Every once in awhile, I’ll put up an article about Commander/EDH, my favorite way to play Magic: The Gathering. Today, I want to talk about the EDH deck I’ve been building, on and off, for the better part of 6 years. I’ve mentioned more than a few times here my attempts to make a Land Destruction deck, that isn’t completely unfun, and I think its finally here! Come, and take a look, at the Big Red Button! I’m excited to share it.

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Building Tariel | MAGIC: THE GATHERING

While I normally would write about Warmachine at this time in the month, I simply have nothing to report. I was going to have a tournament to talk about, but the current Pandemic shut down that thought, as well as anything else along the lines of the miniatures game. Thankfully, this has allowed me time to work on paying attention to the new Commander decks and MTG sets coming out while honing my own, so let’s chat about those, shall we!

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I have spent a significant quantity of time over the last few years constructing a Cursed Magic Cube, a Cube of Madness, and I am in love with it. I have always enjoyed off-color effects, and this cube, once fully constructed, will let me share the joy of this theme with the rest of the world. Please, come and join me as I walk through the decisions I have made and the cards I have chosen to create this wonderful Cube of Madness.

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I’ve talked a couple of times about cube, but I wanted to take a few minutes and speak not to the cube I have, but the bizarre and strange off-color one I’m building because I enjoy it so much, and making these cubes, for me, may be more enjoyable than actually playing them. Maybe

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Every once in a while, I get to play a whole bunch of MTG, and its almost always an enjoyable experience. Over the past few weeks, I was able to get a bunch of different format games in One Draft, 3 Cube Drafts, a Commander game, and two sealed matches, ranging from Modern Horizons to Core 2020, and these games have a lot of cools stories – typical of Magic, right?

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When I first heard that Wizards was going to create a cross-brand product between MTG and D&D, I was curious about what they would do with it. Ravnica, when it was announced, had me pretty excited as it was my absolute favorite MTG setting. Now that I’ve had a chance to actually own it, read it and digest it, I think it may just be the best setting book published. Its simply awesome. Lets take a look at it, shall we?

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I like D&D. I like it very much, and it is one of the most enduring pastimes that I’ve had. Unlike nearly every other game or hobby I’ve had, I’ve never voluntarily put it on hold. I also like MTG very much. It’s a game that I can pick up and put down with relative ease, going to pre-release events and playing well enough every couple of months to feel good about playing. 

Well, I’ll be damned if they aren’t going to jam these two right together again with a new sourcebook for D&D – Guildmasters Guide to Ravnica

I cannot tell you how excited I am to get this into my hands! 

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I was fortunate enough to be able to make the midnight pre-release of the latest MTG set, Dragons of Tarkir, on Friday of last week. Its the first time I’ve played competitive MTG in a very long time. Its one of the games that I really enjoy both the theory and execution of, especially in its Limited Formats. I also play cube,  commander and Tiny Leaders, but Limited is definitely my favorite by a strong margin.

This set is fairly interesting, as its the end of a time travel storyline. In the first set, the Khans of Tarkir, we were in a wold that was void of dragons, having been killed out thousands of years ago. The world was ruled by three-color tribes and their Khans.The second set is Fate Reforged, and is set thousands of years earlier, prior to the dragons being destroyed. The main characters prevent the dragons from dying. The Third set, Dragons of Tarkir, is one in which the dragons now rules in two color pairs, their broods and progeny commanding the tribes.

It was a pretty basic storyline that everyone guessed as soon as the main character (Sarkahn Vol) and the plot concept (time travel) were announced. While I really liked Khans, I couldn’t get really riled up for Fate Reforged, but I was stoked for dragons, once I knew what they were going to do. This set had just piles of them, and I wanted in.

The Pre-release has been the same format since I’ve been  re-introduced to the game. You ally yourself with some faction or another, you get a faction-pack, chock full of cards for your colors or factions in order to enable playing your chosen faction, and then your other packs are split between whatever sets your playing. For Dragons, that meant 1 Fate reforged and 4 Dragons of Tarkir packs.

I had no idea what I was doing going in, outside from reading a single article from a friend. Red Green had traditionally been my favorite color pair, so I jumped in with them. I pulled a fair number of solid cards, with a significant quantity of creatures that I didn’t feel handicapped. This has a lot to do with me not going with blue this time, as I feel that I tend to undervalue their creatures. They aren’t big and bruisy, and they aren’t cheap, so I don’t get the instant thrill I do from the red and green creatures. I built a deck that was moderatly fast, topping out at 7 CMC and containing two big bomb dragons: [mt_card]Foe-Razer Regent[/mt_card] and [mt_card]Destructor Dragon[/mt_card]. I felt there was little need to splash in for the other dragon I pulled, Enduring Scalelord, as he needed +1/+1 counters, and I just wasn’t going to have any other than the Foe-Razer. I had some good black and white rares, but not enough to support them, I felt.

Rares:
Kolaghan’s Command
Dragonlord’s Prerogative
Mastery of the Unseen
Citadel Siege
Silumgar Assassin (x2)

With the green and red I had, I was able to feel pretty good with the curve of the cards I had. I didn’t have a ton of 1-drops but the 2’s and 3’s were plentiful, with the deck based around 4’s and 5’s. I had a couple 6’s and my one big nasty 7.

The First match I was supposed to have a bye, which is a terrible way to start your first MTG tournament in 3 months. Instead, one of the players dropped, and I was able to get in an actual match. I was paired up with a guy running B/R. This was an insane match. The first one I got ahead early but wasn’t really able to push my luck, he had just enough guys on board that I couldn’t push through his deathtouch dude without giving up board presence. Instead, the game stalled and stalled until I was finally able to grind him down and pull those last few life points off.

The second game went fairly similar, though he got the advantage early on and was able to punch through the early damage before we both stabilized the boards. His king of the game was his [mt_card]Rakshasa Gravecaller[/mt_card], was was fatter than anything I had at the time, and brought along buddies. Able to pop enough of my creatures to get his guys through, we moved on to game three.

Surprise, we grind to a halt here again. I manage to get a ton of damage through early on, before he can once again drop the Gravelord and start a terrifying cycle of card draw, pulling back his [mt_card]Palace Familar,[/mt_card] and sacrificing it to his [mt_card]Vulturous Aven[/mt_card]. Eventually, he’s sitting at 7, and I am at 19 when time is called, and our five turns just aren’t enough to decide the game. I put down a pair of creatures, but I still coudn’t hit the tipping point to win the game. I start the tournament 0-0-1.

Next up I face off against a very cheerfull fellow who was also playing G/R, and who seemed pretty knowledgeable about the game overall. Pleasant to play against, he had built a very similar deck to me. Big fattys dropped all throughout the match. This is where I learned that a 5/1, while hexproof, isn’t very good for attacking. He’s amazing for defending and stabilizing a board, as his ability to trade up is just.. phenomenal. His deck was bulit around Tormenting voice, which he seemed to have three of, and included at least two [mt_card]Dragon Fodder[/mt_card]s. These games Dash really showed its strength, with my [mt_card]Goblin Heelcutter[/mt_card] and [mt_card]Sprinting Warbrute[/mt_card] turning game one end over end, and his [mt_card]Zurgo Bellstriker[/mt_card] making his name known on game 2. Once again, I took over game one, out fattying him and putting him on the back foot. He stabilized after killing my goblin heelcutter, but I was lucky enough to get back to back dragons on the board, forcing him to take 10 through the air each turn. Its hard to come back from that.

Game 2 he just ran through me, as my hand and cards refused to cooperate. Early Zurgo along with taking some of my creatures with Loose Calm enabled him to just drub me for game 2.

Game three once again hit time as we smashed our faces into each other once again. Thankfully, I was able to once again find both of my dragons, and on turn 2 of overtime, take him out through the air.

The last match of the night was against a 1-1 player who was playing Blue-White, and had a fairly aggravating set of cards: [mt_card]Battle Mastery[/mt_card], [mt_card]Glaring Aegis[/mt_card], and [mt_card]Graceblade Artisan[/mt_card]. These cards were dropped over and over again with the likes of [mt_card]Pacifism[/mt_card] and [mt_card]Encased in Ice[/mt_card]. The first game I was able to eek through with a win once again on the back of [mt_card]Ainok Survivalist[/mt_card] blowing up his enchantments, and the [mt_card]Dragon-Scarred Bear[/mt_card] being able to Regenerate. I am extremely thankful that he wasn’t able to give the Artisan flying. I dropped the Foe-Razer and was able just to go over the top, something I am not really used to in green.

The second game I was just completely unable to answer his 7/10 doublestrike artisan, and he was able to just run roughshod over the game. Thankfully, that lead to the second game not going to time, as I was able to once again pull a double-dragon on him and punch through the air for the victory. ending up going 2-0-1 over the night, a very respectable showing, I do say, for not playing in 3 months.

I nabbed two packs, one for each of my victorious matches, and took home a ton of cards. All in all, a good day was had. I look forward to the next midnight prerelease!

Now, to go play some dragon age!

I recently was introduced to a new and completely insane format of MTG this weekend, and I think I may have fallen in love.

Tiny Leaders is a format of MTG that seeks to mimic the Commander feel and gameplay while also enabling competitive, one on one gameplay.  As someone who has very little time to play commander, yet still loves the format, I completely applaud this venture.

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Since I last talked about the cube back in September, my brother and I have been hard at work trying to improve it. It has been an extremely enlightening experience into the world of both game development and MTG set design.

Due to the way my brothers cube is built, it exudes much more of a limited set draft flavor than it otherwise would if it was constructed in the standard method of a singleton set. The interactions of the conspiracies with multiple copies of a card have really defined the way the draft is played, and its been a main focus of the cube since the start. I was extremely interested in how building a cube worked, and was thrilled when he wanted my input here and there. It is always going to be his cube, but I was glad to be of help wherever I could.

After our first few drafts, including a Saturday where my brother and I tried out a number of two player draft formats, it became clear that there were some problems with the cube. There were some cards that were consistently being left behind in favor of others, and there were cards that were completely dominating the set.

My brother had built the cube around some pretty solid archetypes, but even that wasn’t enough to topple a set of very good decks that were dominating the format:  Allies and  Graveyard Goodstuff. Both of those decks were nasty to play against because red had a ton of burn and white had awesome value in addition to the fantastic tribal and on the other side black had some really good graveyard manipulation and some big, giant, value fatties in green.

In addition to the two really good decks, the rest of the set seemed to develop into stalemates. early game would see one or two people break get some early damage in with aggro creatures, but after that it devolved into a massive wall of creatures set to lay into each other, but with few ways to break the deadlock, and most of them were in the two strong decks to begin with. had both [mt_card]Typhoid Rats[/mt_card] and [mt_card]Deadly Recluse[/mt_card]. This would lead to people avoiding going after the player because the trades were unfavorable, giving the deck time to pull out nasty big dudes and pull away. In contrast, had enough cheap, solid dudes that with its allies bonus and its body count it could eventually overwhelm an opponent. This was (is) further buffered by the [mt_card]Ondu Cleric[/mt_card], which, if played right, could net tons of life. Vigilance, which white has in abundance, is also extremely good when it comes to creature showdowns, as it allows you to have both offense and defense.

We could have tried to tone down the power of the two big powerhouses, but my brother felt it was a better path to go down increasing the synergy and power of the other decks, and I agreed heartily. I love crazy, insane, absurd games. There also was a decision to focus on building themes among the cube, archetypes that would be fairly obvious, build around type of decks.

Thankfully, Mark Rosewater is a very lucid, clear and explanatory MTG designer and has put out tons of fantastic articles on design, development and color concept. These principles gave us a starting point to kinda kick off from.

One of the things that he explained was the concept of “as fan” which is the amount of cards with certain features that will, on average, appear in a pack. its a simple formula that is based on the quantity of type of theme and rarity of that theme within a set. The article is here if you need/want more information, its very interesting to me.

We looked at a number of different themes, but quickly settled on enemy color pairs. This was a fairly easy choice because it allowed us to keep both of the powerful decks and gave us only three themes to build from the ground up.

We wanted fun, powerful cards that allowed us to have the same type of insanity that both Allies and Graveyard pulled off, but also fit the flavor of the card colors. Being an Izzet fan, I gravitated immediately to . From here it gets a little sketchy because we tried a multitude of different concepts. Suspend, Flashback and Slivers made brief appearances but were eventually rejected for a fun, simple and very Izzet theme: Spells Matter. In the mix with the good, solid spells that were offered in the spectrum, we added creatures like [mt_card]Jeskai Windscout[/mt_card], [mt_card]Goblin Electromancer[/mt_card] and [mt_card]Guttersnipe[/mt_card]. Not only were you going to be able to play awesome limited spells like [mt_card]Lightning Bolt[/mt_card], [mt_card]Think Twice[/mt_card] and [mt_card]Assault Strobe[/mt_card], but you were going to get rewarded for it.

False Orders

While Strange, I think this card is great. Can’t wait to play it.

While we rejected Slivers for Izzet, I really liked the concept in . It really felt like the type of synergistic, evolving, growing beast that would be represented by the Simic colors. The original problem that I’d posed with the slivers was that they have inherently low toughness. Both colors supporsed some fantastic slivers, but they were easy to kill and never would be able to break through the wall of creatures the other side would definitely be building up. Don’t get me wrong, Red has some Slivers that are just massive, but only on the power side. Green, though, was the Sliver beef machine, and I argued that it better fit the design. Thus, we tackled the Sliver deck. In addition to the slivers in the primary green and blue colors, there were also going to be Slivers of other colors, and even a 5 color sliver hiding in there for good measure. This did mean that Slivers were going to be highly prolific, but it felt right, and I couldn’t argue with it. As that guy who loved playing M14 slivers, I just had to back the concept. The big problem that we are facing now is that the blue slivers just seem like too much. They have some fantastic abilities and are game changers, but are they going to blow out the games, we don’t know. Its definitely a place for playtesting.

Dude....

Dude….

Finally, we come to , the colors we struggled with for the longest time and simply ignored. While the other two color combinations took a ton of time to has out what cards were desired, what direction the theme should go, and what cards should be at what rarity, Orzhov took the longest so simply come up with a theme. It would have been easy to try and use extort or outlast, but we really wanted to come up with something that was a slightly different take on the standard bent of the color pair. What my brother ended up striking on was an enchantment matters theme, which allowed for us to branch out in a number of different ways, much like spells mattering. Interestingly, it also allowed us to seep tendrils of overlap into as well, with cards like [mt_card]Nighthowler[/mt_card] and [mt_card]Sadistic Glee[/mt_card]. Constellation looked like it would be a natural fit, but there were only a pair of cards that looked good at the end of the day, and they easily slid into the cube: [mt_card]Underworld Coinsmith[/mt_card] and [mt_card]Grim Guardian[/mt_card]. One thing I really wanted to press into the mold here that my brother had come up with was the prevention of the 2 for 1 in the vast majority of cases. Cards like [mt_card]Necromancer’s Magemark[/mt_card] were high on my list to posit for consideration.

Vigilance!

Vigilance!

Now, with all the color pairs we were considering up and built, all we had to do was re-vamp the cube and get playing. Last night was the first time we were able to sit down and start card swapping, and we even got a pair of rounds in. 2 player drafting is a little strange, but we’ve started to get used to it. Each draft felt different, and we each won a round. He took the cake with a mean stuff deck, and I took the round with a 5 color [mt_card]Worldknit[/mt_card]

What was different this time around was that we felt that we were concerned about the cards the other person was getting, and that every choice felt valid. Instead of just getting what you wanted and passing whatever else you didn’t like, it was a massive undertaking to pass up some of those cards.

I will say, I am looking forward to getting more games in with this cube and testing it out. It feels shockingly fun.

 

If you feel like giving it a go, draft it on Cubetutor and leave me any suggestions about the setup, execution and design. I don’t promise to heed them, but I will read them!