UR Control: Why NOT to build it like UW…

In all honesty, UR Control seems fair, but some of the cards clash pretty hard.  I’ve been running Trading Posts in place of the Young Pyromancers I don’t have and am too cheap to purchase right now.  The deck is durdly, even for durdly decks, and really wants to be on the offensive… or at least it seems that way.  Ral Zarek is pretty unimpressive without some kind of backup, or creatures to clear the way for, or to untap after they attack.  Elixir of Immortality is in primarily because U/W control runs it, but hitting it with Steam Augury is REALLY miserable.  Sure, you can get four cards off your Steam Augury when that happens some of the time, but you would rather have the Elixir in those situations.  You’re also not going to be drawing 10 cards every turn like U/W gets to do.  Not gonna happen. Period.  Don’t get me wrong… Steam Augury is an all-star of a card, but it can under-perform when you are digging for one card in particular and your opponent knows it (cough, cough,  Aetherling,  cough…).

If you get to Aetherling mana, the game will be over in quick order usually.  Overloading Cyclonic Rift is sometimes your only way to stabilize, which makes a pretty good case for adding Mizzium Mortars.  The only way I can conceive of to compensate properly is to make the deck more aggressive.  (earlier posts have a link to the original control list if desired).  The deck really wants to be on the more aggressive side.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

8 UR sources
2 Islands
13 Mountains

total: 23 lands

2 Hammer of Purphoros
3 Izzet Charm
1 Ordeal of Thassa
4 Steam Augury
1 Bident of Thassa
4 Lightning Strike
2 Counterflux
1 Negate
1 Voyage’s End

total: 19 spells

4 Firedrinker Satyr
2 Frostburn Weird
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Splatter Thug (sort of trades w/ Reckoner, solid blocker in the matchups where it’s relevant.  Probably should be Reconer, but I’m cheap and not running Fanatic of Mogis, which is probably incorrect…)

total: 18 creatures


3 Ral Zarek (goes in against UW Control, red aggro, mono-B devotion.. I’m sure there are others…)
2 Negate
2 Counterflux
3 Divination
1-2 Island (or UR source once Born of the Gods comes out?)
1 Frostburn Weird
1-2 Prognostic Sphinx
1 Ordeal of Thassa

The post-board controlling version seems decent, but will be a bit top-heavy on its curve, even after adding 1-2 lands.  That might be reason enough to cut another Ral Zarek from the sideboard or make Prognostic Sphinx a 1-of in the board.  The Sphinx is a solid blocker against most of BW midrage’s threats, Mono-G, Mono-R, and Mono-U devotion decks, and lets you rifle through your deck or set up for some stacked Steam Augury’s.

Prognostic Sphinx won’t be in against UW because of their wraths, which will undoubtedly get left in.

The mise Ordeal is to provide a mana sink, add extra damage, and make for a ruthlessly explosive start in some games.  I can’t see running more than two Ordeals, and it might be right to just run none of them, but give me a break… I came up with this from scratch with no playtesting to support it.  I think Ordeal of Thassa barely edges out Ordeal of Purphoros because of its ability to compensate for the card disadvantage when you manage to cash it in.  Riding a turn 1 Cackler to victory seems pretty satisfying, and it seems more likely to happen when you’re drawing 2 extra cards when you attack on turn 3 instead of dealing 3 damage to a player/creature.  I don’t think it would be the case in a less controlling deck, but here, I think it is.  Madcap Skills would get the nod over Ordeal if the curve were dropped further and the deck became still more aggressive.

Counterflux is a great card to have against control.  Sphinx’s Rev, a late Detention Sphere, an Azorius Charm to stay alive…  They can’t fight over anything they are casting!  The drawn-out counter-wars will revolve around the spells you are trying to resolve.  Since many of your spells are low casting-cost creatures, you should have a bit of an advantage in the mana department.  Unfortunately, the U/W wrath isn’t counterable.  That doesn’t mean there are no ways around it.  Hammer of Purphoros provides a sustainable stream of attackers and Voyage’s End lets you save a creature from certain doom.  It’s probably better to save that to protect Hammer against Detention Sphere, however.

Esper has a bit of an edge through Duress and Thoughtseize.  Getting your hand torn apart is a real possibility.  If given the opportunity, trade Izzet Charms for Thoughtsiezes and Duresses.  It won’t be useful outside of that unless they have Pack Rat in the main.

That’s all I’ve got for now.  Merry Christmas!

MTG and the Modern Era: Keeping up with the Joneses

Staying up to date on professional Magic: the Gathering can be a full-time job in and of itself.  Knowing the top 8 decklists from last week seems rarely relevant.  With so many GP’s and Pro Tours to keep up with and so many new decks entering a seemingly well-established metagame, it seems there is a new flavor of the month every week.  There are half a dozen MTG websites to split my time across, and there would probably be more if I spent the time to find them.  This is neither the time nor place to delve into specifics, however.

I bring this up only because I recently started using an RSS reader to help me keep up with all the goings-on in the Magic realm, and it has made a tremendous difference.  I only have to go to one site to get the information I seek, and don’t have to dig through entire web pages for the one or two articles I want to read.  The one I chose was based on the reviews on Google Play, and it is the InoReader.  You can go to http://www.inoreader.com to get started with it.  It’s really easy to use, and  has a layout and functionality that feels similar to an e-mail client.  Tagging particular feeds allows you to sort everything MTG from everything else if you use the RSS reader for other things.

Izzet Control continued

As I was saying the other day, Young Pyromancer represents a reasonable clock if you have a few instants and sorceries to back him up.  With 3 instants and sorceries, he represents enough damage to kill an opponent in 7 turns, assuming each of those spells are cast once per turn the turn after Young Pyromancer resolves (also assumes all spells were cast on your own turn; an unlikely scenario in hindsight… safe to assume the clock would be at least a turn faster since the Elemental tokens will be able to attack the turn they come out).

Pretty darn slow, but it’s nothing to complain about coming from a 2-drop.  Frostburn Weird is a faster clock, but he will require a large mana investment, allowing the opponent to run out whatever he wants under your countermagic.

Firedrinker Satyrs might not be the best plan to increase the clock.  Without pumping him, he speeds up the clock by about 2 turns assuming he comes out a turn before Young Pyromancer does.  Not terrible by any stretch, but I’m not sure it’s worth the sideboard slot and I’m not sure what decks the beatdown plan will be good against.

Anyways, I’m off.  Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.

Izzet control

Izzet is a strange pairing of colors… reckless aggression and rage meets calm and patience.  It seems like a color pairing that will always produce some form of aggro-control similar to Delver… Resolve a threat and protect it with countermagic.  Well, I wanted something a tad more controlling, with the ability to board into a more aggressive build after game 1, and early experiments have been promising.  Aetherling is the best finisher a control deck could ever ask for.  Even Elspeth, Sun’s Champion can’t do it justice (and Elspeth is an awesome card.. don’t get me wrong).

(here’s my list for reference)

Don’t laugh, but the best card in the deck is probably Lightning Strike.  It deals with a majority of the big loyalty producers in mono-black and mono-blue devotion, and it trades 1-for-1 with Reckoner (granted, you take damage, but still… a sweet trade).

The slots that were originally Trading Posts are Young Pyromancers.  The Trading Posts didn’t perform as well as I had hoped in protecting my life total.  Maybe it should be a 1-of in the sideboard.  Sometimes, discarding a card to gain 4 life was good or paying 1 life and 1 mana for a chump blocker, but not very often.

Izzet Charm is really underwhelming in a deck that doesn’t run a whole lot of card draw… its third ability is almost completely irrelevant.  It seems I’m usually pretty elated to trade this away for a mana dork or other durdly creature.  The other modes have never been relevant.  Ever.  Granted my testing consisted of three rounds of far less than competitive REL Magic.

Cyclonic Rift overloaded is an out to anything hexproof, gets rid of planeswalkers about to ultimate, and sometimes is just a non-overloaded tempo play to keep up the pressure when you go on the beatdown.  Sometimes, you live in magical Christmas Land and stabilize on the back of double overloaded Cyclonic Rifts.  Sometimes, but not often.  It is the deck’s “wrath” effect, but it costs just a tad more.  Mizzium Mortars and Anger of the Gods may have a place in the deck as well, but I haven’t fully explored all my options yet.

The most annoying threat to this deck comes out of the sideboard: Mistcutter Hydra.  If it gets more than 3 +1/+1 counters put on it, it is nigh-impossible for the deck to deal with inside of Izzet colors.  Ratchet Bomb does a reasonable job, and can do a lot of work against other cards as well.  That might be the answer, particularly considering how well Ral Zarek interacts with Ratchet bomb.

Steam Augury has been pretty sweet… None of the cards you pull off of it are bad.  Even if it’s all land, it’s still pretty sweet because you didn’t have to sit there and draw all five of those lands.

The aggressive vane in it seems pretty obvious to me, but maybe I should cover it anyway… but it’ll have to wait.  It’s 2:40 in the morning here.. time for bed.

Happy Thanksgiving by the way!

GP Louisville brews

This, or some variant thereof, is what I REALLY want to play…. Grindy, durdling, slow, control…  Something with Ral Zarek… I liked him from the moment they spoiled him… His ultimate is unpredictable.  Awesome at some points, and completely worthless at others.  His other two abilities are really solid… -2: deal 3 damage to target creature or player.. You can do that twice without ever using his +1… Pretty good value even at that, particularly against aggressive strategies.  I really like his +1 too…  If you want him to, he sort of costs 3 mana instead of 4.  The ability to untap a land every turn provides so much more flexibility and control over your manabase.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in some 3-color decks in the coming months.  The “tap” component of his +1 ability lends itself very well to aggressive strategies, so a deck that’s a little less top-heavy might end up being the way to use him.  In the control mirrors, however, the tap ability can be used to force the opponent to be more careful about how he spends his mana, so that he leaves mana up for counterspells.
Red Deck Wins is super-efficient, beastly, and performing really well.  It’s also the largest part of the metagame.  I don’t like netdecking.  I die a little inside while looking at decks online.  They are good lists… Just something  about playing other people’s decks unsettles me.  Maybe I’ll get over it eventually.

Might just say fooy on it and play what I want to since I’m going mostly for fun, and for the opportunity to connect with non-Christians.

BR aggro is another consideration.  There are a billion ways to build it, and I haven’t been able to thumb my nose at any of them.

White Weenie hasn’t been performing well (at least not that I’ve seen… and I haven’t seen much), but there’s a really, really good 75 in there somewhere.

The deck I definitely don’t want to be on this GP is GW aggro.  EVERYONE running control is running Ratchet Bombs it seems…  Fleecemane Lion was one of my favorite cards in Theros, but with good sweepers in the format, I feel like the 2-for-1 potential of that card drops significantly.  Sure, it’s possible, but the rest of your board is still gone.  Think I’d prefer playing a different deck regardless.

Theros Card Review: Satyr Hedonist

This, along with Burning-Tree Emissary can offer G/R decks a lightning-quick start.  Expect this to see play.  The mana cost is right on, his power/cost ratio is solid, and his ability to accelerate to up to 5 mana at turn 3 is INSANE (even if it is single-use).  This is exactly the kind of two-drop you want to be playing in aggressive decks.  I’m really looking  forward to seeing what this card will do when it comes out.

The International 3 is over

Congrats to the TI3 champs, Alliance!  After soaring through the winner’s bracket with ease, they faced 2011 International champions and 2012 runner up, Natus Verince.  After stomping Na’Vi in game 1 when Na’Vi’s super-aggressive lineup couldn’t find any kills, they dropped two games in a row.  However, they battled back and won two in a row.  The final game of the series appeared to be strongly in Na’Vi’s hands, but overextensions cost Na’Vi dearly.  However, the game was decided on the back of Alliance’s superior split push lineup, and excellent play from Alliance’s Puck (who was completely starved for farm in the early part of the game), who caught Na’Vi trying to teleport back to base, and cancelled several of them.  Great game, fun tournament!

GP Louisville.. wut?

This is old news, but there will be a Grand Prix in Louisville this year.  I have a surgery scheduled in September, but my recovery time should be a good opportunity (no pun intended) to prepare.  Haven’t played much Magic over the past several months, so it will take some time to get what little game I had back.  I love the Standard format right now…  it’s very healthy.  Though Junk Reanimator is “the” deck right now, “other” decks are a larger portion of the meta than any other single deck.  Standard is really unpredictable at the moment.

Unfortunately, Theros will be out when GP Louisville comes around.  I could be waaay off, but I smell aggro deck central.  A young format with a pretty limited card pool.  I’m really tempted by Jund, R/B, or B/G Aggro.  Brutally efficient, powerful creatures, cheap removal, and good disruption.  One major caveat: it’s freakin’ expensive (aside for R/B aggro… and I’d feel more comfortable creating a more controlling list in those colors).  In addition, Ol’ Thraggy (Thragtusk) will rotate out when Theros comes in.  Not to mention Snapcaster Mage and another really good 2-mana utility creature.  Sadly, some of the most important components of my favorite decks (Unexpected Results, Epic Experiment, and Immortal Servitude are the big three… and I doubt I’d take any of them to a GP, even with all the M13/RTR cards still in the meta) will rotate out.  Theros will likely leave a big impact on the meta, so this is mostly verbal flatulence.

I really like Quicken.  Rakados’s Return at instant speed? yar.  Other unfair things? yar.  Draw a card? yar.  Overhyping a crap rare? yar.  I’ll shut up now.

But first.  GP Louisville should be fun.  A GP in my area!  Looking forward to it!

Bob the Hand Builder

With Dark Confidant being one of the best 2-drop non-‘goyf plays in any format, it is small wonder that he is priced around the $60 mark.  Certainly not on par with Necropotence in terms of power level, but still very good.  Suicide black loves this creature…  Some of the old legacy lists containing this creature are pretty much Necro Lite, running Hymn to Tourach, Hypnotic Specter, Nantuko Shade, Tombstalker, Umezawa’s Jitte, Thoughtseize, Tarmogoyf, Sinkhole, Dark Ritual, and Wasteland.  An old Legacy’s Allure article has a composite list to take a look at.

Recently in Modern and other formats, Dark Confidant has found a home in a nasty little brew called loam aggro (or aggro loam.. whatever it is…).  The deck uses card advantage extremely efficiently.  Here’s a Legacy list for comparison.  Aside from the sweet lands you get to play in Legacy, things stay pretty much the same when it’s ported over to Modern.  Between Life from the Loam, Dark Confidant, and Countryside Crusher, you have an endless supply of cards to pitch to Seismic Assault and Liliana’s discard ability.   The deck is fairly resilient to graveyard hate and other methods of dealing with the deck’s routes to victory.  Probably one of my favorite additions to the modern deck are the sweet Retrace spells the deck runs.  Raven’s Crime and Flame Jab provide a great outlet for excess lands without the need to have a Seismic Assault online.  In this deck, Life from the Loam is pretty much a 2-mana sorcery speed Ancestral Recall because of the many options the deck has for using the lands you pull from it.

Bronson Magnan took the deck to a first place finish at Grand Prix Lincoln earlier this year.  It is a potent deck that shuts down aggro strategies, has lots of disruption for control and combo decks, and has a very fast clock.  I strongly suggest taking it for a spin if you get the chance.

If this present state of affairs is any indication, Dark Confidant is, and will continue to be a format-defining staple.

Modern Masters and thoughts on the Modern format

Modern was the realm of broken combos, and there are still plenty of them to go around.  However, ‘fair’ decks have found their stride, and can compete with Splinter Twin, Scapeshift, and others.  Bronson’s Loam Aggro deck is just one of those.  As far as power level is concerned, the deck is extremely potent.  Drawing cards, making land drops, repeatable discard, repeatable burn, and creatures that grow bigger and bigger.  A recipe for a pro tour winning deck if there ever was one.

For Modern Masters, modern card prices will go down.  However, the prices for big money cards in the top decks will not go down appreciably.  I have read this in other blogs and web pages, and I think I agree with it.  The demand is so high and the print run is so low that prices will remain high.

In other news, I am going to toy with Delver in modern, assuming I can get my Windows 8 computer to run MTGO, and after I get done growling at it using my best Phil Boseman impression.

Disrupting Shoal is a shoe-in since the deck will be running a ton of  2 cmc blue spells.  The 3 cmc slot has been the hardest for me to fill.  Jace Beleren seems really good.  Drawing 3 cards for 3 mana is something I can get behind, but outside of that, I’m a bit stuck.  I only have 2 Jace to add.  I might acquire a few more since he probably will go down a bit due to the changes occurring in the Legendary rule.  Using him as a counter to an opposing Jace the Mind Sculptor kept the price a bit inflated.  Sea Gate Oracle also, perhaps?  I want something that can survive a Lightning Bolt, but that may be the role of a 2 drop.  Wish me luck; I suck at this.

For those of you interested, many card stores are having Modern Masters release parties.  I am planning on attending one Saturday.  I thought about buying a box, but at $200 at the event, it is still above my price range.  I will do a draft or two, though.

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