I don’t drink too much Mt. Dew Amp. Seriously. It is no big deal.
Wait, you aren’t talking about Amp? What’s that you said? Shards of Alara?
Sorry, it’s hard to hear you over the sound of how awesome this set is (then again, it could just be the buzzing of caffeine in my brain).
There are so many playables in this set… I love it! It is crazy to me that people can forget the same thing they always forget. Every time a new block rolls around, people forget that new cards are going to be strong in different ways than the cards that were good before. Do you guys remember how bad people thought Lorwyn was?
Regardless, this set is so cool. I tip my hat to Bill Rose, Mark Rosewater, and the rest of Wizards R&D. This is one of my favorite sets ever, across the board.
First of all, there is a large variety of Constructed playables, as I have said. It is not that there are some Mutavaults and Reveillarks and Bitterblossoms. It is that there are 95 legitimate candidates for consideration for Constructed. I love me a role player, and this set has more role players than most.
Still, it is not all role players, as it has plenty of “build around me” cards, such as Ad Nauseam, which I will get to in a minute. There are so many cool things to try as a result of what this set brings. It is crazy that seven sets rotated out of Extended, and there are only three new sets since the last season, but it still feels like there are almost as many new cards to try as old cards were lost?
Aside from the quantity of playables, there are other great things about the set that I really appreciate. The flavor is great, and I am enjoying the story and the artwork. I like how they handled the Shard concept, and I am curious to see how they evolve it in Conflux.
I had the pleasure of drafting the set recently, and was very pleased with how it went. This set seems balanced, fun, and interesting. Fun for Limited, fun for Constructed, fun to play, fun to build, fun to draft, fun to think about, fun to look at. This set gets five stars from me.
Thank you, Wizards!
Okay, as promised, some Ad Nauseam. I know that my position on this card is controversial, as many compare it to Necrologia and Moonlight Bargain, but I stand by my statement that this is a powerful card that will be played in Extended, probably banned in Legacy, and possibly restricted in Vintage.
It cracks me up when I hear the decks people are talking about for Extended this time around. A lot of people are under the impression that this format is very different than it is. However fast you think this format is, it is probably faster…
Yeah, I know that I build combo decks like Lil’ Wayne sips syrup, but man, they feel so good!
TEPS may have lost Burning Wish, Cabal Ritual, and Invasion Saclands, but there are plenty of great cards to replace those with and we are still talking about a consistent turn 3 goldfish.
It is relatively simple to put together the basic strategy for this deck, as it is like every other TEPS deck, in the sense that you are mostly just trying to build up for One Big Turn. The art to the deck is figuring out how long you can wait, and how much you can set up so that you can give yourself the best chance to go off.
Typically, the goal is to cast Mind’s Desire for at least five copies. You will win the vast majority of games in which you can get one that big, which is usually very easy to put together. Another way to go off is to Ad Nauseam during your opponent’s endstep, go as low as you dare/need to in order to draw enough cards to be able to simply play nine spells followed by a Tendrils of Agony on your turn.
How low should you go on life? As long as you have over 9000 life, I would almost always keep going. The most expensive spell in your deck is the Desire at 6, so as long as you have more than 6, you can keep going as you usually try to win right after the Ad Nauseam. If you do drop to 6, you just have to decide how likely it is that you will die compared to how much you need more cards.
I often continue to take hits at 5 or 6 life, though sometimes, in a pinch, I will Ad Nauseam all the way down to 1 or 2. It is really just a question of what you need in order to win. If you have already drawn or revealed 3 Chrome Moxen and you need another one in order to win, you keep going even if you are at 1 life.
I mean, if you need a Chrome Mox, you need it. If stopping will result in losing, you might as well keep going and give yourself the chance to get there. If Nassif can do THIS, then you can surely try to hit your last Chrome Mox.
Sometimes you won’t quite get enough to Tendrils the other guy out completely, but if you Ad Nauseam down to five life and then untap and Tendrils for 16, you might end up with over 20 life against an opponent that is dead to any Tendrils or Pyrite Spellbomb. This is especially cute when you follow your Tendrils for 16 with another Ad Nauseam to draw 10 more cards, easily putting the opponent away.
It is actually possible to play a pseudo-Necro Drain strategy, where you endstep Ad Nauseam down low, Tendrils back up, then Ad Nauseam another grip to try to go off again. You may feel bad for putting your opponent through this, but just remember to tell them: “At first, when I see you cry, it makes me smile. Yeah, it makes me smile. At worst, I feel bad for a while, but then I just smile. I go ahead and smile.”
Sometimes you will use Ad Nauseam on your opponent’s endstep to draw as many extra cards as you can in order to best go off on your turn, but other times you will essentially be digging to a Mind’s Desire which will surely be win with all those other extra cards. Sometimes, though, Ad Nauseam is just the threat you play on your opponent’s turn to get them to tap out, so that when you untap, your Seething Song doesn’t get countered.
Sometimes you will have plenty of Ritual-type effects but no Desire, so you just Ritual out the Ad Nauseam on turn 2 or 3 and either go off that turn or the next. It is the most skill intensive aspect of new TEPS, and you have to evaluate very carefully when it is a Skeletal Scrying for value and when it is a Mind’s Desire substitute.
One last application that needs to be considered (and possibly explored further) is the combination of Ad Nauseam and Angel’s Grace. When you cast Angel’s Grace and follow it with an Ad Nauseam, you are free to draw cards to your heart’s content. Your life total will continue to drop into the negatives, but Angel’s Grace will not let you lose until end of turn.
You can then draw your entire deck, then play all of your mana sources, and Tendrils the opponent into oblivion. You don’t have an instant speed win, though, so you can’t do this combo during your opponent’s endstep; still, it is a great option that will randomly win games.
It is possible that their should be more Angel’s Graces, but it is just such a weak card on its own and Ad Nauseam is so good without it that I don’t want to clunk up the deck with a bunch of bad fogs. Still, the random one-of has been great, and I might go to two. Sometimes you just Angel’s Grace during the attack step when the opponent attacks with a Master of Etherium and an Ornithopter with Cranial Plating.
I know Gerry T hates decks like this, but I am exciting to see what he does with this shell. He is on top of his game right now, and even though I have the benefit of talking to him regularly, I still look forward to each of his articles to see what he comes up with next. He doesn’t pull any punches, and I respect that a lot. (If I can’t randomly name-drop Flores anymore, I obviously am going to go with The Mastermind, Gerry T.)
So how does this deck fare against the popular archetypes? To start, it is a full turn faster than Affinity or Zoo, making aggro match-ups inherently good. If Affinity has Canonist, or if Zoo has Teeg or Sculler, you can be sure that things will be tougher, but you still have the tools to race them. Teeg is the worst of them, but you do have two Pyrite Spellbombs and a sideboard, though perhaps you should have a Chain of Vapor or two maindeck.
Against control, the key is to build up to a turn where you can make enough mana so that even if your Seething Song is countered, you can still Desire… then you will usually win, since your mana will be more bottlenecked but your storm count will be higher on account of their countermagic.
Against Tron, they can’t really disrupt you too well. They have Chalice of the Void to slow your mana, particularly on zero and one, but you can still play the cards to build storm. Tron often has trouble putting you on enough of a clock to put you away before you can build up a big enough storm to take them out.
If you are playing against a Loam/Raven’s Crime deck, you are typically just going to try to go off as fast as possible. If they hit you with a bunch of Crimes early, it can destroy your ability to produce a big Desire, but an Ad Nauseam will usually win outright.
Plasma Swan is typically just a race, with you being faster but them having permission. This is not the match-up you want to see, since countering your Rituals will often slow you enough for them to combo you out.
Proxy this bad boy up. It is filthy, I assure you. The right mix is still to be determined, but after you test against this deck, it may make you reconsider your perspective on what this format is all about. The combos in this format are so fast and so furious, I just don’t see how you can play anything other than them or aggro. You know I love Control, but how can you build a control deck that can beat TEPS, Plasma-Swan, Tron, Zoo, Affinity, and Loam?
I am so psyched! Man, there is all kinds of stuff coming up. Grand Prix: Kansas City is in 2 weeks, which will be fantastic. Then I am flying straight to Berlin to crack the code with Wafo, Bucher, Cheon, and LSV. Next month we have Hot-lanta. December is the World Championships (ah, Worlds….). Then next year starts off hot with events like the Magic Cruise.
The Magic Cruise is such a good look for Magic. It is events like this that will help take Magic Culture to the next level. Magic is such an amazing thing to be a part of, I want to see it grow and expand. Imagine spending almost a week on a cruise ship in the in Gulf of Mexico, having the time of your life with hundreds of other gamers, playing in all sorts of tournaments and taking part in no end of festivities.
I can’t recommend this cruise enough. If there is any way you can make it, you should strongly consider it. It is gonna be such an incredible event, and it will be so cool to be able to say that you were on the first one. The qualifiers are pretty cool too. I mean, winning a cruise is no small prize, that’s for sure.
I want to meet as many of you guys as possible down there, so please make sure you walk up to me and introduce yourselves. The StarCityGames.com community is second to none, and it is always a pleasure to meet readers. I have made so many cool friends as a result of people introducing themselves because of articles, and for that I am very thankful.
There is one more thing I want to mention today. I am trying an experiment. I am holding a Magic Training Camp weekend at my place on the Nov 7th — Nov 9th. Slots are available a couple of different ways, including this auction.
The idea is to work closely with a few people to help them try to qualify for the Pro Tour in Japan. Our national champion Mike Jacob will be helping me, and the weekend promises to be a totally great time. Let me know if this seems interesting to you guys. I would definitely appreciate feedback in the forums on this idea as well as suggestions as to how to make it as beneficial as possible.
Okay, anything else to cover before I bounce for the week?
If you are playing Standard anytime soon, play Five-Color Cruel Ultimatum. A sample list is here.
If you are playing Legacy, play Ad Nauseam with Lotus Petal, LED, Dark Ritual, Mystical Tutor, and so on.
If you are drafting, have fun! This set is good times. I love it. Seriously though, draft mana fixing high.
If you are anywhere near Worlds this year, you should go and look for the I Came To Game Promo Tournament featuring Jon Finkel, Kenji Tsumura, Gabriel Nassif, Mark Herberholz, Paul Cheon, Mike Long, Mike Turian, and myself. We will each be given a deck from the Top 8 of the very first pro tour, at random!
This event is gonna be an incredible show. These guys are some of the most entertaining and best players in the game. Finkel versus Cheon? Herberholz versus Turian? Kenji versus Long? A rematch between Nassif and myself? Talk about some great match-ups!
Okay, enough shameless plugs (what can I say! There is a lot of cool stuff going on!)
I am out of here for today, but who knows, maybe you’ll see me again later this week…
My Top 10 Favorite Shards of Alara Constructed Cards:
10. Broodmate Dragon
9. Naya Charm
8. Violent Ultimatum
7. Esper Charm
6. Tidehollow Sculler
5. Ad Nauseam
4. Bant Charm
3. Master of Etherium
2. Wild Nacatyl
1. Cruel Ultimatum
It seems criminal to not include Sprouting Thrinax or Tezzeret, but man, this set has a lot of hits.
What would you guys rather see next week: Extended or Standard? I will gladly work on either, but keep in mind, I am pretty sure that Five-Color Cruel Ultimatum is the best deck in Standard. That said, I can either talk about the latest incarnation of Cruelty, or I can go into the tank and brew something new. If you guys would prefer more on Extended, that is fine too… please let me know!
Also, I know I brought up a lot of non-strategy items this week, but if you have time, you should check them all out. There is a lot of cool stuff going on right now.
See you guys
next week Friday?