The stars aligned last night, and I was able to make it back to Worlds Apart for EDH Night for the first time since before GenCon.  We had a wonderfully chill evening, beginning with friendly chatter about Theros in general over a few games of Legacy, before splitting into a few groups to kick the evening off.

All in all, I was able to play in three games before the evening wound down; the first, as promised, using Sheldon Menery’s Judo deck, following it up with my rebooted Kresh the Bloodbraided monstrosity, and ending the night with a little mono-white angels action.

Many things were learned.  Let’s dig right in.

Thing One: Purphoros, God of the Forge is really annoying.  Or strong.  Or whatever.

In our first game of the evening, one of the regular players dropped this thing into play relatively early on in the game.  He was kept roughly in check by another one of the regulars playing his Skeleton Ship (-1/-1 counters!) deck, which to be fair kept the entire game in check for the better part of an hour.

Nonetheless, things like, “Martial Coup for five…wrath the board, make five dudes, everyone take ten.” were a serious reality.  I would estimate that a collective 50% of our starting life totals were chiseled away by that thing, and it was a serious and constant threat.  Being indestructible, it just sat there and made each creature top-deck a potential problem, and no-one seemed to be able to find a way to get rid of it.

What ended up happening was that it also put a tremendous bulls-eye on the person who played it, and he was effectively taken out of the game first as a result, and this was in a deck that (I’m making an educated guess here) wasn’t designed to abuse it.  (Jor Kadeen metalcraft, for the record.)

It’s early still, but I think this is going to rapidly rise to the top of the “annoying to play against” general heap once people get to really build around it.  Strong, undoubtedly.  Scary for sure.  But I can envision it wearing out its welcome pretty quickly.

Thing Two: Sheldon and I play in vastly different metagames…

If someone were to hand me the Judo deck I’ve been tinkering with without giving me any advanced knowledge of what it does or who built it and let me play a few blind games with it, I’d probably take them off of my Christmas card list.

To put it elegantly, this is a very focused metagame deck that is not optimized for my environment.

To put it how I did after last night’s game, this deck is a giant pile.

Here’s the thing –

If you read Sheldon’s articles on StarCityGames that involve play-by-play results, the average games look like this:

  • Rounds 1-5: People set up.
  • Round 6: Someone attempts some busted play, and everyone else immediately interjects some crazy things that drastically change the outcome of what was supposed to happen.
  • Round 7-12: People set back up.
  • Round 13: See round 6.
  • Round 14-18: People set back up again.
  • Round 19: Yup…busted play with random and hilarious wrenches thrown into the works.

It keeps going like this for a while, until people are slowly depleted and someone finally ekes out a win.  Long story short, it feels like the Armada Games crowd all love to play decks that do broken things and then try to screw with other people playing other broken things.

Now, this is cool, and I’ll give props to any play environment that focuses on playing the game instead of focusing on winning it outright.  The problem that I’m coming across is that the Worlds Apart metagame that I frequent is nothing like this at all.

Realistically, we all play very strongly-tuned-yet-fair decks.  No-one is trying to Primal Surge their deck into play, or Tooth and Nail out some two-card game-winner.  Sure, big spells get played, but most of us have figured out that it pays to be aggressive, redundant, and to never over-extend.

What this means is the decks are all on the verge of being threatening, but not in an obvious way that lends itself to a blowout.  I’m sure that elsewhere, Cerebral Vortex is a lethal spell, but in our metagame, it usually does two damage.  Parallectric Feedback sits in my hand, waiting for a Genesis Wave for thirty-six that never comes.  People play and protect incremental pieces of their strategies instead, rebound quickly from board wipes, and don’t stick their necks out.

This deck isn’t designed for my metagame.

The big issue that stems from this is that Sheldon specifically tries to get rid of tutors to keep his games random, and in our metagame, I need a little less random to be able to operate and be ready to make a play that the deck wants to do.  It also inexplicably has two whole draw spells in the deck – Rhystic Study and Blue Sun’s Zenith.  (Three if you count Zedruu, I suppose.)  That means playing off of the top with a deck designed to have random responses to lots of different things at just the right time.

No worky.  Bottom line.

So I’m going to enact a major overhaul here.  The deck does some good things; it runs a wonderful suite of cards like Powerstone Minefield  and Lightmine Field that play really nicely with things like Angel’s Trumpet to punish creature strategies, and it has some neat cards (like Parallectric Feedback) that can make for funny situations if they show up at the right time and place, as well as haymakers that are designed to attack some over-played strategies (in full disclosure, I managed to kill two people in one turn with Acidic Soil.)

What I’ll aim to do is reinforce the mana fixing, and add in a responsible draw/tutor suite to keep the deck moving.  It needs to be able to say “No” to things, so a few select counters and protective bits need to happen as well.

I’m determined to make this work, so stay tuned; the next update will be a thorough ‘deck doctor’ treatment.

Thing Three: Sometimes fair cards just take it down.  Why does that feel weird?

Kresh is rapidly becoming a pleasant surprise for me.  The overpowered usual suspects (that typically make it into ‘Fling.dec’) are getting weeded out, and it still has teeth.  I feel like it’s going somewhere that I want it to get to – a proactive deck that doesn’t fall into the usual grooves and can stand up to a reasonably-powered field of decks.

What I can’t get past is why it still feels dirty.

Take last night-

We settled in for a four-player game featuring a Dimir mill deck to my right, an Ertai, the Corrupted deck designed to create the most impossible and convoluted board states there are (the “Judge!” deck), and Mr P playing something that I didn’t interact with all that much until I killed him with a huge mass of giant dudes.

I played about six cards all game:

Somehow, this combination of cards let me essentially wipe the board of all important creatures, create a few huge guys, and steal a gigantic Sewer Nemesis in time to agro out the board in the scope of two attack phases.

Seems totally fair, right?  And yet, it feels like the deck “did the Kresh thing.”  That’s driving me absolutely nuts, because it was fun and didn’t seem broken at all.

In any case, some updates are on the way here.  There are some Theros odds and ends that will get added, and it is rapidly evolving into a big hybrid beatdown deck that really tries to utilize planeswalkers, which is something that I usually don’t like to rely on.

Stay tuned.

Thing Three: My stupid Angels deck.  Turns out, it’s pretty good in spite of itself.

We finished up for the evening with a three-man game.  Mr. P ran his Sek’Kuar, Deathkeeper deck, and Andrew rounded out things with Radha, Heir to Keld.

Despite dealing with an early Deus of Calamity that kept me short on lands, I stuck a turn two Luminarch Ascension, got it active, and followed it up with Archangel of Thune.  Thanks to Sigil of the New Dawn, it never really went away, despite taking eight damage at one point from Deathbringer Thoctar.  On the strength of those three cards, I was able to take the game.  Andrew got stuck early on mana, despite a growing Gyre Sage, and Mr. P didn’t have any way to block down my rapidly growing angels.

I think I need to come to terms with the fact that this deck isn’t as bad as I think it is.  It’s a giant pile of angels and angel-related cards, a few mana accelerators, some meager removal, and some artifact-based draw.  I think it speaks to the increase in creature quality that Wizards has been pushing in the past few years.  Simply put, when you’re able to pull Malach of the Dawn and Emeria Angel and add in Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Restoration Angel, things aren’t going to completely suck no matter how brainless your list is.

And this one is pretty brainless.

Thing Four: Figuring out the new deck isn’t getting any easier.

Now we get to the audience participation section.

I’ve made it pretty clear that I need to build a deck around one of the new Theros Gods.  (“Compelled” may be a more concise way to put it.)  I’m stuck trying to figure out which one.

Heliod, God of the Sun is out because I have mono-white Angels already and because he bores me to tears.

Thassa, God of the Sea is out because I have mono-blue Memnarch already and because she doesn’t seem too interesting either.  (Free scry day is nice, but what creatures am I excited to make unblockable in a mono-blue list?)

That leaves Purphoros, God of the Forge, Nylea, God of the Hunt, and Erebos, God of the Dead.  Given that I’ve already talked about how Purphoros makes me feel, we’re talking mono-green or mono-black (unless someone can make a really strong case for mono-red.)

What do you think?  I’m leaning mono-black at the moment, but I’m open to suggestions.

Thing Five: It’s nice to shuffle cards again.

Just saying.

We’ll see you tomorrow.  Dave managed to find time among his newfound fatherly duties to drop Three Cards Deep on us, so we’re excited to have him back.  Also, Mr. P and I may or may not be taking our notes on the first podcast we did and sitting down to record number two on Sunday.  Stay tuned.

-Cass
@GDCCommander