Sunday, July 27, 2014

Commander 2014 Spoiler: Teferi, Temporal Archmage

Really big news, incoming. Planeswalkers as commanders in the new Commander preconstructs.

Let me say that again a different way: Planes. Walkers. As. COMMANDERS.

Stay on top of all the details over at MTGSalvation.

What we know right now:

1) The new Commander sets will be mono-colored.
2) There are new, special Planeswalkers that can be used as your commander.

The mono-blue planeswalker is Teferi. This is pre-mending Teferi, so he's still all juiced up with his spark.

I was at my local card shop yesterday (winning!), and the idea of using planeswalkers as commanders in an official way was polarizing. Half the group thought it was awesome. The other half thought that it was the death knell for the format.

Since the planeswalkers in question have specific text that allows them to be used as a commander, we probably aren't opening Pandora's box too far on this round. Plus, Teferi doesn't look that crazy.

We'll see how this plays out, especially as the new planeswalkers get spoiled. I, for one, am interested to see what they do with the old 'walkers. As a long-time follower of Magic lore, this is a pretty exciting time to be seeing new cards.

That said, I was under the distinct impression that the pre-mending 'walkers were much more powerful. I remember Bolas saying something about it in one of the novels, even. This version of Teferi as a planeswalker doesn't seem to represent that power, at least not on the surface.

Speed vs. Cunning Spoiler: New Duel Decks

Head on over to Mythic Spoiler or your other favorite Magic spoiler site and behold:

That Arcanis artwork is going to look amazing!

How exactly does someone go about getting the nickname "Omnipotent?" I've tapped to draw three cards plenty of times in my day and I felt pretty damned omnipotent doing it. Unfortunately, about the only time I see this guy anymore is when he is across the table and used in combination with Long-Term Plans.

Long-Term Plans

Looks like they went with the rewritten flavor text for this version of the card. I prefer the flavor text from Onslaught: "He has journeyed where none have been before. Now he returns to ensure that none follow."


The other half of this duel deck is captained by Zurgo Helmsmasher. So, if you have any helms laying around keep a good eye on them. They gon' get smashed.

We have more of this to look forward to in the next block.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

M15 Spoiler: The Chain Veil, Soul of Theros, Jalira, Ob Nixilis, Yisan, Sliver Hivelord, Perilous Vault

The full M15 spoiler is out! Check it out over at Mythic Spoiler in all of its glory.

After playing Magic for so long, the bar is pretty high for cards that's I'm interested in from a new set. But there are a few cards in M15 that look like I'll either be finding room for them in my decks or getting smashed by them across the table. Let's take a look at a few.

Up first, The Chain Veil. Yikes. I see all kinds of misunderstandings with this card in my future. But even after all the pesky rules issues get worked out, this thing will takes superfriends decks to the next level. There are a few five color planeswalker decks where I play. I'm not sure that they needed another toy as potent as this one. It might be a win-more card in the end, but it's a win-more-spectacularly card.

In related news, several of the new planeswalkers will almost certainly make a showing. Ajani Steadfast seems well suited for a tokens and/or a superfriends deck. Because if planeswalkers needed something, it was ways to ultimate sooner. :)

Next up, the new Avatar cycle looks fine with Soul of Theros looking particularly swingy. We all operate under the "old way" of thinking about life gain. In Commander, if you can swing your life total up by an eye-popping amount, you do actually build a buffer that is difficult to overcome. Soul of Theros can get you there. So can Resolute Archangel. Yeesh.

M15 brings us some new legendary creatures to build around, too. I'm super-pumped about the new Ob Nixilis, Unshackled. He fits right into demons tribal and mono-black control with a stax theme. Jalira, Master Polymorphist, and Yisan the Wanderer Bard are both abusable, if a little slow. Plus, Angels!

Lest we forget the mighty sliver? Nay. Behold! Sliver Hivelord. Get your Terminus ready, it's Sliver season.

Speaking of dealing with a filthy horde of indestructable slivers, why not try Perilous Vault? For the low, low price of only 9 mana (spread over two turns, if you like), it solves most problems - permanently(ish). Thank the good lord it exiles itself, too.

Indulgent Tormentor will probably earn a slot in many a black deck. (It's the promo!) Typically, I don't like giving my opponent(s) the option of making choices, but this one comes with a 5 power flyer for 5 mana. Not too shabby. Plus, it contains the special phrase, "draw a card."

There are several other gems in the set that will make it into decks, I'm sure. Happy hunting.

Solving a Puzzle: Building a Commander Deck

Imagine going to a thrift store and buying a unlabeled box full of puzzle pieces. You can see the individual pieces, and you might even have an idea of what the puzzle will be be when you finish, but you're not exactly sure what's going on when you start.

Building a Commander deck is like that.

Usually, I get a deck idea from thinking about a few card interactions, a new card coming out, or a Legendary creature that would make a slick Commander. From there, I start searching and making a list of cards.

Initial list size? 250+ cards, easy. We've all been there. It's just a box of cards at that point. By the time the list gets pared down to the legal limit of 100 cards, there's card wreckage everywhere. Heck, most of the sweet cards I pulled get left behind. "I'll build another deck, just for these cards." At least, that's what I tell myself.

Okay, I've got my 100 cards ready to shuffle up. But the puzzle isn't really solved. I'm still not sure what it is until I've played a few games with it. Smash face. Get smashed. Do it all over again.

Academy RuinsOmen Machine

"Oh, I didn't see that interaction when I built this!" Sometimes, my subconscious throws fun little synergies into my decks for me to discover later as I play. Sometimes, I just get lucky. But, the more I play with a deck, the more the cards start to make sense together. Swap this. Cut that. Someone suggests something awesome I haven't thought of. That goes in.

The deck is taking shape now. The puzzle is mostly solved. This deck is just about what it is. This is where things get tough. What do I cut?

The short list consists of a handful of cards that I know - just know - need to be in the deck. But, what do I cut to fit them in? If I rip this card out, it ruins a certain synergy or line of play. It slows me down or speeds me up. It mangles the curve. Or, it starts to turn into a different deck. Oh boy, that's a problem I run into a lot. Over time, a deck focused on one thing morphs into an entirely different deck. Not better, just different.

I try to make notes about what the deck is so that it doesn't veer too far off course. "There's lots of ways to build a blue / black deck, but this blue / black deck is about milling cards." That sort of thing keeps it from turning into some other monster.

MurderHero's Downfall

Occasionally, there is a flat-out upgrade to a card I have in a deck. Those cuts are easy. Murder --> Hero's Downfall. But wait! Maybe I need Murder and Hero's Downfall. Doh! Usually, the cut is much more difficult because it means diluting one aspect of the deck to put some other effect in.

Vedalken Orrery

For example, my mono-blue Thada Ramp deck wants the effect from Vedalken Orrery. Playing nonland cards at instant speed is bonkers. The effect of the card is worth a slot because when it's in play, it warps the rules of the game in my favor. It opens up a lot of technical plays. But, I'm not sure what theme I want to weaken to jam it in. Do I want less creatures? No. Do I want less ramp? Hell no. Libary manipulation? Jeez, it seems like I need that or the deck turns into some other monster.

The puzzle is (mostly) solved. But those last few pieces are a real problem to fit in.