So…it’s been a while. Over the last nine-plus months or so, I’ve been on hiatus from writing for GDC. I wanted to fully dedicate myself to training for my new job and getting acclimated to the environment there, so it was prudent to step away for a while. I’m finally getting used to my new schedule and it is due time to step back into writing again.

Even though I wasn’t writing, I was still able to scrounge some free time up and get some games in here and there. There were some especially tough days of training, and being able to sling cardboard from time to time helped keep give me some much-needed time to relax and have some fun.

But now that it’s over, I’ve really appreciated being able to play again on a semi-normal basis.

Getting back and playing is one thing, but jumping back into writing was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I seem to have a lot of half-ideas that aren’t quite enough for a full article, so today I’m going to give you a big ol’ hodgepodge of topics – nine in total, one for each month I missed. Some are some updates from me, others I’d like to send out as openers for some debate topics I’ve had on my mind.

Deckbuilding

Nine months of no new decks makes Jon a sad player. I love building, and had a bunch of ideas for new builds that I just didn’t have the time to put together. Getting even more familiar with the decks I already have is great, but every so often I like to shake it up a bit. I sat through all of the recent spoilers and 2016 Commander releases with nary a deck built. When I finally had time and sat down to build, I was able to roll out four new decks in quick succession: an Animar, Soul of Elements morph deck, Kozilek, the Great Distortion colorless control, Ishai, Ojutai Dragonspeaker & Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus tap down/opponents spells matter, and finally Rafiq of the Many Saboteurs. Eventually I’ll get around to sharing some of these with the GDC faithful, which leads me to our next section….

Decklists

I may be in the minority here, but I really dislike decklists. My eyes just kind of glaze over when I’m reading one, and I absolutely hate typing them up. Sure, they’re necessary for keeping track of what you’ve built, but I prefer to have someone write about the deck and interactions than pore over a list. When I read an approach like that, I get a better feel for what they’re trying to accomplish without ever feeling the need to look up the entirety of the build. 

Also, and related:

Netdecks

Porting a whole EDH deck from someone else’s “optimized” list is a big head scratcher for me. This is the format that should be about showing off the creativity and breadth of card selection that you won’t see anywhere else, and people choosing to play the most cookie-cutter versions of decks just seems boring. Pouring over Gatherer trying to find obscure cards that will work in my decks is way more intriguing to me, and if you’re someone who practices this, I’d like to challenge you to build a deck without checking out any other lists or most played cards under the general. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you enjoy the process.

Partners

I want to give WOTC some kudos for the partner mechanic. I was initially skeptical of the concept, but the more I thought about it the more I came to appreciate the diversity and options that it created. Printing the fifteen partner legends essentially created 105 new generals, and the amount of ways you can approach them are endless. In my meta, I basically see a new pairing every week, and everyone has been really excited to build around the vast majority of them. The Modular approach that we’re taking on the site is another great concept opened up by this nifty mechanic.

Tutors

I started going tutorless a while ago (save for a few fun ones like Sunforger and Wild Research) and I’ve been really enjoying the experience that it creates. It has helped to randomize my in-game experience more and play the entirety of my deck, as opposed to constantly relying on the same cards over and over every game. It also forces you to tighten up other aspects of your deck in order to be able to answer what comes your way during a game, causing you to look for cards that have multiple functions and modes (like any of the charms.) 

Slowplay

Just a couple of friendly tips to help speed along games:

  1. Search out lands at convenient times – which basically equates to searching for them on other people’s turns unless they will have an effect during your own turn.
  2. Sensei’s Divining Top idea: Since it is always best to wait until the end of the turn before yours, just pay into the top immediately after your turn and change around the order as you please. You’ll probably have the right configuration by the time your turn just, and you won’t have to waste any excess time.
  3. Have a plan going into your turn. I usually have a rough idea going into my turn as to what I will do on the turn, and once it turns to me I am ready to hop right into it. I feel like a decent number of players don’t continue to evaluate the board when it is not their turn, and take a lot of time to reassess once their turn hits.

Modern Masters 3

I was impressed by the number of useful reprints that came out in the set, and I hope that for the Modern players out there, it goes a long way to reducing costs and helping out the format. Personally, there really wasn’t much I wanted from the set, save for the Fetchlands I did not have, Voice of Resurgence, and Damnation. I’m in a phase where I’ve “retired” a bunch of cards that I’ve either deemed too powerful or have used and found to be not enjoyable in game, and a lot of those cards wind up being in these sets for some reason.

Your mileage may vary, but after playing five-plus years of EDH, I’m finding that I need less of the big ticket cards and more of the niche cards for specific decks.

Final Fantasy Record Keeper

On a non-Magic note, I’d like to plug the one mobile game I’ve been playing for the last two years. If you’ve played any game of the Final Fantasy games in the past, you’ll have a blast playing this one. It is a combination of all the games from the series, allowing you to get practically any character from any of the games onto your team and put them against into battles from across the series. It’s a fun time-killer and tests your ability to strategize via the FF battle system. It is nostalgia to the max for me, as it was my favorite game series growing up. Fair warning though: though it is free to play, there are opportunities to pay money to get better in it. I’d avoid those at all costs because I don’t think it is necessary to enjoy the game.

Playgroups

Finally, I want to give a big shoutout to my playgroup, whose flexibility and general awesomeness was great to have around during my training. They kept gaming without me, and were able to set up times to play to accommodate me when I had some time off. I’m privileged to have such a great group of friends to game with on a regular basis.

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Hope that was enough bouncing around for everyone. Thanks for tuning in, and I hope to be writing a bit more frequently going forward.

Until then, may all your Simulacrums be solemn.

-Jon