Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Giving Away Everything, So Others Have Nothing

So reads the flavor text from Null Brooch, a very interesting card indeed.

Lately, I've been obsessed with my Malfegor EDH deck. Something about blowing up other people's stuff speaks to me on a subconscious level. I'll gladly discard my entire hand if that means Malfegor enters the battefield surrounded by an all-engulfing quiet, a  pristine emptiness, untouched and devoid of the tainting influence of other creatures. 

Wizards designs cards for everyone, and today they designed a card for me. That card is Hellcarver Demon.

What a horrible drawback. What a delightful ability. The way my mind works, the first order of business is to figure out how to twist this disadvantage into our favor.

Some may look for some sort of lightning-fast acceleration to bring themselves up to speed after losing all their permanents. My question: how can I reduce my opponent to the same pitiful circumstances I brought myself to?

Ideally, I could either suspend this or run into it when I cast my 6 free spells. Don't we all need things to be just a little bit more fair?

A country cousin to the original completely-unfair card Balance, Restore Balance is actually better because it doesn't need any mana once you finally cast it from the exiled zone. Other similar "suspend" cards include Living End, Wheel of Fate, Hypergenesis and Ancestral Vision.

But I think Restore Balance does the best job of the 5. You won't have a hand, and hopefully you won't ever need to have a hand again. And your opponent might have some creatures in his graveyard, why bring those back out again? Restore Balance wipes the slate clean, save for your spell-casting-for-free 6/6 flying demon.

Extended already exposed us to the synergy of CMC 0 spells and the Cascade mechanic. So this deck of ours will probably be running some 3 mana Cascade effects for greater chance of pulling Restore Balance directly into play.

My mind is already spinning.

Aladdin's Lamp: Illuminated

In high school, we used the limited card pool we opened. And Richard Garfield's vision of limited availability was  partially effective, at least for a short time. Rares were really rare.

One rare I was recently reaquainted with is Aladdin's Lamp, or "Aladins Wunderlampe" to the Germans. The clarification at the bottom of the card is interesting…why would anyone choose zero?

Chris was, and as I understand still is, a huge fan of the card. And in the times of Revised, the exorbitant 10 mana cost was actually quite doable. We has Basalt Monoliths, Mana Vaults and Sol Rings. What you got for your 10 mana was a reusable limited tutor, letting you choose from 4, 5, 6, 7 or maybe even 10 cards for the perfect answer to the situation. These were non-maximized decks, using the cards we had (not 4 of everything) and Alladin's Lamp could really make the difference.

I remember in a typical turn, waiting for Chris while he poured over his many choices. Removal? Big Creature? Wrath of God? The possibilities were endless…a real luxury.

And one other thing…the 10 mana cost was absolutely astounding on its own, and cried out to be abused in some way. To give you a sense, the original version in Arabian Nights had to use 2 bubbles of 5 mana each:

Double your pleasure, double your fun.

Printed in the same Revised Set with Alladin's Lamp was of course Animate Artifact. And the synergy was unmistakable. Imagine a 10/10 card drawing machine barreling down on your quivering foes.

Aladdin's Lamp was that 10 mana monster. First, it searched for Animate Artifact. Then it became the Animate target. As an added bonus, the Lamp was extremely unusual for the time in that it didn't even tap to use its ability! You could attack the same turn as you animated with your 10/10 unnatural monstrosity.

Animate Artifact isn't quite as tasty in today's circles. Especially when we now have March of the Machines for the same mana cost.

But there is definitely a place for the Lamp in today's Magic. In a little world, off the regular beaten "competitive" trail. A hole in the wall we like to call…Elder Dragon Highlander.

Aladdin's Lamp is going into a deck powered by the artifact-master himself. Karn, Silver Golem.

If only we had waited for Urza's Saga. The Karn, Silver Golem EDH deck is used primarily as one big Animate Artifact party. Mana acceleration is powered out, hopefully even getting Karn out on the first turn. Then the formerly stationary artifacts begin to swing in for the kill.

Particularly titillating, Mycosynth Lattice allows Karn to kill opponent's land for the cost of 1 mana. Totally worth the looks on their faces.

One of the most unusual characteristics is the fact that, using the EDH construction rules, the Karn deck must be comprised entirely of colorless spells as well as land that produces only colorless mana. Forget "color-fixing", this deck comes permanently fixed.

Check out some deck lists and take a look at Karn, the world's only colorless General. Until the upcoming Rise of the Eldrazi comes out, anyway. Then Karn will finally get a little competition. But nothing that works so well with Aladdin's famous lamp.

Which reminds me…I think Arabian Nights needs the Coldsnap treatment, don't you?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Going Mad with Sarkhan

Yesterday, Wizards started off their official spoiler season (check out both official and unoffical spoiled cards at Gathering Magic) with a new planeswalker:

General consensus around the web appears to be that this man is no good at all. I, too, can see some obvious deficiencies. The biggest one is the lack of a positive loyalty ability. Each ability sends Sarkhan towards inevitable destruction.

People like a planeswalker who sticks around for a while. Sarkhan has a couple of turns of use and then he's out on the curb like last night's chicken necks.

From the moment I saw Sarkhan the Mad, I was intrigued. Maybe it's because I'm easily swayed by corner-case cards, maybe because I'm a contrarian at heart.

Let's set up some rules first:

1. I have never played a "standard" game in my life, and never plan to. Completely inexperienced in all other competitive formats as well. I do know a little limited, and there this is still a bomb, no one can argue that.

2. I have not had much interest in planewalkers, so far, either. I haven't opened any randomly, and have always delt with opposing planeswalkers with extreme prejudice.

3. I potentially have no idea what I'm talking about.

So with those ground rules aside, I'm going to look at the largely EDH benefits Mr. Sarkhan the Mad might present.

For starters, the man could be inexpensive cost-wise, a first for planeswalkers. I'm thinking my luck at the prerelease will be about the same as normal, and I will open garbage. That means I'll have to trade for Sarkhan. No one will trade garbage for a normal planeswalker, but they might trade garbage for Sarkhan the Mad.

Secondly, the large multiplayer games of EDH I normally play during my recreational time run by a different set of rules than 1 on 1 games others many be more familiar with. Whatever happened to the Ferrett? If there was any one card I would want his chaos-skewed preview thoughts on, Sarkhan the Mad is it.

In the games I play, the nail that sticks out gets the hammer first. If you are playing super aggressively, with commonly understood "good" deck choices, you are going to get targeted. The hate is going to swing in your direction. Your creatures, artifacts and enchantments are getting blown up. You will be punished for acting all smart and being pretty.

Planeswalkers draw a lot of hate beacause normally they're building up to something terrible. Let's look at

No one in their right mind is going to let Elspeth sit on the board for more than a couple turns. She is slowly improving her loyalty, eventually making you nigh-unstoppable. Note: because her "ultimate" ability says "for the rest of the game," this ability once-activated lasts even after you blow Elspeth up! Attention-getter, to say the least.

Sarkhan starts out as good as he will ever get. And instead of overpowered, game-breaking abilities to get your friends all up in a tizzy, Sarkhan provides a little bit of utility.

He's like a Swiss Army Knife with 4 attachments:

1. Draw cards! Drawing extra cards in black and especially red is always a challenge.
2. Neutralizing your opponent's threats. Giving your opponent a dragon may not seem like a good deal, but it all depends on what the dragon is replacing. Sliver Legion, Scion of the Ur-Dragon, Kresh the Bloodbraided, and actually most EDH generals would give you an unhappy face over this action. It is unfortunate the effect can only be achieved at sorcery speed…how much more effective it would be if you could do it during combat!
3. Beefs up any wimpy utility creatures you no longer need into serious threats. Goblin Balloon Brigade, anyone? Or for non-insane players, perhaps Siege-Gang Commander.
4. Turns your dragons into direct damage. If you have Sarkhan in play, you can get at least one dragon before using his "ultimate". And if you are playing black and red, you probably have more dragons in your deck. I know I do.

We will just have to see. It's true Wizards needs to make bad cards to ensure power creep doesn't get completely out of control. There haven't been really any traditionally "bad" planeswalkers, yet. Perhaps Sarkhan will be the first. Be he will continue to look good to me until he's lost me a couple of games. It's going to take some bitter defeats to wear the shine off his gleaming black/red exterior.

I look forward to beginning the grand experiment sometime after April 16th

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Day in the Life of the Goblin Balloon Brigade

Scoffers get stitches! Look out folks, here comes the…
At a recent EDH game, the effectiveness of 1 Goblin Balloon Brigade was called into question. He's a 1/1 for 1 and that used to be all you needed to know. Now, people give this gem a skewed view. A skewed view, readers. So, that leaves me to sit down and invent all the awesome reasons I put this guy in my deck.

1. This is the F#$% Goblin Balloon Brigade. You're not behind a plow anymore, son.

2. Goblin Balloon Brigade has evasion. 1 red mana…BAM…you are flying. 1 red mana is easily accessible in most EDH games. No sweat. The only less painful mana cost would be something like Living Wall. And get ready to see more of that card, by the way.

3. Goblin Balloon Brigade has evasion, but only if you want it to. You can send these guys in on foot, if there's some reason you want your opponent to block.  Grappling Hook + Gorgon Flail? Yes, please.

4. Goblin Balloon Brigade is largely comprised of Goblins. Goblin Grenade? Fodder Launch? Sounds good, let's blow 'em up.

5. Goblin Balloon Brigade is deliciously expendable. When the Brigade makes an appearance, you know it is strictly on a temporary at-will basis. There is no long-term contract. There is no pension. When you need to sacrifice a creature to bring Necrosavant back into play…you know who to look for.

6. Sometimes, all you want is a good chump-blocker. Scion of the Ur-Dragon (a common EDH nemesis) attacks…he changes himself into Nicol Bolas. Who is he going to attack? Not the dork with the Goblin Balloon Brigade. When the Final Hour approaches, the Brigade doesn't hesitate. They inflate the bladder, hit the gas and take the horrible, horrible damage instead of their planewalker overlord.

7. Goblin Balloon Brigade dodges removal. Hurricane? Not going to happen. Earthquake? Not going to happen. Try again! It's classic Balloon Brigade "rope-a-dope"…you just can't catch 'em no matter how hard you try!

8. Goblin Balloon Brigade comes out of the gates FAST. If they are in your opening hand, your opponent is getting a face full of goblin turn 2, tops. Your foes are going on the clock. And if they have some piddly creature they are slamming into you with…Goblin Balloon Brigade is a "rattlesnake" to tell them as plainly as possible "look elsewhere for your cheap hits".

9. Goblin Balloon Brigade is hilarious.

10. The best reason, and I saved this one for last, is their unimposing nature. The very reason they came into question in the first place! No one EVER expects Goblin Balloon Brigade. After a number of turns on the battlefield, they gently fade away from the perception of your fellow players. In a typical 5 or 6 person EDH game, there are always going to be far greater concerns for your opponents to be worrying about. The Brigade chill out, hide in plain sight, and then STRIKE when least expected. I don't want to reveal all my secrets, but I do have Howl from Beyond in the same deck. Insidious.

This all brings us back to an important point in EDH. To strengthen your deck, put some of your cards through a little questioning. You are never going to have the "optimal" configuration for your EDH deck. And if you do…you've already lost, unfortunately. Instead, if you can list 10 reasons why your card is awesome, it probably deserves to be in your deck. If not…might be time to trade up.

Look for more lightning analysis for future cards…if you can handle it.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Wonder of Defender

News has come (last night) than one of the sub-themes for Rise of the Eldrazi will be "Defender". That's right…good 'ol Walls.

It takes some guts to bring the immovable obejects back out into the spotlight. Few nowadays play with them, in favor of creatures who can also possibly attack.

To someone like me, a re-emphasis on Walls is perfectly understandable. They harken back to a bygone golden age. A time when about 50% of the game was either themed around landwalking, or around walls.

(Wayne's World fade out)

The time: REVISED!

(theme music)

Back in the day, everybody used walls. I used walls. My opponents used walls. Every color had its own special kind of wall to block those pesky attackers.

In past-me's opinion, two Walls stood out from the pack:

1. Wall of Swords! Maybe you don't share my experience, but back in the day Wall of Swords was the poor man's Serra Angel. It did basically everything the Angel did, except help you win the game. Yet in my mind Wall of Swords will always be the bookend to White Knight in the monowhite deck playbook.

Still a good casting cost, with only 1 single colored mana requirement. Big, bold 3/5 body. Ready to take on anything. Deals with the most common form of evasion handily. Stops Serra Angel and Sengir Vampire in their tracks…two of the more annoying creatures the Revised player was likely to come accross.

But there was another wall that I would argue is BETTER than Wall of Swords. It doesn't stop flyers, and it doesn't have any power whatsoever. But still, I like it. I like it a lot.

2. Living Wall was good then for the same reasons it would be good today. All the right reasons. The mid-range defense of 6 belied an amazing resiliency…even in this jaded age being able to regenerate for 1 colorless mana is a fantastic ability.

There's better deals on regeneration, Duskworker for instance, but they are few and far between. Heck, I might even run Living Wall in my EDH deck…it blocks all sorts of critters all day long.

And the colorless casting cost…music to the ears of anyone unlucky enough to never pull a single dual land in their entire random pack-opening career. Whatever wacky combination of colors we're trying this week…Living Wall is always ready for the iron-clad defense on turn 4, sometimes even turn 2 if Sol Ring comes online.

Runners up include Wall of Brambles and Wall of Air, both weaker versions of the listed cards. And the worst Wall?

Always has been, always will. Take a grain of salt and rub it into your eye. That's how a magic player feels when he opens up a Wall of Wood. And then it got reprinted in Tenth Edition!

Legends had a whole separate suite of Walls for defense. And some additional wall-specific spell-craft I really only got a glimpse of behind glass on the "singles wall" at the local Shinder's.

Believe it or not, this card was like 6 bucks at the time. I can't imagine for it's playability. More likely, it was to lasso any new magic players with more money than sense.

The Glyphs were a cool concept flavor-wise. To tell you a little secret…I hope they bring 'em back for Rise of the Eldrazi. Not necessarily the Legends Glyphs, but the same concepts. Spells that affect defender instead of walls. People would hate them…nasty people who don't understand. But I would love them and cherish them. Especially if there were real-world literary quotes!

A Wall I've always loved, but never got to play with is Wall of Glare. Here's the perfect weapon to use your Glyphs on, if only it had been printed sooner! Any number of creatures, indeed.

The realist in me thinks the defender sub-theme will take more of a theme similar to one of the already-spoiled cards.

Mnemonic Wall. A boring wall that wants to be "bounced" as much as possible. In the same nefarious league as Wall of Roots and Wall of Blossoms. But we'll see.

There's still plenty to be spoiled.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

U.S. Nationals…in Minnesota!

Steve Port of Legion Events just announced Minneapolis would be host to this years Nationals! Huzzah!
Normally, I wouldn't get too excited about a particular tournament, not being a tourney player myself. But last year I attended the Minneapolis Grand Prix and it was a serious hoot.

Card vendors stacked like cordwood. Official WOC representative Ken Nagle awash in sweating, heaving nerd bodies. Infamous artist RK Post. Also-infamous artist Franz Vohwinkel and his helicopter-piloting assistant. People seriously playing magic in every corner.

Steve Port is quite possibly the nicest T.O. I've ever met…and definitely one of the more hardworking. The organization that must have gone into wrangling so many people…like herding goldfish…or cats.

So much Magic playing, so many things to see. I can only imagine a Nationals tournament being an even bigger show. So mark your calendars for August 21st. And you better be bringing some EDH decks.

Because after you're done losing in the Main Event, you can come over to the side events and lose some more! At the Grand Prix I never even found the official EDH side event, I ended up in so many informal games along the way.

I found my place, kicked back and enjoyed the reliable slow-roll of the world's greatest format.

Look at these sharks:

Tom Gustafson (of awesome MTGCast) is yawning because I'm making it so easy. I flail, and then I fail. I think it had something to do with his infernal Bane of the Living/Oversold Cemetery lock.

Anyway, tomorrow when things calm down a little I'll post what I meant to post today. What was I writing about? A very timely topic…Walls! Who doesn't love Walls?

So see you tomorrow

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

One Billion Mana

Members of the Wizards Play Network are beginning to receive their promotional materials, and the Eldrazi secrets continue to pour forth. Today, the world is astounded by the next Old One to rise out of the ruins of Zendikar…Emrakul, the Aeons Torn. First seen on MTGSalvation, this high-flying ancient evil has quickly spread on the lips of every Magic follower, lackey and roustabout.

My, you're a big one, ain't ch'a!

I've heard it said that in competitive magic, anything that costs over 4 better win you the game. I've also heard it said a casting cost of 7 is worlds away from 5…and a casting cost of 9 is orders of magnitude more difficult to cast than even 7.

This bad boy goes up to 15.

It seems like only yesterday I was talking about Polymorph. Emrakul would be perfect to turn your bunny rabbit into. What a dream that would be. Better then marshmallows and champagne put together.

I'm trying to figure out how Emrakul, Kozilek and presumably this Ulamog character don't wreck milling decks for all time. How hard would it be to just slip a single copy of Emrakul into your sideboard? I haven't seen the rest of the set, yet, but it just seems like right now mill decks have been royally screwed for all time.

We will have to see.

Right now, it seems simple enough to slip Emrakul into the EDH deck of my choice, and never again worry about running out of cards, no matter how many I draw in a turn using the Notorious N.I.V. I could even tutor for Curiosity using something insane like Tunnel Vision. If my goal happens to be the very last card in my deck, even then, all the cards are going right back into my library as soon as that blue aura is in my hot little hand.

Unless I'm completely misunderstanding the situation. Which does happen occasionally. Maybe I need more legs.

As a creature…he's pretty unstoppable. Unless you use Shriekmaw, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Avatar of Woe or just a plain old Wrath of God. But you only get the one turn. Because after he attacks, whoa boy! And I'm just assuming you cheated him into play somehow. Because if you hard-casted him…and you get to take an extra turn…you probably deserve to win regardless.

The last, yet-unrevealed Eldrazi Master is a creepy guy named Ulamog. All we know so far is, he has an unnatural love for the Octopi. Will he have some sort of sea monster-boosting ability? Or will he just kill everything and win you the game in short order like the other two guys?

The first 2 gave us:

1. Drawing Extra Cards
2. Taking Extra Turns

Uh, I think that means Ulamog is going to cast spells for free. Just sayin.

Oh, yeah. And this guy is a common:

Again, can't wait to see Ulamog.

Ahh! Opposable Digits!

Yesterday, two gentlemen in the U.K. powered to the tops of their national qualifier using rogue decks running the unfiltered energy of 1 crucial card: Polymorph.

You can check out the twin reports of Andrew Morrisson and and Grant Hislop over at Starkington Post, and see how this oldie but a goodie owned the Standard format all over again by putting Iona, Shield of Emeria directly onto the battlefield.

As you can see, Polymorph began it's rise to power near the beginning of Magic history. When the Mirage set arrived, Polymorph was probably first used offensively to destroy their opponent's creatures. Then, one day, someone eventually had the thought: "I'm changing his big creatures into small creatures, but sometimes I'm changing his big creatures into EVEN BIGGER creatures!"

The obvious synergy that proceeded soon after this revelation was turning your own piddly little creatures into Spirit of the Night.

Why sacrifice Breathstealer, Feral Shadow and Urborg Panther to get your giant monster of evil, when you can blow up a token or a man-land?

In today's standard, Morrisson and Hislop used Khalni Garden to generate the token (plus a lot of planeswalkers). The nicest thing about this is of course…it's land and thus cannot be accidently tutored up by the Polymorph in progress.

Khalni Garden is a great example of the maximized token producer…it does the job for no cost while also functioning as an excellent source of green mana.

In casual circles (the ones I travel in), Polymorph has begged for something like the Garden. Combined with Spout, Sprout Swarm, Scatter the Seeds and other token producers, the budding (ha!) green/blue mage can dump just about any foul beast onto the opponent's door step as early as turn 3!

And as the U.K. team has showed us…the creature-creeping folks at Wizards have provided some pretty kick-butt beasts to choose from.

So while you dream of combos tonight, may they be tinged with the image of a simple bunny rabbit, confused at the use of new appendages.

"Ahh! Opposable Digits!"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Reserved List Gems: Ring of Renewal

Way back on the 17th, Wizards of the Coast announced a change to it's infamous reserved list. Back when Chronicles came out (one of my favorite sets), the mighty Reserved List started as a way to ensure collectors could always count on the value of their precious cards. Never again would Wizards reprint these protected cards, and thusly devalue existing stock. Never would the same mistake happen as it did for the Elder Dragons, vowed the geniuses then at the Magic helm.

Long story short: Wizards has gradually backed away from strict obeyance of the List, but on the 17th they announced the List was going back into the hardest of stone, right after they reprint Karn, Masticore, Memory Jar, Mox Diamond, Phyrexian Dreadnought, Morphling, Thawing Glaciers and  Wheel of Fortune. Then never again.

Other, more talented bloggers have hemmed and hawed about it. They seem focused on cards like the original Dual Lands and weird Legendary land like the Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale.

What cards do I have left to talk about? Here, 5 days later, what leavings can I find?

Today, I'm going to look at Ring of Renewal.

Just wow. When Fallen Empires came out the bombs really started dropping. Fed on a diet of Revised and Chronicles, our jaws dropped at the strange black borders. Strangely enough, you can still buy packs of Fallen Empires for list I would jump in there and get some if I were you!

When I first saw Ring of Renewal, I can honestly say I thought it was a pretty sucky card. It took my friend Greg using it for me to see the actual applications. My eyes saw "discard a card at random". His eyes saw "draw two cards". His eyes have always been better than mine when it comes to Magic.

Once you get to turn 5, your hand is probably not as exciting as it was at turn 0. The card quality has gone down, while the battlefield is hopefully now full of awesome threats for your opponent to flail at. If you are a mind-game kind of guy(and why aren't you?), your hand may even be totally comprised of land and 1 lonely Ring of Renewal.

Coming down at turn 5, Ring of Renewal is the perfect tool for turning a lackluster hand back into something you can be proud of. As long as you don't have anything high-quality to begin with, the discarding isn't really an issue. Other than telegraphing a possible sucky hand to your oppoent, there's zero loss.

So you start discarding land during your oppoent's end-of-turn step, and hopefully draw sweet good cards. It's actually a really good way to filter your draws.

Maybe too slow for any normal rational-thinking format, I see the Ring still having some gusto in the mighty EDH(the sport of Kings).

Except not really.

Why? Because those power-creeping monsters at Wizards had to go print Emmessi Tome. You dirty, dirty, nerf herders.

I guarantee you, when Emmessi Tome came out, there was some anonymous Ring of Renewal buff crying a river. The once proud, majestic rare from Fallen Empires immediately took a 50% drop in value, and even today Ring of Renewal is trading at a 2:1 with its late-coming power-creeping backwoods cousin. What is your problem, Wizards? Do you just not care?

Anyway, some of us remain true. If you're lucky, you might someday run up against an EDH deck with a big card-filtering surprise come turn 5. The least you can do is pass him a quarter. Or 2 Rings of Renewal, if you want to stick to the same currency.

In their eternal wisdom, I really don't see Wizards sticking to the Reserved list for the long haul. No matter what they say. But if they do, the world will have to somehow overcome everpresent grief of a slowly declining supply of cherished Reserved List cards.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Objection! Enter: Willbender

One of my favorite Youtube channels is ElerDragonHighlandr, a showcase of Tampa-centric you-know-what format fun.

Here's a video that never gets old:

The degenerate fun on display is essentially this:

Man plays Dream Halls

If you see your opponent put this on the table, you KNOW he or she is up to no good. Just like the Marauder's Map, Dream Halls lets you get into all sorts of mischief. In this case, getting big bad guys into the play super fast. I covered most of them in Rise…of the Monsters!

For backup, he happens to have Door to Nothingness.

The beauty of Door to Nothingness is in it's simplicity. If you have a near-infinite source of mana, as this gentleman did, you can simply counter a spell or effect you don't like by annihilating the player casting it. The spell then drops off the stack before it resolves.

What happens next? The victim…who goaded him into using it…unmorphs his Willbender.

Most things of this kind affect "spells," Willbender is one of the few that also affect "abilities". So the guy with all the stuff uses the door, and in response the targeted player redirects it back to the original rabble-rouser. This video is what made me add Willbender into my own deck. It's about 25¢ in any bulk bin. And it saves your butt when you least expect it.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

St. Patrick's Day Aftermath

St. Patrick's Day over? Good. Reading Bill Stark's Top 5 Irish Magic Cards brought my mind close once more to the curious circus freak known as Aisling Leprechaun.

When, in the entire history of Magic has it been effective to turn any creature Green? In Legends there was always some sort of bizarre banding ability that looked for different colored legendary creatures. But never would you want your Opponent to have that privilege.

Only in the modern age have we advanced to the point where green has some real enemies.

Remember me?
And then there's Slay and Deathmark.

But traditionally, these spells have relied on creatures already being green. When Aisling Leprechaun attacks, he is most probably going to die. Unless he's running into a wall of some sort. And then whatever creature kills him, it will now be green.

At least he's appropriately costed. Instead of being a curiosity, this Leprechaun would be dirtier than the plague costed at 1G. And in it's era, 2 mana was something Wizards would have totally done. 1 green mana was supposed to give you a 1/1 vanilla. You usually had to pay extra for awesome/pathetic abilities like color changing.

Really, if these Leprechauns are going in a deck, it's a deck that needs to perversely HATE green. A deck that benefits from facing off against green. A deck that makes what it hates.

Something like…infected leprechauns.

Just like the Crazies, these poor pieces of celtic folklore are just caught in the middle.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Journey to Somewhere

Whoops! Fell down a hole to Nowhere. White's version of removal is often relegated to the role of exile…sometimes you get to destroy something if its attacking, but usual direct removal takes the flavor perspective of an individual being cast out from the group, sent so some forsaken shore where he/she/it is never seen again. 

Like Napoleon, your creature is alive, yet unable to affect the outcome of future battles. Instead it reads books, stares out to the distant horizon, and contemplates what might have been. Perhaps you get a mangled letter or two, hardly readable in their sordid idle-mindedness.

I have always been a greater fan of black. While white may get more of the "cream" when it comes to removal…black certainly isn't sending anyone on a vacation. Instead, black is sending you into a deep, dark hole. You can share your hopes and dreams with the rats, sir. They're all ears.

I think if Oubliette were remade today, it would also include equipment. This is a potential way for black to get a leg up on the standard Oblivion Ring effect while still maintaining some of its individuality. And you could still cost it as 1BB. A stronger form of Faceless Butcher, without the creature attacked. 

Something to think about for when the plane of Rabiah gets the Coldsnap treatment. Hopefully soon…eh, Wizards?

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Amulet of Kroog: a Beautiful Nightmare

When Fourth Edition swept through the world, it brought with it a bracing wind…a signal to the changing of seasons. There were many differences. Sol Ring, Regrowth and Demonic Tutor were all gone. And there were also some new additions like Inferno.

Not every new addition was met with happiness, however. One new artifact sent waves of accusation and mistrust throughout our magic community.

That card was, believe it or not, Amulet of Kroog.

You see, only a little while earlier the Antiquities version of this card had made it into our collective consciousness. A common then, we found it scattered in the singles collections of the local Shinder's amid such treasures as Boomerang, Giant Slug and Force Spike.

This card soon became incredibly powerful, coming to dominate the local metagame. And for one good reason…we didn't understand how the card worked.

You might read people's humorous t-shirts nowadays and think it was a simple concept to "tap" this or that permanent. Well, in Revised it took a while to get the hang of it, even when the cards instructed you to.

Back in Antiquities, artifacts didn't even TAP. You had to remember it in your head!

We didn't know this. The "mono" in the type line of this fine trinket meant you could use it once every turn. See Forcefield as an example of what we THOUGHT we could do with a simple common like Amulet of Kroog.

You can really make a lot of blocks go the way you want with the helping hand of a misunderstood Amulet. 6 mana added to six creatures trading suddenly turns into 3 creatures massacring 3 other very surprised attackers.

White Knights and Black Knights, in particular, suddenly started looking like the champions they were always meant to be. You could literally protect your entire army with enough mana. An in the slow moving decks we rolled with, you had all the time in the world.

When Fourth Edition reared it's head, the scales fell from our eyes with the spanking new card templating:

It was absolutely sickening for those who had spent good, hard-earned money on these gewgaws. The gnashing of teeth could be heard around the world.

While it was still somewhat good, it felt absolutely terrible compared to how awesome it once was. Only one Knight, only one point…the humanity.

I can only imagine the chaos if a Jalum Tome had snuck its way into our collections. Luckily that would wait for Fifth Edition.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Monday Six, from a Minotaur Perspective

At one point, I was going to talk about Amulet of Kroog of all things. Well, the history is past and I am once again swept up in Rise of the Eldrazi madness.

1. Well, I've already talked about Pathrazer's previously spoiled big brother Kozilek here. Many of the observations hold true. The Pathrazer offers a similarly ugly and hard-to-pronounce name to a similar creature…a big giant "fattie" with the Annihilator keyword. 

While Kozilek costs only 10, Our Man in Ulamog costs a whopping 11 for a strictly smaller body and no card draw. And it's easy to see why! Pathrazer has evasion, and he can be reanimated. Rise from your Grave! The sheer trouble this guy causes can even warrant using Corpse Dance or Dawn of the Dead. One turn is all you need to really swing things in your favor. Kozilek, on the other hand, requires something like Defense of the Heart or Tooth and Nail. Plus he totally wrecks any other graveyard synergy. Kozilek is better for EDH, while Pathrazer is better for people's crazy constructed decks where they can focus a little more. Of course, in EDH you could always run both, just to be sure.

It's important to remember that both of these big dogs indeed still die to REMOVAL. Even just a Doom Blade. But that hasn't stopped me from drooling over the possibilities for more Eldrazi.

Worried about how to defend against these unstoppable juggernauts? Magic has had the answer since the very first set, the little gem that is Icy Manipulator. Of course, nowadays we also have Blinding Mage and Scepter of Dominance. But you have to play white for those, bleach!

2. Valakut Fireboar is a Wall of Stone that is also a Ball Lightning (without the trample). In exchange for this duality, you pay a LOT more mana. I do have an Elemental deck, but I don't know if the Fireboar is going in it. Incandescent Soulstoke can throw one at your face for only 2 mana, but there are a lot of other really good elementals I would probably throw first. If it was a FLYING boar, then we could talk.

3. Prey's Vengeance. While the element of surprise is lost the second time around, the "virtual card advatage" more than makes up for it. Almost a Giant Growth, Prey's Vengeance will probably raise your creature up to at least a 4/4…in my eyes the threshold at which your opponent should be having to make some difficult blocking choices, unless it's very late in the game.

Much like Sheldon Menery, I am very excited to see what other spells will cary the "Rebound" keyword ability.

4. Mnemonic Wall. Definitely a card for the Johnnies out there. Perhaps…Johnny Mnemonic? Too Soon? This is one of those card advantage engines that people immediately ooh and ahh over. It's a pretty cut and dry card, people will certainly play it. They used Anarchist…they will use this. A crappy, crappy wall with recursion to make people jump all over it. Yawn!

5. Mammoth Umbra. Totem Armor! Mammoth Umbra has me excited, not so much for the card itself but for the promise it brings. I have always loved Auras, and always hated them at the same time. My opponents wait for the opportunity to 2-for-1 me, then I feel sad. Hopefully this Totem Armor ability is wide spread, I would like to see one in Red or in Black.

As for the card itself, 5 mana is a lot to pay for a downgraded Serra's Embrace that saves the creature it enchants. Can wait to see more of Totem Armor! Still not quite as good as most Equipment.

6. Corpsehatch. Another 5 mana spell! Why use 5 mana, when you could use 8 mana for something like Death Mutation. 5 mana is just a lot to play. 

I do like that you get 2 extra mana at a later date. This could be viewed like a Sengir Autocrat with an Phyrexian Altar built right in. If your mana is developing at the normal pace, this means you'd have 8 mana available on the next turn.  Again, this makes me wonder how many spells will have a similar mechanic. Hopefully there will be a version at least in each color. 

In EDH, Corpsehatch could be the removal spell to help get my General out of hock for one more go. The card does have possibilities. And I'm definitely hoping to get one so I can play around with it.

So there you have it. 6 cards from the coming Rise of the Eldrazi Set. 

Tomorrow…the Amulet of Kroog. Dun Dun Duuunnnn!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Secret Chronicles Tech: Horn of Deafening

We played Revised, and Revised was all we knew. Then something happened. A new set appeared down at the local Shinder's and we flocked to it. It was white bordered, and cards had a random assortment of strange set markings on them. The set: Chronicles!

While the broader history of Magic will remember Chronicles as the set that SLASHED prices on everyone's Elder Dragons (not mine, since I got 'em in Chronicles), I will always remember the most played card from this set among my personal play group.

Horn of Deafening ruled the combat phase, reducing the biggest collossus on the opposing side into a mewling kitten.

Forget about using your Frozen Shade, Serra Angel, Sengir Vampire or Shivan Dragon.

Yeah, that's right…Shivan Dragon. I'm telling you, this card was a real monster.

And with an activation cost of only 2, you could afford to play your normal game every turn as well, nullifying attacks while simultaniously working your way to victory.

I remember games devolving into a race to see who could get more Horns of Deafening out first…who could win the "Horn War" per se. It worked in any deck, and completely crushed any creature-related strategy. I'm looking at my copies of the Horn, and the only edges more worn in my entire collection are the ones on my Sol Rings.

Horn of Deafening:

Didn't die to Wrath of God.
Couldn't be Terrored.
Could be Shattered…but who played with those?

You might ask me: "Isn't this worse than Icy Manipulator?"

1. Yes, Icy Manipulator did virtually the same thing only in a slightly different way. And for only 1 mana.

2. Believe it or not, NO ONE had an Icy Manipulator at this time. Having an Icy Manipulator was like having a Mox. It was a rumor you might have heard about. Shady details, wild inaccuracies. You'd never see one in the flesh, unless it was through about 6 inches of plexiglass.

Icy Manipulators were regulated more tightly than Thermonuclear Devices.

Instead we blew the Horn. Again and again, until things settled into a long winter of artifact-powered creatureless control. Because the man with no creatures was immune, you see.

I'm looking at my copies of the Horn, and the only edges more worn in my entire collection are the ones on my Sol Rings. Horn of Deafening was used almost as much as a Sol Ring.

I recently uncovered my collection of Horns during excavations related to the building of a new EDH deck. "What the heck", I thought and threw it in.

I see some very specific benefits to Horn of Deafening in EDH, namely the enemy Generals.

A lot of 'em are either HUGE, or they have annoying abilities that activate when they do combat damage. Horn of Deafening completely protects you from General damage. Unless they have shroud, which has potential to be a concern. We'll see.

And besides generals, there are plenty of other nasties you never want getting through the red zone.

I see Maze of Ith in EDH decks all the time. Not to mention Kor Haven. What's the difference? Maze of Ith is annoying because it produces no mana. Kor Haven requires white mana.

I'm not a betting man, but if I was betting, I think I'd bet on Horn of Deafening.

Get ready to make some noise!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Quick Look at the New White Weenie

Folks have turned White Knights sideways since the beginning of Magic. Facing a wall of impenetrable first strikers was actually my first clue that…hey…I had a thing or two to learn about deck building. And I still do…sigh.

Anyway, White Knight made an appearance back in February at the San Diego Pro Tour. If you've been reading your DailyMTG, you've probably already seen it. But here is Craig Wescoe explaining the function of his deck.

Wescoe made it to the Semi-finals with pure white mana on his side, and won himself $13,000.

Looking through the deck, I am overjoyed I never had to face off against a traditional white weenie with equipment like Basilisk Collar. Enlightened Tutor would have been overjoyed. More ways to stop my ever-increasingly-pitiful Juggernauts.

Some interesting technology on Wizards' side…they have updated their deck list application so that you can actually "play out" a couple of hands of any deck they've presented.

Go ahead and deal out a few 7-card selections of Wescoe's deck here.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hassle: The Dorkening

A vital brick to any Geek Pyramid, Magic is right there in the gamer toolbox next to D&D and World of Warcraft.

Some of you may not be "hip" to the hip-hop movement known as Nerdcore, but regardless of your musical tastes it's always fun to see your favorite game slipping its way into other media, and in this case it comes from the dripping mouth of one M.C. Frontalot.

 I'll say this…I've owned Front's first CD Nerdcore Rising for quite some time, and I can say he rolls right up there with Jonathan Coulton for awesomeness.

Here are the lyrics:

I played Hassle: The Dorkening once,
had eighteen cards in my hand, all Muds,
and I didn’t seem to need a mud card to win.
Hadn’t tapped a Mud yet — then the other kid grinned.
See, he’d just drawn a battalion of rolling explosions,
plus a card that made me frozen.
Those and the roll of a twenty die did it.
My last hit point had already got hitted.
My last instant had already got acquitted.
Got called twice in a turn dimwitted:
it didn’t swell up my ego much.
I played Hassle: The Dorkening once.
And I’ll make my own game up, and you won’t know
which mode of the turn phase we’re in, and when to go,
and how to lay down cards, and at what angle.
I’ll have artifacts like Enchanted Kangol
and Mic of Spurious Rhyme Busting,
and creatures like MC Chris On Robotussin,
and MC Hawking (who tramples for ample damage).
The rules will be written in C++ and Spanish,
and hit counters will increment only.
The winner of the hand is the one who’s the most lonely
because everyone quit
mumbling about futility and shit.

A masterpiece that pulls no punches.