Thursday, April 19, 2018

Everything Ends

With a graveyard theme, naming this deck Everything Ends after the Slipknot song seemed really appropriate.
3 Plague Dogs
3 Revenant
4 Spiketail Hatchling
3 Sanctum Plowbeast
4 Stinkweed Imp
2 Mourning Thrull
2 Capashen Unicorn
2 Disciple of Malice
4 Linessa, Zephyr Mage
4 Oriss, Samite Guardian
2 Disciple of Law

4 Oversold Cemetery

3 Dromar's Cavern
9 Swamp
4 Island
4 Plains
3 Esper Panorama
Here's the premise: Play cheap critters that can either be sacrificed/redshirted or cycled until Linessa, Zephyr Mage and Oriss, Samite Guardian can come online. Use Oversold Cemetery to recur those creatures and lock the opponent out of the game. It's a little tricky, because it is still a three card combo: One Oversold Cemetery and two copies of either Linessa or Oriss. When it works, though, it's pretty effective.

This deck hasn't really undergone a microscope since I re-built it back in the Future Sight days (it started off as a Mortal Combat deck) and shortly after added Esper Panorama. Creatures have changed dramatically since then so that's where I'm going to start. For example, Capashen Unicorn could be upgraded to Felidar Cub, Ronom Unicorn, or Kami of Ancient Law and there's even a case to be made for Wispmare.

Fortunately, new cycling cards in Everything Ends' colors have been printed in Amonkhet block which means this is a prime opportunity to revisit the deck. A card like Vile Manifestation could even represent another win condition. I at least need some reason to include black in this deck now: cycling cards are not a good enough reason. There's clearly room to explore so I am looking forward to digging in!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018


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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Dominaria Review!

The full set has been spoiled here! So now I get to talk about specific cards instead of just the big overview stuff I did a few weeks ago. But I still have some big picture thoughts at the end.

I think there's some space for Danitha, Capashen Paragon in Boggles decks, certainly in my take on the deck. Fall of the Thran is surprising, as Armageddon effects have been a no-go for Wizards, however this implementation of that mechanic makes a lot of sense, since it has a way to get both players back in the game. Tragic Poet, a reprint that hasn't been seen since Urza's Legacy, makes for a nice way to get a lot of use out of Sagas, while also giving White more to do. I think that's a good-and interesting- reprint. I'll get to why in a bit.

Playing up the artifact and artificer theme isn't a big surprise, so cards like The Antiquities War or callbacks like The Mirari Conjecture work. I wouldn't be surprised if Artificer's Assistant became an all-star role player in both limited and Constructed: giving any Historic spell +1 scry for free is a nice touch. Deep Freeze is a pretty epic shift to common from Imprisoned in the Moon, Lignify, or Song of the Dryads effects. Precognition Field is a neat way to tweak Blue's 'look at top of library' effects. Sage of Lat-Nam has now undergone three different rarity shifts-common, rare, now uncommon-I doubt there are many cards that could make this claim. And Tempest Djinn is going into my mono-blue aggro deck, Hard Time Killing Floor Blues.

Probably one of the best removal spells printed in a long time, Cast Down, is making a debut. Thrulls as a creature type are back! Lich's Mastery + Squee the Immortal, Eternal Scourge or Misthollow Griffin could make for a fun but janky combo. Settle the Score is going to be a Big Deal for a planeswalker deck. I don't think I've seen an effect that adds counters to planeswalkers in this fashion before and I believe that it's going to lead to some gnarly board states. Finally, Yargle, Glutton of Urborg is going to be a fan favorite and why not? Giant frog spirits? That's awesome and terrible.

The red Sagas seem to be the weakest of the lot, which is unfortunate. Though Power Conduit + The First Eruption could be really cool to test out. 2 free mana a turn and a +1/+1 counter on a crittur? This seems worth trying out. Glory of cool things neat but still neat! Squee the Immortal is the third creature I can think of that can be cast from the exile zone. I hate to say I said this would happen but I did say this would happen: WotC cannot unbreak a rule. There will be more and more permanents that, despite being exiled, will be allowed to return.

Grow from the Ashes is an interesting twist on the 'make spells cost less' that WotC did with treasure tokens. Having the land enter the battlefield untapped means that the spell effectively costs 2 instead of 3, or 3 instead of 5, and Broken Bond does something similar. The hype over Marwyn, the Nurturer is, I think, overrated. You either have an easy to kill creature that can generate a ton of mana if you invest over time, or an easy to block attacker that requires investment if you want it to be big. Sporecrown Thallid is one of the cheapest lord effects I can recall seeing and I think that's pretty cool. Territorial Allosaurus has great flavor text but what a lousy dinosaur.

So here's where all the legends are! I am puzzled by Jodah, Archmage Eternal's ability: Why is this RWU? Rona, Disciple of Gix is a solid build around card and as I said about Squee (and could say about the new Karn) the exile zone is now a playground.

Bloodtallow Candle means I don't have to go searching hard for the artifact to put in my Garbage Cube set. I think I would've liked Howling Golem more if it had been a 3/3 but perhaps the drawback just isn't enough to make it that aggressive. I think Traxos, Scourge of Kroog is going to be really easy to beat down with.

The mana fixers are solid, the rares proven from Innistrad block and the common ones have abilities I expect. Nothing too flashy but still usable.

Conclusions: in limited, this set looks a bit slower than the average bear but that's OK, since I think there are a lot of interactions to exploit and kicker needs games to go a little long to be effective. I also believe that there are going to be some cool interactions with older (maybe even much older) cards for players to explore although that might be mostly due to Historic + artifacts than anything else. There is a lot to like in Dominaria overall and the power levels seem spread out rather nicely. I am not seeing an obvious discrepancy, which is good!

Finally, I believe that between the new enchantment type Saga, the cycle of creatures for XXX of their color, plus the printing Tragic Poet, we've got some hints about what WotC is going to do next. I'm guessing Theros will be the next plane to visit: enchantment theme, devotion mechanics, and a story that fans want to know more about. It hits a lot of markers!

That said, I'd rather see the return to a place like Llorwyn or even further adventures on Dominaria-although I don't know what location would support enchantment and devotion themes-but that's my theory! We'll all know more soon but between then and now there's both the new Battlebond set AND the return of core sets! So I'll have to hold onto this prediction for awhile.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Me Grimlock No Like You

The last run of games finally broke me: I hadn't been playing Wave of Vitriol, so I could run Rishkar's Expertise. I'd taken out Tooth and Nail.

But over the course of three games, against Commanders like Edgar Markov, Noyan Dar, Roil Shaper, Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons, The Scarab God, and Kaervek the Merciless, I came to the inescapable conclusion that there is a way for Grimlock to thrive against this field, ONLY if I am playing Wave of Vitriol and Tooth and Nail.

On the upside, I have better targets than I did before. One of the recommendations I got last night was Verdant Sun's Avatar, a card I had dismissed early on: 5/5s with that gain me 5 life when they enter the battlefield and then just sit there aren't useful.

My opponents helpfully pointed out that I had not read the complete text of the card: "Whenever Verdant Sun's Avatar or another creature enters the battlefield under your control, you gain life equal to that creature's toughness." (Emphasis mine, because that's what I missed).

Lifegain in Commander-even just a little bit-can be extremely helpful. This might just be the card that helps give me the time I need to establish a boardstate I can compete in.

I still think Rishkar's Expertise will be useful: it easily combines with Grimlock, Ferocious King to draw eight cards. Something in that eight is bound to be playable, or at least reload my hand when the Wrath effects have blown through. Drawing cards is still one of the most powerful things you can do in Magic.

Here's the final list (excepting Verdant Sun's Avatar which I'll jam in there somehow):
Grimlock, Dinobot Leader

1 Savage Stomp
1 Thunderherd Migration
1 Cultivate
1 Lay of the Land
1 Frenzied Tilling
1 Star of Extinction
1 Shamanic Revelation
1 Explosive Vegetation
1 Commune with Dinosaurs
1 Hull Breach
1 Wave of Vitriol
1 Tooth and Nail
1 Sol Ring
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Untethered Express
1 Aradara Express
1 Sky Skiff
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Traveler's Amulet
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
1 Commander's Sphere
1 Vanquisher's Banner
1 Conqueror's Galleon/Conqueror's Foothold
1 Cultivator's Caravan
1 Belbe's Portal

1 Raging Regisaur
1 Zacama, Primal Calamity
1 Trapjaw Tyrant
1 Sun-Crested Pterodon
1 Zetalpa, Primal Dawn
1 Temple Altisaur
1 Majestic Heliopterus
1 Imperial Ceratops
1 Thrashing Brontodon
1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
1 Silverclad Ferocidons
1 Needletooth Raptor
1 Etali, Primal Storm
1 Charging Tuskodon
1 Sky Terror
1 Raging Swordtooth
1 Wakening Sun's Avatar
1 Kinjalli's Sunwing
1 Bellowing Aegisaur
1 Snapping Sailback
1 Thundering Spineback
1 Ranging Raptors
1 Grazing Whiptail
1 Colossal Dreadmaw
1 Thrash of Raptors
1 Raptor Hatchling
1 Charging Monstrosaur
1 Gishath, Sun's Avatar
1 Polyraptor
1 Goring Ceratops
1 Regisaur Alpha
1 Regal Behemoth
1 Pygmy Allosaurus
7 Plains
8 Mountain
9 Forest
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Gruul Guildgate
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Skarrg, the Rage Pits
1 Stone Quarry
1 Blossoming Sands
1 Timber Gorge
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Rugged Highlands
1 Tranquil Expanse
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Naya Panorama
1 Shivan Oasis

1 Consign to Dust
1 Pyrohemia
1 Asceticism
1 Mana Flare

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

This Is Why I Don't Pauper

The format revolves around Blue, as one can see via this article at ChannelFireball. That is not a diverse format.

 However, there are some odd things about this article when it comes to suggestions to fix this diversity issue:

First, the author wants to ban Ponder or Preordain, but not Brainstorm. As a long time player, I know that Brainstorm is the more powerful card because it's an instant. Pauper certainly has enough shuffle effects to replicate Brainstorm's strength in Legacy and this strength hinges upon it being an Instant instead of a Sorcery: the very video the author references has LSV using Brainstorm to effectively blank an opponent's discard spells.

So why is he overlooking the most obvious problem? Because it's not on the list of top 10 spells played in Pauper.

Which is flat out baffling to me. My only explanation is that I am not familiar enough with the Pauper format to understand why that is the case.

Second is the notion of banning Gush. His problem with this is:
While the card’s power cannot be denied, banning Gush would more or less kill the Tireless Tribe Combo deck and would significantly weaken the Nivix Cyclops deck. More than that, banning Gush would leave the Monarch cards—Entourage of TrestPalace Sentinels, and Thorn of the Black Rose—as the best way to draw cards in the format. A ban of Gush might mean taking these cards out of the pool as well.
But he doesn't say why Entorage, Palace Sentinels or Thorn (all non-blue cards) would need to be taken out. Earlier in the article he admits that creatures need to have an incredibly high rate of return because removal is so good. Why is this creature-based ability so bad? He doesn't say so there's no real evidence to support it. Having those creatures be good seems like a positive thing for the diversity of the format.

As it stands, I already play a format where Blue is the best color -even in casual Legacy, Blue rules the roost- so my motivation to play a format where that's still the case but with common cards isn't that engaging to me.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Should've Done This Long Time Ago

I finally conducted this search. For those who don't want to hit the link, I'll just tell you: I'm looking for dinosaurs not printed in Ixalan block.

Turns out, there's 20, with every color but blue represented! I didn't see that coming but I definitely should've looked for this a lot sooner because of two cards:

Pygmy Allosaurus and Regal Behemoth.

Pygmy Allosaurus is cheap, useful, and could definitely replace a less than awesome minor dino. Regal Behemoth does two things that I want Grimlock to do: boost my mana and draw me cards.

Potentially. Unlike Matt's Queen Marchesa spikey fort deck using the monarch mechanic, I don't have a way to keep the crown for very long. On the other hand: I've learned that introducing the monarch mechanic to a game of Commander is an excellent way to kickstart it and getting these games going is a Good Thing in my opinion. Last Monday I played a game went for over three hours and that is just. too. long. Especially since I lost-but even winning would've been a huge drain on my energy.

I've also decided, after multiple games with Conqueror's Galleon, that the mana ramp might need a bigger push. Seven mana to bring a card from my graveyard back to hand is expensive and that's on top of dinosaurs that are expensive.

Mana Reflection would be a fantastic card-the ramp I have in the deck means I think I'd get to play it more often than not-but I'm not sure I have one and the card is $30.

That's bonkers. Plus, Mana Flare, while serving a similar role, also, like the monarch ability, has the ability to kickstart commander games and people tend to like that. In addition, the cheap casting cost means that if I draw Mana Flare in the late game (which is just as likely as anything), I can cast the Flare and still get a lot of value out of it. It also means I'm less of a target.

Though if I do have a Mana Reflection, I will probably run it...

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

No One Controls Grimlock

What the heck do you do when Tooth and Nail is a questionable card in a giant monsters deck?

Seriously. Nine mana to just drop to giant monsters into play, or seven to get them either into or out of my hand? How is that bad?

It's bad because two of my best answers to problems, Wakening Sun's Avatar and Zacama, Primal Calamity both hinge on being cast from hand. Is it worth keeping a seven mana tutor for two cards? Or would it be better to just draw cards, period.

Also, why is Carnage Tyrant $20. The card is good. It is not worth that much, is it? It's not making an appearance in Standard champion decks that I know of...(Short research later-yes, it is).

But I am getting off track; the point is that T&N doesn't do what I hope it will. Belbe's Portal might be the better option, especially when it comes to rebuilding after the inevitable board resets.

So would Darksteel Plate.

But I just went over these things last week. What's the difference? Well, in one of my last commander games, Sydri just took over the game-despite an Aura Shards on the table.

This is partly my fault: I thought the Sydri player might be problematic but with the Shards in play, I didn't worry about it. Also, my commander-and lesser extent, deck- is vulnerable to that form of removal so now I was holding onto vehicles I couldn't play and a commander that couldn't boost my creatures.

But I didn't push the advantage when I had it and I should have. Eventually, a Darksteel Forge appeared and after that it was just a matter of time. The Sydri player didn't push the advantage I thought they could, which gave me time, but I didn't have any outs.

Which brings me to the next piece of business: I should get outs. Rogue's Passage and (sigh) Wave of Vitriol are heavy contenders.

I've been cold on the Wave because it has a significant impact on Grimlock. But if I win a game where I cast Wave, then who cares? Because I already know I'm losing games where I can't cast Wave.

However, I am starting to think that what I really need is some form of card draw. Because one card that has been absolutely killing it for me is Conqueror's Galleon.

Of course, one of the things that I did with that Galleon was recur Thrashing Brontodon over and over again...

I swear I'm going to figure this out.