This past week was event-filled from an intertwined Magic-personal standpoint. A new set came out, decks are being built, and the rewards of friendship and niceties are showing up all over the place. Each thing has its own interest segment in the readership, so why not include them all in one article? Strangely enough, it makes sense to discuss this week in reverse chronological order, so here we go.
My new set order came in this week, and I have all sorts of ideas floating around. It’s well-known by now that a bunch of Standard-legal two-card combos showed up in this set, from Deceiver Exarch-Splinter Twin (infinite creatures) to Leonin Relic-Warder-Phyrexian Metamorph (infinite enters/leaves battlefield triggers) to Xenograft-Turntimber Ranger (infinite creatures/Allyfall). Last week I bonus-mentioned my intent to make a Bludgeon Brawl deck, so here it is, just built and not yet played:
TURN TO BRAWL (link is to images of all cards in deck)
4 Kemba, Kha Regent
4 Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer
2 Sanctum Gargoyle
4 Bludgeon Brawl
4 Herbal Poultice
4 Origin Spellbomb
4 Hammer of Ruin
4 Glint Hawk Idol
4 Thunder Totem
2 Mycosynth Lattice
2 Turn to Slag
Mountains and Plains
This is about as classically Johnny as a combat-oriented deck can get. Rather than describe the deck all at once, I’ll take each card individually.
Kemba, Kha Regent – Ideally you’re getting Mycosynth Lattice and Bludgeon Brawl out, making your lands Equipment, and putting them all on Kemba for 0. In case just Bludgeon Brawl shows up, there are a number of cheap artifacts to equip on Kemba anyway, as I have 16 artifacts that cost 2 or less (and one’s an Equipment anyway). Admittedly Kemba’s somewhat weak here without Bludgeon Brawl, but a 2/4 for 3 isn’t terrible while you wait for the rest to get online.
Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer – Since the combo had me in these colors and he was cheap to preorder, I might as well make 5/2 Cats instead of 2/2s. Being a curve-based metalcraft deck allows Jor Kadeen to give the bonus most of the time. A curve of Origin Spellbomb, Glint Hawk Idol, Thunder Totem, and Jor Kadeen isn’t unusual, and at that point you’re swinging with 5/2 flyers, not to mention the 8/4 first striker you just cast.
Sanctum Gargoyle – General utility along with being an extra flying body.
Bludgeon Brawl – The lynchpin of the deck. The ability is symmetrical, but I’ve got a lot of first strike and plenty of ways to take advantage of the ability. Three mana for a combo piece isn’t bad either; for all the weird decks I’ve built, it’s nice to have one that curves properly.
Herbal Poultice – With Bludgeon Brawl, this is a natural 0-equip that also protects Kemba. If I get my combo out, everyone will want to aim removal at Kemba just to keep from getting X Cats next turn, where X is basically the amount of permanents I control, so having Seal of Regenerate seems good. Without Bludgeon Brawl, it’s a cheap metalcraft/Glint Hawk Idol enabler, and that’s fine enough.
Origin Spellbomb – The apparent key to a good Bludgeon Brawl/Kemba deck is having artifacts that can function as equipment or creatures. This works both ways and draws a card. No complaints there.
Hammer of Ruin – If you’re going to have Kemba in a deck, you probably ought to have at least one “real” equipment. This one happens to combo with Bludgeon Brawl to destroy tons of random opponent artifacts. It’s cheap to equip and its ability works great on flyers…
Glint Hawk Idol – …like this guy. It’s an effective equipment with Bludgeon Brawl, it can wear cheap equipment easily, and as mentioned it’s a 5/2 when Jor Kadeen is prevailing. I don’t know how often this will come up, but I have a sneaking suspicion that equipping this to Kemba along with a host of random artifacts will make opponents forget that I can pay W to have a surprise creature. I’m not counting on that or anything, but that’s as fun as a gotcha moment can get.
Thunder Totem – It can help pay for its equip cost, but it has the same benefits as Glint Hawk Idol. It can accelerate, fly, or equip. The first strike is really handy as well.
Mycosynth Lattice – This is almost entirely to work with Bludgeon Brawl/Kemba, but it also turns Hammer of Ruin into a cheaper Argentum Armor and guarantees metalcraft. I suspect it’s also fun giving +6/+0 for 6. You thought CawBlade was weird flavor? Try Glint Hawk Idol being an 8/2 flyer by carrying one of these in its beak.
Turn to Slag – In case anyone has a bunch of artifacts to Brawl up on one big creature, having these is a safety valve for such things. Don’t get too greedy with my symmetrical combo piece, peeps. Did you know that Turn to Slag is a flavor callback to the completely forgotten Turn to Dust? Even as a Time Spiral/referential sort of guy, I didn’t notice until a couple days ago.
I can’t wait to try this out. For being fairly aggressive, it’s also completely my style, not only for involving bizarre cards but for another love of taking good Limited cards and ideas (metalcraft as seen through the Scars cards here) and translating them into a decent multiplayer deck.
With my New Phyrexia order also came some Galvanoths. This is a work in progress but it has absurd potential:
2 Llanowar Mentor
2 Weatherseed Totem
4 Primal Command
4 Clarion Utimatum
3 Brilliant Ultimatum
3 Howl of the Night Pack
2 Flame Fusillade
4 Noxious Revival
Mountains and Forests
Basically this deck’s goal is to get the most out of Galvanoth’s trigger by responding with Reclaim/Noxious Revival on an Ultimatum I spellshaped with Greenseeker or Llanowar Mentor. Ideally, I’ll have pitched a Clarion Ultimatum to Llanowar Mentor, getting me a turn 4 Galvanoth, at which point a simple Reclaim on the Ultimatum lets me get 4 lands and a second Galvanoth. The deck’s kills are some combination of random things (Flame Fusillade’s a lot better when it’s cast for free), but the point really is to use a red-green deck to cast a Brilliant Ultimatum, and who doesn’t get behind that?
So far, the issue is that this is Really. Slow. In most cases you’re looking at a turn 5 Galvanoth or a Primal Command to fetch Galvanoth, and while my deck reliably does that, it’s not the same as doing it fast enough. The issue is just finding enough card slots. Not even Sphinx-Bone Wand made the final cut, largely because Primal Command can’t search for it. Owning Magnivores would help. In any event, if this deck’s allowed to play out, it oozes raw power from strange sources, which is just how I like my power ooze.
First Experiences with New Phyrexia
I played some sextuple New Phyrexia sealed over the weekend with some friends. Having fond memories with small-set Limited – I placed 5th in a pool of about 25 in an all-Planar Chaos draft on its release day with Essence Warden.dec – I was looking forward to this and certainly wasn’t disappointed. It was informal and I only wound up facing one friend, but we were in opposite colors and strategies, which helped to see a bunch of cards. I went BUG Infect off 2 Blighted Agents and Viral Drake, having the absurd mana combination of Caged Sun and Vorinclex. But while I won a fair bit, my friend’s 2 Suture Priests and 2 Volt Charges kept me off my goal often.
The reason Suture Priest and similar effects tend to be annoying is that normally your spot removal needs to be saved for a random fatty. It’s as true in Limited as in multiplayer. But when paired with burn or life loss, a Suture Priest declares emphatically that being around 5 is a dangerous life total. Bring in a creature and die? It doesn’t feel good.
I was high on Phyrexian Metamorph before playing with it, but it’s probably even better than I thought. I’m a well-known lover of Clones, as they can adapt to the board state (i.e. increase lines of play) while making opponents respect/play around them (i.e. decrease their lines of play). This one can hit artifacts too? And for cheaper? There is absolutely nothing to dislike about this card, and there’s almost no chance these stay at $3.
Scars of Mirrodin block has a ton of x/1s. This makes Slash Panther much better than its Lightning Elemental-style stats suggest.
If Pyromancer Ascension makes a return to Standard, Volt Charge will do more for that return than Tezzeret’s Gambit will. Ascension decks, especially the ones who blank removal by going creatureless, often have to be judicious with their removal unless they’re blindingly fast. This does what you want it to early and late game, and to me that’s more useful than sorcery-speed card draw. People made a big deal about how Steady Progress was what Pyromancer Ascension needed, and it obviously wasn’t. The only time you were likely to cast it was when the Ascension already had something to proliferate, and that meant Steady Progress was played later than normal, as 2U for a card isn’t superb. Tezzeret’s Gambit is a better fit because drawing 2 cards is fine enough any time, but Volt Charge is the best fit because it impacts the board regardless. Yes, you can draw two cards, but sometimes you’d rather have a card in hand that does stuff, and Volt Charge is it.
Nice Store is Nice
This weekend I was out of town for a wedding (more on that next section) and stopped in at the card store the rest of the group had gone to – Tara Angel’s Magic in Tallahassee, Florida. Besides having cool life counters and getting me a Spellskite from a booster (that card seriously is $10 – wouldn’t have guessed), the woman running it was just plain nice. The store was fairly empty because I went just before closing, but it had plenty of open space and seemed like a great place to game in.
I mention this specifically because I’m not a fan of my local store and it’s the only one I have extensive experience with, making TA’sM a welcome change. My local store’s fine enough; it has good staff and its events are reliably attended with good players. But the regulars turn the place into something like Cheers for nerds, wanting to join hands with others in being foul, grumpy, and miserable, and unsurprisingly those aren’t reasons I like to play Magic. They’re not all that way, of course, but there are enough of them that way that it’s a grab bag of whether I’ll have a fun or annoying time there. In any event, it was nice to have a store I honest-to-goodness wanted to be in for more than competition, and now I understand why people like game stores. They do sell cards through their website, and the owner generally handles all the customer service, so if you need something quick and are in the Southeast, I’d recommend going through them. I purchased as much as I did largely because of how nice the lady was, and I’m rarely the guy who buys on that principle, so that should tell you something.
Due to experience, my brain has a lot of random negativity about game stores. It was nice to have my conception shattered. It’s healthy when that happens.
Weddings, Friendships, and Jaces
I was in Tallahassee for the wedding of some friends I knew separately. The guy was from my playgroup, but the girl was a family friend from a completely different area of life, so I wanted to be there as one of the only people who extensively knew both sides of the family. I wasn’t a groomsman, but I ran utility for the wedding by picking up someone from the airport and generally trying to be helpful and all that; I was at least part of the “helpful groom friends” genre.
I had just driven someone in from 3.5 hours away and was quite tired when the groom called us all outside. It’s important to note here that the best man (groom’s brother) was the only person of the 6 called outside who wasn’t part of the playgroup; this wedding was basically a reunion of the old/original group. The groom then noted that it was customary to give groomsmen presents…and then proceeded to give away his collection’s mythics.
To each of the 2 groomsmen, his initial plan was to give a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and half a box of New Phyrexia, but the first groomsmen, the Johnniest of our playgroup, preferred a whole box, so the other groomsman got 2 Jaces. The rest of us split 8 planeswalkers and a Baneslayer Angel. The groom’s brother-in-law-to-be hadn’t owned planeswalkers, so he got the core set ones; the most Commander/competitive minded guy took the Gideon Jura and the Baneslayer; and I got 2 Mad Sarkhans.
In a colder world, that would be just a list of swag. But it wasn’t about the cards; it was about the friendship, which in my case only went back to 2008 but in the case of the groomsmen stretched back to childhood across numerous nerd games and adventures. Maybe you’re like me and don’t like what Jace has done to Standard or whatever other format you play. But here it stood for the worth of a friend, the gratitude for good memories, and a bond that goes beyond the present. Yes, what we play is considered casual in the gaming world, but the relationships we built with it are serious, and trading those cards to us was a way of saying that he wouldn’t trade us.
I can’t speak for the other Muses here, but one of the many reasons I prefer casual multiplayer is the people I have to play with. The leader of our playgroup is in his 40s. He’s a deacon, a social worker, and adjunct college professor, and he loves playing black-red as a means to get out all the passion he feels but for professionalism’s sake can’t use. I needed a bunch of advice a couple weeks ago, so I showed up on our normal night (we get together Friday and Sunday nights) and asked him to talk with me for awhile. We spent an hour just discussing life. I know he would have done that for anyone who needed it, but after meeting twice a week for 3 years he knew enough about me to give good advice. (And FYI, Magic concepts are pretty handy for discussing life. Try it sometime.) That friendship over cards is more than the cards and it always will be. It’s about reliably being in someone’s life to know when you’re needed. That isn’t easily obtained or maintained for a bunch of introverted nerds like myself.
On Thursday night, the groom killed me with Selective Memory into Treasure Hunt to put 22 lands in his hand and discard them to Seismic Assault, killing two of us and then dying to an empty library. Is that the last Magic I’ll play with him? I don’t know. But as we played, there was a sense of old warriors sitting down for a last reminiscing before fighting a new battle. For my part, I’m happy I haven’t had to go it alone. And as unusual a metonym as Sarkhan makes, he’s there all the same.
Happy gaming, all.