Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I'm going to PAX this week, so I have no idea what kind of time I'm going to have to play Magic or talk about anything. If there's a Legacy event, I certainly hope to do that, even if I'm just going in without a sideboard and hoping for the best.

But I don't think there will be a post on Thursday, however I hope I'll have something for Tuesday, September 3rd.


There are very few Deftones songs that hit as hard as Hexagram does. Given my tastes in music, it probably won't come as much of a surprise that I love that song. There's no connection between the song to the idea of this deck, though. I tend to do that a lot; if I can't get an easy/inspired connection then I just pick a song I'm listening to a whole lot at the time. It's been awhile since I broke out this deck, which I think will become clear as I explain how it works. With Theros's enchantment-theme coming up, I figured this would be a good time to revisit it, so it will be fresh in my mind, when the goodies from the new set arrive. If there's an interesting addition, I want to be on top of it.
3 Rancor
4 Enchantress's Presence
2 Ancestral Mask
4 Words of Wind
2 Still Life
2 Veiled Sentry
3 Spreading Seas
3 Seal of Removal
4 Eladamri's Vineyard
2 Seal of Primordium
2 Verduran Enchantress
3 Metathran Elite
3 Yavimaya Enchantress

4 Breeding Pool
9 Island
10 Forest
This deck was initially constructed when mana burn could happen. For those unfamiliar with the term, "mana burn" was when a player would take damage at the end of a phase, for any unspent mana left in their pool. So, against a non-green deck, Eladamri's Vineyard could get in some extra points of damage.

Since the rules have been changed to eliminate mana burn (for the better, I think) that won't work however, the free mana is still a good thing for the combo that this deck wants to use to win:

With Words of Wind and a Verduran Enchantress or Enchantress's Presence on the table, I want to play an enchantment, skip the extra draw and force everyone to bounce something. With enough resources, I should be able to replay my stuff faster than my opponents, and creating an unblockable Metathran Elite or a huge Yavimaya Enchantress should allow me the win.

So I've tried to make everything work with those lines.Via floating mana from the Vineyard, I could do something like play Rancor and skip the draw without tapping any land at all. If I have another Rancor to bounce, I could just as easily play that again. Spreading Seas allows me to draw and to potentially stall an opponent by stunting their mana, Seal of Primordium is my concession to the decks I face that have those crazy artifact or enchantment combos.

Still Life is probably unnecessary now. Added as a mana sink for the Vineyard, it doesn't really serve all the purposes it needed to and I could add in more Seal of Removal, Spreading Seas or Veiled Sentry. It also might be a good space for something more defensive in nature, giving me time to set up the combo. Propaganda would be the obvious choice, except I'm using it elsewhere. However, this is a perfect opportunity to try something new, and I have a pretty clear choice of what to take out, so I feel good about my starting point.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Call Me Anytime

So this happened against Noah's new and improved aggro Scapeshift deck:

T1: Forest, Wild Dogs, go.
Noah: Stomping Grounds untapped (N:18 life), Bolt you for 3, (Me: 17) go.
T2: Wild Dogs find a new master with Noah during upkeep.
Play Forest, 2x Uktabi Drake, swing for 4 (N: 14 life), go.
Noah's upkeep: Yoink, steak means Wild Dogs are mine now.
"Oh crap, that's right. That happens on my turn now."

Raise the pints in a toast, and scene.

I pondered for quite a bit of time about What To Do with Dirty Deeds. Losing 8 games in a row will do that. I had a Eureka! moment and even pulled out Ring of Kalonia and Ranger's Guile from the binder to make things awesome. Bigger creatures? Hexproof with more damage? That's got to be fantastic for this deck, right!

Fortunately, I took a walk (my best thinking comes while walking or writing in a pub) before I actually did this and realized: Ring takes too long to do what I need it to do and taking out Colossal Might for a Ranger's Guile blunts this deck's impact in a pretty severe way. Something needed to be done: Shard Volley's additional cost is one I can't afford in a deck with only 16 mana producers and Elephant Guide is awesome but expensive. I wanted to go with Rancor-it's cheap, it's recastable pump effects (Spark Elemental and Uktabi Drake can both benefit from it without me having to lose a card) and the trample is critical when I have a 4/5 Tarmogoyf and can't punch through a 1/1. I've made 'arguments' that essentially say: you have to justify why you aren't using Rancor.

Alas, my Rancors are being used. So there you go.

But there is another. Oh yes. When Noah saw it for the first time said "Why don't I know this card: I have a bunch of Fifth Dawn."

That's right, the forgotten sister of Cranial Plating is out there and has found its time in the sun.

Horned Helm, Ladies and Gents. Horned Helm. I can cast it cheaper than I can get out an Elephant Guide and I can re-equip it to whatever creature I want like a more versatile Rancor and there is more!

I lose a card type by taking out the Elephant Guide, potentially decreasing the size of Tarmogoyfs. Horned Helm replaces that card type, allowing me to give the 'Goyf (or anything else) trample without decreasing the number of card types in the deck.

Don't get me wrong: I would still rather have trample but a deck like this has to work every angle it can and so far the Helm has been doing the dirty work I hoped.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Concrete Shoes

stonethorn and I got some games in online over the weekend and he recorded them. You can watch me lose every game we played, here. The sound can be a little wonky and it's over an hour long, so I don't blame you for not viewing it but I've already found it useful.

For example, at about 6 minutes in I should have attacked with the Spark Elemental and in response to the activation of Cartel Aristocrat, I should have Incinerated the Aristocrat. I know what my thought process was-I was trying to bleed him out of creatures but it was the wrong gameplan. He has synergestic but not impressive creatures after the Aristocrat, until turn 5 when the Archangel of Thune arrives, so I should have done everything I could to kill it.The rest I could have rolled over, if I'm up to speed.

The main point however, is this: I got hammered in every game and that's a bad sign.

I also got a few games in against Fuz's G/B Darkest Hour/Elephant Grass deck. We split 1-1 before I had to go but in both games, I struggled.

No offense to Fuz's deck but I shouldn't have. I should have hammed the hell out of that deck. If his turn 1 and 2 plays are those enchantments, and my turn 1 and 2 plays are evil creatures, I ought to get some damage in and grind him out while he spends all his mana on cumulative upkeep (which is one reason I won the game I did.)

I think I understand what may be wrong: Dirty Deeds was built in the Dark Times, before creatures were good, when spells and removal were kings. Small creatures hitting hard made sense because you could overwhelm them rapidly, setting up and endgame before they were ready.

Now, a lot of decks have small, viable, resilient creatures and I'm probably not maximizing what I am using, especially as far as Horned Kavu is concerned.

The problem is that I have to deal with two worlds now: the NWO, where stonethorn and Noah live, and the Old Skool, where Jason and Fuz make things like Darkest Hour or Leveler + Endless Whispers decks. I'm not sure I can build something that can be compatible with both worlds and emerge victorious, without just loading every insane R/G card I own into this deck.

I don't want to do that: I think I'm going to have to focus more on one or the other world and accept that there is a set of bad matchups. But I'm not going to let 'bad' mean 'unwinable', so it's time to do some research.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

$40 & a Fire

I bought $40 worth of commons and uncommons at a yard sale just over a month ago. I bought them mostly blind: the yard sale was being done by a lifelong geek and the opportunity to purchase neat things brought out rabid (albeit very polite) collectors of all things nerdy, weird and awesome.

I didn't know the man, I just knew that he was selling his stuff to pay for a trip to the NY Comic Con.

When I saw him though, I understood the truth of things. This person was sick, really, really sick. The kind of illness that doesn't go away and ought to have you in a hospital most of the time. The kind that reminds you that life is finite.

So I didn't bother to sort through the cards, or haggle, or feed that little monster inside me that says "Gimmie!" when it comes to Magic cards. I wanted to. I had to shake it off, because this dude was going to go on a last hurrah somewhere and enjoy himself. It was crowded and a bit intense in there as this person witnessed his very belongings being sold off: what is the point of feeding my own monster when this person is looking at the Reaper? Fuck that. 

Let him have the $40 and get a fuckton of whatever comforts him with it. At the end, both transactions were just about dead trees and he was alive to enjoy the uses of them. Go, do.

Three days ago Jason left a message, told me his apartment burnt down, he was headed to a hotel and his phone was about to die.

Fuckin' a, man. He was alive, clearly, but I had no idea what he'd lost. He's been playing Magic for nearly as long as I have and certainly has a collection to rival mine, with a brain that has always seemed to capture the best and weirdest of griefer deck building and cards that cannot be replaced. I began to look to the extra cards I owned, thinking about ways I could help him rebuild what he had lost. He lives in Seattle and doesn't have a lot of friends or any family around, so I worry about him anyway. Trying to replace his Magic collection-just a little bit-was a way of trying to help. Weird as that may sound.

When I talked to him the next day, I found out it wasn't so bad. The place he was living in is unlivable now but aside from having to replace his clothing due to smoke damage, his stuff was still intact. The Red Cross is putting him up in a hotel for 30 days so he can find new housing.

Still, he was in a daze, and I could tell. "This is the first time in my life I've been homeless, man," he said to me, his voice still detached from the insanity and, I'm sure, hopeless quality of it all. If he had been sleepless for the past 24 hours, that would not have surprised me in the least.

Two weeks ago, stonethorn and I talked a little bit about life/work balance while we were at the pub. I was testing the Dirty Deeds deck and the subject came up. Almost immediately we arrived at the spot where we weren't just there to play a game. The game was the tentpole that propped up our chance to hang out.

I play a great many videogames and I'd play a lot more boardgames if I had the opportunity. Hell, I'd play a lot more games, period.

I play them in part because in my working life, I am frequently asked to perform tasks that I do not see the logic behind, thus I consider them to be pointless. I do them but I do not take agency in them. When I play Magic, I have a reason for playing Wild Dogs, even if that reason is 'bad'. I understand why it is the way it is.

But I also play games because they give me an opportunity to hang out. And this is the more important reason. I get to interact with people in a way that can have as much or little meaning as we want, while still allowing us enjoy whatever we get out of it.

The cardboard is just cardboard and it's important to remember that it doesn't play with us, we play with it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


In my first game against stonethorn, I went: Wooded Foothills, sac, pay a life to get a Forest, tap Forest to play Wild Dogs. I'm at 19.

stonethorn's play was: swamp, go. He's at 20.

It wasn't until two turns after that when I realized I failed to recognize the upkeep trigger on the Wild Dogs and that it should have passed to stonethorn on my upkeep.

In a later game, I forgot to count stonethorn's graveyard when it came to my Tarmogoyf, which means that instead of being a 4/5, it was a 3/4.

It's clearly been quite some time since I picked up this deck. Despite knowing an absurd amount of Magic cards, I still take some basic interactions for granted. This is why so many pros advise that people play the deck they are most comfortable and familiar with: They won't overlook things and make those kinds of mistakes.

It does raise the question; why play Wild Dogs, if a bad play like this is clearly there but if I can land this on turn 1 with a Forest and then attack for 5 with that and a Spark Elemental on turn 2, that's a pretty good deal. If it's later in the game, I can just cycle them for another card.

I just can't play them off a fetchland on turn 1. I mean, seriously.

And I also keep thinking about the Treefolk deck. Ideas include: Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, Pyrewild Shaman, Wasteland Viper and some cool lands. Avoiding Ruric Thar damage is going to be helpful: maximizing it via Heartwood Storyteller is key. Might be a one trick pony but maybe it'll be a fun one, especially if I can give creatures trample without using a spell. Rancor might be worth it but Brawn might be the more interesting choice.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap

When I first built this deck, the goal was to make a cheap, G/R beatdown deck. A bit like Wildrider but with the advantage of having burn. And then...years pass and Tarmogoyf is a $120 card. I suppose these deeds aren't done cheaply anymore.
4 Spark Elemental
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Wild Dogs
2 Scab-Clan Mauler
4 Uktabi Drake
2 Kird Ape
3 Horned Kavu
2 Silhana Ledgewalker

4 Rift Bolt
3 Browbeat

2 Shard Volley
3 Incinerate

3 Colossal Might
8 Mountain
8 Forest
4 Wooded Foothills

2 Elephant Guide
I did some tweaking from my original deck in order to include cards that would boost Tarmogoyf but I did my best to be smart about it. Elephant Guide helps protect against creature sweeps and is an enchantment, Browbeat forces my opponents into horrible decisions, even Shard Volley has the bonus of adding a land to my graveyard, in case Wooded Foothills don't show up.

On the upside, I'll know quickly if I'm going to win or not. On the downside, I'm not sure I can push this deck much further but we shall see.

The other thing this deck makes me want to do is mock up another R/G aggro build, using the Bloodrush mechanic and Heartwood Storyteller. I may have to do that while testing this one.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

(More) Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

I present to you, the one match that Mindslicer has worked out: against stonethorn's Allies deck. Of course, I was assisted by him having mana issues.

And in the other games I played against stonethorn that night with Skalor, this was a common theme; I can totally take advantage of a slip up in my opponent's deck but I have a great deal of difficulty creating that edge for myself.

So. Here we are, admitting Mindslicer needing to be replaced and so it's time to ask: what's the best card to do that with?

Offalsnout comes to mind, actually, because it has a lot of utility. Flash is a very useful ability for Skalor, Evoke plays well with both Gutter Grime's ability: I could flash the 'Snout in to trigger the Gutter Grime for the Evoke cost, which could make a larger creature or boost the team, or I could Evoke it out and in response cast Gluttonous Slime, eating the 'Snout for a larger Slime, while still using the ability in certain matchups to remove cards from a graveyard.

It doesn't kill a creature outright, though.

Shriekmaw does, however and it has some of the combo elements of Offalsnot, using the Evoke cost. Bone Shredder also offers some of these things, is a flier and has a 'natural' death if I don't pay the Echo cost, again boosting up or making tokens with Gutter Grime. Creatures with similar ETB/LTB effects would be Skinrender or Shambling Swarm.

Phyrexian Plaguelord and it's minion, Phyrexian Defiler make for some interesting and old school goodness. The abilities were far better when combat damage used the stack but they still allow me to be proactive in destroying creatures that might otherwise prove problematic.

Finally, there are the lowly Disease Carriers. Again: I like this card but if nothing else, the past few weeks have insisted that Skalor needs some oomph to really shine. The other options are just better at creating an opportunity for me to do something that has impact on the board state so I'm going to go with them first.

But it's been two weeks and that's plenty of time. New deck on Thursday.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bad Sign

I took the shiny improved version of Skalor out to play against Noah, with high hopes that Mindslicer would be an effective tool.

He was playing a Reanimator deck, using cards like Gifts Ungiven to bring back nasties like Elesh Norn with flashbacked Unburial Rites. Throwing his hand into the graveyard was a bonus, not a bug.

OK, so...shit happens.

Let's try again, this time vs. a G/B deck Fuz is playing with Loam Dweller and...Dark Depths and Aether Snap?


Now, every deck has bad matchups and most of the time, those bad matchups are going to be against established decks. Those decks are established because they beat other stuff. However to find that my attempt at a solution runs right into an archetype that basically said; Ooooo, more of that please! then to play a deck running the one card that is pratically designed to hit this deck in the face with a shovel, bury it in concrete and throw it into the river...makes me think that Skalor is just under some bad mojo.

Sigh. I don't want to give up on this. I should also come clean and say that the one game I played against Fuz, I was in a position to win (by no means guaranteed) but I had to quit early for romantic reasons. (Don't judge. You'd've done the same.)

A few more games with Mindslicer should help me understand how the deck interacts and yes, I may just have to come back to the 'Kill things' idea. I just find it difficult to let go of Mindslicer because the interaction seems really powerful!

But with bad luck like this, I can't tell if I'm beating myself or if I'm actually being beaten. Yowza.