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Recent Magic Sets

1 Khans of Tarkir Title 2 Gatecrash 3 Journey into Nyx 4 Born of the Gods 5 Theros

Deck Strategy

The Only Life Total that Matters is Zero: Mono Black Aggro

posted on 10/22/14

Check out the deck in action


Black never goes out of sty..


No, too easy.


Once you go black, yo...


Too tacky.


I like black aggro decks; this intro sucks; I don't care; deal with it.


Mono black aggro has a rich history, and the strategy brought us one of the most powerful Standard decks of all time. 99% of that was due to Necropotence which you could power out on turn one with a Dark Ritual, but there were 52 other cards in there, and a lot of them were Swamps.


Named the worst card in Ice Age upon release. Oops!



This kind of deck has existed in tons of iterations over time, but almost all of them have followed the same principal. Aggressive and efficient creatures, hurting yourself, usually, but not always through life, discard, and removal. Its ability to attack from those angles has been the root of its success.


I fell in love with the strategy in Extended (which was sort of like Modern) in 2005ish. I would show you the deck, but I can't actually find a list, and I can't get it all from memory, but Phyrexian Negator, Caronphage, and Sacromancy were all pretty good in an era where Savannah Lions was still considered a top tier creature. Sadly, Dark Ritual was banned, so you couldn't get turn three wins with Hatred.


Even though this archetype has existed since I was just a boy, its viability in Standard has always been in flux, and its validity is entirely based on its one drops, its ability to disrupt, and the amount of control in the format.


There are tons of sweet one drops, we have access to what is arguably the best black disruption spell of all time, and controls popularity is at its lowest in years. With all the criteria met, it's time to start winning some games.


4 Bloodsoaked Champion

4 Gnarled Scarhide

4 Tormented Hero

4 Pain Seer

4 Spiteful Returned

4 Mogis's Maruder

4 Herald of Torment


4 Despise

4 Thoughtseize

3 Bile Blight


21 Swamp


2 Dark Betrayal

1 Bile Blight

4 Phaika's Cure

2 Sign in Blood

2 Grim Haruspex

2 Nighthowler

1 Whip of Erebos

1 Stain the Mind


Lets me just point out that I've seen some lists out there that do not run 4 Mogis's Marauder and/or 4 Thoughtseize.




"Winning is for casuals"
-People that don't play four of these 



Maybe they missed the intimidate part on the Marauder, and read Thoughtseize as twenty life instead of two





This card was a call I matwo. I really can't think of a better explanation.

de over Hero's Downfall, because check out this list of cards that can still cause a lot of damage even if you have a Hero's Downfall at the ready:


Siege Rhine

Sorin, Solemn Visitor

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker

Wingmate Roc

Elspeth, Sun's Champion

Ajani, Mentor of Heroes

Hornet Queen

Doomwake Giant

Nylea's Disciple

Nissa, Worldwaker

Kiora, the Crashing Wave

All the gods

Sylvan Caryatid


Those are the big ones, but there are tons of other reasons to play Despise. Does this mean it is better? Despite all my evidence, its still questionable, but I'm going to keep playing with it as long as it keeps working miracles for me.


That's all for this week. I probably could have worked a catchy pun about Men in Black in my intro. What a great movie. It's far too late to mulligan now though.


Until next time, keep it fair; keep it fun.

Sunday Strip: Four Things you Think will Fix Magic but won't

posted on 10/19/14

I've spent a lot of time around a huge number of Magic players (I would guess over 25,000 unique players), and I've had conversations with a ton of them, usually after they've lost and they can't find their friends to complain to.


I don't mind being the bartender of the Magic world as most players are usually nice, if nothing else, and I've had lots of good chats, and a great deal of the time, they focus on what they perceive as problems with the game, and exactly how they should fix them.


Sorry, but some of you are wrong.


Nerf Counterspells


There's a hierarchy of strategies players hate to lose to


Land destruction


Having all your permanents killed

Getting attacked over turns


All these result in the same thing – a loss – but it has confirmed by R&D that players do in fact hating losing in certain ways, and they decided to listen and snuff out land destruction.


Fulminator Mage was probably the last three mana land destruction spell we'll ever see, Blood Moon is never getting reprinted, and I doubt we'll see a better Strip Mine than Tectonic Edge. Instead, we have beauties like Demolish, and players were happy.


So it would appear that counters should be the king of the villains. Upon closer inspection, you'll learn that they're actually the anti-hero of Magic.


The hero Magic needs, but not the one it deserves


To really understand why, play some Commander. Everyone rolls their eyes and moans whenever their seemingly innocent spell gets countered, but who do they turn to when someone has cast Genesis Wave for 53, or a Jokalhaups? A timely Dissipate helps keep Magic's most powerful spells in check and allows grand spells to be printed.


Use chess clocks to time matches


I can't believe how many times I've heard this idea. The number of ways it doesn't make sense is staggering.


Ideally, its a great concept. It works perfectly on Magic Online. Anytime player A has priority, their time ticks down, and when player B has priority, their time ticks down. Run out of time and you win the match. There are these fancy things called computers that do that for us.


In real life, organizers would need to buy the clocks, and players would have to use them correctly. I don't have the time to write out all the ways the latter would be a disaster.


I agree that the round time makes for a ton of awkward situations, and judges are open about the fact that handling slow players is very far from a science, but individual clocks aren't the solution. If you have a solution, please let me know. If someone could come up with one, they'd probably get an honourary induction into the hall of fame.


Free mulligans


The two I often see proposed are, instead of 7-6-5, etc are 7-7-6-5-4, etc or 7-6-6-5-5-4-4, etc.


I can see how people that haven't been into the darkest corners of Magic combos could find this idea appealing, but if you've played with or against a dedicated combo deck, you should know the potential for advantage here is huge. Some decks mulligan much worse than others, and a lot of them deserve that handicap.


Suck it, fair decks!


I get that mana screw sucks, but if you actually take note of all your games, they aren't that common and there is no functional way to fix it without recreating the game.



Stop printing cards that are boring and awful


Some cards are boring:




Some cards are awful:




Some cards are both (known henceforth as ZG's)




It seems like if every card was at least interesting, the game would have a lot more gems even if they were just for zany casual decks. It took me a long time of playing Magic before I clued in.

Bad ideas are common in game design, and for a good reason. Doing something bad helps teach you whats good. If you put Zombie Goliath in your deck, it won't be long until you learn the card isn't good, and as someone that wants to make a better deck, you'll ask yourself why it isn't good, and probably come to the conclusion that five mana is capable of so much more.



You won't look so smug when I draw my Doom Blade


Removing these ZG's from the game would probably make it more exciting for experienced players, but Magic is awesome enough as it is, and if ZG's help get more quality players involved, then I'm all for them.


If these were one of your solutions, I'm going to have to tell you to go back to the drawing board. I'd love to hear more ideas, and I know there are always frustrated players willing to tell me.


I can't wait.


Until next time, keep it fair; keep it fun.

Max Knowlan



Get Rich Quick Scheme

posted on 10/15/14

Check out the deck in action

Playing win conditions is a waste of time when your opponent can do it for you.


I've always had an interest in stealing in Magic. I got in a lot of trouble when I was about four years old for stealing a pack of bubble gum from a grocery store, so you think that would have deterred me, but I guess it made me hungry for that rush, and a game of Magic was a safe place to do it.


Ever since the games beginning, stealing your opponents permanents was a very powerful effect, and at the time, very simple.


A friendly reminder that you have to give the creature back when the game ends


Then it evolved a little bit to be an effect you could recur.



Ten years after Control Magic, a special card came along:


The once banned Fork allowed you to copy someones spells, but they still got to resolve their copy and that's no fun. Stealing spells was now a thing, and players loved Spelljack.


Lets move on to a different kind of fun that the Scars of Mirrodin team came up with. I may not love playing a lot of win conditions, but I guess it can be good if you're in to that sort of thing. So if you're going to fill your deck with a bunch of dirty creatures and planeswalkers, you may as well get them all out at once.




Alternatively, you could unleash your Izzet, and cast a whole bunch of spells instead. Whichever one of these two spells tickles your fancy, they were both widely embraced as fun cards.


So you've got your style, and I've got mine, which begs the question,



Villainous Wealth is my favourite card in Khans of Tarkir, so I knew it would be the first card to start with when getting back into the new Standard, and what I thought would be a goofy, mildly competitive deck ended up working really well, and the reason why made my giddy.


When the first wave of Standard decks hit the presses, I got quite the unpleasent feeling. Most of the decks seemed to be one of the five khans, and played a bunch of four, five, and six drops. This reminded me of when Kamigawa Block was in standard, and every deck that didn't start with four Umezawa's Jitte started with some combination of Kokusho, Yosei, Meloku, Ink Eyes, and Kodama of the North Tree.


I hated that format.


It turns out Villainous Wealth is pretty good against a slow deck with a bunch of absurd creatures and planeswalkers, so that confirmed that I was going to love the card.


Here's the list I settled on that was focused around big time Wealth's


4 Hornet Queen

4 Sylvan Caryatid

4 Kiora's Follower

4 Elvish Mystic

4 Voyaging Satyr

3 Nylea's Desciple


4 Verdant Haven

4 Market Festival

4 Villainous Wealth

1 Nylea's Presence


4 Llanowar Wastes

3 Yavimaya Coast

4 Opulent Palace

7 Forest

1 Swamp

2 Island

3 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx



4 Negate

3 Thoughtseize

2 Sultai Charm

1 Nylea's Disciple

2 Hornet Nest

2 Arbor Colossus

1 Bow of Nylea


I'm mostly happy with the non land cards in the main, but my mana base has some lack of inclusions.


1) Mana Confluence: I didn't think I needed the colour fixing, and I was right
2) Polluted Delta: It doesn't grab Forests so I think its no good.
3) Scry lands. My beloved scry lands. I went with the pain lands instead because I was worried about lands coming into play tapped, and I'm pretty sure I was dead wrong. I plan on adding somewhere between three and five scry lands. This will make me want to cut Elvish Mystic, and I'll probably replace them with some combination of Divination, Read the Bones, and Thoughtseize.

I also ran into a mirror match in my testing, and if I had to guess what their list included, I'd go with something like

4 Sylvan Caryatid

4 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
3 Jace, the Living Guildpact
4 Read the Bones
4 Divination
3 Dig Through Time

4 Villainous Wealth

4 Aether Spouts

Unfortunately that's all I could gather.

Its a cool concept, but my biggest issue with it is that it makes the midrange match better, but you're already winning those. The deck seemed completely dead to aggro. It is worth considering though.

Lessons we can learn from Hornet Queen



First off, this card is awesome in the deck. More importantly, the card is just awesome.

I know I'm not the only one that wrote it off as another big green dork when we found out it was going to be in M15, and obviously I was wrong. I did however, know how powerful it was in limited, and that should have had us thinking. If a card is absolutely absurd in limited, you should probably consider it for constructed.


It took a while for people to catch on to how good Umezawa's Jitte was, but I bet the first people that did were the ones that drafted with it. I'm not saying Hornet Queen is as good as Jitte, but I think the same logic should have applied in my mind.


So maybe this means I should give this guy a good look:





Until next time, keep it fair; keep it fun.

The Mean Green Machine

posted on 10/08/14

Check out the deck in action


Green is the new red,


One of the big appeals of the burn decks has been its price tag, but Goblin Guide and Eidolon are both going up in price, and aren't showing any signs of stopping, and on top of that, a lot of versions are playing fetchlands to go with their Grim Lavamancers. Burn is still a cheap option compared to other decks due to its lack of Modern's other big price tags, but I want to go deeper.


Or would it be go shallower? Either way, Mono Green is taking budget decks to strange new places.

Alexander Kerr's Green Aggro

PTQ winner


4 Dryad Militant

4 Strangleroot Geist

4 Kalonian Tusker

4 Experiment One

3 Scavenging Ooze

4 Leatherback Baloth

2 Thrun, the Last Troll


4 Vines of Vastwood

4 Rancor

3 Giant Growth

2 Dismember


22 Forest



1 Grafdigger's Cage

1 Pithing Needle

2 Torpor Orb

1 Oxidize

1 Creeping Corrosion

2 Choke

2 Skylasher

1 Wild Defiance

2 Obstinate Baloth

1 Deglamer


Feast your eyes on this. All basic lands, and your most expensive card, Thrun, barely cracks double digits, and all the rares in this deck, with the exception of Skylasher and Wild Defiance, are must-haves for a Modern collection.

This deck plays a lot like burn, despite feeling very different. Almost all your creatures are suspend cards like Rift Bolt and have rebound like Staggershock. I think this comparison is spot on because any given creature usually won't get in more than two attacks, and will rarely get past three because at that point, your opponent is probably dead.

I'll bring up the baloth in the room. This deck looks awful, which is exactly why I put it together.

I was browsing the list of all the PTQ top 8's from North America in search of crazy ideas, and I found this. I saw this in 1st place and figured it must have been in some tiny PTQ in Alaska or maybe Siberia, but it was in fact in Utah, where the PTQ's are probably in the 90-130 player range. Alexander needed to win through a lot of rounds, and as the rest of the top 8 suggests, a lot of tier one decks.


How did he do it?


On rare occasions, in a format such as Modern with such a diverse range of complex strategies that decks need to be prepared for, a painfully simple strategy can be too much for the meta to contain.


A friend of mine told me he's been playing Burn in Vintage with a great deal of success. This is the format where I can play every Magic card, and he's throwing Chain Lightnings at me. The Vintage meta is not equipped right now to deal with that stuff.


As for Modern, a lot of decks are going to struggle against a 2/2 on turn one, a 3/3 on turn two, and a 4/5 on turn three. Add in a timely Thrun or Dismember, and you're left with a batch of decks playing catch up.


I'm not going to pretend that Alexander didn't get a bit lucky with his pairings. This deck seems like it would be a sitting duck against Jund, and would not fare well against UWR Control, but every deck needs at least a little bit of luck in that regard.


My final assessment of the deck: I wouldn't take this to a Grand Prix, and I wouldn't take it to a PTQ, though it could obviously win one; its just not my kind of deck. I don't know if Alexander played this for budget reasons, as a meta game call, if he has a love affair with Forests, or he just wanted to make people feel bad.


Whatever the reason, Alexander is a successful artist, and was worth copying. I tip my bonnet to him.




Knowing Knowledge: PTQ Prep

posted on 10/03/14

This weekends PTQ is a competitive sealed event, which makes it a little different from the prerelease you may have just played in. While the main goal of all events is to have fun, its important to note some of the key differences so ensure you have a great time.


The sealed format will be different


Though not by much. Instead of the prerelease package, you'll be getting six packs of Khans of Tarkir. Other than that, the playing of the game itself is unchanged.


You'll be opening six boosters, but you won't keep those cards


The deck building process of a PTQ is a multi-step affair. Everyone gets the initial boosters, and a deck registration sheet that looks like this:



You'll register all the cards you open in the total column, then your cards will get wrapped up and passed to someone else. This ensures that if players do try and sneak extra cards into their deck, we have an easy way of finding out.


This may raise the question of why we don't do this at the prerelease, as it would be almost as easy to pull off. The reasoning behind this is that at a PTQ, the prize is significantly larger, and the temptation to cheat would be much higher. I've never disqualified someone for adding cards to their pool, and I can't remember the last PTQ where that happened, but we want to ensure that this isn't the time.


You may be worried about opening a pool that's worth a ton of money and having to get rid of it, but you do have the option to drop out of the event and keep your cards, but you will be unable to reenter yourself. Anything short of a pair of foil Polluted Deltas, and I don't see the appeal.


Once you get your cards, you'll register the deck that you're playing


The same deck building rules apply – minimum forty cards, but unlike at the prerelease, you're unable to change your deck in between rounds. However, everything you don't play is considered part of your sideboard and you can add them to your deck for games two and three; you also have access to an infinite number of basic lands for sideboarding, so you could even sideboard into different colours.

Unlike at prereleases, where helping others or getting help with deckbuilding is encouraged, it is strictly not allowed at PTQ's because the event has a much stronger focus on skill. You can however ask for advice between rounds.


Some accidents carry penalties


No matter what event you're playing in, cheating is always cheating and will be handled appropriately, but honest mistakes have varying fixes, and these fixes are based on the potential for advantage of the infraction, how easy it is to accidentally do, and how difficult it would be for your opponent to notice.



The infraction, looking at extra cards for example is pretty much anytime you see a card you're not supposed to, which is most often flipping a card off the top of your deck, so lets review the criteria

1) Potential for advantage: Seeing as how part of the fix is to shuffle your deck so you won't know what card is anymore, the damage is very minimal

2) How easy it is to accidentally do: We've all done it; sleeves are slippery, cards can stick together, our fingers can slip. Very easy to do.
3) How difficult it is for the opponent to notice: They'll almost certainly notice it if you do.

With all that in mind, the infraction given is officially known as a warning which means its kept track of, and if you continue to do it, the penalty may be upgraded, but I've never seen that happen.

If you told me these guys were related, I'd believe you.

Lets look at a different kind of problem that's scarier like playing a morph creature. When the game is over, or the morph would leave play, you must reveal it to all players so that they can ensure it was in fact a morph creature. More than once, at the prerelease, people played something face down that wasn't a morph. They were accidents (some cards look similar), but it can realistically happen, and I bet it will happen at least once. So the criteria again.

1) The potential for advantage can be huge. Getting a creature when you're not supposed to can be the difference maker in a game, even if it is just a 2/2
2) It is possible to do accidentally, but it is pretty hard to lose track of what the cards in your hand are.
3) Your opponents ability to catch it is virtually non existent. The game ends, you put the card back in your deck, and just like that, all proof is lost. You can prove that you're playing a morph creature in your deck very easily, but that's about it.

Due to how hard it hits on all criteria, this infraction comes with a game loss, so please reveal your morph creatures. I'd hate for anyone to lose that way.

One last infraction I want to talk about is called Failure to Maintain Game State. This is given out to the opponent of the offending player, assuming that opponent had any way of noticing what happened. Both players are required to help ensure that everyone plays correctly.

The only reason we give this penalty out is so we can track the player. There are times that you can knowingly take advantage of a player breaking the rule, so we track it to see if there's pattern. If you're not a cheater, this infraction will have absolutely no effect on you.

So don't cheat.



It should also be noted that any errors should be brought to the attention of a judge immediately. If you notice something and don't say anything, it may be seen as a form of cheating.

Finally, don't gamble, don't bribe anyone, don't improperly determine a winner of a match, and don't be a jerk. If you are unsure what any of this means, ask a judge.

You're allowed a second opinion on a judge call


If a judge gives a ruling you don't think is right, you may appeal it to the head judge. The responding judge won't be offended, or take it personally. We're all much more interested in getting the right answer and players having fun than anything else.

However, there's no need to argue with a judge, and if the head judge gives a ruling, it is final.

Some extra notes:

The top 8 will be a single elimination draft.

You are not allowed to talk during the draft, even if you just thought of a really funny joke, or are having a particularly hard time.

Your opponent may ask you for a draw before you start playing


Both players drawing can, in some cases, ensure both players make top 8, and there are two things you must know about this.

1) Judges will not tell you whether or not it would work.
2) Players aren't always right.

Drawing intentionally is perfectly legal if no bribery is involved, but the risks are your responsibility.

You can't have electronic devices out during a match.

Phone, tablet, or anything else must stay put away. If you feel you should have an exception, let a judge know.

Keep track of your life with a lifepad or bring a sheet of paper or a notepad.



Dice work just as well in theory, but in practice, if there's a life total discrepancy, the judge is more likely to side with the player that has written records of each life change.

You can go to the bathroom and you will get a time extension.

We want to avoid accidents of all kinds.

Don't comment on matches until they are over.


This goes for all events, but people are more likely to get mad at an event like this.

There is one important exception to this. If you see that the players have made some kind of rules mistake, tell them you saw something, then go find a judge and explain it to them. If you see a play mistake, give you friend at least 15 minutes to cool down before you make fun of them.

See you at the PTQ, and remember, Magic is always about fun, so make sure you have some!





Worshiping Trolls is Blasphemous Fun

posted on 10/01/14

When news of Modern was first announced, the people rejoiced; there were a lot of things to be excited about, but the biggest one was giving players a chance to play with some of their favourite old cards from the past decade. I know this was the most exciting part for me anyway. There were so many cards to get excited about. Other than Blistering Firecat, and Opposition, all of my favourite cards were in play again.


There are very few cards that I like more than Worship.


I was heartbroken when players voted to send Platinum Angel in 10th Edition over Worship. Why would I want to pay seven mana to not die when I can just pay four?


Extended was an unpopular format, and only the best of the best four drops make it in Legacy, where cards like Cryptic Command aren't even playable, so my set of Worships sat in the binder collecting dust until recently.


There were a lot of options I could take, but starting with hexproof creatures seemed like too great a synergy to pass up, so quickly after, I had this in writing:

3 Thrun, the Last Troll

4 Troll Ascetic
4 Worship
49 other cards

This was a good start, but I guess I needed a few other cards to really have a chance, and Swords were the next logical step as they were also great with hexproof. I had no idea which one would be best, so I played one of each, and Body and Mind was cut fairly quickly.


Playing a green creature deck begged for a one drop mana acceleration. Noble Hierarchic is usually the go to for a deck that only needs green and white, but I decided to go with Birds of Paradise because their ability to fly with one of my equipment's seemed great.


I'm playing white so Path to Exile was a natural fit. It is pretty obvious that you should be playing the best white card in a white deck.


I now had the core of the deck put together. I proceeded to play some games and quickly realized Troll Ascetic didn't belong. The extra hexproof guy only mattered in games that were already good matchups, and didn't do enough in the bad ones, so he had to go.


Eventually, I settled on this,


4 Birds of Paradise

2 Fleecemane Lion

1 Scryb Ranger

3 Scavenging Ooze

4 Loxodon Smiter

3 Kitchen Finks

3 Thrun, the Last Troll

3 Restoration Angel


4 Path to Exile

4 Worship

1 Sword of War and Peace

1 Sword of Light and Shadow

1 Sword of Feast and Famine

1 Sword of Fire and Ice


4 Verdant Catacombs

1 Arid Mesa

4 Treetop Village

1 Dryad Arbor

3 Gavony Township

4 Temple Garden

1 Okina, Temple to Grandfathers

1 Ejganjo Castle

4 Forest

2 Plains

2 Dismember
2 Celestial Purge

2 Circle of Protection: Red
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Stony Silence
3 Rest in Peace
1 Aven Mindcensor
1 Jester's Cap


Here are some things I've learned

1) Loxodon Smiter and Restoration Angel are both absurd cards. They both allow you to play around counters, and can not be taken down with a Lightning Bolt. The Angel also survives Abrupt Decay. If you're playing a deck that can play these cards, you should be.

2) Okina and Ejganjo Castle suck. Their limited use is not worth losing synergy of the Scryb Ranger, and the vulnerability to Blood Moon.

3) Speaking of Scryb Ranger, that card is awesome too.

4) Gavony Township is great. This was originally Vhitu-Ghazi, the City Tree for its synergy with the Swords and Worship, but Gavony Township is just so strong.

The sideboard

I built my sideboard with the intent of having at least four cards for every popular matchup. I don't think this is a good idea to settle on, but I think its a fantastic place to start. Once you figure out what you need for each match, and how important certain cards can be, its easy to restructure your sideboard to whatever is optimal.



The deck is interesting, and its tons of fun, but it suffers from the same problem as RG Tron in that it has a very difficult time with the unfair decks, and I would put this deck on par with Tron for how competitive it is. What does that really mean? I'll let you decide.

Until next time, keep it fair; keep it fun.

The Top 10 Biggest Design Mistakes

posted on 09/28/14

Everyone makes mistakes, but usually those mistakes effect anywhere from zero to a very few group of people. Magic's R&D team are made up of people just like you and I, so they're held to the same inevitability of screwing up. For better or for worse, they effect a lot of people, but it is just a game, and it makes for some, as a half full glass would suggest, interesting situations.


You'll probably notice some very powerful cards missing from this list, but I give a pass on a lot of things because in some situations, the designers were inexperienced with a concept, and had no realistic way of predicting their effect. The Moxen and Black Lotus are perfect examples of this. They didn't even have a firm grasp on how the game would play out, so I understand that Alpha was full of insanity.


Without further adieu, the top ten biggest design mistakes

Honouable mention – The Pacts



This has nothing to do with them being free (we'll get to that later). There are a lot of ways to lose in Magic, be it directly or indirectly. Players feel bad when they lose because their opponent countered all their spells; players feel really bad when they lose because their opponent killed all their lands; players feel exceptionally bad when their opponent kills them on turn one with some insane combo.

Nothing compares to losing because you forgot to pay for a Pact, and it happens. It happens a lot. Imagine if the finals of a Pro Tour was decided by this. That would be a big dark spot for the history books.

The fix: I don't know. It is a cool concept and all five of them are fair cards, but I can't think of a way to pull of the mechanic without a potential for a wicked case of the feel bad's.

#10 – Delver of Secrets



At first I was like, ew


And then I was all like, oh boy...



There are a lot of really crappy blue creatures out there, and I mean a lot. Looking at Delver of Secrets for the first time, I thought it would either join the ranks of crap, or it would be abuseable as a 3/2 flier for U and I was right. Delver was a can't win scenario, so why bother trying?

The fix: Make him cost UU, and make the transformed card a 3 / 4 or even a 4 / 3

#9 – Tarmogoyf


In testing Tarmogoyf alongside the cards it would be legal with in Standard, its easy to see how this card could make it past the screening process, but there's almost no way they tested this card in Legacy. When Tarmogoyf was printed, Werebear was a popular kill condition and going turn one fetchland into Mental Note into Tarmogoyf, it should have been clear just how powerful Goyf could be. Tarmogoyf is like Werebear except it can get even bigger, and it only needs four cards between both graveyards to get to four power.

A lot of people will say they don't care about Legacy or Vintage when they design cards, and I agree this is true to an extent, but if a card would be busted in a format like Legacy, you need to question whether or not you should let it roam around in Standard.

The fix: Add an extra green to his mana cost. A turn three 3 / 4 or 4 / 5 is good, but not anywhere near as good.


#8 – Snapcaster Mage




Tiago Chan was a smart Magic player, so its no surprise that he'd design a powerful card when he was given the chance to do it.


Snapcaster Mage is too powerful, but that's not even my biggest issue with him; think about how much cooler he could have been

Creature – Wizard


When Snapcaster Mage enters the battlefield, target instant or sorcery gains flashback until end of turn.


Look at how awesome that card is! It can't abuse counterspells, which is the most frustrating thing about him, and no card in Magic history would represent the combination of blue and red together better than this one, and right in time for Return to Ravnica. What a great missed opportunity.

#7 Skullclamp



This goes against my rule of excusing them for untested concepts because Darksteel was only the second set to feature equipment, but sometimes there are just no excuses.


Compare it to another early equipment mistake, Umezawa's Jitte. It wasn't clear right away how good the Jitte was. We figured it out, but I recall it took at least a month.

Then there's Skullclamp. I remember reading Mike Flores' article spoiling the card. The collective player base didn't need to figure out this card was good; his article basically boiled down to, “This card is off the charts nuts,” and go figure, it was. Skullclamp became the first card to be banned in Standard since Urza's Destiny, and although there were a decent number of viable decks in Standard, they all played Skullclamp.

The fix: Where do I start? There are so many ways they could have made this card acceptable. I want to say you could just get rid of the toughness modifier, but then Arcbound Ravager, and Skirk Prospector probably still would have torn it to pieces. I think the only way to make it work would be to changing the equip cost to two, in addition to getting rid of the toughness modifier. Maybe that wouldn't even be enough.

#6 Free spells V3


The first free spells were the Moxen and Lotus, and I've already given them a pass. The next ones were Force of Will, and its family (I bet you can't tell me what the white one does without looking it up). Even though these cards weren't over the top, their freeness did make them a little too good.

“I've got it! We make the spells free but they still have to have the mana upfront. Now they can't abuse them.”



Time Spiral and Frantic Search went on to be two of the most powerful spells in Magic history, and Great Whale even got errata to make it so you had to play it from your hand because it was too good with Recurring Nightmare.


Oh and they also decided to print these cards at the same time as Tolarian Academy. Oops.


The fix: None. Stop making things free!

#5 – Free spells V4


Get ready for the broken record. Notice the double meaning there? Clever me.

“I've got it! A spell that makes free copies but you've got to cast spells at full price beforehand and pay for the original spell. Problem solved.”

“But Jimmy, what about all those spells that just add mana. That seems like a pretty sweet combination, and lets not forget about all those free spells you came up with in the past.”

“That's future me's problem. Screw that guy.”

A month after Scourge was released, Mind's Desire was restricted in Vintage, and the explanation was, “yeah, we knew this was going to happen. Oh well.”


If you know a card is going to be broken, even in a format you don't care about, maybe its not a great idea.


In addition to this creating free spells, a player casting a bunch of spells in one turn takes a long time. Pyromancer Storm in Modern is a great example of that.

But wait, there's more.

“Hey, Jimmy! We're making this set called Time Spiral and we're going to bring back a bunch of sweet mechanics. Any ideas what we should give another go to?”

“How about storm?”

I swear to god, Jimmy...

The fix: They already did it. Its called replicate.

#4 – Tinker




Tutors are a dangerous thing. Demonic Tutor is obviously too powerful, but there are possible alternatives. They had the right idea with the Mirage tutors, but they were just a bit too strong A worthy experiment none the less.

Too summarize
-Two mana tutor for anything, too good
-One mana tutor for a restricted card, too good, even though you have to put it on top.

“Hey Jimmy, what about a three mana tutor that puts any card in your hand.”

“Still a little scary. What if we make it so it only grabs a specific type of card?”

Mark was taken aback at the uncharacteristic logic. “That's perfect, Jimmy, and here I thought you were going to suggest something overpo..”

“Wait! What if the tutor puts it right into play instead of the hand?”

“Gee, Jimmy, that sounds awfully good.”

“Don't worry. I'll come up with a reasonable drawback that makes it both fair and interesting. I'll take the lead on this, you go grab lunch, Mark.”

You could have stopped him, Mark

Keep in mind, even in Standard at the time, there was Phyrexian Colossus. Maybe that doesn't seem like much, but it was enough to earn Jon Finkel the title of world champion.


The fix: Transmute Artifact, or Fabricate.


#3 – Free spells V5



Seriously guys? Why do you keep doing this? Are people even that desperate to cast free spells? Have you gotten any indication that players want more of this? I'd accept even one piece of mail as proof.

Lets forget about how nuts this is with Hypergenesis and co, because that aside, casting free spells is absurd, plain and simple, and would ya look at that? It got two cards banned in Modern!

The fix: Make it so you can cast it, but for some sort of cost.

#2 – Stoneforge Mystic




A card from Worldwake made it on here, but it isn't Jace. He dodged it with the “we had no idea what we were doing” clause. It actually took months for people to realize just how good Jace could. I'm not mad at R&D in the slightest by printing the best planeswalker of all time.


By the time Stoneforge Mystic was being designed, look at all the things R&D knew:
1) Tutors are powerful. Two mana tutors are extra powerful.
2) Casting spells for cheap is always good, especially if they can't be countered.
3) Equipments have the chance to be very strong.

But hey, its printed in Worldwake. What am I going to get? Razor Boomerang? Even if I get Argentum Armour, I still have to pay 6 to equip it. What's the issue?

The issue is that they knew it was going to be followed by a return to Mirrodin, the planet of artifacts, which you know is going to be filled with the brim with equipment! To add insult to injury, they managed to make its synergy with Batterskull powerful beyond belief.

If I could meet whomever designed Stoneforge Mystic, I'd give him a rant resembling Apu yelling at Skinner for his book concept, Billy and the Cloneasaurus.


The fix: Make it a 0/3, or a 2/1 that doesn't let you cheat anything into play, and make it an uncommon.

Alright, lets wrap this up.

Somewhere between 2007 and 2008, the design team is sitting down to talk about an important set – New Phyrexia.


Here is what should have happened in this meeting.




When I resort to using tacky, poorly designed and outdated memes, you know I'm exhausted and at a loss for words, but yeah,


#1 – *Sigh* Free spells V6


Seriously? Seriously!? Not only are free spells a disaster, but Magic players love paying life for stuff. Channel, Necropotence, shock lands, Reanimate, are just some of the highlights. Not all of the phyrexian spells are completely free, but they're all at least fairly discounted. The best one of the bunch is both free, and blue. Who could have seen that coming? To top it all off, this mechanic was put in a set that encouraged players to use infect, so paying life meant absolutely nothing.

I don't know if Jimmy's dad is the president of Wizards, or if there's some other form of nepotism going on, because at this point, Jimmy should have been boxed up and sent to Abu Dhabi



The fix: Death by firing squad.

What are your thoughts? Is my version of Snapcaster Mage boring? Am I too hard on Jimmy?

Birthing Pod Highlights Good Post-Banning Investments

posted on 09/26/14


Another Modern banned list update has come and gone with no changes. Given how healthy the format is, and how questionable everything left on the ban list is, this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but if you ask around about which card was the most likely to get banned, a lot of people would say Birthing Pod.



At the beginning of the year, this card was under $10, and I figured it was due to the fear of the ban hammer, but then an announcement came along,

“No changes.”

At that point, I figured it was time for Pod to explode in value, but nothing happened. The card is insanely powerful, so maybe people were still afraid. This week, another announcement

“No changes.”

I went and checked the price of Birthing Pod right away, and still nothing. It isn't a matter of if Birthing Pod will become a $40 card, but a matter of when. The sooner you buy four, the better.

The scry lands



Everyone is very excited about the fetchlands being reprinted, and rightfully so, but their impact on Standard may be less dramatic than the hype would suggest. The last time fetches were in Standard was Zendikar Block, and they interacted really well with the landfall mechanic (Oh, and Jace too), so they were obviously quite powerful.


Way back in Onslaught, the dawn of the fetchlands they've now reprinted, they were playable, but they weren't the dominant form of mana fixing.


I expect the scry lands will be the go to lands for colour fixing, along with Mana Confluence, and with the Ravnica shock lands gone, the scry lands could all double in price, if not more, the same way the Innistrad lands did while they were in Standard.


Stoneforge Mystic




When True-Name Nemesis joined the party, Stoneforge Mystic was its natural ally, and it spiked up to $35 over night. Now that the TNN hype has subsided, it has dipped back down, but a card that powerful can only be kept at bay for so long. Just take a look at the decks Stoneforge Mystic is getting played in:

Esper Stoneblade
URW Delver
Death & Taxes


You can see how powerful the kor's impact is. Its even getting some play in Grindstone decks.


All it would take is a good run for any of these decks, and just like that, the Mystic is back up to $35, or higher.


We should also consider that, as unlikely as it is, this card could hypothetically get unbanned in Modern. Hello $100 card.

Commander / Casual

Return to Ravnica Block foil mythic rares



For people that don't care about Standard, September is always a great time; picking up newly rotating out cards for cheaper than they've ever been, and this goes for foils too.


The reason why I am shining a spotlight on foils specifically is that not only will they go up in price, but they become increasingly hard to find. The foil horders like me snatch them all up for various reasons, and eventually, even the $10 ones become impossible to find. When was the last time you saw a foil Maelstrom Nexus?


Due to less product being opened, the later the set is in a block, the harder it is to find, so be sure to be on the lookout for Dragon's Maze cards in particular. The big two on my radar are Blood Baron, and Master of Cruelties.



Enjoy your weekend and your shopping.

Stock on the website may not match the stock in the store. If you're looking for something that you can't find on here, contact us.

Make in (Stone & Molten) Rain!

posted on 09/24/14

Check out the deck in action


Historically speaking, dedicated land destruction decks are divided into three parts

1) Ramp
2) Land destruction

3) Fatties

The idea is to take out your opponents mana base quickly, then land a giant creature that your opponent won't be able to deal with it due to their lack of resources. There are a ton of examples, but I've gone with this since I got to watch this deck in action at Pro Tour San Juan

Travis Woo's Red / Green Land Destruction
Zendikar Block constructed

4 Lotus Cobra

4 Overgrown Battlemant

4 Nest Invaded
2 Everflowing Chalice


Land destruction:
4 Goblin Ruinblaster

4 Roiling Terrain
4 Londestone Golem

4 Vengevine

4 Hellkite Charger

The rest:
4 Raging Ravine
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Scalding Tarn
5 Forest

5 Mountain
4 Kazzandu Refuge

2 Burst Ligtning

With fourteen ramp spells and twelve land destruction spells, Travis was able to consistantly kill a land on turn three, and usually four. A crippled opponent was going to have a tough time dealing with a Lodestone Golem, Vengevine, or Hellkite Charger.

As a longtime fan of this strategy, it was actually the first thing I attempted to do when Modern was created.


It didn't work.

I don't remember the list, but no one is ever going to need to know it unless you want a list of what not to do in Modern. Zendikar Block wasn't the slowest format ever, but Modern is certainly faster, and has so many mana efficient spells that there's no way you can keep your opponent off of their resources long enough to kill them with large creatures.

As I was writing about deck evolution in my Living Twin article, it got me thinking about old decks, and I decided to go rummaging through old lists, and in no time at all, I found the answer.

Jamie Parke's Sped Red
1999 Worlds – Top 8

4 Avalanche Riders
3 Fireslinger
4 Jackal Pup
4 Mogg Fanatic

2 Arc Lightning
4 Cursed Scroll
3 Hammer of Bogardan
4 Pillage
4 Shock
4 Stone Rain

2 Ancient Tomb
3 Ghitu Encampment
15 Mountain
4 Wasteland

Interesting side note, I got to see Jamie Parke make top 8 at Worlds in Chiba, ten years after this top 8.

The answer was so simple. Don't make the land destruction the bottom of the curve; do it the other way around which brought me to this:

Max Knowlan's Sped Gruul

3 Goblin Guide
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Kird Ape
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Avalanche Riders
1 Thrun, the Last Troll

2 Forked Bolt
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Stone Rain
4 Molten Rain
1 Chandra, Pyromancer
2 Garruk Relentless

4 Wooded Foothills
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Stomping Ground
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Tectonic Edge
7 Mountain

3 Combust
2 Magma Spray
3 Sun Droplet
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Blood Moon
1 Lodestone Golem
1 Flame Slash

How do you fight a swarm of early creatures? Supreme Verdict? Wrath of God? Sphinx's Revelation? Oblivion Stone? The list of things that are four mana and higher goes on for a while, and by the time the player can get to that much mana, they are at such a low life that every non land card feels like a great draw.

I was confident I had something, but how great a something was unclear until I played the deck. My first three matches were against various Tron decks, but those wins were almost meaningless; before long, I was beating Hate Bears, Twin, Living End, UWR Control, and Affinity. My win percentage was phenomenally high.

I'm very excited about this deck. As you will see in the videos, I don't have the ideal list due to my lack of Tarmogoyfs, which means the deck can only get better. I've got about a hundred lists sitting on my computer, and I think this may be the best one.


I'll leave you with two other lists of varying lower budgets

Sped Red

4 Goblin Guide
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Avalanche Riders
3 Hellspark Elemental

2 Chandra, Pyromaster
4 Stone Rain
4 Molten Rain
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Forked Bolt


1 Magma Spray
1 Searing Blaze

8 Green fetches
3 Tectonic Edge
13 Mountains

The fetchlands are needed to make Grim Lavamancer function, but the newly printed Wooded Foothills and Blondstained Mire makes that much cheaper. If you want to take the budget a little bit simpler, you can make some simple changes

-3 Grim Lavamancer
-1 Searing Blaze

+1 Magma Spray
+1 Hellspark Elemental
+1 Chandra, Pyromaster
+1 Char
Then replace the fetches with Mountains.

I need to change my signiture because there's no way this deck keeps it fun for the opponent, but at least you'll win.

Post Prerelease Press Conference

posted on 09/22/14


Happy Monday, everyone,


We've just finished up our Khans of Tarkir Prerelease, and what an insane weekend its been. This was Magic Strongholds biggest prerelease; I wasn't sure anything was going to top Return to Ravnica, but here we are. You all made that happen, and I want to thank everyone for subsequently making my weekend awesome.


The thing I love about judging is running great events that will make people enjoy this game as much as I do, and I think the Stronghold team did a good job this weekend, but there were some hiccups, and I'm a big fan of transparency, so I'd like to talk about why they happened, and how we'll make them better next time.


The events started late

Here is the biggest issue by far, and there were a few reasons that lead to it.

The huge turnouts threw us off. We had a plan in place that would have worked for a smaller event, and we weren't sufficiently prepared to adjust. This caused registration to take quite a bit of time. Over the past 48 hours, the team of judges, and Stronghold management have been thinking about ways to smooth this out, and we'll continue to brainstorm until we come up with an efficient system.


Both 2HG events and the Sunday afternoon sealed were delayed because we had to secure more product so that everyone could play. This one is pretty tough to make any more efficient, so improvements on our end would be difficult. Thankfully, Wizards of the Coast will see our numbers, and most likely send us more product for future events. That's the ideal solution, and we're doing everything we can to ensure that it happens.


Another problem is the cascade effect. If one event starts late, then, due to table space if nothing else, the other events that day are going to have to start late. In the future, we're going to make a bigger gap between start times. The schedule we have now was based on a best case scenario; if everything goes near perfectly, then a four round sealed event will finish in five hours, but sometimes things go wrong.

Different start times may hinder some people, but I think the problem a lot of people had was that they set aside their day around our schedule, and we changed it on them. Changing the schedule may not be perfect for everyone, but it will ensure we keep our end of the bargain.


The 2HG on Saturday night was only three rounds

That was a decision made by me and me alone. Some people seem to think I made that choice so I could go home early, and although that's not an unreasonable assumption, and I can ensure you its not true. If there's two things I love, its being at Magic tournaments, and making money, and cutting the event off one round made me lose out on both those things. I did what I did because I thought it was the best thing for the tournament.

It made the night better for some people and worse for others; if doing this made your tournament worse, I do apologize, but I do stand by my decision. If I wasn't completely confident, I wouldn't have done it. Thankfully, this choice won't need to be an option in the future.


Getting vouchers instead of booster packs

Here is how the numbers of prizes work at prereleases:

Wizards suggests we give away two packs per player.

Wizards sends us enough for roughly 1.5 packs per player.


You can ask why, but I can't answer, nor can anyone else. Its not even that simple though. We create our prize structure to be a total of three packs per player in a combination of boosters and vouchers. Starting with this event, we've also increased the 2HG prize support by 50%


Our hands are completely tied in regards to how many packs we get, but what we may consider is a different distribution of packs and vouchers to ensure everyone getting prizes at least gets a few boosters. I've played and judged in enough prereleases to know how exciting it is to open packs as soon as the set comes out.


Everyone that works for Magic Stronghold, and the judges I get to staff our events aren't satisfied with an average event. We will continue to strive for excellence, so that you can be rewarded for your passion for the game we all love. It's the least we can do.


Until next time, keep it fair; keep it fun


Max Knowlan


Magic Stronghold Judge Manager