You Lika The Juice? – Uno Momento, Por Favor

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I didn’t get a chance to playtest as much this past Friday as I’d like to; I got my wires crossed with Jay and he ended up committing to doing some Lorwyn Sealed at the local Friday Night Magic. Still, I went down there and grabbed some games in with him as I could, and think I’ve finally found the deck I want to run…

I didn’t get a chance to playtest as much this past Friday as I’d like to; I got my wires crossed with Jay and he ended up committing to doing some Lorwyn Sealed at the local Friday Night Magic. Still, I went down there and grabbed some games in with him as I could, and think I’ve finally found the deck I want to run.

Sadly, it’s not the cool Abyssal Elf deck I’d had hopes to play, and had even shelled out some cash to pick the Gilt-Leaf Palaces. In my initial playtesting it seemed to be a decent deck, but felt too “fair” to play in a big competitive tournament like States. Of course, I heard that a “janky” elf deck made Top 8 at the big StarCityGames.com tournament, so perhaps there are some things I’m not doing right. Here’s what I was testing:

4 Llanowar Elves
4 Prowess of the Fair
4 Shriekmaw
4 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Thornweald Archer
4 Imperious Perfect
2 Wren’s Run Packmaster
4 Magus of the Abyss
3 Nath of the Gilt-Leaf
3 Cloudthresher
1 Pendelhaven
4 Treetop Village
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Gilt-Leaf Palace
4 Swamp
7 Forest

Now, the deck was capable of some unfairness, like turn 2 Vanquisher, turn 3 Perfect – that’s some serious beats. Getting multiple copies of Prowess of the Fair is pretty hot too. It probably didn’t help that I never drew Magus of the Abyss, and instead drew multiple copies of Shriekmaw. Against goblins. Lots and lots of Black goblins. Jay and I both concluded the deck needed a certain something to push it over the top. He suggested Overrun. I’m thinking Coat of Arms. At any rate, I’ll be curious to see what the Top 8 elf deck looked like.

The other deck I wanted to test left me feeling all warm and fuzzy. I’d kicked around the idea of adding Saffi Eriksdotter to Momentary Blink for a while, but it hadn’t really done much for me… until Lorwyn’s little beauty Mulldrifter was printed. Now suddenly the deck idea had some oomph, some serious card drawing. Here’s what I tried out:

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Epochrasite
4 Saffi Eriksdotter
4 Momentary Blink
4 Rune Snag
4 Stonecloaker
4 Mulldrifter
3 Venser, Shaper Savant
3 Galepowder Mage
3 Cloudgoat Ranger
1 Pendelhaven
4 Vivid Grove
4 Yavimaya Coast
4 Horizon Canopy
4 Forest
3 Plains
3 Island

I got a weird chill down my spine when I read Flores Friday and realized that there was a convergence of ideas there, which gave me some hope that my deck might have some merit, though of course what appeals to me about this deck is Saffi, and Flores’ build is Blue/White.

A few words of explanation are probably needed for two card choices. First, Galepowder Mage is a card I’ve been kicking around in my mind ever since Wizards sent it to Scrye for our sneak preview. Initial gut reaction is that it’s a good Limited rare, a flying Hill Giant that clears away a problem blocker. But as I rolled it around in my mind I couldn’t help but think a splashable flying Hill Giant with a special ability might be constructed worthy. Then it occurred to me that you could use the ability to also “blink” your own stuff, albeit as a slow-roll rather than “momentary.” The key is that it’s reusable, all while beating down through the air. Targeting your Mulldrifter or Epochrasite is good times. As is Cloudgoat Ranger, the other card I wanted to try out. Cloudgoat Ranger is one of those cards I keep forgetting about for some reason, and seeing as no one else seems to be talking about it I’m not the only one. But it does a fair imitation of Deranged Hermit, don’t you think? I was casting around for a five-mana creature at the top of the curve that might fit well in a Blink deck, and the Giant jumped out at me.

After running some games, I came away feeling good about the core deck components. There’s something amazing about Evoking Mulldrifter into play, sacrificing Saffi Eriksdotter targeting the Mulldrifter, the Mulldrifter dies and then comes back into play, drawing your four extra cards. Drawing cards is fun, especially when you do it with creatures.

I also came away feeling fantastic about Galepowder Mage; it performed just as well as I hoped it would. Cloudgoat Ranger was… well, not bad. It was great to rip that fellow off the top of your deck on an empty board, and it could generate some serious chump blockers to slow down weenie decks. But it didn’t give me that “broken-good” feeling that you’d hope to get from a five-mana card.

I was also not amused by the mana situation. You want Green early, Green and White early for Saffi, Blue early for Rune Snag, and eventually double Blue mana for Venser. If we had Ravnica manabases we could handle it, but things are more difficult now. Talking with Jay after the night was over, I decided I needed to pull back on one of the colors. It couldn’t be White because, well, it’s a Momentary Blink deck, and I was happy with the other White cards in the deck. So it was a toss-up between Green and Blue. Come on, who’s writing this article anyway – is there any doubt who wins? Green makes Saffi more likely to come down early, and you get to run Birds of Paradise to help further on mana fixing. Of course, Mulldrifter is what makes this deck hum, so we won’t ditch blue altogether, but luckily it’s very splashable and easy to fit in. So this is the build I’m going to test this week leading up to States:

I have no clue if the mana’s even close to being correct, so if any of you are mana-fixers extraordinaire please feel free to give me some suggestions. I hate that the Vivids come into play tapped but I wanted to add some non-painful sources of multicolor mana. A few notes on card choices:

Harmonic Sliver – as I mentioned last week, I’m fairly well convinced that maindeck enchantment and artifact removal is going to be a welcome addition to winning decks. That notion was reinforced further while playtesting against the ridiculously annoying “TurboFog” deck. Being able to blow up Howling Mines and Rites of Flourishing really takes a lot of gas out of that deck, and I’m betting using Blink and Galepowder Mages to get multiple uses will come in very handy against them.

Changeling Titan – hey, more Slivers! Seriously though, I was kicking around something to replace the solid but unremarkable Cloudgoat Ranger and stumbled across this possibility. It’s an even slower-roll “blink” than the GPMs, but how nice would it be to cover up a Mulldrifter with a Titan? If your opponent somehow deals with him you get to draw two more cards. You can even do silly things like use an in-play Titan to “save” a creature from removal or combat damage with Momentary Blink – Blink out the Titan, your Mulldrifter comes back and draws you two cards, Titan comes back and covers up the doomed creature.

Stonecloaker – not only does it do a pretty good slow-roll Blink impression, it also nicely chews away on the graveyard to shrink Tarmogoyfs, stops Haakon shenanigans, eats Momentary Blinks and Mystical Teachings in the graveyards… and 3/2 through the air ain’t too shabby either.

Ohran Viper – I came this close to putting Troll Ascetic here, since Troll backed by Saffi is pretty tough to deal with. But I decided I wanted at least some way of dealing with out-of-hand Tarmogoyfs permanently, and this Deathtouch snake does the job pretty well, especially if you can protect it from dying with Blink or Stonecloaker.

I’m sure once the StarCityGames.com $1K tournament results are posted things might shift a bit, as will last minute playtesting I’m going to be doing on Friday. [The results are in, and the Top 16 decks can be found here. – Craig.] But this deck gives me the warm fuzzy feeling of doing strong and even broken plays, so unless hot technology drops into my lap at the last minute – technology that I’m capable of wrapping my brain around relatively quickly – I think I’ll be playing this deck this Saturday. What do you think?

Thoughts on the Invitational

When I saw that Tiago and Rich were the finalists I was pleased that StarCityGames.com writers had a lock on the win. You know, I remember when I first started writing for this here site, it was regarded as the “scrub” site by much of the pro community. All the cool kids thought that Mindripper/Brainburst, Team Academy and such were where you went for the real scoop. Even back then I thought that was bunk, as we had some mighty fine writers here cranking out stuff that was both entertaining and informational. Now we’ve got writers who win Pro Tours and even dominate the Magic Invitational – pretty damn cool to be part of that crowd, I have to say. I bow down to Pete Hoefling and The Ferrett for their vision and dedication to making this the best Magic site on the web, bar none.

Congrats to Tiago for pulling out the win – with poison counters, no less!

Each year I like to at least devote some column inches to the Magic Invitational card submissions, since to me the opportunity to design a Magic card featuring your image in the art is a pretty awesome prize. As such I tend to look at the players card submissions as the measure of how seriously the participant takes the honor he’s been given. In the past it was painfully obviously some of the players considered the whole thing a joke, just an excuse for a free Magic vacation. As I scanned this year’s submissions I was pleased to see that everyone seemed to take their card submission somewhat seriously; even Rich Hoaen’s submission is slyly intriguing. Anyway, I thought I’d rank each of the submissions as to how cool/good/clever I thought it was compared to the other submissions, rated on the Bennie Scale. #1 on the Bennie Scale is a card I would loooooove to play; #16 on the Bennie Scale, not so much. Let’s start at the top, shall we?

#1 Guillaume Wafo-Tapa
Tropical Faerie
Creature — Faerie Wizard
Whenever a Forest comes into play under your control, you may put a 1/1 blue and green Faerie creature token into play.
Whenever an Island comes into play under your control, you may untap up to X target permanents, where X is the number of Faeries you control.

It won’t surprise y’all that I’m loving this card, which is basically a turbo-charged Scryb Ranger, which itself is a turbo-charged Quirion Ranger. And Quirion Ranger was nuts! Take a creature and load it up with nifty special abilities and I’m in love. When I first read the submissions, I immediately started rooting for Wafo-Tapa, despite him not writing for StarCityGames.com… yet.

#2 Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa
Prolific Visionary
Creature — Human Wizard
Play with the top card of your library revealed.
If the top card of your library is a land, you may play that card.

Paulo’s card was a very strong second place showing for me. What’s not to love? Take a Blue card (Future Sight), make it a bit more reasonable (i.e. less broken) and attach it to a Green creature. I find the design elegant, intuitive, and in flavor – nice job!

#3 Craig Jones
Psychotic Professor
Creature — Human Wizard
Whenever an instant or sorcery spell you control deals damage to an opponent, search your library for a Red instant card and reveal it. Shuffle your library, then put the revealed card on top of it.
Sacrifice Psychotic Professor: Shuffle your library, then reveal the top card of your library. Psychotic Professor deals damage to target opponent equal to the converted mana cost of the revealed card. You lose the game at end of turn.

I really like what Craig did here – taking a Magic signature event and successfully fusing the spirit of that event into a cool creature. Not only that, but he made it incredibly powerful to boot. I like the idea of Invitational cards really pushing the envelope on power level, and I don’t think any player wouldn’t have opened a Craig Jones and not known it to be incredibly powerful. Chaining Red direct damage turn after turn, until you pop him off for the finishing move… with just a bit of risk involved. Excellent design. I’d have made this #1 if it had been Green, hee hee!

#4 Shota Yasooka
Avatar of Fire and Ice
Creature — Avatar
Discard a blue card, Discard a card, Pay 1 life: Counter target spell.
Sacrifice two mountains: Avatar of Fire and Ice deals 4 damage to target creature or player.

I thought Shota did a nice job loading this creature with powerful abilities, which I like both as an Avatar – an Avatar should be potent – and as an Invitational card. I suspect if Shota had won R&D would have had to tone down the abilities a bit, but that’s a good thing – these submissions should aim high!

#5 Evan Erwin
Cap’n Tickles
1G r/g r/g
Creature — Human Pirate
When Cap’n Tickles comes into play, put two 1/1 red and green Citizen creature tokens into play.
Citizen creatures get +1/+0 and have haste.

I appreciated Evan pulling his audience into the design process, but I’m just a twinge disappointed. To me, Invitational cards should do something cool and different – Meddling Mage is the gold standard. Cap’n Tickles is a spin on Giant Solifuge, though it’s got enough differences to earn a spot in my Top 5. Still, I would have liked to see something more creative from an Invitational submission. One thing Evan’s submission has me wondering – didn’t they open up the submissions to the public to vote on their favorite last time as another candidate card for creating (I believe it was Gemstone Caverns)? Are they not doing it this time because they figure Evan’s mass of fans would pretty much slam-dunk Cap’n Tickles in the voting?

#6 Frank Karsten
Eye of the Beholder
Creature — Human Wizard
Each player plays with the top card of his or her library revealed and with his or her hand revealed.
At the beginning of your upkeep, target player puts the top card of his or her library on the bottom of his or her library.
Sacrifice Eye of the Beholder: Target player shuffles his or her library.

Personally, I would never want to play this card because I’d hate for my opponent to know what I’m drawing even though I have the same benefit for his cards. Still, I have to give Frank credit for coming up with abilities that “fit” nicely on a small Blue Wizard, giving you some measure of control over what you or your opponent draws. I also like how the ability gets better with more copies in play.

#7 Rich Hoaen
Whenever you play a spell, return that card to your hand and put a random card from your hand onto the stack.

Rich’s submission was originally ranked quite a bit lower since I thought it was just a silly joke card… but then I realized how clever the card actually can be as a sort of Johnny combo card – mixing cheap card drawing/searching with big bang spells. Pretty cool! He loses some points for not submitting a creature – personally, I think all Invitationalist cards should be creatures as the most appropriate way to immortalize the Magic playing winner – but I could this ability easily being added to a Wizard creature.

#8 Jelger Wiegersma
Greatest Gargadon
Creature — Human Wizard
When Greatest Gargadon comes into play, choose instant or sorcery. Your opponents can’t play cards of the chosen type. You can’t play cards of the type that wasn’t chosen.

I like the abilities tied to this creature, and I like how two of them can completely lock out some styles of decks… but the name bugs me. I know that’s rather subjective but there it is. Also, I know I said Meddling Mage was the gold standard, but this feels a bit too close, so negative points on the lack of originality.

Or maybe it’s my Blue bias shining through?

#9 Gabriel Nassif
Bob the Dog
Creature — Hound Wizard
When Bob the Dog comes into play, draw a card, then discard a card. If B was spent to play Bob the Dog, target player discards a card. If W was spent to play Bob the Dog, target creature gains protection from the color of your choice until end of turn.

I’m digging Bob the Dog in general – I like the whole “if X was spent to play ~this~” flexibility, and the fact if you’re playing all three colors you can “kick” both special abilities. I dig creatures with Flash. That said… where’s the Green mana? Boo!

#10 Shuhei Nakamura
Creature – Human Jester
As Kou-Bash comes into play, you may reveal a creature card from your hand with converted mana cost 3 or less or choose a creature card in a graveyard with a converted mana cost 3 or less.
Kou-Bash comes into play as a copy of the revealed or chosen card

Shuhei’s submission suffered a bit due to being like so many other copy-type cards, but I appreciate the “Smother”-like restriction to keep the mana cost down. I think this is a well-balanced card I could definitely see being made some day. Still, I’d like a bit more “oomph” in an Invitational card.

#11 Willy Edel
Gambling Mage
r/b r/b
Creature — Human Wizard
Protection from white
As an additional cost to play Gambling Mage, discard a card at random.
When Gambling Mage comes into play, search your library for a card, then shuffle your library and put that card on top of it. Flip a coin. If you win the flip, draw a card.

This is a fun little card, and certainly pushes the power level, basically being a hybrid Black Knight/Blood Knight with wacky abilities/drawback in place of First Strike. The random discard cost is a bit steep, though note you can get around that by getting Gambling Mage into play other than actually playing it. Depending on your coin flip it’s either a Vampiric Tutor or Demonic Tutor on legs. Not too shabby! Hmm, you know maybe I should have rated this a bit higher, I’ve been known to toss some Black spells around…

#12 Antoine Ruel
Creature — Frog
When Reivilo comes into play, draw two cards for each other permanent named Reivilo. If you draw six or more cards this way, you win the game.
Reivilo gets +1/+1 for each other permanent named Reivilo.

This feels like an improved Aurochs, but as Coldsnap showed even improved Aurochs suck. You could certainly build some sort of Hulk Flash-type combo around this card, but no matter what the first copy of this card sucks, which doesn’t make for a very impressive Invitational card in my book. Honorable mention for the self-depreciating creature type, though.

#13 Steve Menendian
Twilight Tutor
If W was spent to play Twilight Tutor, search your library for an enchantment card and reveal it. If U was spent, search your library for an instant card and reveal it. If R was spent, search your library for a sorcery card and reveal it. If G was spent, search your library for a creature card and reveal it. Put a card revealed this way into your hand, then shuffle your library.

Steve, Steve, Steve, Steve, Steve… Does the Vintage Master really feel the burning need to create another frickin’ tutor?! I’d like to see the ability tied to a creature though… and I kinda dig how you can break this off with Fist of Suns. [This was my favorite. – Craig.]

#14 Kenji Tsumura
I Hate Pacts
Players skip their upkeep steps.
At the beginning of your draw step, put a kogamo counter on I Hate Pacts.
Remove three kogamo counters from I Hate Pacts: Draw a card.

Kenji, put this on a creature and you’d have moved up in the list my man. Making it a dirty Blue enchantment brings out the worst in me. I am intrigued pondering just what a “kogamo” might be, perhaps Eli can enlighten me?

#15 Tiago Chan
Denying Channel
T: Add 1 to your mana pool.
2UU, Discard Denying Channel: Counter target spell.

And here we have the winner’s submission. Apologies to Tiago, but UGH. A land that can be pitched to counter a spell; I can think of something that I would find more annoying as a player, and the fact that it’s not a creature bothers me too. What if you did something like this:

Denying Birds UG
Creature – Bird
T: Add one mana of any color to your mana pool.
2UU, Discard Denying Birds: Counter target spell.

See how much better it is adding Green and a creature type to the card?

#16 Raphael Levy
Mindear Battlemage
Creature — Human Wizard
When Mindear Battlemage comes into play, you may pay BR and name a card. If you do, that player reveals his or her hand and discards all cards with that name, then Mindear Battlemage deals 2 damage to that player for each card he or she discarded this way. Otherwise, that player reveals his or her hand.

I don’t think this is terrible, but somebody had to come in last place, especially since there was no Penguins this time. Raphael’s idea is powerful but I don’t like the whole “kicker” thing added in, and the fact it doesn’t do anything unless you’re paying extra. Just go ahead and cost it at 3 or 4 mana. I’m also not keen on Red/Black, a color combination I almost never play, but I won’t deny that for Red/Black mages this card would be decent.

Okay, so that wraps up this week’s column! Next week I’ll report on how Champs went; I’ve done very well over the years with a win and several Top 8s, but I’ve also scrubbed out quite a few times too. Here’s hoping to add another Top 8 notch to my belt. To my readers who are going to their local States, best of luck to you!

Take care,

starcitygeezer AT gmail DOT com

Post Script
Have y’all seen the Chuck Norris Magic thread in the forums? I’m sorry, I know Chuck Norris jokes are so two years ago, but I still find them incredibly funny. Here’s the link, and here’s a few highlights for other Chuck Norris joke fans out there:

Chuck Norris never plays Vamp Tutor. He simply taps the top of his library and WILL draw the card he needs.

Chuck Norris uses Texas Ranger badges as creature tokens.

Every spell Chuck Norris plays has split second.

When Chuck Norris enters a tournament, there are no banned or restricted cards. Only bodies.

Discard a card: Chuck Norris gets angry and f***ing kills someone.
Remove two cards in your graveyard from the game: Chuck Norris gets angry and f***ing kills someone.

Chuck Norris only needs three Tarmogoyfs

Here are a few more of my own creation:

If you play a spell to look at Chuck Norris’ hand, all you’ll see is a fist with your face on it.

Mike Flores claims to have chosen his States deck already, but that’s before Chuck Norris tells him what deck to play on Friday.

If Chuck Norris plays Planeswalkers, they won’t ever run out of loyalty because Chuck Norris would f***ing kill them.

Calling a judge while playing Chuck Norris does no good because no judge would ever come to his table… unless it’s Judge Sheldon Menery.

Sheldon Menery actually is Chuck Norris.