Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Odd Vs Even

Yennett vs Zedruu again
After all those changes, how does the deck feel to play?

It's a little clunky. The higher casting cost of cards means that this deck is a bit of a slow roller.

However! The upgrades are clearly better. Aminatu's ability becomes useful and rewards smart decision making. Future Sight is a very cool addition, Temporal Cascade acts as a way to mess with people's hands (and future plans) but more relevantly, graveyard based strategies.

The decision making for Yennet has started to become far, far more complex and this engages me a lot as a player. It means that of the problems to solve in Commander games, I have some tools to help me solve them....most of the time.

As I said, it's still a little clunky; having a Soothsaying and a Mystic Speculation at the same time can feel foolish, for example. But cutting one seems even less wise, since having repeatable effects are important. It's probably worth investigating the mana base again, since the new cards may have weighted the deck towards a color in a way that I haven't compensated for yet.

The tension I'm noting, I finally realize, is the difference between feeling like I'm doing something cool, versus doing something cool. I still need some more games with this deck though but the biggest difference is that I'm looking forward to those games. If I'm actually doing cool things, then that is a definite improvement.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Detailed Sphinx

Yennet vs Lazav final round
"That game came down to the wire!" Jason said. "I love those games."

"Me, too, but...god I wish this deck wasn't so boring."

"Well, what're you trying to do?" he asked.

"Play stuff off the top of my deck, use Ninjas and Yennett to play things for free."

"How does Yennet work?"

And this was the question that led to me looking up Yennet in Gatherer to see what the rulings are and we found this tidbit:
If you cast a card “without paying its mana cost,” you can’t choose to cast it for any alternative costs, such as evoke costs. You can, however, pay additional costs. If the card has any mandatory additional costs, such as that of Tormenting Voice, those must be paid to cast it.
That's good to know, since additional costs would include Kicker, Entwine, and Buyback, for example.

Suddenly, there's something I can work with.

With that in mind, I'm removing: Devastation Tide, Banishing Stroke, Predict, Lightform, Cloudform, Sigiled Starfish, High Priest of Penance, Varna, Lich Queen, and Primordial Mist.

Adding: Evangelize, Dismantling Blow, Stormscape Battlemage, Stormscape Familiar, Mystic Speculation, Temporal Cascade, Demonic Collusion, Future Sight, Conqueror's Pledge, and Urborg Emissary.

Then I cut two Plains for a Swiftfoot Boots and a Stir the Pride. 40 lands is a lot and the analysis was that I had a lot more white than I needed. Swiftfoot Boots protects Yennet which is critical, and Stir the Pride could be a great turnaround moment in the game.

So this should be fun to test!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Cuts to Yennet

So, when I promoted this deck at the casualmtg forums on reddit, a user suggested I didn't really understand Aminatou, and then presented their deck choices. That person had some pretty cool ideas, and I think it's worth a read. Maybe someone will take some inspiration from them and arrive at a cool deck of their own!

But I'm sticking with Yennet on this one.

I don't like Cloudform, Lightform, Primordial Mist or Jeskai Infiltrator.

However, Yennet's deck is geared up to work the top of the library. That means that Cloudform/Lightform might be fun or clever. So I'm going to give everything except Jeskai Infiltrator a shot; maybe I just need to play the cards to see what they can do.

After that, I want to cut Aethermage's Touch, Serra Avatar, Banishing Stroke, and Boreas Charger. Boreas Charger is so bland. I don't have any dual lands to help color fix so I'd just be getting Plains. Too many of Yennet's lands enter tapped anyway; why is this card here? So no.

This deck clearly needs Soothsaying and that's probably why WotC didn't include it (EYE ROLL).

Also going in is Pollen Lullaby, Windreader Sphinx, and Revive the Fallen. I am keeping Banishing Stroke against my better judgment, as a way to deal with the gods from Theros, since in nearly any other situation, Disenchant would be better.  But I see those gods enter and this deck really can't deal with those cards.

I also hate the mana base. So much coming into play tapped just feels so grindy and sets this deck on its back foot. Maybe that doesn't matter; experts designed the mana base and I am a little reluctant to mess with it, especially since I'm not going to be putting a lot of money cards into the mana. Still; after the changes, running it through the deckstats.net algorithm might help me make some changes.

I just wish I was more excited about this deck. It wants to do something unique to most Magic games, much less Commander games and yet it just feels so boring to me, even after the Commander change up.  Hopefully, getting some practice under my belt will reveal something.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Commander - Aminatou, the Fateshifter

I want to continue the Commander deck improvements (that I started with Saheeli) with Aminatou, the Fateshifter. Here's the base deck:

Instant
Aethermage's Touch
Utter End
Banishing Stroke
Return to Dust
Brainstorm
Predict
Telling Time
Esper Charm
Mortify
Crib Swap
Artifacts
Azorius Signet
Commander's Sphere
Crystal Ball
Dimir Signet
Mind Stone
Orzhov Signet
Seer's Lantern
Sol Ring
Enchantment

Lightform
Cloudform
Primordial Mist

Sorcery
Terminus
Aminatou's Augury
Entreat the Dead
Skull Storm
Entreat the Angels
Army of the Damned
Akroma's Vengeance
Devastation Tide
 Dream Cache
Ponder Portent
 Treasure Hunt
Lands
Isolated Watchtower
8 Plains
5 Island
3 Swamp
Forge of Heroes
Arcane Sanctum
Azorius Chancery
Azorius Guildgate
Barren Moor
Command Tower
Dimir Aqueduct
Dimir Guildgate
Dismal Backwater
Forsaken Sanctuary
Halimar Depths
Jwar Isle Refuge
Lonely Sandbar
Meandering River
Mortuary Mire
New Benalia
Orzhov Basilica
Orzhov Guildgate
Scoured Barrens
Secluded Steppe
Sejiri Refuge
Submerged Boneyard
Tranquil Cove


Creatures
Enigma Sphinx
 Varina, Lich Queen
Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign
Boreas Charger
Magus of the Balance
Night Incarnate
Sower of Discord
Yuriko, the Tiger's Shadow
Serra Avatar
Adarkar Valkyrie
Conundrum Sphinx
Djinn of Wishes
Jeskai Infiltrator
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Sphinx of Uthuun
Phyrexian Delver
Duskmantle Seer
High Priest of Penance
Silent-Blade Oni
Loyal Unicorn
Loyal Subordinate
Geode Golem
Mulldrifter
 Ninja of the Deep Hours
Sigiled Starfish
Pilgrim's Eye



 
OK, so this deck..................

I hate it.

Aminatou doesn't do anything really interesting, the ultimate is the sort of play that makes games go on FOREVER, and the setup/payoff for that ultimate is way too much work, the mana base is absurd with all the lands that enter tapped, I actively despise Lightform and Cloudform, Aethermage's Touch is not a thing, stop trying to make it a thing, I am 100% sick of WotC shoving Serra Avatar into white decks...basically, this deck exhausts me. It is for someone. But not for me.

I'm going to change it up and run Yennett, Cryptic Sovereign as my commander instead. That's the payoff card, meant to work with Aminatou, in my opinion. I'd much rather encourage game states where I am pushing things towards the conclusion, even if that conclusion is: I lose.

So here we go.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Modern Horizons Overview

Well...that is certainly some list of cards, isn't it?

This is the first time, to my memory, that Wizards has produced a set that deliberately skews high on the power scale, in order to "compete" with eternal formats. Oh sure, ostensibly this set is about Modern but there's also no denying that Commander, Pauper and even Legacy stand to benefit from Modern Horizons in a way that most Standard sets don't roll out the carpet for.

So let's talk about 'em.

White

I don't see any reprints that I'm glad have made it into Modern: they don't suck (Shelter, Dismantling Blow, Battle Screech, Guided Light) but they're all draft role players.

Some of the colorshifted(ish) cards bring good stuff to the table: Generous Gift and Recruit the Worthy (as Beast Within and Lab Rats{ish}, respectively) might give some dimension to White that wasn't there.

I don't think Giver of Runes is being respected enough, as I believe the ability to protect creatures from colorless is not to be underestimated. How much impact that has I'm not certain, but it does give an out against the Eldrazi decks. Winds of Abandon will be an absolute blowout against so many Commander decks that are unable to take advantage of the land search. Sisay already has Commander players buzzing so I don't think there's much for me to add there, though I want to make a sixty card deck with it, because I'm contrary. Maybe worth considering in Oathbreaker?

Segovian Angel might be one of the best common one drops White could ever get and King of the Pride is something I'm fairly certain my friend Caitlin will be adding to a cat deck. Hell, I should make a cat deck. Reprobation is some fantastic creature removal and while I know Trustworthy Scout isn't constructed material, I still want it.

Vesperlark is the uncommon I'd look out for and Force of Virtue is really narrow and I don't think will see a lot of action. Still, it's free and free is a very good price, especially in decks with Monastery Mentor. Astral Drift has the most potential for creating a new decktype in Modern but I hesitate to look at its impact elsewhere. Still, making a new decktype in Modern possible is no small feature!

Blue
The reprints and colorshifted(ish) cards honestly seem really solid! Fact or Fiction has a very strong history and despite what some are saying, I think will be useful in the format. Sure, there's more draft stuff but a reprint of Future Sight? That's some spice, I say. I doubt it can be broken but again, it gets the deckbuilding gears turning. Plus, we're getting an unblockable ninja! Players have only been wanting that for fourteen years. (Yike. 2005 seems like a long way away).

Is Archmage's Charm the real deal? Triple blue isn't easy to come up with and I'm not sure there are decks that are asking for the choices it's offering. But, smarter people than I are saying it's the new hotness, so maybe I'm just blind. Scuttling Sliver will be in demand, though: there's always some way to create infinite mana from untapping creatures. It's just a matter of time. Mirrodin Besieged is incredibly cool, and I don't think Marit Liege's Slumber or Mist-Syndicate Naga are going to go unnoticed for long. The Naga will be great in Ninja decks (which Commander players have been hoping for support for) but the Slumber? It's easy for me to imagine having four snow permanents in play by turn two. Getting to ten shouldn't be hard.

I want a copy of Oneirophage because that artwork is great. Watcher for Tomorrow is a solid uncommon. A body that nets you a card for two mana and sifts through the top four cards seems really, really good. Pair it with Read the Runes or Perilous Research for extra good times. Pondering Mage might not seem like too much but a 3/4 body is decent, and the effect helps a lot of decks. It'll find a lot of use in Commander and with anyone playing blink effects.

All in all, I think Blue got a lot of really good stuff across rarities and playstyles.

Black
Yike, that new artwork for Carrion Feeder is naaaaaaaaaaaasty.

I can't identify anything colorshifted and most of the reprints are merely serviceable, but Nether Spirit anchored a mono-Black control deck back in the day, so maybe that'll open up some space for Black in Modern?

Umezawa's Charm probably has the best "Hey there," look I've ever seen on a Magic card. I'm down. But the most exciting cards for me are Endling (a 20 year old cycle complete!) and Force of Despair.

I'm sure Fuz will be happy to see Undead Augur; will it be enough to push zombies forward in Modern? Probably not, but I'm glad they're trying.

Sling-Gang Lieutenant is the card that screams the loudest; RB GOBLINS, DUDE and yeah, why not make that deck? Goblins are cheap to produce and the activation of the Lieutenant is free. It probably won't work in any competitive deck due to the 4 mana casting cost but I've got my eye on you, Lieu. Certainly as a final "burn" spell, Sling-Gang might work.

Red
As with Black, the reprints/shifted cards aren't eyebrow raising. I am surprised to see it took this long to get Juzam Djinn shifted to Red, though (Ravenous Giant). I'm also pleased to see Pillage make a return. I don't think that it will have a big impact on Modern, but Pillage has always been a solid, versatile card that could slot into a lot of decks.

Pashalik Mons; now THAT is the card that might make goblins work in Modern. It's on curve and has a free activation. The only issue is that it's competing at the 3 slot with a LOT of really good goblins.

This is where the Slivers get exciting for me, too: Hollowhead and Spiteful Sliver could give the Sliver deck some legs to see play across formats and that's very exciting! Bladeback Sliver could also be helpful in Pauper-just aggro that deck out and then if the board stalls, start tapping your slivers to finish off opponents.

Aria of Fire is weird and I'm here for it. I'm so glad Wizards still brings these cards to the game.

There's a little undercurrent that Planebound Accomplice might be overpowered but I'm not quite seeing it. Planeswalkers get value when they stick around, giving you instant/sorcery effects that you don't need to pay mana for. It's good, don't get me wrong: paying R instead of anything else for a Planeswalker is usually nice but I don't see it as broken, unless you can get another card to blink/bounce the Planeswalker.

It's a lot of work, for what reward? And once we've figured out the reward, is it broken enough?

Green
I was definitely surprised to see Regrowth on this list! Of the green cards I thought they'd reprint, that effect is often thought of as too powerful-but maybe that's part of the statement being made. Spore Frog coming back is certainly welcome too, since that card was going for $5 just a year ago. Five American Dollars. I cannot believe it.

I don't know that Modern decks were clamoring for Nimble Mongoose but it's not a bad card. As opposed to Nantuko Cultivator which nobody wanted and is clearly here to reinforce Modern Horizon's 'land in graveyard' themes for R/G. That said: Krosan Tusker is an underrated card and more people should get on it.

It seems like Green got a lot more reprints than the other colors-9! compared to Red: 6, White and Black: 5 each, Blue: comes closest at 7- and I wonder if that's because there is a lot of filler needed, or because there are more gems in Green from pre-Mirrodin times than we thought and this was a chance to show off. Maybe both.

Null Rod as Collector Ouphe I ain't mad at though. Artifacts have long been too powerful, so gimme those hatebears.

Speaking of: Yes, Ayula is cool and yes, I want to build a bear deck (again). Force of Vigor will probably be a decent sideboard card and Genesis will allow for graveyard shenanigans-though will they help existing decks (obvoiusly Dredge)? Probably not. Llanowar Tribe is aggressive and I like where they went with it, and Treefolk Umbra is a gem, as far as I'm concerned.

I like Winding Way, since that seems like a good card whenever you draw it and while I know it won't do what I wish it would, I still want to cast Weather the Storm in response to someone trying to storm the game out.

It's a little things, but the little things get you through the day.

Multicolor
Now here's where the slivers get some real boosts and I'm sure I don't have to convince anyone that Cloudshredder and Lavabelly Sliver are good. The First Sliver is funny and I admit, I want to give that a go in a straight up 60 card sliver deck.

But sliver diversion aside; It's great to see Kess reprinted because that should boost a new deck and while I don't know that anyone wanted Eladamri's Call it's a solid card none the less. One honest to god 'no, no don't do that' is Nature's Chant. I just don't know that anyone was hoping for a Disenchant/Naturalize that could use either mana. Not very interesting, and not very necessary, I just don't see where this card slots into a deck. It must be for draft but it's so booooooring.

Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis looks VERY interesting and again: thanks for printing a weird card, Wizards.

Colorless/Artifact
What tribal fan isn't excited about Morophon, the Boundless? (I consider myself a fan of the lesser {non Elves, Merfolk, Goblin} tribal strategies, as you'll see in a moment).

Altar of Dementia was not something I expected but it's possible it does open up a mill strategy for Modern, plus the price was getting very high. I'm also psyched to see a new scarecrow, as my Reaper King deck could always use a new one-and this has the untap symbol on it!

It's easy to dismiss Universal Automaton, since the competitive decks that could use a one drop have them already. However, for every tribe that doesn't have a one drop, I'm glad it's here! Something for everyone, right?

I'm also glad they figured out the lessons of the underwhelming Swords from the Scars of Mirrodin block as the new swords look really cool, even if the Sword of Truth and Justice is inherently more playable due to protection from White characteristic.

Lands
Reprinting the cycling lands from Onslaught was a great idea! These are useful cards for any deck and I'm glad to see more players have access to them.

I think Prismatic Vista is overcharging for what it does but I can't argue that it might bring some utility to decks that need it. The Hall of Heliod's Generosity should definitely find a place in my Brawl deck!

As for the new dual lands: Hey, glad they're here. They should do good stuff and hopefully won't break the bank to acquire.

So: it's what we thought it would be, a strong set with impactful cards. How it translates to draft or sealed, I don't know but from a pure brewing perspective, it's interesting and it definitely adds some cards for decks I have that could use the boost.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Specialist Stratagies

After the last set of changes, there was only one more; remove Vandalize for Battle Ready.

I didn't want to take out Vandalize; equipment is too useful to ignore. However, because of Bashing Shield and Enforcement Batons, I knew I had some answers. Utilities are still going to be a problem, but you solve that problem by KOing the character, right? More orange pips means that Supercharge becomes far more useful.

So with the list done, how do I approach games?

Specialists vs Cosmos Prime
First: I usually transform Sludge and attack with Shockwave. Shockwave's stats are far superior to everyone else's and if I'm on the play, there's nothing for me to do anyway. So it's likely to get in a good hit, while being able to withstand a decent amount of damage.

This can change if I know I'm going up against a highly defensive deck but generally leading the attack with Shockwave is correct. Sludge gets transformed because opponents usually want to take it out quickly and getting the repair bonus is always helpful.

Now, turn two is where this deck starts to shine. That can even happen if you're going second! Because one can frequently engineer turns where you play Multi Mission Gear or Field Communicator to get a 'full' turn, playing multiple cards. Because Specialists play a game of incremental advantages, getting to take more actions in the early game can help give them an edge. They can't blow an opponent out; you have to look for weaknesses in the armor and capitalize on them. The sooner, the better!

Similarly, don't be afraid to use up Repair Bay on just one character. Incremental advantages, remember? Plus, those orange pips don't do you any good sitting in your hand.

Swoop usually bats cleanup and is definitely the weakest link in the deck so far. Generally, it's great to put a Grenade Launcher on him but any equipment is helpful, even Multi-Mission Gear for defense and a bonus action. And if he's carrying the full load of utilities, Battle Ready means Swoop has a bigger bonus to attack than Grenade Launcher, getting +3 from the utilities, plus +1s from both Field Communicator and Multi-Tool.

If Swoop survives, though, using the alt mode ability to repair and ping for one isn't bad, especially since on the next attack, that will also repair a second point of damage.

Similarly, I have found it useful to play carefully so I have opportunities to use Shockwave's bot mode ability with System Reboot. This can frequently hit for three points of damage but against a deck trying to use a lot of draw, like Bombshell, Psy-Ops might, you could KO someone.

If you get the chance to untap with the full suite of characters, I've found that I'm usually in a better position than I think. Swoop often tempts opponents to go after it but all three characters can do quite a bit and if one character is gone, the other two can still close a game. It's a pretty balanced roster, at least for now.

The updated decklist is:
Characters:
Sludge/Mighty Stomper 8 stars   
Shockwave/Cyberton Commander 11 stars   
Swoop/Fearsome Flyer 6 stars

Actions:
Pep Talk 2
Treasure Hunt 2
System Reboot 2
Supercharge 2
Repair Bay 2
Battle Ready 2Zap 2
Brainstorm 3
Surprise Attack 1
Equipment:
Bashing Shield 1
Equipment Enthusiast 2
Improvised Shield 1
Grenade Launcher 2
Data Pad 1
Multi-Tool 3
Field Communicator 3
Leap Into Battle 3
Multi-Mission Gear 3
Scrapper Gauntlets 1
Spare Parts 1
Enforcement Batons 1

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Cooperation

Shockwave, as it turns out, is a specialist. 6 attack, 11 health and 3 defense are pretty good stats, and it means that the Specialists deck can concentrate on making attacks instead of trying to get Cosmos to trigger. The concepts are pushing against each other and that's one reason it's not working.

"I don't like Disarm," Jason told me.

I had to agree, it is the glory of cool things. New Designs has also been underperforming for me.

"Leap Into Battle and Supercharge," he told me. It makes sense; giving a character +1 attack isn't tremendously helpful. Giving a character +1 attack and then either +3 or Bold 3, that could swing a game. 

After a few games, I recognized another problem.

The reason Swap Parts was banned was because it allowed Multi-Mission Tool and other equipment to retrigger for free and all at once, creating an overwhelming advantage. I was using Disarm to get those triggers but it never came together the way I hoped it would. Effectively, the power level of the deck just isn't high enough to make games interesting.

So the next logical step is to play other equipment, so I can reshuffle older equipment into my deck and get those free abilities again. In order to make sure I get that equipment, I'm using the green icon introduced in Rise of the Combiners. If I flip over Enforcement Batons, that's fine! I can swap it out and then play it to keep the free stuff coming.

One other thought might be Battle Ready for the damage boost instead of Supercharge. I have frequently found myself with characters carrying 2 or 3 upgrades; this damage boost might be better than bold is, because my deck has as blend of combat icons. Battle Ready guarantees a damage boost but Supercharge does not. At least it's worth testing. Salvage for Parts was also on my radar but without a battle icon, healing my characters just isn't worth it.