Episode 57 – Deep Analysis with Shanice

Sarah and Chantelle welcome on Play It Forward winner Shanice to talk about Tournament Magic, WotCs recent card bannings, and how to make a more welcoming community. 

Keep up with the cast: @CombatantsMTG and provencombatants.com or check out our Patreon at patreon.com/CombatantsMTG!

Chantelle Campbell: @ctellecampbell
Sarah Zyla: @babyberluce
Shanice: @shaniceisdeece

Stop Trashing Limited

I’ve seen a repeated argument where limited does not require the same level of skill as constructed in order to excel. I’ve encountered this from people attributing women doing well in limited PTQs and limited GPs as a result of variance. I’ve also encountered this in more generalized statements attributing results to variance (e.g. “drafting is all about how well you open”). I will admit I am bias against these statements, as I learned how to play magic through limited (mostly drafting) and I am a woman so I can take sexist statements personally. The issue I have with these statements is that people who succeed at limited aren’t savants. Their results aren’t tied to luck. Some unreasonable, outside force is not required to succeed at limited. So please, stop blaming outside factors at an unwillingness to explore a format and develop your skill set. It is possible improve at limited.

I found this post from an article (https://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/2017WC/the-keys-to-fridays-3-0-drafters-2017-10-06) describing Calcano’s Worlds Draft in 2017 :

“The standout in Calcano’s deck was the quadruple Swashbuckling. Combined with three Blight Keeper and various other cheap creatures, he was capable of some very fast starts…. After the match, I asked Calcano to walk me through his draft. “I opened Sanctum Seeker, and I generally like to play White-Black Vampires,” he explained. “But I saw immediately that white wasn’t open, so I had to jump into another color combination immediately. I third-picked Siren Stormtamer, but the blue cards that I wanted weren’t really coming, so I started taking some red cards. I got a late Dire Fleet Captain and a Swashbuckling at the end of the pack. Pack 2, Pick 1, I took Fathom Fleet Firebrand. You need two-drops drops in this format, and I got all the Auras after that… The cheaper creatures you have, the better a card like Swashbuckling is.” By prioritizing early drops, avoiding expensive cards, and focusing on the key cards for what he was drafting, Calcano was able to assemble a coherent deck that ran over his opponents before they had a chance to set up. It rewarded him with a 3-0 start to the tournament.”

I think this draft exemplifies how creativity, adaptability and signal reading are skills that help you exceed in limited rather than being lucky. Calcano 3-0’d his draft with blight keepers and swashbucklings—not the ‘broken rares’ of the format like Vona or Vraska. Firstly he read the signals of his draft and adapted his draft around them. Sanctum Seeker is a good card on its own, but it is an excellent card in the BW vampire shell where you have a plethora of vampires to trigger its ability. But Calc drafted the hard way—staying open. When he wasn’t getting white for vampires, he explored UR, a strong pirate color combo after getting a staple Siren Stormtamer. But when blue wasn’t coming he adapted AGAIN. Some players might see this as a failed draft, feeling as though they’ve invested in some early picks and they aren’t panning out. But Calcano got creative. He saw the line to utilize the swashbucklings and capitalize.

If you think this doesn’t extend into sealed, I would like to refer to Pascal Vieren’s article on sealed strategy: https://article.hareruyamtg.com/article/24554/?lang=en. He is a master and can explain better than I could. If you haven’t already read it, he breaks down many of the skills in limited—what is the limited metagame? how to approach deckbuilding in sealed compared to draft? how to approach gameplay? how to optimize sideboarding? All relevant areas to learn and improve how you approach sealed games and how you approach sealed deck choices.

So why do many players struggle with limited? I feel like the best way to improve at limited is to play games to learn the format. I’ve done well repeatedly at constructed formats by being handed a list and a sb guide and never playing the format. I went 9-0 day 1 of a standard GP without knowing how my deck worked. I don’t think constructed is easy (I also went 1-5 the second day of the tournament), but I think you can get a huge leg up from having your deck built already for you. That does not convert to limited. You have to build your own deck. You learn how to optimize your deck build from learning the limited metagame, from playing matches. Some players do not enjoy drafting or learning the limited metagame on their own. And that’s ok! But please stop attributing your lack of success with it being due to a lack of luck. It’s not.