TWR: The Game Knights Effect

I titled this post “The Game Knights Effect” because it was something the guys over at The Command Zone podcast mentioned in a recent show, where they were talking about how people watch their sub-series “Game Knights” and often times that seems to effect stats of the commanders that they play during the show over on EDHREC. Basically, when they pull out one of the new commanders and brew around it, people who watch the game play thereby get inspired and want to build their own versions of that deck, so there is a spike in that commander’s deck stats on the popular aggregate site. Funnily enough, I then watched one of the recent Game Knights episodes, where the guys were covering Modern Horizons and created some decks with new legendary creatures. Jimmy was playing a version of Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis and I really loved what his deck could do during the episode. Not only did he have some of the more splashier plays, but the deck was built solely around graveyard shenanigans and outside of some reanimator strategies I haven’t really built a deck of this style. I also haven’t found the right Golgari commander for me, and since this one appealed so much I decided to go ahead and make my own brew. Let’s take a look at our general:

The basic stats are pretty good on this card. Hogaak is an 8/8 with trample for 7 CMC. That’s not really enough to outright win games but he’s a solid beater for a decent price. What makes him unique to date, is that first line of text that reads “you can’t spend mana to cast this spell.” Of course, that would make this card useless by itself, so of course we can pay for him with two other keywords: Convoke and Delve. The former allows you to tap creatures to pay mana for him, and the latter lets you exile cards from your graveyard to pay the mana instead. Another nice feature is that he is able to be cast from the graveyard, so there is no need to ever pay commander tax unless someone exiles your graveyard and you have to move him back to the command zone. Obviously this is the kind of deck that not only wants to make cheap creatures in order to convoke, but also wants to manipulate the graveyard as much as possible. That means having recursion, sacrifice effects, and other graveyard friendly keywords. As such, I utilized Gatherer and EDHREC to throw this build together, starting first with delve searches, and then diving into dredge as well. It turns out there isn’t a lot of cards with those abilities in these colors, but I took what I felt would work best, along with some great Golgari staples printed in recent sets, and a few hidden gems. That along with the base that Jimmy made for me, and I have a deck that looks pretty solid, doesn’t cost too much and should be fun to play!

Graveyard Manipulation:

There’s a lot here so I’m not going to go over the individual cards. Suffice to say that everything I put into the deck should have some sort of synergy with our overall game plan. The name of the game is self milling, and that means dumping cards into our graveyard by either using tutors like Buried Alive or Entomb, or sacrificing creatures to Altar of Dementia. Most of the cards that give us some selection like Grisly Salvage or Satyr Wayfinder dump the excess cards into our graveyard, so we can put the spells into our hand and creatures into the graveyard just to cheat them back into play. We can also do the same sorts of things with land. The Gitrog Monster forces us to dump lands but also allows us to play an extra per turn, and if we have Crucible of Worlds out, we can throw them right back onto the battlefield. We also have a ton of cards that will check the graveyard for an amount of creatures or lands and then recur them or give us a benefit for doing so. We want to be moving cards from zone to zone often, because it will allow us to draw cards or trigger other effects that will help us maintain a dominant board state.

Recursion:

Our recursion package is set to get lands and creatures back at a rapid clip. Bonus, if we are targeting creatures like Avenger of Zendikar or Deep Forest Hermit, we’ll get a bunch of ETB token creation triggers to boot, and those are great sacrifice fodder to get our engine going. Use an Eternal Witness to bring back Avenger, and then sacrifice it to get another benefit, then bring it back the next turn with Genesis in our graveyard! There are shenanigans to be had and it’s such a different style than I’m used to — but I love a good value engine.

Other Tools:

We’ll want to use these cards in different scenarios differently, but overall our goal is to draw cards off of sacrificial lambs, play things from the graveyard, and then get more triggers to keep the cycle going. Most of the inclusions should be self-explanatory at this point, most have effects that will be beneficial to recur over and over again. There’s a pretty standard Golgari removal package included, and overall I think it will be pretty solid. Something I haven’t tried before, so some testing will be required. I’ll get back to you on this one. You can see the full deck list here.

TWR: Looking Ahead to Modern Horizons

Although it’s not a normal set, it’s not quite a masters set either. It’s not standard legal, instead skipping right to Modern legality (but this also means it’s great for EDH). Like Battlebond last year, we’re getting a late spring alternate set that comes with a variety of things you just couldn’t jam into a standard legal set. This one comes out in June, and is called Modern Horizons. It was advertised to have all new cards to Modern, so any of the reprints would have to be legacy cards, but we still managed to get a nice mixture of reprints that are nice and new cards that will work in Modern, EDH, and Limited formats. I’d even think Pauper got a thing or two, but I’m not really up on its meta. As usual, there is a Buy-A-Box promo card, this time being one I’m not thrilled about but I’m sure there are people out there that will want it.

Buy-A-Box:

It’s Flusterstorm! It’s a one mana counterspell that forces an opponent to pay one mana or the spell they cast will be countered. The reason people actually want it is that it has Storm, so if someone starts to “storm off” (playing with a storm deck that specializes is casting many spells quickly) you can use this to stop them in their tracks. As counterspells go, it’s fine, but it’s not a good enough incentive to buy a box. Though I think the set itself does have that sort of value — it’s unfortunate that they cost so much more than a normal box ($250 as opposed to $100). This set brings with it some interesting cards, and as usual I won’t be able to comment on them all, but I thought I would highlight some of the new cycles, new legendary creatures (aka new commanders) and EDH playables.

Force Cycle:

The first new cycle we saw spoilers for was the “force cycle” which includes a new force spell for each of the game’s five colors. They are modeled after the excellent Force of Will, which allows you to discard a blue card to cast it rather than paying its mana cost. It’s great for competitive and casual decks alike. The new blue force spell is to Negate what Force of Will is to Counterspell. Still pretty good but not amazing. The green force is pretty good artifact/enchantment removal for free, so you can blow up that Chain Veil that’s about to go off. The black force is good to slow down an aggro or token deck that puts a lot of creatures down in one turn. Outside of that, the white and red versions are pretty terrible but I wanted to include them nonetheless.

Talisman Cycle Now Complete:

Talismans have been around for a long time, and they are basically Pain Lands on an artifact. For 2 CMC you get an untapped colorless rock, or you can take a damage and get one of two colors. Five of the color combinations existed until now, so the cycle is finally complete. Great for most decks that are running multiple colors, they are damn good rocks and auto includes.

New Legendary Creatures:

Next up, new Legendary creatures. I was really impressed with these, and we got one of each color along with a WUBRG and Colorless option. Technically our White and Colorless options count as WUBRG commanders as well, but for all intents and purposes they’ve spread the love around pretty well. I was most interested in Morophon initially, as he looks like a cool commander for changelings and shapeshifters but he also can slam right into Jodah and between the two of them you’re casting spells for free — this makes the creature another omnipotence, which I’ve already got in the deck. Then The First Sliver was spoiled and holy shit! Slivers already looked like a pretty strong tribe, and then this guy comes out with Cascade and gives all of his homies cascade too! What the actual fuck? Too bad he’s already speculated to cost $40 and the older legendary Slivers are more than that.  I’m so-so on Sisay… seems good but I’m just not into that style of commander, the same goes for Bear tribal, Urza and Yawgmoth. It’s cool that they got legendary cards finally, but I don’t really care. Now when it comes to Pashalik Mons on the other had, I completely approve! I have a Krenko goblin deck already, and I threw the recently released new version of Krenko in the deck, but this guy also deserves a slot. I still think that Krenko is the better commander, but you essentially only infinite mana to win the game in combination with this card. So another tool for the goblin deck is coming, and I can’t wait to use it!

EDH Playables:

These cards are all the best ones I saw while spoilers rolled out for the last couple of weeks. Honestly there are only a few here that I really can’t wait to get my hands on, but I can see that some of these are great additions to decks that I don’t play but I know people who do. There are two new swords that are part of a cycle that is also not yet complete, but they didn’t end up putting all 5 that were needed in the set. Out of these two, the Sword of Truth and Justice is really good… Sinew and Steel is less so but could be good in certain decks. Winds of Abandon is a new Cyclonic Rift in white, but it will ramp the shit out of your opponents so you’ll want to be carefull how you use it… Perhaps an Armageddon is in order afterwards. The Ninja at the top is pretty amazing, and there were a handful of others in this set, which means Yuriko just got some new toys and Ninjas are a more viable tribe now. There are some other great cards here, so take a look. Remember, reading the card explains the card!

Lands:

Finally, we have lands. For whatever reason WotC decided it was a good time to bring Snow-Covered lands back, which haven’t seen printing since the Ice Age set. This means there are other cards in the set that reference “snow permanents” and some mana costs or ability costs require snow covered lands to activate/play. Another new cycle are these dual lands that allow you to use them immediately but cost you life. They seem okay for EDH but not so great otherwise. However, you can sacrifice them for card draw so that’s okay. Otherwise we have a fetch land that fetches basics, which is weird but could be effective if you can bring it back from the graveyard and you run enough basics to make it worthwhile. And then we have The Hall of Heliod’s Generosity, which will allow you to return enchantments from the graveyard but you have to be playing white to use it. Enchantment recursion is a bit limited so this is great for enchantress decks. That’s about it for this set preview, I’m looking forward to getting some new tools soon!

TWR: Early Modern Horizons and War of the Spark Spoilers

A couple of interesting tidbits hit news feeds in the past couple of weeks. There hasn’t been the official “big product road map announcement” for this year just yet, but three sets have been confirmed. We already know about Core Set 2020 due out in the summer, and the next normal set to round out the Ravnica and Gatewatch story, War of the Spark. We can also assume there will be a Commander 2019 product, but otherwise the rest of the releases for 2019 are unknown. So when we heard what I’m about to talk about, there was some excitement to be had!

Modern Horizons:

Wizards of the Coast announced a new “modern focused” set that includes cards that will skip standard legality. We’re expecting a bunch of new cards specifically designed for the modern format, but we can rest assured there will be great cards for EDH/Commander as well. Reprints are rumored to be “nothing that’s currently modern-legal” so perhaps they will be legacy reprints? If so that is some potentially awesome news for Commander players along with those playing the other formats. So far we’ve only seen two spoilers, and they are interesting cards:

The Cabal Therapist is definitely a modern focused card. I don’t really see many EDH applications unless you’re doing a lot of “show me your hand” effects to really make use of this creature’s ability. Still a pretty decent card. The Serra Planeswalker is a pretty cool idea, taking a card we’ve known since the beginning and giving it a legendary treatment. It actually looks like a great fit in Kaalia or other Angel EDH decks, just because it’s pretty on theme and can keep you in the game if you get targeted. The set it supposed to release within the next couple of months, and it appears to be the Modern Masters replacement. I hope it brings some powerful cards.

War of the Spark:

The other big news was concerning the next expansion, War of the Spark. There was a teaser video that showed a bunch of Planeswalkers done up as stained glass windows not too long ago, and then WotC told us that every single one of those Planeswalkers will be present in the new set.

Unfortunately they will not look this cool — they specifically said that the stained glass art would not be on the cards in the set. However, there were a total of 36 given this treatment, and it turns out that all of them are cards we’ve seen before. It’s unclear if there will be reprints or new versions, but they did say that there will be a Planeswalker in every pack, much like there were legendaries in Dominaria. I’m torn on the idea. Planeswalkers were supposed to be something you only saw here and there, are are less likely to see play unless they fit a deck’s theme or you’re running superfriends. Some are very powerful — I’m sure most of you playing Arena are sick of seeing Teferi, Hero of Dominaria over and over. I think stuffing this many into a set could take away some of the magic that makes Planeswalkers special. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what happens there. This set is supposed to be out next month, so spoilers will be coming soon enough. I’ll be covering that as soon as it happens.

Until then.