Monday, December 28, 2009

Grim Tidings #18 - Giving Up?

(Rant mode on)

Those that know me are aware that I am a pretty serious Indianapolis Colts fan. From the time I lived in Indiana in 1992, I’ve followed the Colts, through the dismal failure of Jeff George, to the brief success of Jim Harbaugh, through the misery of multiple 3-13 seasons, to the first overall draft pick, to the brilliance of consecutive 12+ wins in the last seven seasons.

With this in mind, it should come as no surprise to me what happened yesterday afternoon. After starting the season 14-0, with home field advantage clinched through the playoffs, all of the personal milestones achieved (50,000 career passing yards, fyi), the Colts once again decide to bench all of their starters with about 6 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter. They were leading 15-10 at the time, with every indication that they were likely to defeat the New York Jets. But then they just gave up.

Peyton Manning grimaced on the sidelines, pleading to his Offensive Coordinator Tom Moore to let him come back into the game. Reggie Wayne sat quietly on the bench simmering in disgust. Gary Brackett shakes his head in disbelief as the backup scrubs squander what could have been a perfect season.

Head Coach Jim Caldwell claims after the game that going 16-0 was never the focus of the regular season. Their true purpose is winning the Superbowl. Not just going to the SB but winning it. And I whole heartedly agree. If dropping the last two games of a season to keep players healthy guaranteed a victory on February 7, do it. Too bad it rarely works out.

This is nothing new. Jim Mora did it. Tony Dungy did it. And now Caldwell does it. Every season the Colts have everything wrapped up, they ALWAYS bench their starters. This team is so dependent on Peyton Manning, the fear that he would be injured in a meaningless regular season game overrides any collateral achievement in a record book.

What make this worse is that Manning, Wayne, and Brackett are the Colts’ veterans. Two of these players are team captains. The younger players look to them for leadership, example, and stability. To see them visibly upset on the sidelines does not help team morale. Though they won’t publically say it, the players are silently second guessing the coaches. You could see it on their faces during the fourth quarter on yesterday’s embarrassment. They wanted to go out and win, but they weren’t allowed.

All of the Colts’ momentum from the last 23 games is erased. History demonstrates that sitting out two or three regular season games, plus the Wildcard Bye makes the Colts stale. I predict that the Colts will come out cold, falling behind early in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Hopefully their skill level will allow them to pull back into it, but their intensity will certainly be diminished.

(Ironically, the only time in recent history that the Colts didn’t have every wrapped up was in2006. They had to play right up through Week 17 of the regular season, just to obtain the 3rd seed in the playoffs. They had a horrific run defense that year, and faced Larry Johnson in the first round. They remained red-hot from the regular season though, and shut down the Chiefs, then the Ravens and Patriots en route to their first SB victory since moving to Indianapolis.)

Umm, what's the Point of this?

Oh yeah, this is supposed to be a Magic blog. What does this pathetic rant have to do with anything Magic related? Well not much. The weakest comparison I can make with what transpired Sunday afternoon is equating it to a resolved Divine Intervention.

Divine Intervention pretty much says “Yeah, I cast this dumb enchantment and had enough resources to stay alive long enough to not die, so lets just end this game and do something else.” Whatever. That’s essentially forcing your opponent into an Intentional Draw. If your deck’s only goal is to resolve Divine Intervention, don’t even bother inviting me to play against you. I don’t want to waste my time. What the Colts did Sunday wasn’t an ID. It was an IL (Intentional Loss).
Positive Spin?
I suppose the only plus side (in an otherwise pathetic strategy) is that the Colts did get to insult Mercury Morris and the rest of the ‘72 Miami Dolphins by what they did Sunday. They pretty much laughed in the face of their accomplishment and stated that an undefeated season isn’t a big deal. I hope their decision doesn’t backfire and I still get to see Peyton hoisting his second Lombardi trophy in six weeks.

(Rant mode off)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Happy Birthday Grim!

Happy Birthday Buddy. We would have gotten you a bigger cake, but it turns out that many candles are a fire hazard, even on the internet!

I know your big day is often over shadowed by that "other guy" born this time of year, and while you probably will never be the basis for a sweeping global religious movement, I truly appreciate you as a friend, and contributor to this sites efforts.

I hope this year was twice as good as last year, but only half as good as the next.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Streak is Over!

Week Three of the Legacy Series at SciFi was our best turnout yet. We had 12 players - but several new faces to the Legacy scene. Add in the regulars who didn't make it this week, and we're growing stronger every week. I'm running the same list I've been running for 3 weeks now - my Dark Zoo build has proven itself to be very potent in our meta. The list I ran two weeks ago is here - the only difference between that one and what I ran this week is that the 3 Ancient Grudges in the SB are now Krosan Grips.

I finally don't end up with a Round one bye, and instead get paired against Shoebox with his Sushi Merfolk build. I know I'm in for a fight - I struggle against Shoebox in every format, and his sideboard is almost entirely dedicated to beating Zoo. I really need to be able to get the quick blowout in game one, and hope that going first in game 3 gets me there. Sadly, I lose the dieroll, and have to mulligan to a slow 6-carder game one. A timely Wasteland on his part locks me out of a color, and he goes the distance. Game two, even though I'm on the play, he gets there with Mind Harness on Wild Nacatl. I almost manage to come back, as I rip a Krosan Grip, and Disenchant his Harness just after he equips my Nacatl with a Umezawa's Jitte, but he's got two mana to reequip to another of his dorks before I can make any sort of gain off it. He then does what Merfolk does best - drop about a half dozen Lords in the space of two turns and flip from control to aggro once I've been controlled out of the early game. I've finally been handed my first sanctioned match loss with Zoo! 0-1

Round two I'm once again paired against my roommate, Jeff. However, instead of his Mono-Red build, he's experimenting with a Goyf-Sligh type build - still the reckless speed of mono red, but focusing more on getting out a turn one or turn two Moon-effect thanks to some borrowed Chrome Mox from Shoebox. He's also got some neat tech with Boggart Ram-Gang - it may not be able to kill an opponent's Goyf, but it'll make it permanently smaller. Plus, exiling one to a hrome Mox means he's got both colors available to him off the Mox now.

One of my favorite moments in this match was when he got out a Magus of the Moon, and it turned my 2/2 Wild Nacatls into... 2/2 Wild Nacatls. I no longer had a Plains, but now I had Mountains! It worked well for me, as it let me cast all the Bolts and such in my hand. Once again in this match I forget the rider on Chain Lightning, and he gets a free Incinerate off of me. However, he still runs out of steam before I do, and I get there in two. Once again, I manage to swing him down low enough that double Helix finishes him off. Horribly frustrated at this point, (he made the mistake of playtesting before the event against Justin's Pox deck, and that can be a very frustrating match for the non-Pox player) Jeff wants to quit, but I convince him to stay in it. This ends up being the right call, as he proceeds to get revenge against Justin's Pox deck in round 3 and then gets to beat in Eddie's face a bit in round 4. 1-1.

Round three, Phil and I finally get to have our Zoo versus Zoo showdown. This match was very close, and extremely interactive. I had a lot of fun with this match, but in game 3 Phil is forced to keep triple Grove of the Burnwillows Kavu Predator, and my Bolt on his Predator shuts down the hand. He manages to stay in it for a bit as he has a Gargadon suspended, so all my removal is feeding the beast, but I keep a Path in hand. When he unsuspends the monster, Path seals his doom, as half his lands are now in the 'yard and he's out of cards in hand. Phil also mentions this match in his tournament report, which is why I'm not going into too much detail here. Suffice to say, I enjoyed the match, and look forward to the rematch. 2-1.

So after losing round one, I manage to come back (again, thanks to good matchups) and am positioned to finish in packs. I draw Jared, rockin the Duke blue sweats and a Bant Countertop deck. Dark Confidant is the MVP of this match - I get one out early game one, and drawing double the gas my opponent does gets there. Pridemage is also good here, as I have two of them down early before he can counter them, which lets me deal with his Counterbalance. Game two it's even worse for Jared - he lets me stick two Confidants, hoping he can stay alive long enough with the double War Monks in his hand so that my own Bobs will kill me. However, the flaw in this gameplan is that I'm still at 15 life at this point - which means that unless I hit one of the 3 sideboarded Krosan Grips (of which one is already in my hand) then I'm taking a maximum of 4 per turn. Meanwhile, I've got triple the card draw he does, and eventually he has to use his Top to stack a card on top, swap it for the Top, and play whatever he managed to find. Meanwhile, I'm swinging with reckless abandon - I have no problem swinging a Bob into a Goyf. If he leaves it alive, I'm that much closer to killing him. If he does block, one of the many various Bolts in my hand will finish off the Goyf. He waits too long to start blocking, and I get there with burn spells. 3-1.

Overall, I end up in 4th place - Mike and Bert IDed for 1st and 2nd, while Shoebox, also at 3-1, has the slightly better tiebreakers. I was happy to see Phil had the best tiebreakers of the 2-2 bracket, which put him into packs at 5th place. Considering how much he's struggled to build a competitive Legacy deck under an extremely restricted budget, he has every right to be proud of his results. Plus, I have to respect my fellow Zoo players. Johnny K's Enchantress deck took 6th with 2-2, Jeff finished just the wrong side of packs (but still Top8, so still up on Deckcheck!) in 7th, and my round 4 opponent, Jared, took down 8th.

I'm still very pleased with this Zoo build, and I'm happy to finally see some decks that are harder for me to beat in our meta. I once again had really good matchups most of the day, but there were several control players at the tables finally, which bodes well for the health of the format at our store. Overall, there still isn't anything I really want to change about the deck, except for a slight tweak to the manabase. I've not found the basic Swamp to be useful, while I end up going for the Plateau just about every game. Considering how useful it's been, I'm thinking about replacing that less-than-useful Swamp with a 2nd Plateau. I think that means I want a second Arid Mesa, but I'm not sure what to cut for it. Possibly one of the Mogg Fanatics? As we get more people playing with Wastelands, Poxes and Sinkholes, (not to mention Stifle!) I think increasing the landcount by one is fine. However, since I don't actually own a second Plateau right now, that may become a Sacred Foundry for the time being. That's... less than optimal, obviously, so I may just wait until I get can get my hands on another Plateau.

I'm fairly happy with my sideboard as well, for the most part. I've ended up bringing in Umezawa's Jittes in just about every match, but I think that's more the matchups I'm getting rather than a sign that it should be mained in the first place. Having the extra Fanatic and Pridemage has been fine for me - sometimes, I need more arty/enchant hate, sometimes I need more X/1 hate. I've yet to find a use for Gaddock Teeg, though - although again, I think that's more just not having been in the right matchups for him yet. I can see situations where he'd be extremely useful - shuts down Force of Will, Ad Nauseam... I just haven't been in those matchups yet.

Hopefully, our meta will continue to grow into more combo and control players. I'm ready for them. Win, lose or draw (with this deck? I'd better not draw on time, I'm doing it WRONG) this deck is a blast to play, and I look forward to slinging it again next weekend.

Happy Little Islands: Legacy Report Decmber 20, 2009

Submitted by Mike Lewis (luudes from scifi)

So pretty good turnout, if we keep slowly getting one or two new faces then this thing might pick up!
So 12 people, 4 rounds. No byes for Mike M this week!  I start off against a new face in the room, (a ugrad at Duke… I should keep notes so I would remember his name). He just threw a deck together to come out and see what legacy is like. It was mostly a standardish monogreen elf ramp deck.  He would try to get rofellos in play and a couple of elves and ramp into a quick overrun. I’m playing my rocky top build (Ubg countertop). 

Game 1 I lead with a hierarch and a top while he gets mana dork into mana dork. He gets rofellos down when I don’t have countermagic (and don’t know what to counter).  He then gets some three drops through a counterbalance/top softlock and proceeds to beat my face.
I board in propaganda and EExplosives. He doesn’t have a sideboard.

Game two I am able to EE away his early mana dorks. Counter garruk, steal lotus cobra with a sower of temptation and then use the cobras landfall and the cobra itself (sac that shizzle) for a natural order. Master P got there.
Game three is similar; EE with academy ruins is good. Esp with bob in play to get a zero cc on top. I finally steal an elvish archdruid to sac and get the fourth mana for order to get master P stomping face. This was actually a long game three and turn one of five saw him staring at that big hydra and a propaganda… I win shortly.(2-1, 1-0)

Round two I am playing Justin with pox.
Game one he starts doing his thing but Im able to get a hierarch to help smooth out the Land D effects. After he hymns me three times, the board gets stalled me with a goyf (5/6) him with a tombstalker but I get a bob to push through his mishra workshop, crucible of world infinite block routine. That with a well timed smother gets in the lethal damage right before his stalker and bloodghast finish me off
Game two Justin is on the play and has to mull to 5 and a 5 he isn’t too happy about. He goes land, ritual, hymn; he gets to my hand before my turn one but has exhausted his. I have two lands and 1 top and 1 brainstorm, his hymn gets brainstorm and one land but the other land with top in play is enough to get my card selection right for the first few turns and Justin just wasn’t able to draw into any gas after expending all his resources. I was able to find enough land and was able to rip a natural order off the top. I was sure to have a few dorks in play before going for order because I knew he had many opponent sac a creature effects. P got there as he usually does. (2-0, 2-0)

Round three Im playing Jared playing what I guess is bant natural order although I didn’t see natural orders but all the other banty favorites.
This was basically a mirrorish match, he had path I had smother. Anyway, game one I keep a four land hand, with no gas but a little draw. I have a few early spells countered and have to daze twice with puts me so far off my land drops that I can’t recover. I lose game 1 to beats from a clique I think. (2 daze come out for spell pierce, 2 propaganda also come in). (0-1)
Game two gets a little drawn out, we both have counterbalance with no top. I land a turn two goyf, counter his sword to plowshares (spell pierce is awesome post board in this match esp when on the draw) .  The counterbalance is stupid and neither of us counters a single spell with it due to lack of a top. That turn two goyf got there.  At one point he had a clique and thought he could flash in a second to double block the goyf, well he did get to target himself to dig for removal but then he lost both creatures before blocks (cough cough legendary cough). So I win that one. (1-1)

Game three he launches out of the gate with a hierarch into turn two clique. The double exalted on the clique which beats me 19à14à9.  I was able to steal the clique and then force through a natural order for master P.  (2-1, 3-0). Sower was really really good in that matchup.  Also propaganda is awesome, and I would almost main deck them for our little metagame as everyone is trying to win with beats. 3-0 (6-2). 

Bert (playing dredge) and I are the only undefeated at this point so we draw in the last round (3-0-1, split).  In our play testing, I oddly enough won the first game (although Bert tried a few lines of play he probably wouldn’t have had the match counted) and then game two and three I mull into oblivion without ever finding  a hate card (and I sided in 2 propaganda, 3 EE, 3 leylines and 1 ravenous trap).  Fun tourney and I hope the new guys keep showing up.  Thanks everyone for coming out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Life in the Zoo: Legacy pt.5

So I have been able to do a bit of testing since my last revision, but no actual events. I've really been underwhelmed with both Knight of the Reliquary, and Ranger of Eos. I think these may have real value in Standard/Extended version of the deck, but for Legacy I just feel like they are dead cards in my hand, only really being cast when I'm desperate. For this reason, I'm going to cut it, but it brings up the same old problem, of what to use to fill the spot? I've beat this horse to death, and just haven't been able to find a good answer for this.  I've spent some time this week, going over my notes from past deck development efforts, in preparation for Extended conversion discussion. I think I may have found just the thing, a card M.Nash and I help bring to the spot light during the Timespiral period, in a little deck I called Gobladon. I'm going to fill that slot with Greater Gargadon.

What you're cutting a 3 drop for being to slow, and replacing it with a 10 drop? Yes, this beast serves two purposes in one. I can suspend it turn one, if for some reason I don't have a better play. It's still surprises me just how many hands I have to consider putting back because I don't have a profitable first turn play. This deck, like any agro deck, is pretty vulnerable to removal of virtually all kinds. while ol'Garga doesn't solve the vulnerability to removal, it at least allows me to get some secondary use out of the targeted assets. You wasteland me, I sac the land to Gargadon. You bolt my creature, I sac it to Gargadon. I trust you see the pattern. An added benefit is Counterbalance, which I am particularly vulnerable too with my cmc of all one and two, will have no answer to Gargadon, so they either have a hard counter in hand, or I get a beat stick. It's not a perfect world, but it is a step in a new direction, and gives me something to build on when I eventually have to deal with a lack of Goyfs.

My last Legacy event, I finished in the top half, and won two packs as a result. While I did not crack an Arid Mesa as I had hoped, I did get lucky enough to crack a Day of Judgement. A bit more luck, and a dash of trade magic, and I was able to transmute said DoJ into my desired Arid Mesa, in fact my fourth Arid Mesa. This little puppy gives me 6 fetch lands in Grove Level Zoo, and pushes my domain factor up over 75%, a long awaited targeted goal of mine. Just one more of the proper domain lands, and I can cut my lands back to 20, and add another threat card to the deck. For this reason, I've added a foil Sacred Foundry to my shopping list, since I think it's the perfect domain combination for my next major land, and It can benefit me in both Legacy and Extended, plus upgrade to foil in DoMT. A Plateau would be equally nice, but couldn't be used in Extended. At this point, I really have to be able to use a card in more then one version of the deck in order to justify a major acquisition like a dual land.

I also got around to reading the source this week. What a wealth of information that is. The Zoo thread is 90+ pages long, and while some of it is simple internet crap, there really has been a lot of good information in the 42 pages I've read thus far. In addition to getting answers to many of my creature based considerations, which ultimatlly led me to Gargadon, I also found a few things I hadn't thought of. For instance, Scroll Rack is an incredible card, and would make a nice addition to my deck, giving my Top like abilities, while still allowing me to to Needle my opponent's Top. I added it to the shopping list, and since it would pull double duty in DoMT, it makes the short list. With any luck, I'll be able to acquire one in 2010.

My last set of tweaks for this week will be to the side board. Word on the street is that there isn't going to be much in the way of dredge on the field this weekend, and my testing this week has proven to me that there is no such think as to much blue hate in the board. In this mind set, I made a run out to AFAG, and picked up a full set of Pyroblasts, and finished my set of REB's for a grand total of $2.50. What a deal! I was also able to pick up a set of Ethersworn Canonist for my board. I gave a little too much for them in trade, but it's off the list with no cash spent. At least it gives me some answers against a combo deck.

So, I went into Sunday with the following list, and side board;

Kavu Predator x4
Kird Ape x4
Greater Gargadon x3
Qasali Pridemage x4
Wild Nacatl x4
Tarmogoyf x4

Invigorate x3
Lightning Bolt x4
Sensei's Divining Top x2
Swords to Plowshares x3
Punishing Fire x3
Umezawa's Jitte

Arid Mesa x4
Ghost Quarter
Grove of the Burnwillows x4
Sacred Foundry
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Terramorphic Expanse
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Forest, Mountain, Plains 1 each.

Gaea's Blessing
Ethersworn Canonist x3
Red Elemental Blast x3
Pyroclasm x4
Pithing Needle x4

We ended up with 12 players, so it was going to be a four round slug off, but the good news is two wins (and decent tie-breakers) should put me in packs. Round one put me across from JD, and I felt pretty good about he match up. He had made some changes to his deck, going with what I think was a more comfortable build for him. I honestly think it's more efficient then MRB-Legacy, but only time will tell. I think I ended up taking him in two, fighting through a Magus of the Moon for the second win. It was tough, but I got there. Jeff was a little off tilt for the event, so I'm not sure I saw his best game.

Round two was a completly different story as I face Bert's Ichorid Dredge. So much for going with the the "no-dredge" prediction. I really saw my day going down in flames here, since my sideboard tech was very weak. I think Bert must have been a little confident in the match up also, because I think he kept a sub-optimal hand, and just never got there. I ended up pushing through game one, and doing what side boarding I could to shore up for game two. I settled on a sub-optimal hand featuring Grove x2, Pridemage, Kavu x3, and Gargadon. I had visions of turn one Gargadon, and then settling in with Grove powered Kavus, out racing the machine. Turns out Bert had different plans. Two turn one discard effects said good-bye to my Gargadon, and all my Kavu's. I basicly rage-scooped and went for game three, and it was a stupid move. I should have played it out. I told myself that more time in game three was to my benefit, but in reality, if Bert won a longer game two and we tied out on time on game three, it would have been better. Game three was not much better, as Bert had 3 bridges in the yard, and was pumping out tokens. I got to the Pyroclasm that I counted on to sweep the board, but without a way to kill one of my creatures off, I would be just as bad off with the tokens created from the sweep, as the ones removed.

Round three put me in the almost mirror of Grove vs. Dark Zoo. Mike has got a great deck, and I think we both did everything right. I pushed through in game one, Mike came back with game two. Game three was matter of a sub-optimal deck vs. a more traditional build, and my deck just couldn't overcome it's own shortcoming. Now don't get me wrong, I don't intend to take anything away from Mike, as he played a great game. My deck can win with 3 lands, but not when 2 of them are Groves. I think I was able to stabilize a couple of times, but it just never was enough to get on the beats.

Round four was a must win if I wanted to end up in packs, and I was able to pull it off. It had all the makings of a bad beats story, as my opponent was new to organized play, and I'm pretty sure brought a Standard knife to a Legacy  gun fight. He may have been outmatched, and more then a bit distracted, but a win is a win, and I needed it. This puts my sanctioned record to 12-17, which is starting to shape up. Before the event I was able to fight my way through Pox, which is about as close to hell for a Zoo deck as can be. After the event I threw down against Eddie's Dreadstille, and despite his superior deck I was able to pull it out, but then again I do normally beat Eddie. I think something about me or my play style puts him on tilt, but I'm not sure what it is. Maybe I've just been lucky thus far, after all, I don't see him that often.

All and all I'm pretty happy with the deck at this point. It manages to win match-ups that it simply shouldn't, and despite being a pile of jank, is starting to get a bit of respect in the local community. More then one talented mage has paid me the respect of killing off my Kavu as soon as it hits the board, waste-landing my Groves, or playing around a possible Invigorate. Gargadon really worked well today, and I think the main deck is running about as well as I can hope for right now, although I do have some concerns regarding Ghostquarter.

Clearly, the sideboard needs some adjustment, but I'll have to continue fine tuning that over time. I'm not really sure what to do with the board just yet, but I'm going to have to take a good look at the field results before tackling that issue. The single thing that needs the most work is my own play. I need to get better at mulligans, boarding for the deck, and most importantly making clear correct decisions in the face of adversity. It's going to happens, and I need to work just as hard to tune myself, as I have my deck. Scooping round two game two probably cost me some packs, and I just can't afford to give up margins I have to fight so hard to get in the first place.

I'm really not sure when I'll be able to compete again, but I'm sure it will be January at the earliest. Extended season is right around the corner, so I'm going to have to face the Goyf issue sooner then later. I have some ideas on that, but it may be best for me to simply take Extended season off, until I can better address my true lack of Goyf.

Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Budget Year In Review

2009 has been one of the most incredible years for budget players ever. M10, and Zendikar were two sets which had higher then average values, so buying and opening packs really made sense. The entire year also brought about several uncommons, with unexpected value, and created several trade opportunities which were not to be missed.

Path to Exile, Hellspark Elemental, Vampire Nighthawk, Valakut- the Molten Pinnacle, and Ant Queen were all given out as promo cards this year, and still maintain excellent value, despite the extra quantities in circulation. Each of these is in key decks right now, and should see at least casual play for years to come.

This was a tough year for commons. The introduction of Mythics, and the resulting extra packs that were opened, have virtually brought the death of the chase common. There simply is too many packs opened for any given common to have much maintain much in the way of extra value. Despite all this, there were a few stand outs in the common arena. Qasaile Pridemage, and Relic of Progenitus both fetch a small premium, and are seen in decks across virtually all formats. Wild Nactal, had an unexpected impact, bringing Zoo back as a deck format nearly own it's own, and proved they were willing to print things better then Kird Ape. Plated Geopede may still be the sleeper common for the year, as landfall has the potential to be abused, and this is certainly one of the best commons with the ability.

Bloodbraid Elf, Putrid Leech, Ravenous Trap, Elite Vanguard, Gatekeeper of Malakir, Goblin Ruinblaster lead the pack in uncommons. Each of these brings more to the table then you really expect from a fifty cent card. Bloodbraid Elf, and Putrid Leech all but gave birth to the Cascade and Jund decks which are still defining standard, and causing ripple effects in Extended and beyond. Ravenous Trap is fitting Dredge back into a corner, and Dredge will have to find a way to respond, if it is to stay as a leader of the pack in Legacy and beyond. Elite vanguard is an old friend in a new skin. They gave Savannah Lion a relevant creature type, and lowered it's rarity, making it more accessible. Gatekeeper is the sword point of black card advantage, pushing the limits of efficiency. Ruinblaster is the goblin of the year, and we have not even begun to see what we it can do.

Vampire Hexmage by far had the most price impact of any budget card in 2009, not with it's own price, but with what it did for Dark Depths. This little friend pushed old DD from the fifty cent rare box, to $25 dollars almost over night. I know I trade my excess depths for my current Legacy deck. Anytime you can swap 4-5 cards for an entire deck, you have done well in the budget arena.

While we are on the subject of lands, lets talk about some you are going to want to keep, not trade away. The Enemy Fetch Lands are teh must have rares of 2009 in one simple shot. While these may not seem like budget cards at $300 a play set (20 cards in all), I highly recommend getting these, as they do represent excellent value, and are not likely to go down in value, and will be playable in virtually every format for as long as they are legal.

A number of rares came out over the course of 2009, which represent a great value. Banefire, Knight of the Reliquary, Inkwell Leviathan, Merfolk Sovereign, and Rite of Replication should all be picked up when possible, for what ever decks you see them in. While we are on the subject of rares, several of them were reprinted this year, and brought the price of the cards way down. Coat of Arms, Howling Mine, Hypnotic Specter, Pithing Needle, Twincast, Underworld Dreams, are each down roughly 50% (and in some cases more) from their highs. Now is the time to pick these up, if you have not already. On the flip side, several cards were reprinted this year, and either held, or went up in value. It may be time to shake out he old storage boxes for excess copies of  Lightning Bolt, Duress, Terminate, Overrun, Pyroclasm, Serra Angel, Whispersilk Cloak and make some trades with them.

The last group of budget cards that drew attention in 2009, is something I've dubbed the "Lifer Suite". The printing of Punishing Fire, began a movement of resurgence in several cards built around allowing your opponent to do something counter intuitive, gaining life. It along with Grove of the Burnwillows, Swords to Plowshares, Kavu Predator, and Invigorate, combine nicely forming a tight synergy. The colors lend them selves nicely to a Zoo deck, and form the budget basis for my own Legacy deck. For the Black player there is Grollub, and for the blue mage, Phelddagrif and Questing Phelddagrif also make nice additions. This makes a nice budget option for Legacy, as you can buy this entire suite for less then what a single Goyf costs.

The truth is it's pretty tough to pick  "a budget card of the year", since all of these will be seen for years to come, but if I really had to, I'd say Path to Exile. this card showed that Wizards isn't afraid of the long abandoned Swords power level, and that they were willing to bring that level back to the modern game. In many ways this card is better then it's ancestor, and helped to push basic lands back into relivence. It imediatly became a power uncommon, rising to the $5 price point and beyond, and is likely to stay there for many years even if significantly reprinted.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It can't Last - Can It?

For the first two weeks of the SciFi Genre Legacy Series, I’ve come out on top at the end. Both Sundays I’ve been 1st place once the dust settled. Is it luck? Skill? Something else?

I have to admit, it’s gotta be mostly luck. The Zoo brew I put together IS a very good deck – but it has it’s auto-losses. I’ve yet to face a countertop deck, and considering my entire deck is made of 1s and 2s, I’d be shut down pretty hard once someone got a CounterTop soft lock on me. That hasn’t happened yet though. So far, I’ve faced:

2 1st round byes - I swear I’m not manipulating Reporter. Heck, week two, when we only had 5 players, the other four decided to just start playing while I was out smoking, so I got the bye by default.

1 R/w Goblins – Is this typically a good matchup? Perhaps. It’s all about racing, and can really come down to who draws better. I do have a fairly solid draw engine in Dark Confidant and Sylvan Library – but really, I think it came down to the pilot of the Goblin deck. He was new to do the deck, having been handed it that morning by a friend, and on top of that, it was a more budget version, featuring Sacred Foundries instead of Plateau. That 2 life can be huge in a racing mirror like that. Plus, I do think I was the more experienced player – I don’t mean to disparage my opponent, cuz that’s not what I’m about, but he missed several good plays. For example, he had an Aether Vial set to 2 on the table. I targeted it for destruction by a Qasali Pridemage, and he just… let it go. Next turn, he draws his card, immediately plays the land he drew off the top, then cast a 2-drop Goblin. *shrug*

2 Mono-Green Elves – Actually, this is the same deck, and the same pilot – Roberto, both weeks. Again, this one comes down to racing, but Roberto has no removal, while I feature a plethora of burn spells. To win against Elves, you have to keep him off a critical mass of dorks, and all my burn and removal makes it pretty easy to keep him under control. Plus, Roberto has a bad habit of not blocking unless it’s going to kill him, opening himself up to a second-main Bolt to finish him off. He also kept a speculative hand with 1 Forest and 4 Llanowar/Fyndhorn Elves in one game, and I proceeded to burn away every single one of them, every single turn, while his deck declined to cough up a second land. By the time he found one, I’d curved out, and he had no hope. Roberto is a great, great player though – last week, we had a very epic matchup that had me scrambling and clawing to stay alive the entire time. I just barely managed to win it, and it took some of the very best playing I’ve ever done.

2 Mono-Red Burn – Like the Goblin matchup, this one is a race. Like the Elves matchup, it’s been the same pilot both times, Jeff, although the deck had been tweaked slightly from week one to week two. Part of my victories here was more Jeff being on tilt than any particular advantage I might have had – although again, my card advantage engines do help me race better in the long-game. Jeff also found himself having to use his burn on my creatures, instead of my face, which is not what his deck wants to be doing. Plus, Sulfuric Vortex helps me as much as it helps him - and when I draw more burn than he does...

That’s all I’ve faced so far – other decks that want to race with me. In all the matchups I’ve had so far, I’ve been better at racing than them, so I’ve won. So what happens when I finally face something other than another racer?

Control – I have to hope I can dump my hand before they can really start controlling the board. You don’t see much mass removal in Legacy, so my gameplan is going to have to be to overwhelm them before we get into the late game. Sylvan Library will help here – since they’re not putting much pressure on me earlier, I can actually afford to pay 4 life for an extra card here or there. Out of the board, you of course bring in the Blasts, because being able to counter something for R is just silly.

Aggro-Control / Midrange – I feel pretty good about these matchups. So far, I’ve managed to out-draw Eva Green in playtesting, although I’ve got to learn not to keep one-land hands against the more controlish variants. Merfolk scares me a bit, but I think that’s because Shoebox has more experience with piloting Merfolk than most of the Legacy players at SciFi have combined – he’s been playing Merfolk in one format or another for quite some time now, and he also draws stupidly well.

Combo – depends on the combo. Solidarity, as we’ve tested multiple times, simply can’t combo out faster than I can bash their face in. Dredge, I’m not terribly worried about – between the Moggs main and the Crypts, Relics and Teegs in the SB, I can do a decent job of keeping them off tilt long enough to bash face. Other combos worry me, though – ANT, Belcher (although there isn’t much I can do against Belcher, either it wins or it doesn’t), etc – I simply haven’t played against them, so I don’t know how to fight them properly.

So what happens this Sunday? Do I take the crown 3 weeks running? Or do I finally get bad matchups and have to work for my wins? Only one way to tell – come out Sunday and play!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Worldwake: Getting the Land Back Together.

Worldwake is still more then a month away, and we have very few reliable cards at this point, but of course the rumors are running rampant. One card that we know to be correct, Celestial Colonade, has really started teh rumor mills running at double speed.

That's right folks, this land really does have a little bit of everything. Not only is it an aligned dual land, but it is also a man land. When activated it becomes a 4/4 w/u elemental creature, with flying and vigilance. You read that right it has vigilance, which means it can swing in on the attack, and still be tapped for mana mid combat. I think this really accounts for the high activation cost, and provides a huge versatility for the creature/land. This allows you to cast nearly a half dozen mid-combat tricks is standard alone, and who knows how many more activated abilities. I can here you already, "So what, I'd never cast Constricting Tendrals anyway!".

That may be true, and you would get no argument from me, but things like Brave the Elements, Harm's Way, Jump, Path to Exile, Shieldmate's Blessing, Silence, and even Unsummon, could easily be put to use during a combat trick These are just the options which would be open if you had no other mana sources available, not to mention everything you could do int he second main phase. Net result is this may be the most versitle land Wizards has printed since Revised. On the down side, it does come into play tapped, and thus creates a potentialy huge tempo loss, but it may still be just the thing W/U control deck needs to be a finisher.

This has created a lot of speculation about the implied cycle of lands. While some people seem to thing we will see a full 10 card aligned/enemy cycle, I think the best we can hope for is the aligned pairs in a small set. The real question will be what the other activated creatures look like?

Anther card which I think casts a shadow for the set is Leatherback Baloth. This monster is hyper efficient with a cmc of 3 and a combined power and toughness of 9! What is really interesting here is the triple green casting cost. If this isn't a sign of pushing mono-color in standard, then I don't know what is. This easily could have been 2gg or even 4g, and still have been a very efficient creature, but instead they opted to make this a card which must go in a heavily green based deck. In order for this card to stay on or above the curve, it must hit the table by turn 4, so a single color splash is about as far as you could stretch the mana base, and still be sure of getting this out when it mattered. Cards like the M10 basic matter lands, will become even more important, allowing the most efficient cards in Worldwake to still be played above the curve with an aligned splash color. I think this also shows a pretty clear course to preprint the M10 lands, and bring out the enemy pair cycle in M11.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Life in the Zoo: Making the Switch

One of the primary reason I choose Zoo as my entry point into Legacy, is the fact that it is an ever present deck in every format, and converts easily back and forth. I've recently been giving some thought to Standard, and seeing what it would take to make this deck viable for Standard. I found a very interesting deck list, which puts me nearly there. The fetchland selection really don't make much sense here, unless you are simply that afraid of Pithing Needle? I think Arid Mesa makes a lot more sense then most in the list. From this revised list I would need only the following;

Knight of the Reliquary
Ranger of Eos x2

Honestly $20 for three cards is a lot, but getting back into Standard is a worth wild goal, and I expect I'd be able to pick these up in trade, so no cash outlay would be required. This deck would be viable in Standard for roughly another 10 months, so I should be able to get some good use out of it. These cards also convert nicely into Extended, although Ranger is not used in Extended Zoo at the moment.

In review of Extended Zoo decks, I'm happy to see that most decks are not running more then one or in some cases two of any given shockland. I may begin to foil out my shocklands, as my second. I really can't see ever needing more then 2 each of these, unless damaging yourself comes back into vogue.

Just looking at the foil shocklands which would be my priorities, I find that I would need five; the RGW aligned pair, the R/W, and the GBW enemy pair. This would give me a second set for my Zoo deck, and allow me to foil out my EDH deck, at a cost of roughly $90. Now this really got me thinking. What if my priorities for all my decks fell into line, focusing on RGW? In this case alone, it would allow me to drop about 40% off the shopping list. This could be just the ticket, to allow my budget to be more focused over the next year, after all it allows me to all but ignore 40% of the game.

The biggest issue is making this focus adjustment would be my EDH deck, which now has Teneb the Harvester as it's general. I also run 13 other black cards in the deck, plus several black mana lands. My biggest problem will be to choose a new general that would encompass RGW, and there are several options available.

Hazezon Tamar is an incredible token creator, with wonderful art,  but it simply has to much down side.
-I don't own the card,
-it costs $10 and would be tough to trade for,
-it's mana cost is very high for it's power and toughness.
A 2/X general has to get in there 11 times to win that way. It would combine well with a card like Knight of New Alara, but the odds of getting them both out would be poor at best.

What can you say about Jacques le Vert? It's 3/2 for 4 mana, and gives all your green creatures +0/+2. It's 3/X body does drop the general damage down to getting there in 7, but it's till way too high for my taste. Really not a heck of a lot going for it. Combined with the fact that I don't (to my knowledge) own a copy of the card, even it's $2 price may be beyond my current reach.

In addition to being an evil tyrant, Johan 5/x body gets there in 5 swings, and gets gives the team vigilance. Wait, what? It gets there in 5 swings or gives the rest of the team vigilance? Fail!

Now comes Mayael the Anima, which has a very interesting puts into play ability. Just doing some rough thinking about what would end up in the EDH portion, only about 30% is creatures and probably only about 6 of those would meet the trigger. Just don't think this Napoleon General (get it? 2/3, little General!) is gonna get there.

Palladia-Mors on the other hand is not a Napoleon general, but he is mana intensive with a cmc of 8, and an upkeep cost of of RGW. Having this guy out, means doing almost nothing else. He is a 7/7 flying beat stick, but really doesn't bring anything else to the table.

Uril, the Miststalker is a real contender here. Not only is he fat at 5/5, but he has troll shroud, and gets fatter by leaps and bounds when enchanted. On the down side, I don't own a copy of this card, and while $3 is very reasonable for this card, it's budget I just don't have right now. This also has the problem of being reserved by another player in our play group, plus it's been done, and I just don't think creature enchantments are a good may to draw an advantage.

I think when it's all said and done, I have to go with Rith, the Awakener. Not only do I own this card, but I have the very pimped out foil version from the Dragon Vault set. His cmc of 6 is really good for a 6/6 flyer that gets there in four swings. The on board ability to create saprolings is interesting, and may be worth building a deck around. I've always wanted to build a deck with Doubling Season, and I think this is just the thing.

Next step is to strip out the black cards in the deck, and replace them with Red. Red is already minimized in DoMT, and I think this is a good time to strip down Black and Blue also, to make room for more Green and White cards which better support the new theme.

How to put yourself on tilt.

Submitted by Jeff Darran

So we had our first Sci-Fi Legacy tourney on Sunday. I decided to play the mono red burn deck I’ve been working on for a while, cause, well, to know me is to understand my relationship with mountains, lightning bolts, and generally setting things on fire. It’s “me.” 

So I go rolling in with my deck (aptly titled Jeff Red – Legacy Edition) and proceed to get paired against Jeff Abbott (Crispy), the man responsible for me playing legacy.  I started off in an interesting state of mind though, an omen of sorts, as I count my board and find only 14 cards…. What? There’s supposed to be 15. So I pile shuffle the main deck and discover 61 cards. Well pooh. I start looking thru, and discover that I have done something horribly wrong. With all the excitement from FNM, then states on Saturday, where I took and passed my L1 judge test (official L1 Magic judge now! Woot) I have somehow forgotten to actually prepare and make sure there were no proxies in my deck, and that it was ready to go. It wasn’t. 

So the scramble begins. There are 61 cards main, what’s not supposed to be there. Shoot, the vortexes I bought aren’t with me. Shoot there are 4 Wasteland proxies in here. CRAP! So I steal the 4 wastelands from Daniel’s Fish deck (he wasn’t there to play it anyways), and then throw the 3 Blood Moon in the board into the main. Jeff Abbot gives me 4 pithing needles to fill in the blanks in my board and we are off to the races! Jeff and I have an awesome interactive match that goes all the way into our extension. It’s a close battle, but a game 3 pithing needle naming Sensei’s Divining Top manages to stifle his card advantage, and I burn out for the win. Woot. First Legacy Match Win Evar! 

Round 2 finds me facing off against Bert, who’s running a Dredge Deck that has absolutely beaten the hell out of me in all the test games against him. He winds up mulling to 4 in game one, and succeeds in getting his dredge started, but I topdeck the burn in the right places, and pull him off his mana he does have to take game 1. Game 2 I bring in 3 cards for this match, and I keep a rocket of an opening hand. He manages to dissect it on his turn 1 leaving me in part shambles, but I topdeck the 2nd Tormod’s Crypt and keep him off of his yard. I take game 2. 

Round 3 I find myself facing Phil’s Zoo Deck. It’s a solid deck and Phil is very good with it. His timing is incredible and he’s been playing it for well over 2 months now. The match actually scares me a bit because I’ve never swept him, he ALWAYS wins game 2. We shuffle up and he wins the die roll, going first. We fight and claw and fight and claw and I manage to pull ahead in the race and take game 1. Phew! So I open my deckbox and I see 3 cards in my sideboard that are supposed to be in my deck.  I look at the rest of my board and determine that the 3 cards that they replaced are also in the board. This means I had presented a 57 card deck in game one. Crap. I look at Phil, knowing what I have to tell him. I say congrats, I’m not sure if we are going to game 2 or if its game 3, but "congrats on your win". He looks at me quizzically and I look at Mike, and say "judge". Mike looks over at me and goes what. I said I’m not sure what the appropriate penalty is for this, I gave my cheat-sheet to Bradshaw yesterday before I took my L1 test, and failed to get it back. I tell him what I managed to do, failing to put the deboarded cards back into the maindeck and that basically I have presented a 57 card deck (at this point I am silently living up to my nickname of Cap’n Cuss-a-lot, silently and under my breath). There’s more discussion and it’s finally determined that I won game 1. That can’t be gone back and undone. I have lost game 2, and we are now starting game 3. It’s very close and it does come down to the wire, but Phil pulls it out. 

Yay, Tilt. It has arrived. I wind up getting paired up to play the leader in the tourney, and it’s useless. He has god-like draws, and I’m not doing anything really constructive. I hang around for a bit in game one, then he plays triple lightning helix, and it’s pretty much over at that point. Game 2 is a bloodbath and is over fairly quickly. 

I love being on tilt, nothing good ever comes of it, though I’m pretty sure I’m going to count my board before every game now, no matter what! Lesson – always be prepared! 

I’m sure some of you might ask, “Did the thought of just putting them back in and not saying anything cross your mind?” Honestly, yea, that thought made its appearance, however, my first thought was S**T, I just lost game 1 (it wound up being game 2, but minor details). There is no way I could cheat. No matter how badly I want to win, I want to win fair and square, not by cheating. Cheating is wrong, and if I’m judging an event and I catch you cheating, you’re getting DQ’d! If you can’t win fair and square, don’t play the game.

I’m going to go home tonight and watch “The Last Boyscout” now, see you all next time!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Building My Legacy pt.4

So I had to call a couple of audibles on Sunday morning just prior to the first SciFi Genre Sanctioned Legacy Event. I ended up with the following list, and sideboard. The most recent changes (from my prior development) are in italics.

Kavu Predator x4
Kird Ape x4
Knight of the Reliquary x2
Qasali Pridemage x4
Wild Nacatl x4
Tarmogoyf x4
Ranger of Eos

Invigorate x3
Lightning Bolt x4
Sensei's Divining Top x2
Swords to Plowshares x3
Punishing Fire x3
Umezawa's Jitte

Arid Mesa x3
Horizon Canopy
Ghost Quarter
Grove of the Burnwillows x4
Sacred Foundry
Stomping Ground
Temple Garden
Terramorphic Expanse
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills
Forest, Mountain, Plains 1 each.

Gaea's Blessing
Relic of Progenitus x2
Tormod's Crypt x2
Red Elemental Blast x2
Firespout x3
Vexing Shusher x4

The event went really well, and we were able to sanction the very first time with 11 players. The field was nearly as broad with 2 radically different Zoo decks, ANT, Eva Green, dredge, pox, goblins, burn, elves, mostly-white weenie?, and monogreen spirits?. My first round match up was Roberto Elves, and damn that thing is fast. I went down to the hoard in game one, and sided in firespout as a board sweeper in game 2, but it just wasn't enough. I think Pyroclasm, being a turn faster, will be better. I also need to find a way to control a morph trigger, and I was just coming up empty. Pithing Needle should be just the thing. Morph may not use the stack, but it is an activated ability. Turning off a win condition seems good.

My next match appeared to be a mirror Zoo match (which I later discuved worked more like a White Weenie deck), but used black instead of Red. I really never got a good feel for what the deck was intended to do, because I was able to get there in two, pretty fast both times. I was even able to steal the second win with what I've dubbed my "lifer suite". People just don't see that coming, and it gets the job done so nicely, when it goes off.

My third match of the day ended up being a bitter sweet victory. After getting pounded in game one, my opponent discovered he had presented an illegal deck, as 3 of his main deck cards were inadvertantly in with the side board, netting an illegal 57 card main deck. What happened next was a bit remarkable. My opponent called a judge, and reported his own error, when it would have been so easy, to have simply corrected it and moved into game 2. Now don't get me wrong, this was in no way remarkable because of who did it. This individual is not only a long time friend, and esteemed Magic colleague, but an all around stand up guy. No, what made this remarkable was seeing this level of integrity in a card game. Honestly, after the recent rash of DQ's at the pro level, I had really wondered if it still existed in the game, or if the "easy way" had simply won out, over the "right way". The judge issued a game two loss for my opponent, and we moved into game three with a win each. I am proud to say that I feel like I won the third game on the strength of my own pro play. My opponent had 2 mountains in play, and a grip of cards, I played a second land and tapped out to drop a Kavu. He ponded it with direct damage as soon as it hit the board. I responded by alternate casting Invigorate to save it. He was tapped out, so I figured, I had saved my threat, and pumped it at the same time. He responded to it with Fireblast dealing four, having sacked 2 mountains for the alternate casting cost. The 4 for 2 exchange was enough of a tempo gain for me to win out, as my opponent was unable to overcome the loss of 2 lands. While my win here cemented me into packs, I sort of hated to get the win on a play error.

My last opponent of the day was Crispy's Eva Green. What I didn't know was my deck was on his side. Now I know better then to sit around after a match and complain about how my deck crapped on me. Every case of mana screw is either a symptom of poor design or bad shuffle, nothing more. All I know is my sub-par mana base met Crispy's excellent disruption/LD package, they shook hands, turned around, and gave me the finger. Game one was mercifully over before I knew it. Being cut off from a color is bad, and having both your lands give your opponent life is worse. Game three was much longer, as I managed to stabilize three times, but it was never enough to put Crispy on his back foot, and he remained firmly in control through out.

A the end of the day my deck had done exactly what it was designed to do, steal enough wins to put me in packs. I also got some really good data on how my deck matches up against others. A couple of tweaks to my side board should greatly improve my ability to steal a win, maybe as much as 50%, but only time and testing will tell. I also continue to think that improving my mana base is the most immediate way to effect my win percentage, now 6-13. That still sucks, but it's vastly improved over my prior 2-8 record. Today's list had a domain factor of 71.4%, which is much higher them my starting point, but still clearly allowing opportunities to fail. One to two more fetch lands could push this concentration as high as 81%, and at a cost of about $25, could be just the short term fix I'm looking for. Of course, only a single Arid Mesa is still on my shopping list, and this probably isn't teh year to foil out DoMT, so I may have to look at for a more budget friendly option. Maybe I'll get lucky and crack an Arid Mesa out of the two packs I won, or at the very least it should be pretty easy to trade for, and it would have an impact on 3 of my 5 decks. Luckily, I can make the changes I want to my side board with cards I already have.

Gaea's Blessing
Relic of Progenitus x2
Tormod's Crypt x2
Red Elemental Blast x2
Pyroclasm x3
Pithing Needle x4

Monday, December 7, 2009

Phyrexia: Past Present and Future

It has become fairly well accepted that the magic story line will be diverging back to the Phyrexian threat by way of Mirrodin. Wizard's recent trade marks have made that a certainty. I thought this would be a good time to walk the path of history of just how Phyrexia became connected to Mirrodin, and where that connection is likely to lead us.

Phyrexia is an artificial plane of entirely mechanical "life" created by an ancient planeswalker. Little is known of this planeswalker, aside from the fact that he preferred to assume the form of a dragon. There are many who believe that this dragon may be none other then Nicol Bolis himself, having created this plane for some purpose either abandoned, or yet to be utilized, or perhaps even forgotten by the monster during the crisis, and the reshaping. This would tie the two best established "evil" story lines in Magic into one unified set.

The plane consisted of nine nested spheres, each with its own purpose and, often, mechanical ecosystem. This world was not so different from Mirrodin (a single sphere artificial plane) until Yawgmoth arrived, brought there by the planeswalker Dyfed. Dyfed was also  convinced by Glacian to rescue the elders of the empire, whom Yawgmoth had imprisoned. She took them, along with a number of goblin servants, to the plane of Mercadia, where they would become the ancestors of the Mercadians, and the Kyren. The Plane of Mercadia later allied itself with Phyrexia, and was used as a staging area for the Invasion.

Yawgmoth, with the remnants and descendants of the phthisis-inflicted Thran humans whom he "saved" through the process he referred to as "Phyresis" (essentially the replacement of weak mortality with artifice) came here when they were forced out of the Thran Empire as traitors. The ensuing war destroyed the nation of the Thran.The Phyrexians' main purpose after their entrapment in the plane was to invade and destroy their old home of Dominaria. Many years were spent preparing for this invasion, with various plans, weapons, and soldiers being created throughout the ages. Also aware that their artificial home plane would collapse after some time, the survival of the Phyrexian way depended upon the successful entrance into Dominaria and the defeat of its life forms. The Phyrexians waited, plotted, and built up their forces for the time when their way would be clear into the old world.

The first stage of any Phyrexian's life is that of the Newt. These creatures are grown in vats of glistening oil, and appear as androgynous, hairless humans. They are grown to adulthood then prepared and released for life in the dark plane. Newts are later put through a process called completion. At this point, they are transformed into other forms of Phyrexians to serve any of a number of purposes for Yawgmoth. Sleeper agents are fully grown and sometimes genetically modified newts who have not been completed, appearing as regular human beings, sent to spy on other planes and perform clandestine operations outside of Phyrexia. Some are completely unaware of their status and task, simply dropped off on other planes to be used as hidden cameras.

On one of Urza's post awakening travels, he met Xantcha, a Phyrexian sleeper agent that had gone rogue and had been exiled from her home plane. He rescued Xantcha from her executioners and, in return, Xantcha helped Urza to invade Phyrexia. It was never clear if Xantache was truly an outcast of Phyrexia as she believed, or simply an unaware agent of doom.

During their invasion of Phyrexia, Xantcha had gone to the Fane of Flesh and gained her life matrix, a device she called her "heart". This was powerstone with in her at the time of her rending, which was removed during her first moments of life. It was a major part of Phyrexian scripture that Yawgmoth controlled the phyrexian through their heart. Xantacha was killed several mulenia later, when Urza destroyed Gix at the third battle of Koilos. Xantachs heart was retained by Urza after "her" death.

Roughly three centuries later, Urza utilized Xantachs heart as the Power Matrix he had designed as a probe to travel back through time, ultimatly to stop the Thran from becoming the Phyrexians. This matrix heart granted the probe true inteligence and sentiance, in many ways life. The probe eventually took the name Karn, meaning "mighty" in the old Thran language. Karn spent much of his esistance in a state of depresion, feeling that he had no purpose, after teh Time Machines destruction in the first deense of Tolaria. Karn gained new purpose as part of the Legacy, and a member of the weatherlight crew, fighting Phyrexia's plots on the plane for centuries.

To keep Karn from overburdening the human portions of Legacy, Karn's long memories were locked away, leaving him only a few decades of recollection. Karn took a vow of pacifism, swearing never again to take a life, after having ben tricked into killing an innocent bystander during his duties with the Legacy. Early in the Phyrexian Invasion, Karn realized his vow of pacifism kept him from protecting his friends and his homeworld. He spent much of his time in the Weatherlight's engine core, guiding the ship as it improved itself and further integrated the Legacy. Finally, as all hope of victory seemed lost, Karn united with Urza and Gerrard. When Gerrard placed Urza's powerstone eyes, the Mightstone and Weakstone (collectivly known as the Glacian stone), into Karn, the Legacy released a wave of white mana, destroying the Phyrexians and defeating Yawgmoth. Karn inherited the Planewalker spark, when Urza's lifeforce was consumed in the fighting of the Invasion. Karn eventually relized that Urza's spark made his "heart" power matrix redundant, and sought a new use for it.

Karn later created Argentum, a plane of mathematical perfection. He sent probes to monitor Dominaria, but one of them was flawed and became the Mirari. It was an artifact of unspeakable power that appeared on Otaria roughly a century after the Phyrexian Invasion. The word “mirari” was an ancient word for a fantastic wish-granting artifact and the Mirari certainly matched that description, tapping into its wielder's desires and making them real. However, the Mirari had been created from Karn's former heart stone, and leaked radiation, inevitably caused disaster to strike the bearer, usually leading to their death. Another effect it had was that it caused intense longing in those that saw it, causing many individuals to become obsessed with owning it. It initiated a devastating cycle of warfare and magical disasters across Otaria before it was retrieved by its creator, Karn, who had only intended for it to be a probe.

Karn took it to his artificial plane, Argentum, where he used it as the core of the golumn he created as the plane's guardian, Memnarch. Karn and left to wander the multiverse with Jeska. Mennarch was a sentient version of the Mirari driven mad by Phyrexian oil which had followed Karn and Jeska from Dominaria. As steward of Argentum while Karn was away, Memnarch wished to become a planeswalker like his creator. To that end, he transformed Argentum into Mirrodin, a planet-sized machine able to transfer a planeswalker's spark from one being into another. His attempts to find a planeswalker spark led him to populate Mirrodin with beings from other planes, and wait for a spark owner. There were five districts of Mirodin, one for each color.

The Mephidross (or Dross, for short) is a swamp of sludge, hazardous chemicals and waste, broken and cast off machines, and corroding metal on the world of Mirrodin. Necrogen, a vile mist-like chemical that transforms those exposed for too long, fills the air, belched from odd structures called "smokestacks." This area is very reminiscent of the fourth sphere of Phyrexia, were newts are distilled, but here zombies awake from the oily chemical much of the Dross. Nim, a race of zombies, occupied the Dross. They were very numerous and, along with the already horrible conditions of the environment, made this region inhospitable to most life.

The inner core of Mirrodin is very similiar to the ninth sphere, here the panoptican served much the same purpose as the ninth sphere. The Quicksilver Sea is large body of liquid mercury on Mirrodin, very similiar to the sea of oil found on the fifth sphere of Phyrixia. The Oxidda Chain is a series of large slopes and elevated plateaus of oxidized metals, probably rusted iron, the Great Furnace, lies on the inside of a gargantuan hollow mountain, not unlike the second and third spheres of Phyrexia itself.

The white area is the Razorfields, the "razorgrass" that grow there, plants that appear to be long metallic rods with blade-like edges. The green area of the plane is the Tangle, a huge expanse of copper structures rising out of the metal ground, encased in green verdigris and mold, with wires and metal extensions serving as leaves and vines, is the closest thing to a forest on Mirrodin. These area is strickingly similiar to the first sphere of Phyrexia. The tangle is were he ultimatly found a spark.

When he identified Glissa Sunseeker's spark, he became obsessed with capturing her and stealing it for himself. Even though he succeeded in extracting the spark, he couldn't take it for himself, and it was transfered to Slobad. Millennia later, Karn returned to Argentum, he turned Memnarch back into the Mirari and left it in the care of Glissa, Slobad, and Geth.

So there we have it Mirrodin, and artificial plane, formed of a single mostly hollow layer, orbited by 5 moons of pure mana. This single layer has areas strickingly similiar to the make up of Phyrexia.  Inhabited by a sentient, and somewhat insane powerstone of Phyrexian origin, an utold amount of scuttlers at the core, a Viridian elf of unknown origin, a goblin which was briefly a planeswalker, the disembodied head of Geth, and an unknown amount of Phyrexian oil. We know that a Phyrexian incursian can rise from a single Phyrexian, or the effects of the oil on a single creature. Who knows what sort of foothold could grow from this?