Tuesday, August 15, 2017

No Such Thing

 I've been playing some Magic at the Tonic lounge when I get the chance, but the format is frequently Commander. Which means I haven't had much of an opportunity to test I Hate It When That Happens To Me, sadly.

What I am happy to say, though, is that the people at the Tonic have been pretty friendly and fairly decent players. I've been having a good time playing with strangers and sometimes that's really tricky.

In the meantime, I've come across this article at Channelfireball, which has me pondering how to play my best game.

If there is no such thing as a perfect game, then striving for a mindset where I evaluate my options for the highest risk/reward might help me see the game from other player's points of view.

That is an especially useful skill in Commander where the boardstate can look very different to me as it might to someone else. Measuring out my play in Commander has been a frequent challenge, where I find myself or my permanents targeted without understanding why-because to me, there is clearly a much bigger problem at the table. It's only later in the game as more information is revealed that I understand.

Although not always. Sometimes people just boggle me.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Curses!

The Commander spoilers are starting to go up and I believe the entire lists are published tomorrow.

Now, while I can't really say I'm excited about the decks, conceptually-tribal decks dragons, vampires, wizards and cats and I can't get excited about any of those redundant monsters, and only four of them...eh, ok-what I can say is that I'm happy to see Curses finding a home in the format.

I love Curses. I like the mechanical way they exist in the game, I like how they can be tweaked for multiplayer, and the flavor of them is so much fun.You play a wizard, it's long overdue that we should be able to curse our opponents, so having more options with that Curse type is cool to me.

WotC seems to be enjoying the way they can be used politically in Commander and I am all for it. Anything that helps break up the stalemates that can exist on the board. As with the Monarch mechanic in Conspiracy, I like the way they're trying to keep the game pushing forward.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Man Who Was Going Insane

I think this deck is going to be one of those odd situations where I rarely win, but when I can pull it out it will feel really satisfying.

Now, some of the readers are aware of the Magic Bracket but if not: it's a massive vote to determine the best Magic card of all. And it was in a recent poll that I saw Mikaeus, the Lunarch up for vote. I had a little thunderbolt moment: Mikaeus can be searched up by Ranger of Eos!

Do I want this effect, though? It just seemed like I was pressing IHIWTHTM in the wrong direction-combat instead of Aetherflux Reservoir.

In my first run of tests against Noah, I was to find out: I lost the first game by overextending my board into a Wrath effect but in the second game, I landed an Ajani Goldmane and used it's -1 ability, which quickly tilted the game in my direction.

Alright, I thought, let's see what happens when I take out Soul of Theros for Mikaeus...

Noah approved of this idea.

He also proceeded to murder Mikaeus whenever it hit the board, so that I would never see it in action.

So I suppose I'm on the right track!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I Hate It When That Happens To Me

I Hate It When It That Happens To Me is named after a John Prine song. Not my usual reservoir for titles but it's a pretty good song. I blame my Dad for introducing me to it.
4 Aetherflux Reservoir

2 Soul of Theros
4 Martyr of Sands
4 Soul's Attendant
4 Rhox Faithmender
4 Aerial Responder
2 Ajani's Sunstriker
2 Ranger of Eos

2 Beacon of Immortality

3 Windbrisk Heights
2 Forbidding Watchtower
18 Plains

3 Ajani Goldmane

4 Fumigate
2 Spectral Procession
Readers might recognize the skeleton of this deck; Soul Sisters is a long standing Tier 1.5-2 deck in Modern and just over a year ago, I helped a buddy build a budget version of it. The big question was: What's the win condition, given Serra Ascendant is out of the price range?

I don't remember what my answer was, then but I think we built the best deck we could, while keeping in his budget.

A few months later, Aetherflux Reservoir comes out and I immediately email him with a link to the card saying "This is it!"

Which inspired me to build my own version of the deck...eventually. I don't know that it'll be great, but paying 50 life to do 50 damage to an opponent seems pretty sweet to me. Having a backup plan of attacking with creatures pumped by Ajani Goldmane isn't a bad thing as these notions go, so I'm running with it.

There's a few placeholder cards in there: Soul of Theros is the most obvious one and Windbrisk Heights is likely to be cut. Beacon of Immortality is expensive but the effect is too good to ignore and the ability to win at instant speed isn't a bad thing.

Now to see where this takes me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Perfect Practice

It was Noah who suggested that I should swap Swords to Plowshares out for Path to Exile.

I should've seen this before but I suppose it does speak to the raw power of this build: I've been able to overcome the lifegain drawback from StP and still have a chance to win.

Noah also pointed out that Path has positive interactions for me with Unexpectedly Absent, where I could potentially get rid of a creature without Path's drawback, because my opponent wouldn't want to shuffle his/her deck.If they do decide to shuffle, then odds are they are hoping for something better than they have and that's also a good sign.

Unfortunately, none of my games with Noah provided me with an opportunity use Unexpectedly Absent.
My games with Matt, however, were another story. A little bit of a bummer for him, since he suggested that tech, having to be on the bad end of it.

I had a difficult decision early in a game against his mono-white control deck: he'd played a Mox Diamond and my turn two had just started. I decided to take a risk cast Unexpectedly Absent for zero to put the Diamond back on his library.

My thinking was that if he didn't have another land in hand to discard, I've just seriously impacted the early game and I can take advantage.

If he had another land to discard, odds are he wouldn't have a second land to play and again, we'd be in the same place.

Unfortunately, the worst case happened; He had two lands in hand, so my attempt at setting him back was for naught. After the game was over and I'd taken my loss, Matt said I should've held back and waited but I thought I had an opportunity to jumpstart my game over his and I'm just not sure that I made the wrong choice.

That said, I've played against Fuz a bunch over the last weekend-my game versus his mono-b zombie deck is pictured-and Triggerhappy overperformed. I won far, far more games than I expected to, and that was without replacing Swords with Path. Unexpectedly Absent was good and even usable with Kari Zev's Expertise for zero. That's pretty sweet for an X spell.

So I think that's the final chapter. I've been running this deck for a long time and I think it's as good as it's going to get.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Busy busy

Sorry, everyone, I'm super busy this week with a friend in town and two beer festivals. I'm playing Magic where I can but I haven't had time to write up a solid post, so today I'm taking off.

Back on track starting Tuesday. Cheers!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Round 2

Fight!

The link actually takes you to the first batch of voting for round 2 of the Magic Bracket-the vote to determine the best Magic card ever.

I have found out that the person running the bracket believes Hex is one of, if not the, best cards ever.

No. No no no. But! There's plenty of time for your voice to be heard, too. Check it out!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Multiple Calibers

I spent most of Saturday night doing one thing; playing Triggerhappy against whatever Jason threw against it.

In the end, he suggested that four Hazoret was too many and maybe splitting the selection between that and Ogre Battledriver and Bedlam Reveler was wise.

So now I mix and match. The strength of Triggerhappy is still the Young Pyromancer/Monastery Mentor engine, but with the new additions, hopefully I can shore up the card draw and make going wide a stronger possibility.

One very weird thing has been the mana: it seems like I usually get a lot of land! I am still reluctant to cut them any further, though. It just feels like pushing a button that leads to a door with an unhappy tiger in it, instead of wins.

However, after a series of games against Matt, he had a really intriguing suggestion: Unexpectedly Absent.

Being pinned down by Humility in several games, or just found myself in a board stall from a non-creature source, Unexpectedly Absent might just be the trick I've been looking for.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Really Limited information

This is a fantastic post at MTGgoldfish about WotC's recent decision to continue limiting data to players. It's long, it's thorough, and it's worth the read.

I've never, ever liked how WotC used "market research" as a justification for their decisions-be it the dismissal of Llorwyn and Kamigawa (both sets that had poor deckbuilding environments yet are cited as being 'too cute' or 'too esoteric' for players for WotC to go back to), that 40% of women play Magic (and I don't think that's a bad thing-just wondering how that number exists...) to the justification for double-faced cards, which people apparently love, or worse, the meld mechanic which people apparently looooooove. (I despise both of those things, and the meld mechanic especially).

One way to combat this? Transparent data, where available-and decklists should be one of those places.

The flimsy justification that formats get solved too quickly because of the volume of data feels more like a way to cover their ass when the Standard format goes wrong because of poor design and poor development decisions, rather than a way to actually increase the diversity and interest in Magic. It also seems like a way to give pro players a huge edge, as they will work together, and thin out the possibilities for up and comers who have to work solo.

I don't like either of those things.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Divine Option

Stone Quarry was replaced by Temple of Triumph. You knew that was coming.

But Hazoret; that might've been new. Oketra the True isn't a terrible option, since she leans into the "go wide" aspect of the deck but I'm starting with Hazoret the Fervent first, because if the creature game stalls, Oketra can't close the game out. Hazoret can.

So instead of Bedlam Reveler, we have a heavenly option.

My tests haven't yielded much, just yet. I was able to play Fuz two matches: one against a G/B deck using Darkest Hour and Elephant Grass with pro-black creatures. I lost that match, and felt a bit dumb doing so. Not because the deck idea is dumb; because if I had one Disenchant, I can with that game.

But I couldn't get going fast enough and now, more than ever, I am convinced that a general sideboard would be great. Wear/Tear, if I have to. What would Fuz bring in? Would it be enough to make this a truly bad matchup for me? It just seems pretty stupid to die to that combo-but, creature decks being prevented from attacking is an old standby.

My second matchup didn't tell me much either, unfortunately. This was against a U/G milling deck and it didn't have-or didn't find-any mass creature control. One resolved Monastery Mentor meant that I could usually overwhelm him.

Our decks were just operating on different planes and my angle of attack was more efficient than his.

Hazoret did make appearances; the one game I won in the G/B matchup I did so in part because I could discard spare cards to it to do damage, and because Fuz let the upkeep on the Elephant Grass slip.

The opening allowed me to use Boros Charm to bestow double strike, and Burning Shoal to provide +2, leading to an attack for 14.

I would say that this wasn't encouraging or discouraging, at least for now. What gives me hope is that Fuz said that he liked that addition. So there's that. We'll see how it pays out.




Tuesday, July 11, 2017

What Makes You Tilt

I saw this Reddit thread and gave it a browse. I saw myself in there, with other people also getting in a bad headspace when they don't play well.

On the other hand, I was happy to see that I've gotten to a space where a lot of the variance issues that happen in Magic generally don't get to me. Mana screw/flood? Meh. That happens.

It used to: one of the things that sent me on tilt frequently was having my cards milled into my graveyard. This was especially bad in the days before the graveyard really became the kind of resource that it is now and all I could see was the potential I had being denied me. "But I could've cast that!" was what my brain kept yelling, especially when an out to a bad situation would be denied to me.

No. You couldn't because you can't. It took months for me to get to that headspace but once I did, I started to simply ignore the graveyard, except in circumstances where I needed information from it. It didn't help me, why feed that demon?

I recall hearing or reading words to this effect: Only pay attention to what matters.

It's a lot harder for me to tilt when that's the case and I need to keep remembering that as I go forward, especially since I'm hoping to play more often at Tonic's Magic night!

Playing against strangers opens up new challenges and learning opportunities for me and I have to admit, I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Hour of Devastation Overview

The full spoiler is out and here.

I have to say, I'm a bit more intrigued with this set than I was with Amonkhet, although I think both sets have some gems in them that are being overshadowed by Kaladesh block. Time will tell but I think this is going to give us some cool things to enjoy.

Let's start with the new mechanical stuff:

Eternalize: Really underused. The ability itself isn't a bad one-extra mana to get a creature back from the dead? Not bad. But the only time WotC decided to do something interesting with this ability beyond "pay huge mana costs" was with Sunscourge Champion and Sinuous Striker.This makes the ability pretty weak; I'm seeing six mana on average as the cost and it feels really inappropriate. Why would you pay six mana for a 4/4 nothing creature? What's the logic behind paying five mana and discarding for a 4/4 creature with a +1/-1 pump ability?

Why is that? The more I look at it, the less I like it.

New Exert stuff: a reasonable spin to keep the old mechanic interesting. Nothing crazy but at least some respectable turns on the mechanic to make compelling decisions.

Afflict: this seems interesting! It's definitely there to reward players for attacking and I don't object to that. Making blocking decisions and the when/where to use your removal seems like a decent gameplay enhancement.

New Cycling stuff: why is the only really interesting cycling card Nimble Obstructionist? Did they use up all the other "when you cycle" this triggers in Onslaught?

The Desert matters subtext; from a storytelling perspective, this is pretty cool. From a gameplay perspective I'm not as high on it. Similar things were attempted with Snow lands and they never really went anywhere. They were wise, however, to include cycling on the deserts and allow cards to trigger on deserts in the graveyard. 

More -1 counter antics: I can't say that they did a lot with this and while that's not surprising-WotC has said that -1 counters are a narrow field, mechanically- I'm still a little disappointed that they didn't shake it up just a touch.

Specific cards I find interesting:

White: First, there's the continuation of the zombie creature theme from Amonkhet. However, what's also interesting is the mechanical extension of that theme with Disposal Mummy.

That's really it: Overwhelming Splendor is going to bring the Humility headaches to the modern audience so...that's exciting?

Blue: Kefnet's Last Word is going to be better than people think. Riddleform is a clever implementation of that characteristic in Blue.

Black: Ammit Eternal has some nice stuff happening and is probably really good in a discard deck. Scrounger of Souls for the rarely seen black lifelink effect. Torment of Hailfire is probably a 'win more' card but I do like it.

Red: Birth of Blades is an ok start but the lion's share of interesting stuff is in this color, I think. Hazoret's Undying Fury, Hour of Devastation and Imminent Doom make a hell of a set of interesting cards, Neheb, the Eternal and Wildfire Eternal also go a long way towards sprucing the color up.

Green: is a bit dull. Majestic Myriarch is probably the card with the most text in the set. Rhona's Last Stand might find its way into some old school green stompy decks.

Multicolored: Refuse/Cooperate and Driven/Despair are both under the radar, I think. The other cards are more obviously flashy, though the enemy God cycle is pretty solid.

Artifacts/Lands: Only Mirage Mirror really looks different. There are fifteen deserts, so at least cards with that subtheme will be able to take advantage.

The disappointing stuff:
The Planeswalker "defeat" cycle. This is not what I mean when I say we need better tools to control planeswalkers.

Green didn't get an Aura-Curse. Which would be fine if White didn't get one; the story themes would suggest that Red/Blue/Black would get curses (and they did) because those are the antagonist's colors. What gives?

Doomfall/Supreme Will/Abrade: I really like the modality of these cards and wish it had been a complete cycle. I would understand why it wasn't because Nicol Bolas is B/U/R except the curses got something?Also, white seems to be awfully complicit with B/U/R and green not so much. Perhaps a story thing?

Chaos Maw-couldn't have dealt 4 damage? Or cost six mana? Seven mana is pretty absurd. Also, Resilient Khena and Earthshaker Khena are pretty meager for their effect and rarity.

Djeru, With Eyes Open; WotC, we do NOT NEED PLANESWALKER PROTECTION. Those stupid cards already create a subgame while adding X to the controller's life total where X is the planeswalker's loyalty.

Creating a Demonic Tutor for planeswalkers that also protects planeswalkers above and beyond what a creature already does, is just so unnecessary. Ugh. I guess I object less that Djeru exists and more that there aren't effective ways to manage planeswalkers.

Ah well. I'll know more once I get my hands on it and I'm already looking out for cards to fit the Garbage cube.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Strike the Cartridge

After over a week of testing, I'm starting to think it doesn't matter if Ogre Battledriver or Bedlam Reveler is the card.

They both do something and do it well. Battledriver is more beneficial in multiplayer situations, where having multiple, hasted, boosted creatures is a good thing. It's terrible on it's own, however.

Reveler is both a great way to refill my hand if the game stalls and a useful "gotcha" card combined with Burning Shoal. But it doesn't help me "go wide" like Battledriver does. Going wide isn't necessary in 1v1 situations, though.

So maybe the answer is: Neither?

The obvious way to make Triggerhappy a better deck is to add blue. That's a good way to make most decks better though, so what does that really say?

However, testing has not been without uses. Against Matt's mono-white prison deck, I was able to glean that the sideboard for this should have artifact and enchantment removal, and perhaps a little graveyard control.

So that's good to know. I think that I'm going to start creating those "generic" sideboards. They won't always be necessary but when someone has a deck they want to test, they should come in pretty handy and help me get and provide more information.

In the meantime, it feels as though Triggerhappy doesn't quite have the right card that it wants and I need to do some more exploring.

Caitlin suggested changing the lands up; at 22, I may have too many but with the addition of cards like Temple of Triumph I could help smooth things out better while getting a "free" spell.

And that is one place I haven't explored much; mana base tweaks, so I think that's next.


Friday, June 30, 2017

Every Time

As someone who grew into the game with a lot of these adages, I found this article to be particularly helpful.

Bolt the Bird is the one that has stuck with me but I haven't had to externalize the meaning of it in a long, long time. That is to say; one destroys the acceleration of the opponent's deck in order to force them to play on your terms.

But if destroying the acceleration doesn't do that, then there isn't any point is wasting resources there, as that forces you to play on theirs.

However, that second sentence rarely goes said.

On the other hand, I recently played a game against Lauriel where she had me down to one life while she was at sixteen-all she needed to do was draw a spell and the game was over. I didn't see a way out of it and was about to concede but she insisted I play on.

And I won that game. Which was the second time in as many months that this had happened.

There are a few interesting things about this for me-one of them is that when I concede in person, I am almost never incorrect to do so. The body language of my opponent often tells me I should move on. I don't have that knowledge online and I need to both play accordingly and pay attention to my own cues when playing in real space.

I am starting to wonder how often I challenge what I "know" about Magic and what baseline rules I really can keep in mind, in order to play a better game.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Absent Bedlam


So I took Triggerhappy to other people in order to get suggestions and recommendations. Kari Zev's Expertise is still awesome.

The thing is, nobody really had any strong opinions. Sure, the Reveler could be great. Sure the Ogre Battledriver could be great. However, there wasn't a clear "yes, that is better and what you should do" argument.

Which means that there's nothing else to do but try Triggerhappy without Bedlam Reveler and see what happens.

However, if I'm going to remove Bedlam Reveler then some adjustments need to be made. Accepting that there is a loss of Burning Shoal interactions, (hopefully made up by the bonus Battledriver gives) what is next?

1) I need to go all the way up to four Battledriver. The threat count is too low for my comfort and, if Fuz is right, having one show up is critical for my win condition. Four also means that testing will be more fruitful, as the card will show up frequently.

2) I need a way to draw cards. In white this is practically nonexistent and in red this is...difficult. However, Faithless Looting exists and is probably my best bet. Four mana to see four cards and pick my best ones is hard to top.

I'll start there and see what happens. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Suggestion

I've been experimenting. That's a good thing but I haven't really seen how it pays out yet.

First, I tried Collective Effort. It looks cool, right? Those tokens created off the Mentor or Pyromancer aren't immediately useful (hence Ogre Battlemaster) so why not take out their best creature and boost my team? But it just didn't play out very effectively. I would consider giving it more time but given what Triggerhappy wants to do (go wide with lots of creatures) I'm not sure that a simple +1 counter is really amazing.

Kari Zev's Expertise was next up and I liked this card more. The "Traitor" effect is frequently useful and I have enough cheap spells that the second ability comes in handy. This lead to trying out Boros Charm over Make a Stand, because free stuff is free.

Sram's Expertise, on the other hand, felt like too little, too late. That test didn't last very long.

Fuz took a look at the deck and, after some thought said to me:

"I don't see why Bedlam Reveler is in there."

"Because it helps reload my hand," I told him.

"But it doesn't come out until turn 4 at best and if you get an Ogre Battlemaster that isn't dealt with immediately, you win," he replied.

Removing the Reveler is not what I want to do. It feels like a bad idea: Reveler doesn't just refill my hand and provide a decent body to attack with, it also has some fantastic interactions with Blazing Shoal. Trust me, you only have to hit an unwary opponent for 10+ once to see how useful that is.

These arguments were not convincing to Fuz. As we spoke, I had to admit that I might've been falling into the Glory of Cool Things trap. He thinks Reveler is "win more". I think it does something critical-refills my hand while providing a board presence.

There's only one way to find out.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bang-Bang

Oh, MAN am I behind. Sorry!

So let's start with this image from a game I played against Lauriel.

Here's what I learned: I cannot beat both a Ghostly Prison and a Propaganda.

With a deck that wants to swarm the opponent and goes low on the mana in order to do it, having the protection of those enchantments just blows me out.

Which is OK, actually. First, it means that I know my sideboard material: Orim's Thunder.

Second, there are a pretty limited number of these kinds of taxing effects and not too many decks run them. And while Wall of Denial is a pain in the butt, it can be nullified via swarm tactics.

It is for this very reason, though, that I built decks with Disenchant in them. In the years when Jason was my primary opponent, having a Disenchant in my deck was often the difference between winning and losing. Being able to follow up on such an effect was often where my deckbuilding skills faltered. But I was certainly prepared for my opponent!

Now that my opponents offer a greater range of decks to play, I don't auto-include those cards anymore.

It's giving me an idea, though: what if I built a "generic" sideboard? I have five-maybe more-R/W decks. Why not set aside fifteen cards that could fill in the gaps? I could streamline the maindeck stuff, while having that backup plan. And until I take a deck to a tournament, having a general purpose sideboard could be far more useful than just having to grimly accept every Achilles' Heel.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The First Round

Some good, some bad.

I've managed to play a couple multiplayer games piloting Triggerhappy and the results will probably not be a big surprise:

It's very draw dependent.With only 17 creatures and few card drawing effects, sticking a threat early is important.

Unfortunately, going down to five or fewer cards in multiplayer is incredibly unwise, so I don't do that. It's not good to do down to four or less in 1v1 games, either however the curve on Triggerhappy is so low that if I can cast a threat turn two, I can get away with it.

However, this is the choice I find myself frequently confronted with regarding this deck: needing to get that threat out early so the deck can work.

I almost took a picture of the last game I lost, to prove the point. In this case, I had six lands and zero permanents.When you're the low man on the totem pole in multiplayer, people take advantage of that. I don't blame 'em, I just know it doesn't give me much to work with in terms of improving the deck.

On the other end of the spectrum, when I can play two Monastery Mentors and have them go untouched, everyone else is pretty much screwed. Again, this is such a "well duh" moment that I don't get a lot of information out of it.

What does this all mean?

It means that, at least so far, Triggerhappy is stuck with one of my least favorite qualities for a Magic deck: you have to aggressively mulligan.

It also has one of my favorite qualities for a Magic deck: resilience. If you can get a threat-even one-Triggerhappy can grow faster than grass and turn a game around.

Still, I just have a feeling that there's some sharpening of this edge to do. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Core Sets Are Returning

There's a lot of information coming out this week-Aetherworks Marvel was just banned in Standard, Tuesday (which is what happens when you don't have enough artifact destruction)-but the first big news is how sets will be released in the future.

I have to say that overall, I think these changes are good things. Good Core sets can be great training grounds for new players as well as allowing for interesting reprints, a la the Commander sets, and cool new cards, like M15 had. In addition, it lets WotC put in necessary answers to situations that wouldn't fit thematically in any of the 'world' sets. That kind of flexibility seems like it will be good for the overall health of Magic

Plus, it means that my expenses will go down as I don't have to buy all new cards every three months. I can pick and choose from the Core sets the things I want, and there is always something cool.

I'm quite thankful that we will get less Gatewatch focused cards. Not much to add there.

I'm disappointed about the Masterpiece series becoming intermittent, although I understand the reasoning, in a big picture sense. However, the bit about "the audience never quite warmed up to it (the Amonkhet invocations)" because they felt they had to change those  "to a flavor-based theme built around the Gods, but it required explaining", is absolutely false.

Look at this. This is bad visual design. This isn't the audience needing an explanation, this is the audience telling you that there was a massive failure and it's WotC's cock up of design that has us down on these cards, not the Masterpieces themselves.

A reddit user articulated my fears: "Masterpieces will just go in sets they (WotC) aren't confident about."

Right. They'll use this as a carrot to sell packs. I would've been happier if they had kept the series and instead printed fewer cards. Of the 30 reprints, only 5 are from Amonkhet and 25 cards to elevate to Masterpiece each time is too many, even with Magic's long, interesting history.

Still, I'm glad that this will continue to go forward. Reprints like this are useful tools to help both reduce the prices of expensive cards while still boosting the secondary market and I see it as a win-win.

Finally, the Play Design group is a very interesting notion but until the Friday article goes up, really explaining what it is they do, I don't feel comfortable commenting on it, yet.

Finally-finally, this image of Ixalan? Hits all my buttons. I want pirates and dinosaurs.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Best Worst Card

I like this fellow's thoughts on One With Nothing.

Magic is a lot of things to a lot of people and I try to keep that in mind when I'm talking about the game. There are a lot of perspectives out there and while a great many of the most prominent voices concentrate on the "pro" aspect-that is, how to best arrange decks to win the game-there is a great deal to be said for those people who just ignore that aspect.

I have to admit, cards like One With Nothing also help fuel my (mildly) obsessive card collecting. You never know when something that looks terrible might be awesome! Or find the deck that makes it shine...or just inspires me to do something weird.

Which means that I hope that designs like One With Nothing keep making it through R&D. It's frequently in the weird places that Magic can really blossom into the great game that it is.

Finally, I'm sorry I didn't get this up last Thursday; I should be back on track now. 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Garbage Cube & Amonkhet Selections

OK, sorry everyone but after coming back from California, I just haven't had the opportunity to get many games in.

So instead, let's talk about what I'll be adding to my Cube.

Here's a link to the latest Garbage Cube list.

For those of you who don't know; my cube is an attempt to assemble the worst Magic cards from every set I own, Highlander style (so one card from each color) and make a playable Cube.

This is offset by a ton of mana fixing, which is also bad but those are the cards where I break my "one-of" rule. The other spot is that in big sets, I usually add in an extra card in order to keep the creature ratio high.

In the sets that are highest rated for limited play, Ravnica, Rise of the Eldrazi or Innistrad, for example, the creature density was higher than sets like Mirage or Invasion. I needed more creatures and the bigger sets are the best place to find them.

While the card is supposed to be bad, it's supposed to be bad because it's a crappy Magic card, not because it's got an inherent disadvantage. For example; Break Open, while a crappy card, is completely unplayable in my Cube as there are no targets. That's not what I want.

Nath's Buffoon, however, that works juuuust fine. So does Phytotitan.

So what from Amonkhet should go in?

White's offerings are Sparring Mummy, Rhet-Crop Spearmaster, Winged Shepherd and Compulsory Rest are my candidates. Compulsory Rest is a definite winner because it gives the opponent something.

The creatures are trickier as they all suck for different reasons. The Mummy has a one-and-done ability, the Shepherd is expensive (but cycles so that's a ding against it) and the Spearmaster has Exert, which is a lame ability, made lamer by what exerting the Spearmaster does.

So I think it's Rhet-Crop.

For Blue, Floodwaters makes a strong case, despite being cycleable, as does Lay Claim. The creatures I'm considering are Tah-Crop Skirmisher and River Serpent.

While River Serpent is bad, it's bad in a very traditionally Blue way: overcosted dude who doesn't so what you want unless a condition is met. I've got a lot of those already. Whereas the Skirmisher is overcosted in a way that actually allows for early plays. In order to try and give Blue that sometimes-turn two play, the Skirmisher wins. Similarly, Lay Claim is an effect that isn't in the Cube much, so for seven mana, I think I'll let this one in.

Black is next and it's a bit more difficult. Final Reward is expensive for what it does and so is Blighted Bat. Dune Beetle could provide some interesting options for the color, defensively and it's a vanilla creature on top of that.

I think Final Reward and Dune Beetle make the cut here, though.

Red has Consuming Fervor, which isn't terrible but does have a relevant downside. Warfire Javelineer could have some interesting interactions without being overpowered and Ahn-Crop Crasher is another exert creature that sucks.

In the end I went with the Crasher and, in a surprise move, By Force is going to get a shot. Red should have some mass artifact destruction and this isn't as efficient as many others so I'm sleeving it up.

Green's offerings are easier: Oashra Cultivator is an easy include. 4 mana for a basic land that enters tapped? Yeah, that's the kind of suck I want to see. Picking a spell is a little more difficult. Stinging Shot is calling out, due to the narrowness of uses but so is Dissenter's Deliverance.

Because of the artifact density of my cube, the Deliverance will get the nod. I may have to swap it out, but for now I think it's OK.

The gold and artifact cards are all just too good. I thought about the Monuments for their cost reduction affect but no, the added ability on each makes them too strong.

Cradle of the Accursed looks like a good addition: 4 mana for a 2/2 is a bad deal.

That's what I picked-should I have done something else?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trigggerhappy

I had some fun with the name of this deck because while Triggerhappy isn't one of my favorite Transformers, any deck that is using Monastery Mentor and Young Pyromancer pretty much lends itself to triggered abilities. Here we go:
4 Bedlam Reveler
4 Monastery Mentor
4 Young Pyromancer
2 Seeker of the Way
1 Sun Titan
2 Ogre Battledriver

2 Lightning Bolt
3 Gut Shot
4 Gods Willing
3 Make a Stand
3 Blazing Shoal
1 Shining Shoal
3 Pyrokinesis
3 Swords to Plowshares

9 Mountain
9 Plains
3 Stone Quarry
The basic premise (for those of you who don't see it): cast Young Pyromancer and/or Monastery Mentor, cast a bunch of spells (some hopefully for free), make tokens, swing. Bedlam Reveler helps refill the hand, and Ogre Battledriver gives those tokens haste and a damage bonus.

First thing is first: 4 Inspiring Vantage need to go in there. An aggro deck like this needs easy access to its colors and with the mana base being so tight, dual lands like the Vantage will help.

After that; I have to admit that Ogre Battledriver might be difficult to cast given the mana base and a single copy of Sun Titan looks a little silly.

But I'd be lying if I said I wasn't interested in the interactions that Gut Shot or Blazing Shoal can provide as free spells. Along those lines, Sram or Kari Zev's Expertise might be cool choices but first I'll need to run this deck through some paces.

However, it's going to have to wait for a bit: I'm headed out of town tomorrow and won't get to play Magic until I return on Tuesday. So I hope to have an update in one week, on the 1st of June, and resume regular posting from there. Cheers!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Sense of the Underworld

I've hit the wall now; I have 62 cards in the deck because I want second Whelming Wave and I don't want to cut anything.

Ain't that a pain in the butt?

I have what I need and I am consistently presented with interesting board situations but I can't find the card that pushes the margin of victory more to my side than my opponent's.

So it's time to set Safe In Mind down for a bit.

I wonder if I researched enough; Safe In Mind seemed to click so easily that maybe I didn't really dig into it as hard as I should have? Maybe I wasn't as open-minded as I should have been, because (in a rarity) Safe In Mind really is a pretty lean deck: I knew what the concept was and I pushed that concept with every card I could. The card draw is solid, the countermagic is in theme, the removal is what I need it to be and I have good tutors.

What I've noticed is that this deck wants to have a solid opening hand: SIM is not the kind of deck where I can push through a questionable hand and make it work, unless I get very lucky. No, I have to have mana and something I can do by turn 2, period.

Nothing wrong with that; there are decks that demand the player look for a strong open to work-combo decks tend to fall in this category. However, combo decks often make up for it by having an Overwhelming Turn where if the game gets to turn 4 or 5, they outright win and there's nothing the opponent can do to stop it. SIM doesn't do that.

However, it does make for some interesting and cool games and if I keep practicing with it, I'm bound to get better. However, for the blog, it's time to move on. Final decklist:

4 Dimir Signet

4 Seizan, Perverter of Truth
3 Urborg Emissary

4 Dark Suspicions

3 Arcane Denial
4 Words of Wisdom
3 Rites of Refusal
3 Rushing River
3 Clutch of the Undercity

2 Bad River
4 Sunken Ruins
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
7 Island
9 Swamp

3 Sickening Dreams
3 Alms of the Vein
2 Whelming Wave


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Player Variance

I read this article on "player variance" at Channelfireball and liked it.

It's a good reminder to find goals that aren't strictly about winning, that are about process, because the process always happens.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Twist In The Unreal

One Whelming Wave, added.

Removed: nothing. There's no point. Statistically, the difference between 60 and 61 cards isn't enough for me to consider removing something from a deck that's been working pretty well when adding a card like Whelming Wave that could really buttress everything that Safe In Mind is doing.

So: how'd it work out?

Well....I've been running into some of the drawbacks of not being able to play as often as I would like.

In a multiplayer game against Matt and Caitlin, I lost one game, won the second and I am fairly certain that I lost that first game in part because I used Whelming Wave too soon-it was my first line of defense, actually.

It shouldn't be. Sickening Dreams exists for a reason and I should prioritize elimination of threats, rather than repetition of them.

Because the Wave is for creatures I cannot easily kill. Not exactly a "last ditch" card but one I need to use carefully. 

In games against Noah, then Fuz, Whelming Wave did good stuff but again I'm having trouble sorting out the variance. I would often get so close to the board state I needed but couldn't quite get there.

My games against Lauriel were skewed and now I'm running up against the need of a sideboard. She was running a B/G deck with Stalker Hag and with that on the board, the functionality of Urborg Emissary as a bounce/blocker becomes severely limited, especially when I'm also facing down a Noxious Hatchling.

With a sideboard, I can probably handle this but without one....

Maybe a second Whelming Wave is required but now I should think about cutting a card.




Thursday, May 11, 2017

Game Trail

Believe it or not, my goal is to make every deck that I build the best deck I can build. While it is true that some concepts are just too weak or don't have the necessary support to really be a contender, I still want to turn every concept into the best possible execution of it as time and money will allow.

I also have 233 decks built. All of those decks are Legacy legal, even if they aren't Legacy competative, which means that all of them need mana to function. Of those decks, 22 of them are Commander decks. So, if I use some rough math (23 lands per standard decks, 37 per commander) that means I've got 5,667 lands in rotation right now.

That is a lot of mana. Since mana is the foundation for any Magic deck, it's important to get that right and my recent experiences with Knives has been reinforcing this: I really like the mana for that deck and how it allows me, even on a budget, to play three colors.

This is one reason why I try to purchase dual lands whenever new ones arrive. They're always useful and they can be put in any deck that uses the appropriate colors, for as long as I play the game. Magic is complicated though and I've probably increased that burden by having so many decks, but the quest to make each deck better is still there.

Which brings me to why I was looking at Game Trail last night and starting to feel overwhelmed. I have no less than 22 possible 60-card decks that this card could go into. If I wanted to put Game Trail into Commander decks, there are at least 3 of those. I don't want to put these into Commander decks though, as that format is quite a bit more forgiving when it comes to allowing players to develop their mana.

Which brings me to the Standard decks. Four R/G/W decks, three R/G/U decks, four R/G/B decks, and another nine straight R/G decks.

How the heck do I decide where to put these? What's best?

I have to do this for Choked Estuary and Foreboding Ruins, too.

I must confess, I'm a little reluctant to add these cards to the "best" deck-in this instance, Mobile Shooting Gallery, a R/G big creatures deck-because I can replace some of the weaker lands with Game Trail. Which I know sounds crazy but I have a weird need for balance and symmetry and everything to be equal.

However, I don't play my decks against me. I play them against other people and I need them to be the best they can be.

The issue really is that making this decision had me going down a rabbit hole of decks, looking at what I was doing with the mana, and I wasn't always thrilled with what I saw.

It was a little bit of a bummer, to see so many questionable decisions, to look at these decks and think, 'Do I have to start all over?'

That can feel really discouraging, especially since I don't want to just throw these lands into a deck. That's how I got into this mess to begin with! But I also don't want good cards just sitting in my binder when I could be using them to make my decks better. The foundation for any deck is good mana and these cards help that and shouldn't be ignored.

Still, sometimes I just want to throw my hands in the air and concede.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Breathing Down Your Neck

The replacements for Safe In Mind were initially easy; the familiars should become mana of some kind. Dimir Signet was an easy choice and I think a pretty good one, upping the consistency. It still allows me to play Dark Suspicions on turn 3, Seizan on turn 4, if everything lines up.

Next up was dabbling in the Sea of Madness; Alms of the Vein came in to replace Vex.

My first run of games against Fuz and Lauriel felt like I was on the right track. The extra mana from the Signets didn't put a huge dent in my ability to do things and Alms is a very good card to discard to Sickening Dreams or Rites of Refusal. It isn't much life but it's part of the chipping away strategy that Safe In Mind does while helping extend my own life total just a little bit against the ravages of opponents or Sickening Dreams.

Games against Noah didn't go quite as well. As you can see, my Urborg Emissary is facing down a gang of dudes and things are not going to end happily for me.

On the other hand, while I did not emerge victorious in most of my games against Noah, he told me that I frequently presented interesting board states for him to have to deal with. I take this as a very good sign! Getting my friends to have to contemplate a board, creating interesting situations, these things mean that I'm on the right path, I think.

I told Noah that I was having issues with really aggressive decks and was considering Aetherize as an answer to that. However, after games where I was transmuting Clutch of the Undercity, leaving me open to Noah's Cabal Therapy, I realized the issue with that: my opponents can see it coming and will just attack with one creature. 

"You know what would also go well in that deck?" Noah suggested, "Whelming Wave."

Hmmmmmm....


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Go To Turn Around

The first run with Safe In Mind felt pretty good. I had a couple games against Caitlin; the first one was especially brutal for her, because she was playing a U/G deck that wanted to draw a bunch of cards.

But future matchups also leaned in my favor, even games where I had to mulligan. Mulligans were occasionally a positive for me, because if I got a solid draw, I could get out Dark Suspicions and have even less of a hand than I did!

Caitlin was kind enough to look through the deck and she had a few suggestions starting with: Madness and Delve.

I have to admit, Madness wasn't something I had thought about but there are new cards to consider and Delve was a mechanic that came up as we were talking and I can't see a good reason why I shouldn't look into it. Sure the best cards are banned but there might be something worth having!

She also pointed out to me that the Familiars would ideally work best in decks of three colors, which is true.

This has lead me to look at the deck at large, wondering if and  how it should be revised. Because if anything, this blog has taught me that I can't afford to half-ass my deck ideas. I'm too far off the beaten trail to do so. I really do have to min-max things in my own way, so I need to let of those old notions.

I'll get on that next.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Amonkhet Survey

The link is here if you want it.

If you're new to the blog, these posts are ones that allow me to talk a little more about the surveyed cards so I can explain a little bit about why I like or dislike the card, instead of just giving WotC number data (or as they have it, Very Poor to Excellent). I feel as though there's a grain of salt element to all of this, because I haven't had a chance to play with the cards yet but these reviews are still fun for me. Let's get to it!

Hazoret's Favor: While my overall rating is Fair-this card needs a deck to be built with it in mind for it to be useful-the artwork and the flavor text were excellent, I thought. Although red-tinted art in a red border card.....sigh.

I should really ask about why they do that.

Because they even do it on (both parts of the artwork of!)-

Failure/Comply: The artwork on these cards is...just so cramped and difficult to see. I can't even really make out if it's good or bad; Comply being especially hindered by this card layout. However, F/C is cheap and useful, so it still gets a Good rating.

Scribe of the Mindful: A challenging card to rate, I felt. 2/2 for 3 mana is pretty standard and the ability is a useful one. Is it Excellent? No but Good, I think, yes. 

Oketra the True: Ah, one of the marquee cards! The art on this feels weird; I don't know why the head is turned away from the body. It's like a statue pose, instead of a living one. However, let's not mess about: the ability and stats on this card are really good and the drawback is minimal, especially in White. Excellent card is Excellent.

Shadow of the Grave: So, here's the thing about Shadow of the Grave: it's terrible. This isn't a good card for Limited formats-your ROI is too small for that to be relevant-and what deck wants it in Constructed?

A combo deck. Something very specific needs this card and will break it in half. Or at least make something interesting! So I'm rating this Fair, despite it being a Poor card, because I want to encourage these kinds of designs.

There is a nice piece of flavor text to help build the world and that helps push the card up, too.

Final Reward: UGH. I get that Black shouldn't have exile level removal at the same level as White. But THIS? Too expensive and only useful in Limited formats because you need removal.  Play value Very Poor, value Poor, because the name and flavor text were nice. The art is Fair, because in a picture that shows so much depth, having so little contrast makes it all look washed out.

Winged Shepherd: White art on a white card...but, the flavor text does some good worldbuilding, the abilities don't suck and while six mana is pricey, being able to cycle it away for W means I'm rating the card Fair, overall. In Limited, this puppy is probably even better.

Hapatra, Vizer of Poisons: Now we're talking about something interesting: a card that wants to highlight one of the mechanics of the set. I think she's Excellent, quite frankly and it's an easy decision. Her first ability boosts her second, which still operates independently and is great regardless, while her base stats are very good. Hard to do better, I think.

Protection of the Hekma: Sphere of Safety this isn't. Heck, it's not even Urza's Armor. But the artwork is great, the flavor text does good by the plane, and the ability is a static one will stack with other Protections. It's fairly costed for what it does, I think, so a Fair card it shall be.

Brute Strength: This is the kind of card that needs to be produced because that sort of combat trick can be a hell of a thing in Limited. However, that doesn't mean that this is good. Just that it's necessary. Poor rating.

Benefaction of Rhonas: Green has been getting a few cards like this since Zendikar and I think they are good cards to add to most any Green deck. Sometimes you can only get creatures, sometimes it's lands or enchantments, sometimes a combo but I think these are always useful. Good rating-and I may have underrated it, neglecting the 'put the rest of the cards into the graveyard' part, which is relevant in Standard.

Hazoret's Monument: The Monuments are all interesting designs! Part Medallion effect, part color-specific effect, wrapped in a Legendary artifact so they can't stack. Nicely balanced. Also, I think Hazoret's ability, allowing players to filter through their deck for every creature spell they cast is a great one, so I'm rating this Excellent. Probably higher than I should, but I think this card makes a strong case for being in any deck of the appropriate color.

Hyena Pack: as with Brute Strength, this is a necessary card but not a good one. The art is solid and the flavor text helps boost the card a bit but a 3/4 for four mana is a Poor card. That doesn't mean it's bad so much as it means that the only real spot for this card is in a theme deck or a Limited one.

Faith of the Devoted: When I was writing my Amonkhet Overview, I said
'Now that WotC has given us reminders that cycling triggers discard effects, I wonder if some novel or previously overlooked interactions will bubble up?'
which Faith of the Devoted could be the poster child for. There is a lot of versatility in this card and I think it's going to be a plausible addition to a few decks. Excellent stuff.

Zenith Seeker: and this is the opposite of Faith of the Devoted. Expensive, easy to kill, with an ability that's pretty meh. In Limited, this is a Fair card-which was my overall rating-but Poor for playability.

All in all, I haven't changed my opinion about the set, yet. It's OK. That's all-for now. I'm hopeful that the format will develop and show me some cool tricks. How deep those tricks go, the interactions with previous sets: that I can't say. But I'm looking at it and I'm pretty hopeful that I'll see (and maybe even discover) some cool things.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Safe In Mind

I've got a double dose for you today! Because reviewing an old deck for the third time is kinda cheap, here's the new stack I'm working on!

This is an odd duck, I'll give ya that.Then again, UNKLE is an odd band (with some cool songs).
4 Seizan, Perverter of Truth
2 Stormscape Familiar
3 Urborg Emissary
2 Nightscape Familiar

4 Words of Wisdom
3 Rites of Refusal
3 Rushing River
3 Vex
3 Arcane Denial
3 Clutch of the Undercity

4 Dark Suspicions

3 Sickening Dreams

4 Sunken Ruins
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
7 Island
9 Swamp
2 Bad River
What the heck is going on here?

Dark Suspicions is what's going on here.

The plan is to use Blue bounce spells and some countermagic with the drawback of allowing my opponent to draw cards to keep my opponent's hand full, use stack interactions between Dark Suspicions and Seizan, Perverter of Truth to cause my opponent to draw cards and lose life, then suffer from the Dark Suspicions trigger as they will likely have more cards in hand than I do.

The familiars are there to make my spells cheaper, which comes in handy on multiple levels, allowing me to not only play spells cheaper but play more of them, in order to reduce my hand size. Sickening Dreams and Rites of Refusal allow me keep my hand on the slimmer side, as discarding a hand full of land can be beneficial on multiple fronts. Clutch of the Undercity is there to help me find Dark Suspicions but gets to serve double duty once I have Suspicions out by bouncing a difficult permanent, thus possibly increasing the damage Suspicions does. And who doesn't love Mikokoro? That and Words of Wisdom are there to keep me moving through cards.

With the new themes of hellbent (or 1-0 cards in  hand) rising up in Amonkhet, this might be a neat time to see if there is anything new to add to this deck. Bontu the Glorified could be a cool addition and a way to use familiars once they've lost value!

And we'll see how this stacks up!

Re-Revisiting

In some ways, I can't believe I have to look at this deck again. It was so fun: Temples + fetchlands + Sensei's Divining Top to make sure I didn't get Omniscience in hand....

Buuuuuuut.

So, now what?

First, my opinion is that the wrong card was banned. Top served as a huge boon for non-Blue decks and allowed for a lot more variety as a result.

What should've gone? A lot of people who are far more versed in the format say Terminus. I'm inclined to agree here, because of the a) instant speed, b) mana cost and c) unique interaction. C) is relevant because Terminus shuts off graveyard interactions and in Legacy, that's a big deal.

However, the bitter old man in me wanted Counterbalance, because fuck your free countermagic.

Either way, opinions that the splash damage was overmuch from Top being banned are, I believe, correct. My hope is that something is coming up in Hour of Devastation or Ixalan that would've made SDT oppressive will arrive, justifying this ban.

For me, though the question is, what do I do with Die, Die My Darling?

The Black and White scry cards are pretty underwhelming, aside from Read the Bones. The Artifacts aren't as awesome as I would like, either. Darksteel Pendant seems like a decent fit and being indestructible means that I don't have to worry about removal effects.

However, the Pendant doesn't do as much for me as Top does, given the shuffling interactions I have. In this case, Scroll Rack might be the droid I'm looking for.

I'm not going to make a series out of this-I've already done it twice-but it's definitely weird to have to make an adjustment like this, in order to keep a deck in tact that I rather enjoy playing.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

You Can't Save My Life

Knives is in a pretty good place, I think.

In some final matches, I experienced the good and the hard limits of Wave of Reckoning. Even with six charms to help me with spot removal and versatility, Wave being unable to take out a Deathrite Shaman is problematic, as that kind of creature is a beast in every stage of the game.

That said, ten cards to act as removal generally goes a long, long way and I've been very happy with the team of Treva & Bant.

One of the big surprises is Ajani, Mentor of Heroes. However, in the spirit of My Money > less of My Money, I discovered that I had an Ajani, Caller of the Pride. I may still get a second copy of the MoH, but CotP serves as a similar tool for making my previously unintimidating creatures more formidable.

No, I won't be able to cast CotP on turn three but that's not the requirement in this deck. It's the incremental push that'll make things work.

I still may get a second Mentor of Heroes-the card is very difficult to ignore and in a game with Noah, I was even able to gain 100 life off it, effectively negating his endgame plans-but I'm pleased I've found an effect that really suits this deck well.

Still, you can see from the picture in a matchup against Lauriel, I have been able to start generating some impressive boardstates with strong positions.

All in all, I feel that I have come away from this with good lessons about mana, and positive ways to shore up some weaknesses. Knives is still fun to play and offers a lot of possibilities both as a 1v1 deck and in multiplayer. It's got some nice flexibility with a nice late game powerhouse capability.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

On Planeswalkers

I think this article at MTG Goldfish presents an interesting take on the problem Planeswalkers represent for Magic.

Because I typically ignore the throughline of Magic's story. I know a bit about how stories work and I have really, really gotten bored with Planeswalkers as primary plot-drivers because those characters haven't, in my awareness anyway, undergone any changes.

Each plane used to have its own stars and own narrative. They still do but now that narrative is, somehow, tied into what the Planeswalker does, and it's been this way since Return to Ravnica. That's five years of these characters doing not a whole lot, while the planes they are on tend to undergo some significant changes!

However, I usually tackle the issue of Planeswalkers from a gameplay perspective, so seeing a very specific angle on what Planeswalkers do to Magic from that gameplay view and why is cool.

I also think it's going to become a bigger problem as Magic moves forward, if cards like Desiccated Naga and Companion of the Trials are any indication.

I really, really do not like where those cards indicate Magic is going. Having a card only be good-a 3/2 for 3 isn't terrible so WotC is totally padding the stats there to make this medicine go down-but having a card that is only good if you have a Mythic rarity out there-Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope being sold for $80 and $30 each, respectively, the most recent Gideon, considered to be one of the best cards in standard right now, $17 and the new Gideon will likely go higher-suggests that they are tying to move players away from a sense of place and more into character.

Now, from what I understand, those two cards are tied into the Planeswalker deck boxes, making this a little more palatable but...I don't like it. Having cards be so parasitic is bad, having them be parasitic with mythic rarities is really distasteful to me. It helps increase the reliance on luck (will you or won't you get the Planeswalker you need) in a game that already has plenty of variance.

But that's a very big aside.

When I talk about Planeswalkers I usually talk about how players don't have enough tools to deal with them, so they're positioned to take over any game (or format) where they are pushed.

What I hadn't thought of is how Planeswalkers are pushed in order to be the face of the story, and how that push will exclude other deckbuilding options due to their power.

And people might say, 'so what? Good cards always push out bad cards.' and they would be right.

Except: WotC has said that printing Lightning Bolt in the Modern era was a mistake because it removes deckbuilding decisions. If you can, you run Lightning Bolt because it is better than any other red removal card in the format. It's one of the reasons they don't want to reprint Counterspell.

I think the article makes a very good argument for how Planeswalkers make for a worse Standard by decreasing the decision tree for deckbuilding-just throw a Planeswalker in there, that solves problems.

I've done it myself-most recently with Knives (as you will soon see). So I think this trend bears a lot of consideration and watchfulness.



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Amonkhet Overview

The spoiler is out! So, you know...spoilers ahead.

Mechanics:

Embalm is a pretty interesting thing to me, from a flavor perspective. White zombies just don't happen unless Black is involved. From a plane where death is considered a positive though, this makes sense. Aside from that, however, it's just Flashback for creatures. Nothing wrong with that but nothing super exciting either.

Although I will say that having a way to get a creature despite countermagic is a positive. It could mean some better countermagic is coming (a positive for control players who have been complaining for a decade now), as well as an opportunity for older formats, too. We shall see.

Cycling is an old classic making it's 4th appearance. Cycling is always a good thing. It's well balanced and offers a lot of options to players at every stage of the game. Now that WotC has given us reminders that cycling triggers discard effects, I wonder if some novel or previously overlooked interactions will bubble up?

-1/-1 counters I am excited about! I've always liked this mechanic and believe that there's more room to develop or play with than one might think. Partly because of the interaction between +1 counters (a + and a - will, just like in math, cancel each other out) so there's some fun to be had with mechanics from other sets, partly because there is an opportunity to do some powerful cards with a drawback players have to be clever to work around.

I liked it in Shadowmoor/Eventide and I like it here.

Aftermath is an excellent marriage of split cards and flashback. Nothing too fancy, mind you but definitely something I hope continues in Hour of Devastation* (which is the next Magic set, just in case you hadn't heard). Solid ideas don't have to be flashy, they can just be solid.

Exert...is...meh. It just is. There isn't anything clever about working around the drawback (untap your critturs or give them vigilance) and the only time to really use the ability is when you're already winning. There isn't going to be some kind of trap set up by your opponents causing you to say "oh, if only I hadn't exerted!"

Smaller themes I noticed:

Enchantments matter again. Seems like the gods of Amonhket manifest their powers through enchantments and I am digging it.

Tapped creatures matter. Yeah, yeah, this is there to make exert more interesting but it's also a fallow area of the game that I'm surprised WotC hasn't looked into before. Creatures tap to do almost everything, why not explore themes that reward us for using them?

The graveyard matters. Again. I'm very, very dubious about this, even though it isn't a big theme, because of what Shadows Over Innistrad had. On the upside, this could bring in some new decks, or revive old ones. On the downside, too much focus on the graveyard without any legitimate hate cards raises a red flag for me.

Cards in hand matter. Blue wants cards in hand. Red/Black don't.

You know what would thrill me? If there was a legit excellent R/B deck that came out of this. What's also interesting? This is a spot where Blue/Black don't get along.

Zombie tribal is getting a big push. I'm OK with that...up until Fuz realizes how much he can upgrade his zombie deck.

Minotaur tribal might finally become a thing, too.

Specific cards of interest:

They're going to do something with Oracle's Vault/Pyramid of the Pantheon and the brick counters. Just a matter of time. I suspect Hour of Reckoning will have some fun cards for it.

Approach of the Second Sun + Fork is a neat win condition.

I suspect Cryptic Serpent might be the new Gurmag Angler. But Slither Blade is better than it has any right to be.

Bone Picker is going to make a friend with Blood Pet. If I can create a 3/2 flying deathtouch creature on turn 1, that's cool.

Shadow of the Grave is going to create a combo deck of SOME kind.

I think Harsh Mentor might be one of the best red cards I've seen in awhile.

Manglehorn is very interesting and I wonder if it might have some impact on Vintage. I don't know Vintage very well but if it's possible to drop that on turn one, you could put a real hurt on a lot of Vintage manabases.

I think Sandstorm Convergence is going to make a splash in Commander: it's great protection and a creature generator is never a bad thing.

And that's about it. It'll be interesting to see what comes of Amonkhet. I can't say I'm thrilled by it, but I'm definitely interested by the possibilities and the interactions that might arise with older sets.

*Edited because I thought the next set was "Hour of Reckoning". My bad.