Thursday, January 18, 2018

Reading Wrapup

Cerebral Eruption does not do what I thought it did.

I had thought that it would cause each opponent to reveal their top card and if anyone revealed a land, then the Eruption would return to my hand.

No: it's instead a four-mana spell that if it whiffs, allows me to pay four mana to do it again. And that's no good at all: I have room for either goofy spells that go wide or serious spells that don't but not goofy spells that are narrow.

The lesson here: take your time, read and understand the card before you take action.

Also, I still have Pawn of Ulamog in this deck. Despite these missteps, Licia has been performing pretty well! In my last game against Noah and Matt, I had an excellent position up until Noah animated all my lands, cast Wrath of God and that pretty much took me out. Sure, I was still a player but I was just waiting to die. In his defense, Noah felt bad about that.

Divine Reckoning and Gisela, Blade of Goldnight are coming in to replace the cards I'm taking out. I'm keeping Defiant Bloodlord in my back pocket though.

Divine Reckoning is there to give me more board resets and Gisela is one of those cards that is really good for me, and really a pain for any opponents. Why attack me if your forces are blunted, or worse, you're going to be on the end of a very nasty stick next turn?

If Gisela doesn't work out well, then Defiant Bloodlord is a great way to run a duplicate Sanguine Bond. I'm just reluctant to do so because Bloodlord is so expensive.

Still, I think I'm set with this deck. It's playing well, though better in multiplayer than in 1v1, and I'm enjoying my time playing it. It's a little slow to get out of the gate but the life gain helps keep me in games until I'm able to make my move.

Next up, I'm taking on a deckbuilding challenge!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

On Standard

I think it's worth checking out what Patrick Sullivan has to say in this Twitch stream.

This is a really interesting discussion about where Standard-and to me, by extension, all formats-ought to be.

Can you innovate? Can you make risks? If not then maybe things are problematic.

I've watched this video five times and each time I glean a little more.

I think the reason for that is because that is how I want Magic to be.

I don't like storm decks because they play so far away from how Magic plays. Similarly, dredge decks.

I don't resent that they exist, nor the players that want to play them. But because they are so far afield of what a game of Magic should be or rather, the plane they want to interact on, namely a series of interactions that create tension and drama because you're trying to outplay your opponent, versus reducing the game to one of solitaire, I shy away from them. If every game vs those decks means: I have to bring in a sideboard then something is weird about those games of Magic. I'm not sure that 'weird sideboard answers' is the best example of Magic games.

I think it also shows in the kinds of decks I frequently build. They aren't always cheap creatures or instant value creatures. They require me to build/payoff a thing. They focus on singular and often not-winning mechanics (like Vigilance). That doesn't mean I want to build control decks: it means I want to have my decisions matter, instead of being flatly blown out because the power curve is something I cannot ignore.

But before I go any further, I want to link Patrick Chapin's article referenced by Mr. Sullivan in his rant.

This is a great perspective, to me and it helps inform why I like playing casual Legacy decks: yes, at the top tiers Legacy gets narrow but there is still room for weird stuff, finding ideas that are from left field. There's room for oddities-or even throwbacks like mono-Green stompy decks-to be updated, tweaked and maybe make a run.

But it's not easy for that to exist. In any format, really.

Just things to chew on: I don't have an answer and I've seen the design of Magic improve over the past two plus decades (creatures matter now!) but it's also come with some downsides (Limited environment > everything) that are worth examining.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Second Set of Swaps

Got a lot of games in this past week, which as been great. Before I did, though, I made the following changes:

Out:
Go for the Throat
Swords to Plowshares
Heirloom Blade
Blookhusk Ritualist
Bloodsworn Steward
Teferi's Protection

What's added in:
Sorin, Grim Nemesis
True Conviction
Cerebral Eruption
Exsanguinate
Venser's Journal
Chancellor of the Dross

Of these, I'm really only unsure of Cerebral Eruption. It's a cutsie trick but I'm not sure how often it will really pay off. Still, it's a weird card that could have some legs in multiplayer, so I'm running it for now, because after taking out two removal spells, I absolutely needed another sweeper spell of some kind.

Everything else is about the lifegain. Chancellor of the Dross even has the benefit of being a vampire, so it can play nice with some of my vampire-relevant cards.

True Conviction has been incredible when it's appeared, and even Venser's Journal has been useful; free lifegain every turn means that casting Licia gets easier, even if it's just a little bit and helps negate the Commander Tax.

That said: in a three player game a couple days go, I got a lesson in both being aware of the environment and reading the fucking card. Matt had played out a Shaman of Forgotten Ways and I remembered that it tapped for two mana...and didn't recall the rest.

But we were in a bar that wasn't extremely well lit, so instead of reaching over to read the card and remember, I just relied on my memory.

In the meantime, Caitlin was playing a ramp deck and had quickly gotten all of our board states to about eleven lands or so.

And if there's one big disadvantage that Licia has, it's that there aren't a lot of creatures in the deck.

So when I had the chance to play Licia, I didn't: Black Market and True Conviction were my plays.

Next turn, I died to Matt's activation of the Shaman.

It was a pretty simple mistake but one that I should've avoided. I was too focused on my next turn, the one where I cast Licia as a double striker, with free mana coming to me if any creature died, that I failed to focus on this one.

Focus only on what matters. Still good advice.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Thoughts

The full spoiler is here!

Thoughts:

The Ascend mechanic is...weird. It wants players to overextend and then what? Are those rewards really worth it? I'm not sure. It isn't bad, mind you. I'm just not very confident that it matters. The more I think about it, the more it seems like "win more" and those mechanics rarely splash.

White-
Did we really need a more expensive Pacifism? (Luminous Bonds)

Otherwise, I'm not seeing a lot of interesting stuff. Bishop of Binding is probably the most interesting turn on what White does but not much else really stands out.

Best worst card is probably Blazing Hope-because Death's Shadow decks needed removal? It's weird at least, and I do like that.

Favorite dinosaur: Trapjaw Tyrant. I really like the Enrage mechanic and this one is badass.

Blue-
Crafty Cutpurse is going to be a cool thing for Commander decks.

Induced Amnesia is a neat twist on discard and fits in Blue well. I fear what that spell will do in Eternal formats, where it's possible to remove someone's opening hand on turn one or two.

Similarly, Warkite Marauder creates interesting gamestates and Timestream Navigator is a cool twist on the 'extra turn' mechanic.

Release to the Wind is a fascinating turn on the "Flicker" mechanic, especially since it would count as a played spell.

Favorite dinosaur (by default): Nezahal, Primal Tide. Another Commander awesomesauce, but I can see it as a finisher in some blue control decks.

Black-
It's kinda a flavor fail for Dinosaur Hunter to die to pretty much every dinosaur he may deal damage to, especially given his flavor text. More a "taking you with me" thing than hunting.

Dead Man's Chest is really cool!

Also, I see there is more support for the black aggro pirate deck. Dire Fleet Poisoner is an excellent card and with an aggro deck, maybe it's not unreasonable to see Golden Demise work in Standard. Not sure it would be OK in any other format, though-as a pirate aggro sweeper. Golden Demise is fine otherwise!

Twilight Prophet is a card I want: This is a card that makes Ascend worth shooting for.

Favorite dinosaur (again by default): Tetzimoc, Primal Death. This is a neat twist on what the Chancellors do, I think-and better than the Forecast mechanic from (3rd block in Ravnica)

Red-
Yes, OK: Blood Sun is bonkers and I love it.

Actually, Red seems to be picking up some neat goodies here. Solid dinos, interesting pirates, good cards overall.

Dire Fleet Daredevil might not be as awesome as Snapcaster Mage but it's still pretty cool. Form of the Dinosaur could combo with some neat big green mana effects, especially if you can get out Sandwurm Convergence.

Mutiny is a great card-flavor win, solid effect for the cost. Yeah, I dig it.

As soon as I saw Rekindling Phoenix I wanted to put it in my phoenix deck, though I'm not sure it fits.

The goblins in this set still look like monkeys, though.

Favorite dinosaur: as much as I love Etali, Primal Storm, I think Charging Tuskodon takes the nod.

Green-
I can't say there's a lot to thrill me here. It's solid, but isn't making me gasp.

I wish I had more to say, actually. This is one of the less inspired green sets I've seen in awhile. Wayward Swordtooth might make my garbage cube though.

Favorite dinosaur: Polyraptor. I mean. C'mon.

Multicolored-
Huh. So Azor is the big security blanket of Ixalan. Neat!

Not a lot going on there though, either. Favorite dinosaur is obviously going to be Zacama, Primal Calamity. Untapping lands? Nothing went wrong with that last time...

The double faced cards are...I still hate this mechanic but I recognize that it's a way to print fixed versions of broken cards. We'll see.

Artifacts-
The Immortal Sun is crazy good. Too bad it will only see play in Commander: I'd love it if I could get the first ability and any one of the other three for 3 mana.

Land-
Arch of Orazca is meh. Whatever.

I am a bit more reserved in my enthusiasm of Rivals than I was about Ixalan. The new mechanic isn't very thrilling, merfolk don't do anything interesting-although the impact might be felt more in Modern-, vampires and pirates get some neat boosts so maybe they'll be able to make an impact and I think the dinosaur tribe got some cool boosts in their mechanic.

But it doesn't really seem to play nice against Kaladesh or develop themes in Amonkhet so...

We shall see.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Solid Starts

Things have started off well for Licia: games against Zedruu, piloted by Fuz and Ragnar, piloted by Noah, have resulted in wins.

I still have questions about some cards, especially the ones that lean heavily on the tribal theme, such as Kindred Boon, although that card has proven to be VERY good, and keeping Licia on the table with indestructability isn't anything to sneeze at. Still; it's not as good as it would be in a strict tribal deck and even with Rivals of Ixalan providing more vampire fodder-and more Commander cards at large-I want to keep my eye on it.

The cards that are too narrow, like Swords to Plowshares or Bloodhusk Ritualist are also suspect. Pinpoint removal does have its place but Commander is too often a multiplayer format for me to be comfortable with these kinds of answers.

I had a pretty bonkers result from Black Market in my game with Noah, since at one point it was making eight mana a turn, and it really makes me want to up the number of Debt to the Deathless effects in the deck. However, without reliable mana sources, I just don't think Black Market would work as effectively as I would like. I certainly don't want to take one really good experience and then expect Licia to repeat it every time, without gearing my deck to perform that way.





Tuesday, January 2, 2018

PV's Rules

Along with thinking about the consequence of lines of play, comes this article by Paulo Victor Damo da Rosa.

I hadn't ever thought about it but yes: forcing a choice is better than allowing the opponent options. This puts a new dimension into thinking ahead and one I'll have to work on keeping in mind.

Adding on to this, is a neat article by Jadine Klomparens on creating consistent lines of play. While I think it's important to be flexible to new information, I've noticed that a lot of decks are good because of their focus. Similarly, a lot of strategies are good because of the focus, instead of deviating from the norm. But when you pick a strategy, as she says,
"when you make that first choice, you should be thinking about all the similar choices that will be in front of you in the future, not just the next one."
That's some pretty forward thinking and it's difficult to lean into it when in the middle of a game. Which is why I need to keep practicing. It never really ends, and that's something I'm OK with...but I wouldn't mind seeing some results. So that's the goal for 2018; get better.

That's always the goal but it helps to say it aloud.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The First Adds-

So after a weekend...well, OK, a frantic Sunday night...spend looking at the internet and paging through some binders, here are my current card choices and a short explanation for them, for Licia:

Orbs of Warding-why attack me? The damage is blunted. And I can't be targeted... (possible duplication: Urza's Armor)
Celestial Force-let's gain life every turn. This will automatically-3 the cost for Licia. Possible duplication effect: Venser's Journal.
Aurification-signal: attack somewhere else.
No Mercy-ditto, just in black
Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts-ditto, just in black/white
Sensei's Divining Top-without blue, here's a good way to do some card filtering.
Subterranean Tremors-Artifacts are dumb and should go away. Maybe I can get an 8/8 out of the deal.
Windbrisk Raptor-a big maybe card but a flyer with lifegain fits in the Commander meta.
Congregate-It's just really good lifegain. Possible add to make cool: Scout's Warning.
Debt to the Deathless-also substitutes as a win condition.
Chandra's Ignition-win condition, inspired by posters on Reddit's EDH forum. 

Is this good? I don't have the slightest idea. I have run it through the analyzers at deckstats.net and tappedout.com and what it's looking like at least for now, is that there might be a little too much black mana in there. But with an average mana curve close to 4, I should have a lot of flexibility in terms of what I can cut or swap out.

There are definitely a few more cards to look at, too: Pawn of Ulamog for example, but I think I've got a way to start playing and that will do. Theory only gets you so far: I have to run this deck through the grinder, too.

To that end, I'm going to take the rest of the year off of blogging. I want to take some time to just play games and take notes, and I also need some time to just not write, too. So happy holidays, everyone and I'll see you Jan 2, 2018.