Showdown: Tarkir, part 1

frontier-bivouac-banner

The latest episode of the Drive to Work Podcast, by Mark Rosewater, is entitled “Showdown: Ravnica”, and in it he compares the guild mechanics from each of the Ravnican guild in the original Ravnica and the Return to Ravnica block – and declares a winner. I like the idea, but I’m not a huge fan of Ravnica compared to Tarkir, so I want to do the same thing but with the Tarkir clan mechanics. Rosewater compared the abilities from a design standpoint, but I will compare them from a player’s perspective, since I’m a player and not a designer.

abzanbattlepriestAbzan/Dromoka: Outlast vs. Bolster
The really interesting bit about these two mechanics isn’t really the mechanics themselves, but rather the “cares about +1/+1 counters”-cards, which really make both of them tick. In outlast, these were plenty, and they played really well with each other in limited. I’ve even used them to build and EDH deck around them, and the deck was really fun, even though I haven’t played it in a long while: Anafenza Fun with Counters, on TappedOut.net. Outlast also has a tactical aspect, which rewards skillful play and planning, and I like that.

Bolster, however, does not have any of these cards that also care about the counters it makes, and while one could argue it is equally difficult to play with as outlast, it offers less control. It’s more about casting creatures in the proper order, and casting spells before combat rather than after, both of which offer less interesting game states than outlast, in my opinon. They play really well with each other though, all things considered.

Point goes to: Outlast!

monasteryswiftspear.fullJeskai/Ojutai: Prowess vs. Rebound
Both of these are spell-based and they, like outlast and bolster above, they play really well with each other. I was very unexcited about Clan Jeskai before Khans of Tarkir was released, and Prowess didn’t change that for me. It felt like a really boring mechanic, and I envisioned myself having a tough time building around it in limited without screwing up the balance between creatures and other spells. Rebound is a returning mechanic from Rise of the Eldrazi and while some people seem to like it, I’ve always found it quite boring. It’s pretty powerful, at least on the rare cards, but it’s a bit unexciting. I’ve also found that many many times you’re not casting the same spell twice, but rather, you’re casting a good spell the first time and a bastardized light version of that spell in your next turn. It also comes with a hefty price tag.

So, both mechanics are unexciting to me at face value, but while rebound has some playability in EDH in cards like Consuming Vapors, cards like Monastery Swiftspear absolutely crushed in Legacy and Modern when it was released, and Monastery Mentor still sees plenty of play in Vintage of all formats. On top of that, prowess has become an evergreen mechanic, making a splash in most every set since, and being arguably the first proper combat ability properly aligned with the Izzet colours. I was so wrong about prowess beforehand, it’s not even funny. It plays really well in practice, in many formats, including limited and constructed ones. Perhaps the boost is a bit too small to be relevant in my format of choice, but then again, Shu Yun is a deck.

Point goes to: Prowess!


And that’s it for this time! Next time, we’ll settle the fights between Delve vs. Exploit, Raid vs. Dash, and Ferocious vs. Formidable, so stay tuned!

What do you think of my choices? Am I right, am I wrong?

 

Advertisements

The deck that never was

dig through time bannerDing dong, another one bites the dust, etc…

Announcement Date: September 28, 2015
Effective Date: October 2, 2015
Magic Online Effective Date: October 7, 2015

Legacy:
Dig Through Time is banned.
Black Vise is unbanned.

Vintage:
Chalice of the Void is restricted.
Dig Through Time is restricted.
Thirst for Knowledge is unrestricted.

Source: The Mothership.

I stated yesterday here that I was going to attend a Legacy event for the first time since forever. Well, this was the main deck that I sleeved up on Sunday night. Might’ve been foolish, but it didn’t actually cross my mind that the banning announcement was today.

Castlevania (“Burg” is German for “castle”, get it?)

4 Flooded Strand
3 Polluted Delta
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Wasteland
2 Tropical Island
2 Underground Sea
2 Volcanic Island

4 Deathrite Shamandigthroughtime.full
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Tarmogoyf
1 Snapcaster Mage

4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
3 Dig Through Time
1 Sylvan Library

4 Daze
4 Force of Will
3 Spell Pierce

4 Lightning Bolt
2 Abrupt Decaye

 

So yeah, it was probably pretty broken anyway, and I can’t say that I’m bitter. In my humble opinion, OmniShow was a lot better at abusing Dig Through Time than Delver ever was. It’s a shame, however, that the deck looks like a blast to play. I guess I have some re-thinking to do for Saturday, huh.

What do you think of the new bannings? Leave a comment!

Ding dong, the witch is dead!

treasure cruise bannerAfter much anticipation, here’s the total tally for the new Banned and Restricted list:

Standard:
No changes.

Modern:
Treasure Cruise, Dig Through Time and Birthing Pod are banned.
Golgari Grave-Troll is no longer banned.

Legacy:
Treasure Cruise is banned.
Worldgorger Dragon is no longer banned.

Vintage:
Treasure Cruise is restricted.
Gifts Ungiven is no longer restricted.

So in total, I was correct about Standard, one card off from Legacy and Modern, and way off on Vintage. I thought Jesaki Ascendancy was up for the chopping block, but apparently breaking the “three-turn kill” rule wasn’t as damning after all. One of the readers also commented on this:

Skärmavbild 2015-01-20 kl. 20.57.40

 

I agree, I had no idea what I was talking about. I didn’t see the DCI banning Birthing Pod, again, I have no idea what I’m talking about – though in my world, knowing what one is talking about when it comes to Modern is akin to being able to recite the Bristol Stool Scale from memory.

Treasure Cruise getting the axe in both Modern and Legacy, as well as Vintage, wasn’t really surprising. It was clearly too good for the faster formats, and really needed to go. I’m glad they kept Dig Through Time in Legacy, since it’s a bit more restrictive and less objectively powerful than its common Dredge brethren.

I’ll post an in-depth view on the winners and losers in the Legacy format due to this ban tomorrow, but for now – what do you think, dear reader? Leave a comment below!

 

Ban season is coming up!

treasure cruise banner

Fate Reforged is almost upon us, and soon the new B&R announcement will be revealed. Here’s what I think will happen:

Standard:treasurecruise.full
No changes. (still shit)

Modern:
Jeskai Ascendancy is banned.
Treasure Cruise is banned.
Dig Through Time is banned.

Legacy:
Treasure Cruise is banned.

Vintage:
No changes.

Jeskai combo breaks the “turn three rule” of Modern, and the delve spells have been tearing up Modern and Legacy for quite some time. They probably need to go, although it’s a bit sad that the only real Aggro deck in Legacy (UR Delver) will be back to tier two town.

What do you think will happen on Monday? Leave a comment below!

Decks of tournaments past: Birdshit

Birdshit, or “Birdsh!t” as it was sometimes stylized as a work-around on different english-language message boards with their language filters, was a deck in Vintage back around 2005-2007. I regard it as somewhere between Fish and Noble Fish in its evolution, and it is pretty close to the UGw Threshold that was around the same time one of the best decks in Legacy. Vintage is a different sort of game most of the time, however, and it forced me to make some strange main-deck choices. The list:

Birdshit, fall of 2006
4 Flooded Strand
2 Polluted Delta
1 Strip Mine
4 Wasteland
4 Tropical Island
3 Tundra
3 Elvish Spirit Guide

meddlingmage.hq

Chris Pikula, the meddliest of mages

4 Nimble Mongoose
3 Werebear
4 Meddling Mage
2 Kataki, War’s Wage

2 Swords to Plowshares
4 Brainstorm
3 Mental Note
3 Stifle
4 Daze
4 Force of Will
2 Misdirection
3 Null Rod

Sideboard:
1 Swords to Plowshares
3 Ray of Revelation
4 Sacred Ground
4 Arcane Laboratory
3 Oxidize

A couple of things to note about the list – Vintage is a crazy format, and was so even back then. It amazes me how we even hoped to compete without the power nine cards, but we made due with Elvish Spirit Guides over moxes and Brainstorms over Ancestral Recalls. The list above pre-dates Tarmogoyf, it pre-dates Ponder and it obviously pre-dates Stony Silence, which is why it plays the suboptimal choices instead. Mental Note might seem like a poor card, but it cantrips, it combos well with Brainstorm in case I don’t have a fetch, and it quickly fills the graveyard for Nimble Mongoose and Werebear. Only two Swords to Plowshares might seem iffy at best, but again, Vintage is a very different beast from Legacy, and I didn’t feel I’d need more.

The tournament itself:

R1: Rector Tendrils (0-2)
R2: Landstill (2-1)
R3: Illusionary Mask.dec (2-1)
R4: TNT (2-1)
R5: Gro, ID

QF: Gifts (2-1)
SF: Uba Stax (0-2)

Overall, I’m in no way displeased with a 3-1-1 and a semifinal loss with the list above. It could probably be built better, but it worked okay for the day.

Top 5 skilltesting cards in Magic

This is a top 5 list based on my own perception and experiences with these cards. Your experiences may differ, as may your opinions. Mine are more correct, however, since mine are written down here.

 

brainstorm.hq#5: Brainstorm: Contrary to popular beliefs, Brainstorm is not the be-all, end-all skilltester in Legacy, since it’s far from the most complicated spell in the format. It is the most popular one, and probably the most powerful, but only as long as it’s plaeyed somewhat correctly. Brainstorm, in conjunction with fetchlands, create a card-quality engine for most blue decks, it smoothes out draws and creates consistency as it, along with Ponder and sometimes Preordain, allows the pilot to dig for answers, sideboarded hate cards, combo pieces etc. There are a few “rules” when it comes to playing Brainstorm (detailed in my post about it below), and when these are broken the card becomes significantly less-broken. That said, Brainstorm is somewhat of a generation divider in Legacy, if you see a player casting it at the end of his or her opponent’s first turn without any way to shuffle afterwards, and then untaps and proceeds to draw one of the two cards they put back, you can be quite certain he or she is new to the format. There are instances where this isn’t the case, but overall, you simply supposed to “never cast it”.

 

meddlingmage.hq#4: Meddling Mage: Chris Pikula’s Invitational Card comes as a humble 2/2 for 2 with an (almost) unique abiltiy built-in. What I like about this card is not only how it tests the skill of the pilot involved, but it also tends to test the skill of deckbuilders in a format where it is available and popular. For a while in Vintage, it wasn’t uncommon to see people split their Red Elemental Blasts and Pyroblasts and one of the reasons for that was Meddling Mage. I also like how it takes a lot of knowledge about the format it’s being played in to be played correctly. For example, there was a deck in Vintage many years ago under the name The Perfect Storm (TPS). It was basically the Vintage restricted list with Brainstorm, Dark Ritual and so on added, and it generally won through casting some rituals followed by some card-drawing, followed by a Yawgmoth’s Will to do it all again and then finish off with a Tendrils of Agony. So, against that deck, what do you name with Meddling Mage? Tendrils of Agony? Yawgmoth’s Will? Burning Wish? I named neither – instead I found that the most effective strategy was to name Dark Ritual, since it prevented him from getting his deck going and finding an answer to Meddling Mage in the first place. Situations like that are quite subtle and rare, but I feel “Pikula” can still do great work against non-redundant decks, as long as you know what to name.

giftsungiven.hq

#3: Gifts Ungiven: The fixed version of Intuition, from Champions of Kamigawa, offers a whole new dimension of gameplay to all sorts of decks. Some Vintage combo decks can use it to search for something crazy, like Black Lotus, Time Walk, Yawgmoth’s Will, Recoup (meaning no matter what the opponent does, the Gifts Ungiven player will play all those cards anyway), some might use its inherent rules-crazyness to find Iona, Shield of Emeria (or other broken dude) and Unburial Rites (meaning both cards will go to the graveyard where they work well together) and some might construct a deck around it using various singletons with similar effects, creating a redundancy in what you tutor for. For example, an Esper-coloured deck could search for Damnation, Day of Judgment, Supreme Verdict and Wrath of God, and always end up with two sweepers for 4 in the hand no matter what. Gift Ungiven, however, is an extremely versatile card, and if you do construct a deck around it á la Gifts-Rock or Gifts-Control, make sure you do your homework. There are Gifts piles for most any situations in these decks, but what I like most about the card itself isn’t how it’s just skill-testing for the caster, it’s also skill-testing for the opponent. It’s a shame it’s banned in EDH, but Intuition works a lot like it there as well. Both cards ask the opponent to properly identify both the board- and hand presence of the caster, and clearly evaluate the threat level of each card he or she finds.

 

factorfiction.hq#2: Fact or Fiction: This card is on the list for many of the same reasons as Gifts Ungiven, it’s testing the skill of not only the caster, but also the opponent. The card was immensely powerful in all format it was legal in during its Standard tenure, and there’s a reason people coined the abbreviation EOTFOFYL (End of Turn, Fact or Fiction, You Lose). People have famously misplayed with the card, most notably Billy Moreno, against Antoine Ruel at Pro Tour LA 2005. Ruel was playing Psychatog in the third game of this Extended Pro Tour finals, against Moreno’s UG Madness, but Ruel can’t seem to draw any black mana. He casts an end of turn Fact or Fiction, flipping over another Fact or Fiction, Stalking Stones, Meloku the Clouded Mirror, and two black sources. Moreno stops and thinks for a while, but fails to interpret the threat levels on his opponent’s cards properly. Meloku was, in that format, so overwhelmingly powerful, the proper division for Moreno is probably to just split it Meloku against all the other four cards. Ruel would’ve probably taken Meloku anyway, it was simply that powerful – a resolved Meloku for Ruel is almost certainly game over for Moreno. Moreno, however, instead chooses to split it black mana against everything else. Ruel happily picks the pile with Meloku, Stalking Stones and Fact or Fiction, and the rest is history.

 

doomsday.hq

#1: Doomsday: This card takes the number one spot on its sheer brokeness, at least theoretical brokeness. I say theoretical, because the card is extremely difficult to play. The deck constructed around it, Doomsday Tendrils, in theory, lacks weaknesses as long as the pilot plays his creation perfectly, since there are Doomsday piles for just about any situation. However, just memorizing the piles by what mana you have available is a four-page word document, a daunting task for anyone. Play at your own risk.