Day 86 (I think) – Failing at MMA

Five drafts into modern masters 2015 edition, I can say two things with absolute certainty: a) I do not enjoy it, and b) I am bloody terrible at it. I have had draft formats that I didn’t get at first, but none I failed so utterly, so completely, so spectacularly as I have MMA15.

In every single draft I have played so far, I ended up with a complete trainwreck, allowing me to win one measly match. After drafting UG no creatures no removal in the first draft, and deservedly going 1-2, I drafted a slightly less horrible RW doublestriker deck with almost no equipments. It wasn’t great by any stretch of the imagination, but it was different in one regard to all the other decks I had drafted to that point: I could construct a scenario, where this deck could legitimately win. Let’s remember for a moment, that I was currently sitting in the pod of players that went 7-2 in sealed and then 1-2 in their respective draft pods. Going 2-0-1 guaranteed money, going 2-1 at least gave you some shot, as long as it wasn’t the first round you lost. After I lost to the fivecolor guy with barely any fixing playing the triple black 5/5 that plague winds my board every turn in game two and three, and a friend of mine, who was also at 8-5, asked, if I wanted to play THG with him, I was ready to pack it in for the day. We then proceeded to play one round, lose and drop from that event too. Fun times!

Interestingly, despite how badly my day went, I had a much better time than I did yesterday. I never expected to do well in draft, especially after my first deck building session, which might have had something to do with it. Before, I kept beating myself up for not even really trying to get good at this format, and ruining my best chance to join my friends in Canada, but in the end I think it might be for the best. Had I actually put in the work I promised myself I would, I have no doubt I would have somehow managed to qualify between all the chances I had. Had I in fact qualified, I really would have needed to step my game up further and invest a lot of time and energy in Magic. I haven’t enjoyed playing Magic for a while now, and leaving the hall today, I felt, for the first time ever, that it might be pretty nice not to come back for a couple of years at least. That may sound pretty whiny and pathetic, but it isn’t even like that. It wasn’t my typical “Oh my god, I hate Magic so much, I’m never going to play again, this was the worst weekend ever, why did I ever bother blablabla” type of feeling. I did enjoy the weekend. I had fun times at the GP circuit. It just really feels like it’s enough now. There are so many other things I want to be doing, and forcing myself to play a game I don’t enjoy playing at the moment was never a good idea anyway. Regardless of whether or not I will eventually end up spontaneously going to a GP in the next half a year or so, with no more tournaments on the horizon right now – and no tournament I would like to qualify for – this is definitely the moment to take a step back, stop playing so much Magic for at least a couple of weeks and then reevaluate the situation. Drafting all day kept me from spending time making this Blog one I am confident and proud to share, which is definitely a shame. Writing and Magic are the only two serious hobbies I have ever had, and between them they seem to have eaten almost half of my life now, which is absurd when you think about it. Combining them should have been glorious and fun, but in the end, I always rush out something I end up being ashamed to even post. I cannot keep doing that, so I choose to play less Magic and spend more time making the Blog a positive experience.

I’m going to spend some time tomorrow cleaning up this blog and figuring out interesting things to write about even when I don’t spend hours upon hours every day playing Magic. I will probably shift away a little into the more casual realm, since without having played the respective draft format a ludicrous amount of times, I don’t feel confident I can contribute much of use.

The thing that most convinces me that my ambitions to become good at Magic are currently nil, is that the one question I have not asked myself all day is the one that would have completely consumed me for the rest of the week a year ago – and really the most obvious question to ask after going negative for the first time in a professional level draft: What the hell am I doing so wrong?

Since this is the only thing that might be interesting for any of you, let’s think about it for a second.

I have said many times, that I do not enjoy draft formats where all cards fit into a certain archetype, and then at some point rather early you need to commit to one and just hope that a) all the cards you need get opened and b) nobody in front of you jumps into that archetype. I also never felt comfortable drafting such a synergy driven deck without having played the format a bunch. I did like the idea of first picking a Nameless Inversion – a card that is good in every possible black deck – and then getting infinitely rewarded if Spirits did indeed prove to be open. My main plan though, was to draft some sort of green goodstuff deck with Pelakka Wurm. While I’m not very good with green decks in general, I definitely liked the idea of drafting solid creatures + removal spells much more than I liked the idea of picking up Court Homunculi and then praying to hit the critical mass of artifacts, while not getting Savage Twistered.

The booster I opened contained nothing, nothing, more nothing, and a Bestial Menace – exactly the kind of card I wanted to open. I slammed it and got confronted with a pack that contained no exciting cards as well as a Ghost Council of Orzhova. While the council isn’t the craziest card ever, it is pretty strong in a WB spirits deck, and I wasn’t missing out on much, so I decided to stay open. I then proceeded to take some red cards, some blue cards and a Splinter Twin I picked for money, as well as a Daybreak Coronet I picked up on the wheel. I never felt like any particular deck was really open, and was looking at a complete mess, but decided that I almost certainly needed to be UG ramp / midrange. I’ll spare you the rest of the draft, let’s just say it didn’t go very well. I constructed a terrible 12 creature deck with no removal to speak of except for a Mana Leak and a Cryptic Command (which I couldn’t cast half of the time because my mana base was so bad), that could only win if I drew one of my two Bestial Menaces and my opponent didn’t do much of anything. There is one card I want to highlight though: Steady Progress was never a good card back in the day, but it is unreal with a few graft creatures. I didn’t draw it much, but when I did, boy did it create blowouts. The opportunity cost to run it is incredibly low, and the ceiling is pretty high on how good the card can be.

The second draft went similarly. I opened a Battlegrace Angel, which is obviously an insane bomb, and then second picked a Kiki Jiki mostly for money (though it was the best card in the pack). I saw some good artifact cards, including a Cranial Plating and a Taj-Nar Swordsmith, and then three late Court Homunculi, so I decided to try and go affinity. Blue clearly wasn’t open from either side though, and a Spitebellows + Lightning Bolt pushed me into red, which is still really good with equipments. Unfortunately, I got no more artifacts in either pack 2 or 3, and all my plans died a very painful, miserable death. I ended up not even playing the Cranial Plating or the Myr Smith I had picked relatively early in pack two, since I ended up with only 4 other artifacts I really wanted to play, which meant that both my foil Taj-Nar Swordsmiths also had to stay at home. I ended up having a bunch of 1/1 and 1/2 double strike creatures that didn’t really do anything. The best decision I made, was to pick and play an off-color Mutagenic Growth – which would have won both games I lost, had I ever drawn it.

This is how every one of the 5 drafts I did went: I tried to surf and determine which deck is open, at some point decided to go for something, only for it to dry up anyway and then leave me with nothing. Sometimes the people in front of me were also surfing and decided to switch into the same archetype as me roughly at the same time, sometimes the cards I needed just weren’t opened. The end result was always that I ended up with a pile that couldn’t possibly defeat an average Dragons of Tarkir draft deck. I’m not exactly sure what I’m doing wrong, but I’m even less sure I care at this point. Maybe I’ll do a few drafts online, maybe I won’t. If I do, I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

Ps: I’m updating so late, because I didn’t manage to find internet anywhere. I wrote this hours ago! You have my word!

Day 85 – aaaaand it’s gone

… the excitement that is. I’m not sure if it already started when I realized Shuhei Nakamura wasn’t actually playing the GP, or if it was later, when I had laid out every possible combination of cards my pool had to offer and proclaimed them all terrible – but today I really didn’t want to play Magic. I just wanted the day to end, which is pretty sad, especially considering how smoothly it ran and how relaxed and not oppressive the atmosphere felt despite the crazy number of people at the site.

I never expected day one to end before 11:30 pm, much less to be out of the hall at half past nine. All of the expected complete disasters also were conspicuous in their absence, making GP Utrecht one of the smoothest GPs I have played so far – which is insane! Big props to everyone who made that possible.

In the end, my one removal (a splashed Bonesplinter), double Cancel, bUG deck with Pelakka Wurm as it’s spoiler mythic (boy, that card is completely unreal insane. Seriously. What. The. Fuck? A couple of games it was necessary to return him Artisan of Kozilek, but usually, when I won, it was Pelakka Wurms doing) pulled through to a 7-2, which, considering how hopeless I felt about my chances to day 2 with the pool in question is probably something I should be happy about. In any other tournament, I would have been really excited now. Unfortunately 7-2 here means, I am out of contention for top8. Most people don’t understand this about me, but for me, playing a tournament I know I cannot win is pretty lame. I mean, I will often keep playing for prizes, but starting a day with the certainty that I cannot win the whole thing is quite frustrating.

In the end though, what I really care about is the PT invite, which is still attainable. And here lies the real reason I am not super excited right now: in a standard format, one I have played a bunch already, I normally feel like 6-0 is hard, but not completely unrealistic. With MMA2, in addition to not actually liking what I have seen so far, I have played a total of 3 drafts, and won exactly 0 matches (0-1, 0-2, 0-1). That’s not a very encouraging result.

Maybe I’m just too exhausted to be excited, and since I need my strength tomorrow, this is where I’ll end it for today. Wish me luck – I will need it!