The War Report: Theorycrafting: Molimo Ramp EDH

If you’ve been following this column, I’m sure you’ve noticed that Commander has kind of become my thing. I’m up to 5 decks that are all pretty good in my humble opinion (6 if you count the other pre-made deck I bought but subsequently broke up). From here on out, I’m going to use its less official but easier to write out acronym EDH, as that’s what me and my friends (plus countless online resources refer to it as). EDH stands for Elder Dragon, Highlander — which definitely sucks to spell out but is nice and tidy when you us the shortened version. Wizards coined the Commander moniker, and though it suits the format just as well, EDH sort of rolls off the tongue. As I was saying, EDH has become my thing, and I’ve shared a bit about some of my older decks though this time around I want to highlight the one that performed so well out of the gate that it nearly went undefeated last week when I debuted it. The real treat was that this past weekend my gaming group got together and instead of our usual 3 player free for all matches we had another person join us. Apparently he used to be their 3rd and they were always looking for a 4th… well I just so happen to now be the 3rd and he became the 4th. Or however you want to look at it. Playing a 4 person multiplayer match was very entertaining, and provided all new insights into our decks and how they were tuned. I noticed that the other two decks I put together most recently didn’t perform as well with the added player, but my latest creation happens to be balanced enough for either. I’d venture to say it would hold its own in 1v1 EDH matches as well.

I started with a dual color EDH deck, and then picked up a four color. I made a couple of dual color and one tri color deck as well, and then I started thinking I should probably try a mono color deck for shits and giggles. Green seemed like the natural choice because none of my other decks were using it, so I knew I had unused rares lying around. Upon doing some further research I figured I’d pick up some cards that would help with ramp as green does it best, and then just throw out huge beaters to win the game. It turns out that this thought process would be further refined but the end result was amazing — better than I could have hoped for. So without futher ado, let’s dig into my Mono Green Ramp EDH Deck:

There were a few good options for Legendary Mono-Green Commanders, but Molimo felt to fit the purpose of what I was going for. I want ramp, and I’m talking super ramp… to the point where I have like 10 forests on turn 5 and am swinging for 10 trample due to Molimo’s passive. He does have a steep cost but in EDH you don’t have the same limitations on your mana pool, nor do you have to worry with the amount of ramp I’ve put into the deck.

Spells

Ramp:

Ramp, ramp and more ramp. These are mostly sorceries but there are a couple of enchantments that serve the same purpose — get as many lands onto the battlefield as possible as fast as possible. It just so happens that the two best ways to do that are with spells that allow you to pull out lands, and by drawing cards, that can either result in more land in hand, or more spells in hand to get more land. You see where this is going. I stuck with cards that either put the land directly onto the battlefield (as there are many options where they end up in your hand) or where you get multiple lands at once. This increases the speed of the deck and there is so much synergy with the concept throughout the years of Magic sets available for EDH. Having the land to cast the X cost creatures or those other powerful spells is the whole point of this deck, because if you do it faster than them, you’ll always have the advantage. Plus Molimo benefits from the number of Forests you control, and it only takes 21 points of commander damage to beat an opponent. With 40 forests in the deck, you can potentially one shot everyone if you manage to keep him alive.

Card Draw:

As I’ve said, card draw is equally important. Though Blue is known more for its card draw prowess than the other colors, Green is no slouch, it just typically requires powerful creatures (also at home in the color) or for other conditions to occur. I’ve tried to run the gamut here, in that there are different options that can potentially result in large card draws. In one test game, I ended up using Rishkar’s Expertise on a Hydra that was a 26/26, and nearly milled myself to death. I still won that game though, drawing my last card on my last turn and winning shortly thereafter. Good times.

Removal/Utility:

Another important aspect to any EDH deck is removal. Green is sort of lacking when it comes to reliable board wipes, but we’re hoping that speed and evasion will win the day. Having cards like Bower Passage and Sandwurm Convergence means flyers can attack or block, so that takes care of another weakness. Making sure all of your creatures have trample is a necessity, and being able to destroy some artifacts or enchantments is equally nice.

Artifacts

 

Not too many artifacts in this deck, but they suit their purpose and go with the themes of the deck. Each is designed to either provide more ramp or card draw.

Creatures

The themes of the deck are present throughout my creature selection as well. There are some that will allow for lands to be fished out, some that provide trample and other bonuses, others that benefit from the number of lands I control, and a couple more card draw options. All in all they tend to be beefy creatures that are hard to deal with, and if I get enough out on the board it’s good night.

For an easier to glance at decklist, you can see my post on MTG Goldfish. It’s a fairly budget-friendly deck to put together as well, being priced at ~$77. Compared to that angel deck I put together a while back that was floating around $150 that is. If you try this deck out, let me know how it performs for you!

The War Report: Online Resources

War… war never changes.

But technology does. When Magic: The Gathering released way back in the early 1990’s, the Internet wasn’t even available to the public. A few short years later it was, and though I’m sure some sort of online resources for the game existed, those of us in my age group were still on dial-up and lived with our parents. We couldn’t just load up our smart phone’s browser and check prices, rulings or order cards. No, we had to get in the car (ask for a ride) and take our miserable amount of wadded up cash to the local store (usually of the comic/hobby variety) to buy packs or peruse singles. Hunting for rares could take several trips, and usually it was just easier to take Timmy’s lopsided trade to get that card you really needed to finish off your newest deck. Honestly, trading was more optimal most of the time, but you did have to spend some money here and there to get new cards and/or trade fodder.

Fast forward to today — and I’m sure it’s been this way for years now, I was just away from the game for a long time — and we have the technology to do everything from the comfort of our homes, aside from the getting together to play that is (though, you can play Magic Online or to a lesser extent the Magic Duels app and stay home entirely). Those of you who happen to be reading this and have been playing the game without significant breaks will probably be familiar with what I’m discussing today, but for someone in my shoes it took some time to dig up viable resources online.

This is my short list of recommendations for online resources for Magic: The Gathering. If you are looking to buy cards, read articles and find tools that can assist you in playing the game, these links should help:

1.Wizards of the Coast: Magic: The Gathering

A good place to start is the official website for the game. In particular, I would recommend familiarizing yourself with the various formats that have developed over the years, so you know which sorts of cards you should be buying, and what you should be building towards, that can be found here.

2.Gatherer

Magic’s official database, this is gold if you know what you’re looking for. Want to find every dual colored zombie card ever created? You can do that. The sorting options are intuitive and the entire collection is represented. Also, official rulings from professional tournaments are noted on particularly confusing cards, and can be helpful when arguing over rules during games.

3.MTG Goldfish

There are many different websites out there that deal with strategy, and I have found several that I want to recommend for various reasons that we will get to. However, I find that I come back to MTG Goldfish the most. The reason being? Because they have some great articles about deck tech and brewing up fresh ideas for the game, but also an impressive database that allows you to add your collection online, along with posting individual decks that the community sees (unless you mark them as private). I have linked to my own decks on the site from other War Report posts, and I think the way it’s laid out is very cool, in that you mouse over the card names and a picture will appear of the actual card. This gives a fuller picture of what the deck does. Some of the sorting options will allow you to also see your mana curve visually, and you can judge where you can trim the fat from a glance. The cost of your deck is totaled but also broken down per card, so you can see what it will cost you if this is a deck you’re brewing, or how much your investment is worth. It’s a powerful tool and I highly recommend using it.

4.EDHREC

When I started getting into EDH (Commander) a couple of months ago, I really wanted to dive in head first and learn as much about the format as I could. I started with preconstructed decks, but instantly thought of all the possibilities this format could bring and started dreaming up new deck ideas. I started looking for EDH resources as many of the sites I was already browsing didn’t really have what I was looking for. EDHREC is one of the better sites devoted to the format. Like MTG Goldfish they have some interesting articles, but they always revolve around the EDH format, regardless of if that means diving into some other sub formats, like pauper and budget deck builds. Where EDHREC shines is in their use of a database to sort out commanders and the most commonly used cards in decks using that commander. I don’t believe every single legendary creature is represented on the site, but there are many and each will make use of different cards you potentially didn’t think of. I find it is a powerful resource to hunt down the types of cards that might synergize with the commander of your choice.

5.MTG Salvation

MTG Salvation is a similar site to the above two, but has something the others don’t. There are articles, and some database stuff, but where this site really shines is its forums. I’m not much of a forum crawler, I find that most of the time it’s a bunch of drivel and I can’t be assed to search through it. However, Google has a way of pulling bits of forums out and presenting them to you in a way that makes searching a forum manually a thing of the past. As such, I was looking for beginner’s guides on Commander and came across a huge EDH guide on these forums that was invaluable. I have since also read other threads that were of great use as well. If you don’t mind forums, I’m sure there’s a lot of gold in them hills.

6.Troll and Toad

The last time I had played MTG with any regularity was the early 2000’s. I didn’t even have Internet access at the first couple places I had on my own as an adult, so I never even thought to look into buying cards online. I still did the traditional purchasing at store fronts, but they did become increasingly harder to find as the comic and hobby store boom of the 1990’s saw a crash by the early to mid 2000’s, at least in the area where I lived. It turns out that purchasing cards online is not only efficient as hell, but doesn’t really cost any more than going to a store. There are plenty of brick and mortar options for me in the area where I currently live, so I’m not opposed to going into a store and dropping some money to support a local business (I have done so a few times since picking the game back up last fall). But sometimes card stores don’t have what you’re looking for, and in that case you need a reliable online retailer. You’ll run into the same problems online, some cards are simply not available, and oftentimes super powerful/rare cards are being sold for far to much, but that is supply and demand in a nutshell. I’ve been ordering from Troll & Toad for about 6 months and I haven’t been disappointed with the quality of cards, or the pricing. Things seem fair, and the market value fluctuates in ways that you can benefit from if you time things right. My only complaint is that sometimes the shipping takes far too long. They are located halfway across the continent from me, but I can get things in two days from Amazon anywhere in the US it feels like. I just don’t see how something ordered on a Monday would arrive the following Tuesday unless it was international, but first world problems. Regardless, from what I’ve read they have the cheapest prices of any other online card dealer, but that is their one downfall. Can’t win at everything I suppose.

I hope some of these recommendations help someone out there. I know I would have liked the pointers sooner than I got them. Happy gaming!

Thoughts on Battle Islands: Commanders

I’ve mentioned playing Clash Royale a time or two. It was one of the first games I played that does what it does (and does well) but whenever a new type of genre emerges, you can rest assured other developers will run with the concept. Genres from recent memory are MOBAs and the Hero or Class-based Shooter (Quake Champions looks like a pretty cool new iteration on that). I’m not sure what people are calling the Clash Royale type of game, but it’s real time strategy meets card collecting, and it’s pretty addicting and fun. Minion Masters is the last game I came across that reminded me of CR, and I’m still regularly playing CR on my phone as well. Minion Masters has been trucking along with development and it has a fair bit of character and mechanics that set it apart from CR, to the point that I wouldn’t call it a clone. Battle Islands: Commanders on the other hand, is exactly that. But is that a bad thing?

I was browsing through the Playstation Store the other night and decided to take a look at the free to play section. I’m already playing a few titles (SMITE, Paladins, Warframe from time to time) on PS4 that are F2P, and for the most part I am very satisfied with them. As such, I stumbled upon this title and apparently it’s based on an already existing franchise called Battle Islands. I’d assume BI is to BI:C what CoC is to CR. And that’s fine. I’m sure the game world this one is based on is likely a Clash of Clans clone as much as this game is a clone of Clash Royale. I’m not really saying that the game being a clone is really a bad thing though. Honestly, this is Clash Royale (albeit horizontally aligned rather than vertical) with a WWII military skin on it. If you like CR, you’ll probably like this game, as pretty much every single concept is present, and it plays identically. I played on my PS4 because that’s where I happened to see it, but it is also available on Steam. It is free to play no matter the platform.

The game consists of various menus that any veteran of the genre should be easily familiar with. The meat and potatoes takes place on the above screen. Instead of towers, you have bunkers. Instead of a castle you have a warship. Otherwise the standard two lanes of combat exist, and you will play cards that spawn units with various abilities or perform actions like shooting missile barrages from off screen on a targeted area. These are obvious swaps from the fantasy creatures and spells from CR. For what its worth, the animations, the unit variety and the gameplay is on par with CR. It does seem to hitch a bit sometimes from lag, but I have that problem with CR at times as well. From what I’ve played of it the amount of chests that you will unlock from playing, and the costs to upgrade cards feel fair. There is a cash shop of course, and this is mostly used to upgrade cards, or buy chests that will also give upgrades, or to get currency to hurry up unlocks. These are all the same concepts used in CR. From the Steam reviews, it seems that the majority of negative scores point at the fact that it is “pay to win” and in a sense it is. However, just like every other competitive F2P title, you will earn the same power over time without dropping any cash. You’ll just get there faster if you do spend a bit. I see no problem with this.

 

Standard fare. Chests will give a variety of drops + some supplies and gold. Gold can be used to rush chests, and supplies are used to perform upgrades, and also buy cards from the shop that rotates cards out daily. You’ll earn stars from battles, and after 10 stars you’ll get a supply drop chest. Wins also come with chests, and they all take time to open. Cards start at level 1, and through gaining extra copies you can level them up. These numbers grow exponentially, and the costs go up as well. CR vets will understand this right away. Your overall account level is affected by this, in that each time you upgrade a card, you get some points to eventually level up your account which comes with the benefit of a stronger bunker and warship.

 

Overall I like the game. Is it a copy? Yes. But it’s reskinned and just different enough to warrant playing. Will I get significantly involved? Probably not as much because CR is with me in my pocket where ever I go. But for a couple quick rounds in between other things while I’m at home? Sure, why not?

Mini Impressions: Humble Monthly May

Another month in the books, and here we are with a new bundle of games in our Humble Monthly Subscription. This month also marks a year since I started using the service, and I believe that was fairly close to when the company started providing it. I know I missed a couple of months at the very beginning before deciding to see if it was worth the cost. I feel like over the course of the year I was able to check out a large variety of games, including titles that I wanted, some that were still expensive to buy otherwise, and some that I had never even heard of. Some were early access, some were full release, and some were AAA titles that I wouldn’t have expected to get at such a value. Some of the games made me wish I hadn’t bought them already (great titles I already owned have been included over the past year) and others made me glad that I never bought them for full price. Overall I feel that the service is a boon, being around the same price as a Netflix subscription for a handful of decent games each month. I always find at least one that is worth the $12/month entry fee, so any others are a bonus. I only started reviewing the bundles each month (my opinion on these titles that is) a few months back, but I’m sure some of you might think that it seems like I’m always bitching about some portion of the bundle (probably am) but I honestly feel like it’s worth the money. I always have gifts lying in wait for gamer friends, some I gift for no reason, and some I have others stashed for a rainy day. Games that I’m not interested in or already own go into this pile. Others get played and I share those experiences here, while commenting about owning such and such game or having no interest in another. I’m overly honest that way. Still, I would recommend this service because overall each game is pennies on the dollar compared to their MSRP, there are some neat surprises from time to time, and giving the extra loot away feels pretty good. Your mileage may vary.

Let’s get on with the games, shall we? The list this month:

Dirt Rally
Inside
This is the Police
Undertale
Metrico+
The Turing Test
GoNNER
Super Rude Bear Resurrection

Early unlocks for the month were Dirt Rally and Inside. I played both and have opinions. This is the Police, GoNNER and Super Rude Bear Resurrection were the titles that appealed to me this month, so I’ll be able to comment on them as well. I did not install Undertale, Metrico+ or The Turing Test as they all feel like games I wouldn’t enjoy, and I’d rather save those keys for friends. Speaking of which, if you check out the list at the bottom of this page you can check out the games that have been included in past bundles and if we’re friends and you see a game on there you might want, drop me a comment. If I have the key still I’ll send it your way.

Dirt: Rally

I hadn’t played a game in the Dirt series before. Apparently it dates back to the turn of the century, but I hadn’t really even noticed until the third game was out. At some point, Humble provided a free key for Dirt 3, which I redeemed but never played. Ditto for Dirt Showdown. Rally came out last year, and Dirt 4 is on the way this year. Apparently it’s a thing. I really wanted to like it too. The game ran great and looked beautiful. I enjoyed the fact that the career mode felt like playing Gran Turismo, where you start out with a shit car, make money, upgrade it, and eventually buy better cars and qualify for more difficult events. However, in Gran Turismo this is all done on asphalt. Rally racing appeals to me, I’ve watched events and one of my favorite cars of all time is a Rally car (WRX STi), but playing this game didn’t do it for me. I’ll be uninstalling this and I don’t think the predecessors will be getting much time out of me either.

Inside

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Inside took me completely by surprise. I had never heard of it, and it doesn’t look like my type of game. But it was gripping right from the start. A beautiful art style with great depth of field, yet still played on a 2D plane. It is very atmospheric, and there is no dialogue to the point I got in the game, so the story unfolds before you in a way that says it all without saying anything. I really enjoy this one and look forward to seeing more of it.

GoNNER

I have no idea why the title of this game is stylized the way it is, but I have no control over that now do I? A rogue-lite platforming shooter, it has a very strange art style and direction. It looks interesting enough in it’s minimalist way, but can sometimes become confusing. It appears that you can buy different upgrades between deaths, and though it wasn’t too challenging, it wasn’t something that I could see myself putting much time into.

This is the Police

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Another game I was on the fence about. Looking at the screens on Steam, I figured it could be a fun little management game. It’s heavily story driven to start off, with a comic book like introduction, and some dialogue decisions to make along the way. The meat and potatoes of the game seems to be managing which officers you send out to handle crimes. Depending on who you pick depends on the success rate, and it seems like even making the “best” choices still resulted in loss of life — civilians and officers mostly. Half the time the perps get away. The management aspects were sort of limited, but I honestly didn’t play it that far. Those of you into management games might have better luck and find more enjoyment in it, I should have passed.

Super Rude Bear Resurrection

SRBR seems like the type of game that has a story behind it. Perhaps there is an original version of this game somewhere and this is a sequel of sorts? Reboot? Remaster? In today’s age, who knows, and though it’s a simple Google search away I don’t really care. I like this game. I’m not huge on platformers anymore, but this feels like the sequel to Super Meat Boy in the best possible way. The game plays similarly enough, the familiar mechanics are there. The graphics are surprisingly good, and done in a way that feels good but still has that cartoon feel-good aspect. The words aren’t coming out so well because it’s late, but hopefully you catch my drift. If you like old school tough platformers, this one is for you.

Overall this was a fairly solid month. The early unlock for June is a game called Stellaris, which is made by the same guys as Crusader Kings. I have CK2, which was gifted to me at some point and I simply couldn’t get into it. A more intuitive tutorial might have been helpful. It looks pretty good nonetheless so I’ll be giving that a whirl soon enough. Until next month, it’s been swell.

The War Report: Theorycrafting – Angels & Demons (Commander)

Things have been progressing nicely with my playgroup. We have all started to up our game and its beginning to show. Two of us started off with prebuilt decks, then splashed in our own flavor, while our third has been endlessly creating new decks from his piles of old cards. Soon though, we were seeing things about playing Standard that we no longer liked. See, I came back to the game when Kaladesh was first released. In that time we’ve seen the release of the 2nd set of the block – Aether Revolt, and the first set of the Amonkhet block. There were some intriguing mechanics present in the Kaladesh block that kept us intrigued with Standard, plus we all had several Standard decks that kept things fresh for a time. The mechanics in Amonkhet are sort of meh. I have seen some decent cards — I was lucky enough to pull one of the super rare Invocations from the 10 pack bundle I picked up the other day — but overall I wasn’t seeing much I wanted to use in terms of tweaking my Standard decks. My friends felt the same way. I did buy some packs, and did pull a few cards that will be used in Commander, including a legendary creature I want to build a future deck around. So with our deteriorating interest in Standard legal play, we’ve basically committed to Commander full time. As such, it seemed that some of my Standard decks had themes I could build on, and from there came my from scratch Zombie Commander deck. I just received the last of the singles needed for that deck, as playtesting resulted in some tweaks needing to be made. I’m calling it done now though, and found myself itching to work on another creation.

I’ve had some pretty good luck pulling some of the better Angels and Demons from recent sets. It was upsetting to not really be using them though, so I decided it was time to build a deck around them. But what commander would I use? I honestly didn’t want to make a mono colored Commander deck, so I decided to do a little research into what sorts of angels were available. The idea really started when I saw some red devil cards, and wanted to make Angels and Devils, but there aren’t enough devils to support the idea, so demons will have to do. Given that most demons are black  and most angels are white, the natural conclusion was to make a white/black deck, but I’ve already got several of those. I ended up finding a very powerful commander that came in a premade deck that was white/red/black, but also cost a ridiculous amount of money. I couldn’t justify that cost, so I decided to find another angel card that would fit the bill, and here’s the commander I chose for the deck:

He’s a beefy angel with a great tap ability, but a hefty price tag. He was cheap at $3, but he costs 7 mana. For a commander that’s a bit rough, but the idea behind the deck is that it’s semi-tribal and you should be able to win without using your commander, rather than the other way around. I feel like he’s a good choice, and I think building a deck around him was fun. Here’s my deck list at this point:

Akroma’s Vengeance
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Angel of Despair
Angel of Serenity
Angelic Arbiter
Angelic Skirmisher
Archfiend of Depravity
Assemble the Legion
Authority of the Consuls
Basandra, Battle Seraph
Beacon of Unrest
Bloodgift Demon
Boros Charm
Boros Signet
Bruna, the Fading Light
Conqueror’s Flail
Crackling Doom
Darksteel Ingot
Dawnbreak Reclaimer
Demon of Dark Schemes
Diabolic Tutor
Doom Blade
Dreadbore
Emeria Shepherd
Entreat the Angels
Exquisite Archangel
Fumigate
Ghostly Prison
Gisela, the Broken Blade
Go for the Throat
Grave Upheaval
Harvester of Souls
Hedron Archive
Herald of Anguish
Iroas, God of Victory
Karmic Guide
Magister of Worth
Mardu Banner
Mortify
Murder
Never/Return
Obzedat’s Aid
Orzhov Signet
Planar Cleansing
Rakdos Charm
Rakdos Signet
Ravos, Soultender
Reforge the Soul
Resolute Archangel
Return to Dust
Reya Dawnbringer
Rout
Rune-Scarred Demon
Staff of Nin
Sublime Exhalation
Sunblast Angel
Sunforger
Sword of Body & Mind
Swords to Plowshares
Temple of the False God
Terminate
Unburial Rites
Unlicensed Disintegration
Utter End
Windborn Muse
Worn Powerstone

I was going to put each individual picture up like I usually do but I can’t be assed today. It’s hot and it’s my Sunday, so that’s all I got. I will be making this decklist public on MTG Goldfish though, so I’ll link to that here shortly. Overall the theme of the deck is to keep pumping out power cards that have interesting effects, spot remove big threats, and clear the board if things aren’t going my way. There are some bits and bobs in there for control effects, and a lot of graveyard recursion. I think this deck is going to be a blast to play, I can’t wait to get it all put together. My local card store had most of the cards I needed, unfortunately they didn’t have a copy of Tariel himself, so that one will be in the mail within a week. Perhaps next weekend I can report back on my finished Zombie and Angels & Demons decks.