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Staying Active

Written by John Cuvelier on . Posted in Competitive Magic

Not your fitness levels, although that probably wouldn’t hurt either. I’m referring to playing magic. That may seem like a weird thing to say but it’s something that rings home particularly well with me. I’m qualified for the next two RPTQ’s. This means that I don’t have a weekly competitive event to play in. First world problems, am I right? I don’t have a local shop, with the closest being about 40 minutes away. How do I stay active in magic and not get sloppy without physically playing magic? That’s the trick.

Research

Research is a good way to stay on top of your game even when you’re not playing. What you’re doing right now by reading this very article is indeed research. Staying on top of the metagame at all times is very important to any players’ success. Immersing myself in content is a daily activity of mine. It not only helps me become a better player but helps me understand different aspects of my game that can use improvement. It also helps show me what other players’ value in terms of playability of cards in both limited and constructed. I tend to read between 3-5 articles a day to make sure I’m completely up to speed on what’s happening in the magic world.

Not only are articles nice but videos are as well. I would even consider them more important, even with the detriment of being a bigger investment time wise. Videos have a more cohesive plan than most articles and can better articulate what that player is trying to get across and where the players’ head is at. A good homework assignment is just watching the Standard Super League. A weekly source of professional players playing mostly tier 1 decks and a rare occasional brew can really spark the imagination. Taking this one step further would be going on Twitch and live streaming. Being able to interact with players live can really help get an understanding of what is going on. Unfortunately there aren’t many streamers nowadays with the low quality that is MTGO but you still see pro’s on a weekly basis do a stream or two.

Phone a Friend

Having someone to talk to on a daily basis about everything magic is a great way to keep your head in the game. It doesn’t have to be anything exotic but just someone to bounce ideas off can really help. Maybe you think a certain card is positioned very well right now but aren’t sure. Two heads are better than one, some giants would say. Being able to bounce ideas off someone else can help find holes in your thought process or ways to improve something you’re working on. You can even discover something completely new together.

I usually make a deck list a day if time permits. Sometimes they’re really bad and other times they’re very good. Ideas come and go depending on what is winning the latest major event. I was crushing with my Abzan Rally deck I had brewed up, but with Abzan Aggro winning the Pro Tour that contains 4x Anafenza, the Foremost you better believe I’ve already put that deck on the backburner. Since that’s the case I’ve already started my next round of potential candidates on how to attack the popular decks of the format. In doing so it’s always nice to have a friend or two to work on the numbers before you start testing it out. That’s especially true if you simply aren’t able to test due to time restraints or tournament availability.

MTGO

Speaking of which, staying active in magic isn’t as difficult as it once was thanks to MTGO. Time restrictions are a thing we all have in our lives. Things like Work, School, Chores, Family, Religion, Social Life and other activities all can put a strain on how much free time we have. Having access to MTGO allows me to get in a few reps a week to make sure I’m not getting too sloppy for when the next big tournament rolls around. Now that they have introduced leagues in to the program it’s even easier to get in a match or two without having a major time commitment to an event. It’s also a great place to try out those fancy brews you’ve been working on with a low risk ceiling. Playing just a few hours a week will help you get your magic “fix” while still keeping yourself engaged in the game.

MTGO also helps you get a better understanding of magic as a whole. There are a lot of unique interactions that can happen in a game of magic. Being able to play out different scenarios can be helpful in determining if a certain interaction is possible or not. MTGO always helped me immensely in understanding the phases of the game and the stack. How triggers stack depending on who is the active player for example is something that not everyone knows but can be a difference between a win and a loss. A pretty clean example of this would be the following:

Both you and your opponent are at 1 life and each has a Blood Artist in play. You top deck a Nantuko Husk. How do you win?

Active players (whoever’s turn it is) triggers stack first and resolve last. The way to win here is to pass turn and sacrifice Nantuko Husk to itself during your opponents’ upkeep. Both Blood Artist will trigger, but because it’s now your opponents’ turn their Blood Artist trigger goes on the stack first and resolves last, thus dying to your Blood Artist trigger before their trigger resolves.

A slightly more complex scenario where knowing how the stack and triggers work would be the following:

You have a Vampire Hexmage and Vendilion Clique in play, tapped from attacking; along with an untapped Watery Grave and Swamp with two more tapped Watery Grave (which you used to cast Vampire Hexmage). Your hand is another Vendilion Clique and an Into the Roil.

Your opponent has a Rite of Consumption in hand (known thanks to Clique), along with Dark Depths, two swamps and two Overgrown Tombs in play.

After attacking you pass turn and your opponent draws and plays Vampire Hexmage. Immediately they target their Dark Depths, once that resolves they will get a 20/20 Flying Indestructible and will be able to sacrifice it to Rite of Consumption without passing priority. How do you survive?

If you sacrifice your Vampire Hexmage in response to your opponents’ it will leave a trigger on the stack after they get the 20/20 and you can cast Into the Roil before they have a chance to cast the sorcery Rite of Consumption because that original Vampire Hexmage trigger is still on the stack.

This complicated line although I had happen during a live PTQ; I learned the ins and outs of the stack and phases thanks to Magic Online.

When there isn’t much Magic going on these are the things I do to stay on top of my game. Checking out articles and videos can be fun. Brainstorming with your buddy always leads to good times. MTGO can admittedly be both a fantastic and frustrating tool at your disposal. None of these however beat the live interactions of magic and when you get a chance to actual play in an event make sure you enjoy yourself.

John Cuvelier

@JCuvelier on Twitter

Gosu. on MTGO

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