Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hysteria is a dumb album

I've been listening to music I've had for a long time, because I may have to move in 2015 and getting rid of CDs I don't care about anymore is less weight I have to carry. Some of those albums have been pretty solid and it's always nice to know you had at last some taste when you were younger.

But others...well, it's just hard to listen to a song like 'Women' and keep a straight face. Seriously, that whole album is blackout drunk levels of dumb. Still, that's what I did on my drive to meet up and test Defensor out more. Here's what I found out:

I need some creature removal, damnit. What that picture represents is a static board state that I should be able to take advantage of: He has two Assemble the Legion out but cannot block my flyers. I've got a Pariah on one of his creatures and Bubble Matrix in play so I don't have to do any blocking at all and Goblin Tinkerer can eat all the Obelisk of Urd my opponent can produce. I'm hitting him for five a turn which seems like a pretty good thing!

Except for one little trick: Trostani, Selesnya's Voice is in play. He's gaining far more life than I can manage and I don't have a way to re-establish the lock if I blow everything up.

It took awhile but eventually, he found a Gleeful Sabotage and was able to destroy the Bubble Matrix and the Pariah, before I could play a Desolation Giant (which I had) and a Pariah on the same turn (which I was looking for).

His life total was over 200 and there were over 100 soldiers on the table. I went down in a pretty epic fashion and if you're going to lose, "pretty epic fashion" is not a bad way to go. My opponent suggested that I needed a way to get rid of enchantments but Assemble the Legion wasn't my problem. Trostani was what kept him in the game.

Which means I need to make some changes. I've already replaced the Glittering Lynx with Goldenglow Moth as a vastly superior blocker with the potential to attack if equipped, and I've ordered a Hundred-Handed One to really muck up the blocking. Plus, one of the Bonesplitters has become a Godsend, to help create more problematic blocking issues. It's not enough, though.

So it's probably time to admit that Tolarian Entrancer is The Glory of Cool Things. Something else to deal with creatures beyond Desolation Giant is going to be required and I'm not sure what that is going to be just yet. I doubt I have any Path to Exile lying around, red damage doesn't fit the deck, which leaves blue to solve this problem. The question is, how?

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Analog Games Are Awesome

I read a pretty interesting article promoting the play of analog games. There's definitely a 'guy-centric' theme going on there in the photographs but I suppose that's to be expected from a website called The Art of Manliness.

Still, it's a good read and gets me off the hook for the next week. It's the holidays! Magic games are a little more challenging to come by. Cheers, everyone!

Friday, December 19, 2014


Defensor comes from my early deckbuilding days, where I like to take an idea (Fliers! Vigilance!) or card and just make it the one thing a deck did. Because of the use of Bubble Matrix, I named the deck after the great protector amongst the Autobots.
3 Lightning Angel
3 Desolation Giant
3 Masako the Humorless
3 Saprazzan Heir
3 Goblin Tinkerer
3 Glittering Lynx
3 Soltari Emissary
2 Tolarian Entrancer
3 Pariah
3 Catalog
3 Bonesplitter
4 Bubble Matrix

7 Mountain
6 Island
8 Plains
3 Thawing Glaciers

One of the things to remember is that at the time, Magic was often infested with cards-creatures, especially-that had drawbacks, often terrible ones. Glittering Lynx, for example is a card that needs its drawback removed to really be useful.

So along those lines, the idea was to gum up the works in combat by having cheap blockers and otherwise less than useful utility creatures become better with Bubble Matrix, and beat down with evasion creatures (Lightning Angel and Soltari Emissary especially). If those creatures don't show up, add a Bonesplitter to a Saprazzan Heir until they do.

The time has come to give this deck a bit of an overhaul.Starting with the 3 Thawing Glaciers, which should obviously become Mystic Monastery.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Cast List

I'm noting that I'm talking about people I play with on this blog and there's hardly any basis for knowing who the heck these people are. So let me do some introductions of the people I often play with (or reference)--and update this page as needed.

Fuz is one of my oldest friends and we got into Magic at the same time. We've been playing for close to twenty years. He likes decks that have a lot of resilience and can easily recover from board-wipe level setbacks.

Jason and I lived together for a while in the early '00s and would spend nearly every weekend playing game after game of Magic until the wee hours of the morning. He likes building weird decks that usually attack the opponent's ability to play from from their own library, be it milling as a victory condition (the most common method) or a combination of Leveler/Shared Fate.

stonethorn sees the game through a more professional lens, often using tech that comes out of the pro tour. That isn't to suggest that he doesn't take his own spin on things just that he tends to start with the best ideas provided.

Noah likes to see goofy ideas executed...mostly by someone else. The exception to this is Commander, where he'll indulge a weirder but definitely more lockdown oriented strategy. Otherwise, he seems to like decks that can get out from under countermagic easily.

Lauriel has consistently impressed me with her abilities to build draft decks and her luck in getting good sealed pools is outstanding. She tends to tilt towards multiplayer games when not involved in drafts which often means her decks are looking at the long game.

Matt likes to try and bring old-school Legacy decktypes back when he can, like Stasis. When he isn't doing that, he tends to skew towards the Commander format.

Caitlin I don't know well; she and Matt are both newer to me and I often play them in multiplayer. She's pretty fluid with her deck choices though and has handily beat a table using Zur.

Sean I met through the Star City Games forums, back when they had them and he's a student of game design, in addition to being someone who is all about draft formats.

So when I talk about playing the game, these are the people I most often play with. So far.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Foolproof Magic

Shortly after asking how I could tighten up my play so I would remember Oloro's triggers, along comes this series from Gathering Magic about how to do just that.

I don't know that I want to incorporate everything into my play or that I can: I group my lands differently than the author, for example, (non-basics are separate for me) so that doesn't really work. Also, there are, for my liking, too many dice being used as reminders for every trigger, making a cluttered board even more difficult to read.

However, what the article did do was remind me to do was to look ahead and visualize what mana I may need, so I can keep my options open. I did start placing a single die, set to 2, on top of my library with Oloro, so I would get used to looking for upkeep triggers before blindly drawing.

I'm also trying to slow down when I play, questioning my knowledge of everything on the board. There are too many cards that get changed in context of the game state for me to accelerate through complex turns. It's all well and good to have the general outline of my turn planned out, especially in multiplayer but sketching in the specific details in case I have to change my plan is the next thing to work on.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Star Realms

When Jason and I met up over Thanksgiving, I thought we would probably play quite a bit of Magic. We have in the past and I don't get to test things out with him too often, so I like to take advantage of that.

Instead we played Star Realms almost exclusively.

Star Realms is a sci-fi themed deckbuilding game, along the lines of Ascension or Dominion. I found out about it in the Reddit boardgame area and got to try it out on my iPad for free.

Free is good. It certainly convinced me to pick up the game.

And that convincing led to a purchase because of some very balanced gameplay. Star Realms is pretty easy to set up/take down and once you get the hang of it, it is possible to have games where even if things are looking grim, you can come back to win it.

It's also very fast paced: you can get through one in under 20 minutes and be ready to play again easily. This is one of the more efficient games I've played and I'm liking it quite a bit. Check it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

So Now It's Come To This

I hope stonethorn doesn't mind but I'm going to use one of his decks as my example for what is wrong with Magic in a big picture sense. Take a look at this Commander deck.

There is nothing wrong with it at all. I'm even helping him improve it!

Except for what that deck says about Magic right now.

There are enough viable Planeswalkers at this point that one can make a five-color Commander deck from them. In a few more years, the number of Commanders will increase to the point where a viable three color deck will be OK. Then two colors. This is just inevitability coming from the nature of production. I don't see how that can be disputed: If Magic continues as a game, then the number of Planeswalkers will increase to the point where you can run three or even two color decks, perhaps even monochrome ones, that just have Planeswalkers in them.

That isn't the problem. The problem is that WotC has provided Planeswalkers with a protected status and that status needs to end. The sooner the better.

Because Planeswalkers require an incredible amount of resources to deal with and if any of them ultimate (that is, use their final and strongest ability) that usually definitively tilts the game in favor of the player who owns the Planeswalker. If you can run a deck purely made from Planeswalkers, you are forcing opponents to deal with nothing but those things before advancing their gamestate. This creates incredibly grindy situations that are wholly favorable to the controller of the Planeswalker, leaving the player without the Planeswalker with no real way out.

Take any other permanent type in the game and there is a common-level way to handle it. Even indestructible or recurring permanents have cards like Angelic Edict or Annihilating Fire to remove them from the game. Not every color gets these things, of course, which is fine! But lands, artifacts, enchantments and creatures all have common-level ways to handle them. This is critical, because first, it opens the door to a variety of ways to handle said permanents at multiple rarities. That is: options are available to players of different strategic bents, with a couple different colors as options. Second: players on a budget can afford to handle those troublesome permanents.

There are two common level permanents I have been able to find that could destroy a Planeswalker: Mold Shambler and Rootgrapple, both of which are over five years old. There are a few others, like Hydroblast, which is even older and far too narrow to consider and there is nothing at the common level to handle Planeswalkers.

The best argument against common-level Planeswalker removal is the impact it will have on draft but since when has there ever been a draft where there weren't shitty cards that were useless? Since I'm not talking about putting common removal in every damn set, I fail to see the issue. Constructed control decks using none or virtually no creatures already exist in Modern and Legacy. They aren't trumping the format yet but it is just a matter of time and production. The inevitability is out there.

So give us more ways to handle Planeswalkers than just attacking with creatures and redirection of damage. Those just aren't enough.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

I planned for Jason but not for Sean

I'm going to write up a cast list soon, I think.

On Tuesday I went to do a Khans draft with Jason and was stuck in a ten person pod. Typically, draft pods only have eight people so what that meant was: I saw far less consistency out of the packs than I would have liked. I don't understand draft very well, though so after first-picking a Butcher of the Horde, I thought: OK, go red-white-black if I can.

And because I kept thinking: 'play to build the best deck' instead of 'grab all the rares' I just kept pounding away at the W/B cards I got, failing to acquire anything in red (or green, the other support color) worth the effort. When I finally built my deck, I don't believe I had a single rare in it.

This was extremely discouraging and led to discouraging matchups, where I was frankly overpowered. I managed to take every game to three but at the end of the night, I was 0-3 in matches. Jason and I played next to each other at the low table though, my opponents were all nice and we got some really helpful advice from the judge at Shane's so I am trying to come away from the experience in a positive way.

I just didn't like drafting that set. I need to give it another shot but I really don't feel inclined to do so. Good money after bad, if you take my meaning.

The day after Thanksgiving Jason and I went to my friend Sean's place where we got in about two games of constructed before Sean persuaded us to draft his cube.

I didn't do so well at that, either and I was in R/W/B again. Only this time I actually could play all my colors. The glories of cube draft: Everything is useful. Jason was new to and loved this format and got a lot of good advice from Sean about how to build one. He's planing on making a multiplayer focused one and that should be very interesting, indeed.

I suppose I just don't understand draft very well and will have to practice it. If nothing else, this means I have to get my own cube complete so I can practice for free.

The constructed games I got in didn't go very well either, unfortunately. Sean likes to draft and when he doesn't have a draft deck he has some high-powered blue-oriented combo decks. I really haven't prepared for that and I quickly found myself presenting too big a threat for multiplayer and thus swiftly eliminated.

If my metagame involved playing Sean often, I would probably brought some very different decks. Hell, I'd build some very different decks. Ah well; next time!

Hope everyone had a nice vacation!