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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 12:45 pm    Post subject: Magic deckbuilding Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So Magic is a computer game now adays, and really dedicated tournament types play the online version obsessively in order to improve their skills. I don't have time for that shit, but this still seems like the most appropriate subforum for deckbuilding discussion because the aforementioned computer version exists.

So here's the deal: I'm making a Mardu Valor deck. This is difficult because I am spoiled for choice and finding it difficult to settle on a 60 card decklist. There are simply many many cards that combo together very nicely and it's hard to pick. Especially for the creatures. Let's start with the basic outline of Mardu Valor:



Valor in Akros is hands down the most undervalued card in Standard today. What it does is gives your creatures a bonus on the turn creatures come into play. So if you can lay down a lot of creatures in a turn and/or attack with creatures on the turn they come into play, you can have bonuses that are big and count for beating your opponent down. So when Mardu Ascendancy lays down 1 extra goblin per attacking creature card and has those Goblins be attacking right away, that gets very big, very fast. If you attack with two creatures, both are +2/+2 and there are two extra 3/3 Goblins attacking. If you attack with three creatures, all three are +3/+3 and you get three extra attacking Goblins who are all 4/4s. If you do it with four creatures attacking, the extra goblins alone are coming in for 20 damage. You could get really insane numbers (and attack with six Grey Ogres would be swinging for 90 damage, for example), but you'll never need to because even a few bits and bobs of the combo are enough to wipe your opponent out.

And then you have the core black creatures.



These two Orcs are cheap and powerful. And they help trigger off the same things that your core enchantments do. You can flameshadow a Merciless Executioner to kill two creatures or play the Merciless Execuioner with the Valor in play to get +1/+1 on all your creatures on the turn you play a removal spell. An Ambuscade Shaman makes all the Mardu Goblins swing in for 3 damage each, and a flameshadow of one is a 6 point ball lightning. Both cards are an easy four-of.

Now a bit about Instants:



You are at heart a combo deck, and that means you're going to need to defend yourself. Killing your opponent's big creatures is a good start of course. And laying down a bunch of surprise warriors can be a good defense as well (or pop them out in order to have extra attacking bodies next turn). Once Valor in Akros is in play, you can also use surprise warriors as a combat trick by giving all your currently fighting creatures +X/+X, and just leave the extra warriors behind as defense or to make an even stupidly larger attack next turn if the game isn't over.

But really this all comes down to the creatures doing the heavy lifting. And that's where we get really spoiled for choice. Let's start with the Mardu leadership, because they are thematically appropriate.



These creatures make creatures for attacking. This can snowball pretty quickly. If Alesha has a creature to grab in the graveyard, her attacking triggers Mardu Ascendancy twice, and both her grab and the Mardu Goblins trigger the Valor. The grabbed creature is a non-token coming into play and can be flameshadowed (which is only helpful if they have a coming into play effect or you have Valor going, because it's too late to declare them as attackers). The Mardu Strike Leader makes bonus warriors that trigger Valor (and which stay around and can attack next turn), and so does his Flame Shadow. A Flameshadowed dashing Strike Leader can come onto the board and trigger Valor in Akros four times, and then do it again next turn with even more bodies.



The Thopter Corps have a lot to recommend them as well. Pia and Kirran or the Engineer make extra creatures for coming into play, which means that their Flameshadows make extra creatures as well (and those bonus thopters don't go away at the end of the turn or the instant they notice that they are a double of a legendary creature in the case of Pia and Kirran). A Flameshadow of Pia and Kirran triggers Valor in Akros six times and allows you to to kill a Dragonlord with a goblin token. Hangarback Walkers can make a shit tonne of creatures when killed, and you can profitably pop them with your own Executioner Orcs. If the Engineer is in play, all the thopters you make can attack the turn they come into play and they all see and are seen by the Valor in Akros simultaneously. So a walker with just four tokens on it can potentially be making four 5/5 fliers with haste (which would be game in most cases even when you hadn't done the opponent any damage at all).

All three of them are technically small enough to be grabbed with Alesha, and even returning a 0/0 Hangarback Walker is still a threat on the attack if you have Valor in Akros, Mardu Ascendancy, or an Ambuscade Shaman in play.



These black warriors are all cheap and can be cast on curve. They are also small enough that you can grab them with Alesha. But of course you'd never bother using Alesha on the Champion because he can do it himself. The Champion can be returned to play (and flameshadowed, if necessary) at any time after you've declared an attack, which means it can be used as a combat trick once you have Valor going. The Skullhunter can be played after an attack as card advantage, and if he is grabbed by Alesha he triggers a discard. If you're playing him for the discard effect he can also be Flameshadowed to make him into a Mind Rot that also makes a warm body you can send to the Orcish Executioners or power Mardu Ascendancy. The Rager gives all your warriors menace, which means that big piles of Warriors (such as those generated by Secure the Waste) are extremely difficult to deal with, and you can whittle your opponent down severely if your combos don't work out.



These big dash creatures attack from nowhere and get even bigger when you have Valor in Akros or Ambuscade Shamans in play. The Pitiless Horde can be Flameshadowed for even more stomping action, and the Storm's Fury cannot. But she gives extra bonuses to all your other attackers, including any Mardu Goblins you happen to be making.



These Red dash creatures can attack the turn they come into play and are potentially replayed the next turn. They get bigger with Valor or Ambuscade Shamans and can be doubled up with Flameshadow. Both are a bit pricey and small, but they make blocking variously difficult. The Forerunners trample and thus can't be chump blocked, and the Heelcutter denies your opponent one blocker (two with a Flameshadow), which means that if they have something really gruesome or totally "having Lifelink" or something you can tell them to go pound sand.



That's some really impressive combo potential. If you dash him and have a Flameshadow, you could make two copies of something like an Ambuscade Shaman, who would themselves see each other and the original Ambuscade Shaman (and both the Riders would see the original Shaman), so that would go from having a Shaman and a Flameshadow in play to having five attackers, two of which were 5/5 and two were 8/8. Still, the fact that this guy can't do his thing at all unless you have another creature already in play that you are willing to attack with means that this is the first guy I'm pretty sold on cutting.



The Brutal Hordechief lifedrains your opponent for every attacking creature. So if you have a stupid huge pile of attackers (like you just Secured the Wastes or you have Mardu Ascendancy going), then you can whittle your opponent down fast and get yourself life back in the process. And when you're in a position where you could hammer your opponent down if only they didn't block, you can pay five mana to make that happen. The Wingmate Roc can be Flameshadowed for a second bonus bird token and gives back a fair chunk of life when you rush in all of those attackers. Still, in both cases there is some substantial counter synergy. The Hordechief's block reassignment only happens when you pay five mana, and thatt's going to be hard to do on a turn you dash things in to get Valor/Shaman bonuses. The Wingmate Roc puts down an admirable number of bodies, but does so after combat, so you don't get any benefit from Valor or Ambuscades at all.



Both these White warleaders are "small" enough to come back with Alesha. And they also potentially do shenanigans with +1/+1 tokens that could boost the fuck out of a Hangarback Walker and turn into a metric assload of Thopter Tokens. Attacks of over a hundred damage in the air are totally conceivable. They don't synergize that well with each other though, because Daghatar has Vigiliance and the General counts tapped creatures.



Deathtouch is a solid means of getting rid of enemy units. All of these guys are low power enough to get back with Alesha, and with a Brutal Hordechief you could force your opponent to throw big units under the bus and even arrange trades at 2:1 or better.



Speaking of ways to get rid of enemies, how about some that creatures that kill creatures and stay in play? The Hidden Dragonslayer can do that for you and also stays in play as a lifelinker to get life back. He's small enough that Alesha can return him to play for more lifelinking goodness, but he won't megamorph doing that and won't kill anything. You also can't flameshadow anything. The Winnower can be flame shadowed for a double kill, but you have to pay the full price up front so he's expensive. Also, he only kills a select list of things, but since that list includes Rhinos and all the Dragonlords, it might be OK. I don't think either of these troops are main board potential.



These Chiefs boost all other creatures with the appropriate creature type. Including other copies of themselves. If you went heavy into Warriors (Mardu Strike Leader, Blood-Chin Rager, Blood Soaked Champion, Secure the Wastes, and so on), the Chief of the Edge has your back. If you go all-in on Thopters, the Chief of the Foundry gives bonuses to all of them even when you aren't doing a Valor-based ultra kill.



These are cheap creatures from the new set that give you tokens to beat your opponent with when you don't do anything but topdeck lands. The Dragonmaster doesn't appreciably synergize with the Ambuscade Shaman, and even though she does trigger Valor in Akros every turn, she does so at the wrong time to be of any benefit to your dash creatures. Still, the Dragonmaster is a very short clock on the game once she starts going. The Stonewaker is subtler, and does trigger Ambuscade Shamans and Valor in Akros (though not Flameshadow).



This is a creature from the new set that is small enough to come back with Alesha and also flies and hands out permanent bonuses to other attackers. Note that you get the tokens for doing damage, so the other creatures wouldn't get the tokens in time to deal extra damage, but I think they might get the tokens in time to save them from lethal damage. Also puts tokens on Mardu goblins or Thopter Tokens, which puts a clock on the game if people can't stop the Liberator.



Sorin isn't a creature at all, but he can make one in a pinch. Also he can give you a lot of life and slow down the game considerably. If he gets the emblem out, he can ruin your opponent's day unless they are a rally deck or a token deck themselves. Similarly, new Gideon can create extra creatures or provide a persistent bonus to all the creatures you ever have. In either case, both Plainswalkers have a lot of abilities that synergize well with the rest of the creatures and enchantments in the deck.



This is a card in the new set that lets you trade creatures for life and cards. Not very much life, and it's kind of expensive. But the creatures can be blocked or blocking creatures that are about to die, nearly worthless tokens, flameshadows or stonewaked elementals that are about to wink out of existence, and you get real cards out of the deal.




So that's the problem in a nut shell. There are way too many cards that have strong synergies with the program. The White/Red/Black combos are strong, subtle, and modular. Each card works well with several others in interesting ways. And ultimately you're going to need to pare it all down and remember that you win the fucking game by dealing 20 life and getting all the pieces in place is never going to happen and also doesn't matter because you can win the damn game or get your head kicked in long before you have it all.

-Frank
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maglag
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

My 2 cents:

Vampiric Rites is cute, but a) that kind of deck is already very mana starved so I doubt you'll ever have two mana available to use it and b) once you get one out, other copies are worthless. It's more of a card for a G/B deck where you would have plenty of mana along token generators.


Anything that costs 4 or more mana besides Valor in Akros is a serious contender to be thrown out the deck as well. Your plan would be turn 4 Valor, turn 5-6 drop multiple dudes to win the game. Kolaghan, Brutal Hordechief, Wingmate Roc, they don't really fit your mana curve. Dragonmaster Outcast is cute, but you want to be winning by turn 6, or your deck will have probably fizzled.

Either focus on Mardu Ascendancy or other token generators, but not both. You don't want to have Mardu ascendancy in the board while you have other token generators in your hand or vice-versa.


So basically the way I see it you could either go for a warrior creature deck with Mardu Ascendancy and Valor, or a token generator deck with Valor.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 4:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So here are some preliminary decklist ideas:

Mardu Valor Thopters

Non-Creature Cards: 13
    4 Valor in Akros
    3 Mardu Ascendancy
    3 Flameshadow Conjuring
    2 Crackling Doom
    1 Mardu Charm


Creature Cards: 24
    4 Ambuscade Shamans
    4 Merciless Executioners
    4 Thopter Engineer
    4 Hangarback Walker
    4 Chief of the Foundry
    2 Alesha Who Smiles at Death
    2 Dragonscale General


Mardu Valor Dash

Non-Creature Cards: 13
    4 Valor in Akros
    3 Flameshadow Conjuring
    3 Mardu Ascendancy
    2 Crackling Doom
    1 Mardu Charm


Creature Cards: 24
    4 Ambuscade Shamans
    4 Merciless Executioners
    3 Mardu Strike Leader
    3 Pitiless Horde
    3 Hidden Dragonslayer
    2 Akoum Stonewaker
    2 Goblin Heelcutter
    1 Alesha Who Smiles at Death
    1 Ankle Shanker
    1 Blood Soaked Champion


Mardu Valor Warriors

Non-Creature Cards: 15
    4 Valor in Akros
    4 Mardu Ascendancy
    4 Secure the Wastes
    2 Crackling Doom
    1 Mardu Charm


Creature Cards: 22
    4 Ambuscade Shamans
    4 Merciless Executioners
    4 Chief of the Edge
    3 Mardu Strike Leader
    2 Brutal HordeChief
    2 Blood-Chin Rager
    2 Hidden Dragonslayer
    1 Blood Soaked Champion



In any case, I think this is a deck that can get by on 23 lands.

-Frank
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

But while I ponder all that, let's talk about a deck that isn't complicated at all:

Red/Green Landfall

In the new set there are creatures that give benefits for lands coming into play and there are cards that increase the number of lands you have and you put those together and you have very big creatures and a shit tonne of mana. The Landfall creatures don't have a lot of interoperable synergies to worry about, they are all triggering off pretty much the same thing: getting more land. So really, you're just worried about which landfall creatures are better or worse than others and planning accordingly. One of the big issues with landfall is that you will sometimes play three or four lands in a turn, which means that you will have spikes in effectiveness which your opponent may choose to chump block with whatever bullshit they have lying around. Therefore, any creature that isn't trampling is probably fairly useless.



The Baloth is basically worthless and the Grove Rumbler is a total badass, because while both of them get +6/+6 on turns when you Explosively Vegetate or whatever, the Grove Rumbler can trample that damage through and the Baloth cannot.

Second, let's talk about Equipment for the moment:


Both of these give bonuses and also trigger landfall effects. The first by putting cards from your deck into play, and the second by letting you replay the same land over and over for credit. Both are solid. The Slabhammer stunts your mana growth and makes your Incarnates weaker, but it also lets you replay Life Lands and the new Bonus Lands each turn.


Playing a bonus land every turn can be modestly impressive. A Grove Rumbler that Slab Hammers the Looming Spires back to your hand each turn is an 8/8 with First Strike and Trample that can be rocking out on turn 5 without drawing any mana acceleration.

You're also going to want to have things that passively benefit from you having upended all your lands into play.


That'll do.

And you want something to do with all the lands:



And you need a card engine:


You can trigger both effects off the 3/1 transient elemental the Akoum Stonewaker puts into play.

So besides the Zendikar Incarnate and the Grove Rumbler, are there any other good Elementals we could pack in Red/Green that care about us having a lot of lands?



Both of those are alright. Not ideal, but they'll do. The Woodland Wanderer has Vigilance and Trample, but he's "only" a 4/4 unless we can figure out a way to get extra colors of mana. Which of course we can, but it requires using mana elves or off-color lands. The Undergrowth Champion gets permanent bonuses from landfalls, so the fact that he doesn't trample is less of an issue (he only loses a single +1/+1 token when chump blocked, so he can probably keep hammering next turn). But he isn't big enough at the start to trigger elemental bond.

Other than the Sword of the Animist, there are a number of ways to get more lands. The key of course is that if you put a land into play more than once in a turn, you trigger landfall more than once.



These are all pretty solid just as ramp cards. When Explosive Vegetation is also worth +4/+4 on your Grove Rambler until the end of turn and +2/+0 permanently on your Zendikar Incarnate, they are a lot more attractive.

Note that the existence of seach cards like this means that you can run a single Plains and a single Island (or whatever) to make your Woodland Wanderers bigger.


Because obviously.

You'll need some removal to be fair, but Green and Red aren't particularly short on those things.



I'm on the fence about this card. On the one hand, that's a lot of 2/2s, potentially. On the other hand, when you are sending 8/8 First Strike Tramples around peoples' houses, who cares about 2/2s? It doesn't trigger Elemental Bond, but it can feed Evolutionary Leap and does trigger the Locus of Rage when it does. So there's that.

-Frank
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Niles
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 27, 2015 8:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Magic deckbuilding Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:


This is a creature from the new set that is small enough to come back with Alesha and also flies and hands out permanent bonuses to other attackers. Note that you get the tokens for doing damage, so the other creatures wouldn't get the tokens in time to deal extra damage, but I think they might get the tokens in time to save them from lethal damage.

Drana is First Strike so the actual order of operations would be:
>First strike creatures (like Drana) do combat damage.
>Creatures who took lethal damage from said Frirst Strike creatures die and Drana's triggered ability goes on the stack.
>People can cast instants and activate abilities.
>Drana's ability resolves putting +1/+1 counters on all your attacking creatures.
>People can cast instants and activate abilities.
>Creatures without first Strike deal combat damage (likely with the benefits of Drana's +1/+1 counters).
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:40 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

That's a good point about the Liberator. I hadn't thought about how her First Strike makes her tokens appear before normal creatures do damage. That makes her more attractive in a deck that throws tokens around, because that bonus can get pretty big.

-Frank
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Hadanelith
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 1:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Curse you, Frank. This makes me want to go out and buy the current set. These deck ideas sound more fun than Magic has in quite a while.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Hadanelith wrote:
Curse you, Frank. This makes me want to go out and buy the current set. These deck ideas sound more fun than Magic has in quite a while.


They genuinely are. At least, in Standard. Modern is a format that I can only generously call "retarded" and involves people netdecking decks full of expensive cards and then basically not even playing Magic but instead doing their own crazy bullshit. I'll talk about three Modern decks: Splintertwin, Living End, and Knight of the Reliquary. They are named after specific cards that do dumb things.





Modern cuts out Scourge and everything before that, so there's a lot of stupid from the past century that doesn't see play, but top tier decks are still based around basically not interacting with normal rules as much as possible.

It's a shame that Magic hasn't figured out a way to let people use old cards without letting people make unfair bullshit decks. But they haven't. Your choice is to either buy a whole new playset every year and a half or play in a format where people download deck lists off the internets and throw hundred dollar bills at each other like they were pokemons.

I rather suspect that since the last core set was called "Magic Origins" that their long term plan is to reboot Modern at some point in the future to about the current sets and everything printed afterward. I wouldn't hold my breath on them not making more degenerate stupid shit happen in the years to come though.

-Frank
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DrPraetor
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I was arguing about this with Zvi Mowshowitz, oddly enough. He's a quant who probably deserves significant credit for making later versions of magic less stupid. And, while the new cards certainly look better, I think that the basic structure of the game is broken. Given how few cards you draw, anything that manipulates drawing or deck arrangement is just borked.

So it's going to require a lot of discipline & thought not to print some combination of cards, that hacks the game engine, and frankly it's tough to give people space to engage the game engine at all.

Shadowfist, in spite of playerbase that is within sampling error of 0% of Magic's, is simply a more stable chasis (as well as being a more entertaining setting/conceit.) I do find it amusing that MtG managed to clone the one truly broken card in Shadowfist (The Knight of the Reliquary is the same as a Dark Traveler), and then make an infinite combo with it.
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Kaelik
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 9:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So splintermind/pestermite allows you to have infinite Pestermites as soon as you first enchant the creature, and then win the game, and that's cool.

Knight of the Reliquary and Retreat to Corhlem allow you to instantly cycle all your mana to the graveyard as long as you still have mana in your deck, and then attack for 25 damage, so as long as you have trample at all you probably win.

But what does Living End/Architects of Will do? I must not understand some part of it because I don't see anything that comes even close to instantly winning the game for you.
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angelfromanotherpin
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 9:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Kaelik wrote:
But what does Living End/Architects of Will do? I must not understand some part of it because I don't see anything that comes even close to instantly winning the game for you.

I think that's about using a bunch of creatures like Architects of Will that have cheap Cycling, both to force-fill your graveyard for an explosive deploy when Living End goes off, and to dig for Living End in the first place.
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 9:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:
They genuinely are. At least, in Standard. Modern is a format that I can only generously call "retarded" and involves people netdecking decks full of expensive cards and then basically not even playing Magic but instead doing their own crazy bullshit.

I think you're selling Modern short, yes there are combo decks and some of those combo decks are absurd but combo is only like 30% of the meta. The most popular deck these days is Affinity which is really just a high synergy aggro deck. Twin may be the second most popular deck but it's probably the fairest combo deck in the format, heck they board out their combo is some matches. After that the next most popular decks are mono-red, B/G/x midrange, and Urzatron.

Edit: Yeah Living End is sort of a weird deck you cycle a bunch of creatures then cast a 3 mana cascade spell which always hits living end because it's the only card with CMC<3 in the deck. But that doesn't mean you win, if they have a wrath or a combo of their own you're gonna have a bad time.


Last edited by Lord Mistborn on Mon Sep 28, 2015 9:58 pm; edited 1 time in total
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 28, 2015 10:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Magic's card drawing engine is extremely slow. And that makes card drawing effects break at certain edges. But that doesn't mean that faster card drawing would be unbreakable, just that it would break to different things.

Shadowfist has people draw as many cards as are necessary to refill their hands at the start of each turn. In Vampire, people refill their hands the instant they drop below their normal hand size. Ancestral Recall is an extremely broken card in Magic, but it would be only kinda OK in Shadowfist or Vampire. Since both games involve persistent rather than refreshing resource pools to play cards from, you probably wouldn't pack 1 power/blood/mana/whatever for "draw three cards" in either game.

The thing about Magic is that games don't tend to last a great number of turns and base card drawing is very slow, which means the cards you see at the beginning in your opening hand are a large portion of the cards you will see in the whole game. And the mana curve inherently is a curve, where the expected increase of available mana each turn is much higher on earlier turns than later turns. As such, the difficulty of playing a card goes up nonlinearly as the cost continues to increase. Also, your ability to play things "on curve" is important, as it is entirely possible for your opponent to kill you before you can play an expensive thing if you don't play things in the mean time. The fact that mana isn't persistent like Shadowfist power or Vampire pool means that the ability to play things every turn is also important - mana you don't spend is poured down the sink.

What this means is that they just plain straight up gave Red the ability to draw cards at double speed for four mana, and that was considered by everyone to be "kinda OK."


At least, if the game refuses to allow you to keep those cards from turn to turn.

Outpost Siege doubles your card draw, but it doesn't come out until turn 4 and costs a turn's worth of mana and a card. You pull even from a pure card standpoint on turn five (which means that you're still behind in a real sense), and it's turn six at the earliest before you see any card advantage. So if a game could be decided or even finished by turn 6 or 7, Outpost Siege isn't worth putting in your deck. I'm probably not putting it in my Mardu Valor deck, for example, because the deck wins or loses too quickly for that to be a thing. If the deck spends 4 mana on an enchantment, it wants that to be Valor in Akros or Flameshadow Conjuring, because those can make it win the next turn (while Outpost Siege would still be putting its shoes on).

For another example, let's talk about Rally Elves. You play a bunch of elves, then you kill them to make more elves, then you bring them back from the dead to win the game.



Obviously, with that game plan, Elves who make mana and Elves who make you draw cards are totally awesome. But how much could they cost and still be worth using?



Rally Elves uses the Elvish Visionary and doesn't use the Llanowar Empath. The Llanowar Empath is twice as big and costs twice as much, but the higher mana costs weigh down non-linearly because of the fact that you start with 7 cards and only draw 2 lands every five turns after that.

Basically, in Magic a card is a persistent resource and mana is a replenishing resource. While in Vampire a card is a replensihing resource and pool is a persistent resource. So card draw in Magic is powerful if and only if you can squeeze it in with mana you weren't going to be spending on other things. While in Vampire any card you can play consistently for any effect without paying pool is practically broken.

Different standard formats run at different speeds. That is, depending on what cards are in the set the games can end in as little as 5 turns or as many as 10. But in either case, the total number of cards and mana refreshes being seen is quite small. Even a 10 turn game saw just 17 free cards and less than 45 mana. Trading some from one pile to grow the other is a potentially reasonable trade.

Even infinite combos aren't necessarily a problem. If you may or may not be able to do infinite damage on turn 8 or so, what difference does that make if your opponent can aggro you to pieces in 6 turns? The problem with Knight of the Reliquary is not that it puts its entire land base into the graveyard and then insta-kills you, the problem is that it has a very good chance of pulling that off on turn 3. Mardu Valor could hold out until it gets half its creatures in play and two Mardu Ascendancies running and then swing in for 10 creatures making 20 goblins (and some warriors and shit) and hundreds if not thousands of damage. But that is not going to happen, because the deck will win or lose long before the quadratics get that big.

The limited playspace makes card drawing effects very evaluatable. Three mana to draw two cards is "kind of OK." One mana to draw two cards is "overpowered." And five mana to draw two cards is "not worth it."

-Frank
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GreatGreyShrike
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 3:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Question: Does anyone else here *really* like theorycrafting and deckbuilding way more than actually playing Magic?

I love making combos, figuring strategies out, and otherwise making a powerful Magic deck... but then the formality of actually playing Magic with the deck, while enticing at first, seems dreadful after just a dozen games or two dozen on the outside with any particular deck.

Fundamentally, I think part of the problem is Magic's land-design, and it's card-drawing design. Because of Magic's land design, even with mulligans to weed out the worst opening hands, a disproportionate number of games are decided because of drawing either far too much or too little land - and either in victory or defeat, it feels unearned and unfun. Then because of the randomness and small number of card draws, many games quite often come down less to superior strategy in-game, and more to superior topdecking.

I mean, it's great when things work out so it's a test of strategy and tactics between myself and an opponent where both of us have a decent chance to win and the outcome is mediated more by our in-game tactical decisions than by blind chance. But... that happens not nearly often enough.

However, the last time I played magic was several years ago. Is the current iteration of the game less vulnerable to these issues than previously?
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Different base assumptions really radically change how games are played and what cards are good. As an example, let's talk about Force of Will. It's a Japanese version of Magic. And by "version of magic" I mean it's fucking exactly Magic. There are five colors, those colors are Black, Blue, White, Green, and Red. You play one regular mana source per turn. Red is aggro and does direct damage, Black does darkness and sacrifice effects, Green does mana ramp, and so on. It's exactly Magic: the Gathering, but Japanese so it has Alexander the Great as a school girl.

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Now there are a couple of differences. The one that's really obvious is that they call a life point "100 life" and that is completely meaningless. Also you start with 40 of those life points instead of twenty and creatures are on average twice as big which slightly increases the granularity of the system. That is, there is space between a 2/3 creature and a 3/3 creature because FoW creatures in that range could be 400/600, 500/600, or 600/600. But the really important change is that you split your mana sources out of your deck and have a 40 card of real cards and a 20 card deck of land equivalents. You start the game with five cards from your real card deck and can tap your commander Ruler each turn to put the top card from your mana deck into play.

What that means is that while a multi-colored deck can easily draw the wrong kind of mana for the cards in their hand, that the concept of Mana Screw and Mana Flood do not exist in any absolute sense. Everyone gets the same basic mana growth rate if they want it (although Green can supplement that with various Mana Elves and shit). What this means in turn is that the mana curve is very risk-free and rather boring. There's very little cutoff from a 3 mana creature to a 4 mana creature because you can always wait one turn for one more mana. Always. Magic can get away with some really over the top creatures at 7 or 8 mana cost because the game has to seriously stall or you have to dedicate a fair number of your limited card draws to ramping to ever even see a 7th mana. But in Force of Will, the Mana Curve is simply a straight line, and there is no break between the high and low end. You only bother with low cost creatures to defend yourself from rush decks.

So I'm totally on the fence about that. I like the mana dynamic of higher mana totals being harder to attain because your card draw rate doesn't keep up with your maximum land playing speed. It gives interesting calculus to deck building and game playing. But, games where one player or another is stuck sucking their thumb with a handful of land or no land comes hand in hand with that. Force of Will is probably a better game for tournaments even though I find it less interesting to build a deck and to play.

-Frank
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 11:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Duel Masters had it so any card could be played as a "land" of it's color. It also had a bunch of other questionable decisions but that idea seems like it has legs. You could also do the reverse I suppose and just have every land be an ability-land or a man land or something.

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Red_Rob
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 1:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Lord Mistborn wrote:
Duel Masters had it so any card could be played as a "land" of it's color.


We've been playing Magic with this rule since we heard about it a few years ago in our local game group. It does some weird things to deck construction as you suddenly have 60 cards to play with instead of 35-40. One thing it does do is force you to trade cards in hand for land - you can't just drop a land every turn for 8 turns without consequence. Choosing what cards to use for land also introduces another strategic element - do you use that 6 drop bomb that you know you'll need later or the less useful card you could play in a turn or two?

We originally used the rule just in standard Magic and we did find the guaranteed curve leads to less variance in games - when you can curve out as far as you need every time certain deck strategies become a lot more reliable. Playing the same deck a few times gave a more uniform game experience, even accounting for the fact you had more individual cards in your deck.

What we found worked better was playing with this rule in Commander games - the slower pace and longer games meant hitting your first 4 land drops every game wasn't such a defining feature, and the fact the decks are all singletons meant the variance was reintroduced in a fun way without the annoyance of mana screw. Nowadays we pretty much just play Commander using the Duel Masters land rule as it gives the best balance between variance and challenge.
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 3:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The weird thing about competitive deck building in magic is the most professional players tend not to build around cards or mechanics but rather around strategic archetypes. They don't look at a new set and try to figure out what decks those cards it instead the fit the new cards into a the various magic formulas. That's why people aren't playing Valor in Akros it's not considered good in "the aggro deck" which while the cards may be different is in some ways still the same deck that Paul Sligh was winning games with in 1996.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Yeah, the incredible herd mentality of the high end Magic tournament scene is really weird. I understand that I will never practice playing magic enough to be good enough, nor spend enough money on cards to have enough rare lands to be a serious contender in these things, but seeing a better way to do things is often not terribly difficult.

Let's take Elf Rally. It's a good deck. It's a great refinement on Abzan Rally, which uses cards from the set that came out after Abzan Rally was a thing to ultra kill your opponent with Elf based come-into play triggers. Which is pretty good, especially since the Shaman of the Pack is itself an elf and triggers off all the other bullshit and also each other and all that. But the question this brings up is, why was Abzan Rally ever a thing in the first place?

The original Abzan Rally came out when Theros cards were legal in Standard, and its kill condition was to bring a lot of shit back into play along with this guy:



And then um... they attack you? I guess?

Seriously man, what the fuck? To have that guy at all, Theros was legal. So why do something complicated involving rushing over the top with your ghosts at all?



You could just do an instant kill by bringing a bunch of red creatures back into play. Just like they do with Elves now, but they could have been doing it right away in Red. I mean, supposedly the Green was to put things into the graveyard, but why fucking bother when you can much more targetedly fill your graveyard with Red?



You could do it Red/White or Red/White/Black or even Red/White/Blue. There was no reason for Rally to be a Green/White/Black deck except for the fact that there's an Abzan dude pictured on Rally the Ancestors. And apparently no one questioned the fundamental color assumption in the tournament circuit until the entire set rotated out.

-Frank
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name_here
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 6:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Apparently it's because there were a bunch of quality cheap green creatures that had synergy and the Green/White/Black legendary hard counters graveyard based decks because it stops creatures from going into your opponent's graveyard. So the Abzan Rally deck could both hard counter any other Rally deck and play creatures good enough to be a plausible game plan even if none of them ever went into your graveyard.
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 29, 2015 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The green probally is for Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor. My guess is that Abzan Rally wasn't initially built around Rally. Instead people wanted an Abzan deck with a better match-up against the other decks with Deathmist Raptor and Den Protector so they added Rally the ancestors to their Abzan deck and went from there. So the starting point wan't "how can I resolve Rally and then instantly win the game" but rather "what would be a good finisher for my W/B/G aggro deck".
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2015 5:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So now to talk about a deck that is weird and fragile: Jeskai Roil.

Jeskai is a Red/White/Blue monk faction from Tarkir. They have a mechanic called "Prowess" where when you play a non-creature spell, their creatures get bigger until the end of the turn. Some of the creatures they traditionally get are really good, but they also trigger on playing cards that are not creatures and that leads to s certain difficulty in deck building. A frequent choice is to build a deck called "Jeskai Tokens," where you use very few of the creatures and instead use non-creature cards that make creature tokens. There are some very good ones in Red and White, like the aforementioned Secure the Wastes, as well as some fixed cost Red spells that give you a Goblin per mana (Dragon Fodder is two goblins for 2 mana, Hordeling Outburst is 3 Goblins for 3).



The payoff for casting the non-creature spells is pretty big.

Well, the new set brought in some fun toys for Jeskai to play with. The first is obviously Awaken. There are spells that are good enough on their own that can be kicked to put a bunh of +1/+1 tokens on one of your lands and turn it into a rampaging beast.



So you can cast perfectly reasonable spells, triggering prowess, and still get medium sized creatures. That's kinda neat. But there's some really neat Jeskai legends that make things awesome when you cast cantrips.



A Cantrip is a spell that has a minor effect for its mana cost but also replaces itself by making you draw a card. With the Roil Shaper in play, that kind of cycling turns one or two of your lands into a giant beast because you can lay down three more +1/+1 tokens on your land monster(s) every time you play a cantrip. With Zada in play, you can get copies of any cantrip that you can target one of your creatures with for every creature you have.



Refocus and Defiant Strike are not impressive cards, but if you have the Roil Shaper, the Hedron Grinder, and the Monastery Mentor in play when you cast it (obviously targeting Zada), you put a Monk token into play, draw four cards, and distribute twelve +1/+1 tokens between 1 to 4 of your lands.


The benefits of Hedron Grinding and Roil Shaping are so large that you could imagine reasons to Pressure Point your own creatures.

-Frank
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Unfortunately you only get one one Roil Shaper trigger there. Noyan triggers when you cast an instant or sorcery not when something gets put on the stack. The more feasible combo is just Noyan with Jeskai Ascendancy. Once you start making lands into creatures you can untap them with the Ascendancy and then you go bananas with cantrips and stuff until your land creatures are big enough to kill them.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 01, 2015 10:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I was pretty sure I knew what "cast" meant as opposed to "successfully cast" or "comes into play" or "resolves" or whatever. And one of the things about Battle For Zendikar is that I have no idea what the designers of that set think those words mean. The prerelease period is over tomorrow and we still haven't gotten a straight answer as to what happens when you pay the awaken cost for a spell and it gets countered.

Anyway, I think I should talk about the almost entirely BfZ Black/White Lifegain deck. Here are the payoff cards:



So the first two are at the low end of the mana scale and embiggen every time you gain life (even if it's only 1 life). So they want you to get life in frequent intervals. Since they are kinda cheap, you're probably going to have four of both the Vampire and the Cleric. The Sovereign is a bit weirder. If you get really a fucktonne of life, and you can afford the big cat beast (and keep it alive for a whole turn), then you win the game outright. That's a really big payoff, but it's unreliable and I don't see you wanting more than 2 in your deck, and you honestly might not want any. It also favors large life gains over frequent life gains, so the synergy is not perhaps what you'd like.

There are other cards which promise a payoff for gaining life in the vampire subfaction, but they are generally "terrible" (Defiant Blood Lords cost seven fucking mana and while they kindof give all your lifelink creatures double strike, they personally don't have lifelink or doublestrike, so fuck those guys). The only real exception is the Malakir Familiar:


The lifegain payoff is pretty much bullshit, but 3 mana for a flyer with deathtouch is worth considering as a piece of removal. If you occassionally get life a few times in a turn and swing for 4 with your deathtoucher, so much the better.

Anyway, there are a lot of means to gain life many times, and some of the best of them are black or black/white.



Now an intriguing thing about this setup is that almost all of the creatures are Allies. Your "removal creatures" (Merciless Executioners and Malakir Familiars) are not, but the creatures you intend to have actually beating up your opponent or gaining life for you mostly are (Cat Beasts excepted, but those are a minor alternate win condition at best). The thing is that there are a lot of cards in Black and White which do something cool when an Ally comes into play on your side.



It's not much to be honest, but they retrigger every time a Kalastria Healer comes into play (as well as triggering life gain for the healer). So that's kinda neat.

The real payoff for Black/White Allies is March From the Tomb and Vampiric Rites. We mentioned the Rites a bit ago (gain 1 card and 1 life by sacrificing a creature and paying 2 mana), but March From the Tomb needs a shout out:



You can combine that one with Rally the Ancestors and get multiple use out of your allies pretty frequently. Which is good because a big part of them is the effects they have coming into and going out of play. A March From the Tomb probably recalls three allies, which would trigger each Kalastrian Healer three times, and each Healer triggers the Bloodbond Vampire every time it triggers, and they all trigger Zulaport Cutthroats when they inevitably die.

What's interesting is how self contained this deck is. The only cards it particularly cares about from sets other than Battle For Zendikar are the Merciless Executioners and the Rally the Ancestors. Although you will want the common life land from Tarkir and you might want Healing Hands just as an extra fuck you to people who can't use hard removal on your Bloodbond Vampires.




-Frank
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Bill Bisco: Isometric Imp
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 06, 2015 10:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

For that BfZ Black/White Lifegain deck:

I'm used to cheap white/black weenie. I just get the feeling that that deck is so slow. That cat will hardly ever give you a win condition in that Black/White Deck. You would really need an instant or sorcery Card that was something like http://gatherer.wizards.com/Pages/Card/Details.aspx?multiverseid=158747 Dawnglow fusion to be able to get close to the amount of life desired.

Healing Hands just seems very slow to me. You'll be unlikely to cast another spell after spending 3 mana until very late in the game.
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