Thursday, March 28, 2013


First, a very long but solid overview of Magic, especially helpful for newer players. It's an older post and references some cards that have been depowered for purposes of providing a more diverse game but the concepts are still pretty solid.

And I provide that because I have little today. I spent last night grinding over cards, mostly blue ones, trying to figure out what might be helpful. Mind Spring, additional copies of Foresee, Sleep, Breaking Wave, even Dream Fracture have been considered. Nothing stands out. I have not had the 'Eureka' moment which is OK but I haven't even had a 'Yeah, maybe that!' one.

This is partly because I haven't had a chance to play the deck since last Saturday but also because I am not feeling really motivated to solve this problem. A poor reason to not have this worked out but it is the one that is true. I'll try and get some changes made this weekend, see what the games tell me.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


I managed one game with Colour last week; a 3 player matchup versus drowningman's G/W populate build and a mono-black build piloted by Matt with the usual suspects of big demons and discard.

The good news: my deck did what it was supposed to, playing a Shifting Sky (prompting Matt to say: 'this is one of those decks that plays color hoser stuff, right?' and I had to nod) followed by Dream Tides.

The lock was in effect. I played artifacts that could become creatures and lands that could become creatures, turned stuff red with Distorting Lens and destroyed it with Hydroblast but what I couldn't do is find a Parish or a Soul Feast to keep me alive/take an opponent out.

So I sat there and hoped and waited and did nothing but grumble while my opponents built armies.

Looking at the list last week wasn't enough, I actually had to play that misery to understand: I hate having to sit there and do nothing. It didn't help that my Foresee was knocked out of my hand by Hymn to Tourach but I'm not sure that would have mattered. What did matter was when drowningman made an 8/8 slime token and proceeded to populate that every turn. Eventually, I was overrun by 8/8 slimes and everyone else got on with playing the game.

If I cannot win briskly after establishing a lock, then the lock doesn't do any good. I don't think my situation would have changed much if I had been in a duel instead of multiplayer game either; again, I wasn't able to actively protect myself nor forward my win.

Therefore: something needs to change, most likely in the form of adding card draw. If I can increase the consistency, perhaps cards that are there for mana like Phyrexian Totem won't matter, especially since I never want to use the Totem as a creature until I've cleared the board anyway.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Any Colour You Like

Article on the 'what ifs?' at the Mothership, which I found to follow a very solid line of thought.

This deck...oh man. I am dreading testing this one out.
2 Blue Elemental Blast
4 Hydroblast
4 Jolt
3 Perish
4 Soul Feast
2 Foresee

1 Chimeric Staff
1 Chimeric Mass
1 Distorting Lens
2 Chimeric Idol
2 Phyrexian Totem

2 Salt Marsh
2 Darkwater Catacombs
2 Faerie Conclave
8 Swamp
9 Island
1 Creeping Tar Pit

2 Blind Seer

4 Shifting Sky
4 Dream Tides
The base idea: turn everything threatening into a color I can destroy or counter with Shifting Sky, Blind Seer or Distorting Lens, then win on the back of artifacts that turn into creatures and Soul Feast. Hence the name, Any Colour You Like.

Why do I hate this deck? Because it's one dimensional. I made it because I could and it just doesn't have that spark, from outside, that makes me think: yeah, I should play this. It doesn't seem like fun.

Since it doesn't inspire me, perhaps it should be taken apart but before that happens, I'm going to put it through its two week trial. Everything needs a fair shot and if I still don't like it, then those cards can find homes in new decks. Should that happen, it'll be a first for me: taking apart a deck is something I never do.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Despite my frustration with the online performance, I didn't change Jetfire afterwards. There didn't seem to be any point.

It does, however, demonstrate something about Magic in a big picture sense. If you check out the top 8 decklists from last weekend's Modern tournament, you may notice something. There are only 118 creature (or creature generating) spells in the maindecks of all of those lists. Out of 480 spells, maindeck. This means roughly 24% creatures with roughly 39% other spells. Only half of the decks there had more creatures than spells and in the semifinal matches, only one deck was creature-focused.

My point is that there is a lot of control out there. Everyone knows that creatures are the easiest path to victory so everyone is prepared. To win most matchups, with creatures as your focused win condition you have to be 1) faster or 2) have better creatures. #2 is why White Weenie archetypes stick around-protection from a color is always good and #1 is why Goblins archetypes stick around: they're absurdly fast.

If I'm going to stick with this deck, then I need to either accept that there will be matchups where they have more removal than I have threats and their removal trumps my creatures, unless I deliberately get off to a blazing fast start, or change the deck to have more removal of my own--like Lightning Bolt instead of Snake Umbra, for example.
8 Forest
8 Mountain
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
1 Copperline Gorge
3 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Burning-Tree Shaman
4 Wild Cantor
2 Radha, Heir to Keld
4 Boartusk Liege
3 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Tattermunge Maniac
3 Jund Hackblade

4 Wildsize
4 Psychotic Fury
3 Sudden Shock
3 Snake Umbra
Still, look at that list. Hard not to love it as it is, isn't it? And in the matches I've been playing lately, it's done exactly what I hoped: swing hard and win quickly. I lost one game when Scott gave his Angelic Overseer double strike via Boros Charm and then paid one more to a Blind Obedience, hitting me for a total of 12 in one turn.

Shit happens. Then again, I have attacked for 17 with this deck, so I am not complaining.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Two Stories

Continuing last post's suggestion of 'Why', Extra Credits has a bit on Why as it specifically regards game design. Pretty cool and somewhat connected. Now on with the show.

I have been tinkering with running both Burning-Tree Emissary and Snake Umbra, in place of Aggressive Urge. Games in meatspace have been very good, with Jetfire winning multiplayer games, which it is not designed to do. It also took a Boros deck apart, finishing faster than my opponent could build up an attack. Very encouraging!

I had a solid game online vs Fuz playing an unpolished Naya build. I took all of these things as good signs. Then he changed to Nip/Tuck, an aggro BW build and I got decimated. Four games, four losses.

This was when I gave up
In at least three of those games, I was subject to mana flooding, having anywhere from four to six lands in play and three to four lands in hand. I started mulliganing more aggressively in games 3 and 4, because I knew I had to get out to a good start. It didn't matter, in part because Fuz drew a lot of removal, and then the winning cards dried up, the draw spells eagerly pushed the lands to the top of the deck and that was that.

At moments like that, I want to blame the program: how can I possibly be mana flooded in 4 straight games!? Isn't this program shuffling in a faulty manner! (Answer; no.)

The truth is a little more complicated: as aggressive as this deck is, the creatures aren't very resilient. Fuz has a lot of removal in the above game and it showed. The fact that I couldn't draw more threats, while problematic, is also symptomatic of the fragility of my creatures. I don't have a lot of removal, I have speed and in these four games, that speed shorted out.

The problem is: I don't know if there are creatures that will fit into the mold of this deck and increase the resilience. Monochrome creatures don't get the boost from Psychotic Fury or Liege. Other creatures are too expensive. Fuz thinks I could have less land in the deck but there are only 21...less seems super risky!

Which is why Snake Umbra is in there now. I can't say it hasn't worked out like I hoped, because it hasn't really shown up yet in games and it's one of those cards that can't be goldfished, it really has to be tested under real world conditions. Still, I feel like there is something I am overlooking and I just don't know what it is, yet.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Faster and Faster

Before this post starts up, I recommend everyone reading this article by Jim Davis at SCG. It emphasizes what I've been trying to hammer on about, not only in decks for myself but with friends who are playing as well. I cannot think of a better place to start, if you want to improve your game, than to ask: Why? Why make that choice? If I can answer that, even if it's a bad answer, I feel I'm much better off as a player.

Whenever I have a deck I'm writing about, I try to goldfish it a lot in my free time. I'm sure many players do: it's a nice way to get a feel for how a deck flows, what decisions seem to help/hinder the goals, etc. As a result, I have discovered why I just don't like Burning-Tree Shaman: it has no immediate board impact for the cost. The only other card in the deck that this can be said of is Radha, but Radha has the advantage of allowing me to cast spells at a discount whenever she attacks and like the saying goes, 'free is a very good price.'

So here are what I feel are my best alternatives:
2 Bestial Fury
2 Snake Umbra
2 Burning-Tree Emissary
2 Rancor
or Radha, Heir to Keld and Sudden Shock.

Radha and a fourth Sudden Shock is very attractive, because it will increase the consistency of the deck and it's inexpensive to implement. I have the Shock and Radha costs under a buck and my money > less of my money. Rancor is one of the best green cards ever printed, and is partly responsible for the shift away from UW decks in Standard, towards RBG decks. However, all my copies are currently in use, and getting more would cost me around $3 apiece. My money rule invoked.

On the other hand, when you're named after the fastest Autobot, acceleration matters which puts Burning-Tree Emissary at the door because free is a very good price. A turn 2 Emissary + Radha/Hackblade? A turn 4 Bloodbraid Elf into Emissary, into something cool I have in hand? The Glory of Cool Things is rising up here in a big way and it's very, very hard to resist.

Bestial Fury holds a great deal of attraction for me for a few reasons: 1) can be cast for free off Bloodbraid Elf, 2) Draws me a card, and 3) makes a tiny creature risky to block. A great deal of my creatures have a power of only 2 and it is only the use of boost effects that they become truly problematic. However, opponents will block to stop the bleeding if they have to: why not make them pay for it? Finally, it's an old, weird card that nobody cares about and as a result it holds more gravity for me.

Finally, Snake Umbra, which I like for some of the same reasons as Bestial Fury, but it also has the advantage of keeping something like a Boartusk Liege alive in the face of destruction. It also has a nice interaction with Wildsize, helping ensure I hit an opponent and get to draw a card, and Psychotic Fury, allowing me the potential to draw two cards.

Looking at my choices, I really want to try Snake Umbra and Bestial Fury so that's where I'll take the deck but I'll also admit that I may have enough card draw and Burning-Tree Emissary might be the best choice.

Thursday, March 7, 2013


Built in response to a deck Fuz made called Nip/Tuck deck (which I'll talk about during Orzhov week, because it lead to a Holy Cow thing) my goal was to make something that could outrace it (both the Holy Cow deck and Fuz's.)

That goal was insane, but I tried it anyway.
8 Forest
8 Mountain
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
1 Copperline Gorge
3 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Burning-Tree Shaman
4 Wild Cantor
2 Radha, Heir to Keld
4 Boartusk Liege
3 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Tattermunge Maniac
3 Jund Hackblade

4 Wildsize
4 Psychotic Fury
3 Sudden Shock
3 Aggressive Urge
This is a green-red deck built on blue principles of card advantage. Which sounds crazy but it is the keystone to the deck: 14 cards in this deck get me more cards. Radha allows me to attack with her and cast Psychotic Fury for free. Four boost the entire army and ten attack the turn they enter the battlefield. My biggest surprise? Jund Hackblade, no question. It is stunning how often it will hit for 3 the turn it comes into play. I hesitated using it because it wasn't 'optimized'--in this case meaning, I wouldn't be able to cast it for green OR black. The brain is a funny one.

There are two deviations in this deck and the first one is easy to explain: Sudden Shock. The card is just good. For all intents and purposes, that card cannot be countered and is just the thing to get rid of tiny blockers that might keep me from getting in creature damage.

The second card is Burning-Tree Shaman. This card I'm on the fence about. It's got a cool ability and for the mana cost is very efficient but whenever I draw it I never want it. I don't know if that's because it's not aggressive enough or because I just haven't played enough games with it yet. Time will soon tell but I have a feeling that my issue is that games are ending before the cool ability becomes relevant.

Finally, to head off what will likely be the first question: I am not using Might of the Nephilim because it does not draw a card. Getting +4 (or even +6) isn't as useful as chaining through cards to continually impose threats. You haven't lived until you've given something +1 and then drawn the card to give the creature double strike, then drawn the next card, which is what you'll use to give the whole army +2/+2 next turn. It really is awesome.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Kneel Before Megatron

It hit me just before shaving, the day after the last post.

Steel Overseer. Or, as I said to Fuz in my best Samuel L Jackson, "Steel. Godamn. Overseer."

Now I know that not every idea that hits me while shaving is a good one. Friday mornings are full of inspiration and it's always a good idea to suss out which ones work and which ones are less likely to keep your insides inside.

Fuz liked the idea though, so that's a good sign. Later that evening, when I took Megatron up against a Bant golem deck, (including Blade Splicer, Wing Splicer and Precursor Golem) Noah saw the Steel Golem and also expressed some concern. (High point of that evening for me: casting Naturalize on a Precursor Golem with 5 total on the board. Booyaa.)

That concern manifested itself with the phrase "oh, shit" when I played Megatron against Noah on Monday. What you see in the picture is me snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, attacking with a 32/32 flying Arcbound Stinger. If I hadn't been able to do that, Noah would've overrun me the next turn with very large, vigilant golems. 

What does this mean? That I think I've got a deck I can be happy with. It plays a little oddly: I had been expecting to overrun opponents with indestructable creatures but instead I seem to want to overload one awesome creature, a flyer, a trampler, Triskelion, with counters and win there. It is a little 'eggs in one basket' drawback; Noah handily defeated this deck with a control deck that was designed to kill creatures, winning one game where I screwed up, tapping out instead of holding off to drop Darksteel Forge into play in response to a Supreme Verdict but nothing was going to save me from Terminus, which is just savage against this deck. 

All in all, though, I am happy with where this deck has gone and I'm going to keep it in the box for a little longer.