September 30th, 2010
Recently, Mark Rosewater responded to one of Aaron Forsythe’s “random card comment of the day” entries, and in his response, included this phrase that just seemed really wrong to me: “Black is very restricted in creature keywords.”
My perception is that black is the favorite child for creature keywords. Seems to me like black gets pretty much everything, not the other way around.
We’ll look only at cards that are Standard-legal, or were just a couple weeks ago. Let’s walk through keywords and just throw out a few examples for each:
Deathtouch: Giant Scorpion, Grave Titan, Nirkana Cutthroat, Painsmith
Lifelink: Child of Night, Escaped Null, Vampire Nighthawk
Haste: Blackcleave Goblin, Bloodghast (conditional), Crypt Ripper, Extractor Demon
First Strike: Black Knight, Nirkana Cutthroat, Vampire Hexmage
Flying: Gloomhunter, Cadaver Imp, Howling Banshee
Trample: Abyssal Persecutor, Thought Gorger, Demon of Death’s Gate
Regenerate: Null Champion, Skeletal Wurm, Skithiryx
Shroud: Hey, look, a miss!
Vigilance: OK, another miss.
Intimidate: Surrakar Marauder, Guul Draz Vampire, Geth
Now, yes, Trample only appears at high rarity, First Strike appears only at uncommon, and Regenerate doesn’t appear at common, either, but most colors don’t get regenerate at all, so that’s not much of a limitation.
Oh, and I refuse to count Reach, at least for any color which get actual, you know, FLYING.
So, the only keywords that appear to be off-limits (so far) to black are Shroud and Vigilance. Compare this to white, which has “none” for Deathtouch, Regenerate, Intimidate, and Haste. White has only a single mythic rare for Trample (Mirror-Sigil Sergeant; almost totally unplayable; I had never even heard of this card before it came up in the search), and very little with Shroud in mono-white. though there are some gold cards with white that have shroud, all of those are because it shares color with blue or green. White has effectively six blank keywords while Black has only two.
Oh, and of course Black is one of the two colors that got Infest, which I didn’t count because it’s new and block-specific. Infect is certainly flavor-consistent, but not exactly a limitation for Black.
So, uhh, how is Black “very restricted” in creature keywords, again?
September 27th, 2010
This was probably the most expensive prerelease ever, since my wife was out of town and I had to pay for a sitter to be able to go. I had to miss the last Standard FNM on Friday and couldn’t go to a Saturday prerelease, plus I’ll be on the road the next couple weekends so I won’t get to play at all for a bit. So that means I’d miss the first two weeks of drafts, too, and I really wanted to get a chance to play with the new set, so I decided it was worth it. I did have some concerns about the fact that I would be missing the Texans’ game against the Cowboys, but it turned out, unfortunately, that I was glad I had to miss that game (ugh). So, I went the Sunday prerelease at my local shop, Montag’s Games.
Here are the contents of the six packs that I received:
2 Seize the Initiative
1 Salvage Scout
1 Whitesun’s Passage
1 Abuna Acolyte
1 Auriok Sunchaser
2 Fulgent Distraction
1 Dispense Justice
2 Kemba’s Skyguard
1 Glimmerpoint Stag
1 Ghalma’s Warden
1 Vigil for the Lost
1 Turn Aside
1 Trinket Mage
1 Neurok Invisimancer
2 Bonds of Quicksilver
1 Sky-El School
1 Tainted Strike
2 Psychic Miasma
2 Dross Hopper
2 Plague Stinger
1 Grasp of Darkness
2 Contagious Nim
2 Instill Infection
1 Flesh Allergy
1 Bleak Coven Vampires
1 Carnifex Demon
2 Goblin Gaveler
1 Oxidda Daredevil
1 Blade-Tribe Berserkers
1 Galvanic Blast
1 Vulshok Heartstoker
1 Oxidda Scrapmelter
1 Koth of the Hammer
2 Copperhorn Scout
1 Carapace Forager
1 Tangle Archer
1 Bellowing Tanglewurm
1 Untamed Might
1 Genesis Wave
1 Mox Opal
2 Gold Myr
1 Copper Myr
1 Silver Myr
1 Auriok Replica
1 Neurok Replica
1 Accorder’s Shield
2 Necrogen Censer
2 Chrome Steed
2 Darksteel Sentinel
1 Razorfield Thresher
1 Darksteel Axe
1 Perilous Myr
1 Contagion Clasp
1 Bladed Pinion
1 Iron Myr
1 Myr Galvanizer
1 Myr Propagator
1 Prototype Portal
So, the good news here is that I absolutely came out way ahead on the money cards of Koth and the Mox. Essentially, playing with house money all day, so that was a good thing. Not as nuts as some of the other pools I saw, though, as a guy near me opened Elspeth, Venser, and a Sunblast Angel. Yeah, that’s not too broken.
So, the clear bombs are Koth and the Carnifex Demon, which put me into Black and Red. The only Green card that interested me at all was the Genesis Wave, but otherwise the Green was pretty shallow. Not enough good stuff in Blue, though of course the Trinket Mage and the Thrummingbird are appealing, they didn’t seem enough to put me into Blue.
So the real thing I had to consider was whether or not to play the White. The White removal is good, but most of the threats in white take double white, and I didn’t want to try to run three colors all with double requirements. In retrospect, I might have considered splashing white just for the Myrsmith, Dispense Justice, and Arrest. However, that would compromise Koth, since I also wanted to run a decent amount of mountains with the Hammer.
So, I tinkered with the build throughout the day, generally looked something like this:
2 Darksteel Sentinel
1 Darksteel Axe
1 Perilous Myr
1 Contagion Clasp
1 Bladed Pinion
1 Iron Myr
1 Myr Galvanizer
1 Myr Propagator
1 Prototype Portal
1 Galvanic Blast
1 Vulshok Heartstoker
1 Oxidda Scrapmelter
1 Koth of the Hammer
2 Plague Stinger
1 Grasp of Darkness
2 Contagious Nim
2 Instill Infection
1 Flesh Allergy
1 Carnifex Demon
Round 1: Johnny, playing WR
I didn’t know Johnny, but a friend of mine did and told me that he’s a good player and to expect a tough match, and it was a very even battle. These games both went long, as we both had pretty even board positions that made it hard to make progress. He got ahead on life in game 1, then I managed to even up the board state with Skinrender, but he put down a Golem Artisan, which became a problem. I dropped my Carnifex Demon and made the Golem smaller, but then he dropped a Steel Hellkite, and the combination of the Artisan and Hellkite meant I couldn’t go anywhere; his bomb was better than mine because of the pump and trample and won out, and from there I mostly drew land. In the second game I managed to get a bit ahead on the back of my pair of ETB hill giants (Skinrender and Scrapmelter), but nothing bigger than that. He dropped the Steel Hellkite again, but this time I had the Grasp in my hand and topdecked the Contagion Clasp, so I hit it with a -1/-1 counter off the Clasp and then Grasped the Hellkite, and he never generated another serious enough threat to stop me from slowly grinding him out with my pair of 3/3s—they ran over a lot of 1/1 and 2/2 chumps along the way. It’s a good thing, too, because I never drew a sixth land. Time was called as we were shuffling up for the third game. He offered to flip for the win, but I thought a draw was recoverable and I hate things like flipping for the win, so we just took the draw.
0-0-1 matches (1-1-0 games)
Round 2: Alan, playing UB
Alan is one of the cool Montag’s regulars who I’ve played many times. We both mulled down to six, he grumbled a little and kept his six. I dropped a turn 2 Plague Stinger, he looked at his one land and passed, I dropped another Plague Stinger, and he scooped. He kept a one-lander with multiple Myr in his hand, but no way to handle early fliers and missing two land drops that early he decided he didn’t have a way to get back in the game on the short clock created by the two flying Infect-ers. Game 2 was an actual game, but it wasn’t a good game for Alan. He’d play something, and I’d answer it. He did manage to get a Bonds of Quicksilver on a Plague Stinger, but I Shattered something, and Instilled infections on a couple of his smaller guys, then blew up something of his with the Scrapmelter, and Grasped a Skithrix after it hit me once. He was getting frustrated, but I had accumulated a few poison counters (courtesy of a the Skithrix and a Blackcleave Goblin before I Instilled it) and he did have a Clasp out so I was on a clock. He grabbed my Scrapmelter with the Volition Reins because he really needed a chump blocker, but I killed it with the Skinrender and carried the day.
Round 3: Dustin, playing WB
Another Montag’s regular and a cool guy. I hadn’t even drawn Koth the first two matches, much less played him. Well, this match was all about Koth, who I got early in both games, and went ultimate with in both games, but didn’t kill Koth to go ultimate, meaning I could ping, then use Koth to untap, and either ping again or swing for 4. These were both pretty one-sided beatings, though that was also in part because I was able to keep him off many creatures, as he had some hot equipment, including a Nim Deathmantle and Argentum Armor. Game 2 we both drew a lot of land, but when I finally got Koth, a lot of land was not a bad thing to have.
Round 4: Name?, playing UW
I’m really sorry about not having the name here, as I can’t even read the writing in my own notes. He’d been at Montag’s before, I’m pretty sure, but I hadn’t played him before. Well, this was a great match. He won the first game by just having too many threats for me to handle all of them, including a Mimic Vat, a Steel Hellkite, and a Scrapdriver Serpent. Yow. I actually had him at like 7 poison counters because of an early Plague Stinger and then a Clasp, but I just couldn’t stop the onslaught. Game 2 was sort of like my game 2 in the second round: he put stuff out, and I blew it up. Both Instills, both 3/3 ETB killers, so I was up on cards and up on board position. He did manage to kill off my hill giants, but I had him down to 4, and I managed to use the Myr Propagator to make a copy, and that got me to metalcraft and I could burn him out with the Galvanic Blast. Game 3 was a tight game. I got two early Plague Stingers but he got a Skyguard. I gave up a Stinger to put a counter on the Skyguard, then put Bladed Pinion on the other Stinger to clear the path for the Stinger. However, he cast a Scrapdriver Serpent when I had Koth at 5 counters. What to do? Well, I had a Scrapmelter in my hand, and I did something maybe a little odd: I cast it and blew up my own Bladed Pinions so that I could block the Serpent. I plussed Koth up again and then went ultimate and pinged off the Skyguard. I had him at seven life and many poison counters so he had to block when I swung in with a mountain and then pinged the Serpent, and he couldn’t topdeck anything and that was game. Great match!
Given that record, I needed to win only one more and then I would be in. I was feeling good, though getting hungry and thirsty, but I still hadn’t lost, so how hard could it be?
Round 5: Kris, playing WR
Kris is a Montag’s regular. He beat me the first time we ever played, then I went on to win many matches against him—all in constructed—but he beat me in the Rise prerelase in the first round and then dropped, and I missed the top 8 there only on tiebreakers. (We didn’t play enough rounds to sort out all the X-1s.) Game 1 he just came out on fire, clogging up the board with a slew of 2 drops and 3 drops, including an Embersmith. I did manage to Instill the Embersmith, but I was kind of on my heels, though I got out a couple flyers and was putting on some poison pressure when BLAM he cast a Sunblast Angel, killing two of my guys and generating a board presence I could not handle. Game 2 he again got the Embersmith and some other 2-power guy, and I nuked the Embersmith with Skinrender and then blew up a bunch of stuff with Carnifex Demon. The Demon carried the game with no problem. Game 3 sucked. I took a no-Swamp draw since I had two Mountains, three artifacts, two red cards, and two black cards with only one black in the casting cost, plus I was on the draw. Didn’t seem unreasonable, though I did think about shipping it back. Well, my next six draws were black card, Mountain, then four more black cards. Thanks a whole hell of a lot, deck. Awful. Horrible way to lose. Karmic payback for game 1 in round 2, I guess.
Round 6: Carlos, playing WRg
Carlos is another Montag’s regular and is good buddies with Kris, and they always ID when they get paired, which is how I ended up playing both of them since I had a draw as well. Basically, this was for a spot in the top 8. Pretty much everyone else drew, so we had an audience. I got an early Plague Stinger again and then a Contagious Nim but Carlos had Elspeth and cast her on turn 5 or 6. I blew up one of his artifact blockers with my Scrapmelter and was able to swing through the next turn and take out Elspeth and all his tokens, though it cost me the Scrapmelter and the Nim. We clogged up the board with guys—I managed both the Myr Galvanizer and Myr Propagator, but the 3 cost to make a new guy was too much as I was a little light on land. I finally drew some more, but he had a Darksteel Sentinel and then, ugh, a Strata Scythe with four Mountains in play. I took a big whack from that but then managed a Sentinel of my own. I was still poking him with the Plague Stinger and he was in danger of poison death. Unfortunately, he drew a Golem Artisan, which was ugly for me, as he could make his Sentinel fly over mine, and of course his was huge. I couldn’t take another hit from that and live. So, instead, I hit him with my Plague Stinger to get him to nine counters, then Instilled his Sentinel for the card, hoping to topdeck a Clasp so I could poison him out with propagate. Instead I got a Mountain. Bummer. Game 2 I had a Darksteel Axe and a Plague Stinger in my opener, as well as a Sentinal, so I kept. I of course equipped the Stinger on turn 3 and swung, but next turn he was able to kill it, though I don’t remember how. We had a couple turns of both of us going land, go. I hit six land, he did nothing, so at the end of his turn I put out a Sentinel. My next draw was another Sentinal so next turn I didn’t equip the Axe and hit him for three, then at the end of his next turn cast the second one, and he couldn’t handle that, particularly when one had the Axe. On to game 3, the deciding game of the entire day. I opened with two Swamps, an Iron Myr, a Myr Propagator, and a bunch of black cards including the Carnifex Demon. Unfortunately, I got kind of stuck on land—again—and made a blunder. On my turn 4, he had two guys out, including an Etched Champion and another artifact. I had both a Scrapmelter and a Skinrender, and I didn’t want him to get to metalcraft with that on the board, so I killed it… with the Skinrender. Unfortunately, a couple turns later (his turn 6) he cast a Hoard-Smelter Dragon. Ugh. Had I used the Scrapmelter instead, I would have been able to contain the Dragon for longer by cutting it down to a 2/2 and then maybe getting a smaller flier of my own or a Galvanic Blast. I drew Koth, but it turns out Koth isn’t very good when you’re behind and facing down a 5/5, because swinging for 4 wouldn’t help, what I needed was something that would impact the board, and I only had one Mountain in play. I needed one more land to cast the Demon, which could hang with the Dragon, but I didn’t get it, and then when he came across with the Dragon he first blew up my Iron Myr, and I just never made it up to six mana sources and couldn’t stop the Dragon.
Very disappointing. I really felt like I should have made it to the top 8 given the deck I had and that I only needed one win in the last two rounds and couldn’t manage that. I don’t think I made any really egregious misplays. I guess I should have mulliganed my hand in game 3 of round 5, and/or used the Scrapmelter instead of the Skinrender in the last game of the last round.
In retrospect, I probably would cut the Myr Propagator. 3 is just too much mana to pay for a 1/1, even if that 1/1 can make another 1/1, but it’s a slow way to do it since at best you can do it once a turn. Producing the tokens doesn’t even trigger things like the smiths (Myrsmith, Embersmith) because they trigger on casting an artifact spell, not an artifact ETB. I was almost never happy to see it.
Now, some musings on the set as a whole. Maybe this isn’t true for draft, but for sealed this set feels slow, or at least sometimes slow. Every single round we had multiple pairs who went to time, and some of them took a long time for the extra turns because of very complicated board states. It took us a very long time to get through six rounds because we were always waiting for someone. I went close to time in all of the matches that went three games except for round 5, and of course in round 1 we didn’t even start game 3. I will note that this wasn’t a problem at the Rise prerelease, and Rise was supposed to be slow. Maybe draft will be better; I certainly hope so.
I’m not so sure about Infect or Metalcraft for limited. You really need to be able to run a lot of artifacts to make Metalcraft work, and while there are a lot of artifacts in the set, I’m not sure how reliably one will be able to put together a deck that can consistently achieve Metalcraft. As for Infect, so far I’m not all that impressed. Maybe I found it underwhelming because I didn’t have enough of it. I see the value of Wither as damage for creatures, but most of the time I would have been just as happy to deal real damage to players rather than poison counters. Again, perhaps in draft it’ll be better as one could probably force a decent BG deck, though I think Black is going to be popular as a draft color because both Skinrender and Grasp of Darkness are awesome, and Instill Infection is pretty good since there are a lot of x/1 targets in the set.
September 25th, 2010
OK, so Week 1 I went 6-9-1, which isn’t great but isn’t too bad (I still think the Saints should have won by more) but Week 2 was a disaster, 3-12-1. Total disaster, missed multiple games where I got the winner right but missed the spread by like a point (Chiefs, Raiders), but that’s no excuse, I was awful. Ugh. So… Al was 7-8-1 in Week 1, not much different, but he didn’t completely punt Week 2, and went a respectable 8-7-1. Ugh. So I’m already behind 9-21-2 to 15-15-2. Seriously? Already? Ugh.
On the other hand, the Texans are 2-0 and looking like a real team, and Michigan is 3-0 and looking at least not awful, so I can’t complain too much.
I’ll just have to do better this week and start the recovery process…
Niners @ Kansas City(+3)
The Chefs are probably the worst 2-0 team in the league, if not in the history of the NFL. The Niners, however, seem to be imploding and are already heavily into finger-pointing mode, which is never a good thing. I’m not comfortable taking a road ‘dog with a record that’s two games worse. Even if the Niners win, I’m happy to be getting points.
Bengals @ Carolina(+3.5)
I cannot for the life of me figure out why people still think Notre Dame quarterbacks are any good in the NFL. Yes, Joe Montana was an all-time great. Thiesmann was OK, but might be the most annoying human being on the planet. Since then, though, we’ve had Rick Mirer, a real winner, and how’s Brady Quinn, the last ND “chosen one” workin’ out? No way Clausen is ready, and he was probably the most overrated college QB in the last 10 years. What was his record as a starter vs. ranked teams? 0 for what, 12? He is not ready, the Panthers have no quarterback, give the points. Give ten.
Browns @ Baltimore(-10.5)
The Ravens defense might win this game by 10 even if the offense never takes the field, which might actually be the Baltimore game plan given last week. How do you throw four picks against the Bengals? (Well, OK, the Panthers might, but that doesn’t count.) Whatever, the Brows stink on ice and might not get the ball past midfield.
Lions @ Minnesota(-11.5)
Both teams are 0-2. Both teams have played two close games. What’s the reason to expect a blowout this week? Will the Vikings suddenly develop a cadre of decent wideouts? From where? Way too many points for my blood.
Titans @ New Jersey Giants(-3)
Interesting matchup: two teams that looked great in week 1 blowouts of bad teams, and then got embarrassed the following week against good teams. So now what? The Giants can’t protect the QB, the Titans clearly have no confidence in theirs. I don’t like it, and the bookies clearly don’t like it, either. OK, so I’m going to go with the “Pittsburgh is the only defense that can really contain CJ” theory and I will take the points. No clue, and given my early record, going the other way might be the safe bet…
Steelers @ Tampa Bay(+2.5)
Hey, both teams are 2-0! However, Pittsburgh is 2-0 against teams that are actually pretty good, and if the Browns and Panthers win a total of eight games combined, that’ll be amazing. I really want to pick Pittsburgh here, but they’re starting Charlie Batch. Charlie freaking Batch. It was amazing that he was drawing an NFL paycheck a few years ago; it’s a miracle now. Wait, the spread is less than a field goal. Could be a 9-6 game. OK, Steelers.
Falcons @ New Orleans(-3.5)
So, the Saints are 2-0, but they haven’t really looked all that great, and haven’t won by what you’d call compelling margins. In a tough divisional matchup, I need to see more from the Saints before I’m willing to give more than a field goal, even at home. I don’t think the Falcons will be able to run wild like they did last week, but I think this game will be close enough that I can’t give that many, even though it isn’t a lot.
Bills @ New England(-14.5)
Is it me, or are the really bad teams even worse than usual the last couple years? Ryan Fitzpatrick? The Pats need a bounce back game, and who better serves that purpose than the Bills. Think the Pats might run up the score against a horrible team? Uhh, just a little. Give the points.
Cowboys @ Houston(-3)
The Texans basically never beat Indy. The Texans had never won a game in overtime, and the Texans have always managed to miss clutch field goals. Incidentally, the Texans have never started 3-0. I think this is it, I think they’re for real… finally. And even if they aren’t, the Cowboys might be the worst-coached team in the NFL right now. Normally I’d pick against the Texans here because this is exactly the kind of game they have always blown, but I think maybe this time they’ll manage. Plus, while they may not have much of a secondary, the Texans have a legit pass rush, and we know what the Cowboys’ O-line is like. It’s going to be loud in there on Sunday, too, and Dallas has shown me nothing that suggests they have any ability to overcome adversity. If the Texans get an early lead and the Cowboys have to pass, this game is over. Holy crap how awesome would it be to see Super Mario just tattoo Romo a couple times late in the game? OK, I have no ability to be objective here, just ignore me…
Redskins @ St. Louis(+3.5)
Washington is pretty good and can definitely get after the quarterback, though I’m not sure about their secondary. Then again, Schaub/Johnson do tend to make secondaries look bad. Bradford isn’t that caliber, though, and I don’t see the Rams hanging with a real team, even if they kept it close vs. the Raiders and the Cardinals.
Eagles @ Jacksonville(+3)
“Kevin Kolb is my quarterback.” What do you think life is like in the Reid household? “I will take out the garbage tonight.” “Yeah, sure, dear, whatever you say.” Everyone is gushing about Vick, but he played two garbage-time quarters against the Packers at home, and four quarters against the freakin’ Lions, who started a backup, and they barely won that game. If there’s anything worse than an Andy Reid decision on 4th and 1, it’s a mid-week flip-flop at QB. I don’t like it. I’ll take Jax and the points. It does raise a question, though: if an Eagle falls in a stadium and there is nobody there to watch it…
Chargers @ Seattle(+5)
Look, the whole Vincent Jackson thing is stupid, but mad props (yes, yes, the 1990s wants its catchphrase back) to Jackson’s agent for calling their GM “the Lord of No Rings.” That is too freaking funny. Now, no matter what happened in week 1, I still think the Seabags suck, so I’ll give the points.
Colts @ Denver(+5.5)
The Broncos’ corners are both nicked up. No way do they hang with the Colts.
Raiders @ Arizona(-4.5)
Two really, really bad teams. Derek Anderson looks even worse this year than he did when he was last seen on the field in Cleveland, if that’s possible. How much do you think Larry Fitzgerald is hating life right now? “Hey, Derek, I’m open on almost every play.” “Really? I had no idea.” <facepalm> Seriously, if the Cardinals aren’t 4.5 points better than the Rams, it’s hard to figure out how they’re supposed be 4.5 points better than anyone else… well, maybe the Panthers or the Bills. I think the Raiders are actually better than the Panthers and Bills, though, so I’m taking the points. Hmm, something is very, very wrong with the universe, as this is the third week in a row I’ve picked the Raiders… and I’m doing it even knowing they’re 0-2 against the spread. Yikes!
Jets @ Miami(-2.5)
I really, really hope Braylon Edwards didn’t actually finish college, because if so, my degrees from Michigan have been degraded. How much of a moron do you have to be to get a DWI in New York City? Not only are there a million cabs, the team even has a service for exactly this purpose. WTF? So, will he play? Will it matter? I still don’t believe in the Jets’ offense, and I think the Miami defense is for real—how studly was standing up AP four times to preserve the win? Now, I think Sanchez will take better care of the ball than Favre did, but this is in Miami, and I like the Dolphins to cover this.
Packers @ Chicago(+3)
Sometimes, 2-0 just means you’ve played bad teams; the Lions are still the Lions and I’m not sure what exactly the Cowboys are doing, though clearly neither are they. I’m not really sure that the Bears have really been tested; however, last year Cutler couldn’t throw a temper tantrum without it being picked off, so something there is working better. Now, on the other hand, I’m not so sure that the Packers quite have it together, either, as Rodgers has looked pretty average and the Pack now don’t have a real RB, and of course beating up on the Bills says very little. My heart says Green Bay so I’m picking the Bears because my explicit reversal on what I thought was one of the few picks I got right last week. How’s that for screwed-up logic?
September 19th, 2010
So, this was the last Standard for me that includes Shards cards, because I won’t be able to make FNM next week and after that at Montag’s Games we switch to drafting Scars. So, I wanted to play something that depended heavily on Shards cards. I haven’t played Mythic Conscription in a while, so I went ahead with that. Here’s the list:
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Lotus Cobra
4 Knight of the Reliquary
2 Baneslayer Angel
4 Sovereigns of Lost Alara
4 Mana Leak
3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Jace, the Mind Sculptor
2 Eldrazi Conscription
4 Celestial Colonnade
1 Marsh Flats
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Sejiri Steppe
2 Stirring Wildwood
3 Verdant Catacombs
1 Bojuka Bog
2 Linvala, Keeper of Silence
2 Spell Pierce
2 Obstinate Baloth
3 Celestial Purge
1 Relic of Progenitus
2 Leyline of Sanctity
2 Oblivion Ring
This deck or some version of it is the deck I’ve probably played the most since Rise came out, and of course the critical card (Sovereigns) and the best supporting cards (Hierarch, Knight of the Reliquary) rotate out shortly. I didn’t play the version with Explore because I frankly still think that in a lot of games, an unanswered Baneslayer is just too good. Yes, it’s slower than Explore and I planned to side it out against fast decks like Dredgevine and control decks, but against everything else she’s still a beating.
Anyway, last week we had a pretty good turnout, but this week less than 20 people showed up. 15, I think? Anyway, that meant only four rounds, cutting to the top 4, so not a lot of room for mistakes.
Round 1: Carlos, playing FauNaya
Carlos has been playing Naya for what seems like forever. He and I seem to draw each other a lot, and we have a habit of alternating wins back and forth. Last time I played him was the M11 prerelease and I won, so it was his turn… and that’s how it went. Game 1 was back and forth. He Bolted my Jace and Pathed a Baneslayer, but I Leaked a couple of his early plays so we had both accomplished very little into the midgame. However, he managed to stick a Sparkmage before I could get down a Sovereign and he started blowing up my mana dudes, and I never caught up. For sideboarding, I took out the Baneslayers in favor of Linvalas, and two mana dorks in favor of the two O Rings. Game 2 was horrible. I drew little else besides mana dorks and land, and he got a Shaman into a Sparkmage and I just kept drawing land and dorks that die to the Mage. Completely ugly all the way around—truly awful draws in the second game.
0-1 matches (0-2 games)
Round 2: Matt, playing Esper Control
I knew what he was playing because I had seen a bit of his last match as I had some time to kill after losing to Carlos. Game 1 my opening seven was five land, a Knight, and a Baneslayer, so I sent that packing. My opening six was better, but not enough. I never saw a Sovereign and we traded Jaces at least once, and by the end of the game I had seen all four Birds, three Hierarchs, and three Cobras, with both a Jace and and Elspeth under O Rings. I never managed to kill him with all that because he got an early Gideon that he kept making me attack, and I kept dinking at it but not killing it, leaving him time to find answers. It was all very ugly and took a really long time. I sided in the Spell Pierces and the O Rings for the Banslayers and I don’t remember what else. Game 2 I opened with a one-lander (via Island), had something also completely awful with six cards, had zero land at five cards, and took a four-card opener with two lands, a Noble, and a Mana Leak. That’s awful, I know, but I couldn’t very well take the no-lander. Anyway, I Leaked his turn 2 play, a Wall of Omens, on the theory that I had to leak ANY play from him, especially one that saw him go up a card. My fourth land was a manland, and his fourth land was a Tectonic Edge. He decided that it was better to keep me off land, and he Wasted my Colonnade… then got stuck on three lands for several turns. I managed to draw both of my Spell Pierces and both of them were game-wreckers. I pierced a Day, and later pierced a Mana Leak to let my Jace resolve, and the resulting Brainstorm got me my Sovereigns for the win. Yay! I don’t think I’ve ever won going down to four cards before. Game 3 we had time called on us pretty early into the game, so we had five turns to finish it off. I got a Sovereign out and Conscripted a Cobra, but he had two open for Doom Blade and he actually had it, so we ended up drawing. Grr.
Round 3: Amy, playing Soul Sisters
I got rounded down and played an 0-2 instead of a 1-1, so it was probably over for me, but whatever, I came to play. I played Amy last week and I was sort of hoping to avoid her because I wasn’t sure about this matchup and didn’t really have anything in the sideboard for it. Seems like the plan is to just kill them before they hit 30 life, right? Game 1 she got up to 25 life, but then I put down Jace, then a Baneslayer, then a Sovereign, and it was over with the 17/17 lifelinked, flying, first-striking trampler on board. I knew she’d bring in Paths and maybe O Rings and even possibly Day against me, so I sided in the Spell Pierces and took out two mana dorks. I did not get enough action early. I got stuck on four land and a Noble with a Baneslayer and three Sovereigns in hand. I had to put out the Baneslayer just to chump block a huge Ascendant that was pumped with Elspeth. I used my lone Knight to coerce six mana from my stack just to put out another blocker, not that it could stop the Ascendant, but when she Rangered into two more 6/6 fliers, it was over. Game 3 I had a nutty start. Turn 1 Bird. Turn 2 cast a Cobra, drop a fetch, and with the three mana, cast another Cobra and another Bird. I drew all kinds of permission, Leaking an Ascendant, Piercing the O Ring for my Jace, Leaking a Ranger. I got Elspeth and was getting through with a jumping Cobra but even Brainstorming every turn I hadn’t found a finisher. I finally found a Ranger and got a shuffle, and the resulting Brainstorm got me a Sovereign, game.
Round 4: Doug, playing GW singleton
The store is going to have a singleton Standard on a Tuesday night toward the end of the month, so Doug decided to give his a whirl in a real Type 2 and was 2-1 with it. I actually saw the tail end of his last round match, and he won by topdecking exactly what he needed like every turn. It was a thing of beauty, unless of course you were his opponent. Game 1 I got an early Knight Pathed, but that ramped me into an early Baneslayer and he had no flying answer, so that was game. I didn’t know what exactly to expect, I figured he at least had Elspeth and Gideon plus Path and O Ring, and maybe Plummet, so I sided in the two Spell Pierces for two mana dorks. Game 2 I got double Cobras, but he had opened with two fetches and a Terramorphic so his third-turn Knight of the Reliquary was large. I did get a land (not a fetch, though) a turn later and used that to grab a Sovereign, but he had the Path for the huge Cobra. I still had a Sovereign on the table, but unfortunately I had the other Conscription in my hand so he wasn’t doing much. I kept hoping to draw Jace so I could Brainstorm it back in, but no dice, I drew mana dorks who got to stand in front of Doug’s Knight, and of course another Sovereign. He had something else down, but then I drew a Baneslayer and swing in with both the Angel and the Sovereign (don’t think I ever swung with a Sovereign + something else before) and finally hit the mana to hard-cast the Conscription for game.
It wasn’t enough for top 4… I was fifth. Grr. Oh well. I don’t think there was anything I could have done differently in the first round to have won it with the draws I got—for sure not in the second game—but I might have made a mistake somewhere in the second match where a win rather than a draw would have given me a shot to get in. Oh well.
It’ll be a little odd to see Shards go. I came back to the game when Zendikar came out, so in one sense it’ll be nice to have a Standard environment where I’ve actually been around for the release of all the cards. On the other, some of the cards that I’ve come to consider staples and cards I just really like won’t be around anymore. Staples like Path to Exile and Oblivion Ring will be missed. I’ve always loved Knight of the Reliquary. I certainly won’t miss Cascade cards, though even I played Bloodbraids in Boss Naya for a while. I’ll miss Elspeth, Knight-Errant and Ajani Vengeant, I always liked both of those. I won’t miss Hellspark Elemental or Hell’s Thunder, or even Cruel Ultimatum. I will miss Sedraxis Spectre, that was a card I really liked. I like Zealous Persecution, too, that was fun, but I’ll be happy to see Maelstrom Pulse go by the wayside. Terminate and Blightning, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I’d miss Swerve but since Redirect is in M11, that’s covered. Banefire and Countersquall, those I’ll miss, along with the Charms. I always like Charms—I hope there’s a cycle of them in the Scars block somewhere. There aren’t any lands in Shards that I’ll miss; I never liked the tri-color tapped lands, but I understand they needed to be in there. (When the Zendikar fetch lands rotate out, that’ll be deeply weird unless there’s a new cycle of fetches printed. I’d be cool with opposing-color fetches in the post-Scars block.) I didn’t initially like Exalted but it really grew on me. It’ll definitely be weird to play in a world without Noble Hierarch. In my first go-round as a Magic player back in the late 90s, I don’t think I ever played a deck with green in it in a constructed event, ever. Post-Worldwake, I’ve played a lot of green. Valakut Ramp, Boss Naya, Mythic. We’ll see what Scars brings, but I have a hard time seeing myself continuing to play as much green without the Noble.
Anyway, that’ll be it for a while. I’m probably going to miss the prerelease and we’ll be drafting at Montag’s until November and the only limited reports I do are pre-releases, so that’ll probably be it for MTG posts until November.
September 18th, 2010
Friday Night Magic at Montag’s Games. I did play last week, but never got around to writing it up. The week before the field was thick with UW control, so I made the metagame choice and played Esper Control. This was a bad plan, as everyone else also had the notion that playing something bad for UW control was worth playing, and I never saw UW at all. It was ugly. I really should know better…
Anyway, I thought I should try Dredgevine once since I don’t have a lot of experience playing graveyard decks. The list:
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Hedron Crab
4 Fauna Shaman
4 Renegade Doppleganger
3 Merfolk Looter
4 Sedraxis Spectre
2 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Extractor Demon
2 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Misty Rainforest
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Verdant Catacombs
2 Pithing Needle
3 Calcite Snapper
2 Obstinate Baloth
3 Unified Will
3 Marsh Casualties
2 Back to Nature
My 9-year-old son is learning to play and he asked me before I left what colors I was playing, and I told him “everything but white.” Even he thought that sounded like a bad idea. Too funny.
Round 1: Tony playing Jund
Game 1 I took a one-lander because I had multiple mana dorks. He got a turn 3 Sparkmage. It took me a very long time to draw another land, though I drew a lot of mana dorks, all of which he killed. Just dumb. Game 2 I won. Game 3 was my karmic payback for game 1. On turn 2 I cracked a fetch with a Crab in play and hit 3 Vengevines. Needless to say, I won this one.
1-0 matches (2-0 games)
Round 2: Kris playing Esper Control
Game 1 I just rolled him, blowing up with Extractor Demons and such. Game 2 was my punt of the day (maybe). Pretty drawn out game, but he got my board cleared except for a Crab with him at 6. He started beating me up with manlands and had me down to 3. I was dead next turn and needed some action. I drew a fetch, and scooped. Today’s lesson: do not scoop! I should have played the fetch, because I had the mana available to unearth two Extractors or an Extractor and a Spectre. My library wasn’t that big and had probably two of each left. Dumb. Karmic retribution was swift. Game 3 I saw 17 cards, 15 of which were land and mana dorks. Gah.
Round 4: Hunter, playing UG Ramp
I saw basically none of his deck. I killed him on turn 4 or 5 in the first game, then on like turn 6 in the second game. Literally the only thing he ever did in the entire match was ramp. Deck was smokin’.
Round 5: Joe Bass, playing Wr control
I always get the worst draws against Joe. Game 1 he got Ajani Vengeant out and went ultimate as I wasn’t drawing enough heat. That was a reasonable scoop. Game 2 he dropped a Relic of Progenitus on the first turn. Urk. I had a great mill the first turn with two Vengevines and an Extractor, but I never got to use them. I did make a sideboarding mistake, though, so it wasn’t just that Joe lucksacked. I didn’t side in the Back to Natures, which I should have, since at one point I had I think two Vengevines under O Rings. Doh. Anyway, it was awful, and it meant I would miss the top 8 since my tiebreakers sucked (Tony went 1-2 drop).
Round 6: Doug, playing Dredgevine
I won the die roll, and game 1 we both got early Crabs and dumped stuff and it was just a simple race, which I won very narrowly. If I hadn’t killed him that turn he had lethal ready to go on the swingback. Blocking? What’s blocking? Anyway, Game 2 I boarded in 3 Marsh Casualties and he had a bad start: he had three Crabs but only 2 land for a two turns. He finally drew land, but then I kicked a Marsh Casualties and cleared his board, then swung in for the win since he had no blockers.
I finished 12th out of 27, I think. What really ticked me off is that the top 8 was really weak, including Kris. I think playing not just different decks, but completely different styles of deck every week, is not doing anything great for my development of play skill, since I seem to be making more mistakes in constructed than in limited of late, which is unlike me—I’m usually better at constructed. Need to go back to something familiar next week for the last hurrah of Alara block. I’m thinking Mythic, since I’ve seen exactly nobody playing it of late.
September 18th, 2010
Look, it doesn’t matter how my picks went or how my fantasy team did, because (a) the Texans won, (b) the Colts lost, and (c) the Cowboys lost. That’s a good week! The Texans game was terrific fun; I’ve never heard Reliant stadium that loud. It was also great to see Manning get knocked around. Yes, he only got officially sacked a couple times, but they got to him a lot more than that. Of course, what was most amazing was the holes that Foster had to run through; the Colts D-line was awful and was completely manhandled. Foster seemed to always get to the second or even third level before anyone made contact. It was quite a thing.
Now, if only the Lions hadn’t gotten jobbed…
Anyway, on to this week’s picks.
Ravens @ Cincinnati(+2.5)
Wow, not even a whole field goal? I’ll give the points.
Dolphins @ Minnesota(-5.5)
Seems like too many points for what could easily be a field goal game.
Bears @ Dallas(-7)
I think Dallas is better than they showed last Sunday and the Bears… aren’t. I’ll give the TD.
Eagles @ Detroit(+6.5)
With Vick starting and Stafford out, I will again give the points. Poor Lions.
Cardinals @ Atlanta(-6.5)
Not sure what to do with this one. I don’t think the Cardinals are very good, but the Falcons sure turned in a stinker last week. I think Atlanta will win this, but that seems like too many points to me.
Chefs @ Cleveland(-2.5)
Dunno, KC played some pretty inspired ball last week. Granted, they did it with smoke and mirrors, but I like getting points here, as I don’t think the Browns should be favored over… well, over anybody other than maybe the Bills.
Bills @ Green Bay(-13)
I’d say that seems like too many, especially with Grant out, but this is the Bills we’re talking about—on the road, no less—but that just seems like too many this early in the season. I think the Bills can actually play a little defense, even if they have no offense at all, so I’m going to take the points. Just too many not to.
Steelers @ Tennessee(-5.5)
Again, this seems like a lot of points in what is usually a close game. However, I still don’t like Dixon, and on the road, I think I have to give these points.
Buccaneers @ Carolina(-3)
Methinks this is a bad, bad game. I have low expectations for both of these teams, and clearly Vegas doesn’t know what to do either with that generic spread. I think Carolina’s defense is a little better, so I’ll give the points? No idea.
Rams @ Oakland(-3.5)
The Rams are really awful. You simply cannot have a rookie QB throwing that much and expect to win. Outdoors on the road? Yes, I’ll give the points.
Seahawks @ Denver(-3.5)
WTF happened last week in Seattle? I’m baffled. Also didn’t see highlights from Broncos-Jags. Err, were there highlights? Anyway, I don’t see how Denver is favored, so obviously someone knows something I don’t, so I’ll go the other way from what I was thinking and take the Broncos.
Texans @ Washington(+3)
Letdown game for Houston? Man, I hope not. I have to think that the Texans will prevail here, though, because I was really underwhelmed with the Redskins offense. Maybe the Redskins D is indeed pretty good, but I think the good guys will remember to run the ball, and probably won’t try a lateral in the waning seconds of the first half.
Jaguars @ San Diego(-7)
The Chargers looked really out of sync on Monday, didn’t they? They couldn’t run the ball at all and have nobody to throw to except Gates. Yes, Antonio is terrific, but I think they need more weapons than that. I don’t really like the Jags, either, but I’m taking the points and hoping they can keep it close.
Patriots @ New Jersey Jest(+3)
The Jest are going to have to show me some offense before I start picking them. And Rex Ryan better shut his yap until his team actually shows up on both sides of the ball, too.
Giants @ Indianapolis(-5)
There is no way that I’m going to watch this game. Well, maybe with the audio off or something, but I’m sure the network will make this an insufferable slurping of the Mannings. Ugh. I’ll be rooting for little brother here. But am I picking him? Seems like the Giants are a team that should know how to run the ball, and with Sanders still out, I don’t see how the Colts stop them. The Colts DEnds can rush the passer, but they suck against the run. If I’m the Giants’ coordinator, I run, then run, then run some more. What I worry is that the Colts will get ahead and then New Jersey will stop running. I also have a hard time seeing the Colts starting 0-2. Dammit, I have to pick the Colts again.
Saints @ San Francisco(+6)
Not sure about this one, either. The Saints are the obvious choice but let’s not forget that they didn’t exactly light it up against the Vikings. Still, with a couple extra days to rest and prepare, I think the Saints should handle this one. I’m sure it’s been a really bad week for the Niners, as the coaching staff cannot be pleased with them. I think they’ll be better this week, but not enough better to hang with the Saints.
September 11th, 2010
I have to atone for the utter beating I took last year. Thursday was not a good start; stupid half-point.
Broncos @ Jacksonville(-2.5)
Two teams that were very average last year, neither of whom I have any reason to think will be any different this year. I think Denver maybe has the better defense, and generally the defenses have the advantage early in the season, so I’ll go with the Broncos and the points.
Raiders @ Tennessee(-6)
I have the sense that Oakland will be better than they were last year, and I don’t see any reason to think that the Titans will be any better. On the other hand, they have Chris Johnson and the Raiders have… uhh… well, they have Raiders players. Oh, wait, no they have a merely average new quarterback, which is several levels better than what they had last year. Sure, again, I’ll take the points
Bengals @ New England(-4.5)
Something just seemed utterly wrong with the Bengals’ doing so well last season. I just can’t believe in them to look so good this year, and the T.O. thing never seems good to me. I’ll take the Pats at home.
Browns @ Tampa Bay(-3)
This has to be the worst game on the schedule for opening weekend. Ugh. For no particular reason, I’ll give the points.
Colts @ Houston((+2)
Looking forward to this one since I’ll be in the stands for it. I think the Texans will be about as good as they were last year, and because they play in a really tough division, it won’t be enough… again. All-time the Texans are 1-7 against the Colts—they just cannot seem to win these games, so I’m giving the two points.
Lions @ Chicago(-6.5)
I think the Bears will be awful again this season. Cutler is a head case, the defense is yet another year older, and I think the Lions will actually be better. Not good or anything, but maybe just kind of below average, like 6-10 or 7-9. I don’t see the Bears as being any better than that, so I like getting almost a full TD here.
Falcons @ Pittsburgh(+1.5)
Not taking a team starting Dixon for the first time ever. I think it’s going to be a long year for the Steelers.
Dolphins @ Buffalo(+3)
Nice of the league to make the “at Buffalo” game for Miami now rather than in, say, November or December. Anyway, it is my belief that C.J. Spiller is the real deal. However, Lee Evans isn’t getting any younger and Trent Edwards is still… Trent Edwards. The Dolphins might actually be pretty good this year with Henne having a year under his belt and with someone decent to throw to. Also, they’ll start the season with both Brown and Williams healthy, right? I’ll happily give these points.
Panthers @ New Jersey Giants(-6.5)
The battle of the Steve Smiths? Actually, I expect this to be an ugly slugfest. The ball might not cross midfield more than a handful of times. However, the Giants have a QB, and the Panthers don’t really. I’ll give the TD, I guess, but I don’t feel good about it.
Packers @ Philadelphia(+3)
Pfffft. The Packers might be the class of the NFC this year, and Kolb has like what, three starts, none of which were particularly impressive. Packers cover by a ton. I’m surprised the spread is this small.
Cardinals @ St. Louis(+3.5)
A terrible game, competing with the Browns-Bucs for worst game of the day. This one at least has the intrigue of two questionable starting QB decisions both taking the field. With Wells hurt for Arizona, I don’t like them as a road favorite, even against the lowly Rams. I’ll take the points.
Niners @ Seattle(+3)
Ahh, the Pete Carroll era begins in the Emerald City. He was a train wreck his last time through the NFL, and now we see the reason he did so well at USC: he was cheating the whole time. (Given the consistently ridiculous level of talent that USC had, I can’t say I’m surprised—I never got the sense that Carroll was actually outcoaching anyone.) The Seabags, however, do not have any kind of edge in talent; they still have Hasselbeck at QB and nobody worth throwing to, so I’ll give the points.
Cowboys @ Washington(+3.5)
Uhh, anybody watch this matchup the last couple years? The Cowboys own the Redskins right now. Plus, it’s early in the season which is when Dallas has been at their best lately. Give the points.
Ravens @ New Jersey Jets(-2.5)
Well, with Revis in, the Jets just seem a lot better than they would have otherwise. On the other hand, the Ravens seem like a team on the rise, particularly with Flacco coming along and now finally actually having someone to throw to—though that might not matter much if none of those guys are ever open. I like the Jets in this game, but just to riverside Al, I’m taking the points and hoping it’s really close.
Chargers @ Kansas City(+4.5)
San Diego just wins this division by default, don’t they? It’s not like the Chefs have the goods to put up much of a fight. Give the points.
September 9th, 2010
OMFG, the NFL is back. Hallelujah!
Vikings @ New Orleans(-5.5)
I don’t think either one of these teams will be as good this year as they were last year. For the Vikings, the receiver situation is still shaky at best. Rice was huge for them last year and now Harvin is questionable, too, and it seems unlikely that Favre can keep it down to 7 picks again. Unless Childress is smart enough to call AP’s name more often (and Favre is humble enough not to audible out of it all the time), I don’t think the Vikings will be the offensive force. Similarly, I can’t see the Saints defense holding up as well as they did last year. Felt like smoke and mirrors some of the time, and while they got it done when it really mattered, I foresee some regression to the mean this time around. I expect the Vikings’ decrement to be slightly larger than the Saints, so I will give the points.
Damn it’ll be good to have the NFL back again…
September 1st, 2010
Because this’ll be too long for a tweet…
I don’t really care that much about iPods since I own an iPhone 4 already. Bummer to see the Classic go, though, as it’s nice to actually have enough storage space for all your music. I keep one in the car for this reason.
New versions of iOS look good. HDR photos are interesting, we’ll see how that actually plays out.
• Streaming only. WTF? One of the things I dislike about my current AppleTV is that my computer has to be on and awake for people in the house to watch movies that we already own. Solved with aTV Flash and an external hard disk, but I suspect it’ll be a while before the new Apple TV is hacked to match that, if at all.
• Same stupid-simple remote.
• No apps? Apple just released a device that cannot connect to the App Store revenue stream? Really? Weird.
• Support for 30fps 720p. You know, like what a Flip or even an iPhone 4 produce, that a current Apple TV cannot play.
• 99 cent TV show rentals. Top Gear in HD, right? Right?
• Unit price. Even with the obvious flaws, for $100 I might get one anyway.
And then there’s the unknowns created by this. For instance, the status of the Apple TV I currently own is now in question. Will Apple continue to support it? Do I get Netflix on it now? 99-cent shows? Some information on this would be nice, and while this is not the thing you expect to hear in a keynote, I would like to know this stuff.
Next unknown: what’s actually running on the new Apple TV? Is it iOS or MacOS? I’m pretty sure my existing AppleTV run MacOS underneath. If the new one runs iOS, where are the apps? If not, will it still be as dog-slow as the current one?