Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Karn and the Matchups

"I want to test this deck I threw together," Jason texts me.

I should've known better than to think this would be a winning experience, but I was hopeful after the last round of changes! More card draw, better lands, more useful creatures...I really thought I had something!

Enter Nekusar, the Mindrazer to ruin those dreams.

And I didn't just lose. I lost badly. I don't care what that picture looks like, we played three matchups and I went 0-2 in all of them.

Sure, Jason got uncannily lucky, dropping a Sol Ring on turns one or two of nearly every matchup, getting Propaganda out in 3 of the 6 games and then there was the game with Vandalblast... But again, Karn had a whole bunch of not-stuff going on and Nekusar had a lot of redundancy and card draw.

I really need haymakers for Karn to work as I've currently structured it. This is clashing with my desire to keep cards like Yotian Soldier in the deck because when was the last time that card saw the light of day? It's a solid little role player, right? However, it may just be a poor fit. I really feel that Karn should be able to take on a deck like Nekusar and that it can't bothers me.

Especially when I look at times when Karn won: giant creatures or waves of Myr, as against Phenax, which Jason played later that evening.

If I want to say there's a Myr theme, then Yotian Soldier isn't as fitting as Myr Retriever is. Add in the fact that I want to add in Vehicles now that Kaladesh is on the scene, I'm going to have to make some stronger evaluations of cards that should or shouldn't make the cut.

So, I ought to take a step back. Some decks just have bad matchups against others and I know this as well as anyone. Any deck packing Vandalblast against me is going to have a Pretty Good Day. I've seen that Karn has some synergies to exploit and I'm steadily creating a better and better build to exploit them.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

But What If, Karn?

"I couldn't remove a 2/1 with deathtouch, and that is a problem," I said to Jason.

He's got Oloro as his commander and a Serra Avatar on the table in the photo; I've got enough mana to cast Shimmer Myr and recur it via Myr Reservoir to block the Avatar forever...except.

My freakin' Eldrazi is being held off by a 2/1 with deathtouch. I can't go on the offensive, because my mana at the time is being tied up in blocking a Very Large Avatar. I couldn't get anything else on board and soon after, Jason cast Sanguine Bond, sacrificed the Avatar (at 50 something power) to Disciple of Griselbrand and that was that.

And people say Aetherflux Reservoir isn't going to go off!

Finding a bunch of ways that Karn doesn't work is good data, but alternative input has been lacking.

The next match, Jason played Marath as his commander and I was able to establish a solid board presence...until he cast From the Ashes. While this wiped out all of my lands, I was able to keep playing thanks to a couple mana rocks-and an already dominant board presence-that he just couldn't keep up.I had a similar experience in game 2, being able to cast my haymakers while he used an untuned Marath deck to try and keep up.

At least I know that this deck can work! Maybe it would work better in multiplayer? It hasn't (yet) but...

Reading LSV's artifact review of Kaladesh gave me an idea. Vehicles could be a real boon to this deck, both adding a set of artifacts for Karn to animate, or allowing smaller animated artifacts to crew larger vehicles. Hell, animating vehicles should get around the need to crew them!

This offers an extra dimension to the deck that was previously unavailable and that strikes me as quite exciting!

Until then, I'm going to remove:
Rocket Launcher
Myr Incubator
Alpha Myr
Sculpting Steel
Blinkmoth Nexus
Sheltered Valley
An-havva Township
Koskun Keep
Castle Sengir

Adding in:
2 Wastes
Sea Gate Wreckage
Shrine of the Forsaken Gods
Phyrexia's Core
Platinum Emperion
Argentum Armor
Spine of Ish Sah (can't believe this wasn't already here)
Solemn Simulacrum
Candles of Leng
Gruesome Slaughter

With two Wastes, Solemn Simulacrum has viable targets and I can't be completely shattered by cards like From the Wastes. Argentum Armor could give more removal (which is something I seem to be sorely lacking), Candles of Leng more card draw (ditto), and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods is another Temple of the False God that helps ramp mana.

So far, I like where I'm going with this.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On Money

Maybe you've noticed the Paypal button in the upper right. Maybe not. I don't have much to say about it but what little I do, I feel I should just get said and be done with. Because I hate talking about this subject but I did just figure out how to put that button up there, so go me.

I'm not going to charge for premium content. Or make premium content. I'm not going to change the posting schedule. I'm not going to start hyping the button for money. I'm not going to do anything different from what I am doing or have been doing for the past five years.

I just feel that the work I do, and it is work, has value. I feel that I've demonstrated a reliable voice over a long period of time, so readers know that I'm not going to just evaporate if I get paid. Magic cards cost money, going to prereleases costs money, living costs money. If readers feel like kicking me a few bucks, awesome. If they don't, that's totally OK, too.

I'm not changing a thing, beyond the implicit statement that what I do has value and if people would like to give me money for it, that's much appreciated.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Commander Karn-The Question

Sometimes, it's best to get the blunt truth, which I got, this time, from Sean.

This came just after the pictured game, where I'm playing Karn, Jason, on the right, has yet to start taking over via Meren (Sean asked, after the experience counters reached 7, 'How do you deal with that?' and my reply was 'Tormod's Crypt.') and Sean, in the upper left playing Daretti. 

I didn't accomplish much-sure it didn't help that I spent most of the game getting punished by Steel Hellkite, but I didn't have any interaction at all. Worse, when I played Blinkmoth Urn, I really set Sean up to ramp his mana.

Yet my deck couldn't benefit-because anything I would pay would be destroyed by the Hellkite.
After it was all over, Sean put it to me:
"What does your deck do?" 

Well...it has a myr subtheme and a eldrazi subtheme and...

Sean just waited as it became pretty clear that I didn't really have a plan.

Now, I don't think that's bad but since that is the case, then I need to clear some of the deadwood in Karn's deck. Without a focused idea to bind the deck together, I can't rely on synergies, which means that I have to amplify the deck's overall power level.

That is a bummer to consider though; that I got swept up in the tiny details of card selection that I failed to look at the bigger picture of what the deck should do.

On the bummer scale though, it's maybe a two. I'll live.

Thursday, September 15, 2016


I haven't managed to get any gaming in this week. Not even on Shadow over Mordor or Doom, which is a bummer. (I like SoM but Doom is a little more my bag right now).

But it also means I don't have any content for today.

However, I'm headed to Seattle tomorrow for a couple days and I'm hoping I can get some Magic in with Jason and maybe Sean.

And also, beer. But definitely some epic games!

So, updates Tuesday. Plus, there will more Kaladesh to talk about, so we'll rebound then. Sound good?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016


Yesterday, WotC announced the Masterpiece Series, branching off the success of the Zendikar Expeditions.

The TL:DR for those of you who just want to read my dulcet words is-Wizards will be adding in ultra-rare reprinted cards to packs that are thematically cohesive to the block. You cannot play them in Standard unless they are part of that Standard block (like the Gearhulks), they will come with new boarders and expansion symbols to distinguish them from other cards in the block, and you can see them all here.

And they're going to be doing this in every set.

While the argument against simply reprinting necessary cards in new sets seems very, very weak (I don't recall Thoughtsieze warping things-there was, as is almost always the case in Magic, a confluence of cards to create an issue both times) and will always seem weak to me, since those cards made it into the pool somehow and Standard was OK:


The "Masterpieces will tie thematically into the block" position is incredibly vague, as it gives WotC leeway to print whatever they feel ties into the block somehow-or flat out neglect it because "reasons" (Jitte can't be on Kaladesh because flavor but we're totally OK with Chromatic Lantern, Champion's Helm, Painter's Servant, three Swords from Mirrodin, and the least necessary artifact reprint ever, Sol Ring? C'mon).

{Aside: Just go back to Kamegawa, WotC. Fix that block and reprint some stuff that needs it. Jeeze.}


Setting those two weak arguments aside, it does provide an avenue for WotC to give players reprints (what we want) while pushing Standard packs (what they want). And the selection of Masterpieces are pretty dang good, Sol Ring aside. Picks for everyone in nearly every format, cool art, distinctive borders and a solid sense of Magic's history.

There's also the possibility of prices for singles going down, as a result of people opening more packs for cool Masterpieces. And I don't know about you, but cheaper singles means I buy more cards.

As compromises go, it's a good place to start and an impressive lead to this series so we'll see how things continue to get executed.

For now, it really feels like a win-win and with the reprints in Take the Crown take into consideration? Good job, Wizards. Very good job.

Thursday, September 8, 2016


I went poking about the Commander and Competitive Commander forums at Reddit and didn't find much. This was a bit disappointing because the hive mind is usually a great source of ideas! Alas, this time it's looking like I have to grind things out myself.

So I organized the deck into lands, artifacts, creatures and All Is Dust.

After some review there are cards that I should pull:

Lumengrid Gargoyle: Too expensive for the payoff.
Myr Moonvessel: belongs in a combo deck
Myr Landshaper: also belongs in a combo deck
Omega Myr: no real payoff
Liquimetal Coating: doesn't do much else with the deck.
Welding Jar: belongs in a different deck. Commander has too much variance to get this to matter.
Rusted Relic: why play a vanilla 5/5?
Gemstone Caverns: Isn't awesome here.

Possible cuts:
Puppet Strings: doesn't do enough in multiplayer
Lightning Greaves: just not sure it does enough

Hedron Archive: mana + card draw is good.
Unwinding Clock: let's reuse my stuff.
Scour from Existence: removal isn't bad.
Endbringer: it's multifunctional
Kozilek, the Great Distortion: where else would this go? The card is pretty much terrible. But a 12/12 with Menace that can potentially draw me cards isn't bad. The countermagic ability is meaningless.
Bane of Bala Ged: removal isn't bad
It That Betrays: scary removal isn't bad
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger: he's a dick.
Ruins of Oran-Rief: useful for every creature in this deck.

What I like about this selection is that it increases my creature count, which doesn't suck, boosts the mana possibilities, which doesn't suck, and has more removal possibilities, which doesn't suck.

So...I've basically spent time reducing the suck. I didn't want to remove weirdo cards like Yotian Soldier, Rocket Launcher, or even Phyrexian Processor. But there was enough chaff and solid replacements that I think I'm headed in the right direction.

Now that I've put in Unwinding Clock, however, Puppet Strings and Liquimetal Coating have more value. Liquimetal Coating turning a land into an artifact that I can destroy via Karn for one mana every turn is a pretty good deal. Puppet Strings to turn off the best creature every round is a pretty good deal.

So I'll be keeping them in the "maybe" pile. There are bound to be more cards that need to be cut as playtesting might show, and the ability to destroy lands like Maze of Ith or Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth can't be overlooked.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Commander-Karn, Silver Golem

I've been waiting to take a swing at this deck since I heard Battle for Zendikar was coming out and now that that block is complete, it's time.

Karn, Silver Golem

1 All Is Dust 1 Blinkmoth Urn
1 Myr Incubator
1 Mirrorworks
1 Rusted Relic
1 Phyrexian Processor
1 Soldevi Digger
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Sculpting Steel
1 Mind's Eye
1 Puppet Strings
1 Thran Dynamo
1 Darksteel Forge
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Welding Jar
1 Liquimetal Coating
1 Oblivion Stone
1 Rocket Launcher
1 Planar Portal
1 Lux Cannon
1 Jayemdae Tome
1 Nuisance Engine
1 Vedalken Orrery
1 Predator, Flagship
1 Mind Stone
1 Voltaic Key
1 Golem's Heart
1 Power Matrix
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Guardian Idol
1 Thopter Assembly
1 Teferi's Puzzle Box
1 Lumengrid Gargoyle
1 Hovermyr
1 Perilous Myr
1 Myr Moonvessel
1 Myr Landshaper
1 Myr Enforcer
1 Myr Galvanizer
1 Myr Battlesphere
1 Myr Mindservant
1 Myr Matrix
1 Myr Reservoir
1 Myr Turbine
1 Triskelavus
1 Palladium Myr
1 Bottle Gnomes
1 Alpha Myr
1 Yotian Soldier
1 Lodestone Myr
1 Golem Artisan
1 Omega Myr
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Artisan of Kozilek
1 Shimmer Myr
1 Colossus of Sardia
1 Ferropede
1 Ulamog's Crusher
1 Mycosynth Golem
1 Serrated Biskelion
1 Soul of New Phyrexia
1 Zoetic Cavern
1 Blasted Landscape
1 Mishra's Factory
1 Mirrodin's Core
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Quicksand
1 Dread Statuary
1 Stalking Stones
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Sheltered Valley
1 Temple of the False God
1 Henge of Ramos
1 Urza's Mine
1 Urza's Power Plant
1 Urza's Tower
1 Urza's Factory
1 Desert
1 Crystal Vein
1 Vesuva
1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Springjack Pasture
1 Glimmerpost
1 Mutavault
1 Cloudpost
1 Gods' Eye, Gate to the Reikai
1 Miren, the Moaning Well
1 Tarnished Citadel
1 Petrified Field
1 An-Havva Township
1 Koskun Keep
1 Aysen Abbey
1 Castle Sengir
1 School of the Unseen
1 Gemstone Caverns
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Blinkmoth Nexus
1 Blinkmoth Well

I built this deck a few years ago, around the time of New Phyrexia and there was still a pretty big hill to climb when to came to building a manabase.This is why the lands from Homelands make an appearance and my feeling is, if anyone has a problem with Koskun Keep being in the deck, I probably don't want to play Magic with them.

I went with a low-level Myr theme because Mirrodin has a bunch of them. It might be time to revisit this notion. Myr supported by some solid colorless creatures might be better and there are more colorless spells now than before.

While artifacts can pretty much do everything, there's a whole lot of new colorless cards -and spells- that can be added: time I see what else is out there.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

It Didn't Turn Out

I'm hitting a wall with The Wretched. I've got the wall built, but how do I win? Drawing into Stormtide Leviathan isn't a bad idea but other threats would be nice.

I'm currently trying Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger as another finishing option. That's definitely a creature that can put a hurt on someone but it also comes out on turn 8 so it really isn't better at jumpstarting my win mode. I thought about Helix Pinnacle but that is a card that wants me to incorporate an infinite mana combo so I can just win outright. It's a neat idea but it belongs in another deck. Amusingly, days after I wrote my first draft of this post, Noah suggested Helix Pinnacle, so maybe I'm being too pessimistic about this. 

I may need to set this deck aside for now. It's got some neat things happening but the closure part isn't wanting to clasp together.

Of course, as I say this I rediscover Verdant Touch which may provide the threats I'm looking for, or Sprout Swarm, which has the potential to do the same.

The lighting struck though and I certainly have a better deck than I had before. I'm not dodging the work that comes after, however. This deck is going to stay in rotation for awhile and I'm definitely going to prioritize playing it for another week to see if I can get that keystone that will help make The Wretched more formidable.

Which is where the next thought comes in: What if I'm done?  Take a look at this picture.This is against the RWB tokens deck that Lauriel pummeled me with a couple weeks ago.

Now, I'm sitting behind an energy field and attacking for 8 a turn. She can (and did) cast enough creatures that Impact Tremors alone was trying to do 9 points of damage to me. Which I just shrugged off.

Fuz had similar problems, except I had out an Vorinclex that was borking his mana, until I was able to clean up. Seriously: Vorinclex is a dick. Although Elesh Norn and Jin-Gitaxias are mammoth dicks. Nobody talks about Jin-Gitaxias but someone is going to figure out how to use that monster...


Anyway what I'm getting at is that maybe I don't need to do anything. Maybe this deck is a weird successor to the lock decks of old and I don't have to come up with a genius masterstroke. All I need to do is set things up, swing with the big guns and call it a day.

It's good exercise, playing a control deck like this, having to think a little differently so I can maximize my resources along a different flight plan. I've had a lot of fun doing it, too.

So for now, let's move on.