This entry is part 36 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

For the most part, I’ve left my personal life out of my articles; I like to write about groups that I’ve played with, decks I’ve tried and seen others play, and about individual cards more abstractly.  Today, we’ll shift off course a bit.  For the readers who don’t know me personally, I’m a father of two girls, ages four and one at the time of this writing.  My older daughter, Maggie, can read (though, not very quickly), likes games, dinosaurs and space (especially space travel, and celestial bodies).

After a few times watching myself, my wife and friends play Magic, Maggie decided that she wanted a Magic deck of her own, and it was only natural for me to want to build her a Commander deck, themed around dinosaurs.  Young children, of course, only have the vaguest of notions concerning formats, creature subtypes and the like, so the project was as much my own desire to see her happy with one of my hobbies as it was for Maggie to have a deck she could play with.  Of course, the problems with creating a dinosaur-themed deck for a child are numerous, and we didn’t quite reach the finish line as a result. Read the rest of this entry »

This entry is part 35 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

On and off, I hear suggestions about ritual effects in Commander.  Dark Ritual sees very little play, and reasons are usually related to the advantage being ephemeral; you’re two turns ahead in terms of mana for one turn, and one card behind for the rest of the game.  Yet, I see many deck lists with its closest analogue, Mana Vault, including mono-black ones without Dark Ritual.  If you take a look at The Real Top 50, – a database with statistical information on what cards people play in decks posted online – Mana Vault is number 62 on the all time most popular list, where Dark Ritual doesn’t appear at all, not even when considered in mono-black decks where it is most likely to show up, given the narrowness of remaining options compared to other decks.

A quick look through my own decks shows that even I follow this trend; I love to play in the Grixis colours, and none of my decks with black – Rakdos, Lord of Riots, Grimgrin, Corpse-Born, and Ob Nixilis, the Fallen – contain it.  Yet, from those decks, both Ob Nixilis and Grimgrin have Mana Vault.  Should more players be running rites?  Maybe; read on. Read the rest of this entry »

This entry is part 7 of 8 in the series Wild Research

In today’s installment of Wild Research, we will put the spotlight on one of my decks. This particular deck is one of my favorite experiments I have ever concocted. The deck was conceived in the midst of an arms race in one of my play groups. After the Commander product was released, many more people at my local game store started to play EDH. A month or so later, several people had decided EDH was not for them and given up, but everyone else started to tune and tweak their decks. Eventually an arms race ensued; cards like Myojin of Night’s Reach, Jin-Gitaxias, and Vorinclex became regular and recurring elements of our games and the meta game shifted to nearly all mid range control decks. The average game became a staring contest for 15 turns until someone dared to try to oppress the rest of the table. I quickly got bored and frustrated playing these games.

My first solution was to try the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em approach”. I tuned my decks to play a less interactive game of hand sculpting and two card combos. I was still dedicated to the idea I should be winning my fair share of the time. In short, this solution failed miserably. If anything, I hated playing more than I did before. I thought some more about the games, how they played out, and what I did not like about them. First I did not like the staring contest to 15 mana. Many of the decks were sculpting their perfect hand and waiting until they had enough mana to play out their whole win condition in one turn and have mana to protect it. More or less everyone was ignoring the early and mid game and waiting for the late game. I had already experimented a little bit with being an early aggressor, but this just focused the whole table on my demise. Second I hated feeling like I had to win all the time and getting frustrated when I could not. I am a very competitive person unless I deliberately focus on not winning. So I set out to build a deck that would only win by accident and launch the whole table from the early game to the late game as quickly as possible. Group hug naturally rose to the top of my good ideas list. Read the rest of this entry »

This entry is part 34 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

Return to Ravnica is not so much a genius set idea on Wizards’ part as it is an obvious one. With Wizards wanting Modern to be the premiere eternal format, and further wanting to cater to the Commander player base, the block with the closest thing to true revised dual lands and an excuse to print legendary creatures in every two-colour combination is pretty much a no-brainer.

Of the legendary creatures printed in Return to Ravnica, only one of them is a head-scratcher. Rakdos, Lord of Riots obviously begs to be an aggressive creature or burn pile, while Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice is a new take on tokens, a little removed from Rhys the Redeemed.  Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord is stab at direct damage, much unlike Savra, Queen of the Golgari’s creature control.  Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius is simply an alternative to the original that doesn’t draw as much social hate but is just as much fun to play.  Which leaves Isperia, Supreme Judge. What do we do with this? Read the rest of this entry »

This entry is part 33 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

Zendikar block saw a number of card cycles, the most prolific of which were the enchantments in the eponymous first set and Worldwake: the Ascensions, the Quests, and the Expeditions.  The Expeditions in the common slot are fairly lackluster; they do not have much impact on the game, except Khalni Heart Expedition, while the Quest cycle, in the uncommon slot had just as few dangerous ones, like Quest for the Goblin Lord which is arguably a staple in goblin decks (and is easily given gravity by Krenko, Mob Boss or Ib Halfheart, Goblin Tactician). The others, at least, had niche roles, like Quest for the Nihil Stone in discard-heavy decks, or Quest for Pure Flame in decks that like to really empty the guns.

The rare cycle from Zendikar, the Ascension cycle, contains three heavily played cards in EDH: Luminarch Ascension, which abuses the multiplayer nature of the format and generates extremely efficient and dangerous creatures, Beastmaster Ascension, which is a powerful Overrun-style effect, and Bloodchief Ascension, a card which triggers nearly all the time and creates an uphill battle for all opponents to contend with.  Pyromancer Ascension does not see much play in EDH; it’s too hard to activate (though it is possible), but it’s powerful enough to see in other formats.  That leaves Archmage Ascension, which is played almost nowhere.  Let’s fix that. Read the rest of this entry »

This entry is part 32 of 37 in the series Generally Speaking

By Imshan AKA Sinis

I had thought about writing a seasonal decklist, likely including All Hallow’s Eve, Headless Horseman, or at least Scarecrow, but I just didn’t have it in me to create a decklist nobody wanted to read.  Even true scarecrow tribal with Reaper King at the helm has little appeal, and there are fewer cards featuring confection than there are ones with block mechanics.  There are no candy elementals that I know of, or chocolate golems.  With Innistrad block fresh on our minds, it felt like I would just hash out someone’s Grimgrin, Corpse-born tribal zombie list.

Rather, Hallowe’en, for me, is more about how children change into little candy-devouring monsters.  For the parents reading this, the transformation is more apparent; we indulge our little ones this night, allowing them to stay up late, to eat things they probably ought not to, and do the same for others.  Somehow a veneer of monsterhood changes a child’s apparent properties, even though it’s still a child under the mask.  Like so many things in life, changes in kind weirdly applies to Magic. Read the rest of this entry »