The War Report: Experimenting With 2HG

For the past couple of weeks my playgroup was down a man, and as such we took the time to hone a few decks and introduce a few. Well, I did the honing of my own decks, putting in a small order with Card Kingdom to pick up some of the remaining cards from Hour of Devastation that I knew needed to go somewhere. That meant turning my Zombie deck into a Scarab God deck and adding cards like Razaketh to my Kaalia deck. The other two guys actually put together something new, one making a mono-black sacrifice/recursion deck that was rather frustrating, and the other putting together a mono-blue merfolk deck. Neither sounded overly impressive but both were able to do some interesting things. My personal upgrades were fun and it was nice to pull out Razaketh and to use the Scarab God (to great effect), but the FFA 3 player games just aren’t as fun as 4-player.

Recently I had been trying to convince the guys that we should play something that is team oriented instead of always doing a 4-player FFA match. FFA is great for when you want politics to play a role in the outcome of the game, but it can result is some games where you push the wrong buttons at the wrong time and someone is scooping at best or going home at worst. Our playgroup of nearly a year has seen it all but we still come back together for the love of the game. Hell, I’m going to live with one of the other members very soon, so it’s likely this will be a regular occurrence for a long time to come (or one would hope given the investment).

When I presented the idea, I said we should try a different format or just try to break things up in general. At some point it was said that we should draft, but to me that’s just not what Magic is about. Sure, people go to drafts and it’s a thing, but it’s just not really my thing. I want to play constructed, and honestly I’m sort of beyond caring about Standard or any of the other formats (modern, vintage, etc.). I want to play EDH. We want to play EDH. Luckily, people have thought about this and provided other formats.

Beyond the standard variant of EDH, there is also Pauper, 2-Headed Giant and Tiny Leaders. Aside from the latter, each is basically already a format elsewhere, and has been restructured to work with EDH, though there really aren’t concrete rules. So these are all house rules sorts of setups, basically how we used to do it in the old days before formats were a thing. So, just to be clear, normal EDH goes like this:

99 cards + 1 Commander which must be a legendary creature.
Besides Basic Land, no more than one copy of a card in the deck (has own ban list).
Must use colors from commander’s color identity in the deck only.
40 life, 21 commander damage, 10 poison counters, or can’t draw a card and you’re out.
Multiplayer format, can be played 1v1 or with a whole table of players.

Pauper EDH is the same as above, but:

Commander must be an uncommon creature.
All other cards must be commons.

Sounds like an interesting twist, right? I know I have a shitload of commons laying around collecting dust because most of them aren’t competitive enough and are typically only used as draft fodder or in standard decks where it just happens to fit alright (lack of better options). This one is still on the table, but no one has built anything for it yet. I mentioned Tiny Leaders at some point, but it’s not as good (IMO):

The Tiny Leaders format was conceived in 2013 as a format for those who enjoy a challenge when deck building, and love EDH. The rules are simple- 50 card decks, including your “Commander”, with no more than one of each card (a “Highlander” format), and no card shall exceed converted mana cost 3.

The last two choices were that we could either play a 2v2 where it was played the same as a normal FFA but where the teams would cooperate and take alternating turns, hopefully sitting alternately. Or, we could try to play 2HG EDH. This is what we did last weekend when we got together.

There aren’t official rules for 2HG EDH, but with our understanding of how it is supposed to work, we made up our own house rules and rolled with it. Kitchen table Magic is the best! So here’s what we came up with. Same rules as traditional EDH, but:

Shared life total of 60 per team.
Simultaneous turns per team.
Global effects like enchantments effect the whole team.
We nixed commander damage, and didn’t have anyone playing poison. 

It went really well! I ended up winning 2 out of 3 games played and showed that my Locust God and Scarab God decks are no joke. These are the kinds of games that help to break up the experience for those times when you’ve been playing the same decks for ages and can’t afford to get something else going each week. Don’t get me wrong, I love Magic no matter the form, but having these variants really keeps you invested and livens up game nights. We’re all looking forward to Commander 2017 releasing this week, and I’m sure after the move we’ll be going over my Vampire deck and how it’s performed. Until then!

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: Brewing Vampires

The new batch of Commander pre-constructed decks are coming very soon, August 25th to be exact. Like the sets of precon decks before it, there are several to choose from, and there is a general theme. This year’s theme is tribal decks, whereas last year the focus was on four color partner decks and other years have had things like Planeswalkers that could be used as commanders, etc. Bits of information have been leaked over the course of the year for the new decks, and though nothing has been fully confirmed, we know that one of the decks is 5-color Dragon tribal. Cat and Vampire tribal has also been basically confirmed, and the last deck is said to be Wizards.

Of these, the deck I am most interested in is the vampire tribal. I have actually brewed a mono black aggro deck that is based around vampires, but haven’t spent the money to buy the cards just yet. When I heard that vampires would be one of the new tribes, I figured I would wait and see what comes in the deck before building the one that I brewed. Word on the street is that the deck will be Mardu (red/white/black) which is a strong combination that I’ve used with Kaalia — and that deck smashes. However when it comes to vampires it doesn’t necessarily feel like the best colors for the job.

I picked mono black for my own brew mainly because the majority of vampire creature cards are black. Black also has a variety of ramp, removal and card draw. Honestly, black feels like the best color in a lot of ways, but I am also drawn to Orzhov (black/white) which adds some additional goodies via white spells, but some of the gold cards that are Orzhov are powerful, and there are some vampire options there as well. Black/red does have some vamps as well, but it seems that the mono red vampires are mostly weak, and revolve around madness quite a bit — which is a mechanic only found in one block.

I’m seeing subthemes here, but I honestly need to see what comes with the precon to see how I want to build it out. I can stick with Mardu and change it marginally as I’ve done with precons in the past. Or I can strip the red out and change the commander to Vish Kal, Blood Arbiter. He’s the only Orzhov Legendary Vampire. There are plenty of mono black legendary vamps, but no mono red and no mono white. I’m assuming that the mardu precon will provide a new commander card because currently there aren’t any mardu legendary vampires. That’s one bit that keeps me from making any decisions currently, because the precons each come with some new cards that have never been printed before. If the new commander is worth keeping the deck mardu then so be it. If he is not, I may run Vish, or I may just strip out the good black cards and stick to mono black.

At this point it’s hard to say which way I’ll go. I feel like the mono black brew I’ve made could be a strong deck, but I am also intrigued to see what they come up with in a three color. Regardless, the next deck I’m going to be working on is this vampire deck, but that won’t be until the end of the month. In the meantime I think I’m going to focus on finely tuning my existing decks as there are still some Hour of Devastation cards that I’d like to sprinkle in, along with some weaknesses that need to be shored up. In particular I want to change around my zombie deck by making Scarab God the commander (which may end up giving the deck a mill subtheme), add Razaketh to Kaalia, and change some of my equipment/auras in Sram. Reaper King also feels like he needs some changes, because he draws a lot of hate and when he is off of the board it feels like I can’t do as much. So for the rest of the month I’m going to focus on those improvements and then work on vampires once I get my hands on the precon.

How do you go about starting new brews?

The War Report: Locust God Brew

As I did with Amonkhet before it, I decided that there was at least one new Legendary creature from Hour of Devastation worth building a deck around. I was lucky enough to pull a Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun from the lone fat pack I bought of the previous set, and it was really the only legendary creature I wanted to build a deck around and have done so already. The Minotaur from that set is pretty decent too, but I wasn’t excited about it, just like I wasn’t excited about HoD’s Scorpion God. However, this new set came with a few decent cards to add to existing EDH decks of mine, and I couldn’t wait to build a deck around The Locust God:

He’s not a cheap god by any means, but we intent to fix that by putting in a solid amount of card draw and some decent ramp. Blue and Red aren’t the best ramp colors, but they allow for decent card draw, and I’ve thrown in a good amount of mana rocks to fix things. We don’t have to worry about commander tax with The Locust God either, because when it dies it returns to your hand. The real benefit though is the fact that any time you draw a card, you get a 1/1 flyer with haste. If you can’t manage to get extra draws, you at least have the main draw phase along with the ability to loot built into the card. So most turns you should be netting at least a couple of these flyers, but that sounds like it would take far too long to get anything done. So let’s look at card draw effects that will help speed up our army of insects:

Blue provides the majority of card draw effects, but they are present in red, and there is of course some artifact and creature help. I’ve made sure to include some self draw, X draws and other effects that allow me to draw more cards all the time. Wheel effects happen to be very powerful in this deck as well, so I made sure to add some of those. Discarding your hand sounds detrimental, but being able to draw another full set sometimes comes with hidden benefits, and no matter what you’re generating more insects to swing with, each turn.

  

Outside of using these sorts of effects, I’ve also included some powerful enchantments that can multiply their effects:

Being able to draw additional cards per turn, or multiply the amount of cards drawn is powerful in conjunction with the insect production of the God. Outside of this, I’ve also added several different counterspell options and some burn spells for removal or to finish off a low life player. I also added in staple dual lands along with as many of the cycling lands I could find, due to the fact that late game those cards can net additional creatures, but also sometimes come in handy to discard if you are mana flooded. In the event that you start cycling through your deck a bit too fast, I’ve included cards like Commit // Memory and Temporal Cascade so you can get your graveyard shuffled back into your library. So what about the creatures, you may ask?

A sampling of the creatures in the deck, each has its own purpose but flows with the theme of the deck. Some make spells cost lest to cast, others help with card draw or wheel effects. One helps shuffle your graveyard into your deck, some ping for damage on card draw or ETB, and a couple of mages who will fish up other artifacts. Finally, we should discuss win conditions, outside of the obvious card draw and over run with 1/1 flyers.

There is a potential infinite combo here with Ashnod’s Altar, Skullclamp and The Locust God. Not coincidentally, I included both Trinket and Trophy mages to help fish these pieces up. Sacrificing an insect token to the Altar gives two mana with which you can use to equip the Skullclamp to draw two cards, creating two new insects, which nets infinite mana and infinite 1/1’s. Alternatively, you can use the combo of Enter the Infinite and Laboratory Maniac to draw out your library and win the game:

Lastly, if you prefer (or don’t pull the right cards) you can use cards like these to make your swarm overwhelming and get a good old beat down win:

There are a bunch of other small interactions between cards in the deck, and this is my first combo deck where I might be able to finally get that win where everyone is still alive with high health totals and can’t do anything to stop me! You can check out my full deck list over on MTG Goldfish, and I’ll be back with more brews as I complete them.