Let me get started by saying my name is Ben Watkins and I live in Columbia SC. That’s right; I live in a state most people forget exists and a city that Wizards has all but forgotten about. I absolutely love magic and everything it has to offer, (i.e. friends, foils, and something to do when not doing Engineering homework). I drive many miles every Friday night and many more on Saturday and Sunday for casual tournaments and take as much as I can from each tournament in hopes of becoming that much better. I have been playing casual magic since Invasion block but did not enter the tournament scene until about odyssey and took a break in Mirrodin until Ravnica. Since then I have focused solely on tournament magic and in only two years have gone from virtually nobody to a tournament staple and respected player in South Carolina (it isn’t saying much, but magic is a game of inches and I’ll take what I can get). Enough about me though how do we get better at magic!
A Modern Philosophy at Getting Better:
Like I said before, magic is a game of inches. When I encourage younger players and less experienced players to get better, this is what I tell them. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy and will reference it quite often in my blogs. Weather you are a control player, beat-down, or combo player, your games are won or lost one inch at a time and your play ability and deck building skills advance probably less than an inch at a time. You want to get better? You have to start somewhere, and what better place than block!
This is the best time of season for a new player to start, or for someone who’s been out for a while to get back in. You can build tournament worthy decks one card at a time with the latest block and come rotation you already have most of the tournament staples for the new metagame as well as a place to start deck building. So in order to get better at this game Lorwyn Shadowmoor block is what we need to know inside and out.
I want to start my analysis of block with first identifying the key points in finding cards that we essentially want to “break” the format. We all know that Cryptic Command is amazing in every aspect of the card. But how do we know if other cards are good at first glance? First off we need to know which parts of the game we want to attack: board position, card advantage, consistency. Cards that can do all three of these things are what I like to call “gravy” cards. We will use Cryptic Command as an example (it’s one of my favorite cards of all time so I will reference it a lot). Cryptic Command helps with board position obviously with three of its modes: bouncing a permanent, tapping all opposing creatures, or countering a spell. It offers a more subtle card advantage application by drawing a card with any of the other modes or the less obvious one of bouncing your own permanent to save it from lethal damage or get another mile or two from a 187 ability (cough mulldrifter cough). Wizards knew this card was powerful and it certainly wasn’t a card to merely slip through the cracks. They added triple blue in the casting cost to try and make the card less consistent. You cannot merely splash blue and play Cryptic you have to be “heavy” blue in order to cast it at a reasonable four mana. So you have a card with a powerful board effect, that offers card advantage, and you can cast reasonably consistently, GRAVY! Now we know what kinds of cards we are looking for to make our decks better. So what kind of decks can we expect to be improving?
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