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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: The Modern Metagame

More than any other year in the last several years, the Modern format was put under an especially harsh scrutiny, owing to the January Banned & Restricted Announcement from Wizards of the Coast. Coming out just before Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch, this announcement decreed that two key format staples Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom were banned. Such is the price to pay for having a Modern PT. Unfortunately, during the PT, Eldrazi decks of various builds dominated the tournament, and in the months following, they were everywhere. It was a display of performance almost unmatched in the format’s history, necessitating a ban of the archetype staple Eye of Ugin in the next B&R update, as well as the announcement that Modern would no longer be a PT format.

Now, we are about five months from that day, and the modern meta has shifted considerably since then. There was the brief rise of Abzan CoCo as a powerful deck, but that phase too has passed. Now, the utter dominance of a single deck has given rise to a more diffuse dominance, where no one or two or even three decks are clearly at the top. Various new strategies have come up, challenging the top tier decks for their crown. And this diversity was highlighted this previous weekend in the Grand Prix tournaments held in Guangzho (China), Lille (France) and Indianapolis (USA). Here’s how the meta broke down.

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Adventures In Magic the Gathering: Abzan Aggro In BFZ

On October 2nd, Battle For Zendikar will be released in the wild, and we will all then be experimenting with the new Standard Format, trying to come up with the best new brew to take down a tournament, whether at a competitive level or even just for casual play at local stores. One of the decks in the last year that has proven to be a major contender at both levels of play with incredibly consistent results is Abzan Aggro, which became a force with the release of Khans of Tarkir and with the help of cards such as Anafenza, the Foremost and Siege Rhino, the latter of which has truly changed the Standard format in a short time and has also made inroads into Modern.

With every new set release, the first thing people do is look at updating existing deck archetypes. With Theros, Born of the Gods, Journey Into Nyx and Magic 2015 going out of Standard in 10 days, Abzan decks are losing quite a few toys such as the Scrylands, Fleecemane Lion and Thoughtseize. It is a big change of course, and with all the new fancy things we are getting in Battle For Zendikar, here’s my take on how a new Abzan Aggro deck would look like for the first few wees, until someone breaks out a radical list at the upcoming Pro Tour or a Star City Games Open or a Grand Prix.

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Adventures in Magic the Gathering: MEFCC PPTQ Milwaukee

A few days ago I did my write-up of the 4th Middle East Film and Comic Con in which I talked about my experience playing in the Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier for Milwaukee. It was a huge event with some 60-62 players, and it also was the biggest Magic the Gathering event to be held in the Middle East, which in itself is a huge achievement for the game in the region. I played the tournament with a funky deck that, while not realistically competitive, was a lot of fun to play in a lot of different ways, especially given the kind of decks I faced off against.

As part of that entire play experience, there were some cards from my deck that were pretty much MVPs. Matches where these cards stuck out on the board, I was able to win most of the time, and in many of the matches I lost, I lamented not being able to draw them (except lands of course, which doesn’t really count!). I’ve talked about my deck before and even some cards that I’ve been looking forward to playing in a competitive tournament, and this was a great opportunity to find out whether or not my excitement was justified. Which it was!

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Middle East Film and Comic Con 2015

The first Middle East Film and Comic Con happened back in 2012, three years ago, and it was a huge success for fans of all types of entertainment media. We all are so familiar with the big conventions that happen in San Diego and Boston and London and other places all throughout the year, and so, having a “local” on a somewhat similar level is a great thing to have, by far. I’ve certainly enjoyed my three years of going to the convention and while there have been some hiccups along the way, as there were this year, the MEFCC is still a great force to reckon with and should things really work out at the top level, then we can make some magic happen I think.

This year’s MEFCC was billed to be bigger than it was last year, primarily on the back of a guest list that included as superb celebrities like William Shatner, Haley Atwell, Gillian Anderson, while also bringing in some top western comics talent like Charles Soule, Andy Suriano, Matt Hawkins, Tula Lotay and Mahmud Asrar. That was pretty much the reason I wanted to go this year, in addition to the fact that I was taking part in a Magic the Gathering tournament at the event, the PPTQ Milwaukee. Here then is my kinda-sorta log of the event, such as it was.

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Adventures in Magic the Gathering Part 3

Just a few days ago I did a post in this series where I talked about some of my favourite cards to play from Dragons of Tarkir, cards that I’ve had the pleasure of playing with a fair bit and cards that I really like. Having played Magic for as little time as I have, barely five and a half very inconsistent months, I’ve nevertheless found myself getting attached to a lot of different cards and while I started out as a Sultai (BUG) player, I’ve since gravitated towards playing Abzan (WGB) and have stuck with that change as well. Sure, Dragons of Tarkir has seemingly simplified things for me by removing the black from the clan colours, but I still play full Abzan and I have a blast with it too.

This new article is something very different however. For a few weeks now I’ve been working towards building an entirely different deck, one that apparently used to be popular early last year but has since kind of fallen through the cracks with the incoming rotation of Khans of Tarkir last September. The deck is Blue/White Heroic, which counts as its staples a number of cards from the Theros block while supplementing in a few spells from Khans of Tarkir. Just this past weekend, Tom “the Boss” Ross piloted a version of this same deck to a Top 8 finish at StarCityGames Syracuse, and watching him play that deck, I got really excited because some of the amazing combos and finishers. So, that’s what this article is about, the deck named Bant Heroic.

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Adventures in Magic the Gathering Part 2

A while back I did a small recap of my small forays into the world of Magic the Gathering CCG and I mentioned how exciting and fun I found the whole experience to be, despite my complete lack of familiarity or even any kind of expertise with the game. But that certainly hasn’t stopped me at all ever since. To date, I’ve done a number of events, including two prereleases (for the Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir sets) and a Game Day, and I feel that I’m slowly starting to become a better player.

And that’s what it is all about, becoming a better player through experience. I make mistakes often, such as deciding when to play lands, or pulling off certain combos or what have you and often it comes back to bite me in the ass real bad. There are so many times when I’ve lost straight games, and even losing to the same person in four different events and all of them without a win to my name. But not so big a deal. Last time I talked about mostly my plays in competitive games. This time, I’m gonna talk about some of my favourite cards from the new set, Dragons of Tarkir, that I’ve been having a blast with.

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Adventures in Magic the Gathering Part 1

My only prior experience with card games is the old set of playing cards that used to come in the WWF and Cricket varieties. I still own dozens of cards in both… genres and I always get a great kick out of looking at them every few months when the fancy takes me. But I never played with those cards, not really. They were mostly just for collection. Plus, trading card games was never a major sport in India when I was growing up, and still isn’t, far as I can tell. Back in college, a friend once broached the idea of learning Magic the Gathering with his cards, but that never really went anywhere, though I remember that he used to own something like 500-600 cards or so in a custom-made box. Now that’s some dedication.

I bought a Boros Battalion intro pack for Gatecrash back in 2012 while attending my second Middle East Film and Comic Con in April of that year. My curiosity with the game had finally compelled me to go and buy that intro pack, but unfortunately I didn’t do anything with it. Not until October 2014 when I decided that it was time to play the game finally. I needed a new outlet for gaming since I hadn’t been able to play World of WarCraft for a number of years and my sort-of-aging laptop couldn’t play regular games for long either. And now I’m fully into Magic the Gathering. I’ve assembled what I hope is a damn good deck, and have also played in two high-level competitive events. And it gives me a really great feeling. It is like World of WarCraft all over again, except that instead of working on tweaking an MMORPG character, I’m developing a card gaming deck.

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