Thursday, July 21, 2016

Fight for Right Against Wrong

Man, it's even worse than I thought.

I had games against mono-U Phantasms, Goblins, Squirrels and and RB Rakdos demon deck.

I lost all of those matches. Every single one.

So the answer to the question, why, I think starts here:

11 mana on the table, one in hand, nothing on board before I conceded.

Let's look again:

Three dragons in hand, six mana on the table, no way to overcome three flying 5/5s. Again, zero other permanents on the table.

Point 1: I may have too much mana production.

Point 2: I may not have appropriate removal. Why do my opponents get 5/5s and I don't? Why are there hordes of squirrel tokens dying along with my one dragon?

The following tweaks:

-3 Radiant Flames
-1 Rorix Bladewing

+4 Crux of Fate.

I spoke about Crux of Fate last time and these four matches have demonstrated to me that I absolutely need to do something else. I have rarely felt so out of games I've been playing and for fairly consistent reasons too: plenty of mana, nothing to do. I had hoped that Painful Truths would provide me with the fuel to keep my deck going but instead it's just offered me more fuel.

I'm reluctant to cut lands but maybe a couple more Dragonlord's Servants to add in another Thunderbreak Regent and perhaps a Thundermaw Hellkite might be reasonable. But until I can actually get wins racked up via dragons, no other additions matter.

Also, I'm going to be out of town next week, so there won't be any posts. Catch everyone in August!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Stronger Than Strong

So let's make changes:

Swift Warkite
Atarka, World Render
Destructor Dragon
4 Dragonlord's Servant
Harbinger of the Hunt
Thunderbreak Regent
3 Radiant Flames
3 Painful Truths
2 Bloodfell Caves
2 Jungle Hollow
Crucible of the Spirit Dragon

4 Dragonspeaker Shaman (the double red is hard on the mana base)
2 Fledgling Dragon
Dragon Whelp
3 Titan's Revenge
2 Starstorm
Crimson Hellkite (triple red is even harder)
Imperial Hellkite
Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund (for now)
2 Forest
2 Mountain

While paging through my binders, I found Crux of Fate and I was sorely tempted to add that in. However, I'm going to bank-at least for the moment-on the idea that drawing cards and small board sweepers are better than having board sweepers that are somewhat challenging to cast. Maybe there is a UBW dragon deck in my future or maybe Crux of Fate will need to come in anyway.

I'm also tempted to look into a Sarkhan for this deck as well.  Sure, Sarkhan Unbroken has a color requirement that is difficult and Sarkhan the Mad is terrible so...then again, maybe not.

Harbinger of the Hunt looks like a great support card and Swift Warkite can regrow a Dragonlord's Servant or, more likely, a Fierce Empath to help me keep pressure on.

With the addition of some better dragons, card draw and cheaper creature kill, hopefully Gigantor will be able to produce some victories, or at least show me where I should take the deck next.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Eldritch Moon Impressions (Aside from Emrakul's Influence)'s OK. (Link goes to spoiler list).

I'm going to gripe because there isn't a Collective cycle. Yes I am.

Now that that's done, let's go:

Mechanically, Escalate is fine. Like the Charms of yesteryear, or Entwine from Mirrodin, this is a solid way to present modal spells. Is there anything brilliant here? Sure. The Collectives (and how the *(&^^ does Green NOT get a Collective? Or any Escalate spells at all?) are good but of the eight they used those are the only standouts.

Of the ten cards with Emerge, the quality of most of them is contingent on the context where they enter the battlefield. Again; it's obvious that Decimator of the Provinces is awesome but you can really cast that without the Emerge cost and have it still be insane. The difference between 9 mana and 10 mana-given what Decimator wants to do, which is have the most creatures on the battlefield as possible-is all but meaningless and the cost reduction will range from 'doesn't matter' to 'you lose your best creature for this and if you don't win that's very, very bad'.

Really, only Distended Mindbender stands out as something that could help turn the game in your favor. Everything else is risky and has the feel of "win more" or "lose less". The cards are solid but they aren't broken, is what I'm going for.

I don't like Meld at all, and I especially do not like how Bruna and Gisela are set at different rarities. Gisela is clearly the better card-but my issue has less to do with card quality than it does with quantity. Essentially, this is WotC trying to get people to play the lottery in a pretty brazen way.

On top of this, I don't appreciate the nonsense one has to do to get these cards to work. That this mechanic was pushed for by Ken Nagle, someone who was responsible for pushing mechanics he called "unfun" in New Phyrexia, has led me to this conclusion:

I don't like the way he designs Magic.

I didn't think they could make the Werewolf transformation cycle worse but they did it. Good on 'em: may this mechanic cease to darken Red and Green's color pie as it is. Other double-faced cards are meh and the Meld mechanic is one I intensely dislike. No more of that, please.

For White:

There is one very cool reprint: Peace of Mind, since that can help enable Madness strategies. The possibilities for this aren't as awesome as I wish they were, since Green & White are lacking Madness cards but it makes for a neat splash for the RUB colors.

Providence: Great start. Give me a cycle of cards like this. Hell, give me a bunch of cards like this: I think the Chancellor/Leyline effect is a cool one.

Jim Davis predicted that U/W Spirits is going to be a deck and I'm hard pressed to disagree with that one: the last time Blue got access to cheap fliers and disruption was Faeries and this is shaping up to be similar.

Of course, he also thinks that Ishkanah, Graftwidow is going to make Delirium decks a thing, somehow conveniently forgetting how Archangel Avacyn demolishes this notion. You win some, you lose some.

Blue is getting access to the "outside the game zone" with Coax From Blind Eternities, in a way that is Green so I suppose all is right on that front. At least as far as WotC goes.

(Access to creatures from outside the game is already clearly Green. Color pie shenannigans.)

Speaking of color pie breaking: Imprisoned in the Moon, which takes a great Green card that could answer things in an extremely flavorful way and turns it into a Blue card that doesn't do any of the flavor, but has allll that answer, yo.

This is what players mean when they complain that Blue has too much stuff. They dip into every other color's abilities and can interact with the stack. Other colors don't get to interact on that level and it limits the game.

Note: If Imprisoned in the Moon was an instant, doing the Blue 'transform' thing then I'd have no objection. This has been a thing since Ovinize, at least. I'm good with this notion.

Blue also has one of the best art cards in the set with Identity Thief. That's good stuff.

I'm glad Mind's Dilation costs seven mana. The coolness of it in Commander will be great but trying to fit that in a 60 card deck? Oh, I'm interested, just for the dickery factor.

I already have a deck for Wharf Infiltrator and I am looking forward to seeing it in action.

Moving to Black:

Cryptbreaker is overrated. Good? Sure. But the stuff I've read overhyped that card big time. Same thing with Dark Salvation. 3 mana to get a 2/2 and give a creature -1/-1? This is not a big deal. Scaling it up doesn't help the card, since casting it on turn 5 at best, is still not a turnabout card. It's good but it isn't amazing, especially when compared to something like Syphon Flesh

As a matter of fact, black seems overall pretty meh. I'm glad to see Murder come back, and Whispers of Emrakul has the potential to be another Hymn, so that's cool. I don't see enough support to make Zombies or Vampires a solid  All in all, though, it doesn't seem like a very strong outing, Liliana aside.

Red's stuff:

Impetuous Devils might get my "bad rare for Cube" award. Ball Lightning was great. This is a 4 mana removal spell at sorcery speed. This card doesn't even need the "sacrifice at end of turn" clause because you have to have a creature block it. At one toughness, the Devils are not going to last and this clause was just there for historical reasons-in this case, a bad history lesson.

Stensia Innkeeper though has the potential to bring a nice tweak onto Red's land destruction ability. I can't see it being amazing at the moment but it's a good direction for Red to go in, along with it's other LD spells.

It's apparently a "big deal" that Red got a 2/2 for two mana in Falkenrath Reaver and it does fit a nice spot on the curve in red but vanilla 2/2s aren't that exciting, except in Sealed formats (which is what this is for). That said; this is a very solid addition to a tribe that could use this kind of card. Printing this as a goblin would add to a deck that doesn't need it but as a vampire? Now there's a bit of room for another red tribe to breathe, especially since vampires and goblins work very differently.

I think Bedlam Reveler is pretty good. With the "spells matter" theme coming up so big in Red and Blue I think this card is going to be useful in the mid and late game and provide an interesting boost to Red.

The Green scene:
I really, really hate Foul Emissary. Narrow, expensive, Limited oriented and luck based  = no.

While I know people are happy about the legendary spider, (see Jim Davis) it's pretty mediocre outside of Commander. If the ability triggered every upkeep, or on your upkeep instead of an enter the battlefield effect, then you'd have a real beast.

I like Permeating Mass but it's a card that someone is going to engineer stalemates with, trying to make every creature on the battlefield a Permeating Mass. That will be awesome one time and one time only.

The multicolored stuff isn't all that special and the double-faced cards all took a step down, in my opinion. Being able to control the werewolf transformations comes, apparently, at an absurd mana cost.

Grim Flayer is going to find range in a very narrow deck. It's good but without Delirium it is far from great and Delirium is such a 'meh' mechanic that WotC is willing to offer you a potential 5/4 with trample for 4 mana at common in green.

That tells me that at least WotC thinks or has experience telling them that Delirium is too conditional and can't easily be broken or even taken serious advantage of.

Contrast this with Gisa and Geralf, 4/4's for 4 out of the gate with the ability to regrow Zombies for free.

The colorless cards:
Field Creeper has some fantastic artwork and I'm glad to see more scarecrows.

Lupine Prototype should find a home in Affinity decks. 5/5s for 2 with a drawback that that deck doesn't care about should work.

Soul Separator is a definite win on both the flavor and mechanical levels. Very nicely done, WotC.

Nephalia Academy has some interesting possibilities, if discard becomes a big force in the metagame.

All in all I'm not as enamored with this set as I was Shadows Over Innistrad. It feels like it really isn't bringing anything interesting to the table. The obviously good cards are obviously good and the Planeswalkers are, in my opinion, bananas but they always are.

I'd really dig it if a B/R deck rose up to compete in Standard-that's a color combo I can't remember seeing in a long long while being good. But I don't see the tools in the colors to make that happen.

As for idea. Although I will say that I haven't had a chance to do much sealed play so maybe this will be just the impetus to get something done.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Bigger Than Big

This is a problem:

I'm supposed to have giant dragons on the battlefield and instead I have...Fledgling Dragon. One.

I played a few games with Gigantor as it was in order to get a sense of what it needed. The basic problem: I couldn't stick a big enough threat on the board.

This might be due to some variance: mana issues were abundant in the games that day. That should be unusual, since I have eight ways to boost my mana production.

But mana production doesn't matter if I follow it up with a 2/2 flier as a threat. That's just terrible.

I know going in that most of the decks I'm going to be playing are rough, but I rarely have an idea of how rough. This one is needs a whole lot of sanding down.

I've got some ideas for changes and writing this reminds me that Gigantor is a pretty good opportunity for cards like Radiant Flames and Painful Truths to find a home. Cheap solutions to give me time to put threats on the board should be right in the arena of what Gigantor wants to do.

 In addition, a commenter from the Reddit thread where I posted the deck reminded me that Thunderbreak Regent exists-for some reason I forget about that card-as well as Scourge of Valkas, which is very tempting but at RRR in the mana cost is probably not going to fly.

Thursday, July 7, 2016


At some point, everybody tries to build a dragon deck. Or a zombie deck but Fuz had beaten me to the zombie deck so...dragons!
1 Dragon Whelp
4 Dragonspeaker Shaman
3 Kilnmouth Dragon
1 Ryusei, the Falling Star
1 Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
3 Fierce Empath
2 Fledgling Dragon
1 Rorix Bladewing
1 Bladewing the Risen
1 Imperial Hellkite
1 Predator Dragon
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Crimson Hellkite

3 Titan's Revenge
4 Rampant Growth

4 Fertile Ground

3 Naturalize
2 Starstorm

3 Swamp
8 Mountain
1 Grand Coliseum
3 Jund Panorama
8 Forest 
I took the name from the Helmet cover of the cartoon theme, back before I knew they'd make giant robots in Magic for me to use more appropriately. Oh well!

What we've got here is a deck that wants to play big dragons. There's no sense in trying to gussy it up for you: Dragons = murder you.

However, as you might note there are some subpar choices, (Dragon Whelp) along with one sweeper in Ryusei, as though I can just wave a wand to get to 6+ mana, play a dragon and have my opponent just flail.

So it's time to give this deck a kick in the pants.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

One hit-and we're hoping this is it!

In the end, I split the difference and I was able to do it thanks to Oblivion Stone.

Increasing the damage oriented mass removal wouldn't matter and the Disk would take out my artifact lands. In a deck with only 19 lands, I can't afford to take that risk, even if the Disk falls on my curve.

But, Oblivion Stone does everything else I need it to do and in games with Lauriel, Caitlin and Matt, the Stone proved to be the kind of haymaker that I needed.

Matt was playing a Stasis deck and Oblivion Stone broke his lock for me, or ate a counterspell that later couldn't stop the wave of creatures I was able to put into play. On my final turn, despite having my entire board locked down and with Matt at 2, I was able to play a Mountain and use the trigger from Flamewake Phoenix and win.

I didn't fare quite as well against Caitlin's Aluren deck-a combo deck using Cavern Harpy and Parasitic Strix. She made a great play in game 3, using Thoughtsieze to bait me into tapping all my mana to get in for 6 damage with Kuldotha Phoenix and Flamewake Phoenix and was able to combo out her next turn.

I had a Lightning Bolt in hand and could've prevented it.

The lesson: if you know you need 1 mana open to prevent your death, keep that mana open.

Lauriel wasn't able to mount enough pressure with her BW Spirits deck in the face of Oblivion Stone. And, this time I had a Lightning Bolt for her early Twilight Drover.

Two Oblivion Stones and suddenly my pet is behaving like it's housetrained and giving me moments like this:

That's three Demigod of Revenge appearing off of one being cast, on an empty board.

Holy cow. But that is what I'm talking about.

Now, RotF isn't a massive powerhouse. To take on tier one Legacy decks, it would need to have cheaper card draw and more disruption. Matt suggested cards like Chalice of the Void could do wonders and that's fair: against almost any blue deck, CotV set to 1 would be awful. Sure, it'd also turn off my Lightning Bolt but there are a TON of replacements for that card.

It would also need some way to get through countermagic. After playing yesterday against Matt's Stasis deck, and on Friday versus Noah's Delver deck it was my inability to stick a permanent on board that killed me. Recursion isn't great if nothing is allowed to recur...

Still, I think I've taken this as far as it can go without dipping into just being a burn deck. It's got some great answers and although it feels a little inconsistent, has a pretty big stick to swing with. It's fun more often than not, so it's time to move on.