Posted in Uncategorized

Prepping for Prelease

Hello, my fellow Magic players. I hope we’re all excited for the upcoming Kaladesh release. I know I am. Even if it weren’t for the shiny new Masterpiece series–cue the screams of EDH players everywhere–Kaladesh is home to some of the most exciting artifacts to be released. Not to mention the card all dredge players are losing their minds over. I’ll be doing a set review later, but for now, here’s a short article about how I survive prerelease tournaments.

1. Be ready for the long haul mentally.

Prereleases are probably the most exhausting game of Magic there is, barring six-player commander games with three stax players. Prereleases have so many new cards and mechanics flying at you (sometimes quite literally) that it gets tiring to keep up with everything. Having a basic working knowledge of the new set will help you out a lot. Head knowledge can only carry you so far.

Before you even get there, get ready mentally. Even seasoned players tire through rounds since a prerelease is deckbuilding and four matches across the span of about six hours. You need the mental staying power needed to take the SAT. Or a college calculus exam. Trust me; you will be wiped after it’s all over. A prerelease is kind of like working out; a good chunk of it is just pushing through the exhaustion. 

2. Bring some food

If you’re not a foodie like me, this may not be as important. However, having something to eat will help with that whole staying power thing I mentioned. Don’t be like me and delude yourself into thinking French fries at 3 AM is a good embodiment of nutrition and energy. Take some granola bars or trail mix. Eat like you’re about to run a race. (I used to play volleyball, and our top picks before a game were pastas, bananas, and nuts.) Those foods give you long-term energy instead of small bursts.

3. While we’re on that note… stay hydrated!

Water! Drink it! You get more tired the less you drink. Do yourself a favor and drink lots of water or juice. Something that will keep you hydrated and powered up. Not energy drinks or anything comparable. They produce a crash that leaves you needing more and writhing like an eldrazi if you don’t feed the post-boost cravings. The last midnight prerelease, I had a raging migraine from early-night red bull that wore off around match two. Coffee or tea will serve you better in the long run. (Fun fact: mint tea helps you stay alert.)

4. A little bit of deckbuilding

My acronym for building a deck is CRAP: creatures, removal, ability, and panic button. Let me define them for you a little.

  • C: Creatures. Creatures almost always win in limited decks. Limited decks usually don’t have the capacity or resources to pull off infinite combos or bolt an opponent to death. Every deck that’s beaten me in limited has done so mostly through normal damage. Creatures are of the utmost importance during deckbuilding. Look for low-cost creatures and those with evasion.
  • R: Removal. The second thing you want to look for is removal. Since creatures are the way most decks win, the way to stop them is by removing their attackers. Throttle is a card that doesn’t see a ton of constructed play, but that card won games for me in prerelease by finishing off blockers and letting me get through with my attackers. Be less stringent about how you evaluate your removal options when building your deck. It’s necessary.
  • A: Abilities. If you make it past five or so turns in prerelease games, they start getting real grindy real quick. Your creatures and cards having abilities that outpace your opponent are key. Think mana sinks, pump spells, card draw, tapping down your opponent, sacrifice outlets. You get the idea. Vanilla creatures are okay in prerelease, but I’d take a 3 mana 2/2 with some kind of ability over a generic bear. I once won a game off Drogskol Cavalry’s mana sink. My opponent couldn’t get enough damage through the wall of tokens. My mana flood won me the game because I chose a late-game piece for my deck.
  • P: Panic Button. Your panic button is probably what a lot players term a bomb. OGW prerelease, my panic button was Linvala, the Preserver. A panic button is the card you slam down as a last resort against your winning opponent or the card you use as a threat. In the first case, it may be enough to stop them. In the second, they’re forced to expend all their resources on your ticking time bomb, leaving you more room to work. In some cases, your panic button isn’t a creature but a boardwipe that cripples your opponent so you can take the win.

5. Come Prepared

The things you need for a prerelease are pretty standard. Sleeves–I take 45ish for my deck in case I split some and a couple in another color for anything valuable. A playmat, dice, a pen, paper, food, water, trade binder. Oh, and something to cut that pesky plastic wrap off your prerelease kit.

6. Have Fun

Finally, have fun. Be a courteous player. Know that you’re going to make misplays and it’s very possible you could lose to something like the Tree of Perdition combo. Shake your opponent’s hand before and after matches. Introduce yourself. Chat with other players. Help out the less experienced players. Don’t be a bad sport or gloat over a win. Try to keep the cussing to a minimum (I’m known to struggle with this one) since kids often are there. Play to win, but play to have fun.

So there you have my guide to surviving a prerelease. Be on the lookout this week for my review of Kaladesh through a commander player’s eyes. What are some of your favorite parts about prereleases? Let me know in the comments below. 


 

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Posted in MTG Girls

The Experience ALL Magic Players Deserve

My own personal thoughts on being a female Magic: the Gathering player… I hope you enjoy.

Beginning Magic

I started playing Magic right after Battle for Zendikar released. My boyfriend at the time had been playing since around Ravnica and wanted to get me into the game. He bought me the blue-green intro deck and began teaching me how to play. After awhile, we upgraded the deck until it was a standard-competitive ramp deck with Ulamog as the curve topper. I began to hold my own at the school gaming lounge and the local card shop. Sadly, due to relationship problems, I never got to test the deck’s strength at FNM.

Right away, I noticed an “Oh, how cute” attitude from other players. People went easier on me in trades and games. Nicknames like “Little Lady” and “Sweetheart” got tossed out during matches. I felt like I had to work ten times harder to prove myself. Despite not being the butt of sexual jokes, I still felt I had a harder time being accepted as a player.

Even my boyfriend had his own opinion about my being a female gamer and how it was wrong that guys were nicer to me in trades. Unfortunately, his opinion was skewed toward sexism. He was convinced I used my looks to get good trades. (While that may be true, I didn’t do it on purpose.) He was also a condescending teacher, often questioning perfectly solid plays in games I won. He and I had a lot of relationship issues, and unfortunately, Magic became a real point of contention for us, so much so that I gave up the game for a short while. He treated me like the girlfriend player, sometimes answering questions for me, sometimes insisting I follow his advice, often to my game’s detriment.

Didn’t he get it? I didn’t want special attention in trading. I wanted fair trades for both parties. I wanted the same respect and treatment he got during trading and playing. I didn’t want him stopping games to point out a bad play. I wanted to learn as he had, through trial and error. The thing about Magic is that it’s a personality game as much as rules and interactions. A bad play to one player becomes good when they realize it’s setting up a blowout next turn. A player can take a deck and use it to control the board for hours while another player can use the same set of sixty cards to wipe the table with everyone by turn three. Magic is individualistic, and the best way I learned was by open-hand rounds and analyzing my plays post-game.

Switching Playgroups

My first boyfriend and I broke up right as I started getting into EDH. I began dating a legacy and commander player. With the new relationship came a much more competitive playgroup. I dropped out of standard almost entirely to take on the challenges (financial and mental) of commander. My first deck was led by Bruna, Light of Alabaster, in response to a challenge by my ex who was convinced I couldn’t build and run a good voltron-control commander deck. Together, my new beau and I built one of the most powerful Bruna decks our group had seen.

My new boyfriend is almost more feminist than I am. With that feminism came a new sense of empowerment playing Magic. He never acted as if I was stupid or didn’t know how to play the game. He never treated me like the girlfriend player, knowing I could stand up to any instant or sorcery. Instead of condescending my choices of deckbuilding and playstyle, he explained his point of view but never expected me to do as he said. At the card shop, he didn’t hover during games to point out my mistakes. He and his friends coached me but treated me as their equal, both in game and in trade.

This, my friends, is what every player should experience in Magic. MTG has grown into more than a card game; it’s a community. Everyone that sits down to play should be treated with fairness and walk away with a smile and good feeling. Whether male or female, old or young, experienced or new, everyone deserves this kind of experience.

Being a Girl Player

The worst experience I had as a girl player was the Eldritch Moon midnight prerelease. Two of my four opponents were condescending, one of them even refusing to shake my hand and introduce himself during pre-match shuffling. After beating me soundly in game one, he smirked at me and rubbed in how mana-flooded I’d been. When I stepped out for air to cure my headache, he gloated to friends who were out smoking how he’d beaten me. That’s about the only time Magic has really made me want to cry. Especially when one of his friends flirted heavily with me while telling me his girlfriend wouldn’t care and ignoring how clear I’d made it that I was taken.

I finally had to accept that some boys would always treat me like this. The only thing I could do was turn around and try to beat them at their own game. I was finally able to do so, even though I still make misplays. It was comical to watch the male players who didn’t know me assume I was the least threatening deck at the table only to realize they were wrong.

The biggest problem I see for female players is the gender stereotypes assigned today. Females in Magic are played up so much as if it’s some surprise girls can like and be good at a card game that’s more intensive than Uno. It shouldn’t come as a shock if a girl wants to play at FNM instead of go to the mall, and she shouldn’t be treated any differently before, during, or after her match.

Male players, I’m not blaming you, but in a way, I am. A lot of you are like my boyfriend who constantly helps me succeed as a player. Some of you aren’t. I’m reminded of the time I was in the middle of a commander game, and a guy sat down uninvited and began asking me if I knew what every card being played did. I finished the game with immense frustration since it was obvious he thought I was inept. The thing that made it so frustrating was that he did it to me, the only girl in the pod.

So how do we go about fixing this? I wish I had all the answers, but unfortunately, the snap of my fingers cannot reverse the gender stereotyping that is so engrained in our society. The best thing I can do is ask the male players out there to stop measuring a player’s skills by gender. I notice this every time I shuffle up for a match with my boyfriend and new opponents. Without realizing it, the males always target him as the bigger threat simply because he’s… male? I’ve soundly beaten him in games before; in fact we met when I beat him in Standard! During a round between classes at university, my biggest threat in a game was another girl. Surprise, girls can play Magic!

Wrapping Up

I’m going to go ahead and admit I had some serious writer’s block on this article. My poor boyfriend was on the receiving end of a lot of grousing about how it’s so damn hard to write about this topic. Why was it so difficult for me? It’s hard for me to pin down exactly why girls don’t play Magic because I have such a good time with it. It’s my hobby and one of my favorite things to do. It’s my favorite group activity, and almost all of my best friends have come from the game.

I wrote this article for all the girls out there who don’t have a good time playing Magic. I wrote this for the women players who are harassed and spoken down to at FNM. I wrote this for the girls thinking of getting into Magic. It is my sincerest wish that every player has the positive experience I’ve had in Magic: the Gathering. As a budding feminist and lover of Magic, it’s my desire for girls to start gaining a stronger presence in the game.

My current goal is to Top 8 at a Grand Prix this fall. I want to see girls in the ProTour, and I want to see them at FNM every week. If we stop judging players by appearance, we’ll at least begin making headway toward not being shocked and sour when girls prove they can play with the boys. I hope you enjoyed this article. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Until next time!

 

 

 

Posted in EDH, Top Ten

EDH Top Five

Let’s be honest; EDH is ridiculously funny. It’s probably the most artistic format of Magic because you can customize exactly how you want your deck to play. It’s a more casual experience than a Grand Prix or even FNM. Until you run into one of those players that built their deck specifically to ruin everyone’s life.

You know who I’m talking about. It’s not good enough that they win the game; they have to ruin Christmas for everyone while they’re at it. So without further delay, here’s my list of top five generals I hate playing against. And by hate, I mean I load one hand with counterspells and the other with a stress ball to keep from strangling my opponent.

Please note: I am only listing generals I’ve had experience with. These are all up for debate, and I’m sure there are worse out there. That being said, everyone enjoy!

1. Meren of Clan Nel Toth: I know what everyone’s going to say. “She’s not that busted. She’s fair.” There’s two reasons I hate playing against her. The first is that she’s overplayed in my opinion. Almost every group I’ve ever joined has at least two Meren players, and the sacrifice triggers get ridiculous to resolve. The second reason I throw up in my mouth a little in Meren matches is the Spore Frog Infinite Loop Combo. For those of you who don’t know what that is, you’re playing Meren wrong, and you should honestly reconsider your life choices. Spore Frog is a one mana Fog on a stick that can be sacrificed to prevent all combat damage and brought back using Meren. Unless you can exile that frog, you’ll never deal any damage to its controller.

2. Zur, the Enchanter: Oh gosh, where do I even start with this one? He’s a dirty commander because even though his P/T is relatively low, he tutors for self-protection, pumps, and ways to make him nearly impossible to remove. Plus, he can tutor up other enchantments to make the play group’s life a living hell by locking them out or costing them resources. My first time ever playing EDH was using a borrowed Ezuri deck against a fully-loaded Zur deck. The pain was similar to that of getting my wisdom teeth removed. Needless to say, it took weeks of therapy to recover from that experience. If you’re playing Zur, do some community service or something to redeem yourself because you’re a terrible person.

3. Brago, King Eternal: Reference what I said about community service and Zur because really? Just. Really. You know what I love about Magic? Playing it. You know what I can’t do against Brago? Play Magic. If you can churn out a flier or removal, you might stand a chance. Without them, the blink effects and interactions are almost insta-lockout/insta-scoop for the table. The deck plays dirty, since Brago can blink removal enchantments, artifacts, creatures, and auras (Reality Acid, anyone?.) This leaves his controller with mana for days, a field of blockers, and has likely cost you something on your board.

Narset, Enlightened Master: I’ve never actually played a Narset deck, but I’ve heard horror stories about those who have. She’s infamous and hated because of her ability to kill on turn one. Her most powerful build is a turn one kill using extra turn mechanics. And if she isn’t built with multiple ways to take an extra turn and murder everyone’s face on her first land drop, she has access to blue’s counterspells, white’s removal, and red’s burn. Yes, blue-black is one of the best combinations in EDH, but RWU comes in a close second when piloted by Narset. All I can say is, if you are a Narset player, you can’t sit with us.

General Tazri: This commander actually doesn’t make me die inside. It’s more the strategy they’re built around. Allies hold a special place in hell–er, my heart. They’ve always garnered a special hate from me, probably because of their power in Standard. One of my close friends played them in both formats. Besides being an annoyingly large board state, their triggers take forever to resolve. Literally. Forever. More like five-ever. But no really, please don’t do this to your play group. At least let them go get lunch while you resolve 14,000 triggers. The other reason I dislike Allies as a strategy is the fact they’re incredibly weak to boardwipes. Creature strategies have never appealed to me as a control player. I’ve watched too many creature decks get blown out of the water with an elegantly-placed boardwipe.

So there’s my list of personally hated commanders. What are your opinions? Let me know in the comments! Until next time. Also, be on the lookout for links to my YouTube channel. I’m planning to start videos of deck techs and other MTG randomness.