The War Report: Revamping a Precon

Back at the beginning of this year, my playgroup and I decided we wanted to try our hands at Commander/EDH. The logical choice to get started was to pick up a preconstructed deck, and there were plenty to choose from, having all of the sets from 2016 back to when Wizards started to release them and officially support the format. Some of those decks would have been very expensive or unavailable, but we collectively decided we’d order some of the 2015 decks off of Amazon. I picked out the Call the Spirits precon led by Daxos, The Returned.

I played this deck straight out of the box for a few sessions before deciding to try and enhance it. Being new to the format and with a very volatile in-house meta at the time, I’d say now that my additions were haphazard and not necessarily on-theme. I still managed to win some games, but our playgroup had a couple of precons and our third managed to make some underpowered decks of his own creation. As the meta continued to shift, we all got much better at building decks from scratch, and soon it felt like Daxos was not up to snuff. After tweaking it excessively, I felt like it was “done” though I wasn’t overly thrilled with playing it as some of the other decks I had created just felt more powerful and more fun.

Recently my budget for Magic cards took a hit. Instead of being able to basically go hog-wild, I have to be a little more thrifty with my investments. As such, I have taken to looking for ways to build budget decks, or otherwise improve existing decks to get the best bang for my buck. This means spending $20 here and $40 there instead of outright buying a deck for $80+. Still, I can and have found ways to make improvements and have a good time with cards I haven’t played in a while. As it stands now, I have 3 decks in the works, and having received that Wizard precon that I mentioned in the last War Report, I have some things to work on. That doesn’t mean that all of my decks are done either, because Ixalan is bringing some new cards that I can see going well in some of my decks, and Iconic Masters is around the corner which could bring some additional power and drive down prices of some cards because of the reprinting. More to come on that when it happens, but I’m getting off topic.

I started looking at Daxos and realized that I could do some cool things with him, and that the way I had modified the deck was actually detrimental to the theme. There were better options and I started to research them. His ability is a powerful one — he can create */* creatures where * = the number of experience counters I have — these are created for 1WB each. Experience counters come pretty easily — With Daxos in play you cast an enchantment spell and there you go. This means the deck should revolve around enchantments, and though the precon did a good job of this, I found that there were some great options not included. Here’s the decklist as it came out of the box (with cards I removed crossed out):

1 Underworld Coinsmith
1 Karlov of the Ghost Council
1 Burnished Hart
1 Bastion Protector
1 Dawnglare Invoker
1 Ghostblade Eidolon
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Monk Idealist
1 Mesa Enchantress
1 Nighthowler
1 Corpse Augur
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Ajani’s Chosen
1 Doomwake Giant
1 Dreadbringer Lampads
1 Celestial Ancient
1 Celestial Archon
1 Herald of the Host
1 Banshee of the Dread Choir
1 Thief of Blood
1 Treasury Thrull
1 Sandstone Oracle
1 Silent Sentinel
1 Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
1 Oreskos Explorer
1 Ancient Craving
1 Gild
1 Dawn to Dusk
1 Righteous Confluence
1 Open the Vaults
1 Deadly Tempest
1 Death Grasp
1 Sol Ring
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Thought Vessel
1 Crystal Chimes
1 Orzhov Cluestone
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Grave Peril
1 Banishing Light
1 Cage of Hands
1 Karmic Justice
1 Vow of Duty
1 Fallen Ideal
1 Seal of Doom
1 Vow of Malice
1 Aura of Silence
1 Grasp of Fate
1 Shielded by Faith
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Underworld Connections
1 Daxos’s Torment
1 Marshal’s Anthem
1 Dictate of Heliod
1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
1 Black Market
1 Necromancer’s Covenant

As you can see, I’ve removed a significant chunk of what came with the deck. I didn’t include lands in this list because I left the mana base as is — it was decent enough. These cards weren’t removed all at once, but most of them were placed in other decks or are sitting in my under construction pile. A few of the cards have strictly better replacements, but that isn’t to say that everything I removed was bad, just that some of the cards would be more suited for other decks I have built (or am building) and I felt that it was better to go all-in on the enchantment theme. The obvious thing to do would be to add a bunch of enchantments to the deck, and though I did that, you still need creatures, artifacts and other spells to help things along. The precon came with some enchantment creatures which I didn’t know existed until I played with the deck. However, there are many that weren’t included that are powerful, and if most of the creatures in the deck were enchantment creatures, then I would be getting experience counters left and right. Let’s take a look at what I added:

There are some fucking fantastic enchantment creatures that were a thing during the Theros block, along with a bevy of Gods that count just the same. I only included one God, Athreos, because he was the most on theme with what I am trying to do, but also added a bunch of white and black creatures that will trigger Daxos’ experience counters but also have great abilities on their own. Limiting the amount of spells played or cards drawn per turn is just stupid good, and I also added some cards like Auramancer that give a little bit of graveyard recursion. Lastly, the Tree of Perdition was thrown in as I didn’t have a use for it elsewhere, and it happens to combo with another enchantment from that set. Speaking of, let’s talk about enchantments that I added:

The combo in question is fairly obvious when you put the two cards together, but Tree of Perdition can be used to lower someone’s life total to 13, and then they will lose the game if you have Triskaidekaphobia on the board. An unlikely win-con, but a potential player elimination tool nonetheless. Many of the enchantments packed into the deck were good so I kept quite a few, but added things like Authority of the Consuls and Ghostly Prison for a little tempo control and/or pillowfort action. Others add more utility such as being able to draw more cards or gain some life here and there. Lastly, let’s look at my changes to the non-enchantment spells:

Here I tried to add all around utility. A couple of board wipes, some spot removal, and some tutors. Fun stuff like Torment of Hailfire could be very effective late game, and being able to steal a nice creature from someone else’s graveyard can come in handy. The main win condition here is to go wide with spirits created by Daxos, but to do so, you must be able to withstand (reset) the board state and play out a bunch of low cost enchantments (and enchantment creatures). Once you have 6 or 7 experience counters you can start pumping out 6/6 or 7/7 spirits for 3 mana a pop. They don’t have evasion which can suck, but that’s why you want to optimally clear the board and then start pumping them out. Tutors can help pull the wipe you might need, or the Tree/phobia combo to eliminate someone. Through play testing this deck seems far superior to the precon, and most of the cards that I purchased for the revamp were under a buck each. For $30-40 you should be able to do something similar to your Call the Spirits deck. Happy gaming!

TWR: I’ve Got 99 Problems But A Commander Ain’t One

It may be safe to say that I have a problem.

I recall saying something similar at the beginning of a post within the last couple of years, but as I remember it I was speaking of my Steam library at the time. It seems the problem has metamorphosed into something else — yet the end result is the same: An Empty Wallet.

What started off as an innocuous hobby has xenomorphed its way into a devious creation capable of devouring all of my time and spare cash. It’s true, I’ve spent a bit of coin on these bits of paper and accessories over this run, but I have also felt excitement, pleasure and that competitive spirit come back around and that’s not something I can say has been the case with gaming the past year or so. It’s not as if I’m forsaking my other hobbies, I’ve just found my mind coming back around to Magic every day, the same way I used to daydream about playing my favorite MMO while working shitty jobs years ago. Just like I would do back then, when I wasn’t playing the game I was thinking about it, and sometimes that lead to thinking about new strategies and in this case it leads me to deck building and theory crafting which happens to be a rather enjoyable aspect of the pastime. What started with one preconstructed deck has ballooned, and well… see for yourself:

That’s my list of decks over on MTG Goldfish. It appears that I started playing Commander in April of this year, but I know that I started at least one month prior to that. As such, the Daxos deck was my first precon, and I turned my standard Zombie deck into a commander deck with Gisa & Geralf at the helm (until Scarab God released and I slotted him in), and I actually purchased the Saskia precon as well prior to signing up for this website’s service. April was when the signup would have occurred and I entered those decklists into the system for my own tracking purposes. It wouldn’t be long though before I started brewing like crazy.

Angels & Demons was helmed by Tariel until I got my hands on Kaalia from the Commander Anthology. I brewed Molimo and Temmet on the same day and ended up buying both of those decks outright because they were more budget friendly. Sramtron was also a budget buy because I owned quite a few of the cards, but I actually brewed him and sat on it for a while because I also brewed Reaper King and was far more excited for it at the time. I built Sram right before Hour of Devastation released, and after it did, I put together Locust God. His is still my most recent creation, so I actually only have 8 completed and playable EDH decks. I’d have two more as well but I dismantled Saskia a long time ago, and Freyalise (which I also got out of the Anthology) was put into Molimo and though I do have the deck sitting aside and playable with Ezuri leading it, I’m just not that into Elves. So we’ll say I have 8 and leave it at that.

But wait, you say. There are clearly 12 decks up there, and you only mentioned 8. What are the others? Well, that’s where my problem lies. I get so into the deckbuilding aspect that I just start brewing when I get a cool idea and next thing I know I have another deck ready to be bought and paid for. There also isn’t the new Vampire precon I want to buy next on here, so you can see just how far ahead of myself I’ve gotten! With that said, Vampires are my next project and will be the most cost effective, because the precon is $35 and I might spend another $20 on singles to upgrade it a bit. The set itself looks pretty strong as it is packaged.

So what about the other decks man? As I was saying, I love the deckbuilding aspects of Magic, so I have been prebuilding ideas on MTG Goldfish so that I have them for reference and can pour through my collection to see which cards I already have. I do purposely try and pick commanders that might utilize things I already have to reduce costs, and that has been doing the trick. Some off-meta picks can help as well. For example, I was hoping that one of the decks for Commander 2017 might be Cleric tribal. There are so many, why wouldn’t you? Well it ended up being Wizards instead, so I went ahead and built my own Cleric tribal deck. I then found that a great subtheme is using as many Extort cards as possible, because it’s an Orzhov mechanic and is on quite a few Cleric cards. Boom. Deck is done man. It also turns out that Clerics are relatively inexpensive so that deck can be built on a budget. Ditto the Werewolf deck, which I talked about very recently. I have 50% of those cards already and the rest are cheap.

The only really big investment I will have to make is on Oloro. He’s not expensive himself, but I’m lacking most of the cards and it’s gonna cost a bit. However I have been slowly gathering cards as time has gone on, so eventually I’ll be able to bite the bullet and finish it off. I literally just built the Spartan deck tonight on a whim, mainly because I own a copy of Assemble the Legion and wanted to build a deck around it. Turns out that Boros Soliders are quite powerful, and the comander Tajic is gonna be fun killing people off with. I’ve found that being able to conceive these ideas and then build them later has made it less of an issue when it comes to buying the cards. If I build them over time I will still get to use them, and I won’t dump quite as much money on them all at once. I just wonder when it will all come to an end? I don’t see myself not wanting to brew, and each new set will bring new legendary creatures for new possibilities. I suppose it will then be time to start keeping staples in a binder and pull out what I need between games. Either way, I’m finding more things to write about due to this hobby, and I fully intend to dive into other decks that I’ve built that I haven’t showcased yet in the column. Be on the lookout for those.

Do you find yourself constantly dreaming up new deck ideas? Are you content keeping them on paper or do you feel the need to play them immediately?

The War Report: Budget Standard to EDH Update

In a couple of weeks I’m moving and that means my budget is going to change. With increased outgo, sacrifices need to be made elsewhere. As such, I won’t be able to spend my hard-earned dollars on Magic cards quite as much as I have in the past almost-year since my return to the game. With this in mind, I’ve started to think of ways that I can still buy cards, but do so on a more restrictive budget. I used to make pretty decent decks back when I was in high school on an even more restrictive budget, so I think I can make this work! Three strategies I’ve come up with is to build decks piece by piece rather than all at once, to buy precons and spend minimally on upgrades for those (which I’ll be doing this month as my sole hurrah with Vampiric Bloodlust) or to take an existing Standard deck I built in the past and turn it into an EDH deck. That’s what I want to talk about with my latest brew, an update to my Standard Werewolves deck!

We’re Wolves

It just so happens that I had made purchases to get basically the best standard legal Werewolves for this deck, but because of the limitations of standard, the deck still had commons and uncommons and just didn’t do much when I played it. With the vast availability of cards through the ages in EDH, it turns out that there are some really good Werewolf, Wolf, and trickery options that make this deck feel like it could actually work despite being a little complex. There are a couple of commanders people use in Werewolf decks according to EDHREC, but I already owned Ulrich, and he feels perfect as a commander, getting some ETB effects and being completely thematic. Most of my creatures end up being Werewolves, but there is a share of regular wolves along with a sprinkling of creatures that have neat interactions. I tried to use only creatures that would stay on theme but also provide passive effects. I also have a thematic Planeswalker that I had in my standard deck that looks like fun. Here’s a sampling:

Each of these creatures somehow benefits the others, or creates wolf tokens which in turn benefit me in various ways. There are more interesting interactions when adding in the enchantments, artifacts and spells, but the main goal is to try and keep my werewolves transformed, and to buff creatures that are on the field. Win cons have to do with being semi-aggro and going wide. Check out the utility selection:

As I said, I want to go wide with this deck, and cards like overrun, overwhelming stampeded and coat of arms help me do so. This means my cards will be buffed and if I have enough wolf tokens out on top of a couple werewolves I should be able to get in for some good if not lethal damage. The other subtheme that I’m going for is a sort of control, having cards like Grafdigger’s Cage and Stranglehold in the deck, which keep opponents from casting from the graveyard or library, keeps them from searching for cards, and generally makes things annoying while I attempt to control the board state and then go wide. Will this work reliably? It might, it might not but it looks good on paper. I added in some targeted removal and the best dual lands I had on hand, and it turns out that I have about 60% of the deck already on hand. This means it will cost me a minimal amount to finish off, and that’s what I am going for with my upcoming budget changes. You can check out the full list here.

The War Report: Thoughts on Commander 2017

I know, I know, I’m obsessed. This used to be a gaming blog, and though I know that Magic: The Gathering could still be considered gaming, it’s definitely not “video gaming” despite having some titles in the digital space. Regardless, there is more news that interests me coming out of the Wizards of the Coast space than there is the gaming sphere, so here we are with another column of The War Report!

It’s spoiler season, which happens multiple times a year when it comes to MTG — each time a new set or collection comes out there are spoilers for it, as people want to know what they can expect before buying in, and I must say that having the spoilers is nice because you can tell if something you are going to buy is going to be worth your while. Given the spoilers of the last couple of main sets, Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation, I knew right away that I wouldn’t be buying too many packs, that most of the “power” cards that I wanted would be easier to just buy singles of and be done with. At this point I have done that for most of the cards I’d like to own from that block. Then once a year a new commander set comes out and we all get to take a peek into the minds of the creative teams at Wizards, and are rewarded with new cards in each set as well.

At this point, we know the exact color make ups, tribes and commanders for the new pre-constructed 2017 sets. Here they are:

5-color Dragons, Green/White Cats, Mardu Vampires and Grixis Wizards. Interesting color combinations, and an interesting new mechanic called “Eminence” which gives each new commander a bonus effect that triggers even when it is in the command zone. Well, this isn’t entirely new, as Oloro, The Ageless Acetic released with the 2013 commander sets and had what is now called Eminence. However, it’s a cool and powerful utility and I think we will see some awesome creative uses for the commanders outside of the precons. Out of these sets, as I mentioned in my last post I’m most interested in Vampires, but I was unsure how things would go having a mardu color-theme. Having seen Edgar Markov however, I’m sold. His Eminence ability is amazing and fits the aggro theme I wanted to use in the mono-black vampire deck I had been planning. I feel like sacrifice outlets and recursion are going to work out great in the deck, and I’m sure there will be some weaker cards that can easily be pulled out. I feel like there are some amazing dual colored vampires (orzhov and rakdos) that will slot right in, and if it ends up that I’m just splashing red, that’s fine — it’s what ended up happening with Kaalia as well.

I feel like the other Eminence abilities are less useful, but some of those commanders are more powerful in their own ways. Time will tell how the decks themselves play out, but I’m excited to get my hands on Markov and to build out the deck in my own way. The guys in my play group are excited as well, one for Dragons and the other for Wizards — no one is too thrilled with Cat tribal, but I’m sure someone will pick it up anyway.

There are some other great cards that are making their way into the decks as well, with some old school mechanics like phasing making their way back to the game. It’s been a great spoiler season thus far, and soon we’ll be looking forward to Ixalan as well. I will report back once I have the deck in hand and can start to modify it!

The War Report: HoD and EDH Updates

The Pre-release weekend for the newest Magic: The Gathering set, Hour of Devastation, just passed. Due to some financial difficulties I was unable to attend, though I did see what my friends procured from the event, and it was a bit underwhelming. We’re all members of a Facebook group dedicated to EDH, and I saw all sorts of people posting pictures of their awesome promo cards from the weekend — we’re talking foil Scarab Gods here, while my buds got a couple of crappy artifacts. Well, they are okay cards but I’d prefer some of the others I saw posted. Still, I was bummed that I didn’t get to go, and hope to go to the next. I’ve been reading articles about the set all over and the consensus is that it’s not a very “good” set. The expected value is lower than any set in years, and most are pointing to a handful of chase cards though I think that’s the case for most sets to be honest. Despite these facts, there are some great cards that I’m excited to add to my EDH decks, and for that I’ll buy at least a handful of packs and then probably buy the singles I’m not lucky enough to pull. The set officially releases on Friday, so I’ll probably pick up a Fat Pack and call it a day. For now though, I’d like to go over the cards I’m excited for and then touch upon some updates to decks that I’ve already talked about (and some that I have not).

These are the three cards I’m most excited for. The Locust God is going to be made into an EDH deck and Izzet is a color combination I have yet to build. I’ve actually already put the thing together, and have many of the pieces, just have to wait for the release so I can get my hands on this guy and finish it off with some singles. The Scarab God is also begging to be used in my Dimir Zombie deck, though I was torn whether or not to use him or just add him to the 99. Gisa and Geralf is my current commander, and though I love the graveyard recursion per turn especially when paired with Rooftop Storm, it seems that the X scry + damage per turn along with being able to make 4/4 zombies while removing cards from any graveyard seems to be stronger. Lastly, Razaketh is going straight into my Mardu Angels & Demons deck, which actually just saw a couple of recent upgrades that I’ll discuss in a bit. He’s a beast that can be cheated into play and also tutors for extra goodies. So good!

   

My B-tier list features a couple of cards that look awesome but haven’t yet found a home. I am planning an Oloro led lifegain deck that I feel the Crested Sunmare is a shoo-in for. Overwhelming splendor will also likely end up in that deck, because it slows the game down allowing me to build up life for various win conditions. Hell, even Torment of Hellfire could be useful, but I feel like that belongs in a different deck, but which one I don’t know. There were a few other cards I thought about mentioning here, but they are maybes and only if I decided they were going to fit into an existing deck or could be a build around.

Next up, I’d like to talk about some of the decks I’ve just mentioned, and maybe shed some light on other decks that I’ve built and have been playing. I try to share all of my decks because I know people who build decks find joy in dissecting others’ work, but also to keep a reminder around of what I thought was good and how I’ve grown as a deckbuilder. So like I said, that Razaketh is going into my Mardu Angels and Demons deck, and it’s actually just been upgraded. A while back I mentioned my playgroup picking up the Commander Anthology, and that we were going to pick up another, and that has happened. Just yesterday I paid for my second deck, and now I’m the proud owner of Kaalia of the Vast!

Honestly, when I built the deck I built it with her as the commander in mind, but she was $35 by herself and the deck was selling for around $100. That’s ridiculous. Instead, I got a better deal by splitting up this reprint and she’s actually worth more money than before because this reprint is a foil. Regardless, she makes the deck work even better, as you can cheat in the ridiculously expensive Angels and Demons in the deck. It turns out though that I bought nearly all of the same angels and a couple of the same demons, though I have many that are better includes for the deck than the precon. However, the precon came with a bunch of Dragons and some useful spells and mana rocks that will be used in other decks, so it’s not a complete wash. I did add these cards to my existing deck as well:

Anger is great in a graveyard to hastily use Kaalia, or anything that I play, most of which doesn’t have hast. I like the kicker on this otherwise normal artifact removal spell, and Reiver Demon is a nice board clear especially if you cheat him in. I dropped a couple cards that I felt weren’t bringing a lot of value in my time using the deck, and also dropped Tariel (the former commander) into the 99. I will have to make room for Razaketh, but I’m sure that will be easy enough.

The first deck I bought from the Anthology was Freyalise, and I have since removed her and a couple of cards to add to my Molimo Ramp deck. I think there is one HoD card that I want to add to that as well, but it’s not really imperative. With her remaining deck pieces I added a couple of other Elves and made Ezuri the new commander. I think it will still work well enough, but I’m not a huge fan of Elves in this game (or any game for that matter) so it’s likely I won’t play that deck much.

My Zombies deck has seen some revisions, and will receive another once HoD releases when I swap in The Scarab God as a new commander. Otherwise I think it’s done. My Orzhov Enchantments deck has been done for a while, and I think Molimo and the elves are good to go as well. My Temmet deck has also seen some revisions, most recently by adding in a couple of Populate options, and I think it’s finished as well. Reaper King which I don’t believe I’ve mentioned seems pretty well rounded out of the gate, people in my play group have even said it’s the best one I’ve made. Lastly, I just put together “Sramtron” which I mentioned recently, so I’m hoping that one works out well. All in all I’ve come to love the deckbuilding aspects, it just sucks that it can be such a money pit.

Anyway, I’ve rambled long enough for one post. Toodles.