Thursday, January 29, 2015

Let You Down

This is not a problem I like having.

Three White cards, not a single source of white mana to speak of. This is a good excuse to run the deck through the Deck Stats generator to make sure I'm running enough sources of white.

Turns out, I'm shy on red mana! And I'm running 25 lands, which might be a bit much.

However, there's a bigger tweak to be made, coming out of games I played on Cockatrice against Fuz. He's playing a Rakdos the Defiler deck and that fucker is MEAN.

Sure, it's a pretty neat trick when I can Harm's Way Rakdos into making Fuz sacrifice twice the number of permanents he needs to but I still can't kill Rakdos and that is a very big problem.

I explained some of the issues I was having with the deck, including the need to find something that was both Red and Black in order to trigger Dega Sanctuary regularly. Ideally, I told Fuz, something that was an enchantment, to provide me with ways to trigger Dega Sanctuary.

"Everlasting Torment?" he joked, which brought a wry smile and I admitted I didn't have any ideas, beyond doing a search at Gatherer.

"How about Mogis, God of Slaughter?"

Oh. My. God.

Let's try a new list:

3 Loxodon Warhammer

4 Dega Sanctuary
4 Mogis, God of Slaughter

3 Solemn Offering

4 Harm's Way
1 Char
2 Orcish Cannonade

4 Shinka Gatekeeper
2 Spiteflame Witch
3 Jackal Pup
2 Filthy Cur
4 Flesh Reaver

4 Nomad Outpost
7 Mountain
6 Plains
7 Swamp

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

My Empire Of Dirt

"How's that deck working out for you?" Caitlin asked.

It's a good question, one that is illustrating a recent mistake.

I got some games in against both Noah and Matt and the routine was pretty much the same: Hurt plays like a R/B aggro deck with some neat tricks from White, until I get something like Loxodon Warhammer and then it becomes scary. But I found myself disappointed with Personal Sanctuary, which I swapped in for three copies of Solemn Offering.

Redundancy is very important in Magic, especially if you're running non-Blue decks. One of the reasons Blue is the most powerful color, set after set, is that it often has the easiest access to tools that draw cards and smooth over the inconsistent bumps that other colors face when they try to execute their strategies. So, it would seem that if I can add in some cards that will help Hurt do what it wants to do, but do it more consistently, then that would be a good thing!

The mistake I made was thinking that Dega Sanctuary was the card I wanted to do more with. I don't win via Dega Sanctuary, I keep myself alive long enough to force them to lose. On top of that, multiple copies of Dega Sanctuary means that I gain more life, extending the time I have to find answers and win the game. Multiple copies of Personal Sanctuary doesn't do anything for me at all.

So I went in the wrong direction and the Personal Sanctuaries should come out of the deck. The question becomes; do I go back to the Solemn Offerings or not? My losses were to Noah playing Jeskai Tokens (whomever thought Jeskai Ascendancy should untap ALL creatures was insane) and the Offerings would also shore up my matches against Jason, doing whatever Jason does. Because he does it with artifacts or enchantments, for the most part.

The unsung hero of this deck has been Harm's Way. The first time I played that card, Noah exclaimed, "I almost lost to a Harm's Way!" (he survived by one. ONE!) I got it off twice against Matt to kill off one of his relevant creatures and protect my life total. That kind of smiling knife is something that is worth investigating, if only for its versatility but when coupled with the surprise factor? I may be onto something and I should push that for all it's worth.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Star Realms: Crisis

Two firsts happened this week: I got to play with the new Star Realms expansion cards and I got to play my first multiplayer game.

Multiplayer games still go pretty rapidly I'm glad to say, especially when everyone has a feel for the game. This is a nice change from epic Commander multiplayer games. The addition tactical decisions about where to spread your resources can make for an interesting dilemma, too.

After only a few games, here's what I can tell you about Crisis:

1) Heroes do not make their use immediately apparent. They're cheap to acquire, which is good, but they don't feel useful at first. Of the cards in this set, they are the ones that I think will need the most testing. I had two available to me at one point and I hesitated to use them. Noah had a similar situation and I think it's because Star Realms is about balancing when expend those scrapable resources. Some are obvious (Explorers) but bases or ships? This is harder to figure out and heroes fall under that category. Jury is still out.

2) Events are very cool. These are the impact cards, the ones that can sell the set. They're just random enough and the immediate impact feels pretty fair so nobody gets completely burnt.

3) The additional bases and ships don't suck but they don't light up the eyes. There are some interesting dimensions being added but at the moment they seem like 'win more'. For a first expansion, that seems about right. I don't need to get excited about what bases or ships do again, I'm already psyched.

4) This is absurdly expensive. $20 for 48 cards is pretty crazy when you can get the base game with 128 cards for $15. And of those, 110 are the ones you need to play the game-so what gives with this price point? If this doesn't balance out soon, I can see myself skipping out on future expansions. Because my money > less of my money.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015


Named after the Nine Inch Nails song that Johnny Cash pretty much owns now, Hurt is a R/W/B deck that wants to use cheap, nasty Red and Black creatures to do damage, while the White cards are there to give my life total just enough reach that I can win. It's not pretty but that's the idea.
3 Loxodon Warhammer
2 Wayfarer's Bauble

4 Dega Sanctuary
3 Seal of Doom
2 Seal of Fire

3 Solemn Offering

3 Harm's Way
1 Char
2 Orcish Cannonade

4 Shinka Gatekeeper
2 Spiteflame Witch
2 Jackal Pup
2 Filthy Cur
4 Flesh Reaver

2 Evolving Wilds
7 Mountain
6 Plains
8 Swamp
Dega Sanctuary was the original impetus for this deck, Hurt needs to run a balance between those Red and Black creatures to win, and some non-creature permanents to help keep the life total up, when those creature die--because they will die. Cards like Solemn Offering and Loxodon Warhammer are there because of their contribution to the overall theme.

It's been a long, long time since I took a hard look at Hurt. But now: Now there is Personal Sanctuary and Nomad Outpost, so I think it's time to look again.

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Caitlin had a 'cute animals' theme deck--essentially a version of Zoo using cute animal pictures--but didn't have any enchantment or artifact removal.

I had Bubble Matrix.

And while her deck was fast (in each game I found myself below five life rapidly) I was able to stabilize the creature attack and once Pariah came out, it didn't matter if she drew Lightning Bolt or not.

I think Defensor has been taken as far as it can go. It didn't need a lot of tweaking at all, really. I'm a little surprised by that but definitely pleased. I know the matchups here: Midrange creature decks? Good! Combo decks? Bad. Aggro decks? Maaaaaybe.

But let me tell you what my favorite moment in playtesting this deck has been:

Up against a stranger, playing mono-red burn. In very short order, he had me down to 3 life-exactly what you'd expect out of a burn deck, though I had Bubble Matrix out on turn 4.

And then I played Pariah on his Eidolon of the Great Revel. 

"Would you like to concede?" I asked, and he laughed. Then conceded.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

I Think I Like Fate Reforged?

The full spoiler for Fate Reforged is up and the new album by Sleater-Kinney is available to listen to. I'm in a better position to talk about the new Magic set though, since I've just started listening to S-K's record. (But, strong opening track!) Magic sets? Well, I've been doing that for awhile.

First, let's overview.

I like Bolster as a mechanic. It seems like a neat way to help balance out board states by providing interesting questions: killing an unblockable creature that results in their smallest dude becoming a legitimate thread creates tension and that's good! Sure, it'll be more of a limited mechanic but I can see value coming in the right constructed decks.

Manifest isn't as interesting to me, though. You have to go in blind and the odds are against you. In Constructed, there are decks-mostly blue ones-that can take advantage of the mechanic by stacking their library but for the most part, it's going to suck. Which is one reason Reality Shift is good.

Dash has some fun potential too; there are plenty of fun things that trigger when creatures enter the battlefield, and the choice between taking those repeated triggers or investing in a longer lasting creature is a good one. I've already got a R/B deck in mind to monkey with once Fate Reforged hits the shelves and I'm looking forward to it.

The returning mechanics are just that; the returning mechanics. We know Prowess and Delve are bonkers and Ferocious a bike with square tires.

However, my overall perspective on this set is positive. Cards with interesting synergies like Wandering Champion or Bloodfire Enforcers, neat activated abilities like that on Brutal Hordechief or Alesha, Who Smiles at Death, a Black Wrath of God effect, the optional ETB cycle (Defiant Ogre, Hooded Assassin, Aven Surveyor, Sandsteppe Outcast, Ainok Guide) as well as the Siege enchantment cycle (although Blue again got the best of those) and even a decent dragon in Green!

Sure, Blue looks like the clear winner here, with Green looking like a solid second but White, Black and Red all seem to have something going on. So far, I'm a fan.

The Sleater-Kinney album needs a few more plays. It isn't bad but I'm not hooked on it, either. Hmm. Maybe I was too distracted while listening to it?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Seriously, Gorram Blue!

Fate Reforged Spoilers have begun!

And goddamnit, they have given Blue a card it had absolutely zero need of: easy, instant speed, creature removal: Reality Shift.

You know, just when the game starts to get more balanced from a color-pie perspective, a block like Khans shows up and throws it all away. Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are already so format warping that people are calling for them to be banned in Legacy and Modern. Did Blue really need a card that could take care of almost any creature and replace it with something that is a 2/2 nothing? Because the odds are heavily in the Reality Shift player's favor that they will be manifesting a land or spell, not a creature.

So your best creature is now a bear.

That's just ducky.

But wait, 'Blue has had Polymorph for years', you say, 'how is this any different!? Why isn't Curse of the Swine creating an outcry!'

Two ways; first, Curse of the Swine is a Sorcery and second, costs 3, minimum, to work. That is a lot of mana for Blue and arrives at an inconvenient time. Other Polymorph-like effects don't exile, which means that Green (Blue's primary adversary) White and Black can get potential mileage out of those destroyed creatures because they have graveyard interactions.

But instant speed permanent creature removal has never been a strong part of Blue's domain and Reality Shift's printing at uncommon means that they want to make the best color in Magic the best color in Magic.

That kinda sucks.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Gorram Blue

Post holidays I have found myself exhausted. Too many late nights; wine, women & song, you know? I managed to get a few games against Fuz but my brain just wasn't going to brain very well and I had to cut the evening short. I hate doing that.

I decided on Rapid Hybridization (although I was really looking for Pongify) as a great answer to my removal problem. I was looking forward to having that light spot removal as needed, especially with a deck that doesn't care if you have creatures.

But instead what I got was a lesson in: What happens when two decks are playing along different victory lines and one of them is blue.

Fuz is playing a blue milling deck using Jace's Phantasm as a win condition with, as seen, Phantasmal Image to copy them.  5/5 fliers are not easy to handle.

But, if that win condition doesn't work out, he can just mill the opponent out, using cards like Downpour or Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch to stall. Basic draw cards (Divination!) kept his deck consistent.

I am prepared for creature swarms and damage but not mill. Fuz beat me in long but not terribly challenging games, 2-1.

It is possible I'm going about this wrong, that Bubble Matrix belongs in a deck with Black in it for removal purposes, white for Pariah and Blue for...everything blue does. I'm loath to change the colorscheme, though because there just aren't decks out there where Desolation Giant becomes useful.

So it's back to Gatherer I go to do a search, this time for red cards that say 'Destroy'. This might be a more useful endeavor. Aftershock alone fits this theme better than I might have thought.