Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tapping and Untapping

For Christmas, one of the very thoughful gifts I received was a Zendikar Intro Pack, specifically "Pumped Up". To everyone out there(me, mostly), Intro Packs are pretty fun to open up. I didn't get a Black Lotus in the included booster pack, which I had sort of envisioned, but one of the cards definitely gave me ideas...specifically the foil Hellkite Charger featured on the front of the box.

Hellkite Charger has some interesting text: "untap all attacking creatures" which got me thinking again about pit-fighting wizards and my Niv-Mizzet EDH deck. There's nothing better than wizards coming in for the beat down…then untapping and coming in again! Magus of the Arena's got your number, pal(hopefully Loxodon Brokenhammer in hand)!

In a real no-rules street fight, I imagine a Wizard discarding his useless wand for something akin to a broken-off table leg. Perhaps a slightly enchanted table leg, hexxed with whatever the inebriated mind can most come up with in short notice before the beats start coming. Rune of Bashing, or Mark of Haymaker.

But sometimes a Wizard will be just shrewd enough to use his god-given magical powers to indeed smite from afar. Even better than wizards drop-kicking some punks I enjoy the idea of them blasting the crap out of things...which (you know, the usual crowd of "pingers") they have to tap for.


Hellkite Charger unfortunately only untaps attackers, and this really seems like a poor limitation. From beating to blasting and back to beating again, I want my wizards untapping fresh for more damage-doing, so I decided to do a search over at magiccards.info (the best lil' ol' magic card search engine EVER) to see what I could come up with.

One of the best I found was Aggravated Assault. A typical red "berserker" card with hidden deeper implications if ever I saw one. You've probably already fully explored this card, but I was blown away by it all anew.

1. You untap all creatures you control (not your opponents!) regardless of attacking status.
2. You get another attacking phase, as well as a main phase to do more damage in
3. You can use Aggravated Assault as many times as you want just by paying the activation cost: 5 mana each which in EDH will eventually provide at least 2 activations, guaranteed!

Breaking Wave seems like a good card to cast right after you declare attackers, but before your opponent declares blockers. So you get to attack and blast all at the same time. This is basically the Hellkite Charger's ability, but Breaking Wave also allows you to untap non-attackers, which is slightly better. What makes it WORSE is that it's not a repeatable ability. I like repeatable abilities.

Faces of the Past seems particularly good because

1. All of the creatures are wizards, fufilling the tribe-centric part of the ability.
2. There is no mana cost so you can do it again and again at the cost of 1 dead wizard. Hey, wizards know all about the circle of life, particularly chaff "comes into play" guys...talk about expendable.
3. My EDH deck has plenty of sac outlets, and is always looking for more. I love sacrificing creatures.
4. It's a pretty low casting cost, I imagine being able to cast this and go off with it in the same turn.

Insurrection has the same untapping function bolted onto a mass steally power everyone is probably already familiar with. Sheldon Menery LOVES this card, and there is little reason to see why not in a game where you are guaranteed to eventually reach it's massive mana cost.

Riptide Chronologist offers the same power of Faces of the Past in a creature. But non-repeatable...and costing a massive 5 mana for a 1/3! Thanks and no-thanks, this is not a dude I am interested in.

Intruder Alarm is a well-known combo enabler when used with creatures coming into play. It works best in a deck built around it, where you can put creatures into play (I'm looking at you, Elves!) and tap them for mana to then cast/draw more creatures. Doesn't tickle my wizard-bone in quite the same way as some of the ther cards.

The last card I wanted to mention is a bit of a doozy, just because it contains so many ways to win. The card is, of course, Savage Beating. "Creatures you control gain double strike until end of turn; or untap all creatures you control and after this phase, there is an additional combat phase." And it has Entwine.

I see this as either a weak 1-use untapping ability like Breaking Wave, or else a card that basically just wins the game with attacking wizards. Versatile enough I have determined I must get it and use it in all its ways. Plus it's called SAVAGE BEATING.

If there's nothing pit-fighting wizards love more, it's a Savage Beating.

Food for thought!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Budget Zoo

Using the cards you have at hand always leads to unusual deckbuilding experiences. At this stage in the game, I refuse to go running to the singles store every time I have an idea, since I already have plenty of deck material that never actually went into the decks I envisioned.

What do you call a mishmash of ingredients from across the space-time of magic? When the deck is mostly creatures, you call it a Zoo. I call my new deck the Zeke Zoo.

None of the cards are particularly good, but I'm planning on seeing just how far I can weave the synergies. The deck started with 4 Wooly Thoctars, which I thought were the cat's pajamas when Shards of Alara came out.

Cats love pajamas.

I also had 4 Balefire Lieges in my shoe box from when I was going to make a red/white deck in Eventide.

Remember when everybody was oohing and aaahing over Balefire Liege? "This thing is just going to break magic wide open," they said. "A reusable Lightning Helix on a stick," they said. "What was R&D thinking?"

Finally, I had a FULL playset of a little junk rare called Ashling's Perogative. I read a strategy article somewhere once upon a time that used this card…the secret being you had to construct your deck's mana curve a little funky to make sure you have either entirely odd or even casting-cost creatures.

Regarding Ashling's Perogative, I have a theory that the most disruptive choice to set the enchantment to is "odd" since today's decks seem to be full of 2 drops.

So I put these cards together, and what I got seems pretty good. To fill out my 1 drops, I packed the deck with Wild Nacatyls, Araksan Squires, Lightning Bolts and Kird Apes. The deck starts out very fast, and if the game draws out, the Balefire Liege comes down and all of a sudden just about every spell has card advantage built into it.

Did I mention with an Ashling's perogative set to "odd" every creature in my deck has haste? This seems pretty powerful as well.

It's no "Naya Lightsaber," but turns can be surprisingly explosive. With the Leige, Lightning Bolts turn into cheap Lightning Bursts. Woolly Thoctars give you the full Lightning Helix. And add a Lightning Helix to get TWO Lightning Helixes. 12 total life point swing. Yep.

I suppose the Balefire Leiges are in reality too slow. In a fight with the "big boys" I would get steam rolled before I could get the whole crazy system on-line.

But its still very fun. And awesome. And awesomely fun.

So, the next time you are itching to make a deck, see just what you have lying around before you start clicking on your favorite online card store.


Check out http://mtgurl.com/kEHH

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Ins and Outs of Ixidron

Oh, Ixidron. I could never stay mad at you.

"As Ixidron enters play" strange and terrible things happen. Never to be cast willie-nillie, Ixidron can do as much damage to your cause as he can swing things in your favor. At the end of a long game, when your brow is soaked in sweat and you hold victory in your grasp, Ixidron is most likely to find some way to ruin everything.

It is important to remember Ixidron behaves less like a creature and more like a sweeper. Instead of some freaky illusion dude, think of him as a three-way cross (pretty gross) between Wrath of God, Humility and Mogg Infestation. All creatures become 2/2 type-less "morph shells" without the ability to ever return to their empowered selves.

Despite the second ability, Ixidron will never get very big. And he gets even smaller. He will shrink every turn as your pissed-off fellow participants hammer your defenses with the flailing riff-raff you've left them with. You either block, or you let them through. I suggest you block.

This method of creature destruction has a couple of unusual benefits. First, creatures are not removed from the battlefield straight away. In EDH, this can wrap up an opponent's general for a couple of turns. It can also keep safe some of the more unusual "goes to graveyard" abilities like the Kamigawa Spirit Dragons. And it even clobbers those indestructible creepies you occasionally run into.

Another interesting aspect of Ixidron is the way the ability is worded. "As Ixidron enters play" rather than "when Ixidron enters play." Standard players have already discovered the difference between these two terms playing against Iona, Shield of Emeria. Creatures are forced to flip over before Ixidron touches the battlefield, and prevents ALL other "when a creature enters the battlefield" triggers.

To be honest, Ixidron MIGHT be a bad card. He has certainly screwed things up for me more often than he has saved things. But considering my play ability, he could just have a bad pilot. The kind of pilot who gets sort of forgetful towards  the landing portion of the flight.

Don't play him when he's going to be the only creature on the board. Don't play him when you have 1 creature and your opponent has 1 creature. Unless that creature is like Akroma or something. Did I mention Ixidron makes good creatures into really bad ones?

And when you lay it all out on paper like this, he really does sound good. Perhaps what I've encountered so far is bad luck. So I'll wait a while to see if I get lucky.

One fact is indisputable…when you do plop him down on the battlefield, absolute chaos always descends.

And by chaos I mean FUN. And by fun, of course, I mean chaos.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Bad Cards in My Deck

Electrolyze. The card's is in my deck. The card is red. The card is blue. My EDH deck plays those colors. Seems a natural fit. But how useful is this multi-colored instant?

I've never drawn it. Not in any of the games I've played. I only noticed it the other day when I was tearing apart my deck and saw it in my 3 casting cost pile. Afterward, it kept springing up in my mind. Do I want this card? Would I even know what to do I drew it?

3 mana, for 2 points of damage and a cantripping "draw a card" at the end.

In a regular game of Magic, there's always a use for Electrolyze. If your opponent is playing little mana dorks, this gets rid of TWO of them. It zaps all sorts of little creatures and maintains your card count while doing it.

But in EDH, the creatures all seem a lot bigger. Unless one of the participants is playing Merieke Ri Berit, you probably have a lot less targets. In fact a lot of permanents are going to be able to shrug off a Lightning Bolt, let alone a lil' 'ol Electrolyze.

My snap judgement will be that this is a Bad Card for EDH.

But I'm not taking it out. It must be drawn. At least once. Like a puppy, I must have my face rubbed in my mistakes before the learning process can begin. And, no, I would never do that to a dog. Dogs don't even play magic.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Most Interesting General Award

Here's a 5 color General with flavor! The deck I faced off against was filled with dragons, a few card advantage engines, and recursion. If you've never thought of a dragon deck as a "tool box", seeing this in action is a real treat.

I kept thinking: "What's he going to turn his General into now?"

The best part, he can do it at instant speed. In my case, he threw a Nicol Bolas at me and I responded with Red Elemental Blast. He then responded by changing the Scion back into a non-blue permanent…Draco! I took a LOT of damage, but at least I wasn't losing my hand. A fair trade, and an awesome interaction. My brain got a workout trying to get around it.

The only time I saw him fail to find a good response was when he tried to get under an Austere Command set to destroy all creatures 4 mana cost or higher. There are few dragons to fit such a category, bar changelings.

The dragons are only online for 1 turn, then they go to the graveyard. Makeshift Mannequin, Animate Dead  and company all work great for getting big fatties back into play on a more permanent basis.

One of the other players had a blast upgrading his Body Double every turn as well.

Just another reason why I love the format.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deckbuilder's Resources

One of the best articles I've read on EDH deck design is by a guy called Sheldon Menery. Yeah, he's the famous popularizer of the format, the Carl Sagan of Elder Dragon Highlander. All his articles are good, but this one takes the cake. Exploring the practical concerns of any deck, along with maintaining a theme to keep things interesting, Mr. Menery explores the body, spirit and soul of the EDH deck. Don't be a D-bag!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Master Plan

I've done an exhaustive sketch of the basic idea for this deck, Superman III style. Much like Richard Pryor's computer genius character, the results will be much more impressive in the flesh.


I've taken one sacrifice outlet and replaced it for another. The big benefit: Ashnod's Altar, of course, requires no mana to use the ability. Very few times have I actually been able to use the Phyrexian Vault, largely because I'm always trying to use my mana on other stuff when the big sweeper comes down. Ashnod's Altar not only works with no mana, it GIVES me mana. What a deal.

This change probably hurt me the most. Looter il-Kor is quite possibly the World's Best Looter, improving the quality of cards in my hand while simultaneously zapping a random opponent for 1. In EDH, the 1 point isn't quite so significant, but it's still nice. Unfortunately, Mr. Kor is NOT A WIZARD. Not enough boom. Sage of Fables on the other hand, lets me draw cards hopefully on a fairly regular basis as well. Testing in the heat of battle will show just how good he is (otherwise he's out on the curb!).

Explorer's Scope sounds good, providing some mana acceleration if your cards are stacked right. But I've come to realize that my retinue of loyal wizards doesn't just leap into the red zone at the drop of a hat. We have to work up to it. Explorer's Scope doesn't get used enough, and replacing it makes room for one of my favorite removal spells in the game. Cue Monty Python voice: NO ONE expects Red Elemental Blast! And in EDH, there are always blue spells and permanents to get rid of. This is never a dead card.

Fellwar Stone holds a lot of sentimental value to me. Back in the day, it was one of the best mana fixers, besides the almost-always restricted Sol Ring. All my copies are from The Dark, and they look like they took a ride under the back leg of a high-school cafeteria bench. Because they did. But out they go, and I can hardly see the Beacon of Destruction I'm sliding in through the wet, salty tears. Beacon of Destruction looks pretty cool, I expect to draw this multiple times in a game, thanks to all my little putzy card draw in the rest of the deck. Ka-POW!

Goodbye piddly card draw, hello punch to the face! Soul's Fire should smash 'em good provided I have a big creature out…and I freely admit there are a couple of big creatures.

Ophidian is pretty good card draw wrapped in a 1/3 body. It's true, in any multiplayer game you are bound to find someone you can attack with Ophidian. Of course, in the late game its essentially a dead card. Sigil Tracer is a wizard, and a real good one at that. 2 mana to copy any instant or sorcery! Notice, there are no color requirements, and 2 colorless mana just happens to be what my Ashnod's Altar produces. Hopefully someday I will have both of these exciting permanents in play along with, say, a Beacon of Destruction!

EDIT: Turns out I was totally off on Sigil Tracer. 1U to copy, plus tapping 2 wizards. I still think it's good, so there! Will play a couple games and see how it goes.

You might be thinking "hey, didn't you get rid of your Looter because you never attack?" I didn't say I never attack, I said my wizards needed to work up to it. PLUS, it's important to note deathtouch doesn't need to be combat damage, it's actually any damage. I'm seeing an exciting interaction here with my General Niv-Mizzet. Can you taste the sizzle?

Okay, what am I doing getting rid of a sweet wizard like Disruptive Pitmage. Well, to be honest, the only time he's ever been any use is when I've sacrificed him to my Voidmage Prodigy. Out you go, dirtbag. In it's place is some solid just-in-case-of-anything permanent removal.

More cruddy card draw, replaced by a huge sweeper. Wildfire is no Inferno, but I predict it will still make an impact when it comes down. My opponents are going to have to make a lot of hard choices with their land, which I am eager to see as well. Are you going to get rid of your good basics or all that good colorless utility land? Quite the conundrum.

I found Sage's Dowsing while I was digging through my cards. Seems like a good fit, and I've always been a little worried about getting caught with Assert Authority in my hand and a low artifact count on the ground. I'm only about 50/50 on Sage's Dousing, because it is a soft counter.

It's pratically criminal to replace a mana-generating land with a non-mana-generating land. Annie, are you okay? Are you okay, Annie? You've been struck by…a SMOOTH CRIMINAL!
Safe Haven is just what it says…an escape tunnel for Niv-Mizzet, Riptide Director, or whomever's the highest rank wizard on the board when the bombs start dropping. See you later, Batman…it's time for this penguin to fly.

More to come, into infinity.

My Niv-Mizzet EDH Deck

The Current Build:

A computer can be very useful in shining new light on your deck-building ability. Step one should always be finding a convenient place to type it all in, preferably in a "cloud" for easy retrieval and analysis from any library, work terminal, relative's computer (great for over the holidays) or other strange microprocessor contraption.

A good place I just found is mtgurl.com, providing a "faceyspace" of sorts centered around magic decks. Only problem appears to be split cards…I haven't figured out how they wants these represented. If you know, pass the info along!

The first thing I noticed after entering in all the cards: I apparently cannot count. Deck size is listed as 98, which is 1 card off from what it probably should be.

For an EDH deck, at least.

It would work well for an "EDH minus 1" Deck (New format…trademarked!)

Somehow my brain must shut itself off somewhere between 60 and 100 cards, since I don't have this problem with traditional decks.

Or maybe I do…I've never had any of my opponents count my cards before a match.

My entire MTG play record should probably be expunged. Like it was ever "punged" to begin with.

Okay, a couple of things I'm noticing…I have a lot of picky little card draw like Ponder and Brainstorm. These guys are good for searching up combo pieces or counterspells or what-have- you. But my new theory is…with the breadth and depth of EDH, I could probably find a good card for each of these slots that I could just DRAW instead and skip the middleman.

I will keep some of my cantrips that do other things along with the picky card draw, but Brainstorm and Ponder…your time is limited.

Another thing I don't like is the lack of wizards.

For a "Wizard War" there should be more two-fisted Wizards ready to "bring it on" when push comes to shove. Wizards ready to roll up their sleeves and get dirty. Wizards ready to break some glass and make some noise. Wizards that know how to ride a motorcycle, like that big dude from Harry Potter.

Okay, Dragon Mage…probably knows all about motorcycles. But I want more!

Finally, there isn't enough stuff getting blown up. The last game I played, I found the number of creatures facing me slightly unsettling…and my puny removal lacking in every way. Niv-Mizzet sez: "More explosions, Sparky…this is getting ridiculous!"

So my further goals intend to be

A) Replace cruddy little card draw with more BIG EFFECTS!
B) Find some more Wizards

Since I also notice a wide gulf between blue cards and red cards (15 red vs 27 blue!) I think number C will dovetail into my other goals nicely.

Some of you may notice a lack of the typical combo pieces for Niv-Mizzet…no Curiosity or Ophidian Eye. I may put these back in, but right now they seem like dirty pool in my current games. Who wants to end an EDH "participation" with a stinky combo for all to see?

More explanation can be found here

Finally, item D) is to find a 99th card. So sad.

Anywhere, hope you enjoyed my inner-dialogue. More deck introspection to come!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

In the beginning, there was darkness. But then a man named Mark Zug said "let there be light" and lo this our defiant Asterion was let loose into the world of collectable card slinging. Hee hee!

I'm going to be giving props to a lot of crappy cards in this blog. It's just best if I let you know up front. Luckily my format of choice, EDH allows for a lot of leeway.

Such is the case with our mighty Minotaur Illusionist.

A trick of the light? Smoke and mirrors? Despite the name, there's no deception here. Take a look, and don't forget to blink!

The rundown: A solid 3/4 body. A nigh-invulnerable morphling-esque shrouding ability. And when all else fails, 3 damage to the dome of your choice. What's not to love? Certainly, even when paying a whopping 5 mana you are probably going to get a return on your investment.

Most sweepers (the Pyroclasm and Infest variety) can't get past the 4 toughness. Spot removal has a tough time, too. I'm thinking this guy needs a little equipment to shine and in the typical EDH deck he should be forming up like Voltron in no time.

I think a creature that dares your opponent to Wrath is a pretty good threat.

Sure there are better creatures for the cost. Certainly more explosive. Most explosive in the 5 slot would probably be Spellbound Dragon. But our trusty Minotaur is solid, resilient and reassuring, he keeps trucking where our Spellbound friend is left in the graveyard.

And pound for pound, he's certainly the best Minotaur! I'll be experimenting for now. With a big grin on my face. Keep your hat on till then.

Be prepared to find out in my next post why Illuminate is really good. I know! CRAZY TALK. But it's my blog, and that's how I roll.