Just a short little update today.

I meant to get a full on post out for Blaugust but this is going to have to do because I’m running out of time.

I have a rather large (13x7cm) kidney stone that I’m getting removed tomorrow morning and this is the first time I’ve ever had surgery so as expected I’m a little bit nervous.

I’m told the procedure is non invasive and it’s outpatient so I shouldn’t be too worried but the details of what’s being done are disturbing nonetheless.

So I’m going to try and get to bed early because I can’t eat or drink after midnight and my appointment is rather early tomorrow.

I’ll be back tomorrow with something more substantial. Wish me luck!

TWR: Stax Chain Veil Estrid

One of the archetypes of EDH decks that I have yet to build is a “Stax” deck. The archetype gets its name from a card named Smokestack, which essentially gets counters on it each turn and forces players to sacrifice permanents equal to the number of counters on it. There are a bunch of cards in all colors, but primarily colorless artifacts that have these sorts of effects on them. The goal of a stax deck is to slow down your opponents, but to have a gameplan in place that makes the negative effects less of a burden on yourself. Originally I brewed up a Grand Arbiter Augustin IV stax deck, but it was never actually built and then the new Commander 2018 product released and I found a new and better leader for this style. Enter Estrid, the Masked:

At first glance, Estrid doesn’t seem like a stax commander. Unlike GAAIV who inherently causes your spells to cost less and your opponents’ spells to cost more, Estrid is a Planeswalker that has a variety of effects. The reason she can be used effectively in a stax strategy is due to her +2 and -1 loyalty abilities. Her -1 allows her to place aura enchantments on permanents, which then can be untapped once per turn using her +2. With stax effects, often times you are limited to untapping one thing, or sometimes nothing at all, but with her +2 you can untap anything you control that is enchanted. That isn’t to say that we will be using her -1 to do this, it’s just an option we can use if needed. Instead, we are going to focus on Enchant Land cards and The Chain Veil to give us some combo ability. First let’s look at our main combo:

Our goal here is to get to a point where we can produce 5 mana via enchanted lands. A Wild Growth will allow a single land to tap for two mana. A Market Festival makes the enchanted land tap for three mana. Once we can produce that 5 mana, have The Chain Veil and Estrid on the board, we can gain infinite mana that can be used in a variety of ways. You’ll have to use something like Relic Ward or Estrid’s -1 to enchant The Chain Veil, then you’ll be able to untap the lands with Estrid’s +2 ability, then pay 4 to use The Chain Veil to use her ability again. The 5th mana each time you do this will add up to infinite mana. We can do even more shenanigans using cards like Arbor Elf, Kiora’s Follower, Ley Weaver or Voyaging Satyr to further untap lands or permanents. Those creatures can also be enchanted with Estrid’s -1 to use their effects further. Any of these combinations of effects can produce infinite mana with which we can use to end the game. Here’s how:

Using our Commander + TCV combo above, we can get an infinite number of Squirrel Tokens to close out a game. We’ll want something like Concordant Crossroads on the battlefield first so they will have hast though. The same goes for Luminarch Ascension and Heliod, God of the Sun — we can pump out an infinite number of tokens given our infinite mana pool. Helix Pinnacle doesn’t require us to do anything except get 100 counters on it, which is easy to do with infinite mana, but it will have to survive until our next upkeep, so you should probably try to give it a Relic Ward or Totem Armor with Estrid’s -1. Lastly, if we have the highest lift total at the table, we can burn our opponents out with a high costed Hurricane. These are the ways that we want to win, but we also want to slow the rest of the table down until we can find these pieces in our deck (which can also be done with our infinite mana combo — once Estrid is a 8 loyalty, simply -7 her to get free enchantments onto the board. We can mill ourselves until we find the appropriate pieces all on the same turn). As such, here are the stax pieces we’ll be including:

Creatures, Planeswalkers and Artifacts working hand in hand to slow your opponents down and ultimately secure you the win. Bonus with the Planeswalkers, they also benefit from The Chain Veil and it’s activated ability works for all Planeswalkers in play, so you can easily draw your deck with Teferi and get to their ultimate abilities quickly. There is another interesting interaction with these artifact pieces: I’ve included Inspiring Statuary, which allows you to use artifacts to tap for mana, and if those pieces are tapped during your upkeep the negative effects won’t hurt you. You can then get them untapped again by the time it’s your opponent’s turn with Paradox Engine or Unwinding Clock. I’ve also added a Seedborn Muse to help with this. We’ll be wanting to do a lot of tapping and untapping shenanigans, but in the end our opponents will be miffed and we’ll combo off to win the game! Probably not as consistent as Chain Veil Teferi, but I think this deck will be a lot of fun. You can see the full decklist here.

Couch Podtatoes is back Online

It’s fitting that it’s during Blaugust (which is also an NBI style event this year) that I can make this announcement. Something that started as a by-product of the first NBI that I was a participant in, the Couch Podtatoes podcast, has now been official put back online! This isn’t to say that there are new episodes at this point in time, but all 99 of the prior episodes that were hosted on Libsyn (and subsequently taken down after we stopped producing new content) are back online. If you use the Couch Podtatoes link at the top of the blog, it will take you to its category listing which is now the official home of the podcast. As of this point, each individual show page has a live recording and you can download the episodes to your favorite device right now. You can also subscribe to the RSS feed with the accompanying button, but the links to iTunes and Stitcher are still dead. I’m working on getting those feeds sorted, but for the time being this will have to do.

So what changed? Well, Libsyn was costing Eri $20 a month to continue to host our show. After we went on hiatus, she finally decided that it wasn’t worth paying for anymore, and I agreed. I had the show cataloged on my hard drive, but that was the extent of its life. I heard about a friend of the blogosphere opening up his own hosting server and giving current and dead shows a place to live, so I approached him for this deal. I’m not the only one, and it seems that having a new host has inspired others to revive their dead show. I’m feeling equally inspired, but I don’t see myself going down the weekly show path again. I’ve also been trying to sort out the particulars for a new Magic: The Gathering related show as well.

So long story short, thanks to DJPimpDaddy for graciously hosting Couch Podtatoes and getting the show back on the internet. He has made this hosting an option for basically anyone, as he announced here.

Stay tuned to this space for more information on my podcast projects. You can also follow me on Twitter @mevsmyselfandi and @couchpodtatoes as well.

TWR: Building a Tier 1 Deck

Around tax return season this year, I decided to treat myself by purchasing a rather expensive decklist. My playgroup’s meta had been shifting towards more competitive options, and as such I looked at a tier list to see what commanders were best suited for the highest tiers. Having a Daxos, the Returned deck and being familiar with Enchantments matter themes, Zur the Enchanter appealed most to me. I set about building a list, but I was hesitant to build something that was too abusive. I didn’t want to be the guy with the most powerful deck at the table who made it impossible to win games for anyone else. So when I made my initial build that you can see in the above link, I decided to go for a sort of voltron build for Zur with some additional sub themes. From what I can tell through playing with the deck for six months is that having what is considered a tier 1 general means that it will win pretty consistently but won’t be considered competitive unless you build it in a particular way. A cursory Google search for competitive EDH (cEDH) decklists will show that the most consistent and reliable wins come from using a combination of cards that I didn’t have in my initial build. Well, I had some but I was coming at it from a different angle. Having played at GP Vegas against some real competition (people bringing their A game) I decided that my lone tier 1 general deserved to be played at his best. I’m not interested in having a long list of uber competitive builds, but having one that is a real show-stopper appeals to me. As such, I’ve decided to make some upgrades. I have a real competitive tier 1 decklist now, and I would like to share these upgrades with you all at this time.

New Combos:

The main win conditions for the deck are as follows:

  • Rest in Peace + Helm of Disobedience = mill opponent’s library into Exile causing them to lose on next draw step.
  • Necropotence or Ad Nauseum + Angel’s Grace or Phyrexian Unlife + Sickening Dreams = draw your library then discard to do X damage to all players but you won’t die.
  • Doomsday to tutor out Lab Man, counter spells, silence and windfall to win off Lab Man triggers and counter anything trying to stop this.

The other win condition that was in my old build that has survived the changeover is the combination of Steel of the Godhead (which makes Zur unblockable and gives him lifelink) and Empyrial Armor (giving +1/+1 for cards in hand) and Phyresis (giving Zur infect). There’s a nice interaction with Necropotence and lifelink that essentially gives you a ton of extra card draw as well.

Additional Ramp/Mana Fixing:

To make the deck’s engine hum, I also had to take a look at the mana base and ramp. I included plenty of artifact ramp already, but there were a couple of pieces that were missing — Mana Crypt and Lotus Petal. Mana Crypt is great when it comes to generalized ramp, but Lotus Petal is good for Zur in particular, because we want to cast him as quickly as possible. The petal can be the difference between casting Zur on turn 2 or 3 as opposed to turn 4. I’ve also added the needed fetch lands to compliment the shock lands already included in my initial build.

Additional Utility:

The final upgrades are spread about with some additional tutors in Vampiric and Mystical (I also added a Demonic Tutor) that will help us to find pieces needed for our wincons, or to tutor Doomsday which will accelerate things. I’ve also added some counterspells that have a competitive edge. Cards like Mental Misstep and Dispel feel like shitty versions of counterspells, but in a competitive meta, shutting down someone’s combo by countering their Sol Ring will be frustrating for them and excellent for you. Toxic Deluge is a arguably an upgrade from Damnation, only because it costs a mana less and life totals are a great resource. Finally we come to Stasis. I feel like it’s something that could help slow down a game if you need more time to get your combo pieces together, but some might say that it’s downside (keeping your shit tapped when you sacrifice it) makes it less worthwhile. I’m going to test it out and see what happens.

So there you have it. Checkout the full decklist here. I have ordered the majority of these cards at this point and will have the deck up and running again soon. A couple of the more expensive pieces will have to wait, but it will eventually be completed. I can’t wait to try it out and see how much it can crush the competition!

Thoughts on Tooth & Tail

Tooth and Tail is a game that I first saw advertised on Steam. I was a huge RTS fan as a youth, and although I’d say my interest in the genre has waned, I still enjoy the concept. I ended up buying my copy at some point during a sale on the Playstation store, and despite usually thinking RTS style games would be best played with mouse and keyboard, this one is simplified enough to work well on a controller. Graphically it’s pixel art, but elegant enough in its simplicity. The action is pretty fast yet feels easier to keep up on than most RTS games I’ve played — there’s less micromanagement. The story goes that sentient animals are tired of eating grain and want to eat meat, so they kill other factions to then eat them. I guess it’s cannibalism, but they’re rolling with it. There are four factions according to the lore, but thus far I have only played as one and met a second. I’m not sure what part the others play but that will be revealed.

After a short tutorial that directs you on how to use your general to rally troops, tell them to back off, or give individual orders to specific unit types, you’ll then learn how to claim and build buildings. You use your commander to do all the things, but this keeps you from having to jump all over the map to control individual groups.

During the campaign, new levels of depth are added as you progress. Generally, on most maps you’ll plant farms to feed your soldiers, build spawning buildings that make the different units, and then attack the enemy faction’s bases to capture them and eventually control the map.

In between battles you be able to explore this tavern that has various bits and bobs to read and NPCs to chat up. You’ll get your next mission from new characters each time.

On some levels you’ll recruit mercenaries that will help defend you as you build up your base. Each level has a win condition and then a “heroic” goal that will gain you an additional star rating. I assume this is some sort of gating or perhaps just a goal for trophies. I’ll figure that much out sooner or later.

Overall it’s a game like many others, but it has a certain charm that appeals to me. Outside of the campaign there appears to be a multiplayer skirmish mode which is probably where the real fun lies. If I’m not mistaken this multiplayer is both local and online. I’d recommend it if you’re looking for a jump-in, jump-out strategy game. It’s fun in short bursts, and it’s definitely worth the price if you can get it on sale.