Sunday, February 20, 2011

Draft Report - Feb 12, 2011

- Jão (BR Midrange) 4-0, 8-1
- Zaca (G Aggro) 3-1, 7-3
- Thomas (UR) 1-3, 4-7
- Naka (UB Milling/Proliferate) 1-3, 3-6
- Érico (WR Aggro) 1-3, 2-7

BR Midrange

10 Swamp
7 Mountain
Keldon Megaliths

Goblin Bushwacker
Cabal Interrogator
Nezumi Graverobber
Fallen Askari
Fire Imp
Royal Assassin
Blazing Specter
Necrotic Ooze
Precursor Golem
Ob Nixilis, the Fallen
Sengir Nosferatu

Brittle Effigy
Genju of the Spires
Raven's Crime
Animate Dead
Rend Flesh
Phyrexian Processor
Bituminous Blast
Profane Command

A midrange deck that uses disruption to control the early game then casts 4 and 5 cost spells that unbalance the game. Ob Nixilis, the Fallen, Precursor Golem, Bituminous Blast and Profane Command played well that role, while Blightning, Raven's Crime and Cabal Interrogator both fueled Nyxathid and made the opponent's life miserable. Despite the aggressive Genju of the Spires, Goblin Bushwackes and Fallen Askari, this deck does not play beatdown well, as too many spells are expensive. The early pressure acts as a way to push the opponent into a defensive posture and as bait to force him to spend some answers of the smaller threats.

G Aggro

15 Forest
Khalni Garden

Signal Pest
Basking Rootwalla
Jungle Lion
Twinblade Slasher
Joraga Treespeaker
Birds of Paradise
River Boa
Vinelasher Kudzu
Ohran Viper

Explorer's Scope
Infiltration Lens
Vines of Vastwood
Genju of the Cedars
Evolution Charm
Kodama's Reach
Might of Oaks
Desert Twister
Strength of the Tajuru

An aggressive deck that deploys creatures at an explosive rate at the beginning of the game and uses a suite of equipment and combat tricks to make them matter. Infiltration Lens, especially, excelled at refuelling the deck, while Vines of Vastwood, Snakeform, Might of Oaks and Strength of the Tajuru made sure the deck won any combat steps. The creature suite is typical of a Stompy except for Terastodon, which acted as finisher and could come online early thanks to all the accelerators.

UB Milling Proliferate

8 Swamp
8 Island
Crumbling Necropolis

Brass Man
Enclave Cryptologist
Seagate Oracle
Dusk Urchins
Ambassador Laquatus
Core Prowler
Djinn of Wishes

Mana Vault
Jace's Erasure
Rhystic Study
Screams from Within
Serrated Arrows
Barter in Blood
Control Magic
Chimeric Mass
Decree of Pain

A deck that's much more fun than efficient. The milling suite is composed of Ambassador Laquatus, Shriekhorn, Millstone and Jace's Erasure. It may seem little, and it is - I would have killed for an Archive Trap or Traumatize. In several games I died with the opponent at less than 10 cards remaining in the library, so one of those spells would've been sweet.

Besides milling the opponent, half of the deck is dedicated to control. I found Barter in Blood and Screams from Within a little awkward to play, but there were situations in which they were invaluable. Decree of Pain is expensive but when I resolved one, I usually won. Recoil was just bad, as I never hit an opponent with an empty hand, and the discard did not matter that much. Control Magic is just awesome.

The best feature in the deck, though, was the proliferatable cards that Thrummingbird and Core Prowler helped fuel. Core Prowler itself was a source of -1/-1 counters, while Enclave Cryptologist, Dusk Urchins, Djinn of Wishes, Shriekhorn and Chimeric Mass were all helped by the proliferate. The best combo was Thrummingbird with Serrated Arrows. The arrows dumped -1/-1 counters that could be proliferated, and at the same time was refueled with arrow counters.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New Card Batch 4


Battlefield Forge
Caves of Koilos
Yavimaya Coast
Shivan Reef
Llanowar Wastes
Tainted Field
Ancient Amphitheater
Gilt-Leaf Palace

Signal Pest
Infiltration Lens
Explorer's Scope
Expedition Map
Sylvok Lifestaff
Brittle Effigy
Mind Stone
Core Prowler
Lodestone Golem
Khalni Gem
Clone Shell
Chimeric Mass

Genju of the Fields
Hyena Umbra
Blade of the Sixth Pride
Soltari Trooper
Wall of Omens
Accorder Paladin
Leonin Skyhunter
Pianna, Nomad Captain
Kemba, Kha Regent
World Queller
Planar Cleansing
Phyrexian Rebirth

Twisted Image
Enclave Cryptologist
Welkin Tern
Flash of Insight
Jace's Erasure
Rhystic Study
Ambassador Laquatus
Deep Analysis
Archive Trap
Reality Strobe

Raven's Crime
Bloodchief Ascension
Kor Dirge
Screams from Within
Vampire Nighthawk
Royal Assassin
Measure of Wickedness
Horobi, Death's Wail
Necrotic Ooze
Sengir Nosferatu
Consume the Meek

Goblin Patrol
Scorched Rusalka
Brute Force
Goblin Bushwacker
Wall of Razors
Ancient Grudge
Stone Rain

Vines of Vastwood
Genju of the Cedars
Pouncing Jaguar
Basking Rootwalla
Joraga Treespeaker
Constant Mists
Albino Troll
Fauna Shaman
Master of the Wild Hunt

Bituminous Blast
Blazing Specter
Wort, the Raidmother
Temporal Spring
Suffocating Blast
Prophetic Bolt
Novablast Wurm
Augury Adept
Isperia the Inscrutable
Zealous Persecution


Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
New Benalia
Emeria, the Sky Ruin
Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
Barbarian Ring

Glasses of Urza
Leonin Scimitar
Vulshok Gauntlets
Trip Noose
Scythe of the Wretched
Journeyer's Kite
Energy Chamber
Candles of Leng
Reinforced Bulwark
Worn Powerstone
Nuisance Engine
Golem Artisan
Argentum Armor
Ulamog's Crusher
Orochi Hatchery

Weathered Wayfarer
Wall of Hope
Veteran Armorer
Dawn Charm
Suture Spirit
Masako the Humorless
Kitsune Blademaster
Elspeth, Knight-Errant
Celestial Crusader
Miraculous Recovery
Kirtar's Wrath

Cathartic Adept
Trade Routes
Surveilling Sprite
Waterfront Bouncer
Memory Lapse
Compulsive Research
Calcite Snapper
Darkslick Drake
Future Sight
Arcanis the Omnipotent

Skull Fracture
Wall of Souls
Hand of Cruelty
Stinkweed Imp
Doomed Necromancer
Priest of Gix
Ashes to Ashes
Smoldering Butcher
Sengir Vampire
Fallen Angel
Extractor Demon

Goblin Balloon Brigade
Seal of Fire
Godo's Irregulars
Zektar Shrine Expedition
Hellkite Charger

Ancient Stirrings
Scythe Tiger
Arbor Elf
Quirion Elves
Khalni Heart Expedition
Sylvan Might
Deep Reconnaissance
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Enshrined Memories
Genesis Wave

Kaervek the Merciless
Wrecking Ball
Shielding Plax
Simic Guildmage
Izzet Guildmage
Quicksilver Dagger
Congregation at Dawn
Ith, High Arcanist
Sky Hussar

Sunday, February 13, 2011

On Planeswalkers

First an annoucement:

Yes, the first card removed from the cube because it was too good. I'm aware that goes against the principle of power cubes, but there's a level at which cards win games by themselves too frequently and there are not enough answers for them. Letting them go makes for a better, more fun and less frustrating environment.

As we all saw over a few drafts, good planeswalkers are overpowered. Guys like Chandra Ablaze and Tezzeret the Seeker (two of the worst planeswalkers printed in my opinion) are OK. They do change some games, but other spells at their costs often do so. They are situational though, and one has to put some thought on whether to run them, build around them, etc.

That is not the case of powerhouses like Elspeth, Knight-Errant, Jace, the Mind Sculptor or Garruk Wildspeaker. They share some characteristics that makes them bad cards to have in playing environments. In fact, I believe Magic designers did not execute them well, and development wasn't competent enough to spot these problems - which are circumventable.

1. Planeswalkers are too versatile

Cards in Magic have roles. Walls block, finishers end the game, counterspells counter spells, removal removes permanents. Planeswalkers often do three of these. Unlike charms, they do not do one of these, depending on the game. Instead, they may do ALL in the same game. Jace, the Mind Sculptor draws cards and digs into the deck with his first ability, bounces creatures for defense with the second and finishes the opponent with his ultimate. Now find an enchantment that lets you do all these things.

2. There are not enough answers to planeswalkers

First, there are no cards that say "Destroy target planeswalker." They can only be directly taken out with generic permanent destruction, which is remarkably rare and usually expensive. Oblivion Ring is the most obvious answer, and has been used extensively as such. The only other option that does not require an obscene amount of mana is Vindicate, which can only be played in a handful of decks.

3. Planeswalkers are defensive by nature

The other way to kill planeswalkers is by dealing damage to them. What do decks need to do to deal damage? Attack! This need to attack forces the opposing deck into an offensive position. If your defenses overcome the opposing offense, then the opponent is at a lose-lose situation - either they attack and lose the clash or do not attack and let you build up your resources with your planeswalker. That's why control decks and planeswalkers are intrinsecally sinergistic. Even if you are playing an aggressive deck, if you play a planeswalker it will frequently be worth leaving your creatures to block and defend it, because having one online is so powerful.

4. Planeswalkers have been aggressively costed

Darksteel Colossus is extremely powerful, usually winning the game when it's not dealt with. The same applies to Akroma, Angel of Wrath, Blazing Archon, Decree of Silence, Eternal Dominion and several other cards that were too far into the alphabet for me to get to. Why can't they be called broken though? Because their mana cost is so high that they can only be cast in late stages of the game, the opponent has plenty of time to prepare and have a shot at killing one first. Now, if we consider that an environment when aggro decks reliably kill before turn four is too fast, wouldn't an environment that requires aggro to kill before turn four be too harsh to them? All planeswalkers could have been printed as they were. Only costing at least five mana. This may sound like a small tweak, but to aggro decks, it's the equivalent of a Time Walk every game.