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.

The War Report: Commander Anthology

A recent release, the Commander Anthology is part of a series of products designed to relive the past of the game. A bundled experience that is playable out of the box for four players, it reprints four previously available Commander pre-constructed sets, that are in some cases pretty rare, and pretty expensive. Having a four player group meant that we could pick this up and everyone would get a deck, but the MSRP is $160, and the decks themselves are worth varying prices. As such, the argument persisted past the release date, as to how it would be fair to pick who gets what, and what each deck is actually worth. You can see the full product list here along with the going rates for each, and see what I’m talking about. Not only is Kaalia worth more as a card, her deck has more expensive cards in it than the others. Freyalise ends up being the second most valuable though Meren isn’t far off. Derevi however, doesn’t even hit $50 worth of card value. It was a difficult thing to divy up, but then something magical (pun intended) happened.

When we were discussing our meet time for the past week, it turns out that one of our members said that he had a surprise for us, so he was really pushing for our fourth to make it. Everyone showed up and it was revealed that he had in fact picked up the Anthology. It turned out though, that he only had to pay $120 for it, as someone at a shop was willing to sell it cheaper for cash money. Score! Access to the product for less cost seemed to put everyone in a good mood, and we were able to amicably decide how to split up the box.

There are the four decks that come in their own thematic boxes, 4 spinner life counters that could come in handy, though we typically use an app on one of the guy’s iPad. Of the decks that are in the box, I was most interested in Kaalia, followed by Freyalise. Two other players also wanted Kaalia, and one other wanted Freyalise and Meren. The last guy didn’t care at all, and we ended up giving him first pick. Due to the price cut, it was agreed upon that Kaalia would be worth $60, and the others worth $30 each. I only brought $30 with me, and that seemed to be all anyone else wanted to spend, so the guy who picked the box up stuck with Kaalia, and our less picky player picked out Darevi. Myself and the last remaining player both wanted Freyalise, but I convinced him that he should pick Meren because he actually wanted the deck and to let me have Freyalise and that’s how it ended up.

We broke into the decks and played one very long game (that was interrupted plenty) that I ended up winning with the Elvish tribal deck. It was fun, and I’m looking forward to taking some of its pieces to put into my other mono-green deck, where I can already see a better commander and some other additions for a straight up elvish tribal deck. We all agreed again before the end of the night that it would be cool to pick up another box for the same price and let everyone get another deck, and I agreed to be the larger purchase this time around, so soon I will have a Kaalia that will be taken apart to use in other ways, but just having her in my Angel/Demon deck will be sweet. I feel that most of her pieces will be well used.

Overall I think the product is great if you either want an instant collection of four decks for yourself, or if you have a dedicated group that wants to get into Commander. Even at $160 it’s a pretty good value, but if you can find a deal it’s even sweeter!

The War Report: Theorycrafting: Molimo Ramp EDH

If you’ve been following this column, I’m sure you’ve noticed that Commander has kind of become my thing. I’m up to 5 decks that are all pretty good in my humble opinion (6 if you count the other pre-made deck I bought but subsequently broke up). From here on out, I’m going to use its less official but easier to write out acronym EDH, as that’s what me and my friends (plus countless online resources refer to it as). EDH stands for Elder Dragon, Highlander — which definitely sucks to spell out but is nice and tidy when you us the shortened version. Wizards coined the Commander moniker, and though it suits the format just as well, EDH sort of rolls off the tongue. As I was saying, EDH has become my thing, and I’ve shared a bit about some of my older decks though this time around I want to highlight the one that performed so well out of the gate that it nearly went undefeated last week when I debuted it. The real treat was that this past weekend my gaming group got together and instead of our usual 3 player free for all matches we had another person join us. Apparently he used to be their 3rd and they were always looking for a 4th… well I just so happen to now be the 3rd and he became the 4th. Or however you want to look at it. Playing a 4 person multiplayer match was very entertaining, and provided all new insights into our decks and how they were tuned. I noticed that the other two decks I put together most recently didn’t perform as well with the added player, but my latest creation happens to be balanced enough for either. I’d venture to say it would hold its own in 1v1 EDH matches as well.

I started with a dual color EDH deck, and then picked up a four color. I made a couple of dual color and one tri color deck as well, and then I started thinking I should probably try a mono color deck for shits and giggles. Green seemed like the natural choice because none of my other decks were using it, so I knew I had unused rares lying around. Upon doing some further research I figured I’d pick up some cards that would help with ramp as green does it best, and then just throw out huge beaters to win the game. It turns out that this thought process would be further refined but the end result was amazing — better than I could have hoped for. So without futher ado, let’s dig into my Mono Green Ramp EDH Deck:

There were a few good options for Legendary Mono-Green Commanders, but Molimo felt to fit the purpose of what I was going for. I want ramp, and I’m talking super ramp… to the point where I have like 10 forests on turn 5 and am swinging for 10 trample due to Molimo’s passive. He does have a steep cost but in EDH you don’t have the same limitations on your mana pool, nor do you have to worry with the amount of ramp I’ve put into the deck.

Spells

Ramp:

Ramp, ramp and more ramp. These are mostly sorceries but there are a couple of enchantments that serve the same purpose — get as many lands onto the battlefield as possible as fast as possible. It just so happens that the two best ways to do that are with spells that allow you to pull out lands, and by drawing cards, that can either result in more land in hand, or more spells in hand to get more land. You see where this is going. I stuck with cards that either put the land directly onto the battlefield (as there are many options where they end up in your hand) or where you get multiple lands at once. This increases the speed of the deck and there is so much synergy with the concept throughout the years of Magic sets available for EDH. Having the land to cast the X cost creatures or those other powerful spells is the whole point of this deck, because if you do it faster than them, you’ll always have the advantage. Plus Molimo benefits from the number of Forests you control, and it only takes 21 points of commander damage to beat an opponent. With 40 forests in the deck, you can potentially one shot everyone if you manage to keep him alive.

Card Draw:

As I’ve said, card draw is equally important. Though Blue is known more for its card draw prowess than the other colors, Green is no slouch, it just typically requires powerful creatures (also at home in the color) or for other conditions to occur. I’ve tried to run the gamut here, in that there are different options that can potentially result in large card draws. In one test game, I ended up using Rishkar’s Expertise on a Hydra that was a 26/26, and nearly milled myself to death. I still won that game though, drawing my last card on my last turn and winning shortly thereafter. Good times.

Removal/Utility:

Another important aspect to any EDH deck is removal. Green is sort of lacking when it comes to reliable board wipes, but we’re hoping that speed and evasion will win the day. Having cards like Bower Passage and Sandwurm Convergence means flyers can attack or block, so that takes care of another weakness. Making sure all of your creatures have trample is a necessity, and being able to destroy some artifacts or enchantments is equally nice.

Artifacts

 

Not too many artifacts in this deck, but they suit their purpose and go with the themes of the deck. Each is designed to either provide more ramp or card draw.

Creatures

The themes of the deck are present throughout my creature selection as well. There are some that will allow for lands to be fished out, some that provide trample and other bonuses, others that benefit from the number of lands I control, and a couple more card draw options. All in all they tend to be beefy creatures that are hard to deal with, and if I get enough out on the board it’s good night.

For an easier to glance at decklist, you can see my post on MTG Goldfish. It’s a fairly budget-friendly deck to put together as well, being priced at ~$77. Compared to that angel deck I put together a while back that was floating around $150 that is. If you try this deck out, let me know how it performs for you!

The War Report: Online Resources

War… war never changes.

But technology does. When Magic: The Gathering released way back in the early 1990’s, the Internet wasn’t even available to the public. A few short years later it was, and though I’m sure some sort of online resources for the game existed, those of us in my age group were still on dial-up and lived with our parents. We couldn’t just load up our smart phone’s browser and check prices, rulings or order cards. No, we had to get in the car (ask for a ride) and take our miserable amount of wadded up cash to the local store (usually of the comic/hobby variety) to buy packs or peruse singles. Hunting for rares could take several trips, and usually it was just easier to take Timmy’s lopsided trade to get that card you really needed to finish off your newest deck. Honestly, trading was more optimal most of the time, but you did have to spend some money here and there to get new cards and/or trade fodder.

Fast forward to today — and I’m sure it’s been this way for years now, I was just away from the game for a long time — and we have the technology to do everything from the comfort of our homes, aside from the getting together to play that is (though, you can play Magic Online or to a lesser extent the Magic Duels app and stay home entirely). Those of you who happen to be reading this and have been playing the game without significant breaks will probably be familiar with what I’m discussing today, but for someone in my shoes it took some time to dig up viable resources online.

This is my short list of recommendations for online resources for Magic: The Gathering. If you are looking to buy cards, read articles and find tools that can assist you in playing the game, these links should help:

1.Wizards of the Coast: Magic: The Gathering

A good place to start is the official website for the game. In particular, I would recommend familiarizing yourself with the various formats that have developed over the years, so you know which sorts of cards you should be buying, and what you should be building towards, that can be found here.

2.Gatherer

Magic’s official database, this is gold if you know what you’re looking for. Want to find every dual colored zombie card ever created? You can do that. The sorting options are intuitive and the entire collection is represented. Also, official rulings from professional tournaments are noted on particularly confusing cards, and can be helpful when arguing over rules during games.

3.MTG Goldfish

There are many different websites out there that deal with strategy, and I have found several that I want to recommend for various reasons that we will get to. However, I find that I come back to MTG Goldfish the most. The reason being? Because they have some great articles about deck tech and brewing up fresh ideas for the game, but also an impressive database that allows you to add your collection online, along with posting individual decks that the community sees (unless you mark them as private). I have linked to my own decks on the site from other War Report posts, and I think the way it’s laid out is very cool, in that you mouse over the card names and a picture will appear of the actual card. This gives a fuller picture of what the deck does. Some of the sorting options will allow you to also see your mana curve visually, and you can judge where you can trim the fat from a glance. The cost of your deck is totaled but also broken down per card, so you can see what it will cost you if this is a deck you’re brewing, or how much your investment is worth. It’s a powerful tool and I highly recommend using it.

4.EDHREC

When I started getting into EDH (Commander) a couple of months ago, I really wanted to dive in head first and learn as much about the format as I could. I started with preconstructed decks, but instantly thought of all the possibilities this format could bring and started dreaming up new deck ideas. I started looking for EDH resources as many of the sites I was already browsing didn’t really have what I was looking for. EDHREC is one of the better sites devoted to the format. Like MTG Goldfish they have some interesting articles, but they always revolve around the EDH format, regardless of if that means diving into some other sub formats, like pauper and budget deck builds. Where EDHREC shines is in their use of a database to sort out commanders and the most commonly used cards in decks using that commander. I don’t believe every single legendary creature is represented on the site, but there are many and each will make use of different cards you potentially didn’t think of. I find it is a powerful resource to hunt down the types of cards that might synergize with the commander of your choice.

5.MTG Salvation

MTG Salvation is a similar site to the above two, but has something the others don’t. There are articles, and some database stuff, but where this site really shines is its forums. I’m not much of a forum crawler, I find that most of the time it’s a bunch of drivel and I can’t be assed to search through it. However, Google has a way of pulling bits of forums out and presenting them to you in a way that makes searching a forum manually a thing of the past. As such, I was looking for beginner’s guides on Commander and came across a huge EDH guide on these forums that was invaluable. I have since also read other threads that were of great use as well. If you don’t mind forums, I’m sure there’s a lot of gold in them hills.

6.Troll and Toad

The last time I had played MTG with any regularity was the early 2000’s. I didn’t even have Internet access at the first couple places I had on my own as an adult, so I never even thought to look into buying cards online. I still did the traditional purchasing at store fronts, but they did become increasingly harder to find as the comic and hobby store boom of the 1990’s saw a crash by the early to mid 2000’s, at least in the area where I lived. It turns out that purchasing cards online is not only efficient as hell, but doesn’t really cost any more than going to a store. There are plenty of brick and mortar options for me in the area where I currently live, so I’m not opposed to going into a store and dropping some money to support a local business (I have done so a few times since picking the game back up last fall). But sometimes card stores don’t have what you’re looking for, and in that case you need a reliable online retailer. You’ll run into the same problems online, some cards are simply not available, and oftentimes super powerful/rare cards are being sold for far to much, but that is supply and demand in a nutshell. I’ve been ordering from Troll & Toad for about 6 months and I haven’t been disappointed with the quality of cards, or the pricing. Things seem fair, and the market value fluctuates in ways that you can benefit from if you time things right. My only complaint is that sometimes the shipping takes far too long. They are located halfway across the continent from me, but I can get things in two days from Amazon anywhere in the US it feels like. I just don’t see how something ordered on a Monday would arrive the following Tuesday unless it was international, but first world problems. Regardless, from what I’ve read they have the cheapest prices of any other online card dealer, but that is their one downfall. Can’t win at everything I suppose.

I hope some of these recommendations help someone out there. I know I would have liked the pointers sooner than I got them. Happy gaming!

The War Report: Theorycrafting – Angels & Demons (Commander)

Things have been progressing nicely with my playgroup. We have all started to up our game and its beginning to show. Two of us started off with prebuilt decks, then splashed in our own flavor, while our third has been endlessly creating new decks from his piles of old cards. Soon though, we were seeing things about playing Standard that we no longer liked. See, I came back to the game when Kaladesh was first released. In that time we’ve seen the release of the 2nd set of the block – Aether Revolt, and the first set of the Amonkhet block. There were some intriguing mechanics present in the Kaladesh block that kept us intrigued with Standard, plus we all had several Standard decks that kept things fresh for a time. The mechanics in Amonkhet are sort of meh. I have seen some decent cards — I was lucky enough to pull one of the super rare Invocations from the 10 pack bundle I picked up the other day — but overall I wasn’t seeing much I wanted to use in terms of tweaking my Standard decks. My friends felt the same way. I did buy some packs, and did pull a few cards that will be used in Commander, including a legendary creature I want to build a future deck around. So with our deteriorating interest in Standard legal play, we’ve basically committed to Commander full time. As such, it seemed that some of my Standard decks had themes I could build on, and from there came my from scratch Zombie Commander deck. I just received the last of the singles needed for that deck, as playtesting resulted in some tweaks needing to be made. I’m calling it done now though, and found myself itching to work on another creation.

I’ve had some pretty good luck pulling some of the better Angels and Demons from recent sets. It was upsetting to not really be using them though, so I decided it was time to build a deck around them. But what commander would I use? I honestly didn’t want to make a mono colored Commander deck, so I decided to do a little research into what sorts of angels were available. The idea really started when I saw some red devil cards, and wanted to make Angels and Devils, but there aren’t enough devils to support the idea, so demons will have to do. Given that most demons are black  and most angels are white, the natural conclusion was to make a white/black deck, but I’ve already got several of those. I ended up finding a very powerful commander that came in a premade deck that was white/red/black, but also cost a ridiculous amount of money. I couldn’t justify that cost, so I decided to find another angel card that would fit the bill, and here’s the commander I chose for the deck:

He’s a beefy angel with a great tap ability, but a hefty price tag. He was cheap at $3, but he costs 7 mana. For a commander that’s a bit rough, but the idea behind the deck is that it’s semi-tribal and you should be able to win without using your commander, rather than the other way around. I feel like he’s a good choice, and I think building a deck around him was fun. Here’s my deck list at this point:

Akroma’s Vengeance
Akroma, Angel of Fury
Akroma, Angel of Wrath
Angel of Despair
Angel of Serenity
Angelic Arbiter
Angelic Skirmisher
Archfiend of Depravity
Assemble the Legion
Authority of the Consuls
Basandra, Battle Seraph
Beacon of Unrest
Bloodgift Demon
Boros Charm
Boros Signet
Bruna, the Fading Light
Conqueror’s Flail
Crackling Doom
Darksteel Ingot
Dawnbreak Reclaimer
Demon of Dark Schemes
Diabolic Tutor
Doom Blade
Dreadbore
Emeria Shepherd
Entreat the Angels
Exquisite Archangel
Fumigate
Ghostly Prison
Gisela, the Broken Blade
Go for the Throat
Grave Upheaval
Harvester of Souls
Hedron Archive
Herald of Anguish
Iroas, God of Victory
Karmic Guide
Magister of Worth
Mardu Banner
Mortify
Murder
Never/Return
Obzedat’s Aid
Orzhov Signet
Planar Cleansing
Rakdos Charm
Rakdos Signet
Ravos, Soultender
Reforge the Soul
Resolute Archangel
Return to Dust
Reya Dawnbringer
Rout
Rune-Scarred Demon
Staff of Nin
Sublime Exhalation
Sunblast Angel
Sunforger
Sword of Body & Mind
Swords to Plowshares
Temple of the False God
Terminate
Unburial Rites
Unlicensed Disintegration
Utter End
Windborn Muse
Worn Powerstone

I was going to put each individual picture up like I usually do but I can’t be assed today. It’s hot and it’s my Sunday, so that’s all I got. I will be making this decklist public on MTG Goldfish though, so I’ll link to that here shortly. Overall the theme of the deck is to keep pumping out power cards that have interesting effects, spot remove big threats, and clear the board if things aren’t going my way. There are some bits and bobs in there for control effects, and a lot of graveyard recursion. I think this deck is going to be a blast to play, I can’t wait to get it all put together. My local card store had most of the cards I needed, unfortunately they didn’t have a copy of Tariel himself, so that one will be in the mail within a week. Perhaps next weekend I can report back on my finished Zombie and Angels & Demons decks.