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!

Top 5: Commanders in Shadows

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The full set has been released, and it is high time we take a look at our coming post-Shadows over Innistrad world. Today, I want to begin by looking at the most important part for us EDH players – new available commanders!

Mark Rosewater has stated, on both his blog and on his podcast, that not all Legandary Creatures are designed with EDH in mind and even if that’s just natural, it strikes me as odd. In the “main” game, in the sanctioned formats of Standard, Legacy et al, having the supertype Legendary is nothing but a drawback. As such, every time the supertype is used, it has to be for either balance purposes, for EDH, for flavour reasons, or some mix of all of them. It has virtually no other purpose!

As such, being eligible for commanding a 100-card deck is a big deal, and this is my ranking of the new commanders, from worst-to-best.


 

avacyn15. Archangel Avacyn / Avacyn the Purifier.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with Archangel Avacyn. She’s got a decently sized P/T-to-CMC rating, she has Flash, Flying and Vigilance – all useful abilities, and she has a neat enters-the-battlefield trigger that might turn an otherwise disastrous combat step into a winning situation. Her mini-wrath when transforming could also be handy, if the trigger condition can be met, though it won’t spare your own creatures.

My issue with Avacyn is that while she does bring some new stuff to the Boros table, her most useful ability – the Flash-based surprise-Indestructible effect – is telegraphed a mile away if she’s in the command zone. That, and Boros generally isn’t awesome in EDH, which is why she takes the jumbo position. The field is tough though, Avacyn is still pretty boss.

sigarda,heronsgrace.full4. Sigarda, Heron’s Grace.
Out of the Power Puff Girls trio of Sigarda, Gisela, and Bruna, Sigarda is the only one to not go crazy and turn evil. When the new Sigarda was spoiled, I was hoping for evil variants of the other two, but no luck this time. Maybe in the next set. The story also hints at a fourth sister in the trio, supposedly the black-aligned one, which is also supposedly long dead, but I suspect we get to see all of them in the next set.

Meanwhile, Sigarda is, like Avacyn, not bad, but she is a bit underwhelming. The static ability of teamwide hexproof is very nice, and the exiling of a card to make a token is also neat, but it can only grav stuff from your own graveyard. Sigarda’s downfall is that she doesn’t really bring anything that new to the table, Selesnya is full of token-based commanders. As such, she takes the fourth place.

3. Olivia, Mobilized for War.olivia,mobilizedforwar.full
At the half-way mark, we find the new Olivia. She’s aggressively costed for a 3/3 flyer, and her ability is pretty darn neat in a vampire tribal deck. However, the question is – is she better than the old version of her? As a build-around, I’d say yes. Having a haste outlet is pretty neat for a commander, and black has all the right tools to combat the card disadvantage, either through straight card-draw, reanimation, or other shenanigans.

She gets a passing grade, though her artworks is pretty damn dull.

odric,lunarchmarshal.full2. Odric, Lunarch Marshal
On the runner-up spot we have yet another new version of a known character (notice how that’s true for all of our entries so far?), Odric, Lunarch Marshal. The previous version of Odric is pretty cool in a token spamming deck, and can even make it as a commander. His new version brings a completely other strategy to the table, which is very neat. While the old Odric might be perceived as linear, the new can do lots of things depending on his team mates and how the deck around him is constructed. Nate, from Commanderin’, is working on a list around Odric, but I have yet to play it, so I can’t say if he’s good or not. The fact that Nate speaks highly of him is usually proof enough for me.

Odric’s only downfall is that he is mono-white, which means he might struggle to recover from a board-wipe, since he won’t have the power of card-draw in blue, black, or even green around him.

1. The Gitrog Monster.thegitrogmonster.full
Of course, Magic’s first legendary frog creature, and the only one of these new legendary creatures that’s an actual new character, has to take the number one spot. Golgari is spoiled for choices when it comes to cool commanders, and The Gitrog Monster is another entry in the long line of unique Golgari-coloured legendary creatures.

I don’t want to get into too much detail, since I’m in the process of brewing a deck around him, but The Gitrog Monster is by far my favourite out of these five. Look forward to a long post about him in the near future!


 

What’s your take on my list? Am I right? Am I way off? Leave a comment!

Top 5: Ranking the Planeswalkers of Origins

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I have barely touched upon the very core of Magic Origins, the Planeswalkers. In this post, I will rectify my mistake by ranking them from worst-to-best in EDH, and I’ll reason a bit about them in other constructed formats as well.

5: Chandra

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arguably, the hardest of them all to flip in non-EDH formats is Chandra. Lots of dumb people on the internet seem to think you need to cast two spells in a single turn to ping thrice in order to flip her, but she counts combat damage too, so swinging at someone who’s open (likely there is at least one of those at the table on turn 4), casting a single red spell to untap her and the pinging once will do the trick. That said, she is still very underwhelming when flipped. Since she can’t kill creatures without minusing herself, she will likely die quite quickly. Maybe in the 99 of some theme deck, but I don’t see this outclassing any of the red commanders available.

4: Jace

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Jace is very easy to flip, and he has that going for him. He is also a looter, which is always nice, especially when available so readily on a commander. Since he doesn’t create card disadvantage when cast from the command zone, he will at least be on card parity in sheer numbers, and up on quality (most times). That said, when flipped, he has one useful ability, his -3, which synergises well with his ability as a creature, but his other two are rubbish. Getting one creature -2/-0 in a multiplayer format will amount to something of a nuisance only. Simply put, not worth it as your commander, maybe as one in the 99.

3. Gideon

While I think this will be amazing in Modern and especially Standard, I don’t see him make a big splash in EDH. Kytheon is quite difficult to flip, going wide in EDH is possible, but token decks are generally not mono white, and for a reason. His activated ability as a creature is pretty damn solid, though, and will be useful at all stages of the game, not only to make sure he doesn’t get himself killed trying to activate. When flipped, Gideon is pretty damn sweet, his +2 ability is nice, his +1 means one of the creatures who attacked with him will be able to protect him the following turn, and his 0 is a pretty standard Gideon ability. I imagine flipping Kytheon on turn 3 via a turn 2 Raise the Alarm, but even so, he won’t overwhelm anyone soon. I think I’d rather have Jazal Goldmane as commander of a mono-white tokens deck, but Kytheon will certainly fit into the deck as one of the 99.

2. Liliana

Choosing which one would take this spot, and thus which one was left to take the the runner-up was not easy. I think both of these planeswalkers are awesome, and I would gladly play either. However, Liliana just misses out because she is a bit too hard to flip and is difficult to flip early game. Her +2 ability is well known from Liliana of the Veil and it at least scales well to EDH since it’s “each player” and not “target player”. It will draw some hate, but any deck with Liliana in it will probably be well-suited to abuse that +2 enough to warrant the hate. The -X is pretty sweet, especially since she starts at 3 and will be at 5 after a single activation. The emblem is also pretty scary. Overall, I think I’d much rather have her in my 99 in my Gisa deck for example than as a commander, but I think she’d be fair as that as well.

1. Nissa

Nissa is the real deal. Unflipped, she is basically a Borderland Ranger in her own deck, and a bit worse in other decks, but in her own she generates card advantage when she enters the battlefield from the command zone! She is terribly easy to flip, even though it will probably not happen until turn four or five, and when she’s flipped she’ll give you a Coiling Oracle activation each turn. Her -2 is pretty boss, netting her a 4/4 for protection but leaving her vulnerable to any attack, and her ultimate will clean up tables pretty quickly as well. Overall, I’d gladly play her in my 99 in most green decks, and she will make a fine commander on her own, in my opinion.

What do you think of the list? Am I “out riding a bike” (as we say in Sweden to describe someone who’s terribly wrong)? Leave a comment!

Top 5: Ramp cards in EDH

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Ramp in EDH comes in many shapes, and I wanted to take a moment and look at my favourites, in a Top 5, something I haven’t done in quite some time. To clarify, by “ramp” I mean cards that put you ahead on mana vis-à-vis the turn progression. Prismatic Omen does fix your mana, but it won’t get you ahead on mana, so it’s a fixer, not ramp.

Jimmy and Josh of The Command Zone talked extensively about ramp in EDH in their two-part episode on mana bases not long ago, I recommend listening to those episodes, but in short I agree with most of their points. Ramp is more important in EDH compared to other formats due to its slower nature, and the fact that EDH tends to be about big broken spells. As such, aiming for around ten ramp spells in a deck is usually fine in my book.

Honorable mentions: I’m not a fan of huge artifacts taking up slots in the ramp section. Gilded Lotus and Thran Dynamo are great cards, as are Caged Sun and Gauntlet of Power. However, I’d consider them more of “late game” ramp, since they cost 4+ mana to cast and only really generate mana. The two former I’d play in deck that synergize with artifacts, and the two latter has the restriction of only being really good in mono-coloured decks, which lands these cards outside the list.

azusa,lostbutseeking.hqPermanents that lets you cast more lands than the regular one-per-turn are occasionally awesome. Exploration, Burgeoning, Oracle of Mul Daya and Azusa, Lost but Seeking are all great and I can see myself playing all of them – especially Azusa as a commander, since casting her from the command zone doesn’t mean card disadvantage. However, the fact that these cards don’t get any lands (aside maybe Oracle of Mul Daya) means they are quite bad topdecks later on in the game, and this keeps them just outside the list.

Finally, green spells like Kodama’s Reach, Cultivate, Rampant Growth, Far Wanderings, Farseek etc. are all also great cards and should at least be considered in some number in a Gx deck.

There are plenty more, the format is full of ramp. Below are my top 5, the cards that have been the kindest to me.

cabalcoffers.hq5. Cabal CoffersWhile this might fall into the category of restrictive, since it on paper only supports mono-black, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth allows decks that aren’t entirely mono-black to utilise this land properly. When active, it generates lots of black mana suitable for Exsanguinate:ing the table to death doing fun things with your friends. This does fall into the late game ramp along with some of the cards mentioned above, however, Cabal Coffers holds so much value and is so easy to get online (especially in mono-black), and it is also a nice trip down memory lane for me – I used to play MBC a lot when Torment was released. The latter might be the main reason this is here on the list, by the way.

azoriussignet.hq4. Ravnica SignetsIn the original Ravnica block, Wizards printed ten genius little mana rocks with little investment and a lot of return. They effectively act as extra lands that you cast for two mana, and must be counted as ramp since they, for example, allows you a total of four mana on turn three, provided yo didn’t miss any land drops. They are also fixing to some extent, although it can be quite limiting. The only thing keeping these precious artifacts from a higher position on this list is the limiting factor – due to the rules of EDH, you can only use the ones that are completely on-colour, limiting the number of decks they can go into. Still, I think everyone should at least consider these if they are applicable to the deck. Some of these are more valuable than others, for example, Boros Signet will be more valuable to a white-red deck than any of the Gx Signets would be for a part-green deck, since white-red generally has quite little ramp.

sakura-tribeelder.hq3. Sakura-Tribe ElderThis humble green snake gets a sweet spot on the list not because of raw power, but because of versatility. On one hand, it could be regarded as just a Rampant Growth effectively, but a creature will always do so much more. The 1/1 body is negligible, especially in a format where aggro can be considered “neutered”, but being a 1/1 isn’t always bad. For example, if one happens to draw Sakura-Tribe Elder late in the game, it will easily trade for two cards via Skullclamp, effectively turning this Rampant Growth into a green Divination. Being a creature means it’s also quite easily recurrable, with stars like the on-colour Genesis or Phyrexian Reclamation will quickly add value to Sakura-Tribe Elder. In the end, most of the value comes from being able to just block and sacrifice it before damage, but most of the time, that’s plenty good.

solemnsimulacrum.hq2. Solemn SimulacrumFrom the mind of fellow Swede Jens Thorén comes my runner-up on this list and it’s one of those cards that should fit into most every EDH deck. For those too lazy to click on the link, Jens Thorén won the 2002 Magic Invitational, being the second Swede to do so (the first was Olle Råde who won the first ever Magic Invitational and eventually designed Sylvan Safekeeper after getting over some procrastination). As is evident here, Thorén handed in a card called “Forestfolk” originally, a more-or-less functionally identical card to Solemn Simulacrum. The difference was that it cost 2GU and was a Creature – Elf Wizard instead of costing 4 and being an Artifact Creature – Golem. Thankfully, since the next set was Mirrodin, R&D decided to make it a colourless artifact creature, thereby cementing Solemn Simulacrum as a constructed staple for its entire run in its original printing, as well as its reprint in M12. Granted, he does cost 4 mana, but he is essentially a three-for-one, he gets a land when he comes into play, and he replaces himself when he dies. The value can not be contained. Sadbot for life!

solring.full1. Sol RingTaking the number one spot is not only the very best ramp spell in EDH, it’s one of the best cards in the game ever. There’s no competing with the ring of power, and everybody knows it. The only downside might be that the table will hate you if you drop it on turn one, but, you will always have that extra mana boost to crush them anyway. It should be in every EDH deck, with very, very few exceptions (and these exceptions are probably wrong anyway).

What did you think of the list? Do you agree/disagree? Leave a comment below!

Top 5: Cards that deserve to be banned

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Rounding out this week with a less-than-serious Top 5, these are my personal opinions on the top 5 most bannable cards in Legacy. Not strictly the most powerful cards in Legacy, just the ones that are closest to the axe.

senseisdiviningtop.hq5. Sensei’s Divining TopNot actually that common in the format, even though it’s the back-bone of arguably the best deck – Miracles, “the top” ranks in on number five on the list. Not because it’s that powerful, it has frustrating interactions with Counterbalance and card-filtering is extremely good with the amount of shuffle effects all the competitive decks play, but mostly because it adds time when piloted by inexperienced pilots. Experienced Miracle pilots would argue that repeatedly activating the top isn’t an issue when it comes to time in tournament Magic, but I think we’ve all been there with a slower player who ponders for ages with each activation. The obvious counter-argument is that people need to call judges on slow plays more frequently, but – being Swedish and terrified of confrontations – this isn’t an option to me. I once asked my opponent to speed up his play when playing a win-and-in at X-1-1, and he informed me that we were deck-checked and had a 20 minute time extension. Guess who the jerk was in that situation?

showandtell.hq4. Show and TellThough not quite as bad as another 2U Sorcery from the same block, Show and Tell is easily one of the most powerful cards in Legacy in a vacuum. Not really on the list because it’s too powerful, however, since the deck it’s most frequently seen in, Sneak and Show, battles with some consistency issues and has somewhat suffered from a metagame more saturated with red blasts, but because I hate playing against it and the card, and the decks it supports, really preys on fair decks. Show and Tell is baby’s first combo deck, and it is as easy to execute as any beat-down plan – get Show and Tell and Emrakul into your hand, get to three mana (or preferably four to play around Daze) and win. The deck’s consistency issues leaves it hilariously underpowered in some cases, where the pilot is stuck drawing extra cards of one side of the combo, and sometimes horrendously powerful, with a turn 1-2 Show and Tell with counter back-up. It’s uninteractive and it’s boring. It doesn’t necessarily need to go, but I wouldn’t weep for long if it did.

delverofsecrets.hq3. Delver of SecretsDelver of Secrets is in the same camp as Show and Tell, but it’s even worse. Not only is it complete easy mode for any tempo deck to just add 4 Delver of Secrets to the list, it cements blue as the best colour since it also happens to have one of the most aggressive creatures in the format. Past generations of blue-based decks had to splash for threats like Tarmogoyf which is now not at all that crucial. Even sadder, contrary to other cards on this list, Delver of Secrets really only fuel aggressive tempo strategies, meaning that all other deck archetypes get no benefit from it.

Delver of Secrets gets the half-way award for being ubiquitous and way over the top of what blue should get when it comes to creatures.

brainstorm.hq2. BrainstormThe card taking the silver medal on this list is by far the most played card in the format right now, according to TCdecks.net. I don’t think it should be banned, for reasons stated in my post “The Brainstorm apologist” but it certainly could be banned for ubiquity and power level – since playing effectively four Ancestral Recall is something only the gold medal winner on this list can do even better.

While I fear the format would head south quickly if it was banned, for reason stated in the post linked above, I do think that Brainstorm comes quite close to the hammer once Fate Reforged rolls around.

treasurecruise.full1. Treasure CruiseThe new kid on the block is akin to a skinny ginger when it comes to how well it’s been received by non-blue players of the format. In fact, everyone in the blue camp has had to answer the question “Are you playing too much hate to support your own Treasure Cruise?” if found not playing at least two or three copies in every god-damn deck.

Treasure Cruise gives these decks opportunities to re-load in the mid- or late game, something they haven’t been able to do before. Sylvan Library has had an equal function in Team America, but is generally a bit too slow and expensive to play against aggressive strategies. Treasure Cruise re-fuels after Force of Will, making that card better too, and abides by the same general rule that Tarmogoyf did back in its hay days, that it gets better “just by playing Magic”. I’m not saying it should be banned, but it’s probably the closest to the hammer on this list, even save number one.

I leave you, dear reader, to figure out why four fifths of the list is made up of blue cards.

100th post extravaganza

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The art above is for the Unhinged Elvish House Party and I have to say I never realized how extremely creepy the art is. 

This is the 100th post on this blog! I didn’t write a hundred post here, but thanks to my dear co-contributors, Psykopatmullvad and Grim Lavamancer, we’ve now reached a hundred published posts since august of this year. That’s almost one post per day, which is higher than my ambition when I started this blog. In order to celebrate this occasion, I’ve chosen my top 5 best post written by PurgAtog so far on this blog.

5. The best of timesThough the post itself isn’t stellar, it’s mostly a tournament report devoid of many important details, I look back on the post fondly because I look back at the weekend it details fondly, and it was the first long Magic tournament convention weekend I did rather well in in a long time (4-2-1 and 5-1-1 in Legacy, 5-1 in Sealed). It also contains a bunch of name-dropping, which, as we all know, always improves a post, an opinion or anything really.

4. Surrak Dragonclaw ProxyDesigned and drawn by Grim Lavamancer himself, this art obviously trumps the official Surrak Dragonclaw by a mile and a half. There’s no way I could feature a top 5 list without this post, which was technically written by me, although the focus of the point was done by Grim Lavamancer.

3. Top 5: EDH cards that makes me want to flip the tableAside the fact that the title is much too long, this is in my book one of the more informative posts on the blog, while it allowed me to vent some steam regarding my frustrations with the format as a whole. Much needed for any group, the house bannings were further expanded upon in The Gentleman way, and hopefully these two posts together could serve as some sort of a guide for other groups. I like them both, the former slightly more.

2. Top 5: Questions I hate to answerNot only a top 5, but also using the quaint “things that make me drink” tag, this post details my grievances with the game as a social norm. It is self-reflecting in some ways and jokes quite a bit on the community’s expense. I think it’s quite funny, but then again, I’m quite full of myself (as should be evident by this post if nothing else).

1. My issues with GreenThe best post, as written by me, and according to me, is a study of the colour pie philosophy of the colour green. Mark Rosewater has yet to comment on the post, nor did the post generate the amounts of traffic I expected, so your homework for tomorrow is to e-mail Mark Rosewater with a link to the post in question.

With this short stroll down memory lane, I sincerely thank everyone who’s reading this blog, and especially those who take the time to comment on the posts. Here’s to another 100!

Top 5: Decks that should’ve never existed

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The history of Magic is full of missteps in design, development and other areas that has broken the game in half, on occasion. Sometimes, Wizards prints way too powerful cards that degenerate and centralize a metagame, sometimes the rules committee screws up, and sometimes players with low self-esteem gather to make a format unfun for everyone. No matter the source of the mistake or the deck, this is my list of decks that should have never existed.

arcboundravager.hq5: Ravager Affinity (Standard, 2004): It’s no secret that whenever Wizards tries to print a free mechanic, it tends to break the standard format at the time. Affinity was no different, and apparently, playing a bunch of 2/2:s and 4/4:s for 0 was pretty good in Standard. The deck broke the format completely with the release of Darksteel in January of 2004, which brought its namesake, Arcbound Ravager, along with Skullclamp, one of the most broken pieces of equipment ever. The deck was obviously too powerful, and Skullclamp was soon banned from Standard, but it took another round of banning which included all the artifact lands and Disciple of the Vault for the deck to be neutered completely. A funny story in the midst of all this travesty is that Mirrodin, the set that introduced the eponymous world and the “artifact matters” theme was long-awaited and much anticipated, so it sold rather well. Darksteel then came along like a thug and through Ravager Affinity’s dominance of the Standard format, made lots of people quit the game. Thus, Mirrodin held the record for most sold set for a really long time, even though the block itself must be considered a failure by many accounts.

Stephen Gnedovic wrote about the deck on StarCityGames.com and the article is both funny and informative. The second list from the top is the bog standard version of the bane of Standard in 2004.

secondsunrise.hq4: Eggs (Modern, 2013): Modern is a shitty format, and on its inception, proved to be broken beyond belief. They had to do a huge round of bannings right before the first Modern PT, PT Philadelphia in 2011, but they still did a new round of bannings right after the PT, powerhouses which the format could not handle – like Green Sun’s Zenith and Blazing Shoal. Yeah, the format is a joke. However, being an “eternal” format, i.e. non-rotating, means that the Modern card pool is huge, and without stuff like Force of Will and Wasteland to keep the worst of the stuff in check, some decks are free to run rampant, which Eggs did in 2013. Eggs as a deck is actually a lot older than the Modern format, it started off as a joke deck using the Odyssey eggs (i.e. Mossfire Egg and frieds) to generate mana, card-drawing and storm count with Helm of Awakening. The deck is an even bigger joke than Modern, meaning it found a place in the Modern format around 2013, but with some better artifacts like Lotus Bloom, Chromatic Sphere, Chromatic Star etc. The deck casts these artifacs during the first few turns, then generates a ton of mana by cracking them all in the same turn, casting Second Sunrise or Faith’s Reward to do it all again, draw a bunch of cards, and proceed to kill with a single Pyrite Spellbomb. In case you couldn’t tell, these combos took a long time to play out, meaning these decks frequently went to time, delaying tournaments for everyone there. A joke of a deck in a joke of a format, but it shouldn’t be allowed there – and indeed, Second Sunrise is now banned from Modern.

necropotence.hq#3: Necro (Standard, 1996): Necropotence is a really good card, there’s nobody denying that. There were people denying that in 1995, however, when Ice Age was released, featuring arguably one of the best enchantments ever printed. Famously, the Inquest magazine called it one of the worst cards in the set in its Ice Age set review. Then again, the same magazine labeled Balduvian Horde as the best card in Alliances, according to this article. Hilariously misleading magazines aside, Necropotence is a force to be reckoned with, and it has been in all format it has ever been legal in. It ushered in a period of Magic (the summer of 1996 to be precise) labelled “the black summer” because of how obviously overpowered the Necropotence decks were and how utterly dominating they were in Standard at the time. Standard was, basically, Necropotence and a bunch of decks designed to beat Necropotence – Turbo-Stasis and other examples of how to have fun with your friends and a card game.

Even more hilariously, Mark Rosewater tried to “fix” Necropotence and balance it in the form of Yawgmoth’s Bargain, which too proved to be way too powerful and had to be banned in several formats, including Extended and Legacy, as well as restricting it in Vintage. Today, the card remains banned in EDH and Legacy.

Paying one life for one card is awesome, it was in 1996, and it is still awesome to this day. The Necropotence decks of the black summer proved it over and over, but the card itself was never actually banned from Standard play, strangely enough.

flash.hq#2: Hulk Flash (Legacy, 2007): In May of 2007, the DCI made a number of erratas to existing errata of cards, that effectively made them function closer to the printed text rather than the errata. One of the cards to be effected by this was Mirage’s Flash. Previously, the card’s function in that it put the creature into play no matter what was considered dangerous with cards like Academy Rector and the card was erratad to not put the creature into play, but to the graveyard directly from the hand. A few years later, the DCI decided to revert back to the original text, and this meant that Flash now put the creature into play. This was right before Grand Prix: Columbus in 2007 and the deck based around Flash and Protean Hulk was the talk of the tournament, and eventually won it all. Flash had to be banned shortly after the tournament, and the deck itself was really only legal in May of 2007.

A version of the deck was played in Vintage as well for some time until the deck’s namesake, along with Gush and Merchant Scroll were restricted. These days, even though Flash remains restricted, the card is in theory playable in the format, but Vintage has a lot of things you could do instead of playing Flash that’s way more effective, and the deck is more or less completely competitively unviable.

tolarianacademy.hq#1: Academy (Standard, 1998-1999): The Urza block is, as admitted by Mark Rosewater in his podcast, a complete failure from a development perspective. The block broke the game even worse than Mirrodin would do a few years later, and drove tons of people from the game. This period in the history of the game is known as “combo winter” where most of the stuff hit the fan. The outrage from the player base led to massive bannings in Standard, and though the block is cramped full of broken cards – Yawgmoth’s Will, Tinker, Memory Jar, Time Spiral to name just a fraction, but one of the cards that has had the highest impact of the game of them all has to be Tolarian Academy.

Academy as a deck is an extremely fast and stable combo deck that generates huge amounts of mana through mana artifacts and the namesake card. The mana is recycled through the “free” spells of the Urza block that nets you even more mana, since you get to untap Tolarian Academy, and then the deck finishes off the opponent with a huge Stroke of Genius. Tommi Hovi, Finnish hall of famer, played the deck at PT Rome in Extended all the way to the trophy. The deck is as busted as can be, considering its dominance in both Standard and Extended, and even to this day, Tolarian Academy is a Vintage staple, despite the fact that it is restricted. It’s banned everywhere else, go figure.

What do you think of the list? Any decks I missed? Leave a comment below!

Top 5: Questions I hate to answer

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So ungodly!

There was a time, in the early years of Magic: the Gathering, when the game itself caused quite a bit of controversy. Dungeons and Dragons, one of the spiritual predecessors of the game’s fantasy environment, had long been condemned by conservative religious groups for teaching witchcraft and heresy to young adults. Magic was no different – here are some pieces of literature regarding the game and its satanic connections from the late 90’s, today a mirthful footnote in the game’s history, but there was actually a time when it was taken rather seriously. For years, Magic didn’t feature demons as a creature type, and some of the artwork was censored. Most famously, Unholy Strength lost the pentagram in the background somewhere between its printing Revised and in 4th edition. Even to this day, Yahoo Answers is full of just powerful stupidity regarding the age-old question “Is MtG satanic?”

All of the silly satanism aside, Magic is still a game that can and often will prompts questions from the muggle community. This is my top 5 of questions I hate to answer from people who don’t know the game.

5: “Isn’t this just like Pokémon but with Lord of the Rings instead?” Trying to explain the fact that Magic as a game is older than Pokémon as a franchise, let alone the card game, and that the first Pokémon card game was designed by the same company and thus shares a few gameplay elements – thus if anything, Pokémon is like Magic, but with pokémon instead of magic, can be an annoying task indeed. Trying further to differentiate Magic from the works of Tolkien is even more of a challenge. I advise anyone getting this question to stay silent, turn around and walk away.

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“Hey kid, you wanna play some standard?”

4: “Doesn’t just the dude with the most money to spend on the game win by default?” No, we’re not buying stocks, we’re playing a card game. There are ways to play that will not a fortune for just the land cards in the deck, and most of the people playing the game are playing Standard or Limited, in no way as expensive to get into as Legacy or Modern (though both Standard and Limited will of course be more expensive in the long run). Trying to explain the nuances of the different formats to people not familiar with the game is nearly impossible and almost always futile, since in the end, we’re just spending our cash on cardboard, like the fools we are. Further trying to explain that you know a guy who spends way more cash on Magic than you but who still fails to perform (we all know that guy) is even more futile, the concept of “skill” in Magic will probably not be grasped by whoever you’re talking to any way. Especially not if it’s your parent.

3: “Can’t you just play some other day?” When worlds collide between Magic players and muggles, plans fail to come to fruition, and teeth grit together over uncompromising schedules, this dreaded question always appears. The problem, at least for those who haven’t heavily invested in an online collection is that the answer to the question is almost always “no”. Playing a Magic event is a special thing, it requires weeks of preparation and is preceded by the utmost of anticipation, and you certainly can not just “play some other day”. Legacy events in particular are becoming rarer and rarer, unfortunately, so when a large one shows up on the horizon, it’s like Halley’s comet. Can’t I just play some other day? Yes, I can – in 76 years!

2: “Can’t you just sell some of those cards?” I’m sure I’m not the only one with a significant other that brings this up in a teasing tone whenever there’s an investment down the line (i.e. a car, a house, some food). There’s no point arguing it, however, the answer is always “no”. I could sell some cards, it’s completely within my power – just like I could give up alcohol if I chose to do so, but I don’t want to. More importantly, people need to get off my back about it.

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“I F*CKING LOVE ATTACKING!”

1: “Hearthstone/Netrunner/any shitty LCG is just better…” Yeah, no, it’s not. If I am to invest a bunch of money, and – a lot more importantly – time into a card game, I might just as well pick the biggest of them all to devote my time to. The largest card pool, the most players, the most events. Magic is the juggernaut that just breaks all of its competitors when it comes to card games. Hearthstone is a different story, since it’s technically a video game, but it is very much just a scaled back version of Magic with no instants and different combat rules (i.e. less interesting, that is). It’s also wrapped in the shitty “comedy” of Warcraft that makes me cringe every time an orc character say something. Hopefully, the last line will at least agitate the other two contributors of this site!

What did you think of the list? Are these questions you get too? What else have people around you bothered you with regarding the game? Leave a comment below!

Top 5 types of EDH-players

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Compared to other “nerdy” games, Magic is a very social activity. The most social experience of all is probably a game of EDH – some times it’s the best thing one can do to spend an evening, and other times it’s tedious and arduous work before a game is finished. A lot of the times, the experience is heavily based on the group one is playing in. This list will help you traverse the jungle that is your local game store and find proper people to play EDH with.

decreeofannihilation.hq5: The griefer. Is everyone in your group and their respective moms playing ramp? Chances are this dude will bring mass-land destruction. Griefers are present in all games, and come of all sizes, shapes and forms, and as long as there’s a format dedicated to casual play, there will always be griefy spikes to take advantage of the situation by netdecking broken lists. EDH is inherently an extremely broken format, and it’s fine to play the format’s worst offenders as long as the entire playgroup is okay with having all of their lands blown up by an almost uncounterable effect (I guess some just simply don’t want to play Magic). I understand the spikyness of it all, I love playing tournaments, and I especially love winning, but EDH is not the place for that, at least not in most groups. Griefers are those whose bar is set way higher than everyone else’s, and they turn games to bad experiences for everyone but themselves. Beware.

solring.hq4: The poor student. Everyone knows EDH can be a very expensive format, if a person chooses to. Playing a multicolour general with all the proper fetchlands and dual lands will set you back several hundred dollars, and while it’s not exactly necessary to enjoy the format, there are certainly cutthroat groups where these expensive staples are needed to compete. Then there’s this guy – the poor student. Having little disposable income, this player will scratch together whatever he or she can get a hold of in order to play and enjoy the format. Revised Sol Rings, leftovers from the Commander preconstructed decks, random prerelease foils and other solutions are common sightings in these decks. Invite these guys to your game, they’re just there for the fun of it, just like you are, hopefully. And don’t judge them if they have dirty sleeves.

sylvanlibrary.full3: The pimp. On the opposite side of the spectrum from the poor student is the pimp. Where the poor student has Revised Sol Rings and Battlefield Forges, the pimp has beta Sol Rings and beta Plateaus. Lots of foils, some signed things, very rare exclusive printings of some cards – and perhaps even a Portal Three Kingdoms general for the deck. Though I despise the term “pimp” both for describing rare cards and the players who collect them, one can not help admiring the tenacity it takes to get these decks together. On a really high level, it’s not really about the money anymore – these players obviously have more disposable income than others, but more often it’s about actually locating a particular card of a particular printing, and the scarcity might be more of a hinderance than the price tag. Whenever you spot one of these at the table, don’t be fooled by the bling that they got – they’re still Jenny from the block, and they might still be terrible at the game, but before all they are obviously enthusiastic about it.

phelddagrif.hq2: The group hug guy. This isn’t, as one might, the polar opposite of a griefer. The group hug guy can still grief like there’s no tomorrow, but he tends to do it in certain ways – by combining Phyrexian Tyranny with Nekusar, the Mindrazer and Howling Mine, for example. There are also those types of group hug guys that play Phelddagrif decks that prolongs the game through helping the players that are far behind. Then there are also those that want to place arbitrary rules on the game, such as “let’s not attack for the first five turns, okay?” which may at the end of the day not contribute to the game getting better – just longer. Be cautious around these guys, sometimes they are great allies around the table, and sometimes they are the scourge that needs to be eliminated. I’m looking straight at you, Nekusar.

loreseeker.full1: The lore master. There are those that would build the best possible decks out of the card pool available to them. There are those that would build the best deck possible around a certain theme, such as  a tribe. There are those that would build pet decks only with cards by a certain artist. Then there are those that perhaps care a bit too much about the Magic lore – refusing to play more than one of each Planeswalker type in the deck, refusing to play cards with Phyrexian watermarks or watermarks of rival clans or guilds. Magic isn’t a game famous for having a stellar storyline, but I suppose it’s an… acquired taste. These aren’t as common in Magic as they are in certain other games, but they are there for sure, and it’s more common to be aware of the Magic storyline these days when it’s more available through the internet rather than random (often quite terrible) novels. Feel free to play with these guys, but Spell Crumple their shit if they start to lecture.

Are you offended by the list? Tell me I’m a jerk in the comments!

Top 5 EDH cards that makes me want to flip the table

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When the going gets tough, the tough goes Gruul. FFFFUUUUUU-

You all know how it is. You’ve taken time out of your week, gathered around your table and now your friends are your mortal enemies. The pleasantries at the beginning is soon swapped for banter, and not long after that declarations of war. That’s okay though, because war around the EDH table is often quite enjoyable. There are, however, those times when you want to throw away common courtesy and just flip the table and walk away. I’ve yet to do this in a real game, thankfully, I have once not too long ago tossed another player’s Spell Crumple across the room – a feat I’m not proud of, nor would I dream of doing it again, but at least it beats punching him in his stupid face. We’re all friends at the end of the day.

This list is dedicated to those cards that could have the most potential of turning a player into a table-flipper.

 

solring.full5: Sol Ring. Sol Ring is a huge staple of the format, and it’s easy to understand why. The little artifact that could easily ramps your early starts into ridiculousness. With just regular basic land drops, a turn 1 Sol Ring will allow you to cast a four-drop on turn two, way ahead of the curve. Zwi Mowshowitz rated the card the second best artifact of all time in 2005, second only to Black Lotus in Power, and before the Moxen, and incidentally, all the Moxen and Black Lotus happens to be banned in EDH. My issues with Sol Ring isn’t really on a personal level, I play it in all my decks, of course, and since the printings of it in Commander 2011 and Commander 2013, as well as surely in Commander 2014 as well, anyone can have a sweet black-bordered Sol Ring to play with. The issue that arises is when everybody around the table opens with it except you. You’re sitting there, going land-go for the first couple of turns while the guy on your left goes land, Sol Ring, Dimir Signet. That moment, when you realize your opponent could very well cast a five-drop on the next turn, while you at best play your own Signet or a Rampant Growth or something other silly, that moment makes me want to flip the table.

 

forbid.hq4: Forbid. It’s been established long ago that Magic players really hate getting their spells countered. In fact, studies conducted by the R&D showed that getting a creature countered makes a player feel worse than getting the exact same creature Doom Blade’d immediately, even though the end results are more or less exactly the same (assuming no enters the battlefield-effects or similar). This, frankly, excites me as a blue player, it is a testimony to the notion that I’m doing something right when people hold so much hostility towards the signature spells of the colour. However, even I loathe one of the worst counterspells ever printed – Forbid. Say you’re up against an Ux Control deck. The game has gone long, but you and your opponent are the only two players left standing. You cast a spell only to get it Forbid’d. That’s easily one of the worst feelings in the format. Pair the spell up with any consistent card-draw, like Phyrexian Arena, and you can forget resolving sorcery-speed spells for the rest of the game. If your opponent is even half-aware about what threats you’re likely to run, you’re not winning that game. The level of frustration puts Forbid at number four, easily.

 

mindslaver.hq3: Midslaver. Mindslaver is a card that is in its essence very interesting both from a flavour perspective and from a gameplay perspective. Mindslaver does something that was unique at the time, and prompted a whole bunch of rules questions in its first printing, and it still confuses people to this day. One of my favourites has to be “If my opponent Mindslavers me, can he look at my sideboard?” (the answer is “yes”) and the follow-up “Can I concede before he does so?” (“yes” to that one too). Wonky rules questions aside, the card is quite excellent in its execution, and the effect itself is very cool. That said, getting Mindslaver’d is not very cool at all. In fact, it feels like someone just stepped into your car, took the wheel and made a sharp left turn when you wanted to go on straight. The problem with the effect is that it’s often quite fine for 10 mana and as a one-shot: as is demonstrated in my post “My first modern love“, it is quite possible to resolve the effect and still lose. Issues arise, however, when it is recurred, and that can easily lock an opponent out of a game. Twelve mana, Academy Ruins and Mindslaver isn’t a very difficult feat in EDH, even considering the format’s inherent variance – blue happens to tutor quite well for artifacts, and if you construct a deck with say, Sharuum, the Hedgemon as your general, then you have all the black and white tutoring as well. As EDH is supposed to be a fun casual format, our playgroup has put a soft-ban on Mindslaver, a gentleman ban (or gentleban) so to speak.

 

riteofreplication.hq2: Rite of Replication. Rite of Replication belongs in a category of cards along with Skizzik: they are cards nobody would ever consider to cast without paying the kicker cost, because Rite of Replication is really a Socery for 7UU that says “You win the game”. That’s how powerful Rite of Replication is when combined with some of the devastating enters the battlefield-effects available in the format. It also won’t care about who controls the creature being copied. “Lemme just copy your Terastodon and make myself five of them”, or “Oh, Bogardan Hellkite! Shiny!”. I understand that some might enjoy playing with these extremely powerful effects, and it is indeed a natural part of a format with such a huge card pool, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Rite of Replication is a 7UU easy mode button. It wins you the game if there’s a good creature on the board, often it doesn’t even matter what else is on board, it takes over and it wins. I have a copy of my own that I opened in a box of Zendikar long ago, but I don’t play it simply because we all agree it’s not much fun to just break open a game like that. As a final example of the perversion that is Rite of Replication, I give you this – my local playgroup allowed my friend to build a deck with Ink-Treader Nephilim as a commander. “That’s strange”, you might think, “He’s not a legendary creature.” I agree, and I pointed it out to them as well, but they explained that they didn’t care. I tried reasoning using my classical training and demonstrated the slippery slope argument, stating that I would build a deck with a can of coke as commander. Or a smell (stay tuned for my build of Axe Antactica. It’s blue-white, by the way). Nobody cared. I turned salty as all hell, but hell didn’t actually break loose until my friend cast his general and then cast a kicked Rite of Replication on it. Against a board full of evil creatures. Fun times were had by all!

 

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1: Genesis Wave / Tooth and Nail. Much in the same vein as Rite of Replication above are these two overpowered sorceries, but they’re even worse in some respects. Both exist within the colour that also happens to have most of the best and stable ramp spells in EDH, as long as nobody is griefing and playing mass-land destruction, Rampant Growth, Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Far Wanderings, Skyshroud Claim, Harrow, Explosive Vegetation and about fifty other green spells will search your library for lands, a few to put them in your hand but most to put the directly into play and effectively ramp you past any opposition. Then, after a couple other players have tried to “go off” and subsequently been hated out by the rest of the table, you’re free to play an entwined Tooth and Nail for Prime Speaker Zegana and Terastodon, draw ten cards, blow up some lands and just take over and end the game. The same is true for Genesis Wave, but in a more unreliable, but often spectacular fashion.

 

What card makes you want to flip the table in an epic ragequit? Leave a comment!