Sunday, September 30, 2007

Stroking My Ego

I am not the only person who really enjoyed my posts. These are a few of the comments left in response:

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Thanks for the great read, Strovil.
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What a wonderful report! You have a very enjoyable writing style. I want more!
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Man, when I read the title to this thread, I thought "this sounds like Eldric" and a split second later my eye had scanned right and confirmed my intuition.

Feel my disappointment then, when it wasn't an article BY Eldric, like the last one about his pre-release match domination, but instead another referral. I appreciate the links, but they never live up to the standard set by Eldric that day. I guess the pro's are at a disadvantage; it's hard to stay fresh when you have to write articles all the time.

Huggy
PS You know, I finally played Hecatomb this weekend, and I think that game would suit Eldric perfectly.

PPS And Eldric, that spoiler trick is cool. You are like, the HTML MASTER!
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This last part is not a quote but simply a statement: Planeswlk really liked my rogue decks (as previously posted) and apparently he played with each of them for several weeks, trying out his own changes, after I posted the lists on the forum. He never had as much luck as myself with most of them, likely because I posted the lists after the deck was tuned for the current field but just prior to a change in the metagame (e.g. Yukora & Friends was posted just before Guildpact came out so he was playing Y&F against an all new set of decks).

Strovil Slays Students at Ravnica Prerelease

I could not go to the Ravnica prerelease on Saturday because of kendo practice, so I set my sights on Sunday. At first, I was not planning to go. I had quite a bit of work to do and, while I could finish it all even while going to the tournament, it would mess with my normal Sunday rhythm. Long story short, I decided to catch the 12 noon flight at Neutral Ground. The last prerelease I attended was in Arizona. I felt it was at once more professional and more casual. But I never expect anything in New York City to be even close to its Arizona counterpart in quality. I got into Blue flight, seat 5. The flight had about 20 people total; a few old men (as in gray beards and balding), a few young kids, and mostly the teens that make up the bulk of Magic. My card pool looked like crap. None of my rares made it into my deck (the only one on-color cost 9 mana and my curve would not support that). I ended up playing 4 colors. During deck construction, a Magic veteran (known around Neutral Ground) in my flight was asking people about their favorite colors and what colors they would be playing. He asked if anyone was U/B because there were a ton of islands and swamps left in the land pile. Seeing that everyone was going R/W with G splash, I decided to metagame a little. My best color was Red. I had creatures all along the curve and a few tricky spells. I figured a lot of people would go RW because it is so easy to make and play thanks to Boros. Lucky me, I opened a 2/2 mountainwalking goblin. Also because of the Boros interactions, I added White even though it was not very deep. My best cards were probably Sunhome and Watchwolf, so that also helped with the White splash. Then I came to the metagame. Because a lot of forests were gone from the land pile, I added Ivy Dancer (tap to give forestwalk to a creature). I also added Bramble Elemental because I needed some creatures with a back-end. From my very first pass through the cards, I knew that I did not want to play a lot of Black but I absolutely would splash for Disembowel (XB, destroy a creature with converted mana cost X). And when the guy was asking about UB, I knew I should add Dimir House Guard (2/3 fear, sac a creature to regenerate). I already was light on good creatures and having an evader that would not see another Black creature all day seemed like a good bet. So I ended up playing RW with a two card splash in each of Green and Black (although with the two GW cards I guess Green was more like a 4 card splash). Round 1 - Bye. Yay! Round 2 - Ari. Ari was one of the younger kids in the flight. I would say something from 10-13 years old, but I am a poor judge of age. Ari was playing WR and, because he does not know how to hold his cards across the table from someone 6'5" tall, I knew his bomb rare was Razia. He ended up winning 2-0 in round one against a mana-screwed and then mana-flooded opponent. He had no such luck with me. Game 1 I got in some real hard, real fast beats. His life total went: 20 19 10 6 2 The all-star of game 1: Sunhome. Tapping five lands for double-strike is definitely worth it. My unblockable, double-striking Sabretooth Alley Cat finished him off. And something amusing happened on the last turn. He was at 2. Even without doublestrike, he was going to die to the Cat. But he was smart. He had a 3/2 white flier who tapped, sacced, and dealt 3 damage to an attacker or blocker. I attacked. He sacced. I cast Bathe in Light (target creature, and all creatures that share its color(s), gain protection from the color of your choice), naming White, on my Cat. He cast his own Bathe in Light on my Cat, naming White, and proclaimed "Ha! Now your guy is pro-white, so your Light is countered ... (wait for it) ... (wait for it) ... oh, I'm so stupid!" Game 2 was a bit slower. He had some fliers, I had some beef. He was pinging me with a 1/2 flier and then a 3/2 flier, taking me down to 10while he went up to 23 life with a Centaur (when it dies you gain 3 life). Unfortunately for him, I laid down a 3/3 watchwolf, 3/4 forgeling, 3/3 flier, and a 4/4 bramble elemental. He would have to stop pressing the attack and trade 2-for-1 in order to stop the beats. He did not. The turn before he died, he went from 12 to 2 (to give you an idea of how hard I hit). Just for fun we played a third game. He got mana screwed and I got a fast 2/2, so he conceded that and we started a fourth. I won that one. Round 3 was against Ben. Because this was a secondary flight, we only had three rounds. So I convinced Ben to draw and we each got 5 packs. But we also had 50 minutes to wait before we could get our prizes, so we played. I do not remember all the details, but I do know that in game 1 my Dimir House Guard went all the way. His life went down by 2 from 20 to 8, then I drew Sunhome and doublestruck him twice. However, two things were pretty cool here. 1. Sunhome is not legendary, despite all appearances to the contrary. He had one in play and I thought my lay would destroy them both. Then I noticed it was not legendary. I think it should be. 2. We both had lots of guys on the board. They were all in a big stalemate except the Dimir and his growing army of saproling tokens. I was up 14-4 when he busted out a 7 mana Wrath of God - Destroy all nontoken creatures. It felt like victory was wrested from my grasp. I asked to see the card. "Destroy all nontoken creatures." What is missing from that picture? "They cannot regenerate." Well, my Dimir can. Game. Another cool thing, at least to my mind, happened in game three. We were using the new Pro Player cards for his token creatures. In game 3, he played a Hunted Llamasu (cheap 5/5 flier that gives your opponent a 4/4 black Horror). I used Tim Aten as my Horror. This game saw my Mountainwalking Goblins and forestwalker-maker Ivy Dancer beat him senseless. The death blow in that game came in a most awesome manner. He had at least 6 creatures on the board: 2 white, 1 red, 3 RW multicolor guys. His flier and a Sabretooth Alley Cat knocked me down to 8 life. I had lethal damage on the board, but 4 guys to go through. Next turn, he could probably alpha-strike me for the win (and even if not, his guys would definitely kill me in two more). The situation looked grim. Just for fun, I had him untap all his guys just to show him how the Master plays Magic. Step 1. Incite Hysteria on his RW guy. "Creatures that share a color with target creature can't block this turn." But that was too easy. Why have him untap his guys and then not show him anything tricky? So, Step 1. Incite Hysteria on his W guy. Now, that means there was a single red guy left who could block my 4/4 Tim Aten (a Sabretooth Alley Cat). Step 2. Bathe in Light on my Atenyville Horror, calling Red. Step 3. Beat in his face. Someone at the beginning of the tournament said they thought Radiance sucked. I do not believe that at all. Bathe in Light and Incite Hysteria never failed to do miraculous things for me. So at the end of the short day, I was 3-0 in matches, 6-0 in games (technically 7-0 but I do not count the mana-screw concession). I thought about playing in another flight, but I still had stuff to do. In a final note, during my first round bye, I put together a UB deck. I figured if my RW sucked in the first round, I could always use the UB to try and make it up. I never had to use it at the tournament, so when I got home I pit it against my RW. It ripped it a new one. Favorite card from Ravnica: Not sure yet. There are lots of good cards, but the one that left my jaw agape was found in one of my prize packs. Phytohydra 2GWW Creature - Plant Hydra If damage would be dealt to Phytohydra, put that many +1/+1 counters on it instead. 1/1 Like Fungusaur (one of my favorite cards) on crack. Even the picture just screams, "FEED ME, SEYMOUR!!"

Tolarian Polytechnic

The name played off the awesomely broken Magic card Tolarian Academy. The rest is explained below:

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This was originally submitted as an article but for whatever reason it was not published. However, as it was written for the greater benefit of the League, I have decided to post it here. The Rules Digest addresses common rules questions (those that appear time and again) I have answered in #Judges4You over the past few weeks. Whereas the purpose of #Judges4You is to give you the answer to your question, the purpose of Tolarian Polytechnic is twofold: first, to give you an explanation for the ruling you received and second, to give you a firmer grasp of Magic rules in general, using the common questions as springboards for broader concepts. Some, if not many, of the questions presented in Tolarian Polytechnic will seem basic and even remedial to those acquainted with Magic rules. However, their frequent appearance in #Judges4You justifies a greater depth in addressing them. This first installment of the Rules Digest is deliberately repetitive and didactic. Further issues will become progressively more intimate and informal. -------- Sure, that other school in Tolaria gets all the attention, but Tolarian Polytechnic has a long, mostly unheard of, reputation of its own. I am Strovil, a Judge 1 here at Magic-League and de facto Dean of Tolarian Polytechnic. This is the first of our Rules Digests, wherein I explain the rules behind #Judges4You’s most common, as well as most complex, rules questions in accordance with our school motto: Give a man a ruling and he plays for a game; teach a man a ruling and he plays for a lifetime. You might have heard something or other about teaching people to fish but that is just a byproduct of the Tolarian Fishing Conglomerate’s stranglehold on outgoing mail. Enough introductions; let us proceed to the matter at hand. 1) The question that is, perhaps, the most oft asked of recent weeks goes thusly: “My opponent uses Enduring Ideal to get Dovescape. On his next upkeep, does Ideal resolve or does he get birds?” Systematically, the first step is to read the cards’ most recent Oracle wordings on Gatherer, Apprentice, or MWS. Enduring Ideal Sorcery Search your library for an enchantment card and put it into play. Then shuffle your library. Epic (For the rest of the game, you can’t play spells. At the beginning of each of your upkeeps, copy this spell except for its epic ability.) Dovescape Enchantment Whenever a player plays a noncreature spell, counter that spell. That player puts X 1/1 white and blue Bird creature tokens with flying into play, where X is the spell’s converted mana cost. Now, the operative words here are “whenever a player plays a noncreature spell” on Dovescape and either “you can’t play spells” or “copy this spell except for its epic ability” on Enduring Ideal. Dovescape only triggers when a player “plays” a spell. Enduring Ideal states that you cannot play spells and does not specify that you play the copy (because, indeed, you cannot play spells, even copies of them; compare to Isochron Scepter). So, does Dovescape trigger? Does the opponent get birds? No, because the copy of Enduring Ideal created by the Epic ability goes straight onto the stack. Your opponent does not play the copy. This is confirmed in the Comprehensive Rules:
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502.44b - A player can't play spells once a spell with epic he or she controls resolves, but effects (such as the epic ability itself) can still put copies of spells onto the stack.2) What is probably the next most common question hinges on terminology. “I attack with Isamaru equipped with Jitte and my opponent blocks with Nantuko Husk. He stacks damage and then sacrifices the Husk. Does my Jitte get counters?” Once again, we start with the Oracle wording (this time only the relevant portion): * Whenever equipped creature deals combat damage, put two charge counters on Umezawa’s Jitte. The operative word here is “deals.” In combat, you assign damage to blockers and player and then it goes onto the stack. But combat damage (or any damage) is not dealt until it resolves. So what happens if the other creature is not around when damage resolves? Is the assigned damage still considered dealt? No. From the Comprehensive Rules:
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310.4c - If a creature that was supposed to receive combat damage is no longer in play or is no longer a creature, the damage assigned to it isn't dealt.So the damage from Isamaru that was assigned to Nantuko Husk is not dealt. Since Umezawa’s Jitte triggers on damage being dealt, it gets no counters. To take it a step further, what if the situation were reversed? What if a Husk with Jitte was blocked by Isamaru and, for whatever reason, sacrificed itself while damage was on the stack? Would the Jitte get counters? The answer is no. Even though the damage has already been assigned and put on the stack, so when it resolves it will still be dealt to the Hound of Konda, the Jitte will not get counters because the triggered ability specifies “whenever the equipped creature deals …” Since the Husk has been sacrificed, the Jitte is no longer equipped and there is no longer an ‘equipped creature’ dealing damage, although the damage is still dealt. 3) Our third case also deals with a difference in terminology and has come up a few times in the past few days. It is, however, very simple. “Can I use Story Circle to prevent damage from Kodama of the North Tree?” * The next time a source of your choice of the chosen color would deal damage to you this turn, prevent that damage. * Kodama of the North Tree can’t be the target of spells or abilities. The issue at hand is: does Story Circle target? The general rule in Magic is that if a spell or effect targets, it will say “target” in the text (the sole major exception are Enchantment – Aura cards, which target when you play them). Story Circle, Shining Shoal, Cytoshape, and other “choose” cards do not target the chosen source. The difficultly arises in part because both Shining Shoal and Cytoshape have a target in addition to the chosen source and because one chooses targets just the same as one chooses sources. Just keep the general rule in mind – unless the spell or ability says target, it does not target. 4) Our fourth question delves deep into the pit of despair known as The Layers. Those of you with heart problems or pregnancy may wish to skip down to the last section. “If I pay U to switch Windreaver’s power and toughness to 3/1 and then pay W to pump his toughness, is he a 3/2?” The relevant text is not on the card but wholly within the rules morass of the P/T layers. Allow me to separate the layers into lines as they are written as a paragraph in the Comprehensive Rules:
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418.5a - The values of an object's characteristics are determined by starting with the actual object, then applying continuous effects in a series of layers in the following order: (1) copy effects; (2) control-changing effects; (3) text-changing effects; (4) type-, subtype-, and supertype-changing effects; (5) all other continuous effects, except those that change power and/or toughness; and (6) power- and/or toughness-changing effects. Inside each layer from 1 through 5, apply effects from characteristic-setting abilities first, then all other effects. Inside layer 6, apply effects in a series of sublayers in the following order: (6a) effects from characteristic-setting abilities; (6b) all other effects not specifically applied in 6c, 6d, or 6e; (6c) changes from counters; (6d) effects from static abilities that modify power and/or toughness but don't set power and/or toughness to a specific number or value; and (6e) effects that switch a creature's power and toughness.We shall mainly deal with layer 6 and its 5 sublayers (traditional models hold that Hell has only 9 layers; apparently our deepest two were unknown even to stalwart Dante and Virgil). When you apply continuous effects to a creature’s power and toughness, you apply them in the appropriate layers. Timestamps only apply if two or more effects apply in the same layer. Since modifying P/T and switching P/T are separate layers, we need not concern ourselves with timestamps; no matter the order, the result would be the same. Despite that, we will look at this in order to aid learning. Windreaver is naturally a 1/3 creature. Our questioner said he spent U to switch its P/T. Since this is the only effect, we can simply apply it in the appropriate layer to the natural 1/3 and we find that Windreaver is now a 3/1. Then he spends W to give Windreaver +0/+1. What happens? Whenever you go to the layers, you start with the natural values and apply effects in order. So we take Windreaver as a 1/3 and move down the list until we apply the switch and the +0/+1. Windreaver’s +0/+1 ability applies in layer 6d. It is a static ability that modifies P/T without setting it to a specific number. So now Windreaver is a 1/4 creature. We continue on to 6e where P/T switches occur. So our 1/4 Windreaver now becomes a 4/1. Notice that no matter which ability is played first and last, they will always be applied in the same order and you will always end up with a 4/1 Windreaver. 5) And with that we leave behind common rules questions and come to my favorite part of being a judge: difficult, complex, corner-case rules questions. The first is the product of a reject rare draft, one of my favorite formats. “I use Mizzium Transreliquat to copy Panoptic Mirror and imprint Spinal Embrace. Then I copy Isochron Scepter. Can I play Spinal Embrace off the Scepter?” This requires looking through the rules for copying and for imprint. The most essential bit we learn from the copy rules is that a copy of a permanent has the activated abilities of that permanent.
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503.2 - When copying an object, the copy acquires the copiable values of the original object's characteristics (name, mana cost, color, type, supertype, subtype, expansion symbol, rules text, power, and toughness)So when Mizzium Transreliquat copies Panoptic Mirror, it gains the Mirror’s imprint ability. * Imprint — X, T: You may remove an instant or sorcery card with converted mana cost X in your hand from the game. (That card is imprinted on this artifact.) So what happens when you then copy Isochron Scepter? Does the imprinted card remain imprinted?
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502.34a - Imprint is an activated or triggered ability, written "Imprint - [text]," where "[text]" is a triggered or activated ability. Cards that are in the removed-from-the-game zone because they were removed from the game by an imprint ability are imprinted on the source of that ability. 502.34.Ruling.1 - If a permanent with imprint phases out and back in, it's still the same permanent, so any cards imprinted on it remain imprinted on it.Now, we know that the imprint ability was copied and could be used, so 502.34a just confirms that the card is imprinted on the source of the ability (the Mizzium Transreliquat). From Ruling 1 (a rule clarification made by Wizards’ Rules Team), it can be inferred that the card remains imprinted on Mizzium Transreliquat even though it is copying a different card because it is still the same permanent. In fact, it would remain imprinted even if the Transreliquat copied a card that did not have imprint because remaining imprinted on a card is not dependent on it having the imprint ability. So we know that Spinal Embrace is still imprinted on the Transreliquat when it copies Isochron Scepter. But can you play it with Isochron Scepter’s ability? * Imprint — When Isochron Scepter comes into play, you may remove an instant card with converted mana cost 2 or less in your hand from the game. (The removed card is imprinted on this artifact.) 2, T: You may copy the imprinted instant card. If you do, you may play the copy without paying its mana cost. Looking at the imprint ability’s restriction of “converted mana cost 2 or less” may sway you towards no but let us look at the Comprehensive Rules.
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502.34b - The phrase "imprinted [type] card" means the card of that type that's imprinted on the permanent. If a permanent has more than one card of that type imprinted on it, each of those cards is an "imprinted [type] card." 502.34.Ruling.4 - If a permanent gains an ability that refers to an imprinted [type] card, it refers to any cards of that type that are currently imprinted. It does not mean that you get to imprint something new at that time.Isochron Scepter refers to the “imprinted instant card.” Spinal Embrace is an instant. Ruling 4 says that an ability that refers to an imprinted [type] card refers to any cards of that type currently imprinted on the card. Since Isochron Scepter refers to an imprinted instant card, and Spinal Embrace is an instant card, and Spinal Embrace is imprinted on the Mizzium Transreliquat copy of Isochron Scepter, then the ability works! Isochron Scepter only cares about the converted mana cost of the instant when you trigger its imprint ability upon coming into play. After that, because of the imprint rules, Isochron Scepter only cares if the imprinted card is an instant. It no longer looks at the converted mana cost of the card. Is this four card combo going to break games? No. But it could easily break your head if it ever came up in your reject rare draft. As your esteemed academic was writing, another whopper of a rule came by #Judges4You. Unfortunately, you will have to wait until next time to hear the tale.

Yukora & Friends

Blogger sucks. Why? Because when you copy & paste from another website or even a text editor, all line breaks are lost. So the decklists and paragraphs in the previous posts all came out like a giant block of text and I had to manually make it readable. In that sense, I lied about not editing. It is 3:30 am, I am tired, and even though this was the post that sparked my interest in archiving these "articles" here, I am going to leave it a giant block of text for now.

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Oh my god, Iwamori, look at her butt. It's so big. It looks like one of those Kami guys' girlfriends. Who understands those Kami guys? They only talk to her because she looks like a total Prisoner, ok? I mean her butt, It's just so big. I can't believe it's so round. It's just out there. I mean, it's gross. Look, she's just so Black. ... Sir Beats-In-Face presents: I like big beats and I cannot lie ... or These Beats are Made for Walkin' (Standard Legal) This is a deck I put together after browsing my old deck files. I came across my SuiBlack deck from the glorious but short time that Black Hand was popular and winning. Staring back at me was Yukora, the Prisoner. She looked pretty pissed. "Why aren't you playing me?! A 5/5 body for 4 isn't good enough for you anymore?!" Well, actually it is. Come, follow me, and bring your friends along. // Lands 5 Swamp 5 Forest 4 Llanowar Wastes 4 Overgrown Tomb 1 Shizo, Death's Storehouse 1 Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers // Creatures 4 Sakura-Tribe Elder 3 Arashi, the Sky Asunder 3 Kokusho, the Evening Star 4 Yukora, the Prisoner 3 Iwamori of the Open Fist/Hunted Troll // Spells 4 Putrefy 4 Umezawa's Jitte 3 Last Gasp 3 Hideous Laughter 2 Night of Souls' Betrayal 2 Rampant Growth 2 Farseek 3 Sensei's Divining Top Five-Finger Discount was probably my most complicated deck to play. Rats, Dredgimation, and now Yukora & Friends (aka The Fantastic Four) are all very straightforward. One premise behind Yukora & Friends was to skirt most of the removal in the format. In my earlier games, my opponents were relying on Last Gasp, Hideous Laughter, Shock, Lightning Helix, and Char to deal with creatures. You have to two or three for 1 to kill my fatties. My opponents also relied heavily on weenie rushes. Once again, to kill my creatures you would need to double and triple block them. Another underlying premise of Yukora & Friends was having cards in hand. My previous standard deck, Dredgimation, ran your hand down to nothing pretty quick and lived off the top of your deck (well, top 3 cards, thanks to Top). My even earlier standard deck, RW Weenie, emptied its hand very quickly. With this, you only need to play one creature at a time. The rest of your cards can stay in hand. If I play Yukora on turn 3, you now have to deal with a 5/5 and do it quickly. Once you do, I can lay another 5/5 and repeat all game. I rarely put more than one creature on the field at a time. Now how do we play this: In your opening hand, you want to see at least 2 land, an accelerant, and a 4cc fattie. The "God Hand" (tm) is as follows: Overgrown Tomb Okina, Temple to the Grandfathers/Forest Shizo, Death's Storehouse/Swamp Sakura-Tribe Elder Iwamori of the Open Fist Umezawa's Jitte Last Gasp/Putrefy/Night of Souls' Betrayal Turn 1: Overgrown Tomb Turn 2: Okina, Sakura-Tribe Elder EOT: Sacrifice Elder for a Forest Turn 3: Shizo, Iwamori Turn 4: Jitte, equip, administer savage beats to opponent's face Turn 5: Liberally reapply prescription beatings at a higher dosage The deck has undergone a few weeks of testing (originally designed on my mother's birthday, December 10th) and right now this is the semi-optimal build. I am still tooling around with it and only recently added in the Tops and accelespells (in place of Golgari Signets to act as shuffle effects). It used to have a problem with reaching 5+ mana but now I usually sit around 6-7, allowing me to consider increasing the number of higher cost fatties (all of whom used to be 4-ofs). Night of Souls' Betrayal is a brick (da da da da) house. If my opponent is laying down Goblins, Elves, Bobs, or Birds in the first few turns, I will play NoSB on turn 3 without even thinking about a fattie. It wipes the board cleaner than a fourth grader in detention. I usually kill two or three creatures. I have killed five or six at once. I have even garnered a concession upon laying NoSB, as my opponent could not play any creature in his deck. "Night of Souls' Betrayal. Kills decks. Dead." Umezawa's Jitte is mandatory. I was playing with O-Naginata to ensure Yukora had trampling and it beat some serious face. But my opponents were winning anyway thanks to Jitte counters. Even with 4 Putrefy and creature removal, I still had a hell of a time dealing with Jittes. So I added four of my own and, as with any card so broken, it wins games. It, too, has earned a concession after playing out the "God Hand" (tm) detailed above. I am still not sold on whether I prefer Farseek or Rampant Growth. I have only tested them a few games now and either one does the job just fine. If I keep running into Blood Moon Goblins, though, I will go with the Rampant Growth because it can grab forests. Sensei's Divining Top is the latest addition. The deck had nothing to do turn 1 and it had little to do on later turns besides cast a removal spell or creature, so the Top came in. So far, it has worked well but not stunningly. Still, I think I would keep 2 maindeck at a minimum. Here is the sideboard, in all its glory: // Sideboard SB: 1 Kokusho, the Evening Star SB: 1 Hunted Troll SB: 1 Hideous Laughter SB: 2 Night of Souls' Betrayal SB: 2 Rampant Growth SB: 2 Farseek SB: 1 Sensei's Divining Top SB: 4 Iwamori of the Open Fist/Hunted Troll SB: 4 O-Naginata SB: 4 Gleancrawler SB: 4 Naturalize SB: 4 Plague Boiler SB: 4 Kodama of the North Tree SB: 4 Wood Elves SB: 4 Phyrexian Arena The top half is just making the 2 and 3 ofs in the deck a full playset. I see-saw back and forth between running Iwamori and Hunted Troll in the maindeck. Iwamori is the better beater but he wins games for your opponent if they are playing GhaziGlare or Greater Gifts. Hunted Troll is a safe bet if you have NoSB in play or Hideous Laughter in hand. As a bonus, he regenerates, so you typically only open him up to Last Gasp if you use NoSB. I usually maindeck Hunted Troll when I am looking for games and then decide whether to board in Iwamori after seeing my opponent's deck. Against UB Fish, Goblins, Heartbeat Combo, and other decks with few or no Legends, Iwamori comes in. Against others, I keep the Troll. O-Naginata is not seeing much play of late. I usually do not want to drop removal for it and I rarely need the speed it gives my clock. Gleancrawler and Kodama of the North Tree are the more expensive fatties I am considering. I can easily see throwing them in for Arashi against non-flyer decks. As with Dredgimation, I like to have 4 Gleancrawler alongside 4 Kokusho for some disgusting life swings. Naturalize is very close to being a maindeck card. I am sick and tired of Greater Good and Glare of Subdual and Faith's Fetters. Wood Elves and Phyrexian Arena are from earlier versions of the deck. The elves were cut because I want to play something for 4 on turn 3 and the Arena was replaced by the Tops. Plague Boiler has yet to see play but it is my reset button. Since I only have 1 creature out at a time, I do not lose much.

Dredgimation Follow-Ups

A quick collection of posts after I had finished work on Dredgimation. Some of these may be in reply to other posters.

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Having tuned Dredgimation into a nice casual T2 deck, and having created the janktastic pile of crap known as Gifts of Dominaria (Eternal Dominion/Tron deck; trust me, fun to confuse your opponent but no one is running the necessary bombs for that card), I now need another deck concept. I am looking only for T2 decks. A limited card pool keeps me focused and it is always easier to find standard games for testing. I am not seeking to necessarily break a card or make a deck around a junk rare or anything like that. I certainly could, if the idea interests me. But the only requirement for this thread is ideas. Not up for grabs: Milling, Searing Meditation, Dredgimation, and Epic spells.

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I am working on 2 1/2 decks right now.

Deck 1: I am trying to create a milling deck with Dampen Thought. So far, it has not worked out as well as I want.

Deck 1.5: I am trying to create an arcane milling deck with Dampen Thought and The Unspeakable's combo. This sucks even more than the milling deck but I like the arcane milling part. What it needs is a black or white splash for board clearing.

Deck 2: Affinity with a combo - Blanket of Night + Kormus Bell + Cursed Totem. Blanket of Night turns all lands into Swamps. Kormus Bell turns all Swamps into 1/1 creatures. Cursed Totem stops all activated abilities of creatures (including mana abilities). This means my opponent is totally locked out. Of course, he will have a bunch of 1/1 lands. But I will have Frogmite and Myr Enforcer and Ornithopter and Cranial Plating in addition to my 1/1 lands.

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Huggy, Dredgimation just took 2nd in a Standard tournament at O-Gaming. It decimated two different versions of the Rock, even winning a game against dual Cranial Extraction (Kokusho and Zombify; I beat him down with two Blazing Archons with counters from Vigor Mortis) but lost hard to Heartbeat Combo in the finals because I did not keep sideboard Naturalize (as you know, I keep all my idea cards in the sideboard; in order to join the tournament, I had to cut it down to 15). Nightmare Void was a key card all night. Necroplasm, on the other hand, may be getting the boot as I have seen fewer and fewer decks sporting tokens (although two decks tonight had Tatsumasa, and I was holding Necro both times, hoping they would play the dragon token).

I am going to test the deck with sideboard Naturalize in place of Plague Boiler. I have only twice brought in the Boilers, and both times were in the match against Heartbeat, so I am thinking Naturalize will be a much better choice (FYI, against Heartbeat side out Putrefy as it does nothing in that match and, if you feel he is close to comboing out, feel free to waste one on his Top in order to cut down his options, as long as you have another to take out Heartbeat).

Don't you hate that gut-wrenching feeling at the beginning of a tournament, when you wonder just how fast you will scrub out? And then as the games go on, it fades, only to be replaced by the wariness of not blowing your chance? And finally you end up feeling very pumped, whether you win or lose, because you made it to the finals with your own frickin' deck after taking down the netdecks?

WOO HOO!

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Another deck concept: Goodbye cards! When 9th edition came out, it brought back Jester's Cap and Hypnotic Specter. My first thought was, "Great. Neverending Torment, Jester's Cap, Hypnotic Specter, and Cranial Extraction all in the same format. Does Wizards just not want me to play any spells?"

My new deck concept is mono-black control or possible Bu control (interestingly enough, bu is Mandarin Chinese for no). Ravnica gives us the awesome Nightmare Void along with Circu, Dimir Lobotomist. When I first read Circu, I thought he just removed cards from the game. However, he also says "your opponent may not play non-land cards with the same name as a card removed from the game with Circu." That means, cast a Nightmare Void with Circu in play, you get to take the top card of his library out of the game and then pull a card out of his hand. And since the other copies of that removed card cannot be played, you can leave any of them in his hand and grab other stuff.

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Truth is, I rarely need to sideboard anything except Blazing Archon (4) for Grave-Shell Scarab and Naturalize (4) for Putrefy (typically; although I have replaced Stinkweed Imp before). Blazing Archon for Grave-Shell Scarab is done so often I continuously have to justify the bug in the maindeck. Usually, he makes my opponent think I am a fullblown Dredge deck and he makes some (minor) misplays. I have also brought in Recollect against a mill deck but I never used it (in part because he removed it from the game with Circu).

So officially my sideboard is:
SB: 4 Blazing Archon
SB: 4 Naturalize
SB: 3 Recollect
SB: 4 ???

I am actually considering Cranial Extraction and Shambling Shell right now. I want the Shell for matches where I want Necroplasm to stick around to hit bigger guys and against decks that have few creatures on the board.

There has been a change:
Out - 1 Stinkweed Imp (or Necroplasm; you end up with three of each instead of 4/3 split)
In - 1 Life from the Loam

Reasoning - In certain situations (Nightmare Void vs MUC), you end up dredging a lot and, therefore, not drawing extra lands/cards. Running MUC out of counters is all well and good, but then you have to hit 5-6 lands to hardcast your creatures and/or pull a reanimator. Life from the Loam gets you the lands and does it for cheap.

At first I put in a whole set instead of Sakura-Tribe Elder and I got screwed. The deck is not made to get cards by dredge and it needs to hit 4 mana as soon as possible. So I scaled it back to where it belongs. Ideally I would run 2 but I cannot figure out what to cut for the second Loam. I already do not like cutting down my 3-drops to 3 a piece and cutting a Grave-Shell (which I already tried), just delays the problem to when you try and sideboard in the Archons. With the Loam in hand or in the graveyard, you can Nightmare Void your opponent down then cast Loam, drop a land, and play Necro or Stinky. Next turn, you have 6 mana and can hardcast Kokusho or Grave-Shell and still have mana to Top.

The current changes being evaluated:
Out - 1-2 Grave-Shell Scarab
In - 1-2 Gleancrawler
Reasoning - Sometimes I really want/need to cast double Kokusho and then pull it off again over the next turns. Also, Grave-Shell has no evasion (the very reason he was not in the original build of the deck; I had been playing UB Reanimator and just about every deck I came against had chump blockers innumerable), whereas Gleancrawler tramples.

Now, why not just replace the dull Grave-Shell whole cloth? Because I may run into problems with Gleancrawler returning Kokusho to my hand. Getting to 12 mana takes a while with this deck. Getting to 10 happens two turns faster. Sometimes I want Kokusho to stay in the graveyard. However, I can also see the good aspects of Kokusho popping back to my hand turn after turn, especially when that means I still have a 6/6 trampler on the board. And God forbid I have Gleancrawler and Sakura-Tribe Elder.

Out - 1 Swamp
In - Miren, the Moaning Well
Reasoning - Back when I was playing UB Reanimator, I got crushed by Fungus Fire when he cast Devouring Light on the only win condition I had seen all game (Kokusho).

I hated UB Reanimator. It sucked so hard in my hands that I had to make a different version. Hence Dredgimation. Now, Kokusho is still here. I have yet to see Devouring Light from my opponent but I have seen a number of games where I lose the turn before my opponent would die. Miren is a win condition with Kokusho and a stall with Gleancrawler. My only problem with bringing in Miren is that it requires leaving 4 lands open. This is fine and dandy when I have Kokusho on the board for a turn, but they typically have that window of opportunity to screw me. Of course, it also opens up some windows of screwitude as well. Kumano takes a lot of mana to kill Kokusho. Neither would one Yamabushi Flame get rid of him. But use Kumano once or YFlame my dragon in response to Miren and say goodbye to my favorite creature.

Want to know why Kokusho is my favorite creature? I was playing a Champions-Betrayers sealed deck tournament. My bomb creature was Kokusho. I also had Stir the Grave and Soulless Revival. I also had Pull Under and Call for Blood. I won nearly half my games using those tricks. "Attack with Kokusho. Pull Under on Kokusho. GG."

Relentless Rats

Relentless Rats

36 Relentless Rats
24 Swamp

I am not going to waste my breath explaining how to play that.

Relentless Rats v2.0

20 Swamp
28 Relentless Rats
4 Chrome Mox
4 Night's Whisper
4 Last Gasp

SB: 4 Hideous Laughter
SB: 4 Night of Souls' Betrayal
SB: 4 Coat of Arms
SB: 3 Marrow-Gnawer

If you can Chrome Mox into a Night's Whisper on turn 1 off a Relentless Rats, do it. Once you hit three mana, all you care about it playing Rats. If you hit six mana, all you care about is playing 2 Rats. Phyrexian Arena could replace Night's Whisper, but why compete with playing another Rat. I have actually beaten an Extended-worthy Elf deck by accelerating into turn 3 Night of Souls' Betrayal in game 2. Game 3 he switched decks (jerk). Truth be told, I have never boarded in Coat of Arms or Marrow-Gnawer, so feel free to replace them in the board. Cruel Edict has a place.

Dredgimation

Dredgimation
or Ravnica in Flames

10 Swamp
4 Overgrown Tomb
4 Forest
4 Llanowar Wastes
4 Sakura-Tribe Elder
4 Stinkweed Imp
3 Necroplasm
4 Kokusho, the Evening Star
4 Grave-Shell Scarab
3 Sensei's Divining Top
4 Zombify
4 Nightmare Void
4 Vigor Mortis
4 Putrefy

SB: 4 Naturalize
SB: 4 Blazing Archon
SB: 4 [Insert your favorite big fattie here]
SB: 3 Recollect

The deck is very simple to play. Just hit three land and play a Necroplasm or Stinkweed Imp. Then hit four land and play Nightmare Void. Dredge a guy into the graveyard and animate him.

Use the Top to fix your draws or dredge. You do not need shuffle effects because your dredges pull the crud off the top.

Nightmare Void catches problem cards in hand. Putrefy gets them if they hit play. Naturalize or Plague Boiler can come in from the sideboard if you have to get rid of enchantments. (And if you really, really have to, Nightmare Void can get those uncastable bombs from your hand into the graveyard as well.)

Necroplasm kills tokens and weenies. You have no problem with him dying, immediately or later, because you get to dredge.

Stinkweed Imp stops attacks and, once again, you are fine with him dying. However, he is more dangerous than Necroplasm or Nightmare Void because even with top you lose two unknown cards and putting a reanimator into the graveyard can ruin a good setup.

You have your choice of 8 slots for bombs to reanimate; Blazing Archon, Grave-Shell Scarab and Kokusho are just the current recruits from a pool that includes Autochthon Wurm, Razia Boros Archangel, Firemane Angel, The Unspeakable, and Kuro Pitlord. Personally, I find it important to have at least a few that you can hardcast, in case your deck refuses to give up a reanimator. However, since you have Necroplasm and Stinkweed Imp and Nightmare Void, you are not so reliant on getting a reanimation spell "right now" to stay in the game.

If you have the choice, Vigor Mortis with green mana is best for Blazing Archon.

This deck took second place in an O-Gaming trial, losing in the finals to Heartbeat/Maga. I would have had a very, very good chance of winning the second game of that match (dredging Nightmare Void kills their hand) if only I had kept Naturalize in my sideboard instead of Plague Boiler (I was holding 2-3 Boilers when he went off; those would have been Naturalizes and they would have stopped the Heartbeat mana he needed).

My sideboards are usually 15-30 cards that I am testing in the deck, so when I join these tournaments I have to quickly get rid of half the cards to be legal. Oh the pain.

Also, this is not exactly my favorite deck. As I did when Champions came out, I have created my own deck to play and tweak as the block progresses. And it was that deck, Five-Finger Discount, that is my favorite deck. Those cards just love me.

Magic: The Gathering of my Writings

It is at times like these that I wish blogs were more like message boards. I am going to chain post several pieces of writing that have nothing to do with D&D or roleplaying. They were written over the past few years when I was heavily into Magic the Gathering and Magic Workstation (having graduated from college and started full time work, my leisure time is now scarce).

Most of these are posts I made about my rogue deck creations. One is an article I wrote for Magic-League to explain the Magic rules (rather than just answer the question, which was my main job at M-L while I was a judge). I have spent a lot of time over the past few days rereading these posts and amazing myself with the ... I will say quality of my writing. It has been long enough that these articles read as new to my eyes and I find them entertaining.

These are hack copy & paste jobs from the message boards and so do not reflect any editing, either in format or content, that I would otherwise wish to do.

Monday, September 24, 2007

All the Boys Get the Girls In the Back

Speaking of songs inspiring things, I heard Gwen Stefani's "Hey Baby" today and it inspired the thought of an old (in age) but young (in appearance) sorceress who, for some unknown reason, takes young men into her care and turns them into the perfect lovers. Part of the inspiration is the woman from Sorcerer Hunters who attempted to grow the perfect man using forbidden magic. The rest comes from the song.

She does not consort with her own, though many hold that opinion.

Chad Kroger and Santana are Changelings

Their new song Into the Night is pretty much all it would take for me to play a Fairest Changeling of the Dancer kith. The song rocks all by itself and the lyrics and music (which, I am told, are the constituents of a "song") really inspire such a character for me.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Begone, demon!

I had this thought quite some time ago (soon after I discovered Tenchi Muyo) but it recently recurred to me.

A young man is constantly followed by a demon. In my mind's eye, the boy looks like the kid from Fooly Cooly (originally he looked like Tenchi) and the demon looks like Ryoko. The kid is walking down the street when the demon pops halfway out of a stop sign (like Ryoko's phase through walls ability, except only half the demon is there) and laments about the young man's cold heart and how he is killing her by spurning her shows of affection. He continues to walk down the street and she appears halfway out of various signs, the sidewalk, parked cars, etc until he finally gets so fed up that he hushedly but angrily barks, "Begone, demon!" (he would shout from the top of his lungs but for the attention it would bring; other people are oblivious to the demon's existence but not his). At these words, the demon would burst into tears and disappear back through whatever portal currently bisects her.

Throughout these meetings, the boy comes off as a cold-hearted, uncaring jerk while the demon comes off much like Ryoko when she says "I guess nobody can love a demon". In other words, she seems sincere and sympathetic to the audience in both her love for the young man and her torment at being a demon in love.

I do not know what catalyst brings about the end to the story but it happens as follows: the young man finally acquiesces to her entreaties and just as he touches her, her eyes glow red, a wicked smile plays across her face, her features twist from an attractive young woman to a demonic countenance, and with a flash of movement, she grips the young man by the very soul (utilizing the "transparent look-alike" cartoon ghost effect). A gaping hole of flames and smoke opens at their feet and she plunges into the depths with her treasure in tow. The boy's body falls lifeless to the ground as the chasm seals behind them, leaving only the echo of his tortured screams.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Time and Geography in Discworld

I remember something about "more later" in my last post (but did not reread it prior to typing this new post). So I will share the second and third (pretty much "only other") details of my discworld:

1. Time in discworld is divided into 8 hours, each equal to 3 of our hours (I knew I could type our hours in a sentence one day). Why 8 and not 24 or 12 or some other number that makes sense in sphere land? Because I figure if I were dividing a disc into pieces, I would cut it in halves. A pie chart divided into 12 or 24 pieces would require cuts along radii rather than along diameters. Since a few cuts all the way through are easier than spacing out cuts along the radii, the choice was 2, 4, 8, 16, or 32 hours and 8 seemed like enough without being too much (it also conveniently factors into 24 evenly). Fitting the easy to cut theme, each of the 8 hours are divided into quarters (and thus are 45 minutes) and each of the quarters are themselves divided into squares (which are 11.25 minutes long). Then you have seconds, which are a quarter of a square (the name comes from 1/32's, which is what this would be; they are about 3 minutes long). A second is finally divided into 100 counts (each about 1.7 seconds long). There is rarely any need to tell time accurately beyond hour and quarter. This is a medieval-esque society, not the modern world.

2. There are three views concerning the underside of the disc, keeping in mind that the inhabitants of the disc know their world is flat and that they inhabit the top side of the disc (which is not to say all inhabitants know this; just that it is known to be fact amongst the learned and the few heroic souls who have ventured far enough). The first is that the bottom of the disc is of no concern. As a matter of simplicity, adherents to this view believe the disc is flat earth on the underside and only the top side exhibits the mountains, valleys, forests, and oceans with which they are familiar. In essence, the disc is a one side affair. A small subsection of this school of thought holds that the underside is not exactly barren but entertains such an alien geography that exploration would be useless (or, at the very least, would not be worth overcoming the lack of gravity holding you to the ground; I mean, it is the underside of a disc floating through space, or so they imagine).

The second school of thought holds that the disc is "featured" on both sides. This mountain has brothers on the bottom, this ocean its counterparts. Within this school are those who believe that a mirror image matches up directly with the perceived world (such that a mountain's twin extends downward directly beneath the peak which extends upward) and those who believe that while both sides are filled with mountains and oceans and forests, they are arranged differently (making the bottom of the disc a new world to explore). Adherents of the former view believe excavation at the deepest parts of the earth (ocean bottom, canyon floor, deep valleys, etc) represents the best chance of breaking through to the other side.

The third view holds that the mountains and valleys of the disc are formed from deformations through the disc. This resembles the second school in that there is terrain on the underside but differs in that the mountain on this side is created from a mountain-shaped valley on the underside. Likewise a wide valley on this side is matched by a wide hill on the underside. Under this view, a deep enough cave further extended with mine shafts might break through the layer of the disc into the valley of the underside. Considering the link between geographies, what must this school imagine about plant and animal life below?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Discworld

Not Terry Pratchett's but my own.

While driving to my cousin's house yesterday, the sun was setting and, since my cousin lives west of me, in my eyes. But it gave me an idea for a campaign world:

The world is flat. It is a disc. The "sun" never rises into the sky and sets beyond the horizon but literally rolls through a groove at the edge of the disc in a never-ending circle. There is no true day or night on the disc. When the sun is passing closest to you, it looks like the bright mid-morning sky. When the sun is directly opposite you, it looks like the darkness of dusk. But at all times there is just enough light to not be dark.

More later. I have to go to work.

And through to Faerie

When I first read the previews for the new World of Darkness version of Changeling, I started creating a character in my mind based on the bone-shaper creature I posted earlier. Soon after, I had a vivid dream in which I came across a girl who was emotionally if not physically trapped within a secret club. Throughout the dream, I accomplished amazing feats in an effort to find and free her (the one I remembered most upon waking was wrestling a crocodile).

I decided to use that dream as further inspiration for my character and gave him the overarching goal of returning to Faerie to free a young girl he saw there just prior to or actually during his escape. He does not know why he feels such a drive to rescue her or why such thoughts haunt his dreams (especially given the control changelings are supposed to exhibit over their own dreams)but he has resigned himself to the task. Of course, if he were to share his goal with any of the changelings in his freehold, court, or even motley, he would be considered a dangerously insane individual. Who the hell would even so much as joke about returning to Faerie?

Last night I finished reading about the entitlements and, while none of the existing ones are a good fit for him, the section on creating entitlements gave me an idea. While it would not be something I would aim for in play (unless the Storyteller really liked the idea), it could be cool as an element in my own chronicle:

You only need five like-minded changelings to create an entitlement. My character spent years traveling the world and finding the few sane (or, at least, not entirely insane) changelings who were sympathetic to an eventual return to Faerie. Those of the Summer Court, with their insinuated goal of ultimately bringing the war to the Others' domain, would be obvious targets. The entitlement he founded is publicly known as an order of rangers that pledge to patrol and explore the Hedge. They are advance scouts against the incursions of the True Fae, rescue workers finding and leading newly escaped changelings through the dangers of the Hedge to the freehold, and cartographers constantly mapping and remapping the paths of the Hedge.

All of this is just the public face of the order. While they accomplish the above tasks to the best of their ability, their true aim in mapping and mastering the Hedge (to the extent either can be done) is preparing a way back to Faerie. All within the order are forbidden by pledge from sharing the order's true purpose with anyone outside the order.

The entitlement is known as The Order of Hedge-bound Rangers or the Hedge-bound Order. Its members are referred to as Rangers by those outside the Order and Brother/Sister to those within it.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Tears of Blood

I saw an image in a comic that gave me an idea.

A character with a tattoo or birth mark in the shape of a bleeding cut beneath one eye (i.e. a straight, diagonal slash with one or more lines of dribbling blood).

Monday, September 3, 2007

Cat Characters I Want to Play

1. A cat burglar who only steals things of sentimental value. This came from a bit in which George Carlin talks about how thieves only want your stuff, not your shit like 4th grade essays.

2. An anthopomorphic lol cat. Basically, he speaks and acts like those stupid cat macros. Why? Becuz Im in ur blog, makin ur postz.