Tag Archives: Constructed

Hearthstone – Standouts in Old Gods

So we’ve all had about a week to play around with Whispers of the Old Gods, and for most of us the release of this new set along with the rotation of Standard has turned Constructed straight on its ear. I know that some people have used this brewing opportunity to play tried and true methods to shoot up the ladder, and according to many this was especially true in the very high-but-not-quite-legend ranks, so maybe not everything has changed, but for the vast majority, the game is hardly recognizable. Instead of a building board superiority early in the game that slowly crushes opponents, many games are decided by wild swings in the late game. Cards like C’Thun and Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End have dramatic and often game ending battlecries, and even the support cards like the Twin Emperors are powerful enough that almost anything that happened early in the game just doesn’t matter.

But I’m not here to completely break down Standard. Actually, I would love to be able to do that, but it’s very hard to filter out the RNG noise of a deck like Evolve-C’Thun or Mage Yogg-Saron to determine if it’s more than just blind luck that decides games. Only time can tell us if those decks are here to stay, or if their luck will peter out.

Instead, I’m going to break down just a few cards that are either exceeding expectations or just feel powerful in the new format.

Cabalist’s Tome

tomeWhen Old Gods was released, Twitch was flooded with countless streamers all trying to do one thing – cast Yogg-Saron, Hope’s End and make it into a Trolden video. Most players chose a spell-heavy control deck to achieve this end, and just kept the board clear until they could unleash a 20+ spell Yogg-Saron. The decks often didn’t win because Yogg blew up in their faces, but everything they were doing leading up to playing Yogg seemed very good, and the reason they could even come close to controlling the board that long was Cabalist’s Tome.

As it turns out, spending a turn drawing three potentially powerful spells isn’t that bad anymore. Many decks durdle around for a long time while setting up a haymaker, and you can often follow up a Tome with a board clear to wipe the tempo slate clean.

Cabalist’s Tome is the most powerful card draw spell in Standard because the vast majority of Mage cards can deal with minions, while casting something like Sprint might yield nothing but air or dorky minions. Sprint also moves you that much closer to fatigue, while the Tome acts much closer to what many people wish Thistle Tea was like – a value generator that doesn’t draw cards from your deck. Also, getting a Cabalist’s Tome from a Cabalist’s Tome is the sauce.

I expect that once Standard quiets down a little and some established decks are made known, Cabalist’s Tome will make its way into many Mage decks that just want to grind value, and could easily end up as the most powerful card in the set.

Selfless Hero

hero

Selfless Hero, like the deck it thrives in, is really fucking annoying. I mentioned in my last post that not nerfing Divine Favor means that whenever the right minions are in Standard, Aggro Paladin will be crushing people like its 2014, and it appears that now is the right time. In a world where no one does anything on turn one, a 2/1 is awesome, and a reasonably costed minion with a powerful deathrattle is even better. Aggro Paladin is the only deck I’ve found that retains the old feeling of a quickly emerging and slowly crushing feeling of being out tempo-ed, mostly because of this card and Steward of Darkshire. Be warned about playing your Y’Shaarj Astral Communion deck in Standard, because you’re just going to get stomped by this lady and her pals.

Forbidden Healing

healingHealing is at a huge premium now. It never felt like enough because of the tempo-driven meta, but Antique Healbot was actually awesome. Now, with all the haymakers flying around in the late game, often a player is just left with too few health points after clearing a C’Thun to really be able to fight back, even though it has the late game in mind. Priests and Warriors naturally can recover through their hero power, but Control Paladin sometimes wants still MORE beyond Lay on Hands and Ragnaros, Lightlord since of all the control classes, it shines best in the late game through consistently applying pressure through an endless stream of 1/1s. Recall that just like skipping a turn to Cabalist’s Tome isn’t nearly as bad as it used to be, skipping a turn to heal for 20 can also be useful, as Paladin has excellent tools for retaking the board through Equality and its various debuffing minions. I’ve only seen this card a handful of times in Constructed so far, but it has surprised me with how well it helps to grind out games. Sometimes you can exhaust a deck of reasonable threats entirely by simply outlasting them.

Shadowcaster

shadowI admit that I haven’t really seen many people using this card. Most of my impression of this card comes from me jamming it into a C’Thun deck, where I had awesome moments with Disciple of C’Thun, Brann Bronzebeard, and even another Shadowcaster. Still, this card provides an extremely powerful effect, though it may be in the wrong class to fully leverage it. It combines very well with Shadowstep on two fronts. Shadowstepping the Shadowcaster is good value, but I’m pretty sure that since the Caster’s battlecry is a buff, you can SS the 1/1 copy and get a full attack and health version. You have to pay t he normal cost minus two, but it’s still awesome with the right minions.

What cards from Old Gods have impressed you? Comment below, or start a discussion on my Facebook page, The Olentangy Plays!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hearthstone – Persisting Archetypes In Standard

If you’re wondering when my review of Whispers of the Old Gods will be, I did say I was waiting until half the set was revealed (which we just hit in the last few days), but the nerfs to several Classic/Basic staples warrants immediate attention.

Today, Hearthstone posted this article detailing long-awaited changes to many of the powerhouses of the Classic set. Some nerfs were for power level reasons (Knife Juggler), others because they enabled combos that would otherwise remain in Standard forever (Force of Nature), and still others because they restricted design space (Master of Disguise, though I’m sure no one saw that one coming).

I don’t want the tone of this article to be too negative, so let me quickly say that I am happy with the overall direction the nerfs are taking Standard. Team 5 have practically said outright that Silence was a mechanic they wish they never introduced, and I’m glad that, even for class cards, you pay a hefty price to shut another card up (or off, in some cases). Every other nerf was because the card just gave too much for it’s cost, and most of the nerfed cards still seem viable in the right decks, rather than just being auto includes in every deck that can utilize it.I’m glad they decided to nerf Force of Nature rather than Savage Roar, mostly because almost ANY change to Roar would render the card unplayable, while the change to Force of Nature is crippling, but does not damn the card to the Casual Room.

The only card I’m unhappy with is Arcane Golem. I really hated it pre-nerf, but I’m pretty sure the card is just plain shit now. If you want a 4/4 for three with a drawback I can point you to Ogre Brute and Dancing Swords, both of which saw absolutely no Constructed play outside mill decks, which as we all know aren’t real decks anyway.

But what cards were overlooked in this wave of changes? Team 5 had an amazing chance to make Classic and Basic cards the infrastructure of Standard by making changes to cards to ensure that particular archetypes will not persist year after year in a supposedly always fresh format, but a few decks appear to be poised to forever be Standard contenders.

Freeze Mage

The first deck that jumps out at me is Freeze Mage. Maybe this is what the developers want to be the Mage’s identity; a reactive hero that has excellent options for board control, sustainability, and burst. None of Freeze Mage’s primary cards were changed at all, so you can expect to face the same combination of Ice Block/Barrier, Frost Nova/Doomsayer, and a flurry of burn (and maybe an Alexstraza) to the face to end the game. Yes, Mad Scientist is leaving, but I don’t think it will change much with how much Standard appears to be slowing down since the Scientist’s best use was against aggro decks, where he just bought time. Emperor Thaurussian will eventually leave as well, but he is just a luxury, not a requirement. It remains to be seen whether decks that play for the extreme late game, like C’Thun decks, will serve to keep Freeze Mage in check, but I have my doubts.

You might ask how Freeze Mage is any different from a deck like Control Warrior, and that many of Control Warrior’s cards are also going to always be in Standard. The difference is that Freeze Mage operates on a very specific axis, while Control Warrior, as evidenced over the last two years, has undergone several different iterations. Sure, the goal is always to stabilize and then win somehow, but the cards they use to get there have changed over time, and so have their win conditions. Did you know that you can build a 26-card all Classic Freeze Mage deck? Sure, maybe you don’t want Acolyte of Pain or Azure Drake in some metas, but holy shit more than two-thirds of the deck is NEVER going to change unless flat better options come about? I hope you all like getting Fireballed a bunch of times, forever.

Ramp Druid

By this time we all know that a big part of Druid’s identity is mana ramping. They will probably have access to many ramp spells/minions in Standard, probably a great deal of them during the Fall when Standard grows to it’s maximum size.

It’s really just one card in the archetype that really bothers me – Innervate. I’ve never liked Innervate as a card because I usually don’t like cards that are many orders of magnitude more powerful in the early game than the late game. Facing down a large threat far earlier in the game than you can handle is one of the most frustrating ways to lose a game, and clearly it’s worth playing despite the risk of drawing it late since almost every Druid deck since ever plays two.

Hearthstone is a different game than Magic: The Gathering by a wide margin, but it’s hard not to think about how free mana affected Magic in its early years. Now, Magic has purged it’s professional formats of almost all fast mana, not only because it isn’t fun, but it also restricts design space. In almost every resource-driven card game ever made, the very core of gameplay revolves around slowly building resources that allows for play and counter-play, but Innervate breaks down that dynamic. Sure, Innervate costs a card, and occasionally Innervating out a card means not playing anything meaningful on the next turn, but in Hearthstone it almost doesn’t matter. If you play a fat minion early, all most opponents can do is decide which minions they want to throw away to yours, simultaneously praying to RNGesus that you don’t have any follow up because it’s those games where a Druid plays a Druid of the Claw on turn three and a Shredder on turn four that are practically unwinnable for the opponent. You simply fall too far behind too quickly while the Druid gets to make all the trading decisions every turn.

Divine Favor

Yes, Aggro Paladin had many of it’s early minions nerfed, and so not changing Divine Favor may not have any impact at all for some time, but we have to adopt a long view here since Divine Favor will ALWAYS be a part of Standard, and frankly, might be the most powerful card in all of Hearthstone behind Innervate because it circumvents one of Hearthstone’s basic tenets – players draw one card per turn.

Sure, there are many cards that draw cards out there. Acolyte of Pain, Arcane Intellect, Shield Block, the list goes on and on. But Divine Favor can  draw four OR MORE cards for three mana, and the mechanic by which it determines how many cards you draw is practically toxic because it encourages a player to dump their hand regardless of whether it’s a ‘good idea.’ Who cares if everything you played that turn got wiped out on good trades from an opponent when you refilled your entire hand and can just keep mindlessly vomiting out minions?

The very idea that a card exists that encourages players to ignore strategy and simply play as many things as possible is terrible for Hearthstone, and it may not be a problem right now, but I remember when Cancer Paladin was a thing, and I’m not taking about Secrets.

No Buffs?

For some time I expected many cards to be buffed in this wave of changes. There are plenty of crappy cards out there that have never seen serious play, but I came to see that buffs to cards will probably be very rare going forward. Any time a card is buffed, especially a Classic or Basic card, there is less of an incentive to buy more cards because that suddenly powerful card will take the place in decks of something from a newer set. If the developers have a cool new idea for a card, they can simply release it in the next set instead of buffing one of the many useless cards that already exist.

In addition to business model issues with buffs, there’s also the chance that buffing Classic cards will just create more of what almost all the nerfs were designed to remove -ubiquitous staples that would just eventually have to be nerfed. Sorry Totemic Might, maybe your destiny is somewhere down the road, but it’s going to be as the same shitty spell you are right now.

That about wraps it up for now. I’ll be back with my thoughts, and maybe a full review of every card (a big maybe) in Whispers of the Old Gods shortly before it’s release on April 26th! If you think I missed any cards you feel should be nerfed, be sure to let me know either in the comments below, on my Facebook page The Olentangy Plays, or tweet at me @NigelTheLondon

Until then, may all your Crackles be for lethal!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Hearthstone – Conquest Event to Win League of Explorers

Lats night I managed to win a small promotional tournament hosted by AsainKing2(social media links pending). The event was double elimination conquest, the winner got $20 on BNet, and the runner-up won $10. There was no entry fee, so I want to thank AsainKing for ponying up the money! It was only an 8-player event, but since even small events can take quite a while (this one was about four hours long), I wanted to give it my best.

Deck Selection

In the conquest format, I find that one of the easiest strategies is to pick a style of deck and heavily lean against it. In a previous tournament, I chose to target combo druid in the past by building decks that can stay out of range of the combo, and it seemed to work well, and it was a huge plus that the decks that can stay out of range were also the ones I knew the best.

priest

Priest

Ever since the OTK Patron deck left the scene, Dragon Priest has been a top-tier deck for ladder. Sure, it isn’t the fastest deck, and doesn’t really have a concrete plan to win other than attacking with random dudes, but it does a great job of just not dying.

I agonized over including the hybrid package of Circle/Blademaster/Soulpriest over Chow/Thoughtsteal/more board clears, but I decided that the former was just more consistent, and anyone who’s played a bunch of priest mirrors knows that it’s all about the Blademaster early.

The only other change was going with a second Shadow Word: Death over the second Blackwing Corruptor. With the Soulpriest package in the deck having more spot removal isn’t as important since you want them to overextend into your clears. I don’t play Chillmaw because it just does more of the same stuff the rest of the deck does, and that’s not what you need from a seven-drop.

Mage

mage

I won’t lie, I’m not that experienced with Freeze Mage, but I really wanted another class to fit into that niche of fighting combo druid. The last conquest event I played in I played Warrior/Priest/midrange token Paladin, and while I did fine, I did not really like the Paladin deck, and I don’t think it’s position has improved in the last month or so.

For those who don’t play this deck, basically the deck is broken into three parts – card drawing, staying alive, and kill conditions. Most of the ‘staying alive’ portion of the deck isn’t actually life gain, but stalling cards like Frost Nova and Blizzard, or Ice Block, a card that is leveraged to try to assemble a two turn kill while ignoring an opponent.

Interestingly enough, I think Freeze Mage is actually a toxic deck. Opponents are often simply left to guess with very little to go on whether to play more threats or hold back and bleed the mage out slowly. What keeps the toxicity at bay is just how difficult it can be for the freeze mage player as well. When you play a deck with three faces, you never know how a game will play out.

The only stylistic change I made is playing one Illuminator over a second Healbot. Illuminator costs less mana, gains at least four life when it comes into play, and soaks a minimum of four more before dying. I don’t play two because Ice Block isn’t always in play. Illuminator can also draw a silence out, making later Doomsayer plays more likely to succeed.

Note that I would have played a Bloodmage Thalnos if I had one.

Warrior

warrior

Ahh, my old standby. I’ve been playing control warrior since the OTK Charge builds, and it’s always been my most consistent deck. This build, however, is more reflective of a desire to beat aggressive decks in general. I generally don’t like heavy RNG cards in decks that rely on consistency from turn to turn, but I’ve learned that  most of the time, you use the RNG cards to try to swing a game you were losing anyway, and the non-RNG substitutes are generally not good enough to turn the tide anyway.

That’s why I love control warrior. There are lots of choices in deckbuilding to make. Bash or Shield Block? Emperor or Sylvanas? Shieldmaiden or Sludge Belcher? How many Taskmasters? What sorts of win conditions? Since the deck often goes the distance into fatigue-ville, the impact of every card choice you make is felt.

The event itself went well, but I’m not used to trying to recall Hearthstone games in great detail like I can do with Magic, so I’ll have to stick to highlights.

In a game against Dragon Priest mirror, I topdecked both Deaths on the correct turns, then had to make some tough decisions when my opponent played a Dragonkin Sorcerer and a boatload of Velen’s Chosen on it. He dominated my board for a while while I sacrificed most of my hand to try to get a Ysera to stick for more than a single turn to dig for Dream, but luckily I forgot I had Vol’Jin left, and took over from there.

The only warlock I played against I was SURE was handlock since it was paired with warrior and mage, and so I mulligained away a priest opener that was awesome against aggro and terrible against handlock, and got Flame Imp’d right off the table.

In the finals, my warrior almost came back from a Malorne that rampaged out of an Unstable Portal, followed by Ragnaros (not from a portal), without using a single Execute.

In an example of how the RNG warrior cards are good when used in the right spots, I only Brawled once in the event, but it was clutch and hit the 1/3 to swing the game.

The decks performed as expected. I lost some games to the new Patron Warrior and some other midrange lists, but I preyed on combo druid and won almost all my games against it. While I still think that in a meta where no one deck is better than the others a ‘knockout’ style of event is better since it allows for some crazy decks, conquest is pretty fun too.

Hopefully in the coming weeks I get to play in more events. While four hours is a long time for an eight-man, I still enjoyed it!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Controlling Standard

This post is courtesy of @BrianEconomides, a friend of mine who thinks my blog is cool enough to want to post his own material here. Contact him on Twitter or on this post for feedback.

 

The good old days

The good old days

I remember the first time I ever truly understood what counter magic did. It was an experience that altered the entire game for me. Since then, we’ve gone from using simple spells like Arcane Denial and Counterspell to complex ones like Cryptic Command. I am a control player, one who really enjoys locking an entire game down and having my opponent scoop with the understanding that they just can’t win.

However, today’s Standard format requires a different style to be successful. With Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash producing next to no help for true control players while setting the stage for Naya and Boros decks to shine, what’s a control player to do? These last few weeks I’ve spent countless hours researching the best cards for an Esper control deck. My first effort looked a lot like Brian Braun-Duin’s Esper list that he tested on January 25th, with minor changes, but after putting it to the test, I was disappointed.

 

  • 3x Obzedat, Ghost Council
  • 1x Snapcaster Mage
  • 3x Jace, Architect of Thought
  • 1x Liliana of the Veil
  • 1x Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
  • 1x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
  • 2x Detention Sphere
  • 2x Dimir Charm
  • 2x Dissipate
  • 4x Sphinx’s Revelation
  • 4x Think Twice
  • 2x Ultimate Price
  • 4x Lingering Souls
  • 4x Supreme Verdict
  • 4x Drowned Catacombs
  • 4x Glacial Fortress
  • 3x Godless Shrine
  • 4x Hallowed Fountain
  • 2x Isolated Chapel
  • 2x Nephalia Drownyard
  • 4x Watery Grave
  • 1x Swamp

I won’t go over the sideboard as my meta will probably differ from yours (I live in Japan), but here are some realizations from my first two weeks with this deck.

Lingering Souls

Lingering Souls has seen its time come and pass in Standard. Unless you are building a deck based around pumping your critters up, this card just lacks any value in this format. I even tried Sorin, Lord of Innistrad over Liliana of the Veil to give my Lingering Souls a little more value, but it just wasn’t enough. Too often was I casting Lingering Souls turn 3 to avoid getting slapped in the face by a 3/3 Haste creature, or worse, Geist of Saint Traft. Or, I’d cast it only to find out that they were holding a Bonfire of the Damned or Thundermaw Hellkite.

Think Twice

Too many times I found this card just sitting in my hand when what I really needed was either a way to deal with a creature, or a creature to put on the board. Additionally, many people see Esper and automatically think Rest in Peace, which turns Think Twice into a cycler instead of a draw spell. Coincidentally, Rest in Peace also hits Lingering Souls, and screws over the one Snapcaster Mage that wiggled its way into the deck.

Sphinx’s Revelation

Finally, I don’t feel there is a need for four Sphinx’s Revelation. I love this card, but if you draw more than one in your first four turns, they just start clogging up your hand and you start wishing you had answers for your opponent’s board and not a hand full of draw cards with three lands in play.

So, after some initial setbacks, I’ve come up with this new brew, one that should help us control player’s stand a little bit of a chance against aggro:

  • 3x Obzedat, Ghost Council
  • 3x Augur of Bolas
  • 4x Geist of Saint Traft
  • 2x Jace, Architect of Thought
  • 3x Liliana of the Veil
  • 1x Tamiyo, the Moon Sage
  • 1x Dimir Keyrune
  • 1x Orzhov Keyrune
  • 2x Dimir Charm
  • 2x Orzhov Charm
  • 2x Detention Sphere
  • 2x Dissipate
  • 4x Supreme Verdict
  • 3x Sphinx’s Revelation
  • 2x Essence Scatter
  • 4x Drowned Catacombs
  • 4x Glacial Fortress
  • 3x Godless Shrine
  • 4x Hallowed Fountain
  • 2x Isolated Chapel
  • 2x Nephalia Drownyard
  • 4x Watery Grave
  • 1x Swamp

Some notes on the new additions.

Augur of Bolas

Lumengrid Warden he is not

Lumengrid Warden he isn’t

I felt that this decks early game is what got it into trouble against aggro. In the past, we had access to cards like Wall of Omens that aided in the early game. Today, the closest thing to this is Augur of Bolas. Initially, I didn’t like the concept of Augur, however, I found myself always digging for spells and Think Twice wasn’t getting the job done. Augur allows me to see three cards down and have the option of which one to take. To top it off, this ability is attached to a 1/3? Couldn’t ask for more.

Geist of St. Traft

The old version really had no way of dealing with Geist of Saint Traft and the deck lacked any offensive capability. I believe the saying “If you can’t beat them, join them” comes to mind. Adding four Geist’s to the list brings not only giving me another means of dealing with him, but also the ability to turn a creature sideways for some damage.

Mana Considerations

I altered the mana curve slightly to account for the fact that Sphinx’s Revelation was only really effective at six mana or more. Two Keyrunes came in to help with the mana-fixing and to help create offense after a Supreme Verdict.

Orzhov Charm

I struggled to find an effective creature kill spell, but eventually landed on Orvhov Charm. I’m still wary of this card as it comes with a few downsides. First, you lose life equal to the creatures toughness. This really only becomes a plus against Thragtusk and Aurelia, The Warleader because they deal more damage than they can take. Second, one of the abilities of the charm is completely useless in the deck. I’m currently checking out some one cost creatures to see if it would be a good idea to run any, but am currently at a loss.

Board Control

The last thing I considered was the board control elements of the deck. I added two Essence Scatters to help with early threats, and ditched a Jace, Architect of Thought for a third Liliana of the Veil. Liliana is just great all around because if you aren’t forcing your opponent into top deck mode, you are helping nuke creatures off their board.

Test Time

Now that I feel the deck has answered some obvious issues with its early game, it’s time to test this thing out at my local Friday Night Magic. Keep an eye out for my next article where I’ll be discussing some of the best sideboard cards for each color.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bringing the Vengeance

Hopefully for the last time ever, MTGO has caught up with the paper world with M13 release events firing every few minutes. I personally joined one for 25 tickets, played one round of double mana screw, and dropped. Limited play for Core sets is so boring. Even if I had ever drawn a fourth land in either game I played, it wouldn’t have been that exciting, and not having to play M13 is about as fun as playing it anyway. After selling some of my rares at the highest price they will ever be(ex. sold Cavern of Souls during release event for 24ish tickets. Now I get them passed to me in draft), I turned to updating the R/W ‘Storm’ deck originally featured here:

http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/standard/24343_Thank_God_Its_FNM_RW_Storm.html

When I first read this article, I quickly dismissed it as poor because there were no notes on actual performance, or even a primer on how to play the deck correctly. Normally a primer isn’t needed because a deck’s function will be obvious, but with so much card selection, it is vital to know what you are looking for. Tough decisions are more often the case now that there are eight looting effects, so don’t just try to blow through your deck without a plan in mind. But before some general advice, the new list:

  • 4 Faithless Looting
  • 4 Infernal Plunge
  • 4 Kuldotha Rebirth
  • 2 Panic Spellbomb
  • 1 Noxious Revival
  • 4 Wild Guess
  • 4 Krenko’s Command
  • 4 Ichor Wellspring
  • 2 Mycosynth Wellspring
  • 4 Battle Hymn
  • 2 Increasing Vengeance
  • 2 Past in Flames
  • 2 Burn at the Stake
  • 2 Reforge the Soul
  • 1 Devil’s Play
  • 18 Mountain

Sideboard

  • 4 Smelt
  • 2 Gitaxian Probe
  • 1 Noxious Revival
  • 2 Reforge the Soul
  • 2 Burning Vengeance
  • 4 Whipflare

There are three big changes of note: Krenko’s Command, Wild Guess, and Increasing Vengeance. One of the major issues the deck had previously was an inability to refill or add to your token army in the middle of the critical turn because Gather the Townsfolk required White mana, and in most cases all your mana was Red once you started going nuts. You lose the ability to go to five or less and then go off out of nowhere, but the consistency gained in both the mana base and having more paths to win seems well worth it. Wild Guess is an additional selection spell, and means we don’t have to play quite as many Reforge the Souls. It is quite rare that I even cast one during a win. With all the Lootings/Guesses/Wellsprings, it’s not hard to craft a hand and graveyard that can win without seven new cards. Still, I left two so the option is open in case a key piece is missing. Increasing Vengeance is probably the most interesting addition, for two reasons. One, it was available at the time the original article was written, so why wasn’t it included? Also, it is just incredible at bridging the gap between an engine that never really does much and killing the enemy easily. When you flash back the Vengeance for RR using Past in Flames, you still get the extra copy of the spell; it is literally double Fork. When copying Burn at the Stake, it also remembers how many creatures were tapped for the first one. I played against some weird life gain brew last night, and easily, EASILY Burned him for NINETY using the Vengeance. Yes, I needed all three copies for thirty to kill him.

This deck takes a bit of mashing before becoming proficient at taking care of witches medieval style. It took me several games to realize that you should probably not loot away a Rebirth or Artifact just about ever. One mana for three guys is your most efficient way of making a Ramen Instant Army. Krenko’s Command is a backup plan at best, and is generally used to test an opponent for a sweeper by throwing out two goblins, or to refill during the Burn turn. Deciding when to use your Vengeance is usually just a matter of math, but don’t lose sight of the goal of just having enough to kill your enemy. I have caught myself several times having to rethink a line of play because I was opening myself up to disruption for a gain that was much bigger than what was required to win the game. Lastly, many openers with this deck will look clunky or useless. It’s a combo deck, so that’s perfectly natural. Most hands that have either a Ichor Wellspring, Faithless Looting, or Wild Guess are keeps with the ability to cast said spell and not much else. The idea is to get a graveyard going most of the time, and these spells get the ball rolling.

Before I leave you to play with this hilariously fun deck, a few quick notes on the sideboard. Smelt is a catch for Grafdigger’s Cage, and I would never bring in more than two blindly(though of course I would have to suspect it before I blindly board anyway). Any deck that still plays Cranial Extraction somewhere brings in the Revival, as it’s not bad just sitting in the deck letting you redraw a Rebirth, or setting up a Reforge the Soul. Burning Vengeance is an alternate win condition, but mostly it’s there because I can’t think of what else to jam against a deck that wants to go long.

There are also a number of other directions this deck could go. Becoming even more graveyard-centric is an option. A RUG deck that plays Rebirth, the Artifacts, Rituals, and far more ways to fill the bin like Mulch or Thought Scour could be better options. Creatures like Augur of Bolas would find a home in a deck like this quickly as well. I leave it to you, reader. Go forth, and brew!

Nigel H.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Continuing Experiments

The title is multi-faceted, of course. It refers to both my Constructed brews online, and the move from written draft reports to streamed ones.

Generally, things are going well on both fronts, but there are a few snags related to my stream that must be addressed soon, such as my microphone not picking up my voice clearly. It’s a confounding problem because my voice sounds just fine when broadcast over ventrilo. I’m hoping that tinkering a bit more with the capture settings on XSplit will help, but I might just end up using a different microphone entirely. I also have to be ok with just streaming and not having a ton to talk about. I draft way more often than I stream, but the nature of MTGO transforms me into a hermit of sorts that doesn’t really want to explain what I’m doing. Perhaps I’ll just run some drafts with no mic when I’m feeling anti-social so you aren’t robbed of extra draft coverage.

On the brighter side, the decks I favor online have been performing quite well overall. The G/W/b tokens deck is ready for bigger events. There is a ton of U/B online, along with various weenie decks that can’t compete with the power of Lingering Souls + Intangible Virtue(a pairing that, if you don’t follow formats no one plays, is actually banned in Block Constructed). Before I gush any more, here’s what I’m currently running:

  • 4 Birds of Paradise
  • 2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
  • 4 Doomed Traveler
  • 3 Mortarpod
  • 2 Gather the Townsfolk
  • 4 Intangible Virtue
  • 4 Lingering Souls
  • 2 Timely Reinforcements
  • 3 Oblivion Ring
  • 4 Mirran Crusader
  • 1 Fresh Meat
  • 2 Increasing Devotion
  • 4 Razorverge Thicket
  • 4 Isolated Chapel
  • 3 Woodland Cemetery
  • 3 Plains
  • 5 Forest
  • 4 Gavony Township
  • 2 Vault of the Archangel

Sideboard

  • 3 Celestial Purge
  • 2 Ray of Revelation
  • 2 Naturalize
  • 4 Shrine of Loyal Legions
  • 2 Timely Reinforcements
  • 2 Fresh Meat

A few points: There are 31 mana sources in the deck, but six of them are good enough to qualify as spells in their own right, and another six can be win conditions on their own with a Township. I’m still not sold on two Vaults, but I don’t draw it enough when playing and I want to get a better feel for just how good it can be. I’m also not reducing Townships/Vaults to a 3/2 split, as Township is the ultimate trump card in creature fights and against counterspells, essentially making Gavony Township the second most important card in Standard behind Delver of Secrets given the decks people like to play right now. The only deck that doesn’t do one of these things in Wolf Run ramp, a deck that has fallen pretty far because of the presence of U/B.

My sideboard isn’t perfect yet either. I really like Fresh Meat, but I don’t really have room to bring in the entire sideboard. Based on what sort of plan you think your opponent has post board, you have to decide whether to fight Curses, Ratchet Bombs, or extra Wrath effects. Remember that Shrine is inevitably going to win, but to enable it you have to keep the hate away long enough. With four Shrines, and most control opponents having very slow clocks, Fresh Meat is looking like it’s going to get cut for an extra Ray of Revelation to fight the 8 Anthem decks(a matchup based almost entirely on the number of Lingering Souls and pump effects drawn on either side), and something else, likely a one of that can catch unprepared foes off guard(so, like Fresh Meat, but serving a different purpose).

Finally, there is the question of Blade Splicer vs. Mirran Crusader. Given that this is a token deck, some would say that the Splicer is a better choice since it gives two bodies to get pumped up. However, there is a key factor missing from my game plan that is almost a requirement to play Splicer. I don’t have any Swords! I could just play some in place of the sometimes weak Gather the Townsfolk, and maybe that is the future of the deck, but until that happens I cannot consider BS over a card that is just incredible right now. Mirran Crusader is the bane of Strangleroot Geist decks and Zombie decks, while being above average against everything else but other token decks and ramp. You might say that Blade Splicer is also good against Zombies and Geist, but that’s only true on defense. You can buy time with a 3/3 First Striker, but the 1/1 is vulnerable to everything, making the 3/3 a liability in combat at times. Also, when you want to go on offense, you have to get through everything you were keeping at bay. Crusader often provides a two turn clock once he gets going, and practically nothing kills him.

If you’re wondering about my adventures in Havengul Lich land, all I can say is I’m not posting any lists right now, mostly because some are embarrassingly bad and some have potential, but they just aren’t ready. Most decent builds have an excellent win percentage in the practice room, but it falls sharply once tickets are spent to play. All my builds are combo based as well, despite my ongoing search for a more traditional control deck that just happens to play Lich/Summoning. It’s also rather expensive to tinker with the deck, because I want to play things like Elesh Norn and Titans, but I just don’t want to bite the bullet and spend on them just yet. I’ve been using stand ins like Massacre Wurm and the like, and the fattie plan shows potential, but not enough to spend $100 on Norns. If I have some sort of breakthrough(or breakdown on the idea), it will assuredly be written about here, so keep watch!

 

Nigel

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Token Effort

As I’ve written many times before, the decision to really dive into building a real MTGO collection is a tough one to make. Despite my commitment to this, it’s a slow and arduous road filled with trying to squeeze every penny out of each ticket I put in, and resisting the temptation to sell to bots unless I have a good reason beyond I don’t want to charge my credit card for four more dollars to get what I want, whether it be an Isolated Chapel or just to enter another draft.

As a result of this painfully slow transition, I now have a decent Standard collection, albeit minus all the cards worth more than five tickets each since starting small seems like a wise idea in case MTGO turns out to suck, or I just change my mind. Even with this somewhat motley crew of spells and lands, I managed to assemble a deck or two that are worth playing for kicks. In fact, I stumbled upon a deck I really like that plays a card that people forgot about when Tempered Steel became extinct. Here is my take on BWG tokens:

Maindeck

  • 4 Birds of Paradise
  • 2 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
  • 4 Doomed Traveler
  • 2 Mortarpod
  • 3 Gather the Townsfolk
  • 4 Intangible Virtue
  • 4 Lingering Souls
  • 2 Timely Reinforcements
  • 3 Oblivion Ring
  • 4 Mentor of the Meek
  • 2 Fresh Meat
  • 2 Increasing Devotion
  • 4 Razorverge Thicket
  • 4 Woodland Cemetery
  • 3 Isolated Chapel
  • 3 Plains
  • 5 Forest
  • 3 Gavony Township
  • 1 Grim Backwoods
  • 1 Vault of the Archangel

Sideboard

  • 2 Nihil Spellbomb
  • 4 Shrine of Loyal Legions
  • 3 Celestial Purge
  • 2 Ray of Revelation
  • 2 Timely Reinforcements
  • 2 Naturalize

Hey, look ma, no mythics! I just moments ago had the idea for Fresh Meat. It’s a card I’ve always wanted to make use of, and not-so-coincidentally I happen to own four Chinese foil ones! That unknown aside, this deck can do some really awesome things. It has access to three different ‘spell’ lands, giving a wide array of interesting effects that are generally useful. The Grim Backwoods is probably getting the boot soon though, as I really would like another Vault of the Archangel despite it not being useful in multiples. Also, the deck functions VERY well against most control decks, so the ability to eat men for new cards is unneeded.

If I were to add mythics to this deck, the Increasing Devotions would be the first spell cut for something like two Sorins, mainly used as extra anthem effects(I’m not playing Honor the Pure because of all the Green accelerators and the Shrines in the board, and I can win Anthem fights with Ray of Revelation usually), but also serving up a stream of tokens should I need them. After that, Mentor of the Meek has been downright awesome in some games, and just a shade too slow in others. It certainly makes token mirrors a joke however, so I’m hesitant to just cut it because it isn’t great all the time. Consider it a calculated risk to play it main. Also consider an opener of Birds/Pilgrim, Mentor, Gather draw two. Who cares if they kill it after that. It’s also good to hold until later when you can play it and get a draw off a stray one drop. There is also the question of what to play instead of Mentor. Hero of Bladehold seems like an obvious choice, but I just can’t buy into it. Sure, it wins games unchecked, but opponents are not going to be Fiend Huntering, Vapor Snagging, or Doom Blading silly tokens, so they will usually have something by the time you play it. Hero is an interesting sideboard option as well, but it would only be good in aggro mirrors, as Shrine of Loyal Legions can single handedly spell doom for control decks who have to use Ratchet Bombs just to survive the initial attack AND also sided out much of their single target removal. Blade Splicer would be considered, but really I just hate that card. It might be the worst $6 rare anyone ever played.

This brew isn’t without problems though. Sword of War and Peace is a scary, scary card, but I feel that more and more decks will move away from it,  since there are now decks like Black based zombies, various Green aggro decks, and the resurgence of U/B control(this decks natural prey).  Good old Red based Wolf Run, and any deck that tries to unfairly put an Elesh Norn into play is very bad news in game one, though there are three Oblivion Rings main to give the deck a few outs to large fast men(women? whatever a praetor is), as rebuilding isn’t terribly hard after you exile an offending fatty that wiped most of your board away.

This entire deck, if bought from bots, would cost roughly thirty or so tickets right now, and 80%+ of that comes from buying a manabase you will want to own anyway, so if you’re feeling frisky, log on and jam this thing for a bit. It’s a blast to play! So much actually that I was thinking of rocking a list close to this at Gamer’s Gauntlet’s Mox Standard event this Saturday@noon. Either that, or some terrible deck with Havengul Lich in it. Thoughts on either?

Nigel

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized