Thursday, May 25, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

The Sense of the Underworld

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

Ain't that a pain in the butt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Dimir Signet

4 Seizan, Perverter of Truth
3 Urborg Emissary

4 Dark Suspicions

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

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

3 Sickening Dreams
3 Alms of the Vein
2 Whelming Wave

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Player Variance

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

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

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Twist In The Unreal

One Whelming Wave, added.

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

So: how'd it work out?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Game Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Breathing Down Your Neck

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, May 4, 2017

Go To Turn Around

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll get on that next.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Amonkhet Survey

The link is here if you want it.

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

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

I should really ask about why they do that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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