Thursday, February 5, 2015

MTGO: A Few (More) Observations

So it's been about another two weeks and I've made a few more observations from playing MtGO. Some are specific to online play and others are just good common sense practices.

Watch Your Stops
If you're not familiar with the Magic: the Gathering Online client, it has a feature called "stops" which are exactly what they sound like--a point in the turn where the client stops to ask for your input. The stop location options are all at priority passes as you leave phases and steps, of course, so you have a chance to act.
Some people will set every stop on so they get every chance to act and others will be selective. Personally, I have a few that are on all the time (opponent's end step, opponent's enter combat, my enter combat, etc.) Then, if I need to act during my opponent's upkeep or draw step I enable it on the fly before we get to that point.

Basically, what I've learned is that if you're not thinking ahead you'll miss the right time to act. Also, if you're a real scrub, you probably have all the stops on (like my upkeep) and you're draining your own clock when you walk away after your turn thinking it won't stop until my main phase!

Don't Tilt
This is probably the most often repeated phrase and one of the most written about pieces of advice--don't go on tilt when you are losing, when you are drawing poorly, when your opponent "just has it," or when the numbers just didn't add up (locked out of top 8 by 0.02% on breakers.)

It does you no good to tilt. Just find your out (see observation #3 further down) and play to it. Granted, you have no real "out" if you've just been locked out of top 8. In that case your out is running for coffee or playing side events.

Learn Your Outs
There is a "way out" of almost any situation. The way you learn them is by playing and by thinking about playing through as many situations as possible. Honestly, this is my main goal with playing extensively on MtGO.
I've played against a number of opponents lately who just scooped up when they still had a very viable out worth playing to (drawing Path to Exile, finding the combo piece before I can draw Lightning Bolt, etc.)
On the other hand, I've had some opponents who--rightly--have forced me to walk through my win so that they get all the draw steps they are entitled to in order to find their out. In fact, I've been doing that lately. Even if I know the only out is a weak one, I want to see how hard I have to work and what things I should do to optimize my odds of drawing it.

That's how you win at Magic, after all: you play to your outs. If you get to them, great. If you don't, don't tilt (see above.)

Monday, February 2, 2015

Report: Winning a GPT (29 Jan 2015)

Here's my round-by-round write up on the GPT this past Saturday (the 29th of January) at Sci-Fi.

Event: GPT for Auckland
Format: Modern
Deck: Junk
Deck List: DeckStats
REL: Competitive
Structure: 5 round swiss with cut to top 4.

This event is primarily advertised as a "Win-A-Goyf" event--my FLGS runs them every last Saturday of the month. It's always a Modern event and they piggyback it on a GPT to help turnout and so that it's at Competitive REL.
None of us were planning to go to Auckland (that I know of, anyway) but it's always fun to have a Win-A-Goyf event!

Round 1 - R/G Through the Breach
Result: Loss in 2.
I played against my good friend Jason in the first round. Jason is the reason I built Jund 18 months ago when we went to GP Richmond and I owe a lot of my knowledge of the Jund/Junk archetype to him.
Unfortunately, he just flat out drew me in this match! Liliana and discard spells are  my biggest weapon in this match and I drew a few of them... but not enough. I even drew the clutch removal for Primeval Titan but, unfortunately, the ETB triggers got him Valakuts... and the next turn he played another Prime Time. I died to Valakut triggers one game and to trample damage in game two.
We went and grabbed coffee after the match and I was determined to win out.

Round 2 - UWR Twin
Result: Win in 2.
One of the fun things about playing your friends/teammates is that you know their decks. Matt was  playing UWR Twin--specifically the deck two or three of us had put together to test out the white splash just the day before.
Junk is a rough matchup for any Twin deck but the UWR one seems to have a decent leg up--Path to Exile does work against Rhinos and Tarmogoyfs, after all.
I took two mulligans in game one and ground a win out of him then ran it back to win game two as well (without mulligan.)

Round 3 - RG Tron
Result: Win in 3.
I knew what deck he was playing before I walked up to the table and joked that he was probably just getting the win. Well, he won a game, at least. Game one he played Sundering Titan on turn four and I just couldn't recover.
In game two he took two mulligans and kept a decent five card hand... which I proceeded to shred with discard spells. His out was Sylvan Scrying in hand and his only green source was to crack Chromatic Sphere. Naturally, I took the Sphere with an Inquisition.
Game three wasn't much different. He had a better hand (no mulligan) but I had Fulminator Mage in my opening hand to keep him off of Tron.

Round 4 - Junk
Result: Loss in 3.
Oh the mirror match. I won game one by playing my spicy meatball one-of... Tombstalker. In game two we traded for a while until he resolved a Thrun and then we lost board state parity. Game three was tight--lots of back and forth--until he played Sigarda. Thankfully I had Tombstalker again but he drew more threats over the next couple of turns and I drew land instead of removal for his other creatures.

Round 5 - UWR Control
Result: Win in 2.
This is usually a very interesting match but Alex stalled on land in both games. In game one he really needed a second white source for the Wrath of God in hand. I even held back a couple of creatures to rebuild after the Wrath.
In game two it wasn't much better and I held a Fulminator Mage to blow up any extra land he might have played after four. He bought time with two Cryptic Commands but I took it in the end.

Cut to Top 4:
I thought I had very low odds of making top 4 after the last round but was surprised to see my tie breakers were better than the other player with 9 points. I was the bottom seed but I was in!

Semi Finals - RG Through the Breach
Result: Win in 3.
I took this in three games. Discard (when you draw it) is too good against this deck. Then in game three he kept a shaky hand and couldn't draw any green sources for his ramp spells.

Finals - Robots
Result: Win in 3.
On paper, I gave the win to my friend Chris. I have four Tarmogoyfs and he could use the trade value to finish his Robots deck (he borrows most of it for events like this. Good player.)
He won the first game as I drew no removal at all. In games two and three we traded blows but I was able to keep him from critical momentum with Creeping Corrosion and judicious use of spot removal.

Good Things Happened this Weekend

Good Thing #1 - I passed the L1 Judge test!
I had passed the Rules Adviser test some time last year and had, off and on, thought about taking the L1 test as a self-measurement. About two months ago a couple of friends in the local community started working to convince me that it'd be valuable to get the L1 certification, even if I don't want judge an event every weekend.
Well, I did a lot of practice tests and scored well on them... I botched a number of easy questions on the actual L1 exam but still passed. The L2 giving me the test was great and gave me tips on what to  focus on to strengthen those areas. (It all boils down to being ADD... I read a question once and come up with a solution. If I were to re-read the question I'd see how I misread it the first time!)

Anyway, I judged two Monday Night Magic events at my FLGS (MnM is basically FNM but on Monday. We average 18-26 players though where our FNMs are usually 40-50.) Judging two Regular REL events is a prerequisite for taking the L1 test.
I had a blast judging. I don't enjoy playing Standard much but judging Standard events allows me to enjoy some Magic vicariously and to maybe play some side games of real formats ;)

Good Thing #2 - I took first place at a Modern GPT!
Once a month, the FLGS hosts a Modern GPT. I've played in many of them and have made the top X cut several times but hadn't won one until this past Saturday.
Granted, it was a Trial for GP Auckland and, much as I'd like to take a trip to New Zealand, I doubt that's happening this year. The  prize support at these events is what's great:
First - Byes at the GP and a Tarmogoyf.
Second - $75 worth of non-Standard singles from the case (or $50 cash/credit.)
Third/Fourth - $25 worth of non-Standard singles from the case.

I was playing a deck with four Tarmogoyfs so on paper I conceded the finals to a friend of mine who could use the trade value. We played for fun and fun was had. I won in the end mostly due to him having some terrible hands that he had to mull.

I came away with some awesome cards between my winnings and some store credit-- a NM Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and a Japanese Snapcaster Mage. I'm happy.

Look forward to a full tournament report soon.