Thursday, December 27, 2012

Getting to Know: Stefan Vesely

Tell us a bit about yourself (Occupation, hobbies anything of interest)? 

I'm an IT technician, married to a Asian and besides playing Magic Online, I play DOTA, HeroesOfNeweart and Starcraft 2.

How long ago did you start playing magic the gathering and why? 

I have been playing Magic since I was in grade 6. I started it cause the black cards looked cool!

Do you play MTGO? If so do you prefer online or paper play? 

I enjoy online as I am a father and my work is very taxing on my time...

What is your favourite Magic format? 

I love Modern, its amazing, interactive and I love doing crazy things with Magic cards!

What are your top 3 draft sets of all time? 

Ravnica, Innistrad, and although most people don't enjoy this I love Invasion.

Your thoughts on the current Standard/Modern/Legacy/Draft (Choose one)

I have been drafting a lot of the new Ravnica!! It's a very good set I love this set, it's very interactive and it's very difficult to find a good balance of aggression and suppression. My favourite colour combination is Black Red; It is aggressive and it has more tools that serve as removal and anti opponent, think Stab Wound.

What are your top 3 favourite cards of all time? 

Dominating Licid, Counterspell and for when I was new Giant Caterpillar.

If you were given the opportunity to design a card what would it be? 

"Volcanic Birds of Paradise" RG;
Flying, Haste,
"T":add "R" or "G" to your mana pool and Volcanic Birds of Paradise deals one damage to its controller.
(Niiice, KC)

What is your favourite deck of all time? 

Blue/White/Black Dump Truck.

In your opinion who are the best magic players/personalities in South Africa?  

I started competitive Magic just when team scrub was taking home all the PTQ titles; I envied the likes of Werner Coete and Richard Cheeseman, but they did the community many injustices, and I vowed never to be like that when I started winning. Just to give you a hint when you lost to them and you were feeling like you can’t break the ceiling, they would smash your confidence even more. They would make you feel like you played badly and they would make you feel like you needed to stop playing as you would never be that good (I was like that too for a little bit).

Although they didn't mean to be like this, I spoke and became friends with them later, I realized that they didn't know what they were doing.

...But there was another group of players and they were also good but when you lost to them they would shake your hand and say "well fought".

After I got better I realized that the skill gap between us Bloemies and the rest of South Africa was huge, not because we had bad players but because the card pool was tiny and the players with the best cards would build the best decks and win but it wasn't all on skill...

There was a player who helped me who made me see the light; His name was Keraan Chetty, I remember in the Mirrodin Block constructed he was playing a stock Tooth and Nail deck and I was playing a UG Crystal Shard deck, and after the game ended he said one thing that ultimately changed the way I approached tournament play. He said "Dude, that list is sick! I wish I had played it, you have skills! But you need to spend more time online... Thanks for the awesome game!"
This wasn't exactly what he said but it was the just of it, and I was blown away, I was no longer afraid to play magic seriously and I realized that fear is definitely the path to the dark side.

Keraan showed me that even though you are good you can forget to be nice to people about it... and that the internet is the one and only resource you really need to take your game to the next level... Soon after, I came second at a ptq and this top 8 streak would last for years until on Keraans home turf I would win a PTQ.

Best South African Player of all time? Well that's difficult, I like to think that for a time I was, Mike Nurse is definitely up there, Keraan himself makes magic look like poetry, Adam Katz takes technical play to the next level and hardly ever makes mistakes Craig Leach is a machine at numbers and there are many more honourable mentions... ZAF is a well of talent and we need to tap it and form a stronger community of Competitive players if we want to take it to the Pro tour, at the moment, there is no one who can play and be honestly serious... We need a few people to fill that role. (thanks your cheque will reach you by mail ED)

What are your magic accomplishments?

Five Second-place PTQ finishes; seven additional Top 8s, 5 PTQ wins in a row, Top-100 at a Pro Tour and forming a friendship with one of the best Hall of Fame players of all time Raph...
Can't forget most 2nd place finishes in the Beach house Cube draft Shenanigans!

You mention the beach house draft shenanigans, could you please elaborate on the setting and the events that unfolded? 

In June this year I was invited to the wmcq's in Durban and as it was my last official tournament of my offline career I wanted to have as much fun as possible... There were 6 people I knew who really wanted to go but were looking for a place to stay. Pierre Venter, one of my best friends has a house and I know I wanted to stay for at least a week. So I contacted two friends of mine from CT (Adam Katz and Craig Leach) and Keraan Chetty and offered them shared room accommodation. They were all keen and obviously no magic trip of mine is complete without my super ninja sidekick Seone "the chief"! So there we were 6 guys in a house playing magic for a whole week. I had a modern cube constructed and Craig bought 2 boxes of Avacyn Restored.

I decided that if I was going to eat and avoid the chore I hate the most that it would be strategic for me to do all the cooking, it was very difficult as we were missing my legendary spice rack and cooking on gas stoves... something that, even though I have many years of restaurant management behind me, I have never got the hang of... but it was still better than the effort any of the others could make...

We played many games of drafting with the cube, it is the most fun you can have playing magic and it also helps with your skill level too, we played roughly 50 cube drafts/sealed/rochesters and I or the team I played in came second in 90% of them, and that was an amazing feat considering we had 6 of the best players to play with us. It was awesome... Too bad I didn't get that much testing in, but I still had the best week of my magic career life...

There is just one question... Craig brought a giant box of Condoms... 6 men one house + condoms?? LOL

Speaking of condoms and blokes, is it true that you recently asked a bloke to be your date to your year-end party?

Yes, I asked the man of my dreams Keraan, to my yearend function at work…but he had other plans…baking, knitting or something like that. Hahaha kidding he had to hang with his girlfriend. (why on earth would anyone turn you down ED)

Most fun or memorable match played/Any epic story about a Magic game?

The firsts will always stick with me till I die,
The first time I played Magic, I built a red/green beat down deck, it had incinerates giant Caterpillar and a whole lot of burn and accel, man that deck was fun, I piloted it to a t16 finish in JHB Edenvale in my first tournament, no one told me that it was only new players and we couldn't play rares; I didn’t even know what rares were.

The first time I made a friend at magic, John William Lotriet, new school, new everything and I found the magic community.

The first time I went to JHB for a tournament, Icon 2001, Man this was the most crazy thing I had ever seen...

The first time I made long distance friends, Keraan, Werner, Cheese, Winslow and many more, made my trips awesome!

The first time I t8ed! what a rush, thank you Ravnica sealed and draft!!

First 2nd place finish, Krayola (Kaloyan Petkov), dude had a sick top deck at 1 life... was mad skillz!

First PTQ win, it was mid summer in Durban, the humidity was so crazy you could jump face first towards the ground and swim to a stop before you hit the ground, the air-cons weren't working and we wanted to play in the passage outside for the Top 8. The rules of the Varsity didn't allow us.
I had been piling hours and hours into Shards drafting and I realized that Jund was the guild of choice. Seone and I both had sick jund decks and I Remember passing my 4th jund charm as I had no creatures in my deck pack one... pack two I got 2 of those creatures that pump when other creatures die, I had a another few removal spells and 2 more pump creatures. The deck was almost constructed it had 3 Sprouting Thrinax's and 2 Bone Shards... Rueben Cronje had no chance in the finals with his 4/5 colour Cruel Ultimatum deck...

My first Pro Tour was amazing, Kyoto was freezing and between the rain and snow I couldn't get a dry pair of socks for days, but I knew that I had put enough hours into the constructed format the drafting day two is what really let me down... I made 2 mistakes that were really telling of my nerves, one I Played a Oblivion ring targeting a really bad creature and another one that ate me was trying to burn a faerie on 2 life when he had a bitter blossom in play... I should have waited with the burn in hand for something to happen, he was going to die anyway!

Have you ever considered quitting magic and if so what has kept you going?

The PTQ when I came second to Mr Krayola, was devastating at the time, coming sooo close to winning (1 life point) and falling short is not easy… I wrote to “ask the pro’ column of that Raphael Levy was responding and he wrote something that took me to the Pro Tour…

he said, “if you come t8 and 2nd a lot but miss it then you are good enough to take it, unfortunately and fortunately magic is a game of luck and skill, sometimes the luck makes it difficult but it is also what we love about the game…don’t give up on your dream and play..” This isn’t exactly what he said but it was the just of it.

When I finally made it to the tour I thanked him and became his friend…so I’ll pass on that advice to you. If it is your dream then use it.

Any other things you want to add, just throw it in here. Funny stories, dos and don’ts etc.

Remember Magic is first and foremost fun, one Icon they were giving double prizes to any "mixed Gender" teams so we played around with that a bit and came in dresses and claimed 2 boxes of boosters over the weekend... Sure we were laughed at but it was loads of fun... Do what makes you feel good! Have fun!

I’ve heard a rumour that Seone has recently become a pimp and that you and Pierre are just a couple of his 'hos'? 

No no no, I'm the pimp and They be my Ho's!

The most important question of the lot…If the pimps are in the crib then what should you do?

Drop it like its hot…


Monday, December 10, 2012

Getting to know Russell Tanchel

1 Tell us a bit about yourself (Occupation, hobbies anything of interest)?
Fraud investigator. Hobbies = games: board games, card games, pc games + reading.

2 How long ago did you start playing magic the gathering and why?

3 answers - #1. I was part of a D&D group that evolved into boardgaming and Warhammer. The sister of one of the people lived next door Richard Garfield in the USA (or something like that - it was a long time ago). Dr Garfield gave her 5 beta starters to send to her brother. So our group played some beta magic. It sucked. We took a starter, shuffled all the cards together, and played. Mana screw / wrong colour happened. The first creature cast often won the game. After 2 or 3 games we put the cards back in their boxes, never to be used again. 4 of these beta starters were never seen again - one re-surfaced in January 2000 when a friend moved house. It was duly given to me - i traded the whole starter for about 100 rares from Mercadian Masques and Nemesis.

#2. In June of 1997 my brother-in-law and his cousin showed me this interesting game called Magic. I played a few games with them, and grasped it a lot better than they did. I used their cards to build decks, and crushed them easily. One of the old D&D chaps gave me about 180 magic cards including my pride and joy - 1 Armageddon and 1 wrath of god. I built a mono red goblin/burn deck and played against my brother-in-law and his cousin combined. Playing just one of them was too easy. We played both of them against me, and I won more than I lost.

#3. I played casual magic for a while before going to my first sanctioned tournament on 3 May 1998 (You should be a creative at an agency Ed)

3 Wow that is a long time, so if you removed the sex, drugs, rock n’ roll then does that make you the Mick Jagger of the Sa magic scene?

More like the Frank Sinatra.

4 Do you play MTGO? If so do you prefer online or paper play?

Yes - and paper is way better. I like watching my opponents squirm :)

5 What is your favourite magic format?

Draft - lots and lots of draft

6 What are your top 3 draft sets of all time?

Ravnica block (the old one), Invasion block, and the current RtR block in 6 months time - once it is complete. I kept a draft set of 8 Ravnica boosters, 8 Guildpact boosters and 8 Dissension boosters from all these years ago. I ran a draft at The underground about 2 weeks before Return to Ravnica was released. According to the Planeswalker Points site, I won the draft.

7 Speaking of Draft, since I moved to JHB 4 years ago you have been hosting what I believe is the most competitive weekly draft in South Africa. How did this come about and when did it all begin?

I started drafting in 1999 when I qualified for Nationals for the first time. Draft was held at Outer Limits, and then the Pizza shop across the road from OL, and was run by Peter Coode. In May 2002 Peter wrote off his BMW and himself on the way back from the Bloemfontein pre-release for Judgement. David Pope was in the car and survived the crash. I took over running drafts in June 2002. I guess I have drafted a lot as I never stopped running the tournament.

8 What are your top 3 favourite cards of all time?

Volrath's Shapeshifter, Urza's Rage, and Balance.

9 If you were given the opportunity to design a card what would it be?

A red and green creature

10 What is your favourite deck of all time?

Full English Breakfast with Phage the untouchable. 2nd favourite is any deck with Urza's lands in.

11 In your opinion who are the best magic players/personalities in South Africa?

The top 3 in no particular order are Me, Mike Nurse, and John Wood. David Hoffmeyer, the most talented player in this country ever, gets an honourable mention, but he is no longer in SA.

12 What are your magic accomplishments?

11,458 Planeswalker points making me a level 41 battlemage - sounds impresive - must be a magic accomplishment. I am the only person in South Africa to win a Regionals tournament in 3 different decades (JHB in 1999, several in the 2000's, and Pretoria in 2010). Nationals - winner in 2001 with Fires of Yavimaya deck (we played best of 5 in those days - I was 0-2 down and had to mulligan a no lander. Won that game and the next 2 ). 2nd in 2004 with tooth and Nail. 4th in 2005 with Mono blue Urzatron. Top 8's in 2009 (Jund) and 2010 (Rakdos aggro). Note the steady decline in finishing positions! 9 PTQ top 8's over the years with 1 win and 2 2nd's. Winner of the one and only Magic Invitational held at Icon way back - organised by the 2 Patel brothers and Andrew Stephens. There were 16 players. We played 3 rounds of draft, one 16 player multiplayer game (I ended 3rd with a mono white deck), and 3 rounds of Standard. Then there was a top 2 final - I beat the mighty Psychatog deck with my Balancing Things deck.

13 Most fun or memorable match played/Any epic story about a magic game?

A tournament on 2 October 2005 in Vereeniging. There was R1000.00 in store credit and cash on offer at Emerald Casino. John Wood and I drove down together. We were both playing the mono-blue Urzatron with which I made the top 4 of nationals a few months before. The time came to register our decks, and I could not find my deck anywhere. I had left it at home. A nice lady called Sonja said I could look through her collection, find some cards, and make a deck. I found what I needed to make a white weenie deck. I had most of the commons and uncommons I needed, but only 1 of some key rares like Hokori, Dust Drinker. I made the top8 with 4 wins and an ID with John. I won the first 2 rounds of the top 8, and met John in the final. My makeshift white weenie deck beat his fully powered Urzatron deck, with me drawing Hokori at key moments in 2 of the games. My favourite match and indeed whole tournament ever.

14 Your thoughts on the current Standard/Modern/Legacy/Draft (Choose one).

Draft of course. Fantastic to draft RtR. There are many viable options and any deck can win if you build it properly. Cards that are great in 1 deck can be rubbish in other - so it is key to have a strategy in mind when drafting. And if the colour/s you want dry up, just go with all 5 colours!

15 Any other things you want to add, just throw it in here. Funny stories, dos and don’ts etc.

A story about my first Regionals tournament on 11 April 1999 - it was my 4th sanctioned tournament. Urza's Legacy was the latest set. Those days we had ratings, and mine was 1568. A starting player had a rating of 1600 - this made me a bit of a scrub. There were no net decks in those days - Scry & Duelist magazines were hot stuff, and The Dojo website was unknown to me. I made a RG land destruction deck all by myself, featuring 4 lightning dragons and 4 argothian wurms as finishers. I knew nothing about a metagame, but I had the right deck. People played two enchantments all day long. The first was Eladamri's Vineyard (At the beginning of each player's main phase, add GG to that player's mana pool.) It is a great combo for me with a mountain and stone rain. The other was Energy field (Prevent all damage dealt to you from sources you do not control. When a card is put into your graveyard, sacrifice Energy Field.). Um, Stone rain you land. If you counter it, the counter goes to the yard and you lose energy field. If you don't, the land I killed goes to the yard, and so does energy field. I went 8-1 in the 9 rounds, and won the tournament on tie-breaks. See if you know any of these people:

1Win (+3)Walluschnig, Vassilo R
2Win(+3) Artman, Clive
3Win(+3)Cascioli, Vincenzo
4Loss (+0)Oppenheimer, Mark
5Win(+3) Stephens, Andrew
6Win(+3)Said, Jeffry
7Win (+3)Tu, Steven
8Win(+3)Battiscombe, Peter
9Win (+3)Moldenhauer, Brent

(Just 2 Ed)

16 Given your long standing relationship are you and John Wood the Starsky and Hutch of the local magic scene?

Dolce and Gabbana. Batman and Robin. The Lone ranger and Tonto. Itchy and Scratchy. Take your pick


The Judge's Corner: Stepping up from Regular to Competitive Week 2

By Mark Young:

Greetings to all my fellow Magic players.
I apologise that this blog post is a bit late, but I have been busy adapting to a new work environment, which in the long run, means more money to spend on Magic!

Any how, this week I want to focus on some of the smaller things that you will encounter when playing in a Competitive (Comp) event.

The first one being perhaps being the most overlooked: the result slip.
I mentioned this last week, but basically what it is, small slip of paper with your name and the name of your opponent on it.

Also, you will find each others DCI numbers on it as well as the number of points each of you have in the event so far.

There are also lines under 3 headings, Wins, Draws and Drop.
At the end of your match, you record the result on the slip.
So if you beat your opponent 2 - 1, you would put 2 next to your name on the slip and 1 next to your opponents’ name.
Then each of you have to sign the slip to show that you agree that the score is correct and then hand it in to a Judge who will give it to the score keeper.
If you wish to drop from the event, which means you desire to have no further part to play in it, you mark the line that says drop.
That lets the Scorekeeper know to drop you and you will not be paired for any of the subsequent rounds.

This leads me to the next bit of the event, the actual pairings.
Most large Comp events will print and post pairings alphabetically, which means that your name will appear twice in the pairings.
Don’t worry, you only have one opponent. Also on the pairings page will be the table number you are required to sit at for the match and the number of points you have so far in the event.
If you notice that your score is incorrect, you MUST notify the Judges immediately, if you pick up the fact that you were recorded with a loss as opposed to a win two or three rounds after the fact, it is too late and the result will not be changed.
The onus is on you to ensure your points total is correct.
The next thing is that you need to have a way of keeping track of yours and your opponent’s life total.
Dice are NOT acceptable.
You either need to be writing it all down or you can use an electronic device so long as it remains visible and is accessible to both players at all times.
Dice can change if the table is bumped, leading to unnecessary arguments.
Pen and paper are easy to follow.
The final point that I can think of for now is, never get involved in some one else’s game.
If you see something, call a Judge!
That is why we are there and we will determine what has happened and the appropriate fix for the situation if something has indeed happened.
If you give play advice to a player, YOU will be the one punished by the judges.

Always remember that no matter what the level of play is, we are all there to have fun and enjoy ourselves. Rules are necessary in all things so that every one can enjoy the event equally.

Again if you have queries or comments, please feel free to comment below or message me on Facebook.
Till next time, keep tapping that Mana!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Blowfish Invitational Report

By Nic Chrysochou:

Shuffle deck
Dice roll
Play/draw first
Early game
Mid game
Late game
End game

If you remove the finer details this is basically what the card game Magic the Gathering™ is all about.
Looks simple and should be but the process to get to the "end game" is much more complicated.
It is inevitable that if you lose (or win) at any anything your thoughts become intoxicated with the reasons for failure/success and the purpose of you competing in the first place.

Most people don’t take failure very easily and it takes real courage to reflect on what transpired and attempt to determine what to improve on.

When we are competing in some event it is human nature that the result should be reflective of the effort put in (what you put in is what you get out), this enables us to justify the reason for making the effort in the first place.

If one goes to the gym say at least four times a week for the next three months they would be expecting some amount of muscle growth or fat loss because they have put the time in and made an effort. After all we need visual confirmation that our efforts have not been in vain in order to motivate us to continue trying because we are yielding results.

This is a flaw that we all are susceptible to.

If we put our headphones on and zone-out while running on the treadmill we cannot really expect to see the same results as everyone else. When we do something, we should be motivated and preparing our minds for the influx of new information. In other words the quality of preparation/effort is much more important than the quantity.

Magic the Gathering™ is not a physical game (luckily for most players) but involves the same quality of concentration as any other activity. In order to improve and learn we actually need to reflect thoroughly on our experiences. Unfortunately/fortunately there is an unquantifiable force known as variance or luck that can interfere with our ambitions. If it was possible to learn how to minimise the negative effects of variance then we could all become better players.

I read an interview with Adam Katz earlier this year where he talked about how after matches he would always think about the plays he made and how the games went.

An Overview of the Standard Metagame

By Sanjay Roopnah:

I figured I'd write something for the SA magic community to contribute. This article is aimed primarily at the newbies to assist them in identifying their preferred archetype and choosing the deck that most suits them. I will give a very simplistic overview of each archetype and list the decks available in each, but I will not be posting deck lists for couple of reasons:

1. I believe that a Magic player needs to do some research by themselves.
2. Deck lists are supposed to be dynamic, and need to be tweaked on a weekly basis.
3. By the time they print this article, there will be some more deck lists that will be available.

The new player should therefore decide which archetype he/she most likes and pick a deck and play. If he/she wants some help with a deck list, I will gladly assist.

 With the release of Return to Ravnica, Standard has become very interesting again. The reprinting of the Ravnica Shocklands was the best thing that Wizards of the Coast could have done. The most important thing in Magic is having access to a stable mana base because it allows you to consistently cast all the spells in the deck. Moreover, there are some very interesting cards that were printed. I will put the decks in the following categories (archetypes) and the list of decks is not exhaustive by any means:

1. Aggro
2. Pure Control
3. Aggro-Control
4. Midrange / Fringe

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The 2012 Blowfish Invitational: Enrico Agostino Guarneri


My preparation for the Invitational really started before I left for Seattle to attend the Pro Tour, since Return to Ravnica Draft would form part of both events.

After my dismal performance on the Friday at the Pro Tour I wasn't really in the mood for Magic for the rest of the weekend.  On the Saturday I decided to take a downtown tour of Seattle on foot which resulted in me getting lost and having to ask some police officers for help getting back to my hotel.

On the Sunday morning I spoke to my fiancĂ©e Nicole (who had not come with) telephonically and she pointed out that if I was serious about doing well at the Invitational I should do some drafting at the Pro Tour side-events.  I took a walk to the neighbouring hotel (where registration for the Pro Tour had taken place on Thursday night) and found a couple of players who told me that free unsanctioned Drafts were being held at the Pro Tour.

I lost count of how many Drafts I did that Sunday.

On my return to South Africa, I felt quite confident about RTR Draft but was rather worried about what I would play in Standard.  I played in three tournaments the weekend before the Invitational.  I played BR Zombies at the FNM at THUG and AI Fest on the Saturday morning and concluded that the Thragtusk-deck match-ups were just too tough.  I tried BG Zombies on the Sunday Game-day at THUG and found it even worse.

By Sunday night the deck I liked most was WUR Midrange.  However with less than a week before the Invitational I felt that there would be too little time to become comfortable with the deck and the various match-ups.  I felt my only chance to do well would be to play Aggro.

It seemed like Selesnya Aggro was the best Aggro deck.  However I also knew that most of the top players would be prepared for it and decided to give Azorius Aggro a try at Warfare on Tuesday night.  I finished 4th after losing a very close match against WUR Midrange.  I felt comfortable with the deck.  It was easy to play and had a lot of raw power.

Later that night I found a list by Tomoharu Saito.  For the next three days I tested the list against Jarcque, Damian, Robert and Nicole.  From the testing I knew that my Control match-ups would be tough but I would have a reasonable match-up against Midrange (especially Jund) and Frites (especially post boarding).  I knew that my Aggro match-ups would be close but I suspected that most of the top players would not be playing Aggro and I could therefore avoid these match-ups in the later rounds.

Stepping up from Regular to Competitive: Part 1

By Mark Young.

Hello to everyone again.

As promised in my previous article, I am now going to focus on the progression from regular
events to competitive ones.

This may take a few articles to cover all the information, but rather that, than flood you with
it all at once.

As I mentioned previously, the rules for Magic stay the same, regardless of the event you
are playing, only the Rules Enforcement Level (REL) changes. So when you step up to a
Competitive (Comp) event from your Regular (Reg) ones, you can expect a few changes as to
what happens.

First and foremost, there should always be a judge present at a Comp level event.
Judges cannot play in a Comp event, nor can players judge. In the same light the Tournament
Organiser (TO) cannot participate in the event either.
The one thing that I want to focus on this week, is deck lists as you will be required to submit
one for every Comp level event that you play, upon registering.

So, what is a deck list?
A deck list is a piece of paper, on which you will have written down all the cards in your
deck and sideboard that you are going to use for the event.
Normally, Comp events have substantial prizes for doing well or winning, and the elevation
of the REL is in an attempt to minimize cheating.