Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Commander 2016 Instead

"I have this deck I want to test so I can write about it for the blog," I told Jason.

"Oh. I thought we were just going to play the new Commander decks, so I didn't bring any sixties."


But on the other hand, we got multiple plays of each new Commander deck and I can tell you what we thought of those.

Atraxa, Praetors' Voice: had some really great synergies going on with it and we both could see the deck being an absolute wrecking ball. I don't know who decided Cathars' Crusade in there, but that card is just mean with Atraxa. Counters are difficult to eradicate and this deck plays that angle well.

Yidris, Maelstrom Wielder: emphasized the more chaotic nature of its Commander. Jason played against it and thought it was interesting-as did I-but as the pilot, I felt like it's potential power was a little too rooted in Yidris. Cascade is a very powerful ability but getting the trigger isn't reliable. This deck is possibly the one that, with savvy refinement, would be the most likely to come out of nowhere to win the game. Certainly, I cast some haymakers to mess with the board when I played.

Breya, Etherium Shaper: we believed had some of the greatest potential. The commander is incredibly flexible and if you play with the partners instead, the deck still has some real stopping power. The "broadest" of the decks, meaning that there was a lot of different avenues of attack here: combo was possible, aggro was possible, control could be manifested too and you could make those decisions right out of the box.

Kynaios and Tiro of Meletis: this deck suffered from being played 1v1. We both felt that the deck really wanted a 3-5 player game to shine. When confronted with a singular opponent, there were just too many resources available to that opponent and not enough diversion away from Kynaios and Tiro. This deck might also be the one that requires the most refinement to be a proper 'group hug' deck. We didn't get a chance to try it with the partner commanders though so the question of how well it might perform with different leadership (if you will) remains unanswered.

Saskia the Unyielding: was a surprise to both of us. The commander's ability is brutal in 1v1 games and the potential to play a real aggro deck in multiplayer is genuine, in our humble opinions. There's enough creatures in those colors that are difficult to block (our first thought was shadow creatures) that the chance to end one player's game while having a massive impact on a second one-especially one hiding behind cards like Propaganda- should not be underestimated. This is the real deal.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Playing On Tilt

Liked this video about playing and getting better after mistakes.

Sorry I don't have more: I'm playing some games with The Boys and I'm getting things lined up there but the election has got me grinding my gears. And not just mine, my friends, too so it's not always easy to line up time to play. Still, I've gotten a few games in with the current, not very tweaked newest version and so far what I've learned is...this deck doesn't do great in multiplayer.

I was out last night with Noah and Matt and the three player games were not kind to The Boys. Mana was an issue and I'm starting to think even a couple U/R or G/R lands might be helpful. I wasn't shy of Blue or Green mana but Red was rarely timely on the board.

In addition, I'm starting to see how dominant Magus of the Bazaar is. When the Magus shows up early, I have the potential to power through the snags that are inevitable to any game of Magic, should I play wisely.

Noah has suggested Key to the City to help duplicate the Magus's effect, which I like for two reasons: first, it gives me a pseudo copy of Wonder to run and second, as an artifact it's less susceptible to the most common forms of removal. I like the idea but I'm a little wary of the mana costs. In order to really get something back from the Key, I have to pay two mana and The Boys Got That Look is a stingy deck.

On the other hand, next week I'm off to Seattle and there will be many games against Jason. I'll try to work something up for Tuesday the 22nd, (Happy Thanksgiving everyone & safe travels!) but after that the next post won't be until the 29th. That said, Jason usually provides me with some very good games and good suggestions so I'm eager to see what comes of that.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

The Hate Cards

This post at MTGgoldfish describes the usefulness of hate cards to keep strategies from overrunning a format. I rather like the idea and I think it accurately diagnoses an important tool that Wizards needs to use to keep metagames in check.

Which is why I think more removal for Planeswalkers need to be printed.

Again: for every other permanent type, there is frequent common rarity removal printed for that type. Planeswalkers are the only permanent type that have this exception: Mold Shambler and Rootgrapple are the only current exceptions to this and both of those cards cost 5+ mana, which I don't think is terribly out of line, and are 7+ years old, which IS.

WotC might think that keeping Planeswalkers at the mythic rarity is helping but that's only driving prices up. Now I'm seeing a lot of control decks that want to use Planeswalkers as their victory conditions, which means it's only going to get worse.

So; hate cards. And common level Planeswalker removal. Or at least uncommon rarity, if they want to try and keep the supertype special.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


On Election Day, I did not want to be around televisions. It has been a difficult 2016 and I will admit, I was fed up.

So I went and played some Commander with Caitlin and Matt; her with an Ob Nixilus demon themed deck, him with Jolrael lands as creatures deck.

The first round I was playing Karona-Allies, the second Kaysa and I lost, both times. Mistakes were assuredly made but I spend my time with good people doing something I enjoy. Not much more to say than that.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Good Guys Cuttin' And Runnin'

I may have been too hasty in my attempt to improve The Boys. It's a pretty common mistake: Are the cards I'm playing good enough, vs Can I play my cards?

And I am having trouble playing my cards. Which means mana issues. Given that I'm playing a three color deck with minimal fixing and zero dual lands, I really should have started there first. But in testing with Noah and Fuz, I repeatedly had color issues and couldn't play the cards I was hoping to play.

I did fair against a U/W Spirits deck Fuz was piloting while still noting said issues but as you can see in this picture, once his G/B Infect deck arrived there wasn't much for me to do except die.

Games went similarly against Noah: if I hit all my color drops, I had a deck that could pose a threat but it couldn't close. This is one reason why I started looking at my other card selection first. Color screw happens, so I didn't think it was noteworthy until it happened repeatedly.

Which is something I kept in mind while playing Lauriel, even though I won our matches.

Because even though I was fortunate enough to hit my land and color drops, she wasn't and it allowed me to ride an Aquamoeba to victory. I am not trying to revel in her defeat: I want to take this lesson in so I learn from the example.

Tri-color wedge lands, like ones that would produce RUG are difficult to come by, though. Khans block had a limited run and I've used them in other decks already. But what I know for sure is that my suite of Kodama's Reach and Wayfarer's Bauble isn't quite what I want.

So maybe Evolving Wilds?

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Strange Television Distortion

I have started off my evaluation of The Boys Got That Look by looking at what's new with Madness. Looking over the list, it's a little grim, given my color combination. Chilling Grasp costs more with the Madness cost; there are a ton of black cards that won't fit the color scheme at all, there are no green cards to add, and there isn't another red creature with stats comparable to Reckless Wurm. Many of the other red cards are tied into vampires and that's not super helpful either, with the possible exception of Stromkirk Occultist.

That leaves me with not too many options: Just the Wind, Welcome to the Fold, Abandon Reason and Avacyn's Judgement stand out.

So, maybe I should look at this from a different angle?

Let's look at what cards in my colors want me to discard for an effect. There's only 455 of them, what can it hurt?

Man. That's a pretty nuts list and it really needs to be whittled down, somehow. So OK: let's take a look at The Boys.

Everything that I want to play stops at three mana. Wonder isn't ever meant to be played: It's graveyard bound so all my stuff flies and if I have to actually cast the card, I'm in trouble. Arrogant and Reckless Wurm are supposed to be played via Madness: again, if I have to play them the hard way, I'm likely losing that game already.

So if I narrow things down to cards with a converted mana cost of three or less my list gets shortened to...279 cards. Which is still pretty daunting but does cut a big chunk away. Eliminating the word "random", a common drawback for many red cards and one I haven't built the deck to play around, brings this to 257.

Unfortunately, even with a list narrowed down to a manageable number, my choices are pretty grim. There really isn't much to add, which makes this a bit of a pickle.

Maybe I need to look into cards that can be played from the graveyard? In R/U that generally means Flashback but in Green there might be more options. Unearth may also provide some buttress to my deck, especially if I can find some solid tempo cards to put me ahead. Scourge Devil looks especially promising, although it definitely wants a Wonder in the graveyard to make it really good.

May have to run it by some friends, too, see if they have any ideas.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Commander 2016 review

Link to the card gallery is here!

So...what do I think? Well, I think that it's best to tell you up front that I'm going to talk about the set as a whole, not the individual decks. My personal recommendation is, as always, to buy all of them. WotC has a track record of making really solid Commander decks and I think this year continues that trend.

I think that most of the 4 color commanders are pretty bonkers. This is fitting, as producing four colors of mana isn't easy and rarely doable by turn four, even in Commander. Of them, Breya seems to be the weakest but there are absolutely ways to make her work.

I also want to give some credit to the designers of Partner, the big new mechanic that's allowing for more 4 color commanders. I think the color combinations will allow for people to really have some fun and create new decks. Few of those abilities seem overpowered but there are definitely some synergies to exploit. Or just weird combinations to try! This should be a cool chance to really get weird. I approve of that.

You know what else I approve of: That these mechanics don't exclude me from putting one of these cards in a 60 card deck. Akiri, Line-Slinger is a good card in a RW Vehicles deck, for example. Contrast this with Derevi, who really only makes sense as a Commander, and you'll see what I mean.

On Undaunted: another mechanic I appreciate. Still can be played in games that are not Commander, be they two headed giant, chaos, or regular duels, they just improve with more opponents. (Although these cards in 2HG? That seems like Really Good Stuff!)

But why are the Black and Red ones ( Curtains' Call and Divergent Transformations) so weak? White and Blue get global reset buttons, Green is a permanent boost across the board...Black and Red target two things? Divergent Transformations is a bit more versatile, I suppose but neither of these cards are ones I want to run that badly.

Oh well: they can't all be winners.

There aren't that many new cards, either; brushing aside the Commanders themselves, as they will be somewhat popular no matter what, other standouts for me include: Deepglow Skate, Manifold Insights, Orzhov Advokist. Entrapment Maneuver, Curse of Vengeance, the artwork on Magus of the Will, Frenzied Fugue (this is an effect I've been waiting to see executed in Red), Runehorn Hellkite, Stonehoof Chieftain, Ancient Excavation, Grave Upheaval, and Treacherous Terrain, which will become a finisher for every RG deck I can think of, then finally Ash Barrens, which has the cheapest landcycle cost. The new artifacts don't really grab me, for some reason.

Which leaves us with the reprints!

The first thing I have to say about that is: It's cool to see some Conspiracy cards (like Custodi Soulbinders) reappear here. Conspiracy isn't exactly a difficult to find set but it also didn't have the same rush to open packs as a Standard set, so I think it's great to have those cards reprinted and I hope WotC continues to keep these things coming.

In White, Reveillark and Wave of Reckoning are cool to see again. Blue getting another run of Evacuation is a positive. I like Beacon of Unrest getting a reprint for Black but it always bugs me when they don't reprint the cycle. It's a personal thing, I know. Red getting a reprint of Chaos Warp is great: it was getting expensive and it's effect is cool. Same for Past in Flames. Green's only notable reprint is Oath of Druids, which I have to admit is very surprising but definitely welcome.

For the multicolored cards, Baleful Strix, Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Ghave, Guru of Spores, and Zedruu the Greathearted are good to see again. In the artifact and land realm, Chromatic Lantern, Commander's Sphere, Forbidden Orchard, Homeward Path, and Murmuring Bosk are additions that work.

However, I am underwhelmed by the selection this time. Nothing genuinely surprising and Sol Ring again is a waste of a slot. Maybe I'm just spoiled by the cool things they did with Kaladesh and Take The Crown. Also, since none of these decks have been played yet, there are likely undiscovered synergies based around the cards provided and I don't want to knock them just yet.

Still, my impressions of last year's set were stronger. I don't think this is bad, by any means and I'm looking forward to seeing how they play!