An unjust victory

zegana bannerAs I’ve stated previously before, on this blog, I’ve spent quite some time online, playing EDH against the blokes from the Commanderin’ podcast, and I’ve had great fun. Cockatrice and Skype together works really well, and some of the games have been extremely exciting.

A couple of nights ago, I was testing a new build that I’m putting together in paper, Prime Speaker Zegana (link to decklist: click!). Opposing me this night was friend-of-the-show Nick playing a Bant Superfriends deck, and Sean “Copain26” Whatson playing a brand new Eldrazi deck featuring the new Kozilek as the general. More OGW-goodness! On paper, our decks were actually quite similar, we both wanted to ramp a lot, cast our generals to get back some cards, and then win through big creatures. oblivionsower

Sean was ahead all game, and it didn’t help that I, foolishly, delved away a bunch of lands, even though I had bounced an Oblivion Sower just a turn or two before, meaning he got a whole bunch of lands from recasting it.

In the end, however, I won a game I had no business winning by casting a kicked Rite of Replication targeting Sean’s Pathrazer of Ulamog, and I did this at the end of Sean’s turn, through Alchemist’s Refuge. Untapping with five 9/9 Annhiliator 3 creatures that are very difficult to block allowed me to win on the spot.

Fair? Not really. EDH-y? Yeah, very.

The new toys in OGW

city of shakarI had the explicit pleasure of playing against both Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim and Mina and Denn, Wildborn. I want to share some of my experiences with the games, since they were in many cases very fun. This was also the first night I’ve played paper EDH with the new mulligan rules.

Ayli:ayli
Ayli was commanding a black-white goodstuff deck with lots of removal, and lots of other answers to problematic permanents. Initially, I expected the deck to be based around the general’s abilities, and utilize lots of sacrifice good-stuff things. My other opponent in these three-player games was Dakkon Blackblade (Esper Landfall, of all things)

In the first game, I was playing Edric, and won the game quite quickly off of a bunch of small dudes and both of my extra turn effects. Ayli was off to a pretty slow start and didn’t get into the game.

I was playing Meren the second game, and had troubles playing around his incidental graveyard hate – specifically Stonecloaker. Ironically, Dakkon was reanimating a lot more things than Meren, since Meren was shut down by Ayli. I’m not quite sure who won this game, but I believe Dakkon did after a long and grindy game.

In short, I think Ayli has potential to be a very good commander, but needs a deck constructed around especially the first ability in order to function properly.

Mina and Denn:minaanddenn
We played a couple of four-player games later that evening, when another friend of ours showed up with his new Mina and Denn deck. The first game he opened with land – Exploration – land – Sol Ring. Meanwhile, I, on Edric, had kept a pretty weak opener with no cheap creatures, but lots of control elements and both colours of mana. Our two other opponents, Dakkon and Ezuri1, got better starts than I, but not great ones.

Mina and Denn rolled the table with Avenger of Zendikar into ridiculous amounts of landfall triggers followed by a Thunderfoot Baloth making all the plants 16/17 with trample!

In the second game, Mina and Denn again played a turn one Exploraiton, but I got a much better start and killed Mina and Denn with an army of flying 6/6’s the same turn as I dropped Beastmaster Ascension, hitting him for his exact life total, 36, in the air. Then the board wiped, and the game got grindy, but I got there in the end. Edric is ridiculous, even more-so than Mina and Denn.

Especially the Gruul twins impressed me that evening – it’s neat to have an aggro deck at the table to keep things from stalling too far. What are your experiences with the new Commanders from Oath of the Gatewatch? Leave a comment!

New Commander rules

city of shakarThe Commander rules committee (RC) presented three changes to the Commander/EDH format yesterday:

  1. The Commander specific “partial Paris” mulligan rule is removed entirely.
  2. Rule #4 regarding mana (i.e. if you were to add mana to your mana pool of a colour not in your general’s colour identity, it becomes colourless instead) is removied entirely.
  3. Prophet of Kruphix is removied entirely.

Source: MTG Commander forum.

I won’t add much on point three, Prophet of Kruphix is – as the RC explains – one of those cards that tends to warp the game around itself – once a Prophet of Kruphix hits play, the other players are forced to kill it, steal it, copy it, or lose to it. It is by all acounts disgustingly powerful, and the ban is well deserved. As the RC also points out, this is the first card ban in EDH for two years, the ban list is thus growing at a slow pace.

Regarding the first point, about changing to the multiplayer variant of the Vancouver mulligan – meaning that you will draw an opening hand of seven cards, mulligan into a new seven if you’re not happy, then six, then five and so on, and scry 1 if you end up with less than seven cards, I’m not sure what to think. Sheldon Menery came back on to Commanderin’ for another interview episode which was released yesterday as well, and in it he explains the process. Apparently, two of the other players in the RC are great with maths, and they constructed a script for computing starting hands. The difference of the number of “unplayable opening hands” was negligible between the partial Paris variant and the Vancouver variant, in a couple of hundred thousand games.

On paper, all is well. I recommend that you give the episode a listen, I even get a good answer to my question about the “spirit of the format”.

15Regarding the second point, I think the change is justified thanks to the new colourless spells in Oath of the Gatewatch. Previously, if you tapped a City of Brass and chose “white” in your Edric, Spymaster of Trest deck, the mana would become colourless instead – a slight upside these days.

This rule also meant that Zedruu could lock non-white decks out of playing most of their spells with Celestial Dawn (all the spells are white, but the lands tap for colourless mana instead), thanks to rule #4. Pretty counter-intuitive, and I’m not sad to see this go. The change actually makes Celestial Dawn a pretty good card still – but in Sen Triplets instead of Zedruu.

So overall, two good changes, and one that at least streamlines the rules between EDH and other formats. All said and done, good job by the RC, as usual.

What do you think of these changes? Leave a comment below!

[OGW] Endbringer

oath bannerThe latest spoil that seems confirmed is called Endbringer (funny note: way back when, when I was very into 40k, I had a custom Space Marine chapter called Endbringers), and I expect it to be an EDH staple:

endbringerSo, a very versatile answer that can deal with both small utility creatures and large threats, and also draw cards! The built-in personal Prophet of Krupix also makes him scale well with the format, and I like the political implications of the middle ability a lot.

Overall, I’m very impressed, and I expect to see this in any deck that can produce enough colourless mana to support it.

What do you think of Endbringer? Leave a comment!

[OGW] Goblin Dark-Dwellers

oath bannerGatheringMagic.com has a new spoiler up today, link to the post. It has the somewhat awful name of Goblin Dark-Dwellers, but it has a nice unique effect:

Skärmavbild 2015-12-18 kl. 08.14.21Very neat, if you ask me, a nice evasive 4/4 for 5 is good on its own, and the effect is gravy on top! In Standard, Kolaghan’s Command and Crackling Doom are both popular and potential targets for Goblin Dark-Dwellers effect. Not sure how to properly use it in the constructed format I care about (EDH), but it’s a format full of blink effects if nothing else.

What do you think of Goblin Dark-Dwellers? Leave a comment.

Apologies to everyone for posting the spoiler. But I did link to the source!

 

Re: “Why Leaks Hurt”

oath bannerAs I’ve written about before, Oath of the Gatewatch was subject to perhaps the single biggest leak since the godbook of New Phyrexia was released online. For those who don’t recall, the “godbook” is a full spoiler sent out to those in need of preview info on sets, i.e. magazines etc., and the then-world champion Guillaume Matignon, who wrote for the french Magic magazine “Lotus Noir” shared his godbook with a friend, who shared it with a friend, who leaked it online. An article on this can be found here on the Mothership.

This time around, all of the Mythic Rares from Oath of the Gatewatch were leaked online, in a thread on Reddit, and it has sparked some outcry from the community – some feel robbed of their spoiler season. Others are discussing the mythics, as is.

dewdropspy.fullTrick Jarret wrote a response to the leak, commenting on why it’s bad, in an article on the Mothership entitled “Why Leaks Hurt“. He makes a few points, but overall, I’d call the article quite bad. In fact, I wanted to take a few moments and dissect some of the worst things he states in the article, for the sake of fairness. The article, overall, comes across as quite whiny in my book.

There is a natural struggle between players and Wizards when it comes to knowing the game’s future. Magic‘s entire premise is that of constant change, and this tantalizing premise creates a constant tension between our storytelling and players wanting to know what comes next.

I agree on this point almost entirely, to be honest, and this lets us define the roles for the two players in this opposition: it is the role of Wizards to keep shit under locks until spoiler season officially begins, and it is the role of the community (the parts that wants to know, that is) to find out stuff beforehand. The ball is, as I see it, entirely in Wizards’ court; in the latest leak someone has taken photographs of actual real, physical cards. This means that someone who shouldn’t have gotten their hands on the cards got their hands on the cards, it’s that simple.

Let’s face it – Wizards makes a damn good game, it’s alluring to find stuff out beforehand, and Wizards just can’t blame people for wanting to know stuff about their game. It makes absolutely no sense.

As a person who used to run a fan site that would occasionally leak something, I know the lure for content creators. Leaks draw traffic and they give you something new to talk about. But let’s get one thing straight: leaks aren’t journalism. Publishing leaks is purely self-serving, looking out for the good of yourself and your ego.

Leaks aren’t journalism because there is no cover-up. There’s no secret exposé about the working conditions of goblins on Ravnica, or the water quality on Zendikar, or the climate change on Mirrodin (though that one might have something). Leaks are all things that the public will find out eventually. There’s no conspiracy being unraveled, just something new revealed through the theft of intellectual property. That’s right, theft. If we didn’t give it to you and say “Show this,” then you are stealing something from Wizards of the Coast and the Magic community.

goblinspy.fullLet’s get another thing straight – leaks are definitely journalism. The fact that this journalism presents content in a different context than was intended by the content creator doesn’t take away the fact that this is journalism, at least as far as journalism goes when it comes to Magic. To make an analogy – if president Obama was to hold a speech in the future, about huge changes in, say, the American welfare system, and New York Times got a hold of a first draft of this jaw-dropping speech – if they report on it, is it not journalism because they didn’t wait to hear the speech from the president himself? Of course it is.

Further, the fact that Jarret is trying to call out people reporting on the leaks with a few unsubtle ad homenim-attacks does not make him right in any way. It comes off as petty, honestly.

Would you go on your friend’s Facebook page and announce a pregnancy if you found a positive pregnancy test in their bathroom? No, that would make you a terrible human being! Because it’s not your news to give, and when the world gets to know it is up to that person and their significant other.

Here, Jarret confuses private information (pregnancy) with information regarding a product from a huge company. If I got hold of a picture of an iPhone 7 and posted that on the internet, would that be as bad as revealing an acquaintance’s pregnancy? Of course not, a company is not a personal friend, and the analogy is absurd.

Our policy has and continues to be that we simply don’t discuss leaks. Go read the article from then-Magic Marketing Director Kyle Murray to learn about the problem we were facing even back then, over thirteen years ago. Confirming or disproving a leak may solve the problem in the short term, but it creates a bigger problem in that it can force us to acknowledge each and every rumor. And then when we decide not to comment, it becomes an even bigger deal.

This seems like a fair and stable policy and in my opinion. It makes sense and it’s a clear policy.

Make no mistake, we take leaks very seriously. We always investigate leaks with our internal teams as well as external partners to figure out where and how the leaks happened. We have and will continue to not just ban leakers from the DCI and cancel their Planeswalker Points accounts, but pursue whatever criminal and civil actions necessary to protect our intellectual property and the Magic community.

eyespy.fullRight, it’s one thing to be sour about a leak. I understand that, I really do. By profession, I’m a teacher, and I can get salty if a lesson I’ve been working hard on gets ruined by one or more pupils simply refusing to take part, or even disturb the class. In a worst-case scenario, I might’ve spent four or five hours planning. I can’t imagine if months of work gets ruined by leakers.

That said, outright threats of expulsion from the competitive side of the community is not the proper way to go.

Leaks create an unfair advantage as—because they do not go out over official channels—they are not as widely distributed to less-enfranchised players, thus creating an unfair advantage for some players.

I don’t see how this is relevant in this case – what was spoiled was the expeditions and the mythics, which will have some impact on limited play, but not a whole lot compared to the playable commons. The constructed players will easily have their chance to look at the official spoiler before their first constructed event, leak or no leak.

So if we can’t design a game that is leak-proof, our only other option is to work hard to prevent leaks. Which we do. We follow rigorous security protocols to ensure assets don’t sneak outside the building. So when you see a leak online, what you are seeing is theft, and we have an obligation to pursue and punish those engaged in that activity.

edric,spymasteroftrest.fullThis is a good thing, and it is part of Wizards’ job. Apparently, these security measures failed this time around – and my point is that the blame should probably be placed on Wizards’ security protocol, not on the parts of the community that leaked it, or parts of the community spreading it (like I).

Granted, I don’t know what happened in this case, but I hope we’ll find out eventually. In the case of New Phyrexia, it is a clear breach of trust between the company and a single person – until something like this is clearly proven, I have to assume the breach is internal. There’s no reason to believe outside people should have a hold of physical cards this early, and thus, the blame has to be placed on Wizards.

The community can’t be blamed for liking content from the company, and a spoiler of this magnitude creates not only traffic for a site, but also prestige and attention, two very human desires.

We’re humans, Jarret. Stop being petty about that, and work for a tighter ship instead. It usually works just fine, why didn’t it this time?

[OGW] Gigantic spoiler (Expeditions, Mythics)

oath bannerThe biggest single leak since New Phyrexia’s Godbook leak has been spoiled over on Reddit (link to thread). Someone is getting fired, I’ll tell you that right now. I want to caution anyone who actually looks forward to spoiler season, as I will be spoiling the heck out of the set (rhyme intended, for street cred purposes).

In this post, I will look at the two heavy hitters, the new Chandra and the new Nissa.

The new Chandra looks like this:

chandraflamespeakerChandra, Flamecaller is perhaps the best Chandra we’ve seen in years. Her +1 is effectively a mostly better Ball Lightning every turn, her 0 is crazy in red, and her “ultimate” is flexible enough to net the owner card advantage in many board states. Overall I’m really impressed by her, and I think she’ll see some constructed play. She might even be good enough for EDH thanks to the 0-ability.

Nissa looks even more awesome:

nissazendikarSo the +1 might look underwhelming, but a 3-mana planeswalker that produces chump blockers to protect itself is great, and the other abilities are sweet as well. Again, I’m looking forward to using her in EDH for the -2 ability. There are a lot of cards that synergise well enough with that ability alone. The ultimate, if one gets there, is pretty close to “-7: You win the game”.

What do you think of these spoilers? Leave a comment!

[OGW] “Wastes” mana confirmed colourless

oath bannerWizards just tweeted this:

Skärmavbild 2015-12-11 kl. 13.58.22So, the fact that these new symbols has to be paid with colourless mana is now confirmed. Go cheap colourless mana bases in EDH!

[OGW] Mina and Denn

oath bannerAnother new spoiler has popped up on MythicSpoiler, and it’s a pretty cool new red-green legend, called Mina and Denn, Wildborn:

miradennNote that this above card is a mock-up, since the original scan is in Russian. There are no signs of it being fake as of yet.

And holy moly, a 4/4 for four is on-curve, even if the casting cost is a bit restrictive, and the abilities are insane! Oracle of Mul Daya is a staple for a reason in EDH, and even if this has only half the same effect, it comes with another upside.

I don’t think I would want them commanding their own deck, but they go straight into Omnath!

What do you think of the cool new twins from Oath of the Gatewatch? Leave a comment!

[OGW] The new age of colourless

oath bannerThis little thing popped up on Mythicspoiler today:

mysticgateIt’s the expedition version of Mystic Gate and it notably contains the “Wastes” mana symbol instead of the colourless “1” in the original Shadowmoor printing. This indicates that colourless mana is the same as Wastes mana (assuming the above is not a fake).

This leads me to believe that the new Kozilek, for example, has to be cast with specifically colourless mana. For example, if you tap kozilekthegreatdistortionten Plains, you can not pay for Kozilek, but you can pay for Kozilek by tapping eight Plains and a Sol Ring. It does look a bit strange, though, and the question remains – will all future printings of all cards that produce colourless mana be printed with the “Wastes” symbol instead?

Only time will tell, but I for one hope not. I’m hoping they stick to the regular numbered symbols for clarity, and that the “Wastes” symbol is a thing unique to this block.

What are your theories? Leave a comment!