The War Report: Gobbs!

There are five colors in Magic: The Gathering, and of those my least favorite has to be Red. Sure, there are some of the mechanics and certain cards that can be pretty good, but overall without a splash of some other color, Red tends to do everything the other colors can do to a worse degree. A while back I was thinking about the composition of my EDH decks. I have one 5-color, one 4-color, a couple of 3-color, several 2-color and only two mono-colored decks. The 5 and 4 colors were made as sort of an experiment and ended up working out okay. 3 color was dictated by the commanders I wanted to build (Markov and Kaalia). Two color seems to be the sweet spot for me, and Orzhov (white/black) tends to be my favorite though I do enjoy Dimir (blue/black) and Izzet (blue/red). My mono decks were built with certain strategies in mind (mono white voltron and mono green ramp/beatdown). Overall, I’ve enjoyed the creation of these decks, but I was feeling like perhaps I should explore my least favorite color a bit more, just to see if I could make it work all by its lonesome.

My first though was building a mono red Dragon deck, but given the option to run Scion or the Ur-Dragon, it seems like a bad call. Most of the good Dragons are red sure, but it still seems like I’d miss out on some good ones in other colors, plus I wouldn’t have the same amount of ramp, counters, etc. Enter the next product release from Wizards: Duel Decks: Merfolk vs. Goblins.

Goblins are the number one mono red deck variant according to EDHREC. The number one Goblin commander is Krenko, Mob Boss. Guess who’s gonna pick up the duel deck as a starting point to build out a Goblin EDH deck? I’ve already built it out and found a couple of different win-cons to go along with it, and despite being mono-red I think I’ve found ways to make it work effectively. Let’s take a look.

Krenko is a shoo-in for the best Goblin commander, despite being several other mono red options. A 3/3 for four, he starts multiplying the amount of Goblins on the board very quickly, and you can abuse the amount of Goblins (or creatures) in a number of ways. Let’s look at some of the tricks we can pull out while running a Goblin tribal deck:

Goblins can make us mana, can cause tons of damage, can be sacrificed for single target removal, and as an added bonus, enchantments like Impact Tremors can do some serious work as each new creature entering the battlefield does 1 damage to EACH opponent, so just imagine tapping Krenko when you already have ten Goblins on the board, and he makes an additional eleven (counting himself) which in total causes 11 damage to each opponent without much effort at all. Some of the other bits and bobs that I’ve thrown into the deck will work with a similar synergy.

Here’s a sampling of the creatures in the deck, mostly all being Goblins (the lone Dragon is the exception), and providing more towards the themes I’ve already suggested. One allows you to sacrifice a Gob for red mana. Others have power/toughness equal to the number of Goblins or creatures I control. One has a cycling cost that ends up doing a large chunk of damage based on the Goblins on the board. Overall, Goblins want to make tons of copies of each other (which I why I’ve included Kindred Charge), have sac outlets and generally attack non-stop until someone is dead, even if it’s themselves! Aside from the go-wide win condition, I also came up with an alternate win that might just be evil (and amazing) if I can pull it off:

These are the pieces, and though I originally thought it might work with just two of them, my roommate pointed out to me that I needed the third piece. So basically, I wanted to figure out a way to get several extra turns to be able to close out a game. There are several options in red to do so, but they either require combat damage done to a player, exertion, or other mechanics that will complicate things. It seems that there are three variants to Final Fortune, in that red has three different spells that cost RR and will provide you with an extra turn, but then you will lose the game. Clearly, we don’t want the extra turns unless we can win, but that’s a pretty big gamble and I want more than one extra turn. Enter Isochron Scepter. It’s an artifact that can imprint Final Fortune onto it, effectively allowing you to cast that spell each turn for 2 colorless mana. This means on each of those extra turns I can tap it again and again allowing for infinite turns. However, the end step will kill me on the second turn. Enter Sundial of the Infinite. With it, I can spend 1 colorless mana to end the turn, and if done before the end step, I can wipe the losing condition from the stack. So, with this in mind, I need all 3 pieces for infinite turns, but I can use just Final Fortune and the sundial for two turns in succession without losing. As such, I figured I should get some tutors in the deck as well to try and fish out this win-con (not easy to do with Red!)

The main tutors here are Inventor’s Fair which can be sacrificed to tutor up an artifact, and Gamble, which can tutor up any card, but you have to discard one at random. I have several other draw spells and effects in the deck, so hopefully I’ll be able to pull out one or more of the pieces traditionally, and then tutor up the last bits. I also included cards like the Goblin Matron (tutor up one Gob) and Goblin Recruiter (tutor up as many gobs as I want) to help thin out the deck. Hopefully tutoring will be effective as will the card draw engine. At the end of the day I want to go-wide, but having a backup plan is essential.

That’s all for today’s edition. I’ll report back after this deck is built and tested. I can’t wait to swarm the battlefield with Gobbs!!

TWR: Taking Inspiration From Others

There are a few brews that I’ve been working on in my spare time, decks that I want to build but are a bit too expensive to grab outright, so I’ve made small investments here and there, and several of my decks are considered under construction. Hell, the decks I play with regularly see revisions too as new sets come out and more optimal or on-theme cards present themselves. But to this point the decks that I discuss in this column are those that I’ve already built, or those that I’m updating from a previous version. I intend to keep things that way, so behold, my latest project that has come to fruition.

I already owned Saskia, the Unyielding — having purchased the pre-constructed deck “Open Hostility” back when I first got into Commander. I played with that deck a few times and didn’t really understand how to use it, nor did I really care for what it was doing. It turns out it’s probably the weakest deck from that year’s Commander set, and that’s probably why I wasn’t that into it. The other day I was reading an article over on EDHREC, because I was curious to see what someone else might do with this card as a Commander. I rather liked the author’s idea, where the deck is centered around the combo of Saskia’s passive ability and “ball-lightings.” Let me illustrate why this sounds so good.

Ball Lightning has been around for a long time. It always felt like a weak card unless it was played in the right deck, but the mechanic itself has found its way onto many different variants of creature cards. What matters here is that it is a 6/1 with trample and haste, but must be sacrificed at end of turn. Still, for only 3 mana you could potentially start casting these cards as early as turn 1 or 2. This means you’re hitting for around 6 damage a turn if you have enough of these guys in the deck, and even if they get out a weenie or two you’re still causing trample damage. Combined with Saskia’s passive, and as long as you swing at a different enemy you’re doing damage to two players simultaneously. Or, you can basically double down on one person. Either way, it’s free damage and we like free damage. So the majority of the deck is set around this theme, and the credit for that is due to the author of the post I read. He had some other ideas as well, some of which I took parts of and others that I didn’t. I tweaked it enough to call it my own, but it’s definitely not my original idea. It turned out that I had the Commander and the expensive pieces in my collection so I didn’t have to spend much to finish her off. The other creatures in the deck tend to be more Ball Lighting types, but I will highlight some of the utility I included as well:

The creatures that stray from being Ball Lightnings have their place as well. Brion is a good sacrifice outlet, and those are important too. Being able to have a sacrifice outlet for the Ball Lightning that survives combat means you get a bonus effect from them before they self destruct at end of turn. 2nd main phase means something, kids! Feldon let’s me copy already dead Ball Lightnings. Some cards proc for card draw when I play creatures. Vizier of the Menagerie is mana fixing and card draw. Stalking Vengeance allows for extra damage when your creatures sac at end of turn. Synergy all around. For spells, I added some board clears that the original author did not. Plenty of ramp, some card draw as well. My enchantment selection was pretty important:

Mostly thematic and/or utility, the enchantments I added to the deck can help with things like card draw (elemental bond) or ramp (perilous forays) but can also give me double strike while attacking, or more free damage when creatures hit the battlefield. Rite of the Raging Storm is fantastic because it gives me a Ball Lightning every turn for free. I also replicated this sort of effect with some of my artifacts. Otherwise those cards give some additional card advantage (lifecrafter’s bestiary) and mana fixing (chromatic lantern).

Overall I think it will be a fun deck to test out, which I’m hoping to do later this evening. Deckbuilding is half the fun, but the other half is playtesting! Can’t wait for the day that we get our best decks together and go enter a tournament or other store event and see how we do against the competition!

TWR: The Importance of a Win-Con

I don’t believe I’ve covered my Temmet deck yet, and I have been trying to make an effort to talk about each of my EDH creations at some point or another in this column. I recently gave him a bit of a makeover, building upon themes laid out in my initial brew, but I also added another layer that seemed unlikely but has proven to be useful.

When I ripped open my first packs from the then new set Amonkhet, Temmet was one of the first legendary creatures I pulled. I hadn’t built an Azorious colored deck to that point, and I loved the look and flavor of him as a commander. His ability to give token creatures unblockable was the first theme I tried to build upon, finding ways to make large token creatures I could then make unblockable to get free hits in on my opponents. An added benefit is his Embalm ability, where if he dies you can choose to let him hit the graveyard, and later revive him as a token himself. This led me to also include other cards from the set with Embalm to further my unblockable tokens theme. Unfortunately, it seemed that this wasn’t powerful enough, and the deck never really performed the way I wanted it to.

One thought I had was to make it into a semi-voltron deck, where I could get Temmet embalmed into a token, then equip him and make him unblockable, which is still viable, and sort of something I did in the original build. I had added some of the living weapon cards, which are equipments that create a 0/0 creature the equipment attaches to, which in turn can be made unblockable with Temmet. But since I had built Sram into a full on voltron commander, I felt it was redundant to have another. As such, I started thinking about what win-con I could utilize that would make Temmet semi-competitive, at least in my playgroup (where it pretty much always lost). Enter infect.

It seems that blue and white are not the strongest colors to run an infect theme, although they do have a few key cards that I’ve included. I also included many of the artifact creatures with infect, and an equipment which can be attached to a creature to give it +2/+2 and infect as well. Lastly, a nice mind control type spell that also grants the stolen creature infect. These pieces felt like they would do the trick, and upon testing it out, I found that I added just enough to make this win-con work. Here are a couple other cards I added for support:

The conspiracy sets have really added some nice jank to the meta. The Keeper of Keys not only makes you the Monarch (you draw a card at the end of each of your turns) but if you control this guy by the next turn’s upkeep, all of your creatures become unblockable. This means the ability to go-wide is now a threat, and it just fits the theme I was going with. The additional sorcery is some nice spot removal that also gets me a token along with some group hugs for other players. Overall the changes I made have turned the deck into one that can actually compete, and for that I’m happy.

Make sure you have a win-condition that makes sense in each of your decks. Throwing together a bunch of good cards haphazardly might not get it done in the end.

The War Report: Cataloging

I’ve made mention before of the utility found over at MTGGoldfish, and it has become my go-to utility for deck building. I still use sites like EDHREC and Tapped Out to build my decks and theorycraft, but when it comes time to actually posting my decks online (and as a byproduct, I’m contributing to the EDHREC database) this is where I have called home for the year. It turns out that not only can you build and share your constructed decks with their system, but you can also catalog your entire collection if so desired, and I decided that was something that I wanted to do recently.

It’s frustrating when you begin to amass a large collection of cards and realize that you have copies of what we call “staples” but can’t seem to find them. Knowing exactly what you have on hand at all times so that you don’t order another copy of that staple is good for saving some cash. Though I am pretty diligent about organizing my collection into boxes by set/color, I still found that I was ending up with extra copies of things I shouldn’t have ordered. This past weekend I spent some time painstakingly entering hundreds of cards, and each is distinguished by its print set. I managed to go through all of my EDH decks that are completed and those that are in various stages of construction, along with all of the mythics/rares I keep in a binder. This is where the collection stands currently:

As you can see, the larger played-with portion of my set is worth a couple grand. That was surprising, as I know I haven’t spent that much on the hobby, though I know I’ve spent a pretty penny over the course of the last year. You get value when you pull things like Masterpiece series cards (see Cryptic Command and Sword of Body and Mind above) as both of those single cards we worth more than what I paid for the packs they came in. In some cases cards I purchased spike and end up being worth more later, but generally most cards start high when a set releases and drop later on. This is also the case with reprints, they tend to bring the cost of a card down, particularly if it’s the first time it’s been reprinted and it was a high value/rare card.

This still isn’t taking into account the boxes of commons/uncommons that lie unused. I’m hoping to get those cataloged this weekend so I can see a total value for my collection, but I’d guess it will hit somewhere around $3,000. That’s not bad considering I probably spent half that amount. The only problem, is that just like most collectibles, they’re only worth that amount to someone who knows their value and/or wants them. In this case, it’s highly unlikely that I’d be able to pack all of my cards into a box and sell them for $3,000, but I might be able to sell them for a grand or so and make some money back. Not that I’m thinking about selling, but it’s interesting when you pay attention to the financial side of things.

Considering I’ve probably spent $3k in a year on video games easily, it seems that I’ve actually saved some money by putting more focus onto this hobby. That isn’t to say it’s an inexpensive one — you can definitely spend much more than I have on cards, I just made myself some rules to keep from going too crazy. The big one is trying not to spend more than $10-15 on any single card.

What would you say you spend on your hobbies in a given year?

TWR: My First Pre-Release (Ixalan)

This past weekend saw the Pre-Release events for Ixalan take place at LGS’s around the world. Despite having returned to the game about a year ago, and having played plenty in years past, I had never taken part in a single game at a store versus strangers, nor in a sanctioned event. It was something that had been on my mind since returning, but I just hadn’t managed to go yet. The guys in my playgroup have gone to a few that I know of, so they had filled me in on how things go and I was still intrigued. A while back we purchased pre-release kits off of Amazon when Amonkhet released, creating our own makeshift pre-release event. Finally, this weekend I made it to my first official event, and got to see how it works first hand.

Ixalan officially releases on Friday, but at a pre-release you get your hands on a few packs of the new set, get to build a 40 card deck and play several rounds (best of threes) against whoever happens to show up. My friends and I went to the 1 pm event on Sunday and it was pretty fun. I enjoyed having the experience, though I understand that I am more of a constructed player, so I wasn’t going into the thing expecting to win all of my games. I have kept up on spoilers so I knew some of the cards that I was looking for, and did end up getting a few (though none of the good vampires I want for my Edgar Markov deck, boo). Another special treat for attending is a sealed foil rare card that has the pre-release dates printed on it. Sort of a cool way to commemorate things, though it’s random so sometimes you get something less desirable. I ended up with this guy:

He’s not bad, though sort of expensive. I think he would have worked fairly well in an EDH dinosaur deck, but a bit expensive when it comes to a more standard-like format. I think I played him once in all of my games. When we arrived at the store, it was just about start time, so we paid for our kits and went about cracking packs and building our decks. I finished fairly quickly, because after I pulled my best cards from the packs, I had to clear build arounds:

Pirates don’t seem all that interesting to me, but again, I play from the standpoint of wanting to build new EDH decks or add cards to my existing ones. I’m not currently playing standard or modern, so if it isn’t going somewhere EDH related then I’m pretty much over it. It seems that there are more pirates from previous sets than there are dinosaurs (they technically didn’t exist until now, though they did some errata on a dozen or so cards to make them part of the tribe) but I don’t really like the theme. They tend to center around stealing stuff or creating treasure artifact tokens that can be sacrificed for mana. This is similar to the Clue mechanic, but those artifact tokens were sacrificed to draw cards. Regardless, these mechanics don’t seem all that great, and I just built a Grixis commander in Marchesa, so I didn’t want to do the same colors again. I feel like Gishath is a great commander idea, but unfortunately the tribe support isn’t really there just yet — trust me, I already tried to figure one out and it seems to fall flat. I think we’ll have to wait for the second block of Ixalan to get enough dinos to really make a deck. I assume by then there might be some better pirate options as well. But I’m getting off topic.

I pulled the cards above out of my packs and looked through the rest of my cards. I ended up feeling like I had a decent deck formed around Dinosaurs so of course I ran the Avatar as well. I only managed to play him once, and still lost that game, but he’s a fun card nonetheless and more exploitable in EDH. Can’t wait to see if he can be a thing someday. As our rounds started, I played through four separate opponents before the event was done. I didn’t have the best day, but I managed to get a win in the final round. My overall scoring went like so:

  • Round 1: Went 1-2 (loss)
  • Round 2: Went 0-2 (loss)
  • Round 3: Went 1-2 (loss)
  • Round 4: Went 2-1 (win)

Individually the only round that was attrocious was the second. I couldn’t get all three colors of mana out and ended up being killed quickly. In the first two rounds I played against mirror decks, though only one of those players had a Gishath in the deck, they were both playing 3-color dinos. The 3rd round was played against the only guy in the store that was clearly older than us, and he had an Orzhov vampire deck (exactly what I wanted to play but lacked the cards to do so). I managed to win the first game but then lost the second and in the third I should have won but a well timed land destruction spell kept me from being able to play Gishath for the win. In the final round I played against this gentleman’s daughter who had a rough day like myself. She surprised me with a mill strategy for the first win (this is the only game I played Gishath and still lost) but I managed to tie things up and we were amid our third game when the time for the round ran out. Officially there are only a few turns left after that, but since we were the last game still going, the shopkeep let us finish it up. I finally scored my win, and was given a participation pack, along with another pack for it being my first event.

Overall it was a fun experience but I really only was in it for the cards. I think perhaps another time I’ll try again but for now I’m cool with the limited format. What I’d like to do now is go to a random Commander night and see what other sorts of decks are out there. So it looks like Ixalan has some cool cards in it, but overall it’s another set where I’ll buy a few packs and then buy up the desired singles and call it a day.