Rees’ Pieces #13 – My Magic Origins

Hi everyone! I’m still Alastair, but it’s been a (long) while since I’ve  written anything or posted an article but today I’m going to start at the beginning. This article will be me talking about my Magic Origins. Prepare for a long winded account of how I got to where I am today as a Magic Player, along with plenty of rambling and drivel along the way. And so our story begins…

The first time I ever heard about Magic: the Gathering was back around 1999/2000. I’d started collecting Pokemon cards and one of my neighbours mentioned that they had played this other card game called Magic while they were in high school and that they had a collection in storage. Sad to say, I never got a chance to see the collection (probably worth a pretty penny now) and didn’t end up diving into Magic for nearly a decade. To give some context, I was born in 1993 in Birmingham, UK and in 1998 my parents brother and I moved to  Stillwater, Oklahoma, USA.

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As I said I ended up getting into a couple of different card games over in the states. Primarily Pokemon and Yugioh but that was more collecting than playing. The card game that really got me into playing with the cards was the Lord of the Rings Trading Card Game which came out along with the films and it was also my first real experience going to a shop to play games. In our town there was one dedicated wargame store: Ivory and Steel. They did all kinds of Warhammer type stuff along with the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game, which is what got me into Wargaming. But they also ran game nights for a few different card games, and so it was that I went down there every now again to play games of the Lord of the Rings TCG.

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Skipping ahead a little we see me moving back to the UK in 2003 and settling down in the Loughborough area of the Midlands. Coming back across the pond I’d managed to pick up a second wargame: Warhammer 40k and there happened to be a local Games Workshop near me, something I wouldn’t have dreamed of in Stillwater. At this point I had just turned 10 and was going into Year 6 of primary school, and a bit too young to really go into the store and play games ad take part in events.

GW Loughborough

 

At school though, there were plenty of people who collected Pokemon and Yugioh (the Lord of the Rings TCG never caught on over here), along with some ridiculous things called football stickers which I’ll never understand. This led me to dig out the cards I already had and eventually start playing Yugioh as a game as I moved up to years 7 and 8 of school. Here though our card game journey ends temporarily. I’d gotten to the kind of age where card games weren’t that cool anymore and had fallen out of fashion with my peers. This also coincided with me being able to start going into the local GW to play, and get heavier into the Wargame side of things. And so, my cards were left abandoned for a few years while I fought on the battlefields of the 41st Millennium.

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A few years later though a new Game shop opened up in town, Wargames Inc. And along with 40k and some other wargames they also sold and provided player space for Yugioh. As it turns out a bunch of my wargaming friends also played Yugioh from time to time and I started to slowly get back into it. First digging out all my old cards and trying to scrape together a deck to battle, and then later looking for cool and awesome cards I could pick up on the internet. I soon found out that I’m quite competitive and do like to win games, so I started looking at Youtube for deck techs and the like and trying to brew sweet decks to play with.

Dark Magician

All this while, there were two boxes of Magic: the Gathering cards on the shelf in Wargames Inc just gathering dust. I’d ended up picking up a few other card games casually: VS System, UFS, and a bit of Pokemon again but I always looked at the Magic stuff and remembered about my old Neighbours collection. And so one day a friend and I decided to try it out, Wargames only had a couple of fat pack type boxes so I ended up going to a local comic book store to pick up a couple of intro decks. We played a bit and learned how the game worked, and eventually got to the point when we were building reasonable decks and a local Magic community started building.

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As with Yugioh eventually I hit the internet in search for awesome cards and deck building inspiration. I was still on a Paper Round budget at this point though and couldn’t afford any of the big expensive cards and only ended up with those if I opened well out of boosters. This did though, lead me to see the Magic Pro Tour and start looking at the game from a competitive stand point. I was like: that sounds awesome I’d love to do that one day. Unfortunately Wargames didn’t run Friday Night Magic or anything like that, and I couldn’t really travel to go to other towns easily so I contented myself with going back through old coverage, watching Pros play and started reading/watching their strategy articles and videos.

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Sadly like all good things Wargames Inc eventually closed down. This left me without a good place to play Wargames which I still dabbled in a bit but I’d mostly converted into a Card Gamer at this point. I mentioned earlier that there was a Comic book store in Loughborough that I bought my first Intro Packs off of, they’d recently moved at this point and now had more space for actual gaming so I was lucky enough to still have a place to play Magic but again they didn’t really run events or FNMs. A little while later though a few friends and I decided to knuckle down and actually pay some ‘competitive’ magic.

 

This was just at the start of Innistrad pretty much, and just after the retirement of Zendikar block from standard with the memory of Caw-Blade still shadowing over. The deck I chose to build at first was Tempered Steel, a very linear Artifact beat down strategy revolving around cheap artifact creatures getting buffed up to smash face. On the opposite end of the spectrum my friend Arron decided to put together Solar Flare, a control deck with a reanimation package using Unburial Rites to bring back fatties like Grave Titan and Wurmcoil Engine. And so one day we heard that a store in Leicester (about 7 miles from where I lived at the time) was running Prereleases, and other magic events. So my first real ‘Tournament’ was the Dark Ascension prerelease at Tabletop Tyrant where I now work.

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It was a great experience and everyone was really nice and friendly even  though I went somewhere along the lines of 2-4, and this led Arron and I to start coming to their Friday Night Magics. Very quickly, I’d moved on from Tempered Steel and had picked up the pieces to play ‘Hippo-blade’ a Red White Control deck heavily relying on an artifact package and the recursion of Artifacts with Razor Hippogriff. As it turned out this was a great choice for the meta at the time because there were a bunch of people playing UW Humans, and with my Whipflares and Day of Judgments that match up was very biased in my favour. So went 2-1 at my first FNM and then managed to 3-0 the next two and I was feeling really happy with myself.

Over the summer I ended up playing a lot with the Leicester crew and just after the release of M13 someone said something about going to a PTQ. What’s one of those? I asked, and was told about Pro Tour Qualifiers and the way in which you qualified for the Pro Tour. I’d watched a bunch of coverage and kept up with it, but had no idea how to actually get there and qualify to play. So I went along with the others, all also attending their first PTQ with one exception to a Pro Tour Qualifier for Pro Tour Return to Ravnica in Reading. I’d done a bit of testing and felt like I had a reasonable grasp on the format, not that you’d notice with my deck choice. I ended up on a Mono Blue Delver deck playing Grand Architects and Invisible stalkers along with a couple of a few Runechanters pikes. The deck was sweet, but not good and I ended up going 4-4 with it. But that was my first taste of ‘actual’ competetive Magic: the Gathering.

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Since then I’ve been playing pretty much non-stop, hitting up a PTQ every now and again and attending the UK Grand Prix whenever we get them having moderate success depending on how you look at it highlighted with a Day 2 finish at Grand Prix Manchester 2014, a PTQ top 16 in Theros/Kahns standard last december and recently under the new system a Regional PTQ Top 16. A long ways off of doing anything real in the competitive world. However I’ve managed to pick up a job in the Card Game/Wargame Industry buying/selling/trading/event hosting and have made loads of amazing friends and awesome people along the way.

So hah, Yay Magic!

Alastair Rees

 

Rees’ Pieces #9: Tiny Leaders

Hi there, today I’m going to be talking to you about a relatively new Magic format which has been picking up in popularity recently. Its a variation of Commander but instead of 100 cards you have 50, and in addition you can only use cards with a converted mana cost of 3 or less. You can find the official rules along with the banlist here: tinyleaders.blogspot.co.uk

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The first I heard of Tiny Leaders was 4 or 5 months ago when a friend of mine in my Commander play circle found the format and suggested we give it a try. Honestly I wasn’t particularly impressed, the power levels of the decks we’d built were pretty low and at the time it just seemed like a duller version of regular Commander and we soon deferred back to the 100 card format.

Around 6 weeks ago, I started to notice an uptick in the format with more people starting to write about it culminating in a match I watched in a (relatively) local game store between Alesha and Anafenza. The game seemed really entertaining and the decks were doing much more powerful things than those I’d played with long before. I started to get more excited for the format but still wasn’t sure who I wanted to choose as my Leader.

Then later that weekend I was watching the SCG Open Series and the commentators started talking about the format between matches. Patrick Sullivan was getting excited about Zozu the Punisher, and all he wanted to do was blow up lands and stop his opponent casting spells. Immediately I washooked and started rummaging through the stacks and folders of cards in my room to try and find as many Stone Rain effects as possible.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find all the land death spells I wanted and ended up ordering a few cards. While I waited however I became impatient and decided to put together another deck in the meantime. What else stops  my opponents from playing magic? Oh look here’s my Death and Taxes deck, and that’s how Thalia was born. Here’s my current 50:

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Mother of Runes
Grand Abolisher
Stoneforge Mystic
Phyrexian RevokerThalia
Leonin Arbiter
Leonin Relic Warder
Ethersworn Canonist
Serra  Avenger
Mentor of the Meek
Aven Mindcensor
Glowrider
Stonecloaker
Banisher Priest
Fiend Hunter
Mangara of Corondor
Mirran Crusader
Flickerwisp
Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Brave the Elements
Councils Judgement
Oblivion Ring
Aether Vial
Thorn of Amethyst
Crucible of Worlds
Sword of Light and Shadow
Sword of Feast and Famine
Ghost Quarter
Tectonic Edge
Wasteland
Dust Bowl
Rishadan Port
Arcane Lighthouse
Secluded Steppe
Drifting Meadow
Eiganjo Castle
Cavern of Souls
Maze of Ith
10 Plains

Small cheap creatures with disruptive abilities backed up by incredible equipment in the Swords and a small land destruction package to help tax my opponent’s resources. The deck plays out pretty much as I’d intended to limiting control or combo type decks with disruption from creatures like Ethersworn Canonist, Leonin Arbiter or Thalia herself; meanwhile beating out aggro using the incredible power of the swords along with good removal like path to exile and council’s judgement.

By that friday though another idea had come to mind. Another one of my favourite things in magic is to spend a lot of time doing absolutely nothing. Such as casting Life from the Loam over and over again. I’ve always been tempted by Legacy Lands but never caved and bought into it; still though I’d picked up some of the cheaper pieces. Tiny leaders seemed like a great place to mess around with the deck, and get some durdling done. Once again I went out wondering who to use as my Commander, and I remembered that Yasova had been printed in Fate Reforged. She let me play Intuition, Gamble and Loam all in the same deck. Game on! Idid another dig and came up with most of what I needed, picking up a Gamble from a friend of mine. I’m still missing some of the more expensive pieces (see Tropical Island and Tabernacle), but here is the list:

Yasova Dragonclaw
Satyr Wayfinder
Young Pyromancer
Tarmogoyf
Eternal Witness
Courser of Kruphix
Ancestral Vision
Gamble
Ancient Stirrings
Crop Rotation
Life from the Loam
Mulch
Edge of Autumn
Punishing Fire
Intuition
Krosan Grip
Compulsive Research
Exploration
Sylvan Library
Lightning Rift
Seismic Assault
Engineered Explosives
Elixir of Immortality
Crucible of Worlds
Dack Fayden
Wooded Foothills
Scalding Tarn
Misty Rainforest
Taiga
Tropical Island
Volcanic Island
Mountain
Forest
Island
Forgotten Cave
Lonely Sandbar
Tranquil Thicket
Smoldering Crater
Remote Isle
Slippery Karst
 Command Tower
Grove of the Burnwillows
Wasteland
Rishadan Port
Maze of Ith
Dark Depths
Thespians Stage
Vesuva
Academy Ruins
Raging Ravine

Its not as smooth as I’d like it to be, for example I had to wasteland my own taiga to replay it out of my

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yard to get a third red mana for Seismic Assault the other day. A Seismic Assault that was added to the list after the Lightning rift, which probably tells you a bit about how I think. The deck is however insanely sweet, even though I have to whether the glares I get when I’m at 2 life having done nothing but durdle for the entire game only to finally lock them out of the game with the engine I’d finally got to.

At this point I was super excited to play the format, I’d built a couple of sweet decks but hadn’t played many actual games. The next weekend I traveled back to the same games tore again to try and get a few games in and also try out a sweet Legacy Death Shadow list (Legacy FNMs whoop whoop). Playing the decks most of the matches were fairly close and a ton of fun, with a couple of instances of Swords of X and Y just running away with the game (strongly recommend having main deck answers to these). It did however lead me to find space for the Elixir of Immortality in the Yasova deck as some of the games ended with 1 or 2 cards in my library and on 1 or 2 life.

Coming out of the weekend I had a pile of new deck Ideas which I wanted to try ranging from Doomsday to Goblins. I’m ashamed to say that as of the date of writing Zozu Land Death is still not complete, but I am the proud owner of a bunch of other decks with a pile more in the works. The formatis awesome, and its definitely worth giving it a try even if you don’t like the sound of it there’s almost certainly a deck that’s up your alley.

That’s it from me this week, thanks for reading