Monthly Archives: August 2016

THE MANA DORK — The Best-Laid Plans by Jesse Mackenzie

by August 25, 2016
The Mana Dork
So there I am, having just drafted the original Conspiracy set for the first time, and I’m definitely about to die.
I’ve got a Woodvine Elemental and an Altar of Dementia on the board, a Realm Seekers in my hand, and a single-digit life total. I’m piloting a deck of green-white goodstuff — actually, “goodstuff” is too strong of a word. Let’s call it GW Maybe-Stuff — against an intimidating trio of expert players across the table.
They’ve got good creatures on the board. They’ve got good cards in hand. I… have neither of these things.
I need to do something.
The turn passes to me. Untap. Upkeep. Draw. Float six mana. Cast Realm Seekers.
No responses.
Realm Seekers comes out as a 26/26. People stare at it with apprehension.‎ These elves could take out Emrakul. All I have to do is give them trample and I can one-shot someone. And I’m in green, where trample is king.
My plan is not nearly that predictable.
I immediately sacrifice the Realm Seekers ‎to the Altar of Dementia, targeting the pilot of the red-white aggro deck next to me. She’s got the greatest number of creatures on the board, and if she swings at me next turn, I’m dead.
She had precisely twenty-six cards in her library. The Altar of Dementia mills every single one. She’s out. I live for another turn.
The turns go around the table and come back to me. I’m still alive. Untap. Upkeep. Draw — another Realm Seekers.
Float six mana. Cast Realm Seekers. It comes out as a 20/20.
No responses.
I try sacrificing it to the Altar, targeting the control player across from me. He’s been casting draw spells all game, he’s got maybe fifteen cards left. A guaranteed takeout.
The control player — who I thought was tapped out — reveals the Double Stroke and Secrets of Paradise conspiracies, both naming Brimstone Volley. Brimstone Volley’s Morbid trigger is active, since I’ve sacrificed a number of Realm Seekerses this turn. He taps his creatures to cast the burn spell, and copies it. I’m dead. His library does not get milled out. He lives another turn…
… but not two, as he doesn’t draw into the right cards and dies to the player on his right, who had sat there patiently, waiting for the right time to dump a whole bunch of mana into a multi-kicked Skitter of Lizards. The Lizards skitter over, and it’s game.
As always in Magic, patience is king.
Sovereign's Realm
With moments like that happening in every Conspiracy draft, you can understand how excited I am that Conspiracy: Take the Crown is launching this weekend, with three drafts at A Muse N Games!
Conspiracy and Conspiracy: Take the Crown, for those unfamiliar, are multiplayer draft sets. So you grab three booster packs, draft them, and build a 40-card deck as normal — and then you sit down in a three-to-five player game, instead of just 1 vs. 1, and vie for glory, honour, and prize packs.
Knights of the Black Rose
Or, in this case, the monarchy. “Becoming the monarch” is a new mechanic in Conspiracy: Take the Crown, one with some sweet, sweet benefits if you play your cards right. Cast something like the newly-minted Queen Marchesa or her Knights of the Black Rose, and you’ll become the monarch. While you’re the monarch, you draw a card at the end of your turn as well as the start. But beware! Your opponents can take the monarchy from you by dealing combat damage to you, playing a card that makes them the monarch, or by taking you out of the game on their turn. You’ll have to pay close attention to their creatures, and play politics to make sure you’re not the one they swing at — or goad at, more on that in a second.

(A quick technical note: I’m seeing some confusion about The Monarch online, so I thought I’d clear it up here. “Being the monarch” is not an emblem like you can get from planeswalkers, it’s simply a status that a player can have — something entirely new in Magic. Once someone becomes the monarch in a game, there will always be a monarch in the game until the game ends. And monarch cards are legal in Commander, Legacy, and Vintage, so feel free to brew a Queen Marchesa deck for Commander that centres around taking, and keeping, the crown!)

But — hey, wait a second! I’ve got more of a right to the crown than you! Right? Yeah! Hey, you, goblin, over there. Take out the monarch!
Jeering Homunculus
Goading a creature is a new keyword in Conspiracy: Take the Crown. When you goad a creature, it must attack each turn if able, and it must attack a player other than you if able. It’s a great way to both take the monarchy away from someone who has it, and to protect yourself by making sure Captain Green Mana over there isn’t swinging at you with his enormous Domesticated Hydra.
Grenzo's Ruffians
And you know what works great with goad? Attacking a bunch of players at once! Enter Melee, another keyword, as epitomized by Grenzo’s Ruffians. Melee gives a creature a bonus for each player you attack in combat this turn. So if you swing with the Ruffians at Astrid, and with some 1/1 Goblins at Ben and Christine, the Ruffians will get +3/+3 — dealing 5 damage to Astrid, and 5 more to both Ben and Christine, thanks to their own ability!

(One more technical thing to be careful of, though — Melee will only grant its bonus if you attack a player directly. So if Astrid controls a Kaya, Ghost Assassin in the example above and you attack Kaya instead of Astrid, they’ll get +2/+2 instead of +3/+3, since you only attacked two opponents — Ben and Christine. And the Ruffians won’t deal their extra damage to Ben and Christine, since you attacked a planeswalker instead of an opponent.)

Voting returns in Conspiracy: Take the Crown with the new Council’s Dilemma keyword ability, and there’s a new twist on the draft-matters cards — some of them are creatures or other spells! Some of them even let you access cards you drafted, but didn’t put in your deck! — but I’ll let you discover those on your own.
A Muse N Games is running Conspiracy: Take the Crown drafts this Friday at 6:30 PM, and on Saturday at noon and again at 3:30 PM. Entry is $20 and fun is guaranteed, so come on down and Take the Crown!
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He is definitely building a Commander deck around the new Grenzo card. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

THE MANA DORK — Please Rabid Bite Responsibly by Jesse Mackenzie

by August 12, 2016
The Mana Dork

Tormenting Voice

“So, I see you actually drank some water this time,” the little voice in my head began.


“Didn’t get to sleep like you wanted to, though. And you’re still full of sugar and caffeine.”

We all make mistakes sometimes. But I’m good! I’m ready.

“Right. And your 4th-place position at the Shadows over Innistrad pre-release, that was…”

Pure skill.

“And not because you played it at a reasonable hour and got some sleep and ate good food.”
Well, I mean, that helped, but…

“Uh-huh. Let’s see how you do.”

Wharf Infiltrator
My pre-release promo was Wharf Infiltrator. I was hoping for Docent of Perfection, but I guess I can’t be too disappointed with another sweet mid-game blue creature that does serious work in Limited.

The pool I got, though, was challenging at best.

There was very little in blue to support the Wharf Infiltrator, and almost nothing worthwhile in white or black outside of a single copy of Murder and a completed Chittering Host pairing. My big, quality bombs were Soul Swallower and Impetuous Devils, with a smattering of serious work-putter-inners like Furyblade Vampire and Brazen Wolves.

Red-green Eldraziwolves it is!

I wasn’t directly trying to copy my Shadows over Innistrad success, but it was certainly a factor. In Sealed, like in Draft, you will live or die based on the quality of the creatures you get onto the battlefield. My best creatures were in red and green — including an interesting pair of Its of the Horrid Swarm I’ll get to later — so that was my best choice for a solid performance.

So, how did I do?

Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Round 1 — Red-White Aggro
My opponent has built a classic red-white aggro deck, which Eldritch Moon supports well. We trade blows, but the combat math works out in their favour, and I lose the first game.
The second game, I learned my first lesson of the night: don’t waste removal early.
I’ve got a Bold Impaler out, they’ve got a Steadfast Cathar out. I need to make sure my aggro creatures get through, so I make the clear choice and cast Rabid Bite to take out the Cathar before it becomes a 2/3.
It would be the only removal spell I drew that game — and boy, I could have used it against the Thalia, Heretic Cathar that kept emerging her sword from my face in a series of first strikes!

0-2 in games, 0-1 on the night.

It of the Horrid Swarm
Round 2 — Red-White-Black Control
It’s game 2. My opponent has taken the first game, and they’ve got a decent number of creatures again. I have… not that. Significantly less than that, actually. But what I do have is two Its of the Horrid Swarm in my hand, and a need to go a little bit wider than I currently can.
I swing with my Backwoods Survivalists and Falkenrath Reaver. Seeing that I’ve tapped all my creatures, my opponent chooses not to block, hoping to have a clear path next turn.
Instead, I hatch the first It out of the Falkenrath Reaver. Six power across three bodies for five mana — not bad. And they’re untapped, so they can block. My opponent, dismayed by the sudden appearance of blockers, hangs back.

The next turn, I swing with the team — It, Insect 1, Insect 2, and the Reaver. My opponent blocks the Reaver and the It, taking two damage. I lose the Reaver. That’s fine. In the second main phase, I emerge my second It of the Horrid Swarm off of the first one…

… netting me two additional power across two additional bodies, as well as almost-kinda-maybe vigilance on the 4/4, for a single green mana.

Not the greatest play in the world, but it stabilized the board in my favour and they didn’t have an answer. Second lesson of the night: chaining Emerge creatures can get disgustingly efficient. (And also probably just disgusting, when you think about it.)

2-3 in games, 1-1 on the night.

Identity Thief
Round 3 — Blue-Red Prowess Control
So here was my dumbest mistake, and my third lesson.
I’m playing an aggro deck against a control deck. Already, I’m on the back foot. I need to make sure I get my damage in before my opponent Just the Winds or Unsubstantiates my Eldraziwolves.

I’ve got a Kessig Prowler on the board, they’ve got an Identity Thief. I need to kill that Identity Thief, so my best course of action is clearly to cast Waxing Moon on my Prowler to flip it early and force them to either block it with the Thief or take a lot of damage, right?

My opponent chooses not to block, and indeed takes a lot of damage. They then swing with the Identity Thief, exiling the Prowler.

Now, if you exile a transformed card and it returns to the battlefield, it will come back with its normal face up. So I wasted mana and a card to get ahead on some damage, when I should have saved it to flip a blocking Eldraziwolf mid-combat.
Third lesson of the night: read the fricken’-frackin’ cards.
2-5 in games, 1-2 on the night.

Round 4 — Green-White Human Tokens

The first game goes in my favour — the Eldraziwolves went all slither-bow-slather-wow on their various cathars and tokens.
Before the second game, my opponent chooses to go on the draw, rather than on the play.
This is atypical. Going “on the draw” means you’re choosing to play second (and thus draw an extra card before you start), rather than play first (and thus be the first to start dealing damage). Generally speaking, you want to be on the play, as dealing damage is very important.
Following the round, I asked my opponent why they chose to go on the draw in Game 2.
I get a smile in response. “I was hoping to draw a land!”

We laugh and shake hands. I’ve been there, I know how it feels.

Final score: 4-6 in games. 2-2 on the night. I place riiiiiiiight in the middle of the pack.
Trail of Evidence
“You did better than I thought you would.”

Thanks, Disembodied Pre-Release Voice In My Head!

“… but still not as good as the Saturday SOI pre-release with all the rest and good food.”

… Thanks, Disembodied Pre-Release Voice In My Head.
“Hey, it’s not my fault you hold yourself to such high standards! Rest is important. Good food is important.” 
Fair enough.
“Literally, you’re better at Magic when you have those.”


“And now we have empirical evidence.”
That’ll do, voice. That’ll do.

“I’m just saying.”


did pull a copy of Murder.
Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Tormenting Voice is basically his life story. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!