Schlagwort-Archiv: non-creatures

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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My Limited Card Pool: Blue Non-Creature Spells

This is the 10th 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

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:

Blue Non-Creature Spells

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

Flight Spellbomb and Panic Spellbomb are the only survivors from one-and-a-half cycles of Spellbombs. I realized I didn’t need nearly as many of those, and found many of their designs not convincing. In the original cycle from Mirrodin, you mostly knew if you’d cycle a bomb or use it for its effect before the game even started – some effects were too weak to be worth a card, some were too good that cycling were a realistic alternative. Also, there was the issue of players using off-color Spellbombs, which was not what I had in mind when I included a whole cycle of them. The new Spellbombs from Scars of Mirrodin, on the other hand, are mostly useless without the right colored mana, which is good. The blue and the red one had the most interesting and elegant effects, so I decided to keep those.

Just like Seal of Strength did with Giant Growth, so has Seal of Removal shoved out the classic Unsummon for being too similar. Not that these cards couldn’t coexist, but the spots for bounce spells are already crowded, and Blue needs only so many of them. Silent Departure, Into the Roil, Rescind and Time Ebb do everything I need, and let us not forget AEther Adept and AEthersnipe

Think Tank and Strategic Planning obviously support graveyard-based strategies, but this is not their main function in my pool: I use them primarily for card selection (and I was really happy that Planning got reprinted, making it affordable!) Therefore they are not tagged „yard“ and „mill“ – unlike Mental Note, which is meant for environments with such a theme. I use Note over Thought Scour on principle, because milling the opponent is one of the biggest no-nos in Next Level Cubes.

Vow of Flight has some unnecessary and annoying text, and I’m not too happy with that card – all I really want is Spectral Flight to cost one mana more. Granted, playing the Vow on an opponent’s creature will seldom lead to a win, and it’s certainly not too strong a „removal“ option for Blue, but sometimes players will be forced to do it and then probably watch a game they would have lost fast otherwise drag on a lot longer – until they still lose it. Still, this kind auf aura really needs to be there, and Vow is the best choice – Zephid’s Embrace giving shroud is too much, and Nimbus Naiad is a different, and very special concept. Of course, there is Drake Umbra, but that is another really special card, and sitting in a clearly different mana slot.

For me, Sleight of Hand is the most basic 1-mana card selection spell, not using scry, and not involving putting cards from your hand back or shuffling your library.

The options for countermagic are overhwelming. In addition to permanent-based stuff (like Daring Apprentice or Lilting Refrain), I have no less than 8 monoblue cards which explicitly say „counter target spell“ on them in my pool, and a couple more which do similar things (Mage’s Guile, Meddle…), and I still left out a good number of perfectly fine candidates, most noteworthy Essence Scatter, Negate and Mana Leak, which lose out to Counterspell and Miscalculation; and Dismal Failure, losing out to Dismiss.

Perilous Research is effectively a much better Altar’s Reap, so I took out the latter – there are still enough sacrifice synergies in Black. Impulse, however, had to go (a pity, since I had made the effort to get a somehow pricey version with correct wording) – it was just a bit too good. Strategic Planning is a better fit, which pushed out the too similar Compulsive Research. With Mulldrifter gone, the elegant Divination could return and fill that slot, but Thirst for Knowledge still sports that kind of mechanic.

There were several options for a strong tempo card affecting more than one creature. I got away from Undo and Into the Void and returned to the slightly fairer Sleep, which can not be used just to remove tokens, counters and auras, and is an honest pure tempo play instead.

I love Mind Control for nostalgic reasons (which go back to Control Magic of course), but turning your opponent’s best creature against him is still too cheap at 5 mana. Confiscate sits in the right spot, though.

I am a bit wary of any spell which draws more than 3 cards, but since my cubes never are as slow as Magic 2014 was, costing 6 mana makes Opportunity not too unfair.

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My Limited Card Pool: Green Non-Creature Spells

This is the 8th 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

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:

Green Non-Creature Spells

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

Frog Tongue allows me to complete this cycle, since Nylea’s Presence doesn’t work for me on any level: Not an enchant creature, and green mana fixing.

There’s Keen Sense instead of Curiosity, because Green needed that effect more – Blue has all the card draw in the world, and especially creatures with that ability inbuilt.

After trying out a lot of similar cards, most of which were more powerful, I decided that the simplest execution was the best: Oakenform is a terribly fine limited card and really needs no additional power-up.

Into the Wilds is a bit slower than I like – I’d prefer an alternative creating card advantage a little faster and more reliable. But Oracle of Mul Daya, which I had before, is just too good; and all other choices are either also too powerful or not generic enough.

It may seem strange that, of all things, Giant Growth is missing among Green’s very numerous pump spells, but it makes more sense to have Brute Force in Red instead, which is happy to have an instant which does not directly do damage, and Green wants Seal of Strength and Predator’s Strike more.

Fog is too weak to get played, but its effect is something Green should have. Lull makes it maindeckable via cycling; Moment’s Peace is strong enough because it can be used twice; and Terrifying Presence can act as creature removal.

Lead the Stampede is another of those spells which is waiting for a better replacement. Honestly, why can Green not simply have a Divination? Something like that is needed on three mana – there’s kind of a gap here. Gift of the Gargantuan has the same randomness issues, but provides less value on average. I don’t like that Lead can possibly draw three or more creatures, but the chance not to get anything worthwhile out of Gift is too high and makes it unusable. If it looked at five cards, I’d prefer it over Lead (I really was agonizing over that decision). You know what would work? A Nature’s Lore for one mana more with scry 2 (Born of the Gods is only partly spoiled as I write this, so there is some hope)! Edit: Meanwhile, Peregrination (mouseover isn’t working yet) has been spoiled, which is a Cultivate for one mana more with scry 1. Close, and yet so far!

Talking about the Lore: It’s useful, but not excellent. Explore is a bit stronger, which is fine, requires no shuffling, and fills a cantrip slot.

Green has Naturalize, which means White has no Disenchant – but it gets Seal of Cleansing and Revoke Existence instead, which seems fair.

After trying out Red and Black, I now have scry in Red and Green. Red desperately needs it both for variety and card flow, Blue has enough card draw and card selection, and White is filled to the brim with interesting spells of all kinds and really doesn’t need an extra mechanic. Black has some card draw in addition to card advantage via discard, and its selection of scry spells didn’t impress me too much, while Green still isn’t quite where I want it to be with regard to card flow.

I’m not using scry in all colors, because cycling and cantrips already do a pretty similar thing, and I want scry to show up in cubes where those other mechanics don’t have too much of a presence, as a special element of Red and Green. I won’t be unhappy, though, if Born of the Gods gives me a superior option to Artisan’s Sorrow, which is quite similar to Creeping Mold. Something with scry 1 would be nice for symmetry (Red has one scry 1 and one scry 2 spell), if I do not get my wish above. (But not that manafixing spell.)

Unyaro Bee Sting finally replaces Bee Sting: I’m a fan of the more generic name, but it is silly not to use the up-to-date wording when one plans to draft with less experienced players.

Dosan’s Oldest Chant is the only acceptable green lifegain spell, although its power level is in Unhinge territory. I don’t think anything would break if it cost a mana less, though.

Incremental Growth replaces Stand Together, which has too much competition and too much of a blowout potential. Growth is baseline more powerful, but allows the opponent better to deal with it. It also serves as my version of Overrun, which is a good green effect to have, but way overpowered. A closer variant wouldn’t do here – Growth is considerably weaker, and still about as powerful as I like to go.

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My Limited Card Pool: Black Non-Creature Spells

This is the sixth 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

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:

Black Non-Creature Spells (Phyrexian Boon should no longer be on that list.)

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

One annoying thing which I cannot get out of my pool, although I wish I could, is that needless „non-black“ rider on black removal spells. It’s fine to have a couple of those specifically for a color themed cube, but that restriction pops up on way too many cards which otherwise are (and should be) generic choices, like Executioner’s Capsule, Seal of Doom or Befoul. I would actually prefer to dispense with all „color (spare)“ tagged cards completely, since that card aspect does not provide much play value in Zweidritteldraft even if I use a color theme, but I simply need them for their main function (Saltblast and Befoul, for example, provide hard-to-come-by maindeckable land destruction; and the aforementioned Capsule and the Seal are members of essential cycles).

WotC has stopped to use that rider on black removal spells lately, providing a couple of truly generic choices, but I will probably never be able to completely get rid of it. Note that removal cards which spare artifact creatures, on the other hand, make perfect sense in an artifact cube, since artifacts will be plentiful enough there that these cards aren’t just randomly weaker against one player. That makes an additional non-black rider, like on Ritual of the Machine – which is a wonderful design otherwise – especially annoying, though.

Black, to a slightly lesser extent Green, and to an even larger extent Red are the colors where a certain uniformity of non-creatures spells is an issue. Both White and Blue have so many noticeably different designs to choose from that cutting that variety down to a manageable level is hard. The other colors, however, provide too much of a few good things, and too little variety overall – at least if we only look at usable limited cards.

For Green, one mostly has to make sure there’s some creature removal present, and a little card draw (which Green should have), then cut down the plethora of pump spells and mana providers to a reasonable level. Green is a fine color to sport an above-average creature ratio, and there’s no dearth of choices in that area, so you do not need to go scavenging for fillers. In Red, however, almost every spell seems to deal damage or destroy something, which is severely limiting that color’s scope in limited, and making it necessary too look pretty hard which versions of these basic effects play noticeable different due to varying numbers in their costs and effects.

With Black it isn’t quite as bad, but you still have to wade through a sea of creature removal. Discard is the second most pronounced theme, but many basic discard spells, like Duress, Ostracize or Coercion don’t really work that well in limited due to being too situational or inefficient. (Discard tacked on creatures, however, plays well and is powerful, which is why I had to make a lot of cuts there and maybe will do even more). Returning creatures from your graveyard to your hand or directly to the battlefield is number three. Overall, Black has less of an issue with variety itself, but with power level: Creature removal is powerful (and it needs to be, to keep the game interactive), so it needs to be supplemented with less powerful (but still playable) stuff. There’s a bit of a gap between „strong“ and „weak“ in Black non-creature, non-removal spells, though, which I haven’t been able to satisfactorily close in all areas.

Unholy Strength is back in my pool over Predator’s Gambit. I wanted the additional rider to raise the power of that aura a little, but I should have realized that wasn’t achieving much, while sacrificing elegance.

I’m happy Scavenged Weaponry exists, since it fits better into that cycle between Chosen by Heliod and Dragon Mantle than Scourgemark; the latter isn’t too exciting unless you have a very pronounced heroic theme (which I won’t); and I wanted this cycle’s mana costs to be less uniform.

Feast of the Unicorn being common and Mark of the Vampire being uncommon has only indirectly to do with power level. The Mark is more generically useful due to its higher power level, and because succesfully attacking just once with it already almost justifies playing it (which, of course, is part of the reason why its power level is rather high). The Feast, on the other hand, is meant to help create the very environment where putting it on a creature is something players want to do, and thus needs to show up at common there.

Auras like Caustic Tar obviously can enhance an enchantment theme by representing an independent, non-creature actor on the board, but they’re actually more important supporting a land theme in the same way, making maindeck land destruction more viable.

About land destruction: A focussed LD strategy obviously has no place in a Next Level Cube. Being able to punish players with too greedy mana bases or running too many high-end cards by destroying a land as a tempo play has some merit, but is a sideboard strategy, and cards which cannot be maindecked have no place in Zweidritteldraft. This is why I got rid of all dedicated LD (Sinkhole, Ice Storm, Molten Rain, Ark of Blight…) other than Tectonic Edge, which is maindeckable since it sits in a land slot.

If I want a „lands-which-do-things“ theme, however, I need both a crucial mass of maindeckable cards which interact with lands and of cards which makes running those interactive cards desirable. If I just want a few utility lands (or land auras) for a cube, I still have to make sure players can interact with those. Multiple-purpose cards like Befoul or Pillage are excellent choices here, and they also can serve as tempo plays or to punish shaky mana bases.

Is it a good idea to punish those? Yes, it is! I always make sure that my cubes contain enough mana fixing so that players can assemble a working mana base for the type of decks supported by that cube (which means between one-and-a-half and three colors, unless it is a monocolored cube, obviously) – this is why I use fetchlands, spotlands AND signets at common. In concert with the house rule of starting the game with 8 cards this means players can usually avoid color screw, even if confronted with a stray LD spell. However, sometimes a player decides to go beyond the number of colors which is the norm for decks in a cube. That is fine, and the tools are there to do this, but there needs to be a substantial cost involved, and that cost is the requirement to invest extra picks into mana fixing, but also opening up the opportunity for their opponents to attack a vulnerable mana base. The latter is also just fair towards the other players, since it is frustrating to lose to a multicolor best-of deck which gets lucky with its mana.

Thoughtseize is, at the moment, a much maligned card in standard, since it can deal with any (non-land) card. That it is situational, costs you 2 life, and requires you to spend a mana to remove a spell which your opponent had not to invest any mana in before, is usually left out of consideration. With Counterspell nowadays only a faint memory for many players, and even a blast from the past they never encountered in a competitive setting for many others, that discard spell seems to have inherited the mantle of the bogeyman for those who hate interaction in Magic. The complaints are so similar, as is the reasoning donwplaying or ignoring the card’s inherent disadvantages, and the lack of willingless to simply build more robust decks which do not fall apart if they are forced to trade one or two crucial cards.

Just like countermagic is for blue, discard is essential for Black’s color identity and its ability to interact. In limited, one-for one discard is weaker than in constructed, because decks do not rely on specific key cards to function, and because games tend do go longer on average, and there are fewer reactive cards, so players are in topdeck mode more often, rendering a discard spell a blank. (Discarding multiple cards, on the other hand, is stronger in limited, because there is fewer card draw.) For Black to have a useful, generic discard spell of that kind at all, Thoughtseize needs to be a common.

Unhinge is a candidate for the weakest card in my pool (way weaker than Mind Rot, just as draining a point of damage is weaker than dealing two), and I’m always looking out for a replacement cantrip, but so far there’s nothing better.

Between Doomed Necromancer, Ashen Powder and Phyrexian Delver, but also all those Raise Dead variants, giving Breath of Life to White and leaving out Zombify seems only logical.

Whew, that was long – a lot of general things sprang into my mind this time!

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My Limited Card Pool: White Non-Creature Spells

This is the fourth entry in a series where I comment on and explain my choices for my limited card pool in detail. (Here’s the first, here the second, and here the third.)

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:

White Non-Creature Spells

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

Eland Umbra is just more special than Hyena Umbra, being one of very few auras boosting toughness, but not power, and still being playable. (Chosen by Heliod is another.) I use Umbras only in White and Blue, a common and an uncommon in each color, because the green Umbras do not convince me. I like these cards simple and elegant, with the ability to save the creature from destruction being an important feature. Drawing cards or untapping lands distracts too much from that – if I want that effect, I use an aura which focusses on it, like Keen Sense. The more generic green choices do not play well or are too powerful.

I’d love to simply mirror Bad Moon, but Crusade is a little worse, and Honor of the Pure a little better. So, having to choose, I give the stronger pump spell to White, which tends to be a lot friendlier to creatures than Black overall.

Selecting enchantments which are strong enough to matter, but not too strong if an opponent can not remove them is tricky, but especially important, since only White and Green are really well suited to deal with enchantments, and Red and Black have practically no way. Auras, obviously, can be dealt with indirectly, but global enchantments can not. One of those which makes sense to me as a high-end play is Martyr’s Bond. It obviously has a large impact, but is not an auto-win, and there might be ways to play around it.

Auras which aren’t very cheap need to be powerful to offset their inherent disadvantage, but still should not win a game too fast on their own. That’s why I got rid of Armored Ascension, which is somehow acceptable in a two-color deck (but less interesting and balanced than Serra’s Embrace) – in a monocolored deck, however, it will often kill an opponent in two swings out of nowhere. Since the whole point of such a card is to reward a player for being as monocolored as possible, it makes no sense to keep it around for other environments.

Buyback has been cited by WotC as causing repetitive play issues, but is essentially a variant of a permanent with an activated ability which sits in a player’s hand. That makes it harder to interact with, but certainly not more repetitive. I have one or two buyback spells in each color, because they are both useful as normal, cheap spells, or mana sinks in the lategame, and are thus excellent fits for some environments (they go very nicely with landfall, for example).

I already explained in my former entry how cantrips and cards with cycling help to thin out decks and fill the graveyard. Instants and sorceries with these mechanics can also serve to increase the ratio of these card types in decks while providing compensation for a lower creature count – there’s always some tension here with an instery theme, and these cards help to alleviate it.

While reliable removal is important in a cube, I cut the most efficient versions from my pool (among more general reasons, to help auras a little), especially outside of Black, which is supposed to be the strongest in that aspect to compensate for its deficiencies in others. So, no Swords to Plowshares, Path to Exile, Lightning Bolt or Flame Slash. White, however, still has a lot of conditional (like Condemn) or undoable (like Journey to Nowhere) removal.

Flashback is another mechanic supporting a graveyard theme. Since there are several of those, I do not need high numbers in each.

There are roughly a million Wrath of God variants, but the original is still the best – I do not at all like the idea that regenerating should save a creature from the ultimate creature removal spell, and four mana is fine in limited, since breaking that card’s symmetry needs a lot more work here than in constructed. Planar Cleansing is a good companion/alternative, sitting in a clearly distinct mana slot, and having a clearly broader effect (although, unfortunately, it allows for regeneration).

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