The War Report: Boros Goodstuff

It’s Dominaria Week, and that means a ton of new brews will be popping up online revolving around the new legendaries. I have several brews that I want to share, along with possibly an update across the board for other decks that got upgrades via the new set. With that said, I have a bunch of MTG related posts that you’ll see coming down the pipeline for the next week or so, and that probably means less gaming posts but posting something is better than posting nothing, right?

Having pre-ordered a box of Dominaria, I received the exclusive buy-a-box promo card, Firesong and Sunspeaker. I spoke about this card recently, but took the time over the weekend to find a build that feels pretty damn good for it, while remaining budget. The Boros color combination is joked about for being the weakest pairing in Magic, and this card doesn’t single-handedly fix that but the deck looks solid on paper. Will have to test it a bit to see how well it performs, but it appears serviceable. Here’s the commander in case you are unfamiliar:

Firesong and Sunspeaker are fairly straight forward. A 4/6 for 6 mana, that causes your red instants and sorceries to gain lifelink, and your white lifegain spells get an added burn component. Sounds simple enough, but it can get somewhat complicated. Let’s take a look some examples:

Anger of the Gods is a red sorcery that deals 3 damage to each creature. Because your red spells get lifelink with F&S on the battlefield, this means you gain 3 life for each creature the spell hits, included F&S (who will live through the damage). Ritual of Rejuvenation causes you to gain 4 life. If F&S is on the battlefield, you’ll then be able to deal 3 damage to target creature or player (you get to draw a card as well). This is the kind of card I’d never play, but a 3 mana gain 4 life deal 3 damage and draw a card spell sounds pretty nice! Things get more complicated when you play a multi-colored spell, like Lightning Helix. The spell itself deals 3 damage to target creature or player, and you gain life. This is both a red and a white spell, so the 3 damage you deal will also cause you to gain 3 life. Gaining 3 life will then allow you to cause 3 damage, but you’ll basically end up with multiple triggers off of a single card.

Cast Lightning Helix >> deal 3 damage >> trigger F&S for red gain 3 life >> deal 3 more damage >> gain 3 life >> trigger F&S for white deal 3 damage. So for two mana you’ll gain 6 life and deal 9 damage. 

This deck wants to be a spellslinging deck despite being in colors that aren’t that great for it. As such, I’ve included quite a bit of “good stuff” — that is to say that it’s some of the better cards in the colors but not necessarily all on theme. The main goals are to build around dealing damage and gaining life, and there’s a number of win-cons that can be used in the process. Let’s just jump into some of the notable additions so you can see where I was going with the build.

Creatures:

So we’re stealing some of Oloro’s tricks here, but theoretically you should be able to keep a fairly high life total throughout a game, and use that life total to win with cards like Felidar Sovereign. You can gain infinite life with the Famished Paladin/Resplendant Mentor combo, you can flatten someone with a super large Serra Avatar, and you can get some big mana to help with your X burn spells using Neheb. Balefire liege is a lord for white and red creatures but also has F&S’s passives on it as well. I’ve also included Young Pyromancer, Crested Sunmare, Flamewright and Blaze Commando for some token generation to help protect us (or potentially win with go-wide strategies). I’m sure it’s starting to come together for you by now, but let’s look at the supporting spells (besides the ones I showed you earlier).

Spells:

So I’ve tried to keep with the theme of the commander with our bevy of support. You’ll be destroying things and gaining life, or gaining life and doing more damage, or getting tokens off of triggers, etc. If you can get to 50+ life, you can win with Test of Endurance or use 50 life to blow someone up with the Aetherflux Reservoir. All of the big X spells or board wipes do damage or cause you to gain life, which in turn will do that some more. Blasphemous Act and Star of Extinction are particularly good, because they do large amounts of damage to targets, meaning you gain that same amount of life per target. Hit ten creatures with Star of Extinction, and you’re gaining 200 life. That’s just crazy.

Overall I don’t think this deck is going to be very competitive, but I think it will be fun to pilot. It’s under $150 total investment so not bad, but you’ll have a tough time getting the commander if you didn’t buy a box. Currently holding close to $20 value and that could potentially go up.

TWR: The Value Proposition – Dominaria

The official release date for the newest Magic: The Gathering set, Dominaria, isn’t until April 27th (this upcoming Friday) but because I pre-ordered a box of the set, I was able to pick it up this past weekend during the pre-release events. This isn’t the first time I’ve purchased a box, as when I was newly returning after a decade-plus break I picked up a box of Aether Revolt, which was the first set to release after coming back. In hindsight, Aether Revolt probably wasn’t the best set to buy a box of, mainly because it was before several changes took place. I should also notate that this box was a gift from my wonderful girlfriend who spoils the shit out of me. Thanks my love!

There are a few things that are different this time around. The standard rotation changed up a bit over the course of the last year, where the sets that are rotating out take longer to happen. Wizards also decided that instead of multiple split up sets during the course of the year (like the Kaladesh/Aether Revolt and Amonkhet/Hour of Devastation cycles) there will be larger sets a couple of times a year and the return of the Core Set. This means that Dominaria is a larger set than Aether Revolt was (269 cards as opposed to 184) and as a result the break down of cards that I received was more favorable. This was also the first time that you could pick up a pre-ordered box during the pre-release window, and getting cards early is always great (that’s the main reason why I usually go to the pre-release in the first place). A discount was given for pre-ordering a box this time around as well as the buy-a-box promo card being exclusive and unavailable in packs.

The card itself isn’t the most amazing thing in the world, but Wizards has been exploring different concepts lately, like adding keywords to spells. Giving your red damage dealing spells lifelink is an interesting idea, as is giving your white lifegain spells a small damage dealing component. Boros has been weak in EDH for a long time, and though I don’t think this magically makes things all better, it’s still a Boros commander I wouldn’t mind building and will likely do so. If nothing else it’s a cool card to have in the collection and I’m glad I got the box as I managed a bunch of great pulls! Since I broke down the box I purchased last time, I felt like I should do so again just to make some comparisons and sate my own curiosity. Here’s the numbers for Dominaria:

Multi-color:

2 Mythic Rare
4 Rare
15 Uncommon

Colorless:

1 Mythic Rare
5 Rare (1 foil)
13 Uncommon (1 foil)
37 Common

White:

1 Mythic Rare
4 Rare
18 Uncommon
63 Common (1 foil)

Blue:

1 Mythic Rare
5 Rare
14 Uncommon
64 Common (1 foil)

Black:

3 Rare
14 Uncommon
61 Common

Red:

4 Rare
12 Uncommon
66 Common (1 foil)

Green:

4 Rare
13 Uncommon (1 foil)
65 Common

Miscellaneous:

36 Tokens
14 Non-Basic Lands – Woodland Cemetery, Sulfur Falls and Cabal Stronghold
37 Basic Lands – 1 foil Island
1 Buy-A-Box Promo – Firesong and Sunspeaker

So comparing this box to Aether Revolt, we can draw a couple of conclusions. Both contained 540 cards but of those I ended up with different numbers. Tokens and Basic lands will be the same, though I ended up with 7 foils as opposed to 5 the last time. I also opened up more Mythic Rares this time, with a total of 5 instead of 3.  I guess the trade off there is that I ended up with less rares this time, 29 compared to 34. Overall though I feel like the value of this set is better than the last few, though I’m not speaking monetarily. From a gameplay perspective I jammed a bunch of great cards into existing decks, and have already brewed up two decks helmed by Dominaria commanders and still want to build Firesong and Sunspeaker as well. Speaking of money though, I earned back about half of the box price with one card and that turned out the be the most valuable card in the set. I’ve been really lucky when it comes to this stuff, and had a good feeling going into this deal. That’s not to say that I got every card that I wanted, there are still a handful I’ll have to buy singles of but I think I made back the cost of the box at least, and that doesn’t always happen (definitely didn’t happen with Aether Revolt!). Like I did the last time, I’ll just share my Mythic Rare pulls now, but I’ll have some more articles about the builds I’m making with the new cards soon enough.

Mythic Rares:

Of the Mythic Rares in the set, I got a few of the good ones. Jhoira is a pretty busted card, but my roommate has already built a deck around it and didn’t pull it during the pre-release so we’re going to be doing a trade. He did pull the Weatherlight as his Mythic Rare though, so we’re trading those straight across. History of Benalia is a card that spiked due to its viability in Standard, so it’s value is pretty good. I slammed it into a new brew. Karn, Scion of Urza was the most valuable card in the set and I found a place for him as well. Darigaaz is one that I’m not using and probably won’t. I could slam him into the Prossh deck I’m building due to being on color but it’s just an expensive card and not very synergistic. Lastly, Naru Meha is a new Wizard lord that I’m throwing into my Inalla build just because it has a nice ETB effect and will buff my other wizards so why not?

Overall I feel that this was a good buy. There are so many great cards in this set that buying a box is a sure bet and if you’re playing the paper game, you probably should get one while you can. They have amazing and busted uncommons in this set so the power level is absurd. I’d buy another box if I didn’t already have mostly everything I want. Highly recommended and worth every penny!

The War Report: The Master Thief

I’ve been wanting to build a mono-black deck for some time now. Mainly I wanted an excuse to purchase some of the cards that are excellent in the color, like Cabal Coffers and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to name a couple. I also already have mono-red (Krenko), mono-white (Sram) and mono-green (Yisan) covered. I’ll eventually get around to making a mono-blue deck as well but for now that’s on the to-do list. Unfortunately, there are only a couple of commanders in mono-black that rank high on the tier list, and those ended up being ones that I wasn’t overly interested in. One commander that I’ve always found intriguing and eventually decided to make my mono-black commander is Gonti, Lord of Luxury:

Gonti is a 2/3 for 4 mana with deathtouch. That alone is pretty decent, but his ETB trigger allows you to look at the top four cards of any opponent’s library and choose one to exile, which you can then cast at will and use any color of mana to cast it. So basically every time Gonti hits the battlefield I get to steal something from an opponent and don’t have to worry what color it is. That’s a great ability and though I’ve used Gonti in other decks to add some spice, I felt like he was good enough to build a whole deck around. So what’s our goal? Mainly we want to abuse Gonti’s ability as much as possible, which means adding ways to recur him, bounce him back to our hand to use again, and we’re going for being able to make big mana to spend on X spells to finish out games. Let’s take a look at some of the ways that black can really make a shitload of mana:

Most of the big mana producers are lands, but most would only really be effective in a mono-black deck, mainly because they rely on having basic swamps or Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth to make all of your lands into swamps. Cabal Coffers is the best example, as you pay 2 colorless mana and tap it to gain black mana equal to the number of swamps you control. Clearly these two cards play well together. Cabal Stronghold is a new version of the same concept, though it costs 3 mana to use the ability and only gives you mana equal to the number of basic swamps you control, so Urborg’s ability doesn’t help it out. It’s still nice redundancy, as is Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx which gives mana in the color of your choosing equal to your devotion of that color. I’ve also added Crypt of Agadeem which gives more mana equal to the number of black creatures in the graveyard. Further redundancy comes from Magus of the Coffers and Nirkana Revenant, which both mimic Cabal Coffers in creature form. Lastly, each time a creature dies with Black Market on the board = a counter on the enchantment. You’ll get black mana for each counter on it during each precombat main phase. If you get a few of these on the board you can make some crazy amounts of mana! But what are we using the mana for?

These are the main three spells we’ll want to target when we can make explosive amounts of mana, though being able to make a bunch of mana can be helpful in other ways. Torment of Hailfire probably won’t end a game but it’s painful to have to go through the process multiple times. Exsanguinate is a finisher for sure, as you do damage to all opponents and gain a ton of life in the process. Lastly, a new Dominaria card, Josu Vess costs quite a bit to kick, but when you do pay the kicker you get 8 2/2’s with menace along with Josu himself who is a 4/5 with menace as well. Outside of making big mana and having some finishers, your main goal will be to abuse black’s ability to recur creatures, and abuse their ETB abilities to try and control the board state, along with stealing people’s stuff! Here’s some of the best ETB creatures I’ve included:

You’ll see that the main theme here is removal on creatures, either by forcing opponents to sacrifice their creatures or being able to destroy targets. Disciple of Bolas will make you sacrifice your own creature but lets you draw cards and gain life. Gray Merchant of Asphodel can do some big chunks of damage if you have the devotion, and Abhorrent Overlord and Grave Titan create tokens on entry. Lastly, a new Dominaria card called Torgaar Famine Incarnate causes an opponent to lose half their life at least and will definitely slow down life gain decks. The best news is that these creatures can be further exploited by using sacrifice outlets to then bring them back from the grave yard to use again and again. Let’s look at how we can do so:

Graveyard recursion is pretty damn strong in black. Cards like Oversold Cemetery and Palace Siege will get you a card from your graveyard back to your hand each upkeep. Sheoldred will do the same but also makes opponents sacrifice creatures in the process. Hell’s Caretaker and Whisper will both allow you to sacrifice creatures to bring others back, and others here will return others to the battlefield just off of their ETB. Mikaeus is great in this deck because most of the creatures are non-human so they’ll get +1/+1 along with undying so if they do go the graveyard they come right back and the ETB’s will trigger again. Another trick is to bounce your own creatures, using things like Skull Collector and Erratic Portal. One forces you to return creatures to your hand each upkeep, the other is a paid ability so you can say target Gonti, returning him to your hand and then play him again to get another ETB trigger. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

Otherwise I’ve added fun things like the cards above. Blood Artist and Zulaport Cutthroat will help to do some chip damage as you’re sacrificing creatures or forcing your opponents to. You can force your opponents to do so with cards like Dictate of Erebos and Grave Pact. I’ve also included Panharmonicon and Strionic Resonator so we can double up on some of our ETB’s and that’s about it. I’ve added a bunch of spot removal spells and a few board wipes along with some decent mana rocks to help things along. That’s about all there is to the deck but I think it will be a fun one to pilot!

The War Report: Dominaria Spoiled

Magic Open House for Dominaria is this weekend, and that means that spoilers have been coming out over the course of the month. Prerelease is the following weekend, and I’ve already preordered a box of Dominaria, so I will be able to pick it up at that point. The official release is the weekend after, and I assume these cards will be making their way in to Magic Arena soon as well. Since spoilers are complete by now, I thought that I’d offer some of my thoughts on some of the great cards that are coming, and show off some of those that I’m looking forward to the most (through the EDH lens of course). This has become a thing around here, so I’m sure you understand where this is going. Let’s get started!

Multi-color:

The Planes walkers for this set are clearly Teferi and Chandra with a showing by Jaya as well. Teferi is busted in some of his other forms, but these ones are so-so. Probably decent for superfriends, and his oath definitely goes in that style deck. Nearly all of these creatures could be a commander in their own right, but I feel like most will slot into decks that I already have built (or have brewed). The simic merfolk will slot right into Kumena, for instance. The Orzhov Vampire will love to hang out with Edgar Markov, and though I won’t use all of these cards in decks at the moment, most are pretty good additions to particular deck styles, so I wanted to showcase them. I know if I pull any of these they will either see play or be traded away for other cards that I need, but I’m impressed with amount of Legendary creatures that are in this set, along with most of them being pretty powerful in their own right.

White:

Besides the new Historic keyword, we’ve also got Sagas, which are a legendary enchantment type. They do a series of things for multiple turns, and there are only a few that I find useful, one being the Fall of the Thran, mainly because it’s an Armageddon but you’ll get some land back (particularly good if you can remove opponent’s graveyards from play before they get the land back). There’s finally an Angel lord, and I’ll slot that right into Kaalia. Danitha also will slot right into Sram since she fills a void for making equipment and auras cheaper and that’s something a Voltron commander wants. There are some great cards here that can potentially beef up a number of decks out there.

Blue:

There are probably more blue cards that I could showcase but these were the few that really stood out. I’m finally building an Inalla deck (from the C17 precon) because of the dean above — he’s basically a Panharmonicon on legs that interacts with Wizards, and wizard tribal works best with Inalla. There a couple new counterspells here as well that are pretty decent, and the Master Wizard is great for spellslinger decks!

Black:

More goodies for black, including more removal and a pretty decent Saga. I’m really loving the Demonlord for kaalia and the Knight is a potentially awesome commander, particularly due to one of the lands coming out in this set helping mono black make big mana which you’ll need for that kicker cost. Otherwise there’s some good card draw and value for the color in this set.

Red:

Red is typically pretty meh regardless of the set, but that Chandra isn’t bad, and I’m seeing some good Goblin options for Krenko. The Chainwhirler is a nice board wipe on a stick (against token decks) while the Squee reprint is a nice addition as he doesn’t really ever die. Sure he doesn’t do much else but he can help recover from wipes. Also a new version of lightning bold for Wizard decks is pretty good too.

Green:

I wasn’t too impressed with the options in green in Dominaria. There are some interesting cards but nothing that makes me want to create a new brew and nothing that really slots into decks I build. However, green has been ramping in power for the last few sets so perhaps it’s time it took the back burner for a while. Multani is good in landfall decks, and a new Naturalize that also nets you a land on the battlefield is pretty much a new staple.

Artifacts/Lands:

There are some awesome artifacts in this set, I’ve highlighted some of the best here. A reprint of Gilded Lotus is a nice boon and will likely bring the price of this staple down a bit. A new Mox is also important for decks that need artifact ramp. I love that new wall, and will throw it in my janky wall deck. The blad and the Weatherlight are both going in Sram for me, and both are very good in that regard. I’m also happy to see them reprint more of the “have” lands, another set of those is good for budget mana bases. Lastly, Cabal Stronghold is a great addition to any mono black deck — it’s not as good as Cabal Coffers, but it’s still definitely worth a slot and I’m going to try and brew something in the color after I get my hands on the new cards.

Overall I think this set is better than the Ixalan block by a mile. Despite enjoying that set and seeing Dinosaurs and Pirates becoming viable tribes and also enjoying the new Merfolk and Vampires, it just wasn’t all that exciting. This set excites me and sort of resets the EDH meta a bit, and I look forward to opening up the box when the time comes to see what I get. I’ll try and do a post about that when the time comes similar to the post that I made back when I bought a box of Aether Revolt. Until then, happy gaming all!

TWR: Commander League

The LGS I have been going to in recent months for Commander events has recently changed up their format. Since the beginning of this month they are calling it the “Commander League” and rather than getting prizes at the end of that particular day, they are now tallying points up throughout the month and awarding prizes at the end. Also, instead of three round events, they are having a couple of rounds starting at different times on both Fridays and Sundays. Instead of paying an $8 buy-in there is now a $5 per round fee, so essentially the shopkeeper is making money hand over fist and will only really pay out one person at the end. At least that’s the gist of it, I’m not sure if there are prizes for 2nd or 3rd place, or if there are any participation packs for others. I know that he’s got some sort of Unstable art poster as a prize, but otherwise who knows. My roommate and I have been cool with paying the nominal fee just to have others to play with, so we’ll likely pop in again, but so far we have only participated the one day, this past Sunday.

We showed up at 2pm when things were supposed to start, but unfortunately no one else had shown up to that point. It seems he was having the store championship for Rivals of Ixalan, so the people that were there were present for that. The 2nd round of EDH games was due to start at 3:30, so we decided to go get some lunch and come back. When we arrived the second time, the two guys we played with the first time we attended one of these events were there, so we managed to have a four player round. The round was supposed to go for 80 minutes, and we took it to time, but during the last few rounds I was able to win the game, so that was good. Here were our commanders for the event:

My roommate ran with Meren, I played Zur, and the other two were running Sen Triplets and Arcanis. I was impressed by the player who was using Arcanis, he managed to have great ramp, excellent card draw and did some tricky things during the round, including eliminating my roommate from the game. After that, I was able to eliminate him and then finish of the Sen Triplets player. It was a blast and I was glad that even though it took me a while to get going I was able to win this game with a life total of 64! It’s not even a lifegain deck but that’s just the way it worked out.

We played another round for fun, this time I played my Simic Merfolk deck and my roommate played this new Joira deck that technically isn’t even legal to play yet, as he had a couple proxies in it that are from the new Dominaria set that has yet to release. We allowed it anyway, and it turned out to be a pretty potent deck, though he was once again eliminated by the Arcanis player. We ended up scooping soon thereafter as the shopkeeper needed to close down for the day.

Overall it was a fun experience once again, though I’m not sure how many times we’ll be able to go over the course of the month. It seems like if you’re someone who can go every Friday and Sunday you’d have an unfair advantage over those who can only go a couple of times a month. I hope there is some sort of consolation prize, because otherwise it’s just throwing money away to play with randoms. I’ll report back with more details once I figure that bit out. Rumor has it that the member of our playgroup that moved away might come for a visit this month, so that would be a nice change of pace — playing at home with friends is always more fun.