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Defending the Commander Social Contract

Category: Avacyn

Lens of Clarity Two: The Afterlife

Hey there everyone! CK the resident Man In Black is back with this latest installment of Lens of Clarity. I’m not one to write lengthy intros so without further ado…hang on tight, everyone, it’s going to be a wild ride down the rabbit hole!

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And Now, Mr. P Reviews the New Generals from M15

Oh hey, Wizards! Thanks for totally throwing off my prognostications by actually including Legendary dudes in M15! You must like EDH!

Let’s do this!

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Monday at GDC – The Finalized Sharuum Community Project List

This is a rough day, folks.  Spoiler season is in overdrive for Avacyn Restored, with PAX East happening this past weekend and the official spoilers on the Wizards sight (and elsewhere) beginning this week.  There’s the official mentioning of the next block being a return to Ravnica.  I’ve got some fantastic potential writers that may be coming on board. 
There’s literally too much to talk about today.
I think, however, we’re at a crossroads with our beloved Esper sphinx, and the time has come to put our little project to bed once and for all, so let’s focus there.  There’s no guarantee that I can stay totally on target, but let’s see what we can do for now.
I give you the final Sharuum Community Project Decklist:
General – Sharuum The Hegemon
Creatures – 27

Etherium Sculptor
Ethersworn Adjudicator
Inkwell Leviathan
Magister Sphinx
Master Transmuter
Phyrexian Metamorph
Platinum Emperion
Solemn Simulacrum
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Wurmcoil Engine
Duplicant
Enigma Sphinx
Mycosynth Golem
Pentavus
Scarecrone
Sphinx Sovereign
Steel Hellkite
Steel Overseer
Leonin Abunas
Sharding Sphinx
Trinket Mage
Treasure Mage
Metallurgeon
Thopter Assembly
Vedalken Archmage
Priest of Yawgmoth
Arcbound Ravager

Artifacts – 20

Darksteel Forge
Lightning Greaves
Memory Jar
Sculpting Steel
Sol Ring
Thran Dynamo
Akroma’s Memorial
Crystal Shard
Mimic Vat
Mirrorworks
Nihil Spellbomb
Oblivion Stone
Prototype Portal
Sensei’s Divining Top
Nim Deathmantle
Batterskull
Spine Of Ish Sah
Darksteel Ingot
Vedalken Orrery
Expedition Map

Sorceries – 6

Austere Command
Open The Vaults
Demonic Tutor
Transmute Artifact
Windfall
Wrath Of God

Instants – 4

Entomb
Fact Or Fiction
Thirst for Knowledge
Vampiric Tutor

Enchantments – 4

Phyrexian Arena
Tempered Steel
Artificer’s Intuition
Rhystic Study

Lands – 38

Academy Ruins
Ancient Den
Arcane Sanctum
Blinkmoth Nexus
Bojuka Bog
Command Tower
Flooded Strand
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
High Market
Homeward Path
Marsh Flats
Miren, The Moaning Well
Mishra’s Factory
Mystifying Maze
Phyrexia’s Core
Polluted Delta
Reflecting Pool
Scrubland
Seat of the Synod
Strip Mine
Temple Of The False God
Tundra
Underground Sea
Vault Of The Archangel
Vault of Whispers
Volrath’s Stronghold
Watery Grave
Winding Canyons
Darksteel Citadel
2x Plains
2x Swamp
3x Island
Urza’s Factory

.   .   .   .   .
BREAKING IT DOWN
I have to start by saying that this was an eye-opener for me.  It became really apparent while working through the final decklists and comparing them to what I had put together that I do not have an easy time creating dedicated aggro decklists.  My mind is firmly centered on “good stuff!” as far as appropriate balances between answers versus threats and tutor density.  I repeatedly found myself agonizing over a list of fifteen or more tutors and an equal amount of removal, before realizing that most of those slots should be either 1) beaters, or 2) ways to maximize beaters.
I’m also horribly mired in the “best card” mindset.  This was pretty painful to come to understand.  I would be looking at a submission and thinking, “Why is this card in there?  It could just be Vindicate/Darksteel Ingot/Demonic Tutor…”  And then I would read the explanations, look closer, and face-palm after missing all of the cool interactions I was too busy ignoring in favor of my go-to cards.   
As a result, this wasn’t an easy process for me.  I have tons of respect for everyone who contributed here, and I’m already looking at my existing decks with a new focus.  You guys deserve tons of credit here.
That said, I’m really excited about this thing.  Let’s take a deeper look at what’s going on. 
Disclaimer – No one needs me to tell them how Sol Ring makes this deck better, or how Akroma’s Memorial is really good for an aggro deck.  What I’m going to try to do in the following section is look at the things that do stand out to me functionally, and I’ll most-likely skip the low-hanging fruit.
And as always, if I miss anything, please let me know!
 Creatures
-The creature density is just about right here.  Again, Esper colors tend to be the exact wrong combination for creating an effective aggro deck, so I wanted to try to leverage quantity as well as quality.  Hitting a count of mostly artifact creatures in the high twenties also was pretty necessary in order to properly leverage Mycosynth Golem.
-I like the various token-creators in this build.  Steel Overseer and Tempered Steel love Sharding Sphinx and Pentavus.
-I love my sacrifice outlets.  A cool play that already hit when simply goldfishing the deck involved having Priest Of Yawgmoth and sacrificing Wurmcoil Engine, giving me the mana to pay for Sharuum to immediately hit play, recurring Wurmcoil and starting over again..  That’s the type of synergy this deck will love to leverage.  This is the type of synergy that will drive this deck to stand up and take over a game.
-You’re stuck with Enigma Sphinx.  Card advantage and passive recursion on a reasonably-sized evasive body, AND it shares colors and creature types with the general?  Come on…shame on those of you who wanted to cut this card!
-ARTIFACTS
-Okay…it’s low-hanging, but I’m already re-thinking adding Karn, Silver Golem just for the joy of what he allows me to do with Darksteel Forge and Akroma’s Memorial.  I resisted the first time through because this happens every single time Mr. P plays his Karn deck, but on the other hand, it is pretty awesome.
-Mirrorworks and Prototype Portal are the heavy-lifters of this deck in my eyes.  Watching one of the regulars do obscene things with Mirrorworks into Sol Ring into Lightning Greaves into Nihil Spellbomb…that’s where this deck will shine.  Looking forward to Sphinx of the Steel Wind on Portal…
-The overall feeling was to take it easy on equipment, instead letting the creatures do what they’re designed to do.  Batterskull is in there because it can stand on its’ own and protect itself (and because it makes my Sphinx obscene), and Deathmantle is there for the solid recursion that fits the theme.  I skipped out on Cranial Plating because it doesn’t provide a relevant keyword effect, and Skullclamp because my mileage with this card is always terrible in anything other than a dedicated token deck.  I’ll watch this category as I get some seat-time, and things could change.
Sorceries
-I’m the only one really pulling for Transmute Artifact, but it’s worth the slot, so I’m making an executive decision to keep it.  It’s Entomb, Demonic Tutor, Tinker, and a sacrifice outlet all in one…too good to pass up.
-Open The Vaults makes me incredibly nervous.  I had this in my Sharuum build back in the day, and it never did anything other than get me targeted pre-emptively with graveyard hate.  Of course, that was the d-bag combo version of the deck too, so I probably deserved it…
Instants
-You guys are split right down the middle on Entomb, and there’s just no middle ground to be had; it’s either love it or hate it.  This is the one area where I need to make a concession to the old Sharuum days; this deck needs to be able to slide in a blistering play like accelerating into Sharuum for Memory Jar, or a late-game backbreaker like Darksteel Forge.  I know that I keep harping on this, but Esper aggro is always going to pale in comparison to red and green-based aggro.  As a result, I don’t feel badly about leveraging this at all, even though it will draw ire in players who have seen what the other Sharuum deck can do with this card. 
Besides – another goldfish hand had me Entomb the Jar and pop it while holding Open The Vaults, finding Tempered Steel, Akroma’s Memorial, Inkwell Leviathan, Wurmcoil Engine with the hand it gave me.  I’m sure it would have eaten a Bojuka Bog in a real game, but on the other hand…it could have been epic. 
Second aside here – Yeah, yeah.  Open The Vaults is nuts.  I feel like I’m playing the lottery when I include it in a deck.  Today might be the day, right?
Enchantments
-This is pretty standard fare.  I know some of you are equally tossed up on Artificer’s Intuition, but this card can single-handedly kick-start a slow start on the back of Sol Ring, the artifact lands, Top, and so on, all while guaranteeing that Sharuum is hitting play early and will bring a spicy friend with her.  It’s too good to pass up.
Lands
-Speaking of the artifact lands, there were a few of you who argued (some vehemently) against these as an inclusion, citing mass removal as a large reason to steer clear.  Don’t get me wrong – I agree that the threat is a real one, and I’ve been burned by it in the past.  For now, the call of Trinket Mage and Artificer’s Intuition has these staying put for now, but if things play out poorly, I’ll re-examine the cut.
-Sorry, Sinis…you’re going to kill me here, but I just couldn’t get above 38 lands.  I tried as hard as I could.  I’m willing to up this count if things look grim the first few times out.
-I know a lot of you were calling for the non-artifact man-lands (Celestial Colonnade), but I wanted something that would interact favorably with Steel Overseer and Tempered Steel, so I limited things to Mishra’s Factory, Blinkmoth Nexus, and Urza, Factory. 
NOTABLE NEAR MISSES
-The Arcbound stuff fell totally short, with the exception of Ravager. I’ve come to agree with you guys –  there’s a time and a place, and it involves the Proliferate mechanic and careful management of board sweepers.  This deck does neither of those.
-Planeswalkers in general.  While I love Venser, the Sojourner, he’s really an over-costed Momentary Blink (in the same way that Liliana Vess is an over-costed Vampiric Tutor) if we aren’t Proliferating.  The Tezzerets (The Seeker probably before Agent Of Bolas) may still see some play yet, most likely in a tutor slot somewhere.
-Speaking of which, Enlightened Tutor missed the cut.  This may or may not be a good call, especially with the artifact lands still in the deck.  But the reality is that I didn’t want this to be a tutor-fest, and it’s hard to slot this when there is ready access to Demonic and Vampiric Tutor already. 
-Forcefield!  Dammit…I was really looking forward for a reason to blow $80 on one of these.  Thanks for ruining the dream and protecting my checkbook, everyone…
-Darksteel Colossus, Colossus Of Sardia, and Phyrexian Colossus.  Of the three, Darksteel was the best fit, but the anti-synergy with the general made it less appealing.  Ditto the other two due mostly to the lack of untap effects. 
.   .   .   .   .
This is the list we’ve been working towards, and the one I’ll be test-driving and reporting on in the near future.  I think it represents a strong Esper aggro offering that should stand up to the field.  It can make power plays, but does not in any way exist to leverage Sharuum in a manner that makes her degenerate.  I really think we’ve succeeded here in to that end, and I hope that I can break down some walls regarding the stigma that is attached to her.  I’ll be sure to keep you all posted as I have results, and if anyone else decides to sleeve up the deck (or something close to it), I’d love to hear about it.    
I hope everyone who participated enjoyed this process.  Past the exercise of building the deck itself, I really had a great time reading and interacting with everyone who decided to get involved.  That’s a community success as well, even if the deck didn’t end up exactly where any of us may have individually seen it going.  
For now, if anyone wants to discuss this further, please shoot me an e-mail.  I’m glad to keep things going there.  For those of you who participated, stay tuned to your inboxes in the coming week.  
.   .   .   .   .
Next up – Looking deeper into the Avacyn Restored spoilers!  What’s really going to do damage to the format in this set (hint: I don’t think either the black or the white legendary creature inclusions will), and will I be ditching the old ball and chain for the young new hotness?  (My mono-white angels deck.  What did you think I was talking about?)  Also, Intet is around the corner.  I’m hoping that I can find a way to, you know, not hate playing the deck.  Stay tuned…
àDJ

Dissecting Avacyn, Angel of Hope (*SPOILERS*) (Alternate title: Goth Night on Innistrad!)

Book-keeping before we get started – standard rules apply:
-First off, I’m moving off the finalized Sharuum Community Project decklist reveal and discussion until next week.  I’ve received some really solid lists so far from some of you, and I’m excited to see how you took what I roughed out and ran with it.  I’m actually having a hard time deciding where to go with these; I could see running any individual one of them unaltered.  In fact, I might at some point…
Anyway, the other thing I received is a few of you regular contributors asking for a small extension to finish up your lists.  This is really your project, so I’m not going to shut you out at the eleventh hour.  But please do hurry.  
Get ‘em in before next Monday.  I mean it this time.  For reals.
-I’m putting the finishing touches on the questionnaire for those of you who contributed to the Sharuum project.  Not to repeat myself too many times, but this should be a cool way to end things and reward you guys.  Look for the e-mails next week.
-Finally, I’ve gotten a few great replies in regard to my request for writers and subject matter.  Please – keep it coming.  I still want to hear from you if you’re interested in contributing either way.  I’m going to open up some lines of dialog with everyone who has replied sometime next week.  
Stay tuned.
.   .   .   .   .
It’s spoiler season again, folks.  Avacyn Restored is set to release in about a month’s time, and the Wizards Of The Coast hype machine has kicked things off by spoiling the name-brand character for the set: Avacyn, Angel Of Hope.
(Image courtesy of Examiner.com/Wizards Of The Coast)
If you’ve read GDC for any real length of time, you know that I’m a sucker for big, splashy creatures.  Avacyn certainly doesn’t disappoint.  Now, she’s already being talked about to death on the various regular forums, so I’m not going to waste time with a run-of-the-mill “single card discussion”-style breakdown here.  Instead, I’m flipping the script. 
ONE-TAKES WITH DJ: AVACYN, ANGEL OF HOPE
-With all the light in the background of this art, the foil version is going to be fantastic.
-Speaking of art, I’ll put the over/under at eighteen hours from midnight on Friday, April 27th before someone posts an altered version featuring Storm of the X-Men.
-That’s an interesting take on a mono-white angel who’s about to become the savior of an entire plane of existence.  No wonder the speculation had her as a black/white legend.
-Sorry, Mr. P…you’re still stuck with Selenia, Dark Angel.      
-This art is making me want to bust out my old Cure CDs. 
-Er…for what I imagine are the majority of my readers, The Cure was a pop-goth band that was really big in the 80s.  Remember “Just Like Heaven”?   
-Sorry…also for what I still imagine are the majority of my readers, CDs were the DVD-looking things us old people used to listen to before the invention of the MP3.  You’re welcome. 
-Avacyn doesn’t replace Radiant as my mono-white angels tribal general – she’s just not old enough, rare enough, and foil enough – but she slots right in somewhere.  Probably in place of Deathless Angel, although I like the utility of being able to make other players’ creatures indestructible.  
-Maybe it replaces some other crappy angel in there somewhere.  Of which I’m sure there are many.
-I am, however, incredibly excited now because I kept Light From Within in the deck.  Seems like good times.
-Yeah, I’m also putting her in my Kaalia deck.  Feel free to reply to comments with “Pot, meet kettle” once you get down to the Worldslayer part…
-I guess I’m not up on the flavor of the set, but I’m not understanding the ability selection.  Flying, sure.  Indestructibility, right on.  Vigilance?  Can someone help me on that one?
-I know it’s been said, but in any deck that supports both white and green, Spearbreaker Behemoth is now obsolete.  I’m really looking forward to pairing Avacyn with Empyrial Archangel.
-On the down side, legendary status kind of hurts in this scenario.  I don’t want my combo susceptible to Clone effects.
-Whoever sets the pricing on pre-sale cards at any of the major vendors (ahermStarCityGamesahem…) is out of their damn mind putting her at $15.
-Stock tip, people:  Open at the Prerelease.  Sell.  Re-buy a few weeks later at a fraction of the price.  Profit!  
-Draft bomb, or too expensive?  I’m banking on “yes”, but I’m also the guy who windmill-slammed Darksteel Colossus into my pile like it was my job when I wasn’t trying to rare-draft.
-Yeah, yeah…it’s really cute to play her with mass land destruction.  Please let me know when you get that out of your system.
-Ditto sticking Worldslayer on her.  We’re not breaking new and interesting ground here, people.
-Now that I think of it, Dominate is going in every single blue deck I have.  There’s a new “Living The Dream!” achievement for you…
-I’m sort of amazed that some people are already screaming that this card is too broken for the format.  I know the sky is always falling when something like this is revealed, but seriously?  An eight-mana creature with a triple colored mana requirement?  When everyone and their mother runs exile effects? 

-Yeah…I know what Darksteel Forge does.  Completely different story here.  Still not seeing it.  Sorry.

.   .   .   .   .
That’s all for this week, everyone.  Enjoy your weekend-
àDJ

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