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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


Named after the leader of the Predacons, my goal with Razorclaw was essentially this: get 2 for 1 out of every card I cast. So: Avalanche Riders destroys a land in addition to being a creature. Mitotic Slime dies and gives me more creatures. Ohran Viper will kill any creature it damages but will draw me a card if it hits a player, and so on.

I also wanted to use what I thought was a cool interaction between Cream of the Crop and Primitive Etchings. Once those two cards were in play, I could cast a creature and increase the odds of being able to draw a free card off the Etchings every turn. This also explains the inclusion of Dryad Arbor.

The tricky part came when I read the rulings (after the deck was built) on Cream of the Crop, which say that if you have a creature with power equalling 1 then I get to look at the top card but I can't do anything about it. Let's take a look at the decklist:
11 Forest
3 Dryad Arbor
2 Fungal Reaches
1 Raging Ravine
5 Mountain
1 Mossfire Valley 
4 Ohran Viper
3 Wickerbough Elder
4 Caller of the Claw
4 Acidic Slime
4 Mitotic Slime
3 Avalanche Riders
2 Blisterstick Shaman
3 Pouncing Jaguar
2 Flametongue Kavu 
4 Cream of the Crop
4 Primitive Etchings
So, part of that is no friggin' good. Ohran Viper and Dryad Arbor need to come out, because they don't combo with Cream of the Crop. Now the other rule is: all creatures must have a power of 2 or more!

That presents some challenges too. Also: Fungal Reaches has no place in this deck: I am not trying to build up mana to cast some crazy spell: I need to get rolling.

So, perhaps it's time to bring in some Temple of Abandon into the mix instead. That fits the 2 for 1 theme and it can help set up Cream or Etchings.

Caller of the Claw can probably come out too: Mitotic Slime is there for that purpose and yes, it will suck if that gets Path'd, when doesn't that suck? Freeing up space to do something else is probably a better deal, although I'm not sure what right now. Satyr Hedonist might be a thought and so is, interestingly, Golden Hind which the only non-druid creature that taps for mana that I'm aware of.

But I also think that some interaction will serve well too: more Blisterstick Shaman or Flametongue Kavu or something along those lines. If I cannot maximize the value, a deck like this will suffer. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Can Hear The Battle Cry

I don't hate One Shot At Glory.

But it isn't as compelling to me as I would like it to be and that may have something to do with an inability to see what it needs. For example; I played a few matches against Fuz last weekend and there were boardstates that looked like this:

He's playing Vent Sentinel.deck neither of us are really doing anything to interact with the other. Matchups like that happen sometimes but this picture seems to be indicative of the issues I was having: this deck is very, very one dimensional and I can't seem to accelerate this deck against decks where there is no interference and thus end the game in an expedient manner and against the decks where I need to slowroll everything, I can't quite get the soft lock into play!

Or, the reverse happens: Fuz played his zombie deck and I managed to get out Thought Lash in time to be milled to death. Goddamn 3x Undead Warchief...

The inclusion of Temple of Deceit has been a good one: getting to check that next card for free is pretty awesome. Questionmarks have included Force Spike, which is great against tightly built decks that don't have margin for error, but is less amazing as time goes on and inevitably time does go on with One Shot At Glory, and Tolarian Winds but I am chalking that up to not having enough cantrips and/or not knowing how to play the deck.

Sigh. I don't know what to do here. It's not a bad deck. It's poses some interesting problems and isn't one that allows me to autopilot it. Yet it also doesn't seem to have the components to just crush opponents and I really don't know what I'm missing or maybe more accurately, what could be sacrificed in order to take this deck up to a higher level.

On my walk today, I realized that I am using up three slots for something I do not need. Thought Lash and Doomsday are doing things that I don't necessarily need duplicated. One or the other, sure but maybe if I just pick one and freed the other three slots to accelerate or protect the deck's win condition, I would be better off.

For now, I guess it just sits in regular rotation and I'll see what happens when I just throw it to the wolves, without the need to take notes.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

No Games

What can I tell you? I've had a lot of other things happening so I just haven't gotten a game in. And I'm leaving town so there won't be any Thursday post.

But, many games soon, and content shortly after.

Thursday, July 10, 2014


After a loooooong gestation period, I have continued to build a cube. I think I started picking cards for this in September of last year and then just let them sit for awhile. It's time to get this set going though.

Don't worry, don't worry: I haven't left One Shot At Glory in the dust, I just haven't had a moment to play that deck since the Legacy event, with the Conspiracy drafting and the Commander play. I'll get on that deck again this weekend, if all goes well and will have the final post about it on Tuesday.

But the cube: I decided I would pull the worst (but still potentially playable) card I could find from every color, from every set I owned. The card had to be bad (or boring) but it couldn't be bad and unplayable; think Flowering Lumberknot as an example for something that is bad and unplayable in the cube I'm building. About halfway through (Mercadian Masques, I think) I realized that I probably wanted to pull two bad cards from each color from the larger sets, just to ensure that I would have enough cards and creatures to make it work!

Shortly after that, I recognized that I was putting in a ton of really expensive, difficult to cast cards, so I started to ramp up the artifact mana fixing, just to make it playable. I want people to play shitty cards; if they can't then I'm going against my purpose.

In the meantime, I've started to make a spreadsheet for the cube, so I can see what's in there and what is needed. It's not finished yet but I should have all the entries done in a few days. I can see which large blocks I only have one card from (Ice Age through Urza's Saga being the most likely) and that might allow me to add in some cards that will give the cube some balance.

White, for example, has a ton of instants; probably too much and I can easily see that's an issue, so it can be tweaked to add more card types. In a set like Innistrad (one which many drafters consider to be one of the best draft sets ever) the number of creatures in a 249 card set is approximately 133, and this is without counting spells that make tokens. So it seems like I want to have a little over half my cards to be creatures in this cube. The spreadsheet will hopefully make managing all the information a task I can actually accomplish.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Conspiracy Draft (final)

Last Sunday I got to hold a draft of Conspiracy with the box I'd bought; we had nine players and all in all, things were pretty cool!

Once again, though, I got a lesson in seeing things from the other player's point of view.

Lauriel has 3 Lurking Automatons on the board set to 9/9. So that's scary. Caitlin has the most life, at 31 via Sevala shenanigans. Merrick is sitting tight with token creatures and Scott has all but nothing going on and is dwindling on life until he takes my Magus of the Mirror, via Extract from Darkness.

Well, someone's got to get this party started, right? So I cast Drakestown Forgotten, netting me a 15/15. Nobody does anything for a bit except Caitlin, who starts building up walls including Vent Sentinels.

I put Unquestioned Authority on the Forgotten and now I have a choice; attack Lauriel, who's got the most (and largest) creatures on board or Caitlin, to bring her down to a regular life total so that when Scott activates the Magus, he doesn't just leap ahead. I'm at 13 life.

And I choose poorly, attacking Caitlin with not nearly enough mana available to me to keep her Vent Sentinels from doing damage to me.

Scott has no reason to take Caitlin's life, Caitlin proceeds to do 15 damage to me via Sentinel and I'm out.

Sigh. The correct play would be to wait until I had all my mana open, then attack Lauriel. I'm threatening but until I take action, I'm nothing and Lauriel couldn't kill me outright without opening herself up to losing, unlike Caitlin's board state. Let Scott swap Caitlin's life and be (briefly) the hero of the day for eliminating the swarm of huge creatures that were going to end us all.

I swear, one of these days I'll get it right.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

M15 pt 2

Why? Because I haven't had a chance to play a single game of Magic since Sunday.

Sometimes, it's like that. Instead, I've been looking over the M15 spoiler and I have to admit: I think the hype is justified, at least as far as making constructed decks go. I have no idea what the draft environment will work like, although I have a suspicion it may resemble a bit of Onslaught from years ago, where you hope to get a giant creature and ride that to victory.

That doesn't mean M15 is absent removal or some really solid aggro spells and creatures. Just that the eye popping ones, especially the avatars, with their graveyard abilities, suggest that looking for the biggest beast is a good thing.

Or maybe I'm blinded by cool fatties, and don't know a thing about draft. That's the most likely thing, since it is true.

The Planeswalkers are especially juicy, interacting with other Planeswalkers....which has ups and downs.

Magic is a game that lacks enough ways to really deal with Planeswalkers, which can provide the player who was able to acquire a bunch of them a significant advantage over the player who could not, likely due to financial reasons. Which makes the game about money instead of skill. Again. Previously, it was about mana bases; now that those are cheap(er) we are seeing Planeswalkers as the next step of power.

I'm not discounting how cool it is for the new Garruk to destroy other Planeswalkers, nor Ajani to give them a boost! I think that's awesome. It's just that Hero's Downfall is listed as a $5 card and that's because of one little bit of text: 'destroy target...planeswalker'. The card type is seven years old and I still don't think we have enough appropriate ways to handle them.

Still, it's been a long, long time since I saw a Magic set, much less a core set, that seemed to be doing so many interesting things. This one is really giving the impression of a 'gathering' a place where the planes of Magic converge and you could see anything from any dimension they have visited. The big creatures are worth playing, the small creatures are reasonably valuable and the connections to Theros block (enchantments and auras) as well as the potential setup for the next block (enemy colors, creature type matters) is executed well.

So far, so good.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Despite the record, I had a pretty good time at the SCG Legacy event last Sunday. This is entirely due to me deciding; Fuck it, let's play some games.

As a result, I never felt too riled up or fell into tilt when things didn't go my way. What's the point? I'm here to play some games. Let's go.

I faced BUG Delver decks twice and lost both of those matchups, in both cases because none of my sideboard cards (Choke and Pernicious Deed) appeared. I would win games-especially games where I was able to establish tempo, usually with discard or Tangle Wire-but if I couldn't get something established, I found myself on the bad end of cheap countermagic.

I also played against two Junk decks, (BWG running Stoneforge Mystic). I lost one of those matchups and this was where the first of my two big mistakes of the day kicked in. It's Match 2, game 2 and I'm at 7 life. My opponent has a Stoneforge with Jitte and Sword of Fire and Ice equipped. I have 4 mana, Natural Order, and no creatures.

Draw Khalni Garden, create Plant, Natural Order for...Progenitus. I recognize my mistake shortly after saying "Go," and surveying the board: Progenitus is red and blue, and Sword of Fire and Ice offers protection from those colors. The correct play would have been to go for Sylvan Primordal, destroy Jitte and then begin to wait for a Pernicious Deed.

The Junk deck I defeated? That was how I did it, although it came a little later in the game. My opponent, Adam, was very unhappy about this, grumpily signing his match slip and insisting how terrible this day was, complaining "I eliminate your hand and you topdeck into wins."

Well, that's one possibility or it could be that I kept your manabase to 3 lands maximum, forced you to discard your most potent threats, including Batterskull and Liliana, and you couldn't kill any of my creatures so my Gaea's Cradle stayed active and once I had 7 mana, dropping the topdecked Primordal to destroy your sole source of white mana really was a good idea.

If you're pissed off at the tournament, you should just drop and go home, instead of being a grouch.

I also beat a Miracles deck, again using discard to delay their board presence and Krosan Grip in game 2 to stop Divining Top activations.

My last matchup of the day was against Burn and in again in game 2, I made my second critical mistake of the day: down to 10 life and with Natural Order and two Eternal Witness in my hand, I decide that I should Natural Order, again, into Progenitus. I felt the clock would matter more, and I'd already seen one Price of Progress for 8, so why get Thragtusk?

I am promptly PoP'd down to zero. My opponent helpfully recommended that if he has a full grip, it's always better to go for lifegain and I nod, accepting that I made a mistake, thinking I could put more pressure on him than he could on me.

I think I let Progenitus go to my head; the card is so powerful that I would just presume that if I got it, I'd win. That did happen a couple times during the day but I started to rely on it too much and didn't quite use all my brainpower to get out of the jams I found myself in.

Still, a good day all and all and a good learning experience. I have some solid ideas about where to take this deck in the future, should I want to align myself that way.