All posts by IAMZERG

Land Tax: A King’s Ransom at a Minimal Expense

Land Tax seems reasonably innocent.  All you get are 3 basic lands per turn, and only if you have less lands in play than your opponent.  However, while it was in Type 2, it was one of the only cards that offered true, repeatable, and cheap card advantage.  Also, it’s a whole lot less innocent in a format with Armageddon.  The card found a home in a deck referred to as “ErnhamGeddon.”  It’s a pretty simple strategy: play a big creature and blow up all the lands.  Land Tax provides a nice head start in restoring the land base, one an opponent would have a hard time matching.  Zuran Orb was a good way to make use of lands that were already getting binned, but it was still a difficult road.  It was also a great way to control the number of lands you had in play to ensure getting that Land Tax trigger if you were the one playing Land Tax.

Land Tax also had implications for Extended.  There’s no point in me re-typing what others have already painstakingly written up: the GP Atlanta Coverage offers a quick look into Land Tax’s history, as it was also the first sanctioned Legacy tournament to feature the card since legacy was born way back in 2004.

The Land Tax + Scroll Rack combo has been around since Tempest first came out.  Alongside a U/W Miracles shell, it can be devastating, turning Temporal Mastery into Time Walk time and time again.  It has also been an addition worthy of consideration in CounterTop decks.  The next few tournaments should determine whether or not the card remains unbanned.  We shall see. 

Black Summer: Darkness Rising

An old article on StarCityGames.com titled (surprise, surprise), “A History of Necropotence,” and written by Jim Grimmet, serves as an excellent primer and source of decklists surrounding the infamous Necropotence. Why was Necropotence SO GOOD, and why does it still make nerds everywhere squeal with delight?

Simply put, it stands among the best card advantage engines ever printed.  Sure, you pass up on your draw step, but what you gain surpasses it by far: “Pay 1 life: draw a card (EDIT: essentially).”  I cannot conceive of a more flavorful, beautiful, and at the same time extremely powerful black effect.  Players originally scoffed at the card, but people started catching on quickly and Necro was born.  For months, the entire metagame revolved around it.  Decks of that period HAD to have game against Necro to stand a chance.  Among Necro competitors of the time was a nasty little combo concoction called Pros Bloom:

4 Undiscovered Paradise
3 Bad River
7 Forest
6 Swamp
5 Island

4 Infernal Contract
4 Impulse
4 Vampiric Tutor
1 Three Wishes
2 Memory Lapse
1 Power Sink
1 Elven Cache
1 Emerald Charm
4 Cadaverous Bloom
4 Natural Balance
4 Squandered Resources
4 Prosperity
1 Drain Life

Sideboard:

3 City of Solitude
4 Elephant Grass
1 Elven Cache
3 Emerald Charm
1 Memory Lapse
1 Power Sink
2 Wall of Roots

The basic goal was to ultimately fuel a lethal Drain Life.  You would do this by casting Prosperity and filtering those cards through Cadaverous Bloom into a larger Prosperity into cadaverous bloom into a MASSIVE  Prosperity into a lethal Drain Life.  The problem with combo decks is their need to assemble the components (har, har… get it?).  Very hard to do against Necro… Necro will trade one-for-one all day, and will ALWAYS come out ahead.  Disruption is a complete disaster for a deck like this.  Getting hit with Duress, Hyppies, and Stupor will ruthlessly cripple hands, and the deck just reloads when it’s done.

Another attempt at stemming the tide of Black Summer was a Winter Orb lock deck.  Winter Orb was a soft-lock alongside Icy Manipulators to keep the lock in place.  If that wasn’t bad enough, since the deck featured a ton of artifacts as mana sources, it functioned without access to mana from its lands, leaving its opponent floundering in tapped lands and creatures, with a gripful of permission to quash any artifact removal or attempts at casting spells.  Still, this was not enough.  Necropotence, despite its weakness in the later stages of the game, managed to pull wins  from it with hand disruption, pump knights, and other nonsense (depending on the variant).

Other decks that had some time in the limelight: Turbo Stasis, U/W control, counterpost, and Sligh.

One of the best breakdowns of the metagame of that era (well… technically, it’s just after black summer) I could find was in Mike Flores’ e-book titled Michael J. Flores: 10 Years of Decks, Thoughts, and Theory.  An excellent read.  Strongly recommended.

Despite the strength of the Necropotence deck, some decks were able to outlast it.  The pump knight version of Necro was weak to Serrated Arrows and Armageddon.  In addition, Black Vise, though restricted, eliminated Necro’s much-relied upon resource: its life total.  Disenchant also gave decks a chance.  Notice: two of the aforementioned cards are white.  If you could stem the tide of the early aggression, get lucky with a turn 1 Black Vise, eliminate lands or a Necropotence, or get a Serrated Arrows out, you had a decent shot of beating one of the most dominant decks ever conceived.

That’s about it!  Hope you enjoyed it.  Next week (hopefully) I will have the next installment of this deck series.  Again, I would strongly recommend Michael J. Flores: 10 Years of Decks, Thoughts, and Theory.  Especially if you liked this brief, incomplete, and cursory glance at part of Magic’s past.

Minor changes, a potential migration, and a new article series

I have been contemplating a move to WordPress for some time now because it has a lot of the more powerful features available to it.  Performing this move would be a bit of work for me, but it would probably be worth it in the long run.

I have also decided to switch to Gatherer as the site I will link to in articles when I mention specific cards (e.g. Lotus Petal).

When trying to put together a Pauper cube, I had a terrible time rounding out the red in it.  I couldn’t decide if I had enough burn spells or if I had too many, and had trouble with the higher end of the curve.  This got me searching for information and thinking a whole lot about set and card design, as well as card evaluation.  My search yielded a wonderful bounty, which will serve as a base for this article series about some of Magic’s most infamous cards and decks:

1. Black Summer: Darkness Reigns
2. Land Tax: A King’s Ransom at a Minimal Expense
3. If Others Have Illusions of Grandeur, Perhaps it IS Better to Give than to Receive

and more! (Might submit some of them to EssentialMagic.com or perhaps other sites)

Here, you can find one of my main sources if you wish to get a head start.

Gatecrash Guild Mechanics Overview

Simic

Evolve is a deceptively potent mechanic.  If a creature enters the battlefield with a higher power or toughness than the creature with evolve, you put a +1/+1 counter on the creature with evolve, sort of the opposite of the Graft mechanic from Ravnica block.  These +1/+1 counters can result in huge card advantage, stealing creatures, or even ramping quickly into massive creatures or expensive spells.

Gruul


Bloodrush is a very powerful tool for aggressive decks.  By paying a mana cost and discarding the creature card from your hand, you can channel the power and abilities of a creature with this mechanic into a creature you already have on the battlefield that is attacking.  There is little subterfuge here… Just brutal and efficient force.  Great for aggro decks that need that extra little bit of reach.  It can put people into situations where they lose no matter how they block, but also runs the risk of creating opportunities for 2-for-1’s.

Boros


Battalion triggers when you are attacking with three or more creatures, and this will happen a lot if you are playing Boros.  While some of the cards with this are a little underwhelming (i.e. limited fodder), some look to be powerhouses in upcoming weenie decks by making creatures indestructible, pumping creatures, or providing combat abilities.

Orzhov


Extort is a triggered ability that triggers off of you casting a spell.  When you trigger it, you are given the option of paying a black or white mana.  If you do, each opponent loses 1 life and you gain that much life.  It seems pretty crummy at first glance I’ll admit… but couple it with a bunch of cheap spells and more than one permanent with this ability in play and it doesn’t seem quite so innocent.  Or better yet, combine it with Cipher cards for a much larger boost.

Dimir


Cipher is the only mechanic that doesn’t occur on permanents.  However, don’t let that fool you; it still involves creatures.  Once a spell with cipher has resolved, you may exile it encoded onto a creature.  If you do, the creature ‘gains’ a triggered ability that allows you to cast a copy of the exiled spell whenever the creature deals combat damage without paying its mana cost.  That means you will be able to get two casts out of the spell the turn you cast it if you get through for damage, and the creature doesn’t have summoning sickness.

Glaring Spotlight: A Gatecrash Card Review

Hoser artifacts have had a long history in Magic.  Even hearing the names of cards like Meekstone, Trinisphere, and Pithing Needle can inspire groans of frustration from those who have had the displeasure of playing against them.

Glaring Spotlight is an interesting take on this type of Spike-loved card.  It doesn’t actually do anything to interfere with what the opponent can do.  Instead, it turns on all of its controller’s removal spells against the opponent’s hexproof creatures.

For those who are not Spikes, the card also protects your own creatures through its activated ability.  This ability also grants unblockable, so it can finish opponents as well.  I suspect the activated ability is going to be the most relevant part of this card for the Standard format.

Off Topic: OWN Interview with Lance Armstrong

Many love to hate him, despite his recent public confession.  Even by his own admission, this apology came late.

Lance Armstrong has cheated, bullied, lied, and sued his way through life.  His career and life have all been a huge ruse.  Livestrong has raised $500 million for cancer research, but no dollar amount could undo the damage he has wrought in his grand design.  Is there any hope for his redemption as a public figure?  I believe there is; after being humbled, there is always the possibility of redemption.  Armstrong’s attitude, mannerisms, and tone during the interview all seemed indicative to me of a humbled man.  

The only reason I bring this up is because I know what it is like to do horrible things that violate my own set of morals and later wonder who that person was.  It is the human condition.  If human history is any indication, Armstrong has a good chance at recovering from this, in spite of living a lie throughout his career.

Soul Ransom: A Gatecrash Card Review

There has been some controversy on the MTGSalvation forums over Soul Ransom.  Soul Ransom is, on first impression, an acceptable Limited card.  They tap out to play their finisher.  You steal the biggest guy in their deck and they have to deal with it somehow.  Perhaps not in the way you would prefer, but somehow…

Would this card be any better for Constructed if it read simply, “Target player discards two cards.  You draw two cards?”  Would it be any better if it were a direct copy of Control Magic, save for the mana cost?  Perhaps…

Soul Ransom’s activated ability is better than a spell that makes your opponent discard two cards in a way: Soul Ransom’s activated ability will ALWAYS snag two cards since discarding two cards is the cost of activating the ability.  When you cast a spell that forces your opponent to discard two cards, they may cast one or more spells from their hand and may even end up discarding zero cards. The downside to Soul Ransom’s activated ability is that they get to choose when to discard two cards.

With Soul Ransom, they are given an option, even if it isn’t a particularly good one.  Taking back their own creature at the cost of two cards in their hand on top of allowing their opponent to draw two cards, or dealing with Soul Ransom as though it were Control Magic.  Giving the opponent an option is almost never a good idea, but in this case, I think it is less of a problem than people realize.

If you are either playing a deck that forces your opponent to discard cards or playing against a deck that plays out its spells as quickly as possible, giving the opponent this option is almost a non-issue.  Rarely will they be out of topdeck mode any later than turn 5 in either case, even if they know what is coming and sandbag their lands accordingly.  If they can threaten lethal with the creature you stole, are threatened lethal by the creature you stole, or have two dead cards to pitch to it, then and only then will they consider Soul Ransom’s activated ability as an option for dealing with it. 

If you are playing a deck packing plenty of sacrifice outlets, you can even keep them from getting their creature back once they activate Soul Ransom’s ability.

Please let me know if I am wrong.  I am (believe it or not) a fallible human being.  Thanks!

Realmwright: A Gatecrash Card Review

This (along with two other cards) is Realmwright.  It doesn’t appear very menacing.  It’s a 1/1 for 1 mana… but it allows mono-blue decks to reliably play finishers from another color.  Yes, it’s fragile… but is there anything your opponent can really do after you put a solid finisher on the board, aside from an uncounterable board sweeper?  Sure it’s gimmicky, but I just can’t resist it.  I love playing mono-colored decks (particularly blue) and this is just icing on that oh-so-sweet color pie.

In limited, this guy is more powerful.  It makes casting cards in your guild colors much, much easier if one of those colors happens to be blue.  And since removal spells are… well… limited in limited, this forces the opponent to make a difficult choice unless he/she has repeatable removal or pingers… take out the Realmwright or take out the creature(s) you cast off of it.

To view a Gatecrash spoiler, you can visit mtgsalvation.com.  Enjoy!