Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Few Observations

Well, Return to Ravnica has come out, Populate still sucks and Unleash has actually made for a decent aggro mechanic in Limited.

So I was kinda wrong, at least in the short term.

What's been interesting has been the rise of Zombies as a deck (frequently R/B but with RtR, now G/B seems to be a flavor) and R/G/B decks (often on the back of Rancor) and I see that as a general positive. The negative? The U/W Delver decks have just switched to U/W/G-this lineup has been all over the internet- or U/R Delver.

So Blue is still a prominent force in the game. I didn't expect it to go away but I had hoped that other colors would get a chance to shine. It's early still: I don't think the season has established its decks yet and Gatecrash has plenty to offer but I'm not hoping for much yet.

On a separate note: I've been feeling like I'm rushed with my decks. Picking a new one each week isn't giving me enough time to actually play the deck and make changes, then road test those changes. I just don't get to play enough Magic to properly evaluate things (everyone I play with has lives...crazy people.) So I need more time.

As an example, when I built the 1000 Shards deck, I played that non-stop for three weeks and it showed. I got very good with the deck and made some great changes to make it what it was, before I brought it to this blog. So I'm going to move to a deck every two weeks, so I can get more games under my belt with that deck. It may make for some shorter posts but hopefully it will make for some more interesting, more evolved decks.

There might be something else but I can't recall what it is, right now.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Away and Home again

I'll be on the road starting this weekend through Wednesday, which means I won't have an opportunity to play much Magic. Since that's the case, I'll take the next week to re-play the decks from the past few weeks, including more work on Ratchet, the acquisition of cards to change Late For The Kill, further tests with Look Up, the exploration of a Eureka! moment I had for New World Disorder, and the cultivation of hydras in Golden Blunders.

I may not have much to talk about even next Thursday but hopefully there will be some Magic news to discuss, perhaps even the necessity to eat humble pie on my evaluation of Rakdos. Possibly G/W decks too because everyone seems to be all funny in the pants about Populate but...I still don't see it and the data from last week's States event convince me to change my mind. While I did see quite a few RBG and mono-Red decks I didn't see many people trying to push a mechanic.

What I know now, that I didn't when I wrote about Return to Ravnica, is that all of the guilds will have their mechanic extended in the third set. This could be the 'missing piece' to help boost those mechanics into a more heavyweight position and I look forward to it.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Blow Up All The Things?

I had two games against a G/W Opalescence deck and this matchup was a challenge because both of us were working similar lines of play: do what we can to extend the game, then overwhelm the opponent. In the case of the Enchantress deck, the hope is to stall out using Solitary Confinement then use Opalescence to swing with a bunch of enchantments to win.

In both matchups, Scourglass was incredibly important to help extend things for me, as was Norn's Annex.

Unfortunately, in both matchups, the Enchantress deck was able to rebuild faster and I could not draw another reset for the board. My Annex is awesome against a deck that cannot tap a Serra's Sanctum to generate as much white as it needs to win but if that deck can...well, I seemed to have a bit more trouble.

It is entirely likely that I rushed the games, setting Scourglass off when I didn't need to and before I could just sweep in and win. Having a limitation on when I could activate Scourglass probably made me twitchy and since the Annex, as good as it was, didn't help me as much as I'd like in those games, I can look back and judge that yes, I probably needed to hold off for a turn.

Ethersworn Canonist was the bee's knees though and a problem for Enchantress--when it arrived. Alas, despite running four copies it only came up once and was promptly wrecked by a Seal of Cleansing.

That was the only match I got to play though and Ratchet needs a lot more testing. There's lenty of time to work it out though and I look forward to solving this puzzle.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


It's a mono-white, artifact based deck that wants to blow everything up often.

So I guess I misnamed this one.
4 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Court Homunculus
4 Gold Myr
4 Razor Golem
3 Soulscour
4 White Sun's Zenith
3 Shrine of Loyal Legions
3 Scourglass
3 Pearl Medallion
4 Norn's Annex
23 Plains
1 Ancient Den
This is the deck's first draft and I have to say: it covers a lot of bases. The White Sun's Zenith helps ensure I'll be able to have some defense in the early game but provide some offense in the late game. Shrine of Loyal Legions does much the same. 

Soulscour and Scourglass give me a lot of resets that don't really touch my permanents and Pearl Medallion helps accelerate those big white spells that need to be cast. Norn's Annex can come out as soon as turn 3 to keep creatures from doing vast amounts of damage until I can get set up.

What this deck can't do, as I look at it, is deal with troublesome artifacts. For some people that wouldn't be a big deal but everyone I know seems to be running troublesome artifacts, from Birthing Pod to Mesmeric Orb, so to that end I think that I should take out the Court Homunculus, which really belongs in a more aggressive deck, and add in 4 Divine Offerings. This may not be the case, considering some of those artifacts are Wurmcoil Engine. Still, you can't prepare for everything and Divine Offering can give me life for opponent's artifacts as well as my own, should I need it. 

Let's give it a go!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I Don't Care How It Bleeds

I didn't get too much testing in with Late For The Kill--everyone has 'lives' all of a sudden--but I was still able to get some games in yesterday against a mono-B goblins deck and a U/W flicker/detain deck and those matchups taught me a few things I wasn't expecting at all.

The goblin games were quick: mana flood on his part and no removal meant that when I dropped the Dueling Grounds, he had no recourse. My creatures rapidly became bigger and harder to block than his and it went pretty fast after that.

The UW games were more complex, including one mistake for me that worked out. I was attacking with a 6/6 Aven Squire when it was hit with Azorus Charm, putting it on top of my library. I sighed, put it on top and passed the turn. That's when I noticed Bant Charm in my hand, which could have countered that spell.

But on his turn he tapped out to cast Archon of the Triumvirate. I was able to use Bant Charm to hide that gnarly beast and my Squire came out next turn to add to a mighty swing from a second Aven Squire.

Better lucky than good, I suppose and I went on to win that matchup.

Here's what I learned:

First: Sovereigns of Lost Alara don't fly. I know it looks like they ought to, with the clouds and the wispy art but they don't. So there was a tactical mistake that I made in the goblins game that I won't make again.

Second: Covenant of Minds will draw three cards. I was able to play this spell three times and each time my opponent said: Take 'em. There was never even a question of allowing me to draw five unknowns. This may change, the more matchups I play but I have a feeling it won't. Still, 5 mana for 3 cards isn't a bad deal, with Concentrate and Inspiration as counterpoints. But one isn't splashable and the other isn't that great of a deal. So I'll stick with it for now.

Third: I never wanted Sovereigns of Lost Alara. Whenever I drew it, I just felt like: What is the point of this? I need something else to help me overwhelm people and the Sovereigns, who were there to help fetch Eel Penumbras can be something equally useful and less expensive, I'm sure of it.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Late For The Kill, Early For The Slaughter

With Return to Ravnica getting the official release tomorrow, I don't know that there will be much gaming, so much as the thrill of opening packs and, for me, a chance to revisit my Commander Rhys deck to see if Populate doesn't suck as much as I think it does. (Spoiler: It's bad. Spoiler spoiler: maybe not as bad as I think.)

In the meantime, with M13 being out for awhile it's a good time to update a fairly recent deck, Late for the Kill, Early for the Slaughter.

7 Plains
6 Island
8 Forest
3 Bant Panorama
3 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
3 Ethercaste Knight
4 Qasali Pridemage
1 Giltspire Avenger
4 Aven Squire
1 Noble Hierarch
1 Battlegrace Angel
2 Rhox Charger
3 Hero of Bladehold
1 Birds of Paradise

2 Silent Arbiter

3 Covenant of Minds
3 Dueling Grounds
3 Eel Umbra
2 Bant Charm
The basic idea: run Exalted creatures to help create very large attackers and use Dueling Grounds and Silent Arbiter to ensure that my creatures are bigger than my opponent's. Eel Umbra is there as both a source of protection for my creatures and a something that gives Sovereigns of Lost Alara a reason to live.

This deck presents some challenges in the mana base which I've tried to get around by confining myself mostly to cards with a single color in the mana cost along with the addition of a Bird of Paradise and a Noble Hierarch and Bant Panorama to help dig up the proper colors. The exceptions are the Battlegrace Angel and the three Hero of Bladehold. Because these creatures have such positive effects on combat (lifelink and extra damage, respectively) I feel like they are the 'I win' cards once a Dueling Grounds shows up.

My real secret though is Rhox Charger. Trample is usually a good thing but on a 3/3, it's less impressive. Make it a 5/5 or more? Now it's a problem and it's an easy problem to create in this deck.

The biggest question is probably Covenant of Minds. However, I like cards like this which create opportunities for my opponents to make difficult choices. I have a feeling that opponents will be more afraid of what they see than what is coming but no matter what, it digs 3 cards into my library and sets me ahead. The expense is problematic but this deck has a nice curve to it so I think it should work out most of the time.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stop the world and listen in, something great is happening

After some pondering on Look Up, I decided against Favorable Winds and here's why: I had to make a choice between a more aggressively leaning deck or a more controlling one and the cards in there tilted toward control. Putting in Favorable Winds would have just diluted the controlling elements.

My adjustments were: +1 Vendilion Clique, +2 Guardian Seraph. Here's why: Vendilion Clique is more disruptive to most control strategies (and I own one more) and Guardian Seraph is a pain in the butt for aggro ones. It's a kind of reverse lifegain but with a better effect; all of your damage, gets -1 and that impacts any creatures, plus red and black. Plus: attacking for 3.

After these changes I was paired up against the same U/W deck I lost to last week. This time: it wasn't even questionable. I went 2-0 on the strength of well timed Humbles and my opponent's inability to deal with Thieving Magpie.

Thieving Magpie is possibly the secret weapon of Look Up. Ding for 1, draw a card. Doesn't seem like much but keeping a hand full of threats and never worrying about running out of answers was a big deal.

My second opponent, Merrick, identified that this would be a problem. Playing a mono-R dragon-themed build, she set fire to those Magpies whenever possible.

I drew Sea Sprites in all three games against her; the first game had her land flooded and unable to deal with the protection from red creature.

Game 2 was not to work the same, as you can see in the photo. That green glass bead represents my one creature; a U/W 1/1 flying bird. Everything else I'd cast either died to Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle triggers or were sacrificed to block Balefire Dragon.

I had creatures but not any form of disruption and my Magpies were Bolted. The game went long and her creatures were better than mine.

Game 3 came down to a critical turn four, I believe, when she cast Dragonspeaker Shaman. I had a Condescend in hand. Do I counter this spell or do I counter the next spell that comes along, one that will likely be a dragon that can block my creatures and are likely better than mine?

I decided to counter the Shaman on the grounds that with the turns she would need to continue to develop her mana, I could develop my threat count and maybe get enough pressure on to win the game. Plus, using Condescend's Scry ability I could get closer to the second Plains I needed to drop a Guardian Seraph, which could present problems later.

My decision turned out correct and lead me to win that game, going 2-1 vs the dragons. I think I got a little lucky but it worked out so I'm not going to complain.