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!)