TWO THUMBS DOWN
I’m going to start this week off with a little horror story, in the hopes that I will save even one of you from having to endure the fate I did last weekend. My wife is a Highlander fan, and as such, she was very excited about the new movie, which opened a couple of weeks ago. She had been excited since seeing the trailer attached to the ‘X-Men’ movie earlier in the summer, and so I obliged her and took her to see the movie. Now let me stress this next bit …
DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE!
This was, by far, the worst movie I have seen in a LONG time. I can’t think of a worse movie I’ve seen in a theater since my wife and I went and saw ‘The Rocketeer’ just to make out in the theater (we were young, so sue us). The plot was wafer-thin, the villain had no justifiable cause for most of his actions, the special effects were sub-par even for the TV show’s standards, and even the fight scenes weren’t used properly. They introduce this whole cadre of sidekick villains, and you expect one of the Highlanders will have to fight each one in order to finally get at the bad guy, but you’d be wrong, as the main villain whacks ’em all himself in twenty seconds with no explanation. ‘Introduce’ is a strong word, since you only find out the names of two of them. And! The trailers you see on television? Nothing to do with the movie. That scene where someone cuts the bad guy in two? Not in the movie. The floating Connor head in the gold ball? Not in the movie. Explain THAT one to me. Beyond the killing of one of the Highlanders (not telling) and seeing Adrian Paul’s butt (if you happen to like that), this movie had no redeeming qualities. We didn’t even make out in it.
So if I can save just one of you from trying to claw your eyes out after seeing this movie, it will have been worth using this space. I keep telling myself I can justify the rant, because there was a Highlander TCG once upon a time.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME…
No, I’m not returning to my Shakespearean themes – I just wanted to add in another little rant here, and then I’ll continue on with real strategy.
There’s always some truth to names, no matter how you earn them. I was reminded this weekend of writing under the pseudonym of ‘the Rogue Elephant,’ which was accurate because most of the decks I played at that time were not the net-replicated kind (mostly because I couldn’t justify dumping that kind of money into the game). And up until I dropped it last month, I accepted the nickname ‘Super Wrong Guy’ simply because I knew I had a penchant for being wrong.
Having said that, I was reading the recent article by my co-columnist here at Star City, Sean Erik Ponce, where he presented his opinions on the Red and Green cards from the supposed spoiler at MTGNews (Ferrett, if you want to link it up here) (I do – http://www.starcityccg.com/news/Magic/Ponce/000919ponce.html – T.F.) – and I found myself thinking, "Well, at least now we know where the ‘Deranged’ part comes from."
My initial reaction was, "Is he really not going to look at these cards outside what they do for his already-established decks?" Because my first thoughts on seeing the spoiler weren’t, "Man, this doesn’t add anything to what we already have" but, "Man, this is gonna make for TONS of new decks!" And I guess I expected everyone else to do so.
Invasion is offering us a huge chance to try new things, to try out multi-color combinations and see what works. There are only a few established decks that will rotate in, so nothing is fixed in stone. In the words of the immortal Muyagi-san: "Think outside the lines." (Okay, I don’t know if he REALLY said that, but it sounds like something he’d say.)
Oh, and the reason Tangle is better than Fog or Spore Frog is because it lets you take two unblocked swings – one the turn after you play it, and again the next turn when his creatures are still tapped.
MASQUES BLOCK LIMITED – TEST TWO
I hope you all enjoyed the last version. Once Invasion arrives, and they update the Sealed Deck Generator over on Meridian Magic, I’ll switch myself over to Invasion sealed to mimic the PTQ format. Please feel free to keep emailing me with how YOU would play the decks that come out. Here are your cards for test two:
Artifacts: Crumbling Sanctuary, Eye of Ramos
Black: Bog Smugglers, Cackling Witch, Dark Ritual, Rain of Tears, Skulking Fugitive, Soul Channeling, Vendetta
Blue: Blockade Runner, Buoyancy, Chameleon Spirit, Darting Merfolk, Dehydration, High Seas, Port Inspector, Shoving Match, Stinging Barrier
Green: Caustic Wasps, Ferocity, Giant Caterpillar, Invigorate, Revive, Rushwood Dryad, Sacred Prey, Snorting Gahr, Stamina
Red: Cave Sense, Cavern Crawler, Gerrard’s Irregulars, Kyren Glider, Ogre Taskmaster, Tremor
White: Crackdown, Moment of Silence, Pious Warrior, Ramosian Lieutenant, Ramosian Rally, Ramosian Sergeant, Soothing Balm, Steadfast Guard, Task Force
Black: Seal of Doom, Vicious Hunger
Blue: Accumulated Knowledge, Oraxid, Rootwater Commando, Sliptide Serpent, Stronghold Zeppelin, Wandering Eye
Green: Stampede Driver
Red: Seal of Fire
White: Defender en-Vec, Lashknife, Silkenfist Fighter, Silkenfist Order, Topple
Land: Wintermoon Mesa
Black: Death Charmer, Despoil, Plague Fiend, Steal Strength
Green: Darba, Jolrael’s Favor, Thresher Beast, Verdant Field, Wild Might
Red: Branded Brawlers, Latulla’s Orders, Scoria Cat
White: Excise, Rhystic Circle
You have ten minutes to complete this portion of the test.
Okay, time’s up, pencils down.
Quick looks at the colors:
* Black gives you some solid creature removal spells in Vendetta, Seal of Doom and Vicious Hunger, but the creature base is iffy at best.
* Blue gives you some solid evasion creatures (Zeppelin, Wandering Eye, Rootwater Commando) and Stinging Barrier, but none of the trick cards like Hoodwink or Withdraw, and none of the card drawing beyond Accumulated Knowledge.
* Green gives you some solid beef with the Gahr, Darba, and Thresher Beast, plus a full complement of Green’s tricks in this format (Invigorate, Stampede Driver, Wild Might) – all you needed was the Seal of Strength and you could have gone four-for-four.
* Red is weak, with only Tremor and the Seal for direct damage and only a handful of outstanding creatures.
* White has a solid Rebel chain (Sergeant-Lieutenant-Steadfast-Task Force), plus the Silkenfists and the Defender en-Vec. It even has a couple semi-removal spells in Topple and Excise, and Ramosian Rally as a nice trick card.
White becomes my first choice. There are, by my initial count, eight creatures and three non-creature white cards that I will consider playing. I decide I’ll splash Black for the removal (since the creatures can’t really help), but I still need another color to round out my creature choices, as there are only four cards I’d consider playing. I still need seven or eight cards to round out my deck. Red has four, maybe five creatures I could use, plus the Seal. Green has five, maybe six creatures, plus the two enhancement spells for a final kick – but I probably would end up leaving out Topple (as a sideboard card) because those guys are pretty heavy (Darba, etc.) Blue gives me five creatures and maybe the Accumulated Knowledge.
Choosing Green here would let me be aggressive – much like the W/G decks from MBC would do, I could start out with Sergeant and search until I could cast my heavy hitters. The double-Green has me a little concerned but not overly – the only double-white card I was considering was Silkenfist Order, and they’re 5cc anyway, so I decide that I’m not overly concerned. Choosing Blue forces me into a defensive mode where I have to search out blockers, and use the Darting Merfolk and Sliptide Serpent as bouncing walls. I think I’d prefer the aggressive mode, so W/G/B it is.
Green: Giant Caterpillar, Invigorate, Rushwood Dryad, Snorting Gahr, Stampede Driver, Darba, Thresher Beast, Wild Might
White: Ramosian Lieutenant, Ramosian Rally, Ramosian Sergeant, Steadfast Guard, Task Force, Defender en-Vec, Silkenfist Fighter, Silkenfist Order, Excise
Black: Vendetta, Seal of Doom, Vicious Hunger
That’s nineteen must-haves. I’ll add in Pious Warrior (although I’d like him
better if I could search him out), and in the interest of keeping up my theme of boosting my own, I’ll also add Verdant Field and Steal Strength. It’s a little creature-light, so you could instead use Skulking Fugitive and Caustic Wasps (which has evasion and would work okay with the pumping spells we have already). Trade in five Mountains for three Forests and two Plains, and use seven Forests, eight Plains, three Swamps. I’m not sure if eight Forest, seven Plains would work better, but you can adjust that on the fly later.
What would you do?
I would have listed out the cards I had for PTQ-Edison, but I got so caught up trying to get organized for PTNY that I mixed ’em all in together. The deck I got back had some good rares in Squirrel Wrangler, Saproling Burst, and Rappelling Scouts, but had only meager removal, and I ended up going 1-2 and dropping to draft. I would have stayed in longer, but they ended up with 160+ people, and had to use some of the draft product for the main tournament, so they were unsure how many drafts they could run. My first draft was solid, starting with a first-pick Monkey Cage – I started G/U in Masques but got very little Green, so I switched into Red when I opened an Ancient Hydra and got passed an Arc Mage. This really hurt because I ended up passing a TON of good Green in Prophecy, including a Squirrel Wrangler. I made it to the finals, and played Charles "Tuna" Hwa – who had gotten the best of me passing Green. A fun draft, and I’ll never complain about a prize, even if it is only three packs. This draft also featured an all-foil pack! The guy who opened it ended up with a nice, shiny Troubled Healer for his luck.
THE INVASION OF TYPE 2
The spoiler is out, and it looks expletiveling incredible. Instant-speed Wrath of God. An attempt to replace Ball Lightning. An Elf Lord that might actually see play (no offense, Eladamri). Gold Dragon Legends. Dual lands. There are a bunch of cards that are just begging to be used.
I don’t know if I want to review each card, but I want to start building decks this week, starting with a Gold card that really interested me. For those of you who read my writing each week, you know that Green/White has long been a favorite color-combination for me, so I read through the G/W portion of the gold cards very carefully for something to jump out at me. Something did – Dueling Grounds.
Here’s the text:
Dueling Grounds, 1GW, Enchantment, Rare
No more than one creature may attack each turn.
No more than one creature may block each turn.
The idea here is to work a control-G/W philosophy, finally attacking once you have the upper hand in the creature battle. Green provides a lot of potential fat with which to work, and White provides potential big fliers to go up against the likes of Troublesome Spirit. Beyond that, it’s a matter of providing adequate defense until you can control the board.
In addition, there a few other enchantments I want to use, and I also want a way to search them out, since Dueling Grounds is the real backbone of the deck. Sterling Grove provides me two for one – I get cheap protection for the Dueling Grounds when they’re both out, plus I get back on my feet faster after a global sweep like Tranquility. I also am going to use Elfhame Sanctuary as a way to pull land out when I need it (not to mention getting the colors I need), and to help me get the mana I need after an Armageddon. Here are the card texts for those cards:
Sterling Grove, GW, Enchantment, Uncommon
All other enchantments you control can’t be the targets of spells or
1, Sacrifice Sterling Grove: Search your library for an enchantment card and
reveal that card. Shuffle your library, then put the card on top of it.
Elfhame Sanctuary, 1G, Enchantment, Uncommon
At the beginning of your upkeep, you may search your library for a basic
land card, reveal that card, and put it into your hand. If you do, shuffle
your library and skip your draw step this turn.
I won’t forget about offhandedly mentioning Armageddon. Yes, I’m using those too. Nothing says "You now have no way to deal with my dude" like Armageddon. I’m also going to use Enlightened Tutor to help me search out the pieces that I’ll need as well.
4x Sterling Grove
2x Elfhame Sanctuary
4x Enlightened Tutor
The offensive creatures I’m going to use are Rhox and Ruham Djinn. Ruham Djinn is another of the Invasion cards:
Ruham Djinn, 5W, Creature – Djinn 5/5, Uncommon
Ruham Djinn gets -2/-2 as long as white is the most common color among
permanents or is tied for most common.
Why I like Rhox: It doesn’t matter if he gets blocked. He’s doing 5 damage to your opponent whether he likes it or not – plus even if your opponent holds back a Blastoderm or a Hunted Wumpus to block, the Rhox can still regenerate.
Why I like Ruham Djinn: First strike. Very few things will be able to stand up to five points of first strike damage, and I think we can engineer the deck to get around Ruham Djinn’s drawback. It gets problematic against a Rebel engine, but hopefully the Dueling Grounds will allow us to still maintain the initiative. 3/3 First Strike will still kill a lot of Rebels one-on-one.
2x Ruham Djinn
I’m going to use probably two forms of speed mana, and there are a lot of choices: Llanowars, Birds, Vine Trellis, and now Utopia Tree and Quirion Elves. I’m going to go with Birds and Vine Trellises, because the Birds give me a one-drop, and the Trellises provide me with a little added defense in the Dueling Grounds.
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Vine Trellis
To add a little defense, I’m going to include Spitting Spider in the creature list. He’s pretty big, and can block flyers, and can kill most of them. Elfhame Sanctuary will help me get back any lands I might need after saccing them to the Spider.
That’s thirty-four cards, which gives me a few openings. My main fears when playing this deck then become Tranquil Grove, so let’s add some Seals of Cleansing, and something bigger than my Rhox or Djinn on offense, so I’m going to add Topples. Another choice might be to add Afterlifes, or Briar Patch would serve a wider purpose in letting you win any damage races.
Here’s the total deck:
4x Dueling Grounds
4x Sterling Grove
4x Enlightened Tutor
2x Elfhame Sanctuary
3x Seal of Cleansing
4x Birds of Paradise
4x Vine Trellis
3x Spitting Spider
2x Ruham Djinn
2x Elfhame Palace
Immediate problems that will probably need SOME resolution: with only two hitters, and both of them being 6cc, it might take a little long to set up properly. Having both the hitters in the same casting cost also makes it vulnerable to Void. In fact, ANY removal is bad, so maybe finding something with some innate protection would work better. I considered Blastoderm originally, but felt that its effectiveness was limited here because of the restricted amount of damage he could do. Sideboarding the Acolytes might be an okay choice (since we’re losing Absolute Law/Grace) – another might be to include two Death or Glorys once more than one ends up in my graveyard. We’ll see how it works out in playtesting.
Another MBC Sealed practice, another New-T2 deck (oh heck, maybe even two!), and who knows what else.