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Eternal Limited Report – Back from travel! Speed-building June’s pool, then looking ahead to July’s league

After spending less than a week at home through all of June, I’m finally back, for a little while. I didn’t play at all while I was gone, and I got home at around midnight on June 29th (technically June 30th…), so I had very little time to pick up my June sealed pool and play 40 quick games with it, tiebreakers be damned.

Considering I only picked up the pool in week 4, and the fact that we’ve now got a new set, I’m not sure how useful an article focused entirely on that pool would be, so I’m also going to talk about how I built my pool for July, as well as my first week’s result.

June’s pool

Here’s what June gave me to work with, sorted by faction (click to enlarge):

The cards that jumped out at me as fixers and potential draws to their factions were as follows:

  • Fire –  Sureshot, Magma Javelin, 2x Gun Down
  • Time – Amber Acolyte, Trail Maker, Archive Curator
  • Justice – Challenge By Law, Entrapment, Roosting Owl, Crownwatch Press-Gang (with 3 reasonable 1-drops in Justice alone).
  • Primal – Permafrost, Dragonbreath, Torgov, 2x Jotun Cyclops
  • Shadow – Suffocate, Annihilate, Extract, Deathstrike, 2x Extinguish, Direwood Beastcaller
  • Multifaction –  Combrei Banner, Feln/Praxis/Skycrag/Stonescar Strangers, Pteriax Hatchling, Recycler, Highwind Glider, Nightmaw, Hunter’s Harpoon, Call the Ancients, Eilyn’s Choice, Aid of the Hooru!!!!!! (just kidding, although I admit I tried to conjure up something that would play it).

I’m going to take a small aside here to talk about Call the Ancients. I was skeptical of this card, having never played it in limited before. It’s obviously far better in limited than constructed, due to your deck being about half the size (once you’ve drawn your starting 7, it’s 38 vs. 68, close enough to half for me). And a 6/6 with Aegis and Endurance is going to pull a ton of weight in limited, where it might not even be your best draw in a given situation in constructed. Nightfall is fairly prevalent in the sealed format, so each player cycles through their deck at a reasonable clip.

The problem is, obviously, that the card doesn’t do anything. If I draw it on turn 8, I feel really silly. Though, as I did rationalize to myself, at least my deck is smaller by that point, and I’m more likely to draw an Ancient. Still, this is mostly an early-game-or-bust kind of thing. I think the payoff is worth it, so I went ahead and considered it to be a bomb going forward. Even if it turns out not to be one, at least I was going to learn something from it.

Dawn of the final day: 24 hours remain

When I open my sealed pools, I like to sit on them for a day or two before committing to the final build. That’s just the kind of guy I am. Deadlines are the only thing that keep me from tinkering with something forever (if only someone would give me a deadline to publish my damn novel…). All-in-all, this was a challenging pool to navigate, and I had no time to really think about it. I still had to play 40 games in one day!

No faction in particular had an absurd number of great cards. Many of the cards I listed above are removal spells or faction fixers. The only true game-warping bombs in the pool were Nightmaw and Call the Ancients.

While I did lack for bombs, I had my share of faction fixing. With Amber Acolyte and Trail Maker, along with the myriad strangers, I looked set to run back a time-based multifaction pile similar to May’s standout pool. I did check to see if there were any 2-faction combinations that got me a sufficient power level that I wouldn’t need to stretch myself so thin, but there honestly weren’t. Feln and Elysian weren’t quite deep enough to play off my two big bombs. I would have had to splash Fire into either of those (for Gun Downs), but if I’m dipping into 3F already, why not go all the way?

I knew that, provided I was playing 3+ factions, I wanted to get Nightmaw and Call the Ancients in there, as they were my two biggest and splashiest cards. That locked me into TPS. I came up with this list without any other splashes:

It looks fairly robust, except for Nightmaw, thanks to the SSS requirement. As a last-minute decision, I cut the Cobalt Acolyte for another Shadow Sigil. My reasoning is that I have several big, expensive things, and a decent power-sink in Moondial. The power level of my cards is quite high, and I’m willing to take the risk of flooding to leverage them. That extra sigil gave me, essentially, 7 ways to get shadow influence. I’m okay with that. Sometimes I won’t hit Nightmaw right on time, but as long as I eventually get there, he should close the game very quickly.

It seems like sacrilege to cut a Cobalt Acolyte, but I felt that I did not need her to win me the game. I had enough removal that I could clear any roadblocks. This deck had a plan, and beating down wasn’t really a part of it. Yeah, giving flying to a Plated Goliath or Insistent Automaton is sweet, but I didn’t really feel it was necessary for me to win most games.

Now, the question: Do I splash another faction? Two copies of Gun Down in Fire is quite tempting, but look at the list above. What do you cut? Not only would I want to find room for the Gun Downs, but I would probably want to play some number of the other Strangers. My powerbase is already stretched to accommodate the Nightmaw. If I want to play Fire cards, I think I have to cut Nightmaw, and maybe even the Deathstrike. Is that worth a pair of Gun Downs? I don’t think so, especially when I have a reasonable amount of removal already.

I did have a Combrei Banner, but no J strangers. Justice had some nice cards, but I just couldn’t make the power work.

So, I reined in my greed and locked in this TPS list.

The games

As I mentioned before, I had to jam my 40 games very quickly, so I didn’t really take too many notes. I will say that Call the Ancients proved to be very strong. Pretty much any game I drew it, it did something and I was happy with it. I only got faction-screwed a couple of times. Nightmaw did languish in my hand at times, but I never had trouble stalling out the game until I could slam him and just win on the spot. I think it was worth stretching the power to accommodate him.

I made one massive misclick punt that cost me a game. I had played Nightmaw a couple of turns ago and was set to win on the following attack with my big unblockable endurance sentinels. I was at 4 or 5, and my opponent had a 2/2 flyer. I drew Dark Return, looked at my graveyard, and saw Pteriax Hatchling on the far left. Yeah, definitely getting that guy back. So I played my Dark Return and, I will admit, too hastily clicked on the left-hand card. I guess I just had it in my head “Pteriax hatchling on the left.” Problem is, the interface for Dark Return doesn’t sort by graveyard order; rather by cost, and then alphabetically. So instead of a Pteriax Hatchling, I got…Amber Acolyte.

My opponent cold topdecked Strength of Many to kill me with their 2/2 flyer that I 100% would have blocked with a Pteriax. Ugh, that loss hurt.

Especially since…*drumroll*

…I missed the top 10 because of it. Ah well. I won’t complain about finishing 16th out of thousands! I did play one tiebreaker game, reasoning that it might get me a cheeky leaderboard spot over someone who ignored them entirely. And it did! I actually went up to 15th afterward, but I think they noticed, since they leapfrogged me back shortly after.

Well Wingbrewer is no Ayan like last month, but it’s still not a bad haul!

So that is back-to-back top finishes with Time-based multifaction greedpiles: 16th this month and 6th last month. Is that the secret? Have I broken the format? Can this possibly continue into next month?

Short answer: No.

Medium answer: Maybe, but the fixing sucks in Fall of Argenport.

Long answer: July’s pool

Here is what the Direwolf gods have blessed me with this month:

Alright, *cracks knuckles*, let’s get started. I’ll just throw in my Amber Acolyte and Trail Maker and Seek Power and…

Wait, what? This pool doesn’t have any of those? Hey, uh, DWD? Yeah, so, I ordered the rainbow soup? And this…this isn’t it.

What do you mean you don’t take special orders? What kind of establishment is this? I want to speak to a manager. No, I do not have an appointment! This is the worst restaurant I’ve ever been to! Everything just tastes like computerized cardboard and the ambience feels like an office. You’ll be hearing from me on Yelp!

Ahem.

I am not thrilled by this pool.

It’s not just the lack of good fixing. I have a small bit of that, centered in the TJP factions with Hooru Stranger/Banner, Combrei Banner, and Amaran Archaeologist. That’s not really enough for my tastes, so hopefully there’s a two-faction deck with a light splash lurking in here somewhere. Let’s look at what stands out…

  • Fire – sweet lord, nothing but a Magma Javelin. Ixtun Merchant would be cool, if there were anything worth Marketing (Calderan Gunsmith for a surprise kill? Bleh.) Yikes. Kissing this one goodbye.
  • Time – Living Example, Lumen Attendant, Amaran Archaeologist, lots of reasonable filler
  • Justice – Tranquil Scholar, Mithril Mace, Master-at-Arms, lots of reasonable filler
  • Primal – Eye of Winter, Gleaming Shield, Dragonbreath, Jotun Hurler, Clan Standard, only a small bit good filler (note: having not played with Set 4, I wildly underrated Dusk Raider in week 1).
  • Shadow – Rapid Shot is the only “exciting” card, but there are some other above-average ones like 2x Longshot Marksman and Surgeon’s Saw. Not a ton of volume in the filler, but it’s decent quality.
  • Multifaction – Twilight Raptor, Hooru Stranger, Siphon Vitality, Preserver of Dualities, Bloodthirsty Brawler

Fire is garbage. Time has some strong B-level cards but no bombs, along with one of my only fixers. Justice has lots of filler but nothing exciting. Primal has my two bombs in Eye of Winter and Gleaming Shield. Shadow has some nice early-game tools and power sinks. My best multifaction cards are both Xenan.

Having both Preserver of Dualities and Siphon Vitality, I naturally looked toward a Xenan build first. The trouble with that is that this pool is shallow on all sides. I literally tried every two-faction pairing and none were deep enough. Justice is probably my deepest faction in terms of playable cards, but none of them are actually strong cards. It’s all filler. It’s like a pool that claims to be 8 feet deep but piles up 4 feet of rocks on the bottom. Diving in not recommended.

Because my best bombs and removal are in Primal, I felt drawn to TPS (once again). I looked at TJP, but staring at all those mediocre Justice cards made me feel uncomfortably average. I’m too young for a mid-life crisis, so I tried to stay away from all that drudgery.

Here’s the TPS build I settled on:

It’s not great. Horned Vorlunk and Lunging Wisp ain’t gonna be topping the leaderboards, I don’t think. I don’t believe in wasting gold/gems rerolling my pool just to place on the leaderboard, even if I have an insane average finish for the first three months of the league, so I’m going to take my medicine here and hope to salvage at least a top-1000 finish out of this thing.

Week 1 went about as I expected. I finished 6-4 in ranked matches and 13-7 in tiebreakers. Certainly not the worst finish, but I’d hoped to at least scrape out 7-3 to keep myself in contention for the top as the month goes on. Alas, it was not to be.

Looking ahead

As it turns out, my mediocre week 1 didn’t really matter. I cracked a pair fresh Dusk Road packs, and there was one single playable TPS card among them: A Nocturnal Creeper. There weren’t many playable cards, period. Justice had a Frontier Confessor, but that’s not enough to make me switch factions. My rares were Dinosaur Stampede and Combustion Cell. Yikes. Not even wasting screenshot equity on those packs (and totally not because I forgot).

I think I will take this week or two off of sealed and hope for Week 3 or 4 to bring this thing together. Playing out any remaining matches with an already-mediocre deck against people who probably got something decent out of their new packs is not a winning proposition. I’ll miss out on tiebreakers, but those are pretty low-value anyway.

With that in mind, my next article or two will focus on the new draft format! Curated packs have me excited, and the drafts I’ve done so far have been quite fun. The power level seems to have been elevated quite a bit, for which I’ve been advocating since Dusk Road came out. I don’t think it’s quite back to Set 1 levels, but you can do some pretty crazy stuff in this format, much of it thanks to Berserk. I’ll show off some of my sweet concoctions next week.

Until then, may your pools fare better than mine.

 

How I got here…

I wrote the first word of what would become my first finished novel, Designs of a Fox, when I was a junior in high school. Though I had been reading sci-fi/fantasy my whole life, I had just read A Game of Thrones and its (at that point three) sequels for the first time. I’m sure it was in part to the fact that I was an edgy teenager, but it was my first exposure to that kind of storytelling, and it really inspired me to start writing a story of my own. My AP English teacher, to whom my first book is dedicated, gave me more freedom in her class than any teacher I’ve ever had. If I had to credit any one person with enabling and inspiring me to pursue my writing, it would be her. I did poetry explications on Rush songs and did literary analysis on A Storm of Swords; that’s how much freedom she gave me. For my final creative writing project, she just let me turn in the first three chapters of the book I’d spent the whole year telling her I was writing.

The original story looked nothing like it does now, and I don’t know if any of the characters I wrote back then could be considered to be the same people in anything but name, but there was a constant evolution from there to where I am now. I didn’t work much on it for the first few years. It was just a fun little side project.

To be honest, I don’t know why I began to push it harder, but during my junior year of college, I decided to set myself a daily writing quota of 1,000 words. It took quite some time before I was regularly hitting that number, but I finished the first version of the book in about six months of hard writing, once I got the rhythm going.

Then I realized I had to rewrite most of it. In those six months, I had actually vastly exceeded my 1,000-word target. I suddenly had a 250,000-word behemoth of a novel that wasn’t even done yet. I read all kinds of advice online about how your first book shouldn’t be a big one, since publishers aren’t likely to take a chance on an unproven author whose book is going to cost a ton to produce. It was soul-crushing to read that, since I’d poured so much time and effort into this thing, only to find out that nobody would ever want to publish it.

As an aside, that advice was honestly a blessing, since I can confidently say that the original incarnation was an inferior story. Too many disjointed plot lines and characters to go into one story; nobody would have been able to follow it all. I’m much happier with how it turned out after some tender, loving chopping-into-pieces.

So I spent the winter break of my senior year hacking and slashing and basically rewriting the whole damn thing. Back at school, I slowly began filling in the holes, and managed to graduate with an all-but-finished story. Graduate school began. Between teaching my first semester and taking classes, I didn’t have tons of time, but I managed to write the final words that winter. It did wind up being somewhat longer than would be ideal, at 170,000-ish words, but the re-written story is much more focused, the characters more fleshed-out, and the foundations of the world solidly declared.

It’s been six years since then. What the hell have I been doing in that time? Editing here and there, improving some novice mistakes in the writing, and so on. A couple years back, I commissioned a piece of cover art for the bookBut I haven’t really tried to find an agent or a publisher, or anything like that. I did write about 2/3 of what will become another story, Of Courtesans and Crowns, for National Novel Writing Month one year, and I’ve gotten about 20,000 words into the sequel to Designs of a Fox, titled A Wayward Raven, but that’s not much for six years’ time!

Well, I did get a Ph.D. in the meantime. And that did take a lot of both

My incredibly stressful worksite in the Marshall Islands.

time and mental energy. It’s sometimes difficult to transition from the rigorous, logical mindset of doing science to the wild, imaginative moods that it takes to write fantasy. I was learning how to live on my own for the first time. I met my girlfriend and many great friends, adopted two cats and coughlikesixcough aquariums, traveled the world shooting off rockets, and honestly had a great time. I finished my Ph.D. and took a postdoc in Alaska, where I’ve been living for a year and a half now.

But I wasn’t writing. As I mentioned, sometimes I lacked the energy, but that’s a poor excuse for not doing something that brings me a great deal of joy. I’m still not sure why I stopped writing. Perhaps it was a lack of tangible motivation. I didn’t have an agent, didn’t even know if the stories I was writing were any good. The people close to me with whom I shared them always seemed to love them, but of course they would.

I’m a pretty shy person. I’m not the kind of guy who actively shares my work with anyone who will give me the time of day. Not saying that would be a bad thing; in fact, it’s probably a recipe for success! I just struggle with a general anxiety about approaching people, especially for something as personal as sharing this thing I’ve poured my heart and soul into over the past ten years. Naturally there’s a lot of anxiety about rejection, about whether people will hate it. And for someone like me, a quiet, introverted person, that anxiety is magnified.

You know what, though? I’ve got a good job, and solid prospects for my career. I’ll be fine, even if I never sell a single copy of my books. Of course I’d love to be that next hit author, but if that never happens, I’m not going to starve. I shouldn’t have any anxiety at all about sharing my work. Still, it’s hard to shake it.

Which is why I’m here, finally. Putting my thoughts out onto this website not only gives me an outlet, but it also helps to motivate me to keep on writing. It’s my hope that, in addition to promoting myself and my work, this website will help keep me accountable, and thus writing on a regular basis.

So thanks for reading, and stay tuned for more updates! I’ve just returned from my second trip to Antarctica, where I did a considerable amount of writing, so I’ve got some things to talk about!

 

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