Monday, 20 December 2010

Active decks

A quick one on my active decks:

Wrexial, the Risen Deep - Formerly know as Thada Adel. Still artifact focused but now with additional Blackness. Not really all that sure it needs the Black but I'm giving it a go. The mana base shouldn't be hell, but it is. That part needs work.

Ashling the Pilgrim - the most recent in a long, long line of mono-red decks. Gauntlet, Gauntlet, Flare and some ways not to have Ashling die constantly. No Magebane or SoFaI makes a hot chick sad!

Azusa, Lost but Seeking - Broccoli, mono-Green combo beats, Forests FTW, Death by Plant / Wolf / Insect / land / Elephant. Cloudstone Curio: I <3 U
Gaddock Teeg - GW Goodstuff. The current home of my Mimic Vat & Nim Deathmantle. Very focused on destroying artifacts & enchantments. Reveillark, Saffi & Karmic Guide are bonkers with Vat & Deathmantle (and everything else!)
Balthor the Defiled - Zombies. They die, they come back to life, they sing songs.
Phelddagrif - Group Hug. This needs Planar Birth & Oath of Druids/Lieges but is otherwise perfect.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Scars of Mirrodin: a "Commander" Mid-Term Report

Commander Pre-Cons? Check!
Spoiler Season starting up for Mirrodin Besieged? Check!

I guess it's time for the Scars of Mirrodin Mid-Term report!

This is going to be brief in some areas because, let's face it, if I don't limit myself I'll never stop talking...... I'm not going to talk about every single card either so it's possible that I may skip over something that you think is a real star or a sleeper. Let me know in the comments.

The Mechanics


It's interesting that the posterboy mechanic for Scars of Mirrodin is both a hit and a miss in Commander. It's a miss because there's really not enough cards (yet) for a real Infect deck to be a force in Commander. As there's only one Legend, (I'll talk about Skittles later) and a mono-coloured one at that, you're really restricted to Mono-B & artifact infect or to playing a Commander without infect in order to fully benefit from a Green and Black mechanic (which is a pretty backwards way of approaching a deck-build centered around a specific mechanic).

In addition, Proliferate, included in this set to go hand in hand with Infect, is partly in artifact and partly in a third colour. While Proliferate has multiple applications outside Infect, if you want to have your Infect and Proliferate it, you're in GUB/artifact and have a general (Vorosh, the Hunter) who has nothing in common with your strategy bar his +1/+1 counters ability and holding an Exoskeletal Armor or be the target of a Tainted Strike.

That was the "miss". The "hit" is Exoskeletal Armor, Tainted Strike and Skithiryx. The first is a short clock or an alpha strike; the second is an insta-win and a huge political tool; and the third is just a huge scary clock-beast. These can go into any deck that cares to carry them with no other interest in or reference to either Infect or Proliferate. Players attacking anywhere with a 4/x double-strike creature or a 9/x creature can allow you to piggy-back a kill off Tainted Strike. Suddenly, there's a player less and your chances of winning the table are much, much higher.

Sure, we have another two extensions to get through so the volume of infect in Black and Green has the potential to increase just enough to make the mechanic as a whole in either or both colours Commander viable. We'll just have to wait and see.


Proliferate will either be huge or useless depending on what your deck contains. As it does nothing in a vacuum, the strength of the mechanic will fluctuate wildly. In this respect, it's real benefit to commander is seeing cards that have other abilities or effects tacked on such as Contagion Engine & Clasp.


Honestly, are there any good metalcraft cards?


Variations on an existing theme, there are 5 imprint cards in the set. Only Prototype Portal and Mimic Vat have any potential in Commander and even then Prototype Portal is going to require a lot of building around and protection.

Mimic Vat, on the other hand, is probably the best Commander card in the set. It has competition, sure, but you're probably never going to be wrong putting it into any deck. Despite the artifact hate that should permiate all Commander metagames, running this monster maker is still worth the effort. There's one constant in all Commander games and it's that creatures will die. They don't need to be your own creatures, just creatures that go from the battlefield into any graveyard. From this point onwards your Mimic Vat is going to be pumping out a lot of helpful or downright nasty creatures for the low cost of 3 colourless. Try Sunblast Angel if you don't like being attacked for example, or a Titan, any Titan........

An advatage/disadvantage is that you can change the creature (though you're not required to so), if you like your imprinted Nekretaal, then keep it until you kill a Primeval Titan with it and then you take the Titan. The "disadvantage" to having a card imprinted is that it remains exiled if the Mimic Vat ever gets destroyed. If that card is something of your opponents that you don't necessarily want to see again, all the better. If it's your own creature, you've just been 2-for-1'ed.


I'll give Elspeth Tirel an honorary mention as she's a Disk but the other two are, so far, pretty unspectacular in this format.


I touched on the generals in a previous blog. I think the rankings hold up still:
1.) Skithiryx - Excellent
2.) Geth - Good, "build around" general and otherwise a solid guy.
3.) Azuri - Excellent at what he does, there's even a few combos, but you have to want what he does. Tribal Elf is not everyone's cup of tea.
4.) Kemba - Fun but not near the power level of the others. Tries to compensate with suggestive clothing.

The Colours


White didn't give us a huge amount with the possible exception of Sunblast Angel, a conditional, flying Wrath of God and True Conviction.

Yes, you read that right: True Conviction. 5 Mana is nothing in this format and giving your team double strike is truely excellent. If you also gain life out of that, that's pretty neat but, whether attacking or blocking, Double Strike is what will deter your opponents from attacking into you and fear attack from you. Now, I'll admit it's not for everyone. Who it is for are aggressive W/x decks that have to win in the red zone. The afforementioned Kemba, wearing only a Konda's Banner played this in a game I was quickly knocked out of. She went roughly: Sol Ring, Mox Diamond, Kemba, Konda's Banner, equip the Banner, True Conviction, Armageddon, win. Yes, that's an equipped Kemba on turn 3, into double strike and Lifelink for your free 4/4 kittens into almost no mana around the table.  Even without situations like this, the True Conviction gives you a huge amount of reach in a single attack phase either to alpha strike with your army or just your general. At the same time, you're reducing the ability to kill you to general damage strategies.

The other white card of note is Sunblast Angel. A 4/4 Wrath of God that flies. Sure, it only kills tapped creatures but don't tell me that you don't have ways to tap creatures or that creatures don't attack. Putting one on a Mimic Vat essentially means that no-one is attacking you without first dealing with the Vat. The Angel is good under pressure, it's good to clear away unsuspecting armies, it's just good. And it sticks about to attack for 4.


Green should get some great beasts however it's quota was seriously effected by Infect taking up creature slots. Even the Fatties that are there are uninspiring. We have a nice effect in Bellowing Tanglewurm but it's hardly groundbreaking. Engulfing Slagwurm is cute too but really, it needed to have trample to be even considered. About the only fat that could be mentioned is Liege of the tangle and that comes with a warning sticker. This 8/8 for 6GG does have trample but the benefit is that you make your land base more fragile. You have to decide if the land(s) you animate into 8/8s will still be there for your next attack phase. The redeeming point is that you choose which lands, it's not automatically every land so you can go all in if you've just played a Final Fortune or just put a couple up there if you're being cagey. Beware the Nev's Disk which will kill your lands!

The other green highlight is, of course, Genesis Wave. There's actually not a huge amount to be said about this apart from: Generate a lot of mana, Wave for X, Profit. I mean, it's not rocket science.......


Help me out here, Red is screwing the pooch for Commander in this set.


Nothing to see here......

Only kidding! Black got some sweet, sweet toys. We've already mentioned Skithiryx, Geth and Tainted Strike. Black also got Exsanguinate, Necrotic Ooze, Painful Quandry and Carnifax Demon as well as some other little toys.

Do you remember when you played Syphon Soul in a 4-man game and thought "Heh, 6 extra life. Sweet!" Now the 2 damage life lost has become X and you still gain life equal to what was lost, essentially X*Y (where Y is the number of other players).  Play it for 5 in a 4-man game and you gain 9 life; 6 gains you 12 life; 7 gains you 15 life and so on. I'm sure no-one would stoop to using Urborg and Cabal Coffers to fuel a decent 15 point Exsanguinate. I think it's obvious as well that infinite mana engines probably should run this. If you're going to do stuff like that, at least end our misery quickly.

Painful Quandry is the black 5cc enchantment in the Scars of Mirrodin almost-cycle (red missed out, go figure). As mentioned when talking about True Conviction, 5 mana is really not a big deal in this format, especially not in Black. Simply put, if an opponent plays a spell, they lose five life or discard a card. If players are patiently playing 1 or 2 spells a turn this is a slow clock or a minor annoyance but once they start multiplying their activity you are passively attacking one of two resources: Cards in hand or life total. Granted, they get to choose whichever one least effects them at any given point in a game but you're likely doing your best to deprive them of cards in hand and thus the ability to choose. As with True Conviction, this is not a card that fits all decks but it's an under the radar annoyance that someone will eventually waste a card killing to stop the pain.

Carnifax Demon: See Sunblast Angel. It flies, it kills things. There are stronger solutions available if you're looking for some pin-point destruction however the Demon is excellent at clearing away token hordes and, if you're running some proliferate, you can set it up so that you're withering the rest of the table into oblivion.

The last card in this section deserves an article unto itself. It already has a piece of Legacy glory, adding a combo to the quiver of arrows pointed towards the banning of Survival of the Fittest in that format. It's already present in Excended with yet another Conley Woods special, this time cooking up another Quillspike combo, and he's quite the broken card with, well, everything really. I give you Necrotic Ooze.

I think that this card is going to become a focal point for a lot of decks that like to manipulate what exactly is in the graveyard and, I'm sad to say, may even be the card that pushes Survival of the Fittest over the edge in Commander. When I said it did everything, take a situation where you have an active Necrotic Ooze in play and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker in any graveyard. Just Kiki-Jiki allows you to make infinite Ooze tokens. This in turn allows you to kill everyone with a Hissing Iguanar when those tokens die at EOT or earlier if you have a means to sacrifice them. Leaving the Hissing Iguanar aside and focusing on the sacrifice aspect, Ashnod's Altar and Phyrexian Altar will give you infinite colourless or any coloured mana respectively (which will allow you to do some of the following), Attrition will kill all targettable non-black creatures, an infinitely large Phyrexian Ghoul or Carrion Feeder, the ability to draw out your deck with Carnage Altar, make infinite Spawning Pit tokens (which won't die at EOT) or all of this at the same time!! And that's not even the start of what the Ooze can do, that's just an extremely tiny part of what it can do just with a single Kiki-Jiki in any graveyard. The forummer "Stardust" over on the official Commander boards posted a list of 57 different interactions the resulted in instantly winning, infinite life or infinite mana just using Kiki Jiki as a base point. Start with a different base point and just go wild.

I'm going to leave this one here but I think you can start including it in your deck for any incidental activations you can garner off it like copying Karn's or Memnarch's abilities from your opponent's graveyard........


Blue was heavily invested in Metalcraft and minorly in proliferate. When you added the usual set staples, there's actually very little space left. Even less when you consider the increased Artifact presence in the set. Pearls are thus hard to find though there is one in Grand Architect. It's a specific activation but it will fit well in 2 places: mono-blue aggro for the lord ability and U/x Artifacts for the Mishra's Workshop ability. There's an incidental extended combo with Pili-Pala that allows you to create infinite mana once you can turn the Pili-Pala blue and it's no longer got summoning sickness. In Commander it's just likely to allow you to play your Darksteel Forges off the Architect and a Etherium Sculptor for essentially 4 mana. Imagine a Mana Crypt/Vault or Sol Ring on the first 2-3 turns and a turn 3 Forge is not all that unlikely a play with the Architect's help. This is a pretty easy inclusion if you have blue creatures and like to cast big artifacts early.


Scars gave us a cycle of friendly bi-coloured lands to add to the 20 friendly bi-coloureds with more or less drawbacks that we already have. In that they are likely to CIPT more often than not, they are not the best, but they could occasionally come into play untapped and so are marginally better than the Invasion bi-coloureds that we still see played.


It's technically an artifact set and a much larger percentage of the card count was assigned to artifacts to the detriment of each of the colours. This is probably a greater part of why each colour bar black only got 1-2 really good Commander cards. Let's see if the artifact section makes up for it.

We've already looked at Mimic Vat when talking about Imprint and Grafted Exoskeleton when talking about Infect. What the artifact section needs to give us is something that's a little more durable. Think Wurmcoil Engine with both lifelink and deathtouch and the ability to leave warm bodies behind when someone clears the board or Chimeric Mass, which you can find with both Tolaria West and Trinket Mage and can be either a small or huge beast that's oblivious to opponent's traditional Wrath effects.

The other star in the set seems to be another sleeper: Nim Deathmantle. This 2cc Artifact equips for 4, gives Intimidate, +2/+2 and makes the equipped creature Black. That's.....ok. What is special is that it also features a triggered ability that allows you to pay 4 mana when a creature is put into your graveyard from play to bring it directly back into play with the Deathmantle equipped to it. What's important to note is that the dying creature didn't need to have been equipped in the first place to benefit from this hasty resurrection. Add some "leaves/enters play" triggers, a little mana and, why not, a sacrifice outlet and you have yourself a dirty little combo.

What seems to be interesting here is that the three top cards in the set have a direct relationship with the graveyard:

1.) Mimic Vat triggers on any creature going to any graveyard
2.) Nim Deathmantle triggers on any creature going to your graveyard
3.) Necrotic Ooze has the activated abilities of creatures that are in any graveyard.

What is quite fun to note is that Necrotic Ooze will actually have a window between the first two triggering and those triggers resolving to activate abilities of any creature just put into a graveyard.

Another interesting interaction is that your opponent's Mimic Vat and your own Nim Deathmantle both trigger off a creature going into your graveyard and AP/NAP will apply resulting in your creature getting stolen before the Deathmantle can bring it back to you. Anyone who has engaged in "Mimic Vat Vs Mimic Vat" wars can attest that a thorough knowledge of the priority rules will serve you well while using these artifacts.

My Mid-Term Top 10

1-.) Mimic Vat
1-.) Necrotic Ooze

3.) Nim Deathmantle
4.) Skythiryx
5.) Genesis Wave
6.) Exsanguinate

7-.) Sunblast Angel
7-.) Grand Architect
7-.) Geth

10.) Tainted Strike

Have a great Holiday Break! See you in the New Year!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Who you gonna call?

I suppose you've all had time to come to terms with the recent announcement regarding changes to the naming of the Elder Dragon Highlander format and the forthcoming multiplayer product featuring 5 seperate EDH Commander decks! With the boost of publicity and the news that there will be 51 brand new cards in the release, it's sure to sell well.

What has me excited is the announcement that these decks will be enemy wedges and will each contain 3 Legendary creatures in Enemy Wedge colours. An "enemy wedge" is a card containing 2 friendly colours, for example Green and Red, with a third "enemy" colour, in this case Blue. Of the legends in the upcoming release, we already know 5 as they are the Planar Chaos dragons. In addition, WotC have decided to give us 2 new legends per enemy wedge. This will vastly improve the playability and popularity of enemy wedge decks. Up to now only 6 enemy wedge legends existed, the 5 Planar Chaos Dragons and Doran the Siege Tower, who shared Treefolk colours from the Lorwyn block.

To sweeten the announcement Wizards gave us one of the 10 unknown legends. Meet Karador, Ghost Chieftain:

An 8-mana 3/4 requiring 3 different coloured mana? I think we need to read the text box because this is seriously underwhelming.
"Karador, Ghost Chieftain costs 1 less to cast for each creature in your Graveyard"

Ok, So he doesn't cost 8, he costs 8-x, where x is the number of creatures in your Graveyard. This means he can cost from 8 down to 3 (the ability doesn't reduce colour mana costs). I'll have to check up on this but I'm fairly sure that you'll be able to get around the general tax with his ability so if you have 11 creatures in your graveyard you'll be able to pay just BGW for the third casting from the commander zone. This makes him very attractive as a general.

What else does he do?
During each of your turns, you may cast one creature from your graveyard.

That's pretty cool, you get an extension of your hand into your graveyard for some nasty creature once per turn. There's an interesting, but minor, tension between how many creatures you have in your graveyard and his cost should he be returned to the Command Zone.

So, what's the advantage to running him over Doran or Teneb? I think it's all going to come down to what strategy you want to run. Doran is likely to be general in a more aggressive build while Teneb will obviously shine when you're in a playgroup where you're pretty sure that everyone else if going to be giving you some goodies to choose from in their graveyards.

Karador is more likely be be useful in builds where you're less reliant on other players and happier to set up your own interactions and synergies. Teneb wouldn't necessarily be bad in that style of deck either so the choice could come down to personal preference, very specific builds or just that shiney new general feeling.

Either way, you'll rarely be unhappy when you're filling everyone's graveyards!