It’s so much more.

It’s so much more.

This is a tricky post to write but I’m going to give it a real shot, because ultimately, it’s about people and people are always worth writing about.

People that play MTG at a casual level really enjoy the game, right? While it empties our wallets / purses, it brings us together to have some fun with friends, families and total strangers for a bit of good, honest fun. Sometimes though, we take the game a little more serious because we really, really like it! We become more invested both financially and personally. People that start to take the game seriously start attending more and more events, spending more and more money to build a versatile collection to catch our unsuspecting opponents off-guard and begin stepping out of our local regions to chase victory at the next MagicFest!

When it comes to Magic, this is something that more and more people are doing every year, and the popularity is increasing. With regards to Organized Play (OP) Wizards of the Coast and Magic: The Gathering have some real work cut out for them, because the community is speaking up and they sure have lots to say. I am not the advocate for the MTG Community, not even close and I don’t claim to wear the crown. What I am though, is the master of this domain and as such I will share my views on what several people have been saying and chyme in where I think it’s appropriate.

 

Trying to breakthrough as an MTG Personality

Becoming a household name for some players in the MTG Community is a serious goal they have. I can understand and relate to this goal as it was originally something, I wanted for MTGBlogger.com some 6 years ago. I wanted anyone and everyone to know what MTGBlogger was through Twitch, YouTube and Twitter. I can say that this brand had some success being referenced on ChannelFireball, being involved with CardHoarder and sponsored by local business, it was successful. The amount of success though isn’t always equal to the work, and Success isn’t easy. It’s a grind, a different kind of grind than you may think. When you try to make a business out of a hobby, it changes the way you view the hobby which may spell disaster for that hobby you enjoyed oh so much before.

Something I see coming up in my Twitter feed recently is Players feeling like their voices aren’t being heard. These people are winning events, pouring countless hours into MTG and improving their ranking online but getting no where when they try to publicize themselves to the Community. It’s a scenario that you ask yourself “What more do I have to do/can I do?” and it’s not an easy pill to swallow. Sometimes there just isn’t enough room in the spotlight for everyone trying to get into it. For some people, the light seems to focus on them a little more for some reason. Wither its likability, personality, charm or whatever that human interaction is, it’s easier for them. That’s life, right? It’s not always easy, and it’s not always fair.

It’s my stance that Wizards of the Coast doesn’t owe us as customers anything. Wizards of the Coast provides a service to us in the form of a game. What I would personally love for them is to continue creating more great content for us to enjoy in the form of new sets, cards and interactions that keep this amazing product alive.

Making Magic:The Gathering a profession

This is where it gets messy. I’ve personally been playing Magic off and on since Tempest block. Looking back, I would say that I was casual for a long time. I would only attend Magic events at local stores for a very long time. I grew up in comic shops and card stores and even worked in them, so I had access to cards I wanted to use and try and eventually own. I think it was this access that allowed me to interact with all kinds of people, from casuals to competitive players boasting about how good their deck was! I’ve never been one to shy away from a good old-fashioned deck duel, so I would try to get what I needed to win. Fast forward to today, competitive Magic is the primary way that I prefer to play. I don’t find myself gravitating towards Casual play at all, and I love the feeling of winning a game, ultimately solving the puzzle my opponent presents.

Wondering if it’s possible to make a profession out of Magic is something relatively new considering it’s been something on my mind for about ½ a decade now. I always wonder what I could do to make this dream a possibility, but I don’t recall ever thinking – what can Wizards of the Coast do to make my dream come true. I’ve always sort of looked internally at what I can do. I don’t think it’s fair for me to assume this company would provide me with a financial base to do nothing more than play their game. Anyone can do that, and there are better people suited for that than I. I don’t deserve anything just because I use their service (play their game), and neither do other people. Just because we turn on a camera and play their game doesn’t means we are entitled to anything more than the enjoyment it brings us.

The Magic Pro Tour though, that’s another story. The Pro Tour was a place you could play and get paid some real money and start making the dream of becoming an MTG Pro player a reality. To be on the Pro Tour meant you would get paid appearance fees, be included on the tour with chances to making a decent living. The Pro Tour of course won’t be the only thing you need to sustain a living though, you would need sponsorship's and some luck to keep winning. But, it’s something to start.

In the Pro Tour, it was cool because we got a chance to watch players story lines and see how their journey evolved up to the very end of the event. I really like the idea that we could follow a player playing at the professional level and see how they did. It’s exciting. I think we have lost this narrative as onlookers to the events and that is a real shame. I also think that people that win a Pro Tour, deserve a spot on the next Pro Tour. This is a very old story line that says becoming a Champion of anything is an attacking game to get to the throne. Staying the Champion is a defending game against everyone else. This is a narrative that I think is very important and would very much prefer it to stay this way.

Now, in 2019 we have the MPL (Magic Pro League), which consists of 32 players who are offered contracts by Wizards of the Coast. These players are automatically invited into Mythic Championships (Re branded Pro Tours) where paper-based events offer $500,000 in prizes and digital-based events (MTG Arena) can pay out $750,000. I don’t know where/how they got their invitations to participate and can’t say for sure that everyone there fully culminates the best the game has to offer. What makes someone great? How they play the game mechanically? Maybe it’s their personality? Maybe it’s the number of viewers they can bring to the service? It’s not even close to my call to make. The goal posts are shifting on this topic because people feel that they deserve their spot. Nothing is deserved, and there is no expectation. If this game died tomorrow, wouldn’t you be talking about how cool the game was? Or would you be talking about how unfair the esports scene was? Feel free to stop by my stream (www.twitch.tv/mtgblogger) to discuss this more in depth because I know there's tons to say on this topic.

 

What does it mean to you?

Ultimately, why do you play Magic? For Fame, love of the game or because it’s the only thing you can see yourself doing? This is a very important question. Magic esports is very real now, and it’s possible to earn your stripes against some of the best in the game that you may never had the opportunity of playing against before while fulfilling the dream of being a full-time MTG player, but you have to earn it in the eyes of those that make the game and provide a service. We’re lucky to have this opportunity, so let’s make the most of it while we can.

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UW Control – MTG Arena

UW Control – MTG Arena

UW Control | MTG Arena

If you're like me, you recently picked up MTG Arena and started dabbling in the competitive ladder grind. If you're not, trust me - it takes time. If you're looking for any advice for building your first deck on MTG Arena, the best advice I could offer you would be to use your rare wildcards on lands. When you have your entire Mana base covered (or a reasonable amount), you should then invest those wildcards into rares for the deck you're interested in playing. Perhaps consider looking at the meta game on sites like mtggoldfish. Checking this out to find out what cards are used in some of the most frequently played decks that are winning so you can transition between decks if you need to. For instance, you can start building a Sultai Midrange deck using Explore creatures such as Jadelight Ranger or Merfolk Branchwalkeras they are also pretty good in a Bant Midrange deck as well! Or, if you're like me, you would take none of this advice, and go blow all your rare wildcards on cards for a deck that no one plays. If you did this as well, I salute you!

 

I am a Control player at heart, and any chance I get to play a control deck I take it. I feel like I perform best in Magic when I understand of the strategies being played in a format and play the bigger, slower game plan. I started off this season playing Grixis Midrange which got me all the way to Platinum, which was great and all, the only problem was that the goal of playing on MTG Arena was to play against some of the best in the world. To do that, we still had to get to Mythic. What a grind! While I hear it's much easier in constructed than it is in limited, you really have to invest time to get Mythic. You have to be winning much more than you're losing and that shouldn't be a surprise at all if your goal is to play against the best. Grixis Midrange didn't seem to have what it look to make the leap for me, I was constantly getting punished by cards like Narset, Parter of the Veils and Teferi, Time Reveler. I did play quite a bit of UW Control with Approach of the Second Sun so I was pretty confident in my ability to play that style of deck in Standard, and threw all of my Wildcards out the window, and started off on the path of maximum resistance. I was about to make a deck that wasn't listed online already!

 

So, on MTG Arena, I started making a UW Control deck that I was pretty happy with. Most of my opponents were playing linear Creature/Planeswalker strategies, and going over these decks with a bigger game-plan was pretty easy with UW, just play more sweepers like Cleansing Wave and Settle the Wreckage. As for Planeswalkers, we've got that covered because we play lots of counters! Here's the deck.

UW Control

Planeswalkers (9)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Teferi, Time Raveler
Ugin, the Ineffable
Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor

Instant (17)
Absorb
Chemister's Insight
Devious Cover-Up
Settle the Wreckage
Syncopate
Revitalize
Dovin's Veto

Sorcery (3)
Cleansing Nova

Enchantment (5)
Seal Away
Search for Azcanta
Lands (26)
Plains
Field of Ruin
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Island

Sideboard (15)
Blink of an Eye
Commence the Endgame
Dovin's Veto
Ixalan's Binding
Lyra Dawnbringer
Narset, Parter of Veils
Prison Realm
Revitalize
Teferi, Time Raveler

Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor is the newest addition to the deck. I didn't originally play this Planeswalker because I didn't really understand the role that this card did in the deck. As you can tell from the list, we're not designed to be a tap-out style control deck, and could honestly benefit a great deal if we went into the Bant spectrum to gain a card like Wilderness Reclamation. Being that our strategy is to play with open lands at all time, Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor wasn't an obvious choice to me as something to include. What Kasmina ultimately does though, is provide some stabilization on the board immediately while also filtering through our deck for us! Her static ability generally isn't relevant, but hey - little effects here and there that make us easier to kill are always a big plus.

Some keynote card choices in the deck is the 3rd copy of Settle the Wreckage as well as 2 main deck Revitalize. I decided to go with Cleansing Wave over Time Wipe because Nexus decks were able to get out of control without the ability to deal with their enchantments, particularly Wilderness Reclamation. When used with Teferi, Time Reveler, Cleansing Wave at instant speed is quite valuable in that match up. What I've found in the format thus far is that most decks can't handle their own if you drag the game into later turns. They just can't compete with the power of Teferi, Hero of Dominara or Ugin, the Ineffable. When backed with counterspells, we're really safe against everything else going on.

In MTG Arena War of the Spark Season 1, this deck got me to Mythic when Grixis Midrange felt like a struggle against all those Sultai decks playing the Explore package with Command the Dreadhorde. Unlike that deck, this one has much more game against that deck.

Something to consider though is how many decks are playing what I consider our nemesis in the format, Teferi, Time Reveler. He is pretty gross to get around as a control player, which is why most often than not, you really need to understand how to use your life as a resource against Bant and Sultai decks to ensure you're able to counter that Planeswalker at all times. We're not stone dead to him, as we have big Teferi, Kasmina and Ugin to threaten him. If you want to make the Command the Dreadhorde match-up tilt more in your favor, consider cards like Narset's Reversal, or more enchantment / exile removal in the form of Seal Away, Prison Realm, Settle the Wreckage or even Ashiok, Dream Render as ways to enhance your experience.

If you're asking yourself why you would play this over Esper Control, the answer is simple - like many people who get into MTG Arena, I didn't have all the cards for Esper Control, so I had to innovate something based on what I knew. This is the fruits of my labor online and got me to Mythic, which I am pleased about! I think one major factor to playing a deck off the radar that not enough people consider is that your opponent can't just search it online somewhere. Having hidden information in the age of information is extremely underrated and needs to be appreciated more than it currently is.

I'm going to continue building versions of this deck to at the very-least get to Mythic in War of the Spark Season 2! I hope to see you on the Battlefield, and hope to have new innovations that I can share with the world!

I will be continuing my streams after being off-air for 3 years over on Twitch, where you can leave some feedback about this post or just come say hello to see what is going on. We will be streaming Wednesday, Thursday 9pm EST and Sunday at 6PM EST.

Talk again soon!

Jason-
(MTGBlogger)

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MTGBlogger returns.

MTGBlogger returns.

May 2nd, 2018 was previously the last time I streamed MTG content on Twitch.tv. The world has changed. The times have changed, and the rules of streaming have changed significantly since we last saw each other.

One question I’m sure someone will ask me is “What have you been up to Blogger!?”. I know I’ll answer this question repeatedly as our time on and off stream passes by, but I know you are truly interested in the answer, so it’s my pleasure to answer. I’ve been living my life, learning new skills enjoying the people in my life and growing as a person. The old saying goes something like ” If you love something set it free, and if it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it never was. “

This is MTG. I can’t just play MTG anymore without considering streaming it, blogging about it or vlogging it. Playing the game is fun, but sharing the experience with you is even better. Something my inner-circle of MTG friends all agree on is, MTG is a great game, but it’s the people that really make the experiences worthwhile. Sitting around a table grabbing dinner after a weekend tournament, talking about the plays-of-the-day is great and all, but it’s nothing compared to who you’re talking with and the memories we make along the way. Personal stuff right?

Let’s rewind the clocks back even further to June 2nd, 2016. Almost 3 years ago, was the last real stream we had, it was Standard. 3 years ago I remember striving to produce content that was pixel-perfect, audio sounding so damn good, lighting not too imbalanced and background noise to an absolute minimum. To get all of this correct, it’s almost like I was living alone, when in-fact I wasn’t. I am a family man and I had to create an environment that would be stream-friendly. To get this production to the levels we enjoyed, it required more than just myself, it required all hands on deck to control life totals, change scenes as well as sponsors to give-away free products to our audience. There is a cost to success and this cost is my family and 3 years ago, streaming felt like a 2nd job that took me away from it and other things in my life that needed attention. I wasn’t giving these things the attention they deserve.

Getting personal for a moment, if you want to know if your in a stable relationship, Magic: The Gathering is a great way to test it! Just tell your significant other that you will be unavailable for 6/7 days out of the week for about 3 years and see how you do. I am still in the same relationship with a person that is extremely understanding and beyond reasonable. To be successful, I believe you need an amazing team of people behind you. I didn’t know how to balance my personal life and work life properly. 3 years ago, I was working 5 days a week while playing in Magic events 3 times, streaming 4 days a week and also writing an article for mtgblogger.com once per week. Working to maintain all of these services, mostly alone for 3 & 1/2 years under these conditions would ultimately mean that something would have to give and eventually, that something would be producing content under the MTGBlogger brand. Near the end of 2016 I had so much help from close friends, it made live streaming so much easier on me because I had a team helping me. All I had to do was update a few stream elements, turn on our streaming service and connect with you – so it was very easy! It’s hard to imagine that the extra curricular elements to streaming, video editing, mailing out prizes and writing didn’t feel like work for such a long time, but it’s true, I really enjoy sharing content with you & for you.

What has changed and why is now the time to get back into Magic and producing content with MTGBlogger again? Lots of things. Twitch has made it more accessible for viewers to subscribe to their favorite streamers, and WotC has produced a product that doesn’t feel like something out of the 90s! MTG Arena is a great place to play the latest Magic and provide content in a way that is new and exciting. I will leverage these new tools to make an effort to be available for you and my family at the same time. Now, with MTG Arena I don’t have to attend these 3 weekly events anymore to get inspiration to write the article for the week or the next upcoming video on our YouTube channel. I can be home and achieve these things, which is extremely convenient. The technology just wasn’t there and neither was the prize support. Attending multiple events is surprisingly costly when you’re trying to clout farm and establish yourself in the MTG community, but I am excited to plant my feet and work towards the next goal of streaming quality MTG content again. So, whose with me?

MTGBlogger
JRec (MTG Arena)

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