For my Christmas column, I had planned on doing a write-up on the inaugural game for my Tibor and Lumia “copy you” EDH deck. Unfortunately we were hit with a pretty significant snowstorm here in Virginia and not too many EDHers mustered out. The good news is we had just enough players to run FNM… and I won! The bad news is that it took me two hours to drive home afterwards.
Now, it wasn’t exactly the condition of the roads that kept me from home for so long; the trek to and from the game shop and my house is nearly all interstate, and the highways were relatively clear – you could safely drive around 35-40mph. Unfortunately, the plow crew tending to I-288 (which accounts for about half my commute) decided to deploy across all lanes of traffic and nearly side-by-side, so that nobody could get past them. They were also going about 10-15mph, which was excruciating for the dozen or so vehicles stuck behind with no way around them for a very, very, very, very long 20 miles or so.
Anyway, with the holidays fast approaching, I quickly found myself running out of time to build a deck to play at FNM, and with the promo card being one of my favorites (Sakura Tribe-Elder) I really wanted to have a decent shot at winning a copy. So I basically tweaked the deck I ran at States and went with it:
- 4 Noble Hierarch
- 2 Thornling
- 4 Knight of the Reliquary
- 3 Qasali Pridemage
- 4 Baneslayer Angel
- 4 Master of the Wild Hunt
- 4 Emeria Angel
- 4 Lotus Cobra
I ended up finally cutting the Khalni Heart Expeditions as much as I hated to lose them, and I cut the Eldrazi Monuments too (I had three of each). My philosophy for this pass is that I wanted to have as few “situationally good” cards as possible, and sometimes KHE or Monument are definitely not what you want to draw. Adding in Baneslayer Angels were a no-brainer, since there’s almost never a time you don’t want to draw any and all of your Baneslayers. I also wanted to go up to 4 Masters, and I rounded things out with an Oran-Rief as a 26th land-slash-tutorable pseudo-spell.
The power of this sort of deck is how much it strains decks that try to react to creatures, especially if it’s with pinpoint removal. Turn 1 Hierophant is a must-answer card; people have been burning down Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves since the very beginning of Magic, and Hierophant is right up there in terms of threats. Okay, so you kill it… now, turn 2 I drop a Lotus Cobra in a deck that is definitely primed to use it. If you don’t want to see a turn 3 Baneslayer Angel, you better be able to deal with the Cobra! Okay, so you dealt with the Cobra, now how about Knight of the Reliquary? Good lord, but that card can get out of hand quickly… how about Emeria Angel? How about Master of the Wild Hunt? Baneslayer Angel? Thornling? While nearly every good deck in Standard has ways of answering these individual cards, can they handle all of them?
I went 2-2 in the Swiss, having some bizarre mana issues that resulted in a strange number of mulligans (quite a few one-land hands, a few all white mana/all green spells hands), considering the number of lands I was playing it was just downright aggravating. After losing the last match of the last round I figured that was it and started to pack it up, when I was told I squeaked into the Top 4 due to tie-breakers and a very low number of people playing. In the Top 4 I beat an Empty the Vaults deck that crushed me in the Swiss; in both games he got pretty slow draws and I had pretty aggressive draws thanks to Exalted and managed to push through just enough damage to win. In the last game he drew a ton of removal but I kept drawing threats, and eventually one stuck and went the distance. In the finals I beat a Jund deck, capitalizing on mana issues in one game.
I like the deck a lot and it’s obviously chock full with powerful cards. I guess it wouldn’t hurt to get a lot of time and experience playing the deck for next year’s Standard tournaments, even though I tend to prefer jumping from deck idea to deck idea.
Holiday Promos & The Holiday Spirit
While I’ve been playing Magic since Unlimited & Arabian Nights, I’ve given other CCGs a try and got hooked on a few. The ones I particularly liked included Vampire, Werewolf, Lord of the Rings & Dune, though they all paled next to Netrunner, which was flat out amazing.
The one that hooked me nearly as bad as Magic? A little game called Warlord by AEG. Warlord was very much like Dungeons & Dragons captured nicely in a card game, and the makers smartly played up that connection by making lots of cards that evoked familiar D&D spells and items, like Magic Missile and Portable Hole.
It’s interesting how Warlord popped into my mind recently, and it’s because of the Magic Holiday promo from Wizards, Season’s Beatings. Now, for a couple years I used to write for Wizards and never got one of these, but this year I was pleasantly surprised to get a holiday card in the mail along with a copy of Season’s Beatings.
I’m not sure how Wizards decides who all gets one of these, but I was wondering why should just a lucky few get to have some holiday fun, Magic-style? I know in the past I would stare longingly at the latest holiday promo and wish I could get a copy for my own (especially the awesome Fruitcake Elemental).
I can’t help but think Wizards is missing out on a great opportunity here, and that ties things back to Warlord. Now, Warlord never made it huge, but in its first year or two there were some serious hotbeds of fandom for the game. I know in the game shop I hung out at, Total Access Games, the game was red hot. AEG did a great job of promoting the game, stoking excitement, and really doing fun things for the game’s fans. One of the coolest promotions they ran was the Santa Slayer, or “Twelve Days of Blood” program that encouraged players to come buy Warlord cards during the holidays.
Starting on December 19th, players visiting participating Warlord retailers and making a purchase of at least 2 booster packs will be able to obtain a special Christmas promotional card available on that day, one per customer:
December 19th: Christophe Kringle
December 20th: Cookies and Milk
December 21st: Kringle’s Bag
December 22nd: Storm Dasher
December 23rd: Blitzer
December 24th: Down the Chimney
December 26th: Kringle’s Sleigh
December 27th: Blade Dancer
December 28th: Comet
December 29th: Black Petre
December 30th: Kringle’s Armor
December 31st: Around the World in 1 Night
The promo cards obviously all have a Christmas theme but with a definitive Warlord “style.” Here is what some of the cards looked like:
Now, while Christophe Kringle was designed specifically to play during the Christmas holiday with other Christmas-themed cards, some of the other cards were just flat out good cards you were happy to play any time. My go-to deck at the time was a Rogue deck and Blade Dancer was a mainstay.
Seems to me that the smart crew at Wizards could certainly do something similar for Magic, at least maybe a couple cards each season with a nice Christmas theme to them that can be given to players who support their local game shop by buying some product there instead of from the nearby Walmart. Make them Vintage-legal like the old promo cards, so they can be easily adopted into formalized casual formats like EDH and such. I’d love to see what Rosewater and Nagle and Turian and the crew cook up for the Holidays, wouldn’t you?
In the spirit of Christmas, we’ve gotten a few Worldwake spoilers to chew on over the holidays. The one with the most buzz is this:
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Planeswalker – Jace
[+2]: Look at the top card of target player’s library. You may put that card on the bottom of that player’s library.
: Draw three cards, then put two cards from your hand on top of your library in any order.
[-1]: Return target creature to its owner’s hand.
[-12]: Exile all cards from target player’s library, then that player shuffles his or her hand into his or her library.
I kinda think this card might be a little over hyped. While I think the card is solid and definitely high on the power curve, I think there are some practical considerations that cool me a little bit:
1. Type – Planeswalker — Jace
Nearly everyone playing blue right now is playing the original Jace for card-drawing. Do you stop playing the original Jace and play this new one instead? I don’t think so. Sure, you could play both but that’s going to lead to some awkward draws if your opponent isn’t necessarily interested in or able to handle the one Planeswalker already in play. Both versions of Ajani are quite good but you don’t see them in the same deck.
2. Starting loyalty 3
The singular plus ability is pretty weak, and if you want Jace to protect himself by boosting loyalty, Fateseal 1 is pretty pathetic. The Brainstorm ability is powerful with fetchlands in the format, but keep in mind you’re paying four mana to Brainstorm at sorcery speed, while leaving Jace out there with 3 loyalty that’s super-easy to destroy with Bolt, Blightning, Emeria Angel, etc. Unsummon is helpful until you realize, again, you’re doing it at sorcery speed, for 4 mana, and you’re also burning a loyalty counter. The epic ability is obviously nuts, but good lord, you’re never going to get there.
Don’t get me wrongâ€”I like the new Jace, and I think it’s cool that he’s like a Swiss-army knife of blue effects. The Brainstorm effect in particular is incredibly temptingâ€”I know while trying to make my Summoning Trap deck work I would have killed for Brainstorm, and I will probably revisit the deck giving Jace, the Mind Sculptor a try in it. But I definitely don’t think this new Jace heralds the return of blue’s competitive power in Standard.
Creature – Beast
Okay, while I love creatures, I tend to not be very excited about vanilla creatures. I like my critters to do nifty things besides creature combat. That said, Leatherback Baloth has certainly gotten my attention. What’s interesting about this fellow is the context of what Wizards has tried to do with Green creatures over the years. For most of the early history of Magic, Green was all about big dumb creatures that weren’t really big enough to worry about and too dumb to survive; Erhnam Djinn was probably the best of that era, yet countless Erhnams were sent Plowing or died from sheer Terror. Then Wizards decided that Green is the creature color, and should be all about incredibly efficient creatures up and down the mana curve; Wild Mongrel was a great example of this time. Then Wizards, while trying to help out the color White, decided that white should get the incredibly efficient weenies, while Green should get incredibly efficient fatties. Of course, White got so good at beating down with weenies that they’d kill the Green decks before their fatties could get anything going.
Starting with Alara block, Green creatures seem to be entering a new eraâ€”creatures that are costed like weenies but are sized like fatties. The multicolored (but demanding a green-base) Woolly Thoctar is one example, and here we are with a pure (and heavy) Green example with Leatherback Baloth. It’s a shame that this fellow doesn’t play nice with the 5-power-matters themes from Alara block, but he does keep Putrid Leech at home all day long.
Celestial Colonnade enters the battlefield tapped.
T: Add W or U to your mana pool.
3WU: Until end of turn, Celestial Colonnade becomes a 4/4 white and blue Elemental creature with flying and vigilance. It’s still a land.
Manlands are back! As a huge fan of Treetop Village, I’m incredibly excited about this turn of events (unless we’re getting a buck-eye and each new dual land does something different, with this the only one that turns into a manland). What’s really cool about this is that the “comes into play tapped” drawback is effectively getting cut in half, because we usually get that drawback 1-for-1 with a benefit, either being able to produce multiple colors, or being able to turn into a manland. Now, the drawback offsets two benefits. Pretty amazing!
But waitâ€”there’s more to get excited about here! This manland has an ability that’s particularly fantastic on a landâ€”it has vigilance! So while you maybe tapping down five mana to activate the land, when you attack with it you still have either a blue or white mana to use for something else (say, Path to Exile for that Baneslayer Angel in your way).
Go See Avatar!
Around noon on Friday, December 18th I went to see James Cameron’s movie Avatar. Now, while the movie has a fairly high level of hype surrounding it, I have to admit to not really knowing much of what the movie was supposed to be about. I knew it was sci-fi, set sometime in the future on a distant alien world, with humanity clashing with the native creatures and people of that world. I knew that Cameron basically had to invent the technology to realize his vision of what this world should look like on the big screen, and had been working on it for 15 years. But when it came down to the nitty-gritty of what the storyline was supposed to be about, I had no clue.
In a way, I’m glad I went in not really knowing what to expect outside of generally just being a fan of James Cameron movies: Terminator I & II, Aliens, The Abyss, True Lies, Titanicâ€”I loved them all, and in all of them the sheer joy and wonderment of the movie experience shone through.
Avatar takes that movie magic and pushes it through to a whole new order of magnitude. Now, I’m not suggesting that the movie is flawless, because it’s notâ€”yes, the plot is far from air-tight, and there are more than a few clichÃ©s running around. But for what this high-concept movie promisesâ€”total immersion into a fantastical world full of action, adventure, and romanceâ€”Avatar delivers beyond anything you’ve ever experienced. Don’t illegally download it and watch it on your computer screen, don’t wait for DVD to watch it on your TVâ€”this is a movie that you’ve got to experience on the movie screen, preferably in 3D. It is totally worth the few extra dollars for the 3D, which enhances the movie experience without distracting you like other 3D movies tend to do.
A friend likened it to Jurassic Parkâ€”basically, it shatters the ceiling of what you expect to see in a movie. And while it’s definitely no Chinatown or Casablanca, I thought the acting and storylines were perfectly serviceableâ€”it was easy to care about the characters and emotionally invest yourself in how everything played out.
Most importantly, Cameron has taken performance-capture technology to a level whereby smoking-hot actress ZoÃ” Saldana was able to invest her unstoppable sexiness into a computer-generated giant blue cat-alien. Remarkable!
Before I wrap things up for this week, I wanted to share a decklist sent to me in response to my column last week, where I mentioned I was thinking about building a “helper” EDH deck chock full of ways to help other players out of tight spots, with Phelddagrif as the perfect general for such a deck. I thought Norbert88’s deck hit that idea right out of the ball park:
Norbert88’s Phelddagrif EDH deck
1 Braids, Conjurer Adept
1 Charmed Griffin
1 Haunted Angel
1 Heartwood Storyteller
1 Hunted Lammasu
1 Hunted Phantasm
1 Hunted Troll
1 Hunted Wumpus
1 Indentured Djinn
1 Iwamori of the Open Fist
1 Kami of the Crescent Moon
1 Magus of the Vineyard
1 Noble Benefactor
1 Nullmage Advocate
1 Pulsemage Advocate
1 Questing Phelddagrif
1 Sheltering Ancient
1 Shizuko, Caller of Autumn
1 Soldevi Sentry
1 Spurnmage Advocate
1 Tempting Wurm
1 Veteran Explorer
1 Walking Archive
1 Wall of Shards
1 Yavimaya Dryad
1 Arcane Denial
1 Dream Fracture
1 Eladamri’s Vineyard
1 Fold into Aether
1 Font of Mythos
1 Gate to the Aether
1 Howling Mine
1 Jace Beleren
1 Jester’s Mask
1 New Frontiers
1 Oath of Druids
1 Oath of Lieges
1 Oath of Scholars
1 Open the Vaults
1 Path to Exile
1 Rites of Flourishing
1 Show and Tell
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Temporary Truce
1 Vision Skeins
1 Weird Harvest
1 Well of Knowledge
1 Wheel and Deal
1 Azorius Chancery
1 Bant Panorama
1 Breeding Pool
1 Exotic Orchard
1 Flood Plain
1 Flooded Grove
1 Flooded Strand
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Glacial Fortress
1 Hallowed Fountain
1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Mystic Gate
1 Rainbow Vale
1 Reflecting Pool
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Seaside Citadel
1 Selesnya Sanctuary
1 Simic Growth Chamber
1 Sunpetal Grove
1 Temple Garden
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Tolaria West
1 Treva’s Ruins
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Bastion
In his notes he indicated he might have too many lands, but regardless I have to say it’s an incredible collection of “help you” cards and I look forward to building something very close to this!
Have a Happy and Safe Christmas Holidays, everyone!
starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com
My current EDH decks:
Tibor and Lumia (copy copy copy copy)
Doran the Siege-Tower (toughness matters!)
Baron Sengir (Evil Vampires!)
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary (big mana spells)
Sharuum, the Hegemon (equipment.dec)