Here we are in January 2016. Another year of Magic awaits. The end of the year is a dead time for Magic, as we wait for the calendar to turn over, for new prereleases and the start of tournament seasons. Players are talking about the new cards from Oath of the Gatewatch. Grinders are planning out their Grand Prix travel. Most games of Magic are with friends, or the online Holiday cube.

The 2016 Grand Prix schedule is a sad offering for limited Magic lovers. Wizards is only hosting individual limited grand prix on the weekends between each set release and the subsequent pro tour. To keep the total number of limited grand prix up, they have scheduled three simultaneous tournaments during each of those four weekends.

For those of us who want to travel to every limited grand prix possible, this is a disaster. Other than a couple team limited tournaments, if I want to play a limited grand prix, I have to travel on those four post-release weekends. Unfortunately for me, I have a very busy work schedule in late January and early February. I simply cannot travel to Vancouver or Mexico City for the only Oath of the Gatewatch limited grand prix. I am planning to be in DC for the team tournament in March, but that’s the first professional limited tournament I can play this year. We have four local sealed PPTQs to tide me over, but that’s not enough.


Seeing where the grand prix circuit is heading, I’ve been trying to take constructed more seriously. I enjoy traveling to grand prix and playing Magic at a high level competitively. If I want to do that often enough to improve, I have to go to Standard tournaments. And so I am hopping out to Grand Prix Oakland this weekend. It will be nice to play some competitive matches.

I enjoy playing Standard. Recent metagames have been pleasant and full of fun and varied cards. But you really have to acquire a lot of cards to consistently play with the top decks, which shift as the weeks and months go by. My day job keeps me busy enough that I don’t have tons of time to meet with friends or go to stores to play paper Magic. Playing Magic Online fits my schedule much better. For limited, Magic Online is great: you can play whenever for a minimal investment, and if you play well, you can come close to breaking even.

For constructed, Magic Online requires that you invest in cards. I love collecting paper cards and feel the instrinsic value in the cardboard. Digital cards are close to worthless. When I buy or trade for cards to round out a paper constructed deck, I don’t feel like I’m paying a fee to play a game. I’m exchanging resources more equally—money for collectible cards—not simply paying for a good time.


And so I have resisted spending money to maintain Standard or Modern decks online. I hone my Magic skills playing limited online, and follow the constructed metagames closely enough to be able to jump in and play when I have a tournament to focus on. If I want to win a Standard grand prix, though, I need to practice more. I need to be confident which sideboard tweaks will reap rewards in a given week. I need to know the weak spots of my chosen decks before round one, not by round five. To win a tournament, you can’t give away matches.

Do I need to spend the money to maintain constructed decks online? I hope not. But I need to put effort into card pooling or maybe even force time for paper constructed into my weekly routine. Can I do it? I sure hope so. As much as I look forward to Grand Prix Oakland, I doubt I will be as prepared as I should be. I’m still working on a deck to play, and I feel confident in the format. I’ve played it enough to know what people can do and what to worry about. I just don’t have the reps to make it second nature.

What do I want to want to play this weekend? I want to start with Shambling Vent, Painful Truths, and Languish. I expect to sleeve up multiple copies of those cards. But what else? I’ll add a bunch of fetchlands, sure, but the other cards are the tough part. It’s hard to argue against either Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or Siege Rhino. Maybe I should play both?

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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