From the Desk of LSV

Ever since Paulo accused me of not being a writer (funnily enough, right after a week of set reviews, plus my normal article for DailyMTG), I decided it had actually been a while since I just wrote a non-themed article. Every now and then, it’s fun to just write about whatever I feel like, and today that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

On the Jace Scale

Here’s the latest scale I used for Constructed Reviews:

5.0: Multi-format all-star. (Jace, the Mind Sculptor. Tarmogoyf. Snapcaster Mage.)
4.0: Format staple. (Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Siege Rhino. Remand.)
3.5: Good in multiple archetypes and formats, but not a staple. (Jace Beleren. Seeker of the Way. Hordeling Outburst.)
3.0: Archetype staple. (Jace, Architect of Thought. Deathmist Raptor. Dromoka’s Command.)
2.5: Role-player in some decks, but not quite a staple. (Jace, Memory Adept. Tragic Arrogance. Dragon Fodder.)
2.0: Niche card. Sideboard or currently unknown archetype. (Jace, the Living Guildpact. Naturalize. Duress.) Bear in mind that many cards fall into this category, although an explanation is obviously important.
1.0: It has seen play once. (One with Nothing). (I believe it was tech vs. Owling Mine, although fairly suspicious tech at that.)

Once I realized there was a legitimate argument for a Jace at each rating (though I’ll be honest, Living Guildpact did end up falling short of even a 2), I couldn’t help but run with it. However, after playing with Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy in every Constructed format now, I’m afraid the Jace scale is no longer accurate. Baby Jace is just a 5.0, given how he is the best card in Standard, good in Modern (though there are a lot of Lightning Bolts there), good in Legacy, and absurd in Vintage, the most powerful of formats. The reason he gets such a bump in Vintage is that there is less creature removal and more broken spells, making Jace quite the card. If you’ve never cast Time Walk with Jace in play, I highly recommend it.

I even had a conversation recently where I was advocating trying Jace over Snapcaster in a Legacy deck, and made the point that “Jace is more powerful than Snapcaster.” That’s an absurd thing to say, given how powerful Snapcaster is, but I don’t think it’s necessarily inaccurate—when Jace lives, he is more powerful.

Anyway, my point is just that Jace is great, and I expect to see his role expand in older formats as well as new. I’m just disappointed that I can’t use the Jace scale for Constructed reviews anymore.

On Battle for Zendikar Draft

I’ve enjoyed drafting this format a lot. It’s great getting back to a synergy-based format where you need to proactively draft a plan, and your cards are way more than the sum of their parts. I know that many people have been frustrated by the format, especially coming off a bunch of “normal” formats in a row (Origins, Fate, Dragons), but the range of Magic experiences is what keeps the game fresh. I do wish the mana-fixing were better, as it feels too sparse for what the set promises, and strategies like converge or multicolor Allies suffer as a result. Still, it feels good to play a complicated and deep Limited format, and I like how the games play.

Speaking of Battle for Zendikar Draft, I’m re-reviewing the cards that have significant ratings change from where they started. Look for that next week.

On Expeditions

I still haven’t opened one, and it’s BS. That is all.

On Jeskai

Jeskai is the real deal. I wasn’t going to go to GP Indy this weekend, but after playing Jeskai on MTGO, and seeing the GP Quebec results, I booked a ticket. I’m going to play Jeskai, and am looking forward to battling mirrors. If you haven’t practiced a lot against Jeskai, you are going to be in for a rough Standard season (though I suppose you will get that practice, one way or another).

Things to keep in mind when playing Jeskai:

Lands

Frank Karsten wrote a great article about sequencing your lands, and it’s incredibly important to know how to do so when playing this deck, or really, any deck in this format. For Jeskai specifically, it’s pretty easy to lead with Mystic Monastery, but past that things get complicated. Some common tips:

  • Don’t get Island too early, because of Crackling Doom, and don’t get Swamp too early, because of Mantis Rider. These are the two spells that are the least forgiving when it comes to your mana base, so be aware of them when fetching.
  • You want one of each color, then double-blue first, and it’s the only color you strictly need two of. Past that, prioritize double-red, with double-black and white being fairly equal, depending on what you’ve drawn. This can change in sideboarded games.
  • Be aware of which lands each fetchland can get. It’s very possible to run out of targets in a long game, and knowing that Sunken Hollow is more fetchable than Smoldering Marsh means you should get Marsh first, to lessen the chance that your Flooded Strands miss in the late game.

The Prodigal Son

  • You don’t always want to flip Jace as soon as possible. Use fetchlands and removal spells strategically to make sure you are flipping Jace when it’s best. You can also set things up so you can block and flip Jace during the opponent’s turn, which is sometimes better than flipping main phase and using him.
  • When delving, consider Jace and Ojutai’s Command/Kolaghan’s Command, as those are the cards that care about graveyard contents. There’s no default card type to keep, though having at least one good creature and one good spell is often ideal.

Just Attack with Everything

The Pantheon version of Jeskai does play control better than previous versions, but it’s still a deck that plays really well when it’s even slightly ahead. Cards like Mantis Rider and Ojutai’s Command are great when you have the initiative. One of the easiest ways to win with this deck is to untap with a threat in play and a Command/Dig Through Time/Crackling Doom in hand, so formulate your game plan accordingly.

I don’t know exactly what my list is going to look like yet, but I will be riding a Mantis to victory, or at least that’s my hope.

On Testing for Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar

Our testing team for the last Pro Tour was the smallest it has been in years, with the team consisting of just Josh Utter-Leyton, Paul Cheon, David Ochoa, Eric Froehlich, Matt Nass, and myself. Brandon Nelson and Michael Jacob helped out too, which was greatly appreciated, though neither of them were playing in the Pro Tour.

It was strange going back to such a small team, and despite it being very convenient (the impetus for the team was to just test with people who wanted to come to Denver), I missed having a larger group, and I missed the friends I was used to testing with. We are likely to go back to a bigger group for the next one.

Things I learned during testing:

Josh and Matt Nass are in a soccer league that plays games at 11 p.m. One Tuesday, we went to my house after work to test, and at around 10:30, they said they had to go. I assumed they were calling it a night, but no, they had a soccer game. What the hell? Who plays soccer games at 11 at night on a random Tuesday? I guess the answer is “Matt Nass and Josh Utter-Leyton,” plus whomever set up the league, but still, that’s just bizarre.

Matt Nass loves combos, despite not truly believing in them. He was locked in day one when he built a Rally the Ancestors decks, and sure enough, that’s what he played at the Pro Tour. Even though I wish I played it too, it is funny that we just knew he was locked in to play the nonsense combo deck no matter what.

Paul Cheon records something called a “Chlog.” I’m not sure what that is, but the name makes me very uncomfortable, and sounds vaguely disgusting. Either way, he was always filming random things, and it was strange.

Josh loves Magmatic Insight. He’s been trying to get us to play Insight-Treasure Cruise decks ever since Dragons of Tarkir, and he finally succeeded. He was just waiting until the group got small enough that he could convince us, and we registered 16 Magmatic Insights between the six of us at the Pro Tour.

David Ochoa is picky when it comes to food. The first night everyone was there, I asked him where we should go, since I knew he would care more than anyone else. He said “dealer’s choice,” and told me I could pick. He then vetoed that pick, and we ended up at a local brewery. He then ordered a beer, and didn’t order food. Well played.

I started keeping track of my first set of matches on the back of a sleeve, and somehow did that all throughout testing. Here’s a picture of basically every game I played:

lsv sleeve

I don’t like tabulating matchups and using them to calculate percentages, because we don’t play enough games for that to really give a good idea (plus, deck lists change frequently enough to make numbers from the same matchup something you shouldn’t always combine). I do like keeping track of how many games we play in a set, and you can see some sets where I said “screw this” halfway through. The idea is to get a sense of how each matchup plays, and what cards are good, and when doing something like testing a lopsided matchup, it didn’t take long before we realized how bad it was for one side.

I mostly just think it’s interesting that I can look at all the matches I played, since I love analytics and data, and it’s cool seeing the average session length, my overall win percentage (I was on the top of each sleeve), and what decks I played the most.

I didn’t open an Expedition during any of our practice drafts. I know I already mentioned this, but it’s completely unrealistic, so I wanted to mention it again.

On the Pro Tour

On the way to the Pro Tour, I hit a ton of traffic, and got to the airport very late. I checked in my bag despite being told it might not make it and had to run to catch my flight. When putting my laptop back in my backpack after security, I sliced my finger open, and started to bleed profusely. I ended up running through the airport, backpack in one hand, laptop in the other, and grievously wounded. My baggage then didn’t make it, and I had to buy clothes for Efro’s Hall of Fame ceremony that night. Unfortunately, that set the tone for the trip, as things didn’t really get better from there.

The high point was definitely the Hall of Fame induction. Watching Shota, Willy, and EFro get inducted was awesome, and EFro’s proposal was an incredible thing to see. Congrats go out to all of them, as well as EFro’s now fiancee, Athena.

The dinner discussion was less enlightening, as I got to listen to Marshall argue with Florida (BenS and Zach Efland) about the morality of buying a laptop from Walmart with the intention of returning it after two weeks. My opinion very quickly went from “eh, it’s kind of scummy” to “holy crap I don’t want to talk about this anymore.”

In the Pro Tour itself, I got Exert Influences 2nd- and 7th-pick in pack 1. I know it’s been a while since we’ve seen Mind Control in Limited, but come on. Also worth noting: I did not open an Expedition during the Pro Tour draft.

In round 1, I played against Matt Nass, one of the five other people on my team, whom I was actually passing to as well. Unfortunate, but whatever.

Matt Nass sat down, and while shuffling, noticed his deck had a random non-CFB sleeve. Strange. He resleeved it in a CFB sleeve, and continued shuffling. Jacob Wilson then came over, and said “Matt, you have one of my cards.” They looked through Matt’s deck, Jacob pointed at a card, and Matt said “No, that’s mine.” After a brief argument, Jacob took the card, and asked why Matt sleeved his card. There was no satisfactory answer to be had.

After a long game 1, which Matt won, we started game 2. On turn 4, I drew a 4-drop, and was momentarily happy. I was then annoyed at myself, because this particular 4-drop was not a card from my deck. It was a Courier Griffin I had stolen from Matt Nass in game 1 and, because we had the same sleeves, shuffled into my deck. We called a judge, and both got game losses, which thanks to a new policy, offset each other. I like that change, because instead of ending the match, we got to essentially restart game 2.

Matt Nass also won “game 2,” and as he was leaving the table, I stopped him. He was about to leave without a Tajuru Stalwart I stole during game 3.

To recap: Matt Nass had an illegal deck when he sat down at the table, thanks to Jacob’s card. He presented an illegal deck in game 2. When he went to leave the table, he also had an illegal deck. An impressive run, even for Matt Nass (though to be fair, I was to blame for part of this buffoonery).

Thanks to the combination of Brilliant Spectrum, Desolation Twin, Emeria Shepherd, and Nissa’s Renewal, I got to live some dreams.

The dreams ended abruptly when we started the Constructed portion. I played the Mentor Jeskai deck, along with Josh, Web, and EFro. I got handily crushed in Constructed, and did not make Day 2. Frown.

On Sunday night, a large group of us did some Escape the Room scenarios. We had a team of 5 and a team of 6, and after doing one room each, we switched rooms. It was a ton of fun, and I’d highly recommend trying it out if you like puzzles and problem solving.

Notably, when one of the employees was telling us the rules, she said that we couldn’t use any outside tools. “No phones, no calculators, *points to Paul Cheon directly* no abacus.”

Our team failed to escape the first room but finished the second, with the other team getting trapped in both. Being gracious winners, we did not rub it in at all.

On Good Games

On second thought, let’s not.

On Upcoming GPs

I’ve been feeling much more into Magic these days, despite getting crushed at the PT. I’m going to Indy, Seattle, and Atlanta, and may even make it to Pittsburgh too. I reserve the right to change my mind after going 0-9, but for now I’m excited to play a lot of Magic. Every format is just really fun right now, and I have decks I like in all of them.

On My Desk

lsv desk

That’s all I’ve got for today, and possibly until the next time Paulo claims I don’t write anymore.

LSV

Bringing back another tradition, here’s a sample hand from my draft deck:

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