Schlagwort-Archiv: Zweidritteldraft

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.

markiert , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!

markiert , , , , , , , , , , ,

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!

markiert , , , , , , , ,

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.

markiert , , , , , , , ,

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.

markiert , , , , , , , ,

My Limited Card Pool: Red Lands & Creatures

This is the 11th 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

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 Lands & Creatures (Hellion Crucible should be uncommon.)

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

Keldon Megaliths is the only card with hellbent left in my pool. I gave up on that mechanic, which simply didn’t play well. The Megaliths are not meant to specifically encourage players to build a deck which empties its hand fast, but as a land with an upside in the lategame red decks can use, just like Hellion Crucible

I upgraded Jackal Pup to Firedrinker Satyr, because the Pup could do with a little extra oomph in limited.

Jackal Familiar and Mogg Flunkies are meant to encourage a weenie strategy, where they are stronger than Ember Beast, which plays more like a slightly undercosted generic creature with a disadvantage.

Skitter of Lizards is a great way to get a usable haste creature for 1 mana in my pool (Goblin Guide does not really work in limited).

AEtherflame Wall is Red’s concession towards the shadow theme, which is why it’s common, but it also provides a generally useful pumpable defender in the vein of Wall of Fire.

Stormblood Berserker, the 2-drop, being uncommon, and Gorehorn Minotaurs, the 4-drop, common, is just as things were in Magic 2012, but feels a bit unintuitive to me, especially because it is the other way around than the rarities of the black bloodthirst creatures. It makes sense, though, as the Berserker is a little more powerful, and the switched rarities make the mechanic feel a little different in both colors.

Attributing rarities was also an issue with Young Pyromancer and Guttersnipe. While the Pyromancer is probably a bit more powerful even in limited (but it’s a lot closer than in constructed), he is more generally useful, while Guttersnipe isn’t too interesting without a strong instery component in the deck. Also, it’s nice if the producer of 1/1 tokens is common, while Talrand, Sky Summoner is rare.

Fire Imp is the smaller variant of Flametongue Kavu, which means it is on an acceptable power level.

Granite Gargoyle, Highland Giant and Earth Elemental are generic creatures helping to balance out Red’s overall very aggressive nature a little, which is of course a defining feature of that color, but makes it play a little too one-dimensional if it is the only strategic option. These creatures still work reasonably well on the attack, though.

Outrage Shaman is one of the few cards with devotion (yes, it doesn’t technically have it) which isn’t too swingy. Thus, I’m not interested in that mechanic for its own sake, but I needed a red color themed uncommon, and this is a great fit.

6 mana is the highest acceptable cost for cards which support a theme. Rustmouth Ogre still is no great choice, but a superior replacement which fits in an uncommon slot and isn’t too similar to other cards in my pool is hard to come by.

Conquering Manticore is overall probably stronger than Shivan Dragon, but it isn’t quite as efficient at winnig a game on its own in short time, which is the problematic part. Also, the Dragon, while one of the most iconic Magic cards, isn’t that unique in my card pool, with Furnace Whelp and Shivan Hellkite doing similar things.

Magmatic Force is the most powerful 8-mana card in my pool. On one hand, that’s strange, since having the best fatty seems to belong into either the green or blue part of the color pie. On the other hand, it is kinda fair, since Red has probably the most trouble supporting a lategame strategy. I still wish there was a slightly weaker alternative, but the only other card in the right power band is Scourge of Kher Ridges, which is too similar to the (much better designed) Shivan Hellkite, and whose abilities effectively clean the board repeatedly, which isn’t a desirable feature.

markiert , , , , , , , , ,

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.

markiert , , , , , , , ,

My Limited Card Pool: Blue Lands & Creatures

This is the 9th 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

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 Lands & Creatures (The rarities of Daring Apprentice and Clone were switched inadvertently; the former should be uncommon, the latter common.)

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

I never understood the fascination of many players with the bouncelands from the old Ravnica block. „Card advantage on a land“ is what some pro uttered in awe – well, yes (although an extra mana isn’t even technically card advantage unless you can exchange that mana or another land for a card somehow), but at the same time these lands are so slow that Thawing Glaciers seems to work at hypersonic speed in comparison. They can’t be laid on turn one, need another „normal“ land to be played at all, cost you your second turn (and might even lose you a card when you’re on the draw – so much for card advantage!), and do not provide an extra mana before the turn where you would have run out of land drops otherwise. In addition, they make you extremely vulnerable to land destruction, tapping or bouncing.

I was still a somehow active player at the time of Ravnica / Time Spiral block, and I remember two things clearly: 1. Unlike practically everyone else, I picked signets over bouncelands in Ravnica block draft (meaning I got very few of the latter, since some people took to actually firstpicking them), and my win ratio in that format was the highest ever. 2. I playtested standard a lot back then, and whenever I came upon a deck using bouncelands, I very soon tuned them out of the deck, vastly improving that deck’s strength.

That seemed to be a lot off-topic text, didn’t it? Yet I wanted to explain why I got rid of those bouncelands in my pool: They simply sucked. I used them as an additional cycle of manafixers, but noone, including myself, was ever happy drawing them, and when I realized that I didn’t need that much manafixing in my pool anymore after committing to reasonably sized cubes, I gladly threw them out.

However, the idea of a land which would provide mana advantage in a long game for the cost of slowing down your early game wasn’t that bad in itself, if that was the expressive purpose of that land. So, when I was looking for a special blue-affiliated land beyond the fundamental cycles of manlands and cycling lands (every color should have at least one of those), I decided that I could include Coral Atoll from the Visions predecessor cycle of the bouncelands. Blue is the color most likely to want this effect, since it is usually best equipped for the endgame, so that fitted.

Giant Tortoise is cool, because it is a vanilla 1/4 for 1U. (Well, almost.) There’s a million 1/3 creatures for 1U, but a 1/4 is just what’s needed, and there’s no good reason it has to cost 3 mana, unless it has a significant upside. (Armored Skaab brings that upside, if an environment has a strong graveyard theme.) Making a 1/4 cost UU, like Plated Seastrider, is also silly, as Frostburn Weird shows.

Void Stalker as a common highlights again how much value I place on available creature removal as the most important form of interaction in limited.

Latch Seeker edges out Phantom Warrior for crunch reasons – if you’re not careful, you’ll end up with a dozen 2/1 or 2/2 flying creatures for 3 mana in Blue when assembling your limited card pool (but you certainly want a few of those).

Scroll Thief is a bit closer to Thieving Magpie than I like, but Stealer of Secrets isn’t too unique either (see Dimir Cutpurse or Augury Adept), and the slow, accumulating advantage this creature threatens to grind out goes better with only a single point of power. (Having it deal combat damage, unlike Ophidian, is still a good idea, because you want to reward players who power this creature up.)

The archetypal pinger, Prodigal Sorcerer, shows that I still see that ability in Blue, where it once belonged (although Red gets to join the party, of course, like with Vulshok Sorcerer), and his big sister, Reveka, Wizard Savant, underscores that.

Clone is common, not only because Blue is a bit short on creatures which makes sense at common, but also because, nonewithstanding its rather complex underlying rules, it represents a really basic version of a typical blue effect, and it isn’t powerful in itself – just playing it on curve, for example, will usually result in a not too impressive effect.

Tower Geist is a hybrid between the acceptable, but not too exciting Screeching Drake and the overpowered Mulldrifter.

From a flavor-based aesthetic perspective, it sucks that I use Air Elemental, Water Elemental and Earth Elemental, but not Fire Elemental – but that is just one vanilla creature too many, and too similar to the others. The blue flyer is listed as uncommon, but I already reversed my stance on that, and it is common again, to fall into line with the other elementals, and to show that Blue can get big flyers at common, but they are not as strong as the rarer creatures of other colors (see White’s Serra Angel).

Ephemeron is the best companion I found as a generic 6-drop creature for Mahamoti Djinn, it being nearly unkillable and all, but I keep my eyes open for a better solution, which feels more generic, and differs more from the Djinn (and Air Elemental).

Tidal Force replaced Tidespout Tyrant, because an 8-drop shouldn’t require additional spells to be worth its mana.

markiert , , , , , , , , ,

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.

markiert , , , , , , , ,

My Limited Card Pool: Green Lands & Creatures

This is the 7th 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

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 Lands & Creatures

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

Arbor Elf and Leaf Gilder are my choices for green creature-based mana acceleration on one or two mana, respectively. (Their non-creature counterparts are Wild Growth and Explore.) The Elf edges out creatures which directly produce mana, partly because it can provide extra value with the Growth and some other land-enchanting auras, but also because it ties the acceleration to the need of actually having a Forest, which I like – you really have to make sure you are into Green if you want to use it, without cheating too much with nonbasic lands or artifact mana.

The Gilder provides just a little more extra value than its competitor, Vine Trellis, which also is a bit too similar to Wall of Blossoms. Gyre Sage and Werebear also play around in that territory, but are different enough and serve more special purposes. I found I liked the Gilder a lot more than the cycle of mana myrs, which are a design failure for me, since people tend to pick them up almost regardless of the color of mana they produce, which is because they only get used in cubes where several of their aspects (mana acceleration, being creatures, being artifacts) are important. The signets don’t have that issue in my cubes, since their a little unwieldy acceleration alone isn’t attractive enough if you do not want them for the fixing. Millikin and Mind Stone are there to help those drafters valuing acceleration, so the myrs aren’t needed, and the Gilder is a reasonable creature on top of providing mana, but needs you to be green to use him.

Greenweaver Druid is out, just as Cultivate is, but for another reason: I decided to keep mana multiplication (cards which provide more than 1 mana) colorless – Coral Atoll is a special exception – because dedicated ramp isn’t a strategy which needs to support more than one drafter, or even has to be present at all in every cube, but certainly has to be available in other colors as well. Green is still special by providing high quality cheap ramp, while Palladium Myr, Coalition Relic and Thran Dynamo provide more expensive ramp options to anyone.

Dryad Sophisticate is technically a landwalker, but unlike „real“ landwalkers does not punish players for using a certain color. It’s also a nice evasive green creature in the spot between Treetop Scout and Treetop Rangers.

Elvish Visionary, Wall of Blossoms and Kavu Climber give Green a nice little card advantage theme. Striped Bears look like they would fit in, but are a bit underwhelming, comparing unfavorably to Black’s standard Phyrexian Rager.

It took WotC some time, but efficiently costed vanilla creatures finally are now found in monogreen. Kalonian Tusker and Rumbling Baloth thus replaced Watchwolf and Rhox Brute.

Sporecap Spider is my concession to the insight that Wall of Air just isn’t special enough to deserve a slot in my card pool, especially with Fog Bank around. Between this very defensive Spider and the solid stats sporting Cloudcrown Oak, there is no place for the classic Giant Spider, which I never really liked – it specifically hoses flyers too efficiently, while not being a great defensive card overall, and an inefficient attacker.

I moved evoke completely out of Green and Black, with no acceptable candidate in Black, and Briarhorn, the only reasonable choice in Green, a bit too strong, and contributing to the glut of green combat tricks. Briarpack Alpha is strong enough in limited, and without the Giant Growth option.

Cudgel Troll was too squeezed in between Wolfir Avenger, Rumbling Baloth and Charging Troll, although it is a very nice design.

Green is the only color where a generic common 6-drop creature makes sense, and that is what Vastwood Gorger provides. (I would be fine with it being a 6/6, though.) Vorstclaw is a bit too strong for a common and had to make room for Ruination Wurm. Other possible choices were too close to Kodama of the North Tree, which is an important powerful 5-drop in a color which, astonishingly enough, has few good options here. Plated Rootwalla is my second generic green common 5-drop, complementing Kavu Climber.

I feel Verdant Force, while acceptable in the 8-mana-slot, is a bit underwhelming for Green – after all, that color is supposed to have the strongest creatures! – but among the available options, it comes the closest.

markiert , , , , , , , , ,