Posts concerning drafting

Leaving Milano’s

04:22 25 May 2008

The sfmagic MTG draft group is moving again, after about a year at Milano’s on 9th Avenue.

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Final Canvas Draft

23:19 26 Apr 2007. Updated: 21:36 26 Jun 2013

Last night was the last sfmagic draft at Canvas, which closes on Saturday. We had 23 people, three draft groups, and I took some photos of the occasion.

The sfmagic group has drafted there for years. I’ve gone there almost every Wednesday night since late 2003, so over three years, and the group apparently met there for months (possibly a year) before I joined. But it’s closing, so we have to find a new spot (tentatively, Milano’s Pizzeria about a block up on 9th Avenue).

We had two pods of eight and one of seven. This is a shot of (most of) the A and B pods:

Pods A and B
The guy on the right in the black hoodie is Ben Rubin, 1998 World Championships Finalist, who won pod B. In the far corner in the red jacket is Brett Allen, occasional PT player, who won Pod A.

Pod C was on the other side:

Pod C
The guy farthest on the left, who appears to be sitting on a stool or standing, is Nick Lynn who won the pod. I don’t know any links for him, unless he’s the Nick Lynn who won Ohio Regionals in 2003.

I played in Pod A, and left to right these are Andy and Standish, my third and first round opponents respectively:

Andy and Dish
I’m pretty sure that’s Will’s hand behind Andy.

Round 3 (the empty seat with the pen and results sheets is mine, as I’ve already lost at this point):

Pod B Round 3
Davey and Standish battling it out:

Davey and Standish
Davey would go on to win this match 1–0–1, securing a 2–1 record and 4th place in the process.

Seth and James, who like me ended up with 1–2 records for the evening, play a post–draft game of Constructed—likely the last game of MTG to be played at Canvas:

Seth and James play the final Canvas game
It’s all over, as Dralnu and Phyrexian Totem swing in to give James the last victory:

James Wins Final Game

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Venue Search

23:18 02 Apr 2007

As I mentioned in February, the Canvas Café is closing. It’s open until the end of this month. Apart from all the other sad things about this, it means that the Wednesday night sfmagic draft group will have to find a new home.

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MTG Posts">Writing Better MTG Posts

23:30 16 Mar 2007. Updated: 23:34 26 Jun 2013

I’m not very happy with my post from yesterday. I think it was uninspired, didn’t have any great insight in it, and lacked any stylistic qualities to make up for these shortcomings. In addition, I think it would be hard for someone who doesn’t play MTG to get much out of it, while simultaneously lacking detail or analysis that would interest an MTG player. Okay, so it was bad—how can I do better?

I’m talking specifically about MTG posts. I don’t write many, but I am considering writing about my Wednesday night draft each week. Partly because I think it might have a positive impact on my play, and partly because MTG is a big enough part of my life that I think I should write about it. (This holds true even though right now it’s a smaller part of my life than it has been in over five years, and I’m just not playing that much.) Another reason is that I think it’s a good challenge to try to write about it so that it’s interesting—without losing the plot altogether and writing something like Jonny Magic and the Card-Shark Kids (which you’ll note I’m not linking to).

Beyond all that, I’m going to write about just because I want to write about it.

But posts like yesterday’s are far too poor to be repeated weekly (or ever), and the first step towards improvement here is structure. Creating a structure that I’ll write in means that’s time and effort I don’t have to spend planning, and it should also push me to make sure that individual sections are interesting.

What’s important in a draft report?

Expression of my experience and feelings. The idea isn’t to have some kind of pseudo-objective transcript of the games, but rather to be a vehicle for self-expression. If I’m frustrated and whiny after a loss, either that should come through in the writing, or how I got past that should come through in the writing.

Analysis of the draft and games as empirical data about certain approaches. MTG is a very complicated game to play well, and theories about how to do so, particularly within specific card sets, vary significantly. Each theory is just that, a hypothesis awaiting testing. The testing is imperfect, and provides far too small a sample size, but it nevertheless represents more or less the only data available. At the very least I should have a theory which I am able to describe, and analysis of how that theory performed that night.

People and personality. These are the things that make descriptions of the game interesting in a non-technical sense. Players have distinct and interesting personalities, and who they are as people—or at least some part of that—should come across in my writing. This was conspicuously absent from my post last night, and all the players mentioned might as well have been ciphers. (Even as ciphers, they could have been a lot better, improved immeasurably just by linking to their statistical profiles on http://sfmagic.org/. ) Reading yesterday’s post did not inform the reader, for example, that Jim is a critical mainstay in our group and that he is one of the reasons for the group’s longevity; nor did it even hint at the fact that Seth is at heart a filthy combo player who offsets his thirst for lethal Rube Goldberg card interaction devices with an earnest eschewing of tournament-style play.

Accessibility. I would like people who are not MTG players to be able to understand and enjoy the posts. At the same time, I don’t want to clog up the narratives with explication that will bore those who have a firm grasp of the game.

Joie de jouer. I want to communicate not merely that I love the game, but at least some inkling of why I love the game, and what about it keeps bringing me back.

So, a structure to support that:

  • Introduction/Scene Setting. A brief overview of the atmosphere that evening, any notable changes inside or outside the game, my state of mind, and so on.
  • Overview of drafting. This will be marked out as distinct from the article, and I’ll probably incorporate ways for experienced players to hide it.
  • Discussion of my plan for the draft. (This does assume that I have a plan.)
  • Overview of the draft pod, complete with who was where, who played what, brief notes on each of the players (including stats links), and my feelings on the overall skill level.
  • Overview of my draft, with focus on any difficult decisions and on where things went right/wrong. This will be accompanied by longer explanations for non-players, that will be marked as distinct from the rest.
  • My decklist. Duh. With links to card descriptions, which will also be present when I mention cards in the rest of the post.
  • A discussion of each of my matches, possibly with photographs of tricky board positions, and definitely with at least some information about my opponents.
  • The overall results, possibly with some commentary on season standings, races, etc.

That seems like a structure that should work significantly better. It won’t guarantee good posts on the topic, but had I had it last night the post would have been better.

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Canvas Café Closing

23:51 07 Feb 2007. Updated: 13:47 08 Feb 2007

I learned tonight that the Canvas Café and Gallery will be closing on 1 May 2007. This doesn’t make me happy.

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Ice Age/Alliances/Coldsnap Draft

21:56 03 Aug 2006. Updated: 12:47 27 Jun 2013

We played this somewhat bizarre format at draft last night, and overall people seemed to dislike it.

It’s a strange environment, as Ice Age and Alliances were printed over ten years ago, before draft was really a serious consideration for set design. Coldsnap was printed this summer, ostensibly to “complete” the Ice Age block. But since Ice Age and Alliances are long out of print, Coldsnap was designed to be drafted on its own. So the format consists of two very old sets that aren’t designed for draft at all, and a modern set that wasn’t designed to go with the first two. The snow theme is a key indicator of this: if draft had been a consideration for Ice Age, they would have printed snow lands in the boosters, not just in the starter packs.

We should have marked 16 lands as “snow”, and distributed them as the 16th and 13th cards in the Ice Age and Alliances boosters.

Most of the other players considered this the worst draft format ever. I’m not sure I agree, because I think I preferred it to triple-Coldsnap, which annoys me greatly. Probably because of the Ripple mechanic, which depends on luck in drafting it and luck in playing it.

It seems certain that we won’t be trying it again…

I actually enjoyed it, despite placing dead last in my draft. I thought I had a strong deck, with Ray of Command, Illusionary Forces, Rimescale Dragon, Balduvian Horde, 2x Storm Shaman, 2x Martyr of Ashes, Vexing Sphinx, Meteor Shower, and other cards that I thought were reasonable. Most of my games were close, and I won one game in all my matches, losing two and drawing one. I suspect that a big part of the reason I did poorly is that Red and Blue are both rather snow-dependent in Coldsnap, but there’s no way I could have gotten enough snow lands to support that theme. So while everyone else was picking up good removal, fatties, and swift beaters in Coldsnap, I didn’t get much that was helpful beyond the Dragon and Sphinx and Martyrs—all good, but not enough to compete with the 9+ cards other people brought in. A shame I didn’t think that through in advance…

That poor performance ended my recent good run at the Canvas drafts, and since I’ll miss a bunch in a row now, I’m going to drop well out of the seeding top eight. Hopefully I’ll be able to finish out the Ravnica/Guildpact/Dissension block with some strong results to get back to the top table before Time Spiral comes out.

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