The Winter Domain (Ojutai primer, pt. 2)

This is the card-by-card analysis of the string of posts I want to dedicate to this deck, although I will be brief and probably bunch cards together as needed, since some of the cards are essentially the same cards, and some exist in the deck for the exact same reason.

The lands:
I won’t go over the dual lands, since they are quite obvious. The notable omissions from the duals are Port Town, Nimbus Maze, Seachrome Coast, and Irrigated Farmland. There aren’t any notable reasons for any of these omissions, other than the fact that I don’t own these particular lands and haven’t gotten around to get them. None of them are strictly better than the duals I have in the deck anyway.

The basics are numerous in the deck, allowed by the two-colour nature of it. I use the Ojutai basic lands from Dragons of Tarkir in order to tie it all together nicely. They look pretty sweet.

It should be noted that the deck doesn’t outright need the expensive lands like the fetchlands, Tundra, and so on, but those are cards I actually do happen to have, so I’ve included them. The deck can be built much cheaper, and worrying about the manabase in a two-colour deck is overdoing it for most of the time, in my opinion. With that said, let’s have a look at some of the special lands in the deck.

Minamo, School at Water’s Edge – This is perhaps the most important land card in my deck, which is a shame since it’s getting up there in terms of price. It adds pseudo-vigilance to the Commander, which is very important, and it’s also a school, so it ties into the Commander himself flavourfully as well. It’s the land I most often get with Expedition Map.

Calciform Pools – I think that these storage lands are underplayed in the format, and I quite like them in control decks. I want to pass the turn with mana up most of the time anyway and if the lap goes around the table without me spending all of it, I might as well put a counter on this thing, to cast some of the big spells in the deck like the Draw X-cards.

Celestial Colonnade, Mishra’s Factory, Mutavault – I didn’t realize how expensive Celestial Colonnade had gotten, but the other two are at least not outrageously expensive. I think all three merit inclusion in the deck, due to three reasons: 1. They can carry the equipment in the deck in a pinch. 2. They work well as Planeswalker assassins. 3. Most importantly: they protect Ojutai from Edict effects.

The Ramp:
Mana Crypt, Mana Vault, Sol Ring – All of these are awesome, since they produce more mana than they cost. Sol Ring is by far the best of the three, though. Mana Crypt is a bit risky in this kind of deck – since part of the gameplan is to play a long game, the damage really adds up. Thus, I usually don’t play it until the turn I need the extra two mana. Mana Vault allows for a turn 2 commander if I really want to paint a bull’s eye on myself, but is most often used for the large Draw X-spells.

Azorius SignetTalisman of Progress, Thought Vessel, Thran Dynamo – These serve similar purposes, though not the exact kind of purpose. The signet and the talsiman both ramp and fix my mana, both are great. I think the talismans are desperately underplayed in the format, actually, at least all the non-green one should warrant inclusion in any deck they’re allowed in. Thought Vessel is a good rock with a neat upside for the later parts of the game, and Thran Dynamo is my single high-end ramp, used solely to  cast huge spells.

Land Tax, Expedition Map, Wayfarer’s Bauble – Out of these three, only Wayfarer’s Bauble ramps technically, but the other two can be used to fix the mana by getting me whichever basic I need. Expedition Map comes with the obvious upside of getting any land, which includes all of the utility lands I discussed above. Land Tax is great, and combos with Scroll Rack, which is also in the deck.

In total, I run ten mana ramp or fixers, and 38 lands. This is usually more than enough, but it’s always best to stay cautious; I want to be able to make land drops every turn for the first five-six turns easily, and I have the spells to make use of all of my lands at all stages of the game.


In the third and final part of this analysis, I will discuss the cards I cast with the cards I listed above! Until next time!

 

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The Winter Dragon (Ojutai primer, pt. 1)

Introduction:
Though the switch between the old Tarkir timeline to the new led to the destruction of my favourite world of all time in Magic – the Khans-timeline Tarkir, it brought with it my favourite Commander of all time: Dragonlord Ojutai. As head of his eponymous clan after the downfall of all khans and the death of Shu Yun at the hands (at the breath?) of Ojutai himself, Dragonlord Ojutai is also known as “the Great Teacher”. His clan values knowledge and wisdom, as well as martial prowess, and Ojutai is the epitome of both those aspects.

This deck started off as a reaction to my friend’s project to build Dragonlord Atarka, and originally it was intended to be a school-themed deck. I’ve written about the deck’s thematic construction before (part 1, part 2, part 3), and since the deck has gone through numerous changes since, I want to focus on the deck’s function.

Why Ojutai?
Azorius is blessed with several good candidates for the command zone, whether you’re into control (Grand Arbiter Augustin IV), voltron (Bruna, Light of Alabaster, Geist of Saint Traft), blink (Brago, King Eternal), or even tribal (Sygg, River Guide, Kangee, Aerie Keeper). Ojutai steps into the ponds of both Augustin IV and Bruna by being a voltron commander of a control shell. This dual nature of the deck lends it strengths not available to other commanders: he’s better protected than Augustin IV, he’s cheaper than Bruna, and he’s better at generating card advantage than Saint Traft. This combined strength along with the nice thematic flavour of the commander makes him my choice.

Do play this deck if you:

  • Like long games.
  • Like interactive play where you’re able to answer a variety of threats.
  • Like your commander to generate cards for you.
  • Like to win with commander damage.

Do not play this deck if you:

  • Like to ramp out into huge threats.
  • Like to win quickly out of nowhere.

Basic strategy
Early game, the deck wants to make land drops and establish a board position by making land drops. I like to tap out to cast card-draw spells over holding up counter mana early game, if it likely allows me to never miss a land drop. The deck can then answer most threats presented by opponents either through the flexible removal suite or countermagic, to preserve life total for later parts of the game. In the mid-game, the deck wants to establish a card parity vs. most of the opponents, usually through Rhystic Study, or one of the Draw X cards-spells. The deck then wants to win in the late game through casting the commander and playing one of the various Vigilance enablers on him, followed by beat down.

The deck rewards, or outright needs, diplomatic play to survive the early turns of some games, against very aggressive opponents. Against all opponents, the deck will have to, and is good at, adapting to the changing board- and game states.

The Deck list:
I’ll leave you with the current deck list, as an image. Click here (TappedOut link) to see the same list but with working card tags etc.

The Greatest Teacher as of 2017-09-09

 


In the following posts, I will break down the deck into categories and discuss some of the card choices as needed. Until then, have a look at my themed custom play mat, drawn by my friend GrimLavamancer.

UB vs. BUG (and others)

city of shakar

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.

perniciousdeed.hq

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!

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!

Deckbuilding 101 – Conception

pharika banner

“Art” is a controversial word. Plenty of people smarter than me have spent many hours trying to convince people that a thing so commonplace and almost banal as video games can be defined as “art”, much like other non-interactive mediums – literature, film, music. I, however, I think deckbuilding is an art. And it’s a tough one to boot.

In a series of posts beginning with this one, I intend to break down my method for deck construction in EDH. To exemplify, I’m also going to present my latest protect – Pharika, God of Affliction. To start off, I want to make a few things clear, using some truisms:

purphoros,godoftheforge.hqa) There are no such things, practically, as a “solved” EDH deck. Another label which one needs to be very careful with is “finished”. There are commanders that tend to be linear in their strategy – meaning they lend themselves to some strategies more easily. An example of this could be Purphoros, God of the Forge. Practically all Purphoros decks want to do more or less the same thing – drop Purphoros, make a whole bunch of tokens and kill everyone else at the table as soon as possible. It’s a linear strategy in a commander that more or less builds itself, and though every list will have variations, many will contain the same core strategy. Even then, it’s hard to argue that this list or that list is the perfect Purphoros 99; local variations always exist in individual metagames, and that has to be taken into account during the deckbuilding progress.

To clarify – let’s say you play Tasigur, the Golden Fang. Some metagames might be very cutthroat, so you put in all the extra turn spells you can, in hopes of regrowing them until you have either an unbeatable board state, or everyone else is plain dead. Other metagames might be more casual and the opponents will play less powerful decks, meaning every game ends with you taking 4+ turns in a row, regrowing your time walks, and winning. This will either get you kicked out of the playgroup, or targeted first in every game, neither situation is preferable.

These two considerations leads me to always fine-tune and make changes to my decks, with the waxing and waning of my local paper metagame. This, obviously, isn’t a bad thing, but it’s a thing to take to heart – you won’t likely sleeve up your 99, say “done” and play that same 99 until you retire the deck.

winterorb.hqb) EDH is, by its very nature, a very broken format. The object is very rarely to find a list that will combo-kill or lock down the table on turn 5 every game. The reasons for this is mostly the same as before – people may outright refuse to play against your deck, or target your first, turning your game into Archenemy.

Here, we get into a murky territory, but the object of your deckbuilding will, in many cases, be to find something that is “fun” to both play with and against. Granted, “fun” is a subjective experience, but I can say from my 20+ years of playing the game (this is an argument from authority, disregard that) that the games that I enjoy and find memorable are games where interactions and agency are important aspects. Games where someone blows up all the lands might be memorable, but not fun, since you can’t interact without mana. Games where someone kills you with a spectacular storm combo on turn 5 or 6 might be memorable for the sheer spectacle, but it’s hardly interactive, and losing to a nigh-masturbatory combo gets boring very quickly.

Don’t get me wrong – if you want to play in a metagame where people are playing die-hard, cutthroat, mass-land-destructing, storm-comboing steamrollers, then by all means. If you enjoy that, and if you find a group of people who enjoy that, knock yourselves out. However, from my experience both of online and paper metagames, most groups are not like that. Jason Alt’s 75% deckbuilding theory might be applicable to your local paper metagame, if you’re playing in anything similar to mine.


With all this in mind – today I want to talk about deck concepts. This isn’t a hard thing, per-se, but I want to stress the importance of a central theme or thought right from the get-go. Your concept could be almost anything, a few examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Tribal X (tribal dragons, tribal merfolk, tribal zombie, tribal elves)
  • Commander-based (Voltron, commander-based combos)
  • Vorthos decks (story-based decks)
  • Good-stuff (control, ramp or mid range)
  • Colour(s) (certain colour, colour pairs, shards, wedges etc.)

vowofdutyTo start off you need to think about what sort of deck you want to build. Then, use that central idea as a filter for when looking for cards. A card that might be underpowered in one deck might fit like a glove in another. To give an example from my own decks – one of the most powerful cards in my Ojutai deck is Vow of Duty. The Vow of-cycle, first printed in the original Commander product, are all interesting – they give +2/+2 and  grant a static ability, and if they’re cast targeting an opponent’s creature, that can’t attack you. This leads to interesting multiplayer situations, no doubt. In Ojutai, however, Vow of Duty grants Ojutai not only Vigilance, an underrated ability in a format where you have to block potentially three or four times for every time you attack, it also turns on his permanent Hexproof and boosts his power to the important threshold of 7 – enough to kill in exactly three swings. I’ve played many, many white Commander decks since the printing of Vow of Duty, but only in Ojutai do I consider it one of the best cards in the deck.

pharikasnakePharika has a few cards of similar calibre that I had to buy to put the deck together – most notably Eidolon of Blossoms and Doomwake Giant, which both triggers on Pharika’s activated ability, since the Snake tokens she puts onto the battlefield are Enchantment Creatures.

What I’m trying to get at with all this rambling is that it’s good to have a theme, and it’s even better to keep focus on that theme. I built Pharika very recently, the deck is only about six games old, but I’ve had a blast playing with it, and I will surely continue to work on it while I write this series. My initial thought, my central theme was quite simple – I wanted an interactive, good-stuff build that utilized some of the cool cards Golgari has to offer in EDH, and I wanted Pharika to be sufficiently different from Meren of Clan Nel Toth, which I played extensively from the release of Commander 2015 up until this spring, when Meren became the most popular Golgari general on EDHREC.com. Pharika, on the other hand, has only 66 registered decks, compared to Meren’s 485. I wanted something hipster, and I wanted something weird, and in brainstorming with Grim Lavamancer, I tossed around the idea of Pharika. So far so good.Lavamancer

I want to finish today with a few select words from our very own friendly neighbourhood Grim Lavamancer – take it away. Your homework until next time is to think about a concept for a new EDH build.

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!

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.

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!