Community League #4: Winner!

community league 4 banner

Wow, are you guys ready to play in a format where Heroic isn’t such a big thing? It’s back to back Heroic wins in the last two league; I think we need a break from any format with the word “Standard” in it. What say you?

None of which is to detract from the victory of our … victor.

League #4: Standard Silverblack – Winner!

Congrats to Punninglinguist for his win, piloting UW Heroic in the finals against Cyrulean, who fought valiantly with his Mono Red Heroic list to steal the win but who, in his own words, fell just one mana short from taking the match. Sounds like some good Magic to me!

For winning the event, Punninglinguist gets 10 tickets and the final vote in the format for our next event.

As the top-ranking patron, Cyrulean also earns 10 tickets for the event.

Congrats to you both!

league-4-winner

Share your lists!

The veil of secrecy may now be lifted. My list was out there for the world to see the entire event, and I content that it could have won the whole thing with slightly better draws. That said, I will post my list in the forums, and you should too.

Post your Standard Silverblack lists here.

Here’s Punninglinguist’s winning UW Heroic list.

Punninglinguist says: Thanks to bava for running a great event! Here is my 7-0 decklist, which got refined a little during the course of the tournament, with Ajani’s Presence gradually moving from the main to the sideboard.

[d title=”UW Heroic (Punninglinguist)”]
Land
4 Tranquil Cove
2 Mystic Monastery
3 Island
8 Plains
4 Evolving Wilds

Creatures
4 Favored Hoplite
2 Seeker of the Way
4 Lagonna-Band Trailblazer
4 Battlewise Hoplite
2 Akroan Skyguard

Spells
4 Ordeal of Thassa
4 Ordeal of Heliod
4 Gods Willing
2 Stubborn Denial
3 Aqueous Form
4 Defiant Strike
2 Center Soul

Sideboard
2 Negate
4 Glare of Heresy
2 Annul
1 Seeker of the Way
3 Surge of Righteousness
2 Ajani’s Presence
1 Center Soul [/d]

Nominate a format of our next league

What should we play next? I am personally vetoing anything with the word “Standard” in it; aside from that, though, the field is open.

Write your choices in the comments below. Whichever choices get the most mentions / votes will be brought in front of our winner, who will get to decide between them.

We’ll get the next league running in early- to mid-May.

Thanks to everyone for participating in our fourth Community League. I hope you all had a great time, and will join us for league #5 coming next month.

Cheers! /bava

Community League #4: Standard Silverblack, Top 8

community league 4 banner

Hey gang!

Check out the week one article for a reminder on rules, reporting, and prize payouts.

There are no more email reminders so hopefully you all made it here to read this, anyway.

Week Four for Bava

I was feeling good about my list going into this week. Avery61 was on RDW and I had played the match-up once in practice and won handily. It wasn’t quite so easy this time, though. Here is the video:

 

What have you guys been playing and how has it gone? Respond in the comments below, or use the league forum!

Top 8 Pairings

We had a lot of non-reporting and non-communication happening, so I had to make some decisions at the end of week 4. Basically, people who communicated with me won vs people who did not (though I did always try and get in touch with both parties myself, first) and if neither play communicated they received a draw. Anyone who didn’t communicate in week 4 was not eligible to make it into the top 8.

Please remember that communication is the most vital aspect of running a league like this, and it makes my life a lot easier!

With further ado, here they are. If you have any questions, get in touch.

league-4-top-8

Our goal is to finish top 8 by the end of next weekend (April 19) and declare a winner.

Good luck, have fun!

Community League #4: Standard Silverblack, Week 4

community league 4 banner

Hey gang!

Check out the week one article for a reminder on rules, reporting, and prize payouts.

There are no more email reminders so hopefully you all made it here to read this, anyway.

Week Three for Bava

Just some slight tweaks to my mono-black devotion list this week. [c]Child of Night[/c] was too awkward with [c]Drown in Sorrow[/c] so I cut her and added in a couple [c]Dead Drop[/c] though I really think that card is too clunky. I played against Dan in week 3, who was on the UW Heroic list that is very popular so far in this event. Here is the video:

 

I also played a fun practice match against _ShipIt_ running Mono Red Heroic / RDW. The big question in my MBC list is about [c]Ulcerate[/c] and, in general, all the shocks I give myself with the list. Surely that is a bad thing against aggressive lists like red? Let me know what you think.

 

What have you guys been playing and how has it gone? Respond in the comments below, or use the league forum!

Week Four Pairings

With further ado, here they are. If you have any questions, get in touch.

league-4-week-4

Good luck, have fun!

Community League #4: Standard Silverblack, Week 3

community league 4 banner

Hey gang!

Check out the week one article for a reminder on rules, reporting, and prize payouts.

There are no more email reminders so hopefully you all made it here to read this, anyway.

Week Two for Bava

I updated my list slightly from week one (mono black devotion) and played it with updates against rremedio1 for week two. The deck performed much better with the updates and I was able to edge out a win two games to one. Roberto was playing a Sultai control list around [c]Temur Sabertooth[/c], which is super-strong. Here is the video:

What have you guys been playing and how has it gone? Respond in the comments below, or use the league forum!

Week Three Pairings

With further ado, here they are. If you have any questions, get in touch.

league-4-week-3

Looks like it’s me vs Dan for week three. Expect a video from both sides!

Good luck, have fun!

Technical Play: Analysis of a Turn

While Standard and Modern are taking shape with the recent bans and the addition of Fate Reforged, I decided to write an article about technical plays and how you should walk through a turn with multiple choices. I will use as an example a turn that I believe is challenging in terms of decisions but also really easy to analyze, and I will show you the pact that I (should) use during a game of magic.

The situation is taken from my last daily recorded for this website. Check out the video below.

 

Around the 19-minute mark this is how things are going.

In the previous turn I got my courser threatened by [c]Act of Treason[/c], he saw a land, played it off the top, and there’s another land on top of the deck so we know at least that he will draw a blank next turn. So how should we play? To answer this question we need to proceed in 4 steps.

one-turn-01

Step 1: What do we want to do?

This is the base, the beginning of our thought process. Understanding our role in a matchup or a given situation is really important, it sets how we evaluate our priorities and motivates our plays. It’s probably the least mechanical of all the steps and comes down on a experience / intuition level. The more you are accurate in this phase the easier it will be make a decision in the end. If you want to go deep on this path I suggest you read one of the most important article in magic theory ever written, Who’s the Beatdown.

In this case, though, what we are trying to accomplish is simple as a concept: staying alive in the best shape possible at the end of his turn.

Step 2: Considering all you options

Caught in the moment I have to admit that I’m usually a very hasty player, I base my plays on intuition and this is mostly bad. There are great players in the game that use intuition as a driving force for their tournaments (for that I know LSV is one of those) but I still think that a slowly analytic approach is far better if you are not a mastermind of this game.

This step is, for the most part, easy. We have to consider every line of play that we can make.

Here we have substantially four possibilities since we can’t play more than one spell: whip a courser, whip a satyr, whip an eidolon, play an eidolon. We have also an attack phase in which we must consider if it’s worth attacking with a courser; so we end up with 8 scenarios.

We can swipe away a couple of those, though: whipping a courser is significantly worse than whipping an eidolon since we don’t have any lands to play. This holds true, as well, for playing the one in our hand. We can clearly cut these two options and we are facing now only 4 possibilities.

We should go a little deep though and ask ourselves what are the consequences of whipping one or the other creature: in the deck we have still 4 [c]Jungle Hollow[/c] and 1 [c]Radiant Fountain[/c] so we might consider the possibility of netting more than 1 life with a single land drop.

Here are our life points considering the situation in which we attack or not with courser. This will come in handy when we will need to analyze which play is the best.

one-turn-02

Step 3: What our opponent can play

Now we focus on what our opponent might play next turn. First of all we start having in mind a stock list of mono red aggro. The cards that we might face are these:

[c]Stoke the Flames[/c]
[c]Lightning Strike[/c]
[c]Titan’s Strength[/c]
[c]Coordinated Assault[/c]
[c]Hammerhand[/c]
[c]Act of Treason[/c] (looks like it)
[c]Monastery Swiftspear[/c]
[c]Searing Blood[/c]
[c]Wild Slash[/c]
[c]Mardu Scout[/c]

or a one mana non-haste creature.

Even in this case we can eliminate some options: since he played the land off the top thanks to our courser and passed with one mana up we are pretty sure there’s no CMC1 spell in his hand.

The remaining cards are these:

one-turn-03

Substantially [c]Mardu Scout[/c] and [c]Searing Blood[/c] are worse [c]Lightning Strike[/c]s so I won’t consider them.

Step 4: Making a decision

Now that we have analyzed what we can do, what our opponent can do, and in which perspective we should act, it’s time to make a decision. Eidolon or Satyr? Let’s see:

2-4/3-5 life: We are dead to both [c]Act of Treason[/c] and [c]Lightning Strike[/c] (and of course [c]Stoke the Flames[/c]) – this is not the best scenario.

4-6 life: We can stay alive if our opponent is on [c]Lightning Strike[/c] or [c]Act of Treason[/c] but not [c]Stoke the Flames[/c]. The problem is that we also have to chose if we attack with courser or not; attacking will let us survive if he has Act but we’ll be dead if he has Strike (and vice versa if we don’t attack). I will put more on my opponent having Strike (that is a 4-of) rather than Act so I’m not inclined to attack.

5-7/6-8 life: We are alive no matter what our opponent does.

Basically, now we want to go for the play that gives us the best odds of reaching 4-6 life for further scenarios. Unfortunately, we are not machines. It’s pretty hard for me to make this calculation now, writing this article and with all the time in the world. Much harder when we are mid-game, so I won’t present my results.

What is important is the method used to reach what we assume is the right play. Just for reference I went for Eidolon because I thought it might gave the best odds of reaching a higher life total. My opponent scooped. To be honest, Satyr might be a correct play also because we are around 90% chance to hit a land and play Hornet queen the turn after.

Wrap Up

This is how, in my opinion, we should elaborate and process information during every turn of a game. Of course sometimes we do that without being conscious of the fact, but learning how to proceed faster during these four steps will definitely improve your game. I would love to say that I’m doing this myself, every time, but sadly I haven’t quite reachd that level yet.

Hope you enjoyed the article and found it useful!

Until next time,

Mattia

New Rotations and Block Stucture, Khans, and Working Through Slumps

I spent last week moving and packing as I shift from summer housing to my dorm for the upcoming school year, but I am back and boy did I miss a big week.

First things first, the rotation and block schedules have been completely rewritten. Previously and currently each year saw one three set block and a core set this meant four new sets a year, one block with a unified theme and a core set with varying coherence. The new way sets will come out though is two blocks a year with two sets each or in other words two blocks internally coherent with two sets each. Rotation because of this will now go Block A, Block B, Block C, then when block D is printed, Block A rotates out making the new standard Blocks B, C, and D. The easiest way to give my thoughts on this is bullet points, so bullet points it will be:

  • THIS IS AWESOME
  • Cards on average rotate quicker, cards from the first set of each block last a year and a half and cards from the smaller set are legal for a year and a quarter. Later block cards are legal for roughly the same amount of time, but cards from first sets are legal for an entire 6 months less. This is both good and bad, if you play standard on a tight budget this may be bad news your cards will be legal for less time on average, however standard will in theory be stale and solved for much less time each time as well. To give you an idea of first set cards that dominated or oppressed the format for their entire stint in standard:
    • [c]Thoughtseize[/c]
    • [c]Sphinx’s Revelation[/c]
    • [c]Snapcaster Mage[/c]
    • [c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c]
    • [c]Tempered Steel[/c]
    • [c]Lotus Cobra[/c]
    • [c]Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle[/c]
    • you get the idea.
  • This explains what will happen with Khans far quicker and better than I can
    en_schedule (Rosewater, Mark. Metamorphosis. http://magic.wizards.com/en/articles/archive/mm/metamorphosis)
  • THIS IS AWESOME
  • Two blocks means more flavorful sets a year.
  • No more core set drafting
  • Imagine life without having to have drafted Avacyn Restored.
  • Imagine that last one again
  • Nice ain’t it?
  • More aggressive reprinting of key words.
  • Standard will become less stale
  • THIS……IS……AWESOME

A slight complaint though about this awesomeness: the timing. At Pro Tour M15 Wizards announced that Modern would not be a format at the upcoming year’s Pro Tours. This lead to a huge backlash from the community, particularly those who had invested time and money in Modern and now had to worry about the format not longer being supported. Wizards reacted swiftly and brought back the Modern pro tour and an additional Modern GP. While this was a great response and timely by Wizards, my grievance is the order of these announcements.

1. No more Modern pro tour

2. We are changing Standard

Why on earth would you announce these in this order? What if instead you announced at Pro Tour M15 that Standard was going to change and here is how and that is why we are having no Modern pro tours next year, as a send off to the old Standard format. This would have at least provided reason to a seemingly reasonless decision most likely mitigating at least some of the backlash of the community. It is PR mistakes like this that Wizards needs to learn how to deal with better and prevent going forward. We love Magic, but Wizards often proves itself to be aggressively incompetent with basic PR.

Khans of Tarkir Standard

Fetchlands are back. While this means a lot for MTG Finance, I know little to nothing about speculating on prices and the lot and will not do that. Instead let’s talk about what that means for the upcoming Standard format. Mana now looks like this:

  • Basics
  • Temples in all colors
  • Pain lands in enemy colors
  • Wedge Colored Trilands
  • Mana Confluence
  • Evolving Wilds
  • Sliver Hive

While some of these lands are obviously more important than others, I wish to pinpoint the two new ones and why they matter. Wedge tapped lands are surprisingly not that great for a lot of the decks we saw to do well at the block pro tour. The Sultai (formerly BUG) and Abzan (formerly Junk) decks were arguably along with Naya the top three decks of the format; one of those decks does not get a wedge and two seemingly may not want them. The question that must be asked of wedges is, “Is the third color > than scry 1?” Decks can only play so many tapped lands and 12 is a number that pushes that upper limit. Playing 16 is out of the question, so decks with three color decks like Sultai and Abzan cannot run 12 temples and 4 wedge tri-lands, so there is tension between the two. While I would not be surprised to see the tri-lands be very powerful, the mana in Standard is so good that tapped tri-lands might just not cut it even in three color decks.

Onslaught fetches mean that two color aggro decks are open to being played in any color combination. Pain lands and fetches are functionally very similar and have some minor differences between them in operation, however Enemy Pains + Ally Fetches mean that any two color combination has at minimum 8 untapped duals and up to 4 more reasonable duals in the Temples. Also, three color aggro is not out of the question with the combination of pain and fetch lands as well as wedge tri-lands.

Some possible aggro lists:
[d title=”BR Aggro Khans of Tarkir (Standard)”]
Creatures
4 Tormented Hero
4 Gnarled Scarhide
4 Pain Seer
4 Spiteful Returned
4 Herald of Torment
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Firedrinker Satyr
2 Mogis’s Warhound
Spells
4 Stoke the Flames
2 Bile Blight
2 Boon of Erebos
Land
8 Swamp
4 Bloodstained Mire
4 Mountain
2 Temple of Malice
4 Mana Confluence
[/d]

[d title=”RW Heroic Khans of Tarkir (Standard)”]
Land
4 Mountain
4 Mana Confluence
3 Temple of Triumph
4 Plains
4 Battlefield Forge
Creatures
2 Mogis’s Warhound
4 Akroan Crusader
4 Satyr Hoplite
4 Favored Hoplite
4 Phalanx Leader
Spells
4 Launch the Fleet
4 Gods Willing
4 Dragon Mantle
2 Coordinated Assault
2 Inferno Fist
2 Crowd’s Favor
2 Ephemeral Shields
3 Stoke the Flames
[/d]

Thoughts on Slumps

My performance the past couple weeks has been less than stellar. My Standard record was something like 5-17, my Pauper record on the first inaugural weekend was 6-6, and my attempts at playing other formats to break out of it were lackluster. There were times when I was getting really frustrated. I could hear it in the videos I was recording and I did not want to publish them because of this. I was losing my calm. I was never angry, just really sad at times, as I said things like “Well most lists don’t run [c]Drown in Sorrow[/c] so I feel like we just have to play into it, opponent casts [c]Drown in Sorrow[/c]. Well, that’s game.”

I stepped back and took a break for a few days; focused on my schoolwork more and spent time playing some other games and moving. When I was bottoming out I saw that Modern’s third birthday was that coming Sunday. Modern is my happy place format. I know the format like the back of my hand and have had my most success playing it.

I looked through what my friends and I had for card pool and realized my normal deck Jund/Ajundi was not doable so I went to my next stand-by, UWR Control. We had all the cards and after thinking about what I expected I shifted some cards around and came to this list:

[d title=”UWR Control (Modern)”]
Land
4 Arid Mesa
4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Celestial Flare
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Island
1 Plains
2 Steam Vents
3 Sulfur Falls
1 Mountain
3 Tectonic Edge
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn

Creatures
4 Snapcaster Mage

Spells
4 Cryptic Command
2 Anger of the Gods
3 Electrolyze
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Mana Leak
3 Path to Exile
2 Remand
1 Sacred Foundry
4 Scalding Tarn
3 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Supreme Verdict
4 Think Twice

Sideboard
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Detention Sphere
1 Disenchant
1 Engineered Explosives
2 Negate
2 Pithing Needle
2 Rest for the Weary
2 Spreading Seas
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Vandalblast
1 Wrath of God
[/d]

The deck performed great and I ended up taking fourth place, losing to Burn in the top 4 because I missed the fact that [c]Rest for the Weary[/c] is target player. I could have EoT 2x Rest for the Wearyied my opponent who had a [c]Rain of Gore[/c] out for 16 damage, then untapped and Snapcastered one back for the win. However the win made me realize again after numerous tight games that I am a good Magic player, that good Magic players make mistakes and lose matches on occasion, that variance is a thing, and that when I am playing a deck that I like and think is well-positioned I can do well.

I chained this win to 3-1 and 4-0 five more Modern dailies that week, and with my confidence high I entered a sealed PTQ prelim where I got the worst pool of my life: 5x Dual land, 4x [c]Tormod’s Crypt[/c], and zero [c]Triplicate Spirits[/c]. I also entered an M15 Championship Qualifier which I 4-1ed, qualifying for the championship. In essence, I have found that you beat slumps and get out of them by taking breaks and going back to your roots. Play what you know and enjoy it, remember that Magic is a game that we play for fun, not for glory.

Play Magic and Have Fun!
-Zach Raph

Faithless Looting #5: Tribal Warfare

Welcome back to Faithless Looting, my weekly look at budget lists and budget formats.

Having a holiday on Monday threw off my schedule a bit, so I’m running late and this article will be short and sweet. If you are a regular reader, you know how these things go. I’ll announce the winner of last week’s contest, give the guidelines for the contest this week, and then talk about something of great importance (usually, generally, most of the time).

Faithless Contest #4: Winner!

The theme for this contest was mono-colored, and I got two great Modern submissions and one great Standard submission. Thanks to everyone who participated!

The winner this week, for his fun Mono-Red Shamans deck, is Drinkard!

Congratulations, you will receive two items, randomly selected, from my current Loot Crate stash!

Here is the winning decklist:

[d title=”Mono Red Shamans, Drinkard (Modern)”]
Land
23 Mountain

Creatures
4 Flamekin Harbinger
4 Goblin Arsonist
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Intimidator Initiate
4 Martyr of Ashes
4 Rage Forger
4 Spikeshot Elder
4 Stonewright
1 Ashling the Pilgrim

Spells
4 Shared Animosity [/d]

No sideboard was provided, but the deck did fine without one. It plays a lot like Goblins in Modern, but I think it has a bit more reach and is somewhat more resilient. Shared Animosity is a great card and I was happy to drop it and immediately swing for 15+ damage, every time.

It’s also worth mentioning (since this is a budget series, after all) that this deck was significantly cheaper than the other two submitted, that it only needed basic Mountains, and that it is ridiculously cheap for the Modern format. If you already have Shared Animosity, it only costs about 4 tix to put the rest of the deck together. The whole thing comes out at just under 10 tix if you need Animosities as well. On paper, the deck runs about $30.

Here is some video of my matches with the deck:

 

I also played White Knights (Modern) submitted by Brennon:

 

And Greenveyard (Standard) submitted by rremedio:

 

Faithless Contest #5: Rules

1. Design a fun, innovative, or powerful budget Tribal deck.

2. Post it in the comments below.

3. Submissions due before Monday, September 8.

Clarifications

  • Decks may be for any format and as few or as many colors as you want.
  • Decks should have a clear tribal synergy; I’d say at least 20 of a given creature type.
  • I will highlight the most interesting decks in next week’s article, and may play some on video for the YouTube channel. One lucky winner will get two items, randomly selected, from my current LootCrate stash. Check out the videos at the bottom of this post to see what’s available.
  • Your chances of winning greatly increase if you submit a deck.

Faithless Decks #5: Illusory Tricks

I ran my signature Pauper deck, Illusory Tricks, in the Daily Event on August 31. My rounds were against WUR Control, MBC, UR Fiend, and MBC.

Check it out.

 

I didn’t do super-awesome, but TurboKitty3000 rocked a 4-0 with this Domain list (with [c]Blastoderm[/c]!) the day before.

[d title=”Blas-Domain, turbokitty3000 (Pauper)”]
Land
4 Evolving Wilds
9 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Swamp
4 Terramorphic Expanse

Creatures
3 Blastoderm
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Matca Rioters
2 Qasali Pridemage
4 Squadron Hawk
4 Wild Nacatl

Spells
4 Abundant Growth
1 Bonesplitter
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Nylea’s Presence
4 Tribal Flames
2 Unearth

Sideboard
1 Qasali Pridemage
3 Ancient Grudge
3 Circle of Protection: Red
2 Lone Missionary
4 Pyroblast
2 Ray of Revelation [/d]

Last but not least, submissions are now open for the Pauper Gauntlet. They close on September 10, so submit your decks now!

Green Eggs and Morph: Brewing with Khans of Tarkir

Hi all,

At the time of this article’s writing, 31 cards out of 269 have been spoiled from the upcoming set Khans of Tarkir, and 20 of those are basic lands. In particular, I have my eye on two: [c]Jeskai Elder[/c] and [c]Thousand Winds[/c]; it’s not for the cards themselves but what they represent in their keyword mechanics. It’s strange; blue stuff typically doesn’t catch my eye, but here we are nonetheless.

jeskai elderJeskai Elder, AKA reverse [c]Storm Entity[/c]

Prowess is an interesting mechanic. It reads “Whenever you cast a noncreature spell, this creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn). We have seen things like it before, in the earliest days of Extended with [c]Quirion Dryad[/c] Miracle-Gro, ever-present in Pauper ever since Return to Ravnica brought us [c]Nivix Cyclops[/c], and with the aforementioned [c]Storm Entity[/c]. Essentially, prowess is a storm mechanic, rewarding you for playing many spells in one turn.

Unfortunately, the rest of Jeskai Elder’s text, to draw a card and discard a card whenever you deal combat damage to a player, is counterintuitive to how we have used the Prowess-like effects before. Jeskai Elder’s Prowess effect wants to be taken advantage of in one turn, like [c]Kiln Fiend[/c] and [c]Wee Dragonauts[/c], but his triggered ability wants to go long. When we went for an incremental advantage in [c]Quirion Dryad[/c], the +1/+1 did not go away at the end of turn, so it made more sense than Elder.

So why is Prowess interesting, then? Well, two things set it apart: it works with enchantments, with green spells, and with artifacts, and we can go mono-blue with the [c]Quirion Dryad[/c], cantrip deck.

If we want to recur an enchantment, I don’t think we can get better than [c]Auratog[/c] and [c]Rancor[/c], when format limitations allow. We can bypass that until we see more cards.

[c]Quirion Dryad[/c] was never particularly hungry for green spells that weren’t [c]Berserk[/c], either. So where can we go with [c]Jeskai Elder[/c], then? Eggs, of course! Rip through your deck and attack with a big dude. Fortunately, the power boosts will replace themselves, so an all-in strike isn’t as risky as others could be.

Jeskai Elder in Legacy

Here is an early draft for Legacy.

[d title=”Jeskai Egger (Legacy)”]
Land
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Archaeological Dig
4 Island
4 Seat of the Synod

Creature
4 Etherium Sculptor
4 Jeskai Elder

Artifact
4 Aether Spellbomb
4 Conjurer’s Bauble
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Helm of Awakening
4 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Shadowblood Egg
4 Skycloud Egg
4 Sungrass Egg[/d]

So here we aim to play [c]Jeskai Elder[/c] as fast as possible (the cantrips will help us draw into him) and have either [c]Helm of Awakening[/c] or [c]Etherium Sculptor[/c] to draw through our deck. We can find 2 [c]Sensei’s Divining Top[/c] to go infinite, and [c]Aether Spellbomb[/c] to clear any blockers.

We have to ask ourselves: is Elder better than [c]Brain Freeze[/c]? Probably not, because we have to untap with him in play, whereas we can draw into the latter as we combo. Still, we bookmark the idea, and we move into Modern where the storm instant isn’t an option.

Jeskai Elder in Modern

[d title=”Modern Eggers (Modern)”]
Land
4 Island
4 Urza’s Mine
4 Urza’s Power Plant
4 Urza’s Tower

Creature
4 Etherium Sculptor
4 Jeskai Elder

Artifact
3 Aether Spellbomb
4 Chromatic Sphere
4 Chromatic Star
4 Cloud Key
3 Cloudstone Curio
3 Conjurer’s Bauble
4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Krark-Clan Ironworks
4 Mind Stone
1 Spine of Ish Shah
2 Terrarion[/d]

Once again, go big or go home. We play our eggs until we have Elder in play, we assemble [c]Cloudstone Curio[/c] and either [c]Cloud Key[/c] or [c]Etherium Sculptor[/c], and we attack for approximately 7,000,000. It’s a heartbreaking work of staggering genius.

Jeskai Elder in Standard

If this archetype is to be a thing in Standard, then it will be on the back of [c]Chief Engineer[/c]. That deck will be awkward, though, because you’re looking to cast creatures to enable Convoke, but the creatures won’t grant the power boost.

The things that makes me most excited about Prowess is that if there is an ability on the Prowess creature that goes well with Prowess – unlike [c]Jeskai Elder[/c] – making it more accessible to the all-in strategy, or a keyword plus number effect like Prowess 2 or, much less imaginable, Prowess 3. If Prowess sees play, there are three things we all will want to be holding onto:

  1. Phyrexian Mana Spells: [c]Dismember[/c] and [c]Gut Shot[/c] will be good for clearing blockers. [c]Mutagenic Growth[/c] and [c]Gitaxian Probe[/c] will boost the power and toughness for free, and all of this will happen for free-to-little cost.
  2. Alternative cost spells or untap lands spells: [c]Daze[/c] and [c]Force of Will[/c] will protect our large creature in their formats, and [c]Snap[/c] and [c]Snapback[/c] will make way for the big swing.
  3. Things that double power: We’ve seen [c]Assault Strobe[/c] before, but there is a slew of them, including artifacts which boost Prowess and double power such as [c]Inquisitor’s Flail[/c] and [c]Fireshrieker[/c]. Look for [c]Berserk[/c], [c]Tainted Strike[/c], and [c]Psychotic Fury[/c] to be correlative in power to Prowess.

thousand winds[c]Thousand Winds[/c], as in, Modern Morph may have a chance

This card is okay. It will certainly be an early pick in limited pack one because it is a big flyer, and later on it will be less enticing. In constructed, I can’t see it shaking up anything. Still, now that I see Morph, I see potential.

There was a Pauper list that combined cards like [c]Undying Evil[/c] and [c]Otherworldly Journey[/c] with [c]Treespring Lorian[/c] and other big beaters. In Modern there are so many cards that can reset a Morph creature, but there is only one creature to take advantage of: [c]Akroma, Angel of Fury[/c]. We have seen it in Death and Taxes lists, and it has actually gone 3-1 and even 4-0 a number of times. There are even some lists that max out on the red inferior Akroma along with [c]Flickerwisp[/c] and [c]Cloudshift[/c]. If there is just one more solid morph guy that we can cheat in for four mana, I will be really happy. If there are multiples, then look out. We have [c]Venser, the Sojourner[/c], [c]Ghostly Flicker[/c], [c]Restoration Angel[/c], and many more cards for the necessary blink effect.

As it is, let’s say [c]Thousand Winds[/c] is the best we get. Is it worth cheating in a 5/6 flyer? We’ll see. Here’s my first draft. As soon as something better is spoiled, go ahead and sub him in.

[d title=”Modern Morphin Power Rangers (Modern)”]
Land
4 Flagstones of Trokair
4 Ghost Quarter
13 Plains
2 Tectonic Edge

Creatures
4 Akroma, Angel of Fury
4 Blade Splicer
4 Epochrasite
4 Flickerwisp
2 Kitchen Finks
4 Restoration Angel
4 Thousand Winds

Other Spells
4 Cloudshift
4 Path to Exile
3 Otherworldly Journey[/d]

So I’ve converted a Death and Taxes list into a strictly blink and enter the battlefield deck, as Modern Death and Taxes often has so little of the latter. We keep the bare minimum of disruption and life-gain so that we don’t throw away some of our good match-ups, and we emphasize the “Death” element of the namesake. A more all-in approach could be to play G/W with mana elves for the turn 3 swing using a big beater, but I don’t particularly see a reason for that just yet.

I hope you enjoy the couple of brews and ideas, and that you can be excited about the direction of this set with me!

-drinkard

Standard Tune-Ups: Mono Green Devotion

This week I went back to an old comfort zone for me, Mono Green Devotion. I did not start from someone else’s list nor did I actually change the deck much after jamming it through 5 dailies. The list I ended up with was this:

[d title=”Mono Green Devotion”]
Creatures:
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Eidolon of Blossoms
2 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
1 Nylea’s Disciple
1 Soul of New Phyrexia
1 Hornet Queen
3 Genesis Hydra
Spells
3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
2 Chord of Calling
Land
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
18 Forest

Sideboard:
1 Arbor Colossus
3 Nylea’s Disciple
2 Reclamation Sage
1 Polukranos, World Eater
4 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Phytotitan
2 Peregrination
1 Hunter’s Prowess
[/d]

As I brought up last week, one should always ask, “Why play X deck?” The answer to the question cannot just be, “Well [c]Polukranos, World Eater[/c] is good.” In this case, Mono Green Devotion has a number of strengths:

  • *The most powerful deck in Standard: The deck plays out like a combo deck trying to draw 6+ cards a turn and making giant monsters all the way
  • *The deck has some of the most powerful top decks: In a field full of [c]Thoughtseize[/c]s you want the top of your deck to have powerful cards (however you also have many duds, mana dorks, land, etc.)
  • *Powerful card advantage engines versus control: [c]Eidolon of Blossoms[/c] and [c]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/c] both provide incredible amounts of card advantage allowing you to commit to the board while still continuing to draw cards
  • *[c]Soul of New Phyrexia[/c]: UW Planar Cleansing, Ivan Floch’s deck, cannot beat a resolved copy of this card if you can keep 5 mana up, 10 mana ideally.
  • *Deceptively solid sideboard cards: [c]Nylea’s Disciple[/c] gains a solid chunk of life versus burn, [c]Mistcutter Hydra[/c] stomps Mono Blue devotion, in addition to one-of bullets and a [c]Pereigrination[/c] plan versus Bx decks.

These are good answers to the questions of why, and should be what you are looking for when not playing a tier one deck.

WALKTHROUGH

The deck’s plan is deceptively simple.

Step One: Cast mana dorks. (Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid and Voyaging Satyr)

Step Two: Cast a card advantage generator using either normal mana or Nykthos mana (Courser of Kruphix, Eidolon of Blossoms, Garruk Caller of Beasts)
*A note on Courser, in general wait until you can actually play a land off of courser. In other words don’t play a land drop then cast Courser that defeats the purpose of generating advantage*

Step Three: Slam a threat. (Polukranos, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt, Hornet Queen, Soul of New Phyrexia, or Large Genesis Hydras)

Step Four: Win.

However Magic is rarely that simple and the skill and fun of the deck is winning from situations which are not the easy four step game-plan.

Take for instance a situation which came up in a daily where I won on a mull to 5 and got 3 for 1ed on turn 4:

It is game two of the MGD (Mono Green Devotion) mirror. I am on the draw, and my 7 card hand was 2 Garruk, 2 Genesis Hydra, and 3 land. A hand obviously too slow to keep. My 6 card hand was 4 forests, Poly-K, and an Eidolon. The mirror is defined by speed and turn 4 poly-k isn’t going to cut it. My 5 card hand was forest, 2 Elvish Mysics, Garruk, and an Eidolon of Blossoms. I snap kept this hand and was happy with it considering it was a mull to five.

I will now go through the game log essentially:

Op-T1: Forest, Elvish Mystic

My-T1: Forest, Elvish Mystic (Draw step Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt)

Op-T2: Forest, Courser of Kruphix (Reveals a forest)

My-T2: Forest, Elvish Mystic x 2 (Draw step forest)

Op-T3: Forest, Voyaging Satyr, Attack for 2 (Reveals [c]Setessan Tactics[/c])

It is at this point I am clearly in trouble. I drew for the turn an Elvish Mystic. I resign myself to the three for one and think how best can I recover from this. I determine I need to hit my land drop and that if I play Eidolon he will fight it, effectively gaining me a land because a Mystic will live.

My-T3: Eidolon of Blossoms, Forest, Elvish Mystic

Op-T4: Draw Tactics, play forest off the drop reveal another land, cast tactics for 3, fight my Eidolon and two mystics.

My-T4: Draw Courser of Kruphix, Cast Courser, Reveal Nykthos, play Nykthos, cast caryatid.

Op-T5: Draw land reveal Genesis Hydra on top, cast two more satyrs

My-T5: Draw a land off the top reveal a Poly-K, cast Garruk, Hit 3 creatures.

I am going to stop here because after this Garruk draws about 10 cards and hit Genesis Hydra only hits another Courser. Now obviously I got a little lucky and my opponent unlucky, but it shows the importance of knowing what is important to your decks gameplan. MGD does not work without mana, period. Value developing your mana above all else in most games. Another note about Garruk, his minus three is a trap. Don’t do it. Unless it is the only way to survive the coming turn; the draw will be worth far more in the long run than cheating some mana here or there.

Sideboarding Guide:
UW Planar Control
-1 Sylvan Caryatid
-4 Burning Tree Emmissary
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+4 Mistcutter Hydra
+1 Phytotitan
+1 Hunter’s Prowess

Explanation:
Burning-tree is just a 2/2 devotion bear that forces us into over committing to the board. We want a tad less mana so we Caryatid. We cut the Caryatid because UW lacks spot removal so Voyaging Satyr does the same thing while being able to attack and untap Nykthos, and keeping forests allows us to be more wrath resilient. Mistcutter’s are green fireballs that are uncounterable and can attack twice, Phytotitan provides constant pressure when they lack D-Sphere or Elspeth, and Hunter’s Prowess is a one time shot in the arm.

UW Dsphere-Control
-1 Sylvan Caryatid
-4 Burning Tree Emmissary
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+4 Mistcutter
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Same as above except we optimize versus sphere by having the two sages.

Mono Black
+2 Peregrination
+1 Arbor Collosus
+1 Hunter’s Prowess
+1 Poly-K
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Forest

B/W Midrange
+2 Peregrination
+1 Arbor Collosus
+1 Hunter’s Prowess
+1 Poly-K
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
-1 Forest

Explanation:
Gerry T designed the Peregrination plan which basically hopes to be able to cast it and ramp to a fatty in one spell through the two lands and the scry. We cut Soul and Chord for being too clunky. Poly-K, Arbor Colossus and Hunter’s Prowess come in to increase threat density. We keep in Nylea’s Disciple vs Mono Black because of Grey Merchant and we leave in Nylea Goddess of the Hunt vs BW because of Elspeth’s tokens.

Rabblered
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
+3 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Polukranos
+1 Reclemation Sage

Explanation:
We need a lower curve. Hence cutting big things and bringing in small things. We leave Hornet Queen because it was one of our few top end cards that can actually win the game.

Burn
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Hornet Queen
-1 Eidolon of Blossoms
+1 Arbor Colossus
+3 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Polukranos
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Garruk, Soul, and Hornet Queen are too slow. Nylea’s Goddess of the Hunts abilities are irrelevant. Arbor Colossus and Poly-K are hard to kill and big, Nylea’s Disciple gains life, and Reclamation Sage hits [c]Satyr Firedancer[/c], [c]Eidolon of the Burning Revel[/c], [c]Chain to the Rocks[/c] and [c]Banishing Light[/c].

Mono Blue Devotion
-3 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the hunt
-2 Voyaging Satyr
+4 Mistcutter Hydra
+1 Poly-K
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Garruk and Soul are too slow, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt doesn’t do much, and Voyaging Satyr can’t trade with [c]Tidebinder Mage[/c] and gets tapped by Tidebinger. Mistcutter Hydra is pro their deck, Reclamation Sage hits [c]Domestication[/c], trades well, and hits [c]Bident of Thasa[/c].

Jund Walkers
-2 Chord of Calling
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
+1 Poly-K
+1 Hunter’s Prowess/Arbor Colossus
+1 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
We cut awkward cards like Disciple and Chord for more singly powerful cards like Poly-K, Hunter’s Prowess/Arbor Colossus and Reclamation Sage.

Mirror
-1 Nylea’s Disciple
-1 Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt
-1 Soul of New Phyrexia
+1 Poly-K
+2 Reclamation Sage

Explanation:
Disciple does nothing relevant, Nylea, Goddess of the Hunt is also irrelevant, and Soul of New Phyrexia is irrelevant. We swap them for Poly-K and Reclamation Sage which interact with dorks and Courser/Eidolon respectively.

The deck still lacks consistency, but finally has reliable win conditions. The deck folds to itself more often than to its opponents deck, however with all this in mind if you want to win, look elsewhere. I try to avoid being one of those people who just say “Standard sucks, don’t play it,” but honestly when decks that aren’t UWx Control, Bx devotion, Jund Midrange, W/R/U aggro or Burn win or do well it is a fluke. Those four or five decks are absurdly powerful, consistent enough, and attack from so many different angles that anything that is not those decks will simply be annihilated by one, two or all of those decks. While it is great that these archetypes are distinct unique and separate there is very little room for tuning them due to Pro Tour M15 they have reached their refined point. The tuning is one or two cards and meta predictions. Due to this it is not economical right now for me to play Standard. While I know this is only the second week of the article, I need a break from Standard. You can hear it in my voice round after round as my excitement to play Magic decreases.

Standard is an oppressive environment that is just diverse enough to appear healthy, but you are often doing little more than rolling dice to see what your match up is. I may pick a deck that is very well positioned versus 75% of the field and play the 25% of the field I am terrible against. The terribleness though does not feel like Modern or other formats where you are at least playing Magic still but you simply get annihilated with very little interaction. You could play a sweet aggro deck but run in to UWx Control with 8+ wraths, or maybe you have a cool green-based blue well good luck versus 2/2s that kill one of your guys for 2/2 mana which curves into a 5/5 that makes their team unblockable ruining the point of running your own creatures. In essence I need a break from Standard. I have been grinding the format since GP Chicago in the early summer and the format has changed little since then. Occasionally I have had fun playing Standard, but this season and last is simply not worth my time and effort. Due to this until set rotation in Fall expect some awesome Modern, Pauper and other format decks from me! /end rant

For a hint of what is to come and because I am excited about the return of Pauper I will share a couple of the decks I have been working on.

[d title=”BG Deaddog”]
Creatures
4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Grave Scrabbler
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Golgari Brownscale
2 Pit Keeper
2 Tilling Treefolk
1 Battlefield Scrounger
1 Krosan Tusker
4 Werebear
2 Crypt Rats
4 Tortured Existence
4 Commune with the Gods
1 Raven’s Crime
1 Gnaw to the Bone

Land
1 Haunted Fengraf
2 Evolving Wilds
3 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Tranquil Thicket
3 Barren Moor
5 Swamp
7 Forest
Sideboard
3 Spore Frog
3 Augur of Skulls
3 Festercreep
1 Battlefield Scrounger
2 Sylvok Replica
1 Brindle Boar
2 Gnaw to the Bone
[/d]

[d title=UB Teachings]
Creatures
2 Prescient Chimera
1 Trapjaw Kelpie

Spells
3 Mystical Teachings
4 Counterspell
1 Logic Knot
3 Exclude
1 Crypt Incursion
3 Diabolic Edict
1 Doom Blade
4 Accumulated Knowledge
2 Capsize
1 Repeal
2 Recoil
1 Wail of the Nim
2 Miscalculation
1 Agony Warp
1 Trapjaw Kelpie
2 Memory Lapse
1 Disrupt

Land
2 Lonely Sandbar
2 Barren Moor
5 Swamp
7 Island
4 Dimir Aqueduct
4 Dimir Guildgate

Sideboard
2 Wail of the Nim
1 Oona’s Grace
2 Think Twice
3 Dispel
3 Hydroblast
3 Curse of the Bloody Tome
1 Disrupt
[/d]

[d title=BUG Formerly Songs now Deaddog]
Creatures
4 Pit Keeper
2 Crypt Rats
4 Mulldrifter
1 Krosan Tusker
4 Street Wraith
4 Architects of Will
4 Stinkweed Imp
1 Golgari Brownscale
1 Brindle Boar
1 Battlefield Scrounger

Spells
4 Strategic Planning
2 Gnaw to the Bone
4 Tortured Existence
4 Commune with the Gods
2 Careful Study

Land
4 Golgari Guildgate
4 Dimir Guildgate
4 Simic Guildgate
2 Swamp
3 Island
1 Forest

Sideboard
2 Gnaw to the Bone
1 Brindle Boar
2 Crypt Rats
4 Augur of Skulls
1 Battlefield Scrounger
3 Stealer of Secrets
2 Fume Spitter
[/d]

Play Magic and Have Fun.
-Zach Raph aka ZTRMAN

Standard Tune Ups: Bant Chord of Calling

I perform a nightly ritual of checking through Magic: the Gathering websites for the updates of pros and semi-pros; what they are playing and why. Sometimes I find decks I end up playing for a whole season like B/U Kamikaze back in Scars-AVR Standard (Jessie Smith at SCG); or decks that I play for one daily and never touch again like UWR [c]Lightning Mauler[/c]/[c]Geist of Saint Traft[/c] (Craig Wescoe at TCGPlayer).

However if this process has taught me one thing it is never doubt the power of a deck that takes a different approach to the meta if the reasons behind the deck make sense. Further, it helped me realize my niche in Magic is tuning decks to their most optimal state. I am not a brewer at heart like Travis Woo and his ilk. I tune the base ideas of other peoples’ brews if I see promise in them. Sometimes I tune a tier one deck and try to gain the edges against the meta needed to win.

Today though, I am tuning a brew posted by none other than Reid, the Duke, Duke. Reid posted this list awhile back that featured some exciting new cards from M15, namely [c]Yisan, the Wandering Bard[/c] and [c]Chord of Calling[/c].

Duke's Version

[d title=”Reid’s Starting Point (Standard)”]
Lands
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Temple Garden
4 Breeding Pool
1 Yavimaya Coast
2 Island
4 Forest

Creatures
3 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Kiora’s Follower
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Courser of Kruphix
2 Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Ephara, God of the Polis
2 Fathom Mage
2 Horizon Chimera
3 Polukranos, World Eater
2 Prophet of Kruphix
2 Archangel of Thune
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
1 AEtherling

Spells
3 Chord of Calling
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
[/d]

Now Reid made a compelling reason why this sort of deck could be a powerful choice which boiled down essentially to “tutors are powerful.” When you look at the banned and restricted list of eternal formats you see tutor after tutor on the list and they are on there for a reason. The ability to turn a card in your hand into many different choices from your deck is powerful, especially in a format with [c]Goblin Rabblemaster[/c] Red and UW Elixir Control. In other words, polar opposite decks. [c]Banisher Priest[/c] is a three mana bear vs UW, but it may be the single best card in your deck against Rabble Red.

However, this is where we see another clause to the power of the deck and tutors in general: mana cost matters. There is a reason that [c]Demonic Tutor[/c] is banned in Legacy and [c]Diabolic Tutor[/c] never sees any play in Standard, let alone Legacy. There is a huge difference between paying two mana to make a card in your hand any card in your deck and spending four mana to do the same thing. The question then is this: are Yisan and Chord of Calling correctly costed or under-costed so as to make them viable? My answer? Maybe.

Not as powerful a recommendation as I would have hoped, but first let me take you through how I got from Reid’s 60 to my current 75. Here is my current 75:

My Bant

[d title=”Ztrman’s Bant Chord (Standard)”]
Lands
4 Temple of Enlightenment
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Temple Garden
4 Breeding Pool
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Mana Confluence
1 Forest

Creatures
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Kiora’s Follower
1 Scavenging Ooze
2 Courser of Kruphix
3 Yisan, the Wanderer Bard
1 Phrexian Revoker
1 Fathom Mage
1 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Prophet of Kruphix
2 Archangel of Thune
1 Prime Speaker Zegana
1 Progenitor Mimic
1 Banisher Priest
1 Clone
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Horizon Chimera

Spells
4 Chord of Calling

Sideboard
1 Banisher Priest
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Garruk Caller of Beasts
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Courser of Kruphix
3 Centaur Healer
2 Nyx-Fleece Ram
3 Notion Thief
1 Lavinia of the Tenth
[/d]

The Main Deck Differences

Additions
+4 [c]Mana Confluence[/c]
+3 [c]Yavimaya Coast[/c]
+1 [c]Elvish Mystic[/c]
+1 [c]Phyrexian Revoker[/c]
+1 [c]Yisan, the Wandering Bard[/c]
+1 [c]Chord of Calling[/c]
+1 [c]Clone[/c]
+1 [c]Progenitor Mimic[/c]
+1 [c]Angel of Serenity[/c]

Subtractions
-3 [c]Forest[/c]
-2 [c]Island[/c]
-2 [c]Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx[/c]
-1 [c]Ephara, God of the Polis[/c]
-2 [c]Polukronos, World Eater[/c]
-1 [c]Fathom Mage[/c]
-1 [c]Horizon Chimera[/c]
-1 [c]Aetherling[/c]
-1 [c]Ajani Mentor of Heroes[/c]

Mana changes:

The two islands and Nykthos were actively bad in the deck. The islands cause awkward draws leaving us unable to cast our mana dorks and the Nykthoses rarely netted mana and when they did it was unnecessary because the only spell that needs a lot of mana is [c]Chord of Calling[/c] which if we have devotion we can Convoke for anyways.

My addition of the [c]Mana Confluence[/c]s was to attempt to splash [c]Notion Thief[/c] out of the board to fix a poor UW match-up.

The addition of the 12th mana dork was just to increase the density of acceleration and maximize the ability to play turn two Yisan, almost as good as turn 2 Birthing Pod.

Additions

[c]Phyrexian Revoker[/c] – Hits [c]Pack Rat[/c] and Planeswalkers, easy to cast and easy to chord for versatile answer.

Additional [c]Yisan[/c] – The card overperformed every time I cast it. The ability to create a constant flow of chump blockers or chump sacs versus aggro and desecration demon respectively is very powerful. It is a must kill threat vs mono black variants because of the threatened card advantage and with [c]Prophet of Kruphix[/c] and [c]Kiora’s Follower[/c] it becomes live very quickly.

Additional [c]Chord of Calling[/c] – After playing with four in the deck I rarely became flooded with chords and chording for an ooze or a follower was a fine although mediocre play in games where I did.

[c]Clone[/c] – [c]Stormbreath Dragon[/c] is a beast. Clone is our easiest answer to the pro-white menace while also being able to get value off of cards like [c]Archangel of Thune[/c] or [c]Banisher Priest[/c] in our own deck. A common Yisan curve vs aggro decks is Banisher Priest into Clone into Archangel.

[c]Progenitor Mimic[/c] – The question was whether or not Progenitor Mimic was better or worse than [c]Aetherling[/c] in the black match-ups because Progenitor is obviously better when grinding out aggro decks and Aetherling is better vs UW. I found that Progenitor allowed us to win games where Aetherling would have been an overcosted dud. Copying [c]Desecration Demon[/c]s or [c]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/c]s, particularly at instant speed, gets out of hand very quickly.

[c]Angel of Serenity[/c] – Best finisher vs Aggro, best top-end vs Black decks. All around powerful value card, that with the extra in the board can set up very grindy loops of Angel of Serenity return two creatures and another Angel of Serenity.

Cuts

[c]Ephara, God of the Polis[/c] – No kind way of saying it was simply miserable. It drew cards slower than [c]Fathom Mage[/c], it never turned on. Overall four mana cycling is not impressive

[c]Polukranos[/c] – One remained as a powerful chord target, but generally we had little interest in monstrousing it in most match-ups because we had other things to do with our mana, making it just a four mana 5/5. There are times you wanted it and there are times you don’t, hence one copy remaining.

[c]Fathom Mage[/c] / [c]Horizon Chimera[/c] – The combo was not robust. It was expensive and fragile though there were times where it won games no other combination of cards could; infinite combos will do that, I suppose. (For those unaware of the combo, Fathom Mage + Horizon Chimera + [c]Archangel of Thune[/c]. If you draw a card or gain a life you begin the chain, Fathom gains a counter from Archangel and draws a card which causes Chimera to gain a life which causes Archangel to distribute counters, repeat for as many cards in your deck as you would like to draw.) While both remained decent creatures in certain match-ups, neither were absurd, hence relegated to tutor targets.

[c]Aetherling[/c] – See Progenitor Mimic notes above

[c]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/c] – An unmistakably powerful card, but simply did not play well into the deck’s plan most of the time on game one, hence why they are in the board.

Sideboard Rundown

2 [c]Nyx-Fleece Ram[/c]s and 3 [c]Centaur Healer[/c]s – Anti-burn and anti-aggro, not much to say. The split is because Centaur Healer attacks and trades whereas Fleece only blocks.

1 [c]Banisher Priest[/c] – Comes in versus aggro and mono black variants. Mono black variants as an answer to [c]Desecration Demon[/c] and [c]Pack Rat[/c].

1 [c]Reclamation Sage[/c] – UWx Detention Sphere lists, Burn, and Constellation Decks. There are two questions that arise here, why burn and why not mono black? Burn generally brings in 4x [c]Satyr Firedancer[/c]s and has some number of [c]Eidolon of the Great Revel[/c]s and [c]Chained to the Rocks[/c] / [c]Banishing Light[/c], all of which are absolute beatings versus us and all of which are enchantments. They do not come in versus Mono Black Variants because [c]Underworld Connections[/c] is simply to slow versus most of our draws for us to care about it.

1 [c]Courser of Kruphix[/c] – Burn, aggro, and mono black. A wall that reduces flood is good in many match-ups but is not that inherently powerful in the deck.

4 [c]Notion Thief[/c] – Flash 3/1 with upside versus UW. One of our best possible tools in the match up. With [c]Chord of Calling[/c] we basically always threaten it and make it very hard for them to [c]Divination[/c] let alone get value out of [c]Sphinx’s Revelation[/c].

1 [c]Lavinia of the Tenth[/c] – Aggro, Mono Black, and Elspeth. Aggro is the obvious one, but against Mono Black and decks that have [c]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/c] it provides the powerful ability to fetch, basically acting as a [c]Sleep[/c] and allowing for a one time swing for the win.

1 [c]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/c] / 1 [c]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/c] / 1 [c]Angel of Serenity[/c] – Mono black and UW match-ups as powerful grindy threats. Ajani can also replace a Chord or a Yisan vs decks like GW aggro where they are not the most aggressive decks but demand that we lower our curve.

So that is the list and why the numbers became as they are. A couple of notes before I give my closing thoughts:

  • Yisan’s ability is worded such that putting a counter on it is a cost, in other words if you untap it with the trigger on the stack and activate it again you will fetch two creatures at the higher cost.
  • Yisan demands the exact same mana cost. After seven it does nothing.
  • The combo is not technically infinite; it can only add counters to your team equal to the number of cards in your deck. While this will often be enough, it is not infinite, so it may not be an auto-win in a grindy match-up or versus that local guy that only runs mill decks.
  • I 3-1ed the 7/31 Standard Daily Event with the deck and here was the list at the time. http://www.mtggoldfish.com/deck/241686#online

Closing thoughts

The deck is certainly fun, but I would not advise it for high level competitive play in the current environment. It preys on mono black variants while maintaining decent matchups versus aggro decks. However, its UW match up is horrendous, and with UW winning the Pro Tour I would be hesitant to play the deck in a major event.

The deck though is unique in a field that before the Pro Tour was lacking new and interesting decks. It rewards skill and demands it for cards like Yisan and Chord. Further skill is demanded because the deck often is starved for mana in the early turns so each play matters even more. By the same token the deck brutally punishes mistakes. I’ve lost games because I Chorded a turn too early and didn’t wait for the better creature, or because I miscounted my damage on a critical swing, or tapped the wrong mana and couldn’t activate [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] enough to trigger [c]Archangel of Thune[/c] enough times.

When the deck rewards you, though, it feels amazing. My favorite moment so far and my ending thought is the power of [c]Angel of Serenity[/c].

I am playing Game 1 versus a BG Devotion Deck with some number of main deck [c]Nissa, Worldwaker[/c]. I am down to 5 life and my opponent is attacking me with four [c]Nissa, Worldwaker[/c] animated lands (4/4 tramplers). I allow him to declare his attackers then before blocks I [c]Chord of Calling[/c] with x=7. I search out an Angel of Serenity which exiles three of his attackers (his lands!) and then block the fourth. [c]Angel of Serenity[/c] in effect [c]Plague Wind[/c]ed him and was a one-sided [c]Armageddon[/c].

If you have a deck you would like me to look at feel, please free to comment a list in the comments below and I will do my best to tune it over the coming weeks!

Check out the videos below of my recent run with this deck in a Daily Event, and may the odds be ever in your favor!

Nah, too cheesy, Believe in the Heart of the Cards!

Nope, Play Magic and have fun.

There we go.

Play Magic and Have Fun.

-Zach Raph aka ZTRMAN

 

 

Life and Magic

Balance

I’d like to start out by apologizing for missing last week’s article. As many of you all know, life and Magic are two separate things. Occasionally one gets in the way of the other and visa-versa. That’s what has happened to me for the last few weeks. I work in robotics and it’s typically not a straining job physically. However, I somehow managed to hurt my back, and after a trip to the chiropractor I found out I have Scoliosis.

While this will most definitely affect my Magic traveling, it will be something I will be able to overcome and continue grinding as much as I can.

I will most definitely be attending the Grand Prix Orlando tournament in October. For those who haven’t seen any information on this, you should definitely check it out! It’s looking to be one of the best non-qualifier tournaments I have ever been to.

Balancing life and Magic can be extremely challenging, occasionally. The fact remains that unless Magic is your primary source of income, you have a regular full-time job and, for many, a family as well. Traveling takes its toll, and is costly as well. It’s something I struggle with every day.

Now moving on from that into a subject that’s much more interesting, Standard!

Garruk

Guess who’s back!

I’ve been jamming a ton of Black/Green devotion decks in Standard trying to find the optimal build. This is about as close to the best deck as I think Standard can have. Having [c]Abrupt Decay[/c], [c]Vraska the Unseen[/c], and [c]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/c] alongside [c]Thoughtseize[/c] and [c]Hero’s Downfall[/c] is insanely difficult for most any deck to fight through. Factor in this sweet new Planeswalker to the mix of already game-changing cards this deck has at its disposal is just going to be something that people will have to be fighting through for quite some time.

For those of us who hate the Black Devotion decks: I’m sorry to say the problem isn’t going away soon. On top of having a bomb Planeswalker to add to the deck, the deck gets a better mana-base with [c]Llanowar Wastes[/c].

[d=title Black Green Devotion]

Lands
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Temple of Malady
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
4 Mutavault
8 Swamp

Creatures
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Pack Rat
4 Desecration Demon
2 Scavenging Ooze
2 Lifebane Zombie

Planeswalkers
1 Vraska the Unseen
2 Garruk, Apex Predator

Spells
3 Abrupt Decay
4 Thoughtseize
3 Hero’s Downfall
4 Underworld Connections
2 Sign in Blood
[/d]

I won’t add a sideboard for now because I think that every sideboard should be up to the players to build. Copying deck-lists from articles is fine when you’re trying to play a certain deck. Unless you understand the full game plan in every match-up, and how exactly to board, you should build your sideboard yourself. Come up with your own boarding plan, and execute it.

There are Standard Opens every weekend, and it rapidly allows Standard to evolve week in and week out. I’m not sure what the top decks this weekend will be, but I do think that Garruk will be a powerhouse in whatever he’s played in. The card alone just has so many powerful abilities, and even more so, it’s in the perfect colors to be played right now.

Lets look at some of the choices for the deck, starting with the manabase:
4 [c]Llanowar Wastes[/c]
4 [c]Mutavault[/c]
1 [c]Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth[/c]

I know having potentially 8 colorless lands can hurt, but the Wastes can make either color, and while the damage can hurt when you draw multiple copies, the [c]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/c] makes up for the life loss.

[c]Mutavault[/c] is obviously one of the more powerful cards in Standard, and combines greatly with [c]Pack Rat[/c] against midrange decks and [c]Thoughtseize[/c] against control decks.

The Urborg is there as an insurance policy for when you draw too many of your colorless lands. Making it perfect for the deck as a singleton.

Creature-wise you play the same as the average Black deck, but you have a couple of [c]Scavenging Ooze[/c] that can gain life and play perfectly with your discard and removal. On top of being a great threat, they also gain life to make up for the insane amounts of damage you’ll take from connections and lands.

You play the same average spell count with a couple of [c]Sign in Blood[/c]s. This acts as a great draw spell and the 2 cards for 1 can matter a lot when keeping a 2 land hand. I personally think this is one of the better black cards the deck gained from M15 and I’m happy that it’s in the deck once more.

So there you have it. What I think is the best deck for the time being in Standard and something that would be a great choice for this weekend.

I hope you have a great time slinging spells this weekend!

Cody
cburton8223 on MTGO

M15 and the Future of Standard

m15

Hey guys!

More and more cards are being spoiled daily and I’m starting to get super-excited for the state of Standard post-Core Set release. It’s the first set ever released with six Planeswalkers in it, and that’s just getting started! Today I want to talk about Green and why I think it’ll be the best color choice moving forward with all the sweet new tools it’s getting.

Starting with:

terrastomper

This old guy is back and ready to stomp and squash opponents into the dust. I’ve mentioned him before as a card I feel is going to be great in combination with [c]Mistcutter Hydra[/c], and I still think that tag team duo will wreck control decks for quite some time. For meager 6 mana you get an 8/8 trampler that’s uncounterable.

Combine that with something like this guy:

generatorservant

Now you have a great way to start smashing opponents into the ground as early as turn 4! The only drawback is the triple green in the casting cost, but I don’t think that’ll be much of a problem.

Especially not with our next star:

nissaworldwaker

For 5 mana, you can play her and protect her the turn she comes down by using her +1 to untap your lands. Not to mention the fact that she’s Green, which seems to be where all the power lies in the new set. She is most comparable to [c]Koth of the Hammer[/c] in my opinion simply because she both makes mana and 4/4s. The biggest difference is that both of her abilities are + abilities, and the 4/4s stick around to keep her company.

Nissa’s ultimate is pretty powerful as well. While it doesn’t win the game on the spot, it strongly threatens to do so on the following turn. You need to know when to activate it, though, as getting blown out is certainly possible, and will most likely happen to less experienced players. For example, if your opponent is playing a control deck and has a fair amount of cards in hand. There’s no reason to risk dying to [c]Supreme Verdict[/c] or even [c]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/c].

Wow! 2 cards down and already Green is looking like where it’s at. How about if I told you it got even better?

yisanthewandererbard

This is probably my favorite card out of the new set. He comes down on turn 2 or 3 and then starts chaining value. If only there was a 1-drop in Standard that protected him he would instantly be insane. He certainly does scream “Build around me!” though, and I very much intend to. I’m not sure what type of shell I’d want, but a 2/3 for 3 isn’t bad on its own and the first activation is the most important. Fetching up a mana dork to ramp is very good, and in Green/Black you get [c]Deathrite Shaman[/c] too. While he does kind of force you to overextend into a wrath effect, I’m sure there are many ways to avoid doing so.

If anyone has any great building ideas with this card, I’d love to hear them.

This next one is a little degenerate, a little unfair, and certainly broken:

chordofcalling

As a Modern staple, this will certainly see the price fall. More than that though, this gives Green decks a draw effect (essentially) by being a tutor that they can use to find the creature they need. Playing this alongside [c]Courser of Kruphix[/c] and [c]Sylvan Caryatid[/c] will definitely be a thing while they’re all in Standard together and I cannot wait to see what happens with it.

lifeslegacy

This card does some sweet things for 2 mana, although I’d have loved this during [c]Thragtusk[/c] era in Standard.

It sort of reminds me of [c]Altar’s Reap[/c] and that card didn’t see a whole lot of Standard play, but with [c]Soul of Zendikar[/c] in your deck giving you value from the Graveyard, I see no reason this isn’t a playable card. Printed at the wrong time maybe – I’d also have loved hitting a [c]Geralf’s Messenger[/c] with this – but I still think it’s viable.

Lastly we have the most talked about card in the set and for good reason. It’s by far the most powerful card Standard’s seen since [c]Karn Liberated[/c] and I think it will have the most impact on Standard in the long run.

Run for your life, because the Predator has been released:

garrukapexpredator

Like the Predator in the Alien vs Predator movie series, He is one BAD dude and he’s out hunting.

Sure it takes him some time to get there, a whole 7 mana’s worth of time, but he’s been cursed to kill.

Alright alright, enough with the bad puns and on to Magic’s newest Planeswalker.

For 7 mana, you get what you pay for. He has the ability to kill a Planeswalker, and it’s a +1 ability meaning you’re not losing anything to do it. The list of Planeswalkers being played in Standard is pretty long. Between [c]Jace, Architect of Thought[/c], [c]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/c], [c]Vraska, the Unseen[/c], [c]Ajani, Mentor of Heroes[/c], and [c]Garruk, Caller of Beasts[/c], you’re almost bound to hit one in every match you play.

Now that we know he’s already better than other ‘walkers in a head-to-head battle, let’s look at the most important part of a Planeswalker. Can he protect himself?

Well his other +1 ability is to make a 3/3 deathtouch token. That answers that question. Going more in-depth, his token allows you to proactively block bigger creatures, and attack through larger creatures.

But that’s not all folks! His -3 ability is something that’s bound to deal with troublesome creatures too. He gets to live afterwards, kill a creature, and gain you life. They have a [c]Stormbreath Dragon[/c] that you cannot block with a token? Now you have some more life and they don’t have their Dragon. What more could you want out of a Planeswalker?

His last, ultimate, ability is that your opponent gets the privilege of having an Emblem stating that creatures attacking them get +5/5 and trample. How nice a gift for your opponent. Building up to this by making tokens every turn is a pretty surefire way to win the game on the spot.

Sure 7 mana is a deeeeeeep investment. However, you get every bit of what you pay for and this card is just bonkers!

I cannot wait to see what Green decks do with all these awesome new tools they are getting in Standard, but I’m more excited that it’ll shake things up. I’m tired of getting beat Black and Blue by, well, Black and Blue.

I’ve run out of puns now, so leave your opinion of these sweet new cards in the comments. Until next time, Happy Spellslinging!

Cody Burton
Cburton8223 on MTGO