April 13, 2013
Animar, Soul of Elements has a lot going for him. First, he's cheap. Don't underestimate the value of a cheap commander. Not only can you get a cheap commander out earlier, but you also will be able to cast him/her a couple extra times. Second, he has built in protection. Pro white and pro black protects Animar from a lot removal. And finally, he's powerful and easy to build around. All you gotta do is cast creatures, and in a deck with 51 creatures, that won't be a problem.
Some commander themes really require you to jump through hoops but a majority of this deck is just generally good creatures. There are a few that play into Animar's theme specifically, however. In the place of utility spells I used utility creatures. For example, cards like Birds of Paradise, Farhaven Elf, and Somberwald Sage provide mana. While Archivist, Consecrated Sphinx, Soul of the Harvest, and Primordial Sage draw cards. Card draw is especially important because if all goes according to plan you'll be throwing down multiple creatures a turn. Check it out!
February 18, 2013
UW Mid Controlby CRET_UgRiv - 3-1 Pauper Daily
-- main -- |
1 Ancient Den
2 Azorius Chancery
4 Azorius Guildgate
1 Seat of the Synod
3 Sea Gate Oracle
2 Seraph of Dawn
2 Silkbind Faerie
4 Standard Bearer
2 Trinket Mage
4 Wall of Hope
1 Compulsive Research
1 Echoing Truth
1 Holy Light
4 Journey to Nowhere
3 Mana Leak
1 Oona's Grace
1 Sylvok Lifestaff
1 Viridian Longbow
-- sideboard -- |
3 Benevolent Unicorn
1 Coalition Honor Guard
1 Echoing Truth
1 Holy Light
Here we have a nice blue and white midrange/control Pauper deck. This deck is built on the solid manabase of Guildgates and Chanceries, and uses the always reliable Sea Gate Oracle and Mulldrifter. Plenty of disruption and removal comes in the form of Mana Leak, Journey to Nowhere, Sunlance, and others. The Standard Bearers and Wall of Hopes provide some protection and this is the first time I've seen Seraph of Dawn in a competitive deck. Also note the potential combo with Silkbind Faerie and Viridian Longbow. There aren't a lot of copies of these combo pieces, but the Trinket Mages and Preordains will help put them together more often.
February 5, 2013
Reflections on a Pre-Release
Guest article by Kris
The Gatecrash pre-release was my second Magic tournament ever and it was tons of fun. The last tournament I played in was a sealed Tempest in '97. Magic and I have both changed a lot since then. Limited play is awesome in itself and a pre-release just Giant Growth's the fun factor. There's something about opening packs of cards, not knowing what you're going to get, or how things work together, and trying to build something awesome from it. In general, I tend to favor my Johnny side, but for this tournament I was all Spike. This article is a reflection on my tournament experience, the approach I took, and the deck I built.
Preparation: I have fallen in love with limited play. Check out the Limited Resources podcast by Marshall Sutcliffe and Jon Loucks. I learned so much about limited Magic leading up to this tournament. One podcast had a judge on it where they went into each mechanic in detail. This made me very confident in my rules understanding come game day. The podcast overall has changed the way I evaluate cards, build my deck, and play.
Study: I read lots about the guilds on-line and the previous bopmtg.net article Neil wrote on each of the guilds and their respective mechanics. Having learned that Rakdos was winning the limited scene in RTR I figured either Gruul or Boros would be top pick for the Gatecrash pre-release given their general aggressive nature. I wanted to be in the top 8 and thus picked Boros a couple days before the tournament when I registered. Also, when I took MTG's guild survey, Azorius and Boros were my top two so I thought I'd have fun playing the guild as well. (BTW, my awesome wife took the same survey responding how she believed I would and surprised me with an Azorius guild shirt for Christmas which I wore on game day. She knows me so well!)
The Inside Man: My tournament was on Sunday and my friend Steven played Simic in Atlanta on Saturday. We talked Saturday night and he gave me all kinds of tips. He said the dominating decks were Boros with Bloodrush kickers. Here was his text during his game day: "Play Boros with an Orzhov kicker. Also, Bloodrush is the greatest thing ever". So, knowing this, it was time to develop my strategy statement.
Strategy: Define it and stick to it. It guides how you put your deck together as well as how you play. For the RTR block pre-releases you can do this ahead of time since the guilds are so well defined. For core sets or other releases the approach will be different. My Boros strategy statement:
Overwhelm my opponents with constantly attacking low CMC, high efficiency creatures, and surprise with aggressive pump spells.Focused Deck Construction: Given the limited time to construct, you have to be very focused. What's different about the Return to Ravnica block pre-releases is that you're committing up front to at least 15 cards dedicated to your guild's colors. Knowing this, I was only going to look at my red and white cards first, then potentially splash green as that fit my strategy (green is known for efficient creatures, combat affects, and in this block's mechanic, Bloodrush). I opened my packs and followed a very specific process I had decided the night before:
- Basic piles: Red/White/Boros; Green/Red Gruul; Black/Blue; artifacts; lands
- Focus: Put what you don't need out-of-sight. I put every Black/Blue card away in my back-pack. It's surprising how much just moving them out of sight clears the mind.
- Sort: I put the cards into piles that I wanted to sift through and organize. I put all creatures in one pile, then instants, sorceries, enchantments, and artifacts in another pile. Starting with creatures I put every card on a mana curve. Then did the same for the second pile.
- Mix: Ahead of time I had decided on 17 land, 17 creatures, and 6 spells. More creatures to push the Battalion mechanic and in alignment with my strategy statement. For Boros, you wanted more creatures if possible. You may have noticed that I have 2 creatures in the "other spells" section above and ended 17/15/8. There's a reason for that which I'll get to.
- Edit: This is a very complex and iterative process. A lot of time the question isn't what to put in, it's what to leave out. In my "cards left out" below I'll target a few that were tough to edit out, but in the end were, I believe, good choices.
- Mana base mix: Calculate what your land mix should be. I took the approach of counting up each white symbol and then red symbol and calculating the percent mix. Luckily, I had 3 Boros gates so I only had to spread 14 lands across red and white. Looking at my card pool the mix fortunately also aligned with what I wanted to cast early in the game in the 2CMC range which is something you should take into consideration and skew that way if certain cards are critical to play early.
Creature Mana Curve: The creature curve was critical to the deck's overall success and matched my strategy. I was fortunate to have enough Boros creatures to flesh out the lower end. Low CMC creatures allowed me to get out in front early, quickly, and continue to lay on the pressure enabling Battalion. This was also what I looked for in opening hands. If I didn't see that, I took a mulligan.
While there are lots of blog posts out there by more proficient players than I, here's what I learned about mulliganing that day. It's okay to go down to 5 cards if you get what you need for the first 2-3 turns (luckily never had to go beyond that). For this deck to work effectively, and the games I won the fastest, I had a good opening hand of 2 and 3 CMC creatures and 3 lands of both red and white. From that point, I didn't really care what I drew because I had aggressive spells to play for the first 4 turns. It's a tough lesson to learn, but knowing when to mulligan is critical.
As fast as the deck was, I rarely remember a game where I had more than 6 lands in play, which was the strategy. Your top end needs some bombs that will either turn the game around, break the door open, sustain you, or seal the deal. I have 2 such bombs that played key roles I'll get into when I talk specific cards. You may have also noticed that I left the pre-release promo card out of the deck.
Spell Curve: All the spells I picked were combat tricks that met my strategy and had low CMC. This allowed me to keep some mana up to cast when the time was right which also put my opponents on guard if they were paying attention. Regarding those 2 creatures in my other spells section, they're there solely for Bloodrush. I did cast them once or twice as a creature that day, but in hind sight, that may have not been the best use of the card. The surprise factor is undeniable.
Card Pool: In one game, my opponent says to me, Wow, we both got really good packs. I had to agree, but how you use those packs and why you picked the cards you did makes all the difference (he was Dimir and I didn't see a single Cipher effect, he chose a mill strategy with removal and counters).
Syndic of Tithes He is highly efficient, 2/2 for 1 and a white with the extort upside. I won a game off of extort hitting for that final one point of damage. The only thing was that since I wasn't playing extort frequently I forgot to use it multiple times that day. Don't forget!
Boros Guildgate I had 3 of them which really helped mana fixing, but when they're in your hand and when you play them is key. They have a major downside in an aggro deck: they come into play tapped. If I had one in my opening hand I played it first as I only had 1 spell in the whole deck with CMC 1. I never played it on turn 2 or 3 if possible as it would've effectively cost me a turn of casting my creatures or leaving mana open to pump.
Aurelia, the Warleader In a deck that loves to turn creatures side-ways always attacking, nothing is better than getting two combat phases on your turn. She hit the table 4 games that day and did major work each time. I was very lucky to get her.
Angelic Skirmisher Similar to Aurelia, she goes hand in hand with the deck strategy. Remember, it's EACH combat, even your opponent's. One of my favorite moments in the day was having her on the field and coming back from 4 life to 20 and winning by giving my creatures lifelink each turn. My opponent was playing Orzhov with 5 extort creatures in play. There were wild life point swings each turn, but my Angel saved the day. At another time, I had both the Skirmisher and Aurelia in play. That's one amazing combo. You get to pick an effect each of your two combats on your turn. I made a mistake however. One turn I gave my creatures lifelink for both combat phases. What I forgot is that the effect is until end of turn, so I could've picked another effect.
Boros Charm A card to match all situations, so many useful options for Boros. I have both my favorite combo of the day and the worst mistake of the day with this card. How do you do 14 points of damage in one turn? Unblocked 2 power creature, bloodrush Skinbrand Goblin, Martial Glory, Boros Charm doublestrike. Six mana required, but super powerful. Now for the blunder of the day, Boros Charm gives you 4 points of reach at your opponent. I had one opponent down to 5 and I just needed one more point of damage and he'd be done. Well, I was so focused on that, that I missed a double strike combo that would've won the game. I ended up losing because of it.
Scorchwalker Here's why he's so awesome in this deck. Attack with 3 creatures, declare blockers, someone gets through and hits you for +5 for only 3 mana! That's 25% of your life total.
Hellraiser Goblin Creatures you control have haste, yes please. Batallion a round earlier, sure. More combat damage a round earlier, check. All creatures must attack each combat if able. Ok, I was planning on doing that anyway. Now, this card can get you in trouble, but the strategy of this deck was never to block. In fact, I don't think I blocked but maybe one time all day.
Ember Beast A 3/4 for 2 and a red with the only downside is that it can't attack alone. Talk about efficiency. Again, in this deck it fit perfect with the strategy and I fully used him to my advantage.
Martial Glory It's common, I had 3, I used them a lot. Declare attackers, opponent declares blockers, Martial Glory the unblocked creature for +3 power, the blocked creature get +3 toughness and lives. Net result, I saved one guy and hit you for 3 points of extra damage for just 2 mana. This card did more work for me than any other card that day. It saved creatures, it expedited the game, it surprised my opponent, and made blocking more difficult to figure once they saw me playing multiple. This card is the MVP of the day.
Cards that didn't make the cut:
Foundry Champion - All day long I got, "You're not playing your promo card? Why not?" Well, I had 2 six drops that were better. People asked why I didn't play all 3. Here's why, it didn't fit my deck strategy. I needed to get out in front early and keep the pressure on. This card would've required me to take out a lower CMC creature which would've shifted my game into later turns. For Boros, if an opponent gets stabilized and you can't get your attackers through, you're likely going to lose. When he enters the battlefield he has reach to finish my opponent, but the most creatures I had in play throughout the day was 3, so he was a 4/4 for 6 that had a reach of 3. Pretty good, but I had better.
Mugging This card is a good removal card in multiple ways and it was on the cusp, except I wasn't looking for removal in my strategy. If my deck worked well, I didn't need much removal because the opponent would feel so far behind he/she would start chump blocking and lose creatures.
Boros Keyrune this card might have been pretty good for me given the doublestrike effect but that's a 5 mana commitment for a 1/1 that basically requires a 2 mana upkeep. I didn't need the mana ramp and I needed the mana left open, so it didn't make the cut.
Armored Transport The card does fit the Boros strategy. It's only problem was its efficiency. 3 for a 2/ 1 is not very good, even for colorless. If I hadn't had better 2 or 3 CMC creatures, I would've played it.
Overall, I was super impressed with the deck. My goal was to top 8 but I did even better, I won 5-0!!! In fact, I only lost 2 games that day. Once in match 4 to a Boros/Gruul deck and the other was in the final with that Boros Charm mistake. This deck is super aggressive and if you get a good opening hand it's likely game over for your opponent. In the finals I played the Dimir deck mentioned above. First game, good opening hand, won turn 6 with 20 life. Game 2, lost but opponent was at 5 life. Game 3 I had another killer opening hand and finished him off in 6 rounds with 20 life. After seeing my cards laid out on the curve during deck construction, I knew I had a good chance of actually winning that day if I just top decked well and played smartly. I learned a whole lot and cannot wait until the Dragon's Maze pre-release tournament in May. See you there!