The War Report: Upgrading Vampiric Bloodlust

The new Commander 2017 decks released this past Friday, and I must say it was a chore to get my hands on one! With the commander series passed, I had no trouble grabbing a 2015 (Daxos) online for less than the MSRP, and picked up a 2016 (Saskia) deck at Target, six months after it had released. The Commander 2017 editions however were not so easy to come by. It seems that there were rumors of a limited print run, so online stores were price gouging — I saw decks that are supposed to be $35.99 MSRP going for $50-60 at the online stores I typically buy singles from. Even Amazon and Ebay had the decks listed higher than the going price, it was ridiculous. I figured that I’d get my hands on the deck by going to Target or Walmart and paying the $35.99 + tax and be done with it, but that wasn’t how it went down.

I went to Target on Friday evening, and there were no Commander 2017 decks to be found. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see any of the precons whatsoever. I figured perhaps they just hadn’t gotten them up on the shelves yet, and I had an impending trip to visit my Mother for her birthday that weekend, so I figured I’d look again when I had the chance. On Saturday we had to run about and do some errands and ended up at Walmart. I went straight to the card section and lo and behold, there were no commander decks on display current or otherwise. Again on Sunday, I ended up at the Target where she lives, and still no dice. It was beginning to appear that I might not get my hands on one for regular price, and I surely didn’t want to pay the extra money despite really wanting to get my hands on the Edgar Markov deck. I remembered that there was a comic book store that also sold some Magic products when I used to live out there, so I Googled that, and it turns out that the store had closed. As a last ditch effort, I used the store locator on the official Magic website and found another LGS that was on the other side of town. I called and they had all four of the decks in stock so we rushed over there and I finally got the deck I was looking for. This store wasn’t gouging either, only charging $40 for the deck. What an ordeal!

Because of the trip I mentioned, I had to miss out on our weekly playgroup but I know that the guys went to a Commander event at an LGS and at least one of them picked up one of the new C17 decks. This next weekend we are set to move into the new house, so I already know I won’t be playing again, as they move on the 1st (Friday) and I’ll be moving in on my normal day off, Sunday. If all goes well, I’ll be able to play again the following Friday. I’m really looking forward to it, as I’ll have my Vampire deck ready to go in its fancy new accessories: a themed Deck Box + Sleeves.

So as the deck itself goes, it’s pretty good right out of the box. However, there were obvious ways to improve the deck significantly, along with having several important vampires missing from the list. Here’s the decklist for the precon:

1 Licia, Sanguine Tribune
1 Mathas, Fiend Seeker
1 Kheru Mind-Eater
1 Patron of the Vein
1 Bloodsworn Steward
1 Crimson Honor Guard
1 Anowon, the Ruin Sage
1 Bloodlord of Vaasgoth
1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
1 Butcher of Malakir
1 Captivating Vampire
1 Dark Impostor
1 Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
1 Malakir Bloodwitch
1 Sangromancer
1 Skeletal Vampire
1 Vein Drinker
1 Bloodline Necromancer
1 Blood Artist
1 Bloodhusk Ritualist
1 Falkenrath Noble
1 Pawn of Ulamog
1 Vampire Nighthawk
1 Rakish Heir
1 Stromkirk Captain
1 Tithe Drinker
1 New Blood
1 Disrupt Decorum
1 Kindred Charge
1 Fell the Mighty
1 Blood Tribute
1 Consuming Vapors
1 Damnable Pact
1 Merciless Eviction
1 Ambition’s Cost
1 Read the Bones
1 Syphon Mind
1 Teferi’s Protection
1 Crackling Doom
1 Return to Dust
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Go for the Throat
1 Skeletal Scrying
1 Mortify
1 Blade of the Bloodchief
1 Door of Destinies
1 Well of Lost Dreams
1 Heirloom Blade
1 Boros Signet
1 Orzhov Signet
1 Rakdos Signet
1 Skullclamp
1 Sol Ring
1 Worn Powerstone
1 Kindred Boon
1 Blind Obedience
1 Black Market
1 Sanguine Bond
1 Underworld Connections
1 Outpost Siege
1 Curse of Vitality
1 Curse of Disturbance
8 Swamp
4 Mountain
3 Plains
1 Path of Ancestry
1 Akoum Refuge
1 Bloodfell Caves
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Boros Garrison
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Cinder Barrens
1 Command Tower
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Forsaken Sanctuary
1 Kabira Crossroads
1 Nomad Outpost
1 Opal Palace
1 Orzhov Basilica
1 Orzhov Guildgate
1 Rakdos Carnarium
1 Rakdos Guildgate
1 Scoured Barrens
1 Stone Quarry
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Urborg Volcano
1 Wind-Scarred Crag

There are some great cards included, and a decent landbase. However, many of the shitty tap lands are included, and some really powerful (and valuable) cards are great to have, but are screaming to be put into some of my other creations (Teferi’s Protection is one that is worth almost $30 but I want to use elsewhere). The curse cycle that was added with this commander set is also fairly weak, so I immediately removed the two in this list. Everything that I crossed out was removed and these are the cards that I added in their place:

I removed a couple of vampires that just weren’t that great and instead added some recent additions to the tribe along with an old card that is essentially half an Elesh Norn for black. These vampires simply have better effects, and I’m trying to abuse the +1/+1 counter theme that the deck was already riding. Speaking of counters and tokens, what else can we do?

Anointed Procession in combination with Edgar Markov’s Emminence ability is just absurd. Remember, he creates a 1/1 vampire everytime you cast a vampire. So cast one, get two with the enchantment’s effect. Couple that with Cathars’ Crusade and you’re giving +1/+1 to everything for each vampire hitting the battlefield. Add in a Coat of Arms, and they all get +1/+1 for every other creature that shares a creature type with it! You can really go wide with these simple additions!

Lastly, I added in the most obvious of Planeswalker choices. Each version of Sorin (who is of Markov decent and fits so well thematically) can create vampire tokens, and each has some other perks that add to the overall theme and flavor of the deck. He was an obvious choice and he was removed from other decks that really didn’t deserve him. He will lead with Edgar and turn all of humanity into an army of bloodsuckers if I have my way!

There are likely other cards that could easily slot in, and in some cases I had considered them but ultimately decided to keep my upgrades budget friendly. Overall, the $40 for the deck plus singles will end up being an $80 investment, and that’s on the low end for most of the decks I’ve created, so I’m glad to have been able to keep it within my means but still make it more powerful. Next time I’m planning on sharing another deck’s revamp that I am working on, so look for that soon!

TWR: I’ve Got 99 Problems But A Commander Ain’t One

It may be safe to say that I have a problem.

I recall saying something similar at the beginning of a post within the last couple of years, but as I remember it I was speaking of my Steam library at the time. It seems the problem has metamorphosed into something else — yet the end result is the same: An Empty Wallet.

What started off as an innocuous hobby has xenomorphed its way into a devious creation capable of devouring all of my time and spare cash. It’s true, I’ve spent a bit of coin on these bits of paper and accessories over this run, but I have also felt excitement, pleasure and that competitive spirit come back around and that’s not something I can say has been the case with gaming the past year or so. It’s not as if I’m forsaking my other hobbies, I’ve just found my mind coming back around to Magic every day, the same way I used to daydream about playing my favorite MMO while working shitty jobs years ago. Just like I would do back then, when I wasn’t playing the game I was thinking about it, and sometimes that lead to thinking about new strategies and in this case it leads me to deck building and theory crafting which happens to be a rather enjoyable aspect of the pastime. What started with one preconstructed deck has ballooned, and well… see for yourself:

That’s my list of decks over on MTG Goldfish. It appears that I started playing Commander in April of this year, but I know that I started at least one month prior to that. As such, the Daxos deck was my first precon, and I turned my standard Zombie deck into a commander deck with Gisa & Geralf at the helm (until Scarab God released and I slotted him in), and I actually purchased the Saskia precon as well prior to signing up for this website’s service. April was when the signup would have occurred and I entered those decklists into the system for my own tracking purposes. It wouldn’t be long though before I started brewing like crazy.

Angels & Demons was helmed by Tariel until I got my hands on Kaalia from the Commander Anthology. I brewed Molimo and Temmet on the same day and ended up buying both of those decks outright because they were more budget friendly. Sramtron was also a budget buy because I owned quite a few of the cards, but I actually brewed him and sat on it for a while because I also brewed Reaper King and was far more excited for it at the time. I built Sram right before Hour of Devastation released, and after it did, I put together Locust God. His is still my most recent creation, so I actually only have 8 completed and playable EDH decks. I’d have two more as well but I dismantled Saskia a long time ago, and Freyalise (which I also got out of the Anthology) was put into Molimo and though I do have the deck sitting aside and playable with Ezuri leading it, I’m just not that into Elves. So we’ll say I have 8 and leave it at that.

But wait, you say. There are clearly 12 decks up there, and you only mentioned 8. What are the others? Well, that’s where my problem lies. I get so into the deckbuilding aspect that I just start brewing when I get a cool idea and next thing I know I have another deck ready to be bought and paid for. There also isn’t the new Vampire precon I want to buy next on here, so you can see just how far ahead of myself I’ve gotten! With that said, Vampires are my next project and will be the most cost effective, because the precon is $35 and I might spend another $20 on singles to upgrade it a bit. The set itself looks pretty strong as it is packaged.

So what about the other decks man? As I was saying, I love the deckbuilding aspects of Magic, so I have been prebuilding ideas on MTG Goldfish so that I have them for reference and can pour through my collection to see which cards I already have. I do purposely try and pick commanders that might utilize things I already have to reduce costs, and that has been doing the trick. Some off-meta picks can help as well. For example, I was hoping that one of the decks for Commander 2017 might be Cleric tribal. There are so many, why wouldn’t you? Well it ended up being Wizards instead, so I went ahead and built my own Cleric tribal deck. I then found that a great subtheme is using as many Extort cards as possible, because it’s an Orzhov mechanic and is on quite a few Cleric cards. Boom. Deck is done man. It also turns out that Clerics are relatively inexpensive so that deck can be built on a budget. Ditto the Werewolf deck, which I talked about very recently. I have 50% of those cards already and the rest are cheap.

The only really big investment I will have to make is on Oloro. He’s not expensive himself, but I’m lacking most of the cards and it’s gonna cost a bit. However I have been slowly gathering cards as time has gone on, so eventually I’ll be able to bite the bullet and finish it off. I literally just built the Spartan deck tonight on a whim, mainly because I own a copy of Assemble the Legion and wanted to build a deck around it. Turns out that Boros Soliders are quite powerful, and the comander Tajic is gonna be fun killing people off with. I’ve found that being able to conceive these ideas and then build them later has made it less of an issue when it comes to buying the cards. If I build them over time I will still get to use them, and I won’t dump quite as much money on them all at once. I just wonder when it will all come to an end? I don’t see myself not wanting to brew, and each new set will bring new legendary creatures for new possibilities. I suppose it will then be time to start keeping staples in a binder and pull out what I need between games. Either way, I’m finding more things to write about due to this hobby, and I fully intend to dive into other decks that I’ve built that I haven’t showcased yet in the column. Be on the lookout for those.

Do you find yourself constantly dreaming up new deck ideas? Are you content keeping them on paper or do you feel the need to play them immediately?

The War Report: Experimenting With 2HG

For the past couple of weeks my playgroup was down a man, and as such we took the time to hone a few decks and introduce a few. Well, I did the honing of my own decks, putting in a small order with Card Kingdom to pick up some of the remaining cards from Hour of Devastation that I knew needed to go somewhere. That meant turning my Zombie deck into a Scarab God deck and adding cards like Razaketh to my Kaalia deck. The other two guys actually put together something new, one making a mono-black sacrifice/recursion deck that was rather frustrating, and the other putting together a mono-blue merfolk deck. Neither sounded overly impressive but both were able to do some interesting things. My personal upgrades were fun and it was nice to pull out Razaketh and to use the Scarab God (to great effect), but the FFA 3 player games just aren’t as fun as 4-player.

Recently I had been trying to convince the guys that we should play something that is team oriented instead of always doing a 4-player FFA match. FFA is great for when you want politics to play a role in the outcome of the game, but it can result is some games where you push the wrong buttons at the wrong time and someone is scooping at best or going home at worst. Our playgroup of nearly a year has seen it all but we still come back together for the love of the game. Hell, I’m going to live with one of the other members very soon, so it’s likely this will be a regular occurrence for a long time to come (or one would hope given the investment).

When I presented the idea, I said we should try a different format or just try to break things up in general. At some point it was said that we should draft, but to me that’s just not what Magic is about. Sure, people go to drafts and it’s a thing, but it’s just not really my thing. I want to play constructed, and honestly I’m sort of beyond caring about Standard or any of the other formats (modern, vintage, etc.). I want to play EDH. We want to play EDH. Luckily, people have thought about this and provided other formats.

Beyond the standard variant of EDH, there is also Pauper, 2-Headed Giant and Tiny Leaders. Aside from the latter, each is basically already a format elsewhere, and has been restructured to work with EDH, though there really aren’t concrete rules. So these are all house rules sorts of setups, basically how we used to do it in the old days before formats were a thing. So, just to be clear, normal EDH goes like this:

99 cards + 1 Commander which must be a legendary creature.
Besides Basic Land, no more than one copy of a card in the deck (has own ban list).
Must use colors from commander’s color identity in the deck only.
40 life, 21 commander damage, 10 poison counters, or can’t draw a card and you’re out.
Multiplayer format, can be played 1v1 or with a whole table of players.

Pauper EDH is the same as above, but:

Commander must be an uncommon creature.
All other cards must be commons.

Sounds like an interesting twist, right? I know I have a shitload of commons laying around collecting dust because most of them aren’t competitive enough and are typically only used as draft fodder or in standard decks where it just happens to fit alright (lack of better options). This one is still on the table, but no one has built anything for it yet. I mentioned Tiny Leaders at some point, but it’s not as good (IMO):

The Tiny Leaders format was conceived in 2013 as a format for those who enjoy a challenge when deck building, and love EDH. The rules are simple- 50 card decks, including your “Commander”, with no more than one of each card (a “Highlander” format), and no card shall exceed converted mana cost 3.

The last two choices were that we could either play a 2v2 where it was played the same as a normal FFA but where the teams would cooperate and take alternating turns, hopefully sitting alternately. Or, we could try to play 2HG EDH. This is what we did last weekend when we got together.

There aren’t official rules for 2HG EDH, but with our understanding of how it is supposed to work, we made up our own house rules and rolled with it. Kitchen table Magic is the best! So here’s what we came up with. Same rules as traditional EDH, but:

Shared life total of 60 per team.
Simultaneous turns per team.
Global effects like enchantments effect the whole team.
We nixed commander damage, and didn’t have anyone playing poison. 

It went really well! I ended up winning 2 out of 3 games played and showed that my Locust God and Scarab God decks are no joke. These are the kinds of games that help to break up the experience for those times when you’ve been playing the same decks for ages and can’t afford to get something else going each week. Don’t get me wrong, I love Magic no matter the form, but having these variants really keeps you invested and livens up game nights. We’re all looking forward to Commander 2017 releasing this week, and I’m sure after the move we’ll be going over my Vampire deck and how it’s performed. Until then!

State of the Game: Spreading it Thin

It’s been a little while since I threw together a gaming round up post so I thought today was as good a day as any to check in and bullshit about what I’ve been playing. Honestly I have been playing less the past couple of weeks and I know that the next couple of weeks are going to be pretty busy as well, but I have still managed to make some time here and there. Lately I’ve been focusing on only one mobile game, and that’s Clash Royale. I was experimenting with several other titles but none have held my interest besides this gem and I’m glad I decided to give it a whirl. On my PS4 I’ve been plugging away at Final Fantasy XV (though not as much as I would like) and have nearly “finished” Killing Floor 2 until they add some new stuff in. I’ve touched on a few other games but we’ll discuss in detail in a bit. On the PC, I downloaded and installed an MMO for the first time in a long time. The last MMO I played was Destiny and many would argue that’s not exactly a great example of the genre. As I mentioned recently I had been toying with the idea of investing into FF14, but then decided to play FF15 first. What game could that possibly be?

Honestly I’m as surprised as you are that I installed this game. A long while ago it was recommended to me as someone said I would probably like it. There were a few times I had the game added to my Steam cart because it was on sale and I wanted to give it a try but I never did. It has finally transitioned into a free to play title, and so now I can try it out without spending money on it, and that seems to be the best formula for me when it comes to the genre, not because F2P is the best iteration, but only because I am so fickle about these types of games and have wasted more than my fair share of money on them without really getting much return on investment. At some point I decided I wasn’t an MMO player anymore, I had simply grown out of it. But I always want to try and recapture that excitement for a game, and I have yet to do so, but I keep trying nonetheless. So this is my latest attempt at giving an MMO a go, and it could simply be a small tourist trip but I can at least say I tried it, much like most of the titles that are out there. So far I have actually enjoyed it quite a bit, but I only played through the tutorial and made my way to Agartha. I believe I will go into more detail about this title in a separate post, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Clash Royale

I was trying to find the first time I mentioned playing Clash Royale on the blog but it seems that I only mentioned it in passing once, and then by the time I talked about it again I was account level 7, so I must not have made much mention during the early weeks. Regardless, that first mention occurred back in December of last year, so we aren’t too far off from my year anniversary with the game. That’s pretty impressive for a mobile title in my book, because most of what I try I don’t like and uninstall quickly. Anyway, I’m up to account level 11 currently, and my deck has been staying the same for a long while. I’ve moved up to arena 10 with little issue, and I play the shit out of the 2v2 mode when it is available. The clan has been a reliable way to donate for account experience and earn cards. Currently working on leveling my Balloon to 6 (getting most from Epic Sunday requests and it’s taking forever!) and my Hog Rider to level 9. My current deck:

Click to enlarge

It’s worked out fairly well to this point, and this deck powered me up through arena 9 and hasn’t faired too poorly through a good chunk of arena 10. I am pushing towards the upper-middle of the arena so I imagine with a couple more upgrades I’ll make it into the Legendary arena, hopefully by the end of the year. I love the game, enjoy the shifting metas and new additions are pretty constant. Think I’ll be playing this in my down time for a long while to come.

Final Fantasy XV

I haven’t played as much as I would like, but it seems that the game continues to open up bit by bit, and though I assume you could power your way through the story and open things up faster, I imagine you would end up hitting a difficulty wall and be forced to wander around and level up. As such I have decided to continue the method of doing all the side quests and hunts I can find while clearing out the lowest level quests from my journal (or whatever happens to be the most efficient route) to keep ahead of the level curve. The game hasn’t really spiked too much in difficulty, the boss battle wasn’t too bad. I have had some random encounters while wandering around where really high level big baddies appear and attack me, and have also been attacked by some big ass demons at night and those have proved challenging, but overall the game feels well balanced when it comes to difficulty. At this clip it’s going to take me quite a while to finish the game, but as the title of this post states, I’ve been spreading it pretty thing. And I play whatever feels right on a whim. Here’s some pics of my adventures anyhow:

Other miscellaneous things I’ve played recently: 

Killing Floor 2 – I’ve earned all but one trophy in the game, meaning I’ve collected all the hidden items in all levels, maxed out one of my perks, won 25 matches and won a round on all but the hardest difficulty. Hell on Earth is a challenge that shouldn’t be too difficult, however it’s been harder than I anticipated. Basically I’ve been doing alright when we have played, but my buddy who plays with me tends to not do as well. This isn’t too much of an issue, except people that we get matched up with tend to be too low of perk level to be effective. The game says hell on earth is meant for those who are already perk level 25 (I have a 25 SWAT and he has a 25 Support), yet we get matched up with people playing perks that are level 15 and shit. It’s dumb. Eventually we’ll get on a good enough team to get it done, but I sort of want to be done with it until some new map or mode is introduced.

SMITE – Have 59 Gods mastered. Haven’t been playing too much, but some renewed interest recently due to my friend finding someone else he knows IRL to play with. That guy is actually pretty damn good, but a bit of a loud mouth on the mic. Regardless, it’s been fun to get back into after some time away.

Horror Games – I wrote a dedicated post to Until Dawn, which I haven’t played again since — though intend to finish at some point. The girlfriend lost interest so I chose to show her something else. I fired up Outlast which I never got too far into, but after playing that one for a couple hours she figured out that what is missing in these games is the combat. I have to say I agree. Resident Evil has the horror bits down but then you get to shoot shit in the face. Much more interesting than hiding under beds and looking at everything through night vision. Lastly, I moved on to The Last of Us Remastered, because I bought that a while back and haven’t played the game since it was first released and back then it was on PS3. I have to say the remaster looks pretty and runs great. I haven’t tried the multiplayer but I’m also kind of excited to play through this one again. I never did play any of the DLC and it’s included so there’s that as well. At least this one has combat, and hopefully the cinematic nature will tickle her fancy.

That’s about all for this round up. Figured I should break up all the Magic: The Gathering talk around here. But don’t you worry, there will be some more of that very soon as well, ha!

The War Report: Budget Standard to EDH Update

In a couple of weeks I’m moving and that means my budget is going to change. With increased outgo, sacrifices need to be made elsewhere. As such, I won’t be able to spend my hard-earned dollars on Magic cards quite as much as I have in the past almost-year since my return to the game. With this in mind, I’ve started to think of ways that I can still buy cards, but do so on a more restrictive budget. I used to make pretty decent decks back when I was in high school on an even more restrictive budget, so I think I can make this work! Three strategies I’ve come up with is to build decks piece by piece rather than all at once, to buy precons and spend minimally on upgrades for those (which I’ll be doing this month as my sole hurrah with Vampiric Bloodlust) or to take an existing Standard deck I built in the past and turn it into an EDH deck. That’s what I want to talk about with my latest brew, an update to my Standard Werewolves deck!

We’re Wolves

It just so happens that I had made purchases to get basically the best standard legal Werewolves for this deck, but because of the limitations of standard, the deck still had commons and uncommons and just didn’t do much when I played it. With the vast availability of cards through the ages in EDH, it turns out that there are some really good Werewolf, Wolf, and trickery options that make this deck feel like it could actually work despite being a little complex. There are a couple of commanders people use in Werewolf decks according to EDHREC, but I already owned Ulrich, and he feels perfect as a commander, getting some ETB effects and being completely thematic. Most of my creatures end up being Werewolves, but there is a share of regular wolves along with a sprinkling of creatures that have neat interactions. I tried to use only creatures that would stay on theme but also provide passive effects. I also have a thematic Planeswalker that I had in my standard deck that looks like fun. Here’s a sampling:

Each of these creatures somehow benefits the others, or creates wolf tokens which in turn benefit me in various ways. There are more interesting interactions when adding in the enchantments, artifacts and spells, but the main goal is to try and keep my werewolves transformed, and to buff creatures that are on the field. Win cons have to do with being semi-aggro and going wide. Check out the utility selection:

As I said, I want to go wide with this deck, and cards like overrun, overwhelming stampeded and coat of arms help me do so. This means my cards will be buffed and if I have enough wolf tokens out on top of a couple werewolves I should be able to get in for some good if not lethal damage. The other subtheme that I’m going for is a sort of control, having cards like Grafdigger’s Cage and Stranglehold in the deck, which keep opponents from casting from the graveyard or library, keeps them from searching for cards, and generally makes things annoying while I attempt to control the board state and then go wide. Will this work reliably? It might, it might not but it looks good on paper. I added in some targeted removal and the best dual lands I had on hand, and it turns out that I have about 60% of the deck already on hand. This means it will cost me a minimal amount to finish off, and that’s what I am going for with my upcoming budget changes. You can check out the full list here.