Tuesday, 30 March 2010

A brief aside on card alterations

Seems you can't move for card alterations right now, part of the type 1/EDH pimping craze. I admit to having fallen for this too. With the help of my colleague, the ever-so-talented Antoine, I'm looking to build on my alters.

Elvis started out as James Hetfield but quickly became The King. Base work by myself, detail by Antoine.

The following two are all Antoine's work, first a Shield of the Oversoul that really needed something to hide the original image.

This one is subtle but just fits the card really well. Again all credit to Antoine.

I thought I'd take the opportunity to shoot up a couple of links to some resources, tutorials and just excellent art alterations and extendeds for those of you who are interested too.

This is where I first came across card alters, Yawg07 is the most prolific on here and his recent foil alters are really stunning. This is his TFK.

Another, more populated, forum is over at MTGSalvation and you can link through there to the tutorials subforums. This Jace was altered by SandraMeals-2009.

Speaking of tutorials, Dale Lovelace, the originator of the Group Hug deck, shows us how to get messy with paint by altering a playset of Putrid Leeches. And here they are!

There's also a tutorial on Card Kitty. They have a step by step look at altering their Trinket Mages. Their Kresh is just one of their excellent pieces. Go have a look!

You may not speek Italian though you can still appreciate the excellent work from numerous artists assembled here. This one is from Adriano and you can find his other alters right here on Blogspot.

One of those artists is Magic artist Therese Nielsen and you can see her alters and her take on the trend on her website. Through that you can also link to the excellent picture tutorial of her Yag. Will alter with Ron Spencer. This one is really worth a look. This is here latest Eternal Witness.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Thada Adel and the Lure of the Dark Side

Where do you start with new generals? How do you pick those generals?

I suppose each player is different, each chosen general has his or her own story. Thada Adel is my latest conquest and I have the nagging suspicion she has slowly but surely guided my steps onto the downward path leads to the dark side of EDH: Douchebaggery!

They say the path to Hell is paved with good intentions, it may possibly follow that the path to being an EDH douchebag is paved with artifacts. Once you start a deck with a goodly number of artifacts, the lure is always there to add one more. Then another. Sure, what's the harm? Of course, if you're playing expensive artifacts and Rings of Brighthearth, it's only common sense to include a Basalt Monolith and on and on you go until you have sold your car to pay for the Mishra's Workshop that the deck absolutely needs to function.

I find myself in that exact situation now. I've even discussed sourcing a "Very Poor" graded Workshop to go into the deck that already sports my most expensive individual purchase, a foil Tolarian Academy. The devil on my shoulder is quite persuasive and very pervasive and has made me aware that this can be done, even allowing me to keep my car (though eating until the end of the month may be an issue, and by "end of the month" I mean April, of course).

Now, I'm a grown up. I know that this is not important, nor necessary, and is essentially just a sop to my ego, the ability to, one day, start a game with "Workshop, Something, Go" and witness the general gobsmackedness (or complete obliviousness, depending on the player) all around the table. I can do without. In fact, I will do without, but there will probably always be that little whisper that says "A Very Poor Graded Workshop" every time I look at my opening hand.

And, face it, Workshop is just the tip of the iceberg, there's a lot more under there that the Purple Hippo on the other shoulder will probably just shrug at. When the majority of cards are small fry in the larger scheme of all things EDH, where can you realistically draw the line between "fun" and "un-fun" when it comes to new acquisitions and "worth it" and "not-worth it" when it comes to the financial payout for those new toys?

Let's take a case in point, another of the generals I flirted with was Captain Sisay. (And I have to add an aside here that there's no real reason that my preferred legends, barring Rafiq, are ladies. That's just how it goes!)

Ah, Sisay, what a great idea. You get her into play, you search your deck for a Legend card, and another, and another. Every game you got either Rofellos or Cradle first to give you a little mana boost before digging back into the toolbox for whatever party favour you may need at any given time in a game. Let's be honest, she is powerful, but she was boring as hell to play. Mind numbingly so. I invested a lot of time and resources into building her and then, when the veneer of shiney newness wore off to reveal the repetitive tedium hiding underneath, invested more time into re-building her. It was no use, I wasn't having any fun. My group weren't really appreciating her either so I moved on and shunted a lot of Legendary cards into my trade binders. That time is wasted (though not completely if a lesson was learned) and the money I spent on Sisay I realistically won't get back.

I don't yet have access to all the cards I need or want for Thada Adel, Acquisitor and that's a good thing because I'm no-where near the point, as I am with Rafiq or Azusa, where I can say "That's the deck for now, I'll revise it with the next set." So is it the attraction in the conception of the deck and the acquisition of what I need, accepting that it will always evolve (and probably radically so with both Rise of Eldrazi and the Fall release of Scars of Mirrodin) or is it, this time, in the knowledge that I could put in a lot of very powerful blue and artifact cards? Where do I decide to draw the Douchebag line? Infinite mana? Soft or hard locks? Stealing everything? Or is it merely in my attitude and approach to the game? I'm pretty sure my sunny and friendly approach to the game will make being regularly crushed by rampant artifact mana very enjoyable for my opponents.

Though, upon mature reflection, maybe not.

I've currently decided to draw the line at a GAAIV level of annoyance and I hope I'm pitching my deck right. Then again, as GAAIV is already an integral part of our playgroup, maybe adding another is too much. At what point do I decide to stop the power creep, the road to being a DB deck, and point the tiller in the direction of Phelddagrif?

For what it's worth here's my deck and it's plans. My building logic was that Thada Adel is a thief and she loves her some artifacts. Unfortunatly, those pesky opponents often get to actually play some of those delicious baubles before she can steal them from under their collective noses! So either she steals them from decks or she steals them from play. So it's a "Steal Artifact" deck (with the stupid realisation that I've just cut the actual Steal Artifact!)

Thada Adel, Acquisitor

Land (37)
23x Island
Urza's Mine
Urza's Tower
Urza's Power Plant
Darksteel Citadel
Reliquary Tower
Thawing Glaciers
Tolaria West
Academy Ruins
Remote Isle
Lonely Sandbar
Flooded Strand
Polluted Delta
Seat of the Synod
Tolarian Academy

Artifact Creatures: (6)
Solemn Simulacrum
Master Transmuter
Faerie Mechanist
Darksteel Colossus
Etherium Sculptor

Non-Artifact Creatures: (9)
Trinket Mage
Sakashima the Impostor
Body Double
Vedalken Engineer
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
Aeon Chronicler
Venser, Shaper Savant
Glen Elendra Archmage

Non-Creature Artifacts: (27)
Mana Vault
Sol Ring
Everflowing Chalice
Sky Diamond
Mind Stone
Worn Powerstone
Darksteel Ingot
Coalition Relic
Tormod's Crypt
Sensei's Divining Top
Oblivion Stone
Icy Manipulator
Phyrexian Processor
Sculpting Steel
Avarice Totem
Vedalken Shackles
Crucible of Worlds
Cloud Key
Nevinyrral's Disk
Expedition Map
Darksteel Forge
Voltaic Key
Whispersilk Cloak
Engineered Explosives
Lightning Greaves
Ensnaring Bridge

Enchantments: (3)
Artificer's Intuition
Future Sight

Planeswalkers: (1)
Tezzeret the Seeker

Instant/Sorcerys: (17)
Mind Spring
Fact or Fiction
Rite of Replication
Stroke of Genius
Mystical Tutor
Force of Will
Ancestral Vision
Thirst for Knowledge

The first thing to note is that it's 101 cards. This is bad. I updated the deck yesterday lunchtime and have been playing with one card extra since then. To add to that, I suspected I was one card short and had intended on adding a Pithing Needle. Bad News Bears. Counting skilols are not up to scratch, I must ask my 6-year-old to give me a refresher course.

I don't think there's a need to do a card by card except to say that it's slow, like molasses. So what's next for our filching friend? The next phase in the armament process is due to start this weekend with a shipment of the following expected:
Knowledge Exploitation
Vedalken Archmage
Magus of the Future
Dream Tides
Tidespout Tyrant
Quicksilver Fountain
Keiga, the Tide Star
Mycosynth Lattice (which will once again require the inclusion of the newly re-named Steal Permanent

Some cards to protect Thada, some cards to slow my opponents down, some cards to steal things and some cards to facilitate me in doing all of that.

Mycosynth Lattice is giving me pause though. Do I really need to feel guilty about an indestructible Tolarian Academy? Stealing any non-protected permanent for 3U? How long will it take for me to somehow justify to myself the inclusion of Umbrella Mantle, Karn, Voltaic Construct, Basalt Monolith, Rings of Brighthearth and Heartstone? Will I be able to live with the monster I will have unleashed on my playgroup? Most importantly, at what point in all of this will my friends deem it timely to remind me that they are my friends? I wonder if I'll get at least one Mad-Genius-Flicking-the-Switch laugh out before it all comes crashing down in a tide of guilt, recrimination and a plethora of Dust to Dusts?

Or, do I let it all slide because I know that there are certain lines that probably shouldn't be crossed.

At least until Rise of Eldrazi is released.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Considering Uril

One of our playgroup members plays Uril, the Miststalker, a general which I touched briefly on myself before moving on. Playing Uril to get the most out of the general himself is extremely linear: Play Uril, put an aura on him, attack. It's not the most exciting process and your support suite is pretty much reduced to getting the mana to play your Uril, finding and playing Auras and removing a couple of bothersome permanents along the way.

Marc, the Uril player, asked me a couple of days ago to have a quick look at his deck and make some changes as it lacked a certain "Oomph!" More to the point, it wasn't winning and Marc likes to win. I honestly didn't change all that much in the deck, taking out some fragile creatures and useless Auras and adding in 12 cards in total: all Auras or Enchantress effects. It's no-where near a list I'd have considered refined however, almost immediatly, after a little pep-talk on my part about focusing on the strengths of the general and his interactions with useful auras, he started winning. In fact, in the 7 games he's played since the changes, he's only lost twice: a duel against a very tuned 1v1 Horde of Notions deck and a 6-man, 2-team game (where you could very easily argue that he did what he could to keep his team in it for so long)

A word on Marc as a player. Marc is extremely impulsive and just wants to get the cards out there NOW, rather than waiting for the opportune moment. He's also emotionally attached to certain cards and adverse to others which effects his deck construction if we're talking about building optimaly. In short, he's the EDH player to the Nth degree: It's all for the "Wows!", but he also wants to win doing it. He's involved in a lot of our cool plays so that's obviously all good times!

Playing 2HG alongside his Uril deck and across the table in 3-man team, chaos & 2HG, you can't help but notice that the simple strategy of Hulk-smashing with Uril is disconcertingly effective. He's no slouch at a 5/5 for 5. He has some of the best auras in Magic available in his colours as well as the enchantments to protect them and the cards to find those enchantments, it all slides together very nicely. Troll-shroud allows Uril to play Auras with relative impunity and anything which boosts his P/T in addition to his built-in boost is a real boon.

How do you answer such a monster? Deathtouch, sacrfice effects, bigger monsters, Wrath of God effects. Sure, we've seen a lot of options and most have some sort of solution readily available within the arsenal of Urils bag of Auras. Even Wrath effects can be countered by Indestructibility or Shield of the Oversoul. And now we have an all-purpose, all-singing, all-dancing solution to all the ills that ail Uril in the upcoming Rise of Eldrazi set. These two are taken from the Visual Spoiler:

The Totem Armor ability allows you to remove the Aura to replace the destruction of a creature, whether by damage or by a Wrath of God effect. As it's a replacement effect, not a regeneration effect, it nicely sidesteps the "cannot regenerate" clauses that are generally found on these cards. In standard, giving +1/+1 & First Strike or +3/+3 & Vigalence with a side portion of "hard to kill" is pretty sweet. In EDH, plonking either one of these on a Uril is Bad News Bears (tm). As hard as he is to destroy currently, post-Rise of Eldrazi will surely spell a new era in Uril being a huge pain in the rear. And that doesn't exclude the Uril player from running the Eldrazi himself! ;) I forsee a lot of work for Clone in the weeks ahead. An 8/8, first strike, troll-shroud, semi-indestructable merely by adding W? I'd buy that for a dollar! Or maybe less as this is a common. The larger friend is an uncommon.

To expand on these known cards into the realms of speculation, should this not be an exclusively white ability, we could be seeing them in every colour at each rarity at the very least. Should that be the case, what's in store for Uril at White Rare, Green common/uncommon/rare and Red common/uncommon/rare? Flying in White? Haste, Fire-breathing, First Strike in red or something even more spectacular? As for Green, I'd expect Reach and Trample in the common and uncommon slots. What does a Rare, Green Totem ability have in store for us? Marc is excited, me less so! ;)

A quick look at the EDH banning mindset & the importance of the social contract.

On the EDH social/ban list in general, this is my take:

You can't ban everything, you shouldn't try. Prismatic is a painful lesson in what happens to a great format when you go that route. With this in mind, the only cards on the ban list should be those that are inherently unfun, those that almost never generate potentially fun game states and those that are financially restrictive as outlined by the banning principles.

Unfortunatly there are exceptions to these principles both on and off the list, that's my opinion. And that brings us to the huge elephant in the room:

The banning guidlines are extremely subjective and, as a logical result, leave a huge grey area both in the definition of unfun and the financial barrier. This grey area is highlighted and explained by Geno in his "Misinterpretation..." thread. It's better to err on the side of ban list brevity and to trust players. Prismatic is the QED of this theory. What do you do when you don't trust players however? (apart from councelling) I'd put it to you that 99% of players calling for additional EDH bans belong in this latter catagory.

Every opportunity should be taken to impress on players that they can do what they want however they should remember that opponents expect adherence to the social contract laid out by Sheldon & the other founding fathers but also that their interpretation of that social contract may not be as strict/loose as your interpretation. Communicating the social contract successfully is a huge task because it's now intended as a global social contract, rather than a local social contract. Maybe Sheldon and the RC are on to the new thing in international relations!

And this is what I think the RC and everyone else in the EDH community will have to work really hard to impress on those that will inevitably cry for widespread bans even more-so than before with the advent of Rise of Eldrazi:

It's each player's responsibility to make the choice to break or not break a set of cards in EDH and assume the responsibility for that choice. The ban list can't be the apron strings that protects players from negative feedback from other players as to how they build and play their decks.

Relevant reading:
EDH Banning guidlines can be found here
The current EDH banned list can be found here
Sheldon's article on the Social Contract and the 4 basic principles

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Welcome to the assorted ramblings of an EDH addict

Welcome to Together for EDH or "TogEDHer" if you're sporting a thick Dublin accent. This is a very short introduction to my new blog about all things EDH and other random thoughts as they come to me. Feel free to join in.

I started playing EDH two years ago moving around generals until, after a couple of months, I landed on Rafiq of the Many which quickly became my signature general. Since then, and after many, many experiments I have developed two other decks, Azusa, Lost but Seeking and more recently Thada Adel, Acquisitor, which is a work in progress. Azusa in particular has captured my attention more than any other general as it's very much a deck that relies on strong interactions rather than a good-stuff deck (Thada) or a threat density deck (Rafiq - essentially any creature is better with Rafiq out, then it's just a question of going for impact and redundancy)

I live and play in France which can occasionally cause some difficulties due to the French EDH community having a penchant for pick-up or 1v1 games using the EDH rule structure but a different ban list but that topic is one for another day. I have the huge opportunity to have my full playgroup at work which allows us to play every day in different formats (1v1, 2HG or chaos depending on how many are present or interested in playing EDH) The current most popular format is EDH 2HG which is a great mix of multiplayer married to the increased power level of duel play. You lose a lot of the politicking involved in regular EDH chaos games however so it's not my personal favourite format. It does allow me to hide my early-game weakness when playing Thada Adel behind the strong front of my partners' Uril, GAAIV, Sharuum etc. A definite plus!

That's about it for the introduction. I'm intending to go into some Duel Vs Multiplayer issues, ban lists, my personal favourite decks and cards as well as looking at some of the insanely good stuff that RoE looks to be throwing our way: Uril & Jhoira are drooling over what's to come! I'm sure a lot of other generals are too!