Saturday, May 23, 2009

Standard Magic in Canton

So yesterday at 2:30 I was informed that the draft tournament scheduled for last night had been switched to Standard format. Blasted! I, of course, have no Standard Magic deck. Since my beating by Hans the other night, I had primarily given up on my Jund Devour deck, and had begun designing a Bant Exalted deck to take its place. Luckily, I still had all the cards for the Jund deck on hand, as well as a bunch of cards I bought along with the original 60 as an alternate build strategy. So last night I got to work redesigning the deck to give it a little more resiliency.

The basic goal in the redesign was to take some of the emphasis of the deck away from the devour mechanic. I wanted devour to play a role in the strategy, but as I found against Hans too much reliance on it leaves me very susceptible to spot removal. During my testing with Hans either bad draws on my part or too much good removal on his part early in the game led to a mid game with me holding big devour creatures in hand and nothing on the board to eat. So my new emphasis was to develop a strong board position and use devour more of a role player and/or a finisher. Another part of my redesign was to come to terms with the fact that this is a very slow aggro deck and stop worrying about having early threats, which only distracted from the deck's overall effectiveness. Thus, more CIPT lands could be added, and some early weaker spells & creatures could be cut in favor of more mid-range strong cards.

Here was my final list for the original deck, since I don't think I ever posted the final product:

4 Safehold Elite
4 Kitchen Finks
4 Sprouting Thrinax
4 Nantuko Husk
3 Caldera Hellion
2 Mycoloth
1 Predator Dragon

2 Dragon Fodder
2 Bitterblossom
2 Goblin Assault
2 Torrent of Souls
2 Terminate

4 Sarkhan Vol

4 Savage Lands
4 Fire-Lit Thicket
2 Sulfurous Springs
1 Karplusan Forest
1 Llanowar Wastes
5 Mountain
4 Forest
3 Swamp

-4 Safehold Elite [Only good with devour, not on it's own. Only other benefit is it's 2 cc, which isn't a big deal because I don't need the early threat.]
-2 Nantuko Husk [Relies on a bunch of other creatures &/or Sarkhan Vol to be in play. I want to stick to creatures that have good synergies with the deck but are also great alone. 2 stay in.]
-2 Sarkhan Vol [A good card, but really unfortunate to have two in starting hand. Not sure what number is best but 4 may be too many.]
-2 Dragon Fodder [Only good because it is quick, so it can go.]
-1 Caldera Hellion [Good as a board sweeper but reliant on having a good creature base when it comes out. 2 is enough.]
-1 Mycoloth [Good, but doesn't give me a 'comes into play' effect, making it even weaker against spot removal than the Hellion. Maybe I should take this one out completely, but for now I'll stick with one.]
-3 Forest [To make room for Treetop Village.]

+4 Murderous Redcap [Great on its own because it persists and because it is spot removal/burn. Even better with Torrent of Souls & Heartmender, and when Nantuko Husk & Heartmender are in play wicked awesome.]
+2 Heartmender [Good alone, amazing in conjunction with the Redcap and Kitchen Finks.]
+4 Incinerate [Removal/burn is good and this deck needed more. After playing last night I think 2 Incinerate/4 Terminate would have been better.]
+3 Treetop Village [Once I realized that this deck didn't necessarily need to be fast, the fact that these come into play tapped wasn't a big deal. Add more strong creatures to enhance my attack, and immune to direct damage or mass removal played on my opponent's turn when he isn't a creature.]
+1 Bloodbraid Elf [Just because I like it and I had one and it was in Jund colors! Probably wouldn't include it again...a little too aggressive for this deck and the deck isn't optimized to make use of cascade.]
+1 Hurricane [An extra finisher, and flying boardsweeper. My only fliers were Bitterblossom tokens and Predator Dragon, so this could potentially be very useful.]

I should have taken notes, as I don't remember much of individual games, so this will just be a brief summary.

Round One [Jeff, playing UWB with Tidehollow Sculler, Master Transmuter, 1000 Year Elixir]

Game one was an epic 30 minute battle where he had 2 Tidehollow Scullers keeping two cards from my hand, one being the terminate that I would need to kill one of the Scullers! The Master Transmuter could bounce the Scullers to keep looking at my hand and taking the most dangerous cards. Eventually I was able to get Sarkhan Vol out and get to his big ability: Put 5 4/4 flying dragon tokens into play. That was enough for the win.

Game two was quick. He never got established and I won handily.


Round Two [Jason, playing a zombie build that intends to deck the opponent, Lich Lord of Unx, Mind Funeral, etc.]

Both games a combination of my early spot removal and his slight mana problems kept him from getting enough pieces in play to get his system going. He never once milled a single card from my deck. A little luck, and a good match up for me. I believe I won game two with Sarkhan's third ability once again.


Round Three [Matt, playing WUB Master Transmuter deck with Master of Etherium, Inkwell Leviathan, Sharding Sphinx, 1000 Year Elixir, etc.]

Game one I couldn't disrupt him early enough and he took control of the board.

Game two and three I kept his artifact creatures at bay long enough to build up board control and win. If I recall Murderous Redcap and Torrent of Souls were instrumental in at least one of the wins.


Round Four [Greg, playing mostly white Goat Deck.]

One of the most interesting decks at the tourney the Goat deck made oodles of 0/1 goat tokens, so it was very difficult to push through for a win. I won game one on the strength of (once again) Murderous Redcap, Heartmender, and Torrent of Souls. Game two I had Bitterblossom in play that slowly sapped my life and he held me off until I was within burn range, then he Banefired me to a crisp. No time for game three.


This left me as the #1 seed and in a top four playoff.

Semifinal: Matt again, with the Master Transmuter deck.
Game one his deck went off almost perfectly, Etherium Sculptor turn two, Master Transmuter turn three, Transmuter bounces Sculptor to hand and drops Inkwell Leviathan turn four. I don't draw the terminate I need to fend him off and he wins easily.

Games two and three he has mana issues and I disrupt all his early attempts to take control.


Final: Hans. Yes, the one who obliterated my first incarnation of this deck.

Game one, Knight of the Reliquary, Wooly Thoctar, and Figure of Destiny do me in. I should have called a mulligan on my opening hand but I hate doing that, and I don't know my deck well enough yet to know when I should do it. Also, and early terminate might have swung the game in my favor but it didn't show.

Game two and three he had some mana issues and I didn't. His red & black hate from the sideboard never showed and I won both games. One game I recall was decided by Predator Dragon, then Torrent of Souls for the finish.

5-0-1, and first place! To say the least I'm pretty excited about that result. A bit of luck here and there, and a lot of finicky blue decks that my deck matched up against fairly well were probably the keys to victory. Hans's deck was my toughest match up, and the one that I probably should have lost. I did play well, though, and didn't make that many big mistakes, so I could capitalize one what luck I did have. My sideboard was rather weak because I had just thrown it together, but it sufficed.

I would say the stars of the deck last night were Murderous Redcap and Torrent of Souls. The Redcaps resulted in very strong board control mid-game, especially the two times I had them working with Heartmender. Torrent of Souls probably finished 4-5 games on it's own, just an awesome card for this deck. Sarkhan Vol was very instrumental, as was Kitchen Finks, as always. Hurricane did finish one game for me, but I only drew it twice. I never drew Mycoloth so I don't know if it should stay. I don't know if Goblin Assault is good enough in this deck, I pulled it in a lot of game twos for board sweepers, and as I mentioned already BB Elf doesn't fit. Probably two more terminates and a Banefire would be great here as well.

Anyway, I'm glad I got a chance to mix things up with this deck and give it another try before I just tore it apart. I'm sure this build wouldn't be viable at an extremely competitive event, but it worked great last night and was a blast to play.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Say Anything

Played two games of Say Anything with the Mrs., Lucy, and Stacey last night, and everyone had a good time. Our original intention was to teach Puerto Rico, but ultimately made the call that it was too late and too complicated to be getting into at just that moment. Say Anything was amusing, though as always. One complaint I have with the game, that I may have mentioned before, is that too many of the questions are geared toward serious or straightforward answers. Personally I can't imagine using more than a handful of those types of questions over the course of a game since Say Anything really shines with humorous and inventive answers and not straightforward ones.

Puerto Rico needs to be played soon, but I suppose it can wait.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Back to the Drawing Board

Hans came over last night for some Magic and obliterated my devour deck. Some of this was due to strikingly bad draws on my part--seemed like I never got a good mix of creatures and land at the same time, usually I had a hand full of land and one or two big creatures or a couple land and a ton of big creatures. Really the deck needs to drop a bitterblossom, dragon fodder, or small creature turn two, then a goblin assault or a three-drop creature turn three, then a Sarkhan Vol or another three-drop turn four. This sets me up for a devour creature on turn five or six.

So, I can fiddle with the creature mix a little, but I need to ask myself if the basic deck design is viable enough to continue.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Alara Reborn Draft

I attended my local Alara Reborn release party yesterday, the format being Shards/Reborn/Reborn draft. My Shards pack revealed the ultra-rare planeswalker Elspeth, Knight Errant, which is an amazing card for limited play, so that became my first pick. Still not being that familiar with the Shards block environment I wasn't really sure where to go next. The next several packs I saw didn't really seem to be offering me much to go with the Elspeth, and several random picks ensued before I settled on the Esper Shard with a number of strong White, Blue, and Black cards.

My final deck had a number of strong artifact creatures, a couple of spells with the new cascade ability, some counterspells, and a couple of the mana producing borderposts introduced with Alara Reborn. My deck's primary weakness was probably the complete lack of creature removal, as the one match I lost was due to a couple of particularly nasty first strikers that I just couldn't kill. Ultimately I finished third out of eight players, and had a great time.