Thursday, August 31, 2017

If He Should Live Forever

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Commander Design Handoff Doc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Gossip Tongues Wagged

When it doubt, go for removal.

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

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

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

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Just To Bring Him Back Down

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

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

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

That's not good.

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

The other question is: what about turn two?

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

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

No Such Thing

 I've been playing some Magic at the Tonic lounge when I get the chance, but the format is frequently Commander. Which means I haven't had much of an opportunity to test I Hate It When That Happens To Me, sadly.

What I am happy to say, though, is that the people at the Tonic have been pretty friendly and fairly decent players. I've been having a good time playing with strangers and sometimes that's really tricky.

In the meantime, I've come across this article at Channelfireball, which has me pondering how to play my best game.

If there is no such thing as a perfect game, then striving for a mindset where I evaluate my options for the highest risk/reward might help me see the game from other player's points of view.

That is an especially useful skill in Commander where the boardstate can look very different to me as it might to someone else. Measuring out my play in Commander has been a frequent challenge, where I find myself or my permanents targeted without understanding why-because to me, there is clearly a much bigger problem at the table. It's only later in the game as more information is revealed that I understand.

Although not always. Sometimes people just boggle me.

Thursday, August 10, 2017


The Commander spoilers are starting to go up and I believe the entire lists are published tomorrow.

Now, while I can't really say I'm excited about the decks, conceptually-tribal decks dragons, vampires, wizards and cats and I can't get excited about any of those redundant monsters, and only four of, ok-what I can say is that I'm happy to see Curses finding a home in the format.

I love Curses. I like the mechanical way they exist in the game, I like how they can be tweaked for multiplayer, and the flavor of them is so much fun.You play a wizard, it's long overdue that we should be able to curse our opponents, so having more options with that Curse type is cool to me.

WotC seems to be enjoying the way they can be used politically in Commander and I am all for it. Anything that helps break up the stalemates that can exist on the board. As with the Monarch mechanic in Conspiracy, I like the way they're trying to keep the game pushing forward.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Man Who Was Going Insane

I think this deck is going to be one of those odd situations where I rarely win, but when I can pull it out it will feel really satisfying.

Now, some of the readers are aware of the Magic Bracket but if not: it's a massive vote to determine the best Magic card of all. And it was in a recent poll that I saw Mikaeus, the Lunarch up for vote. I had a little thunderbolt moment: Mikaeus can be searched up by Ranger of Eos!

Do I want this effect, though? It just seemed like I was pressing IHIWTHTM in the wrong direction-combat instead of Aetherflux Reservoir.

In my first run of tests against Noah, I was to find out: I lost the first game by overextending my board into a Wrath effect but in the second game, I landed an Ajani Goldmane and used it's -1 ability, which quickly tilted the game in my direction.

Alright, I thought, let's see what happens when I take out Soul of Theros for Mikaeus...

Noah approved of this idea.

He also proceeded to murder Mikaeus whenever it hit the board, so that I would never see it in action.

So I suppose I'm on the right track!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

I Hate It When That Happens To Me

I Hate It When It That Happens To Me is named after a John Prine song. Not my usual reservoir for titles but it's a pretty good song. I blame my Dad for introducing me to it.
4 Aetherflux Reservoir

2 Soul of Theros
4 Martyr of Sands
4 Soul's Attendant
4 Rhox Faithmender
4 Aerial Responder
2 Ajani's Sunstriker
2 Ranger of Eos

2 Beacon of Immortality

3 Windbrisk Heights
2 Forbidding Watchtower
18 Plains

3 Ajani Goldmane

4 Fumigate
2 Spectral Procession
Readers might recognize the skeleton of this deck; Soul Sisters is a long standing Tier 1.5-2 deck in Modern and just over a year ago, I helped a buddy build a budget version of it. The big question was: What's the win condition, given Serra Ascendant is out of the price range?

I don't remember what my answer was, then but I think we built the best deck we could, while keeping in his budget.

A few months later, Aetherflux Reservoir comes out and I immediately email him with a link to the card saying "This is it!"

Which inspired me to build my own version of the deck...eventually. I don't know that it'll be great, but paying 50 life to do 50 damage to an opponent seems pretty sweet to me. Having a backup plan of attacking with creatures pumped by Ajani Goldmane isn't a bad thing as these notions go, so I'm running with it.

There's a few placeholder cards in there: Soul of Theros is the most obvious one and Windbrisk Heights is likely to be cut. Beacon of Immortality is expensive but the effect is too good to ignore and the ability to win at instant speed isn't a bad thing.

Now to see where this takes me.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Perfect Practice

It was Noah who suggested that I should swap Swords to Plowshares out for Path to Exile.

I should've seen this before but I suppose it does speak to the raw power of this build: I've been able to overcome the lifegain drawback from StP and still have a chance to win.

Noah also pointed out that Path has positive interactions for me with Unexpectedly Absent, where I could potentially get rid of a creature without Path's drawback, because my opponent wouldn't want to shuffle his/her deck.If they do decide to shuffle, then odds are they are hoping for something better than they have and that's also a good sign.

Unfortunately, none of my games with Noah provided me with an opportunity use Unexpectedly Absent.
My games with Matt, however, were another story. A little bit of a bummer for him, since he suggested that tech, having to be on the bad end of it.

I had a difficult decision early in a game against his mono-white control deck: he'd played a Mox Diamond and my turn two had just started. I decided to take a risk cast Unexpectedly Absent for zero to put the Diamond back on his library.

My thinking was that if he didn't have another land in hand to discard, I've just seriously impacted the early game and I can take advantage.

If he had another land to discard, odds are he wouldn't have a second land to play and again, we'd be in the same place.

Unfortunately, the worst case happened; He had two lands in hand, so my attempt at setting him back was for naught. After the game was over and I'd taken my loss, Matt said I should've held back and waited but I thought I had an opportunity to jumpstart my game over his and I'm just not sure that I made the wrong choice.

That said, I've played against Fuz a bunch over the last weekend-my game versus his mono-b zombie deck is pictured-and Triggerhappy overperformed. I won far, far more games than I expected to, and that was without replacing Swords with Path. Unexpectedly Absent was good and even usable with Kari Zev's Expertise for zero. That's pretty sweet for an X spell.

So I think that's the final chapter. I've been running this deck for a long time and I think it's as good as it's going to get.