Entries Tagged 'Drawing' ↓

Spitballin’ Twisted Image

I have been getting a fair amount of negative feedback around my inclusion of a particular card in recent deck lists. Such feedback ranges from “does nothing” to “pretty bad” to the more open minded “it will never be ‘dead’ but you really want to be doing something else with your mana” variety.

Per the title of this blog post, that card is none other than Twisted Image:

Twisted Image

To be clear, I don’t know that I would play Twisted Image (at least not main deck) in a polychromatic Blue deck. That is, if I were U/R, U/W, &c. As playing with another color typically brings with it a greater variety of options, I would probably find something better to do with a slot.

However my explorations so far in the Snapcaster Mage format are all straight Blue, and when you are only one color your card choices are necessarily more restrictive. That isn’t to say they are “bad” so much as to say that if you have one color instead of two colors, you have more-or-less only half the available number of cards for a given Standard.

Now in a Mono-Blue deck we have an additional consideration, which is that we can play the Comer-Xerox strategy, which means we can cut two lands for every 1-2 mana cantrip in our deck. Along with Gitaxian Probe and Ponder, Twisted Image would help us shave some lands (not something I would necessarily be comfortable doing in a two-color deck, though the success of low land count / two-color Pyromancer Ascension decks in Standard and elsewhere is something to consider).

Aside: Why Would We Want to Cut Lands?

Interesting question!

Some very good players (e.g. Erik Lauer or Jon Finkel) want to do nothing but play lands… Err… counter spells and play lands, that is.

The answer is simple: Cutting lands allows us to play more spells.

Um… (you ask); don’t we just replace those lands with 1-2 mana cantrips?

While the short answer is “yes”, it is actually a great deal more complicated than that. When we play a Comer-Xerox strategy, we can fill otherwise un-used mana holes (i.e. we play a cantrip on turn one instead of playing nothing). In addition, we have more long run flexibility. You know when some players topdeck another land and extend the hand? That is less likely to happen for a Comer-Xerox / cantrip deck.

Per Alan’s original doctrine: We use the cantrips early to draw lands, and late to draw spells.

End aside.

I would humbly make the following argument based on the actual performance of other decks in the Top 8 of the most recent Star City Games Open event…

There were between the two Tempered Steel decks in the elimination rounds eight Signal Pests and three Spellskites (any of those 0/x creatures can be considered “problematic” in the wrong spot). Respectfully, Twisted Image against these artifact creatures can be considered “a motherloving blowout.”

Additionally you have the entirety of Todd Anderson’s Illusions deck (16+ “Phantasmal” creatures), plus a smattering of Phantasmal Images in decks like Solar Flare (as many as two copies in some lists). In the case of fighting a Phantasmal creature, we move from motherloving blowout to “merely” “better than Swords to Plowshares” zone; that is, trading one mana for, say, a 5/5 flyer (pretty comparable to the return that once inspired me to declare Skred “the best card in Standard”).

Once you leave the Top 8 you can start talking about Birds of Paradise in Birthing Pod, the Birds of Paradise in Michael Pozsgay’s deck, more Birds in the G/W Humans, more Spellskites, and of course Tree of Redemption (nice four mana, there). In addition, Twisted Image can play semi-Time Walk against the card Kessig Wolf Run… It doesn’t completely undo the attack, but it can really take the teeth out of the mana investment (while drawing up an extra card).

Is Twisted Image always a blowout?

No one is saying that is the case… But for a one-color deck, I think that it is more than good enough to consider main deck, as a four-of, et cetera.

(That’s how I think about it, anyway.)


A twisted image of a completely different kind:

Bruce sketch, etc.

Xerox’ing Snapcaster Mage

Snap-keep Snapcaster Mage?

I actually just bought my Snapcaster Mages from Amazon, partly due to the prices being better than any of the usual sites I have bought from in the past, partly because it looks like the prices elsewhere are going up elsewhere.

Anyway, I was surprised at how few comments there were RE: the two Snapcaster Mage / Twisted Image deck I posted last week.

From 10/22/2011:

2 Batterskull
2 Spellskite
4 Sword of Feast and Famine

3 Dismember

2 Consecrated Sphinx
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Mana Leak
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Twisted Image

23 Island

My thinking around this kind of deck was that Mono-Blue Illusions was pretty good at last season, and it lost only Spell Pierce. Spell Pierce is kind of fungible. Okay, it also lost Renegade Doppelganger, but adding in Snapcaster Mage (snap-keep him) makes for a +EV swap.

Mono-Blue Illusions was already good enough for Top 16 at the TCGPlayer $75,000 Championship (and a Star City Game Open Series event at the same time)… To me it stood to reason that with everyone else losing cards like Squadron Hawk, Lighting Bolt, and Goblin Guide, we could just slide right in with same-sies (but snap-keeping the upgrade).

I think the people who have had erratic results with Illusions may be suffering from the “no Phantasmal Dragon” syndrome; that is, their deck lists have no Phantasmal Dragons. Phantasmal Dragon seems pretty great to me. I mean, sure, it dies to Dismember… But if it is dying to Dismember there isn’t even any Phantasmal drawback going on.

I wanted to try a non-Illusions route myself, but I can honestly see playing at Phantasmal Dragon even if I don’t have Lord of the Unreal in my deck (let alone the various Bears and so on). I think a 5/5 flyer is just pretty good (though it might be bad against the current crop of Green three- and four-drop Transform permanents); that said, as you can see I didn’t play any kind of Illusions in the above deck.

At this point, if people are going to insist on playing Werewolves, I think I am actually going to play Ponder. We can go very Comer-Xerox and cut a lot of lands if we don’t stray from basic Island, for instance…

3 Sword of War and Peace

3 Dismember

4 Delver of Secrets
2 Dissipate
4 Gitaxian Probe
4 Ponder
4 Invisible Stalker
4 Mana Leak
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Stitched Drake
4 Twisted Image

21 Island

Instead of going Phantasmal-linear I decided to pick all good evasions guys; in theory good Swordsmen. Snapcaster Mage doesn’t fly or sneak on by, but he provides the deck a mite of card advantage.

I am thinking about switching to Sword of War and Peace for a couple of reasons… 1) Todd Anderson played a deck about the same route this past weekend, and I can see being murdered by 1/1 White flyers on defense; and 2) this kind of a deck doesn’t really want to play for very long. Sword of Feast and Famine might be disheartening, but Sword of War and Peace actually kills the opponent much faster. Especially considering the Red Deck finals of the last Star City Open, I think a healthy respect for the Red is in order.

To that end… Stitched Drake. This card seems so good. I can see trading my Delver of Secrets for a Stromkirk Noble just so I have fodder to play Stitched Drake. Seems like a great topdeck after an attrition fight. It is like a Dragon where you can leave up Mana Leak mana.

What’s not to love?


I have been making an effort to draw every day, and I am going to be posting my sketches and (hopefully someday) some finished stuff here on my blog. Guess what? It’s my blog and I can do whatever I want!

Even when I thought I was going to become a famous comic book artist, I never really played with colors. This one-two is one of my first attempts, ever.

The subject is an old lady doing yoga… You know, to mix it up from babes in evening dresses and / or essentially half-naked male superheroes with giant fish-packages.




Napster and Namor

Marshall Sutcliffe (@Marshall_LR of Limited Resources and one of the nicest people you will ever meet in the Magic podcasting community) has been asking me about… Believe it or not… Napster!

Marshall makes the reasonable point that Napster is a deck that we talk about a lot (myself, BDM, and so on)… But only really longtime readers know what the hell a Napster is. So… Here is the rundown, only eleven years after the fact. Briefly, we will go over:

  • The Deck
  • The Name
  • The Tournaments
  • The Pedigree
  • The Plan(s)
  • … and Namor

The Deck
… As Jon Finkel played it (to the 2000 US National Championships win):

The Name

At the time, Napster (the “real” Napster) was the industry leader in music sharing; instead of legally downloading music via iTunes or Amazon.com, less scrupulous young people would login to Napster and download the songs they wanted that had been uploaded by different less scrupulous young people. You could pretty much get whatever you wanted without having to pay for it, therefore.

Brian Kibler came up with the deck name.

The deck that would eventually [also] be called Napster could go and get whatever it wanted thanks to playing Vampiric Tutor (we’ll get into more on how that worked in a future section).

The Tournaments
In the Spring of 2000 The Magic Dojo was pretty much a sinking ship. However they were still paying me (and a couple of other people) so we would still show up for work. We would do some work, but the onetime dreams of dotcom IPO millions were a thing of the past.

So while updating our resumes, one of the things we did was play lots and lots of Standard.

The Magic Invitational that year gave us a great set of gauntlet decks; and because I am forbidden from looking things up, I won’t… But I think our gauntlet was a Blue deck played by Zvi Mowshowitz some kind of Rebels deck played by maybe Chris Pikula or Darwin Kastle, and a StOmPy deck played by Patrick Chapin. There were also some combo decks (for example Sabre Bargain).

We played lots and lots of Standard and had quite a few good decks we could play.

At the time, BDM was innovating the tournament scene with the Grudge Match (which he resurrected just this past weekend), and we had weekly Standard at Neutral Ground, therefore. Awesome decks like Replenish were coming out at the same time, and the Grudge Match gave rise to ZevAtog the next year (for those of you who don’t know about ten year old decks these were the CawBlade and so on of the age).

I decided to play what Napster was in a Grudge Match qualifier and won it, beating Ben “Manascrew” Murray in the finals. US Regionals was soon after and I played it there, too.

In Regionals I qualified, losing a total of three games (two of them in the Top 4, and one in the Swiss). Both my losses were based on errors. In the Swiss one I had my opponent completely locked down with Agonizing Memories and no creatures in play; I made him put a land and Lin-Sivvi on top of his deck, and the turn he played her out, I ran Vampiric Tutor to get my Eradicate… Which wasn’t in the deck. I had no way to directly kill Lin-Sivvi with the amount of mana I had in play and he got a Protection from Black creature and killed me with it.

Obviously I won the next one.

Eventual Champion Sayan Bhattacharyya beat me in the Top 4 at a point when we didn’t yet have Stromgald Cabal. Stromgald Cabal (main deck) put our Replenish matchup to about 75% (it was about 45/55 in favor of Replenish at Regionals)… I messed up on an Unmask and Sayan beat me after 100 turns of do-nothing (hiding behind Circle of Protection: Black).

After qualifying at Regionals, I hooked up with Jon Finkel and the OMS brothers for US Naitonals testing, and we did exactly one session of Standard. I brought my Black deck and Jon and Chris Pikula played 3-4 different decks against me. We were a slight dog to Blue but beat every other deck by a margin of 70% or greater; as he does, Jon said it would be pointless to play any other decks and thus elected to prepare exclusively for Limited.

Jon won the Limited portion of Nationals that year, famously beating Mageta, the Lion with a “mere” Wandering Eye.

Pro Tip: If you give Jon Finkel perfect information, he will beat you, even if you have an unlimited number of Wrath of Gods.

The Pedigree
Jon used Napster to win the 2000 US National Championship, including one of the most lopsided finals matches of all time (versus Chris Benafel). Benafel was thought to have the dominant matchup with Mono-Red land destruction, but Jon beat him 3-0, after beating him badly in the Swiss as well.

Here was a typical Finkel opening draw against the Mono-Red deck:

Dark Ritual,
Dark Ritual,
Dark Ritual,
Skittering Horror

Things to keep in mind:

  1. Red had no Lightning Bolt at the time.
  2. Jon’s play on turn two was a Rishadan Port

This leads us reasonably-ish into…

The Plans
Napster did lots of different things well, but the main awesome sauce was its twofold dominance as a Vampiric Tutor deck and a Yawgmoth’s Will deck. Unless the opponent was playing a Morphling deck, you could pretty much just play Vampiric Tutor and win the next turn. The game might not be over, but the opponent would be more-or-less incapable of winning.

For example, you could play Vampiric Tutor for Engineered Plague against Elves. Could they win? Maybe. But not before you killed them with Thrashing Wumpus and Skittering-something.

You could get Stromgald Cabal (tap to counter a White spell), and a Replenish deck would need eight mana before it could do anything productive. Zvi, Sayan, and Don Lim eventually figured out to play Ring of Gix to tap Stromgald Cabal, but up until that point, it was a pretty firm soft lock.

All the decks in the format would fold to some kind of Vampiric Tutor. Frank Hernandez (Jon’s Top 8 opponent at Nationals) complained that his StOmPy deck was up against “nine Perishes” in Game One… As above, Jon had more Perish action in his sideboard.

Yawgmoth’s Will is maybe the most powerful Magic card of all time… and they let us play four. No, I don’t know why more people didn’t play it. In Napster the routes to card advantage should be pretty obvious (smash guys, re-buy creature removal), but when you start doing stuff like using your Dust Bowl so you can re-buy a land, plus popping Vampiric Tutor from the graveyard to get your next Yawgmoth’s Will… The deck was easy to win with at 25% efficiency (again, Vampiric Tutor auto-beat almost every deck)… But there was significant room for mastery.

Subtly, Unmask (a Black pitch spell) was there to help you get rid of cards like Perish when off-matchup.

… And that’s about it.

I could write about Napster, um, forever, but I’ll leave it at that. Basically a deck with potentially fast threats (turn one 5/5), more card advantage than anyone else (Yawgmoth’s Will), and the ability to beat almost any deck with one spell.

I leave you with some sketches I did of the King of Atlantis yesterday:




Coming Soon:
“The Now-Famous Supermodel NipSlip Incident of 1995” (and associated shenanigans)

Comics, Messing Around on my iPad, etc.

I don’t remember how I got on this train but I was reminiscing about what was supposed to be my smashing career in comics and / or movies. Most of you probably aren’t longtime-enough readers to know that I was a high finisher in a comics competition a few years ago called Comic Book Idol (I finished third)… Second-place finisher was Jonathan Hickman, who is now a superstar at Marvel Comics, killed the Human Torch, etc.

Anyway, believe it or not I made it into Variety (premier showbiz mag) at the tender age of 27.

Click the above for the story starring YT!

I got plucked out of Comic Book Idol and was immediately signed onto a movie / comics adaptation for a book called Seen. Long story short, I was distracted with other projects (i.e. my Magic writing career was just taking off, and I played in the Magic Invitational), and Seen never got done [by me, anyway]. Earlier this year the same studio / comics company that hired me put out a little film called Cowboys and Aliens.

Anyway, partly inspired by something Justin Treadway linked to on Twitter I decided to download some drawing software for my iPad.

I haven’t drawn — seriously or otherwise — in literally 5-6 years, but I think I am going to screw around and put up sketches and stuff.

So… These aren’t up to pro quality or anything, but maybe we’ll get to an interesting place again. It’s like Nikolai Dante says about fightin’ … The only way to get good at anything is to do a lot of it.

First swipe…

Sketch 2


That’s it!