Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Casual Gamer

Trigger Happy

My favorite part about Magic The Gathering is brewing new decks. I'd say probably more than playing. Even better is budget brewing. Nothing better than beating the challenge of a budget. 

Recently one of our 19 & Under players (and regular FNM player) has been showing up each week with a new challenge. He'll have a format in mind & a tight budget. The job market for paper boys has dried up. You know how hard it is to toss electronic newspapers? So his budgets are TIGHT.

It's been some of the most fun coming up with crazy decks filled mostly with commons & uncommons. My favorite recently was a Modern Mono-Green Devotion for under $15. Then I started thinking about brewing on a budget for Standard rotation. 

I know, I know. Rotation got pushed back to yearly, so we get until late September to keep our Standard Decks. But what about past that? I mean a two year clock on a budget deck is a casual gamers dream. 

So that's what I did. I took $60 and brewed up a deck using mostly cards from Kaladesh. A set that won't rotate until September of 2018. 

Take a look:

Trigger Happy

Creatures: 18

Thriving Turtle x4
Aether Theorist x4
Glint-Nest Crane x4
Aethertorch Renegade x2
Whirler Virtuoso x4

Artifacts: 15

Decoction Module x4
Woodweaver's Puzzleknot x3
Fabrication Module x4
Panharmonicon x4

Planeswalkers: 2

Saheeli Rai x2

Spells: 5

Harnessed Lightning x3
Paradoxical Outcome x2

Land: 20

Aether Hub x4
Highland Lake x2
Inventor's Fair x2
Sequestered Stash x1
Island x6
Mountain x5

Sideboard: 15

Aethersquall Ancient x1
Boiling Earth x2
Era of Innovation x2
Glassblower's Puzzleknot x3
Negate x3
Radiant Flames x2
Demolish x3

All 75 cards comes in a few pennies underneath $60 at TCGplayer Mid Price. Some of the sideboard is non-Kaladesh, and will rotate, but your sideboard should always be changing to fit your area's meta. It probably should change (even if only one card) between each event. 

The deck revolves around Panharmonicon. This card is bonkers. Also it looks like a card that will have life beyond Standard. A budget building win-win. 

With Panharmonicon you're looking for all your cards to double trigger when they enter the battlefield. This is why I have a Woodweaver's Puzzleknot in the deck. When it drops and double triggers that is 6 energy & 6 life. A great way to survive the first few turns of attacks until you can stabilize your board. Add in the two modules and things really pick up. 

If you can get Panharmonicon out with Decoction, Saheeli Rai, & Whirler Virtuoso then you can create an infinite number of 1/1 Thopters. All you need to do is copy the Decoction Module with Saheeli, then begin spending three energy to make a Thopter than pops for a 4 energy trigger. The Fabrication Module just keeps plopping down +1/+1 counters each time you produce energy, which with this combo is 4 per thopter made. 

5/5 endless thopters usually leads to a GG & scoop.

The Paradoxical Outcome is a great trick for the deck. If the opponent does a board wipe then scoop up the board, draw more, then recast. With it at Instant speed, you can wait until your opponent's end phase then reload your hand for a mass dump trigger fest on your next turn. 

The land base is tricky. 20 lands is the bare minimum I like to run when I have a 4 drop I need to hit. Yet with the scry theorist, I feel I can hit the 4 land target regularly & open a few slots in the deck for more important parts. This is why I also have the Glassblower's Puzzleknot in the sideboard. Exchange it with your mainboard Puzzleknot to make sure you hit those land drops. The Crane helps make sure you can get your artifacts in hand but can backfire by burying your land drops. 

The best part about the deck is that Aether Revolt, which releases in January, just adds more to the deck. There are some parts I'd like to upgrade. The renegade is a nice threat but I'd like to slide him into a sideboard card & replace with a stronger 2 drop. Then again making 12 life your opponents "Danger Zone" is kinda fun too. 

This is a fun deck that quickly escalates. It's one I'm looking forward to playing over the new two years. Also one I'm going to enjoy tinkering with after each set release & eventually into Frontier/Modern. 

We've got Standard Showdown going on each Saturday at Nerdageddon starting at 4PM with a $5 entry. It's happening on Dec 3rd, 10th, & 17th. We'll play 3 rounds where every round you win, you win a Standard Booster of your choice. Those that go 3-0-0 gets a Standard Showdown 3 card booster. We'll also be giving away Standard Showdown boosters randomly between rounds & to those who bring NEW players (No DCI) to play in the event. 

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Casual Gamer

The Calm In The Storm

Hey guys and gals!

It's time once again for a new Magic The Gathering set. This time we make a trip to Kaladesh, the home plane of Chandra. Kaladesh is filled with wonderful machines and some pretty cool new mechanics. 

My new favorite is vehicles. You can toss your creatures into a vehicle and rundown your opponent. Sorry no bonus points for making racing sounds while you do it. This set is BEYOND fun. 

Over prerelease weekend I got see a ton of cool deck ideas. Funny thing is this blog's deck idea came from our post prerelease clean up. Once the dust settles the game room looks like a battle has raged. The floor & tables are littered with wrappers, soda cans, scrap paper, and cards people leave behind. 

Usually the cards left behind are a bunch of commons with a few uncommons & rares that people don't have high hopes for. In a pile of cards Saturday night I came across Paradoxical Outcome. I couldn't believe somebody left it behind. It's not a standout card but something you can deck brew around.

My friend Brandon joked that the card will probably get banned in Modern because of what it does. Then we realized it was the key to a Standard Storm deck. The deck list is below and then I'll dive in to how it all works. 

Deck Name: Cannonball Run

Creatures: 23

Endless One x4
Bomat Courier x4
Thraben Gargoyle x4
Lupine Prototype x3
Foundry Inspector x4
Herald Of Kozilek x4

Artifacts: 11

Smuggler's Copter x4
Cultivator's Caravan x3
Aetherflux Reservoir x3
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship x1

Instant: 4

Paradoxial Outcome x4

Planeswalker: 1

Saheeli Rai x1

Lands: 21

Evolving Wild x1
Inventors' Fair x2
Island x5
Mountain x5
Nephalia Academy x1
Sequestered Stash x1
Spirebluff Canal x4
Wandering Fumarole x2

This build will cost you some cash. Probably about 120 to put together. That's the cost of a booster box. You can budget it up by dropping the Canal's for tap lands & the Fumarole for two more Evolving Wilds. Also switch out Smuggler's Copter for Sky Skiff and Saheeli Rai with a 4th Reservoir. This should drop the price of the deck by about 70. You can even drop the Flagship but I'm a fan of it, especially as very limited removal for the deck.

I'll break down the deck in the three steps of a Magic Trick.

The base of the deck resembles the "Stompy" build for decks like Werewolf Stompy in Legacy. It's all about overloading the board and just tossing huge bodies at your opponent. Yet this isn't really the deck, it's "The Pledge" in Magicians terms.

The first few turns look straight stompy. Get out your small guys to apply pressure with help of vehicles in later turns. On turn three hopefully drop one of your 8 "make my artifacts cheaper" lords. Then crank up the pressure by dropping your hand of cheap toys. This leads to our second Magicians term, "The Turn".

"The Turn" would be the Aetherflux Reservoir. It's unexpected. It's a gimmicky life gain card with an almost comical end ability. When you drop it, the opponent probably won't see it as a threat. You might even get a snicker out of them. Yet, it's the key to Standard Storm with the wording of the cards' first ability. That leads us to our final Magicians term, "The Prestige" (Aka "The Payoff").

Your board is loaded now. You should have a lord or two out. You should have a few cheap creatures. You might even have a vehicle revving up.

This is when you drop all your free cast stuff in your hand to start the standard storm count. After your free casts you then unleash Paradoxical Outcome and scoop up all your free casts or cheap casts leaving the lords on the field. Then draw cards equal to the numbered scooped. Finally recast all your free casts and cheap cast that you can. The reservoir will go nuts and you'll gain some insane life. Probably enough to fire off the Reservoir.

Just play testing, I was able to hit storm count 9 pretty regularly on turn 7. That's 45 life.

Cards like Rai & Flagship are cards to help move the game forward but not key cards. Rai is nice for her scry and ability to copy the reservoir for a turn to make Standard Storm easier. If you can ultimate her then it's pretty much game. The Flagship is removal and a big flying body to end the game traditionally.

This deck is super fun to play. It has holes but all decks do. It doesn't have real removal so you have to resort to smashing your creatures into things. It does put pressure on early and force your opponent to play to your terms. Plus the Reservoir/Outcome combo is a great meta-game switch. Those that haven't seen it before have the best expressions when they realize what is going on.

Last but not least it lets a cyborg werewolf drive a flying ship, and that's how we all win!

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Casul Gamer


I'm old.

When I first started playing Magic in 1993, my mom still gave me lunch money. I would like to tell you that my $20 a week always went towards lunch and not Magic. I'd also like to tell you that playing Magic in school made me the prom king.

Neither of those things are true. But it did teach me how to budget my money and date a person who is into me for me. Both valuable life lessons. So thanks Magic.

Now this weekend is Shadows Over Innistrad Game Day at 1PM with a $5 entry. It's a Standard Constructed tournament with Full Art promos for all players and Full Art Foil promos for those that make the top 8 cut. The winner will walk away with the champions play mat.

What deck are you going to play? Eldrazi? Mono-White Humans? Tokens? What if you only had my old school Magic budget? What if you only had $20 to build a deck with?

I took this challenge yesterday after stumbling onto a combo I absolutely love (and hate myself for not seeing sooner).

I've written about how awesome Zada, Hedron Grinder is. Then yesterday a customer had a question about Silverfur Partisan and how it's ability works. That's when my brain clicked that the two could work really well together. Best part is a play set of both is about $7. That's amazing.

Even better is since I'm going wolves (werewolves are too undependable to always be wolfy), I can spike in a ton of creatures at bare minimum costs. Match that with cheap targeting spells and we're talking super budget.

Here's the deck list before I break down the deck:

One Man WolfPack

Creatures: 21

4x Ember-Eye Wolf
2x Quilled Wolf
4x Scourge Wolf
4x Timberpack Wolf
4x Silverfur Partisan
3x Zada, Hedron Grinder

Spells: 19

4x Might of the Masses
4x Slip Through Space
4x Titan's Strength
4x Vines of the Recluse
3x Howlpack Resurgence

Lands: 20
2x Evolving Wilds
6x Forest
1x Highland Lake
2x Island
6x Mountain
2x Timber Gorge
1x Woodland Stream

All of that for roughly $17. There's money left to build a sideboard with. I'd suggest cards like Moonlight Hunt, Fiery Impulse, Glint, Expedite, and other situational cheap stuff to fill out the sideboard.

First you'll notice there isn't any direct removal. When building I couldn't find any I truly liked that didn't take away from the deck or cost a bunch. I figured it was better for sideboard material and to focus on the strategy of the deck: Pump out wolves, pump up wolves.

This is an aggro deck. It just takes the first turn off. Like a wolf you stalk your prey. It also leaves turn one for tap lands to set your board for the game. Then on turn 2 you start jamming out wolves.

Since most of your spells are instant speed (even the enchantment) it opens up a bunch of combat tricks for your pack. Opponent has flyers then give a wolf reach. Opponent has a big beast then hit Titan strength to take em down. Opponent has a wall of creatures you can't bust through then make a pumper unblockable.

Add Zada to the mix and all your wolves can do those tricks. Add in Silverfur Partisan and you'll make puppies for each creature a spell copied by Zada targets. It gets crazy quick.

Even better is that it abuses the Magic rules for priority & stack. I'll go through a scenario that I worked with a MTG judge on. I believe this is how it plays out but if I am wrong PLEASE let me know. The judge I talked to seems to believe this is how it plays out.

You know your opponent has an Ultimate Price. They know you're holding Zada. Both of you are in a stand off. On the board is two wolves and a Silverfur Partisan on your side. Your opponent has three zombies. Your opponent doesn't wish to use the price on the Partisan because Zada is the game ender. You draw into your sixth land and play Zada.

Your opponent will scramble to tap their lands to blow up Zada but can't until you pass priority from the resolution of the casting. That's when you can cast one of your two spells, which will trigger Zada & thus lead to triggers on Partisan. You don't want to spam cast because you need the Zada ability to resolve first to trigger the Partisan.

You cast Zada then hold priority to cast Slip Through Space. The Slip targets Zada and triggers him. Before he can begin to create copies to trigger Partisan you need to pass priority. You pass priority so opponent can cast UP on Zada.

You respond to the UP casting by casting Might of the Masses. Then your Might of the Masses will target Zada and triggers him. That trigger resolves and creates 3 Partisan triggers for 6 total wolves. The first three wolves from MM come into play and then MM resolves on your original 4 creatures for +7/+7.

Next Ultimate Price resolves to kill your Zada.

Finally your Zada SS trigger resolves for 6 copies of SS to make your 6 wolves unblockable and you draw 6 cards. Those 6 copies create six wolf token triggers from the Partisan. You end it by swinging out with your three original wolves that are all unblockable 9/9.

So that's the deck. Pretty cut and dry. Play smart and be willing to toss your wolves around. It's ok to sit back and let the game come to you. As shown above the deck can pounce on your opponent in one turn.

Now let's rock out to some Duran Duran and start sleeving all those wolf tokens.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Casual Gamer

Shadows Over Innistrad Is Here!

Were you one of the 178 players that participated in Nerdageddon's Shadows Over Innistrad Prerelease weekend? If not then you missed a helluva weekend. Including the discovery of my new best friend:

He's sooooo good!

When I first saw this card I didn't have my socks blown off. Not a huge defense, so he can be dealt with. His ability can bite you when you need land and your opp is putting it in your GY, but after playing with him that really isn't the downside. I'm not saying it can't come bite you but I tended to draw more spells with him & the times he sent land away, it helped because I drew power with my actual draw step.

In limited he was a beast because you're almost forced into higher casting cost stuff for deck construction & now those high costs get added value with this Devil on your shoulder. Add in his menace ability and you're scoring a bolt a turn with him as long as your opponent has only a creature untapped or alive. Something that happened often this weekend. 

So I got home after a long day of MTG prerelease fun and of course spent the next day brewing up my Standard deck. We've got a Fat Pack Battle this Friday for FNM but the rest of the month, including SOI Gameday on April 30th, is Standard Constructed at Nerdageddon. 

Here's my brew:

"Slow Burn" 

Creatures: 18

Insolent Neonate x4
Sin Prodder x4
Avaricious Dragon x2
Inverter Of Truth x1
Thunderbreak Regent x4
Goblin Dark-dweller x3

Spells: 19

Avacyn's Judgment x4
Tormenting Voice x3
Alms of the Vein x2
Exquisite Firecraft x4
Fiery Temper x4
Ruinous Path x2

Artifact: 1

Pyromancer's Goggles x1

Land: 22

Foreboding Ruins x3
Smoldering Marsh x3
Swamp x5
Mountain x11

No sideboard because I haven't really focused on that. The deck will take some tooling and testing but this is a good place to start.

It's a burn deck but it's not. Most of your burn decks are fast out the gate. This one really doesn't get the ball rolling until turn 3. Yet this one comes with mid-range headaches. The creature base has a lot of evasion abilities either with flying or menace.

The spells all can be targets for Dark-Dwellers plus be hefty enough to get value from Sin Prodder. The madness triggers for Vein & Temper are huge when paired with any of the discard cards. Pyromancer's goggles is just sprinkles. It adds mana and finishes games.

Now I wanted to add Kolaghan's Commands to this deck but at 20 a pop I wanted to stick to more of a budget. I added Ruinous Path & Alms of the Vein to replace the commands. If you wanted the more expensive version then switch those out and put the other two cards in your sideboard. The difference is a $110 deck or a $200 deck. 

As always Casual Gamer is about budget brewing. 

Again the deck isn't coming out of the gate strong. You might get a neonate on turn 1 but really its turn three where everything comes online. Don't be afraid to burn early and often. Get the Sin Prodder out as fast as possible, especially if you're holding land on turn 3. In fact the more Sin Prodder's out the better. 

After turn three just keep tossing creatures and burn out. Save your Avaricious Dragon & Inverter of Truth until you need them. Also Inverter is a great finisher with Sin Prodder. Outside of the lands in your GY you'll be turning your library into pure gas for the Prodder. This is one card I'm torn on for creature count. I might switch Inverter of Truth with Avaricious Dragon for a two of instead. 

I'm excited for this new cycle of Standard. Fetches are gone. Rhinos are toast. Now we get to brew a whole new world. 

Don't forget to swing in this weekend to pick up your Shadows Over Innistrad Booster boxes, Booster Packs, Intro Decks, Fat Packs, and Deck Builder Toolkits. Everything is available at NOON on Friday. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Casual Gamer

So yeah that happened. 

Grand Prix Detroit went down and I lead the charge to the bottom. I had high hopes for my deck going in but it was one of those days where the Magic gods leave you in your own personal Apocalypse. I went 0-4 with an overall record of 3-8. Outside of round 1 I had a shot in all games but found myself chasing my combo into the deep rounds.

In short, it was a rough one kids.

Now it's not all on the deck. Some games I dropped because simply I hadn't play tested enough. My nerves got the best of me in the early rounds leading to some HUGE rookie mistakes. I screwed up my own combo in one game by discarding the wrong card. Yup, rookie mistakes. 

Next time I would play in more regional tournaments to work out those nerves. Had I done more testing I probably would have been more calm and let the games unfold instead of trying to rush through the motions. I would say that cost me two games I know of and at least a match win.

The big takeaway from Saturday would be noticing some of the parts of the deck that just didn't work. For one I need a better back up loot card besides either Izzet charm or Tormenting voice. A good one casting cost one would be perfect. Now I'm not looking for another Faithless (though that would be cool) but something that allows for a card dump and draw. 

After the weekend I need to go back for some tweaks. While the deck is a combo deck, it could benefit from some new parts. If you look at Splinter Twin, it was a combo inside a control deck. One thing I flirted with after this weekend is adding in a Death's Shadow (or two).

I found myself draining my own life plus taking a few shots while chasing my combo. Tasigur was a good option to go offensive while I searched and survived. The shadow would be another that grows as I search. Again it's a tinker but could be the new wrinkle that solves some problems. 

Adding a Death's Shadow could open up using a "Spoils of the vault" in the deck. It's a card that allows you to name a card then reveal cards from the top of the library until you hit that card. Then lose a life for each card revealed. It can be a suicide plunge but does put combo pieces where you need them. The downside could result into a nice nudge for a Shadow. 

My final thought was to add more lands. While spirit guides are nice, I found myself wishing I had the more dependable mana instead of the bulk early game mana. I might jump the mana base up by two lands while dropping down a spirit guide & maybe a Tormenting Voice. 

In the end I had fun. Playing in a GP with 2500+ players is an experience in itself. I picked up parts for my Mardu Burn deck in Modern. Plus I got to see the holes in my current brew. I'll take my beats and rework the deck. Now we cross our fingers that Shadows Over Innistrad brings a few options. 

For those looking to see my Mardu Burn deck, I'll be posting on that next week. I'm still working the main board and figuring if I go mostly red with splashed of black & white or if I go a more balance color scheme. Either way it should be a fun build. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Casual Gamer

I'm probably the worst blogger on the internet. If content is king then I have been a pauper lately. To be honest I've been spending a bunch of my "Magic" time on one thing: My Modern Deck.

If you hang at the shop, or have swung by for a FNM, then you've probably heard me talk about my deck. It's kinda all I talk about recently. Those that have read my blog will know Magic Solitaire, an attempt at a consistent first turn kill deck. It was fun but never anywhere near consistent.

Those who have read even further back knew about my love for Narset. There are just certain cards that certain players fall in love with. The enlightened master is one of mine. I've been obsessed with making a deck for her. She spawned Magic Solitaire.

Now it will be a year since I posted about that deck. A year to tinker.

It was fun hunting first turn kills but it just didn't win. I decided to take it back to the lab and build a more fluid deck that might give up the dream of turn 1 kills for more reliable turn 2 or 3 kills.

I got super serious about it when I found out last year that the 2016 Detroit Grand Prix would be Modern Constructed. I don't play high end magic often. Not enough time. But now my goal was to bring this rogue deck to the biggest tournament around and hopefully shock a few. I knew I wanted to keep the core of the deck the same. It was going to be a Narset-Goryo deck that aimed to abuse her ability.

At the same time the world met Grishoalbrand. It's a great combo deck. I borrow some from it. Mostly the Griselbrands. I just don't like the other parts of the deck. Adds too much clunk for what I'm trying to do. Plus I believe if any part of that deck gets banned it will be the Shoal and not Goryo. The Vengeance is too much fun for deck builders and isn't the card that makes the deck unbalanced.

As I added Grisel, I shaved down the Mana base while finding a good stable of cantrips and value cards. The deck is a combo deck that tries to cut it as close to the edge as possible. The true goal is to put all the right pieces in all the right places. That's when I knew the part I was missing.

I needed to learn to count cards.

Remember counting cards isn't illegal. It's high speed high pressure mathematics. It's a skill like shooting a basketball. You get kicked out of Casinos not for cheating but for pushing the odds in your favor. They like betting against those who can't predict the outcomes. Counting cards helps you peep a fuzzy future.

That's exactly what this deck became. It was about looking at the knowledge you have (your hand) and figuring out how quick you can dig through your deck & the odds of getting the right cards. It's not 100% guaranteed but it does tip the odds in your favor.

Here's the deck list to help

Name: Suicide Squad (Aka League Of Legends)

Creatures (13)
1x Jace, Vryn's Prodigy
3x Simian Spirit Guide
2x Tasigur, The Golden Fang
3x Griselbrand
4x Narset, Enlightened Master

Spells (37)
4x Faithless Looting
4x Gitaxian Probe
4x Noxious Revival
4x Serum Visions
3x Thought Scour
4x Goryo's Vengeance
2x Manamorphose
2x Tormenting Voice
1x Jeskai Ascedancy
3x Relentless Assault
2x Waves Of Aggression
4x Fury of the Horde

Lands (10)
1x Swamp
3x City Of Brass
2x Gemstone Mine
4x Mana Confluence

Sideboard (15)
1x Boseiju, Who Shelters All
1x Dead Drop
2x Pact Of Negation
2x Pull From Eternity
4x Wear//Tear
2x Izzet Charm
1x Melira, Sylvok Outcast
2x Pyroclasm

That's the deck

The most important part of playing the deck is understanding what opening hand to keep. If you start with too many junk cards (Jeskai & xtra attack cards) then you're ice skating uphill. You want combo pieces (Narset, Grisel, Goryo), Cantrips, or cards that put pieces in their places (loots). Thanks to the new mulligan rule you are given almost two starting hands.

On first draw you get to see seven cards. If you mulligan, with the scry on keep, you still get to see seven cards. When looking at your cards try to see how far your hand will let you look.

Serum Visions has a look value of 3. When cast it shows you three cards deep into your deck. Same with Thought Scour but Visions is a little less chaotic. I originally had Tomb Scours that have a look value of 5 but with no draw and all dump they tended to be too unreliable.

As you look over the deck you'll notice it doesn't have a shuffle mechanism. One of the biggest parts of Modern is search and shuffle. Unless forced to do so, this deck won't. It's simple. You don't want to. It's hard to card count a shuffling deck.

Now those that are still foggy on the card counting I will go through a sample starting hand to hopefully show. I draw Goryo, Brass, Serum Vision, 2 Faithless, Spirit Guide, & Relentless Assault. I have a card count number of 14. I see seven cards and have the ability with what I have to see seven cards deeper. That is nearly 25% of my deck. I have a combo piece and two ways to place my other pieces. I have 7 chances to hit the other combo piece which make up ~14% of your remaining deck.

That's good odds.

In this situation you would Serum to draw and set your next draw. If it's a sweet scry you can use the spirit guide to loot and speed up the process. The Assault gives you a bonus dump card you don't have to worry about in your hand.

That's the deck in a very small nutshell. I could get really detailed and go over each card in the deck plus their purpose. Yet I want the four of you reading this to come back. I won't bore you.

In the end I don't know what will happen. Which is ironic since I based the deck on seeing the fuzzy future. What I do know is that I will catch somebody with the deck. I'll drop a jaw or two. And that will make this year long journey complete.

Good luck to those who play this weekend and I'm coming for a HoF pin!