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Defending the Commander Social Contract

Category: Intet

Flashback Friday… er SATURDAY: The Danger of Nice Things – Intet and the Problem of Good Stuff, Part 1

Editor’s Note: This piece was originally published on May 21, 2012. We’re flashing back to some of our best from the past several years every Friday (Saturday this week…), because what’s old is new again. In honor of Cassidy re-buying into the format yesterday, with his sole deck being the quintessential Cassidy-UR-Judo experience, we thought it would be fun to go back to some of the earliest “anti-goodstuff” thoughts from Team GDC. 
I’m a bad person.
No, really.
I’ve been lying to you all this entire time.  You come here twice a week to hear me tell stories and complain about improper threat assessment.  (Okay, maybe you come in spite of that last one.)  I try to be honest with you and give you interesting, engaging, and funny things to read.  After all, I want you coming back every time I post something.
But I put on a show as well.  I like to talk about the things I don’t like about EDH.  I don’t like infect or mass-land destruction.  I talk about my dislike of Mind Twist effects, and I don’t play with the “general damage” rule.
I rail on “good stuff” builds.
The problem is that sometimes…just sometimes…I head up to my man-loft (dirt-floor basement, people.  The humidity kills my foils down there…), lock the door behind me, dim the lights, and start dreaming up new ways to accelerate into a turn five Tooth and Nail for Primeval Titan and Avenger of Zendikar.
Good people do bad things.  Sometimes they just can’t help it.
NOT BAD MEANING BAD BUT BAD MEANING GOOD
I admit that I’m frequently guilty of falling prey to “good stuff.”  Let’s face it…if you run green, it’s really hard not to slot Eternal Witness or Primeval Titan into your deck.  Consecrated Sphinx is too strong to pass up.  Have you seen what happens when you resolve Rite of Replication targeting it?  To be fair, it does suck to have someone immediately resolve Insurrection afterward…
…See?  It’s really easy to slide comfortably into the ‘goodstuff’ trap.  It’s like a nice warm bed on a cold winter morning – once you’re in it, it feels way too good, and it’s really hard to force yourself to get back out of it.
 When I build, I try really hard not to fall into the trap of auto-including cards like this just because they’re solid cards, but I do tend to pepper in a few here and there across my various deck lists.
But with Intet, I run them all.  And then some.  The deck is a powerhouse based on the sheer volume of game-altering card choices contained within it.
Yup.  Huge hypocrite.  Nice to meet you.  Guilty as charged.
Before you show up with pitchforks and torches at my front door, though, let’s look at the “how” and the “why.”
IT’S NOT EASY BEING GREEN (AND RED AND BLUE)
As I’ve said before, I was drawn to Intet not for the colors, but because of the ability.  I’m a sucker for all things free, so I couldn’t resist building around Intet’s “bring a friend” trigger.  As I spent more time in the format, however, I came to realize that this particular enemy color shard is defined just as much by what it can’t do as by what it can.  The single-most important thing that a deck loses if it has no access to both black and white is removal independent of damage.
This is actually huge.
Without the ability to run sweepers like Wrath of God and Decree of Pain, we lose the ability to reasonably answer a mass grouping of creatures.  Red can deal mass damage, but Protection from Red shuts off Disaster Radius; pro-white doesn’t touch Akroma’s Vengeance.  There are conditional targeted options such as Beast Within, but the only true sweepers (Oblivion Stone, Nevinyrral’s Disk) can be shut off due to required activations by various cards like Stifle and Null Rod.
(To be fair, I’m discounting the inclusions of cards like Obliterate and Decree of Annihilation.  Sure, they wipe creatures off the board, but at the expense of all lands as well.  This is a whole different ball of wax, but on a basic level, you’re still paying a minimum of twice what white does to take out an army.  As we’ll see below, eight to ten mana should – and can – just win the game instead.)
Additionally, there are options in red and green that deal with all artifacts (Creeping Corrosion, Pulverize), and ways for green to handle enchantments (Back To Nature), but white corners the market on doing both (Austere Command) in one package.  If you lack white, you’re running two cards to do the dirty work of one.  Good luck making sure you’ve got the correct one at the correct time.
There are some other things that go missing as well (such as raw tutor power from black), but the critical differences are large hurdles.  They force Intet to compensate, and usually the way to do that is by over-compensating in other areas.
RAW POWER
As we looked at before, being in green, blue, and red make for availability of some intensely powerful card choices, making it really simple to achieve a deck that can simply out-gun white and black removal.  Let’s look at what we have access to:
-Green offers unbridled mana acceleration that can’t be touched by any other color.  This starts early with Sakura-Tribe Elder and starts to push into stronger options like Kodama’s Reach, before exploding into the top end with Primeval Titan.  R&D has also seen fit to toss us a few over-the-top bones like Tooth and Nail and Genesis Wave over the years.
-With blue, we also have a lock on the best card draw (Consecrated Sphinx, Rhystic Study, Fact or Fiction) as well as some of the better synergistic tutor options in the game.  (Trinket Mage, for example.)  Blue also offers up some equally-absurd high-end effects, such as Rite of Replication, Bribery, and Blatant Thievery.
-Red is a little more refined, but we get the best haste options (Urabrask, Anger), along with some borderline-broken synergistic enablers like Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Insurrection.  Good times.
But it’s the combination of these options that really pushes the deck over the top.  Tap out for Tooth and Nail for Avenger of Zendikar and Prime Time.  If you have In the Web of War, win on the spot.  If not?  You’ll want mana-up so you can Hinder the wrath effect that’s coming.  Fortunately, you can play Seedborn Muse and not have to worry there.  In a pinch, Insurrection probably breaks the game open for you alone.  If not, Kiki Jiki and Pestermite can do the same thing, or you can Crystal Shard your Eternal Witness to recur Time Stretch all day long.
It just keeps going and going, folks.  White and black look absolutely pedestrian in comparison.
When you combine an ability that promotes getting expensive things for free for the low price of three mana and a combat phase, you end up with a deck full of broken cards and broken strategies.  I’ve spoken recently about Generals that are designed with a very narrow “build around me” theme or strategy in mind; I won’t quite put Intet into this category because the ability doesn’t suggest a specific avenue to go down card-wise, but it sure suggests a certain subset of cards at least cost-wise.  (Let’s face it…you’re not trying to get a free Fires of Yavimaya…you’re trying to get a free Ulamog.)
It’s a slippery-slope strategy strapped to the back of a legendary dragon.  I don’t condone (or enjoy) falling this heavily into “good stuff” territory.  It’s not somewhere I ever want to end up when I build a deck, because it leads to very linear, un-fun games.
It’s not what I had in mind when I first set out to build an Intet deck.  I had good intentions.  I swear I did.
But you know what they say about good intentions, right?
.   .   .   .   .
Stay tuned for next-time, folks…there is a light at the end of the Intet tunnel.  We have a special guest coming onboard to look at part two for some solid alternative strategies and mechanics that can take us away from the “good stuff” trap – as well as much good stuff you can get away while still maintaining a fun play environment.
Also – For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, I took the reins for another installment of “Dear Azami” over at StarCityGames again today.  Please take the time to hop over and check out “Numot: Enter the Dragon”  I appreciate the continued support!
Thanks again,
-DJ

M13 – Upgrading The Current Decks

Hello, everyone!  I hope most of you were able to get out and hit up the M13 Prereleases this past weekend; life got in the way for me, so I’ve been relegated to reading Twitter feeds and forum posts to get my fill of the new stuff.  I’m itching to play with these cards, so today I’m indulging in the time-honored tradition of discussing the new set in terms of what cards are under consideration for replacing in to existing decks.  
It’s been a while since I’ve done something like this, mostly because Innistrad block was (at least for me) a bust both thematically (Sorry, MaRo…I’m sure I’d be digging the “gothic horror” thing if I was a drafter) and also functionally; once I liquidated my zombie decks, my shopping list took a serious nosedive because there just weren’t many cards that did things better than what I already had slotted.  There were a few hits, such as Sigarda, Deadeye Navigator, Tragic Slip, and Balefire Dragon, but for the most part, this block resonated with me about as much as Kamigawa or Lorwyn block did.  
Which is to say it really didn’t at all.
As a result, M13 is a bit of a breath of fresh air.  It looks like R&D made some solid strides to add in some new and interesting cards to the mix, and quite a few of the reprints are exciting to see again.  (Completely on topic, I had been in need of an Akroma’s Memorial to finish off my Sigarda list, but I was balking under $15-$20 pricetags just a few days before the card was spoiled.)  Also, Core Sets tend to be my cup of tea thematically because (for the most part) they’re devoid of back-story.  (Yeah…I’m into a fantasy game but I don’t want a fantasy story to get in the way of my enjoyment.  Figure that one out.)
So in a nutshell, M13 has got me in a mood to talk upgrades.  Let’s take a look at what I’ll be looking for in the coming weeks, as well as a few possibilities that are on the button at current time.
(Disclaimer – Thought I was going to dig the heck out of MW.  Instead, he tends to make games un-fun in my experiences so far.  I’m in the process of trying to decide if he fits in the deck rather than as the general, but for the time being, I’m reserving him for substitution for those times when certain players show up to the shop.)
ArchaeomancerI’m in the process of transforming Intet from a ‘top-of-the-deck matters’ build into a ‘ETB triggers and synergy’ role-player.  (In other news, there’s a good chance that this change will result in Intet becoming something else entirely – probably something that includes white or black…)  He’s cheaper than Izzet Chronarch or Mnemonic Wall, so he’s a consideration.  This deck needs to re-use things like you read about, which has led me to go heavier on Regrowth effects as of late.   
If I pull a foil, the decision will probably be easier…
Boundless RealmsJust kidding.  This card actually gets the finger.  Green doesn’t need more stupid ramp or ways to make Avenger of Zendikar more obnoxious.  Just wanted to throw that in.
Mindclaw ShamanI have a feeling this card is going to become a hated one in short order in the same way Bribery has.  Still, the effect is limited to hand, so it may prove to be fair.  It’s a great way to snag a needed Wrath effect in these colors, though, and I’m excited to start catching people who are trying to ramp out to Tooth and Nail or Genesis Wave with it.
Mwonvuli Beast TrackerI’ve pulled Survival Of The Fittest and Fauna Shaman recently because I like linear games about as much as I like root canals.  That said, this cousin of Eternal Witness seems kind of fun in comparison, and with these colors lacking solid tutors and narrow answers at times, it would be really nice to…
…Eh.  Never mind.  I just looked at the deck list again.  This card finds Primeval Titan, and that’s about it.  
Did I mention I need to redesign this thing? 
OmniscienceOnly mentioned because Mr. P may or may not have reported to me that there may or may not have been a draft happening somewhere in his area that may or may not have featured M13, and that in this theoretical draft, there may or may not have been a copy of this card wheeling as he watched.
Delicious irony.
Roaring PrimadoxFurthering the ETB theme in a strong way.  Also, making everyone hate me if I do find a slot for Maelstrom Wanderer.
SpelltwineThis is the blue card of the set that has me excited.  I’ve been steering toward Reverberate and Redirect effects lately in Intet, and this seems like a cool way to explore the theme.  Again, this color combination frequently hurts for a way to come up with board sweepers, so this slots nicely next to Knowledge Exploitation.
Thundermaw HellkiteLow-hanging fruit is low-hanging.  This is one of the ‘bubble’ cards, since the effect is lessened in EDH, but can be a repeatable tapper with blink effects.  It’s worth it to note that this wouldn’t be on my radar without haste.
Void StalkerThe jury is out on this one.  In fact, I’m not sure why I would include it in Intet.  Then again, I’m not sure why I’ve included Intet in Intet these days, so a utility creature that can tuck a relevant threat might be worth it to try out.
Boundless RealmsOkay, so I’m a huge hypocrite.  Thromok likes splashy big mana ramps as much as the next green deck, so this might actually serve a purpose.  
Or maybe I’ll just figure out some other options that don’t make me feel evil.  Jury’s out.
Cathedral Of WarI’m hesitant to add more colorless-mana producers to this list, but Exalted is potentially relevant for a deck designed to go Voltron.
Fungal SproutingThis I dig.  This has the potential to make for an enormous Thromok very early in the game.  Often times, I find myself stuck looking at three tokens on the board, not wanting to waste casting him for such a small return.  With the way the deck is built at current time (read: ample sacrifice outlets), this serves to make Thromok immediately huge off of relatively few devour targets.  Alternately, it’s a great way to make a huge mob of hasty sidekicks for a huge late-game swing.
Yeva, Nature’s HeraldYeva may get the nod over the Vedalken Orrery that I’m currently trying out on the list due to tutor-ability and the ability to not bend over to artifact hate.
Faith’s RewardBubble card all the way.  Sigarda is all about finding ways to recover from board sweepers, as in current incarnation the deck is an enchantment-based token deck.  However, is this better than Replenish?  Does it complement Replenish?
Questions, questions…
Sublime ArchangelCould be a role-player.  Certainly will be funny with Sacred Mesa.  If I happen across one, I’ll toss it in to try out.
Staff of NinAnother draw effect for mono-red.  Hallelujah.
Trading PostSlobad loves to discard and sacrifice artifacts to get Goblin Welder online, and wants desperately to regrow artifacts and draw cards by any means necessary.  I have a suspicion that this card ends up being an engine somehow in this deck, but I can’t quite figure it out yet.  One of the cards I’m most excited for in the set.
Wild GuessCheap early draw stapled to a discard outlet.  I’ll always include cards like this.  Faithless Looting gets a new friend.
Diabolic RevelationI’m hesitant to add more tutor effects to this deck.  Still, it wants to make big mana and find answers to the current board state, so it’s possible this card replaces something like Increasing Ambition.  We’ll see.
Disciple of BolasIf the redesign maintains a reasonably-high creature and/or reanimation count, this should be a natural fit.
Liliana of the Dark RealmsThis is another natural fit for the deck.  She finds lands, removes creatures from the battlefield, and helps make huge mana.
If one pops out of a pack, I’m stoked.  Otherwise, I’ll be waiting for it to drop way off in price somewhere down the road.
MurderBecause it’s called Murder.  How it took nearly two decades to make this card is beyond me.
Nefarox, Lord of GrixisAgain, this depends on the density of creatures after the general swap and subsequent redesign takes place.  But I hate Eldrazi (well, to be fair, I hate annihilator), and Baby Thrax is a solid option as a result.
.   .   .   .   .

àDJ

Thursday At GDC: Does Wizards Of The Coast Hate EDH?

Okay…’hate’ is a very strong term.  Wizards clearly appreciates our format.  The thing is, I don’t think they understand it. 
Let me try to explain what I mean.  (Apologies in advance for the somber tone today, everyone, but I’m a little worried about things here.)
BRAND NEW HEAVIES
I managed to sneak down to Worlds Apart last night for EDH Wednesday.  There was a solid turnout, and I ended up shoehorning in a full four games before I left for the evening.  This is a good thing; I’m currently in the process of trying to tweak and update all of my current decks, and I had my new Thromok list to try out as well, so I was looking forward to gleaning a ton of data from the evening.  
I certainly wasn’t disappointed. 
To preface, I had a discussion with Mr. P earlier in the week about Maelstrom Wanderer.  Like myself and Imshan, Mr. P also has an Intet list together, and has been fighting with the identity of the deck much in the same way that I have lately.  He decided to try out the deck as it stood in some games over the weekend while substituting Wanderer for Intet as the general.  His results weren’t particularly encouraging (at least as far as trying to break from the ‘good stuff’ mold goes); things seemed to follow a very concrete path in the games he played.
I’m paraphrasing here, but If I recall, here’s the progression:
-Ramp up to eight mana.
-Play Maelstrom Wanderer.
-Win the game basically on the spot.
He confirmed that Wanderer is a clear upgrade over Intet even when not being built around, but it simply creates a new set of issues in the process of answering the old ones.  The card is good – really good – but it feels essentially like a turbo-charged Tooth and Nail or Insurrection; there’s just not a ton of subtlety in playing Maelstrom Wanderer.  It takes your deck and makes it better, while not particularly helping with synergy or design vectors.  It brings synergy to a deck in the same way that Tooth and Nail does, which is to say with all of the grace and technique of a sledgehammer.  Put good cards in your deck, get them for free, win the game.
That’s a problem. 
Someone on the Planechase 2012 design team thought this thing up.  It’s clearly an EDH plant – all of the legends in that set are.  It got handed to someone on the development team, and passed all tests with flying colors – a tacit seal of approval. 
I’m imagining that the thought process was fairly straight-forward:
“EDH players like big, splashy, chaotic effects, right?  That’s what defines the format, after all…heck, the guy who helped build it has a weekly column called ‘Embracing The Chaos.’  This thing meets all of those criteria.  Kids’ll love it!”
…And suddenly here we are, cascading into Avenger of Zendikar and Primeval Titan and ending the game. 
Looking back to my Monday article, I was right.  Wanderer is better than Intet by a country mile.  But it doesn’t make the Intet deck better.  It makes it more linear, less engaging, and ramps up the ‘auto-pilot’ factor.  If you’re keeping score, this is the opposite of what I want to see happen.
I played two games with my Intet list last night, also swapping in Wanderer as the general in the same way Mr. P did.  Now, I’ve been tinkering with this list heavily in the past few weeks, trying to make it more interesting, fun, and interactive.  I pulled Avenger for Deadeye Navigator.  I added effects like Cultural Exchange and Natural Balance.  Diversify, enhance, and break from the mold.
I still won both games.  One easily and quickly, and one through heavy pressure.
The first game really put the spotlight things, though.  Facing Jenara, Asura of War and Silvos, Rogue Elemental, I opened with Forest into Sol Ring.  Turn two, I played TropicalIsland and Skyshroud Claim, grabbing Taiga and Stomping Ground.  Turn three saw Cultivate. 
Turn four, Maelstrom Wanderer.  I cascaded into Duplicant and some other big creature, and ended up swinging for about seventeen into the Silvos player.  The next turn, I had the Acidic Slime to take out his Asceticism, and beat him down to low single digits.  The following turn, I drew and played Crystal Shard, and both players scooped.
Maelstrom Wanderer effectively took the deck and made it all about abusing the general to play out big expensive threats, and in the process kind of sucked the fun out of the games for my opponents.  Whereas the old Intet deck was about manipulating the top of the library and managing resources to keep the game under control over the long haul, the new Wanderer deck is all about fast blunt-force trauma, courtesy of the general and a pile of good cards.
And only the general has changed. 
I’m sure that the Planechase team thought this was a healthy bump up in power and excitement, but I’m wondering if they play-tested EDH with him at all.  I don’t want to complain about being given nice things, but this just isn’t a healthy thing.
SOME MEN JUST WANT TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN
And then there’s this thing:
If I was unsure of whether Wizards knew what EDH was about, this solidifies my belief.  Either they have no clue whatsoever what makes the format really tick, or someone on the EDH Rules Council did something to anger someone in R&D. 
This card doesn’t discourage interactivity; it beats interactivity to within an inch of its life, then ties it to a chair and forces it to watch while killing every single one of its friends and family before finally tying the chair to a block of concrete and tossing it off a bridge.
Seriously.  Anyone trying to tell you differently is lying to you (or playing Jhoira.)
I find it telling that a thread on the Official Forums has already been populated with nearly unanimous distain for Worldfire.  Seriously…take a few minutes to read through it; it’s eye-opening.  Comments range from distain to outright hostility to a few people that have latched onto the low-hanging fruit of Oblivion Ring-ing Bogardan Hellkite or suspending Rift Bolt before playing it.
For the record, the problem isn’t that Worldfire is a big, expensive game-ender.  Every color has those.  The issue is that EDH is a social format.  EDH promotes interactivity as a primary core value.  Worldfire unceremoniously jack-hammers out nearly all of the pillars of interactivity in one fell swoop.  Mass land destruction?  Check.  Mass hand disruption?  Check.  Graveyard interaction?  Gone.  Life totals?  Uniformly wiped nearly clean. 
The end result is that an entire game is reduced to a situation where nothing that has happened up to the moment that Worldfire is played matters anymore.  Worse yet, the outcome is either that someone has set up essentially a dreary combo win, or worse yet, didn’t, and everyone is now reduced to top-decking from seriously-depleted libraries.
Make no mistake – this card was designed for EDH.  Nine-mana sorceries don’t see play in Standard or Limited, and both Legacy and Vintage have way better things to do than play this thing.  And this is about the least-friendly EDH card I’ve seen printed in a very long time.
SUMMING IT UP, AND A GUARANTEE
I’m not crazy about the way things are headed.  There’s a power creep happening in general in Magic, and I’m incredibly nervous that EDH will end up being a victim in the long run.  Since the Rules Committee is an independent governing body, Wizards Of The Coast has no real reason to worry about the cards that filter into the format at all.  With regular supported formats, Wizards has a responsibility to create cards that fit in the scope of things without breaking anything, because banning cards is not a profitable or confidence-inspiring move.  (I’m positive that the last thing they want to do is tell their regular paying players that things they’ve invested in are off-limits.)  With no tournament structure to support, they likely look at EDH as what it is at its core – a kitchen-table format where anything goes.  All it takes is the belief that if big and splashy is good, bigger and splashier must be better, and the loose guidelines for what works and what doesn’t can stray into dangerous territory in a hurry.  
I feel like this is happening already, and I don’t know what the answer to the problem is.  Escalation rarely ends in a good place.
In the meantime, I’m going to go buy a lighter.  Probably a nice Zippo.  I’ll figure out something to engrave on it somewhere along the way…something meaningful and topically relevant.  
And with that lighter, I intend to burn every copy of Worldfire that falls into my possession.  Mark my words.
Nothing like a little poetic justice, right?  (Should make for some interesting drafts at GenCon, too!)
.   .   .   .   .
What do you guys think?  Am I blowing this way out of proportion?  Are these cards solid examples of progression in design?  Is this a logical place for Magic to go in this era?  Are these cards actually balanced and fun?  Or is the format doomed?  Am I going to need to stock up on lighter fluid?
Hit up the comments and let me have it.  I’m ready.
àDJ

Out With The Old?

I asked you guys about direction for a Livonya Silone deck not long ago, and the long of the short of it is that as much as I hate to admit it, Wizards R&D just does it better these days.  Maybe it’s a simple matter of the necessity of “power creep”, but I sat down over the weekend intending to bang out Livonya’s new 100-card home, and came out the other end…with a Thromok list.  I wanted to restore a classic car, and bought a brand-new one instead. 
Dammit.
Well, let’s cover some standard business before we look further at this.  It’s Monday; I need to ease into my frustration a little at a time, or I’m liable to run screaming into the woods.  Or at least take a leisurely drive down to Dunkin Donuts for a coffee.   
TUCKING IT IN
I neglected to give you guys the results of the “Tuck!” poll from last month.  Here’s the scoop:

How Do You Feel About Tuck In EDH?

Seems Fine!                           77%    (33 Votes)
Needs Errata                         19%    (8 Votes)
Who Plays Tuck?                  4%      (2 Votes)
Broken!                                 0%      (0 Votes)

This ended up exactly where I was expecting it to.  I expected most of you to be okay with tuck as it currently stands, especially on the backs of the new toys in Terminus and Banishing Stroke.  (Shiny and new.  All is forgiven!) 
When referring to the errata in the second option, this is the suggestion that tuck effects should work in the same way as other removal currently does when used on a general; if a tuck spell or effect would cause a general to be shuffled into or placed on the bottom of a library, the player who owns the general should have the option to place it instead in the Command Zone.  
Personally, I’m of the opinion that tuck as it exists in the format is fine as it is; I like to have the option to handle a problem general with some amount of actual permanence.  However, I know there’s a body of players who would argue that losing your general removes the identity of your deck at best, and at worst cripples you.  
How does this resonate with you?  Hit up the comments section with your opinion.


OFF-TOPIC – HELP ME SPEND SOME MONEY…

I’m looking for some opinions here, and I figured some of you may have a better grasp of the technology than I do. 
I’m looking to pick up a notebook or tablet.  I have a computer at home for my heavy work (word processing, image manipulation, research, etc), and I’d like a device that has an emphasis on mobility.  Ideally, this will be something that I can easily travel with, and be able to use for updating Twitter/Facebook, some amount of writing and note-taking on the fly, and the standard suite of internet/e-mail access.  I’d like to be able to integrate photos and video as well, although I have a smartphone that will allow me to also handle this in a pinch.  It doesn’t need to be perfect at everything, but it does need to address it all.
So far, the suggestions have been equal parts netbook/Macbook Air and tablet/Ipad.  The former is obviously easier to do actual writing on, but it’s easier to stand next to a table at GenCon and post pics and pithy comments about the Griselbrand combo mirror matches as they happen.
Any suggestions on what I’m really looking for here?  Shoot me an e-mail.  And thanks in advance.


WHEN DOES BEING A SLAVE TO THE OLD-SCHOOL START TO HURT?

Back on topic, I’m sitting here staring at a Thromok deck that was supposed to be something else.  Despite my best intentions, devour X for five mana just seemed to be better in nearly every way to a moderately-sized first-striking land-walker for six.  I started dreaming of dropping In The Web Of War, playing a 49/49 Thromok (triggering Warstorm Surge, knocking out one player on the spot), attacking another player for lethal damage, Fling-ing him at a third player, and triggering Stalking Vengeance to kill…
Well, I usually play four player games, so I guess myself?
You know…style points.  Or something.
The point is that when it comes down to it, power creep has taken us into a new age in Magic.  Back in the day, six mana got you Force of Nature – an 8/8 trampler with a four-mana colored upkeep cost.  These days, the same investment gets you an uncounterable 8/8 trampler with no upkeep, or a hydra that deals combat damage to all of your opponents at once.  That’s a pretty hefty swing over the past fifteen-odd years. 
The question is simple – At what point does it just stop making sense to be nostalgic?
My current poster-boy for this phenomenon is Maelstrom Wanderer:



Not more than a few weeks back, Imshan and I published our joint article on Intet, the Dreamer.  Now, the specific purpose was more focused on the construction of the decks themselves, and trying to steer clear of falling prey to “good stuff”, but there’s a very real component to the equation that seems to indicate that my first-ever EDH general has been upstaged.
Intet gives you a 6/6 flyer for six mana – good bang for the buck.  From there, for a small three-mana investment on the back of a successful damaging of another player, I can cast the top card of my library for free.  Again, seems good; the only real downside comes when we hit a land. 
With Wanderer, we’re paying an additional two-mana premium.  The power grows to seven; the toughness drops to five.  However, we’re now getting an additional two spells for the same price via cascade, and there’s no chance of blanking by hitting a land.  Looking at my list, that allows me to play anything currently in my deck. 
Twice.
And if that’s not good enough, my team also gets haste.  Isn’t that just…better?
There’s also the question of usability and integration.  With Intet, you really need to invest in a “top of the library matters” strategy with the deck, which often means replacing arguably-superior draw like Rhystic Study with something like Soothsaying.  With Wanderer, you can go in that direction, but it’s not terrible to just double raw-dog the top two spells off the top of your deck, and play better cards instead.  There’s no extra investment required, no risk of loss through combat, and most of all, no chance of blanking out. 
The flip side of that coin (at least for me) is that usually all of that risk means that Intet stays in the Command Zone more often than not, effectively becoming a puppet-general.  Which I hate.  Realistically, though, why would I waste a critical turn mid-game running him out for a minimal return and several hoops to jump through, when I’d really like to be saving my mana for the Gather Specimens in my hand instead?  Where’s my motivation to play my general? 
Intet, for all of the nostalgic value, isn’t really winning this fight, despite how much I love being a slave to old-school flavor.
.   .   .   .   .
So where does this leave me?  Is there a point where it no longer makes sense to hold on to tradition?  Is my stupid desire to flash my old-school cred being overshadowed by the fact that two colorless mana is apparently now worth one Mind’s Desire trigger stapled to Fervor?
Or is it just better to get your brains bashed in while proudly displaying a card printed before some of the players at your table were even born? 
Does moral high-ground matter in the long run?
…Oh, hey.  Just shuffled up a hand with Soul’s Fire, Natural Order, and Symbiotic Wurm. 
I’m sorry…what were we talking about, again?

àDJ         

(Guest Column) The Danger Of Nice Things, Part 2 – featuring Imshan Poolar

Welcome to the second part of the Danger of Nice Things.  My name is Imshan, and I’m here to lead you out of – or deeper in – the mess that Cassidy started.
Good Stuff, or the Greatest Stuff?
Like Cassidy, I am also a bad person.  I like to play good stuff in my decks too.  Like Cassidy, I squirm a little bit when I include Primeval Titan, Consecrated Sphinx and the usual goodies in my decks, though it helps that I only have one copy of each.  Those cards are played out and potentially really boring, but it helps us win and there’s that feeling of power behind them.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that there’s nothing wrong with playing good stuff.  However, want to temper this notion with the idea that your deck has to go somewhere, rather than simply using the best cards available to win.  In other words, playing Eternal Witness is okay if it’s going to do something for you by being a creature.  Having it carry a Sword of Protection and Value, or bouncing it with other cards is a reason to play Eternal Witness.  Obviously, this is going to make some cards very easy to justify.  Primeval Titan’s presence is always justifiable because you can always use more mana or effects stapled on lands, and Consecrated Sphinx is always going to be justifiable because you can always use more spells to cast.
The kind of good stuff I avoid playing is the stuff I can’t justify in terms of what I want my deck to do.  I personally try to avoid the typical win condition packages like Tooth and Nail, Avenger of Zendikar and Primeval Titan (for these purposes).  That might make me a sort of Commander hipster, but Tooth and Nail has lost its lustre for me.  I think this is perhaps the biggest complaint about good stuff that I have – good stuff finishers are commonly used, and do not make for memorable or interesting games.
The Problem of Intet
When I first saw Intet, much like Cassidy, I also felt the call of ‘free stuff here’.  I gleefully did my best to play free stuff all the time, and it was not until much later that I realized that Intet had serious trouble, not only with having ‘real’ board wipes, but also dealing with single creatures that cause issues.  Without black or white, there are no Swords to Plowshares, Diabolic Edict effects, or targeted conditional removal like Go for the Throat, or Doom Blade.  Dealing with single creatures will be difficult.
What’s the solution?  If you play tried and tested cards, you end up in Cassidy’s space, where you’re playing the best things in your colours and do not have a solid game plan except for the ones people are already expecting (and possibly packing specific answers for).  If you play Avenger of Zendikar, don’t be terribly surprised if someone plays Echoing Truth for your plants.  You might also not have any fun.  Rather, if you play towards a mechanic, synergies of all sorts can work out in your favour which will result in a more powerful list overall, even with some omissions of good stuff.  Some of the problems, like removal and sweepers, will not seem quite so difficult once your deck plays toward synergy instead of raw power.  For the first contest on Cassidy’s blog, I recommended this very same thing; rather than keep a bunch of the good stuff my entry for the Thraximundar contest included a bunch of sacrifice effects to pump Thrax and clear the way.  My final list still has good stuff, like Phyrexian Arena and Solemn Simulacrum, but the deck is not a Grixis ‘good stuff deck’.
For Intet, the mechanic to run with – or at least, one of the mechanics to run with – is to play a deck that focuses on manipulating the top of the library.  The prime choices for this are Sylvan Library, Scroll Rack, Sensei’s Divining Top and Mirri’s Guile.  There are others, but whether they are worth playing depends on how deeply you want to depend on this mechanic.  Top of library manipulation has a fairly obvious benefit for Intet, where you get to control what you get for free (no more free islands!), but there are other benefits as well.  There are a small host of cards that depend on the top of your deck.  Tried and tested (and arguably in the ‘good stuff’ category) cards like Oracle of Mul Daya and Djinn of Wishes obviously benefit, but there are many more.
One of my favourites is Mul Daya Channelers.  On its face, if your deck has 40 lands and 25 creatures, Mul Daya Channelers is going to be a useless 2/2 jobber 35% of the time.  If you’re manipulating the top of your deck, there’s a much better chance it’s going to be a 5/5 beater, or a powerful mana critter for relatively cheap.  Conundrum Sphinx is another creature that finds itself being made into something silly by top of library manipulation: if you know what’s on top of your deck, via the Mul Daya cousins, or through manipulation, you can get free card draws by attacking with a 4/4 flying creature for 2UU.
Finally, there are cards that can cause a ton of grief.  Most players cannot reasonably afford a Mana Drain, but Scattering Stroke is nearly as good; even at 2UU and an effect that requires a bit of manipulation, it feels absurdly powerful and can make a big splash.  Another, like Predict, has less obvious power but it is still there: Commander players frequently play top-of-deck tutors like Worldly Tutor or Mystical Tutor.  Predict handily discards the top card of their deck, and gives you two cards if you guess what that card is beforehand.  If no one seems likely to play a mirage-style tutor, you can easily predict an unwanted card off the top of your own deck for the pair of cards behind it.
Removal, and the acceptability of Primeval Titan
Intet still has its weaknesses.  Something Cassidy wrote in part one of this piece still gnaws at me.  He wrote that in Intet’s colours, there was no removal independent of damage.  But he also wrote that green has unbridled mana acceleration.  The first thing that grabs my attention is that we have been trained to believe that cards like Swords to Plowshares are the only acceptable kinds of removal.  They might be the best kind of removal, but that doesn’t mean other varieties of removal should be sidelined forever, even if they cannot deal with everything Swords can.  The second thing is mana acceleration, and the existence of scaling red burn.  I’m talking about churning out lands, and then playing Fireball variants (even if there are creatures with protection from Red). 
Mana acceleration and the top-of-deck mechanic live together with another of my favourite cards: Titan’s Revenge.  If green has such great mana acceleration, and there exists manipulation for the top of deck, there’s little reason why Titan’s Revenge can’t be a continual thorn in your enemies’ sides.  There are ways to stop it, like failing to win a clash, countering it, or if the victim gets sacrificed before Titan’s Revenge resolves, but by and large repeatedly lighting up creatures (or players!) should bring delight to anyone.
Finally, the issue of sweepers needs addressing.  Cassidy writes that the most real sweepers live in other colours, and that Oblivion Stone and Nevinyrral’s Disk are unreliable, and that other colours have sweepers that are more efficient, flexible and powerful.  Cassidy is not wrong.  But, there is a different kind of power available for Intet’s colours.  Evacuation is one of those cards that makes mana acceleration really work for you.  Evacuation can be used to undo every player’s good work and require them to cast all their creatures again.  A player in green, like someone running Intet as a general, can recover faster because they have mana acceleration rivaling none.  With Eternal Witness, Evacuation is very repeatable, and can create a constant state of advantage for the Intet player, especially if there’s haste involved like Cassidy recommends using.  Evacuation does very well for a great many creatures with entering play abilities.
Back in top-of-library mechanics, Devastation Tide lives in the same space as Evacuation, offering sorcery-speed bounce that will slow down all the creatures, and other mana acceleration that aren’t extra lands, like mana rocks.   The miracle mechanic begs to be used with an end-of-turn activation of Scroll Rack, or for it to be continually rearranged lower until needed with the other manipulators, and the nature of its cost only makes mana acceleration more appealing.  The same theory of tempo applies; a two-mana Devastation Tide, followed by laying out creatures (possibly with haste thanks to red) gives the Intet player a distinct advantage that a white or black player could not hope to match.
Finally, Bonfire of the Damned.  If Titan’s Revenge is a continual problem, Bonfire is a one-use-only disaster.  Not only will blockers be circumvented, but direct damage to a player might put them in reach of a lethal combat step.  White and black may have versatile sweepers that deal with traditional problems, but Intet’s colours provide a unique cross-sectional opportunity for instant, cheap, or one-sided sweepers that will play to the colour’s strengths.  Each of these cards or effects are in Intet’s colours, and not others.  It should be noted that any miracle can be highly useful with an instant-speed draw effect; using a Sensei’s Divining Top to draw the top card can set off a Devastation Tide or Bonfire at the end of an opponent’s turn or during a combat step for maximum effects on the board.
And here’s where Primeval Titan becomes acceptable; if you’re accelerating mana for a purpose, and here that purpose is having decent removal, you’re not playing Primeval Titan just to play Primeval Titan.  You’re going to do something important with that land, and it’s going to do work for you.  What’s important is finding out if the best cards fit for the kind of mechanics you want to play with, and then playing those if they do.
.   .   .   .   .
Imshan is the lead editor for written content and a weekly writer at www.CommanderCast.com He likes Kamigawa, and isn’t afraid to say so.  Email him at ipoolar@hotmail.com or follow him on twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/generalspeak

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

Of EDH, The NFL, And Incredibly Dubious Cross-References…

Things are slowly getting back to normal in GDC land today.  Power came back on last night in time to be able to hand out candy to the massive hoard of kids that show up in my neighborhood.  Pleasant surprise there.  Other bonuses include, but are not limited to:

-Heat
-A hot shower
-Ability to flush toilets

You know…the little things.  Tuesday is looking up all around.

Moving on, I’ve got a few things in the works that I wanted to drop a line on before giving y’all some actual content today.  I want to make good on my promise to really piss some people off, so I’ll be tackling a few hot-button topics in the coming days; in no real order, I’ll be hitting the dreaded “Tuck” ability, why I’ve decided the command zone is a terrible thing, and general douchebaggery in EDH.

For today, though, we’re ordering ‘lite faire’, so I thought I’d introduce my current decks.  Stay tuned at the end for a few chances to do my heavy lifting for me help me with a pair of problem builds. 

Without further ado (and now with 110% bad NFL references)…

The ’72 Miami Dolphins (The Perfect Season)

Teysa, Orzhov Scion

I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting Teysa to come in at the top of the heap, but after looking at the current crop of decks, I discovered that she was the only undefeated deck I have.  Created to be a decent contender for normal games, the deck is a top-down design based on the fact that Teysa exiles things.  This is the top of the heap as far as what I look for in a general (followed closely by ‘hard to kill’ and ‘hasty!’)  In practice, I discovered that black and white offered me a fantastic blend of top-notch removal and a decent helping of tutor/draw.  It’s all about tokens, and features the machine-gun Darkest Hour combo.

The ’76 Pittsburgh Steelers (The Steel Curtain)

Venser, Shaper Savant

Also known as “Douchebag Blue”.  I was on an ‘instants rule!’ kick, which intersected with a Perfect Storm of an intersection of losing to a really obnoxious Geth deck and the whole GenCon Erayo debacle I detailed here.  The result is a totally potent, completely boring and obnoxious control deck packed with counters and steal effects.  It’s just designed to run defense and shut down other dominant decks.  (It’s also an excuse for me to play my copies of Mana Drain and Timetwister.  Hey…I’m nothing if not shameless.)  Important note: it makes Patrick announce every card he plays with “Permission to play XXX?”  Even lands.

The ’08 Detroit Lions (Goose-Egg, Baby!)

Radiant, Archangel

I won’t beat around the bush…this deck sucks.  It’s a throwback to a moment where I decided that I needed to A) build a theme deck, and B) feature only old-school obscure foil generals.  I can’t help but feel that I’m doing a great disservice to this poor lady every time I shuffle the deck.  It just flat-out loses even low-powered fun games.  Still, I’m a softie at heart, so it somehow has managed to avoid the axe several times.  Fun Fact: I’ve never been able to play the copy of Baneslayer Angel in the deck I yanked from a pack at the M10 Prerelease.  I think it’s because she’s too embarrassed to come into play.   

The ’85 Chicago Bears (The ‘Fridge In The Endzone)

Kresh the Bloodbraided

This is a bit of a barn/tribute to Sheldon’s infamous Kresh build.  It’s a strong good-stuff build that is designed to have the correct answers to the right threats at the right time, and then be able to Fling a enormous Berserk-ed Kresh or Vulturous Zombie at someone’s head for lethal at an opportune moment.

And no…it’s the foil Shards version, not the new FTV art.  No…hell no.

The ’04 New England Patriots (The Sum Of Its’ Parts)

Intet The Dreamer

Near and dear to my heart due to it being the first general I ever built around when I started playing the format.  I’ve deconstructed and rebuilt this deck several times over; the original build was heavy on cards that I have learned to frown on, like Sundering Titan and Wildfire.  Now, it’s kind of a good-stuff pile of role-players like Acidic Slime and Dominus Of Fealty that aren’t superstars on their own, but come down and do the right thing at the right time.  I find myself frustrated repeatedly that the deck doesn’t seem to do much and doesn’t have a closer, but I’m not sure what to do with it, and it seems to continue to work well in spite of all of this.

The Baltimore Ravens, Jacksonville Jaguars, Carolina Panthers, and Houston Texans (The Expansion Teams)

There are four decks that have recently or are in the process of springing up out of new additions to my collection:

Kaalia Of The Vast

The only deck of the four to see action as of yet.  I hate to say it, but it’s a fairly linear build.  WBR control based around Kaalia’s ability to vomit huge dragons and powerful demons onto the battlefield.  Oh, and maybe an angel if my draws suck.  She doesn’t break new ground, but I just wanted a red-zone deck, and she’s a blast to play.  Fun Fact: I lose any semblance of self restraint when I play this deck, shoot the moon as soon as possible, and nearly immediately establish myself as the overwhelming dominant threat at the table.  Can’t help it.  It’s like crack…I know it’s terrible to do, but I keep going back for more as soon as I can.

Hazezon Tamar

I fully blame Patrick for this one.  We were discussing the pricing on the old Legends generals, and Hazezon came up.  I thought for some reason that he had been reprinted in Chronicles.  Patrick corrected me, and I developed an instant uncontrollable urge to add another old-school general to my stable.  That, and I realized that it was a great way to finally make use of the foil Doubling Season that had been sitting in my binder for a long time.  The last cards are showing up in the mail, and I intend to kick the tires as soon as possible.

Angus Mackenzie

This deck is currently Angus in a red sleeve, followed by 99 empty black sleeves.  But goddammit, I needed a way to put a leftover Tundra, Tropical Island, and Savannah to use, and goddammit, it’s another old obscure general.  An expensive, old, obscure general.  Seriously…it’s a freaking Fog stapled to a Grizzly Bears.  Why the hell is this worth a $20 bill-plus?

I need to get over this OCD-can’t-handle-having-unused-duals-lying-around crap I’m suffering from.  And then take that money and invest in Google…

Sisters Of Stone Death

This one is only a few cards more fleshed out than Angus, but I’m excited about it.  For one, I love the art, and I’ve been dying to build another two-color deck.  Most importantly, she adheres to ‘DJ’s Rule Of EDH General Selection’.  (No, not that one.  Or that one.  Or that one.  Yup, the “Exile” one.  Man, I need to revise my rules here.)  Besides, red-zone generals are never bad.

Look to follow along as the build for this one materializes.  I’ll be asking for help and guidance along the way, so here’s your chance to guide me towards the promised land.

Here’s your *other* chance, and my last deck:

The OaklLos Angel…er…Oakland Raiders (Whatever.  You love to hate them, no matter what they’re called, right?)

Thraximundar

*This* is the deck that’s going to get our attention as a group first.  I’ve had it together for a while now, and it has seen play, but I can’t for the life of me make it run worth a damn.  I wanted to put together a red-zone deck that leaned toward removal and focused on playing and using the general, but had some serious staying power; kind of my Kresh build, but one that actually, you know, attacked.  And before anyone asks, yes…this was Tetsuo Umezawa good-stuff before it became what it is now.  Of course. 

The main problem is that it just doesn’t seem to do a damn thing.  It kind of ramps, kind of draws some cards, and leans on a minor sacrifice theme.  Sometimes it gets in for some damage and makes someone sacrifice a dude.  But most of the time, I find myself staring at an uninteresting hand and an uninteresting board position, and I end up feeling very unfulfilled.  I feel like this deck and this general in these colors should be straight-awesome; as it is now, it’s just like the Raiders; a place where former role-players go to die, and a deck that just ends up being disappointing.
Next time, I’ll post a deck list, some background and theory, and I’d love for some input from anyone out there who feels like getting in there.  In fact, I may make it interesting and put up a little something for the person who can turn this list around for me.  Let me see what I can do there, but it’ll be worth-while.

Until then…

—>DJ

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