USF4 Impressions and Delayed Wakeup

December 9, 2013 Leave a comment

At NEC this past weekend, I got to spend a little bit of time with the latest Ultra Street Fighter IV build. I mostly played as Akuma to get a feel for how he will play out post-nerfs. In some ways, he felt sluggish and awkward—though, I have a feeling that that could easily be attributed to placebo effect.

Let’s take a closer look at Akuma’s changes for USF4.

Akuma got nerfed again, but how bad is it this time?

Jump back Zanku Hadouken (air fireball) +2 frames of recovery
It’s a nerf, but a small one. Good players will already punish you for a poorly-spaced air fireball, this just gives them 2 additional frames to do so. It makes the keepaway game a little harder for Akuma, but again, a successful keepaway Akuma couldn’t just mindlessly spam jump back fireball and call it a day in the first place. The main change here is that it leaves you more vulnerable to a well-placed jump-in from your opponent, one that avoids the fireball trajectory. No longer can you punish the jump with an uppercut upon landing, you’re going to eat a full combo if you’re not careful.

Fierce Goshoryuken can now only be canceled on the first hit
This nerf hits a bit harder than the first. No more mashing on wakeup and being able to hit-confirm. Canceling the uppercut after two hits and tagging on a Shakunetsu Hadouken (red fireball) is also gone as a result, as are any setups that follow. This change, much like the air fireball nerf, again promotes a less reckless style of play. You have a few options here. You could do the “Japanese confirm”—FADC after the first hit and immediately go into a cr.LP string/another Shoryuken. You could also go with the more meter-intensive EX Goshoryuken, which can still be canceled after the second hit.

Or you could wake up with #YOLOSWAG uncancelable fierce uppercut like Ryu. But then you’d be a douche that says #YOLOSWAG. So don’t do that unless you have to.

Sweep Demon is gone
A moment of silence, please.

No more baiting the opponent with an obvious bad sweep, so you’ll have to space them properly. Aside from that, canceling cr.MK into Demon can be your new go-to for punishing bad focus attacks and jump-ins.

Not sure why this change was even implemented, but I guess people had to have cried pretty hard.

Delayed Wakeup now available on untechable knockdowns
This is the big one that has everyone that plays a vortex character up in arms. Yeb figured out on Saturday that delayed wakeup adds an additional 11 frames to the time your character spends on the floor. What this means is, in short, all setups are gone. All of them.

Except the ones that aren’t.

Think of it in the simplest terms. A character utilizing delayed wakeup will get up 11 frames later. Not 10 frames later, not 12 frames later, 11 frames exactly. Add that to the fact that Combofiend has said that a visual cue will be added for when someone opts for delayed wakeup (a la CvS2), then it becomes quite simple:

  1. Recognize/predict your opponent going for delayed wakeup
  2. Find a way to delay your setup by 11 frames
  3. Subject them to the same bullshit that they cried so hard about in the first place

Here’s one to start you off: Akuma’s fs.LP is 11 frames total (3f startup, 2f active, 6f recovery). What this means is that, say you score a forward throw and are about to start up your vortex. Your opponent hits the ground before you recover from your throw animation, and has to commit there and then to a delayed wakeup. If the visual cue is obvious enough, you should be able to recognize that you need to add in a jab to your usual setup. Maybe you whiff a jab right away; maybe you wait until after the first forward dash. It doesn’t really matter. With a little practice (you need to be frame-perfect here to retain the original setups that we’re all so used to doing by now), you can still make that dive kick meaty, you can still Demon Flip Grab on their wakeup, and you can still land on the other side and make your opponent walk into a full combo.

Setups that come from a sweep or a DF Palm (and Supers and Ultras, if delayed wakeup can be used there) will be a little trickier, since you likely won’t get enough time to “hit-confirm” the delayed-wakeup. For those, we’ll either have to anticipate, make a guess, or wait until Tokido figures it out. The added dimension to the game will seem frustrating at first, but I think in the long run adds more to the game.

At least, it does for us Akuma players. Other vortex characters can stay sad.

Closing Thoughts
Capcom seems to be nudging the game toward a more turtley, ground-game-heavy style of play. Toward that end, we as Akuma players seem to have retained the essentials. After all, we still have a fireball and an uppercut, and our buttons didn’t get any worse. The change to setups hurts, no doubt, but this just means we’ll need to spend more time in the lab. Remember the additional 2 frames of recovery on forward throw that came with AE2012, and how we all thought it would herald the end-times? This will be the fifth iteration of the Street Fighter IV series, and this will be the fourth time we’ve gotten nothing but nerfs. But in the end, I’m confident that we’ll still find a way to climb up the tier lists and drink the salty, delicious tears of scrubs everywhere.

The Year That Was

September 12, 2013 Leave a comment

It’s been a year already.

A year ago, I was let go from my first job out of school. I originally accepted the position because I was out of options after searching fruitlessly for four months after graduation. I wanted to do other things, better things; but first I needed to pay my bills. And I did. For 12 months, I paid my bills, but I didn’t get to do a whole lot else. I wanted change, but didn’t know if the time was right yet. Maybe I’d ride out that meaningless job for another six months or so, then I could jump ship.

Then came the whisperings down the grapevine. Be careful what you wish for. I got the news a year ago today that my position, along with a handful of others, was on the chopping block. It was what I had wanted, I guess? I wasn’t sure how I should feel. I spilled the beans to my good friend Matt at Tuesday Night Magic. He told me that, in the week that followed, to do the best that I could, and that if they still felt like my position was no longer necessary, to just move on.

September 20, 2012 was my last day in that office.

I remember stepping out into the chilly autumn air. It was a lot colder in New York this time last year (or rather, summer still hasn’t taken the hint this year yet). I only had a thin jacket and the envelope that contained my sorry excuse for a severance package. It hadn’t sunk in yet. It didn’t sink in as I walked through the busy streets of the Financial District for the last time. It didn’t sink in on the subway ride home, either. It didn’t sink in until I took my customary “I wish this weren’t real” nap, something that I do when shit hits the fan and I need time to figure out the next steps.

When I woke up, I came to the realization that I was now on my own, and that the clock was ticking.

The next few months were a blur. I applied everywhere. I had a few opportunities, but nothing came from them. My leads dwindled, and I slowly became accustomed to unemployed life. My only responsibilities were to feed myself, and to fill out a form online every Monday so the government could continue to enable me to be the lazy sack of shit I was becoming. The rest of the week? Stay up all night playing video games, what else? It was like college all over again.

At the back of my mind, I knew that I’d eventually have to get my shit together. However, some extraneous circumstances made it difficult.

I battled with depression. I don’t know if it was clinical depression—I certainly wasn’t going to go get a diagnosis with no insurance—but the symptoms sure seemed like it. Hell, when Hurricane Sandy happened and I shacked up with a few friends from school, I secretly wished that the storm would last forever, that civilization as we knew it would cease to exist. Looking back, it’s kind of funny how much I didn’t want to return to being a functioning member of society.

But inevitably, it hit me. I visited my parents for Thanksgiving. I told myself before getting on that plane that I wouldn’t get into a petty argument with either of them, as I’m prone to do. Fat lot of good that did. The peace lasted a few days, and then it all broke down. I don’t even remember what it was about anymore, but I probably got fed up with my mother’s nagging and snapped on her. I take after her in that I have no problem being straight and direct with someone. If something or someone bothers me enough, I’ll let ‘em hear it.

I think I told her, as she was lecturing me on how to succeed in the professional world using her slanted, Communism-tinted view of the world, that I didn’t give a shit about the words coming out of her mouth. It was more to get a rise out of her than anything, but part of me meant what I said. I love my mother, but the things she says when she scolds me don’t apply in this day and age, and certainly not when the setting shifts from Cultural Revolution-era China to halfway across the globe in modern America. I never really listened to her once I got to the age and size that I could overpower her physically. Discipline’s a pretty big deal in Chinese culture, and corporal punishment is the most surefire way of whipping someone into shape, but there was nothing a tiny old lady from Shanghai could do to me anymore.

That didn’t stop the argument from getting heated. My mother’s a proud woman (another trait I inherited), and she don’t take shit from nobody, especially not a little shithead she squeezed out a quarter century ago. The slaps came flying almost as quickly as the vitriol. Worthless, never should’ve been raised, won’t amount to anything ever. No different than any other argument with her since I could remember, really.

Like I said, petty.

My father sat on the sidelines, observing but never intervening. He’d seen this a thousand times before. When my mother tired herself out and stormed into their bedroom in anguish, he told me, cold and dry, “When your money runs out, don’t come back here; we won’t be your safety net.” That one line hurt more than all of mom’s insults and strikes combined.

My father is a scientist. Almost the polar opposite of my mother, he subscribes to logic and reason rather than emotions. I knew he said what he said not to spite me, but because it was the honest truth. I was wasting my life away being a delinquent while they were deep in debt from sending me to school, with a mortgage still to pay. Home was not a safe haven from my troubles, not because my parents didn’t want to provide it to me, but because they couldn’t.

That’s when I resolved to get off my ass and turn my life around. When I got back to New York, I doubled my efforts. It was still a struggle, but each further step I took with a prospective employer left me feeling optimistic rather than uneasy. By the time the offer came, sometime in January, I was already juggling a few options, something I didn’t experience when I was first searching.

I may have jumped the gun a little in accepting the offer. The job was with my longtime friend from school at a young and hip company, and I rushed into it without fully considering the advantages and drawbacks of working at a start-up. But honestly, after what I had been through, I wasn’t going to say no.

It would all come back to bite me in the ass later on when, only three short months later, the company needed to downsize due to mismanagement. I was let go along with the entire batch of 2013 hires, as well as a few veterans. The company was coming apart at the seams. I told my friend to jump ship while he could—the whole thing basically went belly up two months after I left.

Luckily, I had made the most of my time there, and was able to add enough substance to my resume that it made finding other opportunities much easier. My boss also liked me enough that she hooked me up with a recruiter of hers, who placed me at my current job within a month of leaving the start-up.

So here I am, four months later, and I couldn’t be happier. Aside from awesome people, meaningful (and easy) work, and a great work/life balance, leaving the start-up and ending up here was essentially a roundabout way of being promoted (and a big promotion, at that). It’s crazy to see how far I’ve come in the span of a year.

Or maybe it’s not so crazy. I’ve not really had the chance to sit back, take a breather, and let it all sink in. Been too busy enjoying life.

Categories: Uncategorized

Deprived

August 19, 2013 Leave a comment

My ears are still ringing, and my neck will likely hurt for the next few days. I wish I could do away with the aftereffects of seeing The Sword, but it don’t matter. The show was awesome, and it helped take my mind off of this shitty girl situation.

I should note that I’m not beating myself up over not getting the girl. You win some, you lose some, there are others out there. That’s not the issue.

What bothers me is the lack of closure. Because there wasn’t an actual rejection, I feel like I was deprived of my chance to speak and air my grievances. Fuck me for taking a hint and backing off, right?

I am a confrontational person by nature, I prefer to solve my problems by going to the source and settling it directly. I’d rather have things blow up in my face and be over with than tiptoe around them. I’d rather burn the bridge than leave it dangling. As it stands, however, the decision is not in my hands. And let me tell you: it fucking sucks.

I think that it’s complete bullshit that someone can be all nice and warm to you one moment and do a complete 180 the next. Maybe I came on too strong? Then fucking tell me so. How hard can it be? It’s gotta be easier than coming up with some bullshit excuse to not take the same train home when we live only a few stops away from each other, no?

And yes, that actually happened.

I felt like all my hospitality was being thrown back in my face. I am someone who invests in the people I associate with; and when you invest, you expect a return — perhaps not to the same degree, but you’d want at least some sign that your efforts were not in vain. Maybe it was just her being scared off; I’m certainly not the most tactile when it comes to these things. Trouble is, I’ll never know what exactly it was unless we sit down and talk about it, and I’ll never even get the chance if she continues to dodge me.

Why do things always have to be so complicated? Why can’t people just be straightforward with each other?

Categories: Uncategorized

Bad Matchups

August 18, 2013 Leave a comment

It just had to be a girl.

I should have known better. All the signs were there, however subtle they happened to be. When I finally picked up on them, I couldn’t help but chuckle at myself. I must have looked like a complete fool. We had a good thing going for a while. Then I pushed too hard, she retreated, and I didn’t get the hint. I tried harder to hold on, which was just about the worst thing I could have done.

And to think, I was just warned about this the other day by an old friend. You’d think I would have taken the advice to heart, but hey, that’d be too convenient, right?

I just wish she would have done us both a favor and nipped it in the bud right away, instead of dropping hints along the way that she wasn’t interested. Granted, they became pretty obvious toward the end that even someone as thick-skulled and thick-skinned as I could pick them up, but I still would have liked a straight and direct “no.” Someone as stubborn and as bad at this game as myself just needs a concrete answer.

At the end of the day, and no matter how hard I’m tilting, the blame still rests squarely on my shoulders. Such a shame. Women are the eternal bad matchup, and unfortunately, there’s no way to counterpick.

Tomorrow’s a new day, nothing to do but take my licks and move on. This song seems appropriate right now.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Evo Hangover

July 15, 2013 1 comment

Two years ago, upon his return from Evo 2011, I had a nice long chat with my good friend Han. He was burnt out and not enjoying Street Fighter as much as he used to. The hype had died, and other things in life took precedence. Han would eventually retreat from the New York Fighting Game Community, only hosting private sessions at his place from time to time. I understood his decision, though I couldn’t fully appreciate it until it hit me a year later, when I went to Evo 2012.

It was one of those life-changing experiences, one that made me instantly recognize that I was a part of something special. But afterwards, things were never the same again. I began to understand where Han was coming from: having done it all, and having reached a level where the only way to continue improving is by dropping all other life priorities, the flames of competition quickly extinguished.

I stopped entering tournaments after Evo 2012. I never stopped going to Next Level, because they’re my second family, but I stopped taking the game so seriously. In short, I fell off. In a way, I’m glad that I did, because it allowed me to focus my efforts on other things in life. It was liberating. The downside, however, is that thick coat of rust on my hands every time I pick up an arcade stick.

I want those fucking cobwebs gone. I want to play like I used to. I want to be good again. I want to feel the frustration of my opponent as my friends cheer me on after every combo, every knockdown, and every set play. I want to compete, not just for the sake of competing, but for pride—for myself, for Next Level, for New York and all of the East Coast.

Most of all, I want to be a fan again. I didn’t go to Evo this year. I sat on the sidelines and watched as my friends progressed through the 1,600-player bracket. We went far. We crushed our pools, and one of us made it into the top 32. I then watched as the man who inspired me to begin playing seriously defeat his personal demons on his way to second place. I blew out my voice screaming at the stream one godlike round after another.

I only regret not being there in person.

It’s time to return to competition. I feel the hunger again.

See you at Evo 2014.

Pondering—Last Minute Notes

June 19, 2013 Leave a comment

Grand Prix Las Vegas

Faeries are great. Goblins are great. Blue is the best color and green is the worst. Bonesplitter, Bonesplitter, Bonesplitter.

Vegas is this Friday. It seemed like only yesterday that Modern Masters was even announced, and yet here we are, only a few short days before the biggest Grand Prix in the history of competitive Magic. The set’s been out for not even a fortnight, but there is no doubt in my mind that many who are going will arrive at the convention center with preconceived notions of the good, the bad, and the ugly in the format.

“Trygon Predator is a trap.” I heard fellow Hipster Zach B. say multiple times to various people during a Modern Masters draft at the store. I happen to think that Trygon Predator is a fine card, and that the actual trap is the entire UG Suspend deck, but I can’t tell objectively which one of us is right. I just know that I’ve been smashing whenever I’ve had a handful of flyers in my deck, which has been pretty often.

I handily won that draft pod, dispatching Zach in two quick games in the second round. He opened a Bob and settled on mono-black when both Demigod of Revenge and Divinity of Pride made their way around the table and into his deck. It was the greediest mono-colored deck I’d ever seen. The creature quality just wasn’t there, which was no surprise, as I was seated two seats to Zach’s right and took all the good black cards for my UB Faeries deck. But hey, he’d apparently been raking in the wins with Divinity of Pride for many drafts in a row prior to the event, so it makes sense that he’d default to that strategy as soon as he saw the card. It’s certainly what I’ve been doing when I so much as catch a whiff of a key Faeries piece. You really have to figure these things out for yourself in a format like this.

In a sealed practice session on Friday, I had a pool that left me with little choice (albeit not a painstaking one) but to play UW Faeries. Quadruple Pestermite, double Cloudgoat Ranger and two Stir the Pride/Gleam of Resistance effects will do that. The hardest decision I had to make was whether to play a Thirst for Knowledge in place of the fourth Pestermite, and it turned out that Thirst was just the worst card in my deck. Imagine that. Thirst is an awesome card, but in my deck, I’d rather just have another two-power evasive dude with a Falter effect stapled on. I easily crushed every one of my practice partners—until I ran into the pool with Meloku, Sword of Light and Shadow, Aether Vial, double Cloudgoat Ranger and Flickerwisp.

Such is Magic. I won’t get into the whole “is sealed more about skill or luck” debate. It’s not black and white, and more importantly, it’s not worth my time.

The only thing that truly matters is enjoying yourself out in Vegas. I know I will be. I’ll be there with a whole host of friends and Hipsters authors. It’s my first real vacation in nearly a year, and it’s time to blow off some steam, play some Magic, and create some memories. See you on the other side.

Categories: GG, MTG

Pondering—First Impressions of Modern Masters Limited

June 12, 2013 Leave a comment

To the victor go the spoils

While many folks were away kicking ass in Providence this weekend (including Evil Tim, whose team effortlessly made day 2 and are drafting away as I write this), I had the chance to spend a whole Saturday playing nothing but Modern Masters Limited. I drafted the set twice at the store, then played a four-man, winner-take-all sealed. In preparation for GP Vegas, I’m going to share exactly what I played and my thoughts on each event—what worked, what didn’t, what cards were awesome to play with, and what cards to watch out for.

Before we dive in, I recommend checking out the latest episode of Limited Resources if you haven’t already. The show goes over all the archetypes of the format, their key cards, and how to play them. Plus, you get to hear two hours of Marshall Sutcliffe’s sultry voice.

Off we go.

Draft #1
Pack one, pick one: Bonesplitter. Was I insane? Maybe a tad bit, but I felt it was justified. Jason Chan calls Bonesplitter “one of the most exciting cards in Magic history,” and he’s not wrong. My pack had exciting cards, sure—Bridge From Below, Rift Bolt, Empty the Warrens, Electrolyze—but they all lead you down a set path, whereas Bonesplitter is a great card and goes in every single deck in the format. The ability to suit up a random dude and turn it into a considerable clock for next to no mana is almost invaluable. Just like in Mirrodin block, I knew this axe would claim many heads, so I snapped it up and never looked back.

From there, I took a pick two Aethersnipe for its formidable body and great tempo hit. Then the Errant Ephemerons and Durkwood Baloths kept coming, so I easily slotted into UG Suspend, the Dinosaurs of this format. Just play a bunch of efficiently-costed dudes (in this case, criminally undercosted since suspend is a very powerful mechanic) and attack. No one wanted the Imperiosaurs, Giant Dustwasps and Penumbra Spiders—which I think is totally wrong especially for that last one—so I snatched them all up.

My deck had impressive creatures that would be hard to contend with given a proper curve-out. However, I was lacking in removal and tempo spells. Dan B., drafting across the table a full three seats to my right, was in mono Blue flyers and took all the Echoing Truths, Aethersnipes, and other little Faeries that he saw. My deck would definitely have liked them, but as it was, I was heavier on the raw power of green and much lighter on the finesse of blue. I crushed my round one opponent with ease, then got tempoed out super hard by Dan and his Kira-protected flyers. In the final round, my deck stalled and died to UW Affinity. It wouldn’t be a Modern event without me getting completely hosed by Affinity. Turn one Court Homunculus into turn two Tidehollow Sculler, taking my Trygon Predator, is pretty brutal.

My takeaway from that draft is that UG is a decent deck that is easy to assemble and requires next to no thinking piloting, but you are very susceptible to combat tricks and other shenanigans, which are going to be all over the place in this format. Remember, the power level of the set is much higher than your average Limited format, with many of these cards being old Constructed staples. And it’s not like they are just in the set all by their lonesome—many of their cohorts from the Constructed decks they appeared in also show up. Might not happen as often in draft, but for sealed (and this is especially true for an event the size and scale of GP Vegas), you’re going to run into Scion of Oona and Cryptic Command in the same deck, and you’re going to face down Arcbound Ravager with Blinkmoth Nexus backup. Hell, you might even eat a Progenitus to the face off of a Tooth and Nail (with a Woodfall Primus for value, why not). These might seem like Magical Christmas Land sealed pools, but seeing as how there will be thousands of sealed pools opened a week and a half from now, anything is possible.

Draft #2
I opened a Kira, and immediately slammed it after the trouncing at the hands of Dan from the previous pod. I decided there and then that I’d be in Ux Skies, with the most obvious choice being UB Faeries.

Sure enough, the cards lined up well enough for me to get a pretty sick Faeries deck, with double Dreamspoiler Witches, triple Latchkey Faerie, and a P3P1 Scion of Oona. I also had some sweet synergies with Marsh Flitter, Auntie’s Snitch, and Murderous Redcap. I was fighting slightly with Garrett, sitting to my right, since he opened a Keiga, but the Faeries pieces were mostly untouched as Garrett went into the Dampen Thought Arcane deck.

This deck ended up being awesome. It was very similar to the tempo/control decks that I love to play in Constructed formats, so I felt quite comfortable despite playing with many of the cards for the first time ever. It feels so good to flash in an unassuming Faerie, nibble your opponent for one damage, then cast Latchkey Faerie for its prowl cost and draw a card. And then there’s Dreamspoiler Witches, which was easily the MVP of the draft. It turned my Peppersmokes into one-mana Electrolyzes. There’s nothing quite like a one-mana three-for-one on your opponent’s turn.

I ended up out-tempoing Jason’s UG Suspend deck in the first round, adding to my suspicion that the archetype is not amazing. Again, when you think of this format less in a Limited context and more as a “Constructed Lite,” it makes more sense. The big, dumb dudes deck will have a hard time against a fully focused tribal deck with heavy synergy. Of course, anyone can suspend a bunch of Errant Ephemerons and just get there off of Air Elementals, but it’s much harder to accomplish against a bunch of Wind Drakes that mess with your combat math while holding up other shenanigans.

In round two, I played Nick on RG Ramp/Tooth and Nail. I didn’t see the Tooth and Nail until game three, when our boards were stalled and Nick hit it for its entwine cost, but by then the match had already gone long, and my Stinkweed Imp, Plumeveil (both of which were boarded in to deal with Nick’s giant monsters), Marsh Flitter and co. had already held off a Jugan and multiple Giant Dustwasps. I was afraid that he’d grab the Progenitus that was going around the table—I opened it in pack two but passed it for, what else, a Bonesplitter—but he didn’t have it. From there, it was a matter of finding a way to deal with the Figure of Destiny before Nick found his sixth Mountain. Nick could not find it in time, and my Erratic Mutation hit a Faerie Mechanist to get rid of the Figure for good. We’d go on to draw that match. Penumbra Spider was a beating the entire three games, there was just no way for my deck to deal with that card in an efficient manner. I managed to alpha past it when I drew the Pestermite I needed, and the anthem effect from Scion was enough, but for the other two games, no dice. That fucker is a steel wall (note, not Steel Wall) at common.

For the final round, I squared off against Austin’s RW Giants. Perhaps counterintuitively, I was the beatdown in this matchup, as my board could get Wrath’d at anytime by a Thundercloud Shaman. I also had to kill any Stinkdrinker Daredevils on sight, else things would escalate very quickly. Luckily, I got some aggressive draws, including the aforementioned Spellstutter into damage into full value Latchkey Faerie. I also found Bonesplitter both games, which made things a race from the very first turn against a deck that didn’t often do things until turn three or four. When you chain Latchkey Faeries against a deck that’s as slow to start as that one, there’s no coming back short of a Wrath.

Takeaways: Faeries is the real deal. Prowl is the real deal. Kira is the real deal. All three of those things plus multiple Bonesplitters is just ridiculous.

Winner-Take-All Sealed
After the second pod wrapped up, John Fung, Dan Black and I cabbed it over to Milosz’s place for some late night Modern Masters sealed off of our prize packs (Luis gives out MM packs for his MM drafts, how awesome is that!). To make things interesting, it was winner-take-all. Among the shiny cardboard money were an Elspeth and a Skrillex Dark Confidant. How’s that for motivation?

My pool this time was UW Affinity. I am become that which I loath. I was initially tempted by UB Faeries again when I open a few Latchkeys, Dreamspoilers, and a Scion. However, the removal wasn’t there. No Peppersmoke, no Drag Down, not even an Erratic Mutation. There was an Executioner’s Capsule, which I ended up splashing for off of a Vivid Meadow, a Swamp, and a Traumatic Visions, but that by itself is not enough removal to make a Faeries deck. Instead, I dropped the rest of black and picked up white, which had a few nice artifacts to combo with my Esperzoa in Court Homunculus and Sanctum Gargoyle. The real draw of white, though, and I missed this the first time going through my pool, was that I had two Cloudgoat Rangers and a Stir the Pride. Go ahead and mouse over those two cards again and read what they do together. I’ll wait.

It’s bonkers, right?

In round one, I took two quick games off of John, also on UW Affinity, though his deck had more traditional robots whereas mine was more UW value guys with some artifacts. I won off of a horrendous mistake from John, having never played with Affinity before. Here’s how it happened.

Him: land, Paradise Mantle, go.
Me: land, go.
Him: land, Arcbound Stinger, go.
Me: land, go.
Him: attack, trade with my Spellstutter, leave stranded in his hand two Frogmites that would’ve both came down that turn had he not swung, along with a Myr Enforcer that would’ve come down a turn later.

I won that game shortly after, the John got an awkward draw in game two and never recovered. We played some more games for fun after, and whomever got the Court Homunculus and Bonesplitter usually won. That, or it was Esperzoa/Faerie Mechanist staredowns.

In the second round, we for some reason decided to have the winners play the losers, so I played against Milosz, who had the third UW Affinity deck. His pool was significantly more bomby, though, with Elspeth, Keiga, and motherfucking Meloku. I did not win the match. Meloku is a must-answer megaton bomb, and I just happened to only have that ExCap in my splash color. I threw away the third game when I blew my Stir the Pride way too early to try and get a win immediately, before Meloku made an impact on the board, but an Erratic Mutation changed the math and left Milosz with enough life to survive, untap with Meloku, and take over. Milosz, however, graciously scooped me into the “final” to play Dan, who I should’ve played in the second round originally had the four of us not been so braindead from exhaustion.

If you thought Meloku was bad, I’d like you to meet Oona, Queen of the Fae. Don’t let that triple hybrid cost fool you, it only means that the card essentially costs six mana from any of your lands if you’re in that color combination. Dan was, plus he was splashing Electrolyze for free off of a Terramorphic Expanse and two Vivid lands. Have you ever been four-for-one’d by Dreamspoiler Witches and Electrolyze? I have. You lose the game on the spot usually, and if you don’t immediately scoop, Oona tends to prompt that concession shortly after.

Why is she a goddamn dragon? Just, why? The mill-and-get-dudes ability is oppressive enough, why couldn’t they leave her as a 2/4 or something? I’m convinced that, short of a Path to Exile or an Erratic Mutation in an all-six-drop deck, there is no beating Oona in the format. Case in point: in game two, I alphaed with two Cloudgoats, the six Kithkin Soldiers, and entwined Stir the Pride. I went up to 37 life while Dan lived at 2. Dan won that game off of Oona making blockers and milling me out. It was demoralizing, to say the least.

Luckily, I got a good hand in game three and filled up my board with Kithkin Soldiers from a Cloudgoat and two Cenn’s Enlistment, and was once again holding Stir the Pride. Dan resolved Oona on curve, but I had been beating down with my dudes that his life total was low enough for me to kill on an alpha the following turn, assuming he didn’t hit a guy off of the mill ability. He didn’t, and enough of my guys got through to seal the deal.

The moral of the story: you don’t beat Meloku, and you definitely don’t beat Oona, short of having an Overrun effect.

***

All in all, it was a terrific day of Magic. There were initial fears that Modern Masters would just be a cash grab and that the format wouldn’t live up to the hype, but this past Saturday was the most fun I’d had playing Magic in a long while, and I’d be making that statement even if I didn’t end up with a Tarmogoyf and a Bob in my collection (though they certain do help). It might be a little last minute, but if you’re still unsure about going to Vegas for the Grand Prix, stop wavering and just do it. It is serious fun, and it’ll be a unique experience that can only be enhanced by your friends joining you on this once-in-a-lifetime ride.

Categories: GG, MTG
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