Tuesday, September 29, 2015

League Day 2 or Mana Is Still Everything

I have no idea what my record was but I did OK, 4-2 on the day. This was the deck I ended up with, after opening M15, Fate Reforged, Khans of Tarkir and Dragons of Tarkir.

Veteran's Sidearm
Traveler's Amulet

Market Festival
Agent of Horizons
Explosive Vegetation
Map the Wastes
Nessian Courser
Woodland Bellower
Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
Bassara Tower Archer
Nessian Asp
Setessan Oathsworn
Raised by Wolves
Pheres-Band Thunderhoof

Paragon of Fierce Defiance
Atarka Pummeler
Fall of the Hammer
Satyr Rambler
Collateral Damage
Crater's Claws
Inferno Fist
Arrow Storm
Shockmaw Dragon
Titan's Strength
Pharagax Giant
Fanatic of Mogis
Smash to Smithereens

Fetid Imp
Viper's Kiss
Weight of the Underworld
Hooded Assassin
Feast of Dreams
Aspect of Gorgon

Destructive Revelry

9 Forest
5 Swamp
7 Mountain
Mana Confluence
Bloodfell Caves

Looking back on it, I have to admit that the rare lands that I opened, forcing me to focus on the mana base and structure, was a blessing in disguise. By using the analysis from deckstats.net and keeping in everything that allowed me to generate mana, either by volume or color, the consistency of the deck helped keep me in games. I lost only one that I can think of due to color screw (hand full of white and black cards, mana of Forests and Mountains). I lost another due to flood but two games with this problem isn't a significant drawback.

In my final pack, my rare was Narset Transcendent. This was also fortunate for me: By then I was so deeply entrenched with R/G/B that going into W/U was out of the question. Caitlin opened up a Surrak Dragonclaw and ended up trying to force a four-color deck so she could play it and Liliana in the same deck. When I played her the second time, her deck didn't come together as well and I'm guessing it's because of the mana.

The other nice thing is that the initial reviews of Battle for Zendikar sealed were pretty positive. I'm still fairly dubious of the set myself in any Constructed manner but if the limited environment is good I don't begrudge people who like that their fun.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Commander: Latulla, Keldon Overseer

That last run of Commander was fun: let's do another! This time, with a Commander listed among the worst.

1 Madblind Mountain
1 Temple of the False God
31 Mountain
1 Dormant Volcano
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Smoldering Crater
1 Shattering Pulse
1 False Orders
1 Rock Slide

1 Chandra Ablaze
1 Koth of the Hammer
1 Fervor
1 Goblin Bomb
1 Stranglehold
1 Vow of Lightning
1 Heat Wave
1 Dragon Roost
1 Gratuitous Violence
1 Warstorm Surge

1 Incendiary Command
1 War Cadence
1 Volcanic Wind
1 Flamebreak
1 Fiery Gambit
1 Destructive Force
1 Winds of Change
1 Tectonic Rift
1 Ruination
1 Pyrotechnics
1 Retribution
1 Balefire Dragon
1 Pyreheart Wolf
1 Moonveil Dragon
1 Gang of Devils
1 Dwarven Blastminer
1 Electryte
1 Viashino Heretic
1 Balduvian Horde
1 Karplusan Yeti
1 Taurean Mauler
1 Bloodmark Mentor
1 Hammer Mage
1 Blood Hound
1 Furnace Dragon
1 Rustmouth Ogre
1 Magma Phoenix
1 Subterranean Spirit
1 Wildfire Emissary
1 Mountain Yeti
1 Joven
1 Avatar of Fury
1 Laccolith Titan
1 Flowstone Overseer
1 Hellkite Charger
1 Shivan Phoenix
1 Lord of Shatterskull Pass
1 Iron Myr
1 Heart of Ramos
1 Phyrexian Splicer
1 Sol Ring
1 Jalum Tome
1 Dragon's Claw
1 Power Matrix
1 Farsight Mask
1 Fire Diamond
1 Krark's Thumb
1 Caged Sun
1 Ruby Medallion

In some ways, this deck is a decent articulation of what I think Commander decks should have: a whole bunch of weird cards that don't see the light of day otherwise. That doesn't mean I don't want to win: it just means that Subterranean Spirit deserves some love, man.

That said, I think it's pretty clear that Heat Wave belongs in a Tiny Leaders sideboard and Blood Hound is just bad unless you've got a way to manipulate +1 counters. I'm already running the more chaotic coin flip cards so I think trying to incorporate another theme, especially one so off of Red's path, is unwise.

I also feel like this deck is woefully shy of instants. There are not very many good instants for Red that are "commander sized" if you will. A search for instants costing five for more gave me what I felt were two options: Radiate and Savage Beating, with Runeflare Trap coming in at honorable mention. This does not bode well in my opinion and it may be worth adding more or adding cards like Defense Grid so I can execute my plans with less interference.

The Honorific

Thanks to Fuz and Jason, I was able to get in multiple Commander games and I made just a few final tweaks. The last tweaks are always the hardest: those razor thin shavings I'm trying to hone in order to give me the best possible chance.

It was the matchup I had against Jason's Kaalia deck that convinced me I needed a little more anti-air support. I don't know that this matchup is a winnable one for me, period: Kaalia is fast and is easily able to drop out overpowered creatures quickly. One of the cornerstones was Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, no question. Flying, one-sided Furnace of Rath is one way to close out games quickly.

So I made the decision to cut Sol Ring. That feels transgressive because every deck WotC has ever sold for the Commander format comes with Sol Ring. It's practically the Giant Spider of Commander.

But Soul of Zendikar can block fliers and create a whole lot of threats. That card won't be left unchecked, of course, but since it has Reach and feeds into the beast subtheme, I couldn't pass it up. Sol Ring isn't going to help me on turn 7. Soul of Zendikar will.

Finally, I cut the Rakeclaw Gargantuan. First strike is a really good ability if you have small creatures or ones with deathtouch. But I am going the trample and big creature route so Garruk, Primal Hunter makes more sense.

I managed to play against Caitlin and Matt last night and they were running Nahiri and Ob Nixilis, respectively. I was able to hang with these decks, winning one game and doing at least respectably in the second. Being able to take on decks with Planeswalkers as commanders feels like a good sign so I think I can leave Gahiji for now and take on someone else.

Final decklist:

1 War Cadence
1 Fires of Yavimaya
1 Where Ancients Tread
1 Warstorm Surge
1 Spawning Grounds
1 Primal Rage
1 Fervor
1 Mayael's Aria
1 Sight of the Scalelords
1 Hull Breach
1 Cultivate
1 Harmonize
1 Wrath of God
1 Rain of Thorns
1 Savage Twister
1 From the Ashes
1 Tempt with Discovery
1 Explosive Vegetation
1 Mob Rule
1 Rampant Growth
1 Shamanic Revelation
1 Boros Charm
1 Naya Charm
1 Slice in Twain
1 Street Spasm
1 Starstorm

1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Druidic Satchel
1 Behemoth Sledge

1 Sarkhan Vol
1 Ajani Steadfast
1 Garruk, Primal Hunter
1 Boros Garrison
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Command Tower
1 Contested Cliffs
1 Drifting Meadow
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Gruul Guildgate
1 Homeward Path
1 Jungle Shrine
1 Khalni Garden
1 New Benalia
1 Secluded Steppe
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Slippery Karst
1 Smoldering Crater
1 Temple of the False God
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree
1 Vivid Crag
5 Mountain
8 Forest
4 Plains
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Mosswort Bridge
1 Naya Panorama
1 Opal Palace
1 Gruul Turf
1 Krosan Warchief
1Weathered Wayfarer
1 Blazing Archon
1 Wickerbough Elder
1 Tilling Treefold
1 Drumhunter
1 Mold Shambler
1 Ravenous Baloth
1 Spellbreaker Behemoth
1 Deadwood Treefolk
1 Crater Hellion
1 Rampaging Baloths
1 Valley Rannet
1 Avenger of Zendikar
1 Krosan Tusker
1 Eternal Dragon
1 Soul of Zendikar
1 Druid of the Anima
1 Archangel of Tithes
1 Spearbreaker Behemoth
1 Paleoloth
1 Vengeful Archon
1 Atarka Pummeler
1 Indirik Stomphowler
1 Enlisted Wurm
1 Laccolith Titan
1 Mossbridge Troll

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Hand after Hand with Gahiji

Practice games are not always easy to come by and even with those, the nature of Commander games is that you won't see many of your cards. What to do? Goldfish the hell out of that deck during Sunday's football matchups.

Shuffle, shuffle, cut, deal. Over and over. You do this for six hours and some trends start to appear.

First: I tend to forget that I can cast a Commander on turn five. I kept Gahiji out of sight while I focused on the opening 7-10 cards I got. Sometimes that meant being a little frustrated.

Second: at twenty five creatures, the deck felt a little creature light. This felt especially notable when I had something like Sarkhan Vol or Behemoth Sledge out.

Third: Mana is still king.

Fourth: some cards are just difficult to evaluate in a vacuum. Tempt With Discovery is a pretty cool card but I considered cutting it until I remembered it could get Contested Cliffs for me but even then: how do I evaluate that against a deck that gets Maze of Ith, or chooses not to get a land at all? How long should I hold on to Oxidda Scrapmelter against an opponent who is doing nothing?

So, what to do?

One obvious thing was to replace Oxidda Scrapmelter with Indrik Stomphowler. The versatility and p/t boost is worth the extra mana. I also cut a couple cards to add in a Weathered Wayfarer and a Druid of the Anima. Despite not being beasts I feel like I can still benefit from their ramp potential and if they do attack they still get the Gahiji bonus. Plus they give me more targets for Sarkhan and the new addition of Ajani Steadfast. That helps shore up both the second and third issues.

Ajani is a choice I'm uncertain about. Planeswalkers are always a big deal and Ajani's ultimate could make me a huge target. But the effect fits well. Garruk, Primal Hunter might also be worth adding but I don't want to put the horse ahead of the cart.

As for the fourth point, well, there are some things you just cannot fix. I don't doubt there will be targets for cards like Slice in Twain but I can't just pretend 'em up when I'm goldfishing.

Still, I think these small tweaks have been good ones and the deck has felt like it flows better now. Just have to figure out how to get that Primal Hunter in...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

You Can't Argue With Another Person's Experience (pt 2)

So, let's talk a little about the "reasonable discussion that EDH (Commander) is bullshit"

I find Commander to be a particularly interesting format for Wizards to care about. I also think that it's pretty clear that they do care about it quite a bit. Not just because it's a fun format to play in but because it gives WotC a back door to tinker around with Eternal formats. Usually one but sometimes even two cards per Commander set get adopted by the Legacy and sometimes Vintage deckbuilding communities. I don't know Vintage as well so I can't speak to it with much authority but I believe cards like True-Name Nemesis have weaseled their way in. I know that Scavenging Ooze, Flusterstorm, Containment Priest and True-Name have worked in Legacy decks, with the Ooze getting reprinted for play in Standard. True-Name is just too strong for Standard formats but I believe the trend is clear.

This also gives WotC the opportunity to print weird cards like Comeuppance or Chaos Warp or reprint cool cycles like Tempest's Medallions, or difficult to find cards from sets like Portal: Three Kingdoms or cards that really only work in a multiplayer-focused setting and would raise a little outcry in a regular set.

The point is: Commander product gives Wizards a chance to take some risks that would otherwise be a disaster for regular product. If this format didn't exist, Wizards would probably have to make it because it allows for experimentation and the small twiddling of the knobs of older formats.

It's their place to get all punk rock with Magic.

The problem for the author is that 'Casual sucks' and the central reason why casual sucks from my reading is because players don't play to win. They play, by his reasoning, to show off the $10K decks they've built.

Now, understanding that you cannot argue with his experience, I have to wonder; why is he picking out Commander specifically? Cube, a format he goes on to reference in the article, Standard, hell, EVERY format I can think of has players in it who are out to gild the fuck out of their deck somehow. Often this is through foils but it can involve difficult to acquire cards from historically difficult to find sets. Or insanely powerful cards from years gone by, banned in other formats.

So why pick on Commander?

Because the world is complicated and often run by an economic engine, I find myself reading books on economics or listening to economists and one thing I often see them doing is making one really interesting mistake: They believe that because they know something, everyone else is motivated the exact same way and with that knowledge would and should behave accordingly: i.e. like them.

But people don't do that. People have never done that. We are strange beings and we are motivated by different things to behave in similar but sometimes very different ways.

It would seem to the author, if you aren't playing Magic to win, then you aren't really playing Magic. People aren't playing Commander to win (and he goes on to cite authors who talk about having a 75% good deck to demonstrate this, among other things), therefore they aren't really playing Magic.

That might be his experience but it isn't the truth. People play games for a lot of reasons and winning doesn't have to be on that list. However, people also play Commander to win and they can be just as cutthroat as any player in any format. I've been on the end of that, myself.

Or not. Because playing casually just means they aren't playing officially, like the Professor, says.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

You Can't Argue With Someone Else's Experience (pt 1)

There've been a couple of posts at Killing A Goldfish that have been taking a swing at Magic at large and one of the most popular formats, Commander. There has been discussion at his blog and on the Magic subreddit about it but I felt like some things needed to be said about these rather snarky and not very well substantiated articles.

1) He's right and there's nothing you can do about it. If someone eats a taco and they hate it, you don't get to tell them that they are wrong. Sure, you can but what's the point? Even if they are wrong you cannot change their experience of that wrongness. They hate the taco; they will always have that moment where they hated the taco and nothing you can do will amend that and arguing against it is a waste of everybody's time.

2) Context matters. The thing about that experience though is that it's filtered through whatever life a person brings to it. This is why people continue to love shitty things (nostalgia, say for anything Adam Sandler does) or revisit something and discover it was amazing when they couldn't understand it before (John Coltrane's A Love Supreme, which I still give a day to about once a year because I don't get it) or change, discovering that hey, not all dogs bite so maybe I don't have to be afraid of them.

Which is a long way of saying that the author isn't wrong, exactly, but his experiences have lead him to some conclusions that I find lack the proper context to understand. So let's talk about those points, starting with the 'Why Magic Sucks' article.

"mana variance isn’t fun"
This is correct. Losing because of mana or color screw isn't fun. What this notion fails to take into account are these four considerations:
A) This drawback has forced Magic's designers to work out ways to mitigate those problems, giving us mechanics that are interesting (cycling is the first one I can recall Wizards saying they were doing to help smooth decks out but they continue to work on this).
B) This drawback has forced players to make decks that are actually playable, instead of living in Magical Christmas land where they always get to do what they want.
C) This variance allows for someone with lesser experience to beat a more skilled opponent every so often and that's good for the game. That's partially why we play games. To see who is better. And sometimes, the best player doesn't win. Ask the 2007 Patriots. Then ask everyone else how exciting that game was. Generating excitement is good for a game, every game.
D) There is no human activity that lacks variance. There's just no getting around this fact. No matter how reliable something is, eventually there is going to be the Get Schwifty moment.

Essentially: What he's complaining about is impossible to completely fix and instead has lead to innovations in Magic's design.

"it’s horrifically expensive"
I've long argued this point and while some of the analogies break down (even if you spend $3K on a awesome gaming machine, you now have to spend money for the games for that machine), I think that the secondary market is going to burst. When, I can't say but historically this is true for everything. It's why people shouldn't look at Magic as an investment: it's going to break and they are going to be fucked.

There's a serious problem there, because WotC needs stores to sell their product but the stores need WotC to keep a reliable run of difficult-to-acquire cards flowing that those stores can harvest and sell. So WotC can't just reprint cards that people need to make solid decks, it'll destroy those shops that need Magic money. Buuuuut the current prices are unsustainable: you cannot get new and especially younger players with the secondary market charging so much. Eventually, it's going to collapse if it isn't addressed and nobody is going to come out well when the bottom drops out.

The only way to prevent this from completely cratering? Bring in new and especially younger people. Young folks don't have a lot of money though, so how do you keep them looped in? I'm not sure but they'd better work it out.

"it’s a collectable"
This is a poorly written section, leaping off the last section's point and considerably impacted by the author's experience as an employee for Card Kingdom. Anyone who has worked retail long enough can tell you: retail sucks because you have to deal with people. And even if 90% of the people you deal with are awesome, it only takes 2% of them to fuck up your day, your week, or even more. Because in retail, you have to be nice and you cannot take a stand for yourself when someone else treats you like a subhuman. 

But the point is isn't wrong, it just doesn't come explain itself very well. What I believe the real downer is this: the metagame of trying to find the best prices to buy or sell a card has created a stranglehold on the actual metagame of what the best deck to play is.

If you have ever done comparison shopping online, then you understand. Now imagine having to do that for 16K bits of paper. We have articles and websites dedicated to tracking the ups and downs of the prices of singles. So much of it driven by speculators that I don't even know where to begin.

God, it gets old and it isn't what the actual game is at all. It's a game for some people, absolutely, but it isn't Magic.

"it’s old" and "only wizards makes magic"

I'm grouping these points because they want to talk about the same thing but to get a full article's worth of drama out of it, you gotta break it up and these points either A) don't take into account the reality or B) get contradicted by comments in the Commander article.

The first part of the "it's old" argument is practically refuted by the author himself, reminding everyone that there are artistic endeavors where brilliance comes later. I'll come back to this point though because it holds water.

The second part of "it's old" essentially says "Magic no longer innovates" is true if we accept the final problem, that "only Wizards makes Magic".

Exhibit one is M15.

I know everyone is super high on Origins (which is actually a great set to illustrate exactly why the author is right and the sets are no longer innovating on gameplay) but to properly dispute this point we have to look at M15, a set that was far, far better in my opinion. Part of M15's strength was the presence of cards designed from people who were not part of the Wizard's hivemind. Aggressive Mining, Hot Soup, Chasm Skulker, on and on: a whole host of rares were designed by people who just play the game. Those cards pushed things in interesting directions, directions that players get to explore and Wizards may use sometime.

This means that there is innovation being done, even if it is on a smaller scale.

Exhibit two would be the comments about Cube near the end of the Commander article.
"To me, the ideal casual Magic format is cube. One person supplies all the cards; doesn’t matter if it includes every piece of power in its original Alpha printing, or if they just picked up the entire cube at Kinko’s yesterday. Everyone starts out at equal footing: you sit down with nothing but your knowledge of Magic, without spending anything. The cube designer gets to decide exactly what about Magic they find the most fun, and if everyone in the draft agrees with that perspective, they’ll have a great time.
Cube is also the most self-expressive way to play Magic..."
Cube is someone else making Magic. By the very process of creating an environment and self-selecting the cards that person wants, someone else has made "punk rock Magic", using the tools in ways that Wizards didn't intend, offering players a way to express themselves in a new way or at least one unique to that player. 

Why doesn't the author see that?

As I said before, you cannot argue with someone else's experience and there are reasons this experience exists. I think it's very easy to make the case that Wizards has been timid in its design, art, and willingness to fail since at least Shards block. That the shifts in the game of Magic have been incremental at best and often tilted towards a 'lowest common denominator' way of treating the audience, carried out by a bunch of people who want to protect their world, which means they are going to resist big change. Because, as noted earlier, Magic is an old game.

It isn't the whole story though.

We'll talk Commander next time.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Gahiji's Test

My first test with Gahiji was against Jason, playing a Lazav deck. This was the only deck I was able to test against, since Jason was trying to work out how his deck worked but I definitely had a couple things come up.

First; if I get mana, things are good. That's true of every deck and especially Commander decks but I was concerned about the triple White needed for the Archon Bros. This didn't seem to be an issue in the games I played and that is definitely a good sign. Mana fixing: solid so far.

Second; I don't think a deck can have enough artifact or enchantment destruction. Seriously, has anyone yet built a Commander deck where artifacts or enchantments aren't vital? Because jeeze, every, damn, deck. Hell, Jason was thinking about making a Zur deck but everything he looked at online was so cutthroat he didn't think it would be any fun!

Ah, I'm overreacting a little. The real problem is the Multiplayer issue which I believe can be illustrated by a conversation we had about game two of our series.

Jason Ciphers a Whispering Madness onto Lazav, who is currently copying Rampaging Baloths. Jason isn't being shy about attacking so the two of us are drawing an extra seven cards a turn.

After two hits (so I've drawn an additional 14 cards now) I draw into Wrath of God. This conveniently solves my Lazav problem. If I hadn't drawn those cards then Jason may have just won on the back of the Baloths. Sure, he was drawing cards too and in a 1v1 situation you get parity. This is why cards like Shatter work just fine in duels.*

In a three or four player game, Jason is being outdrawn. He will never come up with enough answers to the questions his opponents pose, instead he now has to hope that those opponents see each other as the bigger problem. They won't, because people don't like having to discard everything and redraw every turn. It's annoying. Annoying is how you get opponents to turn on you like rabid weasels.

Seriously: next time you play, try to notice how often people mention they are annoyed by something. If that annoyance is a player, that player is going down.

Back to the drawing cards problem: this is why cards like Tranquility or Shatterstorm take on more value because you know you're being out drawn every turn. If you can't 2 for 1 something minimum in Multiplayer, then you're in trouble. This is why Oxidda Scrapmelter might have a place in my deck instead of Terra Ravager (although I really like Terra Ravager...)

It's also why Spellbreaker Behemoth loses so much value. A 5/5 for 4 mana seems totally awesome, right? But it might as well have nothing in the text box in Commander because countermagic has practically no place there. A creature that can take care of difficult permanents and feed into the Beast subtheme is going to be much stronger.

So I'm for sure going to replace Spellbreaker soon. I like the card but recognize I need something more versatile in multiplayer.

Of course, this is also why so many Commander decks trend towards the same kind of list: if Tranquility is better than Naturalize then there isn't really a reason to shake it up. So just as with other established formats, we all move closer to the center.

*Although don't play that, play Smelt. Also, the fact that Smelt exists in one set when Demystify has been printed six times and Erase three times-including existence in current Standard is just more proof of WotC's pro-Blue bias. Because one color as more affinity (ha!) with artifacts than any other...

Thursday, September 3, 2015

First Look: Battle for Zendikar

We've got the mechanical overview from the Mothership here. The list of cards spoiled up to this point here. The official previews start Monday but thanks to the Penny Arcade Expo, we got a few juicy ones to Start The Speculation about!

So I was right about the obvious: one of the big mechanics in BfZ is going to center around exiling cards from people's library. Go me! Ingest is going to have a bunch people hoping that they can mill opponents out before realizing that they can't.

I see where there might be some interesting tension there, with cards like Blight Herder relying on putting those cards into the graveyard from exile, possibly allowing opponents to take advantage. I just wish they'd called the 'processor' mechanic what it should've been called, Excrete! Let's get icky! Still, anything that provides some tension is usually an Interesting Thing.

Buuuut not always.

Devoid is boring. We have colorless objects in the game already and there isn't anything about this quality (it can't really be called a mechanic) that truly contrasts it against objects in the game that have color. Devoid just hums along with other colorless creatures (and possibly spells) instead. On the upside, my Karn, Silver Golem Commander deck is about to become a bit more flexible!

Prediction: There will be a return to Mirrodin within two years to "synergize" with the artifacts.

The contrast to Devoid is supposed to be Converge; this would represent a tension within the block (no colors vs colors).

This mechanic wasn't exciting in Fifth Dawn. It wasn't exciting in the Shards of Alara block (where they tried to call it Domain and yes I'm aware that it isn't exactly the same), interesting in Invasion block because it was new and it isn't exciting now. This is because the mechanic has a hard limit on its scale: The MOST powerful it can be is 5 X, where X = damage or p/t or whatever value they hope to do with it. The places where it will be good (if it actually gets there) will be in Commander, Modern or Legacy where decks that can feasibly run 4 or 5 colors exist. 

Now, in those formats Converge can be something to talk about! And I play in them! So I'm keeping my eye on it, even if I don't think it'll be that good. And it still doesn't provide a mechanical or philosophical contrast to the Devoid mechanic and that's irritating. The contrast is all in the theme. Well who CARES? I can play the Devoid stuff alongside the Converge stuff and lose nothing and to me, that's problematic. The two mechanics should have some way of not getting along, instead of just being about themselves.

Something I don't like that probably isn't a big deal: the Eldrazi tokens are now 1/1s instead of 0/1s. Since tokens can be represented by anything and formats exist where Eldrazi tokens from both sets can be played, this inconsistency bothers me. There really isn't a good reason for those tokens to be different and I don't like the possible misrepresentation of board state.

Something I'm OK with that bugged someone else: Sean wasn't thrilled with the Rally ability because it
"Does absolutely nothing new, just the same old Ally stuff. Because all creatures with the Ally type all doing the same kind of thing wasn’t apparent enough."
I pointed out to him that the new Rally keyword was useful because the ability is different than the previous one. The Zendikar allies only affected other allies, where these new ones affect all your creatures. This makes for more flexible draft and sealed decks, in addition to useful constructed abilities. Having a different name helps distinguish these allies from RoE's allies! And it's a name on the card! That we can read all the time! That can't be just "represented" by any fucking noun we choose! See how that matters vs the Eldrazi tokens?

Sean came around (though he has other reservations).

The Land stuff.

Awaken is neat! I can see this ability being very useful for control decks that would rather ignore any of those pesky Creature spells. I'd like it a little more if you could target any land to make it a creature. The Awaken cost makes something like a land destruction strategy prohibitive but if I could use this in a Commander game to animate and then destroy an opponent's Maze of Ith? I'd dig that.

The downside: Land animation is in Green's color pie and they've cannibalized it for this set because "theme". Well shit: Why can't we cannibalize Blue's countermagic or Black's discard?

I'm sure there are reasons. It's just that it is things like this are why colors like Black and Blue always seem so strong and the other colors don't get to share in it--but only because of "color pie" reasons. You have an opportunity to carve up Green though? Let's have at it.

Still, I think the mechanic is solid and helps give control decks some needed tools.

Landfall is landfall. Players like getting something for nothing and Landfall is possibly the ultimate in that kind of reward. There seem to be some new twists on the mechanic and I'm all for that. How good those twists are, we'll have to see.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Gahiji's Encampment

I think I need to institute a new rule: count the cards in every deck. When I went through Gaiji, I found an Island. Then I made changes. Then I discovered I was short a Darksteel Mutation. What the hell?

I suppose this is just part of the risks of having so many decks; shit gets mixed up from time to time. So, new rule in place: Card Count, then everything else.

Now that I've established that, it's time to admit I did some research. Yes, I went to Reddit's r/EDH sub and did a search for Gahiji as a commander. Most of the decks wanted to produce tokens and that wasn't the direction I wanted to go in. I also posted this deck in the r/casualmagic sub and got some ideas like Bedlam and Avatar of Slaughter. I like those ideas but I'm not sure if I have the defensive cards to back them up.

So I went looking for them. No Ghostly Prison or Norn's Annex to be found, all at use in another deck. I did find the Archon Brothers though, Blazing and Vengeful, and thought those would make for excellent: look away (or rattlesnake) cards.

Auramancer, Mob Rule, Wickerbough Elder, Sight of the Scalelords, Vengeful Archon, Blazing Archon, Atarka Pummeler, Tilling Treefolk, Shamanic Revelation, Rampant Growth, Llanowar Reborn and Windstorm.

Out :
Witch Hunt, Mystic Barrier, One Dozen Eyes, Fireball, Druidic Satchel, Witchbane Orb, Archangel, Kabria Vindicator, Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree, Mayael the Anima, Khalni Garden.

One thing I noted was that there are a fair amount of solid enchantments in this deck. The creatures are the victory path, yes there are good enchantments here, so Auramancer became an easy solution.

The rest is not perfect but I think this is a step up, especially with more enchantment/artifact removal and the ability to selectively eliminate hordes of fliers.There are more card drawing effects and I'm hoping that Shamanic Revelation will be especially good. Tilling Treefolk seems like a strange card but I saw that six of my lands cycled and many more are subject to the destruction of From the Ashes. Being able to reclaim a couple lands should be very useful.

The card I'm most interested in is Sight of the Scalelords. Vigilance is always a strong ability but in multiplayer it gets even better. The +2/+2 is a nice bonus, I won't deny that but as with the Archon Bros, Sight gives me a way to warn people off of attacking me. If that card works well, I can definitely see using  Avatar of Slaughter to really make things aggressive.

Time to test it out.