What I like about Battle for Zendikar

nde bannerAs a follow-up on my gloomy post about Battle for Zendikar, I thought I’d go over the things I actually do like about the new set. Not everything is awful, not even when one of the most interesting worlds in Magic has been overrun by otherworldly alien creatures.

omnath,locusofrage.full#1: Landfall is interesting, and likely better.
Landfall is a baller mechanic for Magic in general, and one I think deserve to be evergreen more than for example Prowess. Magic has always had its mana system, and while I like it overall, nobody can argue that it sucks losing to mana screws or mana floods. Landfall solves the latter in a rather elegant way.

In the first Zendikar block, however, Landfall was something of a menace (pun unintended). Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede combined their powers to create one of the fastest limited formats ever – to the point that taking a Welkin Tern or even a Cliff Threader or a Surrakar Marauder over an obvious bomb in a more orthodox format, say a Rampaging Baloths was often the correct call.

In this format, so far, we’ve seen much more reserved Landfall threats – Makindi Sliderunner, Snapping Gnarlid, and Scythe Leopard have a more reasonable growth, and the rest of the threats on common and uncommon are of higher casting costs. The only really crazy Landfall threat on the uncommon rarity is Grove Rumbler, and it’s multicolour after all.

All in all, I expect Battle for Zendikar’s limited format to contain elements from Zendikar for sure, but with a page from Rise of the Eldrazi as well, which seems positive. It should be noted that Landfall is more or less an exclusively offensive ability, which might make for a faster-than-usual limited environment after all.

clutchofcurrents.full#2. Landfall works well with Awaken.
Original Zendikar had Kicker, and Worldwake had Multikicker to function as mana sinks in the limited environment. Useful tools for when decks sometimes wants to run more than 17 lands to fuel Landfall.

Awaken could be considered a variant of kicker in some aspects, even though the kicked version of the spells all have the same bonus effects – animating a land and adding some counters to it, or sometimes just adding counters to an already awakend land.

This ought to work well with Landfall as well, in that it both serves to have some spells with two configurations (although some Awaken costs are a bit high, and other spells are virtually unplayable without Awaken) – suitable for when you have more lands in play than usual.

#3. (Some) instant speed ramp.
The ramp isn’t very rampy in Battle for Zendikar, as I’ve stated before – but the ones there are are pretty decent. Natural Connection costs three and a card, but is an Instant, which means you could activate Landfall out of nowhere in instant speed. Evolving Wilds is slow mana fixing, but does the same thing, even if the opponent can see it coming. Lastly, Blighted Woodland can create three (!) Landfall triggers on its own in a single turn! The good thing about these is that Evolving Wilds is likely the only high-ish pick for people, so if you’re deep in powerful Landfall triggers, it’s likely that some of the common fixing will come around late in a draft.

#4. The Eldrazi mechanics convey meaning well.salvagedrone.full
I’ve stated before that I don’t like the Eldrazi much before – but I will say that R&D has done a great job with the mechanics. During the spoiler weeks, I caught myself saying “Huh, that’s… weird. But maybe that’s the point” on more than one occasion. Ingest and Devoid feels like alien mechanics to me, and even though they serve a bad villain, they’re doing it well.

What do you like about Battle for Zendikar? Leave a comment!

Advertisements

The deck that never was

dig through time bannerDing dong, another one bites the dust, etc…

Announcement Date: September 28, 2015
Effective Date: October 2, 2015
Magic Online Effective Date: October 7, 2015

Legacy:
Dig Through Time is banned.
Black Vise is unbanned.

Vintage:
Chalice of the Void is restricted.
Dig Through Time is restricted.
Thirst for Knowledge is unrestricted.

Source: The Mothership.

I stated yesterday here that I was going to attend a Legacy event for the first time since forever. Well, this was the main deck that I sleeved up on Sunday night. Might’ve been foolish, but it didn’t actually cross my mind that the banning announcement was today.

Castlevania (“Burg” is German for “castle”, get it?)

4 Flooded Strand
3 Polluted Delta
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Wasteland
2 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island

4 Deathrite Shamandigthroughtime.full
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Tarmogoyf
1 Snapcaster Mage

4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
3 Dig Through Time
1 Sylvan Library

4 Daze
4 Force of Will
3 Spell Pierce

4 Lightning Bolt
2 Abrupt Decaye

 

So yeah, it was probably pretty broken anyway, and I can’t say that I’m bitter. In my humble opinion, OmniShow was a lot better at abusing Dig Through Time than Delver ever was. It’s a shame, however, that the deck looks like a blast to play. I guess I have some re-thinking to do for Saturday, huh.

What do you think of the new bannings? Leave a comment!

Manaburn #22 – Blood Moon

Mana burn banner

One of the things that people often ask me is “Grim Lavamancer, how do you get to be so rad and hip?” * well, I may make it seem very easy, but in truth it takes a lot of preparation. And sometimes even a lot of preparation is not enough. This was very obvious early this morning (or depending on when this gets posted on the morning of the 28th of September).

As you’ve probably heard (and possibly witnessed yourselves) a very neat lunar event, called a blood moon, happened between the night of the 27th and 28th. What a blood moon is should come as no surprise to any magic player out there since we are aware of various different kinds of moon such as Chaos Moon, Bad Moon and Pale Moon. Anyway, fancying myself a bit of a photographer I made some research on night sky photography, scouted out an excellent place, oiled up my tripod and set the alarm clock to 4 a.m. (to the great delight of my fiancée, I might add). Everything was set for an excellent picture.

Unfortunately it didn’t work out as intended for three major reasons. First of all, I had gravely misjudged the amount of (or rather lack of) light emitting from the blood moon, and was using the wrong camera settings. That alone wouldn’t have been a problem if it weren’t for that fact that I, in my infinite wisdom, had neglected to bring a flashlight and as such was fumbling around in the dark. Which was especially problematic since it turned out that I was not the only one who had scouted out the excellent place I was intending to use. And there were in fact four other cars already standing there and a small crowd gathered were I had intended to take the picture. This led to me to quickly reconvening to another spot were I ended up with the wrong camera settings, in the middle of nowhere in pitch black darkness without a flashlight.

I quickly made the choice to simply enjoy the lunar eclipse instead of trying to salvage my photo project. And it really was rather stunning. While I stood there I came up with this little comic (since I apparently can’t enjoy anything without drawing parallels to something nerdy):

This might be a bit retro as far as magic cards go. If you’re a young whipper-snapper and don’t get it, check out the cards Blood Moon and Tolarian Academy. If you do get it but didn’t find it particularly funny, give me break, I’ve been up since 4.

Next time, we’ll return to Ravnica and continue White’s origin story.

* Alright, that was a lie. No one has asked me that since Torment was standard legal.

To endure is to survive

anafenza bannerFor those of you sick of all the EDH posts – tough. But I’m happy to announce that I’m looking into competing in an MTG event for the first time since ca. March this year next weekend – and it’s a Legacy event. Joy!

As I’ve said previously on the blog, I have been in the process of re-making my Dromoka deck into an Anafenza deck, and after tinkering with it for about a month, I’ve finally had a chance to try it out last Friday. It was Magic night as usual, but not many people showed up this time – in fact, for the first hour or so it was only me and Grim Lavamancer, of Mana Burn fame, around to play! We did get a few games in anyway, his Daretti vs. my Ob Nixilis, and it ended in 2-1 in favour of the Goblin catholicism. It turns out, Meekstone is a pretty good card against a deck with creatures of 5+ strength.

After we finished the planeswalker ho-down, I broke out a my Anafenza deck:

Allt åt alla, on TappedOut.net.

anafenza,theforemost.fullIt’s less Vorthos than Dromoka ever was, but still has lots of cards with the Abzan watermark. The basic idea is the same, but it plays an even better long game and has more card draw, thanks to the black addition. I like Anafenza for many of the same reasons I like Yasova – she’s not popular according to EDHrec.com, she’s a strong female character that actually looks like she’s trying to protect herself with her armour rather than show off as much skin as PG-13 possible, and she’s the head of one of the Tarkir clans. I like all the Tarkir clans, but Temur especially, and I’d say Abzan is my second favourite.

The deck has creatures that benefit from +1/+1 counters – most notably Woodfall Primus (since +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters cancel out each other), High Sentinels of Arashin, Fertilid and all the +1/+1 counter lords. I’ve also premiered creatures that can generate +1/+1 counters themselves, i.e. Vulturous Zombie, Bane of Progress, and Ob Nixilis, Unshackled to name a few. Flesh Carver falls nicely into both camps of both being able to generate counters himself and benefiting from counters from other sources.

Further, the deck tries to play a long, grindy game with plenty of sweepers, and some recursion. Both Genesis and Phyrexian Reclamation are great EDH cards. The mana base is a mess, missing plenty of lands, but I haven’t had big issues yet. I will get some of the missing lands in the coming weeks.

perniciousdeed.hqWe played a game of free-for-all when a third showed up – I was on Anafenza, vs. Daretti and Glissa, and it did turn into a grindy game. Apparently, Pernicious Deed is a very strong card against artifact based decks, and it didn’t affect me much thanks to Den Protector.

By the end of the game, Glissa was at around 30 life, with not many non-land permanents, Daretti had a bunch of artifacts on the board with Slobad being annoying and protecting them. I had a bunch of creatures, among them a 7/7 Bane of Progress and a 13/13 Outland Colossus. I tutored, and flipped through my deck, decided not to take Utter End to take care of Daretti’s Silent Arbiter, but instead take Putrefy, since Utter End is more flexible and could serve a better purpose. Of course, Daretti sacrificed something random to Slobad and made the Arbiter indestructable. I swung with Outland Colossus with Abzan Battle Priest to get me from 16 to 29, but Daretti blocked and sacked to Slobad. Of course. I could have played a Tuskguard Captain before combat through Survival of the Fittest, but missed that as well. Daretti untapped and cast Scrap Mastery. GG.

Ah, well. Losing to two on-board tricks on the same turn is all well and fair. And I’ll get Daretti next time! *shakes fist*

Things that worry me in Battle for Zendikar

nde banner

Battle for Zendikar has been fully spoiled and I have to say I’m not excited wholeheartedly. I was skeptical towards Khans of Tarkir as well at first, but that turned out awesome, so I won’t judge the set before I get my hands on it. That said, there are a few things that worry me in the set.

1. (Some of) the mechanics seem to be parasitic.dominatordrone
A parasitic mechanic, as defined by Mark Rosewater in an article on the mothership, is a mechanic that doesn’t blend well with other mechanics and other cards. I find more than one examples of this in Battle for Zendikar. Ingest has synergy with cards within the set, but will probably not be relevant outside Battle for Zendikar limited, and maybe Standard. Devoid, or rather “colourless matters” is a more broad mechanic in general, since there are lots of colourless cards outside Battle for Zendikar. Rally, the keyword for the Ally enters the battlefield triggers is at least less parasitic than it was in original Zendikar block, since bonuses from allies are granted all of your creatures these days, not just your other allies. That said, in order to re-trigger these abilities you need more allies, a creature type confined to the blocks set on Zendikar, and that’s excluding Rise of the Eldrazi, in which they are inexplicalby absent.

heroofgomafada.full2. The limited format seems wide open.
This isn’t a problem intrinsicly, since open limited formats are a lot more interesting than “on-rails” drafts in closed formats, but even so – having a limited format with very little direction is daunting to me as an irregular Limited player. Aside the blatant Allies deck and maybe some Eldrazi ramp/colourless matters (though the ramp isn’t very rampy, frankly) deck, I don’t see a clear direction. Granted, I’m a really bad Limited player, but I have played Magic for more than fifteen years. I can’t imagine how confused beginners would be, sitting down at a Battle for Zendikar draft table.

3. The Eldrazi are pretty awful villains.wastelandstrangler.full
To kill, to consume, to move on. Eldrazi motivations carry about as much relatability and weight as the Tyranids from the Warhammer 40k universe – which is approaching zero. I’m quite sure that Wizards has designed the Eldrazi to feel strange and alien, and when it comes to the whole “First I put the cards from your library to exile, then I put them in your graveyard from there” does a good job at conveying that, but it turns the Eldrazi into nothing more than a force of nature. Conflict between lopsided sides when it comes to sympathy makes for dull storytelling. Nissa, Jace, Gideon et al might as well try and put out the greatest forest fire in Zendikar history – because that’s essentially what the Eldrazi are, they are a very hard to put out forest fire. Compared to conflicts between sides that have no clear “good” or “evil” alignment – say House Tyrell and House Lannister from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, the Battle for Zendikar falls quite short. With stories with clear “evil” villains, I much prefer relatable villains with understandable motivations over Eldrazi, or Tyranids. This is Vorthos, but Wizards is banking a lot of Vorthos these days, and some players do care.

4. The low power level compared to Khans.akoumfirebird.full
Again, not an intrinsic problem, since power is relative. That said, Battle for Zendikar will spend some time in the sun together with Khans of Tarkir block, which has a generally high power level. My fear is that the cards in the new set will be overshadowed by the older cards, and I have a sense that we will se a lot more Siege Rhinos than Eldrazi on camera during the Standard portion of Pro Tour: Battle for Zendikar.

As I said, these are just my worries about the set, and I might be completely wrong. Reading the spoiler doesn’t get me excited for anything though bar a few of the EDH goodies they crammed into the set.

Zendikar, like Tarkir, seems like a world that was a lot more interesting before the big baddies took over.

Mana Burn #21 – Origins 4

Mana burn banner

Gather around kids! Gather around! It is I, your friendly neighbourhood Grim Lavamancer. You know what time it is, don’t you? It’s time for Mana Burn! The highest rated webcomic here on Goyf Wars!

For those of you who’ve missed the earlier parts of the ongoing story, we’re currently exploring the origin story of White and his adventures on the city plane of Ravnica. Last time, he ran into a bit of trouble with some Rakdos goons, and I bet you’re all anxious to see what happens next!

Now, before you click the image down below to read the comic in usual fashion, I like to once again warn you all that I am not good at drawing fight scenes, what you see today may not be a complete disaster. In fact it might even be quite good – if you like awkward fighting poses, stale dialogue and turn based combat that is.

Anyway, that’s enough out of my low self esteem, let’s get to it:

Things are sure heating up! How is this going to play out? Is White going to get the better of this deranged duo, or is he going to end up in a ditch somewhere?  Find out next time!

How I’m a bad person and other secrets

edric bannerSometimes I really like to tech and build (and play) Vorthosian decks (see my posts about Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath as an example), and sometimes I like to build really good decks (see Tasigur). Other times, I like to build decks that are both janky on paper and pretty powerful when played – which I did last week looking forward to yesterday’s EDH night. I decided to sleeve up Edric, Spymaster of Trest. I haven’t played with him before, and I love how you can play really janky creatures in it, and they perform pretty well.

walkers

My list can be found here:

I want *all* the secrets on TappedOut.net

As is evident by the list, I’m missing some of the most fundamental one-drops for the deck to work, and I have placed an overseas order for some of the missing rares as well. Most notably, I’m missing Notorious Throng, and I thought I had one lying around the club, but alas, I was mistaken. That said, the deck performed way above what I could expect from a first-timer.

The deck plan is the same as every Edric deck, drop a couple of cheap creatures, drop Edric, draw lots of cards and crush everyone under the might of card advantage.

I arrived a bit later than the rest of the lads, but managed to get a game in with two other people. I was up against:

Glissa, the Traitor (Fight, artifact value town)glissa,thetraitor.hq

Ezuri, Renegade Leader (Elves!)

Notably, all of us played generals with the creature type Elf and a CMC of 3.

In the game, I started off pretty strong, with some mana acceleration followed by a two-drop into Edric. I drew a lot of cards but didn’t find any of my specific win cons. On turn three or so, I played Time Warp even though I was far from having a lethal board state, just to draw a few more cards. Drawing another four cards for five mana seemed like a good idea, but it was probably a mistake.

ezuri,renegadeleader.hq

Ezuri won the first game in style! #trample

After another turn or two, Ezuri managed to make a really large amount of mana with Priest of Titania and Quirion Ranger. He hit Glissa for about 70 points of damage after activating Ezuri three times. I got another turn with Cryptic Command tapping down his team, but I had to find either mass-removal in the form of my lone Oblivion Stone or the obligatory Cyclonic Rift; or failing that, find spot removal for Ezuri + a counterspell. I did no such thing and was pummeled by the elves the following turn.

Grim Lavamancer, of Mana Burn fame, joined our table after the game. Ezuri is played by his younger brother, by the way. Grim Lavamancer was piloting his new deck, headed by Daretti, and we were off to a four-player free-for-all, just the way God intended it.

I actually did manage to win the next two games, both in similar fashion. In the first chasmskulker.fullgame, I had a Chasm Skulker in play, with 15 (!) counters on it, along with a large amount of random 1/1’s. I also had Beastmaster Ascension with 7+ counters on it. At the end of Ezuri’s turn, before my turn, I cast Pongify on my own Chasm Skulker. This resulted in it turning into fifteen 6/6’s. I won the game on the following turn. The second game played out pretty much the same, even though I didn’t find Beastmaster Ascension until the very last turn of the game, resulting in Daretti, my only opponent left, scooping.

My most disgusting play of the match actually had nothing to do with the deck in general – it was Daretti casting a Miracle Reforge the Soul, to which I respoded with an overloaded Cyclonic Rift.

So, three pretty great games under the belt of Edric, and though I had to leave early, I had to get a game in with Yasova, featuring my newly-acquired Mana Crypt. The game was pentagram, and my allies were Sliver Hivelord and Merieke Ri Berit (played by psykopatmullvad). My opponents were Daretti and Kruphix, God of the Horizons. The game started slowly due to a turn three Blood Moon from Daretti which I eventually Chaos Warped using the Mana Crypt no less. After a few back and forths, Kruphix cast a Terastodon and blew up a few permanents.

riteofreplication.hqI didn’t hesistate (since I had to leave) and cast a kicked Rite of Replication on it, and blew up all my other permanents aside a Temur Ascendancy, leaving me with five 9/9’s and 14 3/3’s. I killed Krupix, but didn’t have enough damage to finish off the Goblin Pope. He was getting lots of indestructable blockers through Pentavus + Darksteel Forge. On the following turn, Sliver Hivelord killed Merieke, getting him the win since his other enemy Krupix was dead.

Really epic conclusion to an epic game indeed, and I love how I got to play with the Mana Crypt in the very first game I could!

Here’s to more long(er) nights of EDH!

[Battle for Zendikar] Drana 2

nde bannerThe new version of Drana has been officially spoiled, and it is complete insanity:

Drana2Drana, Liberator of Malakir is an evasive three-drop 2/3, and as long as she gets through she will pump your team. Not only is this great in one of my EDH decks (not revealed here yet), but she also has synergy with herself – if non-first strikers attack with her, she will deal her combat damage in the First Strike damage step, getting the trigger off and putting a counter before the rest of the team hits!

Coupled with all the +1/+1 counter “lords” from Tarkir, I’d say she’d make a fine addition to any black EDH deck that cares about counters. Construcing a deck around her is harder, especially compared to her previous form, but she is aggressively costed and will be easy to cast multiple times in a black deck. Too bad she has little impact the turn she comes into play.

Overall, I like her a lot, and I love the fact that the fanservice has been dialed down from her previous incarnation.

What do you think? Leave a comment!

More braggning

forest banner

The forest banner has nothing to do with the post, but I think it’s beautiful.

I’ve already Tweeted and Facebooked about this, but in case someone missed it – here it goes again. I got married yesterday to the girl of my dreams, and she proved it again this morning. We exchanged wedding gifts with each other; I gave her a fancy bag she really wanted, and she gave me a nice watch. I was happy and content with the watch, but she wasn’t done. She handed me a piece of cardboard wrapped in cloth, and taped onto the cardboard, in a sleeve, was this:

cryptApparently, our very own friendly neighborhood Grim Lavamancer, famous among other things for writing and drawing our webcomic Mana Burn, and also being part of the wedding procession, had helped my wife with procuring the gift.

It’s easily EX+, maybe even NM-, one of the finest Mana Crypts I’ve laid eyes on, maybe the best looking Mana Crypt I’ve seen signed. For obvious reasons, it’s the most important Mana Crypt in the world to me.

[Vorthos] Ob Nixilis’ Demon Posse

ob nixilis banner

The last time we left Ob Nixilis, I had just explained the underlying Vorthos influences on the deck. The main component with Ob Nixilis is his affinity for demons – as is explained both by the story he stars in, his -2 ability as a Planeswalker and all of his future appearances. Clearly, demons are important to him (maybe to the point of it being creepy… it’s definitely camp), and I wanted to make sure that comes across in the deck. As such I have included no less than a full football team of demons:

Abyssal Persecutorob nixilis pw
Archfiend of Depravity
Bloodgift Demon
Demon of Wailing Agonies
Kagemaro, First to Suffer
Reaper from the Abyss
Xathrid Demon
Abhorrent Overlord
Overseer of the Damned
Pestilence Demon
Necropolis Fiend

While these are all flavourful dumb beaters, really only one of them only does just that – beat in a dumb way. Abyssal Persecutor is a very aggressively costed 6/6 flier that can get in for some damage, and the rest of the demons serve a purpose – as is fitting when it comes to demons. Bloodgift Demon draws cards (very powerful in EDH), Xathrid Demon spreads out damage at the table, Abhorrent Overlord creates nigh-infinite chump blockers and the rest removes stuff – mostly from my opponents’ sides of the board. In addition to these eleven cards, there are three demon-themed cards that aren’t really demons themselves:

Skirsdag High Priest
Promise of Power
Infernal Offering

Both the priest and Promise of Power actually make the same kind of demon as the general himself, which is very fitting. The priest isn’t anything to phone home about, but it’ll make good use of creatures dying on the table, which they tend to do in EDH. Promise of Power is a beast, even though it’ll mostly be used to draw five (5!) cards. Lastly, Infernal Offering isn’t as blatantly demonic, but the name and the art gives it away. It’s clearly Ob Nixilis making pacts with a demon in that case.

Few of these cards are profitable in the early stages of the game, which means the deck needs ways to protect itself until the mid- to late game, and it needs ramp in order to cast these big spells. I will go over those two points in the next post.

Stay classy, Ob Nixilis