What a Difference a Set Makes
Funny, we have a couple of weeks of Darksteel being available and things start to get a little strange. There are new theories roaming around in draft circles. There are new decks floating around. Some already existing cards are starting to lose value. Others are starting to gain value. It's all a bit strange. I'm not sure how big of an impact Darksteel will have on Magic in the end. I am sure though, that it is already being felt.
For starters, black was highly underrated in Mirrodin booster draft and sealed deck events. Many players felt that it was hard enough for one person to get quality black cards to play at the table. If two people wanted black, there could be a small fight. If three of the players at the table were playing black, none of them would have a deck worth a damn. Darksteel changes all that. Now you get Nim Abomination and Grimclaw Bats as decent creatures. Even the Chittering Rats can be solid for slowly your opponent down in the early turns of the game while you are still developing. Emissary of Despair seems to be OK to play as well. But you get even more black removal. Cards such as Essence Drain, Screams From Within, Shriveling Rot, Echoing Decay and Murderous Spoils all ad to the list of black removal. With these cards being commons and uncommons there will be plenty of them showing up. So now, three players taking black at the table isn't that uncommon. You can also expect to see more players with black in the future at sealed deck PTQs. Now, that doesn't mean that the other colors got any weaker. I'm just simply pointing out that black got the largest boost from this set.
And if you thought Darksteel was only having an impact on limited play, you've got another thing coming. Darksteel as a set, has more speculation on cards right now than any set since Urza's Block. I know that seems like a bold statement, but there are a ton of rares in Darksteel that people are after. Even cards that seem tailor made for casual players like Darksteel Colossus are finding their way into constructed decks. I've spoken with multiple card shop owners over the past few days and everyone seems to have the Darksteel rares priced differently. Even some of the rares that dealers thought were going to sell for much less (like the three arcbound rares) are still moving out of binders.
Cards like Viridian Zealot, Trinisphere, and Panoptic Mirror are drawing large numbers because of expected play value. Other cards like Shunt and Last Word seem a bit less playable, but are equally as hot. Even cards like Memnarch have found their way into the decks of the casual gamer. Also, make note that we are just talking about the rares here. Nim Abomination, Skullclamp, and Vulshok War Boar are pretty solid cards that you'll find in the unommon slots in your packs.
Originally, the Darksteel power level seemed to be HIGHLY underrated. As the days go by, this is becoming less and less of an issue. More cards from this set are proven their worth all the time. Is this something to be worried about? Not at all. It just means that you need to take some measures to make sure that you are up to speed on things.
Regionals is fast approaching and there will be more and more talk about regionals as the days go on. It's going to take a lot to be ready for regionals this year. There will be some new and interesting decks. There will also be a lot of variations on each existing deck. There's no one sure way to know what all will be out there. Especially at regionals. There are a few things you can do to be prepared.
Put yourself through a crash course of sorts to prepare yourself. Start out buy clearing your head of silly notions. The idea of their being a best deck is kind of silly. Even when we thought that Rebels was the best deck in Masque Block, it later turned out that Black/Green variants were better decks. Many even believe to this day that if the format had played on another couple of weeks, other decks were preparing to beat those. Don't even worry about having the "best deck." Find a deck that you are comfortable with. Play it a lot. It is important to understand key situations and who to deal with them. This knowledge can help large swing a matchup. Get to know all of your cards. Be aware of any neat combat tricks. Try to find fun things that your deck can do with the stack. Any edge you have, can be to your advantage (especially if your opponents aren't as well prepared).
Don't worry about losing. If you are playtesting and a deck is losing, that's fine. That's what you want. Go back to the drawing board and make some changes. IF you still come up with losses, then fine. Maybe the decks just not worth it. Scrap it. Make another deck. Keep at it until you find something.
That also reminds. While you have time in the beginning, build a lot of different decks. Build a few deck variants. Try out some different play styles. Learn what makes different decks tick. Try to be more creative and come up with a good rogue deck. Many people won't encourage this, but I do. Right now is the time to take advantage of Darksteel and make a powerful rogue deck. Also, I'm recommending that you do it now in the early stages, so you don't use your valuable late stages of playtesting for building decks that are terrible.
Another good thing to do is fine good players to game with. Find players and judges you can bounce rules questions off of. Find people that can help you find mistakes in your play. Find players that can help you by giving an honest opinion on your decks. You have to be able to accept that you aren't always right. Your first build may not be the best. Be willing to try different options. That's the only way you will truly know if something works out for the better or not.
Play against the good players AND the bad players. When you go to regionals, there will be players of all skill levels with all type of decks. Make sure your deck can handle the strange quirkiness of the random decks and be able to handle the hammer style beating that the tournament proven decks will force upon you. This is something that I notice lots of people taking for granted. Too often at regionals, I hear people griping about how they lost to a random, bad card. Or they gripe about a strange deck that was full of weird, bad cards that they could do nothing about. You play those matchups more to give yourself experience than anything else.
Take your testing with a grain of salt. If you are aware that you don't have the best players in our area, make note of that. Keep good notes. Record when play mistakes were made and how they affected the game they occurred in. This can be very important. You don't want skewed results.
Don't get paranoid. If you encounter a matchup that is really bad for you, that's fine. Most decks will have a deck that is just really hard to beat. Allow yourself three or four sideboard cards for that matchup and hope for the best. If you are doing well against your gauntlet of decks, but only have one road block, I would just roll the dice and see what happens with that deck.
As regionals gets closer, we will probably come back and revisit these points again. These are all things that should be applied to general testing groups. I just wrote them to fit the purpose of regionals, since that's what a lot of people are preparing for.
Honestly, I personally have been spending a lot of time preparing for sealed deck and booster draft for the current PTQ season. It has really been a fun experience messing with Darksteel. There's a lot of little intricacies to be learned about the card interactions in this set. I like that though. It really lends itself to giving the benefit to creative deck builders.
Speaking of building, I have a sidebote for friends and fans: I am not entering the finals stages of the paperwork, so maybe within a week or so I will know if I am to be a homeowner or not.
I was unsure of what I wanted to go with this week for my card of the week. It took me a while to think of something useful and underplayed. I also wanted to stick with the Darksteel theme. So I eventually chose Shunt. The reason I chose shunt, is because of the little things you can do with it. You can protect yourself from a Fireball by sending it to your opponent. You can save one of your permanents by redirecting a Naturalize to something else. You can turn land destruction cards onto their caster's lands. My favorite thing to do though is turn a spell counter onto itself. It's almost like giving red decks a counterspell. It's a well balanced cards with a few neat tricky elements built in.
My play tip of the week is a bit more subtle this week. It's very simple. Be more open minded. Don't think you always have the best version of your deck right when its built. Listen to everyone for suggestions. You never know where the best idea will come from. Remember, penicillin came from a moldy sandwich that was left out overnight. You will advance a lot faster as a player when you become a good listener and a good learner.
My alternate game of the week is Film Frenzy. This is a card based game that you play along with any random action movie. There are cards that have different items on them. When they appear in the movie you play them to score points. The rarer the item, the more points. Most points at the end of the movie is the winner. This includes things such as slow motion sequence, bad guys secret lair, acrobatics, and even car chase. The cool part is that the box is packaged like a VHS tape and it will have future versions for other genres. It's a blast to play.
I'm not sure how many of you saw the Super Bowl. I thought it was great. Even the halftime show. My favorite commercial though as easily the one with the players and coaches walking around singing "Tomorrow." That made my night.
Anyway, I digress.
Right now is a real good time to be a Magic player. The Pro Tour Qualifiers are back on and are running at full steam. Junior Super Series events are going strong all over the place. Friday Night Magic is showing bigger numbers in most stores. Hasbro even put out reports stating that Magic sales are way up. Things are good in card flopper land.
Don't forget to check out the pojo.com message forums. You can trade, chat, talk about decks, or just gossip if you want to. The server is new and runs smooth. You owe it yourself to check it out.
Also, I miss reading the good play and bad play of the week on sideboard.com. So if the players and readers out there will write to me with the best plays and worst plays that they have done and/or seen, I will pick the best one out every week and use it in my article with the proper credit given. Be sure to give all the needed details when sending me your e-mails.
And on that note, I'm done.
Send me your good plays and bad plays and KEEP ON GAMIN' !
Until next time,
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