Musings

The Jank Forge: Oops, All Blightsteel Colossus

by August 10, 2017

blightsteel colossus tapping cardboard

At a recent Legacy tournament, I got to watch Manaless Dredge in action and I realized how much I love that deck. My one problem with that deck is that it is kind of expensive to build and Legacy events are few and far between (although they are great when they happen and A Muse N Games has one coming up on September 17th). So, I started to think about making a similar deck work in Modern but Dredge is expensive in Modern too. Then, I realized that Shape Anew is a dumb card that works well with Blightsteel Colossus and decided to build a deck around that instead!

blightsteel colossus shape anew blightsteel colossus

Lands:
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Flooded Strand
8 Plains
5 Island

Creatures:
4 Augur of Bolas
4 Blade Splicer
1 Blightsteel Colossus
4 Thraben Inspector
3 Wall of Omens

Noncreatures:
4 Apostle’s Blessing
4 Vapor Snag
4 Shape Anew
4 Serum Visions
4 Path to Exile

The main combo of this deck is pretty straightforward: get an artifact token with either Blade Splicer or Thraben Inspector, cast Shape Anew to bring out Blightsteel Colossus, then punch in for 11 poison.

darksteel colossus blade splicer darksteel colossus thraben inspector

The rest of the deck either digs for the combo pieces (Augur of Bolas, Wall of Omens, Serum Visions) or keeps you alive long enough to get the combo off (Vapor Snag, Path to Exile). Apostle’s Blessing exists as a playset in order to protect your artifacts and Colossus until you can swing in for the kill.

bladesteel colossus augur of bolas bladesteel colossus wall of omens bladesteel colossus serum visions

To win with this deck, you need to survive until turns 5 or 6 and keep your opponent’s board as weak as possible. To start, your opening hand is going to want to have as many digging cards as possible and three to four lands. You want to start digging as soon as possible in order to prevent yourself from accidentally drawing your Colossus and ending your combo before it even starts.

bladesteel colossus vapor snag blightsteel colossus path to exile

Use Vapor Snag or Path to Exile on pretty much whatever creature might become a problem down the road since this deck cannot afford to risk something putting too much pressure on you. Unless you’re absolutely sure that your opponent has no removal in their hand (or at least nothing that your opponent can use on your artifacts or Blightsteel Colossus), hold off on trying to cast Shape Anew until you have an Apostle’s Blessing to avoid the chance of a misfire. A couple things to remember about the combo is that Shape Anew doesn’t make the artifact’s controller sacrifice it until the spell starts to resolve, so a counterspell thrown at it will not throw you off your game entirely and Apostle’s Blessing can protect your artifacts in a pinch.

This deck is built inside of a control-lite shell and the reason we can’t really go much deeper into the control side in the main deck is because we can’t really afford to sacrifice anything in order to make the combo work, however there are some changes that can be made depending on the meta. If there’s a lack of decks with a lot of removal, the Apostle’s Blessings can be swapped out for Delver of Secrets or Detention Spheres. If there’s a need to swing the turn you drop the Colossus, putting in a couple Slayers’ Strongholds and Sacred Foundries would allow you to get in your opponent’s face before they have a chance to react (even if you have to wait a couple extra turns). Finally, if Burn is your big issue, Lone Missionary is going to give you that much-needed life-gain to survive until turn 5 or 6.

As for a sideboard, this is going to be majorly meta-dependant (as all sideboards are). Dispel is a great option against control decks that want to bounce/exile your Blightsteel Colossus at instant-speed. Stony Silence is good against the Robots match-up that doesn’t hurt you very much. I like a copy or two of Steel Sabotage in the sideboard as well, since it can bounce Grafdigger’s Cage (which will stop you dead) and other annoying artifacts while also being an option to save your Blightsteel Colossus in a dire situation. Annul and Erase are good choices for Bogles and control match-ups that use a lot of enchantments. Snapcaster Mage is a way to get some recursion on your spells (even if it’s a smidge on the pricier side). There are a few other options to consider but it does depend heavily on what you see at your local tournaments and stores, so experiment and discover what works for you.

Jay Edwards is an advocate for janky magic combos, and exploring fun and casual Magic ideas. When he’s not contributing columns to A Muse N Games.ca, he keeps himself busy as a Magic Judge. His new column, Tapping Cardboard, will appear here twice monthly so be sure to check it out!

THE MANA DORK — Using the Metagame Clock

by August 5, 2017

the mana dork metagame clock

Using the Metagame Clock

HOUR OF RED

Pro Tour Hour of Devastation is in the books, and we’ve got a second victory in a row for budget decks, which I’m tremendously happy to see.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s Ramunap Red list took down the tournament, with Ramunap Red decks as a whole forming five of the top eight and about 30% of the decks that made it to Day Two. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen budget-ish “Red Deck Wins“-style aggro decks with a presence in Standard — the last time was in 2015, that halcyon era before those $600-$800 four-colour ORI-BFZ decks. And, I mean, look at those prices. When was the last time you saw a sub-$200 deck Top Eight a Pro Tour?

As is tradition, Wizards works on a two-year timeline (roughly), and it looks like their efforts to make Standard more affordable — including the Masterpiece Series cards and seeding RDW cards and budget answers in the last few sets — are paying off.

Now if only they’d do a better job with the Planeswalker Decks

metagame clock clock of mens

USING THE METAGAME CLOCK

So, I had a problem in my Commander meta, and then I solved it, and the solution created more problems, so I’m solving those now, and since the minutiae of my life are fascinating to everyone I figured I’d share this process with you.

Specifically, I’m making use of the Metagame Clock to solve this issue, and the Metagame Clock is an important Magic concept that I haven’t talked about here which you may find useful.

So.

Most of the time, when I’m playing Commander with my friends outside the store, I’m playing with two folks who we’ll call Aggro and Control.

Aggro plays a variety of decks, but the main one is a terrifying Alesha re-animator. Aggro swings at you, and it hurts, and then Alesha pulls some card out of the graveyard that says “When this creature enters the battlefield, destroy target opponent’s hopes and dreams,” and then all my sunshine lollipops and rainbows are crushed and broken and Aggro’s still swinging because they dealt 21 commander damage to my will to live.

Control typically bounces between Kruphix and Sen Triplets, but even when they’re playing a Boros deck they still somehow find a commander that says “Pay 2 life: Search your library for target silver bullet and somehow have it in your opening hand, oh and also have like a million lands on the battlefield, how y’all doin’ “. And somehow those lands are never tapped when I’m T-minus two turns from winning the game.

If it is difficult to tell from my hyperbole, I was struggling.

Normally, I like to measure my success on any given Commander night by the number of times I threaten to win. Winning itself is difficult in Commander, with its 25% win percentage on average, but if I’m at least threatening to win in every game — if there’s a point at which only a counterspell or the right removal will stop me — and my opponents had a good time playing against me, I’m pretty happy.

(Take note of those two criteria for a successful game — 1. Threaten to win, and 2. Make sure my opponents have fun. We’ll come back to them later.)

But I wasn’t even doing that. I was durdling in the corner until someone else won. Or I was amassing a pretty great boardstate until someone dropped a wrath effect and then won. Or — and here is my great weakness — I was once again obsessed with making voltron work, and I’d build up to the point where I could one-shot Aggro or Control, and then the other one would play literally any bounce spell and I was done.

I was falling victim to the Metagame Clock.

The Metagame Clock (1, 2) is like Rock-Paper-Scissors, but for Magic: the Gathering strategies. (And many other games, too.)

If you don’t have the time to read those two linked articles in full — although I really do recommend them — the short version looks something like this: Aggro > Control > Combo > Aggro. When built well, aggro decks will generally beat control decks, control decks will generally beat combo decks, and combo decks will generally beat aggro decks.

I gave my friends those very apropos names for a reason — they’re super-apropos. I’m 90% certain Control develops a twitch in their left eyelid if they don’t have blue mana open, and while Aggro uses a variety of strategies that don’t always employ the battlefield, most of them involve me dying to damage in short order.

So I needed to pay attention to the Metagame Clock. If I wanted to have a decent shot at winning in a world of Aggro and Control, I needed to enter the dreaded realm… the realm of Combo.

metagame clock food chain

So I did.

I built those decks keeping in mind the points Douglas Buel makes in the first linked article above about playing multiple positions on the Metagame Clock. Apostlestorm is a combo deck… unless I’m playing against control, in which case I can tutor up Mirror Entity and go wide like an aggro deck. Food Chain Zegana is a combo deck… but if I see a lot of open blue mana, I can just pull out Rogue’s Passage or Thassa and make with the stomping. Volrath is a “combo” deck — I often one-shot people — but if conditions outside the City of Traitors aren’t favourable, I can bide my time discarding my opponents’ worst nightmares and then re-animating them. And so on, and so on.

And I began winning.

Now, I wasn’t winning all the time, but I was winning enough. More than enough. I was pleased with my new found success! Finally, a taste of sweet victory alongside these good times with my friends!

Right?

Right…?

Whenever I won, I noticed that the experience was… unsatisfying for Aggro and Control. Rarely was it a hard-fought battle full of counter-magic, steeled nerves, and tales to remember. Instead, I became something they were racing against. Can they amass enough resources and round the corner in time, or am I just going to pull out Drift of Phantasms into Food Chain and make infinite mana again?

And those were the good games. More often — too often — it was, “I cast Aetherflux Reservoir. Game 2?”

Not good. I mean, winning is good. But I’m not just here to win. That’s not what Commander is about. I’m here to have good times with my friends. And if my friends aren’t having good times, that’s not a win.

So, what’s the solution? I need to meet two criteria, remember — I should threaten to win, and I should make sure my opponents have fun. How do I do that while paying attention to the Metagame Clock and remaining in the world of Combo?

Metagame Clock primal surge

James LaPage presents four possible ways of dealing with this in his excellent Metaworker column “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor“. I had Tinker-Tailored my way into being a decent combo player in my meta. Soldiering now was unacceptable. Sailing, too — I like my friends! I needed to Tinker-Tailor my way into being more fun to play against.

The solution here is to find decks that still win the game, but allow for more counterplay and points of interaction. “Just winning” is boring. Successfully fighting through a hail of counter-magic, or being foiled by the perfect top-deck, my friend’s only hope — now that’s a story!

So I’m working on two decks now — a Marath, Will of the Wilds deck built around Primal Surge and Epic Struggle, and a Wydwen, the Biting Gale deck that will win with either Doomsday, or a bunch of Specters pecking you to death and discarding all your cards. These are still combos, but they require more of a battle to make work, and there’s plenty of ways Aggro, Control, and whomever else I play with can interact with them.

I’m not going to take apart my other decks — they’re at a power level and of archetypes that I’m happy with. But I think switching it up in this way will result in more fun for all.

This is a living column. I don’t know if this will work. But it sure seems like it might. And I wanted to share this process with you, because what I did here — look at my meta and then myself through the Metagame Clock and the Tinker/Tailor/Soldier/Sailor metric in a constant process of self-examination — is, I think, second only to open communication in its effectiveness at solving problems in one’s Magic life.

And that’s a fascinating thing, I think.

Metagame Clock Board Game Camp

ENOUGH NAVEL-GAZING, MACKENZIE, MAKE WITH THE EVENTS

Alright, alright!

First things first, the August board game camp is coming up. I spoke about how board games helped me in this column two weeks ago, but I can’t say enough — this is going to be a wonderful experience for your kid. Take a look at the program, talk to Scotia at scotia(at)amusengames.ca, I think you’ll like what you see.

Sunday is our Open Board Game Day and the Hour of Devastation League. If the hot crucible of competition isn’t to your liking, show up on Sunday and we’ll make sure you have a good time!

That’s it for now — see you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He may or may not still be inordinately proud of making “Apostlestorm” a real thing. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

Jank Forge: Boros Minimum Security

by July 28, 2017

The Jank Forge: Boros Minimum Security

Boros Minimum Security tapping cardboard jank forge

Welcome to the Jank Forge, a place where budget, odd, and undiscovered decks are made! Today, we’re going to have a look at a Modern deck that just recently got a new card as well as a severe price reduction in one of its key cards: Boros Minimum Security.

Non-creatures:
2x Chained to the Rock
4x Lightning Bolt
4x Path to Exile
4x Mana Tithe

Creatures:
2x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
2x Thalia, Heretic Cathar
4x Eidolon of Rhetoric
4x Leonin Arbiter
4x Ash Zealot
4x Harsh Mentor
4x Aven Mindcensor

Lands:
4x Sacred Foundry
2x Wooded Foothills
2x Windswept Heath
7x Mountain
7x Plains

The point of Boros Minimum Security is to slow down your opponent down and beat them down with your creatures. Now, with this mindset, there are a couple different uses for some of these cards that you might miss out on if you treat this like a traditional prison deck. It’s much more proactive than regular prison decks, so it’s more like a like a minimum security prison.

Boros Minimum Security thalia guardian thraben Boros Minimum Security thalia heretic cathar Boros Minimum Security ash zealot

The first change you’ll notice is that your creatures want to turn sideways every chance they can. Unlike other prison decks, this deck is meant to be very aggressive in its ground game. Cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Thalia, Heretic Cathar, Ash Zealot, and Aven Mindcensor are really great at combat and they can start hitting pretty hard if left unchecked. Eidolon of Rhetoric is also pretty great during the late game because it dodges a fair bit of removal like Lightning Bolt, Fatal Push (50% of the time) and Anger of the GodsSweltering Suns.

boros minimum security mana tithe

The other change you’ll notice is the rather slim pickings for non-creature spells on tap for this list. These spells are meant primarily for dealing with the creatures that aren’t dying in combat. Chained to the Rock may seem like an odd choice but it’s pretty great early game since you can tap out for a two-drop then get rid of your opponent’s two-or-three-drop on your turn. It is also an awesome top-deck later on since it won’t give your opponent a land which would help thin out their deck. Finally, Mana Tithe is an amazing trick that will throw your opponent off their game because they won’t be expecting it.

Now, let’s talk sideboard. As with any deck, the final sideboard is going to be highly dependent on what is present in your metagame, but I can provide some decent suggestions. For the token match-ups, you’ll probably want to swap the Chained to the Rocks with either Anger of the Gods or Sweltering Suns (I personally prefer the latter). Burn matches will probably make you want to make a similar choice, but swapping for Boros Reckoners instead. Dryad Militants can come in against Storm decks to back up your Eidolons and Zealots. Grafdigger’s Cage is a must against the dreaded Dredge match-ups, as can Watchers of the Dead if you want more creatures. Finally, Affinity already hates Mentors, but you can back that up with either By Force or Abrade (which doesn’t get as much love as it should).

Jay Edwards is an advocate for janky magic combos, and exploring fun and casual Magic ideas. When he’s not contributing columns to A Muse N Games.ca, he keeps himself busy as a Magic Judge. His new column, Tapping Cardboard, will appear here twice monthly so be sure to check it out!

THE MANA DORK SPECIAL EDITION – The Young Dork

by July 19, 2017

young dork

THE YOUNG DORK

I remember sitting at the kitchen table, staring down at the hexes in wonder.

young dork catan 1

Each hex was a colourful landscape — a mountain, a sea, a green field like the one outside my house, a yellow field like the ones outside the city.

My father was dropping little discs with numbers onto the hexes. 5, 3, 2, 9, even a 12.

“What do the dots underneath the numbers mean?”

“How likely those numbers will come up,” my dad replied. “How many ways are there to make 2 with two six-sided dice?”

I thought for a moment, “Just one, right? With 1 and 1.”

“Good job!” he said, punching me lightly in the shoulder. “Now how many ways are there to make 8 with two dice?”

This was harder. 4 and 4, 5 and 3, 6 and 2, 7 and… wait, there wasn’t a 7 on a six-sided die! And then you had to work it the other way around, for the other die. so 2 and 6, 3 and 5, 4 and 4…

“Six!” I cried.

He nodded, smiling. He was separating out the components for each player now. It would be a while before we had plastic bags for each player’s starting components.

“But the 6s and 8s only have five dots underneath them. Shouldn’t they have six?”

He looked at the numbered discs with the universal expression of a parent who’s just been asked one of Those Questions. “I think it’s just a probability thing,” he said. “Like a ranking.”

“Oh. Okay!”

young dork catan 2

He placed a bunch of roads, houses, and cities in front of me. Small, brightly-painted wooden bits where, in my mind, hundreds of tiny people were playing out lives of commerce and exploration.

“Now, where should you put your settlements to start?”

“12!”

“Why is that?”

“It’s the highest number?”

I knew I was wrong when he shook his head. /p>

“Look at the board. You’ll get resources from the board when you roll the dice and the numbers come up. You can only get resources from hexes your settlements are next to.”

I looked at the board.

“Is that why the 6s and 8s are red and have the most dots? They’re the most important because they come up the most often?”

“Yup! Well, they don’t come up the most often. 7 comes up the most often.”

I started working that one out. 4 and 3, 3 and 4, 5 and 2, 2 and 5… and then I interrupted myself.

“But there’s no hex with a 7.”

“When you roll the 7, you move the Robber,” he said, placing a dark figure on a hex full of sand dunes. “The Robber shuts down a hex and you get to steal a resource from somebody else.”

“That seems mean.”

He nodded, with a slight shrug. “It’s just a way to represent bad luck. Bad luck happens to everyone. But you don’t have to put the Robber on a hex next to somebody. You can just put it somewhere else if you want.”

(Which I would do for years afterwards when I hadn’t previously been Robber’d, but that’s beside the point.)

“What is this?” I asked, holding up a cardboard card.

He looked over. “That shows you what you can build. And what you need to build it.”

I started reading. And calculating. Roads cost one brick and one lumber, so I needed to make sure I was near hills and forests, but cities gave more Victory Points, and they needed ore and grain (but why three grain? Were they building thatched roofs? Why are there more roofs than walls?), so I had to make sure I was near those, too, but the 6s aren’t near there, which meant probabilities were lower, so should I pick a corner with a 5 and 3 and the resources I want over a corner with a 6 and 2 with resources I could trade? And, and…

And then followed a lifetime of board gaming.

IF YOU’RE WONDERING WHY I SHARED THIS STORY…

A Muse N Games is running two boardgame camps this summer, for kids ages 9-12. The first one is running right now, but registration is still open for the second one, August 21-25. For $125, your kid gets five days of boardgames, RPGs, arts and crafts, snacks, and more, all supervised by experienced teachers.

It’s something I wish I had when I was younger. Boardgames, along with D&D and Magic, helped a lot with my reading and math skills. It meant I never really minded mental math problems or difficult chapters in my school work since I had already handled much tougher stuff trying to beat my dad in Catan or The Great Dalmuti or miniatures games or whatever else came our way. And they were just fun.

young dork kids

I can’t recommend or support it enough. If you’re interested, drop by the store or e-mail Scotia at scotia(at)amusengames.ca for more information!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic (most of the time).

Judgement Day: Kamigawa Block

by July 15, 2017

kamigawa block tapping cardboard

Judgement Day – Kamigawa Block

Welcome to Judgement Day; a series of articles that looks at popular opinions within the Magic community and finds out if they are rooted in fact or simply mass hysteria. Today, we’re going to look at a fairly easy target: was Kamigawa block as terrible as everyone thinks it was?

kamigawa block champions kamigawa block betrayers kamigawa block saviors

For those who weren’t around then, Kamigawa block was a block set on the Japanese-inspired plane of the same name. Story-wise, it focused on the heroics of a band of characters trying to stop the end of the world at the hands of an angry spirit dragon who was trying to get his baby back from an old man’s mirror (it makes more sense if explained in more detail but that’s not what we’re here for).

With themes of Spirits, Arcane spells, and tons of legendary creatures, Kamigawa came in during a very interesting time for Standard. It came in just after the notoriously degenerate Mirrodin and at a time when Magic was fast and heavy. It was then followed up by the Ravnica block, which focused heavily on multicolour play, something that the Kamigawa block lacked. In general, players didn’t like the higher cost and lower impact of the cards in Kamigawa block, but that’s not to say that the entire block was a write-off.

kamigawa block kabuto moth

First, we’ll look at Kamigawa block the way it was first introduced to most players: Limited. The Limited format for Kamigawa was kind of like a so-called “battleship Magic” meta, but without the battleships. Almost everything cost more than what most players are used to. Want a 1/2 flyer that can tap to give +1/+2 to a creature? That’ll be 3 mana for Kabuto Moth please. Want to destroy a land? You’ll need 5 mana for Feast of Worms. How about Unsummon? Consuming Vortex is just like that, except it costs twice as much (quadruple if you splice). Now, you may be thinking that this sounds like a bad time for everyone and, it kind of is if you have the wrong mindset. If you went into Kamigawa Limited expecting the same experience as Mirrodin Limited, you were going to be very disappointed and I think that that initial disappointment is part of the reason that Kamigawa gets such a bad rap for its Limited environment. It had a lot of solid, albeit insular, mechanics such as Arcane and Spirits and it is a generally fun time.

For Standard at the time, Kamigawa had some pretty solid additions as well. Katsuhiro Mori drove his Ghazi-Glare deck to win the 2005 World Championship and a good section of it was from Kamigawa. Another popular deck was UG Meloku control, which was mostly Kamigawa as well. Finally, there was the rise of Owling Mine near the end of the block’s time in Standard, which was also a popular deck that relied a fair bit on cards from the block. So, despite being so reviled, Kamigawa gave rise to a bunch of popular decks that some still have a fondness for even now.

kamigawa block ebony owl netsuke

Finally, let’s look at the lasting impact the Kamigawa block has had on the Eternal formats. There are so many cards that have become staples in one way or another that it wouldn’t be possible to make them all into one list without going on for too long and making my editor hate me. To start, we have a card that’s so good it’s either been banned or there are calls for it to be banned in every format: Sensei’s Diving Top. It made such an impact on Legacy that its recent banning killed one of the top tier decks when it left. Then there’s Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker also has powerful decks built around him, as does Glimpse of Nature and Azusa, Lost but Seeking. Several popular hate cards were introduced in this block as well, with the likes of Pithing Needle, Kataki, War’s Wage, and Threads of Disloyalty first seeing print here. Finally, Commander got a bunch of staple cards from this block, just a few of them being: Azami, Lady of Scrolls, Ink-Eyes, Servant of Oni, Time of Need, Hero’s Demise, Minamo, School at Water’s Edge, and Mikokoro, Center of the Sea.

I feel like Kamigawa block has gotten a much worse reputation than it deserves. I think that if it had been released at a different time, it would have gotten much more love. It’s only crime is that it got stuck in the middle of two very powerful blocks and it was just “good”. It was the peanut butter in a ham sandwich; great somewhere else, but bad in the place it was put.

If you’re looking to try out any Kamigawa block cards you can do so on Mondays at 7:00 pm at the store or try out some Commander during our Friday Night Magic at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm. Legacy might be your jam and we will be hosting a Magic Legacy Quarterly with 100% of the entries paid out in store credit.

Jay Edwards is an advocate for janky magic combos, and exploring fun and casual Magic ideas. When he’s not contributing columns to A Muse N Games.ca, he keeps himself busy as a Magic Judge. His new column, Tapping Cardboard, will appear here twice monthly so be sure to check it out!

Tapping Cardboard: Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems

by July 7, 2017

hour of devastation hidden gems tapping cardboard

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems

Now that the Hour of Devastation is upon us, everyone is getting hyped about the obvious cards like The Locust God, Kefnet’s Last Word, and Liliana’s Defeat.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Locust God Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Kefnet's Last Word Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Liliana's Defeat

While those cards are getting all the hype, a bunch of cool cards are getting thrown by the wayside. Let’s have an Hour of Revelation *wink* and look at some underappreciated cards that might prove to be Hour of Devastation hidden gems.

Back in M14, there was an uncommon that was alright in draft and completely ignored outside of that. If only we could have glimpsed this set back then and seen that there was going to eventually be a better version. First up on the list, we have Strategic Planning!

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Strategic Planning

To start, I’m going to state that this card is no replacement for Anticipate, but it doesn’t need to be nor was it built with that in mind. Anticipate goes in the control-type shells, the ones that need to respond to threats at instant speed. Strategic Planning goes into graveyard-based decks that were missing a way to put things in their graveyard without sacrificing an important card that they needed in hand. With Embalm and Eternalize being decent mechanics and some reanimation shenanigans existing in Standard and Limited, this card will probably find some sort of home in both formats. The one downside, for now, is that Contingency Plan does the job better, but it’s cool to know that a decent replacement will cover that spot after rotation.

Before the Hour of Glory, the lessons of the trials were sometimes painful. Afterwards, they became much dourer. Next on the list of Hour of Devastation hidden gems: Tragic Lesson.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Tragic Lesson

The obvious comparisons in Standard right now is with Pull From Tomorrow, although this is more like Pull From Later Today since it doesn’t scale, and Catalog, which just isn’t very good. That being said, however, this can be hit by Torrential Gearhulk, which is something that some players may seriously take into consideration when updating their decks. This also doesn’t force a discard if you don’t want to or have a land with an ETB trigger (like Sunscorched Desert or Sandstone Bridge). Will this change the format? No, but it’s a good option for a few decks that like a couple extra cards in hand but don’t want to spend a lot to do that.

Everyone now knows about the three new gods of the plane, but there is a hidden fourth god. One that unseats a legend of the game and has so far flown under the radar. Hour of Devastation hidden gems number three: River Hoopoe, Usurper of Storm Crow.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems River Hoopoe

Outside of being an upgrade to the iconic Storm Crow, this little bird is just great on its own. Early game, it’s an annoying flyer that can sneak in some damage or chump some smaller creatures. Late game, it provides a great mana sink that can easily help turn a game around. This little card will make a bigger impact on Standard than I think many people are giving it credit. I wouldn’t be surprised to see this card around a few FNM tables in the coming weeks.

Casting a good creature is a sure-fire way to win a game of Magic. If that’s the case, casting the same creature card multiple times must win you the game faster, right? That must have been the logic behind giving us this next card, again. Our fourth on the list Hour of Devastation hidden gems: Unsummon.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Unsummon

For those of you how never played when Unsummon was in Standard prior to this, it’s kind of annoying. It’s a single mana to throw off your entire tempo game plan if it is dropped early enough. Trust me, dropping a one-drop just to have it bounced back to your hand immediately is not fun at all. On the other side of the spell, it’s a great way to instantly restrict an opponent and force them to play the game at your pace. I can hear a lot of people saying “but Select for Inspection and Clutch of Currents exist and they don’t see play!”. Well, this hits any creature at any time, which is a marked upgrade from both of those cards. If you’re lacking some cheap removal, this is a great option.

There now exists a card no one asked for and nobody seems to want. A non-lord lord for a tribe that barely exists that has the whole community mocking it. Finally on our list of Hour of Devastation hidden gems: Crested Sunmare.

Hour of Devastation Hidden Gems Crested Sunmare

Ignore the fact that it says “Horse” anywhere on this card for a second as well as the entire first line. What we’re left with is a 5/5 for 5 that makes 5/5s if you gain life and that’s pretty dang good on its own. Just throw this in with any lifelinking creatures (looking at you Sacred Cat) and you’ve got yourself a pretty neat little engine. If only there is a creature that could make this even better… oh wait! Kambal! That’s a thing, right? And there’s Authority of the Consuls too! Hmm… This sounds like a deck in the making…

Orzhov Horse-Based Lifegain

Sorceries/Instants:
4 Authority of the Consuls
3 Blessed Alliance
3 Fumigate
4 Never / Return

Creatures:
3 Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim
4 Crested Sunmare
4 Gifted Aetherborn
3 Kambal, Consul of Allocation
4 Lone Rider
4 Sacred Cat

Lands:
2 Blighted Steppe
2 Concealed Courtyard
2 Shambling Vent
12 Plains
6 Swamp

Sideboard:
2 Drana’s Emissary
2 Fatal Push
2 Felidar Sovereign
1 Fumigate
2 Grind / Dust
3 Harsh Scrutiny
3 Scarab Feast

And those are some of the hidden gems within the Hour of Devastation! If you have any comments or suggestions for future articles, or if you want some help with a deck idea, feel free to email me at deckdesignsbyjay(at)shaw.ca!

There is still time to register for our Hour of Devastation prerelease at Midnight, Noon, or 5:00 pm on Saturday, July 8 or 6:00 pm on Sunday, July 9. You can do so online or in-store!

Jay Edwards is an advocate for janky magic combos, and exploring fun and casual Magic ideas. When he’s not contributing columns to A Muse N Games.ca, he keeps himself busy as a Magic Judge. His new column, Tapping Cardboard, will appear here twice monthly so be sure to check it out!

THE MANA DORK – Magic Announcement Week, Literally Everything Amazing Ever

by June 21, 2017

This last week was Magic Announcement Week, where Wizards of the Coast announced the next six months or so of products — including the initial celebrations for Magic’s 25th anniversary next year! And, holy crap, was there a lot of stuff announced!

Magic Announcement Week The Mana Dork

Magic Announcement Week also featured some news for how Magic releases will change starting in 2018, as well as a new Banned & Restricted announcement. So let’s have at ‘er!

Magic Announcement Week Pithing Needle
IT’S THE CORE NECESSITIES, THE SIMPLE CORE NECESSITIES

First things first: core sets are coming back!

In his column last week about the Magic Announcement Week, Magic head designer Mark Rosewater announced that core sets will be making a return, starting with what is currently called “Core 2019” next year. He explains that they serve a vital purpose in Magic — they’re a home for everything useful in Standard that’s difficult to reprint in Standard-series expansions, like generic answers, and creatures that can give decks new life. He also says they’ll be revamped significantly — although just what that means is up in the air.

He also explains that small sets, as well as the concept of blocks, will be going away — instead, Magic will simply do three large sets a year, plus Core sets. He says that small sets unnecessarily complicated draft environments, and that they were always less popular than drafting 3x of a large set.

Personally, I’m a fan of all of this. While I loved two-set blocks for how quickly they pushed us through environments, never feeling boring or dull, I think that going to a “Three-and-One” model will chew up design space less quickly, and give more of what more players want more of more often. It should be tremendous fun, and I can’t wait.

Magic Announcement Week Treasure Trove
UNTAP, UPKEEP, NEW UN-SET

Plus a whole slew of other new products were announced during Magic Announcement Week! You ready? Deep breath:

  • August 25, 2017: Commander 2017
  • September 29, 2017: Ixalan
  • November 10, 2017: Duel Deck: Merfolk v Goblins
  • November 17, 2017: Iconic Masters
  • November 24, 2017: Explorers of Ixalan, From the Vault: Transform
  • December 8, 2017: Unstable
  • January 19, 2018: Rivals of Ixalan
  • March 16, 2018: Masters 25
  • April 27, 2018: Dominaria
  • July 20, 2018: Core 2019

To explain some of these: Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan are the two sets in Ixalan block, featuring pirates battling dinosaurs. (You heard me right.) Iconic Masters is a Masters set built around “iconic” things in Magic — speculation is rampant, but it’s quite likely we’ll see cool angels, sphinxes, demons, dragons, and hydra. Explorers of Ixalan is a new boardgame-like product featuring four pre-constructed decks (zero new cards) and game tiles of some kind; Unstable is a new Un-set (!!!), Masters 25 is an as-yet-unexplained Masters set that celebrates 25 years of Magic history, Dominaria is a new large set that sees the game return to its first and largest setting after more than a decade (!!!!!), and Core 2019 has been explained above.

To say I’m excited would be an understatement… but I think the absolute best coming out of Magic Announcement Week might be the new Un-set. For those who might be newer to the game, there were two previous Un-sets — Unglued and Unhinged — where Magic took itself less seriously and released entire sets full of comedy cards. Who could forget classics like Hurloon Wrangler, Jalum Grifter, My First Tome, Greater Morphling, and Un-all star Cheatyface? And now you’re telling me there’s going to be a new one? Holy! The hardest part is going to be avoiding spoilers!

Magic Announcement Week Aetherworks Marvel

A MARVEL-OUS DEVELOPMENT

Just a quick note on this one — for those of you who were wary of a Standard where the best card won you the game on a coin flip, Wizards has taken the still-unusual step of banning Aetherworks Marvel from the format. Temur Energy builds will still be a thing, doubtless, but they will no longer feature Marvel spins in an attempt to find Ulamog or an expensive Planeswalker.

… which of course means that the format is now wide open, and you should absolutely be bringing your brews to test at our Tuesday Standard nights!

Magic Announcement Week Dueling Grounds

AMONKHET SOME LEAGUE GAMES IN

Before I let you all go, I have to shout out Amonkhet League Part 2 at the store. Seriously, to whoever came up with the League format: thank you.

By now, you’re at least a little familiar with the way League works: buy 3 boosters, build a 30-card deck, add a booster every week and/or every 3rd loss, play whenever there are League folks around.

But what a simple description doesn’t capture is just how joyful it is to play with what you bought in boosters. It brings me back to childhood kitchen-table Magic, where you’re just trying to jam this cool rare you found and win some games with it. No watching the metagame, no buying expensive singles, no $15 or $30 outlay every week — just boosters and hanging out.

And speaking of which, the atmosphere for League at the store is fantastic. If you’ve always been intimidated by Draft or Sealed play, League is just right for you — everyone is relaxed and willing to help. Cannot recommend it enough.

There’s just one week left for Amonkhet League Part 2, so if you’re going to jump in, do it this Sunday!

BEST CAMP EVER!

We’ve got a slew of things coming up at the store — regional championships for A Game of Thrones, Monthly Game Day, and Hour of Devastation pre-releases — but I have to, have to, have to plug the incredible Board Game Camps being offered this summer.

The camps will be on at the store July 17-21 and August 21-25, from 1 PM to 5 PM. For $125, your gamers-in-training will get five days of supervised board games, RPGs, arts and crafts, and a snack! (I’m jealous. Can you tell? I’m actually jealous I’m not a kid right now.)

There are 10 slots available per camp, so register now! If you register before June 30 for the July camp, or before July 15 for the August camp, you’ll get a $25 gift certificate for use in the store!

See you there!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games who was clearly born too early. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!

THE MANA DORK—Tools of the Trade: EDHREC

by June 3, 2017

We’re in a bit of a lull here at the Mana Dork—we’re working on the Amonkhet Planeswalker Deck Challenge behind the scenes, and Amonkhet League 2 launches this weekend—so for today, I figured I’d take the time to walk you guys through one of the tools I use when building EDH decks!

Wizards maintains an official database for every Magic card ever printed, called Gatherer. But Gatherer has a few drawbacks. Among other things, you can’t find out what other people are using in their decks—you can’t build off of the collected wisdom of the online EDH community.

That’s what EDHREC is great at.

EDHREC analyzes decks that have been posted to TappedOut or DeckStats to find out which cards people are using with which commanders. It then aggregates all that data into a set of card suggestions for that commander.

In plain language, EDHREC tells you what the most popular cards are for any given commander or it can tell you which commanders work best with a certain card.

What this does is provide you with a ready-made list of suggestions for the latest legendary creature that has caught your eye, stretching all the way back to the beginning of the game!

To see how it works, let’s look Athreos, God of Passage, the commander for a deck I’ve spent a lot of time tuning lately, my Athreos Apostles combo list.

The first thing that comes up are “signature” cards for Athreos—cards that are used for Athreos more than any other BW commander.

These are useful for most builds of Athreos—you’ll probably be sacrificing or blocking often, since you’re likely to get your creatures back, so Harvester of Souls and Dictate of Erebos are fine choices for any build.

But we want to go deeper. Let’s filter Athreos lists by Shadowborn Apostle—this lets us only see suggestions from lists that feature everyone’s favourite token non-token creature:

Nice! This is handy!

But let’s go one step further. My Athreos Apostles list combos off with Thrumming Stone—what if we only look at lists that have both Apostles and Thrumming Stone?

Helloooo, what’s this?

We’ve found a card that I don’t currently have on my list. Secret Salvage. And it’s in 100% of the decks that have both Apostles and Stone? Surprising!

Secret Salvage came out in Aether Revolt, and I initially dismissed it. Because my deck relies on leaving as many Apostles in my library as possible when I combo off, I don’t really want more than one or two in my hand at any given time. And paying five mana to get a whole bunch in my hand seemed… steep.

But I missed a key turn of phrase: “any number of cards”.

I don’t have to fetch all 34 Apostles with Secret Salvage if I don’t want to (and by the way, you should play Magic with 34 copies of the same nonland permanent any chance you get, it’s amazing—I also recommend Relentless Rats!). I can fetch just enough to make sure my hand has some gas when I hit the combo turn.

Five mana is still steep, but if I’m sitting there with six lands and thumbs a-twiddle while everyone else is Doing Things™, it’ll seem a fine price to pay.

TRIBAL DECKS

But that’s not EDHREC’s only trick. It’s got a couple more up its sleeve.

If you love tribal decks—and who doesn’t?—EDHREC has a section that aggregates data for tribes instead of individual commanders.

This can be extremely handy if you’re actually me in real life and you’ve spent literal days hitting EDHREC’s “Random” button to find an interesting general. Who cares about the general? Build a tribe! I have elves on the docket, I think, and I’m definitely going to be visiting EDHREC’s Elves page for ideas while I build it!

CUSTOM SUGGESTIONS

Here’s EDHREC’s most impressive trick, though—suggestions customized specifically for your list.

What you see above are EDHREC’s suggestions for my Athreos Apostles list. As you can see, most of them are about improving the mana base—and rightly so, since I haven’t put a lot of the fancier lands in my deck. (If you’ll recall, I’m a big advocate of basic lands.) But if I want some consistency—which I do, because a combo deck requires consistency—I should definitely consider it.

Custom suggestions will only work once you’ve uploaded a decklist to TappedOut.net or DeckStats—I recommend the former—but once you’ve done so, it will be a tremendous help.

HOLY CRAP I WANT TO SEE A MAGIC DECK WITH 34 OF SOMETHING, WHEN ARE YOU AT THE STORE

I’m glad you asked!

In the world of Magic, I’ll be there this Sunday for the kickoff of Amonkhet League Part 2. It’s all the fun of kitchen-table Magic with all the new friends you make from organized play! Buy in for $20 any time in the next few weeks, play League games with other League players any time you’re in the store, and earn special prizes!

If Magic’s not your agenda, make sure you swing by for the Netrunner Regional Championships on June 10th! AMNG has a great Netrunner community that provides some stiff competition when the cards are shuffled up, so it should be a great time!

And finally, AMNG is also running a special Father’s Day Ticket to Ride Tournament on Sunday June 18—and if you’re lucky, you may even be able to meet the illustrious Mana Dork the Elder while you’re there!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He is probably going to get thoroughly crushed at Ticket to Ride. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

THE MANA DORK – Native Planeswalkers and Legendary Creatures

by May 17, 2017
Native Planeswalkers and Legendary Creatures

Well, that’s a wrap! Pro Tour Amonkhet is in the books, and surprising absolutely nobody, Mono-Black Zombies won the whole wait whaaaaaaaaaat

It’s true, though. Gerry Thompson, rocking his sweet Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 sleeves and deckbox, piloted this list to his first-ever Pro Tour win. No Gideons, no planeswalkers at all in the mainboard — and speaking of which, his entire mainboard consisted of cards that were $6 or less per copy when Amonkhet released! He cruised through much more expensive decks, the sheer consistency of his zombs swarming over Temurworks Marvel and Mardu Vehicles lists with ease.

It was refreshing to see. Pricy, greedy combo decks have been running the tables in Standard play for the last few months (though thankfully we still saw a LOT of creative homebrews at the store!), so having a traditional, inexpensive aggro list take Pro Tour Amonkhet says a lot, I think, about the viability of new brews, and how you can win an event without reducing your wallet to weeping openly and listening to “Hide and Seek” on repeat.

I mean, like, it’s a great song. But I’ve definitely heard Imogen Heap singing in the back of my head when I looked at the price on some of those four-colour Saheeli combos and older Mardu Vehicles lists.
Mmm, what’d you say?
Mmm, that you only meant well
Well, of course you did
Mmm, what’d you say?
Mmm, that it’s all for the best…
Anyway.
– – –
So, I have a question. Why do so many players want to see “native planeswalkers” in each new Magic set?
 

It puzzles me. “Native planeswalker” is an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms. If you’re going to define a character by their ability to hop dimensions and bend the fabric of space-time, why stick them at home? We should see them when they’re out exploring the Multiverse. We should see weird characters we don’t understand yet, faces and abilities that are a gateway to more mystery.
But lately, what we’ve seen — and here’s the part that I don’t understand, what I see people asking for — are a series of homebodies.
Beginning from the Magic Origins reboot and ignoring planeswalkers who existed previously, we’ve met Arlinn Kord on Innistrad, and Saheeli Rai and Dovin Baan on Kaladesh. “Native planeswalkers”… who could have done their jobs just as well if they were legendary creatures.
(Notably, neither Arlinn nor Saheeli leave their planes at all during the course of their stories. They are “planeswalkers” who do not planeswalk even once! Heck, Rashmi did more planeswalking than Saheeli did, inside the Planar Bridge!)
Now, I love their design as characters. Arlinn is a powerful and bad-ass older woman, Saheeli is a charming and daring inventor, and my feelings about Dovin Baan have been mentioned previously. I am glad they are here, and I am happy to see what they have brought to Magic’s stories.
But to be honest, though, they could have been legendary creatures and done largely the same thing. And we could have had more space for weird and fascinating planeswalkers from other worlds, walking previews of Magic’s future with a face and name.
Like Ashiok.

Ashiok is a perfect example of what I’m talking about, perhaps the most recent perfect example. Ashiok doesn’t even have a face. It’s just smoke, and horns, and nightmares, and what happened to my library oh Ugin no no NONONO —

Ashiok is mystery. And terror, in this case. Ashiok saw play in many Standard lists of its era. Ashiok is a perfect hook for a future world (“What do we know about this place? … Ashiok is from here? Welp, I’m scared now…”). Ashiok simply existing is exciting, because it represents so much that we do not know about the wide, wide Multiverse.

Ashiok is exactly what I think a planeswalker should be.

I’m not just concerned about planeswalkers, though. I’m also concerned about what the desire for “native planeswalkers” has meant for legendary creatures.

Starting again from the Origins reboot and skipping the Eldrazi Titans for now, most of the legendary creatures we’ve seen have been side characters, also-rans, and supporting cast members. The “mentor” cycle in Origins, Zada and Jori En and Noyan Dar on Zendikar, Thalia and Odric and the twins on Innistrad, and so on. The only legendary creatures here who I think got an appropriate story treatment are Rashmi and Baral, both on Kaladesh.

It used to be that legendary creatures were the pushed, center-stage, face-on-the-poster chase cards everybody got excited about. The cards that changed the game. Back in the day, I saw people get hyped for Kamahl, and Phage, and Bladewing the Risen the way they now get hyped for non-Origins-5 planeswalkers.

(Quick note: “pushed” is slang for “a card Wizards has deliberately made very strong for its mana cost in order to help ensure it sees play in high-level tournaments”. Taken from “pushing the envelope”.)

These days, legendary creatures largely exist as nods to us Commander players, and hooks for the occasional short story. Rarely do they break into the Top 8 of Pro Tours.

Why has this changed? Why did it have to?

Look at Ulamog up there. Perfect example of what I think legendary creatures should be doing in Magic. Perhaps a divisive example, as not everybody is a fan of the Eldrazi Titans, but nevertheless perfect for this discussion.

In Ulamog we see a very pushed legendary creature present in many top-level lists as a game-ending all-star. The Temurworks Marvel lists from Pro Tour Amonkhet often used Ulamog to finish games. You are scared when Ulamog comes down, as so very little in Standard can answer it.

And critically, people opened Battle for Zendikar boosters looking for Ulamog. Others bought and will buy Ulamog as a single — which is much more profitable for the LGSes that keep the game alive. Ulamog drives sales and thus makes the game healthier as a whole. And it does so without having loyalty abilities.

Ulamog is exactly what I think a legendary creature should be — or, perhaps more clearly, Ulamog is performing the mechanical and marketing functions I think a legendary creature should perform. (Maybe we don’t need 10/10 indestructibles for 10 with two removal spells as a cast trigger all the time. But you get what I’m saying.)

This is getting lengthy, so I’ll cut to the chase cards.

I think those mystifying calls for “native” planeswalkers are the result of two things: Wizards putting an enormous spotlight on planeswalkers, and players subconsciously treating ‘walkers the same way they used to treat legends because of that spotlight.

I think this is compounded by the regular presence of pushed Gatewatch planeswalkers in Standard. People will naturally want to see characters from new planes mixing it up with Chandra, Jace, and the rest. As a result, we have players calling for “native planeswalkers” that could just as well be legendary creatures, simply because planeswalkers are the most pushed card type and people want new things.

I think this is why we’ve been seeing so many Standard environments where Gerry Thompson’s ‘walker-less maindeck is a notable aberration, rather than a regular sight.

I think the game would be improved if we used some mechanical strength and some marketing muscle on legends more often. Legends can serve as the face of a set just as well as planeswalkers, they can carry just as much of the story and key-art load on their shoulders, they have the same uniqueness drawback — and importantly, they can free up space for more interesting and creative planeswalker designs, since the ‘walkers no longer have to do as much work selling the set.

… and for the sake of maintaining my credibility throughout the above arguments, we shall ignore the amount of time I’ve spent in previous columns gushing about Commander, because I’m not biased at all. Never. Nope. Nuh-uh. Pure, unbiased journalism and punditry right here, folks. The Mana Dork — Your Trusted Source For Reasonable Magic Opinions.

Please?


OKAY FINE, MAYBE I AM BIASED, BUT AT LEAST YOU HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO HUMBLE ME FOR IT AT THE FOLLOWING STORE EVENTS

On the Magic side of things, Amonkhet Game Day is this weekend! We’ll have events on both Saturday and Sunday, with registration at 11 AM, gameplay at noon, and prizes for participation, Top 8, and winning the whole thing. Come on down!

As well, the GPT Farewell Tour is coming to a close, with just three events left — GPT Vegas Limited on Friday May 26, GPT Vegas Modern on Sunday May 28, and a final GPT Vegas Limited on Friday June 2. These will be your last chances to earn byes for GPT Vegas and win our sweet GPT Farewell Tour playmat, so make sure you sign up!

Outside of Magic, we’ve got the Netrunner Regional Championships on Saturday June 10, the Star Wars 40th Anniversary X-Wing Tournament on Sunday June 11, and a special Father’s Day Ticket to Ride Tournament on Sunday June 18!

There’s tons of stuff happening at the store — we’d love to see you there!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. He’s actually super-biased, don’t believe what he wrote up there. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column about all things Magic!

THE MANA DORK — The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Conclusion

by May 7, 2017

The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Conclusion

“What possible circumstances could render these draconian measures necessary?”
— Dovin Baan

We took a bit of a break for Amonkhet’s release (and a couple of soapbox moments), but we’re back with the final installment of the Aether Revolt Planeswalker Deck Challenge.

Here’s the idea: I believe that the Planeswalker Decks, as currently constructed, are a solid product with which to introduce new players to Magic… but they could be so much better. They could be built with more competitive cards, greater synergy, and an eye towards a strategy that better fits one of Magic’s established deck archetypes, rather than simply featuring a mechanic from the newest set.

For my first step in testing this out, I competed with the Ajani Planeswalker Deck in Aether Revolt Game Day at A Muse N Games, using only the contents of the deck and included boosters. I posted a result of 1-3 — with my single round win coming as a result of facing off against a homebrewed combo deck that was intimidating in function, but failed to fire in the games we played. While the result looks good on paper, I felt incredibly outclassed on the battlefield, as my Silkweaver Elites regularly went up against Torrential Gearhulks and Winding Constrictors.

I then brewed a Dovin Baan-themed deck, following all of the rules both formal and informal that Wizards follows with their Planeswalker Decks — with the exception that I would include many more complete playsets, and did not have access to the unique commons, uncommons, and rares that proper Planeswalker Decks come with.

Finally, I competed in a Tuesday Night Standard event at A Muse N Games with the Dovin Baan deck.

So, how did I do?

ROUND 1: TEMUR TOWER
My first match-up was against “the saviour of Standard”. Temur Tower decks were posting some good results in competitive events, breaking into the well-established two-deck metagame of Mardu Vehicles and Copy Cat combos. How was my pure control deck going to do against a more modern, midrange-y, value-based control deck?

It began in tension. We played land drops and Shielded Aether Thieves, and eyed the battlefield warily from behind our carefully-sculpted hands. I was digging hard for an Aetherstorm Roc or a Long-Finned Skywhale, something that would let me go over the top of their defenders. They were digging hard for a Dynavolt Tower so that their deck could come online.

I hit their first Dynavolt Tower with an Ice Over… and promptly realized the weakness of the card. Ice Over doesn’t actually tap down the permanent it enchants, nor does it prevent triggered abilities (or some activated abilities) from happening. Not only would my opponent get at least one use out of an Iced Over Dynavolt Tower that was untapped, it would continue to build energy for them.

After a long, hard battle, they eventually won off of activations from their second Dynavolt Tower. I had taken them nearly to time, however, with a bare handful of minutes left for Game 2… which they won quickly with a couple of early manlands.

Round Record: 0-1. Games Record: 0-2. (I’m a Hedron Crab!)

ROUND 2: GREEN-BLACK CHITTERING HOST

“Dude, what is this? You won a Standard event the other night with RW Dwarves! You broke the metagame! Why aren’t you playing that now?” — a passersby, to my opponent

“Man, I just wanted to play with Chittering Host. Chittering Host is cool.” — my opponent

My opponent was not wrong. Chittering Host is indeed cool. It is also… menacing… to face off against. There were some minor delirium synergies in the deck, but at its core, this was a classic “Rock”-style deck that swarmed the board with small creatures and sought to resolve a Chittering Host for an alpha strike.

Game 1 saw me hold off some of their beaters with a couple of early Shielded Aether Thieves (seriously, those guys are bros), until I eventually — finally! — resolved a Skywhale and protected it. I ground out the win by flying over the top with the Skywhale and clogging up the ground with Aether Thieves and various answers.

Unfortunately, I would make a critical mistake in Game 2. I was beating down again with a Skywhale and had a Baral’s Expertise in hand, while their board grew and grew and grew. Nervous, I cast the Expertise to bounce a couple of tokens and value creatures… and not the Westvale Abbey that had been sitting on my opponent’s side of the battlefield since Turn 3 or so. They recast some small creatures, sacrificed their board, and immediately began swinging with Ormendahl, Profane Prince for the game.

Game 3 ended with another critical mistake on my part — I kept a greedy hand instead of mulliganing it away. Chittering Host chittered all over my cold, dead bones in short order.

Round Record: 0-2. Games Record: 1-4. (I’m a Calcite Snapper!)
 

 

ROUND 3: RED-GREEN PUMMELER

Okay. Alright. I didn’t face off against Mardu Vehicles tonight — the matchup my deck had mostly been built for — but I’m about to shuffle up against RG Pummeler, another aggressive deck that relies heavily on artifacts. This is good. This is a good thing. I’m ready for this. I was made for this.

Game 1: I was not made for this.

Game 2: I have answers! That’s two Pummelers down! Thank you Fragmentize! Now I just need to hit a Long-Finned Skywh — oh, dear, that’s their third Pummeler… oh, dear, that was my face.

Round Record: 0-3. Games Record: 1-6. (I’m a Wandering Tombshell!)

CONCLUSION AND MOVING FORWARD

I should get better at playing Magic.

In all seriousness, though — this deck felt so, so much better than the Planeswalker Decks I tested. Pushing Temur Tower to time and almost winning a second game over a GB Rock variant may be Pyrrhic victories, but I will take them. I felt like I always had answers, and a line of play towards a solid win condition, instead of feeling completely outclassed by Turn 5 — like a Ford Pinto trying to race a Lamborghini.

I will admit to perhaps some bias — since I built the deck from scratch, I knew its lines of play and outs quite well, as opposed to having to learn the deck while I play it, as I did with the Planeswalker Decks. But I feel that this is minor in the grand scheme of things. I’m still inclined to wonder how much of the 0-3 round result is due to the power level of the various cards and how much is simply due to my play mistakes, as detailed above.

Going forward, I’ll change up a couple of things — I will keep the $11 limit for the 59 non-planeswalker cards in the deck, but I will likely change the distribution of rares, uncommons, and commons, and I will buy two booster packs to add to the deck, just like the regular Planeswalker Decks.

We will see how it works. I’ll be continuing the experiment for future Magic sets — albeit in fewer columns, since I don’t want this space to become the Planeswalker Deck Dork! — until I feel like the Planeswalker Decks are at a good place in their construction.

Until then — onward, to glory! And by glory, I mean getting viciously beaten in Standard games, all in service to my audience.

 

DO YOU DARE TO COMPLETE THE TRIALS OF AMONKHET? AND ALSO POSSIBLY A GALAXY FAR, FAR AWAY?
 

The Trials of Amonkhet are underway at the store — complete various Magic challenges with various friends in various formats to earn shiny lazotep d20s and d4s! Make sure to ask at the store for details.

And in July, the Fantasy Flight Store Championships are happening! Compete in official Fantasy Flight Organized Play events for Star Wars Armada, Star Wars Imperial Assault, Star Wars X-Wing Miniatures, and Star Wars Destiny for sweet prizes and the respect of your peers!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games. Do not ask him what was in the hand he kept. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!