Welcome to Training Grounds, a series where a regular Magic player streams while the audience discusses strategic commentary live with a more experienced player. What distinguishes Training Grounds from a regular situation with feedback is that the streamer is cut off from the more experienced player and the audience, so doesn’t get the feedback in real-time, only later. We think this is a rather novel way to approach streaming. Have we broken the format? Is there a reason no one else does it this way? Let us know what you think in the comments below. In this episode Nelson is coached by Pro Tour Champion Tom Martell.
When Trevor and I brainstormed this format together I thought it might be kind of neat, but actually re-watching the stream has convinced me we’ve concocted a winner. Admittedly it’s a fair amount of work to put together, but you don’t necessarily need a pro upstream from you to learn a lot about your plays. I’m hoping the format catches on in the twitchniverse and more players level up faster using this cool learning technique.
I was really happy to have the opportunity to interact with Tom during this project. Not only one of the best players, he was also a really great guy. Be sure to check out his take on diversity in the magic scene at 1:10 of the video. Tom makes the point that given many gamers know what it’s like to be marginalised, it’s surprising that our community can sometimes be the worst at it. We’ve come a long way but there is still much to do. We can’t tolerate any type of divisive behaviour and we must make our communities acceptance of anyone other than white heterosexual males, or lack thereof, a talking point rather than ignoring it.
Into the Void
Getting to hear Tom’s straightforward criticism of my draft picks was really helpful in learning about the M14 format. For instance, Tom spoke about the format being marked by a lack of toughness in some creatures. Creatures like Child of Night and Goblin Shortcutter won’t be able to trade with the number of toughness 3 creatures in the set. They also fall to cards like Wring Flesh. One black is easier to keep open for the Wring than two for a Doomblade, and there’s no need to make my opponent’s job easier for them. This toughness issue was demonstrated in the draft with Goblin Shortcutter spending time in the sideboard since it just wasn’t cutting it. While I did get some kudos for making some decent picks for the archetype I was aiming for, I missed the best window to get into blue (Opportunity pack2 at 12:10) and I got to watch just how much better my blue deck would have been.
As I listen to difference in the tone of Tom’s voice between when his comments are muted and when we’re having a normal conversation where we can both hear each other, I notice how much information gets filtered out. Tom knows all the mistakes I’ve made during the draft but will only mention a few and will also feel inclined to offer me praise for any good decisions I’ve made. While I return to the sensory deprivation tank, I get a really honest, no-nonsense appraisal of my decisions and my understanding of the game. This led me to grasp that I was way too in love with being in the black/red sac deck and not open enough to jumping into the obviously open blue when I saw an Opportunity in pack2 at 12:10 in the stream. As it was the sac deck didn’t really come together since I had a lack of sac outlets and I ended up with a more black/red midrange deck.
Through the Breach
Many of my plays were acceptable to Tom but I did get the benefit of hearing which lines he didn’t like and why.
One such play was in outraging a Xathrid Necromacer in Game 1 at 28:10 into the stream. I thought I was dealing with an important creature that would potentially win the game for my opponent, but Tom could see that the Necromancer wasn’t going to be a threat long term and I was already winning on board even if my opponent got a few zombies. It would have been much safer if I had held onto the burn spell in case my opponent dropped a Sengir Vampire or something else I couldn’t otherwise deal with.
Another piece of advice was for the black/red mirror match. Black/red was popular in this draft, and incidentally, it also made an appearance in the previous Isolation Cell article being the deck played. Tom explained that the black/red mirror match was a game of attrition. As such, advancing your board position and ensuring you don’t fall behind is crucial. Mind Rot is a relatively cheap spell in black, easily splashable, that erodes the opponents card advantage. Keeping the opponent behind us on cards in a war of attrition is excellent, and Mind Rot does just that.
We didn’t win this draft but I learned something about the format and had a lot of fun.
Thanks for reading and please, be excellent to each other.