Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Zoo…of DEATH

Deep in the darkest depths of Nivix, there exists a Zoo, filled with the most wondrous, most formidable, most dangerous of creatures. It is here that Niv-Mizzet tests his strength, his cunning and his intelligence against the multiverse's best (and worst).
I have 7 creatures of raw guile and destructive capability, ready to take the fight to my quivering opponents.

Don't even try to escape.

In order of mana cost (most of them are pretty close)

1) Spellbound Dragon
Spellbound Dragon is like a giant flying Merfolk Looter. Who bashes you over the head with the highest mana-cost card in my hand. It could be very high! Very high indeed!

2) Ixidron
The most infuriating place to hide someone's general is back in their library. But the second-most infuriating place is on the battlefield, morphed, with no unmorph cost. Better have a sacrifice outlet! The creature itself is kinda piddly, but the field disruption is priceless.

3) Hoarding Dragon
This Dragon is a tiny 4/4 with the additional ability of tutoring up a delicious artifact. Truth be told, I have never actually played this guy since I pulled him in a pack of M11 at the prerelease. But if Trinket Mage is good, Hoarding Dragon is probably at least twice as good.

4) Sharding Sphinx
Depending on the situation, I might just stow this Sphinx under my Hoarding Dragon! If you kill one, you'll just have to deal with the other! Sharding Sphinx is a creature most people understand they need to destroy the moment it comes down…I usually get one or two thopters out of the deal, but if it ever gets more than that things tend to go well for me relatively quickly.

5) Sphinx of Magosi
Another card drawing engine that also functions as a big beater! With the mana I'll have out, Sphinx of Magosi can draw at least 2 cards a turn. If I also have Niv-Mizzet in play, that means I can probably draw at least 3 cards, 4 if you count my regular draw. And do 4 damage, enough to take care of a great many different types of critters.

6) Sphinx Ambassador
Another card I have never successfully cast. I look forward to the weird guessing game every turn where I try to pick the creature my opponent isn't thinking of. If I get lucky, Sphinx Ambassador could theoretically be a Bribery every turn. But only if she isn't taken out by removal. Fair enough, isn't it?

7) Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
This is EDH's current "bad boy", so my thoughts go in a couple directions. I don't really have any way to cheat Emy onto the battlefield. I have to save up the 15 like a regular joe. I mostly have it in my deck to prevent me from accidently getting decked. And I have a dream where I discard it to my Spellbound Dragon. But how often is that going to happen?

Will this card be more trouble than it's worth? Only actual playtesting will tell me for sure.

If my calculations are correct, there remains 20 cards for me to decide.

Sorceries. Instants. Enchantments. Maybe 1 more artifact? Only time will tell.

Thanks to all my patient readers who have put up with my slow-rolling. I only have a short period of time to work on my deck construction…what with meal preparation, chorework, kid's homework and of course Deep Space Nine DVD's.

Looking forward to the next episode, which frames Odo and Quark the Ferengi against the backdrop of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot. No, really!

However, I stand before you (actually sit) and make this vow. I'm under the peach tree, folks.

I vow this:

I will not watch one second of The Ascent until you, readers see the remaining 20 cards of my Niv-Mizzet EDH deck.

The vow is made!

One Dozen Artifacts of EDH Power

Scattered maps, old books, piles of "chimeric" on the floor.

It can mean only one thing…my list of EDH Artifacts is going up. There were many candidates. I would say 15% of the cards I wanted to add I actually found room for. Who knows if I made all the right choices.

But you never find out for sure, unless you eventually pull your bootstraps up and put the deck back together again. So I sided with progress and moved full steam ahead.

Firstly, the 1 mana cost selections…

I know Trinket Mage will be in my deck. So I should probably consider artifacts I can tutor up with this multifaceted magic-user. Turns out, there are 6 (not counting Sol Ring and Mana Vault, which I covered in a previous post)

1. Relic of Progenitus - Probably the best artifact graveyard removal ever. At least in my collection. The Relic whittles away cards from the graveyards of your enemies, or removes them all at once in the case of an emergency. And you get to draw a card!

2. Expedition Map - Search your library for any land. Which in my deck can get mana fixing, land destruction, bounce or flash.

3. Library of Leng - Getting to decide whether to discard or put cards on the top of your deck is what separates the Library from less-exciting cards like Spellbook or Reliquary Tower. I plan on having many "draw/discard" Wheel of Fortune type effects, and Library of Leng makes each of them even better.

4. Synod Sanctum - I feel an entire post coming on regarding this sac outlet. Only after a lot of thinking do the complete ramifications reveal themselves.
Synod Sanctum exiles any permanent in the game, except for shrouded ones. I have almost no shroud-effects, another conscious decision I should talk about at some point. Any permanents exiled can be brought back onto the battlefield under my control. Not the owner's control, as most cards say. The mana costs are all fairly cheap, 1/2/2. Only the first ability requires tapping.

Let's say I cast Leaden Fists. Sometime down the road, my opponent sacrifices the creature I've…uh…Leaded. I can remove the Leaden Fists from play with Synod Sanctum. For future shenanigans!

Let's say I steal someone's Sol Ring with Magus of the Unseen. I can tap it and use the mana to sock the Ring away for my own use later down the road. The possibilities are quite absurd.

5. Chimeric Mass - Late in the game I may just want a big creature to smash people with. Chimeric Mass gets as big as I want, with a converted mana cost of Zero. Also dodges sorcery-speed creature removal!

6. Voltaic Key - This makes most of my artifacts better, usually doubling the effect.

Nextly, I wanted to put some more powerful artifacts in the deck.

Without further ado, here's Bigger Toys for Rampant Amok-Running:
Well I speak LOUD…and I carry a BIGGER stick

1. Loxodon Warhammer - The power of the Brokenhammer is well-known. Any creature with hammer in hand quickly becomes a force to be reckoned with.

2. Quietus Spike - Turns Niv-Mizzet into a one-sided Wrath every time I draw cards. Cuts huge life totals down to size in only a couple of swipes.

3. Strata Scythe - Another Artifact to make any of my other creatures absolutely huge, especially in a multiplayer game.

4. Lux Cannon - Destroys permanents. Destroys them good! While the wait can be excruciating, hopefully I can have a couple other "untap" abilities on the field at the same time to help with the counters.

5. Millstone - Experimental library disruption. See my post Here.

6. Puppet Strings - This used to be an Icy Manipulator. Puppet Strings requires a little more mana for the activation and only works on creatures. But it does both tap and untap, working with a variety of my wizard effects for great gains.

As noted before, there were plenty of artifacts I wanted to fit in, but just couldn't find the room. The greatest among them is probably Horn of Deafening, one of my all-time favorite cards. Once I've actually sat down and played a few games with the new deck (whenever that will be…sigh), fully expect this card to come in to "relieve" one of my new recruits who's underperforming.

The other card that jumps right out at me is Lightning Greeves. To many this is a staple that an EDH deck just can't go without. To me, it's kind of a boring card. I certainly know how powerful it is…having watched a player sneak it onto Rofellos while I sit impotently with Wretched Banquet in hand.

But the card isn't fun. It doesn't make a creature bigger or better, only prevents attacks on said creature. People, the beauty of equipment is this: your creature dies…you play another creature…your new creature then picks up the still-steaming piece of wargear and moves on. Why deny yourself this pleasure?

Anyway, I've probably typed enough. I still have 28 cards left in the selection process.

Next up…the ZOO OF DEATH?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Homarid Spawning Bed (is Burning)

Up for thought:

remember me, marty?

Homarid Spawning Bed is traditionally not very good at all. Back in Fallen Empire times, the cost was much too expensive for the payout. Plus I don't think anyone knew you could use it "in response". Could you? I don't remember for sure. I do remember trying to cast blue creatures for the express purpose of then sacrificing them to get medium-large numbers of Homarids.

The end result is the same…my Homarid Spawning Bed is as pristine as when i pulled it from the pack. Not like my playset of Deep Spawn.

In today's modern EDH metagame, I am considering using the Spawning Bed as one of my "sac outlets".

1) Board-wide creature wipe (like Wrath of God) eliminates my new critters as well as the sacrificed ones.
2) Three mana is a lot of mana to keep open for emergency scenarios…normally I want to be casting things during my turn.
3) It works only on BLUE creatures (wa-wahhh) and not red or colorless ones.
4) An uncomfortable image comes to my mind of Homarids "doing it" whenever the phrase "Homarid Spawning Bed" is used. This is unavoidable.

1) In a deck with huge creatures, Homarid Spawning Bed (shudder) can make a BUNCH of tokens.
2) Many of my huge creatures will probably be blue, most of my small ones definitely are
3) My huge creatures are going to be the ones hit by targeted removal, like Swords to Plowshares
4) Homarid Spawning Bed acts as a rattlesnake in multiplayer games, pushing other players to use their targeted removal, like Swords to Plowshares, on other not-controlled-by-me creatures.
5) Homarid Spawning Bed works in conjunction with other sac outsets to become more powerful, since it makes more creatures to be sacrificed. Homarid Spawning Bed + Skull Catapult turns ordinary fun "redundancy" into fun SQUARED.

From past experience, the creature my enemies seem to always gun for is Niv-Mizzet himself. Something about the card draw, and the damage, and the more card draw really sticks in people's craws. They do not want him on the board. Not on a boat. Not in a car.

Niv-Mizzet, fortunately, is partially blue and would create 1/1 Homarids when sacrificed on the Homarid Spawning Bed (shudder). In fact, he would make 6 of them! How delightful.

So I'll probably use it of I can find a way to make room. The available card slots are unfortunately ticking down as we speak. There's just so many choices!

The Palatial Estate

Land: Not very exciting. Can it be made more exciting?

To make it slightly more exciting, I'm also including my mana-producing artifacts.

10 Mountains
11 Islands
1 Sol Ring
1 Winding Canyon
1 Strip Mine
1 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Creek
1 Mana Vault
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Riptide Laboratory
1 Faerie Conclave
1 Soaring Seacliff
1 Spinerock Knoll
1 Izzet Boilerworks
1 Cascade Bluffs
1 Izzet Signet
1 Scalding Tarn
1 Shivan Reef
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Grixis Panorama

A few notes:
1) I've had very little trouble color-fixing in the past, and I'm trying to be more minimalist in land selections. The Steam Vents are in my Elemental Shaman deck, since it is the only Island in my collection I can search up with Igneous Pouncer. Believe me, I am getting better use out of it there!

2)With 2 colors, anything more than a couple mana in each color is probably unnecessary. Most of the spells in the deck will either need 1 or 2 of the required color, perhaps 1 of each. No big worries.

3)Hopefully I'm not going crazy with Mana Vault. I've heard some horror stories…and once I get Fatesticher running concurrently with the Vault perhaps I'll write some horror stories of my own. This is how I ended up self-banning Curiosity. But we'll see…the right cards may never come up!

Revealing the land cards near the beginning of the process serves a practical purpose. Whenever I begin construction, the card choices are inevitably overwhelming. A little voice starts calling in the back of my head. From the prehistoric, lizard part of my brain.

"Cut some land! Cut some land!"

Never listen to this lizard. Mana screw is never fun, and it is even more never fun in a 100-card singleton deck. Always better to have too much land than not enough. I've tried to put in more "fetch" lands to get the best of both worlds…two land slots that combine into a single actual land drop. We'll see how it goes.

But regardless, these land choices are now LOCKED IN STONE. Like Excalibur.

So until Arthur comes along (and he's still resting up with the unicorns in Avalon), I can focus on the rest of my deck in sublime acceptance of the current land count.

40 more cards to go!

Monday, October 25, 2010

20 Angry Wizards (Minus 2 Wizards)

I'm still bravely sorting cards for my highly-theoretical Niv-Mizzet deck.

100 cards. Singleton.

Today I present part I: The Wizards!

My deck has always contained a large contingent from the "wizards" tribe. The robed ones usually have good effects, granting you some sort of persistent advantage, and even manage to occasionally roll up their voluminous sleeves and get dirty in the danger zone.

I've tried to maintain their numbers in the new deck. Besides Niv-Mizzet (who is a wizard), I have a full TWENTY wizards in the deck (of which 2 are NOT wizards).

In order of casting cost:

Straight from the files of Scars of Mirrodin. Vedalken Certach is either a 1/1 Wizard for 1 blue mana or a constant oppressive force against your opponent's most deadly of permanents. Works on artifacts, creatures and even LAND.

Wow. Does anyone know how to do the "Æ" symbol? I've been cutting and pasting all day. As for the wizard herself…believe it or not, I have actually bounced Slivers with this 4-armed marvel. Most of the time, I'm going to to summon up the wizard I need for the current situation. NOTE: unfortunately I can't tutor up 2 of the wizards on my list, because they are actually NOT wizards.

Probable powerhouse or instant crater? Magus of the Unseen will either rule the artifact roost or be utterly destroyed upon entry onto the battlefield. I'm hoping for more of the latter than the former.

Willbender takes the most repulsive, unavoidable of instants, sorceries and even EFFECTS and turns them to your benefit. Even successfully "bending" creature removal (I once did an Oblation) can turn my frown instantly upside down. 

A particularly armor-clad Vedalken (toughness 2!), the Mastermind saves wizard bacon for the measly cost of 1 blue mana. Rescues creatures, enchantments, artifacts, even land. A better Riptide Laboratory, on a creature body.

Where would Niv-Mizzet be without his Dragonauts? Cooking his own oatmeal in the morning, that's where. Besides meal preparation and public relations work, the Dragonauts are also a 1/3 flyer that gets bigger if I somehow manage to cast a instant or sorcery. Could happen!

I have plenty of crazy 1 casting cost artifacts. None of which I will tell you now. But very powerful, amazing stuff. GAME-changing stuff.

Okay, one of them is Library of Leng.

I need exactly uno additional Wizards to bring Sigil Tracer online, since the Tracer herself is a Wizard. After that, two mana is easy to come up with. Like many of her Wizard brethren, Sigil Tracer tends to do some good things…or else gets smoked the minute she steps onto the battlefield. Such is life!

For a while, I had Aether Adept in this slot. There are a couple reasons the artificial Neurok is superior. Firstly, it is a ginormous 1/4, great for blocking and avoiding damage-based removal. And a much more useful creature. Second, the ability happens at instant speed for quickly responding to threats. You need only bounce the thing that directly threatens YOU, instead of bouncing some big baddie that might just have its eyes set on one of your other opponents.

Okay, not a wizard. But I would be crazy to not have this guy in my deck. He does a very red-wizard-esque job of blasting evil artifacts. I think he's actually a shaman under that tunic, but I dare not look. Long story short, he's a wizard in my book and therfore gets to hang out at the club house.

Hilarity. Perfect hilarity, in a efficient, beautifully-designed package. I could no-more refuse to put the Flectromancer in my deck as I could cut off my own arm. This is actually a signed artist proof from Matt Cavota. Am I cheating? It depends on what game you're playing.

Not a wizard! Even though she is actually a spellshaper (aren't those, by definition, wizards?) Jaya Ballard makes it in due to the sheer awesomeness quiotient. Blows up Jace. Blows up Nicol Bolas. Blows up Sliver Overlord. Nukes the battlefield if I want. There's all kinds of good things I can do with this one.

Untaps any of the other crazy tap abilities I have in this deck. I have a lot. If necessary, he will Rise from the Grave to untap once again for only 1 blue mana. Indeed!

Untaps any of my awesome artifacts with tap abilities. I have a couple. Plus I'm planning on running Ashnod's Transmogrant, (also tutorable by Trinket Mage), to make whatever I need an honorary artifact.

Massive amounts of card draw if I ever get some wizards on the battlefield. This will either call down a sweeper, or it will alert me to the fact that my opponents have no sweepers in hand.

If Niv-Mizzet is on the board, Magus of the Jar turns into a powerhouse of advantage. When the big dragon isn't available, the Magus instead is just a HOUSE of advantage. Still pretty good.

Probably should have this guy in here. He's not as bad as people say. Hard to remove, and provides a potent 3-damage zap (or more, if he's wearing equipment) in an emergency.

Returns a sorcery to your hand. I've actually added quite a few sorceries, so I plan on getting some use out of this little creep. Hopefully I can get him on board with Sigil Tracer, and really start blasting people.

This guy punches the competition. Any utility "dork" is staying down once Magus of the Arena hits the field. There's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. If you can be targeted, you WILL be targeted.

The wizard to end all wizards. Virtual Wheel of Fortune, glued to a massive flying 5/5 body. 

So there you have it! Only 80 cards left to go, and some of those will be basic lands. But which basic lands? And in what quantity? Only I will know and only you will find out…in a couple of days when I post the next batch of cards.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Still Working on Niv-Mizzet

It is with great sadness that I report my Niv-Mizzet deck is still unfinished.

I took the deck apart.

I made little piles everywhere.

Profit? Not yet.

Now I'm going to be out of town for the weekend and the deck is STILL NOT DONE.

Out of the 99 cards in my now-theoretical Niv-Mizzet deck, there is one card I am fairly confident is making it in. So I'll talk about it.

The card: Magus of the Unseen. Probably likes to hang out at the School of the Unseen.

When this card first debuted I don't think people carried a very high opinion of it. I certainly never played with one, even though I imagine it would have been a good tool considering all the Wands of Ith and Disrupting Scepters floating around.

I'm pretty sure the big problem the "dies to removal" argument. Perhaps even more prevalent than it is now, people tended to shun anything with the "creature" supertype because of its fragility against stuff like Swords to Plowshares.

And make no mistake…Magus of the Unseen is definitely a lightning rod for such spells, provided your opponent has a big artifact he intends to use.

I'm hoping in the world of EDH the Magus might be either a less-conspicuous target or a good decoy to sop up removal before Niv-Mizzet eventually comes down.

If the card manages to stay on the board for a time, it's hard to imagine not getting your mana's investment out of it.

The Magus steals any artifact, and also untaps it. You can use it during an opponent's turn to steal it from them, use it, then give it back to them TAPPED.  There are a world of artifacts in EDH…any of which would give you a big windfall.

1. Steal a Crucible of Worlds. Steal it at the beginning of their turn, so they can't play the fetchland in their graveyard. Play a land out of your graveyard. Give the Crucible back at the end of your turn.

2. Steal a Mana Vault. You get a net profit of 1 colorless mana, they get back a tapped Mana Vault.

3. "Pull off" equipment like Lightning Greaves, Sword of Light and Shadow, Sword of Fire and Ice, and other troublesome wargear. Leaving a soft target for my red-based removal. Preferably also getting an attack in with a Sword!

4. Denying the use of Extraplanar Lens, Gauntlet of Power and other big-mana enablers.

Just about any artifact, unless it's a one-use sacrifice ability, will have synergy.

The elephant in the room: Magus still dies to removal. And it's only got the 1 toughness. I know from playing Niv-Mizzet that 1 toughness creatures can break your heart. Because I blow them up all the time!

So we shall see.

While rooting through my collection, I came across a pristine 5th edition copy. Bright blues and very clear text. I think 5th edition was when Wizards finally got the printing process down. Before that, plenty of cards came hot off the presses with washed colors, blurred text or un-centered borders. I have many cards from Revised and Chronicles that look like they were printed in someone's basement.

So, long story short. Magus of the Unseen. Hidden Gem? Dies to Removal. Barfs on other people's artifacts. The End.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Magicology of Combo

I've just been informed (by Monday Night Magic) as to the existence of Magicology.

The first two awesomest combos I found:

1. Library of Leng and Psychic Vortex
Do you like drawing cards? Psychic Vortex makes you draw cards and discard cards. Discarding cards back onto the top of your library lets you up the quality of your following draws immeasurably, and prevents that always-annoying decking hazard. Will perhaps try using this in my Words of War deck.

2. Anthem of Rakdos, Megrim and Pain Magnification
My Malfegor deck runs both the Anthem and Pain Magnification already, so why not throw in Megrim? Then set off your repeatable free Mind Twist using any attack or, for maximum entertainment, a spell along the lines of Burning Inquiry.

Hopefully I can come up with some stuff to add to this amazingly valuable resource. Go ahead and put your favorite card in and see what comes up!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Prerelease Aquisitions, On the March

In ancient times, I posted my best guesses on what cards I would hope to get (and benefit from!) at Scars of Mirrodin prerelease.

The randomness of pack distribution made my speculation and predictions useless. Especially in a larger set, we must face the eternal truth…you just don't know what you're going to get.

There are many kinds of shrimp, and all of them are MINE!

I'm not a big fan of buying packs. I spent too many years (what?) opening Homelands boosters in search of another Serrated Arrows. Prerelease is one of my only times to let the compulsive portion of my personality get ahold of my wallet. The two exceptions:

1) I used to get a lot of Amazon gift certificates. Then I tend to hunt things down like this Scars of Mirrodin Fat Pack. (who am I kidding, I'd still buy the Guildpact one).

2) I am constantly tormented by an imp more commonly known as the dreaded Target Extreme Value Pack. Never fall for their cleverly packaged delusion, folks.

3) Other random moments of weak will?

But at prerelease, I always get satisfaction. Having a venue to actually USE all the cards, even the "limited" fodder in a no-holds-barred contest of pure skill makes opening the packs much more worthwhile.

Unfortunately, this release's distribution was stymied due to a shared Two Headed Giant sealed pool, untouched for two weeks due to my own Howard Hughes-esque unavailability. If there are any young adults reading this, let it be known that you have more time now than you will at any other point in your life, use it well! Of course I'm pretty sure I have a better deal overall…just ask my son.

Off to school!

So what did I finally get? A big pile of cards, pulled from a stack of 8 randomly assorted Scars of Mirrodin Packs. If I had to call out 4 notables…here's what I'm seeing now.

Chimeric Mass
Better than the Coils. Better than the Egg. And most of the time, better than the Staff. No matter what time you draw Chimeric Mass, it offers up a way to maximize your existing mana for the turn. He might be a 4/4, a 6/6, an 8/8 or even a 10/10. Who knows, especially if there's a Sol Ring in the mix somewhere.

I've had a high-than-average opinion of Chimeric Staff, and now the Mass seems to offer almost the same results in a less mana-intensive package. You might dump a lot of investment into it at the beginning, but the recuring 1 mana activation is akin to free in turns going forward.

Lux Cannon

Misunderstood genius Charles Morrison piloted a Lux Cannon-themed control deck in the Indiana 2010 States Championship. Even without the use of proliferate, he was able to ramp up his superweapon for amazing destructive capability, taking him all the way to 3rd place.

Me, I'm thinking how great it will be to vaporize troublesome enchantments, planeswalkers and utility land in EDH. Lux Cannon + Filigree Sages should eliminate normally hard-to-kill targets on a fairly regular basis. In a pinch, Voltaic Key will also help.

Dopo mee gusha, peedunkey? BWAH HA HAW!

Let's continue:

Strata is the plural form of Stratum, which means a layer of rock or series of rocks in the ground. So does "Strata" mean a "series of series"? Just how much rock does Strata Scythe hope to dig up?

In Two-Headed Giant, it gave me a 12/12 Insect token at one point (only to be destroyed by Turn to Slag). In EDH there are complications…the number of non-basic land.

Say I pick "Island". There will certainly be other Islands spread out over a random number of multiplayer opponents, but how many? Could be a lot, or it could be very tiny…diluted by everyone's Minamos, Breeding Pools and Creeping Tar Pits. Unfortunately the lands it counts must all have the same name, not the same type.

No matter what plane we're in, it seems like the Vedalken are always causing trouble. To my eyes Vedalken Certach is a 1 mana 1/1 drop with a very relevant "Wizard" tribal type. Late game, he must either be destroyed (using up an effect) or threaten opponents as another Icy Manipulator. Will I have 3 artifacts on the field? I sure hope so.

The receiving of these Scars cards is a tipping point of sorts. I've had a lot of ideas come and go during my day-to-day activities. My glorious EDH decks have mutated, and now they only vaguely resemble the decks I originally listed here.

The time has come to tear down and forge anew! First up will be my Niv-Mizzet deck. I will tear it apart until not a single card sits atop another. Then I will put them together and post the contents.

why are sleeves so shiny?

When will I do this? Try Friday of next week. Between now and then, I predict more inane ramblings. See you THEN.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

More than one Mage was Driven Insane…

An idea began to form earlier this week. A very bad idea, indeed.

I had just read an article, or a forum post, or some such thing. The topic being the relative inevitability (or even in-escapability) of Sensei's Divining Top in the EDH format.

The "SDT" as some people call it. The "Top."

The Top provides 2 important benefits:

1. It provides constant improvement for your draws, combining especially with shuffle effects (like fetchlands) to make sure you only draw the cards you want.

2. It's almost impossible to get rid of, since in reaction to most destruction you can simply stick it on top of your deck.

The top of your deck. Somewhat of a extra-ordinary place when you think about it. Smart EDH players have slaved endlessly to manipulate this one single card.

There's the whole cycle of Mirage (and Visions) Tutors. The Lorwyn Harbingers.

Tutors breed efficiency and deck consistency. Sensei's Divining Top is a subtle tutor of sorts that works over long stretches of time. Always spinning away.

Obviously, the right play here would be to stick a copy of Sensei's Divining Top in my deck. That's what a rational person would do. Pick the good card, the one everyone says is good.

But I've learned something about myself in the 15 years or so I've been playing this game.

I'm far from rational. And I instinctively avoid any perceived "bandwagons". It takes a great deal of effort for me to accept an obvious, definitive advantage when I can have a questionable, obscure advantage instead.

Especially if its a card I don't own, and that other people want to pay crazy-money for.

I'll take the secret tunnel over the main entrance any day of the week.

So I plotted from my lair at the top of Who Mountain, trying to name the nameless "element" my mind was searching for. That certain "something something."

And then I found it.

For reference…My Demonic Tutor looks like it spent a few years hiding under a desk. My Sol Ring looks like it took a ride under the leg of a cafeteria chair.

The card I now hold in my hand…the borders hold the same pristine white as when I first opened it in a pack on the sidewalk outside the local Hobbytown, U.S.A.

But the grinding in my mind was relentless. Perhaps we are all moving in a circle, destined to end up in the spot we've been trying to escape all along.

The card is in a sleeve for the first time ever. And the card is Millstone.

If you think I'm crazy at this point, there's probably little I can do to change your mind. But let me point out the various interactions.

The above mentioned Tutors are in trouble, unless you tutor for a card you DON'T want to draw, in which case…well played.

Let's look at another set of cards: 2/3 of "The Unholy Trinity of Land."

It's hard to imagine any black deck that doesn't run Volrath's Stronghold. It's also hard to imagine a blue deck that doesn't run Academy Ruins (except for mine).

I've come across them fairly often, and you probably have too. Tell me, what does a repeatable mill of two do to the recursive powers of Academy Ruins? It barfs on it. It barfs all over it like an ill-tempered Garbage Pail Kid.
barf. barf.

Yeah, I could play good cards………OR I could barf on good cards. What would YOU do?

As for Sensei's Divining Top, things get a little more complicated.

The Top has 2 independent abilities:

1. Pay 1 and rearrange the top 3 cards of your library.
2. Tap the Top: draw 1 card and put the Top on top of your library.

If you stack the activations, technically you can draw a card and then put the Top third card down. 1 card away from my millstone barfing action.

In this case, I can wait a turn for my opponent to draw. And then mill his Top right into the grumper. Unless he has some sort of extra draw to bring all three cards off the top in one go. My success is certainly not assured.

But let's look at it from another direction.

IF…and this is a big IF…you are burying your "Top" 3 cards down to duck my Millstone…I've already won. There is nothing further you could possibly do to reduce my level of enjoyment of the current game.

So I'm going to be running the Millstone. Watch out! The magic of EDH is that I will probably never draw this card in a situation where I can use it. But if it happens, get ready to barf.

This Friday, hopefully I will talk about my award-winning draft picks from my shared Two-Headed Giant pool. Yes, from prerelease.

See you then.

EDIT: People more versed than me in classic Magic note that Millstone was used plenty for disruption. Even back in Ice Age, Millstone + Elemental Augury means your opponent never draws another land!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Duel Decks: Color Hosers

I was going to launch into a brand new initiative (actually, probably not) today, but then I found out about the upcoming new Duel Deck.'


My thought processes went through a couple different stages when I read this.

1. Disbelief. The last Duel Deck published not more than a moment ago was Elspeth vs. Tezzeret. The Elspeth deck is a mono-white soldier deck. Knights, on the other hand, are almost assuredly going to be mono-white as well. Because the non-white ones probably aren't out slaying dragons. My best guess, at least.

2. Further Disbelief. Another fairly recent Duel Deck was Divine Vs. Demonic. Featuring a mono-white angel deck. So we have soldiers, angels and now apparently knights. Seems pretty heavy on mono-white tribal, doesn't it?

3. Even Further Disbelief. Another fairly recent pre-constructed release was Archenemy: Scorch the World with Dragonfire.

4. Grudging Interest. So then I tried to figure these decks out. I looked again at what little information I had to go on.

For Knights: Holy Paladins, Noble Cavaliers and Swift Sky Hunters
For Dragons: Enraged Goblin Minions, Majestic Hellkites

To me, the Dragon side sounds a lot like Jund. Not the deck archtype, of course. The namesake shattered fragment of Alara home to black, green and red mana. Here, goblins and dragons worked together using the "devour" mechanic, with goblins more often then not being the "inside man" of the operation. Inside being inside of a stomach. Because the dragons eat them. The dragons eat the goblins.

the food is goblins

Would the Knights then be White/Blue? I don't think so. I really don't. Because Knights don't show up in the blue color pie. Except for Court Hussar.

Oh. Crap.

If you look at it from the right direction, this Knight Deck might very well be white/blue, since these guys are supposed to be defending the realm from the unstoppable dragon horde. Law and Order are usually White, and when they go multicolor that color is almost always Blue.

But probably not…my best guess is that we are looking at yet another monowhite deck.

What else do we know?

Swift Sky Hunters? Boring Stuff.

Noble Cavaliers? Getting More Interesting. Kinsbaile Cavalier is one of the few "Knight Lords" that would properly serve a full-on Knight tribal deck. Gustcloak Cavalier is a pretty fun card I managed to completely miss out on the first time around. This guy seems like a real monster to get rid of in the attack phase.

Holy Paladins? Now We're Talking. Paladins have always been my favorite Knight. Rather than being a simple tool of hard-to-get-rid-of combat damage, most Paladins have 1 thing in common.

They blow up permanents. Northern Paladin. Southern Paladin. Pentarch Paladin.

While the Dragons may have numerically superior Goblins and powerfully superior Dragons, I think the Knights are going to be able to destroy permanents on a grand scale.


While Elspeth used the well-worn "white weenie" technology, and Divine used the well-worn…uh…"find Akroma and cast it" strategy, I think the future Knights deck will use a slow-rolling "Rock" strategy to slowly gain advantage and remove hard-to-deal-with threats. While being hard-to-deal with themselves. There will almost certainly be some guys with various "protection froms" ready for deployment.

Of course this is all a guess based on about 2 lines of text. So worthless!

But if you were looking for worth-while content, you'd probably be reading a different blog. Snap!

Tune in on Wednesday (at some point) when I make some grand statements about some sub-optimal card selections.

Sub-optimal like three-legged foxes. Who are still pretty smart!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Importance of Hating Land

Today, Sam Black takes a look at making a couple different EDH decks.

But first, he makes sure to note his unique difficulty: "the idea of building a 'fun deck' rather than a deck designed to work well is very difficult for me to wrap my head around."

Caveat: Sam Black possesses a brain many times the size of my own. At various times when he has decreed to make the odious journey from Madison up to the Twin Cities to play guest at the regional prerelease, I have had the rare sight of seeing his presence in manifest, his thread-bare mortal shell barely restraining the glistening, pulsating OVERSOUL of pure mental energy contained within.

Never the less, perhaps I can write some things here without making myself sound like a total idiot in the process. (Not a chance!)

Much like many voices that have come before him, the article declares the card Emrakul irreclaimably ba-roken. As well as describes the totally unfair combo of Strip Mine and Crucible of Worlds.

Their banning is apparently only averted by the kindness of the EDH player base at large, and their open refusal to pursue the path of the combo to its infinite conclusion.

Now, I'm not going to measure up any of my decks to Black's decks. Both of my EDH decks are ugly, unworkable piles of garbage. Many of their card choices express the exact opposite of synergy. Antagonistic, perhaps? Whatever you call it when you Living Death your Phage, the Untouchable back onto the battlefield.

But I will say I have been utterly crushed by many GOOD EDH decks. Decks where the cards work together. And sometimes, and more importantly, decks where the cards actively HATE OUT your cards!

Any reader of Sheldon Menery's column on Star City Games should be familiar with the two most in-demand effects in your EDH deck. The first is graveyard hate. And the second is land hate.

A few weeks ago, I "played" Brad Nelson in the gunslinging challenge at prerelease. When I dragged my trembling Malfegor deck out of the comfortable darkness of its converted ammo can, his eyes immediately lit up with glee.

He guessed I would have a bit of graveyard recursion, and chose to mulligan until he found Leyline of the Void. The long story short, his booster box remained as full as ever after my departure.

Sheldon Menery, in his article, calls out what he thinks of as "The Unholy Trinity of Land".

In a deck like Black's Eldrazi deck, Eye of Ugin could perhaps be added to the list.

If I personally see any land like the above…I try to take it out as quickly as possible. Any player would. Not exactly revolutionary tech, instead these are cards you see all the time (and read about on the Internet!).

In reality there is no deck I have ever played where ultimate victory has not been achieved though at least some timely use of artifact, land and graveyard destruction. Because the combos are everywhere, and people are quite willing to use them.

Black's last deck is a Sek'Kuar, Deathkeeper build, and this one looks the most interesting to me. Much like Teysa, Sek'Kuar has any number of ways to sacrifice creatures, generate new creatures, and generally bury your opponents under a pile of tokens. Unlike Teysa, the green element of Sek'Kaar allows crazy amounts of card draw every time a creature is moved into the graveyard.

And he carries some hate in his deck (ok, the Eldrazi deck had Terastodon) in the form of Acidic Slime and Sadistic Hypnotist.

But because he's an accomplished deckbuilder, I can't help but think I'm the one who's not seeing the writing on the wall. My only theory is that these decks must be fast enough to avoid being disrupted. Which seems hard to believe, especially in a multiplayer game where people are going to see who the "problem" is as soon as Survival of the Fittest enters the battlefield.

My many loses have never caused me to complain about the competitive nature of deckbuilding. And I've certainly never felt like anyone has taken it easy on me in their quest to build a "fun" deck. Because about 90% of the population of Magic players gain the greatest "fun" from stomping all over other people's cards. And I am no exception.

Instead, each loss just educates you on what kinds of things to avoid in the future. (Say having Living Death and Phage in the same deck). I would hope no one out there is thinking any less.

I will leave this post with a lovely bit of hate machinery I heard about the other day.

Viashino Heretic
Liquimetal Coating

Nothing could be more fun or necessary in the world of EDH.

Monday, October 4, 2010

More, Possibly Better, Time Elementals

So I got really excited about Time Elemental recently. The card seemed almost unbelievably good, and ready for a go in all my blue-themed EDH decks.

And of course, I was wrong on a couple different points.

In particular, I am bothered by this quote:

"But what an ability! Return target permanent to it's owner's hand. Direct and straightforward, a powerful ability like this would be worth more in a modern set, I guarantee it. But it probably would never come up at all, considering the universal hatred for repeatable land bounce."

Turns out there are actually a FEW permanents that perform exactly this action! Cards doing it BETTER than Time Elemental, for less mana and published more recently than Time Elemental.

There are 2 cards in particular. Let's take a look at them in detail.

Better Than Time Elemental Numero Uno: Temporal Adept. Printed in 9th, 8th, 7th and Urza's Destiny.

3 mana to cast. 3 mana to activate. Requires a bit of commitment to blue, but in EDH it's not too hard to come up with 3 blue mana online after 6 turns or so. And it eliminates the goofy "permanent that's not enchanted" corner case the original designer for Time Elemental so helpfully decided to include.

Another interesting point…the Adept is a Wizard, which from my experience is a much more synergistic tribe than Elemental in EDH. Azami, Sigil Tracer and Riptide Laboratory are what spring to mind first.

Better than Time Elemental Part Deux: Heidar, Rimewind Master. Printed in Cold Snap.

A very resilient body, than can also perform small feats of blocking and attacking in its down time. And a SWEET 2 generic mana activation cost! For only 2 mana, this is most certainly the way to bounce multiple permanents every turn using stuff like Fatestitcher and Minamo.

Once again, Heidar is also a Wizard. Allowing synergy with all the other nasty wizards out there.

The "twist" with Heidar is, of course, you have to use snow permanents. This isn't really very hard, considering the existence of Snow-Covered Island, Coldsteel Heart and Goblin Rimerunner to beef your decks up with. If only Heidar was snow…but then you only have so much to squeeze into a type line.

Snow may just be the NEXT BIG THING in EDH. Many have used it just to take greater advantage of Extraplanar Lens. But I might just run more Snow for Heidar, Rimewind Taskmage, and even Skred.

I was wrong in so many ways!

Luckily, there are people out there smarter than me, most notably Meritocracy and Snow Monkey from the MTGSalvation boards. That way, at least I get things right the second time.

Hmmmmmm…Skred keeps looking better and better.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Hot Tub Time Elemental

I was watching a TV show, or something, and the main character was talking insincerely about how "back in the 90's" he spent a year dressing like Kurt Cobain. I think it was Glee.

Newsflash: Kurt Cobain dressed in flannels pretty much non-stop. People wear flannels today. Of course, he took the notion to a new level…but the sentiment still falls flat in my mind. Because it's not like it required a lifestyle change or anything. You don't have to do anything crazy with your hair or start wearing makeup or anything.

Here's something else straight from the 90's…a little card I came across in my collection. First off, its in FRENCH. Second off, its TIME ELEMENTAL.

Time Elemental used to be a very powerful card. It was in as a singleton in the winning 1994 World Championship Deck, alongside the moxes, Time Walk, Timetwister and of course Icy Manipulator.

And my theory is that it STILL has some power, at least in EDH.

Why did people stop using Time Elemental? I believe because it was too slow, and too fragile. It takes 3 turns to get it into play, and then 4 mana to use the ability. Not feasible in constructed (or so they think!)

But what an ability! Return "target permanent" to it's owner's hand. Direct and straightforward, a powerful ability like this would be worth more in a modern set, I guarantee it. But it probably would never come up at all, considering the universal hatred for repeatable land bounce.

What did Zach Dolan bounce with Time Elemental back in 1994? He bounced Mishra's Factory.

I would like to bounce Mishra's Factory right here in 2010. And I think you would, too.

The Lorywn block really expanded the world's elemental selection. They were a tribe, for Pete's sake. Elementals got crazy things like Shriekmaw, Mulldrifter and Chameleon Colossus.

Creatures like Æthersnipe and Nevermaker found ways to kick just about anything off the battlefield.

Compare Time Elemental to either of these cards. Interesting? I think I'm going to start calling this guy Clocky.

Now let's get back to the fragile part of the equation. In normal games, people are slinging Lightning Bolts all over the place. In EDH? Clocky is most likely to get the axe from a sweeper like Damnation. So it doesn't really even matter what Clocky's toughness is.

In a pinch, if you're using your Clocky right, you should even be able to return him to your hand in reaction to the sweeper…as long as you're not going crazy aggressive in which case this card probably isn't for you.

But for the folks who sit back and make their EDH game a social event…check out some flashy new tech. What can more ostentatious than having your pinky subtly at rest over the upmost corner of your Clocky…ready to deploy the tapping at a moment's notice? Delightful.

So you have my thoughts. Review them at your leisure. In the meanwhile, here are some more thoughts.

1. It works with Smokebraider mana. Both casting and ability costs. YESSSS!

2. Time Elemental is made out of clocks. Famous fantasy artist Amy Weber really likes gears and clocks. If Time Elemental was printed today,  it would probably be made out of hourglasses. Or a planetarium.

3. It has wings, yet does not fly.

4. It's only weakness…enchanted permanents. Watch me laugh. HAW. HAW. HAW.

5. This is a little worse than Isochron Scepter imprinted with a Boomerang. But it only needs 1 card. And if you bounce it, you don't lose the Boomerang.

6. That is all.

Anyway, hope you like the thoughts. Let me know.