Entries from June 2009 ↓

Acidic Slime and Other Mismatched Topics

This is kind of one-half (okay, one-third) a review of M10 uncommon Ooze Acidic Slime (a card with like one hundred mismatched facets) and a couple of, you know, mismatched facets from life and times in the New York Magic scene. And Twitter!

Okay, to start, Acidic Slime:

Pretty cool card, right?

Aesthetics:
So what is Acidic Slime? Is it merely an overcosted Viridian Shaman? I mean if you were going to blow up a Mistvein Borderpost, the 2/2 you would want for that job would typically cost two mana less. Is Acidic Slime actually cool, then? Personally, I think it’s cool.

So… Why?

Basically this card is basicaly what you would expect for five mana: a Stone Rain plus.

Right now people are making Top 8s of Constructed Grand Prixs with five mana Stone Rains (basically) that do something else. For example you can go Stone Rain (Fallow Earth, really) and search up a guy, call it a day. Or you can Stone Rain (Wasteland, really) and nug all the little ones for two. People are doing that and it is fine.

Acidic Slime is the same kind of Stone Rain plus: Blow up a land, you have something left over, and it’s not that bad.

So how “plus” is the plus in this case?

Aesthetically it’s kind of weird-tacular. You can’t blow up creatures? Full on um, okay… on that one. Why can’t I fudge up a fella? I guess that’s not very Green, killing creatures and whatnot; so they gave Acidic Slime’s body the ability to beat up whoever. Deathtouch and all that.

Where Can I See This Fitting In?
In a sense Acidic Slime is kind of a narrower Primal Command. Narrower in that instead of demolishing control decks, it is actually kind of dorky at control decks. However it is one of those nice two-for-one guys that I always like to play… Civic Wayfinder, Rhox Meditant, so on, and so forth. This is about as mid-range a creature card as you can summon up, but it will generally be a legitimate two-for-one. Unless you are getting brained out by Akroma, Angel of Bwatdown, you can usually take out a relevant card and scare off another relevant card… In the alternative at least soak up a relevant card. For example, Acidic Slime can brain a basic and sit around waiting to tussle with Chameleon Colossus. That one is well within its abilities.

Snap Judgment Rating:
Role Player, obviously. This isn’t any kind of a Staple (seems worse than Primal Command) yet it’s quite playable somewhere… The definition of Role Player, actually.


So I mentioned some multiple topics. For trick number two I will link to the interview I hinted at back in Five [Reasons to be Grateful] (with Flores)

Here is ye olde link: From the top: Mike Flores

Some notes:

  • It’s in Spanish
  • You gotta click the British flag for the ingrish version
  • It’s a LOL in places. A heartfelt LOL, but LOL nonetheless (I like to tangle with my library).
  • That is all

And now for the most important part of today’s post.

It was recently revealed by Will Price and BDM that Matt Wang, co-winner of the last Grand Prix Boston, has not paid his cake tax. For those of you who don’t know, in the New York area, we have a tradition that if you win a PTQ (or a States as I did one year) you buy cake and celebrate with your friends at the Top 8 Magic offices or thereabouts.

Yet the co-owner of Top 8 Magic — upon winning a Grand Prix — did no such thing!

Abominable, I know.

So here is what we have to do.

We have to shame Matt Wang into doing the right thing.

Here is a screen shot of a Twitter message I posted earlier today. If you click it, you travel to the wonderful world of Twitter.

If you don’t have a Twitter account yet, please join. It takes like one second.

Once you’ve joined, make sure you follow @fivewithflores (that’s me).

Whether or not you are a new or existing Twitter user, please Re-Tweet the message depicted above. Whenever chatting about food, cake, Magic: The Gathering, Matt Wang in general, whatever… use the hash tag #WangOwesCake.

Remember everybody: Wang Owes Cake. We need to band together to make sure he pays up.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Final Crisis

Vampire Nocturnus and / or Drowned Catacomb

The rare M10 two-in-one: Here comes a preview / review of M10 Mythic Rare Vampire Nocturnus… as intersects with inevitable chase rare Drowned Catacomb! That is, BBB meets (b/u)!

Aesthetics:
The reason I decided to go over these two cards together is that when I originally started to review Vampire Nocturnus, I was immediately struck with a dramatically different design angle to this card, versus many recent sets, viz. Eventide and Alara Reborn. Vampire Nocturnus is a Black card with a capital b and greatly — make that gravely — incentivizes us to play heavy Black. Some obvious or not-so-obvious elements:

The mana cost – Vampire Nocturnus has BBB in its cost, heavy Black (and what we, in the old days, would have considered a Ritual’s worth of mana). This is not easy mana to produce. Compare to Boggart Ram-Gang, which also has a triple-colored cost, but is flexible in Red or Green, allowing it to be played in a variety of decks from straight Red Deck Wins to Five-color Blood.

Secondly, how good would Vampire Nocturnus have been as just a 3/3 creature for four mana that just allowed you to play with the top card of your library revealed? I don’t think it would have been very good at all… Kind of like the short bus version of a Wandering Eye.

What about the up-side? I think supeficial analysis will assume that Vampire Nocturnus — in a dedicated Black deck — will be 5/4 flying for four something like sixty percent of the time. Is this accurate? I’d actually rather not speculate as to the accuracy of that estimation, but instead ask if that is the proper up-side.

For example, what about playing multiple Vampires? Before you start to comment that that would be super lame, certainly you can imagine having two Vampire Nocturus in play, right?

This brings me to the second card in tonight’s preview / review: Drowned Catacomb.

Drowned Catacomb, like sister M10 dual land Glacial Fortress seems to be part of a cycle that incentivizes very different multi-land use than some previous cycles. For example Stomping Ground is only superficially a G/R land. Sure it was a G/R land in Standard, but in Extended it played every role from both sides of an Ancient Grudge in B/U decks thanks to four Bloodstained Mires, to a singleton Holy Strength for four Kird Apes via Windswept Heath and Wooded Foothills. The tri-land cycle from Shards of Alara (Arcane Sanctum et al) shattered the notion of mana discipline, and we found ourselves in a Block Pro Tour where every color was roughly as available as three colors, and a G/W attack deck might have been best just because it wasn’t the only deck in the room stumbling on all it’s comes-into-play-tapped lands.

Drowned Catacomb (and presumably its cycle) carry a similar, though not identical, incentive towards mana discipline. Drowned Catacomb is obviously more effective in a deck full of Swamps and Islands (and in most formats that means basic Swamps and Islands; to get significant value (that is, value beyond a Salt Marsh — which is the current level of “not good enough” dual land based on cards like Drowned Catacomb and the aformentioned Arcane Sanctum), you need to play significant Swamps and Islands.

Both M10 rares — both Mythic Rare Vampire Nocturnus and inevitable chase rare Drowned Catacomb — therefore seem to be pointing us in the same direction design-wise. It is just a question of whether or not the eventual metagame / format / players listen.

Where Do I See These Cards Fitting In?
I don’t think Vampire Nocturnus is the kind of card you can really splash or slide in as a catch-all role player. It’s Nocturnus or no, I think. That is, if you play this card, you will probably be playing four, and you will probably be playing four in a deck of one (or functionally one) color (even if that is like Ashenmoor Gougers and so on). That said, Vampire Nocturnus might be considered Flagship if it incentivizes players strongly enough to build in such a myopic way, maybe even to the point of including other non-Nocturnus Vampires. I can see this happening, but maybe not at Tier One.

As for Drowned Catacomb, it will be no less than heavily-adopted Role Player in some format. I don’t see Drowned Catacomb (or its buddies) as Staple to begin with in Standard, but it might gobble up spots currently occupied by Arcane Sanctum in, say, Faeries… but that is not at all clear because those decks often splash cards like Esper Charm. Drowned Catacomb can pair potentially with Watery Grave in Extended; it works with a Watery Grave in play much better than a Watery Grave works with it, of course. Obviously Drowned Catacomb has the potential for Staple (along with the rest of the cycle).

Snap Judgment Rating(s):
Per above.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Nikolai Dante: The Great Game – Volume 2

yeah Yeah YEAH… Lightning Bolt

Lightning Bolt is reprinted in M10! I was the last one to know… despite being the guy to “preview” the card.

Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I was reluctant to believe that Lightning Bolt would be coming back with M10. I don’t typically talk about non-officially previewed cards at all, and in this case I thought it would be just silly to reprint the card. I mean Lightning Bolt? Really? The Japanese find every excuse in the book to play Shock. I personally made room for Tarfire in Extended (and played a full set in my Blightning Beatdown deck). Did no one remember how good Rift Bolt was? Do you think that people just liked paying three mana for their sorceries?

But no, Lightning Bolt is back, in all it’s glory:

My initial reluctance to believing Lightning Bolt was coming back came from the fact that the so-called spoiled art was just that — the art — without being attached to the rest of a card. I assumed it was a mis-translated Russian Lightning Blast or some such. But nope. Lightning Bolt. Yes! Lightning Bolt!

I can’t even remember the last time I played Lightning Bolt. Okay, I can… It was Grand Prix Philadelphia – a Legacy deck (not one of my best efforts). But I am still excited anyway. I mean Lightning Bolt is going to be so good in control decks!

Nope, you didn’t read wrong: control decks.

Think about it.

Wren’s Run Vanquisher… Boggart Ram-Gang… To a degree even Putrid Leech and a half a dozen other cards that are better on their turn than they are on your turn. Lightning Bolt is an absurd friend to decks that can draw extra cards cheaply, especially in small bursts or at instant speed (I’m talking to you, Esper Charm).

So while we will definitely see Lightning Bolt next to Ball Lightning (maybe I can pull Dave Price out of the mothballs), I think that we will also see this card as the official banner bearer of Tier One in decks that tap Islands (okay Vivid Creek) and not just Mountains.

LOVE
MIKE

Bonus Section: The True History of Lightning Bolt

ring, Ring, RING

Hi Scott.

Got a minute, Mike?

For you, sure.

I need you to add something to your column this week.

For you, sure.

Lightning Bolt is coming back. I want you to preview it… or like tag it onto the end of your column.

ALDKKNALKFJALKDFJALKSFJASDKL;FJASDKLFJASDL;FKJASDKL;FJASDFKL;SDJAFKL

I’m sorry, I didn’t get that?

No, I’m sorry… That was me spilling my coffee all over myself. I’m going to have to get a new shirt!

Oh, do you think we can capture that?

I was thinking of writing maybe a twelve steps on Lightning Bolt coming back. You know, denial… acceptance…

Actually no. I really liked that “spilling coffee over yourself” bit. Let’s go with that reaction. That’s exactly what we want, actually. Type ALDKKNALKFJALKDFJALKSFJASDKL;FJASDKLFJASDL;FKJASDKL;FJASDFKL;SDJAFKL. Kelly! Can we get a proper spelling on ALDKKNALKFJALKDFJALKSFJASDKL;FJASDKLFJASDL;FKJASDKL;FJASDFKL;SDJAFKL?


Darn editors! They can’t get a right spelling on ALDKKNALKFJALKDFJALKSFJASDKL;FJASDKLFJASDL;FKJASDKL;FJASDFKL;SDJAFKL and you end up with…

However you feel, whatever you are thinking right now (or what you thought yesterday, if you were sharp enough to spot the card in the Visual Spoiler) … Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt when they told me they’re reprinting MOTHER-LOVING LIGHTNING BOLT. Discuss (I know you will); official Magic 2010 previews start next week. And yes, they’re awesome.

But in your heart of hearts, you know it was ALDKKNALKFJALKDFJALKSFJASDKL;FJASDKLFJASDL;FKJASDKL;FJASDFKL;SDJAFKL

Currently Reading: Nikolai Dante: The Great Game – Volume 2

Glacial Fortress & Deck Design

In case you hadn’t yet seen it, I did a review on Top 8 Magic about Glacial Fortress, the U/W M10 dual land that was recently spoiled on the mother ship.

To wit:

Glacial Fortress
Glacial Fortress enters the battlefield tapped unless you control a Plains or an Island.
T: Add W or U to your mana pool.

We can safely assume (even without using spoiler sites, which I don’t typically reference, ever) that Glacial Fortress is the first in a new line of M10 dual lands… though whether we have five dual lands or the full ten dual lands (including enemy colors on the order of Sacred Foundry, Breeding Pool, or Godless Shrine) is a mystery at present.

What interests me is the potential Constructed — specifically Standard — impact of this cycle. I actually wish I could write about a B/R or G/R version, but I don’t know the names (at least not officially) at this point πŸ™‚

Regular readers of this blog know that I have been fooling around with ye olde Cascade decks recently, pushing Bloodbraid Elf and Bituminous Blast into more (and less) interesting molds, going for more consistency or — surprisingly — less speed as the case may be with the Rhox Meditant deck. One of the things that I have found to be less satisfying with the decks is their mana consistency. The attack-oriented build, for example, often has strange — if recoverable — draws due to the conflicting tension of being a three- and four-mana haste aggro deck… that has a Reflecting Pool Control-reminiscent mana base with a ton of comes into play tapped Vivid lands.

One idea for a new build would be to try to take advantage of Ball Lightning (which has also been confirmed) as Bloodbraid Elf’s new best friend. I won’t speculate a full listing at this point (because I don’t really want to talk about Lightning Bolt), but there is ample design space to go with a much more concentrated Mountains mana base, touching the Black and/or Green equivalents of Glacial Fortress, reaping considerable speed, if spending a bit of flexibility.

You would of course have to give up Steward of Valeron, but might end up with a much more consistent package. For example shifting to a B/R build you could bias for Sygg, River Cutthroat* as the two drop over Steward of Valeron, run Blightning, Boggart Ram-Gang, and Ball Lightning in a jazzed three spot, still pack Bituminous Blast, with just the mildest Bloodbraid Elf splash out of Green. That is, if you were willing to invest the same twenty-six slots on lands that we did in the Primal Command deck, you would easily have space for ten or even twelve basic Mountains, along with the B/R or G/R equivalents of Glacial Fortress, with Savage Lands as the lonesome land that is guaranteed to come into play tapped. If you don’t get lucky on Mountains pulls in your opening hand, you are really not that much worse off than with a double-digit Vivid count… Because you have structured your spell selection differently, it’s not like you are shut out of a color you actually have to have under pressure (probably).

This is all intensely speculative, of course.

With the mana really and truly awesome there is just no incentive to playing mana-consistently whatsoever. You just end up with a worse, weaker, deck if the baseline is multicolored Bloodbraid Elf any- and everywhere, presuming passable mana (as opposed to stumbling mana, as in Block, where G/W was able to prevail on greater consistency and brutal speed).

Which actually brings us to a different point… If that is the case (and it just might be), the Glacial Fortress cycle of dual lands might be next to unplayable in Standard!

That’s right! If we continue to play decks with 1-5 basic lands (and even then only because we think someone might be playing Path to Exile) — especially when we don’t even play a second copy of any given basic land — Glacial Fortress and its buddies really aren’t much better than Coastal Tower… In fact, in-format, they are just worse than Arcane Sanctum. Surprising, no? Again, very speculative πŸ™‚

Two interesting points arise from this line of thinking:

1) There is actually an interesting [deck] design space here. Do you ignore Glacial Fortress and continue to play with crazy Arcane Sanctum / Vivid land-based mana instead of going for “more consistency” which might mean less power?
2) It’s rare that cards are kind of crappy in Standard but are quite good in Extended. Glacial Fortress seems like an awesome brother to Hallowed Fountain (or any of several Plains- or Island-based dual lands from Ravnica Block).

… Just my next few semi-spontaneous thoughts on Glacial Fortress πŸ™‚

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Fables Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1 (actually not reading at all… but looking at the awfully pretty pictures)


* No, I didn’t miss the potential of Lightning Bolt (still don’t believe it) and Sygg as a kind of punishing Impulse.

Five [Reasons to be Grateful] (with Flores)

I recently did an interview. Don’t worry! I’ll link to that when it goes live. But anyway, one of the questions in the interview got me thinking, and I have been thinking about this thing very intently for the past couple of days; that is, the prevailing, motivating, emotion that I have when I think about Magic. Once upon a time I mostly cared about winning; so I would say that my prevailing emotion was drive. Today, I am just very grateful to have had Magic touch me. Following are five reasons why…

  1. New York. I love New York. Which is strange because one of the most horrifying ideas to me is that LeBron James might leave the Cavaliers to come play up here. My wife sometimes asks me what I would do. The answer is that I would probably hole up and not watch basketball for a few years; she was equally horrified that I would not take the kids to see LeBron play at the Garden (both kids love LeBron James). So of course the first and greatest thing I am grateful for is being in New York.

    For those of you who don’t know, I moved to New York in 1999 — ten years ago now — to hang out and work at The Dojo for a summer. I was on scholarship in law school at the time. But I ended up liking New York, and I stayed on to become the Editor-in-Chief of The Dojo, then Editorial Director at Psylum, Inc. (the company that owned The Dojo and that was eventually bought by USA Networks). Being in New York was the springboard to my career, where otherwise I would probably have ended up being some Cleveland-based attorney, and I wasn’t really built for that life. But more importantly, I met my wife here in New York, and I have two wonderful children by her, whom, again, I would not have met had I not been in New York… And I only live in New York because of Magic.

    In a not-that-indirect way, I owe my family to Magic; my family, one of the only things I love more than Magic. So thanks.

  2. Notoriety. I enjoy a level of notoriety that probably would never have come to me but for Magic. When I last interviewed for a job, my eventual employers were tickled at the fact that I have my own Wikipedia entry. I have been lucky enough to receive a platform — series of platforms, actually, which includes this blog — that have given me the opportunity to express myself, and to express myself to a great many people. I have lived this way for so many years that I almost don’t know any other way to live my life but out in the open, warts and all, for the most part.

    Not everyone has that chance — that freedom — to connect with the rest of the world, especially at scale, and I owe that in large part to Magic. Would I have been able to generate a similar following, or become some kind of expert, publisher, or media figure somewhere else? The answer is probably. I am actually much better at marketing strategy than I am at Magic strategy and I am co-writing a book on advertising and marketing for a major nonfiction publisher right now… But the fact that I might have been able to do something somewhere else does not in any way, shape, or form detract from the fact that the notoriety I do have, I got thanks to Magic. And for that I am incredibly grateful.

  3. Friends. It was Dave Price (Pro Tour Champion and King of Beatdown Dave Price) who, about ten years ago, first introduced me to the idea that the line was blurring between my “Magic friends” and my “friends” … At some point that line evaporated completely. Every man who stood next to me at my wedding, including Jeff Wu (my oldest and dearest friend), John Shuler, and Tuna Hwa, is or was a Magic friend. None of them really play that much any more, but with the exception of Jeff (who was instrumental in getting me into Magic), I knew them from Magic. Ditto with Jon Becker, the godfather (that is, my son’s godfather), who read at my wedding. Ditto to Matt Wang and Brian David-Marshall, who published my first book, Deckade (buy Deckade at Top 8 Magic!). “Magic” friends any and all. I would hazard that most of my friends are Magic friends, which is largely a function of spending so much time with specific people for specific reasons. For example riding up and down the East Coast with Paul Jordan (I was Paul’s best man at his wedding) and Josh Ravitz (Josh has been one of the most influential people, ever, in my life… I only listen to Rilo Kiley — today my favorite band — because of Josh). I have so many dear Magic friends I don’t mean to exclude any of them by not talking about them in this section. Instead, I just want to reiterate how grateful I am to have them.
  4. Career. Many people assume I do Magic professionally. I’d say “I wish” … but I don’t really wish that. There are many days that I would rather just do my job than play Magic, which is a rare and wonderful thing that I think most people never get to say (you can substitute their job for my job and whatever they like to do for example sitting around watching teevee and drinking cheap beer for playing Magic). Today I am a Vice President at a great marketing and media company in New York. I think of myself as really good at what I do, and I often get asked to speak about what I do, which I do quite well; I may have already mentioned that I am co-writing another book, this time on advertsing. In a way I feel much more “lucky” than I do grateful, at least with regards to the intersection of my career and Magic. But like just being in New York, I don’t think that I would have been put on the path that I eventually was, you know, put on but for the game.

    So instead, I will just rattle off the names of a bunch of my friends, and how Magic may have influenced their careers…

    Like Worth Wollpert, my first Pro Tour roommate, now boss daddy of Magic Online. To Worth I say two words: Well, duh.

    Or Matt Wang, who used to be one of those buttoned up investment banker / MBA types. Now he basically rocks and rolls with Brian David-Marshall, doing incredibly interesting and impressive things (such as publishing Deckade, which you should buy from Top 8 Magic to show your gratitude)… Matt and Brian met via Magic, honed their eventual professional skills playing Magic, and have a staff of mostly all Magic players!

    Or Dave Williams, millionaire poker superstar… Where do you think Dave learned how to play cards?

    Or Jon Finkel, now the supreme overlord of a hedge fund. Jon was an English major. Where do you think he got his head for numbers and trading for value?

    I can’t be the only one who is this grateful that Magic touched my life and had a hand in my career path.

  5. Helping Others. I often get asked the same question. A lot. If you’re so good at thinking about Magic, why is it that Jon Finkel can win with your deck and you have never made a Pro Tour Top 8?

    Yes, as you can imagine, it can get old, that question (or variations thereof).

    Today the prevailing emotion I feel about Magic is gratitude. But once upon a time it was purely compeition, and the idea that I had to prove myself (to whom I am not sure). I was obsessed with “being good” and being clever and being qualified for the Pro Tour.

    Somewhere along the line, I think due to my relationships with players like Josh Ravitz, Julian Levin, Matt Boccio, Steve Sadin, Asher Hecht, and Will Price that I simply developed a different criteria for success. It was no longer about my individual performance, but about how I could influence and improve “the world” … even if the world manifested itself most directly through my Apprentice program. I think that some people probably misunderstand what this was or is about… At some point it was definitely about me just being the best deck designer on the planet, and that I could point at Apprentices’ success to prove that. But eventually it became about collaboration, seeing multiple viewpoints and really just making the best decisions for the collective.

    Maybe it was about the time I started to become more active with Top 8 Magic. Brian often talks about how the audio format softened a lot of my critics, because that richer format — especially when you have the ability to hear someone’s tone and how they articulate themselves — can help clue a reader or listener in on the intent, or lack thereof… Something that is impossible in print (even when the writer is the world’s most talented deck designer / blogger / video producer / marketer / et cetera). But I realized through collaborations that came out of Top 8 Magic that I could be of more help — more value really — when helping a friend to develop his ideas than simply by hammering my own idea down someone else’s throat (even if it was good). That’s something that manifested most concretely working with Andre Coimbra, but overall it was something that came about over the years thanks to being with everyone from Apprentices long past to Will today.

    It’s cool to write “helping others” as a bullet, in italics, but what I am really trying to get at, I think, is that I am grateful for personal change and growth, going beyond the idea that I am the center of the universe, to really serve by delivering good content however I can, whether that is by personal interaction, rich media that mimics that interaction, awesome deck design, collaboration, or the ongoing life storytelling that began over ten years ago and continues on Top 8 Magic and Five With Flores today. Obviously grateful. Again.

Amazingly I have gotten through five reasons to be grateful for Magic… without even once talking about playing Magic. Amazingly!

The fact is, Magic is about the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

I would never have had any deck design success or Apprentice program if I didn’t love playing Magic, even for hours on end. I would never have become a prolific writer if I didn’t have a passion for Magic that I could exercise with words. And I would never have moved to New York — even for a summer — if I didn’t like Magic enough that I wanted to surround myself with a bunch of gamer nerds so I could play it 24/7 (which, incidentally didn’t occur). Magic is such a fun, enriching, way to spend your time that it is almost too obvious to be grateful for that. Anyway, we pay the manufacturers for the fun, along the way.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Outrageously Grateful for: Fables Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1

Rhox Meditant Again

Believe it or not, “Primal Command I Guess?” was supposed to be part of “The Return of Chameleon Colossus!” but “Primal Command I Guess” got really long, and “The Return of Chameleon Colossus!” … um… also long-ish!

And then there was that whole thing about the fight scene on 8th Avenue πŸ™‚

Long story short, I actually made a Rhox Meditant-based deck the same night that I started working on the Cascade deck from “Primal Command I Guess?” … It was weird. I won the first ten-ish matches and got bored already; plus there were all those Bloodbraid Elf mirrors. So I decided to borrow a feather from Saito’s cap and go with Rhox Meditant for additional card advantages / Bloodbraid Elf trumping.

Rhox Meditant falls kind-of in the Civic Wayfinder camp. One of the reasons that Civic Wayfinger decks like Jund Mana Ramp are so effective against Five-color Blood et al is that Civic Wayfinder pre-empts and profitably matches a Bloodbraid Elf. The Civic Wayfinder has superior speed to the Bloodbraid Elf and trades with it heads-up. The Civic Wayfinder goes and gets a card; the Bloodbraid Elf goes and gets a card. Which card is superior? It’s hard to say. Sometimes a Boggart Ram-Gang is better than a basic Swamp. Usually the basic whatever the Civic Wayfinder gets is 100x better than whatever the Bloodbraid Elf gets (this is in-matchup we are talking about). A Boggart Ram-Gang is a real threat, but a Putrid Leech might or might not be. A Maelstrom Pulse might be relevant, then again might not be.

Rhox Meditant is very similar to a Civic Wayfinder. It is not of superior speed to a Bloodbraid Elf; it is of equal speed (which is kind of superior speed when you go first). It is, however, of superior size. Yes, six is bigger than five. But more importantly, it has exactly enough power to down a Bloodbraid Elf and exactly enough toughness to weather a Bloodbraid Elf. Therefore it counteracts the Bloodbraid Elf’s body, and more; as for the bonus cards? Usually the Bloodbraid Elf will have the upper hand; a Rhox Meditant is not a Civic Wayfinder: There is absolutely no “aim” to it. But then again, when you topdeck a Rhox Meditant under pressure, you are probably happier to see it late in a game than a Civic Wayfinder.

That said, as an anti-Bloodbraid Elf deck, this one plays both πŸ™‚

Rhox Meditant Deck aka Slow Cascade version 1.2

4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Rhox Meditant

4 Civic Wayfinder
2 Primal Command

4 Exotic Orchard
1 Fire-Lit Thicket
4 Forest
4 Jungle Shrine
1 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Savage Lands
1 Swamp
1 Wooded Bastion

sb:
4 Anathemancer
4 Cloudthresher
2 Primal Command
4 Aura of Silence
1 Volcanic Fallout

Why is it version 1.2? The original version had main deck Behemoth Sledge over Primal Command. I was seeing the efficacy of Primal Command in the other deck, and was playing it in the sideboard of this one. However Behemoth Sledge seemed like a good addition to the strategy based on wanting to ramp up bodies of Civic Wayfinder or Rhox Meditant (not huge), or giving Enlisted Wurm trample (double huge).

This was changed from version 1.0 for the following reason…

You know how we guru masterminds always say to make the tightest play, you know, while rubbing our fictitious beards? Well in at least one case I didn’t do so and it cost me.

I won about ten matches with this version, against a variety of decks, and only lost one. This is how I lost it:

I am playing against a Five-color Bloodbraid Elf variant. His fifth color comes out the very last turn of the first game, where he Counterspells my game-winning Enlisted Wurm, taps my team, and kills me. “Game winning” is kind of in quotes because it could have been Naya Charm and it would have done the same thing. Anyway his super cool innovation was Blightning. Blightning is really impressive with Sygg, River Cutthroat (turn two Sygg, turn three Blightning is a kick in the jones), and Blightning is superb off of the Bloodbraid Elf.

So it is the deciding game. My mana has come out really strange. It’s like turn four and I am planning to play a Kitchen Finks to stabilize. My plan is Bituminous Blast into Enlisted Wurm based on the Finks stabilization. He has a lot of cards due to playing Sygg into Blightning, then Bloodbraid Elf into Boggart Ram-Gang. But I think that I can stabilize with a Finks, get some nice value on the Bituminous Blast, and then put the nail in his coffin with the Wurm.

But then I draw Captured Sunlight.

Why couldn’t it have been Bloodbraid Elf?

So I am thinking to myself… Kitchen Finks is an irrelevant blocker that gets me two-to-four, soaks up a little, buffers my life total, really just bridges me to turn five.

But Captured Sunlight? I get four life up-front and I am just going to flip a three anyway (probably). I have 13 cards I can flip (there is a Kitchen Finks in my hand). If I flip one of the three Kitchen Finks, I am way ahead on the Captured Sunlight. If I flip a Civic Wayfinder I am about even, at least if he doesn’t have a Bituminous Blast. If I flip a Maelstrom Pulse that would be pretty cool… Probably a little better than if I flipped a Civic Wayfinder, but not tremendously better. Because I was 11/13 likely to flip a non-Behemoth Sledge.

How likely am I to win if I play the Kitchen Finks?

It’s hard to say.

I have a plan.

I think I am going to win.

I have lands. I have multiple Cascade spells. He only has maybe four Counterspells in his deck. That said, he has really powerful cards. He has already gotten me for a three-for-one and an additional plus-one due to Sygg, Blightning, and his board. But I have a plan and I think that I can win this one… But it’s not certain. For sake of argument let’s say that I am dead even (I am probably a dog, to be honest). But for sake of argument say if I make the Kitchen Finks play I am in a position to dig in my heels and win half the time.

Let’s say if that’s true that Captured Sunlight into Kitchen Finks — which is a clearly superior play — puts me way more likely to win due to a bigger cushion in life total… 65% over 50%.

We agreed that a Civic Wayfinder (slightly worse on the board, but with an arguably more significant life delta, plus the obvious card advantage) is about even. So 50% again.

Captured Sunlight into Maelstrom Pulse is very similar to playing a Kitchen Finks. We gain life (twice as much initially) but we also get to point at the guy we want to kill, and kill him (I probably would have picked Boggart Ram-Gang). This removes the possibility of his getting short term Bituminous Blast advantage that also prevents us from making the block we want (he can attack with just Boggart Ram-Gang and Sygg the following turn and leave us with no blocks if we go Finks and he goes Blast). So it is 55% over 50%.

But what about Behemoth Sledge?

We never win if we flip Behemoth Sledge.

You know how this story ended up. Otherwise why would I have removed Behemoth Sledge, and with it, any chances of ever flipping a Behemoth Sledge?

Did I get unlucky?

Yeah, 2/13 is not particularly likely.

But how unlucky did I get?

People bet their mortgages on 15-16% every day… and sometimes it’s right (with the right amount of value on the line). How about in this case?

I laid out a table with the estimated percentages we discussed, the likelihood of play X or Y occurring, and then a point value based on the chance to win times the likelihood of occurring (so for example with Kitchen Finks I have a 50% chance of winning 100% of the time, so it gets a value of .5). Are you surprised to see this?

Ka-pow!

Even though 23% of the time I increase my chances of winning from 50% to 65%, my overall chances to win suffer when I go Captured Sunlight rather than Kitchen Finks. In fact, they suffer to the tune of 3%.

Just something to think about the next time you go for that “cool” play instead of the consistent, tight, one you were thinking about until it actualy came time to execute.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading (actually an early Father’s Day Gift): Fables Covers: The Art of James Jean Vol. 1 <-- exactly what I wanted πŸ™‚ P.S. Imagine we didn't have Behemoth Sledge in our deck at all. This is what our table would look like instead:

About 1/3 of the time we end up about as good (Civic Wayfinder) and about 2/3 of the time we end up in better position than when we play Kitchen Finks. So if there is no Behemoth Sledge dramatically dragging us down with its 0% likelihood of winning, the right play changes quite clearly.

(hip) Fracturing Gust


This is a picture of Fracturing Gust. That is about all this blog post has to do with Fracturing Gust πŸ™‚

Part One:
You might have seen this response RE: the previous blog post about Primal Command:

For those of you who don’t know, oscar_liebowitz is my alleged friend Osyp Lebedowicz.

I called him back asking what he meant by that. He said that once upon a time I was a great deck designer but now I am making decks that are “awkwarder and awkwarder.”

This is interesting for a couple of reasons (speaking of awkwarder)… and because Osyp was the last friend I called before what happened on the walk home.

Part Two:
So I was walking up 8th Avenue tonight. I often walk from my office on about 39th Street to 59th Street – Columbus Circle on the way home, just to gather my thoughts and stretch my legs before holing up to my “second job” which includes blogging, analyzing decks for the mother ship, making awesome Magic videos, and of course writing my new book on PPC Marketing for Wiley-Sybex.

But that walk home takes me past the Port Authority.

For those of you who don’t know, the Port Authority is a bus station, but also where anything miserable and slimey goes to die. There was a time when BDM and his wife would not eat anywhere within two blocks of the Port Authority. My wife has been on juries adjudicating undercover cop drug busts that took place in broad daylight right in front of the motherloving Port Authority. Tonight I saw the awkwardest fight ever… in front of the Port Authority.

I don’t know exactly why what will eventually be deemed the awkwardest fight ever took place, but as far as I can tell, the conflict erupted between a cabbie and a [potential?] customer and his girlfriend. I am not sure why they fought but my wife speculates the couple didn’t want to pay? I dunno. All I know is what I saw.

AND WHAT I SAW WAS THREE PEOPLE THROWING DOWN!

I mean they were trying to kill each other.

Really.

And it was motherloving awkward.

The non-cabbie guy (he had a nice shirt, by the way) and the cabbie were flailing at each other with open-handed head shots, but really undisciplined-like. It was like they were playing motorboat, but instead of a girl’s boobies, they were trying to motorboat each other’s noggins. And instead of fighting like grown men, it was all these limp-fingered open-handed noodle arms.

Yet it was also like a tag team battle, with guy + girlfriend v. cabbie, but really chaotic.

All I was thinking while I walked by was I am pretty sure I can take either of these guys.

The piΓ¨ce de rΓ©sistance was when the customer wound up for a roundhouse kick — I mean he pulled back to go all Karate Kid on the cabbie — and then he hit his girlfriend in the hip! HE HIT HIS GIRLFRIEND INSTEAD OF THE CABBIE.

In Magic terms it’s like he Ninjitsu-ed Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni into play in order to reanimate Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni. Hi-ya!

Of course that guy was on his back about a second later and open-handed motorboat cabbie was all over him, but instead of a Matt Hughes-like finish the cops appeared and broke it up. So we will never know who really would have won.

Oh well.

Maybe tomorrow I will write about Rhox Meditant πŸ™‚

Part Three:
Oh so what did any of this have to do with Osyp?

He was the last person I had called on my cell phone, and I had to call and tell somebody about this while it was still fresh in my mind.

Osyp convinced me to blog about it instead of, you know, Rhox Meditant.

I convinced him (I think) to game with Jund Mana Ramp (not awkward at all) on basis that it is basically the URzaTron deck we made for the last Honolulu πŸ™‚

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Gotham Central Vol. 5: Dead Robin (Batman)

Primal Command I Guess?

I was trying to figure out something compelling to say about the two Cascade decks that I have been working on this week, and I guess the answer is Primal Command. It’s funny… I was telling BDM how much I liked playing these decks and he reminded me that we spent a long time (originally) bagging on Primal Command. It has turned out quite the Command… But this isn’t really about Primal Command but some Cascade stuff.

Base-Naya Four-color Aggro

4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
2 Kitchen Finks
4 Naya Charm
4 Steward of Valeron
4 Woolly Thoctar

4 Flame Javelin
4 Volcanic Fallout

4 Exotic Orchard
3 Fire-Lit Thicket
1 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Vivid Crag
4 Vivid Grove
4 Vivid Meadow

sb:
4 Anathemancer
2 Kitchen Finks
4 Cloudthresher
4 Primal Command
1 Celestial Purge

My initial motivations were somewhere between wanting to play with Steward of Valeron and playing with a Red Deck (I think I might have specifically been thinking of playing with Ball Lightning alongside Bloodbraid Elf at the time)… Which explains my Flame Javelins.

From a separate angle BDM has been telling me that he thinks that you might as well play Naya Charm in a deck like Pat Chapin’s five-color Bloodbraid Elf deck… None of us like the UUU requirements in that deck, though everyone of course respects the Blue cards Cryptic Command and Cruel Ultimatum. My theory was that I could just cheat and play all the Bituminous Blasts and that would be kind of like having Blue cards.

I understand people like a Sygg but Steward of Valeron makes for more explosive potential draws. You know, turn three Bloodbraid Elf into Boggart Ram-Gang and all that. It doesn’t come up that often, but Steward of Valeron is a very high quality card… Easily the equal of Putrid Leech in terms of quality if not offensive capability.

Volcanic Fallout is kind of super stainsy… at times. Half the time I don’t want to play it when it comes up on a Cascade. I was thinking about playing with Jund Charm (which is worse against Faeries) but my mana right now is only a very slight touch for Black, and then relatively high on the curve, which is much different than having to play exactly Jund Charm, especially under pressure. For now it’s Fallout, but that is my least favorite spell in this deck.

As for the sideboard I keep wanting Aura of Silence, thinking to myself how much easier a lot of these matches would be with Aura of Silence… and then winning anyway, without it or Maelstrom Pulse. “See next deck,” I suppose.

Here is a rundown of the matches I’ve had with Base-Naya Four-color Aggro so far:

1. Kithkin
Apparently Kithkin matters. Tonight I am working on Top Decks for the week, which of course includes Kithkin in the Top 8 of the most recent Grand Prix but also a win by my old teammate Matt Boccio (easily the most dangerous Vs. player ever in terms of batting average) with Mono-White Kithkin in Philadelphia. Like I said, apparently Kithkin matters.

Well in this case it was a super easy win for Base-Naya Four-color Aggro. Woolly Thoctar was very big and useful and I got money with Volcanic Fallout.

1-0

2. Esper Something
This deck was lots of Borderposts and a variety of artifacts, Tezzeret, etc.

Game One I won on tremendous tempo. It was just like bam, Bam, BAM… Bam again, kick, wham, stunner… Hello! His like only meaningful play (and I use the term “meaningful” loosely given the configuration of this deck) was to play Pithing Needle naming Anathemancer.

Game Two was the reverse. First of all he juked my brains out with Esper Panorama. I had like Reflecting Pool, Steward of Valeron, Exotic Orchard… it slowed me down a bit. Then Esper Panorama was like his only nonbasic the whole game. This one he used Tezzeret to gather many and more copies of Vedalken Outlander and Scepter of Dominance. Basically he just kept tapping down my Stewards and laughing at my Red men. Eventually he got enough counters on Tezzeret to go Ultimate on quads Outlanders (and whatever else) for a blowout.

Game Three I was like desperately trying to figure out how to win. Because my Game Two strategy was atrocious. That is I flipped Anathemancer (Red spell) on a Cascade and he had no nonbasics on board. And I had like two more in grip that I ran out there (you know, ran onto the Battlefield) and they were nothing. Less than nothing.

So I thought very hard about how and what I should sideboard. I put all the Cloudthreshers in. I just wanted something that could damage my opponent through his mighty Outlanders. But I decided to keep one Anathemancer in with my four Primal Commands. This game he ran out quite a few nonbasics (probably thinking I had sided out my Anathemancers, which I had… but one). Last turn was Primal Command for the Anathemancer + scoop. Great match for Tournament Practice.

2-0

3. Four-color Bloodbraid Beatdown
He had the Madrush Cyclops version, which is a lot more common than I would have thought. This was a L-W-W for the good guys. He had the early Cascade advantage but I mised into Naya Charm and realized I could Naya Charm race him through… Which only didn’t work because he had Naya Charm too πŸ™‚

Primal Commands demolished him in the sideboarded games. The combination of gaining seven life to race the opponent’s Anathemancer and setting up your own (sometimes bonus) Anathemancers makes Primal Command a compelling addition to the Cascade strategy.

Typically in these matchups (quite common) I have been siding…

-4 Steward of Valeron
-3 Flame Javelin
-4 Volcanic Fallout
+4 Anathemancer
+2 Kitchen Finks
+4 Primal Command
+1 Celestial Purge

Siding out Steward… I dunno about that but it is the weakest card in the deck when it comes to both players sending overhand rights at each other (Anathemancers and Primal Commands in my case, along with the nonstop Cascade blowout cards from both sides); Flame Javelin is just weaker -4 than Primal command +7.

3-0

4. G/W Elves
I played against a super nice opponent who was a former WotC designer, which explains this tight quote when she mis-played and ran out post-combat Noble Hierarch to miss a point of Exalted:

“I’m roleplaying as a blond, apparently.”

LOL. Gamer humor.

It went all three games. Game one she blew me out; game two she got blown out by Cloudthresher and Fallout to erase her mana accelerators. Game Three I had a commanding lead but elected not to attack Garruk Wildspeaker… I just blanked for a second because I didn’t realize that I was going to be ninety percent kold to her on-board (on-Battlefield) Behemoth Sledge. This almost got her out, but not quite.

4-0

5. Esper Artifacts
Game One he opened with a super fast Salvage Titan on Chromatic Stars and thereabouts, but I had Flame Javelin and Woolly Thoctar (he stalled).

Game Two I got smoked by four copies of Master of Etherium in the first 14 cards. I beat the first two but the next couple of 8/8s got me.

In the third I had the sick tempo starting with Boggart Ram-Gang. Then I had this awesome play with Glaze Fiend on the Battlefield, with him playing Master of Etherium. I timed it to kill the Fiend with Fallout and got the then-little Master two-for-one. Bloodbraid ran into 5/4 which ran into a concession.

5-0

6. R/W Brew
His Jungle Shrine saved me! I had a slow draw but Exotic Orchard hooked a brother up. No idea how I beat his Redcap + Ajani but I did.

6-0

7. Jund Aggro
My Thoctar ate his Ram-Gang, etc. However one too many F2s cost me six points on a Bloodbraid Elf + Boggart Ram-Gang of my own though πŸ™

His Anathemancer pounced but I had lots of Naya Charms to keep him out of the Red Zone. Same sideboarding as before:

-4 Steward of Valeron
-3 Flame Javelin
-4 Volcanic Fallout
+4 Anathemancer
+2 Kitchen Finks
+4 Primal Command
+1 Celestial Purge

7-0

8. Some Domain Brew
This was a pretty weak Brew that had lots of good cards and also synergy but maybe wasn’t fast enough. I just sided in Primal Commands for his Fertile Grounds.

8-0

9. G/W Little Kid
In the opener he had Troll + Shield of the Oversoul. Which was not very impressive against multiple Ram-Gangs. Is Troll Ascetic more-of-less unplayable now?

He had Wall of Reverence which I somehow beat.

Through Game Two he just kept regenerating his Troll as I attacked a bunch with my 5/4s; I kept his mana busy and then went Primal Command, Bloodbraid Elf, go off.

9-0

10. Mirror
I lost a close one when I thought I had the Naya Charm kill but he in fact had the Naya Charm to stall and then topdecked Anathemancer for eight!

Game Two I got with turn two Knight of Valeron, Elf, Elf for Kitchen Finks and Woolly Thoctar; he conceded and I had Bituminous Blast backup.

Game Three he gave me just a little too much information. I sent my Bloodbraid Elf into the Red Zone and he traded for everything. We had no board nowhere. He played Naya Charm for Bituminous Blast (which is what I probably would have done). So I just didn’t play any guys. I played Primal Commands for life and Anathemancers to go over 23 and then just killed him with Anathemancers from a distance.

10-0

I made another version at this point, which will be detailed in probably the next blog post. It was based on a large proportion of Bloodbraid Elf based decks showing up in the Tournament Practice Room.

That said I returned to this version and played another two or so matches (both against the Madrush Cyclops version) and won those as well. My analysis is that if you draw more Cascade spells you are at the advantage in the mirror. Naya Charm being quite good.

At about a 12-0 at this point I can say that the weakest card in the deck is Volcanic Fallout purely based on the composition of the metagame (it would be invaluable if there were all Faeries again) and the sideboard is full of great cards. What to cut for Aura of Silence? Celestial Purge is the obvious weakling at this stage but I love most of the other cards. Kitchen Finks and Anathemancer have to come in for the mirror and Primal Command is too outstanding to cut. It’s hard to say what I would want to change given the fact that I haven’t lost yet πŸ™‚

More later.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Gotham Central Vol. 4: The Quick and the Dead (Batman)

The Return of Chameleon Colossus!

Features two new decks (kind of), an update to G/W Mana Ramp, and my recommendation for this week’s PTQs… which includes, unsurprisingly, 100% more Chameleon Colossus!

So I built the deck from Imagine a Thornling Wearing a Behemoth Sledge… just thinking about “good cards” rather than its context in the metagame.

In playing the Elves strategies from Standard Elves and then working on the subsequent Top Decks (premiering tomorrow on the mother ship) I realized that I really wanted Chameleon Colossus in… decks. Not just the G/W Mana Ramp deck, but other, say, mana ramping decks you may have seen here or say in the Pittsburg Regionals Top 8 πŸ™‚

For the G/W Mana Ramp deck I decided to move away from the original sort of G/W Tokens-ish model, re-contextualizing my threats. Out went Twilight Shepherd in order to help make room for Chameleon Colossus. I also changed the mana acceleration package, moving away from Rampant Growth and adding Wildfield Borderpost and Knight of the White Orchid, replacing Cloudgoat Ranger.

This made for a deck that was much less capable of exploiting Ajani Goldmane… So I also reconfigured the Planeswalker situation. This is what I ended up playing:

G/W Mana Ramp v. 2.0

2 Behemoth Sledge
4 Wildfield Borderpost

4 Kitchen Finks

4 Chameleon Colossus
4 Fertile Ground
3 Garruk Wildspeaker

3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Knight of the White Orchid
2 Martial Coup
4 Path to Exile
4 Spectral Procession

5 Forest
6 Plains
4 Treetop Village
4 Windbrisk Heights
4 Wooded Bastion

sb:
1 Behemoth Sledge
4 Cloudthresher
4 Aura of Silence
2 Martial Coup
4 Hallowed Burial

I played about five matches, but they felt much less relevant and conclusive than the previous night’s work with the first version of G/W Mana Ramp.

Five Color “Bounce”?
His mana base was very expensive (as many of them these days are)… But he didn’t do anything outstanding with that mana. Sure he played a Cryptic Command, but like sending Boomerang at my Wildfield Borderpost several consecutive turns was not beating anyone. Then I got Knight of the White Orchid card advantage and it was a mess for him, more-or-less.
1-0

Dominus Deck Wins
This was like a deck I suggested for Block Constructed PTQs last summer… U/R Mimic, Clout of the Dominus, and even the big Dominus itself!

His guys on the board were very good but I just stalled out of getting killed, got a little life back with the Behemoth Sledge, and won with Martial Coup and ‘walker card advantage. Dominus is pretty cool… I didn’t realize he could steal things like my equipment and a Planeswalker.
2-0

U/W Fog
Obviously this is a horrendous matchup but I felt like I could win either game, especially Game Two.

Game One I made a college try of it but eventually conceded when it looked like he wouldn’t make any truly catastrophic mistakes. Game Two was the annoying one. He played a Howling Mine on turn two and I missed four consecutive land drops anyway. I had to run Knight of the White Orchid for no value, stuff like that.

Anyway he drew all four Cryptic Commands in the first 34 cards which is why I lost, ultimately. I was very close to burning him out with Cloudthreshers and I was able to completely suppress his Howling Mines. On the last turn he played a Broken Ambitions that didn’t even resolve but he showed a four, trumping my Borderpost, and I got milled for my library (he had no Fog and no remaining Mine at that point).

2-1

Shorecrasher Mimic / Finest Hour Deck
We traded the first two; third game I just made a gigantic error that seemed like a cool play at the time. He had Elspeth and was launching Rhox War Monk at me. I blocked with a Spectral Procession token and sent my token to Exile to mise a card. I was going to Martial Coup with a ton of gas left — Spectral Procession, Chameleon Colossus, etc. — but then I realized that he would just kill me with Treetop Village + Elspeth!

I had no recourse but to string out blockers until I could find another Path to Exile or my own Elspeth; I found neither. He won by a mile but if I had played correctly, I would have won by a mile.

Funny… while I was making the play it seemed like a brilliant one!

2-2

Some Kind of ‘brew
It was a homebrew of some sort.

3-2

I quit at that point… This version of the G/W was not / is not ready for prime time yet.

Some people have been asking Will Price on Twitter if G/W is for real (I guess they didn’t want to ask me directly) … I think G/W can be good but neither of the decks I presented is likely to be the best deck. If I were playing this weekend, I would 100% play this:

Jund Mana Ramp v. 3.0

2 Makeshift Mannequin
3 Shriekmaw

4 Broodmate Dragon
4 Kitchen Finks

4 Chameleon Colossus
4 Civic Wayfinder
4 Cloudthresher
4 Rampant Growth

4 Banefire
3 Volcanic Fallout

4 Fire-Lit Thicket
8 Forest
2 Mountain
4 Savage Land
2 Swamp
4 Treetop Village

sb:
4 Anathemancer
1 Shriekmaw
1 Terror
3 Caldera Hellion
1 Volcanic Fallout
4 Primal Command
1 Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund

Yes, this is our Jund Mana Ramp deck, minus one Makeshift Mannequin, all the Gifts, and replacing those with one Swamp and four copies of Chameleon Colossus.

Will is also down with this swap.

He says that the great thing about this is that all the people who didn’t like Gift of the Gargantuan will now feel vindicated, even though this isn’t a change based on what they have been saying at all. We just analyzed the metagame and saw a gap for a very good threat.

B/W Tokens – Already a good matchup… Chameleon Colossus makes it even better.

G/W Tokens – Awesome matchup… The change yeilds very little difference (but arguably makes things worse as it reduces our ability to set up devastating Shriekmaw plays); should still be a great matchup.

Cascade Swans – Our worst matchup… that no one plays. Change is arguably better because speed matters here.

Faeries – Good matchup where Chameleon Colossus is just our best threat πŸ™‚

Elves – Good matchup where Chameleon Colossus is a nearly unbeatable threat for them.

So for most of the matchups in the format, Chameleon Colossus is a net positive. Ergo, welcome back, buddy!

LOVE
MIKE

P.S. I started testing yet another new deck and it has actually been really awesome! I will blog about it tomorrow-ish πŸ™‚ See ya then and all that.

Currently Reading: Gotham Central Vol. 2: Half a Life (Batman)

By the way Rucka is one of my favorite writers (Checkmate, Queen & Country and all that) and Lark is one of everyone’s favorite artists… I think I read somewhere that they both consider Half a Life the best story they’ve ever worked on. Just sayin’.

Imagine a Thornling Wearing a Behemoth Sledge…

So I was working on this week’s Top Decks and my good friend Paul Jordan insisted that I write about the G/W decks that did so well in Honolulu (sorry – you will have to wait until Thursday to read about those if you haven’t seen them yet).

However as you know I am a crazy lunatic when it comes to building decks, and the thought of summoning Thornling was pretty insane to me… I mean imagine Thornling wearing a Behemoth Sledge! I couldn’t get that image out of my brain. So of course I procrastinated tonight and have not as of yet completed my Top Decks article… But I did produce a new deck!

Β Β  Β  Β 

G/W Mana Ramp

2 Behemoth Sledge

4 Kitchen Finks

4 Fertile Ground
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
2 Rampant Growth

4 Ajani Goldmane
4 Cloudgoat Ranger
2 Martial Coup
4 Path to Exile
4 Spectral Procession
4 Twilight Shepherd

5 Forest
6 Plains
4 Treetop Village
4 Windbrisk Heights
4 Wooded Bastion

sideboard:
1 Behemoth Sledge
4 Cloudthresher
4 Aura of Silence
4 Hallowed Burial
2 Martial Coup

As you can see Thornling did not actually make the cut, unfortunately πŸ™

The mana might need a little bit of work… I’ve had some issues getting my Green when I need it, but nothing serious so far.

The sideboard probably needs lots of work. Rhox Meditant and Captured Sunlight as a combo are probably better than the insane number of overcosted Wrath of God sweepers I have been consistently trying to side in. Hallowed Burial, now that I think of it, is probably kind of dumb relative to good old Wrath of God… I mean I am the one going for the persist combo, right?

Another thought is to reduce the curve a little bit to play Knight of the White Orchid and a set of Borderposts… But I haven’t thought that far into the future yet.

The deck is like halfway between a Jund Mana Ramp deck (note the Garruk Wildspeaker + Fertile Ground goodbadness and G/W Tokens. The Jund side allows me to play Jund-expensive super pricey cards like Martial Coup and Twilight Shepherd; from Tokens side I trade in the Overruns for some more expensive board controlling cards, while completing the Garruk package.

And what about Twilight Shepherd? She hasn’t been seen since G/W Little Kid!

Basically I wanted to integrate the Murderous Redcap-style B/W Persist engine into my deck, and Twilight Shepherd has persist. Meanwhile it is also a nice spell in general! This card has elicited numerous on-the-spot concessions.

Okay, quick testing…

Only five matches tonight (I do have to finish Top Decks, after all).

1. Some Kind of Beatdown

He was playing some kind of beatdown cards. I don’t really know the difference between these decks sometimes. Was it Jund Aggro? It didn’t look like Five-color Blood, anyway. Regardless, super easy.

1-0

2. G/W Tokens

This was a W-L-L.

Game Two I got stuck on three comes-into-play tapped lands (Treetop Village and double Heights) and a Fertile Ground and he was able to play two Spectral Processions and two Cloudgoat Rangers while I was diddling around trying to make my first Planeswalker.

Game Three I think I just screwed up. I had active Garruk and he had some Cloudgoat action (maybe two). I could have played my second Ajani (he had previously attacked one down) and instead I played a Cloudgoat Ranger. He of course had an Ajani and super-sized his squad and squashed me. I blocked to be able to have lots of mana the subsequent turn in case I drew Martial Coup but instead I just lost. Pretty sure I had that one if I understood the deck / matchup a little more.

Interestingly he played two Paths Game One and I played two Game Three and you can see how that went. Those of you with more experience… Is Path to Exile terrible heads up? I figured I needed it in case of Gaddock Teeg.

1-1

3. Jund Cascade

Some kind of a not memorable win. He had cards like Bituminous Blast rather than Broodmate Dragon. I just played the tempo game against his Putrid Leech and eventually he was going to be kold to me Windbrisk Heights and Behemoth Sledge… he just was.

Now that I think of it, I should probably just play four Chameleon Colossus in this deck, especially if Elves is the popular deck right now. Chameleon Colossus is great v. Jund, Faeries, Elves, Five-color Blood, and Mono-Black Rogues all.

2-1

4. Bant

This was the Noble Hierarch / Rhox War Monk kind of deck.

Game One I milked his board and set him up for Martial Coup into Kitchen Finks + Ajani Goldmane lock.

Game Two he shocked me with a Negate for my turn three Garruk Wildspeaker… but I was still able to dominate his little guys. A little tense because he can sometimes play a little close to the life total, but a win in two.

3-1

5. B/R Aggro

I could have lost either game. In fact one of them I pumped all my guys instead of realizing I was one eight and could have died to double Flame Javelin… But I was lucky and just didn’t. In general if you stick Ajani and some guys they are in miserable shape. I even shipped to six in Game Two, with no Green Mana for about eight turns, and pulled it out without a ton of difficulty.

4-1

So there you have it – Super scientific 4-1 including wins over every deck (Faeries, Cascade, etc.). So look no further!

πŸ™‚

I think the deck is worth a little more time, though. With some Chameleons I think it could be a good time.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Day of Vengeance (Countdown to Infinite Crisis)