Tag Archives: planeswalker

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!

THE MANA DORK—The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Part 2

by March 23, 2017

THE MANA DORK—The Planeswalker Deck Challenge, Part 2

Well, I did better than I expected, but still not good enough.

In the last installment of the Mana Dork, I said I would be taking the “Planeswalker Deck Challenge” — competing in Aether Revolt Game Day with only an Aether Revolt Planeswalker Deck and the contents of the two booster packs that came with it.

I’m doing this because, as much as I love Magic and I love the idea of Planeswalker Decks, I think Wizards of the Coast can do a much better job of setting new players up to succeed with these introductory products.

In preparation for Game Day, I picked up both the Tezzeret and Ajani Planeswalker Decks and did some preliminary testing with both. I felt it was important to give myself the best chance to succeed, in order to give the Planeswalker Decks the fairest possible showing.

In testing, the Tezzeret deck seemed inconsistent. Some games, I’d spam out a bunch of cheap artifacts, get out the Efficient Construction I found in one of the packs, and win off of a Tezzeret activation or thopter beatdowns. Other times, I’d spam out a bunch of cheap artifacts, get out an Improvise finisher like Wind-Kin Raiders, and watch it eat a removal spell before I died.

When I opened the booster packs from the Ajani deck, this happened:

Alright, RNG gods, I’m listening. Ajani it is.

The Ajani deck played better, too. It wasn’t as flashy as Tezzeret’s, but the simple aggro strategy of getting out good small creatures and pumping them up was much more consistent than casting Implements and praying with my shiny metal claws.

If you’re curious, here is my final decklist. With six or seven pick-ups from the booster packs—including the second Ajani, a Greenwheel Liberator, and a Daredevil Dragster—I aimed for a more consistent set of creatures, and greater ease in triggering Revolt when I needed it.

So, how’d I do?

ROUND 1: GRIXIS TOWER CONTROL

(Quick side note: “Grixis” refers to the colour combination of Blue, Black, and Red, and is named after one of the Shards of Alara. If you’re unfamiliar with some of the slang terms for colour combinations, here and here are excellent resources!)

In this match-up, I found out that Torrential Gearhulks are a thing. Also, why they are a thing. Also, holy Bolas they hurt a lot!

My opponent was on a control gameplan, so they were happy and content to take damage from my small, efficient creatures while they built up Energy counters and sculpted the perfect hand. I often saw them Disallow an Armorcraft Judge or Prey Upon, then flash in a Torrential Gearhulk to counter an Ajani’s Aid with a Disallow from the graveyard… and, at least once, Ajani himself. (Sadface!)

In the end, even though their Gearhulks couldn’t block my Audacious Infiltrators, I lost both games, and couldn’t get them below 10 life in either one.

Round Record: 0-1. Games Record: 0-2. (I’m an Ornithopter!)

ROUND 2: GREEN-BLACK SNAKEWALKERS

(Quicker side note: I am aware that GB Constrictor is an established top-tier deck, but this did not look like that deck. Also, how can I pass up a chance to call something “SNAKEWALKERS”? C’mon.)

This match-up was a lesson in value — getting more than one card’s worth of value out of a single card.

This was a common boardstate in the two games we played. I’d have a couple of small, efficient creatures, and they’d have a Winding Constrictor and a whole mess of Planeswalkers and tokens. 

Planeswalkers give you excellent value when they can stick around. Many produce tokens and other small blockers, and when I’m facing them down, I have to choose between attacking my opponent—which brings me closer to winning—and attacking their Planeswalkers, which brings me closer to a neutral boardstate, but not much closer to winning.

While Winding Constrictor doesn’t interact directly with Planeswalkers, it did work nicely with all the tokens my opponent’s Nissas were putting out, as well as the Energy counters that were feeding their Longtusk Cubs and Glint-Sleeve Siphoners.

In the end, even though I was able to get an Ajani out, I again lost both games.

Round Record: 0-2. Games Record: 0-4. (I’m a Jeering Homunculus!)

ROUND THREE: BLUE-BLACK SECRET HEDRONS

Hedron Alignment decks got a huge boost in Aether Revolt with the printing of Secret Salvage. Does this mean my opponent has a shot at winning with one of Standard’s unlikeliest methods?

But wait! I got both Ajanis in my opening hand! Double Ajani, what could it mean?

Oh, no! A wild Sphinx of Magosi has appeared! I didn’t even know that was legal in Standard! (It is, thanks to the Welcome Decks!) Does a huge flying creature mean my sweet, sweet Ajanis are doomed?

Yes, yes it does. Along with my boardstate.

I ended up winning game two when they failed to find a finisher, but my opponent was successfully able to beat me down with the Sphinx in game one, and took game three with a Hedron Alignment win.

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

ROUND FOUR: MONO-BLUE AETHERFLUX ENGINE

Paradox Engine has been the subject of much debate in EDH communities online. A 5 CMC artifact that goes in almost any deck — capable of untapping mana dorks and rocks for more spells, or creatures to block after an alpha strike — is quite powerful, and seems destined for the banlist.

But in Standard, it’s somewhat less powerful. There are fewer good mana rocks and dorks for it to interact with, and if you’re piloting a top-tier deck, you’re likely running Planeswalkers, which means even fewer things that tap.

My opponent’s strategy here was similar to that of the Tezzeret deck I mentioned above, but with better cards — power out a bunch of cheap artifacts, cast a Paradox Engine, then power out more cheap artifacts and card draw off the Engine’s untaps until they can land an Aetherflux Reservoir and win with a gargantuan 50-life laser kill.

Unfortunately, their plan never quite fired, and their reliance on non-creature artifacts meant there was nothing to block my small, efficient beaters. I took both games 2-0 for an unexpected round win.

Round Record: 2-0. Games Record: 3-6. (I’m a Maze Sentinel!)

CONCLUSIONS AND NEXT STEPS

I will be honest: I wasn’t expecting to even win a round, especially after the first three. I cannot imagine how I would have felt as a much younger or newer player, going into the fourth round with that record.

And while we’re being honest—that I was able to take a round against a homebrew deck with a complex win condition speaks well for the Planeswalker Decks as they’re constructed currently. It shows that Wizards is on the right track.

However, I still think an ideal Planeswalker Deck would have allowed me to win another odd game or two in the previous rounds, as well as a round win. In the next edition of the Mana Dork, I plan on proving that point by building my own “Planeswalker Deck” and competing in an A Muse N Games Standard event.

Alt Art Battle Lands from BFZ

THAT WAS A BEAUTIFUL SEGUE INTO THIS NEXT PARAGRAPH

Speaking of which, if you’re interested in playing or trying out Magic’s Standard format, have we got the promotion for you!

A Muse N Games is now running the Standard Spring 9-Week Challenge. Wizards has challenged the store to hold 15 Standard tournaments before April 17th, and there’s some very, very nice promos for people who come out and participate!

On top of the regular Standard events Tuesdays at 7 PM, AMNG will be holding bonus tournaments on March 5th, March 12th, and April 15th. As well, we’re hosting On-Demand Standard—whenever there’s four people in the store and they want to play Standard, AMNG will sanction the event for a $6 entry fee and offer prizing!

For more details, check out the official post here.

See you in the store!

Jesse Mackenzie is a regular contributor to A Muse N Games, and considers himself more of a Disruptive Student than a Maze Sentinel. Tune in every two weeks for The Mana Dork, his column on all things Magic!