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

Monday, November 11, 2013

Commander 2013: a set review, part 3.

Let us continue in our reviews


This is the Bant (green-white-blue) deck. It seeks to, well, outmaneuver your opponents. It doesn't have as much raw power (in my opinion) as the other decks, but makes up for it by being more efficient. It's creatures aren't as large, but they're more evasive or have some utility or having synergy with a lot of the other cards in the deck. It has more political cards than the other decks, it has more card draw, it has more synergy. It won't always have the best answer, but it always have an answer.

The deck has a couple of things going on. Theme number one; blinking. Blinking is neat, right? For those not in the know, Blinking is when you exile a thing and then return it to the battlefield. Depending on how the way this ability is worded, it has several different applications. It can allow things to dodge removal spells aimed their way, it lets you remove negative attachments like pacifism, it lets you return things to their owner's control. But most typically, its used to get added mileage out of enter the battlefield triggers. Cards in the deck like Acidic Slime, Angel of Finality, Farhaven Elf, Fiend Hunter and more get lots of extra gas thanks to cards like Roon, Flickerwisp, Conjurer's Closet, Flickerform, etc.

Theme number two; activated abilities. There's lots of cards in this deck that tap to do things. Why is this a theme you may ask? Because it also has lots of ways of untapping things. Things like Derevi, Curse of Inertia, Sword of the Paruns, and Thousand-Year Elixir. So while using the ability of Azami, Djinn of Infinite Deceits, or Kazandu Tuskcaller might be fairish when done once per turn, less so three or four times.

Theme number three; politics. The deck has lots of things that can potentially be used to benefit opponents. Roon can save opponents creatures from removal, or give them the afformentioned enter-the-battlefield abilities. Djinn of Infinite Deceits can give your opponents a nice creature. Most of the untapping things I mentioned above work on any creature, not just your own. These sort of things are nice because other players are more likely to go after someone else if you're benefiting them in some way.

This deck isn't really my thing. I felt it was being pulled in too many directions, and while some may prefer the Jack-of-All-Trades approach, I prefer something a little bit more linear and beefy. Both of the new commanders are generally speaking (heh) aiming to do different things. I would start their and pick your favorite.


Derevi was hard to evaluate. She's very subtle. Neither of her abilities are overtly powerful, but they add up into a general that is hard to deal with in most traditional means. The twiddle ability is useful and is only limited by your IMAGINATION, but what makes Derevi really special is that she is so hard to kill. General damage is real, and hooking her up with some scary equipment will definitely be the death of more than one person.

To make the most of her untapping ability, I would stick her next to a bunch of evasive critters. Things most likely to be able to connect and trigger the ability, along side things worth untapping. I wish I had better advice, but the commanders I lean towards are usually less subtle in how the mangle their opponents.


Roon is a man with a plan, and that plan is blinking. Roon wants to be a long side lots of creatures that want to be 'reset' for whatever reason. Creatures with menacing enter the battlefield triggers like Avenger of Zendikar, Angel of Serenity, and Gilded Drake are all that much more terrifying when you get to do it every turn. And as mentioned above, Roon as the added benefit of resetting negative effects like pacifism, -1/-1 counters on creatures and mind control effects. Better yet, you can do it to your opponents creatures for political value. One of my favorite things to do with Roon in some of the games I played was switch control of a thing I had with Djinn of Infinite Deceits and whatever the scariest thing someone else had, and then getting my thing back with Roon.

I have several problems with Roon. First of all, he's somewhat expensive for a commander with no immediate impact. While this isn't a problem in and of itself, it does feed into the next problem. Roon is scary. The value you can get off of Roon isn't remotely subtle, and whenever you play him, he's bound to be one of the scariest creatures in play at any time. This means he's bound to attract a lot of negative attention, so I would definitely be playing things like Lightning Greaves or Swiftfoot Boots along side him. Doing this would cover my final problem, Roon is slow. You don't get to play him until you get to five mana, and then you have to wait a whole turn to use him provided he even survives. Haste enablers go a long way, so the above equipment and things like Opal Palace is a must.

For you collectors out there, the following cards included in Evasive Maneuvers have new art:
Karmic Guide (previously Judge Promo only)
Rubina Soulsinger
Arcane Denial
Basalt Monolith
Control Magic
Selesnya Signet
Simic Signet
Wash Out

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Commander 2013: a set review, part 2.

Another day, another deck review. Today I'm picking apart


This is the Naya (red-green-white) deck, and it's general strategy seems to be "big creatures are better than not big creatures". Players who were around for Shards of Alara might find this familiar. This deck has more ways of ramping into higher amounts of mana than most of the other decks, goes without saying being the green deck, and thus rewards you by being able to play bigger scarier things turns earlier than other decks.

The deck also has a slight beast subtheme via cards like Contested Cliffs and Ravenous Baloth. Most of the other creatures in the deck, including two of the commanders, have the beast creature type, so these cards will often be relevant. In some one-on-one testing I did, I won every game I stuck a contested cliffs. That card is scary.

This beast subtheme was somewhat unexpected but often played out in good ways. Beasts don't usually come to mind as a tribe to build around in this format, largely because there aren't as many cards that reward you for playing beasts as some of the more iconic tribes like elves or goblins. But the way these games played out really reinforced the fact that it's not necessary the quantity of cards, but rather the quality. I definitely have some beastly ideas for the future, and this deck is a good place to start.

This deck is the deck most like the archtypal EDH day, full of haymakers. This deck doesn't have as many synergies as some of the other decks, and doesn't have as many politically minded cards, but it has more cards that are scary by themselves, and is probably the deck most capable of rebuilding after a board wipe.

A personal issue of mine is that I never felt like Mayael was living up to her potential. Don't get me wrong, I love Mayael. She was one of the earliest cards I ever played with, and my first EDH deck. But in this deck, I feel like she was wiffing more often than if the deck was built with her in mind. There are a lot of creatures in the precon that are big when in play, but start out small enough that Mayael can't cheat them into play. Baloth Woodcrasher, Naya Soulbeast, Marath and similar are nonbos (combos that do not work) with Mayael, and sinking 6 mana to do essentially nothing feels horrible. Were I you, I would take Mayael out, or add more fatties.


Marath was interesting to me in play. A jack of all trades, master of none; Marath does a lot of things, but there are other cards out there that do those things better. What makes Marath better is one of two things. One, he's your commander. You get the benefit of getting the effect more than once, and at a time of your choosing. Two, he's flexible. Want to attack for a little bit more, for whatever reason? Put some counters on your dudes, or hey, someone else's. Need to kill something? Kill it. Need to make an emergency blocker? Make it.

Marath's flexibility gives him a number of different potential roles as a commander. You could just cram a deck full of good spells, and have another as your general. Beast and Elemental are tribes with support cards, build yourself a tribal deck. What really interests me is a Naya-based swarm deck. There's all sorts of things in these colors that reward you for having lots of dudes or have redundancies for this sort of effect; Assemble the Legion, Rith, Beastmaster Ascension.


Gahiji reminds me of another general from the last iteration of commander decks; Edric, Spymaster of Trest. They're legendary creatures that give everyone a reward for attacking players other than you. In both cases, whatever your opponents get out of the creature, more cards or more severe beatings, is likely less than what you're getting out of it because you had the added foresight of building your deck around the effect.

A lot of what I said about about Marath applies to Gahiji as well. He's powerful enough to be at the helm of a good stuff deck where your opponents just beat each other to death off your bonuses. He has the relevant beast creature type. He rewards you for playing with swarms. Something I like about Gahiji over similar swarm generals in the same colors like Rith and Hazenon Tamar is that his effect is almost instantaneous. You don't have to wait a whole turn to attack, you get it that turn. Also, because it benefits your opponents, they might be less likely to kill it than someone like Rith.

New arts included in this deck:
Eternal Dragon (previous Pro Tour promo only)
Ravenous Baloth
Fiery Justice
Savage Twister

Friday, November 8, 2013

Commander 2013: a set review, part 1.

So the time has come and gone, and the latest round of Commander decks have come out. Now that I've had a few weeks to play with them, I thought I'd give them all a rundown based on their contents to help any of you that haven't made a decision which deck is best for you.

Here are the decklists:

Eternal Bargain is the Esper deck (white-blue-black). It is split between two primary themes; artifacts and life gain. Two of the generals, returning heavy hitter Sharuum the Hegemon and new girl Sydri, favor artifacts. Oloro, Ageless Ascetic favors using your life total as a resource and Sydri's ability to grant lifelink to artifact creatures gives her a backup functionality in the same respect.

A thing I had worried about going into the product was that the divergent themes of some of the generals would force the decks into two different directions, making them weaker overall. While that is true to some degree, I am pleased to tell you that it's nowhere near as bad as I would have thought. Almost every artifact in the list is either a powerful utility spell, or an artifact that rewards your use of life (Sun Droplet, Well of Lost Dreams, Thopter Foundry, etc)

There were times running the deck with Sydri at the helm where I didn't have any artifacts to turn on, but it was never so bad as to ruin the experience. And honestly, you never want your deck to be a slave to its theme. It makes your deck far too inflexible and easy to play answers to if your theme is that linear, and you never want your deck be dependant upon your commander to function because that's not a guarantee.

The deck as a whole was about playing the long game. It has lots of effects that gain you buttloads of life, and once you've stabilized, lets you use that life to various ends; drawing cards, making dudes, killing dudes, etc. I like this kind of play because (Oloro aside) life total is the most innocuous, largely invisible resource. You can easily missrepresent how much of a threat you are when you're fighting at an angle no one else is expecting.


Let's get this out of the way; I like Sydri. She's an interesting card with cool applications. First of all, loads of commander decks already run lots of utility artifacts. Being able to get further usage out of your mana rocks late game when they aren't as relevant is a win win. Attacking is cool, blocking with deathtouch creatures is cool.
Secondly, she gives Esper-artifact decks a general to play with that isn't as mean as Sharuum. Anyone who's played Sharuum for any length of time 'knows' Sharuum. She has a reputation as an extremely powerful general. Sydri gives players who want to play an artifact-centric deck an option that won't make them public enemy number one. Alternatively, it gives Karn players a general that actually lets them play colored spells. Win-win.

If you want to customize your deck to focus on Sydri, I would include more artifacts (Duh). This really isn't much of a stretch, as there is a veritable buttload of amazing artifacts of all sorts throughout Magic's history that are entirely EDH playable. I like Sydri's ability to turn any utility artifact into a beater or deathtouchy blocker in scenarios wherein they might not be useful. Turn 30 and you drew a manarock? Groovy. Blocks their fatty boom boom like a champ. One card in particular that I like is Unwinding Clock, which allows you to potentially attack with all of your animated artifacts and then threaten to block with them during your opponent's combats.


This guy. Let me tell you about this guy. New pillar of the format. Never let it be said that I am afraid of hyperbole. This guy does it all. The ability to have an effect, especially one that can be built around and may or may not be perceived as innocuous, is insane. I've always been interested in the various cards that use your life total as a resource; the life totals start out too high not to, and he rewards you for it. Late game, better yet, he provides you with an additional resource of drawing cards.
Now for the downside. He is annoying as hell. The ability to gain incremental advantage, especially one that cannot be interacted with in any reasonable way, can put people on tilt. I saw a number of games devolve into "let's gang up on Oloro, his life total is too high" even when there were far greater threats on the table. If you favor Oloro, you need to be prepared to paint a target on your head, or be prepared to defend yourself. If you can, you'll have yourself a fine general.

I think the trick to using Oloro is to do it in a way that minimizes just how much more life you're gaining that everyone else. Use it to pay for lots of little incremental effects to have your life seem comparable to the other players. Play politically, using your resources to prove yourself more of an asset than a threat. Play against people who know how to properly assess threats. That last one might not be so easy.

I rather liked playing the deck as-is as a life deck, really the only changes I would add are those that cater towards your own preferences for life-gaining or themed cards. I've always been a fan of Phyrexian Processor for one.

For you collectors out there, the following cards had new art:
Dromar's Charm
Lim-Dul's Vault
Phyrexian Delver
Phyrexian Gargantua
Raven Familiar
Reckless Spite

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Microbrews; Trostani's Judgement

Hello folks, I-

Hey, wait.
Come back! Here me out, I know what you're all thinking "Trostani's Judgement is limited bulk."

But what if it weren't.
Lets look at what it does: For 6 mana you get to exile a creature, the most effective way of making something dead, and as a bonus, you might get a bonus.
Let's look at it the other way around.
Creatures that enter the battlefield and do a thing are good yeah? They're a fixture of Magic these days. What's better than a creature that gets rid of one of theirs? What if it was a 5/5 that exiles one of their creatures?
Seems fair for 6 mana.

Let's break this sucker in half.

Six mana is expensive. Especially for a card that needs a good sequence of plays to work properly. We're going to need some dorks.
4 Arbor Elf
4 Avacyn's Pilgrim

This deck is going to be white, naturally. But it also wants to be green. the promise of 5/5s is the only thing that makes Judgement even remotely worth looking at. These both tap for either color.

We also need to consider the biggest tokens available in standard.
At any reasonable rate, those are the 5/5 wurms pumped out by Advent of the Wurm and Armada Wurm.
4 Advent of the Wurm
2 Armada Wurm

Advent is a given, especially if we can power it out on t3. Our 6 drop spot is choked because of Judgement, so I probably don't want to run the full 4 Armadas. I figure a 2/2 split between the two effects, maybe some of either in the board.

If we can't have 5/5s, what's the next best thing?
The next biggest tokens in these colors I can see that look even remotely appealing are the Angelic Accord tokens. I love that card. It's just itching for someone to break it in half, but it wants a bunch of life gain to make it work, and I'm not sure this deck needs to be any jankier to accomodate.
Next biggest tokens are the 3/3s. Lots of ways to make those; Garruk, Thragtusk, Call of the Conclave. Seems simple enough.
I figure this deck can use some rounding out, so here's what I think I'd run

4 Temple Garden
4 Sunpetal Grove
4 Grove of the Guardian
7 Forest
5 Plains

4 Arbor Elf
4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
4 Call of the Conclave
4 Farseek
4 Oblivion Ring
3 Centaur Healer
1 Growing Ranks
4 Advent of the Wurm
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Thragtusk
2 Armada Wurm
2 Trostani's Judgement

Grove gives us something even bigger to populate.
Farseek combined with the dorks gives us a resounding 12 things that enable a t3 advent.

I don't know how good this deck is (not very, in all likelihood), but that doesn't matter because WURM TOKENS.

Let me know what you think.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Microbrews; Young Pyromancer Aristocrats

Evening folks.

I don't write enough. And when I do, it tends to be on the spot. This stuff that you're reading right now? Wrote it in one pass. No editing. Eyep.

That's not doing the webspace my blog occupies any favors, so I figured I should try to do something to encourage more frequent updates.

Why not dinky little home brews?

YES! In what I hope to become a regular occurrence, I'm going to latch onto a card in standard (because the smaller card pool keeps me from dying from choice paralysis) and build a working deck around it.

This week's lucky winner; Young Pyromancer.

There's a lot I like about this card. It's effect is very straight forward, but can push you into any number of avenues of play. Aggressive burn deck? Tokens matter? Some weird combo deck thing?
Plus look at that art.

Look at that smarmy little twit. He's got such an obnoxiously punchable face.
Makes me angry just looking at it.
So think of what it will do to the other guy!

My first thought with this guy was very straight forward; lots of burn spells. Meh. Boring.
It did occur to me that if you cast Krenko's Command, you would get three tokens out of the deal.
Same deal with Gather the Townsfolk.
Same with Lingering Souls.

And that's where this came from;


Young Pyromancer makes tokens when you cast an instant or sorcery. So do most of the instants and sorceries in the deck. From there, there's lots of things you can do.
Blood Artist them to death with sac outlets. Dome them repeatedly with your hard to block aristocrats. Make your dudes enormous off of Intangible Virtues.

My main concern is the manabase.
24 lands

I've not actually figured this out yet because I haven't actually built or tested it yet. Stream of consciousness, yo. But I figure that it works something akin to counting the mana symbols when you build your limited deck (I was taught to, when building sealed or draft decks and figuring out the mana base, count up the number of colored mana symbols in your card's mana costs and have a similar ratio of those colored basic lands).

So, that's my first Microbrews.
Love to hear your thoughts on the deck and the article idea.
Thanks for reading!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

GP Miami

The following is a transcript of a forum post I did talking about my recent trip to GP Miami;

I just got back from GP Miami, and boy are my arms tired.

HAHAHAHNo, we drove. 10 frakking hours.

I've been keeping up with Attack on Hulu, and the last couple of eps have taken the show in a direction I wasn't expecting. Not sure if I like it yet.

Got Fire Emblem; Shadow Dragon and Trauma Center 2 for the trip.
Shadow Dragon  is kind of weird because apparently one of the mechanics is that frequently you will have to sacrifice a character in a heroic sacrifice kind of way throughout the story, but the first time they do it is about 5 minutes into the game well before ANYONE has had any real opportunity for character development. Meaning there was no weight to the decision, I know exactly nothing about any of these twits.

Trauma Center is the right kind of frustrating. I like it. Probably a piss poor representation of surgery.

We headed out around 2 in the morning, Friday. Just before that, my buddies gave me a Naya Blitz deck and we fine tuned it just a bit because it was a month or so out of date. Got tipsy on a single glass of Rum and Coke, apparently I'm a light weight. Swapped out Hamlet Captains for Ghor-Clan Rampagers and a bunch of changes in the sideboard. Apparently I overpacked for the trip. Whups.

We get to South Beach a little after noon, struggle for an hour or so to find parking, stick our stuff in the hotel, and then walk to the convention center. I participated in the judge conference with the intent to get my first judge pack. This was not to be as I did not pre-reg. Normally, walk-ins get a worse judge pack than those who registered or those who were judging, but apparently allocation was weak for this event. My best guess is that the system was still recovering from the stress that was GP Vegas.

In either event, the judge conference happened. I attended about 5 or 6 of them. Seminars on how to deal with medical emergencies. The meatgrinder which tests players ability to deal with ridiculous layers interactions. My favorite panel was later in the day and it was basically a "High Level Judge FAQ". Featuring the event Head Judge, an L5 from Argentina; Justin Turner, L3 and event coordinator for the Southeast if I am not mistaken (a distinct possibility) and Jared Silva, L4 and Starcity Games event coordinator.

They answer a bunch of questions ranging from serious to trivial, and they finish off the seminar with their personal favorite funny judge calls.

One of my buddies tried to L2 and missed by one. frakking. question. because there had been a bunch of semantic policy shifts over the last year that he wasn't aware of. Whups.

Another friend did some grinders (didn't get there) and my other two buddies playtested. All-in-all, there were 5 of us. Everyone but me had a round 1 buy, and one of them had 2 buys (means they get to skip that many rounds).

After a long day of that crap, we wandered downtown for a bit, and ate at a pizza place called Groovy's. If you're ever in South Beach, Fl, hit them up. $#!+ was legit. They do this massive, something like 52 inch pizza. Normally they don't sell that to customers, but rather sell slices that big, but we were able to convince them to sell it to us. Half pepperoni, half chicken-spinach Parmesan  Frakking delicious. Came back to the hotel and crashed. 3 of us went to bed, and the other two hit the beach for an hour or so. I slept on the floor because, not because I was too squeamish to sleep between two men, but because I had had enough of being cramped like a sardine from the car drive.

Got up the next day and got our game on. I had to start right away (10 am, I think) and everyone else got a break. They all came to watch me since it was my first time playing at that high a level or with an actual legitimate deck.

Round one against Selesnya tokens. I make a few missplays game 1, but ultimately get there. Game two I completely punt it, and my opponent draws into all the things I can't deal with; Trostani, Relentless. It was gross. Game 3 i get the nut draw, and then I sit down with my friends so they can advice me about missplays, sideboarding, etc. I am told to never side out Medic because it is my best card. I had sided them out for Fiend Hunter because I didn't want to disrupt my curve, but they advised taking out lower drops that aren't as impactful in a bad matchup like this such as Boros Elite.

I try to keep touch with them over the course of the day. Day 2 would be the top 120 players or everyone who was X-2 by the end of the day, whichever number was larger. Two of my friends dropped round after they went x-3 to eat. One of them dropped round 7, another made it all the way. I played the entire day because I had never played at a GP before and I wanted to.

Round 2 against Golgari Midrange. Game 1, make a few missplays that aren't helped by this deck having all the removal forever. Game 2 get the nuts. Game 3, learn that he sided into Curse of Death's Hold. He sticks it t5 and kills half my board. 80% of my creatures will now die, ETB. I concede to the obvious winner, am now 1-1.

Round 3 against American Tempo that I thought was American control.  I ultimately punt game 3 because I don't know how to play around Azorius Charm yet. Whups. The guy was a nice guy sponsored by Card Advantage from Toronto, IIRC. He ultimately top 8d day 1.

Round 4 against Naya midrange. He resleeves a Huntmaster in front of me, and that's the only indication I have that he was playing Naya midrange. This prooves useful G2 because he never plays a spell g1 because I kill him so fast. G2 I side into Pacificsms and Fiend Hunters because I expect that his creatures will be larger than mine. This is true. In sequence he plays two Loxodon Smiters and a Boros Reckoner. Normally, I'd be completely frakked, but I'm fortunate enough to draw into two Firefist Strikers and a Hunter in a row, and am able to attack past his fatty boom booms for the win. 2-2

Round 5 against what I think is Junk rites. G1 I smear him across the conference hall, only seeing a Lotleth Troll. Side accordingly. G2 turns out he's  reanimator. Still win, but I was really worried about G2 because I was expecting Golgari Charms and Curses like in Round 2. 3-2

Round 6 against Naya aggro. Basically my deck, but without the human tribal focus. His deck is slightly less explosive, but can last longer than mine since his dudes are consistently larger than mine. He wins and I'm out of contension. 3-3

Round 7 against Gruul aggro. Very serious looking Cuban fellow. If I had to guess, I'd imagine he was probably tense like me because he had just been knocked out of contension. He was a bit tilted by me getting the nuts games 1 and 3, but we chat a bit, and he recommends a restauarant (that we never end up visiting) called "Los Perros" for legit Cuban food, none of this kitschy overpriced stuff they sell to tourists. If it's good enough for the locals, It's good enough for me. 4-3

Round 8 against mono-red. He draws into all his removal. Forever. I'm in a bad way when I'm on the defensive. 4-4

Round 9 ends the day in kind of a terrible way with my worst possible matchup; Aristocrats. The ONLY way I can win this if he draws crap all game long. The deck simply plays too many creatures for me to reasonably attack past, AND doesn't care if they die, AND plays Boros-I-skullfrak-Blitz-all-day-long-Reckoners main. It was gross. I chat with the guy, and he's from Germany and thus wins the "opponent who traveled farthest to be here" award. He tells me about how grinding GPs is different in Europe. I thank him for the games and that's day 1. 4-5.

Me and my friends stick around long enough to learn that one of us made day 2. The same guy goes around to a bunch of the pros asking to have his mat signed and I follow because why not, and to ask about how to break through the threshold to becoming a pro-player. The people I was with are all really good locally, regularly taking down every PTQ and IQ they go to. Most of the pros emphatically recommend MTGO as a way to A) play constantly, B) play competitively. I'm only half listening because I don't really have the time, money or drive to become a grinder. I'd sure like to try to get better at the game, but at present I think writing and judging is more my speed for Magic.

Go back to hotel, eat leftovers (that pizza was hella big), go to bed. This time I sleep in the closet on top of my suitcase as opposed to the floor. Marginally less uncomfortable.

Our day 2 friend gets up early to go play, but the rest of us sleep in til 11.
We go to cheer him on and participate in day 2 shenanigans. I end up selling a buttload of Innistrad bulk for about $30 bucks. Meet Eric Deschamps and get a bunch of stuff signed by him. I buy a Remember the Fallen print and we chat about stuff. He confirms a story I heard where a guy came up to an event he was at, let him know that he thought the girl on Vampire Hexmage was cute, asks who the model was, and Eric ruins him by telling the player that he himself was the model. Lol. He goes on to tell me that he modeled himself because he had just moved and didn't have any friends locally yet, and his wife is rubbish at it because she never, and I quote, "gets into it."
I ask him about what he likes to do and he says he prefers doing outdoors because he feels he's better at organic environments than architecture and that he worries he can never get indoor lighting right. I assure him that I have yet to notice. When I mention how much I like Remember the Fallen's art, he says that he does too because he really savors the opportunity to do pieces that are quiet and serene or happy, because so much of the art he gets commissioned to do is angry or violent. I mention that's one of the things I really liked about Lorwyn, he agrees and is disappointed when I tell him that Wizards' market research suggests that most players dislike the setting exactly because it wasn't angry and violent. We agree that that sucks and people are kind of stupid sometimes.

Zoltan Boros and Greg Staples don't get back until after lunch, but I eventually get stuff from both of them as well. I realize while waiting for Boros that I have only 8 of the guild charms on me. Disappointed, I buy two artists prints of the missing two on the spot so I can have a complete collection, as well as a totally sweet artist print for the judge promo Cunning Wish. We don't chat much because the language barrier (he can speak English, but it is clearly not his native tongue) make chitchat a little bit awkward. I just now realize that I forgot to ask him about Deadbridge Chant and if it is a holdover from ravnica classic as I suspect because that's so clearly Savra in the art.

Next in line for Greg. His line is the longest, so he has a limit on 10 signatures at a time. I pick out my favorite 10 of his work on me, and I ask him similar questions as I did for Eric. He tells me that he really enjoys dark, gothic art but he has come to really like Squee, Goblin Nabob because it has so much of his personality in it. He also vaguely, offhandedly mentions that he enjoyed doing Theros art because as a native of the Mediterranean, it was all very familiar to him.

My friend ultimately finishes the event in 63rd place, earning him $200 and his first MTG pro point. He is beside himself with glee about being an official pro player. We get on the road and start driving back at around 4 in the afternoon.

On the drive there and back I learn some things about this group of friends. They enjoy electronic music and really, really, unambiguously awful rap music because it's funny. Two; they enjoy the Fast and Furious movies. Multiple conversations ultimately come full circle to heated arguments about whether or not Vin Diesel is gay.

We all stay up late enough to discuss the first trickle of spoilers. We ultimately agree that Chandra4 is not the powerhouse, legacy playable, 3 drop walker red deserves, but it is a step in the right direction for competitively viable red walkers. We then spend about an hour and a half discussing the potential and playablitity of the new Rings of Brighthearthesque artifact that copies triggered abilities.

We get back around 4 in the morning. I thank them for taking me, apologize for the awkard tension on the way back (I took too long at a few gas stations getting a drink) and get home. Ultimately decide to take a shower before bed and sleep from 6 til noon and then spend an hour writing this.

All in all, I had a blast and am looking forward to trying it again.
If you've never gone to a GP, I cannot recommend it highly enough. It is nothing like smaller local events you might be used to.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Sky is Not Falling; or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Suck It Up


So, as you may or may not know, the next core set is just over the horizon. This time is a little different, for the first time since M10, we're getting a bunch of new rules. Some big, some small. And as usual, people on Magic social media have gone completely bonkers. You'd think it was a sign of the apocalypse or something.

1. Cats and dogs will marry.
2. Rivers will run with blood.
3. You can't legend rule creatures with clones.

I've been playing the game since Shards of Alara, been a flavor nut for almost as long, an amateur card designer for about half that time, and a judge for 3 months. I've seen Magic from a lot of different perspectives, and I can safely say the sky is not falling. At least not from this.

I figured I'd go over all the changes, what they really mean, and why this won't be the death of Magic. Partly because I love you, and partly because I should actually use this stupid blog.


The way the legend rule currently works is that there can only be one legendary permanent (creature, artifact, enchantment or land) with the same name on the battlefield at any given time. The idea being that it's a sort of space time thing. There's lots of bears and goblins and demons and what not to summon across the multiverse, but there is only one Thalia. Trying to make more than one creates a paradox, and both are eliminated. Or maybe your opponent used the same spell as you to dismiss her. Whatever. There is no exact flavor, and it doesn't really matter.
There can only be one.

The way it will work is largely the same, except for individual players. Each player may have a Thalia, but any one player can't have two Thalias. Legends are getting a bit of a boost though, the way it will work is that if at any time you have two legendary permanents with the same name, you get to pick one to keep, and the other goes to your graveyard as a state based effect.


Well, I just told you why. An important think to note is that the legendary status was never exactly an upside or a downside, it depended on what side of the table it was on. If you played a legend, and your opponent legend ruled it, sucks for you. If your opponent played a legend and you legend ruled it, sucks for them. This new change doesn't make legends (in and of themselves) better or worse. Just different.

True it makes some legends much better (harder to kill hexproof legends, you can do dumb things like copying Zegana with a Progenitor Mimic, legendary lands and mana rocks like Gaea's Cradle and Mox Opal can be used like rituals) and some worse (can't loop Sharuum in EDH as easily), but as a whole legends just play too differently now for this to be considered better or worse.

I've heard some people complain about the flavor failure of this, and well, yeah, its a little bit worse, but interpreting Magic gameplay as a literal narrative is deeply flawed.
This is a game where Nicol Bolas can pick up Nicol Bolas and beat you to death with him.
There are far more egregious flavor fails in the game than this one. Seriously folks; it's a game about Magic. If you can't figure out how this might work, you're not trying hard enough.


The way Planeswalkers currently work is very much like the legend rule, but with names subtypes (the name on their type line) instead of their name. The new walker rule will work very similar to the new legend rule, but again with walker subtypes instead of legend names.


Again a lot of the above. When Jace, He Who Devours the Dreams of the Innocent was in standard, many blue players would play Jace Beleren as a way to pre-emptively legend rule their opponents Mind-Sculptors. You get a free draw out of it, and they have to waste a whole turn clearing the board of Jaces before they can play their own. This scenario can and does happen in any format with a significant Planeswalker presence in top tier decks. The new rule prevents that from happening. Again, this is not better or worse, but different.
Wizards has said that since walkers have been printed, they've been hesitant to print Faith's Fetters style removal because of how powerfully it hoses walkers. If an opponent fetters one of your walkers, they've effectively destroyed it and the next one you play. With the new rule, fetters isn't a 2 for 1 against walkers. Which makes walkers stronger but also means that Wizards will be more inclined to print this style removal in the future.
I love playing with walkers, but playing against them, especially without a way to meaningfully interact with them, is miserable. Anything that enables better removal for them is a win in my book.

The flavor is about as weird for this as it was for legends. So the way it was before it was assumed that when you summoned a Planeswalker, they were fulfilling an agreement or debt or similar to you, and when your opponent legend ruled yours away that they were calling in a similar debt. Now, it's not so clear. I've heard some folks suggest that now a Planeswalker is merely playing both sides of the field. An interesting idea, but way more devious than I would come to expect from some of the characters, and it does nothing to answer how Sarkhan could simultaneously be sane and insane, or Ajani angry and mellow, or Garruk cursed and not. Alas, we'll have to learn to deal with it.


How deckbuilding worked before in constructed formats was thus; your main deck had to have a minimum of cards (usually sixty) and your sideboard had to have either 0 or 15 cards, nothing in between and any sideboarding you did in between games had to be done 1:1. Which is to say, for every card added, you had to take one out.
Your deck is the same, but now your sideboard can contain up to 15 cards. Additionally, you don't have to take any cards out when you sideboard to put more in. Should you so desire, you may put all 15 cards of your sideboard into your deck. I would not particularly recommend this, however.


Are you seriously going to ask me this? This doesn't affect deckbuilding in any real way. What it does do is prevent really unfortunate game losses that should have not happened. Imagine this scenario; you're playing a competitive game of Magic at a high enough level of rules enforcement that you can be penalized for mistakes. After your first game you do some sideboarding. Now, sometime before the round ends it is discovered that you only have fourteen cards in your sideboard. Under the old rules, you would receive a game loss. Under the new rules, nothing happens. Seems good to me. More games being determined through deck choice and play skill over semantic corner case rules lawyer crap like this is good for the game.


This is a bit weird. You know what a keyword is right? It's usually a single word on a Magic card that implies a larger block of rules text. Key words are used by Magic designers to establish and reinforce themes of a card or set and to save space on cards which allows for more variance in design. For example, what you look at when you see the text box for Storm Crow is "flying" but what is actually there is "this creature can only be blocked by creatures with flying or reach". One of those sounds a lot more elegant than the other yeah? That's what keywords are great!
Indestructible is a piece of technology that was first introduced in Darksteel. It showed up on a bunch of cards and those cards could not be destroyed. Now here's the problem; Indestructible is not a keyword. Never was. R&D was using an English word to denote that cards were the definition of that word; ie, they could survive destruction effects. This was rather confusing as it was used like a keyword. It had design space, colors it showed up in more than others, a balance it had to maintain across effects and rarities, but it was never an ability, rules wise.
This lack of abilityness created a bunch of really weird cornercase scenarios that were probably never intended but just kind of happened because of how the rules worked.
For example, did you know that if you used Turn to Frog on a Falkenrath Aristocrat that had eaten someone that turn, the Aristocrat would remain indestructible? Indestructibility was not an ability to be taken away, just a quality of the card.
Did you know that if you cast Boros Charm that creatures that enter the battlefield after you cast Boros Charm will be indestructible hat turn?
That's some weird crap. Now that Indestructible is a keyword, those scenarios will work more akin to how logic would dictate them working instead of the weirdness that they are now.


Because it's not. Now people who aren't certified Magic judges can figure out how indestructible interacts with stuff, and we get to save a bunch of space on cards by changing "Darksteel Colossus is indestructible" to "Indestructible". Neat.


"Unblockable" as a line of rules text is being changed to "can't be blocked". Why, you might ask? Mostly to keep it in line with the current templating to the blajillion variants of unblockable already in print.


Because nothing has changed. At all. Your favorite Tormented Soul works exactly as it did before.


Of all the weird rules crap I've talked about today, this is the weirdest. Did you know that when you have multiple effects that let you play a land you're supposed to specify which land drop you're using? For example, let's say you have an Oracle of Mul Daya in play right now you have two land drop options. You have your natural land drop (let's call it LandDropA) and the Oracle's land drop (LandDropB). You decide to play a land using LandDropB. Then you cast Cloudshift targetting your own Oracle. The Oracle comes back in, and the game recognizes it as a separate game object. You now have LandDropC. That's some weird crap.
The way land drops will work going forward is that instead of asking how many land drop effects you  have going on is to simply count the number of land drops you have available.
By default you will have 1 land drop. If you have an Oracle in play you will have 1+1=2 land drops available.
If you Cloudshift your Oracle you will still have 1+1=2 land drops available.
Make sense to me.


Because it's such a cornercase thing that will almost never be relevant. That being said, this rules change is kind of interesting because its the only one we're getting that actually makes a few cards worse. I know that Cloudshifting Oracles to get 7 land drops in a turn was never a top tier strategy, but I'm sure there's some people out there who did do that sort of thing, and I would like to offer my condolences to you for losing a strategy you loved. Sucks man. ):

Well there you have it, all of the new rules changes. I hope I have helped convince you that Magic will somehow manage to weather this storm.
I'd love to hear what you think about the new rules changes.