U.S. Nationals is coming up. I’m getting ready — but most of that prep work is not article-worthy. Would you want to read about me packing socks and reviewing the penalty guidelines? Thought not. I haven’t played much Magic, other than a FNM draft, so I can’t fill an article with recent happenings. However, I am building a new EDH deck. I can walk through that thought process. The draft first.
Drafting with Eventide
It was a good night. It was the first FNM draft with Eventide — and we ended up with exactly 24 drafters. No byes, no ten man pods — three eight man Swiss drafts, the way it is supposed to be.
I did not know the drafting habits of my upstream neighbor, but my downstream neighbor was Jeremy Shapiro — one of those players I would have preferred to have sitting in a different pod. (Ask the Judge columnist Chris Richter was also in the pod — and also in the category of people I would prefer not to have to draft against. Actually, anyone with a Limited rating over 1925 falls in that category.)
All Jeremy asked for was “clear signals.” All I asked for was to avoid playing him.
I opened Puppeteer Clique, Puncture Bolt, Pyre Charger, Ember Gale, Crabapple Cohort and on down — down pretty fast, actually. I really wanted to try BW or BG, since I figured everyone would still be in a Shadowmoor mindset and be ignoring Black, and because Josh Silvestri article made GB sound interesting. Besides, I figured I would let the downstream players fight over Red. I took the Clique.
Pack 2 I had a choice between Windbrisk Raptor and Power of Fire — and junk. I really didn’t want to be in RB, since I had drafted it a lot in triple Shadowmoor. I had never played the Raptor. I wanted to send a clear signal. Isn’t it amazing how you can rationalize bad picks if you try hard enough? I took the Raptor.
Pack 3 I was passed Jaws of Stone. It turns out the player to my immediate left was forcing UW regardless, and the player two seats up had opened Swans. Still — third pick Jaws? A second pick Jaws would get me out of UW, no matter how badly I wanted to draft those colors.
I sent Jeremy a very clear signal. I passed the Jaws onwards.
My deck ended up with a nice curve , a smattering of fliers, including a pair of Faerie Macabres, a trio of Kithkin Spelldusters (I played two) and my own Swans of Bryn Argoll. Removal was a bit sparse — turns out three of us had decided to follow the “Black will be underdrafted so I’ll cut it” plan. I did have a pair of Tortures and an Aethertow, but never saw a Gloomlance, Unmake and so on. I did have several Wither dudes and a Necroskitter (he who makes Torture good) and a Corrupt.
Round 1 I faced Gary’s GWB deck. He had several high-speed fatties, including a couple Noxious Hatchling and Crabapple Cohort. Shield of the Oversoul on a Noxious Hatchling was bad times for a while, until I could find the Aethertow. He also had a Swans of Bryn Argoll of his own, which made for interesting times. However, the resulting stalemate let me find Necroskitter, and Torture. A turn or two later, I had two Swans and he had problems. His deck was good, but I took it in three.
Round 2 I faced Barry. If I remember correctly, his deck had several wither creatures, Blowfly Infestation, and Crumbling Ashes. I had two Tortures, several Wither creatures of my own, and two Cultbrand Cinders. Games got complex, since we had to plan several death in advance to dodge -1/-1counter troubles. In the end, my Spelldusters proved quite useful, and I pulled it out with a Corrupt to the head.
In the finals, I ended up facing Shapiro’s Red Menace. I lost game 1 to an Intimidator Initiate, still stuck on four lands on turn 10, with both Cultbrand Cinders in hand. I lost game 3 when his Jaws of Stone knocked me to exactly zero the turn before I would have killed him. I should have won that match, but his deck was insane. I blame the idiot feeding him.
Conclusions — not a lot, yet, but be careful about basing your draft plans on picking the colors that sucked in triple Shadowmoor. It may not be a good plan — in this draft, at least two other drafters forced Black (to be sure, one opened Midnight Banshee, which could have put him in Black regardless.) On the other hand, be careful about reading signals — some players are still firmly in a triple Shadowmoor mindset, and draft accordingly.
In short — the first couple weeks of Shadowmoor / Eventide drafting will be a bit rocky. Until it settles down, avoid committing to a pair/trio of colors as long as possible, and be flexible.
I’m doing the final edits now, before sending this off to Craig, and I just fired up StarCityGames.com. I see Nick Eisel has a whole article on drafting Black in Shadowmoor/Eventide. He says more than I can, so get your premium subscription, pop over to his article and read it, then come back. I’ll wait.
My New EDH Deck
I have four EDH decks I play regularly, but I want something new. I want something competitive, but not too competitive. I already have an EDH deck that does a lot of “unfun” things — mana denial, steal your stuff and the like. I have a purely casual theme deck. I want something easier. I figured I would copy a favorite multiplayer deck: my “Mono-White with one Island” deck.
Basically, MWw1I is a control deck that plays out a lot of Plains, occasionally sweeps the board with Akroma’s Vengeance, and wins once all my opponents are out of threats. It runs one Island, for the kicker on Dismantling Blow. It also runs a set of Enlightened Tutors and silver bullets like Null Rod, Damping Matrix, and Cursed Totem. The primary win condition is Eternal Dragon, backed by Akroma and so forth.
I wanted to replicate that deck. I did want to keep the Blue splash, however, so I needed a UW Legend as my general. They are not that thick on the ground, but I did not want to go three colors. If I did, people would keep looking for that third color, and that would gradually make them paranoid. Then they would attack me more than necessary — a bad thing. I wanted a straight UW general. Let’s review the options.
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator: solid, highly playable general, but she has an excellent ability. It is quite easy to abuse that ability, and if you play her, everyone fears your artifacts and her ability. I did not want to attract that sort of attention unless I was going for that sort of combo.
Ayesha Tanaka: Never heard of her? Not surprising. She is a 2/2 for WWUU, with the abilities of banding and Tap: Counter target activated ability from an artifact source unless that ability’s controller pays W. Nifty. Since my plan was to have almost no U in the deck, and since beating down with a groundpounding 2/2 is not a solid plan in EDH, let’s move on.
Gosta Dirk: He’s even better. He’s a 4/4 for 3WWUU, with two abilities: First strike and “Creatures with islandwalk can be blocked as though they didn’t have islandwalk.” Right. Nothing to see here — move along.
Grand Arbiter Augustin IV: Now this is more like it. Splashable, since it does not require UU, makes my stuff cheaper, makes all my opponent’s stuff more expensive. Two out of three of these are great. The last one, however, is bad. I do not want to do anything to annoy my opponents (until the point where I kill them all, of course.) This is a strong option, but not a perfect one. Let’s see if we have anything better.
Isperia the Inscrutable: Isperia is a 3/6 flier – making it the first general that might actually deal 21 damage to a single player in combat. The secondary ability is strange, but might work if I could keep connecting with an opponent. The UU in the casting cost is a problem, however. I really don’t want to play much Blue.
Ith, High Arcanist: I love Maze of Ith, and this would give me a reason to play it. Ith can be suspended early, and the untap / no attack ability can be useful. Reasonable stats, and no real political downside. This is a strong contender, at least so far.
Jedit Ojanen: a plain vanilla 5/5 for seven mana. Even I don’t want this deck to be that casual.
Kangee, Aerie Keeper: the bird sucked when legal in Block, and in Standard, and still does. Well — she (He? It? What is it? It looks like a Muppet) used to be a straight legend. Now she is a Bird, meaning that she pumps herself as well as other birds. The big question is whether I can find any other birds worth playing. The emphasis is on the “worth playing” part of that sentence: Gatherer finds 142 birds, most of which are either unplayable (as in being from an Un- set) or just they are, at best, draft staples. Aven Windreader is not the secret sauce in this format.
Kasimir, the Lone Wolf: It’s one mana cheaper than Jedit Ojanen, and loses two points of toughness. Aside from that, it does just as much. That sounds good, until you remember that Jedit has no abilities at all.
Rasputin Dreamweaver: He is a 4/1 with no evasion, and he costs six mana. Hmmm. I can’t remember what he does. I’ll look him up: Rasputin Dreamweaver comes into play with seven dream counters on it. Remove a dream counter from Rasputin: Add 1 to your mana pool. Remove a dream counter from Rasputin: Prevent the next 1 damage that would be dealt to Rasputin this turn. At the beginning of your upkeep, if Rasputin started the turn untapped, put a dream counter on it. Rasputin can’t have more than seven dream counters on it. Okay — that is a lot of text, but, basically, he can give me a bit of mana, or help keep himself alive a little bit. So, kids, when you open a crap rare today, remember that we had crappier rares. Twenty miles of crappier rares. Uphill. Both ways. Yeah — and get off my grass. Hrmph.
Sygg, River Guide: The Black Sygg — Sygg, River Cutthroat — could be great in multiplayer. Seriously great. Here’s the ability: “At end of turn, if an opponent lost 3 or more life this turn, you may draw a card.” It does not say you have to deal the damage. In a nice, bloody game, unless everyone is attacking you, you will be drawing lost of cards — at which point everyone will attack you. Still — insane card drawing, but I’m not going to be UB. I’m UW, and the UW version just gives protection to Merfolk — for a price. I’m not building Merfolk — certainly not for EDH. EDH has far too much global removal.
Tobias Andrion: a 4/4 for 3UW and… that’s it. That’s the entire card, other than flavor text. Here’s the text: “Administrator of the military state of Sheoltun, Tobias is the military right arm of the Empire, the figurehead of its freedom and totally useless for Constructed play.”
Gatherer cannot find any other UW Legends, so those are my choices.
How To Win
I could take this build one of two ways. I could play Kangee, Aerie Keeper, and build a bird deck. I could play Aven Brigadier (pumps birds and soldiers) and make lots of birds. I could even include things like Keeper of the Nine Gales, Commander Eesha and so forth — crap rares that could become huge when Kangee comes into play with lots of counters. I could even play Soraya the Falconer, and give my birds banding.
Or I could write about that in an article, get it out of my system and move on to something useful. Of course, if I end up with lots of mana, I should remember Kangee. In EDH, you general is removed from game when not in play. If I had an infinite mana source, I could play get her in play with a thousand counters easily. The next turn I could beat down with my huge flier. (Or I could just play Rocket Launcher, and win off my infinite mana combination.)
The other option would be to play a lot of board control cards, plus some solid beaters. In White, the best creature threats are Akroma, Angel of Wrath; Eternal Dragon (great for long games); Decree of Justice; and Exalted Angel. I am sure I will want all four — but since EDH is a highlander (a.k.a. Singleton) format, that only fills the first four slots in my 100-card deck.
I will want a few more creatures — and I might as well look at other angels. I pulled up Gatherer and did a quick search for Angels. Let’s looks at a few strong ideas.
Reya Dawnbringer: She’s just fun. If I didn’t want the Blue splash, she could be my general.
Platinum Angel: I don’t lose. That’s good. On the other hand, everyone with a serious EDH deck will have at least a dozen ways of killing or stealing her. Not so good.
Opal Archangel: I love the strange old Saga enchantment creatures. However, they worked best in that format — and they never really worked all that well there. About the best trick was Wrathing before the creature activated. Back in Saga days, a 5/5 flier was huge. Today, it is pretty blah.
Karmic Guide: Two-for-ones are important in EDH. If I have a way to abuse it as well, all the better.
This can go on for a long time, because there are a ton of good White creatures, but big beaters is, at best, a small part of a winning EDH deck. Let’s move on to the more important parts.
How Not to Lose
Laying a big creature or two can win in Limited, but EDH is a whole different animal. Creature control and removal is important, and everywhere. I remember one game where a player dropped Darksteel Colossus. Five turns later, the original Colossus had been copied twice, stolen, bounced, replayed, stolen again, and Removed From Game. The copies had also been stolen and, eventually, dealt with. That was just mildly impressive for EDH. Darksteel Colossus survived as long as it did because it is indestructible. Normal creatures face all of the above, plus targeted destruction and Wrath of God effects.
A good EDH deck does not just play threats. It also has methods of stopping the opponent’s threats, be they creatures or combos. It has to include a lot of answers, and means of drawing those answers.
One method of controlling opponents is to make sure that they cannot play spells. My first serious EDH deck was built around that idea. I looked at EDH decks, looked at the big, powerful spells and effects, and build a mana denial deck. It was broken. Here’s the turn 1 table kill:
Land Equilibrium reads: If an opponent who controls at least as many lands as you do would put a land into play, that player instead puts that land into play then sacrifices a land. In short, people can play lands, but they have to sacrifice them, and Sphere of Resistance means that only I will have enough mana to play anything. Yes, of course that was a god draw, but the principle is that my deck was built around land equilibrium, plus means of making sure I had artifact mana and no lands in play. It won.
It was also about as unfun as you can get – and one reason the Moxen and Black Lotus were banned.
My White/Blue deck cannot, as conceived, really cast Land Equilibrium. However, it can cast Armageddon. I am a great fan or Armageddon — I played 16+ copies of Armageddon (and equivalents) in my Five-Color deck. However, it is not really a ton of fun in multiplayer, and I am not sure if I want to go there. I can envision playing Wrath / Armageddon / suspend creatures. I can see it working — technically. I cannot see it working politically. Once people figured out what my deck is supposed to do, I will become Public Enemy # 1. That might be tough to handle — and if I built a deck to handle it, it would not be casual. More importantly, Balance has been banned in EDH because it is unfun. The Wrath / Armageddon / suspend deck would basically be a Balance deck. I think that violates the “don’t be a d*ck” rule.
On the other hand, it would not be EDH without a lot of removal, Disenchant and Wrath effects. I will include those. I may even include one copy of Armageddon. It has its uses. For one thing, if you discard Armageddon to Compulsion, for example, people notice your gesture, and may cut you some slack.
I have to cut it off here. Nationals is later this week. I have to wrap up a bunch of work stuff, change the oil in the car, and get packed. I’ll cover more of my deck design and provide some play by play (if I actually get it together) some other time.
If you are near Chicago, come to Nats. It is good times, even if you are just playing in the side events.
“One Million Words” on MTGO (if I ever get time to play again.)