Category Archives: MTG

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Budget Pox Control: Initial Impressions

 Just for review, here is how the deck works.  The ultimate goal is to set up a lock by keeping the enchantment Contamination on the battlefield using token producers or recursive creatures.  You use hand disruption, land destruction, and removal to help set up and maintain the lock, and it works pretty well… at least against most decks.

The main problem I had with the initial decklist is its weakness to decks with black spells or decks that contain Aether Vial.  If they manage to land an Aether Vial, you will suffer for it, and hand disruption will only partially solve the problem.  Creature removal, though something the deck packs a significant amount of, probably will not be enough to stem the tide since they just keep coming.  Decks containing a good number of black spells can still function reasonably well, even under the lock.  Another strike against the build presented in the article: the lock is pretty useless against colorless spells, namely artifacts.

Nether Spirits are also proving to be harder to find than I could have imagined, and I am not happy about the price either.  I decided initially to replace them with Reassembling Skeleton and that worked reasonably well, despite consuming a significant portion of the mana I was producing every turn.  After experimenting with them, I decided I wanted a card that would not be as mana-intensive, so I snap-bought a playset of Nether Traitors, not thinking that the drawback would be all that severe.  With Nether Traitor, you need another recursive sacrifice outlet in order to make him useful.  That is a HUGE downside, increasing the number of cards you need to have online for the lock to be effective.

The price of Hymn to Tourach has also changed my build.  I opted for Distress for the time-being.  It doesn’t offer card advantage, but it does allow me a peek at the opponent’s hand, assuming it doesn’t get countered.  It may change again if I can find a more viable alternative.

Overall, I cannot complain about the deck’s performance, particularly since I paid almost nothing to build it.  Once the opponent figures out what Contamination does and how the lock works, they usually concede before the game goes any farther if the lock is effective against them.  I have tried and tried to make a decklist that can function well without the Contamination lock to play as a maindeck so I am not a dog in game 1 against Pox decks, Aether Vial, and decks relying on artifacts.  This has proven to be a very difficult task indeed.  Advice and criticism toward this end would be much appreciated.

I would put up a decklist, but there are a significant number of uncertainties at the moment, so stay tuned.  If you want something to start from for yourself, check out  Enjoy!

Budget Pox Control for Legacy

An article on MTG Salvation caught my eye the other day.  It is the first article in a 3-part series, containing a total of fifteen budget decks for Legacy that all cost $100 or less, some much less.  The Pox deck there really spoke to me since I have 3 Bitterblossoms laying around in my MTGO collection from when I threw away a bunch of money drafting Morningtide, and I’ve always thought about getting into Legacy, but the price barrier was a bit too much for me to get over.  Also helps that I like Pox and decks that grind out wins.  It should not be too hard to get most of the cards needed for the deck without spending any tix at all, given that I have some credit on several bots at the moment.  You can view the entire list of decks here.  Enjoy!  I’ll get the decklist I end up using posted up and try to have a few games to report on as well.  Should be interesting, as the last time I looked into legacy, Stax and Tooth and Nail were two of the top decks in the format.

Avacyn Restored Release on MTGO was Sunday?!

I completely missed the Avacyn Restored release apparently… I have been busy with Diablo III and trying to find a job.  I’ve had a lot more luck with Diablo III… Finished Hell difficulty the other night.  Inferno is… bonkers.  An entirely different ballgame.

Anyways, I’ve re-assessed things a bit, and I might be continuing with the Mono-Blue Delver project.  Delver is not a terrible deck right now, and I really like my chances against decks playing Wolfir Silverhearts.  The deck will still need some tuning.  4 Invisible Stalkers and 4 Runechanter’s Pike seem correct, even in the face of cards like Curse of Death’s Hold and Black Sun’s Zenith.  I’d like more answers to it than just Grand Architect and the already stretched thin Mana Leak, but the metagame may dictate that little more is warranted.  I toyed with the idea of using Spectral Flight instead of Runechanter’s Pike so my Invisible Stalkers get the benefit from Favorable Winds, but that seems incorrect… Too much has to happen for that interaction to be useful and it doesn’t have the raw power available in Runechanter’s Pike.  I’m still undecided on what I should add to finish out a long game.  Mill may be the way to go about it since it doesn’t involve attacking at all.  Increasing Confusion is an interesting card for this purpose.  Most of the time, it will make an equipped Runechanter’s Pike threaten lethal immediately, but it can polish off opponents almost on its own given enough time.  To couple with it, a card that made me giggle at how bad it seemed when I saw it in the Innistrad spoiler: Dream Twist.

I agree that mill is not the most effective possible way to win a game of Magic.  However, further enabling my primary route to victory while allowing for an alternate route in case the game goes late is something I want this deck to be capable of.  For this type of list, I will be moving back up to 23 lands and probably going for a slightly more controlling build.  That means Dissipate will probably make it back in.  Milling myself also makes my Snapcaster Mages all that much better.  Consider this slightly improbable scenario:  I finished my sixth turn and I was fortunate enough to have hit every land drop thus far (yeah.. probably not a good idea to keep 5-land hands, but with Runechanter’s Pike and Invisible Stalker?… tough call, at least in my opinion).  Unfortunately, my opponent is attempting to resolve a Curse of Death’s Hold and I have no way of dealing with it at the moment and he knows it (Gitaxian Probe).  I do, however, have Dream Twist in hand along with a Snapcaster Mage.  I cast Dream Twist, manage to find a Mana Leak, cast it off of Snapcaster, and my equipped Invisible Stalker lives.

Oh, and if you decide to use something similar to the deck I’ve described, I’d like to know what kind of results you had if you don’t mind.

Nixed Sixth Edition… 6.1th Edition anyone?

Sixth edition got nixed before it made it to a Standard queue.  My balance of creatures and spells is off.  Also, my abysmal matchup against Wolf Run and similar decks leads me to reconsider some things.  A budget Spirit Delver list I found here revealed some major flaws in my deck.  An inability to deal with creatures effectively, as well as an inability to push through damage outside of a Runechanter’s Pike does not allow this deck to succeed.  The other deck features Fiend Hunters and Oblivion Rings as solutions to problematic permanents.  The deck also features 20 instants and sorceries to help flip Delver, while my sixth edition mono-blue delver list only has 17.  Drogskol Captains protect the other Spirits in the deck and also pump them.  They are also pumped by Honor of the Pure.  I feel the two decks have very different paths to victory, and the path to victory my version uses is fairly narrow and less resilient than the Spirit Delver list.  Token generation provides a very rapid recovery after a board sweep, whereas my deck leans on countermagic to answer a board sweeper.  With that said, I now must decide if I want to further protect the threats I present, or move to a more resilient plan.  Given the evidence presented in that forum, a more resilient plan seems to be the correct answer.  I have really liked Invisible Stalker, but in thinking things through, I can’t remember very many occasions where it was actually better than any other evasive creature.  I’d love to turn off removal spells altogether with hexproof and deal with sweepers using countermagic, but I can sacrifice a few counterspells for ways of dealing with difficult creatures after they have hit the table, and I really like that possibility.  Niblis of the Breath gets me pretty excited.  However, the creature’s toughness makes me depressed.  With a Grand Architect in play, it’s a little less scary.  Yes, I’m moving back to that plan again.  This time, I think I am wise to the mistakes I made, so.. hopefully this won’t end in another failed list.  There’s a blue uncommon that pumps fliers.  I think it fits the bill nicely here.  A lack of token generators is a problem here, however, and is where the list stalls out a bit.  I think we can cheat by with two routes to victory here, however.  Dropping down on the countermagic suite and revising the creature list a bit should help.  Snapcaster Mage doesn’t get into the red zone very frequently, so four seems like the wrong number.  I really need evasive, aggressive creatures.  Dungeon Geists really isn’t what I want either in spite of how good it is.  4 for a creature is a bit much.  Early pressure and cards that stall an opponent’s threats are things I need more.  I’ve revamped my spells to add to my ability to stall out creatures.  Though I’m still worried about allowing Titans to return to play over and over, I think my spell selection will help significantly in giving me that added bit of reach I need toward the end of a game.  I’m afraid to post a list because I fear the deck will be revised again before it makes its way into a standard queue, particularly since you don’t see Niblis of the Breath at the top tables.

Avacyn Restored–Cards I’m Excited About

I must say one of my favorites in the entire set so far is Vessel of Endless Rest.  Frites has been giving me fits.  I virtually can’t beat it with Delver.  There isn’t even a point in posting the videos… they were a complete massacre.  Vessel of Endless Rest is a very attractive solution to the menacing deck.  Thwarting all their hard work with a single card that accelerates me as well is pretty sweet.  Sadly, there is little Delver can do with extra mana laying around.  I am therefore tempted to move away from a hard-nosed, aggressive build.  I will not let go of it without a fight, though.  Dropping my land count to 20 and taking a second look at my spell suite will probably be my last attempt at a viable mono-blue Delver list until Magic rotates online.  If that fails, I will look to move to a more controlling, late-game deck that relies on Delvers for early pressure in the matchups where it proves useful.

I promised myself I wouldn’t rabbit trail in this article and look what I did…  Moving on.  Cavern of Souls makes me want to cry.  Humans, humans, humans… and zombies.  I don’t see myself playing decks that would merit that land, so if I pull any, they will be sold once those decks realize how good the card is against control.  Great for solving color issues in those tribal decks as well.  However, if Humans decide to get smart and start playing Islands, I may have to acquire a few.

All of the nonbasic lands in this set are pretty spicy.  Decks meeting the conditions they require would probably be interested in these.

Conjurer’s Closet is interesting, though its mana cost is very restrictive.  Blinking a creature each turn can be sick given all the enters the battlefield triggers on the creatures in this set.  Great for limited.  Not convinced it will see play outside of that at 5 mana.

Moonsilver Spear is a card I can get behind in limited.  Swinging with a random dork into a clogged board just got interesting.  Sure the thing dies, but he gets replaced with a 4/4 Angel you can re-equip the sword with.  Outside limited, 4 mana is probably more than a lot of decks can afford to pay.  I think the Swords will be the go-to equipment until Scars of Mirrodin rotates.

The big ol’ mythic dual-color cycle of angels…. They certainly make me feel like I am playing the wrong deck… Frites, meet your new reanimation targets.  Thank goodness they don’t nerf Delver as hard, but they all hit like trucks so I feel that is an inadequate consolation.  If you say, “they all die to removal,” you are correct.  Sadly, they do not die to all removal and that means they will be royal pains.  Oh, and don’t forget the grandmother of them all, Avacyn herself… an 8/8 flying, vigilant angel for 8 that makes all of her controller’s permanents indestructible.  Good luck with that… unless you play Islands, Plains, or Swamps.  In that case, you are fine… no need to worry.  Oblivion Ring, Vapor Snag, Smallpox, and Helvault (oddly, it IS mana-efficient to use it on Avacyn… Her flavor text matches this even… interesting) to the rescue!  Wait.. Helvault is colorless.  But need I go on?  Granted you are still dealing with an 8/8 flier… getting hit by that thing probably isn’t an option, so don’t expect reinforcements to arrive in time.  Chump blocking with Spirit tokens seems fine.

I think I’ve made my point.  Avacyn will most likely not see much play.  She might be a good sideboard card for Frites against certain matchups, but she is no all-star, and she is hard to hard-cast, relegating her to the sidelines (as far as I can tell… perhaps a ramp deck will make effective use of her).

Terminus is also beautiful.  A Wrath of God for Frites, Zombies, and other nasty graveyard-exploiters.  This and Vessel of Endless Rest may be enough for Frites to consider adding a few shuffle effects to keep all their goodies off the bottom of their library.

I suspect everyone and their brother will be putting together an Angels deck, so prepare…  Also, prepare to profit from this set.  I suspect the angels will be big-time sellers in the secondary market, possibly as big as Vampires was if a competitive version becomes available.  I might pull the trigger on my first booster box ever.  With only 244 cards in the whole set, a big score could put me in the black before I finish opening all the packs.

Treacherous Pit-Dweller is an interesting gamble.  The flavor is awesome: “This guy over here managed to kill me, so he must be stronger than my other master; I’ll join his side.”  It seems like a good card.  A 4/3 for 2.  Will be interesting to see if this guy gets a shot in competitive.  I have a feeling the risk will be well worth it.  Lots of Ebay sales have him at $0.99 for 4.  May end up being random junk, but only time will tell.  Personally, I’m keeping my evil eye on this one.

Silverblade Paladin.  Another interesting card.  Yes, the double strike is fragile as well as the creature that confers it, but unchecked, this guy can bruise many, many ribs.  Also one of those sleepers.  There are enough blink effects between white and blue to make me believe soulbound will be a legitimate mechanic in competitive.

Entreat the Angels, as expected, has not escaped the hype.  Ebay presale prices are already starting to get up there.  There was this one card waaay back in Scourge called Decree of Justice.  It saw some significant time in the limelight as a way to end games.  Control mirrors were fought over resolving this spell.  Perhaps those times have returned?  Only time will tell.

Devastation Tide gets me extremely excited.  Finally, a foolproof way to deal with all those stupid tokens!!!!!!  I’d love it if this card got some love, but I don’t have my hopes up.  The hard-casting cost is rather reasonable, so who knows…  And the ebay prices are higher than many of the other cards.

Tamiyo, the Moon Sage seems really good.  He protects himself and has a significant impact as soon as he enters the battlefield.  People have already caught on.  Pre-sale prices on ebay are over $60 for 4.

Cards with an X in their cost are always good for second looks.  Divine Deflection is no exception.  XW to prevent the next X damage taken by you and permanents you control and deal it to target creature or player.  Using it in MTGO is going to be a pain, but it may be worth it.  This is a very interesting card with a multitude of uses.  I cannot wait to see how the price on this card changes.  It seems it would be nearly impossible to lose against some decks once you have this in hand and enough mana to redirect any lethal assaults.  Having this in your deck will drastically change how people play.  The opponent will be forced to plink you to death slowly once he is wise to the trick.  The highest price I see for the pre-sales that are not Buy It Now (which are overpriced) is $4.57 for 4.  That may be where it stays.

Restoration Angel has not been spared from the limelight on the pre-sales… over $5 for 4.  To be expected, as it is probably one of the best given its ability to trade 1-for-0 with targeted removal spells.

Infinite Reflection feels as though there should be a way to break it.  The mana cost is high, but so is Hive Mind.  If it finds a home in some sort of combo deck, expect the price to bump up a bit.  Its price at the moment is minimal.  Should be able to pick up copies during the pre-sales on eBay  for $0.99 for 4 or perhaps a bit more without too much trouble.

Deadeye Navigator is an interesting card.  It is difficult to deal with save for mass removal.  It does not have any kind of evation, but combining it with a common soulbond creature (Wingcrafter) will solve that issue.  I like it, but doubt it will see much serious play.  Should be no trouble getting some of them for dirt cheap on eBay.  

You can view the entire spoiler at  Just click on the Avacyn Restored spoiler tab.

That’s about all I have for now.  Good luck and have fun in the pre-release this weekend.  So, what cards will you be keeping your eye on?

Mono-Blue Delver: Fourth Edition

After a little thought, I realized quickly that although Negate  might be a good card in several matchups, it will not work to throw them in along with all the other countermagic in the deck.  Assuming you are not swapping them out for 3 of the Mana Leaks, you are looking at a troublesome time.  From six counterspells to a full nine, assuming no more were added.  Aggressive decks are fueled not by counterspells.  This must be rethought in light of an actual plan against the decks.  Now, they might still be correct, but I truly was contemplating just throwing them in with the Mana Leaks.  Instead, adding 2 Dissipates to the sideboard sounds better.  So.. for the G/R/x ramp decks, my sideboard strategy will look something like this:

+2 Dissipate, -3 Thought Scour, +2 Nim Deathmantle, +2 Darkslick Drake, -1 Runechanter’s Pike, -2 Delver of Secrets

Yes.. a Delver deck that boards out its cornerstone card.  While Delver is the meat to these potatoes, square meals that do not include meat are actually pretty darn good.  Keep in mind that this plan was constructed in about 5 minutes, with only 3 games as a reference point.

For Solar Flare lists, I will be doing something similar.  Only here, I will not board out my Delvers:

+2 Dissipate, -3 Thought Scour, +2 Nim Deathmantle, -1 Runechanter’s Pike

I really shouldn’t even be posting sideboarding strategies because they will vary greatly by the time I put pen to paper and finalize a build.

Anyway, here is a completed decklist and sideboard (no links to the cards because I really want to get to testing):

4 Delver of Secrets
2 Dungeon Geists
4 Invisible Stalker
2 Snapcaster Mage

2 Dissipate
4 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
3 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag

4 Runechanter’s Pike

2 Buried Ruin
21 Island


2 Dissipate
2 Darkslick  Drake
2 Negate
3 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Nim Deathmantle
4 Disperse

Bounce spells that can get rid of Curse of Death’s Hold and other nonsense will make life difficult.

The State of Standard

Standard is a pretty healthy format at the moment.  With Nationals approaching, there are several tier 1 decks to be considered.  Wolf Run Ramp, Red Deck Wins, and Solar Flare are the big three.  Tempered steel, with its ability to steal games, is not one to be counted out, but does not have the raw power of the top tier decks.

Solar Flare is moving away from Liliana and towards Jace, Memory Adept.  I believe this is among the proper approaches to take, as Liliana is weak in the Wolf Run Ramp matchup.  Of the big three, Wolf Run Ramp seems to be the deck to beat.  The top 8 of Grand Prix Brisbane featured 4 Wolf Run Ramp, 3 UB control, and 1 WG Hero of Bladehold beatdown deck.  View the results for yourself here.  Among the UB control lists was a Tezzeret deck.  Any of the top decks that could fit it in ran Wring Flesh.  Having a 1-mana out to annoying X/1 creatures outside of red is worthy of inclusion.  Wring Flesh as a maindeck card in UB control is probably a good enough reason to avoid running Tempered Steel in the present format.  Oddly enough, the winner of the tournament was UB control.  The deck is legit.  Untapping with a Concecrated Sphinx against any deck seems good.  The card’s primary weakness is its lack of an immediate effect.  The deck’s other finishers make up for that quite nicely.  UB control’s finishers are immune to Dismember, at least if the red zone is not considered in the equation.  If the deck isn’t tier 1, it is very close.

There are other tournament results to consider.  The Standard Open brings more lists to the table.  There were a great number of innovations in the tournament, as pointed out by Mike Flores here.  For innovative Solar Flare decks, Christian Valent’s decklist takes the cake.  The deck features no planeswalkers at all.  None.  Not even in the sideboard.  The deck is a thing of beauty.  As a concession to aggressive strategies, the deck has a miser Celestial Purge, 3 Timely Reinforcements, and 2 Day of Judgment.  In the current meta, I don’t know that such a decklist would work.  Ghost Quarter is a must to deal with Kessig Wolf Run and Inkmoth Nexus.  Running lands that don’t tap for colored mana can really strain a deck working off of 3 colors.  However, switching numbers around a bit and overhauling the mana base may produce a list that has a solid chance.  The tournament saw decks that ran fewer than four Mana Leak.  Personally, I don’t like the card at all right now.  You are quite often outside Mana Leak range once you see something relevant to counter with it.

Innistrad Review

I have to get this out of the way first.  The only card that really got me giddy was Lantern Spirit.  I can’t help it…. I love creatures that are nigh impossible to get rid of.  The guy can fight through everything on its own short of counterspells and split-second removal… and of course being tapped out.  It may not even be constructed worthy, but that doesn’t bother me too much.  He has a special place in my heart.

First, the obvious: Liliana of the Veil, Devil’s Play, Curse of Stalked Prey, Snapcaster Mage, Garruk Relentless, and Mayor of Avabruck will all, nigh inevitably have time in the limelight.  I think they are too good not to.

Wizards, I don’t know whether or not you are aware of this, but Dredge was never unplayable, and I don’t think it needed a buff.

This is by far one of the strangest sets I have seen in a while.  My whole concept of what is good for me and bad for my opponent has been tossed on its head.  Moreover, what I considered fun and unfun are no longer that way.  Being at the other end of  ‘the nuts’ mill deck in draft = frown, amirite?  But in Innistrad, you might just as easily win from nowhere on the back of the flashback cards that your opponent put in your graveyard.

Ok… Big picture stuff is out of the way… I’m going to focus on draft more than anything in this set review, so that means paying particular attention to the commons.  The other cards will get plenty of attention as the new Standard develops, so I feel no need to review them.  In addition, most of them do not seem terribly hard to assess in draft anyway, as a lot of them are simply upgrades to common and uncommon cards.

White first, per the norm.  I don’t think you will be seeing any mono-white decks in this draft format.  The color’s cards are quite good and they will likely get snapped up quick.  Also, the minimal graveyard abuse white gets may be reason enough for wanting another color, at worst as a splash.  The colour has a lot going for it.  Creatures benefit a lot from others on your side dying, as well as creatures entering the battlefield.  The color has some extremely aggressive potential.  Dropping a Doomed Traveler turn 1 seems like a solid game plan as you can consistently get through with him.  Unruly Mob is only a 1/1, but he can get out of hand very quickly, particularly with some of the other cards white has access to.  Selfless Cathar is another card to watch out for.  Being able to threaten lethal with him can lead to some really bad blocks or outright blowouts against opponents. If you have a bunch of Spirit tokens, popping him could end the game with ease.  White also gets several really good removal spells and combat tricks at common.  Smite the Monstrous is going to be good.  Four mana seems like a lot, but triple Innistrad draft can be a fairly slow format.  This will kill almost everything you will want to kill.  Rebuke is also quite good, but it can be played around once your opponent is wise to it.  I feel like Ghostly Possession might be a little underrated by people.  It is exceedingly good against very large creatures, as the benefit of allowing them to keep a large creature for blocking purposes is minimized in a deck that plays out lots of creatures (e.g. white weenie/white tokens).  Not actually killing it also keeps you from having to deal with graveyard shenanigans.  The combat tricks are fairly straightforward, so I won’t go into detail with them.

Blue has good fliers, counterspells, and a smattering of card draw.  Unlike normal, however, blue has some extremely good, undercosted creatures.  The biggest drawback being that they require creatures in your graveyard to be exiled as an additional cost.  With the mill cards available to blue, however, this is not a big deal.  Armored Skaab is probably going to be the cornerstone to any self-mill decks in limited.  He has a hefty rear end, can bring the beats in a pinch, and mills 4.  Deranged Assistant is also very good.  He takes care of both components of the costs of those undercosted creatures.  He synergizes well with Delver of Secrets, allowing for some early card selection.  Filling out the self-mill decks, you will want Makeshift Maulers, Stitched Drakes, and similar creatures.  Blue is light on the removal end as usual.  Silent Departure and Claustrophobia are pretty sweet for blue ‘removal’ spells, however.  The best color to go to for removal in a deck that is using the self-mill strategy would likely be black since you can benefit from the zombie tribal theme as well.  Obviously, taking what you can get will be more beneficial than forcing anything.  If removal is nowhere to be found, counterspells may be the only option as far as ways to interact with the opponent.  Lost in the Mists seems reasonable actually.  Five mana is tolerable in this format.  At worst, you are countering a spell and setting your opponent back on his lands.  At best, you counter something really nasty, bounce a key blocker, and get in for lethal the following turn.  The best counter against this kind of deck is Dissipate since it keeps you from getting value out of flashback spells or creature recursion.  Thankfully, it is an uncommon.

Blue has a straight flier strategy as well.  Combined with some removal and other cards from white, the spirits and spirit lords available in blue can be a real beating.  Here, you will be looking for cards like Moon Heron.

Black divides most of its attention between the Zombie tribe and Vampires.  Vampire Interloper is the best black low curve vampire available at common.  He is good without any tribal support, so you are lucky if you manage to pick up a lot of them.  The best high curve vampire at common, Stromkirk Patrol, gets out of hand quick if he can land some attacks unblocked.  The only black vampire lord is at rare, so there really is no sound reason to stay loyal to that tribe unless you manage to first-pick Bloodline Keeper or a Rakish Heir.  Bloodline Keeper is a 3/3 flier for 4 that pumps out 2/2 flying vampires, so don’t expect to get him beyond 2nd pick (even then, only in the case of a decent foil rare upstream of you).  Rakish Heir is also good on his own, so he will not go late either. Removal-wise, dipping into red  for a vampire deck is the natural choice since you get access to red’s vampires as well.  Black also has the Zombie tribe to take advantage of.  Several zombie tribal cards are located in blue, and can go pretty late depending on what is in the pack.  Black also has a zombie enabler in the form of a rare enchantment and a creature: Endless Ranks of the Dead and Unbreathing Horde.  While it is possible to create a zombie tribal deck, it is probably better to simply stick to picking solid creatures, unless of course you manage to pull one or several of the zombie enablers.  Interestingly, the more zombies you have in your deck, the worse Ghoulraiser becomes, so it may be correct to pick other cards over Ghoulraisers in some zombie decks.  Ghoulcaller’s Chant is a card to consider if you pick up some good zombies (namely the ones in blue).  Dead Weight and Victim of Night are solid removal spells.  Relying on Corpse Lunge for removal in a self-mill deck may not work out well, but is an acceptable option in other decks.  Dead Weight seems a lot better than it looks at first because it kills a lot of creatures that get better as the game progresses, and can weaken bigger creatures, eliminating them as a threat.  Black also has a few decent flashback spells.

Red has Geistflame among other things.  The card looks terrible on the surface… 5 mana for 2 damage???!  You can get a lot of value out of it, however.  Certainly don’t first pick it over bombs or better removal, but don’t count it out.  Ashmouth Hound can block X/1’s all day, even if they have first strike.  Brimstone Volley is far and away the best spot removal spell available in red.  Nightbird’s Clutches is a solid combat trick in aggressive decks.  The flashback cost isn’t too crippling, and should be manageable even in decks that shave a few lands.  Traitorous Blood is the standard ‘steal your guy for a turn’ spell, and will be stealing many a game.  The addition of trample is quite relevant in a deck that is trying to deal 20 damage as fast as possible.  Bloodcrazed Neonate brings the beats every turn and represents a 5-turn clock at 2 mana.  Werewolves are a solid option in limited as well.  Red has several common werewolves worthy of inclusion.  Village Ironsmith is probably the best of them since the card has first strike built in.

Green is the home of Werewolves and the other half of the Human tribe.  Many of the slots filled with removal in other colors are filled with pork, as expected for green.  Festerhide Boar and Darkthicket Wolf can do a lot of heavy lifting in the early turns.  Prey Upon isn’t an all-star, but is certainly better than the removal many green mages have had to get by on over the years.  Somberwald Spider doesn’t have much of an upside compared to the usual bird-eater, but becomes reasonable after a creature dies.  Travel Preparations allow players to upgrade their creatures.  To go with it, Avacyn’s Pilgrim is solid, allowing you to pay the flashback cost.  Not to mention, acceleration is quite nice when many of your creatures cost a pretty penny.  Ambush Viper seems like a solid way to enable morbid while getting value at the same time.  Of the morbid cards available at common, Woodland Sleuth‘s morbid ability seems the most valuable, allowing you to come out ahead in an early trade.  All of the common green werewolves are worthy of inclusion.  They all become undercosted after being flipped, and are reasonable even without it.

All of the multicolored cards are mythic, so I am not going there.

Every last one of the common artifacts are quite playable.  Many of them are aimed at a particular or set of tribes.  Blazing Torch is a reprint from Zendikar, and was downgraded from uncommon.  It is reasonable removal, and can sometimes randomly win against the zombie or vampire-laden decks.  One-Eyed Scarecrow seems reasonable even when not facing down a horde of 1/1 Spirit tokens.  Wooden Stake… moving on…  Ghoulcaller’s Bell seems reasonable in the self-mill decks, but you really want cards that mill more at one time.  The card does allow you to potentially win via milling the opponent (though if you intend to win that way, you will clearly need to devote more card slots to it).  Cobbled Wings and Sharpened Pitchfork are both reasonable ways to upgrade your creatures.  Sharpened Pitchfork turns your tiny deathtouch creatures into powerful blockers.  Granted there are only 3 deathtouch creatures in the entire set and Garruk’s flipped version is the only other way to get deathtouch creatures, but the card still seems reasonable on pretty much anything aside from creatures that already have first strike.  White favors it more heavily than other colors, as the +1/+0 to humans is pretty relevant there.  There are no ally-colored duals in Innistrad, so Traveler’s Amulet may be a little better than it would be in some other sets.  Shimmering Grotto is the only other non-colored fixing available, and is valuable even in mono-colored decks.  Being able to grab any color is more relevant than you might think, particularly to decks that require off-colors to pay for flashback costs.

Well, that’s all I have for now.  I hope you enjoyed it or at least learned something or got an idea out of it.  The Innistrad pre-release events for Magic: the Gathering Online start tomorrow, so see you online!

Paper vs. Pixels

The guys covering Pro Tour Philadelphia made an interesting point.  The metagame shaped up very similar to what was being seen online before the event.  This is unusual, as MTGO standard and paper standard are usually quite different.  As one reason for this, combo decks have a real weakness in MTGO.  Having to actually go infinite can be the death of certain types of combo decks online.  In paper magic, you can just perform the combo five times and then say some impossibly large number.  I sincerely wish they had posited a reason for this.  Could it be that more competitive Magic players are getting into MTGO and qualifying for Pro Tour events that way, or was it just a fluke?

Another factor is the availability of cards and their prices.  MTGO is always in flux and card prices stabilize very quickly.  Card prices take a lot longer to stabilize in paper Magic because transactions take a whole lot longer, and cards cannot be moved between 5 different merchants in one minute.  Keeping an eye on where MTGO prices are going on certain cards can be an excellent strategy for determining where card prices are headed in the near future, particularly if they are cards that fit into competitive decks.  Availability is a large component to the appeal of MTGO.  One can check the card prices of hundreds of merchants in a matter of minutes rather than hours.  Also, access to any card you could ever want that is in print on MTGO are at your fingertips.