good I usually don't play well and the memories that stay in my mind are of how badly I felt that day (the case of GP Strasburg). I also found out that I can't find my Thoughtseizes and that I don't have any more Dig Through Times (because all of those were in decks players borrowed from me). But some Magic players offered me that I can play with their cards so I knew I could complete my decks and was truly thankful for that.

I set my alarm clock for 9am or something and I even got up^_^. I headed to Incheba Expo Prague, taking a very strange route because I had to buy some stuff before getting there. That is why I wasn't aware that there was actually a tram line going straight to the Expo from where I live.

When I arrived there I looked around the expo hall that was filled with few hundred people. I tried to psychically prepare for the fact that the day later there would be a thousand more players^_^. I registered for Legacy side event and hoped that at least 20 players would show up. I did not expect many foreign players to join the event but there is a big legacy player base in Prague so I hoped that the tournament would fire. There were fourteen participants in the end.

In round one I played against Ilya Zinovyev playing Epic Storm but I wasn't aware of that for quite a while. I started with t1 Delver and I managed to flip it. I had no counterspells in my hand but I had some creatures and a bolt. At that moment I did not even think that I could play against a combo deck and that counterspells would come handy. My opponent started with Bloodstained Mire and fetched for Volcanic Island. That seemed kinda strange because decks playing Volcanic Islands do not usually run Bloodstained Mires. T1 Brainstorm and T2 Ponder seemed like a Storm deck to me but still it could also mean that my opponent kept a bad hand while playing the same deck as me for example. That wasn't the case. I drew Gitaxian Probe few turns later so I played it. There were three Rituals in my opponent's hand along with 2x Infernal Tutor and 1x Burning Wish so I decided to end the game the soonest possible and won on the same turn. I won game two as well.

Next round I played against Michal Adamec. He started with Island (I had Wasteland in play) and played some Ponders and Preordains. I knew that Michal played Show and Tell for a while but he switched to Delver. I did not expect him to play Delver this time, but it could possibly be Show and Tell. So when I flipped Delver thanks to Spell Pierce that showed up I was glad that I have at least some counterspell (I also had Daze). My opponent wasn't happy about that Pierce at all. Later he played Bayou and it seemed to me that he is on ANT. I destroyed the dual land and that saved me from losing the game. In game two I managed to discard a wrong card from his hand which could result in a lost game but he was unable to draw the one more card that would finish me off (he actually needed one more mana in order to play Tendrils for 18).

In round three I played a mirror match...not really sure if played is the right word. I mulled to five in both games and in one I couldn't draw any land and in the second one I couldn't keep up with 2x Delver and Deathrite Shaman.

In the following two rounds I played against Delver decks as well (not 4c but Grixis) and won.

During those five rounds of Legacy I spent a lot of time shuffling my own deck and my opponent's deck and I have to say that my arms ached after all that..and I still had two more days of shuffling cards ahead of me^_^. I have to say that I forgot how annoying shuffling during a tournament can be.

After the Legacy event in which I came up 3rd winning more or less nothing I registered for a ORI Sealed Deck Last Chance Trial. This tournament was supposed to start ages ago but there weren't enough players for it. That is why the organizers decided to give the players a GP Seville playmat (with Temporal Trespass illustration on it, nice playmat actually). After many announcements and one more hour of waiting the tournament actually started (I waited only that hour unlike the majority of our bracket).

I opened a nice boros pool (with Liliana) and passed it to my left. I received not so nice Boros pool (with no money) but there was one rare card that could win me the games - Chandra's Ignition - so I put all my hopes in it. Apart from this the deck did not have much removal.

In all those rounds I played (4 in total) I played against Boros decks (even though there were few other decks, BG mostly elves, GW aggro that actually won and two Boros decks were in top 4). All those players (playing boros) had cards like Consul's Lieutenant, Celestial Flare, War Oracle AND SENTINEL OF THE WATCH. I could stop most creatures but Sentinel of the Watch was a huge problem. Mainly because all my removal was either burn that could deal 2-4 damage or destroy tapped creature at sorcery speed and well creatures with Vigilance don't usually end up tapped, right? I managed to win against those three Boros decks but when playing against the fourth one I got flooded and I could not simply deal with the Sentinel and died. But this time I won a loooot of points so I could get some nice prizes.


When I got back home my physical state worsened so I printed my decklist, checked the deck and its sideboard and went to sleep. When I awoke it wasn't much better but I could walk. I left the flat, hopped on some tram and 30 minutes later ended up at Expo Prague. At 8:45 we got seatings for the players' meeting. The players' meeting was one big mess and I also got the feeling that I'm sitting in an elemantary school class. But after some hiccups we received everything we were supposed to be given out and the organizer got both our decklists and consents. After this I headed outside to chill out (the outside temperature was something like 35 dgrs of celsius, inside it was even worse, the table numbers oftentimes served as a impromptu fan) a bit and prepare for my first round. I played few games to see if I can actually concentrate or keep in mind that something is supposed to trigger etc...I did not forget my triggers but it was difficult for my brain^_^.

The funny thing during the 'byes' period was that there were players that still did not have their decks ready for the event. These players submitted their decklists without actually having those decks ready. I just couldn't understand that...I know that there were players that were getting the cards for their decks before the tournament but it never came to my mind that someone could be possibly doing this during the first two rounds of the event. That's kinda crazy o_O.

In my first round I played against RG Devotion. There wasn't much I could do in this match. I have problems dealing with one Whisperwood Elemental. Dealing with two is even worse...and if the manifested cards are Whisperwood Elemental and Dragonlord Atarka it does not help much. When I finally managed to get rid of those Elementals and Atarka my opponent hit me with second Atarka and that finished me off. Next I played against Burn and that's pretty much all I played against till the last two rounds. I won all the Burn matches somehow. I even managed to win twice game 1 which was a surprise but well it was well due to either having too many Rhinos (they usually come in a pack errr a crash) or opponent missing a land drop etc. Again I had few chances to look at my opponent's face when I played Dromoka. In one case it was revealed on top of my library. My opponent read the card about three times. Then I played it and he read it once again, he tried to stoke it twice on his turn but Dromoka's Command saved the Dragonlord and I won.

Next I played against Ivo Dienelt whose decklist you can check here. He started with Monastery Swiftspear. It wasn't followed by any non-land card though. 5 mountains followed and then he slammed (not really) Stormbreath Dragon on the table. I was stuck with few forests and Windswept Heath so I had no way of getting rid of those two creatures and those killed me. I wasn't really sure how to sideboard against this deck because I hardly saw something except the Swiftspear and Stormbreath Dragon. So I added some cards against burn and kept global removal spells in the deck. That showed to be a good idea but still wasn't good enough. My opponent started with Temple of Triumph, followed with Battlefield Forge into Seeker of the Way and things did not look good for me. I also messed up and killed his two morphed Ashcloud Phoenixes with Bile Blight even though this does not work as I found soon later (*facepalm*). Hope he knows that now as well. After this terrible loss I awaited my last round to see if I can possibly squeeze in day 2 or not. I was paired against Xin Sui playing Jeskai Midrage/Tempo. I have to admit that in this round I seriously messed up twice. I couldn't concentrate well and we both had hard time trying not to boil (or melt^_^). Even though I was trying to save my non-Abzan Charm removal for Stormbreath Dragons I still died to Stormbreath Dragon...Elspeth did not show up either. Stormbreath Dragon killed me three times in the tournament and that meant I couldn't try playing in Day 2 (because I had to go X-2 in order to end up there).

When I finished playing the main event the side events were already closed (or rather the registration for them) so I spent some time walking around and waiting for others to finish their Sealed Decks/Standard or whatever. I played few games of legacy and utterly died to Jund top decks^_^ but it was ok...

On the last day of the GP I wasn't really sure what I wanted to play. At first I wanted to participate in the big Modern tournament because the upcoming WMCQ this weekend is in Modern. I haven't really played much Modern in paper form so I thought that it could be a good idea to try it and see if playing Jund is a good idea. I woke up grabbed my deck and decklist and ran to the tram station. I hopped on a tram supposedly going only two stops further (no.12). I hopped of it on the first stop so I could catch the subway train to Palmovka. But unfortunately the subway was closed. So I ran up once again (because I knew that in about 30 secs there would be a tram going to Palmovka). I missed it by few seconds so waited for another one. I got on and heard an announcement that due to subway not operating the tram will take detour covering all those subway stops. This generated quite some delay. At Palmovka I got off the tram to check if the tram number 12 arrives any time soon. It was supposed to arrive in 16 minutes so I hopped on the tram I got off from few seconds earlier and tried to go to the Expo via a different route...only to find out that there I would have to wait yet another 16 minutes to get on yet again tram no. 12. I finally got there but rather late as the registration was closing.

In the end I decided to register for Historic Sealed Deck. But we were accidentally registered for the earlier Modern tournament (I suppose, I was). Some time later our tournament was announced and we went there to find out that we are not enrolled. So we headed back to the judge station and asked to be enrolled in the tournament we payed for. That meant that me and Ondra would face each other in the first round as we had to be paired manually.

In the very first booster pack I opened Serum Visions and it was the only card worth some money in my pool (or at least I thought so). After looking at my cards and not finding the cards I wanted to play (mainly in green, white and of course colorless) I ended up putting together Gr deck with Masticore as my win con. In the first round I played against Ondra's 5c deck and managed to win. Next I utterly lost to GW aggro because the only cards I could draw were lands and when I finally drew some creatures I was too far behind. But anyway I'm not sure if I could have withstood that onslaught. My next opponent did not really seem to know his own cards so that helped me a bit to beat him. I lost game one, but I won the following two. In game two my opponent fell behind fast and in game three I decided to be as aggressive as I could and it worked out. 2/2 by round 2, 3/2 hasty creature on t3, even bigger creature on t4 and it was enough to win the game. In the following round I met the nicest person at the GP. He had a nice UB deck with Platinum Angel (and Mind's Eye). Even though I could deal lethal damage before I would die I couldn't get rid of the angel so I could win the game (with quite some artifact removal main deck). I sided in even more artifact removal. Since my opponent was playing several copies of Cranial Plating I even sided in Unforge (never managed to draw it though). In my opener I had a artifact removal that I wanted to use on the Angel primarily. So I was letting all the opposing creatures attack me and hoped to keep my card and stay alive. Soon after that Platinum Angel showed up, I killed it and then I started also drawing some creatures so I could block the ones already in play. I had quite some creatures with Protection from Artifacts so those could block those creatures with Cranial Plating equipped all day. Anyway.. I won both games and that meant that I ended up in top 8.

At this point I did not really feel well and I could hardly concentrate. My drafted deck was pretty bad (especially when white was heavily drafted by two more players) and I couldn't even trigger my own triggers nor attack with a 1/2 vigilance Hover Myr with +2/+2 equipment (I had Puresteel Paladin in play so I could equip for free). I terribly died (and made a fool of myself). I received my prizes and then I had nothing to do.

I walked around and checked the prices of cards at each stand. One vendor was selling Japanese non-foil cards so I bought a bunch and then walked around the table rows. I went through some binders. Then I encountered some Italian? guy that had quite a lot of Japanese cards.

We went outside to process the transaction and it was quite funny to see the face of the security guy. I wonder what kind of thoughts were in his mind when I was pulling out 100EUR bills to pay for those cards I chose earlier.

When I got back I also had some fun watching strangers come and go. I'm not entirely sure what was happening in the other half of the Expo hall but from time to time mothers with their children came to the GP part and were staring at all those guys (and gals) playing Magic. Their looks were priceless. (The finals were going on so there was actually quite some commotion)

It was time to leave the site, sit down somewhere, drink a hot chocolate and open our prize packs. We played some Legacy afterwards...I was so tired that at some point I had to ask what number of counters there is on my opponent's Vial (he just passed his second turn). After lifting my head I realized that it is my third turn...but it certainly did not look like could easily be a turn 10. I had a Deathrite Shaman, two Pyromancers and 6 elemental tokens in play^_^

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Garmin Vivofit

Vivofit is a smart pedometer bracelet that tracks your daily steps, distance, calories burned and heart rate for more or less one month (then the data gets deleted, one needs to upload the data before this happens). It has a rubber wrist band that is durable and water resistant. Vivofit's battery should last for a year and that is one of the reasons why I chose this product in the first place. Many other pedometers need to be recharged once a week and I really hate charging any device.

As for accuracy I don't really have means to test it but I used Garmin GPS system to track the distance and counted the number of steps based on the average length of my step. There was only a very slight difference. I tried walking three different distances and with (heavy bag or a big heavy box) or without anything in my hand (wearing the bracelet) the result was the same. This wasn't the case though when I ran. (I moved less distance according to Vivofit).

Vivofit also sets a daily goal for you. This is actually quite a nice feature. Based on your average daily steps it will adjust the goal. I set my own goal around 7km per day. My goal on the device ranges from 9800 steps (when my activity suddenly drops a lot) to 12000 steps (when it gets higher). At the time when I was looking for such a device one had to manually set the goal and this one allowed automatic setting. This automatic goal setting allows the wearer to be progressively more active. (or at least in theory^_^)

Other feature that seemed handy for me at first is an inactivity bar. It has several stages. After first 2 hours of inactivity first bar appears. After after 15 minutes another bar shows up. To get rid of the red bars one just need to get up and move actively for about a minute (if the bar is all red). The bar does not fill while asleep.

The last feature I did not mention is sleep monitoring. Vivofit records your movement during sleep and distuinguishes light sleep stages from deep sleep stages and it also shows when one awakens. (this fairly works, when I was waking up I wrote down the time and then checked what the bracelet recorded). By browsing the data from this I found out that before major tournaments in Magic (or any other event that seems to put pressure on me) I do not enter the deep sleep state. I used to be awake the whole night before such events. Now I fall asleep. When I wake up though I do not feel refreshed or anything, just completely dead and feeling the same way I used to when not sleeping at all. This is most probably due to the fact that I do not enter the deep sleep stage during which the body regenerates. I also noticed that while lucid dreaming I wake up at the end of deep sleep stage. When I fall asleep again I go immediately to deep sleep again and the dream continues (unless I get up from the bed and then go back to sleep, in that case the sleep cycle starts at the beginning - light sleep). When I wake from a dream I'm fully awake and aware unlike when I wake up not remembering dreaming prior waking up. That's when I'm dizzy and my head aches and it takes time to adjust to 'being awake'.

Vivofit uses Garmin Connect to sync data and show them. The application works on Android and iOS devices. Synchronization via PC proved to be a bit complicated (but that might be due to the fact that Garmin Connect wasn't working the way it was supposed to in January and February). I only use iOS app now (it takes a while - a day sometimes - to see all the data from the pedometer for some reason, it either does not show on Garmin Connect site or in the app...that's why you don't see the Sleep data on the screenshot below).

I did not really talk about calories much. The reason is that the calories that it shows probably do not correspond to reality. It shows the non-active calories (basal metabolic rate) well I guess based on ones weight etc. but as for the active calories burned I have no idea. It probably shows more burned calories if one moves faster but after playing Pump it Up or ITG for two hours the calories hardly moved from the 1900 to 2100 I usually get. In that case the machine itself would tell me that I burned something in between 1500 and 2000 calories. Workouts can be added manually via Garmin Connect. This will add the calories burned (that who knows how are set). Anyway the only thing I managed to figure out out of the calories is this - when I reach over 2100 calories I'm hungry the next day. The day after it is back to normal unless I'm physically active once again.

Overal I like this device, it suits my needs and helps me monitor my activity and this way I can hopefully get a better sleep and keep myself active (and monitor my weight, which is a rather depressing thing to see^_^).

Sunday, August 23, 2015

World Magic Cup Qualifier #1

This year I decided to participate in the WMCQs and for that it was time to play some Standard. After a while figuring what I would like to play I ended up playing Abzan Control which I already played at previous tournaments. The deck changed a bit though. I spent some time playing with the deck (mostly online) and there I really missed playing cards like Bile Blight and while playing in real life I needed Dromoka's Commands (there was many burn decks and GW constellation decks). I used to play Fleecemane Lions main and less removal online but vice versa in paper Magic. Anyway I wanted to tweak the deck so I could get a good result at WMCQ so paper Magic was what interested me.

This is what I ended up playing and I do not regret that. The deck was performing well. I would cut 1 Nissa, 1 Forest, 1 Dromoka's Command or 1 Ultimate price and added Thoughtseize, Den Protector and a land (not sure which one).

Last week before the WMCQ I did not really have time to play. But I also noticed the fact that there was rise in control decks and in Abzan Aggro/Midrange decks. Because of that I added Thoughtseize, Bile Blight and Unravel the Aether. Enchantments are played a lot and burn has its spot as well so I decided to keep 3x Dromoka's Command but I moved 2 of them to sideboard so I can play more general removal. Because I needed to get rid of some cards early game (most of the time I needed to deal with Jace) and couldn't wait till I have a creature on the board so I can use Dromoka's Command as a removal spell.

The day before the Qualifier I was so exhausted that I wasn't even sure if I would wake up (or that my alarm clock would wake me up). I know that after being sleep deprivated for a really long time (few months) there is one day I just don't wake up. It was quite possible that it would happen the day of the WMCQ...

I woke up though (even the alarm clock did not wake me up). It was already late but still early enough for me to get to the site on time. When I got to Dejvice I met two other players so we went to the site together, fetching something to eat as well. I forgot to buy an energy drink, I did not realize that I would really need it that day *facepalm*.

I got missing cards for my and someone else's deck from Ondra and others borrowed cards from me (hopefully I'll get the cards back). Sasa even came to me with a strange request - he needed sleeves for his deck (and some cards as well). Even though he could buy the sleeves on site I told him that he can use the sleeves I have on my burn deck. One player who wanted to play Esper Dragons did not show up but I did not realize that I can take the Thoughtseizes out of the deck and play them myself so I ended up playing 3 Thoughtseizes instead of 4 (I thank Ondra for letting me play with his own. I was really slow in realizing stuff that day^_^ I couldn't think straight.). *facepalm no.2*

After players' meeting during which our decklists were collected and we received Thalias we were paired for the first round. (It seems there was a problem with Wizards Event Reporter) I was paired against Miro Sevcik playing Abzan Midrange. I wasn't particularly looking forward to that match because I knew it would take ages (he plays very slowly) and also because his way of thinking is completely elsewhere than my line of thought. The probability of playing mirror match was very high.

After playing Thoughtseize and seeing his hand I knew what deck he's playing. That was actually the matchup I never played. In his hand there was Ajani, Den Protector, 2x Hangerback Walkers, Caves of Koilos and Temple of Malady. I discarded Den Protector and hoped for a few Abzan Charms, Hero's Downfall or another Thoughtseize before Ajani would show up on the table. I was staring at those Hangerback Walkers, Siege Rhino and another creature (Anafenza I think). I had 2 Coursers and 2 Siege Rhinos but I couldn't really think what to do with the situation. I needed to get rid of the Hangerback Walkers without them generating the tokens (or get rid of those as well) and then I could possibly think of attacking. Miro knew that without being able to attack the game won't end so he spent ages thinking what to do. Few turns later we both were capable of attacking but I managed to deal with his creatures and won the game. The second game looked more or less the same. I managed to win somehow. We had to fill in the result slip ourselves due to problems with WER so I took a pic^_^.

In round two I played against Jiri Stetka who also plays Abzan Control. He usually loses but this time he was got lucky and won. Even though he managed to let his Nissa die and not to play Elspeth when she would kill me he still won the match. In the first game I couldn't draw my sixth land that I desperetadly needed and in the second game I was drawing mostly lands which did not really help me either. No Ugin to save the day and I lost.

/* beginning of rant */
At this point I was in a really bad mood. Listening to Jiri is something no one really likes, losing to him is even worse but that is not what made me angry in the first place. It was Ondra behaving like an idiot. Not only he fails to understand that I hate when people watch me play, he does not understand many other things and it seems that 'being polite' is not a notion he understands. Going through my stuff while I'm not there is something I certainly consider rude. That is why I decided to drop of the tournament after my second loss but in the end I ended up playing the whole tourney. Since I lost against Jiri early I guessed that I wouldn't be able to Top16 but I continued playing. During the upcoming matches I was too upset to think straight and my brain was flooded with thoughts and questions I won't really be able to find an answer for. Concentrating on the game was difficult and I was pretty tired (which was understandable, I really wonder what kept me awake. Maybe the fact that I was really angry helped. Sometimes being angry actually has its upsides.). /*end of rant*/

Next I played against Mardu Dragons or something like that. After seeing my opponent's hand with Kolaghan's Command, Crux of Fate and Stormbreath Dragon I knew that I have nothing to fear that game. (except endless top decks of hasty dragons). Except those cards what I saw was Soulfire Grandmaster that I did not really care much about and some burn spells including Magma Spray which does not do much against me either but I guess it is very good against many decks and cards (especially that annoying Hangerback Walker). In the second game there wasn't much resistance from my opponent so I managed to win relatively easily.

After this I realized that I'm hungry and I really need a coffee or something to wake me up (it was like 3 minutes till the end of round). I sat down to wait for the next round to begin and fell asleep (achievement unlocked!). Sasa woke me up, it wasn't nice but at least I woke up before the round started and could shake off a headache I got because waking up in mid-sleep. He gave me back my cards and sleeves and left. (just for your information, we waited 28 minutes till Esper Dragons and UR Tutelage decks finish their 5 additional turns! That's what I call Murphy's Law...I was soo hungry and sleepy-_-.)

Next I played against burn and it wasn't really pleasant and I wasn't supposed to win. I was facing Eidolon of the Great Revels and I did not like that at all. I could have died one turn but my opponent managed to misplay and that gave me the possibility to play my Siege Rhino and survive the next turn. Next I played Courser of Kruphix after Courser of Kruphix and later won the game. I was glad that I managed to win game 1, because I was in a way better position than usually I am (game one is tough). I lost game two to 3x times Pyrostatic Pillar effect that I couldn't get rid of. In game three my opener consisted of 3 forests, a fetchland and Dragonlord Dromoka. I did not particularly like the hand but if I could draw something and stay alive till turn 6 I could win. The hand had a certain plan even though a pretty shaky one. Also losing the game would mean leaving the site for me and that would probably ease my mind and I could spent more time at Natsucon and it also meant that I can get some warm meal^_^ ). I kept the hand (which in most cases would be immediate mulligan). My following draws were two more fetchlands. I needed to draw a land that is not a fetchland and does not come into play tapped. I managed that and played Dromoka on t6. My opponent missed 2 land drops so I knew that Dromoka would survive at least for one turn and then I had Dromoka's Command if my opponent would try to kill my dragon. Dromoka stayed in play and I won few turns later.

After this turn I hurried to get something to eat and get some Red Bull so I would be able to at least play the next round. Unfortunately for me I played against Abzan Midrange next. I somehow won the first game. I do not remember how or what happened during the game except that I played 2 Rhinos and Courser of Kruphix obviously^_^. In the middle of the second game I got completely lost in the game and I simply couldn't figure out what to do with all those creatures. I just hoped for a Wrath of God effect and lost later when Ajani and Sorin made it into play. I couldn't deal with either of them and I completely forgot that Sorin has an ultimate ability that actually DOES something. So I got rid of him before he could go ultimate but already fell to much behind and lost the game. The third game was similar to the second one. The fact that a judge was watching my game along with few more players (Ondra included as always, even though he seemed to understand that I hate this and even noted that he hates that as well. No matter what he comes to mess my games all the time) did not help. I had no idea what to do and attacking wasn't an option. I then played Elspeth and wondered if I should kill Rhino, Hangerback Walker with it and deal with the tokens with Bile Blight or use Abzan Charm to deal with it. The game continued and I soon faced 5/5 Hangerback Walkers that I couldn't deal with because I only had 1 Bile Blight and 1 Hero's Downfall and I needed one more removal. I did not draw the removal spell and died. But I think that there was a way how to win the game, I just had to seriously mess up somewhere in the middle of the game....But I hardly recall the game now. I was too preoccupied with thoughts in my head that I couldn't process the game the way I usually do. (that does not mean I would have won, I would just remember what happened in the game).

Next Mardu Dragons awaited me. I underestimated Goblin Rabblemaster in game 1 and even after I played few Rhinos that immediately died (to Crackling Doom). I died later to a horde of Goblin tokens. I wasn't happy about that and wasn't looking forward to game 2. My opponent tried to cheer me up and it kinda worked. Those were the only kind words that someone told me that day. In game 2 my opponent couldn't draw enough lands and also misplayed so I won the game. In the third game he kept a hand with Crux of Fate, few Scrylands and Stormbreath Dragon which seemed ok to me but his deck decided to provide mostly lands so I won that game as well. (even though I was flooded as well). But I still had answers to all the dragons and one creature can win the game (hoped it wouldn't end up dead, that would be a problem^_^).

In the last round I knew I would have to pay attention more than before because I was even more exhausted. I played against a very good player piloting UR Tutelage. I wasn't really sure if I can win this match up. My previous experiences with that deck did not end up well. The game was proceeding well though for me. I was able to deal enough damage but I knew there was still Send to Sleep in my opponent's hand that could just mean I would get milled before I deal the final three damage... No matter what I managed to mess up because there was Siege Rhino on top of my library that I could play (I had Nissa in play) and win but I didn't do it (*mega facepalm*). Not only I felt like an idiot but I expected Ondra to tell me this after the game (he didn't). I sided in all the Commands, discard and Unravel the Aether and hoped to win somehow. My opponent sided in Encase in Ice which kinda messed up with my Dromoka's Commands but even getting rid of the Encase (instead of Tutelage) meant that I could win because I would deal lethal damage next turn. That happened. I managed to miraculously win game three. I was facing two Tutelages and I had to mill many cards after two Treasure Cruises and some red drawing spell. My only way to deal with those tutelages (I had 6 cards left in my library) was to play Ugin a get rid of everything there was on the table (I did not have anything costing more than 3). After dealing 11 damage with my creatures (opponent being down to 5) I played Ugin. It resolved. I exiled everything and hoped to use his +2 ability to deal the remaining 5 life. My opponent though played Radiant Fountain and bounced Ugin. Next turn I played Duress to discard a counterspell but the spell itself was countered. I had no other choice but to play Ugin and hope. It resolved and I dealt 3 damage. My opponent played another Fountain though^_^. Anyway I managed to kill him before I ran out of my own cards. Anyway that one damage that was messing my game was my earlier mistake (playing Dromoka's Command post combat) (*facepalm no.3*).

The round was more or less after I finished the match so I wanted to see where my 5:2 record would take me. It wasn't far from top 16 (22nd). After that I rushed to Karlinske Namesti so I could participate in another tournament, this time in dance games. Before it we managed to get dinner with Ondra. My dish was too salty and greasy but it felt great to eat something warm and cooked after all those 7 rounds.

/* something you probably don't need to read*/
I after I ran those few hundred meters to the Natsucon site I knew that my physical performance would be pretty lousy. During the In The Groove tournament I realized how exhausted I am. I can play dance games for hours and feel ok. But after the tournament I felt exhausted both psychically and physically.

When I came back at midnight we ate something (more like a bit of everything we had in the flat) and then watched Mr. Robot's episode from 3 days ago. It was very strange but not provoking my mind to think about the series or its characters much. The thoughts that troubled me during the WMCQ came back and I started reevaluating whether I want to participate in the upcoming two WMCQs and Grand Prix Prague. After this experience with one particular player I really don't know if I want to be a part of that 'community' and suffer from this (there's way more players and things that I don't really appreciate. There are many players that make me feel miserable when I see them or have to deal with them.). While being at Natsucon I realized the big difference. People did not want anything from me there, weren't rude or hostile and actually wanted to talk to me or wanted to learn something. People with similar interests gathered there. Most participants know each other but even they would be strangers they wouldn't be so hostile as many Magic players tend to be. Those people were there to have fun and enjoy the event. I wasn't in the mood for anything, my mood destroyed since the morning, I did not even say good bye to all those people I treasure and was really glad to see after a long time. I regret this, but in my state I think it was a miracly that I did not kill someone...I know this post is strange but I really felt strange that day.

I fell asleep after 2am and woke up at noon, exhausted and depressed wondering if the tournament was worth it. The games and the tournament itself were fine. I would even enjoy it weren't it for that one particular person ruining my day. Unfortunately little is needed to spoil my mood.

/* end of rant */

Friday, August 14, 2015

MTGGoldfish (infographic deck view)

Since I play on MODO more regularly than before which was more of 'rarely' I needed a site to check on prices.

I started using MTGGoldfish to see the prices of a larger amount of cards because it might actually be the only site that does it for free and does it FAST. With time I started using the site for more things. I added some decklists I wanted to share in a text form (because it clearly shows the prices in tix and one can see price of each card at once). Later I ventured on and read some of the statistics articles and became hooked. I don't usually read Magic articles unless it is something very strange usually not talking about Magic but rather about its players/community, psychology, sociology and such. But when seeing numbers and reading some of the analysis I realized that this is something my brain can actually work with and that it actually interests me (even though the interpretation of the data is a completely different matter)

MTG Goldfish has become a site I have opened in my browser most of the time and I actually check the new content. I still do not watch Magic videos but I might actually start doing that. I sometimes watch games on MODO so I don't see a problem why I couldn't watch something that was actually screen captured for that purpose (so people could watch that)

One of the things that I actually like about MTGGoldfish is the fact that it is mostly plain text and shows all the data well unlike other sites (and exports decklists in plain text!). So if someone decides to make the site more graphically pleasing I hope this clarity will be maintained. (the site owner is certainly someone who knows what he wants and can formulate what he wants).

One day while browsing the site I accidentally clicked on some link and I ended up on MTGGoldfish Facebook page. I clicked on 'Like' because they deserve it and then noticed that they were looking for a graphics designer. Which certainly seemed strange since their site looks the way it looks like (no offence, I like it). So I decided to sent them an email with something like my portfolio and see if they would contant me (that forced me to update it and I felt pretty badly afterwards as I don't really have much to show).

A bit later I received an email asking me if I could do what they envision. I found out that what they plan to do is have some nice visualization of decks that they can post on FB, Instagram etc.

I decided to do it no matter what they give me. It sounded as a good idea. During the process of coming up with a layout and design I certainly learned few things (since I really did not expect doing graphs and using zillion of layers...).

I wanted to do the first draft functional and I wanted to have an idea how something like a visual deck view (infographics actually) could look like and I wanted to keep the MTGGOldfish orange color present. It turned out functional but not 'awesome' or anything. The second draft was an attempt to make it look better - in terms of visually pleasing. But I struggled a lot with showing the data. I was trying to figure out what kind of graphs could be used and what graphs wouldn't look dull. The second draft wasn't good enough but it lead me to the final draft which finally started looking nice and flashy (actually a fourth one). Textures and graphics (icons, charts) were added. That is something I was doing seperately in Illustrator/Photoshop and took most of the time. Later it was about figuring out how to make it look coherent. In the end the simplest solution showed up to be the best and the infographic view for MTGGoldfish was created.

So I thank MTGGoldfish for letting me do this and hope that you - players - enjoy it. Even though I wasn't really fan of this idea at first (I like text you see...) I changed my mind later. It is convenient and looks pretty cool and after some changes someone at MTGGoldfish did it looks even better.

Draft no. 1
Draft no. 2
Draft no. 3
Final generated version

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

When the server is down ...

We both downloaded Magic Duels and were looking forward the opportunity to go through the campaign and then play against each other. But few days in a row I came to our flat finding out that my game cannot connect to the server and that is why this happened.

Normally Magic Duels gives us the possibility to play against each other, each of us owning his/her cards while the power level being more or less the same (since having the same card pool available). But this time we couldn't play online so I decided to grab some cards so we can play 'offline'.

It was quite a change from our last 'duel' in which Karn, Silver Golem was pitted against The Mimeoplasm and it was either turn 3 combo kill from my side or Karn locking me (my mana base) by turn three.

I was doing silly plays and not really tried to win, but it was fun nonetheless...(I had to play my Mythic Rare! There has to be some kind of achievement for that, or not? There was one in the DotP games...)

No, my poor one toughness creatures!

No way, you have disperse?

The Guide was supposed to block the 6/4 Elemental.

Oops, I tapped Disperse for me.

Death by laughter...

Death by Welking Terns

Mana flood-_-

Chandra's parents showed up...

Telling time...oops no lands

I'm not dead yet!

Mega block, expecting some pump spell.

This rare is even worse than I thought...

Our rares + best cards
after day 1 of Magic Duels

Liliana of the Veil WIP

I started drawing this just to see what would happen if I would use myself as a model for the drawing/painting. I took a picture of myself in this pose and used that as a reference. Unfortunately this did not end up good because my body is hardly feminine. So after hours at staring male looking Liliana I decided to make her look like a female if possible and make the painting more cohesive in general (I added something that can be considered as a background). I'm quite happy with the result even though Lili still resembles me a bit...that's why she does not look sexy at all^_~.

Yet another doodle...

This was an attempt at something that would resemble a galaxy, but I failed at that so well it's just some colorful 'something' in the space. I added Enterprise to make it look less boring.

Magic Duels

I'd like to say my two cents about the problems and the future of Magic Duels myself. This post is a rather one long rant but it might give some slight insight on the matter to someone who stumbles upon this post and reads it^_^.

Unexpected Extended Downtime

As you may know Magic Duels lauched more or less two weeks (or one week) ago and since then there are serious problems with server connectivity and other stuff. For example many of the players can't launch the game at all and many are struggling with Unknown Fatal Errors (I'm not struggling with those because I spent few weeks sending emails to WotC trying to figure out why my MODO crashes all the time, when I managed to make it work all the software I had troubles with started to work. The game is actually pretty demanding so if you don't meet requirements don't even try). I feel like I'm one of the lucky players that actually managed to launch the game without a problem and play it.

I downloaded the game soon after its release. It wasn't showing up on Steam nor there were any links to it. I found the game link via google somewhere and downloaded it. This was a very strange indicator because the game was supposed to be officially released. The game showed on Steam but wasn't available for download. Well, that release was more of a rumor than actual announcement to me, as wotc's page was stating 'TBA' for majority of the time. This for me was a signal that either something is wrong or WotC doesn't care about this. (I suspected the first)

When I finally launched the game (I had troubles downloading it) it announced that I couldn' connect to the server. I thought that reconnecting in few minutes would actually connect me. I thought that this might be a problem on my end (I had problems connecting with the iOS version as well which uses different server as it seems). I got a bit upset and opened MODO and played on that...

Some time later I tried to connect with Magic Duels...still nothing. So I tried clicking on Customer Support and see where that would lead me (if someone like an ORC would be present I would ask him/her about it). It directed me to the normal WotC Customer Support so I rather searched some forums on Steam and then used google to find out what is going on. I ended up on Magic Online's Twitter page, but that linked me to Magic Duels where I could read this tweet -> 'Magic Duels on Steam is experiencing unexpected downtime.'

So I gave up and tried the day later. It still wasn't working. I checked the Twitter account and saw a post from WotC that the game is experiencing connectivity issues or that the server is down. Either way I couldn't play. Actually I did not try to play offline because when playing on iphone and I got disconnected I lost the data (the progress simply did not save and I had to replay it). Since I expected the game to function in the same way I decided not to play the game. Many of the players who downloaded the game weren't aware of this tried playing it just to find out that all their progress is gone after finally connecting to the server. And I understand their frustration. Many of the players lost even those cards they obtained when the server was actually working. During all those days I would have actually found some time to play the game and grow my collection a bit.

During the time I had nothing to do I was looking at other people's posts so I found out how buggy the game seems to be and that the game does not even work for many players. I myself found few bugs and I managed to crash the game even though I have no idea why that happened (it seems the problem lies somewhere in creatures with counters on them, as the game crashes only when there are counters somewhere in play but what triggers the crash is a mystery to me)

  • zooming on a card that is either enchanted or another card is attached to it somehow flips it over
  • scrying in general is pretty buggy it either crashes the game when done at the end of turn or it won't let you put the cards on the bottom/top of the library
  • in chandra's campaign in one of the encounters one cannot confirm an attack. I won by dealing direct damage but that wasn't easy and I was glad I won and did not plan on replaying that again.
  • there are triggers that do not trigger when they should or do not trigger at all (especially when permanents leave play at once), the first card I opened was Kothophed, Soul Hoarder.
  • quests did not update
  • my deckbuilder does not let me name my decks nor change the deckbox for some reason...iOS version does it so I guess this is not a normal behavior.

Whatever...these paragraphs describe my attempt at playing the game. In the end I managed to play it and progress but when I wanted to play and progress even further I again got those connectivity issues and couldn't play. I was struggling with one Liliana encounter and after dying to 3 consecutive Consume Spirits I just did not want to get screwed if by a chance I would win. I wasn't prepared to play more times then needed. So I ended up playing on MODO because that seemed to be working^^. Certainly this way WotC earned more money from me^_^. By now (during the two drafts I played) I should have all the campaigns finished and be happily playing online with other players but I can't since I couldn't play when I had the time to play and was actually looking forward to it. So in a way I also feel that we should be awarded some packs for all the lost time. If Steam saves the time when the game was downloaded they could give us some kind of compensation. But I would be glad if the game worked and one could play and would not need to fear that the server might go down mid-game.

Great potential
The majority of posts one finds on the internet is about people complaining that this or that doesn't work and being angry at Wizards. All this most probably drove a lot of people away (and the following posts in which players ask other players for their tag proofs that. Which is pretty sad because this game seems to work very well and in my opinion is now better than HS. Anyway will those people come back to try Magic Duels after such an experience? Server issues at launch are common or at least that seems to me, but are usually fixed the very same day. But this got past ridiculous. It's been almost a week and one still cannot enjoy the game because of the connectivity issues. Maybe it is even worse because some people connect and some don't. Yesterday I couldn't connect when I got back to my flat and hoped to finish the campaigns. That bothered me a bit because I knew that other players that play the game managed to play it (because I was getting random messages about it in my facebook's messenger, what they opened, how fun was to battle Griselbrand's demons etc.) and I was stuck with 1/1s in Liliana's campaign.

Anyway apart from all those negative posts about all the problems and incapability of WotC (or whoever runs the servers) part of the posts is actually positive and some are even overly positive. Anyway the game is good and has a great potential but to what end? Many people are expecting WotC to come up with something really good and expect either that there will be possibility to draft or that earlier sets will be added to the game. In general people want to play Magic ('real Magic') and most probably for 'free'. I really like this idea, but that's not going to happen in this society that revolves around money. Money is something that keeps companies or individuals alive. There is nothing for free no matter what (I don't speak about Magic now, in general). Even what seems to be 'free' is not because we pay for it with time or something else that converts to money in the end for someone.

I personally think that people should not expect much from WotC and the reason why is very simple. Wizards of the Coast is not giving us means to play Magic for free so we would not need to play IRL. DotP was a game that was supposed to introduce Magic to new players and to acquire them. WotC said that this campaign was successful (the rise was something like 40% compared to 10% from the years before the dotp campaing. that's what we were told at Wizards of the Coast conference). I've met some players that converted from DotP to paper Magic. Those players had a very healthy view on the game and were willing to play very strange decks. Everything was fine and it was joy to play with them because one felt like when he was starting 20 years ago. Those people couldn't understand the secondary market though and were driven off tournament play very fast. This certainly is group of players WotC targets but can those people create their own casual groups and play paper magic? (in this country I can imagine that this won't work, at least in this city the competition is high and most players are behave like jerks when newbies show up). Thus Magic Duels's aim will be more or less similar to DotP's campaign I think. To acquire even more players that would create the best target group for WotC (casual players). That is my assumption. But I can be wrong. (I'll get back to this later)

Anyway what surprised me with Magic Duels is how many people and different kinds of people expected this release. Magic players in the community usually ignored DotP. At GPs no one would even try playing the game. Those who play the game are not paper magic players. But when Magic Duels was announced to be F2P and a platform for future sets and content many more players started to look forward to the game. So I wonder what group of players WotC wanted to target because the development of the platform will be based upon that.

No matter what WotC might give us something we want but they certainly won't give us everything (like we might be able to get (more) coins while winning a 2HG match). Certainly they won't allow us to play a set of Mythics in a deck though. Considering the fact that there might be an entire block available (after it is released), they won't allow us to play Standard the way it is played IRL/MODO. Not only this would drive casual players away but it would give means to try the decks to those who would like to join the (semi-) competitive means (not to mention that getting those cards would be way more difficult if you can't buy those cards directly, this would mean huge difference in decks' power level in Magic Duels and that's something I don't really want to see). They need to earn money of Magic Duels somehow and I don't think that this is the way to go.

Why do I even mention this? The thing is...Magic Duels is the first game that actually some Magic players look forward to. Those players have different expectations from DotP players. DotP players evolved into something different as well and those have bigger expectations as well, but those are (usually) untouched by formats, secondary Magic market and such. They want to play their game, advance in it and grow their collection so they can have more fun with more cards. Since those players already had the chance to play with powerful cards they crave for more of them not just some commons and uncommons. RL Magic players want something way more narrower and specific. (they don't usually play with all those c/us unless they draft)

Magic Duels is now a Free 2 Play game but one either pays with time spent or money. With the system there is (that you can have a limited amount of cards) it will actually be pretty tough to collect all those cards with 6 cards per pack and rarity not guaranteed. It seems like no one realizes this. I mean, come on guys, do you really want to pay for something that is even more random and less likely to happen (opening the card you want)?
As for the older sets. Giving us the opportunity to play even more powerful decks does not sound that good. Something like a format would need to be introduced otherwise everyone would be playing the same and those not owning the cards would be pretty screwed. Also Magic Duels is yet another simulation of the real game. As someone said before me MODO nor any DotP game is not Magic. It allows us to play the game of Magic with certain limitations. One can hardly play something like combo elves on MODO due to all those triggers and infinite combos cannot really go infinite due to the fact that one needs to go through it manually. There is no way of creating a loop. Imagine playing such a deck in Magic Duels. I was already fed up with two triggers that triggered during my draw step. The games would take ages as there is no time limit for example....Anyway older sets bring many problems not only for programmers, but for the players and wotc. It breaks the balance of power level and that alone is a huge problem.

We were discussing F2P TCGs with my flatmate. We both like SolForge but we don't like the model. We both would really be happy if there was a secondary market on which we could buy the cards or at least be able to share our collection so we could play Highlander or other constructed events for which one of us don't have the cards. This would also allow players that start with the game now to acquire the cards they need. I know this also means that the money StoneBlade wants would go elsewhere (this shows that the game is pay2win but...well what games are not?). Thus the whole model would have to be changed. They would have to sanction tournaments and let us pay for it with real money for example. But this certainly would help the game in my opinion. The problem is that keeping an economy like this working is not an easy feat.

In Duels the only thing we pay for for the time being are the booster packs and I find that very dull...acquiring one pack though is not that easy (it is easy but it takes time) as it consumes quite a lot of time and that is for example what I hated about Hearthstone. If I wanted a good collection of cards I had to play Arena, play at least 5-7 rounds and then do the same. This though takes ages in my opinion so I gave up. But here I can at least get the cards I want unlike in Duels where I just have to be lucky to get the cards I want.

With the changes awaiting MODO players it seems that they want to divide the players in groups and cater each group seperatedly. MODO will be good for players with high win ratio and it will become even more hostile for less successful players and 'new players'. There is a platform that can be used by casual players though and they can spend their money on that. The question is what will happen with those players driven away from MODO? Do WotC think that they will start playing paper magic or Magic Duels? Probably. A Magic player is someone who usually tends to go back to the game and it doesn't matter in what form. Magic Duels seems appealing and those potential once gain Magic players. All those players were looking forward to the game because they can see that it can be good and that there is a great potential. But we are were rewarded with a game that is buggy and servers not working...

But how all this will help to earn WotC money that is something I'm not sure. There is something I either miss or there are other changes that await the players/TOs etc. A lot has changed in the past two years concerning venue support, tournament structure, set release etc and I really wonder where it all leads. I accepted the changes regarding no more core sets and only two sets per block both as a player and professional card seller. This change also showed me that many players were really unhappy with how things were at the end of each block (I speak about type 2 players). Those players did not like the decks that became too powerful and the format wasn't changing much as well. But now it seems that the format changed considerably. It keeps all the players busy, forces them to buy new cards but keeps them relatively happy about the format (now majority of decks being burn does not seem fun...but that might soon change). As for changes on MODO it seems that WotC wants to limit the number of players (reduce the number rather). As for Magic Duels...I will have to wait and see what their primary intention is.

So no matter what happens in the future, I hope WotC knows what they are doing.