Category Archives: General Magic Discussions

Power 9 Pro: Goodbye and Thank you

Dear Gamers,

I’m not much for drawing things out, so here’s the short of it:

Power 9 Pro will no longer produce the Dragon’s Eggs.

The decision was not reached easily, and I recognize that a number of people will be disappointed to hear this news. We are contacted daily by individual players, stores looking to stock the Dragon’s Eggs and distributors all over the world.

The short of it is, I cannot scale the business profitably. I have sought to make partnerships that could solve this problem, but alas, I was not able to finalize anything that would solve the issue of scale.

I extend a massive thank you to everyone involved with the Dragon’s Eggs, especially Adria Mooney and Archawir Istanbulian. You both were immensely helpful, and without both of you there certainly would never have been a Dragon’s Egg.

Second, a sincere thank you to each of the gamers who purchased the Dragon’s Eggs over the years. Each of you were also instrumental in the success of the Dragon’s Eggs — I always loved receiving emails from you about how much you loved your Dragon’s Egg. Those memories will always be a trophy I can carry with me. More than that, I know that your word-of-mouth praise is what made it possible for me to continue making the Dragon’s Eggs for nearly five years, despite the headwinds we all experience as entrepreneurs. There are few words to express how much I appreciate your support and enthusiasm.

Thanks again for your support.

Happy gaming,

James DiPadua

Magpie Inventory Updates Just Got Faster

Happy New Year from everyone at Power 9 Pro.

We’ve been busy pushing forward on Magpie over the last few weeks, battling off our families through the holidays so we could keep making Magpie better.

In addition to an extensive set of updates, we wanted to make sure you were aware that we’re addressing smaller enhancements that can make life easier. If you did miss our update about Store Front and Pro account tools, here is the setup video, and here is the general update.

New This Week

Earlier this week, we released a set of “quick inventory” tools for single-click inventory management.

To add a card to your inventory, all you have to do now is click the plus sign. The cards will be added to that group at your current buy price. No need to open the inventory manager, click buy, enter a price, etc.

Quick Add and Remove Inventory
Single-click for adding and removing cards

If you would like to provide a custom buy/sell price, you can still do so by clicking the middle button. Note that this button still shows your current inventory for each card.

In the last two weeks, we’ve also addressed mobile formatting, so accessing Magpie on your phone or tablet will be as great of an experience as through a traditional browser.

New Team Member

Late last fall, we grew our team by one, welcoming Josh to the Magpie development team. Josh’s expertise is primarily in backend services — stuff you won’t typically encounter unless something breaks! Josh’s work is already helping to prevent that from happening, and we’re excited to have him on the team. :)

Coming Up Next

Smart Pricing: Through very popular demand, Smart Pricing is going to make it easy for you to normalize card prices (charge $4.95 instead of $4.81) while also setting minimum sell prices. Minimum prices will be really useful for bulk rares, uncommons, etc.

Smart Pricing will be available next week, so please keep an eye out for our update on this important enhancement.

Smart Pricing Preview
Smart Pricing settings will be on the group level

As a quick preview, Smart Pricing will be a group-based setting, allowing you to set different pricing strategies for different groups. For example, Smart Pricing will allow you to set prices for bulk rare and uncommon groups while also creating different settings for hot Standard and Modern rares. So useful!

Promos: Expect promo cards to be available next week. We’re finishing up a final audit before making the data public. The addition of promos to Magpie will complete our tracking of all English MTG cards. w00t!

Going to GP Sacramento?

Friday through Sunday, I will accompany a small army of friends and fellow players from San Francisco to GP Sacramento. If you’re attending, I’d love to meet you, hear your ideas for Magpie and just talk Magic. Look for the guy wearing a t-shirt with a big Magpie.

Magpie T-Shirt
The shirt I'll be wearing.

magpie-sky2

Announcing Magpie: Finally, a better way to monitor Magic Cards

Power9Pro has focused on player needs since 2008. Our first product the Dragon’s Egg is still the premier Magic/CCG carrying case, and we’re quite proud of its continued success in the market.

But carrying cards to/from tournaments and friends’ houses isn’t the end-point for Magic players.

Playing the game is only half of the picture: Many of us spend a tremendous amount of time monitoring the value of our cards–the “Collectible” aspect of our favorite Collectible Card Game.

From my own personal experience, monitoring card prices and trying to make sure I get the most value from my collection is a tremendous and unbelievably time-consuming challenge.

From talking with hundreds–if not thousands–of players over the years, I know this is a problem shared by nearly everyone in the Magic community. There are entire collections of articles written on the tedious, time-consuming techniques for trading, value-collecting and just getting the most from our cards. Talk about a dizzyingly complex game environment to find yourself in!

With that said, Power9Pro is thrilled to announce the release of Magpie, a web-based service to help players track the value of their collections and maximize trade value relative to their collection.

There are plenty of free services that players can use to look up prices, but there are none that will tell at what price a player acquired a card. There’s no service that lets players track card value customized to their collection. (As we’d expect. Free is typically fairly limited in value.)

For example, say I was able to trade a foil Vendilion Clique for a Bob and some other things (true story)…was that a good trade?

If we look at straight card prices, maybe, maybe not—”clearly depends on what the other cards are,” you might argue.

Turns out that is generally irrelevant. What actually maters most is the acquisition cost for my Vendilion Clique. If I got the Clique for $10, then the trade is phenomenal. If I got the Clique for $60, then the deal starts looking a bit more break-even. As with stocks/equities, the only thing that matters is the marginal gain in value.

Magpie helps players eliminate the ambiguity in card pricing by providing players with the tools they need to protect and maximize the value of their collections.

I like to think of myself as a fairly informed consumer but the complexities and ever-shifting ground of card value makes staying informed a very difficult challenge. Magpie simplifies all this and does the heavy analysis and tracking for you. Magpie will even tell you what cards in your collection have gone from $1 to $10. Magpie will even suggest ways to optimize your trade binders. No more lugging around unwanted cards in your trade binder!

In a world where none of us have copious amounts any free time, freeing up just an extra hour or two per week can make a tremendous difference. For me, an extra two hours per week actually means that I can play in a draft, workout or go on a date with my wife. Perhaps equally important is that I won’t have to worry about whether I’m entering a bad trade. Magpie provides all the information I need: acquisition cost, current appreciation/depreciation on a card-specific levee, and trend information. Plus it’s all relevant to me and not some unknown “market price” (set by one or two online stores I might add…).

Think about it:

  • How would you use an extra two hours per week?
  • How does an extra dollar or two gained (or avoided loss) on each trade affect your wallet or your ability to play in competitive tournaments?

For me and the hundreds of players I’ve personally spoken with about this problem, I know it can make a big difference.

Magpie is simply a better way to monitor cards.

Magpie has three plans available to meet the needs of each player: Limited, Basic and Pro.

I’m a perfect example of someone who would need/use the Basic Plan. I don’t trade frequently but do want to keep an eye on specific value cards and tournament staples. The Basic Plan allows me to track and monitor up to 100 cards—and to change the monitored cards at any time to suit my needs. Additionally, I can do an unlimited number of searches when I am trading.

Other players may be more suited toward the Pro account which allows for unlimited monitoring. I think of a few “power-traders” I know who would fall into this category.

You can learn more about Magpie here.

Happy trading,

James DiPadua

p.s. I will be at GP Vegas. If you’re interested in getting a demo of Magpie, look for the guys wearing Magpie t-shirts. :)

MTGO Videos – Innistrad Block Constructed Daily Event #1 – RW Aggro

Hey Guys,

So I’ve been tinkering around with Innistrad block constructed on MTGO, and I’ve grown more or less comfortable with the format.  I originally started out playing green-white humans, but came to two realizations about the format.  The first is that the mana in this format is horrible.  With no allied dual lands, it’s very hard to hit your curve (which is extremely important in such an aggro-heavy format) and thus cards like Champion of the Parish and Mayor of Avabruck become much less appealing as the game goes later.   The second realization I came to is that the GW deck didn’t have enough reach, especially against the once ever-prominent Burning Vengeance deck, as they would have infinite Blasphemous Acts and Rolling Temblors to kill everything, and would often kill you from a very low life total because you couldn’t push through damage to kill them.

The solution I found to both these problems was to switch out the green for red.  This was before more than a handful of lists went up, and I was originally a slightly more controlling deck with Angelic Overseers and Mentor of the Meeks, instead of Midnight Hauntings and Instigator Gangs.  However, the core of Brimstone Volley and Devils Play were there and provided a much needed amount of damage to finish off opponents.

Here’s my current list:

Sideboard:
2 Geist-Honored Monk
2 Divine Reckoning
1 Blasphemous Act
3 Geistflame
2 Silverchase Fox
4 Slayer of the Wicked

Both the main and the side have changed and continue to change almost daily as them meta evolves and I find new things to try out.   If  anyone wants to make a ton of money on magic online, find a surefire way to beat both RW aggro and Jund control consistently, as those make up the majority of the decks online that present any sort of sizeable challenge.

Without further ado, here are the videos!

Cheers,

Zak

@zturchan on twitter, zak-AT-power9pro.com, zturchan on MTGO

A Modern Criticism

Authour’s Note: The Majority of this article was written pre-nationals, and has since been slightly revised to include recent developments from mtgo, etc.

Hello everyone, and welcome to my first text article in quite some time. Over the past few weeks I’ve been preparing hard for Canadian Nationals which take place the weekend of August 20 in addition to my full-time summer job so I haven’t been able to write all the articles I’d have liked. I write on the way from Fairmont Hot Springs in British Columbia to the Calgary airport where I leave for the national championships in Toronto, after a week of family vacation (aka me testing on Magic Online in every spare waking moment). Anyway, now that I have a 3 hour drive, I finally got down to writing an article.

Recently, Wizards of the Coast announced he next step in their development of the modern format, a nonrotating format which starts at Mirrodin/8th Edition. This format was debuted at the Magic Online Community Cup where notable members of the Magic community took on Wizards staff in a series of nontraditional formats. When I first heard about this format, I was ecstatic. This format seemed like a great new thing: a format with the nonrotating nature of legacy, and the power level and accessibility of old extended. Most importantly, this format would be unhindered by the reserve list, and older cards which became expensive could be reprinted. The initial ban list seemed reasonable, eliminating the Dark Depths/Vampire Hexmage and Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry combos in addition to several other overly powerful effects. I was very excited to have a format where I could play my older, more powerful cards, as we are unable to get 8 people for a legacy tournament at my local game shop because very few people can afford the cards. Like most people, I enjoy playing with powerful cards. I was thrilled at the concept of playing Dark Confidant, Bitterblossom, Stoneforge Mystic, Cryptic Command, Mulldrifter and many more.

Fast forward to this past week. Wizards announces that the extended portions of the upcoming Pro Tour Philadelphia and the team portion of Worlds will be changed to Modern, and they announce a new banlist for the format. What Wizards banned were in essence the most powerful combo and control cards that I was excited to play with. Now there are two methodologies I think may have been behind this banlist, in addition to what has already been said on the mothership. First, they may have wanted to make a completely new and open format, where deckbuilding genius would be rewarded in an environment without powerful “must play” cards like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Stoneforge Mystic or Bitterblossom. However, while this is a reasonable goal for a format, allowing both Tarmogoyf and the Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows interaction is orthogonal to that goal. Tarmogoyf, of course, being among the top 3 2 drops of all time (the others being Dark Confidant and Stoneforge Mystic), playable in almost every non-combo deck. It’s the best aggressive 2 drop any aggro deck could hope for, while at the same time being the most cost effective finisher a control deck could want. With the giant combo banning spree, I think we’ll see Goyfs in a significant number of top 8 decklists. Punishing Fire is also one of the most effective methods of dealing with creatures, as well as providing a nice mana sink for the late game. Decks in a format where the combo is legal are forced to either play mostly bigger creatures like Kird Ape and Wild Nacatl, play very few creatures, or play dedicated hate for that combo, possibly in the mainboard when it won’t even be effective a nontrivial amount of the time. Without those bannings, as well, I would say that this format is not one which is wide open.

The second paradigm I feel the new banlist may have been developed under was the “Ban everything until aggro is the best deck” paradigm. There are no aggro cards on this banlist, unless you count Stoneforge Mystic, but as we learnt from pre-banning Standard, Stoneforge is more at home in a control deck than in an aggressive one. Maybe it’s because control cards are traditionally more powerful than aggro cards, or that it’s harder to design fair control cards, but If control players like myself don’t get to play with some of our powerful cards, I don’t see why aggro decks should get the best aggressive creature ever printed, even called a mistake by Wizards. While I think that Wizards should ban as few cards as possible and let the format sort itself out, numerous pros including Patrick Chapin have said that it is better to err on the side of too many bans instead of too few. If this were the case, I’d also ban both Tarmogoyf and Punishing Fire. I think that the Grove of the Burnwillows cycle could be a perfectly reasonable in an expert expansion as reverse pain-lands, so getting rid of Fire would be preferable. However, if this combo is in the format, I see no problem with Bitterblossom being unbanned. Look at last year’s Pro Tour Amsterdam – the main reason nobody played faeries was because it got absolutely crushed by Punishing Fire. Without Riptide Laboratory or a similar effect that a faeries deck would play to fight the easily-splashable Fire-Grove combo, I think Bitterblossom would be fine in this format. In addition, the Cloudpost deck has been tearing up the Magic Online meta, usually in mono blue, mono green or blue-green variations. This deck is also absurdly powerful, easily casting Primeval Titan into various eldrazi quite quickly depending on its draw. At this moment, Vesuva or Cloudpost could be a potential ban candidate, depending on whether wizards would want to neuter the deck or kill it completely. If Wizards were indeed trying to promote an aggressive format; it wool appear that they missed ‘post, which is believable coming from the same people who didn’t realize that Spliter Twin/Deceiver Exarch was a combo for standard.

These are just a few of my personal quips with the banlist and the methodology behind it. However, I believe that for the most part, the banlist is surprisingly spot-on. Cards like Glimpse of Nature, the core of affinity, the dredge deck, and even Stoneforge Mystic are extremely powerful and could easily dominate the format, and can lead to games of magic which can lead to one person not being able to play Magic. I’m not a fan of banning cards because they are unfun. (Un)fun is in the eye of the beholder, and if I’m playing current Caw-Blade against a pre-con, neither of us are going to have fun. Is that anyone’s fault? No, the decks simply aren’t built with the same goal in mind. However, when you have the highest levels of decks competing against each other and you still have games that are significantly unfun, then we have a problem and a banning is usually in order. A great example of this is in one of my favourite formats: Pauper. Flash back to a couple months ago, before Jace and Stoneforge were banned in Standard. In Pauper, just like Standard, there was a dominating deck: Esper/Frantic/Twiddle Storm. The deck used a combination of the “free” spells from Urza block such as Cloud of Faeries, Snap, and Frantic Search. Normally, these cards untap lands equal to their casting costs, but this deck bent that to it’s advantage in two ways. First, using Nightscape Familiar and Sunscape Familiar makes your blue spells cost less mana, so your paying less mana to untap the same number of lands. Second, using the Ravnica bouncelands as a part of your manabase (Dimir Aquaduct, Azorious Chancery, etc.) lets you net more mana when you untap those lands. Used in conjunction, the “free” spells are no longer free, and they actually give you mana, acting as rituals in addition to bouncing a permanent, giving you a 1/1 flier, or letting you filter cards. All that extra mana can be funnelled into draw spells like Mulldrifter and Deep Analysis, which let yo draw more “free spells”. Eventually you cast a giant Temporal Fissure and bounce all of your opponent’s permanents in addition to a Mnemonic Wall to do that every turn and beat them down with incidental creatures. This deck was extremely hard to disrupt, and was quite clearly the best deck in pauper. The only reasons that stopped every single pauper player from playing this deck were that it cost over 50 tickets to put together because of its power, and that the deck was boring as hell to pilot, as well as play against. I will state on the record that if it were cheaper, Esper Storm in pauper would have been more dominating than Caw Blade was pre-ban. That’s how good this deck was, but it was mostly only good because of the fact that there was no way to fight it. If we had a Rule of Law or something at common, the deck would have been fine, but due to the fact that such complex cards aren’t printed at common, Esper Storm had a stranglehold on the pauper metagame. So many matches would be you sitting there trying to attack or accrue card advantage, while your opponent pretty much masturbated for 10 minutes each game while they comboed off. To exacerbate the matter, the deck had a low, but nonzero chance of fizzling, so you couldn’t concede like you can to a giant Grapeshot. Even worse, if you have a counterspell or removal spell that you need to time perfectly mid-combo to give yourself the best shot at stopping them, so you couldn’t even f6. You were not playing magic. Then, on the eve that Jace and Stoneforge were banned, my face lit up with glee as I saw on the Magic Online group that Frantic Search had been banned. This was exactly what I want from a ban – the overwhelming power of a deck to be crippled, but for the deck to still have a place in a newer, more diverse metagame. Esper Storm still frequently appears in the top pauper decks, but to a much less extent, and we have a meta where everything from storm variants to all-out infect or burn aggro to a fog deck are viable and capable of taking down a tournament. I think to a great extent, the modern banlist accomplishes this task, and commend wizards on getting most of the banlist right.

My final criticism of Modern lies in the format’s place in Magic and how Wizards has chosen to implement it. Being that the format is nonrotating, the format that it immediately appears to be in contention with is Legacy, which is currently at the peak of its popularity thanks to the SCG opens. So my immediate question is this: Why should I play Modern instead of Legacy? When I sit down and think about it, there’s really no reason. There are no modern FNMs (yet), no modern PTQs (yet), and I’m not on the pro tour (yet). In order to justify me sinking a ton of money into it, there needs to be some incentive for me to play the format at a high level. Comparing Modern and legacy, I don’t find there to be enough of a positive difference between the two to justify the extra investment.

It’s no secret Legacy is expensive. With format staples like Wasteland, Force of Will, and the dual lands easily exceeding the $50 range and sometimes breaking $100, the format is undoubtedly expensive to play. I started playing Magic in Planar Chaos, and I didn’t play competitive standard for several years. I simply couldn’t fathom spending that much on a hobby. However, I got a part time job while in high school, went to FNM every week, got in with a good crowd of players who gave me a solid foundation in the game. When I had become proficient at Standard, I looked to extended, and then Legacy, and I picked a deck and gradually started picking up the pieces. I had played Merfolk in both standard and extended, it seemed only natural to get into legacy. For over a year I picked up a Force of Will here, some Wastelands there, and gradually built up the deck to the point where I have a fully functional deck. Now with Modern, the prices are lower, but not by a huge margin. We’re seeing shocklands at $35 a pop, Bobs at the same, Goyfs at $80, and the list goes on. With Modern, I need to buy into a whole new deck complete with an expensive land base and format staples. Unlike when Jace was $100 in standard, I can’t just go draft Ravnica Block or triple Future Sight at FNM. The whole reason that people wanted a new, nonrotating format was that it would circumvent the issues created by the reserve list and powerful and expensive cards could be reprinted. However, if Wizards doesn’t do that – we’re going to have the same problem as Legacy, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. Without shockland reprints, I really can’t justify buying a full set of 40 shocklands for a format I’ll play only a few times a year.

For players that have not bought into legacy or vintage, at least in part, then I can see why modern would be a fantastic starting off point as a player wishes to play older formats. But for players who have sunk some sizeable amount of cash into a legacy deck or 2, there is no real allure to the format. Why pay a bunch of extra money so that I don’t get to play with the cards I love? Unless the format has something to offer me more than legacy, I really won’t be looking to pick up all the staples any time soon, because it’s terrible value. For standard, one could easily justify acquiring jaces pre-ban because you would easily win more than your $400 with them back from standard tournaments. For older formats, that’s not true, as there are not any frequent local legacy or modern tournaments. I bought into legacy because I wanted something to play, and acquired the deck because I knew I could sell it for a reasonable portion of what I paid for it if I ever got bored (Turns out the deck quadrupled in price since I bought the pieces). With Modern, I can’t see shocklands going any higher unless Wizards puts a gargantuan amount of emphasis on the format with no support behind it. However, there is the possibility that Wizards does reprint Goyf, Bob, shocklands, etc. in which case I would lose a ton of value off a $1000 set of shocklands, a $400 set of goyfs, etc. Sad as I am to say it, this is one situation where the reserve list is good for someone like myself. If they’re not going to reprint staples to lower the cost of entry to a format, why wouldn’t I buy the ones that are backed by a guarantee to no be reprinted, and therefore most likely retain value?

However, my main gripe with the reserve list is that there is not enough reasonable supply of older staples to allow more than a few people in an area to play the format. The people that play legacy are those that are dedicated to the game and have extra money to spend on higher value singles, or they are those who have been playing the game for long periods of time. With modern, I don’t see how the target audience changes, except by lowering each of these barriers. Instead of a dual land costing you $60-$120, they now cost $20-$40. Instead of powerful lands coming from Revised, they come from Ravnica. While there are still reasonable supplies of shocklands right now (and even then I don’t think there are enough to make up for all the growth that Magic has seen through these past few years), as time goes on I can see the same problems occurring with Modern as Legacy. Yes there will be a few players but the format won’t be accessible enough to have a weekly tournament for it.

When I buy cards, I buy them for a certain purpose and format(s). I also like playing with powerful cards, as they make the game more fun for me. If I had the card base and the crew, I’d love to play some high-level vintage, but alas I have neither. I’ve discussed the banlist above, but I want to play with cards like Stoneforge Mystic and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. If I can’t play the cards I paid nontrivial sums of money for from recent expansions in standard or modern, I’ll play older formats like Legacy. I’ve talked about the banlist a great deal, but a great deal of the allure of modern was lost on me when I found out that almost all of the cards in the format I was excited about had been banned. Whereas Legacy is often touted as being a format where almost anything is possible (at least it was until the printing of Mental Misstep, but that’s a topic for people more qualified than I am), Modern seems to be pretty contained at the moment, with the biggest decks being Zoo and post variants. From a logical standpoint – there is nor reason why I would want to play modern instead of Legacy – fewer decks means similar games and I think that one of the most important things about a nonrotating format is the diversity of decks such as what legacy had before the printing of Mental Misstep.

In short, these are the reasons I don’t think that modern in it’s current incarnation will succeed:
1) High price of entry, most notable $30-$40 dual lands, $80 Tarmogoyfs, & $40 Bobs. These are staples which people will have to buy many copies of to be able to build competitive decks. While I don’t mind having a couple high priced/high power cards, I do mind having those in addition to land bases which can be hundreds of dollars.
2) Fewer deck choices. With the current ban list, only a select few decks seem to be able to compete when compared to legacy.
3) Little support. While this could change in the future, as of now it’s not worth investing time and money into the format without being able to regain value from tournaments.
4) The format isn’t fun. I’ve played several games with mono green post and I’ve been skipping some Magic Online games while my friend plays Zoo and the format isn’t enjoyable. Decks are currently very un-interactive (e.g. Zoo tries o just beat you down quickly, post tries to cast something huge, etc) and there doesn’t seem to be a consistent control deck as of yet.

These are just my first thoughts on Modern as it exists now. However, it is still a new format, and I hope that with data from the upcoming Pro Tour and Magic Online events, that wizards can make the right choices regarding the format and how they want to proceed with it. I’m sure I could love modern, but just not this modern.

As always, feel free to post in the comments below, or you can contact me via email at zak-AT-power9pro.com, via twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan. Also, I stream magic online matches of a variety of formats every Monday at 5pm Mountain (7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific) at www.twitch.tv/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

Doubling_Cube

MTGO Videos – Cube Draft 4

Hey Guys, I recently had another opportunity to cube draft thanks to Thea Steele (@wmap on twitter).  Notable guests in this draft were Tim Pskowski (Recent StarCityGames Standard Open winner) and AJ Kerrigan (One of the best young minds in the game, famous for his performance at various SCG opens).

Playlist! – The volume starts out kind of loud – you have been warned!

I hope you guys enjoy the games, and I hope to bring some more content out in the next little while.  As always, remember that I stream Magic Online games live every Monday at www.justin.tv/zturchan or www.twitchtv.com/zturchan for at least an hour at 5PM mountain, 7PM eastern, 4PM pacific.  Check it out!

As always, feel free to contact me via email (zak-AT-power9pro.com), via twitter (@zturchan) or in the comments below.  I’m also on MTGO a great deal so feel free to message me there (zturchan).

Cheers,

Zak

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.

Repercussions of the New Phyrexia Godbook Leak

Hello everyone,

As I’m sure many people know, Wizards recently made a statement about the leak of the Godbook of New Phyrexia.

I’m here to present my thoughts both as a player and as a writer who gets exclusive preview cards for articles.

As a player, I was happy that the godbook was spoiled.  One of my friends recently qualified for pro tour Nagoya, and this let us start brewing and testing for the full block format weeks in advance of the set release.  I’ve spent several hours on Skype with friends pouring over the GodBook on multiple occasions, and have enjoyed looking through every card in the set.  After all, I love spoilers and drew numerous hours of entertainment and discussion from the GodBook.  However, this is only one side of the coin.

As a writer for Power 9 Pro, as the person who took initiative to get us spoiler cards, I disapprove of the leaks.  We had hiccoughs with our first exclusive spoiler (Tunnel Ingus) because of a change in email servers, but when I previewed Go For the Throat some months ago, it easily became one of the most visited articles on the sight.  Exclusive spoilers like this help drive visits to the site, and therefore revenue for the company, with is obviously important.  With the GodBook spoiled, such preview cards would be pointless, because everyone knows what the cards do already and there’s no tension as you scroll down the page to find out what awaits you in booster packs on prerelease day.

So instead of writing to you all about the exciting new set of New Phyrexia, I’m writing a commentary on what can only be described as a ‘Magic Scandal’.  We have two of the most prominent players suspended from sanctioned play and nobody is really happy.

I’d like to clear up a few misconceptions about preview cards that I’ve seen pop up around the internet.

1) Spoilers are free.  That’s right, sites like Power 9 Pro, Channel Fireball, etc. do not pay to get spoiler cards.  We have a mutualistic relationship – we get more website hits with preview cards while wizards gets hype for the new set.  Everyone wins.

2) Who gets what.  Websites like Power 9 Pro and others do not receive the godbook.  Never have, most likely never will.  Because of the relative speed with which we can publish content, we can trow up an entire set review shortly after the set is spoiled.   A print magazine like Lotus Noir is a different story.  They need to have articles written in advance, so that they can be laid out, printed, and distributed.  This process is quite time intensive and so I understand why print magazines need advance notice of a set, especially if the issue is only slated for release after the set is spoiled.  Matignon did not get the spoiler by sheer virtue of being a pro, or being the world champion.  Rather, it was only because he works for a print magazine.  Patrick Chapin, Brad Nelson, and numerous other pros do not – I repeat do not get godbooks in advance.

Now there is obviously a potential for advantage to be gained by having the spoiler in advance.  Could Guillaume have purchased several sets of Stoneforge Mystic when/if he knew about Sword of Feast and Famine?  Sure – but that possibility exists with any spoilers.  Writers like myself get our preview cards in advance of the date we are allowed to publish them, and as such can do  “Insider Trading”.  When I first learnt that Mana Leak was reprinted in M11, I considered stocking up on textless copies while they were $2 apiece.  However, my conscience wouldn’t let me do that, and while not explicitly prohibited, it’s not something I would feel comfortable with doing.  It comes down to a matter of ethics and what one is willing to do with the privileged information.

As far as playtesting is concerned, that’s a different matter.  If the Guillaumes had just played with themselves, the set probably wouldn’t have been leaked and they’d have had a sizeable advantage at pro tour Nagoya.  This is obviously harmful to the integrity of the game, and I can’t done that sort of advantage.  A week or 2 is one thing, but over a month is quite startling.

Obviously this could be solved by simply not distributing godbooks to anyone.  This would harm the magazines when the do post-set articles, but one could argue that the age of Magic magazines is long gone, signified especially by the passing of Scrye a few years ago – or that they simply can’t do full-scale set reviews immediately after launch, and can just get preview cards like other sites.  However, I’m not in the magazine business and don’t know what the exact timeline is that they have to work with.  Regadless, I think this needs to be addressed in order to maintain the image and integrity of the game.

Anyway, that’s my take on this.  I’m disappointed that 2 of my favourite players were behind the leak, and wizards is well within their right to punish them as they have.  I hope that somthing of this magnitude doesn’t happen again, because I think it’s in the best interests of the game for everyone to see the cards more or less at the same time.

On a birghter note, New Phyrexia Prereleases are next week, so I hope you all have a great time there.  I’ll be at the Wizard’s Comics prerelease in Edmonton, so any local readers should drop by and say hi.  As always, feel free to post in the comments below, or email me at zak-AT-power9pro.com or via twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

td60_cobraSplash

Tales From Nationals Qualifiers: Bant Caw Blade (Top 8)

This past week, myself and 4 other friends made the 3 hour drive from Edmonton to Calgary for one of the 4 8-slot nationals qualifiers. In the weeks beforehand, I was testing every variation of Caw Blade possible, and I knew I wanted to play the best deck for this event. However, I was quite wary of the fact that I would be paired up against the mirror several times, and wanted to have an edge in that matchup.

On the Wednesday beforehand, I played a variant of Gerry Thompson’s Darkblade, which I liked. However, I lost in the finals to blue/white because I didn’t have a good plan for sideboarding, that is, I had lots of cards to put in, but so few to take out. This is an example of how not to give yourself the best shot at winning. I really liked the black splash for Inquisition of Kozilek and Creeping Tar Pit, but it still felt like the edge I had wasn’t enough to make the matchup decisively in my favour.

Sometime about midweek, my good friend (and recent PTQ winner) Brian told me of a Bant Caw blade deck that splashed green for Lotus Cobra and Explore. Apparently normal cawblade was one of your best matchups, because a turn 2 Cobra is so much better than a turn 2 stoneforge.

I kept the idea in the back of my mind, knowing that I really didn’t want to audible at the last minute, as I had been practicing with Darkblade and felt more or less comfortable with it, once I had wrinkled out the sideboard plan against blue-white.

On Thursday, I netdecked Gerry’s list for straight blue-white and went to another tournament, which I 3-0ed. The competition was not exactly fierce, and so I took my results their with a grain of salt. I liked hwo the deck played, but I still was unsure.

The one thing I knew I had going for me was that whatever I had been practicing, it had been some form of Caw-Blade. I knew how the mechanics of the deck worked, and despite the differences in colours, I knew I was a competent pilot who could do well with it. However, I did have to make a decision.

Friday night was a draft at Wizard’s, my local store. We had about ~20 people in the smalls store, but the draft fired with 8. The rest of us were testing for the day after. Since I was spending the night with some friends before we drove down the night before, I had brought my 2 binders of standard rares and of tournament-quality commons/uncommons. These binders effectively let me build any deck I need to on the fly. I tested the various cawblade mirrors and got to understand them more, and then Brian asked me if I had done anything with the bant deck. I told him I hadn’t, and that I was probably going to play Darkblade. He said I should sleeve it up and give it a few games just to try, and so I built the deck.

I was pretty amazed.

We started out testing against RUG. I was on the play. I cast a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. He cast a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. I cast Explore into a fetchland and a normal land, cast Preordain, cast Stoneforge Mystic, fetched and cast Mortarpod and killed his cobra. The game was won shortly thereafter.

Now obviously this was an example of a nut draw, but that in and of itself speaks volumes. The one thing that normal caw blade doesn’t have is a ‘nut draw’. Rather, you have a very consistent deck that does powerful things, but not absurdly powerful things. The Cobra package changes that. At the heart, you’ve still got the same old cawblade shell, but you’ve added more speed and explosiveness to the deck.

So I was really happy with that game. Obviously I realized that I wouldn’t always draw like that, but that fact that it could happen was what attracted me to the deck. We played some more matches and drew up the sideboard and this is what we came up with.
Snakes on a Blade


Sideboard

Besides the green splash, there are a few things which make this deck stand out from your typical cawblade deck.

Frost Titan is a card which was in the original version of the list that Brian had found, and after trying it out I was happy to leave it in. Being able to tap down opposing titans, Creeping Tar Pits, or even Gideon Juras proved to be invaluable, and the demi-shroud certainly helped as well. Some lists run Sphinx of Jwar Isle, but I’d much rather have a guy which can do combat with titans, and tap stuff down than full-fledged shroud. As well, who doesn’t love a Titan wielding a sword?

Instead of a second Sword in the mainboard, we run a Bonehoard. Because we run 7 more creatures than normal (4 Cobras and 3 Titans), Bonehoard is more effective. It also helps a great deal in the mirror if I need to take down a Gideon Jura in the late game, or if I just really want another sizeable blocker against aggro decks.

The deck’s mana base is a little awkward, if only because we have so many green sources and not a ton to use them for, but it works out reasonably well. Because of the mana acceleration provided by Lotus Cobra and Explore, this deck is less weak to Tectonic Edge than say Darkblade.

The sideboard is pretty straightforward, but one thing I like is the pair of Tectonic Edges. Note that we don’t ever board out lands for these; rather you treat them as spells so that our mana is still consistent. They’re obviously good against Valakut but also can be very helpful against control decks like Darkblade, espeilly if their game plan involves manlands.

So, after switch to the Bant version of cawblade, I was ready to go crush the tournament the next day.

Other than myself, the group that we brought down had a Valakut player, a blue-white caw blade player, a RUG player (who top 8ed) and a mono white eldrazi player. As soon as I heard about one person playing mono white, I tried to convince him to play Caw Blade but to no avail. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.

Round 1: vs Michael (Tezzeret Caw Blade)
In game 1, I never saw any extraneous artifacts so I assumed he was on plain old Darkblade. I get an early Stoneforge Mystic but he Inquisition of Kozileks away my Sword of Feast and Famine. However, I soon cast a Frost Titan and tap down his Tectonic Edge so that he can’t take me off double white for Gideon Jura. He then punts by casting a Squadron Hawk, which resolves, and then attempting to Go For the Throat my titan with no mana up. I cheerfully indicate that it’s countered and he succumbs to the combine power of Titan and my follow-up Gideon.

Sideboarding: Caw Blade
In this matchup, I board out Mortarpod, a Mana Leak, a Frost Titan and a Day of Judgment. Aside from Mana Leak, these cards don’t do nearly as much as some of the cards I have post-board, and in this style of deck I’d rather play more spells than leave leak mana open in this matchup.

I board in the second sword, because they’re most likely bringing in Divine Offerings or something like that, as well as Voltion Reins for either their sword or their planeswalkers, as well as Into the Roil and Condemn. Spot removal is very useful in this matchup if you can get them to spend their early turns on equipping someone with a Sword, and then you can prohibit them from untapping and get ahead.

On the draw, you can board out 1-2 more leaks for Tec-edges if you feel they’re warranted. In this match I brought 1 in.

In game 2, Michael leads off with a Stoneforge Mystic for Sword of Body and Mind. Because I can’t see him boarding in body and mind against me, I just assume he’s playing a 1/1 split and has Sword of Feast and Famine in his hand. I play a turn 2 Lotus Cobra, hoping to explode on turn 3, but to my surprise he plays a Contagion Clasp[. I didn’t know he was Caw-Tezz at that moment, so I concluded that he might have seem green mana game 1, and inferred that I would have Cobras and then have boarded in Clasps. Of course, he was not next-leveling me, and jut never drew them in game 1. He establishes a board of Squadron Hawks and starts pecking me to death, and when I finally land a Gideon he simply kills it with birds and a Celestial Colonnade. I can only survive being hit with sworded birds for so long and I fold without dealing him any damage.

In game 3, I keep a hand with double Lotus Cobra. My opponent, conveniently enough has double Go For the Throat to dispatch them. He tries to Memoricide me, and while I tank as to whether or not I should counter it he announces Frost Titan. Seeing as I have a titan in hand I snap counter. If any of you are playing with Memoricide, know that you don’t name a card until the spell has resolved, so as not to give away any extra information to your opponent. I stick the titan soon after and he resolves a Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and starts using the +1 ability. He whiffs for several turns in a row while I add a gideon to my team, and tap down his Creeping Tar Pit. When Michael lands a Tumble Magnet and makes it a 5/5 with Tezzeret, I happily force the magnet to attack Gideon and ride my titan to victory.

1 – 0

Round 2: vs Chris (Black-Red Vampires)

Chris is one of the better players in Alberta, so I knew this game wasn’t going to be easy. In game 1, I have double Stoneforge Mystic, which fetch Mortarpod and Sword. The first mystic gets hit by a Lightning Bolt, while the second one sticks. I flash in the Sword and equip it to the germ token and bash in, untapping and forcing a discard. Searching for an answer, Chris activates Viscera Seer, saccing itself to scry. He scrys first, and then attempts to nug me for 2 with Kalastria Highborn. I call a judge and the judge tells him that he can’t do that. This is because you activate the seer’s ability by paying the cost (sacrificing a creature) and putting the ability onto the stack. Highborn triggers and its ability is put on to the stack above the scry ability, and must resolve first. Because it’s a may ability and Chris scryed first, it’s assumed that he didn’t pay for the highborn and by the time he’s already scryed, it’s too late as the ability has already resolved. With an active Sword, it wouldn’t have made much of a difference anyway and and I quickly take the game.

Sideboarding: Vampires

Against vampires, I board out Cobras, 2 leaks and a jace. They have so much removal that Cobra will die almost instantly, and it trades poorly in combat with things like Bloodghast and Viscera Seer. Leaks sometimes don’t do enough, but since I had seen Captivating Vampire in game 1, I reasoned that keeping one in would be better than the 4th Jace.

I boarded in the 2 Kor Firewalkers, the Sylvok Lifestaff, both Ousts, the Condemn, the Day of Judgment and the Into the Roil.

In game 2, I mulligan and keep a slow hand. Chris punishes me with a bunch of vampires, and I can’t stabilize. My notes show him going to 18 and then to 21, and me getting slaughtered, so it wasn’t very close.

Game 3 was where I determined I was running good enough to top 8. I’m on the play and I mulligan down to 5, and all those 5 cards are land. Begrudgingly, I keep 5 land, reasoning that I could hit an absolutely unplayable 4 and at least this way I can play most everything I draw. Chris starts off fast with a Viscera Seer, Kalastria Highborn and a Captivating Vampire. Luckily, I hit a Day of Judgment and reset the board. I then draw into a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, which brainstorms into a Kor Firewalker and Mortarpod. I suit up the firewalker, content to sit back and brainstorm for a few turns, and when Chris attacks me with a 2/2 vampire (I forget which one), I promptly block with my 2/3. To my chagrin, Chris casts a Crush. to force the trade. Eventually I hit a Squadron Hawk and Gideon, which gives me enough card advantage and firepower to win the game. If I could get there off of 5 land, there was nothing that could stop me on my way to nationals.

2 – 0

Round 3: vs Chris (different guy; Valakut)

In game one, Chris misses his 5th land drop with no Overgrown Battlement nor Lotus Cobra. This lets me get a Sword of Feast and Famine online pretty quickly, and force him to start discarding. He manages to eventually resolve an Avenger of Zendikar, but I force the attack with Gideon Jura, and since he doesn’t have a land immediately, I strat killing off plants with Squadron Hawks. I Assassinate the Avenger with gideon on the following turn and he has no gas to stop me.

Sideboarding: Valakut
Against Valakut, we want to be boarding out Squadron Hawks, because not only do they have Inferno Titan and perhaps Slagstorm, but they have enough pressure that you can’t just sit back on massive card advantage from Jace and Hawks and hope they run out of steam. We also want to board out the Bonehoard, as it really doesn’t do anything, along with a Frost Titan and a Gideon Jura. It might be correct to board out the second Gideon and keep in all the Frost Titans, but being able to soak up a hit from Avenger and friends is relevant enough that I don’t mind the 2/1 split postboard. The reason we board out some top-heavy cards is that the only way they really have to interact with our finishers is through their own finishers. If we focus more on ensuring that they don’t stick one of their bigger threats (or if they do, that they are delayed), we really only need 1 or 2 threats to finish the game. Finally, we board out Mortarpod if we don’t see Lotus Cobra, but if we do we leave it in.

From the board we want to add in all the copies of Flashfreeze, both Tectonic Edges, both Ousts, and the second Sword. The first two are pretty obvious, but Oust is really good against either their cobras or battlements, as it not only slows their mana production, but it gives them a semi-dead draw in the later turns. A turn 4 Overgrown Battlement is a lot worse than one on turn 2. The sword is good because they might bring in something along the lines of Natures Claim, and because we’re boarding out 2 equipment and we don’t want extra Stoneforge Mystics to not give us advantage.

In game 2, Chris misses his 5th and drop before drawing and casting a Cultivate. He then resolves a Primeval Titan, which is a lot less effective when his lands at the time were 5 forests and a mountain. He grabbed double Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, and I happily locked down his Primeval with a Frost Titan. Not to be outdone in the haymaker department, Chris threw down an Avenger and dropped a land. I Ousted the avenger and then Stoneforged for a Sword, and attached it to Frosty. Unable to deal with my 8/8 titan, he quickly packed it in.

3 – 0

Round 4: vs Andrew (UW Cawblade)

Andrew leads off with a turn 2 Stoneforge Mystic for Sword, while I have a turn 2 Lotus Cobra. He quickly Mortarpods away my snake and I have to play my own Stoneforge for sword. I resolve my first hawk and get in good with my sword after chumping his, and although he has an Elspeth Tirel and triple Gideon Jura, my collonades and titans manage to take it down.

I sideboarded in much the same way as in round 1.

Game 2 was an interesting affair, with me having turn 2 Lotus Cobra, although it got Ousted twice. Andrew then cast a Gideon Jura and double Tectonic Edge me. I played a Gideon of my own but then he bricked on land and I was able to stabilize of my lands and lotus cobras to eventually kill him. I’m sorry if my notes were a little sparse but the matches were more intense than the brief notes I’ve marked down. However, this game does showcase one awesome thing about this deck. The cobra plan is so different than the stoneforge/squadron hawk plan that you have opponents who bring in things like Oust which while fine against the cobra plan, isn’t nearly as good against stoneforge, hawks, or various planeswalkers. The only card that’s really good against the cobra plan while not being totally divergent from their normal plan is Mortarpod. However, if your opponent fetches Mortarpod to deal with cobra, it means they’re not gettinf a sword to put pressure on you, and when you drop your own stoneforge you get to be the aggressor.

4 – 0

Round 5: vs Michel (UW Venser Control)

I’m excited, because a win here means I can double-draw into top 8. I start off with a strong opener: Lotus Cobra into Stoneforge Mystic, which gets Mana Leaked. Unfortunately I don’t hit my 4th land drop until several turns and Preordains have elapsed, while Michel is more than content to accumulate card advantage through a Jace Beleren while sitting behind a Wall of Omens. Once I get a Squadron Hawk online and equipped, Michel has a Tumble Magnet to stop me form getting it in. He finally resolves a Venser, the Soujourner, and continues to Flicker out his magnet, ensuring I can’t get in an attack. When he finally ultimates venser and starts casting a bunch of spells, while his Celestial Colonnades get in for damage, I know it’s game over.

Sideboarding: Non-Caw based control
So for this matchup I board out pretty much all my creature removal, as the only creatures I saw were Wall of Omens and manlands. So I bring out Mortarpod, Day of Judgment, as well as Bonehoard and one Stoneforge Mystic in favour of Voltion Reins, the Into the Roil, and 2 Tectonic Edge.

In game 2 Michel keeps a land-light hand and has no outs to me swining with unsworded hawks. Not much of a match.

In game 3 we have a slow control match, where I manage to stick a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and start fatesealing. When Jace gets to 13 loyalty, I put a Preordain on the bottom and Michel rips the [card]Jace Beleren to stay alive. He eventually gets a Venser the Soujourner and goes ultimate. This game was about as “draw-go” as you can get, and in the end the deck with 7 Jaces won the Jace war, and by extension the game.

4 – 1

Round 6: vs Mat (Aggro Valakut)

We both have relatively slow starts, and Mat misses his 4th land drop. I try and get ahead with a jace but it quickly dies to a burn spell. Mat hits his 4th land drop, but he only has one forest, and I cast a Frost Titan to lock him out of his only green source and the game.

For sideboarding, I boarded the same way as round 3, except I took out Explores and 2 leaks for Kor Firewalkers, Condemn and the Sylvok Lifestaff. These cards are much better agains the aggro plan while shaving off some of the slower, less effective cards.

On the draw in game 2, I mullligan to 5 and get hit by Lotus Cobra into double Hero of Oxid Ridge. Again, not much of a match.

In game 3, I mulligan to 6 and keep possibly the ideal 6 card hand. I keep Seachrome Coast, Razorverge Thicket, double Oust[card], [card]Kor Firewalker and Stoneforge Mystic. I throw down an early firewalker, and hit my land and Oust his [/card]Lotus Cobra[/card] and fetch Sword of Feast and Famine. I put the sword on the Firewalker, and start swinging in for huge value. He eventually draws a Tumble Magnet to stall, but I eventually just wear down the counters and get through for my souped-up firewalker.

5 – 1

Round 7: vs Adrian (Valakut)

I’m in 6th, paired against the 5th place guy and we intentionally draw. I’m reasonably confident I’m in for top 8.

5 – 1 – 1

When everything is said and done, Jason Ness (the TO) informs everyone that one person at 5-1-1 did not make top 8. He reads them off in descending order and slowrolls us on the 8th seed, by thanking the judges and players and doing announcements just before he makes the announcement. Thankfully, he calls my name and I’m headed for nationals this summer in Toronto.

Because this was a large nationals qualifier, we didn’t play out the top 8. My good friend Attila also made top 8 with RUG, so we were happy that we’d have 4 people from our store headed to nationals this summer.

The deck played very well, and my only loss was to a great player with a great deck. I’m certainly looking forward to trying the Venser deck out once I can get some Vensers of my own. I felt noticeably ahead at almost all times in the mirror, and Frost Titan did more than his fair share of work. If I could change anything, I would probably cut a green source, most likely a Verdant Catacombs for another white source, perhaps a Stirring Wildwood or just another basic plains. Other than that, the deck performed extremely well and I highly recommend it to anyone playing in their local nationals qualifiers in the coming weeks.

I’d love to give a shout out to my testing group from Wizard’s Comics: Attila, for grinding MWS matches with me for hours on end in the preceding weeks; Brian, for convincing me to try the deck and helping me with the sideboard; Stephen, for driving all of us down to Calgary despite the horrid road conditions, and everyone else for helping me along the way – you guys are awesome.

If you have any questions about Bant cawblade, or anything else, feel free to post in the comments below, or email me at zak-AT-power9pro.com or via twitter at www.twitter.com/zturchan.

Cheers,

Zak

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?    

Jace, the Mind Sculptor.full

Jace the Mind Sculptor: Ban-Worthy?

Shortly after the culmination of GP Dallas-Fort Worth, a plethora of magic players expressed their concern about the perceived dominance of Jace decks in standard.  For those of you who were not aware, the top 8 of this most recent GP boasted a top 8 which contained 32 copies of both Jace, the Mind Scluptor and Preordain.

The presence of 32 copies of a card in the same top 8 is something that happens very rarely.  In fact, there have only been 2 large events where such a thing has happened before.  The first was GP Kuala Lampur 2010, where the top 8 was comprised of 6 Jund decks, 1 Boros deck, and 1 Mono-Red deck, which eventually won.  Each of these decks was packing a full set of Lightning Bolts, one of the most efficient removal spells ever printed.  The second time was in a Magic Online Championbship Series tournament (which are in essence the most competitive tournaments on MODO) which had 32 copies of Bloodbraid Elf in the top 8, as Jund was almost certainly the best deck in Shards of Alara block constructed.

Let’s examine these two previous incidents.  In the first instance, I don’t think anyone was ever calling for the banning of Lightning Bolt, and we certainly didn’t have #banbolt as a twitter hashtag like #banjace has become.  In the case of 32 Bloodbraid elves, Alara block constructed wasn’t exactly a popular format, and as such didn’t get the attention that a large standard event would.  While there were most certainly people calling for the banning of Bloodbraid Elf in standard, there was always at least one non-bloodbraid based deck in every top 8.

So what makes this instance of 32 Jaces different?  Why has this one event created a huge cry for the banning of the blue planeswalker?  We all know that Jace is extremely powerful, but all of a sudden people are saying that it should be banned in standard.

So let’s run through the case that the #banjace team has put forward.

1. Lack of viable competitive archetypes

The top 8 of Dallas contained an even split of RUG decks and UW Caw-BLade decks.  Previous to this top 8, the best decks in the format were generally assumed to include those 2, in addition to Valakut and Boros.  However, many people are now discounting non-jace based decks for competitive play, and might stop attending standard tournaments if they either don’t have Jaces.  The pro-ban argument likens Jace’s dominance to Affinity back in the original Mirrodin Block, where affinity had a stranglehold on the standard environment.

2. Price

It’s no secret that Jace is the most expensive card standard has seen in recent memory (I can’t speak for the early days of type 2, as I wasn’t there).  He was initially sold at $25, and then worked his way up to the $90-$100 interval that he now rests at.  Some blame this price on mythic rares, some blame it on a conspiracy by Star City Games, while others have their own theories.  Regardless, many people believe that it’s not in the best interest of the game to have to pay $400 for a set of cards to be competitive, especially when they will rotates in the fall.

Taken together, these arguments form a syllogism with the following premises and conclusions.

1. Jace is prohibitively expensive.

2. Jace is necessary to win at competitive standard.

Therefore:

3. People who can’t afford Jace can’t win at competitive standard.

Finally, the supposed solution to this problem is to ban Jace from standard play.

The magic community is pretty firmly divided on this issue, and I’m going to outline my views on why Jace should not be banned.  There are some problems with what the #banjace side is arguing and I’ll address their points one by one.

1. Jace is prohibitively expensive.

I agree.  That’s right – as someone who owns 4 Jaces, I’m disappointed that a Jace costs $100.  I acquired my jaces at varying price points: opening 1, buying one at $35, trading for one at $50 value, and buying one for $85 worth of store credit.  Now I have $400 worth of Jaces, and I don’t think they should be worth that much.  This is a problem, and I wholeheartedly agree that something needs to be done.

I propose a promotional reprint of Jace 2.0.  Similar to the situation in legacy with Candelabra of Tawnos, there are many players who can’t afford to play the decks they want because they are priced out of them.  While I have several hundred dollars worth of Jaces, I would be terrifically happy if they reprinted him and he tanked to $20-$30.  Why?  I’m a magic player at heart, and the more people that cna play magic and play the decks they want, the happier I am because it means the game will survive longer.  I’ve seen new players leave my local game store because they hate getting beaten by a card they can’t afford.  This game should be first and foremost about the players, and you have to cater to them.  The problem with this is getting the right number of jaces out to the right people.  We can’t do an FNM promo, because that only rewards players who have them already, and a judge foil is even more limited.  I think something like a duel decks would be perfect, but produced in numbers to satisfy demand so that stores don’t artificially jack up the prices a la From the Vault.

The reason that the idea of a standard format is so good is that new players can break into competitive magic relatively easily, without having to put down a huge investment.  Once a player is sufficiently immersed in the game, then they begin to invest in older formats like legacy once their tournament winnings keep them more or less self-sufficient.  Thus, it’s in the best interest of the game to reprint Jace, and slightly upset a few players but make it possible for those who understandably don’t want to invest $400 in a set of cards which will rotate in October.

Some of you are probably saying, “But a mass reprint will make people who did pay the $400 angry!”  While this can be true, I don’t think anyone who wants this game to grow can say that having to pay $400 for playset of Jaces is a good thing.  If we consider the option of either reprinting or banning Jace based on price, we realize that we’re going to piss someone off.  If you ban jace, not only has a great deal of value been lost, but now people can’t even play with the cards they worked hard to obtain.  Rather, a reprint would allow more people to play with one of the most powerful cards in magic’s history.

In short, people need to be able to take a hit to the value of their collections for the game to grow.  The same argument could be made about the reserve list, but that’s a topic for another day.

2. Jace is necessary to win at competitive standard

Yes, there were 32 Jaces in the GPDFW top 8.  However, one event is a very small sample size and we cannot draw this conclusion from one top 8.  Yes, Jace decks are dominant, but that doesn’t mean they’re unbeatable.  Remember when Jund was super dominant?  How did the magic community begin to beat it?  We learned to attack the mana base, and I top 8ed provincials with a Gerry Thompson list that was designed to utterly destroy jund by exploiting that weakness.

Similarly, jace decks are weaker to creatures with haste and/or shroud, because they usually only pack a few board wipes and their creatures aren’t very beefy.  A card like Vengevine does very well against Jace because he comes out of nowhere and is very resilient.  With the prevalence of UW Cawblade in lieu of the UWb variant, creature based strategies are more powerful, because you blank your opponent’s Spell Pierces.

Recently, over twitter, director of Magic R&D Aaron Forsythe has been discussing with LSV and others about what would happen if a card like Lightning Greavesor Fires of Yavimaya were to be reprinted.  Of course myself and certain others realized that reprinting Greaves would be very dangerous, as giving Titans haste and shroud is ridiculous – especially when you have Stoneforge Mystic in the format.  Something like fires is more reasonable, because not only does it not work well in a Jace deck, it lets you push through for (hopefully) enough damage to kill Jace.  Unfortunately, neither of those cards are legal in standard, but we do have an effective haste-granter who shines against jace decks.

That’s right, a turn 2 Renegade Doppelganger can be used not only with Vengevine, but a great deal of other creatures to put large amounts of pressure on the opponent.  The synergy it has with Hero of Bladehold is phenomenal, and with a turn 1 Birds of Paradise, you can be attacking for 7 as early as turn 3.  Even with just a Vengevine, having a Doppelganger is an aggressive play that can help pressure a caw-blade opening.

As well, Doppelganger invites Fauna Shama, giving you a tutor as soon as you drop Ms. Survival-on-a-stick, which helps mitigate the shaman’s vulnerability to removal.

I don’t take credit for this deck idea; rather, it was my good friend Attila who brewed up these synergies into a deck that has been performing very well against various cawblade variants.  This deck is very fast while also being able to play a long game with lots of pressure.

Standard Bant Aggro by Attila Fur

Sideboard

While this deck is still undergoing development, it gives you an idea of how one can do well at a tournament when they build their deck with the cawblade matchup in mind.

Consider how many hours have been put into the development of Jace decks.  A deck like caw blade has been played and developed so much that not only are most lists close to optimal, but the actual gameplay has been developed extensively.  In addition to the sheer number of hours that have been put into developing Jace-based decks, these hours have come from the best of the best.  Many pro players test Jace decks because they are both powerful and mesh well with their playstyle.  This high-quality testing results in Jace decks that are extremely powerful when played by the best.

However, compare that amount and quality of testing with the amount of testing put into beating Jace decks.  Because all of the pros have advocated using Jace (mostly by playing it themselves) many people are going to simply do that – play Jace.  Hell, even I would play a Jace deck if I were going to a standard tournament.  However, that’s chiefly because I am a control player, and I like that style of deck, which is where jace fits in perfectly.  Were I an aggro player at heart, I might sleeve up something like the bant deck above, or maybe Boros, or even mono red.  Because I have jaces, I haven’t spent a great deal of time trying to beat jace decks – I won’t sugar-coat it.  However, if I didn’t have them, I’d be brewing and testing against jace decks a lot more than I test right now, simply because new decks have to prove themselves against the field, which at the moment contains several jace decks.

I think it’s very possible to have a favourable matchup against jace decks, but it means that players are going to have to accept that pros will not do their work for them and they will have to build their own decks and test them out.  This is not a simple task, as many deck ideas flounder after their initial draft.  However, tight play and a solid game plan against Jace can be enough to take it down.  One thing I’ve been wanting to try is a red/green aggro deck with both Koth of the Hammer and Vengevine to ensure that you’re attacking for 4+ damage on turn 4.  However, I haven’t started sketching out a list yet, but it’s ideas like this that that need to be thought of and collaborated upon by the magic community.

3. Jace needs to be banned

Banning a card is a very serious thing, and is not something that should be done lightly.  Tom Lapille of Wizards R&D has said that they will not emergency ban Jace – something that has only been done once before, with the absurdly broken Memory Jar.  Rather, any announcements will be made on June 20th as scheduled.  Lapille has addressed many of the arguments for not banning Jace, such as the faith that people have when they buy modern boosters that they will be able to play what they open.

However, one thing that Lapille neglects to mention is that, as a company, WotC has an enormous stake in Jace.  Let me elaborate.  The planeswalkers are a new card type, and have been integral in the re-branding of magic over the past few years.  Specifically, they have used Jace as the poster boy for magic.  He was the subject of the first planeswalker novel, and is the first person anyone thinks of when they hear the word ‘planeswalker’.  Because of this notoriety, banning a card with the word ‘Jace’ on it is much different than banning ‘Gideon’ or ‘Chandra’, because you’re banning the face of magic.

Banning cards sets a dangerous precedent, especially if Jace is simply one of the best cards in the format, and not the be-all end-all.  Again, comparing Jace to the affinity menace from the original mirrodin block – our standard seems varied and diverse.  Will every “best deck” have its linchpin card banned?  I’m a member of the camp that thinks that valakut would dominate a jaceless standard, and that it would be even less fun than some people say current standard is.  I for one enjoy the jace-mirror much more so than the valakut mirror.  The reason being that Valakut is a deck which attempts to ignore whatever your opponent is oding in favour of just killing them.  In, say, the caw-blade mirror, the matchup is very interactive and skill intensive, with players needing to evaluate threats and decide which answers they should use and when; when to tap out and when to leave mana up; when to play around certain spells and when to go for it.  I find the matchup very enjoyable, but that’s just me.

After everything’s said and done, I agree that the current situation of standard is not ideal.  However, I think there are numerous things that can be done to address this without resorting to banning Jace.  On the part of wizards they can either reprint Jace in some form (but not in a regular expansion), or they can print  more answers to planeswalkers that aren’t too narrow.  Something like Oblivion Ring is an excellent example of a card that is well designed and can answer planeswalkers but can do so much more.  While Hex Parasite from the New Phyrexia is promising, I hope to see some more answers as well.  On the part of the players, new decks need to be built and tested, and players must not simply say: I don’t have jaces, I’m not going to bother testing.  If you brew a deck and don’t test it and go into a tournament and get smashed, is it really the fault of jace?  Or is it your fault for not testing against that deck, not sideboarding correctly, or not knowing what’s important in the matchup?

A lot of the players I see who get smashed by players with jaces are players who don’t practice outside of tournaments, and players who do said smashing are usually those who spend a great deal of time researching the meta and practicing outside of tournaments.  I’ve seen players with Jaces lose games to worse decks because they aren’t as experienced with the card, the deck, or even the game in general.  All in all, I don’t think we’ve reached the circumstances where a jace ban is warranted quite yet.

As always, feel free to post in the comments below, or message me on twitter (twitter.com/zturchan) or via email (zak-AT-power9pro.com).

Cheers,

Zak