Thursday, September 21, 2017

Grimlock, Dinobot Leader

I don't have many places to show off this kind of cool stuff but here:


A friend went to Hascon and picked these up for me. Just lucky to have friends who think of me, I am. Here's a link to some better shots, so you can read what they say.

But what this really means is that I need to make a Grimlock, Dinobot Leader Commander deck, as soon as Ixalan block is complete.

Because there is no way I'm going to miss out on that.

Also, I'm headed out of town this weekend, so I'm hoping regular posts will go up a week from today, Sept 28th. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ixalan Overview

The new set has been revealed! Let's take a gander, shall we?

White
Even though it's been explained to me that 'white's vampires represent a knightly order of conquestadors so it fits', I'm still not a fan. WotC is basically story-handwaving reasons to give white some of the mechanical dabbling of black, using the payment of life for a benefit. Adano Vanguard is right up front and illustrates the point.

But weird Commander card Axis of Mortality is also there. Magus of the Mirror (which itself took the ability from an artifact) is in black and reinforced by Tree of Perdition. Is this a dealbreaker? No, I don't think so. I may not be particularly fond of this mechanic in white from a philosophical standpoint but giving White something to do with the life it gains is certainly better than leaving an underpowered and dull mechanic in the color.

Settle the Wreckage is something that has a lot of potential in my opinion, especially since it is cheap enough to find a home in older formats. If this can be played in Legacy, that would be bonkers-but it's likely not quite there.

Favorite Dinosaur: Steadfast Armasaur for its blend of function and flavor.

Blue
I really like the reprinting of Opt: I think it's a great tool and very fair. I also think that Blue has gotten some solid control countermagic too-albeit some that is contingent on Pirates but this is a tribal block. Deadeye Quartermaster is a sleeper; searching for two of the more powerful card types in recent memory seems pretty good.

The attempt to make mill a thing is interesting, since the milling cards-Fleet Swallower and Navigator's Ruin specifically-say "target player" not target opponent. So does this mean that we'll be looking at another set with graveyard interactions soon?

Favorite Dinosaur: fail! No dinos.

Black
With the creation of Treasures in U/B/R, I think that there's an odd thing happening in those colors: cards that are expensive but 'repay' you in some manner. Contract Killing is a fine example: here's something that technically costs 5 but when you get the Treasure tokens, it really costs only 3. You can tap out to play the card and still potentially have interactions to make during your opponent's turn.

The other thing I'm noticing: lots of two drops, and some solid one drops. Bloodcrazed Paladin, Blight Keeper, Deadeye Tracker, Dire Fleet Hoarder, Fathom Fleet Captain, Kitesail Freebooter... maybe there's an aggro black deck to be put together? With Sword-Point Diplomacy to help eat away at life totals/draw cards, I think there's a skeleton there.

Favorite dinosaur: Fail part 2! Why is there no zombie dino?

Red
This is the color I am least enthusiastic about. Some dino support, Enrage is a good mechanic I think though it's not pushed hard in Red, Charging Monstrosaur-despite having a duuuumb name-is a hell of a 5 drop.

After that though, the color is doing some of the quiet work: Demolish for those pesky crazy lands, Lightning Strike to keep the color viable, and when it goes away from that-Wily Goblin, for example is just bad as a one drop that costs two, or Trove of Temptation which doesn't have nearly the reward for the drawback and cost-it just doesn't have anything to pull me in.

Rowdy Crew is bad. A 3/3 where you have the option to discard two of your best cards? How is that a mythic rare??

Ugh.

Favorite dinosaur: Raptor Hatchling is pretty cute.

Green
Pounce seemed neat until I realized Pit Fight had been printed and didn't really make a splash.Enrage kicks up here and it seems like a neat way to get a death trigger on the smaller creatures like Ranging Raptors or Ravenous Daggertooth, while a way to seal the game with Ripjaw Raptor. Still, this has good interactions with the Fight mechanic. While I just can't get excited about the green merfolk, for similar reasons as the white vampires, it's not a dealbreaker.

The bigger sin, for me, is that it just doesn't do anything interesting with the creature type. With the white vamps, at least that color gets to explore something that it doesn't do often: you could replace merfolk with any creature type and it wouldn't change a thing for green. They could've boosted any number of under utilized Blue creature types: adding this to merfolk just seems like a whole lot of 'so what'.

Favorite dinosaur: Deathgorge Scavenger

Gold
Eh. These cards play into their respective tribal themes well enough-pirates especially seem to get a boost, which I have no problem with-and Hostage Taker is a great execution. Nothing gobsmacking but nothing awful. Even Tishana, Voice of Thunder will find a home in Commander.

Favorite dinosaur: have to go with Gishath, Sun's Avatar. Sometimes, the biggest bad is best.

Artifacts/Lands
I think they did something pretty clever here, having enchantments function as maps, or vehicles that convert into lands. The metaphor works for me, even though I still don't like double faced cards. I will never like double faced cards. I will use them because:

Growing Rites of Itlimoc is clearly bonkers but the Blue and Black maps have an interesting clause where you don't have to flip them, meaning that you could have the land and the enchantment out at the same time.

Lost Compass for the same reason as Growing Rites which makes me wonder how this is going to impact the larger game of Magic. Those kinds of lands are usually signals that something is about to get broken.

In the meantime, eh, the rest is OK.

I'm glad to see the allied lands return; I've always thought those cards were solid.The use of pirate ships as vehicles is a good sign, as they're quite distinct from their Kaladesh counterparts. And Sorcerous Spyglass will be a welcome addition to sideboards everywhere, while Vanquisher's Banner will become a boon to casual and Commander tribal decks all around.

My impressionsI'm digging on this so far. There's a lot to like in Ixalan and I think it will be a fun set, even if it is a little narrow in its tribal theme. The upsides for me outweigh the negatives so far but the proof will be in the pudding...which will show up in about two weeks.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bonecrusher

Because I can't just make a goblins deck, oh no. I have to have a twist on things...
2 Goblin King
3 Goblin Legionnaire
3 Goblin Lackey
2 Goblin Matron
3 Goblin Ringleader
2 Goblin Warchief
3 Mogg Maniac
2 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Skirk Fire Marshal
2 Warren Instigator

3 Orim's Thunder
4 Renewed Faith
4 Angel's Grace
2 Lightning Helix

1 Dwarven Ruins
6 Plains
11 Mountain
4 Clifftop Retreat

Named after the awesome Constructicon, the basic line of play is to run over someone with goblins buuuuut with a Mogg Maniac, a Skirk Fire Marshal, and three other goblins in play, I can do twenty damage in one shot. Ten to all creatures and players, then another ten from the Maniac's triggered ability.

And how do I make sure I survive all this? Angel's Grace. How do I try to assemble the combo? Renewed Faith to draw cards, along with Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader to search and keep the pressure on, and Goblin Lackey to Aether Vial my stuff into play, especially expensive cards like the Fire Marshal and Siege-Gang Commander.


I feel like it's been a little while since I got to play a fun, all in aggro deck and I look forward to this one, while hoping that the extra win condition can give this deck some depth it wouldn't ordinarily have. But there are new goblins and new white anti-death spells; maybe those will help improve Bonecrusher-and there's only one way to find out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Iconic Masters Overview

You can see the full gallery here, and as always, I have some thoughts.

Red: We didn't need a fourth reprint of Crucible of Fire, a dumb card to start with and we certainly didn't need it taking up a rare slot. I get that not all cards are for me but I cannot fathom the argument for that card and at that rarity.

Glad to see: Magus of the Moon, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Charmbreaker Devils return. The new art on Ryusei is pretty cool, though I favor the original. Kiki-Jiki has been reprinted three times so I find no reason to get excited about it, especially since I really don't like the current art.

White: The Archangel of Thune, Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Serra Ascendant reprints! So needed. Outlast is a pretty meh ability but the +1 counter theme of the set needs those cards. Serra Angel is in a weird position since it is iconic but with 25 reprints is it really necessary?

Blue: Ancestral Vision, Flusterstorm (long overdue), Mana Drain! coming back is nice-any time a card goes over $20 I think it should be considered for reprint. And I never expected to see Mana Drain get a reprint. That's a pretty big surprise! Consecrated Sphinx returning is nice, especially for Commander players and I like Illusory Ambusher as a blue combat trick crossing over from Commander. Windfall is weird to see because it can only be run as a one-of in Vintage and Commander but again, in draft/sealed it's not so bad.

Actual semi-iconic card from yesteryear: Phantom Monster. Though I prefer the old art.

Black: I like that they're bringing the Bogbrew Witch-Festering Newt-Bubbling Cauldron combo back. It feels weird to see Necropotence again but since this is going to be pushed as a draft set, I can't argue excluding it on power. Bloodghast is a fantastic addition to any set, so a reprint here is great and it'll be a cold day when I argue against a Thoughtseize reprint. Two printings and that card is still $14: keep bringing those critical staples down to affordable costs, I say! The game dies if the kids can't play.

Green: Curse of Predation feels weird here, especially since that card isn't nearly old or noteworthy enough to be called iconic. Ivy Elemental being shifted from rare to common makes perfect sense: meh card is meh. A reprint of Lotus Cobra is definitely something I applaud, along with the new art on Phantom Tiger.

And is anyone really going to make the argument for Carven Caryatid over Wall of Blossoms? C'mon. The Wall has actually been in tournament decks.

Artifacts: Aether Vial is great but the rest are pretty forgetable. Serum Powder was remembered because it was weird, so I suppose that works and Manakin...damned if I know. I think a pro player made that card his 'hell or high water' card to work into a deck, back in the Tempest days. But...so?

Multicolored:
Knight of the Reliquary and Glimpse the Unthinkable are good choices, as both are in demand. I don't know why Savageborn Hydra would make the cut-neither iconic nor good-which probably shows the weakness of G/R as color combo having iconic moments. Compare that to Supreme Verdict, right? The new art on Malfegor is ugly. Like, butt end of a centaur attached where the head should go. It's double-butted.

Lands: are a weird collection; the Ravnica bouncelands and then the allied color lands from Future Sight? It's a cycle at least so...I guess there is that. And the Future Sight lands are often requested, though what players really request is the completion of the cycle that each card represents. Of those, only Graven Cairns got that and I wonder why WotC hasn't explored those cycles.

Speaking of: reprinting the Praetors from New Phyrexia was cool. Reprinting the dragons from Kamigawa wasn't but the new art helps make up for the decrease in cool.

Nobody needed a reprint of Scion of Ugin and there is no actual argument for that card being here. Ugh. C'mon. Even at common, that card is boring and I refuse to believe they couldn't've done better.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Big Buzz

After a few matchups this weekend, one against Noah's current Illusionary Mask I think I'm set. Current list looks like this:
4 Aetherflux Reservoir

4 Martyr of Sands
4 Soul's Attendant
4 Rhox Faithmender
4 Aerial Responder
2 Ranger of Eos
2 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
1 Angel of Invention

2 Beacon of Immortality
2 Blessed Alliance

2 Windbrisk Heights
2 Forbidding Watchtower
19 Plains

3 Ajani Goldmane

3 Fumigate
2 Spectral Procession
Not bad, eh?

There's just enough of everything to give me something to work with and against aggro decks, I think I don't have to worry about much. Combo decks are a bummer and probably where I'd rely on sideboard cards like Abeyance or Orim's Chant to stall them out and against midrange decks I can see taking out the Fumigate for more Blessed Alliance, along with typical additions for Affinity or Graveyard hate like Stony Silence or Rest in Peace. Pithing Needle for the miscellaneous decks.

And that's it. I'm sorry I didn't get this up on Tuesday; total brain collapse on that one. I hope to be traveling this weekend which likely means no Magic games, so the next content should go up on one week, with a new deck!



Thursday, August 31, 2017

If He Should Live Forever

I might just have that final piece together. More testing will help, of course but this feels right.

I've gotten a chunk of games in, and I like where I've got I Hate It When That Happens To Me. Cutting a Fumigate for an Angel of Invention has helped improve the deck's reach and threat level, while shoring up it's win-from-the-side condition. Blessed Alliance gives me some flexibility that I didn't have, too, while providing me with some surprises for my opponents.

This has been apparent in multiple games and it's also put me in situations where I have to remember to play the board and to the situations I am presented with. I Hate It... is not the kind of combo deck that can afford to strictly ignore the opponent. I have to play smart or else I'll get blown out.

Sometimes, as with Noah's blue control decks, that's going to happen anyway. The above picture against Matt's U/R/W deck was also a rough loss, though I was able to come back and win game two.

But later that evening, against Caitlin's W/Artifact Assembly Worker deck (which has surprising resilience and the ability to just win from nowhere thanks to Mirror Entity) I was able to pull off convincing wins.

A few days later, playing against Fuz and his G/W Aura deck, and a mono-W Knights deck, I lost two games-one in each match-and in both instances, it was because I did not know what I was facing.

By the time I figured it out and put a strategy together, I couldn't find the cards to help me overcome.The Knights defeat was especially amusing, as I had the opportunity on turn 5 to cast Fumigate to destroy one Knight Exemplar, decided I'd wait for "value" only to see another Knight Exemplar appear, holding two now useless Fumigates in my hand.

However, in the other two games of each match, I was able to pace myself and use Aetherflux Reservoir at points, to win.

I was especially proud of myself in the last game, where I had been put down to ten life, but through the use of careful play, gained forty life in one turn and was able to set myself up for the win.

It isn't every day that gaining forty life is even possible, much less the win condition.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

DFsigh

The following article has discussion and links to the new Magic set, so: spoiler warning!

Welp, it looks like double-faced cards are coming back. That sucks some of the wind out of my excitement for Ixalan.

This is an interesting design, though; an artifact that turns into a land because the map has lead you to a place. I certainly can't fault the reasoning.

I just hate double faced cards. I hate the dexterity issues they create having to take them in and out of sleeves, I hate the 'hidden information' aspect that it adds to an already complicated game, I hate the additional pieces by way of extra cards that have to be kept track of in order to use them. I just. Hate. This. Mechanic.

On the upside, I can finally see why the vampire Commander deck was R/B/W instead of R/B/U. Apparently white-themed vampires are a thing on Ixalan...

I don't think they should be-unless they are somehow representing a White philosophy gone evil- but apparently Amonkhet made torquing creature types OK, so long as they can story it up. I don't approve though: vampires are not heroes. They eat and enslave people. Zombies, at least, have no real will of their own.

At the same time, with 'creatures matter' being a clear theme of Ixalan, I can also see some relevant connections to the Commander 2017 set that should allow players to shore up/boost/revision those Commander decks in a way that they want. That is some clever thinking, even as corporate synergy.

There are green merfolk too. No. No I do not like that, either. There have been blue-green merfolk before but if there's one thing the merfolk tribe do not need, it's support from the best creature color in Magic.

Still; there are dinosaurs and their mechanical ability seems cool! I can get behind dinosaurs.

With today's spoilers, I'm seeing reference to Battle for Zendikar's Awaken mechanic which is...meh, but what really concerns me is the potential for overstuffing the set with mechanics, something they've had issues with before.

We shall see. It's still early, so there's a lot to take in, from the mechanics to the art, and I'm still fairly excited about this.