All posts by Dillon

Top Picks in Rise of the Eldrazi Draft

The Prerelease was very eventful. I started with draft, and first picked Joraga Treespeaker because to me green seems like the most powerful color in Eldrazi limited. My second pick was Ondu Giant, and once third pick came around I knew it was a Prerelease: Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre was in the back of my pack. From there I got a few Smite, an Oust and Guard Duty to combat the Eldrazi. I ended with two Skittering Invasion, Artisan of Kozilek, a bunch more ramp in the form of two Overgrown Battlement, two Joraga Treespeaker and Growth Spasm. My back up plan, if I wasn’t ramping into a turn 4 Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre was just beat down. Dawnglare Invoker and Wildheart Invoker were absolutely ridiculous. Needless to say I went undefeated in four rounds of swiss.

What I took from the draft were top five picks for commons and uncommons in each color:

White:

1. Dawnglare Invoker

2. Knight of Cliffhaven

3. Oust

4. Kabira Vindicator

5. Guard Duty

Dawnglare Invoker breaks through stalemates, flies, and makes an aggressive strategy viable. It is how you can stop those blasted Eldrazi from attacking with Annihilator, and making the green decks unable to ramp with Joraga Treespeaker and Overgrown Battlement, so tap them down during their upkeep. I honestly feel that Dawnglare Invoker might be the most important limited card in this format.

Knight of Cliffhaven is the best aggressive creature in white. You could probably make an argument for Caravan Escort, which I might switch out for later down the road, but I have a feeling that Knight of Ciffhaven flying over early turn walls, and being out of Last Kiss and Staggershock range is more important.

Oust is amazing at dealing with Eldrazi, fully leveled creatures, early ramp creatures, creatures with Totem armor on them, and pretty much everything. It is the best soft removal white has, and might edge up to second place down the road.

Kabira Vindicator has a huge toughness, and makes your Eldrazi spawn relevant attackers. He sits out of Flame Slash range very quickly, and hard even to kill with Induce Despair.

Guard Duty is an interesting choice for top 5 but I think if you don’t have an answer for an Eldrazi you should pretty much scoop em up. It does combo well with Grotag Seige-Runner, which is kind of cool.

Smite and Hyena Umbra are both honorable mentions. Perhaps even Demystify as there are a lot of important enchantments.

Blue:

1. Regress

2. Enclave Cryptologist

3. Narcolepsy

4. See Beyond

5. Domestication

Regress is tempo setter, combat trick, Totem armor disruptor, level resetter, and a catch all card for blue. It’s 2U casting cost is easily splashable and a great first pick for blue.

Enclave Cryptologist is a looter in a bomb oriented format, with “haste” on turn two after playing her on turn one. She eventually becomes a straight up Archivist and is incredibly powerful. Also fairly easy to splash as you only really need one island.

Narcolepsy is an answer to an Eldrazi hitting board. Also punishes Totem armor on creatures, and all around locks a creature out of the game.

See Beyond is like a looter effect but allows you to shuffle your unwanted Eldrazi spells in the early hand back into the library for later use. It helps dig to your key spells, which blue will usually be a support color due it’s weak creatures and spells.

The only reason Domestication is in over Hada Spy Patrol is because it needs an answer for Dawnglare Invoker. The power of Dawnglare Invoker is really that large.

An honorable mention is Sea Gate Oracle, as he might be better than See Beyond in certain decks, but probably not most.

Black:

1. Nirkana Cutthroat

2. Induce Despair

3. Vendetta

4. Suffer the Past

5. Bloodrite Invoker

Black is a difficult color to rank due to its tremendously underpowered spells. It has a couple good removal pieces, but really lacks in good creatures. It mainly excels in its bombs at rare/mythic rare status. Nirkana Cutthroat is the most  efficient black creature the color has. Probably the next creatures in line are Zof Shade and Null Champion which isn’t saying much. It isn’t bogged down by big walls due to it’s Deathtouch, and it can trade with big ol’ Eldrazi when it is on defense.

Induce Despair is a bit situational due to the creature needing to be in the hand clause. With an Eldrazi in your hand, it doesn’t make it such dead weight. Also, it gets around Totem armor by giving the creature -X/-X instead of dealing damage.

Vendetta is good at killing little creatures at instant speed in response to leveling or even Totem armor. It might not be better than Induce Despair the more I play, but I like where it is positioned right now.

Suffer the Past is an interesting variant on X spells. It can certainly end games pretty quickly, and at instant speed to boot. Right now I like this card a lot, but it may drop over time, I’m slightly on the fence, but I like it a lot.

Bloodrite Invoker is an invoker that ends the game very quickly. Like most invokers, they are great in stalemates.

Black isn’t a very deep color at all, with very little variance in their spells and not a lot of tricks, just rares that are very color specific and incredibly powerful.

Red:

1. Flame Slash

2. Staggershock

3. Brimstone Mage

4. Heat Ray

5. Traitorous Instinct

Flame Slash kills nearly everything in the format. I like Staggershock as a burn spell a lot too, but I think what it doesn’t kill is really annoying, although both are tremendously powerful. Staggershock can hit players where Flame Slash cannot. Creatures have bigger butts in this format.

Brimstone Mage is a tank. He gains a formidable power and toughness, and decimates creatures and opponents. He might be the best pinger of all time.

Heat Ray with a lot of mana can kill nearly any creature at instant speed. It also deals with bigger Eldrazi later in the game. It can be nearly any size and doesn’t take a lot of red mana investment. Very splashable.

Traitorous Instinct grabs Eldrazi, and clears the way of blockers. It is a Threaten that can put some serious pressure on the opponent. I like it a lot.

Green:

1. Joraga Treespeaker

2. Beastbreaker of Bala Ged

3. Pelakka Wurm

4. Wildheart Invoker

5. Kozileks Predator

Joraga Treespeaker ramps you so incredibly quickly, and you never even have to level it past the first level. The way it comes down on turn one and recycles the level investment you put into it the next turn by producing GG is remarkable. Five mana on turn three with only one spell played. The beauty of levelers.

Beastbreaker of Bala Ged is aggression and efficiency all in one. Tramplers are important in a format of chump blocking. Also, being able to dish out four damage to terminate walls is incredible.

Pelakka Wurm is a tremendous creature, with usefulness after usefulness. The 7 life and the 7/7 body gives you a great stabilizing card. The trample gives you aggression. The card lets dig to more spells after it hits the graveyard. It is the dream wurm for green.

Wildheart Invoker makes creatures into huge attackers with trample. They way he breaks stalemates is phenomenal. Even a lousy Eldrazi spawn can become a 5/6 trampler. A four mana, 4/3 is also nothing to scoff at. Wildheart Invoker is astounding for green to punish the opponent with.

Kozileks Predator makes two additional eldrazi spawn tokens when he enters, which allows for ramping, and blocking. The beauty of him is he is a 3/3, so he is fairly aggressive, and he creates board presence very early.

Rise of Eldrazi is an interesting draft format for sure, but unfortunately it isn’t very exciting. I can’t wait for M11 now. After a few drafts I feel like certain colors have little to no depth, and others just have everything. Also, losing to an invoker is probably the most common death.

Happy earth day!

Worldwake’s affect on Standard decks

Worldwake is an interesting set with a few tricks up its sleeve when it looks onto the Standard scene. We have some powerful cards that are sure to make it into every archetype available. Lets look at Jund first.

Jund became the most powerful deck when Zendikar first pushed Lorwyn and company out of the way. Jund only had to use a single card, Verdant Catacombs, from the Zendikar block. It was easy to build, and had so much raw power from cascade that decks could not compete with the card advantage. At Worlds, players were replacing Putrid Leech with Rampant Growth to help fix their mana, and ramp up to their more powerful cards such as Broodmate Dragon and Siege-Gang Commander. Now, Jund gets to look at the new face of mana ramping: Explore.

exploreImagine your turn 4 Bloodbraid Elf cascading into Explore. I like that it allows me to draw a card before I play my land, so I get a chance to draw a land that I might prefer to put into play. Explore will be a go-to mana ramp spell for decks that run off Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, or are trying to just play Warp World. It is a fantastic choice for many different decks other than Jund.

Speaking of lands, Jund gets the option of a couple new ones.

ragingravineRaging Ravine plays nicely with Explore, where it wouldn’t with Rampant Growth as it is a non-basic land and can’t be tutored up. Raging Ravine is the perfect example of how these new manlands are so powerful. They fix your mana and can be a threat at any moment. My friend Seneca pointed out a trick with this land as you can pay the 2RG multiple times to stack the “Whenever this creature attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on it” ability, so when it does end up attacking it will be granted multiple +1/+1 counters. This land can surely get out hand pretty quickly. The other beautiful thing about these lands other than being able to help your land and being almost no investment in a reusable creature resource, is that it will be living through Day of Judgment and will be unaffected by things like Sleep and Oblivion Ring. These lands will almost be invaluable in every deck they rest in.

Vampires is the pet tribe of Wizard’s right now. They want it to succeed, and they want it to be a powerful deck. With Worldwake they got their wishes. Vampires get access to a plethora of different spells one of them being Urge to Feed.

urgetofeedThis will be competing with the already powerful removal spells Disfigure and Tendrils of Corruption, but I see this replacing Disfigure in nearly all Vampire main decks. There is another removal spell that is returning from a hiatus nearly as long as I have been playing this game, its name is Smother. Both Urge to Feed and Smother are powerful cards, but Urge to Feed can do more relevant things such as kill Bloodbraid Elf, Ranger of Eos and even bring Baneslayer Angel down to size so that Vampire Nighthawk is able to tango with the big flier in town. The side to Urge to Feed that also interests me is its ability to pump an entire flock of Vampires. I can foresee turns where the Vampire player cracks a Marsh Flats and bring back their two Bloodghast from their graveyard, plays Urge to Feed on your Emeria Angel and pumps their entire crew of creatures getting ready for an alpha strike of their newly resurrected, now 3/2 Bloodghasts and a 3/4 Vampire Nighthawk. Its potential to turn combat so one-sided is what I love about this card. Smother on the other hand has fewer targets, but can hit things Urge to Feed can’t kill. For instance Smother can kill any token, be it a Broodmate Dragon token or a 5/5 Quest for the Gravelord zombie token. Smother can also hit the new manlands, which is pretty awesome. They both have their shining moments, but I foresee Urge to Feed being the crowd favorite by a long shot.

Another spell Vampires have in their clutches is Mires Toll. It is more of a controlling card but sure to be a hit among a lot of players.

mirestollIt reminds me of a middle ground between Ravens Crime and Blackmail, with a bit of Mind Sludge in there. I am still kind of up in the air about if it will beat out Duress, I’ll have to play with it a bit and see. What I do like about it is as long as they have cards in their hand, it will always hit, unlike Duress. It can also hit land, which might or might not be relevant. I do like the card though, it has a lot of power.

Vampire players get another gem in Worldwake, one that I think will be popular at first, but end up as a two-of in Vampires lists. Her name is Kalastria Highborn.

kalastriahighborn

Kalastira Highborn is obviously very synergistic with Bloodghast with perhaps even an Eldrazi Monument mixed in there. She gives the Vampire players a bit of reach, but she with be battling with Vampire Hexmage as the ‘other’ two drop to Bloodghast and you obviously don’t cut any of him for Kalastra Highborn as they are nearly meant to work together. Vampire Hexmage having first strike is sometime invaluable, but in some matchups it might not even be relevant. I see Vampire Hexmage getting the full boat maindeck slot while Kalastria Highborn perhaps comes out of the board. Her “put into a graveyard” clause sometimes does not as trigger as much as the Vampire player would like due to Celestial Purge and Path to Exile picking off Bloodghasts and Vampire Nocturnus‘ left and right. That all being said, Kalastria Highborn is a powerful card in matchups like red deck wins, where cards like Bloodghast are nearly useless. She also has a cool synergy with Bloodchief Ascension that almost cannot be ignored.

White decks of all shapes and sizes get some creatures that, for the most part, are highly efficient. Lets look at Hada Freeblade first.

hadafreeblade

This is the friend Kazandu Blademaster has been looking for. These two guys will work together with Honor of the Pure to create a serious army within the first few turns. Also, they are both Soldiers allowing Veteran Swordsmith to perhaps pump them into the red zone. Not to mention Ranger of Eos can pickup Hada Freeblade and bring him into the battle, along with Elite Vanguard and Akrasan Squire. There is another card that allies are going to enjoy, and coming in at instant speed is Join the Ranks.

jointheranksJoin the Ranks is a card that will usually be a blowout in Limited, but in constructed it can be a house too. Getting multiple triggers on allies at instant speed very powerful. Imagine having a Turntimber Ranger on the battlefield and then playing Join the Ranks as your opponent attacks you. Turntimber Ranger will get two +1/+1 counters, he will put two 2/2 wolf tokens into play and then you will get your two 1/1 allies. That is an army at instant speed. Lets look at Hada Freeblade and Kazandu Blademaster both getting two +1/+1 counters, probably becoming a 4/5 and a 4/4 respectively, and you are getting two 1/1 allies. That is without an Honor of the Pure on the field. It is a powerful card, but the only problem with it is that it competes with Ranger of Eos at the four casting cost space, and we already Conquerors Pledge. It has its work cut out for it, that is for sure.

White also gets Admonition Angel.

8bjdgc5ifh_EN

She is able to Oblivion Ring targets just from a landfall trigger, and has a steady 6/6 body for six mana to boot. If you are facing down an Admonition Angel and you can’t find removal, I feel sorry for you. There are going to be games where she comes down, you either Tendrils of Corruption her or perhaps you Terminate her. Then as you pass your turn, during their upkeep their Emeria, the Sky Ruin just brings her back. The mono white control decks are going to be cutting their Felidar Sovereigns and playing with yet another angel.

White decks get Silver Knight 2.0 in the form of Kor Firewalker.

korfirewalkerKor Firewalker is a creature that not only shuts down an entire archetype in Standard, but will be reaching his way across the formats. He makes Hellspark Elemental utterly useless, Ball Lightning just hit for a mere 3, and makes Earthquake cry. With his built in Dragons Claw, which is already in a few sideboards, you get the body of a soldier, and a seriously powerful sideboard card. Jund decks can kill it with Maelstrom Pulse and maybe block it with Putrid Leech. I see Smothers sliding into the Jund sideboard to kill this guy. The Boros mirror is going to be a fight to see who gets him out first. He isn’t exactly metagame warping, but his presence is sure to create a lot of waves.

Red also get some good cards. It might be all for not because of Kor Firewalker, but we shall see. The first card is Chain Reaction.

6mvou0qxyd_ENI nearly see this as a red Day of Judgment in some circumstances. Against Boros, obviously Pyroclasm is almost as useful, but it can kill Kor Skyfisher most of the time. Against Elf decks where they are all pumped up over 3 toughness, Chain Reaction can do some serious damage. I like because it can very easily do 3-4 damage to everything, which isn’t that common.

Next up, red gets Dragonmaster Outcast.

dragonmasteroutcastA new, and more powerful variant of Scute Mob, this gal can give you a board dominating presence in no time. Unfortunately, she has to live long enough for that to happen. Seeing as how every removal spell in the format can kill it, it isn’t going to be living long. It suffers the same problem as Elvish Piper, powerful effect, but too vulnerable. Obviously Dragonmaster Outcast has an advantage of only costing one mana, and she can be tutored up with Ranger of Eos, but at the same time, I just don’t see her being beyond a one-of card that you might get late game. She is good at what she does, but isn’t good at surviving.

Red got very few good cards, but the last one I think that will make some Red control deck happy is Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs.

kazuultyrantKazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs is the type of card that is costed just right. At five mana you can justify him almost all day long. Red doesn’t really get any good five mana spells other than Chandra Nalaar. The Tyrant and her seem like you could pair it with aforementioned Chain Reaction and you might just have a red control deck under your belt. Perhaps even some Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle and some burn spells. I think Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs has just enough board presence and power to see play. I’m sure whoever builds this deck isn’t going to enjoy seeing Kor Firewalker though.

Eldrazi Elves got a few powerful cards, the big one is Joraga Warcaller.

joragawarcallerThis is what Eldrazi Elves have been waiting for. He has lots of synergy with Oran-rief, the vastwood, he is an Elf, and he makes their army of Elves really large, really quickly. The problem with cards like Elvish Archdruid is you usually just don’t have something to dump all that mana into. Joraga Warcaller is the guy who can take all that extra mana and make it worth your while. There are going to be those games where you just go Llanowar Elves into Elvish Archdruid and from there you can just play out your hand. Perhaps you just play Nissa Revane, summon up a Nissas Chosen, and then tap your Elvish Archdruid for GGG and get your Joraga Warcaller like another Elvish Champion on the table. There is also the ability to not play Nissa Revane and just dump it all into Joraga Warcaller. He is the type of card where he is sometimes ‘just’ an Elvish Champion but there are also times where is like an Elvish God, giving all your other Elves +5/+5. A cool trick I see is where you play Joraga Warcaller, as he comes into play he pumps your army, then after you attack some guys and your opponent blocks, you can tap your Oran-rief, the vastwood to put a +1/+1 counter on your Joraga Warcaller to pump them all a little more. Seems like something you can only really pull off a couple times against one person, but throughout a tournament could catch lots of people off guard. Once you do it though, be sure get back to me on how surprised they were.

Another card that has some serious board presence, and works well with Oran-rief, the vastwood is Bestial Menace.

bestialmenaceFor five mana you can get six power worth of guys, and they are all green. Also, the three different named tokens are Maelstrom Pulse proof, so it isn’t shut down like a Conquerers Pledge would be. I remember Cloudgoat Ranger seeing a lot play back in his day, although that is a bit different as they put Kithkin soldiers into play and they were all pumped by Wizened Cenn, but nowadays we have Oran-rief, the vastwood to pump them all. Although, we don’t have Windbrisk Heights to put this spell underneath. Either way, times have changed, but Bestial Menace is still a powerful card either way you look at it. There isn’t much else Green would rather spend five mana on. You could argue Ant Queen but Bestial Menace is harder to handle with removal, and if next turn you are looking to play Eldrazi Monument then Bestial Menace is going to deal more damage, faster, unless you have a bunch of mana to spill into Ant Queen, but at that point, you are probably winning anyway.

Control decks have mustered some power in Worldwake, too. First off is their go-to draw spell Treasure Hunt.

treasurehuntThis is one of the cards I am really excited to play with alongside Ponder. Going first turn Ponder and then setting up a beneficial Treasure Hunt turn is going to almost be backbreaking for your opponent. Control decks are notorious for running 25-27 land as it is, so they are the ones who will be getting the most bang for their buck with Treasure Hunt. The library manipulation will go a long way for these hunters. This spell would be great with Brainstorm.

In comes, Jace, the Mind Sculptor.

jacemindsculptorHis ability to Brainstorm every turn without losing loyalty is incredibly powerful. Then, when things get rough, he can start Unsummoning to create an easier board for you to find your Day of Judgment or Essence Scatter to deal with that nasty Baneslayer Angel or Knight of the Reliquary. Perhaps, you are in a stalemate so you begin building up loyalty, deciding what your opponent will draw with his +2 ability. Also, like most Planeswlakers, his ultimate ability is usually game winning, and Jace’s is no different. Exiling their library and replacing it with their hand will almost certainly win you the game. This is an incredibly powerful Planeswalker, and deserves to see a lot of play in anything running blue. If people are talking about how the old Jace Beleren came down a turn earlier, just show them Everflowing Chalice.

chaliceThis can come down on turn two for the control deck and push out a turn three Jace, the Mind Sculptor kind of like old times. Everflowing Chalice doesn’t stop there though, it can get you to Martial Coup mana on turn five if you play it on turn four. Unfortunately it isn’t Mind Stone with the ability to draw you a card, but it can help cast some really powerful spells much sooner than certain decks would have ever seen. I see Everflowing Chalice finding its way into many decks that are more top heavy. Also, it is important to note that how it produces mana is by having charge counters on it. You can remove those with Vampire Hexmage. Also, if you want to stop your opponent from removing those counters you can set a Pithing Needle on “Vampire Hexmage” and it won’t be able to activate. I also see Jund and Naya decks perhaps packing Vithian Renegades in their sideboard to destroy their opponent’s Everflowing Chalices. It will be an important card for the control player.

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on Worldwake. Have fun at the Prerelease this weekend.

-Dillon

Embracing M10 rule changes

It was 3am and I had just got home and plopped on my bed. I turned on my macbook and began a quick check of gmail and my daily sites. In a sleepy haze I began reading the article on the changes coming in M10 at the wizard’s site. 

Changes sweep through the R&D department like spring cleaning. Aaron Foresythe’s article on these changes was like a tangent about all the imperfections in the game that they had let slide for so long. Mulligans, tokens ownership, Lifelink, Damage on the stack, mana burn; it really was just a long time coming.

The real kicker here is damage on the stack. I personally embrace the direction combat is taking. I had a very long discussion with a great magic player I know who is debating whether or not to quit the game. He told me that the removal of damage on the stack is tearing away the skill of the game. He then brought up Sakura Tribe Elder and Mogg Fanatic, how they are dead and how there are no more tricks. I admit that they got a lot worse, but at the same time, they weren’t filled with skill either. I know people that when they first learned how to do tricks with damage on the stack, they felt like the best players.

Think about Mogg Fanatic for a second, isn’t the play always just “damage on? sac him and ping you/that for 1″. He was just a one trick pony if you really think about it. He was almost never killing the thing he was blocking, but rather assisting some other creature in lethal or just getting in there for some more damage. Killing some random x/1 isn’t what he is known for, but rather being able to block you from taking damage and then hurt the opponent. Has he changed all that much with damage leaving the stack? No. He can still block, prevent you from taking non-trample damage and ping the opponent. 

Lets say there is a 3/1 crashing at you, and you have the Tribe-Elder as a blocker. You have a choice, does he block for lethal or does he slither into your deck and grab a land? The better player only gets better with these rule changes. Until all the creatures have their “correct play” pinned on them, like Mogg Fanatic and Sakura Tribe-Elder.

Creatures like Ravenous Baloth did get considerably worse from this change, but again, the better player will still win through skill, because there is still so much skill necessary to outplay your opponent. It is not losing any at all, but perhaps gaining it for the time being while the rules are still a shock to many copycat players.

The thing about Magic R&D is that they are always right with their decisions. I have yet to be disappointed with their decisions. I remember seeing Planeswalkers for the first time and thinking “What are they doing to this game?”. I think I can honestly say that Planeswalkers are one of the greatest things to happen to Magic. I personally am behind all of R&D’s decisions.

Lets talk about the new dual lands. Comes into play untapped if you control a basic land of the two corresponding types. Again, I was upset at first. The more I thought about it, the more I like them. I foresee the death of 5 color decks, the uprising of mono color decks, and a slower pace of mana fixing after those vivid lands get pushed. Terramorphic Expanse should perhaps get reprinted to help out their dual lands. I hate seeing that vivid land/reflecting pool garbage. “I like Broodmate Dragon but there isn’t really a deck that is good with those colors, or has a slot for it…oh wait, I can run all three colors! I also like Ajani Vengeant, Plumeviel, Putrid Leech, Cryptic Command and Bloodbraid Elf. Lets run them all!” That is just annoying. Anathemancer will soon be gone from view because non-basics will be a thing of the past. I hope. 

M10 will also bring some interesting reprints like Ball Lightning, Lightning Bolt and my personal favorite Duress. The power level of these cards is a clear indicator of where they see their game going.

I will be attending Grand Prix Boston at the beginning of August. I am very excited to be able to use M10 right out of the gates for an endless weekend of booster cracking, hotel charades, and random tournaments into the middle of the morning. I’ll be taking a 4-day weekend off of work for this endeavor.

My fellow team member Zak plays a format called DC10, a format my area knows as Type IV. The other night I had an idea to draft it. I pretty much shuffled a pile of rares and put them into piles of 15. I drafted Progenitus beat-down. 1st pick Progenitus, into second pick Finest Hour kind of sealed the deal for me. I had some really great synergies in my 40 card deck. I am considering making my own pampered Type IV brick of cards. Maybe on my down-time between M10 and Zendikar. Drafting piles of rares is just hilarious. Kind of like my Star Trek party in a couple weeks. I will have my box of M10 by then so lots of drafting will ensue with laughter wrapped in U.S.S Enterprise outfits. James Kirk drafting G/B.

Well, I will be waiting eagerly for M10 spoilers. In the meantime I will ponder over how great Lightning Bolt will be, how over-hyped Ball Lightning will be, how over looked Acidic Slime will be, and how under appreciated the new duals will be.

Dillon

Metagaming in the dark for Standard post-Barcelona

Right now Standard is an exciting place to explore. With Cascade Swans going from rogue to “the deck to beat” it is certainly changing the way we look at “good decks”. Remember when playing Windbrisk Heights was pretty much the most broken thing you could do in the format? Well those decks can’t really beat Swans.

I remember when I felt the format shifting to aggro and that Thoughtseize was becoming a sub-par card. Well, now Thoughtseize and Tidehollow Sculler keep BW Tokens in the game. Other token variants without those cards should pretty much disappear. Then again the ones that are ready for Swans won’t be winning a mirror match against BW that wasn’t prepared for Swans.

You should be seeing Pithing Needle as the most popular played sideboard card. Swans should probably ship a Maelstrom Pulse to the main to get ready for the horde of hate that will be lurking in the darkness of the opponent’s deck in this post-Barcelona metagame.

There are so many different decks out there right now that I can only imagine what will emerge from this card pool. Red decks are dying, along with things that don’t have disruption to stop Swans. 

I imagine Double Negative being seriously considered for the colors of a deck. Perhaps UBR with right kind of sweepers, control and disruption. Thoughtseize, Double Negative, Cryptic Command, Volcanic Fallout, Magma Spray blah blah blah. 

Magma Spray is becoming one of my favorite removal cards right now. Hitting Murderous Redcap, Kitchen Finks, Tidehollow Sculler and Knight of the White Orchid for BW tokens. Those other aggro decks carry Jund Hackblade, Tattermunge Maniac, Anathemancer, Figure of Destiny, Noble Hierarch, Llanowar Elves, Bramblewood Paragon, Imperious Perfect, Steward of Valeron, Qasali Pridemage. Faeries lose their Mutavault, Sower of Temptation, Scion of Oona, and Vendilion Clique. All of this also helps Putrid Leech’s case as becoming an astounding 2nd turn creature. Puncture Blast is also looking good for getting rid of the Leech and those Persisters. It also knocks a Treetop Village and Wren’s Run Vanquisher off the ground and Cloudgoat Ranger out of the sky. 

This is how I rate the current decks.

1. Swans. It is easy to play and fun. It wins games even through the hate and the current decks just can’t compete against it. Grinding has a little bit of a chance if it hits well enough because it can stop them from going online with Seismic Assault effectively. Then again Swans has Primal Command.

2. BW tokens. Everyone likes it, and it can easily adapt to become a 50/50 win against Swans with Seize and Sculler with Pithing Needle in there.

3. Faeries. They are coming back because R/x aggro decks have been on a constant decline since the beginning of the season. They are the Fae. Without red violently scaring them, they have nothing to hold them back anymore.

4. Planeswalker Control. A 5 color control deck that cuts Cruel Ultimatum and helps the mana base. It can also wield Double Negative, which at its worse is a 3 mana counterspell, which is nothing to scoff at. It has lots of control to beat Swans and is very innovative with Obelisk of Alara.

Seattle is literally so wide open for possibilities right now, Tier 2 decks that no one is expecting can turn around and smack you down.

Backing up a couple weekends, I was at regionals in Pittsburgh finishing with a top 16 seat. I played very well that day, had food to keep me going, and passed up more play testing the night before for sleep which is what I would recommend to any person seriously considering doing well at a tournament.

I was only running 2 Ajani Goldmane, when I should have played a 3rd. Also, 4 Zealous Persecution in the main instead of only 3. I knew I was going to play token decks all day long. 6 of the 8 rounds I went against were token based games. Ajani and Persecution were my all-stars. I knew they would be, should have went with my gut. I could have easily cut Marshflitters for those additions.

Something that kind of deterred me from lingering on that tournament’s results were that almost all of those lists are irrelevant right now. The entire metagame has shifted in such a way after Barcelona that the Regionals in the states seem like years ago. I am excited for what happens after Seattle.

I can see the top 8 now. Faeries with hate for Swans. B/G Elves with hate for Swans. Tokens with serious disruption for Swans. Also some rogue deck that preys on the new focus of Swans. We shall see.

Dillon

Stepping up your Magic strategy

As a card player you draw cards, hold them in your hands, and make decisions. If you are playing Magic with another person you pick up on some things. Some people show their emotions on their sleeve, like when they draw a land when they needed a spell they slump their shoulders in disbelief of their luck. I am sure you have heard of a ‘Poker face”, and I will tell you, a good one will make you play wrong. It just happens.

Watch your opponent. Being able to read your opponent when they draw a card will considerably help you. It gives you information of what is in their hand, and can drastically change how you approach a scenario you are faced with.

Little effort of putting it into their hand, or just a very minimal glance at the card they just drew will usually lead you to believe they drew a dead card.

Other cards have slight variances. For instance, they just play most things that are going to stick on the field like a creature or a perhaps a borderpost. 

The moment they draw an instant, they usually get the look of question “What should I do with this?”. A glance at that, then to refresh their memory they look at the field.

Watch where they put their cards. I used to arrange the cards in my hand so that the relevant spells are at the top and the lands are in the back and I now watch for that trait in other people. I once played a kid that had the face of a statue. Poker face passed down through the generations. He would draw a card with the same face every single time. I then got to look at his hand during one of our matches with a Tidehollow Sculler or something, and I noticed how the cards were arranged. Spells and then lands. I continued under the assumption that he keeps his hand organized at all times. Sure enough, he would draw and file it. Lands hit the back of the hand, good stuff on top.

Take notes. When you are cruising on Sculler’s boat through your opponent’s hand, write down what you see. If you see 2 plains, each of them different art, jot down the artist and watch which ones he plays. Some of that stuff is actually better if you can memorize it, because if your opponent can see you writing that down then they will play accordingly. 

Things I take note of is alternate art of the same card. I see a Karpulsan Forest from Ice Age and then one from 10th edition, I take note of that. If I see a card is foil, I take note. It is for the reasoning that if they draw into another Karpulsan Forest that is perhaps 9th edition, or they have already played their Ice Age version and they play another one without the 10th edition one ever showing it’s face, you know it is in their hand. Textless cards, and foils are the same way. Signatures can even help you if you are very keen on details.

Anytime a card goes into your opponent’s hand, either from drawing, bouncing or searching for it in their deck, make sure you write it down.

Know their graveyard. Late game is a perfect time to get to know your opponent’s deck. Look through their graveyard often to become familiar with what they could be playing in the future, or perhaps what they can unearth. Check for those flashback abilities and don’t let them jump out at you when you least expect it. Counting cards is a great tool as well. Probability makes it way in there too. Saw 2 Path to Exile the first game and around turn 9 you still haven’t seen one. Be expecting your best guy to turn into a tapped land sometime soon. Feel free to take notes here too.

Check the competition. Finished with your match? It might help you in the long run to get up and check out the competition while you aren’t playing. Watch for key cards and attach them by characteristics so you can say “Dr. Pepper shirt guy runs Colossal Might, Volcanic Fallout, and Magma Spray.” When you start a match with him, be sure to write down a little reminder to yourself about it.

I hope to get in as many articles as I can before Regionals strikes.

 

Dillon

Regionals Reborn

Bloodbraid Elf, Anathemancer, Zealous Persecution, Soul Manipulation along with old favorites Kitchen Finks and Boggart Ram-Gang make this a regionals that is filled with either aggro or anti-aggro.

Either you are going to be playing those cards or you are not going to be enjoying how the field is looking for you.

The Regional championships are this Saturday and I have made my necessary schedule adjustments and 5 hour road trip plans to attend. I will be crashing on the couch of fellow wordpress blogger Norm over at Casual Magic for the night before the Pittsburgh tournament.

There are some decks that I will be expecting to on the immensely played end of the day and there are some that are pretty dead, let me clarify.

What I am expecting the most: Jund Aggro. I mean this in a big way. It will be pulling in new players who have been picking up the key cards in their Pre-Releases such as Anathemancer, Bloodbraid Elf, Jund Hackblade, Terminate, and Maelstrom Pulse. It is exciting, easily obtainable, and a serious contender.

I am also expecting B/W Tokens, mainly because I think it is the best deck to play in this format. Zealous Persecution is seriously awesome. Let me just Glorious Anthem my guys and nerf yours. For 2 mana. At instant speed. It is awesome in the mirror, it a ridiculous combat trick, not to mention kind of hard to play around, and an awesome answer to volcanic fallout. Save my now 3/3 fliers and kill your Ram-Gangs. Sweet! B/W also gets the Goldmane/Finks awesomeness. Kitchen Finks will be the card to be slinging a solid 4-of in a deck on Saturday. Him and Anathmancer are the 3 drops that you cannot go without in this format in a big way.

Something I am not expecting to see is Boat Brew. They can’t really use Ajani Vengeant successfully the way things are going. All they can try to do is replace him with Murderous Redcap and make sure they have 4 Kitchen Finks and also struggle to keep Reveillark relevant. It just isn’t the right time for Boat Brew. Glory of Warfare is kind of clunky, and the new Intimidation Bolt helps but it is not enough.

Faeries are so-so right now. With Agony Warp becoming their main trick of the trade to stabilize the field and then using Zombie Outlander to fend off Ram-Gang and Bloodbraid Elf on the ground until the smoke it with Volcanic Fallout. I have been playing a stream-lined Faeries build without Thoughtseize and in place of it a Zombie Outlander, an extra Soul Manipulation, and an extra Agony Warp. It attempts to keep up without losing unnecessary life. Attempting to get the most out of Bitterblossom is attempting to keep your life up too. Thoughtseize gives them a free shock on you for a card they can just unearth anyway. Ripping cards from their hand also doesn’t help against Bloodbraid Elf. That thing is really, really annoying for Faeries.

I want to build a G/W deck that can use Kitchen Finks and Dauntless Escort alongside Ajani Goldmane successfully. Martial Coup and the Sigil-Captain are also really cool alongside Elspeth, Knight Errant.

I will be testing these decks and attempt to be expecting some cool variants of each. Definitely expect rogue white decks to surface that have Runed Halos and Story Circles under their belts and in the main. It is a viable strategy against this surge of Jund in the metagame. I still haven’t decided on what I am running for Regionals but I know it will be interesting and new. Probably R/G Elves at this point.

Dillon

Quick Introduction // The future

When I was first approached by James to get onboard with Power 9 Pro I had only seen the logo from memory, and he was just a fella contacting me about chatting it up on the topic of Magic. I couldn’t refuse. It later turned to a team member discussion and here I am slinging a ringer 9 shirt over top of my shirt and tie from my day at work, while also explaining what a Dragon’s Egg is to various people who use rubber bands as the only form of deck storage. It is quite the friday night life I lead.

Anyway, my name is Dillon and I will posting here fairly often. Be sure to leave me some good comments even if you are just passing through. Onto the future, Marty.

Have you seen the ridiculous cards that are in store for us in Alara Reborn? The thing that is really cool to me is where the mechanic Cascade goes from here. The recent spoiling of Ardent Plea has been setting my teeth on edge for cards like Meddling Mage, Knight of Meadowgrain and Tidehollow Sculler just bouncing out for free. Who doesn’t love a free Springjack riding Kithkin with Exalted bonuses? Or a Volcanic Fallout pushing mage with a sex change from a decade ago? I’m sorry but I will playing with Chris Pikula’s invitational art only.

I will primarily be playing Bant control far into the Standard season because it so far imbedded into my style of play to abandon. Jenara, Asura of War is as efficient as I could possibly ask from my lovely home shard. One thing I see whenever I hear people talking about Jenara is this, “You invest mana into just to see it pathed? It sucks”. You must remember one thing: They can only play it if they have it in hand. It is obviously going to be in every deck in standard. Anything in this creature based format that doesn’t play path is going to be behind in the end. People might think “Just play Meddling Mage naming Path to Exile, you are set!” but it isn’t that easy. You see, Meddling Mage is a double edged sword for naming “Path to #$&!ing Exile” because you can’t play it either. Seeing as how you are obviously running white for him, it allows the skilled players to shine through.

Board position is sometimes a difficult thing to gauge because you are unsure what is in their hands most of the time, and you are unsure what they are going to draw usually. I have killed an Ajani Vengeant for board position and then over extended only to see my opponent to draw into another Ajani Vengeant, zap my Sower of Temptation, gain 3 life, and absolutely turn the game around. How do you even attempt to play around that? The truth is, sometimes you can’t and it hurts to say. There is luck involved, but in most cases board advantage isn’t everything, because allowing your deck to have options instead of just answers is awesome.

Bant gets the bag of tricks which is Bant Charm which will only get better for the GWU clan once Reborn strikes the scene. Meddling Mage has some serious things to attempt to ward off with these guys. We aren’t a one trick pony when it comes to removal. I see Magma Spray getting much more main deck play as well. What a nasty, nasty card. 

It is really Terminate that scares me the most. My guys have some serious toughness, it is usually a two-for-one on magma sprays for me, but Terminate is just awful. It doesn’t care what color I am, how much etherium runs through my body or that I could regenerate. It just destroys me.

Blightning will quickly branch off into mid-range Jund decks. Those green creatures are far too good to pass up. Spellbreaking, Hackblade-ing, Madrushing, beasts. Lets call it Monsters Inc. now and get it out of the way, shall we? An extremely honorable mention for Monsters Inc. would be Maelstrom Pulse. It ruins ideas of Ancient Ziggurat being your racetrack but it is worth every land in your deck. This echoing Vindicate is what Jund has been waiting for. Volcanic fallout is great, but that double red is sometimes annoying in a three color deck and sometimes easier to play around then Maelstrom Pulse. To me, I can’t play Noble Hierarch (with hopes of using her for mana) or Sower of Temptation (with hopes of keeping a creature) with Volcanic Fallout present. I just play War Monk, Rafiq and Kitchen Finks instead. Usually multiples. Playing around both of those cards? Imagine it being played off Cascade. Ouphe.

By the way, Cascade triggers “When you play this spell”, keep that in mind.

The metagame of Standard is much larger then a couple shards in Alara. Faeries, Swans, 5cc, B/W tokens, they all still exist and will be discussed in good time. I have so many other formats to talk about but I am very excited for Alara Reborn and I hope it shakes this metagame upside down. On wednesday night was trivia night and a question was asked there that went as follows: “What is the most common sign thrown at a ‘rock, paper, scissors’ tournament?”

The answer is Paper, want to know why? Rock is the most common sign thrown, so the best players use Paper. With that knowledge don’t you throw Scissors? The metagame then shifts to the standard as Paper  and from there then evolves and shifts accordingly. That is how Magic feels right now. I want more than three options. Give me a standard format that is flowing with originality. I am putting my hopes into Alara Reborn to open that door for the sake of deck builders everywhere.

Best regards,

Dillon