TWR: Battlebond Preview Weekend

Battlebond releases this Friday, but this past weekend there was a “preview weekend” event at my LGS; my roommate and I took the opportunity to check out the new set early. Being a Two-Headed Giant format makes the sealed experience a bit different than what I’ve experienced in the past. Rather than getting a pre-release kit for $30 and building a deck from the packs included, then running through a few 1v1 rounds and possibly winning some extra packs, we were both awarded with 4 packs for $20 each. Technically that sounds like a sham, but the two of you build two decks from the pool, and in our case we just took pictures of the packs we opened so we could pull our cards back out after the event. Similar to pre-release events, you’ll run through rounds against rotating opponents, but 2v2 this time around. We also received promo cards at the beginning of the event, and I started the day off pretty good:

It seems that everyone got one of the new “partner with” pairs, my pull being one of the better options. This also helped steer us in a particular direction when it came to deck building. Unfortunately I didn’t end up with many other cards I wanted from the set, and none of the big money reprints or new additions. My roommate pulled a foil Greater Good, and the Najeela that I’d love to trade for but not much else. We ended up doing really well in the tournament though, and that made me proud. Our deck ended up centering around those two Planeswalkers above, along with a suite of removal in Black and Red, some good ramp in Green, and a splash of White. He ran RGW and I built UB. Though we were running the Kenriths and Najeela, we never played any of them. We primarily played Warriors though as we had good synergy in those colors, so I most slung the removal spells and he mostly made the creatures. We won the first two rounds, and only lost the third round due to a well timed Archon of Valor’s Reach, naming Sorcery. Our trump card ended up being Thrilling Encore, working exactly as planned in game 2, where we cast some removal spells, swung out with our board and killed/lost creatures, then played Encore to return all of the killed creatures to our side of the field. Game Over.

Besides the aforementioned Planeswalkers that I’m thinking of throwing into either a Superfriends deck or my Jodah deck, these were the cards I pulled that I can see places for in my existing EDH decks. In some cases I’m not too sure where they will end up but I’d like to use them nonetheless. The Blaring Captain/Recruiter pair are good in a Najeela deck, as is the Mindblade Render, and I’m considering where I might put them. Sylvia and Khorvath are screaming to go into Kaalia, considering I added a handful of dragons to that deck recently and they’d love to have doublestrike. Khorvath’s Fury is a nice wheel that I’m going to put into Locust God. The Goblins will find a place in Krenko. The Wumpus and Searchlight are great for my group hug deck, and Seer’s Lantern will work for Grenzo. That leaves Gorm and Virtus, which really want to be in some sort of unblockable type deck. Not sure where to use Spellseeker either, though I’m sure she could go into Kess or Taigam, something that wants to grab a particular spell. It’s a tutor at least, and that will find a home.

Overall I’m happy with the outcome of the event. I wish I would have pulled a Doubling Season or a Land Tax… hell I would have loved a Diabolic Intent, but I can still grab a few more packs after Friday and pick up some singles. I’m not missing out on a cheaper Doubling Season, I’ll guarantee that. I’m hoping that Wizards can keep this sort of thing going, I really liked playing 2v2. I’ll definitely participate in some more Battlebond action in a couple of weeks at GP Vegas!

TWR: Looking Forward to Battlebond

Battlebond is the newest product from Wizards to be a sort of filler set between blocks of standard sets. Think of sets like Conspiracy (and it’s sequel Conspiracy: Take the Crown), where the set is sort of stand alone, introduces some different mechanics, and is meant to be drafted. Where this set stands alone is that it’s the first (to my knowledge) set to embrace the Two-Headed Giant format. This means four players make up teams of two and go head to head to head to head. You get the idea.

I like the 2HG format. It’s fun to have a teammate and multiplayer formats are definitely more engaging than the traditional 1v1 style. What’s great about this set is that not only is it embracing 2HG, but it’s also providing some excellent Commander format cards. Also, many expensive cards are receiving a reprint, and that’s probably the most exciting part. A little disappointing too though, as I just bought a Seedborn Muse for $25 about a month ago and that’s now being reprinted, but I’ve said too much. This week is spoilers week for the set which releases on June 8th. It hasn’t been fully spoiled yet, but I’ll point you in the direction of the spoilers. There are a few cards that I’d like to talk about anyway, so let’s get to that.

Big Money Reprints:

I recently sold off nearly all of my Planeswalkers recently because I decided against a “Superfriends” build as the cornerstone of the deck is Doubling Season, a card that spiked to upwards of $75. This reprint should bring the price down a bit, or I might get lucky and open one. Some other noteables are Diabolic Intent (an equally expensive Diabolic Tutor), Land Tax (great ramp for white and about $25), Nirkana Revenant (cabal coffers on legs and also $25), True-Name Nemesis (a nice tool for merfolk decks, but kinda busted 1v1), and the aforementioned Seedborn Muse. These are staples for EDH, and I’ll be aiming for getting my hands on copies of each.

New Mechanics:

Partner itself isn’t a new keyword. There were partner commanders introduced in the Commander 2016 sets. Planeswalkers as commanders aren’t a new thing either, as that was done in 2014 I believe. However, Planeswalkers that can be your commander and have partner are a new thing. We’ve only seen the one pair so far, but I’m interested to see more of these. We also know that Commander 2018 sets will be led by Planeswalkers as well, so its likely there will be some good additions coming. “Partner with” is also something new, where the two legendary creatures will tutor the other out when one is played, which means they do double duty. There are several examples of these in the set, but I only wanted to highlight a couple. Another new keyword is Assist, which allows another player to pay a portion of a spell’s CMC, while the Support keyword has been revisited (this one distributes +1/+1 counters based on the number following the keyword).

Notables:

Archfiend of Despair is a reprint and is a nice card (might throw that one into Kaalia). Archon of Valor’s Reach is an interesting concept for a Commander. Arena Rector is great for superfriends or any deck playing a handful of Planeswalkers as PW specific tutors aren’t really out there. The new land cycle should be auto includes for EDH decks as you’ll always have more than one opponent. Najeela looks like a busted new general, and screams to be made into a Warrior tribal deck — best part is it’s 5-color, so you can pick the very best warriors and spells to support them. This will likely be a fresh brew for me coming soon! Lastly, Sentinel Tower feels like it can be busted, especially in spellslinger decks. Might have to try it out in Kess.

That’s all for now. I may revisit the topic when the set is fully spoiled, or once I get a new brew done. Until then, happy gaming!

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!