Lessons in Magic and life

It’s been about a year since I last penned something here. The main reason for that just turned ten months old. Becoming a parent is by far the most rewarding and at the same time the hardest thing I have ever done. It has also seriously cut down on my free time. Thus, the little time I had left for Magic after the birth of our daughter, I’ve preferred to spend actually playing the game. The little writing I’ve done I’ve invested elsewhere. I have, however, spent a lot of time thinking about many things, and it’s difficult to disregard Magic from my thoughts. Not only because it’s the best game I’ve ever played, but it’s also, I’ve realized, a large part of my identity. For over half my life, I’ve played Magic: the Gathering, and for the most part I’ve enjoyed the game. As the game changed and my connection to it changed, so did my life. So, after lots of thought, here are four lessons I’ve learned from Magic but that’s been very useful to me as a parent.

1. Focus on what’s important.
In Magic, you can’t get anywhere without a bit of concentration. This applies to deck building, for sure, staying focused on the deck’s theme, or the deck’s path to victory, will most likely end up in a better deck. Brewing isn’t very common within most formats on the level I play, but in EDH it’s commonplace, and even though EDH lends itself to jankier builds with its inherent casual, multiplayer, fun factors – I find having a deck that’s focused and at least a bit optimized lends to a better gaming experience. Sitting down for a two-hour game where your deck consistently underperforms compared to the others around the table is not fun.

In life, this might seem banal, and this will come across as the world’s oldest cliché, but having kids will enlighten you in many ways. You will find out what is really important to you. Your free time will be severely cut down, and this will force you to recognize what you want to do with it. At the same time, general things in life will also change priorities for you as well. Unwashed dishes will line the sink. Laundry will be left on the floor. Floors will stay unvacuumed. If need be.

2. Find a good balance.
Imagine sitting down for a game of EDH. You all bring out your deck boxes, and you flip over Rafiq of the Many as your commander. The table glances at your commander, and then decide to gang up on you. You manage to bring down one opponent, and the two others quickly kill you. Did you have fun? Did the guy you took out of the game have fun? Will the two of you have fun while the two other spend forty minutes finishing up the game? Likely no. I’m not saying one shouldn’t play Rafiq of the Many as a commander, mind you. On the other side of the coin – imagine you flip over Livonya Silone and bust out your Warrior tribal deck at a cutthroat table. You’ll likely lose and quickly too. Neither of these approaches to the format is inherently wrong, but for them to be enjoyable experiences, you need to find a sort of balance in your game. In another aspect, having Magic completely taking over your life is also a bad way to live. All of us are in dire need of escapism from time to time, but staying up late at night to draft on MTGO and skipping school will have severe consequences in your near future.

The latter bit of that lesson goes for everything in your life. Working too much isn’t good either, despite the fact that you might be paid more money. Very few people lie on their death beds and say things like “I wish I’d spent more time at work”, or “I wish I’d made enough money to buy that third TV.” Overdoing any sort of interest can lead to dire consequences, some of the most noticeable are neglecting your family or other obligations, and spending too much money. Balance is key, in Magic and in life.

3. Work together.
Nobody became great all by himself or herself. Most people who achieve anything on a Magic Pro Tour do so with a team of play testers, brewers, and other people behind them. Casually, nobody ever plays a good game of EDH by themselves – we’re in this together, and sometimes we need to work together to enhance our experience or create the best sort of outcome. Probably my biggest take away from Magic not only as a game but as an experience, is the game’s fantastic community. More specifically, I’m talking about the Swedish website and community SvenskaMagic, a website I’ve spent countless of hours on. It’s been suffering from losing traffic to Facebook in later years, but it’s still a home for any Scandinavian player of the game (or anyone really). I came to the website in search of cards, and I found a community of genuinely friendly people willing to help each other out. Similarly, Magic is what brought together the group of friends I had in secondary school, and unlike most people, I’m still friends with these fellows fifteen years later. Sure, some people have come and gone, but there’s still a strong core of friends who hang out almost every week.

Outside Magic, co-operation is what has made humanity great. It’s what separate us from other animals, really – our ability to cooperate in large-scale flexible formations. Cooperation is also key to any relationship, and to surviving the first year as a parent. Realizing that you are not alone in your task of taking care of a new human being is a very important first step, and might not come to everyone as intuitively as it might sound. It’s easy to point fingers and try and correct each other, but I’ve found that most of the successes are due to strong cooperation.

4. Enjoy yourself.
The single best aspect of Magic as a game is its inherent flexibility. You want to challenge yourself at a tournament against the best players you can find? Go ahead! You want to build casual decks and keep them in a box like a board game and bust them out twice a year? Fine! You want to start an EDH league at your local store and play Commander every Friday night? Shoot! Any of these, and countless other ways, are all perfectly fine ways to play Magic, and what’s great is that it’s completely up to each and every one of us to find the way we enjoy the game most. The advent of playing online means even niche formats are perfectly fine, you will always find someone to play with you, even if that person might be half a world away. The single most important thing about playing Magic is making sure one enjoys oneself – otherwise it is all for naught. Playing the game when it’s a chore might be something pros do in preparation of a large tournament, but even then enjoyment arise from competing at the game’s highest level and hopefully winning.

Another blatant cliché: Life without enjoyment truly is life without living. Magic can be a large part of your enjoyment, and that’s perfectly fine, as long as one doesn’t over do it (as per lesson 2). This might also sound like an intuitive no-brainer, but people in general are often far too unhappy, due to many, many things. Life means often taking on tasks that might be boring or not enjoyable – the alternative would be disastrous, but I think that at least when it comes to leisure time, everyone should focus on enjoying themselves above all. Stopping for a second in your everyday life and asking yourself “Am I enjoying this?” is a simple thing to do, and if the answer too often is “No”, then something might need to be changed.


And that’s it. I can’t promise I will write more in the future, it’s all up to someone who’s not even old enough to stand up by herself yet to decide. I am still very much enjoying playing the game, and I have a bunch of new decks I would like to gush about, but time is a precious commodity these days. If I find someone will read this and like this, then of course I’ll make more of an effort, if not, I at least enjoyed writing this piece.

What lessons have Magic taught you? Are any of these useful in your life? Comment below!

Showdown: Tarkir, part 1

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The latest episode of the Drive to Work Podcast, by Mark Rosewater, is entitled “Showdown: Ravnica”, and in it he compares the guild mechanics from each of the Ravnican guild in the original Ravnica and the Return to Ravnica block – and declares a winner. I like the idea, but I’m not a huge fan of Ravnica compared to Tarkir, so I want to do the same thing but with the Tarkir clan mechanics. Rosewater compared the abilities from a design standpoint, but I will compare them from a player’s perspective, since I’m a player and not a designer.

abzanbattlepriestAbzan/Dromoka: Outlast vs. Bolster
The really interesting bit about these two mechanics isn’t really the mechanics themselves, but rather the “cares about +1/+1 counters”-cards, which really make both of them tick. In outlast, these were plenty, and they played really well with each other in limited. I’ve even used them to build and EDH deck around them, and the deck was really fun, even though I haven’t played it in a long while: Anafenza Fun with Counters, on TappedOut.net. Outlast also has a tactical aspect, which rewards skillful play and planning, and I like that.

Bolster, however, does not have any of these cards that also care about the counters it makes, and while one could argue it is equally difficult to play with as outlast, it offers less control. It’s more about casting creatures in the proper order, and casting spells before combat rather than after, both of which offer less interesting game states than outlast, in my opinon. They play really well with each other though, all things considered.

Point goes to: Outlast!

monasteryswiftspear.fullJeskai/Ojutai: Prowess vs. Rebound
Both of these are spell-based and they, like outlast and bolster above, they play really well with each other. I was very unexcited about Clan Jeskai before Khans of Tarkir was released, and Prowess didn’t change that for me. It felt like a really boring mechanic, and I envisioned myself having a tough time building around it in limited without screwing up the balance between creatures and other spells. Rebound is a returning mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi and while some people seem to like it, I’ve always found it quite boring. It’s pretty powerful, at least on the rare cards, but it’s a bit unexciting. I’ve also found that many many times you’re not casting the same spell twice, but rather, you’re casting a good spell the first time and a bastardized light version of that spell in your next turn. It also comes with a hefty price tag.

So, both mechanics are unexciting to me at face value, but while rebound has some playability in EDH in cards like Consuming Vapors, cards like Monastery Swiftspear absolutely crushed in Legacy and Modern when it was released, and Monastery Mentor still sees plenty of play in Vintage of all formats. On top of that, prowess has become an evergreen mechanic, making a splash in most every set since, and being arguably the first proper combat ability properly aligned with the Izzet colours. I was so wrong about prowess beforehand, it’s not even funny. It plays really well in practice, in many formats, including limited and constructed ones. Perhaps the boost is a bit too small to be relevant in my format of choice, but then again, Shu Yun is a deck.

Point goes to: Prowess!


And that’s it for this time! Next time, we’ll settle the fights between Delve vs. Exploit, Raid vs. Dash, and Ferocious vs. Formidable, so stay tuned!

What do you think of my choices? Am I right, am I wrong?

 

Creature Type: Sorcery´s Raging Goblin Collection!

moment with pm

Today I want to show off my Raging Goblin Collection! And I tell a short history on how it all started. So dive in! It wont take long!

 

 

Now, do you collect any special card or cards? Any card with special meaning to you? Let us know! 😀

Top 5: Factions within Magic

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Magic hasn’t been doing warring factions for real for very long. Before Ravnica, all we knew was the Coalition and the Phyrexians, pit fighters in Otaria and the Brother’s War. With the advent of warring factions, however, entire sets, prereleases, even the very language which we use to describe the game, has been altered drastically. In this top 5 list, I will give homage to my most favourite factions, be it from a coolness standpoint, or a gameplay standpoint, though mostly the former.

steward of valeron5. Bant (Alara block) – Bant is technically a shard and not a faction, but with the events of the Conflux set, Bant finds itself in conflict with its hitherto unknown neighbouring shards – Naya and Esper. Thus, I’ll let it count for this list. Bant is the land of chivalry, the place where Elspeth Tirel first regarded as a proper home. Valiant knights ride large cat beasts through a romanticized medieval fantasy kingdom, alongside angels, anthropomorphic rhinos and aven. The knights don’t wear armour on their backs, because nobody would ever consider trying to attack from anywhere but the front. The very essence of chivalry, Bant takes number five on my list. Its mechanic, Exalted, also demonstrates the chivalry of single combat well. The only thing that keeps Bant off of a higher position on this list is that while the white part of its white-green-blue alignment is easy to see, the other two colours don’t really make an impact on the aesthetics in my opinion.

phyrexianplaguelord4. The Phyrexians (all of Magic, more or less) – We’ve just seen the promised end of the Eldrazi, finally, and Magic has been through other great villains, Nicol Bolas for example, but none stand out as the main antagonist of all of the multiverse than the Phyrexians. What I like about the Phyrexians is that they are pretty much fully-realized as the worst thing that could happen to a plane. Constructed by Yawgmoth, on their eponymous mechanical plane, they invade other planes and spread sickness and death in order to “compleat” beings – meaning to replace biological body parts with mechanical body parts little by little, until nothing but the mechanical parts remain. This opens up a philosophical question, much in the same vein of the Boat of Theseus: if one were to remove a plank from a boat and replace it with a new one, and keep doing this little by little until the entire boat is entirely new pieces – is it still fundamentally the same boat?

Aside from trampling ancient philosophical questions, the Phyrexians have also been the focal point of a large part of Magic’s history. Virtually the entire Weatherlight saga, that spanned for many years during the 90’s and 00’s, the ongoing story was that of the Weatherlight crew trying to combat an impending invasion from the Phyrexians. Later on, we see them again compleating old familiar faces on Mirrodin, and particularly there, their new mechanic Infect serves them well in creating a threatening, evil faction. Props to the old workhorse of the Phyrexians, they take the number three slot on this list!

student of ojutai3. Clan Ojutai (Dragons of Tarkir) – Clan Ojutai retains many of the philosophical elements of their former incarnation of the Jeskai Way when Sarkhan changes Tarkir’s timeline which leads to the fall of the khans and their clans as part of the Fate Reforged storyline. But, while some of the old clans of Tarkir, perhaps most notably the Temur and the Sultai clans, end up serving their new dragonlords as lesser beings, Ojutai decides to take on his new subjects as students, because he is the great teacher. Clan Ojutai values study, knowledge, wisdom, and learning, and as a teacher myself, I can respect and relate to that. Aside from the fact that Ojutai himself partakes in terrible intellectual dishonesty due to erasing parts of the history of the plane in order to make himself out to be greater than he might be, I can sympathize with most of what they are doing.

Though non-dragon members of the clan are certainly in part second-rate members, much like in some of the more ruthless clans, in Clan Ojutai this is due to the fact that humans, aven and so on have much shorter lifespans and thus simply don’t have the time available to the dragons to collect wisdom. This is also very appealing to me, the fact that the dragons out-rank the humans and aven isn’t due to their physical size or strength, it is due to their knowledge and wisdom.

Mechanically, however, Clan Ojutai brings few new things to the table, using Rebound, a reprinted mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi as their signature move. That keeps them from reaching any higher on this list.

dimir doppelganger2. House Dimir (Ravnica, Gatecrash) – Though Mr. Sean Whatson of Commanderin‘ fame may claim to be the “Dimirest Man Alive”, I too carry a soft spot for them in my heart. As the blue-black aligned guild of the cityplane of Ravnica, House Dimir is a secretive society, operating from the shadows using classical methods of espionage, deception, assassination and manipulation to procure information (or “secrets”) which they then sell on the black market of Ravnica. They are the essence of the knowledge of blue paired with the ambition of black.

House Dimir’s guild leader, Szadek, serves as the main antagonist of the original Ravnica’s storyline, making the guild very prominent to the players, but within the lore, House Dimir is so extremely secretive, most Ravnicans believe there are only nine guild on their plane. Both the guildpact drafted before the story starts, the guildpact formed after the events of the Dissention set, and the guildpact drafted by Teysa Karlov as part of the Return to Ravnica storyline recognizes only nine guilds. The guild is so secretive, most people who deal with them have no idea that House Dimir is behind the agents meeting them – they think that they deal with guildless or with agents from other guilds. In extreme cases, not even the agents aligned with the guild itself is completely sure who they are actually working for.

So, for being blue and black, and being the epitome of secretive, House Dimir takes the number two slots. Their keyworded ability from Ravnica, Transmute, is very powerful indeed, especially in EDH where tutoring is very powerful even if restricted, but it leads to repetitive gameplay. In Gatecrash, they got a new keyword in Cipher, which wasn’t as powerful as Transmute, but was clunky, only went on spells, and used the awkward “encode” wording. Thus, for being awesome in spirit, but awkward in mechanics, Dimir reaches number two!

snowhorn rider1. The Temur Frontier (Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged) – I wasn’t very interested in Khans of Tarkir when it was first announced. I’m not a huge fan of Mongolian popular history, nor was I in reality very excited about the coveted “wedge” set. But boy howdy, did Wizards prove me wrong on this one, and it is in large parts thanks to The Temur Frontier. Gathering much inspiration from peoples living in northern parts of the asian continent, the Temur lead a harsh nomadic life in the wilderness of Tarkir. They value strength, family, and survival above all else, and they don’t fight unless provoked (mostly by the Mardu Horde).

In battle, they join forces with bears, ride huge beasts, fight alongside ainok, loxodon and elementals alike, and they slide down hill slopes on top of sleds made from weapons as parts of their charge. Containing their awesome is impossible! The Temur Frontier is also the home of the whisperers, a type of shamans that can commune with animals and each other through a sort of hive mind state. The Temur Frontier are essential to the Tarkir storyline, in that Yasova Dragonclaw, the khan of the clan during Fate Reforged, is manipulated by Nicol Bolas into assisting in the killing or injuring of Ugin, depending on the timeline.

Their clan ability, Ferocious, isn’t much to write home about, since it’s merely a revamped version of Naya’s signature ability in the Alara block, but it did play very well in limited (Savage Punch was definitely green’s best common in triple-KTK, and perhaps one of the best commons in the set) and it is somewhat flavourful. Further, Surrak Dragonclaw, the khan of the clan in the Khans of Tarkir timeline, became khan by punching a bear. Likely in half. How awesome is that?


What do you think of my list? What’s your own top 5? Leave a comment below!

Kaya, Ghost Assassin

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A couple of days ago, Wizards released some information about an upcoming planeswalker, likely to be printed in this summer’s Conspiracy 2 – Kaya, Ghost Assassin. The little we know so far is neatly contained in her Planeswalker page, and in a story about her, known as “Laid to Rest“. Contrary to some of the other stuff – Laid to Rest is actually pretty good! Magic story is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I’ll admit I like it way better when released piece-meal on a weekly basis than published thrice a year in book form. The Tarkir story was often pretty well done, and I liked many of the characters. The stories regarding the Avengers Gatewatch, however, have yet to thrill me in the same way. Laid to Rest, however, was pretty neat, and I recommend you check it out!

We don’t know much about Kaya yet, but in this post, I will present my theory regarding her colours. Read on to find out!

I will spoil Laid to Rest, so if you’re interested in reading it without any spoilers, do so before reading on. Spoilers after this awesome pic of Kaya:

kaya art

Kaya, to me, seems like at least Dimir (blue-black). She is an assassin, or rather, a ghostbusting assassin, but she murders sentient beings for profit. She seems, in the story, to be of the ambitious kind, and ambition is black. Further, she values knowledge, information and planning, and that is clearly fundamental blue values. She seems to be the one who murders Brago, on a contract from Marchesa, another ambitious part-Dimir character.

However, she is also bound by some sort of honour codex, which the end of the story presents. Rules and regulations are white. Also, she has some abilities of spirits and in the game of Magic, white has the most spirits (followed by black, blue, green, red in that order).

This, in conclusion, leads me to believe that she is Esper (white-blue-black), and we haven’t yet seen an Esper coloured planeswalker, so I think we’re due one. We already have a three-coloured planeswalker in Standard right now, but it’s quite obvious Kaya will be printed in a non-standard set, so that shouldn’t be a restriction.


And that’s my theory – Kaya will be Esper! What do you think? Am I right or wrong? Leave a comment!

Creature Type Sorcery Plays Pauper

moment with pm

Today I played some Pauper, with a sweet BW deck.

Watch the vido below for more of the action!

 

 

Thank you! 😀

Creature Type: Sorcery 003, Packing when Trading

moment with pm

 

Today i present to you a videoguide of how to properly pack cards when doing a trade!

For reference, I have over 700 registered trades over at Svenskamagic.com, and nobody have ever complained about the packaging. And it really sucks to get damaged cards due to sloppy packing! So this is my little way of helping the trading community!

 

Here is the link to the video if you prefer that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywRksLKHLkw

Please let me know what you think! 😀

The first detention slip

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Dear Mrs. and Mr. Reveler,

You might already be aware of this, but in case Xenagos has neglected to inform you, I am assigning him detention for the rest of this game. The reason is as follows:Xenagos

Xenagos has been acting out in class consistently. It is not that he himself has done too much damage to either other students, his surroundings or myself, but he gets the other students all fired up over nothing. His ability to incite rebellions among the students, while impressive, has led to severe complaints from the other participants in our activities.

I’ve taken it upon myself to discipline Xenagos in order to make sure that he refrains from other outbursts in class and assigned him the usual detention homework. For your information, this week the class is memorizing Homer’s Odyssey, and I’m expecting him to hand in his solution to Zeno’s Dichotomy paradox on Monday at the latest.

Until Xenagos has shown he is capable of interacting with other students without getting them into an inflammatory state, I will not accept him back in my class.

 

All the best,
Dragonlord Ojutai, PhD, MD, JD, MBA, LIM, OMG

 

The Hipster factor

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“What is that game you’re playing?”

I think a lot of us have been asked that question at some point when playing Magic at a cafeteria table in school, by the kitchen table around nosy siblings, or in a local gaming store not dedicated to cardboard slinging specifically. Ponder a proper answer to that question for just a second.

Done?

I’m going to guess that you will try and explain that the game is a sort-of mix between chess and poker, with a fantasy flavour stapled on to it. If the person you’re talking to is invested in gaming you might use terms like “trading card game”. Most of the time, I find myself explaining to people that “you take these cards, there are many thousands of them, and you build a deck for yourself and you play against other people who have built decks.”

Usually, there is no point going deeper into the topics of metagaming, archetypes, net decking etc. – to the person you’re explaining the game to, you’re a deckbuilder, and you play against other deckbuilders. Never mind the fact that most of us will never T8 a grand prix with a rogue brew of our own, or make a mark on the Standard metagame with some new tech. Innovation is most of the time for the pros, unfortunately, when it comes to most formats.

zurtheenchanterThe exception is EDH. In EDH, building something for yourself is almost the norm. You select the commander you would like to build a deck around, and even though you technically can net deck an EDH list it might be unwise. Every play group is its own metagame, and a deck that is too powerful or percieved as too powerful might construct a new downside to the player – the others around the table will bully you out. Even though your net decked Zur list is awesome, the others will catch on as soon as you reveal it, and kick you out of the game Archenemy style. This fact seems to frustrate most tournament-calibre spikes that dip their toes into the water.

Innovation, thus, is sometimes key to being able to play politically. On top of that, EDH seems to be one of those formats that people play specifically to discover new cards.


I’m relating this to one of my more recent decks. I was looking to play some more red, since I wasn’t playing red at all for a while, and I settled on re-building my Meren deck after a while and make her Jund. I’ve been wanting to rebuild her since I noticed she was the most popular Golgari general on EDHREC.com – playing her lost me a lot of Hipster points. I’m not trying to say that innovation is quantifiable, but I believe most people will agree that it’s boring to sit down at a table and see the same general in every game played against you. I wanted to build Adun Oakenshield, but he is expensive and hard to come by, so that project is slated for late 2020 instead.

prosshskyraiderofkherAfter going over the other Jund options, I found that most were either too weak, too similar to Meren (like Shattergang Brothers or Kresh the Bloodbraided for example – both being prime examples of “sac for value” type generals), I decided to just say “screw it” and go with Prossh, Skyraider of Kher.

This might make me a hypocrite, on paper, since Prossh is by far the most popular Jund commander, but I regained a few Hipster points just last weekend when I decided to cut all of the “sac for value” cards and go balls-to-the-wall aggro with Prossh. I’m not pretending to innovate on Prossh as a general, but I do play some unusual cards – like Berserk, Diligent Farmhand, or Inferno Titan. A link, to my deck: Prossh it to the limit, on TappedOut.net.

What’s imporant to me is that the deck feels like my own, even if the general is hugely popular. It boils down to some sort of Rifleman’s Creed thing – this is my deck, there are many like it but this one is mine.

That, and all the Hipster points I make from Wydwen and Ojutai must be invested somewhere. I deserve to sometimes just bust out Prossh and destroy my opponents with enough force to leave only a pair of smoking boots behind. To quote XKCD’s “What if?” blog: in a way, they don’t die, they just stop being biology and start being physics.


What do you think? How important is creativity and innovation to you when it comes to Magic or EDH? Leave a comment!

Unboxing a display of Fate Reforged. Ugin?

moment with pm

The title pretty much says it all, and the Video will show it all so I will just shut up now!

Here is the Video:

 

Over and Out!