The Weekly Guild Build: MODO Is Too Danged Polite

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StarCityGames.com!It started as a joke. My opponent would plop down a Helium Squirter or an Aquastrand Spider, and with my next creature I’d grin and say, “Sure you don’t wanna give me a +1/+1 counter?” But what I did not do was ask him the same dang question for every single creature that he cast thereafter: “Wanna gimme a counter? Wanna gimme a counter? Wanna gimme a counter?”

It started as a joke. My opponent would plop down a Helium Squirter or an Aquastrand Spider, and with my next creature I’d grin and say, “Sure you don’t wanna give me a +1/+1 counter?”

They’d smile, and shake their head, and so the cordiality of the game continued.

What I did not do was ask for every single creature that came into play thereafter — including during token fiestas like Scatter the Seeds, Fists of Ironwood on a Bramble Elemental, and Patagia Viper — “Wanna gimme a counter? Wanna gimme a counter? Wanna gimme a counter?”

Had I done so for every single round, I’m sure one of my opponents would have leapt across the table and brained me with a steel-bound binder, shattering my skull and sending my gray matter skidding across the floor. And when the judge came over to view my cooling body and was informed of what I had been doing, he would have frowned and said, “Well, it’s not precisely the punishment I would have given for ‘Unsporting Conduct’… But that seems about right.”

Yet this, my friends, is what Magic Online does: It turns every set of graft creatures into a clicky-clicky nightmare.

No, I do not want to kill my Sporeback Troll to give your Siege Wurm an additional +1/+1. No, I do not want to gift your lovely Demon’s Jester with extra damage power. No, no, no, no!

This is a power for me, and me alone. And yet should I ever have three Graft creatures and an opponent with a Selesnya Guildmage, I may just concede the damn game before I get carpal tunnel.

I know, I know; there may come the strange day where I have an Experiment Kraj out and an opponent with some hideous beast I wish to clone. But this has not happened yet despite fourteen games of often-long play — and I see no “Stop bugging me, Graft” on the “Options” panel.

There’s nothing like running out of time with your opponent’s fatal damage hanging on the stack. And I did, mashing the “F2” button like it was going out of style. Oh, there’s probably some super-secret “pass on every spell on the current stack, halting only for new effects” key that I am unaware of, but if so it ain’t easily found in the documentation. Then again, nothing is easily found in the documentation.

So yes, I’ve been playing my ass off, and rather than give you the list from yet another Guildpact-free Dissension prerelease, I will instead discuss the cards I have played a lot and reevaluated:

Valor Made Real
Some people had mentioned that this was a great card, and so I explored it. (It certainly didn’t look good.) But though I’ve held it in the clutch in any number of games, I have yet to cast it. It seems like it would be a good tempo card — you swing with everything when everything seems hopeless, I chump with a single weenie thanks to Valor Made Real, and then I swing back for fatal damage!

It hasn’t worked out that way yet.

See, first of all, Valor Made Real depends on your weenie surviving long enough to block. That means you need at least a 3/3, since you will be pinning all of your hopes on this dude to absorb the onslaught of a zillion guys, and if he gets Seal of Fired out before Valor Made Real resolves, it kind of sucks. A 1/1 is just too fragile, which means you have to be able to lose a 3/3 and still swing for fatal damage. That makes it tougher.

“Okay,” you say, “What if it’s a regenerator? It can be any size and regenerate!” It sounds good… But unfortunately, it isn’t true. See, there are two mechanics that also serve to weaken the power of Valor Made Real, and they’re both straight from the base set: trample and flying. Usually, someone will be alpha striking with an abundance of flying creatures (and flying creatures that regenerate are at a premium in this set), or (as actually happened to me) your opponent will have a 7/7 Siege Wurm out that can assign all of its damage to my face after the first eight non-trampling damage are assigned. Not so much with the good.

And lastly, it’s the ol’ Chant of Vitu-Ghazi problem: only chumps swing with everything. Usually, your opponent will send in just enough creatures to will kill you (plus a few on the side for insurance), and it’s very rare that an all-out swing is the only way to win. Usually, he’s got you so outnumbered that by the time you need the VMR, he can hold back enough on defense that he’ll just kill you the next turn anyway.

Thus, I wound up holding onto Valor Made Real in several games where it seemed like it would be handy any moment now, and then I either won or lost without it. I cannot recommend this.

Plus, I wonder how Valor feels about Valor Made Real. I suspect he’s hanging around harrumphing, “Hey! People cast me back in Odyssey! I was real then! You stupid punks…” I wonder whether the next set will have a card called “Morphling Made Real.”

Aurora Eidolon
I like her a lot. Her “three damage” helps an awful lot, and may be one of the best Eidolonics out there. But my personal take is that…

Enigma Eidolon
…Can be more powerful. Three cards is a lot, and it’s not hard to get this sucker back. Rinse and repeat a few times, and you’re done.

Of course, this is me playing in a Dissension-heavy environment, and this is me speaking after having been Eidolon-Millstoned out twice. It could well be that the Aurora, which helps out in combat considerably, is the true gem. Or maybe the green Eidolon helps accelerate you into something big and wins.

But for now, I phear the Enigma.

Sporeback Troll
I said before that he seemed weak, and he pretty much is. His ability comes in handy to stall someone, but you can’t graft him away without getting hammered by a Rakdos Ickspitter (or by keeping four mana open to regenerate both critters), which means he’s only useful in a Graft-heavy deck, and how likely is that with only fifteen Dissension cards to work with?

I say thee nay! (Or, more accurately, I say thee 20th-card filler!)

Brace For Impact
Powerful effect. Big damn cost. I tried it out, and it was really nice, giving me an 8/7 Sky Hussar.

Then they bounced it.

I had to try it just to see whether it was better than it looked, but keeping five mana open as a combat trick is just not doable when the combat trick doesn’t automatically kill someone else’s creature. This, too, I shall pass.

Protean Hulk
I think this is a good card. I wouldn’t know. Every time I’ve cast it, people have been terrified to kill it, so all I’m left with is a puny 6/6 to beat people about the neck and face with. And can that really be called “good”?

Pride of the Clouds
I was happy to open this, and then was unhappy whenever I drew it.

See, the thing I’ve learned about the Forecast mechanism is that you want the ability to be cheaper than the main effect. Basically, you wanna spend a few mana for a round or two as an appetizer effect and then launch into the full dinner, eating the card wholesale when it’s useful. Pride of the Clouds is a gut-clogging four mana that you have to spend at the beginning of your turn — compare it to Vitu-Ghazi, the City-Tree, which you can use any time for the same mana.

Spending four mana before you get to the draw phase hurts. Especially when all you get is a 1/1 flier, which is nice but seems eminently dispatchable in this environment.

Then, after you finally cast Pride of the Clouds four times, you get a 5/5 creature for two mana. But you can’t cast it on turn 2, which means that it’s so situational that I don’t wanna play it.

Perhaps it can be good in Constructed (and a few decks have done well with it in Standard), but in Limited you don’t have the ability to guarantee a hard lock. This is, admittedly, killer on turn 12 in a stalemate, but ideally I don’t get into those.

It’s not unplayable. It’s just very very clunky, and not the kind of thing that automatically guides you into U/W.

Sky Hussar
This, on the other hand, is very very nice. The price is right for a big-ass flier, and you can use its ability quite nicely in the early game, when you don’t mind taking two damage to draw a card (assuming that your guys wouldn’t get through the defense anyway, of course). The “untap your dudes” is gravy, of course, even though I have yet to have that effect break anything wide open (short of getting a set of riotously unfair Lurking Informant activations out of it).

It’s obviously a good card, of course, but I’ve seen a couple of “obvious” good cards that fell flat. This didn’t.

I should, however, note that I keep wanting to call this the “Sky Hussy,” a tarted-up whore with wings who steals other people’s men. Not so much.

Vigean Hydropon
It was spoken of in harsh whispers at the Prerelease, a silly little secret shared between friends: “It’s better than it looks.” And I admit that I completely overlooked this when it first came out, but now it’s an autoplay should I be in the Simic guild. It’s not ever going to block, true, but it will make your next five creatures way better, and it’s not hateful enough to waste a Faith’s Fetters or a Seal of Doom on, meaning that it usually lives. I’m diggin’ the Wall of Hats, even if the better in me wants to call it “The Vig.”

Simic Ragworm
I have now moved this guy into the “auto-play” field, since at worst he’s a 3/3 for four (or, as all the cool kids call him, “a Hill Giant”). I first discovered the power of this dude when I ran into his second-turn Selesnya Evangel/fourth-turn Ragworm combo, which would have been fairly vexing had I not Faith’s Fettered the Evangel pronto.

So he Ocular Haloed it and outdrew me into oblivion.

Since then, I’ve discovered all sorts of cool tricks to be run out with this little guy, and even if none of them pan out he’s still a 3/3 for good mana. I’ll run him even if I’m not playing Blue, even if his rating goes down a bit then.

And speaking of Ocular Halo….

Ocular Halo
I pooh-poohed it for being an expensive enchantment, which it is, and for being not particularly impactful, which it is not. It’s still not OMG OMG quality, of course, but I’ve had a lot of luck dropping it on a fatty with evasion and going to town thanks to the vigilance — which makes it a card I like to see in the late game. It’s going to be one of the first cuts from a Sealed deck, but it’s not awful.

Patagia Viper
If you need me to tell you this guy’s handy, you probably shouldn’t be reading this. I will, however, note that he’s real fun when you combine his tokens with the Sky Hussy’s forecast ability.

This is, weirdly, a spell you don’t want to hold on for too long. The Timmy in me sees an infinite Stream of Life + a Counterspell, but that doesn’t take into account that in the late game, you may well get the life but not counter the spell.

I’ve had my best times with this around turn 5, when I had nothing better to cast but my opponent did. It wound up a near-dead card a fair amount, since I kept getting into situations where I needed to cast something to keep up, and my opponent cast something on his turn…. At which point I didn’t have the mana left to counter the spell, and the life I gained wouldn’t quite pull me out of the hole I was in, so the game eventually ended with it still in my hand.

Meh. Though I will say that Overrule + Verdant Eidolon is a nice feeling.

Simic Guildmage
I am torn on the Guildmage. When he is handy, he is really handy, killing off opposing Graft critters by the score (“Move that final counter off your Aquastrand Spider, thank you”), and shifting enchantments around to beat the band (“Move Faith’s Fetters off my Bramble Elemental, move it back on, move it back off, move it back on… Hey, where’d all those tokens come from?”).

But when there are no +1/+1 counters or enchantments, there’s not a lot for him to do. Which puts him in the situation of being really powerful when the time calls, and really useless when the time doesn’t — unlike, say, the ridiculousness of Rakdos Guildmage or Selesnya Guildmage, which need nothing in play to be useful aside from mana.

I’ll still run it, of course, if I’m in the colors. But I have to have cards that work with it.

Delirium Skeins
This may be good, but it’s never been good on me. Every time someone has cast it (four times, by my recollection), they have always cleared a pair of lands out of my hand, and then I topdecked better than they did. My record at winning once Delirium Skeins has been cast is 4-0.

However, I would like you amateur statisticians to note that yes, this is a very small sample size and it could be better than this. And now I will run straight into a four-game losing streak against Skeins.

The Weekly Plug Bug
Last week, my Web comic Home on the Strange started off with a virtual castration, leading to momentous events in the life of our nerdy gamers. This week, Karla’s loyal husband Tom must see whether he can pick up the shattered pieces of Gotterdammerüng, the RPG campaign that his wife so dearly loves — and, more importantly, whether he wants to.

As an added bonus, the sidebar for Monday’s strip has perhaps the funniest thing I’ve ever written. Well, it made me giggle.

Signing off,
The Ferrett
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy