Thursday, 30 August 2012

A League of Our Own

Finding time for a few casual games of Magic:the Gathering can be difficult, especially now that I've reached the point in my life at which family, career and mortgage(s) naturally claim priority. I was therefore pleasantly surprised a few weeks ago when I noticed a couple of the guys at work slinging spells in the lunch area on our floor. After a bit of a chat, we decided to hold a Magic night at the office each week. When the Magic 2013 (M13) Pre-Release event rolled around at the local gaming store, Vagabond, all three of us decided to attend.

At the event, we each built and played our Sealed Deck with the six booster packs of M13 cards provided. The store also gave out an additional two boosters to all participants. Afterwards, I had the idea to start a League, having played in a couple of Leagues a few years ago when they were supported on Magic Online. To this end, the three of us decided to split a booster box (containing 36 packs of M13). This meant that, in addition to the six starting packs, we'd have an additional 14 packs each. I had thought that we might add one pack per week, but the guys were eager to crack packs and get at their new cards. We agreed to add two booster packs per week, for a total of seven weeks of Sealed Deck League play.

We toyed around with different scoring systems. Most organised Magic events award three points for a match win (a match being best 2-of-3 games) and zero points for a loss, regardless of whether you win any games. Draws are possible, and in that case each player gets one point. For our League, I wanted to reward game wins as well, so we went with the following:

  • 1 point per game win
  • 1 point per match win
  • 0 points for game or match draw
  • 0 points for game or match loss
Basically, this means that if you win the match, you get 3 points as normal. However, if you lose the match but win one game, you get a point for your troubles.

Our booster box came with the buy-a-box promo foil Cathedral of War, and since the card isn't much good torn in three, we decided to put it up as the prize to the winner: just a little something to make it interesting.

With that out of the way, we got down to playing our games each week. Since this post is after the fact, I won't get into the week-by-week details. However, the key stats are listed below:

It was interesting to see the decks evolve both as a result of new cards added to the pool each week as well as in response to what the other players were playing: our own little metagame developed and we all spent our deckbuilding time strategising our best path to victory. Michael and Gund went through their own deck transformations, though Gund was largely on the White/Black exalted plan, sporting both Sublime Archangel and Nefarox, Overlord of Grixis from very early on. Michael built some interesting Green-based ramp decks featuring Thragtusk and multiple Duskdale Wurms.

At the pre-release I had played Green/Red with an overall week card pool, and only went 1-2. After talking to some friends at the event, it turned out that I was under-evaluating Duty-Bound Dead which had caused me to believe that I did not have enough playables in Black. As it turned out, I should have been in Green/Black.

The two new boosters for Week 1 of our League provided mainly goodies in Green, and so I ended up running with Green/Black the first few weeks to great success. At one point I was in Jund (Green/Black/Red) and after opening a foil Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker (along with a Gem of Becoming) I just had to play Grixis (Black/Red/Blue) that week. The final couple of weeks I ended up in White/Red as the expanding pool provided agressive options in these colours. I was specifically interested in fliers and burn to overcome Michael's natural advantage on the ground in the late game.

I initially supported the decision to switch to 60-card decks for the final three-weeks. The theory was that this would preserve the "Sealed feel" even as our card pools increased. However, I found that the mana became terrible and the decks were stuffed with filler to make numbers. I think that I'd probably rather see the 40-card decks evolve to become more powerful and focused in their strategies. I know that eventually it would be necessary to make the jump to 60 cards, I just don't think that it needed to happen during the first 20 packs. Aaron Forsythe wrote an article a few years ago describing a "box league" in which players had an entire booster box of 36 packs to build decks, and they were also able to trade with one another. I think it's clear that 60-card decks are required in this scenario, but at what point that becomes true is still a mystery to me. In order to test my 40-card theory, the other guys obliged me and we all built 40-card decks from our pool for the week following the official end of the League. I was pretty happy with the result and I didn't feel that the decks were too powerful, but we'll see what the guys think next time.

Speaking of next time, I'm excited for the Return to Ravnica. I think that we're likely to run another League, and if we do I plan to post more detailed information each week. It would be good to have a fourth to make better numbers - and we're working on that - but I'm keen either way. League seems like an excellent way to provide a little structure to casual card slinging for several weeks every few months.

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