Author Archives: danemtg

Bad Deck Workshop: Janky Decks for Janky People: Population Rites


First, let me start out by apologizing for not meeting my planned schedule, and especially for not delivering the column I said I would when I said I would. My last post was due TWO weeks ago today, and I delivered absolutely nothing. NOTHING! In fact, I started writing this LAST week, and had to edit the above to say “two weeks,” instead of “a week.”  The end of the semester is ramping up, and crafting papers and such that will satisfy my Marxist instructors while still keeping me from feeling like a hypocrite is both intensive and exhausting. Plus, we had the in-laws over to our place for Thanksgiving the Sunday after Thanksgiving, which took a hell of a lot of prep to get the house cleaned and dinner prepared. Finally…I’m trying to get my leaves up before snow comes again, because if I let them stay on my lawn, they’ll freaking kill it. I don’t want a dead lawn. SO, there was a noticeable lack of new posts for two weeks time.

Tony Hayward has been retained as my personal apologist though.



That said, as of the time of this writing, I haven’t actually publicized this blog yet, so no one should notice unless they’re going through my archives and notice the dates don’t jive.

Interestingly enough, I’ve noticed that I’ve had a couple of people follow and like my posts…which was pleasantly shocking.

Anyway, the last post I put up promised a U/W deck, which is actually something I’ve been working on since I chose Azorius for my first RTR pre-release…but honestly, it’s still seeing significant revisions that mean it’s still not ready for prime-time. Or as close to prime time ready as my jankfests ever get.

So, today, we’re going to talk about a Junk Rites deck that I threw together to play against my wife. As is usual for me, the initial decklist is going to be limited by what I had in my collection. Don’t like that format? Tough!

That’s just how I roll, people. I keep it real, and tell it like it is. I’m a bit of a hardass, sure, but y’know…I don’t apologize to anyone.


Editor’s Note: The preceding paragraph has made it apparent that the following clarification is neccesary. A: How the author pictures himself. B: Far, FAR closer to reality. Hardass indeed…

Here’s the list.

3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
2 Boneyard Wurm
3 Lotleth Troll
2 Champion of Lambholt
1 Wayfaring Temple
2 Corpsejack Menace
2 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
1 Sigarda, Host of Herons
1 Necropolis Regent
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Moldgraf Monstrosity
1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
2 Craterhoof Behemoth

2 Abrupt Decay
3 Call of the Conclave
1 Entreat the Angels
2 Growing Ranks
1 Curse of Death’s Hold
1 Rise from the Grave
2 Unburial Rites
2 Grave Betrayal

5 Forest
2 Gavony Township
3 Grove of the Guardian
1 Isolated Chapel
2 Overgrown Tomb
4 Plains
5 Swamp
2 Temple Garden

Break it down!

Ok…let’s start with creatures. Usually during deck construction, my primary inclusion factor is a thought process that works a little like this. My thoughts: “Which cards have the hottest chicks on them?” If I can’t come up with any sufficiently hot answers, I just grab a stack of cards from my creature pile and call it good.

3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim: Dorks. Ramp. Ramp is good, especially in the early version of this list, when I only had two copies of Rites, and might need to hard cast some stuff. Even then, it powers the population engine, as well as the Townships.

2 Boneyard Wurm: We’re discarding cards to Lol Troll and for Rites targets…it’s only natural to have this as an early drop, even though it probably won’t be very powerful later.

3 Lotleth Troll: Discard engine to get stuff in the yard for Rites, gets bigger, and persistent. You’ll typically get the mana for this pretty quick, so…yes, please.

2 Champion of Lambholt: Interesting critter…very interesting interaction with Gavony Township and Population (Rites as well, to a limited extent.) Provides your creatures with some very sexy evasion abilities.

1 Wayfaring Temple: Awesome, huh? Just gets bigger, and powers the population engine.

2 Corpsejack Menace: You’ve got a lot of +1/+1 counters being passed out in this deck…Jack just makes them better.

2 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice: Should be fairly obvious, lifegain and population. Decent blocking body as well.

1 Sigarda, Host of Herons: A singleton I had lying around that worked in these colors. Potential Rites target, but only marginally, given that she only costs one more mana than Rites does. Still, flying, hexproof, and prevents sacrifice effects.

1 Necropolis Regent: Rites target. Rites target. Rites target. If you get him into play, his additional ability is nice, but it’s really just “win-more.”

1 Angel of Serenity: Same as the Regent. Sure, you could pull of some neat tricks with her ability, but it’s going to be very game dependent, so don’t go into a game EXPECTING some amazing synergy. Just use her to your best advantage if you happen to resurrect her.

1 Moldgraf Monstrosity: Rites target, but has the additional advantage of possibly acting like an additional 2x copy of Rites if it dies.

1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope: Win-more Rites target. Indestructible permanents, will, in the majority of situations, simply lead to an opponent scooping, unless they’ve got something like bounce/sweep, or the like.

2 Craterhoof Behemoth: I designed this deck before “Hoof There It Is” or whatever that deck’s silly name is (Note to any readers…this is a perfect example of someone in a glass house chucking as many stones as hard as they can.) Despite that, I’m not going to be a COMPLETE MTG hipster, and kick him out of my deck saying “Well, he’s just TOO mainstream now.” I’ll just say “I was playing him BEFORE he was cool.”

Well now…that’s a list with some awesome synergy, isn’t it? Everything works together all prettylike and such!

It’s a fucking ridiculous mess.

Let’s clean it up a bit.

First, let’s hand out some roses, Bachelor-style.


What the FUCK?!?

Mana dorks, Lol Troll, Champion of Lambshank, Jack, Trostani, Sigarda, Avacyn, and Hoof, you are safe.

Now let’s move on to the rest.

Boneyard Wurm, I don’t ever want to see your fucking stupid face again. I have never ONCE been happy to draw you in this deck, because I don’t want to sacrifice you to Mr. Lotleth, since you’re obviously getting more awesome when a creature is being put in the yard, which means sacrificing you to him is self-defeating. Additionally, when I DO have enough creatures in the graveyard to bring you out and have you be super-sweet, I always have something else I’d rather cast, and while sacrificing a creature to Lotleth Troll is synergistic with Rites, I always have to worry about making you useless when I rez a critter. Go home, no one likes you.

Wayfaring Temple. I’m not sure what to say about you. You look so very, very cool…but you just don’t seem to work.  You either die too quickly to targeted removal, or by the time you get on the board, you’re just not that impressive.

Necropolis Regent. I’d dump this in a heartbeat if I had some other copies of Sigarda, Avacyn, or Craterhoof. He’s just not that amazing compared to the rest. Since we’re putting together a dream deck…we can make those changes.

Angel of Serenity. Nifty abilities, but just not that incredibly synergistic with this deck…at least as far as I can see. Might be best in the sideboard for certain matchups. Honestly…it CAN work as a secondary Rites if you’ve burned through them all/not drawing any, but you have to hardcast anything it brings back from the graveyard, which is a bit counter to the purposes of this deck.

Moldgraf Monstrosity:  Meh. Just plain meh. I’ll give it a “maybe” slot along with Wayfaring Temple.

Onto spells!

2 Abrupt Decay:  Good, early, targeted removal

3 Call of the Conclave:  Decent tokens for populating, low casting cost, good bodies. Wish it was instant speed, but I also wish Scarlett Johansson had taken more than two naughty photos of herself.

What sexy censorship boxes you have, Ms. Johansson...

What sexy censorship boxes you have, Ms. Johansson…

1 Entreat the Angels:  Singleton because they’re expensive…but an incredible card, especially for populating.

2 Growing Ranks:  I hear this is pretty much unplayable, but honestly…all my decks are unplayable. This is like cruise control for population

1 Curse of Death’s Hold: This is probably better as a sideboard card, but at this stage (pre-sideboard construction) tends to work fairly well against most Standard environment lists, since Standard is largely “turning creatures sideways.” This is like a permanent Jace:AOT effect that hits toughness as well as power…meaning any of your opponents critters will do one less combat damage than normal, and their toughness gets knocked down by one too. That’ll kill a fair number of creatures off right off the bat, and brings plenty of others within range for several other effects.

1 Rise from the Grave:  Rites your opponent’s creatures! Or your own.  Same CMC, but no flashback, and makes them a Zombie. This has advantages and disadvantages, but they really don’t pop up too much in this deck as it currently stands.

2 Unburial Rites: Oh…hey, the card I’ve been referring to this whole post, I’m finally going to get directly into. Which means, this whole time, I’ve been assuming you have a complete familiarity with what I’m talking about when I say “Rites.” Kind of rude of me, but as I’ve said before, I don’t actually expect anyone will ever read this other than my mom and my wife. Then they’ll pat me on the head and tell me I did VERY well, and that I’m the most handsome and most talented boy in the WHOLLLLLE school.

Then I get cookies and milk before bed. Fuckin’ sweet.

Anyway, Rites is awesome because you boot your big, nasty creatures into the graveyard, and then bring them back for FAR less than you’d have to pay if you hardcasted (hardcasted? Hardcast? Hardcost? Hardcastededed?) them.  Additionally, if you alter this list to have a self-mill strategy with Mulch or such, Rites can be flashed back for usage, whereas Rise from the Grave is just plain gonzo.

2 Grave Betrayal: Every time your opponent’s creature dies, YOU get it back! Sweet!

Ok…let’s clean up this part of the deck.

I don’t think I can make another Bachelor reference in good conscience, especially since I’ve never actually WATCHED it. So, let’s try this one.

This is a part of the ritual of Tribal Council because fire represents life…but we’re not playing red, and Jeff Probst seems like an asshole anyway, so never mind. I the ONLY one who sees the resemblance?

Seriously…am I the ONLY one who sees the resemblance?

Abrupt Decay, Call of the Conclave, and Unburial Rites are all solid keepers.

Entreat the Angels: you get a solid maybe. It’s a nice Miracle if you topdeck it at the appropriate point.

Growing Ranks:  Also a maybe. It really doesn’t see much constructed play because you’ll usually have something else you want to be casting, but if you’ve got a couple of good tokens in play, it can be awesome, especially with Trostani…life generation each turn, and consistent chump blockers for a one time payment.

Curse of Death’s Hold: This seems like a card that would really fit better in a
sideboard, but honestly, in a deck this combat oriented, it’s a nice advantage to make sure your opponents creatures are knocked down a peg…in multiples, it runs the chance of killing their army off with no combat. Hypothetically speaking, if you had three of them in play, the dread pirate Thragtusk would lose a LOT of his threat, since, yes, his controller would still get the 5 life gain, but both the main body, and the extra would die immediately.

Rise from the Grave: Sure…why not. Let’s you bring back your opponent’s creatures…maybe they’ve got something really nice. Just be ready to board it out against an opponent playing Angel of Glory’s Rise.

Grave Betrayal: Seems awesome…might be in the right deck, thus far hasn’t been. I’m sorry Grave Betrayal, but the tribe has spoken.

Like I said! Total douchenozzle! Look at how much he's digging sending someone home. Sheesh.

Like I said! Total douchenozzle! Look at how much he’s digging sending someone home. Sheesh.

I’m only going over the lands that aren’t just there for mana, and since that’s such a short section, I won’t break it up into justification and final decision.

2 Gavony Township: +1/+1 is rarely a bad thing…but this has a special synergy with Champion of Lambholt, as well as getting supercharged with Jack out.

3 Grove of the Guardian: 8/8 Vigilance? Token to Populate? Sweet! But to be honest…while it’s won me a fair few games, it really does seem to just be win-more…and I think the deck would be smoother with other lands in place, and focusing on other creatures for the kill.

So, let’s sum this up.

3 Avacyn’s Pilgrim
3 Lotleth Troll
4 Champion of Lambholt
2 Corpsejack Menace
2 Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice
2 Sigarda, Host of Herons
2 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
2 Craterhoof Behemoth

4 Abrupt Decay
3 Call of the Conclave
1 Entreat the Angels
2 Growing Ranks
3 Curse of Death’s Hold
4 Unburial Rites

6 Forest
3 Gavony Township
1 Isolated Chapel
2 Overgrown Tomb
4 Plains
5 Swamp
2 Temple Garden

Of course, this is all subject to further tweaking…but for now, it seems to be more streamlined and functional than it was before. Further issues I see cropping up are that with the removal of the copies of Grove of the Guardian, the populate mechanic is being further marginalized…which then leads to the possibility of marginalizing the inclusion of the Champion of Lambholt, which means Gavony Township and Corpsejack Menace are nearing that particular cliff as well. We COULD just turn this into your basic Rites deck, but part of the fun of this deck is having multiple ways to win. There’s an excellent article that I’m sure most serious (and some goofy, like me) MTG players have read on that points out that most good decks are able to shift, fairly seamlessly, between two archetypes depending on their match. And that isn’t by sideboarding (although some of the best players…which is NOT me, can build excellent decks that are very transformative by good boarding,) but just by playstyle.

But, as I’ve mentioned previously, just because this has been posted doesn’t mean we’ve seen the last of it! You’ll see updates to this deck again.

And yes, that’s a threat. You MUST read my crap! I’m holding your dog ransom. Read my column or I’ll pet him!

Ok, folks…that’s a sign that I’m getting loopy(er than normal,) and it’s time to call it a night. One quick announcement. Unless I get super lazy next week, which is a distinct priority, I’m going to introduce a new feature to the Bad Deck Workshop. I’m going to be putting up a section of the site showing the “Current Gauntlet,” and then I’m going to detail how the week’s deck does under gauntlet testing measures. I’ll either be using Cockatrice, Forge, live play, or a combination of all of the above for the testing, and I’ll detail exactly how the week’s testing has gone in each column, but I’ll try to keep the procedure as uniform as possible so the results are at least somewhat comparable.

See you tomorrow for another rant about a mechanic. And when I say rant, I mean that I’m going to put some words on a page, and you can assign an emotion to them when you’re reading them in your head, and that that emotion is presumably one of a cranky old guy. For the record, assuming you’re reading this silently, and need to assign a voice to me, I have a super nasal, falsetto voice. I sound almost like a castrato. The director of the Vienna Boys Choir keeps trying to recruit me…but I just think he’s kinda creepy.

I actually shouldn't make fun...they're about a BILLION times more talented than I could ever hope to be at anything, other than being generally bad at everything. I've got them beat there.

I actually shouldn’t make fun…they’re about a BILLION times more talented than I could ever hope to be at anything, other than being generally bad at everything. I’ve got them beat there.

Ok…that last paragraph is a CLEAR sign that I’m done.




My Nerdy History – Part Deux

Y’know…this is how it always is. When I finished last Friday’s column, which happened to be not only my first entry, but the first part of my personal history, which today’s column is supposed to be a continuation of, I had it ALL planned out. I had it broken into three easy chunks to make a very smoothly flowing three-parter.

Then I forgot the second part. I have the beginning (done already) and the end…which is easy, because it’s JUST HAPPENED, relatively speaking…but the second part? Nah. Nothing.

I even took NOTES!  But looking over them now, it’s like when you have a dream that seems incredibly important, and you wake up and scribble down something critical, possibly world-changing, and go back to sleep. In the morning, you wake up, look atyour notes and it says something like “The secret is at precisely 1:02:15 in the latest Twilight movie.” You can watch it over and over, and you aren’t going to be discovering anything world-changing. In fact, the only thing that might change is your developing brain cancer from watching that tripe.

Just TRY to claim you don’t dream about this on a nightly basis too. We BOTH know you’re full of shit if you try to say you don’t.

So, anyway, let’s dive right in, and I’ll pretend this is all according to some grand plan I set up a week ago. So…yeah, pretend that I didn’t write anything above this paragraph. I command you!

Today’s column won’t have much to do with Magic, actually, since it’s going to be my largely Magic-free portion of my life, and next week’s will deal with the actual return (You see that, self? Now you know what you’re writing next week!)

Last history entry saw the end of my first foray into Magic…and even though the column was brief, keep in mind, my initial time in Magic wasn’t. I remember my homeroom advisor mentioning my “passion” for the game in one of my 9thgrade midterm progress reports. I was planning on being in it for the long haul. Then, things like parental pressure, peer pressure, and the fact that I had little money, and was really, REALLY interested in those creatures that had bodies with curves even more intriguing than the world’s smoothest mana curve, smelled good, and felt soft, and who, come to find out, you can’t summon for ANY amount of tapped mana.

If you think THIS is bad…just try suggesting Magic to a “nerdy” girl.

So, I soldiered on…and publicly “quit” playing, while still regularly going to the LGS on the sly. Looking back, it was slightly ridiculous, but that’s what an adolescent male will do while in the throes of burgeoning hormones. As I mentioned last time…things just kind of faded out over time. I was working a lot, and once I finished high school, I lived in the dorms my first year of college, and my fraternity house the second, and playing Magic in either of those places was DEFINITELY a no-go. So, pulling myself out of the habit for two years definitely dampened my ardor for the game, as did having to spend my money on survival, rather than being able to play with it, beyond the monthly car payment/insurance/gas I had to pay in high school.

I worked a number of retail jobs, and still being a gamer, I gravitated to places like GameStop and Media Play (which I think is now non-existent, but was essentially an entertainment store, with departments for music, movies, books, and computer/video game) and would buy a theme deck or two every expansion or so, if I saw one that caught my eye (I was always disappointed that they didn’t do more red-green, and I didn’t care for the flavor of the red-green decks they did.)

In time, I even stopped buying those. I never did more than goldfish with those decks, and sometimes didn’t even do more than open up the packaging and flip through the cards. It just got to be a silly expenditure of money for me, especially when money was spare. In time, a longtime friend of mine at GameStop was marrying another co-worker, and honored me by asking me to be the best man. I knew he had introduced her to D&D as well as Magic, and given how broke I was, gave them my collection, save my binder, and a couple of decks, for a wedding gift. Don’t worry…I told them about the stuff I couldn’t part with, I wasn’t secretly holding anything back and just unloading jank…there was some good stuff in there.

And with that, I figured the door was shut on Magic for me for good.

Over the years, I got pretty heavily into MMOs instead. Star Wars Galaxies was my first, and COMPLETELY screwed up my schooling, as I wasn’t able to stop playing to go to bed on time. It was just after this that I was diagnosed with ADD, in my early 20s, which answered a lot about my difficulties in school, which I really haven’t mentioned before now. That’s one of those topics for a later column. I got out of SWG, mostly due to the fact that EVERYONE was quitting…the devs had screwed things up but good, and WoW was coming out. My group of online friends and I hadn’t been impressed with WoW’s beta, and planned to make the jump to EQ2, which, admittedly, was awesome. I ended up going with both.

I only stuck with EQ2 for a few months. I like to be able to play at my own times and pace, and EQ2 was SEVERELY unfriendly for solo-play. WoW was much…kinder, in that regard. I ended up playing WoW from beta, almost straight through until the end of Cataclysm, with only short breaks here and there. During that time, I met a girl that I started dating more seriously than most girls, at a time when I had adopted a “I don’t want to get serious, let’s see how much fun I can have with them” attitude towards girls and dating.  In due time we got engaged, then married. She brought a son from a previous marriage into our marriage, and I had to learn to be a dad to a 2 year old. Though, to be perfectly frank, he had just turned 1 when we started dating, so I had more than a year to prepare for that particular challenge.

At this point, Magic couldn’t have been further from my mind…but things would shortly change. And that’s where we’ll pick up when I finish this off next Friday. The next entry is Monday, when I talk about my next Janky Deck for Janky People…a W/U treat sure to make your head spin with its absolute badness.

I Can’t Stop Talking!: Spewing Opinions on Standard-Related Issues: Thragtusk

It’s Thursday. Just in case you hadn’t noticed. Thanksgiving Thursday.

You know what I hate? Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Yeah, I’m guessing you didn’t even bother thinking about it, and skipped ahead to this part. That’s cool. Truth is, I don’t expect anyone to read this, so you don’t exist anyway! Ha! Take that, imaginary person! You don’t think, therefore you aren’t! Suck it!

Now that we’ve got THAT out of the way…

I’m a cranky old man, thus, I hate LOTS of things. Here’s a non-exhaustive list, partially inspired by the holiday today. Happy Turkey Day!

There’s #1 right there. I fucking HATE bullshit cutesy names for holidays like “Turkey Day.” I HATE it when people try to be clever when they’re leaving the office for the day on 12/31, and say “See you next year!” My old coworkers used to LOVE saying that to me once they learned how much I hated it.

I worked with a bunch of bastards.

I hate it when someone thinks it’d be “appropriate for the moment” to go around the table at Thanksgiving and have everyone spout out what they’re most thankful for. What if I’m thankful for Jesse Jane’s continuing career? What if I’m thankful that the dentist prescribed 30 Lortab for me instead of just 5, even though the pain was gone the first day? You REALLY expect me to express my deepest, most personal feelings, even if they aren’t inappropriate? No? You just want me to say something superficial to be saying something? Yeah…that pisses me off.

I hated it when my mom thought Christmas day would be the best day to go to Disneyland one year, because she thought no one else would go. (NOT the case. It’s one of their busiest days of the year.) My mother’s a brilliant woman, but sometimes she’s not quite ALL there. That’s a fact I remind her of regularly when I see her or call her.

I hate lots of holiday bullshit. Like Thragtusk.

No…not that kind.

That’s called a segue, people.

Quite possible the WORST segue ever actually committed to written form, but a segue nonetheless. This IS a Magic blog, and thus, I can’t just rant uncontrollably about whatever I want…as much as that might make me happy.

Thragtusk sucks. Period. I hate him with a burning passion that will see me through to the end of my days. Or until I get distracted by something shiny. Whichever comes first. Probably the thing about shiny somethings.

Why do I hate it so much? Because it’s BORING. There’s NO thought involved in playing it. This is an oft-repeated argument on the MTGSalvation forums, so no, I don’t claim this as original thought, but honestly, here’s a quick flowchart to determine if you should be playing Thragtusk in a deck.

Yep, it really IS that simple.

Part of the fun with Magic is making choices on what to include in your deck. Turns out, choice-making is actually a big part of the fun in a LOT of games. With WoW, they’ve taken the talent system through a number of changes over the years to try to avoid cookie-cutter builds and offer “fun” choices. Having played WoW for years, I can tell you that cookie-cutter builds were definitely the norm, rather than the exception. Talents were, for the most part, a non-factor. Depending on your chosen role (I was a tank…) you looked up a talent spec, copied it, and then never changed it unless a patch changed your class, with the exception of situational builds. It was a mostly non-involved system, so you really didn’t worry about talents. Set and forget.

That’s Thragtusk. There’s little/no question involved on if you include it. It’s often more of a question of HOW MANY.


Now, let’s get things completely crystal clear. I don’t pitch a fit when I see someone playing Thragtusk. I don’t immediately scoop (unless it’s obvious that Thrag is just the final piece of their combo clicking into place. If he’s just the first part, I’ll go out kicking and screaming, and trying my damnedest to disrupt their combo. If you play Thrag, you’re just being smart. It’s a tool that Wizards has provided its players with, and utilizing it is simply prudent.

It’s just one that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Like I said previously, part of the fun in Magic is deck-building. Unless you’re the Spikiest Spike who ever Spiked, and even then…

This isn’t a tirade against netdecking. I think the sharing of information is both smart and important. But a card being so incredibly ubiquitous, and having NO downsides to choosing it just doesn’t sit well with me. Thragtusk is unbalanced, and unfun.

Who’s to blame? Wizards is the only one we can really point a finger at, but it’d be silly and petty to do so. I can’t even dream of suggesting that they should be able to foresee ALL circumstances for ALL cards when they release a new set.

Honestly, the only solution is for it to rotate out. You could have a gentleman’s agreement in your casual meta…but that doesn’t solve any big picture problems. Wizards could, and may still print some stuff in Gatecrash and Dragon’s Maze that turn Mr. Tusk into jank, but it’s unlikely, and honestly, the cure could be worse than the solution.

I’ve got nothing here, people, so it’s a damn good thing I’m not a designer for the game. I’ve just got a simple frustration that it seems like no matter what deck and archetype you’re playing, adding more Thragtusk seems as obvious as adding more cowbell. I just think choices should be exactly that, a choice, rather than a decision already made for you, which is, in fact, the opposite.

Tomorrow: Part 2 out of 3 of my personal Magic history. Epic.


Mechanic Examination: Detain

It’s Tuesday, and here on Five-Color Fingerpainting, that (currently…as we’re so new) means discussion of mechanics and keywords. This may evolve into something different as the weeks go by, but for now…it seems interesting to me, and as anyone actually reading this may be aware…“I Can’t Stop Talking” when something interests me.

I’m going to lead off this column with one of the newest keywords, from the Return to Ravnica set, which at the time of this writing/publication, is a month or two old, but is still the newest available set. And, as I’m biased, I’m going to talk about one of my favorites from this set.


I fucking love Detain. Remember in yesterday’s column, I mentioned that I wanted to know Essence Scatter in a carnal manner? Well, toss a Martial Law in there, and we can make it a three-way.

For the unwashed ( by that, I’m referring to the definition number two…”pertaining to or characteristic of the common people; untutored, unsophisticated,  or ignorant; plebian.” I’m NOT making any sort of reference to hygiene habits. Though, a lot of you could probably use a few lesson those too. Hint #1, soap is your friend) Detain is a keyword which works as a temporary Arrest. Imagine that. When the cops don’t arrest you…they…what you? That’s right, class. Detain. Detaining a permanent (typically a creature, but some Detain-keyworded cards allow you to Detain any permanent) prevents that permanent from attacking or blocking or using any activated abilities until the next turn of the player controlling the Detain.

Man…who didn’t see THIS joke coming?

As a control fanatic…I love this. It forces both players to make interesting decisions.  If you’re controlling the Detain, and you’re trying to stabilize the board, and/or gain board advantage…what do you choose to drop your Detain on? The largest creature? The one with the nastiest activated ability? Sometimes the choices are obvious, but frequently, they just plain aren’t. If your opponent has a 7/7 Flier, as well as Olivia Voldaren, which one is really a bigger threat?

I can’t give an answer, of course. It’s all relative, the point is that when you really get down to it, the more fun Magic (from my perspective, which again…is admittedly incredibly biased) is when there’s interesting decisions to be made. I don’t particularly like it when every card in a deck is obvious, just because they’re the “best” card. I’m absolutely passionate about decks that can take a card or a series of cards with a certain attribute/ability that everyone looks at and says “Wow, that’s an incredibly substandard card,” or even “Holy shit, why’d they even bother printing that!” and making it into a card that makes your opponent go “Wait…you used that to do WHAT?!? *scoop*”

Detain gets mentioned as one of those abilities…at least in constructed. I’ve only done two Sealed events with RTR, and they were the pre-release events, so Detain might have performed that well (for me at least) because people weren’t quite ready to deal with it. Even in constructed, Detain has carried its weight, in my opinion, for my janky U/W Control deck.

Honestly, taking a big picture perspective, Detain is pretty good against other Control decks, should you get something like Martial Law or Archon of the Triumvirate to land and stick. Against Midrange and Tempo, you’re facing a similar story. Land your Law before they can drop their big threat, and lock it down over and over. Against  Aggro though…you’re in trouble. You might be able to drop a board wipe and get a few turns of use out of a Detain, but that’s just until Aggro restabilizes.

There’s more neat tricks you can pull to get some more usage out of Detain creatures…most of the cost-efficient ones only work once, as an ETB effect. But there’s all sorts of flicker effects that are just begging to hold hands and take a long walk on the beach with Detain. I can TOTALLY see Venser and Azorius Arrester walking in the sand together, picking up shells. Oh yeah.

Ultimately…this is a new mechanic, and one that Standard will have to be dealing with for just under the next two years. That time period will see how influential it really is. My personal hopes is that it leaves a distinguishable mark, as it’s a very fun mechanic.


Bad Deck Workshop: Janky Decks for Janky People: Delversnipe

Welcome to the first installment of Bad Deck Workshop: Janky Decks for Janky People. Do you love jank? Are you pretty much a horrible person, especially when you’re getting your Magic on? Then this is the place for you.

In all seriousness, or as much as I care to muster for a blog intended to be lighter-hearted, and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, this particular column is devoted to decks thatif you play, most opponents would look at your battlefield, then look at you, likely with a concerned expression, and finally, look around for whatever adult is responsible for you, because they’re worried that you aren’t wearing your helmet and might hurt yourself.

Each week, I’ll showcase a new Bad Deck, talk about the mechanics/theme it’s supposed to revolve around, and strong/weak points. I’ll then proceed to edit the everloving crap out of it, and yammer your ear off regarding the edits. Once it’s done…it’ll go into the Bad Deck Garage, to be trotted out as a supplementary entry to a day’s normal entry (since I only do this particular column once a week…I don’t want to spend all day everyday doing these) whenever I make noteworthy changes.

Bottom line is, these decks are meant to be FUN. They will contain interactions and combos and cards that you just plain can’t play in competitive Magic because you’ll get roflstomped. This is Kitchen Table Magic. Cards like Azor’s Elocutors and Desecration Demon are fair game.

Finally, please note that just because a deck is here doesn’t mean that I’m saying anyone playing a deck with the same core concept (as you’ll see today) is bad. It just means that the deck isn’t designed to go straight for the throat…it’s designed around a concept, and it’ll probably be pretty inefficient, but through tuning, maybe it’ll become worthy of a FNM someday.

Knowing me, probably not.

Anyway, without further ado, the first victim of DBW:JDfJP is a cute little blue/red monstrosity I’m calling (oh, so INCREDIBLY creatively)…”Delversnipe.”

Anyone want to guess what’s in it? Here’s a hint…there aren’t any Angels or Thragtusks. (I fucking hate Thragtusk.)

Give up? Fine. Here’s the list I’ve started with. (I know…my bad for no providing linky cards. I’m still looking into what hosts it wouldn’t be considered incredibly rude to link to.)



4 Delver of Secrets
1 Snapcaster Mage
2 Guttersnipe
1 Hypersonic Dragon
2 Charmbreaker Devils
1 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius


2 Pillar of Flame
2 Street Spasm
3 Syncopate
2 Cyclonic Rift
4 Izzet Charm
1 Mizzium Mortars
2 Thunderbolt
4 Cancel
1 Counterflux
3 Essence Backlash
1 Thunderous Wrath


10 Island
4 Izzet Guildgate
9 Mountain
1 Steam Vents
24 lands

I know it’s got funny numbers (a lot of 1 offs and 2 offs, etc) but that’s because this started out life as my contribution to a thread in the MTG Salvation Standard Budget Deck forums. The original thread was intended as a no-rare deck, but my personal spin on it was to feel free to chuck in rares, but only ones I actually owned. I wasn’t buying ANYTHING for round 1 of this deck…which resulted in some odd card counts, but the first iteration of this deck ended up working out decently enough, even if it was far from being Tier 1.

The key to this deck is, obviously, the revolution around instants and sorceries. Nothing ground-breaking…it’s just that there’s some fun cards that can take advantage of these card types. Let’s take a look at the breakdowns.


Delver of Secrets – Fairly obvious. They’re cheap, evasive, and a strong early threat. With the number of instants and sorceries in this deck, the ratio of being able to drop a Delver turn 1, and flip him for a 3 point attack turn 2 is fairly high. With the loss of Ponder from standard , Delver isn’t QUITE as powerful as he was prior to rotation, but it’s still a fairly potent card.

Snapcaster Mage – Flashback in this deck is just plain gravy. There’s really no shortage of targets for Snappy to hit. There’s a reason this is looking to be one of the cards to make the shift to the formats with larger card pools. Now if I’d only pulled more than one. I HATE buying singles. Time to order some more boxes, I guess. (Yes, I know how horribly inefficient that is. I like cracking boosters, and the wife and I like practice drafting/sealed decking.)

Guttersnipe – One of the absolute keys to this deck. These guys give all of your counters some bite. Instead of playing purely defensively and turtling up…you’re kicking your opponent in the crotch at the same time.

Hypersonic Dragon – Haste, evasion, a decent amount of power and toughness, but it just wouldn’t fit in this deck if it didn’t have the flash effect for sorceries.

Charmbreaker Devils – More expensive than is really suited for this kind of deck, you’ll rarely be able to drop them…but if you ever do, it means the game is going long, and you’ll be glad they’re there, since you’re probably running low on your counters and direct damage by this point. 5/5 ain’t shabby either.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius – Some direct damage coupled with drawing power. High casting cost, and just plain screams to get removal tossed his was.



I’m not going to go through these one by one…most of them should be fairly self-evident. I know I’m using some that aren’t quite top tier, but again, this is a janky deck. I’m really pretty fond of Essence Scatter, as expensive as it may be…as is the case in the current Standard environment, if your opponent is playing green…save these for Thragtusks. If you’ve got at least one ‘snipe out, that’s a minimum of 7 damage right there. Zounds! Similar reasoning backs up Cancel…it’s expensive at 1UU, but when you’re playing a form of draw-go, like this deck ends up playing after you’ve gotten a couple of creatures out…it’s not actually too bad.

This Deck SUCKS

So, how can we make it better?

First of all…let’s look at the strong points. It’s VERY synergistic. If you manage to land and stick a delver or two and a snipe or two on the board, odds are, you’re going to be able to knock your opponent out pretty quick. Even if you aren’t tossing out counters and red damage spells to power the Guttersnipe’s ability, you’re still able to attack for five damage every turn. That’s assuming they don’t have any blockers out, or anything else to blunt your attacks. If they do…then you’re going to be kicking out counters and red direct damage…and blasting damage out at your opponent through GuttersnipeIfeellikeabrokenrecordhere.

So yeah, synergy. So what are the weak points?

Well, other than using a bunch of sub-standard cards, because they’re kinda fun (I want Essence Scatter in a very carnal way after some matches…it’s just SO sexy when it works.) The big problem is the creatures. This deck is pretty much the definition of a tempo deck. A tempo deck works by getting a threat to the table, and then protecting it/keeping the way clear for it. Well…part of that is GETTING a threat to the table. In order to do that, you need to DRAW one.

This deck has SIX creatures.

Yep. Six. No, I didn’t miscount.

I only included the Delvers and the Snipes. Snappy? He’s really more of an instant. You aren’t going to drop him until you need him for his flashback ability…and even then, 2/1 dies pretty easily. Niv-Mizzet? Pretty much a dead card. If you ever land him, you aren’t untapping with him. *IF* you do…you’re in a situation where you really didn’t need him in the first place. Charmbreakers? Nice, but expensive. Hypersonic Dragon? Expensive…with them, maybe seven creatures.

Since most of your other cards are counters, or creature removal, only some of which doubles as damage that can be done to your opponent…you may find yourself left with very little left to do to finish your opponent off…and eventually, you’re going to run out of counterspells, or removal effective enough to deal with what they’re tossing out. We need to give this deck more teeth.

To start, we need to transform this into less of a budget-based “Ok, here’s what I had around” type deck. No more two or three-offs because that’s what was available. We need to crank the necessities up to four each, and then have a good gameplay reason for why we wouldn’t include four of anything that we decide to reduce numbers on.

So…add two Guttersnipe, three Snapcasters, and three Hypersonic Dragons. Looking MUCH sturdier now…but we’ve got to remove a few things.

Sorry Niv-Mizzet. You’re out. Same with the Charmbreakers. They also don’t play nice with Snappy, since he exiles the spells he interacts with, reducing what they have to send back to your hand. Counterflux is also gone, because it just isn’t as useful as it could be. A non-counterable counter is nice, but having to make sure you’ve got the right colors untapped is a pain, and the secondary ability of countering all spells is just not that useful, due to its situational nature.

That means we still need to clear out three spells, prior to even homogenizing the numbers of the non-creature spells. Let’s try clearing out two overcosted Cancels, and an Izzet Charm, since it’s a nice utility, but will typically be used as a (potentially) weakened Syncopate.

At this stage…there’s a lot more we can do with this deck, but let’s take it out of the shop at this point and do some playtesting, and revisit it in a few weeks. As of right now, I’ll make supplemental entries when I make changes, and bring it all back together when we re-spotlight this deck.

That’s really it…tomorrow we talk about one of my favorite new mechanics.


Apologies for Mutilating Penny Arcade

Today’s post contains a single, (poorly) edited panel from Penny Arcade. (Original available here.)

Fair warning…this is the sort of thing you may see come up again, so if you want to white knight PA, I’m horribly, horribly sorry. I’m a huge PA fan, and sometimes when I’m writing, I just get reminded of one of their comics, and realize that with a tweak or two, it will express exactly what I want to express better than I ever could through mere words. Additionally, my art is somewhat on the level of Tycho’s, as seen here, though not QUITE as good. If seeing this makes you unhappy because you dislike Penny Arcade…go stuff yourself. PA’s awesome.

So, Mr. Krahulik and Mr. Holkins, I deeply, deeply apologize. Again, I love Penny Arcade. The wife and I hope to someday attend PAX, as well as the silent auction (getting to go to a super classy event, yet have it be entirely nerd-culture centric is like a joy-gasm for us,) and I can’t count how many night’s we’ve laid in bed, with her playing on the laptop or reading something, and I’ll flip through one of my PA collections and repeatedly break out laughing, which drives her nuts, because then she has to stop what she’s doing so I can show her just what’s so damn funny, or else she’ll go crazy with curiosity.

Please don’t sue me.

My Nerdy History – Part the First

So…yeah, blogging. Something I’ve thought about for a good long while, but didn’t really ever have a SERIOUS reason to until now. And by serious, I mean serious in the context of a hobby, as serious as that can possibly be.

What hobby, you may ask? And even if you don’t, I’m going to talk about it anyway. I am here to talk about the collectable card game, Magic: The Gathering.

Since it’s my first blog post here, how about a bit of history? Or, since I tend to be rather verbose…a LOT of history. I should note, after reaching a good stopping point here, I’ve read back over it and thought to myself “Hmmm. Damn. Well, I’ve really glossed over this, and didn’t say a lot of the things I wanted to. Oh well, fuck it.” *post to blog*

So, knowing that…I’ll be revisiting this era, and likely, any others where I start out with a high level view, and drilling down into specifics in future posts. So don’t worry…I’m egotistical enough to believe that everyone wants to read ALL the sad little details of my cardboard fetishizing life…so it’ll all come out eventually.

I first encountered Magic in eighth grade. I won’t say exactly when that was because; first of all…I’d have to figure it out. And secondly, I’ll date myself enough by saying that Unlimited was the current base set, but was about to give way to Revised. There…if you’re really curious, you can figure out the time period. No…I didn’t ever get any Power Nine. I was in eighth grade, I wasn’t burdened down by gobs and gobs of disposable income.

And take your newfangled Modern border with you!

A new classmate of mine showed me the game, and I showed him…I don’t know what. I think it was D&D. The funny thing there is that within about six months, I really gave up D&D and went whole hog on Magic (still played D&D on occasion, but it wasn’t my gaming passion anymore) and he gave up Magic, and picked up D&D in a similar manner. He’d keep a deck around for random duels, but didn’t obsess about it the way I began to.

And obsess I did.  Slinging spells by way of turning some rectangular pieces of cardboard sideways, then putting other rectangular pieces of cardboard from my hand onto the table began to be one of the big things people knew about me. And in a small private school like mine…that meant EVERYONE knew. Since I was pretty young though, I didn’t mind. Yet, anyway. But let’s not skip ahead.

Or, let’s. For the next few years, I played, and played. It was my “thing.” I was known around my (again, small) school as, if not “the” Magic player, than at least one of the more well-known Magic players. I’m not saying that to boast…this was jr. high and high school. Playing Magic was even less cool then than it is today. Spending my lunch period tapping mana wasn’t getting me a ton of dates. After awhile, I started being FAR more quiet about Magic, and then…for a period of a time, I stopped completely. I remember getting back into it in my junior year, so I couldn’t have skipped more than a year, maybe two. That was quite some time ago, but I DO remember heading over to the LGS after lacrosse practice to de-jock-ify.

This continued for a bit, I made some good friends in that particular metagroup, most of whom were younger than me, and teased me about tapping my lands to produce “monna,” when they all said “mah-na.” I finally caved, and to this day, use a hard “a” when I say mana.

Oh Tycho, you blowhard.

But, alas and anon, I was not long for the Magic world at this point, and the last major event I remember participating in was the Exodus pre-release…where I had my typical poor showing, and was eliminated early. If I remember correctly (no guarantee there,) it wasn’t Swiss rounds, but rather, double-elimination. I was unable to completely abandon the mindset of my red/green constructed deck, which I’ll have to describe sometime, and I believe I went with some red/blue monstrosity, mostly because I wasn’t comfortable completely getting away from burn…and it sucked ass. I was a total Timmy in those days, and I’d NEVER done a sealed event, so I was hopelessly lost. I also remember being a little irked that I didn’t pull an Ertai, Wizard Adept, and a guy two seats down from me did. I’ve never had great luck with pulls, but I’m an eternal optimist.

So, soon after that event, I must have let Magic fade from my life. It wasn’t due to my poor showing, or the tournament at all…I just remember things in my life changing, and Magic didn’t have a place anymore. But, I’ll delve deeper into that, and the move forward in my next History/Random Thoughts entry, which will show up on Fridays. Next Mon, my first “Bad Deck Workshop: Janky Decks for Janky People” entry.

I know you’re all waiting with baited breath.