Tuesday, January 30, 2018

I Blame Myself

In a four player game, it is probably unwise to use your mass removal too soon. But I did that because Caitlin was running the board over with tokens so it made sense. So I cast Fade Away. It worked, and I was able to take out multiple creatures not just of Caitlin's but of Noah and Matt's too.

Then I had to deal with a game that ran over an hour and looked like this:

What a zoo. I don't know that I should've waited but I'm definitely responsible for some of this.

With a Maze of Ith on Matt's board, I swung at Noah with a zombie he couldn't block (so I could draw a card off of Sygg) and a Polluted Dead that would certainly die to his Hydra Omnivore. My intention: to get this game kicked into gear. Either the Omnivore eats a form of removal or we start dying off.

Noah didn't see it that way: he used Aetherspouts to not take any damage. And the game went on.

Now, I don't like telegraphing my plans. I feel like that's unfair-ganging up on someone. Also, I like drawing cards.

But if I'm going to stop and think: What is my end goal (to attack with my creatures) and I need help accomplishing it, then I'd best go about it clearly. Being obvious and just attacking Noah with the Polluted Dead and someone else with the other creature might've helped make that clearer.

Either way: I gave Noah the stink-eye for his play and I shouldn't've. I made those choices without considering what he might be after and yeah, go figure he didn't want to take four damage and let me draw a card.

On the upside, I can say that I saw the error of my ways sooner than I usually do so I'll take that accomplishment.

The unfortunate part is that I didn't learn a lot about the deck. Lifebane Zombie seems meh, except for the intimidate part. One run through just isn't enough for me to say for sure, though. Fuz took a look at it and suggested Undead Alchemist which is one of those 'that's crazy but it just might work' ideas. There isn't a lot of support for what the Alchemist does coming from the rest of the deck, but it's weird and the price point doesn't break the bank.

It's just too soon to say what would be best.

Thursday, January 25, 2018


I went to the Tonic on Monday with the full intention of testing out Sygg, River Cutthroat, but I arrived late and multiple games were already in session.

To make things more complicated, there was a band performing in the stage room. What this really meant was that whenever there was time between songs, people were coming out to get a beer-which isn't a problem, except for all the stage fog they were letting into the area.

Magic is a difficult enough games as it is; playing in low light and fog? I suppose it would've made for a great Innistrad draft but for everything else it's a bit of a bummer.

So I didn't get to play Sygg. But I did meet a couple of nice fellows who were playing what they called 'Kitchen Table Magic' and they were OK with playing a few rounds so I pulled out Rize of the Fenix (which lost to mono-W humans because I kept a terrible hand), Hope is a Passenger (won against a G/B thing that never seemed to come together) and Mobile Shooting Gallery, which has recently undergone some revisions because of Ixalan's Ripjaw Raptor.

I've been trying to get MSG to be more consistent: What does it lose to? Wrath effects and countermagic. So more Spellbreaker Behemoth, Elemental Bond over Kavu Lair along with the Raptor to keep my threats on board and...testing it out to see how it goes.

I went 1-1 against affinity, so I feel pretty good about that but I'd really like a game three.

Next week, I hope. Or Commander games! Either is good by me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Commander-Sygg, River Cutthroat

This deck's genesis came from Matt building a budget commander deck. It's goblin tribal and he's been slowly improving it, suggesting that it would be a interesting challenge for me, too. I agreed but then tabled the idea for a few months because I have things to do. Still: I have three Tiny Leaders decks that I don't ever play, maybe I should revamp them into Commander decks. I'm halfway there, right?

So I present, Sygg, River Cutthroat, a tribal zombie commander deck.

1 Dimir Signet
1 Cellar Door
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Dimir Cluestone
1 Door of Destinies

1 Witch's Mist
1 Energy Flux
1 Hissing Miasma
1 Call to the Grave

1 Dimir Guildgate
1 Dismal Backwater
14 Swamp
1 Salt Marsh
12 Island
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Temple of the False God
1 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Rupture Spire
1 Mortuary Mire
1 Skyline Cascade
1 Submerged Boneyard
1 Halimar Depths
1 Scrapskin Drake
1 Ghoulraiser
1 Stitched Drake
1 Unbreathing Horde
1 Diregraf Captain
1 Diregraf Ghoul
1 Lord of the Undead
1 Zombie Outlander
1 Vodalian Zombie
1 Dominating Licid
1 Cemetery Reaper
1 Sangrophage
1 Dimir Doppelganger
1 Lifebane Zombie
1 Cryptoplasm
1 Reef Pirates
1 Black Cat
1 Rotcrown Ghoul
1 Polluted Dead
1 Undead Executioner
1 Drunau Corpse Trawler
1 Lamplighter of Selhoff
1 Soulless One
1 Clone
1 Gempalm Polluter
1 Ghastly Remains
1 Graveborn Muse
1 Noxious Ghoul
1 Withered Wretch
1 Zombie Brute
1 Undead Warchief
1 Nefashu
1 Twisted Abomination
1 Jhessian Zombies
1 Vedalken Ghoul
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel

1 Agony Warp
1 Gigadrowse
1 Repeal
1 Sudden Spoiling
1 Truth or Tale
1 Perplex
1 Blue Sun's Zenith
1 Catalog
1 Gravepurge
1 Reaping the Graves
1 Read the Bones
1 Fade Away
1 Gruesome Encore
1 Pore Over the Pages
1 Deny Reality
1 Divination

This deck comes in at just under $50 US, excluding the commander. I feel like that's not a bad number to hit for a budget Commander deck, it's closer to $52 if we include Sygg but again: not bad.

Sygg is just there, however, to facilitate the sweet zombie swarms.

The most expensive card in the deck, unsurprisingly, is Lord of the Dead. There were recursion cards like Vorath's Stronghold that I would have liked to put in because thematically they would make sense, but the expense couldn't be justified.

I'm also not sure I'm utilizing Blue to the best of my ability: in a budget zombie deck, is using a card like Read the Bones, which eats at my life total, the best card? I certainly have more options for card draw.

Still, I feel like this is a good start and I hope to get some games in soon.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Reading Wrapup

Cerebral Eruption does not do what I thought it did.

I had thought that it would cause each opponent to reveal their top card and if anyone revealed a land, then the Eruption would return to my hand.

No: it's instead a four-mana spell that if it whiffs, allows me to pay four mana to do it again. And that's no good at all: I have room for either goofy spells that go wide or serious spells that don't but not goofy spells that are narrow.

The lesson here: take your time, read and understand the card before you take action.

Also, I still have Pawn of Ulamog in this deck. Despite these missteps, Licia has been performing pretty well! In my last game against Noah and Matt, I had an excellent position up until Noah animated all my lands, cast Wrath of God and that pretty much took me out. Sure, I was still a player but I was just waiting to die. In his defense, Noah felt bad about that.

Divine Reckoning and Gisela, Blade of Goldnight are coming in to replace the cards I'm taking out. I'm keeping Defiant Bloodlord in my back pocket though.

Divine Reckoning is there to give me more board resets and Gisela is one of those cards that is really good for me, and really a pain for any opponents. Why attack me if your forces are blunted, or worse, you're going to be on the end of a very nasty stick next turn?

If Gisela doesn't work out well, then Defiant Bloodlord is a great way to run a duplicate Sanguine Bond. I'm just reluctant to do so because Bloodlord is so expensive.

Still, I think I'm set with this deck. It's playing well, though better in multiplayer than in 1v1, and I'm enjoying my time playing it. It's a little slow to get out of the gate but the life gain helps keep me in games until I'm able to make my move.

Next up, I'm taking on a deckbuilding challenge!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

On Standard

I think it's worth checking out what Patrick Sullivan has to say in this Twitch stream.

This is a really interesting discussion about where Standard-and to me, by extension, all formats-ought to be.

Can you innovate? Can you make risks? If not then maybe things are problematic.

I've watched this video five times and each time I glean a little more.

I think the reason for that is because that is how I want Magic to be.

I don't like storm decks because they play so far away from how Magic plays. Similarly, dredge decks.

I don't resent that they exist, nor the players that want to play them. But because they are so far afield of what a game of Magic should be or rather, the plane they want to interact on, namely a series of interactions that create tension and drama because you're trying to outplay your opponent, versus reducing the game to one of solitaire, I shy away from them. If every game vs those decks means: I have to bring in a sideboard then something is weird about those games of Magic. I'm not sure that 'weird sideboard answers' is the best example of Magic games.

I think it also shows in the kinds of decks I frequently build. They aren't always cheap creatures or instant value creatures. They require me to build/payoff a thing. They focus on singular and often not-winning mechanics (like Vigilance). That doesn't mean I want to build control decks: it means I want to have my decisions matter, instead of being flatly blown out because the power curve is something I cannot ignore.

But before I go any further, I want to link Patrick Chapin's article referenced by Mr. Sullivan in his rant.

This is a great perspective, to me and it helps inform why I like playing casual Legacy decks: yes, at the top tiers Legacy gets narrow but there is still room for weird stuff, finding ideas that are from left field. There's room for oddities-or even throwbacks like mono-Green stompy decks-to be updated, tweaked and maybe make a run.

But it's not easy for that to exist. In any format, really.

Just things to chew on: I don't have an answer and I've seen the design of Magic improve over the past two plus decades (creatures matter now!) but it's also come with some downsides (Limited environment > everything) that are worth examining.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Second Set of Swaps

Got a lot of games in this past week, which as been great. Before I did, though, I made the following changes:

Go for the Throat
Swords to Plowshares
Heirloom Blade
Blookhusk Ritualist
Bloodsworn Steward
Teferi's Protection

What's added in:
Sorin, Grim Nemesis
True Conviction
Cerebral Eruption
Venser's Journal
Chancellor of the Dross

Of these, I'm really only unsure of Cerebral Eruption. It's a cutsie trick but I'm not sure how often it will really pay off. Still, it's a weird card that could have some legs in multiplayer, so I'm running it for now, because after taking out two removal spells, I absolutely needed another sweeper spell of some kind.

Everything else is about the lifegain. Chancellor of the Dross even has the benefit of being a vampire, so it can play nice with some of my vampire-relevant cards.

True Conviction has been incredible when it's appeared, and even Venser's Journal has been useful; free lifegain every turn means that casting Licia gets easier, even if it's just a little bit and helps negate the Commander Tax.

That said: in a three player game a couple days go, I got a lesson in both being aware of the environment and reading the fucking card. Matt had played out a Shaman of Forgotten Ways and I remembered that it tapped for two mana...and didn't recall the rest.

But we were in a bar that wasn't extremely well lit, so instead of reaching over to read the card and remember, I just relied on my memory.

In the meantime, Caitlin was playing a ramp deck and had quickly gotten all of our board states to about eleven lands or so.

And if there's one big disadvantage that Licia has, it's that there aren't a lot of creatures in the deck.

So when I had the chance to play Licia, I didn't: Black Market and True Conviction were my plays.

Next turn, I died to Matt's activation of the Shaman.

It was a pretty simple mistake but one that I should've avoided. I was too focused on my next turn, the one where I cast Licia as a double striker, with free mana coming to me if any creature died, that I failed to focus on this one.

Focus only on what matters. Still good advice.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Rivals of Ixalan Thoughts

The full spoiler is here!


The Ascend mechanic is...weird. It wants players to overextend and then what? Are those rewards really worth it? I'm not sure. It isn't bad, mind you. I'm just not very confident that it matters. The more I think about it, the more it seems like "win more" and those mechanics rarely splash.

Did we really need a more expensive Pacifism? (Luminous Bonds)

Otherwise, I'm not seeing a lot of interesting stuff. Bishop of Binding is probably the most interesting turn on what White does but not much else really stands out.

Best worst card is probably Blazing Hope-because Death's Shadow decks needed removal? It's weird at least, and I do like that.

Favorite dinosaur: Trapjaw Tyrant. I really like the Enrage mechanic and this one is badass.

Crafty Cutpurse is going to be a cool thing for Commander decks.

Induced Amnesia is a neat twist on discard and fits in Blue well. I fear what that spell will do in Eternal formats, where it's possible to remove someone's opening hand on turn one or two.

Similarly, Warkite Marauder creates interesting gamestates and Timestream Navigator is a cool twist on the 'extra turn' mechanic.

Release to the Wind is a fascinating turn on the "Flicker" mechanic, especially since it would count as a played spell.

Favorite dinosaur (by default): Nezahal, Primal Tide. Another Commander awesomesauce, but I can see it as a finisher in some blue control decks.

It's kinda a flavor fail for Dinosaur Hunter to die to pretty much every dinosaur he may deal damage to, especially given his flavor text. More a "taking you with me" thing than hunting.

Dead Man's Chest is really cool!

Also, I see there is more support for the black aggro pirate deck. Dire Fleet Poisoner is an excellent card and with an aggro deck, maybe it's not unreasonable to see Golden Demise work in Standard. Not sure it would be OK in any other format, though-as a pirate aggro sweeper. Golden Demise is fine otherwise!

Twilight Prophet is a card I want: This is a card that makes Ascend worth shooting for.

Favorite dinosaur (again by default): Tetzimoc, Primal Death. This is a neat twist on what the Chancellors do, I think-and better than the Forecast mechanic from (3rd block in Ravnica)

Yes, OK: Blood Sun is bonkers and I love it.

Actually, Red seems to be picking up some neat goodies here. Solid dinos, interesting pirates, good cards overall.

Dire Fleet Daredevil might not be as awesome as Snapcaster Mage but it's still pretty cool. Form of the Dinosaur could combo with some neat big green mana effects, especially if you can get out Sandwurm Convergence.

Mutiny is a great card-flavor win, solid effect for the cost. Yeah, I dig it.

As soon as I saw Rekindling Phoenix I wanted to put it in my phoenix deck, though I'm not sure it fits.

The goblins in this set still look like monkeys, though.

Favorite dinosaur: as much as I love Etali, Primal Storm, I think Charging Tuskodon takes the nod.

I can't say there's a lot to thrill me here. It's solid, but isn't making me gasp.

I wish I had more to say, actually. This is one of the less inspired green sets I've seen in awhile. Wayward Swordtooth might make my garbage cube though.

Favorite dinosaur: Polyraptor. I mean. C'mon.

Huh. So Azor is the big security blanket of Ixalan. Neat!

Not a lot going on there though, either. Favorite dinosaur is obviously going to be Zacama, Primal Calamity. Untapping lands? Nothing went wrong with that last time...

The double faced cards are...I still hate this mechanic but I recognize that it's a way to print fixed versions of broken cards. We'll see.

The Immortal Sun is crazy good. Too bad it will only see play in Commander: I'd love it if I could get the first ability and any one of the other three for 3 mana.

Arch of Orazca is meh. Whatever.

I am a bit more reserved in my enthusiasm of Rivals than I was about Ixalan. The new mechanic isn't very thrilling, merfolk don't do anything interesting-although the impact might be felt more in Modern-, vampires and pirates get some neat boosts so maybe they'll be able to make an impact and I think the dinosaur tribe got some cool boosts in their mechanic.

But it doesn't really seem to play nice against Kaladesh or develop themes in Amonkhet so...

We shall see.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Solid Starts

Things have started off well for Licia: games against Zedruu, piloted by Fuz and Ragnar, piloted by Noah, have resulted in wins.

I still have questions about some cards, especially the ones that lean heavily on the tribal theme, such as Kindred Boon, although that card has proven to be VERY good, and keeping Licia on the table with indestructability isn't anything to sneeze at. Still; it's not as good as it would be in a strict tribal deck and even with Rivals of Ixalan providing more vampire fodder-and more Commander cards at large-I want to keep my eye on it.

The cards that are too narrow, like Swords to Plowshares or Bloodhusk Ritualist are also suspect. Pinpoint removal does have its place but Commander is too often a multiplayer format for me to be comfortable with these kinds of answers.

I had a pretty bonkers result from Black Market in my game with Noah, since at one point it was making eight mana a turn, and it really makes me want to up the number of Debt to the Deathless effects in the deck. However, without reliable mana sources, I just don't think Black Market would work as effectively as I would like. I certainly don't want to take one really good experience and then expect Licia to repeat it every time, without gearing my deck to perform that way.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

PV's Rules

Along with thinking about the consequence of lines of play, comes this article by Paulo Victor Damo da Rosa.

I hadn't ever thought about it but yes: forcing a choice is better than allowing the opponent options. This puts a new dimension into thinking ahead and one I'll have to work on keeping in mind.

Adding on to this, is a neat article by Jadine Klomparens on creating consistent lines of play. While I think it's important to be flexible to new information, I've noticed that a lot of decks are good because of their focus. Similarly, a lot of strategies are good because of the focus, instead of deviating from the norm. But when you pick a strategy, as she says,
"when you make that first choice, you should be thinking about all the similar choices that will be in front of you in the future, not just the next one."
That's some pretty forward thinking and it's difficult to lean into it when in the middle of a game. Which is why I need to keep practicing. It never really ends, and that's something I'm OK with...but I wouldn't mind seeing some results. So that's the goal for 2018; get better.

That's always the goal but it helps to say it aloud.