Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ajani's Meditation Chamber

This is the third deck in my Planeswalker deck series where I attempt to utilize each of the M11 Planeswalkers and their "signature spells". For this one, I'm breaking the rules just a little bit.

It's clear that Ajani's Mantra and Ajani's Pridemate interact synergystically with Ajani Goldmane himself. However, they don't interact all that well with very many other cards. Another problem is that Ajani Goldmane is at his best in White Weenie style decks, or token decks. The problem here is that while Ajani's Pridemate is fine for such a deck, his Mantra isn't a card that white weenie decks really want to run. It just dillutes the power of the deck, and only contributes in a measurable way if you also happen to draw the Pridemate.

Thus I was having trouble conceptualizing what kind of deck would want both Ajani's Mantra and Ajani's Pridemate. Then I remembered an old favorite of mine, a card that was just dying for a card like Ajani's Mantra to be printed...

Searing Meditation

I'd already put this card to good use before, but Ajani's Mantra is a far better companion to Searing Meditation than most of what I'd been using before. Obviously Firemane Angel was a sure thing, and I found a kindred spirit in Recumbent Bliss. So with these ideas in mind, I was off... this is what I came up with:

4 Ajani's Pridemate
3 Wall of Reverence
2 Shard Phoenix
2 Cunning Sparkmage
2 Balefire Liege
4 Firemane Angel

4 Ajani's Mantra
4 Lightning Helix
4 Recumbent Bliss
4 Searing Meditation
3 Ajani Vengeant
2 Basilisk Collar

7 Plains
7 Mountain
2 Sacred Foundary
3 Boros Garrison
2 Rugged Prairie
2 Battlefield Forge
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion

Okay, so I mentioned breaking the rules a bit here, and you'll notice that I'm using Ajani Vengeant rather than Ajani Goldmane. Well, I feel that is an acceptable compromise. The problem is that this is the only deck I could really see Ajani's Mantra being good in, but it doesn't really run enough creatures to make Ajani Goldmane worth running. Besides, most of my Ajani Goldmanes are tied up in my mono-W Knight deck... fortunately Ajani Vengeant works just as well with his two signature spells, AND fits this style of deck much better than his original incarnation.

The 2 copies each of Shard Phoenix, Balefire Liege and Brightflame are all iffy at this point, but I like each of those cards, so I'll give 'em a chance. Anyway, there are obviously a whole slew of incremental lifegain effects here to power up your Meditations and Pridemates. You should have a 8/8 Pridemate swinging before long. Lighning Helix and Searing Meditaion will clear the way of little chump blockers and Recumbent Bliss takes care of anything your burn can't handle. Wall of Reverence and Shard Phoenix take on defensive duties, and help protect Ajani Vengeant.

Brigtflame and Firemane Angel are late game cards, and this is a deck that won't often win fast. It CAN, but it has to get just the right draw. Generally you're just going to want to play defensively and try to neutralize any significant threats while your Pridemates beef up. Once you feel you are stable, start swinging with Pridemates and Firemanes until your opponent is charred. Feel free to start sending Searing Meditation blasts at their dome too, once they run out of little guys to kill.

The tricky thing about this deck is that it ties up a LOT of mana, once you get Searing Meditation online. Often you will have to choose between activating the Meditation one, two or three times on your upkeep, or holding back some of that mana to play something from your hand. A good rule of thumb is to just activate Meditation unless you REALLY need to cast something. If you can survive without casting anything, then try to win with Searing Meditation advantage. That way, if your opponent manages to kill the Meditation later, you will have more stuff in hand to keep pressing the advantage anyway. Also, don't cast multiple Searing Meditations, unless your opponent is playing Red or Black (or both) because they can't kill Enchantments, but may make you discard them. Againts White or Green, though NEVER drop more than one at a time.

Well, that's about it, but I'll try to update this post if I make any changes to the decklist.

UPDATE: I  borrowed a nifty little standard combo for this deck in the form of Cunning Sparkmage + Basilisk Collar. This has the advantage of letting me ping an opponent's creature to one-shot it (thanks to the Collar's Deathtouch ability) and gain 1 point of life as I do it, hopefully triggering a Searing Meditation in the process. It's not uber-powerful, but highly synergistic and fits into the deck very well. It's untested as of this post, but I already like it better than the unwieldy Brighflame and Shard Phoenix (both were just holdovers from an older version of this deck).

Monday, July 26, 2010

White Knight

Knight Exemplar is one of the most exciting new cards in M11, particularly among non-Mythic Rares. Plus the art is just gorgeous. Way to go Jason Chan. I was a huge fan of his art long before he ever painted his first Magic card, so I was obviously very happy to see him doing art for my favorite game. Knight Exemplar is one of his best, in my opinion, and as a bonus, it's one of the playmats for M11 - available here. I'll be ordering one very soon.

In addition to the awesome playmat, I've built a deck around the wonderful new Knight. It's a pretty straightforward list, without much in the way of innovation or tech, but it's a very solid and fun take on the White Weenie archetype. And at least it's not another run-of-the-mill Soldier deck. Here's the list:

4 White Knight
4 Knight of the Meadowgrain
4 Leonin Skyhunter
4 Knight of the White Orchid
2 White Shield Crusader
4 Knight Exemplar
4 Kinsbale Cavalier

4 Swords to Plowshares
3 Brave the Elements
4 Honor the Pure
3 Ajani Goldmane

3 Emeria the Sky Ruin
17 Plains

Yeah, so like I said, the deck isn't the paragon of creativity or anything, but heck, when is the last time YOU built a deck with 4x Kinsbale Cavalier? The 2 White Shield Crusaders could easily be something else, but I like flying, so they do the job. Knight of the White Orchid is the surprise MVP here, but then again he often is an MVP so maybe it's not such a surprise. Either way, he's really quite good and I wouldn't recommend trying to build the deck without him - or if you do, at least up the land count by 2 or 3.

Not much else to say, it plays like a white weenie deck, obv, but it has several blowout plays in Brave the Elements, Kinsbale Cavalier, or Ajani Goldmane. Well-timed use of any of these three cards can be pretty much auto-win.

If you want to take it in a different direction, like opening up the colors, I'd say the very first place to look is green for Knight of the Reliquary. I also like blue for Court Hussar. Adding both allows for Rafiq of the Many. I know Bant decks with Mr. of the Many aren't really any more unusual than White Weenie decks, but an all-Knight Tribal Bant deck would be a bit off the beaten path. And there are few things in Magic scarier than an Indestructible Rafiq!


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Before you Duress... Caress

Well, Friday some stuff went down that prevented me from getting up to Castle for FMN, so no tourney report this week... instead I'm continuing the Planeswalker deck series I started with the last post - the Garruk deck. Basically the idea is to take 4x each of the new M11 "signature spells" for each Planeswalker, add a few copies of the Planeswalker in question, and use that as a core to build a deck around.

My first one worked out pretty well. I got to play it this weekend, and it utterly stomped my poor friends into the ground! But not before one of my opponents commented that "you're playing a green deck that draws like a blue deck!" I'd say that's as ringing an endorsement of the decks success as I could give.

Spurred by the success of that deck, I decided to really pursue the idea of building a deck around all of the Planeswalkers and their signature spells. My next entry in this series is Liliana Vess. Decklist follows:

4 Rotting Rats
4 Liliana's Specter

2 Bloodchief Ascension
4 Liliana's Caress
3 Megrim
2 Liliana Vess
3 Duress
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Burning Inquiry
2 Terminate
2 Sign in Blood
4 Blightning

3 Dragonskull Summit
4 Akoum Refuge
3 Crumbling Necropolis
6 Mountain
6 Swamp

So I had been tossing some ideas around in my head for this deck already, when divine inspiration struck in the form of this decklist posted on the WotC site. I really liked what I saw here, as I already kinda knew Blightning was nuts with Liliana's Caress and Megrim. But the really amazing thing here is Blazing Inquiry. Of course I didn't want to just copy this deck card-for-card, and it didn't contain Liliana's Specter, so that was the first addition. The thing about Liliana's Specter is that it's great in multiplayer as it says "each opponent" rather than "target opponent". I then remembered one other similar creature recently printed: Rotting Rats. It hits me too, but that's usually no big deal. Unearth is particularly nice here, as with only 8 creatures getting a second use out of the Rats makes it seem like I'm running 12 creatures.

So I was already skewing things into a more multiplayer approach, and Blazing Inquiry already works fine there. Bloodcheif Ascension can be nutso in a multiplayer game, and it's very easy to get to 3 counters with this deck. So two of those made it in as well. I kept the Lightning Bolts for now, even though they are typically kinda bad in multiplayer formats. Here, though, they help get Bloodchief online, can trigger it later by killing a dude, or can finish off an opponent if I don't have quite enough discard to go all the way. Finally I squeezed in two Liliana Vess (it's HER deck after all!), and Viola! the deck is complete.

Originally I had a couple of Bloodhusk Ritualists and Hypnotic Specters, but they're both quite a bit worse in a 4-way game than in a duel. Also, the two terminates seemed necessary. I generally don't care too much about killing creatues, as it's best to just point everything at the opponents' life totals, but a Baneslayer Angel or something like it might ruin my day.

The deck is fairly straight forward to play. Ideally you want a Caress or Megrim in your opening 7 and naturally you want to save your discard until after you drop a Megrim or two. Don't be afraid to Duress early though, if your opponent is playing White or Green, as they may have enchantment removal. But definitely hold onto your Blightnings and Inquirys until you drop a Caress or Megrim. Then just try to kill your opponent before they kill you... it's actually quite a bit easier than it looks.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Garruk Stompy

Here's a neat little casual Standard deck I built around the new Planeswalker "signature spells" in M11. So far I've just done Garruk Wildspeaker, and I'd like to do all 5 of the plainswalkers. Maybe, maybe not... for now here's Garruk:

4 Llanowar Elves
4 Joraga Treespeaker
4 Garruk's Companion
3 Leatherback Baloth
2 Obstinate Baloth
4 Garruk's Packleader
3 Rampaging Baloths
4 Pelakka Wurm

3 Garruk Wildspeaker
3 Bestial Ascension
3 Momentous Fall
2 Eldrazi Temple

21 Forest

It's a pretty basic idea, but a classic one. You play mana sources in the form of Forest and Mana elves, and then drop some very efficient fat Green creatures. With 4 Garruk's Packleader and 3 Momentous Fall, this deck often draws like a blue deck. Virtually everything you cast will trigger the Packleaders and Garruk's token ability will also do the trick.

It's a fun deck, and capable of some utter blowouts. It's lightning fast, and with an early Packleader, it never runs out of steam. However, it isn't going to take FNM by storm, as it will die to any decent control deck. The object wasn't to be competative here, I just wanted to play a deck with Garruk and 4 each of his new signature spells. I already was working on a Mono-Green Stompy deck with Joraga Treespeaker and Pelakka Wurm, so the two ideas meshed nearly perfectly.

There are some great choices outside of Standard, if you feel like expanding the pool. Ravenous Baloth is the first and most obvious place I'd look, and Fangren Firstborn is also worth a look. Lightning Greaves would be a nice addition if you can find room for a couple. Also, as a high-risk/high-reward option, I've tested out Magus of the Vineyard as a replacement for Llanowar Elves. It does give your opponent extra mana - hence the high risk - but I was consistently able to drop Pelakka Wurms on Turn 3. It's hard to trump that even with two extra green.

It's a fun deck, and lets you make ridiculously huge plays very early on. If your casual group isn't to Control-heavy, it should do alright for you.

Monday, July 19, 2010

FNM Report 07/16/10

So my first outing with the new deck, and my first FNM in a very long time, went pretty well. I didn't get to stay, though, as it was a long tournament and we had to get to Inception (amazing film, BTW). But I did go 3-1 in the swiss rounds, losing to W/B control.

Before the tournament I was able to acquire some of the missing cards for my deck. I purchased a Noble Hierarch and a Misty Rainforest at Castle. I also snagged a Basilisk Collar for the Sideboard. I also traded for a 3rd Sovereigns so that replaced the 3rd Rafiq. Most importantly of all, though, were the two Baneslayer Angels I picked up.

My first round opponent, John, was sporting a G/W deck he admitted that he'd pretty quickly cobbled together just to use some new M11 cards. It was basically a quick weenie deck with Ajani's Mantra thrown in. Presumably he had some Ajani's Pridemates as well, but they didn't make an appearance in our very fast games. Game 1 was the longer of the two, thanks to my opponent casting 2 or 3 Path to Exile, but once I stuck a Sovereigns of Lost Alara, it was over in no time. Game 2 could have been worse, as he played 3 Mantras in a row, and started gaining quite a bit of life. Fortunately I didn't see any Paths, and a Bird of Paradise with two Conscriptions put it away handily.

Round 2, I played Dakota, who was running W/B control. I lost this match, but it was a good fight. Game 1, he couldn't draw Day of Judgments, but Jace advantage still eventually won him the game. I was drawing way too much land and mana guys, not enough real threats. Still, as badly as I drew, it was close. Game 2 was worse for me, as I got a 3rd turn Baneslayer, hit with it once, then lost it to Day of Judgment. Then, every threat I dropped was eventually neutered by removal, countermagic, or Jace, Mindsculptor.

I didn't catch my opponents name in Round 3, so sorry whoever you are. They were playing Mono Red, a homebrew version sporting some cheap burn and some goblins. Didn't see much of the deck, though. Lost game two due to mana screw. I kept a one-lander with two cobras and two heirarchs, and even with the one land, I was in good shape until he played Earthquake for 1. Oh well. Games 1 and 3, though, I put away quickly enough.

Round 4, I found myself up against Open the Vaults, piloted by a young man named Kyle; a deck I wasn't expecting to see. Fortunately game 1 was all about him digging, digging, and digging, but never finding an Open the Vaults. Game 2 I sided in 3 Qasali Pridemages, and 3 Negates. I ended up drawing all 3 Pridemages, and they worked well enough that I never needed the Negates. At one point, my opponent dropped a Font of Mythos after playing a Howling Mine previously. I let the Mine stick, then when he dropped the Font, I waited until my turn so that I got 3 extra cards, then blew both the Mine and Font with Pridemages. Thanks for the cards, man!

At this point, I stood a very high probability that I would get into the top 8, but the hour was late and we didn't have long to get to the theater, so I gave Kyle the win anyway, as I needed to drop. It'd be pretty poor form to ruin someone's chances to make it into top 8, only to then abandon the slot myself.

And for what it's worth, I made the right call - Inception was totally worth dropping for.

Anyway, the deck did okay, but I am worried about the W/B control match-up. However, during the tournament I was able to trade for 2 more Celestial Colonnades, so that might help. And I am adding Dauntless Escorts to the Sideboard for Day of Judgments.

I'll try again next week, after I do a bit more fine tuning.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I supposed I should explain that cryptic title, eh? Well, about a year ago - actually almost exactly a year ago, give or take a week or two - I lost a whole bunch of my Magic shit. Two or three EDH decks, a 250-card Highlander deck, and about 10 or so 60-card decks. All in all it was a devastating loss and I nearly quit Magic over it. I never could quite give up the game, though, and all this last year I've been playing casually, mostly EDH and some 60-card multiplayer.

I have attended very few tournaments or events since then, basically just a few limited events like Prereleases and whatnot. But tomorrow night I finally make my return to Type 2, or Standard as they call it now. I am optimistic, but a bit nervous.

Here is the decklist I will be running tomorrow night:

4 Birds of Paradise
3 Noble Heirarch
3 Lotus Cobra
4 Sea Gate Oracle
4 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Rafiq of the Many
3 Emeria Angel
2 Sovereigns of Lost Alara

2 Elspeth, Knight Errant
3 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Finest Hour
2 Eldrazi Conscription

6 Forest
3 Plains
3 Island
2 Verdant Catacombs
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Sejiri Steppe
1 Celestial Colonnade
2 Glacial Fortress
3 Sunpetal Grove

Basically, I knew I wanted to play Bant for several reasons. First, I just prefer aggro to control, especially when I an unfamiliar with all the ins and outs of the metagame. Second, I really frickin' love Bant and have loved it since the day Shards of Alara dropped. Rafiq, and Finest Hour are my two favorite cards from the whole block. Thirdly, Bant is tearing it up right now, going toe-to-toe with Jund and the control decks.

I don't like to Net-deck, as I consider myself to be a pretty good deck builder. However, going into this format unprepared, it seemed like it would be fair of me to at least study the top decks right now for some pointers. Again, I knew I wanted to play Aggro, and the best choices were between Bant and Jund. Jund is good, but I don't really like it. Maelstrom Pulse and Blightning are the only two cards in the deck that really excite me, whereas almost everything in  Bant is awesome and fun. Also, there are such a wide array of styles of Bant deck out there now that I felt I could probably come up with a fairly broad mix that encapsulates the best parts of all of them. At least then it wouldn't be a straight card-for-card netdeck. I could add my own flair to it, as it were.

So I spent a few weeks reading up on various Bant archetypes, and came up with the above list. Mostly it is a hybrid of the Mythic and Conscription styles, but whereas most players choose between the Rafiq/Finest Hour package and the Sovereigns/Conscription duo, I wanted to run both packages. The Conscription aspect is definitely more consistently powerful, but Finest Hour is just a ridiculously powerful card, if it sticks, and Rafiq is too much fun to pass up. Basically the Rafiq/Finest Hour setup is just a REALLY good Plan B if the Conscription route doesn't pan out.

I also borrowed the Sea Gate Oracles from Next-Level Bant. I was originally planning to run Sphinx of Lost Truths as well, but in a fit of inspiration I chose to run Emeria Angel instead, for her amazing synergy with Knight of the Reliquary. And I have a feeling she will help combat opposing Mind Sculptors.

Now, a few odd things about the deck you might have noticed... I am short one Lotus Cobra and one Noble Heirarch. Fortunately, 2 extra BoP's make up for this deficit quite well, but ultimately, the deck would be just a tiny bit better with the traditional set up of 4 Heirarch, 4 Cobra and 2 BoP, but it seems to work fine as is.

Also I am missing one Misty Rainforest, which is a bit more of an issue than I thought, but is still not a deal breaker. More critically, I am short three (!) Celsetial Colonnade. Ouch. This won't matter much... until I play W/U Control. Then I'm probably in trouble. Hopefully I'll be able to buy/borrow/trade for a couple more before the tournament. If not I'll have to hope for an aggro heavy metagame.

One other change I'd really like to make is to swap out 1 Rafiq for 1 more Sovereigns. That seems like a very good swap, but alas I only own two Sovereigns. Another thing I'll be on the look out to acquire tomorrow.

My sideboard is a different story altogether.

3 Path to Exile
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Great Sable Stag
1 Basilisk Collar
3 Negate
3 Qasali Pridemage

All I could squeeze in for the RDW matchup is a single Basilisk Collar. Yikes! I probably need 3 or 4 Rhox War Monks too, but I have no clue what among the above list I don't need. After tomorrow's tournament, I should be able to come up with a much better sideboard list.

The sideboard, far more than the main deck, should be heavily informed by the local metagame, but since I haven't played in a year, I opted mostly for the most versatile answer cards I could find. I don't think there's even a blue/black archetype right now, so the Great Sable Stags are iffy, but I'll find out the hard way tomorrow.

I'll try to jot down some notes about match-ups and any cool plays, and write up a report of the tourney sometime this weekend. Not Friday night, though... going to see Inception!! Woot!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thraximundar the EDH Destoryer

Alright, this is going to be a quick decklist dump, as I'm currently deconstruction all my decks so that I can build some new decks. I won't be doing much discussing of this deck, but I'll just post the list here for posterity, and so I can rebuild it later if I want.

General: Thraximundar

Blue Creatures:
Merfolk Looter
Sakashima the Imposter
Body Double
Vesuvan Doppleganger

Black Creatures:
Bone Shredder
Dimir House Guard
Puppeteer Clique
Kagemaro, First to Suffer
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Nirkana Revenant

Red Creatures:
Flametongue Kavu
Ryusei, the Falling Star
Conquering Manticore
Crater Hellion
Bogardan Hellkite

Multicolor Creatures:
Shadowmage Infiltrator
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
Kaervek the Merciless
Garza Zol, Plague Queen

Artifact Creatures:
Solemn Simulacrum

Blue Spells:
Jace Beleren
Deep Analysis
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Rite of Replication
Time Warp
Time Spiral

Black Spells:
Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor
Barter in Blood
Beacon of Unrest
Living Death
Liliana Vess
Sorin Markov
Profane Command

Red Spells:
Wheel of Fortune
Chandra Nalaar
Bituminous Blast
Prophetic Bolt
Slave of Bolas
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

Sword of Light and Shadow
Lightning Greaves
Sol Ring
Izzet Signet
Rakdos Signet
Dimir Signet
Obelisk of Grixis
Darksteel Ingot

Island (x2)
Swamp (x2)
Mountain (x2)
Watery Grave
Blood Crypt
Steam Vents
Underground River
Sulfurous Springs
Shivan Reef
Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacomb
Scalding Tarn
Creeping Tar Pit
Graven Cairns
Cascade Bluffs
Jwar Isle Refuge
Akoum Refuge
Dimir Aqueduct
Rakdos Carnarium
Izzet Boilerworks
Crumbling Necropolis
Crosis's Catacombs
Tolaria West
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
Barren Moor
Forgotten Cave
City of Brass
Terramorphic Expanse
Volrath's Stronghold
Phyrexian Tower
Miren, the Moaning Well
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
Temple of the False God

Well, that's it for now. I'll try to amend this post later on with some actual discussion of the deck, but I'm in a hurry, so for now I will let the deck speak for itself. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

M11 Core Set: An EDH Set Review (Part 2)

Alright so yesterday I started a set review of M11 for the EDH format. It ran out of time and so today is the conclusion to this EDH set review of M11!

We left of with the largely abysmal Black cards, so naturally, we'll pick up right where we left off with Red:

Ancient Hellkite: This is a decent Dragon card, and is probably playable. There are, however plenty of better choices if you want a big dumb Dragon. Flameblast Dragon and Hellkite Charger are both better and more playable at 6 mana than this one is at 7. That said, if you're just trying to stick in as many Dragons as possible, you could do worse than this guy.

Chandra's Outrage: Not terrific by and stretch of the imagination. I wouldn't consider it playable, but I can see some room for debate here. Possibly in Mono-red.

Combust: This is pretty much solely and specifically meant as a Sideboard card. If you play EDH with sideboards, this could be an option. Probably not.
Cyclops Gladiator: 4/4 for four mana with the Arena ability as a "when this attacks" ability... I think this is pretty playable. It's heavily red cost means you will want to restrict in to Mono-red or two color decks that can reliably cast it. Still, seems fairly strong for 4 mana.

Destructive Force: I hate cards like this in EDH. Mass land kill is teh suck. This is a damn good card in the format though, and should see heavy play in groups that don't mind these types of effects. It's almost strictly better than Wildfire as 5 damage kills a remarkably higher % of creatures in EDH than 4 damage. This is good... but I certainly won't be playing it.

Ember Hauler: Not even in a Wort deck... but someone will find an infinite combo with this guy I bet.

Fire Servant: A lot of red EDH decks will REALLY want this guy's effect! It's downright amazing. Trouble is getting this guy to live long enough to be useful. Good luck with that, lemme know how it works out...

 Hoarding Dragon: I'm not impressed with this guy. Yeah, he can tutor up bomb Equipments, but if he gets RFG'd the Equipment is long gone as well. Really if you need this effect you should be playing Godo, Stoneforger Mystic or the color Blue!

Inferno Titan: It's not that this guy isn't good, but he's just not as exciting as the others (okay, he beats the Blue one, but that's it). 3 damage isn't going to kill anything too scary in EDH... mostly just utility guys that you aren't all that worried about. Still, it's not a BAD effect. I also hate that this guy has fire-breathing. It's a useless ability for me and is just never relevant. If this guy had Haste he'd be infinitely cooler and more interesting to me. Oh well.

Leyline of Punishment: There are similar effects that are better in EDH. It's not worth it for the 1 in 50 games you'll get it for free.

Maniac Vandal: Decent cheap utility, but probably not too many decks need another way to kill artifacts. Still, if you're somehow still running plain 'ol Shatter, you should upgrade to this guy.

Reverberate: Why hello, Fork. Technically this is a red Twincast. Fork turns the copied spell red... neither Twincast nor this card have that text. This is good because if your deck wants to run Fork, then it should want this too. You can cheat and basically run two Forks now. Yipee!

Wild Evocation: This card is going to be great in chaos decks that run shit like Eye of the Storm and Confusion in the Ranks. Other than that, it is too random and hard to control. Still, seems like a lot of fun in a deck that doesn't make winning it's #1 priority.

So Red's not overwhelmingly good, but it has a few good/fun/interesting things. I'd really like to see Fire Servant be good, but it's just to fragile that I doubt it will be.

Next up, Green:

Autumn's Veil: Beautiful art! But it's too narrow of a sideboard card to be very good.

Back to Nature: I hate this card. This card will wreck me from time to time. Uril is REALLY angry now!

Cultivate: Kodama's Reach but without the added benefit of being nicknamed "Kodama's Reach-around". I'd rather play Reach for the name alone, but this is a good solid card, and some decks would LOVE to play two copies of the Reach. Good job, Wizards!

Fauna Shaman: FUCK YES!! BRING IT ON!! Ahem... obviously, I'm quite excited about this. I already wrote a whole blog article on this the day it was spoiled.
Gaea's Revenge: Meh.. needs more Trample. Disappointing as a Mythic. Haste is pretty cool, but probably not enough to make this more than mediocre.

Garruk's Packleader: This might actually be playable. I could see it being a good draw engine in Naya, particularly Mayael the Anima decks. Maybe it's not as good as I'd expect, but it's worth giving a shot. My Uril deck does need more draw engines...
Greater Basilisk: Hmm, not worth a slot. You'll never be able to kill the one creature you most need to (some big Flyer).

Hunter's Feast: There could be some shenanigans to make this interesting, but in general I don't see this being playable outside a "Group Hug" deck.
Leyline of Vitality: Not the worst of the leylines, but still probably not worth running. I'm sure most Rhys the Redeemed token decks will play this, but that's about it.

Mitotic Slime: I can't wait to play with this card in some fashion - I just don't think EDH is the format where it will shine. It could be good in a narrow number of decks - like ones that run Sadistic Hypnotist and/or Doubling Season. But it won't fit into most decks.

Obstinate Baloth: This is pretty playable. Damn good if against Nath and the like, but still playable anyway. 4/4 for four that gains you 4 life... where have I seen that before?

Overwhelming Stampede: In EDH, the format of fatties, this will almost always be better than Overrun. However, the prevalence of Wrath affect within your playgroup will ultimately determine this cards playability. I for one don't have much use for it, as I'm usually the one Wrath-ing the board every other turn.

Plummet: A strictly better Wing Snare. I've played Wing Snare plenty, and been quite happy to do so. This is just plain better.

Primeval Titan: This is the best EDH card in the set. See my article on it a few posts back...
Sylvan Ranger: This is an okay card for EDH, but there are just plain better cards to run. If you somehow don't have Wood Elves or Sakura Tribe Elder, maybe give this a shot? I dunno.

Well, I'd say green made of like a bandit in this set - two of the absolute best EDH cards in the set are Green.

Let's get the handful of artifacts and lands out of the way:

Brittle Effigy: Blue/Artifact decks will probably want this, but if you're playing any other color, there are better choices.

Crystal Ball: I'm going to go out on a limb and say I like this card far more than Sensei's Divining Top. But I'm a whore for Scry. Scry 2 every turn for 1 mana? I love it. I'll play the shit out of this in EDH.

Elixir of Immortality: I don't see any real use for this. The life gain is fine, but the graveyard effect needs to be able to hit opponents. I guess if you have a lot of trouble with Relic of Progenitus ruining your day, this could be a mediocre way to trump it? Ah, probably not, but hey I'm trying not to be narrow minded.

Jinxed Idol: Holy crap, they brought this back! That is awesome. Not playable outside of some very wacky and random EDH deck, but still... I do wish they'd kept the original Flavor Text: "Here."
Sorcerer's Strongbox: I don't like this, as I dislike coin flip cards. However this is better than I initially thought: you don't have to sack it. If you like this sort of thing, well... it's not the worst coin flip card ever. Winning the flip gets you a pretty damn good effect.

Steel Overseer: Too niche-y to be playable outside of some very specific and focused decks.

Sword of Vengeance: This will be playable, but if you have access to the Darksteel swords, they're way better.

Temple Bell: Terrific for Group hug decks. Quite a bit better than Howling Mine for other decks.

Warlord's Axe: Way too expensive for a vanilla buff equipment. No thanks.

Mystifying Maze: This will get played. I'm unconvinced it's all that great, but I am sure it will be played regardless. Some decks, namely those without access to Kor Haven, will be happy to see this. It's just a bit too pricey, and too many creatures have ETBF effect I wouldn't want to repeatedly give my opponents.

Okay, that's it for the new cards of M11. It does seem like there weren't too many great EDH cards in this set, but don't forget that the set is something like 50% reprints. Many good EDH cards are being reprinted as well - Baneslayer Angel, the Planeswalkers, and the M10 duals are all returning, and I'm sure many of you could use a few more of those. All in all, it's a good set for EDH - enough new toys almost everyone should find something they like, but not so many great cards that we'll all be spending a fortune. We can save our money for Scars of Mirrodin!!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

M11 Core Set: An EDH Set Review

Well, folks, it's that time! The folks at the rumor mill have completed the M11 spoiler and the whole set is now known, unofficially.

That means I get to review the set and evaluate the cards for potential use in the EDH format. Now, I'm of the opinion that almost every card printed can be good in the right deck or in the right circumstances, so this is pretty subjective, as are nearly all set reviews.

However, that doesn't mean some cards don't stand out as obviously good, and some will generally be better than others. I just want to get it out of the way up front, that these are pretty general conclusions based on A) a very generalized overview of the EDH format, and B) my own personal opinions. That said, let's get started.

Oh, one more thing before we begin, because this is a Core Set, a good deal of the set is reprints. I'll generally skip those, because by now you should pretty well know that Clone is good and Haunting Echos is terrible in EDH... I'll only address a reprint if it's something coming back that hasn't been reprinted in a while.

White is up first:

Ajani's Mantra: It's cheap and as an enchantment, it's not likely to draw hate. However, it doesn't do all that much for you either. This card will likely make it into some decklist, though. I can see where some really niche deck with a lot of life-gain focus might make use of it (perhaps as a companion to Seering Meditation?).

Angelic Arbiter: Hmm... I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that this card is probably pretty good. I don't like it though. I hate cards like this, because to me they slow the game down and limit interactivity. Yeah, it's a decent effect, but games where cards like this play a major role tend to be long, boring affairs. Another thing is that this is just going to eat removal every single time it comes down. Sure, the one time you drop this and your opponent doesn't have a Terminate handy, you'll probably win the game, but more often than not she'll be a waste of seven Mana. I'm not impressed, but she'll definitely see play.

Inspired Charge: Nope. Too small of an effect. This is EDH - the format of big, bad, broken! Overrun is the minimum effect of this nature you'd consider, but really you want something more like Titanic Ultimatum.

Knight Exemplar: I'm on the fence about this one. Obviously, if you have some sort of Knight tribal deck, then you want this. Generally, though if you only have two or three Knights in your deck, this is pretty underwhelming. However, she may find home in some Rafiq decks. Even if you don't run but one or two other knights, she might be worth a slot. Consider: many Rafiq decks rely heavily on having Rafiq out to win. Thus, opponents of Rafiq tend to focus a good deal of their removal on Rafiq himself. Even if Rafiq is the only other knight in the deck, the Exemplar might just be worth a look.

Leyline of Sanctity: Pass. You can't really make too much use of it's "leyline" ability, as in a 100 Singleton format, how often are you going to start with this thing in your opening 7? I guess if you play a lot of team-based multiplayer, you might want this, but otherwise, it seems like it'll be a dead card far to often.

Serra Ascendant: Uh, yes please! Okay, folks, lemme just say that this thing is NOT broken. Yes, sometimes you'll get a 6/6 Flying Lifelink-er on the first turn. That is broken. However, that should happen rather infrequently, and even when it does a good portion of THOSE instances your opponent will wind up having cheap removal in hand. Sure even getting one good attack is certainly worth the investment of a single White mana... I'll be playing this in Rafiq for sure. It's solid, but I don't think this card is a must-run in every White deck ever.

Sun Titan: This card is very good and will go in a lot of decks. I shouldn't have to back this claim up, it seems pretty obvious to me. However, I'm actually not super excited about this Titan, because in my experience, most of the stuff I'd really like to get back tends to cost 4 or more... but there are always exceptions, and I'm sure I'll end up running this guy in some of my decks.

Vengeful Archon: Damn, two seven-mana creatures with slow-down the game abilities? WTF Wizards? Still, this one seems more promising than the Angel. First of all, it's much larger at 7/7 instead of 5/6. Plus, while its ability largely is designed to discourage attacking you, the ability is far more proactive at winning the game. And obvious use for him is to pair him with something like Grand Melee or Gideon, so that your opponent has to attack you. You'll also need a shitload of mana, but that shouldn't be too much of a problem. Anyway, I think this card is probably weaker than it looks, but it also has more fun potential.

War Preist of Thune: Good, simple, cheap utility. This will see play, but I already have Quasali Pridemage and Indrik Stomphowler, so I'm afraid I don't have any work for him myself.

 Overall, White isn't to exciting. The Sun Titan is the only real standout, but the potential of a Turn 1 windmill slam means the Serra Ascendant will see play, too.

Blue is up next:

Air Adept: If you're already running Man-O'-War then you probably want this too for redundancy. If you're running Mono U or U/x Wizards, then you probably want this. Other than that, I don't like it much. The effect is too small for EDH. Even "fast" EDH decks tend to be much, much slower than regular constructed decks, so this kind of effect usually does next to nothing for you late game, and even if you bounce something turn 3, it's so early in the game it likely won't gain you any noticeable advantage.

Armory Owl: Hmm, yes this could be playable. I'd still rather run Cort Hussar because he actually puts a card in your hand. Still, Scrye 3 is not terrible.

Call to Mind: Not that great, but can be pretty playable in the right deck. Regrowth effects are good in EDH, but this one is too narrow for my taste. I'd rather pay full price for the Izzet Chronarch anyway. Regardless, it'll find homes in some Red/Blue decks I imagine.

Conundrum Spinx: Pretty good, if you cheat (Sensei's Divining Top, Future Sight, Crystal Ball (see below)).

Frost Titan: In my opinion, this is the weakest of the Titan Cycle over all, and in EDH that is even more true. Still, some Mono U decks might want a 6/6 for 6?
Foresee: I just had to mention this because I am in love with this card. It's fantastic, really. Never unhappy to draw it, and with Scrye 4, it's almost impossible to be unhappy with what I draw off it!

Jace's Erasure: Way too slow if you're going to try to mill a 100 card deck.

Jace's Ingenuity: Meh. Instant speed draw will fit in some decks. I'd rather play other things though.

Leyline of Anticipation: This is interesting. The leyline ability will be irrelevant 90% of the time, but the actual ability of the card is good enough that it might be worth paying the full four mana... go go Instant speed!

Mass Polymorph: This card will get played. It's more fun than it is good, but still the effect is pretty big and splashy and random. Perfect fit for EDH - fans of the format should like this card quite a lot. I still like Rite of Replication more, but this is quite fun as well.

Preordain: Another Scrye draw spell. I love Scrye and drawing cards, but this is too tiny an effect even for U. It's not that it's not worth the mana cost - it totally is - it's just not worth the card slot! I'd run Foresee over this any day.

Redirect: I like this card a lot, but I don't think it'll be too playable in EDH. I do have one deck that could make use of the effect, but I'm still not sure it's worth the slot.

Scroll Theif: A bad, common Shadowmage Infiltrator? This comparison makes me worry this will get played more than it should. I can only say this: Without evasion, this will likely only ever draw you one card per game - at most. Once again, I'd still run Court Hussar over this one.

Stormtide Leviathan: This is a pretty awesome threat creature. I like it alot, but unfortunately, there are better things out there in the format. Inkwell Leviathan, for example, has Shroud to protect himself. Still, if you have a somewhat limited collection, this is certainly playable in the right deck. A neat card that I'm glad to see in print, but I'm pretty sure I'll never use it myself.

Time Reversal: One of the big money rares of the set so far... This certainly is a great effect for EDH. However, you can get the MUCH superior Time Spiral for a fraction of the cost (about $5 online, but I've seen it as low as $2 at times). For one more mana, you get to untap 6 lands, making Time Spiral essentially free. Time Reversal has the downside that after you cast it,  you probably won't be able to do much else that turn, so your opponent will get to take advantage first. This card is still playable - if you happen to open one, go ahead and try it out. But if you're specifically looking for this type of effect, PLEASE, don't spend $30 on this card, when you could pick up a Time Spiral for much less, and cast it for (basically) free!

Blue comes off much like white - not too terribly exciting, but it has some decent stuff. Mass Polymorph is the most exciting, while the Time Reversal is possibly better than I give it credit for.

Black cards now:

Captivating Vampire: Ouside of a vampire tribal deck, this is worthless, obv. In a tribal deck, it might be worth running, but to use him you basically have to overextend right into their Wrath effect.

Blood Tithe: Not great. Even in a larger multiplayer group, three damage doesn't make much of a dent in a 40 point life total.

Dark Tutelage: HA HA HA NO!

Demon of Death's Gate: I'm sure some of you will try, but I doubt this will be any good. By the time you have 3 black creatures out, you probably will be close to being able to hard cast it anyway. Then when it eats a  Path to Exile, you'll be in really bad shape.

Grave Titan: Amazing! Not an auto-include but definitely can find a comfortable slot in many decks that run black. My Thraximundar and Vorosh the Hunter will both love to have this guy on their team.

Liliana's Caress: Not worth running, unless you're playing something very unusual indeed.

Liliana's Specter: Most of the specters with combat-damage abilities will be much better than this. This is pretty unplayable.

Necrotic Plague: An amusing, interesting and flavorful card. I admire the design. I don't think this is particularly playable though. In certain "theme" decks, it could find a niche.

Phylactery Lich: Even if this was just a 5/5 for BBB with no drawback, I don't think it'd be playable. Big dumb vanilla guys are rarely all that great in EDH, even if they're cheap. I don't know how many times I've dropped a Whooly Thoctar on turn 3 and been sorely disappointed I didn't have something relevant to do...

Viscera Seer: Maybe, just maybe this could work in a Savra deck. I doubt it even then, but that's the only chance this poor guy has.

Dang, black was extremely disappointing. The Grave Titan is one of the best of the cycle, fortunately. Unfortunately, it's really about all black brings to the table. As underwhelming as White and Blue seemed at first, having taken a gander at Black makes me want to revise my opinions on those two colors.

That's about all I can stomach for tonight. I will come back tomorrow night to finish out the set with Red, Green, and Colorless.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Yet another new Green Bomb!

Wizards seems to really be trying to give us EDH players a lot of love. Allow me to submit the following as evidence:

Now isn't that a beautiful sight? I never thought they'd actually print Survival of the Fittest on a creature.

Well, technically they didn't, not exactly. Summoning sickness + tap symbol means she isn't quite as broken as the original. Plus a 2/2 creature tends to be more fragile than an Enchantment. So, while she really isn't AS good as the original thing, in the land of singleton decks, she's the closest you'll get to running 2x Survival... and that ain't bad!

So, yeah, she still combos quite well with Squee, Goblin Nabob and all that. She's also quite a bit better if you can cast Lightning Greaves turn 2, and her on Turn 3. Greaves will not only protect her with Shroud, but give you immediate benefit via Haste as well.

How awesome is it that last night I just posted the Vorosh decklist with Genesis, and lamented about how I needed Survival of the Fittest for the deck... the next day Wizards spoils this card. Fauna Shaman is actually better than Survival in that deck, because not only does she help set up the Genesis engine, but she can actually be recurred with Genesis should she eat a removal spell (likely), unlike her enchantment precursor.

I'd still run both, if I could, mind you. Redundancy is good in EDH, so there's no reason why one should have to choose between the two.

And I'm sure that sometimes the fact that she can only activate once per turn will be a bit of a downer, but hey let's be fair here: Getting this ability once per turn is still better than getting it zero times a turn right? Besides, she's the same color as Seedborn Muse... I'm sure you can find a few clever ways to get around this tiny drawback.

I'll be quite anxious to acquire one for Vorosh most of all, but if I can get more than one I'd be more than happy to run her in any of my EDH decks that run Green.