Friday, September 2, 2011

Not A Decklist...

So, there is quite a lot going on in the Magic world, yet I remain silent here, except for a few EDH decklists. Well, I’m still kinda in a weird slump after our move, and while I have settled into a comfortable routine now with the new apartment, my Magic habits have temporarily fallen by the wayside in the face of insurmountable distraction around every corner. I just hit Prestige 10 on CoD: Black Ops, my wife and I just finished watching Lost on Netflix (seriously, folks, BEST SHOW EVER!) and we still have a lot of work to do before the house is in any shape to sell. So, yeah, I’m busy with other things, and what’s worse is I have taken apart all of my decks. ALL of them. I really needed to get a handle on my collection and sort out what I have and what I lack.

For example I found that I had 5 to 6 copies of several of the painland duals (as in Adarkar Wastes, Caves of Koilos, etc…) but only 2 or three of most of the Ravnica-block duals. Furthermore I own zero copies of Mystic Gate and only one Fetid Heath, so those two lands will be given top priority on my list of things to acquire. Acquisition, however, is at an all-time low as well, because my wife is currently unemployed and we have a house and an apartment to pay for.

Combine all that with the fact that this Modern format is completely ruining the secondary market prices. In case you hadn’t notice WotC announced a new format called Modern, and after that came to light, cards that are expected to be staples of the format have skyrocketed upwards in price. The Ravnica-block duals like Temple Garden have pretty much tripled in price, some as high as $40 a piece. Dark Confidant shot from $15 to $50 and Tarmagoyf… well, let’s not even go there.

Fortunately, cards like Dark Confidant and Tarmagoyf are pretty lackluster in EDH, so I have little interest in those “Spike” cards. I actually have a Dark Confidant for trade, BTW, if anyone is interested (and if you live in the Tulsa area and frequent Wizard’s Asylum or Dragon Crown)… so leave a comment if you’re interested. But, sadly, I am quite interested in Ravnica duals and other cards that have a cross-over appeal between EDH and the tournament crowd. Vesuva is now a $30 card where a year ago, you could get them for $5 at most. Ugh. Just awful of WotC to do this to us right after the Commander decks cause a HUGE spike in popularity of the EDH format. Yeah, really great timing, geniuses. See, before Modern existed as a format, there  was a whole section of cards that were just not really relevant in any tourney format, and the only thing driving their prices was casual and EDH demand. Now, suddenly, just as the Commander product from Wizards has caused an influx of new people to this “Casual” format, they also had to go and announce a new tourney format that encompasses quite a bit of that section of cards previously only sought after by the EDH/Casual crowd. So we have an increase in demand from the Casual market driving prices upward, and now we also have Tourney-player Spike’s lusting after our cards as well!

So that sucks…

On a more lighthearted note, Innistrad spoiler season is well underway, and there have been some pretty juicy things spoiled. The biggest buzz, of course, comes from the new double-faced cards that “Transform” into another card when some condition is met. The public reaction to the news that for the first time ever Magic cards are being printed without the traditional Magic back has been, to say the least, mixed. I don’t want to get too far into a debate on whether or not this “innovation” will herald the End of Days for our beloved game, but I’m leaning toward the side of “Do Not Want”. The idea of werewolves in Magic appeals to me. The idea that they shapeshift back and forth between Human and Werewolf form also appeals to me. The way they chose to execute this mechanic, though completely ruins my excitement to play with the new werewolf cards. The main reason is that I simply think the hassle of having to take the card out of the protective sleeve it’s in, flip it over and re-sleeve it, then try to remember to flip it BACK to its starting side once the game is over seems like it’s way too much of a hassle to be FUN.

I seriously believe that this time next year when Mark Rosewater does his annual State of Design article, he’ll be apologizing for the failure that double-faced cards wound up being, and hopefully he’ll promise never to bring double-faced cards back and in a few years they’ll go back to the Werewolf tribe with a new mechanic.

You must understand, though, that my dislike of the mechanic comes strictly from a practical and pragmatic viewpoint. IF the tribe ends up being compelling and fun enough that the logistical hassles of playing with double-faced cards is actually worth the hassle, then I’ll be far more lenient on the mechanic. But, for now, I feel like double-faced cards are more of a gimmick than a proper mechanic. Time will tell, I suppose.

Fortunately, though, Vampire have far less to do with this silly mechanic, and most of the new Vampire cards spoiled are very, very exciting to me. I don’t really want to discuss individual cards yet – I have to save that material for my Innistrad EDH Set Review, after all – but I’m already brewing ideas for a Garza Zol Vampire Tribal EDH deck. However, one card already spoiled – Rooftop Storm – has me longing to rebuild my Thraximundar deck too. I don’t think I have the card pool and non-basic land pool to properly support two Grixis-colored decks at once, so I have to choose between Thrax/Zombies with Rooftop Storm, or Vampires a la Grixis with Garza as their Queen. What’s a girl to do?

This and other, similar dilemmas of choice are why I have not yet rebuilt a single Magic deck. I wanted to build a Grand Arbiter Agustin IV deck, and a Nin, the Pain Artist deck, and well… long story short, I have a surplus of IDEAS and a deficit of CARDS. I simply don’t have the necessary stuff to build EVERY idea I have rattling around in my head right now, so I’m trying to come up with some sort of prioritized list – what do I want to build the most? I have no idea, though, and so progress on the deckbuilding front has been slow (ok, non-existent would be more accurate). But I really need to get some decks together because I need to play, damn it!

The biggest problem right now, for me, though is money. Magic has never been so expensive a hobby as it is right now, and I’ve never before been as broke as I am right now. And that just sucks, cause Innistrad is shaping up to be one of the coolest sets since Ravnica (and that’s even despite the immense disappointment I feel over the Transform mechanic). And if that’s not enough, it’s rumored that the next block after Innsitrad will be a return to Ravnica. Sweet.

Well, folks, that’s pretty much where things stand for right now. As soon as I can get over my indecisiveness and actually put together a deck or two, I’ll let you know what I build, and of course once the whole set is spoiled I’ll start cranking out my Innistrad EDH set review.



  1. Here's your solution (and Innistrad legitimizes it). If you want to build both Vampire and Zombie Grixis, figure out what the overlap is (likely mana base) and make placeholders for those cards. Either one placeholder per card, or one per card per deck (and keep the original in a special binder). Innistrad has legitimized the use of placeholder cards in real-actual-tournament formats, since players (like me) that don't waste time and money on sleeves now have to use the checklist cards to represent double-faced cards when in non-public zones.
    If you were playing MtG online, you'd only need one copy of each card.
    It can be a minor hassle to switch things out before a game, but if you decide ahead of time whether you feel like playing Garza or Thrax for the day, you just prepare ahead of time.
    When playing with friends or playing in a casual setting, I just ask if they mind if I have placeholders in the deck. When I play a placeholder I grab my special binder and pull the card out. I do this for Teysa/Vish-Kal (who 'share' 7 cards) and a few other decks (Kemba, Rafiq and Jor Kadeen 'share' certain equipment). When my 'overlap' is more than 15 cards (or more than 5-6 non-lands) I use it as a sign that I should be more creative with my decks or as a sign that the decks are to similar.
    I've got about 25 EDH decks, but I've found I really only have to go 'virtual-online' with some of the big-money lands and just a few very specific spells.
    And, again, these aren't 'Proxies' in the sense that they represent cards I don't own. I have the physical means to create every deck I build (just not simultaneously), I just use the placeholders to sometimes save time and open up some creative wiggle room for deckbuilding.

  2. WOW! Thanks for the great thoughts. You bring up a very good point about the DFC mechanic in Innistrad "legitimizing" the use of placeholders. Strictly speaking I think these still qualify as Proxies, by the definition of the word, but using proxies to represent cards you do actually own is different from using proxies to represent cards that you just can't afford to own (and let's face it - almost every one of those cards is too powerful and broken to be FUN, so why would you want them?)

    I already use the gold-bordered Tournament Deck cards from back in the day as Proxies/Placeholders for cards that I DO own at least one copy of, but need more to satisfy the needs of multiple decks.

    Here's the thing, though: despite what I said in my post above, the need to choose between Thrax and Garaza isn't JUST a practicle one - having all the cards is one side of it, yes, but I also just don't think it would be FUN to have two Grixis-colored decks at the same time.

    I am, when I'm being honest, a "Good Stuff" player at heart, and I find myself playing a LOT of the same spells over and over in all my decks. Cards like Rite of Replication, Bribery, and Slave to Bolas, just to spit out a few examples, would almost be guaranteed to make the cut in both possible builds. So, the overlap between the two decks poses the practical problem of having enough cards to go around - this problem can be solved by placeholders, yes.
    But it also has the more abstract problem of - if I build both decks and half of the cards are the same between them, what's the point of having both?

    The obvious solution is too favor more thematic cards over strictly powerful cards, i.e. "good stuff" to minimize the overlap... but this raises other issues. For one, how do I chose which deck gets Bribery? Which deck gets Rite of Replication? Is Duplicant necessary enough to run in both builds?

    Simply put, I have trouble cutting cards like those because I ENJOY playing with them, even if they do get a bit redundant sometimes. I do sometimes get bored with the ubiquitous "auto-includes" but I get even MORE bored losing because I don't have them when I need them!

    I've tried to branch out and be more creative and cut power spells in favor of more thematic or flavorful spells... but I start losing too much to have fun when I do that. I'm not saying I need or even WANT to win all the time, but losing every game because I de-powered my deck to make room for "creative" card choices. Oh well.

    Anyway, I definitely appreciate the feedback, as it does provide me with some food for thought... we'll just have to see what develops.