This is one of the more interesting articles I’ve written. It’s currently 3:34 AM, I’m wide awake attempting to sleep in the bathtub of a shoddy Red Roof Inn in Richmond, Virginia. Why am I in the bathtub? Well, this is my second night not sleeping in a bed because we have six people in our hotel and I came in too late to grab a bed. Oh well. It’s obviously impossible to sleep on a hardwood floor with no pillow or blanket (bad planning led me to not bring an extra pillow or blanket), so I figured I’d write an article for you guys instead!
Instead of my normal foray into Modern decklists, and trust me, those will be coming back shortly, I figured I’d write a short testimonial about what I learned playing in my first StarcityGames Invitational and throughout the current balance of 2015. I had a great time this weekend hanging out with my best friends from my At Your End Step podcast and the local Columbus, Ohio community. My girlfriend also is a competitive Magic player who qualified for the Invitational so that was a nice thing to do with her as well. Well, without further adieu, here’s what I learned at the SCG Invitational in Richmond:
Travel with a max of four
I have four-five friends that I like to travel with just about anywhere at anytime. I don’t mind with traveling with other people, but my four best friends I prefer to travel with. When you travel with a max of four people, everything gets easier. Splitting the cost of a hotel four ways is reasonable, four people fit comfortably in a car, and in a normal hotel with two beds, two people each sleep comfortably in the room. Learn from my mistakes – six people is far too many in one room. If you sleep on the floor, you will not get good rest before the tournament, and your play will suffer for it.
The convenience of planning around four people instead of some higher number is real. Finding a table for four at a restaurant is a lot easier than finding a table for six, and getting four peopled rounded up at the end of the tournament is infinitely easier than getting six people rounded up. Not to mention cars – taking one car to a tournament is infinitely easier than taking more than one. Everyone gets to commune together, talk shop during the trip, etc. It’s more of a family road trip than a business trip when everyone gets to go together.
Conversely, Test with as many people as possible
So there’s a bit of a contradiction here. You want to travel with an optimal number (generally four, from my experience), but you want to to actually test with as many people as possible before your event. Doing this expands the number of decks you’ve played against and makes you more familiar with a format. This theory was especially important for a tournament like SCG Invitational Richmond. Day 1 of the Invitational was day 1 of Dragons of Tarkir being legal. Testing with all of the standard players from the Columbus, Ohio community gave me a wider range of ideas of what decks would be popular and what potential archetypes existed.
Not every list you test this way will be insane, in fact, most will suck. But repetition and exposure is key, especially in a new format. For example, friend, podcast co-host, and fellow LegitMTG writer Mike Keknee, whose work I’ve referenced a few times in my own writing, plays something in the range of ten million games on various online clients to test decks and cards. Mike gets a lot of exposure and has a great idea of what’s possible in a given format.
Honor your testing
The most important thing you can do is honor the testing you’ve been doing.
Why waste all those hours of playing games against a million decks only to disregard the data that you gather? If your testing shows that there is a best deck, you either need to have a plan to beat that deck or just be playing that deck. If you’re just going to play the exact 75 you have currently in your mind, don’t even bother with testing. You’re simply wasting your time. Read a book or something instead. Now if you’re open to flexing your list, or if you’re open to playing a different deck based on the results of some testing, then feel free to test your time away! It’s helpful and will result in both understanding the strengths/weaknesses of various decks in the metagame, and it will help you understand what type of role you are most comfortable playing in the format. Do you want to be the guy playing the super fast, low to the ground Red deck? Or would you prefer being the grindier midrange deck? The answer to this question is easier to come to if you both put in the hours testing, and honor the results of the testing itself.
This is my personal “I’m a big idiot” story. Tuesday before SCG Richmond, I play tested about 100 games with Sultai Control. The list was pretty good, getting relatively tuned for the expected meta, and I was playing pretty well with the list. Here’s what I was set to play come Friday:
Come Wednesday, the day before our group was set to leave for the tournament, a friend shipped me an enticing Jund Monsters list courtesy of Starcity and Chris VanMeter. Now I’ve been known to love a good Jund list, and it is really hard for me to turn down casting black, green, and red spells in conjunction with one another. The list seemed good, and after a quick minute of consideration, I was on my way to the card shops to buy the pieces I was missing for the list. Here’s the list from Chris VanMeter:
This obviously didn’t go well. I played an actual 0 games with the deck and had no idea how to properly sideboard, and I failed to understand how the deck fit into the larger picture of the metagame. It seemed as if my deck had zero good matchups, and I promptly went 0-4 in the standard portion of the invitational and wanted to kick myself each and every time I pulled the deck out of my deck box. The moral of the story is this: if you tested a deck and learned it thoroughly, don’t be an idiot and change things up at the last minute – it won’t go well at all.
Focus on magic
We all have real lives. We have personal problems, work issues, there are politics, current events, and the rest of the real world out there that competes for our attention every second of every day. It’s important that as a Magic player, when you’re either at the testing table, or at the venue of a large tournament, that you’re focusing on the game at hand. You have to be willing to put all that non-Magic, “IRL” crap aside and focus on the game.
I’m of the opinion that Magic: The Gathering is one of the hardest games of all time. It is truly the strategy game of our generation. It is hard enough to deduce correct lines of play in a game where your focus is completely on the game; it is near impossible to navigate lines of play when your mind isn’t 100% on the game. I learned this lesson the hard way in Richmond, and I’m continuing to learn this lesson each day when I play in a MODO daily or play in a weekly event at a local shop. You can’t win games of Magic if you’re not focusing on the games of Magic.
What have you learned?
We’re about a quarter of the way through 2015, so what have you learned? How are you improving your game, and what advice do you have for me or other readers? I think it is really important to constantly evaluate the lessons we’ve been learning in all things, not just including Magic. What tips/pieces of advice have been working? What have people been saying not working? It’s healthy to constantly evaluate where you sit in your Magic: The Gathering growth.
Until Next Time…
As always, you can find me on twitter with both Magic and non-Magic related thoughts @imjorman, over at my podcast’s twitter @atyourendstep, on http://www.twitch.tv/ayesTV streaming random constructed events, and at practically every Magic: The Gathering tournament within a few hours of Columbus, Ohio. Until next time!
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