Archive | February 2015

Fate Reforged Standard

I’ve been playing Magic for a while, and since one of the first stores I frequented was one with really competitive players, I played what the other players at the store played, which were mostly the competitive formats. Things like Standard, Block and Extended when those were real formats. More recently, even though I don’t go to stores much anymore, I’ve even played Modern. Over the years, I’ve played a lot of Standard formats. Some I’ve liked more than others. This current Standard is the one I’ve liked most in a very long time.

Khans Standard was actually a pretty good format. In the actual competitive metagame, there have been a lot of diverse decks. Sure, toward the end, Abzan and Sultai sort of ruled the roost, but along the way, there were a lot of very solid decks that were played at the competitive level. At the start of the format, there were Jeskai and RW decks. Then there were UB control decks, big-mana green decks and various heroic decks. Through all of that, I played Naya Planeswalkers on MODO. Mainly, Chandra, Xenagos, Sarkhan, Nissa and Elspeth. Also a couple of miser’s Ajanis. And even a Chain Veil. I was a bit worried the deck wouldn’t work after Fate Reforged came out, but with a few adjustments, I was able to have a bunch of success with it.

Naya Planeswalkers
//25 Land
4 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
4 Temple of Abandon
3 Temple of Plenty
3 Battlefield Forge
3 Forest
2 Mountain
2 Plains
//14 Planeswalkers
3 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
2 Sarkhan Dragonspeaker
2 Nissa, Worldwaker
2 Chandra Pyromaster
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
1 Ajani Steadfast
//14 Creatures
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
2 Whisperwood Elemental
//6 Instants
3 Lightning Strike
3 Valorous Stance
//1 Enchantment
1 Outpost Siege

I feel like the main reason to play this deck is the relative high power level of planeswalkers in a vacuum. In that same way, Rabblemaster and Whisperwood are actually very similar to planeswalkers. A lot of the time, an unanswered Rabblemaster can win the game by itself. I even have Valorous Stances to protect it. But really, any of the threats can end the game on its own if unanswered. I have a great deal of threat diversity, as well. I have the ability to rebuild quickly after a wrath effect. I tried Ugin in the deck before, but honestly, it never really fit into any of the situations I was having trouble with. I used to have Courser and not Mystic, but we really want to get to 4 or 5 mana as quickly as possible. Also, the ability to go Rabblemaster on turn 2 is valuable enough that I wouldn’t want to give it up.

There are a few choices I’d like to talk about, which are the Lightning Strikes, Valorous Stances and Ajanis. In earlier versions, I had more Valorous Stances and no Lightning Strikes. However, I was losing quite a bit to the heroic decks that are popular on MODO, so I switched things around a bit. I have more concessions to the aggro decks in the sideboard as well. The Ajanis seem a bit random, but both of them are very good when they are good and not all that spectacular in the matchups they aren’t great in. The lifegain and Crusade abilities of Steadfast are both great situationally and Mentor of Heroes’ tutor ability can be pretty insane in the right situation. Ultimately, however, these are just there because I want them in there, not necessarily because this is the best configuration.

In fact, I wouldn’t say that this is likely the best configuration at all. I’m playing the deck primarily because I have an affinity for planeswalkers. I think a lot of people playing against planeswalkers tend to make more mistakes. And that helps me out quite a bit, since I’m prone to making mistakes as well. For now, I just want to put this out there in the world. It’s a deck that I’ve been playing for a while and like quite a bit. I’ve been having a pretty good amount of success with it on MODO(I rarely ever lost during Khans standard, actually) and I just don’t want to keep it to myself. So, world, ready or not, here’s FRF Naya Planeswalkers.

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Watching people make music

Something interesting started last year. I started watching a series of movies and shows that involve people making music. It started with an anime called Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso(April is Your Lie), which is about a young man who is a pianist. In that anime, which is currently still running, he loses his mother, who happens to be his piano teacher and the most important person in his life. In losing his mother, he loses the piano, which happens to be another of his closest companion. They make up some excuse about him not being able to hear the notes he’s playing on the piano, but really, it’s probably closer to him not being able to be near the piano since it brings up so many bad memories of his other great loss. The two are so closely intertwined in his mind and his memories that losing one made him almost lose the other.

Now, I’m not a musician myself. I took classes for piano and guitar when I was a kid, as seems to be required by law when you have Asian parents. I never really paid any attention in those classes, since I took them when I was a kid. I say this because I don’t exactly have the same experience as Arima, the main character of Shigatsu. It wasn’t that I related to his experience. I was just fascinated with a view into what goes into making music that way.

Also last year, I had the chance to go see Whiplash, a movie about obsession and music. In it, a young man played by Miles Teller becomes obsessed with becoming the drummer in the studio band, led by JK Simmons. It’s a fascinating look into the lives of those musicians who strive to make the music that I think some of us take for granted. I know I did. I had no idea the kinds of sacrifices these folk make to become as good as they are. Interestingly, since like a lot of art, music is composed of technical ability as well as the intangible bit of artistry, there is a dichotomy between that technical ability and the ability to make truly great music. Whiplash is about jazz music, and there is a sort of inherently spontaneous quality to jazz which is what makes it compelling. However, in the movie, Miles Teller’s character becomes obsessed with technical perfection. As he is a drummer, it is perfect timing that he really needs. This struggle between spontaneity and technical perfection is an interesting one.

This is a theme also comes up in Shigatsu. The main character, Arima, was a piano prodigy long before the story starts. He slavishly followed the original arrangement and played perfectly, being called a human metronome. However, after he loses his taste for the piano, this is no longer the case. When he gets dragged back into the world of music, his play changes. He is no longer perfect, and is then considered to be better for it.

I’ve seen the stories of musicians more recently. It’s showed up in a few things that I’ve seen, but the last one I’ll mention is Amazon’s original series, Mozart in the Jungle. Mozart in the Jungle is about a conductor, an oboist and the New York Orchestra. It is a good show on many levels, but the great revelation I got from the show is the difficult path that is faced by these musicians. Classical music, which requires a great deal of technical ability(probably moreso than most other forms of music) is somewhat of a dying art. And the path seems long and the rewards don’t seem worth it. What kind of obsessed maniac would choose a life like that? Just judging based on what little I’ve seen recently about the path these folk face, I personally would never choose a life like that. And yet, I, like everyone else, wish that I could create such beautiful art. I feel jealous, even though I would never want that life. It’s a life of suffering and beauty. Of rejection and thrilling acceptance. Of sacrifice and practice, but of great and beautiful art. I wouldn’t choose it for myself, but I am now very grateful that there are those who do choose it.

Tomorrow

“Live like there’s no tomorrow” isn’t very good advice unless there is no tomorrow. That’s the fundamental problem with the philosophy: there IS a tomorrow. Actions have consequences. That last bit is the most important of all.

The first time I woke up today, a lot had changed. I was in a place I had known, but was unfamiliar with. I woke up with memories of what I thought was a dream, but felt far more real than a dream ever could. With more detail than I believed I could just dream up. Dreams of a world where I lived a very different life. And yet, just as completely, I dreamed of the life I had before I woke up. I remembered them both equally.

The first time I woke up today, everything was wrong. Not only was I not working with Ed on our project, I hadn’t seen him in years. When I looked him up, he had become a lawyer. And though I still remembered her, I had never met Cat. I was living in the house I had grown up in in the States and was working in a very different sort of field than in the other life I had remembered. But I did have memories of the life I woke up in. I had the memories of losing touch with Ed, moving back home to my parents’ house, all of it. So I decided that the other life had just been a dream and that I would forget about it in a day. But the next time I woke up today, I hadn’t forgotten.

Instead, what I had been greeted with was the same day. For reference, today is February the first of 2015. The day of the superbowl. The day of the finals of Grand Prix San Jose. Week 2 of the LCS. But for me, it’s the last day of eternity. The second time I woke up today, things had changed again. Little details here and there. I could remember them. If you know me, that’s probably pretty surprising. I don’t remember a lot of details. But I could remember a lot more the second time I woke up today. More than I had ever remembered before. Three lives, the details of which had changed over the course of years. More than I really wanted or even needed to remember. The details clogged up space in my brain. The second time I woke up today, I lived the same day again.

The next few times, more details changed. I kept wondering how far it went. Different lives, different jobs. Sometimes, my parents were still alive. I had lives where I had met Cat and lost her. Where Ed and I were still friends. Every time I wake up, I hope for a new day, but inevitably I wake up on February the first of 2015. But more and more they keep blending together. New memories and old. And from what I can tell, which admittedly isn’t much, they keep trending toward something. I’m not sure what, but the more times I wake up, the more lives I remember living, the more they start to feel the same. Not just the blending. The details I still remember of my life before my life was just February the first, 2015, are very different than even the first time I woke up today.

I’ve been wondering what happened to me. I’ve keep wondering if it’s a curse or a dream or maybe a consequence of something I no longer remember doing. It’s kind of supernatural thinking to think that way, but I honestly have no explanation. All I know is that I want to fight back, but I don’t know how. I don’t want to keep living this day over and over. Everything I’ve tried has been erased by the next sunrise. I need a way to end it. And even though I know that by my own tomorrow this post will disappear, I’m going to do it anyway. I would just like another tomorrow.