March 27, 2015

How Inviting

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SCGLive Twitch Channel


Friday, March 27


8:30 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. ET – SCG Invitational Richmond – Day One


Saturday, March 28


6 a.m. PT/9 a.m. ET - SCG Invitational Richmond – Day Two


Sunday, March 29


6 a.m. PT/9 a.m. ET - SCG Invitational Richmond – Day Three


Magic Twitch Channel


Tuesday, March 31


6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET—Vintage Super League


MTGRich Twitch Channel


Wednesday, April 1


8 a.m. PT/11 a.m. ET—Downtime




Dragons of Tarkir is now available in stores worldwide! And speaking of the new set, you'll have your first opportunity to watch the new cards in action this weekend! And after that, you'll have the regularly scheduled Magic programming to look forward to.





StarCityGames.com is hosting its first Open Series weekend featuring the Invitational this weekend in Richmond, Virginia. In fact, the Invitational starts today, and features four rounds of Standard—with Dragons of Tarkir legal—as well as four rounds of Legacy.


This means three days of coverage featuring both formats in action. More Standard will be on its way to you as well, since the Open Series event running in Richmond is Standard. If you're looking for your initial Standard Constructed ideas, then this is one weekend of SCGLive coverage that you won't want to miss.


Join Patrick Sullivan, Matthias Hunt, and Cedric Phillips along with the rest of the SCGLive crew as they bring you three days of StarCityGames Open Series and Invitational coverage starting today on the SCGLive Twitch Channel at 11:30 a.m. local time (ET)/8:30 a.m. PT/3:30 p.m. GMT. Coverage will resume on both Saturday and Sunday at 9 a.m. local time (ET)/6 a.m. PT/1 p.m. GMT.





Meanwhile, the Vintage Super League wraps up its last week of round-robin matches before the cut to the Top 4. Going into this final week, the roster of players moving on to post-season play is already set. However, those players are still jockeying for place in the post-season, so this last week may have a big impact on how easy or how hard it will be for the post-season players to win the whole thing.


On the flip-side, this week means a lot for the other six. While David Williams needs a win to not get kicked out of the league, the five players sitting at 3-5 can't lose either. If they do, and if Williams wins, then there will be a post-season playoff to see who is eliminated from returning next season!


Join host Randy Buehler and the rest of the Vintage Super League crew for Vintage goodness! It all starts on the Magic Twitch Channel Tuesday, March 31, at 6 p.m. PT/9 p.m. ET/1 a.m. GMT...





…and don't miss out on the third episode of Downtime, featuring Rich Hagon's latest lengthy stories, jokes, raps (yes, I'm serious), trivia, and more the very next day.


In case you have missed out on Downtime the previous two weeks, it's an interactive broadcast hosted by Pro Tour host and extraordinarily British Rich Hagon every Wednesday at 8 a.m. PT/11 a.m. ET/3 p.m. GMT on the MTGRich Twitch Channel. Named after the Magic Online downtime, Rich's new show encourages audience participation. And if you'd like to join him on the broadcast, be sure to have a microphone and Google Hangout handy!


If you're all about "getting up to get down," then join us for Downtime next Wednesday, April 1 (no foolin'!) at 8 a.m. PT.






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Prerelease Exploits

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In This Issue


Prerelease Exploits | Sophomore Report Card | The Top 5 National Championship Races




Prerelease Exploits


I may very well be ruined for drafting Dragons of Tarkir thanks to my Prerelease experience. It seems almost impossible that I will ever have a deck that brings me as much joy as the one I built this past Saturday. I did not even go 4–0 with the deck, losing one match fair and square to a Dromoka player with double strike and trample shenanigans, but aesthetically the deck was everything I wanted to do while playing a Limited game of Magic.


My Prerelease was at The Compleat Strategist in New York City, the store where I purchased a pair of Unlimited Starter Decks—my first ever Magic cards—more than twenty years ago. The crowd there is like a 1990s Neutral Ground reunion with players—and even Head Judge Eric Smith—that I have known forever. The fact that it is around the corner from Bonchon Chicken plays more than a small role in our Prerelease selection, as a big plate of spicy wings has become the post-Prerelease standard for us.


My initial plan for choosing a color pair was to align myself with Ojutai, but in the end I changed my mind and picked Silumgar as midnight reports of crazy exploits (quite literally) littered my newsfeed the morning of the tournament. I was hoping to see a Silumgar Sorcerer and maybe a good creature to exploit like a Youthful Scholar but with the help of the seeded pack I had more cards than I could possibly pack into one 40-card deck. Rather than list the whole pool, I am going to present my deck and the on-color cards in my sideboard.





Brian David-Marshall's UB Exploits—Dragons of Tarkir Prerelease


































Without a doubt the best individual cards in my deck were Silumgar's Sorcerer and Rakshasa Gravecaller, and having two of each is why I feel ruined for this draft format because getting two each of the premium uncommons is rarer than…well, rare in draft. There were a couple of really hard cuts in building this and the first was a mistake. I was bedazzled by Dragons and should have cut the Acid-Spewer Dragon for the second Ojutai Interceptor. The last two cards I cut were the pair of Silumgar Butchers. I just did not want that many cards at five mana and I have zero regrets about the decision. I only sided them in once and they seemed a little clumsy.


Highlights included any time I got to sacrifice Youthful Scholar—yet another premium uncommon—to either Silumgar Sorcerer or the Gravecaller. The point of no return from my ruination came when I cast Deathbringer Regent on a board with Youthful Scholar and Dutiful Attendant and a swarm of creatures on my opponent's side of the board. I got to draw two cards—one of which was a Sorcerer—and return my Youthful Scholar with the Dutiful Attendant. In another game I had the opportunity to exploit Dutiful Attendants to Silumgar Sorcerer, returning a Silumgar Sorcerer from my graveyard. It was the proverbial Magical Christmas Land of a Limited deck that I will sadly be chasing to little success for as long as this draft format is around.



Assuming you were going to be blue-black with my card pool, what would you have done differently?


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Sophomore Report Card


Rookie of the Year Raymond Perez, Jr. had the opportunity to play in the World Championship earlier this year by virtue of his title. He also was granted Gold status in the Pro Players Club as part of a change in the Rookie of the Year rewards. That came as quite a weight off of Perez's mind as he had come up two points short of earning Gold the traditional way during his rookie campaign. The purpose of the change is to give the reigning rookie a full year to play on the Pro Tour without having to worry about where their next qualification is coming from. It is rare for the rookie winner to have Gold or Platinum that first season.



Raymond Perez, Jr., 2014 Rookie of the Year


"I was excited that I would not have to play in any more PTQs that season as well as having some of the pressure taken off from having to do well at the coming PT," said Perez of finding out that he was qualified for all the Pro Tours this season. "I think it's a great tool to have Gold any year and to start with that regardless after achieving Rookie of the Year is a great boon."


Perez will be playing in Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir with Team Hot Sauce Games which includes Adam Jansen, Ben Moir, and Tyler Blum. Playtesting is going to be a high wire act for the rookie as he has to balance it against a 50-hour per week job.


"I plan to do drafts when they go live on Magic Online and I also plan to playtest as much as I can in the house a week prior to the PT," said Perez of his preparation process. That process began by playing in as many Prereleases as he could this past weekend, including a Two-Headed Giant event. "My first impressions of the cards were great. Megamorph was a fun mechanic and exploit was more powerful than I thought it would be in the beginning."


In the current Rookie of the Year race, Justin Cohen is currently holding on to a solid lead based on his finals appearance at Pro Tour Fate Reforged , but there are a handful of players—Eugene Hwang, Ben Weitz, Ian Farnung, and Tyler Hill—all within ten points of his lead.


"The best advice I could give anyone going for the Rookie of the Year title would be to stay focused and try to do well at every tournament you attend," urged Perez. "Almost every tournament I played in when I was in the race I was over prepped for. I wanted to take advantage of every tournament to try and get further ahead so making sure you aren't throwing away any chance is vital."


Despite the demands of his job, you will see plenty of Perez throughout the rest of the season as he tries to get himself from his current total of 11 points to something with a more metallic finish.



"I plan to try and attend at least ten or so more GPs this year as well as make the most of these next two PTs. Hitting Gold again would be ideal and is definitely within my range. I will be taking my own advice in making sure I am prepped for any future tournament to give myself the best chances of reaching my goal!"


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The Top 5 National Championship Races


With the third Pro Tour of the season on the immediate horizon, it seemed like a fine time to check in on the races for National Championship titles. The player with the most Pro Points in each qualified country will become the National Champion, and with that, they get to lead their country's team at the World Magic Cup. Pro Tours are the largest Pro Point payouts throughout the Magic year and a solid result at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir can be just what it takes for a player to earn a seat in Barcelona, where they will represent their country at the highest level of the game.


#5 - Student vs. Master in Brazil



Thiago Saporito


Currently leading the standings from Brazil is Thiago Saporito, who has been mentored in the ways of competitive Magic by his next closest pursuant, Willy Edel. Saporito has had a busy year so far. He joined last year's National Champion on the World Magic Cup team by way of the qualifier tournaments and they managed to get through to Sunday. It was the second Sunday of Saporito's career as he had made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir earlier in the season. Edel is coming off a Grand Prix Top 8 in Memphis and, if he continues to travel outside of South America for events, he will have ample opportunities to make up the 2-point difference between himself and Saporito.


#4 - Czech Mates



Martin Jůza


Three generations of players from the Czech Republic will all be jockeying throughout the remainder of the season. Martin Jůza leads the pack with 32 points, but he has Stanislav Cifka and Ondrej Strasky both sitting on 27 points right behind him. A pair of recent Grand Prix Top 8s—giving him a staggering 22 for his career so far—have helped his point total, but both of the people chasing him have displayed the ability to tear off a huge chunk of points at any given Pro Tour. There will not be any deck advantage to be had, though, as all three players are members of Team Well Played and will be working together for the remaining Pro Tours this season.


#3 - Can Anyone Catch Watanabe in Japan?



Yuuya Watanabe


I had the opportunity to interview Shota Yasooka for Pro Tour Fate Reforged. Among the topics we covered, I asked him about up and coming Japanese players that we should keep an eye out for. He named Teruya Kakumae, who had made quite an impression on him en route to winning Grand Prix Kobe in 2014 playing the Burn deck that has since become a format staple in Modern.


Kakumae just won another Grand Prix in Auckland. He currently leads the Grand Prix points race for a seat at the World Championship and closed in to within 9 points of frontrunner Yuuya Watanabe, coming off his 22nd Grand Prix Top 8 that same weekend. Don't sleep on Kentaro Yamamoto and Yuuki Ichikawa—both 11 points off the lead—who have both demonstrated their ability to thrive at the highest levels of the game.


#2 - Oh, Canada!



Shaun McLaren


Shaun McLaren is sitting on 44 points and just has to show up in Brussels and Vancouver to lock up Platinum. He reached the finals of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir for his second Pro Tour Top 8 in a handful of attempts. Just 3 points behind him is young Jacob Wilson who needs to find a solitary extra point to lock up Platinum—something he has expressed a glimmer of pessimism about in interviews—coming off the second Pro Tour Top 8 of his career. Wilson is well aware of the opportunity to be the National Champion and will be fighting for it at every available event between now and the end of the year.


Wilson recently joined The Pantheon, which regularly has one of the best decks in the room. Even if Wilson wants to be pessimistic about his opportunities for points, I am willing to hoist a half full glass to his chances.


#1 - Triple Platinum




Ari Lax


While Hong Kong's Lee Shi Tian sits atop the Player of the Year race with Platinum locked for a long while, the next three spots in the race all hail from the United States and are clustered within 2 points from top to bottom. Ari Lax and his Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir trophy sit on top with 51 points. Lax plays with Team TCGPlayer and each of the next two competitors are on different teams, which makes the race just a little more compelling for me.


ChannelFireball stalwart Eric Froehlich has a Grand Prix win and another Pro Tour Top 8, propelling him to 50 points and another Platinum season. Pantheon member Owen Turtenwald is in third with a somehow quiet 49 points. A fourth team—the recently sponsored Team Ultra PRO—is represented at 42 points by Samuel Black.


I cannot wait to watch these Platinum Pros and their respective teams as they grapple with the new Standard format, and a whole new Booster Draft format in Brussels in just two weeks.


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New Blue Brews

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My normal strategy when a new set comes out is two-pronged: First, look at the decks I liked before the set release, and see what they gained, either in cards or positioning. Second, see what cards opened the door to completely new archetypes, and try and figure those out. Today I'm going to do a bit of both, taking a look at something old and something new (neither are borrowed, but both are blue).


When deciding which existing deck to update, it didn't take me long to settle on Jeskai Ascendancy Tokens. This was my favorite deck pre-Dragons of Tarkir, and it picked up a couple very interesting additions.


First, the decklist before adding any new cards:





Jeskai Ascendancy Tokens

































There are many reasons I liked this deck, and knowing those reasons will help evaluate which new cards I'm looking to add:



  1. The deck is extremely powerful. By combining Jeskai Ascendancy or Monastery Mentor with cheap spells, you get to attack for tons of damage in a turn very easily.

  2. The deck has a lot of good interactive spells. Gods Willing, removal, and cards that make multiple blockers give the deck ways to survive and trade cards with the opponent.

  3. The deck is resilient. Treasure Cruise, Outpost Siege, and Jeskai Ascendancy let the deck look at tons of cards and it rarely runs out of gas as a result.


Which cards help work toward these goals? Note that new cards don't necessarily have to make tokens or even play into the tokens theme, as this is a classic midrange combo deck. The tokens name tends to make people (usually the opponent) overvalue cards that kill tokens, which then sets them up to lose to Treasure Cruise and Ascendancy. You are allowed to play one token-making card at a time, and there's absolutely no reason to let Drown in Sorrow kill 10 of your tokens. Now that we are looking at cards in these colors, only some of which make tokens, which look interesting?



Playing a card-filtering spell on turn two instead of a threat may seem strange for a deck capable of aggressive starts, but I like what this card can do. It triggers Mentor and Ascendancy at instant speed, it looks for whatever kind of card you are missing (this is a synergy deck, after all), and it both finds and enables Treasure Cruise. Plus, one of the easiest ways for this deck to win is to draw 2-3 Stoke the Flames, and Anticipate helps with that. I don't think this is a 4 Anticipate deck, as it really does want to cast two-drop creatures on turn two at least some amount of the time, but a couple Anticipates do sound good.



Speaking of token-making, here's the biggest token card in all of Standard, and right after I just talked about how this deck isn't solely focused on tokens. Secure the Wastes is powerful enough to warrant testing, and has a lot of good things going for it. It scales, so you can cast it for anywhere from three to ten mana and be happy, with some situations even calling for X to be one or zero. Zero sounds strange, but sometimes all you want to do is trigger your three-mana permanents, and I guarantee that it will come up occasionally. Besides the fact that it provides good value at almost every X, this being an instant is huge. Now you are threatening lethal at almost any point after turn five. If you pass with all your mana up, your opponent always has to fear you casting a big Secure the Wastes and untapping and going off with Ascendancy, even if you don't have an Ascendancy in play before all this. That's a big upgrade to just being able to cast Raise the Alarm at end of turn, and I look forward to seeing how much Secure the Wastes adds to the reach of this deck.



While Dragon Fodder is a huge addition to aggressive red decks, I don't know how much it changes this particular deck. It may be worth swapping some number of Raise the Alarm and Outburst for Fodder, which seems odd but has a reason. Raise being an instant is important, but Fodder makes tokens that cast Stoke the Flames much more effectively, and that's huge. Hordeling Outburst is a more powerful card, but the three-drop spot in this deck has fierce competition, and it is likely right to play a mix of two- and three-cost token-making cards rather than four of either. I don't think you want 12 of these three cards, but the 7-9 you want is going to be tricky to figure out.



Roast gives this deck another way to kill large ground creatures, namely Siege Rhino. It directly competes with Valorous Stance, with the protection ability of Stance going up against the ability to cast Roast on turn two to kill cards like Seeker of the Way. As with many such conflicts, a mix of the two may end up being the best plan.



Lightning Strike, Wild Slash, and now Twin Bolt are also competitors, though Twin Bolt may be better suited for the sideboard (at which point it goes up against Arc Lightning). I like when there are this many close decisions, as it makes deck building much more interesting.


After looking at the new cards and the prior decklist, here's what I'm going to start with.





Dragons Ascendency Tokens

































Despite the awesome Soulfire Grandmaster plus Roast combo, I think I want to just play one Grandmaster. Dragon Fodder and Secure the Wastes offer good new threats, and room must be made. I chose this mix to enable Stoke the Flames, though it's far from being set in stone, and I expect the number of token-makers to fluctuate wildly through testing.


The removal suite is similarly expected to change after testing, and in particular is very soft to Mantis Rider right now. If that isn't acceptable, Lightning Strike can certainly find its way back in.


I still think the combination of power and resiliency that Jeskai Tokens offers makes it a great deck in this format, even if I haven't nailed down all the exact numbers. This is a good place to start, and I will be casting Treasure Cruises until I have determined which other cards to play alongside them.





Mono-Blue Devotion disappeared without a trace when Ravnica block rotated out, but the printing of Shorecrasher Elemental (plus a couple other goodies) may have changed that. This initial sketch is looking to harness the power of Master of Waves and Thassa by using cards like Shorecrasher and Silumgar Sorcerer to provide the blue pips necessary to secure devotion.




The idea here is simple: cast blue cards, cast Bident, cast Thassa, cast Master, and profit. Gudul Lurker and Stratus Dancer are good cheap evasion creatures that double as late-game threats due to megamorph, and both combine quite well with Bident. The fact that Silumgar Sorcerer doubles as an evasive threat and a counterspell is very good for this deck, and the deck has plenty of chumps to sacrifice.


Shorecrasher is one of the driving forces of the deck, and the triple-blue cost plus the innate power level is really the incentive to play a mana base of 25 (Beta) Islands.


Icefall Regent is one of the other finishers, and I think its power level justifies playing three copies of a five-drop. I could see cutting a Regent and a land for two cheaper cards, but I like to start by erring on the side of power level.


The deck doesn't have a ton of interaction. Sorcerer and Dancer offer countermagic, but the only way to mess with a creature in play is Sidisi's Faithful, which I think edges out the other bounce spells available. It can up your devotion by one if you sacrifice a Master of Waves token, and that makes up for it being a sorcery.


This is a good place to start, and I hope Mono-Blue comes back. It's a fun deck and ended up being interesting to play with or against.


LSV






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