Results Oriented

Note that this post is about my own data and what I learned from my history. It’s mostly just my personal insights, and probably won’t actually help you in any way unless you’re interested in doing something similar yourself.

Recently, a dude from the internet took a few lines of code written by Ben Peebles-Mundy and updated the user interface to develop Kavu.ru – a website that allows you to turn the giant slab of data from your Planeswalker Point history into something usable.

The system consolidates all of your information into simple, easy to digest bites that give a basic picture of how well you perform in a variety of categories. For example, the following is a selection from my results (I cut out a lot of chaff here, but you get the idea):

Overall Stats:
Overall record: 782-375-49
Win percentage ignoring draws: 67.588591

Booster Draft:
Overall record: 138-50-18
Win percentage ignoring draws: 73.404255

Standard:
Overall record: 233-116-11
Win percentage ignoring draws: 66.762178

Sealed:
Overall record: 174-100-8
Win percentage ignoring draws: 63.503650

Modern:
Overall record: 139-59-7
Win percentage ignoring draws: 70.202020

Extended:
Overall record: 42-22-3
Win percentage ignoring draws: 65.625000

Magic Team Grand Prix:
Overall record: 8-3-0
Win percentage ignoring draws: 72.727273

Friday Night Magic:
Overall record: 65-28-2
Win percentage ignoring draws: 69.892473

Magic Pro Tour Qualifier:
Overall record: 221-134-8
Win percentage ignoring draws: 62.253521

Magic Grand Prix:
Overall record: 76-43-1
Win percentage ignoring draws: 63.865546

So all of this is great, and it’s a good glimpse into your strengths and weaknesses, but by entering your data with some variables separated, you can get a much more interesting picture.

I decided to break my numbers down by year, but instead of working with calendar years, I chose block years. There are two main reasons for this decision:

1. It makes it easy to read results for specific formats, like Zendikar Draft or RTR Standard.
2. It’s very clean. My first event in the system was the Onslaught Prerelease. I took a break during Time Spiral and Lorwyn, and my first event back was the Shards Release. Also, there are only a few weeks until the next rotation. It all split up very well.

I left out draws. I don’t think they really say anything important, and the data is much easier to read without them. I also combined Modern and Extended into one category since they never overlap and they’re pretty similar.

Here’s the data:

All Std Ex/Md Draft Sealed FNM PTQ GP
ONS 22-27
44.89
9-10
47.36
2-6
25.00
11-11
50.00
2-6
25.00
MD5 38-39
49.35
20-13
60.60
9-8
52.94
7-11
38.88
7-5
58.33
1-2
33.33
CBS 23-13
63.88
6-4
60.00
14-7
66.66
3-2
60.00
11-5
68.75
RGD 47-26
64.38
40-19
67.79
7-7
50.00
12-4
75.00
4-3
57.14
TS 3-1
75.00
3-1
75.00
LMSE 1-2
33.33
1-2
33.33
Ala 235-149
61.19
34-25
57.62
14-8
63.63
152-93
62.04
35-23
60.34
26-12
68.42
30-25
54.54
7-2
77.77
ZEN 193-88
68.68
82-37
68.90
16-8
66.66
29-10
74.35
62-31
66.66
28-10
73.68
36-18
66.66
11-4
73.33
Scars 187-96
66.07
56-36
60.86
42-22
65.62
39-9
81.25
41-24
63.07
18-4
81.81
45-38
54.21
14-8
63.63
INN 305-148
67.32
88-49
64.23
55-23
70.51
73-26
73.73
66-33
66.66
41-20
67.21
80-46
63.49
33-19
63.46
RTR 274-123
69.01
78-29
72.89
84-36
70.00
24-13
64.86
64-39
62.13
4-2
66.66
96-50
65.75
37-19
66.07

Now we’ve got something to work with.

There’s a big gap right in the middle where i took a 20-ish month break. For the most part, that data is excluded. The single draft I did each year in that time isn’t going to provide any insight.

Let’s look at some more interesting years:

ONS – This one is sweet. I didn’t have a winning record in any format, which is okay because I was 15-16 at the time and was mostly playing at my kitchen table. I tagged along to a PTQ with an Elves-Biorythm deck at a time when people were playing Pernicious Deeds. It didn’t go well.

MD5 – This is when I first started playing at my local shop. I had a winning draft and standard record, mostly because my town had something like 15 regular players, none of whom had ever played outside my suburb.

CBS – My first year of college. Not much going on.

RGD – I played my fair share of drafts at Mayhem in Ames, and a few during my summer back on the east coast. I didn’t know any of the good players from Ames, but they weren’t around very often so the events were easy. At the end of this year I sold my collection and got out of the game.

Alara – I won the release event for Shards of Alara, taking home a box. I then proceeded to do something like 40 drafts off the winnings from that box alone. You’ll note that I performed worse this year than during RGD, and I mostly attribute this to hanging out with the better players, who started crushing me on a daily basis.

ZEN – Fortunately, a good crushing is healthy, and all the lessons i learned in the past year started paying off. I moved to Cedar Rapids, which was a much softer environment than Ames, leaving me free to tromp the domains with all my newfound skills. I got better in pretty much every format, and actually had my best PTQ season record, despite only having two or three top8s across the whole year.

Scars – I took a big hit, likely for two reasons – One: I hated the sealed format. Drafting was awesome, but I got crushed in back-to-back-to-back-to-back sealed PTQs. And two: I chose not to play Cawblade when there was an option to play Cawblade. You can see how that went.

INN – A big change happened this year – Planeswalker Points. That meant i was drafting more, FNMing more, etc. I also had my fair share of shitty GPs, including my 0-5 at GP Indy.

RTR- The numbers show this as my best win-rate, and it certainly feels like it. Best standard win rate overall which makes sense given my past season. I went down a little bit in quite a few categories though. Sealed in this format was a lot harder than Innistrad. My prereleases also didn’t go well, contributing to my drop in that field. I did significantly fewer drafts outside of our team events.

I also want to note that my win rate in Modern is more than 70% and I’ve never top8’d a modern PTQ, even across more than a dozen events.

A few charts to show my progress.

This is my total win rate over time. I cut out those two years where i played seven total matches. Both creeping upwards and stabilizing, which makes me optimistic.

PTQ win rate, which is all over the place. If i had taken the Scars season more seriously, I think i’d have much better numbers overall.

Standard looks very similar to my PTQ rate in recent years, but had a much easier start, as should be expected.

My draft numbers have trended downwards, which i’m going to blame on drafting with better people in real events. I repeatedly got crushed in GTC and DGR events, so I’m looking forward to turning these numbers around in the next few months.

This song is the nuts:

How To Brainstorm in Iowa City

In the vein of:

http://mtglampoon.wordpress.com/2011/12/15/how-to-brainstorm-like-a-pro/

and

http://www.classicdojo.org/b982/hum.980430eco.txt

If you’re on here, it means that I like you and I think you can take a joke. No offense meant.

If you’re not on here, it doesn’t mean the opposite. I just can’t think of anything to say about the way you play that’s entertaining.

Alex Ledo
Cast Brainstorm. Draw Myr Enforcer, Birthing Pod, Teleportal. Giggle like a little girl because your plan is finally coming together.

Adam Tellis
Cast Brainstorm. Draw Squadron Hawk, Jace, Cruel Ultimatum. Put back two Hawks. Apologize to your opponent for blasting them with jizz under the table before telling them to “GUI.”

David Skogen
Cast Brainstorm on your main phase. Draw Thoughtflare, Sphinx’s Revelation, Opportunity. Tank for eleven minutes. Put back two Supreme Verdicts and pass. Die to your opponent’s on-board attacks and argue that you made the right play for the next two weeks.

Eric Rath
Cast Brainstorm. Draw two Fartseeks and a Fart//Away. Piss yourself from laughing so hard and then tell everone who will listen about how much fun you’re having.

Steven Metzger
Cast Brainstorm. Draw two Farseeks and a Far//Away. Piss yourself (and Wyatt Darby) in the hotel later that night.

Wyatt Darby
Cast Brainstorm. Draw Loxodon Smiter, Thundermaw Hellkite, Domri Rade. Put back two Bonfires of the Damned. Forget they’re on top and miss the miracle triggers on both.

Timothy Gruneich
Cast Brainstorm at four life against mono red. Draw Flashfreeze, Path to Exile, Leyline of Sanctity. Play Leyline. Opponent casts double Volcanic Fallout. Spend the rest of the day crying yourself to sleep in the car.

Shane McDermott
Cast Brainstorm on your opponent’s 24th end step. Draw Gifts Ungiven, Mystical Teachings, Life From the Loam. It doesn’t matter what you put back because your opponent hasn’t had a permanent on the board since turn six.

Ryan Detlefsen
Cast Brainstorm against mono red. Draw your three maindeck Blood Moons. Gaze longingly at Shane McDermott’s board state one table over and wonder where you went wrong.

Jason Kenjar
Cast Brainstorm. Lose your mind staring at the pictures on each card, then put back the two with the most text.

Alex Moriyama
Cast Brainstorm against mono red while you’re at 18 life. Draw Thragtusk, Thragtusk, Thragtusk. Have a nervous breakdown trying to figure out how the hell you’re going to win this game.

Dan White
Cast Brainst. . bahahaha, just kidding!

Derek Ibarra
Cast foil Japanese Brainstorm. Draw foil Japanese Jace, foil Japanese Karmic Guide, and foil Japanese 7th edition Birds of Paradise. Before you get to put anything back, the glare from your cards induces a seizure in your opponent and you win by default.

Patrick Kennedy
Cast Brainstorm.

Draw Fanatical Devotion, Noble Stand, Distorting Lens.

Later that night, tell everyone how much fun you had at the three-person Mercadian Masques block constructed event.

Steven Nesteby
Cast Brainstorm. The first card you draw is a Shivan Dragon, which reminds you of a woman you used to have a crush on, but it never panned out. Realize you have laundry to do and concede the game so you can go home.

Josh McClain
Cast Brainstorm. Before it resolves, ask your opponent if he’d like to flip a coin. If you win, you get to draw six cards, but if you lose, you have to put four cards on top. You lose. Pay for everyone’s breakfast, lunch, dinner, hotel, and gas for the remainder of the trip.

Travis Galueueueue
Your opponent casts brainstorm. Before it resolves, he asks if you’d like to flip a coin. If he wins, he gets to draw six cards, but if he loses, he has to put four cards on top. You win. Your opponent pays for your breakfast, lunch, dinner, hotel, and gas for the remainder of the trip.

Four Lessons I Wish I Learned Years Earlier

Everything we absorb has to hit us at the right time in order to have a real impact, whether it’s an album that seems like shit until your fourth listen or a sick play that we don’t quite understand until we see it in the right context. A lot of these lessons might seem super obvious, but I remember a time when they weren’t that clear to me, and I wish I had gotten wind of them earlier.

I still see a lot of players making these mistakes, and in my worst moments, I still make them too. That said, they’re important things to learn and remember, whether you’re an endboss or an ambitious pawn.

If you can’t play around it, don’t play around it. (AKA, sometimes you have to die for your dragon)

Man, realizing that there was a time I didn’t do this is kind of embarrassing.

The day I learned this lesson was at a 4-man cube draft in my apartment in Ames. I’m pretty sure the other three people were Matt Hansen, Scott Bielick, and Nick Crumpton. During one of our games, I didn’t want to attack with one of my guys because I was dead to a swing back if my opponent had a removal spell. Matt pointed out to me that my opponent was mono-red, and since I were at two life, if they had a removal spell we were dead no matter what! Of course!

There are a lot of situations where you just can’t win no matter what you do if your opponent hits a bonfire, or has an abrupt decay, or a mind control for your dragon, or one of any other thousand things. If you can’t beat those cards, just erase them from the equation and make your game plan into killing them before they hit. Of course, if there is a game plan that beats something you think they might have, it’s almost always the right choice, but we’ll get to that much later.

Dying for your dragon is the same thing. Lets say you have a counterspell in hand, and your opponent is trying to kill your dragon (choose your favorite dragon, they all work). In your mind, you don’t want to counter the removal spell because your opponent might have a big threat in hand. Unfortunately, your deck is short on win conditions, and you’ll have to spend a lot of time digging for another way to win. If you can’t reasonably win the game without that dragon, counter the spell! That dragon might be your only hope of killing them, so sometimes you have to take a chance and accept that you might have to die to protect him. He’d do it for you.

Just because you CAN do it, doesn’t mean you SHOULD do it.

HOLY CRAP do I see this one a lot from inexperienced players.

Unsummon your opponent’s guy on turn two to save a little damage. Seven turns later your best threat is locked under a pacifism and you just can’t figure out how you lost the game. This one is especially popular with newer players, who just love slamming spells (and really, who can blame them? Doing stuff is the best!) and haven’t quite figured out that, just like in real life, long-term gains are much more impactful than short-term.

I learned this one by watching one of the best matches of all time. The finals of Pro Tour Kyoto in 2009. LSV vs. Nassif. This match has about a hundred sweet plays, some of which pan out over dozens of turns with incredible setups and amazing bluffs. And all of it was way over my head when I watched it on the live stream.

What I did catch was something much simpler. There’s a turn when LSV attacks with a few tokens. Nassif has a Volcanic Fallout in hand, but he immediately passes priority, taking a couple of damage. I was so confused. . . why would Nassif not just kill his team and take nothing from the creatures? Post-combat, LSV makes a few more tokens and Nassif sweeps up his entire army, effectively negating LSV’s entire turn for just a few points of life.

My mind was blown. Nassif knew that something else was coming, but how did he know this?

It was easy – something else is ALWAYS coming! Instead of just spending his removal spell because it was convenient, he planned ahead, kept his options open, and pulled the trigger when it was a huge blowout instead of a one-for-one trade.

We know that life is a resource, and that cards are a resource, but having options is also a resource. When Nassif casts that Fallout, that’s it. He never has the option to cast it again. When he doesn’t cast it, he enters another phase where he once again has the option. The longer he keeps it, the more options he will have.

Of course, it’s not always right to just keep your cards forever. You should probably bolt the turn one llanowar elves, and you should probably tragic slip that champion of the parish, but that’s because we can anticipate how those games will play out, and we know that against the most aggressive decks, those life points have a much bigger impact on the amount of options we have. When we have zero life, we also have zero options.

Don’t assume your opponent is an idiot until you have proof.

I used to do this all the time. I’d just look at the board and see a play that was really sick if my opponent messed up. Recognizing when this will work is an important skill, but it’s not something you should just assume will happen. Nowadays I just do my best to play as though my opponent will make the right moves until I have some proof that they won’t.

Maybe they’ve forgotten about a piece of equipment that’s been shoved off to the side of the table, or maybe we’ve seen that they’re willing to chump block on turn two just to save two life. Either way, you need to know exactly how their mind works before you start playing mind games.

Once that happens you can go all-in, but constantly making the second-best play because it’s better if your opponent is worse than you is a good way to prove that they’re not.

I don’t think there was a single moment when I learned not to make that mistake, but it was something that I just had to pick up after dozens of failures.

If you think your opponent might have a card, there’s a good chance that they do.

It’s mid-game and you’re ready to move to blocks. In the back of your head, you wonder what’s going to happen if they have a Ghor Clan Rampager. Nah, there’s no way they have that, you think, and make a block that puts you far behind if they’re lucky enough to have one in hand.

Of course, they do have it. They’re so lucky. Every time you think they might have it, they do.

Well guess what? The reason you think they might have it is because they’re playing in a way that telegraphs the card. Even though you may not be actively noticing it, you’re picking up on context clues that tell you what cards are likely in their hand. If you suddenly think “oh no, what if he has it?” it’s likely because he’s been setting it up for a while now and you’ve finally assembled enough evidence to put the puzzle together.

If a card pops into your head, start thinking back to the last few turns. Was there a better time than now that they could have used it? If not, it’s time to start playing around it if you haven’t done so already.

I don’t remember exactly what the moment was that I learned this one, but i’m pretty sure I got it from Scheel, who is so good at knowing what’s on the next page of your book because he was always paying attention throughout the last chapter.

That’s it for now!

(I put a video link in my first post, and I think i’m going to keep doing it. Here’s what I’m listening to today: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iTfB8Q6DpZ0 )

Some data on the standard portion of worlds

Three rounds, 16 players.

The decklists

Shenhar, Shahar 3-0 UWR Flash (win boros, win UWR flash aetherling, win UWR flash aetherling)
Kibler, Brian 3-0 RG Aggro (win domri naya, win lifebane jund, win stock jund)
Duke, Reid 2-1 Stock Jund (win UWR flash aetherling, win UWR flash aetherling, lose RG aggro)
Wescoe, Craig 2-1 Boros (lose UWR flash, win domri naya, win UWR flash aetherling)
Watanabe, Yuuya 2-1 UWR Flash Aetherling (win primeval bounty jund, win lifebane jund, lose UWR flash)
Utter-Leyton, Josh 2-1 Lifebane Jund (win UWR flash, lose UWR flash aetherling, win UWR flash aetherling)
Butakov, Dmitriy 2-1 UWR Flash Dragons (win UWR flash aetherling, lose UWR flash aetherling, win primeval bounty jund)
Stark, Ben 1-2 UWR Flash Aetherling (lose stock jund, lose UWR flash, win UWR flash aetherling)
Edel, Willy 1-2 Domri Naya (lose RG aggro, lose boros, win UWR flash)
Froehlich, Eric 1-2 Lifebane Jund (lose UWR flash aetherling, lose primeval jund, win lifebane jund)
Cifka, Stanislav 1-2 UWR Flash Aetherling (win lifebane jund, lose stock jund, lose UWR flash aetherling)
Nakamura, Shuhei 1-2 UWR Flash Aetherling (lose lifebane jund, win UWR flash aetherling, lose boros)
Martell, Tom 1-2 UWR Flash (lose lifebane jund, win UWR flash dragons, lose domri naya)
Shi Tian, Lee 1-2 Primeval Bounty Jund (lose UWR flash aetherling, win lifebane jund, lose UWR flash dragons)
Ochoa, David 1-2 Lifebane Jund (win UWR flash aetherling, lose RG aggro, lose lifebane jund
Juza, Martin 0-3 UWR Flash Aetherling (lose UWR flash dragons, lose UWR flash aetherling, lose lifebane jund)

Matchup totals – exact mirrors not included in counts:
RG Aggro 3-0 (1-0 domri naya, 1-0 lifebane jund, 1-0 stock jund)
UWR Flash 4-2 (1-0 boros, 2-0 flash aetherling, 0-1 lifebane jund, 1-0 flash dragons, 0-1 domri naya)
UWR Flash Dragons 2-1 (1-1 flash aetherling, 1-0 primeval bounty jund)
Stock Jund 2-1 (2-0 UWR flash aetherling, 0-1 RG aggro)
Boros 2-1 (0-1 UWR flash, 1-0 domri naya, 1-0 UWR flash aetherling)
Lifebane Jund 3-4 (2-2 UWR flash aetherling, 0-1 RG aggro, 0-1 primeval jund, 1-0 UWR flash)
UWR Flash Aetherling 3-8 (1-0 primeval bounty jund, 2-2 lifebane jund, 0-2 stock jund, 0-2 UWR flash, 0-1 boros, 0-1 UWR flash dragons)
Domri Naya 1-2 (0-1 RG aggro, 0-1 boros, 1-0 UWR flash)
Primeval Bounty Jund 1-2 (0-1 UWR flash aetherling, 1-0 lifebane jund, 0-1 UWR flash dragons)