Tag: magic-strategy

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Avatar Bruce Gray - March 9, 2021

The Epic Experiment: Bring the Brawl

Welcome back to another article from The Epic Experiment!

Normally I like to provide you with budget-friendly ideas to make your next commander game fun, engaging, and a fun night to remember. However, every once in a while we take a break from talking Commander and spend a little time  discussing another singleton format. Today, we are going to look at Brawl and how the latest set, Kaldheim, has helped shape the format.

Brawl Vs. Commander

For those who may not be familiar, Brawl is a singleton format that plays similarly to Commander. Each deck has a commanding General or legendary card and the colour identity of your commander dictates what colours can be used in your deck.

The difference between Brawl and Commander are:

  • Planeswalkers can be your Commander in Brawl
  • There is no Commander damage
  • Decks are 60 cards
  • You may only use cards that are legal in Standard

Brawl: A Brief History

Initially, the format was rolled out with Dominaria, in part to capitalize on the cycle of uncommon legends that could be used to add variety to the format. However, Brawl really picked up steam when War of the Spark was introduced on account of all the Planeswalkers giving the format a whole new feel. It also came to MTG Arena around the same time making it a viable online format.

Personally, I have been playing it fairly consistently since then as well and have enjoyed the format. It makes for a refreshing change to the grind of standard and puts other, less well known cards on display in an interesting way. While initially the format was largely panned in paper, the Arena environment is diverse, interesting, and thriving ensuring that the format is alive and well during this pandemic.

The Controversy

Many players didn’t really enjoy the notion of Brawl because of the card pool being tied to Standard. This means that if you built a fun and powerful Brawl deck, it had a shelf life and would rotate out of legality at some point. This irks many Commander players because they like the notion that the deck they build today could be played two years from now.  Some of this concern has been resolved with the creation of Historic Brawl, which is essentially Brawl but making use of the Historic card pool.

While Historic Brawl is indeed growing in popularity, I am still very much a believer in the Standard variant of Brawl. The appeal to me is that the singleton nature of the format mimics some of the elements of Commander well enough to satisfy an itch while allowing me to look at new strategies or card options and assess them for their long term viability.

I also like the appeal of the affordability of the format. Since many players buy more than enough Standard legal products each year, we are all stuck with this glut of quasi useless cards that now can be given new life.

The Issues

While the format is quite varied, it is not without its issues. The first issue stems from the fact that it is now essentially 1 vs. 1 which is quite a departure from Commander. We are given an additional 5 life points, but this still seems to do little to dissuade full on aggro strategies. The fact that these aggro decks can exist forces decks to abandon some of the more high mana value cards in favour of playing efficient threats and counters. This narrows the card pool to some degree and assures that true Standard staples will continue to see heavy play.

The fact that we are incentivized to hurry and get our opponent dead also means that you don’t have the time to build value engines as we would in Commander. Mythics like Koma, Heliod, and Valki are all great engine starters in their own right, and don’t need as much of a ramp up as other decks do. This starts to choke out other less potent cards because you are incentivized to play the high value Mythics.

Two for the Price of One!

I have been running two Brawl decks to reasonable success. I think that they highlight the primary difference between the power level afforded some of the mythic legendary options that prevent some of the uncommon’s from having a chance to shine. We will start with Rielle, the Everwise. The velocity this deck generates is considerable and Rielle takes almost no set up in order to be a potent value engine.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum we have Vega, The Watcher, an uncommon from Kaldheim. Vega requires you to set her up with cards from not your hand in order for Vega to be good and is less impactful.

The Lists

Vega, The Watcher 

Rielle Everwise

The Epic Experiment

Playing Rielle

Rielle’s list is very much trying to make the most of her ability to draw cards when you discard.  As a three mana play with 3 toughness, she likely survives things like Bonecrusher Giant//Stomp and Shock, so you can pretty much rest assured you can get at least one activation off of her.  The ideal scenario is that she goes unchecked and you can land Improbable Alliance, Teferi’s Ageless Insight, or a Teferi’s Tutelage to turbo mill your opponent out of cards.

If the mill strategy doesn’t work, Ominous Seas, Kiora Bests the Sea God, and Shark Typhoon can quickly take over a game. There is very little set up required, you just need Rielle to be active and have ways to discard. The deck has been very good for me and can get the job done against a number of other decks without much trouble.

Playing Vega

While Rielle has fared well, Vega, The Watcher has really struggled.  My first build was playing very heavily into the Foretell and Adventure mechanics, but the deck was taking too much to set up in order to be able to face down more aggressive decks. Vega is also a card that can be destroyed easily.

In the iteration you see here I have attempted to address the more aggressive nature of the format and turned the deck into more of an U/W Fliers sort of build with less reliance on the recurring card draw feature.  This second version has fared better, but is far from being complete.

That’s all for this week folks. Have fun, stay safe, and I’ll catch you all next time!

Do you have suggestions of what to help boost these deck’s potential? Then leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Check out The Epic Experiment podcast where ever you get your podcasts!

Follow The Epic Experiment Podcast on Twitter! https://twitter.com/epicexpcast?lang=en

Read more of Epic Experiment articles like this on The Bag of Loot! http://www.thebagofloot.com/

Buy all the cards you need to set up this deck now at Three Kings Loot! https://www.threekingsloot.com/

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Avatar Bruce Gray - February 23, 2021

The Epic Experiment – Kaldheim Start-Up

Welcome back the Epic Experiment!

Ladies and gentlemen… Kaldheim is here and things have been shaken up pretty extensively. Standard is seeing a proliferation of snow decks. Horizon Seeker has spawned a pretty silly combo deck in Standard. Bottom line, the set is strong and is giving players a plethora of new tools. On our show each week we look to brew up a deck using cards from Return to Ravnica block and forward and look to keep the deck about $100. That means we are consistently on the lookout for budget options to help keep our costs down. So, some of today’s cards may be cards that many readers are familiar with, others may not so well known. Let’s dive headlong into what Kaldheim has to offer.

Getting Started With The Ramp

As we discussed in the last article, being able to ramp effectively is important in a game of Commander and we are always on the lookout for good ways to generate additional mana. We have had a number of excellent options in the last few sets like Circuitous Route and Vastwood Surge, but Kaldheim doesn’t seem to have any such obvious staples. Instead we get a couple of smaller effects like Horizon Seeker and Binding the Old Gods. Horizon Seeker is a 3 mana 3/2 creature with Boast for one generic mana and a green mana. When it Boasts, Horizon Seeker can search your deck for basic land and it goes into your hand.

Now, this is not a great card and people will point out that when it enters play that it won’t find a land like Borderland Ranger.  However, since this creature can activate it’s ability multiple times is undeniably a positive.  There are loads of ways to make this evasive like Rogue’s Passage, Raven Wings, or Whispersilk Cloak  and hard to block which can allow you to leverage this into all sorts of value. Whether it is a Landfall deck, a deck jamming Azusa, or just a deck looking to make its land drops Horizon Seeker seems like a decent budget option at a mere $0.15 at Three Kings Loot.

Capturing the Gods

The case for Binding of the Old Gods is a little bit different. In War of the Spark we had the card Deathsprout which is found in over 11k decks on EDHrec. That means that roughly 10% of the decks that could play Deathsprout do so. Well, now we essentially have an upgrade with Binding and it should be played lots.

Pardon… how is Binding actually an improved version of Deathsprout?  Easy.

Deathsprout was 4 mana, instant speed kill, a creature, and a land search. Binding of the Old Gods does almost exactly the same thing, except it can destroy any nonland permanent on Chapter 1. Chapter 2 lets you find a Forest, including a Shockland, a Triome, or another non basic land. Chapter 3 is strictly gravy, although I suspect it will likely be underutilised unless you are on a B/G deck with Fynn, the Fangbearer.

Since Binding of the Old Gods is an enchantment, B/G Constellation and Enchantress style decks will be appreciative of this.  At the cost of a mere $0.49, this is yet another budget conscious ramp option.

The Search for Treasure

The other interesting feature of Kaldheim is the propensity to lean into Treasure tokens. Wizards of the Coast seems intent on making Treasure Tokens fairly ever-green, and they present another effective way to ramp. Yes, we all saw Goldspan Dragon and the card is ridiculous. If you have ever wanted a big old ramping dragon, well, we got one here.

However, at the price tag for the dragon, we need to go look at other budget options. I have long felt that Prying Blade was an underappreciated ramp option and now we get a second option with Goldvein Pick that spits out a treasure token every time you deal combat damage to a player. Revel in Riches, Magda, Brazen Outlaw, and Treasure Map are just a few of the ways you can leverage these treasure tokens and we haven’t even discussed Voltron style commanders. Goldvein Pick is a very budget friendly option at $0.15 on Three Kings Loot  and could be a card seriously considering if you are short a ramp option or two.

One Ring to Rule Them All

The final one to discuss is Replicating Ring at $0.99. I prefer my mana rocks to be 1,2, or 3 mana, with a strong preference for the 1 and 2 mana variants. However, Replicating Ring is intriguing as a 3 mana play. In most games it will only ever be a Darksteel Ingot without indestructibility, but in those rare games where you can get it to 8 counters, you have the potential to suddenly be inundated with enough mana sources that you should be able to beat your opponents. While I’m not sure if this card is truly good yet, it presents enough of an interesting upside that I would certainly be looking to see if I can’t leverage it.

There is some complicated math around the expected mana return from this compared to other mana rocks. But the truth remains – the potential output on this is extensive and potentially worth the high risk/high reward play. Considering that Darksteel Ingot is in 32k decks on EDHrec. The question is should Ingot be subbed out of many decks in favor of Replicating Ring.

The Week’s Deck…

This week’s list is yet another Kaldheim uncommon legend in the form of Vega, The Watcher.

Vega incentivizes you to cast spells from anywhere other than from your hand.  Good News budget players! Wizards has given us a plethora of ways to do this from recent sets. With mechanics like Adventure, Jumpstart, Flashback, Foretell, Escape, there are plenty of options to choose from. This deck can generate good velocity, and has some tricky components to keep your opponents off balance.

How It Works

The main game plan is to utilize your many cards that get cast from other than your hand to draw additional resources and leverage something like Dream Trawler, Nadir Kraken, or Chasm Skulker for the win. However, if you find yourself needing more time, there are a number of strong pillow fort effects that make attacking you very challenging including the often overlooked Archon of Absolution from Throne of Eldraine. Otherwise, this deck packs enough control elements to help you probably make your opponents stay honest when you pack things like Dovin’s Veto, Saw it Coming, Declaration in Stone, and Path to Exile.

If things get really hairy you still have the board wipe option with things like Doomskar, Shatter the Sky, and Realm Cloaked Giant to keep your opponents from getting too far ahead on board. At $120, the deck is budget friendly, well balanced, and still has plenty of room to be upgraded.

In Conclusion

Well, there you go for our second installment.  Hopefully you budget players can find a few new ramp optionswithout costing your wallet a small fortune.  Oh… and Vega looks to be a fun U/W Commander. It gives your deck a fresh feel and plenty of room to grow the power level as needed.

That’s all for this week folks.  Have fun, stay safe, and I’ll catch you all next time.

Do you have suggestions of what to help boost this deck’s potential? Then leave your suggestions in the comments below!

Check out The Epic Experiment podcast where ever you get your podcasts!

Follow The Epic Experiment Podcast on Twitter! https://twitter.com/epicexpcast?lang=en

Read more of Epic Experiment articles like this on The Bag of Loot! http://www.thebagofloot.com/

Buy all the cards you need to set up this deck now at Three Kings Loot! https://www.threekingsloot.com/

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Avatar Tyson Fraleigh - February 18, 2021

Magic Ban List – A Quick Summary (February 15th)

On February 15th, Wizards of the Coast released an updated banned and restricted list for Magic. In case you missed it, or are unsure about anything on the list, I am here to give a quick summary of what all this means for the game and the meta.

It is worth noting that there are no changes to the Standard format. The only changes to the game have been to the Historic, Legacy, Modern, Pioneer, and Vintage formats. While all these cards are banned now, don’t toss them out the window just yet. They could always come back in the future once the meta is better suited for them.

Banned Cards

In Modern, five cards took the hit: Field of the Dead, Mystic Sanctuary, Simian Spirit Guide, Tibalt’s Trickery, and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. The major reason for these bans is to create a more balanced meta, since Uro has been dominating the scene for so long. Field of the Dead and Mystic Sanctuary were often bogging down game times in the middle for control decks, and Tibalt was making Oops! All Spell decks way too powerful.

In Legacy, we only have three cards banned: Arcum’s Astrolabe, Dreadhorde Arcanist, and the infamous Okos, Thief of Crowns. Okos and Dreadhorde Arcanist were limiting the meta with their power level, so they have taken the boot. Arcum’s Astrolabe was also breaking the meta by allowing too much access to colour variation, as well as card draw.

In Historic, only two made the ban list: Omnath, Locus of Creation, and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath. Both of these cards have seen a lot of presence in the meta, and have become very overplayed, and overpowered.

In Pioneer, five cards were banned: Balustrade Spy, Teferi, Time Raveler, Undercity Informer, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, and Wilderness Reclamation. Uro has proven to be too powerful for the format (as with everywhere else). Teferi and Wilderness Reclamation have proven to be two equally powerful deck builds, but over stayed in the format. Balustrade Spy and Undercity Informer have been big contenders in the Oops! All Spells decks, making it easy to mill an entire library.

However, there is one silver lining in all these bans. In Vintage, there was one card unbanned: Lurrus of the Dream Den.  This card will offer lots of opportunities to new decks (especially our Dimir Rogues friends).

The Cascade Rule

The biggest rule change is the restriction of the Cascade rule. The Cascade rule is as follows:

“When you cast this spell, exile cards from the top of your library until you exile a nonland card whose converted mana cost is less than this spell’s converted mana cost. You may cast that spell without paying its mana cost if its converted mana cost is less than this spell’s converted mana cost. Then put all cards exiled this way that weren’t cast on the bottom of your library in a random order.”

The newest restriction on this rule is in response to the use of double-sided cards. When you activate the Cascade ability and you exile into a double-sided card, you are not able to cast the back side of the card onto the field. Only the front facing card can be cast.

Keep up to date about all things board games on The Bag of Loot! http://www.thebagofloot.com/

Get all your Magic needs at Three Kings Loot! https://www.threekingsloot.com/

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Gerald Knight Gerald Knight - January 11, 2014

Knight’s Booty – Friday Night Leftovers

Gray Merchant of Asphodel

You walk through the door and turn on the light, the adrenaline of tonight’s matches is still coursing through you as you shoulder your backpack to the floor.  Your shoes and jacket are next to go as you take them off and set them in their proper places before picking up the backpack and going to the dining room table.  You open your backpack up and pull out the deck box containing the deck that won you tonight’s FNM draft at your local game shop.  It was hard fought, but in the end you persevered and walked out with mad loot.

After taking a breath or two you begin the practiced art of desleeving your deck, stopping for a few moments as you as you reflect upon the Voyage’s End that bounced Hythonia the Cruel before she could go montrous and wipe out your little army, the Lightning Strike that killed the Disciple of Phenax before the devotion trigger could count it and make you discard your bomb, and finally that Prognostic Sphinx that made your opponent cringe when it hit the board and you had not one but two Flamespeaker Adepts ready to strike!  Ahh, that was a match to remember.

After you finish the chore of desleeving your cards you grab your trade binder and put the Prognostic Sphinx into its new home behind the two or three you already had from drafting the previous weeks.  Quite a collection you have built up, you look at it smiling to yourself before walking over to your bookshelf.  Only there aren’t many books on the shelf.  No, instead there are those long white boxes that we all know and love to use for storage of cards.  You look them over and read the writing that sorts them by set – RTR, GTC, DGM, M14 and THS.  You take the last one off the shelf and open it to find that you don’t have near enough room to put all of these commons you drafted with the rest of your prize winning deck tonight.  So you grab another box, write THS on it and throw them inside probably to be neglected like all the others sitting on your shelf.

Well, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.  There are other things that you can do with that abundant collection of commons you bring home every week.  And I don’t mean the usual suspects.  I mean, who of us hasn’t taken a basic Mountain and folded it in half to mark the area of the storage box as being your red section.  Or used a card to mark your place in the book you’re reading, if you’re a book reading sort.  As an aside my personal favorite was Earthbind while reading William R Forstchen’s Magic the Gathering: Arena.  Or maybe you were one of those people that decided that they were going to pretend to be Gambit from the X-Men when you heard that Seething Song was getting banned.  There are many things that we do with the extra commons we have laying around, but hopefully none of those examples beats what I am hopefully about to talk to you about.

Pauper.

For those of you who don’t know the word and just went to Google to search the definition, that’s not what I am talking about.  While it is a decent word to describe the format, we aren’t talking about being poor or impoverished but instead a format of Magic: the Gathering.  You see, a few years ago Wizards of the Coast sanctioned a format exclusively on Magic Online that was spearheaded entirely by the player community.  The format doesn’t officially exist as a sanctioned format in paper, but that’s no reason why you can’t take advantage of the great resource you have sitting in those little white cardboard boxes.  But first I should explain the rules of Pauper.  Now there are two different versions but for the purpose of this article I’m going to focus on Standard Pauper.  But they both work from the same set of rules.

  • each deck is constructed with a minimum 60 card maindeck, with an optional 15 card sideboard, and using no more than 4 copies of any particular spell
  • Standard Pauper uses any Standard legal card that has been printed at the common rarity.
  • Classic Pauper uses any card from the history of Magic that has been printed at the common rarity.
  • All other rules of deck construction are followed.

Now to elaborate a bit on the legality of cards I will use a recent example to clarify the rules with Rancor, a misprint but great card none-the-less.  Rancor was originally printed at common in the Urza’s Legacy, which means that if you are playing Classic Pauper you can use it in any deck you are playing.  However, and this is going back before M13 rotated out, it wouldn’t be usable in Standard Pauper because it was reprinted at Uncommon.  Therein lies one of the main differences between the two formats.  The other is the banlist, which for the purposes of Standard Pauper is none.

I already know what you are thinking.  Why would anybody want to play with just commons?  Well, the first thing I will present to you is that it is a challenge, and if you are playing Magic then I can only assume that you like a challenge.  The second is that it is a gateway and there is no reason why we shouldn’t keep the community growing.

1. The Challenge!

There are a total of 1114 cards currently printed in Standard including mythics, rares, uncommons and commons.  That’s a fair number of cards to work with to make decks.  Not nearly as expansive as Modern or Legacy, but that’s still over a thousand cards to work with to pull together a collection of 60 cards to sling spells with.  Even the best players, teams, and deck builders have trouble finding the best combination of cards within that limitation.  But what happens when you take away everything but the commons?  You are left with 473 cards, a much smaller pool.  Now there is the challenge, build a deck using only the 473 cards available to you AND make it competitive.  Don’t think it’s possible, do you?  Well let me put together a list of commons in the current Standard that can be played competitively.

Mono-Black Devotion for Standard Pauper
MAINDECK
Creatures (18)

Spells (19)

Lands (23)

SIDEBOARD

And that folks is a Standard Pauper Mono-Black Devotion deck.  It’s not nearly as powerful as the one running amok on the pro circuit right now and costs well over two-hundred dollars, but it isn’t altogether that bad.  Instead of Hero’s Downfall you have Quag Sickness for removal, you have Disciple of Phenax for hand control in place of Thoughtseize, Deathcult Rogue to deliver near unblockable damage and it increases your devotion count for the most hated common in Standard Gray Merchant of Asphodel.  All in all this deck has the potential to be devastating for a collection which was slated to exist simply as bookmarks or dividers.  And you thought it couldn’t be done.

2. It’s a Gateway.

Ever been at work talking with a coworker about Magic and someone listening in on your conversation asks what it is you are talking about?  Or had a new person walk into your LGS to discover what the rage is everyone is talking about?  Or do you have children or nephews/nieces that are interested in playing?  Why not start them out by building them a deck with commons?  Why not build them a Pauper deck to get them started?

Do you remeber when you started?  What did you buy to get into the game?  Was it a few boosters to see what the game was all about?  Was it a whole booster box or a duel deck?  All of those options are great, but they cost a decent amount for anybody who is just jumping in.  Not every player is going to want to drop anywhere from $20 to $125 to just experiment with a new game to see if it is for them.  So why not take those extra commons you have laying and build some cheap decks for new players to experience what the game is all about before they start investing massive amounts of money with their sites set on playing next to fabled Pro Tour players.  I’ll even throw you a bone and give you another Standard Pauper list to help you or your friends get started.

UW Enchantment Aggro for Standard Pauper
MAINDECK
Creatures (24)

Spells (14)

Lands (18)

SIDEBOARD

So there you have two decks to start with, a Mono-Black Devotion deck and a Blue-White Enchantment Aggro deck.  And believe me there are many many more out there.  So instead of using your commons as a bookmark, a divider or even as ammunition think about the challenge of playing without the most powerful cards, or think about making some decks for new players to start getting their feet wet and helping to grow our community.  But whatever you do, don’t let your Friday Night Leftovers go to waste.

– Gerald Knight

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