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.