Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Myth(ic) of Unobtainable Cards

First of all, I want you all to know that this is going to be my last post on Otherworldly Journey. I won't be deleting it in case I decide to fire it back up someday, but after this post you can find my writing on http://iwantmymtg.com So, Trick, you can add this blog to the "Dead Blogs" list (after you add this post to TWIM hahaha).

There has been a lot of talk in the last 24 hours about Mythics, and Lauren Lee correctly predicted the slew of blog posts that would follow such a discussion. Are they too expensive? Do they create too high of a barrier to entry for Standard?

Let's play the priest for a second, and marry this discussion to Jon Medina's recent articles about trading. (You can find those on his own site, mtgmetagame.com and on quietspeculation.com

(Lauren and Jon, I now pronounce you man and wife? Awkwaaaard.....)

Well I'm here today to tell all of you that you can have any card you want.

Want to guess how much money I make currently?

Take a guess...
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...about $60.

Seriously. Want to guess how much of that money I spend on Magic cards?
I'll spare you the scroll down and just tell you: $0.

I'm a smoker. I need that $25 a week for cigarettes, and another $15 or so for the bus. I spend $6 to enter FNM every week.

To be fair, I have no bills to speak of. I steal my internet from my neighbor, and hate cell phones. I live in my mom's friggin attic, which sucks, but allows me to play as much Magic as I want. Also, I sell cards to online dealers on occasion to make a little extra cash.

Want to guess which deck I play? Mythic Bant. Not just Mythic Bant, but Mythic Bant with 4 Elspeths. I keep thinking I should call it "NY Yankees" because of all the high $$$ cards in the deck. I'm gonna buy the damn championship!

How can I play such an expensive deck? I RIP OFF 12 YEAR OLD NOOBS OF COURSE!

Kidding.

I can't remember many specifics, but I have some general advice to give anyone who wants to run money cards but doesn't want to spend money to get those cards. (My apologies to Jon if I am rehashing any of his points from his trading blog posts, but these points just can't be emphasized enough. Seriously folks, read the posts of his that I linked at the top of this entry, they are vital reading.)

1) Trade up - Seriously, this is so easy once you get the hang of it. If you can trade 4 fetch lands for 2 Maelstrom Pulses, you can probably trade the 2 Pulses and another Fetch for a Jace. This is a high end version of this tactic. The best kind of trades are the ones where you can get a $10 card for 10 $1 cards. People do these trades every single day, and both parties are completely happy to do them.

2) Get your binder in order! - Here's my MINIMUM recommendation (and how I sort mine): Sort your Standard trade fodder in the front of your binder, with you Extended/Legacy/Etc. (is Vintage really still a format?) behind it. Sort both sections W/U/B/R/G/Multi/ART/Land. I don't really feel it is necessary to sort these Color sections by set, but if you have a ton of stuff from each set, then sure. It's all about presentation, remember. We're all salesmen on the trading floor, and if it looks like you have a thin binder, people will assume it's been picked over already.

Here's where I stray from J. Medina's reasoning a little bit. Keep a section of your binder (or a separate binder) for "non-trade" stuff. Non-trade doesn't mean NEVER for trade. What that means is that if someone doesn't have anything you REALLY need, don't even show them that section. Save this section for your playsets of cards you are hesitant to let go, but will pull the trigger on if the right deal comes along. Also, this is a section to put newly acquired cards in. When I show someone that section, I tell them to feel free to ask about anything back there, but to not be surprised if I say no to everything they ask about. I only show that section off if someone has a card I REALLY need. Giving them the warning that you have veto power over that section allows you to have maximum control over what you are letting go of for what you need, and gives you multiple paths to take in a trade. For example, if someone has card X I need, and points to cards A, B, and C in my "non-trade" section, I can say no to all 3, but then decide which I would miss the least for the card I badly need.

3) There are Timmys EVERYWHERE - If you are looking for chase cards, Timmys are the way to go. My friend Gary STILL isn't convinced that Jace TMS is a good card. Gary is definitely more of a Spike than most Timmys, because HIS rogue decks win sometimes, but he seems to be repelled by the more expensive cards from most sets. A lot of players are the same way. They see the $60 card that they pulled from a pack as the only one they will ever wind up owning, and figure that trading it away for $60 worth of playsets that they can use in their decks is the way to go. Find 4 people like this, and you have your playset.

4) Don't be afraid to pull the trigger on a deal in your favor - I know some people look at J. Medina's blog posts as a journal of him ripping people off. Some people HATE foils. Some people will trade their foils away in a heartbeat for more useful cards. Also, LOTS of people don't have any idea how much their cards are worth! I have watched, dumbfounded, as people have traded a Baneslayer for 2 Banefires! (This was back when BSA was $25, true, but STILL!)

I would probably see trading differently if I wasn't the person being ripped off in trades for 14 years.

For YEARS AND YEARS I was the person who had no idea how much my cards were worth. I was a pure Timmy, and I only wanted the big, fun cards that I liked to play with (mostly monogreen cards, and mill). I remember trading Abeyance when it was probably $20 for next to nothing because I thought it was "stupid." The people who agreed to these trades are not bad people. I look back at those times as a lesson to be learned, and trade karma to now attempt to swing back into my favor.

With the dawn of on demand pricing thanks to smart phones, and simply the ability to track any card's price online using any number of sites for reference, there is no excuse for people to not know what their cards are worth. Never lie to someone about card values, but if someone never asks they clearly don't care. Everyone has their own scale. Some people use Ebay, some people use findmagiccards.com price averages, some people use Starcitygames.com prices, and some people just don't use prices at all. If your trading partner is ok with a trade the trade is never a rip off. I can't look back and think I was being ripped off in any of the bad trades I made, because I said "ok" to every single one of them. Otherwise it would have been theft and not trading.

So anyway, I am getting a little tired of writing this. My point has hopefully been made. You can honestly get any card that you want. You just have to want it bad enough, and patiently jump through as many hoops as you have to in order to obtain it. Trades chain together, and they shouldn't be looked at individually. Also, remember you can always say "no" to any trade you want. Looking through someone's binder doesn't make you obligated to trade with that person. The surefire warning signs are when the person you are trading with values everything they want from you lower than you do, and everything you want from them higher than you do. I just close my binder, say, "no thanks, but thanks for looking anyway!" and walk away. That is your right.

Anyway, thanks for reading Otherworldly Journey. You can now find me over at http://iwantmymtg.com since it's a much better name. Our podcast is also available there. Maybe this blog will be back someday.

Bigheadjoe

Sunday, March 7, 2010

TURTLE POWER!

Hi Everyone!

I have been in a deck building FRENZY lately.

I have hundreds of ideas swimming around in my head. So many that I can barely build a deck right now, since a lot of the decks share cards, and I don't like to switch them around. (Mainly, my 4 Jaces and 3 Baneslayers)

So, since I have W/G Landfall built right now, I figured the best thing to do would be to build Grixis Control.

After decimating my "Naughturnus" list (monoblack Vamps with NO Nocturnus. I don't care for the card for the same reason why I cut Captured Sunlight from my W/G deck. The one time I cast it I cascaded into Brave the Elements. The ONE CARD I didn't want to cascade into! I feel like if you need a black card on top of your deck to win that top card is going to be a Swamp. So I figured out a list without the Lord and am quite into it. Maybe I'll blog about that deck sometime later this week or next.)

OK, that was a pretty long parenthetical. Let me try again...

After decimating my "Naughturnus" list, I put together the following Grixis Control list that I am calling TURTLE POWER! I haven't really playtested it yet, but it's basically Mike Flores' Grixis Burn list with a few updates. It seems really good. Also, in my opinion, I think it is better than the Chapin W/U control list. I hate Cancel. I don't want to play with Cancel. Also, after watching the Channel Fireball 5K Top 8, and watching W/U get SMASHED twice by Jund, I wanted to go in a different direction. So here it is:

http://mtgurl.com/sclj



Compare this list, first, to Mike Flores' original build of Grixis Burn:

http://mtgurl.com/LlCC




Second, compare the deck to Thomas Dodd's build of Grixis Burn:

http://mtgurl.com/d1hQ



OK, have you looked at all 3 lists?

Now I am going to ATTEMPT to do a comparison of these 2 lists to my own, both for your enlightenment and my own. I don't have the fancy technology that BDM utilized to make his Venn Diagram comparisons, nor do I have the patience to figure out how to do it. I am just going to list the similarities and differences.

Similarities between my list and Mike's:
Main:
2 Sorin Markov
4 Blightning
2 Cruel Ultimatum
4 Sedraxis Specter
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Drowned Catacombs
3 Dragonskull Summit
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Island
2 Mountain
4 Swamp
Board:
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
SB Cards from Mike's deck that I put in the Main:
1 Earthquake
3 Countersquall
Total # of cards in both of our 75: 41
Differences should be obvious, since both decks were posted Pre-WWK. I'm sure an updated list from either player would be closer to what mine is now. 
Similarities between my list and Thomas':
Main:
4 Sedraxis Specter
2 Sorin Markov
4 Blightning
3 Countersquall
2 Cruel Ultimatum
2 Terminate
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Drowned Catacomb
3 Dragonskull Summit
4 Scalding Tarn
2 Island
2 Mountain
4 Swamp
Sideboard:
2 Malakir Bloodwitch
SB Cards from Thomas' deck that I put in the Main:
1 Earthquake
Total intersection between the 75: 43
 
So you now have a decent idea of the base that I started with. It seems that my  maindeck more closely resembles Thomas Dodd's list. I guess this is just a natural progression of the build. 
Since those two have surely talked at length about their respective decks HERE and HERE, let me instead talk about the new cards in the deck and why I chose those cards, and then talk about the possible pitfalls of this deck and sideboard.
Once again, let me point you to Mike's "latest" blog entry, posted 4 weeks ago (get on that, Mike!), for a great write-up on the Convertible Turtle. Not like all of you haven't read it 100 times already clicking on Mike's blog hoping to find something new. Here is Mike's blog entry in action. Please believe in Turtle Power. It's the nuts.
 
Essence Scatter is great against, umm... creatures. When a bastard creature comes down that is too big for your bolts, too shroudy for your terminates, or too annoying to send to the graveyard from the battlefield (here's looking at you, Sprouting Thrinax), this card does the trick. 
 
Hello, my name is Jace, the Mind Sculptor. I cost a ton of real life dollars. I belong in every single deck that shares my colors. Holler. 
 
The Tar Pit is an obvious choice in a "burn" deck, since it always goes to the head. The Reaches is an X spell on a land after you gain board advantage from the Jace and the removal. Both are pretty awesome. 
 
These are all main because there is nothing wrong with a sweep (just ask that doucheface from Karate Kid 3!), or a burn spell when you are ahead in life totals. Alternate win condition if they are low enough, and if you are doing your job, they should be. 
 
Here's a fun fact: this is the first time I have ever looked at this card art. I am really weird with cards. I look at them as a whole, and never focus on the minute details of the art. When I do I am often VERY surprised by what is actually in the card art.I thought Graypelt Hunter was some weird wolf looking creature until I realized, like 3 days ago, that it is a dude. Show me any recent card for a split second though and I can tell you exactly what card it is.
Anyway, I use these to stop evil shit like Mind Sludge, Eldrazi Monument, and removal spells that target my Sedraxis Specters or Planeswalkers. Also do well in any sort of control mirror. No problem with 3 of these in the main. 
Sideboard cards:
 
Sign the petition to Ban Bloodbraid Elf HERE.
 
Not too sure about this one honestly. Might actually wind up cutting these for Deathmark or something similar, maybe another Cruel, or another Chain Reaction and something else. Mostly in here to deal with WW, Eldrazi Green Pre-Monument, and other stuff. 
 
GREAT against Eldrazi green, White Weenie, and a popped Sprouting Thrinax. I think this card is going to be an MVP out of the board. 
 
I hate Eldrazi Monument. So much. I also hate my opponents' win conditions. Enter Thought Hemorrhage. 
 
I know the big ol' Blue Guy has fallen out of favor lately, and Mike Flores thinks the card sucks ass, but nothing spells trouble for Jund like a big fat shroud flyer that can block it's Broodmates and come back at them the next turn. I like it in the board. 
So that's the deck so far. Like I said, I haven't really tested much outside of some goldfishing, but I plan to play it this Friday at FNM and I will give some updates then. (I know I said I was going to give some updates about the monogreen stompy deck last time and never did. So here's the update: I went 2-2. It plays like a big fat monogreen deck. I lost to another monogreen deck that got it's monument out before I could. Stupid Eldrazi Monument. It was fun and could be fairly competitive with some tweaks. However, like I said before, I am on a deckbuilding FRENZY right now and can't be bothered with it.)
Here are the potential pitfalls I see with this deck:
- Not too much help in the board against control. 
- Might need more Cruel Ultimatum (1 more).
- Infest might be a useless board slot.
- I haven't tested the deck enough.
- I'm tired of writing this blog entry.
- Goodbye.
Bigheadjoe
 







Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Wolf Shirt, In Deck Form

Sign the official petition to BAN Bloodbraid Elf here:  http://www.petitiononline.com/BanBBElf/petition.html

OK, so a few weeks ago, a few of us on Twitter made a pact.

(by the way, if anyone is wondering why this blog isn't frequently updated, I feel like, between Twitter and our podcast, Yo! MTG Taps! I get most of my blog-worthy topics sufficiently off of my chest. Still, I plan on posting more blogs when I deem it appropriate, so don't give up on me! Patience, Young Padawan!)

I tweeted about my desire to build an old school, monogreen list similar to the one I had in 1995 when I first started playing and traded my Birds of Paradise for Llanowar Elves because I only needed green mana and those fools had ONE POWER. Several of my followers posted similar sentiments in response to my original post. This evolved into a pact on Twitter that we were all going to play monogreen stompy lists on 2/26/2010 at FNM. The people who made this pact, to call them out and make sure they keep up their end of the offer, were @fatecreatr @stupiddeck and @tigerbreak

So, after a few days of testing and a few different versions of the deck, here is the final list that I am going to war with on Friday Night!

A Wolf Shirt, In Deck Form



FIRST, a confession.

I am turning into a Spike.

Despite my Timmy deckbuilding tendencies, I am really starting to want to just play the best cards, and smash my opponent without remorse in every single way imaginable. This deckbuilding exercise was a lot of fun, but you will notice that some of my card choices strayed from the spirit of the original exercise. Noticeably absent from the list is Terra Stomper. I originally included the card, but I wasn't enjoying spending 6 mana to have the creature killed by removal. True, it can't be countered, but I really just wanted to kick a Wolfbriar Elemental twice instead of playing this card. This deck is just a placeholder until I can run my W/U control list with 4 copies of the Mind Sculptor next week.

A few notes about the specific card choices:

Master of the Wild Hunt: MVP. This card is such a blowout if you untap with it, especially if you have a Basilisk Collar to attach to any of the wolves. With 3 different ways to generate Wolf tokens, this card gets more mileage in this deck than any other deck running it.

Vines of Vastwood: Saves a creature from spot removal, protects Master of the Wild Hunt, and can sometimes be used to keep your opponent from targeting his/her own creature in a pinch. Also, +4/+4 on a creature at instant speed has so many fun uses.

Scattershot Archer: Oh Jesus, Scattershot Archer + Basilisk Collar = <3 Thanks @blairwitchgreen

Pitfalls:
Sometimes you get an opening hand with 1 land and 5 4+ CC spells. Not fun. A Mulligan to 6 is not uncommon, although in my brief testing with the deck a Mulligan to 5 is rare. This is definitely a mid-range deck, so some aggro strategies decimate it, and sometimes control decks get enough time to stabilize before you can get your Masters etc. online. Also, Iona exists. She is a right bitch.

That's all I got for now. I will post a tournament report sometime next week, if I take decent enough notes and I don't misplace them.

If you have a monogreen list that you want to post, post it in the comments for comparison purposes. 

Thanks for reading! Get out to FNM, and watch out for wolves...
Bigheadjoe

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Call to Ban Bloodbraid Elf

Let me start off by saying that I am well aware that these types of things usually don't work.

People were calling for the head of Bitterblossom on a silver platter a year ago to no avail.

However, after a lengthy discussion about the Jund deck on our podcast this week (PLUG) I feel that Bloodbraid Elf should be banned for a number of reasons:

1) Create a healthy metagame. Bitterblossom made Faeries a very powerful deck, but even still it only comprised about 20% of the metagame. That's one out of five decks, which I think is a better way to look at the problem. Jund is approximately 33% of the field, meaning one in three decks is Jund. (Let me say right now that I don't have the references to back these numbers up, I am simply going on the numbers that my podcast partner Joey Pasco was using in our latest episode. I know HE got them from an article, and after he reads this, if he would like to post a link in the comments you can check out the hard stats from there. Otherwise, just go with me.) More telling is the Top 16 at the most recent Star City Games 5K in LA, where Jund did not win, but was 9 out of the Top 16 finishers. Like user Mellowcow said in the comments to our latest podcast, when decks can consistently play maindeck color hosers like Flashfreeze, there is a seriously unhealthy and lopsided metagame.

Looking at deckcheck.net, the 10 most frequently occuring decks, followed by the number of decklists of each type:

1) Jund - 299
2) Vampires - 86
3) R/W Aggro - 79
4) Naya Aggro - 50
5) Mono Red Aggro - 45
6) Bant Aggro - 44
7) White Weenie - 34
8) Cruel Control - 32
9) U/W/x Control - 24
10) BGW Aggro - 23
(Actually pretty surprised to see Eldrazi Green at 11th with 20 decks!)

If this is a healthy metagame, than I am an idiot who shouldn't be allowed on the internet.

2) Keep casual players coming back to FNM. Many casual players come to FNM's with their own rogue decks, and enjoy playing against other such decks. While the expectation of a 100% rogue FNM is unreasonable, many players become discouraged when they play in an FNM with their own build of an archetype and do surprisingly well only to lose to Jund in the Top 8. Wizards has been going to great lengths to encourage new players to enter the game, and to promote their FNMs. When one in three decks at these events is the most powerful deck in the format, players can be turned off by the game and decide to not come back. Frankly, I personally have no problem with playing against Jund, rampant as it may be, but the FNM environment has become so competitive due to Jund's dominance that I have no interest in playing in these events until something can be done. FNM's are supposed to be fun events, but a stale format almost ensures a lack of fun.

3) Give the Jund deck a more exploitable weakness. Currently, Jund's only weakness is it's mana base. Jund requires all three colors of mana in it's shard to be fully functional, and many of it's lands come into play tapped. However, the deck is going to become one turn faster with the Amulet of Vigor recently spoiled, and even faster with Explore. Jund is not necessarily an aggro deck in the classic sense of the term, but is still a deck that relies on pumping out creatures at a faster clip than it's opponent and swinging in for the win. The problem with most aggro decks is that they run out of gas pretty quick. One board sweep can usually stall these decks enough for the opponent to battle back and win. This has always been the case for aggro decks, such that people who decide to play these types of decks are aware of the inherent risk in doing so. The problem with Jund is that, thanks to Bloodbraid Elf, the recovery from such "Wrath" effects is swift and devastating. Not only that, but the card provides Jund an opportunity to never run out of gas with enough of these in hand, an opportunity that other traditional aggro decks seldom have. This brings me into my next point:

4) Using Mike Flores' metric of mana efficiency, Bloodbraid Elf is severely overpowered. Mike Flores recently took part in a podcast over at top8magic called "Victory Bacon," wherein he described his "Grand Unified Theory" of Magic, in essence saying that the only metric that matters in Magic is spending the most mana in the most efficient way possible. While the theory is still a little raw and in need of testing to be validated, it is an earth-shattering theory nonetheless that will change the way you view deck construction and card choice. I highly recommend right-clicking that link, opening it in a new window, and listening to it immediately as you continue to read this blog entry. With that said, we can use this metric to surmise just how overpowered Bloodbraid Elf is. The benchmark for a 3/1 Haste creature is Spark Elemental at R, and it dies at the end of turn. Bloodbraid Elf is a 3/2 Haste that doesn't die at end of turn, so it is obviously valued higher than R. Looking at Gatherer for other creatures that are powered at 3/2 with Haste or another similarly powerful ability, we find several cards. Akuta, Born of Ash is a 3/2 with haste that costs 2BB, is legendary, and can be returned to play by sacrificing a swamp. Harvest Wurm costs 1G, no haste, and you must return a basic land from your graveyard to your hand or it dies, which is great card advantage, but makes the card difficult to cast. Keldon Champion is a 3/2 Haste for 2RR that deals 3 damage to target player when it enters the battlefield. Very similar to a Bloodbraid flipping over a Lightning Bolt, one of it's less mana efficient, although similarly devastating, cascades. However, even the Champion has an Echo cost of 2RR. Kitchen Finks. Now we're talking. Kitchen Finks is another overpowered card for it's mana cost, and one that comes close to matching the power of the Elf. However, due to the cascade ability of the Elf, it is unfair to value the Elf alone at 1G/W G/W since it is the Elf's cascade that makes it as powerful as it is. Ranger of Eos and Scythe Tiger are 2 creatures in the current Standard environment that share the 3/2 p/t of the Elf. Scythe Tiger requires you to sacrifice a land. The Ranger might be having a similar article written about it in the coming months (although not by me) with the introduction of a 13/13 creature for B in Worldwake. For now, however, the Ranger is a powerful, yet fair, card whose entire effect can be countered with a simple Essence Scatter. Vulshok Berzerker is a telling card. A 3/2 Haste for 3R, that Wizards felt was costed fair enough to print. However, we are looking for tournament viable mana costs here. For comparison's sake, then, let's cost the Elf alone at RG.

Now that we have the Elf valued at RG, let's look at the things that Bloodbraid Elf can cascade into: Blightning, Borderland Ranger, Maelstrom Pulse, Lightning Bolt, Terminate, Sprouting Thrinax, Putrid Leech. Every single one of these cards strengthens the board position of the Jund player. Only 3 of these seven cards cost less than 2 CMC, and the Bolt is a highly mana efficient Incinerate and therefore must be valued at 1R. So, at worse, the Elf is breaking even. At best, the Elf hits a Blightning or a Sprouting Thrinax. Both of these cards should at least be valued at 4 CMC. So the card is 6 mana worth of value for 4 CMC quite often, with a variety of devastating effects that cripple it's opponent.

Maybe some of that mana metric stuff is over some of your heads, but the simple fact is that until something is done to stop the rise of Jund our game will begin to lose discouraged players and the growth of our game that Wizards has made it's top priority will cease. Let me make this clear: the Jund deck will not die. While my language suggests that by banning Bloodbraid Elf the Jund deck will go away, I know that to not be the case. However, Bloodbraid Elf is the one card that takes this deck over the top and prevents other strategies from being viable. However, removing this key element will bring the deck back to parity with other decks, and maybe even cause some Jund players to consider other strategies.

Petition: I am starting a petition to ban Bloodbraid Elf. I don't typically think online petitions are an effective tool for change, but we as Magic players are in a unique position. Thanks to sites like Twitter, the powers that be at Wizards are only a Tweet away. With enough support, and enough retweets, I truely believe that we can create change and hold Wizards accountable for creating a balanced metagame where the cards in the format do not all point toward one singular viable strategy, and where multiple decks can flourish.

Sign the petition HERE.

Thanks as always for reading,
Bigheadjoe

P.S. If you think that I missed any points in this entry, please let me know in the comments section and I will do my best to address them. I know I'm gonna get some heat for this (by about 33% of you) but I'm ready for it.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

YO! MtG TAPS! Episode 8 Addendum: Relevant Research

OK, so in the most recent episode of YO! MtG TAPS!, Joey Pasco and I debated the mythic rarity of the spoiled card Comet Storm. Here is the card for those of you who haven't yet seen it:



While I don't necessarily think this card is MYTHIC, for the sake of the podcast I took the position of someone who agreed with the card's mythic rarity. I used the argument that there haven't been too many Red Instant Spells with X in their mana cost. Here are all of the cards I was able to find that met that initial criteria (Oracle wordings included under card pictures):

 
Balduvian Rage XR:
Target attacking creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn.
Draw a card at the beginning of the next turn's upkeep.



Blazing Shoal XRR:
You may exile a red card with converted mana cost X from your hand rather than pay Blazing Shoal's mana cost.
Target creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn.



















Captain's Maneuver XRW:
The next X damage that would be dealt to target creature or player this turn is dealt to another target creature or player instead.



 
  Dwarven Catapult XR:
Dwarven Catapult deals X damage divided evenly, rounded down, among all creatures target opponent controls.




  Enrage XR:
Target creature gets +X/+0 until end of turn.




 Fault Line XRR:
Fault Line deals X damage to each creature without flying and each player.


 Flaming Gambit XR:
Flaming Gambit deals X damage to target player. That player may choose a creature he or she controls and have Flaming Gambit deal that damage to it instead.
Flashback XRR (You may cast this card from your graveyard for its flashback cost. Then exile it.)


 Heat Ray XR:
Heat Ray deals X damage to target creature.




Lavaball Trap 6RR:
If an opponent had 2 or more lands enter the battlefield under his or her control this turn, you may pay 3RR rather than pay Lavaball Trap's mana cost.

Destroy 2 target lands. Lavaball Trap deals 4 damage to each creature.

(Doesn't have X, but has a very similar effect in the current standard environment, so included for comparison's sake)


Outmaneuver XR:
X target blocked creatures assign their combat damage this turn as though they weren't blocked.




Rock Slide XR:
Rock Slide deals X damage divided as you choose among any number of target attacking or blocking creatures without flying.
 

Starstorm XRR:
Starstorm deals X damage to each creature.
Cycling 3 (3, Discard this card: Draw a card.)


Timecrafting XR:
Choose one — Remove X time counters from target permanent or suspended card; or put X time counters on target permanent with a time counter on it or suspended card.



Volcanic Geyser XRR:
Volcanic Geyser deals X damage to target creature or player.



 So, not counting Lavaball Trap as it does not have X in it's mana cost, there have been 13 cards printed, in the history of Magic: the Gathering, that are Red Instant Spells with X in the mana cost.

Next, since Comet Storm is a burn spell that hits multiple targets, I eliminated any spells from this list that did not meet that criteria:

Balduvian Rage, Blazing Shoal, Enrage, Outmaneuver, Timecrafting - OUT! (Not burn spells)

 Captain's Maneuver - OUT! (Contains white, only has one target)

Flaming Gambit - OUT! (Only one target per time cast, although DOES hit 2 total targets)

Heat Ray, Volcanic Geyser - OUT! (Only one target)



So that leaves us with the following spells:



4 spells that have a similar effect to Comet Storm, at instant speed, with X in the mana cost.

Now let's compare the cost of each spell.

For this, we will use 4 damage to 4 targets.

Comet Storm: RR + 4(for x) + 3(for 3 instances of multikicker) = 9 CMC
Dwarven Catapult: R + 16(for x) = 17 CMC (and can't hit players)
Fault Line: RR + 4(for x) = 6 CMC (although can't hit flyers and damages the caster)
Rock Slide: R + 16(for x) = 17 CMC (although can't hit flyers or players)
Starstorm: RR + 4(for x) = 6 CMC (although hits your own creatures)

And for comparison's sake:
Lavaball Trap 6RR = 8 CMC (although doesn't damage player)

So, the conclusion I've reached is that this is a very versitile spell, capable of a good, one-sided sweep, for a decent cost. Does that make it Mythic-worthy? Probably not. Lavaball Trap seems like a better bargain in Standard, and Starstorm would have been more exciting as a reprint, in my opinion. It's cheaper than some of the other instant speed, Fireball-like abilities in the past. (Fireball, by the way, would cost 20 CMC for the same effect) Joey, my podcast partner, seems a little more up in arms about this than I am, but he also is more unsatisfied with Mythic Rarity as a whole. How do you feel about this? Let me know by emailing yomtgtaps@gmail.com


Thanks for reading!
Bigheadjoe

Monday, December 21, 2009

It's Not Dead, It's Restin'

Monday, November 9, 2009

Top 8 finish for All-In Sphinx Sunday!

Hello again!

So, after winning Saturday's event at Amazing Spiral, I decided to test my deck in a forum where I have previously only embarrassed myself: Legends in Towson. Legends has a extremely dedicated and competitive Sunday crowd. I brought the same deck as Saturday, only changing out the single Elspeth for a single Swerve. Elspeth is a great card obviously, just not what I was looking for in the deck. Anyway, let's call this minor change (and one change to the board) "All-In Sphinx version 1.5"

http://mtgurl.com/zyVq



I actually kept my lifetotal sheet from this one, but still no real tournament report unfortunately. I can hardly take notes when I play I get so scatterbrained. I will do my best to recall though.

RD1 vs. Ryan (playing an Esper Mill deck):
Game 1 I lost quickly, not really prepared to see Mill to be completely honest. My deck is set up Game 1 to deal with some of the more aggressive creature-based decks in the format. He hit me with an Archive Trap almost immediately when I fetched, and hit with at least 2 good Mind Funeral's. Game 2 I sided in Negate, Meddling Mage, Thought Hemorrhage, and maybe something else, and sided out Purge, one Jace, probably 3 Terminate's and something else. I played Meddling Mage naming Archive Trap, and then Mage naming Mind Funeral, and beat him down with 2 Mages for the win. I think there may have actually been a double Lightning Bolt to take his final 6 life. Anyway, Game 3 I was set up to do the same thing when he Path to Exiled my Mage; and, since I had been used to playing with Sphinx, I searched my library for a land (even though I was totally fine on land). This prompted a double Archive Trap, followed by a next turn Mind Funeral to clear me out completely. Big mistake cost me what should have been an eventual win. I am glad I did it, because now I won't ever do that again.
0-1

RD2 vs. Paul (Playing 4CC)
These 2 games Paul beat me pretty severely. I didn't put up too much of a fight, I don't remember exactly why, but I did write down my big mistake of Game 2 (which I was going to lose anyway). Game 2 Paul played a Luminarch Ascension, and I let it get to 4 counters. He played some Angels and managed to swing in for 8. The next turn I had an Esper Charm and a Day of Judgment in my hand. I played the Day of Judgment before I played the Esper Charm! Of course he made 3 Angels in response to me blowing it up! I don't know what I was thinking with that play, possibly "5! 5 dollar! 5 dollar footlong!" Which I had plenty of time to enjoy.
0-2

RD 3 vs. David (playing Grixis Pyromancer's Ascension)
I wasn't too impressed with this deck. It was running Duress, Burst Lightning, Lightning Bolt, Ponder, maybe Blightning. I sided in a bunch of Counterspells and Swerves, Thought Hemorrhage, Meddling Mage after winning Game 1 fairly easily. I don't remember if he sideboarded or not. I know he had Thought Hemorrhage in Game 2 so I'm guessing he did.
1-2

RD 4 vs. John (playing WUR Control, I think)
I don't remember much about this matchup, other than I think at one point he got in with Sphinx, I played my own Sphinx and blocked his Sphinx next turn, and then played Cruel Ultimatum. That sounds about right. Obelisk of Alara has really been great in this deck too, very versatile and game-altering. Won both games fairly easily. (I also remember playing Celestial Purge every time he played Chandra Nalaar)
2-2

RD 5 vs. Brian (playing Mono White Aggro)
Brian was watching my previous match against his friend, and went into our match talking about how much he hated playing against control decks. He didn't seem to have too much trouble beating me down in Game 1 though. Knight of the White Orchid, Elite Vanguard, Honor of the Pure, Ajani Goldmane, Kor Skyfisher, Emeria, the Sky Ruin, Baneslayer Angel, Captain of the Watch are all cards I remember seeing throughout our 3 games. Once I sided out the Purges in favor of 2 Day of Judgment and possibly one Negate I seemed to have the ability to slow him down enough for me to stabilize. I remember he would be on 2 cards in hand at the end of his draw step and I would Esper Charm him. I did that twice in three turns, and he said, "Seriously?" Obelisk of Alara I'm pretty sure helped me win both games here, I guess Dispeller's Capsule isn't "cool."
3-2

I MADE TOP 8! I was really excited because this was my first Top 8 at Legends ever. I am constantly playing rogue decks and getting stomped by all of the more well-tuned decks, but this deck feels tighter than any deck I've played before.

TOP 8 vs. Scott (playing Jund)
Game 1 I got stuck on 2 land after mulliganing to 5. Not much to really report there, except that maybe I should have gone to 4. Game 2 he seemed to do very little to me according to the life totals. I believe I swerved a Blightning back at him, and played Cruel Ultimatum, followed by several lightning bolts and activations of the red Obelisk ability. Game 3 was tough! I got him all the way down to 1 life before he swung in for lethal damage with 2 Thrinax, 3 Saprolings, and Bloodbraid Elf. I did all I could with what I had in my hand. I actually had a chance to beat him had he cascaded into either Blightning or Lightning Bolt off of his Bloodbraid Elf.

So, after my experience at Legends Sunday, here is the list I plan on trying out:
http://mtgurl.com/aiuE



I needed one more damage to make Top 4, so I added Burst Lightnings to make sure that doesn't happen again, and 2 Mind Springs to make sure I get to them. I also added a fourth maindeck Celestial Purge because they do pretty well in this environment, not only against Jund, Vampires, Red Deck, and Boros BushWACKAAAA!!! but also against those pesky Chandra Nalaar's that keep popping up against me. I don't see the appeal of Chandra AT ALL honestly, but that's just probably because of what I'm currently playing. The sideboard has been drastically overhauled. QUICK! Name one spell that Jund runs that is monoblack? Exactly. Flashfreeze it is.

I'd rather YOU tell ME more about my deck, one because I am lazy and it's 3am, but also because I would like to hear why YOU think I chose these cards, and maybe why you think I am wrong in choosing some of them. Any and all feedback is appreciated.

Thanks for reading!
bigheadjoe

Saturday, November 7, 2009

I AM A SELL OUT: Presenting "All-In Sphinx," a Deck for Standard.

OK, let me begin by saying that on the second episode of Joe Pasco and I's podcast, "YO! MtG TAPS!," I briefly described a 4 Color Control deckbuild that I was working on. I also mentioned how I wasn't too hot on Sphinx of Jwar Isle. Joe defended his little blue buddy eloquently (check out Joe's blog at http://www.affinityforislands.com/ to see more of his comments on the Sphinx), and made me rethink my position. A few days later I was trading him for 3 of the 17 Sphinx's that he owned at that time (I believe that number has since jumped back to 18) and cutting Baneslayer Angel from my deck. So since I committed to the Sphinx, I decided to run 4 copies and call the deck "All-In Sphinx" to expose myself as a hypocrite. At FNM that same night, my friend Darryn suggested cutting Volcanic Fallout for maindeck Celestial Purges, a tidbit of advice I followed almost immediately, and with smashing results (thanks, Darryn!).

So here is the current decklist:
http://mtgurl.com/674S


I run Saturday morning Standard events at Amazing Spiral Comics in the Rotunda Mall, right in beautiful Hampden, Maryland. (A town in Baltimore City, A City of Neighborhoods, the Greatest City in America and home of Grand Prix Baltimore May 22 and 23, 2010). I recently had a Booster Draft invalidated by the DCI, and was curious as to why. Apparently you need 8 players for an event to be sanctioned, and our draft only had 4. Oh well, it was still fun. My concern was that we were invalidated because I participated in the event and I am the organizer. Fortunately that was not the case, and I am actually glad I found out about the 8 person minimum. We would have had 7 today had I not participated.

By the way, have you seen the Foil DCI Alternate Art Vampire Nighthawk? It's pretty great. Too bad you will NEVER find a decent picture of it online. Go to an event and get one. I don't know.

So I think I am on to something here with this deck. I can't claim 100% credit for it's construction, as I looked to a lot of previous 5CC builds for inspiration for the mana base and such, as well as some invaluable criticism from my friends. Still, I feel like I have taken all of this information and arranged it into a really tight decklist. The mana base works very well, although I seem to mulligan to 6 a lot. 90% of the time I have the correct colors to cast any spell in my hand.

So like I said, I participated in an 8 person Standard event today that I am also the organizer for. I won the event, which was 3 rounds of swiss, into a top 4, going 4-1 in matches. I didn't write a tournament report or anything, but I can briefly go round by round with whatever info I can remember (I knew I should have kept that life total sheet!)

RD1 vs. Keith Cooper (playing Mono Black Vampire Aggro):
I seem to remember Keith winning game one pretty handily. He beat me down pretty quickly. I did nothing to him.
For Game 2 I sided out a Sphinx, a Jace, an Esper Charm and something else for 3 Thought Hemmorhage and one Celestial Purge. Keith got me down to 2 life and I managed to drop an Obelisk of Alara and stay alive long enough to climb back thanks to Cruel Ultimatum and Sphinx.
Game 3 I managed to get Ajani's ultimate off, which should have in parenthesis "you win the game." A hell of a tough fight though, and Keith is a good sport even though he hates control decks. Such a fun match.
1-0

RD2 vs. Gary Harthousen (playing Red Deck Wins):
I remember drawing a ton of removal in both games to deal with his threats, although I actually have Gary to thank for exposing some of my decks weaknesses in some prior games we had played earlier this week. I did not sideboard for Game 2, and I didn't really need to. This deck seems to answer the threats of Red Deck Wins pretty consistently, but a 4th Purge wouldn't have hurt.
2-0

RD3 vs. Harrison Stevens (playing Mono Black Vampire Control)
Harrison surprised me today with his skillfully built Vampire Control deck. No offense meant by that comment, Harrison is just a fairly casual Magic player and I wasn't expecting such a sophisticated build of the most popular archetype among casual players. I don't remember much about my win of game one, but I remember my biggest mistake in game 2: I played Oblivion Ring on one of his vampires (most likely Bloodghast) instead of holding back mana to Negate his Mind Sludge. Games 2 and 3 I was obliterated by that card, and couldn't recover. Joe has talked me into Negate vs. Swerve as a more consistently effective option against some of the most devastating spells in the format, but I wonder if Swerve would have won me the match in this instance. Maybe I will run 2 and 2 in the sideboard and cut a Day of Judgment.
2-1

TOP 4 vs. Michael Tango (playing RG Valakut Mana Ramp)
This deck was really cool also. I have been thinking about building some version of this deck after hearing of its existence, although I haven't looked at any decklists yet. Game 1 I was totally thrown off guard by this deck, and lost handily. I wound up siding in 9 cards for Game 2 (1x Meddling Mage, 3x Thought Hemorrhage, 3x Negate, 2x Identity Crisis) and added 2 more Meddling Mage in Game 3. I can't remember exactly what happened in what order, but my sideboard plan was effective. When siding those in, I sided out much of the creature removal (esp. O Ring and Purge which were utterly useless). I played Meddling Mage naming Harrow, so he killed Meddling Mage and proceeded to play THREE HARROWS in game 2. In one turn. I was scared. I was able to stay alive thanks to Ajani Vengeant, Obelisk of Alara, and a Cruel Ultimatum. In Game 3 I think I played Esper Charm to discard his last 2 cards, and then used his Oracle of Mul Daya to choose my Meddling Mage target for me :) Sphinx of Jwar Isle had a hand in many of my wins today, as no one had too many answers for it. I believe games 2 and 3 of this match were no exception.
3-1

FINAL vs. Keith Cooper (still playing the same deck):
Vampires was a deck I had expected to see a good amount of, so I had built this deck with defeating that deck and Jund primarily in mind. My deck has a lot of answers to Vampires, and I seemed to draw all of them at just the right time in both games of this match. Keith also got unlucky with Vampire Nocturnus flipping Swamp on more than one occasion. Of course we split the prize money because that's way more fun.

Overall, I was really excited about this deck, and by my play today. I am NOT a control player by nature, and I never played 5CC when it was... well, easier to cast the cards in it. I feel like I piloted this deck very skillfully and with poise in the face of peril. I was at 2 life in one game and 1 life in another and still managed to come back and win. Also, I had NEVER won a tournament before, and while this was a small event, it was still thrilling to win. My constructed rating is terrible, and it's nice to see some movement in the right direction.

I wish I had a chance to face Jund with this deck today. I am still not 100% sure how well it stacks up. Time will tell. I might go play more cards tomorrow morning in Towson, but I don't have my workshirt LOL... so I might have to be responsible, for what it's worth. Maybe I'll just call out.

Goblin Ruinblaster did not appear once today against my deck. That is incorrect. That card belongs in the sideboard of almost every deck that can cast it, my own deck included. Would have helped a ton against Valakut today. And if that Graveyard deck takes off running Crypt of Agadeem that statement is even more correct. Although I would probably cut Identity Crisis for it, and that actually works a little better against the Graveyard deck. At least in theory.

Anyway, that's my story for today. I had a lot of fun, and can't wait to run this deck in more tournaments. Shows a lot of promise. Let me know what you think!

Thanks for reading!
Bigheadjoe

Thursday, November 5, 2009

UPDATE: My Current Balthor the Defiled EDH Decklist! (I love this deck)

Hey there, it's been awhile!

I have had a lot of personal issues to deal with, nothing I am going to bore you with here. Let's just say I went through a lot of good positive change in my life. Maybe overdue change.

We DID manage to start our podcast, YO! MtG TAPS! On the MTGCast network. The link to our second episode is http://mtgcast.com/?p=2974 . Check it out, we are having a lot of fun making it!

I just wanted to do a quick update here to get back in the habit of updating this blog. I talked in an earlier post about my EDH deck using Balthor the Defiled as my general. I have been picking up cards here and there for it and wanted to post my progress in building the deck. I am finally getting to the point with the deck where I look at every card and say "awesome..." under my breath. It is such a flavorful fun deck to play, and I can't wait to get some Planechase to add to the chaos! Check out the list:

1 General:
Balthor the Defiled

38 Lands:
32 Swamp
Crypt of Agadeem
Leechridden Swamp
Phyrexian Tower
Springjack Pasture
Unholy Grotto
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

30 Creatures:
Cemetery Reaper
Corpse Connoisseur
Corpse Harvester
Corpulent Corpse
Death Baron
Festering Goblin
Fleshbag Marauder
Gempalm Polluter
Graveborn Muse
Gravedigger
Grixis Slavedriver
Haakon, Stromgald Scourge
Headless Horseman
Howling Banshee
Infectious Horror
Korlash, Heir to Blackblade
Lord of the Undead
Maggot Carrier
Nightmare
Phyrexian Scuta
Rotlung Reanimator
Shepherd of Rot
Stromgald Crusader
Undead Warchief
Vengeful Dead
Viscera Dragger
Wall of Tombstones
Withered Wretch
Zombie Master
Zombie Trailblazer

5 Instants:
Cabal Ritual
Dark Ritual
Grim Harvest
Makeshift Mannequin
Treacherous Urge

14 Sorceries:
Beseech the Queen
Buried Alive
Cabal Therapy
Consume Spirit
Corrupt
Damnation
Death Cloud
Mind Twist
Mutilate
Night's Whisper
Profane Command
Rise from the Grave
Sign in Blood
Sinkhole

7 Enchantments:
Animate Dead
Bad Moon
Call to the Grave
Grave Pact
Oversold Cemetery
Phyrexian Arena
Quest for the Gravelord

5 Artifacts:
Eternity Vessel
Lightning Greaves
Loxodon Warhammer
Nevinyrral's Disk
Quietus Spike

I am completely in love with this deck. It is so much fun to play. Once I get the Zombie Planechase deck I will have Cabal Coffers and Soulless One to help it out, and I think Twisted Abomination wouldn't be too bad either. Kabahl Ghoul is still the dream card though. I just really want to obtain that card. Also, some of the broken monoblack card draw spells would be a welcome addition. What do you think? Send feedback to yomtgtaps@gmail.com

Talk to you soon!
Bigheadjoe

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Big Black Deck Week #3: Laziness Ensues, or What Was Supposed to be a Look at Monoblack Control Decks Over the Years

Hello, and welcome back to Big Black Deck Week!

Today, I was going to go over the evolution of Monoblack Control over the years.

Well, I guess at this point in time I mean YESTERDAY.

Oops.

I had work training today, and had some errands afterwords that I wound up spending more time worrying about than actually doing, so today's article got lost in the shuffle. I will be resuming Big Black Deck Week tomorrow (today) as though this never happened and I had in fact posted article #3. Unless of course tomorrow's article goes really well. In that case, I will go back and reedit this post to include the promised article.

So tune in tomorrow, or later today for those of you who are not confused as to what day it is, for Big Black Deck Week #4: The Top 25 (or 50, or however many cards I feel like writing about) Monoblack Cards in Multiplayer Magic!

Thank you for your disappointment! It means you are actually reading this! (If anyone is actually reading this!)
Bigheadjoe

UPDATE 9/10/09: Due to being busy this morning recording a podcast, and then spending a good deal of time editing it this afternoon. I am not going to be able to do this post. Maybe one day, but not today. Big Black Deck Week #4 will be online in a few hours, and I might just do #5 at the same time. Not sure yet. Need to do work stuff tomorrow so it might be easier to get them both done at once tonight. Not moving for the next 4 hours due to football on TV, so that might help.

Consider this topic an I.O.U. I've been good at those lately. If you stumble across this blog and are interested in hearing me talk about this topic, email me.