Manaburn #17 – Defender of Law

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Hello children! It’s your old pal, Grim Lavamancer!

Gather around everyone, gather around! It’s time for a new issue of Mana Burn.

What is Mana Burn, you ask? Why? It’s the native webcomic of Goyf Wars, brought to you by me – your friendly neighbourhood Grim Lavamancer. As usual just click the image below to read the comic.

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Not a lot of subtlety to this one, but the rules of Magic sure must seem weird to the in-universe characters. In this one we also get to see another glimpse of White’s lieutenant (last seen in comic #1), does anyone recognize her? If you can guess who she is you might win an imaginary ice cream cone.

See you all next time, kids!

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Top 5: Ramp cards in EDH

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Ramp in EDH comes in many shapes, and I wanted to take a moment and look at my favourites, in a Top 5, something I haven’t done in quite some time. To clarify, by “ramp” I mean cards that put you ahead on mana vis-à-vis the turn progression. Prismatic Omen does fix your mana, but it won’t get you ahead on mana, so it’s a fixer, not ramp.

Jimmy and Josh of The Command Zone talked extensively about ramp in EDH in their two-part episode on mana bases not long ago, I recommend listening to those episodes, but in short I agree with most of their points. Ramp is more important in EDH compared to other formats due to its slower nature, and the fact that EDH tends to be about big broken spells. As such, aiming for around ten ramp spells in a deck is usually fine in my book.

Honorable mentions: I’m not a fan of huge artifacts taking up slots in the ramp section. Gilded Lotus and Thran Dynamo are great cards, as are Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power. However, I’d consider them more of “late game” ramp, since they cost 4+ mana to cast and only really generate mana. The two former I’d play in deck that synergize with artifacts, and the two latter has the restriction of only being really good in mono-coloured decks, which lands these cards outside the list.

azusa,lostbutseeking.hqPermanents that lets you cast more lands than the regular one-per-turn are occasionally awesome. Exploration, Burgeoning, Oracle of Mul Daya and Azusa, Lost but Seeking are all great and I can see myself playing all of them – especially Azusa as a commander, since casting her from the command zone doesn’t mean card disadvantage. However, the fact that these cards don’t get any lands (aside maybe Oracle of Mul Daya) means they are quite bad topdecks later on in the game, and this keeps them just outside the list.

Finally, green spells like Kodama’s Reach, Cultivate, Rampant Growth, Far Wanderings, Farseek etc. are all also great cards and should at least be considered in some number in a Gx deck.

There are plenty more, the format is full of ramp. Below are my top 5, the cards that have been the kindest to me.

cabalcoffers.hq5. Cabal CoffersWhile this might fall into the category of restrictive, since it on paper only supports mono-black, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth allows decks that aren’t entirely mono-black to utilise this land properly. When active, it generates lots of black mana suitable for Exsanguinate:ing the table to death doing fun things with your friends. This does fall into the late game ramp along with some of the cards mentioned above, however, Cabal Coffers holds so much value and is so easy to get online (especially in mono-black), and it is also a nice trip down memory lane for me – I used to play MBC a lot when Torment was released. The latter might be the main reason this is here on the list, by the way.

azoriussignet.hq4. Ravnica SignetsIn the original Ravnica block, Wizards printed ten genius little mana rocks with little investment and a lot of return. They effectively act as extra lands that you cast for two mana, and must be counted as ramp since they, for example, allows you a total of four mana on turn three, provided yo didn’t miss any land drops. They are also fixing to some extent, although it can be quite limiting. The only thing keeping these precious artifacts from a higher position on this list is the limiting factor – due to the rules of EDH, you can only use the ones that are completely on-colour, limiting the number of decks they can go into. Still, I think everyone should at least consider these if they are applicable to the deck. Some of these are more valuable than others, for example, Boros Signet will be more valuable to a white-red deck than any of the Gx Signets would be for a part-green deck, since white-red generally has quite little ramp.

sakura-tribeelder.hq3. Sakura-Tribe ElderThis humble green snake gets a sweet spot on the list not because of raw power, but because of versatility. On one hand, it could be regarded as just a Rampant Growth effectively, but a creature will always do so much more. The 1/1 body is negligible, especially in a format where aggro can be considered “neutered”, but being a 1/1 isn’t always bad. For example, if one happens to draw Sakura-Tribe Elder late in the game, it will easily trade for two cards via Skullclamp, effectively turning this Rampant Growth into a green Divination. Being a creature means it’s also quite easily recurrable, with stars like the on-colour Genesis or Phyrexian Reclamation will quickly add value to Sakura-Tribe Elder. In the end, most of the value comes from being able to just block and sacrifice it before damage, but most of the time, that’s plenty good.

solemnsimulacrum.hq2. Solemn SimulacrumFrom the mind of fellow Swede Jens Thorén comes my runner-up on this list and it’s one of those cards that should fit into most every EDH deck. For those too lazy to click on the link, Jens Thorén won the 2002 Magic Invitational, being the second Swede to do so (the first was Olle Råde who won the first ever Magic Invitational and eventually designed Sylvan Safekeeper after getting over some procrastination). As is evident here, Thorén handed in a card called “Forestfolk” originally, a more-or-less functionally identical card to Solemn Simulacrum. The difference was that it cost 2GU and was a Creature – Elf Wizard instead of costing 4 and being an Artifact Creature – Golem. Thankfully, since the next set was Mirrodin, R&D decided to make it a colourless artifact creature, thereby cementing Solemn Simulacrum as a constructed staple for its entire run in its original printing, as well as its reprint in M12. Granted, he does cost 4 mana, but he is essentially a three-for-one, he gets a land when he comes into play, and he replaces himself when he dies. The value can not be contained. Sadbot for life!

solring.full1. Sol RingTaking the number one spot is not only the very best ramp spell in EDH, it’s one of the best cards in the game ever. There’s no competing with the ring of power, and everybody knows it. The only downside might be that the table will hate you if you drop it on turn one, but, you will always have that extra mana boost to crush them anyway. It should be in every EDH deck, with very, very few exceptions (and these exceptions are probably wrong anyway).

What did you think of the list? Do you agree/disagree? Leave a comment below!

Sibling rivalries

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Last weekend, my younger brother visited home for the first time since moving abroad a couple of years ago. One of the things he wanted to do was visit the old LGC which was the stomping ground for the both of us during our formative years. Since he wasn’t sure he still had his old deck, I decided to put together a couple of new EDH decks for this night specifically. It also served me well for playing with several play groups causes some issues, meaning having more decks with some varying power levels is beneficial for everyone. I set out to build a pair of decks that could serve not only on the night in particular, but in future play with my other play group, and as such, I had a few “rules” set for myself:

#1 – Less powerful than Tasigur, or any other of my regular generals for that matter. This was easiest achieved through less use of tutoring, thereby increasing variance in the decks themselves. There are fewer individual bombs a la Villainous Wealth etc. in the decks as well.

#2 – No clashes with these decks and Tasigur. This was almost easier done than said, as the decks I built did contain colours from Tasigur, they were both very different in game plans, meaning neither were clashing much with banana boy.

#3 – As usual, no infinite combos, no infinite turns, no masturbatory loops.

Seeing as I built the decks for my brother and myself, it seemed fitting to base the generals on two siblings as well, namely:

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I opted to play these two for several reasons, other than the fact that the characters are siblings in the lore. For one thing, I’ve always wanted to try Gisa but never got around to test her in my mono black shell. Secondly, since tucking is no longer a thing, building around the commander is less dangerous these days. Lastly, blue has always been my favourite colour in Magic, and black is my brother’s favourite colour, so these two generals were the perfect fit in this situation.

Both decks were designed with a basic plan and set-up in mind:

Geralf is supposed to be a bad general, and I found it difficult to build around him. He will require a lot more work to be considered general-centric. I built a mono-blue goodstuff deck with lots of interaction, and Geralf himself as a free creature generator. Since we rarely play with fewer than four players, he will easily make 10/10’s once activated. Some of the control cards in the deck do synergise with the commander, like Whisk Away, Body Double, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I added an artifact sub-theme to power out both Geralf and other big creatures in the deck, leading to the decklist found here: Geralf on TappedOut.net.

Gisa was by far the more interesting deck to build, and it is a lot more centered around the commander. Having a sacrifice outlet in charge of your deck can be a really good thing, especially one that will double up the power of whatever you sacrifice. I wanted plenty of creatures that would synergise with the general indirectly, i.e. creatures with enters the battlefield-effects, death triggers, and similar. I also wanted a few more creatures than in Geralf. The deck is similar to older mono-black builds of mine, it has Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth and it has some of the staple black cards, but it also has some fun cards as well. I added quite a bit of graveyard recursion to make use of the sacrificed creatures, resulting in this deck list: Gisa on TappedOut.net.

skullbriar,thewalkinggrave.hqSo, how did we do? Well, my brother did find his old deck, a Skullbriar deck which I will cover in a future post, and we had to play a few games with our real decks to begin with. We played a 4-man free-for-all with Tasigur, Skullbriar, Sharuum, and Marath (piloted by another old friend who happened to be home for the first time in about a year). After quite an intense game, and me revenge killing Sharuum after last week’s game, Marath was swinging for lethal against Skullbriar, and I decided to defend my brother by activating Pernicious Deed for X = your mother (who is a nice lady, by the way). Skullbriar went on to win the game, and after some more people showed up, we decided to play a six-man.

Playing six people in EDH is difficult, and usually when we’re six, we play “Chase”, which I wrote about here. It’s very simple, you attack to your left, and block to your right, otherwise it’s all as usual, there’s no “range” for spells or anything. The table, from my seat, in the order of attacking:

Tasigur (goodstuff control)
Sharuum (goodstuff artifacts/control)
Marath (aggro)
Skullbriar (zombie tribal)
Surrak (aggro)
Ezuri (elves tribal)

malignus.hqThe game was very long, and I won’t be able to recount most details. I was quite afraid at first, having two aggro decks chasing me, and attacking a control deck. Skullbriar was the first to be eliminated in this game, after Sharuum cast Filigree Angel, Marath cast Malignus who had power > most player’s life totals, and of course, he had Anger in the graveyard. The next one to go was Ezuri, after I had wrathed away his board a few times, Surrak eventually caved to the pressure from Marath and as Surrak scrambled to actually have an impact on the game, we started to develop a sort of mutual understanding. I was going to help him survive, if he helped me with my Tasigur activations.

The plan worked out well. I eventually killed Sharuum with commander damage, Sword of Feast and Famine is disgusting in the deck. I Villainous Wealthed Marath and hit him to single-digits, and after Surrak finished off Ezuri, Tasigur sacrificed both of the remaining opponents, the ally included, on the altar of Exsanguinate.

We played two games of pentagram, and my brother and I both swapped to Gisa and Geralf. We randomized the seats and we ended up next to each other – my other ally was Marath, and my opponents were Ezuri and Surrak. I split the in in the first game with Geralf, after stealing Dragonlord Atarka and Molten Primordial over two turns with Bribery + Snapcaster Mage, Molten Primordial gave me a 32/32 Kalonian Hydra from Marath who had just killed Gisa. I killed both Surrak and Ezuri in the same combat phase, meaning I eliminated both of my opponents but also Marath’s remaining opponent (Ezuri), and we decided to call the game a draw. Gisa won the other one with like sixteen Zombie tokens on the battlefield, and the deck did what it was supposed to do.

And that was all we had time for, unfortunately. I was very happy that I got to spend the evening with some really old great friends, and we had some pretty epic games. The fact that I happened to walk away with a couple of wins is the cherry on top, though winning is very secondary in EDH, at least for me. I was almost more thrilled about my brother walking away with two wins, despite having been away from the game for a couple of years.

What do you think of the decks in question? I will probably keep them around for some time, and I’m looking forward to playing especially the Gisa deck some more.

Manaburn #15 – Treasure Cruise and Manaburn #16 Hand of Silumgar

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“Oh, my god! Where have you been, Grim Lavamancer!?”

Well, I was just minding my own business on the battlefield, you know, waiting for the second card to find it’s way into the graveyard. Then, out of nowhere, someone plays Oblivion Ring on me – just like that. So there I was, exiled and unable to draw any new comics. Fortunately said enchantment has now been destroyed, which makes me able to post new comics once again.

Anyway, it’s time for a new Manaburn (the native webcomic of Goyf Wars, brought to you by me – your friendly neighbourhood Grim Lavamancer).

Click to read-15As you probably have noticed the Tarkir block is now completed. Personally I had a blast with it. It’s been a long time since a block has spoken to me in so many ways, everything from aesthetics, themes, stories, characters and so on has been great! There has been a lot of awesome stuff going on and I wanted this comic to reflect some of the highlights.

Well, that’s it for this time. See you all la-

You know what. Screw it. I’ve been really lazy with the comic this last few weeks. And to compensate I made you a little bonus comc, which you’ll find here:

Click to read-16What? It is hot. Black is actually reading an excerpt from the MTG short story Khanfall which was posted on wizards.com a couple of months ago, detailing the fall of the old Tarkir clans to the dragon lords. If you haven’t read it yet you should check it out. I got the idea for this one while reading purgatogs recent posts about his Tasigur deck.

That is all for this week (for reals this time). If you missed the comic you should let me know in the comment section bellow, that way I’ll be extra motivated to draw new ones.

On trading (Tasigur Analysis pt 2)

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While my deck doesn’t specifically contain Tasigur’s Cruelty, I got a bit tired of the usual art. Besides, he looks so happy in this picture. I’m not saying I’m in love or anything, I’ll leave that bit to Black, our very own black-aligned planeswalker.

When I set out to make the deck around Tasigur, I simply wanted most of the deck to consist of good stuff spells, to promote interaction with my opponents and to create interesting political decisions around the table. Some like to build Tasigur as some sort of combo deck with umpteen lands, Ad Nauseam and any random combo to kill the table. Some like to build him with lots of redundancy, sort-of like a Gifts Ungiven deck, through putting in cards like Go for the Throat, Ultimate Price, Doom Blade etc.

The thing is – common wisdom in EDH dictates that one-for-one trades are generally bad. The reason for this is that while trading one-for-one in general is fine in regular formats, it leads to mutual card-disadvantage. For example, if I use a Doom Blade to kill one of player A’s creature, then both me and Player A are out one card, while Player B and Player C are up one card on the both of us. It’s not a good trade-off if there are several people at the table still in the game, and especially not if the aim is control (i.e. overwhelming card-advantage).

That said, I do have a few one-for-one countermagic in the list:disdainfulstroke.full
1 Counterspell
1 Cryptic Command
1 Dimir Charm
1 Disdainful Stroke
1 Flusterstorm
1 Muddle the Mixture
1 Swan Song

Cryptic Command is one of the most flexible control spells in the format and doesn’t really need any defence, and since Dimir Charm can also work as removal and as filter both for myself and my opponents, it gets away with flexibility. Muddle the Mixture can find Sylvan Library, Exsanguinate, Snapcaster Mage and other important spells, meaning there are really only four one-for-one counterspells in the deck. The rest are straight one-for-ones, and the loosest one is probably Disdainful Stroke, but I like it – it’s easy to cast and very Sultai in flavour.

On the removal side, there are a few one-for-ones:sultaicharm.full
1 Murderous Cut
1 Putrefy
1 Sultai Charm
1 Maelstrom Pulse

Maelstrom Pulse can, technically, be an X-for-one, depending on the board state. It’s fun blowing up people’s Sol Rings for example, but most often it’s a 1-for-1. It gets away through flexibility, since it can take care of any nonland permanent, not just creatures. Putrefy and Sultai Charm are both able to blow up boring stuff like Pithing Needle on Tasigur while still being able to kill most creatures, and lastly – Murderous Cut is very non-descriptive about what it can target and it also helps cleaning the graveyard from chaff like ramp spells I no longer need, making Tasigur’s ability more effective.

The main reason why I play these cards despite the fact that I know that the trades are bad is that they can all be used diplomatically – and I think that’s the way to go if you want to cast removal spells in EDH. Make some offering around the table, to deal with that Sheoldred that bugs everyone but you, and in return, someone else takes out that blasted Rest in Peace.

There’s no shame in admitting you want to win eventually, but that goes for everyone around the table, and putting aside the self in favor of the group – seemingly – only to turn around and benefit in the long run, is a very Sultai thing to do.

Sunday Night EDH with Tasigur (Tasigur Analysis pt 1)

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A confession: I was very wrong when I first talked about Tasigur in EDH. One of the reasons I didn’t properly estimate the cards was because I underestimated the number of times the situation “only relevant/good cards in the graveyard, Tasigur activates and mills two lands or another relevant/good card and a land” comes up in regular game play when in a four-player game. Another reason is I underestimated just how awful other people can be to each other.

“I think we can let that thing resolve and it’ll be fine as long as you give me back my Pernicious Deed when I activate Tasigur.”

I uttered these words, among others, during this past Sunday’s games of EDH at my old stomping grounds. Usually, I only go on Fridays, but since this Monday is a holiday, I managed to get three others together to play some neat EDH, and I brought, among other things, Tasigur.

perniciousdeed.hqJoining Tasigur in the bout were Keranons, God of Storms, Titania, Protector of Argoth, and Sharuum the Hegemon. Stiff competition, thus. We played a regular free-for-all to warm up, and I did fine until I was about to blow up the world with Pernicious Deed, and elected to blow for just five, to not take Tasigur with me in the fall, but this left Sharuum on my opponent’s side as well. In response to me blowing up the world, he had Arcbound Ravager eat up all of his artifacts, which left Sharuum with five +1/+1 counters on his side after all was said and done. I looked hard for something to deal with it, but couldn’t and was dead in two turns, left to play Super Smash Brothers in the other room while Keranos won a long and grindy game.

We played some team games, Sharumm and [[REDACTED]] lost 1-2 to Keranos and Iroas, God of Victory. Yeah, we didn’t have many answers to their god combo and while my other new general, [[REDACTED]] did just fine and held the ground well, we were no match for them in the end. Finally, Tasigur and Titania beat Keranos and Sharuum 2-1.

Good fight, good night.

With lots of games under the belt just that evening, I left satisfied with a few ideas in mind. I was fine with losing most of the games, in only one instance did I feel like my deck did nothing, and after all, most players in EDH will lose most of the games they play – it’s the nature of the format.

I’ve pjace,themindsculptor.hqosted my new list on TappedOut here, with quite a few changes. Gone are some of the clunky cards like Intuition and Life from the Loam (though I kept Crucible of Worlds because I like how it synergises with fetch lands etc.), Garruk Wildspeaker, and a few other spells I was almost never happy to draw, and in their stead I have added some more countermagic and some more draw in Sylvan Library and Jace, the Mind Sculptor. The former is just great, and the latter is one of my favourite cards of all time, and it can come in handy with the general.

Aside these changes, I wanted to expand a bit upon the general itself, and compare it to the other options available to us:

Why Tasigur, the Golden Fang?
Before the first release of Commander preconstructed decks, there was but one available general in the BUG colours – Vorosh, the Hunter. Part of a cycle of five dragons in Planar Chaos, they are a throwback to the legendary dragon cycle of Invasion, Dromar, the Banisher and friends. As such they all have the same templating and need for hitting people before they actually do something. I have played Vorosh in the past, in a Time Walk deck, aimed to recur Time Stretch and kill the table with a 24/24 dragon general. It worked quite nicely, but taking lots of turns is a poor way of winning in a format where social play is important, and it prompts hate in the next game.

The first line of Commander preconstructed decks had both The Mimeoplasm and Damia, Sage of Stone, and I have played them both for at least some time. The Mimeoplasm was listed in my Failed Decks post, and Damia got an entire eulogy when I dismantled her deck.

sidsiLastly, the only BUG-colored commander I have yet to try out is Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. I can imagine a self-mill deck with her at the helm, but she’s kinda held back by her small stature and the fact that she only creates one zombie, no matter how many creatures she mills. Making lots of tokens in a single turn will thus take some work, preferably through milling cards one-by-one until there are X 2/2:s in play. I found a list on TappedOut that can make infinite 2/2:s in a single turn and kill everyone, but it seems fragile.

What I enjoyed about my Tasigur deck was that while the general is important to the deck and can generate lots of value, he isn’t completely necessary for the deck to function. It is a BUG goodstuff control deck, no more no less. With Tasigur at the helm, I can generate lots of value from the general, and use him as my primary win con, but the deck won’t fall apart without him.

What do you mean, “commander tax”?
Tasigur’s Delve ability is completely broken. While some might struggle to pay thirteen mana for their general in the very late game, Tasigur will just chomp two more cards from the graveyard and be cast for B. This also allows me to activate his ability once or twice even in the same turn as I cast him, even in the late game. This trumps all the other BUG generals – Vorosh is a dumb beater, The Mimeoplasm can generate tons of value but is even more reliant on the graveyard, Damia needs a full swing around the table before she draws me any cards, and Sidisi… Well…

 

In short, while I mostly built the deck to try a new card I opened at the prerelease, I can easily ret-con some good reasons to try him as well, which I’ve demonstrated above. My next EDH showing is this Friday, and I’ll bring Tasigur as well as [[REDACTED]] for the evening, and I’ve also put together a sweet [[REDACTED]] deck for my brother. To arms!