01
Jun 15

A year of Magic

After starting playing Magic at the start of 2013, the last year has seen me improve a lot and play a lot more. I’ve tried to not let it overtake all my other nerdery (board games, computer games etc), but it does tend to dominate.

2014 saw me go to a number of events and for the next yearly period (Jun 02 2014-May 31 2015) I set myself some goals. Time to see how well I did.

Seasonal Score: 400

400 points per season was the marker to get 1 bye at a Grand Prix so I wanted to hit this each season. Wizards then decided to change the bye policy. So don’t know if I hit that or not. I’ll assume I did as my score for the year is more than 4 times that.

Yearly Score: 1300

After the bye scoring was changed I decided I would instead target 1300 points for the year to make sure I then got 1 bye all the next year. I actually hit 2250 so that reached the next target of 2 byes. So for the 2015/2016 season I will have 2 byes at every Grand Prix I attend.

Scottish Season 2014-2015 showing some local players too

Scottish Season 2014-2015 showing some local players too

Scotland Lifetime: Top 100

I ended up being 75th which was pretty cool. Seeing someone you know a few points ahead of you in the lifetime or yearly standings was a good motivation to keep going to events. I know for lots of people they never even look at these stats but I found it a good marker to keep track of progress.

Scottish Lifetime Rankings

Scottish Lifetime Rankings

Grand Prix: attend at least two

I ended up attending Utrecht and Liverpool. I did awful at them but that’s not the point :D. They were two different formats: Standard and Sealed.

Pro Tour Qualifier: Positive Record

4-3-0, 1-2-0, 4-3-0
Were an improvement on the previous years 4-4-0 and 2-4-0. I dropped in the second one as the World Cup Trials were happening for the World Cup Qualifier the next day – getting a bye in that seemed more important when my score meant I couldn’t top 8.

World Cup Qualifier: Attend all three

After attending only Dundee ones I wanted to travel to all three.
3-4-0, 3-4-0 and 3-4-1 would have probably been good for me at the start of the year.

When Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers were announced I decided I would try to:

Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifiers: Make 1 top 8 per season

I achieved this by losing a final with Red (splash white) Standard in Season 1 and losing a semi final with Goblins Modern in Season 2.

Leave Dundee for some events

The previous year I had only attended events in Dundee, and in Manchester whilst visiting for work. Over the last year I have attended 2 Grand Prixs as well as competitive events in Glasgow (Spellbound and Geek Retreat), Black Lion Edinburgh, Common Ground Stirling and Little Shop of Heroes Dunfermline.

Other changes over the year

I think the biggest downside of the year was the closure of Major Arcana. It left Highlander Games being the sole games shop in Dundee. The ownership of Highlander also changed.

Goals for next Year:

I swithered over whether to publish my goals for next year but sod it. I have set a pile of goals which try to improve on last year without needing me to dedicate the time that would make Wizard Poker take over even more of my spare time.

Grand Prix: attend at least 2, have positive record

London is one, any other UK ones (don’t think there are any) and then at least one in mainland Europe is the plan.

World Magic Cup Qualifier: attend all three, positive record in all, top 8 in one

This time last year I was barely using a proper deck, over the last year I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the meta game and trying to have a standard deck based around it. Instead of trading random bulk rares for more I’ve been trading into staples – for example getting a playset of all the fetchlands early on. Having hit top 8 at some competitive events but with a poor record (2/9?) I would hope to hit 1 out of 3 for these. This is a stretch goal and I doubt I’ll hit it.

Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier: top 8 at least once per season, win once

Having hit one top 8 per season I think I should try to sustain that, qualifying for one Regional Pro Tour Qualifier being a supplemental goal.

Regular constructed: win at least once per month

Over the last year I have improved a lot at constructed and now almost always have a positive record at the end of the night. I want to make sure this continues by winning at least one event per month.

Yearly overall: Hit 2250 points again

At the start of the last year I aimed to hit about 2/3rds of this. Hitting the same total again this year reduces need to go to Grand Prix Trials for the next year and helps give an incentive to go to more Grand Prixs.

Scotland Lifetime: Top 50

This year I hit 75, so lets see if I can hit number 50 this year. Over the last year I leapfrogged a few people I know don’t play very much any more so if the 25 players above me still play regularly this could be not possible. Right now I am at 3603 points. So if I meet the previous goal that would put me at 5853 points which would as of right now mean 38th so it seems a good midpoint to account for that.

Visit other Scottish games shops: Competitive Events at each store once

I haven’t attended competitive events at Bus Stop Largs, due to the pain in the arse travelling there from Dundee. At least two other shops in Scotland are trying to qualify to be able to host competitive events. So right now it’s Go to a PPTQ at Largs but that may change over the course of the year.

Goal Setting

Goals concept on blackboard

Goals concept on blackboard

So having made all these it should be obvious that they all feed into each other creating a feedback loop. If I don’t attend many events I won’t get the points total. Without the points total I won’t climb the Scottish Lifetime rankings. Doing less events means hitting targets for wins/top 8s becomes more difficult. I’ve tried to create a list of goals which all refer to each other. If I start slipping in one it leads to failing the others so creates motivation (for me) to keep on playing in the way I am and to improve. I also tried to make them all stretches but achievable if I just do a bit better than I did last year.

How do you set goals for competitive gaming? Do you aim for the same as last year? Do you just note landmarks along the way of improvement?

Lifetime Stats

Now after writing about the last year here’s my lifetime stats (via Xamleeg) so can you see on the scale of new player to great player I’m currently at middle of road player.

Overall record: 485 wins, 517 losses, 18 draws
Win percentage ignoring draws: 48%

So I’m still under 50% and playing catch up from when I first started.

Formats

I’ll take out the formats I’ve played 10 or less matches at.

Regular Constructed:

Standard: Overall record: 210-251-10, Wins: 46%

Still below positive although recently I have been having a positive record most nights so hopefully next year I’ll get above 50%.

Modern: Overall record: 85-82-1, Wins: 51%

So I have sneaked ahead into positive in Modern. Goblins OP

Block Constructed: Overall record: 12-20-1, Wins: 38%

Reflects how bad my deck was during Theros block. Looks unlikely to change as that format is kinda binned.

Limited Formats

Booster Draft: Overall record: 80-94-3, Wins: 46%

Still below positive in drafts.

Sealed: Overall record: 59-51-2, Wins: 54%

Above positive in Sealed. The format has always been my favourite limited format.

Trios – Limited: Overall record: 11-8-1, Wins: 58%

Positive here, although I seem to remember it mostly being down to my teammates in these matches.

Tournament type

Competitive events and their feeders

Magic Pro Tour Qualifier: Overall record: 15-16-0, Wins: 49%

This type of tournament has now been retired so looks like I will forever be negative here.

Magic Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier: Overall record: 39-27-3, Wins: 59%

Dragged up by two top 8 finishes.

World Magic Cup Qualifier Trials: Overall record: 4-3-0, Wins: 58%

Positive here although I can’t seem to remember doing well at them.

World Magic Cup Qualifier: Overall record: 11-15-1, Wins: 42%

Seems my bad first two tries in Dundee dragged me down a bit. Last year I went to all three which will have improved score somewhat.

Magic Grand Prix: Overall record: 9-13-0, Wins: 41%

Seems about right, I’ve sucked at every one I’ve attended.

Magic Grand Prix Trial: Overall record: 37-45-4, Wins: 45%

I’ve won one and lost a couple of finals so expected this to be higher, oh well.

Public Event at Grand Prix: Overall record: 15-11-0, Wins: 58%

Annoyingly a pile of public events at Grand Prixs went down as casual, like Chaos Drafts, so I never got the points boost from them.

Magic Prerelease: Overall record: 55-44-2, Wins: 56%

These tend to be sealed so that may help explain my positive record there.

Magic Game Day: Overall record: 15-21-1, Wins: 42%

The last year I have barely made any of these which hasn’t helped boost record up.

Friday Night Magic: Overall record: 51-37-2, Wins: 58%

A positive record here which is good.

Magic Tournament: Overall record: 215-275-5, Wins: 44%

The generic bucket for sanctioned events, not positive here yet.


02
Feb 15

Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier – Stirling

Wizards in their infinite wisdom decided to change the Pro Tour Qualifier system, now instead of winning a tournament there were a few of a year in Scotland to get to the Pro tour you need to:
Win a tournament there are about 10 per quarter of then
Top 4/8 (size dependent) a tournament that this competition feeds into.

At the first Scottish one ever, in Glasgow, I threw away the chance to Top 8 and it was won by Ferg.
There then followed events in Edinburgh, Glasgow (different shop), Largs and Dundee.

On 31st of January it was the turn of Stirling to host.

I joined the road trip crew of 5 from Dundee and 2 from Aberdeen to make it through. We were stuck in traffic for a bit due to Aberdeen fans making their way through to Hampden to get pumped by Dundee United due to having to cross the city to pick up cards.

We arrived at Stirling and for most of us it was our first visit to Common Ground Games. We were pretty blown away, a large retail space, with kitchen area making teas/toasties etc, massive gaming area with huge wargaming tables plus tables for about 50-60 players.

After the latest set release I knew my Super Aggro Red was in a bad place so I switched to big red devotion. I looked at a few lists online, and annoyingly can’t remember where the one I closely copied from originated from. Apologies and thanks to the mystery brewer.

Round 1 vs Steven Youngson (Green Blue)

I sat down at probably the lowest table to play my first round opponent. This was his first ever competitive tournament and hadn’t been playing for too long. This meant I could be facing someone who net-decked or brewed so couldn’t really play around a known deck strategy.

Game 1 he plays a couple of morphed Sagu Maulers and I burn them whilst beating down with flyers and Goblin Rabblemaster tokens.

Game 2 I bring he goes on the play and I get down to about 14 but his 2/2 and 1/1 creatures can’t race mine and I think I played and Eidolon of the Great Revel early causing most of that.

His deck seemed ok but he had jammed in a Planeswalker cos he had it etc, definitely a home brew.

Round 2 vs Phil Dalbeck (Blue White Heroic) 1-0 (2-0)

I was worried about this match up as Crater’s Claws can’t remove lots of his threats and he can give protection to those I can whilst I only had sorcery speed removal.

I win game 1 with some Goblin tokens, flyers and a Purphoros, God of the Forge.

Game 2 I lose with my opponent on 25 life, I think I was flooding out and he put an Aqueous Form on a dude making him unblockable.

Game 3 got to a point where I was at 3 life, dreading one of his two creatures becoming unblockable.

The turning point was him being on 8. I have a Stormbreath Dragon and a morphed Ashcloud Phoenix with 6 mana open. He has two creatures. He, declares attackers, then gives one of them protection from red, saying out loud that means his other creature would kill a blocking dragon.

I block the pro-red creature with my morph and the other creature with the dragon. I then unmorph the phoenix dealing him 2. After damage my phoenix dies, coming back as a 2/2 morph. My Dragon survives – to his surprise. On my turn I pay 1 to return a phoenix from the bin and hit him for 10.

Round 3 vs Scott Gibson (Junk, sorry Abzan) 2-0 (4-1)

Game 1 he drops two Siege Rhinos, the first of whom I had to Chained to the Rocks to make sure my tokens could get through, whilst being very worried. I win this with dragons.

Game 2 he wrecks me with Rhinos.

Game 3 I got my Glare of Heresys in and manage to deal with his board not taking a point of damage.

Round 4 vs Peter Deane (Blue Black Control) 3-0 (6-2)

Although my deck is the favourite against most control decks I was worried to be facing a player I knew of as a regular in top 8s and the like.

Game 1 I win the dice roll and manage to resolve a Purphorous, he is trying to find an answer whilst Goblin Rabblemaster and Purphoros do the work.

Game 2 I think went down to tokens again, didn’t make enough notes on pad 🙁

Round 5 vs Ross Jenkins 4-0 (8-2)

We were the only players on 4-0 – there were lots of draws due to the high number of control decks. Intentional Draw locks us both in the top 8.

Round 6 vs Andrew Rayner 4-0-1 (8-2-3)

Another ID and we watch for Gary Campbell vs Stuart to see which one of our travel group wouldn’t make it. Gary eventually won.

PPTQStirling

Looking at the placings going into round 6 shows how well our group had done. Brad added as a former Highlander Games player.

In the end 5 of our 7 from the North East made top 8 with Brad making it too.

Quarter Final vs Duncan Tang (BUG Control) 4-0-2 (8-2-6)

I was drawn against Duncan from Glasgow, based on our decks I expected to do well but he is a very good player, regularly top8s and quite often plays the deck style he had chosen.

In the end I finish game 1 on 20 life, his removal/counters couldn’t keep up with my threats.

Game 2 I bring in Erase, expecting to see Courser of Kruphix as I didn’t know the deck list and he barely played anything in game 1. I scooped when he had two Garruk wolves and a deathdealer whilst I was on 7 with a 2/2. Even if I block the deathdealer I go to 1 and he then has 4 creatures whilst he is on 19.

Game 3 I come out racing and dash out a Mardu Scout, play a Goblin Rabblemaster and then dash two scouts. He’s on 2 going into his turn 4 – one turn early for the wrath which could save him.

I shake the hand and say I’ll see him in Dunfermline (the next PPTQ) laughing that I won’t progress.

Semi Final vs Bradley Barclay (Black Blue Control) 5-0-2 (10-3-6)

The other semi is Andrew vs Ross so one of the group is making it. I’m facing one of the best constructed magic players in the UK so am not expecting it to be me.

Game 1 is some dashed Mardu Scout and Goblin Rabblemaster fun times.

Game 2 I hold up a Crater’s Claws in hand and gradually bait out his removal/counter spells for him to be tapped out to be able to cast it for exact damage.

Somehow I win 2-0 not dropping a point of life.

Final vs Ross Jenkins (Black Blue Control) 6-0-2 (12-3-6)

My first ever tournament top 8 at a higher than GPT level and I make the final. I’m pretty stoked but not expecting to win. Ross had only dropped one game all day so was at 12-1-6 showing how well he was playing.

In game 1 I get him down to 6 but he either counters or kills all I have and manages to kill me with a Pearl Lake Ancient. I eventually ran out of gas and kept drawing land. After the game I noticed a Phoenix in the bin I had forgotten to bring back but work out it would have only got an extra two damage in so made no difference.

In Game 2 I dash out scouts to avoid his sorcery speed removal and his Fountain lands gaining life stabilise him at 17 for a while before I manage to break through with a Dragon.

I take Ross’s second game of the tournament.

Game 3 I am on the draw and my opening hand is a Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Mountain, 3 drop and then 4/5 drops. I know if I get the 2 lands by turn 4 I am in good stead but if I miss even one of those I’m dead, especially if he Thoughtseizes me at least once. I make a terrible decision to mull. My 6 contains 1 land so it’s 5 which contains a Chained to the Rocks and 4 land. I know I can play anything I draw and can’t go lower but it’s a terrible hand. I resolve a Chandra on 4, which is killed as my first spell. He has a hand full of answers and I’m drawing no questions. On turn 10 I missed my first land drop as I had drawn a second Nykthos. I ended the game with 3 Nykthos in hand and my opponent on 27 life.

Ross wins a well deserved victory and it’s back to grinding for me.

A good day all round, our team does fantastically, a visit to a new awesome shop, and I am now a single match win away from a bye at any Grand Prix I go to this year or next, and Dundee United get through to the Scottish Cup Final.

All that was left was a spicy haggis pudding and the short drive home.