Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Coming For You, Shockwave

I have been able to play a bunch of games with Grimlock, Dinobot Leader and...they've been pretty good! Mana has been remarkably stable, Grimlock presents a pleasantly aggressive mode that can help other creatures or, after a board wipe, appear on the battlefield as an 8/8 trampler for six mana. That's a pretty good deal, too.

Everybody loved dinosaurs, and everybody hated dinosaurs. So that was positive, too!

Hoooooooowever. I lost games, lots of them, and it was because I could not handle artifacts or enchantments.

Humility, Hammer of Nazahn, Wound Reflection, Mirari's Wake; my losses have come not at the hands of creatures-although they were the finishing blow-but instead because of the added value of these permanents and others like them.

I need a way to deal with them beyond Zacama. Which is a bummer because the mana ramp is there! I can do a lot of giant dino things!

But I get my ass kicked by the ephemeral and tools. Which makes some sense, thematically, but there's got to be a way to fix this. I hate having to sit there paralyzed and there's 99 freakin' slots in this deck. There must be room to make this better.

The problem is, I'm starting to run out of cutable creatures. I don't want to axe the cheap commons because they help give me something to do in the early game. Similarly, I don't want to get rid of the vehicles: They've been all-stars when it comes to making use of big creatures who would just stand there, otherwise.

However, there is a good question about where to go with it? Should I just be looking to overwhelm with card draw? Do I go for a more utility approach? Sweeping effects like Shatterstorm or Wave of Vitriol (both cards I adore) really put a cramp on what I want to do.

One suggestion I got from a player at the Tonic was Rogue's Passage. That is something I hadn't even considered! But if I can make a 14/12 monster on turn 5 (Ghalta + Grimlock), why not attack with it for the full amount of damage? Whispersilk Cloak might be even better: less mana investment over time and better protection for a creature like Gishath, Sun's Avatar. The advantage of having the unblockable effect come from a permanent type that isn't easy to destroy might not be worth it. I suppose I could try both...

It wouldn't be an answer so much as a workaround but maybe a workaround is all I need.

Finally: It's my birthday this week, so there won't be a Thursday post. Back on next week. Cheers!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Reprinting and Masters 25

There's a lot to read here in the "Reprint Equity..." and "Not All Reprints..." articles but I think there's some good stuff here.

Most notably, I think that the author is dead on when he suggests that these packs should be selling for less. $10 is a prohibitive price point for drafting, because I just don't know that many kids who have $30+ to throw at a draft every Friday. $21 is still crazy expensive but as pointed out; the expected value for the overall set could be lower, which could lead to a broader and more interesting range of reprints, not to mention the possibility of drafting multiple times.

Anyway, I thought it had some good points and makes for good food for thought.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Dominaria Set Leak

Sorry, folks but it's true-lots of release notes and you can find the official stuff here.

I'm not pro-leaks as a way to get cool internet points but this seems to be the result of a mistake and accidents happen. So while I understand this is going to be a topic of conversation, I hope that the content creators who rely on these cool spoiler effects for hits aren't kicked too hard.

Also, kudos to WotC's handling of this. Monday's update just seals my admiration. They've been up front and professional and that's how you do it.

That said: I want to talk about Dominaria. However, I'm going to big picture this, because I'd rather see the entire set before making any judgments.

I can talk about the set's themes and mechanics...so here we go. If you don't want anything spoiled for you, I understand but it's spoilery stuff from here on out.

This is weird but as I read it, it's starting to click. It's weird because the timing on the card is unusual: enter the battlefield, then end of draw step, a timing thing they haven't done since Invasion, when 'during upkeep' triggers all became 'at the beginning of'. So to unweird this, it would have to say 'add a counter at the beginning of your first main phase'. In addition, adding a lore counter to the object doesn't use the stack and whenever something doesn't use the stack, that's weird. The effect from putting the lore counter on creates a triggered ability that does use the stack, so that part makes sense.

But what I don't like is this part:
If counters are removed from a Saga, the appropriate chapter abilities will trigger again when the Saga receives lore counters. Removing lore counters won't cause a previous chapter ability to trigger.
Wait. Why is it that we now have to do this crappy bookkeeping thing? This bothers me in the same way that Renown and Monstrous bother me: there's no way to know how the +1 counters got on the creature, so players just have to remember. Or, if the counters get removed for some reason, I can't re-trigger the ability.

Well, hell. This has two problems, for me: First, why do I have to remember that? It's unnecessary bookeeping which always ventures into the realm of unfun. Second, and this is specific to Saga but could also be true for Renown/Monstrous: If I can remove the counter, why can't I repeat the chapter? I've gone through the trouble to do so. LET ME DO THAT.

It works for Cumulative Upkeep, why doesn't it work here?

Legendary (stuff)
I will start with: Hey, I called it! That's always cool. (Check under the Green section).

I'm not sorry to see more legendary creatures or permanents. Cool deal. Commander gets a HUGE boost, lore aficionados get a thrill, it's all pretty win-win in my opinion. I've no doubt that they've learned from Kamigawa block and will be doing all they can to keep the excitement up. That Dominaria is a single set undoubtedly has a lot to do with this, because that means WotC doesn't have to glut the players with legends for a year. All very smart!

But, Legendary Sorceries. From the doc:
You can't cast a legendary sorcery unless you control a legendary creature or a legendary planeswalker. Once you begin to cast a legendary sorcery, losing control of your legendary creatures and planeswalkers won't affect that spell.

Other than the casting restriction, the legendary supertype on a sorcery carries no additional rules. You may cast any number of legendary sorceries in a turn, and your deck may contain any number of legendary cards (but no more than four of any with the same name).
Emphasis mine. Because that's a pretty big casting restriction, once you remove those cards from Dominaria! There will be 18 MONTHS of these cards in Standard, including sets that don't just give you Legendary stuff, along with 25 years of sets and ideas that don't need or want legendary stuff.

So, why do that? Why make a card useless unless you've got a legendary creature or planeswalker in play? You can't even use it if you have a legendary artifact or enchantment!

Why not make it like the Ascend mechanic, so you get something if you don't have a legend, but something better if you do? Flavor reasons? If flavor is the reason, that's just stupid. The functional should've won out here.

If it's because it would make the mechanic to similar to Ascend....well that at least I get. Once every few years they have to drag out the "every mechanic is kicker" argument and defend why design is a limited space. Having two similar mechanics exist so closely together might give the game too much 'sameness'.

If it's because it allows WotC to make really powerful and special sorceries that, and this part is key, they wouldn't get to do otherwise, I get that too.

But those are the only two reasons I'm OK with. And even then: I think casting restrictions like this are bad.

Let's break it down: Historic will trigger off of three types of permanents: legendary (awesome), Saga enchantments (cool) and artifacts (wait, what?).

I am...very, very, very tired of WotC's boner for artifacts.

According to Gatherer: 925 current Legendary permanents, excluding artifacts. If you want to add in those, that's an additional 68 permanents, so just under 1000, including Un-sets. None of this counts what Dominaria will bring to the table.

There are 1889 artifact permanents (this includes Legendary ones). So, over double. Again, none of this counts Dominaria.

Yes, I get it: Artifacts represent history. That's...almost literally what they are about. And yes, I'm glad that Historic gets to interact with other sets in Magic. That's great stuff!

But. It's imbalanced and I don't like that: you have restrictions for two of the three triggers, and then the sky's the limit for the third?

However, I suppose that's more about me and my desire for better artifact destruction (reprint Smelt, damnit!) and the break in pattern than it is about whether or not Historic does something neat. And mechanically, it does, while also hitting some great flavor notes.

So I'm going to let my grumpy slide here.
Kicker: Kicker is good.

they're removing the term 'mana pool' from cards? I guess that it makes some sense-lands haven't referenced this since Sixth Edition. Why not make other cards the same way? Still, it seems weird.

And that's it! The other stuff-more inclusive pronoun usage, planeswalker damage change, a line between mechanical and flavor text-I'm all good with these things and hopeful that they will improve the experience of playing Magic.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

More Ex...Experiments

If the post titles look goofy, that's because I'm going to try and take them from Grimlock's dialog in games and shows and that dialog is frequently...stilted.

A solid weekend of goldfishing made one thing perfectly clear: I needed more mana. Not more lands, so much as ways to get mana into play.

Yeah, I wanted to keep all the dinosaurs in but 40 creatures is too many if I cannot actually play them.

So cards like Relentless Raptor, Imperial Aerosaur, Belligerent Brontodon, Ancient Brontodon, Burning Sun's Avatar, Dissension in the Ranks (which I love but not here) and Dusk Legion Dreadnought had to go.

Star of Extinction
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Card draw:
Vanquisher's Banner
Shamanic Revelation
Tooth and Nail

Comander's Sphere
Explosive Vegetation

Of these, Star of Extinction is definitely 'the glory of cool things'. The rest I think can be justified: synergies with the other cards in deck, card draw and lifegain, mana fixing. All of these things help with the 'create giant monsters' plan.

Of the notable cuts, Burning Sun's Avatar just doesn't do enough. If it hit every creature for 3 or every opponent for 3, or had ANY static abilities (first strike, trample, hell even a Pyrohemia on a stick would be OK) then I'd consider it. But the enter the battlefield effect isn't strong enough without some kind of flicker effect and there just isn't room in the deck. Imperial Aerosaur I hated cutting because flyers are always solid but again, the ETB effect isn't strong enough and paying four mana for a 2/2 flyer isn't worth it.

I really want to use Dissension in the Ranks. A LOT. It's so perfect for Commander, as it can really bork someone's combat. But it's expensive and requires me to leave mana up to do...what? No, I'm already attacking with giant lizards. Hence, Pyrohemia: it does something similar in terms damaging creatures and it works well with the Enrage mechanic.

There are some better dinosaurs to consider acquiring: Goring Ceratops creates problems for opponents but at 7 mana...yike. Regisaur Alpha is also a card that should make it: five mana is incredibly reasonable and the static ability is huge, because it means that my future investments in Large Monsters might have a chance to do something before a sorcery level boardwipe prevents it.

But, it's time for some real world testing, don't you think?

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Masters 25 Review

Weeeeellllllllll, the new Masters set has been revealed.

I know you're all itching to know what I think.


I really like the inclusion of the original set as the watermark. That's rad. I don't know that it should be done in core sets, since I think that might be confusing and the design for most core sets is meant to include newer players, not to mention be Standard legal and a reprint with an old set symbol might be confusing.

But in sets like these? Approved.

Definitely a couple surprises: Armageddon being the biggest one for me. I have come around to the notion that mass land destruction is unfun, instead I'm all about cards like Stone Rain or nonbasic land destruction.That said, I cannot argue with Armageddon's value as a representative of Magic's old days.

I'm disappointed to see Disenchant, though: moving that effect to Green was a smart move, yet Wizards doesn't seem to be able to let it go from white.

Gods Willing is a nice reprint though, as is Thalia. Valor in Akros is a surprise-I didn't know this card existed-and I feel as though that's a card I should pick up copies of. It seems like a useful ability in any midrange deck and a great card in Commander.

Flash is the big surprise: that card got banned for creating a turn 0 kill deck. In a way, I suppose, it's indicative of how many remarkable cards there are in Magic's history to choose from. Everybody has a card they love.

Ghost Ship is a big 'why?' It already had a reprint in Time Spiral and was not, that I know of, beloved. Still, the artwork is pretty cool. Speaking of: the artwork for Arcane Denial I like a lot, too.

The card I'm surprised is missing: Boomerang. It hasn't seen a printing in years and it's just as iconic as Man-o'-War (another excellent reprint).

Ihsan's Shade is a surprise, as is Ravenous Chupacabra. The Shade because they don't like protection cards anymore (though I suppose they had to pick something from the Homelands set), and the Chupacabra because its ability is just brutal in Limited formats. Black has a lot of murdery cards already.

I'm glad to see Phyrexian Obliterator come around again and I doubt they'll ever be able to print enough Relentless Rats. Plus, the new art for Living Death is every death metal album cover, ever.

Blood Moon reprint: good. Browbeat? That's a cool surprise. I always thought that card never got its due.

Reprinting of Eidolon of the Great Revel is most welcome, for the same reason as Phyrexian Obliterator: those suckers are expensive!

If I'm reading it right, Zada, Hedron Grinder is an uncommon and that seems really weird for a Legendary creature. Wizards said that uncommon Legendary creatures was a mistake in the Kamigawa block because it really lessened the coolness factor, so I'm curious about their reasoning.

Seems super meh. Tree of Redemption, while different and weird, is not the mythic I would've liked. Getting a reprint of Master of the Wild Hunt is nice-I've wanted that card for awhile now and its cost was too high to justify for me to get it without having a purpose for it. And I'm never sorry to see Rancor again: That card is just excellent.

Iwamori of the Open Fist-uncommon. This is where I finally notice that all five colors have uncommon legends! That's...really strange, right? I wonder why, unless it's part of the new marketing scheme. Brand synergies might suggest that Dominaria might also have legendary themes going on. That's reach, though, since Masters 25 and Standard are not formats that blend.

Then again, neither was Standard and Commander but they hit the tribal themes in both sets last year.

But moreover: Iwamori isn't that good. Krosan Colossus and Woolly Loxodon too: these big morph creatures that have zero abilities are bad. Summoner's Pact and Protean Hulk getting reprints is nice, I suppose-both those cards are spendy. But only one of them (Pact) is really useful: Protean Hulk slides into Commander decks and after that, doesn't give you much.

I just am not finding a lot to be excited about here.

There are some definite winners here. Vindicate, Prossh, Pillory of the Sleepless, Boros Charm, Blightning; yeah, that's good.

Nicol Bolas is...sigh. I get why it's included but there are SO many better or more interesting or even more valuable cards to include involving him.

Stangg is equally questionable; six mana for a fragile set of creatures...I just never understood the appeal.

Heavy Arbalest? You're going to pick an artifact from Scars of Mirrodin-an artifact heavy set!-and you pick THAT?

Still, that's the only card I really take issue with. I can't say Ensnaring Bridge or Chalice of the Void make me excited but they definitely are worth reprints and Swiftfoot Boots is great for Commander fans.

I'm definitely excited to see the Eventide filter lands reprinted and I wish they'd done all ten. Rishadan Port is also very cool to see again-the card is selling for nearly $60 as a reprint so it's definitely overdue. Myriad Landscape is pretty 'nah' though: Good in Commander, sure, but less awesome in Limited or 60 card constructed. It's not very expensive to acquire too, so I'm just not certain why they'd incorporate it.

All in all, I think this set does a good job appealing to a broad range of tastes, formats, and community needs. It isn't perfect but I think it's pretty accomplished, all things considered.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Every Frame A Message

This video from Rhystic Studies on the evolution of Magic's card frames is comprehensive and very cool. Check it out; he goes deep into every possible change they make in Magic cards.

I can't say I agree with the conclusions about Amonkhet's invocations, though. Especially given the kinds of cards that get reprinted; valuable ones that players want more copies of, not just cool things that nobody will touch.

Containment Priest, Wrath of God, Cryptic Command, Force of Will-look at this list! (If you can. GOD this is hard to read). That is chock full of interesting or highly desired cards. People don't want them for display purposes or just to show off. Certainly some percentage of them wants this but I doubt it is a significant portion.

Which means that the function has to trump form in the end. I don't care what time has done to soften the impression of the Amonkhet masterpieces by the masses, they were and are functionally a disaster, and that means that they are a failure in a key manner. That they can be appreciated aesthetically wasn't the problem-hell there were things I even liked about some of the look.

The problem was that nobody was able to play with their toys-and that's what toys are for.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Grimlock, Dinobot Leader

I told everyone I was going to do this: Grimlock, Dinobot Leader.

1 Savage Stomp
1 Commune with Dinosaurs
1 Thunderherd Migration
1 Cultivate
1 Caravan Vigil
1 Lay of the Land
1 Frenzied Tilling
1 Sol Ring
1 Sensei's Divining Top
1 Sleek Schooner
1 Dusk Legion Dreadnought
1 Bomat Bazaar Barge
1 Untethered Express
1 Peacewalker Colossus
1 Consulate Dreadnought
1 Renegade Freighter
1 Aradara Express
1 Sky Skiff
1 Cultivator's Caravan
1 Darksteel Ingot

1 Relentless Raptor
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 Imperial Aerosaur
1 Thrashing Brontodon
1 Overgrown Armasaur
1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
1 Crested Herdcaller
1 Cacophodon
1 Silverclad Ferocidons
1 Frilled Deathspitter
1 Needletooth Raptor
1 Etali, Primal Storm
1 Charging Tuskodon
1 Sky Terror
1 Raging Swordtooth
1 Belligerent Brontodon
1 Shining Aerosaur
1 Wakening Sun's Avatar
1 Kinjalli's Sunwing
1 Bellowing Aegisaur
1 Snapping Sailback
1 Thundering Spineback
1 Ravenous Daggertooth
1 Ranging Raptors
1 Grazing Whiptail
1 Colossal Dreadmaw
1 Ancient Brontodon
1 Thrash of Raptors
1 Sun-Crowned Hunters
1 Raptor Hatchling
1 Burning Sun's Avatar
1 Charging Monstrosaur
1 Gishath, Sun's Avatar

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 Pit Fight
1 Dissension in the Ranks

This is clearly a very early build. I basically threw every dinosaur from the Ixalan block in, a few cool vehicles from Kaladesh and called it good. It's going to need some work. Probably a LOT of work. The mana curve is weird, and I probably need to work on ensuring I'll have enough mana to pay for what I want to do.

But I'm good with this as a starting point. I was just excited to get this deck off the ground so I could practice with it in the real world. I'm going to bring a little Transformers toy with me so I can use Grimlock's ability and have some fun!