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.

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.

TWR: My Love it is a Black Rose

A week or so ago my girlfriend was at Target and picked me up another of the Commander 2017 preconstructed decks, this time it was Arcane Wizardy, and I was really unsure what to do with it. I played it once and it felt severely underpowered compared to some of the other precons from the set. I sat and thought about it long and hard — I didn’t want to play it with Enalla at the helm, but some of the other legendary creatures in the deck that were still Grixis seemed much more interesting to play.

I had narrowed things down to building a deck around either Kess, Mairsil, or Marchesa. As I looked around on EDHREC and other resources, it seemed that the latter, Marchesa, was most suited to my playstyle and after putting together an initial decklist, I felt satisfied with using her to lead the troops. It helped that one of the guys in my playgroup had an integral piece needed to build the deck, and he was interested in doing a trade. So I ended up with a very cool card that will help the deck out, and he gained Mairsil, whom he would like to build a deck around. I ended up cutting out a large chunk of what came with the precon, so let’s look at that list and see what I got rid of:

1 Kess, Dissident Mage
1 Mairsil, the Pretender
1 Galecaster Colossus
1 Magus of the Mind
1 Portal Mage
1 Vindictive Lich
1 Izzet Chemister
1 Taigam, Sidisi’s Hand
1 Havengul Lich
1 Marchesa, the Black Rose
1 Vela the Night-Clad
1 Arcanis the Omnipotent
1 Azami, Lady of Scrolls
1 Body Double
1 Harbinger of the Tides
1 Serendib Sorcerer
1 Apprentice Necromancer
1 Magus of the Abyss
1 Puppeteer Clique
1 Etherium-Horn Sorcerer
1 Mercurial Chemister
1 Nin, the Pain Artist
1 Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator
1 Bloodline Necromancer
1 Archaeomancer
1 Merchant of Secrets
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Corpse Augur
1 Izzet Chronarch
1 Nivix Guildmage
1 Kindred Dominance
1 Clone Legion
1 Spelltwine
1 Decree of Pain
1 Necromantic Selection
1 Comet Storm
1 Polymorphist’s Jest
1 Chaos Warp
1 Memory Plunder
1 Silumgar’s Command
1 Into the Roil
1 Opportunity
1 Reality Shift
1 Go for the Throat
1 Cauldron Dance
1 Crosis’s Charm
1 Rakdos Charm
1 Terminate
1 Nevinyrral’s Disk
1 Mirror of the Forebears
1 Commander’s Sphere
1 Darksteel Ingot
1 Fellwar Stone
1 Sol Ring
1 Unstable Obelisk
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Shifting Shadow
1 Curse of Verbosity
1 Curse of Disturbance
1 Curse of Opulence

As you can see, there wasn’t much left after I pulled out most of the wizards and many of the spells. That curse series in C17 is pretty much garbage, so those were taken out instantly. I removed most of the wizards because the tribal theme isn’t necessary for this deck. Marchesa wants to focus on getting +1/+1 counters on her minions so that when they die, they come right back onto the battlefield.  As such, most of the deck is focused around cards that have nice enter the battlefield effects, or that give/benefit from the counters. Let’s take a look at what I’ve added.

Creatures:

Not a huge amount of fuckery, as Grixis can be known for, but there are still some key elements here. Mikeaus is the card I traded Mairsil for, mainly because he grants undying to all other creatures. Between Marchesa’s Dethrone global and this, it going to be tough for my creatures to go down, as they either come back to the battlefield at end of turn due to Marchesa (if they have counters on them), or come back due to Mikeaus’s Undying (if they don’t have counters on them) thereby giving them the counters so that later Marchesa can save them again. I’m looking at trying to overload the battlefield with creatures and not letting them be taken out by boardwipes or the like. Onward to spells!

Spells:

This was pretty straightforward. I added some card draw and counterspells, along with a couple interesting cards in Press into Service and Tezzeret’s Gambit. The former has a rare keyword called Support, which allows you to distribute two +1/+1 counters as you see fit. The latter has the keyword Proliferate, which allows you to add additional counters to things that already have counters on them. I figured these spells and effects would be helpful for the theme. Onward to the other bits!

Artifacts/Enchatments:

I tried to stay on theme, so things like Unspeakable Symbol and Dragon Blood allow me to generate +1/+1 counters. I also added in some card draw with Phyrexian Arena and Greed. I’ve also tried to add some sacrifice outlets, since being able to sacrifice a creature and get it back the same turn seems like great value. Cards like Ashnod’s altar can be instrumental in getting out other high CMC cards out quickly, and enchantments like Attrition allow me to sac a creature to destroy a high threat target. Overall I think the deck looks pretty good, though I may have to tune it a bit after the fact. I know I don’t have anything to protect Marchesa (like hexproof or shroud) though I have ways to add that to the deck if needbe. I know that lately my commanders have been targeted to the point where I couldn’t actually get anything going, so that’s a potential weakness of the deck. I also may have gone a little too spell heavy in a creature oriented deck, but testing will tell. Anyway, that’s all for this time, happy gaming everyone!

The War Report: Revamping a Precon

Back at the beginning of this year, my playgroup and I decided we wanted to try our hands at Commander/EDH. The logical choice to get started was to pick up a preconstructed deck, and there were plenty to choose from, having all of the sets from 2016 back to when Wizards started to release them and officially support the format. Some of those decks would have been very expensive or unavailable, but we collectively decided we’d order some of the 2015 decks off of Amazon. I picked out the Call the Spirits precon led by Daxos, The Returned.

I played this deck straight out of the box for a few sessions before deciding to try and enhance it. Being new to the format and with a very volatile in-house meta at the time, I’d say now that my additions were haphazard and not necessarily on-theme. I still managed to win some games, but our playgroup had a couple of precons and our third managed to make some underpowered decks of his own creation. As the meta continued to shift, we all got much better at building decks from scratch, and soon it felt like Daxos was not up to snuff. After tweaking it excessively, I felt like it was “done” though I wasn’t overly thrilled with playing it as some of the other decks I had created just felt more powerful and more fun.

Recently my budget for Magic cards took a hit. Instead of being able to basically go hog-wild, I have to be a little more thrifty with my investments. As such, I have taken to looking for ways to build budget decks, or otherwise improve existing decks to get the best bang for my buck. This means spending $20 here and $40 there instead of outright buying a deck for $80+. Still, I can and have found ways to make improvements and have a good time with cards I haven’t played in a while. As it stands now, I have 3 decks in the works, and having received that Wizard precon that I mentioned in the last War Report, I have some things to work on. That doesn’t mean that all of my decks are done either, because Ixalan is bringing some new cards that I can see going well in some of my decks, and Iconic Masters is around the corner which could bring some additional power and drive down prices of some cards because of the reprinting. More to come on that when it happens, but I’m getting off topic.

I started looking at Daxos and realized that I could do some cool things with him, and that the way I had modified the deck was actually detrimental to the theme. There were better options and I started to research them. His ability is a powerful one — he can create */* creatures where * = the number of experience counters I have — these are created for 1WB each. Experience counters come pretty easily — With Daxos in play you cast an enchantment spell and there you go. This means the deck should revolve around enchantments, and though the precon did a good job of this, I found that there were some great options not included. Here’s the decklist as it came out of the box (with cards I removed crossed out):

1 Underworld Coinsmith
1 Karlov of the Ghost Council
1 Burnished Hart
1 Bastion Protector
1 Dawnglare Invoker
1 Ghostblade Eidolon
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Monk Idealist
1 Mesa Enchantress
1 Nighthowler
1 Corpse Augur
1 Fate Unraveler
1 Ajani’s Chosen
1 Doomwake Giant
1 Dreadbringer Lampads
1 Celestial Ancient
1 Celestial Archon
1 Herald of the Host
1 Banshee of the Dread Choir
1 Thief of Blood
1 Treasury Thrull
1 Sandstone Oracle
1 Silent Sentinel
1 Teysa, Envoy of Ghosts
1 Oreskos Explorer
1 Ancient Craving
1 Gild
1 Dawn to Dusk
1 Righteous Confluence
1 Open the Vaults
1 Deadly Tempest
1 Death Grasp
1 Sol Ring
1 Wayfarer’s Bauble
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Thought Vessel
1 Crystal Chimes
1 Orzhov Cluestone
1 Phyrexian Reclamation
1 Seal of Cleansing
1 Grave Peril
1 Banishing Light
1 Cage of Hands
1 Karmic Justice
1 Vow of Duty
1 Fallen Ideal
1 Seal of Doom
1 Vow of Malice
1 Aura of Silence
1 Grasp of Fate
1 Shielded by Faith
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Underworld Connections
1 Daxos’s Torment
1 Marshal’s Anthem
1 Dictate of Heliod
1 Sigil of the Empty Throne
1 Black Market
1 Necromancer’s Covenant

As you can see, I’ve removed a significant chunk of what came with the deck. I didn’t include lands in this list because I left the mana base as is — it was decent enough. These cards weren’t removed all at once, but most of them were placed in other decks or are sitting in my under construction pile. A few of the cards have strictly better replacements, but that isn’t to say that everything I removed was bad, just that some of the cards would be more suited for other decks I have built (or am building) and I felt that it was better to go all-in on the enchantment theme. The obvious thing to do would be to add a bunch of enchantments to the deck, and though I did that, you still need creatures, artifacts and other spells to help things along. The precon came with some enchantment creatures which I didn’t know existed until I played with the deck. However, there are many that weren’t included that are powerful, and if most of the creatures in the deck were enchantment creatures, then I would be getting experience counters left and right. Let’s take a look at what I added:

There are some fucking fantastic enchantment creatures that were a thing during the Theros block, along with a bevy of Gods that count just the same. I only included one God, Athreos, because he was the most on theme with what I am trying to do, but also added a bunch of white and black creatures that will trigger Daxos’ experience counters but also have great abilities on their own. Limiting the amount of spells played or cards drawn per turn is just stupid good, and I also added some cards like Auramancer that give a little bit of graveyard recursion. Lastly, the Tree of Perdition was thrown in as I didn’t have a use for it elsewhere, and it happens to combo with another enchantment from that set. Speaking of, let’s talk about enchantments that I added:

The combo in question is fairly obvious when you put the two cards together, but Tree of Perdition can be used to lower someone’s life total to 13, and then they will lose the game if you have Triskaidekaphobia on the board. An unlikely win-con, but a potential player elimination tool nonetheless. Many of the enchantments packed into the deck were good so I kept quite a few, but added things like Authority of the Consuls and Ghostly Prison for a little tempo control and/or pillowfort action. Others add more utility such as being able to draw more cards or gain some life here and there. Lastly, let’s look at my changes to the non-enchantment spells:

Here I tried to add all around utility. A couple of board wipes, some spot removal, and some tutors. Fun stuff like Torment of Hailfire could be very effective late game, and being able to steal a nice creature from someone else’s graveyard can come in handy. The main win condition here is to go wide with spirits created by Daxos, but to do so, you must be able to withstand (reset) the board state and play out a bunch of low cost enchantments (and enchantment creatures). Once you have 6 or 7 experience counters you can start pumping out 6/6 or 7/7 spirits for 3 mana a pop. They don’t have evasion which can suck, but that’s why you want to optimally clear the board and then start pumping them out. Tutors can help pull the wipe you might need, or the Tree/phobia combo to eliminate someone. Through play testing this deck seems far superior to the precon, and most of the cards that I purchased for the revamp were under a buck each. For $30-40 you should be able to do something similar to your Call the Spirits deck. Happy gaming!

The War Report: What to Do with Arcane Wizardry?

EDIT (9/25): I decided what to do with this deck, and you can read about that here

The only new Commander 2017 product I was really into was the Edgar Markov led Vampire deck. I’ve spoken about this a time or two already, so I don’t think I need to repeat myself. This wasn’t to say that I didn’t see value in the other decks, it just so happened that I already had a Vampire deck in the works, and being able to play a 3 color commander opens up more opportunities (like the White Vampires coming in Ixalan… a couple of those are sweet auto includes!).

I had passing interest in the Cat deck, mainly because it had a few cards that would benefit my Sram-led, Voltron-themed deck. I also had passing interest in the Wizard deck because it has some interesting cards along with a Grixis color scheme which I have yet to build a deck out of. Wizards seem pretty cool too, though finding a killer win condition was a little more difficult. I had no real interest in the Dragon deck, outside of Ramos who would be a cool 5-color commander that doesn’t require tribal synergy.

Having a lady that supports your bad habits is fantastic. She called me when I was at work the other day and said that she had found the precons at Target (they must have finally put them up on display!) and was asking which ones I wanted. Turns out they didn’t have the Vampire deck (but I already have that one) but they had all of the others. I was torn between the Cat and Wizard options, but I eventually picked Wizards and when I came home there it was.

At this point I’ve opened the deck and sleeved it up. I haven’t altered it in any way. Honestly I think I’ll probably play it as-is to see what the power level is like, but I don’t think it will stay that way for long. I don’t really care for the intended commander of the deck, Inalla.

Eminence is a powerful tool, but I just think the hasty tokens aren’t that great in conjunction with Wizards who are less likely to attack, and more likely want to just tap for an activated ability. Having haste enables that, but it just seems like it would have been more appropriate in like the Cat or Dragon decks. There is the added bonus of being able to tap 5 wizards to ping an opponent for 7 damage, but it seems like you’d just be leaving yourself open to die, unless of course that 7 damage would count towards commander damage which I’m unsure of.

It does turn out that there are several other legendary creatures packed in that I find much more appealing as a commander, and they still fit the Grixis color scheme. I just don’t know which one to roll with:

Kess and Mairsil are both new cards, and Marchesa is a reprint, but a popular commander choice. Kess has the graveyard focus and is screaming to be made into a spellslinging recursion deck. Mairsil wants things to go into the graveyard as well, but he then exiles cards and steals their active abilities. That seems cool enough, but then how many of those abilities are going to translate into a win condition? Lastly, Marchesa has Dethrone and gives this ability to all other creatures I control. Definitely don’t have to stick with a Wizard theme in that case, but I don’t know what sort of theme to go with. Big beaters? Fliers? Trickery? The same can be said of all three of these. I enjoy their abilities more than Inalla’s, but I don’t know what to do with them.

I’ve been scouring EDHREC for the last few days since I ended up with this precon and don’t know which route I want to go. Originally I thought Mairsil was the go-to option, but now I’m seeing the pros and cons of each and am torn with which direction to go. I suppose I will try the precon out since tomorrow is our weekly gathering, and that might give me some more insight into which route suits me.

I’ll be back to report on this once I have made a decision.