I used to hate the idea of New Year’s resolutions. I’m all for positive change and self-improvement but why do we need the guise of a new year to enact it? New Year’s resolutions just felt like lists of things you would have already changed if they were important enough. Are you really going to start going to the gym? I’ve been telling myself that for the past three New Years.

But, then again, sometimes people need that date. A deadline. New you in the new year and all that jazz. Most people won’t pay the upkeep on their New Year’s resolutions, but some people will, and that’s the important part. I am a person who needs deadlines. As a professional procrastinator I delay everything until the last possible second then I crash into the deadline with a cup of coffee and some sleep deprived feeling of accomplishment. I’ve been told that this isn’t healthy, that I should get better at planning, manage my time more efficiently but at 27 years old my tried and true method hasn’t failed me yet. This article isn’t about my issues with time management, fixing that is not one of my resolutions.

I do have a few Magic related resolutions though.

Pick a deck and stick to it

Over the past few weeks I’ve been playing a planeswalker heavy version of Abzan Midrange. The night before the PTQ this weekend, during a testing session with some friends, I built Abzan Aggro and decided to audible to that deck.

Abzan Aggro

LANDS (25)
Windswept Heath
Sandsteppe Citadel
Temple of Silence
Llanowar Wastes
Caves of Koilos
Temple of Malady
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Mana Confluence

Anafenza, the Foremost
Fleecemane Lion
Rakshasa Deathdealer
Siege Rhino
Wingmate Roc

Spells (15)
Bile Blight
Hero’s Downfall
Abzan Charm

Back to Nature
Drown in Sorrow
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Glare of Heresy
Murderous Cut
Nissa, Worldwaker

There was a lot I liked about the deck. One, it ran a full four Anafenza, a card that has been a house for me against the Sidisi Whip decks. I’ve found the Whip matchup to be pretty bad as it’s difficult to beat multiple copies of [casthaven]Hornet Queen[/casthaven] or close out a game when Whip of Erebos gives all creatures lifelink. Rather than try to go long against a deck with lifelinking deathtouchers, Abzan aggro tries to finish up the game early with a host of early beaters and some of the best disruption in the format. I also loved the [casthaven]Back to Nature[/casthaven] plan in the sideboard. With no enchantments in the main deck, not even [casthaven]Courser of Kruphix[/casthaven], Back to Nature blows out Constellation and Whip decks while being serviceable against various forms of [casthaven]Jeskai Ascendancy[/casthaven]. I fantasized about blowing up Coursers, Whips, [casthaven]Banishing Light[/casthaven]s, and [casthaven]Doomwake Giant[/casthaven]s at the PTQ; 2-for-1’ing enchantments all over the place for the low price of two mana.

While I liked a lot about the deck in theory, I didn’t have a great run in testing. I won a few games against a bunch of different decks but really only destroyed the GB Constellation matchup. I decided to try it the next day anyway.

First round I played against Abzan Midrange and was quickly buried under the card advantage of Courser and [casthaven]Read the Bones[/casthaven] while being unable to deal with an active Elspeth. Next round, I played in the mirror and got lucky when my opponent missed a few land drops. I boarded totally incorrectly but this only became apparent when I played the mirror again the next round and got squashed. I won a match against UW Heroic thanks to the decks plethora of removal spells but got destroyed the following round by a Green Devotion deck. I dropped after 2-3’ing and feeling bad about my deck choice and the way I played the deck.

Ultimately, I think I would have just been better off playing Abzan Midrange. I was more comfortable with the deck, had a better idea of sideboard plans, and think that it might have just been a better deck for the meta.

The thing is that this is not an isolated incident. In fact I wrote a whole article back in April of this year discussing a bad performance in a Modern tournament and how not testing appropriately is a big problem for me. If I keep any resolution this year it should be to prepare adequately for a tournament and play the deck I’m most comfortable with, not the one I found on MTG Top 8.

Build a Tiny Leaders deck and run a tournament

I’ve been really interested in Tiny Leaders as a format. It’s an one-on-one EDH variant with 50 card decks, 25 life, and all cards in the deck, including the commander, must be converted mana cost three or less. The format appeals to me as someone who appreciates the singleton nature of EDH but doesn’t always want to jam a three hour multiplayer game. Tiny Leaders is kind of like Legacy and EDH had a baby and that is really sweet to me.

Since it’s a new-ish format, I think the best way I can get my friends to start playing is to have a small unsanctioned tournament at my place. I’ll have some sort of prize support to incentivize people putting some time and effort into deckbuilding and make a night out of it.

For my first deck I wanted to build around one of my favorite strategies of all time; [casthaven]Astral Slide[/casthaven]. Here is my first draft:

Marath Rift and Slide

General (1)
Marath, Will of the Wild

Land (20)
Arid Mesa
Command Tower
Drifting Meadow
Forgotten Cave
Razorverge Thicket
Sacred Foundry
Secluded Steppe
Slippery Karst
Smoldering Crater
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Tranquil Thicket
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

Creature (11)
Blade Splicer
Eternal Witness
Farhaven Elf
Kitchen Finks
Knight of the Reliquary
Reclamation Sage
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Wall of Blossoms
Wall of Omens
Wall of Omens
Wood Elves

Artifact (2)
Engineered Explosives
Sundial of the Infinite

Instant (10)
Akroma’s Blessing
Enlightened Tutor
Gilded Light
Radiant’s Judgment
Renewed Faith
Spark Spray
Swords to Plowshares

Sorcery (4)
Edge of Autumn
Fiery Justice
Flame Jet
Life from the Loam

Enchantment (3)
Astral Slide
Lightning Rift
Sterling Grove

It’s got everything I want in a deck, a [casthaven]Life from the Loam[/casthaven] card advantage package, a bunch of repeatable come into play abilities, and [casthaven]Lightning Rift[/casthaven] as the main win condition. I feel slightly bad that Marath doesn’t have much to do with the overall theme of the deck, and is actually kind of a nonbo with [casthaven]Astral Slide[/casthaven], but if I’m playing Naya my only other option is [casthaven]Mayael the Anima[/casthaven], which seems pretty bad in this format.

Keep better track of my cube

After adding a few new archetypes (RW Tokens and BUG Self-Mill) to my pauper cube, I realized that a few things were off. I had more blue cards than the rest of the colors, a weird distribution of multicolored cards, and some cards that were just too powerful and supremely unfun. After fixing the numbers, making some power level swaps, and resleeving the cube I’m pretty stoked about drafting with it. However, I realized that I need a better way to track the changes I make when a new set comes out in order to ensure the balance of the cube. It’s a time intensive process to type out the contents of the cube online but I think it’s ultimately worth it as it will not only allow me to track changes I make, but also to seek feedback from others with similar cubes.

I’d also like to have a current list for my cube because I’m currently  in the slow process of foiling out the whole thing. I haven’t actively searched for the cards online but will always look through bargain bins when I’m at larger events for anything I might need. In the past two weeks I’ve bought multiple copies of stuff like [casthaven]Vaporkin[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Satyr Wayfinder[/casthaven] as well as some cards that weren’t even in my cube. While I’m not breaking the bank on twenty-five cent foils, I’d prefer to not add to my egregiously large collection of crap if I don’t need to.

While there are other things I’d like to change, in Magic and my personal life, I like having a short list of manageable things to accomplish. Right now sticking to a deck, playing Tiny Leaders, and keeping an updated cube list are my priorities in terms of Magic stuff. By this time next year I’d like to be able to say that I have had some good tournament runs with decks I’m comfortable with, a sweet Tiny Leaders deck or two, and a fun and fully foiled out cube that is easily accessible online.

Anyone else have any Magic resolutions in 2015?


At age 15, while standing in a record store with his high school bandmates, Shawn Massak made the uncool decision to spend the last of his money on a 7th edition starter deck (the one with foil [casthaven]Thorn Elemental[/casthaven]). Since that fateful day 11 years ago, Shawn has decorated rooms of his apartment with MTG posters, cosplayed as [casthaven]Jace, the Mindsculptor[/casthaven], and competes with LSV for the record of most islands played (lifetime). When he’s not playing Magic, Shawn works as a job coach for people with disabilities and plays guitar in an indie-pop band.

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