Thursday, November 29, 2012


I know it isn't too clever to call this deck Sunspots but there you go. Between the Sunburst mechanic and my tendency to use glass beads on the cards as counters, it just made sense. Thematic connections, man! Or something like that. Let's decklist:
2 Treasure Hunter
4 Skyreach Manta
4 Etched Oracle

4 Energy Chamber
3 Engineered Explosives
4 Pentad Prism
3 Clearwater Goblet

3 Inexorable Tide

4 Rampant Growth
2 Clockspinning
4 Channel the Suns

8 Forest
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Creek
2 Vivid Grove
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Academy Ruins
2 Mountain
2 Swamp
2 Plains
2 Island
Now that is an interesting pile, when I look at it as text. There are only ten ways for me to win and of those, four are viable: Skyreach Manta. Everything else is there to generate mana or counters, or reset board states to ones more advantageous to me through a recurred Engineered Explosives. Recurring board sweeps are good of course, if you can get to them.

Which is why Clearwater Goblet is in there: gaining 4-5 life a turn is generally enough to mitigate what an aggressive deck can do and give me time to set up the flying beasts.

This deck evolved: originally an exploration of the Sunburst mechanic, Clockspinning was added in later as a way to counteract the scalable limit of  the Sunburst mechanic. Once Populate became a mechanic, I thought that Inexorable Tide would be a great way to reinforce Clockspinning's leapfrogging of Sunburst.

Nonetheless, looking at this deck now, I can't help but wonder if I have too much mana fixing. Channel the Suns is a good card; Is it necessary? Or perhaps I should be directing that question towards Rampant Growth, since I already have mana fixing at the two spot, as well as a way to repeat that mana fixing with Energy Chamber. According to the deck stats, there's a pretty big glut at two mana and a hole in the three mana spot, so it may be worth my while to find some juice at the three mana spot, the only question is; What does this need?

Time to play this and find out.

Bonus time: I dug this article by Dan Nelson on the probability of playing high casting cost cards in limited. Definitely worth a read.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Well, I'm getting a better handle on what kind of decks Prisoner can handle now. Only two matches last night but they still gave me some perspective on what kind of key this deck will unlock.

First I went against a UW spirits deck. It was working a midrange aggro thing, with creatures that left flying tokens when they died, along with Favorable Winds to keep the pressure on. The 'aha!' moment for me was in game 2 when I got a Martial Law down, allowing my opponent swing for 4, then casting Supreme Verdict and being able to use a Mistfolk enhanced Flagbearer and Somnophore followup to lock down my opponent forever.

In this instance, the few counterspells I had were fine, because I could use the global reset to start things over and then ensure an edge with the Mana Leak in my hand. Since Martial Law isn't affected by creature control, opponents had to find another way to get around my stalling tactics and even though I was only doing two damage at a time, I was doing it with creatures that locked down victory conditions.

The opposite problem bit me in my games against a UR Guttersnipe deck. My Mana Leaks were not enough to stop my opponent's strategy, my locks were meaningless and he had a fuckton more removal. It's very difficult to land a Frost Raptor/Coalition Flag combo though countermagic and burnination. That was my only viable plan though and having to waste Supreme Verdict on Guttersnipes left me open to other creatures coming through, as you can see.

I was able to Faith's Fetters the Consecrated Sphinx but that didn't prevent the card draw and I was forced to use my mass removal before Talrand took over the game. Both times I cast Supreme Verdict it was in the face of countermagic, which was awesome. Unfortunately, it put me in the same position: having Guttersnipes combine with instants do 4-5 points of damage per spell cast and I couldn't come back from that.

Most of the time, Blinding Angel and Somnophore are good enough to lock down creature decks, with Faith's Fetters running support but things with triggered abilities necessitate the big guns of removal. I was overwhelmed by them and I'm not sure how I could tweak this deck to take down that angle. Could just be a bad matchup.

All in all however, I feel that this deck is still a bit of a work in progress. It's in a good place for now and it's certainly time to move on.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's not data but I'll take it

I only got to play one matchup since making changes, last night against a B/W deck that wanted to use Sanguine Bond and cards like Mourning Thrull, Pillory of the Sleepless, Chalice of Life and Leechridden Swamp to whittle the opponent down.

And that deck worked. I played three games against it and I could handle the creatures easily enough but the combination of artifacts and enchantments I had to manage kept me from getting a proper toehold in the game and finishing it off. Prisoner just isn't fast enough to execute its game plan before a combo deck like this one. The Coalition Flag/Mistfolk combo created problems but because the angle of my opponent's deck was so different than what I was geared up to handle, I found myself losing again.

However, I felt much better about those losses. I'm still learning how to manage this deck; how long I need to hold out before using Supreme Verdict, for example or using the Coalition Flag lock as long as I can to create disruptions for my opponents before tapping out to do something. Playing a waiting game like that can make one a little panicky.

Nevertheless, it seemed as though I was in the game, each time. My deck was creating problems that had to be answered and answers to problems were available. I just need more practice and preferably a matchup that isn't inherently bad for me.

Which I'm going to get, because I'll be traveling during the holiday and won't have a new deck to talk about Thursday. One more week of this deck to see if I can get it into better shape!

Have a happy Thanksgiving everyone; I'll be back Tuesday.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

What I Did

I have made changes to Prisoner and am left with a slight dilemma. Here's the  new list:
4 Coalition Flag
3 Martial Law

4 Frost Raptor
4 Mistfolk
3 Blinding Angel
2 New Prahv Guildmage
4 Somnophore

3 Ponder
3 Supreme Verdict
4 Mana Leak
3 Dismantling Blow

9 Snow-Covered Island
9 Snow-Covered Plains
2 Flood Plain
3 Boreal Shelf
I am currently most dubious about New Prahv Guildmage. This is because I'm dubious about everything in this deck right now.

I went snooping through the Coldsnap block to see if there was anything that could help me. With 21 'Snow' lands, it seemed like it may be possible to find something beyond Frost Raptor to improve this deck. Rimefeather Owl was the closest I came. As much as I like a 7/7 flyer that can get bigger, I don't see it contributing to the deck enough to make it valuable. When you cast something for 7 mana, it should make a statement or cause your opponents to make one.

I took a long hard look at Kismet and it's blue brother, Frozen Aether, to see if they would fit but I'm just not feeling it. In conjunction with Detain, maybe but this deck has already demonstrated that one-time Detain effects are not helpful.

Having permanents ETB tapped and then Detaining for a turn? That could work out very nicely but it's a different deck--one I'm keeping on the back burner of my brain. Anything that annoying should be awesome.

So I'm thinking about something that might be a little more helpful: Faith's Fetters. It's expensive but it affects any permanent, including Planeswalkers and lands (I'm looking at you, Maze of Ith) and extends my game by at least one card, using Magic math that says: 2 life = 1 card. This could allow me to continue my soft lock and finish the game off; or at least, I hope so.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

There's Nothing You Can Really Do

I lost every game I played with Prisoner. Worse: I didn't even feel hopeful when I was playing the deck. The games all felt like I was starting from a disadvantage and nothing I could do was going to even those odds nor give me an edge and the games against Fuz and stonethorn were pretty definitive in the experience they handed out to me.

That is a bad trial run.

I was talking about this run of losses to stonethorn who expressed some sympathy but I shrugged it off. I told him the following:
I think that decks have a personality of their own. If you do something to them they don't like, they'll tell you. 
And the changes I made to Prisoner? Oh, those were not liked at all.

Now, underlying cosmic forces imbuing decks with a persona of their own aside, I think that it's worth taking a look at the other mechanics here.

The core of the deck: I force all spells onto a creature that can counter the ones I don't like, doesn't mesh with the Detain mechanic.

It just doesn't. There's nothing there to get along with, aside from color. I have a soft lock that I need to maintain into a win. With the exception of Martial Law, none of the detain cards I have are repeatable. That doesn't give me enough juice to win over any deck that is even working to half strength.

It's back to the drawing board. I'm starting to think that a card like Somnophore might have a place here. With the removal spells being directed elsewhere, Blinding Angel and Somnophore can keep decks on lockdown and Martial Law can catch whatever they miss. Add in some Supreme Verdict and perhaps even Kismet to allow me to recover and I may just have what I need to win the long game.

It certainly can't be any worse than what I've been doing.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


This time, I'm going to work something out a little different. Named after the song by Rust, this deck was a bizarre takeoff on the UW control builds.

4 Coalition Flag
2 Serra's Embrace

4 Frost Raptor
4 Mistfolk
4 Willbender
3 Blinding Angel
3 Beloved Chaplain
1 Quicksilver Dragon

3 Ponder

2 Inspiration
4 Mana Leak
3 Dismantling Blow

9 Snow-Covered Island
9 Snow-Covered Plains
2 Flood Plain
3 Boreal Shelf

The basic plan was to combine cards like Mistfolk and Coalition Flag in order to nullify anyone's creature removal or enhancement by insisting it target my creatures and countering the kill spells while stealing the enhancements. Willbender allows me to retarget spells I need to while Blinding Angel shuts down attack steps.

Now the Azorus have returned with the Detain mechanic though, I have something that fits the deck's title a little better and perhaps ups my lock down elements a little more. It's time to take a hard look on this one and reshape it a bit.

The core of the deck: Blinding Angel, Willbender, Mistfolk, Coalition Flag, these are going to stay. Quicksilver Dragon, as much as I like it and it fits the theme, is a one-of and Beloved Chaplain-so good!- may be cut because it's not as thematic and because of the other cuts made to the deck.

Serra's Embrace, Dismantling Blow, Inspiration: these cards aren't bad but they could be cut for Martial Law, Inaction Junction and New Prahv Guildmage. Without Serra's Embrace, Beloved Chaplain isn't amazing so it may also need to be cut for something more versatile or helpful like Azorus Charm. Or, perhaps the Chaplains go and I keep Dismantling Blow because man are there a lot of artifacts and enchantments to destroy.

Either way, that's the direction I'm going to head in and we'll see what the testing brings.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Post Op (pt 2)

I started the next set of tests with Late for the Kill, feeling especially positive about it. After some playtests with Jason, I told him I just wasn't quite thrilled with it yet, specifically the Sovereigns of Lost Alara. He liked the concept, mixing Exalted with the controlling Dueling Grounds elements.

He suggested the obvious fix: Add in more Battlegrace Angel and another Rhox Charger. It was so simple I was a bit dumbstruck. It's always this kind of thing that I overlook. Jason also suggested Finest Hour, which, after a little rules verification, I discovered that you could attack twice in a turn with a single creature. I was surprised but apparently it's kosher.

I didn't like it for my deck but I think I'll see something Jason is using in the near future with Finest Hour.

After the changes, I took this up against a Blood Artist deck built by Fuz. Exquisite Blood, Sanguine Bond and zombies were involved, including Shepard of Rot.

I lost the first game due to mana issues but in game two I hit my creature drops, blew up the Exquisite Blood with a Qasali Pridemage and the Battlegrace Angel's lifelink kept me in the game and mopped up. Game three started a little rougher but I had Aven Squires on turns 2 and 3 so though my mana wasn't cooperating, I still had some action. Fuz wasn't as lucky, stalling out at two lands and not having much else. Eventually I found a Forest, brought a Rhox Charger up and I thought I had this wrapped up pretty nicely, until the Vampiric Tutor happened at the end of my turn. Turns out, it was just for a Doom Blade, which wasn't enough to stall my win.

He changed decks to a R/U deck with Cloudstone Curio and I got stormed out with him playing Kobolds until Grapeshot could kill me. This is also what happened in the second game.
Oh, Storm. You suck so bad. Despite what people say about the deck being interesting, like baseball or soccer, it really isn't unless you're playing it.

The problem is, while it's great at seeing the thought process of the combo player (illustrating the decisions needing to be made on his part) from the point of "Untap. Draw Grim Tutor. That's how we do it!" there are roughly 809 words and only two points of interaction: Cabal Therapy and Daze. Everything else is the storm player's internal monologue. There is no consideration of what's on the board, nor is there in the entire DECK an acknowledgement that one has to consider the other player's permanents.

You know what the other player is thinking: I'm watching you do mental gymnastics, which is boring and even worse; any spell I cast helps to pave your avenue to victory. All I can do is hope you whiff. 

Why? Because neither deck is attempting to interact with the other, they're merely racing. And you can have two decks working the spells angle, or two decks working the permanents angle but you can't have them ignore each other and still have a compelling experience for both players.That's just not how to build a fun game and I have yet to be convinced that watching someone go through this process is interesting.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Post Op (part 1)

My games with Ratchet have been similar to my games with Golden Blunders, interestingly.

Against a UB deck with milling and Jace's Phantasm, I just got wiped out. I was milled, but that wasn't the problem. The problem was Killing Wave. In both games, I chose to lose a significant amount of life (10 in game one, 6 in game 2) and yet still found myself taking 5 in the air, my opponent easily able to afford the Norn's Annex payment.

At this point I'm pretty concerned because I've only won a game when my opponent was color screwed. That is not a successful sign. We keep going, just to see how bad it is,

In game 4 I won because I was able to generate enough cat tokens and pressure; Killing Wave for 4 didn't do enough to keep me from attacking for 8 each turn.

Game 5 I was under early pressure from the Phantasm then casting an Annex put me down to 3 life. I managed to Scourglass but a Glimpse the Unthinkable put me down to 6 cards left in my library. I was able to use two Shrines to generate Myr tokens and increase the pressure. In the end, he was blocking with Glacial Wall while I was attacking with 6 Myr a turn and I pull out the matchup, 3 games to 2.

In another set of games, one versus a goblins deck which was fast but not super fast, and another green/black zombies, I kept finding myself with Soulscour in hand. Two of them, unable to cast either. I lost both matchups. Badly.

Similarly, with Golden Blunders, I would find Jin-Gitaxis in hand--two of them--and be unable to use either in my early builds.  (That still happens, just not as often.)

It rains and it pours, I suppose but it's not just weird to find circumstances repeating, (two of the same uncastable card) it's frustrating. 

Now, on the other side, I was playing Golden Blunders against a mono-white construction stonethorn had. He was using Mycosynth Wellspring to boost his mana. (I lost the games with Golden Blunders; repeated resets are bad, even for creatures with protection from White. Once again: two Jin in hand because my mana ramp had been neutered.)

But I had a similar problem: I needed mana for Ratchet and I wasn't getting enough to cast Soulscour if needed.

Then the light bulb went off. Out came the Razor Golems, which was a hard choice to make because I really liked the way they fit in the deck, and in went three Mycosynth Wellspring and one Spine of Ish Sah. My reasoning went like this: If my opponent doesn't have any artifacts, then my Divine Offerings aren't useless. For four mana I could get two lands and gain two life: this is a pretty good deal!

But in the later game, I could destroy someone's best permanent, gain seven life, then destroy their next best permanent!

Sure, this is probably Magic Christmas but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.

With New World Disorder, I had a Eureka moment. The kind that makes me feel like I'm on my mojo. That moment was Hornet Queen. I'm not upset that I overlooked that card, trying to horn Avenger of Zendikar in there because it's just such a rare card (ha-ha!) to see in Green. It fits perfectly though: it ramps up the Gaea's Cradle, it creates difficult to block attackers and creates a huge problem as blockers for opponents. Even better, with a Fangren Firstborn these creatures become expedient paths to victory.

People, if you play Legacy or Casual Magic, pay a lot of attention to the non-Standard sets. Commander and Planeshift 2012 have a great deal to offer.

I pulled off a Hornet Queen against a GB deck, after destroying a Golgari Rot Farm, and pulled ahead with a Wildspeaker/Tangle Wire combo in game one. Great Sable Stag was immune to the removal and I rode it to the win. Unfortunately I didn't get any further games.

But against stonethorn's aforementioned mono-W angels deck, I went 2-0. The Hornet Queen never came out, instead the team of Silklash Spider and Woodfall Primus, coupled with Wastelands, were there to suppress mana and when Judgement was rendered, the Primuses (Primi? Primusseses? Primus 2 the Primining?) stomped on a couple more Plains and swung for 5 until the angels were no more.

stonethorn seemed worried after that matchup: "I've never had it go so badly before!"

Don't worry about it, I said, I've been working on this deck for 15 years.