Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Edric, Spymaster of Trest…and Arcane Denial

So apparently the 3 generals spoiled on MTG Salvation weren't supposed to be spoiled. Which is why all my leech-rific links a couple posts back stopped working. But nevermind!

I see the ruling council at MTGCommander has gone ahead and "officially" spoiled Edric, Spymaster of Trest. Still in my opinion the best general out of the three promos leaked.

Genomancer makes some really good points about the survivability of the Spymaster. Your opponents are definitely going to want to draw a few cards first before they try to take him out…if even then.

He also makes the point that Arcane Denial is the best counterspell in EDH. Wha?

Now I have to go look at this card.

There are two things I know. The elders of MTGCommander have been playing the format longer than anyone. And now, after checking, I also know that the posted decks over there are filthy with Arcane Denial.

What's so good about it?

1) It's a hard counter. It can target any kind of spell; creature, vegetable or mineral.
2) It's easy to cast at only 1 colorless and 1 blue mana.
3) It lets your opponent draw 2 cards! Why would you ever want your opponent to draw 2 cards?
4) It lets YOU draw a card. Yay, I love drawing cards!

In a multiplayer game the balance of power is always hanging by the most delicate of firmaments. When you counter someone's spell, especially if its a spell they were really excited about, you are making an enemy. It better be a really good spell you are getting rid of.

Plus card advantage is a funny thing in a typical multiplayer game. I have read something over and over again and it makes sense: A traditional counterspell makes both you and your opponent inherently weaker. You both lost cards while some third or even fourth chucklehead gets to keep all of his while plotting to destroy you both.

Arcane Denial, on the other hand, rewards both you and your rival spell-caster, still negating whatever threat was pointed specifically at you. Unless you are heading towards the end game, and you are clearly ahead, no one is going to feel any animosity. The balance of power is maintained.

As I probably stating when building my Niv-Mizzet deck, I love my bizarre L.A. Williams counter spell. But now I find I'm going to have to search my collection in case an Arcane Denial just happens to be lurking in there somewhere. Because it just makes sense.

Monday, May 30, 2011

An explanation for my performance last night

Dear random 3 guys I ran into online last night,

You may not remember me exactly, because there was a lot going on. I don't know how long you were all waiting for that magical 4th player to join up, but in retrospect I probably wasn't the guy you were looking for.

True, I wasn't the only one screwing things up. There was the guy who put a Ulamog down off his Lurking Predators, only to have one of the other players point out Lurking Predators required 6 mana to cast and he had only 5 available. He had to do a little backing up to get things right, but it wasn't that much of a hassle. And what a card to have on top of your library!

What was definitely a hassle was the guy acting like he had never played before. And that guy was me. Because I hadn't.

Oh I've played Magic The Gathering: Real Life Edition. I would consider myself well-seasoned, like a peppered flank steak, in this regard. I've built decks with Brass Men in them. I've played in game stores, kitchen tables and many various cafeteria spaces. I am old school.

What I haven't ever used before is this amazing new bit of German card-game playing software all the kids are talking about nowadays. My online magic playing experience, up until this very night, was limited entirely to intro decks in the Magic Online Free Trial Room.

Now we come to this evening.

I probably should have practiced a little first with the interface. But after spending an hour trying to reconstruct my EDH deck in the deck editor, I just felt like diving right in. Sink or swim, I figured.

The first clue that maybe I was a noob was the empty hand. Once I figured out how to draw cards, things got a little better. Until I realized I didn't have my general and had to dig him out of my library.

Many of these little confusions caused the game to slow down to uncomfortable levels. Fortunately I am a quick study and managed to pick up most of the nuances so I was doing okay towards the end of the game with the basic commands.

Except for two areas.

1) Passing the phases. Apparently its common courtesy to pass the phases through instead of just hitting "end turn." This gives the other players the appropriate time to cast spells they might be saving. It was explained very patient to me several times that an easy way to do this quickly is by hitting "control space".

Unfortunately, there is one more complication I should probably explain. I am using a Macintosh G4 Powerbook from 2002. I don't have a "control" button like you do. My "control" button seldom does the function you expect, instead I have to switch over to an "open apple" button for my "control" button needs. But in this instance, neither "control" nor "open apple" plus my space bar made any kind of progress towards advancing my phase.

Instead, I found myself having to go up to the phase menu and manually selecting each phase in turn until I found the phase I wanted to be in.

2) Another aspect of my unusual computer arrangement was the arrows. In this actually rather well put together program, there are arrows you can point to show targets of spells and defenders in an attack. I completely failed to ever get my arrows working. When you all insisted I "right click" to point my arrows at the permanents I was trying to target, I was fighting instead with a single cyclopean "click" button in the center of my trackpad.

Now here is another fun fact about my Mac…it can do right clicks. I actually right click all the time. But the way you right click is by holding down the "control" button (not the command button!) while clicking normally. But in this particular game, that action seemed to do nothing.

So I ground the game to a halt, and I was mana-screwed to boot.

So here are some promises I make before I dive into my second multiplayer game.

1) I will put my commander in my sideboard.

2) I will figure out how to muligan my hand until I have colored mana to cast my spells

3) I will read whatever support forum is required to figure out how the other Mac users out there are right clicking and command-spacing (or control-spacing?).

Note: I love the fact that Cockatrice even runs on a Mac, let alone an ancient machine like mine. The speed was actually quite snappy to my amazement. If Magic Online had a Mac client, I would still be out of luck because it would probably only run on Intel processors. (I ran the Trial Room on my wife's computer)

4) I will practice drawing my targeting arrows.

Until I do all of these things, I will stick to "paper magic". Which has being seeing a lot of Quicksilver Fountains lately. Which I was going to post about today. Until I randomly decided to give this whole "online" thing a go.

How did the game end? The winning player used a quickly-deployed Emeria Angel to manufacture a bunch of birds for a killer Radiant, Archangel. He used Catastrophe to get rid of the few lands I had played. Leaving me with Goblin Tinkerer and Goblin Balloon Brigade as my permanents. I hope you enjoyed that destroyed Mana Crypt. Which you apparently did, because it did nothing to stop your onslaught.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Spying on the new Commanders

Three of the new EDH commanders were spoiled last night.

1) Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter. This is a big, giant, scary guy. Flying and lifelink are always a potent combination period. But the two abilities makes the card even more interesting. Not exactly creature removal, more like a repeatable Innocent Blood. And there's no way to stock-pile counters so you may end up wasting a few if something small really needs to be blown up. Suited to a very aggressive style of play, this Commander is going to get blown up in so many different ways during the average EDH game.

2) Skullbriar. I like that he is an elemental. Anyone who already has a Horde of Notions deck will be lining up to add this card. I get a hearty chuckle building up deep down in my belly just thinking about it. What other kinds of counters would you want to put on Skullbriar? Divinity counters, it has been suggested. Otherwise Skullbriar is going be blown up again and again (but at least he keeps his counters!) Who is Skullbriar's arch-nemesis? Giant Oyster.

3) Edric, Spymaster of Trest. This is my favorite. Some might call him a "group hug" general, but rather Edric is actually more of a "group slug" general. He encourages all your opponents to attack, as long as they are not attacking you! Of course you get to attack and draw cards, too. In addition, I don't see this card being high on people's radar for removal, either. I'm taking a stand…Edric is the best one of these generals by far.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Giant Growth is out!

The annual "Core Set Survivor" post has come and gone, and now we find officially that Giant Growth will not be in the M12 Core Set.

I was 100% sure Giant Spider would be the one to leave. I even had a headline picked out…"Step On Spider" in homage to the They Might Be Giants song. But it was not to be!

I have opened many Giant Spiders in my packs. And it looks as though I will continue to open many more.

There are a couple of theories floating around about what card will be inserted into the set in Giant Growth's place.

1) Might of Old Krosa - This provides a similar pump and also clearly illustrates a difference between casting your spell during your main phase or casting it at the very last second during combat. Then again, why would we want to encourage beginning/inexperienced players to cast their Giant Growths during the main phase?

2) Primal Bellow - Pumps creatures in a similar way, with a heavy emphasis on Forests. Makes you want to go "all-in-green".

3) Rancor - The perenial favorite guess for reprinting, always submitted by seasoned magic card optimists. Racor will come again, but no man on this Earth knows the time or place. We must be always ready for when it arrives.

4) Shrink - I have not seen this speculation anywhere…so I thought I would just make it up. Shrink is like the opposite of Giant Growth, only it doesn't affect toughness. Kind of a bummer, actually, the more you think about it. This thing was in Homelands, people.

5) Unnatural Predation - A Scars of Mirrodin variant, Unnatural Predation just gives a bump of +1/+1 but then gives your creature trample. Green loves trample and smashing into things. The one thing I don't like about this spell is that it was made obsolete by a Charm spell printed 9 years ago.

6) Brute Force - I like the cut of this piece of speculation's jibb. Putting the color-shifted version of Giant Growth in the core set would throw the balance of power completely out of whack. Who knows, maybe red will be the color of pump spells from now on. Just like how Prodigal Pyromancer moved the "pinging" ability of Tim over to red for the duration. What's the only thing keeping this idea from getting more traction? Evidence. Copious amounts of evidence from every expansion set just about ever…they always have a green pump spell. They turn up like those pine-scent air fresheners in cars.

7) The Runclaw Bear scenario. There was a huge hub-bub when Grizzly Bears was eliminated from the M10 core set. What could possibly replace it? Turns out the replacement was Runeclaw Bear. Giant Growth could get the same treatment, with an identical green 1-mana instant called something like "Biggerize". I would cast that.

8) Something completely new. They haven't worn out all the different versions of green pump yet. Perhaps they have a slightly tweaked new card in the works. Always possible.

Finally, here is my personal completely unsubstantiated prediction

NINE) Battlegrowth. Did you feel the ground shake just a little bit?

Battlegrowth isn't super impressive. But it has a couple things going for it. We just visited Mirrodin, and Battlegrowth was nowhere in sight. Instead, we got the aforementioned Unnatural Predation. Why?

Battlegrowth adds a permanent +1/+1 counter to a creature. The new Mirrodin/Phyrexia block featured the "Infect" mechanic which bestowed -1/-1 counters. The Wizards designers have said previously they never mix +1/+1 counters and -1/-1 counters in the same block for simplicity's sake. But as the Lorwyn/Shadowmoor dichotomy has shown us, they LOVE putting them in adjacent blocks.

Will M12 be using +1/+1 counters? YES. We already know this because Bloodthirst was spoiled. Bloodthirst…+1/+1 counters…Battlegrowth. Connect the lines and the pattern's been there all along.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

5 EDH Thoughts on Flameblast Dragon

I wasn't very excited either when I opened a Shards of Alara pack and found little old Flameblast Dragon staring back at me.

Flameblast Dragon is confirmed to be in the new core set. There is a lukewarm response so far, which is only understandable since our scaled friend is just plainly good and certainly not overpowering.

Here are some quick observations I had about Flameblast Dragon.

1) You can tutor for him with both Ethreal Usher and Netherborn Phalanx.

2) He is repeatable removal. Flameblast Dragon switches from the traditional red mana pump of Shivan Dragon to essentially a triggered Blaze ability. Or in Revised-speak, "Not-quite Disintegrate and not-quite Fireball". He can target creatures or players (or planeswalkers!). His ability uses mostly colorless mana, perfect in a world of cheap artifact mana and often multicolor mana bases.

3) The ability is triggered by him attacking. But it works completely independently of the Dragon's combat phase. The ability happens before blockers are declared, so you can roast a defending creature before it even has a chance to block. Of course your opponent can always just choose a different creature, and if he has a load of 1/1 flying tokens he will be able to chump block you.

4) On the other hand, chump-blocking is somewhat ineffectual since he can use his ability to roast your opponent directly.

5) Finally, in multiplayer games Flameblast Dragon can attack the most defenseless player at the table which simultaneously roasting the defenses of the most protected/threatening player. This seems very powerful to me, with the only negative aspect to consider being the tapped dragon at the end of your turn. You will need some type of defense when retribution comes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Plus One Plus One Counters

So the Bloodthirst mechanic is definitely coming to the new Core Set.

Time to talk critically about it, yet?

One direction bloodthirst development was well explored in Ravnica block was making your vanilla creatures bigger. The "Gruul" clan, represented by the red/green color combination, were all beserkers anyway so bigger beatsticks usually suited them well.

A few of them were more tricksy. Burning-Tree Bloodscale was surprisingly powerful, getting bigger while using a powerful reverse-imp ability to get rid of weaker utility creatures.

Few of the original Gruul cards would be what you would call "clever" cards. Now that the Core Set will be presenting Bloodthirst from a non-Gruul perspective, I'm hoping to see two exciting innovations.

1) Bloodthirst in colors other than red and green. Can all colors be made to fit the battle-hungry "bloodthirst" mechanic?  I personally think so. Definitely in white, black or green. Blue? Typically not hungry for battle…unless they make a cycle!

2) Bloodthirst abilities that do things other than make a creature better in combat.

The heart of Bloodthirst is putting +1/+1 counters on your creatures. You do that by causing damage, usually by attacking. If you are attacking, you must already be doing ok in the creature department, being either faster, bigger or smarter than your non-blocking opponent. Particularly if they know you are running Bloodthirst in your deck.

Getting a bigger creature after you already successfully attacked is somewhat like giving the mouse a cookie because he doesn't have anything to go with his milk. He gets his cookie, but only through a weird and unnatural progression of events.

What I want to see more of are cards similar to the often neglected Skarrgan Skybreaker.

I've been trying to build decks out of him for a long, long time.

Not only do you get a big creature, you also get a powerful board-wiping ability. Smash in with the Skybreaker, and if things get crazy you can always blow up the board and start over with some more creatures (hopefully with bloodthirst enabled!).

I even had a combo worked up using Deathrender where I could kill my current creature, play a Skybreaker for free, and then blow him up to clear the board.

My problem, eventually, was the cost and the inconvenience. Compare Skybreaker with the more commonly found Bloodfire Colossus.

With the Skybreaker you are paying one less mana stretched across two different colors. And you have to enable Bloodthirst to get maximum value out of the Skybreaker!

Or, for 7 mana in Red you can just cast a helpful instant called Inferno which we've had since The Dark.

One of my favorite red cards from recent sets was Ashling the Pilgrim. Gets bigger and bigger, can eventually be exploded into a sweeper. 2 to cast, ability is a further 2. That's how we should be doing Bloodthirst, Wizards.

And while we are on it, let's do something like Bloodhusk Ritualist. Only instead of multikicker, he would have Bloodthirst. Now that's card advantage! I already have the deck to put it in.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Jesper Myfors Spotlight: Basalt Monolith

Well, I've been drawing pretty heavy from the well o' New Phyrexia lately.

So you know what time it is…

Exhibit A, Basalt Monolith!

Basalt Monolith is a card that went from being a very boring never-run to having a much more useful second life in the EDH scene.

Back in the high school cafeteria days, Basalt Monolith looked BAD. There's no getting around it. Revised had a lot of "strickly worse" cards just to develop the new magic-playing community's then-infantile card appraisal powers. In the case of the Monolith, this guy had to square off against Mana Vault, Sol Ring and even the occasional Mana Crypt. We knew the difference. 

True, Basalt Monolith provided a big 3-mana bump…next turn! The others gave you instant mana acceleration which was far more powerful. And in a world where originally a deck with 4 Sol Rings was not uncommon, there was just no room.

Now, lets look at EDH. The other mana sources I mention are still pretty good, and they are all perfectly legal in EDH. But the power curve in most 100-card decks definitely leans further upward toward the "6-and-above" range, which make Basalt Monolith MUCH more attractive. You will love it the first time you are able to slide your General right back into play after he gets slapped by some miscreant's poorly-aimed removal.

And they can easily be found! Unlike Sol Rings which you have to fight bears over, if you know anyone who played in the revised era they likely have 6 of these and don't even know it. Just take a look through the shoeboxes in the back of their closet.

And also unlike Sol Ring, Basalt Monolith's art was the responsibility of one Jesper Myfors. It showcases his ability to paint jungle trees (they are happy trees!), two different shades of sky, and even a large grey object. It may not look like much, but as far as Magic: the Gathering is concerned this was the first attempt to depict a large mana-producing object in a clearing.

Once Myfors broke the ground, the fresh, rich soil he churned quickly sprouted other more amazing Artifacts. Who still, by the way, don't hold a candle to simply tapping for a massive 3 colorless mana.

And it generates infinite colorless mana with Rings of Brighthearth.

You're welcome.

P.S. Like this post? Visit one of my sponsors. If I had sponsors. Actually this reminds me to go check to see if I have adsense enabled. You never know what advertising those crazy google guys might try to sneak in next.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Another Welder

Hot on the heels of the Conversion Chamber, I just now stumbled across Myr Welder. Apparently someone in R&D really hates artifacts in people's graveyards. Because here is another nice little critter that sucks them out!

Unlike most imprint cards like Mimic Vat, Myr Welder can imprint and "use" as many artifact cards as he can get ahold of. Hopefully one of the first ones he imprints is Jhoira's Toolbox.

Even if he kicks the bucket, hopefully you've removed a few graveyard options in the meantime. Similar to Spellskite, Myr Welder benefits from a defense of 4, making casual sweepers ineffective. Opponents will have to switch to the big guns.

And it will really only take one juicy removal of a combo piece (Crucible of Worlds, Thopter Foundry) for Myr Welder to pay for the investment. There are worse things to have in your deck!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Gideon: The Animated Series

Wizards forks over a lot more money for card art than they once did.

What do you do after you've assigned all that great art to cards? Animate it and make a promo for the new Planeswalker 2012 game!

Probably won't see any of the trailer stuff in the game, but I for one am still impressed. And very excited for the new core set. Again.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

There is very little I wouldn't convert to a Golem, given the chance

Graveyard removal is one of the more essential weapons in a slow-moving EDH game. A stalemate allows your opponents to start recurring their shenanigans into infinite loops of spite and malice. Slowly sapping your strength and purity of essence. Surprise and fear are never enough.

Phyrexian Furnace, Tormod's Crypt, and Relic of Progenitus are the staples I have seen used to combat graveyard-born threats.

Conversion Chamber is ready to help fill the graveyard-hate hole. It doesn't go after everything. But it does go after artifacts, a full 50% of the payload of annoying recurring permanents you're liable to run into in a typical game.

What I didn't realize until just now is Conversion Chamber requires only a single charge counter to operate. Removing 1 artifact card plus 4 mana paid over 2 turns gives you a 3/3 Golem…which feels like an incredibly efficient way to crank out Golems. Every other turn!

Only a couple sets back, didn't they give us Golem Foundry? Which costs 3 mana +3 artifact spells successfully cast? THREE artifact spells…and none of them better be countered!

Heck, my Malfegor EDH deck dumps cards into the graveyard just for fun. Imagine how many Golems I can crank out using my own refuse! Then each opponent you add to the game racks up the power that much more.

Conversion Chamber makes 1 Golem per card removed from the graveyard. 1 for 1. Normally, the cost on a card like this would be to sacrifice an artifact. In play. But instead we are screwing around with used-up artifacts already in the grumper. Imagine what happens when you combine this card with a casual Modular deck. The last time I saw something like this it was on the receiving end of a Rift Elemental pulling counters off a Deep-Sea Kraken.

Time to make the Golems.

Spotlight on Spellskite

So…one thing the New Phyrexia set has given us is Spellskite.

For 2 mana you get an 0/4 artifact creature, with the ability to change the target of a spell or ability to itself.

I really started thinking based on the latest Cranial Insertion column, from which we can gather a very important obstacle to our Spellskite-based mayhem.

"Spellskite can only redirect a target of a spell or ability if it could be legally targeted by that spell or ability."

So there are some pretty serious limits. For instance, as the article points out, you can't redirect the equip ability of an opponent's equipment artifact because your Spellskite is not a valid target. Unlike Willbender or Goblin Flectormancer, Spellskite only draws the pain to itself, not to any other unfortunate permanent. In this case, its a little more like Muck Drubb.

Let's go over a few other interesting bits about Spellskite.

1) Spellskite is a creature. He can be targeted by spells and abilities that target creatures.

2) Spellskite is a artifact. He can be targeted by spells and abilities that target artifacts.

3) Spellskite is a permanent. He can be targeted by spells and abilities that target permanents.

All three of these points matter a great deal to the casual EDH metagame. A dangerous place, where people are constantly going after your creatures, artifacts or permanents mostly in spectacular ways.

"But what about enchantments?" you might ask.

If a spell says "target enchantment" you are completely out of luck to redirect it to Spellskite. UNLESS the spell also happens to sneak "creature," "artifact" or "permanent" in there. What are the chances?

In EDH, the school of thought for removal is indeed "the more far-reaching, the better." Optimal deck builds typically go for higher-cost removal that affects a broader variety of things.

So what cards does Spellskite work on?

Qasali Pridemage would really like to blow up your back-breaking enchantment. But instead, it always seems to target your Spellskite…why does it hate Spellskite so much?

Acidic Slime would really like to blow up your Jace when it enters the battlefield. But for some reason it really hates your Spellskite instead.

If someone is playing with Pyroblast (but not Red Elemental Blast) you can redirect it onto your Spellskite with impunity.

Ajani Vengeant's tapping ability is suddenly drawn to Spellskite. And if the Skite is already tapped, Ajani Vengent can go ahead and try to tap him again. Tap Tap Tap. If he uses his "3 damage" ability…it goes right to the Spellskite. If he "destroys all lands"…

You're screwed. 

But the first 2 are pretty good!

Amber Prison. Angel of Despair. Archon of Justice. Argentum Armor. Avarice Totem (just keep redirecting the ability!) and of course Ulamog.

Most of the spells you see are chosen because of their versatility. And that versatility means a good chance to be able to target Spellskite. And then if you have a way to recur your artifact horror, you can keep doing it forever. Because the ability can be used whenever you want, however many times you want, and it can be paid for with blue mana or just 2 life.

All Auras (except for the ones placed with abilities like Zur and Academy Rector, boo!) target initially when they are cast. For the same reason you can't put an Aura on a shrouded creature, so too can your opponent be forced to put the Aura on Spellskite.

Finally, Spellskite does have a rather large "behind" of 4. Very important, because simple burn (which occasionally surfaces) can be safely redirected without too much harm.

So while Willbender might be able to save you from Door to Nothingness, Spellskite can save virtually any important permanent from many kinds of destructive or obstructive effects. For very little cost.

I might just have to hunt this one down.

P.S. I love Muck Drubb, you haters.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Phantasmal Sphere vs. more than one opponent

May 2011's Rules Update bulletin has given me the idea to talk about Phantasmal Sphere. Especially since no one will be talking about Master of Arms ever again, I imagine.

Ahem. I have all sorts of arguments I could bring up about Tabak's rule changes regarding the first, unnamed, Gerrard. First of all would be this…who in their right mind would ever use Master of Arms if they did not know the previous Oracle wording? He uses the theoretical situation of two fresh new players, completely removed from the Internet, playing with a sack full of penny commons and uncommons they just picked up from the bulk bin at Hot Comics. Well, I say those players are going to be pretty unnerved trying to figure out the point of tapping a blocking creature in the first place. "Wait…your creature is already defending…I don't understand how this helps." They will probably assume a tapped creature no longer blocks, much like how I and many others thought for the longest time that any creature who becomes untapped is no longer attacking…thanks Maze of Ith.


I was talking about Phantasmal Sphere.

This card is getting slightly nerfed, too, but I'm willing to accept that since the card does indeed say "target opponent" in a world where the word "target" was invoked far less then intended to begin with.

Phantasmal Sphere is, believe it or not, the evolution of the ooze. It still gets +1/+1 counters, but this one has the advantage of flying. It is also not technically an ooze. I would take this over, say, Primordial Ooze any day of the week.

So it's not technically a good card. The traditional thought is to combine the Sphere with cards like Ion Storm and Power Conduit as a cheap source of counters. Which you can do. People have done this.

But you're going to run into some problems. Especially from an EDH perspective, you might have trouble finding enough abilities to benefit off this creature before it goes "poof". And this is only one single flying 0/1 creature in your entire 99 card deck, after-all. How much effort do you want to put into making this guy fit?

We are also dealing with the nasty fact that Phantasmal Sphere gives an opponent a free flying "Orb" no matter how it dies. Any sort of removal will result in you losing your costly-to-maintain Sphere and someone else getting a free-as-sin floating Orb to play with the rest of the match.


So lets wash our minds out with soap for a second and look at this Sphere with a completely fresh perspective.

What if we just played with it as the card-designers intended? Let's look at Phantasmal Sphere in a vacuum.

Stage 1: You cast a 0/1 creature for 2 mana. It has flying. Every turn, it gets another +1/+1 counter and you have to pay an extra mana during your upkeep step.

If you manage to get the Sphere down on your first or second turn, this might be enough to hold your opponents at bay for a little while. It flies, it can block little bitty attackers, you can even throw equipment on it.

But after a while, you are going to get really sick of paying extra mana. Especially once you have the cards to execute your Master Plan, but the stupid Sphere upkeep is preventing you from developing your board.

So inevitably, we have to move on to:

Stage 2: The Phantasmal Sphere DIES. It happens. It's going to happen. There's no way to stop it. That puppy is going to get sacrificed, Doom Bladed, killed in combat, what have you. Your imagination and the imagination of your opponents is the only limit to the calamity that will eventually befall your Sphere.

You can't prevent it, but its important to accept this situation from the correct perspective. And the first and only rule of Stage 2 Phantasmal Sphere is this…Don't be a victim.

You knew and planned for this all along. It says it right on the card. You may even be welcoming this event if you have some good cards in your hand to spend mana on.

So don't be a victim and remember that in a multiplayer game you can CHOOSE which opponent you give the Orb to. Instead of an opportunity to lose an Orb, look at this as an opportunity to gain a friend. Preferably a friend who is in peril.

Remember that if you do the sacrificing, you can even make Phantasmal Sphere into a combat trick. Dump him into your Greater Gargadon, and give your most non-threatening opponent an instant flying blocker they can use to get rid of something nasty.

The Orb might be a 2/3, a 4/5 or even a 5/6 at this point. It might be enough to help, while not necessarily giving your opponent a "winning edge" that might come back to bite you.

Now there are probably better ways to do this. Forbidden Orchard comes to mind, as well as the Phelddagrifs. The Orb is bigger and better, and it fits into more decks. And you might just stumble across it as you sift through the slush bin at your local Hot Comics.

Budget, combined with Unconventional Thinking, quickly leads to an Awesome EDH deck. Take that, Matt Tabak. I guess.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Russel Tassicker's Red Observations

From the "things that go right over my head until someone else notices and explains it to me" department:

I know I would have used Moltensteel Dragon in my prerelease deck (if I had attended prerelease). But unless I was running red, I might not have thought to use Immolating Souleater. Who wants to use 2 life to do 1 damage to the other guy? Any fast, aggressive, potentially sucessful deck, of course.

You can use regular mountains in a pinch, or the 2 life, and you can do it as many times as you want. It's an activated ability and you can choose to use that ability before the attack phase, after the attack phase, or at any point during the attack phase.

If you have the opportunity to cause lethal damage to your opponent, then you have the opportunity at any point to immediately win. A smart guy named Russel Tassicker points out (along with about 1,001 other awesome observations) that this is just like the "Channel Fireball" combo shenanigans people used to pull around my high school cafeteria, only with just one card.

Of course, I'm sure the only time I ever try this my Hound will be met with a swift Dismember. But who is above taking a few risks in the name of victory?

Friday, May 6, 2011

Relationships are more important than Products

Probably the best time to pick up some new cards is at your local game store's prerelease. Not only do you get the packs (at around retail price) but you also get a cool foil prerelease card. You have the chance to win even more packs, too, depending on how well you can navigate the sometimes difficult labyrinth of the new sets color allocations and mechanics.

But sometimes you can't go. And as you get older, you find out you can go even less often. And the key, I have found, to coping with not going is to think about the real reasons you aren't going. Your time certainly hasn't shrunk…there are still 24 hours in a day. You make probably more money than when you were that free-wheeling high school or college student.

But if I have this whole separate world that is completely devoid of board games, card games and other diversions. And I enjoy that world in a way that surpasses these occasional card-based ruminations.

If I were going, what would I most want to get a copy of?

Probably Phyrexian Metamorph. He's ten tons of shape-changing terror, for the low cost of possibly 3 regular mana. Like 1 mountain, a Sol Ring and 2 life.

It is a rare, and it is very unlikely I would have even opened this guy in my packs. Plus I have an old-style record cabinet in my living room that is already brimming with magic cards. Brimming–literally. Occasionally I have to pull a card out that is sticking through the bottom of the door and sneak him back in at the top.

You probably do, too. Especially to the EDH-minded of us, these prereleases are also a time to reflect your fresh card-hungry mind back onto that pile. Because there's perfectly good cards in that pile. Cards you don't even know you HAVE, for pete's sake. While you are enjoying that sweet, sweet Phyrexian mana (no joke, you know how sweet it is!) always remember those other cards. Sitting like the toys from Toy Story 3 looking for someone to polish 'em off and give them a run through their paces again.

Plus, remember tomorrow is Free Comic Book day. If you have a kid, I command you to take them to the local purveyor ASAP. Preferably early. Phyrexian madness can at least wait for that evening, if not Sunday morning.

That is all, more posts to come on Monday!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Starscream Inferior, Myr…

How many mana-producing creatures are there out there?

I'm guessing about 165. Of course, this is counting cards like Elvish Spirit Guide and she doesn't count since she's not a creature when you discard her out of your hand. So let's say 163.

Myr Superion was probably designed to go in a Myr deck. But there are many more efficient mana generating creatures, like the infamous (and delicious!) Llanowar Elves.

Is it possible to make a deck that runs off of creature mana? There is already a deck that runs almost entirely off creature mana. Of course it generates infinite creature mana, so the Superion would be a little useless at that point.

3 quick things I see:

1) Even though these cards are not creatures, you can still put Superion onto the battlefield with Aether Vial., Birthing Pod, Chord of Calling, Crypt Champion, Hibernation's End,  Soul Foundry and Tezzeret the Seeker.

2) Myr Superion has power of 5, enabling all the Nayan "power 5" shenanigans from Shards of Alara.

3) If you go the other way, with Esper, Myr Superion fits in with Etherium Sculptor, Master Transmuter. and Grand Architect (who isn't Esper, but probably should be!).

Creature removal might be a little bit of a problem. A doom blade on your mana dork will stop you from casting your Myr. Of couse they could always doom blade the Myr instead. He's really only good because of his low cost.

In conclusion, Myr Superion is an awesome card waiting for just the right crazy casual deck. He is awesome in the same way Woolly Thoctar is awesome, you just need to find out how to minimize his weaknesses and maximize his strengths.