Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Personal Incarnation

When Alpha hit the store shelves (or more the con tables), each color had one 'Big' creature that was meant to represent everything that color stood for.

Red had Shivan Dragon, Green had Force of Nature, blue had Mahamoti, and Black had the infamous Lord of the Pit. Now some of you might say that Serra Angel is the white creature. No, white would be the flier for 5 cycle, but easily the best of them. No, the white creature is a forgotten underplayed favorite of mine:

Yes, that draw back is severe, but it is a 6/6 for 6, and is one of the only cards in the game that depict the Planeswalker in the art. In reality, unlike it's straightforward brethren this one requires a bit more tactic and skill to handle properly. Unlike it's cousin, you can't just charge in with it, and instead, it must be applied strategically.

As one friend once put it, while it's extremely frail to spot removal, it's nearly invincible to damage. It can in it's base form, absorb 5 damage, and then you take the damage instead. In this regard, combined with the power of a 6/6, he's actually a fairly efficent beater.

Sure, he's the biggest Terror target ever created, but that should be expected with such power. It's not different then running some of the other beaters of the format, they will be targeted and dealt with as much as possible.

However, there are a few ways to deal with his draw back. I had good effect of running this guy with Lich in my deck before the Winter Derby, since it made his draw back not be effected at all, and I could use it as a means to sac permanents I didn't need/want. Another trick for this format is to go a blue/white build and protect him with counterspells, or even green and run Regeneration.

Finally, there is the issue of giving him evasive abilities. In a format with Venom,  Assassin, Cockatrice, and Basilisk, he can't always just run ahead on combat alone. If you are splashing the blue, I recommend Invisibility (which can also be used on your juggernaut), and possibly the occasional Jump. If you are feeling spicy, a Giant Growth into a Berserk could equal plenty of damage, but watch for a fog, because that would obviously be bad.

Fun Fact: This guy was reprinted until 5th, and even got a jumbo promo!

Well I hope I have inspired you to take a look at this underrated beater of yesteryear, and if not, well why are you even reading this?

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Fissure: Boom goes the dynamite!

"Most not all things at the last be swallowed up in death?!"--Plato

"Magic cards that are also Yu-Gi-Oh cards unite!"--Kryptynyt

When you really need to kill something (or somewhere).

One of the beautiful things about the old days of M:tG was nothing was ever set in stone. This results in blue land destruction, green burn, and yes, red in the form of hard spot removal. In this day and age when red's only removal has the word 'damage' on it, it's nice to look back to a time when that wasn't the case.

No, this isn't the only card that lets red do that, but it's a small number of cards printed in the 90's. I've used it time and time again, first in 60 cards, then in land destruction tactics, before finally in EDH. I mean, it has it's con, being a 5 mana spot removal, but combining the fact it's instant speed land destruction w/ the fact it buries, is too good not to be worth mentioning.

This was actually a red deck staple of mine for a long time. It ran the battlefield along side the likes of Eron the Relentless, Orgg, Goblin Mutant, Mox Monkey, Dwarven Warriors, and other cards I can't remember right now. It took down things too big for Incinerate, and to risky for Earthquake.

However, as I said, it's 5 mana cost is a bit steep, keeping it from being a classic. However, as also stated, it is an instant, which results in some amazing late game plays. It can also blow up a Library if needed, which is always good.

Maybe, just maybe, I'm bad at Magic.


It's art is rather effective (as most pieces from The Dark), showing a literaly fissure, who more then likely swallowed someone just off camera whole. Or perhaps, it's the land itself that was destroyed, and the men in the image are in awe of such power. Shuler's trademark mountain is in the back as well, but the best touch is the slight distant glow hinting on the lava many miles below. All and all, I give this piece a 5, both for memorability and effectiveness.

Art: 5/5


As said above, it's expensive. 5 mana was expensive back when people were still running decks that contained Sengir Vampire, Orgg, and Serra Angel all at the same time. Times have changed, but this cards mana cost hasn't. However, as is a rule, the more versatile the removal, the more expensive it is, and is it versatile. In Old School, this can kill almost every creature in the format, with the exceptions of Protection from Red critters like Knights of Thorn. Yes, it can take care of hard to remove creatures like Juzam, Serra, Shivan Dragon, Mahamoti. With instant speed, it can be played around your opponents turn, and can be a great bluff cards. Finally, the real icing is it's ability to destroy lands. It can hit a library, prox a late game Strip, blow up a untapped Maze, or an untapped anything, at the end of the opponents turn. Sure, it's still 5 mana, but if you are sitting on that mana right before your upkeep, no harm in using it.

Playability 3/5, because 5 mana, no matter how good, is expensive for spot removal.

Flavor: The flavor is a simple one, the earth literally swallows a poor creature (or land) up. It fits into reds 'strength of the earth' concept well, but is simple enough to leave some to the imagination. I remember people saying it should kill everything in a bands, and other strange stuff like that way back in the 90's (that's a long standing Kangaroo Court ruling of mine btw). The best part of the card, is the haunting Plato quote that is featured on the top of this page. Once again, it works extremely well with the infamous hue of Dark cards, as well as the art on the card itself, and it's unfortunate implications. Ironically, when I first saw this card, being a child, I had no idea who Plato even was, and assumed him just to be another throw away MtG character which was very common in those days.

Flavor gets a solid 4/5.

Final rating 12/15=4/5. A good, useful card, but a bit expensive. I'd recommend trying it though, because short of being on the screw, I've never been disappointed to draw one. 

Post 20: In defense of the new art.

While, it is true, I'm like many, very disgruntled with the way Magic art has turned in the last decade, with it's increasingly declined quality, it's ban happy mentality has almost made Magic a chore. Combine this with the need for 'Planeswalkers', the story direction, and some things I'll be better off not mentioning, it's easy why people who love the game want to fold up, or play unsanctioned fan formats.

I will be writing a series of articles about the called 'The unforgivable sins of WotC', but that could be a long time before I get to finalizing it. No, this article will be in defence of modern MtG art.

Now I will be the first to fully admit that the art on modern products are lack luster, to cluttered. After all, some pieces of art are commissioned to be released as other medium pieces (promotional material, ect). This often results in art pieces that are cluttered, confusing, or just plan unmemorable.

Example A
This piece, works great as a banner, which it was used many times, during the sets spoiler, but it doesn't make good card art. It's too busy, and has too much going on in it, for what's roughly 3 inches of image.

Another issue with modern art, is how generic it looks. Take this common as my most often used example:

This could literally be any video game promotional item. I remember joking about that at the prerelease.

Now I'm not bad mouthing the artists themselves, I can't draw for shit. I'm instead talking about the lack of direction (or too much direction) from the company itself.

However, when WotC does get it together, they can still make some memorable pieces of art w/ the in house artists.

Now while the majority of card pieces, don't capture the magic, the mystic, like the original art, these are still good pieces that deserve respect, for their technical value, and there memorableness.

(Note: I'm considering everything post Garruk/Liliana controversy as modern for the sake of discussion, since that was the last time the art direction got a major overhaul).

First Example: Angelic Destiny

While a little before the cut off, I love this piece to much not to include it in this list. This card alone makes for a good argument for digital art on M:tG.

Here we have a vibrant, imaginative art piece, that is detailed well enough that it's memorable, but not so much it's cluttering. It's also quiet frankly beautiful. It captures the 'enchantment' aspect of aura's well. That stupid annoying red symbol on the side irritates me to no end, and while the art wouldn't work at all of the 'tome' looks OG Magic cards were going for, it fits very well for the way the modern game is treated.

(Thalia has a similar look, and gets an honorable mention here).

Tell me this isn't great looking

Speaking of Thalia, some of WotC best art work isn't in packs anymore. When the 'Inventions' and 'Expedition' secret rares were announced, it was commented on how nice the art looked on many of the cards. I said this wasn't anything new, WotC was paying premiums for it's best art to be on promo products.

Steve Argyle's Thalia.

Here is a portrait piece worth the same appraise as Douglas Shuler. Yes, it's a bit over polished, and I don't like how much in the large print the CGI of the sword doesn't match with Thalia, nor how polished it is in itself, but none of that is noticeable on the actual card.

It's best quality is how unusual it is to other pieces in the game in it's current form. Again, this wouldn't fit with the Tome feel of early years of the game, but I wouldn't be able in good heart to call it generic.

This piece, from Karl Kopinski looks like it could be straight from some Mirage era card art. It has good coloring, good sense of speed, but is sadly a victim of NWO, and is unplayable because of it. (Just read it).

One artist, who hasn't gone the way of Guay, is Terese Nielson. Whether it be her, skill, her long standing reputation among Magic the Gathering fans, or her involvement with the company, her art never fails to impress, both visually, and skillfully. Working on the game since Alliances, she's drawn more then one piece you are familiar with. She's developed a reputation in recent years for ignoring the style guide to some real solid effects.

Probably the most Greek feeling piece in Theros.

Dictate of Heliod looks like nothing else in the set, but man, does it look amazingly Greek.

Enter the infinite

Honestly, I could sit here all day talking about how awesome her art is, but I won't.

Sadly these aren't the standards, but the exceptions, to the rule. These are the outliers now, in modern M:tG, but the occasional good piece of art still exists on the cardboard of MtG.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Pikemen: The common soldier.

"All rivers eventually run to the sea. My job is to sort out who goes first."
Maeveen O'Donagh,
Memoirs of a Soldier
"I'm a Soldier, I fight where I am told, and I win where I fight"
--General George S. Patton.
Just doing their job the best they can.

War is won on the back of soldiers. While history remembers only a chosen few, twiddled down through time, all wars, are won by soldiers. The soldier is a important necessity, even in Magic. While the game is full of amazing and illustrious creatures, one musn't forget the soldiers of M:tG. The 9-5 common men that face up against unspeakable horror, near god like dragons, personifications of the elements, and the worse Hell can muster. They do this simply because that is their job, and for better or worse, doing it, even against impossible odds, is better then the alternative. 

Magic too has Soldiers, even Old School. In a time before soldiers became over the top warriors in themselves, the soldier in Magic was that, a small, insignificant creature that was usually good at utility. Old-School has numerous, largely the forces of Icatia, but one musn't forget the doomed Benalish Hero and of coarse the Pikemen.
Sure knights get the glory, but Pikemen, the medieval all purpose foot soldier, gets the job done.  Traditionally used to take down Calvary. They survived even into the age of gun powder, due to the simplicity of their weapon, and the effectiveness against mounted enemies. 

Pikemen in Magic, just like in life, don't get the glory they probably are due. After all, they aren't nearly as good as the knights of the same mana cost (or stat wise to their squires). They can be pinged w/ a Javeline, shot with an arrow, or magic missled by a bored wizard. However, I feel even with these factors, they just are more underappreciated then they should be.

The Art: Pikemen's art (by Dennis Detwiller, not Denise) is actually pretty damned good. In it, you see three anonymous soldiers sitting along a parapet, in a relaxed position. There is no glory to speak of, none of these characters stand with exaggerated muscles, heroic deeds, or great treasure. No, they stand, as if for a portrait, in a neutral pose, their faces obscured by their flimsy helmets. Even their armor is non-descriptive, matching a simple leather and cloth tunic, each one the same as the previous one. The background is also the same, with a simple sky and cloud set up, showing just how mundane an activity this is. This works particularly well with the vision of Dark cards and it's emphasis on bolding the color black while fading the color white. Making the shadows of the men and the parapet behind them that much more noticeable. In reality what works with this that is lost in the 5th edition art is these men are just that, men, swords for hire, the common man, with no glory to be seen.
The art gets a 4/5. 

Playability: I'll be the first to admit there are better two drops, especially in the states which allows for Fallen Empires. White Knight, in all situations will be better then Pikemen, and numerous others are better. However, you shouldn't write off Pikemen as unplayable just because it's weak 1/1 stats. A small simple word on the card makes Pikemen worth considering: Banding. For those of you who don't know, banding lets your forces fight as a team (I'm not getting to into the mechanics of it, that will be another article all together). It's meant to show white martial ability for tactics in combat, and in my humble opinion, never truly got it's due. However, since shield bearer isn't in Old School proper, this might be the best bander in the format. Those who doubt just how good banding can be should try it, just once, before writing it off as a 'poor' mechanic. The first strike is just icing. While it's original printed creature type was simply 'Pikemen' it got Soldier in the Great Creature Type Update, and as such, can work with Icatian Lieutenant (and other tribal support much later in the game). It's also white allowing it to be run with Angelic Voices, Crusade, and Jihad. I'll give it an optomistic 3/5. One point for banding, one point for potential color/tribal interactions, and one point for first strike. Maybe I just overvalue banding, but I've never been disappointed when it worked. 

Flavor: In reality, outside the art, the flavor, while effective, is boring. Yes, Magic needs mundane things, and yes, even the flavor text wasn't that interesting, but it's atmosphere is top notch. In the fact it's that mundane concept that makes this soldier work so well. While other cards are meant to be heroes, healers, or great beasts, Pikemen are just pikemen, and they will die loyally where they need to be. Flavor 2/5, while I'd like to rate it higher, it's truly a boring, but valuable creature. While it will hold a special place in my heart, both from my early white weenie decks, and because I'm a sucker for banding, it tastes a little plain.

Overall 9/15= 3/5. Sure it's not the best card, but I'd recommend the occasional budget/casual 93/94'r to attempt a spot for a few grunts. I assure you, they will make their work better then you'll realize, and if you don't, they still cost .10.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Land Equilibrium: An interesting two headed idea.

"We use to use that in team games, since it said opponents. One guy would sac his lands, and keep the other players in check, the other guy would actually play Magic"--The Don.

    One time, many moons ago, I ran to Dons card shop in a vain attempt to pick up a Land Equilibrium he had recently picked up. I was 30 minutes to late. However, he started talking about it from back in the day, and said the above quote. Of coarse, his shop was a rocking place in the 90's, and he played large multiplayer games that modern Magic players wouldn't even touch (in 2009, I was in a 32 man game in that shop). 

    Recently, Wak-Wak posted an article about the deck, and with the recent announcement of Denmark hosting a 2-Headed Giant format, I figured it would be as opportune time as any to discuss this often forgotten gem.
This would have made some awesome land art.
Now the idea of this would be simple, one player would run a denial strategy, while the other, runs an aggressive strategy.

For the sake of posterity, I'm rating the card and overall 4/5 in art, mechanic, and flavor (the flavor being the iffiest part).

Now first we must design both decks, the idea being simple, one would hit hard, the other would play defense. Naturally the defensive deck should be blue, and possibly white. This would give you access to COP's, Swords to Plowshare, and if needed, balance.

I recommend each deck not sharing colors, due to the 4 of both deck rule, or each deck can't have a combined more then 4 cards of the same name. This also applies to restricted cards, so each deck can only have a total of 1 strip, one piece of power ect.

This makes the issue even harder, because both decks need to be synergized better. However, I recommend the other deck to run some variant of Green. The ramp can compliment your teammates Land Equilibrium well, since he'll be utilizing a mana denial strategy.

This could also use w/ the infamous Mana Vortex you're teammate will be running. If you decide to go red, you can even throw in Stone Rains as additional mana denail support.

Both decks in theory can run creatures, but I'd recommend largely support creatures for the blue one. One classic that never gets enough love is Time Elemental, allowing an expensive, but useful bounce strategy, or Zephyr Falcon, a classic vigilance creature.

Another idea would be a red/white deck, to utilize the likes of vigilance creatures w/ Smoke.

All in all, it's up to the team to figure out what to play, but I hope you don't over look this potent strategy.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The making of BetaMax: A deck making challenge

This logo is property of Sony
 "I have the perfect name for this, this pile of nostalgia and hot mess, Betamax"
 --A Jund Player, after beating me third game of the finals of a Modern FNM

    When Modern was announced as a format almost a decade ago, someone told me I should put my old cards to use and build a Modern deck utilizing cards from Beta. It was largely said in jest due to my pension and passion for playing with old cards, but it intrigued me. Could I pull it off, was it even possible?

     By memory I knew a few cards were modern legal, Terror, Juggernaut, Mahamoti, and a few less then amazing creatures like Giant Spider and Hill Giant, but I didn't think it was possible. The idea festered in the back of my brain a few days, until I decided to look up on Gatherer. 111 cards were legal in the format as of the time (Spell Blast, Merfolk of the Pearl Trident, and Blessing would make the total a whooping 114 as of me typing this). I was first, amazed, a little over a third of the set had managed to be reprinted over time, some being exclusive to 8th or 9th edition, while others where core set staples, being reprinted almost constantly.

   For instance, Evil Presence was legal, which I hadn't realized, along with Wall of Stone, one of the early games best blockers. I had to naturally however, pick which colors to use.

Naturally some draw backs exist, no rocks, no cantrips, no counterspells (remember Spell Blast didn't exist), little to no life gain. Creatures also are below the modern power curve, and while I may have nostalgia for Grizzly Bears, it isn't going to win me much games.  The advantages though were the casualness of deck, and how easy the removal was, it also contained something you don't see much anymore, Tempo cards, like Icy and Twiddle.

                                                               Choosing a Deck

       Naturally choosing a color is the most difficult but important part of deck building. I had to study them, come with a win condition, and move with it. Going mono-colored was sadly out of the question (which the exception of black), and gold card literally don't exist. Thus, I had to evaluate the Strengths and Weaknesses of each color combination.

Red/White: Red/White offered the best in terms of speed and control. With Lightning Bolt at the helm, it offered an amazing amount of offensive and defensive power. In addition, I had access to Earthquake and Wrath of God, making removal not that difficult. Throw in some Stone Rain for disruption, main deck CoP: Red for it (and Orcish Artillery), Wall of Stone/Fire as blockers.  Disintegrate/ Fireball provides you with both burn and defensive possibilities. You even had access to Serra Angel as a beater. Plus you can juggle trolls in the format, for some old school goodness. Not to mention Jade Statue which can easily be played around the two sweepers in the main deck, Disenchant/Shatter for the issue with Tron/Affinity. The draw back to the deck was it's strengths, it has control, but only against creature heavy decks. Though lantern control didn't exist at the time, I wouldn't want to play this against it, and other aggro decks can burn you out on the aggression front. However, Further more, without mana flare, I'm unsure how well this deck's X spells would actually turn out. Still, I'd be interested in trying this sometime. 

Red/Green: The deck that died when I realized that Wild Growth wasn't in the format. While red gets everything it had, you add green to it, for the ramp. Instead you're running a ramp/burn deck. After all, Green still has Elves and Birds, not to mention access to Hurricane, Fog and Giant Growth. A few large beaters make the deck interesting, including the infamous Force of Nature, Cockatrice, and Juggernaut, since in theory you can play Juggernaut as soon as turn three. Add this to the realistic possibility of playing a turn two Stone Rain and a The disadvantage was that it seemed to be too easy to disrupt with removal, the first 'ramp spell' wasn't printed until Legends, and I was stuck with relying on creatures for my ramp, which was easy picking for the creature centric early days of modern. I was also worried about being outplayed by burn and storm. When I realized that Wild Growth didn't exist, I put this deck idea back in the note book, both because it seemed bad, and it seemed it would be boring to run. 

Red/Blue: This would be your typical burn/control build, but with much more emphasis on the burn. It would include the infamous pingers of the format, including the legendary Tim himself, Orcish Artillery and even possibly Pirate Ship. The deck could include Stone Rain, Ice Manipulator, Unsummon, (and later Spell Blast) for it's control elements. The deck would also have some of the best burn spells of all time, include Psionic Blast and Lightning Bolt. Throw in Juggernaut for some beats (Invisibility is legal too!). Maybe even Twiddle as a swiss army knife. The deck could also utilize Steal Artifact for the affinity match, Clone for when I'm up against Titans, Walls (and Uthden Troll) for defense, and even X burn spells as a end gamer. However I was worried that this was too much of a one trick pony.  While it was definitely a contender, and I never forgot about it, it wasn't what I built.

Green/White: Similar to the Red/White deck, this deck utilized Circle of Protection: Green. My twin insisted on building on this, due to his love of Force of Nature. That would be the deck, utilizing Hurricane/Force of Nature with Circle of Protection Green. Enchantress for card draw, some control elements. I was luke warm to the deck to begin with, and my brother fared very poorly with it. 

Green/Blue: Easily the strangest deck of the batch. Sadly Regrowth got it's 11th hour change from being legal in the format, but it would utilize tap abilities with Twiddle and Icy Manipulator. Combine with utility artifact and dorks, and you have a strange but interesting deck. You can even combine Fungusaur and with Pingers, land disruption with Gaea's Liege, For and Giant Growth compliment the green side, with Unsummon complimenting the blue. It however didn't make it past the 'interesting' phase of designing. 

Mono-Black: The only mono colored deck I considered (though I did wonder about the viability of Red). This was due to two cards, Nightmare and Bad Moon. You have a decent curve, Will-o-the-Wisp, Black Knight, Drudge Skeleton, Hippie, Bog Wraith, and Sengir. Terror, Fear, Raise Dead, Weakness and Unholy Strength compliment the deck well amazing, and Howling Mine, Icy Manipulator, and Royal Assassin make for amazing synergy. Combine a Disrupting Scepter, Evil Presence, and Throne of Bone make for interesting option as well. This is honestly the only deck I didn't consider running Juggernaut, so everything got synergy off of Bad Moon. I was worried however about artifacts, and without Disc, it didn't allow for any real option to deal with them, and I shelved the idea. 

I ultimately went with White/Black. Removal was all top notch, with Terror, Disenchant, Wrath of God, and Royal Assassin made for a solid amount of removal what was effective and versatile. The beaters included the likes of Juggernaut, Serra Angel, and Hypnotic Specter. Icy Manipulator made for a solid tempo plays, and synergized with Royal Assassin. 

 Designing the deck

       The deck would end up being a mid-range stompy deck designed at being a 'jack of all trades'. It wouldn't be fast enough to compete the arms race against aggro, controlly enough to play the control game directly against cruel control, no where near the synergy of Fish. Instead it'd have to operate on minor advantages and disruption, playing it's strength of versatility against decks with a more focused purpose. Naturally this requires me to evaluate creatures more shrewdly. In order for it to be it's best, I'd have to ignore running cards I like for cards I needed. Each card would need to serve multiple purposes against multiple decks. Since I'm building from an extremely limited pool, it's even more so emphasized on it. 

 Juggernaut (x4): Easily the auto include in almost all decks listed here. A 5/3 for four, even though his second ability that might as well be flavor text. However, short of missing land drops, it's guaranteed a turn 4 drop, and quickly becomes a 'must deal with' creature. 

Choo Choo!

Serra Angel (x2): The queen of skies herself, Serra Angel is a limited super star to this day, demanding respect even in a time of stronger and more consistent creatures. The real key to success with her isn't the flying, but the vigilance, and few creatures in modern surpass the 4 toughness anyway. However, at 5 mana, I choose to run two, plus The Keeper only ran two and it won worlds, so that shouldn't be so bad. I considered I ran this spot with Sengir, but without Arena or Sorceress Queen, Serra edged out on top. 

The most fearsome flier of it's day

Royal Assassin (x4): I use to call this one n00b bait. It's amazing how many times people would swing into an untapped Royal Assassin, even if it was only once. Besides this, it works well w/ Icy Manipulator, but everyone even vaguely familiar with these cards know this one. 

Fun Targets I've gotten: A goyf, numerous elfs, and once just once a fucking Emrakul!

I only ever seen revised ones, so that's what I choose.
Hypnotic Spectre (Hippy) (x2): Without any form of fast mana, the Spectre shows just how fair of a card it really is. Someone once explained how when he was reintroduced in standard, no one ran him. But without the likes of Dark Ritual, he's just a modestly good creature (try running him even for the time without rock or ritual to get the point across). With only two points in each stat, the three mana cost makes it questionable. However, after trial and error, and much consideration, I ultimately felt it was the best creature for the curve, and good early game removal bait to keep my Assassins and Serra Angel's alive.

In reality, not that amazing

Will-o'-the-Wisps (x4): In my humble opinion, Will is the best blocker in the entire game. Durable, effective, and annoying. It's been a shield for players since way back in 1993, and I see it continuing to do so well into Magic's future, even more so since 'Regeneration' has been removed from future releases. It's amazing that it can hold it's own in a time of cheap removal, bigger creatures, and more exile effects. Now, I will admit, he's not fool proof, but anytime I can get him to be Abrupt Decay'd, Path to Exile, or Incinerated over some of the more effective targets is a plus. The number of removal spells and creatures it can survive is impressive as well, sadly, in my build, there is no way to make it offensive.

It keeps going and going.

Savannah Lions (x3): I'll openly admit that I put him in as filler. I figured eventually something would be reprinted that would be more useful (it wasn't), or I'd figure something better for this spot (I didn't). Instead, Savannah Lions became a interesting early game drop. Proving a small amount of aggro pressure and becoming removal bait/chump blocker. The number of times players complained about wasting removal on a 'vanilla' is always amusing, and against certain decks, it's early pressure is more valuable then the sum of it's stats. 

It's not Kird Ape, but it gets it done.

Jade Statue (2): The last 'creature' of the deck has become the dark horse. More often then not I'm asked 'is that legal' or 'JUDGE' followed by people looking for it's most recent printing (it was 9th btw). It's unusual ability to be animated only in combat has actually served to be more useful then I will ever fully admit. It's gotten around Planeswalker, Wrath of God/Damnation, and forcing people to play around me activating the ability. The 3/6 is also healthy stats at two mana, though the initial cost of 4 is a bit high. It's most infamous however because I want to emulate the 'old school trick' with Wrath of God, to get some tech infamous in the day. I jumped between running two of them, or running three, but atm, it sits at two. 

One of four total printings, weird isn't it?

 Disenchant (x2 in the main, x2 in the board): Originally this was a 'cover your bases' card, after all, in the early days Boggles was a huge contender, along w/ the ever presence of Tron. Affinity also existed well, but wasn't common in my local meta at the time. As the format grew, Affinity became more prevelant, and required my to consider main boarding a set (but I never did). Instead, however, it would be the replacement for the Terrors. 

Does this wording interact with Megrim?

Terror: (x4): Some cards simply put, don't age well. Terror, despite being efficent, iconic, and cheap, in a time of Indestructibles, Jund, and Affinity, this card isn't the answer it once was. However, that doesn't stop me from running a set in the main. When I first designed the deck, just like Disenchant, I kept two in the main, two in the board. However, I noticed switching them into the main way to much to keep that way, and insisted on including them into the main. So naturally, when the redesign came, I had to include the other two into the main.

A few things it can still deal with in the format:
Pride Mage
Half of Elves
Walletslayer Angel
Everything in Zoo

It also doesn't effect White Knight

Weakness (x4): As mentioned in one of my very first articles, this card graced this deck as a four of, originally for the lack of better options. However as I said in that, I've been very happy with the results. There is nothing more rewarding the dropping a ..10 card to kill Bob or Nerf an early game Goblin Guide. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't used it in a pinch to weaken a Gofy, a swiftspear, and other assorted beaters, but ideally I won't do that. 

I wrote an article about this card and it's use in 94, which less then 50 people have even viewed, so go check it out.
It's dead Jim, it's dead.

 Wrath of God (x4): There are people out there that would say a play set of Wrath of God to be excessive. Those people complain when you cast a third Wrath of God. In reality, Wrath of God is only bad against Combo, which isn't it's own fault. It's solid against Goblins, Elves,  Mono-red, Boggles, Zoo, and if you can top deck it, Jund. It also has wonderful synergy with Jade Statue that can't be ignored. 

 Icy Manipulator (x4): Not technically removal, Icy Manipulator is deceptively the most powerful card in the deck. It clears out blockers, taps down lands, removes potential attackers, and hits utility artifacts. It's biggest tragedy is the lack of mana rocks, which make it a turn four (and usually more so a turn 5) drop. However, it's power can't be understated, and as anyone even a little familiar with the format could tell you. 

This is the version I used, it gets the treatment.

The Sideboard

 The Sideboard should have the answers that can't be found in the main deck. This has naturally evolved over the years, and outside of events sits at a healthy '19'.

Evil Presence (x4): Everything about this card that applies to my previous article applies to this as well. It hurts tron, can kill man lands, punished greedy mana bases. It's a simple but devastatingly powerful card, all for a black mana.

Disenchant (x2): (Read Entry Above) 

Black Knight (x2): Early on, he wasn't even in the deck, but as jank utilizing white started creeping around, I had to use him at least on the board. With the additional fact he can't be Helix'd or Path'd is just a bonus, and he can swing on Tribal Gideon (though that has never actually happened).

Why doesn't the battle need purpose?

White Knight (x2): Originally in the main, for reasons I don't exactly remember he got demoted to the sideboard, however, he's extremely useful when needed. He works against 8rack, vampires, but most importantly Jund realized only it's Lightning Bolts can deal with him (or a stupid large Goyf). 

Beta white knight, get it?

 Circle of Protection: Red (x2): My answer for the Goblin/mono-red match up. It's more then once game over against the right player. Sure, it's boring, but if you win with it, isn't that what matters?

The bane of red players since 93

Circle of Protection: Black (x2): Honestly, I'm not sure my thought process about this one. It's probably anti-vampire, which wasn't an uncommon deck back in the day. It's been useful before with Jund and Rakdos. I almost attempted to use this with Lord of the Pit, but common sense slapped me before that happened.

They are called cops for a reason.

Circle of Protection: Green (x1): Goyf and Elves, that's honestly it.

Fuck off Craw Daddy!

Consecrate Land: In some meta's, like my most recent group, has a land destruction guy. If I know I'm playing such an opponent, I'll swap these into my board before the event begins, thus giving me some semblance of hope.

Trivia: Jeff A Menges had to plagarize his own art for the TS version of this.

Btw this is the deck in it's final form:

 Honorable Mentions

The following cards were removed from the deck, or were never made it past the cut.

Sengir Vampire: While best for discouraging chump blockers, Sengir just dind't pack the same punch as it's white counterpart. While it's in its own right amazing (It'll get an entry one day), it just wasn't as good as Serra, and thus, never saw the light of day.

Howling Mine: Originally I wanted to abuse the potential synergy w/ Icy. However, as I continued to play with the card, I realized I typically just Icy'd their lands/creatures, and never my Mine. Add this w/ the detrimental fact it draws both players card, after a few events I took it out for good. 

Resurrection: The 4 mana reanimator spell was in the deck for a long time. It only got removed when someone asked 'Why don't you replace them with better creatures?" I took them out that night and never looked back.

Raise Dead: read above.

Sometime next week (weeks) I hope to give a break down on how it played, what I learned, and ways I attempted to make it better. Until then, feel free to leave feed back on the deck, on the article, or anything else. I'll answer any comment left on the blog, or anywhere else this winds up. 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My MVP's of the Winter Derby: Evil Presence

Despite the old school feel of old school, very few Enchant Lands see play in the format. This is largely due to how common Land Destruction is, in particularly EC (since I'm in the states). With a set of Strip Mine, Demonic Hordes, Sinkhole, Armageddon, and Stone Rain (not to mention Ice Storm, Mana Vortex and other fringe spells) it's easy to see why this would happen.

However the handful of Enchant Land Spells that do see play, are usually in some way offensive spells. This includes blue's personal favorite Phantasmal Terrain, the burn players Psychic Venom, and yes, Evil Presence.

Behold the presence of evil!

While I naturally always knew of the card, I never actually used it in a deck until modern times. After all, why change the land type into a swamp when I can blow it up (no I never built a swampwalk deck, yes I'm terrible I know). It wasn't until I was brewing for the 'Betamax' deck that I realized how potent it could be. After all, I was building with an extremely limited cardpool, I needed every answer I could get, and a spell that could shut down manlands and hurt greedy mana bases seemed too good (not to mention it's potentcy against one of the earliest decks in the format Tron).

I quickly fell in love with it. One time, I managed to draw three in my opening hand, and shut down a 4 color ally deck with it rather quickly (guess which color he wasn't running). Another time, I managed to play it on a turn 2 tower, and he failed to draw an Expedition Map or another Tower (it was the w/u variant).

The version that made this all possible!

While I hastely threw the deck together, the four Evil Presence was an auto include into the board, and I honestly wish I just threw them into the main. Every time I drew one that I sided, it was met with good use.

Just to sum up how useful it was:
-Bait a Strip Mine
-Turns a Library into a Swamp
-Kills Factory
-Makes Workshop fair
-Turns an open player w/ Maze into an open player
-Able to get rid of Island of Wak-Wak
-Hurts the utility lands from Legends
-Hurts duels, disrupts Tron

Basically it's almost always useful, even if it's annoying. Once again, this was one of those cards I had to play disc around, because the question become was it better to shut down the land, or blow stuff up and return the land into a good card.

I wonder if instead of the disc, if I just ordered some Hellfire-s, and ran a few Bog Wraiths with this in the main how different would the deck honestly performed. It's forever a mystery of what could have been, but I'm sure I'll brew something along those lines.

Next Article: BetaMax, how I designed a deck utilizing only cards originally printed in Beta.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

My MVP's of the Winter Derby: Haunting Winds, the Dark Horse

Out of all the plays, out of the cards I've casted, all the things I side boarded, nothing got more comments, more compliments, and more wtf's then the simple card called "Haunting Winds".

Haunting Winds was literally sided in almost every game I played against, and it did it's work. Doing an average of 5 damage per game, it stopped Basalt comb's, made a Sol Ring a more modest card, hurt moxes, and made Trisk a 1 damage for 1 damage. I sadly never got it against Tetravus, but I'm sure it would be equally as funny.

I had a long history of running this badass in EDH, and before that, had a Lattice shell that included this as a win condition. It seemed only natural in my pursuit of artifact hate that I would run it, and I'll be honest, I didn't expect it to run nearly as well as it did.

Everyone complimented it as I played it, and it quickly became something that required to be played around. Maybe one day I'll attempt it again with Underworld Dreams and Manaflare in some crazy enchantment burn shell, but I will be honest, it had done it's work so very much.