Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scars of Mirrodin EDH Set Review, Part 2b: Blue

Okie dokie, folks. We're back with another installment of the Scars EDH Set Review... eh, well, it's all up there in the title, so yeah.

Blue is next:

Argent Sphinx is a pretty cool guy. Eh dodges removal, and doesn’t afraid of anything. Yet another artifact-deck-only rare, and not a particularly exciting one at that. Could be useful with things that trigger on creatures coming into play, but that’s about the only real use I see for him.

A Blue version of No Mercy. Should be called “Some Mercy”. Instead of killing the creature, it bounces it. Which would be okay, except a very high percentage of EDH worthy creatures have ETBF effects and this just helps your opponent abuse them. This will likely not see play in EDH.

“Other blue creatures you control get +1/+1” is a VERY unusual ability to see on a card, and that alone makes it intriguing. The rest of the abilities just make this another broken mana producer for Artifact decks, but isn’t nearly as broken as, say, Metalworker. Still, this has a lot of potential to see play. I’m not a huge fan, but it isn’t a terrible card at all.
Ha ha ha, take that Sharuum! I’m generally against playing countermagic in EDH, but if someone in my playgroup ran Sharuum or Dagsson, I’d have no qualms about running this. It’s not going to shut Sharuum down all by it’s lonesome, but is a fine card to use amongst other anti-artifact answers. The cantrip is nice.

Way too narrow to see play, unless a really clever Johnny builds around it. I like this card, I just don’t see it having much use in EDH. It might be good in a 5-color Planeswalker Control deck with some other Counter-based effects like Clearwater Goblet or something. Like I said, powerful effect if you can abuse it, but way to narrow to be good in a broad sense.

Blue always seems to get one big, expensive Mythic that has a really neat effect combined with a really prohibitive mana cost. This one just might be worth the 7 mana, though. Clone anything you want, while getting a 7/7 for seven… not bad for Blue. Blue isn’t known for it’s efficiently-costed creatures. Have you ever been in a situation where you draw a Clone and look at your opponents board, and see a big, bad threat, and a Wood Elves? And you know the correct play is to copy the threat, but you also REALLY need another mana and haven’t been drawing any? You have to choose between the threat and the utility. Well, now you don’t have to choose. Copy the smallest utility guy on the board, and still wind up with a formidable 7/7 beater or blocker. It’s not going to redefine the format, but I do think this guy is playable. Having a bigger version of your opponents best guy seems cool.

Open The Vaults wants to marry this guy. I personally am not all that interested in this guy, at least not for EDH, but he’ll get some play. He can set up a nice Sharuum smorgasboard, or just make your life hell by fueling a massive Open the Vaults. Beyond that, he doesn’t have much application, but then again, that's all the application he needs to get some love.

It's a Polymorph for Artifacts… and is usually going to be worse than the original Polymorph. Yeah, there’s Enlightened Tutor and other ways to set this up to get what you want, but it’s still just not that great. Polymorph decks run no creatures other than the ones they want to Polymorph into, so they never miss and Polymorph into something lame like Llanowar Elves. They use non-creature sources to make tokens, like Kahlni Garden, so they have cheap, readily available creatures to sac, but no cheap, disappointing creatures to 'morph into. They’ll always hit Iona or Emrakul or whatever. Shape Anew is much harder to set up that way. I don’t know of a non-Artifact card that makes Artifact tokens, so tutoring and deck manipulation are the only ways to make this useful, and that’s fine because Sharuum doesn’t really need anymore goddamn help.

Will nearly always be Counterspell in Sharuum/Dagsson decks. But do those decks need this? I honestly don't know.

Yeah, it’s a reprint, so his worth in EDH is well documented already, but hey, it’s Trinket Mage. He deserves a mention. Particularly since he now has a new BFF to tutor up in Mox Opal. Almost strictly better than Chrome Mox, the Opal might just replace Sol Ring as the most-frequent-target of the Trinket Mage, at least in multi-color builds. The Opal is less exciting in Mono-U but still playable. So yeah, Trinket Mage will get played. Even more.
You would really need a lot of permanents with counters on them to make this playable, but in a deck packed full of Planeswalkers, it might make the cut. Then again, a 1/1 will have a hard time actually dealing combat damage to a player in EDH, even with Flying. There will nearly always be something that can block this and kill it. So probably too narrow to be played.

A bit expensive, but 6 mana is standard for this effect. The triple blue is a bit restrictive for multicolor decks, but if your mana base is resilient enough to support this, it’s a good card. The two primary functions I see it playing in EDH are 1) Stealing Planeswalkers and 2) Stealing Haste-y generals like Thraximundar or Kaarthus. It untaps them so even if they attacked you last turn, you can still swing back. I’d still rather play Treachery over this, but alas Treachery does not steal Planeswalkers (unless you can Instant-speed one into play somehow and take a Gideon Jura who is in creature form at the time).

Blue offers up a few playable cards, nothing too exciting, but nothing too broken either, which is good. The best overall card in Blue is probably Trinket Mage which isn’t even a new card. The 7/7 Clone is really awesome to me, but I’m under no illusions about its relative power level. Volition Reigns will probably see heavy play in Planeswalker-heavy metagames, and will be great against the likes of Thraximundar.

Next post: BLACK

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Scars of Mirrodin EDH Set Review, Part 2a: White

Alright, we've got the new Legendary guys out of the way, and all 4 of them have potential as Generals. Geth and Kemba are a little more casual/fun but still playable, while Ezuri is certainly a top-notch Elf general, and Skithiryx remains a bit of a wildcard, but I think he's probably the best of the four, if you're okay with going mono-B.

Now we get do dissect the rest of the set. Up first of course is White, so lets dive right in.


This is a fine creature that really only does anything in Sharuum decks, but isn’t really needed there. It’ll be great for anyone who wants to make a Sharuum deck that isn’t full of d-bag combos… pffft, who does that?

This is playable in Sharrum. A great card to stall against aggro while you set up your broken d-bag combo. I hate this card already.

Oh, look another Planeswalker that’s playable in EDH. Yawn. Seriously, she’s really good. I like the original Elspeth better, but that’s just me. Still, her Ultimate is more relevant and useful in EDH. Rhys the Redeemed decks are going to LOVE her. Unfortunately her +2 ability is kinda weak for EDH. And she’s far worst than the original Elspeth in Rafiq. I’ll be sticking to Knight Errant myself, but she’ll find a home in plenty of other decks, so no worries.

 A 3/3 Vigilance for 4 mana isn’t particularly exciting in EDH, but with the ETBF “blink” effect, I’m sure you could find some uses for this guy. Blinking an Eternal Witness, Mulldrifter or Nekrataal seems like a fine play, while you can also reset anything your opponent might have been putting counters on, such as a Protean Hydra, an about-to-Ultimate Planeswalker, or you can just remove a blocker for a turn to get in with a key attack. Playability probably depends on how many creatures you're running with ETBF effects…
Oh wonderful. Another Sharuum card. Whoot. I have a feeling Sharuum and Arcum Dagsson will get more out of this set than any other general. Still, this one is pretty cool, and could also work out in an Equipemnt-heavy deck like the theoretical Kemba deck mentioned above. The Angel is pretty dependant on Artifacts to do anything useful, so Sharuum is the most likely place she’ll end up, but she could be playable in a non-doucebaggy deck that just happens to have lots of Artifacts.


This guy is pretty good. Tutors are popular in EDH, and he makes them much more difficult to play. Late game, he’s going to have much less impact, but if you drop him early, you could seriously set back an opponent’s mana development, as nearly all mana-ramp spells search libraries. Then again, your OWN Kodama’s Reach now cost 5, so this is a double-edged sword.

This chick is pretty good in Sharuum decks. Needless to say, this guy is Skullclamp’s new best friend.
Also, possibly playable in some Sharuum builds. The life gain is a neat bonus, but not really all that great for 5 mana, when considering for 1 more mana, you can just cast Sharuum and get the artifact right into play. Yeah, probably won’t make the cut in most builds, but if your Sharuum deck is a little under-powered there might be room for this guy.
The first Common to be EDH worthy. A new and improved Disenchant, and it’s back in White! The only downside is that it's a sorcery (spoiled incorrectly as an instant). It RFG’s the target so Eternal Witness can go suck it! If you’re already running Disenchant or some similar Instant or Sorcery based effect, then this is probably better than whatever it is you’re running. BONUS: Combo this with Liquidmetal Coating to Exile creatures or lands too!
This is a nice little Angel, and should be quite playable in EDH. There are plenty of ways to get all your opponents creatures tapped, like Sleep, Gideon Jura, or just looking vulnerable and taking an attack to the face (what, you got 40 life, don’t sweat!). She’ll be tricky to play, as you’ll need to wait for the right time to get as many of your opponent’s guys as possible, but the possibility of an occasional one-sided Wrath with a 4/5 body attached is just too tantalizing to pass up.
Man, they’re really trying to push Sharuum into an Aggro build, aren’t they. We’ll see if people bite or not, but Sharuum decks that win by attacking sound way more fun than Sharuum decks that win by d-bag combos that do infinite something or other.

Hell. Yes.
This is my favorite White card in the set. It’s too expensive to be good anywhere but in EDH and even there its best if you just cheat it into play with Academy Rector or something. But yeah, doublestrike AND lifelink? Bring it on. This will fit nicely into my Rafiq and Uril decks, even though it’s not an Aura. I really wish this was 5 mana, not 6, but I’ll still be more than happy to play it.

So that’s it for White. Not much, really, unless you’re playing artifact-heavy decks like Sharrum. Still, True Conviction, Sunblast Angel and Revoke Existence are all very welcome additions to the EDH repertoire. 
Looks like this is going to take a bit longer than I thought folks, so stay tuned....
Next Post: BLUE.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Scars of Mirrodin EDH Set Review, Part 1: The Legends

The time has arrived. The Scars of Mirrodin spoiler is officially complete, and that means it’s time for my traditional EDH set review. Last time I did this (which was also the first time) it was M11, the Core Set. Which meant two things: 1) Half the set was reprints, and 2) No Legends.

So, for my first big set review with only a scant few reprints and some new Legends, lemme break this down for you, so you know how it’s gonna go. First off, I’m gonna pull all the Legendary Creatures out and analyze them as a separate category. Then I’ll do color by color analysis of each card. I will not review each and every card. The vast majority of commons will be utter crap in EDH format. I will only touch on ones that seems like they might at least have a place in a specific deck (i.e. Sharuum/Arcum Dagsson decks) or even have broader application. Most won’t, though, so expect very few commons on this list. Same goes for Uncommons, but I’ll give most of them at least a brief mention. I will touch on all the Rares or Mythics.

So with that out of the way, let’s take a look at the our new potential Generals:

Nice. Not terrific in a broad sense, but she’s very efficiently costed at 3 mana for a 2/4. She’s a “build around me” general though. You definitely want plenty of equipment and equipment tutors. She could be a fine general for a fun but playable mono-w theme deck, build around a cats + equipment subtheme, maybe including the equipment-loving Kor from Zendikar Block. So yeah, not a bad general, but she requires a fairly specific deckbuilding approach. So, weather or not you use her depends on if the themes she represents appeal to you. Personally, I am intrigued by a Kembe deck, but I hate mono-color decks, so I don’t see myself building this.

I really like this guy. His activated ability is just NUTS! As a 5/5 Intimidate for 6 mana, he’s not too shabby as a beatstick, but I’ve seen better. While his stats help make him worthwhile, I really think you want this guy for his reanimation ability. Oh, he mills you too, but that aspect isn’t so much about winning via decking your opponent, but rather making sure their graveyard is fully stocked for Geth. Every time you steal something from your opponent’s GY, you’re also dumping some number of potential targets in as well. Thus, he never runs out of things to reanimate. Also, his ability doesn’t require him to tap, so you can do it multiple times per turn. Fun! Overall, I’m not sold on his viability as a General, but this is mostly because I don’t do mono-color EDH. However, he’s not as narrow as Kemba, so you have quite a bit more leeway in how you would build a Geth deck. So as a general, he’s probably fine, but not really my style. I will be putting him in every EDH deck I have that runs black. His ability is just too amazing to pass up.

This guy can kill you even quicker than general damage. Only 3 hits from him and you’re dead. Skithiryx reminds me of Rafiq in that he can kill an opponent VERY fast without help, but with help, one-hit-kills are very doable. The problem with Skithiryx, is that he’s not going to get the quality of help Rafiq got. Rafiq had Might of Oaks, Finest Hour, Shield of the Oversoul, Steel of the Godhead and Eldrazi Conscription. Skithiryx can get Conscription, but there’s no Sovereigns to cheat it out. Black does have some pump, but other than Hatred, I can’t really think of anything that’s really all that playable. The direction you probably want to go with a Skithiryx deck is to go more control, with lots of removal to clear the skies for Skithiryx, a few pump spells like Hatred, and whatever mana-ramp you can find in Black. It sounds like a boring deck to me though. I’m much more excited to just put this guy in my Thraxi and Vorosh decks.

A suitable replacement for Rofellos. For 8 mana, you can pretty much choose exactly when to win the game. Just make elves until you either have enough, or have nothing left to cast, then make this guy and attack! He requires a lot of mana, but c’mon this is Elves here, they’re experts at making mana. An excellent general for an Elf deck, but again, not my cup of tea. Too narrow, and it seams like it would play pretty much the same game every time, so that’s boring to me. But for those of you who do like tribal, mono-color EDH decks, rejoice!

That’s it for the Legends of the set, unless you want to house-rule allowing Mox Opal to be played as a General. I wouldn’t recommend it though. So, with that out of the way, we'll be tackling the bulk of the set in the next post.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Scars of Mirrodin Prerelease Weekend

Well, that was a whirlwind of Magic and not sleeping. It was of course, Prerelease weekend, and the occasion marks the first time Magic players got to get their hands on some Scars of Mirrodin. I will have the EDH set review up later this week, but I want to throw out some quick impressions of the new set and share some of my experience of the weekend.

So, anyway, I kicked off the weekend Friday night at midnight. I played in a Sealed event at Dragon Crown, eventually taking 1st at the end of 4 rounds, somewhere around 4:30 am. My card pool was very weak in Black and Green, so those two colors were easy to eliminate. Red was obviously my strongest, as I had quite a bit of removal in the form of Shatter and Oxida Scrapmelter for Artifacts and 2 Turn to Slags, as well. So I had to choose between Blue and White to compliment my Red. My blue spells included a ridiculous amount of "Bounce" effects, a few efficient flyers, some blue-specific Artifacts and a Volition Reigns. Volition Reigns was the only real "bomb" in blue, but overall it was a solid color. The issue was that the main draw of my Blue pulls was all the bounce. With the right creature base, it could be very easy to get just a tiny bit ahead on creatures, then use bounce to tempo my opponent to death. A fine strategy, but I didn't feel I had quite the right creature base to make that strategy work. The best U/R deck I could make just didn't look quite fast/aggro enough.

My White stuff, on the other hand, appeared to be weaker on average than the Blue, and I had noticeably fewer White cards to boot. However, I had opened a Sunblast Angel, which was the absolute best game-winning spell I'd pulled, so I really wanted to make white work. Furthermore I had one Dispense Justice, and a Myrsmith. The rest of my White was pretty underwhelming, but not necessarily unplayable. Myrsmith and Dispense Justice were damn good cards, if not quite "bombs" they were certainly more alluring than a single Volition Reigns, and in the end I was happy to play a few sub-standard white cards as filler to get access to the three most powerful cards I'd opened.

Going into the tournament I was pretty sure I had been led astray by the lure of playing a Bomb rare, and that I'd weakened my deck to fit it in. It turns out it was definitely the right play, because Myrsmith was damn near as swingy in many of my games as the Sunblast Angel. White was very potent, even if two or three of the cards were a bit disappointing. Still, it was the right play, as I was in 1st in standings after the 4th round.

It helped that I had some solid Artifact rares, too. Chimeric Mass, Darksteel Juggernaut and a Nim Deathmantle all made the deck, and the Chimeric Mass was terrific, especially with the Angel. It was basically immune to almost all Sorcery-speed removal, except Revoke Existence. Deathmantle wasn't super, but I was happy to play it, as it was literally the only Equipment I opened. I never once paid 4 to bring something back, but the +2/+2 was very relevant and Intimidate was sometimes relevant.

The big key here, was that I played the two colors with the most/best artifact hate I could get. One game, an opponent tried to Imprint a Myr Battlesphere on a Prototype Portal. Yeah, without a Shatter in hand, I'd have been toast in very short order.

Which brings me to Saturday's tournament. I opened another Sunblast Angel and another Chimeric Mass, so I was pretty happy to play both again. I also had two Revoke Existence. For my second color, I initially wanted Black, as I had a Hand of the Praetors and quite a few Infest creatures. However, I wasn't satisfied with the initial build. It was then I had a bit of a revelation. I decided to resort all my cards out by color, and pull out everything that killed Artifacts.

After doing so I realized I had two Sylvok Replicas, and a Slice in Twain in Green, and the two Revoke Existence in White, while in black I only had the -4/-4 spell, and Red only had a single Shatter. So White/Green gave me access to 5 great removal spells, and plenty of decent creatures. So I sleeved up a fairly aggro W/G build packed with Artifact hate, and won my first 5 rounds without losing a single game.

Thus I realized the secret to this format, in Sealed, is to play whatever color combination gives you the most Artifact hate. It really pays off in this format, where a lowly Shatter is often better and more versatile than Doomblade in M10.

All in all, I had a great time, and did win quite a few backs. I didn't open any high-dollar cards, like Planeswalkers or the new Mox Opal. But I made a lot of really great trades, and got some goodies for my many, many decks. Most of my EDH decks got two or three new cards to play with, and I have a whole slew of new deck ideas, so decklists will be coming once the set is out and I've acquired enough to start building.

So, anyway, set review for EDH coming soon... stay tuned.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Wolves in the Throne Room

We all know Elves are the most broken tribe ever. With the printing of Joraga Warcaller it's now possible to build a deck with something like 16 Elf "Lords" that give all your other Elves at least +1/+1. The deck pretty much builds itself. A few mana elves, a few Lords, a few more Lords and maybe an Overrun. It's a fun deck, and it's damn good at what it does, yeah, but it's just been done to death.

I decided to spice things up a bit, and go with the Elves' best friends: Wolves. Most "Wolf" related cards are elves. Well, there are actual creatures with the type "Wolf" but there aren't really enough playable ones to make a true Wolf tribal deck. WotC really needs to print a Wolf Lord and maybe a few good Legendary Wolf cards. I could go into white for Tolsamir and Watchwolf, but really that's just about the cream of the crop.

So the only real option is to just go with an Elf tribal deck that focuses on cranking out Wolf Tokens. This deck CAN win with elves, but usually they're just there to crank out mana and/or wolf tokens. No Joraga Warcallers kicked 10 times here. Just wolves, wolves, and more wolves.

The deck:

4 Llanowar Elves
4 Heritage Druid
4 Priest of Titania
4 Wolf-Skull Shaman
4 Elvish Visionary
4 Elvish Archdruid
2 Master of the Wild Hunt
3 Wolfbriar Elemental
4 Wren's Run Packmaster

2 Beastmaster Ascension
2 Harmonize
2 Eldrazi Monument

2 Gaea's Cradle
2 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
17 Forest

It's pretty damned simple, really. Play elves, make mana, play more elves, make Wolf tokens, draw some cards, to play more elves and/or wolves. Kill scary things with Master of the Wild Hunt. Packmaster makes them all Death-touchy, so you only need one Wolf to kill something huge, and Eldrazi Monument makes them indestructible so they survive the attack. It also makes them Flying wolf tokens. An army of Indestructible, Flying Wolves. FUCK. YES.

Be sure and shout "Wolf pack, attack!" every time you tap Master of the Wild Hunt for his ability. "Sic 'em, boy!" is also acceptable. Do not sing Duran Duran's "Hungry Like the Wolf" though, we will NOT put up with that shit. Don't sing "Rio" either, because not only is it a shitty song, it doesn't have anything to to with wolves, so it wouldn't be relevant in this scenario. My point is, Duran Duran sucks, and Master of the Wild Hunt should send his army of Flying, Indestructible Wolves to kill them.

Wait, no, my point is that if you get bored playing your boring, unoriginal Elf deck, try this one out, because it's basically the same damn deck, just, y'know, with wolves. Because wolves are awesome and elves are fags have been done to death.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bant Knights

So I mentioned in a previous post that I'd de-sleeved the Bant deck, as I'm now rather disinterested in Standard, and will be, for the time being, devoting my time to Drafting instead. No longer in need of a competative Standard deck, I put my hard-earned Lotus Cobras to work elsewhere, but that left Rafiq and Co. similarly unemployed.

After standing in line at the unemployment office for the better part of the morning, Rafiq decided he was to awesome to subsist on handouts from the government and stormed out. He went and recruited his previous companions, Knight of the Reliquary and Noble Heirarch and together they all came to me and humbly requested that I reassign them all to a new deck, rather than relegating them to the "unemployment binder". And by "humbly requested" I mean that Rafiq threatened to Double Strike me into next week if I didn't comply. Seeing as how they all have served me well in the past, and I've never been disappointed in their performances in the past, I decided not to lay them off after all.

In a fitting coincidence, I had also decided to downsize another deck. My mono-W Knight deck was getting a bit stale to me, mostly because it wasn't suitable for multiplayer and that's about all I play lately. I always intended to do something more with that deck, and with the release of Elspeth vs Tezzeret my attention focused toward Soldiers as my mono-W tribal deck of choice. I didn't think I really needed to mono-W, tribaly-themed White Weenie decks at the same time.

As much as I love Knight Exemplar, and the rest of her team, I decided to close the Knight branch and keep Soldiers operational.

Around the time Rafiq was fuming about the long lines at the unemployment office, Knight Exemplar was beseeching me to keep her Knights employed. I told her I'd see what I could do, but I was just placating her at that point. I really did want to help her, but I just couldn't support two decks that were essentially the same. Besides which I couldn't keep the two branches from fighting over my limited quantity of Path to Exiles.

So Exemplar shut up and left me alone for a while, but then Rafiq and his Many came calling begging for their jobs back. I was getting fed up at this point, and was preparing to give them all a good "Fuck off!" when I suddenly noticed something on Rafiq's Type line. He is a Legendary Creature - Human Knight. Knight of the Reliquary... also a Knight. Noble Heirarch... not a Knight, but she's still pretty damn awesome.

Suddenly I had visions of 4/4 Indestructible Rafiqs, Indestructible Knight of the Reliquarys, Indestructible... well you get the picture. Court Hussar popped up in my head and reminded me that he was a Knight in the appropriate colors for Bant, and the oft-overlooked Knotvine Paladin dropped by to offer his services as well. Soon I had a bevy of W/B/G Knights clamoring for jobs.

I couldn't hire everyone, unfortunately, but here's the team I put together after interviewing for several days:

4 Noble Heirarch
4 Knotvine Paladin
4 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Knight of Meadowgrain
3 Court Hussar
4 Knight Exemplar
4 Knight of the Reliquary
3 Rafiq of the Many

I supplied them with the bare minimum of tools, but most Knights are perfectly happy to work with their hands and they seem to get the job done without a lot of gadgetry. Nevertheless I generously budgeted the following expenses:

3 Path to Exile
3 Finest Hour
2 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

And here is where they work:

1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Temple Garden
1 Breeding Pool
2 Glacial Fortress
2 Sunpetal Grove
2 Wooded Bastion
2 Celestial Colonnade
1 Stirring Wildwood
2 Sejiri Steppe
5 Forest
2 Island

So yeah, I just did a quick renovation job on the old Mythic Conscription Co. building, so it's a little wonky. Still, it's a place to work, and Knights are generally too proud to complain. I promised them I would continue to improve the workplace as long as they continued to kick ass in an efficient manner, and without racking up too much overtime.

A few of the applicants were sidelined and Sigiled Paladin in particular was shocked he didn't make the cut. He's from Bant, has Exalted and is a Knight, what more could I want? I'd love to try to find a spot for him with our organization though, perhaps I can rearrange some of the personnel and find a place for him. 

Knight of New Alara has some pretty impressive credentials as well. Pumping Rafiq to 6/6 before any Exalted triggers is pretty potent stuff, but he insisted on a salary of 4 mana, and wouldn't take less. It might be worth it, but I have far too many mono-colored creatures for him to be worth 4 mana.

Steward of Valeron tried out, but despite being a mana-producing Knight, he just didn't do the Noble Heirarch job nearly as efficiently as she does it, and she comes in to work a full turn earlier. Sorry Steward, but your work ethic is just a bit sloppy.

Student of Warfare turned in a short but commendable resume. Not a lot of OTJ experience, but he is obviously a fast learner. He is a still just a Student after all, so I didn't think he'd work out with all the more experienced Knights. I assured him I might be able to offer him a paid internship with another deck in the near future though, so he's waiting in the wings.

So, that's the story, and the Knight business is up and running. We're in the business of Kicking Ass and honey, business is booming!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Snakes... Why did it have to be snakes?

So, I just traded for my 4th Lotus Cobra, finally completely the sexy, sexy playset. Is it weird that I referred to it as sexy? It's a snake. Well, regardless of the adjective you'd chose, having 4x Lotus Cobras pretty much DEMANDS that you put them in a deck. Why would you lets such an amazingly powerful and expensive card go to waste, sitting in your binder?

So I took apart my Bant Conscription deck (which is what I wanted the Cobra for in the first place) because I've gotten sick of Type 2 again and decided to start drafting instead. So I needed to build a deck as a showcase for my new playset of Cobras, but I didn't need or want to make it Standard legal. I got to thinking what kinds of decks would want this card in it.

First off, he accelerates, as we all know, but he also fixes. Meaning, he can enable differently-color spells (don't want to sound racist against non-green cards, do we? NO!). So putting him in a mono-green deck is perfectly acceptable, but it dilutes the Cobra's potential. You really want to put in in a multicolor deck, to take advantage of his fixing properties as well. Plus, he's really good with Fetch Lands like Misty Rainforest, so that's another reason to avoid mono-green.

Speaking of Misty Rainforest... that happened to be the ONLY Fetch land I had any extra copies of laying around, so Blue Green was pretty much the most viable option based on that.

So I started thinking about what other cards the Cobra would play nicely with. Coiling Oracle came to mind almost immediately, as did Sakura Tribe Elder. After pondering these potential interactions for a few moments, I suddenly realized that all three cards were snakes! In light of this I immediately remembered the old Kamigawa/Ravnica era U/G snake deck that enjoyed very brief but immense success in Standard. That deck had some insane mana-ramping potential with the Oracle, Elder and Sakura Tribe Scout vomiting lands upon your Battlefield at a blistering rate. That sounds like something the Cobra could take advantage of, doesn't it? Lands coming into play? Sometimes two or three in a single turn? Yeah, I think our little Lotus Cobra would feel right at home in this deck...

Okay, so at this point, you're all like "So you're taking an old net-deck and just updating it with a broken-ass Mythic that just happens to fit the theme in both ability and creature type?" To which I reply "Yeah, why not?" In my defense though, I'm not running Umezawa's Jitte, which was a pretty damned important card in that era. I'm also running Mystic Snake, Ohran Viper and Lorescale Coatl. These aren't exactly brilliant innovations on my part, as they're A) Snakes, B) In the right colors and C) Playable cards that probably would have been in the Net Deck had they been in the format (or existed) at the time.

Another "innovation" is that I'm running the under-appreciated Chord of Calling (John Conlon, you of all people should appreciate this, as you're the one other person I know who realized the potential of this card).

So anyway, I've pretty much told you most of the deck already, so lets just formalize it with a proper list:

3 Sakura-Tribe Scout
3 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Coiling Oracle
3 Lorescale Coatl
2 Ohran Viper
3 Patagia Viper
3 Mystic Snake
2 Seshiro, the Anointed

4 Sosuke's Summons
3 Chord of Calling
2 Coat of Arms

4 Simic Growth Chamber
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Yavimaya Coast
2 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
6 Forest
6 Island

Okay, so not much to explain, really. Play lands, cast Snakes, draw cards, etc... Chord of Calling can tutor out a Mystic Snake in response to a board sweeper or something equally problematic. But if you aren't facing down a Wrath, the funnest play is to Chord for Seshiro at your opponents end step. Seshiro and Ohran Viper draw a lot of cards, which makes Lorescale Coatl bigger. Lots of little synergies like that make this deck really fun to play. It can be downright explosive, winning before your opponent even knows what's coming, but it has a decent long game too. Sosuke's Summons gives you a good chance to come back from a Wrath effect. Every snake you draw will come with two 1/1 friends, allowing you to rebuild fairly quickly.

But, Mystic Snake should help you avoid those pesky sweepers. If at all possible try to avoid wasting him on pinpoint removal or anything else that won't outright cost you the game. Speaking of removal, this build has none. If you like, or your metagame calls for such, Snakeform is on theme, and not at all terrible, and Winged Coatl is a nice little surprise that an unsuspecting oppoent can walk right into. You can Flash him in from hand, or Chord him out if need be. He has flying so he can block the vast majority of creatures, and with Deathtouch he'll kill the vast majority as well. Trample, Indestructible and First Strike are all keywords that this little guy doesn't want to see, but really he will successfully block and kill something like 90% of the creatures ever printed in Magic, so not bad for U/G.

However, for my tastes, I like to think the best defense is killing your opponents with a swarm of angry snakes, so I forgo the more defensive play in favor of pure offense. I do think the deck could use a bit of fine-tuning, but I'll have to play it in a few more games to really hone in on its weaknesses.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vampires! (Don't roll your eyes at me like that!)

I've been cooking this one for a good long while. It started out as a straight up Vampire aggro deck, with as much removal I could pack in amongst the throngs of fanged freaks. However, I always ended up playing it in 4-way multiplayer games, and I could pretty much be guaranteed to wipe one play out before anyone played a board-sweeper, but one I dropped the blood-soaked hammer on my first victim, one of the survivors would suddenly realize "Oh, shit!" and Planar Cleanse, Godly Wrath or otherwise spend the Day passing Judgement on my evil little blood-suckers.


I've been trying to re-tune the deck to function better in the 4-player arena. Spoiler: I've had some success, but it won't truly be complete until I get my hands on a few Exsanguinates. This card is absolutely PERFECT for this deck, and my chances of killing the whole table with one spell seem pretty good to me!

Enough pomp and circumstance. Here's the deck:

2 Bloodthrone Vampire

4 Bloodghast
3 Kalastria Highborn
3 Gatekeeper of Malakir
2 Captivating Vampire
3 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Vampire Nocturnus
3 Malakir Bloodwitch
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodcheif
2 Nirkana Revenant

2 Phyrexian Arena
4 Tendrils of Corruption
2 Sanguine Bond
1 Sorin Markov

2 Cabal Coffers
4 Leechridden Swamp
18 Swamp

Let's discuss the mana first, to get it out of the way. Cabal Coffers are good in any mono-black deck, and here they really shine. Combining Coffers with Nirkana Revenant will make Exsanguinate and extremely potent kill spell. Having a Sanguine Bond on the field when you do this pretty much ensures you will kill anyone who poses a threat to you, if not the whole table. The Leechridden Swamps are great, because they count as Swamps for your Coffers and Tendrils of Corruptions. They're better than they look, though. They were instrumental in my victory in a 3-way game just last night.

Tendrils of Corruption is a great removal spell, as anyone who played in Time Spiral era Standard can attest to. It's instant speed, variable to the number of swamps you control, so late game they can kill just about anything and gain you a nice chunk of life as well. They have great synergy with Sanguine Bond too.

Bloodghast, Bloodthrone Vampire and Kalastria Highborn form a nice little loop of 2-point life drain effects. If you have a land in hand, you can sac the Bloodghast, pay a black to Blind Hunter somebody and then drop the land to get the Ghast back, wash, rinse and repeat as often as you have a land to drop!

Gatekeeper of Malakir and Vampire Nighthawk are your early line of defense. They should both probably be 4-ofs, but I can decide what to cut... :/ As an aside, I must say that Vampire Nighthawk is, in a vacuum, the best Vampire printed to date. What it does for its cost is just amazing. Sure Nocturnus is peachy keen, and Highborn is usually the back bone of my strategy, but the Nighthawk is just a phenom, playing a defensive role or an offensive role with equal aplomb.

Back on topic: Captivating Vampire is silly, and probably will get cut soon enough, but I WANT to make it work, so I'll give them the ol' college try. Nocturnus is a no-brainer, but could easily be cut back to a  2x as he is almost strictly an offensive player and this deck isn't really that Aggro... still, if you have 4x a $20 Mythic it's HARD to cut them!

Malakir Bloodwitch is a conundrum. She's fan-fucking-tastic at doing what she does, but at 5 mana she usually comes down on an empty board the turn after a Day of Judgement. Day late and a Vampire short? Still, her synergy with Sanguine Bond (man, that card is an all-star!) and ability to take me from near-death back to 18-20 life in one swoop makes here worth the risk.

Drana is pretty "meh" here, but I have a huge soft spot for her ever since she helped me to an utterly undefeated record at the Rise prerelease. I first-picked her in a prerelease draft at Castle, and I didn't loose a single game in which I cast her. Then I opened her again in the Sealed portion, and played a deck that was nearly identical to my draft deck. Again, ever single game in which she hit the table I won. She's not as good in Constructed as she is in limited but with the Coffers and Revenant, she can kill 2 or 3 medium-size creatures in one turn and swing for 15 or more at the same time.

Nirkana Revenant should be a 4x, because she wins games if she lives, but she's also the biggest removal magnet in the whole deck. No sane player will ever willingly let you untap with her in play. If you untap with the Revnant you probably just won. So yeah, 4x for redundancy, but don't EVER play more than one at a time, that's just asking for a Wrath to kick you in the ass.

Phyrexian Arena. Because this deck needed to draw extra cards. Originally I had 4 Sign in Bloods, which I like just fine, but I find that two Arenas are likely to draw me more cards over the course of a game than 4x Sign in Blood will, so that frees up 2 whole card slots whilst still giving me EXCEPTIONAL card-drawing. The life-loss is insignificant as you'll likely gain plenty, what with the Nighthawks, Highborns, Bloodwitches, and Tendrils.

Oh, yeah and there's Sorin Markov too. The totally bad-ass Vampire Planeswalker. Yeah, he's not terrific but he's not terrible either. I definitely think he's worth running as a singleton. His -3 ability to suddenly turn on Haste for all your Bloodghasts can sometimes win you the game on the spot. His +2 ability will synergize nicely with Sangine Bond (I sound like a broken record I know, but seriously folks Sanguine Bond. Play it!).

I'd also love to get a Liliana Vess up in this bitch, because tutoring is pretty good, I hear. Especially when you absolutely HAVE to have a black card on top for your Nocturnus, accept no substitutes. But seriously, she deserves a slot, but I just can't find where to squeeze her in.

Enjoy you bloodsuckers!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Golgari Grave Pact

I know I promised a Horde of Notions EDH update next, but I'm still fiddling with it. The Conflux + Show and Tell plan didn't work as expected. Primarily because I didn't read the f***ing card and got Show and Tell mixed up with Eureka. Oops!

So for now, I'm going to keep working on Horde and just get back to you when I have it sorted out.

In the meantime, here's a deck:

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
3 Fauna Shaman
2 Bloodthrone Vampire
2 Nether Traitor
2 Fleshbag Marauder
2 Savra, Queen of the Golgari
2 Creakwood Leige
1 Mitotic Slime
1 Acidic Slime
2 Deranged Hermit
2 Phyrexian Plaguelord
2 Grave Titan
1 Doomgape

3 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
3 Recurring Nightmare
3 Grave Pact

5 Swamp
5 Forest
1 Barren Moor
1 Tranquil Thicket
3 Savage Land
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
1 Overgrown Tomb
3 Twilight Mire

So yeah, this is an attempt at a multiplayer-viable Golgari deck, largely built around Grave Pact effects + the old Nightmare/Survival combo to tutor up whatever creature you need at any given time. I use Fauna Shamans instead of Survival of the Fittest because I have the Shamans, but I don't have any Survivals. Meh, I kinda like the Shaman, though, and even if I had the old Enchantment version, I'd probably just run two of each.

Anywho, the weakness of the deck is that it's a bit slow to get going, but sometimes that can be an advantage. It often doesn't look too threatening early on, so my opponents will likely not rush to kill me right off the bat. However, once I get an active Shaman and 5 or 6 mana, I start drawing some hate. Fortunately I should be able to handle the hate by that point.

Eternal Witness and Sword of Light and Shadow add some redundancy. Acidic Slime is a catch-all utility card for any pesky Enchantments or Artifacts (or land if you feel like being a dick). I use Nether Traitor as the default throw-away for the Fauna Shamans, because with all the Sac effects they come back from the Graveyard really easily any time you need them, and with a Bloodthrone, two Traitors and a Grave Pact, your Opponents will likely never have creatures on the board ever again.

Maelstrom Pulse is in there because one of the best defenses against Grave Pact decks is to pump out a hoard of tokens. Pulse takes care of that. Additionally, THIS deck can pump out hoards of tokens (Zombies, Squirrels and Wurns) and in a pinch you can Pulse your own tokens with a Grave Pact on the board to clear away an overly-cluttered board.

Mitotic Slime can randomly show up to enable a Bloodthrone Vampire to swing for 15 out of nowhere, and Gain you 14 life if you have Savra out. And of course, the old Plaguelord/Hermit combo is great, but it's even better if you have a Grave Pact in play too.

Doomgape is just fun and funny, and it might work in this deck. I can cheat it out quickly and cheaply with Recurring Nightmare, and feed it endlessly with the various token-makers. It might prove too unwieldy even here, but I'm giving it the benefit of the doubt for now.

In interest of full disclosure I haven't battle-tested this build yet. However this is a much-revised version of a list I had tested and the first build did okay. This build already feels much stronger so I'm confident enough to post it now. I will warn you though that sticking a Grave Pact and/or Savra is KEY. If you fail to do so, winning will prove very, very difficult. That's why you have Witness. If you find your Grave Pacts being Naturalized too often, you might increase the count of Witnesses to two or three (two is probably plenty because you can tutor her up, and recur her over and over).

Also, please ignore the wonky mana base. Most of my B/G duals are tied up in various EDH decks, so I just made do with what I had available.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Random updates and stuff

So, not a lot going on lately, sorry for the lack of updates.

First up, as for the Tourney reports of late, not much to report on. I am fed up with Type 2 again, and am switching to Drafts on Thursdays at Dragon Crown. I received a sign from God himself that this was the correct move, when I attended my first draft at DC this past Thursday. After receiving my 3 packs, I cracked the first one open to find a nice, shiny FOIL GRAVE TITAN waiting for me! At this point I can already go home happy, as I've paid for my draft thrice over, if not more. But as if that wasn't enough, the Good Lord chose to bestow on me a second gift: A regular Grave Titan. Woot! Not as exciting, but still, $80 worth of goodness for my $15 entry fee?? Sure.

As for the tournament itself, I made it to the finals were we just split. It was a fun draft, though, and marks the first time ever that I lost to a mill deck! Well, I won the match, but Game 1 was turn 2 Jace's Erasure, turn 3 Jace's Erasure, then he just proceeded to draw like 276 cards with a flurry of Forsees, Preordains and Sign in Bloods. Oh, I actually got to PLAY the Titans in my deck, so that was nice.

I just played at the monthly GTS tourney at Dragon Crown. I decided to take Soul Sisters out for a spin, but that deck really sucks. Someone should have told me! I dropped after two rounds of the deck giving me UTTERLY terrible draws. Oh, well, God clearly wants me to stick to limited and who am I to thwart His will.

In other news, Scars of Mirrodin is shaping up to be a really interesting and exciting set. I am eagerly anticipating the Prerelease (more Limited!). I'll do a set review for EDH of course, once the set is spoiled completely, but there are already some very nice-looking cards. Venser, of course will be terrific in many decks. Geth, Lord of the Vault in particular is VERY awesome, and I can't wait to throw him in my Thraximundar deck. The Prerelease card, Wurmcoil Engine will be good too.

As for the casual front, I've been playing a variety of deck, most of which I've already posted lists for here. I'm still tweaking my Vampire list for Multiplayer games, and it's getting better but isn't quite ready. Other recent deck attempts haven't panned out too well, so I'll just wait until I get something worth posting.

In EDH, though I have been playing the recently posted Horde of Notions deck pretty exclusively. It's a hella fun deck, and I've been tweaking it quite a bit. The biggest and most awesome change, though is the inclusion of this little combo: Conflux + Show and Tell. So far I haven't actually NEEDED to resolve Conflux. Simply announcing it and tapping my mana (leaving three mana up for the Show and Tell) is enough to draw immediate concessions.

I'll continue tweaking the list and post a revision soon. I just wrote down a few ideas for things I want to try to work into the deck. Once I'm done playing around with it, I'll post the final list.