Thursday, February 26, 2015

We Could Be (Crisis) Heroes

After the disappointment from finding out how Heroes really work in Star Realms, I have been itching to play the expansion correctly. It's the only way to be sure, right?

I was finally able to sit down with Noah and play the game it was meant to be played.


It's not bad. I have to admit, Heroes coming directly into play for offer some strategic options that otherwise would be unavailable. That twist alone represents an additional dimension of play.

In addition, the small bursts of allied power can provide some assistance in the early game, when resources are limited and allied bonuses are difficult to come by.

They are also completely blanked by a card like Machine Base, which triggers all your allies all the time. That isn't a horrible thing because it means that the strategy becomes deeper but it was a moment where I realized that I wish I'd made some different decisions, having both heroes and the base out at the same time. The Heroes are also not extremely useful in the late game but you can't have everything.

The expansions are still too damned expensive, though. $10 for the whole kit-n-kaboodle and I'd say that's fair.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Making the Most of Your Time

I really dug on this article about maximizing your Magic time. The big takeaway? Pay attention. Seriously, it just comes down to that. But some tips on how to best do so, or alternate takes on the subject are always worth reading. Check it out.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

It's Time To Bring The Fire Down

I brought out The Hollows against a R/W aggro burn deck that Noah had...and I got stomped, hard. It wasn't just the burn (although there was plenty of that) it was also that I had no removal show up in time to help me. Young Pyromancer and Goblin Rabblemaster were on the board well before I could anything going. Even Bane of the Living wouldn't come online until turn four at best. And that's assuming it survives turn three! (Protip: vs. Red burn, morph creatures die. A lot.)

So I think it's time to concede that against fire (or any seriously aggressive deck) I need removal that happens before turn four. This means that Bane and Torrent of Souls need to come out for some good ol' fashion creature sweeping spells. Terminate seems like a fine idea-cheap, instant, easy to cast and in the colors. I think I may go with it initially buuuuut I have to admit that Terminate isn't a sweeper spell.

Does this deck need such a thing? For now, I'm going to gamble that pinpoint removal that can happen on turn two is going to be better than sweeping removal that won't happen until turn three or later and takes out my team as well. I need my creatures to generate more pinpoint removal as the game goes long-as seen in my games with Jason.

There's still more to test beyond the removal question: I would like to bring in Archwing Dragon over Flamerush Rider because the Dragon has evasion. This may not matter if Death March is out but I want to see it in action.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Through The Heart

I didn't have an Archwing Dragon in my collection. This was only a mild surprise to me, since I thought that card was dumb when it came out. Fortunately, I can pick up one cheaply but for now I'm plugging in Flamerush Rider to see what happens.

This picture is one of the dumbest wins ever, but I'll take it against a tough mono Green deck Jason was running.

I'm down to one when I managed to stabilize the board, Jason is at twenty and I managed to make a comeback to win entirely on the strength of two the Death Matches in play. Every creature I played became an instant kill for nearly everything Jason could play and without any instant speed removal of his own, he couldn't stop my creatures from appearing. And I needed those Death Matches!

His deck ramps up into huge nasty beasts and uses the awesome of Predator Ooze, Primeval Titan and most challenging, Dungrove Elders, coupled with a Rancor to win with giant dudes.. Mine: designed to take down lots and lots of small creatures. You can see how we're working very different paths.

We managed three matches and in the first one, he clocked me, easy. I don't even know that I got in the game, honestly. The second match, I was able to take, 2-0. A timely Void against two 6/6 Duskgrove Elders was the crucial play for me in the game that is pictured. He didn't find another and I just kept attacking for two with the Sandscout.

The card that became the biggest drag was easily Torrent of Souls. Four copies of that card and every time they show up, I was miserable. An easy add for this deck was an additional Grave Titan. The first time one showed up, Jason said; "Where has that card been? That thing blanks everything I have!"

So adding a second Titan was an easy choice. Jason's advice: Bane of the Living. "With enough mana, you can wipe the board," he said, "or just cast the morph and take out something small."

Jason's instincts are usually pretty good so I'm going to go with his advice. I'm wary because the Bane so easily wipes out my board too but sweepers help and I need a way to get things online before turn four. Bane of the Living offers me a chance to tweak the board state before Death Match comes online and that could be vital to me seeing a turn five.

Another bit of data that came out of our matchups is that I need access to a little more Black mana. Multiple games came where I had a Dimir House Guard on turn three, but not enough black mana to use its Transmute ability. I swapped two Mountains for Urborg Volcanoes because I like using my older cards.

I should probably change those to Bloodfell Caves and likely will. The Hollows, like so many of my decks, needs to work the margins everywhere it can to give it time to create any advantage it can get. Lifegain is part of that. I'm also just adding in a 25th land, going to 61 cards: A Rakdos Carnarium, because this deck likes mana. If I get flooded too much, I can easily remove it.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Hollows

I don't exactly know why I picked this name for the deck, beyond liking the song by A Perfect Circle. I suppose you can expect some weird song lyric post tiles in the next few weeks, because Maynard is an interesting man.

Let's decklist and say we did.
9 Mountain
4 Sulfurous Springs
1 Ebon Stronghold
8 Swamp
1 Ghitu Encampment
1 Spawning Pool
2 Phyrexian Rager
2 Lava Zombie
4 Flametongue Kavu
3 Dimir House Guard
3 Viashino Sandscout
1 Grave Titan
1 Oni of Wild Places

4 Death Match

3 Void
4 Torrent of Souls
4 Lab Rats
2 Goblin Offensive

3 Lightning Greaves

The centerpiece to this deck is Death Match. The ability to kill anything with less than three toughness should be a very powerful strategy so I chose cards accordingly: Flametongue Kavu to take care of creatures with more than 3 toughness, Grave Titan and Lab Rats to create more and more tokens that kill off my opponent's creatures without impacting my gameplan. Goblin Offensive generates overwhelming numbers and Lightning Greaves to protect creatures like the Kavu or Titan that don't bounce themselves like Viashino Sandscout does with Oni of the Wild Places or Lava Zombie there to provide additional bounce.

But now the Dash mechanic has come along and is in Red and Black! It's a perfect fit for this deck and I cannot wait to give The Hollows an overhaul. The Oni and the Lava Zombie can't provide as much value as a Mardu Strike Leader and that's just to start. I should keep an eye on Torrent of Souls: It is expensive and if I can't just win the game by playing it, some other form of disruption should be considered. Heck, there might even be a spot for Archwing Dragon! I'm really excited to give this deck a push and see how it works. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Final Tweaks: Hurt

I found three Massacre but no more Flesh Reavers in my collection so the two Spiteflame Witches are staying in for now.

Last night's game was uneventful. This is the trouble with scheduling and people having lives. I got one game in-a multiplayer game at that- before there was a notion to change to the Tiny Leaders format (which has been interesting so far) and the Massacres never appeared. I was stuck on only one red mana for most of the game I did get to play (Thanks, Nomad Outpost!) but it didn't badly constrict was I was doing.

Still, I don't know if I've made a good choice or not. It's difficult to get enough games in with people who play a similar format of Magic to understand if I've made proper decisions.

Watching this video by AJ Sacher, I am very impressed by his analysis of the game. He has put in so much time that he can clearly articulate why he thinks as line of play is superior (the Snapcaster Mage + Serum Visions or Lightning Bolt decision around 15 minutes in is especially good, I think). And this comes while watching to people who have also put in a TON of time playing their decks, finding the best decisions they can for complicated scenarios.

I understood and even agreed with things Sacher had to say, I just don't know that I could make similar evaluations. I definitely can't make them with only one game under my belt.

Thankfully, Fuz came to my rescue tonight, including this conversation:

So there's that. I suppose you had to be there.

Anyway; when I lost I had board states that looked like this:

I think it's pretty obvious what the problem is here.

This kind of thing happens and it's precisely why cards like Solemn Offering are generally relegated to the sideboard; I am in need of some action and I can't get it.

Yet, I did draw Massacre in a couple games and it often did some work for me, killing Animar or Utopia Trees, forcing some Mogis decisions. I even managed to use Solemn Offering on my Mogis just to gain 4 life when there weren't any other targets.

However, I think I may need to adopt more targeted removal than Massacre. I don't have many creatures and keeping them on the board is relevant to my interests. At the same time, I need something that takes out multiple creatures to give me breathing space and Mogis time to work.

I don't know that I have that option. It's just too much to ask for, isn't it?

For the moment, I think I've taken this deck as far as I can. Massacre stays but I'm keeping Hurt in rotation to try and learn more. We'll check back in a bit. For now, I have a really interesting deck I want to bring to the plate.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

House Rules

Holy moly is this new record by Heiress ferocious. Seriously! I likes the heavy metal and they do the heavy metal I likes. Moving on.

While playing Star Realms with Noah, we had a disagreement in regards to how Heroes worked. He thought they could only be activated to trigger an allied ability that hadn't gone off, while I thought they would re-trigger all allied abilities that had happened.

The rules are pretty unclear here (Crisis isn't great about communicating those rules) but in the internet age, I was able to ask the people who made Star Realms! Truly, we live in an age of wonder.

And they told me: they only trigger abilities that haven't been activated.

Well, that's lame. I'm going to have to run a few games with only Heroes from the Crisis expansion, just to see if they have an impact under those rules. Maybe they were just being overshadowed by all the other stuff!

But if they suck? I'm totally going to house rule those so they do what I want them to do. Because my way is awesome and their way is pretty weak.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

What Have I Become?

You know what's frustrating? Having your camera battery die so you can't take any (crappy) photos of your games. Visual representations matter! Sigh.

It's allllllmost as frustrating as having a new exciting idea fall flat on its face. I played against a zombies deck and Noah's Doran lead tiny leaders deck and got smashed pretty hard by both. Mogis appeared (sometimes in multiples!) but 2 damage a turn isn't much of a consideration if you can generate a ton of zombies swiftly or a squirrel every turn to satisfy Mogis's requirements.

This means that I need more removal, because at the moment, Mogis often just reads: opponents take 2 a turn and who cares? Since I can't have multiple copies of Mogis in play to stack the effect, now what?

Noah suggested two things: Cut one Mogis and find some non-red sweepers. Red sweep will ruin me but on the up side, black has many ways to destroy a lot of creatures that don't do damage. Crux of Fate is probably the newest and may very well be the best option for me. Damnation is too expensive and many of the -x/-x spells in black, like Mutilate, want a lot of swamps to be extremely effective.

But perhaps I don't need to be extremely effective. Maybe Massacre could do the trick and still leave me the option to keep a Flesh Reaver on board. On the upside, at least I know the next step and can make more changes to test it.