Wednesday | Thursday
Mike Turian and Zvi Mowshowitz are on the scene at E3, bringing you the sights and sounds of the 2006 Magic Invitational. Along with the nail-biting action of 15 rounds of Magic to follow, they have all of E3 to explore -- so if there's something you want to know, sound off in the message boards.
To watch replays of any of the matches, simply launch Magic Online, click on the Invitational logo in the center of the Home screen, and select the format you want to watch.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- 9:54 a.m. - Know The Rule
by Zvi Mowshowitz
- 11:01 a.m. - Rules are Made to be Broken
by Mike Turian
- 12:39 p.m. - Handicapping the Field
by Mike Turian
- 12:56 p.m. - Simple and Elegant Days of Yore
by Zvi Mowshowitz
- 1:31 p.m. - Terry's Final Fortune
by Zvi Mowshowitz
- 2:10 p.m. - Block Awareness
by Zvi Mowshowitz
- 3:24 p.m. - Through a Potato's Eyes
by Mike Turian
- 4:40 p.m. - An Inside Look at Magic Online V3
by Mike Turian
- 5:44 p.m. - Soh Where are My Shoes?
by Zvi Mowshowitz
- 6:11 p.m. - Blow-by-Blow Block Party Bonanza
by Mike Turian
Thursday, 9:54 a.m.: Know The Rule
A long time ago I wrote about a concept I called "The Rule." In the early days of Magic draft, there would be blocks where one color or one color combination was better or worse than the others. The original version was in Urza's Saga draft, where black was insane. What I had realized was that there was no way that drafting black could be wrong within a draft. Sure, it could lead to a worse deck this time around, but you had no way of knowing that until after you had already gone into black and at that point it was so much stronger that it was worth sticking it out. So here was The Rule for that block: Draft black unless everyone else knows The Rule.
Urza's Saga was where I gave it a name, but Mirage Block was where the idea was born. In Mirage block it became clear to good drafters that white and blue were the strongest colors, and when Weatherlight came out it became blatant. The rewards for being in those colors were so good that you couldn't possibly be sent a signal strong enough to make it worth abandoning the colors – you would still get a good pack two and then get to try and open Empyrial Armor or Heavy Ballista in pack three. The Rule was to draft blue-white unless everyone else knew The Rule, and with Weatherlight in the mix you could almost draft it anyway. You would happily splash for Kaervek's Torch, but that was about it.
When today's drafters returned to Mirage block, they learned their lesson well ... too well. It seems that everyone did in fact know The Rule. You walked down the line of computers to find drafter after drafter with his first six or seven picks in blue and white, sighing as the packs went by later on. The few who went into other colors, mostly for strong cards that they opened early, were rewarded with great selection while many blue-white drafters would have to abandon at least one of their colors. By the end of pack two, things had diverged once again, as they have to. There are only so many cards of each color!
My guess is that those who sidestepped those overdrafted colors from the start will have a decisive advantage in today's draft. Those colors are better, but how much better can they be? It also continues the dynamic of rewarding those players willing to go into beatdown strategies. Better players tend to like control and combo more than they should, and in worlds where they are drafting and bidding against each other for those strategies those willing to take the other approach will often have a lot of value. Viva la beatdown!
Thursday, 11:01 a.m.: Rules are Made to be Broken
Jeff Cunningham was one of two undefeated players going into Day Two of the Magic Invitational. The other, Pierre Canali, joined Jeff in Pod A of the draft.
Jeff started off the draft strong with a first-pick Savage Twister. Unfortunately for Jeff, the draft had to be restarted as it was discovered that an Invitationalist wannabe had snuck into the draft with the pros.
During the short pause, Jeff revealed that he was going to force red-green. He felt that overall the colors were both the strongest and the deepest. Unlike conventional wisdom that blue was the best because of how strong it was in Visions, Jeff felt that Mirage blue just wasn't up to snuff.
He was a man of his word, as his new first pick was a Rampant Growth, followed by a Quirion Druid. A third-pick Mtenda Lion proved how committed he was to red-green. Jeff said he really liked the aggression of the Lion and wouldn't even take it out against blue decks. By the end of the first pack, every card he had taken was either red or green with the sole exception of a Basalt Golem.
The draft gods smiled on Jeff in pack two. As an apology for being denied a Savage Twister, Jeff opened up the powerful Volcanic Dragon. He continued to be shipped goodies in the form of Jungle Wurm, Talruum Minotaur, and Searing Spear Askari. Only the Jungle Wurm gave Jeff pause. In that pack, he had the option to take a Preferred Selection – Jeff spoke very highly of the card, saying that the format was slow enough for the card selection to really matter and hoped it would wheel.
Visions saw Jeff with a first-pick Suq'Ata Lancer. He then picked up a Dwarven Vigilantes to take advantage of the two Lightning Reflexes and two Agilities he had drafted earlier. His third pick was a dream come true, Viashivan Dragon. A River Boa and Lichenthrope rounded out Jeff's draft. The only unfortunate occurrence for Jeff was when he timed out deciding between Rock Slide and Panther Warrior. He tried for the Panther Warrior at the last second but ended up goof-grabbing Prosperity.
Thursday, 12:39 p.m.: Handicapping the Field
We're at the halfway mark, so it seemed like a good time to get all the players' ideas of who might win this whole thing:
Momir Vig has his eye on ffeJ too.The Players
Frank Karsten – Jeff Cunningham
Antoine Ruel – Olivier
Jose Barbero – Antoine
Mike Flores – Cunningham
Geoffrey Siron – Not me, Antoine
Pierre Canali – Antoine, but I'm in the finals with him.
Jeff Cunningham – No Comment. (Randy Buehler was standing next to him and noting that Jeff was currently 7–1 chuckled, "No wonder he said no comment.")
Dave Williams – Me
Gabriel Nassif – Antoine or Cunningham
Terry Soh – Kenji
Julien Nuijten – Kenji
Osyp Lebedowicz – Cunningham
Antonino De Rosa – Osyp
Tsuyoshi Fujita – Kenji
Olivier Ruel – Antoine, oh no no, Siron
Kenji Tsumura – Antoine
Zvi Mowshowitz – Antoine
Randy Buehler – Antoine
Scott Larabee – Osyp (When Zvi was told this he commented, "Osyp will never win an Invitational.")
Mike Turian – Cunningham
Mark Rosewater – Not me, but an All–Star will win for sure!
Thursday, 12:56 p.m.: Simple and Elegant Days of Yore
Mirage was the first set made with an eye on Limited, and it's holding up better than anyone thought. I've heard the sentiment that Mirage makes us realize how far we've come and how good our modern formats are, but there is still something to be said for the simplicity and elegance of the olden days.
Dave Williams put it this way: "I like it. It's kind of easy, I mean it's just bodies, my deck has 18 creatures."
Some of them are Crypt Rats, but a lot of them are vanilla. At the same time, in a real way that's what Magic was meant to be about, the clash of men and removal and tricks. Mirage captures what makes Magic fun and what makes Magic Magic. If it's not the most taxing on your brain, that can be a good change of pace sometimes. There's clearly plenty going on. Here are some moments I found memorable while watching the rounds play out:
- Frank Karsten called out "What is this? The master!" as Dark Ritual foiled his Power Sink, only to untap and find everyone's favorite Kaervek's Torch had come to save the day.
A round later, Karsten would be seen keeping a notepad window open with a list of the cards his opponent had played so far in the match. It's one of those things you know you should be doing, but you just can't motivate yourself to do it. Come on, admit it. You need to tighten up!
- Mike Flores reached out to touch the screen as he counted up the damage coming at him. If your opponent can't see you, he figures, why not add in some extra insurance?
- Even having seen it a few times, it's still strange to have two players playing a Magic Online match, then shake hands afterwards... without either leaving their seat.
- The six-mana Savage Twister hand was looking good against Terry Soh until Kookus showed up, then picked up a Sun Clasp and then a Ritual of Steel. "Build your own dragon," Antonio called it.
Gerrard and who knows how many members of his fan club stood by ready to employ the latest in online distraction and tilt technology, even if the better angels of Antonino de Rosa's nature stopped him from pulling the trigger. He's once again on the line with the team during lunch, trying to shore up holes in his block deck.
E3 has plenty of huge screens and amazing graphics, but it's the little things that count. It is good to remember that.
Thursday, 1:31 p.m.: Terry's Final Fortune
Julien Nuijten was tapped out. All his Mountains were tapped. All his creatures were tapped. Ready to move in for the kill, Terry Soh cast Final Fortune with enough power in creatures to finish off his opponent.
The plan looked good, but there was just one problem. Visions has some free spells. Out of nowhere, a Fireblast from Julien cut down one of the attackers and suddenly Terry didn't have enough power to finish the job in two turns. He symbolically hit the top of his deck but it was no avail.
His final fortune had come.
Thursday, 2:10 p.m.: Block Awareness
With so many blocks to choose from, history is the guide that players must use to find their weapon in Block Party as they furiously browse the coverage history of Block Constructed tournaments for deck ideas. One unique aspect of this scramble is that many of the designers and players of those decks are on hand here to answer questions, and a few more are just an instant message away.
I've had multiple inquiries to my Pro Tour-winning (but here utterly useless) Solution deck. In the words of Pierre Canali, "How do these Crimson Acolytes help?" Back then, in a lot of ways. Right now, not so much. Look elsewhere, my friend.
Randy Buehler has had to field the same questions about Sandsapoise, his signature historical block deck. In the end, a variety of blocks and decks look to emerge with Invasion Block leading the way as the precieved most powerful block and looking to square off against the top two weapons of Odyssey and Onslaught and the surviving decks of Mirrodin as well. Not every block will make it, but the format is almost certainly packed with outstanding variety.
When all was said and done and the decklists submitted, here is how the blocks broke down:
- Invasion: 7
- Odyssey: 5
- Mirrodin: 2 (both mono red)
- Onslaught: 2
Thursday, 3:24 p.m.: Through a Potato's Eyes
My favorite card from Coldsnap.
Paris Hilton was coming to E3 and Osyp has a diabolical plan to meet her!
The plan involves Terry Soh faking illness so they would both get Paris's sympathy.
Osyp's afraid Paris might read the coverage and then his cover will be blown.
Want to get a live demo of V3? Come on down to E3!
While you'e here, pick up your free Core Game and mousepads!
Beware, they are on a different level of Magic play.
Mark Rosewater doing some commentary. Did you know that he worked on Mirage?
Julien Nuijten playing Mirage-Visions draft. He was only 7 when they were originally released.
Who will be the next one to join the club?
Cameras follow the action.
At 2-7, Mike Flores can still smile knowing that the last-place Invitationalist often goes on to win a Pro Tour in the very next year.
A piece of Time Spiral art to end the tour.
Thursday, 4:40 p.m.: An Inside Look at V3
The guy in the Wizards booth constantly meeting with newspapers, websites, and television stations showing off the latest features of V3? That's Justin Ziran, the Brand Manager for Magic Online. In addition to the media interest, he says new and longtime Magic players have been coming up to him commenting on how revitalized V3 looks.
Ziran's been a popular guy this week. Right now V3 is in internal testing. Through this process, V3 will be preparing for external playtesting, scheduled to begin in a couple of months. Of course, being a computer program, there will be continuous quality improvements being made during this time period.
Justin was excited to show off the higher video quality Magic Online V3 will have. Using the latest DirectX technology, V3 has greatly improved the look and feel of Magic Online. Justin showed off some of the different zooming options available in V3. You will never have to squint to see a Magic card again.
Another big improvement that V3 will have is improved tournament systems. Right now Scott Larabee handles the tournaments that are run online, but he'll have many more options in V3. The important thing is that V3 will be more likely to offer the right tournament for you. We will have to wait and see what new formats Mark Rosewater makes to challenge next year's Invitationalists.
Justin loves seeing the project come together and wanted to share that experience with everyone online. Currently a free beta is scheduled for the week before the official V3 release. While that date isn't set in stone, no doubt Magic players will be excited for a whole week of free play.
This is what you have to look forward to.
Thursday, 5:44 p.m.: Soh Where are My Shoes?
Terry Soh likes to take off his shoes during matches. This round, he was in for a rude surprise: His shoes were missing.
The only hint was a sign: Last year's winner's shoes, $2. Contact Olivier Ruel.
In the end, Terry bargained him down to a dollar with the help of alternate source Jose Barbero and the footwear was returned to its rightful owner.
Thursday, 6:11 p.m.: Blow-by-Blow Block Party Bonanza
Frank rips a Starstorm to finish Julien off with the Rifts
Canali claims that his Invasion Block deck is better than Flores's. Mike immediately falls for the bait and starts arguing deckbuilding.
Cunningham slowly dying to the Weapon. Zvi says, 'It was like watching a sword fight a bottle of water.'
Speaking of swords, Nassif seems to be ready to attack for 2.
Flores and Osyp were yelling about Haunting Echoes. Osyp couldn't manage to find it to beat Flores, though.
Rosewater notices that Flores has gone 2-0 in this format but reminds Mike that the same deckbuilder went 0-3 in the Auction of the Geniuses.
Kenji has had supporters here all weekend. His mono-black deck had no way to deal with two Rifts, though.
Williams' Mirrodin mono-red goes down to Nuijten's Onslaught mono-red.