Dragons of Tarkir Additions to some Decks

Ojutai's Command

Ojutai's Command

Ojutai’s Command

Those who follow Magic: The Gathering know that the new expansion set Dragons of Tarkir shipped last week. Personally I was excited to get my grubby little paws on this set because it promised a lot of dragons. Honestly, who doesn’t like a lot of dragons?

So I got my hands on a box and had an enjoyable evening opening packs and reading cards, looking at art and enjoying the scent of new magic cards. I noticed that the flavor text for Pacifism got changed, which is a real shame because I found the previous flavor text pretty funny.

The dragons are beautiful, each and every one spectacular and they have great powers too. I pulled so many amazing dragons that I’m seriously considering a 5 color singleton deck. Gotta play them all!

I have to say that even the commons are really good in this set. I was quite surprised by how good some of the commons are. I really, really wanted to get a white common named Resupply into one of my decks.

The following are the cards that did make it into decks and the decks they made it into.

Rakdos:
Out: Mardu Shadowspear
Sudden Spoiling
Alesha Who Smiles At Death
In: Arrow Storm
Kolaghan’s Command
Tail Slash

Azorious:
Out: Lore Seekers Stone
Noble Stand
In:
Contradict
Ojutai’s Command

Dimir:
Out: Ojutai Soul of Winter
Steel Hellkite

In: Resupply
Tapestry of the Ages

Tapestry of the Ages

Tapestry of the Ages

Orizhov:
Closed

I just couldn’t get anything into the Orizhov deck.

Dragons of Tarkir is a fantastic set. I’m sure there are more surprises in store than I’ve seen so far. K.

Magic: The Gathering, Esper

Sphinx of the Steel Wind

Sphinx of the Steel Wind

Sphinx of the Steel Wind

While playing The Cube I discovered many cards that cried out to be put in decks. Several of them required new decks since they did not fit into my limited number of leftover decks when I reentered the world of playing Magic. One of those cards was the Sphinx of the Steel Wind.

The Sphinx of the Steel Wind is an Artifact Creature – Sphinx that costs BUW5 to cast and is a 6/6 with flying, first strike, vigilance, lifelink, pro red and green. The artwork is amazing too. This card is so good in the cube it inspired me to make the bluest of my blue decks yet.

I don’t mean blue as in percentage of blue cards in the composition of the deck, I mean as in control. Blue is all about control. So I built what turned out to be my most annoying deck yet (I’m sorry but I enjoy being a blue/white player). It’s focus is card drawing/denial and its win condition is based upon casting large flying creatures.

Sharuum the Hegemon

Sharuum the Hegemon

This deck went through several iterations before reaching its final form. When I first constructed the deck it struggled to reach a win. The deck would get off to a good, if slow (blue and white folks, it’s going to be slow) start and then just kind of peter out. I played it for several weeks, eliminating bad draws and establishing a consistent pattern of losses.

Since there aren’t many ways to speed up blue/white/black I had to focus on what blue and white do well: Control. So I took out some of the sphinxes and added more control. Once I was done I realized this was the most controlling of any deck I had ever made. The changes worked and now the deck actually does win on occasion. When it doesn’t win it annoys the living daylights out of my opponent so even when it looses I win.

Here is the card list for my Esper deck:

Esper
3 Jelenn Sphinx
2 Sphinx Sovereign (This is the last Sphinx I ordered for this deck)
2 Consecrated Sphinx (Soooo good)
2 Sphinx of Magosi
2 Sphinx of the Steel Wind (This is the card that started this deck)
1 Sharuum the Hegemon
1 Prognostic Sphinx
1 Arbiter of the Ideal
1 Enigma Sphinx (this is way better than you might think)
1 Sphinx Summoner
1 Sphinx of Jwar Island
1 Ojutai, Soul of Winter (Surprise!)
1 Steel Hellkite
1 Voidmage Husher
1 Ascended Lawmage (low casting cost comparatively speaking and the art fits the tone of the deck)
2 Utter End
1 Sphinx’s Revelation

Sphinx's Revelation

Sphinx’s Revelation


1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Exclude
1 Punish Ignorance (I love everything about this card)
1 Undermine
1 Countersquall
1 Comeuppance
1 Dismiss
2 Dissipate
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Sol Ring
1 Sapphire Medallion
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Drowned Catacomb
3 Tundra
3 Isolated Chapel
2 Azorius Guildgate
1 Reliquary Tower
3 Island
3 Plains
1 Swamp

Punish Ignorance

Punish Ignorance

As with all of my decks, this may undergo changes as new sets come out and potentially better cards become available, or I discover them as I continue to rediscover Magic: The Gathering. K

Magic: The Gathering; Dimir, My Process for Deck Building

Hythonia the Cruel

Hythonia the Cruel

Hythonia the Cruel

Everyone has their own, unique, process for building a deck when it comes to Magic. Even people who build competitive, tournament decks have their own approach, that is part of the beauty of the game, that it taps into creativity on the part of the players. This also causes people to become attached to their decks. They built them, they play them, it’s something they are invested in.

I’m sharing three decks that I’ve put together that are moderately successful. I thought it would be useful, possibly even helpful to see my process for building a deck. Now I like to build Johnny decks not Spike decks and it’s kind of messy since I’m not in a super hurry to get it done.

First I pick a theme or find a card I want to play. For my Dimir deck (black and blue), I stumbled across a Hythonia the Cruel and loved the picture. Upon reading the card I realized that I couldn’t just throw her into my Rakdos deck because her Monstrous form destroys all non-Gorgon creatures. This, naturally, meant that I was now committed to building a deck around Gorgons. I also had a Morkrut Banshee I couldn’t wedge into my Rakdos deck and I really think it’s a good card. So I’ll put it with my Hythonia the Cruel and see what I can do with them.

Xathrid Gorgon

Xathrid Gorgon

Once I have the seed of a deck, like the above two cards, I begin to choose cards that I like, that I think might work or that seem cool and throw them into a deck case. Editing will come later. I tend to throw a bunch of cards together if I like them or think I want to play them and then have to edit later. It’s far easier to cut a deck down than try to find that one perfect card. Also, if you get a deck together that functions you can play it until you stumble across that perfect card.

There aren’t really enough Gorgons to make a full deck with just them so I’m thinking Gorgons and Zombies. This means I need to find some kind of graveyard recursion. Zombies call for it by nature. I wouldn’t be being true to the spirit of the creature if I neglected graveyard recursion. The question is what? Also I think a Skullclamp is called for.

My card list so far:

1 Hythonia the Cruel
4 Gorgon Recluse
3 Keepsake Gorgon
4 Xathrid Gorgon
1 Black Cat
1 Morkrut Banshee
1 Pharika’s Chosen
1 Steel Hellkite (I like it and I haven’t found another home deck for it)
1 Stromgald Crusader (His place is not secure in this or any deck but I keep trying)

Nyxathid

Nyxathid


1 Lifebane Zombie
1 Diregraf Captain
1 Nyxathid (I keep trying to get this into a deck)
1 Night’s Whisper (the art goes in this deck)
1 Grasp of Darkness (foil, gorgeous and disturbing art)
1 Tendrils of Corruption
1 Countermand
1 Exclude
1 Dissipate
1 Dismiss
1 Dark Ritual
2 Aspect of Gorgon
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring

32 cards so far and I still don’t know quite what this deck does. To make it work I have to know what it does—besides win, silly. I need to know how it is going to win. I need to pick a focus for it like my Orzhov deck has and my Rakdos deck.

Night's Whisper

Night’s Whisper

From what the cards already do there is a lot of removal. That may be the way to go. A little more control from the blue and that could get my Gorgons and Zombies through their defensive line.

Figure 24 land to start with in an average deck with a relatively undemanding mana curve, that leaves me with 4 more cards I can easily fit into the deck and keep it at 60 cards. I’ll have to see what I find. This is the beginning of my Dimir deck. I will keep you updated as I complete it and how it plays in game play. K

Magic : The Gathering About that Orzhov Deck

Obzedat, Ghost Council

Obzedat, Ghost Council

Obzedat, Ghost Council

Just the week before Christmas 2014 I got back into playing Magic: The Gathering. I dusted off my two old decks and after several painful defeats reworked them, taking out some old cards and putting in some new ones. I’ve been having so much fun I decided to make a new deck with all new cards.

I started with a couple cards I knew I wanted to play and then as I chose cards that I thought went with them I began to think about what I wanted the deck to do. With my Rakdos deck it’s all about sacrificing creatures and bringing them back from the graveyard. With my Azorius deck it’s about casting large flying creatures. As I began to look at the cards I was drawn to for my Orzhov deck I found that life gain and life drain seemed to be the way the cards were going so that became the focus of the deck.

Erebos, God of the Dead

Erebos, God of the Dead

It’s awful to say but I began to look at the cards I was considering and trying to see how I could make the deck such that every time I did something, my opponent was punished for it. No card does just one thing with the exception of basic land. I still managed to get some cards in the deck that I just like too. There’s always room for some cards you just like. Having a defined focus for the deck led to me building one of the best decks I’ve ever put together and it was good from the beginning.

Often times when a deck is first put together it goes through a period of tuning and refinement as a player discovers what works and what doesn’t in the deck. For my Orzhov deck that was not the case. I still fine tune it but it has worked from the first game.

Ashen Rider

Ashen Rider

Here is the card list for my Orzhov deck:

4 Tithe Drinker (I know, I actually put 4 of something in a deck that isn’t land)
3 Vampire Nighthawk
2 Vampire Hexmage
2 Butcher of Malakir (extremely ugly but too good not to put in the deck)
2 High Priest of Penance
1 Angel of Despair (I’ve been trying to get her in a deck since I got her)
1 Deathpact Angel
1 Obzedat, Ghost Council (awesome and I love the way Obzedat rolls off the tongue)
1 Erebos, God of the Dead (Ya bruh)
1 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
1 Ob Nixilis of the Black Oath
1 Ashen Rider (this is the bad boy that started this whole deck)
1 Shriekmaw (a personal favorite)
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
1 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
1 Blood Artist (I should pick up another one of these)
1 Child of Night (foil)
1 Pulse Tracker (also foil)
1 Crypt Ghast (I need another one of these)
1 Whip of Erebos
1 Sol Ring
1 Profane Command (This card is amazing)
1 Merciless Eviction
1 Syphon Mind (I’m thinking of making this a sideboard card)

Profane Command

Profane Command


1 Victimize
1 Utter End (I need another one of these too)
1 Grasp of Darkness (foil)
1 Zealous Persecution
1 Mortify
4 Isolated Chapel
2 Vault of the Archangel
1 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Arcane Lighthouse
1 Ghost Quarter
10 Swamp
7 plains

This deck is really a lot of fun to play and it’s competitive enough to win its fair share of games.

Magic: The Gathering –Speaking of Johnny Decks

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Avacyn, Angel of Hope

Last time I wrote about my Fallen Angel deck, now named Rakdos. I seem to recall that I promised I’d write up my Angel deck, now called Azorius (Blue and White). This is my slowest deck. The mana threshold went up from 5 to 7 when I rebuilt it and there is very little acceleration to be found playing Blue or White. I also didn’t want to dilute the deck by putting too many counter spell type cards in it. I had to use some countering abilities though, since I cannot speed up the deck, my only hope is to slow down my opponents.

The real crux of my Azorius deck is that if I don’t miss a land drop and don’t get defeated before turns 5 to 7 I can and will cast a large flying creature every single turn after I hit the peak of my mana curve. It’s a dicey strategy since a lot of decks, even casual ones, if they get a good opening hand, can take me down before my deck gets going. If I, somehow, manage to survive though, the angels are amazing.

Archangel

Archangel

I’ve tried to select angels that multi-task. Gone completely are the classic Serra Angels of yore that used to be the backbone of the deck. Gone too are the Archangels that used to be my big closers. Now I have Akroma, Angel of Wrath and Avacyn, Angel of Hope among others. It was a difficult choice to remove the Serra Angels and Archangels but the deck is slow, I need for the Angels I play to give me bonuses of some kind.

Iridescent Angel

Iridescent Angel

Of the Angels I have in the deck the two that seem to cause the greatest gnashing of teeth and wailing from my foes are the Iridescent Angel and Reya Dawnbringer. The Iridescent Angel has protection (pro) from every color and Reya Dawnbringer allows me to return target creature card from my graveyard to play during my upkeep. I find them quite useful.

One of the other things I look for in cards and in a deck is that it is pretty. There is enough Magic: The Gathering art out there, and variant art for individual cards that I can usually find something I like or that fits with the visual theme of the deck as I build it. My Azorius deck is the most beautiful deck I’ve ever been able to put together. With a very few, notable and very practical exceptions, every card is simply gorgeous. Yes art matters.

There are still some angels I would like to get for this deck and a few cards I’m not too certain about keeping in there. This deck, of all my decks, is my favorite, it contains the remnants of the first deck I ever made and it is the one that I’m most particular about. Unlike my Rakdos deck or my Orzhov deck it is not quite right yet, it doesn’t have quite the right feel to it.

Angel of the Dire Hour

Angel of the Dire Hour

Here is the current breakdown for my Azorius deck:

1 Seraph of Dawn
1 Platinum Angel
1 Battlegrace Angel
1 Linvala, Keeper of Silence (new addition)
1 Angel of the Dire Hour
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
1 Avacyn, Angel of Hope
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Angel of Salvation
1 Angel of Jubilation
1 Angel of Serenity
1 Reya Dawnbringer
1 Shepherd of the Lost
2 Sunblast Angel
2 Archangel of Thune
2 Serra Avenger
2 Lightkeeper of Emeria
3 Iridescent Angel
2 Wall of Omens (cheap and card drawing but I’m iffy about these in the deck)
1 Noble Stand
1 Moat
1 Concentrate
1 Timely Reinforcements (iffy)
1 Remember the Fallen
1 Iona’s Judgment
2 Dismiss
1 Erase
1 Cyclonic Rift (so useful but I resist it in this deck)
1 Comeuppance (useful but kind of ugly)
1 Sphinx’s Revelation (not right for this deck but card drawing is so good)
1 Return to Dust
1 Loreseeker’s Stone (iffy)
1 Sol Ring
2 Pearl Medallion
1 Elixir of Immortality (Doesn’t seem right for the deck)
1 Maze of Ith
1 Seraph Sanctuary
1 Prahv, Spires of Order
1 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
2 Azorius Guildgate (we have a name, folks)
2 Glacial Fortress
4 Tundra (Did I mention the remnants of my first ever deck?)
2 Island
18 plains

Sunblast Angel

Sunblast Angel

Whew! That’s quite a list to type up. I’m currently looking to pick up some other angels to swap out for some of the questionable stuff, like a Baneslayer Angel. I really like this deck but it is not the fastest deck to play, it’s really more of a style thing and it does need some improvement. I’m very happy that there are so many angels to choose from that I can really make something close to competitive using angels.

Next time I think I’ll write up my Orzhov deck, which is actually quite good and may be second only to my Rakdos deck. K

A Prodigal Magic: The Gathering Player Returns To The Game

Rukh Egg

Rukh Egg

Rukh Egg

Well, that would be me. I stopped playing just after Mercadian Masques came out (has it been so long?). I had started playing Magic: The Gathering right after The Dark came out, so not a bad run but life got busy and I didn’t have the time or the money to keep up and it kind of fell by the wayside.

So fast forward to the week before Christmas and my family, after months of badgering, gets me to play MTG again. Now everyone is playing all these new cards from sets and expansions I’ve never even heard of. This leads to me having to upgrade the two old decks that I kept as mementos of my Magic playing days.

It was The Cube, which initially brought me back to Magic. That format allowed me to see what some of the newer cards do and to have fun without the investment of my own deck. That was so much fun I actually wanted to dig out my old decks and see what they could do.

Moat

Moat

Back in the day when the only angels were Serra Angels, Fallen Angels and Archangels I built an angel deck (It wasn’t as bad as you might think—I have a Moat). I also built a Fallen Angel deck that relied on Kobolds and Yawgmoth’s Will. These decks, in their primordial state, got thoroughly trounced by the newfangled decks my family is playing.

These brutal and startlingly fast defeats led to some deep soul searching and even deeper searching of The Gatherer online database of Magic cards and a couple weeks of upgrading my old decks.

I didn’t want to move too far away from the original concepts of the decks. While my family tends more towards the “Spike” style of play (fast kills at any cost) I prefer more of a “Johnny” style of play (what do the cards do and how intricate can I make the combinations). I liked the idea of Fallen Angels and using Kobolds as sacrificial critters is not only fun and gives an underrated card some love, it makes old school players of MTG smile when they hear about it.

So, a few Grave Pacts, Skullclamps and other things later and my Black-Red Rakdos (a name I’ve had to learn as I’ve gone along) deck became my only truly competitive deck. This led to an hysterically funny and ridiculous win wherein a Khabal Ghoul had 33 +1/+1 counters on it and I top decked Profane Command against a Gruul deck (another name I learned, albeit while getting my kiester handed to me during game play).

Khabal Ghoul

Khabal Ghoul

I cast the Profane Command, gave 6 of my creatures fear and took out the Gruul player who had a dozen huge and mostly flying creatures on the board that I had previously not been able to get through. Attacking every turn with the Khabal Ghoul and forcing the player to block with a saproling from their Verdant Force led to the Ghoul getting ridiculously huge. They were unconcerned since the Ghoul couldn’t fly right up until I gave it fear. I also hit a player for 6 life loss with the Profane Command which allowed me to take out both of my opponents.

My decks don’t work like a normal tournament deck. I play strictly casual Magic. I like the complex win or loss. My Rakdos deck is the closest to a tournament deck I have and I don’t feel compelled to make another like it. I like to be competitive but I feel the turn 1 or 2 kill isn’t fun at all. You don’t even get to see what the cards can do in that kind of a game. There’s no real strategy to it, you’re just hoping to get the combo before anyone else has a chance to do anything. As far as I can tell, I play Magic the way other people play Chess. It makes my opponents crazy because they don’t understand what I’m up to but they know if they can’t take me out early I’ll build up to something bad for them.

Ok so Rakdos is now the term for a Black/Red deck. Here is the current, improved deck list for what I used to call my Fallen Angel deck:

2 Rukh Egg (I like them very much)
4 Crimson Kobolds
4 Crookshank Kobolds
1 Profane Command
1 Nefarox, Overlord of Grixix
2 Crypt Ghast
1 Rix Maadi Guildmage
1 Disciple of Bolas
1 Avatar of Woe
1 Shriekmaw
2 Khabal Ghoul
1 Liliana Vess
2 Blood Artist
1 Kederekt Parasite
1 Grim Haruspex
4 Fallen Angel (the 7th edition is prettiest but I have 1 Legends Fallen Angel)
1 Tragic Slip
2 Dark Ritual
1 Yawgmoth’s Will
1 Demonic Tutor
1 Annihilate
3 Grave Pact
4 Lightening Bolt
1 Fires of Undeath (It’s pretty and useful, I like it)
1 Epocrasite (also cool)
1 Sol Ring
1 Jet Medallion
1 Wurmcoil Engine (It’s cool)
4 Skullclamp (we play casual)
1 Crypt of Agadeem
1 Maze of Ith
3 Dragonskull Summit
3 Badlands (I’ve been playing MTG for a looooong time)
5 Mountains
1 Hammerhelm
9 Swamp

Crimson Kobolds

Crimson Kobolds

As better players, or perhaps different style players, than I am will notice right away, there are a lot of single cards in this deck that perhaps could be replaced with others and multiples that would be more efficient at achieving a win condition. That’s not how I play. I like to see the different things that all of these cool cards can do. The fun is the complexity, the possibilities and the unexpected that the cards can produce.

This is my most competitive deck. Next time I’ll write up one of my other decks. K.

Emerald City Comic Con Approaches and a Kickstarter for Magic: The Gathering

In The Flesh is moving right along. I’m very pleased with the edits I got done last night. Dayyan Cantu is becoming a more well rounded character.

Emerald City Comic Con starts Friday and I’m getting very excited. I’ll be driving up on Thursday so I can be fresh and ready to go bright and early Friday morning. Carrie Fischer had to bow out due to medical problems. I hope she gets well soon. I’m still looking forward to seeing all of the other artists and actors and writers that I can squeeze into three days.

For you Magic: The Gathering fans out there, there is a Kickstarter project bringing together 30 of the original artists to make a book of art for fans. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1464555500/the-gathering-reuniting-pioneering-artists-of-magi

I will keep you updated and as always I do hope you enjoy reading. K