Friday, 29 April 2011

New Phyrexia (Already?)

New Phyrexia 
(or "Old Mirrodin" if you're Thrun or Melira, pretty much the only ones not Borg-ed)

The Leak:

I'm not sure what's more annoying about the leak (or should I say "leaks"), that it utterly spoiled (heh!) one of the most hotly awaited spoiler seasons since Tarmogoyf spoiled "Planeswalker", or that there's an overwhelming sense of entitlement from the forum-rats that this was not only "deserved" for them but a measure of come-uppance for WotC. I've read a lot of the back and forth on this topic on various notice boards and it's quite stunning the utter disregard that the community has for WotC's right to disseminate their own intellectual property when and how they wish to do so.

Whatever side of the fence you sit on for this debate, you can't argue that anticipation and build-up to the release of this set is in any way better than it would have been had WotC been permitted to follow their usual schedule. As I write this, it's still 10 days until the release events and already the set reviews are a week done and dusted. There's nothing to do but wait for release day.

Quite apart from the financial concerns involved in a complete set leak a full 3 weaks before it was due to be officially released, all the buzz over 10 cards has killed the buzz for the remaining cards in the set. No-one is rushing to find out what else NPH has in store; there's only planning purchases now, no excitement.

Worst. Spoiler. Season. Ever.

EDIT: The announcement was made last night regarding the source of the leak. As more and more elements come to light it seems that the moral of this particular story is twofold: Don't mess about when you've signed an NDA and, if you're going to be foolish enough to break your NDA, choose your collaborators very wisely. It seems Guillaume Matignon didn't and is paying the price. From what can be garnered from the information coming out, it seems that WotC has decided to be extremely lenient regarding sanctions with a 3 year ban for the current World Champion and 18 months each for the subsequent links in the leak chain. Not the finest hour for France's cadre of Pros and sad that two great players will be off the scene for a significant period of time. As an additional sanction, Guillaume Wafo-Tapa, considered by many as a shoe-in for the next Hall of Fame, will not now be on the ballot for this years vote.

Maybe players with access to unreleased information will think twice about revealing it now.

Back to the serious stuff.....

The Pitch:

You have to admire the Phyrexians. They were wiped out to the last drop of oil (bar one) on one plane only to come back, seemingly stronger than ever, on a completely new plane (albeit one that is pretty much tailor made for them.) Not only that, but they did it with a panache and ease worthy of glorification in an internet meme:

Step 1: Just when everyone thinks you're done for, slip unnoticed inside the very weapon that has been assembled specifically to defeat you.

Step 2: When that weapon builds its own plane (delusions of grandeur much?), slide back out and contaminate it.

Step 3: ???

Step 4: Profit!! (And pay your dues to the association for the free distribution of gory, blood-spattered art. That shit is nasty!)

I bet that's an R&D development meeting that took a while to get through.... (not)

Maro: Ok guys, What are we doing after the Eldrazi? It's gotta be big!!
Guys: Phyrexia?
Maro: Nah, they got dusted in Invasion block.
Guys: So? The players swallowed Coldsnap whole, I'm sure we could dream up some semi-coherent clangers and it'll be fine.
Maro: What if Karn was infected by Phyrexian oil !!!!!1111!!one!!!

.........and the rest is history.

The Very Indepth Review:

Now, I've done a couple of these set review things now and had originally planned to continue the tradition (you know the one where I totally miss out on one of the huge cards but somehow find space for a couple of duds that end up never getting played?)

Thaumaturge, along with a few others, has already set bytes to blog-page and come up with some good stuff (though I obv. disagree with your Torpor Orb assessment, Thaum). What use is another blogosphere hack adding to the cacophony when a suitable symphony already exists?

You can find his review here at The Commande Zone.

The "Hur-Hur" Corner:

WotC did an excellent reveal of Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite in Phyrexian script early on in the publicity campaign and she's become the poster-girl for all that's mythic, big, nasty and artistic in the set. Somehow the gore-fest that represents the majority of her body is offset by the stunning porcelain-like metal headgear she's sporting. Apart from the obvious wardrobe malfunction it represents in reality, it's a pretty majestic piece of art.

Which is why our French friends' utter lack of respect for this grand figure is somewhat amusing. One of our gallic colleagues noticed within about 1 hour of the first full-card image being posted that, with the help of some censorship boxes, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, probably needed a different title.

For any of you who don't speak French, here's an introduction to the joke: >sniggers!<

"Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite" with part of the title blacked out becomes "Elesh [censored] nobite" (just as shown in the picture), which, in French phonetics, conveniently becomes "Elle leche nos bites"*. Running this through Google may give you a different answer than the one intended, but either way, don't try this on your French teacher.**

The Actual Cards:

I'm not giving you a set review, you've had them already. What I intend to do, very briefly, is indicate which of those cards that I will and won't slot directly into my decks and why. This has no bearing on their playability elsewhere and ignores other OMGWTF cards that someone else may be fapping over. First up are the exciting 'In" crowd.

I start with some sad news however. Thada Adel is no more. In preparation for the prominance of Phyrexia on his plane, the insane meglomaniac Memnarch has displaced the diminutive merfolk and has started terrorising kitchen tables everywhere. He's been sending me post-its too:

Hey, Lame Ass! Get me:

Phyrexian Metamorph
Unwinding Clock
Phyrexia's Core


I told him the set only comes out in about 3 weeks but you know how meglomaniacs get, eh? You can't argue with him about the card choices though, these three are gold in Memnarch's machine. Despite the additional 1 mana investment over the creature original, "High Market: Artifacts" is always going to be useful. What's a little surprising is that a Phyrexia's Core equivalent hasn't been made before. It's also interesting that a second ex-standard combo becomes possible in standard with the Core. After Splinter Twin/Pestermite, we now have Spine + Sac outlet + Sculpting Steel available. Which brings me nicely to my next choice.

We've seen the virtues of Phyrexian Metamorph prated elsewhere: Half-Clone/Half-Sculpting Steel, it's the ultimate cheap hooker card that everyone loves (because it can be anything you want it to be!) As a bonus it remains an artifact so when you have everything covered with a Darksteel Forge, your clone of a Primeval Titan is indestructible. Usual Master Transmuter shennanigans apply. This is artifact awesome-sauce and as an added bonus for us foil-magpies out there, it's a release promo with, once again, sick-ass art.

The third welcome addition, Unwinding Clock, made me re-check the casting cost a couple of times. Surely a hardier "Seedborn Muse: Artifacts" should cost more than its creature equivalent? Apparently not. R&D do realise that Seedborn Muse is one of the most annoying and abusable green creatures in Multiplayer, right? Why in their right minds would they give a sick mind like mine the same effect for artifacts at a cheaper price? I thought they had lost it with Mirrorworks (they had) but it seems there's no end to the insanity. If Memnarch had a fantasy Magic set, Unwinding Clock would be in there. Now it is.

Golf clap for R&D.

We've not been gifted with the most original three cards here but they are all really excellent and I expect them to crop up everywhere there are lots of artifacts and, in the case of the Metamorph, just everywhere.

For my Ashling deck well, she's red and red got the shaft, what's new? For EDH, I count 1 interesting red card (maybe 2 if you play Bosh) and that is Bludgeon Brawl (and Moltensteel Dragon). Bludgeon Brawl is worth the look, if only for the hilarious potential you have of turning a non-artifact you control (like Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker) into an artifact with Liquidmetal Coating and "equipping" it through Bludgeon Brawl to a creature you control (Like Nicol Bolas - Elder Dragon Legend) and getting into the red zone for 14 flying with a dragon wielding a more powerful verson of himself as a weapon. Add Mycosynth Lattice & Vulshok Battlemaster for additional hilarity.

There is only Puresteel Paladin in the knights section and, in Zombies, the single 4/1, infect & regeration for 4BB is leaving me pretty cold so we can move on to Green/Black Good-Stuff. Hold on to your hats!

I'm somewhat interested in Life's Finale. The ability to Day of Judgement the board (it's missing the 'no regeneration" clause unfortunatly) is nothing new but you also to Buried Alive an opponent for 2 additional mana. 4BB is not too high especially if you plan to bury a player's Geth and animate it somehow. This will allow you to animate the other two targets you found with Life's Finale. Conversely you can drop or reanimate your own Geth and profit in a similiar vein. Of course if your opponent(s) have means of utilising this resource it could be a double edged sword but that's a risk you'll have to evaluate in-game. You could also find an Eldrazi as one of the three targets and have a player shuffle their graveyard back into their deck if they have an over-reliance on their graveyard as a resource. While this isn't a Tormod's Crypt, it's at least of occasional strategic value. At the end of the day, it's another Damnation for Mono B decks which is nothing to be sniffed at.

Everyone's talking about Phyrexian Obliterator and with reason, it's a very interesting card. It can function as a very scary wall or an equally impressive beater with optional Annihilator X. Who wouldn't be eager to attack into a fully loaded Lord of Extinction with a lure effect on this? I'm still not sure it will be a hit but it's potentially very playable. Sheoldred is another card advantage monster (with more scary art) that will find a place, though, at 5BB, I'm not sure she'll be your general very often. What's interesting with Sheoldred is that, once again, it's a card that's a combination of two existing cards (The Abyss & Debtor's Knell). The more these crop up, the more we should start asking when R&D will finally run out of ideas.

Praetor's Grasp is the stone cold nuts. If you play black, you will need this card though there is a potential downside: It will slow down your games unless you know exactly what you're going to get. Of the black cards listed here I'll try them all in my BG good stuff but this one I'm already sure will make the final cut when changes need to be made and I'm fairly sure you can't have too many Wrath effects either. It's going to be a tight squeeze!

Moving onto the Green cards I'm adding to the deck when I get them, there's only 2 and one of the ommissions may surprise you (and one of the two inclusions) I'm not sold on Birthing Pod due to the sorcery speed restriction despite the obvious potential it has. Maybe it's partly because I'm already tired of seeing everyone fap over it since the spoil but it hasn't resonated with me just yet. When you already run Fauna/Survival/W.Tutor/Command/Pact/Zenith/Wave/T&N along with black hand and graveyard tutors, just another tutor is not doing it for me right now. Maybe it will grow on me but I'd honestly prefer better green creatures than another way to find creatures.

Beast Within is one of my two includes. The 3/3 beast being almost an irrelevance in EDH, there's nothing not to like about this card: the speed, the cost, the flexibility; it's just all round excellent.

My personal sleeper for the set is Triumph of the Hordes. A mini-Overrun granting Infect & Trample to your entire team is an effect that, given enough creatures, can one-shot entire tables. Add some measure of card recursion (EWit/Regrowth) and you don't need another infect card in your entire deck. For once though, the art has let us down: an infected Glissa version of Jack Skellington is just terribly wasted on an otherwise decent background, the trampling hoards of beasts, Porcelain Legionaires and ..... em..... giant snails. This one is going under the brush as soon as I get a copy.


Overall it has been an interesting ride for New Phyrexia. Let's hope that the gameplay lives up to the hype, but, most of all, we unearth a plethora of sleepers forgotten in the clamour to expound on the glories of free counters, peeks and slippery BSA equipment.

I want to finish by remarking on a disturbing trend in the most recent blocks: the traditional story-line bad guy has been winning a little too often lately. Ok, Lorwyn wasn't exactly a victory for the bad guy but the artistic structure of the block suggested heavily that the darkside took precedence over the "lightside"; Alara resulted in Bolas openly pulling strings to forward his fiendish plans and he's still out there somewhere; Zendikar didn't end well for pretty much anything that cost less than 10 though the tentacled ones are stuck there for now; and Scars of Mirrodin has re-unleashed the scourge of Phyrexia. If Innistrad doesn't end up with either another bad guy coming out or at the very least a title fight between all the current players, I'll be mightly disappointed!

It'd be terrible to buck the trend now and have the little guy win it for once.


* Basically: "She licks our dicks"

** Unless she's, you know, likely to respond a lot more "positively" than simply sending you to the principal.***

*** There's a part of the teenage boy psyche that firmly believes that, one day, this could actually happen and we leave our teenage years behind with the crushing disappointment that it never actually did.****

**** And proceed to make millions in the Porn industry.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

That Old Chestnut (aka what the community wants banned!)

Ah, I love the smell of bannings in the morning!

Actually, recently it's been the internet warriors chumpioning their favourite target for "The Hammer" that's been smelling up our mornings because nothing got banned (or, more controversially, unbanned) during the last update. Sheldon's announcement (which you can read here in his aptly nammed column on SSG: "The Banned List") pretty much ammounted to a ringing of the evening bell and a hollered "MIDNIGHT AND All'S WELL!"

Of course, the majority of the faceless masses, who had been pushing for one unbanning in particular and individually hoping for a wide range of bannings, were unhappy with the RC maintaining the status quo and hopped right onto their righteous indignity to bemoan the presence or lack there-of of their pet/hate card in the format. [We're going to gloss over the whole "in your own playgroup do what you want" thing; hand holding has been set to 100 for the purposes of this post. Ed.]

One enterprising poster on MTGSalvation, Tantarus, decided to take the discussion to the next level by opening a new thread that welcomed players to "ban" up to 5 cards and, if they wanted to, "unban" one. The unbanning was by-and-large ignored but 9 pages in we have a list of the 344 submissions comprising 115 different cards, of which 14 were legendary and accounting for 29 votes. This 0.08% representation in the vote by your mosted hated generals suggests that it may not be the leaders of opposing armies that you hate but rather the armies they lead and the tools they ply to beat you. Let's have a closer look at the generals first and get them out of the way.

Iona & Erayo both got 5 votes followed by Kiki-Jiki on 3 and a group of five on 2 votes: Arcum, Azusa, Jhoira, Niv-Mizzet & Rofellos. The list is rounded out with a group of 6, each garnering a single vote each: Sisay, Gaddock, Hokori, Phelddagrif, Clique & Zur. Personally I'm surprised that Zur & Arcum didn't figure much higher on the list given the almost unilateral distain the community holds for those generals. Iona at 5 votes also suggests that, while she may not be the white general of choice, she's annoying enough in the remaining 99 to be the most hated non-general legend in the format.

In a study (and I use that term very losely here) with anywhere between 70 and 85 people where the opinions of the previous respondants are visible to subsequent posters, there was a certain amount of herd behaviour happening (This would explain "Island" in the top 20 and could also go some way to explain how "Forbid" somehow managed to garner 3 votes*). As a result we can look at certain cards garnering a lesser number of votes as pertinant and original opinion rather than one-offs and certain higher scorers as just those following the herd mentality. Those finishing near the top would probably end up near there anyway, especially when functional similiarities are taken into account. Let's look at the top 5 to see what's up there:

Sol Ring 24
Mana Crypt 22
Magister Sphinx 17
Sorin Markov 16
Sundering Titan 14

Ok, yeah, there's a message here somewhere, let's see if I can discern it.........

1.) Fast Mana = Bad
2.) Dropping someone to 10 life = Bad
3.) Destroying multiple lands repeatedly = Bad

Point 1.) is that old chestnut in EDH, fast mana. While a lot of players really enjoy it and get a kick out of it, others see it as the evil core of the format. Just for completeness Mana Vault (5), Grim Monolith (3), Cabal Coffers (2) Gaea's Cradle (2) Rofellos (2), Azusa (2) and Primeval Titan (10) are all in there making fast mana and it's associated enablers account for 20% of the vote. People just don't seem to like their opponents having a lot of mana, though, given the presence of a wide range of land destruction spells on the list as well, the don't seem to like having their lands blown up either (Point 3.)). Maybe what we're really seeing here are answers from players sitting on either side of the arguament: the Mana Players and the Mana Haters? [Don't be a hater. Ed.]

The other obvious aspect of the top 5 is your opponents ability at any time to drop you to 10 life and honoured member of the lowest hanging fruit club. I initially doubted that Sorin's "Mindslaver" ability was a relevant reason for his being voted so high until I looked lower in the top 10. Man, that guy is pretty hated coming and going! Players want to play, not be knocked out at the earliest opportunity. While there's no rule that says that everyone has to have been given a fair shot at winning before they are eliminated, using Magister Sphinx or Sorin offensively in the early game is just a really unwelcome strategy.

Moving on to spots 6-10 there some more of the same and a couple of new candidates:

Sensei's Divining Top 12
Mind over Matter 10
Mindslaver 10
Primeval Titan 10
Time Stretch 10
We've mentioned Primeval Titan briefly but there's another aspect to him that goes over and above mere "ramping" mana and it's that the format is chocked full of land based questions, utility and answers, not just another couple of basic land. Imagine quickly the mana ramp version playing a GBx deck: You have 4-6 lands in play when you hit the PTitan, you get an Urborg, ToY and Cabal Coffers (2). Without playing any other land the following turn you go from 6 mana to 11-13 just by untapping and every land you play now essentially gets you BX.

That's the Ramp, what about when you are under pressure? Maze of Ith (1) and Vesuva (copying the Maze) is going to keep two threats off your back for quite a while while you use your Titan to find more land or just be a blocker. Why not both actually? Attack with PT, resolve his ability and untap your own PT to stay back as a blocker. That works for me.

And if he get's killed as sometimes happens? Volrath's Stronghold. Protection against him getting stolen? High Market and it's ilk. Need regeneration? Yavimaya Hollow. And so on, and so on. There's litterally no other creature in the format with this much potential once it's in your deck. Opponents tired of crushing defeats masterminded by the slippery fish that PT can potentially become would naturally want him banned. Let's face it, if you build your land base properly, there's nothing he can't do. And he makes a mean expresso too.

The remaining cards between 6 and 10 are not surprises either. If you have sat across from 2 or 3 opponents constantly stacking their Tops, you know how annoying it can be. This one is purely a time and annoyance card and, while I disagree that a ban is needed, it's certain that people need to play their Tops quickly and efficiently or not at all.
Mind over Matter is a combo enabler, nothing else. What we're talking about here is a card that may have nice applications but in reality will be used to fuel a game-ender. The intent of the MoM player will often determine if you're going to have a fun game but I've yet to meet a player who put the card in a deck for the LOLs rather than to power out a stupid "I win!" moment. Time Stretch is the same. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that if the person playing Time Stretch hasn't essentially won the game by the time they have finished their 2 extra turns, they are either toying with you (thus are annoying) or are deliberatly annoying (thus are idiots). Remember, no-one plays Time Stretch unless they can concieveably replay Time Stretch multiple times.
The last card in the top 10 is Mindslaver. I'm going to put this one down to intent and on a par with MoM and Time Stretch with a rider: Mindslaver can be a great one-shot effect. It's when players start to recur it repeatedly that it becomes an issue. As much as Time Stretch gives you, well, time to win the game and multiple Time Stretches actually win you the game, Mindslaver does the same if repeatedly recurred. MoM is never used for the fun, it's used to just finish playing the game alone and eventually declaring that you've won, much like 'Slaver and Time Stretch. None of these are any fun when played like this (or at all in the case of MoM and possibly Time Stretch) and, as the saying goes, if you wanted to play with yourself, you can do it in the privacy of your own bedroom. We don't need to see it.

Do these cards need to be banned? It depends. If you want the RC to make all your decisions for you, hold your hand and tuck you into bed at night, sure we can ban them. If not, you may have to exercise that most elusive of qualities: discretion.

There's a lot more on the list but they, generally, fall into catagories already mentioned: Ramp or cards that enable you to do something a lot earlier than you normally could (Bribery, T&N, Acquire); cards that stop other players playing their spells (Erayo, Iona, Winter Orb & Land destruction); combo cards (Power Artifact, Kiki, Arcum); and cards that allow a player to draw a large number of cards (Consecrated Sphinx, Necropotence)

It's also nice to see that players retain a sense of humour when replying to these threads as evidenced by the basic lands and that power-house Kithkin Healer (1). Geez, I hate that guy!

Here's the remainder of the list for completeness:
Power Artifact 9
Consecrated Sphinx 8
Bribery 5
Erayo, Soratami Ascendant 5
Infect 5
Iona, Shield of Emeria 5
Island 5
Mana Vault 5
Necropotence 5
Shahrazad 5
Armageddon/Ravages of War 4
Winter Orb 4
Blightsteel Colossus 3
Crucible of Worlds 3
Forbid 3
Forest 3
Grim Monolith 3
Hermit Druid 3
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker 3
Mountain 3
Obliterate 3
Ruination 3
Serra Ascendant 3
Arcum Dagson 2
Azuza, lost but seeking 2
Blood Moon 2
Cabal coffers 2
Decree of Annihilation 2
Force of Will 2
Gaea's Cradle 2
Jhoira of the Ghitu 2
Knowledge Pool 2
Niv-Mizzet, The Firemind 2
Plains 2
Rings of Brighthearth 2
Rofellos, Llanowar Emissary 2
Seedborn Muse 2
Skullclamp 2
Survival of the Fittest 2
Swamp 2
Tooth and Nail 2
Tunnel Vision 2
Warp World 2
Yawgmoth's Will 2
Acquire 1
Aether Vial 1
Apocalypse 1
Back to Basics 1
Boil 1
Capsize 1
Captain Sissay 1
Contamination 1
Curiosity/Ophidian Eye 1
Death cloud 1
Demonic Tutor 1
Duplicant 1
Extraplanar Lense 1
Felidar Sovereign 1
Flashfires 1
Font of Mythos 1
Gaddock Teeg 1
Gauntlet of Power 1
Genesis Wave 1
Giant Strength 1
Grip of Chaos 1
Hall of Gemstone 1
Heartbeat of Spring 1
Hive Mind 1
Hokori, Dust Drinker 1
Hornet Sting 1
Imperial Seal (Price cards) 1
Insurrection 1
Jokulhaups 1
Karma 1
Kithkin Healer 1
Leyline of the Void 1
Life from the Loam 1
Lightning Greaves 1
Magus of the Moon 1
Maze of Ith 1
Minions' Murmurs 1
Myojin of night's reach 1
Nihil Spellbomb 1
Oath of Druids 1
Palinchron 1
Phelddagrif 1
Phyrexian Battleflies 1
Relic of Progenitus 1
Rhystic Study 1
Sorrow's Path 1
Strip Mine 1
Strong tutors 1
Tangle Wire 1
Tempting Worm 1
Thawing Glaciers 1
Timesifter 1
Tormod's Crypt 1
Trinisphere 1
Tuck 1
Vendilion Clique 1
Voracious Cobra 1
Wasteland 1
Wild Nactl 1
Withered Wretch 1
Zur the enchanter 1

*I've been cataloguing the suggestions made on for bannings, those cards that someone makes a serious case for banning. The inclusion of "Forbid" on the MTGSalvation list reminded me of some of the wacky suggestions that the community has come up with.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Ho Hum Standard

Normally this blog is about EDH and, for the most part, I want to keep it so, but I really need to get this down somewhere to get it off my chest:

I hate standard.......

.......but I want to play regionals.

This has put me into a difficult position. We've been running a gauntlet at work and, so far, I like none of the decks I've been testing. Here's the run down:

RDW has stupid "I win" hands on occasion. It also has terrible hands that require you to top-deck the win every turn and your opponent to fall flat in order to have a chance. That's just game 1. In game 2 the fact that aggro strategies, not just RDW, are a viable strategy in the format means that every Tom, Dick & Harry has some sort of hate that will splash you. If they fear Red-based decks in particular, they can crush you out of the board. Life is too short and time away from a slow Sunday with my girls too precious to put your regionals fate in the hands of the dice roll. I'm prepared to bet against the occasional "Hurp-Durp" opening hand that RDW gets, and just not play it.

One of the early decks I championed was Caw-Blade which then became Dark-Blade and Spark-Blade. I never felt comfortable playing the decks. That may have had something to do with our rogue Vampires just destroying it all day but it just simply came down to another decision about whether I really wanted to spend the day playing a deck I didn't enjoy playing.

Paris style Grixis-Tezz got bombed out very quickly in the gauntlet and was replaced by UB Tezz Infect which didn't really last much longer. There's always the terrible feeling that you're not as controlling as half the metagame requires you to be and too controlling for the other half. You feel bad sitting back and worse going for it. The metagame seems to be pretty split into Control (UW and now UB), Aggro board-Control (Caw-X and RUG) and aggro (WW/Quest/KRed/RDW) and the big elephant in the room: Combo.

My most recent audible is a combo deck of sorts, Eldrazi Ramp. It's a pretty straightforward strategy; play mana dudes, play bigger mana dudes, play Eldrazi, profit. The real issue with this strategy (apart from the availability of Ulamogs) is that it uses the red zone. There's got to be a way to circumvent adding that extra step. In addition, once you've played Valakut often enough, you can't play Eldrazi Ramp without wishing all your searches were getting Valakuts/Mountains, Hurp, Durp, take 18. When you look at both decks side by side and accept that both are essentially just goldfishing in very similiar ways to get to a very similiar point, would you prefer to be dropping Ulamog and waiting a turn or just, you know, winning?

One deck I'd love to try out (ok, one of many decks, some others being Mono-W Angel Control and UW Venser/Spine and anything that uses Mirrorworks) is anything that just goes to town on your opponent's mana base. Unfortunatly when your LD suite starts at 4 you generally have to make some calls on the start of your curve to get your mana up and running. The natural extension of getting your mana-count high quickly in current standard isn't a 4CC LD spell, it's a 6CC Titan. If your opponent can get the Titan online before you get Demolish, Melt/Roiling Terrain, then you're pretty screwed. Even then a turn 3 LD spell is probably still too late. An opposing turn 2 Overgrown Battlements means you need to kill the Battlements, not a land, as killing a land will still enable a turn 3 Battlement/Wall of Tanglecord with 2 mana open. That's an invitation for a turn 4 Titan and suddenly you need to either kill a 6/6 or destroy 2 lands per turn just to keep up. While you can't really argue with the 9 ways to destroy any land for 5 mana or less in the current standard, maybe the format would be healthier (and a lot more honest) if Stone Rain or Rain of Tears were legal. As it is, too many commonly played cards obselete a land destruction strategy in the current enviornment.

And we haven't even started on JTMS.

Valakut? >pfft!< I don't know.