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


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.