Tag Archives: MtG

THE MANA DORK – Ixalan FAQ

by September 27, 2017

THE MANA DORK – Ixalan FAQ!

Ixalan FAQ The Mana Dork

Ixalan is here! Dinosaurs, pirates, vampires, merfolk, strong narrow answers, excellent graveyard hate, Opt in Modern, “Gaea’s Cradle” in Modern—it’s everything we want!
(… you have no idea how hard it was not to just submit 800 words of roaring and stomping around for this article… )

ixalan faq gishath sun's avatar

Now, for the past few sets, what I’ve done is run down the mechanics and a couple of suggested synergies for Sealed play, to help prep you for the Pre-Releases.
But there’s lots of places online that do that better than I ever could—you’ve got Luis Scott-Vargas’s Limited reviews for ChannelFireball (white, blue, black, red, green, gold/artifacts/lands), you’ve got the usual prep articles put up by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa and _____________, and so much more.
So instead, what I’m going to do is answer some questions in advance. We’re going to do an Ixalan FAQ here on the Mana Dork, and hopefully save you some precious time.
So! To the Ixalan FAQ!

ixalan faq admiral beckett brass

Admiral Beckett Brass—Note than when her second ability triggers, all it cares about is that Admiral Beckett Brass is on the battlefield during your end step and that, at some point, an opponent took combat damage from at least three different Pirate creatures. So you can cast the Admiral during your second main phase and get the trigger—even if the other three Pirates are dead.

Arguel’s Blood Fast—The transformation is a “may” ability. You can keep the Greed/Erebos effect around if you want. And frankly, I would. Two mana and two life for a card at instant speed? Yes, please!

Bellowing Aegisaur (Ravenous Daggertooth, Sun-Crowned Hunters)—Because of the way triggered abilities work, anything that would cause a Dinosaur to die or you to lose the game as a result of combat damage will happen before these abilities could save you. It’s ironic, really. These Dinosaurs can’t save each other, or themselves. My prequel memes fail me, I guess. [Editor’s side note, with two Bellowing Aegisaurs and a Walking Balista you do have an infinite combo in your hands ;)]

Bloodcrazed Paladin—Since tokens do go to the graveyard before they vanish, this guy will count tokens that died this turn along with non-token creatures still in the yard. Don’t miss out on those extra few counters!

Conqueror’s Galleon // Conqueror’s Foothold—Two things about this bad boy. First, if it dies in combat, it won’t transform. Second, it transforms the same way the planeswalkers did in Magic Origins—by exiling itself and then returning transformed. This means it comes back untapped. Govern your Foothold accordingly.

ixalan faq deadeye plunderers

Deadeye Plunderers—Remember that damage stays marked on a creature until end of turn. If you block with these scallywags and then sacrifice Treasure tokens for mana, their toughness goes down—and they might die!

Fathom Fleet Captain—It’s a triggered ability, not an activated ability. Because of the way triggered abilities work, you can only do this once per combat (as awesome as it would be to just summon as many Pirates as you have mana!).

Hostage TakerFUNCTIONAL ERRATA—The printed card looks like it can infinitely flicker itself. However, it has received functional errata. The first sentence now reads: When Hostage Taker enters the battlefield, exile another target creature or artifact until Hostage Taker leaves the battlefield.

Kitesail Freebooter—Note that if this is destroyed or exiled before its ETB ability resolves, the opponent will reveal their hand, but exile nothing.

Makeshift Munitions—No, you can’t sacrifice a Treasure to pay for both the mana cost AND the “Sacrifice an artifact or creature” cost. I know, it’s a pain. I sure wanted to.

ixalan faq rowdy crew

Rowdy Crew—I see it all the time with Brainstorm, so I’m going to call it out here on the Ixalan FAQ, too: you can’t cast an instant-speed spell you draw off of Rowdy Crew before you have to discard. The drawing and the discarding are all part of the same ability, and nothing can happen in between (as much as we might want it to).

Shapers’ Sanctuary—FYI, because of how the stack works, if you draw a counterspell thanks to the Sanctuary’s ability and the thing targeting your creature is a spell (for example, Walk the Plank), you can counter it with your counterspell before it hits your creature!

Spell Swindle—Most of the time, when we look at a spell with X in the cost, X is considered to be 0. But when a card with an X-cost is on the stack, X is whatever the opponent paid for it. So Spell Swindle will count the X-value of the spell on the stack, along with its CMC, when you’re figuring out how many Treasure tokens you get.

Tilonalli’s Skinshifter—Because of how triggered abilities and declaring attacks work, Tilonalli’s Skinshifter won’t copy another creature in time to copy its attack trigger as well. Among other things, this means that unfortunately, you can’t instantly mill an opponent by swinging with both Tilonalli’s Skinshifter and Fleet Swallower. (But man, that would be sweet. Remind me to build a deck with Fleet Swallower and Fraying Sanity… )

ixalan faq deeproot waters

STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP STOMP

Hope you enjoyed the Ixalan FAQ and are ready for release weekend! We have drafts on Friday at noon & 3:30 pm, on Saturday at noon & 4:00 pm, and on Sunday at 2:00 pm! We also have Sealed going on Friday at 6:30 pm!

… but remember, there’s still events happening even if you aren’t interested in Pirates vs. Dinosaurs Magic action! This Saturday is our Legendary Game Night and Sunday is the Netrunner Monthly!

See you at the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular STOMP ROAR STOMP STOMP BITE GNASH STOMP. STOMP ROAR ROOOOAAAAARRRRRRRR STOMP STOMP STOMP his column about all things Magic!

Magic Legacy Bi-Monthly – November

by September 17, 2017

Registration/ Check-in: 11:00 am
Player Metting: 11:50am
Parings Announced: 11:55am
First Round: 12:00 pm
Entry Fee: $20 (cash) or $22.60 (debit/credit card)

Prizing: 100% of entries fees are paid out in store credit as follows:

First Place: 50%
Second Place: 25%
Third/Fourth Place: 12.5% each

Event will start on time regardless of number of players present.
Players can enter into the event late, taking a loss for any rounds they enter late.

Planeswalker Rule Change – Judgement Day

by September 24, 2017

Recently, Wizards announced that there was a big change coming with Ixalan that changes the planeswalker rule. Before going into this change, I’m going to briefly cover the history of how planeswalker rule has worked historically.

planeswalker rule tapping cardboard

For all of these examples, Player A will have a Gideon, Martial Paragon on the battlefield. In the beginning, there could only be one copy of each different kind of planeswalker on the field at one time and if another came in, they both blew up. If player B cast Gideon of the Trials, both Gideons exploded as a state-based action. There were no survivors.

planeswalker rule change ex1

Then, the planeswalker rule was updated so that each player got to control one copy of each type of planeswalker, regardless of what their opponent had. Now, that Gideon of the Trials got to live across the board from the Gideon, Martial Paragon, but player A would not be able to have both a Gideon, Martial Paragon and a Gideon of the Trials themselves.

planeswalker rule change ex2

So how will the planeswalker rule change with Ixalan? The rule is changing to be exactly like the “Legend rule”, insofar as a player may only have one copy of a Legendary card of each name. In fact, all Planeswalkers will have the “Legendary” supertype from Ixalan forward. This means that player A can have both Gideon, Martial Paragon and Gideon of the Trials active at the same time because they have different names.

planeswalker rule change 3

Now that we’ve gotten the technical bits out of the way, let’s talk about what this actually means for players on the ground. This change is going to impact different formats in different ways. Limited formats aren’t really going to be too affected by this change as having multiple copies of different planeswalkers is pretty rare (chaos drafts excluded). Constructed formats are going to be a different story.

Modern is most likely going to see a lot of what I’m calling “double-Lili Jund” or Jund decks that run both Liliana of the Veil and Liliana, the Last Hope because they are both high-value three-mana planeswalkers. Legacy will definitely see more players running Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Jace, the Mind Sculptor side-by-side for maximum control. There may also be some decks in both formats that play Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas and Tezzeret the Seeker together for artifact shenanigans. However the biggest impact will be the increase in power of “superfriends” Commander decks as they will be able to have an even bigger board presence with many more planeswalkers.

You’re probably wondering why I didn’t mention Standard as being effected by this change and that’s because I’m not entirely sure if it will have a major impact on the format. Once Ixalan drops, we’re going to have 19 planeswalkers but how many see consistent play? I can pick maybe 4 (Chandra, Torch of Defiance; Nicol Bolas, God-Pharoah; Liliana, Death’s Majesty in reanimator decks; and maybe Gideon of the Trials) and none of them have the same type as another so there won’t be any danger of abuse of the new rules.

I also think this heralds a really positive change for Standard going forward. Some people may not see it, but Wizards’ R&D department has been pretty good about making sure that nothing is too abusable and/or broken in Standard (save for the stuff they made when they thought rotation was going to change the first time) and I think this rule change is going to force more diversity. I, for one, am pretty dang tired of always seeing members of the Gatewatch pop up every 2-3 sets (which is partially why we currently have 3 Gideons, 3 Chandras, and 5 Nissas in Standard). This change will mean that Wizards has to be more careful about which planeswalkers they use in order to properly space them out across the sets. It will also mean that they will probably get more creative with their designs of planeswalkers so that they are not always doing the same shtick every time to prevent any possible overlap in power.

There are a lot of doomsayers out there right now saying that this will be the “death of Magic” or it’s at least the event horizon of its downfall, but I really can’t see that happening. Will some environments be different because of this change? Definitely, but the metagame will just have to adapt to meet it (get your foil Liliana’s Defeats right now folks). Will someone come up with some broken combo? Maybe in casual or Commander, but that’s not going to warp anything irreversibly or destroy a format. If you look at this critically, this change is good for the health of Magic, R&D, and the future of the game.

THE MANA DORK – Running a Budget Commander League

by August 29, 2017

the mana dork commander league

Running a Budget Commander League

It’s time for Commander 2017! Excite yes!

commander league ramos-dragon-engine

I’ve run a budget Commander league for my friends for a few years now and it’s been a blast. So this year, instead of telling you what I think some of the gems will be (Fractured Identity, Path of Ancestry) or ranking the decks by an arbitrary metric (there’s a Cats deck, metrics are meaningless), I’m going to talk about how to run a budget Commander league for your friends, using the C17 decks as a basis.

Budget Commander leagues can be a great way to re-vitalize a playgroup that has fallen into a rut, to introduce newer players to Commander in a friendly environment — or even both at the same time. They’ve been incredibly rewarding for my playgroup, and I hope they can be for yours as well.

Let’s go!

commander league nazahn-revered-bladesmith

BASIC PRINCIPLES

You’re going to want to figure out a few things about your Commander league right away.

  • Players — Who’s interested? Whether you’re making a Commander league for fellow university students, for your kids and their friends, or for a bunch of adults with 9-5 jobs and their own children, knowing who your players are, what they like in Magic, and what their availability is will affect several of the decisions you make below.
  • Points — How to award the players in each match. Your points structure will inform a lot of your players’ strategy and the types of decks and games you’ll see.
  • Schedule — Do you play weekly or monthly? Do you get everyone together to complete Commander league games in a regularly-scheduled night, or do you set periods where Commander league games can be played anywhere with the results reported to the organizer?
  • Budget — How much can your players add to their decks between games? Do you limit how much single cards can cost? Can players carry over a balance between weeks?

Who your players are is something I must necessarily leave to you, but I’ll address points systems, schedules, and budgets below.

commander league mages-contest

POINTS

This is often the first place people go when thinking about making a Commander league. All of a sudden, you have the power to help make the games you like to see happen, just by adding your own unique rewards system.

Here are the questions you’ll want to answer when making your points system:

  • Points for placement in each game: How top-heavy do you want the points for first and second place to be? Top-heavy systems reward winner-take-all strategies and encourage games that are shorter and more cutthroat.
  • Points for gameplay: Do you award points for kills? Cool plays? Saving players? Sportsmanship? Extra gameplay points can help even the rankings over the course of the Commander league and make sure things stay competitive until the end.
  • Penalties: Do you punish combos? Do you punish failing to report decks in time? Kills that are too early? Choosing what you punish, and how severely, also affects the strategies people choose.

There are several examples of points systems online, which can be found with some research. One example is the Commander VS. folks, who lay out their points system at the start of each season.

Here’s what my group currently goes with:

  • Players receive points for their placement in Commander league games as follows: 
    • +4 points for first place,
    • +3 points for second place,
    • +2 points for third and fourth place.
  • Players can receive bonus points in each Commander league game in the following ways:
    • +1 point for “first blood” — being the first to inflict combat damage on another player;
    • +1 style point for coolest play, as voted by the table;
    • +1 sportsmanship point as voted by the table; and
    • +1 point for playing in the game with at least two players you did not play with in the previous week.
  • Players can be docked points in the following ways:
    • -2 points for knocking out two or more players in the same state-based action;
    • -1 point for failing to report your purcahses and new deck list on time; and
    • Forfeit points for this week and last week if you play a deck over budget.

This system encourages decks that are aggressive and have a lot of battlefield presence, as well as classic control decks.

Combo has an inherent efficiency advantage in multiplayer, so I chose to balance that out a little bit. If you go the combo route, you’re planning to eat a loss of two points per game in return for greater consistency, and possibly some style points as you pull off your combo.

These are all choices I made to even the playing field — my playgroup includes heavily-invested players as well as newer ones, and gently pushing games towards battlefield interaction and away from combo wins results in enjoyable experiences for everyone.

Make sure to take stock of your own playgroup and find what’s right for you.

commander league impeccable-timing

SCHEDULES

These are the questions you’ll want to answer when setting your schedule:

  • Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly?
  • Official Commander league nights, or windows in which to play games?

This is where you’ll need to know who your players are, and how much time they set aside for gaming in their lives.

For example, most of my players are dedicated gamers with 9-5 jobs but no kids of their own yet. I have a few players who are happy to play Magic, but don’t invest in the game the way some of the rest of us do. And some of us — including me — have an extremely demanding schedule, so I need to be conscious of how often they may be able to make it to Commander league nights.

What this means is that I can set a faster schedule (weekly or bi-weekly), but will need to be flexible (open windows).

If a plurality of my players had children to take care of, or heavy shift work, I would consider a monthly schedule. If they invested a lot of their time in gaming in different leagues, I might require everyone to play their games on an official Commander league night, to make bookkeeping easier.

My solution was to set up a regular weekly gaming night where most of us would be getting together for Commander league games, but also create “league weeks” with set start and end times, as well as deadlines for reporting your deck’s expenditures. I also allow players to play in multiple Commander league games each week — but in games after their first Commander league game, they’ll only be eligible for style and sportsmanship points.

This creates a system with more than enough flexibility — as well, it encourages players to help each other out and be available for more than one Commander league game each week, as they can earn extra points.

Again, make sure you take stock of your playgroup and find what’s right for you.

commander league limited-resources

BUDGET

Along with your points structure, your budget has a large impact on the strategies your players choose and the types of games you see.

I strongly encourage having as low a budget as your playgroup will still find fun — reducing the presence of “money cards” evens the playing field and results in games that are surprisingly memorable and interactive.

Here are the questions you’ll want to answer when setting your league’s budget:

  • Do you set a limit per card, or per week? Strict per-card limits heavily affect available strategies, while per-week limits are more flexible.
  • Can players carry over a budget from week to week? Allowing this will let players “save up” for a big-money card that may be quite powerful compared to the rest of the Commander league, but forces them to “fall behind” for a few weeks first.
  • What happens to cards that are cut from decks? Do players have to re-buy them if they wish to use them again?

My group uses the following rules:

  • Players can add $10 in cards to their decks each week, as defined by the lowest TCG Market price for a non-foil English printing. (My players get… specific, sometimes.)
  • Players may carry over their budgets from week to week.
  • Basic lands can be purchased at a rate of $0.25 for 10 lands.
  • Cut cards are placed in a “card pool“. Cards may be freely moved between your decklist and your card pool between Commander league games.

I am generally okay with proxies in the leagues I run, although I do mandate that all cards in decks at the Final Table must be real, in order to prevent abuse of the rule.

commander league serum-powder

OTHER NOTES

We generally ask that people upload their decks to a TappedOut link so that I can easily do deck checks and make sure people are following the rules—here is an example.

Also, for those who are curious, we use the following mulligan rule:

  • Exile your hand face-up, then draw 7 new cards. Repeat until you have a playable hand. Once you do, shuffle all exiled cards into your deck.

This makes sure everyone has a good game, still incurs a cost for mulling in terms of game information, prevents abuse, and has the incidental advantage of helping newer players by showing them what is and is not a keepable hand.

comannder league gleam-of-battle

GO FORTH, HAVE FUN, AND WHEN YOU’RE DONE (OR BEFOREHAND) COME TO THESE EVENTS AT THE STORE

We’ve got a Magic Chaos League!

We’ve got monthly Star Wars events coming up for Armada, Imperial Assault, and X-Wing!

We’ve got Open Board Game Day!

And pre-registrations are open for Ixalan!

Come on down!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor for A Muse N Games. He will never be Gary Bettman’s equal. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!

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!

Ixalan Release Weekend Sept 29-30

by October 8, 2017

Ixalan release

Ixalan release weekend is September 29th-30th, 2017 and your first chance to purchase the newest Magic the Gathering set! Here is what we have scheduled for the release weekend:

Friday, September 29th

Noon: Ixalan Draft
Players receive 3-packs of Ixalan and draft the best 40 card deck they can.
Entry Fee $20
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

3:30 pm: Ixalan Draft
Players receive 3-packs of Ixalan and draft the best 40 card deck they can.
Entry Fee $20
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

6:30 pm: Ixalan Sealed
Players receive an Ixalan Prerelease kit (while supplies list). These includes a Foil Promo, Spindown Counter, 6-Packs of Ixalan.
Entry fee $36
Players will enjoy 4 rounds of swiss.
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

7:30 pm: Commander
Both casual and Competitive pods as usual.
Entry fee $6
Prizing: Casual Players each receive a Booster Pack for participating.
Competitive Players – prizing to the winner, prize TBD based on players entering. (8 or more players and a revised Dual will be up for grabs.

9:30 pm: Archenemy / Planechase Commander
Entry fee $6
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

Saturday, September 30th

Noon: Ixalan Draft
Players receive 3-packs of Ixalan and draft the best 40 card deck they can.
Entry Fee $20
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

4:00 pm: Ixalan Draft
Players receive 3-packs of Ixalan and draft the best 40 card deck they can.
Entry Fee $20
Prizing: 1.5 Packs per player into the prize pool.
Each player playing through all swiss rounds receives a booster pack from the prize pool!

Ixalan Prerelease Weekend Sept 23-24

by September 27, 2017

Ixalan Prerelease

A Muse N Games is hosting 4 Ixalan Prerelease events for the newest Magic: the Gathering set! Midnight, Noon, and 5 pm on Saturday, September 23 and then 6pm on Sunday, September 24.

Ixalan prerelease events will start promptly with deck construction at the listed start times. Early Bird registration $35 taxes in if you register before 10:00 pm Wednesday, September 20. Regular registration is $40 taxes in.

Each participating player will receive a special prerelease pack containing 6-packs of Ixalan, a spindown life counter, and promotional foil card! Two Ixalan booster packs per player will be placed into the prize pool. Any player who plays through all four rounds of swiss receive at least one Ixalan booster pack from the prize pool.

Further prizing information will be announced closer to the date of the Ixalan prerelease. You can preregister now in store or online below.

Midnight

Noon

5:00 pm

Sunday

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!

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!