From the Director's Chair
The Dack Fayden/Vengevine deck I’ve been playing in Vintage on MTGO. Not sure if it’s actually good, but I’ve won almost every match despite playing suboptimally. AND IT’S FUN.

The Dack Fayden/Vengevine deck I’ve been playing in Vintage on MTGO. Not sure if it’s actually good, but I’ve won almost every match despite playing suboptimally. AND IT’S FUN.

Conjuring Conjured Currency

This past weekend, I participated in the Magic Online Community Cup tournament at PAX. Long story short, we (Wizards of the Coast) lost, in no small part because of my abysmal match record.

Losing doesn’t make me sad. Salty for a few hours, sure, but there’s very little regret with the actual games. I made a bunch of loose decisions and sloppy plays, and was summarily punished. Justice. What does make me sad, however, was my inability to create a cohesive and somewhat competitive deck based around my secret ingredient in the allotted time for the “Ironroot Chef” portion of the event, so I’ve spent some hours since rectifying that.

My ingredient was the bizarre Return to Ravnica rare Conjured Currency:

image

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Because my camera sucks…

I just went 4-0 at the employee Gatecrash prerelease here at Wizards. I tried to take pictures of my crazy deck to post on Twitter with my phone, but my phone’s camera wasn’t working, so I used my iPad, which ultimately produced blurry pictures that aren’t very useful when trying to show off a deck full of cards that aren’t out yet. So I’ll talk about the deck here.

I played Gruul. Normally I’d have played Boros, as that’s my guild of choice, but I had already built a Boros prerelease deck at a distributor summit last week. That deck had seven rares in it and was monstrously powerful; any Boros deck I built after that was bound to feel lame. A couple weeks ago in R&D we busted open some prerelease boxes, and I tried Dimir there, so it was down to Gruul, Orzhov, or Simic. Judging by the number of each box still on the registration table, Gruul was getting the least love of all the guilds by the WotC crowd, so I went with it.

The straight Gruul deck I built was only about 17 cards. I tried splashing blue, but that got me only barely above 20. I also tried an W/B/u deck which looked promising, but was also only about 20 cards. What to do?

Part of the reason I was so short on playable spells was because I had 5 Gates and a Godless Shrine. So I jammed all the good stuff together and played this five-color concoction:

(See card images at http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Search/Default.aspx?output=spoiler&method=visual&sort=cn+&action=advanced&set=+%5b%22gatecrash%22%5d)

White:

  • Syndic of Tithes
  • Assault Griffin
  • Knight of Obligation
  • 3x Knight Watch

Bluie:

  • Rapid Hybridization

Black:

  • Devour Flesh
  • Grisly Spectacle
  • Gateway Shade

Red:

  • Wrecking Ogre

Green:

  • Greenside Watcher
  • Verdant Haven

Multicolored:

  • Bane Alley Broker
  • Deathcult Rogue
  • Call of the Nightwing
  • One Thousand Lashes
  • Merciless Eviction
  • Dinrova Horror
  • Rubblehulk
  • 2x Nimbus Swimmer
  • Biomass Mutation

Lands:

  • 2x Simic Guildgate
  • Gruul Guildgate
  • Orzhov Guildgate
  • Dimir Guildgate
  • Godless Shrine
  • 4 Plains
  • 2 Island
  • 2 Swamp
  • 2 Forest
  • 1 Mountain

Plan A was to get ahead with tokens and seal the deal with Biomass Mutation. Plan B was to Wrath (Merciless Eviction) and follow up with fatties. Plan C was extort. Most victories involved a combination of plans.

Anyway, the set is super fun—the guilds have strong identities, but they can mesh together in interesting ways. Have fun this weekend, and don’t be afraid to think outside the (guild) box!

And don’t sleep on Rapid Hybridization. There are a lot of big turns with big creatures in this set, and the utility of a one-mana trick this potent is huge.

—aaron

Sorin will get a printed emblem in Dark Ascension. It will show up in boosters from time to time in the “token slot.”

Sorin will get a printed emblem in Dark Ascension. It will show up in boosters from time to time in the “token slot.”

Today’s Dark Ascension preview card!

Today’s Dark Ascension preview card!

I couldn’t resist contributing… Luckliy, my eight-year-old has mad googly eyes.
magiccardswithgooglyeyes:

Aaron Forsythe, ladies and gentlemen. http://twitter.com/#!/mtgaaron/status/131977946998128640

I couldn’t resist contributing… Luckliy, my eight-year-old has mad googly eyes.

magiccardswithgooglyeyes:

Aaron Forsythe, ladies and gentlemen. http://twitter.com/#!/mtgaaron/status/131977946998128640

Will you ever write "From the Director's Chair: 2011"? I loved the editions from 2009 and 2010, and have waited 7 months (!) to get my big-picture look at the health of the game, and where it's going.

I was never asked to write the 2011 version of that article, but I’m happy to say that I am on the schedule to write one at the beginning of 2012!

For reference:

From the Director’s Chair: 2009

From the Director’s Chair: 2010

The “Gatherer-Terrible” Format

Magic designer Shawn Main (@ShawnPlays Magic on Twitter) came up with a goofy constructed format that sounded like something I’d enjoy: “Gatherer-Terrible.” The rules are simple—you can only use cards rated by the community on Wizards’ Gatherer card database as 2.0 or less out of 5. There are currently over 12,000 cards legal in Magic’s largest format, Vintage, and Gatherer-Terrible restricts you to the 1,400 (give or take) worst of them. That’s barely 10%, and not all of them are on Magic Online!

Back in the mid-90s, my brother, my college roommate, and I played a similar format that was restricted to cards rated 2 stars or fewer out of five by InQuest magazine. My deck back then was built around the tournament-playable Fiery Justice (still one of my all-time favorites).

That card isn’t legal in this format, so I had to look elsewhere for ways to get ahead on the board “with value,” as card advantage is king when everyone’s cards are bad. A look through the card list revealed the 7th Edition limited bomb Dakmor Lancer was available. Wow! There weren’t any reasonable ways to get it back from my graveyard, so I settled on an old pet card of mine, Obelisk of Undoing, as a way to reuse the enters-the-battlefield ability of the Lancer.

From there I looked for other cards with good ETB abilities (there aren’t many), and found Quirion Trailblazer and Abyssal Horror. The fact that the Tempest black-green dual land (Pine Barrens) and a slew of maligned two-mana accelerators (Moss Diamond, Blightsoil Druid, and Wirewood Elf) were around made me confident a high-mana card advantage Rock-style deck could work.

Obelisk of Undoing

Obelisk of Undoing Rock

4 Abyssal Horror

1 Arctic Wolves

4 Blightsoil Druid

4 Dakmor Lancer

4 Quirion Trailblazer

4 Wirewood Elf

——-

1 Absorb Vis

2 Afflict

2 Colfenor’s Plans

2 Feebleness

4 Moss Diamond

3 Obelisk of Undoing

1 Pull Under

1 The Hive

Dakmor Lancer——-

7 Forest

4 Pine Barrens

11 Swamp

1 Tomb of Urami

——-

Sideboard

1 Bottle of Suleiman

2 Execute

1 Gauntlets of Chaos

1 Morbid Hunger

1 Nantuko Calmer

1 Rebuking Ceremony

2 Rotting Legion

2 Slay

1 Three Tragedies

1 Torture Chamber

2 Uktabi Faerie

The sideboard was just a bunch of stuff. I thought the fact that Slay and Execute were both legal would keep green and white creature decks at bay (and kept my number of Arctic Wolves to 1). They’d certainly be 4-ofs if the metagame allowed it! Rebuking Ceremony is another card with the potential to be backbreaking, and against Shawn Main’s deck I wish I had more than one in my list.

I played Shawn’s mono-black deck first. It was based on the card Famine combined with creatures big enough to survive it. I had Dakmor Lancers for all his Thran War Machines, a timely Pull Under for his Dread Reaper, and ripped his hand apart with the Abyssal Horrors.

My other opponent was another Magic designer, Ethan Fleisher (@EthanFleischer on Twitter), boldly piloting green-white fatties (Nettletooth Djinn, Ruham Djinn, Whiptail Wurm, etc.). His Sudden Strengths were giving me fits, but I won game one by the skin of my teeth with my one Urami. I lost game two by making a bad decision not to block a 4/4 while at 7 life (Sudden Strength again), but won game three after pulling out of missing my second land drop with a string of Lancers and Slays.

The format is a fun diversion, although likely not deep enough for too much exploration.

Thanks to Shawn for the idea!

Follow me on Twitter: @mtgaaron

How powerful is Overrun in limited?

A few weeks ago, I got into a reasonably-friendly back-and-forth on Twitter with Marshall Sutcliffe (@MarshallLRCast), host of the "Limited Resources" podcast, about the fact that Overrun was reprinted in M12 at uncommon.

The resulting chatter informed me that a great many high-level limited players dislike losing to the card, but they were also implying that it was a “bomb” and that it was too powerful to be uncommon because it showed up far too often that way.

Magic doesn’t do a lot of data-driven game design stuff on a card-by-card basis, mostly becuase—unlike games like World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Farmville—we can’t change what our game pieces do on the fly in a live environment. In the past we’ve relied on tournament results, sales data, market research, and good old intuition to make decisions, although we’ve recently started getting better data out of Magic Online.

We don’t have access to anything that happens in-game (that stuff happens on different servers than the ones doing the data recording), but we can still see a lot of stuff. I’m not going to share a ton of data here, mostly because we still need to have a good plan for what exactly we want to share and how to best do so. I’m sensitive to handing players “the answers” about what cards to draft and play based on aggregated statistics, but there’s so much interesting material that it would be a shame to keep it all locked up.

So here’s a taste. The goal was to determine how much having any given card in your deck affected your win percentage in M10 sealed deck (I have no fear sharing these numbers as M10 sealed as a format is two years old and no one is playing it any more). The methodology was such: We looked at every games played in Round 1 of every M10 sealed event ever played on MTGO (later rounds were ignored to avoid selection bias towards good decks). Every card in the set was looked at—what percentage of games were won by decks containing at least one copy of the card in question?

Here are the top 25 finishers:

It takes a second to realize that there’s no speculation here, no guessing. This is a historical record. A series of facts.

From these numbers it’s hard to say Overrun is a bomb. It isn’t the top green card, nor the top uncommon. Heck, it isn’t the top green uncommon. That said, it still can be disheartening to lose to.

We’ve just scratched the surface; there are many other ways to analyze data like this, many more questions to ask. Which cards do better in the hands of more skilled players? How does color imbalance affect things? We’re going to be taking deeper dives into this kind of data, and my hope is that we’ll eventually share more of it on dailymtg.com or mtgonline.com, either as part of Tom LaPille’s column or via some new outlet. If you have ideas of how to better slice what we have, I’d love to hear it.

Other factoids:

  • Only 70 of the 229 cards in M10 have win % over 50%.
  • The top-finishing card in full Scars block limited is Wurmcoil Engine at 59.79%. What a beast.
  • Mind Control is in 6th place here and in 2nd place in M11. Now that’s a power uncommon. This data may be the death knell for uncommon “Control Magic” effects, so enjoy Mind Control in M12 while you can.
Jor Kadeen commander deck, v1.1

I’ve played but a single four-player game on MTGO with this list, but I won and it was fun, so I’ll be building the paper version in the next week or so. Lots of tuning to come…

Mr. Prevailer

1 Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer

 

1 Mana Crypt

1 Mana Vault

1 Origin Spellbomb

1 Pyrite Spellbomb

1 Scrabbling Claws

1 Sol Ring

1 Wayfarer’s Bauble

1 Dispeller’s Capsule

1 Boros Signet

1 Mind Stone

1 Shrine of Loyal Legions

1 Crucible of Worlds

1 Mimic Vat

1 Oblivion Stone

1 Sculpting Steel

1 Erratic Portal

1 Muse Vessel

1 Mirrorworks

1 Myr Turbine

1 Scourglass

1 Myr Incubator

1 Skullclamp

1 Lightning Greaves

1 Umezawa’s Jitte

1 Sunforger

1 Sword of Fire and Ice

1 Sword of Light and Shadow

1 Batterskull

1 Gold Myr

1 Iron Myr

1 Myr Retriever

1 Steel Overseer

1 Solemn Simulacrum

1 Sanctum Gargoyle

1 Karn, Silver Golem

1 Kuldotha Forgemaster

1 Precursor Golem

1 Duplicant

1 Thopter Assembly

1 Triskelion

1 Myr Battlesphere

1 Sundering Titan

1 Goblin Welder

1 Myrsmith

1 Stoneforge Mystic

1 Puresteel Paladin

1 Treasure Hunter

1 Argivian Archaeologist

1 Auriok Salvagers

1 Brion Stoutarm

1 Leonin Abunas

1 Reveillark

1 Karmic Guide

1 Godo, Bandit Warlord

1 Tempered Steel

1 Glory of Warfare

1 Argivian Find

1 Enlightened Tutor

1 Swords to Plowshares

1 Shattering Pulse

1 Allay

1 Lightning Helix

1 Chaos Warp

 

1 Ancient Den

1 Great Furnace

8 Mountain

10 Plains

1 Ancient Amphitheater

1 Ancient Tomb

1 Arid Mesa

1 Blinkmoth Nexus

1 Boros Garrison

1 Command Tower

1 Mishra’s Factory

1 Mishra’s Workshop

1 Phyrexia’s Core

1 Rugged Prairie

1 Temple of the False God

1 Wasteland

1 Plateau

1 Sacred Foundry

1 Urza’s Factory

1 Flagstones of Trokair