Thursday, July 12, 2018

Ultra Magnus

Named after the great Autobot second in command, what...what was I doing with this deck?
4 Venerable Monk
4 Mulldrifter
4 Meadowboon
2 Voidstone Gargoyle
3 Godhead of Awe
4 Thalakos Seer 
2 Reverence
2 Counterspell
2 Absorb
2 Peek
2 Hindering Light
4 Momentary Blink
2 Familiar's Ruse 
3 Azorius Chancery
3 Skycloud Expanse
7 Island
6 Plains
4 Prairie Stream
I suppose it's worth admitting that it's a pie in the sky kind of deck. Get Godhead of Awe out, blink critturs for protection, use Reverence to keep my opponent's creatures off my back.

It's not a bad plan, really: there's a notion to control the board and win by making my elements thrive under that control by reusing Meadowboon's leave's play ability. I have cheap thematic countermagic in Familiar's Ruse, Momentary Blink to both save my creatures and take advantage of Thalakos Seer or Voidstone Gargoyle's abilities, Hindering Light to protect Godhead of Awe.

Effectively, I feel a lot better about the skeleton of this deck than I did when I started reviewing the last deck, Longshots. Putting this one through the wringer should be fun.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

A Silly Dream

I think I'm ready to set Longshots down.

Playing against a smorgasboard of decks on the 4th (thanks, holiday!) piloted by Jason and then Fuz, I was able to put up some solid results.

Part of this was realizing one very important thing: I'm usually the control player.

In multiple matchups, it was right to play Grenzo on turn two, if I had it and I was going first but aside from that? It was better to hold off, let them play their creature, burn it to the ground, and wait.

This mentality was especially useful in the Enchantress matches, where Savage Alliance was incredibly helpful against Argothian Enchantress.

Tibalt, the Fiend Blooded also put in heavy lifting. I know what the conventional wisdom is but Tibalt is way better than they think. In creature matchups that stalemated, as with the zombies game, the fear of Tibalt making it to six loyalty put pressure on Fuz he didn't want. Against Jason, the -4 ability did some great work, again keeping pressure on him while my creatures were stuck under a Humility.

I also had to make some clever moves under a Humility, with Purphoros, God of the Forge alowing me get damage in when my creatures were otherwise useless.

However, I was again playing a more deliberate, waiting game so that I could find or generate my opportunity to win. Even in games where my opponent was drawing cards, Tibalt was keeping me in it.

I know this deck isn't ever going to be perfect or even tier 1.5. But I'm happy with the progress and think I'm ready to move on. Here's the latest decklist.

1 Tenza, Godo's Maul

2 Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
3 Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
3 Urabrask the Hidden
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
1 Squee, the Immortal
2 Etali, Primal Storm
2 Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
1 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh/Chandra, Roaring Flame

3 War's Toll

4 Kindle
4 Seething Song
4 Savage Alliance

3 Ghitu Encampment
1 Hammerheim
1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
18 Mountain

3 Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

3 Rift Bolt

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Almost Ruled The World

This is, as always, more challenging than I thought.

More games, this time against Fuz and later Matt and each time, the swarms were the problem. Admittedly, Matt was playing a tuned version of Death and Taxes but so many creatures with so little toughness and I just couldn't do much about it all. Phyrexian Revoker, Thalia: I kept asking myself: I have 11 spells that do damage, why aren't they keeping the board clear?

I start talking about removing Fated Conflagration, since it costs 4 and using on my turn isn't really the best use of my time, except that I really want to use it then, to get the scry effect.

"Fiery Confluence?" Matt suggests. I tell him that I can't run that because the CMC is 5.

OK, so what else could work here? Off to the Gatherer!

(This is where I find out that I'm wrong about Fiery Confluence and it's only 4 mana, which is perfect-so let's see how much that card is!

$20.Oh, no.

My money > less of my money. )

It seemed obvious to try and put in a card like Anger of the Gods, but I thought I'd run a query through the search engine anyway. If I didn't have to kill the few creatures I run, I'd rather not, and options are good, because sometimes I get something cool-in this case, Savage Alliance strikes me as an excellent card with a lot of flexibility. I'd prefer it if one of those modes destroyed an artifact, but apparently one of the most obvious red things to do ever wasn't something that red should obviously do.

Still, it's a way to wipe out hordes and maybe even punish the cheap blocks that happen against my larger creatures. Since I can cast it from turn three on, this might just be a Very Big Deal.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Vultures Are Killing In The Sky

"Grenzo is really good, man."

Longshots vs token generation
That was the biggest take I got from a guy named Tom, who was watching Matt and I play at Tonic. With an early Grenzo and a slow start from Matt, I was able to really take advantage of Grenzo's 'play your stuff' ability.

A similar thing happened when I was able to attack with Etali in game two. Although I eventually lost that game, the effect was a big enough of a deal that the advice I got from Tom and Matt afterwards was the same: "Cut Kari Zev and Kumano, add Grenzo and Etali."

So I did that...and got properly stomped by a white aggro deck Fuz was piloting.

I guess Jason was right: I really am vulnerable to aggro decks. To address that, I'll have to think a little differently. I don't want to cut Seething Song; ramping into my legends is important but I certainly considered it. When I draw Song on turn eight, it really doesn't matter. However, the ability to drop a legend into play on turn three is too strong to ignore.

So, maybe Staggershock needs to go. I love the idea of getting 4 damage in over two turns but without the Ruby Medallion, it's not as efficient as it once was. Doing damage on turn 2 is a way to  help keep things from getting out of control so I can get to turn 3.

Kindle is the card that has caught my eye. The pluses: hits for two or more, isn't a complete loss if Tibalt forces me to discard it. The drawbacks: getting to a place where I'm doing 3 (or 4) damage for two mana isn't something this deck is geared to do. Still, the possibility is there and it helps blunt Tibalt's drawback.

Still, I'm going to go with it for now and see what the utility of Kindle provides.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

M19 Thoughts

The full set revealed here!

What seems unusual about this set is that I'm not seeing a returning mechanic, as I did in the past few core sets. No Bloodthirst or Exalted here, just looks like a lot of evergreen stuff with a little flash for Nicol Bolas. I don't mind that, I'd just thought Wizards had said that they wanted to bring back one mechanic per core set. Things seem to have shifted.

So...what do we got?

Boy, Ajani's Welcome seems like a card they should've made 15 years ago, doesn't it? Although given Ajani's Last Stand, I suppose nobody is welcomed for very long. Hieromancer's Cage also feels like something they should've done before now.

Cleansing Nova is going to be a Very Big Deal in the casual/commander rounds. Five mana for a card that is useful no matter when you draw it is good.

Isolate is the answer to Deathrite Shaman. You heard it here first (or you didn't). And it won't get banned like Mental Misstep because you can't play it for free. Leonin Warleader is bonkers if you can untap with it. Remorseful Cleric is interesting; a card you can play out and if it's useful, great, if you just attack for 2, that works too.

Rustwing Falcon is the first 1/2 with flying for 1 that I know of and that's not small. Deathrite has similar stats and is equally annoying. Not that the two are on the same level in terms of power but I've had the swarm of 1/1s that get blocked by 1/2s and it's annoying.

Suncleanser makes me wonder if Infect is in our future sometime. It certainly has the potential to shake up the format by disrupting an Infect deck's plans in a pretty big way.

I can get behind the cheaper version of Assassinate (Take Vengeance), too.

We have Spirit Pirates now, so that's a thing! Ghost Ship shall have a crew. Also, Gearsmith Prodigy makes an argument for an...aggro blue/artifact/x deck? 2/2s for one mana are efficient but whether that's enough to push an aggro blue deck is up in the air.

I like the copy effects that blue is getting in this set: Metamophic Altercation and Mirror Image are aggressively costed but since they require you to have a creature on the table already, I am comfortable with that.

Omniscience is a welcome reprint and I know that there's a deck for Psychic Corrosion, especially since you can get some redundancy with Sphinx's Tutelage. I already know which of my friends will try to abuse this.

The artifact synergy theme appears to be played up a lot more in this set, perhaps because of the cohesion with Kaladesh and because Kaladesh will rotate soon, so we won't have to endure those power levels for too long? Wizards has been willing to ramp up strategies that they know will only last for a few months.

Death Baron reprint! Long needed and much welcome, I'm glad to see it come back while it can still make a mess with Amonkhet cards. Speaking of reprints, Murder returning is a good thing, too.

Infernal Reckoning is an unusual effect in Black. I don't know that I've seen that kind of removal spell, narrow as it is, in this color before. It's all upside, too, which means it's a decent sideboard card, maybe even a card for Commander, since it can hit artifact creatures too.

Lilana's Contract is a super cool alternate win condition and I hope Wizards gives us more cards like it. Plague Mare is probably the best of the hose horses, but after that I'm not seeing much else that's interesting.

My opinion is that Alpine Moon is probably overhyped, Apex of Power underhyped. I like Goblin Trashmaster but I wonder if there are really uses for that second ability. It's a pretty expensive lord effect and destroying artifacts, useful as it is, may not provide enough value to supplant the other lords.

Shock returning is good news; a solid reprint with value, I don't think people should be bummed about that. Sarkhan's Unsealing, on the other hand, is a weird card for red that probably won't produce nearly enough value but I'll want to try and play anyway. Commander players will probably try to see if it has any mojo.

SMELT. IS. BACK. (I am a fan).

Thud is a win-win of execution, for me. The name/image/mechanic/flavor all come together perfectly. Bummer that it's a sorcery.

I really, really want to like Colossal Majesty but I know it's just not as awesome as I wish it was.

Pelakka Wurm as a rare seems...lame. It didn't break anything as an uncommon across multiple sets. It's not crazy to see PW as a rare but I'm disappointed they didn't try for something cooler. Similarly, upshifting Scapeshift to mythic is also disappointing as the card is really important to bring to market. Still, it is a needed reprint.

I like the recursion on Talons of Wildwood, although it may come in handier in Limited events. The Aura subtheme is supported in GW so we know what one of the draft archetypes will be.

Favorite dinosaur: Runic Armasaur.

The most interesting card for me is Heroic Reinforcements, since it is the kind of card that might help turn losing games into winning ones. Everything else is just...there. It's not terrible, it just is either obviously good or slots into a specific deck, which doesn't interest me as much.

I did not expect to see Spine of Ish Sah attached to a body but...what the heck. I'll run Meteor Golem. And while I wish it didn't have defender-or was even a creature-Suspicious Bookcase is rad, from a naming/image view. The ability is meh. It fits, but I would've rather seen something like "take the second to last card in your deck and put it into your hand". Weirder and cooler.

The Bad
Stop printing cards for the set in things that aren't booster packs! There's a host of cards listed here at the bottom, that should be something people can crack open in packs but Wizards decided not to do that. Nexus of Fate is the spotlight offender, of course, since that comes only if you buy a box, but I don't see cards like Sarkhan's Dragonfire or Skalla Wolf as being something people will sit on for long. They're useful and having them only appear in Welcome or Planeswalker decks is a recipe for bad times.

All in all, it feels like a mixed bag; mostly decent stuff but the bad is really popping out. And with Commander announcements starting next month, M19 isn't going to have a huge window to impress the players. Not quite the triumphant return to core sets that we might've hoped for.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

This Ain't No Simple Posture

The changes have made for a more compelling deck. I want to get that out up front, because after being depressed about the state of Longshots, finding that the radical shift in focus has improved my experience does a bunch of good for my brain.

Longshots vs Stiflenaut
After a few online games with Fuz and Jason, Longshots has given me interesting choices to make as well as interesting dilemmas for opponents.

And I lost my fair share of matches. That was OK: I won a few too. The burn in the deck helped keep me in games against Fuz's dinosaur deck (which seems to be his current pet 60), stunting his mana by killing mana dorks, and eventually sticking a legend for the grindy win.

Against Jason's Stiflenaut deck, things got a little trickier. There was more of a 'race' aspect: if I could get things going before the Torpor Orb arrived, I had a shot. If I didn't then I didn't. The picture itself shows a time when I didn't: I was making a last-ditch effort, hoping that Etali's trigger could pull something off the top of either deck to save me.

It didn't.

In our final match, Jason played a more straightforward aggro deck and after it was done he said "So that's your bad matchup," and although he won that match, I'm not sure that it is. Eleven burn spells mean that I should be able to withstand the early game. It worked to keep a mana-ramp deck off balance, so variance is what I'm going with there. However, he did feel-and I agree-that he won fairly handily. That time.

Still, I'm encouraged by what I've seen so far and I look forward to further games. I haven't seen anything glaring yet that needs to be changed but time will tell.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

There's Halos To Burst

Alright, so let's revamp this bad boy.

What says desperate? How about Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded. Often referred to as the worst Planeswalker, I am going to have Tibalt lead a gang of rag tag red legends into the maw of defeat!

And I'm going to bring a lot of fire with me. If I'm going to run just a few legends, then I want a bunch of fire to help them burn it all down. I don't have to have all the legends win. I just need one one left to bring it home.

Since I've been taking a hacksaw to the expensive stuff, Ruby Medallion got cut. I'd rather run lands and save the Medallions for a different deck that has some artifact synergies-something that's been played up quite a bit in red since I built this.

Hm. How about this?
1 Tenza, Godo's Maul

1 Kumano, Master Yamabushi
2 Tahngarth, Talruum Hero
3 Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs
3 Urabrask the Hidden
1 Purphoros, God of the Forge
1 Squee, the Immortal
1 Etali, Primal Storm
1 Grenzo, Havoc Raiser
1 Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh/ Chandra, Roaring Flame
1 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider

3 War's Toll

3 Rift Bolt

4 Seething Song
4 Staggershock
4 Fated Conflagration

3 Ghitu Encampment
1 Hammerheim
1 Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
18 Mountain

3 Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded

So, here's a thing. A whole lot of weird legends, not a ton of consistency, but a solid 11 damage spells. I don't know if Grenzo is a good idea but I do know Etali is bonkers if it gets to attack. Even once can completely change the tenor of a game. Also, the goad trigger on Grenzo might have some synergies with War's Toll/Kazuul, Tyrant of Cliffs.

Kazuul also can work nicely with the God of the Forge. Giving me creatures to do damage could be a nice thing-and either way, trying to get an opponent to choose between attacks or main phase activities (assuming I have out a War's Toll) is a good thing.

Even when I don't plan on pieces working together, there's some stuff working together. That gives me some hope that I'm going in the right direction.

The card I'm most unsure of right now is Kari Zev. I really want a deck for that card-hell, I still think there's a R/B pirates deck nobody is exploiting right now-but I'm just not sure it's a good fit. If Grenzo appears late in the game, it's still useful, since the ability impacts all my creatures. Kari just sits there. So either she shows up early or it isn't worth seeing her at all.

Longshots is too loose of a deck to take that kind of chance. But maybe I'm wrong? Either way, I think it's time to test.