November 1, 2016

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Why the Limited Format is Best

Some of you might know me from the Grand Prix Circuit, but for those of you who don’t I typically try to travel to one Grand Prix a month. Over the past few years I have managed to do particularly well with events that are Limited. This includes being fortunate enough to top 32 my first two Grand Prix – both Limited. With this success I have been invited to the Wizard Tower team to share my thoughts and experiences on all Limited formats. Each week I intend to dedicate this column to the ins and outs of all things Limited, and because this is an ever changing format there is a lot to discuss. Limited has always been my calling, and has been the only format that I have truly attempted to be competitive in. It is my hope that in this debut article I will inspire this same passion for limited formats in you – my future readers.

One of the biggest advantages to playing a Limited format is that it is possible to do well without constant playtesting and preparation. Some might consider doing well without much preparation to be luck, but I would argue that being a good Magic player is about a lot more than learning how to play one deck or memorizing sideboard strategies developed by someone else. This is not to say that there are not a lot of amazing players out there that are constantly brewing or developing decks that will define the future of a format. The skills and abilities needed to do this are the same as the ones needed to be a winning limited player, but maintaining these skills in limited is whole lot less time consuming. Being able to analyze a card’s value on the spot and build a cohesive deck while keeping in mind mana base and curve are some of the most important skills you can have in the game.

Another thing I would like to discuss in this first article is the greater uncertainty of any Limited format when compared to a constructed one. When playing in a Standard or Modern event most skilled players will know within the first turn or two what is in their opponent’s deck and sideboard with amazing accuracy. These players will then begin to develop a plan to gain the upper hand in the match based on hundreds of hours of playtesting and research. I believe Limited to be more akin to playing a game of poker than it is a traditional match of constructed. You know what cards your opponent COULD have, but it is really impossible to know for sure. This aspect creates an environment where a player will fail or succeed based on their ability to think outside of the box rather than just feeling comfortable with in it. Skilled Limited players need to be able to draw a line between the things they should play around and the things they simply can not anticipate. Conversely you can bluff a card that might not even be in your deck – typically with removal or a counterspells. All of these aspects of a Limited format create an ever changing environment you simply can not recreate from playing months of the same standard block.

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Being a full time student I am often unable to prepare for tournaments as well as I should, but because of these fundamental skills I have been able to perform reasonably well in several events. I can tell you from personal experience that there are few things as satisfying as beating an opponent playing for top 32 or even top 16 of a Grand Prix while needing to read the cards as they play them. Limited formats allow players like me to enjoy playing on a competitive level with the skills I have developed over many years without the constant grind needed to perform well in a constructed format. It is my hope that through writing this weekly column not only the reader, but also the author will be able to take our Limited game to the next level. Next week this column will begin where ever player must – at the beginning. We will be exploring basic deck building techniques for both the Sealed and Draft formats.

Always remember – a top deck takes skill. Until next time.