Friday, July 13, 2012

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes: M13 Deck Updates

Just a quick list of planned upgrades to my current decks, once M13 cards are up for grabs. Which is, apparently today!

Jenara, Asura of War

Faith’s Reward (maybe)

This deck doesn’t get much love. Rancor would be a big deal, but I already HAVE Rancor in the deck. Faith’s Reward appeals to me as a pseudo-second-copy of Replinish, and can be a combat trick/finisher when combined with Phantatog. I imagine a turn where I sac/discard a bunch of enchantments, then bring them all back with this card, Replinish or Bruna. Dunno how likely that is to work out, and I’m already going to have a hard time squeezing in anything that isn’t an Enchantment. We’ll see.

Gisela, Blade of Goldnight

Another deck that doesn’t get a lot of new toys, but there are a few I have my eye on:

Ajani, Caller of the Pride
Faith’s Reward
Trading Post
Cathedral of War

First off, I’m much less impressed with Ajani than most folks seem to be. That said he has two features that warrant his inclusion here. One, he is recurrable with Sun Titan, which is important, and two, he gives things Double Strike which is definitely a major theme of the deck.

Faith’s Reward is a straight upgrade over Second Sunrise, as part of my Sunforger package. This deck tends to roll over to an Austere Command now and then, so having a Sunforger-able instant-speed answer to mass destruction effects is CRITICAL. Second Sunrise has been good enough so far, but making it one-sided for me only for one measly mana more is a huge, HUGE improvement.

A janky fun inclusion, Trading post actually fills a few holes in the deck. It makes tokens to wear Equipment (I’m already running Kher Keep, and have been looking for more cheap token-generators for a while), then it can sac those tokens later to get back blown-up Swords and whatnot. The other modes are less useful – I’m not likely to use the Gain 4 Life ability more than once in a hundred games, and sac-ing an Artifact to draw a card is not a cost I’m usually going to want to pay, even if the deck does badly need more Draw power. But yeah, making dudes to Sword up, and getting back Swords are both highly relevant abilities, so I’m happy trying this out.

Finally, Cathedral of War is just on-theme both flavorfully and mechanically. Incremental pumps like this are usually worth more with all the Double Strike running around.

Maelstrom Wanderer

Archaeomancer (maybe)
Mindclaw Shaman
Boundless Realms
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
Ranger’s Path

Archaeomancer might not make it. I already had Snapcaster Mage in at one point, and cut it. But the ‘mancer actually has a little more appeal to me, as it doesn’t force you to use the targeted spell right away. I often was short a mana or two being able to Flashback the Snapcaster’ed spell immediately, which made it a waste. Just getting a spell back for later use is more flexible, but I’m still not sure I have need of this.

Spelltwine is a must. I’m short on Wrath effects and/or spot removal, given my colors. Most of the time, simply copying an opponent’s Swords to Plowshares and any random ramp or draw spell in my own graveyard will be worth 6 mana to me. Occasionally I’ll hit an opponent’s Rite of Replication and… my own Rite of Replication. Or something absurd.

Mindclaw Shaman is another include for the same reasons as Spelltwine. Usually I’ll be happy just hitting some little utility spell that has an effect outside my colors’ ability to produce. Like mass or spot removal, or something. Other times, I’ll hit some huge bomb like Storm Herd or a similar effect.

Boundless Realms – I rarely mind too much if one of my Maelstrom Wanderer Cascades hits a ramp spell. This is just the mother of all ramp spells, and it’s conveniently situated at 7 mana – perfect for Cascading into with MW.

Ranger’s Path – Another solid ramp spell, which the deck can always make good use of. MW is the epitome of a mana-hungry deck.

Mwonvuli Beast Tracker – I’m already happy running Worldly Tutor. This is a bit more narrow, of course, but I’ll be happy getting Prime Time or Acidic Slime more often than not. I’ll work on adding a couple more viable targets for this, though.

Savra, Queen of the Golgari

Diabolic Revelation (maybe)
Disciple of Bolas
Veilborn Ghoul
Mwonvuli Beast Tracker
Yeva, Nature’s Herald (maybe)

Diabolic Revelation is a maybe because I’m not at all sure the deck NEEDS another tutor, but I do have the Coffers/Urborg/Prime Time trio for generating unholy amounts of mana, so if I’m going to give this card a try, this has to be the deck to do it in.

I don’t really have that many fatties to sac but given the deck’s theme and purpose, Disciple of Bolas is just too perfect not to try. Compared to other draw spells in these colors, it will largely be worth casting Disciple to draw 3 or 4 cards. That’s enough to make it one of the best options available. On the chance I get 6 or 7 cards out of it, that’s just gravy. I need something to replace Griselbrand once my playgroup finally gets on board with the ban.

Veilborn Ghoul usually doesn’t thrill me, as I’d rather have like a Bloodghast or Reassembling Skeleton. The 5 CMC + the return to your hand (not directly to the battlefield) is a deal breaker for me. But, that’s usually because I’m looking to pair it with Skullclamp or something. In this case, though, the CMC doesn’t matter because I don’t plan to cast it, and I actually WANT it to return to my hand instead of directly to play. This is simply because I need a “Squee, Goblin Nabob” to go with my Survival of the Fittest (or Fauna Shaman). I’ll never be unhappy pitching this guy to Survival, ‘cause he just keeps coming back for more.

Mwonvuli Beast Tracker – Gets a handful of important cards. Nighthawk for defense, Acidic Slime for utility, or Prime Time for ramp, or even one of the Soul of the Harvest/Harvester of Souls pair. Seems tailor made for this deck.

Thragtusk – Just an incredible value creature, plus I’ve started to learn that I could use a bit more lifegain in this deck. It’s prone to taking some early hits.

Yeva, Nature’s Herald – Flash is a great ability in Multiplayer, especially for creatures. Helps a lot dodging Wrath effects. Kinda sucks that she only grants Flash to green creatures, though. I’d love to be able to Flash in a Fleshbag Marauder or something. This is the reason she’s a “maybe” – if it was for any creature, she’d be a definite include. I’ll have to really look at the deck to evaluate how much she’ll actually benefit, given the color restriction.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

DotP Decks: Ancient Wilds

For the fourth article in my DotP deck series, I’m breaking down Yeva’s “Ancient Wilds” decklist. Where Garruk’s mono-Green list in the game was more or less a stupid green beatdown deck, Yeva’s list manages to be infinitely more interesting to play and to re-design. While the list is certainly packed with creatures, and no shortage of fatties among them, the deck is slower and more deliberate than you’d expect from a Green stompy deck. The signature card of the deck is Roaring Primadox, which bounces a creature back to your hand every upkeep. Most of the other creatures have some kind of “enters the battlefield” ability so that upkeep bounce effect winds up being more of a boon than a hinderance. You get a lot of mileage out of bouncing and replaying cards like Wood Elves or Elvish Visionary, while late-game you explode onto the board by repeatedly casting Thragtusk or Wolfbriar Elemental each turn.

Here’s the list, per the DotP game, with unlocks:

2x Bond Beetle
4x Roaring Primadox
1x Thragtusk
2x Acidic Slime
2x Ambassador Oak
1x Awakener Druid
2x Elvish Visionary
1x Primordial Sage
1x Stingerfling Spider
2x Taunting Elf
1x Terastodon
1x Wolfbriar Elemental
2x Wood Elves
2x Yeva’s Forcemage

2x Ring of Kalonia
2x Beast Within
2x Giant Growth
1x Overrun
1x Wild Pair
1x Wurmweaver Coil

25x Forest


1x Acidic Slime
2x Briarpack Alpha
2x Caller of the Claw
1x Carven Caryatid
1x Elderscale Wurm
1x Elvish Visionary
2x Erratic Portal
1x Eternal Witness
1x Fauna Shaman
1x Gaea’s Revenge
1x Herd Gnarr
1x Lurking Predators
1x Manaplasm
1x Momentous Fall
1x Natural Order
1x Pelakka Wurm
1x Primal Surge
1x Primordial Sage
1x Stingerfling Spider
1x Thragtusk
1x Vengevine
2x Wild Pair
1x Wood Elves
1x Yeva, Nature’s Herald

Right. So. In playing this deck, I’ve noted some clear strengths and weaknesses.

The deck is very synergistic and has numerous built-in value engines that if left unchecked will almost always win out in a long game. The Roaring Primadox engine is very slow to get rolling, but once online you can do some of the most powerful and effective things I’ve seen any deck in the game do. Bouncing a Thragtusk and recasting it every turn, for instance, can pretty much win most games on its own.

As I mentioned, this game plan is slow to start and takes a while to get rolling. Roaring Primadox and Wild Pair, especially when combined, will inevitably, eventually bury your opponent’s in an insurmountable avalance of card-advantage-fed fatties. Unfortunately, this usually means you’ve got to massively over-extend and risk getting blown WAY out by a Wrath of God or some other disaster. Even worse, you’re handing any Insurrection-playing opponents a likely win.

But, every strategy has it’s fatal flaw, and mono-Green creature decks have long been terrified of mass removal spells. Most often, Green decks try to shore up their weakness to Wrath effects by killing as quickly as possible, giving the opponent less time to find and cast their sweepers. This deck definitely isn’t that kind of deck, though.

The best way for this particular deck to play around mass removal is to stick a Primadox and something like Ambassador Oak or Thragtusk, which you then recast every turn. It’s easy to keep your hand full of stuff to play post-Wrath if you’re busy just casting the same Thragtusk over and over.

The other major weakness of the Ancient Wilds deck, aside from sweepers, is fast aggro. There isn’t a lot of early defense to this list, and you really can’t afford to chump block with your Bond Beetles and Elvish Visionaries the way you could in most decks, as you’ll need them around to bounce and drop with your Primadox. You’ll find yourself most often using Giant Growths to pump your blockers, rather than your attackers, as keeping a blocker alive is usually worth more to you than pushing through 3 extra damage.

Another major component of the deck is Wild Pair. By itself, Wild Pair can do some pretty cheatyface things, while providing potentially backbreaking card advantage in the process. Of course it also very much encourages you to overextend into that Wrath, but whatever. Anyway, Primadox and Wild Pair are both fantastic value-generators by themselves, but sticking both at once will absolutely win games.

Finally, per my own rules, I’m obliged to keep Yeva herself in the deck. Finding a way to make Yeva relevant and worth running was tricky, because in the actual DotP game, I frequently find casting creatures at instant speed is not often all that useful. However, I think I managed to find a way to improve her usefulness somewhat.

Here’s what I came up with:

2x Bond Beetle
2x Elvish Visionary
1x Thornweald Archer
1x Fauna Shaman
2x Wall of Blossoms
1x Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary
1x Champion of Lambholt
3x Wood Elves
2x Eternal Witness
2x Wolfir Avenger
3x Roaring Primadox
1x Yeva, Nature’s Herald
1x Acidic Slime
1x Seedborn Muse
2x Thragtusk
1x Duplicant
1x Avenger of Zendikar
1x Craterhoof Behemoth

3x Emerald Medallion
1x Beast Within
1x Momentous Fall
1x Natural Order
2x Wild Pair
1x Lurking Predators

23x Forest

The shell of the original list, and quite a few specific card choices, are very much intact here. Despite the similar appearance, there’s really a lot going on “under the hood” here.

First off, Wild Pair. I bumped the starting number of Wild Pairs up to two, and carefully balanced the creature base to better accommodate Wild Pair’s function. I made sure that every single creature had at least one suitable Wild Pair target. In fact, only the Craterhoof Behemoth/Avenger of Zendikar pair is truly a “wild pair” – every other creature has more than one possible pair.

Next, almost every creature in the deck has an “enters the battlefield” effect, to make Roaring Primadox’s “drawback” into a feature, not a bug. The exceptions include:

Fauna Shaman - She finds the Primadox for you, and when you get tired of bouncing one creature, you can pitch it to find something more relevant. This deck is already sort of a toolbox deck anyway, and toolboxes need good tutors to find the right answer at the right time. Fauna Shaman does this exceptionally well.
Yeva, Nature’s Herald – Here because this is her signature deck.
Seedborn Muse – My big concession to Yeva, this makes sure you always have mana open to Flash in a dude.
Wolfir Avenger – Because I needed something with a total combined power/toughness of 6, to Wild Pair with Duplicant/Seedborn Muse. Flashing in Wolfir Avenger as a surprise blocker and Wild Pair-ing in a Duplicant at the same time is a dream I can’t wait to live.
Roaring Primadox – How we abuse ETBF effects. Duh!

The only real ramp the deck has to speak of are the 3x Wood Elves and 1x Somberwald Sage. However, when playing this deck, I have found that casting more than one thing a turn is crucial quite often, and as great as Wood Elves is, Emerald Medallions should go a LONG way to speeding up the deck overall, and allowing for multiple creature-drops per turn. The Medallions will be especially helpful if you ever wind up with two active Primadoxes at once. They also help you get a Wild Pair down quicker.

The other non-Creature spells should be pretty clear. Beast Within is a near-universal answer to whatever ailes you – use it wisely! Momentous Fall is just a powerful draw spell in case you wind up running out of steam. Natural Order is a bomb way to cheat out something scary early on. And Lurking Predators is just awesome in a deck that’s nearly 50% creatures.

I must apologize up front for the use of Avenger of Zendikar – anyone who plays EDH regularly probably groaned when they saw it in my list. However, I’d already decided to replace Overrun with the more appealing Craterhoof Behemoth, when I realized I needed a 5/5 to pair with it for Wild Pair purposes. After scouring Gatherer for relevant 5/5 dudes to accompany Craterhoof to the prom, I came across Avenger of Zendikar. Despite it being played out in EDH, it was just such a perfect fit for what I was looking for, there was no way I could not use it. It’s a 5/5 so it finds/gets found by Craterhoof Behemoth and it makes shitloads of creatures, which is exactly what the Behemoth wants to see when it comes into play.

It was just such a perfect confluence of synergy that I had to use it, no matter how much eye-rolling it might garner.

Anyway, the deck is like a interlocking puzzle – change one creature in it and the whole Wild Pair math gets thrown off and you have to make other changes to make sure you’re still able to Wild Pair when you need to. The trick is to make sure, if you do replace a creature, to choose a replacement with the same total power+toughness.

A lot of stuff got cut, as usual, but only a couple of cards were really difficult to cut.

At one point I had 2x Mwonvuli Beast Trackers in the deck, along with a janky subset of Trample/Reach/Deathtouch/Hexproof guys. Finding creatures that had the right keyword ability AND the right P/T numbers to keep the Wild Pair math intact proved… daunting. The only mono-Green Hexproof creature that fit the bill was Thrun, the Last Troll, but I didn’t want to add yet another Mythic to what’s supposed to be an accessible casual deck. Along those lines, the best possible choice for a Trample target was Primeval Titan, of course, but that was definitely out for the same reasons as Thrun. I really wanted Soul of the Harvest as the Trample target, but finding another 6/6 to pair it with was tricky. Vigor, Rampaging Baloths and a second copy of Soul of the Harvest were about the best options, but in the end I felt like just cutting Soul of the Harvest was the right call.

As for Reach and Deathtouch, Thornweald Archer and Acidic Slime filled those roles, and both managed to stay in the deck. Acidic Slime is just to versatile an answer to pass up, while Thornweald Archer turned out to be a great fit because it provides great early game defense and Wild Pairs for E. Witness or Rofellos, both of which could prove to be critical targets.

So, I decided to scrap the Mwonvuli Beast Tracker toolbox and just run Fauna Shaman instead, as she can find ANY creature I need.

Finally, I also had Overwhelming Stampede in as a back-up to Craterhoof Behemoth, but after a while I decided that would like be overkill, and between the two, going with the Creature over the Sorcery seemed like the right call, given the themes and strategy of the deck.

Because by now you’re trained to expect this…

The accompanying Planar deck!

Bloodhill Bastion – Makes the whole “slow” thing less of a problem.
Grove of the Dreampods – Free dudes is exactly what this deck wants more of.
Horizon Boughs – More lands, or another Seedborn Muse effect. Both highly relevant.
Isle of Vesuva – Free token dudes.
Karasha Foothills – Excellent with all the ETBF effects. I’m dying to swing with a Thragtusk while on this plane.
Llanowar  More mana for when you actually pay for your dudes.
Murasa – Ditto.
Turri Island – Not free, but cheaper. Close enough.
* Reality Shaping – One free dude.
* Morphic Tide – Unless you’re up against a dedicated token deck, you should come out way ahead.

For the most part, the Planar deck is designed to simply kick the existing deck’s game plan into overdrive. What you’re trying to do eventually should just start happening a lot sooner, one way or another.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

M13 EDH Set Review Portal

As is the custom here at The Command Zone, I've set up this post as a convenient page of links to all six parts of my M13 EDH set review. The links below are broken up by color.

Please leave a comment if I missed a card, if you think I assessed a card wrongly, or if you just have some cool uses for a card in the set.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

DotP Decks: The Obedient Dead

I’m back with my third deck update for the Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013 series. I previously did Odric’s Peacekeepers, and before that Chandra’s Born of Flame deck. This time, I’m going Black, with Liliana’s deck: The Obedient Dead. Ooh, scary.

We’ll start off, as usual, with the original DotP decklist, with unlocks, as it appears in-game.

1x Xathrid Gorgon
2x Bloodhunter Bat
2x Veilborn Ghoul
2x Liliana’s Shade
2x Blister Beetle
2x Fume Spitter
2x Liliana’s Specter
1x Rune-Scarred Demon
1x Vampire Nighthawk
2x Warpath Ghoul

3x Murder
2x Crippling Blight
2x Public Execution
1x Corrupt
1x Innocent Blood
2x Jet Medallion
1x Last Kiss
1x Mire’s Toll
1x Rise from the Grave
2x Sign in Blood
1x Tendrils of Corruption
1x Underworld Dreams

25x Swamp

Well, for a starting point, this deck is all over the map. A little bit of discard, a little bit of reanimation, a lot of board control, and a fairly eclectic smattering of creatures with disparate abilities and functions. I’ve played the deck enough on the game to know that everything here plays a role. However, some choices are just too niche to be synergistic with the rest of the deck, or are specific foils to other decks within the DotP game. The lone Underworld Dreams? Absolutely worthless, unless you’re playing against Jace’s mill deck full of Howling Mines and such.

While the deck makes some sense in the context of the DotP game, outside of that game’s very limited environment, the lack of any true synergy or a clear, defining theme makes it a fairly weak and uninteresting deck. The problem with decks like this one is that how you need to play the deck changes along two axes: what your opponent does, and what you draw.

You see, how this deck is built, it can have two very different types of draws: It can draw beatdown with early stuff like Nantuko Shades and 1-for-1 removal like Murder. You just make a dude, use the removal to clear blockers and smash face every turn. Or, it can draw into a more control-ish, grindy game plan.

For instance, say you’re playing this deck against the Odric white weenie deck. Ideally, you’re going to want to play the control deck, not the beat down. You’re going to play early, cheap creatures that you will happily trade with or even chump block if need be. You want to force the white weenie deck to overextend as much as possible, then wipe the board with a Mutilate or Infest, then rely on Tendrils and Corrupt to gain back the early life you lost while further controlling the board. Your opponent should be nearly out of resources by then, so you can get a head by dropping one big bomb like Rune-Scarred Demon or Nightmare.

However, you might find that all you draw is one-for-one answers like Murder early on, which are virtually useless against the white deck’s Captain’s Calls, Attended Knights and Geist-Honored Monks.

So, how you NEED to play the deck is influenced by two factors, neither of which are within your ability to control. When you draw what you need against the right sort of deck, you’ll absolutely dominate your opponent. But, when you draw the wrong game plan against the wrong style of deck, you will never stand a chance.

This is true for all decks, to an extent, but a deck with higher levels of synergy and adaptability minimizes the effects of those variables, making the luck of the draw much less important to the outcome of the game. Lucky topdecks will always be a thing in Magic, but this particular deck relies on them much, much more than most of the other decks in DotP 2013.

So, that is one of the most urgent things I want to address when revamping this deck for Kitchen Table play. I want to keep the dual game plan of being able to play both beatdown and control where needed, but minimize the amount by which luck dictates our game play. I will do this by trying to improve the synergy and adaptability of the deck. That’s a tricky order, because those two goals can often work against each other : usually, the more synergistic a deck becomes the less it wants to alter or adapt its main path to victory.

Luckily for me, the Obedient Dead decklist has just the right theme we need already built into the deck: Swamps. More specifically, “swamps matter”. The three standout cards in this deck are: Nightmare, Corrupt and Tendrils of Corruption. They aren’t the standouts because they’re the most powerful – they’re the standouts for being the clearest example of what the deck actually wants to do. It wants to play a lot of Swamps and scalable effects that get better the more Swamps you have. This is a broad theme, and there are a lot of cards in Black that fit either the Swamp/Control or Swamp/Beatdown avenue.

Usually I talk about the changes I make, and why, then post the finished deck at the end. This time I think I’ll post my revised decklist first, then talk about it.

2x Nantuko Shade
4x Liliana’s Specter
4x Liliana’s Shade
4x Korlash, Heir to Backblade
1x Disciple of Bolas
1x Nightmare
1x Mikaeus the Unhallowed
1x  Rune-Scarred Demon

2x Innocent Blood
2x Jet Medallion
1x Oversold Cemetery
1x Phyrexian Arena
2x Murder
1x Infest
1x Mutilate
1x Liliana of the Dark Realms
1x Syphon Mind
2x Tendrils of Corruption
2x Beacon of Unrest
1x Exsanguinate
1x Lashwrithe
1x Caged Sun

1x Cabal Coffers
22x Swamp

So, what’s going on here? First, let’s break down the “Swamps Matter” stuff.

Korlash, Heir to Blackblade is one of the most impressive creatures in the deck. He offers a large body for a great CMC, scales in power as the game goes on, and offers a rare (in Black) way to ramp out more Swamps.

Lashwrithe is a good way to turn any creature into a Nightmare. Especially useful when you draw a late-game Liliana’s Specter or something small like that.

Liliana of the Dark Realms herself, of course, is a perfect fit. I’d use a cheaper iteration of Liliana, but this version is the best fit thematically and mechanically.

Mutilate, Tendrils of Corruption and Nightmare all stay in. I’d love to have 2x or even 3x Mutilate, but couldn’t find room. If you can’t afford a Liliana of the Dark Realms, I’d suggest adding another Mutilate in her slot.

Nightmare could easily come out, but it’s nice having a Flying version of Korlash just in case…

Caged Sun is not strictly for Swamps, but it should be pretty clear why this is here. Actually, there’s probably one use that isn’t apparent: I disliked the interaction of casting Mutilate while something like Korlash or Nightmare was in play. You see, by virtue of their similar mechanic – counting Swamps I control – my Mutilates would ALWAYS be just big enough to kill my Korlash/Nightmares. With Caged Sun in play, my swamp-counting creatures will always be one point of toughness better than my Mutilate!

Oh, it also helps fuel a game-ending Exsanguinate, but you probably already had that part figured out.

Finally, Liliana’s Shade and Liliana herself find Swamps, which is important. Duh.

Now, on to the control suite:

Liliana’s Specter and a single Syphon Mind provide the limited hand-control. Specters are mostly in for the aggro match-up, as they eat away at resources (cards in hand) while speed-bumping their attackers (hopefully trading, but chump-ing is not out of the question).

Murder, Infest, Mutilate, Tendrils of Corruption and Innocent Blood all provide various ways and means to eliminate creatures. I’d love to just run 3x Mutilate and 4x Tendrils, but the deck is already rather clogged at the 4-mana spot, and is sorely hurting for early game plays. How best to use these various options depends on what else is going on of course, but in short, you pretty much always want your Innocent Bloods to be 3-for-1’s and Murders should usually be used on things that are above and beyond what your Tendrils/Mutilate are likely to handle. If someone manages to sneak out a 6/6 before you’ve hit 4 Swamps, that’s the time to use a Murder instead!

Infest should be an out against fast hordes of tokens or weenies, but you only have one, so try to wait on using it until the player in question is almost out of cards in hand.

So, we can control the board, and make our Swamps matter… but how do we win?

Well, Korlash, Nightmare and the various Shades can all beat down quite effectively. Call this “Plan A”. Lashwrithe also counts as a way to turn any creature into a Nightmare. It’s especially satisfying to Equip an actual Nightmare with it!

Exsanguinate for a brazillion mana is probably “Plan B”. Caged Sun, Liliana’s Ultimate or Korlash’s Grandeur ability all help to accelerate your mana production to lethality.

“Plan C” is to reanimate something big and beat face. I went with Beacon of Unrest instead of Rise from the Grave because it’s more versatile, more powerful and resuseable.

One of my favorite bits of synergy in the deck is with Mikaeus, Disciple of Bolas, Beaon of Unrest, and Rune-Scarred Demon. It’s not quite a “combo” but any group of three of these cards all interact in various ways to give you a lot of card advantage. Sacing things to Disciple while Mikaeus is out is cool. Disciple’s draw lets you dig for Beacons after you shuffle them. Rune-Scarred Demon lets you just go get it directly.

Once you’ve assembled this engine of value, the lifegain, card draw and tutoring should pretty much ensure victory. Once you’ve gotten what you need from your own deck, turn those Beacons on your opponents’ graveyards!

Another cute synergy is with Korlash and Oversold Cemetery. Stick the Cemetery, Grandeur a Korlash or two, then every turn you basically get a free Skyshroud Claim. You should have pretty much all of your Swamps in play in a few short turns. You just have to find a way to get 4 dudes into your Graveyard, but trust me, that's not hard to accomplish.

Finally, Phyrexian Arena rounds out our “good stuff” by providing some much-needed draw. I’d rather have one Arena in my deck over two mediocre Sign in Bloods any day. Bloodgift Demon is an acceptable stand-in as well.

I seriously considered adding a Filth to the list, but I didn’t really have enough ways to get it into the graveyard reliably, outside of it dying in combat. It’s still probably worth at least considering – the deck makes some huge guys, but they mostly lack evasion. A singleton Loxodon Warhammer would also probably go a long way, too. Both are worth a look.

Finally, our mana package remains mostly Basic Swamps, but it’s almost a blasphemy to build a “Swamps matter” deck without at least one Cabal Coffers. With the insane amount of mana this can produce, I felt safe cutting the total land count back to 23. If you find yourself getting stuck on 3 or 4 lands, you might add one more Swamp to the mix, but I think 22 should do well enough.

Well, that’s the deck. I’d still like to beef up the removal, and maybe the draw, but I think this is a much better starting place than the in-game deck was, especially for Multiplayer outside of the confines of the DotP game.


As if you didn’t already know… Planar deck time!

These picks were mostly super-obvious, btw, but here goes:

The Forth Sphere – Super obvious; also super useful.
The Dark Barony – Even more super obvious.

Furnace Layer – Sorta obvious, but can backfire now and then.
Lair of the Ashen Idol – Almost a second copy of The Fourth Sphere.
Murasa – Um, more Swamps, please! MORE!
Turri Island – Our creatures basically start at 4 mana, so… yeah.
Onakke Catacombs – Mostly for flavor, but giving our guys Deathtouch actually makes for great defense early game.
Raven’s Run – Kinda weak, but like the Catacombs, it makes our blockers scarier to attack into early on.
Mutual Epiphany – Goes against the discard, but that’s fine. We likely need the draw badly enough.
Reality Shaping – Sometimes this will suck, but sometimes, you’ll have Rune-Scarred Demon in play on Turn 2!


Tuesday, July 3, 2012

M13 EDH Set Review, Part 6: Other

This final section will cover Artifacts, Lands, and the cycle of mono-colored Legends in M13. After that, the review is technically finished, though I hinted at the possibility of a review of the reprints. I still may do that, but I haven't commited one way or the other. We'll see...


Amusing, but terrible.
 Uh, yeah. Okay, it's a bit on the expensive side, but pretty much every Grixis deck should be playing this. That's just really, really good mana fixing. I wouldn't play this over Darksteel Ingot, but I'd definitely play it with the Ingot.
I like this cycle, but this entry is less thrilling. You have to pay for the Keyword ability, rather than just getting it. And Blue usually will get less out of the growth ability than other colors. But, it does have potential, in the right decks.
 Probably the best of the cycle. Green definitely cares about creature-growth, and Tramble is always a relevant ability where large creatures are involved. Will it beat out bombs like Swords of Stuff and Junk and similar Equipment? Probably not. Should still be playable though, especially in Skullbriar or Animar decks.
 Down there with the Blue member of the cycle for unexciting-ness. Vigilance is somewhat underrated, but it's also somewhat underpowered. White's creatures tend to be small-ish, so the growth effect will be welcome - but probably a bit too slow to really matter. This will probably see even less play than the Ring of Evos Isle.
This one is up there with the Green ring for potential playability. Haste is easily as relevant as Trample, occasionally even moreso. That said, almost any deck I can think of would proably play Swiftfoot Boots over this - Hexproof is just better than a slow growth ability. Would easily be the most playable of the cycle, if it weren't competing with Greaves and Boots already.
Regenration is pretty underwhelming. I take it back: this might actually be worse than the white and blue ones. Not too sure, really. But it hardly matters, as the green and red variations are the only ones likely to see any real play.
Mill just keeps getting pushed, but still hasn't hit the threshhold of viability in EDH. Yeah, self-milling to set up Living Death is a thing. And milling opponents to Wrexial their shit is also a thing. But actually winning by completely decking your opponents? Not a thing... yet.

Oh, this is ignoring infinite-combos involving mill, which is a thing. But that's not really the point, now is it?
This card is getting a lot of hype from the EDH crowd, but I don't really see it. I definitely think it's playable in some decks, but not every-deck-ever status. It's cool and flavorful, while being a colorless card-drawing option for decks that sorely need it. But in colors that can draw cards, it seems too slow and weak to be worth the slot.
This card is hilariously weird. I can't tell if it's a swiss army knife of utility, or if it's just unplayable jank. I can think of numerous decks I'd like to try it in, but none in which all four abilities are likely to be relevant. Is this just a bizarre infinite combo peice? Or can it be used fairly and still be good enough to play? I'm eager to find out.


I'm definitely digging this card. Of course, I love the Exalted mechanic and this is a lock for every Rafiq deck ever. It seems potentially worth it in almost any General Damage-oriented deck, but you kinda have to do the math to be sure. For instance, if my general typically attacks as a 6/6, then having the Cathedral out shaves a full turn off the GD clock, allowing you to kill in 3 hits instead of 4. This is a significant gain, and definitely worth it. If your general is already a 7/7, though, he's still going to take 3 hits to kill someone, so that +1/+1 is, in some respects, fairly irrelevant.

I could be wrong here, but this seems decidedly unplayable to me. Maybe, just maybe, if you could get Doubling Season out and Crucible of Worlds, you can start shitting out Hellions fast enough that it actually matters, but unaided, this is just plain mediocre.

The Legends

I really like this guy on paper. As much as I dislike mono-colored decks in EDH, I could almost get behind this guy as a general. Almost. But, I think I'd rather just have Odric as one of my 99 in a Darien deck than as the general. Also, he kinda encourages you to overextend, which can be fatal in EDH, due to the extremely high number of sweepers.

But he does have cool ability, if you can get it to work. And he looks like Sean Connery.
Talrand is pretty cool. I have vague dreams of playing him in a U/G deck along with Fable of Wolf and Owl and similar effects. I do think that he can potentially make a more interesting mono-Blue general than most Blue Legends. He actually encourages a proactive game plan, and attacking for the win, rather than comboing out. Though that's probably still possible...
Probably best as a sort of Thraximundar #2 in a Thrax deck, but overall, I think this guy is playable - he just has a lot of very stiff competition at the six-mana slot in Black. He probably beats out Grave Titan in most decks, but against Geth, Lord of the Vault or Mikaeus the Unhallowed? Tough call, but the mythics probably have him beat.
As a general, he's probably quite good, but super boring. If I'm going mono-Red Goblins (and I'm not), I'd go with Ib Halfheart any day. This guy is powerful and efficient, but just not clever or interesting at all. I'd play him IN a Goblin deck, but never as the general.

Oddly, he's the most interesting one of the cycle for 60-card Magic, though. Weird, huh?
Sort of a mono-Green Teferi. Not bad at all. I've had enough experience with Leyline of Anticipation and now Alchemist's Refuge to know that Flash is a very powerful ability in EDH, and is very tricky to play against. Yeva has too much competition to stand out as a Mono-Green general, I think, but she will definitely be a roleplayer in creature-heavy decks.

Closing Thoughts

Overall my impression of M13 so far is that it is one of the most interesting and well-designed Core Sets to come along, and it definitely gives the impression that WotC is on the right track with their vision for the Core Set, even if they aren't quite there yet.

Another notable facet is how strongly the set pushes the Grixis shard. I mean it. I really, REALLY want to rebuild my Thraxi deck now. I'll definitely start working on a new list soon.

The cycle of Legends was a cool innovation and a step in the right direction, even if the inital effor was a bit underwhelming. All of them look playable, but none really seem like compelling generals, except mabye Talrand.

Hopefully, M14 will build on and improve upon the groundwork laid by M13 and the previous core sets, but in the mean time, M13 looks to be pretty successful itself.


M13 EDH Set Review, Part 5: Green

Ah, Green... the color of tree-hugging hippies... who will beat you to a pulp with 6/6 Tramplers.

 Not particularly good, but worth noting for the number of EDH generals that care about +1/+1 counters: Skullbriar, Ghave, and most notably, Animar. Still probaly too weak, but possibly worth a look.
A bit expensive, but should see tons of EDH play regardless. Possibly the stupidest card a Mono-Green ramp deck could play. Broken with Avenger. Definitely going in every Maelstrom Wanderer deck ever. Yeah, this is a staple in the making.
 LOL. An uber-sized Worship effect on an uber-sized stick. Definitely a card that should appeal to the casual EDH crowd, but not actually all that great. Pair it up with Spearbreaker Behemoth and Ascetecism, though, and it starts to look... problematic. Seems like a fun card of Mayael decks in particular.
Wait, what? Did the pig set fire to the forest? I don't understand what's going on here.

The flavor text sounds like Dragonforce lyrics.
Oooh, Ghave decks will want this! Right? No. Not unless they're really budget-y or janky. On the other hand, I think I'd actually play this in my Rith deck, were it still together. This is likely to underperform for many token decks, but the Rith build is the one token deck were I've consitently had a 5+ power creature on the board most games. Getting less than 5 or 6 tokens off this makes it seem absurdly underpowered.
Uh, wow. This should just read: "search your library for a card named Primeval Titan...". For better or worse, this is absolutely going to get the shit played out of it in EDH.
Yet another evolution of the Overrun effect. I like it, but I like Overwhelming Stampede better. That this is sort of like a pseudo-Wrath for Green, though, makes it infinitely more interesting. I just don't think it'll be reliable enough.
Hmm, I guess they wanted a ramp spell that was better than Explosive Veggies but not as good as Skyshroud Claim. This hits the dead center between the two. Since the worse of the two, Veggies, is still very much a staple, expect this card to just straight up replace it in every deck that has ABUR or Ravnica duals. Definitely a worthwhile addition to Green's stable of ramp spells.
Probably just a tad too slow for most EDH decks, but the potential to abuse the hell out of ETBF effects means this is guaranteed to get a bit of experimental play at the very least. Obviously, the very first thing you put in a deck with this guy is Eternal Witness. Followed closely by Mwonvuli Beast Tracker, and then Primeval Titan.

Okay, yeah, I just convinced myself this is probably going to be pretty popular, for a while at least.
Nope, not even in an actual Yeva deck would I consider playing this.

The Beast Tracker, along with a couple of absurdly good ramp spells, and another new Overrun means Green mages have plenty to love about M13, though I think Blue still came out the ahead of the rest.

We'll wrap things up with Artifacts, Lands and a look at the Legends of M13.

M13 EDH Set Review, Part 4: Red

"Some men just want to watch the world burn..." If this sounds like you, take a look below.

Yeah, it could wipe out a token army, but Red can definitely do that WAY cheaper. This is pretty bad.
Sort of a Red version of Overrun. You need a bit more work to set this up, though. A horde of 1/1 tokens aren't really all that much scarier with Double Strike. Still, it can turn a stalled board state into a one-sided slaughter quite handily.
A two-mana dragon? A cheap flyer in Red? This is notable for how many rules it breaks. Probably not gonna get much play in EDH, though. Does kinda make you want to break out the Crucible of Fire, though, right?
I've been playing this card in DotP2013, where it was mistakenly coded as a 4/1 instead of a 4/2... and it was actually pretty good at 4/1. That said, I don't see this being EDH material at all. Possibly a good Voltron target for a bunch of equipment, but even that seems iffy.
This already existed as Arc Ligntning, which sees no play at all in EDH. Underpowered by a landslide.

Functional reprint of Dragon Fodder. Yawn.
Not sure about this one. I feel like it's actually worse than Earthquake. Hmm.
Yeah, I expect I'll be playing the shit outta this guy. Should be fairly popular in EDH, especially in metas with big, giant spells like Time Stretch and Tooth and Nail running rampant. That said, most of the time, I'd be perfectly happy to hit a ramp or draw spell with this guy. Hell, hijacking your opponent's Path to Exile will usually be well worth it.
Oh shit. We just saw a two-mana dragon, and they're already one-upping themselves with a one-mana Dragon? Well, okay. This one doesn't really seem all that great, either though. It's a fairly interesting politcal card for Red, though. I can come down Turn 1 and successfully ward off a few early attacks. I like it, potentially, but time will tell if this is something most Red decks can actually utilize.

Possible Zedruu staple, unlikely elsewhere.
WotC has been getting better at designing Red, Mythic Dragons. Ironically this is probably their best attempt yet, but for EDH purposes, this is actually less sexy than other recent efforts. I like it, but I'm not sure I like it more than, say, Balefire Dragon. Let the Type 2 players have this one, I say.
I'm not sure if this is a good card or not. I rarely play decks without access to one of the better card-drawing colors, but if I were to build a mono-Red deck I think I'd probably want to try this out.
So awesome, yet so lame. For the love of all that is holy, please do not play this in EDH - especially in a Jhoira deck.

Red, as usual... not super compelling. Mindclaw Shaman is really the only exciting thing, but it's pretty darn exciting in itself. Overall, pretty weak stuff. Almost as bad as White.

Green is soon to come.

M13 EDH Set Review, Part 3: Black

This post brough to you by the color Black: Making parents think Magic: the Gathering is Satanic since 1993.

 Poo. This already existed at 3 mana, and didn't see play. Bad card, good art.
Terrible, except that it's an Instant, so it might be fairly useful as a foil against Ghave and Rhys decks.
Yeah, this is kinda win-more. By the time you sink enough into this for it to be cost-effective, you're probably tutoring up 5 or 6 cards all at once, which means you probably won't be able to cast more than one of them that turn, if any. On the flip side, Cabal Coffers exists, so... I might be wrong. Either way, this is a powerful Tutor, and powerful Tutors will always get played.
Momentous Fall has always been good to me. I'm not sure trading Instant speed for a 2/1 body is really all that worth it, but this is stil a highly playable card. I love it. Very good fit for Black, and will be very useful in a wide variety of decks.
Wouldn't have warrented mention at all if it weren't for having Haste. Still, I'm not sure it's at all playable in EDH, but a black creature with Exalted and Haste is curious enough to take a second look at.
 Nope, still not good enough. Blue/Black has way more cost-effective unblockable guys.
 Much like the White counterpart, this guy has badass art, and is a cool enough card to see fringe play just because it's somebody's pet card of the set, but mostly it's weak sauce.
So. This version of Liliana has her haters and her fans. Personally, I think she's terrific at what she does, albeit a bit more narrow than her two previous iterations. That's fine though. Mono-Black decks, or decks that reliably and consistently find Urborg should all be very happy to play this Liliana.
Clearly worse than Solemn Simulacrum, but still very much in the realm of playability. While it doesn't technically ramp, per se, hitting that crucial fifth swamp could be a big enough deal for a number of decks to include this. Should see play, though not nearly on the level of Solemn or other, better mana fixers.
Such elegantly beautiful design. Murder. How did it take them this long to design this card?! Usually, these little spot-removal spells get overlooked in EDH, but Go For the Throat and Doom Blade have been known to make appearances, while Terminate has been played a ton. I usually don't want to pay more than two mana for this kind of effect, but the flexibility and lack of targetting restrictions means I'm willing to give this a shot, at least when Terminate, Mortify and Putrefy are all off-color.
Terrible. I dig the flavor, but still terrible.
Oh sweet! Another Skullclamp engine piece... oh wait, it comes back to my hand? Nevermind.
Cute little trick. Not sure this would ever warrant play over more broad GY hate like Withered Wretch or Nihil Spellbomb, but it's neat that the option is there.
Very cool flavor; great top-down design. On the low-end of the playble spectrum, power-wise. It's going to be great for lower-powered, more casual metagames. Doesn't stand a chance against Titans or Consecrated Sphinxes and such, but still a really fine card if you can make her work.

Black is kind of a mixed-bag. Definitely better than White, but not as deep as Blue. A few really high-powered spells, and some narrowly playable ones. I think I'm most excited about Disciple of Bolas, but I expect Diabolic Revelation to have the biggest impact on the fomat as a whole.

Red is up next.