Sunday, June 23, 2019

So, this is your Magic 2019

So, Friday I was home sick. I went through a bottle of Dayquil and a box of kleenex flat on my back. Luckily, the Mythic Championship was on.

I think the field of yesterday's Mythic Championship was 41% Esper varients. Regardless of how much it was, the entire first day of coverage, bizarrely, chose to focus on the Esper decks, and the number of mirror matches with slight variations was a bit overwhelming. There were other decks in the competition but all I saw on the screen for 8 hours was Teferi activations.

I was thankful I wasn't on the broadcast staff. Can you imagine trying to make 8 hours of Teferi activations exciting?

Take a look at that screenshot. I had one yesterday with 6 Teferi's on camera between hand, board and graveyard. It's got the twitch chat in it so I used this one instead.

I watched coverage all day and I gotta say, little depressed. Not even white weenie or Gruul or anything stood a chance against Thought Erasure and Teferi. Teferi being the biggest. It hits the board, solves the biggest problem, then your opponent has to kill it somehow, delaying doing anything else but that. The card is unfair and it's not going away.

Imagine this: Your opponent bolts your creature. Now, when you start your turn, you have to attack the lightning bolt. Because if you don't, that lightning bolt is going to continue to have an effect on the board, and in two turns, it's going to bolt you again.

There's no way around this. You HAVE to attack the lightning bolt. It can't stay on the board. Did you have another strategy in mind? Like, maybe going for the face? Or maybe using some discard or drawing cards? Well, that's great but priority one is killing that bolt aka Teferi.

And that card is not rotating out for a long time. Chance of it being banned is somewhere south of zero.

Watching yesterdays tournament gave me the impression that mid-range is not even an option and even agro struggles against Esper.

But, there is some good news that showed up in my feed this morning.

Friday, June 14, 2019

The theme of my playstyle

Magic Arena and the State of Green

First off, I’m going to give a big shout out to WOTC R&D and to the team that programmed Magic Arena because that program is fantastic. I never thought they would be able to come up with a program that makes playing Magic on a computer so smooth.

So, just to see how it goes, I’m going to be streaming tomorrow morning.

I’ll be playing the deck below so I thought I would do a quick “State of Green” impression.

4 Llanowar Elves (DAR) 168
24 Forest (RIX) 196
1 Ripjaw Raptor (XLN) 203
2 Territorial Allosaurus (DAR) 184
4 Vine Mare (M19) 207
3 God-Eternal Rhonas (WAR) 163
2 Gigantosaurus (M19) 185
1 Pelt Collector (GRN) 141
4 Steel Leaf Champion (DAR) 182
4 Thrashing Brontodon (RIX) 148
4 Thorn Lieutenant (M19) 203
2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger (RIX) 130
1 Nullhide Ferox (GRN) 138
4 Rabid Bite (M19) 195

Starting with the good: All of the colors have seen some serious power creep since I last played but this hasn’t negatively affected the game at all. I think this is mostly because the combat phase is still a thing. A big thing. It’s rough when you want to play a mid-range deck and your third opponent in a row casts “Thought Erasure” into “Thief of Sanity” and you’re not playing red… but then you just go play burn and get paired with a white life gain deck… Wait…

There are a lot of planeswalkers in play right now and one of the solutions to that is to play agro. And while the deck above is mostly agro it’s still a bit mid rangy thanks to the higher casting costs of things and the Rabid Bites.

So, this deck pretty much illustrates how I feel about Green right now. Green has always been about big dumb creatures, mana fixing and utility. As far as big dumb creatures, WOTC gets an A+ on making sure that the biggest, most threatening creatures are now Green. That wasn’t always the case but it certainly is now.

When I get sick of opposing Planeswalkers, I pull this deck out. And it has done very well for me.
Nothing says “punch a control player in the junk” like a 5/4 “can’t be blocked by anything you have on the board” turn two Steel Leaf Champion. And nothing says “Coming to punch you in the junk some more” like a turn 3 can’t be bounced by Teferi, can’t be lava coiled, hexproof 5/3 Mare.
And with Green’s creatures it just keeps getting better. I like when all the most powerful cards AREN’T multicolor. It gets stale that a good portion of the Magic population likes to mix and match their colors like it’s a buffet and you can take a little bit of everything. Where’s the benefit to playing a solid color? Well, that benefit is in Gigantosaurus. You’re rewarded for playing a creature deck in Nullhide Ferox and in Ghalta.

These are the cards I have always wanted. Real creatures with real benefits for playing a style I like even if it is dumb and little kidish.

And while Green has to have some limitations in the form of creature elimination, elimination based on fighting other creatures seems perfectly in line with Green’s theme and yet, is just as clunky as it should be. I’ve made this deck without Rabid Bite but it performs better with it. Without it, Thief of Sanity is going to run wild on you, casting Gigantosaurus with blue lands. We cannot have that.
And Carnage Tyrant. That’s a love letter to green players.

So, when I first started playing again, I focused on mono green and I love what they’ve done with the color and these thoughts just scratch the surface of all there is to love about Green right now.
Sadly, I’m going to finish this up with some mild disappointment in just two areas.

I do wish there was more trample in Green and I also wish there was another 1 drop mana accelerant. I understand why these things don’t exist but they have in the past with either Findhorn elves, wild growth and Birds of Paradise. I mean, if Red can have a 30 direct damage spells deck in every format, and Blue can do the same with Counterspells or fliers, and Black can do it with creature elim or discard, I’m not sure why Green can’t always have a deck with 8-12 one mana accelerators.

And there is a lot of trample in Green, don’t get me wrong, but there isn’t an Overrun effect where all your creatures gain trample and a bonus for a turn. I mean, I get it, it ends games fast and it’s an abrupt end. But red can kill you on turn 4 sometimes so why not?

Pretty much the most minor of nits there are.

I’ve been back to Magic for a few months and while it took me a few days to get used to Planeswalkers OMG SO MANY PLANESWALKERS! I got used to it. And learned to play them myself.

Thursday, June 13, 2019


This is the message that greeted me when I opened Facebook this evening.

“Arena is trash. That is all.”

It comes from a competitive friend who has just gone on tilt. I know we have all been there.

On Facebook I have a group that until recently was called “Hearthstone” but has recently been renamed “The Attack Phase.” I still play Hearthstone and am working on a Lucentbark deck right now, but thanks to the wonderful new program Magic:Arena, I have been delving into Magic again.
In the group are most of the members of Team Quarterstaff and Team Comics & Collectibles. Ira Wonderboy is now a much older Wonderman. Keith Kenyon, aka, “KrankyK”, is older so, even crankier. The “Serra Girl” Michele was down this weekend and I showed her Magic: Arena.

Michele remains one of my best friends. This Christmas she gave me a book called
 “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

The main tenet is that caring too much is what leads to anxiety, feelings of inadequacy, impotence and, yes, rage.

Like, when you care too much about Magic and want to toss your cards across the room. Or break your keyboard or just vent to a Facebook group that Magic sucks.
The book is very good and has given me a perspective on a few things in my life.

I started putting these lessons into play when I played Magic and Hearthstone. Because there’s a lot of luck in this game. And when you get a bad beat, it's so much better for your attitude and blood pressure if you just realize it was a bad beat and let it go. Maybe next game you’ll curve out perfectly and your opponent won’t. Maybe you’ll get a good matchup, whatever. It's just a game, have fun.

That worked for about a day but I quickly noticed that something was missing.

Like, why do Billionaires keep working? Why do trust fund babies get bored? Why does Tiger Woods want to be a champion again?
Humans are built to want more. To strive for more. For longer. Faster. Stronger. Better. More. More more.

And if you don’t care, you’re not striving. You're going for more you’re just throwing cards at your opponent.

So, the secret, as always, is a balance.

You will not be shocked to learn that when I got back into the game, I delved right into the fatties, getting to know what WOTC’s vision for Green is these days.

And I started out hating War of the Sparks. Because when you want to attack with big creatures and swing with everything, taking a turn off to play a planeswalker doesn’t help you. Unlike control, aggro decks rarely want to do anything other than play a creature and swing.

Michele comes down about once a month for the weekend and we play games. Azul, Dominion, Catan.  And I have been really interested in trying out Magic Commander with her and Wendy.
And you know, despite the fact that my huge stompy deck has been smashing face and finally got me to Platinum rank, I really do want to play with some of the cards. So I started slowly adding in some planeswalkers and started to realize that there was more to this game than turning things sideways. And maybe it would be cool to play a two-player version of Commander with these new cards. And then I started looking at the new decklists on Star City Games and felt something I had never felt before.

A desire to play Bant.

Magic Arena

Big Red is by far my favorite deck right now. The main reason for that?

Goblin Chainwhirler.

I don't think I have seen a card so likely to make Kibler stop playing Standard since Lifebane Zombie.

This card is so broken and every time I play it, I'm just amazed it saw print. If you are playing Green or Bant or anything involving mana creatures, this is just a beating. If you are playing WW it is a beating. Tokens of any kind - beating. Planeswalkers? Remove a counter for all of them.

I know it's not that big a deal to say that I made Platinum this morning but that was literally 3 levels with just big red and most of the time it was just pure domination. Plus, sometimes you play a mogg fanatic and your opponent just concedes because burn is the best deck in the format right now.

I think the only thing I would change is the Legendary Zombies for either more Bladewing or more Phoenix of which I have neither.

1 Demanding Dragon (M19) 135
23 Mountain (RIX) 195
4 Shock (M19) 156
4 Lightning Strike (XLN) 149
2 Runaway Steam-Kin (GRN) 115
4 Goblin Chainwhirler (DAR) 129
2 Risk Factor (GRN) 113
2 Sarkhan the Masterless (WAR) 143
1 Rekindling Phoenix (RIX) 111
4 Fanatical Firebrand (RIX) 101
3 Chandra, Fire Artisan (WAR) 119
2 Verix Bladewing (DAR) 149
2 Neheb, Dreadhorde Champion (WAR) 140
2 Ilharg, the Raze-Boar (WAR) 133
2 Lava Coil (GRN) 108
2 Sarkhan, Fireblood (M19) 154

This guy is about to have a bad time...

I played the Chainwhirler, attacked, put the dragon into play and he conceded.