TWR: Klothys – God of X

Theros: Beyond Death was released a couple of weeks ago, and I was finally able to get my hands on some of the new cards. My best pull was probably the Nyxbloom Ancient, which I already knew I wanted in a new deck. There are still other cards from the set I would like, but I managed to snag some cool cards. Each time a new set comes out I tend to look at the new legendary creatures for potential brews. This time around there weren’t too many creatures I saw being good commanders, rather better in the 99 of other decks. However, one of the new Gods from the set caught my attention, and being in colors I haven’t brewed around much, I decided it would be my first project. Behold, Klothys, God of Destiny:

Klothys is a God, so it already comes pre-equipped with two lines of text that apply to all other Gods as well. Each of the Gods are Legendary Enchantment Creatures along with being Indestructible and requiring a devotion threshold before becoming a creature. What makes Klothys unique is the fact that she does some nice things whether or not you can actually attack with her. Each precombat main phase we get to exile a card from a graveyard. This is great for multiple reasons, but having built in graveyard hate is amazing to break up many of the meta’s shenanigans. You can target your own graveyard if necessary, but we’ll typically be using this ability against opponents. When we exile land cards, we get either a red or green mana. Any other card type gains us two life along with dealing each opponent 2 damage. It’s great value for only three mana. Over the course of the years I have notice a bunch of cards in the Gruul colors that I just haven’t found a place for, and Klothys inspired me to fit most of them in. Green wants to ramp and draw us cards, while red wants to burn our opponents out. So my brain immediately goes towards lots of ramp to feed X spells. While the green X spells are mostly creature based, the red X spells can be potential game finishers, especially when we have a ton of mana to dump into them. First let’s take a look at our ramp packages.

BIG Mana:

These are the general ramp spells and creatures that will help us to produce big amounts of mana. Though there are many other options aside from Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach and Rampant Growth, I chose these because they are lowest curve and most reliable. Farseek is another I typically run but because we are only playing two colors and you can’t tutor for green it amounts to a mountain tutor and I’m okay without it. We also like that Cultivate and Kodama’s Reach both put a land card in our hands, mainly because we are including multiple cards that allow us to drop extra lands per turn. Burgeoning will allow us to play lands on opponents turns as well, and the Great Henge is a busted artifact when you are playing big creatures. Playing it for only GG will allow you to tap it for two immediately, and any creatures you cast come in with a +1/+1 counter and draw you a card. Nyxbloom Ancient is a new card from Theros that won’t instantly give you infinite mana, but you can definitely make a ton of it more quickly with him on the field. There are some typical mana dorks that tap for mana, and then there’s both of the Radhas that can produce extra mana when attacking. Mina and Denn along with the Dryad of the Ilysian Grove will allow us to play extra lands and of course the Sakura Tribe Elder can be sacced to grab a basic. Next let’s take a look at our big mana spells/creatures and support for that theme.

X Marks the Spot:

Here we have a selection of Hydras with X in their casting cost. When we have the ability to pump out a bunch of mana, these can hit the battlefield with rather large power and toughness. For the most part they enter with X counters on them but then some will do some extra things, but I’ll leave it to you to read the cards. When it comes to X cost spells, we’re running a selection of deal X damage to multiple or singular targets. I’ve tried to include only those that have the ability to hit our opponents directly, though some can also target their creatures or in the case of Earthquake, all non-fliers and all players, which we’ll have to be careful with. For additional support for this theme, I’ve also included Rosheen Meanderer who taps for four colorless to use towards X spells, and Gargos, Vicious Watcher who reduces our costs for Hydra Spells by four as well. Lastly, Unbound Flourishing is an enchantment that doubles the amount of X when casting creature spells (so our Hydras are doubly huge) and also when we cast big X damage spells, we’ll get to copy that card, so sometimes this could be a two for one finisher! Here are some supporting cards and my reasoning for their inclusion:

Supporting Cast:

Courser of Kruphix doesn’t let us play additional lands, but other creatures we have in the deck do. Still, if you have the ability to play lands off the top of your library, you can then keep some in your hand for Burgeoning or other triggers. Arasta is a nice creature that gives you free blockers with reach (and we don’t have other flying creatures for those blocks either) when opponents cast spells. The new Nylea reduces creature costs along with some situational card draw. Questing Beast is just good value but it’s honestly only here because I pulled one from a pack and wanted to put it somewhere. Torbran allows all of our red sources to do extra damage, and though that’s mostly with spells, it still can help with the hurt. Xenagos the God can make one of our huge creatures even bigger each combat. He’s a big beater himself when he comes online. Rampaging Baloths have one of the best landfall triggers in the game and with our gameplan we should be able to make quite a few 4/4 beast tokens pretty quickly. I inlcuded Ruric Thar for the same reason as Questing Beast, but he’s also a big beater that punishes noncreature spells. And of course, no big beater green deck goes without a copy of Avenger of Zendikar. For enchantments, we have Cindervines, which also punishes the casting of noncreature spells, but also can be sacrificed to destroy an artifact or enchantment. Elemental Bond and Guardian Project help us draw cards each time we cast a creature, while Rhythm of the Wild gives our creatures either haste or more counters. Greater Good can help us to draw a ton of cards by sacrificing a creature with a bunch of +1/+1 counters on it. Overall I think the deck list is pretty solid, but I won’t know for sure until I test it out. Your mileage may vary. You can see the full decklist here.

SteamWorld Quest: Hand of Gilgamech

Image and Form Games has been producing PC and Console games for about a decade now, with their SteamWorld series being loosely related but also standalone. What you can come to expect from a SteamWorld game is that there will be robots of various sizes and shapes doing a variety of things. If we go back to the first game released, SteamWorld Dig, we’ll get a western-themed Metroidvania that was fun to play but ultimately fell a little short for me. I enjoy that style of game, but it was packed in with a Humble Bundle and I didn’t give it the time it deserved, I also got bored along the way. Fast forward a couple of years to SteamWorld Heist, and I was on board. Rather than being an action platformer like its predecessor, we got a turn-based strategy game. Instead of western feeling, it was sci-fi in space. It was a lot of fun and I played it through its end on PS4. Later, SteamWorld Dig 2 would release, but I already knew I probably wasn’t going to be into it, being a direct sequel to the original. Finally, we come to the latest game in the series, SteamWorld Quest. It was released last year, but I only got around to getting a copy during the holiday sales. It’s still the same SteamWorld we know and love, with plenty of robots and a hand-drawn art style. However, we go back in time to the middle-ages in this romp.

As the story goes, some bad things happened and yadda yadda. If you’ve ever played a video game you can extrapolate from that. You’ll take control of Armilly, a fighter robot that wants nothing more than to be part of “The Guild.” Along your path to trying to get involved with the guild, you’ll meet various characters and some will of course join your party. The story is told via the cutscenes above along with in-game dialogue. Hopefully you’re good with subtitles, because you don’t speak whatever tongue of robot that is actually audible during these cutscenes. Part of the time you’ll be wandering around various landscapes until you happen upon enemy robots, at which time you’ll enter the battle screen, which is where the majority of actual gameplay is.

What makes combat unique in SteamWorld Quest, is that it uses a combination of card game deckbuilding along with turn-based RPG mechanics. Each character on your squad comes equipped with a deck of cards. There are three types of cards, those that do something supportive, those that are basic attacks, and unique skills that cost special action points. The former two types of cards will also provide you with said action points, while the latter consumes them. Each turn, you can play three cards from your hand before passing. The enemies will play one or more cards each turn as well, and then the actions will take place. Cards from all of your characters decks are shuffled together so you’ll have to pick and choose what is right for each situation. So for example, if you have a card in hand that requires two action points, and two other cards that will produce those action points, you can play the two cards first netting two action points, and then spend those points with the third card. When you get further along you can also create chains by playing three cards from the same character, and a bonus action will occur. In the case of Armilly, you’ll get another strike that also heals you.

As you gain experience you’ll level up, providing more base stats like health and attack power. You’ll come across new comrades to join your party, and assume more will pop up over time, as some dialogue has implied that it could happen but I haven’t looked this up due to spoilers. I have only made it a few chapters in but I have enjoyed what I’ve seen and it’s a nice combination of genres that I find engrossing. Overall I’d say the game is worth it’s normal asking price but even better on sale. That’s just me though, you might not have qualms at paying full price for games. I would recommend picking it up if you’re a fan of the SteamWorld series, are into unique RPGs, or just want something new to try out.

The War Report: You Dirty Rat!

So the Lunar New Year happened recently and with it many games will do something to celebrate the occasion, from Lunar New Year sales to in-game events, this is a holiday that is recognized though not implicitly celebrated. Eastern Astrology has their own version of birth signs, though they are centered around the year rather than our system which focuses on birth month. Anyway, 2020 is the year of the Rat, and instead of the rest of this article being about sales or video games, we’ll be talking about Magic: The Gathering. Wizards of the Coast wanted to get in on the celebration, and released another Secret Lair product, this time focusing on rats! As it’s been some time since I’ve brewed up anything new, I thought I’d try my hand at making my own rat deck. I’ve wanted to try out some of the cards that read “you can have any number of copies of X card in your library” for a while now. The most prominent cards featuring this rules text that have been made into EDH decks are:

Persistent Petitioners are the newest of the bunch and the first outside of black to my knowledge. They are set up for mill strategies and I’m not super into that. Shadowborn Apostles are pretty cool as once you get enough of them out you can start cheating fatty demons into play, but I already have decks doing that sort of thing so I passed on that as well. As you can see, there are two options when it comes to rats you can have numerous copies of, but I like the lower curve of Rat Colony over Relentless Rats. I was tempted to include multiple copies of both, but figured it would be best to stick to one due to some other packed in synergies. Also costing three CMC just to get additional toughness isn’t really worth it. I’ll take the power buff and smash into things or have a 1 toughness chump blocker that can still kill the biggest of threats. If nothing else, it’s pretty nice to be able to cast two rats instead of only one when you have four mana. There are several commanders people typically use for their rat decks, but for me the choice was obvious:

Marrow-Gnawer is not prohibitively costed, and he is also a rat so he’ll benefit from some other rat friendly cards. As soon as he hits the board, he can potentially make 3-4 of your rats unblockable due to fear. If he manages to stick around long enough, he’s as badass as Krenko at token production, as you can tap him to sacrifice a rat and get X more rats, where X is dependent on the number of rats you control. So if you have four rats out, you tap him to sac one and still make four, as he sees himself as well. So it’s basically the same thing as Krenko when all is said and done, you just have to own at least two rats for his ability to snowball. Let’s take a look at all of the rats we’ve included first.

You Dirty Rat!

Despite this being sort of a “rat tribal” deck, there aren’t a lot of other rats here. The reason for this is we’re going to include 25 copies of Rat Colony in order to draw them regularly and continue to bolster our plan. Little 2/1’s aren’t frightening until you get out six and swing for a ton of damage. Keeping with that theme, if we have a Pack Rat or Swarm of Rats on the board, we will be getting even bigger rats that will still buff our Rat Colonies as well. Crypt Rats can be a finisher in a pinch, and we’ll go over our ways to make a ton of mana in a little bit. Chittering Rats is just a little bit of hand hate, while Throat Slitter is a ninja who can be cheated into play with our other rats while destroying a creature on the way in. Ink-Eyes is another great card that can put in some work and is one of our bigger stand alone threats. Though not technically a rat, Midnight Scavengers melds with Graf Rats into a crazy Eldrazi rat that buffs the team as well. Next, we’ll look at rat support:

Supporting Thine Rats

None of these cards are actual rats, but they have viable rules text for the theme. Piper of the Swarm gives your rats menace, can create rat tokens, and can steal opponent’s creatures — talk about a package! Chittering Witch supports the theme by creating rat tokens for each opponent you have (usually 3). She can also sac creatures to wither others. Ogre Slumlord creates rats each time non token creatures die, but also gives your rats deathtouch which is amazing when you’re killing huge things with little creatures. Patron of the Nazumi is a spirit that allows you to offer a rat to cut mana costs, but also has some life drain stapled on. Finally, Ratcatcher is a tutor for rats on a stick, and that can come in handy.

Big Black Mana

Being a black deck, we have ways of making a ton of mana, and as such we have some things we might want to do with that. Crypt Ghast, Magus of the Coffers, Cabal Coffers and Cabal Stronghold will make you big mana for small investments. The Ghast can also extort which can move some life totals over the course of a game. Gary will also allow you to make some explosive life shifts if played at the right time. Bubbling Much is also a good option to make a metric fuckton of mana to funnel into a huge Torment of Hailfire for the win. If nothing else, you can dump your hand onto the table and get a good swing in rather quickly.

Other Cards of Note

Mostly a selection of some noteworthy artifacts here. Secret Salvage is a dumb card that will never work in EDH, until it did. You can literally exile a Rat Colony, then search for all other copies of it in you library and put them into your hand. You have the big black mana thing going already, so why not play them all right now? You don’t have haste so that might make you vulnerable, but it’s still a pretty amazing interaction. Thrumming Stone can be equally busted, as all of your spells will gain ripple 4, so when you cast Rat Colony from hand you can look at the top four cards of your library and cast that card for free if it pops up, but then you get to ripple again. We really need some hast in this deck, don’t we? Heraldric Banner, Icon of Ancestry, The Immortal Sun and Vanquisher’s Banner are all tribal boons, which give small anthem effects along with doing other cool things.

Overall I think the deck looks like fun, but due to some of the cards I’m choosing to use, it’s not quite budget at around $300. You can see the full deck list here.

Thoughts on MTG: ManaStrike

Being a connoisseur of all things Magic: The Gathering, it should be no surprise that I’ll try out just about anything relating to the IP. Though I didn’t care for other mobile titles like the Duals games or the match-3 title that I can’t recall the name of, this one seemed like it would appeal to me mainly because it didn’t rely on MTG to determine it’s path. Instead, it seems like a copy of other games I’ve played in the past with an MTG skin tacked on (which is what I expect when we get that new ARPG in development — Diablo with an MTG skin). In some ways, an appealing base concept then layered with a design that I enjoy (the art/world of MTG is amazing) should equal a good game, right?

Magic: ManaStrike came out of left field. For whatever reason Google Play decided to ping me that the game had released today. Being my day off, I had been lazing around in bed and looking at my phone, so I thought I’d download it and give it a whirl. It turns out, it is a pretty decent game, though I went into it filled with doubt. There is a tutorial that gets you familiar with the controls and systems, but after that it’s straight into PvP matches, just like the games it took inspiration from. If you can’t tell what games I’m referencing by looking at these screenshots, you must not have been paying attention to one of the biggest mobile titles around.

I’m sure you’ve got it by now, but I’ve written about one of these games extensively, but also made comparisons to a PC title that I enjoyed, and Magic: ManaStrike seems to be a meld of the two. Yes, this title plays just like Clash Royale in that you have two lanes and place cards on the field in real time, but then the creatures you create will automatically battle based on a set of rules. However, the game looks much more like Minion Masters in that the field is horizontal and instead of towers there are creatures that act as such. A new feature that neither of those games had is the ability to call down a Planeswalker, and depending on which one you choose, they have various abilities when entering the battlefield, while also having different active abilities. It’s like Clash Royale if you had a hero card you could use periodically through the game (a good thought too, I’d like to see that in CR). A leaderboard exists where you’ll rank up and move on to fight opponents more in line with your abilities. I played several matches in a row and managed to hit rank 2, and afterwards started playing against people who actually put up a good fight whereas I started off steamrolling everyone in my way.

Monetization seems to follow the norm. There is a battle pass called the “Magic Pass” which allows you to earn extra rewards on top of what you would earn by playing for free. There are two currencies, gold and gems, which allow you to buy new Planeswalkers, buy copies of cards and of course you can spend real money to get more of these currencies for use in game. It seems fine, I don’t see the need to spend money either, but I suppose if I play it long enough that could happen. Upgrading your cards keeps you more viable in battles, and you’ll earn packs of cards at a pretty rapid clip. After acquiring a set amount of copies of a card, you can then level it up, much like you do in Clash Royale. It seems to have taken the best aspects of multiple similar games and layered it with real magic cards to keep the lore straight for the fans. I like the concept and I enjoy this style of game so perhaps this one will find a long term home on my phone. Time will tell, I suppose.

TWR: Theros: Beyond Death Spoilers

Wow, it’s really been over a month since I made any mention of Magic: The Gathering on this blog. I did take a bit of a hiatus over the course of December so that’s a big part of it, but there was a lot of news to come out of the last quarter of 2019. Some things that we knew back then was the schedule of new sets coming in 2020. Theros: Beyond Death is the first of those, and releases before the end of the month. A familiar plane to those who have been playing for years, but another return to a plane we’ve already been too, ala Ravnica. I wasn’t playing during the first Theros block, but I have collected a majority of the Gods introduced in those sets, along with plenty of other cards. You could say I’m familiar with the plane despite my absence from the game the first time around. 

Like previous sets of the past year or so, there is once again a buy-a-box promo card, only available at your LGS. I’ve gotten one of these so far, because where I live currently LGS’s aren’t exactly local. The last box I purchased was War of the Spark a little under a year ago, and I did so through Amazon. The price was actually a bit lower taking this option, so I’m not too worried about the promo card. I do rather like this one though.

Buy-A-Box Promo:

The Gods are returning. We had a newer cycle of Gods during the Amonkhet block, and most of those we reimagined in War of the Spark, having been corrupted by Nicol Bolas. This time around it seems we’re seeing most of the same Gods (albeit not all of the ones from Theros) in differing forms, some good and some bad. The new Athreos is still reanimation based, but instead of bringing the dead back to the battleground immediately (unless an opponent pays 3 life) he puts counters on creatures. Creatures who die with the counters on them return to the battlefield under your control. This means you can target opponent’s big nasties and then wipe to board to bring them all back to your side. He’s a bit pricey CMC wise and I don’t know that I’d want to run him as my commander but he is definitely a key recursion/theft piece.

New God Cycle:

Speaking of the returning Gods, we have 5, one from each color. Erebos, Heliod, Nylea, Purphoros and Thassa are back, and each does something different than they did before. One new God was introduced as well, an RG creature that does similar things to Xenegos. Of these, Erebos is still one of the best, but not as good as his prior form. Heliod has already been pointed out as being broken in combination with Walking Ballista from Kaladesh, as it’s a two card infinite combo. I wouldn’t mind a copy of all of these, but they aren’t the chase cards for me.

Demi God Cycle:

Instead of finishing off the cycle of Gods, instead we are being given Demi-Gods as well. Another cycle with one for each of the five colors, each is a recognizable legendary character from past sets, and to my knowledge all of their prior incarnations were multicolored. Ascending to Demi-God status did one thing across the board — each of these creatures has either power or toughness affected by devotion, which has proven to be a powerful strategy in the past. Daxos is the only character here that I really have an attachment to, and this version of him is pretty weak compared to his Orzhov and Azorius cards. They are uncommon so should be easy to get ahold of.

White:

Moving into the individual colors, I found that there was less that I was excited about than I thought. There are plenty of interesting cards, sure, but there isn’t a lot that I’m dying to acquire. We have another cycle reflecting the wave of Gods, each of them have a spell with their name + “intervention” and they’re modal cards. Most have a good option and then a less good option, but options are goo, and I can see the one above being useful for clearing the board of artifacts and enchantments that you don’t like, or just one at instant speed. Idyllic Tutor needed a reprint, and I’m hoping that means the price comes down. The Archon is a Pegasus lord, and though I don’t think that’s really needed, perhaps another tribe will become viable eventually with more cards like it.

Blue:

Sagas are back too, and Kiora Bests the Sea God was one of my favorites from the set. These enchantments do different things for a few turns before hitting the yard, where in some cases you can bring them back to do it again. Another intervention card here, which is either an expensive counter spell or a way to dig for combo pieces. The other cards are viable in certain strategies, but I’m not dying for any of these.

Black:

A new demon that’s not terrible but is quite expensive. More enchantment creatures that can be great in the right deck. Oh, and Gary (Gray Merchant of Asphodel) got a reprint with new art. Sweet!

Red:

Red got some neat tricks, including a Dragon that gives your creatures double strike, an Ox that is a wheel on a stick that you can cast again from the graveyard, and a decent sort of board wipe for only 4 cmc. Not too bad.

Green:

Green seems to have gotten a lot of love again, and that’s puzzling because it doesn’t really need more ramp. Nyxbloom Ancient gives you crazy mana ramp. Yes, it’s an expensive card and it dies to all sorts of removal, but it can be crazy if it lives. The Dryad gives you more ramp and fixing, Nylea’s Intervention can ramp you for a ton, and landfall decks are drooling. It’s good stuff but I don’t think green really needed the help.

Multi-Color:

In multi-color we have more options that I’m actually kind of into. The Allure of the Unknown is a risky spell but I like the payoff. It’s very political too so a plus. The new Planeswalkers aren’t very exciting, but I do like Ashiok as a character. I really like the Izzet merfolk and think he deserves a spot in both my Tawnos artifact deck and my Shu-Yun voltron deck. Lastly, I really like the Orzhov hound, being a nice 3/3 vigilance, menace lifelink for only 3 CMC, but also being graveyard hate on a stick. It’s not bad. I think a death and taxes kind of deck is in order, with other assholes like Kambal.

Colorless and Land:

Only a couple of artifacts that caught my eye this time around. Nyx Lotus is a pretty good rock that taps for your devotion to a color. It does cost 4 CMC and comes into play tapped though, so perhaps you’ll want a way to untap it on the turn it comes down. The Shadowspear is some nice protection removal and I think it could slot into my equipment deck. As far as lands go, there are some really pretty full art lands that feature just the mana symbols instead of a landscape and not only is that unique but they’re really cool looking. Supposedly there is one per pack, so I did actually consider buying a box just for that reason. If nothing else I get a few packs just to get some of these for a deck.

So that’s that. It looks like a pretty decent set overall, but I’m not as excited for it as I thought I was going to be when it was first announced. Perhaps getting my hands on some new cards will change things.