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DeQuan Watson

    Many readers have gathered a lot of information about me through my writings.  For those of you that haven't though, this should tell you a little more. 

    I'm 25 years old and I own my own business. Well, more accurately I own a game store.  The Game Closet, my store, is one of the premiere places to play in the Texas.  I play Magic on a pretty regular basis.  I help people build decks and teach the game to people multiple times a week.  Owning a store is neat, because it gives me another perspective to write my articles from.  I can usually tell what the average player likes and can judge some of the tendencies of the average player a little better.  Of course, owning a store means I have knowledge of a lot of games and not just Magic.  I also find out my fair share of insider information on the industry.  But having other resources to pull from makes for more informative writings.

    However, I know a decent bit about pro level play as well.  I myself have
played on the Pro Tour.  I have multiple Top 8 finishes at Pro Tour Qualifiers.  I also have made Day Two at two Grand Prix tournaments.  I have also been invited to the Event horizons Invitational.  These are not stellar achievements, but high enough to let you know I have my head on straight when talking about the game. I also spend lots of time each week talking to, e-mailing, or chatting with top level players.  I get to see their perspective on a lot of things as well.  Between the two, I think I get a good sense of balance of the game.

    Most importantly, I still enjoy the game for the sake of the game itself.  I like the time, the competition, and the general interaction of players.  I plan to be playing it until it fades away...if it ever does.


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The Dragon's Den
By DeQuan Watson - April 14, 2006 

Everyone has different methods of play testing. But, different groups of polyesters seem to lead to different results. Some groups consistently come up with good stuff, while others always seem to be struggling. Play testing is a topic I’ve written about a couple of times in the past. It’s an important part of competitive play that can’t be overlooked. You need to have some solid play testing skills or you will likely have difficulty at the larger events.

Get a group of people together to play with. If you can, you’d like to get 4-7 of the best players in your area to work with. It may not be possible. If not, gather up the next best 4-7 players that you have access to. Everyone involved has to be aware of the goals that the groups is trying to reach. Don’t play cards blindly without a purposes. You will just end up throwing time away. Make sure everyone is willing to put time and effort in. If someone isn’t willing to do their share of the work, then something needs to be worked out. If nothing can be worked out, well, unfortunately, they need to be left out of the circle. It’s like the story of the Little Red Hen. If they don’t help bake the bread, then they don’t get to eat the bread.

Now you need to do is gather information on the format you are working on. There is a lot information out there. You can do a search to find out where hotspots are for the format you are working on. Sometimes, there are stores that have already hosted events with that format you are concerned with. So, take those results into account. Of course you have access to the internet. You might as well use it. There are a ton of message forums that have information and/or ideas floating around that can be put to use. Magic Online also have a bunch of information available. You can usually see who the last few winners were in each format. Information gathering is very underrated. It can save you a ton of time and can help you get a clear picture of the format you are preparing for.

Now that you’ve got your information, you have to decide how to utilize it and attack the situation. The thing to remember is that most people that put the effort forward will have the same information that you have. So, the best thing to do is start with the decklist you’ve acquired thus far and build those decks. Print some proxy cards if you need to, but get the decks built. Let each person in your play group champion a deck or two. Try to matchup decks to a persons play style. You want the best possible results out of your testing, so save yourself time by letting people play the decks they are likely to play the best.

With all that sorted out, you can actually start playing. Your goal should be to play these decks against each other numerous times. In a perfect world, the round of testing should have no less than ten games in every matchup. This will give you a clear idea of how things are likely to turnout in an average matchup. The goal at this point is to identify the best two decks from the pool of information that the community at large has. The reason being, is that many players don’t have a reliable testing group, so they will only have the knowledge from this pile of information. So if you identify the best deck available thus far, you will have an idea of what lots of people will be playing.

To help this process you need to look for important pieces to every matchup. If you need to, keep notes. Many times during testing, I will make an announcement to the other players involved about a particular card or situation. For instance, in game six of our ten game set, I might declare that Card A is terrible in the matchup, because every time I played it, my opponent gained the advantaged. The times I opted not to play Card A, I stayed ahead and won. This helps for a lot of reasons. The first is that when a similar situation comes up in tournament, your testing partners will be better aware of the situation. The other is that if you aren’t there to pilot the deck, the other players will know what to do when playing the matchup and it will keep your testing results up.

After you’ve narrowed the pool down to the top two or three decks, it’s time to start introducing your own decks to the testing pool. At this point, ideas are wide open. You already know what you are up against, so that should have you a lot of effort. Don’t waste time putting things together that you know absolutely can’t beat the top tier of decks. Also, don’t shoot any idea down at this stage of the game. If it looks to have any type of legitimate shot of beating two of your top three decks, it should be looked at. You should exercise all options. In preparing for a recent event, my group actually had a version of every major deck. However, because a couple of them came up just short so many times, we gave up too early on them and missed a chance to get a step ahead. Fortunately, we got bailed out, because we did have another deck that was good. But we did miss out on some valuable play test time that could have helped on game day.

You also can’t let yourself get married to an idea. And what I mean by this is that if your build of the deck doesn’t do well and it continually struggles hard you may have to let it go. If you are coming up just short a lot, that can be worked on. If you are get steamrolled in ten to twelve consecutive games, you might need to scrap that project. Feel free to let your group give it the once over. But if it still doesn’t come close, you need to let it go. Face the fact that sometimes your ideas won’t work. There’s no shame in it. That’s why you are doing this testing. You don’t want to throw away a week’s worth of preparation time trying to get something to worth that’s shown zero signs of being competitive.

Once you’ve gotten your new pool of decks worked out, your groups should start getting specific. Of the top five or six decks, you should start looking at “what beats what.” This can help you shape an idea of what the percentages of the field will look like. This is ultimately what you want anyway, as it is likely to help determine your deck choice. Once you figure out of this out, there’s still another step.

You are pretty much down to refinement of the decks. The thing to do here is determine what cards could be changed or added that help with the problem matchups. You want to increase your odds of at least getting lucky in those problem situations. However, you don’t want to put any cards in that weaken the current build too much. At the same time, you don’t want a card that changes what the deck does. You know it works well as it is. Don’t set yourself back too much.

After all of this, you should be working to finalize each players deck. At this point, everyone should be familiar with the format. Everyone in the group should have a favorite deck among the top tier that you’ve put together. If you can be at this stage seven to ten days out from the event, you can spend time trading or buying the cards that each player will need. You can also get some rest leading up to the event. This also gives you time to do research on any late developments. This will allow you to find out if someone else found out similar information. Maybe some group built a deck a lot like one of your originals. You may also find out about an entirely new deck. This will give you time to put some thought into that new matchup.

Ultimately, play testing should be about getting you preparing for an event. You need to be prepared with information on the field, how certain matchups play out, and you need to know your deck well. Too often, players spend lots of time playing, but they aren’t focused and that time gets wasted. At the end of their testing period, their decks are not truly any better than when they started. Don’t be one of those people. Put some thought into the idea. Surround yourself with the best players possible. Go win some matches!

Until next time,

DeQuan Watson
a.k.a. PowrDragn
PowrDragn at Pojo dot com


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