Thursday, January 30, 2014


Hi everybody!

So, more tweaks to the elephants deck, mostly to the sideboard, and some actual good results to report! Here's where I'm at:

24 Land

4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voice of Resurgence
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Loxodon Smiter
3 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Aurelia, the Warleader

1 Chained to the Rocks
1 Selesnya Charm
1 Magma Jet
4 Mizzium Mortars
3 Domri Rade
1 Chandra, Pyromaster

3 Shock
3 Unflinching Courage
1 Assemble the Legion
1 Hammer of Purphoros
2 Wear // Tear
3 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Boon Satyr
1 Selesnya Charm

Basically, I wanted more game against Aggro. Unflinching Courage was matchups against removal-light decks and/or where life totals matter. Shock is to help stem early aggression, and wanting to make sure that I always drew at least one in those matchups. So how'd it go? Read on!

Round 1: vs. Rakdos Midrange Brew. I played against a friend and fellow L1 Judge, and though I appreciated his brewer's spirit, it didn't seem to work out that well for him. In Game 1, he kept a bad hand (one land). In Game 2 I kept a bad hand and got my one threat Thoughtseize'd out. In Game 3, he just had way too many top-end things to do, and I had enough early aggression to knock him out before he could mount anything. Win, 2-1. Record: 1-0.

Round 2: vs. Mono-Blue Devotion. In the first game I got beat up pretty bad when he had enough unchecked early flying critters to fuel a huge Master of Waves. The second game, he overextended and allowed me to swoop in with (I believe) a Dragon and a hasty Mistcutter. Third game, he mull'd down to five, kept a hand with two Mutavaults, a Nykthos, and some blue action, but never drew an Island. He was dead by turn 4-5 after I curved out pretty well. Win, 2-1. Record: 2-0.

Attack for a million? Attack for a million again?
Round 3: vs. Mono-Green Devotion. I lost a sloppy game one after we both misplayed (he let me have a Voice token, and I sent my Dragon right into his Arbor Colossus without a way of finishing it off). Second game I don't remember much about, other than the ground was stalled out when Aurelia and probably a Dragon swooped in for like 14 points of damage out of nowhere. He wasn't expecting that. Third game, he had an early Polukranos, which I promptly Chain'd to a Rock of some sort. Then I landed a Domri, with no other action. I had a Dragon early, but it got Plummet'd. I suited up an Elephant with Unflinching Courage, and he doubple-blocked with his X-1 and Boon Satyr to trade. Eventually, Domri ultimate'd, and the second Domri found an Elephantile friend, who promptly suited up some Courage, and stomped for a million. Win, 2-1. Record: 3-0.

Choose your master. Some ethereal ghost priest thing, or ELEPHANTS.
Round 4: vs. U/W Control. God I love this matchup. So much back and forth and so much tight play required on both ends to come out with the win. I wouldn't be surprised, though, if the matchup is much less fun on the other side of the table. Well, game one went about as well as it usually does: not very. I stomped him down to about 8 life, when he ran me out of cards and started chaning Sphinxes. Game two I put him on the back foot almost immediately with Chandra, drawing tons of gas and making him answer threat after threat while he struggled to keep up. Aurelia ended up sealing the deal, I think with backup from some other random dooder. Third game came down to basically this: He -2'd Jace and flipped D-Sphere, Dissolve, and Blind Obedience. I thought about it. Fact? Or Fiction? I decided to give him two answers rather than the card that would single-handedly mess with one of my main lines of attack (hasty creatures). He took the two answers. I proceeded to beat him to death with the hasty dooders that he could neither Dissolve nor Detention. If he'd have taken that B.O., it probably would have been a different game. I think he was sitting on a Sphinx's that he could never cast because he kept having to answer my threats. If he would've had one turn of downtime, maybe he could have Sphinx'd and filled up on more Verdicts and D-Spheres. "What if..." Win, 2-1. Record: 4-0.

So, yeah! 4-0! My Round 4 opponent was a worthy opponent, though, so I offered him the prize split, even though tournament math prevented us from being able to intentionally draw. I think I ended up with something like 21 or 22 packs, which I banked in store credit. Not bad!

Yup, I'm still enjoying the deck. It's pretty satisfying when all my tweaking and philosophizing and practice pays off like this. Of course, if I'm honest with myself, I think I may have lucked out on a few things from my opponents: bad draws, play mistakes, unproven deck brews. But I'm still pretty happy with where the deck is at. I'm having lots of fun playing it. So I think I'll continue to do so.

With that, here's the obligatory philosophizing:
  • I'm sold on the Unflinching Courage. Suiting up some random dooder and tromping through for mega lifelink damage is pretty sweet.
  • I'm not as sure about Voice of Resurgence anymore. In theory, it's a no-brainer 2-for-1. But in practice, people are learning to play around it. I usually get a free dooder once every tournament, but I can't really rely on that. Answers like Last Breath don't make it as wrath-proof as it would otherwise be. Several of the best decks in the format don't really care about it. Maybe it's better as a sideboard card.
  • I've been siding out Elvish Mystics a lot lately. At least when I'm on the draw. It seems like curving out is much more important than slamming down a turn-two Elephant or Domri. But the Caryatids are awesome. They fix my otherwise very awkward mana, and turn-three Polukranos is VERY sweet. Also, +1'ing Domri and finding an Elf .... not that exciting. If I keep him in, I should also have something like Boon Satyr to make him not terrible.
  • Aurelia. Card is such a blowout when I can set it up. So much damage out of nowhere. "What's your life at? 18? Okay, I think I got this one." Maybe I should go up to two. But I never want to see more than one, and I never want to see it in a hand with a bunch of other big stuff and no way of casting it.
  • S-Charm works as a spicy 1- or 2-of. In the mono-green matchup, I completely messed up his combat when he swung in with Arbor Colossus, Nylea, and Mistcutter, and I exiled his Colossus to turn off devotion and just take 4 from the Mistcutter. I feel like I should have it in against other big threats, like Desecration Demon and the Gods. I do look forward to Revoke Existence once BNG drops, though.
Speaking of BNG, there's a new set coming out! New toys! New Elephants! Here are some that I'm considering:

God of the Elephants! This could actually help shore up my game one against Control somewhat. Making a topdecked Smiter a 8/8 with haste? Seems pretty good. I bet in other matchups, I could turn on his devotion once in a while too. Also works with Domri's +1. Pretty much an auto-include.

Utility Elephant. A 2/4 body on turn three isn't the worst. Blocks most aggro creatures pretty effectively. Gaining life against them isn't the worst either. It also has possible interesting connotations with Domri, Chandra, and the scrylands. I like the intangibles on this one. She'll be in my 75 somewhere. Might even be 4-of maindeck.

Tribute Elephant? This guy looks great, if only the choice were mine. However. He's always going to be a 4/4 for three mana at some point. I guess the question is, am I okay having a 3/3 if a 4/4 with haste isn't what I want on turn three? But then there's another question. What if I cut white, and run this guy instead of Smiter?
King of Elephants? This guy is obviously awesome on his own. But does he fit in my deck? I suspect not. I suspect most of the time the cat tokens are going to be just random dorks that sit around and don't do much. They'd work well with Voice tokens, but I can't really count on that happening much. I think I'll pass for now.

I'll probably tweak a few other slots, like utility spells and whatnot. Probably Revoke Existence. Maybe another Chained to the Rocks. Between that and with Temple of Plenty coming, I can probably phase out the singleton Magma Jet. We'll see.

So what else is going on? I brewed up a sweet Dimir Control deck for Pauper, but it didn't do great this last weekend. So I'll wait until I shore it up a little better before I unleash it to this here blog.

This weekend is the BNG prerelease, which I'm going to be very active at. I'm playing in one, and judging at three others. I'm pretty excited for it, but I think I'll be exhausted by the time Sunday evening rolls around. But I'm looking forward to it. We'll see how this Limited format plays out. It'll be interesting, for sure. I just kinda wish I had more time to be able to play Theros Draft more. I only did one draft, and it was pretty casual. Oh well.

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

Monday, January 20, 2014

Braving the PTQ

Hi everybody!
"Hi Prof. Shine!"

So, I brought the Herd with me to the PTQ this weekend. And ... I pretty much bombed. I lost my first three (one in epically hilarious mana-screwed fashion), but I was having fun so I kept playing. Then I started winning. Then I found myself playing in Round 9 for three packs ... and I lost. So I finished 5-4. Not bad, I was hoping for better. Here's what happened, more or less (I don't think I can remember every match, but I'll try).

Plus bloodrush? Owch.
Round 1: vs. R/G Aggro. First match, I got paired against another Mox regular. And I got stomped by his Armed // Dangerous shenanigans. It seems like maybe my post-board strategy for Aggro wasn't quite up to snuff. Loss. Record: 0-1.

So many Clerics....
Round 2: vs. W/u Aggro. Another match against a Mox regular. :/ This time, I took him to three games, and we went to time. I was close to stabilizing, but he just had too many little doodz, and I was at too low a life total to start to turn things around. Yeah, my sideboard strategy needs work. More to come on that. Loss. Record: 0-2.

Round 3: vs. Murkan Control. Game one I mull'd to 5 and kept a hand of: Mountain, mana dork, mana dork, Magma Jet, other spell. Ugh. Well if I draw any second land I'm probably okay. 7 turns later, I have a Mountain, and a graveyard full of spells, and he has Elspeth. Game two I mull'd once or twice again, and actually drew pretty decently. Unfortunately, I was so excited to be able to play spells, that I played right into his Ratchet Bomb that killed my Domri and Hammer. I think I drew like pewp after that. Loss. Record: 0-3.

Maybe I should have waited to play my Smiter.
Round 4: vs. B/R brew. Nice enough guy, but his deck was kinda janky. He had some discard shenanigans, but not nearly enough to hold back the herd's persistence. Win. Record: 1-3.

Round 5: vs. RUG. I don't remember much about this match. I think he didn't really get much going, and I had Elephants. Win. Record: 2-3.

Flying Wurms, o noes! :/
Round 6: vs. Selesnya. Some tokens, some non-tokens. Kinda aggro, but with the midrange explosiveness/reach that Ajani gives. Pretty good match, close, back & forth. But ultimately, I was able to stabilize against him to let my Elephants take over and bring him down. We lamented the suckiness of the Karametra (the new W/G God), and the general lack in general of support for tokens strategies in the current Standard environment. Win. Record: 3-3.

Gary. Yeah.
Round 7: vs. B/w/u Devotion. I had him on Esper Control, so I boarded accordingly after I stomped him game one. Second game I saw the Pack Rats and Gary and ... yeah, let me re-sideboard plzkthx. Game three I chuckled when I saw what I forgot to side out ... Hammer of Purphoros. But hey, maybe this won't be so bad. So I play it, and start stomping him with hasty Elephants. He couldn't get much of a board presence going and conceded shortly thereafter. Win. Record: 4-3.

Why did they have to reprint this? :/
Round 8: vs. U/W Control. He introduced himself and commented on my SCG Judge playmat, then he mentioned something about doing commentary for them. Oh yeah, I thought his name looked familiar! I complimented him and his organization's quality tournaments, while having a crazy epic match. First game, he got kinda land screwed, and I had way too much pressure for him to keep up. Second game, he kept up with me very well, matching me answer-for-threat, and eventually chaining Sphinxes. I thought maybe I could pull out of it and/or go to time, but ... yeah. So we played a hyper fast game three with about 5 minutes left, and again I had a lot of early pressure and he got land screwed. Fun match. Good guy. Win. Record: 5-3.

First to monstrous this guy wins!
Round 9: vs. G/R Midrange. Okay, by this point, I was pretty tired and loopy, and frankly, ready to go home. But hey, gotta battle for those three packs! IN IT 2 WIN IT!!/ Or something? Well anyway, I kept some marginal hands, and his monsters were bigger than my monsters and I got blown out by Mortars and a giant Polukranos and f- this s- I'm going home. Loss. Record: 5-4.

Well despite opening and ending the day with a some bad losses, I had a lot of fun. I got to mingle with my Mox friends and share bad beat stories and just in general have a great time interacting with the community. And playing Magic was fun too. Even the losses were either close matches, or comically bad. And winning 5 in a row was pretty sweet. Hooray Magic! \o/

So, what change(s) do I need to make? Well, I'm gonna start here:

Because elephants should TRAMPLE, amirite?

I've been noticing that the this Standard format is a "big life swing" format. I mean, it's being shaped by a common 5-mana creature that drains life. It's probably time I did something similar. At least two of my Aggro opponents commented about how much the lifegain can swing a game in one's favor, and +2/+2 and trample can make a beefy dood into a huge threat. Yeah, that's what I need. Too many times, I've started to stabilize against them, found myself unable to counterattack, and die to a topdecked burn spell or Brave the Elephants. Imma try it.

But ... Honestly, I think 9 rounds of trying to compete with this deck has worn on me. It might be time to look elsewhere. I have Mono-Blue built, and who knows what goodies Born of the Gods may bring. We'll see!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

So Many Elephants

Hi everybody! "Hi Prof. Shine!"

Well, the holidays are behind us, and I'm getting back into my normal [Magical] routine. For Standard, I'm continuing to rock the Elephants. I've made a couple of tweaks, and right now I'm right about here:

Land (24):
4 Temple Garden
4 Stomping Ground
4 Sacred Foundry
3 Temple of Triumph
3 Temple of Abandon
4 Forest
2 Mountain

Creatures (25):
4 Elvish Mystic
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Loxodon Smiter
2 Boon Satyr
3 Polukranos, World Eater
3 Stormbreath Dragon
1 Aurelia, the Warleader

Spells (11):
1 Magma Jet
1 Chained to the Rocks
4 Mizzium Mortars
3 Domri Rade
1 Chandra, Pyromaster
1 Warleader's Helix

Sideboard (15):
2 Boros Reckoner
2 Fiendslayer Paladin
2 Wear // Tear
2 Assemble the Legion
3 Mistcutter Hydra
1 Hammer of Purphoros
2 Shock
1 Scavenging Ooze

And here's how the matches went last night:

"Mountains come out of the sky and they [punch you in the face]." - Yes (paraphrased)
Round 1: vs. R/g Devotion. I wasn't terribly thrilled to get paired against this right away, but it seemed to go well in the first game. She didn't have much action in the first few turns. A Hammer turn three, followed up by Purphoros turn four. Okay, cool. Then, Burning-Tree, Burning-Tree, Ash Zealot, Hammer, all with Purphoros triggers, and swing for a bunch. Owch. D: I picked off some of her doodz, but a Boros Reckoner finished me off. Second game, I landed some early elephants and she got stuck on three land. Third game, she quickly kept a 7-card hand, hit all her land drops, and did a lot of scrying. So ... I was a bit concerned. I played it pretty safe, holding on to burn and waiting for the critters to start coming out. But .. they never did. So I bonk'd her to death with an Elephant or two. No Nykthos explosions, no Purphoros shenanigans ... just a few random dudes and a few random burn spells. Well, it's a win! Win, 2-1. Record: 1-0.

Remember this guy? Yeah, I don't think I can beat him.
Round 2: vs. Esper Midrange. Sweet deck. Some early aggression, some disruption, some reach, and some synergy. Kinda like the old Aristocrats deck, but .. not really. Anyway, this was a tough matchup. I got a bit color-screwed the first game when I didn't hit a white source of mana until turn 4 (with Chained to the Rocks and Loxodon Smiter sitting in my hand). Then Imposing Sovereign hindered my "Blockers" plan. Oh well. So I sided into my aggro configuration, with more burn, cheaper creatures. And that's when I saw the Esper deck's Plan B: Control. I played into not one, but TWO Supreme Verdicts, and when the dust settled, he had an Obzedat, and I had nothing. Loss, 0-2. Record: 1-1.

Hasty pro-blue elephant that can't be countered? Yes please!
Round 3: vs. American Control. Holy crap do I love playing this deck against Control. I lost game one to an unchecked Assemble the Legion, but games two and three, I showed him my powerful post-board plan: "Deal with this, or die." I love it when every card I play draws a response of "Oh, [swear word]." He was able to Pith Domri in both post-board games, but he couldn't stop all of my different angles of attack. I'm pretty sure most of my sideboard cards played some role in this match, including my getting a sweet sweet 2-for-1 with Wear // Tear (Pithing Needle and Assemble the Legion). Win, 2-1. Record: 2-1.

Not awesome against Jace, AOT, but if they don't have Jace, then she and a random unblocked  elephant will just win.
Round 4: vs. Esper Control. I offered the prize split, but he declined. Okay, more free packs for me. :) Well, I won the first game when he failed to draw enough answers to deal with all my aggression. I quickly sided into my "mono-ridiculous-must-deal-with-threats" configuration and prepared for an easy 2-0 win. Unfortunately, he actually had answers to all my threats! Domri got D-Sphere'd. Chandra got Thoughtseize'd. Mistcutters and Elemental tokens (Elephantals?) got Verdict'd. Then he started chaining Sphinxes and ... yeah. Couldn't keep up. Game three, though, he went to 16 to Thoughtseize me turn one and found: Land x3, Smiter, Chandra, Hammer, Aurelia. He took the Hammer. I played out a Caryatid, a Smiter, and topdecked the 5th land to finish him off with Aurelia. We played a few more for fun, and they mostly played out the same way. I congratulated him, though, on being the first Control player to beat me in a post-board game. Win, 2-1. Record: 3-1.

So yeah! That was good enough for 4th place (out of 23). I got 8 packs ($18 store credit) for my efforts. I paid $11.50 for the event, so ... hey, I came out ahead! I'm a professional Magic player! Okay, not really.

Anyway, the obligatory post-mortem/debrief:

  • So glad I added the 4th Mortars in. Such a good card. I don't think I overloaded it much last night, but I was more than okay just killing a Soldier of the Pantheon with it.
  • Shock out of the sideboard was pretty sweet. It kills a surprisingly large number of creatures in this format.
  • I was actually kind of impressed with Scavenging Ooze. Against the red deck, he gained me a little life and became a pretty serious threat. I might try that out in the 'board instead of Fiendslayer (which I still have yet to see in an actual game). I even brought it in against Control as another threat (especially post-wrath).
  • I really wish I could have gotten in some matches against Mono-Blue and Mono-Black. I think I'm okay against Mono-Blue, but I'm not at all confident about Mono-Black. I just don't think I can beat a sequence of Underworld > Desecration > Gary. Or even multiple Desecrations. It makes me want to try out Selesnya Charm, or more Chained to the Rocks. Because ... ugh.
  • Speaking of other cards I wanna try out .. Peak Eruption. Several times over the last month or two, I've been thinking it would be really sweet against these Red/Boros decks. But I really don't wanna dilute my creature base any further.
  • Speaking of which, I really want to find room for that 4th Domri. I can probably take out that Helix. But I've been thinking of maybe trying out a Sc'Ooze in that slot. But the extra removal is pretty sweet, too. Hmmm.
  • Actually now that I think about it, Sc'Ooze could be good against Mono-Black, too, for nullifying the Whip-value tactic.
  • Very minor point: Far too often, I found myself wanting white mana and having to wait longer than I would normally like to get it. I think I'm going to swap a Temple of Abandon out for a 4th Temple Triumph.
So yeah. Elephants! I like this deck a lot. It's fun, it's winning, and there's still room for improvement. Of course, Born of the Gods is coming, and that's likely to shake up the format somewhat. I'm not sure about my specific deck yet other than [obviously] adding the W/G scryland. But for Elephants .. I'm not sure yet. We'll see what Xenagos and Karametra bring us. :)

Not much else going on with other fronts yet. I haven't gotten to play Pauper lately, but I think I'm going to try Dimir Control next chance I get. Probably in 2 weeks. I Judge'd at a PTQ in Green Bay last weekend, and I had a great time doing it. I talked to the HJ about testing for L2 (his wife is an L3), and hopefully I can set that in motion sooner than later. There seem to be quite a few more Judge opportunities coming up over the next few months. So that's exciting. :)

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