Thursday, December 14, 2017

Commander Licia, Sanguine Tribune

This...ought to be a little weird. We'll start with the unchanged list.

Licia, Sanguine Tribune 1 Kindred Boon
1 Blind Obedience
1 Black Market
1 Sanguine Bond
1 Underworld Connections
1 Outpost Siege
1 Curse of Vitality
1 Curse of Disturbance

1 Teferi's Protection
1 Crackling Doom
1 Return to Dust
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Go for the Throat
1 Skeletal Scrying
1 Mortify
1 Blade of the Bloodchief
1 Door of Destinies
1 Well of Lost Dreams
1 Heirloom Blade
1 Boros Signet
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring
1 Worn Powerstone

1 Edgar Markov
1 Mathas, Fiend Seeker
1 Kheru Mind-Eater
1 Patron of the Vein
1 Bloodsworn Steward
1 Crimson Honor Guard
1 Anowon, the Ruin Sage
1 Bloodlord of Vaasgoth
1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
1 Butcher of Malakir
1 Captivating Vampire
1 Dark Impostor
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
1 Malakir Bloodwitch
1 Sangromancer
1 Skeletal Vampire
1 Vein Drinker
1 Bloodline Necromancer
1 Blood Artist
1 Bloodhusk Ritualist
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Pawn of Ulamog
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Rakish Heir
1 Stromkirk Captain
1 Tithe Drinker
8 Swamp
4 Mountain
3 Plains
1 Path of Ancestry
1 Akoum Refuge
1 Bloodfell Caves
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Boros Garrison
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Cinder Barrens
1 Command Tower
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Forsaken Sanctuary
1 Kabira Crossroads
1 Nomad Outpost
1 Opal Palace
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Rakdos Guildgate
1 Scoured Barrens
1 Stone Quarry
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Urborg Volcano
1 Wind-Scarred Crag
1 New Blood
1 Disrupt Decorum
1 Kindred Charge
1 Fell the Mighty
1 Blood Tribute
1 Consuming Vapors
1 Damnable Pact
1 Merciless Eviction
1 Ambition's Cost
1 Read the Bones
1 Syphon Mind


So why Licia? Because she doesn't get a lot of attention. What am I going to do? Well, change things up because I already have a vampire commander deck.

Lauriel and Matt have both been working on what she called "spikey fort decks"; decks that want to steer you away through discouragement. I like this concept and will probably play it up a bit for now, as it gives me a star to steer the ship by. The vampire subtheme can stay: Edgar doesn't have anywhere else to go but a commander deck and Mathas can be fun. However, it means that for now, some obvious cuts should be made.

Remove:
Teferi's Protection
Kindred Charge
New Blood
Door of Destinies
Bloodlord of Vaagoth
Kheru Mind-Eater
Rakish Heir
Patron of the Vein
Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Captivating Vampire
Malakir Bloodwitch

I'm not sure what will go in next, so that's this weekend's research project!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Now's Not Forever

It was only one match against Fuz, but after he mulliganed down to 5 cards, the board state eventually looked like this:

And I don't care what you think, this is pretty damned impressive.

After I made this attack, I was up to 43 life-he untapped, played three lands, and was able to swing for 48.

Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.

That said, I did end up taking the match: the lifegain, removal and additional Sunscorch Dragon made plenty of difference. I can tell that Hope is going in a good direction.

This streak sustained itself while playing Matt last night; again, I had some consistent, strong showings. I also found myself slowing down, trying to think ahead: what should my next move be if nothing happens? What should it be after he makes a play? What does it suggest about what he's got in his hand?

I don't know how well it's working yet: I've just started this process and there are still lots of decks to play and situations to encounter. It's working so far though, so I'll take that.

In the meantime, I think I'll call Hope Is A Passenger good. I feel like I've improved the deck in every way that matters. When I build a sideboard, Devout Witness might be worth relegating to it but in the meantime, it can stay. I still have Jason decks to beat and the Witness can always carry a Behemoth Sledge.

Here's the final list:

4 Well of Lost Dreams
4 Sunbeam Spellbomb
2 Behemoth Sledge 
3 Ageless Entity
3 Kavu Titan
4 Quirion Elves
2 Devout Witness
4 Essence Warden
2 Dragonlord Dromoka
2 Sunscorch Regent 
2 Armadillo Cloak 
2 Blessed Alliance 
8 Forest
2 Selesnya Sanctuary
9 Plains
2 Temple of Plenty
1 Blossoming Sands
1 Graypelt Refuge 
2 Solar Tide
1 Fumigate


Thursday, December 7, 2017

More For The Cube

Once again, back to the Garbage Cube. Updated additions are as follows:

From Hour of Devastation-
Fervent Paincaster
Tragic Lesson
Lethal Sting
Ambuscade
God-Pharaoh's Faithful
Graven Abomination

Some of these are pretty obvious: glass-jaw creatures, overcosted effects, but in the case of Lethal Sting, I have an effect that doesn't play nice with the rest of the cube.

From Ixalan-
Sailor of Means
Dive Down
Ancient Brontodon
Emergent Growth
Glorifier of Dusk
Bright Reprisal
Spreading Rot
Blight Keeper
Trove of Temptation
Rowdy Crew
Elaborate Firecannon

Some of these cards aren't as obvious and I think it's coming from, in part, the improvement of the quality of cards. Sure, I haven't heard raves about Ixalan as a draft set, but that doesn't mean the card quality hasn't improved, just that the synergies in this set aren't as robust as Llorwyn, another tribal set, was. (Personal theory: 4 creature types isn't enough to make it work and even then, tribal generally works best in constructed).

Other cards, like Trove of Temptation, are clearly just awful and need workarounds to be good.

I may have to shift some of these cards; evaluation isn't my strongest suit. But for now, this is what I'm adding. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Thinkin' That You're Big

After playing a few games against Matt on Monday, he took a look at Hope.

"I like what you've got going on here," he said.

So what do I have going on here, exactly?

Well, I think it's got a nice curve happening, with the deck nicely front loaded to the 1-3 CC spot, but some nice bombs going at 5+.

Against Matt's deck that wanted to give opponents creatures and make them suffer via Batwing Brume, I actually won out, something I don't often do against that deck.

I've also been testing a single Sunscorch Regent, for similar reasons. The card that has been standing out as unhelpful: Sword of Light and Shadow.

It just never seems to be useful when I need it. Plus, my creatures don't have much in the way of "enter the battlefield" effects, so returning creatures to hand isn't as awesome as I'd like. I'm thinking another Regent might be in order.

I've also added one Fumigate, because after the lessons learned with I Hate It When That Happens To Me,  know that a Fumigate can be REALLY awesome.

Still, I want to keep the Solar Tides in, because they can take on the decks that go wide with a lot of tokens, and leave me with some giant monsters.

Or, if all there are are giant monsters, I can destroy them, equip a tiny elf and go to town. Either way, I like my options.

But what to do about the Sword....

A second Sunscorch Regent is an obvious choice and probably wouldn't be a bad idea. It wouldn't disrupt the curve much and another threat is always a good thing.

Part of me, though, wants to run Deathgorge Scavenger. Because dinosaurs.

I know, I know: consistency is better than power in most of my decks. But dinosaurs!


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Show You The Score

When I play Jason, this is often what I deal with. Look at this insanity. Karn, Silver Golem, Mycosynth Lattice, Howling Mine. He's about to drop a Hellkite Tyrant and steal all my stuff.

And the only thing standing in the way of all that is Devout Witness. Even then, I didn't get my play right, hitting Karn instead of the Lattice. Jason just ran me over with 6/6 woke artifacts.

Still, practice makes perfect, right?

Now, I got some excellent suggestions from Reddit user Pumatyger, who went so far as to re-imagine Hope Is A Passenger as a mono-W lifegain deck. You can see his revision here-buuuuuut as interesting as that deck is, I already have one of those that does interesting things and the keys to Hope are Well of Lost Dreams and Ageless Entity.

The suggestions of Blessed Alliance and Serene Steward were especially interesting. However, the Steward just wasn't quiet as helpful as I would like, at least as a replacement for Pulse of the Fields. Especially since what it wants to do (pay W for counters) runs against what Well of Lost Dreams wants to do. Blessed Alliance gave me some options that opponents were surprised by and that was nice. I haven't used it for the lifegain yet: Blessed Alliance might be one of those cards that I really have to play with a lot in order to get used to the options. I tend to lock in on one-the removal aspect in this case-and neglect the uses of the other parts of the card.

I do this a lot and it was even something I brought up to Jason while we played: How to get better and really focus on making the best decisions.

It's going to take some practice. However, there's no time like right now to get on that.

There are a few white cards with lifelink that I should consider as well: Knight of Meadowgrain was a fine suggestion but Bishop's Soldier might make it because the mana requirements are less.

The thing that really has me interested? The replacement for Windbrisk Raptor: Dragonlord Dromoka.





Tuesday, November 28, 2017

As It Could Be

This article at ChannelFireball posits an interesting question about how to reinvent the color pie. The companion piece about how Magic has never been balanced, is also worth a read.

What I think is missed in the reinvention of the color pie-the solution to which is 'just don't let the colors do all the things well'-is that WotC is already implementing said notions in small ways. Most notably and recently, moving the Fight mechanic to Green and making it a way for Green to have creature removal.

However, to pull from an even more recent example, let's talk about Adanto Vanguard and Glorifier of Dusk.

You have to go back to Mercadian Masques in order to find another mono-white card that will let you do something for a life payment (Righteous Aura). The earliest card I could find with this kind of ability: Order of the Sacred Torch.

However, WotC found a place for White to justifiably break the color pie for story reasons, and they took it. It's likely only for a single set, (until they can find a way to justify it again) but they found a way to take a mechanic typically reserved for Black (life payment for an effect) and crossed it over. Sure, it doesn't do a whole lot but it does shake up how people think of the color.

So I think that WotC is at least a little ahead of the curve in their attempts to create dynamic playing environments. Sure, Mark Rosewater might complain a bit about the color pie being broken-and he should. The color pie being 'boring' means that the color pie is the standard.

That standard is critical to Magic: if you do not have a baseline to deviate from and return to, then what you have is simply chaos. Magic is too complex a game to endure or worse, generate, chaos. Someone has to vanguard that standard and it would seem that part of Mark's job is to do just that.

But I've come around to the notion that offering colors different options as appropriate-especially with story justifications-help keep the game dynamic.

I still don't like white vampires. But I like the mechanic there.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Unstable Spoiler

The Unstable full spoiler list has been released.

I have to say; this set looks like a great deal of fun. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Holiday

Traveling for the holiday but I should be able to have regular posting come next Tuesday. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mental Prep

Last night during a game against a B/R dragon reanimator deck, (I was paying Rize of the Fenix), I failed to understand my role.

Though my opponent had nothing on the board and I was at 8, I decided it would be a good idea to cast Demigod of Revenge, keeping one in my hand, and attack with it and a Flamewake Phoenix.

My opponent took 7, untapped, cast a Zombify to get a bunch of creatures out and killed me with a hasted Dragon Tyrant. The data was all there: the cards in graveyard, the equipment that would give haste. I just didn't think things through.

Same night: Caitlin beat me because I rushed my plays, this time while playing Hope Is A Passenger, thinking I had to do the thing instead of assessing the situation and making a plan. A plan that, the turn after she beat me, I saw, would have given me a little more time, maybe just enough to win.

Reading this, then was a reminder about how to improve my game.

Staying focused, and choosing not to hurry are both good things and I really want to get better at that. How? By making a plan.

So often I rush headlong into plays and I don't take into consideration changing data like the boardstate or even the card I just drew! I've got to start taking my time and really examining what's going on, otherwise I'll continue to drop games for no good reason.

I'm not sure exactly how to do this, but being aware of what the problem is has got to be a start.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Smoke & A Blindfold

Before I did any examination of Hope Is A Passenger, I did a little road testing against Noah, Matt, and Caitlin. The deck did...badly.

That was OK. To be expected, even. Matt and Caitlin had some suggestions though: Essence Warden and Venser's Journal. I liked both of these lines of thought but had some concerns about the high converted mana cost of the Journal.

Enter: Ivory Tower.

So, what else?

Well, I put this deck through the online analysis and I have to say, I like the stats. 38% mana is definitely solid and means I should have enough to do what I need to do, like cast Ageless Entity in a reasonable timeframe.

However, the available mana has changed since I built this deck, too. I'm not sure Horizon Canopy fits as well as I'd like. The Canopy would probably go better in some kind of draw engine, either via Life from the Loam or maybe with a Crucible of Worlds. Oddly enough, it's Graypelt Refuge that works well here. Gaining a life for playing a land isn't bad and if I have a Well out, I can draw a card, too. Plus, it can synergize a little with the Selesnya Sanctuary.

Next will be to find replacements for Windbrisk Raptor. That card costs eight and doesn't win me the game on the spot. Something that can show up earlier is in order or something that wins when I play it at that converted mana cost is required.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hope Is A Passenger

I don't even have the CD anymore but I liked this song by Kite-Eating Tree and considering what the theme is, I felt the title made sense for this deck.
4 Armadillo Cloak

3 Staunch Defenders
3 Ageless Entity
3 Kavu Titan
4 Quirion Elves
3 Devout Witness
2 Windbrisk Raptor
1 Warrior Angel

3 Pulse of the Fields

2 Solar Tide

1 Sword of Light and Shadow
4 Sunbeam Spellbomb
4 Well of Lost Dreams

2 Horizon Canopy
2 Selesnya Sanctuary
9 Plains
10 Forest
The idea? Gain life, draw cards via that life gain with Well of Lost Dreams and win out with a massive Ageless Entity. Or just awesome trampling dudes via Armadillo Cloak. That works too. Don't be afraid to use Solar Tide to wipe the board with Sword of Light and Shadow to bring creatures back, and don't be afraid to drop a Kavu Titan on turn 2.

Things have changed a lot since I built this deck, especially in regards to lifegain mechanics, what they can do and where they can come from. Hell, the mechanic has bled into black!

I am not going to add black to the deck.

But I am going to revise this puppy to see how it can be improved. Red decks, be afraid!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Sometimes, This Is Dumb

Take a look at this hand:

I mean, this is just nonsense. Four Angel's Grace should technically be three more than I need.

Now, I get there is variance and sometimes things happen and and and

To which I say: OK, fine but do I really need four copies of Angel's Grace.

Because what Bonecrusher wants to do is flood the board with goblins and win via that horde. It's the secondary plan of using Skirk Fire Marshal/Mogg Maniac that I need Angel's Grace for.

Well that's the long game. Or at least the long game as played into a middle game because I don't want the game to go long.

Basically, it's a trick and I know it's a trick but it's also a trick that doesn't need to be pulled off until after my opponent has stabilized the board. If they don't stabilize then I'm in the clear. If they do, hit 'em on the roundabout.

So, -1 Angel's Grace, +1 Chained to the Rocks.

After multiple games with Noah, I have come to realize something: this deck just doesn't quite have what it takes. It isn't bad-and in aggro matchups, the game can be very interesting.

But game after game I found myself without a way to get ahead against non-red decks. Sometimes it was due to misplays-going for the glory of cool things instead of looking for the best play. Sometimes it was just not having an answer to a turn one Deathrite Shaman.  Sometimes, countermagic foiled my plans. One memorable game, I was in need of two sources of red by turn 3 and I had, instead, two Plains and a Battlefield Forge. This is despite retooling the manabase.

Bonecrusher is a deck that is on the edge: certainly an investment in more expensive mana would help. So might the use of Aether Vial or a little more removal, although I'm not sure what to cut.

I think it's time to move on. Got a couple interesting decks lined up that I've been meaning to have a go at, and there aren't interesting goblins happening in Ixalan so now is as good a time as any.

Current list:
2 Goblin King
3 Goblin Lackey
2 Goblin Matron
3 Goblin Ringleader
3 Mogg Maniac
3 Skirk Fire Marshal
2 Warren Instigator
2 Krenko, Mob Boss
3 Goblin Chieftain 
3 Chained to the Rocks 
4 Renewed Faith
3 Angel's Grace
2 Lightning Helix
3 Shelter 
4 Plains
11 Mountain
4 Clifftop Retreat
1 Boros Guildgate
2 Battlefield Forge
Final note: Hey, I meant to get this up last Thursday but I wanted to included the decklist and just had some scheduling snafus. Sorry about that!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

On Making A Better Place To Play

I liked this article I read about trying to make Magic a more welcoming place for people who aren't cis dudes.

I'm pretty fortunate that when I go to venues to play Magic-both Red Castle and Guardian Games, but even the Tonic lounge, which isn't even a gaming store-people are generally really good about making it a good place for anyone to play a game.

As always, though: Don't read the comments. That shit is straight fuckery.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Binder Check

Playing with the Gempalm Incinerators wasn't bad. It wasn't great either, though: while I had a game where they did kill a creature for me against Fuz, in the end I was underwhelmed.

That said, Bonecrusher did perform well against him: two of our three matches I was able to establish a strong board presence and overwhelm him. Against his B/W deck, his removal was able to remove enough of my creatures, coupled with the lifegain and evasion his creatures had, to beat me.

OK: so it's time to get some more Goblin Chieftains, right? Why should I continue to mess around with some of this removal when I can just give everything +1/+1 and beat face? I started looking around-Chieftains cost around $5 which isn't backbreaking but it I'd rather spend the money on beer. Still, my local store had one so I picked it up, one more to go.

"Hey, I should check my binder for another Goblin King," I thought. "Not quite the same but a lot of decks run Mountains or Mountain-like lands: maybe I can take advantage of the unblockability to make Bonecrusher stronger?

And there in the binder was two more Chieftains. I didn't need to buy one at all. Sigh. There goes a beer.

However, there's no point in living in the alternative timeline where I saved $5 on a Goblin Chieftain. Let's get going with the one where I stomp some faces with three Chieftains and two Kings in the deck!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Balanced Formats and Draw-Go

This article on the mothership appeared, about creating a balanced standard format.

The reactions, specifically here, in the Legacy sub of Reddit, were rather dismissive.

The problem is twofold:

First, they're looking at the problem wrong-that is, as players who love Legacy and think that Legacy Magic is best Magic, instead of Standard Magic as a format WotC needs to keep healthy.

Second, they're living off of the benefits of this philosophy-and the diversity to Legacy that this philosophy brings, mostly without having to deal with a time when this wasn't the case. These days, decks that want to create an overwhelming advantage of cards in Legacy actually have to compete with 'fair' strategies that involve playing good creatures that can help nullify your spells. That's good for the format!

However, the real issue is one that I think everyone overlooks. And it isn't the Go part of Draw-Go.

See, for me the issue isn't that control decks have to keep mana up on the opponent's turn in order to counter spells. That part is problematic, sure-WotC says that having your spell countered 'feels bad' and they want to reduce those-

Massive aside

Feeling bad isn't the only, or even, I think, the most important reason that Wizards doesn't want Magic to be about stack interactions, especially countermagic ones. It's useful for telling the audience an easily grokable reason for the way they want to structure the game but it's far from the only good reason. Other reasons, in my opinion, include:

1) Game complexity. If you've played long enough you've inevitably come up against the "massive stack" where a whole series of spells and triggers get set up and now players have to resolve them.

In the case of stack interactions-or a game with far more focus on stack interactions, this is a pretty big siphon on your brainpower.

A game where permanents are a greater focus means that they can reduce complexity because not everything is happening at once in a single stack and also:

2) Reducing of feel bad moments. Since permanents often don't end the game on the spot this gives players a chance to find a solution to them which feels better, as though you have more of a chance to come back. It also:

3) Increases the design possibilities. WotC doesn't do a lot with the stack and I think it's in no small part because there isn't a lot of design space to be mined there. There's split second and...what other mechanics really can work in that area? Whereas permanents allow for enter the battlefield and death triggers, just to start. But it also means that games generally won't devolve down to sheer speed of card draw, which takes me out of this aside because that's where we get to what really needs to be talked about:

Drawing cards at instant speed.

As I was saying, the Go part of the Draw-Go decks isn't the problem. The problem is the drawing cards at instant speed aspect, a feature that was mostly in blue with a little bit of bleed into black.

It created a huge imbalance in the game. Anyone who didn't want to play the countermagic wars was outmatched by those who did and it severely hampered what decks could be built. The blue player could wait to see if there were spells that needed countering and if there weren't, they could draw cards on their opponent's turn. Or if there were, they could draw cards on their opponent's turn and see if they could turn up countermagic if needed, and in the meantime, sculpt their main turns any way they wanted, with opponents being dead in the water in terms of interactivity.

Midrange decks didn't really exist: it was combo and control with goblins and stompy occasionally peeking from the cave before scuttling back.

Which meant that Wizards could do a few things, and ended up doing a little bit of the first two and a whoooole lot of the last:

Make countermagic cost more, nerf instant speed card draw, and improve creatures to make them a viable path to victory.

It's the instant speed card draw that does it. In the Modern era of Magic cards, we have zero cards that unconditionally allow you to draw more than one card for one mana at instant speed. Dream Salvage comes closest but no one plays that because it requires so much setup.

So instead, you get the next strongest spell, Sphinx's Revelation which people played because the lifegain aspect of the card allowed control players to actually use the cards they drew by giving them time. But, and this part is important: because SR cost 4 or more to use, players couldn't draw cards and use countermagic on the same turn! They had to pick and that decision is far more interesting for players and better for the game.

Similarly, Legacy is a better environment when players have to make decisions about how they will interact. That means color balancing and a real eye on combo decks that are overly consistent.

I'm not saying that Legacy should do something as ridiculous as ban Brainstorm but I don't think an honest conversation about what makes for a healthy format can be had unless we consider the impact of cheap card draw and I just don't see enough people mention this as being an issue.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Supplemental Hits

The initial changes looked good when I played against Noah. I wasn't winning games but I felt like I had a fighting chance most of the time. With the addition of a couple Chained to the Rocks to help the removal suite, I thought I was getting closer, or maybe even had it locked in, just bad beats. A different draw here or there and I could win.

That changed when I played Matt and couldn't find my way out of a paper bag. One thing I hadn't foreseen when I picked Shelter was that I needed to have a creature in play to use it. I had a couple instances of having Shelter and no target which, admittedly, was a failure on my behalf to mulligan enough so that I had a proper start.

I gave Matt the deck and told him about the general theory: that the goal was to draw cards and keep the pressure on and he took one look at Goblin Warchief and said: "Is this what you need, then?"

No. No it is not. Making my goblins cheaper isn't what's required. His immediate suggestion: Goblin Chieftain. "But if you don't have that, Gempalm Incinerator."

Hm. Gempalm Incinerator does help the removal suite but it also falls prey to the same issue with Shelter. It doesn't really work unless I have some creatures out. And goblins are awfully easy to kill.

On the other hand, I own some Gempalm Incinerators and I don't own Goblin Chieftain. So for further testing, at least at the moment, I'm invoking the My money > less of my money rule and testing the Incinerators.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Card Crushing

As I revised Bonecrusher, I was fortunate enough to find a couple Battlefield Forges to help shore up my red mana. While not the ideal land for this it contributes to the colorfixing I need. I'll take it.

I also was having trouble really replacing any goblins after Krenko, Mob Boss.

So I didn't. Instead, I asked: how do I keep the aggression going?

The answer comes via Renewed Faith. I run Renewed Faith for two reasons: first, it allows me to gain life to keep me above 10 so I don't die to my own Skirk Fire Marshal, and second, I get to draw a card.

Why not draw more cards, then?

Enter Shelter. This card has been so cool to run. First, I get to draw a card. But second, and most importantly, Shelter transforms a battlefield where my 1/1 Goblin Lackey or Warren Instigator would be stymied and makes them useful again. Where Krenko survives another day to make tokens. Basically, as a solid answer to the inherent problems Bonecrusher will face.

I'm really excited about this and how it will help smooth the deck out.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

In Praise of Shatterstorm

This year was the year I finally noticed: non-creature sweepers are remarkably barren in Wizards' Commander products.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about something that I have been confronted with in every Commander game I have ever played, especially multiplayer ones: The presence of multiple artifacts and enchantments that need to be taken off the board in order to advance the game state. Not just one and not just a single player.

Quick anecdotal example: last night in a four player game, there was a Fireshrieker, Mana Crypt, Ghostly Prison, Mystic Remora, Armillary Sphere, Gilded Lotus, Burgeoning, Coldsteel Heart, Talisman of Dominance and two Sol Rings on the table. Those are just the artifacts and enchantments but that's 11 targets!

Yet, playing my Yidris deck, I had no answers for this many of these permanents. Does this sound familiar to anyone?

Take a look at the Commander decklists: 2015, 2016, 2017. Lots of answers for mass removal of creatures and a few 'destroy all things' cards but where are the cards to wipe the board of problematic enchantments and artifacts?

Artifacts are especially grievous in this regard; their colorless utility means that Commander decks can get a lot out of them, either as a way to double down on an effect that a color gives them (think Black's graveyard removal and Tormod's Crypt) or as a way to ramp up in decks that wouldn't have access to those: Sol Ring, Skullclamp, etc. Artifacts are everywhere and while I cannot deny the necessary space that they take up in the format, the fact of the matter is that in a multiplayer game, multiple artifacts will appear.

Same with enchantments. Although not as ubiquitous as artifacts, enchantments are a part of every game and they certainly are part of almost every Commander deck that WotC has produced for the past three years.
In total, there are 231 artifacts and enchantments across those 14 decks. And this isn't counting artifact creatures, which would raise the total considerably.
In those three years: Merciless Eviction, Bane of Progress, and Vandalblast are the only sweepers for such permanents. Where is Tranquil Path or Hush?

I could understand Back to Nature being too strong but everything else? Not even Root Greevil or Nova Cleric?

Artifacts, as an even bigger problem, are more glaring for their lack of mass removal: Creeping Corrosion, Corrosion, Meltdown, Fracturing Gust, Hammer Mage, Pulverize, Purify, Seeds of Innocence, Shatterstorm: where are the reprints of these cards?

Commander is a multiplayer format: where are the multiplayer answers? Why aren't there more ways to sweep artifacts off the table? Even cards like Shattering Pulse or Allay (for enchantments) would help.

Now, there is objection to be raised here and I get it: WotC designed this product to work within its own 'ecosystem'. That is; the Commander 2017 ('16, '15, etc) decks are meant to be played against each other. In some years, a card like Hammer Mage would be so dominant against a deck like Breya, Etherium Shaper that it wouldn't be fun at all.

Not every set can cover every contingency-nor should it, especially when players can have more fun without such coverage. Interactive games are important to create, especially for a format like Commander! Balance matters.

Nonetheless, I am hard pressed to believe that there is no place for these kinds of board wipes and I'm hoping that Wizards starts to give players some of these reprints-or find new ways to provide said board wipes of non-creature permanents.

For example: they've done well with non-basic land destruction, I think! I want to point that out because I believe that non-basic land hate should be a part of the game and is, honestly, more necessary than ever across the Eternal formats.

I don't want to get off track though. I want to point out; how many games of Commander are heavily influenced by artifacts or enchantments and how many targets exist in any given multiplayer game.

Give us our Shatterstorms, Wizards. We need those just like we need the Wrath effects.

Also: this will be the last post until Oct 12, as I'm in NYC for a few days!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The First Break

I ran Bonecrusher through the deckstats analysis and the first thing I got back was: I don't have enough red mana in this deck.

So that's going to be tweak number one. If I can't find R/W lands I like, I may just cut a Plains for a Mountain; I really need RR by turn 3 at the outside so making this adjustment is critical if I want to succeed.

I also got some advice from Reddit user BAGBRO2, to add Krenko, Mob Boss to the deck and that made perfect sense.

What was going to be more difficult was to find all the suitable goblins printed since I built Bonecrusher, way back in the Onslaught block era.

That's a lot of goblins. 147, to be precise-at least for that search.

But there are some strong possibilities, too: Bloodmark Mentor, Boros Recruit, Fire Juggler, Gempalm Incinerator, Goblin Bushwacker (a card that's proven itself in more competitive decks), Goblin Freerunner might be interesting, Mogg War Marshall could be used to boost my chances to tap for 10 damage, then leave me a creature in its wake, Mudbutton Torchrunner is expensive but plays into my theme, and so on.

This...is actually turning into a bigger problem than I thought.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

Grimlock, Dinobot Leader

I don't have many places to show off this kind of cool stuff but here:


A friend went to Hascon and picked these up for me. Just lucky to have friends who think of me, I am. Here's a link to some better shots, so you can read what they say.

But what this really means is that I need to make a Grimlock, Dinobot Leader Commander deck, as soon as Ixalan block is complete.

Because there is no way I'm going to miss out on that.

Also, I'm headed out of town this weekend, so I'm hoping regular posts will go up a week from today, Sept 28th. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Ixalan Overview

The new set has been revealed! Let's take a gander, shall we?

White
Even though it's been explained to me that 'white's vampires represent a knightly order of conquestadors so it fits', I'm still not a fan. WotC is basically story-handwaving reasons to give white some of the mechanical dabbling of black, using the payment of life for a benefit. Adano Vanguard is right up front and illustrates the point.

But weird Commander card Axis of Mortality is also there. Magus of the Mirror (which itself took the ability from an artifact) is in black and reinforced by Tree of Perdition. Is this a dealbreaker? No, I don't think so. I may not be particularly fond of this mechanic in white from a philosophical standpoint but giving White something to do with the life it gains is certainly better than leaving an underpowered and dull mechanic in the color.

Settle the Wreckage is something that has a lot of potential in my opinion, especially since it is cheap enough to find a home in older formats. If this can be played in Legacy, that would be bonkers-but it's likely not quite there.

Favorite Dinosaur: Steadfast Armasaur for its blend of function and flavor.

Blue
I really like the reprinting of Opt: I think it's a great tool and very fair. I also think that Blue has gotten some solid control countermagic too-albeit some that is contingent on Pirates but this is a tribal block. Deadeye Quartermaster is a sleeper; searching for two of the more powerful card types in recent memory seems pretty good.

The attempt to make mill a thing is interesting, since the milling cards-Fleet Swallower and Navigator's Ruin specifically-say "target player" not target opponent. So does this mean that we'll be looking at another set with graveyard interactions soon?

Favorite Dinosaur: fail! No dinos.

Black
With the creation of Treasures in U/B/R, I think that there's an odd thing happening in those colors: cards that are expensive but 'repay' you in some manner. Contract Killing is a fine example: here's something that technically costs 5 but when you get the Treasure tokens, it really costs only 3. You can tap out to play the card and still potentially have interactions to make during your opponent's turn.

The other thing I'm noticing: lots of two drops, and some solid one drops. Bloodcrazed Paladin, Blight Keeper, Deadeye Tracker, Dire Fleet Hoarder, Fathom Fleet Captain, Kitesail Freebooter... maybe there's an aggro black deck to be put together? With Sword-Point Diplomacy to help eat away at life totals/draw cards, I think there's a skeleton there.

Favorite dinosaur: Fail part 2! Why is there no zombie dino?

Red
This is the color I am least enthusiastic about. Some dino support, Enrage is a good mechanic I think though it's not pushed hard in Red, Charging Monstrosaur-despite having a duuuumb name-is a hell of a 5 drop.

After that though, the color is doing some of the quiet work: Demolish for those pesky crazy lands, Lightning Strike to keep the color viable, and when it goes away from that-Wily Goblin, for example is just bad as a one drop that costs two, or Trove of Temptation which doesn't have nearly the reward for the drawback and cost-it just doesn't have anything to pull me in.

Rowdy Crew is bad. A 3/3 where you have the option to discard two of your best cards? How is that a mythic rare??

Ugh.

Favorite dinosaur: Raptor Hatchling is pretty cute.

Green
Pounce seemed neat until I realized Pit Fight had been printed and didn't really make a splash.Enrage kicks up here and it seems like a neat way to get a death trigger on the smaller creatures like Ranging Raptors or Ravenous Daggertooth, while a way to seal the game with Ripjaw Raptor. Still, this has good interactions with the Fight mechanic. While I just can't get excited about the green merfolk, for similar reasons as the white vampires, it's not a dealbreaker.

The bigger sin, for me, is that it just doesn't do anything interesting with the creature type. With the white vamps, at least that color gets to explore something that it doesn't do often: you could replace merfolk with any creature type and it wouldn't change a thing for green. They could've boosted any number of under utilized Blue creature types: adding this to merfolk just seems like a whole lot of 'so what'.

Favorite dinosaur: Deathgorge Scavenger

Gold
Eh. These cards play into their respective tribal themes well enough-pirates especially seem to get a boost, which I have no problem with-and Hostage Taker is a great execution. Nothing gobsmacking but nothing awful. Even Tishana, Voice of Thunder will find a home in Commander.

Favorite dinosaur: have to go with Gishath, Sun's Avatar. Sometimes, the biggest bad is best.

Artifacts/Lands
I think they did something pretty clever here, having enchantments function as maps, or vehicles that convert into lands. The metaphor works for me, even though I still don't like double faced cards. I will never like double faced cards. I will use them because:

Growing Rites of Itlimoc is clearly bonkers but the Blue and Black maps have an interesting clause where you don't have to flip them, meaning that you could have the land and the enchantment out at the same time.

Lost Compass for the same reason as Growing Rites which makes me wonder how this is going to impact the larger game of Magic. Those kinds of lands are usually signals that something is about to get broken.

In the meantime, eh, the rest is OK.

I'm glad to see the allied lands return; I've always thought those cards were solid.The use of pirate ships as vehicles is a good sign, as they're quite distinct from their Kaladesh counterparts. And Sorcerous Spyglass will be a welcome addition to sideboards everywhere, while Vanquisher's Banner will become a boon to casual and Commander tribal decks all around.

My impressionsI'm digging on this so far. There's a lot to like in Ixalan and I think it will be a fun set, even if it is a little narrow in its tribal theme. The upsides for me outweigh the negatives so far but the proof will be in the pudding...which will show up in about two weeks.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Bonecrusher

Because I can't just make a goblins deck, oh no. I have to have a twist on things...
2 Goblin King
3 Goblin Legionnaire
3 Goblin Lackey
2 Goblin Matron
3 Goblin Ringleader
2 Goblin Warchief
3 Mogg Maniac
2 Siege-Gang Commander
3 Skirk Fire Marshal
2 Warren Instigator

3 Orim's Thunder
4 Renewed Faith
4 Angel's Grace
2 Lightning Helix

1 Dwarven Ruins
6 Plains
11 Mountain
4 Clifftop Retreat

Named after the awesome Constructicon, the basic line of play is to run over someone with goblins buuuuut with a Mogg Maniac, a Skirk Fire Marshal, and three other goblins in play, I can do twenty damage in one shot. Ten to all creatures and players, then another ten from the Maniac's triggered ability.

And how do I make sure I survive all this? Angel's Grace. How do I try to assemble the combo? Renewed Faith to draw cards, along with Goblin Matron and Goblin Ringleader to search and keep the pressure on, and Goblin Lackey to Aether Vial my stuff into play, especially expensive cards like the Fire Marshal and Siege-Gang Commander.


I feel like it's been a little while since I got to play a fun, all in aggro deck and I look forward to this one, while hoping that the extra win condition can give this deck some depth it wouldn't ordinarily have. But there are new goblins and new white anti-death spells; maybe those will help improve Bonecrusher-and there's only one way to find out.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Iconic Masters Overview

You can see the full gallery here, and as always, I have some thoughts.

Red: We didn't need a fourth reprint of Crucible of Fire, a dumb card to start with and we certainly didn't need it taking up a rare slot. I get that not all cards are for me but I cannot fathom the argument for that card and at that rarity.

Glad to see: Magus of the Moon, Thundermaw Hellkite, and Charmbreaker Devils return. The new art on Ryusei is pretty cool, though I favor the original. Kiki-Jiki has been reprinted three times so I find no reason to get excited about it, especially since I really don't like the current art.

White: The Archangel of Thune, Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Serra Ascendant reprints! So needed. Outlast is a pretty meh ability but the +1 counter theme of the set needs those cards. Serra Angel is in a weird position since it is iconic but with 25 reprints is it really necessary?

Blue: Ancestral Vision, Flusterstorm (long overdue), Mana Drain! coming back is nice-any time a card goes over $20 I think it should be considered for reprint. And I never expected to see Mana Drain get a reprint. That's a pretty big surprise! Consecrated Sphinx returning is nice, especially for Commander players and I like Illusory Ambusher as a blue combat trick crossing over from Commander. Windfall is weird to see because it can only be run as a one-of in Vintage and Commander but again, in draft/sealed it's not so bad.

Actual semi-iconic card from yesteryear: Phantom Monster. Though I prefer the old art.

Black: I like that they're bringing the Bogbrew Witch-Festering Newt-Bubbling Cauldron combo back. It feels weird to see Necropotence again but since this is going to be pushed as a draft set, I can't argue excluding it on power. Bloodghast is a fantastic addition to any set, so a reprint here is great and it'll be a cold day when I argue against a Thoughtseize reprint. Two printings and that card is still $14: keep bringing those critical staples down to affordable costs, I say! The game dies if the kids can't play.

Green: Curse of Predation feels weird here, especially since that card isn't nearly old or noteworthy enough to be called iconic. Ivy Elemental being shifted from rare to common makes perfect sense: meh card is meh. A reprint of Lotus Cobra is definitely something I applaud, along with the new art on Phantom Tiger.

And is anyone really going to make the argument for Carven Caryatid over Wall of Blossoms? C'mon. The Wall has actually been in tournament decks.

Artifacts: Aether Vial is great but the rest are pretty forgetable. Serum Powder was remembered because it was weird, so I suppose that works and Manakin...damned if I know. I think a pro player made that card his 'hell or high water' card to work into a deck, back in the Tempest days. But...so?

Multicolored:
Knight of the Reliquary and Glimpse the Unthinkable are good choices, as both are in demand. I don't know why Savageborn Hydra would make the cut-neither iconic nor good-which probably shows the weakness of G/R as color combo having iconic moments. Compare that to Supreme Verdict, right? The new art on Malfegor is ugly. Like, butt end of a centaur attached where the head should go. It's double-butted.

Lands: are a weird collection; the Ravnica bouncelands and then the allied color lands from Future Sight? It's a cycle at least so...I guess there is that. And the Future Sight lands are often requested, though what players really request is the completion of the cycle that each card represents. Of those, only Graven Cairns got that and I wonder why WotC hasn't explored those cycles.

Speaking of: reprinting the Praetors from New Phyrexia was cool. Reprinting the dragons from Kamigawa wasn't but the new art helps make up for the decrease in cool.

Nobody needed a reprint of Scion of Ugin and there is no actual argument for that card being here. Ugh. C'mon. Even at common, that card is boring and I refuse to believe they couldn't've done better.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Big Buzz

After a few matchups this weekend, one against Noah's current Illusionary Mask I think I'm set. Current list looks like this:
4 Aetherflux Reservoir

4 Martyr of Sands
4 Soul's Attendant
4 Rhox Faithmender
4 Aerial Responder
2 Ranger of Eos
2 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
1 Angel of Invention

2 Beacon of Immortality
2 Blessed Alliance

2 Windbrisk Heights
2 Forbidding Watchtower
19 Plains

3 Ajani Goldmane

3 Fumigate
2 Spectral Procession
Not bad, eh?

There's just enough of everything to give me something to work with and against aggro decks, I think I don't have to worry about much. Combo decks are a bummer and probably where I'd rely on sideboard cards like Abeyance or Orim's Chant to stall them out and against midrange decks I can see taking out the Fumigate for more Blessed Alliance, along with typical additions for Affinity or Graveyard hate like Stony Silence or Rest in Peace. Pithing Needle for the miscellaneous decks.

And that's it. I'm sorry I didn't get this up on Tuesday; total brain collapse on that one. I hope to be traveling this weekend which likely means no Magic games, so the next content should go up on one week, with a new deck!



Thursday, August 31, 2017

If He Should Live Forever

I might just have that final piece together. More testing will help, of course but this feels right.

I've gotten a chunk of games in, and I like where I've got I Hate It When That Happens To Me. Cutting a Fumigate for an Angel of Invention has helped improve the deck's reach and threat level, while shoring up it's win-from-the-side condition. Blessed Alliance gives me some flexibility that I didn't have, too, while providing me with some surprises for my opponents.

This has been apparent in multiple games and it's also put me in situations where I have to remember to play the board and to the situations I am presented with. I Hate It... is not the kind of combo deck that can afford to strictly ignore the opponent. I have to play smart or else I'll get blown out.

Sometimes, as with Noah's blue control decks, that's going to happen anyway. The above picture against Matt's U/R/W deck was also a rough loss, though I was able to come back and win game two.

But later that evening, against Caitlin's W/Artifact Assembly Worker deck (which has surprising resilience and the ability to just win from nowhere thanks to Mirror Entity) I was able to pull off convincing wins.

A few days later, playing against Fuz and his G/W Aura deck, and a mono-W Knights deck, I lost two games-one in each match-and in both instances, it was because I did not know what I was facing.

By the time I figured it out and put a strategy together, I couldn't find the cards to help me overcome.The Knights defeat was especially amusing, as I had the opportunity on turn 5 to cast Fumigate to destroy one Knight Exemplar, decided I'd wait for "value" only to see another Knight Exemplar appear, holding two now useless Fumigates in my hand.

However, in the other two games of each match, I was able to pace myself and use Aetherflux Reservoir at points, to win.

I was especially proud of myself in the last game, where I had been put down to ten life, but through the use of careful play, gained forty life in one turn and was able to set myself up for the win.

It isn't every day that gaining forty life is even possible, much less the win condition.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

DFsigh

The following article has discussion and links to the new Magic set, so: spoiler warning!

Welp, it looks like double-faced cards are coming back. That sucks some of the wind out of my excitement for Ixalan.

This is an interesting design, though; an artifact that turns into a land because the map has lead you to a place. I certainly can't fault the reasoning.

I just hate double faced cards. I hate the dexterity issues they create having to take them in and out of sleeves, I hate the 'hidden information' aspect that it adds to an already complicated game, I hate the additional pieces by way of extra cards that have to be kept track of in order to use them. I just. Hate. This. Mechanic.

On the upside, I can finally see why the vampire Commander deck was R/B/W instead of R/B/U. Apparently white-themed vampires are a thing on Ixalan...

I don't think they should be-unless they are somehow representing a White philosophy gone evil- but apparently Amonkhet made torquing creature types OK, so long as they can story it up. I don't approve though: vampires are not heroes. They eat and enslave people. Zombies, at least, have no real will of their own.

At the same time, with 'creatures matter' being a clear theme of Ixalan, I can also see some relevant connections to the Commander 2017 set that should allow players to shore up/boost/revision those Commander decks in a way that they want. That is some clever thinking, even as corporate synergy.

There are green merfolk too. No. No I do not like that, either. There have been blue-green merfolk before but if there's one thing the merfolk tribe do not need, it's support from the best creature color in Magic.

Still; there are dinosaurs and their mechanical ability seems cool! I can get behind dinosaurs.

With today's spoilers, I'm seeing reference to Battle for Zendikar's Awaken mechanic which is...meh, but what really concerns me is the potential for overstuffing the set with mechanics, something they've had issues with before.

We shall see. It's still early, so there's a lot to take in, from the mechanics to the art, and I'm still fairly excited about this.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Commander Design Handoff Doc

I find this document, setting up what Wizards had planned for Commander 2017 to be fascinating.

First, it's an interesting window into corporate life and the art that goes under it. Codifying the process is one that I find to have a lot of depth because of how much work actually goes into making something that, when we see it, may look effortless. This is especially true of tribal decks, which can appear to just have "jam a bunch of awesome dudes of that type" mirage, when in truth a lot of work has gone in to constructing and balancing that mirage.

Second, it will be interesting for me to see how well they executed on point number 3, "Create cards that can support other tribal decks" because tribal is an inherently narrow theme on what is Wizards most common (and frequently most popular) card type: creatures. Vampires work with vampires, not with cats. That leaves a very easy out in other card types but the question remains; how supportive and successful are those?

As an addendum to that, it would be interesting to see how these decks play against each other. Early word from fans is that the Dragon deck is a mess because the mana is just so bad.

Third is the recognition that abilities from the Command zone are problematic. Mentioning Oloro as being too powerful is a political move-one I wouldn't be surprised of as edited in, especially since it was Derevi who was the real problem from that set (although they weren't the only ones). However, as with many mistakes WotC makes, they seem to be fairly willing to learn that lesson and try a new twist on it in order to make a better mechanic.

It doesn't always work (Looking at you Untap mechanic {yay} vs "inspired" {no}) but you have to take risks.

Fourth is seeing them take from other games with the 'vendetta' mechanic, which is right out of Hearthstone. More of those is cool by me.

Finally, are the deck overviews. I'm quite curious to see how these decks play out, given what the overviewer has to say about them.




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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Gossip Tongues Wagged

When it doubt, go for removal.

I've removed the Ajani Sunstrikers for Blessed Alliance. Two of those three modes are always going to be useful to me. I also took out a

I've also been looking through the list of white creatures that have "life" in their text somewhere, and white really doesn't have as many useful lifelink creatures as I would've thought. Angel of Invention, everyone's new hot tech, is good and might just be what I need to boost both themes of the deck: the lifegain and the creature pump.

I've even taken a look at some of the vehicles that are cheap to crew, to give my one-drops something else to do in the mid-late game. I'm not sure about that tech though, nor what I would cut in order to make that happen.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Just To Bring Him Back Down

I had some fun a week ago, beating Matt with his Parfait deck using the power of Aetherflux Reservoir.

Buuuut, going up against Noah using two different base blue decks, well, I found out what kind of weaknesses I Hate It When That Happens To Me has: countermagic.

To be fair, a lot of decks I play seem to have this problem. However, another issue that rose up that evening was the drawback to Windbrisk Heights: there were at least two games where, if I had been able to cast a spell on turn 3 or 4 or 5, I might have had a chance. The delay the Heights forced upon me gave Noah and extra turn where I did almost nothing and he was able to advance his deck further into the game.

That's not good.

I don't want to give up on the card entirely-I've cheated cards into play as a result of it-but with five lands that enter tapped, I have to question if I'm hamstringing myself.

The other question is: what about turn two?

Ajani's Sunstriker seems like a decent thing but when is it good? On turn two. After that? Not so much. Especially when Martyr of Sands can be activated on turn two-and frequently must, as opponents know they need to get it off the battlefield.

I've started looking over a selection of instants and sorceries to see if there's a better option. Blessed Alliance stands out as does Bathe in Light, weirdly enough.Time to test those, too.

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.