TopDeck.gg Newsletter - July 2024

The Fastest Way to Improve at Magic & Cowtown Throwdown

July, 2024 Newsletter

Welcome to the third TopDeck newsletter! That number is climbing quickly. Read on for upcoming events, a Cowtown Throwdown recap, exciting merch news, AND even how to get good at Magic - quickly.

HAVOC is a revelation. It captures the strategic depth of MTG and weaves in the cerebral dance of chess for a mind-bendingly good time." 

- Jason Fleurant, 2x MTG GP Winner. Check out the HAVOC Kickstarter.

Upcoming Featured Events

Beholder Gaming cEDH 10k LCQ

When: Jul 27-28, 2024

What: cEDH

Where: Charlies Collectible Show, Memorial Drive, Stone Mountain, GA, USA

BCDL Legacy Open 3

When: Aug 17, 2024

What: Legacy

Where: The Warp Gate - 4499 Kenny Road, Columbus, OH, USA

Sperling’s Tip of the Month

Welcome to Sperling’s Tip of the Month - our monthly column where former Magic: the Gathering Platinum pro (with 4 Pro Tour Top 8s) Matt Sperling will give you a piece of his mind, helping you improve your TCG game. This month - what is the fastest way to actually get better at Magic?

Also, big congrats to Sperling on finishing 9th at this last weekend’s Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3!

The Fastest Way to Improve at Magic

For those of us interested in getting better at Magic, whether as a lifelong pursuit, a temporary obsession, or a passing curiosity, we’ll be able to do some improving just by playing games of Magic. That’s not only fun, it’s essential. But, there’s a plateau we hit eventually (with Wasteland in Vintage? Never mind), or a regression, or simply a higher level of play we are interested in breaking into. At that point, it’s helpful to know a few things you can try other than just playing, watching content, or reading old articles about Magic.

What I think is the fastest way to get better, and a method I have consistently recommended over the years, is to partner up with someone else who is trying to improve, and “compare notes.” No, I am not suggesting you actually jot down notes and compare them, although I suspect it may be helpful. What I mean is forming a connection with another player who can do some or all of the following:

  • Watch you play (Discord stream is great if playing online) and offer suggestions, pose questions, and generally help you spot areas where you may have room to find a better play.

  • Review screenshots or oral histories of difficult plays or critical moments. On professional level teams, we often share screenshots of difficult plays and see what others would have done and also, critically, how they approach those decisions.

  • Go over “Keep or Mull” decisions with you. This is just a single flavor of what’s going on in point 2, but it’s an important one to call out.

  • Playtest against you if you’re concerned about an important event or matchup.

The good news is that I think the last time I wrote and shared this advice many years ago, Discord wasn’t a thing. People playing online may not have had much to go on to make introductions to each other and find people looking to discuss Magic together and improve. Now, chances are there’s a Discord for the location or format you’re interested in. You may end up on Facebook or Reddit trying to find folks, and I’m not saying don’t do that, but I’ve found Discord to be a little more efficient and is the current “it girl” for this type of organizing.

Once you’ve found someone to talk Magic with, I like finding events (online or local) that you and they are both interested in playing, and coming up with a preparation strategy. Even one as simple as taking turns playing league matches while the other one watches in the weeks leading up to the event will get you a TON of momentum in the direction of improving that playing alone almost surely wouldn’t get you.

Finding the right person for this type of activity will make practicing fun, learning easy, and give two people more out of the exchange than they are putting in. There’s a multiplying effect that happens when we both avoid getting stuck in our own old patterns but also are working towards getting someone else unstuck. It’s been one of the game’s great pleasures for me to study like this with so many different players over the years.

TopDeck Merch - Shipping Now!

TopDeck.gg merch is now available for purchase - with shipping! No longer do you have to wait for the next Platinuym event to get your very own TopDeck sticker, Anatomy of Midrange tee or snapback hat. Place your order today through the link below to get a 10% discount and we’ll send it right to your own home! Plus, if you spend over $100, you’ll get free shipping. Get your swag on. Or whatever the kids say now. I’m almost 30.

Cowtown Throwdown - The Biggest In-Person cEDH Tournament Ever

Cowtown Throwdown saw 256 competitors descend upon Columbus, OH to fight for glory, their share of $12,000, a belt buckle, and a pretty huge sword (compliments of Iron Deck Tournaments). After seven rounds of competition and a long Top 16, our Top 4 was determined in Isaac Smith (on Tymna/Kraum), Ian Flannery (on Sisay, Weatherlight Captain), Orry Suen (on Rograkh/Silas) and Corey Hayslip (also on Tymna/Kraum). This is about a classic of a Top 4 as you can get in a high level event, with all three top decks of the format represented. The rest of the Top 16 was was full of fairly expected lists as well, save two Nadu pilots making the cut (is the Bird here to stay?) and a spicy Erinis, Street Urchin Hulk deck! After a grindy Finals full of interaction and kept honest by a long lasting Deafening Silence, the game was eventually won by Isaac Smith!!! Congrats to Isaac for winning such a huge tournament. Did we mention they did the whole thing in a dang cow suit?

If you want to learn more about the event, view ALL 256 decklists alongside the standings below and check out our Youtube for coverage of Day 1, Day 2 & the Finals! But first, here’s a quick breakdown of the most played decks & their conversion rate to Top 16:

Commander(s):

Entries:

Top 16s:

Conversion:

Kraum, Ludevic’s Opus/Tymna the Weaver

35

4

11.43%

Sisay, Weatherlight Captain

22

3

13.64%

Rograkh, Son of Rohgahh/Silas Renn, Seeker Adept

18

2

11.11%

Nadu, Winged Wisdom

14

2

14.29%

Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy

14

0

0.00%

Nah, Dude.

For most of the last month, Nadu, Winged Wisdom has been… everywhere. A Simic three drop 3/4 with Flying is already a quite decent rate on its own. It doesn’t even die to Lighting Bolt! Add in its obnoxious ability that turns each of your creatures into card drawing and ramping machines and you have quite the problematic design. It was over 40% of the metagame at Pro Tour Amsterdam this last weekend, defining the entire rules of engagement. It ended up sporting nearly a 60% match win rate during the event - a truly astounding sum considering that it was considered the known best deck coming into the event which allowed people to plan for it. It also took up five places in the Top 8 (though Draft results also heavily define top placements), ensuring that we got to see even more of it as the weekend finished up. As plenty of people have already pointed out on Twitter at this point, this deck is somehow the worst of several worlds for competitive play, bringing an Eggs-like time consuming, non-deterministic winning game plan that also is so powerful that it posted a metagame share and win rate combination the likes we haven’t seen since Hogaak Summer or Eldrazi Winter. It’s pretty obvious that Nadu (or a key card like Shuko) will get banned in Modern, either during the next scheduled update (August) or in an emergency fashion. But don’t worry, it’s good elsewhere too!

This game-action filled creature has already been popping up all over the EDH scene, flooding Commander tables of all power levels with time consuming fluff that honestly I think we could do without. Heck, two players even piloted their Nadu decks to the Top 16 of Cowtown Throwdown this weekend! To me, Nadu checks pretty much all the boxes for an EDH ban, but not for power level reasons alone. It’s very easy to include in any deck with Green or Blue, even if it isn’t in the Command Zone, giving you promises of “Value” that actually just result in you taking up a lion’s share of time at the table. Let’s take a quick look at the ban reasoning for Paradox Engine before we continue - 

“Paradox Engine can be played in any deck, and creates large amounts of mana at little-to-no deck building cost. Its play patterns often involve long, drawn-out turns of tapping and untapping permanents, drawing cards, and generally monopolizing the chess clock of a game.” 

While Nadu does require you to at least have Simic in your deck and some level of build-around, it will monopolize the chess clock of a game, creating long, drawn-out turns of revealing cards and either drawing them or putting them into play. We’ll make some Insect tokens, we’ll do it again… and again… and again… I don’t think this is exactly an experience that should stay - especially when it’s available to players 100% of the game from the Command Zone

If I have my way, Nadu will be unplayable in most places of Magic in no time at all. Is that a bit sad? Sure. But, some cards are just mistakes & should be treated as such. Do I wanna have to play against this for the rest of my life? Nah, dude. 

Claim Your Place in the TopDeck Invitational!

The TopDeck Invitational is almost here. Come the end of August, we’ll be right back in Columbus as 64 players compete for their share of $15,000, a monumental prize pool! As always, we’ll be streaming the whole thing live on our Youtube channel. Point earning potential continues through July 28th, so check your local stores for partner events to get more points added to your total!

While the Invitational takes place, we’ll also be running the 2024 TopDeck Open, a $12k for 256 players! If you’re interested in competing keep an eye out for tickets on the event page!

That’s All Folks!

Thanks for reading this month’s TopDeck.gg newsletter. See you next month for more articles, insights, and more.