Ambitions

Posted in Limited Information on January 15, 2008

By Noah Weil

The gears were turning as soon as the Pro Tour started video coverage in 2004. Then Evan Erwin made waves with his Magic Show format on YouTube, with YouTube Pro Tour coverage not too far behind. What a fascinating medium! While I appreciate the written word on an almost visceral level, who can deny the possibilities when one incorporates "moving pictures" with "mp3 compression"? I had wanted to visit the video format for some time, well over a year ago in fact. But technology and other (better?) topics had prevented the medium from taking hold. And there was still that technological issues. Kelly Digges and Scott Johns were as eager to penetrate the video frontier as the next person, but we really wanted some kind of model to emulate. Was anyone out there producing quality limited video walkthroughs? It turns out there was. ModoSharks.com had fully embraced the video format, and graciously helped set up a very "homegrown" screen capture / recording station.

My goals for the walkthrough were simple: Discuss thoughts and plans as they occured while drafting / playing. Ideally there would be a sort of steam of consciousness, where the listener would simply follow along as ideas were being formed and implemented. A lofty goal perhaps, but the potential was thrilling. Although it turned out those aspirations were a bit high, the process was exceptionally instructive. But we'll get to that a little later.

There were some individual card choices that were definitely judgment calls in the draft, but I like the way options were kept open as long as possible. Admittedly a lot of the cards fell into our lap, and there wasn't a great time to color-shift, but there were concentrated efforts to stay receptive. In particular, knowledge on how distasteful black-white was as a color combination contributed greatly to the odd-but-effective double splash note the deck ended on. A third pick Vivid Creek is fairly unusual, but given the circumstances it seemed like the right call, and it worked out. Here's the final deck.

Video Walkthrough Draft Deck

 

Solid enough. Weak in tribal synergies, but with enough power elements to put it in the "above average" camp. How did it perform? See for yourself.

I can't say that error with the Wings of Velis Vel locked him out of this game, but it certainly didn't help. After that, it was extraordinary card advantage that allowed the deck to keep the pressure on. A lot of opportunities for two-for-ones were taken; it's hard to come back from that kind of card advantage avalanche

Card advantage here too, and happily he didn't see the Wrath of God effect coming. It's a real gift when you get to disguise your mass removal. In this case, playing out creatures that replaced themselves allowed us to hide the Command and retain card advantage. It's also fun to watch each player's role switch from aggression and defense. There was a lot of interplay in the match, which stands to reason when both decks were so similar. In this case, the opponent's deck was a little more aggressive while ours was more controlling. Luckily the Command blunted his offense and let our deck take off. A good match. We've got more!

One of the tightest games of the tournament. There were probably some errors made on both sides, but trading the Ashling the Pilgrim against Benthicore was key. It was a fun game, though; each turn was pretty critical to stem the rush. Again, at some point the deck must turn aggressive; the life totals are always fairly low, and we really don't want them to find burn or a dragon or whatever. It's hard to quantify precisely when the tipping point exists, but ideally there was enough information provided to see why and when going aggro was best.

Looking back at this one, I think the final few turns were played a little too defensively/card advantage oriented. I also think Necrotower did himself a disservice by drying up the Vivid land, preventing a triple Ashling the Pilgrim turn. It was getting to a point where he needed that option to dig himself out of the hole. But again the card advantage and tempo came through, along with that critical clash win on the third turn. On to the finals!

Unfortunately, this is where the errors really started catching up. It was starting to get late, and shockingly, narrating every turn of every game was an extra toll I didn't precisely account for when the process started. Nevertheless, there were some good plays and interesting interactions throughout this very tight first game.

Oh, that Broken Ambitions makes me cringe. Believe it or not, I've been doing this long enough that misclicks are fairly rare. Yet we recover well enough, despite the insane tossed Ambitions and Sygg, River Guide play. Errors do happen, but the real test is what you do after. I've played against people who screw up, and basically concede the game out of shame, when they were still definitely in it. In this one, things got tight but we stayed the course as best as possible and managed to pull it out. Is it okay to be proud and embarrassed at the same time?

Somewhat less rousing; I've yet to be impressed generally with Militia's Pride. I'm certain more mistakes were made, but hopefully less spectacular than the game previous. And again, Wrath of God effects do good things against aggressive decks.

Wrap Up

Neck_Snap

As I said at the end of the last game, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the format. I doubt it will become too common, but if it struck a chord with enough fans, it's certainly worth revisiting. For me, this was a more challenging and therefore more instructive process than I had anticipated. When I'm playing a normal Magic Online game, and certainly when playing with paper Magic, I do not articulate each play I make. Indeed, many moves are practically automatic. It was a different experience altogether to speak to the camera. In some ways it was worse. I'm fairly sure the effort and the stymieing of anything intuitive was a downtick on performance. On the other hand, there's a lot of value in taking a step back and picking apart why you're drawn to one play over another. It was naïve to assume I'd be able to relay thoughts as they occurred without any change in performance; the very act of recording changed the results. Yet in the end I'm very pleased this project was finally able to come to fruition. My thanks go to Greg Collins and the team at ModoSharks.com, who helped immeasurably in getting this off the ground. Until next week, enjoy the Prerelease and Morningtide!

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