Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hysteria is a dumb album

I've been listening to music I've had for a long time, because I may have to move in 2015 and getting rid of CDs I don't care about anymore is less weight I have to carry. Some of those albums have been pretty solid and it's always nice to know you had at last some taste when you were younger.

But others...well, it's just hard to listen to a song like 'Women' and keep a straight face. Seriously, that whole album is blackout drunk levels of dumb. Still, that's what I did on my drive to meet up and test Defensor out more. Here's what I found out:

I need some creature removal, damnit. What that picture represents is a static board state that I should be able to take advantage of: He has two Assemble the Legion out but cannot block my flyers. I've got a Pariah on one of his creatures and Bubble Matrix in play so I don't have to do any blocking at all and Goblin Tinkerer can eat all the Obelisk of Urd my opponent can produce. I'm hitting him for five a turn which seems like a pretty good thing!

Except for one little trick: Trostani, Selesnya's Voice is in play. He's gaining far more life than I can manage and I don't have a way to re-establish the lock if I blow everything up.

It took awhile but eventually, he found a Gleeful Sabotage and was able to destroy the Bubble Matrix and the Pariah, before I could play a Desolation Giant (which I had) and a Pariah on the same turn (which I was looking for).

His life total was over 200 and there were over 100 soldiers on the table. I went down in a pretty epic fashion and if you're going to lose, "pretty epic fashion" is not a bad way to go. My opponent suggested that I needed a way to get rid of enchantments but Assemble the Legion wasn't my problem. Trostani was what kept him in the game.

Which means I need to make some changes. I've already replaced the Glittering Lynx with Goldenglow Moth as a vastly superior blocker with the potential to attack if equipped, and I've ordered a Hundred-Handed One to really muck up the blocking. Plus, one of the Bonesplitters has become a Godsend, to help create more problematic blocking issues. It's not enough, though.

So it's probably time to admit that Tolarian Entrancer is The Glory of Cool Things. Something else to deal with creatures beyond Desolation Giant is going to be required and I'm not sure what that is going to be just yet. I doubt I have any Path to Exile lying around, red damage doesn't fit the deck, which leaves blue to solve this problem. The question is, how?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Analog Games Are Awesome

I read a pretty interesting article promoting the play of analog games. There's definitely a 'guy-centric' theme going on there in the photographs but I suppose that's to be expected from a website called The Art of Manliness.

Still, it's a good read and gets me off the hook for the next week. It's the holidays! Magic games are a little more challenging to come by. Cheers, everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Defensor comes from my early deckbuilding days, where I like to take an idea (Fliers! Vigilance!) or card and just make it the one thing a deck did. Because of the use of Bubble Matrix, I named the deck after the great protector amongst the Autobots.
3 Lightning Angel
3 Desolation Giant
3 Masako the Humorless
3 Saprazzan Heir
3 Goblin Tinkerer
3 Glittering Lynx
3 Soltari Emissary
2 Tolarian Entrancer
3 Pariah
3 Catalog
3 Bonesplitter
4 Bubble Matrix

7 Mountain
6 Island
8 Plains
3 Thawing Glaciers

One of the things to remember is that at the time, Magic was often infested with cards-creatures, especially-that had drawbacks, often terrible ones. Glittering Lynx, for example is a card that needs its drawback removed to really be useful.

So along those lines, the idea was to gum up the works in combat by having cheap blockers and otherwise less than useful utility creatures become better with Bubble Matrix, and beat down with evasion creatures (Lightning Angel and Soltari Emissary especially). If those creatures don't show up, add a Bonesplitter to a Saprazzan Heir until they do.

The time has come to give this deck a bit of an overhaul.Starting with the 3 Thawing Glaciers, which should obviously become Mystic Monastery.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cast List

I'm noting that I'm talking about people I play with on this blog and there's hardly any basis for knowing who the heck these people are. So let me do some introductions of the people I often play with (or reference)--and update this page as needed.

Fuz is one of my oldest friends and we got into Magic at the same time. We've been playing for close to twenty years. He likes decks that have a lot of resilience and can easily recover from board-wipe level setbacks.

Jason and I lived together for a while in the early '00s and would spend nearly every weekend playing game after game of Magic until the wee hours of the morning. He likes building weird decks that usually attack the opponent's ability to play from from their own library, be it milling as a victory condition (the most common method) or a combination of Leveler/Shared Fate.

stonethorn sees the game through a more professional lens, often using tech that comes out of the pro tour. That isn't to suggest that he doesn't take his own spin on things just that he tends to start with the best ideas provided.

Noah likes to see goofy ideas executed...mostly by someone else. The exception to this is Commander, where he'll indulge a weirder but definitely more lockdown oriented strategy. Otherwise, he seems to like decks that can get out from under countermagic easily.

Lauriel has consistently impressed me with her abilities to build draft decks and her luck in getting good sealed pools is outstanding. She tends to tilt towards multiplayer games when not involved in drafts which often means her decks are looking at the long game.

Matt likes to try and bring old-school Legacy decktypes back when he can, like Stasis. When he isn't doing that, he tends to skew towards the Commander format.

Caitlin I don't know well; she and Matt are both newer to me and I often play them in multiplayer. She's pretty fluid with her deck choices though and has handily beat a table using Zur.

Sean I met through the Star City Games forums, back when they had them and he's a student of game design, in addition to being someone who is all about draft formats.

So when I talk about playing the game, these are the people I most often play with. So far.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Foolproof Magic

Shortly after asking how I could tighten up my play so I would remember Oloro's triggers, along comes this series from Gathering Magic about how to do just that.

I don't know that I want to incorporate everything into my play or that I can: I group my lands differently than the author, for example, (non-basics are separate for me) so that doesn't really work. Also, there are, for my liking, too many dice being used as reminders for every trigger, making a cluttered board even more difficult to read.

However, what the article did do was remind me to do was to look ahead and visualize what mana I may need, so I can keep my options open. I did start placing a single die, set to 2, on top of my library with Oloro, so I would get used to looking for upkeep triggers before blindly drawing.

I'm also trying to slow down when I play, questioning my knowledge of everything on the board. There are too many cards that get changed in context of the game state for me to accelerate through complex turns. It's all well and good to have the general outline of my turn planned out, especially in multiplayer but sketching in the specific details in case I have to change my plan is the next thing to work on.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Star Realms

When Jason and I met up over Thanksgiving, I thought we would probably play quite a bit of Magic. We have in the past and I don't get to test things out with him too often, so I like to take advantage of that.

Instead we played Star Realms almost exclusively.

Star Realms is a sci-fi themed deckbuilding game, along the lines of Ascension or Dominion. I found out about it in the Reddit boardgame area and got to try it out on my iPad for free.

Free is good. It certainly convinced me to pick up the game.

And that convincing led to a purchase because of some very balanced gameplay. Star Realms is pretty easy to set up/take down and once you get the hang of it, it is possible to have games where even if things are looking grim, you can come back to win it.

It's also very fast paced: you can get through one in under 20 minutes and be ready to play again easily. This is one of the more efficient games I've played and I'm liking it quite a bit. Check it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

So Now It's Come To This

I hope stonethorn doesn't mind but I'm going to use one of his decks as my example for what is wrong with Magic in a big picture sense. Take a look at this Commander deck.

There is nothing wrong with it at all. I'm even helping him improve it!

Except for what that deck says about Magic right now.

There are enough viable Planeswalkers at this point that one can make a five-color Commander deck from them. In a few more years, the number of Commanders will increase to the point where a viable three color deck will be OK. Then two colors. This is just inevitability coming from the nature of production. I don't see how that can be disputed: If Magic continues as a game, then the number of Planeswalkers will increase to the point where you can run three or even two color decks, perhaps even monochrome ones, that just have Planeswalkers in them.

That isn't the problem. The problem is that WotC has provided Planeswalkers with a protected status and that status needs to end. The sooner the better.

Because Planeswalkers require an incredible amount of resources to deal with and if any of them ultimate (that is, use their final and strongest ability) that usually definitively tilts the game in favor of the player who owns the Planeswalker. If you can run a deck purely made from Planeswalkers, you are forcing opponents to deal with nothing but those things before advancing their gamestate. This creates incredibly grindy situations that are wholly favorable to the controller of the Planeswalker, leaving the player without the Planeswalker with no real way out.

Take any other permanent type in the game and there is a common-level way to handle it. Even indestructible or recurring permanents have cards like Angelic Edict or Annihilating Fire to remove them from the game. Not every color gets these things, of course, which is fine! But lands, artifacts, enchantments and creatures all have common-level ways to handle them. This is critical, because first, it opens the door to a variety of ways to handle said permanents at multiple rarities. That is: options are available to players of different strategic bents, with a couple different colors as options. Second: players on a budget can afford to handle those troublesome permanents.

There are two common level permanents I have been able to find that could destroy a Planeswalker: Mold Shambler and Rootgrapple, both of which are over five years old. There are a few others, like Hydroblast, which is even older and far too narrow to consider and there is nothing at the common level to handle Planeswalkers.

The best argument against common-level Planeswalker removal is the impact it will have on draft but since when has there ever been a draft where there weren't shitty cards that were useless? Since I'm not talking about putting common removal in every damn set, I fail to see the issue. Constructed control decks using none or virtually no creatures already exist in Modern and Legacy. They aren't trumping the format yet but it is just a matter of time and production. The inevitability is out there.

So give us more ways to handle Planeswalkers than just attacking with creatures and redirection of damage. Those just aren't enough.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I planned for Jason but not for Sean

I'm going to write up a cast list soon, I think.

On Tuesday I went to do a Khans draft with Jason and was stuck in a ten person pod. Typically, draft pods only have eight people so what that meant was: I saw far less consistency out of the packs than I would have liked. I don't understand draft very well, though so after first-picking a Butcher of the Horde, I thought: OK, go red-white-black if I can.

And because I kept thinking: 'play to build the best deck' instead of 'grab all the rares' I just kept pounding away at the W/B cards I got, failing to acquire anything in red (or green, the other support color) worth the effort. When I finally built my deck, I don't believe I had a single rare in it.

This was extremely discouraging and led to discouraging matchups, where I was frankly overpowered. I managed to take every game to three but at the end of the night, I was 0-3 in matches. Jason and I played next to each other at the low table though, my opponents were all nice and we got some really helpful advice from the judge at Shane's so I am trying to come away from the experience in a positive way.

I just didn't like drafting that set. I need to give it another shot but I really don't feel inclined to do so. Good money after bad, if you take my meaning.

The day after Thanksgiving Jason and I went to my friend Sean's place where we got in about two games of constructed before Sean persuaded us to draft his cube.

I didn't do so well at that, either and I was in R/W/B again. Only this time I actually could play all my colors. The glories of cube draft: Everything is useful. Jason was new to and loved this format and got a lot of good advice from Sean about how to build one. He's planing on making a multiplayer focused one and that should be very interesting, indeed.

I suppose I just don't understand draft very well and will have to practice it. If nothing else, this means I have to get my own cube complete so I can practice for free.

The constructed games I got in didn't go very well either, unfortunately. Sean likes to draft and when he doesn't have a draft deck he has some high-powered blue-oriented combo decks. I really haven't prepared for that and I quickly found myself presenting too big a threat for multiplayer and thus swiftly eliminated.

If my metagame involved playing Sean often, I would probably brought some very different decks. Hell, I'd build some very different decks. Ah well; next time!

Hope everyone had a nice vacation!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Jason Decks

I'm heading up to Seattle next week, which means there probably won't be any posts for this blog. Sorry!

But. I will get to play Jason and it's always good to get to play with him. He has very difficult decks to beat and thinks about the game differently.

Which means it's time to dig into the ol' deck boxes and pull out the best Jason specials I can.

It's fine to play against his weird 'remove your deck' strategies.

But I don't want to lose to 'em, man.

However, this is tempered by my need to test the decks I have that aren't working. It is all well and good to crush your enemies but...

Ah, screw it. I spent five years getting crushed by Jason. Let's bring the ruckus!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Oops! All Bears

Someone played a bear deck at the last Legacy GP.

I really love this, for so many reasons. First, because I feel like decks like this-even if they are clearly not tournament worthy-are worth getting out there and are precisely why Legacy is a great format. I don't play Legacy seriously and the reason why is that I like having this massive playground of ideas to tinker with. Taking Legacy seriously means playing the best deck, always and there's a huge chunk of fun that gets overlooked.

Second, I once build a bear deck for my ex-girlfriend. It wasn't quite as tightly themed as this one but many of the cards were the same, as you might well consider for a bear deck. I think I went the Overrun route though and I have to say, that deck had some fun times in it. You could easily find yourself on the end of a massive bear beatdown. Good times.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Aaron Forsythe Interview

There's some really good things to glean from this interview with Aaron Forsythe. But what I don't get is statements like this, in regards to Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise:
Ten Copper: Of course, of course. So are they headed for a ban? Or are you going to unban cards that have similar effects?
Aaron: We are going to let our next batch of Modern Grand Prix play out with these cards in the format, and we’re going to let Legacy go for a while. We have our normal banned and restricted list change coming up prior to the Fate Reforged release, we’re gonna stick to that. To say we’re not looking at it would be — we are absolutely looking at what those cards are doing, they are definitely on our radar.
I don’t want to scare anyone in case we end up not doing anything, but I mean… Jeskai Ascendancy in Modern is a big deal. Dig Through Time in all of the Eternal formats is a big deal. Treasure Cruise in all of the older formats is a big deal. So yes, they kinda set off our alarm bells, but we’re going to get more data, we’re going to do our due diligence, we’re certainly not going to overreact to a tweet, or an article, or one single event or anything. We’re definitely not banning Khans of Tarkir! (a reference to a joke made earlier-ed.)
These are some of the more powerful cards we’ve introduced to those formats in a while.
Ten Copper: Did you suspect this would happen?
Aaron: We suspected it going in. We don’t put a lot of time and effort into testing those older formats, we just kinda let things… we’ll see what happens, and we have the banned list as a ‘catch-all’ for any problems that may arise. They’ve caught our attention, we’re going to see what happens, and use that data to make the best decision.

So you "suspected" that cheap card drawing effects would be extremely powerful? What kind of excuse is that, especially if you end up having to ban those cards?

Don't get me wrong: I don't think that printing Treasure Cruise or Dig Through Time was a horrible idea but there is no way that the Director of Magic's R&D doesn't know how powerful drawing cards is, nor the kind of impact that it can have on a format. Drawing cards has been a powerful thing since Ancestral Recall and a broken one since Necropotence.

The problem is that there isn't a counterbalancing analog to the power of drawing cards, or at least WotC hasn't made one available. So every time Wizards produces a card or uses a mechanic that allows players to draw cards for less mana than than they put into it, they know that it's going to produce a blue-dominated metagame which is what we have now, especially in Modern.

Magic doesn't need more blue dominated games. It needs ways to balance those out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Commander 2014 Thoughts

A great deal has been said at this point about Commander 2014. I know; late to the party but better late than never, right? I can't help it; I really like to have the cards in my hand before I start to mess around and talk about them.

I've even managed a couple games with the decks and...

Man, do I hate Planeswalkers. Going back to the discussion that stonethorn and I had last week, the presence of Commander damage really didn't make a difference one way or another. The problem was...other people.

The red player decided not to destroy Teferi when Spine of Ish Sah came out. The Teferi ultimates and the blue player actually loops through the deck.. The green player doesn't have any creatures for the first 2/3rd of the game. The white player gets out a and proceeds to create a table of stupidly huge tokens from Cathars' Crusade which are thankfully wiped out by a Disk, but that let the white player ultimate Nahiri. I was playing black and Ob Nixis has the dumbest ultimate ever for a preconstructed moment, not to mention having a grip full of uncastable rares (I didn't get enough land or appropriate cards to play Magic until halfway through the game) and I had to try and shake myself out of discouragement. And then the red player got to ultimate.

There just aren't enough ways to deal with Planeswalkers and I hate it. Or maybe nobody really realizes what a problem Planeswalkers are? I don't know. Clearly they realize that there are some issues with the card type because cards like Song of the Dryads (which people want to insist is outside Green's color scope but they are wrong) is printed along with Magmaquake but there are tools to handle Planeswalkers.

Once. As commanders, Planeswalkers come back and that presents issues that I don't think the game is really ready to deal with. I could be wrong but I just foresee blowouts in the future.

But let's move on, before I get weird on the subject.

I have to admit, there's a lot to like here. Weird designs being shoved in because they are cool is a system that reminds me quite a bit of Magic Design of Ye Olden Days. Dulcet Sirens? Offerings for political positioning? Cards that have to be re-read multiple times in order to get what the hell they mean? Color pie bleeding away from green? It's allll there kids!

And you know what? It's pretty good, from a card perspective. I doubt I'll ever agree that making Planeswalkers usable as Commanders is a good thing but I do think that more of these cards offer some interesting paths to explore for 60 card decks, while also providing some more dynamic cards for multiplayer situations.

Some brief notes:

I wish Titania triggered off anyone's lands going into the graveyard.  That would've been pretty great.

I think Fell the Mighty is going to be better than people believe it is. That card scales very nicely with white's strategies.

I also think Malicious Affliction isn't as good as people are hoping. The nonblack restriction has always been hampering black's removal, so it's color appropriate but paying BB for creature removal in a format that is practically defined by multicolored decks means that this card just isn't that awesome, to me. Still useful, especially in the singular meta of the new commander decks! Just not great.

I really like Wake the Dead though.

Daretti, Scrap Savant is pretty rad and I hope that WotC continues to lightly explore the red theme of Trash for Treasure. Red needs some more dynamic ways to interact with the board! Unfortunately, after that there isn't much in the way of red good stuff, Dualcaster Mage and Scrap Mastery (continuing Daretti's themes) aside. Not terrible, just not interesting or really awesome.

And I'm going to find a way to get Crown of Doom in my Zedruu deck, somehow.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

(Limited) Mechanical Animals

So I said this at Reddit's Magic forum, in response to revelation of Angelic Field Marshall.

People didn't like that. For those of you who don't want to click the link, here's what I said:
I generally do not like mechanics that are focused on specific formats-I think that any Magic card should be useful/playable in any format. (This is setting aside questions of 'quality'). AFM's ability only triggers in Commander and I think that's a negative.
This mechanic is also a clear reply to the problems that Oloro presented that people (rightly, in my opinion) complained about. It should be interesting to see how the next Commander set tries to set against what we don't like about this Commander set.
However, so long as cards with this kind of drawback are infrequent, I can't fault WotC for poking around in that design space a little and this card is a pretty solid one. Giving all your dudes Vigilance is a nice way to mess with combat math.
It's strange that people took such a dislike to what I said, because I wasn't rude about it. I just had an opinion: All cards made for Magic should be fully playable in any game of Magic. It isn't a radical idea. Hell, it's even really easy to fix! Just have the Angelic Field Marshall ability be contingent on controlling a Legendary creature. Boom. It's even a much better ability.

But then, of course, WotC wouldn't get to shove Planeswalkers as Commanders in and have the Lieutenant ability work. And to that I say: So what? I would rather have a card that I can use in any format of Magic than the Glory Of Cool Things.

What was worse was that it felt like nobody really read what I wrote. I had people asking me if I had an issue with cards that were only usable in Draft like Ainok Tracker or thought that I hated Conspiracy.

Ainok Tracker is fully playable in any format of Magic and yes, I wish that the cards in Conspiracy that had abilities that were only playable in draft (the Constructs being the clearest example) they had found a way to make playable in every format. However, the impact of that Draft mechanic was shallow and so long as it stays that way I'm comfortable with it. In addition, I rather enjoyed the set.

Those aren't radical notions but they certainly seem to create havoc. Which had me fighting to not be reactionary because people were being...people.

Comprehension before response. This might be a good mantra. Wise in reading, wise in Magic.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Getting Meaner

After games with Noah last weekend, his first suggestion was to add Wrath of God. His view was that I am playing a more defensive game and need answers to threats and Wrath is a tried and true one. Cuts are more difficult to make at this point: the cards I have are reasonably good or better, so it's not easy to see what needs to go.

I was also lucky enough to get Fuz to look over the deck and he pulled out the bigger creatures, asking if there wasn't a way to add in more opportunities to get Extort triggers going, along with providing some early game defense. With that in mind, it was pretty easy to pull Tidal Force for Basilica Guards. Tidal Force really belongs in a Derevi deck anyway.

I pulled the Sol Ring out too: WotC, you are getting complacent, adding this card in every time in every deck of the last 3 Commander sets. The card has come down to the $2 level, I think you can retire it for a year.

And so with some more mild tweaks I played this game.
This was against Sliver Overlord (oh, dear) and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant

I didn't do well that game and to be honest: my poor performance has a great deal to do with repeatedly missing triggers, especially Oloro's lifegain trigger. Magic takes practice and upkeep triggers, especially invisible ones, are challenging to keep track of. I started putting a die set to 2 on top of my deck so I wouldn't forget!

Missing that life meant missing card draw that I could've gotten to and missing those cards meant losing access to cards that could've helped me out. Forget win or lose: I failed to play the best game I could. That bothers me more than anything else.

I am going to have to start rethinking my approach to the game so I play a tighter one. The question is, how?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Greed is Good

The cards I put into Oloro were: Reduce to Dreams, Words of Worship, Allay, Elixir of Immortality, Pontiff of Blight and Dimir Doppelganger. I like these choices and I found in my game last night that Reduce was very good and Pontiff probably would have been good if if I had decided to play it. However, the Ebola Pope was in my hand too early and I didn't want to play it. A bomb that shows up too early makes you a target. Allay did some incredible work though and I feel like it's time to start running cards with Buyback in every Commander deck ever.

So here we have a five player game.

That's early in the game. It would go for over two and a half hours. In that lighting.

Two and a half hour games deserve better and by the time there were only three of us, I had ceased to give a fuck. Two players were rubberbanding between 26 and 65 life and I was refusing to die like a horror movie villain via Sun Droplet and Oloro triggers. I was being (understandably) ignored as I had no board presence to speak of until I drop a Heavy-Nevy Disk and suddenly I'm a target. Which doesn't make a lick of sense because as soon as I'm a target yes, I'm going to blow everything up. But until then, just keep fighting amongst yourselves!

That didn't happen and even post board wipe, I was successfully ignored.

And that's when plan B hit me.

I've may have mentioned before but if not: Noah and I have decided that Phage the Untouchable is an excellent commander because sometimes, you just need a way to get out of the game. If something has gone for 3 hours, you can just cast Phage from the command zone and lose! We called it "Phaging out," a riff on fading out. All Commander decks need something like this I think; an emergency escape hatch.

Greed was going to be my way out. I'd already eaten chunks of my life to draw nine cards before I cast Reduce to Dreams and now, I had a way out.

So that's what I did: at 18 life I drew another nine cards and settled my tab. The other two players duked it out for another twenty minutes and I relaxed.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Card Insurance

I saw this lengthy article on insuring Magic cards and thought: Yeah, I should share that.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let's Be A Dick With Oloro, Ageless Ascetic

I think a return to Commander is long overdue, no? And since Oloro is really ONLY useful in Commander, let's bust him out.

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic

1 Arcane Sanctum
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Azorius Guildgate
1 Barren Moor
1 Command Tower
1 Dimir Guildgate
1 Esper Panorama
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Jwar Isle Refuge
1 Lonely Sandbar
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Rupture Spire
1 Springjack Pasture
1 Temple of the False God
1 Transguild Promenade
1 Opal Palace
9 Plains
6 Island
9 Swamp
1 Disciple of Griselbrand
1 Tidehollow Strix
1 Ajani's Pridemate
1 Vizkopa Guildmage
1 Azorius Herald
1 Raven Familiar
1 Stormscape Battlemage
1 Augury Adept
1 Wall of Reverence
1 Tower Gargoyle
1 Razor Hippogriff
1 Phyrexian Delver
1 Divinity of Pride
1 Diviner Spirit
1 Hooded Horror
1 Sharding Sphinx
1 Kongming, "Sleeping Dragon"
1 Tidal Force
1 Phyrexian Gargantua
1 Sharuum the Hegemon
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Serra Avatar
1 Filigree Angel
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
1 Harvester of Souls
1 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Cradle of Vitality
1 Greed
1 Sanguine Bond
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Darksteel Mutation
1 Act of Authority
1 Dromar's Charm
1 Reckless Spite
1 Spinal Embrace
1 Lim-Dûl's Vault
1 Toxic Deluge
1 Order of Succession
1 Tempt with Immortality
1 Unburial Rites
1 Covenant of Minds
1 Deep Analysis
1 Flux
1 Brilliant Plan
1 Famine
1 Death Grasp
1 Survival Cache

1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Sol Ring
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Sun Droplet
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Thopter Foundry
1 Crawlspace
1 Obelisk of Esper
1 Pristine Talisman
1 Well of Lost Dreams

The awesome thing about Oloro is that you don't have to cast him: it's also why he's terrible. Encouraging play that isn't interactive is unwise. However, let's set that aside and start to make some more changes.

Since I don't plan on casting Oloro that often, a card like Opal Palace is overkill. Diviner Spirit is a creature that I'm not breaking and has no evasion, so that should go. Myr Battlesphere doesn't have any other myr to play with and that should go. Tempt with Immortality is just a political card and I don't think Oloro wants to play politics. Act of Authority is similar in that respect but unless I significantly increase my artifact or enchantment count I think the impact on my deck will be limited. Along those lines, Thopter Foundry wants artifacts and this deck doesn't have a ton, so that should be evaluated.

I've already made a few adaptations: Flux, Covenant of Minds, Harvester of Souls, Inkwell Leviathan, Unburial Rites and Oblivion Ring. Now it's time to make some more improvements.

I checked out the EDH area on Reddit for some ideas: Words of Worship seemed to be the most common suggestion and that card can create a pretty powerful loop. Pontiff of Blight has shown in my League games to be a huge problem for opponents. And I'm thinking Elixir of Immortality should find its way in. I would also like some more sweeper effects, especially along the artifact and enchantment path. At least two people are running Zur and it's best to be prepared.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


If the title doesn't tell you enough, lets take a look at my final round:
I have a Swamp that is valiantly confronting and being run over by a Sedge Scorpion and an Akroan Skyguard. The Skyguard was eventually enchanted with a Divine Favor, so in the Swamp's defense, it really wasn't going to stain that creature anyway.

But c'mon, Swamp. Couldn't you have drowned the scorpion at least?

I had mulliganed down to six cards and was confronting a hand with a Swamp and 4 other cards that cost two mana, one black and three red, and one other card that cost three mana.

So I thought: All I need to do is draw one land and I can have board presence and that should give me enough time to get to three. Even if I draw a Swamp, the Child of Night gives me some time! And going down to five cards is such a bad idea; it's so difficult to recover from that.

I knew it would also be difficult to recover from not drawing another land but I figured my odds were good. They weren't.

I want to say the cards were against me but that would only have half the story. It certainly didn't help that of my seven packs, my rares were Overgrown Tomb, Temples of Abandon and Epiphany, Phytotitan, Cracking Doom, Whims of the Fates and Pontiff of Blight. That is some bad beats.

I think I also went awry when I moved away from the cards that were working for me: the ones with Extort triggers. Last week's trip to the realm of R/G was ill advised. I don't know if I could have made W/G/B work, or if I should've stuck with as many control elements as possible but I definitely let my lesser deckbuilding nature get the better of me.

On the upside, League is finally over. I can take my crushing defeats and move on to a new deck!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Know When To Quit

I took Burner up against a nasty little BUG deck Noah has brewed, using Chasm Stalker and...lost. I don't even think the games were close. Now, that was one matchup and I think playing a series against that deck would be quite interesting but the biggest issue I had was an inability to easily get rid of Deathrite Shaman.

What can I say? Good card is good. I also saw a Jace, the Mind Sculptor in game two so I am pretty sure I don't need to tell you how that worked out. Noah, like stonethorn, liked the deck but seeing that it didn't have any ways to deal with planeswalkers, suggested a Council's Judgment. I thought the card might be versatile enough to swap one in for a Rune of Protection: Red so I did. I found Council's Judgment to be pretty helpful against undying creatures, too so I think that card as a one-of is useful.

I also played the deck again last Sunday in some pickup games and found myself on the losing end. And again, I got some suggestions about making Burner a better deck, this time centering around Personal Sanctuary. I found myself quite interested in this idea in the moment. A card that would allow me to do whatever I want on my turn? Why shouldn't I play that? It seems perfect!

This morning I realized why it wasn't perfect. Sphere of Law.

Sphere of Law already does exactly what I want Personal Sanctuary to do and it has the additional bonus of stabbing at the heart of any red deck I play against. Personal Sanctuary doesn't do that. And in my recent losses: the problem was that I didn't see either a Rune or a Sphere.

It's not that the suggestions were unwelcome: ideas are what spawn awesome things. Changes, mixups, general cool madness! I really like Personal Sanctuary and want to add it to something but! That card doesn't provide me with an edge in any matchup I can think of. Sphere of Law and Rune of Protection: Red, do. If I want this to be the best deck I can make, I need to play the most optimal cards. Burner is a solid deck that I believe gives me an opportunity in most of my matchups and I think I've taken it as far as I can. That suits me just fine.

Except for one little thing: Battlefield Forge should become Wind-Scarred Crag. Why? Because Wind-Scarred Crag exists now and it didn't when I first assembled Burner.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Ugh. I did not play my best games on Sunday and some of that had to do with just being in a bad brainspace.

I decided to go with the R/G/b route, hoping for a speedy deck with some nice tricks, leading into a midgame with 4/3s and...none of that really happened. It started in the second match, where, as you might be able to see in the picture, my opponent had a Garruk, Caller of Beasts and a Chandra, Pyromaster on the table. That was game 2. Game one: Chandra appeared.

I never had a chance. As soon as the planeswalker(s) arrived, the game tilted inevitably in favor of my opponent and that was just incredibly demoralizing. There wasn't a single out for me and what feels worse is that I don't think I could've built a deck that could have given me a chance.

It's not just being outmatched, it's knowing that failure is inevitable, that I may as well not even shown up to the game. Under normal circumstances, I could have taken a short walk to shake it off but if I'm being honest, the weekend was subject to a preponderance of gloominess. I probably couldn't have brought my a-game under the best of circumstances so it wasn't surprising that most of my games were a struggle to play, much less win.

Let's move on to the final pack. Khans list:
Awaken the Bear

Mardu Skullhunter

Firehoof Cavalry

Tormenting Voice

Glacial Stalker
Embodiment of Spring
Stubborn Denial
Quiet Contemplation

Abzan Banner

Nomad Outpost
Dismal Backwater

Efreet Weaponmaster
Crackling Doom
That isn't really bringing anything to the table that I like. A lot of blue, red cards I don't need, one white, one black, one green? Yeesh. The rare is something that might be worth splashing in a R/B deck (which is where I think I'm going next) but for the most part? I'm not very hopeful about my chances. Maybe an evening or two of sleep and a big picture look at this deck and maybe I'll see things differently.

Thursday, October 9, 2014


Sigh. This is not the record that I was hoping for. In the pictured matchup, I had 13 of my 15 lands in play and in hand. All of the fuel, nothing to power it with.

So now we're looking at a new conundrum. While I noted last week that the opening hand evaluation has changed, what I didn't take into consideration was the overall deck evaluation. The games I lost often had to do with finding myself mana flooded. It's time to start looking at the overall curve of the deck so that I can put in more effective cards and cut some lands where possible.

Let's see the M15 pack.
Razorfoot Griffin 
Welkini Tern
Amphin Pathmage 
Circle of Flame
Lightning Strike 
Feast on the Fallen
Covenant of Blood
Carrion Crow 
Gather Courage
Elvish Mystic
Hunt the Weak
Hunter's Ambush
So, that's interesting. Circle of Flame and Feast on the Fallen have some interesting board impact, and the green stuff is very cool. I may be able to redirect this deck into a B/G/r deck, using as much removal as red will provide.

But. I've been thinking. What is black really bringing to the table? Would it be better to just hammer away with G/R? There's a lot of burn and acceleration and that is a tried and true method for winning. Plus, it would be a real shakeup from previous weeks, which means that my opponents might not expect some cards in the first round.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Voice of Broken Glass

I played a few games against Fuz, who was piloting a U/R storm deck. Essentially: he wanted to cast cheap spells and then beating down with Storm Entity. I wanted to make him take two damage every time he did that and I wanted to protect myself from red damage with Rune of Protection: Red.

So that matchup didn't teach me a whole lot.

The more interesting match came against Matt, running a Stasis deck.
Stasis. Possibly one of the biggest pain in the butt cards in Magic. Matt wanted to test his deck but was reluctant to do so, because Stasis is such a grindy card. However, Burner is a Jason deck (Handle any weird shit comes your way) so I wasn't too concerned: I actually thought this would be a great test.

And it was! The games were slow and needed a lot of thought but I did pull them out. Wear/Tear did precisely what I expected it to do and the perpetual trigger of Assemble the Legion helped keep the pressure on.

However, Glacial Chasm presented me with a serious issue and I am certain I won the final game because Matt made an error with his Glacial Chasm upkeep trigger, allowing me to take out the Crucible of Worlds and leaving him with not enough land to establish his board presence.

So I'm left with a question: Is Rolling Thunder good enough for this deck? I like the versatility of Thunder but a card that could be played as an instant or provide me with unpreventable damage might be a stronger decision. So I'm putting in one Banefire as a potential win condition. I should be able to suss out if I need to hold on to Banefire or not if I draw it early depending on the matchup and having a practically uncounterable source of damage when required is not bad. I don't suspect I will need it often: Glacial Chasm and Solitary Confinement are the only cards I can think of right now that might be a problem, but I don't see any reason to cut that tool from the toolbox.

Thursday, October 2, 2014


Not a bad showing at league again; being able to go to three colors was critical in my consistency. Things have evolved on the evaluation of the opening hand, though. The shift has gone from about having mana (any mana) to; what is your gameplan in the game? Do I have turn 2 or 3 plays?

These choices became a lot more interesting, because I can't count on my opponents having slower starts, anymore. Decks have become more refined and better at setting the pace of a game, including the pictured game which was against an opponent who had tweaked her deck to go aggro. I lost the match in a critical decision in game two, when she swung with the whole team and I decided I had to block in case she had a trick.

She didn't and it left me unable to recover. I don't think she had a trick, either. Kudos.

Still, the rest of the time I did well; plenty of removal, mana was almost never a problem and I was able to pull out some convincing wins. Next pack!

Journey Into Nyx 
Returned Reveler
Cruel Feeding 
Pull from the Deep
Sigiled Starfish
Moral Obstinacy
Harvestguard Alseids 
Golden Hind
Strength from the Fallen
Desecration Plague 
Mogis's Warhound
Bladetusk Boar
Magma Spray 
Temple of Epiphany
You have got to be kidding. My rare again is completely useless. Temple of Epiphany? Damnit.

Mogis's Warhound might be a solid early play with a pretty big upside in the later game. Magma Spray is worth including too. The black doesn't add anything but Desecration Plague might be a solid sideboard card. Golden Hind has some potential too: Mana ramp doesn't suck. Still, I don't see much to help and GOD does that rare suck.

I am grumpy about that rare.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I don't think you're gonna like the one you're gonna get

I have to confess, I'm pretty pleased with the decisions I made with Burner.

The first substitutions were to cut the Allay and Shatterstorm for Wear/Tear. I really love those cards but they are narrow and fit better in Commander formats, where multiple artifacts or enchantments will need to be destroyed. In 1v1 games, picking the right target at the right time is usually enough.

Then I decided I needed to replace Energy Bolt. I wanted a card that would do two things: 1) Not be a creature and 2) provide me with a way to forward my win condition.

This is where I run headfirst into the problems with modern Magic designs. Creatures matter and spells are less about where it's at, unless we're talking Planeswalkers. But even the planeswalkers in the colors I am running have a very strong creature focus: Nearly every iteration of Ajani has a +1 involving creatures. Elsbeth puts creatures into play. Gideon relies on creatures (creatures I want to destroy). Koth is for a mono-red deck, Tibalt is a bit too risky and the new flavor of Sarkhan (Sarkhan Lite!) I didn't even consider. Partly because he's so new but also because he's over $30 and I'm evoking the My Money rule.

Ajani Vengeant might have a place and the Chandras...maybe.

Truth be told I didn't consider the Planeswalkers because My Money > Less of My Money. Still, if it is necessary for a deck then those things can probably be acquired in time, assuming they don't break the bank.

If I am not going to spend a lot of money then what are my options? Straight out burn spells are frequently inefficient or too small to get the job done. White wants to give me creatures. I don't want creatures, because that gives my opponents options they didn't have before. What do I do?

Then I remembered stonethorn's victory condition: Assemble the Legion. I was reluctant to add it in at first, because of the creature path to victory but I wasn't coming up with any better ideas so I thought I'd give it a test.

Against stonethorn, Burner tested admirably. I didn't win those matchups but the games were tense and the Legion presented an avenue for pressure that squeezed stonethorn against the Pyrostatic Pillar/Spellshock cards.

He took a look at the deck and wondered if I had "too much cycling". I smiled because I know that drawing cards in an uncounterable way is Good Times, especially under my win conditions. But stonethorn agreed; the deck was a solid build, it just needed something to push it a little further. I decided to up the ante: cut Cave-In and Steam Blast for another Renewed Faith and a third Assemble the Legion. Awww yeah.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Years ago after many, many defeats and tired of dealing with Jason's shenanigans, I finally went all in on a control deck that had one thing to say:

If you play anything, fuck you.
4 Sphere of Law
4 Pyrostatic Pillar
4 Rune of Protection: Red
4 Spellshock

2 Shatterstorm
3 Rout
1 Cave-In
2 Energy Bolt
3 Slice and Dice
2 Rolling Thunder
1 Steam Blast

3 Renewed Faith
2 Allay
2 Starstorm

2 Battlefield Forge
2 City of Traitors
9 Plains
10 Mountain
Because I could. And because every other idea I had sucked. I named this after the Motorhead song, because I felt like I should have a deck named after a song of theirs.

Given the build, you might surmise that this deck hasn't been looked at in many years and you'd be right. I still remember how it works though: Use Rune of Protection: Red or Sphere of Law to prevent any damage that comes from Pyrostatic Pillar or Spellshock. Sphere of Law is the superior option, because it responds to each trigger of the Pillar or Spellshock without the use of mana. However, the Rune cycles so I can just dump it when I don't need it and cycling is pain free under a Pillar or Spellshock.

This is also the logic behind using Cave-In or Slice and Dice: free or pain free options. Rolling Thunder or Energy Bolt have the advantage of spells over three mana, thus not getting stung by Pyrostatic Pillar, at least.

The rest: Allay, Shatterstorm, Rout, are all there to keep those difficult permanents in check. But it's clearly time to give this deck an upgrade. Plus, I get to practice with this deck which requires me to play a more defensive game than I'm used to, so it should be interesting!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

I'll admit

Today, I got nothin'. I've been on the road and I haven't had the time or the people to play Magic with.

So; we'll start with a new deck on Thursday, and more League reports after that!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

League 2-2: The Fall is Sharp

The drop off hit pretty hard. Many of my opponents were able to get their decks down to three colors and I was still at four. I don't believe I made any serious mistakes in my losses however there was a match where I had to mulligan down to four cards-I didn't win that game.

Mulligans were a large part of the day, actually and I think that had a pretty big impact on my ability to win games and often created a greater struggle at large. I noticed it in matchups where I won, too: mulligans down to five cards were frequent all day. I need to get my deck down to three colors if I'm going to be competitive in the next set of matches. Fortunately, I've got two weeks to figure it out.

Born of the Gods pack:

Satyr Wayfinder
Culling Mark

Servant of Tymaret
Weight of the Underworld

Great Hart

Retraction Helix
Siren of the Fanged Coast

Whims of the Fates
Everflame Eidolon
Stormcaller of Keranos
Kragma Butcher
Impetuous Sunchaser
Pharagax Giant

That is a whooooole lot of red. Again. I am hugely tempted to outright cut the white from my deck at this point. The black isn't great but it's probably good enough, the green is just thin though and that's a bummer.

Here's the dilemma: the mana sources I have go G/B/R. It is possible I could go G/R/U but it's not nearly as strong from a pure mana base perspective. In this format, mana bases win you games and so I want to stick with those cards, unless something outright amazing shows up in White or Blue.

Also, hey, thank you for another shitty rare, Magic gods. I really needed that Whims of the Fates as opposed to any other red rare from this set. Sigh.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Week 1, 4-0

My round 2 game 2 boardstate
4-0 is a pretty good week. I had mana issues in the first game of my first match, mulliganing down to five and keeping a two land hand; (the only lands I would see for that game) but aside from that I had the mana that I needed.

My opponents were as smart as I was, though, with decks packed with mana and for the most part, their decks worked well too. I probably won three games due to mana issues on the part of my opponent but that feels normal; I didn't sweep any of my matches because my opponents had mana issues.

The two workhorse cards for the day were Stab Wound and Tower Defense, saving me from flyers, making my blocks opportunistic and wearing down my opponents little by little. Not bad at all.

Let's open the pack of Theros:

Warriors' Lesson
Voyaging Satyr

Yoked Ox
Glare of Heresy

March of the Returned
Fleshmad Steed

Titan's Strength
Borderland Minotaur
Deathbellow Raider
Lightning Strike


Destructive Revelry

Temple of Abandon

Holy crap, what a bunch of junk. For the record, this would be the second pack in 5 packs where a rare was a land (the Overgrown Tomb being the first, even if it is a foil).

My inclination is to maindeck the Destructive Revelry but I think that's a terrible idea. What I would really like to do is increase my creature/threat count and the only color that provides me anything here is red. What I think I can do, though, is get this down to 25 lands and 60 cards total, with the addition of Deathbellow Raider, Lightning Strike and Temple of Abandon and removing Down/Dirty, two lands, Deviant Glee and...something else. Guildscorn Ward may come out for sideboard cards but it's too soon to pull it right now; decks are still mostly Ravnica block and thus multicolor oriented.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

I think I hate Morph

With Khans spoiler season in full swing and nearly half the set spoiled, I think I can talk a little bit about what's coming up, specifically Morph.

And why I'm really not very excited about the execution of this mechanic's return. 

Because it's all about investment. Magic, at its core, is a game about precisely this: investing X mana into a card to get Y return. And Morph is being used as a tax, not a credit for creatures which is making it a mechanic I don't want to use.

There is a cycle at common which allows one to morph without mana: merely revealing a card from your hand will do the trick. All of these cards are incredibly weak but precisely the kind of necessity that a draft environment requires. I don't fault WotC for making these cards: they are the workmanlike pieces that are required. But they aren't good, either. They are just necessary.

No, what worries me are the cards that have morph and are supposed to be a cut above; Ashcloud Phoenix, for example. I could pay 9 mana in order to play this on turn three and then, hopefully, on turn six get a 4/1 flier that does me two damage and has a glass jaw so it can come back as a morph card that I need to invest another six mana into to take two damage and get a 4/1. Or I can just keep my awful 2/2. This card is one that actively discourages me to use the ability!

Or I could just pay 4 mana for a 4/1 flier that will die to everything and come back as a 2/2.

It's this set's Archwing Dragon. Except at Mythic rarity. I could not be less excited about that.

Contrast this with Jeering Instigator, which allows you to Threaten a creature and gives you a 2/1, for an investment of 5 mana. That is a fantastic example of what 5 mana should do for you and an easy one: They pretty much stapled the cost for Threaten to a cost for a 2/1 creature. Most morph creatures fail to meet this standard of playability though.

Rattleclaw Mystic fails. You can pay 3 for a 2/2, then morph it for 2, adding 3 mana, then tap it for 1. Your net increase in mana for the investment: -1. That's right, you LOSE mana on this. Well why the hell would you do that when you can pay two mana for a 2/1 and on turn three have up to 4 mana! Sure, if you use the morph then it's possible to have six mana on turn four, but I submit to you that having five mana on turn four is as good, hell, it's often better most of the time and having four mana on turn three is better than casting a vanilla 2/2.

Then there is Thousand Winds, which is so stupid I barely know where to begin, except to acknowledge that it has to be that expensive if the game is going to be balanced. Six mana for a 5/6 flier in blue is not a great deal. Not at all: it's about average, even for a rare. Getting to six mana is a challenge to start with, but seven? The odds that you will miss a land drop on turn seven in limited is almost 75%! In Standard constructed, the odds of being able to cast a seven mana spell on turn seven is less than 30%. Odds are you will be using seven mana on turn eleven. Is that data from other formats? Yes. But we can extrapolate from there to acknowledge that getting to seven mana in any format is difficult; it is precisely why cards like Sneak Attack or Show and Tell are in such high demand: They let you cast seven+ mana costing creatures for cheap.

Except the effect for Thousand Winds is so powerful that it absolutely has to cost seven mana. Clearing the board for a 5/6 flier? That effect needs to be expensive! So why make the flier cost so much? Why not give us an efficient flier with a huge upside if we invest?

Ditto Efreet Weaponmaster. Paying 8 mana for a first striking 4/3 that allows another creature to get a temporary bonus (and it is a rather strong offensive bonus) isn't worth it, although at least the Weaponmaster gives the boost when it enters the battlefield or is morphed. 

And what bonus is ANYONE getting from Grim Haruspex? Beyond getting to play a creature with an 'x' in its name? What point is there to paying four mana for this creature? Bluffing?

And this is the root of my problem: Morph isn't treated like an investment, where we get something awesome if we invest in that extra mana and time. It's a punishment that allows us to get a terrible 2/2 and then, if we're good, maybe we get something cool. Contrast this with the Suspend mechanic from Time Spiral, where we'd pay cheaply in mana but more in turns for a creature or spell but that spell was awesome (Hypergenesis) or that creature came into play with haste, allowing players to use it right away, even if that creature was meh. 

And we're going to get a suite of spells that relate to a mechanic but don't help, like Sylvan Echoes was for Clash, entirely reliant on Morph creatures and providing us with zero other benefits (looking at you, Secret Plan).

Which leads us to my next prediction; a very slow environment for Limited (again). None of those 2/2s are going to survive Bile Blight which has the awesome advantage of hitting every morph creature on the board-morph creatures all have the same name! (EDIT: in this article, it is said that morph creatures are nameless, so that really won't be an issue. Nonetheless, vanilla 2/2's are fragile and I don't expect them to make an impact. Still, I got that rules bit wrong and I'm sorry). So in Constructed, they're pretty much not worth the risk. And though Khans has not been fully spoiled, we already know that there is a lot of mana fixing in this set so people can play three-color decks.

But where's the removal? Suspension Field is at uncommon and will pretty much eliminate any morph effects because creatures that are removed from the game are turned face up. Murderous Cut costs 5, unless you happen to have cards in your graveyard. Mardu or Sultai Charm requires three different colors of mana-and let's not kid ourselves; that's going to be challenging to come by. The common removal spells aren't available yet but since we know Morph is a key mechanic in this block, WotC is going to want players to have access to that. Which is a good thing but it leads me to ask: Why are we using Morph then? What benefit comes from this investment?

I am really hating the execution here and that is not a good sign.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

League 2014

We've started up the 2014 Standard league again. If you don't want to click the link here's the basics: we start with one pack from each set in Standard, including core sets. Build a 60 card deck out of M14 and Return to Ravnica and then add a pack every week until all the packs are gone. Here's what I am starting with:

Havoc Festival
Restore the Peace
Chemister's Trick
Beetleform Mage
Dimir Charm
Paranoid Delusions
Morgue Burst
Treasured Find
Maw of the Obzedat

Staff of the Mind Magus
Razortip Whip
Golgari Keyrune
Golgari Cluestone

Pontiff of Blight
Fatal Fumes
Bane Alley Blackguard
Horror of the Dim
Grisly Spectacle
Basilica Screecher
Stab Wound
Deviant Glee
Nightwing Shade
Child of Night

Sunspire Gatekeepers
Guildscorn Ward
Syndic of Tithes
Knightly Valor
Armory Guard
Charging Griffin
Steelform Sliver
Pillarfield Ox
Angelic Wall

Thrashing Mossdog
Tower Defense
Spire Tracer
Towering Indrik
Urban Burgeoning
Mutant's Prey
Groundshaker Sliver
Rumbling Baloth
Verdant Haven

Murmuring Phantasm
Incursion Specialist
Simic Manipulator
Way of the Thief
Aquus Steed
Phantom Warrior

Punish the Enemy
Pitchburn Devils
Lava Axe
Goblin Diplomats

Overgrown Tomb
Golgari Guildgate
Izzet Guildgate

There seems to be a reasonable base for a B/G/w/r deck there, so that's where I will start.

1 Morgue Burst
1 Treasured Find
1 Maw of the Obzedat
1 Coursers' Accord
1 Down // Dirty
1 Golgari Keyrune
1 Golgari Cluestone
1 Pontiff of Blight
1 Fatal Fumes
1 Bane Alley Blackguard
1 Horror of the Dim
1 Grisly Spectacle
1 Basilica Screecher
1 Stab Wound
1 Deviant Glee
1 Nightwing Shade
1 Child of Night
1 Sunspire Gatekeepers
1 Guildscorn Ward
1 Syndic of Tithes
1 Knightly Valor
1 Armory Guard
1 Charging Griffin
1 Steelform Sliver
1 Pillarfield Ox
1 Thrashing Mossdog
1 Tower Defense
1 Spire Tracer
1 Towering Indrik
1 Groundshaker Sliver
1 Rumbling Baloth
1 Verdant Haven
1 Punish the Enemy
1 Mugging
1 Pitchburn Devils
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Golgari Guildgate
3 Mountain
7 Plains
6 Forest
8 Swamp
1 Angelic Wall

62 cards, yes but I wanted to get to 20 creatures and at 26 lands, I would rather have mana flood than starvation. Being able to play the higher costing cards is going to be crucial and having mana for 4 colors equally so. I'm erring on the side of 'too much' in the hopes that my opponents will be erring on the side of 'too little'. In those instances, I'll probably win that battle.

I've also been using the analyzer at Deckstats.net to try and come up with the correct mana mix. I'm just a smidge high on the Forest count but I'm OK with it. There's a nice curve and enough mana boosters to get me to the 5 and 6 spots on the curve. Everything starts at 4 mana though so I'm going to make sure that I have 4 mana.  

Still, you know how it is: everybody's got a plan until they get hit in the face. So I'm going to hope for the best and shuffle very thoroughly every game. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Khans spoiler season has begun. This is a good thing, as we've learned about the basic aspects of the upcoming set: the Morph mechanic returning and a wedge set as the startup for this block being the two big things but Raid, Outlast, Prowess, Ferocious and, most interestingly, Delve are nice clues of potential for interactions with other sets. Not all of them will be winners (of course) but it's still early.

The cool thing about a wedge set that I can talk about with some authority is that it means lands for the appropriate colors all of those wedge decks that I have made, like Joyful Reunion. This is quite timely, since I've just come off the knowledge that this deck needs a more cohesive manabase to function.

This won't be perfect, as those lands look to enter the battlefield tapped but this may nudge the deck towards running a little smoother.

However, it's a few weeks until those lands actually exist, so I've stuck in four Evolving Wilds to help out but they are just there until I can snag the actual cards. It is helping though: my match against stonethorn playing a mono-G elves deck was promising, as the mana issues seemed to have less of an impact. More testing is required, of course, especially since I lost the match after casting Tragic Slip on his first three elves in game 3 but at least I've got something promising.

Another good addition: Silence. In all three of my games, Silence came up and acted as a near Time Walk effect, leaving stonethorn with nothing to do but attack with small dudes. Joyful Reunion is coming along nicely and I am looking forward to the wrap up (and eventual addition of proper lands!)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Continuing Agreement

This is me losing to Noah playing a BUG deck. Not Delver, more Standstill.

I also lost to a R/W/G (Naya) Zoo deck he  was playing.

When it was over, I told Noah: I've got the basic structure down but I think I need to attack the mana. He took a look at the deck and agreed; yes, it's an older combo but it checks out, you know? But the difference in mana is huge and cannot be understated. Noah is running Tropical Island in this shot and the Zoo deck had cards like Stomping Ground. I'm running basic lands and it's creating a slowdown in my deck that I'm not sure it can afford. Three color mana bases just need more attention and I'm not sure I can afford to make a deck like this work with basics.

So next up: Mana base fixin'!

Which I probably won't get to do until next Thursday. So: A week to next post!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Although I hadn't made changes to Joyful Reunion, when Fuz said he had time for a game, I took him up on it. He was playing a G/W Beast deck that he wasn't too familiar with and was certain "sucked" and I was playing a deck I knew was bad.

He smashed me into little pieces. In both cases, the killing stroke Overwhelming Stampede but he had the game well in hand before that.

So I show the deck to Fuz and he pretty much says what I said! Which is great: Fate Transfer and Vines of Vastwood are gone, with Death Grasp on the watch list.

He also confirmed the direction I was thinking; cards to get lands and some creature removal. So those cards came out and in went two Caravan Vigil and three Tragic Slip. I'm not certain how consistent they will 'go off' with the morbid trigger but considering that Joyful Reunion wants to sac my creatures, maybe there's a chance!

Then began the goldfishing, just drawing opening hands of seven and seeing what they offer me. And boy oh boy do I hate having Death Grasp in my hand. Why do this to myself?

So I cut them, added in a fourth Tragic Slip and two Silence. Why Silence? Because it allows me to boost the reliability of my combo, once I have it on board and it shores up what I'm doing with Abeyance, which I only own two copies of. I'm evoking the 'my money' rule here but only for a little bit: Abeyance isn't too costly, I just need to wait until I get paid.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Joyful Reunion

What a friggin' mess this deck is.
2 Birds of Paradise
4 Carrion Feeder
4 Heartmender
4 Juniper Order Ranger
4 Kitchen Finks
2 Scavenger Drake
2 Melira, Sylvok Outcast

2 Mirrodin's Core
8 Forest
1 Murmuring Bosk
6 Plains
6 Swamp

2 Safewright Quest
3 Death Grasp

3 Congregation at Dawn
3 Fate Transfer
2 Vines of Vastwood
2 Abeyance

On the upside, there's a great opportunity to turn this into something badass.

Joyful Reunion was named after the wonderful NoMeansNo song and templated after the combo between Carrion Feeder (sacrifice a Kitchen Finks), Juniper Order Ranger (put +1 counter negating the -1 counter that the Kitchen Finks gets when it re-enters play) and Kitchen Finks.

So what's the problem? First, there are eight cards that don't really fit: Death Grasp, Fate Transfer and Vines of Vastwood. Fate Transfer and Vines are especially out of place here. Death Grasp has the potential justification of serving as both a finisher and removal so may stick around for a little bit but I have so many decks that might suit that card better, it has to be on the chopping block. Magic decks need to have a tighter focus to be worth it. I will probably also tweak the mana base a bit too, because three color decks are incredibly difficult to run on mostly basic lands.

While I think about how that's going to work, though, I'm going to be traveling, which means no games. So: taking a week off, see you back here on the 26th!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Setback as Time Walk

Or, why I removed Simian Spirit Guide from Razorclaw.

Last Friday my opening hand wasn't great but it had potential: Simian Spirit Guide, Forest, Golden Hind, Gruul Guildgate, other cards. I could get something going pretty easily, I thought.

So my turn one play was Forest, remove SSG for R, play Golden Hind.

Noah's response was: Island, Vapor Snag, go. 

That's it. The game was over. My turn 2 was Gruul Guildgate, turn 3, play Golden Hind, Hind will meet an untimely end and Noah proceeded to run over me with his deck. Some blue/white/black thing I think. It didn't matter by then because he spend his second and third turns actually doing stuff that I couldn't interact with, stuck at one mana for two turns. He essentially cast Time Stretch for U. 

I talked it over with Noah and although it wasn't explicitly said, what I think we were getting at is that my deck was fragile. A card like Simian Spirit Guide has some very particular uses, specifically in very aggressive or combo decks, where it can represent that extra oomph of speed.

Razorclaw is not that kind of deck. It's slower, grindier, moving to midgame and throttling mana bases and cheap artifacts and enchantments to eventually overwhelm. More importantly, it's not a great deck but it should be the kind of deck that can play through an early game, otherwise irrelevant setback like having a turn one mana generator bounced. I need to play up the edges as much as possible and not make the mistakes everyone else is making with mana starvation, unfocused play and unjustified card selection. That it couldn't means I have to make changes.

So it's time to remove the Spirit Guides and put lands back in. The compliment they add to Primitive Etchings just isn't enough to justify those possible early game setbacks.The soonest the benefit of that combo wouldn't happen until turn 5 and by then either Cream of the Crop is out (filtering the card I want on top anyway) or Cream isn't but it doesn't matter because there are still 29 creatures in the deck which puts the odds highly in my favor to get extra cards. Let's play the best odds.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Shove it

Someone's always got to push the buttons and in this case, it was Fuz.

That's four, count 'em 4!, Hover Barriers. How the hell am I supposed to get through all that madness?

I didn't: Fuz milled my library to goo so I started talking to Fuz about this deck.

What is slowing this deck down? Lands that enter the battlefield tapped and creatures with echo. Of the creatures with echo, Pouncing Jaguar is the only one that doesn't have an additional effect and probably needs to be replaced. It's such a strong turn 1 play though and with so many ETB tapped lands, I often don't have a turn 2 Golden Hind ready so I'm reluctant to let it go.

It was Fuz who suggested something from the Evoke school. Spitebellows can be played for very little and so can Briarthorn. Spitebellows felt like a no-brainer: kill a thing and look at the top six cards of my library for 3? Yeah, let's do that! So out came a Mitotic Slime and the two Flametongue Kavu for three of those. Why the Mitotic Slime? Slime's purpose is to give me resources against Wrath of God effects and I have Wrath defense in Hound of Griselbrand too. Since five mana is expensive, I feel that taking out the redundancy for mana is wise. I also swapped a Forest for a Mountain because of the RR needed to Evoke Spitebellows, tweaking the manabase just a little more toward red but not too much.

Briarthorn feels less obvious but the more I think about it the more awesome I think of it. The ability to play it as an instant is a big deal, and getting a 6/6 blocker as a surprise, plus looking at the top 3 cards of my library? That could be huge for two mana and still a really good deal for 4. It plays nicely with my smaller creatures and could be an acceptable substitution for Pouncing Jaguar. Time to give that a go.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Passive Aggressive

I took Matt's advice and added in three Simian Spirit Guides to Razorclaw.. I removed two Mountains and decided I wanted to go to 61 cards rather than remove another land. I went to three Spirit Guides in order to aggressive test the idea. If I just add one I'm afraid that I won't get the opportunity to see them in action and it won't tell me enough.

Tests against stonethorn let me do (a very little bit of) that.

I went 1-2 against this white weenie-ish deck. The first game I lost because I went down to four cards in my opening hand. It's just never going to work out when that happens.

The other two games were slugfests and I'm pleased to say that my compliment of Acidic Slimes and Wickerbough Elders were very effective in keeping me in the game, win or lose.

But. But. What I'm discovering is that this deck is very, very mana hungry. Five mana is what is needed to play cards like Acidic Slime, Mitotic Slime and Wickerbough Elder and I really want to be able to play them as soon as possible. I need more data to find out if I have enough land or if I just need to bite the bullet and cut one of my Slimes for another.

In the match after this, I played against Pod, and I lost because I couldn't hit 5 mana, even though the game went long. Despite having two Acidic Slimes and two Mitotic slimes, I sat and did nothing while stonethorn executed his plans. The Spirit Guide mana isn't a bad thing but I don't feel like it's the problem either: I just didn't have enough land in two games.

That is a problem and it's not a small one but I need to know if it's a fluke.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mistakes and Decisions

I was able to play a few games on Cockatrice the other night; Thanks to SirTrae for letting me test Razorclaw more and take screenshots like this:

SirTrae is playing a Battle of Wits deck in that picture and I'm doing pretty well against it, using my Cream of the Crop to help filter up a steady stream of threats. Shortly after the screenshot, my board was wiped but I still have threats in hand (including the critical Wickerbough Elder) so that's OK.

The critical play comes when I have four lands in play and after casting Hound of Griselbrand, I see a Temple of Abandon and a Mountain. This is my thought process:

"If I take the Mountain, I'll be able to cast Elder AND activate its ability on the same turn, which is a solid warning sign to my opponent.

But Battle of Wits isn't out there and I have no idea if he has it so why worry? Temple let's me dig further into my deck if the next Cream of the Crop trigger reveals nothing helpful! Let's play Temple!"

I do, pass the turn, where SirTrae plays Battle of Wits and I lose.

Do you see the thought process that was my mistake? I exchanged the future for the present and lost because of it.

It can be very challenging to live in the now because Magic is so complicated. I often feel that I have to be looking at a hundred lines of play because so many can be shut down that re-routing the thought process quickly is an important skill.

Sometimes, though, choices are simple: Do I lose if my opponent does this?

If yes: don't let them do that. If no: continue hounding them.

In this instance, I didn't take my thought process far enough: If I take the Mountain, I'll be able to cast Elder AND activate its ability on the same turn, which means they cannot win via Battle of Wits until Elder is dealt with.

That would have told me everything I needed to know. But I thought that seeing another card would be more valuable, traded the future for the present and lost.

Next time: do better.

Also, I have discovered where my Temple of Abandons are! They are in Viceroy, which is the all-creature deck. Drat.

Now I have to make a choice: pull the Temples from Viceroy (which sorely needs every little bit it can get, due to the limitations of it's build), buy more Temples (which evokes the 'my money > less of my money' rule) or run another land that can provide Red and Green.

For now, I have plenty of Gruul Guildgates that need a home so they will do just fine.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The First Restructure

So here's what I went with:

+1 Blisterstick Shaman
+3 Hound of Griselbrand
+4 Golden Hind

-4 Ohran Viper
-4 Caller of the Claw

I don't have Temple of Abandon yet, or I do and I don't remember where it is (which is not good but I can solve that problem with a little research) but I've tweaked the mana base to add a little more red.

Hound of Griselbrand was an addition because I wanted a creature that had 3 power to dig further with Cream of the Crop, and the Undying ability meant I could get extra value out everything.

The initial changes yield positive results: I played against Matt as he threw a Pox deck and a War-Riders deck at it and I won pretty solidly both times. Avalanche Riders and Acidic Slime were critical in impeding Matt's plans, mostly targeting lands but also stepping in to destroy Haunted Plate Mail in the Pox match. However, I never got both Primitive Etching and Cream of the Crop out at the same time. Still, both cards appeared on the table during various games and the effect was always positive.

Matt's perspective on Razorclaw was interesting; he started off suggesting Dryad Arbor-a card I cut because it didn't combine with both Primitive Etchings and Cream of the Crop. For me, the Arbor was going to be a drawback more often than not, because Cream of the Crop will show up earlier in the game. Primitive Etchings is there to seal the engine up and draw more cards than my opponents.

Matt's other suggestion though? Simian Spirit Guide. His thinking is that I could even cut a couple lands for the Guide, in order to get more benefit from the Primitive Etchings, and later in the game, just cast the creature.

That's a hell of an interesting idea and I think I might try it.