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.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

That I'm Confused

Let's get to it, yes?

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes took over the spot from Tamiyo. I only had one but it showed up in two different matches, against both Matt and Caitlin and it did a LOT better than I had hoped and while it might seem obvious to anyone-duh, making creatures bigger is a better thing-it works specifically in Knives because 1) my global removal still doesn't hurt me, no matter how big my creatures get, and 2) my inability to take out a problematic creature sometimes matters a lot less if I'm able to attack for four or more a turn.

Essentially, Ajani allows me to put the pressure on my opponent, whereas before that I was playing defense and hoping I could turn the tide.

In the pictured matchup, Ajani eventually appeared and helped me take down a Soul Sisters variant that I made and Matt was piloting.

Because Ajani shoves that tide back and it does so without creating more of a strain on my blue mana. Which brings me to another point-one I'm really happy about.

While I'm actually very pleased with the way the mana has worked out for me, especially since I tweaked a Botanical Sanctum for a Forest, Tamiyo was pushing a little hard on the availability of Islands that I might have. However, considering I am not running really expensive dual lands or fetches, my ability to get the colors I need has been consistent! I'm pleased with this result.

Unfortunately I only have one Ajani so for now, I need to stall. One more would be pretty helpful, although I have two slots. The Mentor of Heroes is around $14 a piece though and that's a little high. One more I can justify but two is a lot harder, so the third slot is going to be claimed by Matt's suggestion of Arachnogenesis

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I'd Be Better Off Dead

So I'm just going to throw us right into it:

Rite of Passage isn't good in this deck. I spent a chunk of games trying to see if it would work and the issue comes down to this: the only card that interacts with Rite is Wave of Reckoning. I'm better off trying to find another way.

I also incorporated Bant Charm in lieu of Dismantling Blow. Between Bant and Treva's charms, I have artifact and enchantment destruction, as well as a way to deal with creatures that survive a Wave.

But it didn't matter. Because as it turns out, there are a LOT of creatures that are really problematic and can survive a Wave of Reckoning. In this picture alone, we have Deathrite Shaman, Felidar Guardian and Juniper Order Ranger. Rite of Passage doesn't help me enough to deal with situations like this so it's time for me to let it go.

My first thought: Tamiyo, Field Researcher. I've liked this card for a long time and think it's a sleeper, one that hasn't been exploited yet.

Unfortunately, things didn't play out that way and I'm not sure if I'm to blame because I don't know how to use TFR yet, or because she's just not right for this deck. I'm thinking the latter, at the moment. It's even possible Planeswalkers might not be right for the deck, which is weird to say.

Which means I may need more creatures, or more inventive ways to push my agenda forward.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Here's how you make a bunch of Magic players angry

In response to the question, "Is it OK at a competitive REL event to riffle shuffle an opponent's deck?", tell them the truth.

It's legal and is one of, if not the most efficient way to sufficiently randomize a deck.

Because man do people get really upset by the notion that you might shuffle their deck.

But you can and I personally believe that at competitive events, you should.

I also believe that people should shuffle those decks with care, being considerate of other people's property.

Finally, I think that if you're at a competitive event and you don't have your deck in really good sleeves to prevent wear and tear and to help them stand up to shuffling, then you are the one who is being a fool, not your opponent.

I realize that this notion isn't popular. However, WotC has already agreed that riffle shuffling is legal and the math has been done on the riffle shuffle proving it's the one of -most likely the- best ways to randomize a deck. If you have an issue with that, take it up with WotC and the laws of mathematics. It isn't my problem.

Now all that said: three things.

First, a perfect mash shuffle can replicate a riffle shuffle. However, you have to perform it more times in order to get the deck randomized because odds are you aren't doing a perfect mash shuffle, and in a timed match that's important. It also means more wear and tear on those cards, just from a different angle. Again: good sleeves, people.

Second, it was pointed out to me that most of the studies and research I found used the riffle shuffle because it is the most common way to shuffle cards, at least in America. I will admit that there might be a space for research into mash shuffling to see exactly how many mashes it would take to get the same kind of randomization that seven riffle shuffles do. From what I understand, it's definitely more but how many more, I couldn't find.

Finally, it is worth pointing out that randomization is the goal here but it must be done with consideration of the investment that players put into their decks. Do I want my opponent's deck randomized? Absolutely. You should too. Do I want to put a crease in their Gaea's Cradle to do it? Hell no. I don't even want to put a crease in their Island.

So: respect people's property and their desire for an honest game. Sleeve up your cards, shuffle them properly but gently.

Seems pretty reasonable.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I Need Help

(As with most deck-related posts, that's a line from the song, not a direct plea. Although help is always good).

I got a few games in with Knives and, though it grates on my weirdo sensibilities, I have to admit that it's pretty likely that Rite of Passage will have to come out.

This makes me sad. Making creatures bigger via what I want to do with Wave of Reckoning really seemed like the way to go. However, I'm not doing anything else with +1 counters so there is very much a "cool" factor happening. I'm not going to give up on it just yet but it's on the chopping block.

In contrast, I knew I wanted to cut Acridian because there's no need for the echo cost and I figured 2/4 creatures come in better flavors. I did a search though and it's hard to find a replacement. Most creatures have Defender or zero power or both, or just don't quite fit. Two mana isn't much and I suppose I'm asking for a lot.

I ended up with Druid of the Cowl as my replacement, because I kept seeing a logjam of cards at the 3 mana spot. Making sure I can cast those 3 drops seems like a solid idea, as well as potentially making Wev of Reckoning castable on turn four. Yes, I am aware that Noble Hierarch would be a perfect card for this deck but that card costs $65 despite being reprinted and I'm invoking the "my money > less of my money" rule.

The next thing I did was run this through deckstats.net and that's when I noticed the mana color problems. There just isn't enough blue. But at 42% lands I don't think I need to add more, just adjust the lands I do have to represent the colors I need. Fortunately that's an easy tweak, as I can adjust both my green and white mana without much impact on their availability.

Time to see if Rite of Passage really, truly sucks here...




Thursday, March 30, 2017

Knives

What happens when you look at Wave of Reckoning and think: hey, that should anchor a deck?
2 Acridian
3 Canopy Spider
3 Court Hussar
2 Skyhunter Prowler
2 Rhox War Monk
4 Saber Ants
2 Ancient Spider

3 Rite of Passage

4 Wave of Reckoning

4 Accumulated Knowledge
3 Treva's Charm
3 Dismantling Blow

3 Treva's Ruins
8 Plains
3 Island
2 Bant Panorama
9 Forest
While I named this deck after the excellent Therapy song, this deck is really about butts. Which I also like, however that isn't quite as relevant to the discussion, except for how I'm solving the Wave of Reckoning problem. Also, I know, I know: I should've called this deck 'Baby Got Back' but I just didn't make the connection at the time.

Now, there is some ancient tech in here with only the slightest tweaks done during Alara block for mana. That was long ago, though and it's time to get this sucker tweaked!

What's the plan? Draw cards. Play creatures with big butts. Cast Wave of Reckoning and benefit because 1) my creatures won't die, 2) Rite of Passage is cool. Swing for 20.

That's it. Simple, right?

One thing I will say about the mana base is that WotC has really dropped the ball by not making wedge dragon lairs, a la Treva's Ruins. I'm not sure why they haven't made more of these-I think they're really cool and go a long way towards solving these kinds of problems-but Planar Chaos came and went (the perfect time!), then the whole Khans block came and went and...no wedge liars.

For the longest time, those Ruins were the best fixers I had and they are still pretty good. But the base as a whole may need to adapt, depending on what changes get made. Time to get to it!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Pyrrhic Victory

During the testing for Need Machine, someone came in a little late to the Reddit thread and suggested Metallic Mimic.

This is great! I didn't see that card in my searches because I just wasn't looking. It's an artifact so it has interactions with Scarecrone, it's a two drop, so I can play it early and help with my other creatures, it's an "as you play" trigger so Reaper King will benefit, and it's a creature, which increases my threat density.

All in all, Metallic Mimic seemed like a great idea so I made the decision to cut the Barbed Sextant to make space. That was a hard decision, because extra cards are good but Worldly Counsel has been such a rockstar, I thought the creature density mattered more.

This had times when it worked out, as with my match against Lauriel.

And times when it didn't go as well, as against Fuz.

Because, against really aggressive decks, I need to draw Collective Restraint and I didn't get one, not a single one, against Fuz.

Which means it's time for me to let go of the Glory of Cool Things that is Eerie Interlude. I like this card, I have cast this card and had it be fun! But I need to have a Ghostly Prison effect out by turn 4 and without the extra draws from the Barbed Sextant, I want to ensure that Worldly Counsel gives me a shot.

As for the matchup pictured? Weeeellll...this is why sideboards are made. Destroying most of the lands so my opponent cannot attack is a very good strategy against anything but decks that want to mill me or decks that don't care if they have lands.

These are, admittedly, very narrow strategies and I shouldn't run into them very often. What's more likely is that I would run into countermagic and there isn't a ton I can do about that. Like a great many decks I build, playing around countermagic will take patience and, again, a sideboard to help me resolve spells that I need resolving.

Nonetheless, I feel like I've got this deck in a better place and until there are more scarecrows, I think I've got to let this dog lie.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Break

Hey, everyone: it was my birthday yesterday and I didn't get much gaming done so today I'm taking a pass. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Kick You In The Shins

I think it's safe to say I've hit Stage One. That means: against other weird casual decks, Need Machine has got some legs and I'm taking it in the right direction. I'm not sure this can hit the level of being a good Jason deck or even a solid deck but at the very least, I can hammer away at other odd decks well enough.

I got to play the Need Machine against Matt's new, weird, Equipoise/Sands of Time deck and did pretty well against it: the slow combo lock it presented gave me plenty of time to get things set up/draw into a Reaper King.

At that point, if I destroy one of this two lock pieces-

Aside: the lock works because Phasing happens at the untap step, which Sands of Time has you skip. That means that if Equipoise can phase out a permanent, it will be gone forever.

-the combo is merely annoying. Because I've been dealing with weird and/or obscure stuff for a long time now, I've learned how to be patient and hit combos like this where I can. Having a gameplan is always better than not having one and in this instance, my brain doesn't freak out. I just play things out until it's clear I can smash what I need to smash to win, or I'll never have another land in play again.

That feels good, mentally.

I also went up against Caitlin's improved scarecrow deck and went 2-3 in our games. What it came down to? Who cast Reaper King first.

She also revealed some pretty spicy tech in our final game, showing Call to the Kindred and dropping a Reaper King for free. I couldn't hide behind Collective Restraint as a result!

But dang, if I didn't like Call to the Kindred there. I don't think I have the creature density to make it work but I really wish I did.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Drums of Conquest

Lauriel brought a U/R cantrip deck with Nivix Cyclops to test. This is one of those weird UR decks that doesn't look like an aggro deck on the surface but actually is, due to the interactions between the Cyclops, Young Pyromancer and Guttersnipe with all the cantrip effects.

I had a couple slots available and was trying out Chameleon Colossus and Woodland Changeling to see if their Changeling ability would come in handy with the Reaper King. I didn't want to buy more Scarecrones and I didn't have more Collective Restraints, coupled with not a lot of creatures, made me want to lean into more creatures.

We had about four, maybe five matchups and one thing became very clear: Collective Restraint is a Very Big Deal against aggro decks. If I got one down with 9 or more life available, I could grind out a win. If not, I died under a wave of UR beats.

Worldly Council proved itself to be a champ here. I came away from these games convinced that I should be running four. While that puts the deck to 61 cards, the opportunity to dig into my deck that far is too good to ignore.

The duds were the Changelings. While great under Reaper King, they didn't do much else. I should just find more Scarecrows to add because these just didn't provide enough synergy. The Changelings trigger Reaper King and I can sacrifice them to Scarecrone-but I can't bring them back with Scarecrone.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Buckshot Methodology

So, the first thing to do is figure out what changes should be made. In the last post, I noted that yeah, the protection-bears needed to be cut but, then what?

2 Wild-Field Scarecrow, because it's a scarecrow and helps fix mana.
Eerie Interlude, but only one of because it's a glory of cool things moment.

And, well, this is a little embarrassing, because...

Not that long ago, I was mocking Worldly Counsel. I mean, who runs that card?

Turns out, I do.

Yeah, yeah: look, I'll just admit that I threw it in on a lark. I needed a card to fill slots, card draw is traditionally good, instant card draw is better so why not? I was certain I would find something better pretty quickly. And with only two copies of Collective Restraint in my deck, I was pretty sure that having a way to dig for those cards would be very, very useful.

So I ran two.

Whoa.

Seeing three cards for two mana at instant speed isn't bad but if you get to look at four or five? That is pretty dang good.

I'm going to have to run more. I also think that this card should get some more attention in any Eternal format deck that runs blue. Three or four color decks are commonplace there and good, instant speed card draw drops off rather quickly after Brainstorm.


I'm excited about where this might take me!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Need Machine

While I was testing Overkill, Caitlin brought a new deck she was working on to try out.

"It's casual," she said, "and I just built it," so I would know that this was an 'in progress' build. You know how it is; mock the concept up, see what happens, take it from there. Her build: tribal scarecrow with Reaper King.

"I have a deck like that," I said.
4 Global Ruin
3 Tribal Flames
3 Exotic Disease

2 Llanowar Knight
2 Shivan Zombie
2 Scarecrone
3 Galina's Knight
2 Heap Doll
1 Pili-Pala
2 Tatterkite
3 Reaper King

2 Collective Restraint

4 Harrow

4 Barbed Sextant

9 Forest
2 Swamp
2 Mountain
3 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Plains
4 Island
Originally, the Need Machine (named after the punchy Foetus song) was a kind of protection-bears (2/2s with pro-{color}) deck with Domain-related spells (cards that got better for every land type I had in play) to overwhelm opponents. Global Ruin is the kind of card that can really wreck unprepared decks.

That shifted when I opened a couple Reaper Kings in my box of Eventide and thought, "well, this is a great creature for a five color deck!" But, I kinda one-bun'd it when I went scarecrow. I just didn't want to get rid of the most relevant pro-protection creatures.
There are new scarecrows to consider, but also the Shapeshifter creature type and the rise of "blink" related spells in Blue and White, like Displace.

While talking about her deck, Caitlin told me that there weren't more decent scarecrows to add and she was right: the color matters themed scarecrows from Shadowmoor block find no kin elsewhere, and the scarecrows printed in Shadows over Innistrad's block seem to carry no theme to them at all.

Special note to Wizards; I like the untap symbol. Bring that coolness back on something!

So there may not be much wiggle room when it comes to adding creatures; that's a bummer but there are clever workarounds like changelings to help. It's also possible that through some clever recursion tricks, Scarecrone might be a path to take-although whoa, that card is pricey!

The spells offer less opportunities: Global Ruin and Collective Restraint will keep pretty much any creature deck away; Exotic Disease, while expensive, provides quite a bit of breathing room while pairing with Tribal Flames as a reasonable win condition. Cutting those seems like a Very Bad Idea.

But at least six creatures can go, Galina's Knight, Shivan Zombie, and Llanowar Knight, so I've got a place to start.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Combat = Time

When it didn't work
I remember the moment pretty clearly: Noah, Matt and I were playing and while I don't recall what Matt was doing, Noah had a RUG Temur Battle Rage/Become Immense thing happening and I went in one turn from 20 to 6 life.

I was dead the next turn.

All I would think of was: I need a way to get more time.

So how the heck can I reliably do that? Card draw in Green, the dominant color, is too slow. Tweaking the mana base so I can use Blue seems very unwise. What to do?

Arachnogenesis. That's right, I'm taking the best Fog ever out for a spin. As a function of time, Arachnogenesis should provide me with two full turns of things to do and maybe that's all that I need. I certainly need to do something: the answers aren't coming and it's getting frustrating.

When it did!
Hell, I was considering Worldly Counsel for a bit. But the answer has to be in green or else I run the risk of having dead cards in hand and with a combo deck like this using redundancy to give it consistency, dead cards are already a problem.

In games against Caitlin and Fuz, the Spider Surprise did what I hoped; gave me minimum two turns to work things out. In one game that wasn't enough-Vigor on board blunts what Arachnogenesis wants to do-but in my other games the spiders did great work.

In the case of most aggro decks, the spiders can take out their most potent threat, enabling a decent stalemate, or against others, blunting the "all in" attack and giving me more than a turn to get things going.

I would still prefer more card draw, or another Show & Tell but for now, I think I'm in pretty good shape.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Learning Via Losses

This is a long one and it tends to focus more on the Commander format for its examples but I think it's worth the read.

I'm happy to say that doing the post-game debrief is pretty common amongst people I play with, as we're always trying to make the game better for each other. Suggestions for alternate cards and questions about different lines of play come up all the time.

I think that it's pretty cool that we're trying to help each other out.

In contrast, here's an article on dealing with wins.

I find it interesting, in that both things want to focus on process. Forget outcomes, look at how you are doing what you do.

Which is an interesting notion to ponder the next time I find myself winning anything. I am wondering if I focus more on process if I will be able to stay calmer and perform better.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Going About Going Overboard

Sometimes, I just think I should test every deck against Noah's Delver deck and if I can't make it work, well...then I know it's a Tier 2 deck.

Overkill might be a decent Jason deck: another Show and Tell and it would for sure fall into that place. Anything I can do to get a monster out before Kismet (or a similar lockdown piece) arrives and I should be OK.

But Overkill needs Fist of Suns to work, so countering the Fist means I'm in trouble. Noah's Delver deck? Counters things.

It's the kind of experience that makes me realize how overpowered Counterspell is as a card. People who want to see that in Modern either a) do not understand how oppressive that card is or b) really understand how oppressive the card is.

That said, In Garruk's Wake feels good to play but with Eldrazi on the board there's a lingering sense that it is unnecessary. Which means I'm back to: how do I make this faster?

I started looking in the other direction for the first time: what are the 1 or 2 casting cost cards that I can cast which will draw me cards?

Explore, Wall of Blossoms, Bind, Abundant Growth and Unbridled Growth all look like good options.

Bind is a card I have a soft spot for. It's the kind of effect I wish I saw more of in Green-that kind of cancellation of an activated ability seems like neat territory to explore. Instead, it's tied into Blue and the countering of triggered abilities which...meh. It's also something that I need a target for.

Explore, Wall of Blossoms, and the Growths are all cards I can play no matter what my opponent is doing. Unbridled Growth seems interesting because it could be used to contribute to the cost reduction of the new Emrakul...

Explore might be my best card though. Wall of Blossoms gives me a chump blocker and that doesn't suck but Explore puts more lands on the table and that's what I want. It might even be a replacement for Channel the Suns, a card I have liked quite a bit.

My games against Lauriel, Matt and Caitlin have shown that Channel the Suns can allow me to play a turn 3 Fist and a turn 4 Eldrazi and this is not a bad position to be in.

I've also had the glory of turn 2 Prismatic Omen with a turn 3 Show and Tell and this is also not a bad position to be in.

I don't want to give up on those last three slots, though. I feel like there's a way to make this deck really solid, if I can just figure out what those slots should be.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Aether Revolt Balance

This article taking an overview of the Kaladesh set presents some interesting problems for me.

First, it gets some basic facts confused.
Kaladesh, the most recent card set (called a “block”) of Magic, is what’s known as an “artifact block.”
Card sets are not called blocks. Blocks are made up of card sets: the Kaladesh block is comprised of two sets: Kaladesh and Aether Revolt. So from the get go, I feel as though there's something off about this opinion piece.

Second, the article wants to talk about Kaladesh in a vacuum.
Deck builders flocked to artifact cards like Aetherflux Reservoir, Smuggler’s Copter, Dynavolt Tower and the (extremely powerful) Aetherworks Marvel in order to generate very fast, very efficient and very splashy win conditions for their decks.
Of the cards listed, Smuggler's Copter and Aetherworks Marvel were problematic but of the cards listed only Smuggler's Copter was banned. The other two cards (Emrakul the Promised End and Reflector Mage) came from two other sets! (Eldrich Moon and Oath of the Gatewatch, respectively).

It is a grave oversight to talk about the issues of the Kaladesh block and not talk about the impact it has on the Standard format, which includes two other blocks, or how those blocks contributed to the current situation. Why? Because while you can play a game using only cards from Kaladesh (or Aether Revolt, or both!), almost nobody does that in Constructed. They play Standard because that's the format of the tournaments and local Friday Night Magic events.

So it's only giving you a very narrow part of the story. However, Draft and Sealed are discussed:
Playing any kind of limited game, which encompasses Sealed and Draft play, means that you are always at the mercy of a player who opens a more powerful artifact than you. In Magic, there are often “bomby” sets. Put simply, there are some cards, often rare ones referred to as “bombs,” that are just better than most of the others, and if you open them in a limited game you will probably win more often than someone who didn’t open one.
The first sentence says that you're always at the mercy of a player who gets better cards than you and the second sentence says that this is the case for many Magic sets.

Well that isn't a criticism of Kaladesh, then, it's a criticism of Magic. Just because artifacts are to blame here doesn't mean that you couldn't replace "artifacts" with "creatures" in Onslaught (a set that pushed creatures) or M11 (notorious for the Titan cycle), for example. Many, many draft or sealed deck stories end with, "and then my opponent/I drew (awful bomb card) and the game was over".

That said, there is a point to be made by the author, here:
Without a mana cost associated with a color, there is no significant check on their playability in any given deck, and sitting across the table from any one of those cards feels like a brutal beating.
Which has been true nearly every time Wizards has made a block where artifacts were a heavy theme, most notably in the Urza's and Mirrodin blocs.

However, (as with those other blocks) I have to ask: is the problem one of colored mana costs-because Mirrodin and Scars blocks both had that and produced unfun situations-or is the problem that Wizards didn't provide us with the proper answers to the questions these cards were posing? Because Scars block didn't have this complaint-we were busy dealing with another problem entirely.

There is a lot of vagueness here, from what format is being critiqued to what the actual problems are and I hope that in the future there's more concrete content available.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Aether Revolt Survey

Survey is here, if you're interested.

I love this stuff...

Spire Patrol: I found the art on this marginal. Too busy, with not nearly enough contrast between the flying mechanism and the weapon. Ugh. But for play value, I rated it fair. I'd play it in Draft or Sealed for sure.

Ridgescale Tusker: Once again, the overwhelming greenness of art on a green card. But I like the pose and the name is solid. However, a 5/5 for five mana that boosts every creature you have? That's an excellent card.

Take Into Custody: I rated everything about this card as Good. The art isn't overwhelmingly blue, the name and flavor text work nicely, and the ability is a really solid one because it's an instant. It's got some nice strategic value.

Aethertide Whale: Once again, the overwhelming blueness of art on a blue card. I guess that can't be helped, given the subject and at least the whale is purple but...I don't know. It's trying for some dynamic stuff but looks a little weird, especially that curling eddy in the lower right. I do like the flavor text's addition to the world, and the card itself I'm rating as good. Bouncing for only energy and allowing you to gain as you go seems like something that could be broke in the right circumstances, but at least good in the right deck.

Sly Requisitioner: I really feel like the art conveys the non-chalant manner of the subject, so I dig that and the name as well. I rated the play value as Fair but the overall value as Good, because I think that in the right deck-and it shouldn't be hard to engineer that deck-this card could really be a house.

Shock: Ah, the old classic. Could...someone tell me why the back walls are tinted red? Uh-huh... That said, the subject looks like a sneaky fellow so I'll give it a Fair. Everything else I thought was Good: the flavor text contributes to the overall story and Shock as a value card has proved itself since Tempest.

Hinterland Drake: It's a little weird, looking at a dragon butt, isn't it? No? Just me? OK. In the end, I rated the card Fair: 2/3 fliers don't suck and the drawback isn't a problem. But there are better choices. Limited stuff that I'd play if I had to.

Dawnfeather Eagle: Once again, the overwhelming whiteness of art on a white card. Make up your mind, Wizards, either they sky is blue, or the sky is white. That bird also looks like it's attacking but the hand in the picture looks extended to let the bird rest. Maybe I'm just unfamiliar with avian expressions... I do think the flavor text is Excellent though as well as the play value. Vigilance and +1 can mess up a lot of combat math.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner: I'm a little lenient on the art, because of the obvious setting of dusk and purple hues. The name is pretty meh though and the card overall I'm just calling Good, because you need to do a lot of work to make it viable.

Defiant Salvager: I like the name and the art and the flavor text, even, although I'm not sure they are harmonious, but the ability is fair at best.

Exquisite Archangel: The art is pretty imposing but the rest of the card is just fair. Seven mana is a LOT, even for a 5/5 flier that has a great ability. It's got its uses but the cost makes it a bit prohibitive.

Welder Automaton: I think this card is pretty good! Not excellent, but the value it provides as a 2 drop both early and late in the game have merit. It's not going to blow the lid off of a format, but it can give you something to do if the board state locks up.

Lightning Runner: I really want to like this card...but I don't. Getting the ability to work (an ability I like!) just costs too much. Marginal.

Greenwheel Liberator: I am rating this a little higher, perhaps, than I ought to because the sum is greater than the parts. The art doesn't really track unless you read the flavor text, for example, but once I did things made sense. However, as card, this puppy is excellent. There are an arbitrarily large number of ways to make this a 4/3 for two mana and that's good stuff.

Ornithoper: another classic, like Shock, that has proven its worth in the right place. And Aether Revolt is a good place for the card. But let's not lie to each other: the card is marginal.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

When In Doubt, Cube

stonethorn sits across from me in this picture, with Kaebel on the left and we are using stonethorn's cube to do crazy things.

Kaebel told me after the fact that he almost took all three Liliana planeswalkers and I told him he should have. You might as well go all in...

As it stood, multiplayer drafted cube is pretty rad. I went for an Ancestral Recall as my first pick but then dove right into red when I noticed around the second pass that it was being overlooked.

At first I thought I'd be making a U/R deck, as I also got an early Young Pyromancer but it quickly became obvious that green was the other color being overlooked-Kaebel going heavy WB-artifacts and stonethorn doing more White/Blue/Black. I got a few blue cards but nothing spectacular.

So green it was! Still, R/G/u is not a bad way to go, especially if you can pull any mana fixing, which I was able to cobble together via a couple lands and a Rampant Growth.

We pulled off two games, both humdingers. Nobody was able to take a commanding lead, everyone had a shot and the games didn't feel decided until the finish line.

I made two errors early in game one, when I used a Control Magic on stonethorn's Liliana, that didn't leave me with an Island to cast the Ancestral Recall in my hand before casting an Eidolon of the Great Revel. The Control Magic was a mistake because once Liliana, Heretical Healer becomes a Planeswalker, I lose control of her.

The failure to retain a blue mana keeping me from casting the Ancestral Recall was just...so dumb. I made that mistake because I was so focused on using a Black Lotus to cast the Control Magic on the correct target.

Kinda blew it on both counts, right? I lost that game, but was able to make up for it in game two, where I was able to take advantage of an early Young Pyromancer and the pressure that Kaebel put on the board via Sulfuric Vortex. Since my spells allowed me to create creatures to do damage, I was able to hold back on casting my creatures.

One board wipe later (although I forget by whom), I had the ability to come back in hand, while my opponents had to dig for their new answers.

But, good news! I have a computer that will let me play online again, so I should be able to wrap up my focus on Overkill soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

On the FFL

I thought that this article on the way Wizards tests cards was worth a read.

This article on card flow dynamics at StarCity is, I believe, equally valuable. A solid take on some cues people can pick up from seeing other people draw cards. Very cool.

I haven't had much time to play though-I need a new computer to play Cockatrice on and that won't arrive until Wednesday, and there hasn't been much more time to play, because adults have things to do. However, I can say this: I went with more copies of Channel the Suns, up to three and two copies of In Garruk's Wake.

The former because I want to see if the deck becomes any faster. The latter because that's what I had in the binder. My copies of Decree of Pain and Plague Wind are being used somewhere! I'm as surprised about Plague Wind as anyone but as always, I'm going to make do with the tools I have.


Friday, February 10, 2017

Beat The Difference

Time is a bear; it's been hurry hurry all week so when rushing out the door to play games with Matt, Caitlin and Noah I went with the following swap:

-1 Blightsteel Colossus
-3 Maelstrom Archangel

1 Lay of the Land
1 Channel the Suns
2 Razia's Purification

I became a big fan of Razia's Purification in multiplayer, I'll tell you that much. In a four player game, I was able to cast an Eldrazi, follow it up with an attack, then the Purification and...nobody had anything else left to play.

In duel though, I'm pretty sure the Purification won't really save me when I need it too. I am interested in the card because it's a way to break the game-annihilator mechanic + Razia's Purification means that I will win, no matter what. I'm fairly certain, however, that this just means I will win more. That means The Glory of Cool Things rule is in effect and that should almost always be avoided.

I like the notion I have with Lay of the Land and Channel the Suns, but I don't think it's quite right. Channel might be correct: turn three Fist of Suns, turn four Channel said Suns does help jumpstart Overkill. That might be the best notion, as there is a huge difference between getting Kozilek out on turn four versus five.

I'm still searching for a catchall though and I'm even tempted by Wave of Vitriol. In Garruk's Wake, Decree of Pain or Plague Wind are probably my best choices though.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

More Is More

I started off taking Matt's advice and looking for instants and sorceries that would benefit from casting under Fist of Suns.

There are some pretty flashy spells to cast there. Army of the Damned, Disaster Radius, Beacon of Immortality, Beacon of Tomorrows, just to start. 

Then there are the duds. Explosive Impact, Feral Incarnation, Govern the Guildless-the list is quite extensive.

There are the in-between cards, which are almost worse. Flying Crane Technique is just unnecessary,

It isn't a simple fix because so many big effects like that are symmetrical, which means I have to try and break that symmetry, which is not a good direction for a deck like this. Or the effects are unnecessary, such as "take an extra turn". I don't need extra turns from a spell, I have Emrakul.

Equally difficult are the spells that could be big if I spent the mana: anything with X as a cost or Kicker-type mechanics. Fist of Suns only takes care of the base cost of the spell.

Things get narrower though, given what the deck needs: card draw or destruction effects. That's where cards like Blasphemous Act or In Garruk's Wake come into play, although I will admit a soft spot for a card like Dichotomancy.

Obvious removal like All is Dust or Scour from Existence is there but I suppose the challenge is that I really don't know where Overkill needs shoring up.

More games.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Outliers

Vs Stasis
Playing Jason is always a good time. He knows the game, sees lines of play that I miss, and creates decks that just don't come at people along traditional lines of victory. This is why a holdover from all the decks I built while we were roommates is my inclusion of Disenchant or Naturalize effects. Every time.

I'm loath to give them up, too, because damnit, that effect is useful so often. Buuuut when it isn't useful it's a dead card and when I play against members of the newer playgroup, dead cards will cost you games a little more frequently.

Overkill is a deck that I made in the "modern" era of my deckbuilding, which means that I recognized that it was a combo deck and anything that didn't enhance the combo needed to be cut. Therefore, no Naturalize.

Which is a problem when you play against a Stasis/Kismet deck. I didn't have the disruption to get out from under the lock, which is what happens when there are no Naturalize effects and Stasis comes out on turn 3. Show and Tell doesn't really help because even if I reveal an Emrakul, if Jason reveals Kismet...well, my creature is tapped and useless.

The question is: do I really need to address that?

The answer, unfortunately, might be 'maybe'. Matt also has a Stasis deck, one that I've beaten because I had answers to enchantments and he didn't have answers to that. Buuuuut.

Do I need them? Or do I just accept that this is the kind of matchup where I have a disadvantage. I ask this question because I know there is no way to make one deck be good in all situations. Maybe I should go even further: perhaps this is just a card that has my deck's Achilles Heel.

Now, if that card made up a broad percentage of my field-or even of the Legacy metagame-I would definitely feel compelled to tweak Overkill in order to defeat this particular angle of attack. However, on the curve, how many decks do I deal with that come at me this way? That's the real question.

Because when I played against Jason's 5C sliver deck, he exclaimed: That deck is fast. That is not an adjective he uses for my decks very often.

I still think it's worth looking at some spells that are expensive-maybe one or two?-but perhaps it would be better to look at cards to help speed it up that were cheap.

Also, another copy of Show and Tell probably wouldn't suck.




Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Destruction Is Never Enough

Although I was able to hit the ground running, what games I got in didn't tell me much. That really isn't my fault: I don't think that I need to actually demonstrate why a turn three Emrakul via Show and Tell is a victory condition.

It happened twice. Now, I'm not one to look a gift horse in the mouth but damnit, how am I supposed to get data if I can't...get data?

I did have an interesting experience with Emrakul, the Promised End that made me wonder if it was the right card for the deck.

In a game three against Lauriel, who was piloting an aggressive RBW deck and she'd gotten me down to seven life, when I was able to cast Emrakul, the Promised End via Fist of Suns.

One the one hand, that felt really cool to do. On the other... so many of her resources had already been used that there wasn't much of a turn for me to take over. I had one giant creature and while it was invulnerable, I certainly wasn't. She ended up swarming me on her next controlled turn and that was that.

Now, one bad experience does not define everything but on the other hand, I'm fairly confident that if I had had Emrakul 1.0, the annihilator ability-but more importantly the opportunity to draw another card- might've put me in a position to win that game. I don't want to cut that, though; it's an interesting mental puzzle to work out when Emrakul 2 comes out.

That said, I may have to try and find a way to stay alive long enough to get to turn five, or make turn five happen earlier.

I'm headed to Seattle this week so I'm not sure that I'll have a post set up for Thursday but by next Tuesday, I hope to have some cool stories.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Overkill

Alright, time to have a little fun. After the oppressive grind of Ironhide I feel like doing something a little more all-in. Named after the song by Motorhead, Overkill is a deck I built after looking at Fist of Suns and thinking: but why isn't anyone using THAT?
2 Island
14 Forest
2 Mountain
2 Plains
2 Swamp 
4 Maelstrom Archangel
1 It That Betrays
2 Kozilek, Butcher of Truth
2 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre
2 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Blightsteel Colossus
1 Emrakul, the Promised End 
4 Harrow 
4 Prismatic Omen 
4 Ancient Stirrings
2 Seek the Wilds
2 Show and Tell
4 Insist 
4 Fist of Suns
1 Chromatic Lantern

Maelstrom Archangel is my redundancy card, along with the only copies of Show and Tell that I own. It doesn't happen often but when it does, Show and Tell ends games swiftly.

I'll just come clean though: I didn't name this deck Overkill (which also has the rare distinction of being a Transformer, too) so I could drop Colossus of Akros, Jokulmorder, or Krosan Cloudscraper. This deck might be good with dicking around but there's a point where I don't want to be dicking around anymore. It's cute to cast Etched Monstrosity but it's also laughable.

No. If I'm spending five turns trying to get set up so I can cast any spell I want for the rainbow, crush 'em.

Early versions of this deck ran copies of Joiner Adept as a way to provide redundancy on Prismatic Omen, but the creature was just too fragile. The mana base is still tricky, since it has to be heavy green in order to produce all the desired colors but without acceleration, I'm still looking at a turn five giant monster and often that just isn't enough.

So it will be good to take this to the table and see what comes of that experience. If I lose, I can say the monsters were capricious. Hell, I can say that if I win, too.



Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Razor Margins

So it is now that I have been testing Ironhide with 2 copies of Azorious Cluestone or none for a week now.

I don't know that it matters. The games I played against Matt and Caitlin had four Compulsions and I needed one to crank through my deck fast enough to win, once I had the combo set up.

In my online games with Fuz and Lauriel, I have been using two Cluestones and they've been helpful when they arrived but there have been games where neither the Cluestone nor the Compulsion showed up and I have won (or lost). It's all about the aggro decks and whether or not I can get set up in time. If I can, Ironhide is very difficult to beat.

Lauriel had a neat trick, with her RWB aggro deck using Impact Tremors to seal up wins. I could blunt any attack she made but then I needed to find a Seal of Cleansing to stay alive and couldn't. All she had to do was cast her spells.

It was a good matchup, one I think about sideboards for.

Similarly, Fuz's aggro zombies deck-the man must have five goddamn zombie decks because I swear I'm seeing different things each time-is just so flat out aggressive that I found myself carefully considering mulligans and using Brainstorm and Truth or Tale aggressively myself, trying to speed up Ironhide's resilience. It worked in this matchup but I wouldn't count on it; he was inches from beating me in this picture and it took everything I had to grind this game out.

So I'm not sure that the Cluestones matter.

What is interesting is that every time I've considered removing some tech-be it Daru Encampment or Compulson-that card inevitably does some important work for me. On the one hand, I'm glad that the choices I made to put these cards in to start off with are paying off but on the other, I'm faced with situations where I could be spinning my wheels on a deck like this forever and never getting any closer to actually improving it.

So for now, I'm going to let this one lie. Current decklist:

1 Coastal Tower
1 Kjeldoran Outpost
8 Plains
8 Island
1 Adarkar Wastes
4 Flooded Strand
1 Daru Encampment

2 Martial Coup
2 Condescend

2 Gempalm Avenger

2 Seal of Cleansing
2 Mobilization
4 Humility
4 Orim's Prayer
4 Compulsion

1 Dismantling Blow
3 Truth or Tale
3 Circular Logic
3 Miscalculation
4 Brainstorm

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Aether Revolt Impressions (2) [Or, I mean it this time]

So let's get to it.

We've got two "new" mechanics and of them I think only one really has the potential to be a pain in the ass for a long time.

So I'll start with the balanced one: Improvise. We all know this is just Convoke but for artifacts, right? Right.

But there's nothing wrong with that. While it's not my favorite mechanic, Convoke is useful and has at least one card that sees play fairly often across a variety of formats. And I believe Improvise is better, because you can use any artifact-the mechanic doesn't care if it's a creature or mana rock or just a Clue token. Any artifact that doesn't use the tap symbol to activate now has 'T: add 1 colorless to your mana pool' with this mechanic and that's a pretty strong place to be. Because creatures have value if untapped-but artifacts? You could go either way!

The fact that it's in Blue (which it should be but c'mon WotC, Artifacts are already Blue's color) helps; the splashes in Black and Red mean that they're at least trying to spread the power around.

The other mechanic, Revolt, has the potential to be one of the most annoying Standard mechanics in a long time. I don't know that it will be but I remember Thragtusk and people were really, really sick of that card by the time it left Standard.

Now we have a whole set that wants to engage in "leaves play" shenanigans. It's not quite on the same power level as Thragtusk, of course, but it does mean that Blue and White forms of removal have dropped down a notch. In addition, there are more cards overall that engage in the "flicker" mechanic since Thragtusk's printing.

So I think this has the potential to be really interesting and/or really bothersome and the broader the format, the greater the impact. Of those, Solemn Recruit, Fatal Push, Hidden Herbalists, Hidden Stockpile, and Renegade Rallier have some interest but the first three are clear winners.

Also: How do you have a mechanic called Revolt and not include it in Red? This is a massive flavor fail for WotC. Sorry folks; if they're going to demand that mechanics and flavor mesh then I don't see how you get around excluding the most chaotic color from a revolution.

Moving on to some more specific cards:

In White, let's talk about Sram and his Expertise. Sram is great, there's just no getting around it: he wants to play nice with a few of White's themes, giving him a broad base to work from. He won't make Bestow awesome but he at least brings an interesting dimension to what White likes to do. While the initial effect of his Expertise isn't great, a free spell is a free spell and I am hard pressed to think of a time in Magic's history where a free spell couldn't be broken or didn't tilt things unfun. At four mana, it's likely to see play, too. I expect good things here.

Blue has two cards I want to talk about too: Baral and Mechanized Production. The former because its second ability sucks. Decks that play this play it for the cost reduction of spells. Mechanized Production though, is a fascinating win condition that I hope people get to have fun with. I can definitely see this in a grindy deck that uses hexproof artifacts to pull out the win and I dig it.

Black gets interesting for a few reasons. Herald of Anguish feels like a card that was thrown together. Improvise and the sac ability have some synergy at least and flying is pretty standard for a demon but why is there a discard ability in the middle? There isn't anything about that ability that plays into the rest of the card, so it feels like an ability tacked on so they can make it a mythic. Renegade's Getaway's clause of "target permanent" feels weird too, because it can protect anything, including lands, enchantments and planeswalkers which I'm not sure Black should be able to protect. Yahenni's Expertise should become an excellent sweeper, too: unlike Baral's Expertise, Yahenni's is useful and cheap.

Red is notable for the shitty, shitty artifact destruction that is there and jeeze that's dumb. C'mon. Also, why isn't Chandra's Revolution an enchantment like her mom's? This feels...weird. Plus, they have zero thematic cohesion. Make up your mind's, WotC! Either this is something we're supposed to notice or it isn't!

As I get to Green, only Monstrous Onslaught really seems interesting because it's a potential low-level Wrath for Green. But it's incredibly situational and needs a massive creature: It seems like the kind of card that's good after you've lost the game. There's also a cat monkey (Scrounging Bandar), so hey, there's that.

Actually, I take it back: Unbridled Growth is probably really good. Color fixing until you don't need it, then it replaces itself. That's actually really good.

Gold cards are, aside from the planeswalkers, kinda 'eh' until Winding Constrictor comes up. This is the kind of card that makes me think it will have interactions with the next set, because of the "whenever you get a counter, you get an extra counter" clause.

Finally, the artifacts just..don't inspire me. They aren't awful but they don't do anything that unusual either, in my opinion. Spire of Industry has some pretty cool uses as a land but I'm a little discouraged to see it at rare, since it's fairly conditional as a five color mana generator and punishing when it turns on.





Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Aether Revolt Impressions (1)

The spoiler list is here, for reference or if you haven't seen it yet.

My first thought...is actually that it feels really early for the spoiler to be out! The set isn't out until Jan 27th, which means the pre-release is a solid 14 days away (as of this writing). That's a long, long time for people to take a crack at testing this set. WotC doesn't usually show the goods off this soon, right?

That suggests to me one of two things:

First; they had it on pretty good authority that the set was going to be leaked. And if that's the case then they might as well get ahead of it, ruin the credibility of any leaker and show off what they have on their terms. It's a good PR move, if that's the case.

Second: the displeasure players have expressed with the current Standard format has put a bug in WotC's ear and they want to show players that there are some powerful, interesting tools to shake up that format and keep people interested and invested in playing. That's still a good move but it's definitely worrisome, that Kaladesh-intially wildly hailed as a very interesting format-has fallen into the patterns of...well, Mirrodin, actually.

Historical note: every time WotC decides to get cute with Artifacts, something like this happens. See also: Mirrodin and Urza's blocks. Mirrodin especially had so much untapped potential-and none of it mattered because of affinity. Kaladesh is a little different, as the oppression is also coming from Emrakul but how is Emrakul arriving so quickly? Aetherworks Marvel.

I rest my case.

Or, I did before Monday's Banned and Restricted announcement.

They say that they wanted to allow players to test an environment that would actually exist; meaning, since they knew that the B&R announcement was coming, they wanted to give players as long as reasonably possible to test for a format that was coming, not the one everyone expected.

This is another good PR move, it just arrived in a way I had not seen coming.

Interesting--but that's a lot of non-review stuff for one day, so I'll get to an actual overview on Thursday.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Blend

I thought about cutting all of the Compulsions for Azorius Cluestones but the more I thought about it, the less sense that made. I want to ramp the mana up but I still am running redundant copies of Orim's Prayer and Humility. I need ways to churn through the deck to get to win conditions, or else the game goes too long.

This becomes especially relevant with Mobilization as one of my win conditions. Generating token(s) every turn is important to keep the pressure on, so mana matters. But if I can't draw one, or get a Martial Coup then I'm really struggling to close things out.

So I split the difference: two Cluestones for two Complusions.

Fortunately, things seem to be working well. Fuz was playing a B/W deck using Exquisite Blood as a win condition-and I handled it just fine. (As a small rules note: cards like Academy Rector do not trigger under a Humility, because the game checks to see what the card was when it left play. )

This was also the case against a pretty interesting G/W Beasts deck. His deck was using some lifegain elements to help give him some reach against more aggressive decks and because his creatures are so big, once it gets rolling it's very difficult to put up a proper defense.

Thankfully, Humility solves those problems.

However until Humility shows up, sometimes Orim's Prayer has to step in and take care of things, as you can see in the picture. 4/4s that only do one point of damage to me are not as effective at closing out the game as they would be otherwise.

(As a second rules note: Humility before Mobilization means my tokens have vigilance. The other way around and they don't).

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

K.I.S.S.

The best solutions are almost always the simplest ones.

After plowing through set after set to try and figure out what card should replace Aether Storm, I finally realized that the answer was staring me in the face. Almost literally, to be truthful, because there has been a stack of four Brainstorms sitting on my desk waiting for me to find a home for them for over a month.

Brainstorm and fetch lands have been the chocolate and peanut butter of Magic for a long time now. Why am I trying to argue?

So, into the breach we go with Brainstorms!

...it's harder than it looks. The urge to hold on to Brainstorm until I have a Flooded Strand, simply for value is really strong. And, with a deck like Ironhide, which works from a different avenue of attack and defense than most other decks, the unique power of it can help cover a lot of potential mistakes as I find my way to the best play.

My multiplayer games against Matt and Caitlin really demonstrated this: once I got the soft lock, there wasn't anything they could do about my position in the game anymore. But I always felt that I was one misplay away from the whole thing slipping from my fingers-despite winning those games.

On the other hand, you can't prepare for everything, as I learned in my matchup against Fuz while he was playing a U/R deck designed to punish you for drawing cards. Brainstorm plays right into that and I lost my matchup in spectacular fashion.

After these matches, I felt I needed to make a few changes. Compulsion is solid, because it helps me move from the "lock phase" of the game to the "win phase" and that can't be overlooked. However, one of the consistent issues I've noticed is that I always felt hungry for mana. I'd thought having 24 lands would make it work but I may have overrated what Flooded Strand counts for, so I'll be making a few more tweaks, I think.