Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar (feel free to call him JMS) started playing Magic for fun during Ice Age and for prizes during Mirage. He has since abandoned the big tournaments to focus on creative deckbuilding, moved from Ann Arbor, Michigan to the San Francisco Bay Area, and has a wife, a child, a dog, a corporate job, a weekly column at Magicthegathering.com, and a novel ("Birthright," published by Virtualbookworm.com). What the hell happened?!?
There’s a lot going on with Kuon’s flip trigger, and all of it is pretty challenging from a deckbuilding perspective. The most obvious step in flipping Kuon is killing at least three creatures. That’s no easy feat – though black has some built-in answers with the likes of Barter in Blood, Hideous Laughter, Echoing Decay, Death Cloud, and Kagemaro, First to Suffer. Here’s the trick, though: I don’t want Kuon himself to die. So how do we break a creature-killer in what has to be a creature-heavy deck?
As the person who named the Ascendants (yes, I’m proud of my creative writer gig), I’d like to point out that Homura is the first and currently only card with “Human” in its name. Unfortunately, Homura’s creature type matters even less than Erayo’s. No Monk lords exist, and there’s currently debate in R&D whether Humans will ever have a lord of some kind. But fortunately, Homura has another ability that’s a little more enticing…
I looooove card cycles. Love ’em. I also love deck brainstorming, pushing myself to think of ways to use a quirky card. Put these two things together, and you have a wonderful way for me to spend the next five days. Here’s how it’s going to work: I pick a card cycle from Saviors of Kamigawa that I think has potential for capital-F Fun. Then, each day this week I’ll focus on one card of the cycle and brainstorm Standard deck ideas. So, um, guess which cycle I started out with?
As a special thanks to Jay on the last day of this tremendous experiment, we are running Blog Elemental in the Strategy section. For those of you just catching up with Jay’s deckbuilding, we encourage you to relive the excitement by checking out the Blog Elemental archives. Here’s a snippet from today’s article:”It’s also interesting to note that since version 2.0 of the deck, I’ve had a very respectable 64-11 record in the Casual Constructed room of MTGO. That’s probably a higher winning percentage than I would expect from an evolved preconstructed deck built for casual play.”
Cog Elemental has added some key rares since its initial Nuts and Bolts decklist, but the heart of the deck is still a pile of commons and uncommons. Heck, most of the variations I discussed last Friday are also fairly rare-light. One of the comments I’ve heard from several people online and in the Forums is that the deck can be built for far less than $50 total. Even still, on this penultimate day of my experiment, I want to retrace my steps and look at how to make a version of the deck that is truly”lite” (a phrase I coined on magicthegathering.com meaning”without rares”).
Today, with the end of the experiment right around the corner, I thought I would outline a few of the more interesting ideas I’ve received either in the Forums, via e-mail, or online. This won’t be an exhaustive list, obviously, and I’m not going to pursue any of these directions in my deck. Hopefully, though, walking through them will inspire you in your own mad tinkering.
I think I’ve been pretty clear all along in this experiment that I never intended the deck to be played in tournaments. That said, several people have been inspired to bring either my version or their own cog deck to FNM or even Pro Tour Qualifiers. Crazy. Even crazier, some of the results have been encouraging, and enough people have e-mailed me asking my thoughts concerning a sideboard that it feels unavoidable to chime in on the topic.
I like my deck names to be short and catchy. Some examples of my decks from the past include Wood, Limey.dec, White Noise, The Marksman, Gray Sligh, and She-Hulk. I tell you this because I want you to come up with my deck name for me. That’s right: I am going to do no independent thinking of my own whatsoever. This experiment has generated a nice community vibe in the Forums, and it’s about time I take advantage of that vibe.
Tell me what you think my deck’s name should be.
Let me be clear and say that I think Qumulox is a good, solid finisher for my deck. He has won me countless games. The only times I have been unhappy to draw him is when I couldn’t find the UU in his cost, which said more about a problem with my mana base than anything else. If you have been following along with your own Nuts and Bolts experiment and want to keep the deck to budget-proportions, keep Qumulox right where he is.
For my own deck, however, I guess I’m going to try and up the style points.
I probably should have done this long ago, but here is a list of all Standard-legal”cogs” (artifacts of zero or one casting cost) and some commentary from me on whether I think they have a shot at making the deck. The Forums are taking on a great community feel, and I know a lot of people are taking their own cog decks in many different directions. For that reason, I’ll make this list comprehensive by including cogs that I’m already using and have already abandoned. Consider it your own handy-dandy cog deckbuilding reference.
I can talk about mana for a long time, longer than anyone except Zvi Mowshowitz, probably. Luckily for me, I wrote down my general philosophy on land- and mana-balancing quite awhile ago. The article isn’t perfect – I wrote a revision about a year later for Sideboard that never got published – but it’s generally correct in describing my approach to land and mana. Anyway, you should read the article if you want to have any hope of following me today.
I had originally intended to run this experiment through the end of August. I’m feeling like that might be overkill, though. Instead of a date, I’m going to say that after my one hundredth game, I will officially call the decklist finished and move on to the next experiment. That means I’m just over half done, so you still have a lot of playing/tweaking to witness.
Confession #1: I did a naughty thing. I played a whole batch of games without logging the results. I had just done a bunch of writing on my novel and frankly, was a little written out. I wanted to play some Magic as an escape, and I wanted to play the Nuts & Bolts deck without the burden of documenting what happened. I am bad. I am sorry.