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Deck Strategy

Will to Force

posted on 11/19/14

Forcing an archetype in a draft is very risky business.

 

During the top 8 of Pro Tour Honolulu 2009, Brian Kibler opened a pack of Shards of Alara that had a Mycoloth and an Oblivion Ring. No one is going to deny that Oblivion Ring is an excellent card, but Mycoloth was a big time bomb in that format. Kibler opted for the Oblivion Ring because he wanted to force the Esper archtype, and Kibler has won multiple pro tour's.

 

This pro tour wasn't one of them.

 

Was he right to do this? Its tough to say, but his quarterfinals loss casts a dark shadow on it. As I've stated in the past, results based oriented thinking sucks, but to look at this critically, we need to understand what forcing really entails. Lets say you love forcing Sultai and open a a pack with these:

Wingmate Roc

Sultai Charm
Twelve other cards – lets say its a screwed up pack and it has twelve Shatters.

 

>

 

 

I chose Sultai as an example because its the unusual khan in this set. Its graveyard plan requires more than just generic good cards, so its pivotal to commit early. Sultai Charm is a great way to start you off on that path.

 

On the other hand, Wingmate Roc is a hell of a card.

 

As a fan of thinking outside the box, I fully understand wanting to go down the path less traveled, but ultimately we have to understand that Wingmate Roc is just too good a card to pass up first pick. At a casual draft, if I wanted to force, I'd take the Charm in a heartbeat, but when something serious is on the line, you really have to consider respecting a bomb. Lets complicate matters and say this is your pack.

 

Wingmate Roc

Sultai Charm

Seeker of the Way

Abzan Battle Priest

Foil End Hostilities

Nine Shatters

 

Now do you not only have that seductive Sultai Charm tempting you, but you've also opened a pack that no matter what you take, you are seriously signaling that you're not playing white. Granted, the player you're passing to is going to know that's what you're doing, or just think you're an idiot, but the why doesn't matter.

 

I've never been a fan of overestimating the importance of signals, but they are real, and by taking this Sultai Charm, you've opened that khan for you wide open for the second pack. You're now facing an opportunity to not just get the Sultai deck you want, but you will probably get a lot of good cards baring some extreme circumstance.

 

Does this make the force the right thing to do? I'm still on the side of no, but its a lot closer than the twelve Shatter pack. I wouldn't say forcing here is wrong, but if you're going to do it, you better be damn sure you know how to do it really well.

 

We'll move on to a far different situation. You, much like me, love a good Jeski deck, but your first few picks just don't take you in that direction at all, and going into the second pack, you have a fourteen card stack that looks like this:

 

Mardu Charm

Murderous Cut

Mardu Bloodhunter

2x Krumar Bond-Kin

Mardu Skullhunter

Defiant Strike

Feat of Resistance

Mardu Hordechief

2x On-colour lands

3x Shatter

 

You're now set up for a pretty solid Mardu deck. You've got the Charm, and some excellent black cards – unusable in Jeski, but you also have a few solid white cards – very usable in Jeski, then you open this bad boy.

 

 

 

So what do you do now? Splash it in your Mardu deck? Switch over to straight Jeski? Switch over to Jeski and splash for your Mardu Charm and Murderous Cut? They're all viable options, but there are some variables to consider.

 

1) What lands were you able to pick up? Were any of them Wind-Scarred Crags?
2) What sort of blue cards did you pass in pack one? If you started passing late and awesome blue cards, there's a good chance the player to your left will be taking all the cards coming towards you for the second pack.


If everything lines up well, I see no problem in switching if that is what you really want. As I said before, we should be bomb-focused in the first pack, and there's no reason not to be in the second pack either.

So wrap it up, some tips for forcing:
1) When you're getting to the tail end of the first pack, if there's nothing valuable for you, take cards that would be useful if you want to switch colours. It will help you build a base for your switch, and will discourage others from taking cards you might want in the second pack.

2) If you're passing good cards in the colour you original wanted to force, make sure you take note of what they are, and use that to determine if you think good cards are coming back.

3) Bombs > Personal preference. Sorry, but its true.

 

 


Sixty Cards to Beef up your New Commander Deck

posted on 11/12/14

The Commander 2014 decks are finally here, and they pack quite a punch. The bang for you buck is pretty great given the cards in the decks, but I'm here to help provide some suggestions for how to make them even better.

 

For each deck, I'll provide ten cards, two high end cards, four mid range cards, and four budget cards. But first, I'll talk about some cards that could go in all decks.

 

Mana Crypt

 


 

This carries a heavier price than Sol Ring because it was only printed in limited quantities as a promos. In Commander, Sol Ring is a more powerful card as those coin flips can pile up quickly, but the fact that Mana Crypt is comparable to Commander's most powerful card says a lot about it.

 

Karn Liberated

 


 

Every colour but white has a tough time dealing with at least one kind of permanent, but Karn Liberated handles everything. On top of that, his +4 makes winning attrition wars easy, and if you ever can get his ultimate off with a good pile of permanents, you're going to have a tough time losing.

 

Oblivion Stone

 


 

Karn deals with any one permanent at a time, but Oblivion Stone deals with all of them at once. The problem with it is that, even if you can get a couple fate counters on some of your cards, you'll lose some of your own cards.

 

Lightning Greaves

 


 

Haste is great; shroud is great; paying zero is great.

 

Mind's Eye

 


 

Some decks struggle with card advantage, and even the ones that don't would love an extra few cards every turn cycle. Mind's Eye is a bit of a mana investment, but late in the game, the extra cards are insane.

 

Nevinyrral's Disk

 


 

Ok this is in the blue one already, but there are four other colours. Disk is similar to Oblivion Stone but has a few key differences. First off, you can't save any of your permanents; secondly, it comes into play tapped so no matter how much mana you have, you can't blow it up right away. The most interesting aspect of it to me is that it doesn't kill planeswalkers. Maybe that's good or maybe it's bad, but no matter how you spin the Disk, it is intriguing.

 

Thran Dynamo

 


 

Blue gets all the fun, doesn't it? Here's another one that Teferi gets to play with right out of the gate, but there's no reason you can't too. Having lots of mana in a game of Commander is rarely a bad thing, and accelerating this fast can do big time work.

 

Coalition Relic

 


 

I'm going to keep focusing on mana accelerating because that's what artifacts are great at. Coalition Relic doesn't shine quite as brightly in a deck with only one colour, but its still a great addition.

 

Relic of Progenitus/Tormod's Crypt

 


 

Every Commander deck should have some graveyard removal. How you choose to do that should be based off how much you want your graveyard to stick around. Both of these cards are great, but they've each got their own place.

 

Sun Droplet

 


 

You'd be surprised how much life gain can get you in the long run. Sun Droplet helps keep your life total high enough that you'll be difficult to pick off in the late stages of the game.

 

White

 

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

 


 

Your opponents are only going to run so many cards that can exile creatures. If you've already exahusted a few of theirs, Avacyn could put a game away in no time at all.

 

Land Tax

 


 

The white deck comes with Gifts of Estate, but that doesn't come anywhere close to the power of Land Tax. You're only supposed to draw one card every turn, and Land Tax allows you to get four. 'Nuff said.

 

Baneslayer Angel

 


 

My favourite all-time angel may not shine as bright in Commander as she did in Standard, but there's still a lot going on here. The extra five life a turn is big, and having a card with protection from dragons in a format once called Elder Dragon Highlander, is begging to be played.

 

Luminarch Ascension

 


 

Be careful with this one. It is very powerful, and the best way to stop it is for everyone to attack you. If you can handle having a giant target on your forehead, then this card should help you win fast.

 

Hallowed Burial

 


 

Board sweepers in a creature based deck are always questionable, but I'd rank Hallowed Burial at the top. A lot of creature recursion can happen in Commander, and this puts a stop to it.

 

Ghostly Prison

 


 

If your opponent has to choose between attacking you and not being able to play spells in the same turn, or attacking someone else AND getting to play spells, its a pretty easy choice for them.

 

Faith's Reward

 


 

Turn your opponents Wrath of God into your own Plague Wind.

 

Soul Snare

 


 

This card is great removal and a psychological experiment rolled into one. People will avoid attack you because you'll exile their creature, and suddenly, you're not getting attacked at all. This card can do so much more than Swords to Plowshares every could.

 

Worship

 


 

Sometimes its a dud; sometimes its a stud. It all depends on how much enchantment removal your opponents are packing. It only takes up one spot in your deck, and the potential reward is huge. I think its worth a spot.

 

Mass Calcify

 


 

On the one hand, it may not kill all your opponents creatures. On the other hand, it might.

 

Blue

 

Tezzeret, the Seeker

 


 

You may need to add a couple extra artifacts to make him worth while, but he can make mana, tutor multiple times, and make an army of creatures.

 

Cryptic Command

 


 

If you've played Modern with this card, you know how powerful it is, and in a format as slow as Commander, its arguably the best counter you can play.

 

Ancestral Visions

 


 

Don't let the wait time scare you off. Commander games will go on long enough that you'll be able to fire this off, and drawing three extra cards for free on a turn gives you a ton of options.

 

Bribery

 


 

This card makes players want to avoid putting certain creature in their deck which demonstrates its power. It may not act as a removal spell like other control effects do, but you get a ton more options.

 

Consecrated Sphinx

 


 

Maybe no blue card puts a bigger target on you than the Sphinx, but its for a good reason. The card advantage the Sphinx provides makes it possible to stand up to multiple players.

 

Treachery

 


 

Anything that takes a creature is great since it combines playing a thread and a removal spell in one. Treachery allows you to do that on top of not losing any mana.

 

Dig Through Time/Treasure Cruise

 


 

Yeah, they're good in this format too.

 

Fabricate

 


 

Nothing flashy. Just a nice simple tutor for your graveyard removal, mana development, or a board wipe.

 

Chamber of Manipulation

 


 

Here's an obscure one. I only remember it because it beat us all up when I was in the 8th grade, but it is strong in Commander too. You can stop a player from attacking you, or if you are getting attacked, steal someone elses creature to use as a blocker.

 

Reins of Power

 


 

Even though this card was printed in a Commander deck, it still seems to shock everyone. For four mana you get to steal all of someones creatures and use them however you please. Its even an instant so you can use it to prevent damage, or to get some surprise blockers.

 

Black

 

The Abyss

 


 

You have to play around it, but it can make it impossible for your opponents to win.

 

Vampiric Tutor

 


 

Tutoring in a large deck with one-offs is an amazing effect. Being able to do it at instant speed for just one mana is some kind of amazing. You won't even notice the two life.

 

Demonic Tutor

 


 

It may not cost one, and it isn't an instant, but this puts it right into your hand, and in the late stages of the game, you should have plenty of mana to cast what you searched for.

 

Necropotence

 


 

One of Magic's most powerful spells, and its only real drawback is that it costs triple black. Sounds like it isn't much of a downside in a mono black deck, especially if you want to bury your opponents in card advantage.

 

Phyrexian Arena

 


 

I'm not going to pretend its better than Necropotence, but nothing legal is, so being the second best is nothing to be ashamed of.

 

Sorin Markov

 


 

The original Sorin is a Commander Star. Obviously highlighted by his second ability that can actually do 30+ damage in a single blow, but his other skills aren't to be laughed at.

 

Mind Twist

 


 

It may only get one player, but it gets them good. Its rare for no players in a game to have any cards, and Mind Twist will get rid of all of them.

 

Decree of Pain

 


 

It kills everything and it draws you enough cards that you may have to worry about drawing your entire deck. The fact that this card is in the low end price range doesn't even make sense.

 

Myojin of Night's Reach

 


 

Here's another one that has a confusingly low price tag. It nukes everyone's hand, and can even do it at instant speed. If everyone else is running on empty, you've got an indestructible creature until you want to use his ability.

 

Sudden Death

 


 

I love split second spells, but Sudden Death stands out. It is creature removal that can get past indestructible, and don't ask me why, but no one ever plays around split second cards.

 

Red

 

Wheel of Fortune

 


 

Your milage may vary with this card as it can be bad to give your opponent a new hand of seven, but no matter how you spin the wheel (yeah, I did it again), there's no doubt this card has power. On top of that, the red Commander precon loves getting stuff into the graveyard.

 

Ensnaring Bridge

 


 

This will keep anyone from attacking, which normally makes it difficult for you to win, but thankfully you can easily sacrifice the Bridge when you want it gone, and bring it back when you need some protection.

 

All is Dust

 


 

Destroying everyone else's permanents seems like a great investment, even at seven mana.

 

Purphoros, God of the Forge

 


 

He pumps your creatures and gets in easy damage against your opponents. I mostly included him because he's so damn good with Pentavus.

 

Koth of the Hammer

 


 

Koth can provide mana ramp, or some aggression, both of which are great, but his game ending ultimate is what makes him really stand out.

 

Chandra Ablaze

 


 

Regarded as the worst Chandra, this chaotic overcosted nightmare can be an exciting Commander card. It picks off annoying creatures, or gets you more cards to play with on top of getting some artifacts into your graveyard. It's also worth noting that you can still discard an artifact to her +1 if you really need to

 

Bonfire of the Damned

 


 

Here's another card like Mind Twist. It only gets one person, but it can utterly destroy that player. It's a great way to level out the playing field.

 

Arc-Slogger

 


 

Its hard for me to justify this card with any reason other than I love it, but just try the card. If I had to pick a Commander MVP in the six years I've been playing the format, I'd give it to Arc-Slogger.

 

Hammer of Purphoros

 


 

Having haste is great for making awesome sneak attacks and on top of that, the Hammer is an artifact. The fact that it makes tokens in the late game is gravy.

 

Magma Jet

 


 

I won't pretend this is an exciting inclusion, but some cards have to do the gritty work. I threw it into my red deck a while ago because I had a foil one. I've never looked back.

 

Darksteel Forge

 


 

How they didn't include this in the deck is anyone's guess. Making all your favourite permanents indestructible (other than your general), is a game breaking effect. You won't even notice paying nine mana for it.

 

Green

 

Gaea's Cradle

 


 

There's no land in green better than Cradle. It might be a dud in the first couple turns, but you'll be doing things like activating Ezuri three times with it if the game goes on long enough.

 

Survival of the Fittest

 


 

Survival is the strongest piece of recurring card advantage in Magic history, and we get to have it in green. The versatility and power of this card will leave everyone else in the dust. Combine it with Genesis for absurd value.

 

Sylvan Library

 


 

Another great form of recurring card advantage in green. How that happened was anyone's guess, but green mages will take it. Few green cards help get you back in the game as efficiently as Sylvan Library.

 

Craterhoof Behemoth

 


 

The finisher of choice in Legacy for the elf ramp deck, so why not make it the finisher of choice in Commander?

 

Green Sun's Zennith

 


 

We've talked about how good tutors are, so I have to mention the tutor that puts what you grab right on to the battlefield. It only gets creatures but if you're going to complain about that, allow me to play the world's smallest violin for you.

 

Genesis

 


 

Excellent for games that go long by which I mean every game of Commander ever.

 

Genesis Wave

 


 

The only reason I can think of for why they didn't put this in the green deck is because it is so game breaking when cast for anything ten or more.

 

Kamahl, Fist of Krosa

 


 

His pumping ability may be what stands out, but its his ability to turn lands into creatures that has me loving Kamahl. Nothing gets green harder than a board wipe, so if your opponent wants to cast Wrath of God, they'll have to destroy all their own lands in the process.

 

Krosan Grip

 


 

Anytime I build a deck with green in it, I start with Sol Ring, and then Krosan Grip and that is no exaggeration. There is no better disenchant effect in Commander, and I doubt there ever will be.

 

Moment's Peace

 


 

The last card of the article may be making it on because of personal preference but I do truly think it deserves mention. It can buy you two extra turns and opponents will rarely play around it the first time, and if you wait long enough, they might even forget about it the second time.


Welcome to the Twilight Zone

posted on 11/05/14

Check out the deck in action.

If you had to match the word consistency with one of the five colours, you'd pair it with blue.

 

If you had to match the word aggressive with one of the five colours, the last thing you'd pair it with is blue.

 

Well today, Spock has a goatee and Superman is wearing white because we're in some kind of mirror universe.

 

 

 

When I decided to make a mono-coloured deck for each of the five colours, I knew right away that the blue one would be the most interesting. We've only just recently gotten out of a Standard where blue aggro was a tier one deck for months, but that is an exception, and by an exception, I mean the only purely blue aggro deck I can think of, other than the RTR/Theors block deck that was in anything even resembling what Standard is now looked like this,

 

15 Flying Men

15 Unstable Mutation

As many Mox Saphires and Ancestral Recalls you own, and fill out the rest with Islands.

 

(In Magic's early days, there was no four per deck card limit, and the minimum size was forty.

 

Mooooving on.

 

My first instinct was to go with something like Travis Woo's budget blue deck,

 

Travis Woo's Dirt Cheap Dirty Blue

 

1 Triton Shorethief

4 Hypnotic Siren

4 Dakra Mystic

4 Daring Thief

 

4 Triton Tactics

4 Thassa's Rebuff

4 Stymied Hopes

4 Dissolve

4 Hour of Need

4 Springleaf Drum

 

19 Island

 

This is about as straight forward as it gets. The only thing remotely cute about it is the synergy between Springleaf Drum and Daring Thief. This fell in line with what the aggro decks of the other five colours looked like, so something like this would make perfect sense, right? The logic is sound if you don't use critical thinking, but when you're playing cards like Triton Shorethief, the same rules don't apply.

 

When you have access to cards like Tormented Hero, or Soldier of the Pantheon, its impossible to justify playing blue, so my mission became to find a justification, and I found some damn good ones.

 

What about a 4/4 flyer for 2U?


Or maybe eight power for 3U?

Screw it. Why not a 5/5 for 1U that could get indestructible, or flying?

 

Alright so why aren't we all playing blue aggro? Its certainly not because its not fun!

4 Hypnotic Siren

4 Triton Shorestalker

4 Ornithoptor

4 Illusory Angel

4 Master of Waves

1 Thassa, God of the Sea

 

3 Thassa's Rebuff

4 Hour of Need

4 Ensoul Artifact

1 Tormod's Crypt

3 Singing Bell Strike

3 Triton Tactics

 

4 Darksteel Citadel

18 Island

 

 

Sideboard

 

2 Annul

2 Dissolve

1 Triton Tactics

1 Singing Bell Strike

1 Thassa's Rebuff

1 Curse of the Swine

1 Polymorph's Jest

2 Phyrexian Revoker

2 Distainful Strike

2 Negate

 

I've shown you the aggressive part, but now we should talk about the consistency part.

 

These three cards combine really well

 

 

 

and these four cards combine even better.

 

 

 

The issue, obviously, is drawing the cards when we need them. Often, blue decks rely on strong cards with similar functions like a wide range of counters, and ensure their draws are tight with various forms of card advantage. This deck is nothing like that, and the fact that we've managed to put this together using just Islands feels like a mistake.

 

I came into this series most interested in blue, and I'm leaving it with that same feeling and an intensified excitement. The consistency issues this deck has prevent it from being a strong contender for anything past FNM, but as new sets enter standard, we may be given cards to remedy this problem.

 

 

 


Competitive Magic in BC; Winter 2014

posted on 11/03/14

Competitive Magic is constantly growing, and as the number of players grows, changes have to be made. Unfortunately, there appears to be some confusion as to what these changes are, and when exactly they are being put into effect. I'm here to help answer some of those questions, and also go over what the premier event schedule looks like for BC Magic players in the upcoming few months.

 

November

 

November starts with Khans of Tarkir Sealed Pro Tour Qualifiers on November 1st and November 8th in Seattle. These PTQs qualify you for Pro Tour Fate Reforged in Washington DC, and you can find information on them here and here.

If making it down to Seattle is out of the question or if Standard is more your cup of tea, there is a Grand Prix Trial for San Antonio happening at Magic Stronghold Games on November 1st as well. You can check that out here.

The rest of November is relatively quiet as far as competitive Magic goes, but with the StarCityGames Invitational coming up in Seattle in December, there's a great opportunity to lock up an invite on November 22nd at the Super IQ in Bellevue, information here.

That's it for November, which also means an end to the Fate Reforged PTQ season. Fortunately, December has no shortage of big events or Pro Tour Qualifiers!

 

December

 

The first weekend of December brings us multiple events, the most important of which being Magic Stronghold's first Preliminary PTQ for PT Vancouver, taking place on December 6th. The format for this PPTQ will be Standard. For all the information on what a Preliminary PTQ is and what this means for you, I have written up an explanation after the December portion.

For those not interested in the PPTQ or seeking a last minute chance at qualifying for the StarCityGames Invitational, the StarCityGames Open Series in Portland on December 6-7th is the perfect alternative. Head over to the event page here for all the details on that.

I've mentioned the StarCityGames Invitational a couple of times now, and here it is! On December 12-14, the SCG Invitational comes to Seattle, and even if you're not qualified for the main event, there’s a ton to do there, including a full Open Series weekend as well as side events of all varieties. Read up on all the events here and I hope to see you there!

December also brings with it a new PTQ Season, a Standard season for the Pro Tour in Brussels in 2015. Our first PTQ for that overlaps with the Invitational, but for this still interested, it will be on December 13th. Unfortunately, there is no information page for that, but you can find the address below and contact the Tournament Organizer Red Castle Games for additional details.

 

Doubletree Hotel – Portland

1000 NE Multnomah Street

Portland

Oregon

 

After a week break for Christmas, the next Brussels PTQ will take place in Seattle on December 27th, run by Shane’s Big League Sports Cards who will be able to answer any questions you may have leading up to the event.

 

Seattle Center

305 Harrison St

Seattle

Washington

 

That's it for 2014, but before jumping into the New Year, I'd like to take a moment to introduce the new Regional PTQ system. Starting with Pro Tour Vancouver in 2015, the PTQ system is changing. Pro Tour Brussels 2015 is the last PTQ season as we currently know it.

Under the old system, certain Tournament Organizers would be selected to run one PTQ per season, and the winners of those PTQs would qualify for that Pro Tour. With the new system, there is one Regional PTQ per season, held on the same day all around the world. The RPTQs are not open events. Instead, you have to win an invite by participating in smaller events called Preliminary PTQs. PPTQs are held by eligible local stores, and each store is allowed to run one per season. The winner of each PPTQ qualifies for the RPTQ. Doing well in the RPTQ (Top 4 for 127 or fewer players, Top 8 for 128 or more players) earns you a Pro Tour Invite and plane ticket.

To give you an example of what this new format looks like, let's take a look at the Pro Tour Vancouver 2015 season. The PPTQ season for this Pro Tour is December 6th-February 22nd. During this time, local stores are able to run PPTQs of a competitive format of their choice, either Standard, Modern, or Limited. Once all PPTQs are done, on April 25th, the winners are able to participate in the RPTQ. Simple enough, right?

Now, tournament organizers, I have a request for you. Please pay attention to the schedules. Talk amongst each other, and schedule your PPTQs so they don't overlap with each other or other large local events. Find empty weekends, and fill it up with one store running a PPTQ on Saturday while another runs one on Sunday. Vary your formats. Having all the PPTQs be the same format will not be enjoyable for the players. WotC has given you 3 choices, distribute them amongst yourselves and alternate each season. It is up to you to ensure the success of this new format. With proper communication and organization, this can be a success. With lack of coordination, this WILL be a failure. Change does not have to be a bad thing. Let's make the best of it.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at the New Year!

 

2015

 

It's too soon for me to be able to give you a good look at all the events happening in the early months of 2015, but I can still share a few of the important dates for you to plan for.

First up is a PTQ in Seattle run by Card Kingdom on January 3rd.

 

Washington State Convention & Trade Center

800 Convention Place

Seattle

Washington

 

The week after has another Portland PTQ on January 10th, this time run by Guardian Games.

 

Doubletree Hotel – Portland

1000 NE Multnomah Street

Portland

Oregon

 

The end of the month has the first BC PTQ for Brussels, taking place in Kelowna on January 31st. Contact Tournament Organizer Quantum Games for more details.

 

Elks Lodge

205 - 2040 Springfield Rd

Kelowna

British Columbia

 

The last local PTQ for Brussels will be held in Victoria on February 15th, run by Skyhaven Games. This will also be our last PTQ under the old system before they are replaced by Preliminary and Regional PTQs.

 

Skyhaven Games

3458 Tillicum Rd

Victoria

British Columbia

 

That's it for PTQs, but that's not all to look forward to in early 2015. Though there is not much information on them quite yet, I will leave you with the following two events to get excited for as well:

 

January 31st-February 1st: Grand Prix San Jose, Khans of Tarkir/Fate Reforged Team Sealed

 

February 21st-22nd: Grand Prix Vancouver, Modern

 

 

That's all I have for you today. I hope this helps you plan your next few months of competitive maging, and I look forward to seeing more people at more local events in that time. Let me know what you thought of this article, what you think I could improve on, and whether this is something you'd like to see more of in the future.


Nut Out or Get Out: Mono Red Heroic!

posted on 10/29/14

Check out the deck in action!

 

In honour of the deck, we're getting right to it!

 

This list is a little different then the ones in the videos, but this is the list I would play on paper.

4 Firedrinker Satyr

1 Arena Athlete

3 Frenzied Goblin

4 Monastery Swiftspear

4 Akroan Crusader

4 Foundry Street Denizen

 

1 Hall of Triumph

1 Coordinated Assault

2 Hordeling Outburst

4 Stoke the Flames

4 Dragon Mantle

4 Hammerhand

3 Lightning Strike

4 Titan's Strength

 

18 Mountain

 

Sideboard

 

2 Magma Spray

1 Lightning Strike

4 Eidolon of the Great Revel

1 Goblin Rabblemaster

1 Hall of Triumph

3 Searing Blood

2 Scouring Sands

1 Act of Treason

 

 

Look at all these terrible cards we're playing with. Hammerhand is at best, a mediocre pick in limited! How could this deck be real?

 

When I ranted about Hornet Queen, I talked about how its insane value in limited should have tipped us off about how powerful it was. This deck is that logic to the extreme. Here we have what happens when you feed your nuts Theroes draft deck a bucket of steroids. I didn't think I'd be excited about a mono red deck in Standard, but I loved the red or red/white decks in draft, so I got really excited about this one quickly.

 

"Pick one, pick two, pick th...Screw it.
I'm just going to go build a constructed deck."

 

 

A lot of players have asked about lunch breaks at big events like PTQ's, and we never have them. I tell them they have to make their own lunch break by playing quickly, and with this, you'll have time for a meal, and a nap with enough time left over to laugh at your friends that took 45 minutes to lose.

 

The only time I've had a match last longer than 15 minutes, it was because my opponent was taking their sweet time, probably because they haven't had lunch yet. Even the losses go quickly no matter the matchup. A control player will either be dead by turn four or five, or they'll force a concession with a turn six Elspeth.

 

"With your Elspeth on the stack, I concede.
Lets go to game two so I can win on turn four." 

 

 

I'm talking about the speed a lot, but there must be more to it, right?

 

Nope!

Seriously, all this deck is about is exploding all over the game as quickly as possible. It feels like a storm combo deck in Modern, Legacy, or Vintage; the only difference is that you're giving your opponent the illusion that they can interact with you in a wide range of ways.

 

This deck isn't for everyone. If you love suspenseful games with a lot of long-term plans, you won't enjoy this as much as I did. If you're all about aggression, I can't recommend a better Standard deck. In testing this deck, I gleefully laughed more than I have in a long time.

 

One more thing, this isn't a burn deck. Stereotyping is wrong.

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 


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

 

Sideboard
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.

 

What?

 

"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

 

Despise

 


 

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

Counters

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

 

Sideboard

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

 

Sideboard:

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.

Ever.

Please.

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!