Monday, December 31, 2012

What the heck? A Modern deck?

Sorry for being all rhyming in the title, but I felt like I had to share this with the world, especially now that Modern is an FNM-legal format.

I play much more EDH than any other format, with Draft a close second. Generally, I have to have something very fun AND reasonably good for me to play a Constructed format.This deck is both of those things: a cascade deck that ends the chain in one of three spells.

This deck is a ridiculously fun time. You're spinning a roulette wheel, but you know where it's going to stop. This was Standard legal for a little while, but now, with Modern, it's getting the best mana base ever.

Here is the 5-color cascade deck, in three pieces.

Part 1: The stopping points

4 Esper Charm
4 Blightning
4 Supreme Verdict
1 Elixir of Immortality

Your deck will always cast one of these spells. ALWAYS. Your goal is to empty their hand and put them in topdeck mode. The real gem is Esper Charm--once they are out of cards in hand, you get to draw two. The 'destroy target enchantment' mode is also handy with the Splinter Twin and Leyline of Sanctity decks running around.

Supreme Verdict replaces Day of Judgment, since the mana is no big deal and 'can't be countered' is super-relevant with all the Spell Pierce running around.

It's important to note a couple of things with cascade. The first spell you cast resolves last. So if you spin Enlisted Wurm into Verdict, the Verdict hits first and then the Wurm comes into play. Same with Deny Reality--if you bounce a permanent, and hit Blightning, then your Blightning resolves first and they won't have the card you originally targeted in their hand yet. For real fun, you can cast an instant with Cascade and hit Verdict, wiping the board at instant speed.

Elixir is there because you don't want to end up with no three-costs left in the deck, and that has happened.

Part 2: Getting there with Value
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Bituminous Blast
3 Deny Reality
4 Enlisted Wurm
2 Enigma Sphinx
1 Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

Oh yes, it's a monstrosity but it has a plan. Cascade and cascade again. If you get to 8 mana, cast Big Nick and wreck some boards.

Captured Sunlight does so much work it's silly.

Part 3: The Mana

This was a big problem when it was Standard-legal. It was tri-lands and Vivid lands. Everything came into play tapped.

Now, we are golden.

4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Rupture Spire
2 Vesuva
2 Plains
2 Overgrown Tomb
2 Steam Vents
2 Blood Crypt
2 Hallowed Fountain
1 Alchemist's Refuge

There is no better feeling than Reflecting Pool into Rupture Spire. From there, you can cast anything. Pillar is really the star, though, as you can cast anything but the Elixir with it. (another reason why Verdict is an upgrade over Day)

There's 25 land, and that is so you can hit your first 5 lands. It is mandatory.

The Plains are a concession to Path to Exile--but that may be a mistake since it isn't as common in Modern as it was in Standard.


4 Duress
4 Wall of Omens
4 Rakdos Charm
3 Grafdigger's Cage

Sideboarding with this deck is tricky. You have to be careful adding spells, because it messes with your cascade chains. Duress is helpful for very early disruption of combo, Wall for super-aggro decks, and the Charm is helpful against graveyard decks and is a really great trick for Splinter Twin decks.

I hope you enjoyed this deck. I'm not suggesting you try it at a PTQ, but it'll do a lot of work--and be incredibly fun!--at an FNM or other event. Cascade!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Wish list for 2013

What would I like in 2013?

#1 - A new Un set

There's little that I have enjoyed as much as the Unhinged and Unglued sets, and Wizards is way overdue on giving us another dose of silver-bordered goodness. I don't expect this Un-set to be universally accepted as EDH-legal by the Rules Committee, because the variation in decks, groups, and fun is so high.

By the way: if you've never played in a group where Un cards are legal, try it tomorrow. It's pretty outstanding. Tell your friends and give them a week to build decks with the cards.

The RC encourages local variations, and this is one of the best. Just make sure that the Un-decks don't get used with strangers. That can get awkward.

#2- Lands in Modern Masters

Have you seen what fetch lands and filter lands are going for? Filter lands are outstanding for three-or-more color decks. I've seen them in some cubes, but they were designed to enable many-colored decks. Cryptic Command could have cost UUUU, and with the filters, plus the Vivid lands and Reflecting Pool, it would not have been a problem.

The Zendikar fetch lands would be nice too. They are super unlikely to be printed in a set in the next two years, because Standard can't ever have fetches and shocks available together. Too good.

As it is, the shocks plus the Sunpetal Grove/Woodland Cemetery lands is a pretty outstanding mana base, especially once we get the Gatecrash lands.

We could use an infusion of City of Brass and Reflecting Pool too.

#3 - Websites/Forums to calm down about proxies

I've gotten in trouble with moderators on multiple sites because of the legal issues they percieve with my "How to Make Custom Generals" post. Some don't like the digital part, others don't like the physical part.

I've had some judges tell me that they want me to make them a custom general of their own. I've had some raise eyebrows at the presence of 'counterfeit' cards in my binder.

This is a gray area, but I've never tried to pass mine off as real cards. The theory is that others can use the process to make counterfeits, but that always seems flimsy to me.

Nonetheless, it remains a topic I get a lot of mail about, and it's something I will continue to do. If I ever make a cube, this will be how I do it.

#4 - Four-color legends worth building around

I have to be inspired to build a deck. The times where I've built a deck that didn't sing to me, it's just not as fun to play. My Cleric deck was an example of that. I really loved playing Clerics in 60-card casual, but the concept didn't translate to EDH at all.

The problem with this is that I can't define what will inspire me. It's tragic, I know, but again, something needs to sing to me. I feel the same way about Standard and Modern and such. When I have a deck that I like to play, and has even a chance of winning, I'll be all over that. So we will see what legends show up this year.

Between the rest of the RtR block, and the next Commander release, I'm optimistic about getting some four-color legends. Hopefully, they are amazing.

#5 - iPad

I just want one. No real justification. :D

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Naughty or nice?

It's the end of the year, and that means Christmas! That also means one of the major writing tropes is back: The Naughty or Nice list!

Let's list some EDH-related topics of the past year and see if they have been good for the game or bad.

Naughty: Commander's Arsenal
   This had the potential to be something truly amazing.  Wizards is self-handcuffed by the Reserved List, a document that is inviolable and was a mistake at the time, because Wizards made a huge mistake with Chronicles.  (That was an expensive summer.  Fourth Edition, Chronicles, Ice Age, all in the same few months!)
   Wizards is pushing the oversized cards on us pretty hard, and that's sort of okay.  In my experience, not many are using them, but they are a cool piece nonetheless.  I've made large versions of my custom foils, and they look SWEET.  The people who like them, really like them, and that's all you can ask for.
    The card choices in Arsenal were reflective of what Wizards' policy has been for some time on these special reprints: some amazing, some cool, some not terribly relevant.  Choices like Vela the Night-Clad or The Mimeoplasm reflect that Wizards understands the completionist nature of many players, and wanted to get foil versions out there of things that weren't foil.  I know Legacy reanimator players are excited to have more Loyal Retainers floating around.
   My biggest issue is the 'extras' we get in the box.  The life counter, the battle marks, and the sleeves all feel cheap to the touch.  My battle marks are already having some of the metallic paint chip off, my life counter is hard to use effectively, and in using the sleeves for drafts, a couple have already busted.  I can handle that this is an ultra-premium set, with the MSRP and limited distribution to match, but to put these shoddy products into this package was Naughty indeed. 

Nice: The EDH rules committee
   In 2012, there were two major updates.  In June, Griselbrand and Sundering Titan got the axe.  In September, Kokusho, the Evening Star could join the 99, and Worldfire and Primeval Titan were kicked out.
   These are welcome and effective changes, in my opinion.  Griselbrand and the two titans were so very abusable that they warped the game.  Primeval caused a bit of a stir, because to a casual player, his effect is awesome and enables awesome things, but the fundamental problem was that the first one to cast him, or Bribery him out of someone else's deck, meant that person usually won.  PT was so good that I've cut Mwonvuli Beast Tracker from most decks, simply because PT was the only one putting right on top.  Green Sun's Zenith had the same problem for me--I'd cast it for 2 to get Sakura-Tribe Elder, or 6 to get Primeval.
   I played in a couple of games right after Griselbrand came out, and that guy was far, far too good in a deck that just got to 8 and cast him.  I only saw the silly, combo-centric decks online, but my experience was that he was usually the best thing you could hope to be doing.  Sundering Titan was oppressive.  Worldfire, you're just boring.
   Kokusho being unbanned was a called shot of mine that I'm still pleased about.  I jumped the gun by three months on buying some, but it was a valid choice and I wouldn't do it differently.  It's a powerful effect, but something that can be stopped by the graveyard hate that you should be playing.

Naughty: The Miracle mechanic
   I rarely play Standard.  I have to find a deck that is both good and fun, and that doesn't come along too often.  I learned, quickly, in Avacyn drafts to do 'the miracle draw', where you draw the card and look at it for a moment before proceeding to put it in your hand.  Even though there aren't that many Miracle spells, it's infiltrated most aspects of Magic, especially due to Bonfire of the Damned and Entreat the Angels.  There is nothing worse than not hitting your Miracle cost, and in EDH isn't the same with the sheer number of cards you can draw per turn, but it's still something that has become a habit.  I wish it were not so.

Nice: CrazyPierre of the MTGCommander forums
   This year, I participated in the Secret Santa program on the official forums.  I'd never done this and was curious.  What did I get?  A foil Masticore and a foil Eternity Vessel.  I didn't even know my Nin deck needed a Masticore, and now it's got a foil.  Thanks again, CrazyPierre!
   (What did I send to another user? I'm too modest to brag, but if you insist, go here.)

Naughty: From the Vault: Realms
   The FTV sets have become a tradition.  Every year there's going to be a chase card, a few staples, and some chaff.  This was no exception.  Maze of Ith is the chase, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, Grove of the Burnwillows, Vesuva and Ancient Tomb are nice, and then blah.  I realize Wizards' goal is to not immediately reprint every awesome card (like they did in Chronicles) but people, stop getting sucked into paying a super-markup on cards.  Have a little patience and you can get what you want in the singles market.

Nice: No $5 Commander games fired this past Saturday at the SCG Invitational
   Look, I love playing EDH.  LOVE IT.  It's the best format and I treasure each game I get to play.  But the 4-player pods, where the last man standing gets $20 in dealer credit, are a bad idea.  People tend to sign up for those to win the $20 as fast as they can, which means combo decks.  I saw one guy at the signup table, asking if others had joined, and the judge just shook his head.  I asked him what legend he was playing, and he said, "Teferi, of course."  Made me glad I was there for the $10 drafts.
   There is an exception to this rule, one I found while at Worlds 2011.  If you walk up with three friends, you can fire a pod right away, with your pals.  That was a lot of fun, and if you're at a big event, with time to kill, good people, and fun decks, then why not do this?

Naughty and Nice: rk post's alters at the SCG Invitational
   These are NSFW links via Twitter.  There are multiple instances of genitalia as you go through his timeline, especially for December 15.  rk post went on sort of a penis spree, (even on a collector's edition Force of Will!)and I didn't help by getting a well-endowed Kaervek the Merciless alter.  I did get 'something normalish' as he put it on Twitter, with a Predator on my foil Lurking Predators.  As I've said before, card alters are fun and an inexpensive way to have something unique and valued to you, and this is one I'm supremely happy about.

Hope you enjoyed this one, and since it's the end of the year, it's time for a wishlist and some New Year's Resolutions--coming soon!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Sign your cards?

Should you get your cards signed by the artist?

I feel like there's a couple of points to consider, things I've dealt with.

Point #1: Value/Worth

This is undoubtedly the big question when it comes to cards being signed.  In most cases, you are lowering the value of a card.  Stores and sites will take your card but lower its value, usually from Near Mint to Slightly Played.  I've had this happen, and I've even had stores refuse to buy a signed card, because some people won't buy them.

Some people won't trade for them, either.  I've offered to throw in a signed version of a card, and the guy reacted like I'd offered him a colonoscopy.

However...there's also a lot of people who go crazy for signed cards.  It's a unique thing to do to a card--there's thousands of a card out there, but only perhaps a few hundred that are signed.  (In some cases, there might be more signed--we'll get to that.)

I am one of those people.  I feel like it's a connection I make, especially with cards I play or use a lot.  For instance, I've pretty much always had a Zombie deck.  60-card casual goodness, and when Soulless One was printed, I felt complete.  One of the first artists who I had sign things was Thomas Baxa, and now I have a foil signed playset of my happy little Zombies.

By the same token, I don't feel right about trading for signed cards, most of the time.  I really do value that connection, and secondhand, it doesn't feel quite the same to me. 

But that's the difference between value and worth. You are decreasing its value most of the time, but to some people, including yourself, you're vastly increasing its worth.

Point #2: Rarity

Some artists sign lots and lots of cards at lots and lots of events.  Some artists attend one or two events a year.  I haven't yet had the chance to find out why each does what, but I can tell you that two of the more prolific attendees and signers are rk post and Daarken.  I've seen those two at several events, and they never really had too long of a line.  Why?  Because they were at a different major event not too long ago.

This is not to denigrate or belittle those artists who make a lot of appearances.  I've bought prints and proofs, had sketches made on cards, and taken the time when I could for a chitchat.  These people make money off these appearances, and I would surely show up anytime someone wanted to tell me how awesome I was.

But by the same token, I've seen Terese Nielsen in person once, and her line was never less than an hour long.  She has the double whammy of having created some of the best art in the game, and her schedule doesn't allow for lots of trips.  (Full disclosure: I stood in line three times at GP: Anaheim for signings, and don't regret it at all.)

I'd say that one of the more frequent signatures I've seen is of Rob Alexander.  He painted a lot of original lands and Ravnica shocklands, and I've seen cards with his signature several times for sale or trade.

Keep in mind that some artists will have a limit as to how many they will sign at once.  This is usually to keep the line going, and may result in you having to stand in line several times.  Don't be that guy with a stack of 80 cards for one artist to sign, unless you're the only one in line and you're willing to tip--and all artists take tips.

Point #3: Appearance

This is something that I didn't know about when I started getting things signed.  Some artists have fantastic signatures, miniature works of art.  Others have scribbles.

I would advise you to do a little research before you go to an event, stack of cards in hand.  Google image search is a fantastic resource in this regard.  I've gotten cards signed, then looked down at them, and said to myself, "Oh man, that was a mistake."

I'm not going to single out anyone for a messy signature here.  I leave you to make your own decisions, but I'm always pleased to look at rk post's sig and Terese Nielsen's.

On the topic of appearances, let me add this nugget of information: Some artists at an event will have time/energy to draw on a card for you.  Frequently, this will be done to your specifications.  (For instance, I have a couple of Fatespinners who are holding small "STOP" signs courtesy of rk post.  He also wrote "First foil signed!" on a pal's foil Tajuru Preserver, since rk post was at the store at the Rise of the Eldrazi prerelease.)

Ask the artist if they have time, and what they would charge.  This isn't inappropriate.  If an artist is sitting around doing nothing, they aren't making money.  Pay them to do something awesome.  (hate to keep bringing him up, but rk post tweets some of his alters, and be careful, some are NSFW.)

I have seen people ask for very specific things and get them.  I have a friend who got a playset of Everflowing Chalice altered by Steve Argyle for $10 apiece, and got things like the face vases, an alien ship, gumball machines, etc.

There is a huge difference between the alters an artist will do on the spot or perhaps overnight with a Sharpie set and what they can do on commission.  Terese Nielsen has a gallery of her Force of Will alters, and these might be among the priciest of alters you can have done.  Not everyone plays Vintage and uses a Mox, but a lot more people use FoW (as a 4-of) in Legacy and it's suprisingly common in EDH.

Again, ask the artist (or better yet, research them and email ahead of time) if they have time to do the work you want done.  If they don't, ask for contact info and be prepared for the waiting game of shipping and receiving. 

Point #4: Prints

To me, this is one of the best part of being at an event with an artist.  Some artists bring their original artwork to sites, hoping to sell the piece without having to set up an online store or deal with eBay's percentages.  If you can afford to collect original Magic art, I'd say go for it.  Get it framed up, don't skimp on that, perhaps add a copy of the card.  You'll be the envy of others.

For the rest of us, there's prints.  These come in a range of sizes, and you're free to choose what appeals to you.  I really like that I can look at a wall in my home and see the Magic-related timeline.  I have prints from artists that were at stores, from the last World Championship, from Grands Prix...and it's fantastic.  I would suggest that you buy the print and then return that art to your car/hotel room, because carrying it around all day can get pretty annoying.

Prints are going to come in a range of sizes, and framing them is what you want to do, so be prepared for that expense.  We've found that the best solution is getting our own mat cutter, and buying frames secondhand.  There's usually a spot in garage sales that has a stack of frames, good wood ones, and buying glass at the right size is surprisingly cheap at big home improvement stores.

Another suggestion that has worked for me is to get the artist to sign the print (For a second time, as their signature is on the art itself) and put the place/time on it too.  It makes for a nice extra touch.

This turned into a much longer piece than I anticipated, but I love to talk about this topic.  I've gotten to the point where I have a special binder for signed cards, and it's one of the things that can make me happy just by flipping through it.

Final note: My fiancee and I hopefully going to be at the SCG Invitational event in Los Angeles on the 15th of December.  (Four artists there, including Terese Nielsen and rk post!) My goal is to draft, draft, and draft again, and have some EDH games in the meantime.  If you are there, and want to get me into a game, tweet me @WordOfCommander and I'll be happy to play.

See you soon!

Friday, December 7, 2012

What decks did I get rid of?

In reference to the fact that I recently had to take apart and sell pieces from six decks, I felt I needed to come clean and say that I'm down to 9.

Basically, look at the old post from six months ago, and cross out:

Darien, King of Kjeldor - I hadn't played this deck in more than a year, and while the tribe was fun, it tended to play the same sorts of games over and over.  "Oh, you have a Wrath?  And someone else does two turns later?  Ah well."  I did keep my set of the Swords, though.

Hanna, Ship's Navigator - This deck had just about every planeswalker, lots of proliferate, an artifact theme...and it just tried too hard to be too many things.  Plus, there was good money in that deck. ;)

Lady Evangela - Ah, Clerics.  They are exceptional at preventing damage, but when most effects are 'destroy' in nature, it doesn't work so well.  This is the deck I was happiest to see go.

Mangara of Corondor - This was the hardest deck to take apart, but also one of the easiest decks to say goodbye to.  I liked the idea of the 'problem solver' deck, but the issue was that it was 97% reactive.  Just wasn't fun, and also had some pricey cards.

Multani, Maro-Sorcerer/Yeva, Nature's Herald - A big green deck that did one thing and did it well, but wasn't interactive in the least.

Vish Kal, Blood Artist - The lifegain deck, it just never played out as well as I wanted.  The cards were good, the mana was good, but still, just played like a 'good stuff' deck and never felt put together.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Don't want to adhere to the Banned List?

This situation has happened to me once or twice, and perhaps it's happened to you too.

You sit down with people outside your normal playgroup, and someone says, "I have [banned card X] in my deck.  I don't think it needed banning, I don't abuse it."  Perhaps not these exact words, but something along those lines.

Before I offer my opinion on what to do, I want to talk for a moment about "I don't think it needed banning/I disagree with the ban/etc."  I've disagreed with the bans, until I did something 'normal' with them.  Griselbrand is a great example of this: You don't need to force him out turn 4 to win.  Play him turn 8 and you should be able to take care of that game.  Same with Primeval Titan--just fetching a Ravnica bounceland and a Temple of the False God is bad enough, but when you get crafty and fetch Cabal Coffers/Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth or Maze of Ith/Deserted Temple, then the bans start to make a lot of sense.

Without trying to be too universal, here's the banlist criteria from the official site.  The short form: A powerful card, that even used fairly, tends to lead to winning, but when used to its fullest potential, is nigh-unstoppable. I found that Griselbrand was terrifyingly amazing in any deck playing black, and that was before I did things to maximize what he offered.

The Rules Committee doesn't want to ban cards.  I realize that to some people, police/moderators/teachers are symbols of authority who only want to take joy from making other people do as they wish...but that's unrealistic.  The RC is a group of guys who like to have fun.  They tested and developed this format, and indeed, it's an amazingly successful effort.

The banlist for EDH is the smallest of any format, except Vintage, which restricts most cards and only bans ante or 'dexterity' cards.  Legacy doesn't allow 60 cards, EDH bans 56.  You're free to play almost anything, except for cards which take the game from 'battlecruiser Magic' to 'is it over yet?'

It's also worth mentioning that the RC is a big fan of 'house rules' (click 'philosophy') or 'local banlists.'  To them, this is a format where you're free to do the things you consider fun, and they don't want to step on that.  I totally agree--if you and your pals want to play a different way, go for it.  I've been part of groups that tried starting with two basic land in play, and games where you were only allowed to tutor for basic land.  Interesting experiments, ultimately not worth doing.  (Might end up trying the second again sometime.)

So back to person who wants to play card X.  Before the game, this is just fine to bring up and ask the table for opinions.  If the majority, or even a vocal minority of a table express that you should take out card X, yank that puppy out like a rotten tooth.  This is a game, and should be fun.  If people don't want you to play a certain card--especially if they already took that card out of their own decks--then you should absolutely abide by the group's decision.

If someone ignores what the table decrees, then you are free to decline further games with that person.  I know this seems harsh, but again, you want to have fun.  The RC wants you to have fun.  It is perfectly acceptable for you to decline games with someone whose presence/playstyle/deck is not enjoyable to you.  It is not harsh or mean, though it can feel very elementary-school.  "I don't want to play with you" is quite the claim, even when worded as politically as "This is no longer fun for me."

Sheldon has become fond of pointing out that this is a social format, not a casual one.  This can be a little hard to grok, but the goal of EDH is a fun social interaction, with a game involved.  The game provides the context for the social interaction.

I know, and have known for a while, that EDH was the stated reason to gather friends, but the point of such an evening was not who won or lost a set of games--it was that they were played with good people, and a good time was had by all.

Cube drafting is, in my experience, much the same way.  The delight is in the people you're playing with, and the sounds they make as they are forced to choose between two amazing cards.  The games are fun too, but again, that's the excuse, the context for the interaction.

How out-of-place would it be if after a 4-person EDH game, someone was incredibly bitter about losing, and demanded a rematch?  A rematch request is nothing new, but I can count on one hand the times where someone was so upset that they had to play again.

We've all had games where we just lose.  I had two games in a row a couple weeks ago where someone landed a card that I never drew an answer to (Aura Shards game 1, Umezawa's Jitte game 2) and those were decidedly not fun for me or anyone else at the table.  I had answers in the deck, and even tutors for those answers, but none of them came up and I died.  This happens and this is not fun.

That situation is different from someone wanting to play by a different set of rules.

I do not encourage anyone to say "Griselbrand is unbanned in our store?  Excellent!" and then build a broken deck around said demon just for the purposes of illustrating why he should be banned.  That makes YOU the bad guy, being all passive-aggressive and annoying.  If you don't agree to a certain rule, don't play.

Likewise, if your group or store has a local rule, be accomodating to those who don't follow it.  Have one or two for that set of rules, but also have decks that adhere to the RC's rules.  It's fne if some folks have a Thursday night 150-card EDH deck night, but have a couple of 100-card decks, for people who haven't gone that route.  Same thing if Pauper EDH is your bag, or the French 1v1 decks. (Topics I promise to cover soon, I swear!)

As for me and the most recent time this happened, I told the guy that I had taken that recently banned card out of my deck, and I felt it was unfair for him to have one.  The rest of the table was noncommittal, the card stayed in, we played, and we all lost to a Kaalia deck that went unchecked.  Again, these things happen.  It was a good time nonetheless.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Commander's Arsenal Replacements!

First of all, a big Thank You! to my lovely fiancée, who got me the Arsenal as an anniversary present.  She's the best and I'm the luckiest.

So I wasn't expecting to get one of these bad boys, and it was a delightful time figuring out what goes where.  Sheldon Menery did an article in this exact vein, only he's got a ton more decks to pimp out and he prefers to do so in Italian foil.  When you're a level 5 judge emeritus, you can do that.

Allow me to chime in others who have said that the life counter feels very cheap, the battle markers too, and the sleeves remarkably crappy for a product with this high an MSRP.

Since most of these are cards I already have, the question became this: The foil goes in one deck, but where does the replaced card end up?

Here we go:

Kaalia of the Vast - Direct replacement for my general.  I do indeed have a custom foil, but I like to keep a regular with that, in case of tuck effects.  The non-foil English went into storage.

The Mimeoplasm - The only card in the set that I don't have a deck for, this is now in my trade binder.  I don't feel like the effect is good enough to go into my 5-color token deck.

Edric, Spymaster of Trest - The foil went into Animar, the nonfoil is now in storage.

Maelstrom Wanderer - The foil is now in Animar as well, and the nonfoil went back to my fiancée, who traded it to me under duress. ;)

Vela the Night-Clad - Now in the token deck, as a "Wrath and DIE" sort of effect.  I took out Nacatl War-Pride for this.

Diaochan, Artful Beauty - This went into my Nin, Queen of Pingers deck.  I've got a couple of ways to grant indestructibility in there, and that's an ability that is a super-combo with Diochan.  I took out Crimson Hellkite, because that card is a big pinger, but it's 9 freaking mana!

Loyal Retainers - This went into Kaalia, because that has the most legendary creatures.  I took out Aegis Angel.  I don't have any decks with Sun Titan, but that may change now...

Duplicant - The foil went into Adun, and the nonfoil went from there to Animar, which I took out Heartwood Storyteller for.  I've slowly increased the noncreature count in that deck, so he wasn't as broken as I wanted.

Dragonlair Spider - A direct foil replacement in the token deck.

Decree of Pain - The foil went into Garza Zol, and the nonfoil went from there into my Zombie deck.  I took out Syphon Flesh, as the card was underwhelming for me.

Chaos Warp - Foil into Kaalia, nonfoil into Adun for Ulvenwald Tracker.  I've got much better ways to kill creatures over and over again.

Desertion - Foil into Azami, nonfoil to my lovely lady, who's been looking for one.

Mirari's Wake - Right into my token deck, because that's the deck that needs the mana most.  Took out a basic land.

Sylvan Library - Into Animar for Everflowing Chalice.  The card selection/drawing is more relevant than the acceleration.

Rhystic Study - A direct foil replacement in Azami, though now I have to choose between foil and signed!  Luckily, Terese Nielsen will be signing down at the SCG event in a couple of weeks.

Scroll Rack - Into Azami as well, because with the cards that deck can draw, the Rack is an enormously powerful effect.  Took out Serendib Sorcerer, because he just hadn't been good enough.

Mind's Eye - Again into Azami, because the deck does great things with drawing cards.  Took out an Island for it, since my land count was 37.

Command Tower - The foil went into Kaalia, and the regular went from there into the token deck, which I took out an Orzhov Basilica for.  I was never happy with the Basilica, since the deck runs on green mana to find all the other colors with.

Playing with the cards is almost as fun as deciding what went where.  I have to thank my fiancée again for such an anniversary gift, and the guys at my store for not ruining the surprise for me.

See you next time!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Saying goodbye to decks

I hate taking apart decks.  I really do.  I expecially hate it when I've got things I traded for, searched for, moved heaven and earth to get...and now it's just going to a dealer or into the trade binder.

I'm taking apart six decks, and selling the singles.  I confess that I didn't expect to sell complete decks, because EDH decks are exceedingly personal.  I would have zero respect for a 'netdecked' list.  I've made peace with the idea that I'm going to sell via a buylist, and I recognize that this method is not the best for maximizing returns.

That being said, I'm moving a lot of cards at once, which sure beats the one-by-one approach on eBay and the like.

I'm selling the decks/cards because my car died, and I'm getting married soon, and the few hundred bucks would be very very helpful. The usual.

I probably have a higher level of attachment than I should, and I'm at peace with that.  All of the decks I build, I feel invested in.  There's something I want to do, and I spent time and effort (and rarely money) making that happen. 

The decks I let go were fun, they were well-built, but really, 15 decks was a lot of work to keep maintained and not worth it for the number of games I'm playing these days.   The nine I'm keeping might be a bit much too, but I'm more invested in these.  I know for a fact that the problem solver deck was among the more powerful of my decks, but being the reactive deck, it lacked a plan of its own.

So when you take one apart, for whatever reason, the tendency is to fill your trade binder with the pieces and use those to build your next deck.  Or sell them.

Either way, I hope that you get what you want for the cards.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Commander's Arsenal: Yea or Nay?

Magic is a pretty unique game, in terms of its design, flexibility, and cost.   There's really not much else that comes to mind which fits so much complexity onto such a simple game.  Part of that is the sheer number of ways to play.

I think that Wizards recognizes what a great thing they have in EDH.  They constantly have to balance Constructed, Sealed/Draft, and Casual.  EDH carries the banner for that last, but there's a lot of variation.

One of those variations is a group of people who like to 'pimp out their decks,' usually in foil, but some of them count for non-English cards.  That is who this product is marketed to, the people who have enough money or enough trading capital to go after rare versions of cards.

I sometimes do this.  I've got a tribal Vampire deck which has nearly all of the non-lands in foil, and I'm debating about the lands.  Foil lands are higher in price than I want to pay. (Especially because I'm getting married in the spring!)

Commander's Arsenal is directly targeted at these players, and these players want it BAD.  The card choices I agree with--I always like getting Portal Three Kingdoms reprints--and I wouldn't mind having some of the foils, but let's keep the focus on what this is and who this is for.

This is a set that will not do much to increase card availability...I think.  There's a chance that some of these get snapped up just for Legacy Reanimator decks (where Loyal Retainers can really shine) and the rest get put on the secondary market.  The From the Vault series is a good example of something like this, because if you paid MSRP (a rare feat) then you got great value.  If you got it at $60, then you got some value, depending on how many of those cards you're actually playing.  Right now, two months after its release, the Maze can be had for $30, and only a couple of the others approach $10, with the rest being $3-4. (Go ahead, look it up.)

This set is an even more limited print run than FTV.  Stores aren't getting 10-20 of these, they are getting 2 or 4.  But here's the secret about those who pimp out their decks: They usually don't have a lot of different decks, choosing instead to focus on one or two.  So someone who has a pimped-out Kaalia deck will want the Kaalia, the Retainers, and maybe a Duplicant, perhaps a Scroll Rack, or a Decree of Pain.  They won't have need of the others, and will unload them.

Here's my thought: If you're willing to do without the Retainers and Diaochan, give it a little patience on the prices.  Again, FTV is the closest example we have, and aside from Maze, we're better off now, buying just the couple of cards we want.  My hunch is that Diaochan is going to be a $20 card by Valentine's Day, because the ability is a little too even for my taste.  The rest will be in that range, and most people will be better off waiting and buying the few cards they need, rather than spending ridiculous amounts of money on release day.

Make no mistake--it's going to take a ridiculous amount of money on release day.  So I have to vote Nay on the immediate purchase of Arsenal for inflated prices.  (and they are way inflated on Ebay!)  However, I must admit that if I were able to get one for MSRP on November 2, I would buy it.

That's my view, and I don't pretend it's anything other than my opinion and my guesses.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2012

My decks #2: Sliver Queen

It's been a couple of months since I posted about my Experiment Kraj deck.  I figure it's high time to write about another deck I love to play--my token-themed Sliver Queen deck.

I don't focus on just one type of token, and I'm working on every token type to make, and carry with the deck.  There's no infinite token tricks, just things I can pump a lot of mana into for a large number of token creatures.  Return to Ravnica added some very fun cards to this deck, and the synergies of the deck make for a fun game.

I was surprised at the resilience this deck has to board-wipes.  Sure, a stack of tokens will die, but there's a lot of cards in here that can make a horde of tokens all by itself.  There's a lot of synergies that are a delight to exploit.  A basic tenet of EDH, to me, is 'Can your deck deal with the silly token deck at the table?'  There's always one.

Without further ado:

For the Swarm!

Section #1: Mana fixing/acceleration

As a five-color deck, this is important.  This deck is base-green, secondary-white, with touches of the other three colors.  I've been deliberate in choosing (mostly) cards that don't need double red, white, or blue, so if I can get one of each color, then I start adding green and white land. 

Everflowing Chalice - This is scalable mana ramp, especially since a lot of this deck runs on colorless mana.
Yavimaya Elder - Classic mana fixing, and a card to draw! 
Cultivate - Another classic piece, and something you have to want to not play, if you're in green.
Kodama's Reach - The original Cultivate.
Explosive Vegetation - This is another worthy card, grabbing two lands and throwing them into play.
Darksteel Ingot - Fixing and acceleration, so you can go from three to five, and cast...
Gilded Lotus - And now you can do anything, like cast...

Boundless Realms - I have yet to lose a game where Boundless Realms got cast.  It's that amazing, as long as you're playing enough basic lands.  The general requires all five colors, so I wanted to make sure that I could consistently cast her, and then start doing degenerate things.

Section #2: Single-Card Armies

My idea was that I wanted cards that had a bigger effect than just one card.  Lots of tokens have to come from one of these.

Sacred Mesa - Flying tokens, on the cheap, and sacrificing one per turn is no problem at all.
Mobilization - Vigilant tokens, on the slighty-more-expensive.
Garruk Relentless - People forget that this version can just churn out 2/2 tokens until you need to deal three damage.  It's also pretty handy to have the tutor effect when he flips.
Nemata, Grove Guardian - One of the original token swarmers, someone who can churn out tokens turn after turn and even sacrifice new tokens to help the attackers.
White Sun's Zenith - Instant-speed spell, massive infusion of tokens, and potentially recastable.
Selesnya Guildmage - Simply amazing.  Make an army, then make it bigger.
Garruk Wildspeaker - Acceleration, tokens, and then finishing move.  Can't ask for more!
Elspeth Tirel - Lifegain, tokens, and her ultimate is so very unfair in this deck.
Hornet Queen - A bit expensive to get four tokens, but this is a lot of fun.
Orochi Hatchery - Just ridiculous.  I tend to hold this until ten mana.
Crush of Wurms - BOOM.  AND BOOM AGAIN
Dragon Broodmother - Every upkeep, a new token, and as big as you need it to be.
Dragonlair Spider - Free tokens?  Thanks!
Nacatl War-Pride - This is an amazing card.  If you attack with it, and some number of tokens, the tokens are all hitting.  It's true that I could use Golgari Decoy or something like it for a similar effect, but this makes tokens!
Gelatinous Genesis - Your policy should be to never cast this for less than nine.  Take it from me.
Twilight Drover - Once you get some tokens, this guy is about to get silly.
Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage - Just like Selesnya Guildmage, this is a win condition all by itself. 
Verdant Force - A very traditional card in multiplayer, on a big fat body.
Increasing Devotion - Five, then ten.  Go forth and conquer.
Decree of Justice - You can cast this for Angels, or you can cast it for instant-speed Soldiers.  And draw a card.
Jade Mage - Cheap saprolings.  Done.
Garruk, Primal Hunter - Beasts are good, mega-card-draw is better, WURMS ARE BEST.
Avenger of Zendikar - God forbid you ever lay this down with a Doubling Season.
Ghave, Guru of Spores - Yes, he's exactly as degenerate as feared.  He's not infinite in this deck, but he's frustrating.
Ant Queen - More cheap tokens!
Elspeth, Knight-Errant - Not just free tokens, but her ultimate is a real goal, and very achievable.

The planeswalkers are all capable of repeated token generation, and that's a goal of the deck.  I've had an occasional struggle casting Broodmother, but the ability is so great that I'm very loath to remove her.  Same for Dragonlair Spider.  What's really great is how well some of these cards work with what I call the enabler cards.

Section #3: The Enablers

Here, I'm listing the cards that are win conditions, cards that turn tokens from cute into terrifying, and cards that are amazing when I've got a token army.  Austere Command is my only wrath effect, and that's just because I can set it to kill high-cost things without losing my army.  Hour of Reckoning just isn't good enough.

Austere Command - Board wipe, semi-selectively.
Craterhoof Behemoth - Game over.
Epic Struggle - I love playing this early, and playing a game-within-a-game.
Mimic Vat - Perhaps a weaker card, but it makes tokens, and takes advantage of the utility creatures that die all the time in EDH games.
Crescendo of War - I love this card.  It builds every upkeep, and goes bigger and bigger and just ends the game.
Spidersilk Armor - A mainstay of token decks, giving a little toughness and the ability to block flyers.
Intangible Virtue - Pump and vigilance, for just two mana!
Cathars' Crusade - This is one of the sillier cards that can be around token decks.  If you get one token, then another, then another, then you'll have one creature with three +1/+1 counters, one with two, and one with one.  The trick is to activate an ability without giving priority, or in response to the Crusade's trigger, so that all three creatures have three counters.  Casting Increasing Devotion with this out gives you five tokens with 5 counters each.
Healer of the Pride - This allows me to build an army and not get dead.
Eldrazi Monument - Super-sweet if you have a source of tokens.
Mentor of the Meek - The deck needs a little card draw.
Collective Blessing - Eternal Giant Growth is just overpowering.  4/4 Saprolings will end a game fast.
Seedborn Muse - Unfair as cards can be in this deck.  In a turn cycle, you can build a very large swarm.
Slate of Ancestry - Don't flinch on using this card.  Draw nine and discard two or three to get there.
Aura Shards - This answers so many problems that it's just unfair.
Congregate - While you can use this for someone else, just watch out for the False Cure.
Elder of Laurels - Roughly, if you have six or more creatures out, you can hold someone's fate in your hands.
Beastmaster Ascension - You don't need multiple attack steps to get this powered up.  If you have seven creatures out, attack with them all and they are RAWR!
Rhys the Redeemed - Traditionally, this is the general of a token deck, but I like the Queen more.
Nullmage Shepherd - A spare mega-answer.
Ajani Goldmane - The lifegain isn't relevant, giving counters to tokens is great.  Or try for an avatar!
Necrogenesis - A graveyard answer that also makes tokens!
Growing Ranks - More free tokens, though you need tokens in play.  This might not be as good as I want.
Heartstone - There's plenty of activated abilities that need to cost less.
Training Grounds - Never play this if the 'stone is out--wait till they kill the stone.
Parallel Lives - Tokens are good, Double tokens are better!
Doubling Season - QUAD TOKENS!  Or immediately ultimate your planeswalkers.

Finally, three long-game cards that are great if a game takes too long and you have mana to spare:

Section #4: The Inevitability

Conflux - A silly, silly card.  Remember that you can find multicolor cards, you don't have to just search for single-color cards.
Praetor's Counsel - This mega-Regrowth is great if someone's managed to wipe you out a couple of times.
Increasing Ambition - I've come to think that this is better than Diabolic Revelation, because I'm greedy when it comes to the DR.  I always want an extra card.

Section #5: Nonbasic Lands

Vault of the Archangel - This is a powerful card with just a few tokens on board, allowing your tokens to be deadly and you to get very healthy.
Transguild Promenade - Always nice to have an extra of...
Rupture Spire - This card!
Evolving Wilds - Find what I need?  I'll take that.
Terramorphic Expanse - And in redundancy too!
Krosan Verge - If I were running shocks or duals, this would be even better.
Selesnya Sanctuary/Orzhov Basilica/Gruul Turf/Simic Growth Chamber - I'm not running all ten bouncelands, but I probably should.  There were what I felt I needed most.
Command Tower - Just amazingly elegant design, and a card they can't print enough.
Savage Lands/Jungle Shrine/Arcane Sanctum/Crumbling Necropolis - Four of the five Alara tri-lands, because I can't find a spare Seaside Citadel.
Temple of the False God - We've all been in the uncomfortable space of having this be our fourth land.
Gaea's Cradle - Buy this card now if you might ever need one.  This was $60 in April, and it's gone up $20 since.  That's not counting the $250 judge foil.

Section #6: Basic Lands

I am playing a slightly higher percentage of these, so that I can use my 'find basic land' spells frequently.

10 Forest
3 Plains
2 Mountain
2 Swamp
1 Island

That's it!  There's a lot of discussion I've had with myself on assorted cards, but since I haven't kept those separate, I can't recall them.  I'd be more than happy to answer questions in the comments.

Keep drafting those shocklands!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Your First Steps in Commander

I was going to try for 'Going from Private to General' or something like that for the title, but I don't want snark to get confusing.

I've gotten this question a few times, in person, in forums, in comments, etc.  It's a question that I have to think back to, and I honestly can't remember exactly which deck was my first.  I'm fairly sure it was Jund-colored, and I know I eventually settled on Adun Oakenshield, but it wasn't always creature-centered as it is now.

Let's go over the steps.  You may be an old hand at this, but I'm trying to compress a lot into a small space.

Step 1: Exposure

You're at a store, or with some friends, and someone asks, "Who wants an EDH game?"  You're curious, since that's a variation you haven't really heard of or know a lot about.  GO ASK.  If someone's playing it, then they are likely to be a fan.  There aren't many people who simply 'tolerate' a format like this and also have a deck.

If the person you ask about it is like me, they may say a lot in a very short amount of time.  The principles of Commander are pretty straightforward: Build a deck around a general, no duplicate cards aside from basics, and don't be a jerk.  (That last part is open to local interpretation, and that's cool.)

Watch a game, maybe someone will loan you a deck--I'm notorious for that--and play it like any other game.  Feel the infection take root.

Step 2: Intrigue

I do remember that the idea of 'no duplicates' really appealed to me when I first heard it, but it took me six months and seeing a game to appreciate the brilliance fully.  You're building a 99-card deck, with singleton everythings.  There's a lot of chaos involved, and if you want every game to play out the same way (as often happens in Constructed) then you're going to be disappointed.

Indeed, Sheldon's articles were once titled, "Embrace the Chaos" which is such a ridiculously great tagline that I wish I could steal it.

You're going to go home and think about EDH.  You're going to wonder what cards you'd play, what colors you would play, and this step may involved frantic phone calls or emails to those who introduced you to this.

At this point, you're likely to throw together some good cards in 2-3 colors, pick a fun general, and take your deck for a spin.  Your results will likely be disappointing, but hopefully you are undaunted.

Your first deck should be built in one of two ways: You're going to pick a general you think is fun, and add cards of the appropriate colors, or you're going to choose your favorite spells/colors, then pick a general who matches that.

(The first deck is 99% going to be one of those things, based on my conversations with others)

Step 3: Obsession

This is where the roller-coaster really takes off.  You're going to quickly learn that in EDH, you can play lots more expensive spells, things that were last picks in draft are now all-stars, and any old foils you have laying around may be worth serious money.  You visit, and hopefully join those forums.

At this point, you're gaining an insight into how a deck can be built around a general, or how a general can merely be the accessory to a deck's plan.  About this time, you've decided to build a tribal deck, or a theme deck.

Building EDH decks is addictive for players who have a long history with the game.  We can remember all sorts of cards that looked like fun but were no good for the formats of the time.  If you have a thorough collection still, you may start building EDH decks by riffling through boxes, taking out fun cards in a color, and having a first draft of a deck that is 400 cards.

It is possible that you look up decklists online and immediately look for 'staples' and 'must play' cards.  I can't advise against this strongly enough.  Build your deck as well as you can, and then go play it.  When you are trading with someone, mention your general and how you're looking for fun things to add.  I know that I LOVE to talk ideas with someone when I'm trading, and I always enjoy making suggestions.

Step 4: Tinkering

This is a very fun step.  No EDH deck is perfect.  No deck is ever 'finished'.  You will build a couple of decks, to give some variety, and constantly think about what is and isn't in the deck.

Now, you can determine the relative power level of the decks you're playing with.  You don't want to have the consistently best deck in the room, with a win rate in the 90% range, because that leads to you getting killed like it's a game of Archenemy.  You don't want your deck to be the weakest in the room either.

It's a key part of enjoying the game to have your deck be at nearly the same level of shenanigans as the rest of the decks at the table.

Some tables, everyone has lots of tutors and infinite combos.  Some tables, no one plays Wrath effects.

There's two approaches to deckbuilding:
1) Have a variety of decks, with varying levels of silliness.  I favor this approach, since I can choose which deck to play and try to fit in with any group.
2) Only play with the same people over and over.  This has a certain appeal, with the right people.  However, you'll be in for a shock when you venture out.

Step 5: Contentment

Eventually, you'll weep, for there were no more generals to build around.  You'll reach a zenith of understanding both the format and its spirit.  This is where your playgroup/local store can be a real treasure, because while your deck is a well-tuned machine, everyone else's deck is a valley full of sand, gum, and corrosive acid.  That's where the fun lies in the chaos--your deck will play differently depending on your opponents.

Step 6: Spread

That's right, now you get to tell other people how awesome this format is!  I've told many people that if EDH had been around ten years ago, a LOT of players would still be in the game.  It's a format that doesn't require a lot from you--it's very possible to build a deck that's pretty strong without going into mountains of debt.

I liked writing this.  I'm very likely to come back and tweak it's a deck!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Return to Ravnica Deck Updates

This is a tricky bit to write, but also instructive, for me as well as for you.

You may not agree with the changes I make, but generally, I'm really happy with my decks and their performance, so cards tend to represent upgrades rather than total reworkings.

I have to say that so far, I'm not overwhelmed by the five legends--I haven't felt the urge to build one of their decks...yet. :D

Also, I'm one of those people who trades hard at prereleases.  I want to get rid of things that have a high price tag ASAP, and hopefully get other, more-stable-value cards.  This is one of my tricks for having 15 EDH decks and not bankrupting myself.

Oh, and Transguild Promenade is going into just about any deck that's three or more colors.  That's just a given.

Adun Oakenshield
In: Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord, Guild Feud
Near: Cryptborn Horror, Deathrite Shaman, Utvara Hellkite
Out: Hamletback Goliath, Hibernation's End

In this deck, with 61 creatures, Jarad is going to be huge until I get Rest in Peace cast on me.  Guild Feud is a ridiculous win of a card for this deck, and I can't wait to cast it, I really can't.  Hamletback has been ok, but rarely good on his own.  Hibernation's End is one of my pet cards, but the Feud is also going to get me a creature each turn, and be much higher-impact.  I feel like Deathrite is not as good as the other graveyard answers I'm running (Withered Wretch, Nezumi Graverobber) and I haven't felt like I need more.  The Horror may be amazing, but Hamletback is probably more consistent (though Horror does have trample) and I'm not playing enough Dragons to make the Hellkite an option.

Animar, Soul of Elements
In: Guild Feud, Utvara Hellkite, Worldspine Wurm, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenuis
Near: Faerie Impostor, Mercurial Chemister
Out: Mwonvuli Beast Tracker, Heartwood Storyteller, Whispersilk Cloak

I want this deck to take advantage of the many flicker effects I have, and maximize the colorless mana costs involved.  I'm reserving judgment on Niv 2.0, because I want to hit and I want to draw a bunch of cards, but the UURR may be a bit much for this deck.  This is another deck where Guild Feud gets to shine, putting big creatures into play on the cheap.  Imposter's bounce might be nice, and the deck could probably use a lowering of the mana curve, but I don't think it's enough.  Chemister is very tempting, but I'll hate discarding big creatures to kill big creatures. (I want to play those creatures!)  Tracker has never been a favorite of mine, and Storyteller triggers off of 15 cards in the deck--more than I want.  Cloak is nice, but the shroud has caused some uncomfortable times for this deck.

Azami, Lady of Scrolls
In: Cyclonic Rift
Near: Conjured Currency
Out: Spell Burst

The Rift is an amazing card, one that will blow a game wide open after I've spent a turn or two stealing creatures.  (If I control it, it dodges the Rift!)  I like Currency, I do, but it's likely to be used against me, having someone exchange Currency for a Control Magic I cast on their creature.  Spell Burst seemed like a good idea, but I never had the mana to buy it back.

Balthor the Defiled
In: Grave Betrayal 
Out: Nefashu

Grave Betrayal seems custom-made for my Zombie deck.  I really will enjoy killing everything and then bringing it back on my side.  Nefashu has been inconsistent for me, and frankly, too expensive.  An easy swap.

Garza Zol, Plague Queen
In: Necropolis Regent
Out: Blood Seeker

This is both a Vampire tribal deck and a Grixis control deck, and none of the sweepers in this set are good enough.  Blood Seeker has never been amazing for me, and the Regent, plus Garza herself, seems like an incredible card for the deck.

Kaalia of the Vast
In: Angel of Serenity, Rakdos, Lord of Riots
Near: Desecration Demon, Grave Betrayal, Utvara Hellkite
Out: Sudden Spoiling, Brightflame

Angel of Serenity is going to do all kinds of handy things for me, likely involving my own graveyard.  Rakdos seems vastly overpowered in a deck like this--he'll be cheated into play with Kaalia's attack, and in the second main, let me cast overcosted creatures for only their colored mana.  Desecration Demon is likely underpowered in EDH, Grave Betrayal is something I might come back to, and the Hellkite has too awkward a trigger for this deck.  (Let's face it, if I'm attacking with Dragons, I'm going to win anyway.)  I'm taking out two cards that covered token decks well, but I feel I need to add a little to the 'beat face' plan, and this puts me up to 39 creatures I can drop in with Kaalia.

Experiment Kraj
In: Nothing
Near: Death's Presence

I like Death's Presence in a deck dedicated to +1/+1 counters, I really do, but the problem is that this deck is already soft to mass removal, and that's what will trigger the Presence the most often.  

Nin, The Pain Artist
In: Izzet Staticaster, Mercurial Chemister, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
Out: Tahngarth, Talrumm Hero, Magma Phoenix, Crimson Hellkite

I knew there'd be at least one great pinger in the Izzet guild, but all three are going in.  I've got every deathtouch-granting equipment in this deck, so Staticaster can do some serious work against token decks.  Chemister will probably just be there for card-drawing, but can also kill some bigger things if I have no deathtouch handy, and the new Niv is just amazing.  I've never been too happy with Tahngarth, him being a 'fight' instead of a ping, Magma Phoenix costs too much to recur (and I've got Shard Phoenix in here anyway), and Crimson Hellkite is easily the most expensive pinger ever.

Sliver Queen
In: Collective Blessing, Growing Ranks, Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage, Chromatic Lantern
Near: Trostani, Selesnya's Voice, Wayfaring Temple, Phantom General
Out: Sigil Captain, Goblin Assault, Geist-Honored Monk, Everflowing Chalice

Blessing is pretty much perfect for this deck, which can churn out tokens with great ease.  Growing Ranks may be underpowered here, but free tokens are generally very good for this deck.  The Guildmage is really going to be a star here, especially if I get Training Grounds in play--Populating for GW seems tremendously amazing.  Since this is my only 5-color deck, it gets a lantern.  Trostani is a card I may come back to, Temple isn't really good enough without trample, and Phantom General is a fun effect on a fragile body.  Sigil Captain actually didn't trigger as much as I'd hoped, Goblin Assault was rarely worth it, the Monk really wasn't either, and the Chalice rarely got cast for more than 4.

My other six decks...I'm selling.  I'm not really bothering to keep them updated.  The exception was Rest In Peace--that was too perfect for Mangara.

If you want to see the decks for sale, lists and prices, go here.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Return to Ravnica, EDH Style

Well, this is a set chock full of amazing cards, and surprisingly, not many cards are outright bad.  Some are definitely not OMGWTFBBQ amazing, but there's a lot of good stuff and a lot of cards I'm looking forward to trying out, at least.

That's going to be my scale:

I Wouldn't If I Were You (No): Just don't do it, unless you're deliberately choosing less-than-amazing cards for your deck, for some reason.  Maybe it's a tribal deck, maybe you're building a deck on a bet, but generally, you shouldn't be playing this.

Let's Take A Test Drive (Maybe): I would add this to a deck, and see how it works.  This is also where a card goes if one variety of deck loves this effect, and other decks scoff.  It's possible that the card is worse than I think, or better, but I'd want to cast it in a few games and get a feel for it. For example, in hindsight, Thragtusk turned out to be less than amazing in EDH games. I thought I would need a lot of the 'tusks, but I've taken him out of every deck I thought I would play him in.

Can't Wait To Sleeve It (Yes): I'd put this into almost every deck of the right color(s).  I'm going to play this card, and unless it turns out to be a real stinker for some unforeseen reason, I'm going to enjoy the heck out of this card. 

I'm going to go in card order, along with the Card Image Gallery, if you want to follow along.


Angel of Serenity - Yes - This is a pretty amazing card, for what it does and its cost.  I've slowly taken Admonition Angel out of most decks, and this angel is both better and worse than the Admonition.  I think that the most common use of this is to exile three of your own creatures from the graveyard, and then do something to get the Angel dead.  In a blue/white deck, cloning this angel will get out of hand VERY quickly as they start to loop.

Armory Guard - No - Soldier decks can do better.

Arrest - Maybe - Prison Term isn't played often enough, and Arrest is strictly worse than that.  Some enchantment decks may play this, though.

Avenging Arrow - No - White removal is a LOT better than this.

Azorius Arrester - Maybe - I think Detain is an ability that is sneaky good at EDH tables.  I don't know if one-time effects are good enough, though.  That said, this little guy may have some synergy with decks that cycle him in and out of play, say with Conjurer's Closet and the like.  It will be important to note that some detain effects are creature-only, and others can target any nonland permanent.

Azorius Justicar - Maybe - If detaining one is good, two will be better, but I wish this was a 2/3 at least.

Bazaar Krovod - No - Just don't do this.  If you need vigilance that badly, there's better ways.

Concordia Pegasus - No - I'm sure there's a Pegasus-theme deck out there that's super stoked, but the rest of us will decline.

Ethereal Armor - Maybe - Another tool for the green/white enchantment decks, and a cheaply useful one.

Eyes in the Skies - Maybe - Populate is a mechanic that is going to get a lot of mileage, since there's plenty of spells that make decent-to-big tokens.  Plus, this will get played in Bird decks across the land.

Fencing Ace - Maybe - For most decks, this guy won't cut it.  I know that in my Soldier deck, with all five Swords and lots of Soldier-pumping effects, this little guy is going to do some work.

Keening Apparition - No - Useful in Limited, EDH, not so much.

Knightly Throwback - Maybe - A tool for the Enchantment decks AND the token decks.  Some will really like this.

Martial Law - Yes - The best detain spell by far, because you get to choose a new target each round.  Detain's strength in multiplayer is that you are shutting off a creature for four turns, rather than just two turns as happens in a regular duel.  Be warned that it does nothing when it comes into play, though.  I need to decide if this is better or worse than Prison Term.

Palisade Giant - Maybe - Not only a soldier, but an excellent protector of a token army.

Phantom General - Maybe - Again, a treat for the token decks, but not useful otherwise.

Precinct Captain - No - Even my Soldier deck probably isn't going to play this.

Rest in Peace - Yes - Play this in every white deck.  Someone at the table is abusing graveyards, and unless it's you, you want to stop that player's shenanigans.  It's good when they have a full graveyard, and it's good at stopping them from filling the graveyard in response. (for instance, in response to a Tormod's Crypt)

Rootborn Defenses - Maybe - I think 2W is a fair price for saving your creatures from 75% of the mass removal spells out there, and if you get an extra creature, even better!

Security Blockade - No - It would be a VERY dedicated enchantment deck to play this.

Selesnya Sentry - No - Don't play this overcosted thing.

Seller of Songbirds - Maybe - This is a reasonably costed creature, and again, the Bird decks might really love this card.

Soul Tithe - Maybe - There's other, real removal spells in white, but in an enchantment deck...

Sphere of Safety - Maybe - Here's the payoff for being the enchantment deck.

Sunspire Griffin - No - Zuberi, Golden Feather gets a new pal, but don't be fooled!

Swift Justice - No - I like this trick a lot, but for one white, I can Condemn, Path, or Swords a creature instead.

Trained Caracal - No - Spend one white on Weathered Wayfarer instead.

Trostani's Judgment - Maybe - Again, there's better spells, but someone is going to want this for the bonus effect.  Who am I to say they shouldn't?


Aquus Steed -No - Too small an effect, too much mana.

Blustersquall - Maybe - Some spell-based decks will go gaga for this card, as it's even more of an 'open wide' than Cryptic Command was, since you can tap down the whole table.  Bonus points if you steal a big army with Reins of Power, then overload this.

Cancel - Maybe - If you're counter-heavy, you tend to run this card.

Chronic Flooding - No - Milling is so much better than this.

Conjured Currency - Maybe - In decks that want to steal other players' belongings, this can be a winner.  Do not play this card if you run Control Magic effects, as they can steal the enchantment (which is yours) to get their own awesome creature back.

Crosstown Courier - No - Again, not-good-enough milling.

Cyclonic Rift - Yes - This might be the best EDH card in all of Return to Ravnica.  It's so good, I actually think it will be banned within a year.  It's like an infinite-mana + Capsize combo, only less trouble to set up.  It's powerful, not terribly expensive, and if you need, it can have a one-time early game effect.  Just amazing.

Dispel - Maybe - It's cheap enough, but probably too narrow for most decks.

Doorkeeper - Maybe - I've seen a few five-color Wall decks, and this is an honest-to-goodness win condition for those decks.  Not a good one, but a possibility.

Downsize - No - Blue decks don't generally need a Fog effect.

Faerie Impostor - Maybe - I might play this in my Animar, or any blue deck with reusable creature effects might be interested.  Really great if your spells gain flash somehow.

Hover Barrier - No - Not even in the Wall deck.

Inaction Injunction - Maybe - I would have put this in the Talrand deck I built this summer. Cheap and is a cantrip, usually a good combination.

Inspiration - No - Instant card draw can be better. (and there's examples coming up)

Isperia's Skywatch - No - Good enough in limited, highly outclassed in EDH.

Jace, Architect of Thought - Yes - First of all, I haven't seen print this small since Ice Cauldron!  But his +1 protects well against swarms, his -2 gets you the best of your top three cards, but the ultimate is sheer bliss.  Grab one spell from each deck (including yours!) and play it.  Should be game over. Probably will net you some combination of huge creatures and extra turns.

Mizzium Skin - No - In EDH, blue decks would rather react to a spell with a counterspell, instead of saving their own guy.  Plus the overload is a little silly--only helps against Fireball and its multi-targeting ilk.

Psychic Spiral - Maybe - This has a chance to get there, depending on how long you hold this.

Runewing - Maybe - Bird decks yes, everyone else no.

Search the City - No - Needs multiple copies, so this will never work in EDH.

Skyline Predator - No - Far too small for six mana.

Soulsworn Spirit - Maybe - There are Spirit decks running around, and I've even seen a deck with the 'unblockable' theme, but those are corner cases.

Sphinx of the Chimes - No - Okay, it's a maybe, since the Sphinx tribal deck is desperate for creatures. You'll never trigger the ability, though.

Stealer of Secrets - Maybe - I feel like he'll see some play.  Not a lot, but some in Rogue decks and the like.

Syncopate - Maybe - This is a counterspell that will usually get the job done, and exile the spell, but it can be very pricey or very cheap, depending on the mana involved.

Tower Drake - No - Just not worth the mana in Commander games.

Voidwielder - Maybe - Probably not, since Aether Adept and Mist Raven offer the same ability for cheaper, but the 'creature + bounce' combination is too appealing to some decks.


Assassin's Strike - No - You'll never be this desperate for removal in black.

Catacomb Slug - No - Yawn.

Cremate - Maybe - Faerie Macabre is the go-to for cheap, instant-speed answers to graveyard combos, but for a low price of B, you can disrupt a plan and draw a card!

Daggerdrone Imp - Maybe - Lifelink decks do love cheap flyers to put equipment on...

Dark Revenant - Maybe - Someone's going to fall in love with this card, and die for their love.  Help them be that romantic, because this should be a no.

Dead Reveler - No - As much as I love Unleash in limited (though I kept calling it 'kicker'!) most of the creatures with this ability will just not be worth it in EDH.  Most.

Desecration Demon - Yes - There's a fair chance that someone will constantly be sacrificing creatures at the table, but this guy is so cheap, and so powerful, that you really ought to be playing it.  And once he gets big enough, Fling!

Destroy the Evidence - No - Targeted land destruction has a time and place, but this is just bad.

Deviant Glee - No - Unholy Strength doesn't get there, and neither does this.

Drainpipe Vermin - Maybe - Rat decks only.

Grave Betrayal - DEAR LORD YES - While I think Rift might be the most powerful EDH card, this has the most potential, in my eyes.  This card makes mass removal into your best friend!  Personally, in my Balthor the Defiled deck, I'm looking forward to playing this, reanimating all my Zombies (with Noxious Ghoul), killing everything else AND THEN BRINGING IT ALL BACK ON MY SIDE.  Can you tell I'm excited?

Grim Roustabout - No - Skeletor decks only.

Launch Party - Maybe - Some decks like having a lot of sacrificing going on, so here's another winner.  Usually, though, this is not good enough.

Mind Rot - No - If you must play discard, there's better options.

Necropolis Regent - Yes - Big, flying, and immediately helps your team.  Note that it isn't 'put one +1/+1 counter on that creature' but it says 'put that many on.'  And it fits Vampire decks so well!

Ogre Jailbreaker - Maybe - Wall decks, perhaps Ogre/demon decks.  That's it.

Pack Rat - Maybe - Token decks say yay, and so do Rat decks.  Any deck with black mana and cards to spare!

Perilous Shadow - Maybe - This is the shade for multi-color decks, giving a very friendly pump cost and a big butt to start with.

Sewer Shambler - Maybe - Scavenge is a mechanic I'm leery of in EDH, since B/G is generally very good at returning creature cards from graveyard to hand/play.  Getting some overcosted counters seems marginal, but Swamps are so common, this guy might do some work.

Shrieking Affliction - Maybe - Another tool for the discard decks.

Slum Reaper - Maybe - Oh how I wish this was a Zombie.  Nonetheless, it's a good cost for the card you get.

Stab Wound - Maybe - This isn't efficient, or fast, but good golly, it is fun to bleed people out.

Tavern Swindler - No - The coin-flip decks will try to jam this in, but resist the urge.

Terrus Wurm - No - Pay an extra colorless and play Skeletal Wurm instead.

Thrill-Kill Assassin - Maybe - This fills in as an Assassin creature, and adds to the Deathtouch decks, but mostly, just say no.

Ultimate Price - Yes - I think this is second-tier removal, but still highly playable.  It's true that a lot of good creatures are multicolored, but so are a lot of monocolored creatures.

Underworld Connections - Maybe - I'd need a good reason to play this over Phyrexian Arena, such as Seedborn Muse.

Zanikev Locust - No - At first, I thought this was a Zangief locust, and I wondered what a Russian wrestler from Street Fighter had to do with EDH and Magic.  The answer is: nothing.  Moving on.


Annihilating Fire - Maybe - This about the 25th best burn spell in EDH, give or take.

Ash Zealot - Maybe - Not every deck wants little creatures, but this gal packs a punch on a lot of levels.  First strike and haste is going to be good early on, and the 3 dmg for graveyard-casting is relevant if they do so repeatedly. (looking at you, Karador!)

Batterhorn - Maybe - Just like Voidwielder, this card has cousins that do the same for cheaper.  (Manic Vandal, Oxidda Scrapmelter, etc.)  Only you know how many of these effects you need.

Bellows Lizard - No - Just don't.

Bloodfray Giant - Maybe - In a Giant-themed deck, I can see this playing a solid role.

Chaos Imps - Maybe - But wouldn't you rather just have a dragon?

Cobblebrute - No - Limited only, and even then, only sparingly.

Dynacharge - Maybe - Some decks want another Trumpet Blast effect.

Electrickery - Maybe - Though some are going to play this, they shouldn't.

Explosive Impact - No - We've got better burn available.

Goblin Rally - Maybe - How I long to cast Krenko, Mob Boss on turn four, then this on five!

Gore-House Chainwalker - No - Not even for art and pig's blood.

Guild Feud - HECK YES - I thought that Lurking Predators was the apex of creature-heavy deck shenanigans, but then this spicy little number comes along.  I do believe that I'm going to jam this into every red deck of mine.  It will not be hard to figure out who the 'target opponent' should be, and hopefully, you're loaded for bigger bear than they are.

Guttersnipe - Maybe - Probably good enough for most decks, since it hits all of your opponents.

Lobber Crew - Maybe - Again with the 'all opponents' craze, which might be worth it, depending on your number of untaps.  Laugh as people have to use real removal on this after it's taken a lot of life away!

Minotaur Aggressor - Maybe - An excellent addition to the Lovisa Coldeyes decks out there.

Mizzium Mortars - Maybe - Not every deck with red wants to see that triple-red-cost, but this is better than Flame Wave.

Pursuit of Flight - No - Not good enough, even with evasion.

Pyroconvergence - Maybe - I can see someone trying to break this, but half their deck will be devoted to finding it in this first place.  Stay away.

Racecourse Fury - No - As has been pointed out in other places, this is a trap.  If you have an extra land to give your creature haste, you might as well have played it the turn before!

Splatter Thug - Maybe - A 3/3 first strike for 3 is worth thinking about, for those decks that love aggressive creatures.

Street Spasm - No - I'd rather play Magmaquake or Rolling Thunder.  Doesn't even have the upside of Bonfire, either.

Survry the Wreckage - No - Again, you don't need targeted land destruction this badly.

Tenement Crasher - Maybe - A good fit in a haste-themed deck, and that's about it.

Traitorious Instinct - Maybe - If you know a lot of people who play Blightsteel, it's time to teach them a lesson.

Utavara Hellkite - Yes - Live the dream!  Play some dragons, then cast this!  Bonus points if some Karrthus combo is involved!

Vandalblast - Maybe - Only you know if you need this, or Shatterstorm.

Viashino Racketeer - No - God, no.  Rummaging Goblin instead, if you must.


Aerial Predation - No - Pay an extra green and Whirlwind instead.

Archweaver - Maybe - Spider decks need a red/green legendary Spider to be their chieftain.

Axebane Guardian - Maybe - Acceleration and fixing, and helpful in that damn defender deck!

Axebane Stag - No - You can do so much better for seven mana in green!

Brushstrider - No - You can do better at two mana, too.

Centaur's Herald - No - Your token deck doesn't need this--don't fool yourself.

Chorus of Might - Maybe - As finishers go in a token deck, this checks all the boxes.  Gives trample, kills someone out of the blue, and sadly, totally worthless after a board wipe.

Deadbridge Goliath - Maybe - Big and way cheap.  Worth a look, I think.

Death's Presence - Yes - This should probably be in most green decks, though the card doesn't help you at all against mass sweepers.

Drudge Beetle - No - This is not the scavenge card you want to play.

Druid's Deliverance - Maybe - Can you populate?  Then go to town.  Not worth it as a semi-Safe Passage.

Gatecreeper Vine - Yes - Sylvan Ranger is in nearly every green deck of mine, and this vine offers the chance at Gate-grabbing (not irrelevant, as Sylvan can't do the same) and 0/2 is sometimes better.

Giant Growth - No - Very few pump spells are good enough for EDH.  Think Wildsize.

Gobbling Ooze - Maybe - Another toy for the Savra sacrifice decks!

Golgari Decoy - No - If you need a Lure effect this badly, just play Lure.  (just look at the comparison of the printed text vs. the Oracle text.  Classic.)

Horncaller's Chant - No - Someone is going to play this card, and they shouldn't.  Eight mana gets you some really amazing cards in green, not just two 4/4 trample.

Korozda Monitor - Maybe - Stonebrow decks will play this.

Mana Bloom - Maybe - But probably not.  I can't think of many situations where this isn't as good as Sakura-Tribe Elder, though maybe that's more of a comment on the Elder's amazingness.

Oak Street Innkeeper - No - Bonus points for the puppy in the picture, but I'd rather pay two more mana for Asceticism.

Rubbleback Rhino - Maybe - Is there a hexproof deck yet?

Savage Surge - No - If you need an untap trick, play Spidery Grasp instead.

Seek the Horizon - Maybe - Worth thinking about in your assorted ramp decks, though putting them all in hand is a touch awkward.  It's always nice to hit lands 5,6,7 on curve, though.

Slime Molding - Maybe - I confess, I've taken Wurmcalling out of my token deck, so this is unlikely to make the cut.

Stonefare Crocodile - No - 3/2's are nice, but blah.

Towering Indrik - No - Play a Giant Spider instead, like a boss!

Urban Burgeoning - Maybe - Ugh.  This card is terrible in limited and standard, but in EDH, someone's going to slap this on a Maze of Ith, or a Gaea's Cradle, or something else annoying and busted.  Godspeed and kill it fast when they do.

Wild Beastmaster - Maybe - I don't know that this is better than a straight up Overrun, but it might get amazing.

Worldspine Wurm - Yes - Where else are you going to get to play with a creature that costs 11 mana with no drawback?  Bummer that it has to die for you to get the tokens.  I can't wait to play this for GGG in my Animar deck.


Abrupt Decay - Maybe - I think that while there's no end of things that are three mana or less and need to be destroyed, there's more efficient ways to go about this.  Targeted removal is useful, the 'can't be countered' clause is a nice touch, as is being an instant, but I think I'd rather pay one colorless more and get Maelstrom Pulse.

Archon of the Triumvirate - Maybe - It's seven mana, and needs to attack, but it can shut off two things.  This is one of the 'nonland' detainers, and that's very good to have on a repeatable effect, but I don't think this card will see a lot of play.

Armada Wurm - Yes - It doesn't matter what the theme of your deck is, because ten power of trample is a great deal for only six mana.  I plan to have one of these altered to become even more phallic in appearance.

Auger Spree - No - In B/R, you can do a lot better.

Azorius Charm - I like the Charms, though I 'm not sure if I'll actually play them.  Flexibility is good, but I prefer to know what cards are going to do, assigning specific roles.  In this case, the most-used mode for me would be to put something atop its owner's library, and I'd rather be casting Plowshare or Path.

Call of the Conclave - Maybe - Pure value, in two mana for a 3/3, but I haven't seen a lot of Watchwolf running around.

Carnival Hellsteed - Yes - Six-drops have to have a lot of impact on the board, like a Titan or Consecrated Sphinx, and this guy comes real close.  Attacking for six first strike damage right out of the gate is impressive indeed!

Centaur Healer - Maybe - There's a lot of amazing things in G/W, and this guy is merely good.

Chemister's Trick - Maybe - Not a lot of value in making target creature attack, because generally, it will either be one huge creature or a swarm of small ones.

Collective Blessing - Yes - I really can't see a downside to this in most decks.  It's a lot of mana, but it's a huge effect.

Common Bond - No - A permanent bonus is nice, but there's things like Increasing Savagery out there.

Corpsejack Menace - Yes - It needs a deck that cares about counters, but even with doubling an Undying effect, it's worth doing.  How I wish this could go into my Experiment Kraj deck.

Counterflux - Maybe - I don't get into a lot of counterspell wars, but if you do, this might be just the ticket to go with Last Word.

Courser's Accord - No - I get that you want to populate, I do, but 6 mana can do so much more work than this.

Detention Sphere - Yes - If you play Oblivion Ring, you'll play this, or even both.  It's nice to have universal answers.

Dramatic Escape - Maybe - Unsummon plus 2's useful yet unexciting.

Dreadbore - Yes - Remember when we talked about B/R getting better removal?  Boom, son.

Dreg Mangler - Maybe - I like hasty Zombies, I do, but compared to the Zombies already around, I don't see this making it into many decks.

Epic Experiment - Yes - I'll be honest: I'm not going to play this, but I've met many who can't wait to fire this off for a ridiculous amount of mana.  I felt the same way about Genesis Wave, but there are major hurdles: 1) Lands are a total whiff.  2) X spells get cast for X = 0.  3) If it's a spell with the word 'target', it needs a target to get cast.  These are limitations that can be built around, and I fully expect to see such decks in the near future.  It's possible that it happens and I get super-jealous.  P.S.  If Riku of Two Reflections copies this, punches may get thrown.

Essence Backlash - No - Terribly conditional counterspell.  The bonus damage isn't worth it.

Fall of the Gavel - Maybe - Better or worse than Overrule?  I rule no, but you might love this.

Firemind's Foresight - Maybe - I'll admit, I'm leaning towards No on this, because seven mana for a very conditional tutor is iffy.  Perhaps if another color is involved?  Note that if someone goes and finds Lightning Bolt, Reset, and Reiterate, the table is dead at instant speed. (Cast bolt, and with it on the stack, reiterate it.  Reiterate resolves, you get another Bolt and reiterate is in your hand.  Cast reset and leave that on the stack, copying it as needed to untap lands.  Annoying, right?  I hate myself.)

Goblin Electromancer - Maybe - I think some decks will be happy with this effect, and he's one of very few Goblin Wizards in Magic.

Golgari Charm - Maybe - None of the effects by themselves are amazing, but when you can do any of them, it becomes a useful trick to have.

Grisly Salvage - Yes - I can see most B/G decks using the graveyard as a resource, not a drawback, so this is a pretty sweet card if you can use it well.

Havoc Festival - Yes - This is pretty amazing.  I feel that EDH games can just grind on too long, and there's real value in being able to shorten a game significantly.  Also great against the lifegain decks, stopping the growth and hitting them harder the higher they were! (example: You're at 30, they are at 100.  After two cycles of this, you'll be at 7, they will be at 25.)

Hellhole Flailer - Maybe - If you have some other way to boost his power, his sacrifice effect can get nuts.

Heroes' Reunion - No - Never.

Hussar Patrol - No - To be fair, flash is fun, but this is too small.

Hypersomic Dragon - Yes - 4/4 is a little small for a Dragon, but Dragon decks tend to be top-heavy anyway.  Being able to do sorcery things at instant speeds is pretty handy, though.

Isperia, Supreme Judge - Yes - See my previous article, or just play it.  Great stats and useful ability.

Izzet Charm - Yes - Another great example of being able to choose between three small-but-relevant effects.  Spells need countering, creatures need killing, and hands need looting.

Izzet Staticaster - Maybe - In a pinger deck, this will do work, much the way Wojek Embermage can.  Add a deathtouch equipment and deal with the guy who just kicked a Rite of Replication.

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord - Yes - I have trouble imagining a B/G deck that lacks enough big creatures to make him relevant.  He can even bring himself back if you needed it that badly.

Jarad's Orders - Yes - For two mana, you get to find a creature and put it in your hand, and also cast Entomb.  Expect a lot of 'find Karmic Guide and some ridiculous creature' shenanigans.  Eladamiri's Call is a popular card to find one creature, and this does the same, with the graveyard bonus!

Korozda Guildmage - Maybe - Not every deck wants this level of sacrifice and token generation, but it's a very fun card when you do!

Lotleth Troll - Yes - It starts small, but if you can recur/use the creatures in the graveyard, this is going to be pretty amazing.  Remember that most EDH-caliber wrath spells will not care about regeneration.

Loxodon Smiter - Yes - Jaw-dropping that you can now get a 4/4 for 3 mana and no drawbacks.

Lyev Skyknight - Maybe - 3/1 flying seems like a toy for the Bird decks.

Mercurial Chemister - Yes - In R/U, if you are able to use either ability, you're probably getting way ahead on that game.  I'm looking forward to using this card in a couple of decks.

New Prahv Guildmage - Maybe - That detain cost is high, but add Training Grounds and really do some damage!

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius - Yes - Yup, he's amazing.  Nothing else needs saying.

Rakdos Charm - Yes - I'm very high on this card.  I know too many people who love to make token swarms (including myself) and this is one of the first cards I know of that can really punish the token horde, and in addition, it can exile a graveyard at instant speed.  Or kill an artifact.  Good stuff all around.

Rakdos Ragemutt - Maybe - In the haste deck, this can catch you up a little on life, but it's marginal.

Rakdos Ringleader - No - I imagine they tested this at four mana, and it was too good.  Same at five.  It's actively bad at six, so what the heck.

Rakdos, Lord of Riots - Yes - Just play him.  An amazing card.  Real bonus if you lead off with Lightning Bolt or some such, cast Rakdos, and that same turn, start churning out things for 3 less.

Rakdos's Return - Maybe - The damage is relevant, as is the discarding.

Righteous Authority -Maybe - Empyrial Armor plus a personal Howling Mine?  Seems legit, if fragile.

Risen Sanctuary - No - If it had trample instead of vigilance, then maybe.

Rites of Reaping - No - I've played with Consume Strength, and that's worth a card.  The Rites are not.

Rix Maadi Guildmage - No - While this card hoses combat math, you'd be better off spending that mana in other ways.

Search Warrant - No - Skip the lifegain and play Telepathy instead.

Selesnya Charm - Yes - Exile a fatty, put something over the top with trample, or get an emergency blocker.  I suspect the first mode is the most common use, and well it should be.

Skull Rend - Maybe - Playing this after playing Rakdos, Lord of Riots means that you get to play things super cheap and super well.  Plus, I love random discard!

Skymark Roc - Maybe - Mostly for the Birds, since I don't consistently see small creatures that need a bounce.

Slaughter Games - Maybe - I can see casting this and calling Tooth and Nail, or Palinchron.  If there's a player in your group who depends too much on one card, then it's time to help them out with their addiction.

Sluiceway Scorpion - Maybe - Deathtouch is good, and you'll get some extra counters at a decent price.

Spawn of Rix Maadi - No - Some unleash is interesting, but not this one.

Sphinx's Revelation - Yes - On the list of things I like to do with X mana, this hits two of the top three at once.  It being an instant is just gravy.  Tasty, tasty gravy.

Supreme Verdict - Yes - Even without the 'no regeneration' clause, this is worth doing in U/W. I appreciate the 'no countering' clause, but I really love that Mindbreak Trap is still the ultimate counterspell.

Teleportal - Maybe - I like the idea of the mega-unblockable spell, especially if it involves Dragons.

Thoughtflare - No - Even at instant speed, this isn't good enough.

Treasured Find - Yes - If you want the second Regrowth in your deck, here you go.

Trestle Troll - No - Even in the Wall deck, this is far too defensive a card.

Trostani, Selesnya's Voice - Yes - The Angelic Chorus effect is nice, and this is the cheapest populate effect you can get.  If you're G/W without tokens, though, then this is sort of worthless.

Vitu-Ghazi Guildmage - Yes - It's a one-card combo.  Always a good choice.

Vraska the Unseen - Yes - Realistically, any card that says "Destroy Target Nonland Permanent" on it is going to see a fair share of EDH play.  Her +1 has some effect on a game, but usually there's someone at the table willing to trade a creature or two to kill a planeswalker.  Her ultimate, though, is breathtaking in simplicity, if fragile as can be.

Wayfaring Temple - Maybe - This is basically Crusader of Odric with an occasional Populate clause.  If you have some way to give him trample, then you're in real business.


Azor's Elocutors - Yes - Let's be realistic.  You're not going to win with this card, but you're going to launch a sub-game within the Commander game that will be very fun.  I fully endorse this card and proliferate/Doubling Season.

Blistercoil Weird - No - 1/1 creatures are rarely relevant in EDH, and this one is certainly not going to overpower anything.

Cryptborn Horror - Yes - This has some amazing potential in EDH.  Earthquake is a winning lead-in to this card, but my favorite is going to be seeing this with Hammerfist Giant or Heartless Hidegutsu.

Deathrite Shaman - Yes - G/B has a lot of options on controlling what's still in a graveyard.  Scavenging Ooze is probably the best, but this gives more flexibility.

Dryad Militant - Maybe - It's a great ability for stopping recursive combos, but it's still just a 2/1.

Frostburn Weird - Maybe - Only the Weird decks are going to play this.  (I've seen the Weird Noggle deck!)

Golgari Longlegs - No - It's not a spider?  Sad.

Growing Ranks - Yes - If you have tokens, then you want more tokens.  Once you have this in play, you get more tokens more easily.  Simple enough, and costs no extra mana.

Judge's Familiar - Maybe - I'd say no, but every judge and every Bird deck will play this.

Nivmagus Elemental - No - No one should play this--burning a card to give a creature 2 +1/+1 counters will be good in 1v1 play, and maybe you'll build up some incredible Storm count and exile the copies (a legit play) but still, it's far too narrow in application.

Rakdos Cackler - No - Your best-case scenario is that he gets in three or four attacks before a blocker or a wrath shows up, and he's a terrible late-game draw.

Rakdos Shred-Freak - Maybe - Only in someone's pet Haste deck.

Slitherhead - No - Not even a free +1/+1 counter is good enough.

Sundering Growth - Maybe - I like Disenchant effects, especially if I might get a free creature in the deal.

Vassal Soul - Maybe - Pretty small body for the Commander format, but Spirits get a lot of love from some people.


The Keyrunes - Yes - I think these are slightly worse than the signets, because they cost more.  However, the creature abilities can be handy (none are bad, though the Izzet is perhaps the worst), and so the Keyrunes should be at least in the discussion.

Chromatic Lantern - Yes - Play this if you're three colors or more, and watch as your mana problems disappear! I would say play it alongside the Coalition Relic.

Civic Saber - Maybe - In a dedicated multicolor build, this is still marginal.

Codex Shredder - Maybe - There are decks that can really make use of one-mana artifacts, and this is capable of fueling some silly combos, with enough mana and Salvaging Station.

Pithing Needle - Maybe - Most colors have a way of dealing with one problematic activated ability, from killing the creature to destroying the land to attacking the planeswalker.

Street Sweeper - No - Why not just destroy the land or the auras directly?

Tablet of the Guilds - Maybe - If this let you call three colors, I'd consider it more strongly, but as it is, 2 life stapled to every spell isn't good enough for me.

Volatile Rig - Maybe - A 4/4 trample for 4 is a good deal, and I don't see 'blow things up' as a drawback at all.  If it goes BOOM, I hope you have Rakdos or Cryptborn Horror handy.


The Guildgates - Maybe - Magic has printed lots of variations on this theme.  By now, the Gates are probably not quite good enough to make it in a three-color deck, though most two-color decks could use one more of these.

The Shocklands - Yes - And even a HELL YES.  They work with anything that doesn't ask for a basic landtype, so you can Skyshroud Claim for two shocklands, or with the Zendikar/Onslaught/Mirage fetchlands.

Grove of the Guardian - Maybe - Did you build the populate deck?  Play this.  Otherwise, you'd be better off with a land that doesn't require self-sacrifice, like Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree.

Transguild Promenade - Maybe - It's a reprint of Rupture Spire, but any deck at three colors or more wants another one.

Rogue's Passage - Yes - I'm finding that I'm hitting a critical mass of colorless-producing lands (not with Chromatic Lantern out!) but this one will have to make the cut too.

My goodness, that was a lot of text.  Maybe next time I'll do more lumping of things together, or give some cards a pass, or something.  Hope you didn't fall asleep.

Stay tuned, folks, as coming up is my "What's going into what deck" article.  See you then!