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?