The Weekly Guild Build: Surviving Until MODO Arrives

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StarCityGames.com!The Ferrett struggles with – gasp – real life Magic as he awaits the release of MODO Dissension so he can crawl back into his cool, fluorescent-lit cave. And in doing so, he opens up a pack of cards that provide, as is depressingly usual, a host of options to play with but no strong singular theme….

The problem with existing mainly as a Magic Online-based entity and a real-world writer is that, well, in the time between when the new set is released and the Magic Online version is unveiled, I don’t have a lot to talk about. I have a bunch of friends who claim to love to play Magic, yet whenever I mention actually playing, they scatter like cockroaches when the light goes on.

Thus, I wind up in a weird limbo.

Last week I ventured out of my office and into the sunlight, which burned like acid, to go to the local game shop and play in a small tourney. This weekend, I didn’t have the time, and I missed the announcement that there was a Grand Prix trial this weekend, so I actually didn’t play at all.

This bothers me. When I build a deck for an article, I like to have some solid experience from it, to learn something I didn’t know before. Assembling a pile of cards in my room does nothing to tell me whether Condemn is as good as it looks or if Valor Made Real is as bad as I think.

But alas, that’s all I could do this weekend. For which I apologize. Perhaps you, dear readers, can tell me your personal experiences with the cards I mention below…. But in the meantime, next weekend is taken up with a wedding and my wife’s graduation from law school, so I don’t know when I’ll have time to play in this world.


Hmm. I was hoping for bomb rares, as always — but though Flame Fusillade and Hunted Dragon look like bombs on paper, my first Ravnica Sealed Deck taught me the limitations of the Fusillade and I’ve learned to fear the Hunted Dragon. Likewise, Leyline of the Void isn’t the sort of game-swinging card I wanted to see.

Crime / Punishment, however? Now, that’s not bad. But it doesn’t really give us a clear path to go color-wise, so let’s break it down once again.

Solid playables: Absolver Thrull, Boros Fury-Shield, Condemn, Sandsower, Screeching Griffin

I haven’t played with Condemn yet, but I don’t really need to in order to know that at worst, it’s a decent combat trick. (And if it looks as good as the card says, what the hey.) Unlike the obvious comparison to Swords to Plowshares, which neatly removed any creature from the game, Condemn can’t hit utility pingers … But considering that four times out of five you’ll be sending your best guys into combat, getting rid of it for a single White seems like a fine bargain. I played Devouring Light consistently at three times the cost, so hey. I’ll use this.

Carom is another source of some debate within the community, with some people thinking it’s maindeckable, and others waiting for its usage in the sideboard. Again, not having had it played against me, I can’t say, but Eli Kaplan called it “Annoyingly situational” and I have to agree. Wizards seems to use “draw a card” as the standard enticement to try to get you to play something that’ll be dead 50% of the time — not a bad prize, but I’d prefer a card I can always find a use for.

Incidentally, someone said Valor Made Real was a good card. I’m gonna have to see that in action before I agree with him.

I should also add that Chant of Vitu-Ghazi, though ludicrously expensive, isn’t that bad a card in Sealed. You don’t want to maindeck it, but if you’re in a matchup that’s fairly even, it can throw the tide of battle way back in your favor. The problem is, of course, that you have to guarantee getting to a point where you can cast an eight-mana instant and you can strike back for considerable damage the next turn — yeah, you can cast it when your side of the board is clear, but “Avoid losing for one more turn” is usually not a formula for winning.

Solid playables: Dowsing Shaman, Fists of Ironwood, Greater Mossdog, Gruul Scrapper, Ivy Dancer, Siege Wurm, Sundering Vitae

There are two cards here that I need to playtest to be sure of: Sporeback Troll looks kind of weak, because it provides a very expensive regeneration. Okay, you pay four mana to get a 2/2 that you then slide a counter off of to give your Siege Wurm the uber-unstoppable dude… And then you have to pay two mana to protect every creature. That seems to be a bit pricey, but on the other hand the Simic have surprised me so I don’t quite want to rule it out.

The other is the Cytospawn Shambler, which is quite solid but I always cringe at calling a mostly-vanilla seven-mana creature “solidly playable.” Not every deck can guarantee getting to seven mana, and a 6/6 tramply guy will break a lot of stalls but it’s not quite an auto-include. Again, I could be wrong.

That said, I like the mini-combo of Dowsing Shaman and Fists of Ironwood, and given that Simic is all the rage these days I have no problems maindecking Ivy Dancer. Siege Wurm is, of course, much nicer if we had a lower mana curve and a few more tokens, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at.

Solid playables: Flame Fusillade, Molten Sentry, Pyromatics, Seal of Fire

I mentioned last week that Red was the most conditional of all Ravnica colors; unless paired well, you wind up with a bunch of 1/1s with weird abilities. But we have quite a lot of nice removal here, and a bunch of 1/1 dorks+Fusillade isn’t a bad combo at all.

There are those who will mock me for Molten Sentry, but I like it. It’s not a great card, but I don’t mind throwing it into a Red deck. Seal of Fire is one of the greatest burn spells around since it forces your opponent to play completely differently until it’s gone, whereas Pyromatics was never quite as strong as I’d hoped it would be given the need for a lot of Red mana…. but it is removal, and flexible removal at that.

I’m quite tempted to go for the Red speed, then finish them off with one of the burn spells. But what else do we have?

Solid playables: Brainspoil, Dimir House Guard, Keening Banshee, Restless Bones

I would like to have a small flare of trumpets, please: this is the first time I have ever opened a Keening Banshee. The Banshee’s wrecked me a number of times, but I’ve never had the chance to explore its power! Mwoo hah hah!

Aside from the electric charge of Banshage, this is a nifty little Transmute package. I like a Dimir House Guard that can fetch me a Fusillade (at the cost of surprise value) or a Banshee when I’m feeling down. And the Brainspoil could get me… Well, it could get me Crime / Punishment, which is the only card we’ve seen that’s inevitably stronger than a “destroy a creature” effect. But it’s flexibility.

The jury’s still out on Delirium Skeins, which some die-hards think is a great play and others think is a waste. It probably depends on the deck, of course, but I’m not thinking that dropping a couple of my cards to supercharge the few Hellbent cards I have is a good deal.

Solid playables: Helium Squirter, Infiltrator’s Magemark, Peel from Reality, Terraformer, Train of Thought, Vacuumelt, Vedalken Dismisser (sorta)

Blue has some nice stuff here, but it’s saying “Hi! I’m a support color!” I like Helium Squirter, of course, but there’s none of the usual flying shenanigans that I love to see when I’m maindecking the color of the ocean. Except for the Peel From Reality, every playable is set up for the end game finisher, so I’ll say that this is a splash or nothing at all.

Solid playables: Crime / Punishment, Seeds of Strength, Skyknight Legionnaire, Mourning Thrull, Gaze of the Gorgon, Trygon Predator

The problem with playing with older cards is that you are frequently unimpressed by the newer ones. I looked at Punishment and went, “Oo! That’s like a Pernicious Deed, but without the ‘X and under’ clause!” But Crime… Stealing my opponent’s best critter back… Especially in a color where I have a fair amount of kill…. Hmmm. Of course, the fact that it is only my opponent’s critter is a bit of a letdown, but I still love beating my opponent with his bomb.

Oh yeah — and I can get back a Debtors’ Knell or Galvanic Arc with it. Enchantments generally aren’t as good as creatures in this environment, and sending an enchantment to the ‘yard is going to involve a sideboard Vitae and then drawing this, but it’s something to keep in mind.

Looking at the rest, there’s nothing so strong that I am lusting after it. Let’s look at the potential combos:

This gets us a fair amount of combat tricks (To Arms!, Carom, Valor Made Real), and a lot of removal (Brainspoil, Seal of Fire, Pyromatics, Flame Fusillade), and we pick up the great power of Crime….

….But we wind up low on beef. In fact, our largest solid-state creature in R/B/W would be a humongous 3/3 (not counting the too-situational Hunting Dragon), which makes this a near auto-loss to anything that packs big creatures. Admittedly, we have a decent amount of evasion and evasion-granting thingies, but I’m not comfortable with it.

We lose the Crime, which is p-p-painful (even as we can try for it with a Selesnya Sanctuary), but we pick up a lot of heavy hitters along the way — suddenly we have Cytospawn Shambler, Siege Wurm, and Dowsing Shaman to hold the fort. Plus, the limited token-generating abilities of Fists of Ironwood combine quite nicely with the Fusillade.

The slight problem is that if we do that, our mana curve gets shot to hell. Suddenly, we have to rely on Red for the early swarm, leap to Green for the mid-level stuff, and hope that we get double-Black for the Banshee and the Brainspoil. That makes me nervous… But then again, this gives us the amazing triple-Karoo draw, an act that would make Tim Aten squeal with joy, and we can stall the opponent’s development with the surprisingly nasty Rolling Spoil.

But what if mana concerns us? How about…

We lose a little destruction and exchange it for some late-game power. Suddenly we add the Helium Squirter, making our fatties fly, and the Trygon Predator beat the living hell out of me last week. Train of Thought isn’t so hot as a splash, but Vacuumelt certainly can help out.

It’s tough, but I’m gonna go with it.

Cytospawn Shambler
Dowsing Shaman
Fists of Ironwood
Greater Mossdog
Gruul Scrapper
Ivy Dancer
Siege Wurm
Sporeback Troll

Flame Fusillade
Goblin Spelunkers
Molten Sentry
Seal of Fire
Sell-Sword Brute
War-Torch Goblin

Helium Squirter
Infiltrator’s Magemark
Peel From Reality
Vedalken Dismisser

Scab-Clan Mauler

Trygon Predator

Gruul Signet

6 Mountain
6 Forests
5 Island

1cc: Seal of Fire, War-Torch Goblin
2cc: Peel From Reality, Sell-Sword Brute, Scab-Clan Mauler, Pyromatics, Fists of Ironwood, Gruul Signet
3cc: Ivy Dancer, Goblin Spelunkers, Trygon Predator, Vacuumelt, Infiltrator’s Magemark
4cc: Molten Sentry, Flame Fusillade, Gruul Scrapper, Sporeback Troll, Greater Mossdog
5cc: Helium Squirter, Dowsing Shaman
6cc: Vedalken Dismisser
7cc: Siege Wurm, Cytospawn Shambler

I’m not thrilled about the 6/6/5 mana base here, but I need early Red and Green, and double-Blue to pull off some of the better stunts. Alas, in going with this color we’ve gone out of our bouncelands — perhaps a reason to go into R/B/G.

The Weekly Plug Bug
This week, I am surprisingly not plugging my Webcomic Home on the Strange… Well, okay, I sorta am. But in a different way.

See, I need your help in a project. As nerds, we’ve all wondered what happens when we finally get a wish — because those genies are sadistic, misinterpreting your wishes in the worst way possible. If you wish for eternal life, those damn genies will lock you in a coma of eternal suffering every damn time.

Thus, we need someone to rules-lawyer a wish in such a way that there is no possibility that they can be misinterpreted. That involves lots of smart bodies. Thus, we need you to help us with the Open-Source Wish Project, wherein we ask the smartest wishees around to help us develop genie-proof wishes.

It’s been fun thus far. Come on down!

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