Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Adventures in Rabblerousing, or, TOP 5 CONTROVERSIES!

Hi everybody!

Okay, with everybody's least favorite year, 2016, winding up, it's time to reflect and contemplate. ....

Nah, f--- that, it's time to RANT!



Seriously, who put these stupid spaghetti monsters into the role of "primary antagonist" for a year and a half? Not just story-wise, but also metagame-wise. Nobody likes them. I get it, it's supposed to be all Cthulhu cosmic horror, yadda yadda. Don't care. They don't make me feel horror or feel the insignificance of my meaningless existence (don't need overpowered colorless creatures for that, thanks!), they make me feel like I can't wait until something new. Besides, Hearthstone JUST did this with the Forgotten Gods expansion. At least they had the decency to add in some whimsy, and not to hide the blatant thievery of Lovecraftian lore. Silver lining: My beloved Tamiyo escaped relatively unscathed, despite getting her mind violated by Mama Em. Dishonorable mention: The "seriously, what could it be???" BS mystery that was Shadows over Innistrad. No, Marit Lage is not an interplanar mindf---er, she a flying ice kraken.


Okay, who dropped the ball on this one? R&D has to have figured out contraptions by now (it isn't that hard.. they're artifact tokens, either defined by the rules a la Investigate, or by some other rules text). Kaladesh was supposed to be this beautiful artisan world, and its face was this famous inventor capable of sculpting anything almost at will. But Maro hand-waved some lame reason about Kaladeshian inventors being more purposeful in crafting their creations than "assemble a contraption" implies. I call BS. I want contraptions, and I want them YESTERDAY. Dishonorable mention: The awesome Indian flavor being limited to just proper nouns, skin color, and clothing, and Saheeli being relegated to exposition device in the story. Guess we shouldn't hold our breaths for Hindi-language cards anytime soon.

3. PPTQs!

What a great idea! Bring entry-level competitive play to the stores! Create another path to the Pro Tour! More work for level 2 judges! Except ... It's become a grind for everyone involved. Aspiring pro players have to spend their weekends hopping between stores all over the area hoping to get lucky, just to have a shot to get lucky again to make Top 4 at a Regional. These events were popular with stores at first, but they've become very unreliable lately. One store in my area filled to capacity at 37, and had to turn players away (after having not announced this previously, resulting in a very frustrated carful of grinders). So they rented a bigger space for the next one ... and drew 14 players.
Then, more salient to my interests, you get to the judges. They have to drive all over the place to run these things. My area is fortunate to have a surplus of L2s, but many areas are not this lucky. Burnout becomes a real danger. And, as rewarding as it is to see different stores in different towns and interact with different communities, I miss the mid-sized events that required more than a judge or two on staff. They were perfect training grounds for everybody--newer judges to get their feet wet, and more experienced judges to practice leadership and logistics. These events just don't happen anymore. Everyone's too busy with PPTQs to risk anything with $5Ks or whatever.

2. [insert format] SUCKS!

Everything is terrible! Standard alternates between being stale, and a ridiculous money sink. Modern is a race to degenerate turn-three kills governed by a mercurial banlist. Legacy and Vintage are inaccessible, unsustainable victims of the Reserved List. Limited is fun until you get blown out by some ridiculous bomb, and sooner or later, everyone figures out which color combination is actually good. Commander is just politics, and takes too damn long to play. Pauper might actually sweet if Wizards actually cards (but then more people would play it, and it would stagnate very quickly). F--- everything I quit!

1. DOG!!!1

Yes, this is my #1 peeve about Magic: the Gathering, and honestly, it's the primary reason I felt the need to write this post. Section 205.3m of the Comprehensive Rules lists the supported creature types in Magic. It includes such staples as Squirrel, Camel, Cat, Goat, Ox, Ouphe, Brushwagg, Zubera, Homarid, Camarid, Pirate, Elk, and Sand. But Dog? Nope! We do have Wolf, Wolverine, Werewolf, and Hound though. But get this .. all dogs (that aren't Wolves) in Magic have type Hound. They had a golden opportunity with Tarkir to right the ship, and they failed miserably. The Leonin cat-people have type Cat, so the Ainok should have had type Dog. But look at the Ainok above. Does look even remotely like a hound? Where are the floppy ears, the jowls, the paws, the freely wagging tail? We have "Cat," so why can't we have "Dog?" Why does Wizards hate dogs so much?? OUTRAGE!!!

Closing thoughts...

Those who know me may wonder, wait, what about the social issues? Representation, bullying, harassment, etc.? Well, this is mostly intended as parody (though my annoyance with all of these things is real, and I think the Saheeli/Indian-culture problem with Kaladesh isn't at all a joke), and I didn't want to lump in serious community issues with silliness. "I'm sorry if anybody is offended."

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Adventures in Catching Up


Hmmm, maybe with the [in]frequency with which I update this blog, maybe I should retitle it "Catching Up". I dunno!

Anyway, enough about catching up. Time to catch up!


I started typing out a Teal Deer about the end of last Standard season, but it could be pretty succinctly summed up with "I didn't play much, and when I did, I lost a lot." Exciting.

Now we have a brand new set, and a brand new format, and I gotta say, I like it so far. Any format where the best decks are various shades of 3- and 4-color midrange decks, I gotta give it a thumbs up. Mana is amazing right now with the Battle lands and Fetchlands, and ... yeah. So what am I doing with this amazing mana? Something like this:

Lands (25):
3 Opulent Palace
1 Frontier Bivouac
1 Llanowar Wastes
1 Yavimaya Coast
2 Forest
2 Swamp
2 Island
1 Mountain
1 Cinder Glade
1 Sunken Hollow
1 Smoldering Marsh
1 Lumbering Falls
8 (some combination of fetchlands)

Creatures (15):
4 Rattleclaw Mystic
4 Fathom Feeder
4 Hangarback Walker
2 Den Protector
1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death

Superfriends! (11):
3 Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
2 Kiora, Master of the Depths
2 Ob Nixilis Reignited
2 Sarkhan Unbroken

Spells (8):
2 Reave Soul
1 Complete Disregard
1 Sultai Charm
3 Murderous Cut
1 Crux of Fate
1 Dig Through Time

Sideboard (15):
1 Sultai Charm
2 Languish
2 Radiant Flames
2 Negate
1 Duress
1 Transgress the Mind
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Ugin's Insight
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Stratus Dancer
?? (other random stuff I can't remember off the top of my head)

So, as you can guess from all the random 1-ofs, this list is kinda in flux. I'm still trying to figure out what I like and what I don't. The deck feels pretty strong, with some interesting little synergies that don't seem obvious right away. I think it's a few tweaks away from being pretty solid. I went 2-1-1 at Mox's win-a-box last night, losing only to Atarka Red. The draw was against a wonky Collected Company/Aristocrats type deck, and I had him pretty dead (Ugin and Silumgar on board, Crux and Jace in hand).

Some other random thoughts:

  • I was on the fence about Kiora, but she can randomly be really powerful. The ramp and "dig for a dood & a land" modes are pretty obvious, as is the win condition threat on an otherwise empty board (death by tako!). But she also synergizes adorably with Hangarback Walker. And she can be a mana fixer in those very rare cases where I need BB or UU and don't have it.
  • Jace, man. Card is bonkers. Games where I can untap with him in play tend to go much better for me than the inverse. The Merfolk Looter mode helps immensely in smoothing out draws. I don't even mind discarding good cards; I know I'm just gonna flash them back later, or return them to hand with Den Protector, or fuel a Delve.
  • Fathom Feeder is pretty sweet, though. A lot of times it's a Doom Blade, but the Azure Mage mode is pretty cool, too. I hosed someone trying to get some extra value from a Mortuary Mire, too.
  • The manabase definitely needs tweaks. Too many lands come into play tapped, and I need to be able to hit UB, 1U, and 1G on turn two. Some number of Opulent Palaces can probably become Polluted Deltas and/or Wooded Foothills.
  • Sarkhan Unbroken is still awesome. The Dargons he poops out have synergy with Silumgar, too. Neat! Because of this, I might think about putting some more Dargons somewhere in my 75. Maybe Dragonlord Silumgar? Atarka? Kolaghan?
  • I need have a better plan against Atarka Red. I really don't like losing to Aggro these days (really), and I should probably have a better plan against it. Feed the Clan is usually the go-to card, and it's pretty sweet with Jace, but I'm thinking about going deeper. Tomb of the Spirit Dragon is tempting, but I'm expecting that my Hangarback Walkers and Fathom Feeders are gonna be dead more often than not. The other card I'm looking at is Jaddi Offshoot, which is probably just a really bad Courser of Kruphix. I miss my Horse Lady. :( Maybe I could try Liliana? Looking at all the various ways of gaining life in the current Standard, the best answer is probably really to go 5-color so I can play cards like Arashin Cleric and Ojutai's Command (and Siege Rhino, I GUESS).
  • Speaking of which .. Why don't I just go 5-color? Hmmm ... Good question. Why don't I? Probably because I'm too lazy to try to come up with a manabase that actually works. :/ But Sorin would be nice (and helps me gain life!), and Gideon's not too shabby either. Something to consider...


I gave up on Doubpling Jace, sadly. It auto-lost to Burn, which was like 70% of my local meta at the time. But burn has been kinda on the decline, so maybe I should dust it off at some point and give it another whirl.

I've defaulted to Jund, since it's a deck that is both familiar and competitive. It's not terribly exciting (or even a little exciting), just solid.

However, I am interested in trying some new things, especially in Blue. Grixis Control looks like a blast, with ALL the two-for-ones. Or more, with Snapcaster Mage and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. There are blue/white Sun Titan lists out there that look like fun, too, as well as the Naya Company deck. Basically, I want to sleeve up a bunch of cards that all say "2 4 1" on them.


I'm still having a blast playing Nic Fit Pod. It's so ridiculous and so much fun. I worked in the Melira combo, too, which is actually not that hard to assemble with Sidisi, Undead Vizier maindeck. Most of the time I still win with Thragtusk beats though. Okay, that's not true. Most of the time I don't win. But when I do, I Thragtusk.


If the sections about playing seem relatively short, it's because this is what I've been doing the most of. I'm more or less the official Judge Manager at my LGS now, and I'm often the only one available to do FNM. It's got its own challenges, too, like trying to figure out how to get judges assigned to various events, juggling floor judges with my counterpart at a different LGS, dealing with judges who aren't as reliable as others, and working with judge candidates.

On top of that, there's monthly-or-so larger events, and the semi-monthly PPTQs. So many PPTQs. But I always enjoy doing it. Seeing new stores, working with other judges, meeting new players, facing new logistical challenges, etc. It's always an adventure.

This last weekend I had an Achievement Unlocked moment: Head Judged a Competitive event at Misty Mountain Games, my first home store after I started playing Magic again. Ever since I got interested in judging, I'd been wanting to head judge something big[-ish] there, and this weekend I got to do so. Unfortunately, it was kinda by default, since the originally scheduled HJ was unable to make it through no fault of his own. And I wasn't really prepared to HJ, so I did a decent amount of "winging it" in the beginning. My opening announcements were sketchy, and my L1 floor judge was a little lost at first, and consequently lacking in confidence in my HJ abilities. But I recovered nicely after a round or two, and the rest of the event seemed to go very well. I had a good time doing it, and it was sweet being able to bestow one of my local players with the State Champion medal .. even if he was playing Burn. <_<

In Conclusion

Well, that's all I got for now. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Catching Up 3

Hi everybody!

So, it's been a while. Thought I'd do a quick brain dump on what I've been doing lately.


I'm on Doubling Jace lately. It's a deck that Travis Woo wrote about on Channel Fireball a few months ago, before Dig Through Time got banned. The basic combo is Doubling Season + Jace, Architect of Thought. Jace comes down with 8 loyalty. You sac him, get your opponent's best card from his/her deck, and your second Jace. Then get your opponent's second, third, and fourth best cards, and your 3rd and 4th Jaces, and a Time Walk of some sort. That should be enough to form some kind of win condition. Plan B involves Garruk Wildspeaker and probably some Plant tokens.

The trick is actually living long enough to get the combo off. There are a lot of things that have to go right, and most matchups are difficult. Against Burn, it's pretty much an auto-lose if they get Eidolon of the Great Revel out. Against Aggro (which barely even exists right now), Fog and Khalni Garden chumps are critical. Against Combo/Control, they usually have a bunch of counterspells.

But when the deck works, it's glorious. Usually the matchups it works in are the best ones to go off with. My favorites so far have been Mono-Green Devotion (grabbing a piece of meat, a Garruk, an Eternal Witness (getting back Jace!) and a Craterhoof. Kablam! Going off against Allies was pretty sweet too. And using Twin's own combo against them isn't the worst thing in the world.

Right now the deck looks kinda like this:

Lands (22)
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Breeding Pool
1 Forest
3 Island
2 Halimar Depths
4 Simic Growth Chamber
4 Khalni Garden
2 Scalding Tarn

Creatures (1)
1 Snapcaster Mage

Instant (12)
3 Fog
4 Spell Pierce
4 Remand
1 Cryptic Command

Sorcery (14)
4 Explore
1 Gitaxian Probe
3 Savor the Moment
2 Time Warp
4 Serum Visions

Enchantment (3)
3 Doubling Season

Planeswalker (9)
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
4 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage <3 <3 <3 <3 <3   

Sideboard (15)
1 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
1 Thragtusk
1 Kitchen Finks
2 Feed the Clan
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Engineered Explosives
1 Mana Leak
1 Spell Snare
2 Nature's Claim
1 Vendilion Clique
1 Fog
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Bow of Nylea
<3 <3 <3
Have I mentioned yet that I freaking LOVE Tamiyo? Pretty sure she's my all-time favorite card in all of Magic. Powerful, fun, beautiful artwork, cool character, great flavor ... Love it. :)

Anyway, moving forward, I really want to find room for Coiling Oracles in there somewhere. That'll probably involve taking out some of the fun-ofs, like Git. Probe (which I'm not in love with anyway--it's kind of a filler card), Cryptic Command, and maybe one of the Savors. Feels miserable though. I dunno.

If I ever decide I want to actually compete, I think I'm gonna go back to Jund. It's got some new toys, and the deck can go in a couple different directions (either little Jund with Bob, or big Jund with Tasigur and other expensive drops).


So broken.
My new pet deck is 5c Superfriends. I love it. It's the perfect combination of ridiculous and competitive that gets my inner Timmy/Johnny/Spike (but mostly Timmy) all fired up. I've got it tuned to something resembling not completely terrible, and it looks kinda like this at the moment:

Lands (25)
3 Wooded Foothills
2 Windswept Heath
1 Bloodstained Mire
2 Forest
1 Island
1 Mountain
1 Swamp
2 Plains
3 Nomad Outpost
3 Frontier Bivouac
3 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Mana Confluence
1 Temple of Plenty
1 Temple of Mystery

Creatures (12)
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Rattleclaw Mystic
4 Courser of Kruphix

Spells (10)
2 Roast
3 Arc Lightning
1 Sultai Charm
1 Utter End
1 Explosive Vegetation
2 Muderous Cut

Friends! (12)
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
2 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
2 Sarkhan Unbroken
1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
2 Elspeth, Sun's Champion
1 Garruk, Apex Predator
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon

Sideboard (15)
1 Arc Lightning
3 Seismic Rupture
2 Barrage of Boulders
1 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Liliana Vess
1 Ajani Steadfast
1 Chromanticore
1 Duneblast
1 Utter End
1 Sultai Charm
1 Thoughtseize

... and I'm forgetting a card in the main. No idea. Oh well.

So, I've been doign pretty well with this pile, which kinda resembles a Standard Singleton deck with all the 1-ofs. But there are reasons for the 1-ofs. I don't ever (EVER) want to draw more than one of the more expensive walkers, except the ones that I feel are important parts of the deck. Elspeth gets me out of rough situations, and Sarkhan Unbroken can both help me stabilize, and pull away if left unchecked. The spells are basically a janky control shell designed to help me survive until Turn 4, then start to take over the game with planeswalkers.

I won FNM, with a record of 3-0-1 (though one of the wins was a bye, and the draw likely would have been a loss), and made it to the Top 8 of Game Day (3-1 in Swiss, lost in the quarters). Here's a breakdown for FNM:

Round 1: Bye. 1-0.

Warrior dorks for dayzzzzzzzzzzz....
Round 2: vs. Mardu Tempo.
Pretty cool deck. Lots of dash guys and burn. One game, I seemingly stabilized at around 10 life, when suddenly: "End of your turn, Lightning Strike, Crackling Doom, untap, upkeep, Lightning Strike, Crackling Doom." "Uh yeah, I'm dead." The other games, he got kinda slow starts, and/or I had enough removal for his sundry critters, and I was able to keep myself out of burn range. 2-0.

Don't Roast me, bro!
Round 3: vs. G/R BEES.
Awkward matchup that I suspect is bad for me. I do okay until he starts making bees. I can deal with random dorks on the ground, even a bunch of random dorks on the ground. I have a hard time with a bunch of dorks in the air. I was able to steal one of the game by curving out into a turn 4 Garruk (T2 Caryatid, T3 morph'd Rattleclaw). Game 3 had to be played pretty quickly, and I made a pretty bad misplay that resulted in the non-win. The board was pretty empty, and he played a Scuttling Doom Engine. I played Sarkhan Dragonspeaker and Murderous Cut'd his Doom Engine ... and he redirected the Doom Engine's damage to the Sarkhan that I had just played. D: Then he played a couple things as time ran out, and we ended up drawing. 2-0-1.

Sultai Charm that. Or Utter End. Or fly over it with Dragon tokens.

Round 4: vs. G/W Devotion.
This was a pretty bad matchup for me in previous weeks, but with added flexible removal in Sultai Charm and Utter End and Duneblast, I felt much more confident. And I was right to be, as I won pretty easily. I was able to keep him off his early game, and stick planeswalkers pretty well unchecked. I kept him off the most egregious morph shenanigans (basically, killing the Whisperwood Elementals ASAP), and let the walkers take over the game. 3-0-1.

And that was good enough for first place. Woo! I was pretty stoked. I know it wasn't the best quality FNM win ever, but I was still glad to experience it. Emboldened by my success, I decided to give Game Day a shot. Here's how that went:

Win condition?
Round 1: vs. U/B Control.
Glad to get this one out of the way. I expected a bad matchup, but I curved out pretty well both games, and he had kinda awkward draws. Rattleclaw Mystics that are left unchecked can get a lot of damage in, it turns out. And even when my Sarkhan got almost immediately killed, he survived long enough to get a Dragon out there to go the distance. 1-0.

Counter target [greedy] Arc Lightning. :(
Round 2: vs. RDW.
Glad to get this one out of the way. I expected kind of a coin flip match, but it turned out that when I get pretty good draws, I can win pretty easily. First game, I had enough removal to keep most of the damage off the board, and I kept myself out of burn range pretty easily. Second game, I stuck a Chromanticore or a Sorin or something, and ran away with it. I did have a scary moment, though, when he countered my Arc Lightning with Atarka's Command. That didn't feel good. But I still recovered and won. I'll take it. 2-0.

Win condition?
Round 3: vs. U/B Control.
Oh, there's another one? Okay, well, that's fine I guess? Turns out that again, all I needed to was stick one planeswalker, and I ran away with it easily. We both made a couple of minor misplays though. I Thoughtseize'd him at one point (suspecting that he might have a counter), and found Ugin, Silumgar's Scorn, and (I think) Dig. I took the Scorn so I could resolve my planeswalker. But then I thought about it bit further, and he could have easily Dug for the last 2-3 lands he needed for Ugin and gone from there. But he didn't do that. He Dug and found a relatively worthless Crux (I think I had a Dragon token and a couple of Satyr tokens at that point) and something else. Either way, though, I won. I'll take it! 3-0.

Loss condition?
Round 4: vs. Abzan Aggro.
Yeah, this one isn't that great for me, I don't think. Turns out maybe a bunch of mid-sized dorks on the ground aren't that easy to deal with. Arc Lightning can kill maybe one of them, but not quite fast enough. We played some "game fun" matches after he beat me 2-0 easily, and it didn't go much better except when he got a very threat-sparse draw. 3-1.

Coulda shoulda woulda. :(
Quarterfinals: vs. RDW.
Rematch from Round 2. Game one, I kept his early aggression well under control, and got to a point where I could stick an Ajani. I looked the top four cards and found: land, land, Courser, Sorin. I was at around 10 life. Not bad, but not great. I took the Courser, intending to hit some lands, gain a few life, and bury him in card advantage. I debated taking the Sorin just to gain some life. A few Stoke the Flames and/or Lightning Strikes later, I was on the play for game two. I made another mistake when I played a Xenagos into his board of just Chandra (but I knew about his two Zurgos in hand from previous Dashes) and left the token back. Then Chandra Falter'd my token and she and Zurgo killed Xenagos. I could have played Sarkhan Dragonspeaker that turn, bashed Chandra, and kept him alive for another turn or two (or Fog'd for a turn). .. Anyway, game two I took card of his early aggression with an on-curve Caryatid and sweeper, and landed Chromanticore on turn four, which ran away with the game very quickly. Game three I kept a very bad hand of three tap-lands, Courser, and expensive cards. He curved out VERY quickly and killed me on turn four.

So .. yeah. This deck definitely has potential. I don't think it's Tier One, but I think it's one of those things that I can get good with and maybe do well at my LGS fairly consistently. Maybe a more experienced pilot/deckbuilder could tweak it a bit and put up some better results. But I'm having a blast with it. I keep finding lots of cute little synergies within the deck--I already knew about Sarkhan DS + Ajani MOH and Xenagos + Elspeth, but Courser + Kiora and/or Sarkhan UB are amazing together. Explosive Vegetation + Courser is silly. Using Garruk AP to kill my own creatures is a something that I've thought about but have yet to act on (and in retrospect, it's always been correct to do so).


Yeah, there's been some of that too! I got my first team lead assignement in Indy a few months ago, running the "not deck checks" team for the Modern PIQ thingy. I think I did pretty good, especially considering I didn't know I was doing that until the day of. I basically got to boss two guys around and try to figure out when to take break. While at the same time dealing with strange ramifications of the imperfect pairing systems (the big one being, the online pairings and paper pairings weren't in sync). This weekend I'm doing another SCG in Cleveland. Maybe I'll get to Team Lead again. Maybe not? Either way, I'm looking forward to it.

There have been several PPTQs as well. There's one just about every weekend within driving distance, and a we L2s have been pretty busy. It's been fun, though, getting to experience different stores, different Magic communities, etc. As well as just plain old grinding judging XP.

I've also had to deal with some interesting challenges related to becoming the de facto Judge Manager at my local store. I enjoy it, but it can be stressful when I have a hard time filling holes in the weekly schedule. Kinda wish I had more bodies. I just lost one of my more dependable L1s, but I just gained a new L1. So hopefully that balances out. Fun!

Welp .. I think that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Adventures in Legacy


Well, I haven't written much in a while. I guess I've not felt like I've had a lot of terribly interesting things to write about, so I guess I'll just offer up a quick summary:

Okay, "supreme" might be a bit much.
I've run a couple of PPTQs, and I'll be running another one this weekend. I like them. Simple, laid-back, but great opportunities to get reps head-judging Competitive REL tournaments. Working SCG Indy next weekend, and looking forward to it.

Awesome character, awesome card.
Playing Naya Superfriends and loving it. It's not an awesome matchup against every deck ever, but it's a blast to play. Getting the Xenagos/Elspeth/Ajani engine going is a thing of beauty.

Don't let the door hit you in the butt on the way out.
I kinda lost interest in Modern once my Jund deck got pushed out of the meta. But now that Pod, Cruise, and Dig have been banned, I'll probably dust it off and give it another go. I'm also working on building Travis Woo's Doubling Jace deck.
Speaking of the bannings, I agree with them. I'm not sure about Dig, but Cruise and Pod needed to go. They were pushing out too many strategies. At some point, though, I'd like to see them try a mass-unbanning and shake things up.

Still legal in Legacy!
Okay, this is where I wanted to actually do some writing. I finally got a deck to play--BUG Nic Fit Pod--and I absolutely adore it. It's got almost everything I love about Magic: ramp, disruption, midrange value creatures, synergy engines, and a decent metagame position. Right now my list looks kinda like this:

Land (22):
4 Verdant Catacomb
3 Polluted Delta
3 Misty Rainforest
2 Tropical Island
2 Bayou
2  Underground Sea
3 Forest
2 Swamp
1 Island

Creatures (23):
4 Veteran Explorer
2 Deathrite Shaman
4 Baleful Strix
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Eternal Witness
1 Fleshbag Marauder
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Wood Elves
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Entomber Exarch
1 Glen Elendra Archmage
1 Acidic Slime
1 Shriekmaw
1 Thragtusk
1 Grave Titan

Spells (15):
4 Cabal Therapy
3 Brainstorm
2 Abrupt Decay
2 Pernicious Deed
1 Recurring Nightmare
3 Birthing Pod

Sideboard (15):
2 Chill
4 Force of Will
2 Riptide Pilferer
1 Pernicious Deed
1 Abrupt Decay
1 Thoughtseize
1 Kitchen Finks
1 Notion Thief
1 Agent of Erebos
1 (something else, I forget)

The "Nic Fit" part is the synergy between Cabal Therapy and Veteran Explorer. You get a couple of stupid cards out of their hand, while ramping you up to your midrange awesomeness. Pod helps you fetch up silver bullets (and ramp with Vet, if you don't draw a Therapy). Grave Titan and Thragtusk finish games. Baleful Strix and Brainstorm smooth out draws. Recurring Nightmare enables infinite ETB-value awesomeness. Pernicious Deed and Abrupt Decay are safety valves.

I'm still learning a lot of the ins and outs of the deck. There are TONS of decisions to be made along the way, and little things trip me up all the time. I played a $5 event at my local store last night, and I had a decent finish, though. Here's how things went:

Is it really "pernicious" if it's being used to clean up the elemental nuisances littered about by a twerpy little Chandra fanboy?
Round 1: vs. Grixis Delver
This one wasn't really close. He blew through his Force of Wills countering stuff like Veteran Explorer and Birthing, and I was able to get Pernicious Deed out to clear his board and Recurring Nightmare to get absurd value going. I won in two games, but there were only like 10 minutes left at the end of the match. I need to learn to play faster.

Still good with Top.
Round 2: vs. UWr Countertop
I lost this one, partly because of a couple of technical blunders. In game two, I was facing down a Helm of Obedience and a Counterbalance. I resolved a Brainstorm after Counterbalance blind-flipped Rest in Peace. I saw fetchland, Strix, Abrupt Decay. "Sweet, I Abrupt Decay something, and then I can start taking over the game. Oh, wait I can keep Strix and draw into Decay! Yeah, I'll do that." So I cast Strix, and I see Counterbalance, and I remember RIP, and my hopes of winning deflated faster than Tom Brady's balls.

Great against Abrupt Decay. Not so much against P-Deedy.
Round 3: vs. Death and/or Taxes
We both played kinda loose, and found ourselves starting game three with a couple minutes left. He had a fast start, with two Aether Vials and a swarm of doodz (Mom, Revoker, Stoneforge, and I think Thalia). But I was able to rip a P-Deed and clear his board on the 5th additional turn. I showed him my hand of two Pods and something else, with something sweet on board for me (I forget what), and asked for a concession. He balked, so I just told a friend to report 1-1-1 draw. I explained him that coming soon was Swaggy and Gravy, and he agreed to concede. But it was already reported a draw. Oh well.

Still good with Thopter Foundry.
Round 4: vs. Thopter Sword
Crazy grindy match where I'm on my back foot, constantly trying to find ways to disrupt his engine. One game I thought was lost, but I was able to stave off defeat by bashing in with a bunch of ground doodz, and forcing enough chump blocks to enable me to chump block in the air to stay alive. Eventually I found some combination of stuff to force through an attack for lethal. Again, I played kind of loosely, not realizing how resilient his engine of Foundry + Sword + Academy Ruins is. Next time I play this matchup, I need to prioritize a few things: setup graveyard hate for Sword, land destruction for Ruins, and then I can try to blow up the Foundry and/or nuke his graveyard. We were only able to finish the two games, and I would have loved to see how it would have turned out. We agreed to split our two pity packs of prizes, and he conceded to me.

So yeah. The deck is a ton of fun once I can start getting my engine going, and it has enough tools to disrupt explosive starts from opponents, while also being able to stabilize losing positions (with a combination of Slime effects, and P-Deedy).

There are a couple of changes I'd make. I wasn't too sure about what to do about the 4-slot, so Phyrexian Metamorph was kind of a random thing to pop in there. I was thinking about Sad Robot as yet another value creature, but I think it should be a Murderous Redcap. Not only does it ping things, making it a great piece for the Nightmare engine, but it has Persist, giving it added synergy with Pod. There was at least one time where I had Pod on board, but no way of Podding past 3-drops. I'm also pondering putting Massacre Wurm in the 6-slot. Gravy is awesome, don't get me wrong. But there were times (especially against D&T) when I had a 5-er out, and Pod, and Gravy just wasn't what I needed. Massacre Wurm would have ended it very quickly. Also, good synergy with Nightmare. Speaking of which, sometimes I think about tossing another Nightmare into the sideboard. I dunno, though; I'm not sure I want to dilute the creature count anymore than it already is.

I'm also pondering a couple of more mundane tweaks: the exact number and mix of lands. Underground Sea is an awesome $300 card, but it could be that it should be a 3rd Bayou or Tropical Island. Deathrite is another thing I keep going back and forth about. I'd love to see one most games, but rarely (if ever) more than the one. I dunno.

But yeah. The deck is a metric ton of fun to play. I love synergistic decks and engines and value, and this deck has all of that. And it has decent game against the best decks of the format. I'm sold.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Catching Up 2


It's been a while. I've been pretty busy with Judging stuff, so I haven't been able to update this blog a whole lot. It's been great, though. I got my first two Grand Prix knocked out, including the third-largest GP ever (Jersey).

Jersey was interesting. Ultimately, I felt like I did a decent job, but I felt kind of lost for much of the weekend. I should have been touching base more with my various team leads each day, rather than just assuming I knew what I was doing. I mean, I took calls and gave decent rulings. Just, I was kinda lost much of the time. Also, I definitely need different judge shoes.

San Antonio was a little more like what I'm used to at SCG events. 1100 players instead of 4000. And a carpeted room! (Still need new shoes though.) Smaller teams, and much easier to find a particular person. Plus, San Antonio was a great little town. Okay, it's something like the 6th largest city in the country, but it didn't feel like it. Kinda like a Milwaukee-sized San Diego. (Huh?) And the Riverwalk was amazing. It's like there's this second city underground along a canal. I heard you can drink along it too. I didn't take advantage of that, but it's good to know that it's there. :) I'd like to get back there again someday.

I've also had a couple of Competitive Head Judge gigs. Mox Mania ran it's first SCG IQ thingy, but we fell a little short of the number of players we were hoping for. But it was still a good event. There's a local new-ish L1 that I've kinda taken under my wing, chatting with him during/after events and over email, and I was impressed with how he's been progressing, and I wasn't disappointed with how he did at the IQ. Then this last weekend I ran a PPTQ in Lake Geneva (birthplace of D&D!), which was uneventful, but lots of fun. Good little store down there.

With all that judge stuff going on, I haven't been able to play a whole lot, which is disappointing. But I did finally brew up a Standard deck--Naya Superfriends. Okay, it's pretty much the same deck I played last year, but with Sarkhan, and with Banishing Lights instead of Keening Apparitions. I ran it for the first time last night at Mox's win-a-box Standard event. Briefly, this is how the matches went:

Round 1: vs U/W Heroic. I won a very long, very grindy game 1, he won a quick game 2, and he won a quick game 3 (after I kept a very loose 7--six lands and Sarkhan). I think this matchup is generally okay for me, but I probably misplayed Banishing Light at one point (banishing the aura instead of the creature--playing around Gods Willing a bit too much). I suspect I need to bring in more removal, including enchantment removal.

Round 2: vs. Abzan Midrange. No Hornet Queens, no Whip of Erebos. So, just nice long good old fashioned grindy midrange Magic. Love it. :) I came out on top, but he did take me to three games (mostly because the quality of our draws was pretty lopsided in one game, and I misplayed around Abzan Charms I knew he had). Ajani was an all-star in this matchup. So many heroes.

Round 3: Bye. Blarg.

Round 4: vs. Mardu Midrange. Another nice grindy matchup. Unfortunately, he had too much hand disruption in the two games I lost, and I couldn't get much of anything going before Wingmate Roc took over the games.

I like the way the deck played out. Planeswalkers are pretty much the greatest thing ever. And there's nothing quite like getting some synergy going between them. I especially like going from Elspeth's +1 into Xenagos's +1 into some big-mana play. Sometimes Monstrous'ing some doodz, sometimes a giant Crater's Claws, sometimes just casting a bunch of bodies. Fun times.

The thing I didn't like about it was the lack of interaction at times. I'm running four Lightning Strikes, three Banishing Lights, and a Suspension Field as my main removal spells (plus Elspeth and Sarkhan, if you count those). And I sided out the Lightning Strikes against the midrange decks. So I need to find some other way to interact with those decks. I'm thinking maybe Hushwing Gryff to turn off Hornet Queen, Wingmate Roc, Siege Rhino, and Constellation in general. And maybe another Burn Away and/or End Hostilities out of the board.

I'm also very close to being able to play something in Legacy now. With the very generous compensation package I got from Jersey, I was able to get a bunch of store credit at Mox to get some dual lands and fetchlands to build some kind of BUG deck. I've been going back and forth between Nic Fit and Food Chain, and I'm not sure where I'm gonna land. I kinda want to do a hybrid/transformational list, but that might just be too cute. I'm leaning toward Nic Fit, because I love the idea of playing Midrange in Legacy.

Well that's it for now. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A New Season


Well, a new Standard season is upon us. Goodbye to the powerful Control staples and Devotion enablers of RTR block, and welcome to our new Midrange overlords of Tarkir.

I've been thinking about what to play ever since Khans started getting spoiled, and as much as I loved the idea of punching bears, it seemed like Temur wasn't quite as strong as some of the other potential archetypes Jeskai aggro/tempo or Abzan midrange or even Sultai control.

At first, I wanted to test out the old adage about aggro dominating new metagames (using speed to prey on sub-optimal decks), but then I started thinking about cards like Courser of Kruphix, Sylvan Caryatid, Anger of the Gods, Drown in Sorrow, and Siege Rhino. Seemed grim. The the first week or so of actual tournament results came in ... and oddly enough, Midrange does seem to be the overall theme so far. Then Frank Lepore (currently one of my favorite Magic personalities) posted an article about a sweet-looking Temur Superfriends deck, and I was sold.

Get in the sleeve, my new dragon-speaking friend. ^_^

So I sleeved up the following, and gave it a whirl at the latest Tuesday win-a-box at Mox Mania:

Land (25):
3 Forest
2 Mountain
3 Wooded Fooothills
4 Temple of Mystery
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Frontier Bivouac
4 Yavimaya Coast
1 Mana Confluence

Doodz (20):
4 Sylvan Caryatid
3 Rattleclaw Mystic
4 Courser of Kruphix
4 Savage Knuckleblade
3 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Surrak Dragonclaw

Superfriends (9):
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Nissa, Worldwaker

Spells (6):
4 Lightning Strike
1 Temur Charm
1 Crater's Claws

Sideboard (15):
3 Anger of the Gods
1 Clever Impersonator

1 Temur Ascendancy
3 Nylea's Disciple
1 Arc Lightning
1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Disdainful Stroke
2 Reclamation Sage
1 Temur Charm

And here's how the matches went:

Round 1: vs. Abzan Midrange.
Game one was a super long grindy affair of Coursers and Caryatids staring each other down. I got in a few hits with Knuckles, Sarkhan, and/or a Nissa-animated land, but he was able to monstrous a couple of Fleecemane Lions, and they put a stop to everything. My Xenagos was pumping out Satyr tokens, when it occured to me that maybe I should start ticking him up. Then I looked at my board of almost a dozen creatures and asked my opponent, "What's your life at?" "I'm at 2." "Oh...." So I attacked with all my guys and killed him. "Sorry, I wasn't slow rolling you, I'm just not used to paying that close attention to my opponents' life totals!" Game two was pretty uneventful. He got stuck on two lands, and I think I curved out with Knuckles and Sarkhan. Win, 2-0. Record: 1-0.

Round 2: vs. Sultai Midrange.
First game, he was able to match me threat-for-threat very effectively, and was able to tick up Kiora in the meantime. I felt like I had a shot at maybe sneaking past the Krakens to finish him off, but then had three kill spells in one turn. I don't remember how games two and three played out, but I'm pretty sure Knuckles was involved. Win, 2-1. Record: 2-0.

Round 3: vs. Jeskai Aggro/Tempo.
First game he landed a turn-two Seeker of the Way, which beat me down pretty hard. He Jeskai Charm'd my Courser blocker, and, well, tempo'd me out. Second game I landed a turn-three hasty Knuckles, which he had to blow a Sarkhan on. Then I played a second hasty Knuckles, finished off Sarkhan, and made him use two Lightning Strikes. Third game, I was match him threat-for-threat while beating down with Knuckles. Win, 2-1. Record: 3-0.

Round 4: vs. Mardu Midrange/Superfriends?
So I got to play against my friend who started his own blog/website last year (Red Deck Winning). He said he had never actually won the box before, so he wanted to go for it this time. Cool, I wouldn't mind doing it myself either. I'm not sure if I've actually won the box either .. I usually split.
Game one was the good one. The first few turns were spent matching threat-for-threat, which him killing my creatures and planeswalkers, and disrupting my otherwise excellent opening hand. I was able to get him down to about 10 life or so, when I ran out of threats. I went on the burn plan at that point, holding two Lightning Strikes and a Crater's Claws. However, he made me discard one of them. I fired off a Strike, but he took my Claws. I don't remember the exact sequence, but I think I got another threat in there and got him down to 3 life. He knew about the Strike, and couldn't do anything about it
Second game, I don't remember much about, just that he drew a lot of land, and I draw a lot of threats. A friendly handshake, and that was that. Win, 2-0. Record: 4-0.

Yeah! So I won the box. I felt kinda bad for my red friend, but he was very gracious about it. I would not have been disappointed at all had he won. Overall, I'm pretty sure he's actually a better player than I am. I think most of the time we get matched up, whatever I'm playing is better suited to match up with whatever he's playing. I tend towards grindy/midrange decks, and he tends toward aggro/burn decks. So it was pretty ironic this time that I won by aiming burn to his dome, after he kept answering my proactive threats.

Anyway, two major shoutouts:

/// !!! K N U C K L E S !!! \\\

  • Knuckles! Holy crap this card is good. It's like some kind of awesomely delicious combination of every card I loved in my Elephants deck from last year. Like Fanatic of Xenagos, but better. He's a huge body and a serious threat at a very manageable cost. Love him!
  • Sarkhan! What a great card. I haven't played with a planeswalker with this much utility in a long time. He's an immediate threat and an immediate answer in one card. Like a beautiful mashup of Mizzium Mortars and Stormbreath Dragon. Love it. The third one is definitely going into the maindeck.
And onto the more mundane, less-exciting analysis:

Is "bivouac" even a real word?

  • Mana base was all right for the most part, but can stand to be tweaked. First, I love scry-lands, but having 12 lands that always ETB tapped was a bit much. I wasn't really hurting for green sources, so maybe I can sub in a Shivan Reef for one of the Bivouacs. And 25 lands might be a bit much. I have lots of scry effects, seven mana dorks, and four Coursers. I should be able to hit 5+ mana pretty easily most games. I can probably cut one of the Temples.
  • Xenagos did a lot of work for me in my other Superfriends decks, but this one .. I felt like I wanted to be a little more proactive at four mana. Most of the time, crapping out a 2/2 dork every turn wasn't terribly exciting, and getting a bunch mana wasn't much better. I found myself siding him out a lot.
  • Chandra and Kiora, on the other hand, did a lot of work for me. I used Kiora's "two Explores" ability almost exclusively, and let Sarkhan and Knuckles be the actual threats. But having the option to let her play defense if I need to isn't the worst. Chandra fulfilled a similar role, except she was the more proactive one--helping me dig for gas to help win games. The two of them play similar roles, and I'm happy to have them. I might move the second Chandra into the maindeck, too.
  • Nissa wasn't too shabby either. She provided another way of generating threats in the grindy games. And she's an easy sideboard-out against faster decks. I'm not sure I'd want to add a second one, though. She's good, but if I had the option to play her or Sarkhan, Sarkhan will get the nod every time.
  • I'm not entirely sure what to do about the sideboard. I thought, "eh, some good cards against control, some good cards against aggro, some naturalize effects, and that random clone card." The 3x Angers are definitely staying in. I might consider going up to 4 if I start seeing more Aggro around. I never really wanted to bring the Reclamation Sages in against anything, so those might get cut. I like the idea of having Magma Spray, because sometimes you just need to kill an annoying varmint before it deals 8 points of damage to you over the first four turns. I never actually got to use Clever Impersonator, but I suspect that it's sweet enough to justify having two to bring in post-board.
  • Other cards to consider: Sagu Mauler as another top-end threat. Maybe something more proactive in the 4-cc slot.
All-in-all, I love the deck. Lots of fun to play, and with a new metagame, lots of room to grow and evolve over time. Hooray, Standard is fun again! :)

Well, I could go on and on about other stuff, but I think that's enough for now. I have a lot to write about regarding Judge stuff, but I'll save that for another entry.

Thanks for reading!