All posts by Justin

Vorosh, the Hunter Commander (EDH)

Ever since I first laid eyes on Nebuchadnezzar I was hooked.  The idea that they could make a Magic card out of a specific character was awesome to a kid who played D&D regularly.  The Babylonian king was my fist encounter with a Legend.   I always get a big kick from new Legendary cards and somewhere along the line I decided to try and collect one of every Legend.  I am happy to say that I own more than half of all the 532 Legendary cards out there.  I wish I would have had some sort of income back when I started playing.  There are definitely some glaring holes in my collection The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale being a bit pricey and the low print run of Portal: Three Kingdoms has been harsh, but I am pretty proud of my collection.  

My wife wanted to make a new EDH deck since she kept forgetting which slivers to tutor for in her Sliver Overlord deck and I thought it would be fun for her and I (mainly I) to go through my Legend binder and check out what Generals would be interesting.  My binder is currently in alphabetical order so we started with good ol’ Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor and worked our way from there.  It was a great way for my wife to show interest in my favorite hobby and we had a blast making fun of Grandmother Sengir.  My wife really got going once we finally came across Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon

“Does infect work the same in EDH?”
“Yup, ten poison.  You might want to go green and black for the best mix of infect guys.”

Finally, my wife settled on running Vorosh, the Hunter so she could get a good mix of infect and proliferate. 

Creatures

My wife wanted ways to pump her guys and ways to get past blockers and came up with a nice mix.

Pump/Evasion

Then she added some removal and a few other cards that could break open any stalls.  A few tutor spells round it out.

Good Stuff

The Mana base is pretty straightforward

Lands

The bad thing about this deck is that my wife and I play one-on-one a lot and she can poison me out pretty fast.  Infect seems much more fair in a multi-player environment where it is way more difficult to poison out the whole table.  NPH gave this deck a whole bunch of goodies my favorite being Viral Drake.  I am really pumped by the new Legends in NPH and want to start building my Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer metalcraft deck.

Mythic Rare Review – Top 10 Worst Mythic Rares

Ban Jace!   This was the cry from magic players across the Twitterverse after the amazing showing JTMS had at the Grand Prix in Dallas.  If you haven’t heard by now, 32 copies of Jace the Mind Sculptor were in the top 8 (yup that’s four copies per deck).  The top 8 included various Caw-Blade and RUG builds all sporting the mightiest of Planeswalkers.  Personally, I don’t feel that it is necessary to ban Jace at this time.  The last time a card was banned in the middle of it’s Standard heyday was the super powerful Skullclamp.  Many people have been comparing ‘Ol Blue Eyes with the clamp but I feel that this comparison doesn’t hold water.  At the time when Skullclamp was running rampant everydeck was running four copies no matter what color.  “But Justin, every top deck at the Grand Prix was running Jace.”  That’s true, but this is only the most recent tournament.  Is Jace an incredibly powerful card?  Yup.  Are Mythic Rares supposed to be really powerful? Yup.  Did Wizard’s not realize how powerful JTMS would be? Yup.  Is Jace more format defining/powerful/broken than Skullclamp?  Not really.  I want to leave the discussion to those who are more qualified, but I feel that this topic will ignite debate until Jace is a small speck in Standard’s rear-view mirror.  All of the debate started to make me think about Mythic Rares.

Wizard’s went to the four tier rarity system in the Alara block and since then 158 cards have been printed at or reclassified as Mythic Rare.  With the release of Duel Decks and the From the Vault series (not FtV Dragons) many cards were pushed up to Mythic status; that’s right, Aether Vial is considered a Mythic.  For the purpose of this article however, I will not include the special promo releases.  I know that the term “worst” is very subjective.  I am basing my assessment on tournament impact, casual experience, and limited applications.  I am also influenced by the flavor and complexity of the card.  If you disagree just let me know in the comments below.

Honorable Mention

The “fixed” version of Lord of the Pit never had any impact on Standard and his drawback was difficult to mitigate in Limited where loosing a creature every turn is devastating.  I feel that the biggest problem with the Demon was that his casting cost did not allow him to fit into Jund, the most dominant Type 2 deck at the time.

#10 –

Obsidian Fireheart has a very unique ability.  His ability is quite expensive for the return you get.  Blaze counters do not stack so your value drops mid-to-late game.  7 mana is a large investment to have a small amount of return over time.  The triple red in his casting cost almost ensures that the Fireheart will have to be played in mono-red which seeks to maximize resource development and generate advantage through sheer power.  Obsidian Fireheart causes the mon-red deck to loose tempo because of the awkward activation cost.  At 1RRR I would rather cast Cyclops Gladiator.  At the time Obsidian Fireheart was released it was just too slow to compete in Standard.  Fireheart does have the coolest reminder text ever.

#9 –

A 6 mana, life-gain, artifact (life gain for all intents and purposes).  I have seen this card get used in EDH hand in hand with Necropotence.  EV can make you near unkillable under the right circumstances.  The problem with the vessel is that it just prolongs the game without impacting the board.  It is a safety net.  EV is a good card, but it does not deserve the mantle of Mythic Rare.  For one thing, you can never gain more life than you had when the vessel came into play making it very awkward for Standard play.  I think EV will be seen casually in Commander but not very often.

#8 –

When I first saw this card I thought it screamed Commander.  It is obvious from the casting cost that this 8 mana spell will never see serious play.  For 8 mana I want win now.  What the Praetor’s are Counseling is to wait until late in the game to get back some powerful spells.  The problem is that while you are spending your turn getting stuff from the yard, you are not actually doing anything to change the board.  The secondary ability of not having a maximum hand size for the rest of the game will not matter very much because it will probably be towards the end of the game when it is necessary to cast the Counsel.  Maybe in a G/R EDH deck with Lands Edge and Life from the Loam….  

#7 –

Good Stats and one very risky ability.  This Demon wants to be able to combo with something.  I have seen a casual Hellcarver list and it looked pretty fun.  My biggest problem with the Demon is to potential to totally wiff and take yourself out of the game.  “Free” spells are powerful but consistent library manipulation is necessary in order to make it work.  If only there was something in Standard that let you have a Brainstorm effect every turn…. All kidding aside, Hellcarver would still have a rough time even if he was paired with JTMS.  The 3BBB casting cost is prohibitive in an environment without vivid lands and Reflecting Pool.  I want my Mythic Rares to advance my end game without the potential to end my fun.  OH! How about Praetor’s Counsel to counter-act the sacrificing?  We might have something there.

#6

Some of you might remember that I am not a fan of “level up”.  Very few creatures are worth the trouble.  At first glance the Master seems pretty sweet since his level cost is only 1, but you need to get him to level 6 in order for his fist ability to take effect and he needs to hit 12 before he turns into a beast.  That is a fifteen mana investment. 9/9, lifelink, indestructible is nothing to sneeze at but  the master is still too slow for Standard.  What would I rather have for 15 mana?  Emrakul, the Aeons Torn seems good.  I know that it is not a fair comparison but the point still remains.  You need to be able to maximize you resources throughout a game of Magic and the Master is far too slow to have the impact you want outside of kitchen table play.

#5 –

Yeah, he swings for nine.  He can gain some life if you need to be on defence.  You will probably need to be on defence if you are relying on this Sphinx to end the game for you. 4WUUB is not a very friendly casting cost.  The biggest problem with the Sovereign is his big brother Sphinx of the Steel Wind.  5WUB is a tad bit easier but look at the abilities that impact the game.  Steel Wind is offence and defence.  Steel Wind also shrugs off the two colors that hate on artifacts the most.  Sovereign just doesn’t compare to the other Mythic Sphinxes (Sphinxi? Sphinx?) available. 

#4 –

Junk Mythic Rare?  Every time I saw someone open this card they looked sad.  “Awww I wanted Emrakul.”  A 4UUU enchantment that does not impact the board right away.  What do you really want to have rebound in blue?  Card drawing?  Maybe.  Bounce?  Seems better.  It doesn’t work on Jace.  I would almost rather play anything than this card.  Red gets the most mileage out of rebound but the tripple U in the casting cost makes that a pipe dream.  $1.99 on SCG.

#3 –

This guy could easily be in the #1 slot.  His ability was largely irrelevant when he was released.  In sealed he was a picked up only as a big flying body.  There was never a home for him in Standard when Jund was running wild.  He could not deal with the best cards in his own block: Bloodbraid Elf.  The Defiler was more of a Mythic fail.  His art is really cool (glass half full).

#2 –

 I am always reminded of when I was trying to get Final Fantasy one to start up in the old Nintendo.  You had to keep hitting the Reset button over and over again until it worked.  This seems like a good safety net, right?  You get to start all over.  You don’t loose!   So what’s the problem?  Think about it for a second…. I know you need to ready the card again….  Yup.  Your opponent is still at the same game-state that killed you in the first place.  Yup.  Sword equipped Hawks, Titans, Valakut and whatever else are still sitting across the table and you have nothing in play.  That turn one Inquisition of Kozilek aint looking so good now.

Drum Roll

#1 Worst Mythic Rare

What’s that?  His expansion symbol is gold and not orange?  That’s right.  Protean Hydra got bumped off of the Mythic squad.  In M10 Wizard’s felt that this hydra had strong Mythic potential.  Then they realized that it was just a very complex creature that required players to do extra math and need to remember to manipulate counters.  This was a Mythic in the same set as Baneslayer Angel!  I like the idea but Protean Hydra fell flat.

I know that there are some other Mythics that can make a good case for being on this list (Mirror-Sigil Sergeant comes to mind), but these are all cards that have disappointed me in the past.  I know that Wizard’s can’t make all of the Mythics at the same power level as Jace and the Titans but these really fell short of the mark.  Some poor Mythics just never found a good home.  Remember Novablast Wurm?  What about Comet Storm?  Let me know what you think should have made the list.

The spoiler for New Phyrexia just popped up as I was finishing this article.  Which mythics from the newest set have the best chance to  make it on this list?    

Mirrodin Beseiged Prerelease Albuquerque Tournament Report

War!  Mirrodin is under attack and this past weekend was the first chance players had to finally pick a side in the war.  The Mirrodin Beseiged Prerelease was very different from any event Wizards has ever organized before.  Players were asked to pick a side in the Mirran v. Phyrexian war, and that side would determine what packs the players would have access to.

ThrunIwantyou

Chatting with other players around the hall it quickly seemed that the sides were evenly matched.  People went with Mirran because of better spot removal, better mythic rares, deeper card pool from Scars, and the more expensive prerelease foil.  People joined Phyrexia because of better sweepers and of course infect.  “It seems good when your opponent starts at 10 life,” one player told me, making the argument for infect.  The consensus was that If you picked Phyrexian you would be playing infect.  I decided to go Phyrexian because I want the third set in the block to be a dark evil place, entirely a flavor choice.  I loved the Phyrexian threat from the entire Weatherlight Saga and I was glad to see their return to Mirrodin.

For the sealed pool each player got three packs of Scars of Mirrodin and three faction packs based on their choice of allegiance.  No matter what faction a card belonged to you could play it if it was in your pool.  Here was my pool:

Artifacts

Colored

The first thing I looked at was how many creatures with infect I had; nine. Nine? Really?  I was sure that if I went Phyrexian I would end up with a solid amount of infect creatures.  Too bad.  Trying to keep my dream alive I looked at all of the the other cards that added poison or proliferated; seven more.  I realized that if I stuck with the infect game plan that I would force myself to play cards that were not good.  I usually do not try to force an archetype.  I decided to go back to square one and evaluate the cards the way I always do.

Bombs.  I was lucky to crack two bombs that can end the game on their own.  Carnifex Demon can wipe away the opposing board with ease.  This monster is also awkward for other infect decks to play against since any block he makes will reload him for more devastation.  Myr Battlesphere is a giant threat that will win you the game without too much effort.

Removal.  I was lucky here with plenty of good choices for spot removal and a Wrath-like effect in Creeping Corrosion (Foil).

Monsters.  I had a mixed bag of infect and non-infect guys that were all over the mana curve.  Flyers in white, but not much else.  Four mana myr would go nice with my Battlesphere.

Goodies.  Darksteel Axe was going in no matter what.  Livewire Lash too.  Other than that I was pretty flexible.

Colors.  Carnifex Demon ensured I would play Black.  I also had three Black removal spells.  Virulent wound is great at killing mana myr and opponents little infect guys.  I liked the game swing that Creeping Corrosion offers so I decided to go Green.  White was cut after that since the most important cards required WW and even though I had mana myr I did not want to loose out on black mana.  Blue was not deep enough, only Corrupted Conscience had game changing potential and I wanted to be as aggressive as possible with my curve.  I only had four Red cards  total and two Red mana myr, but those cards were all removal (one on a stick) so I decided to splash Red.  Deciding on Jund, here is what my deck looked like.

It seems like this build is not focused enough on one game plan but I just had to change my mindset.  My goal was not to poison out my opponent but rather to use my infect creatures as a from of removal.  I wanted to force my opponents into bad blocking situations to eliminate the threats from their guys and then break through with one of my bombs or equip a smaller guy to go to work.  I tried to maximize the value of each one of my cards with symmetry.

Virulent Wound can reload Carnifex Demon, can kill an Emissary to tutor up a missing land, and is removal.  Bloodshot Trainee, once equipped with the Axe or the Lash can deal with almost any threat.  Lash on any one of my infect creatures is extra awesome with Untamed Might.  Viridian Emissary was awesome for me since people would take the damage early thinking I was infect.

Took this build to a 4-0 finish at the tournament.  I won with poison counters twice and with good ol’ damage the rest of the time.  I only lost one game with it all morning.  The lesson here is to not be distracted by forcing an archetype.  Going into the tournament it was a given that if you were picking Phrexian you were picking infect.  In sealed format, it is more important to evaluate which cards have the most value through symmetry.  In draft it tends to be easier to force a specific build since you have control over what cards you will take.  I hope you all had fun at your prerelease tournaments over the weekend.  If you have any cool stories just leave a comment below.

Teneb, the Harvester EDH: Mtg Commander

The rush of the holidays are behind us.  Between bouts of shopping and decorating I got a chance to visit some family and friends.  While on my pilgrimage to Texas I caught up with my best friend, Jim.  After some preliminary catching up we decided to play some Commander.  I was fresh off of building my Kangee, Aerie Keeper deck (here) and wanted to deliver some flying beatdown.  Jim had recently put together a Teneb, the Harvester list that wanted to steal games with a big Genesis Wave.  Jim’s build was pretty awesome and I had a blast watching some cool interactions.  When it was time to go I asked Jim to e-mail me the list so I could sleeve it up and play it myself.  I have seen Genesis Wave in action in Commander many times since it came out and it can be backbreaking (just ask Power 9 Pro’s Joe about his Azusa, Lost but Seeking deck).

Since the deck wants to abuse Genesis Wave it needs to have a high concentration of permanents.  Jim runs a huge number of creatures backed up with a few artifacts, enchantments and Planeswalkers.  The list only has five non-permanents in it.

Seems a little sparse but it will work for now. I am sure Jim does not own Vampiric Tutor or it would be in there.

As for artifacts and enchantments, the selection is a bit bigger

I have always been a fan of Wild Pair in EDH.  Lurking Predators can be especially awesome in multi-player.  I thin Jim needs to be running Senseis Divining Top to take advantage of the Predators.

If you have ever been sitting opposite Sorin Markov in Commander you know that the game is pretty much over as soon as he hits the table. Liliana’s -2 ability helps look for Genesis Wave or can set up a Lurking Predator hit.

The land is pretty standard. I feel that almost every Commander deck should be running Crucible of Worlds if just for a way not to be totally blown out by Armageddon effects.

The creature package is where this deck really shines.  It is full of amazing dudes with amazing powers.  There are a lot of “enters the battlefield” effects that combo nicely with Genesis Wave.

Acidic Slime is great in EDH since there will be plenty of nice targets.  Drana is a machine-gun, destroying low toughness Generals with ease every turn and at instant speed.  Iona… well that is obvious.  Drop a Gleancrawler after you attacked with Novablast Wurm to lessen the sting.  For those of you who have not had the chance to see how much devastation Terastodon can cause, you need to trust me.  World Queller is a vastly underrated card and fits nicely with all of the recursion effects in the deck.  Thicket Elemental can be absolutely broken.

This is a great start for an awesome deck that plays with top tier creatures that can be easily cheated into play. With a few minor tweaks I am sure that this deck can be very competitive. Give me some Feedback and let me know what you think should go in or come out and I will keep the list updated.  I want to revisit this General in the future so keep the comments comming.

Kangee, Aerie Keeper EDH with Scars of Mirrodin

I cracked open my box of Scars of Mirrodin and was really excited about all of the cool new cards that will make EDH more fun. Ezuri Renegade Leader, Geth Lord of the Vault, Kemba Kha Regent, and Skithiryx the Blight Dragon were the new generals waiting to command an army and I was ready to oblige. I use black a lot in EDH and wanted to stay away from it so I decided to build off of our equipment loving cat and put together a Mono-White Kemba deck. Armed with swords and jittes and armor, Kemba was rather unimpressive. I did not put much effort into the build and ended up with a deck that wasn’t as fun as I wanted. I decided to put EDH on the back burner and played in a coupled of FNM draft events, built a budget standard deck, and played some Call of Duty. I was thinking about how good Contagion Clasp was in limited and it hit me; why not an EDH deck that makes use of Proliferate? Now that seemed more fun than gearing up death kitty.

Proliferate reads:  “You choose any number of permanents and/or players with counters on them, then give each another counter of a kind already there.”  I checked my Big Ol’ Binder of Legends and looked at my options.  The first thing that jumped at me was Experiment Kraj.  This ooze mutant just screamed potential.  The other Legend that seemed awesome to me was Kangee, Aerie Keeper.  I decided to go the route of Big Bird beats.  The basic game plan is play Kangee with kicker and use proliferate to make my flying army huge.

My first goal was to pick up all the goodies with Proliferate that would turn Kangee into BALCO for birds.  There are only six cards with Proliferate currently and I ended up using five of them:

This was a good place to start.  I decided against Throne of Geth since I felt that most of my artifacts would play an important role but I could definitely find room for it.  Double bonus!  Thrummingbird is a…. yeah a bird.  Next up was finding the rest of the flock.

This seemed like a good core for the deck.  I figured these birdies would be enough to give Alfred Hitchcock nightmares.  A few other creatures that play nice with our bird theme will also make the cut; Jotun Owl Keeper, Pride of the Clouds, and Soraya the Falconer.  The Owl Keeper works well with Proliferate.  I also wanted to point out that due to Oracle errata, cards like Soraya end up doing things a bit different that originally printed.  “Falcon” is no longer a recognized creature type so Soraya instead gives her bonus to Birds.  Another interesting change is that Kangee is now a Bird Legend so his feather counters pump him up too.  The only other creature in the deck is Weathered Wayfarer who helps us find our ever so important land.

I next wanted to include cards that work well with my tribal theme.

All of these goodies turn my Birds into beat-down machines.  Mimic Vat and True Conviction are not tribal, but I wanted to use new cards from Scars so in they go!  I needed more ways to take advantage of Proliferate so I added Coalition Relic, Energy Chamber, Everflowing Chalice, Lux Cannon, and Sigil of Distinction.  All that was left to add was tutoring and removal.

Removal:

Tutors:

I still had some space so I decided to bring in some card drawing and some defence.  Compulsive Research, Leyline of Sanctity, Lightning Greaves, and Skullclamp.

Land Time!

This list does a good job showcasing the new mechanic, Proliferate.  I am very happy with many of the interactions.  I am always looking for feedback so leave any comments, suggestions or criticisms below.

Scars of Mirrodin – Impact on Standard (Type 2)

Scars of Mirrodin.  Looming large over the horizon, Wizards’ newest expansion is set to hit the stores on October 1st.  With the release of Scars of Mirrodin new strategies will emerge and once powerful decks will disappear to the realm of Extended.  With all of the available spoilers it is time to speculate on what changes will occur to the Standard (type 2) meta-game.  This shift will be important with the 2010′s State and Provincial Championships on October 9th.  We will see if we can figure out which cards will make the biggest impact in the post Shards of Alara/M10 tournament world.  It is a time of new beginnings and a time to revisit places in our past.  Thinking about our past, I would like to take one moment to say goodbye to all of our Shards of Alara friends:

So long, Jund!

Time to hang up our Putrid Leechs and Sprouting Thrinaxs.  No deck was more dominant in the Shards meta-game than this B/G/R build.  High powered threats and spectacular removal made Jund the most feared and prepared against deck since the Faeries of Lorwyn.  The biggest loss?

Bloodbraid Elf

Forget Maelstrom Pulse and Broodmate Dragon, this Elf provided amazing card advantage to steal games all by herself. Without Bloodbraid, Jund would not have been remotely viable. This Elf Berserker found a home in every deck that could support her colors. Easily the best uncommon in the set. Now for a few more farewells:

It’s been fun, but now we need to move on. See you in Extended!

Out of the dozens of cards that have been spoiled already, I have picked up on a few that seem like they will make an impact on the Standard Meta currently dominated by U/W Control, FauNaya, Valakut-Ramp and Mythic Conscription.

U/W Control
Come rotation on October first U/W Control will loose a few pieces, most notably Elspeth Knight-Errant. It will be interesting to see if Elspeth Tirel will be able to replace her old incarnation. The new Planeswalker costs one more and cannot generate counters and token together. I think that the five mana casting cost will not prevent the switch initially but might come to really matter since the meta game is so fast right now. On the flip side, Elspeth’s new ultimate is very powerful. The next option in Planeswalkers is the powerful Venser the Sojourner. Also comining at a casting cost of five, the U/W walker has some interesting abilities. Being able to exile your Baneslayer Angel and following that up with Day of Judgment is a strong play in control. The other loss is the token generating Martial Coup. This loss should not impact the archetype to significantly since most build will only include it as a one-of. Path to Exile is another big loss to U/W, the role will need to be filled by the more situational Condemn.

FauNaya
This archetype is on the way out in my opinion. Scars of Mirrodin does not offer anything to this deck that is on par with Knight of the Reliquary or Noble Hierarch. The deck also looses Oblivion Ring, Qasali Pridemage, Realm Razer and the superstar Bloodbraid Elf. I am sure that the Vengevine/ Fauna Shaman engine will still be around but I think the deck will look vastly different.

Valakut-Ramp (Titan-Ramp)
The plan is simple; ramp into Primeval Titan and use him to set up a kill with Valakut the Molten Pinnacle. This is the big dog in the yard, Valakut-Ramp only looses Rampant Growth in the rotation. However, nothing in the new Standard will fits the curve of this card. Cultivate might work. I like Strata Scythe as an alternate win condition if you need to play around Spreading Seas. I also think that Genesis Wave fits nicely in the deck. Valakut-Ramp will be the archetype to beat early in the season until new strategies are discovered.

Mythic Conscription (Eldrazi Conscription, Mythic)
The biggest loss for this deck is Sovereigns of Lost Alara. The Exalted Spirit let you search up your Eldrazi Conscription in order to put the game away. Without the ability to tutor for the key enchantment, Mythic should no longer be a threat in Standard.

What’s Next?
Scars of Mirrodin offers us a vast selection of powerful spells that are sure to have an immediate impact on the new Standard. Take a look at some of the things you should be hoping to pick up at your Pre-release event this weekend:

Scars of Mirrodin will offer us plenty of new options and old favorites will soon go by the wayside. I am really looking forward to playing Phylactery Lich with Darksteel Axe. I recommend going to a Pre-release this weekend since there will not be much time to prepare for States coming up in October. The 2010′s State and Provincial Championships will be the first big events to play with the new Standard. Study your spoilers and see what you can do to deal with U/W control and Valakut-Ramp. Goodbye Bloodbraid Elf, and thanks for all the fish.

EDH General: Vhati il-Dal / EDH Decklist

Work has held me hostage the past few months but I could no longer resist the pull of Magic.  I needed to find something that would get my non-work self pumped again.  I decided to dig through my Legendary binder (I collected Legends before I ever heard of EDH, yay for me) to see what would jump out at me.  I was almost to the end of the binder when I saw my old pal, Vhati il-Dal.  Vhati is a political General that can really shine in multi-player.

I was excited to run green/black and started pulling out cards that interested me.  I dug deep into my card collection trying to come up with combos and never seen before interactions.  What I ended up with was a giant stack of cards and only 99 (!) open slots.  *sigh* 

stack-baloon It seemed like an impossible task; how do I choose between Strip Mine and Wasteland?  How can I fit all of the most broken cards ever printed in Black/Green in to one little 100 card deck?  I can debate card choices with myself all day long.  I feel it is much easier just to stuff the cards in and replace what doesn’t work later (for EDH). 

Since I had access to green I felt that 36 land slots would be perfect due to land search effects.

Lands (36)

The next step was thinning down the creatures I had marked for the deck.  With so many options in both black and green, not to mention multi-colored, the choices were tough.  After some quick assessing, I ended up with this:

Creatures (27)

Some strange choices and some no-brainers.   For me, part of the fun with EDH is using cards that rarely see play.  My favorite choice here is Cuombajj Witches, not only for the “what?” factor, but also because of the synergy with Vhati.  Krovikan Horror serves the same purpose, reusable creature kill.  I like the devour creatures in the deck, since I have put many recursion effects in; Mycoloth is way too good combined with Skullclamp.  Gleancrawler, Solemn Simulacrum and Woodfall Primus all combo nicely with devour as well.  Maybe I should up the count of devour creatures, Marrow Chomper perhaps?  Maybe not.  The critters that don’t seem to fit too well are Heartwood Storyteller, Birds of Paradise and Ohran Viper.

It was time for some back up.  Green/black has a great selection of enchantments for EDH.  I feel that every deck running green should run Sylvan Library.  Being able to stack your draws is really important in a Highlander format.

Enchantments/Planeswalkers (10)

Wild Pair is one of my all time favorite enchantments.  Some thought needs to go into your deck construction to thoroughly abuse its power.  Let’s check the synergy with Wild Pair so far; seven creatures have a combined power/toughness of four, four have a combined eight, and three have a combined twelve.  I like the idea of playing Monger and bringing Primus along for the ride. 

Now I needed the utility spells; removal, tutors, card drawing, etc.

Card Drawing/Tutors (11)

EDH is all about tutor effects.  The easier it is to find your answer/threat the better.  It is important to have some degree of deck manipulation.  Crystal Ball is perfect for EDH.  The format tends to be slower (now that Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary has been banned again) allowing incremental development a chance to pay off.  I play the Journeyer’s Kite in my other EDH deck and really like it.

In EDH you need to be able to answer multiple and various things.  Having a broad removal package is very important.

Removal (10)

Rancid Earth has great synergy with our General once we have threshold.  Morbid Bloom is definitely the odd man out, I added it to give myself more devour targets.  I know Maelstrom Pulse seems like a poor choice in EDH, but it is almost a Vindicate and it wrecks tokens.

Extra Bits(5)

The extra stuff can all be dumped, except for Restock.  The Sword is in because its new. Imp’s Mischief, as the name suggests, can create plenty of ways to mess with the other players, fitting nicely with the political nature of Vhati il-Dal.  Berserk can be a great finisher.

As I look over this list I can see a bunch of holes and cross purpose selections.  Why don’t I have Crucible of Worlds in here?  Why Worm Harvest without Life from the Loam?  Keep in mind this is a casual, multi-player deck.  That being said, I would love any Feedback the readers could give.  Until next time.

EDH deck building: The Coalition vs. Phyrexia

Getting started in EDH can be a daunting task for newer players.  Fortunately for those newer players, Wizards of the Coast releases special products, such as the Duel Decks series that showcase many older cards.  The newest line in the Duel Decks series is Phyrexia vs. The Coalition.  This product is a great jumping off point for newer players who want to try their hand at EDH packed with all sorts of EDH goodies.

Let’s take a look at what the mechanized armies of Phyrexia give us.  One of the coolest reprints in a long time, Phyrexian Negator has prompted some serious debate about Wizard’s Reserved List.  The Negator is an amazing option for an aggro deck but EDH is more about longevity and combos than about quick beatdown.  Remember life totals in EDH are 40 not 20.  Still, this guy can be decent for you if you are lean on options.  Sacrifice outlets allow for some interesting tricks and Phyrexian Plaguelord fits the bill nicely.  For card draw, Phyrexian Arena is really good, abusing that big life total.  Another nice addition is Phyrexian Processor.  Pumping out a threat every turn for a minimal resource commitment is awesome.

One of my favorite reprints is Voltaic Key.  This card was amazing back in the days of Urza’s Saga and offers great potential with good artifacts floating around (like the Processor above).  Worn Powerstone and of course Phyrexian Colossus also play nice with the Key.  Another card I was excited to get was Lightning Greaves.  I cannot think of a card that is more useful in General-centric strategies than the Greaves.  Whispersilk Cloak, Hornet CannonPhyrexian Vault, and Phyrexian Totem are all playable cards that can help a beginner with EDH.  Living Death and Slay are pretty good as well.

Taking a look at the good guys we find that the Coalition has a bunch to offer.  One, two, three, four…four Generals come in this deck!  Darigaaz, the IgniterGerrard Capashen, Rith, the Awakener, and Treva, the Renewer.  That’s a lot of Legendary goodness.

The Coalition give us some great utility creatures as well.  Thornscape Battlemage, Sunscape Battlemage, and Thunderscape Battlemage all offer some usefull abilities.  Yavimaya Elder  = card advantage (cool new art too).  Armadillo Cloak, Coalition Relic, and Power Armor are decent goodies as well.  The Coalition also gives us a great finisher in Urzas Rage.  This big spell laughs in the face of counter-magic and the foil treatment it got is superb.

If you are new to EDH, or if you know someone who wants to get into it, then the Phyrexia vs. The Coalition Duel Deck is a great place to pick up some awesome older cards.  Use this as a springboard to take the plunge into the EDH waters.

Worldwake EDH: Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs

A while back I took a look at new EDH Generals from Worldwake.  I decided to make a deck-list featuring Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs.  I wanted to go with a build that was full of flavor, using the imagery of the powerful ogre warlord.  In most cases of card selection I used flavor as the deciding factor.

The premise of this deck is that the mighty Kazuul is marshaling a vast horde of evil humanoids to raid and plunder.  I stuck with some good ol’ fashioned D&D concepts; ogres bullying smaller orcs and goblins to do their bidding, which in this case means WAR!  Last time I mentioned Deathforge Shaman, Initiate of Blood, Heartless Hidetsugu and Rustmouth Ogre as possible options so I am going to put them in.  I took another look at Gatherer to see how many different ogres were in red.
Ogres (7):

Now that our ogre taskmasters are in place we need some orc and goblin minions to fill out the army.
Goblins (24):


Orcs (5):

All of these little guys form the backbone of our army.

No ogre warlord worth his salt would go into battle only relying on puny orcs and goblins, so Kazuul will have some hired giant muscle.
Giants (4):

Our horde is in place, so we need some gear to make our General and friends more formidable.
Equipment (8):

Now our army has plenty of fodder and gear so all we need is a way to promote our General’s ability.  Our plan is limit our opponents mana base by eliminating key lands and mana producing artifacts which are very common in EDH.
Land Hate(10):


Artifact Hate (3):

We have thirty eight slots for our own land and mana producing artifacts.

The deck is complete. It looks like Kazuul’s enemies are in for a rough time as his horde pillages the countryside. Can anyone stop the Tyrant of the Cliffs? Now this deck is not perfect but it has answers to problem artifacts and lands and can generate creatures early.  I think this is a good starting point for a really fun and flavorful EDH deck. Until next time.

Pack War: Tool for Teaching Magic the Gathering

I work a lot.  Such is life in the restaurant industry.  Managing a bar means working late at night (Friday and Saturday) and that means less time for me to enjoy my favorite hobby.  Luckily for me, my wife is always willing to flop cards with me.  Now my wife is not Pro-Tour caliber, she doesn’t get excited over the latest expansion and everyday things don’t make her think of Magic cards.  However, my wife has an EDH deck (Sliver Overlord), she has her favorite card (Avatar of Woe),  and will pilot any deck I give her so I can practice.  In short, my wife is a casual player, really casual, ranking magic with Monopoly or Clue.  She sees it as a game; something to pass the time with on a rainy afternoon.  This is easy for me to understand but hard for me to relate with (how can she read Wild Mongrel and not get excited?).

One thing I have found to be difficult for the casual player is the release of new expansions every quarter.  Magic is a game that constantly evolves.  Each new card brings with it a text block of new rules which can be overwhelming for the casual player.  The casual player doesn’t tend to read spoilers or set reviews.  Living with a casual player has led me to find a great format for teaching/learning the newest set without needing to learn new cards in advance.  I am referring to Pack War (also called Booster War or MiniMaster).

Pack War is really simple:  Each player takes one booster pack and three of each basic land.  This will give a thirty card deck.  The rest is just plain old Magic; normal life totals, phases, and rules.  My wife and I keep the cards from the booster face down so we won’t know what is in our “deck” before hand, which adds an extra level of excitement.  There are many variations of the Pack War rules.  Some people do not allow Mulligans, others have a smaller starting hand size, I have even read about allowing all players access to as much mana of any color they want so there is no need to add land (Fireball = autowin).  When my wife and I were opening Shards of Alara we decided to only use two of each basic land since the color fixing was so good.  Pack War offers plenty of options for people wanting to play a quick game.

packs

Pack War is a great way to make opening boosters a lot more fun.  It is even possible to squeeze in Pack War between rounds at a tournament.  It also gives really bad cards a chance to see some play (Feral Contest, Goblin Game).  Sure there is a bit more randomness to it, but I think that it adds to the charm.  Bojuka Brigand equipped with Kitesail ftw.

My favorite aspect of Pack War is that it is an easy way to teach the game of Magic.  I am always willing to teach people how to play and I find Pack War is simple without being overwhelming.  It allows us to focus on what the cards do and the basic mechanics of the game.  Pack War as a teaching tool is much more effective than using U/W Chapin vs. Jund.

Magic is my hobby and I devote a large amount of time towards it.  I research decks, use draft simulators, follow players on facebook, read articles and so on.  The casual player is not going to do these things.  When Wizards of the Coast decided to print less cards per year, they were addressing concerns from new/casual players.  Those players felt that the amount of cards was overwhelming.  Those players felt that they were too far behind and out of the loop.  Pack War addresses these concerns with its simplicity.  Pack War is a way to keep casual players somewhat up to date and it lets us teach the game without having to reference thousands of cards.  The next time you get some boosters, set some aside and try out Pack War.

While I was proofreading this article, I really got the itch to battle it out with some booster packs.  I went to the closest comic store and picked up their last two packs of Worldwake.  My wife and I used three of each basic land and got down to business.

My pack:

Bojuka Bog is not great in Pack War, but I liked the Angel and the Drake.

My wife’s pack:

O.O
Well, obviously my wife opened a great pack. Removal, check. Evasion, check. Chase Rare, check. Looks good. Which card had the biggest impact? It wasn’t old Blue Eyes. It was Brink of Disaster targeting my Graypelt Hunter to stop my early aggro. Caustic Crawler came down a turn later to prevent me from getting a decent block. The Crawler and the Shaman got me into the red zone pretty quick after that. Good stuff.  Go try Pack War for yourself, you won’t be disappointed.

Patrick Chapin’s “Punishing Gifts”-Extended Tournament Report

Over the weekend I had a chance to go play an extended tournament at my local game store.  It ended up being a small (9 people) affair, but I still had a great time.  Earlier in the week, I asked Power 9 Pro’s very own Joe Klesert for some advice on what to play.  He told me about a great deck from Patrick “the Innovator” Chapin that looked to take advantage of the current Dark Depths/Thopter Foundry (DDT) dominated meta-game.  DDT is arguably the best deck in the format right now, punishing other decks based on the Depth’s Vampire Hexmage combo and the Thopter Sword of the Meek combo.  The list that Joe gave me was this:

I did not have access to all of the cards I needed so I had to replace 1 Hallowed Fountain with Adarkar Wastes and the Cranial Extraction with another copy of Extirpate.

First round I played Mark who was running a R/G deck that i liked to think of as 2-color zoo.  It ran the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows engine that first appeared in the Ben Rubin Zoo deck now known as Rubin Zoo (great name).  One neat piece of synergy that Mark had was the use of Kavu Predator to go along with his Burnwillows.  Game 1 Mark stomped on my head pretty quickly even after having to mulligan.  Game 2 went a little better, as I had answered all of his threats and he was in top deck mode.  I had the Punishing Fire engine going, but was trying to find either Teferi or my Thopter/Sword combo as I was still in burn range from early beats.  Unfortunately, he top decked Bloodbraid Elf into Punishing Fire and backed them up with Lightning Bolt to finish me off.

Second Round I played against Joseph playing a version of Elves!.  I was really surprised to see this list, when I was doing research on extended there was very little mention of Elves!.  In Game 1, Firespout was the superstar allowing me to blow-up 2 Heritage Druids and buy myself enough time to set up my Thopter/Sword combo to win.  Game 2 was a blowout thanks to Engineered Explosives holding the fort until I could go ultimate with Jace.

Trying to gain some momentum I headed to Round  3 where I was playing against Johnny running U/B Teachings.  His deck is similar to mine but it relies more on setting up Mystical Teachings to find Teferi.  In Game 1, Johnny gets Teferi online quickly and I need to spend a lot of resources to get past the counter wall in order to get rid of him.  It was all for naught as once Path to Exile finally got rid of Teferi, Crovax, Ascendant Hero came down to finish me off.  Crovax is great tech against Thopter tokens, even if the opposing side has an army built up Crovax can still turn that combo “off”.  Game 2 was the most fun I had in the tournament.  Johnny and I were in an all out counter war.  I had my Gargoyle Castle/Crucible of Worlds engine going, attacking with 3/4 tokens, trying to get past his team of Teferi and Sphinx of Jwar Isle.  In the end, I forgot to activate and swing  with my Celestial Colonade which would have put him low enough to burn out with Punishing Fire (in hand).  He got off Pulse of the Fields and my opportunity was gone.

Sitting on my 1-2 record I drew the bye for the fourth and final round and decided to head home early (much to the delight of my wife).  This deck was a blast to play.  There are plenty of amazing interactions in the deck.  I will definitely practice with it and try to bring it out again.  One thing I noticed was that I wanted a way to put more pressure on my opponent, but only through more testing will I figure out what that should be (more Jace perhaps?).If you are looking for a deck to play, I would recommend this one, just make sure you have enough time to practice.

New EDH Generals from Worldwake

Elder Dragon Highlander is one of my favorite formats to play.  The rules of this format allow for some very exciting interactions with cards that would be rarely played in any other format.  The most important aspect of EDH is the General.  Any Legendary Creature can be the General for your EDH deck with very few exceptions ( Braids, Cabal Minion is banned for example), and with the release of Worldwake some new potential Generals join the fray.

Anowon, the Ruin Sage is a strong new General for mono-black EDH decks.

Anowon has an ability that reminds us of the Abyss.   Mono-black is a strong color in EDH and with the addition of Anowon, vampire themed decks get a power boost.  There are plenty of Vampires running around in Magic but the fact that their creature type lets them dodge a bullet from Anowon makes them really shine.  Vamps that work well on team Anowon include Ascendant Evincar which can destroy token strategies; Repentant Vampire shines against other decks running swamps; Mephidross Vampire is a house when you start turning your opponents team with Krovikan Vampire and Soul Collector.  Anowon’s Worldwake friends are also welcome additions to the army: Bloodhusk Ritualist, Butcher of Malakir and Kalastria Highborn.

The next addition to the EDH world is Thada Adel, Acquisitor.

Thada Adel will give any opposing player fits as most decks run very powerful artifacts.  Thada will see play not only as a General just for the chance to steal things like Mindslaver, Nevinyrrals Disk, Rings of Brighthearth, and Oblivion Stone.  Even nabbing a Sol Ring can be devastating.

Next up is Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs

Kazuul is not quite as impressive as an EDH General as Anowon and Thada but it’s ability can be good.  Red has access to Land destroying effects that can make it more likely for Kazuul’s ability to resolve.  I like the idea of adding Pandemonium to prevent people from attacking you with swarms.  If you wanted to try an Ogre themed deck pick up Deathforge ShamanRustmouth Ogre, Initiate of Blood and Heartless Hidetsugu (who makes a good General himself).

Representing Green we have Omnath, Locus of Mana

The great thing about this General is that its low casting cost ensures that it will hit the battlefield early and often.  Cards like Early Harvest, Extraplanar Lens and Gauntlet of Power make this Elemental a beatstick.  Omnath’s best friend is Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary.  Mana ramp is a must when playing Omnath, so be sure to have Staff of Domination and Helix Pinnacle for alternate win conditions.

Last on our list of new EDH Generals we have the killer Kraken Wrexial, the Risen Deep

Big body, evasion and a relevant ability makes sure that Wrexial wrecks stuff.  Using a semi-mill strategy can ensure plenty of juicy targets for our sea monster friend.  Glimpse the Unthinkable, Mind Funeral and the other deep-sea threat Nemesis of Reason go perfectly with Wrexial.  Other graveyard loving cards that can go along with our General are Beacon of Unrest, Memory Plunder and Puppeteer Clique. Sexy Wrexy definitely has a lot going for it.

EDH just got more exciting with these new Generals.  I wish there was a new white Legend to round out the list.  Out of all of these newcomers I feel that Anowon and Thada will have the biggest impact, but that won’t stop me from putting Wrexial in my Szadek, Lord of Secrets deck.