My best Magical decisions of 2013 – 5 Point Plan
It seems to be the season of retrospectives, my suitably festive Planeswalkers.
The mainstream media have long employed ‘reviews of the year’ as a technique for filling newspapers, magazines, TV bulletins and latterly internet sites with content, during the time when most self-respecting politicians, celebrities and general news-makers are enjoying a rest. Casting my roving eye over the Magic media in 2013, I find those old habits alive and well in a new generation of writers.
Who am I to buck tradition? This year has been a pivotal one for me in my Magical career and probably deserves a quick review. No over-long droning about the state of the game, or plaintive negativity – just a quickfire roundup of the things I’ve done this year that I’m happiest with.
Let’s dive right in!
1. I started playing paper Magic again
For a long time, my interactions with the game were limited to what I’d call fringe activity.
I still loved Magic, but by comparison with what I’d call my heyday, I had significantly less time and money to dedicate to playing – the natural consequence of changing from a free-and-easy Twentysomething into a Thirtysomething family man.
In 2013, something changed. My partner and I were confident enough in managing our young son that I freed up a little extra spare time; a couple of financial tweaks meant that I had a small amount of funds to deploy within it. I took a deep breath… and hit up the Return to Ravnica prerelease in Glasgow.
After a quick 5-1 with a hilariously potent Niv-Mizzet deck, I was hooked again. The feeling of actually shuffling cards with my hands, flicking them from the top of my deck each turn rather than seeing them appear unceremoniously on a screen, talking and laughing with my opponents… I struggled to remember why I had ever left.
Of course, said the voice in my head, you were always more of a constructed player, remember…?
2. I found some time to cube with my friends
In all of Magic, there is nothing quite like drafting cube with your good friends.
This year, I managed to sneak in a number of cube drafts. Some of them happened in friends’ houses, some in my local game store – one even happened at an extended weekend of geeky festivities in Devon. Every one of them was special and rewarding, mostly because it’s the only format in which I find myself almost guaranteed to do certain key things:
Building ridiculous draft decks on the hoof – and joking with your mates as you do it – is simply the best way to play cards. Take a look at this 3-0 monstrosity I threw together, from our Christmas Cube night at long-time crony James Love’s place, then tell me I’m wrong.
3. I helped some players find their way into the game
As a result of re-engaging with Magic, I was able to do something awesome: help some people who were starting out to love it as much as I do.
In recent years, just before the arrival of our young man, I had taken to playing some other games with friends old and new. It was my pleasure to encourage them into the world of Magic, whether they were already on the slippery slope (as Stuart was), entirely new to the game (like my friend Mac), or even old-timers ready to be re-awakened (like my blood-brothers, Chris and Dave).
My technique this year was pretty simple.
First, I suggested they might like to try Duels of the Planeswalkers, in order to become familiar with the basic mechanics of the game; next, I built some simple decks out of Draft and Sealed remnants so we could walk through different archetypes and jam games; finally, I tried as hard as I could to match their enthusiasm as my inbox exploded with all sorts of crazy deck ideas, card interactions and good-beat stories from their games throughout the year.
If you have friends who love to game, but who don’t yet have the fire for drawing seven and charging into battle, I firmly believe that giving them a chance to discover that fire is one of the most positive things you can do.
4. I built my beloved Grixis deck
If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you are statistically very likely to understand two things about me: I love playing Modern… and I love casting Cruel Ultimatums.
This year, I decided I was going to return to tournament Magic and restore my skills to the sharpest level I had historically possessed. I had a dispiriting experience in Standard which drove me to think hard about my goals, but in the aftermath of that event it dawned on me that my best chance of improving was to engineer the most fun ‘practice environment’ I could. That way, I’d never lack motivation.
The answer was to play Modern, my favourite constructed format, with a deck I really liked. Happily, I discovered a list for Grixis control which fit the bill, tacked on to a Patrick Chapin article like an afterthought.
After a lot of game-time and many refinements, here’s what I’m running at the moment:
Playing the deck heralded an immediate upturn in my fortunes. I ascended to the giddy heights of the 2-3 bracket in my first tournament, with my losses feeling interesting and close; then, I started winning more and more frequently on Magic Online; after that, I made my way to the semi-finals of my second paper tournament, being eliminated in what felt a finely balanced match against Splinter Twin (wielded with consummate skill by perennial TCG gentleman, Duncan Tang).
These are modest improvements, but as a switched-on chap once said, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Just as importantly, I started out borrowing large numbers of cards in order to play this beast; now, I have been able to acquire every last card myself and stand ready to jam games at a moment’s notice.
There is a peculiar satisfaction that comes from owning a deck, for an eternal format, which perfectly reflects your preferences. If a Samurai’s sword is his soul, it would be fair to say that a Planeswalker’s favourite deck holds similar significance. For those in doubt, the essence of my own self is shaped a lot like a seven-mana nine-for-one.
5. I started writing for Manaleak.com
Initially, I was simply thinking that as someone who was blogging regularly about Magic, I might as well see if I could post those articles somewhere that more people could read them – and I could perhaps earn a little store credit.
Six months later, I can’t believe how rewarding it’s been.
I’ve been able to connect with a responsive, positive audience – that’s you guys – on a huge range of issues. I’ve been able to read and appreciate the work of the other writers on this site, even collaborating with some of them on one of my favourite projects. I’ve met people through these articles who have opened up opportunities for fun and learning in equal measure.
Perhaps most importantly of all, I’ve been able to express myself on my favourite subject, week-in and week-out, with the support of a top gaffer and a fantastic Magic community here in the UK. You lot have made my year, to a great extent, and I’m very grateful.
2014 will be awesome
Ok, enough over-the-shoulder glancing.
In the year ahead, I plan to bring you loads of these, a little more of this and perhaps even one or two of these; but ultimately, my agenda is set by you guys. If you’d like me to tackle something in particular, let me know.
Until we meet again, remember: a Planeswalker’s favourite deck is their Soul. What does yours look like? Tell us in the comments!
Happy New Years everyone!