6 things you should be doing on Magic Online

Lately I have been reading (and listening) about managing your magic online account a lot, and these are six good practices I am starting to do right now and will continue to do to get the most of my mtgo experience. It is not just about going infinite or even making money, I think these are thing you should do to improve your overall experience with the game. These are mostly centered in limited play, as it is what I play the most.

1. Draft only 8-4s and Swiss
I went over this in a previous post, but I think it is important to make the point again: 4-3-2-2 queues are not good EV, it is a waste of your tickets. You either are good enough to play 8-4s and get more return of investment or you should still be playing swiss and improving your limited play (while still getting more value for your tickets).

2. Never use the “14 tickets” option when paying for a draft
When joining a draft, you have three options to enter: pay with three boosters and 2 tickets, pay 14 tickets or buy a draft set from the MTGO store. We all know the third option is garbage, but there are a lot of people that still use the 14 tickets option regularly, and that is also wrong. If you go to the Classifieds section, you will always find easily boosters of the current set for between 3.2 and 3.5 tickets. That means that for the three boosters you will pay, regularly, 10 or 11 tickets. That is one or two tickets that you will save from the 14 tickets option. And there are times, like Dragon’s Maze, that tickets go waaaaay cheaper. If you are like me and draft a lot, that adds up. It is a great way to save some money.

3.  During release week, play some sealed events
Is the best way to build up a collection of the current set, as you will get more rares than in two drafts (which would be the equivalent in number of booster packs), for less tickets. And that’s without taken into account prizes. If you manage to do it decently on the event, you will really see why this statement is true. This collection you are building, will either pay for more drafts later on or help you build your standard deck.

4. Rare draft
I know, I know, you are a PTQ grinder and you want to test the format and learn, so rare draft won’t help you. Well, that is only partially true. If that rare will help you pay for another draft, you will get twice the experience, while not loosing that much in terms of game play testing. What you need is set a threshold, the number of tickets worth for a card you will never pass, a threshold you are comfortable with. For M14 for example, my threshold is 5 tickets. And that means there are not many cards I won’t pass.

If you actually start to rare draft, bear in mind that the chase rares of the set will be more valuable early on, so don’t be afraid to sell them in the first weeks. This will allow you to play more and get them again.

5. Record (or stream) your drafts and share them
The best way to improve is to play against better players and learn from them, and from your mistakes. Playing against better players in MTGO is easy. But the most difficult part is to identify your mistakes. You will most times justify them or think that you lost because of mana screwed or other silly reason. That is why having external input is really key to keep improving. If you have a group of friends that you trust, go ahead and record your drafts and share them with them and ask them what they would differently. If you don’t have the luck to have that group of friends, share the videos with the world, or, why not, stream them live. There will always be people willing to help you out and give you feedback. And please, be humble an accept the feedback, don’t disagree with everything and try to think why they are telling you that play or pick was a mistake. Is the best way to learn.

6. Don’t feed the trolls
Unfortunately, MTGO is full of angry and bitter players that will insult, try to bother you with stupid banter or blame everything on luck or the shuffler. Don’t respond, don’t tilt because of them. It is their problem if they want to play the game like that, but don’t let them screw with your head and hinder your experience.

The draft queues conundrum

After a small hiatus, I’m back to writing about my Magic journey to become a better player. Since I last wrote, I’ve played several PTQs, I have qualified and played all the WMCQ, with small success (always around top 32, never breaking in to the top). Also, I am back playing MTGO. I am trying to play every other day, and this has brought a lot of questions, as there are things that are not really obvious.

One of the first dilemmas I came across as I reentered the online world had to do with drafting: which draft queue is best for me? As a regular listener of Limited Resources podcast, I understand that the 4-3-2-2s are not the best ,value wise. Almost in any instance, doesn’t matter your level or win percentage, the return value you get from either Swiss or 8-4 queues is better. [This is a good article to understand why, by Joseph Bono].

My first reaction was: “well, I am still rusty and I need to get better before playing 8-4s”. So during M13 and RTR draft seasons I almost only did Swiss queues. It seemed very smart at the moment: I needed to play more, so playing all three rounds was better to improve my playing skills, and the level is supposedly lower, so I can win more, and expect a better return value for my investment, both in money and time. And it was working. My win percentage rate was high and I was getting a more playing time, great to practice for the PTQ season.

My PTQs weren’t very good. I was out early in all of them, although I kept playing (and winning) on the losers bracket to get points for the next season, and experience. It was a little bit disappointing, as I was winning a lot on Magic online, and that should count for something, right? Yes and no. Let me explain: overall, my match record in all RTR season PTQs was good… but I was out early in all of them, because I was winning matches on the losers bracket. I wasn’t winning against the best players in the room, I was winning against the average PTQ player (just for the record, I am not undervaluing those players, some of them are much better than me, for sure). Extrapolating this to my MTGO win percentage: the best players play on the 8-4s for a reason: is not because of the EV (at least not only), is because of the challenge, and practice, that is playing against the best. So I was winning more because I was playing on the Swiss queues. There are other inherent problems on the Swiss queues, but we will address them on another time.

Life caught up with me, and while I was still testing for modern and standard seasons, I left again MTGO aside. When Dragon’s Maze was released, the lure to play a multicolor format was too much to ignore, and I decided to give it a go. Again, even though in the back of my head I knew it was not optimal, I started in the Swiss queues, with very bad results. Then I made one more realization: when I am not testing for a PTQ format, the thing that I like the most about drafting is to “solve the problem of how to draft the format”. The games are great, don’t get me wrong, but the actual solving the draft puzzle is something I really enjoy. And if one draft goes by the wayside, I want to start another draft, not play and loose three matches with it.

That’s when I realize that 8-4s where, in theory, better for me. If I loose in the first rounds, I can start immediately another draft. I may get less return value in number of packs won in theory, but in that other resource that I value a lot, my time, I am investing it better. So I jumped right into the 8-4s and started drafting. Imagine my surprise when of my first five 8-4s I won three of them, got to the final once and losing the other in the first round. In numbers: I got 28 packs in 5 drafts, that’s 5.6 packs per draft, way more than in Swiss queues with a perfect record.

Obviously, that win percentage wasn’t realistic, and since then I have played more and lost my fair share. But overall, I can say that jumping to 8-4 queues was the best thing for me, both in terms of return value in number of packs, time invested, and lessons learned. Also, when you win, is a lot more rewarding.

So, if you are like me and have doubts of what queue fits you better, don’t be afraid to jump into the 8-4 queues. You won’t regret it.

Screaming Females – If it makes you happy (Sheryl Crow)

Desde hace unos años el A.V. Club lleva a grupos de todo tipo a su estudio y les da a elegir entre una lista de canciones para hacer una versión. Screaming Females, grupo del que ya hablé hace tiempo en otro blog y al que tenía un poco perdida la pista, se salieron un poco del guión y se marcaron este cover de una canción de Sheryl Crow que no sé por qué, me encanta. Probablemente por la disparidad que existe entre Marissa Paternoster (cantante de Screaming Females) y Sheryl Crow.

 

 

¿Qué opináis?

 

Top – Emotion Lotion

Volvemos al blog estrenando sección, Tuesday Recovery, algo así como un baúl de joyas olvidadas, álbumes que han caído en el ostracismo pero son obras dignas de recuperar. Empezamos con un disco de principios de los 90, cuando un grupo de Liverpool quiso meter su cabeza en todo aquel movimiento llamado Madchester que estaba agitando el país.

Top,- que así se llamaba este grupo, totalmente ajeno a que unos años más tarde pasaría a engrosar la lista de grupos imposibles de buscar en google – era un trío del que poco se sabe, salvo que estaba compuesto por Alan Wills, Joe Fearon and Paul Cavanagh y que surgió de la misma escena que The La’s o The Real People. Sacaron varios singles y un disco, Emotion Lotion, e incluso llegaron a grabar una Peel Session, lo que les certificaba como grupo a seguir sin duda. Pero apenas dos años más tarde, desaparecieron sin dejar rastro.

Bueno, rastro dejaron, porque Emotion Lotion es un disco lleno de letras inteligentes y un batiburrillo de ritmos que iban desde lo más “baggy” y rave del sonido Madchester a perfectas melodías de “dream pop”. Un disco que tiene un poco de todo lo bueno de esos años. Una delicia que merece ser rescatada. Os dejo con algunas de sus canciones:


Top – Number one dominator

 


Top – Life’s only dreaming 

 

MP3 – Top – Buzzing


Curiosamente, el disco se puede encontrar íntegro en Spotify. No os lo perdáis.

 

 

My very own Fearless Magical Inventory

A Fearless Magical Inventory is a list of all those things you secretly know you are doing wrong in Magic but sometimes you fail to admit. The purpose of this kind of list is to identify the areas of your game that you can improve, and start working on them.

The concept was first introduced by Sam Stoddard in an article in Starcitygames years ago. I learned about it recently, while I was reading Patrick Chapin’s Next Level Magic and thought it would be a great idea to do it myself. If you know your weaknesses, it is easier to overcome them.

So here is my list:

  • I don’t play enough. I need to dedicate more time to Magic.
  • I don’t really know the rules. Yes, I’ve been playing for a long time and I know the basics. But when on an intricated situation, I usually cannot really explain why the rules work the way they work. I often find myself with in game silly doubts that hinder my game decisions. Which leads me to my second point:
  • I don’t call judges enough. I don’t know if it is fear of asking silly questions or fear that my opponent sees it as a weakness or even giving him a signal that I think he has done something shady, but I should resolve any doubts during the game and not after, when I can’t do anything about it anymore.
  • I choke under high pressure situations. I make plays that are far riskier in order to end the situation as soon as possible.
  • I misregister the deck I am playing in sealed tournaments way too often.
  • If the board situation is complicated and the game is stale, I avoid trying to look into in board advantages and I wait until I draw into something that gives me an overwhelming advantage. This gives my opponent too much time to draw something too.
  • I keep hands that are risky with the sole argument that I won the first game and “I can afford to lose one”.
  • I do not playtest enough, or at all, with sideboard, and do not generally know how to sideboard correctly in specific matchups.
  • I put my opponent on a specific trick for most of the game, then I tell myself “If he has it, he has it” when I get tired of playing around it.
  • When winning in a game, I get over confident and allow myself to play in to my opponent’s.
  • If my Plan A for a given game fails, I don’t try hard enough to come up with a different plan to try to win.
  • I assume everybody is honest and I don’t pay enough atention to my oponent. If he wants to cheat, I probably wouldn’t notice.
  • I assume I know what every card does instead of actually reading the card, which leads to really shameful mistakes.
  • I tap my mana wrong far too often, I feel silly about it, and try to justify it with absurd excuses to myself.
  • I have low confidence when playing people I don’t know, or people that I believe are better than me.
  • I have card/color biases that result in me drafting worst decks and ignoring other good decks that are available at the table but I don’t like.
  • I overvalue my first few picks of a draft, even when the signals are clear that the color is not open I will not switch, because I’d “lose” my first picks.
  • I avoid playing “the best deck” because I like underplayed neat decks instead, even when I know they are not very good.
  • I go to tournaments without enough preparation, testing and/or sleep.
  • I play very slowly, leading to more unintentional draws than I should have, even in games that I am in the position to win.
  • I tilt when I get “the worst matchup” several rounds in a row instead of concentrating on how to win the next game.

 

I am pretty sure that now that I am going to play more I will be adding more things to this list, and maybe crossing some. I’ll keep you posted.

First Steps: Magic Online

One of the first things I wanted to do is reopen my old MTGO account. For someone with very little time to go to tournaments or play at a friends house without having to plan ahead, MTGO can be the only way to play regularly. Somehow, I have been ignoring this possibility lately, and my plan includes changing that trend.

I have had the account since forever and I have used it on and off. Mostly off, lately. So of course, after spending quite some time installing the client, it had to do a lot of updating. One hour later, at last I could click the launch button, just in time to discover I didn’t remember the password. Well, no problem, I can use the “Remember my password” option, right? No, it couldn’t be so easy: there was some kind of mantainance happening and I had to wait. Another hour passed but now I had my account active again, time to sell some cards and play some Magic.

Not quite. I was trying to sell some cards when the client crashed and I had to restart. And all of a sudden I remembered why I didn’t play more MODO, I don’t have the patience. Or at least I hadn’t, but now I am convinced I need this tool and I will make it happen. Whatever it takes.

The first thing I did once I jumped back in was to set all my collection as tradable, except for Ravnica dual lands, M10 dual lands and Zendikar fetch lands. Then I went directly to trustable buying bots (those of online stores like MTGOTraders or MTGOAcademy and started selling cards. I could have easily get better prices with other bots or selling the cards myself, but I need to invest time and as I said multiple times already, Time is a scarce resource for me. So I gladly took the 100 tickets I got from the bots and prepare myself… To close the client and go to bed. It was too late for me and I had to work in the morning, so my first draft would have to wait. This gives me time to prepare a little bit, gather the LRCast excel sheet and learning how and which stops I have go set up.

But be sure I’ll come back to you, MTGO.

Da Plan!

I have been a Magic player for more than half my life (and I am 34 the day a post this). I’ve never been to a Pro Tour, but I have made day two of a GP (a long time ago). I loooooove competitive Magic: the rush, the mental challenge, the friends… but I’ve never been good enough or dedicated enough to have real success. For some time now reading daily about the game, looking at coverage of tournaments and playing once a month with my friends was enough for me. But something made “click” in me a couple of weeks ago. I’m not sure which the trigger was, but I decided that I wanted to dedicate more time to one of the things I love the most. For some reason, now watching coverage is not going to cut it. I want more.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t aspire to become a pro or qualify for the Pro Tour (at least not yet), is not a realistic goal right now. My plan consist in three steps:

1) Dedicate more time to Magic. Play more, write more about it and be a more active part of the community. Time is a scarce resource for me: I have a very time consuming work and some family issues that take most of time. But I do also just sit in the sofa watching TV series more than I should, so the idea is to organize my time better to dedicate some more to this game.
2) Get better at playing Magic. I have played in two Nationals, day two of GPs, won prereleases and be around PTQ Top 8s in the past. I am nowhere near that play level right now, and I want to get that back. And improve even more. I have Patrick Chapin’s Next Level Magic book, MTGO tickets and a lot of will to do it. So lets see how far I can get.
3) Go to more tournaments. I have been going to at least one GP a year for the last three, so now that I am more committed I want to up that number a little bit. Bear in mind that there is only one GP in my country a year, so this is a big commitment. I’ve already decided to go to GP Bilbao and GP London next season. Also, the plan includes being a more active part of the community both locally and through the “interwebs”. Having a local network is great to improve and that is not easy done from the sofa. So I will go to at least two FNMs a month and all the PTQs I can.

So that’s Da Plan! And this is the platform where I will talk about it.
Welcome to my journey.

HOTT MT with Wayne Coyne – Never Hate Again

Imagina que el día de tu cumpleaños se presentan tres desconocidos en tu casa para llevarte un regalo. ¿Tú qué harías? Yo no lo tengo muy claro, pero aparentemente Wayne Coyne sí. Él les invita a quedarse cuatro días en su casa y graba con ellos una canción y un estupendo vídeo:

 

 

Los “desconocidos” son un grupo californiano llamado HOTT MT (siglas de Hour of the Time, Majesty Twelve), que tienen varias canciones interesantes en su bandcamp y que gracias a ser fans de Flaming Lips y el señor Coyne, se han hecho una campaña de marketing fantástica *cough*.

 

 

Kishi Bashi – Bright Whites

Si no os suena el nombre de Kishi Bashi, quizá os suene un poco más si os digo que es el “gurú” de las cuerdas y productor/miembro a tiempo parcial del grupo Of Montreal. Con la ayuda de Kickstarter y muchos fans, consiguió reunir el dinero suficiente para grabar su disco (sí, debe ser que no gana mucho con Of Montreal), llamado 151a, que saldrá a la venta el 10 de abril de la mano de Joyful Noise. Sirva este Bright Whites como adelanto:

 

 

El comienzo suena tremendamente Of Montreal, aunque consigue controlar la locura y poco a poco se convierte en una delicia pop de juegos vocales y melodía perfecta.

 

Como el Mundodisco, pero mío