Expanded Thoughts: Kingdoms

city of shakar

“The City of Shakar” by Noah Bradley. (detail) His art is amazing, check it out!

I wanted to expand a bit upon the format of Kingdoms which I played for the first time just this Friday. My experiences with the format can be found in this post: Raiding Kingdoms with Gisa. Keep in mind, these are my first impressions after only a single game, and my own conclusions. I may be horribly wrong.

I want to share a run-down of all the positions’ missions and what their ultimate goal is.

Nomad-Outpost-MtG-ArtThe Bandit(s): In theory, the bandits at the table could reveal themselves to each other and work together to kill the king, at which point they both win. However, this is hardened by the fact that neither bandit can be sure that the other is truthful, perhaps the other bandit is the Usurper, trying to fool you into helping his cause? Further, it is in the interest of not only the King to stay alive, but also in the interest of the Knight, since he wins through winning with an alive King. Therefore, it is not a 2 vs. 1 situation at the table, it is at best a 2 vs. 2. It is also in the interest of The Assassin to keep the King alive but not too healthy and stall the game to a crawl, since he will win when everyone else is dead – and the King must die after both Bandits and preferably after the Usurper. The Bandits could in theory conspire with the Usurper for a while, but it is in the Bandits’ interest to kill the King before the Usurper does, because then they have to start over from the beginning.

On paper, the Bandits have a very straightforward and advantageous position right from the get-go, but if they are too open with their roles, they will find themselves in more trouble than it’s worth eventually (as is what happened with Surrak Dragonclaw in our game this Friday).

the knightThe Knight: The Knight shares victory with the King, and thus wants to make the King believe who he is, without the rest of the table catching up. This isn’t an easy role to play either, but it is eased with six players, since there are also chances that the Knight could or indeed would want to side with the Usurper – i.e. in cases where you’re the Knight and you’re facing down a strong Usurper and perhaps strong Bandits.

The Knight’s worst enemy, on paper, are the Bandits, since their victory condition is in complete opposite with the Knight’s own. However, there are certainly games where the Knight might even want to side with the Bandits for a while, in order to support the Usurper.

throne-of-empiresThe King: The King is the only publicly known role, meaning that the King is at the disadvantage that he has no opportunity to masquerade as another role, unlike all the others. That said, the King starts at 50 life instead of 40, and will always go first, both boons in a multiplayer game. I can’t say that I know for sure, but the King’s primary goal must be to correctly identify the Knight without the rest of the group finding out a) the Knight’s identity, and b) that you know the Knight’s identity, and preferably also c) that the Knight knows that you know who he is.

Priority number one is on paper to defend oneself from Bandits, but since both the Usurper and the Assassin will benefit from a long grindy game, sniffing out these players is also important. Knowledge is power, even more-so when you have a huge bull’s eye painted on your back.

Cloak_and_Dagger_640The Assassin: Perhaps the most difficult of the win conditions, the Assassin wins when everyone else is dead, just like in a regular EDH game. The long-term goal of the Assassin is to get into a heads-up situation with the King, possibly by masquerading as the Knight.

On paper, the biggest threats to the Assassin are the Bandits, followed by the Usurper. All three of these roles benefit from a short game with a dead King, meaning these must be dealt with first. For sure one of the trickier roles to play.

marchesaThe Usurper: The Usurper is the one who is in it for the longest haul of them all. She wins through dealing the killing blow to the King, at which point her life total becomes 50, the King’s life total becomes 1, and they switch roles. As the new King, her mission is to win through the same means as the King, meaning everyone else needs to be dead aside the Knight.

On paper, this is the most difficult of the positions to play, but on the other hand, the game has a “refill your life” mechanic installed for you to make use of. Conspiring with the Bandits initially and then stealing their win is a way to go, as is conspiring with the Knight. I’m not sure how I would handle this role, but hopefully I’ll be able to get lots more games of Kingdoms in in the future, so eventually I’m bound to play it.

 

In closing, I think I’ve demonstrated above that Kingdoms is a very nuanced and complex format to play, and it will offer a lot of replayability for groups tired of standard EDH play. These are my impressions, as I said, after only a single game, meaning I might be dead wrong. But then again, that’s what’s exciting.

 

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Magic Origins: More EDH and constructed

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More spoilers coming in late (I love when they spoil big sets with lots of rares). The first was spoiled by Jimmy and Josh of The Command Zone: 

the great aurora

Pardon the blurry image, but their site seems to be down at the time of writing. In any case, this card is bonkers in EDH, it is essentially a board wipe for green decks that resets the game. I’m not sure what kind of deck would want this card right now, but I’d say any green deck with lots of lands could make good use of it – perhaps Titania, Protector of Argoth?

Here is their latest podcast episode in its entirety. They discuss the new card at around 51:01.

Further, I’d like to discuss Containment Priest‘s spell kin:

hallowed moonlight

Instead of being a 2/2 with Flash, it is a cantripping Instant. Initially, I don’t think it’s quite as good as Containment Priest, mostly because it’s just a one-shot effect. In Legacy, I’d say “Draw a card” is more valuable than a vanilla 2/2 body, even in decks that might run equipment. Hallowed Moonlight will only be around for a single turn, meaning it must be spent very well in order to not just have the Sneak and Show player pass, untap the following turn and win from there. That said, it is at least playable in Modern I’d wager, even if Birthing Pod is banned.

What do you think of these new cards? Leave a comment!

Magic Origins: Woodland Bellower

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The green mythic was recently spoiled, and I have to say I like it a lot:

WoodlandBellower

Woodland Bellower enters the battlefield as a 6/5 vanilla for 6, which is far from stellar in this day and age where creatures are awesome, but it will also tutor for something with utility for three or less. A short list off the top of my head:

Eternal Witness

Deathmist Raptor

Kitchen Finks

Scavenging Ooze

Tarmogoyf

And more. I predict that this is good enough for constructed play in both Standard and Modern, and since it doesn’t carry the “if you cast it from your hand” clause, I can easily see it in EDH as well in, for example, a Bant Blink deck headed by Roon of the Hidden Realm. For value!

[Casual, Vorthos] Cult of Dromoka

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For information on what I think is the best representaiton of “Vorthos”, see this excellent article on GatheringMagic.com

Not all of my EDH decks are even 75% decks, some of them are even less so, and this is my primary example. I put this together mostly out of boredom, but also because I happened to draft a Dromoka, the Eternal once and I think the dragon in question is very cool! I also wasn’t playing white at the time at all, meaning I had a bunch of staples not getting used, and I was only playing green in Tasigur, where it was a pretty small splash.

The deck is made completely from cards I had lying around in the house, and I have yet to spend a single cent on it. It could be made so much better, but I’ve decided against it for the moment. I have it with me, since I play with a couple of different playgroups with varying power levels, and it’s good to have a more casual deck around for playing against people who haven’t gotten into the format as hard as others.

Getting into the lore of MTG has been easier and easier over the years. I’ve been playing actively since the Urza block, around fifteen years or so, with a gap around Lorwyn block due to relocating for school. Throughout the years, I never really cared about the lore of the game, back when you had to buy a fat pack to get a novel and read to get updated. Nowadays, with Uncharted Realms, keeping up with the story is so much simpler, and it means that even I, who don’t really have an interest in the storyline, can very easily read up on my favourite cards.

The story of Tarkir block was especially interesting, it intrigued me a lot more than Theros block from the onset, and even though I much preferred the Tarkir of Khans rather than Dragons, the story hade a nice conclusion.

dromoka,theeternal.fullIn February this year, a story was posted about Daghatar, the Adamant, ancient khan of the Abzan Houses, and his struggle to save his clan from extinction against the brood of Dromoka, the Eternal. In the story, parts of the Abzan Houses have left the clan in favour of worshipping the dragon instead, and I wanted to represent this faction in my Dromoka deck.

The deck can be found here on TappedOut: Cult of Dromoka.

Aside the obvious +1/+1 counter lords, I added some of the more obvious and powerful inclusions like the removal suite, Survival of the Fittest, Serra Ascendant etc. Some of it is a lot of flavour fail, but I don’t want to cough up dough to improve the deck right now, for reasons stated above. Maybe in the future. Besides, fogging every turn in heads-up play with Spore Frog/Kami of False Hope and Genesis seems fitting for someone named “The Eternal”.

So there we are, my first foray into Vorthos-ian EDH. What do you think of the deck? Any cards worth spending money on that would enhance both flavour and strength?

Raiding Kingdoms with Gisa

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I turned up really late for this Friday’s EDH games, about five hours late, meaning I was only able to get one game in. Since we were six, we decided to play Kindgoms, a variant of EDH where every person is assigned a role, usually distributed through basic lands. Otherwise the rules are the same. The special roles and rules are:

Plains: The King. This is the only publicly known role, other roles are secret. His mission is to kill everyone but the Knight. He starts at 50 life and always has the first turn. He wins if all players aside him and the Knight are dead, or all other players are dead.

Forest: The Knight. His mission is to protect the King. He wins together with the King. His allegiance is always with the King on the throne, so it might be the King or the Usurper.

Island: The Usurper. His mission is to overthrow the King and deal the last points of damage to him. If he does, the King is left with 1 life, the Usurper sets his life at 50 and assumes the role of new King.

2 Mountains: 2 Bandits. They win together when the King is dead.

Swamp: Assassin. Wins when everyone else is dead.

I chose to play Gisa for the night, I had only brought her and Thassa and felt that Thassa was too underdeveloped as a deck, if she is assigned anything but the Knight. The roles were randomised and I looked down on a Mountain, meaning I was Bandit. Around the table, we had:

hallofthebanditlord.hq

I had this in play all game. Flavourful!

Damia, Sage of Stone (Goodstuff Control)
Surrak Dragonclaw (Goodstuff Aggro)
Glissa, the Traitor (Artifact Value)
Ezuri, Renegade Leader (Elves!) – The King
Sigarda, Host of Herons (Voltron)
Ghoulcaller Gisa (MBC/Value) – Bandit

As stated, these roles were not public, aside the King. You were allowed to lie about your role as much as you wanted, but never reveal the card in question, not even if you were eliminated.

The game started off quickly by Surrak declaring himself Bandit and going after the King. He urged his fellow Bandit to follow suit, but I didn’t make a move. He was quite quickly eliminated by a combination of Sigarda and Damia.

The board was reset multiple times, and the King kept gaining life throughout the game, peaking at around 70 despite Surrak’s best efforts. After I had made an obscene amount of Zombies with Gisa, Damia reset the board with a Cyclonic Rift, and at that point it became quite clear to me that Damia was the Knight. For some reason, people had put Glissa as Bandit 2 and they went after him with all they had and only the scarce symbolic attack came my way. I gained some life through Extort and drew a bunch of cards with Necropotence and when the Cyclonic Rift hit I had enough big mana in lands to recover quite quickly.

emptythepits.fullWhen Glissa approached single-digit life, Sigarda started turning her attention towards me, meaning I was almost out of time. Sigarda is such a good Voltron Commander, and I have pretty few ways to deal with the threat of her. She hit me to 13 Commander damage on his last turn, but on the end of that I poured all of my mana and all of my graveyard into Empty the Pits for 15 Zombies, who completed my board of Gisa, another Zombie, a couple of tokens from Terastodon and a token from Pongify.

On my turn, I untapped, cast Profane Command for X=20, killing one of the King’s two blockers and removing most of his life. The final attack stepped killed him, and I flipped over my Mountain to some groans from Damia.

The roles, as it turned out, was that Surrak was indeed the other Bandit, Damia was the Knight, Glissa the Usurper and Sigarda the Assassin. I don’t know how we all didn’t just put Glissa, “the Traitor” as the Usurper, but oh well.

Since I had met my win conditions first, I was declared the winner. I’d like to think half the victory goes to Surrak Dragonclaw as well, his early sacrifice allowed me to sit in the back seat of the table for most of the game, and steal the win out of nowhere.

The format is awesome, and I encourage everyone who has large EDH groups to try it out. If the group is only five players, the format is supposed to work fine as well, but you play without the Usurper. I haven’t tried that, but the six-man version comes highly recommended. It did take us two and a half hours to finish a single game, but it was very enjoyable throughout.

Swamps for Gisa

gisa bannerA while back, when my younger brother visited home for the first time since moving abroad, I constructed two decks for us to play with when he came home. One was Ghoulcaller Gisa, and I’ve written about my experiences with the deck here and here. Since he left, I’ve kept the deck (even if it’s my second black deck) and continued working on it, and I’d say it’s the second most powerful deck I have sleeved up right now, just after Tasigur.

emptythepits.fullThe deck’s most current list, which is updated with every change I make, can be found here on TappedOut. Just recently, I added Empty the Pits in order to turn over my stacked graveyard to a threat later in the game. The deck also has lots of ways to produce large amounts of mana and needed another mana sink, simply put. Combining both into the same card must be nice.

However, one thing bothers me with the deck still. The Swamps in the deck are just random Swamps I found in my cards, and they all come from very different expansions – some are from Scars of Mirrodin, some from M15, some from Lorwyn, from Return to Ravnica and original Ravnica and so on. It bothers me to no end, and many of the illustrations are from Swamps that are clearly very different places compared to the place Gisa herself is from and most of the stuff she reanimates.

As such, I want to change that to having about 25 Swamps all with the same image, or at least all from the same expansion with the same look and feel. Obviously, Innistrad is the top choice, since that’s where Gisa is from, but I was a bit disappointed when browsing their basic lands. Innistrad has some of the best Forests ever, as well as Plains, but the Swaps leave me wanting. Go go gadget Vorthos art exposition:

swamp256.hq

This one is pretty nice, but half the image is just black and pretty boring. The part of the image that does contain something is great, but considering we’re looking at a 50% disadvantage compared to the other examples, this one is out.

swamp257.hq

This one is better, has colour in the entire frame, has a little contrast front and center, but is a bit too much Nephalia for Gisa, I’d say. If Geralf was U/B, this would be the perfect Swamp for him to run.

swamp258.hq

This is probably the choice I’m going for, it’s a graveyard so it depicts Gisa’s main work place, it’s got some red to contrast all the black, and some obvious Avacyn symbols to tie it together with Innistrad. It is a bit predictable and boring, but it’s the best out of the three.

What do you think, reader? Are basic lands and their looks important to you? Which Swamp out of the three above is the best for Gisa, or is there another Swamp in another expansion that’s even better? Leave a comment!

Magic Origins: Demonic Pact

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The black mythic was spoiled today, and it’s called Demonic Pact.

demonicpact

The card is extremely flavourful, the art is pretty nice (even if Liliana’s… assets… are perhaps played up a bit too much) but the card itself will probably never see play outside casual constructed. Losing on the upkeep on the fourth turn after this is cast is rough and probably bad for all the formats I care about.

In Limited, it doesn’t affect the board when cast, and one of the modes doesn’t affect the board directly, and one does so only indirectly. Since board presence is the most important part of Limited (aside weird versions like cube drafts), this means the card is probably pretty terrible in Limited.

Legacy is way, way too fast of a format for anything that costs four mana and doesn’t read “you win the game” outright (i.e. Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Aluren, Sneak Attack).

EDH is too big and powerful for the effects. Making “all opponents discard two cards” might be playable, and drawing cards is integral to the format, but it’s too little, too late when competing with Phyrexian Arena and Necropotence.

consumingcontractThat said, the card is very, very cool and I have to bring up the fact that deja-vu hit me like a truck when I read it. I scoured the internet for some time before I found out why: the card is actually one of the submissions for You Make the Card 4, which was voted down in favour of what would become Waste Not. The card was nicknamed “Consuming Contract” which might even be a better name considering the aliteration, but eventually lost out.

Proof found here on the mothership.

This fact makes me excited for WotC using other ideas from You Make the Card in the future, especially since a few of the submissions who lost out to Waste Not were so much better.

What do you think of Demonic Pact? Leave a comment!

Magic Origins: Displacement Wave update

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Just over a week ago, I wrote about Displacement Wave and marked it as “instant/sorcery” since the picture was too blurry to tell which card type the card really had. In my mind, I really hoped it to be an instant, in which case it would be an awesome constructed playable alongside Cyclonic Rift in Tron, and it would surely become a new staple in EDH and other casual formats.

As it turns out, it is a sorcery:

Displacement Wave sorcery

That said, the card is still really good, especially if you have a deck built around having creatures with a high CMC. Thassa will surely love this, even though it is a sorcery. The flavour is right there as well, and the art is pretty cool!

What do you think about Displacement Wave? Leave a comment!

Magic Origins: Day’s Undoing

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I’ve felt a bit out of touch from this spoiler season lately. The main reason for that is that my fiancé and I recently relocated to another town, and I’ve been without an internet connection for the past week or so. Bummer. However, I have been able to follow along with some of the spoilers on Twitter, and I must say Magic Origins doesn’t disappoint so far.

Oh yeah, they’ve made another Timetwister variant. The difference between this one and other variants printed previously? This one costs 2U:

daysundoing

The last clause is a bit of a downer, since the huge upside of cheap symmetrical draw 7’s is opening a turn with them to get ahead on the board before your opponent(s) can use any newly drawn cards. This is especially important in EDH since it’s a multiplayer format and symmetrical effects scale weirdly – in head-to-head, you draw seven and your opponent draws seven, in a four-person game, you draw 7 and your opponents draw a total of 21 cards to your seven. However, EDH is also a format of these cards:

leylineofanticipation.hq vedalkenorrery.hq quicken.hq

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice that all of these are on-colour. If one is willing to bend to UG, there’s also this one:

alchemistsrefuge.fullI think Day’s Undone is very exciting, and the art is really baller.

What do you think of our new Timetwister? Leave a comment!

 

Magic Origins: Chandra’s Ignition and more

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There was a new trailer for the new Duels game at E3, and it showed off two brand new cards, and they are both quite exciting.

chandra's ignitionDisplaying the moment when Chandra’s spark ignites, this card is at best a mono-red Duneblast, and at worst it does absolutely nothing. High ceiling, low floor that is. This may well be a limited bomb designed to be the breaker of all stale-mates, or at least a reset of the board, and it might also be decent in EDH. Time will tell.

The other spoiler is a much blurrier picture:

ravaging-blaze

Ravaging Blaze XRR
Instant
Ravaging Blaze deals X damage to target creature.
Spell mastery – If there are two or more instant and/or sorcery cards in your graveyard, Ravaging Blaze also deals X damage to that creature’s controller.

This might just be playable in Standard and it’s obviously a pretty good in Limited. Spell mastery makes me hopeful for the future, it’s pretty damn easy to get online as long as it’s always two instants and/or sorceries, and added effects on cards are always nice.