The War Report: Theorycrafting – Commander

mtg

In this segment of The War Report, we come back to the topic of Commander. As I mentioned in the last edition, I had only recently discovered this other format so I purchased a Commander 2015 pre-built deck named “Call the Spirits.” It was interesting enough, but after the first round of playtesting I found that there were some cards that felt lacking, and in some cases I had better standard format cards. I also knew that there were new mechanics added with the 2016 pre-built Commander decks, so I picked up “Open Hostility.” Upon playing with those two decks with a regular group game we’ve been having nearly every weekend, it seems that both had room to grow. That’s one of the major benefits to buying the starter decks, as they give you an idea of what you can do, and they you can customize as you see fit (while sidebording the original cards just in case you play someone out of the normal group or against a new deck).

For my first round of improvements, I sorted through my collection of cards and picked out those that I wasn’t using but recognized as being powerful in this new format. When playing Standard, you’ll typically want to keep the mana costs of your cards under 5, and if you do have any 5+ mana cards, they better be game-breaking. This isn’t the case with Commander. Having more health, more cards, Singleton rules, and multiple opponents mean the games are slowed down considerably. Don’t get me wrong, there were games where we had each other whittled down through various means and someone started making killing blows rather quickly. The usual state of the game is much slower than that example, or Standard (probably much slower than Modern and other modes) and that means your mana curve goes up. Essentially there are more mana in the deck, more mana fixing lands/artifacts, and because of the slower ramp up in power distributed across the board you will be able to use cards that cost 5+ mana. In fact, a large percentage of the cards tend to be that much, because games last long enough to have tons of mana to play with. In one game I managed to drop a spell that did 26 damage to another player and heal me for that much — he ended up winning the game too! There are so many other possibilities with this and I have barely begun to scratch the surface.

That said, I decided to put an order in to Troll & Toad. I received my haul today, which was part power cards (rares and mythics that are super nice but hard to procure from packs and cost a few bucks a piece depending on perceived value and strength in the game) that I had on my wish list, and some that were from older sets I haven’t played to this point but would fit into these two Commander decks. Let’s check out what I picked up:

emrakul

Apparently Emrakul is something of a big deal. I hadn’t heard of him, but I missed the introduction of the Eldrazi (though I have seen some of the newer variants from the Eldritch block). He had some previous versions that were all overpowered and banned from competitive play, and this particular Standard-legal version of him has recently been banned as well. As such, the asking price for this card dropped dramatically and he was a wishlist purchase that is still playable in Commander, so he now has a use! He’s got a crazy ability where you get to play out your turn then play an opponent’s turn for them (hopefully winning you the match or at least causing a good bit of chaos in a multiplayer game). Not to mention being a 13/13 flying trample that has protection from instants. Can’t wait to drop him on the board.

sorin-lord

I purchased a Sorin, Grim Nemesis for my Lifegain deck, but it just so happens that he’s a powerful card that would fit into the black/white commander deck. It just so happens that there are multiple versions of him that could potentially do me some good in this other format where the cards are legal to play. This one costs less than Nemesis, but is obviously less powerful. Still, more options on the board and an ability to kill other Planeswalkers is a great utility.

sorin-solemn

These were the only two versions of this guy that were inexpensive enough to buy. Believe me there were plenty of power cards from throughout the years that I would love to buy, but collecting some of the old stuff is just not going to happen. Apparently there is another set called “Modern Masters” that reprints some decent cards that are Modern legal (something I’m interested in looking into once my current decks start to lose cards from the current rotation) but that’s a tale for another day. This version of Sorin has a nice ult that forces opponents to sacrifice creatures each turn, so yeah more options.

vraska

The other Planeswalker I couldn’t resist purchasing. Vraska is a character I hadn’t heard of to this point, but her ultimate ability is phenomenal if used properly. This one has to fit into my 4-color deck, but packs a nasty punch. Dropping 3 1/1 creatures onto the board that will instantly kill a player if they do damage to them? It may be tough to get those 1/1’s to break through, but I’m going to figure out at way to make this viable in the deck. If nothing else, it’s a fuckin’ cool card man.

perdition

Another Standard legal pickup, I’m unsure which deck I will use this in. I’m thinking the 2-color deck, but it will fit in either. Regardless, being able to potentially make this creature a 40/40 defender while simultaneously lowering another player’s life total to 13 is just cruel. It’s only getting countered by a counterspell or a direct form of destruction. No puny lightning bolts taking out this guy, no sir.

decimator

Another fearsome looking Eldrazi, this guy packs a punch. He leans towards being placed in the 4-color deck because of his cheaper emerge cost, but could still be played viably for 10 mana in the format. A 7/7 trample haste that gives the rest of your creatures +2/+2 and trample? All-in bro.

herald

This card is two fold. I wanted to drop it into my mono-black Standard deck, and also wanted to throw him into one of the commander decks. He’s a 5/5 flyer that forces discard and can potentially 1 shot weenies. He goes along with the theme of the mono-black, where the creatures are all Aetherborn or Demon, as does the Demon of Dark Schemes I’m thinking of pairing with him once I make these changes to the Commander decks.

behold

This one is Standard legal but I’m going to use it for Commander. If played when you have little to no cards, it’s a great trade to get some options.

basker

This guy is brand new, and though my 4-color deck doesn’t use any sort of energy, he can use it himself and probably should before removal gets him. Still, a 7/7 trample is hard to avoid, and if used with a token deck (which mine happens to be) he could potentially get a huge swing in on his 2nd turn out, if he doesn’t get destroyed first.

eternal

Moving on from Mythics, here’s a pretty sweet Rare that will beef up one of these decks nicely. Despite the fact that you’ll use many more high mana cost cards in Commander, you still need a few low cost ones, though they usually have to stand out from the crowd. I feel this one does. Whenever it becomes target of a spell or ability, it goes into exile. You get to play it again on your next turn (if you choose) from exile. A 3/3 for 3 mana that comes back every turn? Yes please.

defiance

Part of the Collective series (each new set has something like this, where it will thematically tie in with each color and have a different version; see the “expertise” line from Aether Revolt), this card is just a nice form of removal for a decent price and worth slotting into the 4-color deck.

yahennis

This is the current series similar to the one I explained above. I already had a copy of Yahenni’s Expertise, but I figured another couldn’t hurt. Most of these cards I purchase can be played in multiple decks. It won’t kill off much in Commander, save for most commanders themselves and token creatures. The real benefit is being able to drop a 3 cost card for free (like that Eternal Scourge from earlier).

rishkars

Another one of the expertise cards, but for my 4-color deck, which typically has out quite a few creatures allowing for some nice card draw, along with dropping a 5 mana cost card for free. That’s gonna be nice.

rise

And finally, the only uncommon that I picked up this time around. This card is going to come in handy. See, the guys I play with have access to a bunch of cards in their collections, as they hadn’t sold off old ones or forgotten the hobby like I did. As such, they tend to have some cool cards that don’t exist anymore or at least have a new variant that is effectively the same but worse in some way. This one will help even the odds, as quite a few awesome cards end up in graveyards, and I can throw them right onto the battlefield for only 5 mana. Perfect for commander.

So I think I’ve made some decent improvements. I will have to get back to playtesting to see how well these cards perform. All in all I think I have been most successful during the game nights we’ve had recently. I know last night I played 3 rounds and won two. Last weekend I believe we played 2 and I won one. Perhaps I’ve broken even. Either way, I’m loving this game and I’m glad to be back into it.

The War Report: Theorycrafting – Master Trinketeer Deck

mtg

As I mentioned in my last War Report, I had intentions on sharing some of the other deck ideas I’ve brainstormed since my return to the game. My newest creation is a White/Green Thopter deck, centering around the new Kaladesh rare card, the Master Trinketeer. We’ll jump into the break down shortly, but first a small progress report. I managed to get in some playtesting this weekend, and found that not only does this deck work, but it works very well. I’ve tested and tweaked my White/Black deck the most, and it most definitely stands up to most decks, but this new creation stands to be one of my better ones. This weekend, my friend had another of his friends over who happens to play the game and I spent the entire night playing against his buddy. He had some reasonably powered decks that were standard legal, but he couldn’t beat either of those decks until he pulled out a modern legal colorless Eldrazi deck that had some mean cards in it. But that’s basically cheating, so I’ll call it a win. Still don’t know how the White/Green might stand up to my friend’s decks, but I’ll find out soon enough.

At this point, I think this deck is already mastered. My deckbuilding has improved to the point that I’m not having to make quite so many passes and tweaks on decks. The White/Black took over a month to hone down. The Blue/Black Zombie deck needs a little work still, but singles are on the way! The Red/Green Werewolf deck didn’t wreck face as much as I had hoped, but it does have promise. Some tweaks are on the way for that. This Green/White deck worked right out of the gate. Finally, I have an order being shipped that has what should be the finishing touches for the Red/Blue Energy deck I’m working on. I also dropped a little extra cash on a pretty sweet case to hold all of my decks for those times I’m on the go, and picked up some extra dice and tokens. So I think I’m done spending money on this hobby until the next expansion drops. Which is right around the corner. Anyway, let’s take a look at the new deck, shall we?

White/Green Master Trinketeer Deck

Creatures:

x4 Master Trinketeer
mastertrinketeer

It’s unfortunate that there isn’t a standard legal White/Green Planeswalker out at the moment, but perhaps the next expansion will rectify that. For now, this card is what the whole deck is based around. A 3/2 for 3 mana isn’t bad, but it’s his abilities that are what makes the deck. Combining this card with other cards that help me create servos and thopters, and suddenly I have an army. He can also create tokens himself, so when I have no other moves, I get instant 2/2 artifact creatures. 4 of these are present, and I’ve pulled one every game thus far.

x2 Toolcraft Exemplar
636093605068927741

I almost took this card out of the deck because it doesn’t innately provide anything for token generation. However, any servo/thopter will count as an artifact, so with one on the board this is a 3/2 for one mana. Add two more tokens on the board and he also gains first strike. It’s a no-brainer why this one works out so well, and helps this become more of an aggro deck. I’m considering adding two more of these in place of something else.

x2 Visionary Augmenter
visionaryaugmenter%5bkld%5d

I reasoned pretty quickly that using creatures with Fabricate would be very beneficial in this deck. Each time I drop one of these, it either becomes a 4/3 out of the gate, or I keep it and produce two other 1/1’s who could easily be 2/2 if a Trinketeer is on the board. Overrun them all!

x2 Cultivator of Blades
1x-mtg-cultivator-of-blades-kaladesh

The Cultivator of blades is basically the same as the more generic minion above, with Fabricate 2, however, this guy almost always wants the self buff, mainly because every time he attacks, all of your other attacking creatures get +X/+X = to his power. I.E., if he’s a 3/3 all your other minions get +3/+3. Throw a Larger Than Life on him, and say good night unless they have some instant board clear.

x2 Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter
165

I don’t really like running more than one of any particular legendaries due to the rules about only having one at a time, but this card is a mini version of the Trinketeer. A 1/2 for one mana, but has the ability to create servos or hulking constructs dependant on rushing out tons of minions. Another way to help finish off the game quickly.

Artifacts:

x4 Snare Thopter
snarethopter%5bkld%5d
The reason there aren’t a bunch of green or white creatures in the deck is because there are plenty of thopter options in the artifacts department. These 3/2 flyers with haste are going to be nasty with some of the passive buffs I have in the deck.

x4 Ovalchase Dragster
ovalchase-dragster-56726-medium

I haven’t really used any vehicles in my decks yet. It’s an alright mechanic, but in most cases I haven’t seen where I’d rather have a Vehicle in place of another spell or creature. However, these ones feel like they will fit nicely with the deck’s theme. A crew cost of only 1 means any of my readily available servo/thopter tokens can crew this beast for an easy 6 damage, and depending on circumstance, that trample damage might end the game.

x2 Inventor’s Goggles
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I have had a few copies of this card lying around for a while. All of my creatures that are white or green are Artificers, so it felt appropriate to add some of these to the deck. It can help keep the important ones alive, and it’s cheap and reusable.

x2 Chief of the Foundry
chiefofthefoundry

Another card I’m considering adding two more of. Between these and the Trinketeers, I should be able to create an army of cheap to make but progressively stronger minions. Feels perfect for the deck.

x2 Pilgrim’s Eye
31454

Honestly, this card was thrown in just because it’s a Thopter. But a 1/1 for 3 that searches for land isn’t too hot. Will likely drop these for more Chiefs or Exemplars.

x2 Animation Module
animationmodule

This artifact feels to fit in with the deck as well. Earning +1/+1 counters via fabricate should happen pretty often, and each time it does, I can create more servos. It also has the ability to multiply counters, so I threw two in the deck.

x1 Whirlermaker
whirlermaker%5bkld%5d

Another way to make thopters, just to add to the pain.

Spells:

x4 Servo Exhibition
servoexhibition%5bkld%5d

Another bread and butter card for the deck, this one gives two 1/1’s for two mana, and was a no brainer addition.

x4 Built to Last
builttolast

As most of my creatures are going to need some sort of pumping up at some point, and since I plan to make tons of artifact creatures, this spell felt right at home. Making a creature just big enough to get a kill but then also having the ability to protect an artifact creature from dying is amazing for 1 mana.

x2 Collective Effort
collectiveeffort

I really like this card but have yet to use it in a game. It has some synergy with cards like Animation Module and provides some control. I like the fact that it’s situational and can do multiple things.

x2 Engineered Might
engineered-might-p241168-219077_image

Another situational card that blends well and is the only dual color card I have in the deck.  The ability to make one creature huge or all a little bigger will come in handy.

For lands I have a pretty standard split of Forests and Plains, along with a couple dual lands from recent expansions. I also added in my lone Inventor’s Fair, which is a land you can tap for colorless mana, but also gives a little sustain by granting one life each turn if you control 3 or more artifacts. It also can be sacrificed to search for an artifact from the deck, but it’s likely I won’t use it for that.

So there you have it. I’ll be back again after I get some more games in. Til then, happy gaming!

 

The War Report: Theorycrafting – Werewolves

mtg

I’ve been consistently playing Magic The Gathering with my friend lately, and that’s meant plenty of playtesting for the various decks that I’ve created. We’ve stuck with “Standard” legality, meaning the cards from the current block and the last two are the only ones that we can select cards from. My friend has two decks so far and only one that is really dominant. I have been testing my decks against that one primarily and have had mixed results. One of the biggest (and most fun) parts of playing MTG is theorycrafting, which goes hand in hand with deckbuilding. For me, theorycrafting starts with a card or cards that have a large impact on a game. Building a deck around those cards or themes is more difficult than it might seem, but isn’t so difficult that it’s overwhelming.

In my time back with the game, I’ve managed to create a White/Black “Lifegain” deck that has been the most consistent. I threw together a Blue/Red control deck that has since been decommissioned in order to turn it into an energy themed deck. My Blue/Black Zombies deck has seen some iteration but feels pretty complete at this point. I’ve also slapped together a Red/Green Werewolf deck and am waiting on a shipment of singles to complete a White/Green Thopter deck. Each deck started with a handful of cards that had synergy, and was then filled with whatever sounded good. From there, playtesting occurred to the point where I could find weaknesses with my build and change the deck accordingly. This has been an ongoing process, but it has resulted in some pretty cool decks in my humble opinion.

My current labor of love is the Red/Green Werewolf deck. I saw that I had quite a few werewolf or werewolf-themed cards, and the majority of those were Red or Green. It turns out that many of the spells that would affect other werewolves affected normal wolves as well, so they were a shoo in for addition to the deck. Really, that’s all there was to it, but buying up singles to shore up a deck is definitely the way to go. I’ve had foundations for decks emerge from packs, but getting them dialed in requires particular cards, and paying $0.25 each for most singles isn’t breaking the bank.

I thought I’d take the time to break this deck down a bit, and go over the cards and my thought processes. I intend to do this for the other decks as well, but for now, let’s dive into it.

Red/Green Werewolf Deck

Creatures:

x1 Arlinn Kord/Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon (Planeswalker)arlinn-kord

Planeswalkers are just plain cool. They act as more of an enchantment than anything, though they are able to utilize abilities and also take damage. The only weakness lies in their inability to attack, though their abilities tend to make up for that. Knowing I was building a R/G Werewolf deck and finding this legal Planeswalker meant including it was a gimmie. Everything on this card will interact well with other cards that have been included.

x1 Shrill Howler/Howling Chorusshrill

Most of these cards that I only have one of were those acquired through packs. At this point, the deck theoretically works. Further playtesting will find which cards aren’t so hot and which ones I should add more of. It’s a simple process of elimination. Having a 3/1 for 3 mana isn’t great, but the fact that little weenies can’t block it is nice, and once it transforms it’s a nice token generator.

x1 Kessig Prowler/Sinuous Predatorkessig-prowler-sinuous-predator-p234495-200846_image

A 2/1 for 1 mana is a decent drop. Transformation is a bit expensive, but a 4/4 with menace isn’t bad. Given the waxing moon cards that I’ve included, it might be able to transform for cheaper, and that’s always nice. I like these werewolves that transform for mana rather than other circumstances, but they tend to be on the pricey side. I’m hoping the spells included in this deck will slow the game down to give me time to get a transformed army going.

x1 Hermit of the Natterknolls/Lone Wolf of the Natterknollshermit

I really like the Hermit, not only because it’s a 2/3 for 3 mana, but the card draw is nice. It gets better after transformation, but this is one of the cards where I can’t control the transformation, so I’m not sure how well these will work in practice. This will be reported on later.

x2 Smoldering Werewolf/Erupting Dreadwolf
smoldering1smoldering2

This guy feels like I should add 2 more to the deck. A 3/2 for 4 mana that also deals 2 damage on summon is great. After transforming you get the 2 direct damage every time it attacks. Good shit.

x2 Gatstaf Arsonists/Gatstaf Ravagersgatstaf_arsonists

Probably one of the first to go if they prove less useful, a 5/4 for 5 mana isn’t terrible, but the 6/5 with menace transformer is pretty good. We’ll see how this one pans out.

x2 Convicted Killer/Branded Howler
convicted1convicted2

Another common, and also one that might not make the cut. A 2/2 for 3 isn’t great, but getting that bonus from the transformation might make it worthwhile. It really depends on how the spell casting goes each turn. That’s one thing I’ll say about this deck, it should be interesting, but not necessarily the best.

x2 Ulvenwald Captive/Ulvenwald Abominationulvenwald

I actually like this one quite a bit. A 1/2 for 2 mana isn’t amazing, but having a defender is sometimes useful, particularly because it can be used to generate mana. Transforming it will give you two mana per tap along with allowing it to attack, and it’s beefed up to a 4/6. Feels worth it, and I think I’ll be adding 2 more of these down the road.

x2 Tangleclaw Werewolf/Fibrous Entangler
tangleclaw1tangleclaw2

This is another werewolf I rather enjoy. A 2/4 for 4 mana, this bad boy can block twice. Once transformed, he then has vigilance (no tapping for attacks), must be blocked, and can still block twice. Awesome.

x2 Silverfur Partisan
silverfurpartisan

Not quite a werewolf, and not quite a wolf, but this 2/2 for 3 mana is pretty nice. Trample seems a little silly at first, but given some of the other spells in the deck it will come in handy. The passive is the real bonus, where any of my creatures getting targeted by a spell gives me a free 2/2 token.

x2 Deranged Whelp
deranged_whelp

A 2/1 with menace for 2 mana. Cannon fodder. Nuff said.

x2 Brazen Wolves
brazenwolves

These guys are nice as a 2/3 for 3 mana isn’t bad, but each time it attacks, it’s instantly a 4/3.

x2 Ember-Eye Wolf
embereye

A 1/2 with haste for 2 mana is nice because that’s instant damage. Having the mana to pump him up means potential big-damage to the face, or at least the ability to kill a big creature of the opponent’s.

x2 Spirit of the Hunt
spiritofthehunt

I really enjoy this card. A 3/3 for 3 mana that gives an instant health boost to the rest of my creatures for a turn. It also has flash, meaning it can be cast like an instant, even on the opposing player’s turn.

I’m sure you can see by now the sorts of interactions I’m expecting to have with these creatures, as they all have benefits for each other or at least are the same type so that all of my other spells will benefit every last one. Speaking of spells, let’s jump into those:

Spells:

x2 Rabid Bite
rabidbite

I’m fascinated by the whole “fight” mechanic. This isn’t that exactly, but these are the types of cards I wanted to include in this deck. Basically you take the power of your creature and do that much damage to another creature. Nice way to destroy those pesky creatures with abilities that normally keep them out of reach.

x3 Prey Upon
preyupon

This is the actual “fight” mechanic. It essentially forces a creature to fight your creature, so used in the right circumstance, you will live and their creature will die.

x2 Waxing Moon
waxingmoon

This card is sort of a double whammy. Not only do I get to pick a werewolf to instantly transform, but all of the creatures on my board get trample. Good stuff.

x3 Larger Than Life
largerthanlife

This is the mother of all pump cards. +4/+4 plus trample to any of my creatures. Not as good as giant growth from back in the day when it was an instant, but still a nice addition to this deck.

x1 Howlpack Resurgence
howlpack

As enchantments go, adding a +1/+1 counter to every creature on your side of the board is nice. Getting trample in addition is also nice. What’s really great about this card though, is having flash attached to it. Between this and Spirit of the Hunt, the opponent is gonna have to watch out.

x2 Giant Spectacle
giantspectacle

These enchants coincide with the fact that I have plenty of other cards giving menace, trample and pumps. So why not add a few more?

x2 Structural Distortion
structuraldistortion

The only real form of control that I’ve added to the deck, I thought it would be nice to not only be able to destroy those pesky artifacts and vehicles, but also to slow the game down by destroying land. The direct damage is just a bonus.

x2 Creeping Mold
creepingmold

Essentially the green version of the same card, it swaps the ability to do direct damage with the ability to destroy an enchantment. Still nice.

Lands:
x2 Timber Gorge
x1 Cinder Glade
x9 Mountain
x9 Forest

Lands are pretty basic. I have 3 multi-colored lands, and the rest are normal.

That’s about it for this write up. What do you think of this deck? Think it will work out? I’ll be back with more deck breakdowns soon.