Thursday, 4 June 2015

It's been a while...

Wow, it's been some time since I last posted here! I fully intended to make sure i wrote something at least every two weeks and that has really fallen by the way-side. Looks like the reality of travelling for work and having a young family has taken its toll on me and my spare time. I have even ended up reducing the amount of table top gaming I am doing, with my last campaign (a Vampire: the Masquerade game set in Detroit) playing out slowly over 6 months before grinding to a holt recently. All of this has left me feeling a longing for getting back to writing, which recently I have been able to do, thanks to mtgcasualplay, who have kindly let me publish a series of articles about Commander. I have recently started the mammoth task of giving a short review to every card that is legal to play as your Commander, and the 2nd part of my article series has gone live today.

In other news, I have been able to do something recently that I haven't done for a long time and that is actually play in a a table top RPG game. As a one off a friend wanted to demo the new Star Wars game Age of Rebellion by Fantasy Flight Games, and so got the starter set. I agreed to play to help out the two other players who were brand new to RPGs, acting as the voice of experience (or something like that).  The system was new to me, and involves some custom dice, along with the idea that the players make all the dice rolls, and the GM sets which ones are rolled. I reminded me of a cross between Numenera, and the old Space Crusade board game from the 1990s, but that was no bad thing.

Unusually for me I didn't descend into a raging lunatic at the first opportunity and we all had a blast playing it in a relaxed atmosphere without taking it all to seriously which was really good fun. I think that I have a take away lesson from this session and that is to cut back on the seriousness a bit and remember we are all here for some fun. I want to try my next D&D campaign a bit like this, so less focus on rules minutiae, and more on just making sure everyone has fun.

That is the end of this short update, but hopefully I can get back to updating this more regularly now, especially as I will soon be working much closer to home. This will hopefully mean more gaming time and more time to write.


Monday, 26 January 2015

It must be Fate (Reforged) to get so lucky! Plus my first ever FNM.

So this past weekend saw the release of Fate Reforged, and I had a booster box of it on order since late December, which I got to crack this weekend with great excitement. In my last couple of posts i have discussed cards I was on the lookout for, namely Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, and so I was keen to see if I could get lucky and crack one or the other of those. To cut a less than exciting story short, I was lucky enough to crack them both! This set me up nicely for the rest of the box, and I wracked up further luck by getting 2 fetch lands ( Polluted Delta and Wooded Foothills) and a foiled Tasigur, the Golden Fanged. All in all, along with the other rares and mythics as well as some pretty sweet uncommons I got a decent haul from my box, and it has set me up nicely for the coming weeks, giving me plenty of fuel to build new Commander decks around (I got 4 of the 5 new clan Khans, and 4 of the 5 Legendary dragons) so I will be trying to brew some interesting new lists using some of these.

One of the things I was looking out for in addition to the headline grabbing new rares and mythics were some  new cards which I think would work nicely in a hyper aggressive mono-red list that I took along to my first ever FNM a couple of weeks back. This deck was built around the idea of playing nothing more expensive than a 2 drop creature and getting in for the 20 points of damage before the midrange decks and control decks that are dominating the current Standard meta get chance to build up. I built my initial list, focussing on Monastery Swiftspear and Akroan Crusader, along with Satyr Hoplite and a whole bunch of instants and sorceries with lost casting costs that target the two Heroic creatures. To round out the list, there were a pair of Act of Treason to steel my opponents big blockers, and Tormented Voice to give me some card draw. To complement the draw and the Heroic, as well as provide some place to dump mana, and give me more punch, I had a pair of Dragon Mantle. When I had finished pulling it together I realised this was built totally from common and Uncommon cards, more by accident than design. However I gamely took it along for my first ever FNM, fulfilling a New Year's resolution in the process, and proceeded to go 1-3 over the evening. Not the greatest ever record, but certainly not the worst I could have done. I played an Abzan midrange that walloped me very quickly when really I should have mulliganed my opening hand in game one, for my first match, which I lost 2-0. The second match was a mirror and was a narrow 2-1 defeat in which all three games finished with the winning player on 3 life or less: not bad considering I was playing a plainly superior version of my deck! The third match was a dream, playing a neat looking Jeskai combo deck, and beating it comfortably 2-0. I went into the last match hoping I might be able to go 2-2, but went up against a mono-Green monsters deck that my opponent openly admitted was bad against aggro game one... and lost game 1! I got serious mana flood, and lost to Polukranos, the World eater. My opponent quickly sided in 11 cards against me and proceeded to beat me down rather efficiently in game 2 to give him a 2-0 victory, and put me at the end of my first ever FNM. I am certainly going to be back at the first chance I get, but I need to improve my list.

Along with FNM I organised an MtG day with my playgroup, running at my house (with the agreement of my ever supportive wife, thank you for that!). Unfortunately a couple of them were not able to make the day, but I did manage to hook in some of my players, and we proceeded to test out a whole bunch of the Commander lists I have built, as well as a couple of great 60 card lists one of my players, Ian, has designed. It was  great to be able to really knuckle down and spend a whole day messing about with cards, and I am hoping I can do it again soon. One thing we might aim for next time, assuming we can find enough players for it, will be playing Kingdom with our Commander decks. I found this thanks to the Commander's HQ podcast, so big thanks to them, and I would recommend that show to anyone who is into Commander, as it's a real good listen, and gives some nice advice about deck building too.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Fate Reforged and a Magic Day

In recent weeks I have had an explosion of deck building/brewing, with my count of Commander decks going from 3 to 18 (and counting). The more I think about what would be fun to build around, or fun ideas, the more of them I get and this means I end up brewing decks, which in turn adds more fuel to the fire. Having had a decent amount of success securing some interesting cards in trades or via eBay auctions, this means I have plenty left in the tank to keep on brewing. I am certainly not saying all (or in fact any...) of these decks are amazing but hopefully they are all fun to play.

Why did I open with that paragraph? Well, because this coming weekend I might actually get the chance to play some of these brews in some multiplayer games. I have managed to scrape together some members of my playgroup and a free day to dedicate to simply playing some games. I have found that as I get older and gather more responsibilities, the chance to dedicate large chunks of time gets less and less. However my ability to get hold of the games themselves, or new parts for said game (in the case of Magic: the Gathering). I find this all very frustrating, so I am really looking forward to being able to indulge my MtG addiction for a whole day, and have to give thanks to my wife for giving up the table for a day.

This coming weekend also sees the release of Fate Reforged, the second set in the Khans of Tarkir Block. The first set saw me buy a booster box for the first time ever, and I really enjoyed the experience of cracking it, and trading from it to get the cards I wanted from the set. I loved getting some of the cards I really wanted, and in the last 3 months it has given me plenty of good cards to build with or trade for stuff I really wanted (Fetchlands were pure gold for this, as I am not a Standard/Modern player really!). The box also gave me my first ever foil Mythic: Narset, Enlightened Master, which was a pretty cool card to open. If you have never opened a foil Mythic, it is a really fun feeling for a casual player I think.

Narset: my first ever foil Mythic

 With this in mind, I went right ahead and preordered myself a box of Fate Reforged from Manaleak, and its arrival coincides rather well with my gaming day. I might actually get to try my hand at some Limited Magic, as long as I don't just blow through them all beforehand (much as this would greatly upset Brian Wong and Marshall Sutcliffe on the Limited Resources podcast, sorry guys!). Hopefully I will have a whole heap of fun opening the box and seeing what I get. I think cracking this with my playgroup will add to the fun, and playing some Limited with it will be added fun: perhaps some DC10 might be a good way to play the packs out, as I won't have enough Khans of Tarkir to do a proper  FRF-KTK-KTK draft.

Thinking about the cards that are in Fate Reforged, there are definitely some target rares and mythics that I want to pull, especially when I put my Commander hat on (which is my usual MtG play style). One is Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest, which I elaborated on in my last post: however there are two standout non-legendary cards I want to get my hands on, and I am sure they are no great surprise. The first is Monastery Mentor, which looks to be a fantastically fun card for any deck that uses Prowess, or in fact a deck that wants tokens, and plays non creature spells. I can think of a couple of my decks it would be great in (Selesnya Tokens for example), and I think it will be a really fun card. I do also think that it might be a really good card for Jeskai decks in Standard, but that isn't really my area of expertise. The second card I really hope that I open is Ugin, the Spirit Dragon: this card is looking a lot like the chase mythic in prerelease. It is only the second colourless planeswalker that Wizards have created, and it looks like it may well fit into the current Standard in the Perilous Vault control decks. He also could fit in every single Commander deck, due to him being colourless. The other colourless planeswalker, Karn Liberated, is one hell of an expensive card and looks to be really fun to play. I am hoping I get an Ugin as I really think he will be right up there.

I will certainly be writing about what I pull, and see if I get my wishes come true (hey, I like Magic Christmas Land), and will write up the highlights of my Magic Sunday if I get some good stories from it. Good luck to everyone who is cracking Fate Reforged this coming weekend.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Finally got that working...

This is just a really quick note to say I have fianlly cracked installing an autocard app to my blog so now my links should pop up nice pictures of the cards I am talking about. To give credit where credit is due, I used the The Munson's App to get it up and running on Blogger, so a big thanks to them.

Currently I only have autocard links for my last blogpost, and will be making every post that features MtG cards from now on have autocard links too. I am aiming (time permitting) to go back and change the links in older posts so that they too conform to the new style. It has been my aim from the start to include an autocard, and now I have one, it seems a shame to not use it on all of them, but that is a time consuming process.

There is one oddity I have notcied currently with how the cards appear. Mostly they pop up just fine, but cards in sets from Journey into Nyx onwards pop up an empty box. I am currently not sure why this should be but I will do some investigating and try and find out what the score is there.

In other news, there is the upcoming Fate Reforged release, due at the end of this month. I have been eagerly following the spoilers as they have come out, and have my eye on one or two of the cards as potential bombs for Commander, in particular Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest:

I think this card has a whole host of potential as a general in Commander, and brings in the Jeskai wedge colours nicely. I did have a copy of the Jeskai legend from Khans of Tarkir; Narset, Enlightened Master, and I was somewhat underwhelmed so she got traded away. I felt I had to jump through too many hoops to make her work, and this is where I feel Shu Yun looks a much better selection. Same body, better ability and Prowess. Yes he loses Hexproof and First Strike but I still prefer him.

All of this musing got me thinking... I might actually do something of a set review for Fate Reforged, looking at them through the lense of Commander. Obviously these will be entirely my opinion, and I am not too sure I am qualified to give it, but at least it will give me an outlet to talk about the card. Watch this space.

Friday, 2 January 2015

My Commander decks 3: Wrath of the Pantheon

Welcome to 2015, and the third part of my series on Commander decks that I have built and that I play. I am very happy to say that Christmas 2014 proved to be a fun period, where I got to play a reasonable amount of Magic, although not as much as I would like, and I managed to introduce no less than 3 new players to Magic, which means I must be doing something right when I teach players how to play. I also received some great gifts, including the Commander 2014 deck Built from Scratch, which not only plays well but is packed full of good stuff, and I am looking forward to playing it some more.

One of the decks that I have managed to finally get some chance to play properly is a deck I built around a total gimmick, and it is one that I am prepared to say i definitely haven't yet finished, and that is my Wrath of the Pantheon deck. Having bought into the Theros block quite heavily, I ended up with a good number of the mythic rare gods. I was giving some thought about what decks I would jam these into, when I was struck with the idea of what would a deck look like with all of them in? So I started thinking and brewing. Normally when I get a deck idea, I go straight to my card collection and put together a first approximation, then start to revise the list as I acquire more suitable (if not better) cards. This list below represents something of a refinement of the original list, as I have acquired some specific cards for this deck in this list, and have dropped some that sounded thematic, but really don't work in Commander.


The first thing I would highlight about this deck list, is that it runs a very high number of lands for a deck I have built (51). The second thing of note is that, currently, it only contains 12 of the 15 gods of Theros. This is due to the difficulty in acquiring copies of the remainder and their prices. It is no coincidence that those 3 are some of the most expensive gods, and see play in Standard deck lists currently. There would be one more god to add to that list of "acquire later" gods, and that would be Thassa, God of the Sea; however, when I was cracking some boosters not too long after starting to build this deck when I opened a Thassa in the pack and was very pleased to add her to the deck list with nothing more than the face value of a booster paid for her!



When I first considered building this deck, I realised that it would need to be a chromatic, 5-colour deck to be able to include all of the gods. This gave me a choice of 12 generals to chose from, which was more than I expected. However I wanted to cleave very much to the theme of the deck, and that narrowed it down to 3 choices for me:
Straight away there is one stand out choice, thematically, and that is Karona. What better general for a bunch of gods than a false god? Child of Alara was a decent choice too, being the avatar of a whole world and having a very useful effect when it died. Progenitus would be grand, but very expensive to summon, costly to purchase and was not really on theme for the general, at least not as much as the other two. Eventually I plumped for buying both Child of Alara, and Karona, False God, and having the ability to switch between the two. Karona is a dangerous choice, as on every other player's go, she switches allegiance and becomes available to them, thus boosting her new team. This is bad, but with a bank of indestructible blockers, I am hoping she is manageable.

With the Commander chosen, it was time to move on to how on earth I was going to build a manabase that would be usable with a 5 colour deck that required big summoning cost creatures? My hope came in the form of a mixture of mana rocks, mana fixers and a suite of differing dual and tri-lands. For a nice big theme hit I scraped together as many of the Theros temples as I could scrounge, but this left me with several missing ones, and didn't give me enough fixing to rely upon. The Khans of Tarkir lifelands were another obvious choice from my collection, as was a complete Return to Ravnica Gate cycle. To complement these rather slow choices, I added a Sunpetal Grove, which had chance of being quicker, as long as I had a Plains or a Forest. With these being the two most numerous lands in the deck (due to the effect that Karametra, God of Harvest has) this was a risk worth taking. Rounding out the fixing lands I added some of the Vivid lands, a City of Brass, and a Command Tower to ensure some 5 colour fixing.

The mana rocks would be important in this deck, but I didn't want to take up too many slots with them, so decided against the Return to Ravnica block Cluestones and Keyrunes. I did make sure that I added a Chromatic Lantern though: in short, if that comes out and stays, I never need to worry about mana colours again, which is brilliant in a 5 colour deck. The fact that it also ramps for one is a bonus. To complement this, I added in a Darksteel Ingot. To further help with mana, Dictate of Kruphix was added; yes it adds to my opponents too, but I can flash it in politically, and I have ways to remove it if needed: I also added Ordeal of Nylea to help out, if I get an early creature (unlikely, but it was thematic).

So with the mana sorted, the next thing to move on to was the creatures. In essence this was a big dumb creature deck at it's heart, just that the creatures all had nifty abilities, would sometimes not be creatures, were huge and were indestructible! Of the 15 major and minor gods of Theros, I had 12 of them in my collection after opening Thassa. With Keranos, Erebos, and Nylea missing, I needed to figure out what other on theme creatures I could add. My next port of call after the gods were the Myojin of Kamigawa: these indestructible Legendary Spirits all had big effects on the board, and all had triple mana symbols in their summoning costs. Since this would already be a slow deck, this didn't hurt the deck much, and they had great synergy with the rest of the deck. I already had two of them, and got hold of the missing three pretty quickly so in they went. However I still felt that the deck was rather creature light. This led to the addition of the Dragon's Maze cycle of Maze Elementals. Sure they weren't gods, but they were quite cool, they were serviceable and they had an effect on the gods. In the absence of other creatures, they serve a role, but are probably one of the first things on the list to be upgraded should I acquire better or more thematic cards.

Aside from the gods, the Myojin cycle, and the Maze Elementals, there are four other creatures in the deck at the moment. One is a thematic inclusion that really adds to the power level of the deck, and that is Courser of Kruphix. This centaur allows me to ramp out lands pretty quickly, meaning I can get my expensive spells online sooner, which is important in this deck. The second stand alone creature is not one that is particularly thematic to the deck, but it certainly is one of the most important tools available to the deck: Captain Sisay. The Captain allows me to tutor out Legedary cards from my deck. This turns the whole deck into a tool box of answers, as 21 of the 28 creatures in the deck are Legendary as are a number of the artifacts. On the whole this card really brings up the consistency of the deck and sends it from goofy to a deck that can hold it's own. The third creature, is another Legendary creature in the form of Reki, the History of Kamigawa. This card adds a whole heap of card draw to the deck since we will be playing so many Legendary cards from our deck. It synergises well when you tutor them out with Captain Sisay, but it still adds to the decks consistency on it's own, meaning it isn't a one trick pony. The final creature in the deck is one that I struggled to find a home for, before putting it in this deck: Chromanticore. This enchantment creature is one I always thought could have done with being Legendary itself, but as it is it is a cool Bestow creature that adds devotion to all five colours and finds a home here due to the high casting cost of so many other cards and the 5 colour mana base... Plus I think it's a cool card, and that is surely reason enough?

With the manabase and the creatures sorted out, I was left with some slots left to round out the deck. Since I owned 3 of the 5 weapons of the gods, I added those in, giving me an anthem effect, haste for all my creatures and more card draw, along with some other cool activated abilities. These also work well to switch on Devotion, and can be tutored up as they are Legendary. Two other artifacts were added: Urza's Blueprints for expensive but repeatable card draw, and Assault Suit, so that I can neutralise Karona's draw back should I wish to play her as my Commander. A selection of removal and wrath card were then added to ensure I can stay in the game long enough to play out my gods, in the form of Wrath of God (thematic and the exact card I needed!), Deicide (thematic enchantment removal), Banishing Light, and Glimpse the Sun God (for enabling an Alpha strike).

To finish off the deck I added in some of the Dictate cycle from Theros block. These enchantments all come with Flash, so can be played at surprise points, and each plays a different role. Dictate of Erebos acts as an instant speed Grave Pact, Dictate of Heliod is best played as an instant speed combat trick that stays on the board, and Dictate of Karametra enables a huge amount of ramping. The last one can be a double edged sword as it applies to all players, but as long as I have something ready to remove troublesome enchantments, it is a handy to tool to get me to where I need to be before removing it. Plus it also acts as a little bit of a group hug, meaning in a multiplayer game, folk won't attack me as they enjoy the ramp effect too, giving me more time to get my gods online.

Areas for Improvement

So there are some areas where the deck could improve, not least of all in its suite of creatures. The Maze elemental cycle is very much a stop gap. They are expensive, don't do much for devotion and only apply to the multicoloured creatures in the deck. If I can acquire some of the Demigods from Shadowmoor block, then I will put these in as they have excellent summoning costs in a 5 colour deck, and really turn on Devotion. What is more, they are totally on theme for this deck! The downside is trying to get hold of them. So far I have one, Demigod of Revenge, but with Commander being a singleton format he is in effect a big dumb 5/4 flyer with haste. This might still be worthwhile but I want to get hold of the others in preference.

Another stand out card for this deck would be That Which Was Taken. This Legendary Artifact allows me to distribute Divinity counters to creatures: perfect for reusing (and abusing) the Myojin cycle to their full effect.

The really obvious area for improvement and development for this deck lies in completing the cycle of gods, and to a lesser extent the weapons of the gods. The three that are not in the deck currently have been seeing Standard play over the past 6 months and as such are proving both expensive and difficult to come by. The same can be said for the weapons of the gods, in particular the Whip of Erebos, which has a whole archetype named after it (Sidisi Whip) and as of January 2015 is a tier 1 deck in Standard. Maybe I can pick these up post rotation, or perhaps after the release of Fate Reforged later this month, if the meta shifts sufficiently.

The long term way to improve this deck would be to improve the mana base. This deck is crying out for Dual Lands, and perhaps some Fetch Lands. At the moment I don't have the money to sink into those, but should I find it, then that will be the route I take to really make this deck work.