Monday, October 31, 2016

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Here's the list, and I've also updated it in the decklist sidebar to the right. Unfortunately I don't have time at the moment to write up a full article, so sorry about that. The tail end of last week got really busy really quickly, which I was not expecting, and now I've got to gear up for the Commander 2016 stuff... so Rashmi is just going to have to wait. Luckily you can still at least marvel at my genius deckbuilding skills sans context, so there's that. Do feel free to leave your suggestions for improvement in the comments below.


Rashmi, Eternities Crafter

Snapcaster Mage
Trinket Mage
Chasm Skulker
Stunt Double
Dungeon Geists
Clever Impersonator
Mull Drifter
Peregrine Drake
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Magus of the Future
Torrential Gearhulk
Arcanis, the Omnipotent

Sakura-Tribe Elder
Wood Elves
Reclamation Sage
Eternal Witness
Carven Caryatid
Champion of Lambholt
Temur Sabertooth
Acidic Slime
Seedborn Muse
Pathbreaker Ibex
Woodland Bellower
Hornet Queen
Archetype of Endurance

Coiling Oracle
Winged Coatl
Trygon Predator
Horizen Chimera
Fathom Mage
Master Biomancer
Mystic Snake
Prime Speaker Zegana
Elder Deep-Fiend


Rapid Hybridization
Cyclonic Rift
Rhystic Study
Long-Term Plans
Leyline of Anticipation
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Time Spiral
Mind’s Dilation

Sylvan Library
Krosan Grip
Beast Within
Lurking Predators
Wild Pair
Zendikar Resurgent

Sensei’s Divining Top
Lightning Greaves
Sol Ring
Thought Vessel
Hedron Archive


Breeding Pool
Hinterland Harbor
Misty Rainforest
Botanical Sanctum
Temple of Mystery
Lumbering Falls
Yavimaya Coast
Simic Growth Chamber
Thornwood Falls
Command Tower
Oran Rief, the Vastwood
Tranquil Thicket
Lonely Sandbar
Blighted Cataract
Blighted Woodland
Alchemist’s Refuge
High Market
Temple of the False God
Reliquary Tower
Evolving Wilds
9x Island
9x Forest

I will say one thing about this list: as I was typing it out, I realized I have woefully little ramp, at least by my standards. So far I haven't had mana-screw issues more than any other deck, so maybe it's fine? But I feel like I should at least have a couple more ramp pieces in there just to be safe... it is a mana-hungry deck once it gets going. Anyway, something I'll be keeping a close eye on, now that I've noticed it.


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Culling the Herd

In my last update I mentioned that I had ranked my decks. Not, like, individually; that would be an impossible task, because the specific order from “favorite” to “least favorite” would change from day to day, based on my mood. But, after having a fairly stable, um… stable… of 24 concurrent decks, I definitely realized that some decks got played a lot whereas others got played much less. So I decided to categorize (a more appropriate word that “rank”) each deck into one of three categories, roughly: “awesome”, “serviceable”, and “meh”.

The first category is for decks that I just flat out love to play. In many cases, they are among my more powerful decks, but some are really fun even if they don’t win a ton of games. These are decks that I could see myself playing at least once every week for the foreseeable future and not getting too bored of them.

The second category is for decks that are on a sort of probation, or are just generally among my weaker decks, but yet I still enjoy having them around. Many of my newer decks fall in this category as they are still too new to know for sure how good they are, or how fun they are, in a long-term sense. Many of my decks tend to do well initially, because my playgroup hasn’t really learned how to fight against the deck yet. But over time the performance rate of most decks falls off somewhat as my group comes to understand the strengths and weaknesses through repeated play. And then there are decks like Stonebrow, which is always going to be one of the weaker decks in my roster, but is still a deck I absolutely adore. I don’t play it all that often, but when I do it’s almost always a blast. I just have to be in the right mood for it. But at this point I have no real desire to try any different R/G commanders or strategies – Gruul should be about smashing, and that’s what this deck does. And, finally I also put a couple of decks in this category because I play them infrequently almost solely due to social contract considerations. It’s an awkward situation where my group has a particularly strong dislike of a deck, but I like it too much to fully cave to pressure and rather than scrapping it, I just play it very infrequently. But because it’s not a deck I can just whip out all the time, if the mood strikes, I still can’t list it  in the first category, no matter how much I myself might like it.

The third and final category are the decks that are those I only reach for when I realize, “Oh, I haven’t played this in a while!” and even then only when I don’t have a particular craving to play a specific other deck. Mostly, they are decks that I have just built  and re-built a number of times and feel like I’ve just kinda gotten out of them what I wanted. I might still really like the deck themes and concepts in general, but for whatever reason, those decks just feel kinda played out, at least for now. And, to some extent, some of these decks have suffered at least slightly from the fact that they were among the last of my 24 decks to have been put together, so card availability and deckbuilding fatigue may have had some small but adverse effects on these decks.

Now that I have outlined the process/idea behind all this, I shall reveal what decks fall into which categories.

The “awesome” decks are:  Teferi, Karametra, Queen Marchesa, Karlov, Maelstrom Wanderer, Sidisi, Geth, Marath, Narset, Prossh, Feldon, and Gitrog.

I don’t have much to say about this category except that all of these decks are awesome. They are fun, generally perform well, and I’m almost always happy reaching for any one of them. Some have some slight issues – Feldon for example is very inconsistent and despite stellar early results, lately it’s been underperforming in the “winning “ department, but it remains a very fun and interesting deck to play, and I have no desire to retire it. Rather I’d rather keep working to fine-tune it. Gitrog has the downside of being a bit too combo-y and non-interactive, while Prossh is occasionally just too overpowered. I occasionally have games with Prossh where I just win, near-effortlessly. Those are sort of god-hand, magical christmasland games, and they don’t happen all that often, but they do happen more often with that particular deck than any other I have in the roster.

The “on probation” decks are: Selvala, Grand Arbiter, Olivia, Stonebrow, Jori En, Rashmi, Sen Triplets, and Rafiq

Rashmi and Selvala are the new kids on the block, and as such are only in this category because I just haven’t had them long enough to know where they’ll ultimately belong. Early results are promising – Selvala was meant to be a more fair version of Yisan which turned out to be stupidly overpowered even though I went out of my way to avoid the more competitive things Yisan is known for, and so far she seems to be “a bit broken and OP, but still far less so than Yisan”. Rashmi came about because I had just grown bored (much to my own surprise) of Edric. Plus she’s just really cool.

Grand Arbiter and Sen Triplets are (probably very obviously) the two decks that are in this category strictly because my playgroup dislikes them. I’m a big fan of both, but refrain from playing them more often simply to avoid annoying my friends. Also, I am in the process of rebuilding Sen Triplets. It previously had a very prominent Artifact them, but I’m scrapping that aspect and focusing more on Enchantments, as well as just improving the control elements. I think this will make the deck a bit stronger, but also, hopefully, a bit less annoying to play against. Mainly, though, I’m hoping it will make the deck a bit more playable without relying on my Commander, because in this case it’s pretty much just the Triplets that annoy people – the rest of the deck is fine-ish.

Olivia and Stonebrow are in this category due to their low power level. Neither is terrible, and I enjoy them, but the fact that I don’t expect to win many games does keep me from reaching for these decks more often. Of the two, the only one that is in any real danger of being scrapped is Olivia. I love Vampire tribal as a theme, and the deck is capable of some scarily fast starts, but just doesn’t have a lot of reach. I have done what I can in this regard, but it’s not enough. At this point, though I’d have to start cutting Vampires to do any more work on solving this problem, but I don’t want to cut any more vampires. I’ve already cut all the iffy ones, and what’s left are the cream of the crop. That said, when stuff like Falkenrath Gorger and Markov Dreadknight would be painful to cut, you’re probably just polishing brass on the Titanic. Stonebrow is about as good as it can be, but again, when your main (and only) plan is to just “Trample; just… Trample” there’s only so much optimization you can do. But I have long had a huge amount of affection for Stoney B so even if it’s one of the weaker decks in my line up, I don’t see him going anywhere.

Jori En is bit of an odd one, in that I really like the deck, it performed really well at the start, but still has some fundamental “not quite there-ness” that I have not been able to put my finger on. It’s not that the deck isn’t powerful; while it’s certainly not one of the best decks I have, it’s still likely one of the best decks in this category, at least. Yet on some abstract level, it just feels more like an impression of the deck I was going for, rather than the actual expected result. But since I can’t define what irks me about it on any concrete level, I can’t begin to fix it. It certainly has some very concrete issues, namely a lack of removal/interaction, but I’m relatively sure these obvious flaws aren’t the main issue with the deck. I played it a TON when I first built it, but I have noticed I am increasingly reluctant to pull it out these days, but what really bugs me is that I have no idea why!

And finally Rafiq. Rafiq was, and still is, one of my all-time favorites. But for now, this deck suffers from some of the same issues as many of the decks in the next category. Namely, I have built and rebuilt the deck so many damn times that this latest version was just thrown together mainly off of memory/instinct, with very little actual thought put into it. In fact, the first couple of games I played I actually lost because I wasn’t drawing any removal… come to find out, I just completely neglected to put any interaction in the deck. I basically had Return to Dust and a Day of Judgement as my only two removal spells, period. No Swords/Path, no Beast Within or Krosan Grip. Nothing! Oops! Obviously I fixed those issues right away, but the deck still feels off to me. Previous builds of Rafiq have felt like well-oiled machines with near-perfect synergy - no such thing as a dead draw. The current list feels far short of that level of fine-tuning and synergy, and instead feels rather more like a pile of rando good stuff. Which is odd because it is very nearly the same list as my last however-many builds, just updated with some new shit. But somehow I just got the formula off kilter. It doesn’t draw as well as it should, doesn’t play as smoothly, and doesn’t FEEL like a Rafiq deck should feel. Simple as that. But it’s only on probation and not up for disassembly because I am pretty well certain I can fix it, and only slightly less certain I’ll find the motivation to do so in the near future. Rafiq is, admittedly, a bit played-out, but I think I can breathe new life into him just the same.

Last, but not least but totally least, we have the losers who are getting voted off the island: Aurelia, Thraximundar, Wrexial, and Karador*

Aurelia and Wrexial are in the same boat: I’ve built both decks (though in Aurelia’s case it wasn’t always an Aurelia deck) many, many times and over the course of multiple variations and redesigns, the decks have somehow gotten progressively worse. Not necessarily in power (though to some extent, power is affected), but just in that the “balance” feels off. Whether it be a wonky mana curve, too much theme, not enough theme… whatever the issue, something about these decks is off. And, part of the issue may be card selection. Both were built very late in the quest for 25 (I stopped at 24 though just because I have no clue what to do with mono-White). And in some respects I just sorta checked off those boxes by going with tried-and-true options that were, in retrospect, low-hangning fruit. Add to that a stretched-thin card base to build from and a general laziness in the approach I took to building these lists, and voila! I got a couple of decks that SHOULD be among my favorites but are instead the very last ones I ever reach for when choosing a deck.

Thraximundar KINDA fits in with the two above, but is different in that I tried to bridge my old, dearly-loved Traximundar “Good Stuff” list with something at least approaching a theme. Ultimately I just wanted to play Dack Fayden and Notion Thief in the same list, I think. Anyway, I threw in Marchea (the first one, obv) and then tried to find ways to cross-synergize between Marchesa and Thraxi. I also stuck with the Bolas sub-theme, running random cards that were flavored around Nicol Bolas. Then I just rounded out the rest of the list with good cards, of both utility and bomb variety. The results were… alright. It was capable of throwing out some realy haymakers and setting up some cool plays, and I really liked that it was a deck that legitimately wanted Grave Betrayal. But ultimately a lot of the ideas I threw in fell flat. So it mostly came down to whether or not I could throw more haymakers then my opponents could defend against.  Trying to get cute in a goodstuff list just didn’t pan out. The theme/synergy stuff diluted the good stuff too much, whereas the good stuff got in the way of the synergy/theme stuff. I realized I needed to either firmly commit to making it a pure Good Stuff build and literally run only the best of the best, or I needed to fully embrace some sort of theme or synergy. Each of the deck’s two halves was weakening the other, so one half needs to go. Problem is, going pure good stuff bores me, but I can’t really figure out what to do in Grixis.

To be honest, I think I’d like to at least try out Marchesa, but her foil price is re-DONK-ulous. No way I’m shelling out for that one, and I am pretty commited to foiling out all the commanders I have, where possible. And, to me, not possible means no foil exists, not that the foil is just too expensive. Knowing it’s there but out of reach would annoy the crap out of me, so I just don’t even want to go down that road. Probably a lame reason not to play a commander that might otherwise interest me, but hey, you do you.

Moving on to Karador, who you probably noticed has an asterisk next to his name. So, the previous three decks I scrapped just because I knew I had minimal interested in playing those exact decks, but I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to be doing instead, for those colors. Karador was a bit of an exception in that, it was still kinda toward the bottom of the list in terms of how often I played it, but that was also more of an annoyance factor, same as with GAAIV and Sen Triplets, but unlike those two, Karador wasn’t new and had been around long enough that I knew what it could do, and how it played, etc. It was a known quantity, and so of all my “annoying” decks it was the one I was least sad about retiring. But, also unlike Aurelia and the other two, I actually did have an idea I wanted to try instead. I wanted to give Anafenza another shot, since Kaladesh printed so many cards that seemed right at home in an Abzan +1/+1 counters deck.

So even though it was the one I liked most, of the four chosen to be replaced, it was also the one I could immediately build a replacement for. I de-sleeved it and sorted out all the cards for re-binder-ing Sunday night. Then, on Monday, Atraxa was spoiled. I already talked about why this immediately caused me to abandon the idea of rebuilding Anafenza, so I won’t reiterate all that here. Suffice it to say I feel like Atraxa is probably going to be better at what I want to do with this deck than Anafenza, so Karador got re-sleeved and promoted back up into the middle category of “on probation”.

I also have a list of improvements/changes to make as well, about 10 cards or so need to be added in, though I’ve only identified a few that I want to cut. So, stay tuned for some small updates on the Karador list. In the mean time I now only have 3 decks I have to replace, and of those 3, I only have an idea on one. I have had an idea for a U/B deck I want to build in my back pocket for a while, but there are some cards I need that are simply non-negotiable. It’ll make sense if and when I actually get to enact this idea, but there is just no suitable replacement or stand-in for these exact cards. They aren’t super expensive, but in total they will cost me a bit of change, which I just don’t have at the moment.

It’s going to be a real stretch for me to afford the C16 precons, at this point. Even buying the $30 or so worth of cards I need for my U/B idea is far, far out of reach just now.

Anything I can think of for Boros is just another flavor of R/W Equipment/Attack tribal.

And as I mentioned, I just don’t really know what to do with Grixis. I’m hoping that the C16 decks will provide inspiration for some of these conundrums. Like, I might do a tandem thing with both of the W/R Partner guys – it’s still ultimately R/W facepunch, but maybe having two commanders is enough of a novel gimmick to make the deck feel somewhat fresh?

I also have to answer the question: If I’m keeping Karador after all, do I want to find another deck from the middle group to replace him on the chopping block? The reason this question is problematic is because, if the answer is “yes”, then I already know which deck it’d be – Olivia. I really want an excuse to keep her around, maybe try to fix her up, but I just don’t think there’s real hope that the deck will ever get much better than it is. Maybe it gets a little better, but probably not enough of a difference to really matter. But, dang it, I like vampires! I just know that, at this point, it’s almost certainly to be my least-played deck now that those other three have been disassembled.

I guess I should keep Olivia around a little while longer, especially since the upcoming C16 decks are going to be taking up all of my attention for the next several weeks. Even if I de-sleeve her today, it’s likely to be a month or more, at minimum, before I get around to doing something else in those colors.

So that’s where I’m at with all my decks! 3 down, 21 left standing, and a handful on a “wait and see” basis. I’m excited to get the chance to brew a few new builds, but that is tempered by the fact that I have little or no idea what I’m going to be brewing. Bugs me that I got THAT close to having the full 25-deck spectrum built, but now I’m just that much further away. The idea, though, isn’t just to have 25 decks, but to have 25 decks that I enjoy playing! There will always be decks that are more powerful than others, decks that are more fun than others, but even the worst deck in my collection should be something that I actively enjoy playing, right? Otherwise, what’s the point?

I still owe you that Rashmi deck list. I have just a few more minor tweaks to make (for now) – just a couple of cards that have been meant to go in since I built it originally but I just keep putting off finding room for. I will try to do that tonight and post the list, but even if I can’t find the gumption to make a couple of difficult cuts, I’ll post the list anyway.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Updates abound!

Well well, folks, strap in 'cause we got lots to talk about!

I've been silent too long, again. This time it was just because I had too much going on with Magic! Too many ideas whirling around, half-formed, not fully percolated yet. Too many sets coming out in too short a time, too many new cards to digest, etc. I wanted to wait until things settled down a bit, so I could talk about things that were concrete... but with C16 spoilers starting today, I've just run out of time, and a lot of shit is still in flux.

So, where to begin?

I know! I am now on Instagram. Ugh, I cannot believe I just typed those words. Kill me now. Or, follow me. I don't care. But you can find me on the accursed social media app as darkthaumaturge. My profile pic is Pinhead from the Hellraiser films, just so you know you got the right one. I would link it, if that's even possible, but I can't figure out if it is, or how to do it. 

EDIT: Figured it out. Here.

Getting to actual Magic business, I guess I will start with Rashmi. With the release of Kaladesh, I realized I wasn't enjoying Edric as much as I used to (still a fav, but perhaps a bit played out for now). Got to talking about Rashmi on the EDH forums, mostly just trying to help another player theorycraft some ideas for his sake, but the more I talked about Rashmi with others the more I realized I was pretty excited and interested in her myself.

Of course, once I cracked a Rashmi in my Kaldesh boxes, I knew I had to put her to work. I retired Edric for the time being, and retooled the existing deck to suit its new commander. After playing a game or two, I was pleasantly surprised, but the deck was a little awkward, being partially formed from the remnants of an Edric list. At that point I figured it was worth just rebuilding from the ground up.

I will have a list later this week. For now I just wanted to make you all aware that it's coming. I'm still tweaking it, of course, and while its first few games where really impressive, as my group adjusts to it and learns to play around and against it, it has become noticeably less consistent. Such is the way of most decks, though.

Moving to the next topic, my realization about Edric getting a bit dull, led me to a larger realization. I have 24 decks and while I generally like all of them, I noticed I was really favoring some and shunning others. Aurelia, for example, is a perfectly fine deck, but I barely ever played it. Almost never, actually. Same for my recently rebuilt Wrexial deck. I just couldn't get super motivated to play it over, say MW Dragons or Queen Marchesa, or whatever.

So I had some decks I actively tried to play as much as possible, some I just kind of ambivalently picked up for something different to do, and others I was avoiding outright. The next step was of course to identify and categorize my decks to really figure out which decks were working, which where not. In the end, I had picked out 4 decks that, for whatever reason I was treating like a redheaded stepchild. I will do a more in-depth post about this later, hopefully tomorrow, where I'll break it all down for you.

Suffice it to say, there are 4 decks in my stable that are on the chopping block. The de-sleeving process is already underway! Couple of kinks in the plan, though. First off, for three of the decks I'm culling, I have no immediate or concrete ideas as to what is going to replace them. I already spoiled Aurelia as one of the decks I'm jettisoning, but I've already built around damn near every R/W Legend out there, and besides which they're all basically the same damn thing anyway. Boros decks just want to smash into the red zone. Am I bored with Swords of Power and Value? Am I bored with Doublestrike creatures? Have I just gotten fed up with the Attack Phase altogether?

To any one of those questions I'd instinctively answer "Hell no!" but if that's true, why is Aurelia the very last deck in my deck box to see the light of day? Even Stonebrow, and arguably worse version of the Big Stupid Smashface deck gets more play.

Well, I don't really know the answer, and that's the problem. If I don't know what is making me shun Boros (more like Bore-us, am I right? LOLOLOL), then how can I fix it? What can I do differently to avoid making another boring Boros deck? NO IDEA! But we're going to figure it out together.

So here's the other little kink in my plans: of the 4 decks I was planning to retire for the time being, the one I actually generally liked and though of as a solid deck was Karador. This one I was mainly just giving a break as a public service to my playgroup as it's kind of an annoying deck to play against. Well, if I'm honest I have a fair few decks that annoy my group, so I just wanted to be nice and pick one of the deck that I felt was on the more obnoxious side, and give it a break. I picked Karador simply because of all my annoying decks, it's the one that's been around the longest, and is most familiar to myself and the group. It might not be as obnoxious as Grand Arbiter, but it's been obnoxious for far longer, and has long since proven itself as a well-tuned deck.

So I didn't want to cut a deck that hasn't really had time or opportunity to prove itself to be worthy or a failure. Plus, Kaladesh came with a pretty heavy +1/+1 counter theme, adding to the Abzan thing I'd already tried to make work. I just kind of idly hoped that Kaladesh's support would be just enough to push it over the line from jank to viable. So, since I actually had a idea in mind for WBG and it was the most well-worn of my "annoying" decks, Karador got the nod of disassembly.

"What exactly is the problem here?" you ask... well, as I said my idea was to revisit Anafenza and give her another shot, with the hope that since I gave up on her and went back to tried-and-true Karador, enough further +1/+1 themed-cards had been printed to make the deck a little more reliable/consistent/fun/poweful/etc. Last night I de-sleeved Karador and began mentally brainstorming a new Anafenza list. My one quibble with Ms. the Foremost is that graveyard-hosing rider she carries.I just kinda hate hosers of that magnitude. I don't mind Bojuka Bog or Tormod's Crypt, but just making the person playing a GY deck feel like they can't participate at all is rude. Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, I was all set to work through that point of contention and just let her do her thang.

Then, today, this happened:

Yeah. This badass chick is better than Anafenza in just about every way. Atraxa just straight up preempts Anafenza, no question. I get to do everything Anafenza does, PLUS I get to do some Simic stuff too. No annoying graveyard-hosing rider that doesn't make sense or add anything to the theme; instead we get a veritable smorgasbord of keywords. Oh, and she doesn't have to risk her life attacking to give a counter to one thing, she can just sit back and chill and give counters to everything.

Sorry Anafenza, but you are SO fired. Karador... congratulations, you got your job back. For now.

Alas, now I have only 3 decks getting shuttered, and need a 4th. Well, I guess I don't need a 4th outside of some arbitrary insistence on nice, neat, divisible numbers. More importantly I need some ideas on what should replace the 3 or 4 decks I scrap. I have no idea what to do in Boros that I haven't already tried. And now, in a couple of weeks, I'm also going to have to figure out what the heck to do with a bunch of rando 4-color decks. At least I already have one figured out right off the bat.

Well, the good news is, all this hullabaloo is good fodder for content. The bad news is finding time to write about it all is going to get harder, not easier.

And that kinda segues us back to that silly Instagram thing. I tend to loathe most forms of social media, but I have just figured out that Instagram could be sorta useful for someone in my position. I'll continue to do the big set reviews, deck lists, etc. here. Basically I'll continue to do EVERYTHING I already do, here. But Instagram is a great platform for short, quick bursts of though, particularly during spoiler season.

Here, I endeavor to provide thoughtful, insightful analyses of cards after a suitable amount of time that I'm not just throwing out purely emotional, knee-jerk response. But if something like, say, Atraxa gets spoiled and I just can't wait to barf up some immediate response, or if you just can't wait for my big set review to see what I think of a particular spoiler, that's what Instagram will be for.

I'll also try to occasionally post pics of board states from particularly epic games, maybe show off some of my pimped out cards, etc. Whatever. I don't know. Basically, if I want to say something Magic related, but it's not worthy of a full-grown blog post, I'll just dump it on Instagram for you to consume or ignore at your own discretion.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Big Highlander Update

It’s been a long time since I’ve really discussed my Big Highlander on here. For those of you who don’t know, before I got into EDH ( first started dabbling in EDH back during the original Ravnica block, though I didn’t really become a hard-core EDH fan until around  the end of Time Sprial block/beginning of Lorwyn block), I maintained and played what I and my friends eventually just came to call “Big Highlander”. I don’t really know anything about the origins of this casual format, and the actual rules vary widely from place to place. For my purposes, the only rule we were 100% certain of was that you could only have 1 copy of any card except basic lands, and you had to play a “Big” deck. What big meant was never precisely defined, though over several years I and my friends sorta narrowed it down to roughly “somewhere in the range of 250 cards”. Oh and eventually we decided that you had to play all 5 colors, though for the first couple of years, we often tended toward 3 colors, MAYBE splashing lightly for a 4th. I think we also originally played it as a 20-life format, until we played EDH for a few years and decided to play big highlander at 40 life as well.

We also had virtually no banlist for a long time, though eventually our group decided to hard ban Sundering Titan and just gentleman’s ruled Capsize. I know, I know, Capsize? Really? But seriously, I cannot tell you how many games actually came down to one play sticking a Mirari’s Wake with Capsize in hand. It’s not that that was the most unbeatable thing, or that it happened extremely often – but when it did happen it was just incredibly unfun and tended to just end games abruptly and without anything cool happening. So I say we gentleman’s ruled it because we didn’t outright ban it like the Titan, rather we just all sort of agreed it wasn’t fun 99% of the time and avoided playing it maindeck. Oh yeah, we allowed wishboards too. You were allowed to compile a wishboard of 15 cards PER WISH, but each wishboard was separate – meaning, you could put a multicolor creature like, say, Thraximundar in either your Glittering Wish board or your Living Wish board, but whichever one of those wishboards you put it in, only that wish could wish for it (we usually used different colored sleeves for each Wish, so like Green for Living, Red for burning, Gold for Glittering, etc.).

Anyway, we would allow Capsize in your wishboard, but if you kept wishing for it  ruining games with it, you’d get some serious frowny faces. So, basically it was 5-color singleton but with almost no real rules beyond “play 5 colors, singleton, large deck size”. We also had the whole “Play whatever you want, just don’t be a dick” spirit of EDH.

Point is, when EDH really blew up big, this little niche format that was already relatively obscure in my area basically died off completely. But me and one of my close friends kept maintaining and updating our Big Highlander decks, though we play them very infrequently. One of the reasons we still cling to this dead format is that we like to have a place for all our pimpest foils.  I don’t really like to pimp my EDH decks. For one thing, I currently have 24  of them with plans to eventually have 30 (Just need to add mono-White and then the 4-color decks that will come out in November). Pimping out 24 EDH decks is already just the most absurdly unreasonable goal I could possibly have – but complicating matters further is that I’m not the type of person who can just build a deck and play it forever. I’m a builder first and foremost, so even if, say, Rafiq is my favorite EDH deck of all time, I’m still going to want to play other Bant commanders from time to time or explore other archetypes.

I’m constantly tearing apart decks, even ones I love to play and consider successful. That’s a big reason why I have this blog, actually – I can record my decks for posterity and so that I can feel safe dismantling a beloved deck to try out some new idea. I know I can always come back here and rebuild that old deck I loved,  once I get tired of whatever new idea I came up with. So even if I was going to be sure I’d keep this deck or that one sleeved up forever and ever, it’d be impossible for me to foil out that many decks (just thinking of getting 30 foil Sol Rings alone makes me want to die); but add in the fact that my stable is pretty constantly in flux with new decks being brewed all the time… yeah, no can do.

But, before getting into EDH, pimping out our big highlander decks was already a thing we were doing, so we just continued that trend. For EDH I just try to pimp my commanders. I’ll go for foil or promo version of any commander I play, if they are affordable ($30 for a foil Sen Triplets is fine, $180 for a foil Leovold is out of the question, $50 for a Queen Marchesa is something I’d be willing to do, but am not currently able). But most of my pimping efforts have been focused on my Big Highlander.

Another reason we like to play big highlander – playing with cards like Recurring Nightmare, Primeval Titan and Griselbrand. Sure we still have Sundering Titan house-banned but we happily allow just about any other banned-in-EDH card. That’s not to say we dislike or disagree with the RC’s decisions – I agree 100% with them banning Griselbrand, for instance, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy getting to actually use that foil Griselbrand I bought, so Big Highlander is our outlet to up the stakes and do stupid things that even the battle-crusiest of EDH games doesn’t allow for. And, speaking soley for myself here, there are one or two cards that I do think the RC should unban (Gifts Ungivin, Primeval Titan). And we still largely play with the spirit of “don’t be a dick, don’t make games unfun”, so even though we haven’t banned cards like, say, Upheaval, we tend to just avoid using them because they’re not even all that fun to play WITH, let alone against. In short, playing this deck is probably a bit like playing someone’s Vintage cube, sans the Power 9 stuff. And I don’t mean drafting a cube, but rather just picking up like half the cube, adding some lands and sleeving it up!

The nice thing about this is, the power level  of my big highlander deck is so high, it’s actually pretty rare that a new set comes out and they print something that I just absolutely have to have. Most sets have one or two cards I’d like to run, but there just isn’t anything in the current list weaker than whatever new thing just came out. Most sets I can ignore completely, and the reset usually only add one or two new cards. From Eldritch Moon, the only card I’d really consider is Eldritch Evolution and if I just happened to open a foil of that, I’d likely have found a slot for it, but even that isn’t so amazing that I just had to have a foil copy for the big highlander. Shadows was a bit better in that Seasons Past and Anguished Unmaking were compelling enough that I went out of my way to acquire foils of them, though I’m not sure in the long run Season’s Past will quite live up to expectations – I think ultimately it will wind up as a Burning Wish target.

At one point, I might have cut a technically-better non-foil for a slightly weaker foil, but at this point that is not an option. The few non-foil cards left are of the Academy Rector/Recurring Nightmare/Treachery caliber. In other words, cards that are so good I just wouldn’t cut them for any reason. On the flip side, there are a few cards (very few – like 3 or 4 out of 250) that I am running just because I happened to have a foil lying around, but even those are cards I’m hesitant to cut for anything a straight-up better card of similar function and cost. Like, Silverblade Paladin is probably one of the worst cards currently in my list, though even it has performed admirably; nonetheless I’d happily replace it if the right card came along, but I’m not about to cut a white three-drop for something that costs 6+ and requires three colors of mana to cast. No, the only way I’d cut it is if I had a better White creature in the 2 to 4 mana range with an even more desirable ability. Recruiter of the Guard might do, if only the foil version weren’t so pricey. But I’m not in a big hurry to replace him as even though he is probably the worst card in the deck, he’s still not that far below the curve, power-wise. Occasionally he’s even been a huge power house, it’s just that he’s a bit more situational than I’d like. Sometimes he’s just decent.

Unfortunately, though, lately WotC has been printing a lot of really good cards I’d love to have in foil, but in ways that make them very inaccessible for me. Eternal Masters had a number of cards of this nature, for instance. Mystical Tutor (maybe Enlightened as well, though Mystical is way better in my list), Toxic Deluge, Possibly Dualcaster Mage, Baleful Strix,  Dack Fayden, Wasteland, Top, and Mana Crypt are all cards that stand decent to high chances of making the cut, where I to open a foil or find one at a price I could afford. I think of all those only Dualcaster Mage and Mystical Tutor are actually cheap right now, at $5 and $15 respectively. But I’m not 100% sure either would ultimately make the cut and with the fast pace of new releases lately, finding even $20 to spend on cards that I’m not 100% sure I need is very hard to do.

Meanwhile Kaladesh comes out and really wrecks my shit with the Masterpiece invention series. I got lucky and opened a Scroll Rack masterpiece, which felt great, but bittersweet because I already have the Commander’s Arsenal foil in my big highlander. I still feel like the Masterpiece version is an upgrade, but really it’s a slightly more pimp version of a card I had already pimped pretty well. God, if there isn’t a more #FirstWorldProblem thing out there… “Oh no! I have to replace my expensive foil with a slightly cooler-looking and more expensive foil!” I mean, I seriously don’t mean to complain about that at all, it’s just that I would have been far happier opening something I didn’t already have a nice shiny copy of. But, still, opening a Masterpeice I can and will play is great, regardless of what it is. I’d have been pretty pumped to get a Solemn or Greaves, even.  Ultimately the Masterpiece series is awesome, so I truly don’t intend any real complaint.  Of the Kaladesh inventions, those I would almost certainly snap jam into my big highlander no matter what include:
Noxious Gearhulk (I like all the gearhulks in the right deck, but Noxious is the only one that’s just generically good enough to be played in anything, anywhere),
Chromatic Lantern (already running pack foil, this would be an upgrade),
Crucible of Worlds (had in my wishboard for a long time, but needed all my copies for EDH),
Lightning Greaves (already running FNM promo, major upgrade)
Mana Crypt (Never owned one, but this deck would love to have it)
Mana Vault (Have a few copies, but ugly white border is a dealbreaker no matter how good the card is)
Scroll Rack (as mentioned, running CA foil, but this one is cooler)
Sol Ring (Have a FTV foil, but this is way nicer, probably the best art in the whole Masterpiece line, IMO)
Solemn Simulacrum (like my M12 pack foil but would still happily upgrade)
Sword of Feast and Famine (Would actually prefer the judge promo, to match the judge promos of SoFI and SoLS I already have, but would happily take this in lieu)

So that’s basically 10 out of 30 uber-expensive, hard-to-get foils I would just dearly love to have. I got the Scroll Rack so that’s 1 down, 9 to go. And thanks to the Sword of Feast and Famine masterpiece, the Judge foil is now a lot cheaper and almost what I’d consider affordable. I’d rather have that version anyway, so that’s 2 down. Of the 8 remaining, only 3 of the above are not already in my deck, in some form of foil – Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, and Noxious Gearhulk. Assuming I can live with “peasent” foils of the other 5, that makes 3 that are actual “must have” cards. Unfortunately those three alone would cost me over $300 to acquire, so that’s still way out of reach.

Then there are the handful of older cards that I have yet to foil. Some, like Recurring Nightmare do not have any foil version in existence, so those I just have to live with. Fortunately there are very few of those left thanks to WotC’s recent trend of reprinting old cards in foil. Sylvan Library is just one example of a card I refused to cut even though no foil version existed, and was rewarded by an unexpected reprint years later.

But just to give you an example, here are a few cards I have yet to foil out: Academy Rector ($85), Wheel of Fortune ($160 – had the chance to get one at $25, but didn’t take it. Ouch!), Treachery ($90), Sensei’s Divining Top ($47), Coalition Relic ($65), Land Tax ($90), and Demonic Tutor ($240!!!).

Oh and that’s not even counting the lands… I am lucky enough to have foils of all 10 Ravnica duals (Return block, though, not OG Rav, sadly), and a random assortment of foils of other cycles, though the RAV shocks and the RAV bouncelands are the only cycles I have completed. I have a few SHA/EVN filter lands, a couple of Khans fetches and a few Theros Temples, but many of the ones I am lacking from each of those cycles carry hefty prices tags. Ultimately of course my goal is to be as close to 100% foiled out as possible, and with Expedition/Masterpiece versions where possible. I realize that I’m extraordinarily lucky to be anywhere near as close to that goal as I am, yet the pricess of the remaining 20 or so cards makes me feel as though I will never reach this goal – in fact there is very little room for me to progress closer at all, at this time. I can probably afford the Sword of Feast and Famine and the Mystical Tutor sometime in the next month or two, but beyond those two, just about everything I need is well out of reach.

Of course Kaladesh is more than just masterpieces, right? Is there anything else in this set that I’d want for my big highlander? Let’s see… well, fortunately given my financial constraints the answer is “not really, but maybe”. I did manage to pull a foil Panharmonicon which is certainly iffy, but I’m looking to see how many things in the deck it would actually work with. I do have a TON of creatures with ETBF triggers and a few other things like Wild Pair that it will double, but I have not yet concluded if there are enough viable triggers for it to copy to be worth it – and even then, if I decided it WOULD be worth having, I’d have to find something to cut – that is, something arguable worse than Panharmonicon, and as much as I like Panharmonicon, it’s competing against the likes of Survival of the Fittest and Maelstrom Nexus. Tough call.

Rashmi, Eternities Crafter has impressed me enough I’d definitely consider her good enough to find a slot, but I’m waiting to see what happens with her foil price. Actually I just checked and it looks like she’s around $15 or so, which is way lower than I thought. Might have to get on that sooner rather than later!

I’ve already talked about Noxious Gearhulk, and while I’d absolutely jam the Masterpeice or even a regular pack foil, if I got lucky and opened, one I don’t want it quite badly enough to outright buy either foil version. At $10 for the normal pack foil, it’s certainly not a bad deal or out of reach at all, but it’s just not something I need badly enough. Even $10 is higher than what I’d value it at for this particular deck – again when you’re already playing stuff like Griselbrand and Primeval Titan, even something like the Gearhulk cycle is only so-so. If Noxious drops more, to $5 or $6 I’d definitely have to consider it then.

Finally, I’d almost consider Fumigate worth considering, except for a couple of factors that knock it just a bit below the curve. First, since I only know one person who still has a big highlander deck any more, this is now pretty exclusively a 1v1 format. Fumigate’s value goes way up in multiplayer where there are likely to be way more creatures out. Second, it has to compete with the gold standards of Wrath, Damnation, Decree of Pain, Blasphemous Act, Merciless Eviction, etc. Fumigate is a terrific sweeper by recent standards, but up against all of Magic history, it starts to look pretty lackluster. Maybe if they print a full-art, textless promo of Fumigate its stock starts to go up a bit, but it’s certainly not going to make the cut solely on power level, so upping it’s pimp factor might just push it over the edge!

Of course those evaluations are only taking into account the maindeck. The barrier for entry in the wishboard(s) is a little lower. Torrential Gearhulk, for instance, would probably go straight to the top of the “must run” list if it said “instant or sorcery” but the limitation of Instant-only makes it more of a sideboard card for me. I just don’t feel like I can rely on always having relevant Instants in my graveyard, with a 250-card deck. It might be a little better than I think, but for now I am definitely considering this a wishboard option only, and even then only if I crack a foil or find one and a really low price point. I don’t want it badly enough to go out of my way to get it.

Same for the White gearhulk. I’m running friggin’ Balance maindeck so if I want a second, much-worse version it’s going in the ‘board for sure. But even then I’m not 100% sure I’d want the Gearhulk more than Tragic Arrogance, and I’m not even running that yet, so… maybe/maybe not on this one.

Finally, I might consider Fateful Showdown as a “maybe” as a Cunning Wish target. It’s a cool, unique card and I think I might have opened a foil anyway, so I’d have to see what I might cut from the Cunning wishboard to make room for it. If there’s anything in there that I just don’t often wish for, Showdown might be up for a trial run.

That’s about it for Kaladesh, but I also want to take a quick look at Conspiracy 2 to see if there’s anything I might want. It was such an amazing EDH set, but a lot of that has to do with EDH being multiplayer, and the set focusing on multiplayer/politics. But since I only ever play big highlander 1v1 now, it might not be as full of goodies for that format…

Right off the bat I feel like Recruiter of the Guard is right in that “I’d run it if I opened it, but don’t need it badly enough to go buy it” category. I’d really have to see what legal targets it has besides Mulldrifter, Acidic Slime and Academy Rector. I’m sure it has plenty of things it CAN get, but how many of those are good enough to run a tutor for?

Expropriate, like all the voting cards in this set, gets better the more players in the game, at only two votes this hardly seems worth 9 mana, but I managed to pull a foil out of my box so I want to at least consider it for the wishboard. Unlikely to make the cut, but I have to give it a chance.

Subterranean Tremors might be a wishboard card as well. I think it has a better chance of actually making the cut than Expropriate, but alas I didn’t open a foil of this one, and I don’t think I want it bad enough to go track one down.

Regal Behemoth is the only card with the Monarch mechanic that might be playable, but even this one is pretty iffy. I’d certainly be more than happy to draw the extra card and get the mana-doubling effect, but I’m just not sure how well I can reasonably defend the monarchy in 1v1. Again, if I happen across a foil I might try it, but not so sure about it that I’ll go out of my way to get one.

Berserk – Definitely something I’d love to have as a Cunning Wish target, as it could just win games out of nowhere, but not worth the high price tag.

Leovold – Probably the only card in the set that I am positive I would maindeck without hesitation, but my god the foil price! Even if this guy loses half his value he’ll still be way, way out of my price range. He’s definitely good enough I’d pay a premium for him, above what I’d pay for most cards, but even for Leovold I don’t think he’ll ever reach a price point low enough. I happily paid $60 for a foil Survival of the Fittest and would again, even if I didn’t know the card is worth more now. I just think the card is powerful enough (and the promo art is amazing enough!) to be worth a high price tag. Leovold is super powerful but also a bit of a dick move, so for me that hurts his play value quite a bit. That said, I’d still run him to hose opposing Consecrated Sphinxes and Griselbrands, as well as other broken draw effects. I have just enough “wheel” effects in my list that occasionally that interaction might come up, but not so often that it would be oppressively common. So for a foil of Leo I think I’d be willing to pay $40 to $50 for him, but I’d be surprised if he ever reaches that low a price, and even if he did, it’s not guaranteed I could afford to shell out $50 for a card even if I wanted to.

There’s also the problem that, when it comes to foil Legendary creatures, I’m a good deal more apt to put them at the helm of an EDH deck than I am to resign them to a deck I don’t play that often, especially the pricey ones.

The last thing I want to address is the recent printing of the newest (honorary) Wish. I am of course referring to Call the Gatewatch, the card that lets you “wish” for a Planeswalker. I don’t run many ‘walkers in my deck. Partly this is because the best ones are usually very expensive to acquire in foil, but even more than that, there aren’t a lot of them that are really great in a 1v1 prismatic highlander format. The ones that actually fit both criteria of being good enough to play, but cheap enough to acquire are few and far between. And of the small number that do hit these criteria I often don’t care enough to go find them, for whatever reason. I guess I’m just not a fan of ‘walkers in the big highlander world. But, I’m thinking that a ‘Walker wishboard might just be the way to go. I’d rather have 15 situationally-amazing walkers in my wishboard and just call the Gatewatch and a few truly-worthy ‘walkers in the maindeck. Jace the Mind Sculptor, Nicol Bolas and maybe 1 or 2 others are actually worth having in the maindeck but there are plenty that would make for good wishboard options to be fetched only when they are likely to be relevant.

This is pure theory-craft at this point, but off the top of my head I think my 15-card “Watchboard” might look something like this:

Karn, Silver Golem
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Ajani Vengeant
Chandra, the Firebrand
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Liliana Vess
Nahiri, the Harbinger
Ob Nixilis Reignited
Sarkhan Vol
Sarkhan Unbroken
Teferi, Temporal Adept
Tamiyo, Field Researcher
Vraska the Unseen
Venser, the Sojourner
Xenagos, the Reveler

Again, this list would be influenced heavily by what I can actually afford to acquire in foil, but I’d make exceptions for the likes of Karn or Ugin, if I have a non-foil lying around somewhere.