I came up with a pretty spectacular strategy for Scars of Mirrodin Standard.
And by “I” I mean Brian David-Marshall came up with it. Well, he came up with a card idea and I ran with it. “The Champ” Andre Coimbra started brainstorming with us, but elements all conspired to my deciding to abandon it for this weekend’s TCGPlayer 5K in New York.
First of all, none of the lists I came up with had the right number of “4” … Lots of “2” … Which means garbage. With no metagame to test and no very good frame of reference with, you know, no metagame so far… I… Did I mention “garbage” yet?
Second of all, Andre pointed out to me that the reason Naya Lightsaber was the best was that all the cards were awesome and even though they worked well together, none of them were over-reliant on any others. He pointed out that even if I (and by “I” I mean BDM) were right about the new format, we were highly reliant on a card that was at this point completely unproven.
So I decided to counter-brew.
And by counter-brew I don’t mean Counterspell but rather turning back the clock. I basically cribbed two or three different Zvi Mowshowitz lists and came up with this:
The shell is a 16-accelerator mold in the vein of Zvi’s Amsterdam deck.
There are lots of different cards you can use for the last four accelerators… In Amsterdam the Team Mythic-2 crew played Nest Invader. However that version played Windbrisk Heights, so the extra weenie was worth it to help set off the powerful Hideaway land. In Standard Joraga Treespeaker just helps hook up the fastest ramp deck in the room. You probably know from Conrad Kolos’s US Nationals tournament reports that Joraga Treespeaker was his way of breaking serve in the mirror… The accelerators in this deck are twice as fast as those in a mono-Green Eldrazi Ramp deck, so you can go off slightly faster, even if the deck in total is less powerful than the Eldrazi Ramp end game.
Tom Martell asked me why I would rather play a Baneslayer Angel than Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre… In addition to being slightly faster than a more common Ramp deck, I think this deck has a better chance against RDW. As you can see, half my sideboard is devoted to the devotees of Goblin Guide.
I was inspired by how good I found Joshua Utter-Leyton’s no-Fauna Shaman deck, the best of the pre-Scars of Mirrodin Standard decks. The notion of playing full-on Bant without Knight of the Reliquary was frightening. So it was U/G or G/W.
So this is basically terrible testing; and probably all the testing I am going to do for this tournament. I am super busy writing this week (I don’t even know how I pulled back the time to write this blog post to be honest), and as you know, except in rare events when I am hanging out / preparing with my IRL friends, the days off all-Sunday playtesting-while-babysitting for the Apprentice Program largely evaporated with the coming of Clark. So 99% of my playtesting these days comes on Magic Online… And as awful as the testing for this one was, I feel like the entire Alara Block + M10 has to be more powerful than just Scars of Mirrodin.
I think the deck must be pretty self-explanatory, but I will talk about one other card you may not have anticipated: Rampaging Baloths.
I feel like this guy is a monster, and I chose to play it over Sun Titan. Sun Titan is okay, but nothing spectacular in this deck, unless you are looping Tectonic Edges. That just isn’t consistent enough in my estimation.
If anyone has any comments on the mana base in particular, you know where the comments go.
Firestarter: What should I cut, if anything, for Bojuka Bog?
Ratchet Bomb :: Powder Keg :: Tweets & Other Correspondence RE: Ratchet Bomb
“Decisions” :: Louis CK :: … and did I mention “Ratchet Bomb”?
The Girl in Question*:
I wanted to blog about Ratchet Bomb about a week ago, right after I wrote my then-preview article for the mother ship. As usual there were things I wanted to talk about, but particularly given the unprecedented tons of redundant communications I received from forum posts, personal emails, and Tweets around this card.
Most people were like “Wow, is that even better than Powder Keg,” but that’s not the group I wanted to talk about. Before I get 100% into them, I am reminded of a bit by popular comedian Louis CK. You can watch a clip of him and Conan O’Brien here:
The part I wanted to talk about starts almost precisely at 2:00.
“I was on an airplane and there was Internet — high speed Internet — on the airplane. That’s the newest thing that I know exists. And I’m sitting on the plane and they say open up your laptops and you can go on the Internet.
“And it’s fast, and I”m watching YouTube… but I’m on an airplane.
“And then it breaks down and they apologize the Internet’s not working… and the guy next to me goes ‘This is bullshit!’
“Like how quickly the world owes him something he knew existed only 10 seconds ago!
It’s far more hilarious listening to Louis tell the story than if you read it… But that’s how I feel about many players’ reactions to Ratchet Bomb.
I am not going to call any particular respondent out; just point out a common sentiment, which is basically:
You failed to mention that Ratchet Bomb really isn’t better than Powder Keg because you have to tap it. For example if my opponent has both one- and two- casting cost threats and I already have a counter on it and I want to put a second counter on it but he has a Disenchant; frowny-face.
Are you serious with this collective Internets?
How about if the opponent has both one- and two- casting cost threats and you have already figured out that it is possible that the card may be vulnerable to cards like Nature’s Claim or whatever you think about that before putting a second counter on it?
How about, in the words of my colleagues over at Yo MTG Taps you “Stop bitchin’ and start brewin'”?
Let me tell you a little something about decisions.
Decisions shape destiny.
Once upon a time you made a decision, and that decision put you in the position you are today. For example, I decided that it would be more fun to stick around in New York after my summer internship was over instead of going back to the scholarship I had waiting for me at law school, and that decision snowballed over the course of the next eleven years into my becoming a domain expert in arbitrage advertising, marrying the woman of my — and let’s face it, “everyone’s” — dreams, and producing two particular children that could only have been produced by the quirky combination of my DNA and hers. I think I have a pretty great life, and it was the result of that decision more than ten years ago.
Which doesn’t mean that I couldn’t have had a different pretty great life if I had made the opposite one; just that I wouldn’t have remotely the relationships and career that I have now, if I had made the other.
Another example could be a decision I made fourteen years ago.
I was playtesting with DJ Chagnon and the now-famous Charles “Tuna” Hwa, and found myself in a position where I had thrown together a deck — purely for playtesting — that not only thrashed the deck DJ and Charles were planning to play, but the deck I was planning to play.
At the time I had zero pro Magic experience and was one of those players who might say something like “Well, I’m a control player” or “I like Blue decks” or some other such garbage that you hear over at the 0-3 table at every FNM in every city in the world.
I made a decision based on data and statistics — even if I couldn’t express them, or it at that point — that changed the course of my life forever. I threw in with the opposite camp and played a Necropotence deck; fine, it was a unique-ishNecropotence deck of my own devising, but it was a deck with all kinds of two- and three-mana threats instead of slow-ass Helm of Obedience ** offense and Circle of Protection: Green (or whatever awful color) defense… and that decision changed my life, too. I cut myself off from the misguided, limiting bullspit that I had been feeding myself for the past two or three years, and — wonder of wonders — found myself on the Pro Tour for the first time, 24 hours later.
I made a decision, and it changed my life in a truly magical way.
Who knows how the course of my life — or the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of Magic players — would have changed if I had not cut myself off from the limiting tethers of Force of Will and Arcane Denial rather than the mighty two-card combination of Dark Ritual and Thawing Glaciers? If I had never won that first PTQ, who is to say I would have ever so much as had the interest to win the second one I won that year, or kept playing competitive Magic? What if I never wrote Who’s the Beatdown because, like so many of my mid-1990s playtest partners, I simply quit?
altran and I were the only ones in the group — though all of us played 50 hours a week back then — who actually made it to the Pro Tour in that decade… and altran eventually gave up spell slinging. Who is to say I would have been able to Cultivate The Fire had I not had the tremendous positive reinforcement that came with winning my third-ever PTQ, and followed that up with multiple Top 8s and another PTQ win in the next six months?
I am not saying the lives of some six million Magic players would have been worlds different if I had never written Who’s the Beatdown, but I am awfully sure that my life would have been cut a completely different direction.
So what is all this talk of “cutting off”?
The word “decide” comes from the Latin for “to cut off”. When you decide, you settle your mind and cut away all other possibilities.
A lot of you guys remember the story of how Steve O’Mahoney-Schwartz beat Dave Humpherys in the last round of US Nationals 2000. I was so amazed at how well Steve played the first three turns of the game… A sequence that was so similar — yet so much better — than the way that most players would have approached a game that they too would have won (just not as efficiently).
Jonny later told me that if I kept hanging out with him and Steve, I would no longer be able to see any other play.
What does this have to do with the guys wrinkling their noses at the fact that their poor Ratchet Bombs might fall victim to a Shatter in-between tapping and proposed, you know, different tapping?
Let’s spin this back to the years ago discussion of Cabal Therapy v. Duress in Extended. Most Reanimator decks played four copies of Cabal Therapy and three copies of Duress. Weak players would play the reverse, in theory because they weren’t good enough to hit with Cabal Therapy as consistently.
Let’s put aside for a moment that you can’t first-turn Duress a Rorix Bladewing out of your own hand so that you can follow up with a Chrome Mox + Reanimate. The fact that you can’t necessarily “hit” [the opponent] with Cabal Therapy versus Duress ***. The tension Cabal Therapy was better than Duress wasn’t between hit or not (or at least not primarily between hit or not), it was between being able to hit the card that is going to beat you… Whether or not that is actually the card in the other guy’s hand.
This is the same tension that the guys complaining about getting their shiny new Powder Kegs blown up in between days just aren’t getting. Who cares if you can hit some irrelevant Serra Attendant if the problem is the 12/12 Ajani’s Pridemate? I mean it’s nice to be able to kill some extra card if the opponent is already going to point a card at your card… But who gives a flying fudge if that’s not the card that is going to kill you?
Yes – It is a non-zero consideration to notice that Ratchet Bomb has a slightly different vulnerability than Powder Keg.
No – That has absolutely no bearing on how good Ratchet Bomb is.
If you decide that jumping your counters is what you have to do, strategically, the fact that you are “subject” to a different one-for-one might have some effect on an individual game (and then again, might not), but has almost no bearing on how good the card is.
* First person to correctly identify the reference made by this four word sequence can topdeck five #FloresRewards.
** True story: In the summer of 1996 I attempted to corner the Ohio market on Helm of Obedience under the theory that if I owned all of them, no one could use them to beat my stupid Blue-based creatureless decks.
*** True or false – I have won a PTQ game where I missed both Duress and Cabal Therapy in the same turn.
I wrote another article on sideboarding this week, over at TCGPlayer.com
The article was generally well-received but per usual with these kinds of examples-laden, detail-oriented articles I always end up with things that I wish I had added but forgot to, or didn’t think of until after I had submitted, or whatever.
Luckily I have a highly trafficked blog where I can add the odd DVD Extras (P.S. you’re reading it).
Osyp pointed out on Twitter…
Aside on Osyp on Twitter.
Basically I have been stealing everything worthwhile — ultimately including this blog post — from things Osyp said on Twitter. Examples include #FloresRewards (if you haven’t signed up for #FloresRewards yet… you should), and my most recent #FloresRewards video / Feat of Strength [chocolate peanut butter buckeyes]. By the way these went over quite well at Jonny Magic’s tonight.
If you’re not following Osyp on Twitter yet… you should.
Anyway, what my man Osyp said was that I should have called out the URzaTron sideboard as a good example of what we were talking about in the sideboarding article. In case you don’t know, URzaTron was a deck that Osyp used to make Top 8 of Pro Tour Honolulu (Heezy’s). The main deck was mostly designed by me, with Osyp, Andrew Cuneo, Josh Ravitz, and Chris Pikula on the team. But the important part — the Giant Solifuges — were Osyp’s doing.
The cool thing about the main deck (in case you didn’t notice) is that there were no double mana requirements… Just the one Invoke the Firemind. The Giant Solifuge sideboarding swap actually broke that rule (but like I said, Osyp made that part… which was in all honesty the best part of the deck).
The philosophy of this deck was that it went Over The Top relative to the rest of the metagame. You play Keiga or Meloku… What is the other guy supposed to do, even?
The deck was typically the beatdown, even if it looks like a control deck. It used the Counterspells (as Eugene Harvey explained) simply for time management, but it was all about setting the tempo of the game with its superior threats. The Giant Solifuges allowed the deck to obtain greater speed when faced with decks that had comparable or more powerful end games. Really inspired, not-obvious work by Osyp.
The part of the article I wanted to address myself (that is, without Osyp’s prompting) was around enhancing the practicals section at the bottom. I’ll do so now.
Rebels – A modern example might be Pyromancer Ascension. People who are not really intimate with the deck might only think of it as a Pyromancer Ascension + Time Warp [functionally] infinite combo deck. LSV recently talked about siding out Time Warps in some matches. We have seen transformational decks around Polymorph (JVL actually had that in the very first version he showed me, before we even had Call to Mind). Even semi-transformation around Kiln Fiend might count here, but in any case we have examples where one or both of the core “combo pieces” (one of which is the namesake) might be removed in order to reposition the deck while sideboarding. While it is not purely a sideboarding execution, the genius of Gerry Thompson’s hybrid Thopter Foundry / Dark Depths deck was rooted very much in the flavor of this philosophy. His deck, while on its face was much more like a Vampire Hexmage / Dark Depths deck, exhibited exactly the flexibility of “I guess I can side out all my Rebels if you are just going to aim at them”, which allowed for the equally powerful Sword of the Meek combo to kill them to death while they stared at a hand full of Repeals and Ghost Quarters.
G/W – Something interesting here is the ability to create a corner case. Something that I have always been cognizant of when designing rogue decks is how to produce a corner case, push the opponent into it, and then win 100% of the time that this comes up. Most of these examples work around decking, actually, and the G/W one is no different. Despite the presence of extraordinarily card advantageous threats like Decree of Justice and Eternal Dragon, it is theoretically possible to deck the G/W deck. The deck did a lot of cycling, and the Eternal Dragons could be overcome by a combination of Pulse of the Fields and maybe Scrabbling Claws. In addition to facilitating the semi-transformation, Darksteel Colossus makes it almost impossible to deck the G/W deck… In fact, the G/W deck can play to deck the opponent, if it came down to it; but a more realistic position would probably be having tons of mana and playing and re-playing Darksteel Colossus over and over again.
Kuroda-style Red – Something to be wary of with these fancy sideboarding switches is the control of information. For example, in real life, we were out-thunk by Heezy and Neil. They had a different sideboard than the then-default, and moreover, Heezy was aware of our sideboarding strategy, which in turn, allowed them to apply a sweep-capable sidebaord switch in the face of our supposedly unbeatable anti-Blue sideboarding strategy. A recent example might be Little D over Ma in the Top 8 of Amsterdam. Ma theoretically had a 90% matchup v. Little D, but Little D executed the sweep with his Relic of Progenitus switch-in, which impaired the effectiveness of Ma’s Tarmogoyf and Kitchen Finks. In theory had Conley been looking over Ma’s shoulder, they could have executed a couner-Nassif sideboarding strategy that would have blunted the effectiveness of the Relic plan… But insted, Little D was in a position of liking the Relic so much he kept a mana light hand just because there were Relics present.
Critical Mass – The holy grail of Constructed Magic is to be the beatdown and the control simultaneously. That makes it impossible for the opponent to Execute on a Who’s the Beatdown equation. Generally speaking the optimal sideboarding strategy is to position yourself as both the beatdown and the control if possible. Both Brian Kibler’s Rubin Zoo deck and the Mythic Conscription deck exhibit qualities of seizing both beatdown and control capabilities. Talk to Kibler about Rubin Zoo. If you draw Wild Nacatl, you win on speed; if you don’t, you slow play and win on power. Play the Mythic Conscription deck. It is just like Critical Mass against control… It does the same thing they do, but faster due to Lotus Cobra and so on. Meanwhile, it is also the fastest, most powerful, attack deck thanks to the speed of Sovereigns of Lost Alara. While neither the Naya or the Bant decks discussed in this subsection rely on sideboarding, you can see how they can play either role, fluidly, and in some cases both simultaneously. For example against another Zoo deck, Kibler could go first, play a 3/3 on the first turn (beatdown), trumping a Goblin Guide or Kird Ape, attack the face, and then play lockdown with the Grove of the Burnwillows combo (control), until locking down the game entirely with Baneslayer Angel (a really controlling beatdown). Poor beatdown.
Well, that’s most of what I wanted to say about that.
Oftentimes with these kinds of articles I have more ideas than I can remember to get down on paper before I hit the “Send” button to my editor. In this case I think that a number of cases would be supported by more / more concrete examples.
It is pretty imperative that the Counterspells played in the Draw-Go deck are mana efficient. You will see in an example later in this blog post that Sigurd Eskeland is able to compete with the speed of Jon Finkel’s Deadguy Red deck only due to the speed of Force Spike.
Part of the reason for this is that the Draw-Go deck must be able to not only answer threats at commensurate speed, but at some point, must be able to play at least one reactive card per turn while drawing additional cards, even if only by Impulse or the equivalent.
Force with Force
A super iconic example of this would be with literal Force of Will.
That is not to say that you have to use Force of Will. The modern “I win in the context of a tight mana situation” today might be Pact of Negation (though I suppose that will not last much longer, even in Extended).
The problem is that while that card can’t be countered, it is super slow and the pieces that get you there can all be countered. Realistically Gaea’s Revenge can’t kill you until like turn eight, and you can actually just get raced.
Am I being unfair here? I liked Banefire quite a bit against Blue last year… Is there a huge difference?
I was doing some research to help AJ Sacher tonight and came upon a segment from a Jon Finkel — yes Jon em offing Finkel — tournament report from like 1998. Consider:
I played Sigurd Eskeland, as we were the only two 7-0s. He won the coin flip, and we prepared to play the first game, in which I felt I had a huge advantage. I played a first turn Pup, and it got Force Spiked. I was now in a bad position, because I hate to let Draw-Go use their counters. I’d rather just keep hitting them for one or two points per turn. Because I had no threats I was forced to try for a second turn Orc, which got countered, and then I had to cast a Hammer, in the hope that he didn’t have a Dissipate.
(some edits; emphasis mine)
This actually intersects with Do Nothing as well. See how Jon’s plan is to get a small advantage and then have his opponent drown in Counterspells? He will not start playing must-counter threats until it becomes annoying for Sigurd to use his mana in a non-advantageous way.
Just some thoughts.
I hope you like the article over there (if you haven’t already read it) 🙂
I don’t know how long you have been reading / listening to / watching my stuff.
But the first time I ever did a Podcast for Top 8 Magic was around the time of New York States 2005, the one Julian Levin won, where we put three copies of Jushi Blue and one Critical Mass into the Top 8. In a complete Flores-coup of the metagame, we only lost to each other.
That said, I can still hear Brian David-Marshall’s whispering voice on the very first Podcast, describing my trials in the semifinals against Eric Marro. Eric was playing Gifts Ungiven, and my Jushi Blue deck dispatched him 2-1 in the Swiss, losing the first. I drew a ton of Threads of Disloyalty in the first game, but was much more efficient with all threats and Counterspells in the sideboarded ones.
But Eric was well and truly grinding me out in the Top 8 match. Again our match took forever, with him winning the first one. I was coming off a win over Mark Schmit, a 74-card mirror match that took over two hours (and I again lost the first). I beat Eric, but it took forever. Turns out that I would have won both matches much more easily if I had just read my damn cards.
Minamo, School at Water’s Edge
You see, Minamo, School at Water’s Edge untaps legendary permanents. Mostly because I had only ever untapped legendary creatures in testing (due to my blatant ignorance, obviously) I didn’t realize that I could have blown out both of my opponents by untapping particular lands. Obviously I couldn’t ask for better overall results, but I could have won in less time, with much less grating mental trauma… and of course without reinforcing the old Jon Finkel claim that I make, on average, a mistake per turn.
So it might not surprise you to hear that I made the same mistake when initially looking at new Planeswalker, Venser, the Sojourner:
Venser, the Soujourner is a card that — if you are at all interested in card previews — you have probably already seen. Because you are probably brighter than I am, you probably weren’t scratching your head at what all the fuss was about.
You see — just like my Misstep with Minamo, School at Water’s Edge all those years ago — I didn’t realize that Venser is synergistic with any permanents, not just creatures. It is kind of funny to think back on what was going through my head…
What a creature-centric Planeswalker! Sure, the [-1] ability doesn’t do anything without creatures in play, but you can’t even power him up at all without creatures in play!
(That seemed terrifyingly limiting to me, of course… A Planeswalker that couldn’t always power up? What was this, the anti-Elspeth, Knight-Errant?)
But of course that limitation is not the case. While Venser’s [-1] ability is not so anything without creatures in play, at least you can get him up to 5 loyalty without having creatures in play 🙂
Some kind of 187 – Venser + Manic Vandal might be an absolute disaster given the number of artifacts we anticipate given the return to a plane made entirely of metal. For that matter, an extra Contagion Clasp every turn might not be the worst.
Your guy, under their Mind Control. Venser’s [+2] lets you target permanents you own. So if someone steals something of yours, you can get it back for free!
A lot of Planeswalkers these days are giving us opportunities to take out other Planeswalkers. The [-1] ability lets you attack other Planeswalkers; additionally, it can help you set up poison counters, proliferate, &c.
And finally, there is the Ultimte:
[-8]: You get an emblem with “Whenever you cast a spell, exile target permanent.”
This isn’t some kind of panty waisted Admonition Angel. If Venser Snags your permanent (there’s that word again), it ain’t coming back.
The biggest issue I see is that Venser is a five mana Planeswalker. Everything I have written about Koth of the Hammer emphasizes that part of the shift that new Planeswalker represents is the step from five mana (Chandra Nalaar… not heavily played) to four mana (where all the awesome Planeswalkers are costed). For the rest of what I think about this section, jump up some paragraphs.
Where Can I See This Fitting In?
Now that I no longer think that Venser is stuck in a mono-creatures strategy, I can see it played in a variety of decks. U/W Control (or some multicolored variation), or an update to U/R/W Planeswalkers or thereabouts. The issue is that Venser is a five. Last year’s Planeswalker deck was very fours-heavy (Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Ajani Vengeant, Elspeth, Knight-Errant), and just peppered with two or so copies of Gideon Jura.
Elspeth Tirel is the much stronger Planeswalker at five, and as we saw in the previous preview, she is probably going to demand four slots (also, it’s not like Elspeth “plays well” with other Planeswalkers). So there are potential curve issues around playing both Venser and Elspeth. They aren’t catastrophic (like “this will never happen”), but I am already raising an eyebrow at the idea.
But regardless of where you won’t be playing Venser, it is probably more interesting to talk about what you will be playing next to it. I think I would certainly run lots of Preordain, maybe some other cantrips (though I don’t know if Spreading Seas is still going to be the strongest Blue card in Standard with the impending disappearance of Savage Lands)… Once you are in Ultimate mode, it will be very exciting to play lots and lots of cheap card drawing to take complete control of the battlefield.
Koth of the Hammer :: Jace, the Mind Sculptor :: Mana Acceleration
Banned Cards :: Speculation :: … and Koth of the Hammer
Koth of the Hammer
This morning I considered speculating on Koth of the Hammer.
I figured maybe buy all of the copies I could around $20. I figured Koth of the Hammer would more than double in value, in much the same vein as Jace, the Mind Sculptor.
You see, it is my current belief that Koth of the Hammer is the most powerful Planeswalker we have seen.
It is kind of a shame. I was not thinking big enough when I wrote the Koth of the Hammer preview for the mother ship. The biggest thing I could think of at the time was jumping an Inferno Titan into play with Koth’s [-2] ability. Have you got any idea how powerful this card is?
If you play a fifth land on the fifth turn, with Koth in play on the fourth, you have literally 10 mana available! How about this one?
You blow up the world, including basically all of the opponent’s mana and any stray animals, you still have arguably the most powerful Planeswalker in play… and then you play a land.
Koth is so crazy powerful it blows my mind. I liked Jace, the Mind Sculptor from the get-go but Koth seems a few millimeters from too good. You see a card like Jace might go in many different decks, but that doesn’t make it the most powerful Planeswalker. Going in lots of different decks has nothing to do with who is the most powerful. Look at the average banned list entry…
… Which one goes in lots of different decks, again? Cards are banned because they are too good. Being too good usually means providing too much mana in value relative to how much it actually costs. You know, like giving a return of 10+ mana for an investment of only four (not to mention getting additional value out of a card).
Here is something BDM pointed out to me while we were podcasting tonight…
What happens when Jace and Koth fight? All other things held equal, doesn’t Koth just kill Jace? … And then make a bajillion mana and crush you with some super awesome jimmy jazz? Mountain to the jaw? Hi-yah?
yes, Yes, and YES again.
Okay then… What’s the damage? Why am I afraid of Koth of the Hammer? At the beginning of this article, wasn’t I talking about wanting to speculate on him?
Sure, speculation might be a bit dicey with Koth already at a pre-order price of $50 at many stores. That’s not the only problem (he could easily see Primeval Titan or Jace, the Mind Sculptor prices).
… I’m afraid he might get banned.
I own a binder full of Time Spirals, no lies. Well maybe not a whole binder, but you get the picture.
Here is a Scars of Mirrodin common, Carapace Forger:
I saw this card in a Metalcraft preview over on the mother ship. I actually thought that it was more interesting than it might superficially look. I mean compare it to a card like Nest Invader. They are both just some Balduvian Bears with some extra text. Neither one is a Wild Mongrel, right? Nest Invader makes a kind of pseudo-irrelevant 0/1 tagalong and Carapace Forger has a potential bonus.
… Point is that the potential bonus on Carapace Forger seems kinds of jeepers creepers to me… maybe.
I mean compare Carapace Forger to Putrid Leech. Putrid Leech is a monster. Everyone who has tried to play a control deck in the last 12 months knows that Putrid Leech is the single most important card to consider when testing Standard. Putrid Leech is the limiting factor. If you don’t have the Terminate, they do like 12 before you can deal with even one Putrid Leech; I wouldn’t be surprised if the little Golgari two-drop has decided more duels Jund v. Control than either Blightning or Bloodbraid Elf.
Putrid Leech just came out on turn two and started hammering for four starting turn three. It was not easy to deal with and it out-classed everything in its weight class. It is kind of silly thinking about Knight of the White Orchid as a battlefield presence when it is stuck battling Putrid Leech. Just the threat of being able to go 4/4 made Putrid Leech dangerous, even when it wasn’t necessarily jumping the curve on turn three.
So the question is, will Carapace Forger ever be in the Putrid Leech class?
The fact is, if we can get Carapace Forger a couple of buddies (I dunno, whatever makes Phylactery Lich playable), then it is possible that it can be Tarmogoyf-class. Really!
Where can I see this fitting in?
There are three kinds of decks where you can play Carapace Forger (as far as I can tell at this point, having relatively little more information RE: Scars of Mirrodin than you do):
Any old deck
Any deck with random potential value
A true Metalcraft strategy
In theory you can play Carapace Forger in “any old deck” … It would be potentially better than a Runeclaw Bear but probably not a lot better. That said, one of my old playtest partners once made is out of the Swiss rounds at a Northeast Regional Championships (or perhaps it was Mid-Atlantic?) with five vanilla two-drop Bears in his deck. This would be the kind of deck that I can imagine — and therefore assign a minimum of “Role Player” to a card — but later make fun of on the Top 8 Magic podcast when someone actually plays it.
We start to get more value out of Carapace Forger in a deck with random artifacts. In a deck that has a certain amount of equipment (there is probably playable equipment in Scars of Mirrodin; we haven’t suddenly stopped seeing potential value out of Basilisk Collar), Relic of Progenitus, or artifact mana… Carapace forger starts to approach the Putrid Leech level. In general Carapace Forger is not going to be as good as Putrid Leech here because Putrid Leech can basically always jump to 4/4 whereas Carapace Forger only gets to 4/4 with a good amount of help. It is probably worth pointing out that cards like Dragon Claw out of the sideboard will be highly valuable in this potential strategy.
Obviously the card with the word “Metalcraft” printed in italics in the top-left of the text box is probably going to see its best days with lots of other Metalcraft cards. If the idea is to play lots of artifacts in order to build up the value of having lots of artifacts in play, we are going to see the highest incidence of the 4/4 Carapace Forger, and at maximum speed.
It probably goes without saying that if there is a Legacy Affinity deck, Metalcraft cards may be very effective alongside Seat of the Synod and other essentially no-cost opportunities to get artifacts in play.
Superficial “duh” comment – This is a five mana Planeswalker rather than a four mana one (or three, as in the case of Jace Beleren). Obviously Jace is Jace, but for the most part, the most popular Planeswalkers have been the four mana ones (Ajani Goldmane; Ajani Vengeant; Elspeth, Knight-Errant; and Jace, the Mind Sculptor). That is because in the context of competitive Magic: The Gathering, a jump to five mana is basically a jump from four-to-eight, rather than the superficial / obvious / untrained four-to-five. That is the thing holding back Planeswalkers like Liliana Vess or Gideon Jura. Remember when we reviewed Gideon Jura when he was new? We said Baneslayer Angel was the better 3WW… And really, even with the success of the U/R/W Planeswalker deck during the first part of the summer, Baneslayer Angel has had the more impressive continued performance.
The next interesting thing to talk about RE: Elspeth Tirel is the ordering of her abilities. Elspeth starts on four, jumps on a life gain ability that is only really useful when you have creatures on the battlefield, and drops two loyalty by building creatures. In theory you can profitably jump her to six on turn five if you already have creatures in play. Creatures — as in “multiple” — … though you can presumably put her to six loyalty at no value (or very little value and an outlook of chump blocking the following turn).I think the more common strategy (at least depending on matchup… It will be less attractive against decks with Lightning Bolt, for instance) will be to take her down to two loyalty, then build her back up to four mana with an increase in life commensurate with how many animals you’ve got in play (and presumably boosted by her Scatter the Seeds-esque [-2] ability).
What is actually super cool about Elspeth Tirel is her “ultimate” ability. It is not only awesome, but mono-awesome. You can jump Elspeth to six loyalty on turn five (with or without profit) then use her as an improved Nevinyrral’s Disk on turn six. Elspeth will drop down to one loyalty, but unlike the other Planeswalkers that may have been in play — yes, Elspeth Tirel is a Planeswalker-slayer among other gas), she will stick around. In addition, in a protracted game where you are using her tokens production ability, those cats (and by “cats” I mean “Soldiers”) stick around when even mighty monsters all hop into the graveyard.
… Which brings us to her super synergy in multiples! This is kind of the coolest thing, but it takes a second before you can get there.Josh Ravitz used to tell me that people didn’t know how to play Cloudgoat Ranger, and would give all kinds of examples of how they were under-impressive with Cloudgoat Ranger when they could have been slamming for additional damage had they been a little more precise in their play, given multiple copies. Elspeth Tirel has a similar, subtle, clause.Imagine you have a turn five Elspeth Tirel. You immediately go from four loyalty to two loyalty to deploy three Soldier tokens.
You block, whatever (or maybe you don’t have to, I don’t know what the battlefield looks like). You use Elspeth Tirel‘s [-2] a second time and now you have six or however many Soldiers up in that.
Now you run out your second copy of Elspeth Tirel! The first one went bye-bye because you took her from four to two to nil with two activations. Your second Elspeth Tirel, piggybacking the token production of the first one makes six life, jumps to six loyalty, and is surrounded by barns.
Now on turn seven, you can blow up the world leaving not only Elspeth Tirel as the only significant miser on the battlefield, but however many Soldier tokens as well! Talk about teamwork!
What should seem obvious is that if Elspeth Tirel is good enough, she might be good enough as a four-of at the five — something very unusual for five mana Planeswalkers to date — simply because she actually rocks in multiples.
In effect, Elspeth Tirel can be the only threat in your deck if you so wish (her [-5] ability actually Annihilates the bejeezus out of defensive permanents like Circle of Protection: White (or whatever theoretically problematic proxy you will lay there).
Or, she can team up with cards like Conqueror’s Pledge for more immediate value on her [+2]. In effect, she can be good in any kind of deck that can afford to cast her. I would not expect Elspeth Tirel to find mass adoption in White Weenie type decks (as Elspeth, Knight-Errant did), but I also wouldn’t be too surprised to see her in creature decks. After all, the previous Elspeth was an “obviously offensive” type Planeswalker, but was successful in every strategy from Mythic (mono-creatures) to U/W Control (mono-defensive). Even combo decks used Elspeth, Knight-Errant; for example Polymorph variants that used her as a non-creature card source of Polymorph fodder.
For once, answering this actually requires more than two words. Elspeth Tirel is kind of like a Wild Mongrel. In some decks she will act as a centerpiece, a four-of finisher; in other decks she will be a high level role player, acting as a sweeper that has other potential applications (sort of both the Icy Manipulator and Wrath of God in Mike Donais’s Swords to Plowshares-less Canadian National Championship deck). It is probably not difficult to imagine decks that can’t beat Elspeth (kind of like decks that can’t beat Gideon Jura, but worse). You can milk and milk with the tokens and life gain; fire off the Nevinyrral’s Disk if and only if you are actually falling behind, but otherwise make the other guy’s life miserable.
And of course, her [-5] craps all over other Planeswalkers, making Elspeth potentially invaluable in the post-Bloodbraid Elf world.
So writing Restaurant Kryptonite the other night… I didn’t realize it until much later but I missed one of the most potent ingredients in the michaelj ingredients vulnerabilities list. Perhaps the most potent non-prime beef ingredient of them all!
Yes, dear readers, delicious pecans.
I love pecans. The are my number one nut. My dad and sister and wife like these ludicrous nuts such as almonds. But to me, pecans are the holy grail of nuts. Perfect pecans are crisp, Snap like a Bruce Lee roundhouse, and make otherwise excellent desserts absolutely perfect. There is nothing like dropping crumbled pecans on rice pudding, ice cream, whatever.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
Given my new project Flores Rewards it is probably not a surprise to you that I am a rewards program junkie. I have carried an AmEx for the last ten years even though it costs a couple of hundred dollars a year (and other credit cards literally chase you to be their customer). I love rewards. I love points. Ultimately I love awesome free stuff.
Here are all the random rewards cards I carry around all day:
First Column (treats) – Tasti D-Lite (and two old Tasti D-Lite punch cards from individual locations), Crumbs coffee card, Tim Horton
Second Column (coffee) – Two Whole Foods cards, Joe, Starbucks Gold
Third Column (mostly lunch) – ‘wichCraft, Baja Fresh, Hale and Hearty Soup, Go Go Curry (lucky curry), Food Merchant
Basically I figure you gotta eat (or drink coffee, or whatever), so you might as well pick an option that has a great rewards program.
Anyway, for the first time in my adult life I have been trying to stick by a budget in a specific and concerted fashion. Since 1999 I have been “paying myself” $100 in “fuck you” money [cash] that I spent pretty much on whatever (mostly food, coffee, treats).
Katherine asked me to try to limit myself to $50 in “lunch money” per week as an effort in discipline.
I was initially apprehensive given that:
I make much more money now than I did when I was, you know, 23.
Money is worth less than it was 11 years ago.
Like basically everyone, I am resistant to change when it affects my immediate comfort.
I realized pretty quickly, though, that I was blowing about $6 a day in iced coffees from Crumbs and that represented approximately $30 of the $50 delta. Therefore in an effort to conduct towards marital bliss, I never realized…
… I was only one punch away from my free medium iced coffee / free Crumbs cupcake.
So I sauntered into Crumbs to get my final punch, and what did I see but…
Chocoalte Pecan Pie!
The cruel, cruel irony is that I forced the girl at the Crumbs counter to describe for me the constitution of this exercise in fudge-y pecan wonderment. I cannot honestly tell you what she told me. It was like that Tom Cruise movie about making less money or whatever.
“You had me at ‘Hello.'”
I did not get the Chocolate Pecan Pie cupcake. That would entail paying for it. I would not pay until much later.
First I had to run this:
So I got my final punch so that I could shotgun / topdeck / mise the Chocolate Pecan Pie cupcake the next day.
I don’t know if I mentioned this, but I like anything pecan basically. Examples would be choosing pecan-based extra toppings at toppings bars, erring on pecan-ish flavors in selections of coffee, ice cream (for example butter pecan), whatever. So the combination of pecans + Crumbs cupcakes was an easy decision for me.
How can I describe this product?
The Chocolate Pecan Pie cupcake is essentially the Vitamin Water of ingredient marketing-driven decadence. There is like a nickel’s worth of pecans sprinkled up top, and no pie at all. It is a chocolate base cupcake, but has a deep fudge filling. Initially I was going to take pictures of a bisected baked good, but both the chocolate cake and the fudge infusion share a kind of muddy midnight color; differentiating one from the other by sight was next to impossible when it was a few inches from my face… The structuralism was all in taste and texture. Thumbs up to both.
And as for paying later? I have become un-used to eating the random snacks all week that constituted the $50 “fuck you” money that I no longer get to walk around with. A woman at work even asked me if I am losing weight this week! As such, I was not prepared for the 540 calorie yum yum bomb that I dropped into my belly. I felt terrible for the rest of the day. I would gladly do it again.
Did I mention I love rewards programs? It is not so much that I am “cheap” but that I love shenanigans. Every time I get that little punch in the card that brings me 8% or whatever closer to a free $7 salad I feel like I am pulling one over on The Man, that I am picking the pocket of some wealthy scumbag CEO [that I someday want to grow up to be].
That is why I made Flores Rewards for you! Get ready for a heady combination of shenanigans, free stuff, and fun!
I still owe cake. I am going to research this week if they will make the Chocolate Pecan Pie cupcake into, I dunno, some kind of gigantic forty-person mutant cupcake Forbidden Dance. If so, I will soon no longer owe cake.
The main difference between the deck that I played and the one that Conrad used to make the US National Team is the presence of Joraga Treespeaker in the main. If you don’t know the story, I was lamenting the randomness of Ramp mirrors. It seemed that if one player got two accelerators and the other only one, then the one with two would always win. It had very little to do with play skill.
I was pretty confused. I wasn’t really questioning the master of mana acceleration when I asked why they would want to play Birds of Paradise.
“If the limiting factor is acceleration, why not add a kind of acceleration that not only can they not interact with (the Valakut decks are going to take out their Lightning Bolts, which don’t do anything), but that can allow you to break serve? I mean you will be able to play Cultivate on the second turn!”
I ended up having dinner with Conrad the night before Nationals and told him about breaking serve with Joraga Treespeaker. He went crazy and added it to his sideboard as a “Sol Ring”. I didn’t take credit for the one drop tech for very long, and quickly owned up that I had gotten the idea from Zvi. Anyway, Joraga Treespeaker ended up being an All-Star for Conrad and he mentioned to me after the tournament he would consider playing it main deck, over the weaker cards.
I quickly evaluated that I wanted all four copies of All Is Dust, and Conrad told me he wanted another Fog given how half the decks in the metagame only attack. So that’s how I came to the above deck list.
Conrad explained how even though the Mono-Green deck is weaker than the Valakut Ramp decks in terms of being Primeval Titan decks, it is a stronger Summoning Trap deck. Watching him play over the course of the National Championships, I could see how strategically he played the deck. He used the Primeval Titan as a toolbox rather than just a mallet. Defensive Primeval Titan; grinding Primeval Titan; Mjolnir-to-the-skull Primeval Titan, too, make no mistake… But more than the superficial superstar.
So how did I do?
Unfortunately, the Mono-Green Ramp deck did not perform as well as the other decks I liked this run.
I played it in eight MTGO queues (the last four being just tonight), and went 1-7.
The Mono-Green mirror was basically an abombination. I had a Joraga Treespeaker in my opener in the first, but my only Green source was Khalni Garden, so I ended up way off curve. He was on the play anyway and drew multiple awesome threats; I had a Primeval Titan but was way behind to his better acceleration draw-into-Primeval Titan and opted for a Hail Mary Summoning Trap to try to mug the Titan and get back in the game.
In the second game I ramped to third turn Summoning Trap… and whiffed. Just that kind of match.
I felt like Soul Sisters should be a good matchup. The first match I lost to a mis-click, but the deck just never came out for me. I was always just a little bit shy in both matches. Other than the mis-click I felt like I was managing my resources correctly but the dominoes just didn’t line up. For instance over the three games of the first match I never saw even one All Is Dust; in the second I drew all four All Is Dust in Game One and two in Game Two (sadly a mulligan to five)… but stalled just under its cost both times around (Soul Sisters seems pretty soft to All Is Dust).
I guess that is just the problem with Ramp decks in general. Your cards are so expensive that you can lose very thin margin games on just getting to an Incredible amount of mana when you need low Amazing, or maybe Monstrous.
The Fogs were good. They bought time against the U/G deck’s Eldrazi Monument and Overrun, but again, I was just shy of what I needed cards and mana-wise.
This isn’t an indictment of Primeval Titan; that card is a game changer that allowed the Green decks to build in a less profligate fashion. But I don’t really know what to say… It hasn’t been performing on the same level as Eldrazi Conscription.
Culmination of a lot of the tech I have been working on for Standard. No Sylvan Caryatids is a nod to Patrick Chapin. Nothing but two-for-ones. Wish I could have gotten this in the hands of a good pilot for the GP but just finished it.
I had a day off this weekend from shooting Supernatural, and I was walking around downtown Vancouver on Saturday, sampling all the artisan coffee I could get my throat around. At one point I saw a pair of guys walking towards me wearing gamer shirts. Black short-sleeved, one Halo and one Call of…