Thursday, October 19, 2017

Supplemental Hits

The initial changes looked good when I played against Noah. I wasn't winning games but I felt like I had a fighting chance most of the time. With the addition of a couple Chained to the Rocks to help the removal suite, I thought I was getting closer, or maybe even had it locked in, just bad beats. A different draw here or there and I could win.

That changed when I played Matt and couldn't find my way out of a paper bag. One thing I hadn't foreseen when I picked Shelter was that I needed to have a creature in play to use it. I had a couple instances of having Shelter and no target which, admittedly, was a failure on my behalf to mulligan enough so that I had a proper start.

I gave Matt the deck and told him about the general theory: that the goal was to draw cards and keep the pressure on and he took one look at Goblin Warchief and said: "Is this what you need, then?"

No. No it is not. Making my goblins cheaper isn't what's required. His immediate suggestion: Goblin Chieftain. "But if you don't have that, Gempalm Incinerator."

Hm. Gempalm Incinerator does help the removal suite but it also falls prey to the same issue with Shelter. It doesn't really work unless I have some creatures out. And goblins are awfully easy to kill.

On the other hand, I own some Gempalm Incinerators and I don't own Goblin Chieftain. So for further testing, at least at the moment, I'm invoking the My money > less of my money rule and testing the Incinerators.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Card Crushing

As I revised Bonecrusher, I was fortunate enough to find a couple Battlefield Forges to help shore up my red mana. While not the ideal land for this it contributes to the colorfixing I need. I'll take it.

I also was having trouble really replacing any goblins after Krenko, Mob Boss.

So I didn't. Instead, I asked: how do I keep the aggression going?

The answer comes via Renewed Faith. I run Renewed Faith for two reasons: first, it allows me to gain life to keep me above 10 so I don't die to my own Skirk Fire Marshal, and second, I get to draw a card.

Why not draw more cards, then?

Enter Shelter. This card has been so cool to run. First, I get to draw a card. But second, and most importantly, Shelter transforms a battlefield where my 1/1 Goblin Lackey or Warren Instigator would be stymied and makes them useful again. Where Krenko survives another day to make tokens. Basically, as a solid answer to the inherent problems Bonecrusher will face.

I'm really excited about this and how it will help smooth the deck out.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In Praise of Shatterstorm

This year was the year I finally noticed: non-creature sweepers are remarkably barren in Wizards' Commander products.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about something that I have been confronted with in every Commander game I have ever played, especially multiplayer ones: The presence of multiple artifacts and enchantments that need to be taken off the board in order to advance the game state. Not just one and not just a single player.

Quick anecdotal example: last night in a four player game, there was a Fireshrieker, Mana Crypt, Ghostly Prison, Mystic Remora, Armillary Sphere, Gilded Lotus, Burgeoning, Coldsteel Heart, Talisman of Dominance and two Sol Rings on the table. Those are just the artifacts and enchantments but that's 11 targets!

Yet, playing my Yidris deck, I had no answers for this many of these permanents. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Take a look at the Commander decklists: 2015, 2016, 2017. Lots of answers for mass removal of creatures and a few 'destroy all things' cards but where are the cards to wipe the board of problematic enchantments and artifacts?

Artifacts are especially grievous in this regard; their colorless utility means that Commander decks can get a lot out of them, either as a way to double down on an effect that a color gives them (think Black's graveyard removal and Tormod's Crypt) or as a way to ramp up in decks that wouldn't have access to those: Sol Ring, Skullclamp, etc. Artifacts are everywhere and while I cannot deny the necessary space that they take up in the format, the fact of the matter is that in a multiplayer game, multiple artifacts will appear.

Same with enchantments. Although not as ubiquitous as artifacts, enchantments are a part of every game and they certainly are part of almost every Commander deck that WotC has produced for the past three years.
In total, there are 231 artifacts and enchantments across those 14 decks. And this isn't counting artifact creatures, which would raise the total considerably.
In those three years: Merciless Eviction, Bane of Progress, and Vandalblast are the only sweepers for such permanents. Where is Tranquil Path or Hush?

I could understand Back to Nature being too strong but everything else? Not even Root Greevil or Nova Cleric?

Artifacts, as an even bigger problem, are more glaring for their lack of mass removal: Creeping Corrosion, Corrosion, Meltdown, Fracturing Gust, Hammer Mage, Pulverize, Purify, Seeds of Innocence, Shatterstorm: where are the reprints of these cards?

Commander is a multiplayer format: where are the multiplayer answers? Why aren't there more ways to sweep artifacts off the table? Even cards like Shattering Pulse or Allay (for enchantments) would help.

Now, there is objection to be raised here and I get it: WotC designed this product to work within its own 'ecosystem'. That is; the Commander 2017 ('16, '15, etc) decks are meant to be played against each other. In some years, a card like Hammer Mage would be so dominant against a deck like Breya, Etherium Shaper that it wouldn't be fun at all.

Not every set can cover every contingency-nor should it, especially when players can have more fun without such coverage. Interactive games are important to create, especially for a format like Commander! Balance matters.

Nonetheless, I am hard pressed to believe that there is no place for these kinds of board wipes and I'm hoping that Wizards starts to give players some of these reprints-or find new ways to provide said board wipes of non-creature permanents.

For example: they've done well with non-basic land destruction, I think! I want to point that out because I believe that non-basic land hate should be a part of the game and is, honestly, more necessary than ever across the Eternal formats.

I don't want to get off track though. I want to point out; how many games of Commander are heavily influenced by artifacts or enchantments and how many targets exist in any given multiplayer game.

Give us our Shatterstorms, Wizards. We need those just like we need the Wrath effects.

Also: this will be the last post until Oct 12, as I'm in NYC for a few days!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The First Break

I ran Bonecrusher through the deckstats analysis and the first thing I got back was: I don't have enough red mana in this deck.

So that's going to be tweak number one. If I can't find R/W lands I like, I may just cut a Plains for a Mountain; I really need RR by turn 3 at the outside so making this adjustment is critical if I want to succeed.

I also got some advice from Reddit user BAGBRO2, to add Krenko, Mob Boss to the deck and that made perfect sense.

What was going to be more difficult was to find all the suitable goblins printed since I built Bonecrusher, way back in the Onslaught block era.

That's a lot of goblins. 147, to be precise-at least for that search.

But there are some strong possibilities, too: Bloodmark Mentor, Boros Recruit, Fire Juggler, Gempalm Incinerator, Goblin Bushwacker (a card that's proven itself in more competitive decks), Goblin Freerunner might be interesting, Mogg War Marshall could be used to boost my chances to tap for 10 damage, then leave me a creature in its wake, Mudbutton Torchrunner is expensive but plays into my theme, and so on.

This...is actually turning into a bigger problem than I thought.



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.