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Archive for July, 2009

It looks as though the printing of Cemetery Reaper in the upcoming M10 core set has got some people thinking a Zombie deck might, uh, rise in the standard ranks. Some of these ideas can be found at the Starcity Games forums here. I have been thinking about Zombies for a while too, and when I saw the Reaper I also started to think of the synergy between the new “lord” and the the rest of the shambling masses.

However, making a viable rouge deck is pretty tough. I don’t like to play something that has no chance of winning. So, when I sat down and put my Zombie ideas to paper, it became clear, as it always does with sudden ideas, that making a viable zombie deck isn’t as easy as it might seem.

Does this mean it is impossible, though? Maybe.

First, zombies won’t win a battle with any of the other creatures decks in the meta; at least not in a stand-up-fight. Zombies would have to be sneaky, or find a way to deal with monsters bigger than they are.

Second, removal is everwhere. Zombies will bite it to almost every sweeper unless there is something powering them up, and very few of them can survive  spot removal or burn. Zombies would have to be able to weather the storm somehow, or more likely, quickly re-populate the board after a wipe.

Third, the actually good zombies are in every frickin’ color, meaning if I threw them all in, it would be a 5C zombie deck. Not going to happen. I had to look at the spells and zombies in each color and decide which best complimented each other.

Zombies do have a few things going for them.  Surpisingly, there are quite a few good zombie cards out there. Secondly, if constructed  and played right, a Zombie deck can be quite resilient. The zombie “lords” also play very well together. Finally, some very nice spells are avaliable for all zombie color choices.   

So I looked at the zombies and looked at the different combinations. I also had to figure out how zombies could win in this unstable meta. I assumed Mono-White, Mono-Red, Jund, 5CB, Elves, Faeries and Fog decks will be popular.

Here are some preliminary ideas I came up with:

Jund Zombies by Colin Merry

Creatures
4 Grixis Grimblade
4 Putrid Leech
4 Death Baron
4 Cemetery Reaper
4 Shambling Corpse
4 Chameleon Colossus

Spells
3 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Blightning
4 Lightning Bolt
2 Thoughtseize

Land (tentative)
4 Savage Land
4 Reflecting Pool
2 Graven Carins
2 Twilight Mire
4 Dragonskull Summit
4 Swamp
2 Mountain
2 Forest

Sideboard (tentative)
2 Thoughtseize
3 Thought Hemorrhage
3 Stillmoon Cavalier
2 Banefire
1 Maelstrom Pulse
4 More things

The straight-forward Zombie beatdown deck. I had to cheat and put Chameleon Colossus in there, but the deck runs green and he is amazing.  The removal, Lightning Bolt especially, helps with the early threats or the creatures that will be a problem later (ie. Figure of Destiny, other “lords”) and should buy the deck some time to establish itself. Thoughtseize and Malestrom pulse will have to deal with power-boosting enchantments and planeswalkers. The direct damage aspect of Blightning and L-Bolt should help deal with the last few points of damage, should the board stagnate.

I didn’t like Death Baron at first, but he’s the only real way Zombies will be able to deal with the more powerful creatures out there aside from the removal. He might also be good at ending stalemates, as you can continually send in a guy with deathtouch to eliminate a blocker, then make the dead critter rise from the grave for you with the Reaper.

The Jund Zombies could use some fine tuning, but I barely put that one down before another idea, one I was a bit more excited about, came to mind.

Esper Zombies by Colin Merry

Creatures
4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Grixis Grimblade*
4 Death Baron
4 Lich Lord of Unx
4 Cemetery Reaper

Spells
4 Thoughtseize
4 Ajani Goldmane
2 Esper Charm
2 Path to Exile
3 Agony Warp
1 Sleep

Land (tentative)
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Reflecting Pool
4 Drowned Catacomb
4 Fetid Heath
2 Sunken Ruins
2 Swamp
2 Plains
3 Islands

Sideboard
1 Esper Charm
3 Deathmark
1 Path to Exile
2 Reveillark
2 Necromancer’s Covenant
3 Stillmoon Cavalier
3 Zombie Outlander

Esper Zombies operate a bit differently than Jund Zombies. Esper Zombies are all about stealing the opponents early game thunder and then setting up a situation where they can win without attacking. They can also power up much like a token deck, but with the right conditions, you can field and entire army without even playing another card.

Lich Lord of Unx is the centerpiece of this deck. He can make guys without restrictions, for less than the Reaper, and his second ability does quite a bit. It robs the opponent of resources, it makes them lose life in the process and it also feeds Cemetery Reaper. 

Two “lords” and Ajani help give this deck the same advantages of a Mono-White/Token deck, albiet a little slower. The hand disruption and removal is again key to letting Zombies get set up. Esper Charm is there mostly to deal with any power-boosting enchantments that slip through and can provide (dis)card advantage. Sleep is just kinda neat.

VedalkenGhoul

The other Pudrid Leech?

Again, these are just preliminary ideas. I can see lots of other ways Zombies can be built using these colors or other combinations. However, I feel it is not a good idea to try for more than three colors. I’m not even sure how these mana-base options will work.

*A quick note about Grixis Grimblade. I don’t know how much I like this guy, especially since deathtouch isn’t such a great abilty for him. A 3/2 should kill most things his size, and Death Baron helps by giving everybody deathtouch. I don’t wonder if there is a better option, but I’m not sure what. Zombie Outlander could be good if green decks are popular; Elves, Doran, 4/5CB and such. I also think about the Vedalken Ghoul sometimes. A 1/1 for UB sounds like total crap, but his ability is interesting. He might just be able to creep in there and do enough pinpricks to make him worthwhile if the opponent doesn’t want to lose four life on turn 3 or 4.  Like Putrid Leech, people may not want to block him. If he is killed by removal, the opponent had to use a removal on a stupid 1/1 instead of one of your lords. If he gets enough boosts, or deathtouch, he might even be able to kill a blocker and make the opponent lose life.

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In my last post, I wrote about the M1o cards I thought would be absolute winners in standard. This time, I want to mention a few cards I believe might have the potential to make an impact in the format if the right opportunities present themselves.

Harm’s WayHarm's Way
What makes this card good is the ability to hit the opponent with the prevented 2 damage and the lack of restrictions on what kind of damage can be mitigated. The economical cost is nice too. Harm’s Way can potentially invalidate a spell and punish the opponent for playing it in the first place. However, out of the several decks which could play this, I just don’t see any free space.

Silence
This card has three purposes; 1) keeping your opponent from doing something to upset a guaranteed win during your next turn, 2) keeping a combo from being interrupted, or 3) interrupting a combo. Purpose 2 and 3 depend on any decent combos showing up in the meta, and 1 isn’t relevant enough to put four copies of a card in a deck.

Planar Cleansing
The new Wrath of God costs two more, but it sweeps two more things from the board. Planar Clensing card could be devastating against Kithkin or B/W Token decks, effectively resetting their board to turn one. The question is, will the meta accommodate a six-casting cost sweeper?

Elvish Archdruid
Dynamite in Elf decks either ramping up to big fat creatures or comboing out, but nothing else comes to mind.

Sleep
Sleep could be good in Faeries, I think, if used against decks which can effectively stall late game Fae into Bitterblossom death. Sleep could potentially give you two alpha strikes, or at least one without fear of retribution. I don’ t know if Faeries actually needs this though. 

Haunting Echoes
Under the right circumstances, Haunting Echoes can be devastating. Even if it only manages to tear two or three cards from a deck, that’s still two or three options gone forever.   I could see this being added to something like Sanity Grinding or some other mill deck, though again, I don’ t know if it is necessary, or just neat.  The casting cost is pretty gnarly though, and it doesn’t hit the hand like Thought Hemorrhage.

Gargoyle Castle
This is the closest thing to a “manland” standard will have access to, though unfortunately it doesn’t retain their invulnerability to sweepers. However, the 3/4 permanent flying gargoyle might just be good enough to see the castle getting some play. Nice back-up win condition for control decks.

Darksteel Colossus
The colossus with be a favorite target of Sphinx Summoner and Master Transmuter for quite a while after m10 hits standard. I don’ t know if artifacts will actually be a good choice, but the allure of the 11/11 indestructable trample will have people thinkin’ it might be.

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Tenth Edition is set to rotate out here in little over a weeks time. I’m not going to miss it. I mean that very literally.

The set just didn’t excite me. At all. There were a few shining cards. Other than that, the set was a small number of cards that coulda been contenders if the meta was different and a pile of total junk.

The only real losses I see are the Tenth Edition lands, especially the “Man Lands”.  Treetop Villiage was a reasonable threat which couldn’t be countered or swept away. It always seemed to find a spot in decks running green, as it could go the distance where other creatures couldn’t. Trample didn’t hurt either, as the villiage always seemed to be facing 1/1’s at every step of its career.  Ghitu Encampment is a distant second compared to the monkey-village in terms of usefulness and playtime.

Painlands, too, will be missed. However, it will be a brief mourning period before people discover the new M10 duals don’t “suck” as much as they think they do. Not that I won’t sniffle a little bit. The painlands did fulfill a important role; providing colored mana on turn one. However, I will always remember the sting of losing the first three or four points of my own life tapping for colors those times when my deck seemed to do nothing but draw Brushland and Yavimaya Coast

One of the few cards that lived up to the hype surround its re-print was Mogg Fanatic. He was pretty good for one mana. I’m sure there will be a few times we all pause, realizing his passing as we try to include him in a decklist. Personally, I think it is for the best. I don’t think he would do so well in the new world of Magic.

I guess I should say a few words about Seismic Assault, if I am talking about card that actually did anything. The enchantment found a friend in Swans of Bryn Argoll early in the Shadowmoor season. The deck made a luke-warm showing at events, and then dropped out of sight. When cascade came with Alara Reborn, the enchantment became an instant target of Bloodbraid Elf and Captured Sunlight, making the “combo” much easier to pull off consistently. The Cascade Swans deck sucker-punched Barcelona, but fell to almost any deck expecting it.

As far as decent cards that will be leaving the core set, that’s about it. 

I am glad to see Pithing Needle, Deathmark, Flashfreeze and Siege Gang Commander are all making the leap to M10. With all of the planeswalkers wandering around, Pithing Needle is as important as it ever was. Deathmark and Flashfreeze are both elegant answers to specific problems. Seige Gang Commander is still pretty good, no matter what the say. 

As for Glorious Anthem or Incinerate: they’re getting replaced by cards which are functionally better in the decks that run them. No loss here.

grave_pact

R.I.P, Tenth Edition. Thank god the new core set is better.

There is, however, a list of cards that saw a little bit of play, or had some potential, but just got plowed under.

Bottle Gnomes:When Red Deck Wins became an overnight winner with the printing of Shadowmoor, the gnomes found a brief home in any decks without early protection against aggro.
Cryoclasm: Not too bad, but soon after Tenth Edition, it’s effect was mitigated by better card choices and the non-basic craze.
Troll Acetic:It seemed good, and it turned out to be somewhat successful in Doran deck variants. However, it never really saw play due to the amount of more efficient and finely tuned critters.
Crucible of Worlds: Never found a fit in standard.
Squee, Goblin Nabob: A good sacrificial target, but few really good sacrificial effects existed in competitive decks.
Grave Pact: Found a place in a few home-brew goblin/Nantuko Husk decks, but that was about it.
Quirion Dryad: Another neat creature with potential that just couldn’t stack up to the tribal guys and super efficient creatures.

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M10 is amost upon us. Speculation on which new cards are “the bomb” and how the new cardboard will affect the standard metagame is running rampant. Personally, when it comes to new sets, I’ve adopted a KISS philosophy.

I find it easier to navigate through the sparkly new card pool if I separate things into three piles; crap, potentially good, and obviously good. Obviously good cards are cards that either a.) have a serious spot in the meta right now, or b.) are so good decks will be built around them. Potentially good cards are cards that, if the right situation or deck comes along, will be good.

I leave the latter alone anymore. I am not a pro player and have realized I am not very good at deciding what cards might be good in the future. When I dabbled in the past, I ended up with folders full of junk like Twilight Shepherd Creakwood Liege and every damn Treefolk card printed in Lorwyn and Morningtide.  

I will, however, invest in obviously good cards. I love it when I know exactly what it is I’m looking at and how to use it.

So, what cards in M10 would I invest in?

M10 Dual LandsDrownedCatcomb
I know everybody is bitching that they don’t produce mana on turn one, but neither do any of the other CIPT lands they’re all playing. The difference is, these can if you’ve got a basic on the table, which is something the others can’t do. Most of these will become a staple, especially when Lorywn/Shadowmoor rotate out. The ones that produce blue will definitely be usable.

Lightning Bolt
This card wrote the book on efficiency. It is the king of direct damage, hands-down. It kills a early to mid game threat and can also punch your opponent in the face; all for one mana. L-Bolt will be found in close to every deck running red, and I’m willing to bet that includes the 4 and 5 color control decks out there too.

Ball Lightning
Also very efficient, Ball Lightning will no doubt be slapped into Red Deck Wins and flipped by Bloodbraid Elves everywhere. No matter what happens to it, you’re likely winning out. If it is countered or killed, they used a card on a ephemeral threat. If it is blocked, you’re killing a creature and likely getting in some damage. Don’t be fooled by how crappy Groundbreaker was; red is the magic color. With Ball lightning Back and Expect to see a big spike in RDW in the next few months.  

Baneslayer Angel
Baneslayer Angel is insane. A 5/5 flyer with first strik and lifelink; for five mana. No matter how you look at it, you’re getting a great deal. She’s also got protection from Demons and Dragons, which is like heated seats and extra cup holders when you’ve just bought a brand new Lincoln for $5000; maybe they’ll come in handy some day. The only problem here, is that I’ve seen some good white finishers come out in some of the past expansions, and none of them have been touched. My other gripe, the broad is already up to $15 thanks to the “mythic” rating. Not worth it.

Elite Vanguard
Finally, a Savannah Lions without restrictions. None of this must attack or reveal X creature type crap.  A true 2/1 beater for one mana. I have no doubt he’ll find his way into all sorts of White Weenie and aggro decks over the next year or so.

Captain of the Watch
I already went over her here, in my article about the various “lords” being printed in M10. Efficient, and will always provide some kind of advantage no matter what.

White/Black Knight
I’m so glad to see these guys back. They are excellent two-drops. A 2/2 with protection and first strike is great. Look at how much play Knight of Meadowgrain got. These guys don’t have lifelink, but we all know first strike is great, and protection from black/white will often end up stopping early-game assaults or acting as a form of evasion.

Sable StagGreat Sable Stag
Wow! Just wow. He is a 3/3 for three mana, uncounterable and has protection from blue and black. Like the knights mentioned above, usually protection from a color often makes a card great at blocking and grants a form of evasion. Even if the protection turns out not to be relevant (which will be rare), the stag is still decent body for the price and will trade nicely with many mid-game threats.

Duress
Duress is great. Pay one mana, look at an opponents hand. That is a spell in itself. However, Duress also lets you take a non-creature, non-land card from that hand and throw it away. It doesn’t let you hit a creature like Thoughtseize does, but creatures tend to be easier to deal with than spells. Duress also doesn’t suck like Thoughtseize when you are low on life.     

Ponder
Ponder is also two spells for the price of one. Look at the top three cards of your library, arrange them or shuffle them into the deck, and then draw a card is an insane effect for one mana. Other than that, blue got raped. Sorry. 

If I were buying M10, the above cards are what I would buy (except that frickin’ angel, that is ridiculous). I don’t know if they are the very bestcards in the set, but they are obviously good, and most of them have an immediate spot in the metagame right now.

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It looks like the new core set, M10, will feature a whole new lineup of tribal “lords”. All but one has been officially spoiled, and since MTG Salvation has been right four times so far, I’m going ot bet that the fifth one will be printed as spoiled.

The +1+1 bonus tradition holds true for each of these guys and gals. Each one also has a secondary ability with which it either further boosts its tribe or does something else tribally relevant. It is these new abilities that seem exciting to me. It’s nice to see WotC didn’t just re-print Elvish Champion and call it good.

Here are the new lords

i72a96xvxh_ENCaptain of the Watch is the one everybody is talking about so far. She’s pricey, but she has a decent body and she doesn’t come into play alone. Essentially, what you’re getting for six mana is 9 power of solider with vigilance in four different bodies. Wow. Right now, the place for her would be where Cloudgoat Ranger is in B/W token decks. I’m not so sure about in Kithkin, because aside from Goldmeadow Stalwart and Cloudgoat Ranger tokens, I don’t think any of the other Kithkin are soldiers and I don’t think you want to run the captain and Cloudgoat Ranger. When Lorwyn rotates out, soldiers might take Kithkin’s place, but I couldn’t tell you if the weenie strategy will stay strong. We at least know it won’t be losing anything when Glorious Anthem is replaced by Honor the Pure.

 

 

 

 

fj4xefz84n_EN This is the dude I previewed earlier. His ability to make his own army is nifty, as long as there are creature cards in the graveyard you’ve got dudes. It is also a nice way to get rid of enemy Anathemancer’s and Reveillark targets. However, is there a relevant deck with Zombies in it right now? No. However, maybe he will be the catalyst to spark one up. Anathemancer and Tidehollow Sculler are several Zombies that are already seeing quite a bit of play. Several others are waiting in the wings as semi-decent cards that haven’t found a home, like Lich Lord of Unx (which is more than semi-decent, actually). I can see a casual or tier 2 U/B or U/B/W Zombie deck, at least. Maybe something that discards or mills too.

 

 

 

 

k6o9gqxzjv_EN

At first I thought it was Goblin Warchief. Well, he’s better than Goblin King, IMO. Haste seems better than Mountainwalk. Unfortunately, goblins were certainly better before all of this token nonsense. I had a decent goblin deck when Morningtide first came out and….nobody cares.

Right now the bloke over at Starcity Games says Goblin Chieftain is underrated. Maybe in a format other than standard, but in type two, goblins don’t look so hot. I can conceive a goblin deck, something utilizing Earwig Squad, Blightning and a few mainboard Thought Hemorrhage, but I don’t know if it is teir 1 material. It could be fun. For god’s sake, use Wort; the good one. It’s the only form of card advantage goblins have.

 

 

 

 

MerfolkSoverign   I can see how making one Merfolk unblockable can be useful. Especially if that one merfolk is a beefy Wake Thrasher. I don’ t know if she’ll revive Merfolk as a competitive deck though. Something about all of the sweepers makes me think not, but who knows with this metagame.  She and Sygg, River Guide could get some serious evasion going on, but it wouldn’t pack the same POW as playing Aquitect’s Will with Lord of Atlantis in play and sliding your whole army through. If she’s going to lead Merfolk to victory, she better do it fast though; once Lorywn’sgone, the "folk" are toast.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, the unofficially spoiled lord. Here is the textual spoiler.

Elvish Archdruid
1GG
2/2

Other Elf creatures you control get +1+1
(tap) Add G to your mana pool for each Elf you control

Woah, what? Priest of Titania and a lord. That seems pretty good to me. Elves don’t seem to be doing to badly right now, and if you play the version with Regal Force or other big monsters (eh, throw in a few Primalcrux) in it, he could come in handy. At turn four, you could cast anything you wanted. He’s probably not too bad in other formats other than Type 2 either.

Realistically, I can’t say whether any of the “lords” will see play. I can make an educated guess right now and say Captain of the Watch followed by Elvish Archruid are the most likely to fit into standard right now. The rest belong to currently dead tribes,  unless, of course, somebody really does come up with a decent Zombie deck.

Well, have a fun 4th of July. Don’t blow off any body parts that cant be sewn back on.

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