Wednesday, April 21, 2010


When I was trying to put together my monoblack aggro deck back in high school, I only had a few choices. One of these I played around with was Bog Imp. Everyone knows Bog Imp.

What a great creature! A 1/1 flyer, for 2 mana. This card was an absolute steal back in the day, especially in a color like black. Yessir, A 1/1 flyer really took you places. One damage a turn put a man on the CLOCK.

Now nostalgia will get you pretty far in EDH. It will get you very far indeed. But it never hurts if your 1/1 flyer has an ability tacked on to it. Today, I add a card that puts Bog Imp to shame. Actually I'm pretty sure imps in general are unable to feel emotions such as shame. It's part of their infernal, cackling nature.

Anyway, here's the imp of the future: Cadaver Imp. A 1/1 flyer that's also a 



Whoa. What happened. Regardless of its other uses, the Cadaver Imp thunders over the heads of your enemies. 2,000 screaming ponies driving each wing in a death-defying blast of pure adrenaline. And it recurs a creature out of your graveyard on top of everything else. Just 2 mana buys you a front-row seat. But with this level of excitement…


Narcolepsy and Leaden Fists: FIGHT!

Elder Dragon Highlander time! Two auras enter the Thunderdome, only one will leave. Who will rule Bartertown?

First: Leaden Fists.

Up until Rise of the Eldrazi, Leaden Fists has been my go-to creature-nullifying enchantment. For 2 and a blue, you make sure a creature next untaps (naturally) ever again.

In a pinch you can make one of your own creatures beefier at the cost of never attacking…but I've never run into a case where I've wanted to do this. Might eventually happen. I suppose if a creature had vigilance…but again I have never run into the situation.

Usually I use Leaden Fists on an opposing General. This locks them into a form of blue-aligned purgatory, sealing them away from the command zone and preventing all attempts at re-casting. Unless they have a sacrifice outlet.

Of particularly delicious importance, Leaden Fists has Flash…enabling you to cast it during your opponent's end step.

Next: The challenger…Narcolepsy.

Opening my Rise of the Eldrazi sealed deck pool, I quickly came across newcomer Narcolepsy. A similar blue aura, it also appears good for keeping opposing EDH generals from having too much fun. I had such a good time de-clawing enemy Eldrazi and levelers at prerelease, I started to wonder if Narcolepsy was the new and improved version of Leaden Fists.


There are a few really good things about Narcolepsy, two specifically:

1. Costs 1 mana less! Getting the same effect for a more efficient cost is never a bad thing. Even in a format where people are routinely slinging 6 mana spells, leaving 1 more land open will invariably have an upside.

2. Automatically taps the targeted creature. If your target has Vigilance, they get tapped down by Narcolepsy. If your target is mostly defending and never taps, it still gets tapped down by Narcolepsy.

3. It won't give your target +3/+3, which can sometimes come back to haunt you if they somehow get tricky. General damage is something to be truly feared in EDH, and Leaden Fists has the consequence of increasing this vital statistic. What a horrible world if they should find a way to untap their creature!

Now for some negatives:

1. Narcolepsy doesn't have Flash. You have to cast it during your turn. It leaves a temptation to pro-actively decide on a threat before it actually attacks you. In a multiplayer game this is definitely a weakness. You never want to get involved in a spat between 2 other players. It also forces you to use mana during your own turn, leaving less mana to respond to actions in other people's turns.

2. Narcolepsy's tapping part is actually a triggered ability, and can be responded to every time it happens. Leaden Fists bestows a characteristic to a creature and can only be responded to at the moment the spell is cast.

At the beginning of your turn, you process 3 tasks. Untap. Upkeep. Draw.

During Untap, you untap all your creatures. Then, at the beginning of the upkeep phase, Narcolepsy puts a trigger on the stack that says "tap this creature".

The delayed trigger unfortunately leaves a window of time between the Untap and Upkeep phases where the targeted creature is actually untapped and ready for business. A window large enough to drive a Mack truck through. How many Generals could exploit this window?

'bout 92.

Of course, some of these are far more effectual than others. I've only ever faced off against two critters who could take advantage of the Narcolepsy window. Experiment Kraj and Mayael the Anima. And to tell the whole story, I have faced a general who could certainly sneak through the much smaller Leaden Fists window…the infernal Merieke Ri Berit.

In fact, Leaden Fists is probably the worst thing you can cast on Merieke Ri Berit short of Apathy. The Merieke player already has many ways to untap, and Leaden Fists makes the 1/1 into a much-more resilient 4/4. My Electrolyze is useless!

So you see, there are positives and negatives to each card. It will be a tough decision.

Ok, I've decided. Leaden Fists stays.

Once the factors were all laid down, it was actually easy. Leaden Fists has Flash. You are able to respond with an immediacy Narcolepsy lacks. And I am more worried about aggressors who attack me, instead of defending "walls" who do me no direct harm.

And in a pinch, Leaden Fists can neutralize any tapping "utility" creature, preventing it from generating mana, destroying other creatures or just being a nuisance.

In more situations, Leaden Fists is going to be the more effective, more powerful and more fun response. Not to mention, it makes for bigger creatures, something the EDH format should be about anyway. Even if they are completely ineffectual bigger creatures. Another loophole!

Hope you enjoyed my analysis. Any reason to talk about Leaden Fists.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My Prerelease Deck

As the seconds ticked away, I became increasingly aware that I would actually be able to attend prerelease. For months, I had been planning to go. Then disaster struck, and a family get-together threatened to put an end to all of my carefully laid plans.

I absolutely love Magic. But when the family needs me, there is only one response! Well, at least one right response. Sometimes it takes me a while to get there.

Before I know it, I'm out the door. I have exactly 41/2 hours to be back home before the car leaves to see my parents-in-law. Plenty of time to blast through a prerelease.

I get there, register, sit down and wait. Hmmmm. The judge says go. I open my packs. BEHOLD! A beam of sunlight blasts through the ceiling of Misty Mountain Games. I am seared in its unflinching luminescence. This is quite possibly the best sealed pool I've ever opened in my life.

This is the deck I made.

Pathrazer of Ulamog
2 Deathless Angel
2 Knight of Cliffhaven
2 Caravan Escort
Wall of Omens
2 Champion's Drake
2 Skywatcher Adept
Sphinx of Magosi
Venerated Teacher

Lay Bare
2 Regress
Hyena Umbra
Eland Umbra
Time of Heroes
Survival Cache
Nomad's Assembly
Traitorous Instinct

2 Prophetic Prism

1 Evolving Wilds
8 Islands
6 Plains
1 Mountain

Wildheart Invoker
Ondu Giant
Nema Siltlurker
Haze Frog
Might of the Masses
Leaf Arrow
Joraga Treespeaker
Daggerback Basilisk
2 Living Destiny
Spider Umbra

Zulaport Enforcer
Nirkana Cutthroat
Zof Shade
Curse of Wizardry
Bloodrite Invoker
Suffer the Past
Dread Zone
Null Champion
Gruul Draz Assassin
Inquisition of Kozilek
Pawn of Ulamog
2 Induce Despair
Bloodthrone Vampire
Contaminated Ground
Death Cultist

2 Flame Slash
Goblin Arsonist
Disaster Radius
Lagac Lizard
2 Spawning Breath
2 Battle Rampart
Lust for War
Kiln Fiend
Rapacious One
Raid Bombardment
Vent Sentinel

2 Luminous Wake
Glory Seeker
Affa Guard Hound
Lone Missionary

Fleeting Distraction
Reality Spasm
2 Frostwind Invoker
2 Merfolk Observer

The Games:

I get my levelers on the ground, and then they start leveling! Most of my creatures fly, and so my strategy is to power over the top of any resistance and defeat my opponents before they get set up. I have 1 counter, 1 Narcolepsy and 2 Regress for taking care of any problems. I figure the absolute worst fate for a leveler or eldrazi with umbras is Regress or Narcolepsy. Very Powerful!

1st Match. 0-2
My opponent is playing red/green. We are both color screwed at the beginning of the game, and I eventually pull out of it faster than him. The second game he makes a bunch of Eldrazi tokens and then summons Hand of Emrakul. I cast Regress. I whittle him down and then eventually Traitorous Instinct his Brimstone Mage.

2nd Match. 0-2
This is the mirror match. My opponent is also playing White/Blue Levelers. It is very, very close both games. He has the benefit of a couple of Reinforced Bullwarks. Somehow, I just manage to squeak through more damage than him. Part of the equation was having a huge Deathless Angel preventing him from getting his creatures through. 2nd round I stabilized at 4 life, and pulled out a win.

3rd Match. 0-2
I should have lost at least one of these matches. My opponent was mana-flooded both games. The first I won with little resistance. The second, he gets down Ulamog's Crusher, equipped with Hedron Matrix. I take 16 damage and manage to kill him after regressing the Crusher and overwhelming a defensive net of  Cadaver Imps with my Levelers. He was at 3, I was at 4.

4th Match. 0-1.
We intentionally draw. He gets 6 packs, I get 6 packs.

So undefeated until the last Match. All in all, I thought I was really lucky both in card selection and my opponent's hands. Sometimes you get all your ducks in a row.

I spent the rest of the weekend smiling, thinking of double Deathless Angels. Such fun. 

Anyway, if you have a better deck for my card pool, please let me know!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

ROE: My Picks

These are totally skewed to my interest level. Not a lot of white or green, since I'm not focusing on decks in those colors right now. But here are my personal top 8, as they apply to me. Don't get these if you aren't me, I already called ultra-secret-dibs.

Numero Uno on the List

I oohed and aahed like the rest when the big Eldrazi lords were spoiled. I was going to get one, and then the other. But now the Eldrazi I most desire isn't even a mythic. It That Betrays will eventually be going in my Malfegor deck. I will also be adding some more sacrifice effects, since this turns any equal trade (like with Innocent Blood) into a total blowout. Combined with Malfegor, and I get to practice my mad scientist laugh. "HA HA HA! NO ONE CAN SAVE YOU NOW!"

Here's another good one I might have to add to my deck: Akki Blizzard-Herder.


Copying spells is awesome. Will probably be replacing Sigil Tracer in my Niv-Mizzet deck. I'll also be trying to add

Since I have a lot of activated abilities. The -2 really hits a happy sweet spot in my deck, for instance helping Riptide Director activate a whole lot more often.

Back to Malfegor. Originally, I was very excited about Baneful Omen. Now that I've had a chance to think about it, the better choice is going to be

While the damage is less intense for Curse of Wizardry, it also offers a far lower profile. It doesn't actually kill anybody. It just slowly cooks them by degrees. I think this is going to get destroyed a lot less often. Plus the cost is nicer, especially since I want to get it into play before I discard my hand to Malfegor. It's a win-win, plus I predict it will be incredibly cheap to get ahold of.

Did I say I was already adding more sacrifice effects to my deck? Well, I may just have to add the next card as well.

Not quite as good as  Scavenger Drake, but it is more affordable to get out. Hopefully won't cost a hundred dollars or anything, but I thought the same thing about Basilisk Collar. Boy was I W-R-O-N-G. Will get the new Beetle if I can afford it.

How about that planeswalker? No, not the good one. This one:

He's extra card draw…an extra SACRIFICE EFFECT…What more could you possibly want.

Last two…utility artifacts. Don't need these are much, but might try to get either if they aren't too expensive.

It's good to make your general huge. Doesn't do anything else interesting, but could be a game-ender in the right situation.

Angelheart Vial is both life gain and more importantly card draw in one handy package. Because it costs 5 to get out, I'm hoping this will be a cheap addition to one or both of my decks. Once the initial cost is paid, 2 really isn't so bad at all for 2 life and a card.

So there you have it. My initial picks. Am I crazy? Probably…but my mushy-headed card assessment skills are pushing these gems to the forefront. Hopefully everyone else, especially in the tournament world, leaves these cards the heck alone.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Sleepy Sleepy Slivers

After Ross departed for the evening, the Slivers (Mike) and the Wizards (Me) got into it for REAL. Like a bee hive and a wasp nest sealed inside a garbage truck, and thrown off the Empire State Building. Buzz!

There were 2 defining MVPs of the game.

In the Wizard Corner: Magus of the Arena

For 6 mana, you get the biggest, most spine-breaking human wizard in the contemporary magic player's arsenal. Unless you have a gravel-maker nearby to chuck this guy into, he's a pretty tough foe. I found most slivers well below the 5 power to put the exchange of damage happily in my favor. And he can do it repeatedly, every turn if need be. The ideal multiplayer effect.

In the Sliver Corner: Hibernation Sliver

The Slivers tend to start out inconsequential, and then become highly aggressive and problematic a second after you realize you should have done something about them. Hibernation Sliver was the breaking point here. At the beginning of the turn, all slivers were susceptible to removal, blocking, attacking, all that sort of thing.

After Hibernation Sliver, these options were largely denied to me. If the blocking situation got unexpectedly bad…"poof" he just pulls out the Slivers in trouble for a measly 2 life each. If his Sliver gets targeted by something (like the Magus), "poof" end of problem.

Eventually, I was reduced to targeting the Hibernation Sliver during the Sliver player's end step, and then blowing up something good during my next turn. I was destroying Slivers at the rate of 1 every other turn (not fast enough!), leaving the Sliver player plenty of room to keep casting Slivers, and keep up his offense.

Almost certainly would have lost if I hadn't top decked Vicious Shadows. This enchantment turned the tides, creating a synergy (in my favor) between the Hibernation Sliver returning Slivers and the Sliver player taking damage based on hand size when creatures went to the graveyard.

At the time Vicious Shadows came out, I was at about 8 life and certainly would have lost the following turn. I was on the edge of my seat, and the interplay between assigning blockers, targeting effects and layering responses keep my brain working on overdrive. Overall, a very fun game.

A Crisis of Land

Where does the land go? In any format, one of the worst things you can do is start to skimp on land. It's a constant temptation to run lean. You want to get just 1 or 2 more really cool spells into the mix…and then you pay the price.

Aware of this, it comes as a shock when I see my deck get mana-screwed in two consecutive games. There are only two people to blame. The deck and the pilot. When there's only 5 land after 10 turns, the answer is obvious. Someone dropped their mana base in the cackie. There's only one solution to this mess.

After much arguing, after a lot of strong emotion…it's time to send off 2 unlucky spells. And they are:

1. Pentavus - I'm sorry, Pentavus. You were going to be so good. You're a big fattie that can split into lots of little guys. What could ever be wrong with that? Truth be told, you don't do as much with 7 mana as some of the other guys in the deck. And you're a Construct…not a Wizard. If you maybe made tiny little wizards, we could probably negotiate. It really boils down to this: you've been in my deck for quite a while now, but I'n never excited to be casting you. I'm always wishing for other cards. And sometimes that card is something so simple as an additional land.

2. Diviner's Wand - I've got stories to tell about you, little wand. Like the one time I actually got to "twincast" a Decree of Pain using my Sigil Tracer. You counted as a wizard that one time, and it really did some awesome things. But while my memories are warm, I have to make some hard choices here and you don't live up to your end in a lot of games. Look at the facts. You're annoying to cast, and you don't do enough with the mana I give you. Look at Quietus Spike, for Pete's sake. I've got many ways to draw cards, and you are the worst way, except for perhaps Cephalid Scout. And he's a creature with evasion.

The deck will feel different, but hopefully for the better. If you've got a better idea, let me know. But for now, these are the cards getting the axe. The blade is sharp, and the executioner is skilled.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Stealy and Punchy: Two Great Tastes Together At Last

They steal…and punch!
Steal…and punch!
Steal steal steal!
Punch punch punch!
it's the Stealy and Punchy show!

A recent game has got me thinking about "stealy" effects, and the perfect convergence of effects that is the "Grixis" color wedge. My opponent was playing Crosis, the Purger.

While not exactly discarding a lot of my cards (I was playing Malfegor) he did find some time to play the "stop hitting yourself" game early and often. When I thought I was swinging in for some serious damage, instead I was cruising for a bruising. 

In particular, his tools were these two cards:

When you are playing EDH and you've taken an equal amount of damage from your OWN general as well as your opponent, you know events are not proceeding on the intended path.

The one creature left alone most of the game was Living Wall. Perhaps the secret here is to use creatures that cannot attack! Ah-ha!

In the old days we had Control Magic, and we liked it. We used it. We loved it. But Control Magic is straight-laced traditional blue…it gains possession of a creature and then lets you keep it. And you have to wait a turn to smack your opponent with it.

Somewhere along the way, it was determined that Red would also get a slice of the stealy pie. But its "stealy" effects were temporary, and usually also granted haste. See Threaten and Custody Battle.

"Pure" Black usually steals things from the graveyard, although planar chaos gave us the totally awesome Enslave. More commonly, Black is responsible for "sacrifice" effects, like Cruel Edict, conveniently slicing through the most indestructible of creatures like a warm knife through butter.

Once you see all these effects together, it starts to form a very convincing narrative.
Stealy. Punchy. Stealy. PunchyStealy and Punchy. It's like every 2 or 1 cards in your deck forms its own little combo.

I have never faced off against it, but it's my understanding that one of the "hottest" cards right now in multiplayer EDH "punchy stealy" is Herald of Lesrac.

Definitely a guy you never want to meet at the local White Castle. The secret sauce here is a cumulative upkeep payment that is actually a benefit, much like Braid of Fire. And in a multiplayer game, you'll probably never run out of lands to steal. I imagine this card being the quickest, easiest, most sure-fire way to pull that Wrath of God out of your opponent's hand.

Red also has some great weirdo land stealing in the form of Conquer and Orcish Squatters. And it also occasionally steals people's artifacts.

So when you're playing Bribery and Acquire, consider that by going 3-color you could be doing so much more. It's like a whole new world.

Tonight (or this morning) the most recently spoiled card to get my attention is of course Consuming Vapors. This seems like a perfect addition. Since it gives you a benefit for doing what you were going to do anyway…blow up creatures. Definitely good enough for multiplayer, since you even get to do this neato trick TWICE. Aim for the guy with the dragons, probably.

I can't say I'm too excited about most of the "Eldrazi" related stuff coming out. While the sheer majesty of the Elder Spawn still somewhat overwhelms me, the magic has worn down somewhat in other areas. But the allure of rebound still grabs me, as well as the "low mana cost" matters type cards. Will keep watching the spoiler lists like a complete sucker, have no fail.

See you in the pits!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Mucilage Man: Legend of the Black Wall

Back in ancient times, Magic was more about "not losing" than ever winning. A spectacular tool in the "not losing" race was given to Black, in the form of Will-o'-the-Wisp. So many hyphens. So hard to get through. Traditional "good" creatures typically didn't have trample (even Shivan Dragon!) So the Wisp would be there, and there we would sit, staring at each other. Sometimes I miss those times.
In large multiplayer games, the stall strategy has found renewed life. When presented with many opponents, the last guy you want to go after is the one who can soak up all the damage. I have most recently come up against the persuasive powers of Mischievous Poltergeist, and there are few more-persuasive cards to keep me attacking someone else, except for perhaps Dread.

And trample still doesn't see a whole lot of play. EDH general damage comes largely at the reins of Kresh, Rafiq and other "tanks" who may each develop obscene levels of power, but require special equipment for the steamroller effect.

As we enter Rise of the Eldrazi, my hope beyond hope is that Wizards chooses to reexamine this design space. Will-o'-the-Wisp was printed as late as 9th edition, meaning R n' D still considers this type of effect to be Black's domain.

Let's start with a small, unassuming body. A 1/1 or a 0/1. Give it regeneration. Give it flying. And here's the the best part…give it defender! Few have ever attacked with the Wisps, so why not make it official. A happy part of the overall Defender subtheme. And it would combo will all the other Defender Cards.

Is it too much to ask for a Black version of Wall of Denial? Considering the Wisps were in 9th, and once upon a time Black had access (and us EDH'ers still do!) to wonderful, magical Wall of Shadows.
Now is the time, Wizards. Make it flying. Just make it fly. It's all I ask.

Right now, Rise of the Eldrazi is a world of unshaped dreams. Until every card is spoiled, we can carry the hope that our own pet designs will arrive into the official card pool in recognizable form. Rise of the Eldrazi is supposed to be a slow format: let's go ahead and gum up the works right!

Until the cards are spoiled, I will believe.

Copy it TWICE!

I'm reading some seriously wet blanket stuff about the new spoiler card…Echo Mage, and it leaves me wondering if people actually read the card. Now I can't honestly say how this will do competitively, but people are saying they won't even put it in their casual decks.

True, you have to pump a lot of mana into him before he does anything. But once he is online…copying spells is one of the more broken activated abilities there is. And for only 2 mana. If Echo Mage is properly set up over a couple turns, he is going to throw some serious chaos into things.

I'm going to give you my limited experience with another card. The card is Sigil Tracer.

Anyone out there who has even used Twincast…Sigil Tracer is the proverbial Twincast on a stick. Sigil Tracer beats out Izzet Guildmage, because you can actually copy the spells you want! She is the same cost as Echo Mage, but you needed two extra wizards to make the ability work.

In a crazy casual (maybe even EDH) multiplayer game, what kinds of spells are you copying? Enchantments and Artifacts rule the day, so actual spell-spells tend to be big. Some I've seen:

1. Decree of Pain
2. Tooth and Nail
3. Rite of Replication
4. Flame Fusillade
5. Conqueror's Pledge

Copying a huge game-breaking spell takes all the momentum and puts it heavily in your favor. The few times it's worked, the results have been delicious. Sigil Tracer does have a major handicap in that your oppoenents will stop at nothing to keep your Wizard count below the critical mass of 2 + Sigil Tracer.

Anything will do it…a lightning bolt or even a shock. Pyroclasm and Infest both tend to get rid of a lot of wizards in 1 fell swoop.

Echo Mage, on the other hand, is a bigger kind of Wizard. He grows the more mana you pump into him, and no matter how much mana it takes you are only ever down one card if he bites it. Maybe you even have something like Lightning Greaves or Whispersilk Cloak on the board. It's not unheard of.

If people are sitting around waiting for something to happen, sticking 2 or 4 mana in Echo Mage can be easily accomplished, leaving enough untapped for a suddenly-needed counterspell.

Leveling up is in easy payments of only 2 mana…and only 1 blue. And it can copy a spell TWICE. Every time I think of TWICE, me head explodes and I have to glue the bloody chunks back together again.

Ask me if I will be upgrading Sigil Tracer to Echo Mage if I get a chance, and the answer is a loud, sloshy YES without a moment's consideration. I will be happy to have him.

And if you're wondering what my Red/Blue Wizards deck looks like…here it is! I decided to post the current version. I never get sick of making card links! Okay, maybe once or twice.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I Guess I'm Just Going to Have to Trust You

When Lorywn block came out, one of the pre-constructed decks stuck out to me. The deck was Elementals' Path. Each deck focused on one of the Lorwyn "tribes," and this one was of course Elementals.

Elementals are pretty powerful folk, especially in Lorywn. They usually have some type of comes into play/leaves play ability, or at least an activated ability of some sort. And their king, who came in the deck, is a pretty powerful dude all by himself. Horde of Notions.

I would consider my current Elemental deck to be the "meanest" in my collection, just because of the constant recursion and re-triggering effects. Shriekmaw is pretty awesome, when you Animate Dead a Shriekmaw, it's just ridiculous.

Now we come to EDH. Of course Horde of Notions has many varieties of EDH deck. Even without any of his elemental-related abilities, the Horde is still a 5/5 with vigilance, trample and haste. A lot of people just use him because it allows access to all the colors of Magic. Like this guy, as presented by the fine EDH experts on Youtube, ElderDragonHighlandr.

A really nice deck, showcasing an "aggro" side of EDH many people don't give a fair shake. And this gentleman is also obviously a collector…I am too! EDH is great way to show off cards from across the entirety of Magic's history.

This brings me to an issue that has carried, along with these cards, throughout the duration of that time. The subject: Forign Cards. Cards that, as us mostly English-reading readers, might have a tough time understanding.

I am in the minority, I know. And I think it's at least my fault because I perhaps lack a certain level of confidence. But I find it annoying when I can't read my own cards. Especially if they are a spell that's sort of complicated. Lands aren't as bad. Horde of Notions might even not be too bad.

He has a fairly simple ability. Although I'm trying to remember all his abilities without looking at the English version, and even now I'm having a tough time. Vigilance. Haste…and 1 other ability. It should be really easy to remember.

Anyway, as long as they are willing to explain it to me, I don't mind other people using them. And ultimately, I know the oracle is pretty handy regardless, since the older a card gets the more screwed up it typically gets.

Just make sure you remember how your Myojin of Life's Web works, because I sure as heck don't. Except the part where you only get the counter if you cast it from your hand!
Still looking forward to prerelease. What kind of deck shall I build?