Top 5: Factions within Magic

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Magic hasn’t been doing warring factions for real for very long. Before Ravnica, all we knew was the Coalition and the Phyrexians, pit fighters in Otaria and the Brother’s War. With the advent of warring factions, however, entire sets, prereleases, even the very language which we use to describe the game, has been altered drastically. In this top 5 list, I will give homage to my most favourite factions, be it from a coolness standpoint, or a gameplay standpoint, though mostly the former.

steward of valeron5. Bant (Alara block) – Bant is technically a shard and not a faction, but with the events of the Conflux set, Bant finds itself in conflict with its hitherto unknown neighbouring shards – Naya and Esper. Thus, I’ll let it count for this list. Bant is the land of chivalry, the place where Elspeth Tirel first regarded as a proper home. Valiant knights ride large cat beasts through a romanticized medieval fantasy kingdom, alongside angels, anthropomorphic rhinos and aven. The knights don’t wear armour on their backs, because nobody would ever consider trying to attack from anywhere but the front. The very essence of chivalry, Bant takes number five on my list. Its mechanic, Exalted, also demonstrates the chivalry of single combat well. The only thing that keeps Bant off of a higher position on this list is that while the white part of its white-green-blue alignment is easy to see, the other two colours don’t really make an impact on the aesthetics in my opinion.

phyrexianplaguelord4. The Phyrexians (all of Magic, more or less) – We’ve just seen the promised end of the Eldrazi, finally, and Magic has been through other great villains, Nicol Bolas for example, but none stand out as the main antagonist of all of the multiverse than the Phyrexians. What I like about the Phyrexians is that they are pretty much fully-realized as the worst thing that could happen to a plane. Constructed by Yawgmoth, on their eponymous mechanical plane, they invade other planes and spread sickness and death in order to “compleat” beings – meaning to replace biological body parts with mechanical body parts little by little, until nothing but the mechanical parts remain. This opens up a philosophical question, much in the same vein of the Boat of Theseus: if one were to remove a plank from a boat and replace it with a new one, and keep doing this little by little until the entire boat is entirely new pieces – is it still fundamentally the same boat?

Aside from trampling ancient philosophical questions, the Phyrexians have also been the focal point of a large part of Magic’s history. Virtually the entire Weatherlight saga, that spanned for many years during the 90’s and 00’s, the ongoing story was that of the Weatherlight crew trying to combat an impending invasion from the Phyrexians. Later on, we see them again compleating old familiar faces on Mirrodin, and particularly there, their new mechanic Infect serves them well in creating a threatening, evil faction. Props to the old workhorse of the Phyrexians, they take the number three slot on this list!

student of ojutai3. Clan Ojutai (Dragons of Tarkir) – Clan Ojutai retains many of the philosophical elements of their former incarnation of the Jeskai Way when Sarkhan changes Tarkir’s timeline which leads to the fall of the khans and their clans as part of the Fate Reforged storyline. But, while some of the old clans of Tarkir, perhaps most notably the Temur and the Sultai clans, end up serving their new dragonlords as lesser beings, Ojutai decides to take on his new subjects as students, because he is the great teacher. Clan Ojutai values study, knowledge, wisdom, and learning, and as a teacher myself, I can respect and relate to that. Aside from the fact that Ojutai himself partakes in terrible intellectual dishonesty due to erasing parts of the history of the plane in order to make himself out to be greater than he might be, I can sympathize with most of what they are doing.

Though non-dragon members of the clan are certainly in part second-rate members, much like in some of the more ruthless clans, in Clan Ojutai this is due to the fact that humans, aven and so on have much shorter lifespans and thus simply don’t have the time available to the dragons to collect wisdom. This is also very appealing to me, the fact that the dragons out-rank the humans and aven isn’t due to their physical size or strength, it is due to their knowledge and wisdom.

Mechanically, however, Clan Ojutai brings few new things to the table, using Rebound, a reprinted mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi as their signature move. That keeps them from reaching any higher on this list.

dimir doppelganger2. House Dimir (Ravnica, Gatecrash) – Though Mr. Sean Whatson of Commanderin‘ fame may claim to be the “Dimirest Man Alive”, I too carry a soft spot for them in my heart. As the blue-black aligned guild of the cityplane of Ravnica, House Dimir is a secretive society, operating from the shadows using classical methods of espionage, deception, assassination and manipulation to procure information (or “secrets”) which they then sell on the black market of Ravnica. They are the essence of the knowledge of blue paired with the ambition of black.

House Dimir’s guild leader, Szadek, serves as the main antagonist of the original Ravnica’s storyline, making the guild very prominent to the players, but within the lore, House Dimir is so extremely secretive, most Ravnicans believe there are only nine guild on their plane. Both the guildpact drafted before the story starts, the guildpact formed after the events of the Dissention set, and the guildpact drafted by Teysa Karlov as part of the Return to Ravnica storyline recognizes only nine guilds. The guild is so secretive, most people who deal with them have no idea that House Dimir is behind the agents meeting them – they think that they deal with guildless or with agents from other guilds. In extreme cases, not even the agents aligned with the guild itself is completely sure who they are actually working for.

So, for being blue and black, and being the epitome of secretive, House Dimir takes the number two slots. Their keyworded ability from Ravnica, Transmute, is very powerful indeed, especially in EDH where tutoring is very powerful even if restricted, but it leads to repetitive gameplay. In Gatecrash, they got a new keyword in Cipher, which wasn’t as powerful as Transmute, but was clunky, only went on spells, and used the awkward “encode” wording. Thus, for being awesome in spirit, but awkward in mechanics, Dimir reaches number two!

snowhorn rider1. The Temur Frontier (Khans of Tarkir, Fate Reforged) – I wasn’t very interested in Khans of Tarkir when it was first announced. I’m not a huge fan of Mongolian popular history, nor was I in reality very excited about the coveted “wedge” set. But boy howdy, did Wizards prove me wrong on this one, and it is in large parts thanks to The Temur Frontier. Gathering much inspiration from peoples living in northern parts of the asian continent, the Temur lead a harsh nomadic life in the wilderness of Tarkir. They value strength, family, and survival above all else, and they don’t fight unless provoked (mostly by the Mardu Horde).

In battle, they join forces with bears, ride huge beasts, fight alongside ainok, loxodon and elementals alike, and they slide down hill slopes on top of sleds made from weapons as parts of their charge. Containing their awesome is impossible! The Temur Frontier is also the home of the whisperers, a type of shamans that can commune with animals and each other through a sort of hive mind state. The Temur Frontier are essential to the Tarkir storyline, in that Yasova Dragonclaw, the khan of the clan during Fate Reforged, is manipulated by Nicol Bolas into assisting in the killing or injuring of Ugin, depending on the timeline.

Their clan ability, Ferocious, isn’t much to write home about, since it’s merely a revamped version of Naya’s signature ability in the Alara block, but it did play very well in limited (Savage Punch was definitely green’s best common in triple-KTK, and perhaps one of the best commons in the set) and it is somewhat flavourful. Further, Surrak Dragonclaw, the khan of the clan in the Khans of Tarkir timeline, became khan by punching a bear. Likely in half. How awesome is that?


What do you think of my list? What’s your own top 5? Leave a comment below!

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Creature Type: Sorcery plays more Pauper!

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Today it is GW Slivers on the menu!

Have a tasty video, folks!

 

 

If you want to, feel free to comment, here or on YouTube.

 

Over and Out!

 

Kaya, Ghost Assassin

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A couple of days ago, Wizards released some information about an upcoming planeswalker, likely to be printed in this summer’s Conspiracy 2 – Kaya, Ghost Assassin. The little we know so far is neatly contained in her Planeswalker page, and in a story about her, known as “Laid to Rest“. Contrary to some of the other stuff – Laid to Rest is actually pretty good! Magic story is a guilty pleasure of mine, but I’ll admit I like it way better when released piece-meal on a weekly basis than published thrice a year in book form. The Tarkir story was often pretty well done, and I liked many of the characters. The stories regarding the Avengers Gatewatch, however, have yet to thrill me in the same way. Laid to Rest, however, was pretty neat, and I recommend you check it out!

We don’t know much about Kaya yet, but in this post, I will present my theory regarding her colours. Read on to find out!

I will spoil Laid to Rest, so if you’re interested in reading it without any spoilers, do so before reading on. Spoilers after this awesome pic of Kaya:

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Kaya, to me, seems like at least Dimir (blue-black). She is an assassin, or rather, a ghostbusting assassin, but she murders sentient beings for profit. She seems, in the story, to be of the ambitious kind, and ambition is black. Further, she values knowledge, information and planning, and that is clearly fundamental blue values. She seems to be the one who murders Brago, on a contract from Marchesa, another ambitious part-Dimir character.

However, she is also bound by some sort of honour codex, which the end of the story presents. Rules and regulations are white. Also, she has some abilities of spirits and in the game of Magic, white has the most spirits (followed by black, blue, green, red in that order).

This, in conclusion, leads me to believe that she is Esper (white-blue-black), and we haven’t yet seen an Esper coloured planeswalker, so I think we’re due one. We already have a three-coloured planeswalker in Standard right now, but it’s quite obvious Kaya will be printed in a non-standard set, so that shouldn’t be a restriction.


And that’s my theory – Kaya will be Esper! What do you think? Am I right or wrong? Leave a comment!

Creature Type Sorcery Plays Pauper

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Today I played some Pauper, with a sweet BW deck.

Watch the vido below for more of the action!

 

 

Thank you! 😀

Yasova’s Encore

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Amidst the brewing of my Pharika, God of Affliction deck, I’ve been playing some more with my usual suspects, namely Ojutai and Wydwen. Both of those decks are awesome, and especially the former has been doing quite well recently (who knew Hexproof would be so good on a commander, huh?). All in all, I’m very happy with both of those decks right now. However, the last of my decks, Zegana, wasn’t being played very often, for some reason. I don’t dislike her as a commander, I don’t dislike the deck, and it’s not too weak. That said, Zegana was the one deck I never got around to play in a night, most nights, and in the mean time I had all these cool red cards collecting dust.

The solution to these two problems was to give Zegana a break for some time, and try again with another commander that I used to play when she was new, about a year and a half ago. Back then, I couldn’t quite make her work as I envisioned, and I quickly grew tired of her – but I’ll be damned if I don’t give her another shot. Enter Yasova Dragonclaw:

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Here’s what I wrote about her in my original post, about a year ago:

I’ve chosen Yasova as my new general for a multitude of reasons:

  1. In Gameplay terms, she’s very efficiently costed, a 4/2 with an upside for 3 is no slouch, not even in EDH.
  2. Also, in gameplay terms, her ability tends to synergise well with sacrifice outlets.
  3. She’s Temur, my favourite of the Tarkir clans (followed by Abzan, and I’m looking at replacing Dromoka with Anafenza at some point in the future).
  4. Thankfully enough, she’s a female character in a fantasy game and she’s not complete fanservice.
  5. Yasova is, ungratefully, the least popular Temur general, according to EDHREC.

All of these still hold true to this day, and this time around, I’ve taken the list into a bit of a different direction. Here is a link to my current most up-to-date list: Yasova’s Encore, on TappedOut.net. The list is this time around less reliant on the commander working at maximum efficiency, I’ve played games so far where I’ve been mostly ramping and dropping big dudes for value – a good thing generally. I’ve only played the deck for eight or nine games so far, but I’ve been doing fairly well and even walked away with a couple of wins in my bag.

And I just have to gush for a while about some of the new tech that I’ve added to the deck, that wasn’t in my old list for one reason or another.

sidisisfaithfulSidisi’s Faithful – This is my new pet card in EDH, and boy am I head-over-heels in love with this one! The Sultai watermark aside, this card was made for Yasova. It’s extremely flexible, let’s looks at three of the common ways to use it in the deck:

  1. Cast it, exploit something that you don’t care about, exploit itself, or exploit something that will benefit from it (Reef Worm et al). Bounce something else from your opponent.
  2. Cast it, exploit something Yasova has stolen, bounce something else. Major card-advantage right there, and you end up with a neat 0/4 body to block with.
  3. Cast it, exploit something Yasova has stolen, bounce itself back to my hand. Repeatable, cheap sacc outlet.

As most of you will be aware, I’m all for flexible and modal cards in EDH.

Berserk – Another flexible card that could either be used in conjunction with some of my other creatures to get a big hit in, or as both pump and sacrifice outlet for something Yasova has stolen.

Magmaw, Scourge of Skola Vale – Efficient, cheap sacrifice outlets that didn’t make the final list the last time. Both inexpensive money-wise, both fairly good.


More importantly, all of these cards are fun and they make me happy when I play them – the two most important things cards could do in EDH. It is a casual format after all, and I tend to play better and have better games when I’m actually enjoying what I’m doing. And right now, I really enjoy Yasova.

Creature Type: Sorcery 003, Packing when Trading

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Today i present to you a videoguide of how to properly pack cards when doing a trade!

For reference, I have over 700 registered trades over at Svenskamagic.com, and nobody have ever complained about the packaging. And it really sucks to get damaged cards due to sloppy packing! So this is my little way of helping the trading community!

 

Here is the link to the video if you prefer that: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywRksLKHLkw

Please let me know what you think! 😀

UB vs. BUG (and others)

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Related to my appearance in this week’s episode of the Commanderin’ podcast, I got the following tweet:

Skärmavbild 2016-07-28 kl. 21.25.13

This is a very interesting question indeed – and taken on surface value, one obvious answer would be “nothing”. But this is a slipperly slope, of course; if we disregard the drawbacks that come with extra colour(s) in EDH, and disregard important aspects like available commanders, then five colour decks would beat out every non-five colour deck.

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But considering the colours as-is, a few noteworthy things arise. In general, Sultai (black-blue-green) tends to ramp way better than Dimir (black-blue), because green is the undisputed king of ramp in EDH. And, as most people would have you know, ramp is one of the two most important aspects of a deck in EDH (the other being card-draw).

Another thing that Sultai does way better is dealing with some problematic enchantments. Spot-removal such as Krosan Grip and Beast Within can help to deal with problematic resolved enchantments and artifacts, and one of my favourite cards of all time – Pernicious Deed – is available to Sultai.

And further, green brings some pretty neat creaures into the mix, the big beaters in the format belong there, and some of the best utility creatures as well. Two notable examples are Eternal Witness and Deathrite Shaman.


All is not just gravy and ramp, however, because Sultai comes with three downsides that I’d say makes it different enough from Dimir to consider playing Dimir over Sultai in the format.

  1. tasigurThe fact that partial paris mulligans was removed from the format means that the manabases in the format must be constructed with a bit more care, and that’s always easier with a two-colour deck than a three-colour deck, even if the third colour is green. Getting color-screwed the first couple of turns is unlikely in a two-colour deck, but a bit more common in a three-colour deck. This isn’t a huge deal, though, and it’s not specifically a downside of Sultai vs. Dimir of course, but it is a downside. Every game where you get stuck on lands or colours will suck, because we’re talking multiplayer, and you’ll likely lose very slowly.
  2. Three-colour decks will suffer more from budgetary constraints. Even on a budget, most cheaper dual lands will make for a stable mana base, but in order to minimize the threat of the above issue, one ought to play with the fetch lands and dual lands available to Sultai. It’s not a huge divider, but it is to be considered.
  3. The available commanders. This is a big deal. Looking at the Sultai commanders available (link to EDHREC), there are only five of them, and there are a few similarities between them. Sultai is good if you want to interact with graveyards, but they can also be good goodstuff decks, or combo. Dimir, on the other hand (link to EDHREC), has some twenty listed and a few more that are too unpopular to even be mentioned there, but there is a wider range of strategies available – Dimir can do most anything. This is a huge upside that cannot possibly be ignored, especially not these days when tucking isn’t a thing anymore and building around your commander isn’t as dangerous anymore.

In the end, like all things in EDH, it comes down to personal preference. As for me, I almost always start my deck building with a commander that I want to try or build around or haven’t seen in my local paper metagame, and if that commander happens to be Sultai, I go Sultai. On the other hand, if that commander happens to be Dimir, I go Dimir.

Which do you prefer – two or three colour? Leave a comment!

Guest appearance on Commanderin’!

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A while ago, Mr. Sean Whatson and I recorded a special episode of the Commanderin’ Podcast, and today it’s being released to the public. We talk about Dimir strategies in general, discuss our favourite Dimir cards, and I gush a bit about my favourite Dimir general – Wydwen!

Click here to listen to the episode on their home page, or find it through your podcast app of choice.

Deckbuilding 101 – Card evaluation

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Welcome back, class! The last time we learned about concepts in EDH, that is, the necessity of choosing and sticking to a theme. I hope you’ve spent your leisure time pondering what to build, because this time we’re talking about card evaluation in EDH. I want to stress that what I’m about to share is my method, and it is in no way all-encompassing. This is merely the way I do it.

I want to reiterate – the goal here isn’t necessarily to build the strongest possible 100-card deck – it’s more likely to build a fun and/or unique deck that suits your goal, style, meta and collection. The last bit, the collection, will differ widely between players. I prefer to mostly build from what I own, which has affected my method of building, but I will expand upon and include a couple of other examples.

solemnsimulacrum.hq

SadBot – the first ramp card to be added after Sol Ring.

The first thing I do is to go to EDHREC.com, and look up either whatever general I’m building, or researching the available commanders in my intended colour(s). EDHREC is a very powerful tool if used responsibly, and it is a great starting off point if you’re at a loss over where to start. Once I’ve got a grip on the commander, I sit down and type a list of cards I know from memory that I want. Usually I like to do this on paper – but anything works.

Next, I go to my collection of “EDH playables”, a big box of cards sorted by colour. I go through the relevant colours and pick out all the cards that I want to play in the deck.

By this time, I often have a stack of cards around 150 or so cards, and by this time, I start to break down the deck in it’s relevant parts. If we break down the bare bones, here’s what we have:

Commander: 1
Lands: 38
Mana ramp: 10
Card draw: 10
Sweepers: 4

These are numbers I always start with. Some decks will want more than 38 lands, some can get by with less. Some cards might want more than 10 ramp cards, some less, and so on.

Easy math will tell you that in practice, most commander decks aren’t 100 unique cards, they are 100-1-38 (the commander and the lands) which leaves us 61 card slots. Take away the slots for the basic ramp and card-draw, that leaves 41 slots. Take away the slots for sweepers, and that leaves 37. Does that mean only 37 cards differentiate EDH decks? Of course not, but most decks should have these basic card types before considering anything else.

Remember class, the goal here isn’t to build a “competitive EDH deck” (since that’s an oxymoron) – the goal is to build a functioning EDH deck. Since you will devote at least 45 minutes to every game you sit down for, most often more than that, it’s important to have a deck that stands a fighting chance – lest the games will turn into very boring slogs towards the end for you.

After I’ve sorted out the lands, the ramp cards, the card draw and most often at least a basic suite of sweepers, I separate the cards left into three tiers. These tiers aren’t set in stone, but it’s usually what I do in order to rank cards.

livingdeath.hqTier one: Cards that are absolutely necessary for the deck to function. They are central to the theme, whatever it is, and the deck will not do without them. Cards in Pharika that are tier one are cards like Grave Pact, Viscera Seer, Oath of Ghouls, and Living Death. The deck would be considerably worse without these cards, and they are central to Pharika’s theme of controlling graveyards and grinding out with your own.

Tier two: Cards that aren’t exactly necessary for the deck, but are good in it and most often related to the theme. Cards that are tier two in Pharika include Eidolon of Blossoms, Doomwake Giant, Creakwood Liege, and Maelstrom Pulse. Most spotremoval falls into tier two-territory, and though many spotremoval cards make the cut, not all should, for obvious reasons.

Tier three: Tier three is the lowest of the tiers, though that does not mean that they are cards that can be cut without consideration. These cards did make the first cut out of the box/binder, mind you. Cards in tier three are cards that aren’t related to the theme directly, cards that fall into the “danger of cool things” territory (yes, it is within the curriculum to refer to an article from 1999), pet cards etc. Although most of the time, there aren’t that many tier three cards in my decks, I have a few pet cards that I tend to play with. An example in Pharika would be Vraska, the Unseen. Although she isn’t a pet card specifically, I really like planeswalkers, and I like to have them in all of my decks – and Vraska is the only black-green one prined so far. She’s also like the best rattlesnake there is, and if there is one deck that could protect a planeswalker from attackers, it’s Pharika.


Lavamancer 2By now, we’re getting a rough sketch of what we need in the deck – and we can start making cuts. Usually, I start from tier three, make heavy cuts, go to tier two, make slightly less cuts, and initially, I keep almost all cards in tier one. Once the deck is around 110-120 cards, I start to look at what the next part will be about: mana curve and designing mana bases!

I’ll leave you with a few wise words from our very own friendly neighbourhood Lavamancer, like the last time.

Your homework for the next time is to make a rough sketch of your deck, and try out the tier system for yourself. It is a lot easier to work with if you have a large collection, though it can be done electronically, if you plan to buy a bunch of cards.

Class dismissed!

The first detention slip

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Dear Mrs. and Mr. Reveler,

You might already be aware of this, but in case Xenagos has neglected to inform you, I am assigning him detention for the rest of this game. The reason is as follows:Xenagos

Xenagos has been acting out in class consistently. It is not that he himself has done too much damage to either other students, his surroundings or myself, but he gets the other students all fired up over nothing. His ability to incite rebellions among the students, while impressive, has led to severe complaints from the other participants in our activities.

I’ve taken it upon myself to discipline Xenagos in order to make sure that he refrains from other outbursts in class and assigned him the usual detention homework. For your information, this week the class is memorizing Homer’s Odyssey, and I’m expecting him to hand in his solution to Zeno’s Dichotomy paradox on Monday at the latest.

Until Xenagos has shown he is capable of interacting with other students without getting them into an inflammatory state, I will not accept him back in my class.

 

All the best,
Dragonlord Ojutai, PhD, MD, JD, MBA, LIM, OMG