Diary of a Grinder

by Michael Bonde on 08 February 2019, Friday

Arena 
Michael Bonde

I’m writing this article on the day of the announcement about the Invitational at PAX East. (https://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/mythic-invitational)

Announcements like these come with both great joy and sadness. The sadness stems from the limited access to such a great event, meanwhile it sparks immense amounts of joy that a thing like this is going to happen. Magic will get a lot of publicity and a lot of great players will be fighting for the great prize.

Limited access or not – this made for a perfect opportunity to at least start my own endeavors in the constructed events of MTG Arena. I started with a Mono-Red Deck!

Michael Bonde's Mono-Red (Standard (Ravnica Allegiance) - Others)

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I love the grind and I love to keep track of it. Just to see if there is some sort of progress. Pair this with an upcoming Pro Tour (or Mythic Championship) and my fire is lit.

Playing by the Rules

First of all, I set up some rules for myself.

  1. I only want to play Best of One, to speed up the process, and see the raw power of the deck in play.
  2. I will not change my deck before at least 100 games or until I hit Diamond, whichever comes first.
  3. I shall keep as many hands as possible.
  4. I want to close out the game as fast as possible.

These rules will make me honor the grind, since it will be fast. And I’ll have some variables, so that I can see how fast I climb the ladder. It isn’t the best way to optimize your win rate, but it’s fun. My thought process was that as long as you have a win percentage above 50%, you will eventually climb. And once you reach Diamond, you will have to bring your A-game to climb to Mythic. That’s how I experienced ranking up in Hearthstone.

Dear diary…today I ranked from Bronze 4 to Gold 3

It’s 10pm, I just put my toddler to rest, I read the PAX announcement, so here we go. 8 Common, 4 Uncommon and 4 Rare Wildcards later I have a deck. No sideboard, but we don’t need to care about that for Best of One.

I fly through Bronze 4 to 1 with a swift 10-1 record. My only loss is to a Rakdos opponent and I feel like a superstar. Not only did I decide to try and grind as much as I could for the next 4 hours, but I rock a solid 90% win rate. Nothing can bring you down when you win this much – except a loss! Which I, on my pedestal, of course got; two in a row, even.

My inflated self-esteem crumbled, and I had to fight my way out of Bronze 1. Luckily for me, you don’t lose rank in the early ranks, so with a stunning 3-7 record I was now a Silver 4 competitor.

Initially I thought that it would be intro decks that I’d play against, but to my big surprise almost everyone played some sort of top-tier Standard deck. Many just seemed to lack playskill and experience. This made me reevaluate if I should just always go for the kill, to speed up the process, or If I should use a minute or two more each match and see what happens.

With this new approach I went 16-2 and catapulted myself into Gold 4 by 1am and then the “real grind” started. I eventually limited myself and said I had to go to bed when I reached Gold 3. This goal was reached at 2:30 am, 17 matches after I made Gold 4. Now that I had tasted glory, I was full of adrenaline, so I just had to play on for 9 more matches on Gold 3, before I was too tired to continue and went to bed.

62 matches in 4.5 hours: Crunching numbers and addressing complaints

In the end, I managed to play 62 Bo1 matches in the 4.5 hours I played. It was great fun and I felt more and more connected with the platform which did anything but stifle my desire to become one of the top 8 Mythic players.

During my endeavors I tried to track some of the things that I found interesting. I did this to keep myself entertained, but I also wanted to try and put some numbers next to the common complaints people have about MTG Arena, the RNG involved and the ratio at which people get unlucky.

I played 62 games and I was on the play 33 times and on the draw 29 times. Sometimes I hear people say that they never win the die roll, and my advice is to either suck it up or write it down. Every time I put it into some sort of system, it always turns out to be a random but eventually fair distribution.

This leads me to the ratio to which I and my opponents mulliganed. I’m not 100% certain about how they distribute the land/spell ratio, but I’ve heard that there is some fix in the Bo1 format, where the client deals 2 hands, and then takes the one that is “the best”. I was at least unlucky enough to have exactly 3 opponents in 62 games mulligan at all. One of them took a mulligan to 5. I was however lucky enough to keep 52 straight 7-card hands and mulliganed to 5 cards and 6 cards once each. I lost both of those games and just thought that it wasn’t worth mulliganing after all. Having this hatred towards not keeping 7 cards did eventually give me 3 losses because I kept some crappy one-landers. But as good ol’ Dark Confidant says: Greatness, at any cost!

Reaping the Rewards

In total I earned 200 gold, 2 boosters, a Famished Paladin, a District Guide, a Spirit of the Spires and a Slippery Scoundrel before I depleted all of the win rewards.

I learned that there are different Llanowar Elves artworks on Arena, and that there is a card called Ragefire which owned me! If the metagame is all about Legion Warboss and you have a Shock in your deck, you need to set your stop in their main phase and finally, when you have a toddler that needs attention, it is really cool that you can just concede the match without any real downside besides the ranking.

The Ranked Metagame

Here are all the matchups I played between Bronze 4 and Gold 3.

Mono-Red, 18 copies – 29%
Esper, 6 copies – 9.7%
Mono-Blue, 6 copies – 9.7%
Golgari, 4 copies – 6.5%
Gates, 4 copies – 6.5%
Sultai, 3 copies – 5%
Grixis, 2 copies – 3%
Boros, 2 copies - 3%
Dimir, 2 copies - 3%
Mono-White, 2 copies - 3%
Other decks, 13 copies – 21%

Against the metagame, I went 42-20, including 9-9 against Mono-Red, 5-1 against Mono-Blue and 4-2 against Esper. This is a small sample size, but to “metagame” against these ranks I would find a deck that is good against Mono-Red, since I played it roughly a third of the time. Some of the decks that were geared to play against the Red decks play a full set of Moment of Craving and Vraska’s Contempt. They didn’t always win, but it seemed like they would have been favored had they played a bit better.

I am looking forward to some more games, even though my love still is with the old formats of Magic Online and the experience of Paper Magic. I can’t wait to compete on the big stage in February In Cleveland, but I must say that MTG Arena is a very nice and smooth client that I will give some of my time in the future.

I hope you enjoyed this quick look into a grinder’s day! 

This article was written by Michael Bonde in a media collaboration with Snapcardster.com.




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