The War Report: Reaper King

In an effort to appropriately catalog my various EDH decks I have been attempting to get posts out for those that I have already created, and sometimes I talk about those that I’m still working on. I realized that I created a Reaper King deck quite some time ago and never really talked about it before so I’m doing so now. Part of the reason I hadn’t covered it in the past is because it wasn’t ever quite “done.” I built the deck initially back in June of last year, but it has seen quite a few revisions as time has gone on. I made one last pass on it recently and now think that it’s ready to share!

This is an “alter” which some people out there are creating for cards. Not tournament legal, but cool nonetheless.

Reaper King is the leader of the scarecrows. Scarecrows have been in the game for a while, but for the most part they kind of suck. When I initially built the deck I was going into it with a tribal focus, but over time realized that some of those cards were bringing the deck down and weren’t entirely necessary. With that said, scarecrows do matter in this deck, as Reaper King himself provides a nice anthem for them but also has the ability to destroy ANY permanent on the board each time another scarecrow enters the battlefield. Since it’s a 5-color commander, we also need a fair amount of ramp and mana-fixing, which we’ll go over first.

Ramp/Mana-fixing:

Chromatic Lantern is a god-send in decks that have several colors. Not only does it provide a mana of any color itself, but it allows all of your lands to tap for any color, which means you won’t have to worry about having one of each color out to cast our commander. I’ve added some redundancy here with Joiner Adept, which functions as a Chromatic Lantern on legs. I’ve also put in some of the best green ramp spells (Cultivate, etc.) and one infinite mana combo that can come in handy for doing big things. Pili-Pala + Grand Architect basically allows you to tap the former for 2 mana which can then be used to activate its untap ability providing a mana of any color, rinse/repeat. Having a good mana base helps as well, and that’s about the only thing this deck could really use otherwise is another pass at the land base.

Protecting the game plan:

From experience, I can tell you that Reaper King himself draws a lot of hate. Playing him early might allow you to establish a board state, but oftentimes you’ll want to try and get some other pieces together before going all-in. Because he is a removal engine himself, you’ll want to try and protect him. Keywords like hexproof, shroud and indestructible will help, so I’ve packed a bunch of this into the deck. Padeem, Darksteel Forge, Indomitable Archangel and Leonin Albunas will provide one of these forms of protection not only for the commander but any of the other scarecrows in the deck and your normal artifacts too. I’ve also added a number of blink effects to the deck, which can be a boon in the event of an incoming boardwipe, and the two for one is that when the scarecrows come back to the battlefield you’ll be able to destroy more permanents!

Recursion:

In the event that something doesn’t go according to plan (which it rarely does in multiplayer games) I’ve also packed in a fair amount of recursion. You do have the option to let your Commander actually hit the graveyard (to avoid commander taxes) instead of going to the command zone and can use things like Skeleton Shard to get him back into your hand. The same goes for any other creature/artifact that gets removed before you’re done with it.

Dick Moves:

I don’t really run land destruction in my decks typically, but it seems like something that is already baked into this deck (I also recently had all of my lands wiped from the board and now want to get some revenge). As Reaper King’s ability allows him to destroy permanents, this also means he can destroy land. If you control the board well enough, you might not have anything else to target. It’s likely though that this could potentially affect you in a negative way, particularly with Jokulhaups, which wipes the board clean of everything except enchantments. There are ways to protect yourself though, if you can get Darksteel Forge on the board, you’ll protect all but your lands. Regardless of your land-wipe decisions, you can always get all of your land back in one fell swoop, utilizing Splendid Reclamation! If you wipe their lands and get all of yours back in the same turn, it’s likely people will concede or you’ll be able to control the board from then on. This is pretty much the win-condition for the deck.

Utility:

There is other utility packed in as well. Conspiracy and Xenograft are important additions, because as I mentioned most of the scarecrows really suck. However, changelings are useful and plentiful and because they count as all creature types, they automatically trigger Reaper King. I have added quite a few other random creature types as well though, so Conspiracy and Xenograft help make all of your creatures trigger Reaper King. Herald’s Horn is basically extra card draw, as is the Quicksmith Spy, and Panharmonicon will give you extra Reaper King triggers for added benefit.

There are a lot of ways this deck could be built, but this is what I’ve settled on. Overall I really enjoy the deck and think it’s one of the better ones I’ve created. If you run it, let me know what you think or what you’ve done differently!

TWR: Dinos are Finally Viable

Back when Ixalan released, there was a focus on tribes in EDH. Commander 2017 released a little while prior and we saw the tribal themes that Wizards would produce themselves. Ixalan promised a focus on four major tribes, two of which were old staples and two that weren’t really a thing just yet. The cards existed, but not in great enough numbers to build a proper EDH deck around. Merfolk and Vampires were bolstered with the release of that set, while Dinosaurs and Pirates could finally be considered a tribe. I used some of the vampires that came out in my Edgar Markov vampire deck, and I’ve discussed my direction with merfolk that I wanted to take (which has changed a bit with the arrival of Rivals of Ixalan cards). Pirates are all that interesting to me, but when I pulled a foil copy of Gishath during the Ixalan prerelease I knew that I had to build a Dinosaur tribal EDH deck.

I tried. I threw something together but while there were definitely enough dinosaurs between the new set and the errata’d older cards, it just didn’t seem all that viable. I would have been using commons and uncommons like crazy, and that’s not really something that happens in EDH all that much unless you’re playing pauper. I decided that I would wait, because we knew that Rivals of Ixalan was around the corner and perhaps there would be enough *good* dinosaurs to build a proper deck. I’m glad that I waited. I haven’t quite collected all the cards I need but I’m at least 50% there. I thought I’d share what I came up with, so here it is:

RAWR

I chose to stick with Gishath as my commander, mainly because Zacama is a little more expensive and doesn’t cheat expensive dinosaurs into play the way Gishath does. Since Zacama still falls within the color identity, I’ve put him in the 99. The main goal here is to somehow make sure that you can get in for combat damage with Gishath whenever you cast him. This means either clearing the board before casting him or making sure that he has some other evasion. Trample helps, but you won’t get to go digging for as many dinos if you’re only dealing trample damage.

Dino-enabling

First and foremost, the Forerunners are amazing cards. For a small investment you get a body, a tutor for a particular tribe, and a bonus effect. In this case, we get to search up a dino and whenever we cast one while this guy is on the board, we have the option to do 1 damage to all creatures. Doesn’t sound all that great in theory, but with all of the enrage triggers I’ve packed into the deck, we’ll have a ton of awesome effects going on all the time. Another bonus: token decks will be in trouble as 1 damage just might kill off an opponent’s army. Otherwise I have the 3 human cards that synergize with dinos making them cost less to cast, 2 other humans that provide extra mana ramp, and two big spells that can pull off some nice tricks. Kindred Summons is essentially Gishath’s ability in spell form, and Rishkar’s Expertise pretty much goes in every green deck… you draw cards and get to play a 5 cmc spell for free. Easy.

Enrage triggers

These are in my opinion some of the best options for enrage targets. Each of these dinos will trigger an effect when they take damage. That means if they block, take combat damage while attacking, or are pinged with 1 damage by my Forerunner’s ability, they will cause an effect even if they die in the process. If they don’t die though, it’s free effects and there are plenty of ways to exploit these! Some will allow for counters to be distributed, some cause exile or sacrifice effects, others draw me cards or tutor up lands and one even copies itself just for the copies to make copies! So how are we focusing on making this enrage keyword work for us? I’m glad you asked!

Enrage Enablers

There are some versatile options when it comes to trying to trigger your own enrage mechanics. Some come on legs, and others in spell form, but there are various ways to go about doing this. Cards like Raging Swordtooth were obvious, as it’s ETB trigger does 1 damage to all creatures which should net you some positive results (and kill off pesky tokens). Other times it might be less effective, but using the Regisaur to ping one dino for 1 isn’t a bad option, and if the dino is big enough using Burning Sun’s Avatar to ping it for 3 is still a nice payoff. You can use Reckless Rage to kill off an enemy’s 4 toughness creature and get an enrage trigger for yourself in the process. Alternatively, you can use 1, 2, or 3 damage to all creatures spells for a similar payout though you might lose a creature or two in the process. If all else fails and you have several large creatures out, you can do a middling X cost damage spell to keep your big dinos while clearing out plenty of their board. Lastly, Pyrohemia is a blessing in disguise letting you ping away at will to make even more triggers go off. These tactics should help you to bring down your foes, but what are some of the built in win-cons?

Win Conditions

Outside of being able to outright beat someone’s face in with big dinos, or happening upon some cool combos (like Pyrohemia and Polyraptor for a ton of dinos to win the game with), these are the three big win cons that I could find. Beastmaster Ascension has the benefit of being a low cmc card that can have big implications, but if you leave it on the board that long someone will deal with it. It’s better played when you can swing with 7 creatures the turn it is played so that they all get +5/+5 and trample. If that’s not enough, then Savage Beating for its entwine cost or World at War should give you enough extra combats to win, especially if you get Gishath out and can drop even more dinos on the board while you’re at it.

That’s all for this edition of The War Report. You can see my full decklist here.

The War Report: UnStable

This month, the big release in the Magic universe was the new “Un-Set;” this one called UnStable. Like it’s predecessors UnHinged and UnGlued, it’s a set full of silver-bordered cards that aren’t tournament legal and are basically ridiculous versions of regular Magic cards. Why would you want to buy cards that can’t be used in sanctioned events? Well, that is a multi-faceted question and answer. See, there are reasons to buy this set but it’s not to make money (I have one of the most expensive cards that is a whopping $7.50). Magic is most commonly played at the kitchen table, and as such it’s a game that can be as casual or as serious as you want to make it. Un cards are silly versions of Magic cards you already know and love, with some extra ridiculousness added on top, and they’re really just for fun. This is why they aren’t legal in tournaments, but you honestly wouldn’t want these cards in sanctioned play because some of them are seriously busted! Throw out everything you know about Magic, because these cards break the rules!

There are several unique and desirable cards that you might want in your collection, and the real chase cards seem to be the full-art lands which are beautiful. Another new addition this time around are foil tokens, some of which are full art on the reverse side with no text or borders, and they simply look amazing. If nothing else, you will have these types of cards that can be used in your Standard/Modern/EDH variants and up until the middle of January, all silver-bordered cards were declared legal in EDH so my playgroup decided it was something we should pick up. The guys already had some cards from the older sets (and picked up some UnStable) and already splashed some into their EDH decks. I hadn’t jumped on board just yet, but we discussed doing a sealed event ourselves, so we all purchased 6 packs of UnStable and are creating 40 card decks from those packs, like you would do at an LGS. Let’s take a look at some of the cards I pulled and the unique cards you might find interesting from the set:

Money Cards:

I was fortunate enough to pull some of the most expensive cards from the set, though I’m not really into the whole economy of the game. I’ve made some lucky pulls over the last year + and have acquired several expensive cards that were worth more than the packs I paid for (not to mention those I bought from websites like Card Kingdom, which have since increased in value). You never really know how the market will fluctuate though, and since I’m not selling anything it’s not as if the monetary side of things really matters. But still, I do get a sense of “getting my money’s worth” from pulling cards that are worth more than the packs themselves. Urza, the Planeswalker card above is one of the most valuable cards in the set, as is the Sword of Dungeons & Dragons. Super-Duper Death Ray isn’t normally worth much but I managed to pull a foil version so it’s worth a couple bucks. Basically those three cards are worth almost what I paid for my 6 packs, so I consider it a worthy investment with them alone.

Full-Art Lands:

The big draw are these amazing full-art lands. I managed to pull two mountains and plains cards, along with one forest and one swamp. I didn’t pull an island yet, but I’m thinking I might pick up a few more packs before the print run is over just to get some more. They look so much better than any lands ever printed in my opinion, so I wouldn’t mind pimping out a couple of my EDH decks with all full-arts from this set. These run a couple bucks a piece, so it’s almost worth it to just acquire them in packs, as one comes packed in each.

Interesting Mechanics:

There are some crazy mechanics in this new set, some of which we’ve never seen before. There are host creatures and augment cards, which essentially act as meld cards which we’ve seen before, but basically the host creature enters the battlefield as normal with some sort of ETB effect. Later, you can pay an augment cost on the other card (Ninja in this example) and “attach” it to the host creature. In our example here, you’d have a Ninja-Man, which really isn’t that silly, but combines the two cards into one. So whenever our Ninja-Man does damage to a player, you get to draw a card. Of course there are plenty of options throughout the set so you can get some whacky combinations. There are artifacts and other cards like Kindslaver that allow people from outside of the game to interact, which is cool if you have people watching the game (probably better if they understand how to play though). Lastly, they have added contraptions as a secondary deck that you use while playing UnStable, and it’s a mini-game of its own. Certain cards will reference creating contraptions, at which point you’ll add that to a sprocket (which are printed on the backs of the contraptions). Eventually you’ll have to crank your sprocket, and then the contraption will cause an effect. This can probably be honed to great effect, though we are playing by sanction rules, so you just get to use what you have, duplicates included.

Tokens:

As I said, some of the tokens are pretty nice. I pulled a few that I would have never used, but ended up being able to trade for those I could use. I traded away two Saproling tokens for a Goblin and a Vampire, both of which will go into their respective EDH decks. Having nice looking foil or full-art tokens is awesome and feels like an upgrade for those decks, despite not having any sort of real impact. I’m looking forward to our little sealed event, and potentially utilizing some of these cards in my EDH decks while it’s still legal to do so. I’ve included my sealed 40 card deck list here for posterity:

My Deck:

Sword of Dungeons & Dragons
Border Guardian
Steel Squirrel
Steam-Powered
Numbing Jellyfish
Mer Man
Crafty Octopus
Wall of Fortune
Animate Library
Time Out
Spy Eye
Chipper Chopper
Kindly Cognician
Novellamental
Magic Word
Over My Dead Bodies
capital offense x2
Hazmat Suit (Used)
Hoisted Hireling
Zombified
Ninja
Big Boa Constrictor
Swamp x7
Island x10

Contraptions:

Division Table x2
Sap Sucker x2
Jamming Device
Boomflinger
Thud-for-Duds
Twiddlestick Charger
Refibrillator
Dispatch Dispensary
Tread Mill
Buzz Buggy

That’s all for this edition. Until next time!

The War Report: Budget Jank EDH

Recently one of the guys in my Friday playgroup decided to build a budget deck. He’s an expecting father and funds have become more tight for him, so he’s thinking a bit outside the box and trying to see what he can do to get the most bang for his buck. Similarly, I’m in a position where with the holidays and having taken some time off of work plus other expenses piling up, I could use a good budget deck myself. So today I’m sharing a new brew with you that was created with a budget of $50 in mind — this is a similar amount to what my friend has used, and it sounded like the only way I could build a deck from scratch and be able to purchase it in one order.

I was actually in the middle of revamping existing decks, finding small tweaks that I could use in order to either lower the mana curve or exploit some combo further. I started thinking about color combinations that I hadn’t tackled yet, and one that came to mind was Abzan; or Black, Green and White. Unfortunately the amount of legendary creatures in this color combination is limited, but I found one that sounded sufficiently janky to build around: Doran, the Siege Tower. I give you:

Impregnable Fortress

As you can see, Doran is a 3 drop 0/5 which sounds like something you would want to avoid. However, his ability is interesting and can be used in a number of ways. My first thought was that he sounded like a good commander for a Wall deck, which actually happens to be a thing. It sounded like the perfect sort of jank I was looking for, and at the same time once I put the thing together I found that most of the cards were under $1! Most of the time when people build budget decks, they tend to have a couple of limiting factors — the total deck price, and the price per card. My friend who built his at the $50 mark said that he didn’t care what the cost of the individual cards were, just that the total was at or close to $50, so I took those same parameters. This particular commander costs about $9 by himself, so that limits the build but we were also considering not counting the commander cost in the budget. Either way, my deck is sitting a few cents above $50 on mtggoldfish.com, even counting Doran. Here are the only cards that cost more than $1 in this particular build, along with my reasoning for their inclusion:

Cards over $1:

Two of the cards are lands, and their inclusion is pretty obvious. I wanted to have some decent dual lands in the landbase, so there ya go. There are four creatures, a couple of artifacts and three spells otherwise, and they ended up being important for a number of reasons. The walls add some utility, and happen to be very good when paired with Doran’s passive. The artifacts are for ramp and card advantage, and there are a couple of decent spells there, one of which helps slow down attackers, another for ramp and the other is a nice boardwipe with added recursion. All felt like good additions.

Win Con:

The main win condition combos with Doran’s passive. There are two enchantments that help with this win condition. The idea of the deck is to play walls early and often, giving you defense to protect against opposing forces. Then, you can use things like Diabolic Tutor or Plea for Guidance to tutor up one or both of the main win-cons, Assault Formation and Rolling Stones. With Doran on the battlefield (or with Assault Formation by itself), your walls can now attack and assign combat damage via their toughness instead of their power, in effect making them */* creatures where * is equal to their toughness. I have added redundancy with cards like Animate wall, Wakestone Gargoyle, and also added cards like Entangler that allow one wall to block all creatures coming my way. As long as my walls can attack, they are huge creatures for low mana investment or in other cases a single wall can block a horde of incoming enemies. There are also cards like Walking Wall, Mobile Fort, and Prison Barricade that can attack for a price.

Let’s not kid ourselves, this deck isn’t going to win tournaments, and it’s probably tier 5 or lower, but it’s a fun/cheap investment and I think Magic should be played in multiple ways to truly enjoy it — why let cards sit and rot when they can be used? You can check my full deck list here, and I’ll be back with more commentary on this once I’ve built and tested it!

Thoughts on Tomb of Annihilation

Tomb of Annihilation is one of the other games I was gifted around my birthday, and I finally got around to trying it this weekend. It released fairly recently and I recall seeing it in my discovery queue on Steam and adding it to my wishlist. That was all I really knew about the title — it was based on a D&D campaign/board game, and it appeared to be fairly standard isometric RPG faire. It turns out that my original assessment was fairly spot on, but I would add that it is a turn-based strategy game, so I’d compare it more closely to something like Final Fantasy Tactics rather than Baldur’s Gate. Instead of freely roaming or clicking to move, you will be restricted to moving within a tile and then passing turn so that new tiles can be discovered. You move more freely as things begin to open up, but some cramped corridors littered with traps can prove to be time consuming. As you begin the game, you’ll pass through a tutorial as with most games.

This is pretty straight forward, but the tutorial does a good job of explaining the nuance of the game, which includes a set of phases between each characters’ actions. Villains move during their phase. One of your heroes will move per Hero phase. The Exploration phase happens after you end a turn with a hero, at which time if they are standing next to the edge of the current tile, a new adjacent one will be discovered. Lastly, the Encounter phase is a random dice roll after each turn that will either help or harm you. These can be avoided with Adrenaline or certain spells. You can only perform one move and one action per turn, or move twice the normal distance, so you have to think through your strategy as you go, and it becomes a pattern of rhythmic button clicking similar to the likes of Diablo, though much slower paced. Leveling up happens across all four characters, though you don’t have access to them all immediately. As you level you earn chests and materials to craft new gear for the crew. It’s nothing too drastic, and there isn’t any RMT factored in either, though the DLC packs give a nice chunk of gold and a few legendary items to make the beginning of the game pretty easy going.

After the tutorial you’ll head out on new missions. Some are story related, and others a little side quests. All follow the same fashion, you’ll open up the map piece by piece and complete objectives at which point the mission will end and you will return to the map. You’ll fight bosses along the way and things will get messy. If you don’t have the legendary items boost, I imagine you’ll have some difficulties with certain encounters. Each map comes with separate difficulties, so I imagine later on you’ll want to play them again on harder levels to get increased rewards. The map is fairly big, about two times the size of this photo:

The main quest appears to head south in a straight line, with the side quests (in blue) sprinkled about, though they appear to be completely optional. There seems to be quite a bit of area that isn’t being used, but that means one of two things: There will be some sort of additional content added to the game at a later date, or perhaps more is added later on as you progress. I guess there’s a third option too, where it just is what it is and that’s okay too. I feel like you’ll enjoy the game if you like this sort of turn-based endeavor, are a fan of D&D or simply like slower paced RPGs. If taking your time and strolling through this title doesn’t sound appealing, then maybe look elsewhere. Either way for the money being asked ($16, $12 on sale right now) it’s worth taking a look.