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Finishing out the October sealed league and November’s build

It’s been a while since I made a post here, and I fully blame Red Dead Redemption 2. I haven’t looked at how many hours I’ve put into that game since it released, and I’m not going to.

Anyway, I finished up my October pool that stared out so promising. Sadly, the later packs gave me almost zero help, and, as expected, my opponents’ decks got better and better. I wound up taking my 7-3 start to a 25-15 finish, my worst since the first month of sealed.

 

From my last article, this is my week 1 deck that went 7-3:

Pretty solid! (Remember, Miner’s Canary and Calligrapher were un-nerfed at this point!)

The help was tepid, however:

Vanquisher’s Blade and Roosting Owl were the only truly exciting cards, with the rest amounting to decent filler. Archon looks like it might be a bomb, but it’s only okay. In the 30 games I played with it, it only went off once, as you usually don’t have enough units in play to justify paying 6 to activate.  Ageless Mentor would have been cool, if I had any Time fixing, and there was no help with the Shadow splash. I made the best I could of it, but my opponents got a lot more help than I did, as I turned my 7-3 start into a disappointing finish.

(Apologies for the phone screenshots; the league was ending, and I was at work when I remembered I needed to take some snapshots of the deck.)

Unfortunately, at 597, there wasn’t really much hope for me to get into the top 500, so I had to settle without my premium legendary! Boo.

Now, 25-15 is nothing to sneeze at! I’m happy to still have winning records throughout every sealed league thus far. Still, whiffing on the premium legendary stings a bit, especially when you start well and feel like your deck is solid. Just a single win in my last three games would have gotten me there; alas, I flooded a bunch. Here’s the final deck that I wound up with:

It really felt like this deck was better than 25-15, but I had some pretty atrocious draws when it mattered, and the deck did lack some haymakers to punch through stalled boards. If they answered my Aeva, I had a really hard time doing much.

Ah, well. It happens. I’ll just bounce back with November’s sealed pool!

Right?

That’s a yikes from me, dog.

There’s basically no path to a playable deck here. I wish I had more to say about this pool, but there just, like…aren’t any good cards to be found (except Gleaming Shield, for which I seem to have some sort of strange affinity in sealed).

The one good thing about this pool is that my fixing is quite good. Four strangers, a Banner, Petition, and  Recon Tower mean that I’ll be able to play any good cards that I open in the following weeks. That means the correct choice is almost certainly to not play week 1 and hope for some help in the next few packs…

Which…okay, I suppose there are some reasonable cards here. The problem is that there’s nothing overwhelmingly exciting. No huge bombs, but lots of really good midrange cards. Vanquish, Desert Marshal, and Wasp are great removal, and the Owl provides a path to victory in a longer game. Seek Power and Hooru Banner make my fixing even better. I assembled a passable, if thoroughly unexciting deck:

The major issue here is that Primal feels rather tacked on. All of my Primal cards are good, but none are really cards I want to be splashing. I feel priced into it, though, since the rest of my Combrei cards are quite bad.

Shadow is a solid consideration here–just go all-in on fixing and play Slimespitter, Rolant’s Choice, Cut Ties, and the double Dark Return. The main issue there is the SS cost on Slimespitter. My Primal fixing is very good, thanks to the double Banners, but I would have to jam three strangers into the deck to play Shadow.  Is that worth it? Here’s what I would play:

Just, uh, ignore the power base. Nothing to see there.

In all seriousness, as built this gets me:

9 Justice

10 Time

7* Primal

8 Shadow

Not counting the Learned Herbalist, which could get me anything but the first Time in a pinch. I think that’s pretty reasonable. I’ve left an asterisk next to Primal because Clan Standard won’t be a Primal source if I draw it after 5 (and I’d like to avoid using it as one, anyway).

I ditched the 6-drop package of Ambassadors and Champion of Progress. That may be for the best–it was probably a pipe dream. Many of the other units I cut were pretty mediocre, so that’s a positive. Slimespitter is still a non-bo with a lot of my cards, but it is such a potential bomb when you’re behind that I think it’s fine to run it. Wurmic Changer is cute with Dark Returns and Twinning Ritual, but just such a poor tempo card when you don’t get tribute. This deck is already going to be durdling quite a bit, so I think he’s a fine cut. I like the look of this list a lot more than the previous one, but I’m still undecided whether to wait for the final two packs to see if I can crack any more bombs.

I do think Clan Standard is worth it. It’s a powerful effect, and flood protection is nice. With Recon Tower and Seek Power, I should be okay with 17 non-Standard sources.

Wrapping up

I will be honest: I haven’t played that much Eternal lately. Between RDR2 and Magic Arena, my time has been pretty slim, and the lull before Set 5 hasn’t helped. I am thrilled that Eternal has finally reached its official release, and I’m enjoying playing my constructed decks for the moment, so overall I’m pleased with the state of the game. I hope they can keep this up as the tournament scene develops. Limited tournaments when?

As for my next post here, I’ll probably discuss my November results before I take off for my December travels to the AGU meeting in Washington, D.C. I may also try to do some Arena draft writeups, as I’ve been enjoying being able to play Magic at relatively low stakes compared to MTGO. It hurts a lot less to 0-3 a draft on Arena than it did to 0-3 on MTGO, that’s for sure.

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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