Tagged: deck building

Cardz of the Week: Colorless Card Drawing

I’m reversing the schedule this week because this article is done and the other one isn’t.  Deal widdit.

Is your deck having a hard time drawing cards?  For the most part, card drawing is limited to blue and black, with a little bit sprinkled here and there in other colors.  White in particular has a very difficult time drawing cards, and Red tends to have to discard as many cards as they draw (though that’s not necessarily a bad thing).  Well, there is help out there, but it can be hard to come by.  There aren’t a lot of card advantage cards with brown (or grey) borders, but here is a list of all of them I can find with my pearls of wisdom scattered throughout.  Enjoy!

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Casual vs. Competitive: What’s Going On? and, A Proposed Solution

I imagine there are not many playgroups out there that haven’t suffered some conflict based on the casual and competitive division in this format and the debate that arises therefrom.  Like it or not, this format attracts about the widest variety of Magic players you can find, both in terms of style and of play skill, to an arena where their relative styles and play skills have no bearing on who plays who.  To make matters worse, the card pool is exceptionally large and some very expensive and hard to find cards can make their way into decks; those players who have the benefit of having played for a long time and have a large collection have a massive advantage in card quality over players newer to the game.  On top of all this, there’s little way to tell ahead of time which player is which and which deck is which — people don’t come with glowing neon signs saying “15-year Magic vet with $2500 Commander deck”.  It’s a situation ripe for conflict, and will remain so unless the format is dramatically altered by changing the banned list.  (That’s a subject of another article, but I’m really fucking sick of playing with and against Primeval Titan and Cabal Coffers.  Anyway.)

While Commander is often branded as the “fun” format, or the anti-competitive format, it should be pointed out that neither play group has a legitimate claim to “ownership” of the format, and neither group has an advantage on who deals with the situation in a more positive and constructive way.  A format that allows you to play Mana Crypt and Imperial Tutor cannot honestly call itself “casual only”, but on the other hand, a format that expressly resists any formal competition cannot honestly call itself competitive.  As it stands, judging by the air space this topic receives and the sheer volume of complaints from one side about the other, both sides can take an equal share of the blame for not meeting in the middle.  The competitive crowd (like me) belittles the casual crowd either aggressively or passive aggressively (like I do), for lacking deck building skills, card selection skills, and Magic play skills.  The casual crowd passively aggressively promotes an atmosphere and tone of debate that “EDH should be fun“, and commonly points out the competitive crowd has many other formats to direct their competitive spirit toward.  To them, the casual crowd “just doesn’t get the format”.  One side tries to win, the other side claims they don’t.  Both sides insinuate or just come right out and say that the other should conform or GTFO.

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Deck Salad Surgery: We Didn’t Start the Fire

This week’s Deck Salad Surgery expands on a little idea I had while reviewing the Magic 2013 set: make a deck designed to exploit Worldfire.  The idea consisted of lots of low-cost, hasted dudes so your deck would play better than everyone else’s after a Worldfire.  All you need is a Raging Goblin and you’ll probably win.  And hey, if you don’t, you still blew up the entire world and there was a crazy finish, right?

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Deck Salad Surgery: Damia, Sage of Stone

Welcome to the third installment of Deck Salad Surgery.  Today I’m going to be building a deck from the ground up.  I mentioned the first concept back in this post, where I noted I was inspired by a legacy Show and Tell Griselbrand deck.  Of course, Grizzy’s been banned, but if I let a little thing like banning the centerpiece of the deck stop me, where would I be in life?

(Answer: probably still writing a Magic blog.)

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Why Sideboarding is Stupid

There are certain playgroups that make use of the optional sideboarding rule as outlined on mtgcommander.net, which reads as follows:

  • Sideboards

    Rather than filling every deck with banal responses, it is preferable to allow some flexibility in the composition of a deck.

    • Players may bring a 10 card sideboard in addition to their 99 cards and 1 Commander.
    • After Commanders are announced, players have 3 minutes to make 1-for-1 substitutions to their deck.
    • Any cards not played as part of the deck may be retrieved by “wishes”.

    Reasoning:

    Highly tuned threats piloted by skilled opponents mandate efficient answers. The minimum number of response cards required to ensure they are available in the early turns can easily overwhelm the majority of an EDH deck’s building space.

    Sideboards allow players to respond to the “best” strategies in a timely fashion . They should be strongly considered as a necessary defense against brokenness and degeneracy in an environment where no gentlemans agreement on style of play exists.

Sir, I disagree.  Here’s why.

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DSS: Commander Uncensored — EDH without the ban list

Welcome to the second edition of Deck Salad Surgery!  I had the idea for this particular column while driving over to a friend’s place to sling some cardboard.  The basic premise is this:  what kind of deck would you make if there weren’t any banned cards (except the ante cards, of course)?

There’s obviously a few ways to go with it, but I chose to go top-down.  What cards would I most like to play if they weren’t banned?  Then, how do I abuse those cards?  (Of course, many of the cards on this list don’t require much work to abuse.)  Two sprang to mind immediately, but I won’t give away which ones just yet.  Instead, let’s look at the banned list and break it down by colour.

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Deck Salad Surgery: Jenara, Asura of War

Alright friends, Romans, countrymen!  (And if you don’t belong to one of those categories, GTFO.)  It’s time for the first instalment of my Deck Salad Surgery* column!  And I even have a user-submitted deck for the feature.  Things are just coming together like jello in the fridge here, people.

(*  This is an ELP reference.  I’d hate for you to miss it.)

Today’s column features a Jenara, Asura of War deck chock-full of Bant-colored good stuff.

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Deck Salad Surgery — Making Cuts — Dralnu, Lich Lord

This article discusses the Dralnu, Lich Lord deck first talked about here.

After sitting on the 100-or-so cards we came up with in the last post for a few days, it’s time to start paring the list down a little.  Once it’s down to around 70 cards, you can start collecting.  In my opinion it’s not worth making a totally air-tight list before you start to play it, as it’s impossible (or at least very difficult) to know what cards are or aren’t working until they’re bricking in your hand, doing nothing on the board, or unexpectedly kicking ass.  Further, getting the proportions right on all your various card types is impossible without proper testing.  It’s possible to have too much redundancy in one area, as you can see in the Savra list I posted in the Decklists area.  It’s also possible to have not nearly enough.

So, as regards Dralnu, let’s refresh our win condition.  We’re going to try to accelerate into a board state where we’re taking lots of extra turns with Time Warp-style effects and flashing them back via Dralnu, until we assemble an infinite mana combination and either Exsanguinate or Blue Sun's Zenith for the win (possibly decking ourselves with Laboratory Maniac).  Or we can steal everything with Memnarch or bounce everything with Capsize. We’re going to use weenie wizards to help with acceleration, card-drawing, and delaying our opponents.  These are our strangleholds.  We should evaluate all cards with how they facilitate this plan or delay our opponents from reaching theirs.

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Deck Salad Surgery — Dralnu, Lich Lord

I’ve decided, just today, to begin a new deck.  The process of retiring Azusa, Lost but Seeking and Savra, Queen of the Golgari and amalgamating them into one other has been quite successful.  The deck is currently 5-0!  (3-0 play testing against other decks of mine and 2-0 in actual competition.)

So it’s time to start something new.  I was briefly tempted to make a rather disgusting Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur deck inspired by d0su on MTGSalvation, but I’ve already got a rather disgusting mono-blue combo deck.  Who needs two of those?  So instead, I’ve decided to go U/B Dralnu, Lich Lord.  The idea is going to be to take lots of extra turns, flash powerful spells back (like extra turn spells), and get there with a bunch of little Wizards.  I’ll probably win by Stroke of Genius or Exsanguinate for 1000.  Seems fun.

So I figured I’d go through my deck building process for the care and benefit of others. This will be a multi-part article; the first section is brainstorming, adding cards that contribute to the various themes and strategies I identify. I’ll end up with many more cards than I can play. The next article will be a blow-by-blow cutting-down process.

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Disrupting “Annoying” Strategies

I think there’s a pretty widely held conception that there are certain sorts of strategies that are unfun, annoying, unfair, or against the “spirit” of Commander.  Unsurprisingly, these strategies also happen to coincide with the sorts of strategies WotC would rather not encourage in tournament play either.  Most tournament players are “Spikes”, or the competitive sorts who will do whatever it takes to win, regardless of what their opponent thinks or how much fun they have in getting there.  The fun is in winning.  So if the strategy is a good one, it will get played.

This is not the same in “casual” Magic like Commander.  Commander attracts some Spikes, but it also attracts many more players who care more about the route they’re on than whether they win or lose.  Some players, like me, are blends of both.  I want to win every game I play, but I want to do so in unique ways, and I don’t want to make the rest of the table angry.  Well, not too angry.

The casual vs. competitive debate could be the subject of many posts, but it’s really only the background of this one.  The point of this post is to spread some information about how to beat a lot of the strategies that are viable in Commander because the card pool stretches back into the mists of Magic’s past, when cards like Back to Basics, Stasis, Smokestack, and their ilk were commonplace.  These remain good cards, and you will see them from time to time.

In general, I think the sorts of things that really annoy players, especially those trending toward the more casual side of the equation, can be grouped into two main categories:

  1. Lockdown — Not being able to play their spells
  2. Combo — Suddenly losing the game to infinite combos

Beating these strategies is really not that difficult if you prepare adequately.  If you haven’t read the article The Art of Disruption, do so now, then come back.  This is a specialized  application of the strategy outlined in that article.

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