TWR: Judith Aristocrats

With Ravnica Allegiance fully spoiled, we’ve seen a handful of new legendary creatures emerge, and there are a couple of those that I felt were deserving of their own decks. Some look to be better in the 99 of existing decks as well, but I’m going to focus on one of the new legendary creatures in particular today: Judith, the Scourge Diva.

There are two reasons why I chose to brew a deck around this particular creature. The first, is because I haven’t really brewed a proper Rakdos deck before. There was that Grenzo budget build I put down on paper but never actually built, so I’m not going to count that one. The second reason I decided to roll with Judith is because she lends herself quite readily to an “aristocrats” theme, which typically revolves around sacrificing creatures to drain out your opponents (among other variations). Let’s take a look at her abilities. She’s a 2/2 for 3 CMC which is in “hate bear” territory (this card would also be a solid add to Alesha and Marchesa Decks (both of which I have)). She buffs our creature’s power by 1 each, but that’s not really a big deal. What really matters here is her second ability, which reads “Whenever a nontoken creature you control dies, Judith deals 1 damage to any target.” It would have been nice if that line of text didn’t contain the word “nontoken” but it is still powerful, particularly because you’re able to target anything with this ability. So this means we want to sacrifice creatures often and bring them back from the graveyard to make loops if possible. Here are some creatures that can make these loops possible:

Recursion Loop Creatures:

With Reassembling Skeleton, for instance, you can sacrifice him to your favorite sac outlet, and for the low cost of 1B, you can bring him back to the battlefield to do it again. With Phyrexian Altar you’ll only need one colorless mana to do this. If you have Ashnod’s Altar you’ll instead need to come up with the black mana to recur. There are ways around these mana limitations, but we’ll get to that later. Each of the above creatures can be brought back from the graveyard to the battlefield once particular requirements are met, and it’s not difficult to do so. As long as we have one of these creatures, a sacrifice outlet and our commander on the board, we can theoretically ping players to death, but it will take some time. Speaking of sac outlets, let’s get to those:

Sacrifice Outlets:

These are the majority of the sac outlets I’ve included in the deck. The two Altars I mentioned in the last section, along with Viscera Seer (allows us to Scry), Yahenni (gives himself indestructible), Sadistic Hypnotist (causes an opponent to discard two cards), and Attrition (allows us to destroy target nonblack creature). There are also two lands that help us out, Phyrexian Tower (gives BB) and High Market (gain 1 life). When you need a sac outlet, this many packed into the deck should assure you can find one quickly. But is it enough to just rely on our commander and sac outlets to win games? I think we need some added insurance.

Death Triggers:

Each of these cards has a trigger on the death of one of our creatures. So when we sacrifice something with our commander on the board, we get extra value, and if she has been killed off and we can’t afford the commander tax, some of these cards will do similar things. Blood Artist, Zulaport Cutthroat and Vindictive Vampire will all drain our opponents when creatures die, along with gaining us some life. Grim Haurspex and Harvester of Souls will both draw us cards on deal. Pawn of Ulamog and Pitiless Plunderer will get us tokens to sac for mana (and can aid in those mana costs for our loop creatures from earlier. Grave Pact and Dictate of Erebos will cause our opponents to sacrifice creatures when we do, and can be basically board wipes for us. Lastly, Black Market can get us some serious mana, but it will have to be used each turn before combat (which shouldn’t be a problem).

Cannon Fodder:

Despite the fact that Judith wants nontoken creatures to die, there’s no reason why we can’t use other token creatures to feed our altars and make us some extra mana! These three cards were added to the deck to do just that, because each will create tokens for us to use for mana. I didn’t want to include too many of this style of card but a few seems just right.

Other Recursion:

Because not all of our creatures can be recurred from the graveyard so easily, I’ve added some redundancy here. Balthor and Garna can single-handedly bring back a swathe of creatures at once, which Whisper is good in conjunction with the cannon fodder above. Sac two tokens and return a creature directly to the battlefield (and if it’s a token producer, even better!). Mikaeus is a great card that will give nearly everything in this deck undying, so expect him to be a target. Palace Siege will recur once a turn, and Phyrexian Reclamation can do multiple creatures in a turn provide you have the mana (and life) but each will only get those cards back to your hand, so it’s sort of slow (still welcome).

Other Fun Stuff:

This last section is some “good stuff” in these colors. The couple of bits of equipment that give deathtouch are meant from Judith, as her pings can kill anything with one damage. Nim Deathmantle is great for graveyard shenanigans and this is well documented. I added Mogis because he forces more damage or sacrifice down opponent’s throats and that felt on theme. Captive Audience is a new card that is simply fucked and I can’t wait to use it. I also added Sower of Discord just as a nice way to ping two opponents at once instead of just one, so it should help to speed things up, particularly if you get a loop going.

So that’s that. I’ve added a pretty standard Rakdos removal package (the new Bedevil, Terminate, Dreadbore, Hero’s Downfall, etc) otherwise. I think it will be a fairly decent build but nothing top tier. What do you guys think? What new legendaries are you excited from from the new set?

TWR: The Year In MTG 2018

2018 was a good year for Magic: The Gathering. There were some ups and downs as far as product releases went, as well as ups and downs with my playtime. In January our playgroup sort of disbanded. During 2017, we had a solid three players and an occasional fourth, but by the end of the year we were down to just us three again. At the beginning of 2018 our third moved to Las Vegas, so it was just my roommate and I most of the time. We played quite a few times throughout the year, but 1v1 Commander games just aren’t the same. As such, we made sure to hit up Pre-Release events and also attended a few Commander based events at one of the local game stores. Despite having moved out of state, our third managed to come down to visit us a couple of times and we had all day shenanigans, and of course we saw him at the GP.

The biggest events were covered in detail below, with my favorites being the Battlebond Weekend along with Grand Prix Las Vegas.

Live Events:

Rivals of Ixalan Pre-Release
Commander Event
Commander Event #2
Commander League
Selling Cards
MTG Arena
Battlebond Preview Weekend
Grand Prix Las Vegas
Guilds of Ravnica Pre-Release
Playing at Home

When I’m not actually playing MTG, I spend a good chunk of time creating new brews. Some of these decks come to fruition and others were built just for the sake of seeing what I could come up with. I do a lot of the leg work for this blog — I create a build and then it generates a blog post, and then I don’t think about the deck ever again. In other cases, I’ve written about decks that I had already built and how I’ve improved them, or about decks that I’m super excited to build. My latest completed deck from this list is Zombies 3.0, where my original Zombie deck led by Gisa & Geralf (Dimir [Blue/Black]) was later transformed into a Scarab God (also Dimir) deck and has finally been changed into a Varina (Esper [Blue/Black/White]) deck. I received the final cards needed in the mail this week and now it’s ready to test out. Anyhow, here is a list of the builds I came up with over the year:

Custom Brews:

Dinosaur Tribal – Completed and adjusted since this point.
Oloro Pillowfort – In progress.
Reaper King – Retired.
Kess, Spellslinger – Never built, Kess was put into Inalla.
Prossh Food Chain – In progress.
Selvala Group Hug – Playable, but needs upgrades.
Gonti Theft – Never built.
Boros Goodstuff – Never built.
Budget Knight Tribal – In progress.
Inalla Wizard Tribal – In progress.
Jodah and Friends – Completed and tuned.
Monk Voltron – Completed.
Budget Grenzo – Never built.
WUBRG Warriors – In progress.
Atraxa Infect – In progress.
Doran Defender Tribal – Completed.
Izzet Chaos – Never built.
5-Color Spirits – Never built.
Bolas Flipwalker – In progress.
Mono Blue Mill – Never built.
Ninja Tribal – In progress.
Tuvasa Enchantress – In progress.
Zur Tier 1 Build – Completed. Technically still need a Marsh Flats and Mana Crypt.
Estrid Stax – In progress.
Tawnos Artifacts Matter – Playable, but needs upgrades.
Zombies 3.0 – Completed.
Lazav Toolbox – In progress.
Niv-Mizzet Wheels – In progress.
Arachnophobia – In progress.
Karador Tier Build – In progress.
Daxos 3.0 – In progress.
Aminatou Blink – In progress.

As you can see, that’s a bunch of decks but very few are actually being played. That’s because I spent most of my disposable cash this year on making Zur a true Tier 1 deck, and as such his price tag is around $900 alone. All of the “in progress” decks also are in varying states of completion, as I do have a bunch of cards for quite a few of them. That’s how Tawnos and Selvala ended up “playable,” because I just threw in stuff I had lying around, despite not being exactly how I want them. The decks that are listed as “never built” were those that I thought about and could become decks in the future but I decided to cut down on the amount I was trying to build at one time. I typically focus on one deck at a time, but when sets like Ultimate Masters release and have cards that I need for multiple decks I will filter them into the appropriate ones. New standard sets oftentimes contain cards that I can use in these brews as well, so they will be adjusted accordingly. Whatever the case, I clearly spent a lot of time on the hobby this year, and I don’t see that stopping in the future.

I’ve done a little research and found a local game store that does have EDH nights on Thursdays in the town that I’m moving to. So I should be able to find a new playgroup there (fingers crossed). Also, my sister and her boyfriend have been playing EDH for a little while now and also know about their local spots, though they are about a 45 minute drive from where I am, so I won’t be going that way as often. Perhaps I’ll be able to convince them to come to my house on occasion.

I’m looking forward to what 2019 brings to the Magic side of my life.

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!

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.

TWR: I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghosts

I had an Abzan (Black, Green, White) deck that I built almost a year ago, helmed by Doran the Siege Tower. It was a janky wall deck with a $50 budget. It did… things. It was later upgraded into an Arcades deck, but would still be considered a budget build at just under $100. As such, I no longer have an Abzan deck but I think highly of the color pairing. The other day I ran across an article on EDHREC that was talking about Karador, Ghost Chieftain. Like that author, Halloween is one of my favorite times of year (really, the entire Fall) and I too think that Karador makes a fitting deck discussion for this time of year. Let’s take a look:

Karador is expensive at first glance. A 3/4 for 8 mana, are you kidding me? However, once you read his rules text, you’ll see that he costs 1 less for each creature card in your graveyard, meaning you should be able to hold off casting him until he costs just the three colored mana. He then benefits you further by allowing you to cast a creature from the graveyard once per turn. This is similar to cards like Gisa & Geralf, though they were limited to recalling Zombies. It’s also essentially an arguably better/worse card than Muldrotha, who is in arguably better/worse colors. Sultai (Green Blue Black) is supposed to be one of the more potent shards, but I feel like Abzan has some good tricks too. Muldrotha may be able to cast more permanents per turn, but we have ways to do the same with a little bit of setup. Reading the EDHREC article I mentioned above also pointed me to a forum discussion on MTGSalvation where an interesting combo was discussed. I took inspiration from both articles and found a happy medium between the two. Let’s start by looking at said combo:

Boonweaver Combo:

That’s a lot of cards for a combo, but the most integral part here is Boonweaver Giant and Pattern of Rebirth. When you cast the giant, you’ll search your deck/hand/graveyard for the aura and attach it to him. You’ll also need a sac outlet, but I’ve included a few (including creatures that can be tutored easily) with which you’ll sacrifice the giant and the aura will trigger upon his death, allowing you to tutor out another creature to the battlefield. Here’s the full combo:

  • When Boonweaver enters play, find Pattern of Rebirth and attach it to him.
  • Sac Boonweaver to find Karmic Guide which returns Boonweaver and Pattern.
  • Sac Boonweaver again to find Fiend Hunter, who exiles Karmic Guide.
  • Sac Fiend Hunter to return Karmic Guide, who then returns Boonweaver and Pattern.
  • Sac Boonweaver again to find Reveillark.
  • Sac Karmic and then Reveillark to return both Karmic and Fiend Hunter.
  • Use Karmic to return Boonweaver and Fiend Hunter to exile Karmic.
  • Sac Boonweaver to go get anything.
  • Sac Fiend Hunter to return Karmic, which returns Reveillark.
  • Repeat

The win conditions being Altar of Dementia (will deck your opponents), Blood Artist/Zulaport Cutthroat (drain the table) and Acidic Slime (blow up all permanents, then swing for the win). The best part here is that this can all be done in one turn and you don’t even need your commander on the battlefield to win. However, if out combo gets countered or a key piece is exiled, or your graveyard gets exiled, we can still use Karador and all of our tools to eke out a win, particularly by using some of our bombs.

Tutors:

Since our gameplan consists of trying to get the above combo to go off, it was in our best interests to have a ton of ways to tutor. Besides the standard tutors like Demonic and Vampiric, we also have some graveyard tutors like Buried Alive and Entomb to dump creatures into our yard to not only make Karador cost less, but also so they can be recurred for use on the cheap. Fauna Shaman is another surefire way to tutor up a creature but will put you down a card. Make sure what you discard is going to benefit you by being in the yard. Survival of the Fittest would be included in this deck were it not for its $90 price tag, but a budget version in Evolutionary Leap was included. It’s not as good as Survival, but it doubles up on Hermit Druid’s effect, which essentially fills up the graveyard and also gets you a creature. If we have the creatures to sacrifice, Razaketh will also get us more cards we might need to finish things off on top of being a bomb himself.

Recursion:

Besides the creatures I listed up at the top in the combo section, these are further ways to bring things back from the dead. Since we’ll be dumping cards into our graveyard we want these cards to ensure we can bring useful pieces back, including lands. Each of these cards will allow us to do so, and even if we have our main game plan countered or otherwise ruined, we might be able to get another shot at it.

Stax Effects:

This deck isn’t by any means supposed to be a stax deck, and it doesn’t have a ton of these types of effects, but sometimes your gameplan is disrupted and you need some time to rebuild. These cards were included to help do that, but also to slow down the other decks that are trying to combo off faster than you. In this case you can stop people from searching their library, clear the board of 1/1 or 2/2 tokens, silence ETBs, or silence a whole color (I pity the mono colored player who witnesses an Iona resolve). These pieces should help you to get over the hump and finish strong.

Other Utility:

The rest of these cards are all filling a role. We aren’t playing many instants or sorceries in this deck so creature based removal is key (and recurrable!). Many of these will destroy a creature, artifact or enchantment. We also have forced sacrifice in Plaguecrafter. Satyr Wayfinder and Stitcher’s Supplier selp mill a bit to help find cards we need. Underrealm Lich does the same, but is more like Taigam in that he makes you skip your draw step and look at the top four of your library, picking one card and then putting the rest in the graveyard. He can also be made indestructible for 4 life, so that’s nice. I’ve included some cards here that weren’t around when the originator of this combo deck built it, but I think they should serve a similar purpose.

This isn’t a budget deck by any means, as I’ve added my most expensive mana rocks and there are several other expensive cards in the build that are between $10-20, but I owned most. This should be a turn 3-4 deck given the right circumstances, and that should be right up there with my Zur and Estrid builds.