Rattlesnakes in EDH

city of shakar

Intrinsically, EDH is a very varied game. How you look upon the format affects how you evaluate the cards getting played. Some playgroups are cutthroat “competitive” EDH groups, full of combo decks, stax, mass-land destruction, and plenty of salt. Some groups are casual with modified pre-constructed decks, or decks built from draft leftovers. Some groups might play certain variations of the format, leading to changes in deck lists and strategy, and some might play mostly 1 vs. 1.

ambushviper.hqHowever, most groups of EDH are playing games that are multiplayer, free-for-all style battles. In these situations, unless people are just playing solitaire and trying to combo off, diplomacy will play a part in how the game plays out.

One of the facets of diplomacy that I see used all the time but not often talked about is rattlesnake cards. Today, I want to discuss these rattlesnake cards, why they’re useful, and why they play an important role in our format.

rattlesnake by definition, is a card that in some way says “do not attack me!”. However, the definition goes beyond that, I’ve identified four different types of rattlesnakes: Direct, Indirect, Offensive and Implicit. A card could fall into two or more of these camps depending on how it’s used, but for the sake of the discussion, I want to break it down.


baleful strixDirect – The direct rattlesnakes are the most obvious ones. In this camp falls most creatures that are primarily included for blocking. Examples of these include deathtouch creatures and creatures with good dying triggers. The very best of these tend to generate some sort of advantage other than being just rattlesnakes for the opponent – Baleful Strix, Yosei, the Morning Star, or Archon of Justice. Other examples include cards that outright punishes your opponent for attacking you – No Mercy or Michiko Konda come to mind.

Indirect – Indirect rattlesnakes are cards that doesn’t outright punish people from attacking you, but they put up a big enough deterrence to make people stay away. Cards that act like indirect rattlesnakes tend to be permanents that also act like sweepers – like Pernicious Deed, Kagemaro, First to Suffer or Oblivion Stone. Grave Pact with fodder is also a prime example.

graveblade marauderOffensive – Offensive rattlesnakes aren’t necessarily rattlesnakes at all to begin with, and they work quite differently compared to the previous two categories. In short, offensive rattlesnakes are cards that threaten to strike back at an opponent who has attacked with (non-vigilant) creatures. Any creature threatening enough can have this effect, and the interesting thing is that often these work for other players almost as well as the controller – simply put: if someone has a Graveblade Marauder equipped with a Quietus Spike on the board, you’re not turning your creatures sideways in any direction unless you have enough chumps to stay home.

This is likely the most common form of rattlesnakes in the format, since these situations tend to appear all the time while playing. This is one of the reason that vigilance is so good in the format – while you have one turn to attack and one turn to block in regular 1 vs. 1 Magic, in EDH you have one turn to attack and two, three or maybe even four turns to block, depending on the size of the game. It’s also important to be aware of these situations in a game, since a change in the apparent rattlesnake can affect several attack steps.

heros downfallImplicit – The most esoteric of all the rattlesnakes is the implicit one. What I mean about this is that these rattlesnakes are perceived threats – usually cards in hand. Examples include spot-removals like Hero’s Downfall, or instant-thieving cards like Reins of Power. What’s interesting about these rattlesnakes is that they work just as well or even better when they’re not actually used. If all three opponents around the table decline to attack you because they fear a Hero’s Downfall, you’re up nine mana and three cards.

This means that the implicit rattlesnakes also might well be the most effective ones, since it can save life points, mana and cards all rolled into one neat package. However, these are also the most difficult to use, since it requires careful play, or even certain deck construction. My own version of Wydwen, the Biting Gale (link to TappedOut.net here: click) is a good exampwydwen,thebitinggale.hqle of how everything from deck construction to gameplay depends on these implicit rattlesnakes. The deck has no less than 14 cards that can be used for spot-removing a creature at least temporarily, and the deck is all about sitting back and being reactive to the point when people leave you alone
for fear of being punished too harshly for attacking.

Implicit rattlesnakes demand a certain demeanor around the table – everything from language to mannerisms help towards making others certain you have spot removal or other tricks – even when you might be holding two lands and an equipment. I’m not saying I have it down to a science, but I have won games with Wydwen when I’ve had spot removal in my opening hand and never used it.


So what’s the point? The point is that these strategies are under-utilized in some playgroups I’ve played in, and in a m
ultiplayer format, these cards will save you both mana and cards. Use them, learn to do so effectively if necessary, and they will reward you for it.

I wish you the best of luck in your use of these cards and strategies.

Deck Spotlight: Psykopatmullvad’s Animar!

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Today we take a look at one of the new nemesises (nemeses? nemesi?) of my local paper meta – the elemental of combo itself – Animar, Soul of Elements! Psykopatmullvad has nicknamed his deck “Animar the Combolicious”, likely in irony, but let me preface this by saying that I don’t think that there is anything inherently wrong with Combo in EDH. Infinite combos that kill the entire table or combos leading to infinite turns are frowned upon in our local metagame, but not outright banned. Games need to end, and even though I personally regard combo decks to be among the most easy to pilot in the format (more on that another day), Animar is of a different breed than most other combo generals. It animarrequires an intricate mix of creatures in order to “go off”, and although it can go infinite with Ancestral Statue and just make Animar arbitrarily large and make all of the spells cost absolutely no generic mana at all. That two-card combo aside, the deck plays very interestingly, with a lot of neat little interactions, and after playing quite a bit against Mizzix and Ezuri 2, I appreciate being able to just bounce Animar to get rid of all the counters.

With that, let’s have a look at Psykopatmullvad’s list! Animar the Combolicious, on TappedOut.net. Below the line is my interview with Psykopatmullvad, with my questions in bold and his answers in regular text.


What does the deck do? How does it win?
It pisses people off and makes me a huge target  😀
On a more serious note, you want to play Animar as soon as possible, turn two is perfect! Then play some creatures to get Animar to three, maybe four counters. Then you just start going off by playing more creatures and bouncing creatures. Cards like EquilibriumCloudstone Curio and Ancestral Statue are really good. So you just keep playing creatures and buffing Animar until you can just kill people or do something else nasty.

What made you build this deck?
I wanted to try something else, some new combination of colors I had never played before. And RUG was one of them. Then I looked over commanders and saw Animar, and fell in Love! He promoted a creature dense deck, and I love playing creatures in Magic. And he has some protection built in, also his mechanic seemed sweet, so Animar it was. I heard hes one of the top tier Commanders, and secretly I’m sick of losing. I want to win more  😀

Did you consider any other available commanders in this color combination or this strategy?
Yes, it was between Animar and Maelstrom Wanderer. But Animar won so I put the Wanderer in the 99, hes just too good not to play with! Surrak Dragonclaw was also thought of, but Grim Lavamancer had already played with him (and done good I might say). He was in the 99 at first, but got cut in the latest rebuild. Riku of Two Reflections is nice too, but much too complicated. Also he’s 5 CMC (just like Surrak), and I love my Commanders cheap (only exception so far is Zurgo, but look at him!)

What are the best cards in the deck?
Don’t know for sure yet,hardened scales since I have not played with the latest iteration of the deck. But good cards are Ancestral Statue, Cloudstone Curio, Equilibrium and Deadeye Navigator. Also a shoutout to Hardened Scales, if you can get it into play before Animar. Then all kinds of crazy stuff can happen, and Animar grows FAST.

What are your most favourite cards in the deck?
Hmm… That has to be Shrieking Drake. Never seen it before but it fits very well in this deck. Suprised how good it has performed.

Any changes you’re looking to make?
Yes. Just looked at the list again and I need to put in a Rogue’s Passage. Really. I need to. I HAVE to!

How many infinite combos do you know of in the deck?
Lets see…
Deadeye Navigator + Palinchron is one.
Animar (3 counters) + Ancestral Statue is one.
Cloudstone Curio + Deadeye Navigator + Elvish Visionary is one.
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror BreakerZealous Conscripts is one (classic one!).

How many do you suspect are there but not known today? 😉 
Cloudstone Curio and Deadeye Navigator can probably be combined to make a lot of different combos. I’ll guess there are at least 4-5 more combinations I haven’t thought of or seen yet.


A note: the final two questions are my tongue-in-cheek way to criticize Psykopatmullvad’s love for infinite combos. One evening, he lent his Krenko deck to a friend, who subsequently instantly found one of the infinite combos in the deck and killed us all. When asked about how many infinite combos are in the deck, Psykopatmullvad answered “Three… That I know of…”, an instant classic exchange in our playgroup.

That’s all for this time, folks. I hope you’ve enjoyed a look at my friend’s Animar deck! If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below!

MTGO on Video: Momir Basic 2

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I am back again, with some more Videos for your pleasure!

This time I present you with three videos of the online format I love the most, Momir Basic. Its a nice change of pace from the other constructed formats, and if you love some randomness this is the format for you.

So here comes the Videos:

Game 1:

Game 2:

Game 3:

 

Thats all for me for now! If you have any questions about the format, the videos or MTG in general, please ask them in the comments and I will try and awnser them as good and fast as I can.

Over and Out!

 

MTGO on Video: Kommander Karlov (4player)

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This time I present to you a video of my first ever multiplayer game on Magic the Gathering Online. Four people Free For All, four decks, four times the fun right? Well, watch the video to see 😀

It was a fun learning process and the UI seemed to be working well. I have heard alot of craptalk about the multiplayer UI on MTGO but I found it to do its job the wait it was supposed to do.

I’m really looking forward for the next time I have an opportunity to record more multiplayer!

Look below for Video and Decklist! Yes I do present a decklist this time around as well 😉

 

 

Here is the link to the decklist over at Tappedout!

 

Over and Out!

 

 

Vorthos vs. Spike

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Being a great teacher is sometimes about making sacrifices. It’s not uncommon to have a lesson planned for which the teacher thinks he or she is worthy some prize. Then, if the class is uncooperative, it might all fall apart. Something that the teacher thought might be on par with the class’ general knowledge might prove too difficult or too easy. Things like that happen, all the time. To be a great teacher is to adapt. It is either to adapt oneself to the environment, or to adapt the environment to oneself.

Being a great teacher is understanding what a pupil thinks she or he knows, identifying what the next step would be, and then reaching twice as high.

dragonlordojutai.fullDuring my first playtest session against my paper metagame, Ojutai felt hopelessly outclassed right from the get-go. Granted, I had a pretty lousy game, but in a format where even short games take around half an hour, and many last for three or four times that time, having a single miserable experience is hard to shake off. It’s not that I lost, badly, it was that I spent the entire two hours of the game feeling underpowered compared to the other decks around the table.

As such, I was willing to try another approach. Fewer obvious “this is here because of flavour reasons”-cards, and more cards that fall into the camp of both powerful and flavourful. For example: I cut Ertai, Wizard Adept in favor of Mystical Tutor. I cut Barrin, Master Wizard in favor of Enlightened Tutor. Both cuts were hard to make, and neither makes me feel proud, but the replacements are powerful enough. Mystical Tutor finds any of the slew of instants or sorceries in the deck, ranging from removal, to sweepers, to card-draw, to countermagic. Enlightened Tutor serves to find any voltron-piece for the general, which helps out a lot. Both the tutors are also flavour-wise tutors, meaning there is a clear connection to learning and schooling. Feel free to call me a cop-out.

brainstorm.hqBut this is my point – it’s easy to see the appeal of a well-thought-out, well-executed theme deck in the works. But what use is a theme deck if it can’t at least stand up to the metagame? I’ve played six games with Ojutai so far, and I’ve been the last teacher standing a couple of times. This isn’t that important in a casual multiplayer format, but playing an underpowered list and being miserable all evening as your friends are doing broken things is simply awful, good theme or not.

In the end it’s about having a good time, and having a good time at an EDH table, for me, depends on having a fighting chance against all the decks. My new version of Ojutai, which you can see here: link to TappedOut.net decklist, has a fighting chance against a metagame which is what I was looking for.

To summarize, it’s not a question whether to go “vorthos” or “spike”, but rather, it is a dance between the two. They exist on a scale when it comes to theme decks in EDH, and I feel alright being somewhere in the middle.

Mana Burn #26 – Troubles of a Modern day Lavamancer

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Hello kids! It is I. Your friendly neighborhood Grim Lavamancer. And I am here with a little comic called Mana Burn for you. “That sounds pretty dope, Grim Lavamancer!” Yes. Yes, it is. It’s also only available to you here at Goyf Wars.

Usually I tell you fictive stories, but today I wanted to bring some realism to this blog. This particular comic is about me, and the downsides to having powers that may seem awesome, but in truth has little practical use. As usual, just click on the image bellow to read the comic:

Click to read-26

And there you have it, a couple of examples about what it’s like to be a Lavamancer in this day and age. What’s that lizard creature you ask? Go ask your dad. He had no idea? Well, how was I supposed to know that he doesn’t play Magic? Alright, it’s this little guy, who usually sits on my shoulder:

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Try him out in a deck of yours sometime! He probably won’t do anything, but he sure gives a mean look to your opponents!

That’s it for this time. I’ve recently been working on a project that’s semi-related to Mana Burn, it’s this rad and cool thing with dragons and everything! I’ll show you once it’s done.

Modern Bans: My predictions

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Tonight is the big night (or big day, depending on what side of the Atlantic Ocean you are on), it’s finally time for Modern bans! Avid readers of this blog knows that I don’t really care, because Modern is shit, and I’m not alone in my opinon on this matter. Sean @copain26 Whatson of Commanderin’ fame, has been a vocal opponent to the way Modern has its way with the prices in Magic, and I couldn’t agree more.

However, I do follow the ban list, mostly because it’s funny, but also because there are deals to be made as cards are banned. So here are my uninitiated predictions:

Banned:
Eldrazi Temple / Eye of Ugin – One of these will have to go, but perhaps not both. The Eldrazi deck is way too strong in the metagame right now, and people have even been calling for emergency bans. Official sources have stated that something will be done about the deck, but they don’t want to neuter it entirely, meaning one will likely stay and the other will go. It’s awkward that both of these were included in last year’s Modern Masters edition, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Unbanned:
Stoneforge Mystic – I don’t think this will be too oppressive in Modern. The format is full of removal, and Stoneforge Mystic is slow. Granted, Batterskull on turn three might be too powerful, but generally, I think it can be kept in check by running it over with a billion eldrazis on turn two! The only prohibitive part of this card is its price, which would certainly skyrocket, but that would in turn prompt a large-scale reprint at some point, beneficial for all Magic players!


What do you think of my predictions? Am I totally wrong? Leave a comment!

 

The Great Teacher, part 3

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Today is the last day of my easter break, and I want to celebrate going back to work in the morning by doing one last post about the flavour in my Ojutai deck. This part will focus on any of the cards that center on learning, but aren’t students or school supplies. deepanalysis.hq

Thirst for Knowledge, Compulsive Research, Deep Analysis – All of these cards focus on learning orschoolwork. I especially like Deep Analysis, the cephalid in the art are obviously taking part in a biology lesson and are about to dissect a Masticore. All three are pretty good cards, and all three tend to generate some sort of card advantage at best, and card quality at worst.

Fact or Fiction – Clearly a reference to some sort of religious studies lesson, a subject I happen to teach. It’s also a very, very good card, which always helps.

rhysticstudy.hqRhystic Study – The name refers to studying, the art shows a student (Alexi?), and the flavour references teaching. Twice. It has to be in the deck. It’s also very, very good, and an EDH staple, for good reason.

Concentrate – …is a good thing to do, when you study. The card is decent. That’s about it.

Council’s Judgment – This one is even more far-fetched. I call it Student Council’s Judgment, and it represents The Great Teacher’s democratic side. Otherwise, most schools have some sort of disciplinary board if students misbehave, and I guess it could represent that too. Pretty sweet card, it deals with most things, and can lead to hectic diplomatic plays around the board.

Long-Term Plans – “To teach is to plan”, a lecturer told me during my teaching education, and that is the truest statement I heard that entire five-year span. Teachers spend an obscene amount of time planning, and this card represents The Great Teacher’s planning. It also happens to synch well with his trigger, which is also very nice.

Stroke of Geniusuginsinsight.full – Having a stroke of genius sure is nice when trying to learn something, and the flavour references experimentation, an important part of any science-based subject. The card is one of three draw-X spells, along with Blue Sun’s Zenith, and Sphinx’s Revelation. The latter is maybe also tied to teaching a bit, since it references knowledge in the flavour. All three are pretty boss ways to tap out at the end of an opponent’s turn in order to get ahead in cards compared to the entire board.

Ugin’s Insight – This is probably my favourite of the teaching cards, since it’s the most obscure. Clearly, Ugin is showing Jace a PowerPoint presentation of the Eldrazi. The card, the flavour and the art also convey the fact that Ugin is more knowledgeable than Jace, and in this case, teaches him. It’s also sometimes alright, sometimes really good. Scrying 2-5 and then drawing three is usually worth 5 mana, especially when you compare it to Concentrate.


I will write a final post on the “cards that are good but not really connected to the theme” cards, and then close the book on The Great Teacher for this time. I’m only a single game into the deck right now, and big changes might happen over the coming weeks.

 

The Great Teacher, part 2

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The decklist is “complete” (I am one of those who don’t believe in finished EDH decks), and I’ve taken it for a quick spin around the club tonight, and I thought I’d celebrate this by going over the school materials that the students of The Great Teacher will get to enjoy.

minamo,schoolatwatersedge.hqMinamo, School at Water’s Edge – These days this card is quite expensive, but I picked up two of them right after they had rotated out of Standard, for next to nothing. Little did I know then that it would be pretty kick-ass in an EDH deck more than a decade later. Minamo gives The Great Teacher Hexproof on command and is a really neat card to have in the deck. Flavour-wise, it’s a school, at the water’s edge, and just so happens, the school I work at is right by a lake.

Scroll Rack, Scroll of the Masters, Merchant Scroll – All schools need books, and in The Great Teacher’s school, they come in the form of scrolls. Scroll Rack is pretty powerful on its own, and the deck has quite a few shuffle effects, Merchant Scroll can find numerous cards in the deck for cheap, and Scroll of the Masters is pretty underwhelming but quite flavourful at the same time. I like all three well enough in the deck!

Expedition Map – It’s time for a geography lesson. Expedition Map can find Minamo, which is what it does best and is in the deck to do. It’s slow, but reliable.

Detention Sphere – Students who misbehave in The Great Teacher’s classroom get to go to the Detention detentionsphere.hqSphere. I plan to make a tiny paper dunce cap to put on the card currently in detention, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet. In terms of game-play, it is pretty close to a blue-white Vindicate, even if it does get randomly destroyed sometimes, but it has the upside of being great against token decks in general. I don’t think I’d play blue-white without it.

Ring of Thune – This could perhaps pass as a class ring? In all honesty, it’s mostly there for the effect, giving The Great Teacher vigilance is really powerful, since it turns on his inherent hexproof all the time. In flavour terms it’s hard to justify, but I think a portion of the deck ought to be cards to grant The Great Teacher vigilance.

 

And that’s it for the school material! In the next post, I will go over any card that has to do with learning!