I technically haven’t written a Magic article for the site in a little over a month. I just completed the absolute busiest time of the year for me, but I prepared ahead of time by writing some canned articles that I could use at a time like this. Yay, canned articles.
Because I haven’t had a voice in a few weeks, I have this miscellany of things to say, deck ideas and so forth. Entailed in this article are decks, musings, opinions, and more – all wrapped into one neat package.
My grad student hit me with her car last Wednesday, so I apologize if my writing is worse than normal – I’m typing with a bandage over my right middle finger. With that said, let’s begin:
I love deck building challenges, like Sheldon’s a couple of weeks ago and Ben’s a couple of weeks before that. Deck challenges are always fun.
A while ago, I challenged Aaron, one of our casual group’s main players, to a very specific deck challenge. If you like deck challenges like I do, then you’ll probably enjoy this one.
The goal is simple. Construct an all commons deck. Easy enough, right? Well, there are a couple of additional rules. This all commons deck must be a combo deck. That makes it a little different. Normally all commons decks are aggressive, but many of us can easily conceive of a control build as well. Combo, however, is a bit harder. And one other thing, the deck has to be highlander.
In summation, you have to build an all common highlander combo deck. If it sounds easy, it’s not. The deck I built was:
Priest of Titania
Seeker of Skybreak
Lay of the Land
This is actually a pretty straightforward deck. Get a bunch of mana and pump either Invoker. Timberwatch Elves and Wellwisher are also key. Otherwise, look for Red X spells to eliminate your opponent slowly and surely. This is a combo deck (instead of an aggressive deck designed to win), for various reasons, not the least of which is the poor card choice. If this were an aggressive elf deck, I would have included a bunch of the 2/1 elves for two mana, some larger elves, and a few more tricks, plus better, cheaper burn. This is a combo deck, designed to burn a person out.
What combos can you build? Feel free to post decklists or ideas in the forums.
What is up with the virtual explosion of Blogs recently? Who reads an article that is really only two or three good paragraphs long? Is there a demand for this sort of thing? Do people want their articles in bite-size nuggets?
Man, I hope that Blogs are just a passing thing and not here to stay. Sometimes, on the rare occasion that I click on a Blog article because of an interesting lead line, I’ll laugh a bit at a story, and then expect to read a whole article afterwards – but there’s no article. It’s like the Blog entry reads like the introduction to a regular article, but with no article. Give me a classic Oscar Tan eighty-page fest over these paragraph-challenged folk any day.
Five Color Worlds:
Five Color Worlds was held a short while ago. Congrats to Pat Fehling, who won the event with a delicious combo-rific deck that exploited many of the best cards available in Magic. Pat did a great job detailing his win over at the 5-color website. Take a look and read about the Worlds!
Peasant Magic Events:
The best time of the year to catch a few PEZ tourneys is at GenCon. Summer is the time for Peasant Magic, as often the biggest conventions sport Peasant Magic tournaments. The decks are easy to build by someone who doesn’t normally play the format, and is just looking for a good time. However, the format is difficult to master, and there is a lot going on under the hood.
For more an Peasant Magic than you can shake a stick at, try Jason Chapman’s column over at The Pojo (www.pojo.com). Jason is the best Peasant writer on the Net, which is good, because he is also the most profuse PEZ writer as well! His stuff is always great, but he hasn’t written anything in two months! Come on Jason, write more! I want someone to assess the summer metagame, analyze shifts, etc. Peasant Magic is a very ornate format, and I love it.
Star Chamber is my new obsession. I found it six days before writing this article, and I am already hooked with a full line and sinker. Star Chamber is an online computer game that combines a space-oriented strategy board game (similar to Master of Orion-lite) with a CCG.
That’s right, Star Chamber is a CCG. The CCG aspect of the game is perfectly interwoven with the board game aspect. If you remember X-Com as the prefect blend of two different genres, think again. Star Chamber is simply great.
The game is an independent studio’s effort. I’m told that just four guys created the game as a labor of love. They concentrated on making the game as good as possible, The game is easier to pick up than Magic, but also more complex in many ways, because of the interaction with the space civilization aspect of the game.
You can win the game through military conquest, cultural dominance, or political maneuvering. You can choose from ten different races to play, each with their own cardpool (although there are common cards as well).
The game is well designed, and if you do not believe me, you can try it out, for free. The free download entails several pre-constructed decks (which, opposed to Magic pre-cons, are actually good and include three rares that often have significant value). You can play some tutorials and against the AI, but the AI is really poor. It will give you a sense of the game, but the real fun is playing against others online.
Star Chamber has been reviewed in several major gaming magazines and websites. All of the reviews were very positive, and it has won a few awards (Editor’s Choice, for example). It’s a really great game, and the best part is that, after you decide to play, the pricing structure for the booster packs is very cheap compared to Magic: the Electronic. Swing over to their website at www.starchamber.net and take a look around.
One last thing, if you do decide to join up and purchase some product, you’ll have to register an account. Since I’ve sent you to the best computer game in the past three years, place my Star Chamber nick in the referred box, so I’ll get a couple of packs as well. My nick is”Anxiety” (without the quotes).
Magic writers have a list, either on paper or in their head, about what their favorite articles are. Not of other people, lots of fans have those. I mean of their own work. Each writer has their own favorite pieces, the ones where everything clicked, the writing was snappy, the idea was classic, and so forth.
Here is the Official Abe Pantheon. These are the articles that I like the best, and if you ever have the time to go back and peruse a few old articles, these are the ones that I’d start with:
Neo-Fires: An Account of my Excursions Into Type Two – This article is probably one of my most well written articles of all time. I love it, because I can still read it and get a laugh. It’s very good stuff.
Magic Online: The Terms of Service – This became the definitive piece about the business side of Magic: the Electronic. This article was linked to by other websites not related to Magic at all, in order to give people a better understanding of the game. As was Geordie Tait article, which came out a little before my own. I still get e-mails about this article a couple of years later.
The Compendium of Alternate Formats, Entry Two: St. Patrick’s Format – This is the best article, from a technical standpoint, that I have ever written. It covers every angle, was well-researched, and contains an A-Z understanding of the format.
Rare Drafting for Wins and Profit – I believe that this is my best contribution to the game of Magic. If you draft, and you want to rare draft but are unsure how to proceed without ruining your chances of winning, read this article. I’ve been known for years as a great limited player, but above average constructed player by those who know me. As such, it makes sense that the limited field is where I make an impact.
Holiday A-musings– I really like this article – it’s a nice quaint little piece. It was linked to by two Christmas sites that linked to various articles around the Internet on decorating you house or apartment for the holidays (and had nothing to do with Magic at all).
Revelations of a Magic Writer – The recently written and published Revelations is probably my best article of all time, because it is so…pure. It is the essence of my soul, bared for you all. The more I read it, the more I feel that it may very well be my coup de grace.
A Recent Deck:
I’ve been playing around with a new deck design. Very few people in my playgroup have powerful older cards, but some do, and others are good deck builders. Still others are very poor, and to build a good deck that uses the Type One restricted list is a bit unsporting. Therefore, I created a Type 1.5 Mono-Black Control deck to play around with. It works in multiplayer, duels, and so forth.
1 The Abyss
2 Nether Spirit
4 Hymn to Tourach
4 The Rack
4 Cursed Scroll
1 Diabolic Tutor
4 Diabolic Edict
4 Guardian Idol
The deck could obviously benefit from a Sol Ring, Demonic Tutor, Strip Mine, Vampiric Tutor, and Mind Twist. If you are playing power, then toss those in. You could also try out Pox, taking out the tutor and a few G. Idols for them. (This deck was originally designed as a Pox deck with a MBC sideboard for more aggro matchups. I just found the MBC version more fun to play in casual games.)
I love flavor. From what Mark Rosewater has written and the few cards we’ve seen, Kamigawa oozes flavor.
My favorite sets of all time are Mirage and Visions. Those are sets that were flavorful. I hated the pull-your-nose-by-a-chain-through-it”flavor” of the Weatherlight Saga. Feh! That wasn’t flavor, that was a storyline (and a bad one at that.) To be perfectly honest, Kamahl wasn’t much better, and the storyline for Odyssey and Onslaght still felt a bit forced. However, Mirrodin was much better, thank you.
Hopefully Kamigawa block will not force-feed me a prosaic plotline down my maw, but will instead allow the world to build itself. I’m excited, and hoping that Wizards has recaptured the magic of Mirage/Visions continent of Jamuraa (although Prophecy, ostensibly set in the same place, was lousy at flavor).
Flavor isn’t about a few rare cycles of cards (like the Prophecy Winds, Spellshapers, Bringers in Fifth Dawn). It has to infuse a set. Mirrodin did a good job with that, and I can only hope that Kamigawa brings more of the same to the table.
Red stinks. Red cards are so uneventful. Red represents Chaos, which is often represented by a random event, such as coin flipping. Why must Red be so inept?
Chaos and devotees have been described in various fantasy works going back to Michael Moorcock. (Who is one of my favorite authors). Chaos in Moorock’s work is hardly inept. These ideas of Chaos have permeated various fantasy landscapes since, including works like Louise Cooper, Rolemaster, and the Warhammer Fantasy world. The servants of Chaos, although chaotic, are among the most powerful enemies one can have – and among the greatest allies as well.
In order to truly demonstrate chaos, red has got to be about more than goblins, coin flips, and mischievousness. Red’s Chaos needs to be more exact. For example, how about a play on Diabolic Edict:
Chaotic Edict, 1R, Instant, Target player chooses a creature they control at random and sacrifices it.
A random effect, sure, but don’t you think that this random effect may creep up in decks a bit more often than is common? How about something like this?
Chaotic Bolt, 1RR, Instant, Target player takes 2 if they control an even number of creatures or 5 damage if they control an odd number of creatures.
Although the effect is unreliable, you can play it when it suits you. In other words, red should be able to ride chaos, and use it better than any other color.
For flavor, where are Chaos Warriors? A classic fantasy concept, going back (again) to Moorcock, Chaos Warriors are in a large number of fantasy pantheons. WoTC could easily incorporate Chaos Warriors as the ultimate creatures that use Chaos. For example, how about:
Discordant Warrior, 3RR, 3/3, When Discordant Warrior attacks, Defending player chooses a creature he or she controls at random. Deal damage equal to Discordant Warrior’s power to the chosen creature.
Pretty simple, right? Attack, and a random creature on the defender’s side takes a strike of damage from the warrior before blockers are even declared. A pretty useful ability, very Red (like Electryte or Dwarven Vigilantes or Laccolith Titan), and very chaotic. Why aren’t we fleshing out red and chaos more, instead of regurgitating the same old burn, the same old races, and the same old concepts.
For a race, we could have the beastmen, a race used in a variety of fantasy elements often associated with chaos. A warlike animalistic race where each member looks significantly different than any other should typify Red. Do we have them? No, not at all. We are getting the Akki, a new goblin race, for Kamigawa. Recycle, reuse, respin, recalibrate, regurgitate, reappropriate – it is still the same old stuff. Let’s break out a new concept for red, shall we?
Coming Down the Pike
I have several articles in the queue and ready to be written. Another PEZ article, I still have a trio of Five Color articles on strategy to write, a multiplayer theory article (maybe two – it’s a big concept), and more.
I’ll get to work on these articles. Thanks, as always, for reading!