Schlagwort-Archiv: Magic

Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad aus deutscher Sicht

Ich hatte ja gesagt, wenn mir etwas einfällt, worüber auf Deutsch zu bloggen mir sinnvoll erscheint, dann werde ich das hier auch tun, also tue ich es hiermit! Okay, eigentlich hatte ich nicht wirklich einen Blogeintrag zu diesem Thema geplant, aber nachdem ich mir den größten Teil der Arbeit aus Neugierde eh bereits gemacht hatte, kann ich auch gleich einen Post daraus fabrizieren.

Zugegeben, der Niedergang des deutschen Magic interessiert außer mir kaum noch jemanden, und angesichts der jüngsten Verlautbarung zum Thema „professionelles Magic“ dürfte sich das Problem eh in absehbarer Zeit von selbst erledigen, aber ich habe das Abschneiden der deutschen Spieler bei der Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad in tabellarischer Form festgehalten und ausgewertet und teile die Ergebnisse nun mit euch. Dabei verlasse ich mich bei der Zuordnung der Nationalitäten auf die Informationen aus der Coverage – bei Pro Touren ist diese im Gegensatz zu Grand Prixs eigentlich recht zuverlässig. Für die exakte Schreibweise der Namen dürfte das nicht gelten, aber der Einfachheit halber habe ich auch hier die in der Coverage verwendeten Schreibungen übernommen.

Die Pro Tour hatte 378 Teilnehmer, darunter 14 Deutsche. Gespielt wurden jeweils 3 Runden Draft gefolgt von 5 Runden Standard an Tag eins und zwei; am dritten Tag spielten die Top 8 im K.O.-System den Sieger aus. Für einen Matchsieg erhielt ein Spieler an Tag eins oder zwei 3 Punkte, für ein Unentschieden (kam bei den deutschen Teilnehmern nicht vor) 1 Punkt, für eine Niederlage 0 Punkte. Am Ende des ersten Tages schieden alle Spieler mit weniger als 12 Punkten aus. Teilnehmer, die keine Möglichkeit mehr sahen, ein erstrebenswertes Ziel zu erreichen, schieden häufig freilwillig aus („droppten“).

Meine erste Grafik zeigt das Abschneiden der einzelnen deutschen Spieler im Turnier:

Stats1

Sieben von vierzehn Deutschen (50%) erreichten also Tag zwei. Insgesamt gelang dies 236 der 378 Teilnehmer (62,43%). Wir haben hier demnach weit unterdurchschnittlich abgeschnitten – schon ziemlich peinlich für eine einst große Magic-Nation!

Meine zweite Grafik zeigt das Abschneiden der deutschen Teilnehmer insgesamt, aufgeschlüsselt nach den vier einzelnen Abschnitten der Pro Tour (okay, eigentlich waren es ja fünf, aber in den Top 8 war ja kein deutscher Spieler vertreten), und in Blöcken nach Format bzw. Tag zusammengefasst:

Stats2JPG

Dabei sind die interessanten Werte jeweils diejenigen, welche „Punkte pro Runde“ angeben. Lässt man Unentschieden außen vor, so befindet sich deren turnierweiter Durchschnitt offensichtlich bei 1,5. Auch hier zeigt sich, wie weit unterdurchschnittlich die deutschen Teilnehmer liegen. Dabei erscheinen die Unterschiede zwischen Tag eins und Tag zwei nicht allzu signifikant – wohl aber diejenigen zwischen Draft und Standard! Während Deutschland im Constructed-Format nur knapp den Durchschnittswert unterschreitet, offenbart es im Draft massive Defizite. Die Ergebnisse von vierzehn Spielern bei einem Turnier sind natürlich nur bedingt repräsentativ, aber der Ausschlag nach unten ist doch schon ziemlich deutlich, und irgendwie passt er auch zur „Generation Toffel“, die dem strategischen Gehalt von Limited-Content völlig unkritisch gegenübersteht, weil es ihr nur darauf ankommt, von Clownerien unterhalten zu werden. Decklisten zu kopieren und spielen zu üben, das reicht für durchschnittliche Ergebnisse auf Pro-Tour-Niveau aus, aber das Verständnis für die Dynamiken eines Draft-Environments erlangt man nicht durch Daddeln allein.

Insgesamt positiv hervorzuheben ist allerdings zumindest der kontinuierliche Erfolg von Patrick Dickmann, der uns zuletzt die erste Pro Tour Top 8 mit deutscher Beteiligung seit gefühlten Ewigkeiten beschert hatte, und der mit seinem guten Abschneiden hier in Madrid als erster (und sehr wahrscheinlich einziger) deutscher Spieler die Schwelle zum Gold-Pro nächstes Jahr überschritten hat! Zu schade, dass dieser ganze Aufwand die Mühe nun wohl nicht mehr wert gewesen sein wird…

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I’ve Been Busy Elsewhere

My activity on 00zero has become very sparse lately, and while I’m certain this will change again some time, I feel no immediate pressure – that was the whole point of closing down Zeromagic and starting over at MagicBlogs, as you might remember.

However, just in case that you didn’t notice that I have been publishing Magic-related content elsewhere in the meanwhile, I wanted to assure you that I’m still alive, and link to those articles and videos! They’re in German, though, so if you’re one of my few (but existing) international readers unable to understand German, you might be disappointed – sorry!

All of these articles have appeared on Magic Universe.

Firstly, I wrote a three-part draft preview of Born of the Gods, where I discussed in great detail the dynamics of that environment. While some of my early card evaluations naturally were a little off the mark, I still believe that this series is a great place to start if you want to understand how to draft succesfully with this block.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Then I recorded two videos of drafts in that format, which turned out to be very instructive. I dubbed over my commentation afterwards to make sure that I could deliver a maximum of analysis.

Draft 1

Draft 2

Lastly (so far), there is another small draft preview series – only two parts this time – for Journey into Nyx. I tried to get a grasp of how the new set would change the dynamics of the environment, but found myself asking questions more than I could deliver answers. However, asking the right questions is an important first step of every analysis, and I made sure to really think about every single card before writing my statement about it, so I think these articles are a good read anyway, especially if you want to start a little ahead of the competition when exploring the new draft metagame.

Part 1

Part 2

As far as I can see, it is really likely that if I write about Magic over the next months, it will be in German and get published on Magic Universe (there might be the odd exception or two, though, if a topic isn’t suited for that site). Barring language issues, I hope you will follow my efforts there!

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A Joke

I once read a joke I want to share with you:

A Scot, who had been abroad for half a year, returns to his home village and meets a friend. After a bit of small talk, he inquires:

„Say, Rob, I heard you married a couple months ago? How’s that goin‘ for you, lad?“

„So-so“, the other responds. „Don’t get me wrong, she’s a sweet lass for sure – but all she does is talk about money! She wants money for this, money for that, for cooking, clothes, shoes, bus tickets… all the time, every day of the week… she’s practically been buggin‘ me constantly since the first day of our marriage!“

„That must be annoying“, empathises his friend. „So, how much do you give her?“

„Well – so far, nothing.“

(I would have preferred to link to or at least quote an online version of this joke, but I was unable to find it, so I had to recreate it as best I could. My heartfelt apologies to every native English speaker for my awkward attempt to tell a joke in that language, and doubly so to all people from Scotland!)

In case you didn’t get the morale: Do not expect me to stop complaining about everything Magic anytime soon, unless things actually improve a lot. It would only mean I stopped caring.

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Analysis of a video draft by Pierre Liebsch

Pierre asked me for feedback on his newest draft video at Magic Universe, but since we’re both publishing drafts there now (after endless delay, I really hope my video will finally be up tomorrow! – edit: and here it is!), I don’t think I should comment directly at that site. Instead, I decided to do a full-on analysis here at 00zero.

(Please note that all content on Magic Universe is in German.)

Drafting

First booster round:

Pick 1:

Bolt of Keranos seems the correct pick to me. However, I do not agree with Pierre that this booster is „below average“. With a reasonable selection of strong maindeck cards, albeit no outstanding first pick, this is rather typical Born of the Gods fare.

P2:

Picking Pinnacle of Rage is totally wrong here – Pierre completely overestimates a card I would only grudgingly maindeck at all! Better picks in order are Akroan Skyguard, Nyxborn Triton, Asphyxiate, Vanguard of Brimaz, Setessan Oathsworn, Rise to the Challenge & Mortal’s Resolve; all but the last one being cards which will generally make my maindeck in contrast to Pinnacle.

P3:

Pierre complains there is „no good red card“ – well, there IS a Nyxborn Rollicker, which is good, if not exciting, and Pharagax Giant is not bad as he says (it’s average), but of course the white cards are stronger. Picking Elite Skirmisher is fine, but with Oreskos Sun Guide as competition it’s close (and NOT „without competition“, as Pierre claims).

P4:

The triple-red mana cost in Fated Conflagration is a serious issue and should make one consider other options. I believe going with Archetype of Aggression would have been better here.

P5:

Taking Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass to cut Red is okay.

P6:

God-Favored General is close to unplayable – I have no idea what put the idea in Pierre’s mind that this stinker was good at all! At this time, White does not seem to be open, so it might be a good idea to branch into Black with Felhide Brawler. Alternatively, one could take Springleaf Drum, which is a solid accelerator helping with awkward mana costs (like that of the Conflagration).

P7:

Okay, so maybe White IS open? You want the excellent 2-drop Akroan Skyguard over Akroan Phalanx, though, especially since Red should not be taken for granted at this time, with Bolt of Keranos the only really good card here (Conflagration might not make even a red deck if Red is not the primary color).

P8:

Taking Rise to the Challenge is okay, since Black (which offers the stronger Nyxborn Eidolon) is less likely to be played than White now.

P9:

I can see Mortal’s Ardor here, which might make a White-based deck short on tricks and heroic enablers, but I don’t think it would’ve been too late to pick up Nyxborn Eidolon here in case that Black might replace White or Red. Ardor would certainly be no big loss.

P10:

Excoriate is decidedly wrong; that’s a card no aggressive deck should ever maindeck. Due to the low creature count so far the correct pick would have been Reckless Reveler; with a different selection of cards in the pool, Rise to the Challenge would have been more attractive.

P11:

Another big fail: Taking the almost unplayable Siren Song Lyre over Pharagax Giant is wrong on principle, but especially with a low creature count!

Not much to say about the rest of the picks in the first booster round, but I’m irritated by Pierre hiding Hold at Bay immediately, seeing how he keeps way worse cards on display.

Second booster round:

Pick 1:

Lightning Strike over Heliod’s Emissary is wrong in general – Pierre obviously does not realize how valuable a card which so aggressively gets you closer to winning the game is! With his low creature count, a bad pick becomes a catastrophic one.

P2:

Wingsteed Rider is a good pick. At this time, it’s important to realize that Red as the main color has become distinctly less appealing, so the double-red cards in Pierre’s pool (other than Bolt of Keranos) must be considered expendable.

P3:

As strong as Wingsteed Rider is, and as urgently as Pierre needs creatures, this is an unbelievably terrible pick. A reliable removal for one mana like Chained to the Rocks can not be prized highly enough in this environment!

P4:

Getting another Wingsteed Rider is great, but now at the latest Pierre should have realized that White has become his main color, and evaluated his earlier picks accordingly.

P5:

Arena Athlete is the correct pick.

P6:

Lagonna-Band Elder is okay, but only because of Pierre’s still low creature count. When I draft RW, I usually notice early if I need a redundant 3-drop, and the Elder is one of the lowest options on my list here, so I will often be in a situation where I can go for the sideboard card (Ray of Dissolution).

P7:

As Pierre mentions, taking Ray of Dissolution would have been correct, but he prefers to goof around here for whatever reason. If you want to hatepick, there are actually good options, but as far as Opaline Unicorn is concerned: If soemeone wants to build a deck which needs it, LET HIM DO IT! Why prevent people from playing bad decks?

P8:

Flamespeaker Adept is reasonable here.

P9:

Leonin Snarecaster is the correct choice.

P11:

It’s simple: If Pierre thinks Akroan Crusader is bad, it does NOT mean that the card is bad, but rather that Pierre is! It also demonstrates Pierre’s unwillingness to improve, since he’s obviously aware that his assessment is unusual. The Crusader does not make every red deck, but in many builds it is a solid choice. By the way, it is especially hilarious that Pierre at the same time likes God-Favored General so much!

Not much more to say for this booster round.

Third booster round:

Pick 1:

Magma Jet is correct. What’s wrong is Pierre’s idea that this card was anywhere close to Divine Verdict in power level! For an aggressive (the vast majority) white deck which has come together as it should, the white card is something nice to have one copy of in the sideboard, and that’s it.

P2:

Coordinated Assault is still better than Observant Alseid. Third best choice would have been Chosen by Heliod.

P3:

Unless your RW deck is low on heroic and high on Two-Headed Cerberus / Flamespeaker Adept, it usually wants Chosen by Heliod over Titan’s Strength (if it isn’t short on power-enhancing cards overall). If it has no less than THREE Wingsteed Rider, there is no excuse to take the instant over the aura!

P4:

And again, it is wrong to pick Titan’s Strength, this time over the solid 2-drop Traveling Philosopher, which Pierre’s Deck needs more.

P5:

Deathbellow Raider is fine.

P6:

Last Breath is also fine. Note that with the three Riders, that card is actually reasonable in the maindeck!

P7:

Spearpoint Oread is fine again.

P8:

None of those cards constitutes an urgent hatepick, so it would have been correct to pick Silent Artisan for the sideboard (sometimes – rarely, but it happens! – you want the tough 5-drop).

P9:

Traveling Philosopher is fine.

P10:

Satyr Rambler is fine.

P11:

Hatepicking Felhide Minotaur makes some sense, but Pierre overrates the strength of that card against his deck. Wild Celebrants are a useful sideboard card, and that’s what he should have taken!

Deckbuilding

After a rather rocky draft, Pierre proceeds to completely misbuild his deck with awkward mana, not enough focus, and bad card choices in general. There is simply no way, and also no necessity to try and make Fated Conflagration work in a deck with 3 Wingsteed Rider!

Here is what he should have built:

Lagonna-Band Elder, Great Hart, Mortal’s Ardor, Last Breath: These cards are concessions to bad drafting; usually they don’t make a good RW deck, but they’re serviceable.

Closest cuts: Hold at Bay, Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass.

Sideboard cards to keep in mind: Pinnacle of Rage, Excoriate, Silent Artisan.

While there were several chances missed in the draft, the resulting deck would still have been pretty solid and could, with some luck, take down a draft!

A few remarks about the Games

Game 1:

Not offering to trade Arena Athlete for Daxos of Meletis by tapping the legend before combat is terrible. Best play might’ve been to keep two potential blockers back, though, since you cannot race an active Daxos and need to do everything in your power to stop him from connecting. Things worked out for Pierre this time, but that does not mean he made the right play!

Not offering to trade Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass for Wavecrash Triton is also bad, since Triton dominates Pierre’s creature-light board (also, the opponent probably would have let Cyclops through for fear of of a trick; which makes not attacking doubly bad, since you volunteer the information that way that you hold no trick).

Bestowing Spearpoint Oread on the Cyclops against the Triton when the opponent has five cards in hand is practically a concession, since your opponent now only has one creature to deal with by tapping it down, which you must expect him to be able to do!

Pierre then walks into a telegraphed Divine Verdict, which he will do again later, and then complain how hard it is to play around that card: It is not! You simply do NOT attack (and, if you can, add to your board). If your opponent insists on not playing any cards by keeping Verdict-mana open at all times, fine! Use these turns to get board advantage. Alternatively, if you feel that waiting game does not favor you, you might offer him a less relevant creature. Do NOT just play into your opponent’s hands by allowing him to get your best creature! Playing around Divine Verdict is actually really easy (this is why it isn’t really a great card, not even in Theros, where people tend to grow large attackers). You just have to do it!

A bit later, not using Pinnacle of Rage + Magma Jet to kill two of the opponent’s creatures (and scry) then finally IS the concession, since Pierre takes now too much damage next turn and has no way to get back into that game. He might have lost anyway, since he was extremely flooded, but he played worse against a quite bad opponent and thus deserved to lose.

Sideboarding:

Coming from the deck list I posted above, I would exchange Great Hart for Cyclops of One-Eyed Pass to punch through those high-toughness creatures. (Yup, that’s exactly the card Pierre TOOK OUT!)

Game 2:

That Mulligan is obvious, and it also demonstrates nicely why you should never build your deck in the way Pierre did!

When the game starts, Pierre should use Bolt of Keranos on the Oreskos Sun Guide to keep his momentum going (and scry), since he has no trick in hand and thus cannot rely on blocking succesfully with Traveling Philosopher against any number of possible tricks, including the two Chosen by Heliod he already saw the game before. Actually, Chosen on the Guide would almost win the game for the opponent right there! Things again worked out nicely for Pierre, especially with Daxos of Meletis coming down next turn, but he was just lucky with a bad play which only seemed to redeem itself later.

When Pierre refuses to play around Divine Verdict for the second time, this might have been the moment he lost that game and match.

It is also bad to scry away a creature which was able to attack into that 2/6 Wavecrash Triton. You must work with what you have!

Then, not using Magma Jet on Battlewise Hoplite when his opponent is tapped down to Gods Willing as the only possible trick is also unspeakably terrible. What more does Pierre expect the Jet to do? And if there IS Gods Willing – will the Jet ever do anything then? Why does Pierre take several rounds worth of damage from one of the best possible targets for his Jet instead of just using it? This allows his opponent to go on the offense instead of playing defense – exactly what Pierre must avoid!

Later, Pierre uses his Pinnacle of Rage in the probably most inefficent way – but maybe at least it dawned to him after these games that this 6-mana sorcery is just not good!

Again, it’s unclear if Pierre could have won that game against Hopeful Eidolon and later Hundred-Handed One, but since he tried everything in his power to lose it, he has no right to complain.

Overall, I’m still anything but impressed by Pierre’s drafting, deckbuilding and playing skills. There is still a lot of room for improvement at all fronts!

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A Born of the Gods Draft Video

Toffel asked, so I had to do it: Here is a video of a BNG-THS-THS draft, just in time before PT Valencia! I might have done it in German and published it on Magic Universe, but that came to naught because of the near impossibility to communicate with the content editors of that site, who seem to check their e-mails once a week at most.

As with my Theros-only drafts, the same caveats do still exist: I don’t really know how to produce a video (but the initial blurriness is not my fault and will disappear by itself soon), my „English“ might be hard to bear, and my playing skills do not match my drafting and deckbuilding skills. That said, I believe that this draft was quite instructive!

Here’s the link to the YouTube video. Do not forget to come back and leave a comment!

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My Limited Card Pool: Born of the Gods 2nd Update

If you can read German: I have written a three-part preview of Born of the Gods for draft which is being published on Magic Universe. The first part is already up, and I hope the other two will follow soon.

While analyzing that set and pondering its cards, I have changed my mind on a few decisions I had made earlier in regard to my limited card pool, and those made a few ripples concerning other cards:

Firstly, while I don’t like inspired in general, a very specific use of that mechanic caught my attention as promising to play interestingly. Two of those designs will enter my pool as uncommons: Aerie Worshippers and Pheres-Band Raiders (obviously, tagged with „inspired“).

While deciding for those, I obviously also reconsidered Springleaf Drum, which I had just cut from my pool for being superfluous, although it is a perfectly usable card overall. I decided it was still superfluous (and certainly not needed to provide a synergy with only two uncommons), but in the process of redoing the crunch for my colorless manafixers and rampers I felt that I had reduced the number of the latter too much: If I wanted an environment where expensive spells where viable, players should get a little more help. Thus, Temple of the False God and Everflowing Chalice made a return at uncommon and common, respectively (both tagged with „ramp“)

Then, I took a liking to Flitterstep Eidolon. It fits so much better with the rest of my bestow cycle than Thassa’s Emissary, which is especially powerful. Nimbus Naiad had the issue of being too close to Leafcrown Dryad – and also, of being too powerful – but the blue Eidolon complements the Dryad much better. So, it replaces the Emissary at uncommon, adopting its „ench (is)“ and „bestow“ tags.

I also realized again how disappointed I was with most scry designs, especially in those colors where I wanted that mechanic, so I returned to my plan of just using cantrips and cycling instead, which fulfill a similar role. This means that Magma Jet, Titan’s Strength, Ferocious Charge and Artisan’s Sorrow are out, and that I retired the „scry“ tag. A couple excellent designs in Journey into Nyx might make me go back on this, but I’ve lost hope.

While Red didn’t urgently need replacements for those cards with scry, Green did, being a bit short on spells in general, a bit more short on non-creatures, and most specifically wanting more card draw and card flow. With Ferocious Charge out, the excellent Primal Boost could return (albeit as common, tagged with „cycling“), but to that card, Aggressive Urge was a bit too close, so I replaced that slot with an old favorite of mine, Sudden Strength (also common and tagged „cantrip“).

I now had lost a generically useful Green non-creature uncommon, and I felt I needed a replacement. Realizing there was some kind of gap between the common Symbiosis and the rare Incremental Growth, I embraced Mischief and Mayhem, a simple, elegant design on a good power level, which plays noticeably different from Might of Oaks.

Lastly, I opted for Courser of Kruphix to fulfill the role of a strong spell helping with card flow (I hope it won’t turn out too expensive). It is not quite as unpredictably broken as Oracle of Mul Daya, and its lifegain ability is minor enough that it can coexist with Grazing Gladehart. With Into the Wilds being a splashable uncommon, the Courser makes sense at rare.

I will post an updated complete list of my card pool after I make more changes – so far, I guess just listing them in text form will suffice.

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My Limited Card Pool: Born of the Gods Update

Born of the Gods has been spoiled completely a bit earlier than I expected, and I made up my mind about which cards I wanted a bit faster than I would have guessed, so here comes the update for my limited card pool!

But first, the obligatory barrage of links:

Here I introduce and explain the concept and use of my limited card pool, and also how my list is set up. In that entry is a link to an older version of my list. (If my admittedly sometimes strange shortcuts in that list confuse you, here’s a list with explanations of them.)

In a separate entry I listed a number of general guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.

I explain and comment on my choices in detail in the following entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red Lands & Creatures

Red Non-Creature Spells

Multicolor with White

Multicolor without White

And here it is  – my updated list as an xls file:

Limited-Pool (BNG update)

In future articles about my limited card pool, I will link just to this entry here, which lists all important links in one place.

So, about Born of the Gods (mouseover on cards from that set will probably start working in the very near future):

Overall, I’m rather disappointed by that set’s design. These are the things it mainly offers:

1. more heroic

That’s a nice mechanic, but not one I want to sculpt an environment around, like WotC did, because it lends itself too much towards all-or-nothing plays. I only want it as a mini theme for that reason, and am thus not interested in too many different designs (which, by the way, aren’t the pinnacle of originality anyway). Still, the set delivered what I needed here, two good replacements for cards from Theros I wasn’t too happy with in the first place, so I consider this actually one of the stronger points.

2. more bestow

Bestow was meant to premiere in this set, before Theros stole it. Thus, there’s not much interesting left here: All the cool designs have already been used. Some of the new bestow cards would be usable, if somehow boring, if I wanted bestow to play a major part in a cube, but I don’t – it is just another interesting way to spice up auras, and it has a lot of competition here.

3. more enchantrips

(That’s my term for auras which draw you a card when they enter the battlefield.)

The new designs just aren’t better than the older, with the exception of Karametra’s Favor, which is cool, but unfortunately provides green manafixing – if it just added G, I would have embraced it.

4. more scry

I had high expectations here, and was deeply disappointed. Glimpse the Sun God is a strong design, but I am not looking for a white scry card: What I need is a good green option, or maybe a black one, but what Born of the Gods provides here is terrible. Well, I have to hope for Journey into Nyx, it seems…

5. more cross-color creatures

Some of these designs are reasonable – Akroan Phalanx, for example – but none is better than what I already use.

6. inspired

With bestow already an old hat, this is the set’s poster mechanic, but I do not like it at all. I have a pretty good idea how unwieldy any applications of it other than just attacking with creatures will play out (I well remember WotC’s earlier experiments with the untap symbol, and with the merfolk tribe in Lorwyn), and I do not intend to warp one of my cubes to the point where this could become a major element. So, what’s left is essentially another mechanic which rewards you for attacking, and there are more elegant and less confusing options.

The designs I thought the most about were those in the vein of Aerie Worshippers, but I’m afraid they will not turn out as cool as they look, simply because, once an opponent is vulnerable enough to get hit by them, it is likely a better use of mana to cast another creature instead of paying for the trigger, which offers card advantage, but less pressure – or you will want to use a removal spell to ensure the creature can get through for damage again. Yes, I know there’s the lategame option of comboing these creatures with stuff like Springleaf Drum, but I neither believe in the validity of building your decks with this in mind (at least not in my interactive cubes), nor that this is a desirable goal to enable at all (it’s certainly not less repetitive than buyback). I also do not want to include dedicated tap enablers in my pool. I just took the Drum out, because I didn’t like it, and it is by far the best candidate. Admittedly, there’s a small chance that playing with these cards in „normal“ draft might sway me, but you shouldn’t hold your breath.

7. tribute

Just like monstrosity, tribute is a mechanic with great potential, which WotC wasted with mostly terrible designs. I suppose the idea of REALLY BIG NO BIGGER THAN THAT I MEAN REALLY REALLY BIG creatures appeals to many casual players, but it just doesn’t lead to good gameplay.  The only design with monstrosity I really liked was Ill-Tempered Cyclops: Reasonable, but not too strong before going monstrous; and getting reasonably big for a reasonable cost later. However, monstrosity is a bit too specific for my taste that I would use only one card with it, and there isn’t a single other design with it I can stand.

As for tribute, WotC just has dropped the ball on it. A strictly worse Air Elemental (Siren of the Fanged Coast)? Really? Or a 4/4 for 5 mana which gives you 4 life (Snake of the Golden Grove)… unless you really need that life, in which case you very probably will not get it? Still, there are three useful designs, but one doesn’t fit with the other two: Pharagax Giant is a nice design (in my mind, it’s mainly a simplified version of Menacing Ogre), but the ones I use are on a different power level, and one is already red. Still, two cards ain’t too bad, but tribute should have had more to offer, just like monstrosity.

8. devotion on non-creature spells

I’m already not a big fan of devotion, which is rather swingy and unwieldy, and using it to scale basic effects appeals even less to me. That whole „harder-to-cast creatures are now better just because they’re harder to cast“ theme reeks of „design space used because they could, not because it’s good“ to me.

9. multicolor gods

Oh yes, gods. Making devotion even more swingy, and indestructible to boot. I shouldn’t waste any more words on this.

10. tap-activated auras

I guess there ARE some players who will suddenly realize one day that these are meant to combo with the inspired mechanic, and feel clever that they figured this out on their own. Other than that, there is no excuse for such terribly playing cards: All the downsides of creature enchantments, and to make use of them, you can not even attack with the creature anymore? There are very few designs where this works out (Quicksilver Dagger is an example), and WotC didn’t find new ones.

11. other tap enablers

Blue has a couple of those, with Crypsis being the new design here. (Yes, it untaps the creature instead of tapping it, but it allows you to attack with it with impunity.) That card is actually generically useful, though, providing a surprise invulnerable blocker or allowing to attack unblocked without leaving your defenses open.

12. archetypes

While their power level vastly varies with their casting cost, their effect is always too much.

13. enchantment theme cards

Astonishingly enough, Theros lacked those. Now Born of the Gods provides a few, but their designs mostly fail to convince me, either being too narrow, just referencing auras or enchantment creatures, or being less elegant than older cards. There’s one exception, though.

14. silly tribal

I guess that’s WotC’s shortcut to flavor. I can’t make use of cards referencing octopuses or cyclops, though.

So, what did make it?

1. Gorgon’s Head replaces Gorgon Flail. (So happy the card doesn’t have a stupid „non-gorgon“ rider!) I prefer the purer effect.

2. Akroan Skyguard replaces Favored Hoplite. Simpler and not quite as powerful as Wingsteed Rider – just what I had hoped for!

3. Ornitharch replaces Geist-Honored Monk. The Monk never served a particularly important role – I just wanted another white 5-drop. This is an example of a tribute design done right, and I embraced it.

4. Dawn to Dusk replaces Aven Cloudchaser. This one’s a bit tricky: The sorcery obviously is both pro and anti enchantments, but the anti part plays a bigger role in making it playable. I like the idea of this card a lot! Concerning the Cloudchaser: When it’s good, it’s a little too good. This kind of combined tempo and card advantage should not cost less than 5 mana. I mainly kept it around to mirror Batterhorn somehow, but the time has come to move on.

5. Ashiok’s Adept replaces Tormented Hero. A creature with a meaningful heroic trigger replaces one where it seemed just tacked on, and it somehow mirrors Triton Fortune Hunter.

6. Crypsis is a new common. It is a somehow unique and interesting trick, and I believe it will play well.

7. Thunder Brute is a new rare. Another well-done tribute design, and Red can do with this kind of card at 6 mana.

8. Fearsome Temper is a new uncommon. Now that Maniacal Rage is gone, there is room for such a card at three mana. I guess it will play as a powered-down Shiv’s Embrace, which is a good thing.

9. Pinnacle of Rage is a new uncommon. Jagged Lightning was a bit too strong, but this is perfect and closes a gap in the otherwise quite tightly woven web of red burn spells.

10. Kiora’s Follower replaces Coiling Oracle. The snake was somehow original, and I liked it for nostalgic reasons, but in the end it was a harder-to cast, slightly souped-up Elvish Visionary with a random upside. The merfolk, however, is probably the coolest design in the whole set!

Directly or indirectly, Born of the Gods triggered a few more changes. I will just list any differences to my old list:

With Tormented Hero gone, Diregraf Ghoul can return and replace Vampire Lacerator. Ferocious Charge and Artisan’s Sorrow switched rarities to adjust to their attractiveness in draft. Lust for War and Brimstone Volley became common to make room for the new uncommons (Red still has the lowest ratio of commons among all colors in my pool). Jhoira’s Toolbox and Icy Manipulator, on the other hand, became uncommon since it fits better with their designs, and my pool needed more uncommons overall. (Balance per color has priority. The multicolor cards skew overall balance, though, and colorless cards provide a counterweight here.) Lastly, Air Elemental is common again, to fit in with Water Elemental and Earth Elemental, and because it just feels right.

Oh, and I’ll keep Bee Sting instead of Unyaro Bee Sting, since I have it, am too lazy to look for a replacement, and realized I can’t get rid of dated wordings completely anyway. Also, the Phil Foglio artwork is so much nicer!

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My Limited Card Pool: Multicolor without White

This is the 14th and last entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red Lands & Creatures

Red Non-Creature Spells

Multicolor with White

In this entry I listed a number of guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.

Here’s a PDF you can open in a new window to look at the part of my list I’m taking about while reading:

Multicolor without White

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

Golgari is probably the guild giving me the most trouble to find good candidates to fill up its slots (with Izzet a close runner-up). Llanowar Dead is really underwhelming, seeing that Selesnya has Steward of Valeron, while Dreg Mangler is a bit better than I like. (At least that balances itself out a little.) These are already average choices, though: Many other cards are just waiting for me to find a better replacement for them, with the worst offenders being Woodwraith Strangler and Golgari Germination.

Golgari has a mini theme which only shows up here, scavenge. That is because I no longer intended to support these cards as a theme, just used a few because they play well (or, in the case of the Mangler, at least better than the alternatives). They still happen to have some synergy with Rot Farm Skeleton and Grisly Salvage – more cards I mostly use for a lack of better options – and those in turn are justified because they feed a couple other cards which use the graveyard.

Marrow Chomper is my only card with devour in the pool, again because I am not really interested in that mechanic anymore. It just happens to be text on a usable card.

Seeing Pernicious Deed, which is certainly one of the strongest cards in my pool, let me explain that multicolor cards are generally allowed and even supposed to be a bit stronger, for three reasons: 1) They should encourage drafters to commit to a color pair, 2) they need to reward you for such a commitment, and 3) they are meant to be used in a multicolored environment, which tends to have a higher power level with regard to available threats and answers (but usually not with regard to speed and focus) in general.

Also, answers have more leeway when it comes to card strength, because they will not win a game by themselves. This is why a creature like Shivan Dragon, which hasn’t seen the light of constructed play since essentially forever, is too strong for a Next Level Cube, while constructed staples like Thoughtseize or Wrath of God aren’t.

Dimir, while quantitatively supported well as a friendly color combination, surprisingly also has issues, at least in the creature department. This is because WotC, for some reason, always seems to put stupid or unwieldy mechanics in that guild: Milling is the worst (and unfortunately, most persistent) by far, but transmute wasn’t great either, and cipher didn’t even go on creatures. There’s nothing outstandingly terrible here, but my selection doesn’t look like a best-of of card design either.

In Rakdos, the challenge was to not make everything about creature removal. I know I only succeeded partially here. Using nearly unplayable cards as a counterweight, as WotC usually does, isn’t an option for me, though.

Simic, even though an enemy color combination, provides plenty of good choices, now that I decided that I can use evolve as a generic mechanic, with one annoying exception: For some unfathomable reason, its hybrid cards suck. I got quite creative by making Biomass Mutation the uncommon, and Snakeform is fine, but Groundling Pouncer and Trapjaw Kelpie fall squarely into the category „best of the rest“, with the first having a rather silly abilty, and the second being sorely overcosted.

As I write this, Kiora’s Follower (mouseover will probably not work for a while) from Born of the Gods has already been spoiled. While a bit similar to Seeker of Skybreak, this is a really cool, elegant card, and it might replace Coiling Oracle in my pool. I’ll have to think about that for a while, though, because new toys always seem cooler than old ones, and it is possible that after some reflection I’ll keep the more unique Oracle instead. The Follower seems the favorite at the moment, though. Edit: And I’ve decided to use it.

In Gruul, I have considered another change: Hunting Kavu, whose ability is really a strange fit in this guild, could make room for Fanatic of Xenagos (as with the Follower, mouseover will take a while) from Born of the Gods. Gruul has, overall, a rather boring selection of creatures, which is why I decided to use the „gating“ cards from Planeshift to give that guild a more unique feel, and why I ended up with that Kavu. While that is a bit of a strange Gruul creature, the Fanatic would yet be another haste guy, using a mechanic (tribute) I do not see tied to Gruul, and a bit more powerful than I like. Edit: I decided to keep the Kavu.

It’s a pity that the Gruul bloodrush creatures play so similarly (okay, Ghor-Clan Rampager stands out by being insanely pushed), so I can only use one. I’m happy I stumbled about the arcane (no, not in that sense, obviously) Sunastian Falconer, which does something quite unique. Now, I’m not a fan of mana acceleration which costs more than 4 mana, but here this is just a bonus ability on a 4/4, so it’s fine.

In Izzet, which is possibly the worst supported guild overall (so much weird, crappy, „fun“ cards!), I had no choice than to wholeheartedly embrace the instery theme, and also use overload. Still, I always watch out for possible improvements. Especially Blistercoil Weird and Noggle Bridgebreaker (really, does that card need a disadvantage?) annoy me, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Blast of Genius, although at least not a coinflip card – all of R&D should receive a sound flogging whenever they create such an abomination! –  is still too random for my taste, but I’ll have to put up with it, because a guild with an instery theme cannot just have Teleportal as a sorcery.

Okay, that was it! 20 or so entries overall, and I still only touched the surface of my considerations. Next up will be my overview of Born of the Gods updates to my pool. Then, it will be time to phsyically acquire the missing cards and start building Next Level Cubes again!

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My Limited Card Pool: Multicolor with White

This is the 13th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red Lands & Creatures

Red Non-Creature Spells

In this entry I listed a number of guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.

Here’s a PDF you can open in a new window to look at the part of my list I’m taking about while reading:

Multicolor with White

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

My multicolor cards are structured extremely symmetrically, because color combinations are a theme which needs to be balanced out carefully. There is one odd card here: Femeref Enchantress. She doesn’t belong to any of the cycles and groups which all color combinations share, but is instead a dedicated support card for an enchantment theme. Since this happens to manifest in White and Green only (and you probably want both colors, if possible), she’s a perfect fit. The reason she is in such a solitary position is simply that there is no other theme requiring and offering that kind of additional support.

Disregarding that exception, each guild has 27 cards in my pool. I’ll use Orzhov as an example to break them down:

Isolated Chapel, Marsh Flats and Orzhov Signet make up my guild-affiliated color fixers of choice (which are, of course, common). I do not want any non-basics with basic land types in my pool, and those duals are too strong anyway, making decks with three or more colors too easy to come by. Of course, if a cube is meant to support 3-color-decks, my manafixing is absolutely sufficient, but you better have a clear idea in which colors you want to end up instead of just wildly grabbing duals and seeing where this leads you. There are two more cycles of manafixers which would also work for me, the ones represented by Fetid Heath and Caves of Koilos, but I do not need more of those cards anymore.

While hybrid cards will usually also be present in a multicolor-themed cube, they are even a bit more important supporting cubes which encourage (nearly) monocolored decks, increasing options for players of two colors at the same time, and thus helping to make the math work out. (Colorless cards are another big help here.) There is a common hybrid creature requiring only one colored mana (Mourning Thrull), a common instant or sorcery requiring only one colored mana (Cauldron Haze), and a third common without fast rules to supply the needed density (Harvest Gwyllion). Then, there is an uncommon requring two colored mana (Gift of Orzhova), and offering a bit more power. Lastly, I use the complete cycle of hybrid auras from Shadowmoor and EventideEdge of the Divinity in this case – as uncommons, but although these are technically hybrid spells, they are obviously intended to be used as dualcolored cards.

Two more common cards are not strictly dualcolored, but obviously not too useful otherwise: Mournful Zombie and Scholar of Athreos. One is a black card needing white support to be decent, the second the other way around. Each of those cards only needs one colored mana to be cast. As for the support color, I made sure it works in a variety of ways: Sometimes the card asks if color of that mana was spend to cast it, sometimes there’s a kicker cost requiring that color of mana, and sometimes an activation cost. Sometimes the card looks for another permanant of that color, and sometimes for a basic land with the corresponding type.

For a while, I also used split cards (later the newer fuse cards), and cards with off-color flashback here. I gave up on that because of wildly varying power levels, and because the flashback cards always had players look out for self-milling effects even if a cube didn’t have a graveyard theme. Lately, I realized that even without those mechanics I still had more cross-color cards than I needed, so I’m probably not going back. Enough excellent new split-card designs in all color combinations might sway me, but this is really unlikely to happen anytime soon.

That leaves 17 „real“ 2-colored cards: 8 commons, 7 uncommons and two rares. (In Orzhov, these feature a minor theme of extort. Naturally, I can also use those cards to enhance a cube without a pronounced multicolor theme, but with an extort theme.) Not all my choices are perfect yet, especially in the enemy colored pairs, which have less support overall. Here, Putrid Warrior is a bit close to Tithe Drinker, Sin Collector feels a bit specialized, Alms Beast isn’t an especially elegant design, Agent of Masks feels like a misdesigned extort card, and Maw of the Obzedat encourages alpha strikes a bit too much. These are rather minor complaints, but after so many years, I wish there was a better selection available.

I’m back to Pillory of the Sleepless over One Thousand Lashes, since the latter is too close to Faith’s Fetters, while there is no card too similar to Pillory anymore in my pool.

I neither like convoke nor populate, but Selesnya still shows traces of a token theme in Selesnya Evangel, Pollenbright Wings and Seed Spark.

Azorius features a bit detain with Lyev Skyknight and Archon of the Triumvirate. Its selection of non-creatures is overall a bit weak – mostly, because it does not offer decent removal. Shield of the Righteous and Demonspine Whip in Rakdos are a bit an experiment, but they should work out.

Boros offers the combination of White and Red another battalion creature in Wojek Halberdiers. It has the most 2-drop creatures of all guilds in my pool, because WotC seems to concentrate most of its cool designs here.

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My Limited Card Pool: Red Non-Creature Spells

This is the 12th entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. Here are my previous entries:

Lands & Artifact Creatures

Non-Creature Artifacts

White Lands & Creatures

White Non-Creature Spells

Black Lands & Creatures

Black Non-Creature Spells

Green Lands & Creatures

Green Non-Creature Spells

Blue Lands & Creatures

Blue Non-Creature Spells

Red Lands & Creatures

In this entry I listed a number of guidelines I follow when deciding which cards I want in my cubes.

Here’s a PDF you can open in a new window to look at the part of my list I’m taking about while reading:

Red Non-Creature Spells (Claws of Valakut and Lightning Cloud should be rare, while Slagstorm should be uncommon.)

And here’s a link to an explanation of the shortcuts I use in that list, if you need it.

I consider Maniacal Rage to be a superior design to Furor of the Bitten, but Furor sits in a better mana slot – on two mana Madcap Skills and Ordeal of Purphoros give me enough options.

Claws of Valakut is not quite as powerful as Armored Ascension or even Blanchwood Armor, but still at the top of the power level spectrum for my cubes. I need it as a companion to Spitting Earth, just as Nightmare is a companion to Tendrils of Corruption, but I don’t like how it threatens to kill out of nowhere.

Disintegrate is my burn x-spell of choice. I do not think Fireball is as overpowered in limited as it once was – games go a lot faster today – but it’s unnecessarily complicated. Rolling Thunder was the bogeyman of Tempest limited, but what’s true about Fireball is also true about the Thunder: Games go faster, creatures are bigger, and that spell isn’t terribly mana-efficient. Since Red has few ways to attain card advantage, it is a good option. Back to Disintegrate: It is a way to deal with regenerating creatures (Red has a few more, but that is a good thing) of any size, and it also makes sure they do not come back, although that isn’t quite as important anymore, since I removed most self-recurring creatures from my pool.

It is probably telling that I already run out of things I want to say about my red non-creature spells here: Red really lacks variance a bit. Then again, since this is the last entry about monocolored cards, I already said everything which pertains to colorspanning cycles, making this entry especially short.

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