Monday, June 29, 2009

M10 - What's In, What's Out - My Analysis

Magic 2010 releases in just a few short weeks. Now that I have weekends off I'm going to try to make it to a prerelease event, but in the meantime, I get to speculate on a few things. This will both be from a casual and competitive standpoint.

What's Missing
Now don't get me wrong. I like building a competitive deck once in a while. I don't know how competitive Unbender's Big Score will be (as I have yet to truly test it), but I think I'm going to wait until after M10 drops anyways, just because some parts of the deck are going to be obsolete. One key card that's missing from M10 (and for the first time in any core set) is Wrath of God. This will have a HUGE impact on Standard. Some people were worried that with the revelation of Damnation that Wrath might have left for 10th Edition. It didn't then, but it's gone now. It's replaced by Planar Cleansing. It's slightly more powerful, but the tradeoff is too much for Unbender. I'm going to have to find another effect. Austure Command and Hallowed Burial come to mind right now.

Wrath is obviously the biggest card missing from M10. Most other colors got their decent utility cards back, and with good reason. Another thing missing that we already knew was missing was the painlands. Instead, we get five allied-color duals that come into play (er... "enter the battlefield") tapped unless you control one of the appropriate basics. In a format where few play basic lands, these probably won't see as much play. We'll see what happens when Lorwyn rotates and we lose the tribal duals, filter lands, vivids, and most notably, Reflecting Pool.

What's New
The cool part about M10 containing brand new cards is the fact that, well, they're BRAND NEW CARDS. In addition, a lot of old cards are coming back that will impact the game a lot. I'm going to point out a few interesting ones.

Baneslayer Angel is going to be huge for white decks. She's basically a slightly weaker Akroma with a lot of similar abilities and not as many defenses. Still a 5/5 beater for 5 though, and a great top to any curve. Especially useful in Limited. Elite Vanguard is as good as Savannah Lions. That's because it is Savannah Lions. Honor of the Pure (AKA Crusade) gives white weenie decks a huge boost, and it's cheaper than Glorious Anthem as well. Lightwielder Paladin is expensive, but you get a 4/4 that can kill a lot of things, both with first strike and the ability to RFG (I mean exile) black and red creatures. Silence is no Orim's Chant and I don't think it'll be used as often, but I like the effect. And Solemn Offering will be used. It's Disenchant. With lifegain. I like it.

Some people say blue got nerfed. Sometimes, I think it needed it. I for one will be quite happy when Lorwyn rotates out and Cryptic Command is out of the format, because every deck needs to play around that card. That said, blue got some interesting cards. Djinn of Wishes is rather expensive to pull off, but comboed with a card such as Lilliana Vess could be quite effective. Ice Cage is an interesting Pacifism-like effect for blue. It must be used with care because targetting the creature removes the effect, but it's still a decent Limited card if played right. Polymorph is an interesting returning card and also shares some combos with Lilliana, as well as the Harbingers from Lorwyn. (Anything that puts a good creature on the top works.)

Black's reception of Black Knight couldn't help them better. Lots of decks these days are vulnerable to cards such as Oblivion Ring, Path to Exile, Bant Charm, and the like. Not this one. Suicide Black isn't really a huge archetype and it probably won't be, but aggressive black decks will use this nonetheless. Cemetary Reaper isn't as cheap as Imperious Perfect to pull off, but for the very similar effect you get a bigger creature, and coupled with black it isn't hard to pull off. Lots of the standard Fear effects are gone and replaced with ones that don't affect artifacts. We'll see how this affects the keyword. I don't think it will, but it's interesting to point out. Sanguine Blood spells combo in drain life decks. (It might make its way into my Esper Drain deck.)

Red is now more aggressive than ever. If you're up against red now, you're going to want to make sure things die fast. With Lightning Bolt and Ball Lightning both in Standard, damage is going to be coming in FAST, and it'll need to be dealt with. Bogardan Hellkite is returning too, and while it's not paired with Dragonstorm this time, he's still a surprise force to be reckoned with. Inferno Elemental is going to be a pain to get around in combat. I'm just waiting for Burrenten Forge Tender to leave with Lorwyn, because red is the new black. (Well, not MtG black, but yeah.)

For Green, it's all about Elvish Archdruid. Elfball is going to make yet another impact, this time in standard, and this time it's literal. For a few short months, you're going to have Imperious Perfect, hordes of elf token producers, and Fireball in the same format. Pyroclasm and Volcanic Fallout exist but Wrath does not, so it's going to be slightly more difficult to deal with. Fog returns to green with its namesake card. Hell, green has so many token producers that they're going to be swarming in droves. Without as much mass removal, green's going to be a major force to be reckoned with. And Protean Hydra? Let's just say that paired with my favorite card (Doubling Season) that thing's going to get REDONKULOUS.

Oh, and Darksteel Colossus and Platinum Angel FOR THE LOSE.

So yeah, there's a lot of interesting stuff. They definitely tried to make white more viable in the core set. Whether or not things have been "balanced" remains to be seen, but the play will have to decide that. Until next time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Unbender's Big Score Part 1: Construction

First Magic post, woohoo. (Don't worry, Caine's coming soon.)

Anywho, when Alara Reborn came out a little over a month ago, one card that caught my eye was Unbender Tine. I saw combo with this card from the get-go. Having two Unbender Tines in play at the same time meant infinite tapping and untapping; something definitely worth looking into. I did a quick search on Gatherer, and only one card caught my eye as far as combo possibility: Wake Thrasher.

Two Tines plus Wake Thrasher means an infinitely huge Wake Thrasher. This means that it has to get through, though. It has no evasion built in, so this is somewhat difficult. After doing some looking, I came down to three options:

1. Use Stormcaller's Boon to give it flying. Not very effective when the opponent has fliers, but that's what removal is for. Boon also has the bonus of having Cascade, which if it hits Wake Thrasher it kills two birds with one stone.

2. Have Rite of Consumption sacrifice it, causing MASSIVE DAMAGE to my opponent. This requires a third color, but results in an instant win as opposed to requiring an attack.

3. Run a merfolk theme using Merrow Harbinger to fetch. I dismissed this one immediately as this required too much of a shift in theme. And as an avid reader of Ben Bleiweiss's version of Building on a Budget, I didn't want to throw myself into a subtheme when I have a different goal in mind. it's Rule #3, of course.

I ended up going with Stormcaller's Boon to start. This requires much less mana fixing. I might change a bit as I play the deck, but that's for another post.

Once I had my method of comboing out, I had to pick how I wanted to do it. While I love trying to set off a lightning-fast combo, it's very difficult to do in Standard. Therefore I elected to go the control-combo route. This meant that some more defensive cards (Wall of Denial, Wrath of God, etc.) were going to be used over the aggressive turn the merfolk version would've had.

Other rough cuts I made with this version included Tezzeret the Seeker (Unbender Tine is the only artifact in the deck), Oblivion Ring (only room for so much removal), and Negate/Remove Soul (situational).

Outside of the combo pieces (Unbender Tine, Wake Thrasher, Stormcaller's Boon), defensive blockers/removal (Path to Exile, Wrath of God, Wall of Denial), and countermagic (Cryptic Command, Broken Ambitions), I still wanted a bit of utility in order to get the combo. Mulldrifter is perfect for this sort of thing (and is always better than Counsel of the Soratami because of its attachment to a 2/2 flier). Another one that I added is Ponder. Not only does it fish through deck and net you a card, but this one-mana instant can also set up your Stormcaller's Boon cascade. Cascading into Wake Thrasher is obviously preferred, but a free Wall of Denial, sideboard Plumeveil (which I'll talk about in Part 2), or Path to Exile never hurts. (Even another Ponder doesn't hurt, because you can do it again.) These kinds of interactions between Ponder and Cascade could, in theory, make the deck that much better.

Next time I'll be testing this deck online over MWS, but I'll leave you with the final decklist.

Lands (24):
4x Wanderwine Hub (Lorwyn)
4x Adarkar Wastes (10th Edition)
4x Mystic Gate (Shadowmoor)
5x Plains
7x Island

Creatures (11):
4x Wake Thrasher (Eventide)
4x Wall of Denial (Alara Reborn)
3x Mulldrifter (Lorwyn)

Other Spells (25):
4x Unbender Tine (Alara Reborn)
4x Stormcaller's Boon (Alara Reborn)
3x Path to Exile (Conflux)
3x Wrath of God (10th Edition)
4x Cryptic Command (Lorwyn)
3x Broken Ambitions (Lorwyn)
4x Ponder (Lorwyn)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Prime Time Preliminary: Skarre

In the match series I'm going to dub "Prime Time," I'm going to make a bunch of army lists revolving around models from WARMACHINE: Prime. As much as I want to use every 'caster, it'd be difficult, but I'm going to probably play with the top 2. How I determine that is still up for grabs, though. (I'm also considering adding HORDES: Primal, but that doesn't help the division situation.)

Anywho, we're going to start this preliminary with the army list. I'll explain the model choices afterward.

Prime Time: Skarre
Pirate Queen Skarre (66)
-Slayer (110)
-Deathripper (38)
-Deathripper (38)
-Skarlock Thrall (16)
Bane Thralls (8) (108)
Mechanithralls (6) (39
Satyxis Raiders (8) (84)

Army total: 499/500.

We're going to start with her battlegroup here. I want each force to be at least somewhat balanced, so none of the lists will be outright "infantrymachine." Skarre gets a small complement of 'jacks. The bone chickens aren't as useful here as they would be with Denehgra and Asphyxious considering Skarre doesn't have any debuff spells, but being able to arc Hellfire on an unsuspecting solo could always make or break the game (particularly an enemy Journeyman Warcaster). Arcing Backlash can be useful for the secondary assassination tactic as well. I'll get to that in a minute.

The Slayer was the only heavy that could fit, and is certainly a fine choice. It's the most effective weapon against the inevitable Khadoran heavy, since even a Khadoran 'jack takes straight dice on a combo strike. On the charge, that could knock out a system if it hits the right column. (Knocking either axe or denying the Marauder's combo slam might be enough.) Don't quite get it? If you got a crit, you might still nab it. He's also the only 'jack in the format who can two-handed throw.

Anyone who's played Skarre knows that a Skarlock is an auto-include with her for one reason and one reason only: free focus. The Skarlock and the McThralls provide six rounds of an additional d6 focus each. The extra focus, of course, has many uses. The most obvious is additional attacks on Skarre's assassination run once she gets into melee. Of course, the focus can easily go into the Slayer as well so it can do some smashing. It can also go into spells, of course (unless you really want the chickens in melee), most notably Dark Guidance.

The Bane Thralls are the main battery of the army and the only debuff in this list. It's quite a notable one, considering that on the feat turn if they charge they are dealing 16+4d6 damage at the opponent's ARM-2. In many cases, that's straight dice or better on most important targets. There will be only 7 at most on the feat turn charge though, because nobody can deny the power of the feat turn POW 20 Skarre Bomb, but 2-3 Banes should be enough to scrap any 'jack or 'caster they come against.

The last bit is the Satyxis Raiders. They're mostly there for flavor, but they do serve the "plan B" purpose. Any 'jacks that don't meet the unfortunate axes of the Bane Thralls can instead get charged by the girls. These, in turn, result in 8 free points on a 'caster if you can work it right. (16, enough for a kill in many cases, if you can get Backlash on that 'jack, since Backlash and Feedback are different effects.) Dark Guidance will ensure the hit, and while the damage might need help on some 'jacks, the charge should be reliable enough to get some points in.

Join me next time when I make a list around my favorite non-Khadoran warcaster, Lieutenant Allister Caine.

Purpose of this Blog

As I noted on my web space (Currently Spin Attack Central, in the future something else; I'll explain), I've wanted to do some kind of blog based on my recent forays into non-electronic gaming. More specifically, Magic: The Gathering And WARMACHINE/HORDES. At first I was going to use my space for that, but as I got to thinking I really didn't want to have to worry about the hassle of archiving everything. So I decided to go with a generic blog instead.

The space isn't going anywhere; once I have a little more free time I intend to whip up something in Python that would enable something I've wanted to do for a couple years now: A Magic "Box League." I have the know-how to do it, just not the time. Jobs don't find themselves.

Which leads me to a little bit about myself. I'm 23, I've lived in the Detroit area since forever. I've been playing Magic since my sophomore year of high school. I got my first HORDES models about a year and a half ago, and WARMACHINE followed suit a few months later. I'm relatively hooked to all three. What sucks is that the store I've been going to for the last 3 years in order to play all of these games recently closed its doors. One of the main reasons I'm doing this blog, including my upcoming project which I'll get to, is because without this gaming time I have been bored. And since my work schedule has increased due to it being summer, I haven't had time to go to the other stores in the area to test stuff I've wanted to, so I'm starving for games. (In particular, I've had the Butcher of Khardov, Supreme Kommandant Irusk, Drago, and a squad of Assault Kommandos sitting around without any mark I games under their belts, and the AK's haven't seen anything.)

So yeah, this blog is basically going to be my creative outlet. My Magic content will be mostly casual-oriented, using deck ideas I've come up with that are either synergistic or "combolicious." Sometimes both. The WM/H content will be somewhat casual, but I won't hesitate to come up with a list that could be competitive. I'll post some of my painting stuff as well. There'll be other stuff too, but at current I have no idea what that will be. Of course, that's what the "miscellaneous" tag is for.

The last thing I'm going to mention in this intro post is that WARMACHINE project I mentioned. I've spent the last couple days going through Prime: Remix and Primal and making a few random lists based on each 'caster in those books. (Naturally my Trollbloods and Khador have been the easiest.) So far, they're all at the 500 level. I plan on playing a few games against myself (scenario: assassins) just to satisfy the boredom, proxying models in most cases as I only play two factions. Just something to do when I'm bored. Over the next several days I'm going to be posting the competitors. Each one will come with a 500-point list (Prime- or Primal-only) and the basic strategy for each one that I intend to use. (Ideally I'd have loved to have a 4-bracked faction-on-faction thing, but unfortunately the books only have 3 'casters each. I am thinking about picking up the other books now, though.)

First one up will probably be late tonight. It'll be the one I came up with first, a heavy melee-oriented Skarre list for Cryx. Seemed like a good place to start, plus if I were a Cryx player I'd probably main Skarre. Look for that later on.