Down the MTGO Hole, and DII #1

To those of you who don’t see me on a weekly basis around town, you might think that I had simply vanished. For better or worse, I have not been kidnapped/silenced/destroyed/buried/exiled. Actually the MTGO side of my Magic life has been quite busy as of late as I go farther and farther down the rabbit hole of digital card games. Now that I’ve had a decent bit of experience in how the MTGO world really works, I can confidently relate my experiences and give a little advice to those trying to make the change.

The number one piece of advice I can give that you as a player have full control over is to play to your actual skill level. If you’re not the hottest drafter in the world, stay the hell out of the 8-4 queues. Yes, you will still learn a bit, as you would anytime you’re playing against better people, but MTGO isn’t really made for that sort of learning. MTGO helps you review the choices you make in game and during the draft with precision, but because of the nature of the program, opponents tends to feel robotic at times, and you also usually can’t do the one thing that really makes hanging with better players a boon: asking questions. Occasionally someone will have the time and patience to talk with you a bit about a decision, but mostly you’re on your own, and there’s little reason to throw away tickets when the 4-3-2-2 gives you a better chance to stay even, and also helps with your technical play and drafting strategy.

After choosing the right game for you(much akin to choosing a Limit in online poker I would imagine), make sure you pay attention. It sounds painfully obvious, but MTGO is a huge help in determining how a draft is going, for example. All your picks are right in front of you, easily sorted into whatever you want. Also, since you don’t have an actual opponent to watch during matches, all you get from him is what he does. It’s surprising how difficult it can be to gauge an opponents hand without all those subtle signals you get in person. Most of the info is still there however. Watching an opponents’ plays, and more often their overall game(aggressive, passive, land light, etc) reveals almost as much as being right there with them. Thinking about why someone would keep a seemingly actionless hand in Limited is the sort of thing one has to keep in mind when MTGOing. It will save you tickets and frustration when you correctly play around that board sweeper or mythic you wouldn’t have otherwise planned for.

Decisions are everywhere even when you’re not drafting. What you do with your product is very important to staying even. Using bots to refill on tickets can be a quick way to get back in the game, but it is generally a losing proposition. Even when a card drops in price later on, the bot already took your card and flipped it for a free ticket long before the dip. Always have a classified posting open advertising selling anything you deem worthy at whatever price you choose. It’s usually .5-1 ticket higher than bot buy prices, but some cards tend to be high margin, so watch out for cards being bought at 2 and sold at 6, or things of that nature. You won’t sell very fast, and will probably have to buy in if you hit a losing streak, but it’s still better than getting bent over by dealers who simply have more online money than you. At worst, everyone has that one friend who has a real MTGO collection. At least sell to THAT guy at near bot prices, this way you can hit him up later for a deck, reminding him how much money you made him in the past.

There’s a ton more to talk about in regards to MTGO, like the MOCS(which isn’t hard to qualify for), Dailies, Premier Events, and everyone’s favorite, Release Events, but that’s for another time. Here is the first 8-4 DII draft I entered. It took place last night, which I hope makes you see how serious I am about staying out of games you can’t win. I’m no slouch, but I avoided the 8-4s until now because I was able to remain objective about how much I really knew about DII draft, and played in 4-3-2-2s until I was comfortable.

Pack 1 pick 1:

My Pick:

Death’s Caress, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Tower Geist are the choices I opened, with Caress being a not so distant third. I chose Aristocrat because I felt a Black or Red card would certainly wheel from this pack, giving me a ‘free’ pick, while Tower Geist would leave me wondering whether Black or Red was coming back. The vampire is also a nasty surprise even as a larger Spark Elemental, and can be impossible to kill for some decks. All this makes the double color commitment worth it, and I wanted to try out B/R aggro anyway.
Pack 1 pick 2:

My Pick:

We get our choice of removal spells, and it’s not close. Being one mana is huge in a fast format like this, allowing us to remove an offending creature and play our own in the same turn to generate tempo. Burning Oil is just fine as a non-flashbackable Red card, but it’s a fair bit worse than the Slip.
Pack 1 pick 3:

My Pick:

Yikes. Tower Geist is really, really good, and I’m by no means stuck to R/B. I give up a card I don’t really like anyway in Falkenrath Torturer, and gain the potential to switch into something else with a very powerful creature.
Pack 1 pick 4:

My Pick:

Well, my Blue bent looks more likely now, getting a pack with no playable Black or Red cards. Niblis is pretty good too, so I’m not sad to take him.
Pack 1 pick 5:

My Pick:

This was a strange pick. I actually didn’t know what was better, but I went with Torch Fiend because it seems to have more utility than the ‘must block’ clause of the Hermit, and the extra power when flipped seems marginal. Mostly I was just happy to receive a Black or Red card!
Pack 1 pick 6:

My Pick:

This is the only pick I regret in the entire draft. It was only pick six, and I gave too much weight to wanting another two drop. I also wasn’t sure what colors I would be in, and the Nearheath Stalker is just better in most decks that can play either creature.
Pack 1 pick 7:

My Pick:

Woah, alright then. Red is in fact, open. Black doesn’t seem to be, but we have two very powerful cards, even better than the Blue we picked up in the nothing packs. Still, a decision will have to be made eventually, and what wheels from our pack will help decide.
Pack 1 pick 8:

My Pick:

Some people like Talons of Falkenrath as a one of in some random aggro deck, but I’m hoping to not be that deck.
Pack 1 pick 9:

My Pick:

No Black cards at all. I thought there was a reasonable chance that Chosen of Markov would wheel, but seeing the two larger Red guys there and Forge Devils missing struck me as odd. I was leaning towards U/R now, since there were potentially two other Black drafters at the table, and maybe no other Red ones since the Devil could have just been a hate pick since it can be pretty irritating to some decks. I chose the Fiends because while both creatures kinda suck, Fiends are cheaper, and have a relevant ability.
Pack 1 pick 10:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 11:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 12:

My Pick:

I REALLY don’t want to play Talons.
Pack 1 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 1 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 1:

My Pick:

Just flat better than anything else. Waif and Big Charms are cute, but they really don’t have the raw power of Volley, and require either setup or drawing them at specific times.
Pack 2 pick 2:

My Pick:

Remember, I figured myself to probably get stuck into U/R, and this card goes from weak to amazing pretty fast in that archetype.
Pack 2 pick 3:

My Pick:

Well that was unexpected. Into the Maw is the safer pick since I’m 100% playing Red by this point. Seeing a Victim is not entirely unexpected since I aside from the first pack in DKA, I didn’t pass much Black, but you’d like whoever has Caress/Flayer would have snapped it up.
Pack 2 pick 4:

My Pick:

Well, here’s another, and this time I’m not giving up anything better than a Scarecrow for it. My Blue cards are now Tower Geist, Screeching Skaab, and Niblis of the Breath. My Black cards are Falkenrath Aristocrat, Victim of Night, and Tragic Slip. Even if I end up having to play something crappy, the Black far outweighs Blue here.
Pack 2 pick 5:

My Pick:

And we’re on our way!
Pack 2 pick 6:

My Pick:

Not playing Chant in this deck, and Night Terrors can be gotten later. Crab is annoying!
Pack 2 pick 7:

My Pick:

Taken over Kessig Wolf for curve considerations. Two drops are super important.
Pack 2 pick 8:

My Pick:

A good sign when the pack seven or eight has something awesome for you.
Pack 2 pick 9:

My Pick:

People have given up on this guy I think. IMO he’s actually better than he was in triple ISD, mostly by the arrival of Stromkirk Captain, but also the decrease in packs full of Chapel Geist and Voiceless Spirit.
Pack 2 pick 10:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 11:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 13:

My Pick:

Pack 2 pick 14:

My Pick:

See? You can always have a Night Terrors if you want one.
Pack 2 pick 15:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 1:

My Pick:

Somehow I have never opened this guy online, at least according to my collection. I thought very briefly about Rakish Heir, but figured if Red wheeled the first pack, it would also wheel here. Besides, this guy is unstoppable when active.
Pack 3 pick 2:

My Pick:

Giftsies, or the fruits of a well executed draft?
Pack 3 pick 3:

My Pick:

I don’t like this guy much. He’s the worst of the B/R one drops, and is such a bad draw late. I took it anyway because I don’t need a Patrician, and although one drops aren’t 100% needed for B/R aggro anymore, they are nice to have.
Pack 3 pick 4:

My Pick:

My deck is starting to look awesome and weird at the same time. I actually don’t really want a second six mana removal spell, but neither do I want a Scourge much either. It’s playable though, and I was worried about the earlier Nearheath Stalker snafu, so I was just trying to get to 23.
Pack 3 pick 5:

My Pick:

Ok I like him better than those junky dudes.
Pack 3 pick 6:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 7:

My Pick:

Again with the pack seven and eight gifts!
Pack 3 pick 8:

My Pick:

I don’t even wanna play this guy, but I’m gonna have to.
Pack 3 pick 9:

My Pick:

Yikes! They ALL wheeled! Given my vampire count, this is the pick. It also randomly can’t die to Geistflame(once), or Victim, not irrelevant since we’ve passed two.
Pack 3 pick 10:

My Pick:

I’ll play Night Terrors over Feral Ridgewolf if I have to. I’m not stooping to that level.
Pack 3 pick 11:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 12:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 13:

My Pick:

Or I could play this idiot.
Pack 3 pick 14:

My Pick:

Pack 3 pick 15:

My Pick:

This draft converter created by Benjamin Peebles-Mundy.
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  • 1 Forge Devils
  • 1 Reckless Waif
  • 1 Bloodcrazed Neonate
  • 1 Skirsdag High Priest
  • 1 Torch Fiend
  • 1 Walking Corpse
  • 2 Vampire Interloper
  • 1 Crossway Vampire
  • 1 Heckling Fiends
  • 2 Rakish Heir
  • 1 Riot Devils
  • 1 Falkenrath Aristocrat
  • 1 Scourge of Geier Reach
  • 1 Markov Warlord
  • 1 Tragic Slip
  • 1 Victim of Night
  • 2 Brimstone Volley
  • 2 Into the Maw of Hell
  • 8 Swamp
  • 8 Mountain
  • 1 Haunted Fengraf

The land count seems a little strange since I don’t have a ton of Black cards, but several of my early drops were Black, and not curving out is an easy way to lose. Also, besides Crossway Vampire, double Red isn’t needed until turn five. I could have just played an extra Mountain, but I wanted to play the Fengraf too, since grinding out games is something the B/R deck has to do sometimes.

In the matches, I crushed pretty much everyone, usually finishing with Brimstone Volley or Falkenrath Aristocrat. That chick really is hard to beat. I won a few games where I shortened an enemy’s clock with weird attacks. With an opponent at ten and three creatures(two untapped), and me at eight or so, I opted to attack only with a 6/6 Scourge and not the Aristocrat that would have gotten through uncontested. My opponent took, hoping to win on the crack back, so I sacrificed the Scourge to the Aristocrat, then Volleyed for the rest. Seeing plays like that earn wins that might have otherwise been stolen from you via ‘lucksackery,’ since if I attack with both, he blocks the Scourge, leaving five power in play for him, and him at 6. I can play a guy to block, but if he has Volley or other weirdness happens, such as me having to use my own Volley defensively, I could lose the game. The only other play of note during the draft was deciding to trade Skirsdag High Priest for a Hermit on the draw on my opponent’s turn three. Sure, I could have him online in a few turns, but after gauging my hand, I didn’t need to devote time and life points to jumping through the hoops he requires to make Demons. I thought I could win a normal game, especially when I’m not taking two every turn, and I did.

Until next draft,

Nigel

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