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Tetsuko Dollar General
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday October 18, 2018
Ryan revisits the Dollar General variant, this time featuring Tetsuko Umezawa.
Wish They Were Legendary Again
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018
Back by popular demand, Ryan imagines more Commanders who could have been legendary.
Doctor Strange and the Infinity Gauntlet
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Thursday October 11, 2018
This is my Jodah/Fist of Suns list. It is probably a fairly standard Jodah list, with lots of huge bombs and various ways to cheat 'em out. But it's a really fun deck, and it also happens to need some fine-tuning. After mulling it over a while, I figured I might as well write up a post on it, as that might help me collect and organize my thoughts on how best to improve its performance.
I'll start by sharing the list as it currently stands, then walk through some of the problems and how we might solve them.
Commander: Jodah, Archmage Eternal.
Angel of the Dire Hour
Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Myojin of Seeing Winds
Sheoldred, Whispering One
Etali, Primal Storm
Rashmi, Eternities Crafter
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight
Angel of Despair
Zacama, Primal Calamity
Ramos, Dragon Engine
Swords to Plowshares
Path to Exile
Wrath of God
Leyline of Anticipation
Read the Bones
Star of Exctinction
Tooth and Nail
Bring to Light
Primeval's Glorius Rebirth
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Fist of Suns
10x Rev Duals (Tundra, etc.)
10x Shocklands (Hallowed Fountain, etc.)
5x Ally-colored Fetchlands (Flooded Strand)
So, that's the list I've most recently been working with. And it's done pretty well so far, but it certainly has a few kinks to iron out. Before we get to troubleshooting, however, let's talk a little more about the deck itself.
One of the things that was clear to me right off the bat is, we need perfect mana, hence the extravagantly expensive mana base. Ramp is also key - not only is it a part of our "Plan A" which is to ramp into Jodah and start Fisting out threats as early as possible, but it's also a critical part of "Plan B" which is to just hardcast our bombs (for when Jodah just dies over and over).
It is not enough to just hit RWU and cast Jodah, of course - we also need to hit B and G to start Fisting things. By the way if that terminology makes you uncomfortable, I bid you simply get your mind out of the gutter, you perv. I am merely referring to the card Fist of Suns, which is basically Jodah but in Artifact form.
Sticking a Fist of Suns is often preferable to Jodah, as it can dodge removal a little easier. Rest assured though, both will be high priority targets if your opponents do have removal.
Anyway, the key to successful Fisting is to hit WUBRG as often as possible, as reliably possible, and as quickly as possible. We're perfectly happy hitting all five colors on turn five, but if we can hit them all on turn four some percentage of the time, so much the better.
This is one area where I feel the deck needs some attention, as my ramp suite is not optimal, but we'll get to that shortly.
Another key aspect of a Jodah deck that I realized early on was that being able to Fist things at instant speed would be a huge plus. For much of the early to mid game, this is a cast-one-thing-per-turn deck. Even if we aren't paying full retail for our high-CMC bombs, we're still only going to be able to drop them one at a time for the first half of the game.
This means a single removal spell from an opponent can be a HUGE tempo loss. This might not be the end of the world in a slower multiplayer setting but it's still a problem. One solution to this issue is to cast things at instant speed, often at the End of Turn step of the opponent passing to us.
But that's not all; combining something like Vedalken Orrery with a Seedborn Muse effect can often let us cast things during each opponent's turn - those of you who played a lot of Prophet of Kruphix before she got banned will pick up on this principal.
Oh, another aspect of the deck I want to touch on is the "value enchantment" package. It started with Mirari's Wake and Zendikar Resurgent - the two "mana doubling" enchantments. I included those as potential solutions to the whole "only Fisting one thing a turn" problem - if we can make WUBRG, then with either of those on the Battlefield, we can make double-WUBRG! Zendikar Resurgent also has built-in draw, which is great.
With those in the deck, I immediately looked at Academy Rector for inclusion. But I wasn't sure it was worth running the Old Bitch just for those two cards (okay it probably still would have been, but...), so I looked for more big, expensive value-generating Enchantments we could include as possible targets for Rector to fetch.
Well, it's pretty damn difficult for me to build a five-color deck without running Maelstrom Nexus, and that fits the bill of hard-to-cast value enchantment. Mind's Dilation and Sunbird's Invocation are also poster-children for that category of cards. Those three, plus the aforementioned Wake and Resurgent round out the package. We also have Leyline of Anticipation for when we really need to give everything we do Flash.
This is only a few cards, but cheating just one of these out with Rector can generate serious value if it sticks. We don't want to go overboard here, but there are certainly other high-CMC Enchantments that might be fun to cheat into play. We may come back to this topic as well.
In addition to the value Enchantments, we also have a small subset of creatures that function similarly. Maelstrom Wanderer has Cascade x2, so that's great value. And with all the high-CMC cards in the deck we maximize our chances of hitting something big and splashy and not just mana rocks or utility dorks. Rashmi is pseudo-Cascade and works especially well with the Seedborn/Orrery tech. Etali and Diluvian Primordial give us value by letting us cast our opponents' stuff, scaling upwards the more opponents we have as well.
Basically the general idea is, we cast things (often at a discount thanks to Jodah/Fist) and those things in turn let us cast other things, often for free. I'd consider Stolen Strategy in this regard, but that requires you to actually pay the mana costs. Boo-urns.
I think that about does it for the deck tech - the rest of the list is pretty clearly either cheap utility stuff and expensive bombs. Oh, but before I forget: many of you probably know this, but in case you don't - casting Painful Truths for WUBRG off Jodah/Fist let's you "overpay" and draw FIVE cards! You lose five life as well, but still... it's a cute piece of tech I enjoy and I looked for other ways we could take advantage of that little trick, but Painful Truths was, in my opinion, the only truly compelling use case. Oh well.
And with that, I think we can get on to the troubleshooting phase.
I already mentioned the ramp suite was not quite up to snuff, but there are a few other small areas of improvement I have noticed while playing the deck. But let's go ahead and get the ramp situation sorted out as it's probably one of the most key elements of the deck's early game plan.
The astute reader will likely have taken notice that the list above only contains five Basic Lands - one of each type. But the deck also contains the following cards: Sakura-Tribe Elder, Solemn Simulacrum, Kodama's Reach and Cultivate. These are all exceptional cards on their own, of course, but the four ramp cards combine to fetch up a grand total of SIX basic lands - a problem of math, you can see, since six is greater than five. I have had multiple games where I managed to draw one or more of these ramp cards after fully depleting my library of all Basic Lands. Ouch!
Add to all of that the fact that Basic-only ramp is much less valuable in this particular deck; we would rather have ramp that can get us dual lands where possible, and you can start to see where I'm coming from on this not being the ideal ramp package. Luckily there are some great alternatives that can serve us better.
But while we're on the topic of sub-optimal ramp, let's also take a look at our mana rock selection. On this portion I think I got a lot closer. Sol Ring and Thought Vessel produce colorless mana, and sure, sometimes you might find yourself needing colored mana more, but they are good enough overall that I have found them well worth running. You might disagree on Vessel in particular, but I have had many games where I was quite glad to have it. But Prismatic Geoscope, on the other hand, has been nothing but a disappointment. I had high hopes for it, as it should essentially be a Gilded Lotus that taps for WUBRG. That seems great on paper, but that damned "enters the battlefield tapped" clause just ruins it every time. I have just hated this card every time I've drawn it.
So which ramp cards would be better in this deck? I've always been a big fan of the Signets but I don't think they'll work here. I think our best bet is to go with green ramp that finds non-basic lands. And the cheaper, the better. I want to keep STE because it's a good early blocker as well as a super-cheap ramp piece, and I have also gotten great mileage out of Reach/Cultivate when drawn early. It's only after I've drawn/ramped my Basics out that they become dead, useless draws. I also like to have a mix of spells and creatures for various reasons.
And in general, I want to lower the overall CMC average of our ramp package where possible.
Given all of these considerations and taking them all into account, here are the requisite changes being made:
Prismatic Geoscope ---> Skyshroud Claim
Solemn Simulacrum ---> Wood Elves
Kodama's Reach ---> Farseek
Each spell being cut is being replaced by something cheaper by one mana, so we have succeeded in the goal of lowering our ramp CMC. Solemn is being replaced by Wood Elves, so we're not losing any bodies suitable for blocking early attackers. Losing the draw effect from Sad Robot is trivial in comparison to the value that Wood Elves brings in being cheaper and allowing us to ramp into a dual land. And while Kodama's Reach is great even in this deck, I don't think we need both it and Cultivate, so it loses out to Farseek as another two-mana ramp spell - and 2 CMC is a critical enough point that I felt like Nature's Lore also warranted consideration. If I find the ramp needs further massaging in the future, Lore might come in but for now I think the three swaps above will suffice.
So what else is not working with this list? Well there are a few cards that aren't performing quite as well as I'd hoped and even if I wind up not cutting some of them, I want to at least examine them and see if there is opportunity for improvement.
The first is Primeval's Glorious Rebirth. This card was better in earlier iterations, as the deck had a higher number of legendary permanents. It wasn't a tremendous amount, as I only cut a few in total, but it was just enough so that I have started to find Rebirth a dead draw some of the time. Occasionally it is still an utterly backbreaking play, but it is somewhere between dead and underwhelming much more of the time. Assuming we want to keep this slot as some kind of reanimation effect, we have a few other options that may serve us better. Rise of the Dark Realms is certainly one big, splashy version. I think I am even more partial to Debtor's Knell, as Academy Rector gives us another way to cheat it out aside from just Fisting it. I mentioned we might round out the Rector value enchantment suite, so this might be a prime opportunity to do so. However, I have also seen quite a few Jodah decks are running Muldrotha but I haven't managed to fit him into mine - so he's another option I must look at.
Bring to Light hasn't been terrible by any means, but as it already costs five mana anyway, the Fist/Jodah trick I mentioned in regards to Painful Truths does not apply here. But while I have gotten good value out of Bring to Light so far, each time I cast it I pass by several spells that I wish I could get, but can't. I also keep forgetting it can't get Enchantments and many times Mirari's Wake is the #1 thing I really want to fetch up. But here I'm not sure if the call is to cut Bring to Light or just improve the selection of things it can find.
Before we get into that little conundrum, I am going to address another card that is under-performing for similar reasons. Baral's Expertise is a great card, but in a deck with such a high number of high CMC cards, I have often failed to capitalize on the "free spell" portion of the card. And when I do get to drop something for free it's almost always a mana rock or ramp spell. Not terrible value by any means, and the tempo play of bouncing three things is quite good on it's own. But if we're going to just write off the whole free spell rider, then surely there is a more impactful thing we can play instead.
Finally, I'm less and less sure about Rashmi being in the list as I play the deck. She's certainly good - and when you manage to build your own Prophet of Krupix with Seedborm+Orrery/Leyline, she's REALLY good. But that ideal scenario comes up far to infrequently, so most of the time she's just kinda okay. Just okay isn't really what we're looking for, so I think we have to consider giving her the boot as well.
There are also some newer inclusions that I have yet to really get a chance to test since I've added them in. Animatou's Augury and Star of Extinction are two such cards. I have high hopes for them both but as of yet do not have any games under my belt with those. Also, I had at some point inexplicably cut Consecrated Sphinx, but quickly came to my senses and put it back in after a few games wherein I needed card draw.
Back to the matter at hand, we have four cards that are at least possibly getting replaced: Rashmi, Rebirth, Bring to Light, and Baral's Expertise. And I have two possible inclusions in mind already in Debtor's Knell and Muldrotha. But I honestly don't really know what I want for the other slots!
This is a true rarity for me - I almost always have more cards I want to put into a deck than will fit, and I also almost always know what I want for a replacement when a card doesn't wind up working out. But for once, I am not certain - I do think that I probably want to keep the same function for each slot - a big reanimation spell, a defensive/interactive spell, a value generator and a tutor of some kind. But those aren't set in stone either.
These situations are pretty rare, but when they occur I have a couple of quick and easy sources of inspiration - EDHREC.com and the visual spoilers for the newest couple of Magic sets. I'm pretty much always a few sets (or more) behind on my Magic collecting these days, and even further behind in actually updating my decks. It's kind of a miracle that I have something as recent as Animatou's Augury in this deck but nothing else is anywhere near that current, so we can definitely scope out M19 and Guilds of Ravnica for ideas.
But let's start with EDHREC, simply because if I find something there I am much more likely to have the card or cards on hand already. M19 and Ravnica are sets I have not yet caught up on.
... And I'm back. After scouring EDHREC's page for Jodah for several minutes, I am coming back empty-handed. There are plenty of good, powerful cards I am not using such as Expropriate, Elesh Norn or the Eldrazi titans. But I want fun stuff, not make-my-friends-hate-me stuff. Swarm Intellegence is another one of those high-cost value enchantments I love, but I don't think I have quite as many instants and sorceries as you'd need to really make that one work for you. And it actually kinda feels win-more. Animatou's Augury and Tooth and Nail are already pretty back-breaking without needing to double up on them.
So I turned instead to those recent sets that I have not yet had much of a chance to collect from and play with. M19 offered up a couple of possible choices in Chaos Wand and Vaevictus Asmadi. The Wand is a bit iffy, but there are lots of times, I tap for WUBRG to Fist something into play, but then have 3 or 4 mana left over - not enough to Fist another spell, nor enough to cast any of the big, expensive things still in my hand. Wand lets us use that leftover mana, and is on the theme of stealing our opponents' stuff and casting it for free (well, four generic mana in this case). But hitting sweepers is gonna feel REAL bad when it happens, so the Wand is maybe not my first choice.
Vaevictus doesn't get much of a cost savings from being Fisted, but his mass-Chaos Warp effect is pretty sweet in a deck this loaded with high-value bombs. But some of those bombs are Instants or Sorceries, so he could whiff a higher-than-desired percentage of the time.
Guilds of Ravnica didn't yield too many results either. Thief of Sanity could be a suitable replacement for Rashmi - it's cheaper, flies and gets good value off successfully connecting with an opponent. But it also doesn't let us cast what we steal for free - not a deal breaker but also enough to keep it from being an automatic inclusion. Knight of Autumn and Plaguecrafter are basically strictly-better upgrades to Reclamation Sage and Fleshbag Marauder respectively, by the way - but those weren't cards we really needed to upgrade! Just something worth noting for later, nonetheless.
Battlebond has virtually nothing we want here, and Commander 19 already gave us it's best goodie in Aminatou's Augury. Except that Windgrace's Judgement might be a really good replacement for Baral's Expertise - they're both five-cost spells that answer three things. Since we're rarely getting any value from the "cast a free four-mana spell" rider, it's essentially straight upgrade from a Sorcery-speed "bounce three" to an Instant-speed "destroy three". Seems good.
And since I had so few other things jump out at me, let's go ahead and just decide now to replace Primeval's Glorious Rebirth with Debtor's Kneel and give the Rector something else to pick from.
That leaves us with Rashmi and Bring to Light left to worry about. Bring to Light is unique enough that it could be just about anything, and as such it is hard to know what in the heck to replace it with. But as it happens, the card most closely resembles a Tutor. Sure it let's you cast whatever you tutor up for free, right there on the spot. But it's also restricted by CMC and card type. Remember, I frequently lament not being able to get Wake with it. So maybe it should just be an actual tutor - Demonic Tutor maybe? Yeah, I think that'll do nicely. It's cheap enough we could sometimes still cast what we tutor for right away, but even when not it often sets up really strong plays for the following turn. And unlike Bring to Light it has the corner case use of being able to tutor up a land if we're desperate for one. It's a bit boring, but probably the best functionally-similar option we have.
As for Rashmi, I could leave her and give her more of a chance to prove her worth. Or she could easily give way to either Vaevictus or Muldrotha. This last choice is one I have not yet made up my mind on, and will continue to mull it over.
Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Selesnya
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Tuesday October 09, 2018
The final installment wraps things up with a look at the Selesnya cards.
In most decks, I don't think the untap effect will be worth the premium you're paying for this.
Yeah, I get why it's not, but man I wish this was a Golgari card instead.
Sure, it's just going to be Rec Sage probably 75% of the time, but the other modes can be useful in a pinch. If you just need a fast threat to pressure an enemy Planeswalker or get some +1/+1 counter synergies going, a 4/3 for three ain't bad.
Put this in a blink deck like Roon and it really seems like a winner. Great utility creature with versatile options.
So, that about does it for the full set review. I have to say, I went into this thinking Guilds of Ravnica was pretty close to being a home run, even though right from the outset I thought it fell short of the amazingness Battlebond and Dominaria. But after the review, I feel it falls even shorter than expected. It's not bad, by any means, and there's a lot of good stuff, but much of the power in the set feels very highly concentrated in a few rares/mythics while much of the rest of the set winds up feeling like many cards are just a hair too much mana or just slightly nerfed from older versions of their effects.
But on the flip side, I'm glad this set isn't loaded up with instant staples a la Cyclonic Rift. There are a lot of cards that aren't broadly powerful but should be quite good in specific decks. And that's fine! I build and play a wide variety of decks and I'm constantly experimenting and trying new things. So I will probably get a chance to use a fair few of these niche cards. Of course, if you're the type that just runs only one or a few decks, or you stick to specific archetypes, you may or may not get much mileage out of such a set as this one.
Well, until next time, enjoy!
Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Izzet
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Friday October 05, 2018
Izzet time for Izzet yet? It izz!
Ugh, sorry for that. Moving on.
This card is significantly worse than Prophetic Bolt and even I hardly ever play that card anymore. Bad card is bad, but the name is an unforgivable sin.
Of course in a cost reduction scenario, such as with Mizzix for example, it probably gets a lot better. At, potentially, two mana it seems very playable.
It's cool enough that I really want to play this even though I don't like combo-y decks and my group doesn't either.
Fantastic illustration aside, this card blows.
I think this might find it's best use case in decks like Shu Yun where you are looking to capitalize on casting lots of super cheap instants and sorceries in other ways. This will just be one more way to get "added value" on your Ponders, Paths and Distortion Strikes.
So, that's it for the Izzet. Not terrible but not impressive either, save that bonkers mythic. I'm not really into anything here, but that's because Spellslinger decks just aren't a good fit for my group. We generally play without countermagic (exceptions do exist but are minimal), so playing decks that can really only be interacted with on the stack is kind of a shitty thing to do.
I've tried making a few versions of Izzet Spells in the past with Melek and other commanders, by making them win via a big token producer or something along those lines. That way, I'm still winning with permanents that can be interacted with on the battlefield. Ultimately those decks still wind up being very combo-ish feeling even if they technically don't truly combo off. Bascially, you build up to one big turn then ask if anyone has an answer right then - if they don't you win, if they do, you probably lose.
So as much as I like these cards in theory, it's all but impossible for me to put them to use without some damage to the social contract within our group. But, it's Ravnica after all. Being mad that the Izzet get a bunch of spells matter stuff is like being mad that the Boros cards are all about attacking and beating down.
Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Golgari
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Thursday October 04, 2018
Ah, the Golgari - my favorite guild. In terms of flavor/characters/aesthetics, I still hold Orzhov in the highest regard. But when it comes to building and playing decks, nothing beats the Golgari. Meren... Savra... Gitrog... Hapatra.
I have high hopes for this one. Let's hope they pan out.
If you are on more of a Savra/Grave Pact flavor of Golgari then this might not be too exciting, but for Meren, Gitrog and anything Dredge-y, this card's stock shoots way up.
In short, if you wanna fill your graveyard quickly but a few Surveil cards here and there aren't equal to the task, this here's your guy.
Unfortunately this is going to carry a hefty price tag for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, as I previously mentioned, Golgari decks already have a plethora of great removal options to pick from anyway, so this is in no way essential.
In short, if you have these, you WILL run them. But at the same time, there is no real need to go out of your way to get them. It's just removal, folks. GOOD removal, yeah, but not that big a deal.
Eh, but he is an Elf and a Shaman, so tribal considerations may change the valuation slightly. Also if you really need non-spell versions, for like a Genesis Wave deck or something, I guess it works as E-Wit number two.
Playable, but far from the best version of this effect.
Well mixed bag it is then. Golgari get the #1 most-hyped card in the set, but it's just a boring removal spell, which is something Golgari players didn't exactly need in our format. We'll happily take it, but it isn't really adding anything new to the game. The uncommons were pretty unspectacular across the board as well. Oh, but that mythic is pretty damn good. And even the more mediocre cards seem like they could have niche uses here and there.
Overall, I'm let down, but the few good cards are REALLLLLY good, and since the Dimir didn't suck this time, I'll forgive a somewhat weak batch of Golgari stuff. I mean, it's already the best two-color combination in the format so it didn't exactly need a lot of help.
Mairsil and Impostor Syndrome
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday October 04, 2018
Ryan revisits Mairsil, the Pretender.
Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Dimir
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Wednesday October 03, 2018
More multicolor cards to ogle! This time, the Dimir is up for inspection. Let's see how they do.
On the other hand, Concoct is a reasonably good card on it's own. This is definitely the mode you want to be casting most often, but as mentioned the other half has real applications as well.
I have to rebuild my old Wrexial deck.
I've seen a lot of... tempered... reactions to this card, and I get it. I mean, yeah, you cast this and you still have to cough up the mana to cast all your opponents' goodies.
I maintain that, while that is all very true, this is still a bonkers card.
Seriously, this is basically a Shadowmage Infiltrator that is about 1000% more annoying, and will piss people off enough that you'll likely never actually connect with it.
But, man, do I love it!
But, "blink" decks are a thing, and thanks to Aminatou, they are getting a bit of renewed interest. If you're on any kind of Esper Blink strategy, I'd definitely give this a shot.
Slight chance this one breaks out from the rest.
Well, color me surprised. I think my favorite thing about this set so far is how much the Dimir did NOT get shafted this time! In prior Ravnica sets, they have been, on the whole, on the weaker side of the spectrum. This partly has to do with their main focus being "mill" effects, which are obviously weaker in a format where you need to mill almost 300 cards rather than 60ish. This time, however, they definitely got some sweet stuff. Surveil is possibly the best new keyword in the set. The guildmage is possibly the only one in the cycle (so far) that is good enough to make the cut. That mythic is just insane. And Thief of Sanity is highly playable as well. All told, I'm very pleased with this crop of cards.
Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Boros
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Tuesday October 02, 2018
So, the mono-color portion of the set was hit and miss. And honestly it leaned a little heavily toward the miss end of the spectrum. Sure there were a few bombs and a few more solid cards, but the chaff definitely outnumbered the good stuff.
But, it's Ravnica, after all, so naturally the cream of the crop should most often be found in the multi-color cards. Let's find out if that holds true, or if the set continues to be moderately underwhelming.
A better one would be "How often do you put guildmages in your decks at all?" Probably not often, I would guess. Outside of a few niche combo applications very few of the guildmages see any real play.
At the end of the day, however, the key to fixing that isn't to make them worse.
Oh, there's another half? Right! Anyway, you're clearly playing this hoping to use the Resurgence half, with the Response half being a nice "just in case" option.
Ultimately, what might make this playable is that the Response half is Sunforger-able, which means you can get cheaty with Resurgence.
Would be funny to hit a Phyrexian Negator with this, but no one plays that.
That's a bit better - three rares with at least niche play-ability, and a mythic that will certain get played even if I don't like it much myself. The doublestriking 2-drop is the only one I'm really over the moon for; that guy is just great. And I do really want to try and make the Swathcutter+Basilisk Collar dream happen, just once!
Anyway, if you like Boros decks already, then you're probably happy with what we got here, but nothing is likely to change your mind if you don't like Boros.
Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Red, Green, Colorless
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Monday October 01, 2018
Today in our EDH Set Review for the upcoming Guilds of Ravnica, we're knocking out the rest of the mono-colored stuff, as well as the colorless bits. Once again, we have a lot of ground to cover, so we're cutting short the preamble.
Eh, we're used to Red getting the shaft, though. A lot of their design space tends to produce cards that are fine for single opponents with 20 life, but do not scale well when you add more opponents with higher life totals.
Card itself seems pretty awful. A four-mana 6/6 is great and all, but it comes with one hell of a potential downside. But, in the same set, we have a five-mana 6/6 that's pure upside, in a color that is much less about undercosted beef. What is R&D even doing?
For reals, though, don't play this unless you are on 5C Maze's End.
Not a fantastic card for EDH, however. Probably worse than Scute Mob despite having (conditional) Trample.
Still, it's Trinket Mage-able, and cheap to use, so I expect it to be played anyway.
Basically, any Locket that contains either Blue or Green as one of it's colors should see pretty close to zero play. But the ones that don't contain either of those two colors (Boros, Orzhov, Rakdos) might be alright running theirs.
Also the Lockets are basically unplayable in decks of 3 or more colors.
Seriously, I don't even think this is playable in Maze's End decks... though of course I'm not speaking from experience. For the five to ten of you out there still trying to win with Gates, I'm guessing you are pretty disappointed as well.
All told this was a pretty disappointing batch of cards. But we're now to the point we get to look at the multicolor stuff, which should - hopefully - provide a much better yield of playables. Guess we'll find out together in the next installment!
Wish They Were Legendary
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday September 27, 2018
Ryan dreams up some sweet Commander decks helmed by non-legendary creatures.
Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: White, Blue and Black
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Wednesday September 26, 2018
Welcome back to the Guilds of Ravnica EDH set review, part two. This time we're taking a look at the White, Blue and Black cards of the set. This will be longer than the last one, by quite a wide margin, so let's just jump right in.
I expect this to get played a LOT in the early days after release, but taper off over time, as people realize it's a lot harder to get that one-sided value that you can often get via Retribution.
One place I think this card actually beats out Return to Dust is in W/U decks that are heavily geared toward playing at Instant speed - you almost always wind up casting Return as a sorcery to get full value, but this you can always cast as an Instant and not lose out.
If you see a lot of decks that are very heavy one of the two permanent types you probably still want Return (or both!), but otherwise, I think this is a tiny bit better.
I think the main factor that will determine how playable this is to you is how much you value the Surveil 4. If that's just incidental value, then this might be just a hair overcosted. But if your deck can make serious use of that Surveil effect, then you can probably justify the expense.
Also, that art... *shudders*
Still, in this format, if there's a way to get a six-mana discount on your nine-mana spells, someone is going to take that offer. Plus he's a wizard, so tribal synergies likely count for something.
Oh, and one other thing - Snapcaster won't let you overload that Cyclonic Rift in your graveyard... this will.
Perhaps a more suitable analogue would be Cackling Counterpart. I have absolutely made good use of Cackling Counterpart before, and in the right decks, it's actually pretty great.
The key difference here is, Counterpart is an Instant; this ain't. So, once again, this seems good but falls short of existing options.
The dream of course is to use Buried Alive to set up some ideal trio of creatures that for a combo or at least a powerful synergy but I'm still having a hard time coming up with scenarios where Living Death doesn't just do the same thing, but better.
Hell it's also pretty much objectively worse than Dark Prophecy; as an enchantment, Dark Prophecy is less vulnerable to removal, and it doesn't have the "nontoken" restriction.
Fleshbag Marauder just got a serious upgrade and I cannot be more happy! My only hope is that the do for this guy what they did for Fleshbag - i.e., make functional reprints with different names and, sometimes, slightly different stats, so we can effectively run 3 or 4 of these.
This is easily the best uncommon in the set, and puts a number of rares to shame.
I've always been a little sad that Ravenous Rats is just straight garbage in EDH, especially multiplayer FFA games. This... well.. this probably isn't very good either, really. But if you are looking for more discard effects that say "each opponent..." rather than "target opponent...", well, here ya go.
And that about does it for this one, folks. I'm digging this set quite a bit, but at the same time I can't help but feel like they're pulling their punches just a bit. Dominaria was always going to be a very tough act to follow for our crowd, but I figured if any plane could deliver a set to rival it, it would be Ravnica. But we haven't gotten to the multicolor stuff yet - hopefully that's where we'll see this set really shine.
Guilds of Ravnica EDH Set Review: Legends and Planeswalkers!
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Tuesday September 25, 2018
Kicking off a new set review! Haven't done a proper one of these in forever. So I'm going to ease into it with a shorter one today. We'll see how it goes from here.
This first part, we're just going to cover the new Legendary Creatures and a couple of Planeswalkers. Legends are always of particular interest to us Commander players, for obvious reasons, so it makes sense to start with some of the cards we might be most excited about.
But just to be a bit of a stinker, I'm going to do the Planeswalkers first. LOL.
Also it's kinda odd that his +1 is more or less Surveil, the Dimir keyword. Random. Anyway, Ral is bad and the art is awful.
But, I can never outright dismiss any Planeswalker that has a card draw ability, and especially one tied to a + ability. The sacrifice can be quite a steep cost, but in a lot of Golgari decks, it can actually be more valuable than the draw!
How good a commander he'll make remains to be seen, but he's definitely going to be in the 99 of a lot of Spellslinger decks.
As cool as it is to have an Anthem in the command zone, I think Ravos Soultender has shown that an understated 5-drop isn't especially compelling, and his other ability is way better than her extra text.
Being a (small) army-in-a-can is also a plus, but not enough of one, in my estimation. She'll get plenty of play in the 99 of some GW token decks but is not the best option to lead those decks.
In short, you have a LOT of hoops to jump through just to kill someone with an alt-win condition. But EDH players tend to like jumping through hoops and the ones that play alt-win cards are even more prone to it.
Don't know if she's GOOD, but she's certainly UNIQUE.
Additionally, Izoni doesn't really open up any new deckbuilding space for the Golgari - an Izoni deck will have some differences, of course, but should largely play around in many of the same mechanical areas as her guildmates.
The thing is, I'm not sure he's better than the original Lazav outside of a few cute interactions like that. I kinda hope I'm wrong, but I'm skeptical this guy is really going to take off. He'll certainly appeal to a certain type of player, for sure, but don't think he'll break out beyond that.
Sure, if you get right down to it, Rhys is still the better GW Tokens commander, but I don't think Emmara is out of the running. She has some more interesting synergies as well - Convoke, obviously, but also: Vehicles, Glare or Subdual, and... well that's all I've got off the top of my head.
Anyway, seems good.
As for this particular case, the new Aurelia is alright. She's relatively undercosted and comes down early enough to make a quick dent in some life totals, then provides some small buffs to your other dudes later. She's good at doing what Boros is already good at doing, is the takeway. I prefer the other Aurelia, personally, but this one is acceptable.
And that's that. For the most part this was a solid but unexciting crop of Legends and Planeswalkers. The Dimir fared a bit better than they usually do, while the Boros fared exactly as well as they usually do. Most of the new potential commanders fail to break new ground, though the couple that do are so odd that they are likely not to find widespread appeal.
But, while opening up new avenues of deck-building is always something we desire, simply getting playable new cards for our existing deck is worth celebrating as well, and almost all of these cards have the potential to be role-players in their respective niches. And a few of you mad scientist types will have fun trying to slay people with Etrata or one-shot them with Lazav.
So far Guilds of Ravnica is no Dominaria, but it's got it's own charms nonetheless.
C18 Deck Upgrade: Adaptive Enchantment
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Tuesday September 25, 2018
Since it will probably be next weekend before I get to play another league game and make more updates to the Lands deck, I want to take a break from all that and focus on making some upgrades to another of the C18 precons that I'm not using in the league. Since this is just for fun, I can make all the changes I want and really go all out.
The deck I'm working on today is Adaptive Enchantment, the Bant colored deck focused on enchantments and auras. I've built Bant enchantments in the past, using Jenara, Asura of War as the commander. I had mixed results with that deck, but one of the things I always wished for when playing it was for an "Enchantress" in my command zone. A source of card draw would have made a huge impact on that deck's viability.
Well, luckily, Adaptive Enchantment comes with just such a card: Tuvasa the Sunlit. That's right, for this one, we're ditching the Planeswalker in favor of an alternate. True, Tuvasa is somewhat limited as an enchantress, since she only draws you a maximum of one card per turn - but if we can find a way to cast some enchantments on our opponents' turns as well, we can maximize our draws that way.
Tuvasa gently pushes us toward a Voltron strategy, which I am fine with, but as she triggers on any enchantment, not just auras, we aren't completely obligated to go that way. We can also go wide with things like Sigil of the Empty Throne. And we can probably get up to some shenanigans with Enchanted Evening as well. Lots of options, and I want to explore as many as possible - why limit ourselves to one mode of play when multiple modes of attack are open to us?
Enchantress decks are a heavily- and long-supported archetype so the card pool for us to draw from is very deep. I have a LOT of ideas for this deck but we're not going to be able to fit anywhere near all of them into it. I could probably, actually make three separate decks - one for each of the three commanders, and while they would all still be considered "enchantress" decks, they would all feel and play quite differently.
In fact, if I had the lands to make three Bant decks at once without shafting one of the mana bases, I might actually do that! But alas, as good as my land collection is, I am pretty sure even I could only support two Bant decks at once, and even then it might get spotty. So, for now, we're just going to cram as much as we can into this one deck.
I've already figured out my changes and will break them down by sections. Afterward I'll talk a bit about things that didn't make the cut as well.
This first batch is just a couple of cards that I feel had almost strictly better options out there. The vast majority of our key cards are going to be cheap enough that Sun Titan is likely to outperform his jank cousin. And while Loyal Guardian provides an effect I'm just flat-out skeptical that this deck even wants at all, if we do end up wanting a 5-drop that puts counters on our team, Celestial Ancient is more on-theme and has a much higher power level (potentially), so we'll at least give the Ancient a shot.
Next up, we want to supplement out card draw with more Enchantresses. I think I'm basically running them all, save the O.G. Verduran Enchantress and her color-shifted counterpart, Mesa Enchantress. I'm just not a big fan of the three-mana 0/2's these days. And we probably don't need to overdo it in this category - after all, our we're hoping our commander will fulfill that role most of the time. To make room, I just cut three worse card-draw effects and the one Enchantress that isn't really and Enchantress (you have to draw cards to get that title!).
Here we have some sac outlets and recursion pieces. Replenish replaces Empyrial Storm as a much more reliable and synergistic win condition. Hanna and Starfield are slow recursion/value cards. Phyrexian Rebirth was an awkward cut, and I am worried about cutting sweepers but, oh well. Daxos was just clunky and when I played this deck before, he never managed to connect even once. Meanwhile Arixmethes and Ravenous Slime are too very cool new cards I'm excited to use... in other decks. They nobly sacrifice their slots so we can get our sac outlets into the deck.
EDH League: Game 2 Aftermath
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Sunday September 23, 2018
The Bant-chantments deck swept game two. After a long and grueling battle, it looked like Lord Windgrace was going to take it home for a second time, but a timely Bruna after everyone had pretty much used up most of their removal turned things around.
I threw everything I had at the Bruna, as did the other two opponents, but since they'd spent most of the game fighting me, they didn't have much to throw. So, news flash: Bruna is ridiculous! If she lives, at least.
Point standings are pretty damn close, though, with the Bant player being in the lead, but Aminatou in last place is only 2 points behind her! There's a lot of room to make up ground as no one has run away with things as of yet. This is all very good, so far.
Anyway, another game is over, so that means more cuts. We're doing another round of 5 swaps this time, but it will be 3 at a time from here on out.
Here are my swaps, one by one:
Charnelhoard Wurm ---> Omnath, Locus of Rage - Okay this one should seem pretty obvious. We all new Omnath was 100% going to make an appearance, and if it weren't for my love of Gitrog and my recognition of a need to draw more cards, Omnath would've probably made the first batch. As for the cut, I felt like Charnelhoard Wurm was a dud, and didn't really serve any purpose in this deck. It's an okay card, but we aren't looking for a seven-mana, just-okay utility creature. We want a bomb, and Omnath is definitely that.
Jund Panorama ---> Crucible of Worlds - I'm still trying to figure out how the hell I did this, but after last week's swaps after round one, I somehow miscalculated, ending up with 43 lands instead of the intended 41! If you remember, my ultimate goal was to get to 42, but the plan was to do so incrementally. Anyway, after realizing the error (though not how it happened!) I obviously now get to cut 1 land to get back down to 42, our target. I still want to improve the quality of our lands by adding in some actually good one, but I will save that for next round. Crucible, like Omnath, is one of the most obvious cards to add, but it really is quite necessary. I've spent two games now badly wishing I had a Crucible, and having it will make Windgrace's +2 oh so much better.
Reality Scramble ---> Hour of Devastation - I kept going back and forth on Reality Scramble. I initially wanted to cut it, but then realized I'd overlooked that it had Retrace which makes it make more sense in the deck. But then, I also realized that the only thing I ever really have a surplus of is lands (and even then, lands are often much less expendable than you'd expect), but targeting a land with this only ever gets you another land. Yuck. Anyway, after two games I just realized I really wanted Hour of Devastation quite badly. Didn't want to cut a creature for a creature sweeper, as the deck already kinda needs more creatures, not less. So, looking for an expendable, non-creature, with a similar CMC so as not to fuck up the curve too much leads me to Reality Scramble, and out it goes.
Grapple with the Past ---> Splendid Reclamation - Again, more relatively obvious stuff. Splendid Reclamation is just a huge effect we clearly want to have access to. Yes, we are also adding Crucible, so it may seem redundant but a) it's an effect we want badly enough to allow some redundancy, and b) a big one-shot effect like this has different applications from a slow, incremental effect. Just like how sometimes Phyrexian Arena is better than Stroke of Genius, but other times, the Stroke is the better card. And, Grapple is a truly terrible card, honestly. Milling three is just to small of an effect. At least with Grisly Salvage you mill five, and even that isn't a card I'm over the moon about.
Zendikar Incarnate ---> Oracle of Mul Daya - Oh boy another obvious card to add. Where's the creativity? Where's the spice? All I can tell you is, I actually was no where near sure I'd even add Oracle, as I generally just hate revealing all my draws! But in the end I decided it was worth trying out. I mean she seems clearly to belong in the deck and 99% of you would probably add her to yours. But, again, that downside of revealing what should be hidden information to my opponents is very significant, IMO. There's a non-zero chance she actually gets replaced later on, if I turn out to be right about that. But for now, she is being given a chance.
Well, those are my five swaps for week two. I'm happy with how the deck is taking shape so far, but going back to the topic of creative/spicy card choices for a minute... well, I wish I could do more on that front but there are a few factors that make it difficult. First is the league system that restricts the total number of swaps we can make. I do have some ideas that I have yet to see represented on EDHREC, but achieving those ideas within the confines of these restrictions is difficult. Plus, it just so happens I really, really like a lot of the obvious auto-include cards. Gitrog and Omnath are cards I dearly loved even before this deck existed so of course I'm going to jump at the chance to play them together. Finally, what few flex slots I have to play with I am probably going to want to use on some niche metagame stuff - due to the nature of the league, I always play this deck against the same three other decks, which means I have the opportunity to tune my deck for a very narrow and specific metagame. I don't want to go too far with this and run things that just shut someone's whole deck down, but I have a few fair but powerful cards in mind...
I think that about covers it for this week. Enjoy!
Taigam, Sidisi’s Dollar General
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday September 20, 2018
Ryan revisits Dollar General and the Taigam, Sidisi's Hand deck he drew for the 1DH extravaganza at Grand Prix Minneapolis.
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday September 13, 2018
Ryan takes the Nahiri Lightsaber challenge and brews up a fun Rebels Commander deck.
EDH League: Game 1 Aftermath
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Saturday September 08, 2018
Game one of our EDH League has happened and this thing is now officially underway.
The first thing I will say is, we all agree there need to be some tweaks to the point system, but so far we have not come to a consensus on what exactly needs to change. One glaring oversight is that it is possible, with the list published previously, not to earn any points at all in a game. That's not cool.
Other things to consider are adding more achievements, so we will be more likely to get them - only one achievement other than killing players was earned in our first game - First Blood. I don't think the achievements are too hard as written. I came very close to getting Spellbook, and the Oberyn/Mountain situation almost happened TWICE. And of course with Planeswalkers as commanders the Real Ultimate Power point should be doable as well. Every one of us was basically one turn away from getting our ultimate at some point.
As an aside, I want to also talk about one of the more interesting ramifications of Planeswalkers-as-Commanders that I have noticed. Having 'Walkers in the command zone tends, in my experience so far, to slow the game down. Not because 'Walkers add a lot of complexity and decision-making - they kind of do but that doesn't add as much time as you'd think.
No, oddly enough, the main issue is that you spend a lot of the early games just trying to keep their loyalty in check. Those early creatures, the little 1/1 and 2/2 dorks you usually wind up just pinging whoever is open with? Yeah now those almost always wind up hitting a Planeswalker in the early-to-mid turns.That small, insignificant amount of damage actually adds up. When you have 4 players all running 'Walkers, it isn't uncommon to look around the table around turn 8 or so and see everyone still at 40 or very close to it. Because the game, up to that point, has very likely been all about attacking into and defending Planeswalkers.
Another factor is, if you are running a Walker as your commander, you are pretty well priced into running more defensive cards, or at least playing your creatures more defensively. Simply put, Planeswalkers have a LOT fewer life points than you do, and you'll often defend them more aggressively than you would your own life total. You'll be more likely to use removal on a creature attacking your 'Walker than you would if it were attacking you. You'll use sweepers more judiciously if the opposing armies threaten to overwhelm your other defenses. Your creatures will be more likely to hang back on blocking duty than they might otherwise be.
Yes, it seems very clear and indisputable to me that, at least in a casual setting such as this one, Planeswalker commanders lead to longer games. Whether you see that as a problem or not is up to you, of course. I'm just pointing out the effects, not making a value judgement. I will say, at least, that my back is not a fan of the longer games. I could barely walk after last night's game. But on the other hand, longer games lead to more opportunities for epic plays and achievement hunting.
Anyway, moving on, I will address whatever changes we make to our point structure later, once we hammer it all out together. For now, I'll let you all know that I took an early lead of 3 points, as I managed to kill everyone - and luckily did so while avoiding The Cersei penalty! We also kind of created a new acheivment on the spot, as my victory came on the heels of the Animatou player's very epic turn wherein they miracle'd a Terminus to wipe the board of creatures, then cast a Skullstorm with two copies! This reduced all our life totals to the single digits (save the Animatou player, though they were already pretty low regardless). I almost inadvertently killed two opponents with Retreat to Hagra and three Landfall triggers. This left only the Animatou player. For him, I had an Avenger of Zendikar and, if I recall, 16 plant tokens, each with three +1/+1 counters (courtesy of those landfalls I mentioned). He had an answer for the tokens, as it turned out, but the Avenger itself plus the Moldgraf Monstrosity I also dropped that turn, plus the Retreat to Hagra triggers was still enough to get the job done, and that was that.
So I got three points for killing everyone, but we all kind of felt like that Skullstorm play by the Animatou player was a huge factor in my being able to do that. So we awarded that player an assist point, and will be adding some sort of formalized achievement for that later.
But, now that the first game is over, that means we get to start making some edits to the decks! This is my favorite part, as you know. I've been thinking about this part a LOT. In fact I have made spreadsheets on Google Drive to try and map out my (theoretical) changes. "Nerd!"
Despite getting slightly flooded with lands last night I still think bumping the lands to 42 is worth doing, but I'm only going to 41 on the first round of swaps. I'm cutting 3 non-lands and 2 lands, to add in 3 lands and 2 non-lands. My intial plan was to just use the first batch of swaps to add in all 5 lands, but A) that's kinda boring and I can't wait to get some FUN cards in there, and B) I'm actually a bit worried about card-draw and flood-mitigation. Lord Windgrace is pretty damn close to being my only way to turn excess lands into other cards, and that could be a problem. So as I am increasing the land count, I also need to prioritize ways to draw and/or filter cards.
Before I get further into what I'm changing I want to talk about how I am reasoning through all my changes. To start with, I view the Nature's Vengeance deck as a midrange value deck. And to me, a midrange value deck has three fundamental parts to it - set up, engine, and pay off. In this particular case the "engine" is just lands. Lands in play, lands in hand, lands in the graveyard, and importantly, lands moving from one zone to the other. The set up is, mostly ramp. However, cards like Grisly Salvage are also set up. Any card that gets lands from our library into any other zone - hand, graveyard, battlefield - is set up. Payoff is all about turning that engine into a value generator and, later, a victory generator. In short payoff cards are those that reward us for doing whatever our engine wants us to do. Anything with Landfall or a similar effect would count, whether it just draws us cards or makes large beasts.
There are of course cards in the deck that don't fit into one of those three categories. In my view, any such cards that fall outside the setup/engine/payoff trifecta should be of the "utility" class. I.E. removal/ramp/draw, traditionally. However in this case ramp is part of our "setup" roster. And some draw effects may be part of the engine - Lord Windgrace for example. This means for our purposes here, utility probably just means draw and removal. So, anything that isn't utility but also doesn't fit somewhere in the land-driven engine almost certainly gets replaced.
But where do we focus our immediate attention? Well, you gotta eat your veggies, so we need to get the boring ol' lands in as soon as we can, of course. But my early impressions of the deck so far tell me that the deck is mostly okay at set up, HIGHLY reliant on Windgrace for the engine, and mediocre to okay at payoff. Let's break them down one by one.
Setup - deck has plenty of ramp. Not all of it is top-tier ramp, but whatever. We can manage. Also has ways to get lands into the 'yard via Windgrace and stuff like Grisly Salvage. One area it's weaker in is land-recursion - getting them out of the graveyard and into our hand or onto the battlefield. This is something we will need to address for sure but isn't urgent.
Engine - as I said, you've got Windgrace's +2 and not a whole lot else, really. He's great and all, but you can't rely on your commander alone. He will get removed, and the better the deck gets at doing it's other things, the more likely people will be to kill him. This makes adding some more engine cards the highest priority, in my estimation.
Payoff - This deck has a few stellar payoff cards - Avenger of Zendikar, Rampaging Baloths, Lavalanche. And it has some mediocre ones - Flameblast Dragon, Centaur Vinecrasher, Scute Mob. Probably some outright bad ones as well. However, for now, I am less worried about quality than quantity. I think Scute Mob and Flameblast Dragon are resonable cards if you have sufficient threat density overall.
So, my approach will be to start by cutting anything that isn't in either utility or one of the three categories outlined above - the "do nothings" as I like to call them. To replace them I will be adding cards from these categories, with the "engine" cards being my first priority. Until I'm able to really up the threat density and power level of the deck, I need to be able to reliably DIG through my library for what I need. I need to be able to find lands reliably but have ways to convert excess lands drawn into other resources.
However, there is another factor at play that may influence how we build this deck - the achievements/penalties system! The thing we have to consider here is: do we want to just build this deck to focus primarily on winning and just take potshots at achievements as opportunity presents, or do we want to try to build around some of the achievements to make racking up points easier? We also have to consider penalties and avoid building our deck in such a way that we'll lose points just for doing what it wants to do.
The first and most prominent example to highlight what I mean is this - you'll notice there is an achievment for getting all three of the deck's possible commanders into play at once. But in my deck, my two alternate commanders are, as far as I'm concerned, in that "do-nothing" category and I really want to cut them. But I have to consider that, if I do cut them, I'll be cutting myself off from ever earning this point. The question is just one of how I expect to earn points and what I think will net me the most points at the end of it all.
Luckily those are questions I don't absolutely have to answer right now. Instead I have spent my energy categorizing all the non-land cards by function. Every card has been defined as setup, payoff, utlity, or do-nothing (engine cards are basically just our lands, because the real engine of the deck isn't actually a card or class of cards, but the action of moving lands around). Again the do-nothings are just those cards that are not utility - draw or removal, basically.
Surprisingly, to me at least, the do-nothing category only yielded 12 cards. This deck has a lot of ramp and removal, it turns out; though some of it is quite bad. And, there are some cards here that I quite like and would prefer to keep around. Xantcha, for instance, is not on-theme nor is she utility (in the strictest sense), so technically she belongs here. But I find that she can be quite good at pressuring early planeswalkers. In last night's game she has been instrumental in keeping 'walkers off their ults.
One class of cards I can't wait to dump, on the other hand, are the lieutenants. I like the lieutenant ability and I like these cards in the right decks. The green one seems fine in a +1/+1 counter focused deck like Atraxa, while the red one is fine in the Saheeli precon. I might run the black one in a Zombie deck but not even sure he'd make the cut there. But in this deck, none of them are on theme, none of them play into the deck's strengths. The green one I can almost see, as it seems good with Wurm Harvest but there just aren't enough token producers overall, really. This isn't really a go-wide deck. It CAN do so, but it's not a mainstay of the deck, and when it does finally go wide, the counters seem to feel both too slow and unnecessary.
So they have to go, for sure. As mentioned earlier, Thantis and Gyrus don't fit the deck well either, but I'm thus far unsure if I want to cut them or keep them solely for that one achievement. Fury Storm is just hella cool and I want to keep it. It can do some awesome things - I've already double-copied Animatou's Augury in a previous game. That was neat.
Emissary of Grudges and Reality Scramble are both new cards, and I hate cutting new cards. They're both cool cards as well. But they do not really fit the deck theme at all, so I feel they have to go.
Finally we have the very odd suite of recursion cards that, frankly, don't make much sense either. I love recursion and I think we probably want some in this deck, perhaps even more than what is in already. But not these specific recursion cards: Stitch Together, Soul of Innistrad, Charnelhoard Wurm and Moldgraf Monstrosity. Now, some of these cards are good. Some might even be okay in this deck. But none really scream "Lands Matter" do they? Nah. One or two might end up not being cut, but they're all at least on the chopping block for now.
What we really need, though, is something like Crucible of Worlds or Splendid Reclamation. It's absurd to me that there aren't some effects like this in the deck already, even if they were bad versions! WTF, Wizards? Get your shit together.
Ahem. So, we've identified the most egregiously off-theme cards and I've also kind of taken note of some of the on-theme cards in other categories that I think are just weak-ass versions of what they do. All of the other categories have a smattering of cards that do what they need to do, but perhaps not as efficiently or as powerfully as they need to do them. It is clear that we will have room after all to make some improvements to those ares, but initially I am more concerned with getting as many of those off-theme do-nothings out of here as fast as possible. That will make the deck more focused and consistent, which should help compensate for the power level of the weaker cards.
And, as mentioned, we need more engine cards badly - card draw is especially valuable to me at this point.
So, after taking into account that considerable wall of text I just wrote plus some other things I just didn't have room to squeeze in, I have come up with my first five swaps.
The Gitrog Monster
The cuts are probably easy to parse. I already expressed my strong dislike of the Loyal cycle in this deck, as they are all way off theme. The lands surprised me a bit, as I expected to be cutting ETBF-tapped lands here, but I just really hate these two lands and I don't think they're good. Right now, games don't seem to be fast paced enough to really worry about a few lands entering tapped, so I just went with the two crappiest colorless lands in the deck.
With these changes, our land count is now up to 41, and I said we needed engine cards to smooth draws. Gitrog and Tireless Tracker both fit this role. Tracker is also kind of a payoff card as he can get huge off playing lands, but we're more interested in those clue tokens. Clues are card draw and that's what we want but I have some ideas that might make them pay off in other ways too, but we'll see if those plans come to fruition or not.
Gitrog is obvious as well. He's primarily an engine as he converts lands into card draw, has sick synergy with our commander, and he's just an undercosted beatstick that can help us keep enemy 'Walkers in check.
For the next two round of cuts, my expectation is that I will swap out one more land and a non-land for the two cycling duals from Amonkhet and add in one hell of a haymaker payoff card. Having not only won my first game of the league but gotten all three kill points, I think my plan is to focus on earning points through winning/killing people, and making other achievements a secondary consideration.
I just typed a LOT of fucking words to tell you what 5 cards I was swapping out. Jeez. But now that I've laid the groundwork by explaining all our rules, as well as my thought process on how I'm approaching this, I think further articles will be shorter. I hope.
EDH League Deck: Nature's Vengeance
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Saturday September 08, 2018
Hey there, folks. My last post announced and explained the EDH league system my playgroup is running as an experiment. I went over the structure and points, etc. Today I will talk a bit about the way we're handling upgrades and changes to our decks and I'll talk specifically about the deck I'm going to be playing in this league.
We are going to be playing our first league game with completely unmodified lists, straight outta the box. But after each game we will have a specific number of changes we can make. Since we opted for an eight game run for our first outing, that means we have seven chances to tweak the lists - no point after game eight as the league will be over at that point, and everyone will be free to go hog wild on changing or scraping their respective decks.
We want a good balance of changing enough to matter but not changing too much too fast. At first I was shooting for about 20 cards total to be changed, but then I realized that some of these decks really need a bit of attention in the land department and it would be hard to make appreciable changes to the mana base AND the functional parts of the deck and make everything work.
25 changes feels a little more reasonable. That's still only 25% of the deck overall and you can easily change around 5 lands to make the mana run a little smoother, while still having a good chunk of cards to put into the main deck.
So for after the first game, with the stock lists is over, we'll all be able to change 5 cards. After each subsequent game, we will change 3 cards at a time, except after the 5th game, where we will get one more 5 card swap. By the time we go into the 8th and final game, 25 cards will have been swapped.
Now let's talk about the fun stuff. I was lucky enough to get one of the two decks I most wanted - Nature's Vengeance, the Jund "Lands Matter" deck headed by Lord Windgrace. I'd have been cool playing any of the 4 decks but this is the one I wanted most so I am happy it worked out that I could claim it!
Of course part of the idea of this is to fine tune the deck as I go. It's always best to use real playtest date to optimize rather than theorycraft. However, it is also very possible to overcompensate or overreact to a single game experience. Maybe the deck has a good amount of removal but one game I just don't draw enough and so I burn 3 card swaps jamming answers when I really didn't need too, in the grand scheme of things. For this reason I want to have something of a road map to help me make these incremental cuts without getting lost in the weeds and mucking things up.
As it happens I have already played a handful of games with these precons with my playgroup. I've played a few with this very deck and I've played against it a few times as well. So I already have some actual gameplay data to back up my theoretical cuts and additions. Furthermore, I've played a number of land-oriented decks in the past including Karametra, Gitrog and Omnath. So I feel confident I can map out at the very least a GUIDE to help me make swaps, but I will of course leave things open to improvisation and inspiration based on the games I play throughout the league.
Starting off I know I have a grand total of 25 card slots to play around with. I also know that I want to goose the land count just slightly. In my previous games one thing I did take note of was that I really like using Windgrace's +1 but only if I have a spare land to discard. But while playing, I often found I was only holding a single land and, if I wanted that sweet, sweet card advantage I had to choose between pitching it to Windgrace to draw 2, or making my land drop for the turn. Of course if my land count is sufficiently high enough I would A) have to make that choice less, and B) when I DO have to make that choice I can be more confident that pitching my only land to draw two has a high chance of yielding another land so I can still make my land drop.
At the same time I don't want to go too high as I'm not likely to have room for a whole ton of pure draw and card selection with only 25 slots to work with. The precon starts at 40 lands so I think I probably just want to nudge it up to 42 lands. I think I had 43 or 44 in my Gitrog deck but that was also a more tuned deck overall. 42 probably gives us a good, steady stream to both pitch to our commander AND make consistent land drops, but won't flood us out too often. And of course we want to just improve the man quality as well, so we will need to dedicate a few swaps to switching out some of the worse lands with better ones.
Even in a Lands Matter deck, the mana base is still not the most exciting thing to spend swaps on so I'm probably looking at 5 land swaps. 2 of those will be non-land spells getting swapped for lands to give us our desired increase in land count. Then we can remove 3 of the weaker lands for 3 better ones. This leaves 20 more non-land cards to swap in.
The list of cards I want to add in is almost certainly going to be longer than the list of cards I want to take out (or CAN take out, as per the guidelines of this league experiment). For this reason, I think it best to start by identifying cards we'd consider removing. THEN we can worry about what to replace them with. That way we can kind of try to swap like for like where possible or at least keep our swaps on curve.
Now, ideally, I'd prefer to avoid cutting cards that are either new or on-theme. So we'll keep that in mind as a guideline but not a strict rule. Especially since I can already tell you, in this deck, a lot of the new cards are decidedly not on-theme, unfortunately. There are also some thematic cards that fit, but are weaker that other options. For example I'd dearly love to ditch Farhaven Elf in favor of Wood Elves, or upgrade the so-so Far Wanderings for the always-reliable Kodama's Reach. If I had carte blanche to change all I wanted, I would definitely make those swaps.
But I have to spend my swaps wisely and so, I'm not so sure the power level difference between Wood Elves and Farhaven Elf is big enough to warrant spending one of my 25 precious slots! Still, if we earmark a card to be cut and then it winds up performing well... well then I may have some room to make a few small utility upgrades after all.
With that in mind, here is the list of cards that I think have a high potential for being replaced:
Soul of Innistrad
Emissary of Grudges
Xantcha, Sleeper Agent
Gyros, Waker of Corpses
Thantis, the Warweaver
Grapple with the Past
Consign to Dust
Gaze of Granite
The astute reader will note that this list is 27 cards long and indeed contains a fair few cards that are either thematic or newly printed. This is simply a list of cards I can see an argument for cutting. Some I simply think there are more powerful options for the same effect, while others are just effects we probably don't want at all.
If I stick to the 42 land plan I outlined above, that means five of the above cards will definitely not be cut. And if one of the cards I did NOT name in the list above turns out to be a lemon, then even more cards could get pardoned. Again, I plan to leave room for improvisation based on gameplay. For instance Gaze of Granite has already almost single-handly won me one game. If it keeps performing well, obviously I will elect to keep it in the deck.
As I mentioned before, the list of cards I want to ADD is even longer than the list of cuts above. But I'm not going to spoil them just yet. Many of my choices will likely be predictable and you can probably guess a high % of the cards I'm considering - but even I don't know which ones will actually wind up making it in.
I can tell you that I have at least identified the 5 lands that I will be adding in:
Originally I wanted the three fetches and the three shocklands but I couldn't quite make 6 land-swaps work. Then I remembered the fetchable duals with cycling that were printed in Amonket. Convenient that there are only two of those in our colors - I could not bring myself to run only two shocks when three options exist. I'm too much of a completionist and perfectionist to tolerate that. But if I have no choice, say, because the third land in the cycle doesn't exist yet? Well I guess I can live with it then.
It's nothing too groundbreaking. Fetchlands and Cycling Lands are already in the deck - these are just better ones of those. And you can be sure that I will be adding more cards that will add to these land-oriented synergies. But more on that to come later. For now, that's all I've got.
EDH Precon League Experiment 2018!
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Thursday September 06, 2018
Within my playgroup, our overall excitement and interest in Magic has waned somewhat over the last couple of years. This applies in varying degrees to everyone, myself included. I like to think I'm probably still one of the more faithful Magic devotees among our circle but the long gaps in content on this here blog may seem to tell a different story.
Choosing Commander Art
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday September 06, 2018
The Mirror Gallery gets practical as Donny explains how he chooses the card art for his Grenzo Commander deck.
on The CommandZone Blog
Posted on Wednesday September 05, 2018
Been a long ass time since the ol' Command Zone had any kind of makeover. Figured it was time.
Feedback is welcome - let me know if the colors are wack or the text is too hard to read, etc. Don't want to induce migraines or cause eye strain!
Got some real, actual content a-brewin' too. Hopefully you'll see a real post soon.
Ravnica: an Early Commander Review
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Wednesday September 05, 2018
Levi reviews the early Guilds of Ravnica spoilers with an eye for Commander.
Commander Year in Review
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday August 30, 2018
Ryan reviews the new hits for Commander released over the last year.
on Hipsters of the Coast
Posted on Thursday August 23, 2018
Ryan builds a Commander deck around Brudiclad, Telchor Engineer, and then hides it inside his library.
Tribal Unity – Wizards
Posted on Tuesday August 07, 2018
This week, Unmistakable tackles one of the oldest and most developed creature types in Magic's history: Wizards!
Budget Brawl: Dovin Baan Stax
Posted on Thursday June 28, 2018
Hello there, and welcome to the first installment of Budget Brawl, with brawl starting to take hold in some local stores you EDH players might be itching to put a Read More ...
Tribal Unity – Zombies
Posted on Thursday June 14, 2018
They're Alive! This week, Unmistakable visits one of his all time favourite tribes in Magic: Zombies!
No-Cash Commander – Krav and Regna
Posted on Friday June 08, 2018
Hi all, Crazy’s back For the interested, I’m writing this shortly after returning from an undefeated Battlebond Prerelease with fellow writer Unmistakable – And it’s almost entirely due to two Read More ...
Points of Synergy – Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Posted on Saturday May 26, 2018
This week on Points of Synergy, Unmistakable peers into one of the least impactful Vampires in Zendikar history: Anowon!
Five Random EDH Decks
Here is a small sampling of Commander Deck Links
Press F5 to Refresh this Page and see Five More Random Links!