Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Big Red

After getting rocked a few weeks ago at Lakeland's Standard FNM I decided to regroup. I found an interesting list by Frank Lepore on and decided to build the deck with tons of my own personal modifications.

The reason for wanting to build the deck was the use of Kuldotha Phoenix. The Phoenix has always been my favorite card from Scars of Mirrodin. Historically Phoenix's have been my favorite type of creatures because of the insane recursion and card advantage they provide. I built a deck revolving around Worldheart Phoenix, which was basically a 5C Control deck but abused the Domain mechanic along with Etched Oracle's Sunburst mechanic. All my creatures kept coming back after Wraths or Damnations would blow up the world. I also built a Mono-Red Boom & Bust deck featuring a playset of Magma Phoenix. The deck worked because of multiple sacrifice outlets I put in the deck to abuse the Phoenix's ability. In conjunction with re-occurring lifegain, the deck was difficult to stop.

Kuldotha Phoenix is trickier in Standard because it forces you to play tons of artifacts to get the Metalcraft going. I initially built a few decks that feature Kuldotha Phoenix, neither of which I had any success with. First was an aggressive build that used cheap artifact creatures to get Metalcraft online. The problem was these creatures were fairly fragile and couldn't compete with the better aggro dudes. The other deck I tried was a Destructive Force deck with tons of ramp and artifacts like Ratchet Bomb, Brittle Effigy, etc. to achieve Metalcraft. This deck didn't work because I'd have awesome ramp in Destructive Force but no relevant threats to close it out.

Fast forward a few months and I built this deck:

Kuldotha Phoenix x 4
Inferno Titan x 3
Koth of the Hammer x 4
Lightning Bolt x 4
Arc Trail x 4
Comet Storm x 2
Ratchet Bomb x 4
Contagion Clasp x 4
Tumble Magnet x 4
Everflowing Chalice x 4
Valakut the Molten Pinnacle x 4
Tectonic Edge x 3
Mountains x 16

Goblin Ruinblaster x 4
Pyroclasm x 4
Shatter x 3
Etched Champion x 4

The Sideboard came late but the deck is basically what I played at the last tournament. I tested a version with 24 land and no Inferno Titans and packed 2 Chandra Nalaar and Triskelion. After testing with Mike we realized that Chandra wasn't enough. I always thought she was good in a few respects: 1) She can trade with Titans on her own and ping Planeswalkers, 2) worked well with the minor Proliferate theme. In testing I was never in a position were I needed a Chandra to win so she was dropped. Triskelion was also dropped although it tested very well. It can come in and start machinegunning dudes on your turn and your opponents turn. He also worked very well with Proliferate. With the rules change that prevents damage stacking during combat, Trisk has lost plenty of swagger. Back in the day you could block as a 4/4, stack damage to kill the attacker, then stack his machine gun ability to deal 3 at other attacking creatures or at a player's dome. Trisk was a one-man army. Not not so much. We decided for the same casting cost, Inferno Titan, a 6/6 that acts as a recurring Arc Lighting was way better. And it was.

The deck is a Mono-Red Midrange deck that can play the aggressive deck when need be or the control if called upon. During testing with Mike I ended up playing something like 20+ games with the deck, no sideboard though. I tested the deck against a solid gamut of decks: Kuldotha Red 2-1, Elves 2-1, UW Control 1-0, UB Control 2-0, White Proliferate 2-0, Quest 2-0, Liquid Metal 0-1, and won most of the games I played. It seems the deck is geared to beat aggro decks because it packs plenty of creature hate in spot removal, 8 2-for-1s and 4 Tumble Magnets. Control matchups you need to grind out wins in a few ways: either play the beatdown and get an early Koth online and early Phoenix, grind out recursion Phoenix wins, or dome them with Valakut in the long game.

While testing the deck it seemed that it always had all the answers it needed to relevant threats and I always had cards in my hand when my opponent had none. Every thing I drew was a card advantage machine and could get ahead in every game. Every game I played Koth I won. Dropping Koth was an immediate threat. If his Emblem got online in was a matter of inevitability. You have to scoop to lose that game. Once it was online your opponent would still need to spend time and resources to get him off the field. Phoenix is a renewable threat as long as you have Metalcraft up, which isn't difficult considering the deck runs 16 artifacts. Doomblade my Phoenix? Sure, I'll swing for 4. Mana Leak? Sure, I'll swing for 4. Most decks don't run Condemn or too many Journey to Nowhere so Phoenix is pretty sick. Ratchet Bomb and Arc Trail are amazing in aggro matchups. Against a Quest deck you can clear their all there guys and blow up their Equipment. If they do manage to get Argentum Armor up you have Tumble Magnet to shut them down. Tumble Magnet I'd usually deem a throw away common. But in reality it is an important control element to the deck. Being able to continually shut down threats is very important. Versus Titans they can't even get there attack triggered ability online with Tumble Magnet out. The deck is surprisingly very effective and extremely resilient.

That night, Mike and I discussed sideboard options because Mike wanted to build the deck for a tournament he was planning on playing at by his hometown. Mike went 5-0 at that tournament but I can't remember what decks he played. I do know he played some Tier 1 archetypes though. Not sure.

I decided to sleeve up my 75 and went to Armada Games in Tampa. I've casually played at Armada before and know that a few guys there are judges and almost everyone in the room is a Spike and rock Tier 1 decks. After doing tons of trading (where I moved about $70 worth of cards) and picking up Inferno Titans and some other stuff I surveyed the room. I mostly noticed a ton of Elves decks, BR Vampires, White Weenie Quest, RUG and Eldrazi Green.

Round 1: Shawn playing UW Control
Game 1: I win the die roll and keep my 7. I open with Valakut and Shawn lets out a long disparaging sigh. He plays Colonade and passes. I play a mountain and kick Chalice for 1. Shawn plays a land and Wall of Omens and passes. Wall of Omens is a clear sign of UW Control so I play a mountain and Koth while he is tapped out and swing for 4. He plays an Island and passes. I don't draw another land for a few turns. I play a Contagion Clasp, swing for 4, he blocks and pass. Shawn draws, plays Jace and Brainstorms. My go I'm holding a Phoenix, Inferno Titan, Comet Storm and some Arc Lightnings that I can't use because I only have one of the two mandatory targets. I make the emblem and play another Contagion Clasp and pass. He plays land, Preordains, and Fateseals me. On my go I draw another Inferno Titan and discard Phoenix hoping to resurrect it. He slams down Frost Titan and Fateseals me. Because of Frosty's first ability it is difficult to get enough mana to kill it. A few turns of taking a beating and I'm done. Sideboard out Arc Lightnings and put in Goblin Ruinblasters.

Game 2: On my go I keep my 7 and open with Valakut. He keeps his opening 7 and immediately slams down a Leyline of Sanctity. FML. I decide to play it out and hope for a Ratchet Bomb. He goes and Preordains. I go and play a Contagion Clasp. He goes and plays a Wall of Omen. I go and play a Tumble Magnet. He goes and Plays a Wall of Omens. All said and done I have 3 Tumble Magnets and a Contagion Clasp that I'm Proliferating. I get to Ruinblast a Colonnade but it is too late since he has Gideon and Jace the Mindsculptor out. I'm holding tons of Lightning Bolts, 2 Inferno Titans and a Comet Storm which are all dead cards. I also stick a Phoenix which he decides to NOT counterspell or Unsummon with JMS and Celestial Purges it instead. I stick a Koth that is exiled by another Purge. I play an Inferno Titan that gets Flashfrozen. UW has all the answers and I have none save 4 Ratchet Bombs that I see none of. I kill a Sun Titan and a Wurmcoil engine but get ultimated out by Jace. Terrible loss and my worst game of the night. I really wish Red had some hate cards for White.

Round 2: Vincent playing BG Infect
Vincent and his brother are a pair of nice kids in college. They've played Magic for a while, casually, and only recently have been exploring competitive Magic in the last 5-6 months. Nice guys.
Game 1: Vincent has to mull while I keep my 7. He opens with an Infect dude on turns 1 and 2 that I two for one with Arc Trail. He plays another Infect dude that I Clasp. He plays the Infect lord that I Bolt EOT. I play Koth and beat face. He sticks another Infect guy that I kill with Inferno Titan. He scoops.

Game 2: Vincent doesn't really sideboard. I put in Pyroclasms for Ratchet Bombs. He mulls again and I keep my 7. SEE GAME ONE.

I ask him what pump spells he's playing. He says he has everything but Vines of the Vastwood and asks what the card even is. I know he and his brother are n00bs so I try to drop some knowledge and tell them that their Tier 2.5 decks are not enough for a room filled with Spikes. Every deck in the room, other then mine and the two brother's decks, are Tier 1. I suggest going Mono-Green Infect and tell him Jacob van Lunen posted a budget decklist a month or so ago which has a fast clock.

Vincent and I play some casual games but he urges me to play Big Red. He comes at me with some Jank Myr deck that I roll two games in a row. I'm no Kai Budde or Jon Finkel, but he is just outclassed.

His brother asks to play me. I switch up to my horrible RG Metalcraft deck and get my ass handed to my by Primeval Titan and Garruk Wildspeaker. I did stick a foil Lodestone Golem and a Spike commented, "Whoa! You never see that in Standard." I reply, "I'm just playing some Jank deck for fun." He adds, "Yeah, but that's some Jank with serious sass." I switch up and play Mass Polymorph. We play two games that go something like this: we both ramp, we both counter some spells, I go to Mass Polymorph and we have a counter-war. I stick Emrakul, Iona for Blue and Stormtide Leviathan. This happened two games in a row. Smily face.

Round 3: Dave (I don't remember his name but I'll call him Dave) playing BR Vampires
I've played Dave before, the one time I stopped by Armada months ago. Back then he was playing Valakut but pre-Scars. He is a very good player that plays tight and is very polite. He makes sure we both have accurate life totals, kindly tells me to untap stuff when I forget, etc. He also informed me then that he is a DCI Judge and judges all the big events in Central Florida and PTQs. Very nice guy.

Game 1: I'm on the play and have to mull. He keeps and asks if my six is better. I reply, "I'm good." He plays Swamp and Vampire Lacerator. He's obviously playing Vampires. I go Valakut. He winces. He plays Bloodghast and swings for 2. I play Ratchet Bomb and tick it to 1 at the end of his turn. He plays Lavaclaw and comes in for 4. I play Contagion Clasp on his Bloodghast. He sticks Kalastria Highborn comes in for 2. I tick up Ratchet Bomb to two. I pop it on my turn. He domes me with Bolt. I stick Koth and come in for 4. He plays two little Vampires and gets Bloodghast back. I stick an Inferno Titan and clear some of his guys. He draws, beat, no Doomblade. I swing in, dome him for 3 and pump for 10 for a total of 13 damage. By this time he is on one card, draws for the turn and scoops. Inferno Titan is freaking AMAZING.

Game 2: I side out Ratchet Bombs because all his dudes would force me to kill my own Clasps. Pyroclasms are much much better. This game he mulls but gets the best curved hand and I get stuck on 4 lands and a Chalice for 1. This is actually an epic battle but once he got a Highborn online and a second one after I killed the first, it's pretty much over. I made some pretty critical errors with Arc Trail. He played the Vamp that can sac for +2/+2 and I kept targeting it and another creature which he'd sac to save the sac dude. This happened three times. At the end of the game I exclaimed, "All my 2-for-1s weren't 2-for-1s!!!" I should have been hitting the sac Vamp for 1 and doming him for 2 to either lose the sac Vamp or another vampire. Bad play in a game that I think I would have lost anyways to Kalastria Highborn and some slowrolled Bloodghast triggers.

Game 3: This game is epic. I keep and he mulls. It is a tight game that almost goes to time and comes down to the last draw to win the game. I think he made errors not killing Koth early. But it didn't matter since I had 3 Valakuts and 1 moutain. He Doombladed one of my attacking 4/4 moutains. There was a lot of back and forth between his dudes getting in licks and my 4/4 mountains coming in. It was basically a race. By this time there is a small crowd gathering (pun intended) around our match. One guy, a nice guy named Corey who I've played before, is really excited about this game and even exclaims, "Sorry to crowd you guys but this is the BEST game I've seen all night!!!" I did have a blowout play when he attacked me with a pumped Lavaclaw Reaches and Landfell Bloodghast hasted. He activates and swings in. I have enough to multi-kick Comet Storm to kill his dude, his land and dome him for 2. The crowd erupts! He eventually gets more guys out that rape Koth. But not before I can use Koth's ghetto Garruk move to turn 1 of my mountains into 2 mana to stick a Phoenix. When I do he quickly flashes a Doomblade then pulls it back. I tell him, "I'm not swinging. I'm getting mana." He laughs. He now decides to kill the Mountain instead of Phoenix to keep me off mana which is a good idea since I now only have 3 Valakuts out. The crowd wince in horror as I lose my critical mountain. On his go if he draws a land I'm dead because there are two Bloodghasts in the bin and he has a small team out. I'm holding an Inferno Titan with only 3 Valakuts and a double kicked Chalice. He's at 7 life. I tell him I should have plenty of outs but could really use a mountain. If I don't draw a mountain or a Lightning Bolt I'm done. I untap and draw. I calmly play a another Phoenix and swing in for 8. Got him. The crowd erupts one last time, "OOH!!! DAMN!!!" What a great match. Dave and I discuss the last game. He wanted me to hit that mountain because he thought I was going for a Koth 4/4 attack, which he tells me I couldn't attack with right away because of summoning sickness. The crowd correct him, "He was holding Inferno Titan in his hand." It would have been nice to bullseye him with Titan but I'll take a double Phoenix alpha strike any day of the week.

I'm 2-1 and its rolling around 10:00pm. I have work the next day and I wanted to see my family. I decide to drop. All in all I was not happy about the first set because I got face raped by UW Control and Red typically doesn't have color hate answers like a Celestial Purge, Deathmark, or Flashfreeze. What I wouldn't do for Flashfires or Anarchy. But we have to test against the Tier 1 control deck for the future. The good thing is Etched Oracle my be an answer but not sure yet. Also, UB Control decks just Top 4'd the Top 8 at Worlds so UW will take a backseat meaning Leyline of Douchebaggery may not be a problem in the future.

Extended PTQs are around the corner and I have plenty of cards for Double Standard so I'll build and test and see if a PTQ is in my future.

Monday, November 22, 2010

50 Decks of Christmas

In order to cull some of the holiday sadness involving Magic the Gathering I plan on doing an emotional look back at the decks I've built and played since coming back to the game.

Before I left Chicago I had something like 50 Legacy casual decks built. All a mixture of Aggro, Control, Midrange and combo decks.

1. Jund*
2. Polymorph*
3. Red Deck Wins (Shards, M10, Zendikar, M11)*
4. Gargadon RDW
5. Mono-Green Stompy Budget (Shards, M10, Zendikar, M11)*
6. Mono-Black Budget (Shards, M10, Zendikar, M11)*
7. Swans Combo*
8. Restore Balance Cascade*
9. Living End Cascade*
10. Rude Awakening
11. Jund Ramp
12. Bant Aggro (Equipment Deck)
13. Ghazi-Glare
14. Call of the Wild Eldrazi
15. Naya Zoo 2009 Extended
16. Life From the Loam (Raven's Crime)
17. Satanic Sligh
18. UW Tokens/Opposition*
19. Thopter/Swords*
20. Gold Deck Wins*
21. 5/C Cascade*
22. Worldheart Phoenix Control*
23. Gladiator/Arena Control
24. Solar Flare
25. Angelfire
26. Big Red Mana Ramp (Snow)
27. Artifact Snow Control
28. Ravager Affinity*
29. UG Madness Legacy*
30. Project X
31. Snow White (Martyr/Proclamation)
32. Mono-White Enchantments
33. Blink/Touch
34. GB Elves*
35. UW Merfolk*
36. 5/C Elementals*
37. 5/C Planeswalkers
38. Doran Doran
39. RG Madness Aggro
40. Living Death*
41. 4/C Mannequin (BRUG)
42. Astral Slide*
43. Mono-Blue Faeries
44. Magma Phoenix/Boom-Bust*
45. Izzetron
46. Slavertron
47. UGR Teachings Control
48. Domain Aggro
49. Legacy Burn
50. Legacy MUC
51. Legacy White Weenie
52. Legacy Mono-Black Disruption

Current Decklists:
Affinity - Legacy
Mono-Red Burn - Legacy
Esper Control - Standard
Mass Polymorph - Standard
GR Metalcraft - Standard
Mono-Black Midrange - Standard
Budget Eldrazi Green - Standard
Mono-Green Aggro - Standard
RG Planeswalker Valakut - Standard
Mono-Blue Control - Standard

Man plan is to cull the old feelings for my casual Magic days is to write a decklist, review and matchup for every deck on the list. It is akin to Sufjan Stevens 50 States albums.

Not sure if it's going to happen but it will be fun.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Friday Night Magic

FNM didn't go as planned. I didn't plan to win the whole thing knowing that a few ringers always attend. But I at least wanted to come out with a winning record. That didn't happen. 1-2 and a bye. Not good for my ego or confidence.

I decided that I didn't want to play Goblins because I was tired of the deck and took it apart to build Legacy Mono-Red Burn. I picked up some Baneslayer Angels weeks after moving to Florida but haven't played them competitively. So I figured I'd give the old girls a chance. I had a UWB Control deck built that tried to abuse the best cards in each color. I really built the deck hoping each card would be either a 2-for-1 or at least a cantrip.

Here's the list I rocked at the last FNM:

Baneslayer Angel x 4
Wall of Omens x 4
Seagate Oracle x 4
Wurmcoil Engine x 2
Sun Titan x 1

Mana Leak x 4
Cancel x 2
Doomblade x 4
Consuming Vapors x 2
Day of Judgement x 2
Volition Reins x 1
Mind Control x 1
Jace Beleren x 3

Celestial Colonade x 4
Creeping Tarpit x 3
Glacial Fortress x 3
Drowned Catacomb x 3
Seachrome Coast x 2
Darkslick Shores x 2
Terramorphic Expanse x 1
Tectonic Edge x 1
Islands x 3
Plains x 3
Swamps x 1

Sideboard x 15
Flashfreeze x 4
Celestial Purge x 3
Deathmark x 4
Mind Control x 1
Volition Reins x 1
Tectonic Edge x 2

My plan was to out draw my opponents into all the business spells, stabilize the board and then take over the game with lifelink dudes. Walls and Seagates clog the board and help me to dig. Counters and removal stabilize. Baneslayer is crazy in winning games. When she hits she needs only four more turns to win. Wurmcoils are awesome to me but too slow for the format in my opinion. The sideboard was good to cover the bases of almost any matchup. Things just didn't go my way.

Round 1: Roy - RUG Midrange
RUG has won the most recent big tournament and Roy is one of the ringers. I know he plays what the pros have already dictated to him is good. Roy is a nice enough guy but is a bit on the obnoxious side. He plays very tight and knows his deck extremely well. He goes to all the area PTQs and even tried to convince me to ride with him to Atlanta for a Grand Prix. I don't know why I got paired up with him since his DCI rating is infinitely better then mine. Back to the deck that many consider control. RUG decks I consider Midrange because depending on the matchup will change its gameplan. If its up against aggro it plays the control. If its up against control it beats down. The deck can have very quick starts so up against my Control deck it was the beatdown player.

Game 1: I keep a decent hand with all three colors of mana, some control and a Seagate. He drops Lotus Cobra, Explores, does some Halimar Depths shenannigans. I play lands, Seagate and keep passing but I hit my land drops for 5 turns but I'm digging for double white so I can Day of Judgement. I think as I'm tapped out for the Seagate at some point he Kicks a Goblinruin Blaster and hits my Colonade, my only white source of mana. He sticks Jace Mind Sculptor and goes to work fixing his draws. I have a Volition Reins in hand but was slowed down a turn. Now, I've never actually played against Jace the Mind Doucher because I just recently started playing Standard again. I think Jace is a ridiculous card and never should have been printed or prices driven so high. Back to the game. I'm at 10 life and decide to V-Reins his JMS instead of playing Wurmcoil because the Wurmcoil will just get Unsummoned. He has enough mana to activate his Raging Ravine, play a Kicked Ruinblaster and attack for 10. Bullseye. FML.

Game 2: I side in Flashfreezes and Deathmarks. I take out all the 6cc and a Cancel. I go first and stick a Wall of Omens then play draw go for a few turns. He goes to Ruinblaster and I say Flashfreeze, he goes Spell Pierce, I go, "Awesome play. Didn't see that coming." He over extends with two Lotus Cobras and Goblin Ruinblaster that I DoJ the next turn. He plays JMS and I place Jace v1.0 to legend rule his JMS. He plays a Frost Titan and I Consuming Vapors it. He plays a Lotus Cobra for more land drop shenannigans and I rebound his snake. At this point it seems I have all the answers to his threats. He sticks another JMS and I play Baneslayer. We play Draw-Go-Bounce-Play-Baneslayer for a few turns. His JMS dies and I stick another Baneslayer and he scoops. Even though I had all the answers that game he still exclaims he drew nothing but land. Right.

Game 3 is embarrassing for me. I totally fumble this game starting with a two-land no white mana hand. It has two Wall of Omens and I need one of my 13 white sources to get this hand going. He goes Lotus Cobra and plays some lands into Explores into more lands. I still do not get my white mana but draw into another Wall of Omens. Shrugs. He sticks a turn 4 Frost Titan. WTF? LOL. Shrugs again. I go Doom Blade Titan. He says, "Sure. It's not dead." I instantly remember his first ability. I should really be better at this game. I scoop. FML.

I consider Roy one of the "Ringers" because he is a very Spike player in a field of Timmies and Johnnies. I thought I played decent considering I never play competitively these days and he was rocking a Top 8 deck. We small talk and he adds that I play too many comes into play tapped lands. I agree but usually I'm never colored screwed. It happens.

Round 2: Tommy playing Roy's Eldrazi Elves.
Tommy is a very nice  kid who I've mildly befriended since moving to Florida. We've played before and he's a good player as long as he knows his deck. Elves is an amazing deck that doesn't even need Eldrazi Monuments to win.

Game 1: I win the roll and play a Colonade. Tommy keeps a slow draw with double Oran-Rief Vastwoods. I play some Walls and Seagates digging for a Day of Judgement as I Doom Blade a pumped  Joraga Treespeaker. He keeps sticking the Joraga Warcallers and pumping them with Oran-Rief and an epic quadruple pumped Joraga Warcaller. He swings for lethal with his super pumped lord-dudes that already had some pumps from the Vastwoods.

Game 2: I side in Flashfreezes and Deathmarks. The game is going very well in the beginning. I Flashfreeze and Doomblade all his early dudes. I get some Seagates down and Wall digging for a Day of Judgement as I Deathmark a Ezuri Overrunner. He sticks a Vengevine pumped with a Vastwood and swings. I do not block with one of my three open defenders. I do this for a few reasons: 1. Tommy has no cards in hand and 2. I have another Deathmark. I don't want to lose a blocker for when it matters if I know the Vengevine will die for sure AND he will need runner runner creatures to get the Mythic haster back. I stick a Baneslayer and swing to knock him down. He only has some mana dudes but sticks a gigantic Warcaller that makes his dudes upwards of 7/7s. I stick another Baneslayer and swing to knock him down and gain some life. He bum rushes me and I block with all my might, making all the correct blocks on his largest attackers. I lose two Seagates, Wall of Omens and Baneslayer. I go up in life and with my all in blocks after taking something like 18 damage I'm a 6 life. Tommy is at 10 and I have a live Baneslayer, a Creeping Tarpit and a Celestial Colonade. Problem is I need one more mana to double activate my manlands and swing for lethal. I ask Tommy if he sees it. I tell him I need to draw a land to win the game. I untap and slam down the top card of my library onto the battlefield. Beat. Mana Leak. That was an awesome loss.

Tommy smokes me in like 20 minutes so I ask if he wants to play my Affinity deck while I play my Mono-Red Legacy burn deck. I don't get much Legacy play so he agrees. Its funny that Tommy has NEVER played Affinity so he had no idea how to play it. As our explosive plays start dropping a small crowd of 6 gather to watch. It briefly reminds me of me and Jaco playing Type 1 during downtime at Standard PTQs way back in the day. The entire room would watch Jaco and I drop Moxes and Juzams on turn 1 and 2. It was a good feeling. It's a fun few games and the Affinity deck is clearly a faster clock. Cranial Plating is retarded. With the addition of Menmite it has made the deck that much better.

The interesting thing that happened the dudes crowding to look through my trade binder. Its a rarity to see some good old school stuff in a person's binder. Dark Confidants, Reflecting Pools, Force of Wills, Counterbalance, Sensei's Divine Top, etc. At some point Roy invites me to travel with him and some of the other guys to play Extended in Atlanta. I decline because my reality is worlds different then these youngsters. As much as it would be fun to rock some new Extended it is difficult enough for me to get to play in an FNM.

Round 3: Bye - Edward, the shop manager gave me the bye for the round and we did some trading that ended with me giving up some one-ofs that I never really used and me gaining another foil Chain Lightning and Grim Lavamancer as well as some other odd foils. But Edward alerted me to him playing some EDH and that has sparked a fire in me to play some casual once again. Magic has become meaningful again.

Round 4: Corbin - RG Aggro Fling
Corbin is a n00b that I roll over 2-0 in about 15 minutes. Its unexciting and at that point I'm pretty tired after working a full day and staying to play Magic until 10:00 pm.

I get 7th or 8th out of 15. I don't pack but I get a Gatekeeper of Malakir FNM foil as a prize. Yeah. All in all it was not a cool night for Magic. I did play tons of games prior to the tournament starting, including a few Mass Polymorph wins, but I am just not enjoying current Standard right now.

I'm pretty sure I need to deconstruct what I have and try to rebuild. It is very time intensive to do so. I will have to find the time. But Standard is just not cool with all the Mythic bullshit, as a budget player, pisses me off. I am tired of playing Mono-Red but having three Koth of the Hammer makes me want to do so. I am very much contemplating trying to hook up 4 Primeaval Titans to play Eldrazi Green. But I doubt that will happen.

EDH is on the horizon and Legacy tournaments at Armada makes me want to actually drive out to Tampa. We'll see what the future holds. I am also waiting for the new format announcement.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Reality Bites.

"Hello, you've reached the winter of our discontent." – Troy Dyer's answering machine, Reality Bites (1994)

I'm of the generation where Reality Bites is relevant for me. The emergence of grunge, MTV, a young Ben Stiller, Violent Femmes covers, and Ethan Hawke was still badass. I think there was even an obscure Tim Burton cameo but I might be getting that confused with Cameron Crowe's Singles. I'm not that old, as in early 40's old (I'm in my "new" 20's), but I am of the tail end of Generation-X. So yeah, Reality Bites was a good movie for me.

I chose this quote because this is how I feel about the current state of Magic: the Gathering. Winter is soon upon us. Thanksgiving is only one week away. Christmas will quickly be here. And I'm super unsatisfied with the current state of Standard in Magic the Gathering.

Current Standard Decks (note: all budget decks, meaning no Mythic rare shenanigans to get me by):
Eldrazi Green
Mono-Green Aggro
Mono-Blue Metalcraft
RG Metalcraft
Esper Control
Mono-Black Midrange
Mass Polymorph
Planeswalker Valakut

I'm super discontent with Magic right now for a few reasons:

1) as I've mentioned before the Mythic Rare BS that has taken over standard has become ludicrous. It is almost impossible to properly compete without the big Mythic Rares packing your deck, i.e. Jace the Douchesculptor, Titans (you know which ones), Gideon, Vengevine, Mox Opal, etc. Now, it is not impossible to compete. There are a few decks out there that are highly competitive and have proven so in PTQs and MTGO, i.e. Kuldotha Red (which only uses two Mox Opals in the Mythic category) and Boros, which other then Stoneforger Mystics and fetchlands is almost all common and uncommon.

2) I don't really have a chance to play that much anymore. Back home I had my regular playgroup at Westwood College. Granted we played casually but I used those games to tighten my play style (although I always said casual play weakened my skills). Back home, before leaving for Florida (Swans and Phoenix were are already in FL), I played maybe 6 days a week. At school, during off days and sometimes on the weekends. These days I'm lucky if I can even look at my cards let alone play maybe once every few weeks. So my playtime has drastically dropped, and that has obviously affected my love of Magic: the Gathering.

My goal now is to try and find some place to competitively play Legacy if I can and to try and prepare for any upcoming Extended PTQs in the area. Talking with the manager at the Lakeland comic store, he has opened my eyes to possibly playing Casual EDH as well (more on this to come). Lastly, I am very much anticipating the announcement and legalization of the new "Over Extended" format, which will consist of Mercadian Masques block till current. 

I'm basically giving up on Standard. I did attend an FNM but realized it just isn't worth it anymore. More on that soon.

Wanting to play Legacy is difficult because having the expensive cards to compete is tough. Thankfully, I really don't need to Buy-In to compete because there are a few decks that I can run with a degree of success. I do have enough of the old cards to compete. Also, one of my best friends let me borrow some cards years ago, mainly Force of Will x 4, so that is already a good jumping point.

I've already discussed a Faerie type MUC build, which I think can work very well. It has a soft lock combo in Counterbalance and Sensei's Divine Top as well as a mix of Wizards and Rip-Tide Laboratory. I may even add a few artifacts like Ratchet Bomb, Vedalken Shackles, and Isochron Scepter hooked up with Academy Ruins. Playing control has been one of my strong suites but the Legacy format is so wide open that I don't know enough of the metagame to properly compete. 

Mono-Red Burn or what I'm going to dub "Burn Notice" is basically a deck that needs 7 business spells to win. Bolt, Chain, Incinerate, Bolt, Hellspark, Bolt, Fireblast FTW. If you can get that string of cards by turn 4 you win. The problem with this deck is there are combo decks in Legacy that turn two kill you, lock you out or plain run you over by turn three. Charbelcher, Reanimator, Survival Vengevine or Goblins.

The other option I have is running Ravager Affinity. Affinity is the scourge of Mirrodin Standard and can currently compete with the aggressive decks and combo decks present in Legacy. With a nut draw it can kill turn 3. The sideboard can be good enough to fight Survival decks and combo decks. Cards like Ethersworn Canonist shut down combos, Pithing Needle and Meddling Mage can kill Survival and all the graveyard hate cards are artifacts, namely Tormod's Crypt, Relic of Progenitus and the new Nihil Spellbomb. I have been toying around with the idea of throwing the combo of inevitability into the deck: Thopter Foundry and Sword of the Meek. 

The other deck I'm thinking of running for Legacy is White Weenie. There are a SLEW of awesome effective 1-drops and 2-drops (Figure of Destiny, Student of Warfare, Mother of Runes, etc.) for this deck plus insane card advantage (Ranger of Eos and Stoneforger Mystic). Plus it runs the best spot removal in Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile and even one or two Oblivion Ring. My favorite part of this kind of deck is Armageddon. Happy face.
And with Stoneforgers you can rock some of the best equipment, Swords of Fire and Ice, Light and Shadow, Umezawa's Jitte, etc.

With the new Extended, Lorwyn Block and up, I can really shine. Since I played HEAVILY during Lorwyn Standard I pretty much have every card worth running in that block as well as Alara Block, with the exception of Bitterblossom. I'm not sure what will come of the new Extended now that Time Spiral block and 10th Edition has rotated out. My feeling is that the big bad menace of Faeries will be relevant. At the same time card advantage machine that is known as Jund will also be available. Bloodbraiding into a Boggart Ram Gang is amazing. I also think that incarnations of 5-Color Control will also be happening again. I bet some form of Elves will also be happening as well. White Weenie is also going to be money since Kai Budde's version lost almost nothing in the rotation. Some forms of Doran Rock will also be good as well. 3cc 5/5s are very good as well as their buddies 1cc Loam Lions and Treefolk Tutors.

Nextime i'll discuss the travesty that was my last FNM, upcoming EDH, as well as the undertaking I plan on blogging about: writing and deck discussing each deck I ran prior to leaving Chicago. That is 50 decklists I'll be writing about. What up? High five.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dark Lairs

So a friend of mine who follows my blog asked about my own collectible card game, Dark Lairs.

What? You have a collectible card game?

The answer is's a long drawn out yes.

It started almost two years ago. I was having one of those days where I thought, "What the hell am I doing with my life?" At this point, I was already a dad and my son was the most important thing in my life. I was working as a designer and was teaching drawing and design courses at Westwood College. Career wise I was pretty happy (other then the usual bitches and gripes). I think I was having a creative crisis. I felt like I haven't really done anything, creatively, that was worth a damn.

Sure, I've had a few gallery showings, had some work hung up at local joints, pretty cool but nothing to write home about. So I created a creative bucket list. This list is of things that I wanted to accomplish creatively before I died.

The list as of now...
Start my own design company
Do at least one freelance illustration for a fantasy game company
Write, draw, and publish my own graphic novel
Publish my own creative memoir of all my collected work
Do at least some contract work for a videogame company
Do some storyboarding for a movie
Write and Illustrate my own children's book
Sell a screenplay
Have work hang in another gallery
Create my own Fantasy Collectible Card Game

These are some modest goals that are very attainable if I just line up all my ducks in a row. The first one, start my own company, is what I'm currently working on. I'm getting some website stuff accomplished and talking with my new partner-slash-salesman, i.e. my dad, about how to attack the market here in Florida. The last one is what Dark Lairs is all about.

Over the last five or six years I've been doing tons of drawings that I'd eventually want to turn into finished illustrations. I started to use my drawings as demonstrations for the drawing and character development classes I taught at Westwood. Eventually that collection of drawings started turning into a makeshift portfolio. My initial goal was (still is) to use that portfolio to knock off the freelance illustration for a gaming company, off of my bucket list.

Then, one evening as me and the family were walking around Walmart, which we constantly did back home, because Walmart rules, my wife wanted to buy this lame card game called Bandits. It was a very very basic action based card game that win condition involved accumulation. The few games we played I kept thinking that this game should be adapted into a fantasy game.

That was the spark.

I began re-creating the rules to my own liking and slowly changed the rules enough to where I thought it could be super fun as a Fantasy card game. I started creating characters and cards to use with my illustrations. Suddenly this game was creating itself. I kept adding more and more to the rules and came up with new card types and win conditions.

I mentioned the game to one of my other gaming buddies, Shawn, who was also in the process of creating a pen & paper RPG (that's traditional roleplaying to you non-geeky types). Shawn told me to enter the game in a game contest at the Chicago Game and Toy Expo in November. The spark became a wildfire at this point.

Dark Lairs, the lame name I came up with, was now something that consumed me for a while (that and Magic). Luckily the homeboys at Westwood, the dudes in my play group, were very interested in helping me get the game squared away for the contest.

In hindsight, I realize I started to create the game to showcase my artwork, the game itself was a lot more difficult to create. Being an amateur game designer helped but there are smarter people out there to help me. So I sent the rules to my playgroup and some old friends that use to game with me back in the day.

Anyways, while creating the game for the Chicago competition, the oddest thing happened out of nowhere. I moved to Florida. Dark Lairs was shelved for a while. When I finally sort of settled in Florida I figured the game was dead.

Thankfully my wife was adamant that I finish the game and enter the competition anyways. Why not? This was very true. Shockingly, my mother was very supportive of me creating and finishing the game. She thought it could be a way to open some doors for me professionally. It has yet to yield anything just yet but I'm working on it (kinda, building contacts). With the support of my wife and mom, it was on like Donkey Kong.

I immersed my downtime with finishing the game. I contacted the Florida chapter and found out the due date for our region. I created the game and mocked up the shit out of it hoping to win on style points. Unfortunately the contest is based on the actual rules but the main playtester loved the game design.

Needless to say my game was entered into the contest and I scored very low. This wasn't a surprise because I wasn't able to really test the game and I got tons of feedback from my friends on how to clarify and fix the game. When I get the prototype back I'll figure it all out. But as of now, my dreams of having my game published by Rio Grande Games is dead.

That is actually totally okay with me. I knew going into the contest I didn't have a good shot. But I'm glad I entered anyways. How many people can say they created, illustrated and printed their own collectible card game? Not many.

So Dark Lairs has helped me accomplish my goal on the bucket list. Dark Lairs is also in rules limbo right now. I really want to Alpha and Beta test is a lot more and get the rules more refined. Hopefully I can get with my people back home and fix the game and maybe try for next year.

When I finish my website I'll post the card designs and illustrations up there and for sure link to my blog. yah! This experience has been fun and no regrets. I have a cool looking game and needs some work. It has also opened up some creative doors. I can actually put game designer as a title. LOL. Deadpan.

Seriously though...

I'm working on the general rules to expansion sets for Dark Lairs: Pirates of the Caribbean, Dark Lairs: Stars Alignment and Dark Lairs: Portal Wars.

I am also looking to create a fantasy card game based on the rules of football and a game based on Chess. But we'll see what happens.

For now...keep gaming...

...and on that note, I'm pretty sure I'm going to give up Magic the Gathering for a while. Take a hiatus. I just don't have the drive any longer to play. Trying to play competitively here in Florida has kinda killed Magic for me. I'd rather play casually with the dudes back home. Sad face.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I've been in FloRida for a little over three months and I finally got a chance to go home, even for a short while. The reason for the epic return? My boy was getting MARRIED!!!!

My dude, Kevin, was actually my best man at my wedding and sort of shared duties with my favorite cousin, Jeff (who I'll get too as well). But I have to say, other then my own wedding, Kev and Karen's wedding was the best wedding I've been to. Ironically, the other "best" wedding I've been was Remy's in LA.

I'll just get into it...

Why was this trip extra special? It was a few fold actually. Obviously my friend getting married is one of the main reasons. Another reason is being able to see all my other friends that I left back home in Chicago. I also got to see my family that remains back home. Phoenix got to see his grandparents and play with his other friends. AND lastly, we got to enjoy Chicago.

I so miss Chicago.

Just when I was getting used to Florida, we take a trip home and I so miss Chicago all over again.

I miss Chicago.

But I'm loving Florida now too.

So, wow...Kevin got married. For those of you who don't know Kevin. I'm sure that's everybody. Kevin is one of my childhood friends. We grew up together and formed that friendship that will last a lifetime I hope. He is an amazing friend and I'm so happy he was able to find his soulmate. And soulmate Karen is. Karen is a female version of Kevin. That's probably they fit so well together. During the wedding I gave an impromptu toast to represent our childhood group of friends. I was so drunk my hands were shaking and I spilled most of the rum in my glass. Anyways, I toasted about a lot of things apparently. Nobody has really said anything about it, probably because I was so hammered. But, earlier in the weekend, after the rehearsal dinner, my wife probably summed up Kevin and Karen best, "They are different enought to make life interesting yet so similar to make it last a lifetime." To me, that is a beautiful line and I really wish I was so fucking drunk to fumble it all, quotes, toasts, my drink and all. But it doesn't matter. If I'm not getting drunk to honor one of my best friends, then I'm doing something wrong.

Cheers to Kevin and Karen! Love you guys and I'm so happy.

Oh yeah, there wedding was so interesting because it was at a joint called Salvage One, an old antique furniture store in Chicago. It was just so perfect for them and totally exemplifies their personalities.

As for seeing our friends...

All my friends that I grew up with are just about the awesomest people in the entire fucking world. I'd gladly take a bat to a dude's head if they asked me to. But, just being away for a while and seeing everybody just reminded me of how awesome they all are and how much I miss them. The epic hangover I had the next day was worth every minute hanging out with them. I hope we get a chance to see them soon. I keep telling them to plan a group trip here to Florida so we can explore some beaches and hit up Disney World. It'll be fun!

The wedding was the main reason we went but seeing family and friends outside of the wedding was important too.

Our best friends out in Naperville were awesome enough to let us crash with them, pick us up and drop us off at the airport and let us borrow their badass Acura MDX for the weekend. Bestest friends ever. And, they have three amazing kids that love hanging out with Phoneix. Cheers to the Flowers clan for letting us drunkards chill with them. Unfortunately their kids were a little sick so Phoenix got a cough, fever and sniffle. Nothing a little Florida sun and humidity won't clear up in short order.

We also had a chance to see my cousins and uncle. Of course we met at an all you can eat buffet. The food was amazing and I wish I could take my hangover back so I could've enjoyed the food more. But, my cousin Jeff, who I love like my own brother, is now married, shotgun shotgun, and his wife as a bun in the oven. I'm very happy for them because being a father I wouldn't trade for the entire world. But I am a little disappointed. I don't really want to say more then that. I do love them but...

Eh. I'm done for now.

Chicago in a nutshell:
White Castle
Chinatown's Evergreen
Chinatown's Happy Chef
Buffalo Joe's
Joy Yee

Yeah...I'm a fatty and love every minute of it.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another Look at Standard

For some reason I can't get away from playing Mono-Red in tournaments. I think if a Legacy tournament was happening I'd rock Legacy Burn because you basically only need 7 business spells to win the game.

Before I put Red to bed (see what I did there?) I want to take a look at a Type 2 Red deck that I might rock at another FNM or just for fun.


Creatures: 20
Goblin Guide x 4
Ember Hauler x 4
Spikeshot Elder x 4
Goblin Chieftan x 4
Goblin Bushwhacker x 4

Spells: 16
Lightning Bolt x 4
Arc Trail x 4
Searing Blaze x 4
Staggershock x 3

Planeswalkers: 2
Koth of the Hammer x 2

Lands: 23
Arid Mesa x 4
Scalding Tarn x 4
Mountains x 15

Sideboard: 15
Manic Vandal x 4
Brittle Effigy x 3
Ratchet Bomb x 4
Goblin Ruinblaster x 4

Yeah yeah yeah. Before you laugh I think a deck like this can be fun! Goblins. Beat face. More Goblins. Burn. Burn! BURN!!!

The interesting thing with his deck is its reach. Like old school Time Spiral Block RDW or even older school RDW, those decks used Magus of the Scroll, Cursed Scroll or Grim Lavamancer for mid-to-late game reach. This deck uses Spiketail Elder to get those last few points in the mid-to-late game. The Elder is a better version of Brothers of Fire from the Dark set. a 3cc 2/2 that for 1RR: Deal 1 damage to target creature or player and 1 damage to yourself. Elder has the same activation, lesser CC and no drawback. He, like Magus of Scroll or Lavamancer, before him help the deck get there in the end. Mixed with Chieftan, the Elder becomes sick. And then there is Koth, the best card from Scars. Not much needs to be said. Koth wins games all by himself.

And good old Goblin Guide has always been that guy that gets in those early points of damage that begin to add up by turn 3 or 4 when he is finally dealt with. At first I didn't like GG because he gave opponents an advantage. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn't until I started playing him did I understand how money GG truly is.

The other obvious theme is the deck is a Tribal deck and uses Goblin Chieftan as a win condition. Early turns you drop GGs, Elders and Haulers, then Bushwhack. On the following turn play Chieftan and beat face. He can be that surprise factor that throws people off with the math. If you have a few goblins out it isn't as threatening but when they get amped up +1/+1 out of nowhere it can be scary.

That's the last time I bring up Red Deck Wins or Goblins.

Right now, a lot of people are finding ways to build around new and exciting Scars cards. That makes sense. That's what we are supposed to do with the game. The problem with competitive Magic is that every season there are Tier 1 decks that make up 75% of the field, some buster Tier 2 decks, Fringe decks and whack Rogue decks that make up the rest. Historically speaking, the decks that dominate for the most part are usually in the Holy Trinity of deck building with a possible 4th archetype. Aggro. Combo. Control. Midrange. I usually try to stay away from getting too Johnny if I really want to compete and play all Spike with decks that fit the Magic Deck Trifecta (and Midrange).

Going back to the last few seasons the dominate decks were as follows:
Jund, Mythic, Dredgevine, Superfriends, Valakut, Polymorph, Red Deck Wins, Boss Naya, Bant, BW Tokens, Boat Brew, 5cc Control (Quick n' Toast), 4cc Cascade, Faeries, Elves, Merfolk, Lark Combo, Mannequin, Doran Rock, Teachings Control, Gruul, Dragonstorm, RG Snow, Boros etc.

All the decks listed are tournament winning decks in some way shape or form and are battled tested. My point is that as seasons go along, players mimic the pro competitors and end up playing some variation of what is already popular and works. Trying to be all Johnny is fantastic for deckbuilders but end up being not-so-competitive and won't get too far.

That's why when new sets drop and rotations happen, I try to stick with what works: Aggro, Combo or Control and sometimes Midrange. Usually, I run away and go play Extended, Legacy or Casual but that's a whole other topic (which I do believe I blogged about...Thopter Affinity anyone?).

I want to take a look at a few builds that fit into the main archetypes and can hopefully be competitive. I will not post a Combo deck only because true "combo" decks haven't existed in Standard since Lark decks I think. Cunning Sparkmage and Basilik Collar is a combo but I don't consider it a combo deck. Sovereigns of Alara into Eldrazi Conscriptions is a combo but I don't consider it a combo deck. Dragonstorm is a combo deck. TEPS is a combo deck. Hulk Flash is a combo deck. Cascade Swans is a combo deck. Without getting into to many archetype hybridizations, you get my point...

I guess the only true combo deck that exists in Standard is Mass Polymorph decks. Regular Polymorph decks were a Combo/Control hybrid that I fear isn't as good in it's new inception due to Mass Polymorph being 6cc and needing multiple tokens to combo off of.

I'll take a look at Aggro decks first.

GR Metalcraft:

Carapice Forger x 4
Ezuri's Brigade x 4
Menmite x 4
Ornithopter x 4
Obstinate Baloth x 4
Darksteel Axe x 4
Ratchet Bomb x 3
Sword of Vengance x 1
Galvanic Blast x 4
Lightning Bolt x 4
Copperline Thicket x 4
Raging Ravine x 4
Rootbound Crag x 4
Mountians x 4
Forests x 4

This is your stock aggro deck for the new rotation. Metalcraft is sort of a poor man's Threshold. It is sometimes difficult to hold Metalcraft due to the artifact hate that is relevant in the format. But, as an aggro deck, hitting Metalcraft should happen fairly quickly. With the 8-pack of 0ccs, cheap equipments and the new powder keg, 16 artifacts is enough to get going. The deck really wants to abuse the Forger and Brigade. By hitting early Metalcraft, dropping turn 2 or 3 4/4s is pretty good. Dropping a turn 4 8/8 Trampler is even better. Baloth is here to stick a fat body and create a 2-3 for 1 creature.

Another look at the deck:

GR Metalcraft:

Carapice Forger x 4
Ezuri's Brigade x 4
Menmite x 4
Ornithopter x 4
Steel Overseer x 4
Lodestone Golem x 4
Darksteel Axe x 4
Ratchet Bomb x 3
Sword of Vengance x 1
Galvanic Blast x 4
Copperline Thicket x 4
Raging Ravine x 4
Rootbound Crag x 4
Mountians x 4
Forests x 4

Here is another look at the Metalcraft deck that uses Steel Overseer with the quick drops and Lodestone Golems to slow down opponents not playing artifacts.

Mono-Black/r Ooze:
Skinrender x 4
Gatekeeper of Malakir x 4
Nantuko Shade x 4
Necrotic Ooze x 4
Grul Draz Assassin x 2
Vampire Hexmage x 3
Mind Rot x 2
Sign in Blood x 4
Duress x 3
Inquisition of Kozilek x 1
Doomblade x 3
Consuming Vapors x 2
Swamps x 10
Tectonic Edge x 1
Darkshore Slick x 4
Drowned Catacombs x 4
Creeping Tarpits x 4

Consuming Vapors x 2
Doomblade x 1
Flashfreeze x 4
Deathmark x 4
Ratchet Bomb x 4

This is a deck I'd like to try out. I think it could do some damage. This is a Mono-Black Aggro deck that can act Mid-Range and play the role of control when up against an aggro deck with a better clock. It has early drops in Draz Assassin, Shades and Hexmages. It has some disruption and removal. The reason for building the deck is the slew of 2-for-1s that it is packing. Skinrender and Gatekeeper both eat a guy and can fight. I love Skinrender because it is the closest thing to a Shriekmaw or Flametongue Kavu Standard has had since the Maw left. Sign in Blood digs you deeper. Consuming Vapors will hopefully hit two dudes and get you life back.

The real bomb in the deck is Necrotic Ooze mixed with the activated abilities dudes in the deck. He can get pumped like Nantuko Shade (the most underrated reprint ever), Grul Draz Assassin and Vampire Hexmage. Most of these creatures will be binned by the time Ooze hits so he gets some value.

The only reason I want to run blue is for the Creeping Tarpits 3/2 ability to hit Planeswalkers out of nowhere. I like redundancy and dudes that survive DoJ.

Anyways...we'll build and see how they go. :)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Phoenix Force GO!!!

"Use the Force Luke!" - Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars

Type 2 yet again...

Since I didn't have a chance to mess with my decks that much prior to last Friday's FNM I figure I'll give it the old college try once more.

Here is what I think could do pretty decent...

Phoenix Force Go!!!

Creatures: 5
Kuldotha Phoenix x 4
Wurmcoil Engine x 1

Artifacts: 15
Chimeric Mass x 4
Everflowing Chalice x 4
Ratchet Bomb x 2
Brittle Effigy x 1
Crystal Ball x 3
Culling Dias x 1

Sorceries: 17
Destructive Force x 4
All is Dust x 3
Cultivate x 4
Explore x 4
Growth Spasm x 2

Lands: 23
Raging Ravine x 4
Rootbound Crag x 4
Terramorphic Expanse x 3
Forests x 6
Mountains x 6

Sideboard: 15
Acidic Slime x 2
Slice in Twain x 3
Pyroclasm x 4
Comet Storm x 3
Manic Vandal x 3

A few blogs ago I mentioned how much I love Kuldotha Phoenix. Since I never had a chance to build that previous Metalcraft RDW, I figure to shift that idea over to this deck.

This deck is obviously a Destructive Force Ramp deck that uses a different win condition other then Titans and Avenger of Zenidikars since I have none of either.

The basic strategy:

Phase One: Ramp early lands and accelerate.
Phase Two: Develop and Protect your board. Stick a Chimeric Mass
Phase Three: Destructive Force and beat face with Chimeric Mass

Sounds easy but I don't think it will be.

After checking States lists, Valakut Ramp is still the Top Deck with UWx Control Decks and some UB Control decks rearing their ugly heads.

So why is Phoenix Force better then Valakut Ramp? Valakut is money because you are basically killing your opponent with irrelevant spells for the most part. I mean, who really wants to Mana Leak a Cultivate when you can counter a Primeveal Titan? Every game I've played against Valakut I've lost to the namesake card but off the back of a Cultivate or Explore. Never an actual threat.

Back to the question. Why is Phoenix Force better then Valakut Ramp? It kills Valakut. If you can out ramp them early and get a Destructive Force off before Titan drops, you win that game. Before dropping the Force, you want to be able to stick early artifacts and ramp into a 5/5 or 6/6 Mass. Post-Force you can begin the beatings only needing one available mana, which probably comes off of Everflowing Chalice. If you don't stick the Mass, your ramp spells become more relevant because you are racing to hit metal craft or stick a Mass. Metalcraft here is key because you can start beating with Phoenix out of the grave. Those are the main keys to victory.

I'll explain the card choices.

Destructive Force is the closest thing in the new Scars Standard to Cruel Ultimatum. Automatically it's a 5-for-1 and if they have dudes, you gain even more value. Played in this deck, you get extra value off of cards that are normally sub-par.

Obviously Phoenix and Chimeric Mass are your roads to victory. I can't say enough how much I think this Phoenix is one of the better Phoenix's printed. Metalcraft isn't that difficult to hit. Renewable threats are amazing. Haste and evasion are no joke either. My only concern is the during upkeep only of the resurrection. Chimeric Mass, for some reason to me, is an amazing artifact. I just feel it is so flexible, can drop early and block, start early beats as a 2/2 or 3/3 or fight later on as a 6/6 or 7/7. The biggest thing for me is that Mass survives DoJs, All is Dust and the name sake card, Destructive Force. Combo'd with Force, Mass becomes a house. Wurmcoil Engine x 1 if just funny to me. Wurmcoil should probably a 3-of but I need to get more. This creature is money yet beatable. It eats most creatures and gives you insane value when it fights Titans. I think I need 2 more.

Ramp spells are also obvious. I'm normally opposed to Ramp decks after reading an amazing article by PVDR on He basically says that Ramp decks pose the issue of bad draws. You put yourself in bad positions a lot of the time because you can draw all your ramp and no action spells or all your business spells and no ramp. But I digress. Even if I draw all action spells, the curve is nice enough to not need the ramp and I can go midrange either being the beatdown by playing early Masses or being the control. If things get hectic I just toss Phoenix in the grave during discard so he can fight again.

Everflowing Chalice is key because you can stick a 2 or 3 counter Chalice and be in better shape to a faster Force and amazing shape post Force. Plus it helps reach Metalcraft.

Ratchet Bomb also helps achieve Metalcraft. It's main function is to fight aggro decks. It creates a situation for the beatdown player to over commit to the board and walk right into a Destructive Force. When that happens, I just 8-for-1'd my opponent.

Brittle Effigy is a 1-of for Metalcraft and to prevent my opponent from trying to hit that Titan. If I turn 1 an Effigy it changes how they play their game. They need at least two Titans, one to draw the Effigy and another after the Effigy is used.

Crystal Ball is key to the deck for a few reasons. First, obviously it activates Metalcraft and is unlikely to be targeted for hate. Second, it helps reach a Force faster by hitting lands and ramp as well as getting yourself out of trouble post-Force. At first glance Crystal Ball isn't really that good compared to say, Jace the Mind Sculptor, that's obvious. But in a deck that can't run a third color, let alone double blue, the Ball fits in just perfectly. Back in the day when I played Type 2, us older dudes know Standard as Type 2, Ernageddon and Ernham Burn'em decks were amazing. A key card to both of those decks was Sylvan Library. For you youngsters, Sylvan Library was a 2cc green enchantment that let you draw two additional cards and put them back on top of your library in any order. You could pay 4 life a card to draw any of the extra cards. In the two aforementioned decks, each had a lock out strategy, GW Ernageddon used Armageddon and Ernham Burn'em used Jokulhaups (sp?), to lock their opponents out and to get ahead. Post blowing up the board, Sylvan Library would help to dig out of the hole and get better board position. Crystal Ball plays the similar role. If I can ramp, stick a Ball and then Force, hopefully killing all their dudes and land, I can get ahead and win the race.

The last artifact, that is a 1-of, is Culling Dias. I think this card can be the tits with a renewable creature like say, Kuldotha Phoenix, to keep sacrificing and bringing back. Say I stick a Dias and ramp to a hasty Phoenix. They have a Plains up and I make them for Condemn. I attack anyways. They go to Condemn my Firebird and I sack to the Dias. I gain a counter and I bring Firebird back next turn. Maybe next time they have a Journey to Nowhere on their turn. I sack to the Dias and bring back the 4/4. Let's say they stick a Baneslayer and swing. I block with my Bird and sac. They gain no life. I Force and then bring back my 4/4. At some point, post-Force, I need cards. I sack the Dias and Ancestral Recall. Not bad if it comes to that.

The last card to discuss maindeck is All is Dust. This is basically a reset button if things get out of hand with creatures and planeswalkers and I'm not ready to use the Force. If my opponent over commits then All is Dust is amazing. Only issue is it doesn't hit Artifact dudes or Eldrazi so that may be an issue as a 3-of, especially if I hit a big casting cost hand and no ramp.

Sideboard is thrown together right now and think it out better another time.

But I'd love to get testing as soon as I can, well, as soon as I get back from Chicago and if I have time. Until next time.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday Night Magic

"If football is a religion then Friday is a day of worship." Not sure whose quote this is but I think it opened the movie Friday Night Lights, a great film by Peter Berg, about the importance of football to a small Texas town.

I bring it up because last Friday I went to the Lakeland comicbook store to check out Friday Night Magic. There were almost 30 people there. That's huge for a smaller venue and town. FNMs back home in Chicago, upwards to 80 people, two tournaments, usually Standard and Limited. I guess Magic is becoming a religion to some folks and Friday is a day of Worship (pun intended :D).

Five rounds of Standard play is pretty tough, you usually have to win out early to get close to packing. This did not happen for me.

Before I get to my whack decklist and FNM quickie report a little backstory to the week.

I've been extremely stressed out at work after my co-worker quit and she hasn't been replaced. That was three weeks ago. I'm basically doing two jobs for one. So finding a new job has been the highest priority for me. As well as my family. I love spending time with my son and wife. And we love to explore Florida since it is so new to us. That being said, Magic has fallen by the wayside for me. But I was jonesing big-time. I was fiending. I was like a smoker who quit cold turkey going on three days. I need to play. I needed my fix. So I made plans to do so.

The early stress began the week before when some big projects rolled into my department. And trying to send out resumes and finally getting my website designed has taken its toll. I never really touched my decks enough to build what I really wanted to build. And I played last Wednesday with Mike in order to test. But the testing wasn't good for me since the outcome was, I still had no deck for Friday. Needless to say I tried to relax and have fun with Magic, one of my greatest pastimes (another pun).

It wasn't relaxing at all.

I blogged about a new Metalcraft Red Deck Wins a week or so ago. I actually traded up for all the cards I needed for the deck. But I didn't run it because I never had ample time to put my deck together. I basically tweaked an existing Red Deck Wins from previous Standard to Scars Standard.

Here is the decklist:

Goblin Guide x 4
Ember Hauler x 4
Plated Geopede x 4
Elemental Appeal x 4
Zektar Shrine Expedition x 4
Lightning Bolt x 4
Searing Blaze x 4
Staggershock x 4
Arc Trail x 4
Arid Mesa x 4
Scalding Tarn x 4
Terramorphic x 2
Mountains x 14

Cunning Sparkmage x 4
Goblin Ruinblaster x 4
Basilisk Collar x 3
Tectonic Edge x 2
Forked Bolt x 2

Explanations of the deck are as follows: Its a piece of crap. It lost EVERYTHING in the rotation and I cried a little on the inside, every game. AND the only addition from Scars was Arc Trail x 4. Arc Trail is the best 2-for-1 in the deck. It does its job to gain an advantage. Anyways, it does have some explosive starts, which I'll get into with a brief report.

The sideboard was garbage and I thought of only playing against Tier 1 decks, which I never played against. One problem with rotation is that everyone is playing something different. The other problem is that at an FNM, not a PTQ, people play rogue decks like crazy. So it is hard to board in every match up.

Round 1: David (I think) with UW Mimic Vat
Game 1: I get Goblin Guide and beat face. He gets land that helps him a ton. He rips Wall of Omens. Damn. I swing with GG, he blocks and I toss an Arc Trail at the wall and a point at him. I play a Shrine and landfall once. He plays a white deer SOM card that blinks my Shrine. I lose the counter. He plays Mimic Vat and starts blinking my stuff with the white deer. Gideon comes down for him. He stabilizes and I lose big time.

I board in 13 cards. Sparkmage combo and land destruction.

Game 2: I GG turn 1 again. He is stuck on land for a while. I kick a Ruinblaster and kill a Colonnade. I stick a Tec Edge and blow up a Glacial Fortress. He sticks Kor Firewalker x 2. I think I can Sparkmage race him but it doesn't happen. Wurmcoil Engine and Mimic Vat is dumb good. He sticks a Venser and I scoop. Damn.


Round 2: Albert (I think, newbie compared to me :\ ) with Midrange Kor Equip deck (VERY budget)
Game 1: I go Goblin Guide swing. He goes Kor. I go Geopede and swing. He doesn't block. He goes Kor again and passes. I go Arc Trail both your dudes. Double landfall and beat with the team. He goes equipment and passes. I go double Landfall and Elemental Appeal for lethal.

What possesses me to side in Sparkmage I have no idea.

Game 2: I get a Shrine going and Sparkmage combo early. I kill all his dudes. He gets extremely low on life and stabilizes with a Day of Judgement then sticks Conqueror's Pledge. Damn. He's at one and has taken two turns to beat me down to 8 then sticks a Armament Master (if he's equipped your dudes get +2/+2 I think). It comes down to me needing to rip 1 of 16 burn spells or an Elemental Appeal after drawing nothing but land for 3 turns. He's at 3 life. I slam the card down and its a Cunning Sparkmage. I lose. Damn.

Game 3: I go first and set up Shrines and kill his guys with all my burn so my GGs and Geopede can go the distance. He DoJs and I'm behind again. I stick a Sparkmage with Collar out and he takes a Journey to Nowhere. I do the math and begin doming him with my burn. He goes down to 2 life. I'm in top deck mode. He still has half a grip and drops 6 soldiers and commences the beating. I draw nothing but land again but hold onto it in case I need to landfall with Searing Blaze or load up a Shrine. It comes down to me needing 1 of 16 burn spells. I draw and slam down the land and lose again.


He wasn't the strongest player but it definitely shows how weak Red Deck Wins has became. I think I played it right but just didn't have that jump that old Standard RDW gets. I regret not playing something else. I don't scoop though and continue playing.

Round 3: I play Albert's brother Russell who commented the picture of my brother in my binder looked like Barack Obama. I wasn't mad definitely wanted him to cry.
Game 1: He plays some discard stuff with the new 2cc Megrim in play. I get down to about 14 by the time I dropped tons of burn on his face and beat him with 7/1 Hasty Tramplers.

Game 2: See previous game.

Russell is a nice guy and we spend the last 45 minutes of the round (yes, I 2-0'd him in 5 minutes. No joke. Even Edward, the judge, was like, "Damn!") playing for fun. I wreck him with Mass Polymorph but to be honest his deck doesn't really do anything. He has no bombs to make a mid-to-late game impact. Grave Titan or Wurmcoil Engine should be in his deck. Consume Spirit as a finisher as well. I told him my thoughts.

Round 4: Some Noob playing Green/Black Infect (no sleeves and his deck is as tall as mine)
Game 1: He gets stuck on two forests and plays some equipment. I go GG, Geopede, Shrine and swing for lethal by turn 4.

I side in nothing because I really don't know what he is playing.

Game 2: He gets some equipment and infect guys that I 2-for-1 with Arc Trail. The game goes pretty fast and I'm 2-2 in five minutes.

We spend the rest of the round (another 40 minutes) playing for fun. I wreck him with Mono-Green Aggro and Mono-Blue Metalcraft. He plays his "Legacy" Merfolk and I play my LEGACY Affinity that I blogged about. I never have to get the Thopter combo to win. He just doesn't block my relevant dudes and dies. We play 6 more games before the round is finally over.

Last Round 5: John (I think. I really need to remember these guys' names) playing Mono-White Metal. I traded him 1 of my extra Steel Overseers and a new art Swords to Plowshares for a Ratchet Bomb earlier. So the running joke of the round was him saying he'd kill me with my own Overseer.
Game 1: He drops 0cc dudes and Glint Hawk. The new best turn 1 in Standard. I GG swing and give him no land. He plays double Steel Overseer, which are his bombs. I 2-for-1 with Arc Trail (best card in SOM). That signals phase 3 of the game where I beat him down while he has no removal.

Game 2: This game get ridiculous. He gets early artifact dudes and a Tempered Steel but has only a Glint Hawk as I proceed to destroy all his guys. All the while I have two Shrines with a landfall counter each. I want to slow roll the Shrines while I hold onto an Arid Mesa and Elemental Appeal. I kill his dude, drop my Mesa, double landfall, make two 7/1s and then cast the Appeal for the third. He takes 21 damage by turn 4.

We spend the last part of the round (another 35 minutes) playing fun games. I rocked my Mono-Blue Metalcraft and won two games I had no business winning. Very nice guy and I wish him the best at States that is going on today.

3-2 by the end of the night. I'm just happy to have a winning record although it is against lesser opponents. I did have a lot of fun and traded away bombs I wasn't using for tons of cards I will use. I did get my fourth blackbordered Mishra's Factory too!

Next time I just have to be more prepared. After States we'll have a better idea of what the Tier 1 decks are and what the metagame is.

I don't know when the next time I will play FNM. But I had a great time despite a horrible start.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

The new Standard

I've been dreading the day Scars of Mirrodin becomes Standard legal and my beloved Shards of Alara block rotates out. Of course, I said the same thing when Time Spiral block rotated and Lorwyn/Shadowmoor rotated. But I mean it this time. I mean it because before, when TSP and LWN/SDM rotated I just dove head first into Extended and building casual builds. That is when I thrived as a deckbuilder. I was able to become more Johnny then Spike and had tons of fun with the Westwood College playgroup (new and old).

Alas, I am without a playgroup here in Central Florida. The four places I did find (3 of them are almost an hour drive each) all rock Standard for the most part. And I hear plenty of talk of EDH nights. I shudder to think. Gah!

Back to Standard...

So, not really sure what to build. I know I have to take apart what I have and modify decks that are close to Standard already. Historically I will probably start with the basics: RDWs, White Weenie, MUC, UW Control and MGA.

RDWs loses so much in the rotation, it will be difficult to see what is it made up of after Shards block leaves. I basically lost it's heart and soul with Ball Lightning, Hellspark Elemental, Hell's Thunder and Earthquake. Without the hastiness of the aforementioned, it will be difficult for RDWs to actually be called Red Deck Wins. It still has Goblin Guide, the best turn 1 in Standard, and a bunch of good burn spells to dome dude's with: Lightning Bolt, Burst Lightning, Searing Blaze and Staggershock. My guess is any Mono-Red Deck in the new Standard is going to need Koth of the Hammer x 4 to be even remotely competitive. That seriously pisses me off, the whole, "gotta have Mythic Rares in all the Tier 1 decks," thing that has become Standard Magic. The cool thing about previous Standard was RDW had a bunch of commons and uncommons and a few rares to operate. Many lists did run Kargan Dragonlord but he is $10-$15 at best, which still isn't great. But it beats the $50-60 Koth is selling at. WTF? The other cool deck was Jund, basically a Block deck that ran NO Mythics (some ran Sarkhan the Mad). But having to run Jace the Mind Sculptor in anything with blue mana is disgusting and WOTC should be ashamed of themselves. They make it difficult for young players or players without a bankroll or real-life responsibilities, hard to compete. Back in my heyday $10 for a Rishadan Port or Masticore wasn't all that bad to play Standard and there were always possibilities for budget decks. These days there really isn't any slack for decks that don't run Mythics. I may eat my words but I bet the Top 8 at most upcoming States and at Worlds will have S#!t-tons of Mythic Rares in their decklists.

Back to RDWs...the deck is probably dead. I think I want to go a more creature type Red Beatdown deck reminiscent of Lorwyn/Shadowmoor Standard with Demigod of Revenge hitting the up-curve and slew of 1-3 drops mudding the field prior.

Goblin Guide x 4
Ember Hauler x 4
Vulshok Replica x 4
Chimeric Mass x 4
Perilous Myr x 4
Kuldotha Phoenix x 4

Lightning Bolt x 4
Arc Trail x 4
Galvantic Blast x 4

Tettering Peaks x 4
Tectonic Edge x 2
Mountains x 18

Combust x 4
Manic Vandal x 4
Forked Bolt x 3
Goblin Ruinblaster x 4

This isn't so much Red Deck Wins as it is a Red Metalcraft Deck Wins. When Kuldotha Phoenix was spoiled I knew I MUST MUST MUST have a playset. Thanks to my friend Mike and the Lakeland store dropping them $1 a piece, I have my playset. I figure a 5cc 4/4 Flying Haste will hit most of the time. When Phoenix is Metalcraft active it will continue to beatface. Even if they deal with it in traditional ways it keeps on coming back. Short of a Journey to Nowhere or a well timed Condemn (which was also the problem for Demigod) the Phoenix should be aces. In order to get the Metalcraft going the deck obviously needs artifacts. To the Gather I said! And searched up new Artifact Creatures with relevant abilities to a RDW beatdown strategy. I'm not totally sure if the deck will even work and not sure if 12 Artifact Creatures will get there (my guess is not) but I MUST try!!! Hopefully by the time you need to hardcast the Phoenix it spells game over for your opponent.

My Artifact Picks for the deck:
Vulshok Replica fits into the 3 Drop curve on your way to Phoenix. He beats for 3 and kill most creatures. When he dies he acts as a Lightning Bolt to your opponents face. Not great but not terrible either.

Perilous Myr is quite the same way as the Vulshok but adds a different dynamic because he can deal damage to creatures as well. It can put your opponent on difficult blocks or attacks depending on what is in your hand. If blocked the Myr can kill an up to 3 toughness dude. Not bad.

Chimeric Mass is great because it's curve is ambiguous. It can come down early and do a Mishra's Factory impression or can come down late and beat for 5 or 6. I like the flexibility of Chimeric Mass.

And before you start obviously Molten-Tail Masticore x 4 should somewhere in this list as should Koth of the Hammer but as I stated before, I'm a budget player a just refuse to pay the crazy money dealers are asking for. I can work with what I have. Thanks.

Goblin Guide and Ember Hauler round out the creature base because Goblin Guide is the best Turn 1 in Standard and Ember Hauler attacks, blocks and give you a bit of reach toward the end.

The burn suite is obvious. Lightning Bolt because Bolt is the best burn spell in the game. Galvanic Blast is still questionable. Not sure If I like it yet but it fits in with the Metalcraft theme so far. Or it just becomes Staggershock or Burst Lightning x 4 instead. Arc Trail is there because, well, if you've ever played Arc Lightning, which I did x 4 during Saga Standard and Block, it is an amazing card. Arc Trail is basically the same card minus one in the casting cost. But I think it is relevant because it can take out early Birds of Paradise and Fauna Shamans.

The Sideboard I threw together and is totally questionable. Manic Vandal x 4 is the only thing I'm sure of only because it eats 50% and beats for 2. Goblin Ruinblaster for pesky Valakut and control man-lands. Combust is for one creature and one creature alone...Baneslayer Angel. If a Baneslayer sticks I'm probably dead.

So there is the first deck I will attempt to build in the new and (imo) $#!tty Standard. I only call it that because I don't like when sets force you play one way, that way being artifacts. I initially didn't like Lorwyn for forcing Tribal but realized Tribal isn't that bad. They are still just creatures and spells. Artifacts are bad because they can die to double the amount of removal spells.

I'll have to trade for some Chimeric Mass but that's about it. Then I can try the new Standard.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What the MUC?!?

...and by MUC I mean Mono-Blue Control to all you non-Magic players.

I've been wanting to build a Mono-Blue Control deck for Legacy for quite some time now. I think I know how I want to build it. Like any good MUC deck in eternal starts something like this:

Force of Will x 4
Counterspell x 4

There are a couple of different routes you can go with a MUC deck these days. Now that I'm becoming a proponent of combo decks I think I want to go in that direction. But I want to have a few roads to victory via a couple of different "soft" locks.

Spell Snare x 3
Counterspell x 4
Force of Will x 4
Cryptic Command x 3
Ancestral Vision x 4

Counterbalance x 4

Sensei's Divining Top x 4

Spellstutter Sprite x 4
Glen Elendra Archmage x 1
Sower of Temptation x 1
Vendlion Clique x 3
Venser Shaper Savant x 1

Mishra's Factory x 4
Faerie Conclave x 4
Riptide Laboratory x 2
Islands x 12
Scalding Tarn x 2

Propaganda x 4
Spell Pierce x 3
Nevinyral's Disk x 3
Tormod's Crypt x 3
Sower of Temptation x 2

There are a few things going on with this MUC build. I based it on a Mono-Blue Faeries build that I had for Extended a while ago. But I added some Legacy action to make it competitive for the format. First off the Force of Wills just make the deck competitive right off the bat. Being able to stop turn 1 and 2 kills is super important in Legacy.

The combo that is in the deck is obviously the soft lock of Sensei's Divining Top and Counterbalance. Counterbalance is basically a Counterspell on a stick as long as the top card of your library shares the casting cost of the spell attempting to be countered. Top basically stacks to set up the Counterbalance. Since plenty of decks in Legacy keep a low curve of 1-3 casting costs it is easy to do and maintain. Turn 1 Top and turn 2 Counterbalance can spell good game for some opponents. It is difficult to play around and hard to disrupt. If MUC can aggressively mulligan to get the right pieces in place it can be devastating. It can single-handedly lock out an aggro Zoo deck or keep a combo deck in check.

The other sub-combo in the deck is Riptide Laboratory and the 10 Wizards available. Riptide allows you to bounce a Wizard you control from play back to your hand. This allows the 10 Wizards in the deck with relevant abilities to become reuseable sources of card advantage. Basically 6 of the Wizards double as Counterspells, 3 of them snag the best card in your opponents hand or changes out your irrelevant late game lands into gas, and the last Wizard is a Control Magic on a stick. This soft combo also provides combat tricks. You can counter a spell with Spellstutter, block and bounce. Effectively creating a wall of blockers if you have the mana and both Riptides out. I know 10 Wizards isn't a lot but with 4 Ancestral Visions and 4 Tops, you are going to get your Riptides and Wizards into play.

The two mentioned combos, er...combo'd with a vast ocean of counter-magic makes the deck (draw) go. Not only does the deck have two ways of creating infinite counters but it also packs a whoping 18 hard counters. No joke. I love me some control spells. FOW for obvious reasons, Countespells because I'm playing a counterspell deck, Spell Snare because plenty of the best cards in Legacy are 2cc (Goyf, Survival of the Fittest, Fauna Shaman, Lord of Atlantis, Counterbalance, etc.), Spellstutters to provide 2-for-1 action (or more), and Cryptic Command. Cryptic might just be a 2-of and I'll increase Spell Snare to a 4-of because Cryptic, although awesome in it's utility, is just too slow for the format. Whereas Spell Snare cockblocks plenty of money cards in Legacy. But my love of Cryptic is keeping it as a 3-of and I may go to a 4-of!!! Cryptic is so damn versatile I could blog all night about it. But I won't. First off, it is a 2-for-1 most of the time. You stop there backbreaking spell AND draw more gas. Or you can bounce ANYTHING. Tap all those angry Goblins. Just saying. But again, it's probably too slow. Sad face.

This version of MUC runs 8 manlands to help in beatdown duties. I wish Mishra's Factory x 4 was Mutavault x 4 but I will not shell out the $50 it will take to get there. The cool thing about the Mutavualts is they can combo with the Riptides as well as helping to add to Spellstutters. Factories will have to make do. Conclave is a nice evasion beater that adds the critical blue mana the deck needs. The two Scalding Tarns are the only two blue Fetchlands I own and help in the reshuffling of the deck if Top becomes dry. I wanted to put in two Vedalkan Shackles but realized that I may not consistently have Islands out to make it effective.

Sideboard options were so up in the air. Larry Nevin's Disk to a reset button if need be. I don't own any Powder Kegs so Disk will have to do. The cool thing about Disk is I can blow up the world but still save Top and bounce Wizards if need be. Propaganda is for decks that need creatures to win, mainly Zoo, Goblins, Survival, etc. You need to mulligan aggressively to get one in hand otherwise an angry Goblin Lackey turn 1 can wreck you. Or early Survival of the Fittest can spell dangerous Vengevine action. Spell Pierce goes in for combo decks and Survival as well. Tormod's Crypt is obviously for anger graveyard happy decks like Dredge, Survival, Reanimator, etc. I threw in two Sowers for creature match-ups. After you drop Propaganda to slow them down you can steal there Goyfs they over committeed with. Happy face.

If I had to play in a Legacy tournament today I'd probably pack this deck only because it takes tight play to win with it. Given the circumstances of a tournament, I think I can pull off tight play. Although, playing casually for so long has made me a worse player (but note: my first FNM back I took down first playing RDWs). I also like taking control in the late game which this deck is meant to do. But I think I'll concentrate next on a Mono-Red Burn deck for Legacy only because you only really need seven action spells to win and it really isn't all that interactive. You just blow up your opponent's face and hope they don't have the FOW for your Fireblast.

I initially wanted to build a version that had Counter-Top as well as Scepter-Counterspell/Echoing Truth/Fire & Ice and 1 Morphling, 1 Rainbow Efreet and 1 Sphinx of Jwar Isle, but I've played the Faeries version a lot and can probably play it better. But I will have to test when I get a chance. My Magic playing days have become so limited (almost none) that I have to resort to blogging about it. I have to try and find some time.

Quick sidenote: The new Scars of Mirrodin's Ardent Sphinx in a MUC build with TONS of gangster artifacts might also be a route to explore for Legacy. Ardent is basically a better/worse version of Rainbow Efreet. It is better because it is a 4/3 flyer vs. a 3/1 flyer and it can "Phase" for only one blue mana versus two blue mana. It is worse because you need Metalcraft to get it's "Phase" on whereas Rainbow just does. But in Legacy, there is an abundance of awesome, broken ass artifacts to throw into your deck, Top, Shackles, Scepter, Disk, Zuran Orb, Mox Opal, Chrome Mox, Powder Keg, Engineered Explosives, etc. just to name a few.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Magic the Gathering...

"Do you like magic?" –Barney Stinson, How I Met Your Mother

So I actually took some time out while Phoenix was sleeping and I was watching the last half of the Jets/Dolphins game to look through my Magic cards. Needless to say I was upset.

Since leaving Chicago I've had to make a switch to playing exclusively Type 2. Type 2, or as the newer players call it, Standard, is the current core set and last two blocks. As of right now, before the anticipated Scars of Mirrodin drops, Type 2 is made up of: M10, M11, Shards of Alara and Zendikar blocks. Building decks within this Standard was easy since I played heavily when Shards Block came out. Shards was so awesome because Alara Reborn was SOLID GOLD.

Since Legends dropped in 1994 (or was it '95), I've always been in love with Gold colored cards. Gold cards are cards with multiple colors in their casting cost.  Gold cards may have been the reason I got back into Magic in the first place. When I saw cards from Time Spiral block as well as going as far back as Ravnica block, I was hooked all over again. When I first got back in I built a budget Gruul Beatdown deck for Standard that featured Kird Ape and gold staples Scab-Clan Mauler, Burning Tree Shaman and Rumbling Slum. But the newer Gold card that clinched Magic for me was Lightning Helix. God. Such a beautiful card. It was Healing Salve and Lightning Bolt rolled into a beautiful 2cc Instant. I think I own 20 Lightning Helixes. I was hooked.

So why was I upset? When Scars of Mirrodin drops I say my farewells to M10 and all of Shards Block. That makes me sad since I was a fool for Shards Block. I think I have 20 Bloodbraid Elves. I have 5 Ajani Vengeants, Knights of Reliquary x 4, about a billion Terminates and Qasali Pridemates. I loved me some Gold cards. Now I have to start from scratch and try to build with my meager Zendikar Block and M11 cards. I really don't know how much of Scars I will actually try to acquire. I've traditionally been a trade first kind of Magic player so I'll have to get rid of tons of my older stapes in order to compete. There lies my dilemma.

Do I even bother with Type 2? Not sure.

Should I concentrate on Legacy? Holy $#!t!!!

Trolling I came across an Affinity deck with maindeck Force of Will. Maindeck FOW seemed odd to me since the Affinity deck, historically, is a beatdown first strategy. This deck had something else that piqued my interest in ways unimaginable...

Thopter Foundry x 2
Sword of the Meek x 2

WTF? Why didn't I think about that super extended combo for the 95% artifact deck?!? I immediately took apart my UW Thopter control deck and tried to shove the combo in my traditional Ravager Affinity shell. It was difficult to say goodbye to some standard Affinity cards like Myr Enforcer, Blinkmoth Nexus and especially Shrapnel Blast but the fat needed to be trimmed.

I think the issue with the base Ravager Affinity deck was the occasional color screw. Sometimes you burn your color fixers early for the card draw and have Great Furnace with Thoughtcast in hand. Or you have Seat of Synod and Shrapnel Blast in hand.

With the new Thopter Affinity it is a baseline UW aggro/combo deck.

Here's what I put together so far:

Ravager Affinity x 4
Ornithopter x 4
Master of Etherium x 4
Frogmite x 4
Arcbound Worker x 4

Cranial Plating x 4
Springleaf Drum x 4
Thoughtcast x 4
Thopter Foundry x 4
Sword of the Meek x 4

Ancient Den x 4
Seat of Synod x 4
Tree of Tales x 4
Academy Ruins x 1
City of Brass x 3
Adakar Wastes x 2
Mystic Gate x 1
Skycloud Expanse x 1

Ethersworn Canonist x 4
Meddling Mage x 4
Pithing Needle x 3
Krosan Grip x 4

First note: I work with what I have so I don't try to run out and get all the money cards to compete. I'm not going to go out and get all the fetches and duals that I need for Legacy. It's not in my nature. Secondly, when I first started playing the game it was obviously casually until me and my friends learned how to play competitively. Type 1, Legacy and Extended were my forte at the time. As I hit the PTQ circuit in the Midwest I became obsessed with Type 2 and Block. I even PTQ'd in Iowa during Urza's Saga Block with UG Squirrel Prison. I was first out of 111 players. With my resurgence into the game with Time Spiral Block I did Standard for a while but switched to Casual after Lorwyn/Shadowmoor rotation. I refused to upkeep for Standard. The whole Mythic Rare decks upset me to no end. It just makes it more difficult to compete for newer players or players without a bankroll. Playing casually was the best thing I ever did. The playgroup at Westwood College was amazing. It is probably the most fun I've had playing the game. While playing Casual I tried tons of different strategies and built tons of decks (something like 50). I actually became a deck designer. And I fell in love with combo decks.

Segue back to Thopter Affinity...

Thankfully I already had all the money cards for this deck. I was able to pick up Arcbound Ravagers on the down swing for very cheap a few years ago. I also traded up for a playset of Masters of Etherium when they first dropped. And the Thopter combo pieces are $1.50 uncommons. Traditional Ravager Affinity is a straight beatdown deck that uses either huge Ravagers or plated up dudes to Fatal Frenzy or Fling them. I'm opting to combo on opponents' faces with hundreds of 1/1 flying dudes. Why is Thopter combo better then Fling or Fatal Frenzy? Sometimes it takes time to get your dudes big enough for a lethal Fling. A well placed Swords to Plowshares or Echoing Truth can shut you down. Or just a good old fashioned Force of Will is enough. With the Thopter combo once you get online, it creates inevitability at that point. With the nut draw you can be online by 3rd turn. They MUST stop the Thopter Foundry from resolving otherwise they are dead. If they stop the Sword of the Meek it just comes back. If they stop the Foundry I can get it back with Academy Ruins or hopefully buy some time with the beatdown game to draw into another one. If you can get Thopter online and can untap, that should signal the game. When Master of Etherium drops shortly after it creates an even faster clock.

The deck works in a beatdown capacity. If you get the aggressive draw where you drop your hand by turn two you probably win. Against other aggro decks like Zoo or Mono-Red Burn, your Masters and Ravagers are critical. You have to play your Ravager sacrifices correctly or you lose. But once you get Thopter online it is game over. They won't be able to deal with the wall of flying defenders and advantage of the perpetual lifegain.

Against control decks game one is probably a win if they try to play you straight up as a regular Affinity deck. If you can get your combo online game one and win then your sideboard comes into play for games 2 and maybe 3.

Legacy is a wide open format with tons of different deck choices. It's hard to say what is a good deck or not. But the top decks at the moment I'd say are as follows:

Survival Zoo
Vengevine Madness
Tendrils Storm
Bant Aggo
Show and Tell/Hypergenesis
Dark Depths
Eva Green

Last time I bothered with competitive Legacy I rocked a home-brewed Mono-Red Burn deck. I went in knowing nothing. I did fine against scrubs and lost 1-2 to one of the two ringers. If a Legacy Tournament arises I want to be ready. I came up with a down and dirty sideboard to try and combat the current Tier 1 decks. The biggest thing I'm worried about is combo decks so I set up my sideboard to combat that.

Pithing Needle is for Tops, Aether Vials, Barbarian Ring, Engineered Explosives, Jace the Mind Sculptor, Jitte, etc. Anything with an activated ability the Needle shuts down. Survival of the Fittest is huge right now so Needle is key.

Ethersworn Canonist is strictly for combo decks like Storm, Belcher or Cascade. You have to aggressively mulligan to get stick a Canonist turn 2 during game 2 or you lose.

Meddling Mage is for combo decks and control decks. Naming Force of Will or Top or Vial or Survival of the Fittest, etc. will help to shut down or slow down plenty of decks.

Krosan Grip is to stop Counterbalance, Top, Vial, Survival, Engineered Explosives, Back to Basics, etc.

I probably should make room for Tormod's Crypt for graveyard active decks like Dredge or Reanimator decks. I'll have to see. Not sure yet.

But all in all I think decks that need creatures to win will lose once Sword/Thopter is online. The advantage it creates is too great for a bunch of 2/3's, 3/3's and even Goyfs to handle. Against control decks you have to get the beatdown going then set up the combo.

I have to do some playtesting to see how she runs but all in all it could be fun! From what I saw at Armada Games in Tampa, there is a big Legacy crowd. I'll see if I can get a few games in the near future.