Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Thing That Should Not Be

Brought to you by HP Lovecraft and Metallica. A new deck, even, born from the insanity of the Commander runs.
4x Chancellor of the Spires
2x Dimir Aqueduct
4x Forest
4x Gravedigger
10x Island
4x Jace's Archivist
2x Krosan Cloudscraper
4x Looter il-Kor
4x Mind Funeral
2x Simic Growth Chamber
4x Stonewood Invocation
6x Swamp
4x The Mimeoplasm
4x Tome Scour
2x Trickbind
Whenever I build a new deck-especially one as weird as this, where the goal is to mill the opponent out as much as possible but NOT to win, instead to steal their best creatures via Mimeoplasm and combine to make a flying or shadow creature of my own, if necessary, or just a huge body if not, to win.

But yeah, it can mill out too, though that's harder to accomplish. I don't know why I tend to shy away from milling strategies but I do. Frequently these strategies don't feel proactive enough for me and that may be part of the reason; another is that good control cards frequently cost a bit of money and thus are more difficult to get to work.

Anyway; this is the new trick! We'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I'll see you in Hell

I started off vs a Cloudpost variant, wishing to cast Eldrazi in a hurry and rapidly found myself facing a Ulamog's Crusher, with an It That Betrays coming soon. I cast Faith's Fetters on the Crusher to stall for time and begin dredging Nightmare Void in order to keep the opponent's hand empty.

Artisan of Kozilek swings at me and I sacrifice Academy Rector and a Swamp. Using the Rector's ability, I get Confiscate to attach to the Artisan and then....

We don't know what. Do I take 10 or do I just get the giant creature?

Eventually we decide that I don't have to take damage, I get the Artizan and swing until my opponent's dead. Turns out, that's the right play both from a gameplay and a rules standpoint. So go us.

Game 2: I cast Cabal Therapy blind, with a board of Urza's Mine and Power Plant, naming Ulamog's Crusher. I get lucky (sorta) and hit on that, but I fuck up the use of my Sensei's Top through inappropriate mouseclicks and die to Spawnsire and Ulamog. The drawback to playing online is that it can be easier to fuck things up electronically than it is when physically handling the cards. I could've had it, but it was not meant to be.

Game 3: Lots of Top for me...but now what? He's got Cloudpost and Urza's Tower, I get a Phyrexian Ghoul on all I have to do is somehow win without seeing a Rector (yoink!) and hope he doesn't accelerate into death.

I use Nightmare Void to keep the worst things off my back for a couple turns but in the meantime, the Urzatron gets assembled and I just have a 2/2 in play. It see-saws for a bit while I hold off then control It That Betrays with Confiscate but once Eye of Ugin comes out, the searching for Eldrazi spells comes and though I'm able to force the discard of an Ulamog, the search happens and I can't prevent the second.

The deck didn't fail me so much as my play did. Still, maybe there's some tightening up to do. There's always work to do on playskill...

Next up, I was in a three player game, against a G/W beast deck that I'd built and loaned to someone, and a mono-B nasty that runs Phyrexian Obliterator.

My hand had a Confiscate in it but it also had a Sensei's Divining Top, so I kept. Unfortunately, I think I blew the plays again. I managed to use/sacrifice three (three!) Academy Rectors to put a Faith's Fetters on a couple nasties and Confiscate another. But I didn't dredge correctly to get rid of the cards I didn't need, so while I managed to hold out for a bit, eventually the G/W player landed a Rampaging Baloth and that was it.

This deck needs me to practice with it more. Also, I don't like having cards I cannot ever cast in my hand, mocking me like a high school girl. I may like Mythic Proportions but I like having castable spells more.

Next game:
Vs. B/W humans-with the Entomb, Dearly Departed start. Knowing this, I cast Cabal Therapy mostly blind. Next turn, I'm able to cast Academy Rector and take Mother of Runes.

The problem comes when I use Top and find 'land, Confiscate, Mythic Proportions'. This happened in nearly every recent game I've played online. I've been having to dredge or attempt to shuffle away these cards and it's making this deck do things it doesn't want to. I may have to sub out the Caves of Kolios for Marsh Flats.

It's the little things but they add up and being able to use the tools I put in a deck is one of those helpful things that I need to keep in mind when I build/re-build them.

I end up being unable to remove enough creatures and I can't get the combo going, so I find myself overrun by humans eventually. The end comes when the 2nd Dark Confidant comes down.

Next match: BW Humans via Fuz
At this point, I've subbed the Mythic Proportions out for Eldrazi Conscription.

Slow start again, with Swamp, Basilica as my opening plays, vs Champion of the Parish and Tireless Tribe. A Dearly Departed gets discarded to the Tribe and the game ends soon.

Game two, despite having a brilliant turn 1 of Ritual, Buried, and a turn 2 of two humans at 4/4, I'm able to hold out until a Phyrexian Ghoul arrives on turn 3, I suck up 8 damage then cast Rector turn 4, wait, and at the ends step search for Conscription, giving me turn 5 swing for 12 with 2 Annihilator. I pull it out afterward.

Game three: Champion leads, I have nothing again, except a Persecute and a Nightmare Void--but these cards are excellent later in the game; they aren't helping me set stuff up. After a Tireless Tribe and a Blood Celebrant comes in, I've got nothing, still and my draw is a Confiscate after taking 3. So things are looking rough.

When Mom shows up turn 3 I know I'm in trouble, especially since my response is to play a Nantuko Husk. I'm facing an absurd army and nothing to do. It's...troublesome. Putting out a Phyrexian Ghoul next does nothing for me, and when the next human drops has protection from black (Death Speakers!), that's game.

Lesson #1: enable your enablers. Sac-lands and Top have been a combo for years; I should've been on that bandwagon long ago. Change made.

Lesson #2: when something clearly better comes along to help you, take it. I don't run strict enough decks to use cards that don't help me. Conscription is the better choice and I should just take it. Mythic Proportions will find its way into something else.

Lesson #3: Bad matchups are bad. Die, Die was built to handle the slower combo decks/control ones, with the discard and activated abilities. Games that want to beat me by turn 4 will frequently have the upper edge. That's OK; there's always another deck.

Lesson #4: Casting Cabal Therapy blind is...suboptimal. However, no choice remains when the decks that I end up playing are so diverse. I generally think this adds to the fun but I'll acknowledge that for someone taking the game seriously, this play is absurd.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Die, Die My Darling

The name taken from the classic Misfits love song.
2 Confiscate
2 Faith's Fetters
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Aura of Silence
2 Seal of Doom
2 Mythic Proportions
3 Persecute
3 Conjurer's Ban
3 Cabal Therapy
2 Nightmare Void
1 Tithe

2 Nantuko Husk
4 Academy Rector
4 Phyrexian Ghoul

2 Orzhov Basilica
8 Swamp
4 Caves of Koilos
8 Plains
1 Salt Flats
1 Enlightened Tutor
4 Sensei's Divining Top
I bet you're looking at this and thinking: What a goddamn mess. That's probably not an inaccurate assessment.

Nevertheless, this deck is fun as hell to play. Sensei's Divining Top keeps the off-color cards out of my hand, the Ghouls and the Cabal Therapys let me kill off Academy Rector and swing for up to 12 with trample, or tutor for a card I need, Tithe lets me shuffle, Aura of Silence can be put to work vs heavy artifact/enchantment decks and to top it all off, cards like Persecute help keep the opponent from disrupting things, or slow them down enough that I can assemble the combo and in the case of Nightmare Void, let's me mill the top two cards, if they are unnecessary, so I can dig deeper with the Top.

Until recently there probably wasn't much I could do to make this deck a lot better but looking at it now, two cards stand out and being something I should keep in mind: Eldrazi Conscription and Debtor's Knell.

Eldrazi Conscription is better for two reasons; Colorless, so if I get the mana I can just cast the creature and board impact, which is just bigger than Mythic Proportions.

Debtor's Knell is interesting because it creates a larger problem for my opponents in the long game but it's also probably best in multiplayer. A deck like this one wants to combo out pretty quickly and while swinging for 12 in a turn is frequently the beginning of a quick end for most, assembling that combo isn't always doable. But with the discard, Debtor's Knell takes on some interesting roles and could help give this deck some steel in the spine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


With a new deck there's just no idea what the results will be.

Draw has a Mountain and a Plains--have to keep, because red is hard to get. It's a weird deck to try and play and I'm certain I don't have the mana right.

I'm up against a B/G Birthing Pod deck and neither one of us do much, but I'm stuck on mana and when my Plains gets hit by Acidic Slime, I know I'm in trouble. Eventually, a Sylvan Ranger gets eaten by the Pod, into a Bone Shredder, which gets eaten and turned into Savara. Platnium Emperion makes an arrival and I know that time is short.

I draw an Island. Sigh. Despite putting the land a little higher than usual I'm mana hosed. I eventually get a Plains to send the Emperion on a Journey to Nowhere, which allows me to survive for one turn.


Game two: I have Island, Glacial Fortress, and a mess of stuff that I don't think is going to help me much. But here we go.

On turn 3 I don't get another land and Birthing Pod appears, next turn I'm facing a Myr Superion and my play is a Howling Mine.


The Mine gets destroyed to be replaced by Seizan, Perverter of Truth and at this point it's not even worth it.

Next game.
Humans with Dearly Departed. I managed to Journey to Nowhere the first two creatures...after that, I have two Chromeshell Crabs and nothing else. Knights start to pop out at obscene sizes and though I'm able to trade a Vedalken Plotter for a White Knight, things generally look bad. I'm stalling, but there's no way to win yet.

I land a Zedruu and start giving away my Journey to Nowheres so I can draw cards and gain life. At this point, the Human deck just poops out and gives him lands. I use Chromeshell to donate a Bronze Bombshell for a huge knight, swing for 12 and win.

Who knew?

Final game
This was as multiplayer epic against mono-B nasty sub-vampire theme and R/B allies. Whoa.

The game went for two and a half hours. So that's the first thing you need to know. Second thing is: I was not on my best play, due to a very long (but kick ass) weekend. Third is that out of the 23 lands in the deck, I drew 19 of them.

I lost all 4 of my Zedruus to the Allies deck, but not before the game had taken both my opponents to under 10 life and I'd managed to donate Delusions of Grandeur to them. Despite gaining 20 life over the course of the game, I'd taken some pretty ferocious hits from the Allies deck, and hovered around 12 life myself.

Everyone was drawing cards but because I couldn't keep Zedruu alive I was unable to take advantage of the permanents I'd donated. On the plus side, nobody liked having a Delusions on their board and I had two Oblations around, I just needed the time/mana to use them. With six mana up to cast Oblation on whichever player was going to kill me and a Dead/Gone to bounce the worst attacking creature of the surviving player I figured I was doing alright.

What I missed was the Hagra Diabolist and how it let the Allies player gain life. So he'd cast an Ally and gained 6 and then suddenly I realized: Oh crap, he's out of Grandeur range and I didn't kill him!

What I'm going to do here is pause and let everyone realize what Hagra Diabolist actually says, as opposed to what we all thought it said.
An aside: talking to the other players the next day, it's possible that I misread the Ally opponent's life total, that a dice rolled to make it different than it was, or any number of simple misunderstandings/errors happened. For the most part, I blame myself for not clarifying everything I needed to before taking actions.
OK, so that huge fucking mistake aside (which all three of us made), there's just the simple: I should've just killed the Allies player. Which is mistake #2.

Allies is one of those decks that is insidious no matter what the color pairing; it can quickly get out of hand and stage huge comebacks even when checked. This is the fourth time I've played against an Allies deck and every single time, the tribal synergies are such that one-sided Wrath of God level effects are practically needed in order to overcome their relentlessness.

It's almost zombies level bad and zombies are likely the most resilient tribe going, made worse (better) now because of Innistrad goodies.


I turned to stonethorn and said:
"I will never. Loose. To Allies. Again."


He gave a short laugh and gave me a tiny 'Aw, c'mon' look.

And I smiled, because I wanted to let him know I wasn't actually angry.

But I was serious. Anyone playing Allies against me is the player to beat. The deck has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat too many times for me to think any less of it and I will consider it the foremost threat, all other things being equal on a board.

Now there are two things that can happen here: 1) Through variance, the player of the Allies deck (could be anyone-you play the deck first, then the player) suffers beatdown until new decks are built or 2) the Allies player builds a better and better deck, with the mentality being: Fine, you're coming after me, then bring it.

So long as this is done with a healthy sense of fun, I don't see a problem with either scenario and truthfully, I'd prefer to see both happen from time to time, deck to deck. People should be on both ends of the beatdown and it's always good to have a reason to improve a deck.

But sometimes, you just gotta say; You do that again, I'm gunnin' for ya.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Decklist! (I feel a little like the author of QC, announcing 'Comic!' when he doesn't have anything else to say.)
4x Bronze Bombshell
4x Chromeshell Crab

3x Vedalken Plotter
4x Zedruu the Greathearted

4x Dead/Gone
4x Dismantling Blow
4x Oblation

4x Delusions of Mediocrity
4x Journey to Nowhere
1x Temple Bell
1x Howling Mine

8x Island
5x Mountain
8x Plains

2x Glacial Fortress
Ah, the Zedruu deck. Named Groove after the mellow Transformer Protectobot...I actually recommend this link instead, as it explains the OG personality of Groove without descending into 'dirty hippy' bullshit. 
/I loved the Transformers as a kid.

Anyway, I took that name because this deck wants to give things away. Sure, those things aren't very helpful but as a path to victory it's pretty different and feels less dirty than filthy Confusion In The Ranks decks.
/I'll get you someday....

The goal is to a) use cards like Journey to Nowhere, Vedalken Plotter, Delusions of Mediocrity and Howling Mine to use as ways to accelerate and stall until Zedruu gets going b) draw cards off Zedruu and donate useless things like Journey or Mine while pushing cards like Delusions or Bombshell on my opponents c) win via Bombshell donated detonations, Delusion donate-then-destroy interactions (as the controller of the permanent, my opponent will lose 10 life if it leaves play under their control) or beat down with their best creature by using Chromeshell Crab to take it from them. It's not perfect but there's some options there that make things crazy for opponents and give me multiple options to win.

felt like a missing link when I saw it. Something that allows me to kill a small annoying creature and bounce one of my own that I've donated? Sign me up! I'm not opposed to just bouncing a large attacking creature, too, if I haven't had a chance to get things going.

That's the start; let's see how it does!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Never Satisfied

This one was weird but: as an experiment I NO'd into Vorinclex with a Tangle Wire in hand. The game went quickly which is good but I'm not sure if that's a testament to the power of Tangle Wire or Vorinclex.

Game two, I mulliganed to 5 but Karsa's deck was taking too long to set up. It's a 5 color monster if it gets going but nothing is happening and even though I start off with only Elf, Rofellos, once I get a Fangren Firstborn followed by a Tangle Wire, it's over fast.

Still, I think I'm going to cut down to one Vorinclex, to add in some some more juice: one Natural Order, one...I don't know what, yet. The slot is currently inhabited by Symbiotic Wurm and that's not bad but it's also not scary. I just haven't seen the 'oh crap' monster yet that doesn't have 'protection from everything'. But one Vorinclex should work, since in the games when he's useful, he's super useful.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Your order can't plan for everything

Playing NWD against a mono-B infect deck and a U/B Tezzeret deck. The game goes long and the board gets messy; poison counters, Planeswalkers, and me with ten Saproling tokens before my Verdant Force gets killed.

The questionable Wickerbough Elder comes up a card I've been questionable about but can use at the moment through a Torpor Orb to destroy the U/B player's artifacts. I wreck a Wurmcoil Engine to make the creatures more manageable.

The Infect player drops a Fume Spitter which at this point in the game does nothing for him, but he announces the ability anyway.

I tell him: hey, if you give my Elder a -1 counter, I can destroy another artifact, which he does, and I do.

I still lost that game but this story demonstrates why it's so hard to take cards out of my decks; crazy situations come up and I need them! Which is awesome and why I play the game: there really is no way to predict what you're going to deal with and no matter how good my deck is, there's situations where it's terrible and I have to figure out how to get out of a bad scene.

Of course, I may remember this story long after I've been repeatedly burned by being unable to use the Elder because I was attacking with Fengren Firstborn, so it's important for me to not take this as Evidence that Elder is excellent.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

No, no, no.

Sometimes, I have to see it with my own eyes to understand it. Yes, I was told that the Checklist card was going to take a common slot-replacing the land in boosters, so less land was going to be printed (three instead of the traditional five) but I didn't exactly get what that meant.

Now that I've opened two boxes of Innistrad, I do:

The pile on the far left is nothing but checklist cards. I need these under one and only one circumstance: to replace a double-faced card, specifically one in the Innistrad set. There is nothing else in Magic that requires use of these cards and will probably never (if ever) be used or referenced again.

The barely smaller pile to the right of that is advertisements. I don't ever need these. I have bought your product, WotC; advertising to me at this point is meaningless and wasteful. It's like finding a tiny can of Coke inside a two-liter bottle of Coke. There isn't more cola goodness inside, just a can where cola exists while the aluminum takes up space.

The second-to-last pile is tokens. These have all kinds of uses! Many players find them enjoyable, the art is pretty, they do come in handy from time to time. I don't use them often myself but that doesn't change the fact that if, for example, a card makes a zombie token instead of a creature, (and at last count there were 25 cards that mention this) then those cards can fill that role. Forever, most likely, because token creatures tend to be the same--in the case of zombies, 2/2s. Not 100% of the time but enough that players can make the token cards work across multiple environments.

And do you know what's on the back of the token card? Advertisements. Just like the ones in the pile before. Fine, whatever; Bill in Marketing is insisting that we do branding shit and now instead of adding value to the players in a booster pack, we have to holler at them to make sure that they know the product they bought has product to buy.


But that last pile, the one on the right? The smallest one. That contains basic land. The stuff you need to play a game of Magic. Seriously: You cannot play a game without lands: it would be like removing dice from a game of Yahtzee.

Now, I have to say that "the sample size is clearly a small one" and "My experience isn't equal to everyone's" because if I don't, someone's going to call me out on it, rightly or wrongly. But if I was a new player and I needed lands, I would be really angry that I just spent $200 on Magic cards and didn't get enough land to BUILD A DECK. As it is, I'm still pretty irritated that I didn't get enough basic lands (lands that are very pretty and a critical part of evoking the world they're building, you know, flavor stuff) and here's why:

See that stack of advertisements above? Those ads that are also put on the back of token cards?

Those ads should have been lands. Took me five seconds to think of a great solution, while my displeasure at not getting the building blocks for the game I love will last for months.