My issues with green

forest banner

Today is Friday, and I’m actually on vacation. I’m going to a gaming convention all weekend. I’ve written a couple of posts to be published during the weekend, so as long as WordPress doesn’t screw me, there will be updates as usual. This post has much less substance, however, since – again – it’s Friday. 

forest264.hq

Doesn’t Innistrad have just the best basics?

Out of all the colours of Magic, the one I find most difficult to understand is green. I don’t hate green, and I don’t mind playing green from a mechanics perspective. My issue with the colour comes from a flavour perspective – green is a god damned hypocrite, and I’ll explain why in this post.

Green, according to colour pie guru and Magic head designer Mark Rosewater, is in part defined by its hatred of artifacts. This is explained in the article “It’s Not Easy Being Green“. Granted, this article is over twelve years old, but it doesn’t seem that this attitude has changed. Naturalize, recently printed in both Khans of Tarkir and Magic 2015, was first printed in Onslaught in 2002 – as essentially a colour-shifted Disenchant. Artifact destruction didn’t belong in white, apparently, it belonged in green, for green is the colour of nature and thus hates everything artificial.

I guess it’s a matter of philosophy, but let’s stop and for a moment consider the word “artificial”. According to Wiktionary, “artificial” means “man-made”, and it could also mean “unnatural”, for some reason. I’d argue that since human beings are very much a part of nature, we are very natural, and things we construct should also be considered natural, so long as they don’t break any natural laws. Man, an animal like all animals, makes tools. It’s what we’ve done since the dawn of humans as a species. If a human picks up a stick and uses it to kill an animal, is it using a natural tool? If the same human sharpens one of the points of the stick and uses it as a spear, is it still natural? The obvious answer to both questions is “yes”. Humans have always abided by the laws of nature, and so does our tools, from a wooden throwing spear, to a jet engine, they are all constructed from natural materials abiding physical laws.

The opposite of natural ought to be supernatural, as in “something not abiding natural laws”. For example, magic doesn’t really abide natural laws. Green doesn’t have any issues with using magic to further their mana development, grow their creatures beyond any naturally allowed sizes, or blowing up stuff that they don’t understand philosophically.

Green should counter spells and be against magic, not poor artifacts.

I should also note that I have, on several occasions, e-mailed Mark Rosewater asking about this hypocrisy, I’ve asked the question on his blog on at least two occasions, but he refuses to answer me. This makes me right by walk-over, Mr. Rosewater.

Q.E.D.

Advertisements

Legacy playable in Commander 2014?

command tower banner

For the longest time, it seemed as if Dualcaster Mage was going to be this year’s True-Name Nemesis, and Dualcaster Mage has the downside of costing double-red, making it almost strictly worse than Snapcaster Mage because it’s red and more situational. A shame, because I really like Dualcaster Mage and if it finds a home in Legacy, I’ll be happy. But then, this thing shows up in my feed:

masterwork of ingenuity

I’m not saying that this thing is the new True-Name Nemesis. It will easily see play in EDH decks that don’t even have many equipments of their own, since you can always copy someone’s Lightning Greaves, something often done with cards like Phyrexian Metamorph. Further, the format is home to a lot of great equipment like Sword of Fire and Ice and its cousins, or why not just copy a Batterskull?

The highest selling point for Masterwork of Ingenuity is that it can be tutored with Trinket Mage, who happens to go into just about every blue deck ever, because every blue deck plays with at least Sol Ring and Sensei’s Divining Top. If you’re already in blue and running that package, you might just as well add this thing too. It’s a bit narrow, but should be able to do good work.

I can even see this in Legacy, as a sideboard card against Batterskull and the like. It even has the upside of being much easier to return and re-cast than Batterskull, should something happen to a Germ token.

Another ugly underbelly update

cheatyface banner

The jury is in on Jared Boettcher, former Rookie of the Year. According to this statement from Wizards of the Coast, the Rookie of the Year title in question has been revoked, and Boettcher now faces a 46 month ban. His cheating largely resembles that of Trevor Humphries – i.e., he sifted a card to the top of his opponent’s deck, usually a land, and then just side-shuffled ad nauseam, never shuffling the top card(s). Good riddance.

I sincerely hope that this is the last time I have to use the Cheatyface banner for a long time.

Daretti and Nahiri

command tower banner

In today’s two most important Commander 2014 spoilers, we finish the set of commander planeswalkers with the red one and the white one. First up is Daretti, Scrap Savant:

Daretti-Scrap-Salvant

This guy is combo-tastic, just like Feldon, and also works with artifacts. The +2 is pretty good for getting the good stuff in your graveyard, and the -2 is obscene. If you ever wanted to play Goblin Welder as your commander, this is your chance. The emblem is also very powerful, but at -10, I can’t see him getting it in most games. The mana cost is also great, allowing for a manabase of lots of coloureless rocks (Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Grim Monolith et al). My only concern with this guy is – why the hell isn’t it Slobad? Did the Magic story really need two smart planeswalking goblins who plays well with artifacts? The only difference between the characters are their home planes – Slobad is from Mirrodin, and Daretti from Fiora. I guess the political theme of EDH goes together better with the plane from Conspiracy, but come on!

Next up is the girl who robbed Ob Nixilis of his wings, Nahiri:

Nahiri

A few things strike me as I gaze upon this card – first of all, since she’s called “the Lithomancer”, she might be the third planeswalker that trapped the Eldrazi on Zendikar along with Ugin and Sorin, or have some relation to that Lithomancer. This would tie Commander 2014’s “story” nicely together with Khans of Tarkir in a neat way. Secondly, her presence makes me hopeful that Stoneforge Mystic might be part of the white deck. Thirdly, she’s pretty powerful. The +2 is Elspeth, Knight-Errant‘s +1 on crack, the -2 will play nicely with all the expensive equipment in the format. The -10 is insane, like Daretti’s, but again, quite unlikely to come to fruition.

I think both of these commanders are pretty awesome in EDH, and I can even see Daretti making a spash in some odd Legacy deck. Do you agree? Leave a comment!

Updates on ugly underbellies

cheatyface banner

Last week, I wrote about a case of suspected cheating at SCG Open Worchester, and recent developments makes me want to do a follow-up for the sake of karma. Last week, in my post “The ugly underbelly“, I wrote about how Trevor Humphries was facing DCI investigations after demonstrating suspect shuffling techniques at the then latest StarCityGames Open in Worchester. He happened to win a lot that weekend as well. It seems that the jury is back in on the case of Humphries, and the verdict is “guilty as all hell”, and a ban of four years from the game. A lot of the details are available in this thread on Reddit. Humphries own words after the verdict was laid down, is revealed on his Facebook. Some of you might notice a couple of flaws in his defense – i.e. trying to berate the people who noticed him cheating (ironically, the people on Reddit have since adopted the name “underground dojo KEYBOARD cagefighters” with a sense of pride), taking on the victim role, and the belittling the entire tournament scene by dismissing it as “just a card game”. The fact that he effectively stole thousands of dollars through cheating doesn’t seem to sink in.

Reports also suggest that Alex Bertoncini also was cheating at SCG Worchester, as well as an earlier PT. This thread on Reddit eventually led to another DCI investigation of Bertoncini and that subsequently led to a three year ban. It’s obviously not just random sloppy play from Bertoncini in this case, since he was caught doing the exact same cheat earlier (i.e. playing Brainstorm as Ancestral Recall). Good riddance, I have to say. Stay away permanently from the game this time.

Several posts on Reddit and Facebook also reports of Jared Boettcher cheating in the same way as Trevor Humphries, and even if Boettcher has come out publicly and quite angrily asked the “witch hunt to stop”, it’s unlikely it will, seeing as how there’s a lot of quite damning video evidence. I watched just a handful of them myself, being but a mere apprentice to the underground dojo KEYBOARD cagefighters, but there’s apparently a lot more out there. According to Boettcher himself, the case was dropped, but I haven’t seen anything that says so other than he himself. The jury is out on this one.

It takes a certain kind of player to cheat repeatedly in the same way, on camera, in front of both live spectators and video coverage. These players do not belong on the competitive Magic scene, I’m afraid, and until the DCI or Wizards have a way of permanently solving the shuffling issue, I believe we need to rely on an alert community to bring these cases to light.

The blessings of Erebos be upon you, underground dojo KEYBOARD cagefighters.

keep calm dojo

The new age of Snapcasting

Snapcaster Mage banner

Mark Rosewater has stated on several occasions on his podcast, on his blog etc. that if he was to design Snapcaster Mage and fix it, he’d make it red, not blue. Snapcaster Mage came at a somewhat touchy time as well, being released in Innistrad, together with format nemesis Delver of Secret, and just after Legacy had experienced the mental misstep that was Mental Misstep. It’s easy to see why anyone not on the blue bandwagon (i.e. anyone trying hard to catch up with the best colour in Magic) would feel frustrated that blue time and again gets all the neat toys. As the old Magic comic UGmadness once stated, all colours gets ice cream, but blue gets one extra scoop of sticky chocolatey lovin’.

Colour issues aside, the effect Snapcaster Mage provides could very well be in red. In Commander 2014, we have a Mage who’s not really colourshifted Snapcaster Mage, but he does provide a lot of value and he’s very red. Check it out:

Dualcaster Mage

I imagine this will be more or less auto-include for any EDH deck that can handle the double-red requirement of casting him. Since he can copy any instant or sorcery spell on the stack, he can steal even your opponents’ spells, meaning he’ll have great utility in almost any EDH pod, even if your deck is somewhat lacking in the instant and sorcery department.

I’m even more excited about him in Legacy. Brainstorm, Treasure Cruise and Abrupt Decay are just three examples of spells that you can copy for great value, especially since you get a neat 2/2 body on top of it, useful for combating Planeswalkers in the format. Further, copying your opponent’s Force of Will allows you to target his Force of Will with your own, meaning that since your copy will be put on the stack after the original, it will resolve first and counter Force of Will before the original counters its target.

Dualcaster Mage is more than just “Fork on legs”, since it also comes with a body, meaning it is inherent card advantage. I like it a lot in both EDH and in Legacy, although I don’t like having to buy more cards from limited printings.

What do you think of Dualcaster Mage? Leave a comment below!

Feryalise!

command tower banner

More Commander 2014 spoilers are coming in almost as we speak, and I’m F5’ing every spoiler site I can find with the force of a thousand suns. A card that showed up yesterday that I wanted to discuss today is Feryalise, Llanowar’s Fury. Take a look:

feryalise

The planeswalker commander from the green deck is indeed Feryalise, as predicted by several sources, among them the reader Grim Lavamancer in this comment. I never knew much about Feryalise’s story, other than that she is quoted on Pernicious Deed, but her story is quite different from the previous planeswalker I discussed, Ob Nixilis. She was one of Urza Planeswalker’s (yes that is the name he seems to go by) “Nine Titans” – nine planeswalkers who combatted Phyrexia during the Invasion block using actual titanic robots. It’s kind of like Gundam, only in the Magic universe.

Awesome cross-overs aside, I think Feryalise above is quite overwhelming for what she does when it comes to the first two abilities. Destroying an artifact or enchantment is very useful utility, especially when it’s tacked on a card that you always have access to, but it leaves her with but a single point of loyalty when you ship the turn, not really ideal. The +2 is also alright, and it combos well with her ultimate, but paying 3GG for a Planeswalker that will make a mana dork at least feels like a poor deal, even if she comes on turn three or four. It can block if something tries to attack her, though, which is nice.

The ultimate is all kinds of goodness in a green deck, however. It takes a couple of turns, but having card-draw, even slightly unreliable card-draw, on your commander is great, as is demonstrated by my matches with Damia, Sage of Stone.

What do you think of her, dear reader? Leave a comment below!

Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath

command tower banner

This gem just showed up on my Facebook feed, and I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these for my Erebos deck, who’s crying out desperately for some lifegain!

ob nixilis pw

Long-time players of the game might recognize this character as Ob Nixilis the demon, seen in Zendikar and in M15 as Ob Nixilis, the Fallen and Ob Nixilis, the Unshackled respectively:

obnixilis,thefallen.hq

obnixilis,unshackled.full

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not much is known about Ob Nixilis as a character, but we do know that he was a Planeswalker who was turned into a Demon through the use of the Chain Veil (the same one Liliana uses in the story), and that he travelled to Zendikar to restore his previous human-state. There, he is defeated and bound to the plane by a character named Nahiri, and in the process, he loses his wings. The first printing of Ob Nixilis shows him in his last known state, as a wing-less demon tapped on Zendikar, seeking revenge. His second printing shows him in the state he arrived at Zendikar, as a demon with wings (and indeed, Flying), and the printing of him in Commander 2014 shows him in an even earlier state, as a human Planeswalker! The story of Ob Nixilis is revealed backwards, which is just fine by me, since the Planeswalkers of the Commander 2014 set is supposed to reveal Planeswalker cards of historic characters.

As far as the card goes, I will surely play it in Erebos, but with Erebos as commander and not Ob Nixilis. The abilities seem pretty decent to me, the emblem is awesome and the +2 will probably be getting the controller three or four life in most games. He seems solid enough and the art is very bad-ass. Creating a 5/5 demon is pretty underwhelming in the sweeper-tastic EDH format, but at least it can protect Ob Nixilis himself against one creature.

What do you think of Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath? Too weak? Too strong? Leave a comment!

Commander 2014 spoilers are finally here!

command tower banner

After many moons of waiting, we finally have a couple more spoilers from the upcoming Commander 2014 release. These two were revealed over the weekend, and starting today, more spolers will be posted on Daily MTG! The first is a rather uninteresting creature with a pretty interesting ability:

angelic-field-marshall

Angelic Field Marshal is a pretty effective beater pound-for-pound, if you have your commander in play. A 5/5 flying, vigilant Angel for only four mana is nothing to scoff at, even in EDH, since it will be a pretty good protector of the Planeswalker commander which will be included in each of these decks. Further, getting Lieutenant going will be easy in all decks that feature commanders that are inherently difficult to destroy, like the Theros gods for example. The preview article specifically states that the cycle is horizontal, suggesting just a single of these cards for each colour, but we’ll see what we get when the set is spoiled.

feldon

The other card spoiled this weekend is Feldon of the Third Path, of Feldon’s Cane fame. Feldon is apparently a minot character in the Brother’s War novels, but even though not that much is known about him, what is know is that his wife died a premature death, and Feldon tried to bring her back with the way he excelled in – artifice. I didn’t know that, since I haven’t read the book, and until today I hadn’t read the short story based on Feldon either. The story is called “Loran’s Smile”, and even though the arcana article that’s linked to in the preview article above doesn’t work, I found the story on a weird Russian site here. The story is actually quite good, by Magic story standards. What I like about Feldon above is not only that his card quite perfectly conveys the story that he’s trying to bring someone (a female at least) back from the dead with the art, the flavour and the ability, but I also like how combo-tastic his ability is. His mana-cost is very low for a commander, which is also always nice, and his size is at least big enough to protect him from Pyroclasm and Drown in Sorrow.

What do you think about these spoilers? How excited are you about the new Commander 2014 set? Leave a comment!

The woes of tiny metagames

Delver of Secrets banner

Playing in small Legacy communities is always a fun and exciting experience. This stems from the fact that everything you need to know and need to do to prepare for a big Legacy event, and everything you though you knew about your deck, your sideboard plans against most common match-ups, everything all those hours spent running through the gauntlet – it all goes out the window. I spent sunday afternoon playing in a tiny Legacy tournament, just 8 people strong, and what usually happens in these tiny groups is that people are more likely to bring pet decks and rogue builds. Here’s the metagame breakdown for the eight players in today’s tournament:

2 Elves
1 UR Delver (Bob Huang’s list)
1 BW Blade / Deadguy Ale
1 Dredge
1 Enchantress
1 Aluren
1 Team America (me)

My build of Team America for the day was a more tempo-shell than usual, no Hymn to Tourachs, no Thoughtseizes, only 19 lands, and Stifle in the maindeck. The list is very unfinished, but it did rather well. I’m having some issues with the manabase, but once that’s ironed out, the deck is good to go.

elephantgrass.hqRound 1 – Enchantress: I won the roll and got going early with two 5/6 Tarmogoyf. He dropped an Elephant Grass which stunted me for a couple of turns, since I couldn’t both cast cantrips to power up my Treasure Cruise and swing with both creatures. It was a short-lived nuisance, however, and my Tarmogoyfs quickly won.

I boarded out Stifle and boarded in more cards that could interact with his enchantments – Krosan Grip, Maelstrom Pulse, Thoughtseize etc. In the second game, he is on the play and keeps a greedy one-lander with only a Utopia Sprawl as another mana source. Despite casting a turn two Argothian Enchantress and drawing a few cards off of her, he never saw a second land. I eventually force him to chump block a Tarmogoyf with the Enchantress, and to pour salt in the wound, I Abrupt Decay his Utopia Sprawl.

1-0 (2-0)

Enchantress is one of those weird decks that could quite easily dominate a local metagame if left unchecked. It’s slow, sure, but contains some very powerful lock pieces and win-cons that will steamroll anyone if it gets going. Luckily, Team America has lots of ways to interact with the deck, contrary to decks lacking Abrupt Decay. 

craterhoofbehemoth.hqRound 2 – Elves: In game one, he miscalculates the mana he has available to Green Sun’s Zenith for Craterhoof Behemoth which would have been lethal. The mistake allows me to draw some more cards with Brainstorm and Ponder and finish him off before he can cast his huge green spells, holding a Force of Will just in case.

I have lots of things in my sideboard for the match-up, Daze and Stifle is out for Disfigure, Golgari Charm, Submerge, really anything that can interact with him at instant speed. Game two has me opening a strange hand – Polluted Delta, Deathrite Shaman, Ponder, Dimir Charm and 3 (!) Abrupt Decay. I decide to keep for laughs, if he has a quick combo hand, I’m out (although Dimir Charm is insurance to early Natural Orders), but if he doesn’t, I have all the removal in the world. He has a slow, grindy hand, and I win a slow, grindy game.

2-0 (4-0)

Elves is probably one of the deck’s toughest match-ups before sideboarding, and it’s only slightly better, around 50/50 after sideboarding, which is why I have lots of cards to bring in against it. I seem to lose more games to it when it keeps grinding me down with card advantage through some of its ridiculous engines (Wirewood Symbiote + Elvish Visionary for example), than games to its powerful combo engines. 

aluren.hqRound 3 – Aluren: He wins the roll and starts to rip apart my hand from turn one and I can’t do anything to prevent him from reaching four mana and casting Aluren. Such a strange deck.

I board in Krosan Grip, Golgari Charm etc., anything to stop his Enchantment. I board out Abrupt Decay, since I don’t fear the “Aluren beatz!” plan very much, and they can’t really do much against him netting full value from most of his creatures, since they have either Cascade or broken Enters the Battlefield-triggers.

Game two has me coming out of the gates quite quickly, and through some well-timed soft counters and mana-denial, he can’t keep up with the Delver beats. Game three is more or less a repeat of game one, however, and I’m never really in the game.

2-1 (5-2)

Aluren is one of those strange decks that’s really, really had to interact with, since it’s far from intuitive in many of its interactions, especially if you’re new to the Legacy scene and haven’t played much against it. I was playing both with and against it back in the days when the card was legal in Extended, meaning I have at least a bit of an understanding about most of the deck, but even then – it’s pretty resilient. It’s far from the best combo deck in the format, since it’s so slow, but it’s very cool when it goes off and does its thing. 

bloodghast.hqRound 4 – Dredge: I always play against this particular Dredge player at this event, and I always have too few graveyard hate cards in the sideboard, so I’m pretty bummed out about probably missing out on T4 after starting 2-0. The first game goes a lot better than expected however. After countering his first two discard outlets, the game slows down a bit, which gives me time to drop a huge Tarmogoyf (6/7) and a Deathrite Shaman. His triple-City of Brass draw is also speeding up the beats quite a bit, but after some dredging, he brings back all four Bloodghasts in his deck, and along with two Zombie tokens, he has quite the presence on the board. He hits me for eight, and I go to two, while he is at six. He left only one Zombie token against my then 5/6 Tarmogoyf and my Deathrite Shaman, however, so if I draw an Abrupt Decay, I win. I don’t draw Abrupt Decay – I draw Dimir Charm.

I board in the two graveyard hate pieces I have, along with some more disruption in Thoughtseize, Vendilion Clique and so on. I board out my Abrupt Decays and a Treasure Cruise, since I intend to try and stop his combo, not spot-removing his 2/2’s.

In game two, he mulligans to three, and despite drawing a pretty good three-card hand (Lion’s Eye Diamond, Stinkweed Imp, Bridge from Below), there’s not really a game to be found there.

3-1 (7-2)

I really don’t fancy playing against Dredge. It’s again one of those strange decks that’s a bit difficult to interact with, and at the same time, it’s a lot faster than Aluren. I always seem to run into this player at the tournaments we both attend, and I never have enough hate. This time the mulligan goddess came through for me instead, which was nice, but probably an anomaly. 

The Aluren guy is the only one on 4-0, and I’m the only one on 3-1, so after four rounds, we cut to T4 with two people on 2-2 there. This left me seeded against the Dredge player again.

Semifinals – Dredge: I don’t recall much about these games, I know I cast a Dimir Charm to pump my Tarmogoyf and leave a land on top of his deck at one point. It was fun. Somehow, I managed to win this one as well, not sure how. I was a bit tired and very hungry by now, which might have impaired my memory.

4-1 (9-2)

Finals – Aluren: Revenge time against Aluren! I lose the roll, and mulligan, and he wins before I can do much about stopping him from resolving Aluren, or find a quick clock.

I board the same way as in the swiss, I don’t think it’s optimal, but then again – who plays Aluren these days? I mulligan again, if I recall correctly, but this time I have a great hand with a quick clock, and two counterspells. He fails to find enough discard to push through an Aluren before he dies to Delver beats.

Game three sees him mulligan to five, followed by some hiccups with his mana. I win quite easily, although there was one point in the match where he could’ve stabilized the board quite easily, since I had difficulties finding more threats. Had he had just a single Abrupt Decay for my lone Delver of Secrets, he might have bought enough time for himself. Alas, it didn’t happen, and I could walk away with the win.

5-1 (11-3)

I had a blast playing the tiny Legacy event today. Aside from spending an evening with friends and a bunch of 100-card singleton decks, playing a Legacy event is just about the best thing one can do on a Sunday, even if it’s only eight players strong. The tournament is part of a league, and right now, it looks like I’ll qualify to play the end-of-the-year finals tournament, even if I missed a few of these monthly deals over the summer. It’ll be a round-robin Legacy extravaganza, and if I get to play there, I’ll definitely put up a report here.

For some reason, the play group I played with today seem to have missed the fact that Legacy is a format where you can play a 3/2 flier, with no drawbacks, for just a single blue mana. I have to respect the choice to go rogue or pet deck, however. If you want to play Aluren – allegedly the player in question had played over a thousand games with the deck on MTGO alone, meaning he probably knows his shit – go right ahead. If you make it to the finals, even in a small local tourney, more power to you. As for myself, I’m lucky enough to have Uxx Delver as my pet deck.