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Ranting about Standard Magic
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 6:47 pm    Post subject: Ranting about Standard Magic Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So the current Standard Magic season is well explored at this point and it is a diverse format with a lot of different playable decks. In the weeks before Aether Revolt comes out and presumably shakes things up a bit, we can look back and reflect on it. I want to point out that I do think this is about the coolest standard environment I've seen, but I'm still mostly going to be talking trash because that is what we do.

The first thing to note is that while there are probably more different decks in this format than in any other since widespread coverage made there be a global metagame, a lot of people are angry. Some of that is simple haterism - I don't think it's possible to make a Magic environment that people don't yell about how much it sucks. And quite a bit of that is simply the widespread coverage creating a global metagame. The very fact that you can netdeck a deck built by a pro in seconds means that there isn't a lot of chance that your explorations and deck brewing are going to net an improvement. It's certainly possible to make a new better deck, but chances are it will only be a few percentage points advantaged over the stock decks you face over and over again in major tournaments. Those issues are not going away.

But a big part of it is the way that most major decks win.

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Generally speaking, when you lose to U/W Flash, what happens is that Avacyn comes out during your turn and then all of your damage is negated and you get totally blown out. It kinda feels like you aren't even playing the game during the fateful turn. When G/B Delirium or Marvel beat you, generally it's because Emrakul comes out and then you are literally not even playing the game while your opponent takes your hand away from you and starts blowing you up with your own spells. These are frustrating ways to lose the game.

On the flip side, when Marvel loses the game, it often does so because it activates its Marvel, flips over six cards on the top of its deck looking for a game winning bomb or a game delaying giant spider and gets a 2/2 mana dork instead and just gets torn to pieces. Marvel is one of the big decks, but it's wildly inconsistent and it simply loses to its own combo failing to function often enough to hand out plenty of feel bads to its own side of the table.

From a game design standpoint, that's something to keep in mind. Games need to be fun when you are winning, but also fun when you are losing. There are a lot of matchups where losing isn't fun, and that's bad. Not as bad as Lantern Control, but bad.

The other issue is that the power of cards is all over the place.

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WX Humans (generally WG, Wb, or WR) uses Thalia's Lieutenant, which is very and obviously powerful and has a big impact on the game. It also uses the Expedition Envoy, which is a vanilla 2/1 for W that is outclassed by most cards in the format (including value commons like the ever-present Thraben Inspector), and is there just because you need more cheap human cards to trigger stuff. And this deck is hardly alone. Most decks end up running cards that have fairly low power levels right along side really powerful cards. We've already talked about Emrakul and Avacyn, but Gideon and the Grafwidow see a lot of play - and all of those are very high power (and high priced) Mythics. A G/B Delirium deck curving out can look like your opponent is hitting you in the face with $50 bills (in the sense that Grim Flayer, Liliana the Last Hope, Mindwrack Demon, Ishkanah the Grafwidow, and Emrakul are all red rarity symbols). Even the decks that run fewer Mythics tend to gravitate to a few chase rares that you see over and over again in different decks and carry a significant price tag (Smuggler's Copter goes for like ten bucks each and all aggro decks run 4).

Yes, some of the key roleplayer cards in most archetypes are cheap ass commons (the best card to precede a Smuggler's Copter is a Thraben Inspector from the commons box and the fastest way to Delirium trigger a Grim Flayer is with a Vessel of Nascency from the same). But enough of the haymakers are mythics and chase rares that when your opponent is drawing cards that are dramatically better quality than yours, it kinda feels like they are crushing you with their wallet. And when their deck isn't delivering the high quality cards it sure feels like their deck is screwing them. Nothing feels worse than a miss or near miss on a Vessel of Nascency except a miss or near miss on an Aetherworks Marvel. Between the high variance in card power level and the high cost of some of the premium cards, there are a lot of feel bads to go around.

The Main Decks

The four main decks are G/B Delirium, U/W Flash, G/R Marvel, and Mardu Vehicles. Of those four, the first three are all named directly or indirectly after a chase Mythic they intend to beat you to death with. Mardu Vehicles is named after the fact that it runs Vehicles, and the vehicles it runs happen to mostly be rares.

G/B Delirium

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The Delirium mechanic is that there are a bunch of cards that give some sort of extra bonus if you have a number of cards of different types in your graveyard. The Delirium deck therefore needs to run creatures, lands, instants, sorceries, enchantments, artifacts, and planeswalkers that it can get into the graveyard, as well as some of these sweet delirium cards. Various lists of this deck are available online all over the place, but the basic idea is that your game plan is going to be to either run your opponent over in the early game with Grim Flayer, out-value your opponent in a grindy matchup with Tireless Tracker, or manage to get enough card types in the graveyard to actually cast Emrakul and win that way. You pick a mix of card types, some green cards that dump cards into your graveyard, and some stuff to grind the game to a stop if the early Grim Flayer isn't gonna do it. Giant spiders and removal spells do the work bridging the early game to the late game.

Very notably, the archetype doesn't really need Black. All the core Delirium enablers are Green cards (Traverse the Uvenwald, Grapple With the Past, Vessel of Nascency), the deck can survive without Liliana or Grim Flayer or Mindwrack Demon. You are mostly pairing with Black to get removal action, but you could plausibly do the game plan with White or Red if you wanted.

You fight Delirium by either running under them or racing them to the Titan. They have a very good midrange plan, and it'll be hard to get through with an army once they start putting up spiders.

U/W Flash

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U/W Flash is a deck that has a lot of powerful cards that it can play on its opponent's turn. There isn't a lot of synergy here, no combos that particularly wow. It's a deck where the power level of most of the cards in the deck is pretty high and they intend to beat you to death with them. None of the cards hit particularly hard (except for Gideon and Avacyn), but a lot of them are worth a bit more than a card.

This deck is massively popular in large part because you only have to settle for bad cards if you want counterspells (counterspells in this format are generally pretty dire). Nevertheless, it often gets smacked down by other major decks in the format because its answers to Smuggler's Copter and Emrakul are both not that great and it also isn't marvelous at putting pressure on. Many pros have gone on record saying that this deck is a bad deck, but it keeps putting up wins in part because it is a big percentage of the meta and in part because the card quality level is higher than most decks in the format so you'll never find yourself with a matchup worse than "kinda bad".

Aetherworks Marvel

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So on the one hand, you're a combo deck that attempts to get together 6 energy and an Aetherwork Marvel as quickly as possible, pull the crank, and have an Eldrazi Titan pop out with its cast trigger on a ridiculously early turn. The fallback is that you're a Green/Red ramp deck that can play Emrakul with actual mana on a pretty early turn as well.

In a lot of ways, this deck is just G/B Delirium where the Black has been ripped out and slightly inferior Red removal put in in exchange for having Red based ramp available to get a faster Emrakul. Indeed, to bridge to the Emrakul casting plan, the deck runs the same Delirium and Giant Spiders package that the deck actually called "Delirium" runs. It does very well against Delirium because it gets to the same end game faster, and sometimes it just randomly wins on turn 4 when it gets 6 energy and a Marvel and then flips over the Promised End. I kinda suspect this deck would be better and more consistent if it got rid of the extremely swingy Energy + Marvel side package and just made itself into a more streamlined G/R ramp deck. But this is the world we live in, and in the current meta you should probably have access to Ceremonious Rejection even if you have to run it off of Aether Hubs.

Mardu Vehicles

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Mardu is the White/Red/Black wedge, and the Vehicles archetype is White plus Red and/or Black. You're playing the same archetype if you do a Red/White Dwarves package with your aggro vehicles or if you do a Red/White Humans package. You're also doing the same archetype if you go W/B and your plan is to use dead Toolcraft Exemplars to recycle Scrapheap Scroungers.

The point here is that you have cheap creatures and cheap vehicles and you attack early and often, going under all this Eldrazi Titan and Archangel bullshit your opponents are trying to do. The most expensive card in the deck is Gideon at 4 and about half the stuff you put down is immune to sorcery speed sweepers for one reason or another.

The Rest of the Field

So because of the herd mentality of people in general and the speed of information propagation, the top decks mostly stay the top decks. Top end decks can both win and lose to one another and major tournaments mostly have good players playing polished decks. The chances of any particular deck being in the top eight is pretty low, so the top eights of major tournaments are mostly filled with decks that there a lot of copies of.

That doesn't mean that there aren't more decks to play! Far from it. One of the really neat things about this cycle is that there are a fucking lot of decks that you could put up good numbers with. Unfortunately, the fact that we mostly have one big tournament per week and net decking is so prevalent that each week you're very likely to mostly see the meta filled with the same four decks it was filled with last week.

The Inconsistent Decks

There are a number of decks that have probably been held back from dominance by the fact that they are simply inconsistent. While most decks in the format have to shoulder a bunch of cards that aren't really that great, the really inconsistent decks are using cards that are downright bad if they don't slot into their proper context. However, you could easily make the same critique of R/G Marvel, and any of these decks is just a few good draws in a row from winning a major tournament and becoming the new "it" deck.

Temur Energy

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It's a R/G Energy deck that may or may not include Blue (which would make it the Temur Khanate wedge faction). However, unlike Aetherworks Marvel it is not trying to resolve a Titan, it's just trying to eat your face. The energy pumps the creatures and you also have pump spells that pump your creatures, and you just try to get in as much damage as you can. If things go right, your Electrostatic Pummeler can attack for 64+ Trampling damage on turn 4. Unfortunately you are running 3 mana 1/1s and Giant Growths and if you don't get a super attack together you're just going to get buried under simple card quality from the other side of the table.

Grixis Graveyard

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This deck can sometimes be a more focused B/U Zombies and it can also sometimes be a bit of R/B Madness shell. Sometimes it's all three U/B/R colors of the Grixis shell. But the key component is that you are milling and/or discarding cards into your graveyard and then playing them out of your graveyard. Like Dredge from Modern, only slightly more fair. Also wildly more inconsistent because the number of enabler cards you have is much smaller. So sometimes you have a Haunted Dead and two Prized Amalgams coming out of your graveyard on turn 2 (seriously, turn two) and sometimes you are actually paying 3 mana for a 3/3 with no relevant abilities on like turn four and getting your head kicked in.

Metalwork Colossus

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So your basic plan as Metalwork Colossus is to put out a bunch of non-creature artifacts and then play Metalwork Colossi for cheap or free. It's easy to play the Colossus on turn five and you can potentially play it on turn 4. Key interactions are that Vehicles can count as non-creature artifacts for cost reduction purposes and then get crewed by the colossus and attack while your colossus has summoning sickness; and the Key to the City can make your big guys unblockable and turn one of them into a 2 turn clock and 2 of them into a 1 turn clock. Also you can sacrifice clues to recycle your constructs.

Abstractly, most of the cards you need to play in this deck are colorless, so your colored spells could be pretty much anything. Historically, people mostly play it with Blue because you get some card searching and Glint Nest Crane can also pilot copters. But I'm not actually sure that's right. In any case, the deck is tragically short of blockers if it doesn't get its colossus out, and it's only allowed to run 4 of them. So far, it seems like a deck that wins big and loses to itself often.

Control Decks

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Control is a very small portion of the meta and always puts up insanely good win percentages when it is played. The Pro Tour ended with a Control Mirror for the top spot. There's pretty much always a control deck in the top eight, but Control makes way less than 12.5% of the metagame. Why? Because Control is fucking hard to play and hard to build, that's why.

A Dedicated Control deck is very likely to be Blue. Many of the good control spells are blue, and many of the good control spells are instants. And well, the Torrential Gearhulk is totally a thing. Control decks that have put up good numbers include Jeskai Control (U/R/W), Grixis Control (U/B/W), and U/B Control.

Basically you're going to be spending most of your time drawing cards or countering your opponent's threats. Control decks don't have a lot of card slots available for win conditions. So it's best if those win conditions can be something that just ratchets into inevitability rather than something that needs a lot of board presence.

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Personally I admire the beautiful simplicity of U/B Metallurgic Summonings Control.

Other Decks

There's actually plenty of room for additional decks. There are a number of archetypes that actually do just fine and don't appear in the main metagame "for no reason." Seriously, Sultai Madness, Vampire Aggro, Mardu Reanimator, Jeskai Thopters, even really weird shit like 5-color Bring To Light and Cryptolith Marrionettes do just fine in competitive scenarios when they are played and it's not actually clear why they aren't a bigger portion of the metagame.

Personally, I play...

Mardu Reanimator

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The Combustible Gearhulk (and its little brother the Sin Prodder) are weird cards. Mostly, they are a "punisher" mechanic, where your opponent gets to choose the least bad of two options, which means that even though on paper both options are pretty bad for them it's always worse than you'd think. Most punisher mechanics just never get there and only a few have ever seen successful competitive play (Vexing Devil, for example). Others that you'd think would be good keep falling short (Remorseless Punishment looks pretty amazing, but no Remorseless Punishment deck has ever been good). If you just try to slide the Sin Prodder stuff into a regular deck, it's surprisingly not that good. However, in a Reanimator Deck, that shit is amazing. Once your opponent realizes that you are pressuring their life total and you have big costs in your deck and you fully intend to cast things out of your graveyard for cheap, the pain mill option becomes a non-option. Then those cards are just creatures that draw you a bunch of cards.

Your dream draw as Mardu Reanimator involves slamming down a discard outlet on turn 2 or 3 and Refurbishing a Combustible Gearhulk on turn 4. From there you're a threat deck that never runs out of threats because you keep drawing more and recycling ones from your graveyard. So far I've crushed Control badly with this deck and mostly lost to the leanest of R/B Aggro and Mardu Vehicles. Against Delirium, and Marvel my record is good and against U/W Flash it's modestly poor. Overall, that would make this a solid choice in the overall metagame and there's no particular reason it isn't one of the bigger pie slices.

-Frank


Last edited by FrankTrollman on Tue Dec 27, 2016 11:19 pm; edited 2 times in total
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...You Lost Me
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 8:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The tag after Thalia's Lieutenant is an img tag, which is making your spoiler eat a bunch of text.

The thing I hate most is how pushed some of these cards are. Beating down with $50 bills feels about right. Grim Flayer, Gideon, and Avacyn are just nuts.

To the B in B/G Delirium - the black stuff is just too good compared to any other color. Grim Flayer and Mindwrack Demon are good enablers and good payoff, while new Lili and Grasp are amazing removal.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 11:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Grim Flayer can definitely take over a game and there are some matchups where it's the best two drop. Namely, any matchup where your opponent can't answer a turn two bear until turn 4 the game is almost won right there. But he is eminently replaceable. Sylvan Advocate was the previous over rated green 2 drop and he's better on turn 2 and better on turn 6 and you don't need black to play him. If you change your game plan a little and have a different second color, then Hanweir Militia Captain or Stromkirk Occultist can be solid turn 2 plays.

That being said, Grim Flayer is a solid and readonable choice, and it's the only card in the format where the rarity genuinely pisses me off. It's a 2 cost roleplayer in a standard tier one deck. There's no story connection, there's no left field mechanics, it's not even legendary. It's just randomly mythic and that adds a hundred dollars to the price tag of a perfectly reasonable build of a common deck. That is some serious bullshit.

-Frank
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 27, 2016 11:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Is there a good sideboard card to shut down energy-dependent decks?
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 3:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
Is there a good sideboard card to shut down energy-dependent decks?

I dunno lol Ceremonious Rejection maybe? Most of the big payoff for energy runs through artifacts.

But yeah this standard has that dumb "threats are better than answers" paradigm I talked about in my TCG design principals thread. There are a bunch of decks but much less variance in terms of cards. 57% are playing Smugglers Copter and most of the decks that aren't are playing Ishkanah and Emrakul.

The gap between those good and rest of the format is pretty wide and the power level of answers in standard is at an all time low. The result is decks with 8-12 real cards with bunch of filler and a tepid format.


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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 8:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
Is there a good sideboard card to shut down energy-dependent decks?


As Mistborn said, Ceremonious Rejection is probably the best because all energy decks have important colorless cards. But that won't do shit to a bristling hydra, which is public enemy number 1 for most control decks.

There are roughly speaking three energy decks and they make and use energy very differently. The only thing they have in common is that they all run cards that would be quite bad if they didn't have use for the energy they provide and some kind of use for that energy. So in general if you kick over the apex that the energy was working towards (preferably after they've spent energy on it), then you've essentially retroactively made your opponent have played bad cards all game and you should be able to walk away with the game and your presumed higher card quality.

Now the enrgy game plans don't look that similar. Marvel is trying to build up six energy and then activate the Marvel to hunt for a free overpowered creature. Temur Energy is buffing attackers from below curve to above curve. Jeskai Thopters is a panharmonicon deck with a couple ways to accidentally make a hundred thousand 1/1 flyers.

Marvel is weak to pick the brain or rejection because it wants to resolve a marvel and then a titan in that order early in the game. Temur Energy is mostly weak to targeted instant speed removal except their Hydra who is immune to that but weak to sweepers. Jeskai Thopters is a midrange tempo deck that plays a bunch of do nothing durdle cards on the early turns and is weak to you just running in with cheap diverse threats and beating them to death.

-Frank
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 28, 2016 8:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The massive gap in power level between the pushed cards and the rest of the field results in some pretty weird decks. Consider U/W Flash. The core of the deck might be Spell Queller and Selfless Spirit. Those are blue/white spirits. And yet, 'U/W Spirits' is a deck that never got there. You end up ditching the rest of the spirit package because Inspector, Copter, Reflector Mage, Gideon, and Avacyn are all really good cards. There are spirit synergies to be had, you just don't actually care because taking the stuff that's genetically good is better than the synergy bonuses you could get.

You have a number of themes that just don't gel. For fuck's sake, Gideon is in almost every white deck, and he's the leader of the Zendikari allies. The allies have a whole mechanic where they all jerk each other off when you put more allies onto the battlefield. And yet, there's no playable Ally deck. Some of that is because there's only one card that even can rally meaningfully more than once a turn, but mostly it's just that the ally power level is mostly very low.

Or take fucking werewolves. The only tier 2 werewolf deck was a Zada support deck. But Zada is not a werewolf. And in Eldritch Moon they printed zero werewolves that deck would play and the cards they did print for it are shit like the mirrorwing that are also conspicuously not werewolves. You might be able to make a competitive R/G werewolf deck now. But first you gotta temove the green. And the werewolves.

The only tribes good enough to do anything with at all are Humans, Dwarves, Zombies, and Vampires. And honestly there is literally only one card that cares about Dwarf tribal, you just happen to be playing her in Mardu vehicles anyway.

-Frank
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Eikre
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2017 7:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I just realized that Vehicle isn't a creature type, which is all sorts of bullshit.

They should have taken a couple seminars on content architecture way back when they were making Tribal a thing, but here we are like a million years later and their idiotic commitment to the fucked up taxonomy that they just keep making exceptions to anyway is still shitting up their cards.
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...You Lost Me
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I don't think Vehicles being non-creature by default is an issue, considering Vehicles require a pretty specific condition to act like a creature. When a creature has a subtype, it's basically for tribal purposes. When an artifact has a subtype, it indicates some important functionality (ex: equipment).

This basically only matters for Standard, since other formats have instant-speed answers. So it basically it matters for Ob Nixilis, Fumigate, Noxious Gearhulk, and Ruinous Path? Doesn't seem that bad.
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Again, look at this fucking map you moron. Take your finger and trace each country's coast, then trace its claim line. Even you - and I say that as someone who could not think less of your intelligence - should be able to tell that one of these things is not like the other.
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OgreBattle
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2017 5:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

I'm not really feeling the last few sets flavorwise, Kaladesh doesn't really feel like a combative* setting as it's mostly fair goers, park police, and some politicians and Eldritch Moon's tentacles felt more warcraft goofy than Bloodborne spooky.

Hopefully the Egypt setting is full of banishment to shadowrealms
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:33 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The issue of vehicle not being a creature type is that you can't select vehicle when asked to select a creature type. Mostly this does not matter because you wouldn't get anything for selecting vehicle on your mimic in any case because vehicles are not creatures when coming into play. But there are a few things in EDH that make that slightly annoying. And there's basically no reason for it. Vehicle is a type that Creatures have pretty frequently, so not classing it as a creature type is pointless obscurantism.

Of course, the larger issue is that there are creature types at all when delirium is out there asking us to care about card types. I mean, from a strict computer input output perspective, 'elf' is a creature type and 'creature' is a card type, so when your elf creature is in the graveyard it counts one card type towards delirium (creature) because elf is a creature type not a card type. But holy shit, that nomenclature is way too fucking fiddly. Card types are not a thing that should ever have been counted at all, and if the world desperately needed Goyfs and Delirium for some reason, those things should have been called Card Classes or Phyla, or fucking anything that wasn't literally exactly the same noun as describes the incredibly more frequent creature type.

Explaining why a Legendary Cat Soldier doesn't get you to Delirium by himself is not easy.

As for Kaladesh, I love the consulate crackdown. The transition from happy fairgoers with minor criminal elements on the side to government overreach and open revolution is awesome. But I agree that Eldritch Moon's tentacle monsters were a letdown. I loved the zombie army saving the day, but the bad guys were extremely interchangeable. Especially coming right on the heels of Zendikar, the relentless sameness of XXX plus tentacles was weak sauce. I would much rather have evil werewolves and evil fishmen and shit than just have a pile of interchangeable tentacle monsters.

-Frank

-Frank
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Eikre
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 04, 2017 7:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

...You Lost Me wrote:
I don't think Vehicles being non-creature by default is an issue, considering Vehicles require a pretty specific condition to act like a creature.


Oh, come on. Vehicles aren't incidentally creatures. Being a creature is so entirely a vehicle's single solitary purpose that the power and toughness is written right into the box at the corner of the card, and they come with creature-only keywords like "trample" and "flying" on them full-time. In more than two decades of templating, incidental creatures have only ever been templated in one of two ways: Either they had the p/t box and something would turn them into not a creature (like Gods in Theros), or else all the creature information was subordinate to the card effect.

So when people slam a cattlecatcher over their train:



and and try to start adding plusses based on the vehicle fleet they've got deployed, your explanation for why they can't do that is either going to be:

"Well actually you need to refer to this list of two hundred and thirty five types that are all listed in the comprehensive rules and you'll see that even though Vehicle is written right there as a type on the card that is screaming "creature!" at you as loud as it can, it's not in the list of creature types."

or

"Oh, no. See, if Vehicle was a creature type, then this thing would actually need to be a Tribal Artifact. What, are you telling me that you didn't play nine years ago, when they decided that in order to apply creature types to cards that weren't creatures, they needed to add a type that didn't do anything except be not a creature?"

You don't see why this is inelegant?


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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 6:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Eikre wrote:
, or else all the creature information was subordinate to the card effect.


Note how when that one becomes a creature, it becomes a creature with the Golem type.

There's no reason that Vehicles couldn't have worked that way -- when they were crewed the activation could have given them a pre-existing type such as Construct or Thopter or Carrier. Or it could give them the new-to-the set Vehicle type, or it could split vehicles into Trains, Boats, Mobiles, Copter or whatnot.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 05, 2017 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Also of note: the Aether Revolt card symbol is a vagina. The names of all the shocklands are vagina euphemisms, but Aether Revolt goes above and beyond by actually drawing a stylized vagina on every card.

It's a steampunk yoni. But of course, yoni are stylized vaginas to begin with. So: vagina.

-Frank
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

More about CONTROL.

So in order to decide what it is that you're going to do as a Control deck, you have to figure out what the hell it is that people are doing to try to kill you. In short, you need to figure out what the threats are before you can make a deck full of answers.

Well, first the good news: almost every deck in the format is trying to bludgeon you to death with creatures. The only non-creature win conditions are some bizarre control-mirrors and some of the variants of Blue/Red Tempo. These are both small slices of the format and they are heavily geared towards fighting decks that aren't you, so you can probably ignore them for the moment.

Now the bad news: almost every creature in the format that people actually use is either resistant to being slain by direct answers or does much of its heavy lifting just for coming into play or both. And the decks that play lots of creatures that don't have protection or ETB effects are usually playing lots of cheap creatures and those are your worst matchups. It's certainly a maddening time to play control.

So let's look at U/W Flash for a moment:

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So it's a bit of an uphill battle here, right? Many of these creatures come in at Instant Speed and may have already done their thing by the time you can kill them. The deck has a lot of ways to just say "Lol, Nope" to Destroy effects, and you might not even use up a card of theirs while they force you to talk to the hand.

And yet... Control has a really great matchup with U/W Flash. Pretty much every Control deck people actually play has a great record against U/W Flash. And here's why:

  • U/W Flash takes a really long time to kill you.


That's it. That's not a list or anything, that's just the single, simple reason. Spell Quellers, Thraben Inspectors, and even Smuggler's Copters take a very long time to get the job done as far as actually winning the game. This gives you a lot of time to develop your own game plan and allows you to take turns off to play spells that improve your hand rather than the board. Yes, trading any kill spell at all for a Thraben Inspector feels bad because they can buyback the card whenever they want and they only spent one mana on it in the first place. Yes, a Selfless Spirit has to be taken care of before you can play a Sweeper effectively and yes Spell Queller's and Avacyns can disrupt spells in horrible ways that can lead to giant blowouts. But you do genuinely have a bunch of turns to develop your game plan. And there are still a lot of cards that can get you value. Waiting a turn or two to get 2:1 or 3:1 off a sweeper or to play a draw effect or a do-nothing artifact or enchantment to get future value is usually OK, because U/W Flash doesn't actually hit that hard on a turn by turn basis.

Now let's consider G/B Delirium:

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About the only thing in the Delirium Deck that is easy to kill is their two drops. And even then, your opponent is likely to pull ahead on the exchange because spending a card and some amount of mana to kill a bear is not the sort of thing that pulls you ahead on tempo or value. So where is the control angle?

  • They Take a Long Time to Kill You
  • Their Density of Threats is pretty low.


Now Delirium does not take a long time to kill you in the same way that Flash takes a long time to kill you. Emrakul is a 13/13 flying trampler and she will kill you in 2 turns after she strips your hand of everything she can ask you to hit yourself with. It kills you in a long time because it plays things that cost a lot of mana and intends to play "set up cards" to get the mana it needs and also make sure it has delirium. It's functionally a ramp deck, though it is ramping to critical graveyard contents rather than obscenely high mana numbers.

But that means that when you spend some time durdling to get extra cards and then spend five mana and a card to stop an Ishkanah, that's completely acceptable. They spent some time durdling to fill their graveyard and spent five mana on that fucking spider. They aren't ahead on that exchange. With an Emrakul it's highly likely that you're going to end up losing several cards to it, but again that's acceptable because your opponent took a lot of turns and several cards to put the space goddess into play.

Now we should talk about Marvel...

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So R/G Marvel is a deck which is a massive flavor fail, in that it is running the tagteam of Chandra and Nissa to ramp out Ulamog and Emrakul even though canonically in the story Chandra and Nissa teamed up and killed Ulamog. But it's also a double ramp strategy which is ramping mana to cast the titans while simultaneously ramping energy to cheat them into play with the marvel.

So the bad news obviously is that if you give them enough time, R/G Marvel is going to put out a lot of threats and that those threats are going to come with very short clocks and those threats are really hard to get rid of and almost certainly won't be gotten rid of with an even exchange of cards. The good news is that the threat density is not particularly large. They play a lot of support cards to get their shit out. Ulamog, Emrakul, Chandra, Nissa, and even Ishkanah are all hard to deal with and provide value on the very turn they hit the table, there are usually about 10 threats in the entire deck. If it takes you 3 or 4 cards to neutralize a Titan or 2 or 3 cards to take down a Planeswalker, that is OK. It takes enough support cards to bring in an Ulamog that if you counter it with a spell and he exiles a land and a Dynavolt tower with his cast trigger, you're still probably ahead on the exchange.

New Decks

OK, Aether Revolt is coming out and it has a lot of crazy shit in it. Like, so much crazy shit. It's going to make some new decks. Here are some of my predictions for things you'll have to control:

Mono Aggro

R/B Aggro gets a lot of sweet tools. So many sweet tools that I honestly don't think the two colors need each other to go aggro any more. Mono Black can pack the 2 mana card draw creatures like Asylum Visitor and Glint Sleeve Siphoner because it has one and two mana removal and can pay double black to get the Night Penguin.

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Red Aggro got Shock and Kari Zev and still has Key to the City and the Stromkirk Occultist. And there's Incendiary Flow and Fiery Temper and Hanweir Garrison and Insolent Neonate. It all adds up to there being a critical mass of evasion creatures and reach for Red decks to win the way Red decks win.

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Being able to go one color makes the mana in aggro dramatically better. If all your shit costs 3 mana or less it's very important that all your lands come into play untapped for the first three turns. The ability to reliably curve Stromkirk Condemned into Voldaren Pariah is very different from not being able to do that.

So either one of those decks is fast and reliable. They put out a wide army with diverse evasion abilities quickly and have mid-game card draw engines that let them refresh their army even as they inevitably trade some of it while constantly turning sideways. And they back it up with supplemental removal and face doming spells. They prey heavily on decks that try to block with midrange creatures (most of the format before Aether Revolt).

As a Control deck you are going to want to side in a lot of sweepers. Note with glee that most of the card drawing effects are actually creatures and that you can incidentally kill them just by clearing the board.

Green Black Counters

First of all:
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So Hardened Scales is back, but this time it's Black/Green instead of White/Green. I'll give you a secret: back in the format where Hardened Scales was legal, I played it Black/Green anyway and did fine with it. The Hangarback Walker is sadly gone, but Green and Black have plenty of absolutely insane ways to hand out large numbers of +1/+1 counters.

The new Hardened Scales snake also increases Energy gains, so expect the new version to go absolutely insane with the Longtusk Cub.

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Constrictor tries to win combat steps. Their creatures have little in the way of protection and generate lots of bigness. So while they are well placed to scrap it up with other creature decks, they are pretty vulnerable to control. They are literally putting out 8 power in two creatures for 5 mana by turn 3, and that's pretty nuts. But you can remove that shit in response with a harnessed lightnign or horribly awry, or fucking anything because these guys don't have any special protections except bigness.

R/B Eggs

Eggs is the name of a weird ass Modern deck that involves sacrificing artifacts that give you a card when they go to the gaveyard (called "eggs" for reasons), then digging them back up and doing it again to dig farther into your deck for more recursion and just keeping doing it until you've drawn your whole deck and blow your opponent away with an infinite combo.

Standard Eggs is not going to be like that. At least, not exactly. First off, there are a lot of eggs now.

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Standard doesn't have the KCI (which lets you gain mana for sacrificing artifacts in Modern), but it does have free sacrifice outlets:

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Alright, so you can kill your artifacts for free and you can get the cards back when you do. So? It's not like you can recur those artifacts or get some sort of incremental advantage every time you clear them off the board (other than fueling your Intruders or Salvagers to ridiculous sizes, obviously), right? Well...

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In Magical Christmas land you can go off on turn 4. "Going Off" in this case doesn't necessarily require that you actually go infinite (although with an Intruder, Revolution, Inspector hand you can actually go infinite on turn 4), it just requires that you be able to sacrifice enough eggs while Pia's Revolution is in play that your opponent can no longer choose to take the damage or to use Scrap Trawler to recur enough artifacts that the Sly Requisitioner makes an army too big for an opponent to stop.

Now on the control side, most of the shit you care about is not actually artifacts. They have a second line of leaving eggs in play as mana batteries to make Colossi, but the main lines of victory are to make ridiculously large Atogs, make unstoppably large Servo armies, or cycle you to death with Pia's Revolution. So what you should really look at this deck as is a heroic deck that is killing you with creatures and has a must-kill enchantment. That's very controllable for control. Blowing up or countering an egg or even a scrap trawler is mostly meaningless and you will not be happy with dedicated artifact removal against this deck.

Clue Storm

Various versions of Clue Storm have existed in the past. It's easy to get a lot of clues and it's easy to sacrifice them to various things that like to eat artifacts and trigger the various "when you sacrifice a clue" riders on snazzy stuff like Tireless Trackers. Alternately, you can leave them in piles and have them count as artifacts in play for various purposes. Well, Aether Revolt produces a new thing to do with a big pile of artifacts.

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Clue Storm can win the game on turn 6 in Magical Christmas Land, and it's full of control elements to not lose long enough to do so. When it runs out of gas it has a pile of clues to eat into.

Basically this is a Control deck that happens to be less all-in on Control in order to have a sideline where there's a ridiculous amount of card draw and a combo finish. So it's a control mirror where the win conditions are weird.

Infinite Crackdown

Let's start with the crackdown itself:

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O...K.... Twitch

So obviously that gets really big. In fact, that gets infinitely big in one of several ways.

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OK, so we might see the Crackdown Construct in a revised Eldrazi Aristocrats. We might see the Crackdown Construct in a revised Jeskai Thopters. We could potentially see the Crackdown Construct in R/W Equipment. Those decks have all been tier two of late, but they all get some stuff that's kind of interesting in Aether Revolt, and having an extra way to say "Ooops, I have an infinity/infinity creature" rarely makes a deck weaker.

But the real money is obviously the Wandering Fumarole. Wandering Fumarole is a god damn land, and the costs for including it are very low. You were going to include it anyway if you were red and blue. If you are Red or Blue, the costs to include it are low enough that it's certainly worth considering. A deck that is red can still activate the Fumarole tapping the fumarole for Blue and one of the other lands for Red. A deck that is blue can tap the Fumarole for Red and one of its other lands for Blue. The Wandering Fumerole is fully capable of durdling its stats while tapped, so you don't need a 5th land like you would if you wanted to attack or block with it. Essentially you are running four lands that come in tapped that in roughly a third of games will present your opponent with an infinity/infinity creature by turn 6.

I expect a lot of people to splash infinity crackdown as an alternate win condition even in otherwise mono-red aggro or Jund Delirium or some fucking thing. The costs of including it are very low and the upside is very high.

From the Control standpoint, this means that Ceremonial Rejection is better even than it already was and you should probably be maindecking it. Also you are required by law to have spells that destroy or exile creatures outright because direct damage simply isn't going to be big enough to stop the Crackdown and there are enough ways to make that unblockable that you have to think you'll be staring down a one turn clock with distressing frequency.

-Frank


Last edited by FrankTrollman on Sat Jan 07, 2017 7:27 pm; edited 5 times in total
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 12:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

"Eggs" are based off of Rukh Egg, as I recall.
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koz
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ancient History wrote:
"Eggs" are based off of Rukh Egg, as I recall.


Nope - they're actually based on Darkfire Egg and co. At least originally.
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Ancient History
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 7:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Ah, well. I sit corrected.
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 10:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Well if nothing else I salute wizards for bring the best archatype back to standard. Frank did miss an important one though.

Saheeli makes a copy of the cat and then the cat's etb ability resets Saheeli so she can make another copy, repeat ad nauseam. In addition to being a two card combo and thus easier to jam into a deck it also gives you option to kill form a blank board. If you have six lands you can play Guardian and blink a land then play Saheeli. Also since it's only 8 cards you can do make like a twin player and just make the rest of your deck Jeskai control so getting to six is a realistic option.


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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 07, 2017 11:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

It amuses me greatly that you can make a Jeskai deck that could not only realistically go infinite, but realistically go infinite with a different loop every single game.

Game 1: Double Felidar plus Decoction Module or Aetherstorm Roc makes infinite energy.
Game 2: Felidar plus Sahili makes infinite haste cats.
Game 3: Whirler Virtuoso plus three energy enablers makes infinite thopters.
Game 4: Wandering Fumerole enables infinite Crackdown.
Game 5: Double Felidar plus Panharmonicon and an Island makes infinite mana.

And so on.

-Frank
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 3:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List



If I had any doubts that combo is going to happen they have been dispelled.
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FrankTrollman
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So.... Standard bans. Emrakul, Copter, and Reflector Mage all banned. Emrakul is a big dick Puch to Marvel and Delirium. Reflector Mage is a savage getting to UW flash and Jeskai Infinity. And Smugglers Copter is a key part of practically all decks. The biggest loser is blue white flash because it loses two of its highest power cards. Delirium and Marvel lose their coolest capstone card but the decks don't have to change much. If Marvel puts in Aetherwind Baskers that feels more fair but the win rate won't change much. Delirium will have to go a bit lower to the ground, but soul swallower into grafwidow is as much inevitability as you usually need.

Jeskai Infinity is going to take more thought. The Reflector Mage was going to be so good at stalling until you got one of your combos together because you got an extra bounce from the Felidar or a Saheeli or just picking it up and replaying with a module or Panharmonicon. It doesn't go infinite exactly but it combos with almost every other part of the deck.

Anyway, my own Mardu Reanimator runs Emrakul as a one of. I am not sure whether it wants a Colossus or just another gearhulk or what.

I expect combo decks to be insane. Naya tokens can Indomitable Creativity for four on turn four and can assemble an infinite combo on three. Eggs of course can go off on turn four. Jeskai Infinity's best infinite combo can be played on turn four.

Honestly, if your deck can't win the game on turn four it is probably a bad deck. My own Reanimator deck only barely passes the turn four challenge.

-Frank
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Lord Mistborn
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

And U/R Modern decks just got another card banned, fucking seriously wizards. If the format is too fast hit something like Become immense or Temur Battle Rage and not randomly kick a bunch of tier 2 decks in the dick.
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JonSetanta
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

FrankTrollman wrote:

Honestly, if your deck can't win the game on turn four it is probably a bad deck. My own Reanimator deck only barely passes the turn four challenge.


You have a terrible outlook on what used to be a fun game.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 10, 2017 1:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

JonSetanta wrote:
You have a terrible outlook on what used to be a fun game.


It's still fun. Fast games don't have to be bad. Grindy bant coco mirrors went past turn 4 regularly and they were incredibly boring.

I'm looking forward to the tournaments after the set is out. I just hope combo doesn't become grossly uninteractive.
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