Thursday, May 29, 2014

10 minutes of me & stonethorn playing

I found this pretty interesting to watch, (and if you watch it, be warned that I swear a lot) but I didn't notice any significant play errors, which is good. I was playing from two life, which meant that I couldn't be as aggressive with Kickback as I would have liked.

Despite that, I wonder if it might've been a good play to kill the Baleful Strix and start swinging with the dragon. Six a turn is not a small thing and might have shaken stonethorn into making a mistake. That's a long shot but it's possible. In the end though, I think I played it correctly, I just didn't get what I needed.

Still, it's fun to watch and it won't take much time!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Balancing Act

Out: Vow of Duty, Cobra Trap, Attrition, Doom Blade.

In: Behemoth Sledge, Font of Return, Ashen Rider, Nighthowler

I just couldn't find a proper slot for Elixir of Immortality but it's early so full card evaluation is still a ways away.

I wanted to add more creatures-hence Ashen Rider and Nighthowler- and, as much as I like the Vow cycle of enchantments, my creatures are there to die so adding at least one piece of equipment is a good idea, because it'll stick around if the creature dies. I didn't want to take all of the Vows out though, because they are useful and in multiplayer games, the political element can be very helpful.

This is also my reasoning behind Nighthowler: it'll be a huge body most of the time but if I can hold off to use the Bestow ability then I'm creating the kind of resilient problem that makes for good Magic decks. I've been fairly reluctant to get on the Bestow wagon but Commander feels like a perfect format to really take advantage of it. Because of Commander's openness, it's a given that creatures, while still the best victory condition, will be killed often.

What I really need is something to give my graveyard hexproof. It's not lethal if Karador's graveyard is removed from the game but it is definitely bad. I'm relying on a host of recursion to try and give myself an overwhelming advantage: without it, Karador has to play far too fair.

I managed to get two games with Karador, post changes, both with Noah who was playing Toshiro Umezawa.

Game one I lost because I am dumb. I had out a Lightning Greaves and failed to remember that the equip cost was free, because I'd covered it up with the awesome Behemoth Sledge. My thinking: I have to equip Sledge before Greaves. What happened instead was I kept leaving creatures vulnerable to removal (which, unsurprisingly, Noah had plenty of) and couldn't keep any proper board presence. Having an untargetable Karador might've given me the opportunity to mount a defense.

Game two went for 90 minutes. A long, nasty, grinding game where he must have killed Nighthowler seven times and Karador the same. When your commander costs an additional twelve to cast, that's a hell of a stretch. I was fortunate to have nine creatures in my graveyard by then to take the sting off. I won the game-which included me going to 64, Noah dropping to 15 and then coming back UP to 40 and the all star useage of Eternal Witness, allowing Karador to go to the graveyard and, awesomely enough, a timely use of Font of Return!

But we didn't play a game three.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Commander: Karador, Chost Chieftain

Let's dip back into the Commander waters, shall we?

Karador, Ghost Chieftain

1 Vivid Grove
1 Vivid Marsh
1 Vivid Meadow
1 Golgari Rot Farm
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Barren Moor
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Rupture Spire
1 Temple of the False God
1 Command Tower
8 Plains
8 Swamp
9 Forest
1 Chorus of the Conclave
1 Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter
1 Shambling Shell
1 Artisan of Kozilek
1 Selesnya Guildmage
1 Golgari Guildmage
1 Golgari Grave-Troll
1 Golgari Thug
1 Eternal Witness
1 Deadwood Treefolk
1 Woodripper
1 Yavimaya Elder
1 Spike Feeder
1 Sakura-Tribe Elder
1 Fertilid
1 Deadly Recluse
1 Aquastrand Spider
1 Squallmonger
1 Monk Realist
1 Celestial Force
1 Ancestor's Chosen
1 Gravedigger
1 Nezumi Graverobber
1 Sanguine Praetor
1 Dark Hatchling
1 Shriekmaw
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Genesis
1 Teneb, the Harvester
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Golgari Germination
1 Soul Snare
1 Attrition
1 Vow of Duty
1 Vow of Malice
1 Vow of Wildness
1 Aura Shards
1 Night Soil
1 Sigil of the New Dawn
1 Mortify
1 Afterlife
1 Doom Blade
1 Condemn
1 Ghostway
1 Tribute to the Wild
1 Cobra Trap
1 Footbottom Feast
1 Nature's Resurgence
1 Cultivate
1 Harmonize
1 Recollect
1 Vigor Mortis
1 Life's Finale
1 Twilight's Call
1 Syphon Flesh
1 Purify
1 Golgari Signet
1 Selesnya Signet
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Lightning Greaves

I haven't changed this deck much from the original. Lands and artifacts are unchanged. I added a Condemn and a Ghostway to the instant suite, and probably changed the sorceries the most, adding a Nature's Resurgence, Purity, Recollection, Vigor Moris and Twilight's Call to the deck. I only added a Night Soil, Golgari Germination and a Sigil of the New Dawn as enchantments, and Genesis, Shambling Shell, Golgari Grave Troll, Golgari Thug, Woodripper and Ancestor's Chosen. Basically, the Dredge influence comes from me.

I'm wondering if a card like Elixir of Immortality might be useful here, since I'm OK with dredging myself. It's definitely time to take a saw to this one and see what we got!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Conspiracy Video & Khans of Tarkir Spoiled.

I don't draft often: I find the format a bit too expensive for my blood but I understand the attraction. It's very dynamic and full of choices that reward or punish you right away.

I do like the direction that Wizards has taken the Conspiracy set, though. There's a very cool video of it in action here, and though it's long I think it's a really nice way to give players a taste for what the set is about.

Conspiracy feels a bit like WotC's take on the draft format, in much the same way that Commander sets are their method of approaching the Commander (formerly EDH) format. The video even mentions the 'Command Zone' as a space for the Conspiracies that can be drafted and used, which I think is a very clever way to add to the draft format without creating more rules complexity. Kudos to WotC for coming up with such an elegant solution.

I also like that they're reprinting some critical spells for the eternal format, like Brainstorm, Misdirection and Fact or Fiction. Which, of course, I also don't like because those spells do not have correspondingly powerful analogs in the other colors.

Bitch, bitch, bitch. The important part is that some valuable staples are being reprinted in a format where the goal is to open packs, not to build constructed decks. And besides, it's not true; cards such as Exploration, Swords to Plowshares, Vampire Hexmage and Decimate (a fantastic Commander card) are also being included. These are all useful cards many of which have gotten expensive and if reprints can help keep or bring the prices down, all the better.

Except for Tarmogoyf. Jesus that card is insane.

Next we have the Khans of Tarkir fall set announcement and yeah, there's very, very little to go on.

But here's what I am deducing: the set's symbol and name suggest a Persian influence which is exciting to me for multiple reasons.

First, this harkens back to one of the earliest, actually I believe the first Magic expansion, Arabian Nights. That is an area of culture that Magic hasn't touched on in a long, long time and after Arabian Nights was completed, they decided they wouldn't use established settings for a Magic set again, so Arabian Nights occupies a fairly unique place in Magic's history. This could be a way for Wizards to reclaim some of that history.

There is also a high possibility of a Mongolian theme instead and that works for me as well because I believe it's important for Magic to reach into worlds that are not dominated by white people, which they have been for 2 of the past 3 sets, and Western concepts for 3 of the past 3. And that's the other part that's exciting to me: a chance to see a Magic spin on different myths from cultures I'm very unfamiliar with, because there will inevitably be some brief discussion about where those myths spawn from. A chance for me to learn something interesting is always cool.

There is a huge maybe of the opportunity for Magic to reclaim juuuuust a little bit of the Arabian Nights history via this set, even if it does tilt heavily towards a Mongolian vibe. Allusions, if you will, which I think would be an opportunity for cool little Easter eggs.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Easy Answers

Let's me give you a big hint at the problem I faced in my last matchups:

If you said: missing a color, then line up for your prize! (Note, I have no prizes.)  I hate being right, although I don't get tired of it.

On the other hand, it confirms that this deck needs a little bit more. Being efficient may not be enough. These games were played before Phyrexian Boon had been removed so I still have a little room to play with but these games just made me groan inside. Both were multiplayer games, so I had time to develop my board but it didn't matter; I could not get the key third color and that led to everything collapsing. I was denied access to some of my most powerful spells, the Charms, because of it.

Reviewing the decklist, I'm wondering if the concerns that led me to add Phyrexian Boon, namely the necessity of removal + attempt to shorten the game clock, were unfounded. I have 10 removal spells without Boon. Maybe what I really need is an additional Mountain and some card draw. Curiosity is fun but something that isn't reliant on another permanent is probably wise. Also, if I could put in something that got a bonus from either the Liege (blue/black creature) or the Familiar (blue/red spell) that might be ideal.

Desperate Ravings might be the solution I'm looking for. Between the colors being spot on and the card draw, that could help Kickback smooth out some issues. I wish there was a hybrid mana card to add in and so a review of Ravnica, Return to Ravnica, Shards of Alara and Shadowmoor blocks may be in order. Hybrid mana is a godsend to decks in this position so I may as well take advantage of it, if it's available.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


Remember how I said that the mana would now wreck me?

Well it did in my first game against Noah, who was piloting his Birthing Pod deck. So let's hear it for predictions!

My next set of matches weren't plagued by this issue and I played hard fought but losing matches. This wasn't so bad: interesting matches are a good sign, especially against a deck like Pod, which is established. The weakest link was Phyrexian Boon, which isn't too surprising as it is unfortunately situational, even for my deck. Going against a BUG Pod deck? Even fewer targets.

The challenge for me is simple: is the flexibility of the Boon worth it? At the moment, I have to say it isn't, especially since I'm running the exceptionally useful Cloud of Faeries which cannot be targeted by the Boon. At the same time, I really do not want to be stuck with removal spells that are too limited. Lash Out is fun but I can't redirect it at someone's dome if they happen to be creatureless.

The Charms are very, very useful and in every game I've been able to play them, they've proved invaluable.

It's the getting to play them aspect that becomes worrisome. Three different mana is quite the demand for the kind of flexibility the Charms provide. I'm not looking to get rid of the Charms but I do need to make some concessions to practicality. Creatures are pretty important and I probably won't find myself sad if I have proper removal. It's time to go to the binders.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014


I didn't really have a connective tissue between the name of this deck and the qualities of it but that's OK. The name kicks around in my head because when I was a child, I usually had Kickback leading the evil forces, as I saw no reason to spend money on Megatron. Irrelevant data before decklist!
3 Phyrexian Boon
4 Curiosity

4 Baleful Strix
3 Urborg Drake
2 Crosis, the Purger
3 Nightscape Familiar
3 Cloud of Faeries
4 Glen Elendra Liege
2 Kederekt Creeper

3 Crosis's Charm
3 Grixis Charm
4 Lash Out

6 Island
1 Grixis Panorama
1 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Crumbling Necropolis
4 Mountain
6 Swamp
Yes, it's another Liege deck. And I love liege decks. The unique turn I've taken on this deck is that it's a three color deck: adding red to get more out of Nightscape Familiar. Plus, I get to run Crosis, the Purger. Who doesn't want to play giant dragons?

There are a few secrets to Kickback: the Liege is one but so is the overall efficiency of this deck: Cloud of Faeries, the Charms, cheap, nasty beasts that are difficutl to block. The only real issue is the mana, which in current playtests have been very kind to me.

Watch how this series will show how badly I'm going to get hit with mana issues.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


This time, it was Fuz's turn to crush me, using a GW enchantress build and a UG build that used Ebony Owl Netsuke and very broad bounce effects like Sunder and Evacuate to ensure the Owl could do its job.

Notably, in both matches I couldn't get my removal drawn. In the Enchantress matchup, I needed Pernicious Deed to show up and it just didn't. Against the UG build my downfall, actually, was the manabase! Game three had me playing a Darigaaz's Caldera on turn two and despite playing a Thunderscape Familiar off it, I was never able to get enough land down to play my cards.

Sometimes you get the bear and sometimes a cheap artifact that looks like an owl blows you out. 

I had a similar issue against Rider, who was running an aggressive WB enchantment-creature deck based from Theros block. I made a critical mistake in the first two games, not understanding that my Hull Breach was almost as good as a Terminate, going after enchant creatures instead of the creatures themselves.

Which, when I had that realization, made me love the game just a little more. So many interactions to see, so many possibilities to take advantage of, if only you are open to catching them! I had removal, I just didn't use it correctly.

It's always a challenge to view these losses through a proper lens though: mulligans (I had to go down to 5 in one game), choices about color, about how to use your mana. Would I have won if I got a Pernicious Deed? Maybe. But the challenge before me was to win without it. I made some mistakes and have to own them, if I want to get better.

Maybe I need to take more time looking at those opening hands and really evaluating them. For the most part, this is the only time in the game where you get seven draws for free so I should really start focusing on getting a grip on what that hand is telling me.

I think I may have to start keeping notes. But for another deck: this one is done, for now.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Know Your Role

I went with the Charnelhoard Wurm version against Fuz, who was playing his RB Bloodthirst deck, which is very fast and very dangerous. Cheap creatures that get bigger with damage + instants and Aether Vial? It's scary how fast this deck can close.

I won the match, 2-1.

Then we had a discussion about what to do with the deck. Fuz told me that his take on Back to the Primitive was that it was reaching for the late game and I should play to that. The Charnelhoard Wurm works along the theme and I should run with it. As a result, my concerns about the card being too expensive was missing the point.

It made me think of this deck differently. I am building to the long game, using green deck principles of mana boosting via the Familiar to help shortcut the "big spells" portion of my deck. However, if I don't get there, I can just blow everything up until I do have enough mana to finish the game out.

I've been trying to play Primitive a bit more aggressively, as though it should get out of the gate quickly and hit as hard as it can. That's not a terrible line of attack, of course but it isn't always available. This means I've been thinking about it wrong, looking for the early game instead of recognizing my strength in the late game.

What IS always available is killing a bunch of permanents and then just grinding the hell out of opponents until they are dead.

That said, recognizing early game opportunities may help give me an advantage in future matches, because I've been looking for them the whole time. If I know I'm playing for the late game but can see chances in the early one to win, then that's one step closer to playing a more complete game. That's always good.