Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The challenge

I'm going to PAX tomorrow, leaving early to meet some friends. Friday I'll probably trip about and Saturday I hope I can find some people to play Magic with but if not, no worries. Something will come up.

The bigger challenge is actually the day before, when I meet up with Jason. Jason continually builds solid decks that approach the game from very different angles, which for years left me flummoxed. Part of it was that I built decks poorly, always hoping that I could throw a kitchen sink into a deck and make it work, no matter what strange ideas were in there.

Now I know better. That doesn't mean I get it perfect; I still like weird ideas. Clearly. Hopefully I execute them better but they frequently need work. It's also a nice bar to work from: Can this weird deck manage to take on his weird deck? If yes, then I should explore the idea. If not, then I may need to scrap it or just get some help.

Which is the flip side: Jason and I worked on a lot of decks together and we frequently sharpened them up as a result of the other's advice. His focus frequently beat out my kitchen sink approach but both of us benefited from the perspective of the other.

Now that he's not around to help out as much...I want to show off a little and bring some cool things. It's fun to try and come up with situations that he hasn't seen or thought about--and I'll admit there's a tiny rivalry on my part to come up with things that pants him.

At the same time, I expect to learn a whole lot about what is and isn't working. I will lose and that's ok. The bummer? That I won't have access to my card library so I can make changes as they come up!

The other part of this is: No more posting until next week. Lots of games, not a lot of writing.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

30 Turns

Something really isn't right when one goes through half the deck before finding a reset. Yet, there I was, counting the cards left in Here Comes The Butchers, trying to figure out why in the name of Belzebozo I was unable to get a Death Cloud, astounded that the game vs stonethorn and the drowning man was going so long.

The former was playing his angels deck, the latter a U/R deck that got mana screwed twice: the first time in the first 30 turns of the game, the second time when I cast Death Cloud for 10 (TEN!).

stonethorn still had 25 life after I Clouded. It took persistent Spawning Pool beats to bring him within range, with special assistance from Puppeteer Clique. But it worked and eventually I was able to pull out the win, despite making a lame mistake in the penultimate turn.

We did not play a second game. Sometimes, it's better to just let that matchup go.

My second game was against the same U/R deck the drowning man was running as before and a black/red Heartless Summoning deck by stonethorn. I chose...Oak God. Which I said last week: Will suck against Red decks. And boy, did I ever suck.

My mana sources got whacked and I drew too many lands--8, I believe, which is nearly half--without getting any kind of card draw or boo-ya (Genesis Wave.) Eventually, I died to fliers--a possibility I have never taken into consideration with this deck and because it's a green deck, I usually do.

But combo decks don't care about such things and so Oak God is still on the table for play, since I don't know if it's functioning well yet. I don't want to remove more lands but maybe that is the way to get it to work.

Unfortunately, since the first game took so long, my sample data is weaksauce. Improvements to Butchers do seem positive (Spawning Pool is a good fit for sure!) but I never got to check out the other two decks and I certainly didn't get to run them through some paces. Must keep them in the hopper for more testing.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Recaps and Updates

So the truth is, I can't leave anything alone that is still a problem. Hence, behind the scenes work on Oak God, which has lead to me removing four lands, adding in Elvish Archdruid, Craterhoof Behemoth, and two Llanowar Elves, swapping Genesis Wave for Chord of Calling and going from there.

It feels very, very weird to go to 18 lands and I'll be the first person to admit that if someone plays red sweeper cards, I'm totally fucked. But the crazy thing? It's working. It's not brilliant but I'm having more fun: missing on one Genesis Wave is more exciting than casting Chord of Calling 60 times for the win.

18 Forest

4 Citanul Druid
1 Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
2 Seton, Krosan Protector
3 Werebear
4 Fyndhorn Elves
3 Gilt-Leaf Archdruid
2 Elvish Harbinger
2 Yavimaya Elder
3 Regal Force
3 Mul Daya Channelers
3 Adaptive Automaton
2 Llanowar Elves
1 Elvish Archdruid
1 Craterhoof Behemoth

3 Dense Foliage

2 Vitalize

3 Genesis Wave

With Here Come The Butchers, I had a revelation: no matter how big the Death Cloud, odds are I'm going to keep 3 lands. Why not make them lands that can do something for me? Enter Spawning Pool which, coupled with a bigger focus on discard, will hopefully give the deck some of the reach it was looking for. 

I realize Raven's Crime isn't the most efficient discard but it does play nice with Tilling Treefolk so it's getting the nod for now. (Plus, I don't really own any better options at this point.) This deck may be better suited for multiplayer overall and I don't mind that. You need decks for every situation because no one thing fits all.

7 Swamp
1 Thran Quarry
2 Spawning Pool
9 Forest
4 Woodland Cemetery
3 Penumbra Bobcat
3 Penumbra Spider
4 Bone Shredder
3 Tilling Treefolk
3 Vorapede
2 Puppeteer Clique
2 Viridian Emissary

4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Death Cloud
3 Unmask
4 Raven's Crime

2 Golgari Signet

In the case of Scavenger, I had a sudden flash: why not just forget creature removal and put in 4 Bonehoards? They fit the theme, are difficult to remove and have the bonus of taking small Wingcrafters and making them formidable.

That...only sort of worked. I kept having games where the Bonehoard would be milled away, which is going to happen, or would be drawn but not really helpful. So I trimmed some space for Ghastly Demise, which also works in the theme, is cheap and helpful for a three color deck. I had to cut the Fungal Shamblers though, which is a bummer. Hopefully they'll find another deck.

3 Swamp
4 Salt Marsh
5 Island
10 Forest
4 Urborg Elf
4 Phyrexian Lens
2 Vorosh, the Hunter
4 Lhurgoyf
4 Splinterfright
4 Wingcrafter
3 Apprentice Necromancer
4 Hapless Researcher

3 Bonehoard

3 Recoil
3 Ghastly Demise

Finally, with Hard Time Killing Floor Blues, I went to the binder to discover that I only had 2 Daze. This isn't enough for me to run countermagic and so I went with Rider's suggestion of Unstable Mutation. The deck has sped up and initial tests are good but they aren't overwhelming, yet. The Drifter though? That's been totally worth adding and I should probably consider a 3rd one, taking out a Spindrift Drake to make room.

2 Svyelunite Temple
19 Island
2 Saprazzan Skerry

4 Echoing Truth

2 Flying Men
3 Vexing Sphinx
3 Wormfang Drake
3 Thought Eater
2 Gossamer Phantasm
3 Spindrift Drake
3 Cloud of Faeries
2 Hunted Phantasm
2 Drifter il-Dal

3 Unstable Mutation
3 Curiosity
4 Standstill

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fall On My Enemies

First game vs Fuz: 2 Mt, Coretapper, Goblin Tinkerer, and expensive stuff.

He keeps bolting my guys and I keep laying them, and by turn I don't know, he's got 7 lands to my 3 yet I've hit him for 16. Eventually I play a Koth and...win?

This game was like a mystery. I don't know why I won, I just did.

Game 2 I led with Mountain, Serpent but with a Goblin Tinkerer and a Coils in hand I'm not sure if that was right. I end up with Tinker turn 2, Coils turn three. A Gelectrode comes out but I'm not sure what's going to happen until my Coils is destroyed and my Spark elemental and Coretapper die.

I see the mistake immediately: I should've led with the Seal of Fire I had in hand and destroyed the Gelectrode before he had a chance to double down.

Eventually, his table is bad and he has to Pyroclasm out of desperation and it works for a little while but eventually I run him over.

Then there was the pictured game where the Coils would trigger and with Fuz having nothing on the board I was attacking for 15.

Then there was the game where Cockatrice crashed.

So I didn't get much testing in on this one yet but that's OK! I'm going to do a little retrospective of the recent decks I've been playing and talk about how some of them have evolved, which should include this one and (if I can remember) matchups! Or maybe just winging it. We'll see!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Red War

Continuing the mono-color theme, we have a deck that I didn't mean to talk about but entered in so...here we are. If you have not heard Dave Grohl's excellent side project Probot then Red War is as good a place to start as any. Like the song, this deck is aggressive and barely has a plan beyond punching you.

But it does have a plan.

2 Hammer of Bogardan

2 Bloodfire Kavu
4 Lightning Serpent
4 Coretapper
3 Thunderblust
4 Spark Elemental
1 Ball Lightning
3 Skizzik
3 Goblin Tinkerer

4 Lightning Coils

3 Genju of the Spires

3 Seal of Fire

21 Mountain
2 Keldon Megaliths

1 Koth of the Hammer

I saw Lightning Coils and I thought to myself: this card gets a benefit when my creatures die and red has creatures that tend to die easily. Sounds like a theme!

Of course, now I'm diluting a straight up attacking theme with some cards to try and give this deck a hint of the long game. It's a violation of avoiding the Glory Of Cool Things rule because these ideas don't mesh but sometimes, a hook gets into my brain and I don't get to let go, so this is the deck. To help support the long game, should I get there, Keldon Megaliths and Hammer of Bogardan to keep the pressure on and Genju of the Spires as a hard to kill creature that doesn't harm my manabase should it die, and Coretapper to explosively add 3 counters to a Coils.

Now I'll admit that this deck won't always execute the Coils plan but it doesn't have to. I'll put a Coils down on turn three and then drop whatever creatures I can to build it up, hitting for later. Attacking for 15+ in a single turn is difficult for any deck to handle. If I don't have a Coils though, screw it! Just put down creatures and hit for as hard as I can.

It isn't a complicated plan but it's a plan.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Can't Find No Heaven

Or, the aggro deck that wasn't aggro enough.

Aggro decks want to get their damage going on turn two: what I learned from these tests were that: 1) I don't have enough aggressive one drops (three) and 2) I need something other than the standard form of evasion this deck has.

Hard Time... is at it's best as when I tested against Fuz: turn 1 creature, turn 2 Curiosity on that creature, swing, draw a card. I did this in 2 of 3 games against him and it was huge.

On the other hand, despite getting a good start against stonethorn's Rise deck, I found myself stymied when his flyers were bigger than mine and I couldn't get anything through.

Finally, against Rider's W/R human's deck, there were only two games. In game one, I lost, because I didn't use Echoing Truth on the rush of human tokens (five) coming at me, but instead went for two Doomed Travelers. My logic was: three of the five tokens will die, the Travelers will have to be re-cast and will give me a bit more time.

But no: Avoiding 5 of 7 points of damage is a much bigger deal and that cost me the game.

I pulled out game two, having a strong rush of cards-Spindrift Drake is a big deal-flowing into a Wormfang Drake, which freed up more mana later and attacking for 7 then 7 again to put it away.

So what needs to happen?

First: different kinds of unblockable dudes. Unfortunately, the current champion of Blue aggro guys would be Delver of Secrets, a card that has no place in this deck. After that, there is only one option: Drifter il-Dal. This should probably replace a situational card like Briarberry Cohort: a guaranteed attack for 2 is going to be a stronger play than an attack for 1, despite how much I like what the Cohort does in this deck.

Unfortunately, what this means is that I eat up a lot of mana trying to ensure two damage every turn. Which means a spell like Dissipate doesn't make any sense at all. I'll be looking for the obvious replacement, Force of Will but almost any 'free' counterspell is worth consideration here, notably Daze as it's cheap and matters in the early game when some other deck might try to outrace me. In the late game, if I haven't won, it's over anyway. 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hard Time Killing Floor Blues

I frequently try to name my monochrome decks with some kind of title that has the color of the deck in there. Hence, Hard Time Killing Floor Blues for this aggro blue deck.

That's right, aggro blue.
2 Flying Men
3 Vexing Sphinx
3 Wormfang Drake
3 Briarberry Cohort
3 Thought Eater
2 Gossamer Phantasm
3 Spindrift Drake
3 Cloud of Faeries
2 Hunted Phantasm

4 Echoing Truth
2 Dissipate

3 Curiosity
4 Standstill
19 Island
2 Saprazzan Skerry
2 Svyelunite Temple
Anyone playing Magic long enough will eventually have a collection that will allow them to bend colors into deck archetypes that they wouldn't fit in. Eventually I just had enough cards and the idea is strange enough that I figured I'd give it a go. There have been more aggressive blue decks in the past and they were frequently tribal, notably Merfolk (which is still a thing!) but I wanted to do something a little different because that's my way.

The aggressive game in Blue doesn't always work but this is a pretty solid method of getting it to work: cheap flying creatures, card draw and just a hint of disruption, instead of pump. If you can get down a 1/1 or a 2/1 creature with a Standstill and nothing else is on the board, most players are going to hesitate letting you draw three more cards just to kill such a nuisance. They shouldn't, but they often will because hey, that can't kill them right now...

But then they go to 15 life or lower and all I've done is play land and wait and the panic starts to set in and they have to do something. So they do whatever it is they do and I draw three cards, drop 4 flyers and hit them for 8 the next turn. It's not a bad way to go. Let's see how she does.