Entries Tagged 'M10' ↓

Great Sable Stag is Like My New Favorite Card

I’m just going to have to satisfy (dissatisfy?) the Brian Kowal / Tim Aten crowd and come out and say it: Great Sable Stag is just better than Gnarled Mass, and you all know how YT feels about his Gnarled Mass.

I really want to play Great Sable Stag main. Its size profile makes this a possibility even if White Weenie / Kithkin is one of the default decks (3/3 is bigger than 2/2 First Strike). It’s a different story if we are staring down Honor of the Pure across the table (often absolutely horrid, but not uncommonly not that big a deal, at least in the sense that we can still trade sometimes). But of course the reason that we would play this card is that it should be so effective against Fae.

Great Sable Stag is just an utter beating against Fae. Can’t counter it, can’t kill it, can’t block it; if you want to tap it and keep it from attacking you, you can only do so at great [opportunity] cost. Play Great Sable Stag off a first turn Noble Hierarch or whatever and you’ve basically just won (especially on the play).

This is also a solid card against Reflecting Pool Control. Not the best card, maybe, but it gets past Plumeveil and demands a real response; the question is whether Reflecting Pool Control goes back to Volcanic Fallout or farther back to Firespout; because Fallout is a feather in Great Sable Stag’s hat whereas Firespout could spell disaster. Like The Man Tsuyoshi Fujita used to tell me while rubbing his imaginary beard: “De-PENDS on the me-ta-GAME” (say that in like four syllables).

Worst case scenario, Great Sable Stag is what Brian Kowal would call a Grollub. You would not believe the arguments old BK used to make about the humble Grollub. “No one is willing to play these cards against Red…” (and with good reason, we’d chide) “… but they win.” He was right a lot of the time (just like today when he makes a Boat Brew). Just laying out some garbage 3/3 can be really annoying for a fast Red Deck. They have to not ignore it. If all you do is keep a Boggart Ram-Gang off your back for a turn you’re doing something significant, buying yourself time, turn(s) with three, six, nine more life, and setting up for your next, better, play. Grollubs (or Great Sable Stags) are never really terrible. You lay them out there and sometimes you get to deal three, six, nine of your own (sometimes), and it can matter.

Great Sable Stag, Kitchen Finks, or Great Sable Stag and Kitchen Finks?

I always declare cards my new favorite card… Feudkiller’s Verdict, Martial Coup, and so on, but don’t always play them (played / play the eff out of Banefire, though). What about Great Sable Stag? Objectively the card is worse than a Kitchen Finks for most decks (and against most decks). That doesn’t necessarily mean you would play Kitchen Finks over Great Sable Stag. This is an advanced deck design concept: Sometimes you will play the “worse” card (not even sideboarding the better one). That said, the third point of toughness on Great Sable Stag is like a special ability in and of itself, and is something to be considered. Kitchen Finks is very good (on turn three at least) against Fae; Great Sable Stag is clearly better… You can lace it up with Behemoth Sledge, you don’t have to worry about looking foolish running it into a Mistbind Clique, et cetera. In the same way Great Sable Stag is probably better against most controlling decks. I typically side out Kitchen Finks against decks like Reflecting Pool Control, Reveillark, etc.

Kitchen Finks is usually better against beatdown, but there are certainly situations you would rather have Great Sable Stag. For example I’ve played against a lot of Magma Sprays in my day. Magma Spray is pretty janky Great Sable Stag. Would you play both?

BDM and I have been working on All-in Green for the upcoming PTQs. We have been trying to capture the bomb feel of the Urza’s Block-era Rofellos and Trinity Green decks. Primal Command is our Plow Under and there are no shortage of good creatures (just no Masticore). Work in progress, sure, but I could see playing with both cards (certainly after sideboarding… the options get thin after Guttural Response).

Just some initial thoughts.

I like a Great Sable Stag and could see it as Staple.

One of the things I blogged about a week or two back is how control decks will adopt Lightning Bolt. It seems that the existence of cards like this one would help to justify that prediction 🙂


Currently Reading: Nikolai Dante: Sword of the Tsar (2000 Ad)

Acidic Slime and Other Mismatched Topics

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

Okay, to start, Acidic Slime:

Pretty cool card, right?

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

So… Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some notes:

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

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

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

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

Abominable, I know.

So here is what we have to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Currently Reading: Final Crisis

Vampire Nocturnus and / or Drowned Catacomb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Snap Judgment Rating(s):
Per above.


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

yeah Yeah YEAH… Lightning Bolt

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about it.

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

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


Bonus Section: The True History of Lightning Bolt

ring, Ring, RING

Hi Scott.

Got a minute, Mike?

For you, sure.

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

For you, sure.

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


I’m sorry, I didn’t get that?

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

Oh, do you think we can capture that?

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

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

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

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


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

Glacial Fortress & Deck Design

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

To wit:

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is all intensely speculative, of course.

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

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

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

Two interesting points arise from this line of thinking:

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

… Just my next few semi-spontaneous thoughts on Glacial Fortress 🙂


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

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