Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Could Have Been, vol 1: Worship

Hey folks.
This is the first in what I hope to be a recurring feature. I'm going to take an interesting card and re-purpose it into a setting different than its original one. The idea being that Magic's design and flavor allows for enough flexibility that there are cards that can easily be flavor-transplanted into a different setting.

My first subject; Worship.

Worship is a pretty distinctive card in effect and appearance. The possibility of being unkillable if you play your cards right (ha!) is a tempting one, and the viseage of the remarkable Planeswalker Serra has been present since the card's original printing in Urza's Saga. It's even seen some competitive play, having been a powerful build around effect in standard and extended and being the backbone of a fringe Modern deck.

In my mind, this card would have been a juicy reprint for Theros. It's an enchantment about the power of faith; that describes Theros to a T.

Let's imagine for a moment, what Worship would have looked like in Theros block. What would the art description have been like? Something like this I imagine.

Color: White

Location: A temple dedicated to Heliod, the Sun God of Theros

Action: Show the faithful gathered at the foot of a statue of Heliod. They are praying in reverence of him. The statue is glimmering and looks as though it could come to life at any moment.

Focus: The statue of the Sun God.

Mood: Powerful, impressive, imposing.

Are there any cards of old that weren't in Theros that you think should have been?

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mayael's Army; Journey into Nyx

As done last time, I am reviewing a set that has been out for a while to examine how well its fatties compliment my commander of choice; the stunning and talented Mayael of the Anima.

She's so wonderful...


Gluttonous Cyclops + Swarmborn Giant

Meh. There are much more powerful six drops than Gluttonous Cyclops, and Swarmborn Giant's drawback seems way too steep in a multiplayer format.

Goldenhide Ox + Humbler of Mortals

I really like the effects these guys offer, but they both have a particular drawback in both needing a lot of enchantments to be more than one shot effects. There are certainly worse drawbacks to have as there are any number of really good enchantments that I'd happily play in a Mayael deck (Guild Feud, Mayael's Aria, Greater Good, Mirari's Wake, etc) and there's a lot of beefy enchantment creatures from throughout the Theros block that pull double duty of being enchantments for Constellation triggers AND beef for Mayael to hit.
So to play with either of these isn't particularly hard, but will require building with them in mind, which as I have mentioned with other subthemes in other articles, is entirely possible. Also, if we look at Humbler of Mortals in a deck built to take advantage of it, it allows for a redundancy of "your dudes have trample" effects that are attached to creatures alongside of things like Nylea, Roughshod Mentor and Mosstodon; and in a singleton format, redundancy is king.

Quarry Colossus + Spawn of Thraxes

Like the above, these are really interesting creatures that need to be built around to take advantage of them. Unlike the above, I'm not sure it's worth it. In a three color deck, the ability for either of the these creatures to have their effects scale very highly, even in longer games in this format, aren't great. And to build a three-color deck to take the most out of these effects, you're going to have to downplay the other land types, and therefor your ability to reliably use three colors worth of effects. These creatures just aren't good enough to make the cut in a three-color deck.

Cyclops of Eternal Fury

Now this one I'm not quite sure about. Everything having haste is amazing, even more so when it's also a creature so it be a threat and utility. But then you see it has three toughness. Three toughness in the format of mega fatties bigger than all creation. I'd really say that running this guy is a meta call. I'd rather not be playing this if the threat of it dying in combat is such that you always have it on defense, but your meta might be different than mine. The power is there, especially because your creatures are so much cooler than most anyone else's, but it's not for everyone.

Hydra Broodmaster

Golly. This thing is hecka scary. I love going tall, but when Mayael is able to go wide as well, that's a rare treat. The amount of board presence this creature can make by itself, especially in a dedicated ramp deck (disclaimer: You should absolutely be running Boundless Realms in any green deck) is absurd. Very interesting card with very scary potential. And there's a sweet promo version you can get, so you should totally be aware of this.

Bearer of Heavens

Hnnnnn.... I really want to live the dream with this guy, but I'm not sure Mayael is the way to do it. At least not my Mayael. The best way to make this asymetrical is with Avacyn, but with her this guy is so much harder to kill. But then by having Avacyn out, you need some way of sacrificing this because it will never die from a board wipe or combat. But then you're building in all of these effects to take advantage of a combo.
By all means, combos are ubiquitous in EDH, and green has lots of creature tutoring to make the pieces easier to find, but it's not my particular playstyle. If you are interested however, I might want to invest in a few creatures that can survive the heavens falling in case your combo falls apart mid-sequence. Things like Phytotitan, Vorapede, Twilight Shepherd, Mossbridge Troll, or hiding your things under your own Angel of Serenity. And there are useful spells that can break the symmetry like Boros Charm and Wrap in Vigor that you might like to be aware of.
Happy board wiping!


Praise be the Gods! I feel like this is fulfilling a similar role as Nylea in being a sometimes creature that makes blocking a pain in the butt. But where trample is better against lots of little blockers, Iroas is better against fewer big blockers. Being indestructible and also a 7 power creature at 4 mana is also insane, so i could easily see Iroas slotting up into most any Mayael build.

What has Journey into Nyx done for your Mayael deck?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Fate versus Fury; a duel deck review

I don't know if you know this, but I love the duel decks. Love them like crazy. I have every single one to date, sleeved up for playing against each other. When Wizards announced clash packs, a fusion of duel deck and event deck, I was elated. Four duel decks a year? Hot dog!

The first one, Fate versus Fury, has come out, and I've sleeved them up and given them some play throughs, and I'd thought I'd share the experience with you. The decks are two standard legal (as of this writing) decks containing cards from Theros block and the M15 core set. The idea is that you can keep them separate to play as duel decks, or combine them for the power level roughly equivalent to that of a typical event deck.

Fate is a blue-green is a sort of tempo-ey deck that uses lots of hard to block creatures and carefully aimed removal and tricks to nickel and dime the opponent to death. Fury is a red-green ramp deck that uses lots of mana acceleration to power out enormous monsters far too big for your opponent to deal with, and when it runs out of gass, it uses the monstrous ability to put the nail in the coffin.

GAME 1 (playing as Fate)

I win the flip and mulligan away a hand full of blue spells and islands and keep two islands a Vaporkin, a frost lynx, a Horizon Chimera and Aetherspouts. Fury starts with a turn one Elvish Mystic. A turn one dork can lead to some gross plays, I'm a little worried, but it leads to nothing as it passes on turn two with no play.

The next few turns pass fairly uneventfully with each side committing creatures but no trades. I use a pair of Frost Lynxes to get in a few hits which are made back by a Nylea's Disciple, before eventually landing a Horizon Chimera which is immediately killed by a Plummet. A shame. The life gained by the chimera is really useful for forcing the Fury deck to make awkward plays.

I'm able to use scry triggers and Jace's Ingenuities to draw into more fliers and Fury is unable to find something bigger to fight back with and loses because it just can't block a few measly 2-powered fliers.

For GAME 2 we switch decks.

Once again I win the play, and keep a somewhat ballsy hand. Forest, Elvish Mystic, Font of Fertility, Lightning Strike, Reclamation Sage, Karametra's Acolyte and Nessian Game Warden. I figure that as long as I draw into a land in the next two turns, I'm guaranteed a good flow. I stick the forest an mystic and pass. I don't draw a land next turn, so I play the Font and attack with my elf.

I draw a mountain on turn 3 and pop the Font. The next two turns are dedicated to acolytes. My opponent hasn't stuck anything particularly nasty, and the ramping AND big defense are practical. Then my opponent drops a Prophet of Kruphix. Gross. One of the best creatures in the deck. I try to Lightning Strike it next turn, but Fate Negated it.

I draw a Boulderfall, but without a second red source it's worthless. I play a Game Warden instead digging 4 deep for a Nemesis of Mortals. Which my opponent Pins. I take this as a good sign that they're wasting removal knowing I have a bigger threat in my hand. I suspect they're not drawing any  gas.

A timely mountain the next turn gives me enough mana to Boulderfall, which I use to take out the Prophet a Follower and do one to Fury's face for good measure. My Warden from last turn also gives me enough devotion to drop a Nemesis off my Acolyte mana. Which is immediately bounced.

An Emissary stands between me and victory and I manage to play and monstrous a Nemesis and a Cyclops over the next two turns before attacking.


There's a sort of push and pull between the two decks. Fate has enough filtering and draw that it's fairly easy to commit a lot of evasive dorks, or keep the Fury deck off balance by constantly bouncing or pinning or pigging (that's a verb now) its creatures which is all that more painful if they've spent a lot of mana to monstrous them. Unfortunately, there's only so many answers in the Fate deck, and Fury's creatures are ultimately bigger and scarier, so there's a tension to when and what they should use these answers.
"Do I bounce this blocker now to get in a few more points of damage, or do I save it for something that's more likely to kill me."

The Fury deck has similar tensions. "Do I spend all this much mana playing an Acolyte on the hope of bigger dividends later, or do I play a threat now?" "Do I risk my opponent bouncing my fatty by monstrousing it, or do I play a second creature?" The only answer that Fate has that's anything close to permanent is Curse of the Swine, and even that gives you something. Sometimes setting you back a turn by bouncing a threat is stalling for time, and sometimes it's the difference between your last few life points.

I've really liked the play decisions in these decks and the really cool promos that came with it. The utterly bizarre choice of Font of Fertility. The stunning Prophet of Kruphix. The Progenitor Sphinx that totally looks like Eric Idle. There's some real value in this product, and I would definitely give it a shot!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mayael's Army; Born of the Gods edition

Another set, more fatties to review.

Here's a bunch of Born of the Gods fatties and how they fare in Mayael the Anima commander decks.

Forgestoker Dragon

A fine creature, but not for everyone. This best comes into play if your deck doesn't have a lot of built in evasion (flyers, tramples, things that grant either), or if your opponents are playing against a lot of low toughness creatures and this guy becomes a differently-abled Shivan Hellkite. I think the flexibility makes it better off because one of the two options will almost always be viable. The biggest hit against this guy is that there are so VERY many good six drops for Mayael that there's probably something more proactive you could be running instead.

Archetype of Endurance

"Your win conditions have hexproof." Yes. Please. I love this guy, especially because Mayael decks will inevitably have so many ways of doing it at instant speed (Mayael herself, Elvish Piper, Quicksilver Amulet, etc). 8 mana is really expensive for a guy that's not caving skulls in or removal on a stick, but the effect is so powerful, I'd recommend trying it.

Nessian Wilds Ravager

There's one thing in particular I like to keep in mind when I'm putting cards in my EDH decks. One, how practical is this card. Especially in my Mayael deck, which demands a certain amount of slots in the deck to make Mayael a reliable asset, every fatty needs to be earning its space. To that end, I try to make sure that most of my fatties can either win the game on their own, or are an answer to an opponents plans. This guy, when considering it as a removal spell attached to a body, is a mostly worse Gruul Ragebeast. And you know what, that's fine.
Because of the singleton nature of the format, having built in redundancies in any deck is key in this format. And by playing this along Ragebeast gives you a minimum of two chances to draw into "kill your dude, I get a 6/6". Yes, I meant what I said. Carefully read Tribute's rules text. "As this creature enters the battlefield, an opponent of your choice may place six +1/+1 counters on it."  That means the player paying tribute doesn't have to be the same one you're going to fight creatures with. This makes for a wonderful bit of politics. You can choose a player whose disadvantaged at the moment, or has a grudge against the player you want to spite, and if they're feeling appropriately generous, they'll let you get your fight on. Your level of charisma may vary, results not a guarantee.


A fine fatty, but perhaps not ideal for this deck. The thing is Mayael has a lot of ways of putting fatties int play that aren't casting them, and because of that we're getting less triggers than a deck built around Karametra's abilities (such as an EDH deck with her at the helm) would. Being big and hard to kill isn't enough in my eyes.

Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass

Limited chaffe. Use at your own risk.

Pheres-Band Raiders

Making dudes is sweet, but we have more efficient ways of doing so.

Thunder Brute

I really like haste, and I REALLY like the art, but I really don't think being big is enough in EDH (unless you're really big). Plus, Bull Cerodon does this and has the decency to block afterwards.


I freaking love this guy. Giving haste is a big deal. Making things enormous is a big deal. Both of these things tied onto body that is really hard to get rid of is a big deal. One of my favorite inclusions in this deck in recent years, and my commandering is all that much more better off because of it.

Those are my thoughts and feelings regarding the fatties of Born of the Gods. I'd love to know what you think! Happy commandering!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Mayael's Army; Theros edition

I've spoken of the very special lady in my life before, Mayael the Anima, and I thought of a new segment; with each passing set I hope to talk about all the new fatties and what role they may play in future builds.

Theros came out back in September, and lending itself to the source material, was crammed full of big beasties rearing to eat someone's face off. Let's look at a few of them.

Stoneshock Giant
I  like this guy. He's got a sweet beard. But there's more to Magic than dudes with sweet beards. He's got a reasonable body for his cost, and the monstrous ability isn't too shabby either. When you resolve the ability, it's akin to resolving Overrun or a variant thereof. And that's usually enough to win the game. 6RR: Win the Game. Seems reasonable to me. The biggest strike against this guy is until that actually happens, he's just a vanilla beater. Surely worth trying at any rate.

Titan of Eternal Fire
No. Just no. There aren't anywhere near enough human fatties to make this guy relevant.

Wild Celebrants
Oh golly. I want to like these guys, I really do, but there is one thing that really kills it for me. 3 toughness. That's just really terrible at 5 mana in this format. I will say that if your meta is plagued by artifact centric decks, this might be viable, but otherwise, this will destroy a random thing and almost immediately die in combat with anything. Might be worth a shot, but very meta dependent.

Arbor Colossus
Look at that fat butt. Most every color has good fliers, and many of them are scary strong in this format. Being able to shoot them out of the sky and still dedicating space to a body is pretty sweet. The only real downside is that the triple green can be a pain in the butt if your fixing isn't so great.

Nemesis of Mortals
I like some fatty boom booms, but this critter has two big problems for it. One, it's just a fatty; no additional utility. Two, Mayael isn't a graveyard deck. Decks that want something like this are those that will routinely be able to get a 10/10 for 4. Mayael is no such deck.

Polukranos, World Eater
I'm more than a little excited that hydras are finally getting their day in the sun. I haven't actually ever gotten the chance to resolve the ability in EDH unfortunately, he keeps getting killed before I get the chance. But any time I had, I would have gotten to kill at least one creature out of it. That he so inspires fear in my opponents that they would waste removal on him rather than something far scarier (in my eyes, anyway) bodes well though. Especially good in conjunction with any sort of big mana spell that I like to run in Mayael like Boundless Realms, Mirari's Wake or Vorinclex.

Colossus of Akros
Love me some jank. That being said, this might be a little too jank. Until you get to 10 mana, this is just a "I'm going to kill the hell out of a thing you used to attack me", and if your meta is full of nonlethal ways o killing things like bounce or exile, this isn't so hot. On the other hand, killing your opponent with a 50 cent jank rare that's also an indestructible 20/20 is pretty sweet.

Vulpine Goliath
Limited chaffe. You have better things to do at 6 mana. Adorable fox or not.

Heliod, God of the Sun
Vigilance is sweet in any multiplayer format. Mana sinks are likewise sweet. And better yet, you don't have to turn him into a creature if you don't want to. It's easy to include devotion heavy beater likes Akroma, to turn him on. Likewise it's easy to avoid them. Whichever suits you better.

Nylea, God of the Hunt
You've got a deck full of strong independant creatures that don't need no man. Doesn't it suck when your opponent chump blocks you forever? Or not. Again, Nylea can easily be made more or less prone towards being a creature depending on if you think she's an asset or a liability as a creature.

Purphoros, God of the Forge
Unlike the other two on-color Gods (so far...), Purphoros really wants a certain sort of build to take the most of his abilities. Both his trigger and his activation favor a deck that swarms the opponent with loads of creatures. Well nuts, Mayael wants to go tall, not wide. Right?... Actually, there are quite a few fatties that let you do both. If you have Purphoros in your Mayael shell, you'd probably benefit from including creatures like Rith, Living Hive, Rapacious One, Avenger of Zendikar, Symbiotic Wurm, etc. That was easier than you thought, right?

Those are some of my thoughts and observations about what Theros had to offer Mayael players. I'd love to hear how you did with this release.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Commander 2013: a set review, part 5

We now arrive at our fifth and final review, 

This is the Jund (black-red-green) deck, and is my personal favorite of the five. In my opinion, it is the strongest of the decks as is out of the box. It is an attrition-based deck that uses creatures as a resource. The creatures aren't usually as big as the ones in Nature of the Beast, or as flexible as the ones in Evasive Maneuvers, but there are more of them. Lots more. And quantity is a quality all its own.

The deck employs lots of token makers to produce enormous armies, and atypically, the deck doesn't tend to use them in the swarming version of token decks that might play things like Beastmaster Ascension, though by all means you can alter the deck towards this sort of thing if you'd like. Rather, it uses them as a resource by sacrificing them, and there is a lot of different ways to get value out of this.

The deck uses creatures to fuel even-the-odds removal with cards like Shattergang Brothers, Stronghold Assassin, Elvish Skysweeper and Quagmire Druid. The idea being that you're prepared to feed more creatrues to these effects than your opponent has, and you'll be fine doing so since your deck has so many ways of recouping the losses. And you are. Thanks to cards like Prossh, Endrek Sahr, Tempt with Vengeance and Sprouting Thrinax, you will almost always have more creatures than everyone else at the table. 

Not only will you have more, but you'll have more things to do with them. You can convert them into kill spells as mentioned above; into damage from Blood Rites, Goblin Bombardment, Goblin Sharpshooter and Stalking Vengeance; into card draw off of Carnage Altar, Jar of Eyeballs, Fecundity and Foster. And even when they're dead they're still useful thanks to things like Hua Tuo, Charnelhoard Wurm and Night Soil.

The deck is resilient. It has the greatest capacity to rebuild after a board wipe thanks to various cards that make multiple creatures, and thanks to the myriad of sacrifice outlets your opponents will have a hard time really gaining value by killing your creatures since its a thing you want to do anyway. Most changes I would make to the deck depend on which direction you want to take it, and that is highly motivated by your choice in commander since Jund has a lot of good choices.


Prossh. Let me tell you about Prossh. He's beast mode. He is an incredibly powerful flexible creature and commander that I never felt bad about casting. He provides blockers, fodder for your sac outlets, an army for your anthem effects, and when the opportunity presents itself, can general damage your opponents to death out of nowhere. I really don't have anything bad to say about the guy. At six mana, he's at the top end of what I usually like to pay for in a commander, but in a deck built to maximize his qualities, that's a non issue. Prossh is where it's at.

The most memorable play I saw with him was during a four way game. I had cast a particularly large Earthquake, wiping the board of creatures and bringing everyone's life totals to a tantalizingly low range. The Prossh player, untapped drew his card and cast Endrek Sahr, then Prossh, then fed his now enormous army to the Goblin Bomardment he had played earlier killing me in one hit. I never saw it coming, and neither will your opponents.


The Shattergang Brothers represent an interesting option for Jund players. They're not hard-hitting like Prossh or Karrthus or Kresh, and they're not resilient like Sek'Kuar. They are flexible, allowing you to turn things previously not a resource into a resource. They force your opponents to play fairly by making them manage their resources. They allow you to play with fire by giving you a way out of permanents with dangerous downsides like Baleful Force or Phyrexian Arena.

They incentive you to build a flexible reactive deck that attacks from different angles (by playing enough enchantments and artifacts to enable their abilities) and reward you for doing so by blowing up your opponents scary enchantments and artifacts. Any reasonable board state you have that includes the brothers is one that is more capable of dealing of breaking your opponent's board states into nothing.

They're also goblins if you've always felt like building goblin tribal but felt that current options were too weak or boring for EDH. There's so many ways you could take a deck in that direction. No matter how you take it, I would include cards that are fine in any normal deck but really shine with the Gang. Mycosynth Wellspring and Spine of Ish Sah both appeal to me, and Hammer of Purphoros manages to be the only card in Magic that currently produces Enchantment Artifact Creatures, feeding all three abilities.

There are certain strategies that the Shattergang Brothers do very well against; any Voltron deck is pretty much doomed against your ability to force them to sacrifice their heavy hitter since you'll have more creatures than they can afford to feed to the effect, but there are also strategies that will be difficult for the Brothers. Any deck that specializes primarily in enchantments or artifacts is bound to have more than you, who had to diversify, to sacrifice, and likewise creature swarm strategies. But at the end of the day, you have a deck that can carefully react to most any battlefield-based strategies, and sometimes that in and of itself will be enough.

For you collectors out there, the following cards in Power Hungry have new art:
Goblin Sharpshooter

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Commander 2013: a set review, part 4.

Another day, another deck


This is the Grixis (blue-black-red) deck. It wins of the back of its spells. Creatures have the greatest opportunity for long term value, but instants and sorceries are so much harder to interact with. The deck has the most card draw, a lot of it symmetrical, yes; but it also has the most removal, so its going to be drawing into all the kill spells it needs to keep people on the table honest.

Beyond all of its numerous spells, it also has the most ways of interacting with them. There are cards in here like Arcane Melee, Nivix Guildmage, Uyo, and Mnemonic Wall that give you that much more mileage. And of note, a lot of the spells in the deck are modal, that is to say they can be used in different ways. Crosis' Charm, Grixis Charm, Incendiary Command, and Soul Manipulation all do a lot of different things, so no matter what is happening, you'll have an answer to them.

Secondly, it's a sort of a group hug deck. There are a lot of cards in here that make everyone draw cards; Vision Skeins, Skyscribing, Prosperity and Nekusar all fill everyone's hands. The idea being that firstly, because you have more killspells and modal spells, you'll be able to choose which threats stick; and second, opponents are less likely to take you out if you're helping them. Lots of political plays involved here.

I didn't get as much experience with this deck as I did the other ones, but when I played against it, players frequently left it alone for two reasons. 1. The afformentioned group hug angle, 2. because it relies more on spells than permanents, it was often perceived as being less threatening. If you're interested in playing EDH in a way that is a little more atypical, this deck might be for you.

Also, it has True-Name Nemesis and Baleful Strix, both legacy playable cards, in it and therefore goes for something like double MSRP in some places. Even if you don't like the deck, it is worth the investment.


I had high hopes for Jeleva. I had been wanting to build a Grixis-spell centric deck, and they gave me a leading lady perfectly suited towards that. And she has sweet art, win-win. In practice in games between the precons, and even against a few customized decks, I found that she wiffed quite a bit unless you were casting her for 8 or more mana. The biggest problem is that while, indeed, Commander is the format of big splashy spells, it is more typically dominated by big scary creatures. Jeleva benefits best not as a dedicated strategy, but as a meta call in an environment that is more suited towards things on the stack than things on the battlefield.

She also has the unfortunate side effect of being very physically underwhelming, especially when she's run out of spells to cast. 1 power, 3 toughness means nothing in Commander; and if you manage to run out of spells and your opponents have some way of ignoring her, such as by pacifying her, then you're especially screwed. I would definitely recommend running enough Lightning Greaves effects to protect her from removal, and better yet give her haste.


Now this guy here; this guy is something special. He combines something tempting, a howling mine, with something devious, something that can accidentally kill the table out of nowhere. The relatively small size and the helpfulness of the effect can put a lot of players off, thinking that they'll be able to benefit from the effect, or it's not a big deal, they can kill him before the effect gets out of hand. And then you do something horrifying like overload Cyclonic Rift and activate Jace's Archivist, hitting everyone else at the table for 20 damage. Whoops.

All of those 'everyone draws' effects I listed above? Those are terrifying when they come with a Blaze attached. Better yet are Windfall effects; Dragon Mage, Reforge the Soul, Whispering Madness. Terrifying. My only real problem with Nekusar is that I don't seem to be alone in realizing how nuts Nekusar can be, and I'm not particularly interested in playing something everyone else is. But I don't want to stop you from playing something you enjoy, so by all means, jam a deck full of permission, removal and windfalls. You'll have something scary.

Also, you can give him infect.

Collectors, the following cards have new art in the set:
Crosis' Charm