First off, I’m not claiming to be a great Limited player. I’m not even claiming to be all that good at limited. When it comes to Magic: the Gathering, I mostly play Constructed and Casual formats, like Standard, Legacy and Commander. I dabble in the Limited realm, usually showing up to a prerelease for some Sealed just to play with the new cards. I might even attend the occasional FNM draft, when I don’t have a bunch of friends playing Standard with me.
However, from an outsider’s perspective, I feel that the Limited community is mired by these typical P1, P1 synopses or narrow case draft videos. Sure these are fine and definitely have their place. But one thing that I find lacking within the Limited community is more discussion around non-MTG environments.
But why would I want to know about a non-MTG game when my passion is obviously ripping open packs for that bomb mythic. It’s all about your perspective and you might be losing out by limiting it to just MTG-related drafting environments.
Being a web designer in my ‘normal’ life (what does that even mean? Normal? I suppose it’s all ‘my life’ but you get what I mean), has really opened my horizons to learning new things. Hell, it’s opened up to just the concept of learning. In the information age, learning has never been an easier concept. God, I can’t even remember the last time I drove down to the library to open an encyclopedia just to learn about some ancient empire or how to fix a bike chain. We’re constantly immersed in a sea of information; drowning in it on a daily basis. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Klout, FourSquare… even our music needs to be shown to the world in the form of Rdio and Grooveshark. Inherently, we are narcissistic creatures. But it comes with the territory of being at the top of the food chain.
Those at the top of the food chain always view themselves as the best and look for ways to show others that they are the best. It’s self-affirming, really. It’s the pure definition of narcissism.
Normally narcissism has a purely negative connotation; where one can view narcissism, others can often view self-confidence.
In this information age, those at the top often need to reaffirm their position at the top by showing others how awesome they are. It’s the reason we post status updates about our latest kitchen creation that would make the Iron Chefs cry with jealousy. It’s a hidden reason why people post draft videos. It’s part of the reason why I write this article.
But getting back to web design and the information age; one of the huge benefits of this narcissistic information age is learning from sources you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. So it’s not all bad; in fact, it can be quite the benefit to be tied to all these different outlets like Twitter, Facebook and the like.
One of the huge detriments though is that with great power comes great responsibility. Because of this constant flood of information, it’s up to the user to sift through it to find morsels of information in some desperate attempt to piecemeal it back to something that’s relevant to our lives. This frustrates a lot of individuals, like myself, causing me to try to always blur and focus my attention on a particular topic, like MTG Limited environments. I mean, it makes sense right? Why would I even pay attention to others talking about board games or video games, when I want to know more about a particular MTG format? Right?
It’s actually this limiting perspective that may be causing you to plateau in the PTQ scene or holding you back from winning that 8-4.
One of the key factors I learned from my 5 and a half year undergrad design degree (don’t judge me, I transferred after the 1st year) is that if you want to learn more about a particular design field, that you often need to take a step back and look at similar but different fields. If you’re stuck on some wireframes for a small website, go look at some paintings in a gallery. Having trouble coming up with some re-branding for a large company? Take an afternoon to look at some turn-of-the-century architecture. It allows you to refresh the brain and see things from a different perspective. A specific filigree on the outside of that building might give you a great idea on how to incorporate similar concepts into your typeface for your re-branding project.
The point is that if you find yourself in a rut or wanting to learn more about a particular field, you often need to immerse yourself in different fields to learn how to marry concepts from one into the other. What does this have to do with MTG Limited environments? It has everything to do with it and every other MTG format you play.
Sealed and Draft have traditionally been the bane of my Magic: The Gathering existence. I did horrible at every prerelease and FNM draft I did for the first 10 years of my MTG ‘career’. Seriously, no joke. You can look at my track record to see. I never quite understood why I was doing so terrible really; until I realized that drafting is different from Sealed which is different from Constructed. In the first 10 years, I always made my draft decks like my Constructed decks; focused on the best cards, some synergy, card advantage and a mana curve. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take these into consideration; you always should when constructing your deck. But what I never asked myself was: What does this deck want to be doing, as a whole? It never dawned on me that this was a key factor to deck building on the fly and it’s made me a better overall board and card game player.
Ascension was the first game that really taught me about this key deck building concept. Ascension is very similar to a cross between Winston draft and Rochester draft; allowing players to see the cards that everyone can purchase. Cards purchased go into your graveyard, ready to be shuffled back into your deck when you run out of cards. This cycle is what comprises your deck and even though the purchasing mechanic is quite different than a normal draft environment, the selection process is more similar than one might think. You have to make the same decisions like you normally would in limited: What ‘colors’ am I in? What type of deck am I trying to build? Am I going to be playing the beatdown and trying to end the game quickly? Or will I have to shift gears mid-game, based on the other strategies I see other people picking? All common questions that come up while drafting in an 8-4. These questions even come up while you’re playing the game too. In the past, I would’ve been stubborn and played my burn deck at the same level of aggression no matter what deck I was facing. But a game like Ascension taught me that you will always come up short with this mentality; being able to adapt and shift your game to the challenges that are in front of you is the key to drafting well, to sideboarding and to just winning at any game, really.
No question that all the draft analyses and set reviews are awesome. This article isn’t up to disprove these media. Podcasts like Limited Resources can help you immensely on all topics limited and will even go into other key game play factors like what I’m discussing in this article. But what they won’t tell you is to go out and play a game like Ascension or Dominion to boost your Limited game. And in this information age, you have to learn when to sift for a specific topic and when to break open your perspective on a topic and learn from something seemingly unrelated.