The War Report: Arachnophobia

At some point or another I traded a friend for Ishkanah, Grafwidow. I have yet to build a Golgari deck, and for whatever reason this commander spoke to me more so than the ones on offer. Part of this is due to the fact that I already have a Meren in my playgroup and though I was also interested in building Slimefoot, I also have a Ghave deck in the playgroup so both of those were sort of off limits. Golgari decks tend to focus on sacrifice and recursion, but Ishkanah doesn’t really focus on either. Instead, she’s basically the go-to commander to lead Spider heavy decks due to her abilities. Let’s take a look:

This spider queen has a solid 3/5 body and Reach like most spiders, which means that she can inherently block creatures with flying and has the ability to withstand a fair amount of damage. She also has a Delirium trigger, where if you have four card types in your graveyard, she also creates three spider tokens as an ETB. Lastly, for a whopping 7 mana you can drain a single opponent for one life per spider you control. Unfortunately she doesn’t give spiders anything else, but this does mean that you can potentially finish someone off given enough spiders and a low life total. With this is mind, let’s look at the spiders and spider related cards I’ve included in the deck:

Generally speaking, most of the spiders in the game are vanilla creatures with more toughness than power and though they all have reach they don’t usually do much else. I’ve found some of the better ones and included them here, some with vigilance or deathtouch or other special abilities. Otherwise, the only other cards in the deck that have anything to do with spiders are Arachnogenesis and Spider Spawning, both of which create some extra tokens for us. Spiders are similar to walls in the fact that they have high toughness, so I’ve added Assault Formation to the mix as well, which will allow most of the spiders to hit for 5+ damage rather than 3 or less. I have included several creatures that aren’t part of the tribe but should synergize well:

Most of the rest of these creatures are insects or have something to do with insects. I’m looking for extra tokens to use as sacrifice fodder and to go wide. Some of these creatures also have some form of recursion baked in, or double as sacrifice outlets. We mainly want to be able to sacrifice and recur various creatures with ETB effects, but also make a ton of tokens in the process while allowing our bigger threats to be potential finishers. Here’s the other support cards that will help with these processes:

Here we have some card draw that also fills up your graveyard (for later recursion), a couple of win-cons in Beastmaster Ascension and Triumph of the Hordes (go wide decks will love the power boost + infect). Bow of Nylea provides deathtouch to all attacking creatures, so your lowly 1/1 tokens can take out huge blockers. Otherwise it’s a bunch of recursion (outside of the creature based recursion already included). Lastly, Dictate of Erebos will help you thin out the board as you can sacrifice little tokens to any outlet you happen to have and force your opponents to sacrifice their actual creatures. Win/win.

I’ve also included a small removal package consisting of Beast Within and similar cards. There are a couple of tutors like Green Sun’s Zenith and Diabolic Tutor, but this is a budget build ($161 at the time of this writing) so I didn’t include any single card that’s over $10. It’s not going to be as competitive as a Meren deck, but the flavor is there and that’s important too.

The War Report: Guilds of Ravnica Pre-Release

This past weekend the Pre-Release events for Guilds of Ravnica kicked off. My roommate and I ended up going as usual, this time on Sunday afternoon. Each one of these events that I’ve gone to has been a bit different, and I really enjoyed the themes of the kits this time around. Battlebond was the last prerelease I went to and it was a special occasion. Being a two-headed giant based set, it was a ton of fun to play as a team and do something a little bit different. Guilds of Ravnica was a standard limited event, but this one was more unique than some of those I went to in the past.

Given that this set is focused on five of the ten color pairings, we had five guild kits to choose from when we arrived at the event. Each of these decks came packed with a d20 and divider with the guild’s symbol, along with a special pack of cards in those colors and a few GRN boosters. I had decided going in that I would be representing House Dimir (clearly, from my Twitter profile) and my roommate chose to roll with Izzet. When we got down to opening packs, I ended up with quite a few good cards, though some that didn’t make it into my deck for the day. Many people were splashing a third color, but I literally didn’t get any bombs in other colors, so I stuck with a 2-color deck. Thankfully I pulled a bunch of cards with the new Surveil keyword and managed to make a decent deck out of it.

In the first round I ended up against another Izzet mage, but I was able to conquer 2-0 pretty easily. The first game took a while to get things going, but with 8 creatures in graveyard I dropped a creature with the Undergrowth keyword that pumped another creature by 8 power and that was all she wrote. In the second game my opponent couldn’t get anything going fast enough and I finished them off quickly.

Round two didn’t go as well. This time I was up against a Boros player, but he had also splashed green. In the first fight I pulled off some trickery but still got smashed. In the second game my opponent was mana starved and couldn’t stop me, but in game three the tables turned and I was mana starved. I finished the day 1-1, or 3-2 overall. I wasn’t able to stay for the third round but I was happy with my performance since I suck at building decks that aren’t commander decks. However, with MTG Arena in beta now (no more resets) I may start playing a bit more just to stay sharp between these events.

Above are the best cards I ended up with, at least for my current needs. Etrata was my promo card with the prerelease date on it, and a card I plan to use in my Lazav deck that I shared recently. Mission Briefing and Steam Vents have the most value, but I already own a set of shocks, so this one might just slam into Niv-Mizzet when I get around to building that, or will be some trade fodder. Mission Briefing and Plaugecrafter also slot into Lazav, and the little goblin there has a spot in Krenko. Overall it was a fun event again, and I look forward to getting my hands on a few more packs here in the near future. How have you been doing with your pulls?

The War Report: PING!

The Prerelease for Guilds of Ravnica starts this weekend, and I plan to attend on Sunday to try and get my hands on some sweet new cards. When we first started seeing spoilers for the set, one of the new legendary creatures stood out to me as something I’d want to build, and I shared that build for Lazav recently. Afterwards, I took another look at the legendary creatures in the set and decided that I also wanted to brew something up for the new Niv-Mizzet, Parun. You might ask why, considering I already have a Locust God deck that does similar things, and one of the old Niv-Mizzets is already in that decklist. Let’s look at the similarities between these cards, and why I think the new Niv-Mizzet deserves his own deck:

The Locust God, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind and Niv-Mizzet, Parun all have three things in common. They’re Izzet, they have flying, and they want you to draw cards. However, each does something that is unique as well. Locust God wants to draw cards to create hasty 1/1 fliers. He can loot for 4 cmc, and is basically immortal, as he is returned to your hand any time he dies (so he avoids commander tax). The OG Niv-Mizzet still wants to draw cards, but so that he can do 1 damage to any target. He can be tapped to draw a card and get this result. The new Niv-Mizzet however, has some interesting features. Firstly, he can’t be countered, so you don’t have to worry about that form of removal. Second, he has the same ability as the OG Niv-Mizzet, in that drawing cards allows you to ping for 1 damage each. However, he also draws cards off of each instant and sorcery spell cast. This means in a spell-slinging deck, you get double value. Let’s say you play a wheel, you’ll draw a card off the cast trigger and do a damage, so the wheel replaces itself, but then you discard all cards in hand and typically draw the same amount so you’ll do that much more damage as that spell resolves. Guess what else we can do? Storm!

The Perfect Storm:

You’ll notice, the only card listed above that even has the word “storm” on it is the new one from GRN, Thousand-Year Storm. This isn’t actually a storm build. However, in a sense it is. Thousand-Year Storm enables a quasi-storm build because it allows you to copy any instant or sorcery you cast and pick new targets. I’ve included a bunch of other spells and creatures that do the same thing. The idea here is to continuously copy spells like your wheels and continuously cycle through the deck, while pinging your opponents to death with Niv-Mizzet (both versions), Psychosis Crawler, Electrostatic Field or Guttersnipe. We’ve also included token generators like Talrand, Young Pyromancer and the new Murmering Mystic so you have some blockers but if you go off enough you might be able to end a game with them too.

Wheels + Pings:

I’ve included a comprehensive package of wheels, minus the original Wheel of Fortune because it’s super expensive. Most of these will target opponents too, so that you can disrupt their gameplan. Teferi’s Puzzle Box is probably the most fun, particularly if you can get a few of your creatures out that will ping for damage each turn.

Recursion:

I didn’t want to put a ton of recursion into the deck as we mostly want to sling spells, but we’re able to get some extra value by recurring them, so here’s a few ways to do so. Why not get an extra use out of a wheel or copy another spell?

Ways to win:

Besides wanting to wheel and ping everyone to death naturally throughout the game, we have a few finishers here to seal the deal. Because wheels can self mill you to death, I’ve included Laboratory Maniac as a fail safe. I’ve also included the Isochron Scepter/Dramatic Reversal combo and a suite of rocks that will help it go off. Paradox Engine can help with this as well, since it will untap things as you are casting all of those cheap spells. If you can generate the infinite mana, you can use Blue Sun’s Zenith or Stroke of Genius to cause an opponent to draw their library. Alternatively, you can use Pull From Tomorrow to finish off your own library with Lab Man on the board. Comet Storm will allow you to kill everyone at once give infinite mana. Omniscience is there just to make casting easier for when you get your wheels in motion, and a kicked Rite of Replication targeting Psychosis Crawler or any of the token generators should help seal a game.

Other tools:

Otherwise we have some nice tools that are on color. Consecrated Sphinx gets you more card draw, Chaos Warp is good removal, and Propaganda will help to protect you in early game skirmishes. I’ve also included nearly all of the mana rocks that can be sacrificed for card draw, which may or may not come in handy but I believe that it will. Overall I think it looks like a solid deck and though it is similar to Locust God, it wants to win in different ways, and I like that. I’ll report back after the Prerelease on my performance and lucky pulls! Til then!

The War Report: Lazav Toolbox

As is the norm around here, when a new set for Magic: The Gathering comes out I try to be on top of spoilers and in turn, brews that can come up with those new sets. There are several new legendary creatures coming with Guilds of Ravnica, and one of those immediately stood out as something that I knew I’d want to build around. I own a copy of the original Lazav, who came out in Guildpact (I think?) and he was always a character I enjoyed the look of. He definitely does Dimir things, in that he can copy creatures that are headed to opponent’s graveyards and become them, whether they are a lowly 1/1 or a massive Eldrazi. He also had hexproof, so getting rid of him was tricky. The new version of Lazav is a similar design, but also a bit different. Take a look:

A 1/3 body for two mana (Dimir). I like where this is going. His ETB makes use of the new keyword, Surveil, which allows you to look at the top card of your library and then either put it back or put it into your graveyard. His activated ability costs X, which is equal to the CMC of the creature in your own graveyard that is copied, and he gets all the cards characteristics, from P/T to it’s rules text, along with remaining a legendary creature and it keeps Lazav’s ability, so you can copy something else at any time. There’s a lot going on here, so let’s break things down into what we should focus on when building a Lazav, the Multifarious deck.

  • Graveyard matters. Surveil is a great tool for getting cards into your graveyard.
  • Looting. There are a bunch of great cards in blue that allow us to draw cards and then discard cards, filling our hand and our graveyard simultaneously.
  • Targets. We want things that Lazav will benefit from copying, but also that aren’t too expensive, as our goal is to throw things into the yard and then copy them with Lazav.
  • Tutors. Not in the traditional sense, we want the cards that throw things into our graveyard.
  • Recursion. When you’re focused on filling your yard with cards, we’ll also want to bring some of them back, and there’s plenty of ways to do this.

So these are our subthemes. Let’s take a look at what I’ve included in my initial build:

Surveillance:

Besides Lazav himself, these cards all have the Surveil keyword and should compliment the rest of the deck’s build. Doom Whisperer is a great body along with a self-milling machine. You should be able to churn through to find what you want rather quickly with him. Enhanced Surveillance will also help as it lets you look at two additional cards when you surveil. Mission Briefing is some recursion along with having the keyword, and Notion Rain surveils and draws you some cards at the same time. Nightveil Sprite surveils on combat trigger, and can easily be copied if you want Lazav to get some extra surveillance in. Lastly, though he doesn’t have the keyword, Taigam basically does the same thing, getting you a card to your hand and two in the graveyard each upkeep. Next up, other loot cards that will synergize to help fill our graveyard.

Looting:

There are a ton of options when it comes to looting, which is a term to describe mostly symmetrical draw/discard cards. From creatures like Looter il-Kor to Wharf Infiltrator, they’ll get you a card and you can discard something juicy for Lazav to target in the graveyard. Windfall and Jace’s Archivist will dump your hand, the table’s hand and you get to draw a bunch of cards. Ancient Excavation will do the same to just you. Generally, these cards will help you to churn through your library to get the cards you want into the graveyard.

Tutors: 

There are only three tutors here, and they are Demonic, Vampiric, or Mystical. The reason being is that we don’t really want to cast most of these cards from hand, particularly the high CMC ones. We want to target creatures from our library and dump them into the yard for Lazav to copy. Entomb and Buried Alive work best, but Dimir House Guard can be transmuted to pull out a couple of our creatures as well.

Recursion:

Recursion is pretty straightforward in this deck. Oversold Cemetery and Sheoldred will get you a creature back each turn. Whisper and the Doomed Necromancer require sacrifice to recur, and the other spells can help you get cards back in a variety of ways. These are best used when a creature has an ETB that you can exploit over and over like Ravenous Chupacabra or Fleshbag Marauder. Also a nice way to get something back someone used a spell to remove.

Select Targets:

A cool thing to note when using Lazav’s ability: when a card reads “when ____ enters the battlefield” or “when ____ comes into play” you don’t have to resolve those effects. Lazav is copying something, and thereby not entering the battlefield, so you can avoid some nasty side effects and get big creatures on the cheap as long as he copies them from the graveyard. So cards like Leveler, Hunted Horror, Hunted Phantasm, Eater of days, and Nyxathid don’t have any downside despite being big creatures and costing a small CMC. You can also target the Vector Asp to get its ability to have infect, Invisible Stalker to gain hexproof and unblockable, etc. Keep in mind, you can copy an unblockable ability, then after the declare blockers step, copy a bigger creature and still get in unblocked. It’s a nice trick.

One Win Con:

Besides poking people down with commander damage or infect, here’s a pretty solid win-con. You need Necrotic Ooze to either be on the battlefield or copy it with Lazav. It/he then gains all activated abilities of all creatures in all graveyards. Then, you’ll want Bloodline Keeper and Grimgrin in the graveyard so that you can activate BK’s tap ability to create a vampire token. You can then activate Grimgrin’s sac outlet to sacrifice the token, untapping the Ooze/Lazav and gaining a +1/+1 counter. You can literally do this infinite times, then copy an unblockable effect and boom. Game over.

There are some other odds and ends I didn’t discuss here, but you can check out the full deck list over here.

TWR: Looking Forward to Guilds of Ravnica Part Two

The full spoilers for Guilds of Ravnica are out, and I’ve readied a selection of cards from the set that I’m most excited for. The majority of these cards are in the Rare or Mythic slot, with only a couple of uncommons being decent enough to warrant a look. It’s also looking like the most interesting cards in the set are mostly multi-color, which makes sense given the 2-color pairings for guilds and their best cards being a combination of the two. As such, we don’t have any 3+ color combination cards, because this set focuses on five of the ten guilds from Ravnica. This also means that though there are outliers, many of the cards that are mono colored aren’t that great, but we’ll get to that in a bit. Let’s start with the big category!

Multi-Colored:

Outside of the Mythic Masterpiece Planeswalkers, there are only two new ones for this set. The new Ral, and the new Vraska. I’m interested in Vraska for my Jodah deck, because I have one of her older versions in it already and this one comes with an emblem, which was the point of me adding them to that deck in the first place. There are also new versions of legendaries that we’ve known in the past, those being Tajic, Lazav, Aurelia, and Niv-Mizzet. Upon first glance, they all seem like worse versions of prior incarnations, but at the same time they fit the set just fine. Tajic isn’t as beefy as he was in prior sets, but he’s cheap and gives all other creatures indestructible which is perfect for Boros aggro themese. Lazav still copies other creatures, but now instead of targeting anything he can only target things in your graveyard. You also have to pay the cmc of the copied card, so we’ll want to be strategic in using him. Aurelia is a flat out worse version. I like the new Niv-Mizzet, and think he’ll slot nicely into my Locust God deck. Otherwise we have a grouping of spells and creatures that are just flat out good. I love Etrata and Memnonic Betrayal, they both fit well into established Dimir themes. I won’t go on and on but I could find places for all of these cards in decks I own… and I think Lazav might be a good card to brew a deck around.

Colorless & Lands:

This being a mostly multi-colored set means there aren’t many interesting artifacts. Chromatic Lantern is getting a much needed reprint, it was starting to creep up near $20. It will be nice for EDH players to have a cheaper price point. There is also a new cycle of mana rocks, one for each guild that cost 3 to play, and tap for either color. They also have the ability to be sacrificed in the late game to draw two cards. Similar to the signets, these cards will likely see play in EDH. We’re also seeing reprints of the Guildgates — there are plenty of “gates matter” cards in the set too, but I don’t see that really being a thing because gates are generic tap lands and not played by me or most people. However, we are getting reprints of the Shock lands, which for a full set currently would run you in the ballpark of $150. I’m sort of sad because my girlfriend gifted me a full set early this year, but I’m happy that I can now potentially get more out of packs and they’re great for deckbuilding.

White:

Not a ton of white additions to the list, but I do like those that I’ve listed here. Bounty Agent is some nice removal on the cheap, as is Crush Contraband, allowing you to Exile both an artifact and an enchantment. Citywide Beat is a great answer for Arcades and toughness matters decks. Light of the Legion is a 5/5 flying Angel with mentor, but also gives out +1/+1 counters when it dies, which could be interesting. Lastly, Dawn of Hope should be great for decks like Oloro, where lifegain can net you some card draw. It also can create some tokens as needed. Good for different deck strategies.

Blue:

I’m not overly thrilled with blue, but I do like the surveil mechanic that’s definitely a Dimir thing. Mission Briefing is supposed to be the “fixed” Snapcaster Mage, in that it does the same thing but is a spell instead of being on a body. Disdainful Strike in an interesting new counterspell but probably not good enough for EDH. Thoughtbound Phantasm is a card that really only works in a deck heavy with surveil mechanics, but interesting nonetheless. I like Defender cards with fun subtext. The Adept is a nice way to cheat out expensive spells from your hand, and Drowned Secrets is another tool for mill decks.

Black:

Black has a few options I like. Doom Whisperer is a 6/6 flying trample that allows you to pay life to surveil. What an engine. I’m likely throwing that in Kaalia. Midnight Reaper looks good for both Zombie and Knight tribal decks, dealing you a damage and netting you a card everytime a creature you control dies. Gruesome menagerie is an interesting recursion card in the right deck. Blood operative works with surveil as well, but is also some graveyard hate. Probably worth a slot in a vampire deck. Mausoleum Secrets is a new tutor that will work well with surveil as you will be putting cards in your graveyard early, and should be able to grab up something costly with it.

Red:

Not too thrilled with red. I like a couple of the new goblins, the Cratermaker can one shot a colorless permanent, likely an artifact but also can kill big Eldrazi. The Legion Warboss has mentor and also gets you a 1/1 goblin each combat. Electrostatic Field is great for spellslinger decks, but otherwise meh. Experimental Frenzy is interesting, but I don’t know where it would go. I guess if you are typically out of cards, it does help with that but doesn’t allow you to play cards from your hand so it’s tricky.

Green:

I’m really unimpressed with green this time around, but that’s probably because I’m not a Selesnya or Golgari player, because some of those multi-colored cards with green in them are pretty good. I’m included a big Hexproof beast here because I think it could work in certain decks, the revival spell is great in decks with a lot of multi-colored spells, and the defender is actually decent but the indestructible cost is a bit high. Again, sort of meh on this color.

So there you have it. The new set is out on October 5th, but I intend on going to the prerelease on the last weekend of this month. I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the topic by then.