Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Doctor Strange and the Infinity Gauntlet

This is my Jodah/Fist of Suns list. It is probably a fairly standard Jodah list, with lots of huge bombs and various ways to cheat 'em out. But it's a really fun deck, and it also happens to need some fine-tuning. After mulling it over a while, I figured I might as well write up a post on it, as that might help me collect and organize my thoughts on how best to improve its performance.

I'll start by sharing the list as it currently stands, then walk through some of the problems and how we might solve them.


Commander: Jodah, Archmage Eternal.

Academy Rector
Angel of the Dire Hour
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Consecrated Sphinx
Diluvian Primordial
Myojin of Seeing Winds
Fleshbag Marauder
Merciless Executioner
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Etali, Primal Storm
Sakura-Tribe Elder
Bloom Tender
Reclamation Sage
Seedborn Muse
Rashmi, Eternities Crafter
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Angel of Despair
Maelstrom Wanderer
Ashen Rider
Zacama, Primal Calamity
Solemn Simulacrum
Ramos, Dragon Engine


Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Wrath of God
Deep Analysis
Leyline of Anticipation
Baral's Expertise
Time Spiral
Mind's Dilation
Animatou's Augury
Read the Bones
Painful Truths
Toxic Deluge
Unburial Rites
Sunbird's Invocation
Star of Exctinction
Kodama's Reach
Zendikar's Resurgence
Tooth and Nail
Abzan Charm
Bring to Light
Sylvan Library
Mirari's Wake
Maelstrom Nexus
Primeval's Glorius Rebirth
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Lightning Greaves
Fist of Suns
Vedalken Orrery
 Sol Ring
Thought Vessel
Fellwar Stone
Chromatic Lantern
Coalition Relic
Prismatic Geoscope


10x Rev Duals (Tundra, etc.)
10x Shocklands (Hallowed Fountain, etc.)
5x Ally-colored Fetchlands (Flooded Strand)
Command Tower
Mana Confluence
Exotic Orchard
Reflecting Pool
Rootbound Crag
Sunpetal Grove
Hinterland Harbor
Plains x1
Island x1
Swamp x1
Montain x1
Forest x1

So, that's the list I've most recently been working with. And it's done pretty well so far, but it certainly has a few kinks to iron out. Before we get to troubleshooting, however, let's talk a little more about the deck itself.

One of the things that was clear to me right off the bat is, we need perfect mana, hence the extravagantly expensive mana base. Ramp is also key - not only is it a part of our "Plan A" which is to ramp into Jodah and start Fisting out threats as early as possible, but it's also a critical part of "Plan B" which is to just hardcast our bombs (for when Jodah just dies over and over).

It is not enough to just hit RWU and cast Jodah, of course - we also need to hit B and G to start Fisting things. By the way if that terminology makes you uncomfortable, I bid you simply get your mind out of the gutter, you perv. I am merely referring to the card Fist of Suns, which is basically Jodah but in Artifact form.

Sticking a Fist of Suns is often preferable to Jodah, as it can dodge removal a little easier. Rest assured though, both will be high priority targets if your opponents do have removal.

Anyway, the key to successful Fisting is to hit WUBRG as often as possible, as reliably possible, and as quickly as possible. We're perfectly happy hitting all five colors on turn five, but if we can hit them all on turn four some percentage of the time, so much the better.

This is one area where I feel the deck needs some attention, as my ramp suite is not optimal, but we'll get to that shortly.

Another key aspect of a Jodah deck that I realized early on was that being able to Fist things at instant speed would be a huge plus. For much of the early to mid game, this is a cast-one-thing-per-turn deck. Even if we aren't paying full retail for our high-CMC bombs, we're still only going to be able to drop them one at a time for the first half of the game.

This means a single removal spell from an opponent can be a HUGE tempo loss. This might not be the end of the world in a slower multiplayer setting but it's still a problem. One solution to this issue is to cast things at instant speed, often at the End of Turn step of the opponent passing to us.

But that's not all; combining something like Vedalken Orrery with a Seedborn Muse effect can often let us cast things during each opponent's turn - those of you who played a lot of Prophet of Kruphix before she got banned will pick up on this principal.

Oh, another aspect of the deck I want to touch on is the "value enchantment" package. It started with Mirari's Wake and Zendikar Resurgent - the two "mana doubling" enchantments. I included those as potential solutions to the whole "only Fisting one thing a turn" problem - if we can make WUBRG, then with either of those on the Battlefield, we can make double-WUBRG! Zendikar Resurgent also has built-in draw, which is great.

With those in the deck, I immediately looked at Academy Rector for inclusion. But I wasn't sure it was worth running the Old Bitch just for those two cards (okay it probably still would have been, but...), so I looked for more big, expensive value-generating Enchantments we could include as possible targets for Rector to fetch.

Well, it's pretty damn difficult for me to build a five-color deck without running Maelstrom Nexus, and that fits the bill of hard-to-cast value enchantment. Mind's Dilation and Sunbird's Invocation are also poster-children for that category of cards. Those three, plus the aforementioned Wake and Resurgent round out the package. We also have Leyline of Anticipation for when we really need to give everything we do Flash.

This is only a few cards, but cheating just one of these out with Rector can generate serious value if it sticks. We don't want to go overboard here, but there are certainly other high-CMC Enchantments that might be fun to cheat into play. We may come back to this topic as well.

In addition to the value Enchantments, we also have a small subset of creatures that function similarly. Maelstrom Wanderer has Cascade x2, so that's great value. And with all the high-CMC cards in the deck we maximize our chances of hitting something big and splashy and not just mana rocks or utility dorks. Rashmi is pseudo-Cascade and works especially well with the Seedborn/Orrery tech. Etali and Diluvian Primordial give us value by letting us cast our opponents' stuff, scaling upwards the more opponents we have as well.

Basically the general idea is, we cast things (often at a discount thanks to Jodah/Fist) and those things in turn let us cast other things, often for free. I'd consider Stolen Strategy in this regard, but that requires you to actually pay the mana costs. Boo-urns.

I think that about does it for the deck tech - the rest of the list is pretty clearly either cheap utility stuff and expensive bombs. Oh, but before I forget: many of you probably know this, but in case you don't - casting Painful Truths for WUBRG off Jodah/Fist let's you "overpay" and draw FIVE cards! You lose five life as well, but still... it's a cute piece of tech I enjoy and I looked for other ways we could take advantage of that little trick, but Painful Truths was, in my opinion, the only truly compelling use case. Oh well.

And with that, I think we can get on to the troubleshooting phase.

I already mentioned the ramp suite was not quite up to snuff, but there are a few other small areas of improvement I have noticed while playing the deck. But let's go ahead and get the ramp situation sorted out as it's probably one of the most key elements of the deck's early game plan.

The astute reader will likely have taken notice that the list above only contains five Basic Lands - one of each type. But the deck also contains the following cards: Sakura-Tribe Elder, Solemn Simulacrum, Kodama's Reach and Cultivate. These are all exceptional cards on their own, of course, but the four ramp cards combine to fetch up a grand total of SIX basic lands - a problem of math, you can see, since six is greater than five. I have had multiple games where I managed to draw one or more of these ramp cards after fully depleting my library of all Basic Lands. Ouch!

Add to all of that the fact that Basic-only ramp is much less valuable in this particular deck; we would rather have ramp that can get us dual lands where possible, and you can start to see where I'm coming from on this not being the ideal ramp package. Luckily there are some great alternatives that can serve us better.

But while we're on the topic of sub-optimal ramp, let's also take a look at our mana rock selection. On this portion I think I got a lot closer. Sol Ring and Thought Vessel produce colorless mana, and sure, sometimes you might find yourself needing colored mana more, but they are good enough overall that I have found them well worth running. You might disagree on Vessel in particular, but I have had many games where I was quite glad to have it. But Prismatic Geoscope, on the other hand, has been nothing but a disappointment. I had high hopes for it, as it should essentially be a Gilded Lotus that taps for WUBRG. That seems great on paper, but that damned "enters the battlefield tapped" clause just ruins it every time. I have just hated this card every time I've drawn it.

So which ramp cards would be better in this deck? I've always been a big fan of the Signets but I don't think they'll work here. I think our best bet is to go with green ramp that finds non-basic lands. And the cheaper, the better. I want to keep STE because it's a good early blocker as well as a super-cheap ramp piece, and I have also gotten great mileage out of Reach/Cultivate when drawn early. It's only after I've drawn/ramped my Basics out that they become dead, useless draws. I also like to have a mix of spells and creatures for various reasons.

And in general, I want to lower the overall CMC average of our ramp package where possible.

Given all of these considerations and taking them all into account, here are the requisite changes being made:

Prismatic Geoscope ---> Skyshroud Claim
Solemn Simulacrum ---> Wood Elves
Kodama's Reach ---> Farseek

Each spell being cut is being replaced by something cheaper by one mana, so we have succeeded in the goal of lowering our ramp CMC. Solemn is being replaced by Wood Elves, so we're not losing any bodies suitable for blocking early attackers. Losing the draw effect from Sad Robot is trivial in comparison to the value that Wood Elves brings in being cheaper and allowing us to ramp into a dual land. And while Kodama's Reach is great even in this deck, I don't think we need both it and Cultivate, so it loses out to Farseek as another two-mana ramp spell - and 2 CMC is a critical enough point that I felt like Nature's Lore also warranted consideration. If I find the ramp needs further massaging in the future, Lore might come in but for now I think the three swaps above will suffice.

So what else is not working with this list? Well there are a few cards that aren't performing quite as well as I'd hoped and even if I wind up not cutting some of them, I want to at least examine them and see if there is opportunity for improvement.

The first is Primeval's Glorious Rebirth. This card was better in earlier iterations, as the deck had a higher number of legendary permanents. It wasn't a tremendous amount, as I only cut a few in total, but it was just enough so that I have started to find Rebirth a dead draw some of the time. Occasionally it is still an utterly backbreaking play, but it is somewhere between dead and underwhelming much more of the time. Assuming we want to keep this slot as some kind of reanimation effect, we have a few other options that may serve us better. Rise of the Dark Realms is certainly one big, splashy version. I think I am even more partial to Debtor's Knell, as Academy Rector gives us another way to cheat it out aside from just Fisting it. I mentioned we might round out the Rector value enchantment suite, so this might be a prime opportunity to do so. However, I have also seen quite a few Jodah decks are running Muldrotha but I haven't managed to fit him into mine - so he's another option I must look at.

Bring to Light hasn't been terrible by any means, but as it already costs five mana anyway, the Fist/Jodah trick I mentioned in regards to Painful Truths does not apply here. But while I have gotten good value out of Bring to Light so far, each time I cast it I pass by several spells that I wish I could get, but can't. I also keep forgetting it can't get Enchantments and many times Mirari's Wake is the #1 thing I really want to fetch up. But here I'm not sure if the call is to cut Bring to Light or just improve the selection of things it can find.

Before we get into that little conundrum, I am going to address another card that is under-performing for similar reasons. Baral's Expertise is a great card, but in a deck with such a high number of high CMC cards, I have often failed to capitalize on the "free spell" portion of the card. And when I do get to drop something for free it's almost always a mana rock or ramp spell. Not terrible value by any means, and the tempo play of bouncing three things is quite good on it's own. But if we're going to just write off the whole free spell rider, then surely there is a more impactful thing we can play instead.

Finally, I'm less and less sure about Rashmi being in the list as I play the deck. She's certainly good - and when you manage to build your own Prophet of Krupix with Seedborm+Orrery/Leyline, she's REALLY good. But that ideal scenario comes up far to infrequently, so most of the time she's just kinda okay. Just okay isn't really what we're looking for, so I think we have to consider giving her the boot as well.

There are also some newer inclusions that I have yet to really get a chance to test since I've added them in. Animatou's Augury and Star of Extinction are two such cards. I have high hopes for them both but as of yet do not have any games under my belt with those. Also, I had at some point inexplicably cut Consecrated Sphinx, but quickly came to my senses and put it back in after a few games wherein I needed card draw.

Back to the matter at hand, we have four cards that are at least possibly getting replaced: Rashmi, Rebirth, Bring to Light, and Baral's Expertise. And I have two possible inclusions in mind already in Debtor's Knell and Muldrotha. But I honestly don't really know what I want for the other slots!

This is a true rarity for me - I almost always have more cards I want to put into a deck than will fit, and I also almost always know what I want for a replacement when a card doesn't wind up working out. But for once, I am not certain - I do think that I probably want to keep the same function for each slot - a big reanimation spell, a defensive/interactive spell, a value generator and a tutor of some kind. But those aren't set in stone either.

These situations are pretty rare, but when they occur I have a couple of quick and easy sources of inspiration - and the visual spoilers for the newest couple of Magic sets. I'm pretty much always a few sets (or more) behind on my Magic collecting these days, and even further behind in actually updating my decks. It's kind of a miracle that I have something as recent as Animatou's Augury in this deck but nothing else is anywhere near that current, so we can definitely scope out M19 and Guilds of Ravnica for ideas.

But let's start with EDHREC, simply because if I find something there I am much more likely to have the card or cards on hand already. M19 and Ravnica are sets I have not yet caught up on.

... And I'm back. After scouring EDHREC's page for Jodah for several minutes, I am coming back empty-handed. There are plenty of good, powerful cards I am not using such as Expropriate, Elesh Norn or the Eldrazi titans. But I want fun stuff, not make-my-friends-hate-me stuff. Swarm Intellegence is another one of those high-cost value enchantments I love, but I don't think I have quite as many instants and sorceries as you'd need to really make that one work for you. And it actually kinda feels win-more. Animatou's Augury and Tooth and Nail are already pretty back-breaking without needing to double up on them.

So I turned instead to those recent sets that I have not yet had much of a chance to collect from and play with. M19 offered up a couple of possible choices in Chaos Wand and Vaevictus Asmadi. The Wand is a bit iffy, but there are lots of times, I tap for WUBRG to Fist something into play, but then have 3 or 4 mana left over - not enough to Fist another spell, nor enough to cast any of the big, expensive things still in my hand. Wand lets us use that leftover mana, and is on the theme of stealing our opponents' stuff and casting it for free (well, four generic mana in this case). But hitting sweepers is gonna feel REAL bad when it happens, so the Wand is maybe not my first choice.

Vaevictus doesn't get much of a cost savings from being Fisted, but his mass-Chaos Warp effect is pretty sweet in a deck this loaded with high-value bombs. But some of those bombs are Instants or Sorceries, so he could whiff a higher-than-desired percentage of the time.

Guilds of Ravnica didn't yield too many results either. Thief of Sanity could be a suitable replacement for Rashmi - it's cheaper, flies and gets good value off successfully connecting with an opponent. But it also doesn't let us cast what we steal for free - not a deal breaker but also enough to keep it from being an automatic inclusion. Knight of Autumn and Plaguecrafter are basically strictly-better upgrades to Reclamation Sage and Fleshbag Marauder respectively, by the way - but those weren't cards we really needed to upgrade! Just something worth noting for later, nonetheless.

Battlebond has virtually nothing we want here, and Commander 19 already gave us it's best goodie in Aminatou's Augury. Except that Windgrace's Judgement might be a really good replacement for Baral's Expertise - they're both five-cost spells that answer three things. Since we're rarely getting any value from the "cast a free four-mana spell" rider, it's essentially straight upgrade from a Sorcery-speed "bounce three" to an Instant-speed "destroy three". Seems good.

And since I had so few other things jump out at me, let's go ahead and just decide now to replace Primeval's Glorious Rebirth with Debtor's Kneel and give the Rector something else to pick from.

That leaves us with Rashmi and Bring to Light left to worry about. Bring to Light is unique enough that it could be just about anything, and as such it is hard to know what in the heck to replace it with. But as it happens, the card most closely resembles a Tutor. Sure it let's you cast whatever you tutor up for free, right there on the spot. But it's also restricted by CMC and card type. Remember, I frequently lament not being able to get Wake with it. So maybe it should just be an actual tutor - Demonic Tutor maybe? Yeah, I think that'll do nicely. It's cheap enough we could sometimes still cast what we tutor for right away, but even when not it often sets up really strong plays for the following turn. And unlike Bring to Light it has the corner case use of being able to tutor up a land if we're desperate for one. It's a bit boring, but probably the best functionally-similar option we have.

As for Rashmi, I could leave her and give her more of a chance to prove her worth. Or she could easily give way to either Vaevictus or Muldrotha. This last choice is one I have not yet made up my mind on, and will continue to mull it over.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Selesnya

The final installment wraps things up with a look at the Selesnya cards.


I really love these types of spells - the ones that save your team from a Wrath effect. But I feel like this one is just a bit too costly to leave up. Sure, if you're playing with Cradle or maybe Priest of Titania, it can be workable. But even the 4-mana ones like Faith's Reward, I have found to be very hard to make use of. I think the sweet spot for these effects is 2 to 3 mana. I doubt we're going to get another Heroic Intervention anytime soon, but there are a few 3-mana versions already.

In most decks, I don't think the untap effect will be worth the premium you're paying for this.
Another guild, another disappointing guildmage.  Six mana for a single 2/2 is terrible. It's clear WotC has balanced this cycle for Limited. Oh well.
See, this is why the guildmage above sucks. This is EIGHT power and toughness worth of creatures for four mana! Still probably not prime EDH material. The main sticking point being that it has a "dies" trigger which is more of a Golgari thing, in terms of what types of decks can most abuse this.

Yeah, I get why it's not, but man I wish this was a Golgari card instead.
Flower is an effect very few decks in EDH want. 99.9% of the time we'd much rather put the land directly into play, and there are plenty of good, cheap cards that do just that. Flourish is also a pretty terrible cost/effect ratio when compared to other cards we have access to. I can't think of a single archetype that would want this over almost any other Overrun variant.
This might walk a fine line between "win-more" and just "win". It's Instant speed, and has convoke, so I think it lands in the "win" column. Unlike in 60-card, 1v1 Magic, token-based go wide decks often need to go REALLY wide to push through defenses. I think this accomplishes that goal nicely. And being an Instant means you minimize your risk of being blown out by a sweeper immediately after casting it. Very solid card for GW token decks.
Holy crap, Reclamation Sage just got the same treatment Fleshbag Marauder got with Plaguecrafter. It is unfortunate that in this case, the upgraded version didn't stay mono-color. Still, this is straight up staple material in any deck that can run it.

Sure, it's just going to be Rec Sage probably 75% of the time, but the other modes can be useful in a pinch. If you just need a fast threat to pressure an enemy Planeswalker or get some +1/+1 counter synergies going, a 4/3 for three ain't bad.

Put this in a blink deck like Roon and it really seems like a winner. Great utility creature with versatile options.
Eh, I typically like these sorts of cards, but this one not so much. It does a lot for six mana, I'll give it that. But most of the time I think I'd rather have Shamanic Revelation, or in some cases, Rishkar's Expertise. Still, if you're on GW tokens and starved for even more card draw, this ain't strictly terrible.
I'm not impressed with either side of this card, and I don't think the versatility factor does enough to save it.

So, that about does it for the full set review. I have to say, I went into this thinking Guilds of Ravnica was pretty close to being a home run, even though right from the outset I thought it fell short of the amazingness Battlebond and Dominaria. But after the review, I feel it falls even shorter than expected. It's not bad, by any means, and there's a lot of good stuff, but much of the power in the set feels very highly concentrated in a few rares/mythics while much of the rest of the set winds up feeling like many cards are just a hair too much mana or just slightly nerfed from older versions of their effects.

But on the flip side, I'm glad this set isn't loaded up with instant staples a la Cyclonic Rift. There are a lot of cards that aren't broadly powerful but should be quite good in specific decks. And that's fine! I build and play a wide variety of decks and I'm constantly experimenting and trying new things. So I will probably get a chance to use a fair few of these niche cards. Of course, if you're the type that just runs only one or a few decks, or you stick to specific archetypes, you may or may not get much mileage out of such a set as this one.

Well, until next time, enjoy!

Friday, October 5, 2018

Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Izzet

Izzet time for Izzet yet? It izz!

Ugh, sorry for that. Moving on.


Dammit, who let Snoop Dogg start naming Magic cards?

This card is significantly worse than Prophetic Bolt and even I hardly ever play that card anymore. Bad card is bad, but the name is an unforgivable sin.
This is one of the only split cards in the set where both halves feel likely to be pretty relevant or useful. Unfortunately they both feel at tad too expensive. But you're paying a premium for that versatility, I guess. Early game, copying a ramp or draw spell from an opponent is a perfectly reasonable use. Late game, you restock your hand while dealing with a threat. Not a bad effect at all, if you can swing the mana.
I can't think of any super cool plays involving this guy, but my gut tells me they're out there.
Not the best counterspell in the format by any stretch. It's fine, but that 2 damage is just way too inconsequential. If it was more of Parallectric Feedback stitched onto a Counterspell so you could at least savage someone casting a huge X-spell, I'd like it a lot more. As is, though, there are quite a few 3-mana counters with upside that I'd play before this one.
Invert is way to corner-case to ever really be playable on it's own, and while Invent is a good effect, the high mana cost isn't likely to leave you with enough left over to cast anything after it, so people are likely going to have a turn to prepare for whatever you tutor up.

Of course in a cost reduction scenario, such as with Mizzix for example, it probably gets a lot better. At, potentially, two mana it seems very playable. 
This is almost as nuts as that Dimir mythic. Yes, it's a do-nothing 6-drop the turn you play it (unless you have a TON of mana to use). And then it's probably not much more than a combo piece that just ends the game when your opponents are unwise or unlucky enough to let you untap with it.

It's cool enough that I really want to play this even though I don't like combo-y decks and my group doesn't either.
Yikes. Good abilities, but way too expensive to be practical. Having to actually pay full retail plus R to copy a spell is not a good rate. Four mana to draw a card is the current norm, but that doesn't mean it's a good rate either.

Fantastic illustration aside, this card blows.
This is a pretty neat card but I guess you really only play this if Aetherflux Reservoir is just way too mean for your playgroup. Personally, I'd never get to deal damage with this as I wouldn't be able to pass up drawing cards all the time.

I think this might find it's best use case in decks like Shu Yun where you are looking to capitalize on casting lots of super cheap instants and sorceries in other ways. This will just be one more way to get "added value" on your Ponders, Paths and Distortion Strikes.

So, that's it for the Izzet. Not terrible but not impressive either, save that bonkers mythic. I'm not really into anything here, but that's because Spellslinger decks just aren't a good fit for my group. We generally play without countermagic (exceptions do exist but are minimal), so playing decks that can really only be interacted with on the stack is kind of a shitty thing to do.

I've tried making a few versions of Izzet Spells in the past with Melek and other commanders, by making them win via a big token producer or something along those lines. That way, I'm still winning with permanents that can be interacted with on the battlefield. Ultimately those decks still wind up being very combo-ish feeling even if they technically don't truly combo off. Bascially, you build up to one big turn then ask if anyone has an answer right then - if they don't you win, if they do, you probably lose.

So as much as I like these cards in theory, it's all but impossible for me to put them to use without some damage to the social contract within our group. But, it's Ravnica after all. Being mad that the Izzet get a bunch of spells matter stuff is like being mad that the Boros cards are all about attacking and beating down.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Golgari

Ah, the Golgari - my favorite guild. In terms of flavor/characters/aesthetics, I still hold Orzhov in the highest regard. But when it comes to building and playing decks, nothing beats the Golgari. Meren... Savra... Gitrog... Hapatra.

I have high hopes for this one. Let's hope they pan out.


I don't love it, but it does what some Golgari decks want to be doing, and it's Skullclamp fodder when you're done. Seems fine.
Well, okay then, this is more like it.

If you are on more of a Savra/Grave Pact flavor of Golgari then this might not be too exciting, but for Meren, Gitrog and anything Dredge-y, this card's stock shoots way up.

In short, if you wanna fill your graveyard quickly but a few Surveil cards here and there aren't equal to the task, this here's your guy.
Ewww! I do NOT like exiling my own things out of my own graveyard. Please do not ask me to do so. And if you are going to anyway, definitely don't offer me a generic, midsize attacker as my only reward for doing so. I have a hard enough time delving for a Treasure Cruise and you know how much I love to draw cards. Well, I like attacking with big Trample guys, too, but not THAT much.
Decent at first glance, but there's another card coming up... you know what it is already... also, in C18 we got Windgrace's Judgment, and before that, well, B/G just has a vertiable cornucopia of good-ass removal already.
Cute. Seems good for Virtus/Gorm decks, if anyone is playing those partners.
Whoomp, there it is! THE card of the set. The one everyone is talking about because it's playable in basically every format in which it is legal. And even in EDH it is fantastic removal.

Unfortunately this is going to carry a hefty price tag for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, as I previously mentioned, Golgari decks already have a plethora of great removal options to pick from anyway, so this is in no way essential.

In short, if you have these, you WILL run them. But at the same time, there is no real need to go out of your way to get them. It's just removal, folks. GOOD removal, yeah, but not that big a deal.
 Bleh. Possibly the worst of the new guildmages. I don't like the art much, either.
This is not bad, though Finality is a tad overcosted. Definitely good in lower-powered groups, but gets pretty marginal as the power and skill level of the group scales up. 
Nope. Still not enough to dethrone Eternal Witness as the best card in it's class. Being bigger actually hurts a utility creature like this, as often times you just want to get their ETBF effect, then Skullclamp them for even more value.

Eh, but he is an Elf and a Shaman, so tribal considerations may change the valuation slightly. Also if you really need non-spell versions, for like a Genesis Wave deck or something, I guess it works as E-Wit number two.

Playable, but far from the best version of this effect.

Well mixed bag it is then. Golgari get the #1 most-hyped card in the set, but it's just a boring removal spell, which is something Golgari players didn't exactly need in our format. We'll happily take it, but it isn't really adding anything new to the game. The uncommons were pretty unspectacular across the board as well. Oh, but that mythic is pretty damn good. And even the more mediocre cards seem like they could have niche uses here and there.

Overall, I'm let down, but the few good cards are REALLLLLY good, and since the Dimir didn't suck this time, I'll forgive a somewhat weak batch of Golgari stuff. I mean, it's already the best two-color combination in the format so it didn't exactly need a lot of help.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Dimir

More multicolor cards to ogle! This time, the Dimir is up for inspection. Let's see how they do.


Hey, another Common actually made it into the review. That this even gets a mention at all, though, speaks to the potential power of Surveil. Sure, most decks would still prefer Scry, but EDH is rife with graveyard-based strategies and decks, and it is those decks in which Surveil is going to make a splash. Read the Bones is playable, so in decks that also have Blue and care about their graveyard, this will be even better.
Obviously these cards are never good in our format. But one of these days, WotC will just have to print a version of this that does scale for multiplayer. Being able to just go in and preemptively hit everyone's Sol Rings would be funny.
Connive is going to be hard to get real value out of in a format of huge creatures. But, then again, some of the scariest creatures can be small ones - Zur the Enchanter, Brago, Derevi? That definitely makes this a niche/meta call at best.

On the other hand, Concoct is a reasonably good card on it's own. This is definitely the mode you want to be casting most often, but as mentioned the other half has real applications as well.
Holy shit, this card.

I have to rebuild my old Wrexial deck.

I've seen a lot of... tempered... reactions to this card, and I get it. I mean, yeah, you cast this and you still have to cough up the mana to cast all your opponents' goodies.

I maintain that, while that is all very true, this is still a bonkers card.
Geez, twist my arm, will ya? I already said I was rebuilding Wrexial! Get off my case about it.

Seriously, this is basically a Shadowmage Infiltrator that is about 1000% more annoying, and will piss people off enough that you'll likely never actually connect with it.

But, man, do I love it!
Okay, this is odd. The Surveil interaction is all but worthless, as there just aren't enough cards with Surveil overall, and the decks that want to run a lot of Surviel probably don't actually want this card all that much.

But, "blink" decks are a thing, and thanks to Aminatou, they are getting a bit of renewed interest. If you're on any kind of Esper Blink strategy, I'd definitely give this a shot.
Oh, hey, a guildmage that actually MIGHT be sorta playable in a few decks here and there. Again, this speaks highly to the appeal of Surveil and this is one of the only repeatable sources of the ability. In a pinch it can also hold off a Rafiq or some other threat for as long as it needs to.

Slight chance this one breaks out from the rest.
Not super into either half of this split spell. Both modes are fine, but fine just doesn't get you there. It's not a HARD pass - I can envision a world where this winds up in your Wrexial or Lazav deck, but at the same time, there are probably better options for either half.

Well, color me surprised. I think my favorite thing about this set so far is how much the Dimir did NOT get shafted this time! In prior Ravnica sets, they have been, on the whole, on the weaker side of the spectrum. This partly has to do with their main focus being "mill" effects, which are obviously weaker in a format where you need to mill almost 300 cards rather than 60ish. This time, however, they definitely got some sweet stuff. Surveil is possibly the best new keyword in the set. The guildmage is possibly the only one in the cycle (so far) that is good enough to make the cut. That mythic is just insane. And Thief of Sanity is highly playable as well. All told, I'm very pleased with this crop of cards.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Boros

So, the mono-color portion of the set was hit and miss. And honestly it leaned a little heavily toward the miss end of the spectrum. Sure there were a few bombs and a few more solid cards, but the chaff definitely outnumbered the good stuff.

But, it's Ravnica, after all, so naturally the cream of the crop should most often be found in the multi-color cards. Let's find out if that holds true, or if the set continues to be moderately underwhelming.


This cycle of Guildmages is pretty disappointing overall. Tapping to use their abilities is a new thing, and I don't like it. Sure, you might ask "How often do you actually use their abilities more than once in a turn anyway?" Fair question.

A better one would be "How often do you put guildmages in your decks at all?"  Probably not often, I would guess. Outside of a few niche combo applications very few of the guildmages see any real play.

At the end of the day, however, the key to fixing that isn't to make them worse.
An absolutely outstanding 2-drop for Equipment-heavy Boros decks. Those three keywords together are a dream come true.
Well this is just going to get annoying, smart-ass replies, now, whenever someone asks "Do you have a response?" I can just see it now. "I do not have a Response... but I do have this counterspell." Screw you, WotC, for making a card just called "Response" - that was highly irresponsible.

Oh, there's another half? Right! Anyway, you're clearly playing this hoping to use the Resurgence half, with the Response half being a nice "just in case" option.

Ultimately, what might make this playable is that the Response half is Sunforger-able, which means you can get cheaty with Resurgence.
Damage-base sweepers are, generally, not that great in EDH unless they scale (Lavalanche), or just do a ton (Blasphemous Act). This one'll get some play for it's flexibility, plus it's probably good in specific decks like Gisela, Firesong and Sunspeaker, or the new Tajic.  Could be a meta call, too, if you have a lot of weenie swarm decks in your playgroup. Niche card, at best.
Borderline garbage, given that White already has quite an array of fantastic removal that far outshines this. I merely included this for that stunning artwork.

Would be funny to hit a Phyrexian Negator with this, but no one plays that.
I generally dislike these sorts of cards in EDH as there is such a high capacity for even the best-laid of plans to go horribly awry in unpredictable ways. Someone has Aetherize or Teferi's Protection, you're in real trouble. But it can win games, so it'll probably be playable.  I'd actually like it more if it was a "choose one or more" template, where you can just use it as a Boros Charm in a pinch. Oh well.

This is actually pretty decent, but the mana requirements are a bit of a downer. I don't think you really play this unless you're just going deep on the Mentor thing.
Almost certainly not a good card in EDH, but that triggered ability COULD have some applications with certain equipment like, oh, Basilisk Collar maybe? Yeah, that could get some work done.

That's a bit better - three rares with at least niche play-ability, and a mythic that will certain get played even if I don't like it much myself. The doublestriking 2-drop is the only one I'm really over the moon for; that guy is just great. And I do really want to try and make the Swathcutter+Basilisk Collar dream happen, just once!

Anyway, if you like Boros decks already, then you're probably happy with what we got here, but nothing is likely to change your mind if you don't like Boros.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Red, Green, Colorless

Today in our EDH Set Review for the upcoming Guilds of Ravnica, we're knocking out the rest of the mono-colored stuff, as well as the colorless bits. Once again, we have a lot of ground to cover, so we're cutting short the preamble.

Definitely not meant for EDH play. The kind of spellslinger decks that are likely to be able to cast 3 spells a turn, don't really want a single 3/2 flyer as the payoff.
And this, too, is basically unplayable in EDH.
Okay now this I think we can work with. Nivix Cyclops on steroids can get some work done. Eight tougness means this thing is likely to actually survive attacks, and in a Spells Matter deck, it shouldn't be hard to get the power into double digits.
The 2 damage part isn't likely to make much of a splash in the format of going big or going home, but the other option can kill everything from Sol Ring to Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. Seems good, but Red is already pretty damn good at killing mana rocks, so I'm not sure how much this guy matters outside of Goblin decks.
It's a small payoff for the spellslinger archetype, but that could be a plus. At least initially, the effect is small enough to be more annoying than threatening, meaning this can get some incremental value before anyone makes a concerted effort to get rid of it.
Might show up in some mono-Red decks, but overall, this just isn't a card that most EDH decks can get any real mileage out of.

Eh, we're used to Red getting the shaft, though. A lot of their design space tends to produce cards that are fine for single opponents with 20 life, but do not scale well when you add more opponents with higher life totals.
This seems kinda janky, but I love that they are experimenting with  ways to let the non-draw colors have some card draw. This and Stolen Strategy from Battlebond are interesting designs and both are likely to see some play.
Goblin tribal fodder, I guess. Krenko, maybe?

Greater Good, meet Impervious Greatwurm. Sac, draw 16? Seems legit.
Man, what a weird design! Weird art, too.

Card itself seems pretty awful. A four-mana 6/6 is great and all, but it comes with one hell of a potential downside. But, in the same set, we have a five-mana 6/6 that's pure upside, in a color that is much less about undercosted beef. What is R&D even doing?
Compares pretty poorly to Seasons Past and All Suns' Dawn; multicolored cards only is just a bit too restrictive. I guess if you're playing a deck with a very high % of gold cards, maybe. Even then, maybe not.
Oh are we still on Gate-based ramp, WotC? Cause that was such a hit last time...

For reals, though, don't play this unless you are on 5C Maze's End.
Hey, look, Experiment Two is in the set, even though the Simic guild aren't! Neat.

Not a fantastic card for EDH, however. Probably worse than Scute Mob despite having (conditional) Trample.
Solid card draw for Green, not that it needed it all that badly. Still, good clean design, relevant to Green's biggest shtick. I like it.
Good value, but probably not the best payoff for setting up a high Undergrowth number. I might be biased, however, as the art totally icks me out.
Holy crap, what a terrible card! Woof.

Basically garbage. Only goes in 5-color decks, but those decks basically never want effects this janky. And even when they do, there are better janky things you can do.
This will get played more than it should, I suspect. It's not absolutely terrible, per se, but it's also probably not quite impactful enough even in deck that want some variation of this effect. See also, Codex Shredder - a card that is arguably better than this, but still isn't actually all that good.

Still, it's Trinket Mage-able, and cheap to use, so I expect it to be played anyway.
This cycle is, at least in two-color decks, probably a bit better than the Cluestones we got last time. But at the same time, they are still lightyears behind Signets. Certain color pairs will want these more than others.

Basically, any Locket that contains either Blue or Green as one of it's colors should see pretty close to zero play. But the ones that don't contain either of those two colors (Boros, Orzhov, Rakdos) might be alright running theirs.

Also the Lockets are basically unplayable in decks of 3 or more colors.
Decent if unexciting for decks that care a good deal about +1/+1 counters. Ghave, Anafenza, Marath, etc. Usually worse than Opal Palace, but can at least put counters on your non-Commander creatures, provided they are multicolored. Underwhelming, but you'll still be obligated to run it in those types of decks.
God, why do they keep making Rupture Spires?!

Seriously, I don't even think this is playable in Maze's End decks... though of course I'm not speaking from experience. For the five to ten of you out there still trying to win with Gates, I'm guessing you are pretty disappointed as well.

All told this was a pretty disappointing batch of cards. But we're now to the point we get to look at the multicolor stuff, which should - hopefully - provide a much better yield of playables. Guess we'll find out together in the next installment!