Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Grand Prix Detroit

Grand Prix Detroit has come and gone. The largest team event in Magic The Gathering history with 680 total teams and more than 2000 players. If I told you Team Nerdageddon went 6-2-1 and finished in 65th place then you'd think we had an epic weekend. 

You'd be right and wrong at the same time. 

Team Nerdageddon consisted of Josh Kretz (right), Hunter Mayes (left), and myself (guess). Josh was our team captain because he does GPs a lot more often than the rest of us. It was my first BIG tournament in 10 years and Hunter's first ever. We did VIP because if you're only doing one GP a year then do it up. The extra $50 per person is worth it.

Our sealed pull was not the best. I'd say our two best cards would have been an Erebos's Titan & an Abbot of Keral Keep. In my deck the best card was my Evolutionary Leap. By no means was it the worst sealed pull in history but during deck construction we knew we only had enough for two good decks.

Josh played a Black/White tricks build using Kytheon's Tactics, mighty leap, etc & a ton of renown guys. Hunter built a green/red aggro deck with some good removal and speed. I went with blue/green tempo. It was more like a Ford Tempo. None of us felt extremely confident in our decks.

The highlight of round one came when we got seated adjacent from my favorite pro team, The Pantheon: Reid Duke (first), William "Huey" Jensen (second), & Owen Turtenwald (last). They went 9-0 for the day. It was awesome to watch their match.

Our match wasn't that great. We lost and not in memorable fashion.

Second round was the worst match up of the day because in the last five minutes the teams were tied at 1-1 with Josh going into his third game. The other team asked us to draw. We of course declined and wanted to play it out with 5 min left because a draw is as bad as a tie. That's when it got horrible.

The kid across from Josh began to slow play. He would watch the clock at the end of the hall and take 30-40 seconds to decide on land play during turns 1-3. He played no spells yet took nearly 3 minutes off the clock. By turn three Josh had put a 4 turn kill clock on the kid. That was the last regulation turn we played as the team advised the player to wait until overtime.

That's when we learned from the judges that they need to witness slow play and that nothing can be done unless they see it. So we went to Overtime. 

We ended the fifth turn by leaving the kid at 2 life. Had we played at actual speed then it woukd probably never have gotten to overtime. A draw and a bad taste in our mouth is what we went into round 3 with. 

We were so steamed about those kids we didn't focus on round 3 and dropped it 1-2 to decks we should have beat. Focus it a must in Magic. Tons of misplays by us.

Round 4 our opponents never showed up. So we got the free win and a big wide window to go grab lunch. 

Round 5 we grabbed the win in a really tight match up. Probably our most fun of the day because next the true shenanigans begin.

Round 6-9 we never played a real opponent. Each round we sat and nobody showed. We ended up 6-2-1 because five of our opponents never cared to played. So we drew opponents on scrap paper. They followed us to each match up. Unofficially we are the greatest imaginary Magic players of all time. 

We became kind of a mascot to some of the Judges. They would swing by and chat. Near the later rounds they'd sit and we'd share stories. Even in the last round they began to calculate if we had a shot at day 2. It turns out we were a tie short. Had we gone 7-2 then we would have made day 2. 

Then again had we never gotten that tie then would we have even been 6-2-1? Nobody knows but the facts & numbers say slow play cost us a shot at the title. That's our story & we're sticking to it. 

At the end of the day it will say on paper that we scored 19 points with a 6-2-1 record to become the 65th best team out of 680 teams at Team Sealed. While that might not be reality, it is a great story to bring home. We had our names up on the board ahead, next to, or just behind some of the greatest hall of fame names in Magic. 

Plus it was kind of cool to walk out of the Hard Rock Cafe and have guys at a table point us out and say, "Those were the guys I told you about". 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Casual Gamer: Origins

Getting Back To Basics

Origins is upon us! 

We get to learn where the epic journey of five of our favorite Planeswalkers began. There are some pretty sweet cards being releasedx including the flipwalkers. My favorite happens to be Disciple Of The Ring but I have to bring in my second choice of Willbreaker. These two work really well together.

Disciple is a versatile card in a control deck. Your counters and draw spells get to be extra fuel for whatever situation may arise. Even better is how Disciple tags up with Willbreaker. 

Your Willbreaker is super powerful but kinda fragile. 3 toughness isn't hard to deal with. Also remember all critters collected return to your opponent when Willbreaker goes bye bye. Not a fun scenario. Luckily Disciple can add some protection with an endless barrage of noncreature counters.

Even better is Disciple can recruit creatures for 1 measly mana. Just simply exile an instant or sorcery then untap your friend's Siege Rhino. Now you have a Siege Rhino. 

Looking at these two cards, and reading about the lore behind Origins, made me think about when I started Magic. Today I love me some red burn but when I was a tiny planeswalker, I preferred blue control. That's why I decided to return to my origins with a deck built on my old gaming budget: $40. 

$40 doesn't seem like much but to a 13 year old kid in 1993, that was a fortune. It also happened to be a month's worth of allowances. I would say I've been a budget builder since birth. Here is what I brewed up:

"Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo"

Creatures (15)

4 Nyx-Fleece Ram

4 Sigiled Starfish

2 Eidolon of Rhetoric

2 Willbreaker

3 Disciple of the Ring

Spells (22)

2 Anticipate

2 Curse of the Swine

2 Disdainful Stroke

3 Reality Shift

3 Valorous Stance

4 Negate

2 Banishing Light

4 Dissolve

Lands (23)

2 Evolving Wilds

4 Tranquil Cove

7 Plains

10 Island

Sideboard (15)

2 Ajani's Presence

2 Gods Willing

2 Icy Blast

3 Erase

3 Neutralizing Blast

2 Divination

1 Ojutai's Command

I couldn't think of a fun nickname for this deck but Breakin' 2 just kept popping up in my head. 

The deck is pretty simple. Stall out until you can lock down the board. Use your Rams as blockers and slow trickle life gainers. Starfish are great blockers plus they'll make sure your draw is not a dead one. They also both can block 2/2, which will be the main creature type they face. 

In fact all creatures in this deck can block 2/2 attackers. Reality shift & Curse will help turn any Rhino or Dragonlord into a manageable situation. This allows you to let creature spells be cast in the mid-game while saving higher counters for board killers like Atarka. 

Originally I wanted to squeeze a Brimaz in here but budget friendly he isn't. So I put Eidolon of Rhetoric. This card will grind the game to a halt. It also will help you protect a board advantage because Disciple can counter noncreature without exhausting your one spell a turn. 

Once the board is on lock you can pick your win. Simply use the Disciple for a few smacks or take what creatures they have to overrun them. A fun one is to use Curse Of The Swine with Willbreaker. All their creatures become yours then get exiled for an army of pigs.

Nothing better than a pig bomb. 

All in all this deck with sideboard costs a few pennies under $40 to put together. Again I made budget decisions like dropping Brimaz and choosing Evolving Wilds over Flooded Strands. Those two moves alone saved me $50 in budget.

This deck probably won't win any world championships but it will give opponents headaches. It gives you a punchers chance, which is all you can ask in budget brewing.

Origins releases this Friday with a Fat Pack Battle during FNM at 7PM. Entry is $40 and each player receives an Origins Fat Pack to build a deck with. Prizes determined by the number of players. We'll also have booster boxes, intro decks, toolkits, clash packs, and booster packs available when our doors open at noon. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

The Casual Gamer

Modern Solitaire

For the most part I am a Standard player and a drafter. They actually go hand in hand. I enjoy deck building the most about Magic and both formats utilize that aspect in my opinion the best. Yet, there is always more I want to do with the game. That is why I have recently looked into building a Modern deck.

There are some pretty fun looking Modern decks like Delver or Storm. Again I'm a sucker for anything that is friends with blue or red. Give me both and we may start to get serious. Yet I'm not exactly looking to break the bank. The mana base alone for those decks is going to send my wallet running for cover.

I could always go with Modern Burn. I've seen some cool lists from Grand Prix decks that are only like 120-150. Yet I don't want to be stingy. This is a Modern deck after all. I won't be switching it up in a month. I'll fine tune it but it'll stay by my side for awhile. That kind of commitment deserves a higher ceiling. 

Not like 500 but something I could feel comfy with. 

Maybe half that. 

A good Modern deck with blue and red that has some flare to it for under $250. That is my goal. 

After looking around the internets I got a suggestion from a player to check out this Travis Woo Narset First Turn Kill Deck. I've written before how much I love Narset. Even better is she is pretty much at bargain basement levels right now. A play set for $6 is not too shabby. Yet there was a lot I still didn't like about the deck.

The same stuff I didn't like about the other Narset First Turn Kill Deck I had seen from Gabriel Pancerzewski at Mana-Fyx Games. For one I don't want to drop my budget on Emrakul. I love the big lug. I just don't like his price. 

I also never like the heavy exile and mulligan play the deck forced on you when I played it proxy. I toyed with the Omniscience & Enter the Infinite combo but never liked that it opened me up to being milled too easily by an opponent. Plus Omniscience at $16 a pop is more than I want to assign a fringe card. That kind of price tag goes for the card that makes the entire deck run. 

For a play set of Goryo's Vengeance your going to drop about $50. That is an Emrakul. I'd rather have that playset than any number of Emrakuls. This card is one half of the coin that makes this deck. Having one in your starting hand makes it a favorable keep. I'm not saying you won't mulligan but it will jump the value of the hand. You have the entire coin in Narset & Goryo's Vegeance for roughly $53. That is budget.

This my version of the Narset first turn kill deck. It has the ability for first turn kill but I added some substance to the deck to help it go off on any turn. It also is designed to be played like a game of Solitaire. I have a lot of time alone in the shop. This kind of deck fits my play schedule. 


Creatures: 8

Simian Spirit Guide x4
Narset, Enlightened Master x4

Spells: 40

Faithless Looting x4
Gitaxian Probe x4
Noxious Revival x4
Pull from Eternity x4
Spoils of the Vault x1
Thought Scour x3
Tome Scour x4
Goryo's Vengeance x4
Relentless Assault x4
Waves of Aggression x4
Fury of the Horde x4

Lands: 12

City Of Brass x2
Gemstone Caverns x4
Gemstone Mine x2
Mana Confluence x4

Sideboard: 15

Feldon's Cane x1
Guttural Response x4
Nature's Claim x2
Smelt x4
Research // Development x2
Murderous Cut x2

It's pretty straight forward. Your perfect hand is a Gemstone Cavern, Narset, Goryo's Vengeance, Pull From Eternity, and a second mana source. You want your opponent to go first because then you can play the Caverns to exile the Narset to put her in the graveyard with Pull from Eternity.

Then on your turn one you Goryo's Vengeance and send Narset off to the races. If she gets 7 attack phases then you win the game. Noxious Revival helps put extra attack turn cards on top of your deck to get free cast by Narset. Pretty much once you get two attack cards exiled by Narset the game is yours. 

Tome Scour and Thought Scour help push your deck into your graveyard in hopes of hitting Narset there or grabbing a combo piece for next turn with Noxious Revival. The Faithless looting works the same way. Also lets you discard Narset from a starting hand or turn draw. 

I don't know the exact percent that it goes off on turn 1. It feels as if it goes off very consistently on turn 2. Once the deck gets flowing it tends to have the ability to go off every turn.

This is my kind of Modern Deck.

It's budget friendly. It's flashy and quirky. It's red and blue (and everything else). It's the Modern deck I want to keep handy for the next couple years. 

I'm not delusional in thinking this build is going to be on par with Delver or Storm but I know it has a chance against any deck in the format. 

Some purists would say it really isn't playing Magic. There is no real interaction with the other player. You are basically going to a tournament to sit in front of another person for 7+ rounds and play by yourself. I say that isn't true. 

Just having an opponent forces interaction. My sideboard exists for that reason. The Grafdigger's Cage is REALLY scary for this deck to see. 

I believe nobody would want to see this deck because of the chance it goes off twice. No worse feeling than being a round from the money and you get double first turn killed. That kind of stuff gets tables flipped. 

To me this balances the scales. I can't afford the big net decks but I can afford to give myself a chance against anyone sitting across from me no matter what deck they bring to the table. 

Until next time I'll keep playing by myself.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Casual Gamer

The Spread Offense

It's been awhile. Nearly 4 months since we began our journey into the land of Tarkir. This weekend the time stream shifts and the events of the past will be changed to alter the present.

After such a strong set like Khans of Tarkir, it is hard to be the follow up set. Khans is one of the best sets in Magic history. The fact that two cards have already found their way to the banned list, including Treasure Cruise pulling the hat trick, is a testimony to the strength of the set.

Fate Reforged isn't Khans of Tarkir. It is however one of strongest support sets I've seen. The amount of commons and uncommons that are going to see regular play across formats is a pretty impressive list. Also cards like Monastery Mentor & Soulfire Grand Master will have huge impacts on the tournament scene. All in all Fate Reforged might not start off with the kind of hype that Khans did, but after people play more with the set it will turn out to be one of the more popular sets because of all the utility and diversity that it brings to the game.

As always I have found my favorite card from the set. In fact I have two favorites. I love the card Dragonrage. It will be a card that Magic players keep playsets of for decades. At face value it is a great card for game ending finishes. Load the board, swing with all, funnel all your red mana into an unblocked creature. Good Game.

Then there are the combos that this card lets you pull off. This card can generate a lot of mana fast. The drawback is you need to use that mana during the combat phase. I have three other options for that mana besides funneling into a dragon's breath mechanic.

Option one is Purphoros. His ability for giving +1/+0 for all creatures becomes really good when you have all that extra red mana. Why pump seven creatures with seven +1/+0 pumps when you do double Purphoros for +2/+0 to all creatures and use the left over mana for an extra +1/+0 pump to whomever.

Option two is Dictate of the Twin Gods. It's five mana to double all your damage. Seven 1/1 tokens are attacking. Drop the dictate and turn a potential 14 damage into 18 damage. Gets even better with more creatures.

Option three involves my other new favorite card, Arcbond. This one is a bit tricky, and brings tons of risk. With Arcbond you can turn anyone into an insta-bomb. Add in Dragonrage and you turn that bomb nuclear.

Here is the combo:

Attack with all your creatures. When they declare blocks cast Dragonrage then use three of that mana to cast Arcbond targeting one of the blockers. Then funnel all the left over mana into the creature being blocked. The arcbonded creature will then deal all that damage to every creature and player. Add in a deflecting palm to prevent all that damage and double the damage on your opponent.

I'll give you a scenario:

I'm attacking again with my seven 1/1 tokens. My opponent has a 2/2 Runeclaw Bear that he uses to block a token. He's at 16 life so he's not afraid of the six damage my other tokens represent. 

As he declares the block of his bear I then cast Dragonrage to produce seven mana. I then use three of that mana to cast Arcbond targeting Mr. Bear and then use two untapped lands to cast my deflecting palm on the bear. I finally funnel the four remaining mana from Dragonrage into the creature being blocked to give him +4/+0 for a total of five assigned damage.

As damage resolves it would play out like this: 

He would take 6 from my tokens, then his blocker would take 5 from my attacker. That blocker would then deal 5 damage to all other creatures and players. My Deflecting Palm would prevent that 5 from me and deal it to my opponent. He would take a total of 16 damage, our boards would be clear, and I would take no damage. That would give me the game. 

(Big Thank You to MtG Judge Randy Tice for helping me cross all my T's and dot all my I's)

Using this combo, and my love for Dragonrage, I have built a new budget deck for under $50. Take a look.

"Block This"

Creatures: 8

Humble Defector x2
Mardu Scout x3
Iroas, God of Victory x1
Purphoros, God of the Forge x2

Spells: 29

Defiant Strike x3
Launch the Fleet x3
Titan's Strength x3
Raise the Alarm x4
Deflecting Palm x1
Arcbond x1
Dragonrage x4
Hordling Outburst x4
Howl of the Horde x2
Dictate of the Twin Gods x1
Triplicate Spirits x3

Lands: 23

Temple of Triumph x3
Mountain x10
Plains x10

Again with budget building there are some restrictions to card selection. Red/White Spread works really well with Goblin Rabblemaster, Monastery Mentor, and Brimaz. Yet those three will run you about 200-225 to fit into your deck. Not very budget friendly.

The idea behind the deck at your core is to spread your opponent super thin. He may have 3 HUGE creatures but you've go 13 small ones. Over three turns, if nothing changes besides attackers dying to blockers, that is enough to deal 21 damage. (13-3=10, 10-3=7, 7-3=4, sum=21). Then add in combat tricks.

Attack with your 13 and go to the bread n' butter of Dragonrage. Now you've got enough to do 23 damage in one turn with your opponent's 3 blockers on the board. Defiant Strike & Titan's Strength will help add damage to your final total while filtering your deck out. Humble Defector is good for card draw and gives your opponent a blocker when you need one for the nuclear option.

The "one off" spells are for situational flavor such as Arcbond, Dictate, Palm, and Iroas.

The Howl is great when you attack with one 1/1 then cast that for a triple cast of either Outburst or Spirits (9 tokens). Even better when you convoke down for the spirits to do it all for three mana. Also it can double Dragonrage if cast pre-combat.

Purphoros is a doomsday engine. You drop tokens, he does damage. You produce a ton of mana then he buffs your tokens. You dash out your scout, it becomes a 5 damage Goblin bomb. If I had him in my opening hand, I'd hold back token spells until I got him out. Purphoros paired with token spells is dirty.

I didn't include a sideboard yet, because this deck will require heavy play testing to see all the holes. Without direct removal there will be some who urge putting that in the sideboard. I feel that keeping removal out of the deck helps streamline the true theme of the deck which is full speed ahead with little concern for what will happen next.

Should be an interesting play and worth the $50 to put together.

What decks are you brewing on a budget? Let's brew together this Friday during our Fate Reforged endless drafts. $13 entry into an 8 person pod. They'll be single elimination pods. We'll keep drafting all night until there is nobody left to play.