We’re bringing Midgar to the ground with the release of Opus VII – Come out on November 3rd for your chance to win a custom playmat for the event! Oh, I almost forgot, we’ll also be giving away a CASE (that’s 6 boxes) of Opus VII to top finishers!
by: Joseph Davis
Hi, I’m Joseph, and welcome to Mathemagics. The goal of this series is to help you level up your deck building whether you’re new to the game or just trying to improve your brews. We’ll be exploring important aspects of deck design and diving very lightly into the math behind it, so you know not just how to build a deck, but why some deckbuilding choices are better than others. First up is a classic question: how many lands should you play?
There are two important points to consider when thinking about how many lands to put in your deck. First, what is the critical number of lands to be able to reliably make a drop each turn? Your deck has a plan and some part of that plan needs to happen on time. Figure out which turn is the most mission critical to arrive at successfully, whether you only need 3 lands to play every card in your deck or you want to cast some more expensive spells. Second, what is the minimum number of lands possible to play in your deck so that you reliably hit that number? Lands are the worst draw late in the game, so you don’t want to play too many or else you’ll run out of good things to do.
As a very brief aside in case you want to follow along, we’ll be using a mathematical formula to help figure out how many lands we’ll draw on average for each turn from turn one to turn seven. This formula is called hypergeometric distribution. Here is a big chart which I’ll explain below:
|Land count||Turn 1||Turn 2||Turn 3||Turn 4||Turn 5||Turn 6||Turn 7|
Magic is a game which is played best 2 games out of 3. Because of this, any plan which works less than 66% of the time is not a good idea, since you want to be winning 2/3 of your games. This applies to lands more than anything, so for whatever critical turn is most important, you should plan to arrive at it on curve at least 66% of the time. Let’s go through some examples with up-and-coming archetypes in Standard:
Marc Kaake – 4th place, SCG Standard Classic, Columbus OH
4x Fanatical Firebrand Sideboard:
4x Ghitu Lavarunner 2x Banefire
4x Goblin Chainwhirler 3x Diamond Mare
4x Runaway Steam-Kin 3x Fight with Fire
4x Viashino Pyromancer 3x Lava Coil
3x Experimental Frenzy 3x Legion Warboss
4x Lightning Strike 1x Shivan Fire
3x Risk Factor
4x Wizard’s Lightning
This aggressive strategy relies on playing aggressively on turns 1, 2, and 3 – playing out hasty creatures or deploying burn spells to clear the path or deal damage to the opponent. A big tempo swing usually comes on turn 3, when Goblin Chainwhirler hits the battlefield, clearing the way of tokens and pushing through an extra point of damage on the opposing player and any planeswalkers they’ve played. The deck does not have any real acceleration to it and relies heavily on hitting its land drops naturally but cannot afford to draw too many or it will lose tempo and putter out. According to our chart, this deck should be playing 21 lands since it cannot accelerate itself ahead of the normal behavior of drawing 1 card and playing 1 land per turn.
Mono Green Stompy
William McDonald – Top 32, SCG Team Open, Columbus OH
2x Ghalta, Primal Hunger Sideboard:
4x Jadelight Ranger 2x Carnage Tyrant
1x Kraul Harpooner 2x Deathgorge Scavenger
4x Llanowar Elves 2x Kraul Harpooner
4x Merfolk Branchwalker 4x Prey Upon
4x Nullhide Ferox 3x Thrashing Brontodon
4x Pelt Collector 2x Vivien Reid
4x Steel Leaf Champion
2x Territorial Allosaurus
4x Thorn Lieutenant
1x Thrashing Brontodon
3x Vine Mare
This deck is built around curving into big nasty hexproof threats and the key number for this deck is 4. At 4 mana they can cast both Vine Mare and Nullhide Ferox to curve out into Ghalta, Primal Hunger. Looking back at the table above, you’ll see this deck will want to end up at 25 lands so that it can reliably hit these threats on time. Green has the ability to play creatures which accelerate their mana curve though. Playing Llanowar Elves is about half as good as playing a forest, since it does add an extra mana source, but it has summoning sickness and dies to removal. Because of this we can treat a deck with 4 copies of Llanowar Elves as needing 2 fewer lands to really work well. You will find mono green decks playing 23 lands comfortably due to the presence of Llanowar Elves, plus any other creatures with Explore that will help smooth their draws, such as Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger.
Top 16 – SCG Standard Classic, Columbus, OH
1x Chromium, the Mutable 4x Glacial Fortress
4x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 4x Island
3x Cast Down 4x Isolated Chapel
4x Chemister’s Insight 1x Plains
1x Disdainful Stroke 3x Swamp
2x Essence Scatter 4x Watery Grave
3x Moment of Craving Sideboard:
3x Ritual of Soot 1x Arguel’s Blood Fast
2x Search for Azcanta 2x Disdainful Stroke
4x Sinister Sabotage 2x Duress
3x Syncopate 2x Fungal Infection
3x Vraska’s Contempt 2x Invoke the Divine
4x Drowned Catacomb 1x Negate
2x Evolving Wilds 1x Ritual of Soot
1x Field of Ruin 2x The Eldest Reborn
2x Vona, Butcher of Magan
The control deck in the new meta, piloted to great success by a local player from the VA beach area, looks like it will be an Esper (blue white black) deck featuring Teferi, Hero of Dominaria plus a lot of counterspells and removal spells. This deck relies very heavily on hitting a sweeper (Ritual of Soot) or removal (Vraska’s Contempt) in order to avoid dying. They also have very powerful threats and board control to take control of the game on turn 5 (Teferi, Vona). This deck needs to reach turn 5 on time so it can deploy stabilizers such as Teferi or Ritual of Soot. Running the math as shown in the table above would suggest this deck should be playing 30 lands! The trick that blue decks have up their sleeve is that they can draw extra cards and get ahead of the curve with extra chances to draw a land. Cards like Chemister’s Insight and Search for Azcanta will usually end up drawing the equivalent of 2 extra cards by turn 5. If we count Chemister’s Insight, Search for Azcanta, and Sinister Sabotage (all with effects that let us look at extra cards and find lands) as 1/3 of a land drop, similar to how I mentioned Llanowar Elves is equivalent to ½ a land drop, we can safely run 27 lands in a deck like this one.
When building your next deck, keep these principles in mind, and ask yourself these questions:
1) What is the critical turn I need to hit (3, 4, 5)?
2) Do I have any mana acceleration (mana creatures, artifacts which tap for mana)?
3) Do I have any ways to draw extra cards or filter what I draw (surveil, explore, card draw spells)?
From there, start at 21, 25, or 30 lands and then fill that many lands or land effects. Mana accelerants should count for half of a land per copy, and card draw should count as a third of a land, since they do not replace lands directly but rather increase your likelihood of drawing them. If you have cards which draw you lands directly, or directly put lands into play, consider what mana level you need to hit to reliably play them and avoid going below that number. For instance, if you have 4 District Guides in your deck, you should still not go below 21 lands, since you’ll need to hit 3 to use the Guides themselves. I hope you’ve enjoyed your first lesson in Mathemagics, I’ll be back with more soon!
By Myles Miller
This article drops the day before Guilds of Ravnica officially releases, and I don’t know about you but I can’t WAIT to get my hands on the new set. I hope you got the chance to get out and play in at least one prerelease event and play with some awesome new Ravnica cards, but if not I’ve got some great news for you! This Saturday, Battlegrounds will be continuing their tradition of hosting the season’s first PPTQ, where competitors will play some Guilds of Ravnica sealed format at the first official event using the newest set.
For those of you unfamiliar, PPTQ is an acronym: Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier. The winner of this event receives an invitation to the Regional Pro Tour Qualifer, which sends a few top-performing players to Magic’s biggest stage: the Pro Tour. With a prize like that, you’ll probably find most of Richmond’s best players at this event, and if you’ve been looking for a chance to upgrade from FNM and take a step into the deep end of competitive Magic, this is exactly the event you want to play in.
This event, as I said, will be Guilds of Ravnica sealed. If you got the chance to play at prerelease, you’ve already gotten some experience building sealed decks with these new cards. But regardless, this article is to help you prepare to bring your best game to the tournament. I’m not going to talk about the big powerhouse cards in this set: mythic rare cards will usually overpower any game in which they’re played, rare cards are typically very strong and help you decide which colors to use when building your deck, and even most uncommons in this set are extremely powerful and will help you decide which guild is the strongest in your sealed pool. That being said, you can’t build an entire deck out of rares and uncommons. You’ve got to include some commons, the meat-and-potatoes of any sealed deck. In this article, I want to point out some of the more useful commons that you might hope to see in your packs: these will help you flesh out your deck and make it all come together. I’m going to highlight one card from each color and one card from each guild that will help you put together a full 40 card deck and go toe-to-toe with the competition. Let’s get started.
Parhelion Patrol is a really strong common in white for a variety of reasons. It’s got flying, which makes it hard to block, so it’ll be able to chip in a fair amount of damage over your opponent’s blockers. Vigilance means Parhelion Patrol can both attack and block, or even be used for the convoke mechanic after attacking. And finally, it’s got the new keyword Mentor, which lets you make a smaller creature a bit bigger. A lot of cards in this new set create 1/1 tokens with lifelink, and you know what’s better than a 1/1 with lifelink? A 2/2 with lifelink. Fly to victory, and train your army while you’re at it.
After playing a couple games at prerelease this weekend, I can say with some confidence that if you’re in a blue deck of any kind, you want as many of this card as you can find. A 3/4 creature with flying is no joke, and it’ll even make sure the next one or two cards you draw are cards you actually want to draw. If you’re playing Dimir, you’ll likely have other cards that care about Surveil, or if you’re playing Izzet you might not mind putting a card with Jump-Start into your graveyard to use later on. Your opponent will feel like they’re trapped in the art of this card when this is staring them down from your battlefield.
The actual best black common is Deadly Visit, but taking up space on this page to tell you to play a powerful removal spell seems like a waste. So instead, let’s talk about a less obvious choice: Moodmark Painter. This is a 4 mana 2/3, similar to the stats you get on Parhelion Patrol, but Moodmark Painter itself doesn’t have flying or any other evasion. Instead, you’re giving a significant boost to a threat you already have in play, pumping up it’s power based on how many creatures you have in your graveyard, and granting menace to push that damage through. In a typical limited game, Undergrowth usually comes out to about 2 or 3, and with menace added you can either force damage through to your opponent, or take multiple blockers off your opponent’s board.
We’ve already looked at a creature with Mentor, but hey it’s a really good mechanic in an aggressive limited deck. Most of the cards with Mentor printed on them have the notable downside of having a low toughness, making them easy to block and kill when they attack. Wojek Bodyguard is one of the few creatures that gets around that: with a solid statline of 3/3, this soldier will be able to survive combat, as well as put counters on most of the rest of your creatures. It’s dangerous to go alone, take this! No, really, take this with you, he’s scared to attack by himself.
Convoke is the only guild mechanic making a repeat performance in Guilds of Ravnica, and that’s because we already know it’s sweet. If you’re building a Selesnya deck, you’re going to be using your creatures to call out some huge threats way earlier than your opponent. I mean, look at this Siege Wurm, he’s huge! This is a really solid card for any green deck: a 5/5 body paired with trample is already a solid threat. Pair it with convoke, allowing you to cast this card as early as turn 4? Seems like a pretty good way to win a game of Magic.
The Boros Legion is the guild of aggression, and uses the keyword Mentor. A Boros deck is going to come right out the gates swinging, looking to hit your opponents hard and fast, and use the Mentor ability to make your threats, well, more threatening. Skyknight Legionnaire is exactly the kind of card you want for an aggressive start. Flying makes it hard to block, haste lets it come across the battlefield right away, and 2 power is a fair amount of damage, but still low enough to be able to benefit from your other creatures with Mentor. Be on the lookout for these if you’re trying to build a Boros deck. Otherwise be prepared to deal with them.
I had initially picked Artful Takedown as my spotlight card for House Dimir, and that card is still one of my favorite combat tricks in the set. But this card impressed me quite a bit in prerelease games, enough to put it to the top of the list. Whisper Agent is everything you want in a Dimir deck. It’s got flash, so you can surprise your opponent with an unexpected blocker or get a Surveil trigger at any time. Having the option to Surveil on your opponent’s turn will work very well with other cards that care about when you do it, and can also just make sure your next draw will be useful to you. Besides, 3 mana for a 3/2 isn’t a bad rate in this format. Don’t let this secret agent catch you off guard.
Why is this card a common? I don’t know. When I was looking for an Izzet card to spotlight, I initially passed over Sonic Assault simply because I could have sworn it was an uncommon. This card exemplifies everything the Izzet League wants to accomplish in a game. It can get a blocker out of the way, it can stop a creature from attacking you, it deals direct damage to your opponent, you can cast it at any time, and it’s got Jump-Start. In a guild that cares about casting instants and sorceries and excels at chipping away at your opponent’s life total, Sonic Assult is the real deal. Plus, look at that sweet art. It probably makes for a great foil.
The Golgari Swarm believes in the power of the circle of life. “The dead gain new purpose here.” says the flavor text on our next spotlight card, and boy do the Golgari mean it. Undergrowth gives a benefit to your spells that grows with the number of creatures in your graveyard, and Rhizome Lurcher is a perfect example. I mentioned previously that you can typically expect an Undergrowth value of 2 or 3 when casting Moodmark Painter. If that’s true, you can probably expect your Rhizome Lurcher to be a 5/5 or larger by the time you play it. For only 4 mana, you can get quite a large body, and get some revenge for the creatures your opponent already destroyed.
The Selesnya Conclave works in harmony to achieve great things. In the case of prerelease weekend, what they achieved was winning a lot of games with the help of this card. Rosemane Centaur is certainly a very solid creature, a 4/4 that can attack AND block makes combat difficult for your opponent. Not to mention this card has the same benefit as the several other creatures in Guilds of Ravnica that have vigilance: they can attack and then be used to convoke out a new threat in your second main phase. Any deck including green and white will be happy to include Rosemane Centaur and stomp out the competition.
Which guild are you looking forward to representing at the PPTQ this weekend? Did you pull off any awesome plays at the prerelease? Do you have any other questions about PPTQs and how they work? Drop a comment here, or on Facebook, or drop by the store anytime. See you on the battlefield this weekend!
By Daniel D’Amato
Concession is something that every Magic player hopes to be on the receiving end of, but one of the most important skills that a Magic player can learn is knowing when a game is over. Being able to analyze the current game state and make appropriate plays is important to success in competitive Magic; knowing when to concede is one that isn’t addressed as often, if at all. Anyone that has played in a competitive Magic tournament knows that every round is timed and that sometimes matches can get drawn out leading to draws or even one game matches. Ideally you don’t want to put yourself in that situation, so what is the best way to approach that? Conceding. I will be the first one to admit that conceding doesn’t feel good, ever, especially when the game was close or could have been the deciding factor in receiving prizes or even making top 8, but there are numerous benefits to conceding games, and especially game one. There are multiple factors to consider when determining whether a game is winnable or if conceding is the right answer. One of the most common factors that is associated with early concessions is the amount of time left in the current round.
When to Concede?
Time in round, while a necessary parameter for not only Magic but any competitive atmosphere, can be one of the most stressful factors in giving yourself the best chance to win a match. Just how football teams must practice clock management when there is two minutes left in the game, Magic players need to practice clock management for playing at a proper speed and giving themselves plenty of time to win the match. So, what does time in round have to do with conceding? Control is always going to be in the game regardless of what format you play. There are many very efficient control players, but there are also many control players who have a slower pace of play. It is typically these matches that you worry about going to time and understanding when a game is a lost cause can be extremely beneficial to your success. All the following scenarios for time consideration are from a midrange deck’s point of view.
The best way to elaborate on this matchup is to explain personal experiences I have had. About a year ago when I was playing the best midrange deck in the Standard format, Temur energy. Control matches could go either way, but I knew that game one was always tough and that I had to play quick and tight. I can’t count on my hand the number of game ones I conceded against control while on Temur before turn 10. Temur was a midrange deck that planned to win through tempo creatures and quality removal, both of which are not great against control due to counter magic and board removal. I knew during sideboarded games that I would have access to 5 forms of counter magic along with my own Torrential Gearhulks to keep the tempo. Being able to properly analyze the board and the matchup your playing is important because conceding allows you to have plentiful time in what could be a grindy matchup to win. So how do you know?
The most common signals in this matchup that conceding may be the right call are card advantage and board state. Card advantage is something in Magic that can make or break a game. Control decks are designed to deal with threats, refill their hand with utility and spells, and then eventually land a threat that can’t be dealt with. This makes them very agile game one against midrange decks because they can use spot removal or board removal on our threats after our hand is depleted all while they have upward of five or more cards still in hand. This is a spot to consider conceding because now you are just watching your opponent play Magic until they find a win condition and finally beat you. This is not only one of the worst feelings in Magic but can also be one of the most time consuming. Concede. The average midrange deck has multiple answers to control style decks in the sideboard and will ultimately have a stronger success rate in the post sideboard games. When your threats have been dwindled, it is not a bad idea to just concede the game instead of wasting time. Conceding here allows for enough time to win games two and three, saves some frustration, and allows you to focus on winning the match. Staying focused on winning the match rather than the game is a huge factor because these types of matchups can become very frustrating and can cause you to lose sight of the objective. Control matchups can be straightforward or difficult and knowing when to concede can potentially give you the upper edge in the matchup.
Midrange mirrors can be the grindiest matches you will play. Both decks being designed with the same goal in mind can clash and cause a board stall or blowout very quickly. Time can sometimes be even more of consideration in these matchups due to the fact it can take a very long time to win game one and board stalls can cause a person not to concede since there are still outs to win the game. The key to winning these matchups is card advantage and threat removal. If you notice yourself falling further and further behind, consider the concession. Like the control matchups, conceding here allows for less frustration and more time to focus on the match at hand; figure out the best way to approach the matchup and how to give yourself the best chance to win the other games. Tempo and counter magic are important in the control matchup; removal and tempo are very key out of the board in this matchup. Time management is vital in this matchup because every draw and turn matters when both decks are looking to grind their opponent out to win the match. Having access to your sideboard for the next two games and hopefully plenty of time on the clock can be a strong factor in determining the outcome of this matchup.
Losing or having to concede a close match can be very frustrating and defeating. Midrange mirrors being as grindy as they are can mentally drain you and can sometimes feel like they are just one game with the chance of finishing a second. Being focused on each individual game and playing tight can help you win more matches but evaluating the current board state and mastering clock management can allow you to consider variables that not every player can consistently consider. In these midrange matchups, the main parameter to consider is card advantage. Currently in Standard we have midrange all-star Glint-Sleeve Siphoner which allows its controller to draw extra cards for the cost of one life and some energy. In midrange matchups this guy is a massive advantage because he can give the controller the card advantage necessary to apply and deal with threats efficiently; unanswered it is likely the controller will win due to the card advantage alone. However, if cards like this go unanswered and you can’t seem to find the line to win, concede and refocus, the other games are more important; remember that a match is best of three and not one.
When Not to Concede
I figured since I am giving all these examples of when concession may be the right call, it’s important to know when you are ahead and maybe your opponent should be the one considering it. All the topics can just be repeated above with roles switched obviously but it is possible to be in a losing situation and not conceding is important…. combo. Combo exists in the eternal formats and not so much Standard but eventually everyone will have the pleasure of playing against a combo strategy. For those unfamiliar, combo likes to just try to pull off a win by assembling the pieces of whatever puzzle and executing it and doing everything to protect it. It’s important that when a combo player is “going off” that you don’t concede and wait to be beaten. Not only will you gain valuable insight on how to shut down the combo, but people are also human, and they may mess up the combo along the way allowing you a victory. The latter happens often which is why it’s important to let your opponent do their thing and follow closely for better understanding.
I previously touched on situations on when to concede in control and midrange matchups but there are times where concession isn’t necessary. Things you need to consider are whether you are ahead on life total, card advantage, or board state. You obviously never want to concede a game that you are winning especially just because your opponent finds an answer. With the Glint-Sleeve Siphoner example I talked about card advantage. If you have a hand of 6 cards while your opponent has a hand of 1 card, the board state doesn’t matter because you are still ahead pending life total situations etc. Times like this is when concession should be considered because you have a greater opportunity to win based off just card advantage alone. Its situations where your opponent is the one with the card advantage where concession should be considered. I know it sounds self-explanatory on how you should be able to tell you are ahead but there are issues where people do concede while ahead or give an early concession when they analyze the state of the game incorrectly. Overall concession, while a difficult concept to grasp sometimes, can be a good tool for growth in professional magic.
Conceding a game or match obviously doesn’t feel good but it can have its benefits. The most beneficial aspect of conceding a game early is the amount of time you can gain to win the match. Time is important in competitive Magic and unfortunately this game is no stranger to slow players and thus this skill must be analyzed carefully. Conceding isn’t something that should be impulsively done but rather analyzed and determined if it is the best line to help you win the match in the end. Thanks for reading and I hope your concessions are more received than given!
Written by Myles Miller
Tempo is defined as “the rate or speed of an activity”, and you’ll usually find this term applied to music and how fast/slow it’s played. Tempo in the context of Magic refers to the advantage created by putting yourself ahead in a game, while setting your opponent back a step or two. The most effective tempo plays will add to your board while taking something away from your opponent: one of their creatures, a removal spell from their hand, or a chunk of their life total. Whether you’re adding a creature to your board, destroying one of your opponent’s threats, or creating a situation in which your opponent has to react to your plays instead of making their own, a game of Magic is all about the give and take of tempo. In this article, I will go through each color and discuss how each creates tempo in a different way. A blue deck plays very differently than a green deck, and the ways those colors generate tempo differ as well. Normally I’d start with White and move around the color pie, but I’d like to start with the color that most exemplifies tempo; that is infamous for finding ways to stall the opponent and wear them down over time:
While we at Battlegrounds try to always run our events no matter what, we may have to postpone Battlecon this weekend because of the hurricane currently barreling our way. We will keep you posted on weather updates as we hear them, and let you know our decision as it comes closer to the weekend. If Battlecon is cancelled, we will be able to reschedule it for later on in the year, most likely October. We wish everyone a safe weekend.
Minds Aglow | Art by Yeong-Hao Han | © Wizards of the Coast
The answer to the question “Why do I play EDH?” is the most important thing you can ask yourself when approaching the format. Being open with others about what you find engaging and fun about Commander will lead to the highest amount of games where both you and your opponents enjoy themselves; in a game that usually has four or more players in it, not everyone can win, but everyone can certainly end the game on a high note.