Monday, August 30, 2010

Grim Tidings #22 - Bling Heirarchy

Magic players are ridiculous when it comes wasting money. Myself included, I am totally addicted to getting the most pimped out version of each card I can, especially for my 5C First Reminder deck. It gets so expensive in some cases, I’m embarrassed to admit what I’m spending my money on.

I’ve been working on foils for this particular deck for over two years now, and of the 300 cards, I am just over 75% complete. Of the remaining 25%, about half of those cards are not available in premium form. This leaves me with about 40 cards (or so) to upgrade. I have no idea what I will do next when I reach this milestone, but it will likely be retirement.

As I continue to bling it up, I consider a rating classification of which version is better than the previous. There are so many options out there, it helps to develop a hierarchy criteria of which version may or may not be better than another. Caution: You’re probably about to read one of the nerdiest columns you may ever seen on the internet. Seriously, who would ever take the time to write something as trvial like this?

Level 0: Regular Edition
Ho-hum. This is the regular version you pull out of an every-day booster pack. Sure, a paper-version of Jace, the Mind Sculptor is still a great card to play with, but I usually treat cards like this as temporary place holders in my deck until I can get a premium version to replace it later on.

Sadly, premium versions of cards did not exist prior to the Urza’s Legacy expansion, so in these cases the regular Level 0 version will have to suffice. Unless…

Level 1: Regular Edition Foreign
…the card appears in a foreign language printing! This is a very minor upgrade for sure, as many people do not like the potential confusion with a foreign printing. Nonetheless, it is a slight variation from the norm, so if I have a foreign edition, I normally play it (unless card is so extremely complicated/obscure that I would have to explain every times to my opponent. Sometimes its easier to just avoid the hassle than trying to use a foreign card like this!)

Level 2: Foil
Foil is the standard upgrade for me. Most of the premium cards in First Reminder fall into this category. I prefer the first edition printing of foil if possible, but typically any foil version is good enough for me. I do occasionally like the alternate arts versions from FNMs, MPRs, Judge Foils, or FtV (Etc.) so I will choose them based on artistic value rather than printing edition.

Level 3: Foil Foreign Language
The next natural step I rank is getting that same foil in a foreign language. I suppose I travel abroad more frequently than others, so I make sure when I’m in a different country I hit the card shops to find foreign versions of my foils for upgrade. Its one thing to have a Foil Spanish Mystic gate; its quite another to say you have a Foil Spanish Mystic Gate actually from Spain!

Level 4: Foil Chinese/Japanese/Korean
This is a completely personal preference for me, because I find the Asian writing characters are so unique! The completely capture the eye as something out of the ordinary. Some people hate them, I love them. When I get a chance to travel to the Far East, I intend to buy absolutely every foil I can get my hands on!

Level 5: Signed Foil
Level 6: Signed Foil Foreign Language
Level 7: Signed Foil Chinese/Japanese

The next ranking I classify is signatures. In the same order as before, I’ve found a signature really enhances the bling. I didn’t really explore this as an option until this year’s Gencon, but after my good friend Jed Humphries came home with a big stack of sigs for my deck, all I can do now is attempt to get more. I’ve begun reaching out to artists via their websites requesting their signatures via mail, Hopefully I will be adding more signatures this way soon!

By the way, It’s my preference to NOT get my non-foils signed by the artists. I treat signatures as the pinnacle of my collection, so I only want it on a premium version if possible. If I haven’t obtained the premium version yet, I will wait until i do rather than sully the front of a regular paper version that could eventually be traded away once the upgrade is complete.

Level 8: Signed Foil Altered Art (by original Artist)
In most cases, I prefer a simple, neat signature rather than an altered art version, as I find altered arts can be somewhat distracting. However, they are normally one-of-a-kind items, and truly special. I own none, but if I had one prepared especially for me, I would certainly treasure it and play with it.

Level 9: Beta
Obviously, the original dual lands and Power 9 is not available in foil, nor will the ever be printed this way again. Although they are still quite rare in any printing, the percentage of white-bordered versions in circulation is far larger than the original black-bordered alphas and betas. For these cards, the only premium would be to get the original printing. I prefer Beta versions over the rounded corners of Alpha, but both are equally cool.

Level 10: Signed Beta
I’m kicking myself I didn’t have Mark Tedin sign my Beta Sol Ring while Jed was at Gencon this year. What an opportunity I didn’t even consider! For the same reason I don’t get signatures on non-foils, I normally don’t want my white-bordered Unlimited cards to get signed. One day, a long time from now, I will upgrade them all to Beta. But I already have the Beta Sol Ring! Argh. Signed Beta is about as good as it gets.

So there you go. This is my hierarchy ranking system. What is yours?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

DoMT: 25 Red Cards, 2011

Okay, I admit it, I didn't try very hard on the title, but really what more could I say there? If you have spent anytime reading about this deck, or 5color in general, you know that's the long and the short of it. For what ever reason, the red portion of the color pie has spent more time in the shallow end of the creativity pool then any other. All red consistently has going for it is Haste, Land Destruction, Direct Damage, and temporary creatures. In my mind, the best thing to do for your deck, is keep red to a minimal amount, so on each review I cut it back to 25 cards. Here we go, bolded cards are new for this year.

Blood Tyrant
Bringer of the Red Dawn
Conquering Manticore
Dwarven Miner
Inferno Titan
Kazuul, Tyrant of the Cliffs

Fire // Ice
Jund Charm
Order // Chaos
Burning Wish

Pure // Simple
Splinter Twin
Wild Research
Briorn Stoutarm
Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker
Rith, the Awakener
Sarkhan Vol
Ajani Vengeant

I know, that's only 24. Well here is the latest addition to the deck, something which represents some of my super secret tech! That's right folks, I'm talking about Giant Harbinger. It's a creature, and a tutor all in one. I presently have more then a half dozen targets for it in the deck, and will be looking to increase that over the next year.

Currently it gets all the Titans from M11, Brion, and another tutor in the form of Stonehewer. I've never attempted to put any sort of tribal them into the deck, but this looks to promising to pass up. Gatherer has over 100 hits for the Giant subtype, so I am bound to find some other goodness and tricks in there to serve up at the casual table.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grim Tidings #21 - Second Reminder Redux

Well, a summer has passed, and the Indianapolis Colts are gearing up for another run to NFL glory. Sadly, Grim Tidings has been absent from this webpage since the Superbowl (Too much crying in my beer, I suppose.) Regardless, as Aegis continues to document the latest updates to his DoMT, I thought it might be nice to reshare my “other” H5C deck on the blog.

I previously discussed way back in Grim Tiding #16, that I reassembled my Second Reminder H5C deck when Zenikar debuted. As it turned out, I only ended up playing it for just a few months. My focus drifted away, and I ended up needing too many cards for other decks. I learned to abuse Kiki Jiki in far too many ways, much to the chagrin of my poor EDH opponents. Second Reminder was ultimately dissembled in this wake and transformed into 4-5 other unique 300-card decks, including my completely Standard legal 5C deck I played over this past summer.

Enter August 2010: M11 has debuted, with a big influx of great cards into the Magic universe. I was inspired to reconstruct the second greatest list of cards ever assembled, and wreak havoc once again with Second Reminder. Its changed substantially enough now to just repost the whole thing, since its too hard to say why this or that specifically changed. Here is my updated list for cards #301 through 600.

Second Reminder, 2010

1 Avenger en-Dal
1 Battlegrace Angel
1 Eight-and-a-Half-Tails
1 Emeria Angel
1 Lieutenant Kirtar
1 Mageta the Lion
1 Mangara of Corondor
1 Ranger of Eos
1 Reya Dawnbringer
1 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Student of Warfare
1 Sun Titan
1 Wall of Omens
1 War Priest of Thune
1 Ajani Goldmane
1 Condemn
1 Decree of Justice
1 Dismantling Blow
1 Elspeth, Knight Errant
1 Enlightented Tutor
1 Gideon Jura
1 Kirtar's Wrath
1 Luminarch Ascension
1 Martial Coup
1 Resounding Silence
1 Tithe
1 Winds of Rath

1 Bringer of the Blue Dawn
1 Frost Titan
1 Jushi Apprentice
1 Keiga the Tide Star
1 Kira, Great Glass Spinner
1 Lighthouse Chronologist
1 Merfolk Looter
1 Sakashima the Imposter
1 Sower of Temptation
1 Sphinx Ambassador
1 Sphinx of the Magosi
1 Thought Courier
1 Tidespout Tyrant
1 Time Elemental
1 Vesuvan Doppleganger
1 Vesuvan Shapeshifter
1 Vodalian Illusionist
1 Willbender

1 Ancestral Visions
1 Bribery
1 Capsize
1 Compulsion
1 Concentrate
1 Cryptic Command
1 Deep Analysis
1 Diminishing Returns
1 Jace Berelan
1 Ponder
1 Recurring Insight
1 Redirect
1 Reins of Power
1 Tezzeret the Seeker
1 Time Spiral
1 Treachery
1 Windfall

1 Bane of the Living
1 Cemetery Reaper
1 Coffin Queen
1 Fleshbag Maurader
1 Fleshwrither
1 Guiltfeeder
1 Guul Draz Assassin
1 Reassembling Skeleton
1 Royal Assassin
1 Visara the Dreadful
1 Withered Wretch

1 Necrotic Sliver
1 Shadowmage Infiltrator

4 Grim Reminder
1 Barter in Blood
1 Bloodchief Ascension
1 Consume the Meek
1 Consuming Vapors
1 Cruel Tutor
1 Dimir Machinations
1 Seal of Doom
1 Slaughter
1 Sorin Markhov

1 Cruel Ultimatum
1 Esper Charm
1 Mask of Riddles
1 Perplex

29 RED
1 Dwarven Miner
1 Ember Hauler
1 Goblin Ruinmaster
1 Gorilla Shaman
1 Lord of Shatterskull Pass
1 Manic Vandal
1 Seige Gang Commander

1 Bloodbraid Elf
1 Broodmate Dragon
1 Numot the Davastaor
1 Madrush Cyclops

1 Browbeat
1 Chain Reaction
1 Chandra Nalaar
1 Comet Storm
1 Gamble
1 Incinerate
1 Punishing Fire
1 Starstorm
1 Wheel of Fate

1 Bituminous Blast
1 Decimate
1 Fires of Yavimaya
1 Maelstrom Nexus
1 Naya Charm
1 Pure/Simple
1 Sarkan Vol
1 Slave of Bolas
1 Trace of Abundance

1 Fauna Shaman
1 Forgotten Ancient
1 Joraga Treespeaker
1 Lhurgoyf
1 Lotus Cobra
1 Mitotic Slime
1 Obstinate Baloth
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Quirion Dryad
1 Rampaging Baloths
1 Sylvan Ranger
1 Sylvok Explorer
1 Troll Ascetic
1 Utopia Tree
1 Vengevine
1 Werebear
1 Woodfall Primus

1 All Sun's Dawn
1 Defense of the Heart
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Hibernation's End
1 Hurricane
1 Krosan Grip
1 Lurking Predators
1 Momentous Fall
1 Pattern of Rebirth
1 Primal Command
1 Recollect
1 Snake Umbra
1 Tooth and Nail
1 Wild Pair

1 Angus Mackenzie
1 Captain Sisay
1 Cold Eyed Selkie
1 Jenara, Asura of War
1 Overbeing of Myth
1 Rafiq of the Many
1 Rhox War Monk
1 Rubinia Soulsinger
1 Trygon Predator

1 Supply/Demand
1 Treva's Charm
1 Wargate

1 Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
1 Masticore

1 Armillary Sphere
1 Eveflowing Chalice
1 Gilded Lotus
1 Mana Vault
1 Paradise Mantle
1 Spectral Searchlight

1 All is Dust
1 Brittle Effigy
1 Citanul Flute
1 Crystal Ball
1 Expedition Map
1 Forcefield
1 Legacy Weapon
1 Nevinyrral's Disk
1 Relic of Progentitus
1 Rings of Brighthearth

1 Basilisk Collar
1 Gorgon Flail
1 Lightning Greaves
1 Quietus Spike
1 Scythe of the Wretched
1 Sword of Kaldra
1 Sword of Vengenace
1 Whispersilk Cloak

110 LAND
10 Ravnica Shock Lands
5 Worldwake Man-lands
5 M-11 Dual Lands
5 Odyssey Dual Lands
5 Planeshift Lairs
5 Mirage Fetchlands

1 Ancient Ziggaraut
1 Crystal Quarry
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Faerie Conclave
1 Forbidden Orchard
1 Minamo, School at Water's Edge
1 Murmuring Bosk
1 Shimmering Grotto
1 Tendo Ice Bridge
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Tolaria West
1 Treetop Village

1 Dustbowl
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Strip Mine
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Wasteland

1 Mikokoro, Center of the Sea
1 Mystifying Maze
1 Petrified Field
1 Prahv, Spires of Order
1 Quicksand
1 Sunhome, Fortress of the Legion

13 Forest
13 Island
10 Plains
8 Swamp
8 Mountain

Admittedly, I’m still cheating slightly. I’m reusing 25 lands from the First Reminder list, including the Ravnica Shocklands, the M11 duals, and Worldwake Man-lands. I’m also reusing the 5 Strip Mine lands, because there is no good substitute for any of them (I feel they are absolutely critical!) Hopefully when Scars of Mirrodin debuts, there will be a new cycle of dual-lands to substitute this repetition, but until then…

Quick stats of 2nd Reminder:
300 Cards
84 Creatures
106 Spells
110 Lands

It's fairly heavy on Blue/Green, but no color is truly minimized. It somewhat reflects my Intet EDH deck, with many ways to cheat into play big creatures without paying their casting costs. I am featuring the “Doppleganger” creatures as well. Gone from the previous version of Second Reminder is the concentrated “stealing” subtheme, which seems a little unimaginative for a venerable Mr. Suitcase, like myself.

The last two weeks have proven very successful so far. Im pleased with the stats of my tuning, and I’ve won a few games so far with it. Stay tuned, since this post is getting a little long, and I will share more secrets as the deck evolves.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

DoMT: Land Base 2011

Each year, after the core set release, and before the Fall rotation, I like to take a minute and document where the Deck of Many Things is, and how it has evolved. This year I plan to break this documentation up into several smaller documents, each focused on a specific portion of the deck. Now for those that may not know, this deck is made up of 300 cards, in a highlander style. 5color dictates the size of the deck, and that there must be atl east 25 cards of each of the five colors. I have been playing this deck very heavily for a full 2 years now, and still love it. Today, I'm going to begin by talking about he manabase of the deck.

The most basic of deck construction principles, is that a deck should be about 40% mana, which would put the decks manabase to 120 cards. The common line of thought in the 5color world, is that this is too much, putting the correct number to roughly 110. With today's revision I am going to push down to a daring 105. I think this number is achievable due to the quality of the cards I will be including, and the number of mana/land helpers.

A Word on Maze of Ith (0)
Yes, it's a land, but the best thing you can do for our game is to stop thinking of it that way. Why? Sure, it may well be the single best land ever printed, but ti doesn't make mana. What it does do, is count as your land drop for a turn though. In other words, it's going to put you a mana behind where you otherwise would have been.

The Trinity (30)
A deck like this benefits so much from the Trinity, that it really should be the first thing you include. If you have not already done so, this really should be a top priority for your collection. The inclusion of (10) Dual Land cycle, (10) Fetch Land cycle, and the (10) Shock Land cycle allows almost any deck of this type to be stable, and fearless. One of my goals for this past year was to finish my Trinity, and to eliminate the need for pain lands in my deck. I am happy to report in this update that both those goals have been reached.

Utility and Lands which produce Five Colors (30)
  • Bojuka Bog
  • Halimar Depths 
  • Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
  • Sejiri Steppe
  • Tolarian Academy
  • Flagstones of Trokair
  • Karakas
  • Kor haven
  • Mystifying Maze
  • Wasteland
  • Dust Bowl
  • Strip Mine
  • Ghost Quarter
  • Krosan Verge
  • Reliquary Tower
  • Mishra's Factory
  • Vesuva
  • Deserted Temple
  • Skarrg, the Rage Pits
  • City of Brass
  • Gemstone Mine
  • Rupture Spire
  • Shimmering Grotto
  • Exotic Orchard
  • Reflecting Pool
  • Vivid land cycle

2 or 3 Mana Fixers (20)

Basic Lands (25)
  • Forest 6
  • Mountain 5
  • Island, Plains, Swamp 4 each
  • Terramorphic Expanse
  • Evolving Wilds
The following land cards were removed over the last year, mostly to make room for clear upgrades to the manabase. The Bolded entries, will remain on my watch list for future consideration.

Academy Ruins
Adakar Wastes
Battlefield Forge
Calciform Pools
Dark Depths
Darkwater Catacoms
Dreadship Reef
Forbidden Orchard
Fungal Reaches
Gargoyle Castle
Golgari Rot Farm
Henge of Ramos
Karplusan Forest
Llanowar Wastes
Molten Slagheap
Mossfire Valley
Murmuring Bosk
Orzhov Basilica
School of the Unseen
Selesnya Sanctuary
Shadowblood Ridge
Shivan Reef
Skycloud Expanse
Snow-Covered Mountain
Snow-Covered Plains
Snow-Covered Swamp
Soldevi Excavations
Sungrass Prairie
Underground River
Yavimaya Coast

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Standard Rogue: Friday the 13th Mass Polymorph Can Hack It!

    This last Friday, I decided to let Tater take Mass Polymorph (which needs a better name?) for a spin around FNM. After discussing the deck with GrimJack, I felt it was worth experimenting with a GU version of the deck, stripping away the red mana and most of the red spells. Refocusing the list yield this first attempt.

    1 Magister Sphinx
    2 Bogardan Hellkite

    4 Beastial Menace
    4 Mana Leak
    4 See Beyond
    4 Cultivate
    2 Garruk Wildspeaker
    3 Fog
    4 Growth Spasm
    4 Mass Polymorph
    4 Preordain

    7 Forest
    7 Island
    4 Halimar Depths
    4 Khalni Garden
    2 Misty Rainforest

    The deck performed really well despite the last minute changes to the brew. Scary as the fact is that you can't hard cast a single creature in the deck, the list looks to be pretty close to right. A judge playing in the event, responding to a judge call from Taters opponent, compliment Taters play regarding use of the stack, and trigger resolution. Tater went 2-3 on the night, and missed prize support by only a hair! A couple less play errors on his part, and he would have been in packs for sure. The numbers may need a tweak here or there, but I feel like the cards pretty on. The deck wants a couple more fetchlands, so I will have to see what I can do on that. I also need to do some more testing to see what a sideboard might can do to improve certain matchups.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Standard Rogue: From Warp World to Mass Polymorph

    I found the rumor season for M11 a bit sad, as it revealed that Warp World would not be included for next year. This once again leaves me without a deck concept to move forward with. I turn in desperation to the clear replacement to Warp World, the new blue spell Mass Polymorph.

    The concept seems pretty clear. By controlling the creatures in the deck, I can hit specific targets and effects off the Mass Polymorph. In looking at my Warp World deck, the first thing that jumps out is I need to add blue to the mana base, which means I should probably drop a color. Since Mass Polymorph only effects creatures, and not lands, my prior win condition (Ob Nix) is pretty much out, so I have little need for black. The lack of land fall triggers also removes the need for most of card advantage tricks. In fact the only thing resembling a win condition from the original deck, is the Hellkites.

    Getting all four Hellkites out in one hit for a win condition is pretty tough, because I have to cheat out 4 token creatures to do it. In preliminary testing, I find that I'm having to use a turn to get my 4th creature, when I really want to be going into a Mass Polymorph. I worry that extra turn will cost the deck games. I pulled the deck back off the shelf, when I stumbled across an article by Dave Meeson. His use of Magister Sphinx is just the tech I needed. By  stacking the triggers properly you can get the same effect from a Magister Sphinx, and 2 Hellkites.

    With any combo deck, you have to look at what you have left if things go wrong. In this case, what happens if you can't hit all 3 creatures when you go off? The worst one to lose is the sphinx, but even then you have dealt 10 damage, and have 2 5/5 fliers ready to go. Not a bad place to be in! The forum hivemind for the article also recommended See Beyond, as a way to dimish the likely hood of hitting your worst case, and improving card draw and selection. Based on these sources, and my own prior work, I developed the following list.

    1 Magister Sphinx
    2 Bogardan Hellkite

    4 Lightning Bolt
    4 Mana Leak
    4 See Beyond
    4 Spawning Breath
    1 Banefire
    4 Dragon Fodder
    4 Growth Spasm
    4 Mass Polymorph
    4 Preordain

    4 Forest
    5 Island
    3 Mountain
    2 Rootbound Crag
    4 Halimar Depths
    4 Khalni Garden
    2 Misty Rainforest
    2 Scalding Tarn
    Best part about this deck, is because of my existing collection, it is super budget friendly. I only need a sphinx, and 2 Mass Polymorphs for a grand total under $4. Hooray for fun budget decks!