Thursday, December 27, 2018


The first few games with Dirge went along the lines I expected them to: eking out wins but feeling as though if I didn't get that turn two ogre down, things were going to go badly.

And then I played against one of Jason's mill decks.

Dirge vs GRW Dinos
Playing against decks that have zero interaction with each other is always an interesting exercise in focus and patience.

Where are the holes in this deck that keep me from advancing my game plan? Are there holes in the other that I can exploit? At what point do you quit? It's questions like these that I have to keep asking in order to not beat my head against the wall while being defeated.

And in games when I was facing down three copies of Propaganda and a Mesmeric Orb, with no way to remove either, it's time to cut my losses.

So what do I know? I know that Dirge is not a Jason deck: It would require hand disruption in order to fulfill this role, or, lacking that, artifact-based board wipes like Nevinyrral's Disk.

I also discovered that having Nameless Inversion was useful because of its interaction with Blood Speaker-being able to get some removal on command isn't bad.

But, after running the deck through the analytics, I realized something:

My paper deck and my online deck did not match.

The biggest change was that instead of Yukora the Prisora, Xathrid Demon took the place of the heavy hitter. That isn't nothing though; the mana cost between those two cards is significant. But the downside to Yukora is too high, leaving me with the low end ogres and nothing of my more frightening demons. I'd replaced it and forgotten to make the change in the digital world.

The other line of play that Xathrid Demon gives me is a way to win when combat is no longer an option,especially if I've been able to get in for some early beats.

In addition to the Xathrid Demon, there was one less Raving Oni-Slave and one more Swamp. These are not insignificant deals.

So first I have to update the deck so I'm playing the same thing everywhere, and then I really do have to take out the Ghostly Changelings for something better. One thing Fuz has suggested: Demon of Dark Schemes, which is a pretty crazy take but...maybe?

Tuesday, December 25, 2018


Sorry everyone, I tried to get some content squared away's Christmas!

Happy holidays.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Growth Spiral

Right now, I think this is the most important card in Ravnica Allegiance.

"That's a bold strategy, Cotton-"

It sure is. However, for two mana it effectively Time Walks you as an instant.

I am having difficulty thinking of another card that has that kind of power in Standard, or even Modern. Coiling Oracle comes close and has the bonus of being a body but I'm convinced that the ability to get ahead a card and a land on my opponent's turn is probably one of the best turn two plays I can make.

In addition, this effect has value even in the mid or late game, when building up resources is important and Growth Spiral gives you two of the big three resources in the game! (Land, Cards in hand, and Life total would be the three I'd identify).

This card is a big deal and I think it's going to have an impact across multiple formats. And if it doesn't make a big splash in Pauper, I will be stunned.


Tuesday, December 18, 2018


It's been a long time since I've done a mono-black deck, so let's fix that!

I present, Dirge, taken from the Transformer of the same name.
3 Hasran Ogress
3 Scourge of Numai
2 Yukora, the Prisoner
3 Ghostly Changeling
1 Grinning Demon
3 Raving Oni-Slave
2 Kagemaro, First to Suffer
3 Blood Speaker
4 Ogre Marauder
2 Gutwrencher Oni

3 Mark of the Oni

4 Lose Hope
4 Nameless Inversion

3 Polluted Mire
20 Swamp
Built during Kamigawa block, Dirge is using the synergies between ogres and demons to try and get a leg up on the game. Previous iterations had equipment to buff my creatures, but I decided that Mark of the Oni was a better use of the card space.

The biggest difference is that now we have a LOT more demons to pick from and truth be told, there is probably little reason to keep Nameless Inversion in the deck since there are many, many options for removal and the creature type aspect isn't relevant. Lose Hope is a nice trick, and there might even be more to add in that vein, since card selection in this deck isn't the strong suit.

There might even be better ogres! Aside from wanting to stay close to the Ogres and Demons theme, there's a lot of room to play around. Should be fun!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Transformers Interview

My friend Jason pointed me towards this very cool interview with the brand manager of the Transformers game and I think you'll dig it.

Sorry I can't link it directly: I'm far away and I don't have my full toolset! 

Friday, November 30, 2018

I Know I Said I Was Gone

However, this theory article by Adrian Sullivan is just too good not to pass along.

I Won't Call On The Angels

This is it; the final form.

I took on a variety of decks, across multiplayer and 1v1 and I like where this went. My final change: remove Izoni, Thousand Eyed (I was giving just one last shot!) for a fourth Creekwood Liege. Because the Liege is amazing.

If I was going to make one last tweak, it mighit be to cut a Golgari Guildmage for another Status // Statue or Assassin's Trophy. I don't think I'd add another Driven // Despair: that card is a 'silver bullet' effect that is there to draw cards in a stalemate or power through damage. I've liked it when I've cast it, but I don't need to cast it often.

Similarly, I don't think I'd add another Hapatra; she draws attention immediately but I don't have quite enough ways to ensure I'll get to use her abilities as I would like. Here's the final list:
3 Llanowar Dead
3 Ebony Treefolk
4 Woodlurker Mimic
4 Creakwood Liege
4 Golgari Guildmage
2 Spiritmonger
1 Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons

3 Putrefy
3 Golgari Charm
3 Assassin's Trophy
2 Status // Statue

9 Forest
4 Twilight Mire
7 Swamp
3 Hissing Quagmire

3 Vraska the Unseen
1 Vraska, Relic Seeker

1 Driven // Despair
Finally, this is the last post for two weeks. I know, two weeks! But I'm on the road so I won't have time to play anything. Back to swinging for twenty on Dec 18th-previews for Ravnica Alliance will be in the air by then, I'm sure!

If not...maybe Transformers Wave 2?

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Transformers Wave 1

The Transformers TCG is about two months old at this point and this past Thanksgiving holiday, I spent a bunch of time with it. I played a bunch of two person, two pack sealed games (my friend bought a box and we went through the whole thing), as well as a series of games made out of decks I had constructed and he built from the box we had opened. Here's my impressions.

transformers TCG game
First: it's pretty easy to teach. They were going for people 8 and up and I think they did a good job of keeping the rule set at that level.

Second: it's a whole lot deeper than it looks. There are meaningful decisions to make that provide a lot of depth to the game! Most robot modes do something, either adding an ability or increasing or decreasing attack or defensive values and choosing the correct mode can be a highly strategic moment.

Third: my character cards are bending, just a bit. I get having the bot mode of the characters be shiny is a very cool thing but damnit WotC there is no excuse for this. They've been doing foil cards for nearly twenty years and should have worked this problem out a long time ago. My cards should not be bending slightly after no use and merely hours out of the box-something I noted specifically with my Metroplex deck but with a few others, too.

The positive side to this is that once in sleeves and after a little compression, the cards seemed to flatten out. And since character cards aren't shuffled or otherwise handled roughly, I'm willing to be a little more lenient here.

Fourth: they still haven't figured out not to do 'feel bad' mechanics right. This is a weird moment, I know, because it's something I critique Magic for often: being afraid to give players mechanics that might feel bad initially but can be really powerful if used cleverly. Yet this same company is giving me cards that feel bad to use and not enough tools to really get around those bad feelings. There aren't a lot of cards that do this and there are workarounds if you're looking for them but it's all quite narrow and I'm unclear if it's worth trying to make something work. The initial tests feel shaky, not exciting.

Fifth: on the other hand, it feels like there is just the right amount of variance at the moment. Perhaps this is because it's still a new game, but there's a "wild west" vibe that has me still feeling lucky when I pull off a tough win, but also punished for poor planning. Which is great, because I've been able to recognize where my strategic errors were and change my play accordingly. Seeing rewards when you play well is always a positive.

Sixth: there's a lot of room to grow. I believe there's a bunch of space to work with in this game, between the choice of which characters you want to fight with to how the deck you build will manifest those choices and all the decision trees that will develop from those initial pics. The Transforming mechanic itself offers a ton of flexibility which should keep the game fresher than many of its counterparts and the combat strategies have enough tension between

My final verdict is a positive one! I had a great deal of fun playing and I hope to find more players and continue exploring this game. Bring on Wave 2!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

What If I Had To Scold You

King of the Rotten is performing pretty well: I like it and I like where it's going.

But the last two slots are still in question.

After a few multiplayer games, Matt and Caitlin broke the deck down again. Izoni was still a big questionmark and Caitlin was scornful towards the card. "It's just so small," she said. The three of us talked about the problem with Deadbridge Chant, something Matt quickly agreed with my assessment of.

She went quiet, thumbing through her phone while Matt thumbed through the deck and pulled out Izoni, a Putrify and a Status/Statue.

"I think you've got so much removal you could probably take these out and add in some more 'low to the ground' threats," he said.

OK. So now what? I still want to have some frightening cards-things my opponent doesn't want to see and I have room on the curve for something big! There just isn't anything there for me.

"What about Hapatra?" Caitlin asks.

I am struck dumb for a moment, as she reads off the card's abilities. I was so focused on finding a high end answer to the solution I never even looked at the low end!

But Haptra, Vizier of Poisons has a synergistic ability with the Mimics, is G/B and is cheap! So I'm running her and a copy of Driven/Despair as a catch all, 'win now' card, since the abilities aren't irrelevant.

So, one more round of testing-and this week I'm headed up to Seattle to visit with my friend Jason and play a bunch of Magic, the new Transformers game and...I don't know what else. But the next post will go up on the 27th!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Informal Poll

Someone has decided to gauge what people's favorite Magic expansion is from the past 10 years and I thought that would be neat to share. Interestingly, core sets are included but I suppose that makes sense, since the core sets include new-and sometimes environment shaping-cards in them now.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Five Simple Ways To Improve

Most of the stuff in this article by Craig Wescoe is old hat to me: playing the land at the last possible reasonable moment, thinking ahead about how the game will develop, etc.

But I had not thought much about the last point: putting the opponent in your shoes. I frequently think about what I'd do if I were them, but I rarely take the extra step to think about what information I'm providing to direct that line of thought.

This isn't to encourage some kind of mind game, in my opinion, it's to see the board from different perspectives and play a tighter game, which is what it's all about. Mind games with your opponent are, in my opinion, a waste of energy that I'd rather spend on playing a better game, personally.

Lastly: I'm headed out of town for a wedding this weekend, so I won't be able to get a new post up until Nov 15th. Have a safe weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Would You Be My Queen

Vs Dinos
I don't like Izoni. I said so back in my set overview and that really hasn't changed, but for those of you who don't want to wade through the entire review:
I hate everything about Izoni, Thousand Eyed. A 6 casting cost creature has WAY better base stats on average in the modern age, the ability is an "okayest ability" so the reward is...? This is a card designed for Commander and it will totally suck to play against. While also being entirely useless in any. other. format.

I hate it.
So, there's that.

Everyone else isn't me though, so I watched the Izoni commander video because I was hoping for some inspiration for this deck, because of the color base. The final two slots are Golgari Findbroker but the impact of those cards are just not very strong and I'm still hoping for something really scary. The impact at three mana wasn't as useful as I had hoped; let's look for something else.

I've started testing Izoni and Journey to Eternity as one-ofs. The Izoni is really only helpful in the late game so I don't want to run too many copies, and Journey I just wanted to see if it was worth something.

King vs Battle of Wits deck
But Journey doesn't work in this deck. Because what you really want from Journey to Eternity is Atzal, Cave of Eternity so you can get your creatures back. Unfortunately, the most common form of removal in Legacy exiles creatures or tucks them on the bottom of your library and which Journey is a dead card to.

So if I want to use Journey to Eternity, I really want to have a way to kill my own creatures. Relying on your opponents to do something is a bad time.

Since I don't have that, another card should fill the void.

It was after a few matches that Matt suggested Deadbridge Chant and I both really like the idea and am very reluctant to go there.

I like the idea because Deadbridge just does what it does-mill ten, then start getting cards from your graveyard back. Reusing Assassin's Trophy seems like a good idea, right? Putting creatures into play seems good and since I'm not running fetchlands, the ratio of lands in my graveyard vs useful cards should mean positive things most of the time.

However: there's a guideline about cards from Zvi Moshowitz that says that if it costs more than 4 and doesn't produce an immediate impact on the board, then it isn't worth it. Izoni, Thousand Eyed comes down late and can create insect tokens, bringing an army with her to do something with.

Deadbridge Chant isn't good until the next turn and even then the possibility that it returns a card I don't need is non-zero. So if I'm in trouble, the Chant is bad. If I am on the edge, the Chant might be good or it just as likely will give my opponent the turn they need to put the screws to me.

Which means the only time I'd be happy to cast Deadbridge Chant is if the board state is and can remain neutral for at least a turn, or is already positive for me.

I don't like those scenarios. I think I'll just test two Izoni so I can see what's up.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Stealing Filth From Those Forgotten

King of the Rotten vs Dragons
After a few matches with the original list, I rapidly came to a conclusion: Let's play all the removal!

At least, that seemed to be the theme that came up when I was replacing cards. Assassin's Trophy and Status/Statue were easy picks to replace land destruction cards. I've already got four Putrefy maindeck and Golgari Charm can be handy, killing off X/1s with ease, now that I'm effectively not running any of those.*

*Woodland Mimic will trigger and become a 4/5 before the Charm's -1/-1 effect happens.

Getting my ass handed to me by Jason's dragon deck was definitely a wake up call: my deck was so much lower to the ground and had land destruction but it didn't matter at all.

King vs Faeries
So: Let's play all the removal.

This  decision lead to some really strong outings: flexible removal is not to be sniffed at! The most memorable sequence was when I pulled out a Golgari Charm against Noah's Faerie deck.

Turns out, giving a bunch of x/1 creatures -1/-1 is bad for them. I've now proven it with science.

I did lose the match-but this was more due to variance than anything else: I needed some removal spells, I got lands and creatures.

Which happens. Losses like this, though, can be about feel-and I felt like I was in the game, I just needed a couple cards to go my way.

With Slitherhead and Gleancrawler coming out, I had another vacancy and I decided I'd go big: three Vraska the Unseen. I even had a slot left over for Vraska, Relic Seeker so that took the last slot.

Vraska is an amazing catchall, though at its best, I don't have to pay five mana in order to destroy a permanent: the plus options on her are not amazing but the gravity that Planeswalkers have on any game is strong enough that nobody has been happy about seeing her except me.

I'm still unsatisfied with my final two spaces. Currently, I'm going to run Golgari Findbroker-which wins my award for 'most awkward name mashup in Guilds'. Apparently, 'Salvager' isn't fantasy enough? Resuscitator too obscure?

I just don't really like paying 4 mana for a 3/4. The ability isn't irrelevant but I can't say that I'm excited about it either. We shall see.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

King Of The Rotten

Another Liege deck-and if you don't know, then I'll gleefully remind you that I love the two color lieges. All ten of them: I just think they're great. 
3 Llanowar Dead
3 Ebony Treefolk
4 Woodlurker Mimic
3 Creakwood Liege
2 Gleancrawler
4 Golgari Guildmage
3 Slitherhead
2 Spiritmonger

4 Putrefy
2 Golgari Charm

9 Forest
4 Twilight Mire
7 Swamp
3 Hissing Quagmire

4 Drain the Well
3 Rolling Spoil
While I took this deck name from a Corrosion of Conformity song, it looks like I built this deck around the glories of Woodlurker Mimic, not Creakwood Liege. There's something great about attacking with a 6/7 wither dork (spell + Liege boost), but I can see a couple problems already, not the least of which that I'm only running three Lieges.

Green and black have insanely efficient three drops, perhaps the most efficient of any color pairing. Just starting at base power/toughness, it's got some pretty strong stats, with only G/W doing better and I'd put G/R at close. There ought to be something to work with at that level.

The other notable theme is land destruction: Drain the Well and Rolling Spoil are as cheap as land destruction gets in the modern era...which is fine, except that what, exactly, have I done do accelerate this so I can reliably cast one of these two spells on turn three? Hell, the bonus of Rolling Spoil means that my Mimic dies if I use it! King of the Rotten just isn't built to develop a board of advantages via land destruction.

So it's time to look at this deck differently. Of the lieges, Creakwood is the cheapest enemy-paired one and is the only one that generates its owns swarm. Leaning into that idea might be worth exploring. With Assassin's Trophy being a shoo-in as the hot removal spell, there's a lot of space for this deck to breathe or make a statement. 

Of course, there is a lack of one-drops here-there are a total of four in the game and one has been banned. That means I will need to plan accordingly for the two mana spot because Slitherhead is bad and should be removed as soon as possible.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Still Coming After You

I have to admit I'm a little bummed that the core concept of Rats (using No Rest For The Wicked) has been cut but the deck has advanced considerably! Which is good because I'm not sure I can advance it any further.

I don't have any available Terminates to swap in for Fatal Push. I know, I'm more shocked than you are about it. I had a ton of those cards once upon a time but go me for recognizing efficient awesome removal and using it in my decks.

This deck is in a pretty good place though. Sure, it dies to the enemy of every aggro deck: lifegain but I can't hold that against it. It's been pretty effective and I've learned to play better on top of that.

Here's the final list:

3 Ogre Battledriver
8 Relentless Rats
8 Rat Colony
3 Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
3 Ogre Slumlord

4 Kolaghan's Command
3 Fatal Push
2 Weapon Surge
3 Fatal Frenzy

5 Mountain
4 Graven Cairns
8 Swamp
2 Mortuary Mire
2 Cinder Barrens
1 Rocky Tar Pit
1 Bojuka Bog

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

This Wretched Mischief

Rats vs mill
The nice thing about aggro decks is that they still surprise people. Attacking on turn 2 for three damage, turn 3 for five for six damage? That can throw a lot of people off their game. Even in multiplayer you can make a big impact, if you're willing to take advantage of an opponent missing land drops or having no defenses up while trying to get to the long game.

Which I am.

I tested copies of Fatal Push and Lightning Strike, even though I really wanted to play Spark Jolt instead. Initially, I had split four Fatal Push with two Murder but I know how Murder behaves and I wanted to see how Fatal Push might work in a deck this light on controllable death effects.

The temptation to play Spark Jolt was high, though. One damage isn't much but one mana to do a damage to any target and then scry seemed (and still seems) like a a great tempo option. Midgame when I don't need any more lands, having the option to clear an unwanted card away seems good.

Then I remember that when Rats hits the midgame, I want my position to be nearly won anyway and three damage > one damage. It's just math.

Rats vs monoW lifegain
The games I played against Matt and Noah all seemed to suggest that this was a really strong build. Perfect, no but it had the ability to make a stance.I mentioned the removal suite and that's when Matt suggested Kolaghan's Command.

Wwwwwooooooah that's as nice idea. It's such a versatile card that not running it seems foolhardy.

The drawback: it costs 3, a slot in Rats that is already stuffed with Relentless Rats.

However, when I tested the card, that wasn't a problem. Damage and discard are fantastic upsides and I've got enough mana (and enough one and two mana plays) that having the Command in doesn't hurt at all.

"I like Fatal Push more," Jason told me. So I cut Lightning Strike-when you're right, you're right. He also suggested Stensia Masquerade. While I still wish that there was a first strike cantrip in Red, I hadn't even considered a global enchantment. I added it in but it just didn't make a meaningful contribution to the combat math. You'd think it would, right? A first striking 2/1 is still more problematic than a regular 2/1. What's better than that?

A first striking 3/1, which is what Weapon Surge offers me. Not just messing with combat math, but more combat. Heck, I've won at least two games in testing because I hit the Overload on Weapon Surge and was able to get in two or three more points of unblocked damage.

So Weapon Surge stays.The other thing I learned came from Critical Card Theory: I do better with hands that have Rat Colony in the opening grip than I do without. I've started to actively look for them and, if I don't have one, understand exactly why I'm keeping it-usually turn three plays and removal is in hand.

The only other question is how many Fatal Push should be in the deck. There have been games when Murder would have been a great thing but I'm wondering if this is due to inexperience or if I just need that hard removal spell.

And if I do...why isn't that Terminate. Seriously. Sometimes I wonder what I'm thinking.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Beliefs Contagious

Multiple games against Fuz allowed me to morph Rats on the fly, changing between matches to get a sense of what worked.

Eliminate the Competition, as neat as that card is, just doesn't help me enough. It's expensive and slow: as a board sweeper in a deck full of cards like Doomed Traveler, Doomed Dissenter, Penumbra Bobcat and the like, this would be great. Those cards already replace themselves.

But I only gain an advantage here if Ogre Slumlord is in play.

Rats vs a Demon deck
So why not just run something straight up like Murder? Fatal Push is also a consideration but I don't really want to put that in a deck where I have almost no control over maximizing it.

That might not matter though, since, as I've noted before, Rat Colony has a glass jaw. Just swing for the fences, see what they block and kill the best creature I can, Fatal Push trigger or no.

That said, some removal has been helpful, shining in matchups where my opponent has creatures that either overpower or evade mine.

I've also found that Alesha is a house. It's a must answer card for this deck, with even one activation being really beneficial, since bringing back any rat boosts at least some, if not all, of the rat tribe. If an Ogre Battledriver is out, that's even better.

I'd cut down to two Ogre Slumlord: it's expensive and without Eliminate the Competition, was it really worth it?

Every time Slumlord came down though, it turned my glassjaw rats into combat problems. Deathtouch is a real pain and extra tokens no matter what dies boosts my deck in ways opponents do not like. It's another reason to add in some targeted removal, too: kill their best creature, get a rat. Again, if a Battledriver is out, that's even better since it'll be a 3/1 rat for a turn.

I'll need to figure out a way to up Slumlord to three: now that Eliminate has been cut, three copies of the highest end card shouldn't break the deck.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

The (Unlikely) Hypothesis

We know that the next three blocks are all going to be about Ravnica and play out the storyline there, with many believing that this will mark the end of Nicol Bolas as one of the Big Bads of the Magic storyline and who knows what happens to the current crop of Planeswalkers.

Since Guilds has come out, we know what the color pairings are for Ravnica Alliance: GU, WB, UW, RB, and RG.

Here's where it gets interesting for me: RW (Boros) has a counter-based mechanic in Mentor. It's the first time that RW has had one of those that I'm aware of. There is one other guild that has always had counter based mechanics: GU (Simic). Curiously, in a block about the ten color pairings, this leaves Black out.

What if the mechanics in Guilds of Ravnica are somehow connected to the ones in Ravnica Allegiance in such a way that they help break down the "sides" that the guilds take, leaving us with four color pairings in the final Ravnica block?

In Guilds we have the following mechanical ideas:
RW counters/attacking
GB graveyard "awareness" (Golgari doesn't actually do much with the graveyard here)
UB top of library + graveyard awareness/ filtering
GW mass creatures/tokens
UR spells with a hint of graveyard awareness

That could lead to the following mechanical setups in Ravnica Allegiance:

GU counters
WB spells
UW ...
RB mass creature
GR card filter/top of library

WB caring about spells wouldn't be the first time: extort was a very popular mechanic that, while I understand won't get used again (it scales brutally in multiplayer), a variant could be used that would align it with the UR (Izzet) guild. Philosophically, it's weird but so is the mad scientist and soldier pairing of UG and WR. Besides, war makes for strange bedfellows.

So let's set aside the philosophy for a moment. With that pairing, Green is absent.

This suggests that RB (Rakdos) might align with GW for a "mob rules" effect. GW wants to overwhelm with bunches of creatures and RB is, at least on Ravnica, all about a chaotic party. This also cuts out Blue, which at its core wouldn't want anything to do with either of those guilds.

GR (Gruul) could then mesh with UB (Dimir). Philosophically, it would probably be more 'Dimir manipulates the Gruul' but if Gruul-who has never had a solid identity mechanic in my opinion-cared about what was on top of the library or top of the graveyard (library is more likely, given Red's randomness but Green does care about the graveyard so both is possible!) along the lines of Clash, that would align nicely with what Dimir is doing and leave White in the cold.

That leaves UW (Azorius) to pair with GB (Golgari) and this is the difficult one. I just don't see that guild caring about the graveyard for any reason, mechanically. Now, philosophy might be different? Azorius cares about order and the natural order of things is to die. The Golgari do not subvert the order, they are enforcers of that order.

There's one other cue and that is that Jace, a member (and possibly the leader of, now) the Azorius guild, partnered with Vraska in the Ixalan block. That is a storyline reason to match up, albeit a tenuous one on my part. I just don't know how you make it work mechanically.

But if this is accomplished, then it leaves out Red.

Here's where I'm going with all of this: I don't believe Wizards has ever done a 4 color block or set. They've done a Commander set with this-but that's it!

Woudn't this be a perfect time to do it? The mana is there, the guilds are there to support the color theme, the novelty would be epic. They haven't told us the name of the third set yet: why not? Could it give away key story or mechanical points? Maybe! It would be a good reason to hide that name.

Is this going to happen?

Oh, hell no.

But it's an interesting notion.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Transformers TCG

If you've been reading Swing for 20 for a bit, you may have noticed that I name some of my decks after old school Transformers. I'm a fan from back in the day, so when the Transformers TCG was announced, I was hopeful!

I've purchased some cards and there seems to be an interesting game there. I don't know that I'll go as hard into it as I do Magic (my budget can only take so much damage) but I hope to find people to play with. The game is lighter than Magic and plays a bit faster but is still enjoyable and strategic.

Which I bring up because of a recent Drive To Work podcast by Mark Rosewater, where he and co-designer Scott Van Essen talk about the process they went through to make the game. It's pretty neat!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Critical Card Theory

Here's an interesting essay on the Opening Hand dilemma. I think about a riff on this whenever I'm building a deck: what cards do I need to see in order to accomplish my goal?

To take a recent example: I need Caldera Hellion and a creature to help me clear the board if I want to maintain any advantage in the Rats deck. To help accomplish this, I need a Rat Colony in hand, so hands with a Rat Colony would be better.

If Caldera Hellion was reliably castable and did what I'd hoped.

The point I'm going for here is: this essay might be helpful for evaluating those opening hands and making better mulliganing decisions. Check it out. 

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Times Of Turmoil

Let's start with how a rat deck tech ought to go before getting into the nitty-gritty. You like? Great.

This starts with a LOT of upheaval.

First, running through the deckstats analysis, WHOA is the color ratio off. So much more black is needed than red. I have to up the Swamp count significantly.

Second: none of this went like I was hoping. Goldfishing sucked and the things I thought would help, didn't. Caldera Hellion and Ogre Slumlord sat in my hand.

This means a more drastic retooling is needed. More lands, more emphasis on theme.

After some thinking, I realized I would like would be a way for chump-blocking to be a negative for my opponents. Red's best combat trick is probably first strike, so I went looking for a first strike instant cantrip effect...

There isn't one. That's weird, right? White has Guided Strike and Lightning Blow. Why doesn't red have a similar effect?

Red does have Weapon Surge though, which I'm going with. The initial cost is cheap and the overload cost should be doable. With many of my rats having glass jaws, a surprise spear to the face of an opponent's creature should be just the thing to give my rats a little longevity.

As a byproduct of my search, Alesha, Who Smiles At Death was brought to my attention.

This card should fit perfectly: since creatures in my graveyard don't get the bonuses of the creatures in play, I can bring back a Rat Colony or Relentless Rats with ease and pump the rest of the squad! Alesha isn't a slouch either, being difficult to remove in combat and with a low casting cost.

To help ease the pressure on my three-drop spot, I've added in a few lands, too. That should make casting the Ogre Slumlord easier, too. The Slumlord may not always appear, but I want to cast him when he does.

Now that I've got some revisions made, let's take it for a spin!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Guilds of Ravnica Pre-Release

I'll spare you some suspense: I went 1-4. That is a day of some bad beats. I had a pretty good time, though; my opponents were at least pleasant and occasionally engaging. I enjoyed the experience, even if my games were less than optimal. 

Round 1 vs Geoff, paying G/B with splash U
While he had all the mana he needed and I was short -peaking at five mana in both games- I was able to keep the pressure on. He didn't have enough deathtouch creatures to make my attacks unprofitable & the tap dude was great. I felt as though I had made some good decisions with my build at this point.

Round 2 vs Joey, playing U/B
These were rough games. Game one I got beat down from Dimir Spybug, buffed by the Surveil cards. In game two I came out of the gate fast and got him to two, was still at twenty life, aaaaaaand he used Disinformation Campaign and Enhanced Surveillance to see his entire library twice. I hadn't boarded in any enchantment removal, since I didn't see any in game one. What this means? Eventually he was able to grind me out, using his removal and draw over and over. A great game but a bad beat on the loss.

Round 3 vs Andy, R/U splash B
Although I went 1-2 here, I feel like the games were just not balanced well. Surveil once again made a huge difference. I made the mistake in game 2 of keeping a hand that didn't have a lot of action until turn 4, which game him a chance to build up faster than me. I've been under the impression that 2/3 fliers are turn 4 are solid but maybe not. Or, maybe running 3 Parhelion Patrol isn't helpful? I swapped one out for a Wild Ceratok after this in order to put a little more beef in the deck but I was disappointed to give up the consistency.

Round 4 vs Nicolas, W/G
I made two mistakes that cost me the round. In game one, instead of keeping my Conclave Guildmage back to block his Blade Instructor, I attacked and had no defenses. He made 3/3s and I couldn't stop the bleeding. In game three, I had the opportunity to cast a second Locket, break the first and draw two cards, which might've helped me get the Collar the Culprit I needed to get rid of Trostani Discordant.  Eventually I drew BOTH of my Collars but by then the damage was done and I didn't have enough mana to cast both of them in one turn, which would have been necessary to stay alive.

Rebound 5 vs Chris, W/R
I went 1-2 again and in the second game, it was because I kept a hand that didn't have enough action early, and Boros gonna Boros. In game three I kept a solid opening hand but hit a land puddle in my deck that the activation of TWO Seleysna Lockets could not dig me out of (my 5th and 6th draws were also lands). I got overrun after that.

Since when in 17 lands and two mana rocks too many, in a deck that is running 9 drops?

So it was a fairly frustrating day. Sometimes I could tell I'd made a mistake. Other times I just felt like I'd been put in an inevitable loss situation, especially against U/B centered decks.

I may have gotten fixated on W/G, since that was my guild: I had a lot of options and, I thought, consistency there is better than wild power fluxes.

Looking back at the pool, it might have been possible to go W/U/R-there wasn't a LOT of support for it, but there was some. There wasn't enough to go Blue/Red, the blue was especially shallow. But the mana support was there, and I also had opened a Niv-Mizzet, Parun and a Quasiduplicate, so maybe I just got sucked into something that wasn't there.

However, as a way to get back into the public scene, I feel good about the experience.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Final Four Rd 4

I missed round three, but Wrath of God won over Ancestral Recall so we are on to round four!

Counterspell vs Lightning Bolt.

I'm in for Lightning Bolt. Counterspell's impact on a format cannot be overstated-an impact that is only overshadowed by Force of Will.

Lightning Bolt is just so elegant, and pushed but not crazy on the power spectrum. Run it.

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Title comes from the Ghost song.
2 Murderous Redcap
2 Caldera Hellion
4 Ogre Slumlord
4 Ogre Battledriver
9 Relentless Rats
7 Rat Colony 
4 No Rest for the Wicked
1 Shared Animosity 
8 Mountain
4 Graven Cairns
7 Swamp
2 Mortuary Mire 
2 Cinder Barrens
3 Eliminate the Competition
1 Rolling Thunder
That's a super catchy song, right? Also, Rat Colony joins Ravenous Rats as one of the few cards that you can include any number of copies of. So the timing was right to revamp an old deck.

But rats are fragile, so I thought that a way to bring back those rats, or use the death of those rats to help forward the game plan were needed. Eliminate the Competition with No Rest For The Wicked seems like a nice set of synergies. Ogre Battledriver helps boost my tiny rats, with Ogre Slumlord giving me replacement (though only mildly synergistic) rats and adds deathtouch to all my rats, allowing me to keep the pressure on.

Murderous Redcap helps play into the recursion theme and Caldera Hellion can give me a sweeper with a big creature left over.

These are the theories, anyway.

Originally this deck was using the Devour mechanic. There was a very different list and the deck was called Octane. Here's the pre mortem:
10 Mountain
4 Graven Cairns
8 Swamp

1 Deathbringer Thoctar
2 Blistering Firecat
4 Keldon Marauders
4 Murderous Redcap
4 Thunder-Thrash Elder
4 Caldera Hellion
3 Dregscape Zombie
3 Hissing Iguanar
3 Mogg War Marshal
4 Bogardan Firefiend

4 No Rest for the Wicked
2 Urborg Justice
Now, while there is an idea there that I really felt I stuck to, it's just too narrow and not enough payoff. A lot of sacrifice fodder but not a lot of scary things to come from it. Which means that I should totally build a deck that is too narrow and HAS payoff, right?

Well, we shall see.

But I like that I have the rats to go on and am excited to get some matchups under my belt. It's been a little while since I had neat goofy deck to play. Will it work? Should Urborg Justice come back? Let's find out!

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

It's All About The Games

Zedruu vs InallaThere's an interesting set of tools that Inalla is providing me with and I'm finding that games go a little better for me if I focus on them, and not as much on the 'tap/untap' function of Inalla herself that I was hoping to use.

That doesn't mean I'm cutting it: Turnabout is a great card and Jace, Ingenious Mind Mage unanswered has been creating problems as well as being underrated by opponents. I generally don't charge up my decks with enough power, so having anything that creates problems is good.

What I've also been learning is to play a bit more deliberately. Really planning out a line of play before I get to my turn and then having to stop to double check that line. Wizards are generally fragile creatures so I can't bully my way through a game.

On the upside, I think I've gotten Inalla in a good spot. The combo kill is available but it isn't oppressive. Kess has been cut for, of all things, Stonybrook Banneret.

3 player Inalla game
Kess is a great card but it doesn't fit in this deck: there aren't enough instants or sorceries to make the ability worthwhile. With Archaeomancer and Izzet Chronarch in the deck and the ability to duplicate their triggers with Inalla, removing a spell from my graveyard isn't pushing the value meter.

You know what will go really well with Kess? The new cards from Guilds of Ravnica that count instants or sorceries in your graveyard or exile. Cackling Drake, Ral, Izzet Viceroy, and Beacon Bolt....hey wait...

But I don't want to get distracted. I've spent weeks on Inalla and I believe this deck has a solid gameplan and ways to get to the later game, where it wants to be. The fat has been trimmed and while I don't think I inherently have to do anything broken, I have a little power in my back pocket to utilize if I need to.

Across multiple games in both 1v1 and multiplayer situations, I've been able to leverage my position into the mid and late games, and I'm having a lot of fun doing it. Which means I think I can set this one down. It's a good deck with not a lot of improvements to make and that's about where I want my Commander decks to be.

Let's do a final decklist!

Inalla, Archmage Ritualist

Instant1 Comet Storm
1 Polymorphist's Jest
1 Chaos Warp
1 Memory Plunder
1 Silumgar's Command
1 Into the Roil
1 Reality Shift
1 Go for the Throat
1 Crosis's Charm
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Terminate
1 Turnabout
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Commander's Sphere
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Sol Ring
1 Unstable Obelisk
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Dimir Cluestone
1 Izzet Cluestone
1 Rakdos Cluestone
Enchantment1 Curse of Verbosity
1 Curse of Disturbance
1 Curse of Opulence

1 Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage
1 Kindred Dominance
1 Clone Legion
1 Spelltwine
1 Necromantic Selection
1 Mutilate
1 Exotic Orchard
10 Island
6 Swamp
4 Mountain
1 Path of Ancestry
1 Command Tower
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Dismal Backwater
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Grixis Panorama
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Jwar Isle Refuge
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Swiftwater Cliffs
1 Temple of the False God
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Marsh

1 Galecaster Colossus
1 Portal Mage
1 Vindictive Lich
1 Havengul Lich
1 Vela the Night-Clad
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Azami, Lady of Scrolls
1 Body Double
1 Harbinger of the Tides
1 Serendib Sorcerer
1 Apprentice Necromancer
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
1 Mercurial Chemister
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator
1 Bloodline Necromancer
1 Archaeomancer
1 Merchant of Secrets
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Corpse Augur
1 Izzet Chronarch
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 Wanderwine Prophets
1 Notion Thief
1 Vedalken Aethermage
1 Dragon Mage
1 Deadeye Navigator
1 Psychosis Crawler
1 Stonybrook Banneret

Friday, September 21, 2018

Final Four Rd 2

Today's matchup: Dark Confident vs Birds of Paradise.

These are both excellent cards but I have to go with Birds at the end. Nostalgia factors into that, sure but considering the age of Birds of Paradise, that card is still very well designed.

On the upside, though, I suppose either one winning is a good thing. This is a good matchup and either card could be considered the best Magic card ever.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Guilds of Ravnica Overview

The full set list has been revealed!

Let's get crackin', shall we?

My biggest disappointment is the way Convoke is used. Flight of the Equenauts is what I was hoping they would avoid, Conclave Tribunal what I hoped they'd explore.

But no: the cards that might reward us for rendering ourselves nearly defenseless for a turn just read: The regular creature you'd get, but more expensive!

Meh. At least there are a few vigilance creatures to help support it. And it has the most interesting card in the color for me: Venerated Loxodon. THAT is a risk worth taking.

On the other hand, the Mentor mechanic here seems well executed and with more depth or support than I had thought it would have. Demotion is a cool bit of flavor and mechanic; as a matter of fact, there's a lot of cool nods to worldbuilding/expansion in this set that I appreciate.

Surveil got quite a bit more support than I had thought it would. On the one hand, that's good-Blue/Black mechanics have been notoriously poor in previous Ravnica blocks-but on the other hand, you have a lot of what I called out the first time: card + mechanic stapled on. Still, it's no wonder Narcomeba got upshifted to rare in this set: having to deal with a free 1/1 flier on top of whatever spell you've just cast is a little heavy.

The Jump-Start stuff isn't very interesting but gets some decent support with cards like Murmuring Mystic-a card that could have a place in nearly any U/x spell deck, since 1/5s are good blockers. It also meshes decently with Surveil, since you can use a Jump-Start card you have milled.

Of the rest: Veldalken Mesmerist is an effect executed in a way I'm surprised I haven't seen in Blue before. The closest we come is Merrow Grimeblotter, and I expect more of this in the future. It's too elegant to ignore.

Also, what is it with the lameness of Dream Eater? Six mana for a 4/3 flier with flash sounds about right, but those other abilities just don't...blend together at all. It's a mishmash and an ugly one.

The Surveil continues...did Gruesome Menagerie really need to be a rare? Bestial Menace and Cone of Flame didn't really set things on fire. I dig the card, though and it fits really well with the U/B mechanic.

The Undergrowth mechanic has landed where I though it would: underwhelmingly. Mausoleum Secrets is exactly the kind of card I was saying we'd get: timid. Why does it have the color limitation it does? There is no good reason. It's already limited by the Undergrowth mechanic. Plus it's a flavor fail: shouldn't Mausoleum Secrets get a card from the graveyard? It's right there in the name!

Price of Fame is a thumbs up though, so is Plaguewalker and Severed Strands. Viscous Rumors seems really interesting and remarkably strong for the cost. Definitely going to keep an eye on that.

The support for Mentor deepens here and with Red's firebreathing mechanic that's perfect. I'll note the flavor win of Inescapable Blaze-having that be uncounterable was a good call.

Why doesn't the flavor text on Street Riot finish with: "So we will not obey." ? It's an equation: not happy + not safe = disobedience, not "not happy + not safe + disobedience =....."?

Goblin Cratermaker is the kind of uncommon card I want to see: not too powerful, but definitely has some toolbox effects that could make it an excellent sideboard card.

Also: Experimental Frenzy is great. Just awesome. Something new and cool to build around without being obviously broken.

Convoke is used to even less interesting effect here, heck, the most obvious card to add convoke to, Bounty of Might, is just a not good thing.. but at least we get a decent modal spell in Sprouting Renewal.

And what could add to a dull mechanic but a second one, which again, we see a color limitation on the Undergrowth mechanic on Hatchery Spider that it just doesn't need. The card costs seven mana! Let me get whatever I want!

Golgari Raiders has some potential though, Nullhide Ferox looks weird enough to work, Vigorspore Wurm has a nice bridge for some Convoke effects.

Also: Fuck Impervious Greatwurm. Buy a box promos suck. Full stop.

Here's the treasure, I hope...

Camaraderie: great card for G/W. Why doesn't it have Convoke? As a sorcery, tapping 4 creatures for 4 life and 4 cards and giving creatures +1 means that you have to make choices. Choices are interesting!

But no.

Chance for Glory gets a thumbs up (great last ditch effort card for the guild), Charnel Troll does not (why does this card work AGAINST the guild's mechanics?)

The Guildmages all seem notably not impressive this time around. Having their abilities require tapping, but with the exact same P/T stats makes them a lot less cool and those tap abilities certainly aren't more powerful to make up for it.

The 4CC guild cards have some nice flavor/power to them.

It's about here where I am noticing that Dimir cards especially have a 'modern' naming feel to them. Disinformation Campaign is not an idea I would associate with high fantasy-but the world of Ravnica allows for some space here, so I find these things fun and less immersion breaking.

Etrata the Silencer will likely be banned in Commander. It is unblockable, in colors that can protect it, with a 'you lose' condition. I love it, I think the card is super interesting and I think that it will create degenerate states for Commander.

I would love to be wrong about this: Commander games need ways to end.

I'm also so glad to see Lazav back! I thought he got killed in the last Ravnica set. No, that was Szadek and I just have a bad memory.

I hate everything about Izoni, Thousand Eyed. A 6 casting cost creature has WAY better base stats on average in the modern age, the ability is an "okayest ability" so the reward is...? This is a card designed for Commander and it will totally suck to play against. While also being entirely useless in any. other. format.

I hate it.

Skyknight Legionnaire is back! That card is great.

I'm glad the new split cards are not Fuse cards: allowing them to have their own identities means they can be more powerful and useful.

Are mechanically boring in this set. But HOLY COW are the basics beautifully reflecting the plane we're visiting in a way that few basics have before. Good job!

Overall, I feel like this is a whole lot of misses with just a few hits. Red/White seems strong, Blue/Black seems interesting and everything else feels like it's holding the hands of the stronger guilds to be worthwhile. White/Green with Mentor seems helpful. Green/Black with Surveil seems useful. Blue/Red dabbles with everyone just a touch. But W/G and G/B don't seem valuable by themselves. Convoke isn't getting much out of Red or Blue (none or few tokens to generate), Undergrowth doesn't get much out of Jump-Start so...what we have is a set that feels timid, wrapped in a package that everyone loves.

It's ok. But it isn't great.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

New Frontiers

I spent the last week playing a lot of Frontiers, the latest expansion from Star Realms and while I like it overall, there's something a little strange about it.

First: this seems like a very solid set. the Machine (red) faction isn't overpowering but is still very useful-a problem that plagued the first set was Machine's general dominance.

Second, the new Star Empires (yellow) draw mechanic seems to be in great shape. The "Draw then discard" element of the ships feels fair and like it might offer a lot of room to interact with the other factions.

The Blob (green) and Trade Federation (blue) factions don't get as much to do mechanically but they do have some really flashy cards that ask players to make tactical decisions, like Pulverizer and Federation Battleship.

All in all, I think it plays really well. Not quite up to Colony Wars, my favorite base set, but fairly close! So what's the problem?

Of all the base sets I've played, Frontiers is the one that feels as though it really, really wants expansions. That isn't to suggest that it is somehow deficient, that playing Frontiers means you're playing part of a game. The experience as is works.

But it's a bit like getting a videogame and being told 'here's your experience and it's good! Buuuuuut we have some downloadable content for you right over here...."

There are ideas to expand on-particularly in the cards that want double factions to trigger-that would become a lot more useful if you added in the Assault, Combat or Stellar Allies expansions, because those cards count towards both of their respective factions. As it stands, when the double faction trigger hits it is brutal but it misses more often than not, which can be a little frustrating-a cool toy you can't have access to.

And in the meanwhile, there's the creepy looking dude in the corner asking "Whatta buyin'?"

Since I'm a fan of this game, I've got the cool expansions I want. Newer players might feel a little differently though, as if part of the game was held back.

Or they might not! I certainly did enjoy my games of Frontiers and frequently found that an exciting back-and-forth resulted more often than not.

I don't think Frontiers will convince anyone who didn't like Star Realms to begin with, but it is a pretty good set that I think rewards long time players who have expansions to add, as well as being not too complex for newer players.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Final Four Pt 1

The first matchup from the Magic bracket is Jace, The Mind Sculptor vs Black Lotus. (Voting here:

And since I'm traveling this week, the bracket is what I'm going to talk about. 

I wish this wasn't my choice, honestly. These are two broken cards, Lotus irreversibly so, Jace only OK because Magic continued to evolve and I feel as if either one being rewarded is giving a prize to cards that were poorly thought out. 

However, Black Lotus came about in the days before R&D really had the knowledge they have now. Jace...well, everyone I read, and my own opinions on the card, were that it was broken and unfun. 

So I'm going to go with Black Lotus. 

Also, the creator of the bracket has asked for donations to a non-profit, if people have been enjoying the experience. Maybe you've got a couple extra bucks.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Master 5 Magics

They've released the list of mechanics for Guilds of Ravnica so let's take a look!

Surveil, the U/B mechanic is something that I wish it allowed players to look at opponent's libraries. THAT feels more House Dimir, honestly-knowing someone else's plans. However as much as I like that notion, the fateseal element of that is bad news. Many players really wouldn't like having their deck manipulated like that but it also seems really, really powerful. Maybe if it milled both players? Or Fatesealed both players-I look at the top two cards of my library and yours and either put them back in any order or mill them but I have to make the same choice for both players.

 My dreams aside, this one will depend a LOT on the support it can get. By itself, the mechanic doesn't do anything but filter cards. That's fine on a card like Opt, but less awesome when that effect costs you 3 mana for a 1/1.

Jump-Start is the mechanic that has the most reach, I think: the discard effect can play with other mechanics (Madness, Undergrowth, Dredge, Flashback) and getting to replay a spell is a very powerful thing, as seen by Snapcaster Mage. Removing the restriction that Retrace had means you can use Jump-Start at any point in the game, where Retrace was really limited to reuse at the late game. Plus, being U/R means it's in the right guild.

The Golgari mechanic, Undergrowth is underwhelming. That's the second underwhelming mechanic from G/B in Ravnica. It is, as Scavenge was before it, a Very Strong Reaction to Dredge and not making that mistake again. The fact that it's card type dependent is not a plus (except for flavor), the restriction being a limiting problem similar to Threshold's and I just finished explaining why Jump-Start has more flexibility than retrace. The wording suggests that it's only going to be useful in late game situations, if at all. If it's a cool comeback mechanic, awesome! I think the game needs more of them. But I'm not currently impressed and the cards they've shown aren't very encouraging.

Still, I have only seen one card and I'd be happy to be wrong about it.

Mentor is something that I think will payoff in Ravnica Allegiance when the Simic mechanic (U/G) is revealed. It's not bad, but it isn't interesting at all. This is, sadly, what we've come to expect from the R/W guild and it's a shame. That color combination needs more to do-red especially- but every time all that players are given are 'attack with creatures'.

Convoke is safe: they've done it multiple times and nobody's ever broken it. It was popular enough to bring back so hopefully they'll try and use it in novel ways. At least, that's what I'd like to see and one of the preview cards, Conclave Tribunal, is only the second enchantment with Convoke. So that gives me some hope!

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

25 Years

This is a pretty sweet retrospective on Magic. 25 years is a long time to endure, I've been playing since...1995? Jeeze.

But the wrap up for Inalla is coming, I think and it'll be on to the next deck soon.


Friday, August 31, 2018


The last batch of the top 16!

Round 5:
Ancestral Recall cannot be allowed to win this event.

Look, I know that, objectively, it is one of if not the most powerful card in Magic.

It's also broken. It's emblematic of everything that was wrong with Magic design from the game's inception until at least a decade in. You played blue, or you played to beat blue. It's so unbalanced not even Thanos could fix it.

Brainstorm, Ancestral Recall's 'fixed' sibling is proof. That card is STILL crazy and a linchpin in Legacy. But, Brainstorm needs help to maximize its effectiveness. That's where the vote should go.

Batch 6:
As with Ancestral Recall, Black Lotus should be set aside. Is Lotus vying with Recall for the most powerful card in Magic? Yeah. If they hadn't made it before, would they inevitably have made it? Yes. And then we would have been subject to article after article of 'we shouldn't've done that'.

I wish Lotus was going out against a better opponent. Serra Angel has made it far-too far in my opinion-but the card is well designed, a solid uncommon, easily as iconic as the Lotus, and everything you want in a baseline Magic card. If Serra Angel was declared the best card, the arguments in its favor are stronger than they are for Lotus.

Batch 7:
Dark Confidant is the clear winner. Something that creates dynamic gameplay and compels choices between players while also being powerful and giving us a risk worth taking.

Time Walk is busted. So busted that even 5 or 7 mana copies of the effect are dreaded/adored for the way that they can break a game open. You can't even play it in Commander, that's how broken it is!

Don't reward the poor designs and overbearing power of yesteryear. The Model T car might be iconic but its a long way from being the best car ever built.

Batch 8:

Oooo, now this is a spicy match. The OG, granddaddy Counterspell, the one that started it all, helping to define not only Magic but Blue as a color for years or the wicked uncle Force of Will, a card so important that many call it one of the cards that helps keep Legacy from spiraling out of control as a format.

I'm really torn on this one; Counterspell is bad news and I know it. Having played Magic when Counterspell was the standard, I promise you that it was one of two things that utterly warped Magic around the color blue (the other being instant speed card draw). But the game isn't Magic without it.

 And Force of Wil, while being precisely as guilty of Counterspell's sins, is so important to the game and is remarkably well designed! A life and two cards to stop a spell you don't want to resolve? Is it worth it to you, or not? That makes for some mind-busting gameplay!

I'm going with Force of will on this one.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Yer A Wizard

I did some research on Inalla, drawing from this list I found via the EDH subreddit, and the Professor's video (in conjunction with the Laboratory Maniacs) on the subject.

With that in mind, here's the first round of changes:

Mystifying Maze
Cauldron Dance
Marchesa, the Black Rose
Mairsil, the Pretender
Magus of the Abyss
Taigam, Sidisi's Hand
Mirror of the Forebears
Shifting Shadow

Deadeye Navigator
Vedalken Aethermage
Jace, Ingenious Mind-Mage
Izzet, Rakdos, and Dimir Cluestones
Notion Thief
Dragon Mage
Wanderwine Prophets

Here's the plan: use Deadeye Navigator to help abuse Inalla's ability. Cluestones for mana ramp and when the ramp is done, trade them for new cards. Turnabout to let me abuse the untap ability or turn the tide in a way opponents won't expect. Dragon Mage and Notion Thief are a pretty broken combo but even if I don't get them together, they have solid uses individually. If you watched the video, you'll see that Wanderwine Prophets can be a win condition by itself. Veldaken Aethermage is the autoinclude tutor.

And if you're noting that I have put in ten cards and only taken out eight, good eye! But I can't remember what the two cards I removed are. I promise, I only have 99 cards in the main.

The cuts come from my belief that those cards just don't mesh with the mechanical theme I'm trying to explore: Cauldron Dance, for example, is card that cares about combat tricks with creatures but that is not this deck. That, and Mystifying Maze does what it does in such an inept manner that it's probably a candidate for the Trump administration.

So that's the setup, and the mana, according to the Deckstats calculator, seems to be in a good place. Onward!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Top 16

The Magic Bracket has wound its way to the top 16 cards! (Starts with batch 11).

Here we go.

Batch 1:
My vote is going to Lightning Bolt. It's elegant, it's iconic, it's pushed without being bonkers. It truly set a positive standard for red removal spells.

I love me some Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, I really do and it's a well designed card to boot. Fifteen mana should get you something absolutely insane and Emrakul is that. It's also quite possibly the most recognized monster in the game. Unfortunately, Emrakul is so pushed that when it's put into play for anything less than fifteen mana, which is 99% of the time, there is zero interaction to be had on the part of opponents. It encourages broken gameplans and while that's not bad by itself, I find the elegance of Lighting Bolt to be superior.

Batch 2:
Birds of Paradise and it isn't even close. Liliana of the Veil is an oppressive card from an already problematic and oppressive card type. In terms of sheer power? Sure, Liliana wins but I don't merely look at power. I look at interactions, history, the design, and the doors that are opened up through good design.

Birds offers as many doors as you could ask for.

Batch 3:
Here are two distinctly abusive cards and my relationship with them could definitely be described as love/hate.

Necropotence has had no less than nine reprints which is bonkers for a card that is only legal to play in Vintage, where it's restricted, and Commander. I can see where the designers thought this would be a safe card: Cutting off your draw step and making it entirely life total dependent, triple black, exiling cards you do not use and locking any non-Instant cards out of your ability to interact until your next turn all seem highly restrictive.

But it didn't matter. Necropotence is broken and it always will be. I think it shines the most in Commander, honestly, where the risk/reward choices become more interesting.

Jace, the Mind Sculptor is a garbage card. I hate the overpowered design in a color that frankly does not need the boost, and to lock people out of their libraries is...ugh. That's just oppressive.

However, turn four is late enough that players can interact with it. In addition the world of Magic design has grown since the days of Jace. Players have more tools to handle the card when opposing it (though not enough in my opinion), leading to more interaction and more interesting choices on the part of the Jace player. So I'm going to give Jace the nod.

Batch 4:
Back in the day, I hated Swords to Plowshares. It is quite possibly the perfect single removal spell printed in the game. And when one has invested 4 or 5 mana into a creature, having it exiled (not just destroyed but gone for good!) with the 'drawback' of StP...well, that was just no fun.

It would be over a decade before creatures caught up to the threat level that StP warranted. Now that creatures are really good, Swords doesn't seem like a jackhammer hitting a tack.

But Wrath of God is probably a more important spell for Magic. Not just because of it's iconic status and power, but because it pushed the doors open for non-creature based strategies to flourish and that's incredibly important to the health of the game. Wrath it is.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Commander- Inalla, Archmage Ritualist

This should be fun.

1 Comet Storm
1 Polymorphist's Jest
1 Chaos Warp
1 Memory Plunder
1 Silumgar's Command
1 Into the Roil
1 Opportunity
1 Reality Shift
1 Go for the Throat
1 Cauldron Dance
1 Crosis's Charm
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Terminate
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Mirror of the Forebears
1 Commander's Sphere
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Sol Ring
1 Unstable Obelisk
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Shifting Shadow
1 Curse of Verbosity
 1 Curse of Disturbance
1 Curse of Opulence

1 Kindred Dominance
1 Clone Legion
1 Spelltwine
1 Decree of Pain
1 Necromantic Selection
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Mystifying Maze
10 Island
6 Swamp
4 Mountain
1 Path of Ancestry
1 Command Tower
1 Crumbling Necropolis
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Dismal Backwater
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Grixis Panorama
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Jwar Isle Refuge
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Swiftwater Cliffs
1 Temple of the False God
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Creek
1 Vivid Marsh

1 Kess, Dissident Mage
1 Mairsil, the Pretender
1 Galecaster Colossus
1 Magus of the Mind
1 Portal Mage
1 Vindictive Lich
1 Izzet Chemister
1 Taigam, Sidisi's Hand
1 Havengul Lich
1 Marchesa, the Black Rose
1 Vela the Night-Clad
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Azami, Lady of Scrolls
1 Body Double
1 Harbinger of the Tides
1 Serendib Sorcerer
1 Apprentice Necromancer
1 Magus of the Abyss
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
1 Mercurial Chemister
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator
1 Bloodline Necromancer
1 Archaeomancer
1 Merchant of Secrets
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Corpse Augur
1 Izzet Chronarch
1 Nivix Guildmage

Or maybe not. I haven't messed with this Inalla list since I bought the deck last year which means I'm overdue with mucking around with this deck. There's a lot going on here which means that it could go in many different directions, swapping out the Commander (Kess, Mairsil, and Marchesa all present very different builds) but nothing is really cohesive.

What I think I'd like to do here is make an untapping deck with some Wizard synergy. Inalla's ability to generate extra creatures means that I could (and probably should) get some use out of 'enter the battlefield' triggers, and if I could somehow double up on Inalla's ability that can take a pretty nasty chunk out of someone's life total. Taking someone down 7 or 14 at a time is probably best as a backup plan but I would still like to work it in.

I'm not sure if there's any meat on that idea skeleton or if it's just me being too clever. I'm going to do some research but I think I'll need to tap the hivemind for this one.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

On Another Wave

Monster vs UR storm
"It's like a green Ponder," Jason said in reference to Oath of Nissa. I told him that this is exactly how people thought of it when it was in Standard.

Oath has been outstanding. It has made more opening hands worth keeping and helped in midgame situations when I need to filter cards and it hits off of a Kamahl's Druidic Vow. Which means that for X into the KDV, I get to dig through an extra 3 cards!

This has been successful enough that I think I can settle this deck. I played against storm decks piloted by Fuz and once I knew what I needed to go for (Arashi against the UR deck, artifact destruction against the UW one), my chances for success improved dramatically. Yes, Fuz had land issues in one of our matchups but that's the point: Oath of Nissa made sure I wasn't having those issues and he didn't have that same luxury.

There was also the UR game where he cast four Ponders and found land but that's another story.

Similarly, I found that Monster's increased consistency was effective against Jason as well. Against decks that didn't offer any interaction (that is, they didn't kill my creatures), even if I got stonewalled, I was able to fire off a KDV for 5, 6 or more (one epic game, I hit six for six on my Vow and that was pretty sweet).

The games last night against Matt playing Death and Taxes sealed it: I put up solid showings against a deck that is well tuned. In game three, I had a Forest, two Oaths and two Heart Wardens which means all I need to do is hit a second land and I'm good.

Matt had Rishadan Port and my Oaths revealed one land out of six cards. I never got past two lands.

I mean. Variance, am I right?

Still, Matt also seemed to believe that Monster was going in the right direction and said that I should really try to play another Oath if I can. Sword of Animist hasn't been doing all that I hoped, so I'm going to cut that for the Oath, and that leaves me here:

1 Sword of the Chosen
2 Emerald Medallion
2 Rhonas's Monument
1 Bow of Nylea
2 Mox Amber

1 Iwamori of the Open Fist
1 Jugan, the Rising Star
1 Mirri, Cat Warrior
1 Silvos, Rogue Elemental
3 Reki, the History of Kamigawa
2 Arashi, the Sky Asunder
4 Heart Warden
1 Omnath, Locus of Mana
1 Yeva, Nature's Herald
3 Traxos, Scourge of Kroog
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
1 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter

3 Oath of Nissa

19 Forest
1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers
1 Yavimaya Hollow

2 Vivien Reid
1 Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury

2 Time of Need
3 Kamahl's Druidic Vow

Thursday, August 16, 2018

My Mind Is Up Here

When in doubt, play your best cards. I should just make this a Swing For 20 motto.

Monster In Your Parasol vs Mishra deck
I don't want to cut Molder, right? I need it for all those games where Matt has Land Tax or every deck Jason ever plays.

But Molder is also a dead card in other matchups. If I cannot use it, it sits in my hand and I can't really afford to have that happen. Sure, I can use it on one of my artifacts but that's definitely a last ditch effort action.

It's time to expand my search. Creatures aren't the only Legendary permanents; there are also Planeswalkers and they are bound to be useful, right?

....Not so much, as it turns out.

I kept resisting Planeswalkers because they are either really expensive or don't do what I need them to do (kill artifacts and enchantments).

Until now. Enter Vivien Reid.

A card draw engine and a way to remove fliers, artifacts and enchantments? This sounds pretty good to me. I resisted it for a little while because it costs five but so does Arashi, the Sky Asunder and that card does less. Now that all Planeswalkers are legendary, I get a bonus off Reki as well and that's something I want to do, always. But if there isn't a Reki, Vivien will happily let me draw cards.

I've also been considering Omnath more often when Time of Need comes up. Mana seems to be a little bit of a jam, still and I don't understand why: there are eight cards to help me ramp!

This was a bit more discouraging and notable against Matt while he was playing a dredge deck. I have all of these turn two plays and in our first game, I had to use Heart Warden to prevent a Bridge from Below going off and didn't see any more mana. In game two, I had four lands in my opening hand but drew into nothing to play!

A discouraging loss, for sure. I suppose sideboarding in Ground Seal might help although Grafdigger's Cage would be the real MVP.

Matt had some good advice though! Jedit Ojanen of Efrava (as I suspected) just isn't scary enough, Mox Amber might be a welcome addition and I definitely need more one drops. He suggested Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter, amongst others and I think that card has some merit.

A few games more and Fuz liked the shape the deck was in. Oviya, if unchecked, could produce not just chump blockers and time, but larger threats as well. The Mox Amber a solid add and two seems the correct number.

He's also suggested Polukranos, World Eater...which I don't have any copies of. I'm both a little surprised and indifferent to this fact. I never liked that dumb creature and I hated Monstrosity as a mechanic. I am especially dubious about the ability because it's so cost prohibitive. Three mana to do one damage just feels bad, even if I get a 6/6 out of the deal.

But it's a legend and the stats are good for the cost: the only question is if the ability is relevant.

The real problem is still that I am still having trouble getting from the early game to the midgame and I need something to help. The Blossoming Defense I've been using feel underwhelming and I only have two. I've even been considering adding in Llanowar Elves to help, though they are legendary in status only.

Which is when I broke down and went looking for legendary enchantments, and this is where Oath of Nissa comes in. This card seems perfect; good in the early game, good in the late game, doesn't matter if I play a second Oath over the first, enters the battlefield off a Kamahl's Druidic Vow, will trigger Traxos' untap and is so cheap that the impact on my manabase should be almost nothing, which is important since I've cut to lands for the two Mox Amber.

I'm really jazzed about this find and am hoping to see something awesome come of it.