Sunday, January 29, 2012

Updated RDW

I've been running the same RDW list since Innistrad rotated in: a low curve with 20-21 lands and lots of cheap 1 drops (Lavamancer, Fireslinger). Phoenix sat at the top of the curve next to Volt Charge. I enjoyed the deck, but it seemed to fall too easily to control if they were allowed to stabilize. Without much pressure outside of god-draws of Noble > Berserker > Phoenix/Volt I was losing games that I traditionally handled well in past iterations of Red Deck.

4x Shrine of Burning Rage

4x Stromkirk Noble
4x Goblin Fireslinger
3x Grim Lavamancer
1x Spikeshot Elder
4x Stormblood Berserker
4x Chandra's Phoenix

3x Galvanic Blast
3x Gut Shot
3x Incinerate
4x Volt Charge

2x Arc Trail

4x Rootbound Crag
17x Mountain

I decided it was time to cut some 1 drops, find another 2 drop, and add some land to bump the curve to 4. Cutting 1 drops was easy: Fireslinger and Lavamancer are fine for the long game, but provide little pressure early on (applying pressure early is kinda Red Deck's thing, right?). Finding another red 2-drop in the current standard wasn't easy, but I was VERY pleased when the answer finally came to me. Finally, adding enough land to get to 24 allowed me to bring back an old friend. This is the list I came up with:

4x Shrine of Burning Rage

4x Stromkirk Noble
2x Spikeshot Elder
4x Stormblood Berserker
4x Porcelain Legionnaire
4x Chandra's Phoenix

4x Koth of the Hammer

4x Galvanic Blast
4x Incinerate

2x Arc Trail
1x Devil's Play

2x Rootbound Crag
2x Copperline Gorge
19x Mountain

2x Whipflare
3x Slagstorm
3x Ancient Grudge
3x Vulshok Refugee
4x Dismember

Let's review some of my card choices:

Spikeshot Elder:  the only non-vampire 1 drop to survive the cut. In a world where the best deck wants to win with a steady stream of 1/1 spirits, the Elder is king. Nobody wants to waste a removal spell on a 1/1 goblin, and if they do remove it, that means 1 less removal for your bigger threats. Delver decks have to remove it immediately or watch their Moorland Haunts sit useless. I'm this close to cutting the Arc Trails and playing 4 of these fellas.

Porcelain Legionnaire:  I bought a playset back on release day, put them in my stack of cards that 'might see play in RDW', and promptly forgot about them. Fortunately, I remembered him while brainstorming this week. People might say he dies to Gut Shot. I guess that's true enough, but so does Delver and people play the shit out of that card. Creatures die to removal spells. Welcome to Magic. The card is amazing and he synergizes very well with what the deck wants to do. He blocks Geist of St. Traft all day long, helps metalcraft for your Galvanic Blasts, the life loss helps against Timely Reinforcements, AND he lives through Whipflare. What's not to love?

Gut Shot:  There's no doubt GS is a nice card. He just isn't for us. 1 card for 1 damage isn't cutting the mustard. As a red mage, you should demand more out of your burn. Yes, it does enable bloodthirst on your Berserkers, but it's just not worth wasting 2 life on turn 2 and getting blown out by a Mana Leak on your creature. Going up to 4 on Incinerate and Galvanic feels right. Speaking of cards that feel right in Red Deck...

Koth of the Hammer:  The argument can be made that Koth is the most powerful planeswalker long as you're playing Mountains. Why wouldn't RDW want to reinlist him? Moorland Haunt decks will be annoying, but you're not laying him down when he can be obviously killed anyway, right? You have Arc Trails, Spikeshots, and plenty of burn to keep the way clear of danger for him. A resolved Koth is an auto win against a lot of decks out there as long as you play him smart. For example, if you know your opponent is playing Snapcasters then attack with your mountains, but leave a critter home to protect your prized planeswalker. The list of planeswalkers whose ultimates basically win you the game is short, and Koth sits atop that list proudly.

Playing the list at FNM this week I felt much more in control of the game than I have with Red Deck in a while. Most decks have no plan for Koth since no lists play him, and your pressure is much greater with the upgrade in quality creatures. I finished 3-1 only losing in the finals to a Delver deck that had turn 3 Geists with a 2nd one in hand both games. All in all I'm very pleased with how it performed. Going forward, I might consider dropping the Arc Trails and Devil's Play for some combination of Volt Charge and more Spikeshot Elders.

I'd be interested to hear any feedback. Hope you enjoyed reading!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

B/R Control

From the moment I read the textbox for Sorin's Vengeance and the new Chandra I knew it was only a matter of time before I found a way to build a deck with them. I started working on my list and few weeks ago and this is what I sleeved up for last week's FNM:

4x Sphere of the Suns

4x Solemn Simulacrum
2x Olivia Voldaren
2x Inferno Titan

4x Galvanic Blast
3x Doom Blade
3x Volt Charge

1x Devil's Play
2x Black Sun's Zenith
2x Sorin's Vengeance
4x Tezzeret's Gambit

4x Chandra, the Firebrand

1x Stensia Bloodhall
1x Ghost Quarter
4x Blackcleave Cliffs
4x Dragonskull Summit
7x Mountain
8x Swamp

1x Doom Blade
2x Go for the Throat
2x Black Sun's Zenith
2x Sorin's Vengeance
2x Wurmcoil Engine
3x Nihil Spellbomb
3x Ratchet Bomb

It's a B/R Control build focused on dealing with any early threats, then winning in a flurry of forked Vengeance or Titans.

I feel like Chandra has a lot of untapped potential in an environment where Moorland Haunt has become such a prevalent long-game tool of many Tier 1 strategies. Your opponent can Haunt at the end of your turn and get in a swing on Chandra, but she gets to crack right back on the following turn removing the threat. Also, in a format where tokens are so abundant she allows you to keep your removal in your hand instead of 'wasting' it on a Midnight Haunting token or similar.

I finished in 2nd place with this deck. Beating a U/B zombie homebrew and Tempered Steel. My loss was in the finals to a U/W Control build when I flooded games 1 & 3. Despite the mana issues, the deck does need some tweaks to shore up the control matchup which I feel is currently weak.

The deck is a lot of fun to play. I got to live the dream on more than one occasion and fork a Vengeance for an immediate 20 point spike. Even without the combo, the deck is capable of taking over with Titan or Olivia. Olivia was especially backbreaking for Tempered Steel, 'steeling' a game I would have otherwise lost.

That same weekend I also got to test it against Wolfrun. It completely dominated, not dropping the first game all night. The cheap removal makes Inkmoth a non-issue and after sideboarding in the rest of your point removal you very nearly guarantee an answer for every 6 drop that hits the board. I also boarded in the 2 additional Vengeance for the matchup with the plan of killing every threat they present until I had 11 mana to cast Chandra, then use her -2 without passing priority before dropping a copied Vengeance for the win. Getting out an Olivia and pumping her beyond Slagstorm damage is also a good way to go over top for an even faster win.

Possible changes/updates to the list:

I definitely want more Bloodhalls. At least 2, possibly 3 total. The ability to just grind out control decks will shore up the natural weaknesses this deck has to that archetype. With the suite of instant removal already in the deck, Ghost Quarter isn't needed quite so badly as there really isn't a land beyond Inkmoth that you want to kill.

Also concerning the control matchup, I feel like the deck needs a better way to put pressure on the opponent. I'm considering Chandra's Phoenix. It has such great synergy with Chandra already and the deck needs a solid 3 drop.

 I'm not sure how necessary the ramp is. It was nice to have for early Titans and Olivia, but I'm not convinced that having a better midrange game to put more pressure on the opponent wouldn't just be a better gameplan

Would love to hear any ideas anyone has. I'm thinking about playing this in a mox tourney this weekend and any suggestions or advice will be warmly received! 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

U/W Control

After playing RDW for the last 8 months I decided I needed a change of pace. I've slowly been putting together cards for a U/W Control build. Here is the list I decided on for last night's double FNM:

2x Phantasmal Image
1x Wurmcoil Engine
1x Sun Titan
1x Consecrated Sphinx

3x Druidic Satchel

3x Gideon Jura
1x Jace, Memory Adept
1x Karn Liberated

1x Dismember
3x Mana Leak
2x Dissipate

4x Ponder
2x Timely Reinforcements
4x Day of Judgement

4x Oblivion Ring

Basic Land
8x Island
8x Plains

4x Glacial Fortress
4x Seachrome Coast
3x Ghost Quarter

2x Frost Titan
2x Wurmcoil Engine
2x Phantasmal Image
2x Ratchet Bomb
2x Dissipate
4x Flashfreeze
1x Dismember

My final results in the first FNM were 1-1-1 drawing with Mono B Infect, beating BUG Ooze Combo, and losing the mirror. In the 2nd FNM I finished 2-1 which was good enough for 3rd place. I beat the mirror by milling him 2 games in a row with Jace (same guy who beat me in the first FNM), lost to U/W Tokens due to multiple savage misplays on my part, and finished with a sweep of U/B Tezzerett piloted by my best friend.

This was my first time playing control in over a decade and it showed in my play. I lost a couple of winnable game by punting several times. I learned a lot however, and am looking forward to making a few tweaks before sleeving it up again next friday!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A New Red Deck for a New Standard

Lightning Bolt.
Goblin Guide.
Searing Blaze.
Ember Hauler.
Plated Geopede.
Teetering Peeks.
Arid Mesa/Scalding Tarn.
Forked Bolt.
Burst Lightning.
Flame Slash.

All of the these cards have been staples in Red Deck Wins for so long it’s painful to imagine a Standard environment without them. There is little doubt that the rotation of Zendikar Block will have a substantial impact on the brute force speed the old list was capable of. Turn 1 Guide into Turn 2 Searing Blaze, attack with Guide is a brutal start that few decks could recover from.

RDW has lost a lot of what made it great, but that’s certainly no reason to count the archetype out. 2 of the deck’s biggest roadblocks: Kor Firewalker and Obstinate Baloth are on the way out too. There are still efficient creatures and burn so let’s see what could potentially be cobbled together:

4 Furnace Scamp
4 Stromkirk Noble
4 Stormblood Berserker
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Hero of Oxid Ridge

4 Arc Trail
4 Incinerate
4 Brimstone Volley

4 Shrine of Burning Rage

24 Mountain

Furnace Scamp: Frequently seen in previous RDW lists, Scamp represents a lot of potential damage. With plenty of burn to keep his path clear, this can be held to the last moment to be pitched for 3.

Stromkirk Noble: As soon as this card was spoiled I knew I wanted a playset. Like scamp above, there are plenty of ways to clear out blockers. Having him unblockable by humans is not a little thing. Humans should feature heavily in a White Weenie archetype (the deck is just too easy to build to not be a player in the early days of new Standard), not to mention the popular Snapcaster Mage can’t flash in and stop our noble vampire either. In a deck with so much point removal, Noble represents inevitability if not dealt with quickly.

Stormblood Berserker: Another creature with evasion, Berserker is a fine 2 drop. On the play you should be able to get him out on turn 2 with bloodthirst enabled. You won’t always be able to achieve this, but even getting him out on turn 3-4 isn’t bad. He’s 3 guaranteed damage every time he swings and that ain’t bad.

Chandra’s Phoenix: Following our evasion theme we have a recurring 2/2 flying haster for 3 mana that gives the deck much needed reach. This one’s a no-brainer folks, let’s move along.

Hero of Oxid Ridge: Sitting at the top of our curve is the hero. This card would be Koth if cards like Timely Reinforcements and Spellskite didn’t exist. Even though he doesn’t have an ultimate that reads “YOU WIN THE GAME”, the good hero is a great card. Fitting in nicely with our theme of evasion (seriously, who would have expected Red to have so much relevant evasion?), Hero makes for an excellent finisher. “Oh, you gained 6 life and have 3 chump blockers? Take 13.”

Arc Trail: 2 for 1 is always good. In a pinch you can also direct it at your opponent’s dome.

Incinerate: Not really sure if I want this over Shock, but running it for now since 3 is more than 2.

Brimstone Volley: This card was Shock until the final spoilers were released. 5 damage for 3 mana at instant speed is just too good to pass up. There should rarely be an occasion where you’ll be tapping 3 for 3 with this card.

Shrine of Burning Rage: Yet another instance where you’ll be tapping 3 for more than 3, Shrine has been a staple in RDW since it was released. Provides another means to clear the way for your attackers and a nifty way to finish off your opponent.

Cards to consider:

Shock: More cheap removal. Just depends on if 3 from Incinerate is relevant to the meta.
Bloodcrazed Neonate: If it had haste it would be an easy inclusion. The +1 counters could be relevant in a slow enough meta though…
Grim Lavamancer: Could provide some reach for the deck. With the exit of fetch lands, could be hard to hit that critical mass of cards in the graveyard needed to make lavamancer cruise.
Kruin Outlaw: If control or draw-go archtypes become the best deck, this could be one to look out for. First strike is excellent, double-striking is what could push this over the top.
Reckless Waif: This could very easily replace scamp in the list. Despite what I said about Kruin Outlaw, I’m still undecided on how much I would want to lean on double-faced cards.

Many said Red was dead with the printing of Timely Reinforcements. Sure, it hurts red mages, but Hero cures those ills very efficiently. The only card you really need fear is a turn 2 Spellskite. He represents a cheap blocker, a threat to your ability to use burn as a finisher, and will likely take 2 pieces of burn to move out of the way. Fortunately, 3 out of our 5 creatures evade Spellskite easily enough and you should have Vandals in the sideboard to deal with him in games 2 or 3.

Tree of Redemption is another card that has the potential to put the brakes on RDW, but the fact that it has zero power is very relevant. It can’t take out any of your creatures and it is easily dodged by many of them anyway. Hero hits for so much so fast that the life swing will likely only mean the difference of a turn in most cases. Also remember that Incinerate, Volley, and Shrine can respond to the tree’s ability at instant speed. Your opponent is going to have to play very carefully with Tree: if they let themselves get too low, you can kill them in response to the Tree’s ability. On paper it looks like a 13 point life swing, but any smart red mage knows it’s going to be quite a bit less.

With the rotation of cards like Kor Firewalker, Leyline of Sanctity, and Obstinate Baloth there are fewer cards that directly hose RDW. You no longer have to race decks like Valakut or Splinter Twin so the deck can afford to be slower than it was before. Without direct color hosers or non-interactive combo decks, the meta should be somewhat friendly to RDW type strategies.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be taking this list out for a test drive at FNM and look forward to updating you on my results. If you have any comments or criticism I would love to hear from you. See you next posting where I discuss my new take on Mono R Control.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

U/W Shape Control

The spoiling of Blightsteel Colossus made Shape Anew a much more interesting card. Emrakul was already out there sure, but there's something satisfying about killing someone with one combat phase. I think the combo has the potential to make it into a number of decks that play blue cards, but I chose to start tinkering with a control build:

4 Shape Anew
4 Master's Call

4 Mana Leak
4 Cancel
3 Stoic Rebuttal
4 Condemn
4 Preordain

3 Blightsteel Colossus

4 Jace, The Mind Sculptor

4 Halimar Depths
3 Celestial Colonnade
3 Seachrome Coast
3 Glacial Fortress
4 Inkmoth Nexus
9 Island

I left the sideboard out for now. Really just wanting to tweak the core build before anything else. I've only had a chance to test it once against a G/W Quest deck. Lost the 1st game, but was able to get the combo out in short order in games 2 and 3. With the right draw the deck can have BSC out and ready to rock on turn 4. Really looking forward to testing more against Tier 1 competition.

Condemn fits well in the deck. It's cheap removal and who cares about the lifegain when your plan is to kill with poison? I will say it feels negligible in many aggro matchups. Condemn isn't going to do much to slow down All In Goblins or other hyper aggressive strategies, and to be honest I almost feel like Day of Judgement might be too slow.  Maybe a mix of 3 Condemn and 3 Days in the main with Choking Fumes in the sideboard for our goblin friends. 11 counters almost feels like too much, maybe this is where cuts would be made. Speaking of counters, I feel like Negate might be a better card than Stoic Rebuttal. This is something that only further playtesting will resolve. I felt there were a few times I was lamenting the need to keep 3 mana open.

I'm very happy with the deck in terms of being able to dig through and find the combo pieces. Jace, Preordain, and Halimar depths function very well in this regard. Even if I don't find the combo pieces I'm looking for, I will often find the cards I need to deal with any situation.

I think the deck can definitely be better. There is a lot of tweaking to be done, but I'm pleased with the initial build and looking forward to sleeving up the finished product soon and taking it out for a spin on Friday night.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Coming Full Circle

I can trace nearly everything that has ever been good in my life back to Magic: The Gathering. Maybe that sounds sad to you. For me it's anything but. Perhaps one day I will bore you with the details, but for now suffice to say that everything I have - friends, family, and home - is due in large part to my picking up a starter deck of Ice Age as a teenager.

After this purchase I was totally immersed in Magic. Deck building, trading, and competing was a daily practice for me. At around age 20 other interests began to make their way to the fore of my priorities and Magic began to fade into the background. I was never totally removed from it, but I ended up selling my collection over time and very rarely played the game anymore.

Now - 10 years, 1 marriage, and a 4 year old son later - I have decided to get back into the game for good. I have so much to catch up on! 35 expansions have been released (not counting core sets) since I last played Magic seriously. To put that into perspective; there were only 16 sets released when I previously stopped playing. There is a lot of cardboard out there I have never seen. Mechanics and rules changes I have never heard of. Forget about everything I knew regarding card prices, anything that was good back in my day is valuable. Now we have $90 type 2 cards, a new format called legacy, changes to extended, mythic rares, and somehow highlander is a format supported by WOTC!?!

It's a huge amount of info for this magic veteran to absorb. Fortunately, the game seems to be more popular than ever. There are tons of resources for information out there on a variety of topics: deckbuilding, play, finance, you name it. I'm eager to learn and glad to be back. It's a great time to be a magic player.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Gaming pickups Christmas '10 edition

There is always someone on your Christmas shopping list who is difficult to buy for.  I have never been one of these people.  It's very easy to please me.  I just want one thing:  games!  We did something a little different for my gifts this year.  Instead of giving my wife the name of a few games and having her pick them up at retail price we got all of the shopping on black friday weekend.  This was great for a couple of reasons.  First, we were able to get everything on Amazon and not have to fight the crowd.  Second, I was able to get a LOT more for the money.

Before I dive into what I got though, let's take a look at what we got for my son Reid.

Epic Mickey - He's a big fan of Mickey so this seemed a no-brainer.  Turns out he hasn't quite gotten the hang of pointing the wii remote at the screen just yet.  Also, there is a lot of reading involved.  He'll get there though.

DS Lite - Reid has been rocking the DS Phat for a couple of years now and it's on it's last legs.  The time (and the price) was right to get him an upgraded system.  He's had to charge it multiple times already.  :)

Nyko Wii remote and nunchuck - This will make the family's 4th and final wii remote.  Reid needed his own and this was a good deal in a combo pack with Epic Mickey.

Toy Story 3, Kung Zhu, & The Backyardigans - Picked these up on Amazon's black friday deals.  Backyardigans was a gift from a relative.  Reid has spent a lot of time playing all 3 already.

Donkey Kong Country Returns - I needed a gift for Reid to give to mommy.  They both had a lot of fun playing the first DKC on my super NES so I feel like this was a good pickup.  Also got it on sale from Amazon.

Now for my pickups!

Bioshock 2 - Really dug the first game.  Was just waiting to catch this one for cheap.
Dragon Quest IX & Glory of Heracles - I love RPG games on the DS.
Ratchet & Clank games, God of War Collection - All 3 of these PS3 games were $10/ea and the PS2 Ratchet was $8.  Me and Reid both really enjoy the Ratchet & Clank series so these were great buys.  God of War 1&2 with HD graphics was a steal for $10.
3D Dot Game Heroes and White Knight Chronicles - Picked these up for $15 a piece.  3D Dot looks like a lot of fun, but I took a total stab in the dark on White Knight; I know next to nothing about the game.  Hopefully it will be fun too.  If not I can always put it on Goozex.
Eternal Sonata - This was on my want list of 360 games until I found out it was coming to the PS3 with more content.  Scooped it up for super cheap too.
Majin and the Forsaken Kingdom - I've heard it compared to Ico.  That was enough for me.  Ico was one of my favorite titles on the PS2.

Also got a few blu rays on the cheap.  I'm treating my blu ray acquisitions as my definitive movie collection.  I'm only getting stuff that I know will be viewed multiple times.  I have way too many dvd movies that will never see play again, not gonna repeat that mistake with blu rays.  The Batman movies and the Firefly series are all upgrades from dvds I already own.  The Book of Eli is my favorite movie of 2010 and Snatch is one of my all-time favorite movies.

All in all it was a great christmas for games.  Not sure how I feel about purchasing my own gifts, but really how much different is it from giving my wife a list of games?  Either way I know what I'm getting.

Anyway, enough about me!  What did Santa bring you?  Let me know in the comments.

Happy New Year!