Thursday, September 17, 2020

Actual Blues

Not being able to play last week, coupled with the wildfires in Oregon making it a Very Bad Idea to go outside has sucked the wind out of me. 

I haven't been able to motivate myself to arrange for games with friends and I still can't quite work up the gumption to ask strangers to play. It feels bad, I'll tell you. In a year where things have felt pretty bad, more often than not, this has been a hard week. 

So here's a solid article evaluating the new double-faced lands, because I think those cards are going to have a massive impact on Magic. Cheers.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Zendikar Rising Overview

Zendikar Rising: fully spoiled. Release notes, if you want more details on cards. 

So let's talk 'bout it!

General mechanical stuff
Party; the limited mechanic for the set. Because if you have four creatures out in a constructed environment, you're likely already winning and don't need the bonus of the party mechanic. In limited though, the party bonuses are good ways to break stalemates.

So I think it's a novel way to encourage the themes of Zendikar and I dig it. Plus, I'm glad to see an emphasis on the class feature of cards, which offers a whole different field of places to play in; I'd like to see Warrior decks instead of Elves, for example. It feels like an opportunity that I hope WotC follows up on. That each class has its own theme suggests that they might build these things up, and I'm all for it.

Landfall: we know this, we love it. I don't think there was an attempt to do something different but that's OK. 

Kicker: see Landfall. Although I will say that they've taken the lessons from Amonkhet block and started to add cards that play off other cards that use kicker, like Vine Gecko. Another good choice.

Double faced cards: Modal version.
So, these I really like! Which may come as a surprise to long time readers of the blog (all 2 of you) who may recall that I have never liked the double faced cards for a lot of reasons, and the drawback of having to use a proxy card, well that's still there.

However, giving players the option to pick a side and then use only that side gives players real agency over those cards, in addition to making them less fiddly overall. The option to have spells or colors, depending on the card is incredibly important, because it helps solve one of the biggest issues of Magic: Mana flood and color screw, so I give WotC credit for clever design. This is how I hope DFCs are done in the future. Which they probably will be...until Innistrad: Werewolves (ugh).

Still, when you do good, we use the green pen. This is good.

Individual card stuff!

Angel of Destiny is a weird card. I'm always glad to see weird cards. I'm sure someone will attempt to break it as soon as they can but if that means weird decks? Good. 

Similarly, Farsight Adept is an interesting place for White card draw to go, and it's a very efficient creature. I do like where cards like Skyclave Apparition and Legion Angel are going. White's been underpowered for a bit, so cards like this make me hopeful that the color is going in a good direction.

Charix, the Raging Isle is a spicy meatball. Is it anything but a Commander beatstick? I don't know. 

Confounding Conundrum feels like a weird choice for this set; should the anti-lands card be in the 'lands matter' set? Feels like that card should've been in Core 2021, or maybe in the next set. 

Deliberate is going to be one of my new favorite cards. Sure, it's basically an Anticipate but now decks can have Anticipates 4-8!

Skyclave Squid is an odd thing-could it be part of an aggressive strategy? Good on turns 3-5 and then a chump blocker while fliers get the job done? And I wonder if Thieving Skydiver could make waves in Vintage: getting a 2/1 flier and stealing a mana rock for 3 mana is pretty sweet!

Lithoform Blight is a take in Black I would not have expected to see. 

I do want to talk about Mind Carver for a moment, because both Blue and Black have cards that care about how many cards are in a graveyard. That's strange to see in a set that doesn't care about these things. Could these be hints for a future set? They haven't done a graveyard focused set in a bit-Theros: Beyond Death really isn't about the graveyard. Escape cards want to eliminate cards from the graveyard and don't care about the space aside from that. 

But, Kaldheim might care about the graveyard and there is no shortage of Norse and viking myths that care about the afterlife. Just speculating. 

Nullpriest of Oblivion is what I would call one of the ideal kicker cards: it's good early, but in the midgame should you hold it, or wait until you can use the kicker? Questions like that make for good gameplay. 

Taborax, Hope's Demise caught my eye because I have a cleric deck I want to freshen up-if I can. 

OK, let's just admit that Expedition Champion has the dumbest sword this side of Final Fantasy 7.

Cleansing Wildfire, though: THAT is a card I am excited about. I really want WotC to push basic lands in this respect. 

Nahiri's Lithoforming is probably destined to be a Commander staple and Roiling Vortex a sideboard card but good cards to have. But...the color seems relatively straightforward, this set. 

Why is Ashaya, Soul of the Wild so bad? It's a big, dumb creature that doesn't do anything and is at Mythic, for pete's sake. Not that I don't understand why it's a Mythic rare-it's complex so they don't want that kind of complexity screwing with new players. 

But it's so bad. 

Scute Swarm is a weird beast too. I am not convinced by it's ability, but I did read in a thread that it plays nice with the Mutate mechanic from Ikoria. So maybe I'm wrong.

Scale the Heights, though; that is as pretty dang good card. Three mana buys a LOT with that one and I figure it'll be a staple for Green decks. 

This is where I'm seeing a lot of support for the draft themes: B/G +1 counters, RW warriors, UB rogues, that sort of thing. Nothing terrible, nothing to get excited about...except why is Nissa black now? I wonder if the story explains that well. It's not as if we needed a BG Planeswalker; Vraska fits the bill pretty well and Garruk held that torch for awhile, too.

Artifacts & Lands
This trick with having equipment that attaches like Auras is...I get it. But I don't like it, because it eats away at what makes Auras interesting/good. However, gameplay matters more so I won't make a big thing.

Forsaken Monument does something nice; calls back in a neat way to Battle for Zendikar's themes. That gets a thumbs up, for sure.

The lands are fine: the double-faced ones are, I think, great and the ability to choose to either ramp or cast a spell is another very good gameplay tension. I think this is going to have big implications for how we evaluate manabases and I'm excited for it!

Thursday, September 10, 2020


That's the current air quality number in Portland. It's up a good 40 points since this morning. 300 is life threatening. 

I was supposed to meet up with a buddy today, play my first paper games of Magic in 6 months. I'd taken today off so we could meet up somewhere with almost nobody inside, play while there were no crowds, leave before people showed up. Masks on, no touching cards, all the smart, sane stuff one can do.

Instead, the wildfires in Clackamas County have made it dangerous enough outside that people shouldn't leave if they don't have to. My roommate is feeling nauseous and has a headache. 

The pandemic has screwed up my ability to meet up with people, and climate change is fucking with our ability to breathe.

If politics is a game, are you playing it?

Tuesday, September 8, 2020


 Looks like the first fan-made Transformers content has come up. Looks pretty neat!

Thursday, September 3, 2020

The Top End

The Eliminator vs 5C Tokens

 I ended up adding both Faerie Formation and Psychosis Crawler to the deck to see if either one of them was clearly superior. 

But it turns out both of them fit the Hexdrinker rule* and neither one of them seemed to out Hexdrinker the other: my opponents didn't want me to have either card. 

*(If you're new, the Hexdrinker rule says that if I'm testing a card and when I play it, my opponents go 'oh no', then I should 100% keep that card).

I also retooled the low end threats to have a faeries bent. So now Faerie Vandal and Scion of Oona join Hypnotic Sprite. 

The Faerie Vandal could become a legit threat over time and since this deck does move to get to midgame, I'm hoping it'll pay off, but the initial tests haven't given me enough data. I'm going to keep running them for now, because I think the opportunity for them to get beefy relatively quickly is there and every threat needs an answer.

There was a game where my opponent played 5 board sweepers. She was running 7 total. There's not much I can do there. But most decks don't go that far, hell, most decks don't even run Wrath effects anymore. So I'm still feeling good about the direction I'm going in. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Tuesday Hype

 So, the big announcements for 2021's sets are out! 

Short hot takes by me (We'll talk about Zendikar Rising when there's more to talk about):

VIKING WORLD! (I feel like it has to be in all caps due to vikings).

People have been asking for this for years so I'm not terribly surprised. As a result, I'm not excited for Kaldheim; we all knew it was coming eventually. Am I unhappy about it? Heck no! But with nothing more to go on than a name, a vague notion of setting and a set symbol, how pumped up can I get about something that I knew was going to happen?

(Also, UGH, the 'I'm not racist but no Black people in my fantasy viking set' comments are already out there. 

Fuck those people. Fuck them into the sun.)

Strixhaven: or Harry Potter made a ton of money and we'd like in on that, please.

Again, nothing wrong with this and frankly, the setting of this set suggests a more lighthearted direction for art, names, etc. A bit like Battlebond was-perhaps not quite a playful but still stepping out of the typical Magic themes. I can dig it, but unfortunately it seems like these sets are always a bit underrated. 


Wow, alright. I suppose I should have known this was going to be a thing, but I'm genuinely surprised they pulled the trigger on this crossover. I think I'm happier for the people who wanted this and all the cool Easter Eggs they're going to get than I am that this is a thing. 

Not that I think Forgotten Realms is going to be bad; this is a very cool chance for Magic to offer some genuinely different takes on properties that a community knows. A little like changing a book into a movie means that some interpretation must be done. Lots of opportunities for lore here, which makes this a fantastic on-ramp for new players, many of whom get into Magic because of that. 

Innistrad The Innistradening II: we mean it

Pass. Boring. Don't care. The last take on Innistrad delved into cosmic horror, a unique and interesting turn after the fantastic gothic style of the original. 

This sounds like Underworld.

Look, it's a hot take, ok? 

Modern Horizons 2: The Gloves Are Off.

They're reprinting fetchlands. It practically doesn't matter what else is going on, we're getting a legit fetchland reprint. That's a huge deal for the community. I just hope they don't price the boosters out of the range of a kid who wants to play. 

I personally liked Modern Horizons-yes there were some obvious problems but overall I thought it was super cool. Two bad cards do not ruin a set. So I have high hopes for this one; we always get interesting cards when WotC decides to amp things up. 

Time Spiral...Remastered

I got nothin' here. This seems weird and confusing and I don't know why they're doing it.

It doesn't seem bad. It seems unnecessary. However, they are printing it as a paper set so that is maybe good? At least it seems like an way for new players to get older cards.

Maybe. The original Time Spiral was a bit messy; one can hope that the remaster cleans things up a bit. 

But again: hot take.

And that's what I've got for ya! Spicy, right?

OK, really just mild but it's only Tuesday. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Topping Out


The Eliminator in a 3 player game

I'm on the right track, at least. 

That's my current takeaway from the recent batch of games, some three player matches and a few duels. The Eliminator has some resilience, which is very nice to see.

What it doesn't seem to have is that late game finishing quality and that's a shame, because The Eliminator wants to leverage those planeswalkers into the late game. My opponents agreed that Curator of Mysteries fit the deck, it just wasn't scary. 

Psychosis Crawler has been coming up for me: I've been able to make Mu Yanling's emblem happen more than once, which suggests that the Crawler could be the late game nasty I've been hoping for.

Another option has been to replace the creatures with a more faerie oriented suite, and consider Faerie Formation as a top end threat. 

Both are expensive, but both can really push an endgame strategy. The Formation is a lot more mana intensive, that's true but if opponents don't have an answer for it and I untap, that's likely game over. 

A little more testing, I suppose.