Saturday, August 28, 2010

EDH: Horde of Notions

Hi, all! Back with a brand new EDH decklist. This one is an idea I got from Owen Burke's blog here. His article talked about a 5-color deck built to abuse Tooth And Nail by getting some of the most powerful and epic two-creature combos (but not infinite combos, like Kiki Jiki and Pestermite).

The one that made me really want to build a new deck was this one: Admonition Angel + Realm Razer (see Owen's write up for an explanation).

Anyway, Owen had some great ideas (some of which he in turn got from the EDH Forums). A few of the combos were right up my alley, while others weren't my style. Iona is a card I would particularly not enjoy playing against, so I chose not to play it either. It just seems unfun. (However, if I were to run Iona, I'd include Sakashima, the Imposter to shut down two colors).

Also I don't like Progenitus much. I prefer Horde of Notions for a (very small) Elemental sub-theme. Basically he just lets me recycle Mulldrifter, Shriekmaw, Reveillark, and Spitebellows. Which is useful, but not the main focus of the deck.

Here is the list I came up with:

General: Horde of Notions


Academy Rector
Karmic Guide
Admonition Angel
Yosei, the Morning Star


Fleshbag Marauder
Dimir House Guard
Butcher of Malakir

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Crater Hellion

Sakura Tribe Elder
Wood Elves
Eternal Witness
Silverglade Elemental
Primeval Titan
Avenger of Zendikar
Woodfall Primus

Flamekin Zealot
Rafiq of the Many
Madrush Cyclops
Realm Razer
Empyrial Archangel

Solemn Simulacrum
It That Betrays
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn


Planar Cleansing

Mystical Tutor
Rite of Replication
Time Spiral

Vampiric Tutor
Demonic Tutor

Kodama's Reach
Wild Pair
Tooth and Nail

Fires of Yavimaya
Mirari's Wake
Finest Hour

Sol Ring
Darksteel Ingot
Coalition Relic
Gilded Lotus
Lightning Greaves
Crystal Ball
Minion Reflector


Plains x2
Island x3
Swamp x2
Mountain x3
Forest x 3
Hallowed Fountain
Watery Grave
Blood Crypt
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Godless Shrine
Steam Vents
Overgrown Tomb
Sacred Foundry
Breeding Pool
Flooded Strand
Bloodstained Mire
Windswept Heath
Scalding Tarn
Verdant Catacombs
Misty Rainforest
Arid Mesa
City of Brass
Exotic Orchard
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
New Benalia
Flagstones of Trokair
Phyrexian Tower
Volrath's Stronghold
Kor Haven
High Market

Okay, so lets talk a bit about what this deck is supposed to do. Briefly, it accelerates into a Tooth and Nail and gets whatever two-creature package most suits the current board position. There are a myriad of little combos and synergies to be found here, and I'll likely discover a few I didn't even consider whilst playing.

Let's touch on the lands quickly before moving on to the good stuff. The astute reader will notice I'm missing three of the Fetch Lands. This is because I don't own them, not because they don't belong in the deck. You should run as many of the Fetches as you can get your hands on, and supplement any holes with Evolving Wilds and Terramorphic Expanse (which I neglected to do, and will likely have to remedy soon).

The reason is that one of your more aggressive win-out-of-nowhere combos is Avenger of Zendikar and Flamekin Zealot. You want to wait until someone is vulnerable to attack, and you have a Fetch in hand to play AFTER casting T&N. You get the Avenger and the Zealot, making a shit-ton of 0/1 plant tokens, then use a Fetch to give your plants a +2/+2 bonus (on top of the +1/+1 bonus from the Zealot). Then attack with a hoard of hasty 3/4 plants and the Avenger and Zealot too, if needed. You can often kill a player in one shot doing 30 or more damage easily.

Another landfall based combo is the Admonition Angel + Realm Razer setup. You need a land in hand for this one too, but it doesn't need to be a Fetch. Any land will do. You T&N for the Angel and Razer, with the Razer then RFG'ing all the lands in play (including yours, but don't worry...). Then you drop a land from your hand using the Angel to RFG your Realm Razer. This makes all lands re-enter play, giving you MASSIVE landfall triggers off your Angel. Now your opponents have a dilemma: The Angel just ate their best shit, but if the kill the Angel, the Realm Razer will reenter play to Razer their Realms all over again. Kinky!

So the early game is just stall, develop mana, chump block, Damnate if necessary. Just stay alive until you hit 9 mana. There should be enough Tutoring/Draw to hit T&N by that point, but if you have trouble finding T&N in a timely fashion, season to taste with the Tutoring as needed.

That's really it, in a nutshell. Fortunately Horde of Notions is great as a General, so he makes a fine back-up plan. That's the main reason Rafiq is in the deck, to make Horde a massive threat.

Some of the other cards are in there just because they were in Owen's list and I was intrigued enough to try them out (Wild Pair, War Gate). Some I added as they seemed like egregious omissions (Rite of Replication, Board Sweepers, Fires of Yavima). A few are just pet cards that I can't help but add (Finest Hour, Treachery).

Finest Hour is really good with Rafiq, Horde of Notions, and particularly Emrakul. Academy Rector has some phenomenal targets here, so I threw in High Market and Phyrexian Tower to help abuse her.

Minion Reflector seemed fun, and since most of my guys are big fatties with ETBF effect, it seemed like an obvious choice here.

Some other fun T&N targets:

Yosei + Clone
Keiga + Clone
Fleshbag Marauder + It that Betrays
Fleshbag Marauder + Butcher of Malakir
Butcher of Malakir + It that Betrays
Kiki-Jiki + anything non-Legendary
Vigor + Crater Hellion
Vigor + Empyrial Archangel
Primeval Titan + Avenger of Zendikar (If you already have Fires of Madrush out)
Primeval Titan + Admonition Angel
Terastodon + Woodfall Primus
Emrakul + Madrush Cyclops
Emrakul + Rafiq (with Finest Hour out = 72 damage, Annihilator 12)

Those are the obvious ones, but the deck can basically be Lego-ed together to deal with nearly any situation.

A couple things I have in mind to add later are Exploding Borders, Puppeteer Clique and Acidic Slime. Swords to Plowshares is MIA and that really bothers me...

You might also add a few more Elementals to help Horde of Notions, but he usually does okay on his own.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Elspeth vs Tezzeret Decklists

Well, they finally spoiled the complete deck lists for the Elspeth vs Tezzeret dual decks.

Here are the images for the Alternate Art Foil Planeswalkers (TM):

Yeah, what's with Elspeth's art? Yuck! I have no idea how that got past the art director. Jarvis, man, quit sleeping on the job! Tezzie's not so bad. It's not worthy of an alt-art foil planeswalker per se, but at least it's better than the original Tezzeret art.

Elspeth wouldn't be so bad, but the billowing cloak/tunic/whatever it is is just.... what the fuck? I have no idea how to read this picture. It just makes no sense compositionally. Disappointing.

You know what's NOT disappointing though? THESE:

Notice how I said "these"? Yeah, there's two (2) of these bad boys in each Elspeth deck! Woot! Now I only have to shell out for two of these boxed sets to get the playset.

Also making an appearance with gorgeous upgraded art:

Yeah, that's beautiful, but WTF Wizards? You just obsoleted this thing with Honor the Pure, currently in M11 and M10 before it... And despite HtP being about 10x better than this, IT doesn't even see play. Why would people want this? Yeah, I guess in Casual White Weenie, 4x Crusade and 4x Honor is pretty good, but still. A waste of a rare slot, but the fuck-win art kinda makes up for it.

... 2x alt art Swords to Plowshares really makes up for it though.

Oh, and Tezzeret gets this:

Pretty sweet, no? Not as hot as the StP and there's only 1 of 'em, but still, thanks WotC!

Anyway, let's get to the decklists shall we?

Elspeth's list:
Angel of Salvation
Burrenton Bombardier
Catapult Master
Celestial Crusader
Conclave Equenaut
Conclave Phalanx
Elite Vanguard
Glory Seeker
Goldmeadow Harrier
Infantry Veteran
1  Kemba's Skyguard
Kor Aeronaut
Kor Hookmaster
Kor Skyfisher
Loyal Sentry
Mosquito Guard
Seasoned Marshal
Stormfront Riders
Temple Acolyte

Blinding Beam
Journey to Nowhere
Mighty Leap
Raise the Alarm
Razor Barrier
Swell of Courage
Swords to Plowshares
Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Daru Encampment
Kabira Crossroads
22  Plains
Rustic Clachan

Tezzeret's list:
Arcbound Worker
Clockwork Condor
Clockwork Hydra
Faerie Mechanist
Master of Etherium
Razormane Masticore
Runed Servitor
Serrated Biskelion
Silver Myr
Steel Overseer
Steel Wall
Synod Centurion
Trinket Mage

Æther Spellbomb
Argivian Restoration
1  Contagion Clasp
Echoing Truth
Elixir of Immortality
Energy Chamber
Everflowing Chalice
Moonglove Extract
Thirst for Knowledge
Trip Noose
Tezzeret the Seeker

Darksteel Citadel
20  Island
Mishra's Factory
Seat of the Synod
Stalking Stones

Okay, so these lists are pretty dreadful... they might be fun if played strictly as intended - against each other, but these decks don't look to me like they'd even stand up to other similar products, such as the Archenemy or Planechase decks. The rares seem pretty week, but that might be due to the inclusion of the Planeswalkers themselves. Seems like a lame reason, but so it goes.

Fortunately, the foil Planeswalkers... well, okay the Elspeth... will be enough of a draw to move some units, and the alt art StP and Factory will definitely push these over the edge. There are some interesting cards besides those, though.

For instance, Tezzeret's deck comes with and Argivian Restoration. I'm sure this card isn't worth much, but it's interesting to me because I've never even seen it before! Foil is another older card most players won't already have (but I do, so "meh").

Aside from Swords, Elspeth has an Abolish, which is "meh" to me again, but most folks playing today probably weren't around for the (god-awful) set Prophecy, so it might be a good EDH or casual pull for others. The aformentioned Crusade, while not high-dollar by any stretch isn't exactly easy to find either, so a few folks might be just thrilled to have one. Temple Acolyte is a neat little card, a 1/3 makes a great early game blocker, and the 3 life bonus is nice too, but what makes me happy is the 2 mana cost. That's pretty good for such an old card. He'd have been a great lead-in to Loxodon Heirarch when Gruul and Zoo were running roughshod all over Standard. Okay, so he's still not great, but I've seen FAR worse at 1W...

The one rare I'm kinda stoked about is Catapult Master. This was another guy I had to look up because I'd somehow never even seen him before. He seems pretty good in this or any dedicated Soldier deck. I mean, he's a 3/3 for 5 mana and you have to tap FIVE guys to activate, but still... he does bait you into overextending right into your opponents Wrath effect, but if you're playing against the Tezz deck, no worries there.

As for the decks themselves... shit. I don't even think I'd wanna play them against each other, as is. So when these things drop, expect a post where I tinker with and update them and, maybe play a few games to see how the run with a little bit of help.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

FNM Report 08-20-2010

Ergh, sorry for not posting in two weeks! I have been rather preoccupied, but that doesn't mean I haven't been playing Magic... last weekend I went 3-1 in the swiss rounds, but I had to leave before the 4th round was over to go see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Excellent movie, by the way. Totally fuckin' awesome.

Anyway, that tourney wasn't worth reporting on since I didn't see it through to the end. This Friday's tourney was pretty good though.

Round 1 was against Daniel with a W/B deck with allegedly a lot of removal but he didn't draw all that much removal against me (or lands for that matter), but it didn't help matters that I got nearly god-tier draws. Game 2 my opening 7 was this: Forest, Plains, Mystic Rainforest, Noble Hierarch, Birds of Paradise, Lotus Cobra, Sovereigns of Lost Alara. Yeah, I couldn't have stacked my deck and done better!

Round 2 was Conlon playing my deck but with Vengevines. Ugh, I hate this matchup, but we both got sub-par draws. My deck won simply by virtue of the fact that everything I draw is either a mana source or a massive must-answer threat. I drew a tad too much mana, but his deck was preforming a tad slower than it should have been, so everything I drew was relevant. One game our decks seemed to be having a battle of who could draw the absolute worst! I ended up winning the match, again bases simply on threat density.

Round 3 was against Jeremy Bright playing B/R infinite turns. Game 1 was a fairly quick kill, despite him drawing 37 Lightning Bolts that game. Sheesh. Game 2 was brutally tough and ended with him taking infinite turns. Game 3 was one of the most epically tough games ever. It all game down to this:
   He was at 12 life, with me at 10 life. He had two fully-leveled Coralhelm Commanders, tapped, so 10 power of Flying damage on the table. I have a Knight of the Reliquary and a single Bird Token and 6 lands. No mana dorks. Two cards in hand, a Jace and a Sovereigns. He had some # of tapped lands, but two lands open, a Mountain and an Island, with 4 cards in hand (I think).
   I untapped after taking the merfolk beating to the face, blocking one with a Bird token (I had two at that point) and going to 10. I untapped and drew a second Jace (not helpful!). It's important to note two more details here: one is that among my lands on the board I had a Sejiri Steppe (most KotR decks only run 1), and two is that I already KNEW he had an Into the Roil in hand from a Treasure Hunt earlier in the game.
Now, he rightly knew he's dead if I had Sovereigns, so he left two up. Presumably he left those two mana up for the Roil, anticipating me swinging out of nowhere for 12 (his life total). However, he had two or three other unknown cards in hand as well. If one of them was a Mana Leak, I was screwed. 
   I spent a good long while agonizing over what to do: go for the win with Sovereigns or play it safe by casting Jace and bouncing a Merfolk. Now, the Sovereigns plan was solid, as I had a second Steppe to save me from Into the Roil. IF, and this was a big If, he ONLY had Into the Roil and nothing else (Lightning Bolt would have been just as bad as Mana Leak) I won. He didn't know I had a second Steppe, as most deck only play 1 of them. Jace might have been a bad play regardless, but if I attempted Sovereigns and he flashed Leak, I was dead. So I really thought about trying to be careful and play it safe. However, in the end I decided to just go for broke.
   I tapped out for Sovereigns, and he just nodded at the inevitability of it all. I acted like I was trying to decide weather to swing with the bird or the Knight for a second and then seemed to settle on the bird. He went for the Into the Roil as I had hoped and, I breathed a HUGE sigh of relief. I tapped the KotR and went digging for Steppe #2. I was halfway through the deck and hadn't found it yet, when I started to remember thinking about taking the second one out! I began to get nervous and right then Jeremy asked if I was even running two of them (in a tone that suggested I shouldn't have two in the deck). I answered honestly: "I'm not sure, I may have taken it out". But... there it was after all. I show him the Steppe and he scoops 'em up offering a "good game". Indeed! Very intense.

Top 4: I play Trey, piloting Naya Shaman. It wasn't easy, but I got there with some luck and the uber-dense threat package my deck offers. During Game 1, Trey casts Bloodbraid Elf cascading into a Basilisk Colar - the ONLY non-creature card in his deck (other than land, obv) - when all he needed was a blocker for one turn. Finest Hour made a rare appearance and was critical in one game. I never seem to draw that card, but when I do, it wins like mad.

Top 2 was me and Jeremy again, but neither of us wanted to play that out so we split.

A fun tourney, some epic games. And I beat Conlon, so that was nice.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

From the Vault: Control

Decklist first, discussion after...

1 Morphling
1 Blinding Angel

4 Isochron Scepter

2 Mystical Tutor
2 Snap
3 Echoing Truth
3 Memory Lapse
4 Counterspell
3 Orim's Chant
3 Swords to Plowshares
1 Holy Day
3 Raise the Alarm
3 Wrath of God

1 City of Brass
2 Coastal Tower
3 Thalakos Lowland
2 Adarkar Wastes
5 Plains
9 Island

There are a lot of things I want to say about this deck...

I guess I'll start with the beginning. It was mid-Mirrodin block, and Darksteel was out, but not Fifth Dawn yet. My best friend Stephen had been away from the game for a couple years (he's the one who got me into it in the first place). I kept playing while he took an extended break, which included selling me his whole collection.

A few years later, I'd made some new friends, ironically not through Magic, but it turned out they played it! So we had fairly close-knit playgroup, as we all played Magic, but were friends outside of the game. Steven was part of the circle, too, and naturally got sucked back in.

I had enough cards at this point that I could build many decks at once, so he'd just ask me to build something in a certain color or something. He'd just play whatever I built for him, and that was fine for a while. Soon enough, though he wanted to actually build decks himself, and so he came over to peruse my ample collection.

He'd seen Isochron Scepter in action, but NONE of us new it's true power yet. And this is where I go on a tangent, so bear with me.

I had never heard the term "net deck" before. I didn't go online and look up ANYTHING on Magic. I read Inquest magazine, but every time they talked about tournament decks, I zoned out and flipped past it. I tell you this, so that you know: I'd never seen a single decklist from any other source with Isochron Scepter, except a really janky one that Inquest published as soon as the set was spoiled.

The one thing I DID know was that Orim's Chant was one of the absolute best possible spells to imprint on the Isochron Scepter. I had three of them, that I'd never used. I was aware that they were a high-dollar rare, because they were always in the case at Top Deck Games and usually had the highest price tag of anything in the case. So I knew they were good, and worth some dough, but I just didn't have any use for such a spell.

Then as Stephen sat in my floor, flipping binders, he decided he'd make a deck with Isochron Scepter in it. He expressed this desire to me, but didn't know what else he wanted in the deck. Oh, wait, except he'd also found my three copies of Treachery and wanted to use those too. He said he knew the two cards had little to do with one another but he asked if I could help him build a deck with both.

Well, I said that if he wanted to use the Scepter, he'd have to include white, as the best thing to pair with it was Orim's Chant. Okay, so between these three cards, we seemed to be firmly in W/B control territory. Which was something we both never really did. However, we'd both heard of control decks that played exactly ONE win condition: Morphling. That was also something we didn't really know much about. We knew such decks existed but had no clue how to build them OR play them.

So we set out to forge a new path for ourselves, and enter the uncharted realm of Control.

I pointed out to him a few more spells, but largely left it up to him to construct the deck, as getting him back in the saddle of deckbuilder was the whole point. I was just there as a helper in case he got stuck. In the end, after about an hour of thumbing through every blue or white card I owned, he'd built some 73 card monstrosity. But as I thumbed through the deck he proudly handed over, I realized that it wasn't a monstrosity, or at least not a bad deck.

It looked pretty solid, actually. It had a few issues, mainly the over-the-moon card count, but amazingly enough the main reason was that he'd gotten afraid of the whole 1-win-condition thing and threw in some extra creatures. Fine ones, such as Man-O-War, and some not-so-fine ones that I can't remember. I cut all the excess creatures, save one: Blinding Angel (Morphling was not an excess creature, it was the one that already belonged). Two creatures was still kinda scary for us, so I kept in the Raise the Alarms he'd thrown in. But it really felt right at this point. Cutting all the creatures, left nothing else but No Stick, Treachery, Bribery, and Wrath as the only non-imprintable spells. That seemed exciting to us.

I trimmed the fat from his deck, and I think I added the 3 Wrath of God but the rest of the deck was all Steven. He built it, I streamlined it down to 60, and we were off to the races!

God. The deck KILLED our poor, poor friends. At the time we thought it was great fun, being able to respond to virtually every single threat laid before us... It wasn't very fun for our opponents. It never lost a game.

Paul pretty much always played Elves. If Blinding Angel hit once, he was never going to attack again the rest of the game. Holy Day on the Stick was the same thing. Or, obviously, Chant. He could ONLY win by attacking, and had little artifact removal, which the ample countermagic was able to ward off.

Anne played... I don't remember what exactly, but I'm sure it had Blue, or Black, or both. I do remember a game against her where I got Memory Lapse on the Stick and she drew (and tried to cast) the same spell about 5 turns in a row. When I pointed out to her that she could break the cycle by NOT casting anything, she said "well, what's the point, then?!" and scooped up her deck.

Chad played a few different decks, but played against the deck piloted by Stephen maybe once, and piloted by me maybe once, and then refused to even shuffle up his deck if he knew we were playing this deck. I played it in a few 4 or 5 player free-for-all games. Counterspells should be terrible in multiplayer, but when you have near-infinite counter magic, it actually works like a charm. Bolstered by the Wraths and Bribery's it easily took down a whole table.

I think we had the deck together a month or more, but it only took about two nights of gaming before every single one of our friends learned to say "No" to the No-Stick. We literally could NOT get a game if we brought the deck out. Fortunately I had several decks built, so we still got our Magic fix, but the W/B deck was very clearly off limits.

Sad thing was, it was hands down the best deck either of us had ever built at that point. It's telling, I think, that THIS deck was banned from our table, but my Tolarian Academy deck stocked with Tinkers, Memnarch, Mycosinth Lattice and Karn was not. Oh they hated the Academy deck, to be sure. But they never expressly forbid me from playing it. I played it for months before they finally begged me to give it a rest. But the W/B No-Stick? I played 5 game at most with it ever, before it was officially blacklisted.

Steven played a few more games with it, as he was the lesser pilot, but only because he was just getting back into the game, and was still re-learning the ropes. But I honestly don't think even HE lost a game with it. Soon enough, even he couldn't play the deck.

Well, I guess that is the story of how I learned to play control decks, and Stephen built one of his masterpiece decks. And, between this and the Academy deck, I earned a reputation that I still haven't shaken to this day, despite not having cast an Isochron Scepter in over 5 years.

Friday, August 6, 2010

FNM Tourney report 08/06/10

Small turnout tonight, as GenCon is going on. Lame. Oh well. Anyway, before the tournament started I swapped out the last two Sea Gate Oracles still in the deck for two Fauna Shamans. I don't have the Vengevines but I still figured it couldn't hurt to have a way to turn a late-game BoP into a more useful threat such as Baneslayer or Sovereigns. Finding Sovereigns more consistently can only help, right?

So like I said, small turnout, and not a great deal to report, but I had a few epic games.

Round 1: Up against Mono-red, I lose game one due to a combination of an explosive hand on my opponent's side of the board vs. my really, really slow hand. If he'd been dumb enough to let my Noble Heirarch live, I'd still have been just fine and dandy, but I really needed that mana and he knew it.
    Game two was a tough battle, but Jace 2.0 and a single Dragon Claw kept my head just above water. I stabilized at 2 life and then got a one-shot kill with Rafiq + Conscription. That might have been game three, actually. Don't remember. I know I won both games with Conscription (big surprise), but details are a bit fuzzy. The one detail I do remember is that I was at 2 or 3 life when I won those games, so it was a very close match.

Round 2: Ugh, paired against Chad. He's playing the R/G Eldrazi deck that he played to help me test my Bant deck originally... I destroyed him then, and my deck is even better now, so he just conceded the match on the spot so we could play EDH instead.

Round 3: Daniel with a sort of W/U control, I guess. Not the standard net-deck variety, I don't think. Anyway, it was an uphill battle. It seemed hopeless for me when he dropped a Mystifying Maze. That seemed the perfect foil for my Conscription plan. However, I drew into a Finest Hour which was the perfect foil to his perfect foil. He could stop ONE Conscription but to follow it up with a second one in the same turn? Yeah, that was a bit tougher to deal with. So fighting through all that removal and Spreading Seas and what-not, not to mention him getting his Jace out first in one game, it was tough, but I pulled out the miraculous win.

Top 4: Chad again. This time he gives it a go, but his deck fucks him over. My deck performs pretty badly, in one game I had to pitch a Sovereigns to Fauna Shaman to go get a Baneslayer. I had Rafiq out already, but couldn't get through, so I needed a flyer, or a sixth land. I couldn't seem to get the 6th mana, so I finally just cashed in for a BSA and then drew the 6th land immediately after! Go figure. However, BSA + Rafiq was just as much of a problem for him as Sovereigns would have been, and on to Game 2. Game 2 was much the same with my deck drawing poorly and being very, very slow, but somehow his deck managed to be just a tad bit slower still, and I eventually won a match that left both of us rather annoyed with our decks.

Finals was a rematch with Daniel and his WB control deck. It was not a match either of us really wanted to play. Even though I won the first round, and felt I could pull it off again if I had too, it's just more effort and every play requires intense thought to win. Fortunately prize support worked out that we just split for two packs apiece, and we were both glad not to have to play it out all over again.

My packs were TERRIBLE: Clone and a Traumatize.  Ugh. The BEST thing in my packs was a Crystal Ball. Whoopie. Still, it was a good time, and my deck continued to serve me well, even when it drew badly, it managed to not suck TOO much.

I'm With GoCo

Ghost Council of Orzhova! 
And here is his deck:
3 Nip Gwyllion
4 Mourning Thrull
3 Night Sky Mimic
3 Orzhov Pontiff
3 Blind Hunter
4 Ghost Council of Orzhova
2 Divinity of Pride

3 Mortify
3 Unmake
3 Zealous Persecution
3 Edge of Divinity
2 Cauldron Haze

4 Godless Shrine
3 Orzhov Basilica
3 Caves of Koilos
2 Tainted Field
2 Leechridden Swamp
5 Swamp
5 Plains

This list probably isn't right where I want it, but I can't make up my mind what all I need and what I just like. This is reflected in the lack of 4x any particular card, as I tried to cram in everything but the Kitchen Sink... ooh, Kitchen Finks would be great here, but I'm a stickler for off-color hybrid stuff. It ruins the aesthetics. 
But as I was saying I like too many of these cards, but I can't figure out what to cut to make more stuff 4x. Obviously, I like Ghost Council. A lot. He's just about my favorite card out of the whole Ravnica block - along with Niv-Mizzet and Loxodon Hierarch. 

Hmm... then again, maybe more diversity is a good thing for this deck. Maybe diversity > consistency here? 

One thing I do know is that I'd LOVE some card draw up in dis bitch. Sign in Blood, maybe? Phyrexian Arena is probably better. Dark Confidant? No, the problem with any and all of these is that every single card in the deck is multi-color; either traditional W/B or Hybrid. One of the reasons for this is to support the amazing Night Sky Mimic (note: this card is a 3x just because I can't find the others; I have like 10 of them, but could only find 3 at the moment - this guy WILL be 4x once I locate their hiding spot). And it was just fun seeing if I could build a deck with ZERO mono-colored cards. 

So a search of Gatherer reveals that the only card that is W/B that has the word "draw" anywhere on it is Conjurer's Ban. The Ban is a pretty mediocre card, and just cantrips, so it doesn't even really count as "card draw" so much as it is "card parity". Now, see if Castigate was a cantrip, that'd be just dandy. Alas, I guess I'll have to just see how she does without any draw, and maybe I won't need it after all.

The deck is capable of explosive starts - swinging with a 4/4 Lifelink on turn 2 or a 7/7 Flyer on turn 3 is pretty damn hard to stop for most decks. The 1-2 punch of Zealous Persecution and Orzhov Pontiff can be quite devastating as well to many decks. Blind Hunter is silly, but I always wanted to try to make him good. He's probably gonna get the axe at some point, but not before I give him ample opportunity to prove himself.

I wanted a couple of Deathbringer Lieges in here too, but it made the curve just a bit too steep. Maybe I can work 'em in later... we shall see. It would be nice, as it turns every spell in the deck into removal. Yeah, the more I think on that, the more I think I want 'em, but I dunno. 

For more ideas, here's the Gatherer list of every W/B card in Magic currently. Almost all of these cards could be playable, though some would require a bit of a paradigm shift in the deck to make sense. Some particularly tempting morsels include:

Angel of Despair
Debtors Knell
Gerrard's Verdict
Identity Crisis
Teysa, Orzhov Scion

Those are just the cream of the crop, but most of the cards on the list are playable. I really think W/B is my favorite color pair in Magic, but I rarely actually build W/B decks... odd.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Girl Who Played With Fire

(Props if you get the reference in the Title, BTW)

Correct me if I've lost count, but I believe this is the 5th and final deck in my Planeswalker series, utilizing the new M11 "signature spells" and today is all about the hot, hot, hottie Chandra Nalaar.

Let's get the list up front and center:

3 Cinder Pyromancer
4 Gelectrode
4 Chandra's Spitfire
4 Wee Dragonauts

4 Ponder
4 Preordain
3 Flame Jab
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Flame Rift
2 Chandra's Outrage
2 Chandra Nalaar

4 Steam Vents
4 Cascade Bluffs
3 Shivan Reef

4 Halimar Depths
2 Island
6 Mountain

Okay, so I won't bullshit you - This deck is a bit of a failure in my eyes. It's a good deck, don't get me wrong, but I had to make sacrifices in the optimization department to follow the rules of this series. Essentially, this deck only plays 2 Chandra's Outrage because the point of the exercise was to use ALL the signature spells. But while Outrage is a fine card and occasionally it's useful here, it's just WAY to expensive for what this deck wants to do. And honestly Chandra herself doesn't really belong either. Jace, the Mind Sculptor would be a better fit, in fact. So for YOU, who are not constrained by the rules set for me by this exercise, running Chandra and her Outrage are not required, and in fact, not recommended. I'd replace them with 4x Rift Bolt, or some such thing.

That out of the way, lets look at what the deck does RIGHT. Turns 1 and 2 you usually play a Halimar Depths and/or a Ponder to set things up, then on turn 3, start laying down 3-drop dudes. Usually you want to just play creatures until you have one Flyer and one or two Pingers. Hold your Instants and Sorceries back as much as possible until you've got a few dudes out. Then, if  they let you untap with all that shit intact, empty your hand of as much Burn and Draw as you possibly can, using your mana as efficiently as you can. Don't forget to untap your Gelectrodes and Pyromancers!!!

By the time you're tapped out or empty-handed your opponent should already be getting worried, as by now your Spitfires and/or Dragonauts should be upwards of 10+ power each. Swing for the win. Simple as that.

Oh, yeah they might have removal, so for those following at home, you might try to squeeze in some cheap countermagic (nothing over 2 mana!) to protect your beaters. Wrath isn't that big a deal, just try to hold at least one guy in hand - you should never need more than three on the table to win, so drawing more lets you keep some in reserve.

And, one other thing, Flame Rift was just there to give me at least a shot at playing this in a Multiplayer game, but this is definitely more of a duel deck. Flame Jabs also help in this regard, though they're pretty excellent in a duel too.

Some cards I'd consider for this deck:
Curiosity (funny as hell on a Pyromancer, but prolly not worth the slot)
Rift Bolt (a must really, but I appear to be missing all of mine)
Ancestral Memories (Ponder and Preordain are great, but sometimes you want more cards)
Remand (yeah, they keep the countered spell in hand, but you really only want to cast this against removal anyway, so if they don't have the mana up to re-cast it right then, they're dead)
Grapeshot (4 Ponder, 4 Preordain already looks suspiciously like a Storm deck, so why not?)

Finally, I tried this deck back in the day with just 4 Dragonauts and 4 Gelectrodes. It was fun and okay, but didn't draw enough dudes. I waited until they printed good, suitable analogues for each so that I could rebuild the deck with basically 8x of each. Now, I seem to draw TOO many creatures some games. However, removal is much more prevalent than it was back then, so that might still be for the best. You can try it at 12 or 14 guys, and see how it does. I might just run 3x of all the guys, but I dunno yet.

Well, that's it for the Planeswalker deck series, and I'm really happy with all of them. This one less so just because I couldn't seem to design a deck that Chandra's Outrage belonged in, but I really thing it's the weakest out of all 8 of the signature spells, so I can't blame myself too much.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Goat Deck Wins

Another silly casual deck today, but this time with a twist. This deck was built to go along with a customer Planechase planar deck. If you don't know what that is, check this out. Planechase is a pretty fun twist on Multiplayer, although it can be used in duels just as readily. Alternately, sometimes in Planechase game, on player will end up feeling like the Planar cards dominated the game too much and they lost more to their opponent getting lucky chaos rolls while they always came up blanks.

My experience with Planechase has been mixed, but overall I quite like it. I usually just play with a stack of all the Planes in one deck (minus a very select few that my entire table just doesn't like, such as Skybreen and Eon Fog), and usually with EDH decks to boot.

However, I wanted to try to build a 60 card deck and a 10 card Planar deck in tandem, to be played in "normal" Planechase games. One of my favorite Planar cards is Goldmeadow. Goldmeadow makes 0/1 Goat tokens. One token each time you roll Chaos, and three(!) each time a land enters play under your control. God, why couldn't they have made Rampaging Baloths make 0/1 Goats instead of 4/4 Beasts??? Any dork can win with a horde of 4/4's, but it takes some degree of ingenuity to win with 0/1 Goats.

Anyway, I don't want to toot the ingenuity horn too much, as I did have some help and inspiration from the interwebs, notably this article here. I also found a few other goat deck examples on various forums, but most were in the W/U realm with Mirrorweave and Momentary Blink. Godhead of Awe was an inspired choice in many decks, but since I couldn't take credit for it, I left it out.

Going back to Jacob Van Lunen's build for a jumping off point, I nonetheless made it my own deck, with quite a bit more removal - JVL's had none, in fact. Here's the list I came up with, but keep in mind that I haven't battle-tested this yet, and will likely make some adjustments. I'll update if that is the case:

4 Auriok Champion
4 Boros Guildmage
4 Springjack Shepherd
4 Hearthfire Hobgoblin
2 Furystoke Giant
4 Cloudgoat Ranger

4 Lightning Helix
4 Journey to Nowhere
4 Glory of Warfare
2 Rise of the Hobgoblins

3 Spingjack Pasture
3 Ancient Ampitheater
3 Rugged Prairie
3 Arid Mesa
6 Plains
5 Mountain

Notes: The mana base listed is pretty much what I'd run given the card pool, but most of my good R/W duals are in the Ajani/Searing Meditation deck posted earlier. Just use whatever you've got, but leave plenty of Basics, because a couple of the Planechase planes will want to have basics to fetch.

Auriok Champion seems good here. I was intending to add some Volcanic Fallouts initially, thinking that the Champions would survive them handily, plus having a Glory of Warfare out means none of my critters bite the dust, so long as I cast it on my opponents turn (which you generally prefer to do anyway). Somehow the Fallouts got cut, but the Aurioks seemed worth keeping in regardless.

Boros Guildmage is a card I'm not sold on, but I do really think I want at least two in there. I just couldn't figure out what else to run. Haste and First Strike are both abilities this deck will like to have now and again, but the Guildmage doesn't play well with the Auriok Champions, alas. Weird, because the Boros chick totally looks like a lesbian... maybe she tried to hit on the Auriok hottie once and got shot done, now she holds a grudge? Or maybe it's just the Protection from Red thing...

Anyway, the remaining creatures are no-brainers and absolutely belong in the deck. The spells are all pretty self-explanitory too.

Lightning Helix kills smaller things, whilst Journey to nowhere removes obstacles of the toughness-four-or-greater variety. Anything these two fine spells can handle, you'll just have to overrun them with Goats and hope they get there. Glory of Warfare is kinda one of the mainstays of the deck, and shouldn't be removed lightly, but if you have something just plain better, let me know at once!

Rise of the Hobgoblins can be cast early, but they're mostly in there to recover from Wrath effects. You can usually make 5 or 6 goblins with it immediately after a boardsweeper, leaving your opponent feeling depressed, probably.

There are a lot of different ways you could take the deck, naturally, but the core of the deck: Glory of Warfare, Cloudgoat Ranger, Springjack Sheperd, and Spingjack Pasture can't really be cut without it becoming a whole different deck. Some cards I had on the mind when building:

Volcanic Fallout (may go back in if Journey doesn't cut the mustard)
Ajani Goldmane (already in my OTHER R/W deck)
Kitchen Finks (Spoils the lovely R/W aesthetic, but a damn fine card anyway)
Noblis of War (One of the worst of this cycle, but a decent fit here, or at least an acceptable replacement for the Glory of Wars if you don't have them)
Godhead of Awe (makes everything 1/1, but YOUR guys will be 3/1 or 1/3, depending on whose turn it is)
Boros Swiftblade (excellent with Glory of Warfare, but I kinda feel he wants to be in a different deck with Glory)

And now, M. Night Shamalamadingdong fans... the twist ending:

A Planechase deck to compliment the Goat deck, each plain was hand-picked to add something to the deck. Some do what the deck already does, others bring something off-color that the deck could utilize.

Velis Vel
Horizon Boughs
Isle of Vesuva
The Aether Flues

Goldmeadow, duh, makes Goats. Seems relevant, no?
Velis Vel is basically Coat of Arms, which I here is pretty good in token decks.
Murasa gets you lands, which are going to come in handy.
Horizon Boughs: couldn't find it in Gatherer, but it's Awakening, basically and its Chaos ability grabs you 3 basic lands. Holy cow!
Isle of Vesuva - play a Cloudgoat Ranger with this as the active Plane. It's fun!
Agyrem- because, yes, your guys will die. This plane will discourage them from targeting your token-makers, and if they just Wrath, you basically get it all back.
Minamo- Draw cards. Now draw more cards. Wash, rinse, repeat. (yeah, the Chaos is useless to you, but DRAW CARDS DAMMIT).
Aether Flues - you'll have plenty of tokens to sac to this, so why not?
Sokenzan: +1/+1 and Haste? Shit yeah, helluva deal. The Chaos can pack the game in right there, too.
Krosa is the iffy one here. The Chaos isn't great, but CAN randomly power out a Cloudgoat on turn 2, but really it's just there for the +2/+2.

Really, Minamo could be Panopticon, and Krosa could be Stronghold Furnace... I dunno, what do you all think?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Erasing your enemies

The forth deck in my series of explorations of the new Planeswalker signature spells revolves around Jace and his Ingenuity and Erasure. Jace's Erasure is obviously a "mill" card. I spent several days debating on weather to make this a W/U mill deck or a U/B mill deck. Obviously, Glimpse the Unthinkable and Mind Funeral are great mill cards that would compliment Jace's Erasure nicely. I have a playset of Glimpses that I've never really put to good use. The other idea was to reunite Jace with his Lorwyn Merrow bretheren. The merfolk in Lorwyn, the same set in which Jace made his debut, were themed around tapping for effects, with a more specific focus on milling effects. Jace's Erasure and the Planeswalker himself both fit quite nicely into that theme.

The benefit to running the Merrow over things like Glimpse the Unthinkable is that many of the Merrow provide reusable mill effects, such as the ones on Drowner of Secrets and Grimoire Theif. Stocking my deck with such repeatable effects lets me free up more card slots for defensive spells and other non-milling goodies. Going the Dimir route, I pretty much had to build the deck as aggressively mill-oriented as possible, basically going the Stupid Red Burn path of ignoring the opponent altogether and just pointing the best mill spell in hand at his dome every single turn until he dies or you do.

The other benefit to going W/U is that I thought the deck might actually function well in a multiplayer setting. At the very least it'd stand a much better chance than the U/B build. With the Dimir I could probably mill one guy out with relative ease, but I'd be completely out of steam by then, and the rest of the table could finish me off at their leisure. With cards like Judge of Currents and Silvergill Douser, I could stall and gain life, making me an unappealing target for any creature-reliant decks. I could also play politics with the Silvergill Douser, saving an opponent from attack in exchange for their not looking my way for the next turn or two.

Summon the School is a favorite card of mine, and plays nicely with a whole host of cards in the deck. Finally, there was a new card I wanted to try out - Shared Discovery. Drawing 3 cards for a single Blue mana is always a good deal. The drawback of Shared Discovery is that you must tap 4 creatures as part of the cost to cast it. In this deck, it's almost a benefit, rather than a drawback as the Merrow of Lorwyn LOVE being tapped.

I played the deck in a 5-way game without any countermagic and successfully milled everyone but the one guy playing a 100 card deck. And that was after the 100 card guy played a Time Spiral restocking everyone's libraries, and I got hit with a bout four Maelstrom Pulses, AND got hit buy an opponent's Jace's Ultimate ability, nuking 20 of my own cards! If I had been able to counter about 3 spells in that entire game - the Time Spiral, a timely Bogardan Hellkite, and any one of the many Maelstrom Pulses that hit me, I'd likely have been able to win the whole table.

So I added in a few counterspells. Namely, 2 Counterspell (with the Jace art from the J vs C Duel Decks) and 2 Forbid. Forbid is deliciously evil here, especially late game. With all the card draw it's fairly easy to find a couple of redundant cards to pitch, but the real amazing thing is to have two Summon the School in hand and 8 Merfolk on the Board. This is much easier than it looks, especially when you cast those Summons for a few turns, then just start holding them in hand with your Forbid. Someone tries to Wrath your board away, just pitch the Summons to Forbid, then tap your guys to get them back!

Enough talk, here's the decklist:

4 Hedron Crab
4 Judge of Currents
3 Silvergill Douser
2 Grimoire Thief
3 Drowner of Secrets
1 Lullmage Mentor

3 Shared Discovery
4 Jace's Erasure
2 Merrow Commerce
2 Counterspell
2 Forbid
3 Jace Beleren
3 Summon the School
2 Jace's Ingenuity

4 Wanderwine Hub
3 Hallowed Fountain
1 Adarkar Wastes
2 Azorious Chancery
7 Island
5 Plains

A few more notes. First, the Mana Base is basically whatever random W/B duals I could find laying around. I do recommend using as few enter-the-battlefield-tapped lands as possible, as it slows you down to much. Also, the Merrow Commerce are better than you'd think. There are lots of little tricks you can pull with two of them out, and they can speed up your milling process tremendously.

Lullmage Mentor is a one-of because it's strictly a late game card. if you NEED to cast him to get your Summon the School back, or get your Shared Discover online, fine, but if he doesn't hit the table with 7 Merfolk available and ready to go, he WILL die a grisly death. Late game, though, between him and the Forbids, no one will ever Wrath the board again, or Time Spiral for that matter. Those are really the only things you care about countering. Big creatures and the like should be no issue, between the Dousers and the Judges of Currents, your life total should be irrelevant. You just want to stop boardsweeps and library restockers, and anything else is just gravy.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

FNM Report: 07-30-10

So I made it to FNM on Friday evening... new store in town called Dragon Crown over at 61st and Lewis. Pretty cool place, check 'em out. Anyway, I decided to play up there anticipating a more intimate venue as opposed to the massive throngs at Castle. I was not far off the mark, and it was a modest turn-out, and there were only two people in the store that I didn't already know. It certainly made for a more enjoyable experience, as I like playing with familiar faces.

Making the finals helped as well. Unfortunately I was a bit too distracted to take any real notes, and the few details I did write down I misplaced! However I can give a pretty good rundown from memory, but to the two gentleman I played that I met for the first time on Friday, I'm sorry I don't remember your names. I never remember names the first time off, so forgive me.

Anywho, I was playing Bant of course. My round 1 opponent was sporting a newly built Mono-Black artifact deck. Unfortunately, he hadn't quite had time to test and fine-tune it, but it had some note-worthy ideas. Triskelion + Steel Overseer is pretty obvious, but he added Basilisk Collar to the mix for maximum effect - quite a brilliant touch I must say. Phylactery Lich was also in attendance, naturally. The removal suite, however, was a no show for my opponent, and good ol' Sovereigns got there in no time. We played a few more games for fun and practice after the match officially ended and suddenly his deck started performing better! I hate when that happens.

Round 2 was a tough match up as my opponent was sporting the R/B Pyromancer's Ascension deck that can take infinite turns. Fortunately I dialed in on the right strategy against this type of deck: Run out threats as aggressively as you possibly can, to force them to exhaust their resources burning your guys and staying alive, rather than giving them breathing room to concentrate on getting an Ascension online. Don't be afraid to run out threats right into a Lighting Bolt. Chances are they'll get the Ascension up and running, but once they do, they've got so little fuel left they'll run out of steam. He did go off game two, but I managed to eke out a win in game three.

Round 3, Nathan was playing Jund, but offered to ID into top 4, which seemed like a good idea, so I gladly accepted. We played one game for fun, which I narrowly won, but Jund is not a fun matchup by any means, so I was still pretty glad we'd drawn.

Top 4, I played R/B Infinite turns again, and this time he was better prepared for this match-up. It was harder to get him to waste his Bolts, and either he sideboarded a little better this time, or he just drew into more of his 'boarded cards. However, I had no choice but to stick to my guns and just try to go all out.. One game, my opponent managed to get the Ascension online, and had the Time Warp in hand. I was tempted to concede but I realized he had no real hand left, so I let him take his free turns. He ended up taking something like 3 or 4 turns in a row, but then on the last turn drew a land, and ran out of steam.

Finals! Yeah, my old nemesis Jim Mattingly. (Sorry if I spell it wrong!). Ugh, this was brutal. He exploded with green mana, Primeval Titans and huge fuck-off Eldrazi faster than even Lotus Cobra could manage. It didn't help that against the fastest, deadliest deck I'd fast, my deck decided to give me the worst draws of the night. Game 1 I might have had a chance if I'd drawn one more land, but it was still  a mercifully short match, with him taking both games in near-record time. Jeez, I might have to retool my whole SB just for this matchup!

All told, getting to the finals was awesome, even if it was a very small field to begin with. It definitely shows that my deck is solid, I just need to work on the sideboard a little more, and tighten up my plays. I did make a few errors, and while none of them cost me any games, the very easily could have. I'll probably keep tinkering with this deck until the Shards block rotates out and takes a huge chunk of some of my favorite cards of all time away from me... :(