Posted by: belchersucks | April 16, 2011

Cheap Tech – Red

Red has the dubious distinction of being considered the weakest color in Commander.  Enchantments are nearly impossible for the color to handle throughout the entire history of Magic.  The color has little in the way of disrupting the stack or controlling people’s hands.  What Red does have to offer more than any other color is mass land destruction and “chaotic” effects.  The problem is that these cards are either shunned by many play groups as anti social or aren’t conducive to winning the game.  What’s a Red mage to do?

For the newcomers to this series, here’s a mission statement:

  • All cards listed can be acquired for less than a dollar
  • For those not on a budget, you can still find these as cheap pimp outs
  • Some of these cards are on the reserved list and aren’t getting any easier to find

And here we go…

An-Zerrin Ruins

An-Zerrin Ruins has the ability to hose down tribal strategies.  The other awesome thing you can do is just name the creature type of someone’s general and put it into a soft limbo.  It’s been recently said that most people just don’t have enough enchantment removal and the Ruins is one of those oddball cards that can encourage your opponents to adopt more enchantment hate.  There are times where this card can turn into a major griefing experience if you are using it against deck like Slivers and Elves that are traditionally more casual and thus have fewer answers to lock down enchantments.

Blood Oath

There are time when people start to drift towards drawing too many cards at once.  Whether it is the Black player who always tutor for Necropotence  or a guy who finds it funny to abuse Consecrated Sphinx, there are bound to be people in your playgroup who become vulnerable to blow outs from Blood Oath.  It will usually be wise to name land unless you have a sick read on their hand or deck.  I will say that you can combo it with some cards like Sunder, Evacuation and Soulquake.  If those cards are popular in your group, then Blood Oath will work  for you with the minimum amount of build around needed.

Confusion in the Ranks

I have a fondness for Confusion in the Ranks as it is one of the centerpieces of my Norin the Wary deck.  The other ways to open up the potential of Confusion in the Ranks are ways to make lots of tokens.  One facet of Confusion in the Ranks that people may miss is that it triggers for itself.  So the turn you cast it you can snag some awesome enchantment that normally red can’t answer well.  There have been multiple times where the game was looking rough for me due to a problematic enchantment only for the Confusion to save the day (Thanks for the Form of the Dragon, bro!).

Conquering Manticore

I’m a big fan of creatures with enter the battlefield effects.  Often times they have an immediate impact on the game that can insulate you from the disadvantage of an opponent wiping out the board.  For it’s casting cost, a 5/5 flier is pretty efficient.  The real X factor here is the “Threaten” effect.  In playgroups with Giant Fatties hitting the table, this can turn the tables.  Even against more utilitarian playgroups, taking someones Arcanis or Terastodon can be enough to gain an edge.  I won’t lie and say the Manticore is a super star, but it’s definitely in the realm of a quality fatty.

Demonfire

The higher a cards mana cost, the more desirable the words “can’t be countered” are.  When you want to burn the living daylights out of someone/something, you normally don’t want it to be meddled with. While the “Hellbent” restriction is somewhat heavy, Demonfire is still amazing.  While Banefire has overtaken Demonfire’s position as the go to uncounterable x spell, it’s still a pretty strong card.  One of the advantages that Demonfire has over Banefire is that Demonfire can exile problematic threats to take care of it permanently.

Godo, Bandit Warlord

If I could use only one word to describe Godo, that word would be brutal.  Godo is one of those rare Generals Commanders that can be competitive and “spikey” without crossing into jerk territory.  A turn 2 Godo might pick up some shoes or something badass, but it’s not like he goes around killing people in a hit or two.  Even the most absurd Godo lists are hardly degenerate as they interact via creature combat, the way most people envision EDH.  On the flip side, I find making Godo part of your 99 interesting.  I find Godo to be best in decks like WR where equipments are more than welcome.  Perhaps Godo will become friends with Jor Kadeen, the Prevailer.  I think that Godo needs about 5 good equipments in order to really shine as part of your 99.  The bigger the better, but even solid role player’s like Loxodon Warhammer, the Swords, and Whispersilk Cloak can ensure that Godo always brings value.

Heat Shimmer

Heat Shimmer is unique for red since it doesn’t get that many copying effects.  At first blush, Heat Shimmer appears to be a Threaten variant that doesn’t play as well with sacrifice effects.  Much like Clone, Heat Shimmer can serve as a Hero’s Demise in a pinch by using the Legend Rule to off something.  One of the problems with running a critical mass of Threaten effects is that if you want to cast two of them simultaneously, the drop off between the best and the second best target is huge and Heat Shimmer can circumvent that.  It also get’s around other people not having awesome creatures since you can copy your own.  Some of the better generals to use Heat Shimmer with are Brion Stoutarm, Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker.

Hoarding Dragon

There are few creatures that provide a “Tutor” effect when they enter the battlefield and even fewer red creatures (you know, aside from Godo…).  I’m a fan of Hoarding Dragon on many levels.  It’s not just a tutor tacked onto a body, it presents a potential dilemma for your opposition.  Do they expose themselves to the treasure your Dragon has hidden or try to play around your Dragon.  Granted, in a multiplayer Eternal format, the dragon is not as much of a threat compared to formats where exile and “tuck” effects are less common.  Overall, it’s hard to argue with a decent sized flier that can set up future plays.  When used in conjunction with cards like High Market or Helm of Possession, you can protect the dragon from tampering.

Karplusan Minotaur

It’s no secret that I have an unhealthy fixation with Coldsnap (the greatest terrible set of all time, take that Homelands and Fallen Empires).  Wizards just doesn’t make enough cards like Karplusan Minotaur.  This card can be deceptively abusive.  While alliances can be forged to handle troubling permanents (like Seedborn Muse), Lightning Greaves/Whispersilk Cloak can protect your fun times from your opposition deciding they’ve had enough.  It’s important to not that the Minotaur only triggers off the coins that you flip and have you call heads or tails.  The Minotaur also triggers off any flip you do, not just those that come from itself.  This card is a total combo with Chance Encounter.

Keldon Firebombers

I’m a real fan of the Firebombers.  It provides a way to stop the insanity of people ramping their lands and mana production out of control while not completely crippling everyone.  The fact that it can pick up some choice equipment and bring the beats is a bonus.  The Firebombers may not win you a lot of fans, but they can win you some games.

Magnivore

Magnivore is a cool type of midrange creature.  It can easily be 10/10+ by your fifth turn depending on the types of decks you are playing again and having haste can lead to some quick beats.  If you use cards like Wheel of Fortune and Windfall, you can really amp up the beats.  The other approach to amp up your graveyard quickly  is to go with a critical mass of sorceries like Ponder and Preordain that replace themselves so you can string them together.  I have been using Magnivore in my developmental builds of some Blue/Red decks and have been quite satisfied.

Mindmoil

I like to compare Mindmoil to a personal Teferi’s Puzzle Box.  Red doesn’t have much in the way of deck manipulation so having the ability to filter through multiple hands can be extremely useful.  The most obvious combo potential is with effects such as Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind or Psychosis Crawler.  Mindmoil has some awesome interactions with buyback and flashback spells as you get to cycle through more of your deck.

Obliterate

I had a slight impulse to not add Obliterate to this list.  Not that I disagree with it on a fundamental basis (I’m all for turning the table into a durdling mess), but because it’s pretty well known.  However, the fact that so many people avoid such a powerful card must be due to a knowledge gap and not something else (Right? Right?).  There is not subtly to it.  You play this card when you want to blow up the world (barring enchantments and Planeswalkers).  There are ways around it, but not many of those answers see play (Second Sunrise, Mindbreak Trap, Time Stop) so your Obliterate will normally resolve.   In my decks that use obliterate, I am normally packing lots of indestructible cards like Darksteel Ingot, Darksteel Myr and Stuffy Doll.  It figures that the same decks that would want to blow up the world would also want lots of sturdy defenders (from all the vindictive people coming after you).  Obliterate will not make you popular and will expose you as a griefer.  That’s fine.  You are going to win or at the very least stop losing (short term).

Ruination

There comes a point in a Commander player’s developmental cycle where their decks will become stuffed with nonbasic lands.  It’s an understandable phenomenon.  Who wants to draw a bunch of blank basic lands?  The problem is that it’s a well known fact that basic lands are less vulnerable to most hate unless people are tying to Boil people out of the game, wreck them with a Tsunami, bring the Acid Rain, or other mass LD based hosers.  Ruination is one of those cards that teaches people the value of basics.  Compared to more expensive options like Blood Moon, Magus of the Moon, and Back to Basics, Ruination provides a one shot effect that can curtail the mana production potential of your opposition for the rest of the game with limited potential to recover compared to top decking a Disenchant effect.  Much like other mass land destruction, don’t bring these into a Commander game unless you are willing to cripple people.

Thieves Auction

A few years back, a friend on Efnet introduced me to his Norin the Wary deck.  This was before the word was remotely out on Red decks being not automatically trash and Norin having some potential.  I looked at his deck list and noticed it was a bunch of artifact mana, goofy cards, and board sweepers.  How could that possibly win?  The answer was that no one ever expects half of this crap and half the people you will play against will be confused by some of the crazy cards in the deck.  This was one that stuck out to me.   I thought that this card would never be amazing.  I was wrong.  When the best card you have in the pot is typically Thran Dynamo, then your nearly always a winner.  Being able to go first pretty much ensures you get the Blightsteel Colossus or Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre that’s terrorizing the table and you can try to steer the game more to your liking.  The really funny part is that most people don’t rage quit against this card (barring the rare scoop in response) or even complain too much about it.  Sure it foiled their plans and turned the game into a mes, but people generally feel its within the “spirit” of the format.

Thundermare

I’m a fan of the flaming horse.  Thundermare enables an unimpeded strike at the cost losing your own defenses.  In multiplayer games it has the cascading effect of leaving the people who have the turn before yours vulnerable to more strikes as well.  Some people look at Thundermare and think it will be impractical as anything but a finishing blow, but I see other potential there.  When you combine it with permanents that turn into creatures, you can enable much larger strikes.  As Red doesn’t have many ways to tap a lot of creatures simultaneously, Thundermare can fit that niche while providing a large body.  I hear that tapping down mass amount of creatures leads to snyergy with Smoke.  Yeah, Smoke!  If you are wanting to build around effects like smoke, you can find redundancy with Shrieking Mogg.

War’s Toll

There is a growing subset of Commander players who are embracing Group Hate decks.  Jam packed full of cards like Manabarbs and Zo-Zu the Punisher, the goal of these deck is to put a hamper on people’s strategies while also putting them in enough out of their comfort zone to encourage the opposition to make mistakes.  I actually consider War’s Toll as one of these cards.  It works really well with Manabarbs by forcing your opponent to choose between massive amounts of damage or not doing anything.  Furthermore, War’s Toll can really put a hamper on things like your opponent’s Rhystic Study or EOT Sensei’s Divining Top.  Why?  Because your opponent’s will have to spend most of their mana at a single time.  That’s right, War’s Toll can actually make your opponents better at Magic!  Outside of that, War’s Toll really has some synergy with taxation effects like Propaganda and Rhystic Deluge.  Propaganda is doubly nice as it means they can’t cast anything but instants (usually) that turn and they will have little defense as even if they can’t swing at you with everything, they can probably swing at someone with the rest of it.  As a fair warning, there are some people who are very hostile towards War’s Toll and may decide that killing you as fast as possible is the best idea.  If you want another way to hamper your opposition’s mana production you can try Mana Web.

Wild Research

One of the biggest limiting factors of Wild Research is that it can only be used in Numot, the Devastator decks.  The other drawback is that for every card you tutor up, you have to discard a card.  You can get around that drawback that by using effects like Library of Leng or Bösium Strip.  Another potential plan is to fill up your graveyard with enchantments so you can unleash a huge  Replenish on your opponents.  While they are not many, cards with Madness can work around the discard.  It’s definitely a card that requires some set up and synergy, but I find it to be quite worth it.

Wild Ricochet

I see Wild Ricochet and it’s brethren as Red’s ability to interact with the stack.  This ability to cause mischief and mayhem on the stack is a crucial part of Red’s identity as without embracing it, your mono red decks can end up pretty flat.  Of all the effects that fit into this category, Wild Ricochet has the splashiest and biggest effect without forcing the game into complete chaos.  The first time you get to cast Wild Ricochet targeting Identity Crisis or Cruel Ultimatum or similar giant spell, you will never want to put down the Wild Ricochet.  While some people may complain about the effect this card can have on games, sometimes you just gotta respond with, “Live by the sword, die by the sword.”

Word of Seizing

There are some times where making sure people don’t mess with your plans is crucial and I think borrowing an awesome permanent is one of those.  It’s a personal rule of mine that if I have the option to take and active someones Mindslaver, I have to.  Seriously…  Plop it and pop it people; Mindslaver shouldn’t be waiting around.  Even outside of split second and hitting any permanent, the Word is notable for another reason.  The majority of Red’s instant speed temporary stealing cards are sorcery speed.  You can have all the Threaten variants you want but the instant speed versions (aka Ray of Command spin offs) are typically riddled with drawbacks.     Temporary Insanity is reliant upon the graveyard in a world that is increasingly hostile towards graveyard.  Blind with Anger can’t hit Legends, who are typically the biggest and baddest at many commander tables.  These effects are normally best for surprise blocks, surprise kills with another player’s commander, or just stealing a cool ability like Magus of the Jar.

Bonus Section

Rather than just hoard this tech, I  am going to list some of the cards that overlapped with some the cards on the list and just barely missed the list.  Most of the strategy applications are similar to other cards on the list.  This seems to be my definitive proof that not only red not terrible, but a lot of it’s high points are budget friendly.

Nonbasic Land Hate

Mass Land Destruction

Board Control

Stack Manipulation

Chaos/Harassment Effects

Fan Service for the Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician Nation

X-Spells

Cheap Dragons

Cheap Legends

So that’s a wrap on the wonderful world of Red.  I hope that this article has opened up a desire in some of you to rock the red decks.  Up next is Green the color of the fatty…

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Posted by: belchersucks | April 13, 2011

Cheap Tech – Black

I’d like to send out a huge thanks to Andy and the rest of the guys at CommanderCast for giving me kind words and lots of traffic.  I hope I can repay that honor by producing more awesome content.

While this is the third article, lets get a quick restatement of the purpose.  These articles are to provide some cheap options to enhance your commander deck.  All cards have to be rares that are available  for a dollar or less on a major online retailer (ChannelFireball, StarCityGames, and Troll and Toad).    Even if you don’t find yourself needing to worry about budget too much, some of these cards have foils that are less than a couple bucks.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t exactly jump for joy when I shell out $20+ for a pimp out.

The previous articles in this series: White and Blue

The Black article was a little rough because most of the good Black cards I use most of the time are over a dollar or are uncommon.  So I dug deep into my experiences and Gatherer and found a few crazy hits of old and new.  I’ve actually ordered a bunch of these in foils for myself since I have the urge to cast all of these cards now…

Bane of the Living

Morphs are a mixed bag.  A lot of them come off as generic fatties that have a “surprise” element.  The rest of them are essentially spells tacked onto creatures which can make them much less impressive than you’d think.  So why would you pay sometimes 3 or 4 more extra mana for an effect to just tack it onto a smallish or medium creature?  The main reasons are the surprise factor and the extremely rare ability to interact with Split Second spells.  Bane of the Living is one of the few Morphs that is capable of sweeping the board.  The sad part of it that Bane of the Living will be running suicide missions often times, but he provides a way of nuking nearly anything that walks or flies at instant speed.  Being a creature, it means that Bane of the Living is fairly easy to recycle with cards such as Oversold Cemetery or Erratic Portal.  The best way to make Bane of the Living a beating is to play other Morphs so your opponents can’t snap call what your Morph is.  Some of the better morphs to plant false expectations are Silent Specter, Soul CollectorBrine Elemental, Vesuvan Shapeshifter, Skinthinner, Willbender, Quicksilver Dragon, Voidmage ApprenticeNantuko Vigilante, and Imperial Hellkite.  Perhaps I’ll get around to writing the full article on Morph I have in my head (much like the Snow and Enchant World articles).

Baneful Omen

If you had asked me about this card 6 months ago, I’d have called it unplayable rubbish.  That’s not the case.  Later in the game your ability to control the top of your library can get pretty absurd with things like Scroll Rack and Sensei’s Divining Top so its common to start draining your opposition for 6 life a turn.  Another key factor is that it triggers during your end step.  That means you will typically get at least one activation before it is wiped out.  The last time I cast it, I had Sensei’s Divining Top active and proceeded to drain 6 from my opponents each turn.  In the end, I had them in the single digits before they combined to take me out.  Trust me, if you start draining people for 5+ a turn, they will go after you.

Cairn Wanderer

The thing about Cairn Wanderer is that it can be a mini Akroma or even better. Remember that it checks all graveyards so it can fit into decks even without few abilities from itself.  Since Black typically has no problem killing lots of creatures, you will often be able to have your Wanderer looking pretty pimp.  The more your group like to play with giant fatties such as the Akromas and Simic Sky Swallower, the Wanderer can pick up a lot of amazing abilities.  If your group is polishing up their Storm combo decks, it obvious to leave this one on the sidelines, but when fatties rule the world, it can be pretty nuts.  The most abilities I personally have had it when I cast it was haste, vigilance, flying, pro red, pro black, pro blue, pro white, shroud, trample, Islandwalk, deathtouch, lifelink, double strike, and reach.  I have yet to get Plainswalk with it, so play more Graceful Antelopes please!

Crypt Angel

This card is a solid performer.  While having some random Protection from White is not always going to matter, being able to chump Rafiq of the Many and Doran, the Siege Tower for days is not a bad thing.  Whether its getting back sick utility creatures like Flametongue Kavu or Mulldrifter or just making sure you don’t run out of fatties like Stormtide Leviathan, it’s hard to not like this Angel.  Sadly there are no real “combos” with this bad boy.  It fits in with the usual synergy of cards like Crystal Shard and Oath of Ghouls.

Dark Suspicions

Apparently there is an epidemic of decks that draw a ridiculous amount of cards, play Reliquary Tower, and say go with hands upwards of 15 cards.  My play group doesn’t have this problem as we pack copious amounts of land destruction and some nasty discard.  Yet some play groups see destroying someones Reliquary Tower as a declaration of war.  So how else can you punish these greedy people?  My pick is this random Planeshift rare.  There was some serious buzz about Dark Suspicions, but it could never turn into a deck.  However, in an age where people are heralding Consecrated Sphinx as a staple, this may have a place at your table.

Dawn of the Dead

Phyrexian Arenaa has taught us that if a card expects us to lose life, we want some serious value out of it.  Dawn of the Dead, being the granddad of Debtors’ Knell, can provide that value.  One of the aspects I immediately jump to is how in can enable abuse of enter the battlefield triggers on creatures like Shriekmaw and Fleshbag Marauder.  Even after you pay the unwieldy mana cost and accept the life loss each turn, the other downside is that the creature will be exiled if it is still in play at the end of the turn.  Aside from creatures taking on suicide missions, you will need some sacrifice outlets to help keep your graveyard stocked up.  I’m a fan of things such as Spawning Pit, Altar of Dementia, and High Market as they can provide enough of a benefit that you could want to run them even outside of their synergy with Dawn of the Dead.  A card that can provide a similar effect as Dawn of the Dead is Corpse Dance but the ability to just spend a one time payment of mana makes Dawn of the Dead worth some serious consideration.

Graveborn Muse

The Muse is one of those difficult cards to properly evaluate.  On one hand, being vulnerable to creature removal can make it more questionable compared to something like Phyrexian Arena.  on the flip side, when was the last time you saw Phyrexian Arena pick up Sword of Fire and Ice and go to town?  The other real power of Graveborn Muse is the ability to scale up.  With your life total being drastically higher, drawing 3 or 4 extra cards a turn at the cost of 3 or 4 life is much less of a concern compared to 20 life formats.  In a lot of my not tribal decks, I won’t put in Graveborn Muse until after Phyrexian Arena and Necropotence but it does make my list a lot of times when I’m rocking equipments.

Herald of Leshrac

The Herald is what I think of as a Smart Fatty.  He’s going to grow and evolve and can eventually just wreck your entire table if given enough love and time.  I wasn’t sure about putting this beast on the list, but after witnessing its power and hearing some of the tales, I’d feel regret if I didn’t give it some love.  Plus its from my personal favorite  set of all time, Coldsnap. Some cool plays you and get off with Herald include using Vampire Hexmage to reset it’s cumulative upkeep so that it won’t suicide himself as your opponent stop playing land.  I suppose Æther Snap works pretty well too!

Imp’s Mischief

This is the Black variant of Shunt and Deflection.  One one hand, it’s clearly has an unattractive drawback but it has one amazing strength.  Imp’s Mischief is one of the very few ways that Black has to interact with spells on the stack.  When you are using a deck that doesn’t have access to Red, White, or Blue for protection from effects like Identity Crisis or Cruel Ultimatum, then Imp’s Mischief becomes a lot more appealing.  As the Mischief is way outside the scope of what Black is supposed to do, it can catch a lot of people off guard the first few times and eventually become a bluff after you pull it off enough.  Another minor point to not overlook is that it has a quote by Nicol Bolas.  While I’m not huge on flavor impacting deck building, there are folks out there who love to jam quotes from their general into the deck.

Kagemaro, First to Suffer

There are some people who say Kamigawa Block has the greatest flavor of any block in Magic.  I’m not one of those people.  I think having random visits from Jabba the Hut and sex ed class ruins the  mystique.  On a play level, there are not many generals who can actually wipe the board multiple times.  Myojin of Cleansing Fire doesn’t work because it can’t get the divinity counter when cast from the command zone, so Kagemaro gets that honors.  The thing is that trying to kill anything larger than a 5/5 or 6/6 can be pretty miserable with Kagemaro, but he can do it with help from favorites like Phyrexian Arena and Necropotence.  Sometimes you just cast the Blob multiple times from the Command Zone via Cabal Coffers.   Even if Kagemaro isn’t your general, he can be reused in a variety ways including the awesome Corpse Dance.  I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of instant speed board wipes that have buyback.

Last Laugh

The easiest card to compare Last Laugh with is Pestilence, but there are some key differences.  While both cards love having Stuffy Doll and Darksteel Myr riding shotgun, Last Laugh fits better in decks that don’t have a strict black requirement.  Last Laugh provides an incentive for black to do what a black wants to do anyway: Kill stuff.  What’s the incentive? Killing more stuff of course.   The real danger with Last Laugh, aside from getting the board wiped and having it’s sacrifice drawback trigger, is putting yourself in a position where the  table hates you (probably gonna happen) and your don’t have much life (probably gonna happen with this card).  To keep yourself from getting too low, I’d recommend some of the stronger life gain such as Exsanguinate and Sun Droplet.

Leyline of the Void

Before M11, Leyline of the Void was flirting with $10 on the back of its power to hose powerful graveyard strategies in Legacy and Vintage.  While it’s still doing that, its been reprinted to hell and is now an option for all, even cheap players to enjoy.  Leyline of the Void is the rare hoser in which is it is also part of a strong combo.  With the help of Helm of Obedience, the Leyline can  exile an entire player’s library.  The Helm will “mill” a player until a specific card type (creature) or amount is put into the graveyard.  Leyline of the Void makes it so no cards will go the Graveyard.  The Helm’s ability will continue to resolve to the best of its ability and won’t stop until the library is empty.  As this is a repeatable way to essentially make people lose the game, it is typically frowned upon by a lot of Commander purists.  However, you can probably decide when this combo is ready to be unleashed upon your group.

Myojin of Night’s Reach

Myojin of Night’s Reach is a card that’s hard to get a consensus on.  One sizable segment feels that 8 mana creatures that can’t be cheat into play for full value are a waste of time.  The opposing view says they Myojin is super unfair and ruins games.  I skew towards a compromised.  If a spell costs 8 mana and you actually have to pay 8 mana for it, it better not suck.  The Myojin is a relative bargain at 8 man for it’s effect in a 4 person game.  Worst case scenario you are left with a 5/2 Indestructible and the potential for future abuse.  One interesting interaction that seems to not be getting much press is Proliferate plus Myojin.  I think that could get quite frustrating to stare down.

Nightmare Incursion

The thing about Nightmare Incursion is that it looks really awful compared to how back breaking it can be.  The best card to compare it with is Sadistic Sacrament.  The Sacrament has two levels: Meh and Awesome.  Nightmare Incursion has two levels as well: serviceable and awesome.  So unless you are needing a quick combo hoser, Sadistic Sacrament will typically get the nod for you if you only have room for one.  If your metagame is very ramp heavy, then you can typically grab half or so of the threats left in their deck with Nightmare Incursion while also taking out some of their recursion engines.  Some may think that Nightmare Incursion only belongs in mono black decks, as those typically pack the critical mass of swamps to make the Incursion busted.  That is not necessarily true as Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth can let multicolor decks get in on the fun too.  Another key thing to note is that Nightmare Incursion will do very little for people who want to copy it or take control of it unless an Urborg is in play.

Night of Souls’ Betrayal

Night of Souls’ Betrayal doesn’t fit into every black deck, but it does lend itself to being a great answer to token decks as well as being part of some wonky hard and soft locks.  NOSB is a great card to hate on token decks, especially Rhys the Redeemed and Nemata, Grove Guardian.   The hardest lock of them all that Night of Souls’ Betrayal is part of involves Dovescape and Humility.  Any spell that isn’t uncounterable will not resolve, creatures will immediately die, and the interaction of the game is reduced to things such as already in play enchantments and artifacts, cycling triggers, lands, and cards with the Channel ability.  In sort the game becomes a mess.

Spreading Plague

Spreading Plague is an interesting card.  It makes it so people don’t want to cast creatures, which I’m all for.  You aren’t going to play this if you are going to be weak towards it.  The card gives token decks fits as shuts down their strategy (barring colorless token production) until it gets answered.  The best way to get maximum mileage out of it is to have access to something like Riptide Replicator while running mostly artifact creatures of your own.  That way your threats aren’t going to be taken down by a plague while your opponent will have to battle recurring board sweepers.  Another option to is to run it in a 5 color deck with Cromat.  If they dare to use the Plague against Comat, just put it on top of your library and drop it again.  If you go this route, don’t be surprised when your table guts you.

Spreading Plague also happens to be tech if you are the only Black player in your area.  In one of the groups I play with, Green can get really overplayed while Black has no love.  Plopping a Plague on the table will confuse my opponents and have them go out of their ways to harm each other while I just drop bombs like Geth, Lord of the Vault.

Tainted Pact

Part of doing the research on this article was doing a price check and a spoiler look up on over a thousand cards.  Seriously.  One of the great revelations, to me anyway, was that Tainted Pact is below a dollar.  I remember when this card was a solid $3-4 Extended card and fringe Vintage playable.  So anyway, it’s below a dollar now.  Why is that good news?  First off the card really likes a format where you play a bunch of singleton cards.  Secondly, with help from tons of fetch lands and some Snow basics, you can make the likelihood of missing with the pact pretty low.  It’s no Demonic Tutor, sure, but it is an instant and it can get rid of some chaff that you keep floating on top via Sensei’s Divining Top or Scroll Rack.

Tsabo’s Decree

In the good old days of Magic, Wizards of the Coast had a bad habit.  They would make one part of a block ridiculousness powerful compared to the rest of what the set offered.  The solution was to jam in a bunch of hate cards.  In this case Rebels had put a huge dent on the competitive scene since the printing of Lin Sivvi, Defiant Hero and Tsabo’s Decree was the solution.  I consider that decision the equivalent of making nuclear weapon to stop a fleet of pirate ships.  While it may get the job done, the long reaching consequences can be disastrous.  In this case, you have the best way to make an Elf player rage quit from your group.  The thing about Tsabo’s Decree, is that it sends a strong message: Tribal decks aren’t welcome.  Aside from handling tribal decks, Tsabo’s Decree can typically always kill at least one fatty, even fatties with shroud.  The other big plus on Tsabo’s Decree is providing a way to remove multiple creatures from the board at instant speed as those effects are not overly abundant.

Wave of Terror

I love cards with Cumulative Upkeep.  I just wish there were more cards with the mechanic available in foil.  As for Wave of Terror, I really love it’s effect.  It’s the Necroplasm that can actually start killing fatties.  It’s the reverse of Hibernation’s End.  It’s just plain awesome.  The card will never hit tokens.  If you want a way to wipe out token, then Necoplasm is your ooze.   However, if some people are rocking more aggressive strategies or have a glut on 2 and 3 drop utility dorks, it’s quite awesome.

Words of Waste

This is one of my favorite antisocial cards.  If you ever get the pleasure of having Words of Waste and Geth’s Grimoire out, then you true bliss.   Even on it’s own, Words can off you one “card” for a couple cards which can get pretty disgusting after 2 or 3 activations.  It’s not going to make you any friends, but if you aren’t worried about that then get ready to waste some hands.  I find it a great way for Mono black decks to answer cards like Temple Bell or Howling Mine.

A side note about Geth’s Grimoire:  It can be a solid meta game card if you find Survival of the Fittest and Compulsion type effects are running wild.

EXTRA TECH:  Hint of Instanity

Does your playgroup have a Rat problem that is quite Relentless?  So them just how crazy rats make you and point this in their direction.  They might get a clue as to how you feel about Relentless Rats.  On a more serious note, if you are really annoyed by Relentless Rats then Memoricide and Cranial Extraction are just better answers.  Persecute is also pretty sick (compared to Hint of Insanity for sure) for handling Rats as well.

That’s all for Black. I’d like to give a shot out to my friends JB and JC for helping me out with this article.  It’s a wonderful thing to have people to bounce ideas off of.  Up next is Red, which I’m personally looking forward to as my favorite decks (Norin the Wary, buddies Ib Halfheart) right now are rocking Mountains.   Once again, I’m gonna try to get it out in about 2 weeks.

Thanks for reading,

BelcherSucks.

Posted by: belchersucks | March 3, 2011

Cheap Tech – Blue

So it’s been a while since my last article.  I’d like to apologize that to you, dear reader.  I had some issues with power outages and other discouraging factors and by the time I came back I had to do a lot of my research again.  That said, I’ll continue this series and aim to have more regular installments.

The purpose of this series to provide a list of some interesting and useful rares for Commander that you can acquire for less than a dollar.  Even if you don’t operate on a shoestring budget, these articles can highlight some crazy cards that you could foil out for under $10 most of the time.  To qualify for pricing I made sure at least one printing was in stock for less than a dollar at ChannelFireball, StarCityGames, or TrollandToad.  While there are many stores that may offer great service and selection, I know that these three stores are among the more popular sites and are more likely to stock a lot of the older and more random cards.

Acquire

This little gem is a relative of the much more popular Bribery.  I find it hard to believe that so many people give Acquire a cold shoulder, as I rather enjoy stealing Memory Jar, Mindslaver, Nevinyrral’s Disk, and Sundering Titan.  I guess stealing someones Woodfall Primus or other fatty give Bribery a broader level of appreciation.  However, the fatties I like to steal are typically artifact as well like Blightsteel Colossus, Darksteel Colossus, and  Sundering Titan.  Acquire is under a dollar for now, but I could see it rising if it ever gains traction with the community at large.

Aeon Chronicler

I really like Aeon Chronicler in Commander.  In a format where permanents of every type get blown up often, it’s nice to have a way to draw a stream of cards that is hard to disrupt.  Not irrelevant is the fact that it is a blue creature with haste.  Those are not exactly common and can sometimes be the difference between winning and losing.  A common strategy for Aeon Chronicler users is to wipe the board the turn before the last suspend counter is removed so it will have control of the board.  Another line of play with suspend creatures in general is to suspend them and then have equipment ready to power up your beater before you opponent’s have too many shots at killing them.  Aeon Chronicler is seen as the type of card that was made for Jhoira of the Ghitu.

Blue Sun’s Zenith

This card is one spicy number.  The mana requirements are very blue when compared to Stroke of Genius and Braingeyser, but the benefits far outweigh it.  In a lot of the “generate infinite mana and then deck every one” decks, this is a real upgrade.  One of the issues previously was having enough X spells to draw your own deck and then to deck all your opposition.   Even if you are not running combo and only ramp up to large amounts of mana, I believe that Blue Sun’s Zenith is a powerful option for many decks.  The big loser here is Mind Spring which is pretty much squeezed out of decks now.

Body Double

This one is a a bit deceptive.  When you really look at at Body Double, it’s just a 5 mana Zombify, but like all things Blue it finds a way to be better.  One of the reasons for its power is because being a creature means it is open to abuse with things like Reveillark or Fauna Shaman.  Another important note is that Body Double doesn’t target which means that when you choose what you want it to be, there is no opportunity for them to exile that card in response.  There are a bunch of crazy interactions you can explore with the Body Double, but the fundamentals are strong.

Commandeer

I really like this card for a few reasons.  Stealing someone’s Cruel Ultimatum feels good, as does taking their “lethal” Stroke of Genius or Tooth and Nail.  Commandeer is the type of card that lets you not only fight many uncounterable spells (such as those powered through Boseiju, Who Shelters All), but can turn a play that would lose you the game into what puts you far ahead into the lead.  The surprise factors of free spells is even greater in Commander because of how less often they occur.  Whether your playgroup is very competitive or very casual, you will have a lot of clutch spells to take.

Ertai’s Meddling

Do you have too many Obliterates or Boseiju, Who Shelters All powered Jokulhaups for your Time Stop to handle?  This grand daddy to suspend may not be a permanent solution to a lot of problems, but it can put off the end of the world to a turn far away in the future.  While it’s not a powerhouse, I consider it a great metagame solution that creeps into my deck when I’m having to handle too many uncounterable cards.  Sometimes a 4 or 5 turn delay is all you need to prepare for your opponent’s backbreaker or knock them, and the spell, out of the game for good.  One funny interaction is using Ertai’s Meddling with x=1 on your opponent’s counterspells.  When comes to spells that interact with the stack, it can be a hard counter.

Equilibrium

Equilibrium a card that can provide incremental advantage or just set up a repeating loop.  I’ve seen people use Equilibrium with Eternal Witness and another cheap creature to take infinite turns via Time Warp.  On the flip side I’ve seen people use it with Darting Merfolk to cause the same person to have to recast their General every turn.  As a word of caution for you socially conscious people: When Equilibrium is at it’s best, other people won’t be enjoying it as much as you.

Kederekt Leviathan

He’s a big fatty that happens to be attached to a board wipe.   Some people hate this card as it can “undo all the game so far” but I think that is an overreaching statement.  It only undoes everything if you haven’t been dealing damage, drawing cards, destroying permanents, etc.  I mean, if all people are doing is casting fatties and having staring contests, it can be nearly accurate to say it is undoing much of the games progress.  The same crowd of people who don’t like Planar Cleansing, don’t like this card.  Personally, I find 7 mana 5/5’s to be a little expensive, but if your table loves the fatties I can’t recommend this guy enough and that event without the absurd Unearth ability.

Leyline of Anticipation

One of the biggest faults people find with Leyline of Anticipation for Commander is that you aren’t very likely to put it onto the battlefield for no mana.  I find that to be irrelevant.  When evaluating a Leyline for a 100 card deck where you only get to run 1 copy, you have to pretend the ability to start with it in play isn’t there.  So lets look at what the Leyline can actually do.  It lets you play things when you normally wouldn’t be able to.  Comparable cards include the popular Vedalken Orrery and the less popular Vernal Equinox.  So the question for a blue mage is most likely this 2 part question: Do I want the ability to play cards with Flash? if yes, How many and which kind of effects do I want?

The thing about this question is that you don’t always need to play cards at instant speed.  There is a reason Blue was known for playing more on other player’s turn than its own turn is that so many of it’s best cards are instants.  Think Blue Sun’s Zenith, Counterspell, or Dominate.  However, if your the type of player who wants to launch an instant speed Control Magic or an end of turn Howling Mine then the Leyline is more appealing.

Mindlock Orb

Are there too many fetches and tutors slowing down you game?  Aside from some ham-fisted house bans, the Orb is the best way to deter that.  Mindlock Orb is also pretty devastating towards the people who like to run Maralen of the Mornsong.  There aren’t too many combos or techy plays for the Orb as it’s just a simple lock down effect, but it’s one of the strongest effects for what it does.  The only comparable card is Aven Mindcensor.

Plagiarize

Now there are some cards that just give Blue mages themselves fits, and this is one of them.  If you have ever cast this in response to an opponent’s Time Spiral, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  The thing about Plagiarize is that you are also able to set up situations where you can get a lot of benefit out of it.  Some of the better ways to enable it are Font of Mythos, Howling Mine, Teferi’s Puzzle Box, or your own Time Spiral.  If your group is drawing too many cards then Plagiarize may be in order.  The key thing to remember is that if they have a Consecrated Sphinx, they still get to choose whether they want to draw the cards on resolution of the Sphinx’s trigger even if Plagiarize would let you get the cards.

Redirect

In Commander there is an odd dynamic going one for Blue spells that want in decks with heavy blue.  The controls spells that are legal are very good.  When you start comparing a card with a mana cost of two blue mana, it typically won’t be as powerful or versatile as the other options.  With Mana Drain, Counterspell, and Muddle the Mixture being three of the best cards at this mana cost, how does Redirect shape up?  It’s more of a group thing.  If you are trying to stop powerhouse plays like Natural Order or Armageddon in the early game, this is not going to help you.  However, if your group likes to run big spells like Cruel Ultimatum, Death Grasp, and Time Stretch, then the mana cost vs power ratio on this card is pretty huge.  Another consideration is how your group handles Generals.  If there are a lot of cards like Oblation, Hinder, and Bant Charm being tossed around your group, then Redirect can save your general from that fate while (sometimes) condemning another player’s General.

Reins of Power

One of the more popular game winning spells  in Commander is Insurrection as it can just end the game.  One of my favorite cards is the blue version, Reins of Power.  Since its blue, that means it costs half as much and its and instant.  The only downside is that they get your team in trade for the turn, but it doesn’t mean much as the best uses for it are a) chump blocking with another player’s team b) making a bad attack into another player’s team and c) comboing out with someones  combo (thanks for Kiki Jiki/Sky Hussar/etc).  Worst case scenario it is a blue fog, which is pretty rare for the color outside of effects like Cryptic Command, Ensnare, and Turnabout.

Stormtide Leviathan

He’s a big dumb beater.  I’m not a huge fan of mega creatures unless they have a wicked impact on the game as soon as it hits play.  While the big fish is not as ridiculous as Sundering Titan or Terastodon, the giant guppy is certainly a game changer in a similar vein of Blazing Archon.  The trade of is that instead of making it so no one can attack you, it just means most people can’t attack at all.  The multiplayer implications are huge as it can trade the random, “I need to kill it so I could attack you” actions for “I need to save it so the green mage can’t attack me.”   Not only is it a nearly unblockable 8/8 (Tidal Kraken, eat your heart out), the Leviathan brings it’s own Island Sanctuary.

Sunder

Mass land disruption is not something Blue is known for.  Of course it doesn’t help that many of the effects in Blue that provide mass land disruption have been banned.  Why play this card?  You are able to catch people with their hand in the cookie jar when they get greedy.  If your play group has a lot of people who want to skimp on early action so they can just play giant spells, this is a great way to send them back into the reality that you can’t expect every to just drop infinite fatties.   One of the biggest opportunities for their to be friction about players in a group is when people play on different levels of strategy and competitiveness.  The guy who wants to drop Hamletback Goliath and use Kresh the Bloodbraided is probably going to cry foul when someone gets sick of his fatties and starts comboing or Obliterating the living daylights out of fatty boy.  Sunder, while not as “antisocial” as Obliterate and friends, does get lumped into the mass land destruction so you may be labeled a “jerk” for daring to stop the fat bombs from dropping.

Time Stop

There are no real cards that can compare to Time Stop.  It’s sort of a Time Warp.  It’s sort of a Fog.  It’s sort of a Counterspell.  Heck, it’s all of them put together.  Time Stop is one of the few cards capable of stopping Obliterate and it’s uncounterable brethren (alongside Venser, Shaper Savant and Mindbreak Trap.)  Time Stop actually had a burst of popularity for a while as a strong answer to Emrakul since few cards were capable of stopping the extra turn and the big monster at the same time.

Trade Routes

Trade Routes provides a lot of benefits in a slightly odd package.  First off, it can protect you from land flood by allowing you to turn excess lands into more cards.  Secondly, it stops land destruction from being much of a problem for you.  If they want to destroy one of your lands, you can merely bounce it back to your hand.   Trade Routes has some cool interactions with cards like Horn of Greed, Life from the Loam, and Exploration.  Imagine playing your Khalni Garden 3 times a turn while drawing extra cards.  Seems good!

Trade Secrets

This is the type of card that can turn people of politics really quick.  You choose one person and you can both draw 20+ cards a lot of the time.  It can cause a lot of hurt feeling for those left out in the cold and may even lead to rage quits when used in this fashion.  That said, don’t target the opponent who probably has a combo kill or else you will ensure they “go off” the next turn.

Vesuvan Shapeshifter

This clone update is more powerful for a marginal increase in cost.  The fact that is interacts favorably with Morphs like Willbender and Nantuko Vigilante and Fathom Seer is just a bonus.  The real strength of this Shapeshifter is the ability to reset it’s identity.  Like all the majority of Clone tweaks, Vesuvan Shapeshifter has a hidden purpose.  If you are ever in a pinch, he can legend rule any general at will which can be clutch against hasty generals.  The darker side of Vesuvan Shapeshifter is the hideously named “Pickles Lock,” which involves using the Shapeshifter to copy Brine Elemental until your opponent’s rage quit or you win.   It’s definitely a card that had a lot of possibilities.  One to note is riding your opponent’s face up Morphs for their trigger (nothing like getting to use Nantuko Vigilance in your mono blue deck).

Walk the Aeons

It’s hard to not be impressed with this card on a cost to effect scale .  You can find a lot of copies of Walk for less than $.50.   When you consider it’s hard to get a Time Warp for less than $5, that makes it quite a bargain.  If you already have Time Warp and want more effects, it is way more economical compared to Capture of Jingzhou or Temporal Manipulation.  However, Walk the Aeons is not just a 6 mana Time Warp, it has a bonus with buyback.  Some people like to “hard lock” the table with Azusa, Lost but Seeking + Crucible of Worlds + Walk the Aeons, but that is rare.  Often times the game is just running long and you may have 10 + lands in play and being able to take 2 or 3 extra turns in a row is all you need to take complete control of the game.  While it may not be as popular as Time Warp due to the extra colorless, it can be a powerful alternative.

So there we go, 20 pieces of blue tech.  The road is longer and more difficult than I imagined, but I believe I’ll get through the 160+ cards I was hoping for.  Next up is black, and I’m sure that aside from Blue, it will have the most “tricky” cards.  Questions and comments are appreciated…  The ETA on the black article is about 2 weeks, but I’ll try to get it done quicker…

Posted by: belchersucks | March 3, 2011

Cheap Tech – White

One of the comments I hear from newer players is that Commander is too expensive to enter the format.  One of the increasingly common grumbles of veteran commander players is that all of the staples and tech cards in Commander are spiking.  I’m sorry to say that Sol Ring, Demonic Tutor, and Mana Crypt will only continue to rise in price (assuming Commander stays popular) until there is a critical mass of reprints on them.  These format staples will only rise if the Commander precons don’t contain them.

So what can we, the Commander public, do about price spikes and the impending horde of new players (who will not only drive up the prices of Commander staples but complain about the cost while they are doing it)?  I say it is time to scour the history of Magic for powerful effects and scour the store websites for deals on them.  With this, I’d like to present the first part of my Cheap Tech Series.  What does it take to be cheap tech?  It has to be some combination of  powerful, unique/odd, and available on a major website for a $1 or less at the time of my publication (Major websites referenced include TrollandToad.com, StarCityGames.com, and ChannelFireball.com).  The final list will end up being about 100+ strong.

At this point there are some who are asking themselves, “I don’t care about budget cards, why would I read this?”  Most of the foil versions of these  cards are relatively cheap so if you find something interesting you can pimp it out without having to drop $10+, which is nice for a change.

Archon of Justice

The Archon has respectable stats, but the real value of the card is the leaves play ability.  There are few effects that can make exile a card from play and this one is a little more work.  However, when you start looking at the synergies the Archon has with such cards as Emeria, the Sky Ruin and Debtors’ Knell, you can realize some absurd possibilities of a never ending stream of exile effects.

Concerted Effort

When I look at Concerted Effort, I immediately dread the sweeper that wipes away all the cool creatures you put into play to enable it.  However, that is not always the case so the Effort can be amazing.  Whether it is making your whole team have the abilities of Paladin en-Vec or Mirran Crusader, things can get quite serious with Concerted Effort.  There are some keyworded abilities that don’t get shared as they were not made (or ignored) when Concerted Effort was printed.  The enchantment won’t share: Shadow, Lifelink, Intimidate, or Deathtouch.

Crackdown

Crackdown had an awesome name.   For a long time, I wasn’t enamored with the effect of Crackdown.  People tried to to use it, but it never really caught on while Crackdown was in Extended or Standard as Meekstone was just better when people wanted that type of effect.  So why would you want to consider Crackdown over Meekstone in Commander?  Crackdown doesn’t affect white creatures while Meekstone does.   If your group shuns white beaters, than it can mean your Divinity of Pride or Sharuum the Hegemon can swing in as much as he wants but their Woodfall Primus is locked down.   The other real difference is the amount of artifact removal vs enchantment removal.  There are just more ways typically being played to wreck artifacts in a lot of groups.

Crusading Knight

The Knight is one of my favorite answers to a play group dominated with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.  Most of the other ways to hose swamps have some sort of backside for your as well as anyone else.  The Knight, however, just grows to be a 20+ power beater with ease.  Even if Urborg doesn’t infest your group, you can run your own to make the Crusading Knight huge.  Quick tip about Urborg: it can be played in any deck as it has no color identity despite normally producing black mana.

Death or Glory

Mass reanimation is not typically associated with White, but here it is.  Unlike Fact or Fiction, with Death and Glory you split and your opponent chooses which one you get so its best to make sure both choices are good for you.  It’s hard to have and big tips or hints with this card.  The main factor is it offers an effect that is fairly unique for white.  Like most mass reanimation cards, it works well with Evoke creatures, persist creatures, and just anything that has an enters the battlefield trigger or sacrifices itself for it’s ability.

Debt of Loyalty

In a format where sweepers are plenty, Debt of Loyalty is an interesting card.  On one hand it can save your guy from a removal spell, but it’s real purpose is saving another player’s fatty.  If that creature has to be regenerated, you gain control of it.  If your opponent has a huge fatty like Stormtide Leviathan in play and another player plays a Day of Judgment to reset the board, you can keep the Stormtide to yourself.  That’s a lot of game changing power packed into a 3 mana instant.

Global Ruin

It’s a less painful Armageddon.  It will always hit non-basic lands aside from the Ravnica and ABUR “Dual Lands”.  While it is no Ravages of War, it can back up your aggressive strategy if you find yourself wanting more Armageddon style effects.  On the flip side, it is a card that encourages you to build around it with a 5 Color “Domain” deck.  The one real downside is this jerk called Sundering Titan.  He’s just too oppressive to make the “Domain” strategy work.

Hokori, Dust Drinker

There aren’t going to be a lot of Legends on here.  The best ones typically have been found and appreciated by some segment of the Magic community.  Hokori has not yet been embraced because of how “jerkish” it is.  Hokori is Winter Orb on legs.  So what does that mean?  Suit it up with some equipment and you have a viable path to victory while locking down your opponent.  It’s a solid utility general but it can rub some people the wrong way.

Honor the Fallen

It’s hard to be a fan of this utility card.  It provides an answer to graveyard abuse strategies while giving you a bonus of life gain.  There is nothing too crazy or mind blowing, it just has a purpose and does it well.  Being an instant is also very nifty and can net you an advantage when played in response to Patriarch’s Bidding or the like.  The downside, compared to cards like Tormod’s Crypt and Relic of Progenitus, is that it doesn’t handle non creatures so you can still fall victim to Mindslaver lock or Crucible of Worlds abuse.

Magus of the Disk

I’m not going to pretend that I like my sweepers attached to smallish creatures, but the Magus has a few good things going for it.  First off, he’s got a big butt.  While 4 toughness is not that much, 3 is still the magic number for much spot removal.  While the occasional Flametongue Kavu or Sudden Death may nuke the Magus, it’s more likely that a Damnation or Vindicate will have to be spent on it.  Having a Nevinyrral’s Disk on legs also makes it easier to recur with cards like Emeria, the Sky Ruin.  Then, of course, there is the combo of Magus of the Disk + Darksteel Plate or Shield of Kaldra.  It’s hard to not like a combo that allows you spend a single mana to wipe the board at will in a repeatable manner.

Oblation

A lot of people frown on Oblation as they believe that allowing your opponent to draw two cards is not worth the effect.  I am not one of those people and I can’t champion this card strongly enough.  The most basic use of it is to hide someone’s General in their deck.  If you destroy or exile an opponent’s General, that player can have it go to the Command Zone instead to simply recast it again.  This is one of those fundamental concepts.  However, you Oblation it back into their deck and now they (most likely) will have a difficult time getting access to their general quickly for a minimal downside.  Another aspect that makes Oblation so worthwhile is the ability to handle most anything that would trouble you.  Aside from an irksome land, Oblation can handle anything in its path.  A lesser known application is targeting a permanent you own that has been taken by another play, such as when an opponent casts Control Magic on your Wurmcoil Engine.  In that case your fatty goes back into your deck and you draw 2 cards.  Seems fine to me…

Planar Cleansing

There are few board sweepers that are so thorough.  The “blind spot” of Planar Cleansing can actually be a plus if people think it is funny to cast Natural Affinity or use Kamahl, Fist of Krosa when another player wipes the board.  Planar Cleansing can even compare to Akroma’s Vengeance, one of the better 6 mana sweepers.  Planar Cleansing trades in cycling (and adds a white mana requirement) for the ability to handle Planeswalkers.  In many groups that can be worth the trade offs .  Sometimes you just want to sweep the board 6 or 7 times a game and Planar Cleansing is a great choice to include when playing as many board sweepers as possible.

Purity

There has been a definite lack of fatties on this list, and I’m afraid that his one offering won’t be enough to satisfy the urge many feel to turn big dudes sideways.  There is a reason for the lack of fatties.  Most of the ones I consider good (heck even ones I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole) are above a dollar.  The lone exception of excellence is Purity.  The ability to turn direct damage into life gain isn’t going to happen all that much.  What I’m more interested in is the solid 6/6 flying frame that can shuffle back into your deck to prevent random deck outs.  To be fair, Purity is not exactly friendly in multi colored decks, but when you expand into other colors you can find some other options.

Retribution of the Meek

One the signatures of commander games, outside of some guy being “proactive” and combo killing the entire table, is that the boards tend to get gummed up with plenty of warm bodies.  That cold hard fact is what makes playing aggressive strategies in Commander reckless and unpopular.  Retribution of the Meek is one of the few cards that can encourage and enable a bum rush tactic.  Also, this card may have a place in Doran, the Siege Tower decks as the high defense creatures the deck thrives on don’t typically have big attacks.

Reverent Mantra


While the value of “pitch” spells is typically seen as much less valuable in Commander than other constructed formats, I disagree.  The fact that you can protect your creatures from Inferno even when tapped out is huge.  However, there is a major downside to Reverent Mantra.  It doesn’t just protect your creatures, it protects everyone’s creatures.  Sometimes you may want to save your team, but your chances of victory are much fewer if your opponent’s horde of Elves stay in play which can make it tough to cast the Mantra.  On the other hand, you are able to use this downside to an advantage by making someone’s potentially lethal attack punch through another player’s defenses.

Sacred Mesa

This old school favorite has been around since Mirage and was last released as a Time Shifted card from Time Spiral.  The Mesa has a slightly odd upkeep condition where you have to sacrifice a Pegasus.  It’s possible to play this turn 3, then make the Pegasus during your upkeep to sacrifice it.  You can also have 5 Pegasus in play, but wish to go for the beats so making a winged horse during your upkeep to sacrifice lets your entire army swing.  Sacred Mesa really play wells with cards like Gauntlet of Power and Mirari’s Wake.  Not only do they allow you generate more Pegasus, but they grow your fleet.  The difference between a 2/2 and a 1/1 is huge, especially in EDH where gang blocking to trade is more common.  Sacred Mesa also works well with it’s friend on the list World Queller.  The Mesa can turn your World Queller into a nearly costless The Abyss with the Mesa around to create fodder.

Sunblast Angel

I’m not sure why more people are excited about Sunblast Angel.  It’s a board wiper that will nearly always leave your team unharmed.  It’s one of the few board wipes that works nicely with reanimation effects and it has a great frame for a utility creature.  When you consider all it does, I think that Sunblast Angel is going to end up being a Commander favorite and may wind up not being under a dollar  for long.  I expect it to start rising gradually as Scars of Mirrodin is no longer drafted and then leaves Standard.

Tariff

White has a lot of interesting “taxation” effects, but my favorite is Tariff.  The easy comparison is to Innocent Blood, but the effect is much more specialized.  While Innocent Blood is normally going to hit each player’s weakest creature, Tariff will probably hit a players biggest and baddest beater.  The downside is that your best and brightest is affected as well.  Yet that is easy enough to rectify either by playing Tariff only when you can mitigate the collateral damage or benefit with creatures that don’t mind leaving play.  Tariff is great against “Voltron” generals such as Uril, the Miststalker or Scion of the Ur-Dragon as many people tap a good portion of their mana on most turns to either cast their general or make it beefy.

Wave of Reckoning

This sweet little thing is gaining attention in Doran, the Siege Tower decks.  The Wave provides the ability to sweep out the majority of the opposing creatures while leaving your army relatively unscathed as you are amply prepared with big booty dudes.  Outside of Doran decks, the Wave is less decisive than many sweepers which causes it to see very little play.  However, if your group has a lot of token decks and X/X generals, then the Wave can be worth it anyway.  It’s a niche card, for sure, but I like the unique quality of it and how it impact games.

World Queller

Its very rare for a card to compare favorably to Braids, Cabal Minion the way that World Queller does.  If WQ was general, the cries for its banning would be deafening.  The selective sacrifice ability is quite unfair.  You can name a permanent type that you don’t have in play to just hamper a few players.  Whatever permanent type one chooses with World Queller, it always will be in your best interest which is a type of versatility that Braids could never offer.  I have used it in many of my mono white decks as a means of repeatable board control and another way to answer planeswalkers.

So that’s it for this installment.  Next up is Blue and all the crazy things you can do to (and steal from) your opponents.

Posted by: belchersucks | February 22, 2011

The Lost Worlds

Magic has been around for a long time and there have been some forgotten mechanics over the years.  Today, I’d like to about one of my favorites mechanics from Magic’s early years, World Enchantments (previously Enchant World).  Introduced in Legends and last seen in Visions, I doubt many players have experience with World Enchantments.  The whole concept of a World Enchantment was that its effect was designed to change the entire feeling of the game, similar in intent to the modern Planechase concept.  Here’s a brief rules primer for those who aren’t familiar with World Enchantments:

There can only be one world enchantment in play.  When a World Enchantment would enter the battlefield, any other World Enchantment in play is put into the graveyard (not destroyed, just put into the graveyard).  If two or more World Enchantments would enter the battlefield at the same time, all those World enchantments are sent to their owners graveyard.

Enchantments are typically thought of as one of the more durable permanent types in Commander, after Planeswalkers, yet these have a weakness.  Why would anyone want to play them?  There are some World Enchantments that are extremely powerful, some are fairly unique in what they offer, and sometimes the metagame can impact the tools a play needs to succeed.

The War of the Worlds

One of the more unique aspects of World Enchantments are how they can override the previous World Enchantment in play.  This is especially important when more World Enchantments show up in your group.  There are some colors which can’t answer Enchantments very well.  For example, if your Heartless Hidetsugu deck is getting hosed by The Abyss then perhaps plopping in a World Enchantment or two can provide an answer for you.   The downside with this strategy comes when you are holding onto your World Enchantment and having to wait, sometimes forever, for it to happen.  The best way to mitigate that problem is to  find a World enchantment that would fit into your deck regardless of the need to have an answer to an opposing World Enchantment.  So what are some of the more powerful and unique World Enchantments?

The Abyss

The Abyss suffers from a terminology changes.  Rather than “bury” a card, The Abyss causes the creature to be destroyed without the potential for regeneration.  It is important to comprehend that the turn player choose which creature of theirs that The Abyss targets.  This is a point of contention for some players as the cards seems much less powerful when compared to an optimized version of The Abyss where you get to make all the decisions.  To those players, I respond that their dream card doesn’t exist and the one that does is really good.

The Abyss encourages you to build around it by playing creatures with shroud and/or Pro Black, artifact creatures, or just few creatures in general.  A simple Lightning Greaves or Whispersilk Cloak can keep your general out of The Abyss while the enchantment carves open a path for your general to rush into.

Concordant Crossroads

Nearly 10 years before Mirrodin, Mass Hysteria was a green card.  Concordant Crossroads provides some relatively unique for green mages to tap into.  One of the biggest draw backs of Green fatties compared to other colors is their lack of protection capabilities (such as Shroud or Protection from a color) or haste.  The cooler and more powerful your fatty was, the less the likely you were you untap with it.  Concordant Crossroads was and still is a solution for those issues.  The difference a turn makes is huge.  Whether it is an haste fueled surprise smack down from a fatty or  a stream of mana creatures that immediately  use their abilities to play more stuff, Crossroads fits into a lot of green strategies.

Hall of Gemstones

I really love this card.  Its the type of random old cards that doesn’t appear to do much of anything until you read it a couple times.  Breaking it down, each turn the active turn player chooses a color.  For the duration of that turn, ever land in play taps for only that color.  The practical applications of this card are numerous.  Against counterspell bases decks, it prevents them from interfering with your spells.  Hall of Gemstone becomes especially brutal against multicolor opponents.  While it is far from a hard lock, it can annoy and slow down a lot of the three color decks.  The Hall can make it nearly impossible for some players to cast their Commander.  While I won’t suggest that Hall of Gemstone is on the same level of ridiculousness as Back to Basics, Blood Moon, and Magus of the Moon, the Hall is quite absurd and gives green something along those lines.

Forsaken Wastes

Forsaken Wastes is one of the few cards available that can stop life gain.  Furthermore, it is one of the few ways outside of red that can provide that effect.  While Sulfuric Vortex, Everlasting Torment, and Leyline of Punishment could be better options in a deck like Kaervek the Merciless, Forsaken Wastes fits into decks such as Zur.  A notable feature of it the deterrent against targeted removal, not an element that many enchantments can offer.  While the life loss provided by Forsaken Wastes may not be that powerful in Commander, it does mesh well with some of the more hated effects in Commander such as Sorin Markov or Magister Sphinx.

Nether Void

Nether Void is one of those cards that is never going to do something “nice.”  The only real use for Nether Void is in a Prison or Stax type deck such as the Braids, Cabal Minion deck that led to Braid’s eventual banning.  So what type of cards work well with Nether Void?  Winter Orb and Static Orb can slow the game down glacially.  Grand Arbiter Augustin IV, Thorn of Amethyst, Sphere of Resistance, and Trinisphere can make the taxes so punishing your opponents can’t even cast spells.  Nether Void is never going to make you friends, but I think if you build a deck with it you aren’t looking for anything but strong competition.

Mystic Decree

Mystic Decree has some hilarious applications.  If  Stormtide Leviathan makes regular appearances in your group, this can provide a hilarious lock down of sorts.  Island Sanctuary is able to work with Mystic Decree to lock out other players from sending their creatures at you.  It’s important to note that the combo with Island Sanctuary won’t save your Planeswalkers from attacks.  On it’s own, it does make you able to hold the fort down with walls and/or fatties that may not necessarily fly.  Another interesting interaction is that if the creature were to gain flying later on, such as from Morphling‘s innate ability, it could soar over the rest of the creatures on the table.

Winter’s Night

It’s one part Mana Flare and one part hoser.  The best way to look at is as letting you spend “future” mana, not as a straight forward mana “doubler”.  It can give you 8 on turn 4 (Sundering Titan on turn 4, yay!) but it likely reduces your available mana to 2 on turn 5.  So what strategic benefit is this?  If you are the only one rocking a snow mana base, you don’t have to share the Flare.  (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)  As a hate card, it probably draws considerably less ire because of how impotent it can be on execution.  Barring ridiculous mana ramp like Gauntlet of Power or Mirari’s Wake, it doesn’t put that much of a hurt on people.  However, suppose Winter Orb, Hokori, Dust Drinker, and Rising Waters are in your meta and the drawback is much less of a drawback.

Land’s Edge

For when you really need another Seismic Assault.  The trade off, aside from carrying with it the responsibilities of a World Enchantment, is that while it is less color specific the effect is open for all to use.  Of course it is likely that the person casting Land’s Edge is more equipped to have synergy with it compared to their opponents.

Storm World

It’s The Rack, but it hurts all players.  While this card feels more at home in a Black deck than a Mono Red deck, it does provide a powerful effect.  I’ve seen it put into good use in a Grixis deck featuring such synergistic cards as Phyrexian Tyranny, Megrim, Underworld Dreams, and Urza’s Guilt.  I feel that it has a place, but the effect isn’t that interesting.

Tombstone Stairwell

Tombstone Stairwell can bring on the Zombie Apocalypse.  This is the type of card where you can take advantage of peoples lack of respect for graveyard hate.  The Stairwell is right at home in an Iname, Death Aspect or a Balthor the Defiled deck.  The best part of this Zombie Apocalypse is that everyone gets in on the fun.  Once again, you get home court advantage as you knew that it would be happening.  This is important as you will be getting more Zombies every turn which will keep people from sending in their undead horde at you.  However, if you think your opponent’s shouldn’t have Zombies, then it’s nice to have access to lots of great graveyard removal such as Nihil Spellbomb or Leyline of the Void.  Now if you are getting 10 or more Zombies a turn, you should have some way to abuse all those coming and going undead.  Some of the better ways to harness this energy include Carrion Feeder, Vengeful Dead, and Altar of Dementia (to get even more Zombie fuel).  Vengeful Dead, in particular can win the game in a few turns by draining your opponent for tons of life every go around on the table while generating plenty of chump blockers.

Koskun Falls

Just what I always wanted, a Black Propaganda variant.  I get the feeling, looking at the upkeep cost, that there was a definite fear of Koskun Falls + Stasis locking people out (which, funnily enough, became an extended decks years later when Propaganda was printed.)  Much like Propaganda and Ghostly Prison, the Falls won’t protect your Planeswalkers.  If you are playing a prison deck, this may end up being what you are looking for.  Just don’t try to have the Falls out with Nether Void in play.

Eye of Singularity

In a format that’s identity is shaped by playing only 1 of each non basic cards, the usefulness of Eye of Singularity may be surprising.  With so many “auto-includes” the Eye can turn spamming out Sol Ring, Lightning Greaves and the like into a downside.  The Eye really shines when you have to go up against token decks as it becomes the Wrath effect that keeps on giving. Sadly, there are few ways to truly abuse the Eye.  Sun Titan can provide you with a recurring way to bring back common permanents which is nice.   The Eye also pairs up well with Clone effects, allowing the Clone to truly take over it’s inspirations life.  If you wanted to build a deck around these interactions, Leyline of Singularity provides another style of this effect but with much less of an advantage.  The Leyline only provides mutual destruction as opposed to leaving the freshest copy alive.

Null Chamber

This card can cause a lot of upset feelings.  Suppose in a 4 man game, you have a Black Mage, a Red Mage, a Green Mage, and yourself.  You say to the Green Mage, “I’ll name the Red Mage’s  general if you name the Black Mage’s general.”  The Green Mage agrees and now the only two decks that can almost never get rid of the Null Chamber can’t cast their generals.  Nice.  Card.  If this is the type of tactic that won’t cause projectile vomit all over you group’s table, it could be neat to try.  However, if your group frowns on these type of tactics, don’t be surprised when every resource gets thrown at you.  Returning to the example, while the Green Mage made a deal with you, one sure way to get rid of Null Chamber is to kill the person who played it.

A Brave New World

While there are certainly more World Enchantments out there, these are the ones that I feel are the best or most unique.  I hope that I’ve managed to highlight some strategies for you to implement in your local playgroup.  While there are certainly some expensive World Enchantments, most of them are a dollar or two, tops.  Perhaps some day there will be more Worlds to explore, but until then it’s time to show people the power of random old cards that mess up the gamestate.

-BelcherSucks

Posted by: belchersucks | February 16, 2011

The Snow Package

A few years back Coldsnap was released and manged to become a big dud.  It had some cool cards, but nothing terribly effective or noteworthy in the greater scheme of things.  Eerily enough, if Coldsnap was printed before Mirage then it would have been revolutionary and changed Magic forever.  Instead, Coldsnap is the set that stole Saviors of Kamigawa’s reputation as the modern Homelands.

One of the marquee mechanics of Coldnsnap was “Snow Matters.”  In a manner similar to Zendikar’s Allies or Kamigawa’s Spirits, the theme is more powerful the more one theme cards you have..  These mechanics typically seem to be great for limited and flounder in constructed until the tribe or theme reach a critical mass of support.  While Sliver Queen decks were around before Legions, they were fairly mediocre.  Even after Legions enhanced the horde, it wasn’t until the release of Time Spiral that Sliver decks exploded onto the Commander  scene and subsequently  gained even more tools.  Comparing the Slivers to Snow, there just hasn’t been any new support to make the ability go from footnote to superstar.

Being a footnote in the history books doesn’t mean the Snow matters mechanic doesn’t have a place in Commander.  Far before the Eldrazi has people complaining the color pie was shattered, Mouth of Ronom gave color pie devotees fits.  However, the mechanic that was created to make Coldsnap backwards compatible with Ice Age and Alliances has  few friends in those sets and even more enemies.  While Coldsnap spent a lot of resources making snow matter, Ice Age had it as largely irrelevant unless you wanted to walk into lots of peculiar hate.

So what does a Snow package have to offer a Commander deck builder besides the snow basic lands?

Artifacts and Lands

The most powerful and universal cards in the Snow arsenal are Mouth of Ronom, Scrying Sheets, and Coldsteel Heart.  Mouth of Ronom is great for Green and Blue deck which have had difficulty removing creatures.  When coupled with the recursion of Crucible of Worlds or Life from the Loam, it can help control utility creatures.  Scrying Sheets is also an incentive for running many Snow permanents.   When combined with format staples like  Sensei’s Divining Top or Crystal Ball, Scrying Sheets is capable of providing a stream card advantage.  While Coldsteel Heart is never going to be on anyone’s list for being too good, it is a solid role player.  It can be a snow friendly replacement for a diamond, a supplement to a diamond in a mono color deck, or a mana smother in an “Enemy” color pair deck where access to mana fixing is more scarce compared to “Ally” color pairs.

Phyrexian Ironfoot is notable for a few reasons.  While a 3/4 is not very large, the fact that it be untapped at will is fairly unique.  Also, the mana cost to size ratio is quite favorable even with its apparent “drawback”.  It’s not very often you’ll see a creature that wants to hang out with Opposition as much as Phyrexian Ironfoot.    With Sunstone we finally get our first Ice Age card in here.  Sunstone is a one card Fog engine that is sure to draw someone’s ire.  It can be used multiple times so don’t be surprised if multiple opponent’s decide the best way to stop the stream of fogs is gang up on you.  However, it does grant the ability to expend a relatively minor resource to keep another player in the game should you wish to get political.

Coldsnap actually offers one key piece of support for Multicolor strategies in the Snow “Tap” Lands that are reminiscent of the original cycle in Invasion.  So nothing is too crazy or revolutionary here.  It’s just that these are solid dual colored lands for players on a budget or who aren’t afraid of having too many nonbasic lands.

White

While white doesn’t have anything amazing that screams “Go Snow”, it does have a few unique and strong cards that happen to have the Snow super type.  Some players love Angels and Adarkar Valkyrie is one of the stronger ones.  The ability to keep a friend around after a board sweeper is quite nice and it can have some interesting interactions with creatures like Kami of False Hope or Martyr of Sands.  Of the two relevant White snow cards, the one I enjoy is Wall of Shards.  A big flying Wall is nothing too exciting until you look at the cumulative upkeep cost.  The choice is yours as to whether share the wealth among all the players at the table or wield the political power it provides and forge an alliance.  I once gave a player with Necropotence in play around 14 life in exchange for leaving me be.  I went on to win that game as the Necropotence player was able to knock the other player’s out before his resources started dwindling.  Keep in mind that Cumulative Upkeep is always optional so you can just stop giving out life if you don’t need the Wall of Shards anymore.

Black

Sure Black has some Snow cards, but they sorta suck.  The only notable exception seems to be Withering Wisp.  While the restriction on it can make it worse than Pestilence, the lowered converted mana cost can occasionally be relevant.  Some interactions worth noting include Sun Titan and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth.  When playing with Sun Titan, the Wisps could be better than Pestilence as you are able to get them back.  The interesting interaction with Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is that Withering Wisps doesn’t check fro the name of the card.  It checks for lands that have the land type Swamp and the super type Snow.  So with 3 Snow-Covered Plains, a Mouth of Ronom, and an Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth in play you could active Withering Wisps a total of 4 times per turn.

Blue

While Black ended up with the Short end of the stick, Blue ended up with the bizarre end.  The way that snow mattered for Blue in Coldsnap was mostly through Wizards who could only use their abilities when enough snow permanents were around.  Aside from Heidar, they stunk.  While Heidar is more expensive than the comparable Temporal Adept, his condition is easy enough to meet.  Heidar is much more splashable with only a single blue mana in his casting cost.  Also, having a bigger butt is a nice thing.  Rimefeather Owl is a great card to run in a deck using the snow package if your group is the type that embraces giant fatties and frowns on land destruction.  There will be times where it grows into a 40/40 nightmare.  The Owl can also turn Cabal Coffers into a snow land to let you super charge your Snow mana production.

Of course what would the Blue section of Snow be without a bit of Snowfall.  This card is ridiculous.  It is the blue equivalent of Mana Flare/Heartbeat of Spring, but just for cumulative upkeep.  The card itself has cumulative upkeep, but the cost is fairly marginal compared to normal cumulative upkeeps of a single mana.  Snowfall’s ability to enhance mana production makes it actively easier to pay for it’s own upkeep.  It’s first 3 Cumulative upkeeps only take a single snow Island.  Not too bad.  The problem is what cards do you really want to use with cumulative upkeep to compliment Snowfall?  I’d start out by looking at Ancestral Knowledge, Dreams of the Dead, and Breath of Dreams

Green

What is Green good at?  Making mana of course!  Coldsnap is no exception to this rule as it provides yet another mana elf in Boreal Druid.  While not as “powerful” as the other mana elves, it is a mana elf that can be seen with Scrying Sheets.  I’m a fan of it.  Most of the time it gets me some early mana and then finds a Skullclamp…  On the other end of the mana spectrum is Into the North.  This is perhaps the most powerful variant of Rampant Growth printed and it’s only drawback is using snow land.  The key thing here is gets any snow land, not just snow basics and that means easier access to your utility snow lands.  While I’m not a huge fan of Dark Depths in Commander, I recognize that some like it.  To the people who like Dark Depths, I urge them not to forget about Into the North which is a tutor for it.

Green also has Ohran Viper as a card that happens to be snow, but doesn’t fit only in a snow strategy.  It’s not a card I’ve been fond of either, from the time is was over hyped in standard, or being just a snake among the fatties and fliers of Commander.  At least this snake does have some venom so it can bust through a lot of the utility creatures in this format.  The green contribution from Ice Age certainly sits in unique space.  You have a card that is easy to recur multiple times in a single turn.  It can be the type of card to switch your resources around (from cards in play to cards in hand) and I’m sure that there could be some synergy there if you are looking for it.  Off the top of my head, I have Zombie Infestation.  Of course there is always just casting the spell.  It can be advantageous to ambush a bunch of dragons and angels or let another player do the ambushing!  I’m not going to call this card ridiculous, but Whiteout has some possibilities.

Red


I have saved the best for last, I truly have.  Skred is a personal favorite of mine as a way to kill fatties for only a single mana.  While it is no Swords to Plowshares, Skred can fill in a gap in many decks for its great utility.  Rimescale Dragon is just a dumb animal, but has a very real impact on the game.  I won’t pretend that Rimescale Dragon doesn’t feel “blue,” but it’s ability to ice down his enemies is both flavorful and powerful.  If your group likes big dumb animals, I’d check it out.

Stalking Yeti was card with a lot of promise when it was originally printed.  However, it was not the second coming of Flametongue Kavu back when standard hit.  However, the Yeti does have a place in Commander.  If your playgroup over emphasizes cheaper utility creatures, they are typically vulnerable to the Yeti’s ability to pick fights.  When coupled with the rare (for red at least) ability to return to its owner hand, you can put down a jihad against mana dorks.  The last of our “Snow Matters” cards is Glacial Crevasses.  This is just another reminder that back in the good old gunslinger days of Magic design, flavor was worth more than the color pie.  If you thought Sunstone was awesome, then Glacial Crevasses must take your breath away.  I can just imagine some Vorthos yelling at his table, “You can’t hurt me cuz I’m hiding in a CAVE!  Anyway, this card does have some practical applications much like Sunstone.  The free mana cost of the effect makes it ideal for protecting your Planeswalkers in the early game.  Most intriguing is the fact that it can survive reds own Jokulhaupsto set up some post blow up the world support.  Again, the drawback here is that people will see the shenanigans of a red deck with a repeatable way of prevent combat damage and just decide you need to die.  One other fine point is that while Sunstone lets you sacrifice any snow land, Glacial Crevasses demands a snow Mountain.

Risks and Rewards of the Snow Package

There are times where being in the Snow package can leave at a disadvantage or a great advantage regardless of the contents of your own deck.  If Extraplanar Lens is popular in your area, then you may lose your chance to “ride” another players Lens unless they are also in the Snow package.  However, if you use Extraplanar Lens and switch to a Snow package, then your opponent will be unable to get a ride on your Lens.  Wake of Destruction is also interesting.  If you are typically just “splash” damage from the player packing Wake of Destruction, switching up on whether you are Snow or not can be a great way to avoid it.  However, if you run the opposite package compared to the rest of the table, you may be the only one who gets hurt.

The Partial Snow

Back when I was using Braids, Cabal Minion (who has since been banned), I started using the Partial Snow package.  The benefits of it are few, but occasionally worth it.  Tainted Pact was the card I wanted to get the most out of.  By getting my 12 Swamps to be half snow and half regular, I was able to minimize the risk of a bad Pact.  Another benefit is avoiding a total wipe out from Wake of Destruction.  There could be more, but those are the key ones I could come up with.  I guess not pumping up someone’s Rimefeather Owl is another advantage if you only want “some snow”.  With fetch lands as prevalent as they are, you can run Mouth of Ronom in a partial snow deck.

Answering Snow

While Coldsnap had few cards to hinder Snow, Ice Age had no shortage.  I’m not sure why anyone could have played snow back when Ice Age was released as the sheer amount of random hate is mindboggling.  Creatures randomly have Snow landwalk abilities and Avalanche was around to mess up your lands. Coldsnap added Freyalise’s Radiance which is mildly annoying.  I’ve had the displeasure of getting loccked down for 3 turns by it, but the effect is usually marginal.  In most formats like Commander, the Radiance is a non issue.

Unlike Freyalise’s Radiance, Cold Snap actually accomplishes something.  I’ve been killed by this card exactly once in my magic career.  My opponent in a 5 Color Magic deck and I had it out for a long and epic game.  We had each  gone through over 100 of our 250 cards and I figured my better collection would overpower him soon.  I had a 15 point lead, would win on the next untap step.  He draws his Enlightened Tutor, fetches Cold Snap, spins his top, casts Cold Snap, and passes the turn.  I draw my card and he says good game.  I read the card and realize the 30 snow basics I have in play have killed me.  Nowdays, I always keep Cold Snap in the back of my mind while I run the Snow Package.  If you decide that Cold Snap would be prudent in your playgroup, I wouldn’t forget that it interacts favorably with Sun Titan so you avoid paying the Cumulative Upkeep.

It’s Over?  It’s Finally Over?

There is a lot to be gained with the Snow package, but not that much to lose.  The cost of the snow package is relatively cheap until you try to foil out your deck.  Furthermore, some of the social risks like bearing Wake of Destruction alone or missing out on a free ride from an opponent’s Extraplanar Lens will dissipate as more of your playgroup adopts the snow package.  The vast majority of my mono colored decks have some amount of snow in them.

-BelcherSucks

Posted by: belchersucks | January 30, 2011

Financial Planning in EDH

Many Magic players find themselves with a budget.  Sometimes the budget is just a question of how much and when.  Other times, it is how one should expend their resources over several formats with long term goals in mind.  To that end, I want to highlight some formats and how a few powerful EDH cards, with decent to high price tags, can be part of a larger plan.

From EDH to Vintage?

It’s not that crazy of a proposition.  A good EDH collection will end up with many of most powerful cards ever printed, but rarely more than one except for staples across multiple decks.  Due to to the sheer number of restricted cards, this can make getting a deck for 10 Proxy Vintage events a reasonable goal.  Some very powerful cards that are restricted in Vintage and legal in EDH:

It’s not just for Vintage that EDH can help expand your collection towards.  As fetch lands and dual lands can make an EDH deck much better, it means you can inch towards legacy.  Many legacy decks are using valuable singletons (or sometimes a few copies) of very powerful effects.  EDH decks don’t mind having access to these cards.  Good examples of the powerful singleton include Maze of Ith (in many Green/White/Black Junk Decks), The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale (the Legacy Lands deck),  and Moat (UW Counterbalance/Top variants).  So while playing EDH is great for itself, when you start questioning the price tag on some of these cards, just remember they are quite versatile and can lead onto older, more expensive formats one step at a time.

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