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!

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.

Early Access Gem: Shardbound

Games that combine multiple genres into one are becoming a trend, don’t you think? We’ve had plenty of CCGs developed over the years, both in physical and digital form. Tactical, turn-based games are also nothing new, with various iterations spanning multiple generations of consoles and PCs. We can come up with many examples of genre-bending or melding just in the last few years, with standouts like MOBAs and the new Hero Shooter genre taking center stage. The free to play model itself has also gone through various iterations, though the lockbox has taken precedence, and despite these differing costs to speed up progress, typically you can play the full game without spending anything at all (at least with the fair developers).

Enter Shardbound. A free to play title that has a cash shop, that is a combination of CCG and tactics, that sounds like it would be a little on the weird side but works fairly well. In the above picture you can see a bit of everything, and that will allow me to explain. So, just like Hearthstone and other CCGs, you’ll have a deck of cards to take with you into battle. You also have a Hero unit. This unit will have its own special ability, along with being a representation of your life total. They start with 25, and if they die it’s game over, no matter how many minions you have left standing. Like Hearthstone, you’ll get one mana per turn. More like Magic: The Gathering, cards have various effects and you can play from your graveyard. Like Final Fantasy Tactics, Shining Force et al, you’ll be using turn based tactics to eliminate the enemy. That’s the main gist of it. The tutorial will do a better job explaining things than I just did, but if you’ve played any of the games I’ve mentioned here you will likely understand things rather quickly.

Deckbuilding looks like fun. You’ll use a hero and their color cards (think class specific cards) and then flesh out your deck with various neutral cards. I rather enjoyed the purple deck, being graveyard focused. Some of the Heroes feel better than others, but their decks tend to make up for their own shortcomings. As of now the game is in Early Access so it has a bunch of temporary artwork and is definitely not complete but it is very playable in this state.

The game provided me with 30 chests right off the bat. In them, I received cards of different rarities, and that seems just about the norm. Buying chests seems a little steep and probably unnecessary at this point, but the welcome pack comes with another 30 chests for $5, so that’s not bad. I’m sure you will have ways to earn or craft the cards as well as the game is further developed.

 The interface is nicely done. Rather than having a series of menus, the devs decided it would be cooler to have your character represented by a space ship, and a series of floating islands represent the various menus. You have a home base of sorts, where you can train, build you deck, buy stuff and form a “house” which I assume is just like a clan. From there you fly to other “shards” where the PvP battles take place. I did well in my first couple of fights but there is definitely a learning curve as to how all of the mechanics work. Overall though, I think this one is worth checking out!

The War Report: Commander Zombies

The routine has been pretty regular as of late, the boys and I have gotten together about once a week to get in some Commander games and we have been honing our decks to the point that they are vicious. I started off with a Commander 2015 premade deck, and then picked up one of the 2016 premade decks as well. I made a few purchases of singles and also picked up a few packs of Modern Masters 2017, which are cards designed for the Modern format (which goes back about 15 years or so) and are usually reprints of useful cards for that particular set up. However, with Commander being all encompassing, you can definitely use some of the power cards out of them. Recently, I decided that I really wanted to expand the usefulness of one of my standard decks and turn it into a commander deck instead. Having honed and played with two different decks I’ve come to realize all that needs to go into a good commander deck, and I felt that I already had a big chunk of the puzzle put together. Here’s a partial deck list of what I had to start with:

x1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets (Planeswalker)
x1 Geralf’s Masterpiece
x1 Relentless Dead
x1 Gisa and Geralf
x1 Noosegraf Mob
x1 Diregraf Colossus
x1 Galvony Unhallowed
x1 Voracious Null
x1 Ghoulsteed

Some of these I had used more than one copy of, but the highlander rule of there can be only one applies in this format, so I only took singles of the above creatures, along with scouring through my black and blue cards to pick out plenty of card draw, creature removal and counter spells. Gisa and Geralf were the obvious choice for commander, and you’ll see why:

There are several cards in the deck that will mill my deck and put cards into the graveyard. Having a ton of zombies in the deck means I can play them from the graveyard as long as my commander is on the battlefield. It’s awesome too that it’s a 4/4 body, because it won’t succumb to most cheap removal spells unlike most 2/2 commanders. The synergy with the rest of the deck is too good to pass up. I’ve made a purchase of singles to beef up the remainder of the deck, and I wanted to go over those now:

I took the liberty of picking up more counter spell options, just so that I can pick and choose the best of them. It’s also cool to be able to pick up old ass cards from back in the day, like this Ice Age counter spell, printed way back in the 90’s.

I also picked up older card draw options, which allows me to churn through my deck for the best cards. Having the right card when you need it is a matter of life and death sometimes.

I thought it was a good idea to include a couple of artifacts that get rid of my max hand size, so I don’t have to discard if I manage to draw a bunch of cards.

It’s also prudent to have some board clear, and I already had a Deadly Tempest in one of my other commander decks so I picked up another, along with finding another with the added benefit of cycling. Artifact hate is also something necessary to have on hand, for meekstones, puzzleboxes, disks and other pesky artifacts people might pull out.

Of course, there is also the need for mana fixing, and these are some decent staples, though I did pick up several other dual land options. And then, there’s some of the kick-ass zombies and other synergistic creatures:

Nice way to clean out some of your opponents’ land and a big body to boot.

Fitting for a Zombie deck, but also has the added benefit of allowing spells to be played from the graveyard. He does have a steep downside but that utility is phenomenal.

A simple pumper that will likely die off quickly. But the amount of zombie tokens I can make can speed up his immediate impact.

Despite being a Kraken, this just feels like a great card for the color scheme. Being able to steal spells is nice too.

Cheap, big body. But it does have the downside of being attached to the artifact, so if it goes so does he.

This guy is vicious, especially when he’s in the graveyard.

Another awesome power card, that will ultimately be a big hit but requires tokens to sacrifice to be useable.

Another pumper with an added bonus.

This guy is great to mill myself or someone else, and he comes back to life stronger at least once.

A tricky bastard, this one. Being able to copy whatever big bads hit graveyards is nice. Also a commander option.

A cheap planeswalker addition, this guy has some nifty tricks.

I ordered two of this guy, because he’ll fit right into my B/W Enchantment Commander deck, but also into this zombie deck. Exiling cards from graveyards so they can’t be played again is nice.

You had me at Zombie Dragon… he can also come back out from the graveyard, so bonus. This helps with the lack of flying creatures I had when the deck was standard legal.

I’ve got a couple other Eldrazi in my commander decks for shits and giggles. This is more of the same, keeping with the themes of the deck with some card drawn and counters built into a big body. Takes a bit to cast, but he’s a big bad.

Another flyer to add to the ranks, this one has the ability to come back to life as well, which is nice.

All in all, I think these additions synergize well, and having already play tested the deck lacking these cards, it was holding its own already. This deck is going to be a monster in a few days.