Category: Magic: The Gathering

Ixalan In Review

Ixalan has now been fully spoiled! New cards! New deck potential! Things!

As always, I’m only going to really focus on the things I want to talk about and that means most cards get ignored because so what. The majority of cards are for people who aren’t me, like all the limited cards.

I’ll be looking at cards in terms of if I want to play with it or get a set or copy of them, and that means cards that I can see using in a multiple different decks or in one deck a few different ways, or, crucially, cards I expect will be pretty cheap.

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MTG: Examining A Possible UB Keyword

Hey, WOTC employees! As much as I want you to read my stuff, in the hopes you wind up hiring me to write for your sites like the Mothership and whatnot I have to ask you to not read this one because I’m talking about amateur designs and new mechanics. After the fold, we’re going to discuss The Empty Space For A Blue-Black Combat Keyword.

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MTG: Ixalan Exploration

Ixalan’s mechanic roundup has been done! New tools, new toys, new things to look forward to! The window of time for useful commentary on upcoming mechanics is extremely short since it’s not just one thing to say ‘hey, this is how the mechanic could be used,’ and ‘I hope this is something we see,’ when the fact is it could be revealed tomorrow that none of what I mention will ever show up.

Nonetheless, let’s talk about Explore, specifially about Explore as it relates to deck building, and that means we’re going to look at some Explore cards and that means I’m putting up a fold so you can avoid looking at these cards if you’re trying to remain unspoiled. Go! Flee!
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MTG: Dinosaur 2: The Nitpicking

If you’ve been following my work for a long while (why), you might wonder what I think of the recent news that Ixalan will features Dinosaurs as a major tribe. I wrote about this in the past, where I came down pretty simply on the idea that Dinosaurs shouldn’t be creature type – Lizard or – Beast, and changing things would be a change for the better, mostly arguing from the perspective of the game as an educational tool.

Thanks, Wikimedia Commons!

Part of the introduction of Ixalan’s tribes, then, is that the set will feature dinosaurs as a distinct tribe, with their own visual hallmarks, their own mechanics, and notably, a unified, coherent creature type that can even be back-fit onto some older creatures that Aren’t Dinosaurs But Should Be. Maybe we’ll see Imperiosaur and Pygmy Allosaurus join the club. I’m pretty excited by this, but.

but but but.

There is still one last part of this needle to thread and we’ll do it, after the fold, because this will feature a spoooillllerrr for Ixalan. Don’t look! Avert your eyes, ye unspoiled!

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MTG: Deadend White

Sometimes you have to make sure that you’re willing to bail on an idea when it’s not working. Today, let’s do a quick rundown of something that, in that vein definitely did not work.

First, the list:

Deadend White

Grunts (20)
Lone Rider
Avacynian Missionaries
Glory-Bound Initiate
Thraben Inspector
Hanweir Militia Captain

Gear (8)
Always Watching
Neglected Heirloom

Removal (8)
Desert’s Hold
Faith Unbroken
Lands (24)
Sea Gate Wreckage
Geier Reach Sanitarium
Shefet Dunes
Desert of the True
13 Plains

First I saw the rudimentary utility of Neglected Heirloom. Seems simply enough, stick it in a deck with a bunch of other transforming cards, and you’ll have something decent or at least get an idea of if the card is garbage. Easy, right? Make the shell, see what you got.

The problem we have here is Lone Rider, or more properly, It That Rides As One. Because flipping this creature gives me the kind of critter I really like to have and it’s so big, and it’s so hard to race. And they printed Desert’s Hold in Hour of Devastation, which fits so nicely alongside it! Turn one desert, turn two Rider, turn three Desert, gain 3 life? That’s sweet. You only need to give the rider +2/+2 in any form to have flip-worthy power, and –

Quickly, this deck became about flipping the Rider. And that became about ways to squeak 2 power for 3 mana smoothly. And then it became about finding ways to draw the Heirlooms to feed the Rider, and –

You can see how this became a mess.

Don’t get me wrong. This pile won a bunch of games, but you can win a lot of games in the Just for Fun room by making a deck with 24 land and a bunch of creatures with a curve. There are things that will just stumble and fall, and you’ll take them out at the kneecaps. That’s just how it goes. But, this deck was still this deck, and it still faced the problem that it failed against opponents who were prepared, and it really failed against opponents who could adapt. People who could correctly time removal, or hold mana up for Rider flips, for example. People who didn’t run a lot of creatures, leaving deserts dead in hand. People who had some way to attack other than attacking my rather plump life total.

On almost every angle of attack, I was not quite up to it compared to what my opponents were capable of doing.

So there’s the deck. The only really cute thing in it that I still like is the interaction between Exert and Always Watching, but guess what? There’s a better deck for that in Red White, and that deck is a real beast to put together now.

Price

MTG Goldfish cites this deck as being about eight bucks. If you plan on playing with Always Watching or Glorybound Initiates, they’re the main things of value in the deck, so it’s not such a waste to play around with.

MTG: Anointment Everlasting

It’s funny to me just how quickly I get bored of decks in standard. It’s probably a byproduct of standard being very big, but also the standard environment being full of small things that don’t work together too exceptionally well. I can’t play with all the things I want to play with in a 60 card deck, which means instead I make a bunch of different, interesting things.

When I sit down to play I tend to bias heavily towards extremely aggressive, or extremely passive. I don’t tend towards combo, and when I do, it tends to be a really well insulated, extremely safe combo that can be sort of hidden away in a shell of a different deck. I just don’t like trying to Assemble The Machine under pressure.

This obviously means I tend towards red and black as aggressors, since they have reach, and I love my green beef so I almost always play with that in some way, and all this means that when I do play an aggressor, it is inevitably playing anything but Blue And White. They’re not my thing, they don’t tend to have the kind of reach or aggression I really like.

Anyway, here’s a blue white aggressive deck I’ve been playing and enjoying lately.

Anonited Eternals

The Bodies (29)
Trueheart Duelist
Adorned Pouncer
Wharf Infiltrator
Vizier of the Anointed
Sunscourge Champion
Cloudblazer
Vizier of Deferment
Vizier of Many Faces
Aven Wind Guide

The Juice (7)
Anointed Procession
Farm // Market
The Lands (24)
Plains
11 Island
Irrigated Farmland

The last time I played Blue-White aggression for any length of time, I was playing a Return To Ravnica era Arrest-based Enters-The-Battlefield deck, spread out into modern to include the combo of Ghostway and Archaeomancer, and, of all things, Sky Hussar. Which I love. Don’t @ me.

This mainly taught me that for my tastes, a UW aggressor deck needs some way to really sustain itself. It needs something it can do to juice up later. In the previous deck, it was the ability to perma-vigilance your team and endlessly recycle arrest affects to keep opponents from necessarily slamming you down with superior creatures. Much like Lightning Bolts and Zulaport Cutthroats give you some way to break up a stall or go over the top, this deck needed some way to take over the board, some way to make early plays into really juicy late plays.

And thus we meet our buddy, Anointed Procession.

Double Trouble

I played with Doubling Season once; I played with Dual Nature in Commander and in Extended (it was a thing!). I played with most of these effects, and so far, I think this is the best use of this effect I’ve ever played. With those other cards, with the decks those cards had to fit into, Procession doesn’t care if you get the token-makers before it or after. Embalm and Eternalise feed into Procession elegantly, both before and after it on the mana curve. It’s not like the awkward math where you’re left wondering ‘wouldn’t the Mycoloth have just won this on its own?’

Procession lets this deck treat its graveyard like a second much scarier hand. I’ve had games end on the spot after I drop a procession and untap to Eternalize Adorned Pouncer times two onto the battlefield. It even lets you do silly things like copying two things at once with embalmed Viziers.

The deck’s threats, overall, are hard to counter – and I mean that as killing or counterspelling, and even creatures traded for a card typically to go to the bin and wind up embalmed or eternalised for more head count. There’s even a durdly toolbox effect where the Vizier of The Anointed can go hunting up other things – and if your opponent has a great big creature, you can steal it with your Vizier of Many Faces, then trade them, then bring back your vizier as two also-huge creatures.

The sad thing is, I sometimes feel like Cloudblazer – the reason I started making this deck! – might just not be a good fit for it, since at five mana is when you’re bringing bombs out of your graveyard! At the same time, though, it’s an incredibly juicy target to Vizier of Many Faces with a procession – four or five cards, and four life!

Still there is at least one critter that needs some explanation and that’s the Wharf Infiltrator. Synergy between the Infiltrator and Eternalize and Embalm is a tiny bit obvious; you can have a turn three of attack, ditch a Trueheart Duelist or Sunscourge Champion, and then you’re left with the possibility of making a 3/2 Eldrazi (for no real card loss), or embalm the duelist, or, say, make an Eldrazi, play a tapped land, and untap into something like Sunscourge Champion Eternalized.

Notably, the Infiltrator can make a 3/2 off any discard, not just their own, and if you have two of them, you can serve, discard one card and make two 3/2s or if you’re feeling saucy and it’s late in the game, discard two cards for four 3/2s. And that’s without their interaction with Procession.

Price

With a quick check at MTGGoldfish – and I use them because they have a tool that makes it easy and free to check, not out of any particular love for them – this whole deck costs eight dollars to make. The bulk of that price is five dollars for the Irrigated Farmlands – which, again, I will stump for: Buy dual lands if you cans.

Followup Update

Real quick, here’s the most recent build of the deck I’ve been playing when this article comes out. I like this deck a lot and keep playing it when I mean to go do other things, play other decks for other articles.

Anonited Eternals 2.0

Creatures (21)
Thraben Inspector
Sunscourge Champion
Vizier of Many Faces
Trueheart Duelist
Adorned Pouncer
Wharf Infiltrator

Vizier Toolbox (8)
Vizier of the Anointed
Sacred Cat
Anointer Priest
Glyph Keeper
Aven Wind Guide

Spells (7)
Anointed Procession
Farm/Market
Lands (24)
Irrigated Farmland
Island
13 Plains

Two quick notes: The Sacred Cat is there when you have other Vizier of the Anointed out so you can play a second Vizier, pay a single mana and draw 2 cards. Also, Oketra’s Monument doesn’t seem to work super well with this deck in testing, because A. There’s a better Monument deck, and B. this deck doesn’t cast spells as often as it Embalms or Eternalises.

MTG: Improvise Approach

20:22 Talen Lee: I think for all that I like the things this deck does, I never want to play it ever again

It’s a good idea to know what you like when you play a deck. Maybe you like the varied math of making creatures and putting on pressure. Or perhaps you dig the way you change the rules of the game by imposing more force on your enemies. Sometimes you like seeing a mechanism, a device of the deck just working. It’s sometimes about watching a game’s mechanism working without those parts. It could be an elaborate combo of two parts that you wrestle into existence, and then bam they fire off and it’s spectacular or it’s safe or it’s redundant or – whatever.

Anyway, I tried to build a delirium and improvise-based Approach Of The Second Sun deck.

The Improvised Approach

Win Conditions (1)
Approach of the Second Sun

Controlling The Game (26)
Reverse Engineer
Commit // Memory
Cast Out
Farm // Market
Metallic Rebuke
Implement of Improvement
Descend upon the Sinful

Mana Augmentation (9)
Inspiring Statuary
Trail of Evidence
Wild-Field Scarecrow
Lands (24)
Irrigated Farmland
Desert of the Mindful
Desert of the True
Plains
Island

This game’s win condition – broadly speaking – is firing off an Approach of the Second Sun, then hold the game under your thumb for a mere seven draws, then do it again. The issue is that it’s designed to make sure your win condition is redundant and safe and protected – which means using Memory to reshuffle it if it’s countered, using your own counterspells to protect it, and firing it off after you’ve thinned your deck of things like Aftermath cards and put all the lands on the battlefield.

This deck is kind of fun.

Once.

Then, if you’re like me, you finish playing it, you set it aside and you never want to look at it again. Because how many times in one game can you want to cast Approach? I’ve had a counter fight and clue token accumulation result in one turn featuring three castings of the same Approach.

This is a surprisingly resilient casual control deck. You can buy the whole thing for ten bucks and you’ll have a deck that works just fine and the pices within it will even be somewhat redundant – you’ll have a use for other applications of the cards that cost more than a cent.

But oh my god am I done with it.

The Four Jaces

In Magic: The Gathering, there’s a character called Jace Beleren. You probably have heard of him. You really have if you’ve hung around me for any length of time, because I tend to make fun of him a lot. Yet for all that I talk about him, I very rarely talk about him. I tend to just make fun of the concept of him, and that’s meant to be funny in and of itself:

Jace is a character pulled between an unfortunate series of limitations and I think it’s worth my time to sit down and actually address them – because there is not one Jace that we talk about. There is a complicated, intricate web of Jaces. Come with me, beyond the fold, to the Jaceception. Continue reading

MTG: GW Delirium

This week, I’ve been playing a green-white brew, based on watching the coverage of the pro tour for Eldritch Moon. I saw the Owen Turtenwald deck that was using Delirium along with Grapple with the Past to fuel a really cool, spicy toolbox kind of deck.

Now, the rewards for delirium in that deck were Grim Flayer and Emrakul, The Promised End. Grim Flayers are out of my pay grade and Emrakul has been banned (and even then is still out of my pay grade), but I did find a few cute little synergies in a deck I have labelled, somewhat unimaginatively, ‘GW Delirium.’

GW Delirium

Threats (22)
Sunscourge Champion
Gnarlwood Dryad
Honored Hydra
Adorned Pouncer
Mouth/Feed
Pilgrim’s Eye
Mockery of Nature

Tools (14)
Grapple with the Past
Nature’s Way
Descend upon the Sinful
Cast Out
Forsake the Worldly

Land (24)
Scattered Groves
Desert of the True
Desert of the Indomitable
Plains
Forest

Threats

Let’s run down the threats real quick because oh my goodness we have some lovely stuff here:

Adorned Pouncer

Let’s start with the simplest creature. The Adorned Pouncer is just a 2-drop body that Eternalizes well. It’s not like this deck does anything to buff it or prepare it, but it does do a good job of bearing in the early game, scoring a few early beats or blocking an early problem. It dies easily, but you don’t mind if it dies! Late game, an Eternalized Adorned Pouncer – which you can get in the yard by a whole host of means – is a really scary threat.

Basically, it’s cool, but it’s also not amazing. It fills out the early slots and sometimes in an attrition fight, comes out of the bin and just wins the game on the base of being enormous and your opponent has simply run out of removal.

Mouth // Feed

From blatantly powerful to deceptively powerful, Mouth is a creature that dies to Fatal Push but otherwise does the job of most any other 3-power card. It gets in fights, it rumbles in, and it feeds, of course, Feed, letting me draw an extra card. Feed’s synergies are a little cute in this deck; it draws cards off Eternalised (with an s) creatures, it draws cards off Delirious Gnarlwood Dryads, and it draws cards off the Angel token you get from Descent Upon the Sinful.

If you can Feed for 2 creatures, that’s good. Remember, you’re casting it out of your graveyard and that means it’s -0 cards in hand for +2 cards in hand. Ancestral Recall is -1 card in hand, +3 cards in hand, for the same net value. If an opponent kills something in response costing them a card, that’s still -1 card from them for you. Still hurts, but don’t stress too much about it.

(I know it’s not as good as Ancestral Recall, don’t @ me).

Mockery Of Nature

This is a weird one. It’s not really the perfect Emerge creature – I think I’d probably rather almost any of the others except It Of the Horrid Swarm, because the mana curve goes more smoothly from 3-drop to 4-drop, eating my 3-drop. Adding blue to the deck would give me room for Wretched Griff or Lashweed Lurker, both of which are kinda spicey and solve different problems, but, Mockery originally got put in this deck as a removal card.

Note that Embalm tokens don’t have mana costs, so they don’t reduce the price on this. Which is super annoying!

Also, it has some very cute synergy with the next threat, where…

Honored Hydra

The hydra is good embalmed, and good played from hand. Played from hand, you can play it, attack with it, then Emerge a Mockery and embalm the Hydra on the same turn. The Hydra is also just, y’know, huge? Sometimes you just want a big trampler. Given the way this deck tends to work, with the late game about threats that are hard to permanently deal with, the Hydra is a perfect example of what you could be spending six mana doing.

Gnarlwood Dryad

This card puts in some work. I like how it works with Nature’s Way, but it also just servess as a super cheap little aggressor in the early game that’s fiddly to block and sometimes can inflate into a 3/3 when you need to put pressure on fast. Sometimes you need a thing to hold the ground against very scary threats and it’s hard to do better than something so cheap as this.

Sunscourge Champion

And boy howdy, here we get to a card I’m still startled is so very, very good. Discarding a Sunscourge Champion to eternalize another Sunscourge Champion feels gross, and then you’re basically turning a card in your hand into an uncounterable Loxodon Hierarch. This card also feeds into Emerge nicely – another build of the deck with Wretched Griffs and Vexing Scuttlers happily traded this card into the bin for an extra card. Oh the value.

Tools

The removal/card advantage package is designed to be a decent mix of things to enable delirium easily – you can cycle a cast out or sacrifice a Pilgrim’s Eye to get two of the rarer types of cards into the bin really quickly. Cycling lands do that too – and cycling lands mean that Grapple With The Past, even when it misses, doesn’t quite miss.

The big thing with this deck is just the room in it. You can cut a bunch of the cards because you may not like them as much as I do, but you need to be able to point to some things your deck can do that you do like. For example, I love Nature’s Way, which is just super sweet to use with a Gnarlwood Dryad or an Eternalized Adorned Pouncer. I like using Feed to draw cards. I like the mana base and I love that this deck can pack a Wrath effect as a way to make a threat. It’s great fun doing a bunch of trades, letting your first-round creatures hit the bin, swapping for removal, watch your opponent build out their board…

Then Descend, and add 4/4s alongside your 4/4.

Also, this deck folds to Turbo-Fog, which you will see in the casual room.

Price

MTG Goldfish price this deck at 5.17 online, $22 offline, and I think that’s a pretty reasonable rate for a deck that’s just, you know, fun? It’s hilarious to me that you generate a giant pile of rares and they’re all… rubbish rares?

Wrapup And Alterations

If you wanted to shift it into Bant colours, you could add the blue emergers, like Wretched Griff, ditch the desert cyclers and replace them with the UW cycle land – There’s something there. It’s interesting. It’s a maybe.

Anyway, this deck is fun. It’s a sluggish midrange deck that gains tons of life and occasionally blows people out with cards they forgot existed, and there’s lots of room for customisation. It’s resistant to countermagic thanks to mechanics like eternalize and embalm, and aftermath and Grapple let you treat your graveyard like a backup hand.

MTG: Cycles of Knowing Dark

Are you, like me, fond of decks that sit around, and powerfully do nothing? Well, do I have a deck for you.

Cycles of Knowing Dark 1.0

Creatures (8)
Archfiend of Ifnir
Curator of Mysteries

Spells (28)
Faith of the Devoted
Censor
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Countervailing Winds
Flaying Tendrils
Consign/Oblivion
Take Inventory

Mana Base (24)
Fetid Pools
Island
Desert of the Mindful
Desert of the Glorified
Swamp

This deck, in its simplest form, is a cycling control deck. You spend lots of your turns just turning your existing cards into piles of cards in the bin. It’s a very pure sort of control deck: You’re trying to get rid of cards you have for cards you don’t have. That doesn’t actually help you win, but you just… you just do a lot of stuff.

Along the way, you will see a lot of other cards – you’ll periodically even want to use some of them. Eventually, you’ll drop either a Faith of the Devoted or Archfiend of Ifnir, and that will eventually win you the game, but it’s very much a byproduct of just doing things and ripping through your deck.

Unsurprisingly, you’re really susceptible to mill and Fraying Sanity.

This deck can win by controlling the board with an Archfiend just neutralising ground forces repeatedly, or when that solution doesn’t work, it goes over your opponents, munching away at their life total with Faith-based drains, which has a side effect of blunting increasing threats from your opponents, which encourages them to spread onto the board in a way that walks into a board sweeper or make a Darkness a gross hand-emptying blowout.

I have never had an opponent destroy a Faith of the Devoted, by the way. It’s been bounced – but never so far hit by a standard destruction spell.

This is not the first build of the deck I’ve been practicing with! I’ve been using Flaying Tendrils as my board sweeper, which is a choice I’m not actually wild about. Originally the deck was using Corrupted Grafstones to advance mana but it didn’t tap for black with a Flaying Tendrils in the bin, and it was also proving that the mana acceleration was less useful than blowing everything up periodically.

Ironically, Bontu’s Last Reckoning kind of wants the mana rocks again, which pulled me towards this:

Cycles of Knowing Dark 1.5

Creatures (8)
Archfiend of Ifnir
Curator of Mysteries

Spells (28)
Faith of the Devoted
Censor
Hieroglyphic Illumination
Corrupted Grafstone
Bontu’s Last Reckoning
Consign/Oblivion
Take Inventory

Mana Base (24)
Fetid Pools
Island
Desert of the Mindful
Desert of the Glorified
Swamp
The overall result is a deck I like a lot, though there are still plenty of ways to make mistakes. The Grafstones often tap for blue and sometimes for black which can mean your first Reckoning is fired off a cluestone and two lands, just because the cycling options for blue are so strong and so often just one mana rather than two.

As this is an exhaustion deck there are some plays which can feel a bit weird when you do them – like Consigning a random enchantment or other permanent on the end step so you can untap and Darkness away their last two cards after the board’s been swept a few times. It really is a Wrath deck – you force your opponent to overextend somehow, then you blow up the board and mop up afterwards. It can’t exactly stall up the ground, but it can leech away life.

Some quick tips:

  • Tap mana rocks for Bontu’s Last Reckoning, every time
  • Don’t cycle away your third tapland on 2 hoping to draw a basic. It won’t happen enough to reward you and you cannot afford to fall behind on mana.
  • You will steal some early plays via Censor and the occasional big greedy pull, but don’t sandbag your Censors waiting for it
  • Archfiend of Ifnir is decent but slow against aggro. If you can’t play it and cycle in the same turn you probably won’t get value out of it.
  • Two Faith of the Devoted is a fast clock, but three doesn’t speed things up as much as you’d think, since you still have to pay the extra 1.

In the end though this deck does what I really like: Casts Take Inventory multiple times.

According to MtgGoldfish and my own price scrounging, this deck is about eight bucks – which includes the Fetid Pools. On this point I want to put out there a detail: Always grab cheap dual lands. If they’re in the colour you play, while they’re standard legal they tend towards being cheap. If they’re available for you, and you can get mileage out of playing them in a few decks, duals will almost always be useful, and over time, your mana base will be the most expensive reusable part of any deck you play.

I may want to play with Kozilek’s Return, but it’s twenty bucks per copy. If I want to play with that, though, it’s one deck, probably an Emerge or Delirium build. It’s not likely to be a deck maker that lets me reuse it over and over again.

In the end, duals will be handy in a lot of decks you play, and hey, this one will almost always cycle back into being handy for you~.