Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Shifting Focus, Shifting Sands

Agent of the Fates didn't work out. I tried, believe me. In the end though, it wasn't my fault, it was my choice.

I've been playing since Ice Age. I bought boxes of Homelands in a fervor to play more. And I have been very, very lucky, getting in on many things before they became so expensive that they were subject to the My Money rule. One of those things was the dual lands.

For those who don't know, the dual lands are a set of 10 lands that would produce one color of each pair or mana; for example Savannah will make green or white without any drawbacks while also having the type of the land that corresponds to the land in question. Again, with Savannah, it has both the Forest and Plains type. This quality makes these lands very searchable and very desirable whenever a player has to make a deck that uses multiple colors of mana, which is nearly all of them.

So whenever a similar land has been printed, I tried to get sets of those as well, because they have demonstrated their usefulness in making deckbuilding a whole lot easier.

However, I never wanted to have decks that were blatantly overpowered. Most of my friends didn't dedicate the resources to the game that I did, so I spread out my powerful cards into multiple decks-a practice I still continue to this day and one I am trying to wrestle free from. But not entirely.

The dual lands are often at their best in three color decks, remarkably. Imagine: with twelve cards, one could cover the mana costs for three colors with minimal buildup. That kind of color fixing is very, very powerful and extremely welcome when one has a deck that wants G on turn 1, W1 on turn 2 and BB1 on turn 3. With the right lands, this is extremely easy: Savannah or Bayou on turn 1, Savannah, Bayou or Scrubland on turn 2, and then, depending on what the turn 1 and 2 plays are, you might need a Scrubland, Bayou or any land at all on turn 3.

My Savannahs, Bayous and Scrublands are all doing time in other decks and there's no reason to move them. But their replacements? Orzhov Basilica, Selesnya Sanctuary, Golgari Rot Farm? Too slow and too stiff to give me what I need. Ephemeral is a deck that really needs to have a creature out by turn 1 or 2, so that it can be enchanted for the beatings.

Normally, I would just keep at it, accept that this was a weakness and let it go. Wait for new lands to be printed (Temples of Silence and Plenty could be great here, so, note to self, get them) and hope for the best. However, as I said: I am trying to step away from having deliberately underpowered decks. I am not playing with emotional children. I am playing with people who are looking to have fun and don't get their feelings bent out of shape when they lose.

I can make this deck a strong one but some concessions must be made, most relevantly, having Agent of Fates available to play on turn 3 is too difficult. I still think the Heroic mechanic can give me something though, but it has to be in one of the two primary colors for the deck.

Enter Phalanx Leader. I really, really like this substitution because one of the other drawbacks to Ephemeral is that the creatures are tiny. If the game goes long, I'm in a great deal of trouble. But Phalanx Leader means that even my small creatures have the potential to create trouble, even if they don't have auras or become unenchanted.

I didn't give up on Black entirely, though. Snake Umbra has been expensive and not creating the opportunities I was hoping for. Gift of Orzhova offers both evasion for Spiritdancers (and other creatures) but also lifelink, which is crucial against aggressive matchups. Spirit Mantle Necromancer's Magemark is a bit like a Glorious Anthem, except for enchanted creatures, in addition to being something that could bring my creatures back (seriously, it's really strong!) and as for the lands?

Well, I took a bunch of the bouncelands out and put in 3 more Evolving Wilds. If five search effects aren't enough, then I don't know what to do.

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