Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Is It About The Game

I pinged stonethorn last week to see if he wanted to play cards and he responded in the affirmative, so off we were to the pub, right? It was early so I was hoping I'd have a chance to teach him how to play Star Realms, as well as get in a few matchups with Tinkertoy, now that I'd developed the new model with Trinket Mage.

We got our ales and settled into the 'how are things?' chat. The conversation went long before attention got directed towards playing a game. About one-third into teaching him  how Star Realms worked I realized; he's not into it. Not because the game is bad, but because he'd had a long day.

Sometimes that happens: your brain just doesn't want to cooperate and when it is fortified by some truly excellent imperial stout from the Commons, it's better to just call the whole thing off. We ended up going to the Lovecraft, checking out pretty women from afar and eventually I played the designated driver to get him home safely.

Because I don't just play Magic to play Magic.

Saturday, March 28, 2015


I don't have any Fabricate.

This isn't the end of the world, it's a chance to add in more Spellbombs...of which I only have one Sunbeam.

So, now what?

I do want to test Mana Severance. That idea just seems weird enough to work; it may even allow me to combo out without a second Vedalken Archmage and anyone who plays against this deck would likely target the Archmage immediately. Needing only one in play should make the deck stronger. Buuut I don't have any Mana Severance, either. Yeesh. On the upside: they don't cost much to purchase and I may even have the opportunity to test them via Cockatrice first.

I also remembered Jace's Erasure. I really want to use this card and it seems so, so close. When I'm going off, I'm drawing nearly half my deck anyway, right? Why not make the work of Grinding Station or Brain Freeze easier?

After sleeping on the idea, though it just feels like a 'win more' event. Once I'm officially in the combo, Grinding Station and especially Brain Freeze are exceptionally difficult to stop. I need to enable that combo, not make the combo do less work. Again, I am trying to avoid "the glory of cool things".

I think this means Trinket Mage. A solid turn three play that can act like a speed bump against aggressive decks while finding me utility pieces or Lion's Eye Diamond. My concern is that since Trinket Mage isn't an artifact, I may be gumming up the deck a little more but I'm not sure that I have a better alternative.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Taking Things Apart

I don't know that Tinkertoy is fast enough. Or maybe I need to think of it differently: I don't know that Tinkertoy is defensive enough.

I played a game against Matt, who was trying out a new deck and his was unrefined enough that the speed of my deck didn't matter. I got my first taste of the mental resources it takes to keep track of Storm counts though, leading to a few misplays in my final turn that nearly lead to my defeat. I lucked through them (which is good) and I hope to use that experience play better in the future. It's going to mean some very deliberate decisions though, for awhile.

Then I played two matchups against Noah and those didn't go as well. He was playing aggressive decks: Kithkin WW and R/w burn and against both of them, I couldn't get anything off the ground. I needed Sunbeam Spellbomb to appear against burn and it just wouldn't--but we realized in game two that it wouldn't matter because Eidolon of the Great Revel (which appeared in both games) nullifies my entire strategy.Aether Spellbomb would have helped--but again, nowhere to be found.

Against the Kithkin deck, I was able to stall with Ghostly Prison, but I still couldn't draw into the cards I needed to generate a victory condition. Even with the Vedalken Archmage out (which is blinded by the light in that photo) I still couldn't draw into what I needed.

Myr Servitor didn't really behave the way I hoped, so that's coming out. I got a recommendation via Reddit to add Fabricate: if I have any, it's probably worth the time. If not, then perhaps it's time to shore up the copies of the Spellbombs in the deck.

In addition, I'm finding that I really want two Archmage out to consistently go off-and even then it's challenging. I often draw cards I cannot play-most often lands. This level of fragility suggests that this deck will never be in my top tier of decks but maybe I can make it less brittle. It's also goosing me to think of something really outside the box: Mana Severance.

Thursday, March 19, 2015


A rarity! I deck I've built that doesn't take its name from either a song or an old school Transformer. But it seemed like a good title for a deck that wanted to put tiny pieces together over and over again.
4 Ghostly Prison 
2 Sensei's Divining Top
2 Grinding Station
3 Helm of Awakening
3 Wayfarer's Bauble
2 Skycloud Egg
1 Lion's Eye Diamond
3 AEther Spellbomb
2 Sunbeam Spellbomb
3 Talisman of Progress 
3 Auriok Salvagers
4 Vedalken Archmage
3 Myr Servitor 
2 Brain Freeze 
3 Plains
10 Island
2 Flood Plain
4 Ancient Den
4 Skycloud Expanse
So here's the plan: use Vedalken Archmage and Helm of Awakening to play artifacts for free and draw a bunch of cards every time I do so. Eventually I draw into a Brain Freeze and mill the opponent for everything. 

As a backup plan use Grinding Station and Myr Servitor to mill them out.

I have a feeling that this deck won't be as easy to update as the past two decks. I hope I'm wrong but my recollection is that Tinkertoy has always suffered from an "all or nothing" syndrome where it either clicks or utterly misfires and the misfires happen a lot more frequently. With a few years between the time I've put this deck together and now, there are bound to be cards I can add to this deck. Plus, I get to subject my opponents to the terrible (but mentally taxing!) gameplan of slowly milling them to death!

Let's go.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Another Ugly Waste of Clay

What Doesn't Die responded well to the changes, with the card draw and easy graveyard access giving me some legs against, as pictured, a R/w burn deck piloted by Noah. In that particular matchup, Goblin Welder's text read, 'Target opponent discards Lightning Bolt' so there weren't really any issues as with last time.

We played a few games with this matchup and they were all pretty close. The key card for me was, naturally, Wurmcoil Engine, with Platinum Angel running a close second and Noah's only response to those cards involved either Oblivion Ring (for Wurmcoil) or a whole lot more burn shot at a creature than he'd like-Platinum Angel taking up two shots for his one.

I imagine that things will look very different once Dragons of Tarkir comes out and Myth Realized becomes available, growing for free every turn. Wasting two spells to kill one of my best creatures and growing your own by two seems like a solid plan.

I've just realized that Prowess (and Myth Realized's take on Prowess) is a bit like a Storm mechanic for creatures. I'm not sure how I feel about that. On the upside, creatures are more interactive and vulnerable. On the downside; Storm is still one of the most insular mechanics ever created. It hasn't been broken yet, so there's likely nothing to fret about.

In the meantime, I'm calling this deck a success! Sure, it would have a lot of trouble against a blue control deck but...shit, everything does. Besides, under those circumstances, I'll just swap out Juggernaut and Synod Centurion for discard and everything will workout fine!


Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dragons of Tarkir

You can check out the spoiler list at the usual spot.

I wasn't all that happy with Khans, especially the use of the morph mechanic but I have to say, between Fate Reforged and Dragons of Tarkir, some of my faith has been restored. The Rebound mechanic coming back means there are some more cards to interact with the "heroic" cards of Theros. Some really fantastic Megamorph cards-Stratus Dancer seems especially cool but the whole cycle looks good- and a real attempt to beef up the dragon tribe. Hell, the run of morph through Khans almost harkens back to the old days when a single mechanic would get hammered on for the entire block, and that makes for some interesting and potentially powerful interactions.

So I dig on most of it! I'm pleased that Dash and Bolster are making the return from Fate Reforged and the Exploit mechanic has an appropriately Black feel, Blue is getting a 'fixed' Brainstorm with Anticipate that I expect to go a whole three years before being banned and Red is getting bent in interesting directions-Commune With Lava being a great example of something Red can do that helps it stand out from other colors.

And then there's Formidable, the ability that's a spin off of Ferocious.

Which sucked. And Formidable? That also sucks.

Because, damnit, if I have eight power in creatures on the table, then I don't need these abilities that, at least so far, don't actually win the game for me. I've already got enough creature swinging nastiness that I should be in fine shape. This may be reasonable in limited but my experience with limited is, again, if I have enough muscle on the battlefield to do eight points of damage, giving another creature eight power, or haste, really isn't helping. Stampeding Elk Herd seems to be the best one, since it a) heavily contributes to having eight power on the table and b) then functions as an Overrun-ish effect. Giving creatures trample doesn't suck--even if you only do it once.

I guess I'm tired of green getting these clearly limited-oriented mechanics that are excessively useless in a constructed format. Although, after the craziness of the G/W decks of the last pro tour, maybe I'm thinking about it all wrong! Perhaps that will be a deck to build (or modify), when Dragons of Tarkir comes out.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Been Picked Clean To The Bone

I kept this hand against stonethorn and I probably shouldn't have but it highlights the real trouble I've had in the matches I've played What Doesn't Die. What I've got is two Goblin Welder, two Bosh, a Synod Centurion, Swamp, Mountain and an Ancient Tomb. I am attacking with Goblin Welder because I don't have any other plays to make.

Over the course of five games, I had a couple situations where I didn't have any artifacts in my graveyard and so couldn't use Welder's ability.

And boy, did Welder's ability cause some rules headaches for stonethorn & I. He wanted to respond to my selection of targets and I didn't think he could, because I thought the ability was resolving by then. I thought he had to respond to the tap activation, not my selection of targets. And boy did I hang onto that idea much, much longer than I should have. Like, ten minutes longer, because I'm a stubborn human being.

But he was right and I was wrong: once I've picked targets, responses can be made. On the upside, once I realized that I was wrong, I tried to acknowledge it and move on. There is no point in holding onto a dispute like that and going forward, I hope I can say I've learned something.

I did learn something useful about this deck, though; Guardian Idol is not what I'm looking for. I was thinking about one of the Baubles (Mishra's or Urza's) because this would allow me to put an artifact in the graveyard for free, allowing me to protect artifacts I have by swapping them out. But stonethorn has suggested Ichor Wellspring and that is likely the better choice. However, I'm going to split the difference for now; there are clearly situations when both cards are useful and both will draw me a card, it's just a matter of recognizing what play will be most useful. Should be interesting!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

What Doesn't Die

I guess I'm on a R/B kick.
3 Juggernaut
1 Sundering Titan
4 Guardian Idol
4 Synod Centurion
2 Bosh, Iron Golem
2 Platinum Angel
2 Wurmcoil Engine
1 Grim Poppet
4 Goblin Welder 
3 Shrapnel Blast
4 Entomb  
4 Reanimate
3 Ancient Tomb
6 Mountain
4 Great Furnace
4 Vault of Whispers
6 Swamp
3 Daretti, Scrap Savant
Named after an Anthrax song, this deck is about recurring artifacts (the song is about zombies so it's kind of appropriate). Plus, I really like that era of Anthrax: I just feel like John Bush is a better singer. On the other hand, a friend played some of the latest Anthrax record for me and I have to say: those riffs are pretty good and they kept Belladona's tendency to go over the top to a minimum.

The printing of Daretti offers a unique chance to make something interesting happen so it's time to reevaluate What Doesn't Die. Red doesn't get this kind of recycling effect often but now I've got some redundancy for Reanimate, Goblin Welder and Entomb. That's a big deal! I think I've got the creatures, the question is; do I have the spells? As much as I enjoy Synod Centurion, or even Shrapnel Blast, perhaps some disruptive spells may be in order.

Because that's something I've been noticing a lot, lately. For all the outcry about how powerful the creatures in Magic have become (and they are quite formidable in comparison to their ancestors) most decks don't pile the creatures on and aggro really isn't an option in most formats, beyond one deck (Affinity/Robots). I've really started to notice it with GerryT's Daily Digest column at Starcity games, so many decks running 16 or less creatures and piling on the spells. Sure, people try for those creature decks but when it comes to playing seriously, those decks just don't have legs and you get this.

Now, that may be part of my own bias, seeing so many decks with so few creatures and 20+ spells, when upon review that isn't always the case, except, again, at the top tables. Still, I'm wondering if that's a flaw in my own deckbuilding; not having enough spells to support the creatures I want to run, not providing the support structure to allow my decks to accomplish what I want to do, which in this case is spring out huge artifacts and keep them perpetually out.

Either way, Daretti is a new addition to What Doesn't Die and it's time to see how he performs.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Temporarily Pacifying

I'm having more fun with this deck than I have in awhile. Terminate has hit the sweet spot of removal. It was a great choice which I think I overlooked because of a combination of overthinking the deck and being overconfident in what the removal suite I had would do.

The rest of the creatures fill in just fine with the Dash mechanic serving me well in combination with Death Match and, a key player nobody likes, Lightning Greaves. Archwing Dragon did what it did but I can't say that it did it any better than Flamerush Rider did. If there aren't any creatures to block, what difference does flying actually make?

And, since Flamerush can copy itself, I'm hitting for six a turn instead of four. Evasion just isn't my problem at that point.

Void has also proven to be incredibly useful. In the picture, I'm playing against Matt's Sands of Time/Equipoise deck. The way it works: Equipoise phases out opponent's permanents, Sands of Time ensures that they never come back. And it would be incredibly difficult to beat except for two things:

First, his deck is slow. I recommended that Matt add in something like Forbidding Watchtower to provide a stronger clock to victory.

Second, his deck is a Jason deck. It's precisely the kind of weird shit that he would pull, using non-creature permanents and challenging card interactions. So Matt is playing against someone who is ready for his wild and crazy ways.

Which is why I run cards like Void. Because Void for four breaks his lock so I can keep doing what I'm doing, and my clock is faster than his. Plus, he can't hide a Sands of Time in his hand to play it after I destroy the first one!

Granted, I have to get to five mana but as I said, his deck is slow. Getting a Lightning Greaves out meant that I could make my creatures untargetable to Maze of Ith and after that I just had to patiently work the inevitability of victory. Or something equally awesome sounding.

The other matchup I got to play was against Caitlin and Mark, one running a deathtouchy rats deck and the other running zombies. Neither of them had an answer for Death Match, so you might imagine how that went for them. It's a good feeling, knowing that it doesn't matter how many times you can bring back the undead, I can just kill them again. And again. Always a fresh target.

I'm so glad this deck has some legs. Sure, it'll suffer horribly against combo matchups and control games are odd but it's a lot of fun. I'm going to call this a winner for now.