Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cool For Cats: The Kemba Conversation

***Update: Check out this post for some card choices to go with Kemba.

A good friend of mine started getting interested in the Commander format recently. He's been playing Magic for a long time, but usually drafting. I think we finally hooked him.

He mentioned that he had been working on a "cat-themed" decklist. After talking with him, the things that stood out for me were that he talked about "lolcats" and wanted cats that would just appear with a flash. This immediately got me thinking about the crazy cat lady: Kemba, Kha Regent.

Kemba, Kha RegentVedalken Orrery

Since this is a mono-white Commander, it takes pressure off the mana base. Using two or three colors in this format makes for a trade-off between slower mana (lands that come into play tapped) and expensive mana (dual-colored and fetch lands that cost a boatload).

White also gives access to good targeted removal, good sweepers, and support cards for the cat-theme. There's nothing quite like swinging with a horde of kitties.

Since my friend hasn't been collecting specifically for Commander, he doesn't have many of the staples of the format. So, we've been looking for good alternatives. For example, if you didn't happen to pick up Sensei's Divining Top a while back, what can you do besides plunk down a bunch of money? Check out Darksteel Pendant and Crystal Ball!

Sensei's Divining TopDarksteel Pendant

Crystal Ball

Since Kemba makes tokens, we looked at a couple of other cool cards. Konda's Banner is a good-time and in-theme. Pumps Kemba's tokens and equips Kemba for more cats! Intangible Virtual is also strong since you can hold back everyone for blocking. Coat of Arms is of course... ridiculous.

Konda's BannerIntangible VirtueCoat of Arms

Bubble Matrix would be wild and wacky in Commander. So would Eldrazi Monument since you could handle the sacrifice.

Bubble MatrixEldrazi Monument

We'll see how his deck develops. He always has good ideas, so I can't wait for the next time we shuffle up.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Creature Removal in Mono-Black Commander

This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list of all removal in the format. There are plenty of worthy removal spells that I'm not running right now. But, here's the list of removal I am running in my demon-themed Nefarox deck at the moment and why.

It's important to remember that most of the demons I am running are performing double-duty and act as removal themselves. Reiver Demon, Kagemaro, Carnifex Demon, and others can clear out pesky creatures and often do.

Reiver DemonKagemaro, First to SufferCarnifex Demon

Removal basically falls into two camps. Spells that take out a specific creature and spells that take out a bunch of creatures. Black has plenty of spells that take out a bunch of creatures. The problem is that it usually takes out your creatures, too. Plus, it slows the game down. People usually get frowny after you wipe the board three or four times. So, if I'm going to go for mass removal, I try to make sure that it is as one-sided as possible or leaves a creature behind to go in for the kill.

Mass removal includes: Damnation, Decree of Pain, Black Sun's Zenith, Infest, and Hellfire. With the exception of Damnation, every other mass removal spell will leave most of my big demons alone or weakened, but alive. If I have to go full blast on Decree of Pain, it usually means that I end up with a grip of cards to break through whatever my opponents throw at me. Otherwise, it gets cycled. Hellfire is probably better as Mutilate, but Hellfire is in-theme so I run it instead.

DamnationDecree of PainBlack Sun's ZenithInfest

Spot removal includes: Rend Flesh, Bone Shredder, Murder, Corrupt, Profane Command, Dismember, Consuming Vapors, and Grasp of Darkness. Rend Flesh, Murder, and Bone Shredder (to a lesser extent) allow me to kill just about anything I can target that isn't indestructible. The other players in my group are wise to this, so Darksteel Plate has become popular. For that, I run Grasp of Darkness, Dismember, and Profane Command. Consuming Vapors has a good chance to hit something big if I set things up right and gives me a two-for-one with some life gain. Profane Command and Corrupt give me options.

Rend FleshMurderCorruptProfane CommandDismemberConsuming VaporsGrasp of Darkness

There is an entire other removal suite that involves causing sacrifices. It's gets around some of the issues with untargetable or indestructible creature, but I usually find it to be too random. Consuming vapors is the exception. Or, Nefarox, but his ability is just icing on the cake. This is a good overall amount of removal, a good mix of removal, and it covers most of the issues that I have with creatures that I run into during a game.

Rend Flesh, Murder, Dismember, and Grasp of Darkness are all instants. So, you can hold them to screw up your opponents' combat math. Otherwise, you cast mass removal on your turn so it's important that it doesn't simply kill everything. I am usually just trying to break up a wall of creatures so that I can get in a few more points of damage.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Not Beating Zur

I've come to terms with not beating Zur in a 1vs1 match, not with Demons anyway. And that's okay. Zur can hold his own against one or even two opponents. I don't play Demons or Commander to win every match.

I have a couple of tweaks to the Demon deck, but nothing major. I'm settling in on what the deck is and what the deck isn't. The deck lacks inevitability and it lacks the ability to rally.

You know that moment in a game where you haven't won yet, but you just can't lose? That's inevitability. It doesn't mean that the other guy can't come out of nowhere with a Storm Herd or Torrent of Souls or a miracle Entreat the Angels for the win. This is Magic, Commander Magic. Stuff like that happens. But when I play Demons, I always feel like I'm right on the edge of being pushed back under control even when I should be pushing the advantage.

Entreat the Angels

The ability to rally is when the other guy is beating you soundly, his deck has inevitability, and you just need to peel one card that'll end it right there. I'm not talking about a card like Damnation that can level the playing field. I'm talking about a card that turns the tide. Insurrection comes to mind. In black, something like Exsanguinate for the win is a rally card.


Either way, Demons makes for a fun, flavorful theme in black. I'm now looking at the creature removal and will try to make a list for you of what goes in and why in another post.

If I get a chance to play this weekend, I have some changes to the Arcanis / Eldrazi deck that I want to try out. I'm using cards in that deck that I don't normally use, so that means no Sol Ring, no Pilgrim's Eye, etc. It'll be a less consistent deck that way, but it's always good to open up new lines of play.