The War Report: Aminatou Blink

When new sets release in the Magic: The Gathering universe, I tend to focus on building some EDH decks around some of the new legendary creatures of the set, but sometimes (as with Guilds of Ravnica) there are only a handful of new legendary creatures and only some of them interest me as commanders. As such, there are times between set releases that I have to dig into the past for inspiration. There are still a ton of viable legendary creatures out there, and many of them deserve to see play even if they’ve been out for a long time. Many of these legendary creatures aren’t viable in any other format to boot. So for this edition of the column I’m looking at one of the Planeswalkers from Commander 2018 that I hadn’t yet built a deck around. I’m talking about Aminatou, the Fateshifter:

Of the Planeswalkers-as-Commanders introduced with this set, Aminatou was at first glance not something I was interested in building around. However, she came with Yuriko in her deck, so I picked it up anyway so I could build around a sweet ninja commander. Having this card on hand I decided that I should at least see if I could find something interesting to do with it, and decided that I wanted to focus on her blink ability and to find ways to exploit it. Her card selection ability is nice for setting up miracles as well, so I have included a light miracle sub theme. Let’s look at some of the cards we can have some fun with by blinking them:

Blink Targets:

All of these creatures have an enters the battlefield effect that are prime targets for blink effects. Not only will you get the original trigger off of the first cast, if this creature dies and is recurred from the graveyard you’ll get the trigger again. Or, if you use Aminatou’s ability you can then blink one creature per turn for instant value. As such, I’ve included additional ways to blink for when you don’t have your commander on the board or to blink groups of creatures at a time.

Other Blink Effects:

These cards allow us to blink one or more creatures under different circumstances. Brago is essentially a backup commander due to being a great blink enabler. With cards like Flickerwisp you can also blink enchantments, so Oath of Teferi can be blinked to blink again, or you can target Disinformation Campaign to draw cards and make opponents discard. There’s a ton of fun to be had here by blinking everything just to get a ton of ETB effects. One issue we might face though is ramping up to be effective, so I’ve included some special cards to help us out there:

Ramp

Nothing too out of the ordinary here, just some creatures that will get you land with their ETB, which can be targeted with blink effects, and one spell that is essentially Land Tax in sorcery form. I may add a Land Tax as well after I test if more is needed. Besides this there are plenty of mana rocks and a Panharmonicon to help us get extra triggers off of the ETBs.

Miracles:

These are simply the best miracles in these colors. We can pump out a bunch of Angels as a finisher, do a mass recursion to get a ton of ETB effects, bounce all non-land permanents to owner’s hands, grab an extra turn, or put all creatures on the bottom of libraries. These can be easily manipulated with Aminatou, as her +1 allows you to draw a card and then put a card on top of your library, guaranteeing that a miracle is the card you draw next turn, thereby allowing you to cast it for its miracle cost. Nice!

Otherwise I’ve included a pretty standard removal package, and enough lands to get things done on a budget. The deck is currently valued at about $190, and includes several cards from her precon as well, so consider this a budget upgrade to the base deck. You can see the full list here.

TWR: Ultimate Masters Spoiled

Ulitmate Masters releases early next month, and it was just recently spoiled. When we first found out about the set, there was some community backlash because of the increased price point, but we have already seen lower than MSRP pricing for box pre-orders at LGS and online retailers. They also spoiled the box toppers which I showed off earlier in the month. That sneak peak of the set was enough to color me interested, with some amazing reprints coming and simply too many good cards that I’d love to get copies of. However, with the ridiculous $300+ price tag for a box, I figure I’ll only buy a couple packs and then buy singles as the reprints should drive the price down on some of the better cards.

People figured out that because the 3-booster blister packs were being sold at box stores like Wal-Mart and Target, they could actually buy the same 24 packs for a lesser price than buying a box, but then they would miss out on the box toppers. I’m in love with these new super art cards but I can’t justify the expense so I’ll likely never have one. I’m okay with this, and am going to roll the dice on a few packs just to see if I can make my money back. Anyhow, the rest of the set is public information now, so there’s a few cards I wanted to highlight that weren’t given the box topper treatment. Despite the fact that there are some multi-colored and hybrid mana cards in this set, none of them are particularly good so I skipped those. Let’s take a look.

Colorless and Land:

Holy shit! Phyrexian Altar hasn’t been reprinted in a long time and is a great card! I really wish they would have reprinted Mana Crypt instead, but this is a damn good artifact as well. Eldrazi are getting some love too, with this set containing some of the best Eldrazi along with a couple of their tribal spells. These aren’t great for every deck, but if you want an Eldrazi theme or a good finisher, they can work great (mostly in EDH). The couple of lands I highlighted here are also interesting, one essentially being a ashnod’s altar but provides black mana, and the other is a land that replaces itself if it happens to hit the graveyard, which is pretty cool.

White:

The Wall of Reverence is a shoo in for lifegain decks but would also be a nice add for Arcades, where it becomes a nice beefy attacker and will also keep our life total high. Heliod’s Pilgrim is a nice tutor in the right decks, and Containment Priest will fuck over token decks. Cool utility.

Blue:

 

I didn’t see a lot to love in blue outside of these two cards. I’ve been wanting a Glen Elendra Archmage for some time but it’s a bit pricey at the moment. Counterspells on creatures are a nice touch and it’s a wizard to boot. Dig through time is just a nice spell all around, especially if you can cheat its mana costs — I have one in my Jodah deck for this reason.

Black:

Black had a strong showing. Buried Alive and Entomb are the two best graveyard tutors for decks that want this effect. Unburial Rites works right along side them to allow you to cheat big fatties into play on the cheap. Shriekmaw has been a staple for some time now, especially in decks with recursion. Songs of the Damned was a surprise for me, but I actually really like it for big mana mono-black decks.

Red:

Gamble is red’s only solid tutor, and copies of it are still in demand. Anger is a nice haste enabler for decks that need it. Seize the day is another extra combat card, but these are nice to have when playing red.

Green:

Fecundity is a nice enchantment for sacrifice themed decks. Card draw is always a good thing. Ditto ramp, with Kodama’s Reach being one of the best (alongside cultivate). It’s not expensive but still a great card. I’m happy to see Pattern of Rebirth here too, as that will slot right into my Karador deck.

Overall the set looks great. I won’t be able to buy as much of it as I would like due to the higher price point, but fingers crossed that I’ll be able to get something good out of the packs I do pick up. Then singles will round things out. Good stuff to look forward too, for sure!

TWR: Disconnected Weekend

A couple of months ago my stepson signed up to play Magic: The Gathering at his after school program. Apparently one of the counselors plays the game and wanted to encourage kids to play. He provided starter packs that the kids got to play with that appear to be the packs that are given out at Magic Open House events, just before each new set releases. He ended up with a Mono White 60 card deck that he seemed to enjoy. Because he was able to learn the basics at his school, I could then take over and teach him more of the nuance.

After Guilds of Ravnica released, I was able to go pick him up a couple of the Planeswalker decks so he could see the new mechanics of the set along with the mechanics of Planeswalkers in general. A couple of weeks back we had a session where he played Vraska and I played Ral and we had a pretty good time. He won a couple of games and so did I, but as you all know I tend to prefer playing Commander over standard, so I’ve been pushing him in that direction as well. He had a bit of experience under his belt with standard play, but also had a couple of modest collections sent to him from his mom’s friends, so I built him an EDH deck to play with.

This past weekend with all of the wildfires that were surrounding our valley there was worry about property burning but also the Internet went down for over 24 hours. This meant no one in the house was playing video games or watching anything as we don’t have regular cable — everything we watch is via streaming services so we were all out of luck. This did mean however that we had time to play Magic, so that was actually a bit of a boon. My roommate and I were playing some EDH and he watched for a bit, but when we took a break he decided that he wanted to try it out. He pulled out his EDH deck that I had built for him, and I used one of my more recent builds that is not quite done.

He seemed to enjoy his commander, but the rest of the deck was pretty sub-par. This isn’t something I did on purpose, but I only used cards in his possession to make the deck so he didn’t have the advantage of building it himself or having enough good cards in those colors to make something competitive. My Selvala list is nice, but I don’t have a good 30% of the cards needed so I just filled in with other cards that would work. I ended up winning this round but it was still pretty close for a time.

The next day he said he wanted a rematch, but I instead chose to run my Tawnos deck. It’s another deck that I had most of the cards for but I am missing a chunk of the cards that will eventually go into it. It still performed well and he didn’t really get much of a chance to do anything before I was winning. Since we know that his deck is sub-par, I decided to let him use one of my decks to play for the next round.

He chose my Selvala deck because he had seen what it could do and seemed interested in it. I chose to run my Wall deck because it’s a little slower going and thought it would give him a better chance to win. He seemed impressed with my deck building and loved seeing some of the cool effects that exist within Magic’s history but aren’t really represented in Standard. Arcades has a bad habit of going off out of nowhere so there was a point in time where I could have won the round but chose to do something else instead and he managed to win by casting Approach of the Second Sun twice. He was thrilled to win and seems very into the format. Now I’ve convinced him to get one of the Commander 2018 precons to mess around with and in the meantime I’m going to try and make his existing commander deck a bit better. It’s nice to have someone new to play the game with and bringing the next generation into the game is an awesome experience. Look forward to having more games in the future!

TWR: Thoughts on Ultimate Masters

Earlier in the year, Wizards of the Coast had said that Masters sets were not performing as expected, the community had made it clear that some of the reprints were not desirable while many cards that are super expensive were not making their way to these sets. Masters 25 which released earlier this year was said to be their best offering to date, and they went ahead and increased the price saying using that justification. The set ended up being a bit of a flop. There were some cool cards reprinted while most of it was chaff. The company said this was because Masters sets are meant to be drafted, but honestly the focus of these sets were supposed to give Modern players reprints and new weapons to use. It was also a beneficial set for Commander players who want reprints of cards deemed too expensive.

A while back, Guilds of Ravnica released and with it a “Mythic Edition” that was not well received by the community. It was sold only through Hasbro Direct and was rather expensive. In it, you got “super art” reprints of Planeswalkers, and then some boosters of the new set. Apparently it was sold out very quickly and people had issues with the website or didn’t get to order at all. Wizards took it upon themselves to then send some “Ultimate Box Toppers” to those who were negatively impacted by the purchase. Thought this is a good PR move, this does kind of feel like a slap in the face to those of us who said “fuck that” to buying one of these boxes. We thought it was overpriced, and we were not then subsequently rewarded for trying to buy said product. Whatever the case, those Ultimate Box Toppers are going to be available to the public, so at least that’s something. The caveat here is that you have to buy a box of their new product, Ultimate Masters, in which you’ll get one of these super art reprints. Here’s what we know so far:

Ultimate Masters releases December 7th, and will be the last Masters product “for a while.” Each booster box will contain 24-packs, with each pack containing a premium foil.

  • MSRP is $335.76 / box ($13.99/pack).
  • Boxes are only available at Local Gaming Stores, but each comes with an “Ultimate Box Topper” buy-a-box promo, which is a near borderless foil promo.
  • There are 40 box toppers in total.
  • UMA packs will be available at big box stores for $34.99 for 3 packs.
  • UMA is printed in EN and JP languages, but available worldwide.
  • Spoilers are on November 19th and 20th, with the full set reveal on Nov 21.

MSRP for this set is ridiculous once again. We thought the Mythic Edition of GRN was bad, but this is almost $100 more, and you only get one super art card instead of a set. Seems like a bad value. Rumor has it that local game stores are actually selling these boxes for somewhere in the ballpark of $240, so that’s at least a bit better. The other good news is that though you won’t get a super art card if you don’t buy a box, they are not buy-a-box promos in that regular versions of those cards are in packs. There are a ton of good reprints that have been revealed so far, and I’m sure there will be more for us to look forward to once we get the spoilers later this month. The super art cards are absolutely gorgeous though. Take a look:

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I want nearly every card displayed here, so I’m more hyped for this set than I was for M25 or Iconic Masters. I’m just hoping that the reprints mean a drop in price for some of these cards so that I can get extra copies. Packs are a bit expensive so I probably won’t buy many, opting for singles instead. I still think these should have been included as chase cards in packs, basically a new masterpiece set, but I’m okay with normal art as long as I get some good cards. Where Wizards is going from here is anyone’s guess. It appears there won’t be Masters sets next year, and we only know about two more sets on Ravnica. I’m hoping for a second Battlebond set, and would prefer a new plane to explore next year rather than another return to an old one. I guess we’ll see.

What do you think about this set? What about price increases? Let me know in the comments.

The War Report: Daxos 3.0

Each new expansion set of Magic: The Gathering cards brings new Legendary Creatures to the table in which we can build decks around. I try to build at least a couple of these during each new set’s release to keep up with new metas and ideas that form around new commanders. In between sets however, I’m forced to look back at older sets’ creatures or revamp existing decks in my collection. Some of the commander decks I have built over the years have been broken up, others have been revised as new pieces come out and sometimes that means a deck will take a whole new direction. In the case of today’s article, I’m looking at the first commander I ever played, Daxos the Returned:

Daxos the Returned is a three CMC 2/2 that utilizes the experience counter mechanic introduced in the Commander 2015 set. My friends and I purchased some of these decks back at the beginning of 2016. This one appealed the most to me despite the fact that the Merens, Ezuris and Mizzixs are definitely more competitive. As someone who was new to Commander at the time, I was going off the fact that I like the Orzhov color pairing and his ability sounded interesting. The trouble is that you have to get Daxos onto the board and then play a bunch of enchantments to get experience counters, then you also need a good amount of mana to be able to pump out the */* spirit tokens. The tokens don’t have any sort of evasion either, so they can be chump blocked and overall it is fairly ineffective. Version 1.0 was the slightly modified precon that didn’t really do much but it was okay in our meta at the time because we were all new to the format.

Version 2.0 of Daxos came a few months later. I ended up going with an “enchantment tribal” theme by including some of the Gods and other Enchantment creatures to the deck so that I would basically always be getting experience counters no matter what I was casting. This version of the deck was more consistent, but it still didn’t “go off” like I thought it would, and still lost more games than it won. Guilds of Ravnica could have changed this a bit, because of this one card:

Divine Visitation is essentially the card I built this deck around. It still has enchantments to get experience counters and it still has some parts that include Daxos into the strategy, but generally I’ve made this into a token strategy to go wide. The trick here is that Daxos can make tokens innately, in this case the experience counters don’t matter. With Divine Visitation on the board, you essentially get a 4/4 Angel with flying and vigilance for three mana. Daxos would technically create a 0/0 token if he has zero experience counters, but since this is a replacement effect, that 0/0 would immediately turn into a 4/4. So really, get this card onto the battlefield and win the game, given the mana. Of course, we also want to be able to make tokens in other ways, so let’s look at ways to do that:

Token Generation:

Black and White aren’t necessarily the best token creators, (Green/White tends to be the best) but we do have some nice tools at our disposal. With cards like Luminarch Ascension, Spirit Bonds, Heliod and Bitterblossom we can churn out tokens pretty effectively, and if Divine Visitation is on the board, we’ll get 4/4 angels instead of lousy 1/1s. Also, if we can get Anointed Procession out we’ll be doubling up on our tokens. There are spells like Entreat the Angels and Secure the Wastes that will flood the board given the mana, and other creatures that create tokens upon certain conditions being met, like Brimaz and Angel of Invention who ETB, or Elenda who creates tokens upon dying. The Master Breeder is another great token generator, because with that replacement effect from Divine Visitation, he will never be sacrificed (which is meant to be his downside given his power level). So what happens if Divine Visitation isn’t on the board or is removed? We can still do something about it!

Token Boosters:

Here are some ways that we can boost the power level of our crappy 1/1 tokens. Dictate of Heliod and Intangible Virtue are just straight up additional power, whereas cards like Marshal’s Anthem is also a recursion spell with the anthem tacked on> Whip of Erebos gives our tokens lifelink, but also gives some recursion as well. Akroma’s Memorial gives our tokens some nice keywords, while Elesh Norn will kill other token players while buffing up yours. These cards will instantly make a token army that much more formidable.

Sac Outlets:

I’ve also included some sac outlets to use as options when you have a bunch of tokens that are shitty 1/1s. Those can be used for mana, to draw some cards, as removal, or to tutor out something good (like Divine Visitation!). Pretty basic stuff here.

Other Utility:

Pretty much everything else in the deck is utility. I’ve added a pretty decent removal package, but also ways to ramp (Land Tax, Weathered Wayfarer), card draw (Greed, Mentor of the Meek), recursion (Sun Titan and Debtors’ Knell) and tutors (Enlightened, Idyllic, Plea For Guidance). We should be able to reliably tutor out the cards we need, draw more cards and ramp effectively (though sometimes we need someone else to be ahead to do so). There are a couple cards here that are pillow fort or stax, like Ashes of the Abhorrent, Ghostly Prison and Aura of Silence. Black Market can also get us a ton of mana.

I think this version of the deck will definitely be more consistent and probably a bit more competitive, but I have yet to test it out. I own most of the deck already but need to pick up a few of the cards. It’s about $350 in value, so not exactly budget but not super expensive either.