Tag Archives: Magic: The Gathering

The Blue Cheese

The Blue Cheese was the first Magic the Gathering deck I ever designed by myself. Later iterations dropped the Strip Mines, they were banned or restricted I think, I replaced Power Sink with Force of Will, and occasionally I would replace the Ghost Ship with Air Elemental or Mahamoti Djinn, but this was the original deck.

This is a classic U/R control deck, I played counters, burn and disks to keep my opponents side of the table clear, while beating on them with creatures chosen for their ability to regenerate, which makes them great blockers and could even survive popping a Nevinyrral’s Disk. I won a surprising number of games with it, and even the dreaded NecroDeck had a hard time against it once I laid down a second Island.

Creatures:
Ghost Ship x4

Uthden Troll x4
Clay Statue x4

Spells:
Counterspell x4
Power Sink x4
Lightning Bolt x4
Disintegrate x4
Nevinyrral’s Disk x4

Land:
Mishra’s Factory x4
Strip Mines x4
Island x10
Mountain x10

My general strategy was Counter early, Disk away anything that got through during the mid game and use Burn at the end to either keep the other side clean or finish my opponent.

In retrospect I now realize that this was a successful deck because of the meta game I was playing in at the time. We were in Germany and there were very few cards available. No one was playing blue at the time so it was easy to trade for all the blue cards, most of the other stuff, either no one saw the utility in or were actually common and easy to get, because even in our limited environment, everyone had 8 or 10 and were willing to trade them away for harder to get cards. I traded a single Armageddon for all 4 of the Nevinyrral’s Disk’s. This was the first deck in our group to have 4 of every card and by extension, played very consistently. While everyone else was waiting for their big card, I almost always had the cards I needed by the time I needed them.

Hour of Devastation Pre-release

Today I spent 4 hours playing Magic the Gathering, I do these pre-release tournaments every now and again. The one thing I always learn when I go to them is that I do not play Magic enough to be good at it. Back in the day I would play 3-5 hours a week and I would spend maybe another 2-3 hours a week designing and tweaking decks, these days I do not have the time nor the ambition to do either of those things.

I think I like the idea of playing Magic better than I like the reality of playing Magic. Ideally, I would like to find a super casual group of players who meet once a week at someones house and we spend 1 or 2 hours playing 1×1 games with everyone, then everyone gathers around the table and we spend an hour or two playing a group game. Everyone brings fun and interesting decks and we play for the love of the game and the social gathering. I’d love to be a part of a Battle Deck  or Rookie Deck League, run in a gauntlet format.

I should probably just quit once and for all.

March of the Magnitudes

I need a deck to play in the Modern format. Playing Standard is generally pretty easy, it is no problem to find a quick and dirty reasonably priced deck to play. Modern on the other hand is pricey, even a tier two deck can cost $500 without blinking. Awhile back I came across the March of the Magnitudes Modern Event Deck. Ever review more or less said the same thing, it is a solid tier two deck that can be upgraded for a reasonable amount of money. So this was the route I went, it is a straight forward deck, the basic idea is to generate tokens and disrupt your opponents strategy while you build your army of tokens.

Original Deck:

Creatures:
2 Soul Warden
3 Tidehollow Sculler

Spells:
3 Honor of the Pure
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
3 Path to Exile
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
4 Spectral Procession
1 Sword of Feast and Famine
3 Zealous Persecution

Planeswalkers:
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant

Land:
4 Caves of Koilos
2 City of Brass
4 Isolated Chapel
5 Plains
4 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel
4 Windbrisk Heights

Sideboard
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Dismember
3 Duress
2 Ghost Quarter
3 Kataki, War’s Wage
3 Relic of Progenitus

This is what I have done so far. The two big upgrades were adding Thoughtseize and Godless Shrine, I rounded out a couple of the play sets and removed cards that did not generate tokens, pump creatures or disrupt my opponents game. I thought about adding a second  Elspeth, but if I draw 2, I can only play one, so I added Sorin instead, who has similar abilities and fits the colors of the deck.

Upgrade Draft 1:

Creatures:
4 Tidehollow Sculler

Spells:
2 Honor of the Pure
2 Inquisition of Kozilek
4 Intangible Virtue
4 Lingering Souls
4 Path to Exile
4 Raise the Alarm
2 Shrine of Loyal Legions
4 Spectral Procession
2 Thoughtseize
2 Zealous Persecution

Planeswalkers:
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

Land:
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Godless Shrine
4 Isolated Chapel
5 Plains
4 Swamp
1 Vault of the Archangel
2 Windbrisk Heights

Sideboard
2 Burrenton Forge-Tender
2 Dismember
3 Duress
3 Kataki, War’s Wage
3 Relic of Progenitus
2 Thoughtseize

The original deck cost me $90, the 4 Thoughtseize cost me $80 ($20 each), the Godless Shrine cost $56 ($14 each) and then another $15 to complete play sets and add Sorin. The grand total was $241 for the deck, about half what most competitive decks in Modern cost. I am calling it a win, assuming I can win with the deck.

MTG Deck Building 102

The next part of learning to build decks is learning the basic deck archetypes, each deck type gives you a place to start, a basic strategy to follow and at least one victory condition. There are three general Archetypes, but each deck type generally also has a couple of sub types.

Aggro: This is the easiest deck type to build and play. The idea here is to aggressively attack your opponent with creatures and hit him with as much direct damage as possible, without regard for anything else on the board. Sub types are Weenie decks, which field massive numbers of small cheap creatures, Ramp decks, which build the mana base and field large creatures quickly and burn decks that rely on direct damage to win.

http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/how-build/how-build-aggro-2017-02-02

Control: Control decks seek to deny your opponent the ability to play his deck. This can be done in many ways, the common ways of doing this are counter spells, force opponent to discard cards out of his hand and removal of permanents he already has in play. A common sub type of this deck is the Lock Deck which does not actively remove threats from the board, but rather keeps your opponent from using them at all.

http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/how-build/how-build-control-2017-01-31

Combo: This deck relies on one or more combination of cards to win the game. On of the earliest combo decks was Lure/Basilisk, Basilisk destroyed all creatures that blocked it or was blocked by it, lure forced all creatures that could to block it when it attacked. Nice easy creature sweep if you could pull it off. More recently the Pro Tour has been over run with Saheeli Rai/Felidar Guardian which essentially lets you produce infinite copies of Felidar Guardian and attack for 10,000,000 damage.

http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/how-build/how-build-control-2017-01-31

I generally tell new players to start with an aggro deck, preferably a weenie deck of some kind with 20-24 small cheap creatures augmented by 16-20 spells that either do direct damage or pump up the creatures on the battle field. These decks are depend on common easy to get cards, cheap to assemble, have very few bad match ups and are easy to play. A decently constructed aggro deck can win simply by over running your opponent early in the game, although they tend to peter out in the end game. The Sky Pirate deck I posted a few days ago is a modest example of an aggro deck.

Sky Pirate Deck Draft 1

Since Aether Revolt came out I have been fascinated with the Kari Zev card and her card economy potential, never mind her Disney Princess vib. So I have been looking at interesting deck ideas that incorporates the sky pirate theme. This is probably a good exercise that shows my thinking when I am designing a deck.

So Obviously I am going to start off with 2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider cards, she is a legendary creature, so I cannot have more than one in play at a time, so no reason to have 4 in the deck. I also put in 2 Kari Zev’s Expertise because it has her name on it and its a pretty decent utility card, but it is not good enough that I need 4 of them. Next Kari needs a ship and Sky Skiff fits the bill nicely, its has flying and can be crewed by Kari by herself, I put 4 in the deck. Next Kari needs a crew of misfits to help her with her various capers. I decided to go heavy on vehicle pilots because they add extra abilities to vehicles they crew, so Speedway Fanatic, Gearshift Ace and Veteran Motorist to give our Sky Skiff that extra punch. Since I have 12 pilots in the deck, it is probably a good idea to have a few more vehicles for them to crew, so in goes 4 Renegade Freighter. To round out my creatures I added Trusty Companion because Ragavan needs company. Finally I added Shock and Built to Last as solid utility cards. Here is the first draft of the deck, after playing it a couple of times I will probably alter it, there are couple of obvious weakness that I see.

Creatures (18)
2 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider 1R
4 Speedway Fanatic 1R
4 Gearshift Ace 1W
4 Veteran Motorist RW
4 Trusty Companion 1W

Spells (10)
4 Built to Last W
4 Shock R
2 Kari Zev’s Expertise 1RR

Artifacts (8)
4 Renegade Freighter 3
4 Sky Skiff 2

Land (24)
4 Stone Quarry
12 Mountain
8 Plains

The nice thing about this deck is it costs about $15 to put together, there are no particularly expensive cards in the deck. This deck is entirely Kaladesh and Aether Revolt, so it will be legal in Standard for quite some time to come.

MTG Deck Building 101

Some co-workers are starting to get into Magic the Gathering and I am trying to give them some helpful deck building advice. As I was going through the basics, it occurred to me I should write this down. Keep in mind this is deck building at its very basic level and is intended for absolute beginners. As you get experience you will deviate from this guide and to most experienced players, this is extremely simplistic.

  • Land: You need enough land to produce the mana you need to cast spells. As a general rule you should put 20 land into a mono colored deck and 24 land into a two color deck. Obviously if you are playing a mono colored deck with nothing that costs more than 3 mana, you can probably go down to 16 or 18. If you are playing 3 or more colors, it is probably wise to go up to 26 land.
  • Creatures: As a general rule a basic deck should have between 16 and 20 creatures. Creatures are going to be your primary method of damaging your opponent so the deck should contain enough to keep your battle field full.
  • Spells: A beginners deck should contain 12 to 16 spells, your first choice when choosing which spells to use, is what I call solution cards. Solution cards are spells that remove threats from the battle field, anything that can kill or destroy a creature and to a lesser extent artifact or enchantment removal is also a good idea. Finally cards that pump creatures or produce mana are good choices as well.
  • Mana Curve: One of the mistakes beginners make is not balancing out the mana distribution of the deck. You need to have cards in your hand that you can cast early, even on the first turn, however you also need finisher cards that will end the game decisively later in the game, those cards tend to cost 4 or more mana. Of the 36-40 non land cards, you want a pretty even distribution of 25% 1 mana, 25% 2 mana, 25% 3 mana and 25% 4+ mana cards.
  • Play Sets: A play set in Magic is 4 of the same card. There are plenty of reasons to play 3 or even 2 of a specific card, but there is never a good reason to have just one copy of a card in your deck. If it is good enough to be in your deck you should have a minimum of 2 and if its good enough to have 2, you might as well have 4. When I am building a deck, I will almost always do 4 of every card I want in the deck, this makes the deck play consistently and I am almost never waiting to draw “That One Card” I need. The only reason I would add only two is in the case of a Planeswalker or a very expensive creature that I don’t want in my opening hand and I generally do not want to see more than 1 copy during any given game.

The thing to understand about this deck building strategy is the most important time of the game is the first three rounds, your first 10 cards. The first three rounds are the early game, the time in which you have few resources in play and many cards in hand. During this time you do not want to miss any land drops, you absolutely must play a land every turn, which means at least three of those first 10 cards need to be land cards. This is why everyone recommends at least 1/3 of your deck be land. The second thing about the early game is you want to be able to cast something every single turn, you need to start establishing your game from the very beginning. So of the seven cards left after your three lands, you must have at least three cards that can be cast on three or less mana. Realistically, you’d probably rather have three one mana cards in your hand than three three mana cards. So if I were going to alter the suggested mana curve, I would definitely do so in the favor of low casting cost spells.

Big Mean Power Doubling Machine

I went looking for a deck I could potentially play at Friday Night Magic that did not cost an arm and a leg to put together and one that would not rotate out of standard in a month. The Professor once again came to the rescue with this video.

This deck seemed to fit the bill nicely, fun to play and competitive. I will warn you though, it will cost more than $20. When I put this together on CardKingdom it cost me about $35 and it is now approaching $50. This is not uncommon when a deck becomes popular. This deck is designed to take advantage of the Energy mechanic to pump up creatures, in the case of the Electrostatic Pummeler this can but used to the devastating effect of having a 20/20 trampling creature on turn 4. Its major problem is, it is an aggressive deck with very few solutions to threats created by your opponent. There are only 2 Deathlock Traps in the main deck for this purpose. The side board does provide a few more solutions for various threats to fine tune the deck in game 2 and 3 of a match.

“Big Mean Power Doubling Machine”
Creatures:
4 Architect of the Untamed
3 Bristling Hydra
4 Longtusk Cub
2 Deathcap Cultivator
4 Electrostatic Pummeler
4 Sage of Shaila’s Claim
4 Servant of the Conduit

Spells:
4 Attune with Aether
3 Blossoming Defense
4 Larger Than Life

Artifacts:
2 Deadlock Trap

Land:
4 Aether Hub
4 Evolving Wilds
14 Forest

Sideboard:
1 Blossoming Defense
1 Bristling Hydra
2 Deadlock Trap
1 Deathcap Cultivator
3 Hunt the Weak
2 Take Down
2 Thriving Rhino
3 Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot

Blue Hate

I think Wizards of the Coast has pretty much through out the history of Magic: The Gathering, hated the color Blue. When I first started playing I was a consummate Blue player. I loved the nuanced play and the dread on an opponents face as he looked at your 2 untapped islands. Later as I developed as a player, I stopped playing blue, I moved to Black. This happened because Blue was not a good choice for tournament decks. Blue had no speed cards and no decent creatures, really all it had was counter spells, which was great for splashing into control decks, but I have never seen a really effective Mono Blue Tournament deck. In fact I have seen very few effective casual Mono Blue decks. My experience has been that virtually every other color can stand on its own as a Mono Color deck, now do you generally want to do this…no, but the other colors, especially Red and Black have almost continually had Mono Colored tournament deck options.

Looking at the sets available today, I see things have really gotten worse. the original Counterspell is gone, so is Power Sink and even the barely usable Mana Leak have all been removed and replaced with weaker or more expensive cards. All of the creatures available are more expensive to cast than their Black or Green equivalents and even the card drawing and deck top decking mechanics have been eliminated or made too expensive to bother using. Even on the occasional event that WotC does release a cool blue creature, like Delver or Snapcaster, they are quickly dealt with in the next release with hate cards designed to be specifically used against decks that had those cards.

I think the problem is that Blue pisses other players off, players don’t like to have their clever combos and stunning strategies disrupted by a counter spell. Back in the summer of 95 if you wanted to see a Black player cry, counter his Necropotence, or better yet, counter his Nevinyrral’s Disk so he can’t get rid of the Necropotence when he wants to start drawing cards normally. It was hard to beat a Necro player back in the day, but I did it a few times and every single time the player bitched about how unfair counter spells were, even though they were playing with the single most broken card of the era. Somewhat later in a tournament, I was playing against an Erniegeddon deck, the guy played Armageddon to destroy all lands, the used a Zuran Orb to sacrifice all of his land for life. I casually told him, “You should have waited to find out if was going counter your Armageddon” as I tapped two islands and laid down a counterspell. His face turned red and the blood veins were popping out of his forehead. I was almost afraid he was going to punch me.

I think WotC hates the Blue color or at the very least is very afraid of the player revolt that will happen if Blue is allowed to dominate Standard for awhile.

More Magic the Gathering

It is well known that I am Magic: The Gathering addict. Occasionally I lapse and buy a bunch of cards, play some games, realize I have spent WAY too much money on them and go cold turkey for a year or two. Well, I have fallen off the wagon again, this time I have sworn I will not spend $1000 on the damn things. While I was poking around my favorite online card store I found what they call Battle Decks. Basically they assemble decks from their cheap card bin and sell them for $10. I was a bit skeptical at first so I went out looking for reviews thinking some one or several someones have bought these and have an opinion on them. Well it is the internet so yes of course someone had an opinion on them. I actually found several reviews, but this one I liked best.

The Professor is goofy and talks about Magic in a light hearted, but intelligent manner, focusing on casual play rather than blood thirsty, win at all costs tournament play. I have not played the decks yet, that is for this weekend. Once PezWitch and I have duked it out a couple of times I will write something on how it went. In the meantime, if you are looking for some cheap well constructed decks, here you go.

http://www.cardkingdom.com/catalog/shop/battle-decks

Here are the decks I purchased.

Robo Weenie
4 Bonded Construct
4 Court Homunculus
4 Porcelain Legionnaire
4 Runed Servitor
4 Cathodion
4 Oppressive Rays
4 Sunlance
4 Flayer Husk
1 Darksteel Axe
4 Glint Hawk Idol
2 Rusted Relic
4 Foundry of the Consuls
17 Plains

Enchantress Blossom
4 Aura Gnarlid
4 Heliod’s Pilgrim
4 Auramancer
4 Blessed Spirits
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
4 Pacifism
4 Snake Umbra
4 Hopeful eidolon
2 Heliod’s Emissary
1 Oath of Ancient Wood
1 Lightform
4 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Blossoming Sands
8 Forest
8 Plains

Blood Brothers
4 Vampire Lacerator
1 Stromkirk Condemned
1 Rakish Heir
4 Olivia’s Bloodsworn
4 Ravenous Bloodseeker
2 Furyblade Vampire
4 Stromkirk Occultist
2 Fiery Impulse
2 Distemper of the Blood
2 Call the Bloodline
3 Fiery Temper
2 Stensia Masquerade
2 Flames of the Firebrand
4 Alchemist’s Greeting
12 Swamp
8 Mountain
4 Bloodfell Caves

Evergreen Magic Card Set

I think Wizards of the Coast should make an Evergreen Magic Card Set. For those of you who do not know the term Evergreen, it essentially means always available. For instance, the basic Monopoly game is an Evergreen game, however the Star Trek Monopoly and the Scooby Doo Monopoly are only available for limited runs and are meant to be collectors items.

The Evergreen Magic Card Set would only have to be a handful of individual cards, say 5 creatures cards for each color and 5 non creature spells per color, for a total of 50 individual cards. The cards can all be common cards, but the stipulation is, I should be able to build a decent deck out of the array of cards available. This should be especially true of mono colored decks, I should be able to get 4 copies of each card in a color, add appropriate land and expect to play a decent game. In fact that is how they should be sold, is as pre-constructed mono color decks, with 4 of each card plus twenty land.

These cards should always be available, should always be tournament legal and should never change. Magic has been out for 20 years now, surely they can come up with a set of cards that will not be broken by the constant stream of new cards, but still allow for some creative deck building opportunities.

Friday Night Magic, No More

Well, I think I am going to give up on Friday Night Magic (FNM). While I did reasonably well tonight, I felt very awkward. When I went to the 2014 Re-release, there were plenty of adults and the last time I went to FNM, there was at least 2 or 3 people in their late 20’s. Tonight, everyone was a teenager and I just felt seriously out of place. I started playing Magic before most of them were born and it was just too weird for words. So I think I am going to call it quits and unless I can find a group of regular players closer to my age, I expect I am done with Magic entirely, which is too bad, because I do like playing.

We wish

Posted for your enjoyment, mostly without comment.

mtg-fun

 

Izzet Blitz

So, I got creamed the last time I played Magic. I plan to go again a couple of times in August and I have been looking for a deck to play that is both reasonably cheap and effective. I noticed last time my biggest problem was speed, so I went looking for something that had a couple of win conditions and at least one of them could be delivered as early as turn 3 or 4 and reliably by turn 5 or 6. What I found was a red and blue deck designed around creatures that do things when instants and sorceries are played. Guttersnipe deal 2 damage to your opponent for each instant or sorcery cast. Nivix Cyclops is a 1/4 defender (can not attack) that whenever a instants and sorceries are played he gets a +3/+0 and can attack. Combo him with Artful Dodge and Armed//Dangerous and he becomes an 11/5 unblockable attacker with double strike on turn 4. There is Faithless Looting, Dream Twist and Thought Scour to dig deeper into your deck. Several of the cards can be recast from the graveyard to help keep the momentum of the deck going.

Creatures 8:

  • 4 Guttersnipe (2R)
  • 4 Nivix Cyclops (1UR)

Spells 32:

  • 3 Armed // Dangerous (1R)
  • 3 Burning Vengeance (2R)
  • 2 Feeling of Dread (1W)
  • 4 Pillar of Flame (R)
  • 4 Artful Dodge (U)
  • 4 Dream Twist (U)
  • 4 Faithless Looting (R)
  • 4 Izzet Charm (UR)
  • 4 Thought Scour (U)

Land 20:

  • 7 Island
  • 5 Mountain
  • 4 Izzet Guildgate
  • 4 Sulfur Falls

I am planning on testing this deck out this weekend in a few test matches with PezWitch to get a feel for how it plays. My instincts are telling me I need more mana. While the deck runs on 3 mana, I think it is better to get to five if necessary, so when the combo goes off there is plenty of mana to cast several spells at once. I am also thinking the Feeling of Dread card is probably too limited, yes it is funny that this deck can not cast it from cards in hand, but can cast it from the graveyard and it is tosser card for Faithless Looting, but really, I think I’d rather draw a card I can cast from my hand. I am also thinking the Burning Vengeance is often a wasted card. To sum it up, I am thinking of dropping Feeling of Dread and Burning Vengeance. This opens up 5 slots, 1 being filled by another Armed // Dangerous. This leaves 4 slots, I want to use at least 2 for more mana and perhaps Harvest Pyre for the last two slots for a final kill card if necessary.

Money Corrupts

I watched a short documentary the other day about a group of social scientist who studied the effects of money on people. To no ones surprise they found the more money a person had the more likely they were to feel entitled. The most interesting of the experiments they constructed was a rigged game of Monopoly. The two players flipped a coin, the one who won the coin toss got to be the rich player, the other was the poor player. The rich player started with $2000 and got to roll 2 dice. The poor player started with $1000 and could only roll one dice, further, when collecting money from any source, he could only collect half the stated amount. As you can imagine, the poor player always lost, but the intriguing thing here was when asked, the rich player universally said they deserved to win. The game was rigged in their favor, their position in the game was dictated by a coin flip and they still believed they won by skill and intelligence and deserved their win. They convinced themselves that their opponent could have won if only they had played better, worked harder or was smarter.

http://io9.com/scientific-proof-that-having-money-makes-people-more-ev-994493264

It would be pretty easy to launch into a rich people are evil rant, but sadly, I am not going to do that. What I am going to talk about is my current obsession of Magic: The Gathering, which is actually related to this topic. The MTG World Championship and the World Cup are this week. If you go out and look at the deck lists for who is winning, you will see they are all playing a fairly small set of decks and all of these decks cost a butt ton of money to put together, in some cases a thousand dollars or more. MTG has its own economy, you see as a cards utility becomes known and it becomes popular in tournaments, its price goes up and people horde them. So by the time a new set has been out a month or two and the popular decks to play have been established, those decks get expensive to put together, either because you must buy a lot of booster packs to get everything you want or you have to buy it as a single at the inflated price. Either way, you deck cost you $500 to put together.

How these two subjects intertwine is of course because of money. In Magic, as the rigged game of Monopoly, the player with the most money is going to win. Now, it is true that if two players are playing power and expensive decks, then skill and luck will prevail, but the same can be said for Monopoly. The bottom line is, the ticket to entry for serious tournament Magic is money. Sure you can probably win few local tournaments with a cheap deck, but that will likely not last long, either others will duplicate your deck, driving the prices of the cards up or they will build more expensive and powerful decks to beat you. If I buy one of these $500 Jund decks and take it to Friday Night Magic, I will probably dominate the evening without much effort. I can tell you there are several players there who are better players than I am. The question becomes do I deserve to win?

Loosing to the great green weenie

So last night I went 1-2 in matches and 3-5 in games. Not a great night in terms of wining actual games. However, in terms of learning things, it was a great night. The two matches I lost were against green ramp decks, meaning early game mana accelerated big creatures. The third match I won only because my opponent got mana screwed. The fact was, my great idea for a mono blue trauma deck was in reality not a good idea. The deck was too slow and reactive, and could not deal with a massive early game onslaught. Given a chance to develop, it works fine, but unfortunately it needs 6 mana to work properly and in the current meta game that it too late in the game. So now I am going back to the drawing board.

I started out this morning thinking about building an aggro ramp deck myself, but a lack of cards and a general disinterest in playing green shot this idea down. So I started looking through the decks I have and came across a Red/Black deck I built last year and promptly forgot about. The theory behind the deck is simple, 20 creatures all with special abilities making them difficult to block and 16 removal spells to keep my opponents side of the field depopulated. What attracted me to this deck this morning was the mana curve of the deck. All but 4 of the cards in the deck could be cast on 3 or less mana which should make the deck fast and reliable. It however did not have optimal cards in it, the deck looks like I was planning to play it in a Block environment rather than Standard. So I stripped out the meh cards and adding in more efficient cards. For instance, I took out all the artifacts and replaced them with large flying creatures. My preliminary deck looks like this.

Creatures 20:

  • 4 Tormented Soul (B)
  • 4 Stromkirk Noble (R)
  • 4 Vampire Nighthawk (1BB)
  • 4 Kessig Wolf (2R)
  • 2 Thundermaw Hellkite (3RR)
  • 2 Sengir Vampire (3BB)

Spells 16:

  • 4 Shock (R)
  • 4 Searing Spear (1R)
  • 4 Doom Blade (1B)
  • 4 Death Wind (XB)

Land 24:

  • 4 Dragonskull Summit
  • 4 Rakdos Guildgate
  • 8 Mountain
  • 8 Swamp

Things I am thinking about. The sideboard will have to wait until I have had a chance to play this deck. Otherwise, I am considering placing Faithless Looting, Wild Guess or Sign in Blood for card advantage. I am also considering replacing Shock with Brimstone Volley or possibly Thunderbolt, these two cards do more damage, but also cost more mana and/or are limited in some way.

sengir

Sideboarding my deck

I built a mono blue mill deck, which I posted last week. I am thinking about taking it to Friday Night Magic at the Rogues Gallery at some point. To be competitive I need a 15 card sideboard, which are cards I can switch into the deck after the first game of a match. Usually sideboard strategy is based on the idea of having cards to optimize against common meta game decks. The hard part of this is being plugged in enough to recognize what decks are common in your meta game and identifying cards that will help you against those decks. Since I play only casually, I have no real clue as to what the meta game looks like, so I am going to try an alternate little used sideboarding strategy. I an going to use my sideboard to completely change how my deck works. This is my deck, which I have dubbed the Trauma Deck.

Creatures 18:

  • 4 Galerider Sliver (U)
  • 4 Seacoast Drake (1U)
  • 4 Warden of Evos Isle (2U)
  • 4 Clone (3U)
  • 2 Jace’s Mindseeker (4UU)

Spells 16:

  • 4 Tome Scour (U)
  • 4 Traumatize (3UU)
  • 4 Cancel (1UU)
  • 4 Negate (1U)

Artifacts 4:

  • 4 Millstone (2)

Planeswalker 2:

  • 2 Jace, Memory Adept (3UU)

Land 20:

  • 20 Island

As you can see, its primary purpose is to run my opponent out of cards before he can run me out of life. It also opens a second front with a flying creature assault, this is designed to give me a Plan B to win the game and force my opponent deal with two simultaneous strategies. My purposed sideboard is.

  • 3 Divination (2U)
  • 3 Trained Condor (2U)
  • 3 Air Servant (4U)
  • 3 Disperse (1U)
  • 3 Spellblast (XU)

My plan is to remove Jace, 1 Mindseeker, Tome Scour, Traumatize and Millstone from the main deck after the first game of the match and replace them with the sideboard cards. What this does is converts the deck from a Mill-Aggro deck to an Aggro-Control deck. The idea being that my opponent will sideboard against the Mill aspect of the deck, not expecting me to remove it from the deck. Then for the third game I can use whichever strategy worked best against this particular opponent.

MTG Millstone Deck

So after last weekends mild success with milling my opponents deck, I decided to have a look at building a Mill deck. Lo and behold, milling cards was a theme for Blue this time out. I laid out this deck as a preliminary Millstone deck. The Mindseeker, Tome Scour, Traumatize, Millstone and Jace all force my opponent to discard cards off the top of their deck.  Cancel and Negate are there to protect Jace and Millstones from being targeted by removal. All the other creatures in the deck do two things for me. First they provide me with a second method of winning the game through basic creature attacks, all the creatures save Jace are flying or have the potential to fly, making them difficult to block. Second they provide me with the ability to defend against creature decks.

Creatures 18:

  • 4 Galerider Sliver (U)
  • 4 Seacoast Drake (1U)
  • 4 Warden of Evos Isle (2U)
  • 4 Clone (3U)
  • 2 Jace’s Mindseeker (4UU)

Spells 16:

  • 4 Tome Scour (U)
  • 4 Traumatize (3UU)
  • 4 Cancel (1UU)
  • 4 Negate (1U)

Artifacts 4:

  • 4 Millstone (2)

Planeswalker 2:

  • 2 Jace, Memory Adept (3UU)

Land 20:

  • 20 Island

I am thinking about adding Windreader Sphinx for some card advantage and perhaps Trading Post for utility. I am also considering going two colors and adding White, for more balanced creature array and some utility spells. Another consideration is more land or non land mana producers. The mana curve on this deck is wonky and I am afraid it will start too slow and stall out allowing my opponent to develop his strategy. However, before altering the deck, I want to see how the baseline plays.

MTG 2014 Core Pre-Release

Today I went to Rogues Gallery in Round Rock were they had a MTG 2014 Core Pre-Release tournament. Players bought 6 booster packs and then were given 30 minutes to construct a deck from the mess of cards provided. Before going, I scanned over the spoiler list so I had a good idea of good cards to look for, concentrating on Green, Red and Black. I always concentrate on those colors in sealed deck play because they tend to be the most destructive and have the best balance of creatures. Sadly, my booster packs ran afoul of my preparations.

I pulled two cards that dictated the two colors I was to play. The First was Jace, Memory Adept and the second was Sengir Vampire. Both of these cards were by far the best cards I had, so Black and Blue it was.

13 Creatures:
1x Jace, Memory Adept (3UU)
1x Merfolk Spy (U)
2x Coral Merfolk (1U)
1x Warden of Evos Isle (2U)
1x Clone (3U)
1x Tenacious Dead (B)
1x Festering Newt (B)
2x Shadowborn Apostle (B)
1x Syphon Sliver (2B)
1x Undead Minotaur (2B)
1x Sengir Vampire (3BB)

10 Spells:
2x Tome Scour (U)
2x Sensory Deprivation (U)
1x Divination (2U)
2x Time Ebb (2U)
2x Vile Rebirth (B)
1x Wring Flesh (B)

17 Land:
9x Island
8x Swamp

So I went 2-1 in the tournament. I lost my first match 0-2. My primary problem during the first game was my deck stalled out mid game. My opponent had a butt ton of creatures out and was fixing to over run me, so I scooped. The second game, I got Jace out, but I forgot to use his milling ability until the next turn, this turned out to be a loosing mistake. Two turns later she was able to get rid of Jace  and I was unable to run her out of cards before I ran out of life.  The next round I got Jace out twice and milled his deck to nothing, at the end I was 1-1 in matches and 2-2 in games. My third opponent was able to defeat me in our first game with an unopposed Serra Angel. In the next two games, Jace hit the table and I milled her deck out. At the end I was 2-1 in matches and 4-3 in games. I got a couple of extra 2014 boosters out of it, over all it was a fun afternoon. Thanks for the great games Ashton, Lance and Diana.

MTG, 2013 Core Set

The current set of Magic the Gathering is going to be replaced in just under a month and I realized I have not messed with the 2013 core set much. Usually with each set I try to put together what I think is a basic iconic deck for each color, with 2013, I had only done black. This deck cost about $30 to put together including shipping. The basic strategy is 20 cheap creatures backed up by Murder/Mutilate to get rid of enemy creatures and Duress/Mind Rot to empty your opponents hand and keep him from implementing his strategy. Sign in Blood is used to accelerate the card advantage built into this deck. The only tricky thing here is the Phylactery Lich depends on the Chronomaton, I am inclined to wait and put them into play at the same time late in the game after you opponent’s hand is empty. Alternately, you can put the Chronomaton into play early, pump him up out of Lighting Bolt range and then play the Phylactery Lich.

4 Chronomaton
4 Knight of Infamy
4 Ravenous Rats
4 Vampire Nighthawk
4 Phylactery Lich
4 Duress
4 Sign in Blood
4 Mind Rot
4 Murder
4 Mutilate
20 Swamp

This deck has a very nice mana curve on it. Only Mutilate costs more than 3 mana to cast, which means most of the cards in this deck can be cast in the all important first 3 turns of the game. This deck is fast and if your opponent does not establish his offense before the mid game, he will likely not get the chance once he starts discarding cards out of his hand and anything he manages to get out can be dealt with.

The Magic Dojo

When I was first introduced to Magic: The Gathering back in 1995, the internet had not yet come into wide use. The only deck sharing there was came from magazines like the Duelist and from looking at and playing against other peoples decks. Because I was in Germany at the time, this made our pool of skilled players and deck builders very small. We figured out land destruction, discard, control and ramp decks pretty much on our own. Out of this environment came the Blue Cheese, a Blue/Red Control deck, which was my first entirely original deck that was successful in our meta game. Some scrapes of information got through, for instance, I had heard about ErnieGeddon and NecroDecks, but none of us had ever actually seen them, so we built our own versions of them. So when the Black Summer came I was dominating play using my own version of the NecoDeck, it was only later I found out my version was not well built and I was not playing it very well either.

I came back to the states in 1997 and got my first dialup internet connection and I found  a website called The Magic Dojo which had all sorts of articles concerning Magic:The Gathering. Tournament reports, strategy columns and most importantly, deck lists. I also played my first real tournaments with a much larger meta game than I had previously been exposed. The first few tournaments I was massacred. The decks I had been using were slow and unfocused, at one point I was beaten by a very stupid Timmy deck built around Prodigal Sorcerer and Zuran Spellcaster. However, using the Dojo and experimenting within my new environment, it did not take me long to get up to speed and start developing decks that could consistently win. Unfortunately by 1998 I started to drift away and by 1999 I stopped playing completely.

Now of course there are dozens of website where one can go for deck lists and  game analysis, but back then, there was only the Dojo and nothing today seems to match that early enthusiasm those players had. To the credit of modern deck designers, back then this was all new and each tournament season brought not only new cards, but new players with different ideas and we figured things out in the chaos of the time. Today, everything seems to be very ordered and the meta game is dictated by Wizards of the Coast because card design is now a science rather than an art and very few cards actually break the game in any meaningful way.

Sigh! I feel old, I wish I was back in Ric’s apartment in Karlsruhe Germany playing our awful decks against each other.

The website is now long defunct, however it has been preserved for modern players to learn from the past.

http://www.classicdojo.org/

Mono Blue Misc

Several weeks ago I posted a deck built out of the left over cards from a couple of preconstructed decks I bought and raided. I gave the deck to a friend who plays magic casually and but is not interested in spending tons of money on the hobby and really, who can blame him. To recap here is the original deck.

4x Phantasmal Bear
4x Neurok Commando
4x AEther Adept
4x Master Thief
4x Phantasmal Dragon
2x Spined Thopter
2x Frost Breath
4x Negate
4x Mind Control
4x Mana Leak
4x Preordain
20x Island

The strength of this deck is its ability to grab creatures and artifacts from its opponents and deny them the ability to develop a significant offense. He has played this deck successfully several times now, he likes the deck, however it does have several weaknesses. While its mana curve is not horrible, it is a bit flat, with 12 cards outside of casting during the first three turns and nearly half the deck can not be cast if you miss a mana drop during the first three turns.

First up, the Phantasmal Dragon has got to go, for as big a creature it is, it is too easily killed, I’d rather use the Delver of Secrets, 1 drop and flip from a 3/2 flying creature. Yeah it is still inside shock range, but having an attacking 3/2 flier on the field on turn two is too good to pass up. Next, I would replace the Preordain with Ponder. Preordain is out of the Standard block now and only allows you to dig 2 deep into your deck. Ponder allows you to dig 3 deep and costs the same. Finally, I would drop Spined Thopter and Frost Breath for 4 Vapor Snag or Unsummon, Unsummon is easier to get, but Vapor Snag has the added bonus of doing a point of damage to your opponent. This also adds 4 more instants which increases the chances of flipping the Delver on turn 2.

4x Phantasmal Bear
4x Neurok Commando
4x AEther Adept
4x Master Thief
4x Delver of Secrets
4x Vapor Snag
4x Negate
4x Mind Control
4x Mana Leak
4x Ponder
20x Island

There, now the mana curve is much better, the deck will play faster and more consistent while becoming better focused. The really nice thing here is the modifications will cost around $5. While I would not take this deck to a tournament, I would not be embarrassed to bring it to Friday Night Magic at the local game store.

MTG: The Mana Leak Discussion

It is interesting looking at Magic: The Gathering through the lenses of someone who has not played for more than decade. I was reading this article over at Wizards website about how they are fixing an overpowered card called Snapcaster Mage. One of the problem cards that is commonly abused by the Snapcaster Mage is Mana Leak. Apparently, Mana Leak is a powerful card, to quote the article;

“One of the problems is that Mana Leak is simply a much more powerful card than we would be comfortable printing under modern development rules. Similar to why the Swords are so powerful—their costs were locked in before people really understood how to price Equipment—Mana Leak is a relic of a bygone era.”

Having played MTG in said bygone era, I have to tell you Mana Leak was considered the worst counter spell in the game. Yes, early in the game it could be useful, but was generally a wasted draw by turn 5. Virtually everyone would rather have drawn a real Counter Spell or a Power Sink. I can tell you, I was a consummate Blue player and I never used Mana Leak in a constructed deck. Today, I certainly will, but only because Power Sink is gone and other counter spells are either more expensive or hampered in some way. From my point of view MTG does not have a power creep problem, it has a power drain problem. Cards are getting weaker and less flexible, decks are getting predictable and games are getting longer. I have not decided if this is a good thing or not.

Magic Strategy: Mana Curve

I have been reading a lot about various Magic strategies lately and I have been oddly confused by many supposedly tournament quality decks. If you have looked at my deck designs you probably noticed I tend to put fours of most all cards and occasionally 2 of. Looking at decks online I noticed a great many decks use 3 of and even 1 of cards. I have also found there is little concern for the mana cost of cards and most deck designers have no problem putting 5, 6 or even 7 drop cards in their decks. As I understand it most modern players expect games to go on for 10 or 15 and occasionally 20 rounds. I have to ask myself has no one explained the mana curve to modern players?

The first thing to understand about strategy is the most important time of the game is the first three rounds, you first 10 cards. The first three rounds are the early game, the time in which you have few resources in play and many cards in hand. During this time you do not want to miss any land drops, you absolutely must play a land every turn, which means at least three of those first 10 cards need to be land cards. This is why everyone recommends at least 1/3 of your deck be land or 20-24 land. If you are playing a mono colored deck you can get by with 20, if you are playing two or more colors, go with 24 or maybe even 26. The second thing about the early game is you want to be able to cast something every single turn, you need to start establishing your game from the very beginning. So of the seven cards left after your three lands, you must have at least three cards that can be cast on three or less mana. Realistically, you’d probably rather have three one mana card in your hand than three three mana cards. By extension, the majority of the cards in your deck should cost one mana. A near perfect early game would be made up of three land, three one mana cards, two two mana cards and two three and higher mana cards. A nice mana distribution in a deck should look something like this.

Picture no longer available

 

What this translates into the establishment of your strategy very early in the game, mounting small but effective threats and the ability to answer your opponents threats. If done properly, the game will not progress to the 10th round and your deck will function fine on three mana. When I am deck designing, I build my decks for short decisive battles, by the 5th or 6th round I should be mounting my primary offense and the other player should be recognizing his impending doom.

MTG – Preconstructed decks

So there are a couple of cards out there that are a bit on the pricey side that I needed for my latest deck creation. Rather than drop $15 each on the cards, I decide to buy two precontructed decks that I knew had the cards, which cost $25 each and I got a butt load of other cards as well. So after pulling out the 10 or so cards I wanted, I was left with a wad of cards and it seemed like a good idea to try to build a decent deck out of it and actually, I was able to construct 2 identical decks and I think a pretty good deck at that. My only real problem with it is the Phantasmal Bear and Phantasmal Dragon can be destroyed by anything that targets them, so even a Giant Growth or a Stave Off become creature removal.

4x Phantasmal Bear
4x Neurok Commando
4x AEther Adept
4x Master Thief
4x Phantasmal Dragon
2x Spined Thopter
2x Frost Breath
4x Negate
4x Mind Control
4x Mana Leak
4x Preordain
20x Island

So on to the deck I was building. I wanted to build something with the aforementioned Phantasmal Bear and Phantasmal Dragon because they are extremely cheap creatures and illusions have a pretty good Lord card, Lord of the Unreal, which gives all illusions +1/+1 and makes them hexproof, so they can not be targeted by anything, solving the great problem with illusions. I poured in a generous amount of counter spells to protect my creatures and disrupt my opponents strategy.

4x Phantasmal Bear
4x Phantasmal Image
4x Lord of the Unreal
4x Adaptive Automaton
4x Phantasmal Dragon
4x Ponder
4x Unsummon
4x Negate
4x Redirect
4x Mana Leak
20x Island

The best part of this deck is the Phantasmal Image and the Adaptive Automaton, both of these cards mimic other cards when they come into play. When Phantasmal Image comes into play I declare it mimicking the Lord of the Unreal, because it is an illusion, it gives itself a +1/+1 and hexproof making it much harder to kill than the original Lord of the Unreal. When Adaptive Automaton comes into play, I declare a creature type as illusion and Adaptive Automaton gets a +1/+1 and hexproof from the Lord and additionally gives all the other illusions in play another +1/+1.  A perfect early game would look something like this;

Turn 1: Drop an Island, cast Phantasmal Bear
Turn 2: Drop an Island, cast Lord of the Unreal
Turn 3: Drop an Island, Cast Phantasmal Image, declare it an image of Lord of the Unreal
Turn 4: Drop an Island, cast Adaptive Automaton, declare it an illusion

On turn three I had one 2/2 creature and two 4/4, on turn four I have one 2/2, one 4/4  and two 5/5 creatures. At this point it would be very difficult for another player to overcome this onslaught especially when this mass is protected by counter spells and hexproof.

MTG Modern format

My friends and I have come to a tentative agreement to more of less follow the Modern Constructed deck rules. The idea here is to allow the largest number of cards while still maintaining some reasonable limits to both eliminate broken decks and allow n00bs access o the game.Going with Vintage or Legacy would have certainly allowed for way to many Channel/Fireball or Black Lotus/Mox XX/Dark Ritual/Mind Twist combinations and the Standard format would have limited us to a constantly rotating block of cards. This also provides us with a Banned/Restricted list, because there are some really fucked up cards in this game.

So here is my first deck built in the Modern Constructed Format. It is a discard deck, or as it is referred to in this day and age, a Mono Black Control (MBC) deck. The 12 Specter creatures and the 4 Mind Rots are all to force my opponent to discard cards and keep him at 0 while I finish him off with a Sengir Vampire. I weep for the absence of Dark Ritual, however, most of this deck can be played on 3 mana so speed and consistency should really not be an issue. This deck came in at about $35 including shipping.

4x Reassembling Skeleton
4x Hypnotic Specter
4x Liliana’s Specter
4x Guul Draz Specter
4x Sengir Vampire
4x Disentomb
4x The Rack
2x Doom Blade
2x Go for the Throat
4x Mind Rot
4x Distress
20x Swamp