Today I'm trying something new by intertwining storytelling and card evaluation. 2019 is going to be an exciting year for Magic, and I want to explore all things creative as I find my place in the new landscape of this game. Playing it safe was so 2018!
In June 2018 I punted two matches deep into the tournament to finish Pro Tour Dominaria with an 11-5 finish. I made thousands of dollars, earned enough Pro Points to achieve Platinum status, and wanted to quit Magic.
This was the life changing finish that made me want to end my career as a Pro Magic Player. Not years of bad finishes or a lack of noticeable growth. I actually top 8'd back-to-back Team Grand Prix with some of my closest friends the weekends leading up to the Pro Tour. In a three-week span, I won $7,000, gained nineteen Pro Points, locked up another year of Platinum status, and never wanted to touch another Magic card ever again.
It's a discombobulating feeling to do what thousands only dream of yet still be unhappy. I struggled with this idea for weeks. You see, I wanted to Top 8 that Pro Tour so badly because that would help lock up an invite to the Magic Hall of Fame. Achieving this honor was my everything. It was what I was working towards, and I failed. Now, Hall of Fame season was about to come, and I wouldn't have great chances. The thought of "there's always next year" eventually took over and I went back to my normal life after working through my internal issues. It was still difficult to not feel like I had one foot out the door though, and I began operating on….
The Azorius keyword from Ravnica Allegiance is quite interesting. Addendum screams "spells matter" which makes sense as spells do tend to matter when playing the blue/white color combination. There's more to it if you think about the difference between instants and sorceries though. Instants tend to be slightly less powerful than sorceries as they benefit from being able to be played at any time and eek out value while sorceries get to do the really powerful stuff and heavy lifting during a game of Magic. That said, there's still plenty of reasons why playing at instant speed is still a winning strategy to execute in Magic!
- Holding up many unique spells during your opponent's turn gaining you more options.
- Getting to wait for more information before making plays.
- Causing opponents to take actions with imperfect information.
- Getting to play counterspells, because deep down you're a cruel person who hates fun.
These are the key selling points for my favorite Modern deck: Jeskai Control. The strategy is to play a land and pass the turn if the window for winning the game is not a possibility. Turn after turn Jeskai Control patiently waits, gaining as much information as possible before making a decision. This often forces the opposition to execute decisions into open mana, all while having less information. As a result, virtual card advantage is gained through these exchanges.
Jeskai Control isn't a powerful deck, though. There are many strategies in Modern that just overpower the deck if they aren't susceptible to the traps set by Snapcaster Mage. Often, a game can go so long that both players resources are only what they draw off the top of their deck. In these situations, instants lose some of their value as they tend to be slightly weaker than sorceries, and the ability to wait around to gain virtual card advantage is lost.
That's what makes addendum so interesting. You get the utility of instant spells but also the higher power level of sorceries. For example, let's look at Sphinx's Insight.
This card is worse than Inspiration on the surface as it needs to be played in two colors as opposed to one, but the added value of gaining some life in the process is pretty nice. The same can be said about comparing this card to Concentrate. Two life is worse than an extra card, but you can play Sphinx's Insight on your opponent's turn. It's difficult to know if it's good enough for Standard, but we've been casting Revitalize for some time now, so it's not out of the question.
The last point about addendum that's interesting to me is that it functions so nicely with acceleration. Often, instants are worse than sorceries in decks with mana acceleration as you'll end up playing them at sorcery speed anyway since you've taken the turns to develop your mana earlier. Mana acceleration typically doesn't find its way into Azorius type decks, but randomly Standard has a planeswalker who rather enjoys you playing cards on your turn, so sure!
Teferi is the perfect card to go alongside addendum spells. You get to hold up these spells while also protecting yourself with counterspells, but once Teferi is online, you get the added bonuses of these addendum cards while also continuing to hold up mana. That's what some would call "having your cake and eating it too!"
Hall of Fame was my everything because at the time it was Pro Magic's everything. The game hadn't changed in over a decade. Sure, things would shift around, but everything was the same since I started playing the game on its greatest stage. I would prepare for Pro Tours with teams, write articles, play in Grand Prix, and hope to get to Platinum and Worlds. Year after year this was my life, and I was getting bored of it even though I was on the top of my game for four years running. I still loved aspects of it all, but the grind had gotten to me and I was left wanting more.
At least I had the World Championship to look forward to - a tournament held once a year that I always dreamed of playing in when it was first unveiled. Luckily for me all my hard work paid off and for the fourth year in a row I found myself qualified for this event. It was the biggest stage with the brightest lights. The pinnacle of Magic competition. I tested hard for this tournament alongside my KMC-Genesis teammates, Seth Manfield and Brian Braun-Duin. I took a very risky deck to the tournament, but I wanted to go big or go home.
Little did I know that the proper strategy was to just go home.
Rakdos sure does love putting on a show, and spectacle is right on theme. This keyword screams "velocity," as every card with it only gets better when you're already damaging your opponent, which just so happens to be exactly what Rakdos wants to be doing. "You may play those cards" is so much better than casting them as it means you can play the lands exiled by Light Up the Stage, pushing it from being pretty interesting to potentially game-changing.
Another great feature of Light up the Stage is that you have next turn to play the spells which allows you to cast the more expensive cards exiled this way. Normally that's the condition that sucks on cards like these, as you may not have enough mana left over to get value out of the card.
It's still up in the air if Light Up the Stage will see significant Standard play, as there's already The Flame of Keld and Experimental Frenzy in the format, but I'm okay with unique forms of card advantage being evergreen for red. After all, the size of creatures is only going up which means that the average red spell doesn't do as much as it once did. Red needs interesting ways like this to stay competitive and doesn't need more cards like Hazoret the Fervent!
On the morning of the most exciting tournament of the year I was found patiently waiting on-site doing my morning rituals (you know, drinking more coffee than one probably should). The room was filled with that tension that only pre-tournament jitters could create. Suddenly it was broken when someone said, "Wow, check Twitter." I pulled up my phone to find that Gerry Thompson, one of the 24 players in the tournament, wouldn't be participating in protest against the Pro Magic structure.
The weekend was strange. At first, I was angry that the best tournament of the year would get overshadowed by this decision. I worked very hard to get here and now everything's going to be so weird. Many chose not to watch the event in protest, potentially tanking viewership. Who knows, maybe it was because the formats for the event were older than the pasta in my pantry. The atmosphere online was not one where I felt comfortable talking about my tournament progress in fear that the internet would attack me for not focusing on the topic at hand. I didn't know what to do or say without feeling like part of the problem.
There's not much to say about this card besides how freaking awesome it is, but I'll do my best to expand on the idea that this card rocks! Bedevil is the perfect best-of-one card for Magic, but it will also be great in a best-of-three environment because it's just a great card This will slot into Grixis, Jund, and Rakdos decks as it's a premium way to deal with both Planeswalkers and artifacts. These three strategies know how to beat creatures but can sometimes have a difficult time with the other two types of permanents.
If I had to make a prediction, I'd say that best-of-one Magic is here to stay as the exclusive ladder-climbing format on Magic Arena. It might not be the way I like to play Magic, but I'm willing to evolve with the game. As long as Wizards of the Coast continues to build great answers for best-of-one, I'll give it the old college try and Bedevil is exactly that!
As the World Championships played out, I kind of just finished my matches and then waited for more rounds to follow without any excitement at all. It was all just too much to process.
After the event, I thought about how I too was frustrated with the system and wanted something to change. I just didn't know what I actually wanted but knew I wasn't willing to sacrifice something that meant so much to me to try to cause it. At the time I was content with my financial situation within the system in place, but I knew I was unhappy with the process that it took to acquire it. Since that was the case, I couldn't really fault Gerry for his actions and eventually commended him for them.
I started thinking about ways to enjoy Magic again. You know, get back to the things that excited me in the earlier years. Arena helped a lot with this as it was finally a digital program that was fun to play. In fact, the very first weekend I downloaded it, my fiance' and I played it for three days straight! We were blown away at how beautiful Magic could look on a computer and found the new way to play Magic both fun and exciting. I knew my pathway to enjoying Magic once again would start there. I began streaming again and was looking into other ways to enjoy this potentially new world for Magic. Little did I know this was the same path WotC was on as well.
First off, I don't think this card is that good. I say this from previous experiences with 2UU 4/4 fliers with marginal abilities. We've seen them throughout the history of the game and they just aren't up to snuff for Constructed. That said, this reimagining of the "Leyline" ability is amazing and could be the future of Magic in a best-of-one world. Hear me out!
Consistency is one of the biggest issues in card games. In Magic right now, the biggest point of contention in the best-of-one vs best-of-three debate is that one-game matches are often too high variance. Sometimes you just don't get to play a game given how lands function, which is why something like Sphinx of Foresight can help out with on turn 1! I'll just have to wait to see how this card feels when I try it out, but I'd really love to see this design space toyed with in the future.
I got a call. One of those that you think will be fairly uneventful so you're most susceptible to being caught off guard. Well, I was. Within five minutes I was told my life was going to be changing. Not a trophy or ring could have changed things for the better more than this call. Within five minutes I was told that Magic: the Gathering had plans to set sail for the esports world and that I had a first-class ticket on its inaugural journey.
"What do I do? Where do I begin?" Magic's changing, I knew that before, but what do I do now that it is? I started working. On what, exactly, was effectively chosen at random. "I needed a new computer, an Instagram, a YouTube channel, graphic design work. Oh, and I need new clothes if I'm going to look good at PAX East in March. Do I really need these things? Of course I do! What's a Stream Deck? "
Who likes Turbo Fog? I think I saw someone in the back there raise their hand, so I guess we can continue…
Well you're in luck, one person who raised their hand, because this card seems great for any deck wanting to ramp into Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, cast a fog effect, and then eventually take every turn. Growth Spiral is a very scary card in Standard as it's an instant-speed way to develop your mana while also having mana up for reactionary spells. It's also hard to play around, as it can threaten Teferi one turn earlier.
In all honesty, I'm very scared of this card and believe it has the potential of allowing Turbo Fog to take a stranglehold over best-of-one Magic.
That pretty much catches us up to today. I've now purchased a new streaming setup and have been working diligently on absorbing as much information as I possibly can about the new world Magic's entering. Sure, I could have stopped to talk about Absorb too, but do we really need to? It's a counterspell that gains you life. It's good and will get played. "It counters both sides of Risk Factor." There, happy?
Anyway, I'm fully engaged with Magic again. I'm excited about the future like I've never been before, and I'm passionate to up my content game like never before. The future's bright in Magic once again. The greatest game ever made has a brand-new look, and I'm excited to see where this all goes. I'm along for the ride and ready to go! I hated the way I was thinking back in 2018, and at the time I didn't really understand why I felt that way.
I do now, though.
I was knowingly off the grind but didn't know what to do with myself. I wanted a change but didn't have a great avenue for it. I wanted to stream, for example, but hated doing so on Magic Online. I wanted to start a podcast but didn't have the passionate foundation needed to make great content. Instead of trying something new like this, I just clung onto the way of life that I'd grown tired of. I still loved building decks and sharing them in my content, but I didn't enjoy needing to travel 25+ weeks out of the year to keep my platform. Once home, I was too tired to try new things or too stressed about upcoming events to worry myself with other ventures. I'd become trapped in a prison of my own creation.
Where do I begin? Detention Sphere was one of the most powerful cards in Standard back in the day, but that was also during a time where Sphinx's Revelation existed. It's difficult to compare this card to that though as Deputy of Detention is a creature with very low power and toughness. That hasn't stopped cards like this in the past from seeing play, so I'd bet this card is going to find its way into decks. I just don't know what they will look like just yet.
It's interesting to imagine a world where Teferi, Hero of Dominaria isn't just found in control decks and could settle into an Azorius Midrange deck. I personally love Azorius Midrange strategies, but they're rarely good enough. They also don't have keywords like addendum to help with those types of strategies. If you're interested in Deputy of Detention, I suggest trying to put this card in decks with Teferi as the top end of a very permanent-driven strategy.
That time in my life is over now though. WotC started the Magic Pro League which was exactly what I needed to get me rejuvenated for a brighter future in both competitive Magic and content creation. I've got big plans in place and can't wait for them to come to fruition!
Getting these new plans accomplished means being willing to grow and change though. Starting in 2019, I'll be leaving Vs Live! as my fianc and I prepare to move to Seattle in the upcoming months. I've loved my time in Roanoke, but this is as fitting of a time as any for me to venture onward. We're very excited about this decision and look forward to the opportunities that await us on the West Coast. I'll still be writing weekly for Star City Games® and will potentially be doing other projects with them in the future once we're settled.
My goal this year is to up the ante in everything I do. Even harder-hitting strategic articles for StarCityGames.com®, as entertaining of a stream as I can make, and a few other ventures I'd rather not spoil just yet. If you'd like to follow me on my journey, be sure to do so on these platforms.
- Twitch: FFreakMTG
- Twitter: FFfreakMTG
- Instagram: FFfreakMTG
- YouTube: FFfreakMTG
- Phone Number: 1-FFF-REA-KMTG (I kid, I kid)
They might not all seem active just yet, but they will be in the very near future as I slowly work my way into this new esports world. Don't worry, though; this article series will continue to be the heart of my content. My goal is to make sure you're as prepared as possible for all your upcoming events, and the best way to do that is right here on this website. If best-of-one Magic on Arena takes off, I'll be sure to do my best to educate you on the best decks to climb the ladder. If tournament Magic stays best-of-three, I'll be here with the best sideboard plans in the business. In short, wherever Magic goes, I'll be there with the best knowledge I can bestow.
2019 is going to be the year of the Bard!