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Stuff to Watch

Because you demanded it (and by “you” demanding it, I mean because I felt like writing it), my nightly television schedule!

I watch maybe six hours of television per day; probably more on the weekends. People are sometimes surprised to hear that, and there are other grownups / parents who seem horrified to hear that. However the fact is I stay up working most nights… Either working on my blog or other Magic-related projects (or just playing Magic Online); and of course I wrote a real live book last year.

My wife is much more reasonable than I am and goes to bed at a halfway reasonable time. But for me? I just like having the television on while I am up.

Anyway, I was inspired by Facebook posts by Ken Krouner and then Osyp Lebedowicz recently and decided to do something that Zvi Mowshowitz does on an (at least) annual basis; and post my general tv schedule. Of course I am not 100% married to any given time of day (thanks to DVR), but for the most part, this schedule will adhere to the regular times or nights that these shows appear.

DVR and On Demand:
There are some shows that I never watch live; I just watch them on Prime Time On Demand; these shows include veteran comedy Parks and Recreation and Justified. Who even knows when they are on?

Sunday:

In other circumstances I would list shows like Entourage (incidentally coming off a blah season but absolutely five star season finale) or Dexter (ditto to the season finale; was not blah), but I wanted to concentrate on what I am watching right now.

60 Minutes
I don’t watch 60 Minutes slavishly, but I enjoy it and watch it most Sundays; partly based on the fact that it comes on right before…

The Amazing Race
Another show I don’t watch slavishly; back in the day I was an immovable fan of Fox’s Sunday night lineup (The Simpsons, Malcolm in the Middle, Arrested Development, etc.); now we watch The Amazing Race partly as compromise, having moved over the years between Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Alias and the various masterful HBO Sunday lineups including The Sopranos, Deadwood, Rome, and so on. Katherine got me into Survivor and Big Brother very early in our relationship but it took years for us to tag onto The Amazing Race, which is (critically at least) considered the best of the competition reality lot. I would rate it as pretty gripping / pretty good; but if there were a strong HBO option at this time of the year, I would probably be taking it.

Breaking Bad
The amazing thing about Cranston is that he was on what was on (pre-Arrested Development) the best comedy on Fox [and probably on television] but never really got the attention for his comedic or physical work (largely overshadowed by Jane Kaczmarek who was of course fabulous); but now that he is playing the exact opposite character on the exact opposite show, he’s rocked the back-to-back Emmy Awards. I know that Breaking Bad is generally marketed as “the best show on television”. I don’t know I would rate it there; it is very good, though. It is like Weeds in that it follows the formula of The Breakout Novel (starting the characters in the shit, then putting them increasingly deeper in it), which ensures its gripping-ness. Gripping it is, and challenging like nothing else on television.

Monday:

Monday is a heavy television night for me. Because I watch two “simultaneous” teevee shows on Monday, it is consequently a heavy DVR night. Here goes:

How I Met Your Mother
Zvi rates this as the best comedy on television. I don’t know that I would have it as top 3 even, but I love How I Met Your Mother anyway.

Like much of the initial audience, I started watching because of the Doogie Howser, M.D.-meets-Willow Rosenberg casting… and never stopped. They aren’t even the main characters!

House
I adore this show (which most of you remember was initially just drafting on American Idol‘s popularity); it has sustained a strong level of quality for years. It somehow features not just great writing but the hottest woman on earth (which is a not uncommon joke on the show), and a cast of truly lovable misfits and geniuses.

Gossip Girl
Longtime Top 8 Magic podcast listeners know that I long called Blake Lively as “the next it girl” two years before the premiere of Gossip Girl. That’s how good michaelj is at calling an it girl πŸ™‚

Gossip Girl is a lot less interesting than it was in, say, the first two seasons when we were still trying to figure out who Gossip Girl was / is; I must admit that despite the acquisition of Kristen Bell (who is the voice of Gossip Girl), I was initially embittered at the fact that Gossip Girl supplanted my all-time favorite television show Veronica Mars on the CW. What, they couldn’t have two shows set in an environment of mystery and rich teenagers? I still like Gossip Girl enough to follow it closely, based on an adoration of Blake Lively (versus Serena) and Chuck Bass, though I am kind of annoyed by every other character but Nate Archibald (who is the unsung baller of the show, having tagged basically every major character-ette despite being poor for about half a season) and Little J (us something-Js have to stick together).

24
This last season is easily the worst season ever. However the show has not gotten less gripping, and being the worst season of one of the best shows of all time does not remove it from the must-view list. The way they are scripting 24 right now, I am tired just watching. Poor Renee. Poor Jack.

Tuesday:

Glee
They had me with the pilot-closer “Don’t Stop” and haven’t let go. This show features so many people I love (Kristen Chenoweth being the best example) and such great performances of such great music… If you don’t watch Glee (and twice-plus), you’re dumb basically.

Lost
Is the final one the best season ever of one of the best shows ever (like a mirror to 24, kind of)? I don’t know. But I can’t look away. If you aren’t deeply into Lost yet, you are in for a treat. I am going to re-watch my DVDs from season one starting this summer. There are so many details that even though I know the macro story, I bet I will love making small connections for myself all along the way; I can’t imagine how great it will be for first time viewers.

A lot of the criticism of Lost comes from a position of ignorance. Zvi actually makes the best analogy when he talks about the complexity of Magic (you know, the best game of all time); yes, it’s complex. Lost is a complex show. Both are necessarily complex and difficult for new devotees. But if they weren’t so complex, they wouldn’t be so unassailable. And they both are. When was the last time a president moved the State of the Union for a television show. TDG.

That.

Damn.

Good.

V
It took me a while to get into V because it was originally on Wednesday nights, when I have Movie Klub… But it ended up being the first show I bought to watch on my iPod. V is so surprising and scary it made me jump while watching it on a little three inch screen.

I am not unique but probably still a little bit unusual in that I am a current fan who was also an original 1980s V fan. However I have some additional crossover in that Elizabeth Mitchell’s character Juliet was my favorite character on Lost, and she is the lead on V now. Anyway, a very watchable show that I don’t like to miss. Full of alums from Firefly and other SF geek stuff you might like.

Wednesday:

Earlier this week, KK was lamenting the lack of good television on Wednesday nights. Wednesdays are actually a special case for me; I have Movie Klub, hosted by the incomparable Lan D. Ho at casa Jon Finkel and try to hit that every week. I don’t have any real / regular Wednesday night viewing, but I really should catch up with Top Chef Masters and possibly The Ultimate Fighter. But right now, I am behind on both.

Thursday:

Survivor
Arguably the first great competition reality show, Survivor is now in its 20th (?) season… and this is probably the best season ever. Survivor: Heroes v. Villains is an All-Star season that brought back all of my favorite players (Tom, Boston Rob, and Russell H.) along with a host of other popular players (Rupert, JT). The game play has been amazing. The best players have been putting on a clinic and the players who were supposed to be some of the best are all gone now. Russell made a move that looked to me like the best move ever on his way to ousting the dominant Boston Rob (early favorite for “best ever”) and just last week Parvati (Russell’s chief ally) made a move that required a truly inspired read on the enemy — the perfect marriage of information and opportunity.

Like much of the Survivor audience I fell in love with Russell’s hardcore game play last year, and he took the #1 spot in my opinion from Tom, despite finishing only second. This year I was afraid that Russell might not have been able to play his balls-out swing-for-the-fences style, but he has been as aggressive as ever, and a dominating player from the social side, making plays that cracked Boston Rob’s numbers advantage and eliminating JT (with JT never seeing the blindside coming). However it might be Parvati (seductive winner of the last All-Star season) who emerges as the best player of all time. KK (Survivor superfan) and I are separately rooting for our favorites between these two allies, against one another.

The Office
By the second season, I had The Office as the funniest show of all time. While I think that it has dipped in quality somewhat, I still have it as the #2 comedy on television.

30 Rock
Arguably the best show on television, probably the best written, and certainly the best comedy.

So obviously it will lose its Emmy lock to Glee later in the year (but I’d be fine with that). One half an hour I try to hit every week, and without fail.

Friday:

Ben 10 Alien Force / Ben 10 Ultimate Alien, Batman the Brave and the Bold, Star Wars – The Clone Wars

These are all Bella’s shows; we watch them on Saturday morning before the rest of the family gets up, typically; however they all get DVR’d on Friday night.

Batman the Brave and the Bold is charming; it has more of a reverence — even fanboy quality — for the superhero mythos than any Batman cartoon in recent memory. I will not soon forget the Christmas episode when [robot] Red Tornado gets Batman a mug that reads “World’s Greatest Detective” for a gift. It is probably not a better show overall than the early 1990s Bruce Timm / Paul Dini Batman: The Animated Series that spawned the Superman and Justice League franchises, but I like Batman the Brave and the Bold more than the 2000s The Batman.

Star Wars – The Clone Wars really hit its stride this season; much better than the first. I love a lightsaber fight.

Saturday:

Doctor Who

Without a doubt the high point of my television week is my favorite show, Doctor Who.

Back when Battlestar Galactica was on Friday nights on The SciFi Channel, I secretly looked forward to Doctor Who even more.

I have been a Doctor Who fan since the age of four. I used to dream about his companions as a kindergartner and after a fair sized gap based on living in the wilds of western Pennsylvania (I don’t think our PBS affiliate had Doctor Who), I came back to Cleveland, eyes stuck on Peter, Colin, and Sylvester (Doctors five, six, and seven) until the show’s cancellation at the end of — if I recall — my Seventh Grade year. I saw the made for tv movie as a freshman in college, but like everyone else I didn’t like it. Today, Doctor Who I find better than ever.

Peter Davidson was “my” Doctor growing up (Doctor #10 David Tennant has said the same thing), but Tennant ended up my favorite Doctor of all time. He wound up his run just earlier this year.

The show has re-started a bit with Matt Smith as the eleventh man [in continuity] to play The Doctor, with Stephen Moffat taking over as head writer with this season. My sister and I have been positively giddy, because Moffat wrote all the best eps the past several seasons anyway (typically creepy one-ofs).

If you don’t know what I am talking about, here are the basics:

  • The Doctor is / started out basically the smartest man in the universe. He is a Time Lord, a member of a race who can travel through all space and time. In fact he was chief among the Time Lords. In the early 1960s he quit his job as Lord President of the Time Lords to run around all of time and space adventuring. Yes, he is a bit mad.
  • The original actor who played the Doctor was quite old but the show had to go on; the writers conceived of an idea where — by nature of their immortal alien backgrounds — Time Lords can change their faces and regenerate bodies that have been ravaged by age or ravaged by bullets (as in the case of #7)… Really just opening the show up to a separate actor. The Doctor is in a sense the same person (same genius, same madness, same sense of justice), but each actor puts a very different personality on that framework. They are all different men as well, act differently, and so on.
  • In the current continuity, The Doctor is the last of the Time Lords and has basically declared himself God. While 99% of the time he exudes a foppish, fun-loving, outward persona, he harbors a darkness that did not exist before the 2005 reboot. You see it was the Doctor who was responsible for the destruction of all his own people — and these are a people who could theoretically travel through time and space — in order to end a great war. My favorite element of the current series (that was not really present when I was a kid) is when the Doctor goes all Alpha Male on the enemy. He can beat a conquering alien in a swordfight, stop an entire invasioni single-handedly with no weapons, or get really nasty; for example a family of aliens who tried to steal the Doctor’s immortality… he made them immortal, but basically locked them in unending hell-like punishments for crossing him.
  • The Doctor has always travelled in his adventures with designated Companions (usually beautiful British women), though apparently there is no sex. My favorite companion was Dr. Martha Jones (an actual medical doctor); my second favorite Companion is Matt Smith’s current one, Amy Pool, a scottish redhead who was the victim of the Doctor’s absent minded time meddling starting at the age of seven. She is also a superbabe in that pasty redheaded Scottish way that we Americans only see on foreign television shows.

If that seems SF-nerdy, oh well. Doctor Who is the epitome of SF nerd television. Doesn’t matter. Favorite show. Et cetera.

As with Figure of Destiny, I am embedding a YouTube video of my favorite Doctor Who episode of all time, “Blink” at the end of this blog post. “Blink” won the short form Hugo Award in 2008 (Moffat’s third consecutive win for a Doctor Who episode, beating out Battlestar Galactica‘s best ever episode, “Pegasus” in 2006). The Companion is Martha Jones (my favorite), and the Doctor is David Tennant (my favorite); however most of the screen time goes to Carey Mulligan, who in the last two years has become an international celebrity via her roles in Public Enemies, An Education, and the upcoming Wall Street sequel.

I hope you like “Blink” … As I said it’s my favorite ep ever, and I find it genuinely creeptacular; if you do, there is hope you might like the rest of the show, and thereby adopt it as your favorite as well.

Peace out,

LOVE
MIKE

Another Good Use for Umezawa’s Jitte

Concerning:

Lots of great and fun cards, like…

Umezawa’s Jitte βˆ™ Kitchen Finks βˆ™ Sakura-Tribe Elder
Tarmogoyf βˆ™ Bloodbraid Elf βˆ™ … and Umezawa’s Jitte

While I was doing research for another article I hit upon what, at the time, seemed like an unusual deck list. It was a hybrid beatdown deck featuring basically every card that I already like to play… Kitchen Finks (basically my favorite), Sakura-Tribe Elder (still my favorite despite what M10 did to the old boy), and Umezawa’s Jitte. I could forgive the Tarmogoyfs and so on because the deck also played the Punishing Fire + Grove of the Burnwillows combination that I so admired from Brian Kibler’s Pro Tour Austin-winning deck list.

But the coolest part?

It was also a combo deck!

So you have this angle of just good Green creatures… Literally the kind of creatures I probably like to play too much (see “The Greenest Mage of All” posts here and here over at Top8Magic), but then the deck also has a full-on Scapeshift kill!

I was used to seeing Scapeshift out of Ceta-colored decks, Blue all the way to their Cryptic Commands… but this could work, too.

(Just) Jund Scapeshift

Umezawa's Jitte3 Umezawa’s Jitte

4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Kitchen Finks

4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Scapeshift
4 Search for Tomorrow
4 Tarmogoyf

4 Lightning Bolt
4 Punishing Fire

4 Grove of the Burnwillows
6 Snow-Covered Forest
6 Snow-Covered Mountain
1 Snow-Covered Swamp
4 Stomping Ground
2 Treetop Village
2 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

sb:
3 Extirpate
4 Thought Hemmorhage
4 Ancient Grudge
4 Blood Moon

This main deck is basically the default “what everyone is playing” for this archetype with no modifications from YT. The sideboard is informed from looking at a bunch of different deck lists and not resorting (for once) to Akroma, Angel of Fury.

You probably get how the main deck works already if you are reading this blog; in fact, you are probably ahead of me because I just saw this deck πŸ™‚

… But the sideboard probably takes some explanation.

You can play a sideboard like this one a couple of different ways, including staying straight Gruul instead of going Jund. I decided to go Jund because Extirpate is just that damn good, in particular against Thopter Foundry combo decks. Ancient Grudge is about my favorite Extended card ever… So how could it not join the party? I’ve already got Sakura-Tribe Elder and Kitchen Finks, after all.

Anyway first impression of this strategy was “how can this deck compete with other combo decks,” followed by “I really don’t see how I can compete with a deck featuring Baneslayer Angel” … But after having played it for a while, I really like the feel of the deck.

My first outing was against a Living End combo deck.

He got all kinds of cycling and so forth, but my deck was a bit shy for threats. Anyway he cycled Street Wraith a couple of times but otherwise evoked Shriekmaw to kill my Tarmogoyf… stuff like that. Fulminator Mage kept me off of seven for a while, but he just didn’t kill me. I played two or three copies of Search for Tomorrow and a pair of Sakura-Tribe Elders (the second one was actually Samwise Gamgee at the end of The Two Towers, Umezawa’s Jitte in one slithery hand, ruling the board.

Oh well, you can be 7/7 some other day. What I really want is a basic Swamp.

Kill ya. [Before you kill me, you filthy combo deck!]

I wouldn’t have needed his Street Wraiths because of my Sakura-Tribe Elder beatdown and some Punishing Fire action, but I can’t complain.

Game Two he just drew no Cascade spells. He cycled and cycled and I just played Thought Hemmorhage for Livinig End and he was pretty kold.

I played against a couple of men running the Lightning Bolt Deck… Not surprising, especially for online.

The frustrating part was being essentially unable to sideboard despite losing Game One in the first outing.

I just hit my Kitchen Finks on turn three and it was really easy to win.

I also played against some “rogue” (ahem) type decks and another combo deck (though which kind escapes me). All dubyas so far.

I do think this deck lacks a little bit of “I win” flexibility (for instance, it has no way to disrupt the fastest Dark Depths draw), but all-in-all I was very pleased and I think I will sleeve up a version of this for my next Extended PTQ, provided I play in another one.

Firestarter:
What do you guys think about Dead // Gone? It seems like maybe I should sideboard that; just another card that you can bring in against beatdown (though this deck seems generally advantaged), but also the three mana side can fight 20/20 Coldsnap guys better than, you know, the nothing we have right now.

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Justice Society of America: Thy Kingdom Come, Part 2

Cascade Control by Ben Botts

I met Ben Botts (aka @Bottsthoughts) on Twitter. He reached out to me and said that he had a nice finish with the Cascade Control deck, so I extended him an invitation to write a report. After you’re done reading this, tell Ben what a great job he did πŸ™‚ –m


Hey guys my name is, Ben Botts. I’ve been into Magic since 2002. I was first introduced to the game by a close friend of mine, Ernest. He showed me the game. And another of his friends, Little Jon, showed me combo/control decks. Ever since then I have had a healthy addiction to those archetypes. And I do not plan on attending therapy.

Moving on to the present — I recently played in a standard tournament at my local card shop. I’ve followed the top deck builders/writers/theory crafters for quite some time, and I always enjoy taking an idea of theirs and putting it to physical application. With that said I caught up on Flores and his current projects in deck building. Contacted him via Twitter, and told him that I had recently top 4’ed with his deck. He then replied (Which was an AWESOME honor) asking me if I’d like to post a tournament report. Of course I naturally had to standstill, ponder my demands, mulldrifter over my stipulations …

Are you kidding me? I replied quicker than a virgin during his first time… with a girl.

Without further banter here is the deck I played along with a tournament report.

Enjoy.

Cascade Control v 1.5

1 Obelisk of Alara

1 Enigma Sphinx
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Bloodbraid Elf

4 Baneslayer Angel

4 Deny Reality *
4 Captured Sunlight

2 Primal Command

4 Esper Charm
4 Blightning

3 Reflecting Pool **
2 Exotic Orchard **
1 Graven Cairns
1 Sunken Ruins
1 Wooded Bastion
2 Island**
2 Plains
1 Forest
1 Swamp
4 Vivid Grove
4 Vivid Meadow
4 Vivid Crag
1 Vivid Marsh **

sb:
4 Ignite Disorder
4 Grixis Charm
3 Hallowed Burial
2 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Primal Command

* Deny Reality was the only maindeck change. Bituminous Blast was taken out in favor of non-specific permanent bounce. Since a majority of the players were running Kithkin I didn’t want to risk throwing a BBlast at a creature only to have a Forgetender give up it’s place on the board to prevent removal, or have a Harms Way litter my dome for 2 while saving their creature.

** The mana base was shifted slightly only because Deny Reality is a U/B spell whereas Bit Blast is a R/B spell. (I know that was mundane, but some people may see that and be like “Wow … good call”)

And also I could only find 3 of my Tempest Reflecting Pools … πŸ™

Date: September 12, 2009
Place: Cardz-N-Things of Fayetteville, NC
Owner: Al Archibeque
Type 2 Tournament
19 People present

Round 1: I think his name was Josh, he had a Mono-U Control deck

Game 1: I win the roll. I start off with a Vivid. He plays an Island. This is the pattern for the first 5 turns. He had not played any threats – so I assumed he was gripping a variety of Essence Scatter/Negate or Cryptic/Unsummon. I was not about to barrel out the gates against him since I wanted to force him to discard, or make a play mistake. The unfortunate design flaw of running Mono-U in this format is there are not any efficient beaters to couple w/ counters. Anyways this game was pretty much over when I cast Bloodbraid which flipped an Esper charm (at him). Next turn Deny Reality targeting my own Bloodbraid ~ flipped a Captured Sunlight ~ into a Blightning. He was rather disgruntled, and shrugged for a few more turns. He never played a single creature. And I never saw a Cryptic. 4 blightnings later and 2 red zone dances with my Bloodbraid & Enlisted Wurm turned sideways and it was off to game 2.

Game 2: He literally never made it past 3 lands. He swore up and down he had 24 in his deck. I saw 3 this game, and it was a no-brainer goldfishing affair. Bloodbraid~Esper. Deny Reality~Bloodbraid~Blightning. Enlisted~Baneslayer. He scooped.

1-0 Match (2-0 games)

Round 2: Piper was his last name, and Bant was his tune.

First off – this kid – awesome personality. He and I spent the first 7 minutes of the round shuffling, ribbing each other, and make jokes about horrible cards like Bloodbraid, Rafiq, and Broodmate Dragons and what not. Apparently his good nature won him the die roll.

Game 1: He comes out way faster than I could manage. A Timely Essence Scatter backed with a Negate on my Cascade shennanigans ended this game before I could spell WURBG with my trade binder.

Game 2: Different story. -4 Blightnings, +4 Grixis Charms. I was on the play. So on his turn 3 he successfully tapped out for an Eslpeth. EOT – Grixis Charmed that pretty lady back to his hand. On my turn 4 I played a BBE ~ Esper Charm, discard 2. Turn 5 was a beast turn for me. Deny Reality on his Eslpeth, once again ~ BBE ~ Grixis his tri-land back to his hand. He was playing catch-up after that for the rest of the game. I never over-extended beyond my enlisted worm and my 2 BBE that ended up carving his life total to a nice zero.

Game 3: Let me say that this game was my favorite. Piper was on the play. It was Land, Noble Hierarch, go. Mine consisted of the redundant power play of a Vivid, go. For time and constrant of a broken record my next 3 turns were as my first. And Piper’s were a crazy mess of turn 2: land, Jace, draw, go. Turn 3: Land, Jace Draw, Rafiq, swing with Hierarch (18 to his 20). On my turn 4 I dropped a BBE ~ Grixis … killed his Rafiq. Didn’t matter for him. He proceeded to drop a second Noble Hierarch along with another Rafiq. Turn 5: Instead of playing a Deny Reality (Which I thought would be a mistake) I cast a Captured Sunlight instead (putting me back to 22), and opted to draw off my Esper Charm. On his Turn 6: He had access to 8 mana … I was contemplating the worst … and he played Ajani. Rolled him down to 3 Making Rafiq and company pretty thick skinned. He played his Elspeth, pumped Rafiq an additional +3/+3 … making him a 7/7 before Exalted triggers. Exalted Triggers and he is now a 10/10 with a cute ability … Piper drops me to 2 – satisfied that I will be scooping upon my draw phase. I rip my Hallowed Burial. Do a silent fist pump. Chandler dancing ensues, and I drop the baby on to the field. He shrugs – says a few unpleasent things about my H.B. And I bought myself 1 turn. That was all I needed. Next turn for me resulted in a Baneslayer, or as I’ve come to call her Barn’slayer, from my trusty Enlisted Wurm. And I began the long climb back from 2. Piper extended his hand after another turn, and commented on the deck I was playing. I told him to thank Mike Flores for the deck build. And to thank WotC for the concept, and cards.

2-0 Match (4-1 games)

Round 3: Kithkin # eleventy billion … seriously … name need not be smeared.

I know by now you would be expecting another amazing round summary to follow this previous one. But sadly I went up against an empty chair across from me. Sat there for 5 minutes, and thought surely this guy was going to be showing up soon. It’s a casual tournament, and I’m not a rules shark. So I won’t be slamming down game losses unless an act of grievous misconduct took place. I won the die roll (Now this is not very often for me to win the die roll – I tend to favor the luck of Ravnica draft die rolls – where going 2nd meant game for me. No jokes)

Game 1: Typical Kithkin horde. “ME KITHKIN, ME SMASH FACE, ME READY TO LOSE TO SIDEBOARD GAMES 2 AND 3!”

game 2: -4 Blightning, -1 Enigma Sphinx, -1 Obelisk of Alara, +3 Firespout, +3 Ignite Disorder.

Now let me just state: Yes. Ignite Disorder. Come on – I played grixis Charm. Under-rated, and they smash face.

Game 3:
The game was never close. I managed to keep the “I hate Kithkin” hand in my opening grip. Turn 3 Firespout (He missed his Forge Tender drop). followed by a turn 4 BBE ~ Ignite Disorder. This proceeded to be the game plan. Primal’s kept me above the curve on Life to dmg per turn. After a few Enlisted Wurms brought in another BBE and a BSlayer … He said Game 3 should be better.

And it wasn’t. I simply rinsed and repeated game 2 amidst his complaints and frustrations with, “Who plays Ignite Disorder?! Who?!?” goodbye Sprectral Procession tokens.

3-0 Match (6-2 games)

Round 4: Good friend John (Kitchen # zzzz ….)

We ID since we both were 3-0. And neither of us wanted to spend 50 minutes of see-saw when we could be relaxing for the top 8. I myself enjoyed a great EDH game with another friend of mine, but that is another topic entirely.

Top 8:

I am paired up against another friend, Charles, who is playing … you guessed it: Kithkin.

I won the die roll (I took each of these as a sign that this coming weekend will not show me the same courtesy. As is my luck w/ die rolls mentioned beforehand)

As with the previous match-up against Kithkin the same story is told without typing it out. But I will note that he started both games 1&2 with slow openings; slow enough for me to take board position. After I resolve 2 BBE’s ~ Esper/Grixis it really wasn’t difficult to stay ahead of the curve both games.

He scooped Game 2 when; 4 straight turns; I threw Esper Charms at his hand repeatedly.

The Top 4 was less then stellar … All of us (Friends) chose to split (Preferring strong drink over cardboard. Would you disconcur?). A total of 60 packs amongst the four of us. I would say for being able to play for free I banked a nice dividend.

Oh … right … the deck list in question; well it is a Flores Original. The only thing I did that was eschewed from the original build were the Bitumanous Blasts – replaced w/ Deny Reality’s in the maindeck. As well as the Ignite Disorders and the Grixis Charms in the side.

The reasoning behind the Deny Reality, Ignite Disorder, and the Grixis Charm was simple. We have a huge Aggro market here at my shop. So to counteract the efficiency and dominance of said archetype I bring in Ignite Disorder simply because for 2 – or Cascaded it is capable of roasting a few weenies. Where as the Grixis Charm gives me a number of choices that don’t have to worry about a Burrenton Forge-Tender. Return Target permanent was amazing for me. As was the Target Creatures gets -4/-4. Only once, and only because it ended the game did I pick the third module on Grix Charm. I pumped both my BBE’s to 5/2’s.

Grixis Charm to me?

UBR – Instant … choose either Boomerang, Death Pulse, or Path of Anger’s Flame.

I would’ve said Sudden Death in place of Death Pulse, but unfortunately Charms don’t have split second. And I didn’t want to hear about this typo later on because I am sure this post is rife with them as is. πŸ™‚

Verdict?

The deck is simple, effective, and played straight through rough patches. Hopefully Zendikar will give us a few new things.

Remember when you cascade past a Baneslayer, and your opponent sighs with relief … just remind them that you have 3 more in the deck that are closer now. And watch them panic every time you cascade with an Enlisted Wurm.

Thank you,

Ben Botts
@Bottsthoughts on Twitter

WUBRG Cascade by Thomas Dodd

Thomas Dodd, aka @amistod is a friend I met on Twitter. Thomas and I conversed quite a bit about decks like the Rhox Meditant deck and most recently the Kitchen Finks-less inheritor to the Rhox Meditant deck. He was instrumental and influential in the development of those strategies and ran with the more recent version of the WUBRG Cascade deck at the Charlotte 5K. I am very happy to present his contributing blog post.


I wake up early at 6:30AM Sunday morning. I’m one QP away from season six MOCS champs, and I’ll gladly forgo my morning shut-eye for the 7:00AM Standard Daily and that necessary point. The usual suspects are represented, and I thankfully navigate around the quick aggro decks until round three. [Name withheld] is playing WW, and, after a quick win, I have a difficult decision during sideboarding. I realize the Kitchen Finks will not trade with his first strikers, so I remove them for Blightning. The early turns have me shredding his hand, and eventually he top-decks a Ranger of Eos with four lands in play. He tutors up two Figures of Destiny, which I EOT Esper Charm. I’m hooked. Over the next two days, I play in several Alara Block daily events, and I realize the loss of Finks is minor, especially when Captured Sunlight is used. That Wednesday night, I send @fivewithflores a tweet about the possibility of dropping Finks in standard. I wake up the next morning and see this list:

Cascade Control

1 Obelisk of Alara

4 Bituminous Blast
4 Blightning
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
1 Enigma Sphinx
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Esper Charm

2 Primal Command

4 Baneslayer Angel

4 Exotic Orchard
1 Forest
1 Graven Cairns
1 Island
1 Mountain
2 Plains
4 Reflecting Pool
1 Swamp
4 Vivid Crag
4 Vivid Grove
4 Vivid Meadow
1 Wooded Bastion

sb:
3 Ajani Vengeant
4 Anathemancer
2 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Primal Command
4 Hallowed Burial

I immediately tweak my online list and start testing, as the SCG Charlotte 5k is only two days away. I remove the expensive Obelisk and Enigma Sphinx to reduce my chances of awkward opening hands. This is the list I register on Saturday:

Creatures
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Enlisted Wurm

Instants
4 Bituminous Blast
4 Esper Charm

Sorceries
4 Blightning
4 Captured Sunlight
2 Hallowed Burial
2 Primal Command

Basic Lands
1 Forest
1 Island
1 Mountain
2 Plains
1 Swamp

Lands
4 Exotic Orchard
1 Graven Cairns
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Vivid Crag
4 Vivid Grove
4 Vivid Meadow
1 Wooded Bastion

Sideboard:
4 Anathemancer
4 Great Sable Stag
2 Runed Halo
4 Volcanic Fallout
1 Identity Crisis

In Charlotte, I lose once each to Kithkin and Merfolk, weak matchups that I was hoping to avoid. The Runed Halo and Identity Crisis are concessions to Cruel Ultimatum, but I am not convinced they are better than Ajani. While losing to Forgetender and Harm’s Way – and watching Faeries get crushed all around me – I wish that my Fallouts were Infests. I feel awkward without Maelstrom Pulse, as the inability to actually kill something is slightly unnerving. I find that I have to race or trade more than usual. Overall, I am satisfied with the deck’s performance. I go 7-2 in the event, placing 12th.

The main issue I want to talk about with this deck is how powerful decision making is in Magic. Every spell in this deck ends with the opponent making an increasingly difficult decision. The ability to tilt your paper opponent with discard is profound… especially when you snipe their draw with a well timed β€œpause after your draw” Esper Charm. β€œYou hit what, two Blightnings and three Esper Charms that game? Luck Sack.” I heard this during sideboarding all day long. Your opponent feels the need to explain to you – and to himself – that it was nothing you did, such as designing your deck to only hit discard, that caused the win. I find it interesting that people forget that Esper Charm can do this, and are confused when Esper Charm is used this way. People are not prepared for this much discard from a Bloodbraid deck. I also enjoyed watching people sideboard incorrectly against the deck. Cards boarded for the perceived 5cc matchup, such as Thought Hemorrhage and Identity Crisis, proved prohibitively expensive, as they were forcibly discarded before they could be cast.

Here is the adjusted deck list that I will be playing online until rotation:

Creatures
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Enlisted Wurm

Instants
4 Bituminous Blast
4 Esper Charm

Sorceries
4 Blightning
4 Captured Sunlight
2 Hallowed Burial
2 Primal Command

Basic Lands
1 Forest
1 Island
1 Mountain
2 Plains
1 Swamp

Lands
4 Exotic Orchard
1 Graven Cairns
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Vivid Crag
4 Vivid Grove
4 Vivid Meadow
1 Wooded Bastion

Sideboard:
3 Thoughtseize
4 Great Sable Stag
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Infest

With this adjusted board, I feel like I have a better chance against the more aggressive decks in the format. Dropping Anathemancer may seem crazy, but I only used him in the 5 color match up. Lightning Bolt should help with Wake Thrasher and Ramgang, as well as keeping true to the philosophy of never missing a cascade.

I really can’t say enough about Twitter. This tool has been invaluable in improving my Magic game. The ability to have a real time conversation with some of Magic’s most colorful characters is just too good to pass up. I invite all of you to add me and send me your contact information so that I can return the favor. I am always up for chatting about decks or testing online, so drop me a line sometime.

Currently Listening: 2009 Beatles Stereo Remasters

Thomas Dodd
amistod on Twitter / Mtgo

Goblin Outlander for the Win… Err… Top 8

This is the story of how four little Goblin Outlanders helped me to make Top 8 of the recent Edison PTQ.

First off, sorry I haven’t updated in a couple of weeks. For those of you who don’t know, I am nearing the final stages of completing a book. It isn’t about Magic at all, but online marketing, and I am writing it with my longtime friend and teacher, David Szetela. If you want to be a dear and order a copy from Amazon.com (of which like $.15 or so will trickle down to YT), I certainly won’t stop you (hint, hint):

Okay, back?

Yes, yes.

So I am working on this book, which has been eating up most of my writing, that is blog-writing time. However I was much berated at the recent Edison, NJ PTQ about my blog-writing delinquency, so, um, here’s a blog post, I suppose.

Most of you probably only care about my deck list, so I will supply that now so that you can go ahead and copy it down on a nearby paper napkin in crayon and be on your way:

Blightning Beatdown

4 Anathemancer
4 Blightning
4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Demigod of Revenge
4 Figure of Destiny
4 Goblin Outlander

4 Flame Javelin
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Tarfire

4 Auntie’s Hovel
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Graven Cairns
6 Mountain
2 Reflecting Pool
4 Savage Lands *
1 Swamp

sb:
4 Bitterblossom
4 Doom Blade
3 Stillmoon Cavalier
4 Lash Out

My deck was 60 correct cards (but see the land asterisk at the end).

The main difference between this deck and crappier versions of Blightning Beatdown is the Goblin Outlanders main and more Protection from White side. Basically Blightning blows out most decks, but has a horrible Kithkin matchup (traditionally). Most of you probably remember I played Blightning at the Philly 5K and lost to the eventual winner, Kithkin savant Corey Mann, in that Blightning / Kithkin nightmare (Corey by the way Top 8’d this PTQ as well… That guy should just always play Kithkin).

My strategy was to just play a ton of Protection from White and demolish Kithkin. I played against a lot of White decks, actually, and this was a great solution. I in fact beat the Kithkin dream draw in a matter of seconds with the double Outlander draw, which is very difficult to race. I even had Black Knight for a while, but I cut it to play Doom Blade when it became obvious U/W was going to be the deck to beat.

My sideboard, if I had it to play again, would have been different. Stillmoon Cavalier was not the strongest card, but the most relevant in the only matchup I lost. I would play four now, because I was always happy to draw it, and because Bitterblossom was not any good. The rest I would fill out with Terminates, possibly switching the core Doom Blades to Shriekmaws to better fight Baneslayer Angels (run around Glen Elendra Archmage better). Stillmoon Cavalier is also a great Baneslayer Angel foil, if you didn’t figure that out. He is hard to deal with in the long term, and jumps in front of that classy lady all day.

For those of you still reading, the tournament:

Round 1 – Eddie Wong with U/W Baneslayer

This is how my day started.

I lost the flip.

I played a Goblin Outlander.

He played a Broken Ambitions and revealed a Baneslayer Angel to my Anathemancer. I didn’t want to draw Anathemancer (knowing his deck probably had very few nonbasic lands) and anyway it probably would have some utility in the graveyard, so I left it on top to disappear. He shipped the Baneslayer, looking for lands.

The game went on, with him stumbling on lands somewhat. I was able to get him to about four with a Goblin Outlander and Demigod of Revenge, but he had Archmage (which I weathered down), Reveillark, another Reveillark, the squad. Now he was attacking me back. I Lightning Bolted him to one with his re-bought Archmage on the stack.

Then he played Glacial Fortress. Lucky ducky!

He only had seven lands in play and had gone nigh-all in the previous turn; I declared with the mighty Outlander on the table. He tapped all my guys, leaving only three lands up. I flipped back that turn two Anathemancer for the one point. He had two more Cryptic Commands in hand!

Second game I had my Doom Blades and Stillmoon Cavaliers in. The sideboarded matchup was much simpler. He would make some play that costs five, I would tap two to deal with it, and get in for five. His draw was not optimal but I still had bonus Doom Blade and additional removal in hand at the end, so I thought it was probably an okay matchup.

1-0

Round 2 – Oliver Simon with B/U/R Fae

Game One Oliver stalled on two. It didn’t really matter what I did.

I sided in Bitterblossom for the only time on the day.

On my second turn I ran one of them Blossoms out there. Oliver stared at it for about forty-five seconds before finally sending a Broken Ambitions its way. “Just having a little fun,” he chuckled.

Oliver was the one to stick Bitterblossom.

The rest of the game was a battle of Anathemancers and Blightnings, which he eventually won.

In the third I only played three spells, but two of them were Anathemancers πŸ™‚

I had one in the graveyard and one on the board with Oliver on three. He really needed a Lightning Bolt and a Cryptic Command. I was sure I had it, but he had a surprising Thought Hemmorhage to take out my down Anathemancer. The other, of course, was eventually lethal.

2-0

Round 3 – Rogelio Badillo with G/W Overrun

Game One involved a crisis of faith. I blasted and Blightning’d Rogelio down to no cards, but obviously he topdecked a Siege Goat Commander. I had been managing the board with Goblin Outlander, but was in a spot where I could be raced. My grip: Flame Javelin. He went O. I accepted and sent the Javelin at him instead. I was rewarded with Lightning Bolt and Demigod of Revenge, closed from nine-ish.

Game Two I couldn’t beat two Siege Goat Commanders, though it was exciting.

Third game Goblin Outlanders and especially Stillmoon Cavalier were beyond key. I was able to race through it with a Burrenton Forge-Tender on the table.

3-0

Round 4 – Justin Liu with Kithkin

Justin stalled in the first, but there wasn’t much he could do: I had the double Goblin Outlander draw.

Second game he had the optimal curve of 2/2, 2/2, three 1/1s, pump. However I countered with double Goblin Outlander and Stillmoon Cavalier, that is, three of seven. Thanks to Blightning I was able to easily win this race. The plan held!

Justin went on to make Top 8 with me.

4-0

Round 5 – Andrew Harwell with Reflecting Pool Control

Andrew had some unfortunate draws: Double Reflecting Pool in Game One; double filter land in Game Two. He eventually got there for Kitchen Finks mana but gave me too much initial time in both games to be competitive.

5-0

Round 6 – Chas E. Hinkle with Doran

Chas had a very good curve draw in Game One but I was able to blast away all of his guys and beat him with Ram-Gangs. So obviously I sided those out for Stillmoon Cavaliers and removal.

In the second I had a Stillmoon Cavalier but no Black mana to pair with my Reflecting Pool, so I was stuck on just Red. His deck got me right back.

In the third I shipped to six but ended up with four spells: Two Goblin Outlanders and two Anathemancers. I purposefully played only one Outlander at a time (to match Doran or Wilt-Leaf Liege) but unfortunately he drew two Maelstrom Pulses. If he didn’t draw the second Pulse (or a Nameless Inversion) I think I would have won. I had enough lands in play and two Anathemancers down. He was on 10 with six nonbasic lands in play. I took a total of 22, but 15 of them came from a Doran, so if my second Goblin lived, I think I would have had time to enact the Anathemancer plan.

Oh well.

5-1

Round 7 – Elizabeth Albert with G/W Little Kid

I got the first one on tempo with first turn Figure of Destiny. Her creatures were of course bigger but she couldn’t do much because I had presence starting early.

The second game I was pretty surprised to lose. She tapped for Oversoul of Dusk and I tapped and struck with Demigod of Revenge with another Demigod, Lightning Bolt, Doom Blade, and Flame Javelin in grip. Elizabeth already had a Kitchen Finks, so when she played Wilt-Leaf Liege I took 12, which put me to 5. With the Overoul in play there was no possible way to race! Just one more life point and I was pretty sure I had it. But I guess that’s why people play Oversoul of Dusk.

The third was interesting. I won on the back of a lost Lash Out clash. I got one of her little guys with the Lash Out, which revealed a [second] Celestial Purge to my Mountain. So I just never played my Demigod of Revenge for many turns… Not until she would commit mana. Anyway I had a Goblin Outlander and Stillmoon Cavalier on the battlefield.

I actually made a possible mis-play on a late game attack. Elizabeth had a Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers and Llanowar Elves to my 2/2 and 2/1. I double-struck. She had a Snakeform for what had been a pretty violent Stillmoon Cavalier. Before going to blocks, I dropped the Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers with Doom Blade, forcing her to block with the Llanowar Elves if she wanted to keep value on the Snakeform (getting in for two).

Asher Manningbot commented that I should have let her block, and then Doom Bladed the Wilt-Leaf Cavaliers, preserving my Stillmoon Cavalier. I was operating under the Zvi Mowshowitz paradigm (or perhaps an incorrect interpretation of it) which is that if I control all the information, that I can make a play where I am certain of the outcome. I knew Elizabeth had to use her last creature if she were going to keep value on the Snakeform, which would leave her with no creatures. G/W Little Kid can only defend a Goblin Outlander by racing or by committing. If I put her to no creatures, she would have to commit. I was rewarded with a tap out for Oversoul of Dusk, which gave me the spot to stick Lightning Bolt and Demigod of Revenge, stranding the Celestial Purge she had been milking.

So… Screwup or no?

Asher said I would have had much the same turn, but also a Stillmoon Cavalier if I had waited for a block for the Doom Blade.

6-1

Round 8 – Nick Batdorf with Blightning

Nick’s deck was not set up for the mirror. He had cards that would have been great for my failed matches against Doran, but were highly inefficient against another Blightning deck. For instance he had Earthquake, Terminate, and Stillmoon Cavalier main deck.

In the first Nick stalled so I had to setting for two-point Anathemancers. However I got like a 22-point life swing by pointing two different Blightnings for four different Flame Javelins πŸ™‚ I was actually pretty flooded but eventually closed it with a Goblin Outlander.

In the second I was pretty desperate for lands but was stuck on three. I did however win two Lash Out clashes, which are about as devastating as can be in this kind of a match. The second revealed a Flame Javelin, so I decided to keep that piece. I had a Tarfire and a Lightning Bolt in hand, so along with six from Lash Outs, I only had to do about five points of damage.

7-1

Top 8!

Round 9 – Lucas Siow with Reflecting Pool Control

We ran the ID. Lucas was the eventual PTQ winner.

7-1-1

Top 8 – Chas Hinkle with Doran

A bit of the anti-climax… I got paired against the only deck that beat me in the Swiss rather than one of the three Kithkin decks or the G/W deck (I had beaten two G/W decks of course).

Chas crushed me in the first. I think he played four Wren’s Run Vanquishers whereas I didn’t draw a single Lightning Bolt. I did however draw Blightning, but he kept revealing Wilt-Leaf Liege. Awkward.

In the second I accidentally drew eight cards!

My sleeves were a ragged mess after the Swiss, so I traded with Josh.

Yadda yadda yadda.

Sticky?

Whatever.

I somehow drew eight cards and had to force-mulligan to six.

I probably couldn’t have beaten Chas’s seven 4/4 draw with nine cards.

5th

You don’t put that many hours in for fifth place, but I walked out of the tournament with a now-respectable 1972 rating, which is amazing for the World’s Greatest Tee Shirt. I’ve put on about 200 ratings points since I started wearing it!

That’s it!

Hopefully it won’t be another two weeks before I update again.

But I can’t promise anything for now, sadly.

Much love,

LOVE
MIKE

* Not actually Savage Lands. I played the Grixis tri-land but I don’t remember the damn name. I wrote “Savage Lands” down on the paper napkin I scribbled over to Josh but he gave me the Grixis ones to ensure that I would not, you know, accidentally tap for Green or something. In fact Savage Lands can put the opponent on a bad read because Blightning Beatdown and Jund have many cards in common, but it is actually better for the opponent to put you on a Grixis read, which can — if briefly — lead to some poor short term evaluations and plays. Long story short, I can never remember the name of that land and would rather write this whole paragraph than look it up. So there.

Currently Reading: From Dead to Worse (Southern Vampire Mysteries, No. 8)

Edison Standard PTQ Report

My tournament report for the Standard PTQ in Edison, NJ…

I played the now poorly named Rhox Meditant deck; cardboard — including M10 cards — was provided by the amazing Joshua Ravitz.

Rhox Meditant Deck version 1.5

1 Ajani Vengeant
4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Naya Charm

4 Borderland Ranger
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:
1 Naya Charm
4 Cloudthresher
2 Primal Command
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Hallowed Burial

The PTQ exceeded 270 players, so a long nine rounds.

Round 1: Brad with Combo Elves

I was a little uncertain with my deck to start the day; I lost kind of a lot in Standard queues on Magic Online this week, but I kept losing to cards like Treetop Village and Boomerang, so I tried not to lose any confidence.

So of course Brad opened up with like Nettle Sentinel or a Heritage Druid, one of those jobbers, and I was like “oh man…”

Game One was not untenable, but I certainly wasn’t in a good position when he landed a turn five Primal Command, Time Walking me and gathering up a Ranger of Eos. I scanned the board and was pretty sure it was game, especially since I knew that I had a Savage Lands on top.

… But then a plan appeared in me olde noggin. I laid down the Ajani Vengeant in my hand — a singleton as you know — and kept his one Wooded Bastion tapped. Three or four turns went by, and it still hadn’t untapped! No Ranger, no more White sources, no combo. I was able to get in with Bloodbraid Elves and steal Game One.

I sided in Naya Charm, Lightning Bolt and Hallowed Burial (9) for Kitchen Finks, Cascading Sunlight, and 1 Bituminous Blast.

Game Two I had all the cards I needed to keep him off of combo killing me. Sadly, I somehow lost to creature beatdown πŸ™‚

Game Three was capped off by Enlisted Wurm flipping Hallowed Burial.

1-0

Round 2: Ryan with Kithkin

This was the most frustrating match of the day because Kithkin — probably the most popular deck — is a virtual bye for my deck. Game One I kept a hand that I kept at least five other times over the course of the day — Borderland Ranger and two lands — and I got killed before taking my fifth turn. He literally went second turn Cenn; Mutavault, Cenn; Cenn; Cenn. The irony (beyond missing my third drop with the Ranger in my hand) was that I had not one but two Maelstrom Pulses 😐

Game Two I battled out of his tricks and stabilized the board ahead on life with a Kitchen Finks and a Borderland Ranger and four cards (but they were all lands) to his five lands and no cards, no board. Of course he ripped five straight head shots (including two copies of Ajani Goldmane, the most dangerous card out of Kithkin in this matchup) and I flipped five straight lands and inexplicably lost from 18.

To be fair, I sided kind of janky this matchup (but that matters less when you aren’t drawing any spells). I sided much better in the subsequent three Kithkin matches (see below).

1-1

Round 3: Joshua with Merfolk

Game One was kind of a whatever. He mulled to five, then played consecutive three mana Lords. I had a Maelstrom Pulse, so my first play put me up about four cards, which was essentially insurmountable for him.

Game Two he was ahead early with a Sage’s Dousing and Cryptic Command, but I caught up with my Cascades. Uneventful.

2-1

Round 4: Tim with Fae

I am trying to analyze my deck building right now. I don’t really get why I consistently build decks that are excellent against Reflecting Pool Control but consistently mediocre against Fae. His draws weren’t even that good (mine were actually pretty bad, but playably bad, and I saw a Cloudthresher and resolved two [unimpressive] Enlisted Wurms), but he won in two. The second one he needed a second Scion to kill me on the spot (though a Cryptic Command or Mistbind Clique might have kept me from winning on a counterstrike); he got the second Scion… I think I would have won otherwise.

I sided Cloudthresher for Maelstrom Pulse in this one.

2-2

Round 5: Chris with Kithkin

This round was mentally indistinguishable for me with the next one (I took no notes and it was a long tournament, sorry). 2-0 win over Kithkin; opponent was even named Chris! The Kithkin matchup is favorable but still competitive in Game One, a complete blowout in sideboarded games.

I used the same sideboarding strategy in this and the subsequent two Kithkin pairings: I sided out all the Bloodbraid Elves, three Bituminous Blasts (or two Blasts and one Captured Sunlight), and Ajani Vengeant for Lightning Bolt and Hallowed Burial. Bloodbraid Elf isn’t really a card against Kithkin because of all their first strike and Burrenton Forge-Tenders (plus they are just one more janky thing you lose to a Hallowed Burial). Sunlights help force them to commit to the board while you fix mana or blow up lots of tokens.

Incidentally you may have noticed I basically never side out Primal Commands (though I do side them in).

3-2

Round 5: Chris with Kithkin

As above.

4-2

Round 7: Bill with Jund Aggro Cascade

This was a weird match because of what cards he showed me in Game One… Hellspark Elementals, Bloodbraid Elf, Maelstrom Pulse, maybe a Bituminous Blast. I put him on some cross between Cascade and burn, so I sided in two Primal Commands for two Maelstrom Pulses. I am not sure if it’s right to leave in Maelstrom Pulse (or how many) against burn decks. On the one hand Maelstrom Pulse is horrendous in Game One but on the other hand, they might have Everlasting Torment.

Anyway I won both games north of 20. I spent most of Game Two Primal Commanding a Savage Lands and searching up (and sandbagging) Enlisted Wurms while beating down with one Borderland Ranger (I think I ran six Primal Commands with Naya Charms helping out). I just wanted to know what his last card was; turns out it was a Ball Lightning.

5-2

Round 8: James with Boat Brew

Strange matchup. Three complete blowouts, two for me and one for him. I drew terribly in three games; he drew terribly in two games (but apparently my terrible draws far out-lasted his terrible draws). Maybe my third game wasn’t that terrible… I had two Hallowed Burials in hand at the end of the game (but I didn’t really want them… I wanted some guys so I could cast a Hallowed Burial). He was quite flooded in both the games he lost, but I was even more flooded in Game One than he was (though James made the point that I was playing a Ramp deck and he was playing with Path to Exile). In the third game, James was somehow flooded and color screwed at the same time, which is really awkward if you think about it… But I guess the loss of Battlefield Forge really hurts decks like Boat Brew. All in all, a bit of a sloppy match all the way around.

6-2

Round 9: Oliver with Kithkin

Game One he mulled to five in what is already not a great matchup; he made it competitive with multiple Cenns and Figures, but I set up offensive Ajani and Naya Charms to attack him to death.

Game Two Josh says I played one of the worst blowouts he had ever seen. I won by a mile but apparently I played it quite badly. I had a superb draw with Kitchen Finks, multiple Lightning Bolts, Hallowed Burial, and lands. I decided to Bolt and Pulse all his guys (Ethersworn Canonist, Wizened Cenn, and Wilt-Leaf Liege) and go offensive. He had a trio of Cloudgoat Rangers but I had four Hallowed Burials, including one off of an Enlisted Wurm, to make it look easy.

Josh’s contention is that I shouldn’t have even Bolted his Canonist; I could have just blocked his Liege and traded my Lightning Bolt and half a Kitchen Finks for it; at this point he would have still been forced to commit more cards, which would have made my first Burial very worthwhile (instead of just taking out a Ranger and his buddies, and maybe one more card). Essentially I won the Cascade lottery to make a badly played game appear deceptively smooth. Oh well.

7-2

I am not sure what to do at this point.

Kithkin took out Osyp playing G/W Combo Elves in the finals when Osyp shipped to five cards. Kithkin is probably going to stay a top tier deck, and the Rhox Meditant deck appears to be one of the finest anti-Kithkin decks in the field. The problem I’ve encountered is that it is very difficult (for me) to beat Fae and anything else simultaneously. I have built decks that are awesome against Fae and Reflecting Pool Control simultaneously, viz. Blightning Beatdown, but can’t beat Kithkin. Right now I think I have a deck that is very good against Kithkin but will not be able to beat Fae consistently. I have been shredding Fae online with Kithkin, but then I have the mirror… plus I am not going to be able to compete with a competent Reflecting Pool Control player basically ever.

Another option is aggro Cascade instead of control Cascade. I think I am going to come back to the Naya-based 4x Primal Command (sideboard) Cascade deck I was playing immediately prior to the Rhox Meditant deck, and just try out Lightning Bolt over Volcanic Fallout (main) to start. Could be an option… Then again, there are worse strategies than to run this deck again, one match (again!) out of Top 8.

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.

LOVE
MIKE

PS With this 7-2, the Optimus Prime Tee Shirt is still batting one thousand in packs acquisition.

The Importance of Being Naya Charm

About moving Naya Charm to the main for more MTGO tournament testing, plus a little more G/W Steward of Valeron dot dec and a look at All-in Green! More or less lots of deck lists all featuring basic Forest and Wooded Bastion πŸ™‚

The summer I was pretty good at Magic (solid individual performance at Pro Tour Charleston culminating in winning the New York State Championship that fall) yes, I was playing lots of Magic with Jon Finkel, but I was also playing lots of MTGO tournaments, specifically 8-man Constructed Queues.

Based on several readers’ suggestions, most notably Gerry Thompson, I decided to branch out of my Tournament Practice Room testing with just a bunch of one-on-one queues, which, while not Premiere Events or anything, are still raked tournaments and force me to play a bit better than the Tournament Practice Room. What is probably obvious to everyone — but I had somehow forgotten over the last couple of years — is how much more difficult the play in actual tournaments is! The Tournament Practice Room is very loose by comparison, even when opponents have all the cards.

Anyway, I have played five total matches with the Rhox Meditant deck (now with 100% less Rhox Meditant), going 4-1 overall. Last blog post I described getting one against G/W Combo Elves. That was good for +10 points. Here is how the next four matches have gone…

Esper Beats Loss: LWL -13
B/G Mid-range: Win WLW +4
Cascade LD: Win LWW +9
Sanity Grinding: Win WW +2

The Esper Beats loss was obviously hairy. No offense to my opponent meant, but this was a loose deck. All 2/1 shroud first strike, Paladin en-Vec, and 2/2 flying (Mulldrifter and a four mana Mulldrifter that only costs four).

The first game I was very distracted because Clark kept getting out of bed and running around and I got up no fewer than four times to put him back to bed. This caused me to play the wrong land on turn three so I couldn’t play Civic Wayfinder, so my first play ended up being turn FIVE. I figured that I could win by overwhelming his two power guys with Enlisted Wurms but he just kept playing more and more.

I put the read on that he didn’t have Cryptic Command, but I was still kind of in trouble to his 2/2 flying. Basically I flipped Maelstrom Pulse on every early Cascade for no targets, then never saw a Maelstrom Pulse or Bituminous Blast (and never a Bituminous Blast at all this game) once there was a target. Boo-urns.

Game Two I just smashed him with tempo and played several Primal Commands on his Arcane Sanctum. He only ever played one Paladin en-Vec before I won.

Game Three I shipped a weak two-lander into a moderate two-lander with a little gamble to it. I developed, teased him with a Primal Command (he bit with Cancel) and figured I had him set up; I was right on my read of one Cancel but he had a COUNTERSQUALL for my Hallowed Burial! Boo-urns! Boo-urns! I thought I could stabilize it but he had a last minute Terror for my Enlisted Wurm. I was gambling a bit on that one, looking for a Hallowed Burial, Bituminous Blast, or at least Maelstrom Pulse. I got like a nothing… Civic Wayfinder. I am not sure it was better to play the Enlisted Wurm rather than a Civic out of my hand and a Kitchen Finks (despite none of them being long for the world). Shrug.

The B/G deck I beat with Naya Charm. He played with a land destruction sub-theme, Rain of Tears, Fulminator Mage, and Primal Command, so I sided in Naya Charm just for lands. In Game Three he used his Primal Command to start racing me with Thornling. I expertly stayed alive with a combination of well measured chump blocks anticipating Trample, Primal Commands of my own to stay alive and Time Walk, and racing back. I got him the last turn when he activated Treetop Village, inviting Bituminous Blast, which flipped Naya Charm, that tapped his Thornling and left the doors wide open for my Enlisted Wurm.

Those two matches were last night.

For tonight I decided to move some Naya Charms to the main; basically I swapped three of them for three Planeswalkers but didn’t really change any of the 75 (just some positions); if I had Naya Charm main, I am pretty sure I would have beaten the Esper deck in Game One (and with it, the match). If you are REALLY lazy, here is the deck list:

Rhox Meditant Deck version 1.4

1 Ajani Vengeant
4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Maelstrom Pulse
3 Naya Charm

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:
1 Anathemancer
3 Ajani Vengeant
1 Naya Charm
4 Cloudthresher
2 Primal Command
4 Hallowed Burial

The Cascade LD seemed like not a great matchup because he had Cruel Ultimatum to reset. I don’t really remember how I lost Game One. He never did anything that worthwhile. Like a Civic Wayfinder is better than all of his cards (Bloodbraid Elf, various Stone Rains, whatever). Boomerang makes the deck quick and Grixis Charm flexible; he actually got me with Deny Reality into Grixis Charm when I only had two lands and forced me to discard multiple in I think Game Two… but I won that one as well as Game Three.

I got Ultimatum’d in both of the first two but I pulled out two anyway. Basically I Ultimatum’d him back with the Enlisted Ultimatum I was sandbagging. Game Three my hand was kind of mana light to begin with, he boomed me down to no permanents, and I got back after he cast all his spells (just didn’t draw Cruel Ultimatum this game).

My Sanity Grinding opponent was super nice, and a comic book fan by his nickname πŸ™‚

Sanity Grinding is just not a hard matchup if you can force through the main deck Primal Command… Game Two i think I played like four Primal Commands. This game I actually got off Ajani Ultimatum, which was cute (doesn’t happen every day).

If nothing dramatic happens, I am playing the above deck list, but with Borderland Rangers, next weekend.


So another deck I played a bunch of matches with — albeit Tournament Practice Room — is All-in Green. I wanted to try to re-embrace the All-in Green from the Steward of Valeron deck. That deck I have been winning most of them, though I did lose the G/W mirror tonight, to G/W Tokens. Anyway, I decided to make All-in Green per my discussions with BDM in real life and the Top 8 Magic Podcast:

All-in Green

3 Behemoth Sledge
4 Wildfield Borderpost

4 Boggart Ram-Gang
4 Kitchen Finks

4 Chameleon Colossus
4 Llanowar Elves
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Primal Command
4 Thornling

3 Ranger of Eos

14 Forest
4 Mosswort Bridge
4 Wooded Bastion

sb:
1 Behemoth Sledge
1 Gutteral Response
4 Cloudthresher
4 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Ranger of Eos
4 Rhox Meditant

I played five matches with this deck.

Mono-Black:
Won in I think two… I think that everyone who is looking to play Mono-Black should think about it for a minute; Chameleon Colossus is bad enough but Great Sable Stag is coming too.

Jund Elves:
I was able to trump with Chameleon Colossus + Behemoth Sledge.

Blightning (no Blightning?)
I lost the first of two matches due to a misclick. I had Chameleon Colossus on board and Primal Command underneath a Mosswort Bridge. I accidentally clicked to use the Bridge with four mana in my pool; for some reason the Colossus didn’t activate! (That reason was my misclick). Would have won otherwise so he game me a rematch.

In the rematch he got me fair and square.

Finally I beat a slow cascade deck by dropping second turn Ethersworn Canonist. He played four Cryptic Commands but refused to bounce the Canonist, so eventually I got there.

So would I play All-in Green in a real tournament?

Probably not. It lacks the ability to deal with utility creatures; case in point, my Blighting opponent played second turn Sygg, River Cutthroat every game but one. I basically had to wait until he was ready to block (which was non-zero, but also not up to YT).

At present I don’t really see a whole lot of time put into All-in Green versus actual tournament play for the Rhox Meditant deck.


For those of haven’t done it yet, go order Zvi’s book!

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: 100 Bullets Vol. 13: Wilt

Rhox Meditant, Steward of Valeron, Small Changes

Short post tonight – just indicating some recent changes to my favorite Standard decks.

I got back from movie night at Jonny Magic’s and started playing in one-on-one queues for the first time tonight. Movie night was awesome, as usual. Super packed house for a viewing of The Triplets of Belleville. I found out that Tom Martell has a blog! The best part about Tom’s blog is that it has almost no content, but a link to my blog πŸ™‚

Anyway, I played three matches, one one-on-one queue with Rhox Meditant deck and two Tournament Practice Room matches with Steward of Valeron deck. All successful.

Rhox Meditant Deck (now with 100% less Rhox Meditant)

4 Ajani Vengeant
4 Bituminous Blast
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Enlisted Wurm
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Maelstrom Pulse

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:
1 Anathemancer
4 Naya Charm
4 Cloudthresher
2 Primal Command
4 Hallowed Burial

I somehow got an Anathemancer in my main deck and played 61 cards (Jon Becker alert).

My opponent was G/W combo Elves, which should be a miserable pairing. Game one I might have been able to win — it’s possible — but I flipped Anathemancer on a Cascade spell when he had only Forests. Sub-comical.

His play was superb, by the way. He did all the little things that some players get sloppy and miss. For example I flipped Maelstrom Pulse with Bloodbraid Elf and targeted Devoted Druid when he had two on board; he correctly killed his own Druid with -1/-1 counters rather than lose them both; right play, obvious when you say it out loud, and still something many miss. I conceded when he had three Regal Forces in play, thirteen Green creatures, and had played his second or third Primal Command on me.

Sideboarding was:
+1 Naya Charm
+4 Hallowed Burial
-1 Anathemancer (imaginary)
-4 Captured Sunlight

Game Two I got on tempo. Just Kitchen Finks into Bloodbraid Elf this time. His draw wasn’t bad, just slow and on the draw. I had more Bloodbraid Elf action and Maelstrom Pulse and other removal to handle any little Elves. I had Hallowed Burial from my opener but never had to play it.

I sided again for Game Three to be faster.
+3 Naya Charm
-3 Ajani Vengeant

This game took forever and he had superb action but he was never really in it. It was a little scary when he got me with a third turn Primal Command but I recovered for Maelstrom Pulse on half his Elves engine, which slowed him enough to bite it to my first Hallowed Burial. I played three or four total in Game Three, off of Naya Charms and Enlisted Wurms.

I trished him out long, Long, LONG until it was Enlisted Wurm against [lonely] Regal Force. At this point he had like one card left and I had six, including Naya Charms and Hallowed Burials hand and graveyard. Hallowed Burial is great in this matchup.

Naya Charm might just be better than Ajani, but Ajani is a key source of headaches for control decks. It’s all balancing.

Steward of Valeron dot dec

2 Behemoth Sledge

4 Kitchen Finks
4 Steward of Valeron

4 Chameleon Colossus
4 Cloudthresher
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Thornling

3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Path to Exile
3 Ranger of Eos

4 Brushland
10 Forest
4 Mosswort Bridge
2 Plains
4 Wooded Bastion

sb:
1 Behemoth Sledge
1 Burrenton Forge-Tender
4 Celestial Purge
1 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Ethersworn Canonist
4 Rhox Meditant

Main changes are minus one main deck Ranger of Eos, swapping for a Path to Exile.

Sideboard includes Ethersworn Canonist now, which is a concession to the Bloodbraid decks and also can help slow down combo decks. I haven’t sided it in yet.

Matches were straightforward; nothing fancy. The best was when I used Celestial Purge against his first turn Borderpost πŸ™‚

That’s it for tonight!

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reding: Dead Until Dark (Southern Vampire Mysteries, Book 1)

Sideboarding Jund Mana Ramp

The future of beloved Jund Mana Ramp is uncertain due to M10 coming soon (sadly I probably won’t even get to play it in its current form in a PTQ). However some friends have asked for a sideboarding guide. Here goes!

For easy reference, here is the Jund Mana Ramp deck list I would play:

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

By popular demand, the sideboarding swaps for the Jund Mana Ramp deck…

B/W Tokens
+3 Caldera Hellion
+1 Volcanic Fallout
+1 Terror
-3 Shriekmaw
-2 Banefire

B/W Tokens is a deck where Jund Mana Ramp is a slight but not overwhelming favorite. The main problem is that you can get stuck with Shriekmaw hands that are worthless against B/W Tokens. Volcanic Fallout is okay but nothing special, usually trading one for one with Spectral Procession but not doing a whole lot else.

That said, Jund tends to win the games where B/W has a “regular” draw on basis of card quality. They play something, you play something better. Most of the time you will want to kill Ajani Goldmane in any way you can as quickly as you can.

The games Jund loses are usually games where the opponent has a very disruptive Tidehollow Sculler draw or locks you out with infinite Ajani + Persist creatures.

Sideboarding we just swap Shriekmaw (very bad) for Caldera Hellion (very good). One thing you might consider doing is to NOT Devour with Caldera Hellion, allowing it to die. This can give you a future option of Makeshift Mannequin, especially on the opponent’s turn. Terror is pretty good because it can kill like a 10/10 Mutavault.

Cascade Swans
+4 Anathemancer
+1 Shriekmaw
+1 Terror
+4 Primal Command
-3 Broodmate Dragon
-4 Cloudthresher
-3 Volcanic Fallout

This is pretty impossible.

ElfBall
+3 Caldera Hellion
+1 Shriekmaw
+1 Terror
+1 Volcanic Fallout
-4 Cloudthresher
-2 Chameleon Colossus

I’ve never played agaisnt ElfBall with Jund but this is how I would side.

Elves
+3 Caldera Hellion
+1 Shriekmaw
+1 Terror
+1 Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
-3 Cloudthresher
-3 Volcanic Fallout

Elves is a much more competitive matchup than most of the other creature decks because they [also] have Chameleon Colossus. I have personally never lost a game where I drew so much as one Shriekmaw; I am willing to use Shriekmaw for defensive speed. Basically you want to stretch most of Phase II with a better board and keep damage off (remember they can kill you with Profane Command).

Sideboarding is a bit tricky; you are taking out creature kill and swapping in different creature kill. You need all your Banefires to kill Chameleon Colossus and in some cases first turn mana accelerators depending on the tenor of the game. I would be fine playing versus Elves any round but it is not a super easy matchup like G/W Tokens or Five-color Blood.

Fae
+1 Anathemancer
+1 Terror
+1 Volcanic Fallout
-3 Shriekmaw

Fae is a favorable matchup for Jund Mana Ramp… and you still lose some of the time. Terror is in for Mistbind Clique (their main threat against you).

Five-color Blood
+1 Shriekmaw
+1 Terror
+4 Anathemancer
+2 Primal Command
-4 Cloudthresher
-1 Banefire
-3 Volcanic Fallout

Five-color Blood is a blissfully easy matchup main deck and it just gets better sideboarded. Remember the original tension our group described RE: Civic Wayfinder v. Bloodbraid Elf. Five-color Blood might be able to sting you with Sygg, River Cutthroat, but if you are going to lose, it will usually involve being on the wrong end of a Putrid Leech (I never have though). You want to tax the Leech as much as possible with Kitchen Finks and Civic Wayfinder. If you can stick a Chameleon Colossus at any point (and presumably defend it from Cruel Ultimatum) you can’t really lose. I have withstood Cruel Ultimatum out of Five-color Blood several times. Just not a dangerous matchup for Jund Mana Ramp.

Fog
+4 Anathemancer
+1 Volcanic Fallout
+4 Primal Command
-3 Shriekmaw
-4 Broodmate Dragon
-2 Chameleon Colossus

Fog is a deceptively super easy matchup. In Game One you basically need to do six damage fair and square. If you can do six damage you can usually win with Volcanic Fallout, Cloudthresher, Banefire, and Makeshift Mannequin. Always evoke Cloudthresher — that sets you up for Makeshift Mannequin (you can’t really ever get creature damage in once you are at six mana). If you have to discard, discard stuff like Broodmate Dragon; you are just never going to get damage in that way.

Primal Command is good many different ways. Drawing extra and then braining their Howling Mines is fine. Shuffling your deck up in the middle of Stage Two (successfully) is basically game right then and there (they will deck).

Anathemancer is better than most of the other creatures even if they don’t have a lot of nonbasics. You really just need to sneak in a small amount of damage to dominate them, and they will be less apt to blow a Fog on a two damage packet than, say, a doubled-up Chameleon Colossus.

G/W Tokens
+3 Caldera Hellion
+1 Volcanic Fallout
+1 Shriekmaw
+1 Terror
-2 Chameleon Colossus
-4 Banefire

G/W Tokens is an extremely easy matchup. I am not sure which is easier, G/W Tokens or Five-color Blood but they are both extremely easy and you almost can’t lose. So if this is the case, play so they can’t kill you out of nowhere with an Overrun, because it’s one of the only ways they can ever win. Unlike B/W Tokens they don’t have a persistent source of creatures or any way to keep you from demolishing them turn after turn with superior spells.

Sideboarded you just max out on creature kill and kill all their guys (i.e. the only way they can win).

Jund Mana Ramp
+1 Shriekmaw
+1 Terror
+1 Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
+4 Primal Command
-4 Kitchen Finks
-3 Volcanic Fallout

This sideboarding strategy assumes they are running some terrible Fertile Ground deck with no Chameleon Colossus; if they have Chameleon Colossus you have to leave in all your Kitchen Finks, so instead pull Black removal.

Red Decks
+1 Shriekmaw
+1 Terror
+4 Primal Command
-4 Cloudthresher
-2 Volcanic Fallout

You are about a 20-25% dog game one; you are that much of a favorite sideboarded. You want to gain seven and grab Broodmate Dragons to race.

Reflecting Pool Control
+4 Anathemancer
+1 Karrthus, Tyrant of Jund
+4 Primal Command
-3 Shriekmaw
-3 Kitchen Finks
-3 Volcanic Fallout

Reflecting Pool Control is one of the easier matchups for Jund Mana Ramp. Philosophically you need to utilize your Trish cards (Civic Wayfinder et al) to keep pace with Reflecting Pool Control’s card advantage while establishing what pressure you can. You can usually jockey for a fair amount of damage with Treetop Villages. The most annoying thing is if they can hurt you with a Plumeveil; that will usually take a lot of wind out of your sails. That said, you are heavily favored main if you can get them anywhere near where you need to get them and then point Banefire. Their deck is quite slow so you can often hit multiple Banefires to win. Shriekmaw is not nearly as bad as it seems because you need to suppress Walls, plus Shriekmaw has fear; nevertheless we side him out.

Sideboarded you can really only lose if they have a large number of varied sideboard cards, viz. Pithing Needle and Runed Halo AND THEY DRAW THEM. Your offense is irresistable otherwise, with Anathemancers and Banefires as near-auto-wins. If they tap for Broodmate Dragon you kill them with Karrthus (if you are a miser like WillPop anyway), and you basically win any game you can stick a Primal Command (usually Time Walk + Anathemancer).

White Weenie
+3 Caldera Hellion
+1 Volcanic Fallout
+1 Shriekmaw
+1 Terror
-2 Broodmate Dragon
-4 Banefire

Sideboarding White Weenie is slightly different from sideboarding G/W Tokens. White Weenie is a harder matchup than G/W because Burrenton Forge-Tender can kold your sweep, plus White Weenie can get really wicked fast draws like Isamaru, Wizened Cenn, Procession, Ajani, and so on. Therefore we side out Broodmate Dragon and leave in Chameleon Colossus on basis of speed. You just want a faster body on the board.

That’s it!

LOVE
MIKE

Currently Reading: Nikolai Dante: Hell and High Water

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.