viernes, 6 de marzo de 2015

Blue Devotion with Dragons of Tarkir

The last couple of months have been pretty busy for me, so Fate Reforged has come and gone without me posting anything about it. As it happens, one of the most interesting decks that I came up with for Fate Reforged and never talked about now gets multiple significant upgrades from Dragons of Tarkir. I am talking about Blue Devotion, an archetype that had been basically dead since Khans rotated in. My FRF blue devotion deck was as follows:

FRF Blue Devotion
Creature (28)
4x Hypnotic Siren
4x Master of Waves
4x Shaman of the Great Hunt
3x Thassa, God of the Sea
3x Triton Shorestalker
3x Vaporkin
4x Wall of Frost
3x Welkin Tern

Artifact (2)
1x Bident of Thassa
1x Hall of Triumph

Enchantment (7)
3x Cloudform
4x Pin to the Earth

Land (23)
8x Island
3x Mountain
1x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4x Shivan Reef
1x Swiftwater Cliffs
1x Temple of Abandon
4x Temple of Epiphany
1x Temple of Mystery

With the loss of devotion-enabling goodies from Return to Ravnica block, building an aggressive Blue Devotion deck became an uphill struggle to find enough playable blue permanents to power Master of Waves and Thassa. This basically forces you to play a bunch of tiny evasive creatures of dubious quality. When I first experimented with this archetype after Khans came out, I came to the conclusion that the deck was hopeless without a Master of Waves in play, and not even that good at supporting devotion for Thassa and the Master.

Fate Reforged changed this with two interesting additions. First we got a somewhat decent devotion enabler in Cloudform which, though not impressive by any means, turns out to be the only playable creature under four mana with two blue in its cost (not counting Wall of Frost, which is more of a removal spell than an actual creature). With a deck full of tiny creatures, you are not terribly likely to get a valuable manifest card with Cloudform, but it does give you the option of flipping the morph for an extra devotion, sometimes. The really exciting innovation, though, came with Shaman of the Great Hunt.

With a deck as linear as blue devotion, an off-color permanent really needs to be amazing to earn slot. I believe the Shaman does that, in spades. It has great synergy with all the small evasive attackers, and provides a strong drawing engine if it ever lives until you untap. Its chances of actually attacking and damaging an opposing player are not great, but still better than in other decks, thanks to Thassa's ability, and the fact that opponents don't have much of a reason to hold back blockers otherwise. In short, the Shaman is a second must-kill threat, to complement Master of Waves.

The deck above is not top tier, but it's pretty cool, and I think it's good enough to bring to a tournament without embarrassing yourself. However, it has some important weaknesses, such as needing to play some mediocre cheap creatures to fill its curve, and often having a relatively low devotion count. Hence, I was pretty excited to find that Dragons of Tarkir fixed all this, by providing solid replacements for the weakest creatures and a strong card costing UUU.

DTK Blue Devotion
Creature (28)
3x Gudul Lurker
4x Hypnotic Siren
4x Master of Waves
4x Shaman of the Great Hunt
4x Shorecrasher Elemental
4x Stratus Dancer
4x Thassa, God of the Sea
1x Vaporkin

Enchantment (6)
2x Cloudform
4x Pin to the Earth

Artifact (2)
1x Bident of Thassa
1x Hall of Triumph

Land (24)
8x Island
1x Mana Confluence
2x Mountain
2x Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
4x Shivan Reef
2x Swiftwater Cliffs
4x Temple of Epiphany
1x Temple of Mystery

Gudul Lurker and Stratus Dancer play out just like the Triton Shorestalker and Vaporkin they replace in the early game, while getting quite a bit better when topdecked in the late game. But the real star is the Shorecrasher Elemental, which doubles as a strong and versatile body, and an outstanding devotion enabler. The deck now has enough devotion to go back to 4 Thassas, and enough mana sinks to make good use of a second Nykthos. Read More......

miércoles, 8 de octubre de 2014

Abzan Constellation

Today's deck is an experiment in trying to make the most out of Constellation synergies. We have 32 cards that are either enchantments or enchantment generators, 10 cards that strongly reward us for playing so many enchantments (including 4 Eidolon of blossoms, 4 Doomwake Giant, and 2 Kruphix's Insight), and enough early plays, removal and lifegain to consistently survive until the midgame against even the most aggresive decks out there. The new cards from Khans are unexciting, but very useful: Sandsteppe Citadel enables a solid and relatively painless mana base, whereas Debilitating Injury is a cheap removal spell that is great against small creatures, not completely dead against larger threats, and works with all our enchantment triggers.

Creature (21)
3x Brimaz, King of Oreskos
3x Courser of Kruphix
4x Doomwake Giant
4x Eidolon of Blossoms
2x Nyx-Fleece Ram
1x Sylvan Caryatid
4x Underworld Coinsmith

Artifact (1)
1x Whip of Erebos

Enchantment (11)
1x Abzan Ascendancy
4x Banishing Light
4x Debilitating Injury
1x First Response
1x Spear of Heliod

Sorcery (3)
1x Commune with the Gods
2x Kruphix's Insight

Land (24)
3x Caves of Koilos
2x Forest
3x Llanowar Wastes
1x Mana Confluence
2x Plains
4x Sandsteppe Citadel
2x Temple of Malady
2x Temple of Plenty
2x Temple of Silence
3x Windswept Heath Read More......

martes, 23 de septiembre de 2014

Khans Suicide Black

Now that most of the Mono-Black Devotion package (Pack Rat, Desecration Demon, Underworld Connections) has rotated, we get the opportunity to experiment with black cards that, while strong, had been previously overshadowed by superior options. Among these, a personal favorite is Pain Seer, the not-quite-Dark-Confidant from Born of the Gods. Unlocking the full potential of this creature requires a deckbuilder to meet two hard requirements: to survive Pain Seer's ability, and to actually be able to activate that ability. This means that we need a deck with a very low curve (or obscene amounts of lifegain), and enough removal or tricks to allow a bear to attack into a metagame full of Coursers of Kruphix, and survive until the next untap phase. Can we build a viable deck under these restrictions? Will it be worth all the effort?

Today's deck is a somewhat extreme take on the Pain Seer riddle: a very aggresive monoblack deck with an extremely low curve, a surprising amount of card advantage, and a healthy dose of removal and disruption. The main downside is that the deck is terrible at defense: we take a lot of damage from our own spells (with Pain Seer, Thoughtseize, Sign in Blood, Ulcerate and Boon of Erebos all eating at our life total), and most of our creatures block poorly, or not at all.

Suicide Black

Creature (24)
4x Bloodsoaked Champion
3x Gnarled Scarhide
3x Grim Haruspex
4x Mardu Skullhunter
4x Pain Seer
2x Ruthless Ripper
1x Spiteful Returned
3x Tormented Hero

Instant (9)
3x Bile Blight
3x Boon of Erebos
1x Hero's Downfall
2x Ulcerate

Land (18)
18x Swamp

Sorcery (8)
2x Despise
3x Sign in Blood
3x Thoughtseize

Artifact (1)
1x Hall of Triumph

The nice thing about this deck is that it not only draws cards like crazy but, due to its low curve, it can put all these cards to good use right away. The creatures are tiny, but most come with some built-in card advantage or resistance to sweepers, and the cheap removal and tricks allow us to attack profitably, even into the sturdiest green monsters. One of the most important cards is Boon of Erebos, which for a single black mana is extremely versatile: it can trade with an opposing removal spell, or win combat against anything short of a Polukranos. The Bile Blights are obviously good against cheaper creatures, but we shouldn't be afraid of using them as a combat trick to bring down larger monsters. At the top of the curve we have Grim Haruspex, which is amazing against sweepers, and lets us attack even more recklessly with our expendable little creatures. We even have a bit of direct damage to finish opponents off after a board stall, with Ruthless Ripper, Tormented Hero, and the odd Sign in Blood.

Earlier versions of this list went even more all-in, with more copies of Ulcerate, Boon of Erebos, and Sign in Blood. However, I found that we were hurting ourselves way too much, and toned the pain down to the current levels. I also experimented with Radiant Fountains to offset the life loss, but the deck has little use for colorless mana.

The mana base is definitely greedy, with a mere 18 swamps, but the very low curve coupled with all the card draw means we can usually afford it. The deck plays at almost full capacity with just 2 lands, and has a lot of plays even when stuck on a single swamp.

Regarding some unorthodox card choices, the Ruthless Rippers are not the most aggressive of attackers, but are among our best options when facing a board stall, and great if we ever fall behind. They also let us play a nice guessing game when morphed, in combination with Grim Haruspex. I also like to avoid using 4 copies of the non-essential creatures, to reduce the vulnerability to Bile Blight blowouts.
Read More......

lunes, 15 de septiembre de 2014

Aggro Combo with Jeskai Ascension

Last time, I promised I would finally show a deck with Defiant Strike that wasn't a mere rehash of unplayable Theros block lists. Interestingly, this one plays like an odd mixture of aggro and combo, with a low curve of critters, but also lots of drawing effects, many triggered abilities to keep track of, and the ability to finish games with a glorious barrage of spells. Supporting it all, we have one of the more intriguing cards from Khans: Jeskai Ascendancy.

Let's have a look at the list:


Creature (12)
4x Akroan Crusader
3x Monastery Swiftspear
3x Phalanx Leader
2x Vanguard of Brimaz

Enchantment (11)
1x Bident of Thassa
4x Dragon Mantle
4x Jeskai Ascendancy
2x Stratus Walk

Instant (12)
4x Defiant Strike
4x Raise the Alarm
4x Retraction Helix

Sorcery (4)
3x Launch the Fleet
1x Void Snare

Land (21)
4x Battlefield Forge
2x Flooded Strand
1x Island
3x Mana Confluence
4x Mystic Monastery
3x Plains
4x Shivan Reef

As you can see, this is a different animal from the White and Boros heroic lists. The creature count has been trimmed to include only the strongest Heroic triggers, plus Monastery Swiftspear, because that little guy turns out to be great in a list like this. The basic idea is to use Jeskai Ascendancy with cheap cantrips that happen to trigger heroic to overrun an opponent, possibly from an empty board. At this point, we are already familiar with Defiant Strike and Dragon Mantle, but the real breakout here is a hidden gem from Born of the Gods: Retraction Helix. This card does it all: trigger heroic, gain tempo, and even cantrip when returning a Dragon Mantle, but when you have a Jeskai Ascendancy on the table, it becomes downright obscene. Each new spell lets you untap creatures and (thanks to the Helix) return a new nonland permanent to hand, which is good to empty an opposing board, but also lets you play the same Dragon Mantle over an over, to grow and Heroic your creatures, while drawing and looting through your deck. 

The deck is a blast to play, as you see a lot of cards, and need to take careful decisions about the order in which you play spells and activate triggers, as well as take educated guesses about the top of your library when going off. Even when you don't get the combo pieces together, you can make a decent impression of an aggresive player and attack with cheap creatures. The mana is painful, as we don't want too many lands but really need to be able to play creatures costing WW, followed by enchantments costing URW, hopefully without killing ourselves in the process - but I think the payoff is well worth it.


Read More......

viernes, 12 de septiembre de 2014

Soldier Heroic with Khans of Tarkir

The second of my experiments with Defiant Strike was a mono-white deck with just a slight touch of heroic (11 heroic creatures and 12 enablers), a strong focus on tokens (with Raise the Alarm, Vanguard of Brimaz, Brimaz, and Launch the Fleet) and a ton of crusade effects. Since the mana curve is very low and we have a bunch of cantrips, the deck is able to work with just 18 lands. The only non-soldier creatures (for Obelisk of Urd purposes) are the Selfless Cathars, but they work really well with all the tokens, so I'm willing to give them a pass.

Creature (22)
4x Brimaz, King of Oreskos
3x Favored Hoplite
1x Herald of Anafenza
4x Phalanx Leader
3x Selfless Cathar
3x Soldier of the Pantheon
4x Vanguard of Brimaz

Instant (12)
4x Acolyte's Reward
4x Bandage
4x Raise the Alarm

Enchantment (1)
1x Spear of Heliod

Artifact (3)
1x Hall of Triumph
2x Obelisk of Urd

Sorcery (4)
4x Launch the Fleet

Land (18)
18x Plains

Compared to the Boros version of the same concept, this list sacrifices the explosiveness of Akroan Crusader for a tighter, less painful manabase and a lower dependency on heroic shenanigans. It's also dirt cheap, for what it's worth.

As much as I like a solid Heroic deck, these lists may not be terribly exciting, as they are existing archetypes with a single (if very relevant) Khans card thrown in. On the next post, I will show yet another heroic deck that properly showcases the new set.

Try this deck on tappedout.


Read More......

Boros Heroic with Khans of Tarkir

One of my favorite cards from the recently spoiled Khans of Tarkir is a seemingly inoffensive cantrip, Defiant Strike (W, target creature gets +1/+0, draw a card). I have been trying to build a working Heroic deck in Standard ever since Theros was released last year, but they always ended up too clunky, with poor mana and too many weak cards. A key issue that I kept running into was that most Heroic cards were white, but the color had almost no heroic enablers worth playing. With Defiant Strike, there is now enough critical mass for a successful deck or three. In this post, and the following ones, I will show some lists inspired by the card.

First up is a fairly standard boros heroic list, with Defiant Strike as its only Khans card - but what a change! Defiant Strike teams up with Dragon Mantle for a whoopping total of 8 cantrips, letting me skimp a bit on the mana, and cycle through my deck while getting multiple heroic triggers at a very low cost. Also, and very importantly, these cantrips allow us to generate a threatening board presence from a single Akroan Crusader or Vanguard of Brimaz without spending any additional cards, which is quite handy when facing sweepers.

KTK Boros Heroic

Creature (22)
4x Akroan Crusader
1x Anax and Cymede
3x Brimaz, King of Oreskos
4x Favored Hoplite
2x Mogis's Warhound
4x Phalanx Leader
4x Vanguard of Brimaz

Land (20)
4x Battlefield Forge
4x Mana Confluence
4x Mountain
6x Plains
2x Temple of Triumph

Instant (8)
4x Acolyte's Reward
4x Defiant Strike

Sorcery (5)
1x Arc Lightning
4x Launch the Fleet

Enchantment (5)
4x Dragon Mantle
1x Spear of Heliod


Note that the little removal in the deck can double up as Heroic finishers in a pinch. Acolyte's Reward (and, to a lesser degree, Arc Lightning) is usually amazing when pointed at an opponent's creature or face, but you also get the option to target several of your own creatures for additional counters or tokens.

You can try out the list (with a few proxies) on tappedout.
Read More......

Introduction: New game

Hi everybody. I'm starting a new blog to talk about another of my obsessions, trading card games - and more specifically, Magic: the Gathering. I don't get to play much these days, but I'm an avid deckbuilder, and I'm often full of deck ideas that never see the light of day outside of my test gauntlet. For now, I intend to submit short posts focusing on a single Standard decklist each. I hope you find them useful, or at least entertaining! Read More......