Thursday, May 31, 2012

Operation: Mindcrime

With a blue/black discard theme, coming up with a theme song to name this deck was easier than it usually is.
3 Expunge
2 Impulse
2 Countersquall 
3 Condescend
3 Serum Visions
4 Lobotomy          

4 Ravenous Rats
1 Blizzard Specter
3 Doomsday Specter
4 Arctic Merfolk
3 Nightscape Familiar
2 Ghastlord of Fugue
4 Man-o'-War
9 Island
4 Underground River
9 Swamp
I already have one U/B discard deck but it's very spell oriented. My attempt with this build was to give it a more creature-oriented theme, using Enter the Battlefield effects to really push it forward, instead of a spell-centric build. This was in part because at the time, spells were the way decks like this were made: the support for creatures just wasn't there yet. Over time, this deck has evolved with some better creatures, more focused on the theme while still allowing me to get an early game in (especially with Ravenous Rats and Arctic Merfolk.) Plus, this build allowed me to put in spells like Lobotomy, which just wouldn't fit in the other U/B deck.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Hidden Fees

Even though I've been playing a long time, I still forget how certain abilities play out in a game. Testing the Name of the Game has been a reminder of what some cards actually cost, as opposed to the converted mana cost.

The offenders: Raven Familiar and Hystrodon.

In two matchups against stonethorn, I found myself unable to really do anything with Hystrodon: the card was coming out on turn three, being Vapor Snagged or worse, or chump-block material. Why? Because I'd try to play it as a morph, not being able to easily get to five mana, and the cost to play then morph the Hystrodon ate so much tempo that it didn't matter: That was two full turns of me not doing something.

Raven Familiar follows a similar arc but at least I'd get a card draw out of it and a flying blocker for a turn. That immediate payoff means that I am running a Ponder that blocks, instead of hoping for a 3/4 that may draw me a card after six mana and may pay off on turn 4 or later.

I've been keeping Hystrodon in the deck because I thought that would be my path around the Symbiotic Deployment, should I get stuck with it. But Patagia Viper costs only one more and gives me a flyer with two creatures I can tap for cards, if I need to. On top of that, those two tokens get huge from the Murkfiend Liege; that's a much better deal.

Finally, this deck is a bit mana shy. It doesn't really do much until turn 3 and that is just too late. So: Hystrodons are out.

The new deck will be:

4 Symbiotic Deployment
2 Verdant Embrace

3 Trygon Predator
4 Murkfiend Liege
3 Raven Familiar
3 Patagia Viper
3 Wirewood Elf

3 Temporal Spring
3 Ponder
3 Fallow Earth
3 Plow Under
3 Donate

11 Forest
11 Island
1 Simic Growth Chamber

Why Wirewood Elf? Because who is going to play that card otherwise?

OK, it's also because I own them and My Money > Less of My Money.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hoist the Name of the Game

This will be a new thing:

2 Jhessian Infiltrator
2 Vedalken Heretic
4 Mystic Snake
4 Shorecrasher Mimic
3 Murkfiend Liege
3 Pygmy Hippo
4 Coiling Oracle

3 Snakeform

2 Nature's Will
4 Favor of the Overbeing
3 Bear Umbra

4 Winter Orb

9 Forest
9 Island
4 Tropical Island
Name of the Game
4 Symbiotic Deployment

3 Urborg Elf
3 Trygon Predator
3 Selkie Hedge-Mage
2 Murkfiend Liege
4 Hystrodon
4 Raven Familiar

3 Temporal Spring
3 Ponder
3 Fallow Earth
3 Plow Under
3 Donate
11 Forest
11 Island

Two green/blue decks. One of them trying to use Murkfiend Liege and Shorecrasher Mimic to quickly win a game, the other wanting to Donate a Symbiotic Deployment to cut off an opponent's draw step, then bounce things to the top of their library and win through attrition.

I've had Name of the Game built for quite some time. I owned Donate but did not want to build an Illusions of Grandeur deck, because everyone was doing it, so I thought it would be more amusing to give someone a Symbiotic Deployment. And it was, until I had an opponent drop a Verdant Force on me and proceeded to outdraw the table.

Fast forward a few years: I make Hoist and it's a Liege decks (which everyone ought to know I love) but Lieges are expensive and with Winter Orb, I don't really want to spend my mana on a 5 casting cost creature that untaps my creatures. I need to untap my lands.

Also, the secret of enemy colored Liege decks is this: they aren't Liege decks, they are Shapeshifter decks. Hoist cares a lot more about Shorecrasher Mimic than it does about Murkfiend Liege.

So if I want to take Murkfiend Liege out, what to do? Well, in this case I decided to revamp the Name of the Game into a deck that still wants to cut off the opponent's draw step but if I can't do that, I can make tokens and draw cards with them, giving me an overwhelming advantage.

Hoist now has -3 Murkfield Liege, +2 Jhessian Infiltrator, Veldaken Heretic.

Name of the Game is now - 3 Selkie Hedge-Mage, -3 Urborg Elf (this elf belongs in a U/B/G deck), -4 Raven Familiar, +2 Murkfield Liege, +2 Verdant Embrace, and 4 yet to be determined mana producers. Still processing that one but something good will come of it.

The bonus is that I know Hoist works already. It's been performing well before I made changes. Name of the Game will bear more watching but the upside is: I can test both decks and occasionally get a win when I'm feeling disgruntled.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

In Threes

I suffered some beatdown with Argus Kor.

Now, I should say that I consider that to be a good thing, overall. In a 4 person game I managed to make myself a big enough threat vs. Kiki-Jiki, Jenara, Asura of War and Gwafa Hazid that the Jenara player decided I had to be taken down first-despite Kiki-Jiki comboing us out. Twice.

Nevertheless, being able to put up some game at Red Castle always feels good. Those players are gunning for bear when they play Commander so when I've got something that can weather that assault I figure I'm on the right track.

Both the Gwafa Hazid and Jenara player suggested what Indigo.Righter did: Rise of the Hobgoblins. I'm not sure if I undervalued that card or just missed it but it does seem like it would be worthwhile. Marshall's Anthem might be cut for that. Something certainly will: When three people agree on the same card, it's time to give it a chance in the sun.

Powerstone Minefield was another suggestion and while I do like it, I'm not sure the Commander format is too concerned with dissuading tiny creatures from attacking. Still, it plays nice with Argus and might be something I can combine with other cards to make this deck stronger. It might also be something to keep in mind for a future deck. You just never know when something is going to be the perfect fit.

There's also Captain's Maneuver, a card I love but is more defensive. It's perfect for this format though; if I've got another deck that can use it and I don't have it in another deck already (though I think I do) I'll pull that out of the binder for sure.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Commander: Agrus Kos, Wojek Veteran

I built this as my first Commander deck. It definitely represents that kitchen sink kind of design I tend to go for when playing Commander. First: the man himself. Next: the deck.

Brion Stoutarm
 Springjack Knight
 Aven Mindcensor
 Blade of the Sixth Pride
 Blood Knight
 Dust Elemental
 Dragon Whelp
 Eron the Relentless
 Wildfire Emissary
 Razia, Boros Archangel
 Sunhome Enforcer
 Araba Mothrider
 Hand of Honor
 Patron of the Akki
  Silver Knight
 Jareth, Leonine Titan
 Flowstone Charger

Goblin Legionnaire
 Flametongue Kavu
 Laccolith Grunt
 Devout Witness
 Goblin Marshal
Crater Hellion
 Knight of Dawn
 Soltari Guerrillas
 Dwarven Berserker
 Zhalfirin Crusader
 Storm Shaman
 Bloodmark Mentor
 Belligerent Hatchling
 Hearthfire Hobgoblin
 Hobgoblin Dragoon
 Nobilis of War
 Kor Sanctifiers
 Victory's Herald
 Angelic Overseer  
Serrated Arrows
Sword of the Paruns

 Spectral Procession
 Waves of Aggression
Alpha Brawl
 In the Web of War
Ghostly Prison
Glory of Warfare
Marshal's Anthem
Lightning Helix
Shining Shoal
Orim's Thunder
Fault Line
Reflect Damage
Gorilla War Cry
Fire at Will
16 Plains
16 Mountain
Boros Garrison
Forbidding Watchtower
Shinka, the Bloodsoaked Keep
Ghitu Encampment
Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion

Lots of creatures in this one but unusual ones. With Argus giving the kind of boost he does, my goal was to find red creatures with power less than toughness and white creatures with toughness less than power. For those colors, it's usually the other way around.

There's the red and white creatures as well: there's no sense in ignoring a good synergy. I just don't think I have enough red and white creatures to support a whole Commander deck's worth of offense. That might change after Ravnica, but for now things are what they are.

I don't know that there's anything too interesting to talk about here but I can tell you that I think it's a fun deck to play. Let's go with that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

All the money in the world won't keep the diggers from my grave

We start our day up against a R/B bloodthirst deck. I managed to have a Thermal Glider in hand to hold off the turn 1 Vexing Devil and from there, I got a Cho-Manno and Angelic Voices to utterly stall the ground war. Soon after I began swinging for 4 in the air and that was that..

In game 2, he started with an Aether Vial which I Abolish. Follows up with a Duskhunter Bat and I respond with Lin Sivvi. After I take one in the air, a Vampire Outcasts arrives, which  I'm able to shut down with Bound in Silence.

Let's hear it for Bound in Silence.

But after another swing for 1, I face a Blood Ogre and I don't have multiple copies of Bound in Silence. I'm concerned that I'm going to be taking a lot very soon, however he's unable to kill Lin Sivvi and once I've got Nightwind and Thermal Glider up and my army just amasses and swings.

In the next game, I'm up against zombies and I get blown out in game 2 because I cannot get the 5th Plains to cast Hallowed Burial. Recurring Gempalm Polluter does me in. I started off strong with a turn 2 Shared Triumph and Ramosian Sargent but I couldn't follow up on that and I got a second Hallowed Burial instead of a Plains on his alpha swing. Hard to die that way, especially after holding out for quite a few turns, holding off the swarm with pro-black creatures dug up by Lin Sivvi but sometimes that's the way it goes.

Next game starts off a little better for me at first but a Zombie Apocalypse removes my early advantage. I remove his advantage with Hallowed Burial and we start over.

Whew! With a Crusade on the board I start to use my Squadron Hawk to get another Lin Sivvi in response to it meeting a Nameless Inversion. At that point, I'm digging by pro-black creatures back up and he can't stop it.

Better lucky than good, sometimes.

Finally, facing a G/B undying deck, I once again found myself looking for my pro black creatures to pull me through. Hallowed Burial once again was an all star until game 2 when he dropped Griselbrand on me.

Holy crap that card is good. He was nearly able to rebound because of it, drawing a fresh seat of 7 and quickly rebuilding the army. Nevertheless I still managed to overcome, which was just as much luck as skill. In my favor: He didn't have a way to gain life due to pro-black creatures to block, so recovering from his draw was pretty difficult.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

White Vision Blowout

Once upon a time there was a band called Course of Empire and this song was, for what will be obvious reasons, picked as the title.
1 Crusade
1 Angelic Voices
1 Shared Triumph
4 Hallowed Burial

1 Reinforcements
1 Bound in Silence
3 Abolish
1 Ballista Squad
1 Cho-Manno, Revolutionary
1 Jhovall Queen
1 Nightwind Glider
2 Ramosian Captain
2 Ramosian Sergeant
1 Reveille Squad
1 Riftmarked Knight
1 Shield Dancer
1 Steadfast Guard
1 Thermal Glider
2 Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero
1 Amrou Scout
4 Defiant Falcon
1 Defiant Vanguard
1 Outrider en-Kor

2 Eye of Singularity   
18 Plains
1 Ruins of Trokair
1 Remote Farm
1 Kor Haven
2 Mistveil Plains
1 Secluded Steppe
The resilience of a Rebel deck coupled with the exclusionary tactics of an Eye of Singularity. That's it.

In some respects, this deck is hard to improve: what rebels am I going to include that I haven't considered? On the other hand: a third Eye could help this deck. Against some decks, Eyes are like playing a second copy of Wrath, except it hits any nonbasic land permanent. Wrath of God plus Balance? Something like that. It certainly is able to do a number on decks that strive for consistency or want to generate a lot of tokens. I don't know what I'd cut for another Eye though. Rebels are mana hungry as a strategy so removing a land is a bad idea. Bound in Silence might be too cutesy but it is a searchable way to control creatures. Potentially handy when facing down a big bad.

We shall see. Time to take this on a ride.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


Here's what I opened from three packs of M12 and three of Avacyn Restored, as we sat down to do a Sealed 'tournament':

Haunted Guardian
Wurm's Tooth
2 Angel's Feather (really? Yeesh)

Dragonskull Summit

Timberland Guide
Druid's Familiar
Elvish Archdruid
Bountiful Harvest
Llanowar Elves
Runeclaw Bear

2 Stern Mentor
2 Havengul Skaab
2 Aven Fleetwing
Galvanic Alchemist
Peel From Realit
Gryff Vanguard
Favorable Winds
Merfolk Looter
Skywinder Drake
Djinn of Wishes
Mist Raven
Alchemist's Apprentice
Chasm Drake

Rite of Ruin
Dangerous Wager
Riot Ringleader
Volcanic Dragon
Act of Treason
Goblin Fireslinger
2 Manic Vandal
Gorehorn Minotaurs

Devout Chaplain
Holy Justiciar
2 Peregrine Griffin
Guardian's Pledge
Angelic Wall
Call to Serve

Gideon's Lawkeeper
Griffin Sentinel
Righteous Blow
Farbog Explorer
Timely Reinforcements
Spectral Gateguards
Stormfront Pegasus
Stonehorn Dignitary
Moonlight Geist
Elite Vanguard
Herald of War

Human Frailty
2 Essence Harvest
Warpath Ghoul
Soulcage Fiend
2 Devouring Swarm
Zombie Infestation
Gloom Surgeon

Bone Splinters
Drifting Shsade
Driver of the Dead
Duskhunter Bat
Crypt Creeper
Mind Rot
Reassembling Skeleton
Death Wind

Sitting down with a bunch of guys and beer, with no prize on the line, it's hard to call it a tournament but...whatever.

What I played:
8 Swamp
8 Plains

Bone Splinters
Drifting Shade
Driver of the Dead
Duskhunter Bat
Crypt Creeper
Mind Rot
Reassembling Skeleton
Death Wind
Devouring Swarm
The black was a selection of removal and discard with flying creatures. My experience has told me that limited formats hate discard so if it can be run, it's frequently brutal.
Gideon's Lawkeeper
Griffin Sentinel
Righteous Blow
Farbog Explorer
Timely Reinforcements
Spectral Gateguards
Stormfront Pegasus
Stonehorn Dignitary
Moonlight Geist
Elite Vanguard
Herald of War
Peregrine Griffin
The white had a lot of early beats, with plenty of evasive creatures and some removal. I've been told time and again how great Timely Reinforcements is in Limited so when I saw that, it was a real pull into that color.

It was hard to cut down to 41 cards but I did OK on mana all night, which was good. All of my games were close, or at least they felt close, and I was often eking out wins at the last minute.

One particularly lucky play had me with 4 Plains, a Swamp and a Smallpox in hand, confronted with a creature I couldn't block due to not having any black creatures and his being enchanted with Predator's Gambit.

He dropped a Demonlord of Ashmouth and I was pretty sure I was in for a bad time, until I peeled a Swamp off the top. One Smallpox later, he's got nothing and I'm attacking with a Drifting Shade. SUPERLUCK!

Speaking of: the Drifting Shade was my MVP. In my second matchup, a pumped Shade was what helped me get past a Kruin Striker with Angelic Armaments. I am really surprised how good a Shade is in Sealed although I shouldn't be: a scalable creature that has evasion? That's going to be solid. Still, I put it in more because it would be a flyer and am very happy with how things turned out.

In the last game of my third matchup, I had just been hit by an Archwing Dragon when I peeled off a Distress, cast it and saw the Dragon and a Angelic Armaments. I swear that card is stalking me. I chose the Armaments and here's why: the Dragon has to be cast every turn. Since I can't kill it, if any of his other creatures get flying I'm boned. I had a Bone Shards in hand but that couldn't stop the Dragon-it could take out another creature but it can't destroy the artifact. On top of that: since the Dragon has to be re-cast, that means that he's going to spend 4 mana on that and not on something that might help create an advantage for him. I can keep pumping my Drifting Shade, cast other creatures as needed and maintain the edge.

Turns out: that was the correct choice. I was able to increase my pressure on him while he kept trying to race with the Dragon and in the end, it wasn't enough. So huzza, Armaments, you need to abide by the Court Order.

Most asked question of the night: Can I double pair Soulbond?
A: No.

Also, Soulbond is now to be known as Vegas Wedding, due to the duration and frequency of it.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


While others are probably going to engage in the release events, I'm going to a friend's place to do sealed and drink beer.

It's a complicated life, I know.

That said, the article at Gathering Magic on AR sealed does seem to have some neat thought experiments about what could be done. I know I won't be able to count on as strong a white pool because the format is Innistrad block + M12 sealed and I'm planning on getting some M12 to go with my Avacyn Restored.

That said; things that do bad stuff to White-specifically in Red and Black-will hold a little more weight for me. If I get a Combust, for example, I might prize the red a little more than I ought to.

One of the reasons I like Sealed, however, is that I have to evaluate cards differently. I may not open a Combust: What then? My opponents may be a bit more psyched about the glory of cool things, giving me an opportunity to take advantage of a less seen path. Heck, I may get a whole lot of good Blue/Green.

Stop laughing! It could totally happen.
/it totally can't

Still, the important thing is to look at what you have, not what you wish you had or what is good in this sweet Angels deck you've been building for seven years or how dominant Tamiyo will be my deck that doesn't have any other removal.

For me, this usually means some kind of aggro and I like that. I'd like to pull away from it a bit: I have seen some control-ish builds that have knocked me flat, I just never seem to get the cards I need to feel comfortable building that kind of deck in Sealed. But we shall see. Decklists and 'cool plays, bro' on Tuesday!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Stalling for time

Avacyn Restored exists but it isn't out yet.

I've spent a lot of time doing Soradyne stuff and not getting to play as much Magic proper.

So I'm off schedule, as I prefer to introduce decks on Thursdays so I have a weekend to play cards and get info/stories/etc.

I will share this article from Gathering Magic about ritual. I liked it for a few reasons, most importantly it helps explain why I prefer to gather with people to play rather than play online. Namely: to me, ritual is created out of interaction and when online, 80% of the things you can interact with go away. So it's harder to create a community out of that.

Not impossible by any means, just more difficult.

I can also tell you that I've been inspired by the complaints that mono-Red Commander decks are awful. So I'm making one. Also included: Chandra Ablaze and a Koth of the Hammer that stonethorn gave me for my birthday.

But for today, not much. Decklist on Thursday, I promise. Then I'll probably talk about the Avacyn Restored stuff I did on the weekend but, one thing at a time.