Monday, October 24, 2016

Updates abound!

Well well, folks, strap in 'cause we got lots to talk about!

I've been silent too long, again. This time it was just because I had too much going on with Magic! Too many ideas whirling around, half-formed, not fully percolated yet. Too many sets coming out in too short a time, too many new cards to digest, etc. I wanted to wait until things settled down a bit, so I could talk about things that were concrete... but with C16 spoilers starting today, I've just run out of time, and a lot of shit is still in flux.

So, where to begin?

I know! I am now on Instagram. Ugh, I cannot believe I just typed those words. Kill me now. Or, follow me. I don't care. But you can find me on the accursed social media app as darkthaumaturge. My profile pic is Pinhead from the Hellraiser films, just so you know you got the right one. I would link it, if that's even possible, but I can't figure out if it is, or how to do it. 

EDIT: Figured it out. Here.

Getting to actual Magic business, I guess I will start with Rashmi. With the release of Kaladesh, I realized I wasn't enjoying Edric as much as I used to (still a fav, but perhaps a bit played out for now). Got to talking about Rashmi on the EDH forums, mostly just trying to help another player theorycraft some ideas for his sake, but the more I talked about Rashmi with others the more I realized I was pretty excited and interested in her myself.

Of course, once I cracked a Rashmi in my Kaldesh boxes, I knew I had to put her to work. I retired Edric for the time being, and retooled the existing deck to suit its new commander. After playing a game or two, I was pleasantly surprised, but the deck was a little awkward, being partially formed from the remnants of an Edric list. At that point I figured it was worth just rebuilding from the ground up.

I will have a list later this week. For now I just wanted to make you all aware that it's coming. I'm still tweaking it, of course, and while its first few games where really impressive, as my group adjusts to it and learns to play around and against it, it has become noticeably less consistent. Such is the way of most decks, though.

Moving to the next topic, my realization about Edric getting a bit dull, led me to a larger realization. I have 24 decks and while I generally like all of them, I noticed I was really favoring some and shunning others. Aurelia, for example, is a perfectly fine deck, but I barely ever played it. Almost never, actually. Same for my recently rebuilt Wrexial deck. I just couldn't get super motivated to play it over, say MW Dragons or Queen Marchesa, or whatever.

So I had some decks I actively tried to play as much as possible, some I just kind of ambivalently picked up for something different to do, and others I was avoiding outright. The next step was of course to identify and categorize my decks to really figure out which decks were working, which where not. In the end, I had picked out 4 decks that, for whatever reason I was treating like a redheaded stepchild. I will do a more in-depth post about this later, hopefully tomorrow, where I'll break it all down for you.

Suffice it to say, there are 4 decks in my stable that are on the chopping block. The de-sleeving process is already underway! Couple of kinks in the plan, though. First off, for three of the decks I'm culling, I have no immediate or concrete ideas as to what is going to replace them. I already spoiled Aurelia as one of the decks I'm jettisoning, but I've already built around damn near every R/W Legend out there, and besides which they're all basically the same damn thing anyway. Boros decks just want to smash into the red zone. Am I bored with Swords of Power and Value? Am I bored with Doublestrike creatures? Have I just gotten fed up with the Attack Phase altogether?

To any one of those questions I'd instinctively answer "Hell no!" but if that's true, why is Aurelia the very last deck in my deck box to see the light of day? Even Stonebrow, and arguably worse version of the Big Stupid Smashface deck gets more play.

Well, I don't really know the answer, and that's the problem. If I don't know what is making me shun Boros (more like Bore-us, am I right? LOLOLOL), then how can I fix it? What can I do differently to avoid making another boring Boros deck? NO IDEA! But we're going to figure it out together.

So here's the other little kink in my plans: of the 4 decks I was planning to retire for the time being, the one I actually generally liked and though of as a solid deck was Karador. This one I was mainly just giving a break as a public service to my playgroup as it's kind of an annoying deck to play against. Well, if I'm honest I have a fair few decks that annoy my group, so I just wanted to be nice and pick one of the deck that I felt was on the more obnoxious side, and give it a break. I picked Karador simply because of all my annoying decks, it's the one that's been around the longest, and is most familiar to myself and the group. It might not be as obnoxious as Grand Arbiter, but it's been obnoxious for far longer, and has long since proven itself as a well-tuned deck.

So I didn't want to cut a deck that hasn't really had time or opportunity to prove itself to be worthy or a failure. Plus, Kaladesh came with a pretty heavy +1/+1 counter theme, adding to the Abzan thing I'd already tried to make work. I just kind of idly hoped that Kaladesh's support would be just enough to push it over the line from jank to viable. So, since I actually had a idea in mind for WBG and it was the most well-worn of my "annoying" decks, Karador got the nod of disassembly.

"What exactly is the problem here?" you ask... well, as I said my idea was to revisit Anafenza and give her another shot, with the hope that since I gave up on her and went back to tried-and-true Karador, enough further +1/+1 themed-cards had been printed to make the deck a little more reliable/consistent/fun/poweful/etc. Last night I de-sleeved Karador and began mentally brainstorming a new Anafenza list. My one quibble with Ms. the Foremost is that graveyard-hosing rider she carries.I just kinda hate hosers of that magnitude. I don't mind Bojuka Bog or Tormod's Crypt, but just making the person playing a GY deck feel like they can't participate at all is rude. Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, I was all set to work through that point of contention and just let her do her thang.

Then, today, this happened:

Yeah. This badass chick is better than Anafenza in just about every way. Atraxa just straight up preempts Anafenza, no question. I get to do everything Anafenza does, PLUS I get to do some Simic stuff too. No annoying graveyard-hosing rider that doesn't make sense or add anything to the theme; instead we get a veritable smorgasbord of keywords. Oh, and she doesn't have to risk her life attacking to give a counter to one thing, she can just sit back and chill and give counters to everything.

Sorry Anafenza, but you are SO fired. Karador... congratulations, you got your job back. For now.

Alas, now I have only 3 decks getting shuttered, and need a 4th. Well, I guess I don't need a 4th outside of some arbitrary insistence on nice, neat, divisible numbers. More importantly I need some ideas on what should replace the 3 or 4 decks I scrap. I have no idea what to do in Boros that I haven't already tried. And now, in a couple of weeks, I'm also going to have to figure out what the heck to do with a bunch of rando 4-color decks. At least I already have one figured out right off the bat.

Well, the good news is, all this hullabaloo is good fodder for content. The bad news is finding time to write about it all is going to get harder, not easier.

And that kinda segues us back to that silly Instagram thing. I tend to loathe most forms of social media, but I have just figured out that Instagram could be sorta useful for someone in my position. I'll continue to do the big set reviews, deck lists, etc. here. Basically I'll continue to do EVERYTHING I already do, here. But Instagram is a great platform for short, quick bursts of though, particularly during spoiler season.

Here, I endeavor to provide thoughtful, insightful analyses of cards after a suitable amount of time that I'm not just throwing out purely emotional, knee-jerk response. But if something like, say, Atraxa gets spoiled and I just can't wait to barf up some immediate response, or if you just can't wait for my big set review to see what I think of a particular spoiler, that's what Instagram will be for.

I'll also try to occasionally post pics of board states from particularly epic games, maybe show off some of my pimped out cards, etc. Whatever. I don't know. Basically, if I want to say something Magic related, but it's not worthy of a full-grown blog post, I'll just dump it on Instagram for you to consume or ignore at your own discretion.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Big Highlander Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve really discussed my Big Highlander on here. For those of you who don’t know, before I got into EDH ( first started dabbling in EDH back during the original Ravnica block, though I didn’t really become a hard-core EDH fan until around  the end of Time Sprial block/beginning of Lorwyn block), I maintained and played what I and my friends eventually just came to call “Big Highlander”. I don’t really know anything about the origins of this casual format, and the actual rules vary widely from place to place. For my purposes, the only rule we were 100% certain of was that you could only have 1 copy of any card except basic lands, and you had to play a “Big” deck. What big meant was never precisely defined, though over several years I and my friends sorta narrowed it down to roughly “somewhere in the range of 250 cards”. Oh and eventually we decided that you had to play all 5 colors, though for the first couple of years, we often tended toward 3 colors, MAYBE splashing lightly for a 4th. I think we also originally played it as a 20-life format, until we played EDH for a few years and decided to play big highlander at 40 life as well.

We also had virtually no banlist for a long time, though eventually our group decided to hard ban Sundering Titan and just gentleman’s ruled Capsize. I know, I know, Capsize? Really? But seriously, I cannot tell you how many games actually came down to one play sticking a Mirari’s Wake with Capsize in hand. It’s not that that was the most unbeatable thing, or that it happened extremely often – but when it did happen it was just incredibly unfun and tended to just end games abruptly and without anything cool happening. So I say we gentleman’s ruled it because we didn’t outright ban it like the Titan, rather we just all sort of agreed it wasn’t fun 99% of the time and avoided playing it maindeck. Oh yeah, we allowed wishboards too. You were allowed to compile a wishboard of 15 cards PER WISH, but each wishboard was separate – meaning, you could put a multicolor creature like, say, Thraximundar in either your Glittering Wish board or your Living Wish board, but whichever one of those wishboards you put it in, only that wish could wish for it (we usually used different colored sleeves for each Wish, so like Green for Living, Red for burning, Gold for Glittering, etc.).

Anyway, we would allow Capsize in your wishboard, but if you kept wishing for it  ruining games with it, you’d get some serious frowny faces. So, basically it was 5-color singleton but with almost no real rules beyond “play 5 colors, singleton, large deck size”. We also had the whole “Play whatever you want, just don’t be a dick” spirit of EDH.

Point is, when EDH really blew up big, this little niche format that was already relatively obscure in my area basically died off completely. But me and one of my close friends kept maintaining and updating our Big Highlander decks, though we play them very infrequently. One of the reasons we still cling to this dead format is that we like to have a place for all our pimpest foils.  I don’t really like to pimp my EDH decks. For one thing, I currently have 24  of them with plans to eventually have 30 (Just need to add mono-White and then the 4-color decks that will come out in November). Pimping out 24 EDH decks is already just the most absurdly unreasonable goal I could possibly have – but complicating matters further is that I’m not the type of person who can just build a deck and play it forever. I’m a builder first and foremost, so even if, say, Rafiq is my favorite EDH deck of all time, I’m still going to want to play other Bant commanders from time to time or explore other archetypes.

I’m constantly tearing apart decks, even ones I love to play and consider successful. That’s a big reason why I have this blog, actually – I can record my decks for posterity and so that I can feel safe dismantling a beloved deck to try out some new idea. I know I can always come back here and rebuild that old deck I loved,  once I get tired of whatever new idea I came up with. So even if I was going to be sure I’d keep this deck or that one sleeved up forever and ever, it’d be impossible for me to foil out that many decks (just thinking of getting 30 foil Sol Rings alone makes me want to die); but add in the fact that my stable is pretty constantly in flux with new decks being brewed all the time… yeah, no can do.

But, before getting into EDH, pimping out our big highlander decks was already a thing we were doing, so we just continued that trend. For EDH I just try to pimp my commanders. I’ll go for foil or promo version of any commander I play, if they are affordable ($30 for a foil Sen Triplets is fine, $180 for a foil Leovold is out of the question, $50 for a Queen Marchesa is something I’d be willing to do, but am not currently able). But most of my pimping efforts have been focused on my Big Highlander.

Another reason we like to play big highlander – playing with cards like Recurring Nightmare, Primeval Titan and Griselbrand. Sure we still have Sundering Titan house-banned but we happily allow just about any other banned-in-EDH card. That’s not to say we dislike or disagree with the RC’s decisions – I agree 100% with them banning Griselbrand, for instance, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy getting to actually use that foil Griselbrand I bought, so Big Highlander is our outlet to up the stakes and do stupid things that even the battle-crusiest of EDH games doesn’t allow for. And, speaking soley for myself here, there are one or two cards that I do think the RC should unban (Gifts Ungivin, Primeval Titan). And we still largely play with the spirit of “don’t be a dick, don’t make games unfun”, so even though we haven’t banned cards like, say, Upheaval, we tend to just avoid using them because they’re not even all that fun to play WITH, let alone against. In short, playing this deck is probably a bit like playing someone’s Vintage cube, sans the Power 9 stuff. And I don’t mean drafting a cube, but rather just picking up like half the cube, adding some lands and sleeving it up!

The nice thing about this is, the power level  of my big highlander deck is so high, it’s actually pretty rare that a new set comes out and they print something that I just absolutely have to have. Most sets have one or two cards I’d like to run, but there just isn’t anything in the current list weaker than whatever new thing just came out. Most sets I can ignore completely, and the reset usually only add one or two new cards. From Eldritch Moon, the only card I’d really consider is Eldritch Evolution and if I just happened to open a foil of that, I’d likely have found a slot for it, but even that isn’t so amazing that I just had to have a foil copy for the big highlander. Shadows was a bit better in that Seasons Past and Anguished Unmaking were compelling enough that I went out of my way to acquire foils of them, though I’m not sure in the long run Season’s Past will quite live up to expectations – I think ultimately it will wind up as a Burning Wish target.

At one point, I might have cut a technically-better non-foil for a slightly weaker foil, but at this point that is not an option. The few non-foil cards left are of the Academy Rector/Recurring Nightmare/Treachery caliber. In other words, cards that are so good I just wouldn’t cut them for any reason. On the flip side, there are a few cards (very few – like 3 or 4 out of 250) that I am running just because I happened to have a foil lying around, but even those are cards I’m hesitant to cut for anything a straight-up better card of similar function and cost. Like, Silverblade Paladin is probably one of the worst cards currently in my list, though even it has performed admirably; nonetheless I’d happily replace it if the right card came along, but I’m not about to cut a white three-drop for something that costs 6+ and requires three colors of mana to cast. No, the only way I’d cut it is if I had a better White creature in the 2 to 4 mana range with an even more desirable ability. Recruiter of the Guard might do, if only the foil version weren’t so pricey. But I’m not in a big hurry to replace him as even though he is probably the worst card in the deck, he’s still not that far below the curve, power-wise. Occasionally he’s even been a huge power house, it’s just that he’s a bit more situational than I’d like. Sometimes he’s just decent.

Unfortunately, though, lately WotC has been printing a lot of really good cards I’d love to have in foil, but in ways that make them very inaccessible for me. Eternal Masters had a number of cards of this nature, for instance. Mystical Tutor (maybe Enlightened as well, though Mystical is way better in my list), Toxic Deluge, Possibly Dualcaster Mage, Baleful Strix,  Dack Fayden, Wasteland, Top, and Mana Crypt are all cards that stand decent to high chances of making the cut, where I to open a foil or find one at a price I could afford. I think of all those only Dualcaster Mage and Mystical Tutor are actually cheap right now, at $5 and $15 respectively. But I’m not 100% sure either would ultimately make the cut and with the fast pace of new releases lately, finding even $20 to spend on cards that I’m not 100% sure I need is very hard to do.

Meanwhile Kaladesh comes out and really wrecks my shit with the Masterpiece invention series. I got lucky and opened a Scroll Rack masterpiece, which felt great, but bittersweet because I already have the Commander’s Arsenal foil in my big highlander. I still feel like the Masterpiece version is an upgrade, but really it’s a slightly more pimp version of a card I had already pimped pretty well. God, if there isn’t a more #FirstWorldProblem thing out there… “Oh no! I have to replace my expensive foil with a slightly cooler-looking and more expensive foil!” I mean, I seriously don’t mean to complain about that at all, it’s just that I would have been far happier opening something I didn’t already have a nice shiny copy of. But, still, opening a Masterpeice I can and will play is great, regardless of what it is. I’d have been pretty pumped to get a Solemn or Greaves, even.  Ultimately the Masterpiece series is awesome, so I truly don’t intend any real complaint.  Of the Kaladesh inventions, those I would almost certainly snap jam into my big highlander no matter what include:
Noxious Gearhulk (I like all the gearhulks in the right deck, but Noxious is the only one that’s just generically good enough to be played in anything, anywhere),
Chromatic Lantern (already running pack foil, this would be an upgrade),
Crucible of Worlds (had in my wishboard for a long time, but needed all my copies for EDH),
Lightning Greaves (already running FNM promo, major upgrade)
Mana Crypt (Never owned one, but this deck would love to have it)
Mana Vault (Have a few copies, but ugly white border is a dealbreaker no matter how good the card is)
Scroll Rack (as mentioned, running CA foil, but this one is cooler)
Sol Ring (Have a FTV foil, but this is way nicer, probably the best art in the whole Masterpiece line, IMO)
Solemn Simulacrum (like my M12 pack foil but would still happily upgrade)
Sword of Feast and Famine (Would actually prefer the judge promo, to match the judge promos of SoFI and SoLS I already have, but would happily take this in lieu)

So that’s basically 10 out of 30 uber-expensive, hard-to-get foils I would just dearly love to have. I got the Scroll Rack so that’s 1 down, 9 to go. And thanks to the Sword of Feast and Famine masterpiece, the Judge foil is now a lot cheaper and almost what I’d consider affordable. I’d rather have that version anyway, so that’s 2 down. Of the 8 remaining, only 3 of the above are not already in my deck, in some form of foil – Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, and Noxious Gearhulk. Assuming I can live with “peasent” foils of the other 5, that makes 3 that are actual “must have” cards. Unfortunately those three alone would cost me over $300 to acquire, so that’s still way out of reach.

Then there are the handful of older cards that I have yet to foil. Some, like Recurring Nightmare do not have any foil version in existence, so those I just have to live with. Fortunately there are very few of those left thanks to WotC’s recent trend of reprinting old cards in foil. Sylvan Library is just one example of a card I refused to cut even though no foil version existed, and was rewarded by an unexpected reprint years later.

But just to give you an example, here are a few cards I have yet to foil out: Academy Rector ($85), Wheel of Fortune ($160 – had the chance to get one at $25, but didn’t take it. Ouch!), Treachery ($90), Sensei’s Divining Top ($47), Coalition Relic ($65), Land Tax ($90), and Demonic Tutor ($240!!!).

Oh and that’s not even counting the lands… I am lucky enough to have foils of all 10 Ravnica duals (Return block, though, not OG Rav, sadly), and a random assortment of foils of other cycles, though the RAV shocks and the RAV bouncelands are the only cycles I have completed. I have a few SHA/EVN filter lands, a couple of Khans fetches and a few Theros Temples, but many of the ones I am lacking from each of those cycles carry hefty prices tags. Ultimately of course my goal is to be as close to 100% foiled out as possible, and with Expedition/Masterpiece versions where possible. I realize that I’m extraordinarily lucky to be anywhere near as close to that goal as I am, yet the pricess of the remaining 20 or so cards makes me feel as though I will never reach this goal – in fact there is very little room for me to progress closer at all, at this time. I can probably afford the Sword of Feast and Famine and the Mystical Tutor sometime in the next month or two, but beyond those two, just about everything I need is well out of reach.

Of course Kaladesh is more than just masterpieces, right? Is there anything else in this set that I’d want for my big highlander? Let’s see… well, fortunately given my financial constraints the answer is “not really, but maybe”. I did manage to pull a foil Panharmonicon which is certainly iffy, but I’m looking to see how many things in the deck it would actually work with. I do have a TON of creatures with ETBF triggers and a few other things like Wild Pair that it will double, but I have not yet concluded if there are enough viable triggers for it to copy to be worth it – and even then, if I decided it WOULD be worth having, I’d have to find something to cut – that is, something arguable worse than Panharmonicon, and as much as I like Panharmonicon, it’s competing against the likes of Survival of the Fittest and Maelstrom Nexus. Tough call.

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter has impressed me enough I’d definitely consider her good enough to find a slot, but I’m waiting to see what happens with her foil price. Actually I just checked and it looks like she’s around $15 or so, which is way lower than I thought. Might have to get on that sooner rather than later!

I’ve already talked about Noxious Gearhulk, and while I’d absolutely jam the Masterpeice or even a regular pack foil, if I got lucky and opened, one I don’t want it quite badly enough to outright buy either foil version. At $10 for the normal pack foil, it’s certainly not a bad deal or out of reach at all, but it’s just not something I need badly enough. Even $10 is higher than what I’d value it at for this particular deck – again when you’re already playing stuff like Griselbrand and Primeval Titan, even something like the Gearhulk cycle is only so-so. If Noxious drops more, to $5 or $6 I’d definitely have to consider it then.

Finally, I’d almost consider Fumigate worth considering, except for a couple of factors that knock it just a bit below the curve. First, since I only know one person who still has a big highlander deck any more, this is now pretty exclusively a 1v1 format. Fumigate’s value goes way up in multiplayer where there are likely to be way more creatures out. Second, it has to compete with the gold standards of Wrath, Damnation, Decree of Pain, Blasphemous Act, Merciless Eviction, etc. Fumigate is a terrific sweeper by recent standards, but up against all of Magic history, it starts to look pretty lackluster. Maybe if they print a full-art, textless promo of Fumigate its stock starts to go up a bit, but it’s certainly not going to make the cut solely on power level, so upping it’s pimp factor might just push it over the edge!

Of course those evaluations are only taking into account the maindeck. The barrier for entry in the wishboard(s) is a little lower. Torrential Gearhulk, for instance, would probably go straight to the top of the “must run” list if it said “instant or sorcery” but the limitation of Instant-only makes it more of a sideboard card for me. I just don’t feel like I can rely on always having relevant Instants in my graveyard, with a 250-card deck. It might be a little better than I think, but for now I am definitely considering this a wishboard option only, and even then only if I crack a foil or find one and a really low price point. I don’t want it badly enough to go out of my way to get it.

Same for the White gearhulk. I’m running friggin’ Balance maindeck so if I want a second, much-worse version it’s going in the ‘board for sure. But even then I’m not 100% sure I’d want the Gearhulk more than Tragic Arrogance, and I’m not even running that yet, so… maybe/maybe not on this one.

Finally, I might consider Fateful Showdown as a “maybe” as a Cunning Wish target. It’s a cool, unique card and I think I might have opened a foil anyway, so I’d have to see what I might cut from the Cunning wishboard to make room for it. If there’s anything in there that I just don’t often wish for, Showdown might be up for a trial run.

That’s about it for Kaladesh, but I also want to take a quick look at Conspiracy 2 to see if there’s anything I might want. It was such an amazing EDH set, but a lot of that has to do with EDH being multiplayer, and the set focusing on multiplayer/politics. But since I only ever play big highlander 1v1 now, it might not be as full of goodies for that format…

Right off the bat I feel like Recruiter of the Guard is right in that “I’d run it if I opened it, but don’t need it badly enough to go buy it” category. I’d really have to see what legal targets it has besides Mulldrifter, Acidic Slime and Academy Rector. I’m sure it has plenty of things it CAN get, but how many of those are good enough to run a tutor for?

Expropriate, like all the voting cards in this set, gets better the more players in the game, at only two votes this hardly seems worth 9 mana, but I managed to pull a foil out of my box so I want to at least consider it for the wishboard. Unlikely to make the cut, but I have to give it a chance.

Subterranean Tremors might be a wishboard card as well. I think it has a better chance of actually making the cut than Expropriate, but alas I didn’t open a foil of this one, and I don’t think I want it bad enough to go track one down.

Regal Behemoth is the only card with the Monarch mechanic that might be playable, but even this one is pretty iffy. I’d certainly be more than happy to draw the extra card and get the mana-doubling effect, but I’m just not sure how well I can reasonably defend the monarchy in 1v1. Again, if I happen across a foil I might try it, but not so sure about it that I’ll go out of my way to get one.

Berserk – Definitely something I’d love to have as a Cunning Wish target, as it could just win games out of nowhere, but not worth the high price tag.

Leovold – Probably the only card in the set that I am positive I would maindeck without hesitation, but my god the foil price! Even if this guy loses half his value he’ll still be way, way out of my price range. He’s definitely good enough I’d pay a premium for him, above what I’d pay for most cards, but even for Leovold I don’t think he’ll ever reach a price point low enough. I happily paid $60 for a foil Survival of the Fittest and would again, even if I didn’t know the card is worth more now. I just think the card is powerful enough (and the promo art is amazing enough!) to be worth a high price tag. Leovold is super powerful but also a bit of a dick move, so for me that hurts his play value quite a bit. That said, I’d still run him to hose opposing Consecrated Sphinxes and Griselbrands, as well as other broken draw effects. I have just enough “wheel” effects in my list that occasionally that interaction might come up, but not so often that it would be oppressively common. So for a foil of Leo I think I’d be willing to pay $40 to $50 for him, but I’d be surprised if he ever reaches that low a price, and even if he did, it’s not guaranteed I could afford to shell out $50 for a card even if I wanted to.

There’s also the problem that, when it comes to foil Legendary creatures, I’m a good deal more apt to put them at the helm of an EDH deck than I am to resign them to a deck I don’t play that often, especially the pricey ones.

The last thing I want to address is the recent printing of the newest (honorary) Wish. I am of course referring to Call the Gatewatch, the card that lets you “wish” for a Planeswalker. I don’t run many ‘walkers in my deck. Partly this is because the best ones are usually very expensive to acquire in foil, but even more than that, there aren’t a lot of them that are really great in a 1v1 prismatic highlander format. The ones that actually fit both criteria of being good enough to play, but cheap enough to acquire are few and far between. And of the small number that do hit these criteria I often don’t care enough to go find them, for whatever reason. I guess I’m just not a fan of ‘walkers in the big highlander world. But, I’m thinking that a ‘Walker wishboard might just be the way to go. I’d rather have 15 situationally-amazing walkers in my wishboard and just call the Gatewatch and a few truly-worthy ‘walkers in the maindeck. Jace the Mind Sculptor, Nicol Bolas and maybe 1 or 2 others are actually worth having in the maindeck but there are plenty that would make for good wishboard options to be fetched only when they are likely to be relevant.

This is pure theory-craft at this point, but off the top of my head I think my 15-card “Watchboard” might look something like this:

Karn, Silver Golem
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Ajani Vengeant
Chandra, the Firebrand
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Liliana Vess
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Sarkhan Vol
Sarkhan Unbroken
Teferi, Temporal Adept
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Vraska the Unseen
Venser, the Sojourner
Xenagos, the Reveler

Again, this list would be influenced heavily by what I can actually afford to acquire in foil, but I’d make exceptions for the likes of Karn or Ugin, if I have a non-foil lying around somewhere.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Kaladesh EDH Set Review - Artifacts & Lands

Today we will conclude our Kaladesh EDH set review by taking a look at the Artifacts and Lands. For this review series I’ve tried to reduce generic, repetitive comments like “Probably great in Limited, but bad in EDH” that used to come up over and over when I was following my old format of reviewing every single mythic, rare, and uncommon. Going forward I think I will adopt this new format, but we’ll see. Something better may occur to me.

Anyway, my expectation, should I stick to this format, is that I will always cover every mythic, most rares, and only touch on the uncommons and commons that really warrant a mention (by whatever metric I happen to choose – sometimes I might throw in a shout out to a crap common just because the art is terrific – but I’ll try to stick to cards one might conceivably play in EDH). That said, just because I don’t talk about a card doesn’t mean I necessarily think it’s garbage or unplayable in EDH.

For example, in the last segment, I skipped over Veteran Motorist. I skipped this not because it’s bad, but because it’s painfully obvious. Are you playing a Depala, Pilot Exemplar deck with lots of Dwarves and Vehicles? If so, you probably don’t need me to tell you to run this. If you’re not running that exact deck, you probably don’t need me to tell you not to run it. Simply put, if I can’t think of anything to say beyond “Good in R/W Vehicles, bad elsewhere” then I’m probably going to skip it. But, recognizing my own biases for a moment, I still might mention the occasional card that is only good in one archetype if that’s an archetype I happen to play, or is an archetype that I happen to know is widely played.

Narrow cards that only fit in one or two decks are still going to be widely played if those decks are super popular. I don’t expect R/W vehicles to be a format-defining deck. So if they print a card that just happens to be a perfect fit for your favorite oddball deck, don’t be offended, but do feel free to let me know in the comments if I overlooked something you think deserves more credit. I am more likely to write off a common or uncommon at a glance, so occasionally I underestimate lower-rarity cards.

Moving on, then…


Aetherworks Marvel
Well, let’s kick this off with a bit of a bang, then. True, this isn’t the kind of card you just smash into any ol’ deck and have it be amazing. But it should be well worth a slot in almost any deck where you see a ton of your own permanents die. Even just a tokens deck that frequently sees its battlefield of 100+ saprolings go bye-bye might consider using this as a hedge against sweepers. Also seems good in many sac-for-value decks like Ghave, Prossh or Meren. This is also almost certainly the easiest way to get absurd amounts of Energy, if you’re looking to really build around that mechanic.

Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
I’m just not a fan of Vehicles. It’s just corny and feels very un-Magic-y to me. That said, there are one or two of them I might consider playing, and this is one of them. It does a reasonable impression of a flying Inferno Titan, and has fairly discounted casting and crew costs. This might just be one of those things where I have to get used to playing them. I hated the double-faced cards when they debuted in Innistrad, and while I still mostly avoid them, I will play them if they’re good enough (Origins flip-walkers, Lord of Lineage, maybe one or two others).

Aetherflux Reservoir
I’m not sure if this is a good card, per se, but it’s certainly flashy and attention-grabbing. I am sure there are a lot of Karlov and Oloro player out there who are quite pleased to see this. It could also be a win-condition for U/R spells decks that aren’t looking to just combo off. It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out in multiplayer games, though. Paying 50 life to just kill a player is powerful, sure, but if that player is not your last opponent standing, you’re probably going to be in a bit of trouble. Oh, sure you can do “cute” things like combo this with Exquisite Blood or Sydri and just kill everyone, but that’s a bit easy-mode. I think in general the tension this creates will keep it safe and help regulate it. You can probably take out one player alarmingly quickly with this thing, but that leaves you at a very low life total against two other opponents who are likely to want to kill you before you can recharge your laser beam of doom. So I’m thinking it’s best to slow-roll this thing, until you can safely use it to just take out the last opponent and end the game. I love it, but I also fear it.

Bomat Courier
This is one of those cards like I mentioned above, where I’d probably have just skipped this except there is a small chance this sees nice play in Feldon, maybe Daretti. The big obstacle to even that niche playability is that this is likely to be a dead draw if you don’t drop it early, T1 or T2. Of course if Daretti draws it late, he can just loot it away, no big deal. All told, this is not an EDH card, plain and simple, but maybe it sees a tiny bit of play here and there.

Cultivator’s Caravan
Not bad, for a vehicle, but not great for a rare, three-drop mana rock. I can see playing this in a Boros beatdown deck that wants more ramp but doesn’t want to dilute its offensive power. I might throw this in Aurelia just to see how it plays. Here’s one thing I’m wondering about Vehicles – and I really don’t have a clue – but would a deck like, say, King Macar want Vehicles, not as a way to temporarily buff an attacker, but as a way to safely tap your creatures without needing to attack with them? I’ve never used King Macar, and only barely played anything else with Inspired, but outside of Theros block there are lots of cards in Magic that do things when they become tapped or become untapped. Like, how sweet would it be to use Fallowsage to crew a vehicle every turn? Somewhat sweet, I reckon.

Dynavolt Tower
Triggers of you casting Instants and Sorceries, so clearly the first thing that jumps to mind is the typical Izzet deck, i.e. Melek or Mizzix or whatever. But once you get all that Energy, what, you get a free Bolt once per turn, at best? Seems… mediocre. Mediocre cards can get better through synergy with other cards, so if you have other ways to generate energy and ways to untap artifacts, this might get some work done. Maybe it helps mono-Red burn decks get just a little more reach/card advantage? Buy three burn spells, get the forth one free? Nah, if this does get played, it’s probably as a way to generate buttloads of Energy to be spent on something more impactful, and in that respect it seems serviceable.

Ghirapur Orrery
Seems like a group-hug kind of card and in many respect it is just that. But, there are probably some cases where you dump your hand way faster than anyone else and get that draw three trigger to work for you. Might be a bit optimistic but I can see this being a real boon for, like, White Weenie EDH decks or something like that. As a cheap, colorless source of card draw, it’s got to be good somewhere, right? Just saying, if you have that one deck where you’ve noticed that you almost always run out of cards, while everyone else has full hands? Might wanna give this a shot. (Again, looking at you, mono-White decks…)

Key to the City
Not sure where or if this will be good, but it is yet another colorless way to (sort of) draw cards. I am actually considering this for Olivia because at least then  I can occasionally pitch a Madness card and then cast it for Madness, so it’s not actually losing me a card. Making one of my Vampires unblockable is a sweet perk, too, as it is an aggressive deck. But that seems like one of the most ideal spots for this card, and even there I’m not certain this will pan out. Even in the right deck, it still might just be “okay”.

Metalwork Colossus
If only this thing had Trample or Indestructible or something else to make it a little less generically-big... I mean, it should be easy to get this out at a ridiculously-discounted cost, and it has built-in recursion so it’s kinda hard to get rid of permanently. In light of that, I think this is an acceptable EDH card, but I’m not over the moon about it. I liked it a little more when it was first spoiled but my enthusiasm has since dimmed. I’ll almost certainly run it in Feldon, because, duh, but I’m not real high on this card elsewhere.

Well, that’s just stupid. And I love it! So, yes, the main thing this does is double those Enter the Battlefield triggers. So you draw four cards off a Mulldrifter and regrow two cards with Eternal Witness. But it also doubles the triggers on things like Wild Pair, Aura Shards, Flameshadow Conjuring, or Purphoros (!). However, one should note that it doesn’t double “cast” triggers… so Panharmonicon will give you twice as many squirrels when you play Deranged Hermit, but it won’t double your Kobold pleasure when you cast Prossh. It also does nothing for “dies” triggers.
So, this card is pretty redonkulous but it’s not going to be great everywhere. You really need to have a critical mass of triggers that this will actually double, or have a commander that it interacts with (Sharuum seems pretty good for one, Purphoros for another). If the best thing you can hope for is to occasionally draw a couple of extra cards, or kill and extra artifact with an Indrik Stomphowler, this will probably be too low-impact and situational. But there are plenty of decks where this will just consistently give you value and in those decks it should be very powerful.

Filigree Familiar
            Solemn Simulacrum has a pet fox! Cute.

Perpetual Timepiece
So, as a Sidisi player, I can think of many times I’ve self-milled and then said, “NO! I didn’t want to mill THAT!”, and in that context I appreciate this card. I also really enjoy how, on the surface, this card is very confusing, weird and doesn’t appear to do anything. What, you just mill yourself a bunch, then undo it all later? WHY? I mention this more for the WTF factor than anything, but I suppose if Mesmeric Orb is just too hardcore for your Sidisi deck you could consider this as an option.


There are only a few non-basic lands in Kaladesh and most of them are the enemy-pair continuation of the “fast lands” originally seen in Scars of Mirrodin. I’m not a big fan of these lands in EDH as they will simply be Guildgates a high % of the time, and I try to avoid running Guildgates where possible.

That said, enemy-colored duals tend to be a bit better than their allied counterparts simply because the allied pairs have more dual land choices available. For enemy-color decks, you sometimes have to make do with “meh” duals. I have a few two-color decks that are running guildgates currently, and I’m pretty sure they’re all enemy-pairs. So in cases where I’m actually stooping to run the actual guildgates, I’ll happily upgrade them to these lands, which will just be better than a guildgate oh, what, 3% of the time?

Anyway, it’s great that they finally completed this cycle, and I hope to see them complete other unfinished land cycles in the near future, but this one isn’t a huge boon to EDH players. They’re nice to have, but something you’ll only run when you have to.

Aether Hub
Eh, maybe some 3+ color Proliferate decks or Energy decks will want this? Overall, pretty lackluster for EDH. One-shot mana fixing is pretty terrible in most cases. I don’t even like the Vivid lands much, though that also has to do with them coming into play tapped. But if you have ways to keep fueling this with more Energy it’d be fine.

Inventor’s Fair
A pretty solid land for Artifact decks, though obviously only useful in Artifact decks. The life gain is nice, but incidental. The ability to play Fabricate in an land slot is better.

Sequestered Stash
And a worse version of Inventor’s Fair, but still playable in most of the same decks. It’s kind of bad, but can be useful for setting up Feldon or Sharuum reanimations.