Saturday, July 23, 2016

Eldritch Moon Deck Updates, Round 1

Eldritch Moon is finally upon us, and we finally have a whole new batch of toys to play with. I was able to acquire a few of the things on my list last night, locally. But there were some other things I wanted that I couldn't find. So, this is just the first round of changes to be made.

- Dictate of Heliod
- Sigarda's Aid

This was an easy one, given that I just recently cut Academy Rector from this deck, it only made sense that the last of the expensive Enchantments would soon be cut as well. Dictate was pretty powerful at times, but often awkward and a virtual mulligan when drawn in your opening 7. Sigarda's Aid is much cheaper and much more on-theme.

Gitrog Monster:
- Undergrown Champion
+ Splendid Reclamation

Another relatively easy choice, the Undergrowth Champion was just kinda there because it said Landfall in it's text box and I wanted to use it somewhere. I'm looking for a spot for it in Karametra instead, so that the very obviously amazing Splendid Reclamation could come in. Already played a 1v1 game and right off the bat, Splendid Reclamation more or less won me the game. I tutored for it by Transmuting a Dimir House Guard, then topdecked Squandered Resources the next turn. From the first game played with it, Splendid Reclamation has proven itself to be the card I thought it was.

- Traverse the Uvenwald
+ Splendid Reclamation
- Dragonlord Silumgar
+ Cryptbreaker

Modest changes for now, but laying the groundwork for the Zombie Tribal overhaul. I wasn't able to pick up a Gisa and Geralf, so I am slow-rolling this little project until the G&G I ordered online comes in the mail. Traverse the Uvenwald may come back in later, after the big revision, but for now, I have found it to be a bit of a letdown. This deck turns on Delerium pretty easily, but once turned on, I am rarely all that happy with my options when casting this. I wind up getting Duplicant about 90% of the time. I don't mind playing tutors, but when they just wind up being a second copy of one specific card, that gets pretty old. Silumgar is great here,  but isn't a Zombie, so he's bound to come out sooner or later.

- Rhox Faithmender
+ Campaign of Vengeance
- Ajani, Caller of the Pride
+ Lone Rider

These were tough changes, but ultimately I was holding on to Rhox Faithmender for it's potential, but I had to face the fact that I have drawn the Rhox a high % of games and he's largely performed somewhere between "underwhelming" and "complete do-nothing" most of the time. Once or twice he's been amazing, if I also have Cradle of Vitality or Well of Lost Dreams out, for instance, but by and large simply improving my lifegain cards isn't actually good here. Ajani was fine - really good at making Karlov more quickly lethal - but that wasn't especially exciting. T2 Karlov into T3 Ajani was powerful, but often just meant the game would be over before any cool shit could happen. And Ajani doesn't gain me life. Lone Rider keeps the deck aggressive, but synergizes better beyond just making my General Damage clock faster.

- Cast Through Time
+ Niblis of Frost

Cast Through Time was on the chopping block for a while already. I had forgotten that Rebound has the whole "if cast from hand" clause, so the Enchantment didn't really synergize with Narset's trigger the  way I had hoped. I was going to replace it with the new big Blue mythic Enchantment, Mind's Dilation, but I couldn't find one. Meanwhile Niblis of Frost seemed like a good fit here. Lots of stuff to trigger Prowess, and his tap ability should provide some good defense, or help keep blockers out of Narset's way.

- Shadow Alley Denizen
+ Stromkirk Condemned

This was a tough change, but ultimately the Denizen had been a bit lackluster. The best thing she has done for me was dying to Skullclamp. That said, I was hoping to cut something that cost MORE than two, so that this guy could help push the mana curve a little lower. It's pretty low already, for the most part, but I still wind up drawing mana-light, top-heavy hands a bit too often. I'm not sure I really want the Denizen back in, but some way or another, I need to trim some fat at the top end.

- Necromantic Selection
+ Selfless Spirit

Right after I made this swap, I had Necromantic Selection used against me in a game, to pretty good effect. Kinda made me doubt this choice for a moment. Obviously, Selfless Spirit was a given to come in, and I knew that I wanted to cut something that was both a non-creature spell and a high-costing one. Selection fits the bill on both counts. In fact I probably need to make further cuts along these lines - beef up the creature base while trimming down the mana curve. Will try to look into this later.

So, that's it for now. I still have a handfull of stuff I picked up last night that I just haven't found homes for yet, and I'm waiting on an online order to come it, to fill in what I couldn't find at my local stores last night.

Specifically, I'm looking for a Thalia to put in Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, the aforementioned Gisa and Geralf for Sidisi, and Eldritch Evolutions for... just about every deck. I also have a couple of those Mind's Dialations coming, as well as a Tamiyo. Tamiyo will obviously have to go into Rafiq, as that's the only option for her, but she ought to be pretty good there anyway. Not sure about the second Dilation, though. Narset gets one, but the other... thinking maybe Grand Arbiter, as that deck does have a Rector to fetch it out. But it also seems like a fun Maelstrom Wanderer card to cascade into (though it would have fit my old Good Stuff list better, as it doesn't do much for the Dragon Tribal plan). Guess we'll see when I get the package.

I'm also thinking about another Sigarda's Aid for Karlov. I already have a modest Equipment package, but I think to justify the Aid I would also need to beef of my Aura package beyond the Gift of Orzhova and Faith's Fetters I currently have. Not sure I could find room for all that, though.

Meanwhile I've been thinking about trying to beef up my Vampire list by adding some more actually-good cards. Right now, I have a Voldaren Pariah that kind of wants to join the party, but this just isn't a deck where I ever have three spare creatures I would just love to sacrifice. But, she got me thinking about Grave Pact. I am sure my group is tired of me abusing that card, but honestly this deck is probably the fairest deck that would ever play it. As I just said, it rarely makes tokens or has extra creatures I can afford to just sac. I was also thinking about Necropotence, but it does have some anti-synergies with Olivia and the Madness stuff. I enjoy the deck but it has some serious weaknesses that I need to shore up.

I picked up a couple of Thalia's Lancers, but I am having trouble finding a home for them. It turns out I just don't have a lot of Legendary cards in most of my White decks. Rafiq has a fair few, but none seem like they're amazing enough to warrant running this tutor just for them. The best option I think I have found so far is Marath - Lancers can get Kiki-Jiki and Gaea's Cradle, two of the best cards in the deck. But other than fetching those up, the Lancers just don't have any real synergy with the token theme, the +1/+1 counters theme, the Beast tribal theme, or the Populate theme. That said, Kiki-Jiki's best friend is Trostani, who is also a Legend... I can Lancers for Kiki, cast Kiki and copy the Lancers, fetching up Cradle, then next turn, Kiki the Lancers again to find Trostani. Hmm... yeah, that's a bit Magical Christmasland, but I think I've just talked myself into it.So one last change:

- Second Harvest
+ Thalia's Lancers

(NOTE: Just discovered that, due to an apparent copy/paste error, the list for Marath in the sidebar is not completely correct. The creatures listed are accurate, but the spells are not. The spell portion of the list is from the old Rith the Awakener list I had before Marath came along and put Rith to shame. I'll work on getting that corrected at some point this weekend.)

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

EDH Set Review: Eldritch Moon Top 10

As promised, here is my experimental Top 10 list of Eldrictch Moon cards. Plus a couple of Honorable Mentions. I couldn't help myself. Anyway, I'm just trying this on for size, we'll see how I feel about it afterwards. Who knows?

Anyway, on with the show!

Honorable Mention#1: Ulrich of the Krallenhorde – I know this guy disappointed a lot of Werewolf fans, by not being exactly what they wanted. He is awfully generic and nothing about him really screams “werewolf tribal” other than his type line, but honestly, I don’t think he’s a bad card at all, really. He’s not a great Commander for the werewolf deck, but he could make a reasonable R/G stompy commander, and might be perfectly fine in the 99 of some other decks. I’m not that hyped about him, but neither am I disappointed – I never wanted to build a werewolf deck in the first place. I dislike the whole DFC mechanic anyway, though I have played with a few of them (Bloodline Keeper is the SHIZ!). But, more importantly, I’ve always been 100% Team Vampire. Not just in Magic, but in general – I’ve been really into vampires since, like, the 80’s when I was a wee lad, but I’ve never really been interested in werewolves. In the 90’s I got into the old World of Darkness tabletop games and one of my deepest friendships was formed over a debate/argument over whether it would be cooler to be a vampire or a werewolf, despite that we came down on different sides. I’m not happy that Ulrich was a disappointment to Werewolf fans, but I am happy that I was backing the right team all along. That all, said I am sure plenty of people will build Ulrich decks anyway. Hopefully they’ll perform better than expected.

Honorable Mention #2: Lone Rider – As much as I dislike DFC’s I am pretty pumped to see this guy in action in my Karlov deck. He should be super-easy to flip, and adds to the aggressive quality of the deck nicely. Plus the name “It That Rides as One” is metal as heck. I wanted at least one uncommon on the list and this is the one I’m most interested in playing, even if it only belongs in a few certain decks.

10. Elder Deep-Fiend – I actually really, really like the Emerge mechanic and I sincerely hope they go back to this well a few more times. I can see this mechanic being great in a Golgari or Sultai deck that likes to sac things for value. In fact, I’d be very happy to see Emerge as the Golgari mechanic in the next Ravnica block, unlikely, as that is to happen. That said, I don’t much like the application of the mechanic here. I just don’t particularly like most of the Emerge cards in this set. Deep-Fiend is the one exception, and even then I’m not sure this card will pan out as I hope, but I feel like it has a lot of potential in my Teferi deck. It has Flash, is reasonably costed, and it’s ETBF effect can keep Teferi from being attacked quite well.

09. Mirrorwing Dragon – Not super sure about this one, but it’s certainly cool, and could lead to some really epic things going down. I have no immediate plans other than to try and squeeze it into my Malestrom Wanderer deck, but I don’t really have enough support to make this shine. I do have Savage Punch and Epic Confrontation, so it would be highly amusing to have my whole team of Dragons punching bears, but with such a low amount of synergy I’m not sure it’ll make the cut. That said, I do like how if someone really wants to Swords or Path this guy, they have to live with Exiling their own team as well.

08. Tree of Perdition – I honestly don’t know why I like this card so much. I’m actually okay with Magister Sphinx in EDH, but I don’t necessarily want WotC to print a bunch of these effects. This will be overpowered and annoying in EDH, but I still find the very existence of this card to be highly enjoyable.

07. Niblis of Frost – Surprisingly decent for an Intro Pack rare, this guy is efficient for a Blue creature and has a powerful triggered ability that seems bonkers in any Instants and Sorceries matter deck. It might make me almost miss my Melek deck. Definitely going to run this in Teferi and Narset. Maybe Grand Arbiter, too, but less sure about that one. 

06. Voldaren Pariah – Pretty much a shoe-in for decks that run Grave Pact and make lots of tokens. I’m currently looking at this for Prossh and Savra/Meren. I could also see her going into some Teysa decks. Again, anything with Grave Pact or any kind of “sac for value” theme should at least give this serious consideration.

05. Cryptbreaker – One mana, makes zombies, draws cards. What more could I want? This is the other card, along with Gisa and Geral that is really pushing me to have a zombie tribal deck somewhere in my roster.

04. Eldritch Evolution – I initially thought this card was absolutely nuts, likely to be the best card in the set. I’ve since cooled off a little, and now I just think it’s merely “really good”, but I still think that one were inclined to do so, one could really break this card. That said, I can still easily envision a world where this card is nearly as ubiquitous as Eternal Witness. I might not run it in EVERY deck with Green, but in my current roster, I’m hard pressed to find a deck that wouldn’t happily run this if it could. This is the one card I feel comfortable calling a future staple right off the bat.

03. Gisa and Geralf – This card is almost single-handedly compelling me to convert my Sidisi deck into a zombie tribal deck instead of the more generic good-stuffy deck it currently is. Havengul Lich, Crytolith Rite, lots and lots of zombie tokens. Seems fun.

02. Sigarda’s Aid – This seems insane for 1 mana. Flash in auras and equipment is great, but being able to automatically equip something for free is just nuts. Still not quite as good a 1-drop as Land Tax, but in equipment-heavy decks it’s a very close second. This thing is going to make combat a nightmare for my opponents when I’m playing Aurelia, or any other decks that happen to have a lot of powerful Equipment cards. Also seems like a real boon for Enchantress fans.

01. Splendid Reclamation – This card is a little bit more niche than what I’d normally have for my #1 pick, but I’m just soooo hyped for this card. I’ve been wanting Wizards to print this exact card for years, and I was afraid that either they just simply wouldn’t do it, or they’d make it White (see: Planar Rebirth). Obviously, I’m jamming this thing in Gitrog, but honestly I think that deck is a bit of a fad. I see myself tiring of it in a few months, and going back to Meren or Savra (Grave Pact decks are where my heart truly lies). But I can also put this to great use in a number of other decks. Anything that abuses Greater Good, for instance – just dig and dig, dump lots of lands, find this, and voila! Karametra will get a copy for sure, as will Sidisi. A buddy of mine has a Tristania deck as well that I know is going to love this. It might not be the most widely-played card, but in the decks where it’s good it will be REALLY good. 

And, there we have it folks. I'd like to have done card images this time around, but I just couldn't find time to squeeze that in. Hopefully next time. Anyway, let me know what y'all think about this format or share ideas if you have anything else in mind. 

One thing I'm thinking of doing is making it a point to talk about every new Legend in a separate article focusing solely on the new Commander options of each set, then do a Top 10 list of cards excluding the new Legendarys. Something along those lines, anyway. 

Again, I'm just throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what feels right to me. I hope you all like whatever we land on, but ultimately it comes down to what is fun for me to write and doesn't feel like a chore. I look forward to nailing something down soon, though.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

So, how about them new cards?

Hello, dear readers. As most of you know, I used to do these big EDH set reviews here, but I haven’t done one in quite a while. I liked writing them, but they took a lot of time, and I just kinda got tired of doing them after a while. A lot of cards just come down to saying boring things like “This is basically unplayable” or “this is great in [insert specific niche commander here], but not so much elsewhere”, etc. I toyed with some ideas on how to do it differently so I didn’t wind up reviewing a lot of cards about which I couldn’t think of anything interesting to say, but no solutions came to mind that felt right to me. So, in the absence of any better ideas, I just kinda… quit doing them.

But, the thing is, new set spoiler season and the time around a set release when you get to put all those new cards into decks is one of the most exciting parts of Magic. I constantly have excited discussions with my IRL friends about new cards and what I can’t wait to jam into whichever deck, etc. Because of this, it feels really strange to not share some of this excitement and speculation with you all as well. I just don’t have the time or the motivation to do the big set reviews with pictures and all that, the way I used to, but I’m going to try and figure out a new format for me to discuss new and upcoming cards/sets with you all, in a way that doesn’t burn me out or take too much time.

I tried the idea of a “Top 10” list once before, but it was really hard to pick just 10 cards… even though I dismiss a lot of cards as “garbage”, I tend to like more cards and want to believe things are playable far more often than many of my peers. I love undeniably powerful cards like Consecrated Spinx and Cyclonic Rift, but I also adore “jank” rares like Kessig Cagebreakers or Mitotic Slime. I especially love it when a card that even I thought was bad suddenly becomes a must-have for some new deck. Point being, even though I recognize the fact that some cards are good while others aren’t, there’s a part of me that WANTS every card to be good, and that bias makes it really, really hard to leave any card that I think has even a small amount of potential off any list or review I write.

I also try to evaluate cards with as little bias toward my own playstyles and metagame factors as possible. In other words, I try to make my set reviews general enough that they are useful to people with different playstyles and different metagames, but at the end of the day those biases do influence my opinions somewhat. If I only talk about the cards I specifically see myself playing, or only those that I think are good in my metagame, it really narrows down the target audience. But then it gets tricky trying to balance what I am personally excited to play versus what I think the larger EDH-playing crowd will be excited about.

But, perhaps I’m overthinking it. I don’t know. All I do know for sure is, it feels weird and awkward to NOT talk about new sets and new cards, but the old way I was doing things just won’t work for me. So I have to find a new format, a new approach. For now, at least, I think it would be a good idea for me to get the ol’ Top Ten list another shot, and maybe try to worry less about my biases and just focus on what’s exciting specifically to me.  Eldritch Moon, I think, is a great set to start with because there are a handful of cards I’m VERY excited about, but the quality drops off fairly quickly after that, so I think I can narrow the list down to 10 with maybe an honorable mention or two. So, I will work on that, and hopefully, I’ll be back in just a day or two with that list.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

It is Finished!

Alright, folks, it's done. All 24 of my decklists are now in the sidebar, and are up to date. I'll make a real effort to keep them updated as I make changes to my decks.

I have a deck for each color or color combination, aside from mono-White. I still have no idea what I want to do for White, nothing really inspires me. A friend of mine has recently build a "Keyword Tribal" deck with the new Odric at the helm and it's pretty impressive, but now it feels like if I built my own version it would just be the same deck, maybe with a slight boost in card quality. I don't really have anything unique to bring to the table there.

Either Thalia would be a different approach than the usual White Weenie or aggro approach, but would also be very similar to my recently-built Grand Arbiter deck.

Guess I'll just stick with the 24 decks I've got until that "Ah ha!" moment of inspiration hits me.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Following Up

Another update on adding all of my decklists to the sidebar...

I only have 5 left to go. All 19 decks linked in the "Active Deck Roster" over to the right are up to date.

The five decks I still have yet to type out are Rafiq, Sidisi, Feldon, Narset and Yisan. I'm hoping to get to those 5 remaining decks this weekend. Will let you all know when they are complete.

EDIT: Added a couple more (Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Feldon of the Third Path), so THREE more to go!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Quick Shout Out

Hey everyone! Just wanted to share a quick post to let you all know I'm still around and still writing. I've just been overwhelmingly busy and stressed out at work lately. Lots of projects, process changes and leadership changes, so my days are a blur of chaos and frustration. I have absolutely ZERO time to write at work, and zero energy to do it while at home.

But... I'm off work this week on the first long vacation I've had since 2013! Thus, I am trying to get a lot of fun things accomplished. Right now, I have 24 EDH decks built, sleeved up and playable. I'm building faster than I can write, especially since my decklist articles tend to be rather long-winded. So, what I'm doing for now, is trying to get my Active Deck Roster (see the sidebar over to the right of the page) fully up-to-date. I've already updated a few decks, and added a few as well.

I have updated so far these decklists:

Teferi, Temporal Archmage
Geth, Lord of the Vault
Wrexial, the Risen Deep
Stonebrow, Krosan Hero
Jori En, the Ruin Diver
The Gitrog Monster
Maelstrom Wanderer

So that's 8 out of 24. Not a bad start, but a long way to go. I will continue to post updates as I get these lists up to date. In the meantime, I apologize for the lack of content, but life happens, right?

Men make plans, and God laughs.