Thursday, April 30, 2015

Die Alone

I was originally going to call this deck Dine Alone after the Quicksand song but Die Alone from A Pale Horse Named Death is a lot more thematically black.
4 Chimeric Idol

4 Homicidal Seclusion
4 Deadly Wanderings
4 Seal of Doom

4 Doomwake Giant
3 Herald of Torment
1 Erebos, God of the Dead

4 Dark Ritual

4 Read the Bones
4 Killing Wave

24 Swamp
This is the first iteration of the deck. The goal; use Homicidal Seclusion and Deadly Wanderings to enhance a single creature and win. Use removal to survive until that creature can do so. Doomwake Giant has some synergy with the enchantment-heavy nature of the deck, with Seal of Doom adding to that. Herald of Torment can give the Giant a boost, also is an enchantment plus provides evasion. The solitary copy of Erebos is...OK, it's there because I own one but I'm also wondering if Erebos is a better card than the Giant. Erebos nullifies most forms of removal, the Giant is much easier to kill in combat.

Chimeric Idol is my old school touch. I mean, c'mon, I gotta do that. Killing Wave to give me mass removal: with the lifelink from the enchantments, paying 5 or even more life shouldn't be a problem for me but hopefully will be more difficult for the opponents.

I've built it in Cockatrice and then I sent it to Fuz to see if he had any insights. As a nice coincidence, Matt Higgs at SCG was writing about his build of a Homicidal Seclusion deck, so I'm going to take some advice and change it up a little before testing.

I forget, sometimes, how much fun it is to build a new deck. Something I haven't done in awhile and don't feel motivated to do often because I have so many other decks to refurbish. The nice thing about this blog though is that I now have motivation to go through every deck and rebuild them. I can afford the occasional luxury of a new deck, because I'll be working on the old ones, too. Eventually.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Do What You Gotta Do

I played one of the least fun games of Magic I've played in a while last night, then played one of the dullest right after that.

The first was a Commander game; I was mono-blue, I have no idea what Matt was playing; something green, and then Mark had a Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind deck.

Things got stupid Pt 1: With Niv-Mizzet equipped with Basilisk Collar, (so now a creature dies whenever he draws a card)

Pt 2: Mark casts Sunder

Sunder is an unfun card. I know: I play it in a deck of 60. I don't object to unfun strategies but if you're going to do it, cut the throat of the other players, don't fuck about. To his credit Mark did have ways to speed up his win condition but casting Sunder just drug everything out in the must tedious manner.

Matt was able to recover and speed my recovery from Sunder using Exploration and New Frontiers. Mark is still well in control of this game but I have a chance to get us out from under his thumb. So I Call to Mind a Cyclonic Rift and cast it, overloaded. I'm tapped out but I am hoping that Matt and I could establish a board presence and maybe turn the game around.

It's unsurprising when Mark recasts Niv-Mizzet and the Basilisk Collar. It's a huge risk for Mark when he casts Windfall, causing all of us to draw twenty two cards. Sure, Mark does a lot of damage there but he doesn't kill us and there's an opportunity for Matt and I to make Mark pay for that decision.

What's surprising is that Matt decides to cast (Things Get Stupid pt 3) Storm Cauldron.

Now, given what Matt's deck wants to do (play lands often and repeatedly) Storm Cauldron makes sense! It's a bad card for me and for Mark, should we all be at or near parity.

But we aren't at parity. Mark has established control of the board. All I have is a Tormod's Crypt. Matt doesn't have a single creature out there. We've just drawn 22 cards; somewhere in those cards should be great ways to cut Mark's strategy off at the legs.

Instead, Matt cuts himself and me off at the legs. There isn't a card in my hand worth playing now, because all the land has to come back to my hand when I use it. Matt himself doesn't do anything else to put pressure on the board or disrupt Mark. If Matt had followed up with an answers to the problem-namely Basilisk Collar- I would have understood.

I looked at the board state and was so discouraged, out of my 22 cards I kept seven Islands and discarded the rest. Why? Because my options were: Prolong a terrible game while stabbing myself in the neck or wait for death so I can move on to the next thing. When those are the options, waiting for death is the better one. That game was one of the least fun I had played in quite some time: not only did I not do anything, there weren't any cool interactions, or better plays I could have made. It was just a waste of time.

The second game (the dumb one) I got to test out changes to Revenge.

I was stuck on three lands with three Kor Sanctifiers in hand, while Mark's zombie deck cast Door of Destinies and ran us over. That was dumb because I have been running a deck with only twenty two land and not adapting to the higher casting cost of the cards I've been putting in there; Kor Sanctifiers costs four if I want to use it. Order costs four. When Bedlam was the only four casting cost card, twenty two lands was feasible. Now it isn't.

I went home feeling annoyed. I still feel annoyed. But I made these changes to Revenge.

I didn't want to take the Arcbound Sliths out. But the game I played against Fuz's Zombie deck said that the Arcbounds weren't helping me.

I'd suspected as much in other games; the ability, while cool, exists to help other artifacts. I'm wasting space and, as I've noted before, I don't build the kind of decks that can afford to waste space. This is a weird, deck and weird decks can't muck about with cool things: the weird idea is the cool thing.

So to that end, after getting stomped on by another aggro deck, I cut the last Double Cleaves and the Arcbounds to add in another Boros Charm and three Brimstone Volley.

I'd thought about Bonfire of the Damned but quickly realized two things: first, I'd want four copies of that card if I was going to play it and second, I don't have enough mana in the deck to play that card properly, should I have to play it without it's Miracle shortcut.

But Brimstone Volley, in addition to being cheap, provides me with an additional interaction with Kami of False Hope. This could be a very cool thing, because, if in addition to creature damage, I can do 15 points of damage with Brimstone and 12 points off Boros Charms, Revenge of the Slith starts to get a little reach!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Revenge Tweaks

I took Noah's advice and cut two Bedlam in order to add in four Order/Chaos. I also removed the Exiles and one Double Cut to add in three Firemane Avenger and two Boros Charms.

The Firemane Avenger is in because the Frontline Medics were useful and the Avenger might be able to serve as additional removal or gain me an extra turn of life. We'll see if it works; the Avenger demands removal but so do the Sliths if they are allowed to grow. I also tweaked the mana base just a little to help me see two Mountains by turn two so I can more reliably cast Slith on turn 2.

The Boros Charm didn't quite do anything last time but the redundancy of Frontline Medic made it pointless. However, now I can get double strike, damage or invulnerablility so it has more utility. Of course, it's possible that I just need to get rid of the Firemane Avenger for less conditional removal but this is where I'm going to take the deck next.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Doomtown: Reloaded

Doomtown has gotten its hooks into me.

Doomtown is a game set in the Weird West-the city of Gomorra is the site of, essentially, a low-level Hellmouth opening up and now all sorts of weird crap is happening. This is in addition to the usual troubles of being out in the barely lawful Old West. Players take on the role of one of four Outfits in Gomorra who are trying to gain control of the town.

I've been trying to get the hang of it and as a game, it has both a high complexity barrier and a strong hint of familiarity to it. It's an interesting design scheme and I'm just starting to get the hang of it.

Doomtown has a layer of language to it that creates a barrier to learning; in an largely successful attempt to evoke the Weird West setting of the game, characters are called 'dudes', and dudes can get 'aced' instead of killed, by way of example. Nearly everything is like this and after playing Magic for nearly two decades, I'm used to simple things being wrapped up in occasionally obtuse language. However, I'm finding that once I get past the learning curve, the game doesn't get insanely difficult afterwards. Strategic, yes but not more difficult to understand.

Doomtown also has something working it its favor; every conflict in the game is decide through a hand of poker. The upside to that is that nearly everyone has some form of knowledge of poker, so there is a piece of knowledge to the game that is 'built in' for a large number of gamers. When dealing with a game with such a big learning curve, this element of familiarity is not only welcome but welcoming, giving new players something they don't have to think really hard about.

It's not for a new gamer, though: The language use and the movement rules for dudes create a well paced game but one that creates an off-putting environment for someone who is brand new to gaming.

On the upside, Doomtown's turns are structured so that each player takes one action, then allows the next player to take an action. When both players pass on acting, the turn (known as a Day) is over, the cards "unboot" (reset) and you start all over again. So it's very easy to remain engaged in play because you don't have to wait long for your next action (even if you're just going to pass) and there's a constantly developing board state to respond to.

So far, I'm finding the game engaging and deckbuilding a very different mental exercise but I think I'll talk about deckbuilding another time. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Allen Wrenches for Nails

I wish Exile did what I wanted it to do. I wish it destroyed a creature and didn't have limitations like 'nonwhite' or 'attacking' on it.

But it does. And stonethorn was going to remind me why it's terrible. By 'remind' I mean; punch me in the face with the abilities of Trostani, Selesnya's Voice until I lost.

This is almost enough to get me to quit on the card.

Frontline Medic on the other hand, was practically a void in this deck. I found myself attacking with enough creatures to make mine indestructible but it didn't matter. I am not generating large enough creatures for this to make a difference and without Bedlam, the Medic's ability was cute but not helpful.

So I replaced it with Kor Sanctifiers because I've lost multiple games due to not having removal for enchantments or artifacts. There's no sense in ignoring that problem, especially when I can attach a solution for it to a body that can attack.

It was Noah who finally convinced me that Exile wasn't worth running. Against his burn and white weenie decks, the card just had no meaning in either matchup.

"If you were running a sideboard," he told me, "cards like Anger of the Gods or any kind of lifegain would ruin me."

Such are the hazards of casual deckbuilding.

"The premise of the deck," I told him, "is to swing and stall and then drop Bedlam and win because they can't block."

"If that's the case, why not run Falter?" Which lead us down the Gatherer wormhole, looking for cards that were appropriate to what I might need.

Order/Chaos. This is the card that should replace Bedlam, or perhaps run in compliment. Exile, Disintegrate and Fireball should all come out: that's six cards to remove. Order/Chaos doubles as win condition and removal. That gives me anywhere from 2-4 cards to add in to help shore up Revenge's weaknesses and get a hammer for these nails.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Utility Needed

Revenge of the Slith has been having a lot of trouble right out of the gate. The glaring weakness of Falkenrath Marauders was apparent quickly: the casting cost was just too high, the utility not high enough. There were other cards that underperformed and I spend my matches getting locked out. The games I won? They were more about my opponent losing and my capitalizing on that.

With Fuz, he engaged his Elephant Grass/Darkest Hour lock quickly and I didn't have any out for this. Disintegrate and Fireball are meant to be outs to problems like this, along with their function as removal. Those cards never appeared-they were so absent I actually double-checked my deck to make sure I was running them!-but it wouldn't have mattered if I had been able to handle either of those enchantments. Alas, I just didn't have the speed to overwhelm nor the tools to get me out of that lock.

When I was playing stonethorn, he was working a U/R tokens deck (which is a concept I haven't seen in action before but I have read some things on) with Dragon Tempest and Descent of the Dragons to make a bunch of flying murderers. 

That was the secondary plan though; tokens and Goblin Rabblemaster were often enough to make my life miserable. 

Again; a timely Disenchant would solve my problems against those decks.

And this is when I realized; these decks are Jason decks, using weird cards and off the trail interactions in order to broadside the opponent with a victory they are unprepared for. This is why I tweaked so many decks with more expensive utility like Cloudchaser Eagle or just pure utility cards like Naturalize in order to stay in the game.

However, Fuz suggested that use of the Battalion mechanic might be in my interest. I get where he's coming from; attacking with multiple dudes IS my thing for Revenge. 

Plus, there was one huge underplayer in the deck: Curse of Stalked Prey. That card is absolutely Win More in this deck and needs to be something else. So; I'm giving Frontline Medic and Exile a run to see if they help. Exile feels like a neat option in a deck that is essentially daring opponents to attack and it appeals to me because it's old school. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Revenge of the Slith

The play on words for this deck was just irresistible.
8 Mountain
4 Sacred Foundry
8 Plains
2 Battlefield Forge

2 Disintegrate
1 Fireball

4 Kami of False Hope
2 Arcbound Slith
4 Slith Firewalker
4 Slith Ascendant
3 Accorder Paladin
3 Falkenrath Marauders

3 Double Cleave
4 Intimidation Bolt

4 Bedlam
4 Curse of Stalked Prey
As with many of my decks, here's what happens when I take a card and decide to extend its idea into stupidity. Adding in Intimidation Bolt and Kami of False Hope to prevent my opponent from attacking, leaving me to swing for the fences are great options, though more might be wise..

However, Falkenrath Marauders, as in theme as they are, cost five and this deck only has twenty-two lands. This is an aggressive deck that wants to drop Bedlam as a bomb and win. Which is a weird idea but it is, nonetheless, what the deck wants to do. So the Marauders need to be replaced with something else and luckily for me, R/W aggro has been a supported archetype for almost five years now. Solid replacements exist and upgrading some technology in this deck is definitely overdue...but I have to keep the Sliths in. That's the whole point of the deck!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Matchup I Win

Edit: I meant to post this on Thursday and somehow that didn't happen. Sorry!

Grindy games I can win.

Once again, I am playing Matt's Sands of Time/Equipoise deck and once again, I am very. slowly. winning it. Matt's added in some Swords to Plowshares to help give his deck more defense and I think that's a good idea but I'm still able to grind him out. Even through the Feldon's Cane Matt has in the picture, Tinkertoy is relentlessly milling (and then remilling) out his library.

I've been playing this Equipoise deck for a month now and I'm just not impressed by it. It's not that the lock can't work: it totally can. But because it's so slow and because Matt really wants to keep the deck 'old school' I don't think it has a lot of game against modern decks. I think he has issues against decks I play because I continue to run cards that take care of troublesome enchantments or artifacts, due to building decks to play Jason for so many years.

Matt had a suggestion for Tinkertoy which lead to me doing a search for something that may also fit in this deck.

Matt said Academy Ruins might be a good fit and since he saw me recur artifacts time and time again with, he probably has a point. He also suggested the Baubles, because they can be played for free and draw me a card.

The challenge is that they draw me a card on the next upkeep, so they don't help keep the cards coming when I'm trying to combo out, which I want to do in one turn.

Which had me thinking; are there cards that cost one mana, perhaps, that will allow me to draw cards for free?

Turns out, there is.

So I'm going to go big; cut down to 21 lands, adding two Conjurer's Baubles to see if that will help keep the deck moving. If the Conjurer's Baubles seem good, it may be worth going to 4, especially if I can get situations where they read: draw two cards for free.

That's a pretty good deal if you can get it.

Evolving Tech

I was in Seattle last weekend and I got to take Tinkertoy up against a Miracles-variant deck that Jason was piloting. He was using Sensei's Divining Top and, cleverly, Elixir of Immortality to help shuffle away cards he didn't want. This is how you innovate when fetchlands get expensive.

I think Jason is out of practice though. In game two, he had an Elixir available and mana up but burned it on his turn to try and get a fresh set of three cards. The next turn, I milled him out, something I couldn't do otherwise. If he'd waited, he could've just kept biding his time until he miracled Entreat the Angels and boom: game is over.

I hesitate to suggest that I'm a better player than Jason is. He still comes up with the craziest decks and really bends concepts to his will in a way that I just don't see anybody else trying. His Hellcarver Demon deck is absolutely cool and I need him to send me that list so I can abuse others with it.

Hint, hint, man. Send me that list! That thing is awesome!

I think I've been playing with people more often than he has though and it's giving me a little edge when we play now. Also, I think I've been challenged to improve my decks in a way I hadn't before and that may allow for some slightly results.

On the more practical side, Conjurer's Bauble was pretty useful and the reduction in land didn't seem to make a big impact on my deck. Trinket Mage has been a great role player, getting not just Lion's Eye Diamond but appropriate Spellbombs as needed. I have yet to test Mana Severance out but with this month's paycheck, I look forward to adding one in there. 61 cards is not going to hurt Tinkertoy in the slightest and...I'll admit, I want to see the look on someone's face when I remove all my land for the first time. (Only stonethorn and indigo are people I know who read this blog so it'll be a surprise for everyone else!)

Unfortunately, I have to accept that Tinkertoy isn't ever going to make the grade. It's a neat concept but it's not nearly efficient or powerful enough to really be a frightening deck. That's OK, since I feel as though I've brought this deck up a notch.