As is expected, the end of the year is a time for reflection, particularly when writing a handful of hours into 2018. So this will be a fairly introspective look at the year as a whole, but within this month actually plays a fairly pivotal role and a positive note to end on! The two intertwine fairly heavily.
So, let’s begin with Unstable, which was probably one of the more positive surprises of the year for me – I’ve never played an un-set and on the first day of spoilers, everything was about Contraptions. Boy, was I not happy about Contraptions. They seemed complicated and which a bunch of effects that were just plain and normal, rather than anything particularly interesting or fun. Honestly, I’m still in that boat – while they are nowhere near as bad as I was hoping, I thought they didn’t bring much to the table for a lot of added weight. The rest of the set though, is just excellent. There’s the right mix of plain goofiness, but actual gameplay to it.
Thankfully, there was plenty of other nonsense to go around to make up for their presence – Augment is a neat mechanic and dicerolling is a great pastime of mine, so I was more than happy to get in on that action, as I did in every. single. draft.
What sticks in my mind about the set is the first draft I did on release day. Firstly, just the atmosphere around the table. There’s no stakes, no investment – and everybody’s getting their three lands for the entry fee, with all the super valuable cards requiring an opening of a foil – so there’s nobody expecting anything. Secondly, most of the spikier players are doing Modern, which just means everybody sitting around the pod is there to have fun and goof off. My flavour of goof was ‘Dice Rolls a la Bombs’. The bombs wasn’t intentional, just cards I found cool and wanted to jam, like Very Cryptic Command, Animate Library and X. The dice-rolling was just something I like to do.
This resulted in a very strange night, involving three sub-games (at a 2-1 record), Five Finger Discounting a Grusilda and then combining all manner of things and almost, almost combining dice re-rolls with the mill ability on my version of Very Cryptic Command for a quick instant speed decking. All in all, it was a 3-0 – but best of all was just being able to play Magic loosely, with no fixation on winning – which has been a problem all year, trying to put aside my Spike side in aid of just having fun. My second draft was not as successful (involving a bye, sadly), but the fun was still there.
In the realm of constructed, I’ve had a very unusual, but successful month. Firstly – I have barely touched Modern. One of the problems I’ve had this year is that Modern is my favourite format by a country mile, but I’ve been a little disaffected with my weapon of choice, Merfolk. I’ve got a lot of mileage with the Fish (250 matches recorded, but probably closer to 400) and just need an extended break, but haven’t found the right deck for me yet. Across the year, I’ve toyed with Ad Nauseum, Eldrazi D&T, Grixis Death Shadow, Jeskai Tempo, UG Fish and UW Control – but none of those have clicked with me. Combined with the very public Standard issues and not playing other constructed formats, its partly while this hasn’t been a great MTG year for me.
December has provided some salvation to the issue though. I know this will sound ludicrous to most given the prevailing zeitgeist, but I have found so much fun in Standard this month. All thanks to what I call, ‘Glorious Grixis’.
Okay, so my name aside, this is basically Grixis Midrange (some people go for Grixis Energy, but I feel that it’s more of a sub-theme than anything.) and I this is probably the most fun I’ve had with standard in the past year. Honestly, it’s mostly a good stuff deck, but which a bunch of my favourite good stuff – Torrential Gearhulk (or as I call it, Sploosh), Scarab God (Scabby G), Glorybringer (hence the name) and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner (My favourite card in Standard.) In the space of a few weeks, I’ve gotten in seven leagues with the deck, at a 66% win percentage, which is pretty good for me – and I’d have played it more if I had the deck together in paper. Honestly, its been refreshing to put together some decent results with a deck, including a couple of 4-1 leagues.
The success is also nice because it feels I’ve been playing better with the deck. I’ve played slower, had better gameplans and taken better lines – in particular I’ve found success in not just deploying GSS T2 in order to Harness/Abrade an opponent’s first play, then drop it to get ahead. Taking a more tempo oriented route with the deck, rather than controlling has worked wonders and suits my play-style more. I end up either being the control, but with a bunch of haymakers to drop, or sitting behind my threats and taking early momentum and riding it to victory. It’s nice to win for sure; but much nicer to win because you played well.
As for the deck, my biggest hope for Rivals of Ixalan is that the deck survives rotation. I struggle to see why it wouldn’t – it still plays many of the best cards in Standard and its hard to think of a particular effect or creature that could really cause it issues. If Energy does eat some sort of ban, it could hurt – but it would need to be specifically Aether Hub, Harness Lightning or Whirler Virtuoso (I don’t think GSS is in any threat of banning.) The top-end in particular is a series of cards that just end games. What could improve the deck? That’s tricky – I’m still not thrilled with Supreme Will, so maybe any addition that could fill that slot, or provide flexibility would be excellent. Mana Leak would be the dream, but let’s be realistic. Anything that could help the mana would be extremely welcome, but given how could Standard mana already is, that seems unlikely. I’m excited to find out either way, but the deck has given me a renewed vigor for the format.
The other shining light at the end of the year has been Legacy. Specifically, Legacy Burn. I was not expecting to have gotten in a bunch of time with the deck by years’ end, but after picking it up early December, I’m a little bit hooked. The deck feels more powerful then any other collection of red spells I’ve ever seen, often Goldfishing a kill by turn 3. It also gets the ability to shut down a bunch of decks with Eidolon, or slowly wear them down with a Sulfuric Vortex. Fireblast is one of those cards I had to play with to understand, a sudden ‘four damage out of nowhere’ for zero mana carries a bunch of weight. And Damage. It’s likely not the deck I’ll be taking to this year’s Legacy GP as my partner is – besides, I have a brew in mind that I’d like to try.
Overall, 2017 wasn’t the best year in Magic for me – largely because the majority of our local friends took a long pause from the game that they’ve only just returned from, which did put a dampener on things – I’ve also found less fun in limited as of late. But things are looking up and I’m hopeful for 2018. In short, here are my goals:
- Have a playable deck in every format online that I enjoy (Modern, Pauper and Vintage are the targets here!)
- Stream once a week, every week
- Write a monthly re-cap on here throughout the year.