Friday, April 29, 2016

Eject-Primary Tweaks

Before I shuffled Eject up, I did a search for U/W creatures with Flash.

It was a disappointing list, with Deputy of Acquittals being the only creature that really suggested it would be valuable.

There is, as they say, another. There's no reason I can think of to ignore the hot new card and Eject is running right along the lines of what Reflector Mage does in a match.

My games against Noah supported this: I had solid matchups against two of the three decks he played against me, losing against his more aggressive mono-W Kithkin deck. The wins and losses taught me more about what kind of deck Eject is: aggro tempo. I don't know if that archetype exists but I'm going with it.

Here's why: I still want to play low curve, UW creatures that get the maximum bonus from Steel of the Godhead or Thistledown Liege (or both!) but I also want to slow my opponent down as much as possible, allowing me to get ahead on turns. It feels weird to say 'get ahead on turns' but this is the goal of tempo decks. The second objective is accomplished not just by casting my creatures on my opponent's turn or at inopportune combat moments, but also with Enervate and the arrest feature of the Skynight.

So, of course Reflector Mage fits. A card like Remand would also go well, if keeping mana up was something I really wanted to do. If there are more cards with Flash, replacing Enervate with Remand might be just the thing.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

In Honor of Jareth

On Sunday, I had to put down a good friend I have known for 11 years.

Sherpa was always trying to get in my lap and he was often jumping up to my desk to do so. Often, he would knock over stacks of Magic or Doomtown cards as he paced around my computer screen.

It was because of him that I created the "Ain't No Kittens On The Desk" song, usually sung in my best Tom Waits impersonation, as I picked him up and either put him on my lap or set him aside entirely, as needed.

He was a good friend and a good kitten and he is as missed as he is loved.

We'll get back to the regular stuff on Thursday.

Thursday, April 21, 2016


Sometimes, the simplest things are best. Everyone's rediscovering that in Standard right now with mono-W decks, so let's follow that theme.
4 Vedalken Outlander
2 Azorius Guildmage
2 Lyev Skyknight
2 Augury Adept
4 Thistledown Liege
4 Zealous Guardian
1 Sky Spirit
2 Tempest Drake

3 Stand // Deliver
3 Enervate
3 Impulse

4 Oblivion Ring
4 Steel of the Godhead

9 Plains
9 Island
2 Azorius Chancery
1 Nimbus Maze
1 Flooded Strand
Named for the Transformer (because the color scheme matched) this is my U/W Liege deck.

I love Liege decks. All of them. They're so straightforward and yet so clever. I've got ten and I probably could've just done a year of those...

But to the point: Here's a deck that could use some love. The last little bit of attention I gave this was briefly during the Return to Ravnica era (Lyev Skyknight) and even then it wasn't much. I want to keep the Sky Spirit and Temptest Drakes because they're remarkably efficient for their cost in those colors, especially given the era they were printed in. Plus, old school awesomeness is a reason to run Liege decks.

The nice thing about the allied-colored Lieges is that I only need to come up with UW creatures to maximize the Liege's effectiveness, opening up a whole lot more spells than many of the enemy-Liege decks. Admittedly this has to do with the power of the Mimics vs the Duos, on top of how the lieges of each category work. Still, the lack of a good duo for Eject (or any allied colored liege) means that I can run cards like Oblivion Ring for it's raw power, instead of worrying about if I can get a trigger off of it.

Since this deck is so aggressive, I didn't bother with countermagic and instead opted for removal and stall (Enervate) along with the standard 'Blue is awesome at card draw' stuff. Also, given the Flash abilities of the Guardian and Liege, I may look for more UW creatures with flash. Increasing the redundancy of the the tap abilities of the Skyknight is another option. This is a really weird aggro deck-and let's not mistake it for anything else-because while it still wants to get in there and attack for a lot of damage, getting rid of the creatures isn't quite as important and simply nullifying their ability to block.

See also: Steel of the Godhead. But because it's an aggro deck, that means that I have to look for efficient creatures and that isn't what U/W usually does best. Fortunately, I've got 20+ years of Magic to pick through, so I'm sure I'll find something.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Vortex, Quit Vexing Me

I got q's, v's and x's in that title, what's not to love?

But let's get to the meat of it:

If the core concept of Vortex-using Mirri's Guile and Dark Confidant to set up draws to make for better Gamekeeper use-is good, then one solution I haven't put enough effort into is redundancy.

Enter: Pattern of Rebirth. With six board resets, Pattern is very likely useful and it may even serve as an additional consequence to removing Dark Confidant, something every opponent is going to want to do. I've added two in place of Worldly Tutor.

I've got Plated Slagwurm in as a placeholder at the moment-untargetable giant monsters aren't bad-but I'm looking through Gatherer for something better, preferably something in theme but anything scary will do. The issue with the Slagwurm is that it doesn't have trample or any other interesting ability, so it can be chumpblocked easily and taken down by anything with deathtouch. The next closest options are Siege Behemoth (which I'd run just for the name) or Plated Crusher, because of the trample.

Liliana Vess is still a possibility: raw power can't be overlooked as a solution.

Then I remembered: I own a Griselbrand. Just one, but I do have one. And if I'm going to try and go for raw power, well, that's one of the most powerful cards ever printed so...why not swing for the fences?

With the new tests, things have gotten better. Pattern of Rebirth and Languish have been good additions. The ability to reset the board more frequently and Pattern's buttressing Gamekeeper's ability has been helping Vortex get there and the creature-lands have been great at providing additional pressure.

So far, things have been positive. Griselbrand hasn't made an appearance yet but I've finally had a chance to test Liliana against Fuz against a UW aggro spirits deck and a UG delver deck.

I lost the UG match because I used Liliana's ability to get a Griselbrand instead of Languish or Pernicious Deed in game two. The glory of cool things biting me in the ass on that one. I won the UW match when Fuz got stuck on one Island with two Boomerangs in hand. I also got a little greedy in game 3, swinging for 4 damage with the ability to take 6 next turn, Languish at 1 and then fetch something massive and maybe get lucky to get another big dude.

Plaxmanta-a card I hadn't seen-came in to ruin my day. I went big and lost. However, twice during these matches I was able to use Liliana's +1 ability to discard Darksteel Colossus and set up a better opportunity for Gamekeeper. She earned her keep.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Rating 15 Cards

I found a survey via Twitter (Survey here.) that asked for ratings of 15 different cards and thoughts on the set. I thought it might be fun to share how I rated these cards and explain some of my reasoning, because WotC doesn't care why I like or dislike a card, they only care that I do.

This was also the first time that I started really looking the cards for strict constructed purposes. My casual constructed, sure, but a card that is only good in limited isn't a good card and I decided to start rating things as such. The ratings were poor-marginal-fair-good-excellent and they'd ask about art, name, playability and overall value, so sometimes I made note of a difference between the play value and the overall value.

Trail of Evidence-fair (though I like art and flavor text)

Ulrich's Kindred-good-3/2s with trample for 3 are solid; the ability isn't great but it's usable.

Game Trail-Excellent-though I hated the art and the name is mediocre.

Inquisitor's Ox-fair. A 2/5 for 4 is great in limited...but that's about it. Play value was marginal.

Avacynian Missionaries-Fair. Play value marginal again. You get a heck of a nice bonus if you can flip it, but you're paying at least 5 mana for that...

Westvale Abbey-Good. Play value fair. It's cool and interesting! But I still think it's overrated.

Rattlechains-(I really like this name) and think this card is excellent.

Village Messenger-Play value fair. 1/1 with haste for 1 isn't awful but card got rated marginal b/c my opponent gets to say if I get a 2/2. And a 1/1 with haste after turn 2 isn't worth much.

Thornhide Wolves-Marginal-because a 4/5 for 5 in Limited is decent but for five mana I'd hope for more. I'll play it but not first on the curve. But that is the only time I look at this card as good: It's a candidate for my "Cube of Doom".

Invocation of St Traft-Excellent. I know it's an Aura and comes with drawbacks as a result but I read it as 3 mana; take 4 damage. That's not bad, especially in blue/white.

Stitchwing Skaab-Fair. It's got a neat trick but you don't want to repeat it.

Foul Orchard-Good. It's solid manafixing that can go in any appropriate deck and it won't break the bank of players. I'm always up for this.

Sanitarium Skeleton-Good. Turn 1, zombie. Turn 4? Repeat zombie. It's a flavor win and a decent blocker to boot.

Hanweir Militia Captain-Excellent.

Weirding Wood-Marginal. Play value Fair. Would I run this over Sheltered Aerie? Yes. Would I run this just 'cause? No. It's helpful in Limited but it's not great. A role player, maybe but definitely not helpful to draw after turn 3. I mean...Abundant Growth exists, which fixes mana and draws a card for G. Why am I paying 5 mana to draw a card?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Hypergeometric distribution

Saw this video and thought it was a useful tool for deckbuilding. There's a smidgen of condescension there, some of it understandable, but for the most part I found it to be a useful reminder of the steps necessary for good decks to reduce variance and behave more consistently.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Shadows Over Innistrad impressions

I'll put it out up front: I like what I'm seeing in Shadows. I'm looking forward to playing with these cards and I think this set has got a lot going for it.

I still don't like double faced cards: I'm never going to like 'em, let's just get that out of the way now. We're agreed to disagree and I'm good with it.

Delirium: this is a neat idea that I wonder if it will work well. The obvious comparison for me is to Tarmogoyf (not the Threshold mechanic), but Tarmogoyf looks at everyone's graveyard for its bonuses. That's a pretty significant drawback and once again, I believe that this mechanic will be a lower tier Limited one. This is both too bad, because the mechanic is a neat way to provide a bonus, but good since it means that the price of fetchlands will remain consistent.

Although if they push the mechanic in Eldritch Moon, expect this to all get turned around and I personally have a R/G Tarmogoyf deck that will love Delirium if there are cards worth playing.

Investigate: it looks like they added 1 to the cost of most of these cards and then let you get a Clue token which can be sac'd for 2 more. So the mechanic has a additional cost of 3, which you can pay over time, to draw a card, instead of being a straight cantrip. From a flavor perspective, it makes sense. Mechanically, it's incredibly boring at the moment. If there's a sacrifice theme in the next set or block, that might become more interesting, and pairing these Clues with things like Arcbound Ravager or Daretti, Scrap Savant. Otherwise, yay Limited stuff.

Of note: they don't spread the card draw very well and I think that's a mistake. White gets Investigate, which is good, but Blue also gets this and it's unnecessary. Red and Black could both benefit from this mechanic. Card draw is too powerful to provide unevenly.

Madness: here is where things get interesting. There are plenty of cards that use discarding as a cost so you can save your mana for the Madness stuff. The cards in SOI don't seem broken or crazy but they're definitely cool and I'm glad this mechanic has come back. More interesting stuff like this WotC.

Again: this ability is really powerful and I'm sorry to see it spread unevenly. Hopefully Eldritch Moon will give Green and White some Madness cards.

Skulk isn't a mechanic but I do like the implementation and the feel of it. I wouldn't be surprised to see this become an evergreen ability.

Individual notes:
While it's cool to use the double-faced mechanic to show Avacyn's transformation, I also feel that this displays a certain lack of imagination on WotC's part, unable to give us an example of a mono-white villain.

Damnit, zombies are going to make my life miserable again, courtesy Fuz.

Why wasn't blue made the color of player mill and black opponent mill? It makes more sense that way: Black will peel back the opponent's mind, Blue will delve into its own.

Werewolves are still the worst tribe, and Wizard's attempt to allow players to control or make this tribe desirable result in making it feel more pathetic rather than less.

I know Westvale Abbey has everyone by the nuts right now but I don't think that will last. The payoff isn't worth it, at least not currently. If W/B lifegain control or tokens can make a dent, then maybe. But putting all of your eggs in one basket is rarely a good idea and the delay to get to 5 creatures and 6 mana is very, very risky, even if the payoff could work.

Also, from a nerd perspective: how does a chapel become a demon? I get having a sacrifice that creates a demon but buildings don't become creatures. And if I'm going to nitpick (and I am) then shouldn't Westvale Abbey be a legendary land, since it provides a legendary creature? How many Westvale Abbeys are there?

I think it's super awesome Scarecrows are coming back as a creature type! But I also want to go back to Shadowmoor so....

There's been word that Cryptolith Rite is just the most broken thing ever. Nope. But it is quite good.

As much as I dislike double-faced cards, I am glad to see them trying some new things, as with Skin Invasion or Startled Awake.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Does It Suck?

There isn't much to do when you're on the road from Nevada to Washington except listen to really terrible country music radio, unless of course, you're stuck with the Jesus channel, or the barely tolerable Spanish pop station. So I thought about the deck and I came to a conclusion:

Call of the Herd should be cut. I need to make this deck either a) faster or b) more defensible. Well, generating a 3/3 isn't going to do either of those things, even if I can get two of them for an affordable price.

So. Liliana should come in, maybe? I don't know. I'm going to try Read the Bones and Languish. Read should help accelerate my combo and Languish should give me time, right?

Except when I goldfish the deck, it just feels like I'm missing something. Before I had Read the Bones I had put in Liliana and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and Vraska, the Unseen. Essentially attempting to use raw power to get around the issue that's nagging me about this deck that I can't quite articulate.

Because the concept is solid and I've been streamlining the card selection down to help bring the concept to the forefront, yet testing the deck by myself has felt unsatisfying. Maybe bouncing this deck off actual opponents will change that feeling. But adding power didn't feel satisfactory, so I'm hoping card draw will help.

Next up; Shadows over Innistrad thoughts, and I've got a Doomtown event Wednesday and that always means new and weird interactions with the concept of losing.