The first time I cashed a Grand Prix, I started the tournament 2-2, losing my first two rounds after coming off my byes. I rattled off five straight match wins to limp into day two at 7-2, but lost my first match of day one. Four consecutive match wins later and I was 11-3 with completely horrendous breakers. I ended up getting paired against one of my best friends, with similarly horrendous breakers, and we immediately agreed on a 50/50 prize split and played for bragging rights. We were so relieved.
Bret and I were relieved because neither of us really wanted to play a $200 ante match, but sometimes, when you run above expectation at a Grand Prix, that is what gets asked of you. We were relieved because proposing a 50/50 split to a stranger is scary. What if they don't understand? What if they win the match and never pay you? What if they think you're trying to "get" them?
Recently at tournaments, I've started proposing an "even or odd?" die roll to see who goes first. It's only one die roll, and you can't tie, so it saves a little time. It's only about three seconds per round, but Magic's a game of inches so I do it anyway. The funny thing about this is there are a lot of players I come across in my travels who decline the "even or odd?" roll and instead prefer to do high roll. After all, it's what they've done all their lives.
I went to my first Magic tournament when I was 11. I sat down across from my opponent and he asked me, "do you wish to concede?" I didn't know what that word meant, so I said yes, and my bounced up and down in his chair and yelled "HE SAID HE'D CONCEDE! HE SAID HE'D CONCEDE!" I don't think my experience here is unique or even remarkable in any way — what I'm getting at here is that people "get got" early on in their tournament-goings, and as a result are extremely averse to letting it happen again.
The result is a class of players always on their guard, all the time. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Grand Prix Providence a couple weekends back had an exorbitant base entry fee of $70 (hopefully TOs took note of that tournament's comparatively low attendance); players would be crazy to be lax after throwing down that much cash. The downside to players like this is that they're not very far removed from angle-shooters.
Bret and I were relieved to get paired against each other in that 15th round because we both know there are players out there looking to turn your conservativeness about playing a game of wizard squares for $200 into a free win for themselves. Bret and I don't play Magic as a career. We like competition, but stakes too high diminish it, and turn Magic into something else. Those matches are sweet to watch, sure, but they are not for us. We have no problem playing the matches without a split — that's what you sign up for at a Grand Prix — but being able to split without incident felt great.
For professional Magic players, offering splits in the final rounds of a premier-level tournament is more a necessity to survival than anything else. The Pro Points awarded at GPs wind up being worth more than the money to you, and they're often useless to your opponents. Goals disparate from your opponent's are another thing you have to be on board with as a professional Magic player, but if you can explain the situation to an opponent clearly — you need the pro points and they don't — there's no reason both parties can't come to an agreement.
These agreements usually result in intentional draws or concessions. The argument that these diminish Magic's legitimacy as an e-sport are intellectually lazy and unsympathetic to people trying to make a living playing Magic. It's no player's fault that the stakes of one match are exponentially higher for one player than they are for the other. That's just how it goes. If you want to change the culture, change the incentive structure. It's easy to get outraged when a player gets disqualified for bribery, but there's always more to the story than what sees print, and claiming otherwise is willful ignorance.
We sold some cards over the weekend and I am obliged to discuss them. Let's roll.
A pair of one-mana spells — Galvanic Bombardment and Ceremonious Rejection — just missed our top 10, but as far as efficient disruption goes, they're two of the best Kaladesh Standard has to offer. Concealed Courtyard and Spirebluff Canal also finished outside the Top 10, which is great because it's weird to write about coldly efficient lands every week. They're good, I promise. Just take my word for it; I've never messed up anything.
Saffron Olive tweeted about Pact of the Titan over the weekend, which was probably enough on its own to move the needle on it. Naturally, people bought into the hype; the phenomenon of folks desperate to look clever and not "get got" is alive and well in #mtgfinance.
I have a bunch of those old gold-bordered Worlds decks on my desk, and they are a shining beacon of how far deck design has come. Most of them have far too few lands. Coworkers get a kick out of seeing decks from 10+ years ago, and laughing when I tell them that Urza's Rage was once a $20 card. Here's Randy Buehler's deck from Worlds '98, designed by Erik Lauer:
I won't mince words: it is very hard to win a game with this deck. There are dead sloths that are more proactive than this deck. As long as its opponent isn't just playing out cards one at a time to get countered, the deck has no way to pressure an opponent into doing anything other than playing lands and discard removal spells to hand size, allowing opponents to sculpt a hand to beat it. A hand to beat the draw-go deck is not hard to craft — opposing threats generally come cheaper than Dismiss.
I mention all of this because Buehler's deck has Dissipate in it, which is a colored version of Void Shatter. Devoid is a weird mechanic.
I really love Blossoming Defense in the B/G Delirium mirror; Blossoming Defense will always be cheaper that the removal spell they're casting on your creature, so Blossoming Defense can be a huge tempo swing in a matchup short on ways to swing tempo in your favor.
GAH. I thought I wasn't going to have to talk about why a dual-land is good this week. I thought wrong! Here's a deck that had Blooming Marsh in it from over the weekend:
Here's what makes dual-lands good: basic lands create only one color of mana. That means the baseline value of a land is that it makes one mana of one color. Any time a land is able to cheat on this principle, its value is higher than the value of a basic land. This is why lands like these generally have some sort of qualifier, or drawback, built in. Sometimes the drawbacks are too great, like with Lotus Vale or Cinder Marsh, for them to have more value than a basic land. However, the drawback on the Kaladesh rare dual-land cycle is barely a drawback, yielding value way past the value of a basic land. That is why Blooming Marsh is a Good Wizard Square.
What would be the best method of evaluating whether or not Standard attendance is falling? Polling LGSes for PPTQ attendance? Looking at Grand Prix attendance from last year and this year? And once you determine a shift in attendance numbers, how do you determine the source of them?
Asking for a friend.
I'm told Standard is a healthy format. So healthy, in fact, that I'm thinking about picking up Commander. I think my commander's going to be Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but I'm open to suggestions.
Inspiration was Standard legal in 1998, but Randy Buehler didn't play it in his control deck, opting instead for a playset of Whispers of the Muse. I totally would've played Inspiration there, but Erik Lauer and Randy Buehler are both legitimate geniuses and the last sandwich I ate had the crusts cut off.
Harnessed Lightning's been in the top five of Super Sellers forever and ever; it's an awesome card, so why would it slow down? I was skeptical when I first saw it in decks that had no other energy sources, but after playing with it, it's clear that Harnessed Lightning is a premier spell in Standard and an excellent showcase for the potential of energy.
Apparently I've been pronouncing the word aether wrong all my life. On coverage, I've heard heard it pronounced like "ether," which... that's already a word!
When I was a younger mage, there was a dude in our group that pronounced Rofellos weird. And we'd give him crap for it constantly, until one day he boiled over:
"It's a made up word, dammit! Fictional word! I get to pronounce it however I want! End of conversation!"
He's doing much better now.
Oooooh, the ol' Jon Corpora trap card! I'm happy this made a splash somewhere, although I really wasn't expecting that place to be Vintage. Reid Duke, among others, played Paradoxical Outcome at Eternal Weekend last weekend, and the on-camera matches were definitely sweet enough to move some copies.
See you Friday.