Muse Vessel – Site Update

We wanted to take this opportunity to bring our regular readers up to date with what has been going on behind the scenes here at the Muse Vessel.  Just before Christmas, the writers here had discussions with Adam Styborski, the editor at  For those of you who haven’t been to the site, I recommend you make it part of your daily reading.  They offer a little bit for everyone and probably some things you didn’t even know you wanted.  Eventually the discussions led to an offer inviting all of the Muses to write for GatheringMagic. All of us accepted and are now part of the writing team at GatheringMagic.

The Muse Vessel has been running for almost a year now.  Every week, each of us has put out a fresh article relating to multiplayer content.[i]  We have maintained the website, been editors for each other, and reviewed article ideas.  And none of us were paid one thin dime.  All of this was done for the love of Magic.  Each of us wanted to keep writing after the Talent Search, and this seemed like the best plan.  The reward came in hit counts, article comments, and preview cards.  It has been a spectacular ride.

So what happens with the Muse Vessel?  The Muse Vessel will be put in dry dock.  For the foreseeable future, the site will sit as an archive for the writing we have done up to this point.

I want to thank all of our regular readers for checking in with us.  Knowing you are out there made writing quality articles to the deadline an important part of our week.  I hope all of you will check out the articles by Seedborn Muse (Brandon Isleib) and me (Bruce Richard) on GatheringMagic last Tuesday.  You can expect to see articles from all three muses this coming Tuesday.

Thanks to All and Best Wishes in the New Year

The Muse Vessel
Daryl Bockett (Graveborn Muse)
Brandon Isleib (Seedborn Muse)
Bruce Richard (Windborn Muse)

[i] Yes, I know we just did three best of weeks, I’m talking prior to that.  And yes, I know there were a couple of weeks when one of us didn’t write, but there were three original content articles up every week, so you get what I’m saying.

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! WBM’s Best of the Vessel #3

Apparently I enjoy a good rant.  All three of my favorites are rants. My choice for my best of 2011 is Standing up for Sitting Back

Ever since Alongi was writing, most people have followed the belief that you play big threats and force your opponents to deal with them.  I followed the Ferrett’s school of thought, laying in the weeds, only jumping out when the win is immediately in your grasp.  This theory evolved for me as the years went by until you get this article.  It describes a way to play that doesn’t force you to constantly deal with all of your opponents’ most vicious threats.

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! WBM’s Best of the Vessel #2

Brandon brings a unique take on most cards.  He looks at cards that no one else plays and sees ways to make them work.  He looks at cards that everyone plays and finds new ways to use them.  I have seen this in numerous articles, and other emailed decklists.  You have only seen the surface of what Brandon can do.

The article that I picked is not an article that showcases his talents.  The article I picked is someone with that talent telling everyone else that they need to open up their mind and stop looking at cards in the same way everyone else is.  Most Commander players are playing with Sol Ring in their decks. Brandon suggests stepping outside the box and taking a fresh look at things with:

I Hate Sol Ring and All that it Taps For

The article resonated with me as something the Muse Vessel had been striving for.  I think this article is one of the articles that set the style and personality, not only for Brandon’s other articles, but for the Muse Vessel as a whole.  Readers could expect a unique, considered take on ideas that most players had taken for granted.

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! WBM’s Best of the Vessel #1

Daryl’s contribution to the site lands very clearly in the strategy writing. He has brought multiplayer strategy writing to a new level, introducing layers of complexity, all while keeping it easily understood for introductory level players.  If only college textbooks could be so versatile! 

This is not to say that Daryl only writes effective strategy articles.  Daryl writes a rant like no one’s business.  In fact, one of his articles spawned the first theme week at the Muse Vessel.  He inspires opinion and discussion, all without turning the debate into a “U SUX0RS” debacle.  My pick is the article that spawned the theme week, Daryl’s article on the tuck effect in Commander:

Worst Rule in Commander

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! SBM’s Best of the Vessel #3

I don’t know how Bruce feels about this comparison but I’ll make it:

Bruce Richard is Phil Collins.

Now I presume there are some differences, but relative to what you’re reading here the equation holds.  My favorite band in the whole wide world is Genesis, basically a bunch of British boarding school twits who started making extended progressive epics about the stuff of classic fantasy literature, with complex piano parts, shifting time signatures, and plenty of costumed theatrics.  If they sound like the types whose only arguments and stormings-off were about chord progressions, well, they were.  (If I were a band instead of a solo project, I’d argue about them too.)  They were capable of breathtaking music, but their biggest weakness was the chance they’d disappear tensely up their own backsides.

Phil Collins was Genesis’s third drummer and he didn’t come from that background.  He was an easygoing bloke who loved all the theory stuff but very importantly was firmly down-to-earth.  And it was Phil who diffused tensions time and again.  It was also Phil who tended to play songs harder and more rocking than the twee lads would think to play them.

Daryl, Bruce, and I have had no tensions or disagreements ever; there’s been no chance of breaking up the band.  But I know from my music and my esoteric topics (the hit counts say I’m the most inconsistently read) that I can disappear into la-la land with ease.  I don’t know if Daryl has that tendency, but I’m an absent-minded professor in personality and he’s a professor in real life.

Bruce loves multiplayer theory and he’s no slouch on the subject, but he’s far more practical than me and has his head in things like real life.  This means he’s a much better public voice of the site, for example.  He set up the actual site, he’s got the Twitter account that announces our articles, he’s the contact to WotC Brand about preview cards, he’s the one who gets the promotional items sent to him, and so forth.

This also means he has a lot to say about the social aspects of Magic, and he’s also the best ranter because his rants are closest to reality.  Like Soylent Green, multiplayer is made of people, and Bruce’s articles are vital counterpoint to Monday’s and Wednesday’s abstractions.  Bruce has shown clearly how many things might be keeping you from winning.  It isn’t just the whats of your deck or strategy; it’s the hows, like your tokens making a mess or your Rhystic Study questions annoying the table.  We’re human, annoying things matter to us, and you can win more games by fixing them.  If that subject matter isn’t original to Bruce – and to my knowledge it is – he’s certainly the one who’s most developed it, and getting his read on these details is eye-opening.

Because of his practicality, Bruce’s best articles tend to be his most read articles, so highlighting one was difficult.  I chose his article on slow play for several reasons.  He includes himself in the problem, setting a frank tone for open discussion.  He states clearly the problems of slow play.  He breaks down potential causes comprehensively.  It’s this level of detail that helps me most when I read him – that everything from talking to the board state can make a game less fun.  Lastly, he keeps it practical and gives solutions.  These are all hallmarks of his best work, but they’re together in one article while addressing an issue I haven’t seen anyone else address.  To me, this article represents everything great about Bruce’s contributions to multiplayer.

And if Bruce can play the blistering intro to “Los Endos,” so much the better.

“Are You Done Yet?”

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! SBM’s Best of the Vessel #2

I don’t have a lot to say about social aspects of multiplayer.  I’m the youngest of the Muses and an introvert; I don’t know what I’d say that would help you much.

I don’t have a lot of in-game theory to give you.  I have a bag of tips and tricks, I guess, but I fairly well summed them up in one article.

What I have is a love of weird cards and of deckbuilding.  Really, I think the former has to precede the latter; how many burn decks can you love putting together?  (Actually, I’m sure someone out there can prove me wrong on my rhetorical question.)  But the thrill of building something unique, something you can’t categorize, something that takes the angle nobody expected – that’s what I love sharing and trying to figure out.

It’s the below article where I tied theory and deckbuilding together the best, and I hope it’s my most-remembered article from this year.  Alongi’s menagerie of multiplayer attributes focused on individual cards.  This was my attempt to channel that spirit into assigning attributes to decks, and it’s helped my deckbuilding immensely across all formats.  If I don’t like the direction a deck is going, I now know how to swap a card out for another to get the balance I wanted – how to change power for consistency or depth for flexibility and when you should make that exchange.  It’s the article I’ve used most in explaining other concepts, and I’ve basically built my Magic outlook off this one article.  If you missed it the first time, enjoy it now.

Enter the Decktagon

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! SBM’s Best of the Vessel #1

Hey all; Seedborn here to pick out Premium Article: Graveborn.

When we were in the Talent Search, it was clear we were writing on largely the same subjects.  There were 2 other Commander writers who were the first to exit our section, and 3 others (who went to the finals and/or get a column at SCG) who weren’t writing about gameplay or strategy.

When we were voted off, the judges commented that either the audience for our work had dried up or SCG hadn’t cultivated it.  If you look at vote totals (which weren’t known to us until a month ago), you can see that the three of us combined into a nice audience; we might have split each other’s votes.

Anyway, when I thought about it, I realized that casual players only had a few historically significant authors; it’s just that those authors had worked so hard that they made and sustained an audience.  The line of columnists at – Alongi/Ferrett/Digges/Styborski – was, apart from Abe Sargent, pretty much it.  So I thought that if multiple authors combined at one website, casual players would have enough content to coalesce into a recognized audience again.  And I knew I wanted Bruce and Daryl on board.

From my 2 years writing a baseball column at The Hardball Times and seeing how that site was run, I knew that the people involved with a project are everything.  Passionate, competent, mature people at the start of a project let you build around sustained quality content, and I saw that in Bruce and Daryl.  We didn’t know how much we’d have to say, but we had momentum off the contest and we cared.

You proved us right, far beyond what we imagined.  But you wouldn’t have stuck with us if the quality hadn’t been there.  And that quality has started every week with killer theory from Daryl.  Without Daryl you would have gotten the same type of work perspective every article – not only are Bruce and I lawyers, we’re in the same segment of the profession.  But Daryl’s expertise in International Studies, learning the top theories of how nations interact and “win,” gives him a singular perspective on how players interact and win.  So far as I know, nobody else has the knowledge base to write what Daryl does about Magic.

Multiplayer theory had stagnated in a post-Ferrett world; Daryl revived it and gave the definitive take on the subject.  He took it upon himself to differentiate politics from strategy and define all manner of things no one had even thought to define, and in doing so he’s elevated the tone of Magic discussion to a completely new level.  If you ever wondered whether Magic is a serious intellectual exercise, Daryl’s articles prove it. 

And the most important of his articles to my understanding was his 2-parter, linked below, on security curve theory and its application to Magic.  What sold me on its efficacy was when players in my group started using the concepts to talk about their decks – it had solid academic footing yet could explain a Commander deck with ease.  I never understood what precisely bothered me about “broken” decks until Daryl showed that the best decks skip the middle of the security curve.  For being a product of academic theory, the ideas are so easily visualized and utilized that I had to call extra end-of-year attention to this series.

Part 1

Part 2

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! GBM’s Best of the Vessel #3

Here’s a little-known fact: without Bruce, this site would not exist. He’d deny it of course, with some nonsense about team efforts and everyone working together, but the fact is that it was his idea and he made it happen. Not only is he the heart of the Muse Vessel, but over the past year he has written about the issues at the heart of the casual community better than anyone else. The WBM article I chose as his best is one that helped me to ‘come out of the closet’ as a Magic player; I’ve always told people that I play Magic, but since reading this article I no longer say it apologetically, or with the air of a guilty pleasure. Despite my obvious penchant for in-depth theory, I got more out of Bruce’s article than anything else in the last year. I hope it helps you too.

Windborn Musings – Call of the Nerd

To all the readers who have supported us at SCG and the Vessel, thank you so much. The site has been so much more successful than we ever expected, and an absolute blast to create! Special thanks are due to Andy and the CommanderCast crew, Chewie and the guys at The Mana Pool, and the good folks at Gathering Magic for helping spread the word. To Bruce and Brandon, thanks for everything; I couldn’t ask for better collaborators and co-conspirators than you guys.

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! GBM’s Best of the Vessel #2

The one Magic writer that I would recommend above all others—even above myself,[1] MaRo and the Great Alongi—is Seedborn Muse. I’m a smart guy, and I hope that from time to time I’m able to provide some new ideas that you folks haven’t thought of, or make a connection between Magic and some other topic that hasn’t occurred to you. But Brandon flat-out doesn’t think like anyone else; it’s like he’s using a different hemisphere of the brain than the boring old left and right ones that the rest of us are limited to.

This article is a classic example of how his out-of-the-box thinking helps the rest of us to see the game in completely different ways. And of course, the musical references go without saying—I’ve had this song stuck in my head since I first picked this article a couple of weeks ago!

Seedborn Musings – One Thing Leads to Another

[1] Not that I would put myself in the same company as MaRo and Alongi; just that if I was writing with anyone else I’d probably recommend myself first.

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Muse Vessel—Yule Mooze! GBM’s Best of the Vessel #1

As Bruce announced on Friday, we’ll be taking three weeks off over Kwanzaa. We’ll still have articles on our usual days, but this week they’ll be my favorites, next week they’ll be Brandon’s picks, and we’ll usher in the New Year with Bruce’s selection.

When we started the Muse Vessel, we wanted three things: money, chicks and preview cards. When we realized we were only likely to get one of those three, we decided it would also be nice if we helped to expand the knowledge base of the Casual Tribe and energize the discussion about the ideas that were important to all of us. My pick for the best article I’ve written at Muse Vessel is therefore also my most ambitious: an attempt to define one of the most commonly used terms in multiplayer. It definitely isn’t my best-written article, and I certainly don’t claim to have given the final word on this topic, but right or wrong, I think this gives every casual player something to think about in terms of what makes multiplayer multiplayer, and I don’t think that could have happened without the Muse Vessel.

Graveborn Musings – Politics, Complexity and Multiplayer Strategy (Part I)

Graveborn Musings – Politics, Complexity and Multiplayer Strategy (Part II)

Graveborn Musings – Politics, Complexity and Multiplayer Strategy (Finale)

OK, so I cheated, it’s three articles not one, but as a Magic article junkie I know you’re going to be jonesing for content during the Christmas break, so knock yourself out with this!

Happy holidays, and may all the boosters you bust open this season be blessed with bad-ass brokenness!!

Posted in Graveborn Musings, Seedborn Musings, Windborn Musings | 2 Comments