Bennie's two-headed experience plus the first results from post-Guildpact Premiere events on Magic Online.

Post-Guildpact PDC

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Two-Headed Giant Champs

The letter A!s a follow-up to my Swimming with Sharks foray, I thought I'd touch on playing in Two-Headed Giant Champs this past weekend. I hope that lots of you were able to give the format a try; it really is a lot of fun! It's also quite skill-testing - while we were playing, I could quickly tell whether my opponents had actually tested 2HG rather than just leaning exclusively on experience playing Ravnica block Limited. A common mistake was playing Magemarks on your teammate's creatures without realizing they don't function unless they are on a creature you control.

Team Jolly Green consisted of myself and longtime friend Josh Adams. In addition to playtesting the format with me, Josh is also a compulsive Limited player on MTGO, and puts in at least one draft a day. He knows Ravnica block Limited very well, so I was counting on him to recognize some synergies that might have otherwise gotten missed. One contribution I made was pointing out to him that Cloudstone Curio has the word “may” on it, so that you can use it when you want to. Josh did some ridiculous things with the Curio throughout the day.

After seven rounds of Swiss, we found ourselves blessed by math and good fortune. One team at 5-2 would make Top 4, and that team was Jolly Green. We had an astonishing 67% for our tie-breakers; the very last round, nearly every team we had played in the Swiss after the first round was still in contention for the Top 4. After getting past the round of 4, winning the title was in sight. I got a fantastically aggressive draw: turn 1 Frenzied Goblin; Josh played a turn 2 Dimir Infiltrator. On turns 3 and 4 I played Skyknight Legionnaires, and on turn 5 Ghor-Clan Savage with a Bloodthirst counter. Our opponents had a slow start, with one Head stalled on mana, and the other Head with no fliers. We got our opponents from 40 to 24 life pretty quickly. Josh had a Convolute in hand and an Orzhova, the Church of Deals in play, but decided to tap down to play his Conclave Equenaut. I didn't object because my biggest concern was our opponents drawing a way to deal with my Savage; I really had no other beef in my hand and we wanted to put the game away before the guy drew out of his mana screw. There was only one card that would have made the Equenaut a terrible, terrible play, since it would be our sixth creature.

Out of 88 possible rares in Ravnica, what would we least want to see be one of their 4 Ravnica rares? Yep; despite really good odds they would not have it, next turn they cast Hex. We did not recover in time to prevent the game from swinging around in their favor, and ended up settling for 2nd place.

Now, one thing I've often read about when it comes to trying to better yourself as a Magic player is harnessing the inherent luck that's a factor in Magic. You can't do anything about “bad luck” or “good luck”, but you can certainly play the game to try and swing things in your favor. A great player would have realized there was no real reason to play another creature when we had clear board superiority; while the odds were against being so brutally punished for the move, we should have shut that window of opportunity for our opponent. Josh could have sat on the Convolute and just activated the Church EOT if he didn't need to stop a spell. I learned a valuable lesson, and hope that next time I can think like a great player.

Win a Trip to L.A. for the Magic Invitational!

We will all be checking out the Magic Invitational on Magic Online May 10-12, but wouldn't it be nice to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) and see it in person? For the next week, about half of all MTGO Premier Events will be designated “E3 Qualifier Events.” Each E3 Qualifier will invite the Top 8 finishers to play in the “Magic Invitational at E3” Tournament on Saturday April 1, 2006. See the Magic Online Event Schedule for a complete schedule of E3 Qualifiers, and check out the Magic Invitational at E3 page for more details!

Guildpact for PDC

Two weeks back I checked in with some multiplayer fans to see what Guildpact cards they thought would make a splash in group games. This week I checked in with the some of the Pauper Deck Challenge crew. For those who might be unfamiliar with PDC, I wrote about it here (Spotlight on PDC) and there are some links to other columns talking about the format. It's basically an all-common format, and there are Player Run Events tournaments that you can join, so if Standard, Extended or Classic gets a little rich for your blood, give PDC a try!

GloinOin and SpikeBoyM gave us their thoughts on Guildpact for PDC:

GloinOin: I think the main cards that will develop into staples are the ones which bring entirely new elements to PDC. Obviously the “karoo” lands help two-color decks and Scab-Clan Mauler will see a lot of play in Red/Green beats. My personal standouts so far have been Izzet Chronarch and Steamcore Weird; they helped me to win mini PDC recently with a 12-0 game record. It's a basic Red/Blue counter-burn deck with Guildpact added. Evu came up with the idea of running Cloudposts to provide additional mana boosts to Kaervek's Torch and Condescend.

Counter-burn (PDC) by GloinOin

Main Deck

60 cards

Forgotten Cave
12  Island
Izzet Boilerworks

24 lands

Izzet Chronarch
Ninja of the Deep Hours
Shimmering Glasskite
Steamcore Weird

11 creatures

Compulsive Research
Kaervek's Torch

25 other spells

Izzet Chronarch

15 sideboard cards

GloinOin: The sideboard was prepared for an aggro metagame, with Smash there to help fend off Affinity. Currently the main decks to beat are: Red/Green beats, mono-Blue control Affinity, and Mono-Black Control. Counter-burn decks and a deck based around abusing Nantuko Husk and token creatures are on the rise. The Husk deck is capable of turn 4 or 5 kills on a good day. There is also a pet project of lathspel and myself, built around Spiraling Embers and Oboro Breezecaller. It can goldfish on turn 5, but is inconsistent against control. It uses Rush of Knowledge and the land Affinity golems from Darksteel.

SpikeBoyM: Some of the early heavy hitters now are the “karoo” lands (which we love) and Blind Hunter because it is in colors that don't get used often, and it's just a nutty card in a creature-based format like PDC. A lot of people are going to try and make Wee Dragonauts work because they can get ridiculous fast. I feel the best place for them is in the Ire of Kaminari decks floating around, with the Dragonauts as an alternate win condition. There's nothing like Lava Spike spliced with Glacial Ray, then cast Glacial Ray, then attacking for 5.

SpikeBoyM: Most of the Bloodthirst creatures will make a huge splash, especially the Mauler and the Ghor Clan commons. They will really make Red/Green aggro even better. My sleeper pick for Guildpact would have to be Mourning Thrull, it just seems like it could be really powerful.

Thanks, guys!

Standard 4x Open (706922) Recap

Saturday, March 18 2006

The first post-Guildpact, post-Pro Tour Honolulu Standard Open 4x event kicked off with a good crowd of 154 players. Unlike Honolulu, this Top 8 was dominated by Orzhov, with full half sporting White and Black spells. Heezy Street (Gruul), Zoo, Izzetron, Owling Mine and Heartbeat were all MIA for this one.

Here were the final standings:

1st Place: mikeman29, Greater Gifts
2nd Place: Khaim, Ghost Dad
4th Place: WedUk, G/W Aggro
4th Place: Kirushi, Ghost Dad
8th Place: Decimator88, B/W Aggro
8th Place: bobthedog, B/W Aggro
8th Place: LankanProdigy, Boros Burn
8th Place: rip_kolm, Wildfire

In taking the top prize, mikeman29 went with tried-and-true power, utilizing the Gifts Ungiven engine to set up Yosei, the Morning Star and Greater Good. From the replays, Khaim's Ghost Dad looked like a fairly standard build, while Kirushi took a page from Olivier Ruel's Hand in Hand deck and added the resilient Paladin en-Vec to the Tallowisp team. WedUk had many elements of Ghazi-Glare, but appeared to be a bit more aggressive and I never saw Glare of Subdual. His early game critters picked up Jittes and swung, before accelerating into Arashi, the Sky Asunders and Kodama of the North Tree. Decimator88 and bobthedog's B/W aggro decks appeared to be very similar to Ruel's Honolulu Top 8 Hand in Hand deck. LankanProdigy walked a rogue path with a Boros mana base chock full of efficient damage dealers like Lava Spike, Char and Lightning Helix backed with Isamaru and Scorched Rusalka. rip_kolm utilized the familiar but still potent sorcery-driven Wildfire strategy to punish weenie decks and shaky mana bases alike.

Magic Invitational: My Writer's Pick

For the Writer's Pick in the Magic Invitational voting, Scrye magazine was given a vote. In addition to writing Into The Aether for, I have also written for Scrye for several years, and as Contributing Editor covering Magic, I was given the honor of determining our vote. We did not have room in our next issue to fully explain my picks, so I thought I'd do so here.

The voting criteria is "Best combination of talent and personality,” and we were given a pool of 15 pro players to pick from. I decided to rate these players by the following measures:

Gut Check—as someone who's played the game and read about it for over a decade, how do these players hit my radar in terms of name recognition and personality? I also asked my friend Ken Krouner, a pro player who's plugged into the pro community, what he thought of these guys.

Lifetime Pro Points—all are talented or else they wouldn't be pros and they wouldn't be on the list to begin with, but I had to figure out a way to rate them relative to one another in terms of raw skill. This seemed like the most straightforward approach. Search Hits—Pro Tours and Grand Prix are covered on Wizards' website, and between the interviews, feature matches, and reporter blogs, I figured this would be one way to see who has attracted the most attention.

Google Search Hits—some of these guys show up on other websites by writing or being written about, so I widened the search to the entirety of the Internet.

I ranked the nominees by each measure, giving 15 if they were at the top of the list, on down to 1 point if they were on the bottom. I then totaled each player's ranking points for each measure and ranked them from highest points to lowest.*

I realize that these measures aren't exactly scientifically accurate, but when the imperfect calculus was done I was very pleased with my Top 5 list. Following are my picks for the Magic Invitational, along with Ken Krouner's thoughts on each one.

#1 Jeff Cunningham
Krouner: “Jeff is likely the most clever person to ever play on the PT in both humor and skill. Jeff won with unconventional draft picks and unexpected Constructed tech. He's one of the few North American pros to be at the top of the game in both Limited and Constructed.”

#2 Antonino De Rosa
Krouner: “Antonino likes to put on the loveable buffoon act, but the boy can play. He's not only a great technical player; he's very good at reading his opponents and inducing errors. On top of all this he is a brilliant Constructed theorist and excels at draft. Most importantly of all, though, there are few better at putting a smile on your face.”

#3 Neil Reeves
Krouner: “Neil is most likely the smartest man in the game today. I'd also wager that at this moment in time, he's the best player in the US. Neil is not exactly a student of the game, but that's because he doesn't have to be. If you hand Neil a deck he likes, he'll probably Top 8 with it. He spends a lot of time drafting, and you'll always find him looking for a team draft after Day 1 regardless of his performance.”

#4 Osyp Lebedowicz
Krouner: “While he isn't putting up the numbers he once did, Osyp is a great player with an amazing resume. Few consummate pros that don't live in Japan put the kind of work into Constructed that he does. Think what you will of his humor, he definitely has an audience. Sound bites from Osyp often make PTs worth following.”

#5 Tsuyoshi Fujita
Krouner: “Fujita has been around for a long time and has really earned his stripes as a true constructed mastermind and juggernaut, almost always coming to tournaments with inventive decks, or at a minimum, decks that people let fall off the radar.”

*Reeves, Lebedowicz, and Fujita were all tied in Cumulative Rating Points. I broke the tie this way: Reeves got #3 because the other two went last year and I decided I'd go in favor of new blood. Lebedowicz got #4 because he scored higher on my Gut Check than Fujita. Osyp's well known for having a larger than life personality, but I haven't personally heard much about Fujita outside of being a fantastic Magic player.

Gut Check Rating Lifetime Pro Points Lifetime PP Rating Wizards Search Hits Wizards Search Hits Rating Google Hits Google Hits Rating Cumulative Rating Points
Jeff Cunningham 10 128 9 477 14 48,900 15 48
Antonino De Rosa 13 163 12 388 11 19,500 10 46
Neil Reeves 15 123 7 362 9 35,000 14 45
Osyp Lebedowicz 14 154 11 474 13 15,600 7 45
Tsuyoshi Fujita 3 244 15 522 15 24,500 12 45
Jeroen Remie 9 154 10 402 12 16,100 8 39
Masashi Oiso 2 175 14 350 8 20,800 11 35
Sam Gomersall 11 94 6 341 7 14,800 6 30
Tomi Walamies 8 165 13 279 5 10,200 3 29
Gerard Fabiano 6 124 8 372 10 13,000 5 29
Tim Aten 12 53 1 153 2 34,000 13 28
Gabe Walls 7 92 5 314 6 17,300 9 27
Craig Krempels 5 88 4 239 4 774 1 14
Mark Herberholz 4 74 3 175 3 893 2 12
Tomoharu Saitou 1 66 2 69 1 11,100 4 8

MTGO Events Calendar

I got an email from WizO_Kwai_Chang, who wanted to share with us a new feature now found on the Wizards.Community forum boards.

WizO_Kwai_Chang: I am a moderator on the Wizards Message Boards. I wanted to alert you of our new "MTGO Events Calendar."

Recently two weekly columns sprung up covering the results of Standard Premier Events online. Both articles are a good read every week, but as an online player I found them lacking. Both articles focus solely on Standard, leaving out the other online Constructed formats. So I asked the MTGO Boards denizens for volunteers to help report on those other events.

I then asked my superiors for some means to provide the results to the public. And so, the MTGO Events Calendar was born!

So far one "Eye of Grog" (our catchy name for the reporters) has kept abreast of Premier events as shown there. Offkorn has done a spectacular job, and thankfully he will be getting some more help too.

We only have about a week's worth of events, due to the lull in Constructed play during Release Week. Over time this will increase. We will also have threads discussing results in the appropriate forums on the message boards.

I just hoped that you could share this with the Aether, I think many people will like the up to date results. -- Kwai Chang

Thanks, Kwai! If you haven't seen it yet, check it out! There are recaps from events starting from March 8th going forward, providing a very good way to get a quick look at how the lightning fast MTGO metagame evolves!

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