Tagged: MTG

MTG: Jund Vomit Part 4

Ho nelly has this been a project! My desire to make a robust Jund deck for 1v1 commander, and to keep my individual articles about it reasonably sized has resulted in this beefy deck building process, but I hope it’s been interesting and useful to follow along. Now we just need to resolve one of the fundamental problems in my 1v1 Commander deck…

Step 5: That Whole Commander Thing

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the commander is literally not core to the way this deck works. There’s no commander in Jund who enters the battlefield and reanimates anything; there’s no commander who dumps a chunk of your library in your graveyard; there’s no commander who fits our theme. Which means our commander wants to be a card that we always want to draw and have a purpose.

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MTG: Jund Vomit Part 3

Last week, we went through the process of dissecting an archetype like Jund, and then went to work on the 8×8 theory. We decided what our 8 piles would be, and this week, I’m going to go over those 8 piles, what’s in them, and the commander who will be in charge of them!

Step 4: Building Piles

Now, this series is already 3,000 words (whoof!) so I’m not going to go through every single possible permutation. I’m also going to talk about the choices I make based on budget, and throw in examples that I’d use if I had a lot more money to blow on this.

Pile 1: The Combo Kill

Anger, Brawn, Dread Return, Kessig Cagebreakers, Mortivore, Splinterfright, Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Boneyard Wurm.

This is the combo kill that excites me; anger plus an outsized creature big enough to trample over and win out of nowhere. All you need to do to make this happen is fill your graveyard enough, which will be enabled by our dredge package.

One thing I like about this is that some of the cards in it don’t really need to be involved in the combo to be good. Kessig Cagebreakers is a perfectly legitimate threat with only one creature in the bin – that’s when it serves as a 5/6 for 5. Jarad is even better, since he can jump out of the bin on his own, and I don’t need the Anger/Brawn in the bin to make him scary. If he does have backup from either of those, though, he is an absolute game ender, and he can also circumvent combat entirely in the late game.

Pile 2: Dredge Package

Golgari Grave-Troll, Shambling Shell, Stinkweed Imp, Golgari Thug, Grave-Shell Scarab, Golgari Brownscale, Life from the Loam, Dakmor Salvage.

I tried to limit the dredgers to cards that are worth casting in and of themselves. The creature that’s most on the edge is the Grave-Shell Scarab, because it doesn’t dredge for a lot, and its value as a creature is mostly that it can bounce back to your hand very cheaply – or you can cycle it away for a mana. This also ties into our resilience plan: Golgari Grave Troll is a pretty beefy threat and with the Brawn and Anger in the bin, it’s beefy with trample and haste.  Shambling Shell is a nice vicious hitter that can jump into the yard and enable dredge if that’s what you need.

Overall, these cards are just here. You could justify using Life From The Loam with cycling lands later on, but that tends towards pulling the deck towards control, or utility lands, which is slow and spends a lot of time on cycling and dredging – while this deck wants to dredge in big chunks or just use the cards as aggressive threats.

Also, don’t sell short the value of Golgari Thug: If it gets milled into your yard, you can dredge it, let it die, then use that to retrieve a card like Eternal Witness or similar.

Pile 3: Value Creatures

Putrid Leech, Rakdos Guildmage, Lotleth Troll, Nath of the Gilt-Leaf, Bloodbraid Elf, Sprouting Thrinax, Nezumi Shortfang, Siege-Gang Commander.

Not all of these are perfect and some of them are kinda pet cards. Particularly, I will always try and find excuses to play with Nezumi Shortfang, who when you really boil it down is at best a combination of The Rack and Hill Giant? Rakdos Guildmage on the other hand is really flexible and explosive in the late game, can fuel discard and removal, and threatens to trade up with lots of things it can fight. Nath is just a big disruptive creature, and much like Bloodbraid Elf or Sprouting Thrinax get you extra cards.

Siege-Gang Commander is just big – and better if you can bring it back. Also, the commander on its own can cast Dread Return from the graveyard.

There are some maybes for this slot; I played with some level-up creatures here, and they weren’t particularly amazing and the Putrid Leech is kind of not as exciting as it could be?

Pile 4: Board Advancement

Civic Wayfinder, FertilidFarhaven ElfWood Elves, Yavimaya GrangerCourser of KruphixMoriok Replica, Merfolk Branchwalker.

Mostly these are cards that I play to keep the board advancing. None of them are amazing per se, but I would rather make a threat and get a land in hand or on the board than just go get a land like with Rampant Growth or Sakura-Tribe Elder. The oddball in this pile is Moriok Replica: technically, it doesn’t advance your board. Still, it’s a useful draw spell and can help you last until the mid to late game by blocking something and cashing in for cards.

I’ve considered if this slot should be hand attack/disruption cards instead; in that case I’d be picking up pieces like Mournwhelk or Sanity Gnawers.

Pile 5: Creature Removal

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Bane of the Living, Brimstone Mage, Bone Shredder, Terminate, Polukranos, World Eater, Shriekmaw, Putrefy.

This particular vein is so dense! The thing I was trying for with this stack was to get things that ideally were creatures in the bin, and crucially, to use cards I already own. Sarkahn is a great card for my tastes, since he does a passable impersonation of a Flametongue Kavu. If you have those, they probably want in here in place of the Brimstone Mage.

Pile 6: Other Stuff Removal

Sylvok Replica, Mockery of Nature, Vithian Renegades, Molder Slug, Reclamation Sage, Indrik Stomphowler, Mold Shambler, Acidic Slime.

Another deep vein. I’m not sure how great any of these are; I’d almost want to replace cards like the Stomphowler and Replica but the corners where they’re useful are so useful, like when you’re using the Replica with Oversold Cemetary to repeateldy blow up artifacts; a Creeping Mold might make a good, searchable option, though to replace the Vithian Renegades that can pop Planeswalkers? Or maybe some good 4-mana flexible burn spell?

Pile 7: Recovery Package

Deadbridge Goliath, Vengevine, Doomed Necromancer, Dark Deal, Dimir House Guard, Garruk, Caller of Beasts, Xenagos, the Reveler, Eternal Witness.

The purpose of this package was to be cards that can carry the game on their own making them powerful top-decks, or ways to bounce back from particularly rough board wipes. There are some pet cards here, too – the House Guard’s job is to go and fetch up one of the deck’s four-drops (two in this package, Mold Shambler, Polukranos, Bane of the Living, Dread Return or Jarad – not a perfect every-problem toolkit, but a lot of powerful things for most situations). I’m not sure on this Garruk; Caller of Beasts in this deck looks like ‘draw 2-3 extra cards a turn,’ but Wildspeaker would advance mana plans and could help break board stalls.

I like the Dreadbridge Goliath as a post-wrath monster; it’s big and chubby and if it dies it makes the next threat a lot scarier – even a Merfolk Branchwalker looks pretty scary as a 7/6.

Dark deal is the oddball in here too: It’s there because I wanted to be able to do a big dredge out of a hand that’s otherwise dead. It might be a mistake compared to other options (that I can’t afford) like Wheel of Fortune.

Pile 8: Redundancy Package

Cathartic Reunion, Phyrexian Delver, Victimize, Oversold Cemetery, Insolent Neonate, Reforge the Soul, Runehorn Hellkite, Ever After.

Now here’s the effects that are here to replicate other packages’ effects or enable the way they work. Catharic Reunion, Neonate, Reforge and Runehorn are all here to do a big dredge or restock you if you’re behind. Ever After can retrieve a Yavimaya Granger and something else, knowing that the card can be shuffled up from the bottom.

That’s our deck core. Next steps? Picking the commander, building the deck, and playing some games!

MTG: Jund Vomit Part 1

MTGO recently – like, around August – decided to decouple themselves from the EDH Council for online play, based on players primarily focusing on 1v1 commander on MTGO. I’ve not been very interested in Standard right now – not sure why, I think it’s the loss of Eldritch Moon and the failure of Ixalan to excite me for constructed – so instead I’ve been playing Commander 1v1.

The two things about Commander 1v1 that appeal to me the most are that it’s a high-variance format, and its card pool is well, kinda-vintage. It’s wide enough that I can play with some old favourites that had already left Standard by the time I saw them, but the investment to get involved isn’t like getting into canlander, legacy or vintage. Continue reading

Planar Chaos Sucks (But It Doesn’t (But We Learned Nothing From It))

Back when Planar Chaos came out I mostly said at the time that it was a fine opportunity for Wizards of the Coast to address its failings, and start setting a new hard precedent in what the game should be, citing the examples of Damnation and Prodigal Pyromancer as signs of what the game’s colours should feature. This perspective, broadly speaking is wrong because Planar Chaos wasn’t meant to be that. I was the one in the wrong, with my sensible-seeming but incorrect assumption.

As it turns out, I was not alone

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The MTG Data… Thing

If you know about this, you know what it’s about. If you don’t, boy howdy, trust me, it could scarcely matter less.

Here’s your rough outline: Wizards of the Coast have revised one of their web features, where they released ten decklists that had gone 5-0 at a League that week. Instead, they said, they’re now going to release five decklists, and instead of letting randomness pick them out, they’re going to let a people do it. A people!

Look, on the face of it, people who are unhappy about this, I am actually on your side: In this case, you had More Data, and now you have Less Data. That sucks! That is straight-up a bummer, and if you like Data, less of them is worse than more of them!

And then, the Magic Community had to go and be.

Alright, let’s talk about the goony-as-heck reaction to this, and by inference, the rolled-in reaction to the change of Friday Night Magic because these two things just run straight into one another in the worst hecking way. So! Wizards are now giving you Less Data, which means the correct course of action is to form in large, ridiculous, conspiratorial groups on Reddit and fume at one another about how it’s impossible that Wizards of the Coast functions as a company, because they’re clearly awful and stupid and bad, and let’s throw rocks at them. You should also pen large articles that refer to this as DATA HOARDING and also, while we’re at it, refer to it as INSANITY because that’s classy, especially when the article gets to sit alongside confessional stories of how Magic: The Gathering helped the writer overcome their suicidal depression. Good look.

The use of Hoarding is a fun one too, because Hoarding, we recognise, is a Bad Thing. We know Hoarding is bad and it’s a loaded word because it implies that someone is keeping more than their share, for a foolish reason, that really should be a right to everyone. This is like how America has a Health Hoarding problem, I guess. Point is: You don’t call it Data Hoarding if you’re not trying to imply Wizards of the Coast are sitting on a giant pile of Data like dragons on coinage.

The argument is that Wizards are terrible for this, that they’re witholding the data for nefarious purpose. Now, I’ve also heard that Wizards have asked Starcity Games and MTG Goldfish to stop publishing full tournament decklists, but also done so in the context of asking people. The notion is that Wizards feel an excessive array of decklists in an environment make it too solvable, and they’d rather people write about their decks rather than let people do amateur economics to a huge pile of data points. The people who benefit from huge swathes of decklists are Pro players, people with testing environments, as well. In essence, Wizards have said People in general don’t know what to do with data, and too much data benefits people who are already in position to win.

Next thing: Wizards have also decided to stop giving away FNM Standard Promo cards, and instead replace them with foil two-sided tokens at FNMs. FNM is Friday Night Magic, basically a store initiative to get you  to play the game and bring people together to enjoy the game together. FNM has broadened massively in the past few years – it used to be Standard, or Draft – and now it’s so varied that players can wind up playing Conspiracy or Commander or old formats or Pauper of all things. They’re still going to give away the FNM standard promo cards, but only for the Standard Showdown format they release. People asked for ways to get the tokens, they provided, and they moved the standard promos.

And how do these two things hit each other?

Wizards have said they chose to do this after checking data. And that means we get to watch the highest tier of internet intelligentsia arguing that they need more data to make decisions, but also Wizards doesn’t have data necessary to make this decision. Wizards were asked – via Mark Rosewater’s blog – how much data they were basing it off, and if it could possibly be statistically significant. Wizards’ response was all FNMs since the program started. If you wanted a better demonstration of the MTG community’s amateurish assumptions about how they could handle data vs how Wizards could handle data, you could scarcely ask for more proof.

Bonus: Then people demanded Wizards release that data. Because how else could they believe Wizards of the Coast, if they didn’t provide literally years of data about FNM attendance in every location, along with all the qualitative research and questionnaires they’d done.

In all this, one thing Wizards have said is the leading thing that encourages people to be and hang around FNMs is the environment being friendly and nice. That is, it’s not the incentive to play for the special cards that draws people in, it’s something else. It’s the social environment. And imagine, just imagine, and if you’re the kind of person who gets mad about Data and invents conspiracy stories about the company it might be you don’t make the environment friendly. I’m not saying this was targeted, but I am saying if you’re the kind of dickhead who brags about sharking the most casual FNMs you can find to scoop up the FNM standard promo cards, maybe you’re not good at recognising other people’s incentive systems for wanting to avoid playing with you.

I don’t know. Honestly, I do see the problem with giving people too few data. I do see the idea that trying to dissolve the cloud of decklists for raw data scrapers is a fool’s errand because the people who scrutinise that information aren’t, generally, going to necessarily actually notice that they’re not yielding useful results with their predictive models.

The main lesson though, the one thing we can really take away, however is Being kind and friendly helps your FNM.