Friday, June 30, 2017

Every Time

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

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

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

However, that second sentence rarely goes said.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Absent Bedlam

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'll start there and see what happens. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Suggestion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There's only one way to find out.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Oh, MAN am I behind. Sorry!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The First Round

Some good, some bad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

What does this all mean?

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Core Sets Are Returning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Best Worst Card

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Garbage Cube & Amonkhet Selections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what from Amonkhet should go in?

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

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

So I think it's Rhet-Crop.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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