News

Khans of Tarkir • Sealed Format Primer

posted on 12/10/14

Timothy Gruneich

Khans of Tarkir Sealed is a deep and interesting format, and one of the best sealed formats we’ve had in years.  If you’re reading this in preparation of Critical Hit Games’ upcoming local Pre-PTQ then you’re in the right place!  My goal here is to provide a brief but solid breakdown of the key concepts of the format, and hopefully provide strategic advice to both novices to the format and experts alike.

For the sake of brevity, I’m going to assume a basic understanding of the general strategic concepts of sealed deck.  Things like Bombs, Evasion, Removal, and Card Advantage are at this point common knowledge.  If you’re unfamiliar with any of these, then this article is a level beyond what you need.   For players in that category, it would be best to spend some time learning about the basic concepts of limited play before moving on to Khans specific concepts.

Two broad concepts set Khans of Tarkir apart from other sealed deck formats: Morphs and Mana.  To be sure, there are other mechanics, such as Delve and Prowess.  But these tend to create incidental interactions or alter the relative value of other cards, in context, rather than affect deck construction and game-play at-large.  Instead, understanding the format really branches out from the Morph mechanic and the pressures put upon deck building by powerful gold cards and mana fixing.

Morph is a magnificent mechanic, both from a design perspective and from a play perspective.  For a player playing in a sealed deck, it means that you’re going to be able to both have early game drops in the face-down mode of your morphs while still being able to play a larger number of cards with high mana costs.  Contrasted with other limited formats, early game creatures are at less of a premium than normal.  This isn’t to say they are bad, but rather that you shouldn’t be afraid to have a deck with five or more creature with mana costs of six and above, provided most of those are morphs (or have delve).

Understanding Morph in Khans requires, bluntly speaking, knowing the cards.  Knowing what each creature with morph costs to unmoprh and its combat stats and abilities is a crucial skill for the format.  There are some broad-stroke trends among the morphs, which we’ll go over in a bit.  But I cannot stress enough that memorizing each and every morph is critical to being able to make decisions.  In fact, it is important enough that even if you are a player who does not take notes I would still recommend writing down each morph your opponent reveals.

On the topic of revealing, you must reveal every morph card at the conclusion of each game and whenever a face-down creature would change to a different zone than the battlefield.  Failing to do so was, at one point, a game loss.  My understanding is that the penalty has recently been reduced, but it is still an easy and foolish way to get warnings.  Warnings which, in turn, can escalate to further penalties for repeat offenses.  If you’re a player who forgets things easily, I’d recommend unsleeving the morph as you play it, instead of just playing the card face down or using the morph cover cards.  By doing that, you’ll naturally notice you have to do extra work when you pick it up—which ought to remind you to reveal it.

As far as trends among the morphs, here are a few of the major rules-of-thumb to note:

1) Until your opponent has at least five mana, there is no morph in the format that can face a 2/2 in combat and both kill the opposing creature and live. That’s important knowledge because unless your opponent has five untapped mana you can block any morph with your morphs and know that the worst you’ll do is trade (assuming there are no other combat tricks, such as Dragon Scale Boon).

2) Five or more untapped mana means that their face-down creature can morph into something very likely to beat a 2/2 in combat.  Obviously, there are a few morphs that break that rule, such as Temur Charger and that cycle of creatures.  But in general, you should assume that your opponent has something like a Glacial Stalker or a Walker of The Ages if they attack into your 2/2.

3) Most morphs require five or more mana or one or less mana to flip.  The few exceptions in the format are the creatures to look out for. It is difficult but important to try to play around these morph exceptions when your opponent leaves up an amount of mana in between those values.   Some of the key cards in that category are: Icefeather Aven, Canyon Lurkers, and Mistfire Weaver.  If they’ve left up the appropriate mana for one of these creatures then there is a good chance their morph could be one of them.

4)  Wooly Loxodon is the big man in the format but the majority of morphs top out around 5/5.  Other than wooly, and the rare Sagu Mauler, nothing else has a six power.  The trigger on Efreet Weapon Master can sometimes get up there and Ruthless Ripper has death touch but beyond these four creatures six toughness means you’re safe to block a morph.  Conversely, five power means you’re likely to take out the morph.  Wooly and Mauler live, but beyond these only Dragon’s Eye Savants, Thousand Winds (another rare), and War Behemoth survive a fight with something at five power.

5) Very few morph creatures have special triggers that effect gameplay in radical ways and it is good to know which ones they are and what they do.  Most are rare so they don’t come up all that often.  However, if you are in a position where you could lose if your opponent has exactly that morph, consider if there is another play you can make.  I generally don’t try to play around a rare morph unless I’ve already seen it in my opponent’s deck or I’ve got a good reason to suspect it.  The morphs with the nastiest flip triggers can radically alter a game so if the situation comes up beware the following:  Thousand Winds, Kheru Spellsnatcher, Master of Pearls, and Jeering Instigator.  At lower rarities, it’s good to keep in mind the triggers on Ice Feather Aven, Horde Ambusher, Pine Walker, Efreet Weapon Master, Mistfire Weaver, and Ponyback Brigade.

6) The last topic I want to cover regarding morphs are the three morph-tribal support cards: Ghostfire Blade, Trail of Mystery, and Secret Plans.  In sealed, unless my deck has three or fewer morphs, I want to almost always play the Blade.  Often, jamming Ghostfire Blade will earn you some free wins.  Trail of Mystery is almost as good and basically pays for itself as soon as you search for a single land.  The other triggers, especially the +2/+2 triggers, move the card into amazing territory.  As a result, I’ll play Trail with five or more morphs.  Secret Plans is the weakest of the Morph support cards, but can still be very good.  This one in particular needs a lot of morphs to get enough value to be worth having, especially if you draw it after your second turn.  Generally, I’ll add it to any deck that already has seven or more morphs.

7.) Moving onto mana, Khans is very much a gold set.  It is, in fact, a 3 color set with opposing “wedges” being featured as opposed to the “shards” of Alara block.  Many of the best cards in the format require three colors of mana, including a cycle of premium common morph creatures.  Getting your mana right when building your sealed deck is often the deciding factor in how your tournament plays out. 

In normal sealed formats you would build your mana based upon the spells you’d like to play.  In Khans of Tarkir that situation is almost reversed, in that you need to see what the fixing you’ve opened will allow.  The amount and kind of fixing available to your specific pool will determine how far down the rabbit hole of splashing you can go.  To be clear, there absolutely are pools where it is correct to pile up all your best cards and then figure out the mana for your 5 color monstrosity.

The “trilands” are the best fixing in the format, and you should basically always play every triland you’ve opened.  Frontier Bivouac may be unpronounceable, but it is not something that should be in your sideboard.  Even if you’re only going to be playing 2 of a given triland’s 3 colors, the extra color still makes your opponent consider a wider array of morphs and splash cards.  Thus, you’re still getting value from the 3rd color even if you’ll never use it.  If you’re using all 3 colors then these become the best cards you can see in your opening hand most games.  Play them all.

The common dual-lands which feature a point of life-gain are also quite excellent.  You’ll want to play all of these for which you’re using both colors of mana.  This is true even if the additional color is something as small as the activations on Archer’s Parapet or Bloodfire Mentor.  If it is for a proper splash card then there is no doubt you play them.  The life gained from these lands can even prove particularly valuable to slower decks, so on occasion you may play one over a basic land just for the life.

That said, it is possible to play too many lands that enter the battlefield tapped.  Generally the high-end on that is about 8.  Most decks will want 18 lands in this format, so 8 enters-tapped lands and 10 basics should give you a fairly good chance at both a smooth curve and seeing all your colors.  Beyond 8 tapped lands you really need a good reason to be playing such demanding mana.  If the answer is a base RUG deck that has lots of high-power cards and you’re trying to play an Abzhan Guide, then it might be best to leave the life-linker on the bench.  If the answer is that you’ve got a mediocre deck that needs both its Dune Blast and its Flying Crane Technique to be able to actually win games, then maybe you have to take the chances.

The other main source of mana fixing, the Banners, are much weaker than the lands.  Banners fight with morphs for your turn 3 mana, and you don’t get the option to play 1 of each until you’ve got 5 lands to tap.  As a result, the Banners tend to be very awkward in your mana curve and create clunky hands.  That isn’t as bad in Khans as it would be in other formats, since the format overall is a bit slower than average.  But it definitely still costs games and matches.  I generally try not to play any banners in my sealed decks.   But I will sometimes accept the first banner to enable otherwise poor decks to splash the power cards needed to be competitive with the format.  However, before I will play a banner in a 4 or 5 color deck I will try to make the most aggressive 3 color deck my pool can support.  Ideally, such decks end up based in 2 colors and splashing a few powerful cards in the appropriate wedge, such as a B/W/r deck which needs the Red just for a few great splash cards.

Speaking of splashing, how you get the colors for your splashes, and what cards you decide to splash, will often be crucial to your success in the format.  As far as to what cards to splash, I would refer to the list of key sealed concepts I mentioned earlier: Bombs, Evasion, Removal, and Card Advantage.  If your deck is especially lacking in any of these areas and you can get that effect through a splash, then you should at least consider it.  If you can get said effect off of a morph creature, that’s even better, because morphs are only ever truly dead cards if you never get a 3rd mana.  The only Morph I personally consider a Bomb that doesn’t require double mana of a single color is Sagu Mauler.

Getting your splash colors is just as important as deciding what to splash, and the two decisions typically need to be made simultaneously.  In general, the optimal way to get a splash would be off of a dual land rather than a basic.  The reason for this is fairly simple: dual lands still support your main colors.  For example, drawing 2 mountains and a swamp in our hypothetical B/W/r deck could easily produce a hand that is a mulligan.  The same hand, but with a Wind-Scarred Crag over the 2nd Mountain is likely a keep.  In general, the fewer basics you have to play in your non-main colors the better your consistency will get.

Fixing that offers a 3rd color becomes more important as your splashes get more numerous.  This is where Trilands get a large portion of their value.  A triland, a life gain dual, and a basic make enough to play a couple of splash cards without committing too many basics to the goal.  Banners, when they are good, often are because they are enabling very powerful effects from decks that would otherwise have a lack of power.  For example, a Sultai Banner helping to enable a Villainous Wealth from a Temur deck will often be worth playing, but an Abzhan Banner that lets your Mardu Deck play Become Immense is probably not worth the effort.

There are two broad archetypes in Khans as far as mana is concerned.  There are the decks that hew as closely as possible to two colors and very lightly splash one or two colors.  Then there are those decks that play a wide diversity of colors, often biasing towards a single wedge, and splashing out to 4 or even 5 colors.  Most pools will tend towards one of these two

The first category of decks will typically want to play out as aggressively as possible, and should keep that goal in mind.  This is where you want your aggressive cheap creatures and your tricks as much as you can get.  Creatures that lose value especially quickly, such as Valley Dasher, should still generally be avoided.  But things that let you push through damage should be valued more highly here, such as Barrage of Boulders.  Evasion is basically always good, but questionable evasion creatures, like Scald Kin get better here.  Card advantage, like Evasion, is basically always good.  But it is less ideal here, as you’re trying to end the games faster.  So, borderline card advantage tools, such as Weave Fate, get worse.

The second category of decks will want to play out longer games, and tend towards more mid-range or controlling strategies.  These are the decks that like creatures that do little other than block, such as Monastery Flock and Bloodfire Mentor.  You also want all the card advantage and removal you can get, so this is where those Weave Fates get to shine.  Evasion is still good, but this is where you are likely leaving stuff like Gurmag Switfwing in the board.  One thing to be aware of when you choose this kind of deck is that you’ve got absolutely no control over what cards you or your opponents have opened.  You choose what you play, of course, but not what they play.  As a result, it is possible to run into an even slower and more powerful sealed deck, almost regardless of what you’ve opened.  That doesn’t mean you can’t beat such opponents, but awareness of what tools your opponent has gets even more important.  Consider boarding or even playing main deck things like Cancel and Despise, so that you can answer your opponents’ most powerful cards.

Khans really is a fantastic sealed format.  I hope this article helps you in your next event.  Good Luck and Have Fun!

 


Pre Pro-Tour Qualifier

posted on 11/29/14

 http://www.criticalhitgames.net/catalog/events-magic/pre_protour_qualifier/104593

Pre Register for our 1st Pre Pro-Tour Qualifier. Attendance is capped at 60 people and pre-registration will close at 10pm on Friday, December 12th. Make sure you register early to be assure yourself a seat at the table.

      December 13th @ 2:00pm

      • $35.00 per person

      • Sealed Khans of Tarkir

      • Payout to top 8 ( Top 8 Draft ) – if over 50 players, payout is to top 16.

      • The winner of a Preliminary Pro Tour Qualifier during this season qualifies to play in one of the Regional Pro Tour Qualifiers tied to Pro Tour Vancouver 2015, which take place worldwide on April 25-26, 2015


CHG Miniatures Painting Contest

posted on 11/15/14

 

Theme:

The theme of this contest will be “Gender and Sexuality”

This can be anything that you feel comments on the role of women, men and/or how their relationships are represented. This can be done by mod, paint scheme, anything that you feel says something about gender or sexuality.

Time-line:

Models are due January 10th. • They will stay on display until January 17th • and must be picked up by January 24th.

Cost:

$10 per entry, $8 if you purchase the model from the store.

Categories:

  1. Regular Single Figure = base size up to 50mm

  2. Large Single Figure = base size larger than 50mm (colossal, gargantuan, walker etc.)

  3. Vehicle or Mount = larger than 50mm

  4. Unit or Troop = 3-10 models on separate bases but of the same grouping

  5. Mod or Creative Base = single figure modified from the original sculpt and/or based / mounted in a creative and interesting way

  6. Diorama = 3 or more figures on a single base, based / mounted in a creative and interesting way

Prizes:

* Exact $ amount will be determined by participation.

  • Trophys and Gift Certificates* to the winners of each category.

  • Cash prize* and trophy to the over-all winner + special recognition in the store and on all appropriate internet portals associated with the store.

Disclaimer:

The store is not responsible for loss or damage done to the figure while in our keep. Models will be displayed in the glass display case next to the paint rack. Models will be on display for 1 full week and judged during that time. Judging will be done by myself as well as by popular vote.

 

This contest will lead up to our 4th annual Breast Cancer Brawl and fund raiser. This year's proceeds will be divided between the Cancer Treatment Centers of America and a local domestic violence center or women and childrens' shelter. (specifics are yet to be determined).


Foodmachine 2014

posted on 11/07/14

Daniel White

Playing games all day is a great way to spend a Saturday but this past Saturday it was also a great way to feed the hungry. Critical Hit Games hosted its third annual Foodmachine tournament where players of Warmachine and Hordes donated canned goods and money to the Johnson County Food bank. This year $448 was donated which will purchase roughly 1600lbs of food for struggling families.

The great thing about Foodmachine is that the more someone donated the more cheats were available to be purchased. Some of the cheats included personal re-rolls—which come in handy when dice fail, opponent re-roll—which are hilarious, boosted attributes on models and someone could even play with models in one’s army that normally are not permitted. The last cheat essentially allowed complete freedom in creating armies which is an extremely fun thought-exercise. Last year Ruxton Smith surprised everyone by bringing the dragon colossal from Legion of Everblight with his bazooka yielding troll, Gunnbjorn.  Trying to follow Ruxton’s crazy example I brought the fearsome Gatormen Posse with Skorne taskmasters and led this hodgepodge with my opera singing pig, Helga the Conqueror.  I had a blast. The winner of Critical Hit Game’s 2014 Foodmachine was Mike White from Cedar Rapids and he also donated in order to play an out of faction model.

Mike played trolls which are a very sturdy faction whose signature support models are the Krielstone Bearer and stone scribes. The Krielstone Bearer is a hulking troll who hauls around a massive monument that radiates a protective aura to nearby models granting them armor bonuses. It’s an amazing addition to any troll army and for game-balance reasons is also why there are zero troll warlocks who have access to armor spells. The Krielstone makes trolls really hard to kill so an additional armor spell would be broken. Mike broke the game and brought an out of faction warlock, Lord Carver, Bringer of Most Massive Destruction, Esquire III. Lord Carver BMMD Esq. III has the best armor buff in the game, batten down the hatches. Batten down the hatches gives his trolls +3 armor and immunity to knockdown effect.  This spell stacked with the krielstone’s already impressive +2 armor aura and brought Mike’s warbeasts from hard to kill to impossible to kill.

With Thanksgiving around the corner I was really happy to be able to help out and Foodmachine made it fun.

 


Critter's Crit List: Board Game Reviews by Local Gamers

posted on 10/30/14

Title: Small World   •   US Publisher: Days of Wonder   •   Mechanics: Area Controle/Influence   •   Age: 8+   •   TIme : 90 min

Daniel White

Recently, my wife and I attended a game night with another couple and I brought Small World. Small world is a civilization game and much like the title suggests, the board is simply too small for everyone to coexist. Players are constantly butting heads to conquer the most territory, think Risk but with a lot less monotonous dice-rolling and way more flavor.  None of us had ever played Small World before but it was an instant hit. My wife and I had so much fun that we were actually discussing strategies for the rest of the week. This is a review of Small World where I rate the game with standard school grades (A+ being the best and F being the worst) in two categories ease of play and replayability.

Ease of play

One of my pet peeves with boardgames is trying to decode an overcomplicated rulebook. I can think of better things to do with my free time than feel stupid. None of us had ever played Small World before so our game night was a good test of its accessibility. Thankfully, the rulebook is only twelve pages long and we were able to play in minutes by simply designating someone to read aloud. The only time we even needed to refer back to the rulebook was to look at the different abilities of races and cards. 

Grade: A

Replayability

I know replayability isn’t a word but it is how I describe the anticipation/addictive quality of a game. To me, a game that has strong replayability is one I can play with my friends every month and still find new strategies. Small World achieves strong replayability by having a ton of variety. In the game there are fourteen different races each with a unique ability. For example, dwarves gain additional gold by controlling territories that contain mines. In addition to races there are twenty special power badges that also have unique abilities. An example of a power badge is “flying” which allows you to place your units on any square. That means this game has 280 different combinations!

Grade: A

If you are looking for a boardgame to introduce to your friends for game night I strongly recommend Small World. It is simple enough for even the most inexperienced gamer to comprehend and has enough depth to it that the serious gamer will enjoy.

 


A Tale of Double-Dipping: (part 2)

posted on 10/24/14

An Iowa States Report and Overview

Steven Nesteby

Part 2/Week 2 – Star City Games States

I ended up deciding on going to the Star City Games States the Thursday before the event, when I proposed the idea to Dan White, a former state champion himself.  In terms of the decks we used, he ended up using a mono blue artifacts deck, while I ended up doing an audible to Jeskai, after chickening out from wanting to play U/R Burn.  Because I decided Saturday morning to change to Jeskai once again, I took Kevin Jones’ list from the same event I took from the list above, and made a few tweaks.  This is what I ended up running:

Steven Nesteby • SCG Autumn State Championships • Jeskai Tempo

4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Mantis Rider
4 Seeker of the Way
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
3 Mountain
2 Island
2 Plains
3 Battlefield Forge
2 Flooded Strand
4 Mystic Monastery
3 Shivan Reef
3 Temple of Epiphany
2 Temple of Triumph
4 Jeskai Charm
4 Lightning Strike
4 Magma Jet
4 Stoke the Flames
2 Banishing Light
2 Dig Through Time
2 Steam Augury
Sideboard
3 Disdainful Stroke
3 Deflecting Palm
2 Ashcloud Phoenix
2 God’s Willing
2 Negate
2 Anger of the Gods
1 Narset, Enlightened Master

I wanted to see how a variation without Titan’s Strength, and Steam Augury and Dig Through Time would perform.  Initially, my thoughts were Steam Augury could be good, and Dig Through Time was going to be okay.  Titan’s Strength, the previous week, underperformed for me, and I ended up siding it out in most matches.  While I loved God’s Willing, I didn’t put any copies in the main deck, but wanted to find room for copies in the sideboard.  I also wanted to test Narset out, as it’s one of my favorite cards in the new set, has a powerful ability, and because of the hexproof and first strike, should be hard to remove against the decks with spot removal.  In decks with mass removal (End Hostilities) I just don’t care, as I like to think I’m favored against the W/x control decks that use End Hostilities.  Drown in Sorrow is a card that can wreck it, but that’s just a risk that I’m willing to take.

The turnout ended up being 79 people, which resulted in 7 rounds.  Here were my matchups

R1:  Jeskai Tokens  W
R2:  Mardu Midrange W
R3:  Mono Red Aggro W
R4:  Sultai Delve W
R5:  Abzhan Midrange L 
(Have you ever had your opponent roll a 3 with two d6’s, and then roll snake eyes?  The absolute worst)
R6:  Abzhan Midrange  W
R7:  ID
QF:  Jeskai Tempo  W
SF:  Abzhan Midrange W
F:    B/W Control

Interesting stories:

In round 6, I ended up playing one of my toughest games of magic.  In game 3, I was at a point with 2 life to his 24 life.  He had Brimaz and Siege Rhino in play, and I ended up having not much on my field.  I ended having to protect and take risks with Narset, and eventually ended up finding a Seeker of the Way off of a scry, to enable myself to get into a more comfortable life total, while not dying to the pressure of Brimaz and the Rhino.

In the QF, game 3 I was down to 3 life, and he had 5 lands and about 3 cards in his hand.  He was able to untap with me holding 1 card in my hand.  He tapped for a Stoke the Flames, and luckily I had the Deflecting Palm.

In the SF of game 1, I was at 8 life and my opponent was at 13 life.  I would have been able to knock him down to one, but would have died the following turn.  I ended up holding back Rabblemaster in order to face down a Polukranos who was a monster at 7.  I ended up burning himself at the end of his turn, and hoped for something good on my following turn (2 points of burn).  It ended up working, and he ended up getting mana screwed in game 2.

The first two games of the finals were fairly awful.  We both mulliganed to 5 in game 1, where I ended up winning by going through double Nyx Fleeced Ram.  Game 2 I mulliganed to 5, and got crushed due to missing land drops.  In game 3, another mulligan to 6 on my part, and it got to a point where I had Narset in play and he had Sorin and a ram.  I ended up flipping a Lightning Strike, and was able to kill the ram.  Unfortunately I was careless, didn’t read Sorin (who was on 6 loyalty), and ended up not Stoking the Flames the Sorin.  This ended up being the costly error in the match, and while it was grindy after that point, I was a huge underdog from there on out.

Final Thoughts on Jeskai Tempo

I think the deck is super strong, and I think will always have game against most decks.  Seeker of the Way is so good, and I certainly believe that Rabblemaster is the weakest creature in the deck.  Sometimes you have to leave tricks up to protect your Mantis Rider or Seeker from Anger of the Gods, Lightning Strike, or Bile Blight, which means not only holding up on God’s Willing, but also Titan’s Strength.

Speaking of Titan’s Strength, the card underperformed for me, as I tended to board it out most games.  I generally boarded in God’s Willing or another card to help combat against other decks.  Deflecting Palm, while I realize was going to be good, wasn’t as great as I was hoping it would be.  It generally comes in against the big dumb creature decks (e.g. Mono Green Devotion) and I think I boarded it in against the mirror, although I’m not sure.

Two or three slots in the sideboard are for Control Matchups, in general.  Ashcloud Phoenix was slow for me in the first week, but I used it multiple times in the second week, where I wouldn’t have won if I didn’t have a recurring phoenix.  Narset was an MVP in the matchups that I drew it, and the card can end up being a blowout.  For those three spots, I believe it should be a mixture of:  Keranos, Sarkhan, Ashcloud, Stormbreath, Narset.

With Jeskai Charm, the most common modes are the first two, but against other aggressive decks, the ability to make a +6/-6 life swing, or something to that effect by using the third mode is super powerful.  Getting out of our opponent’s kill shot, while putting them in ours puts the Jeskai deck in a huge advantage.  They’re either dead, or they have to change their gameplan in fear of the burn/removal in the next turn.

I definitely like the 2nd iteration of the deck I chose to play in the SCG States, though the only changes I would make would be to ditch the 2 Steam Augury for a combination of Chandra, Pyromaster, God’s Willing, and Dig Through Time (Though I don’t like the idea of 4 Digs).  Steam Augury was just okay, and I’d rather have better immediate value from Gods Willing or Chandra, especially since I’m playing an aggro role.

I hope this article has shed some light on the Jeskai Tempo deck.  The deck has does everything I want an agro deck to do:  be aggressive by attacking in multiple ways (through the ground, and burn) and the ability to change gears if you need it, by changing from an aggro strategy to a more conservative one, and vice-versa.


A Tale of Double-Dipping:

posted on 10/22/14

 

An Iowa States Report and Overview

Steven Nesteby

 Part 1/Week 1

States has always been a special time for me.  My first taste of real competitive magic came back at States 2000, in which Invasion was legal where I played a Mono White Rebels deck with my buddy Shane.  We both ended up going 2-4, but it was a lot of fun, and introduced me to a larger tournament experience.  That year, Aaron Mechtensimer ended up winning with a Fires variant that would end up being a standard staple.  There is no doubt that States 2000 changed my life.  From that point on, I was hooked into the competitive Magic:  The Gathering scene.

I wasn’t sure what I was going to play, even if I was going to play in the event.  Prior to the rotation, I played a mixture of Mono Blue Devotion, Rabble Red, and Mono Blue/UR Artifacts.  Due to the rotation, I didn’t think any of those were viable.

I knew going into the rotation that Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix were something you had to deal with.  Between hexproof and four-toughness those cards can make getting damage through to an opponent very difficult. After thinking it over I thought my choices would be between the Jeskai Ascendancy deck, and a Black/Red deck that Todd Anderson posted on Starcitygames.com.

The week after Khans of Takir was released, Star City had an event, and I saw a list that I really liked.  That list is as follows:

Jadine Klomparens • Jeskai Tempo
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
4 Mantis Rider
4 Seeker of the Way
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Island
3 Mountain
3 Plains
3 Battlefield Forge
3 Flooded Strand
4 Mystic Monastery
3 Shivan Reef
2 Temple of Epiphany
2 Temple of Triumph
4 Stoke the Flames
4 Titan's Strength
4 Jeskai Charm
4 Lightning Strike
2 Gods Willing
2 Magma Spray
Sideboard
3 Deflecting Palm
2 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Dig Through Time
2 Magma Spray
2 Negate
2 Arc Lightning
1 Erase
1 Gods Willing
 

The things I liked about it:

-          Value creatures– Rabblemaster, Seeker, and Mantis Rider.  All three of these can get around Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix to some degree.  Combined with the burn elements of the deck, the clock is super fast.

-          Burn spell component – So many burn spells!  This allows you to get in early with your creatures, and either pave the way for the creatures to keep attacking, or point the damage to your opponent.

-          Cooperative mana base – While most of the deck consists of comes-into-play tapped lands, the deck is virtually a R/W deck with a splash of blue.  The spells can generally be casted fairly easily, and the ability to protect/get a reduced rate out of Stoke the Flames with Rabblemaster makes it affordable.

 

I took Jadine’s list, and changed it a little bit to fit how I like to play a deck like this.  Initially, I switched out the Magma Sprays for Magma Jets, reduced the Titan’s Strength counts, and changed the sideboard a little bit, because I didn’t like Dig Through Time, and I didn’t think Erase was going to be relevant.

Through playtesting and talking with Josh McClain, David Skogen, Eric Rath, and Wyatt Darby, I/we came to the conclusion that Stormbreath Dragon was better than Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker.  While Sarkhan and Stormbreath are very similar, we don’t want our opponent to attack into our dragon and killing it.  Also, a five mana removal spell doesn’t seem thrilling, and if that’s the case, Stormbreath can just chill back to block.  The biggest reason to keep Sarkhan in the deck is the fear of wrath-based effects, such as End Hostilities.  Since we felt the deck has an advantage against the control decks, I decided to switch them out.  Also, protection from white can be relevant at times, as they cannot Jeskai Charm the dragon to the top, or chump with Mantis Rider if you’re up against the mirror.

Anyway, this is the list I decided to run:

Steven Nesteby • TCGPlayer State Championships • Jeskai Tempo 4 Seeker of the Way
4 Mantis Rider
4 Goblin Rabblemaster
2 Chandra, Pyromaster
2 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
4 Magma Jet
4 Lightning Strike
4 Jeskai Charm
4 Stoke the Flames
2 Titan’s Strength
2 Gods Willing
4 Mystic Monastery
2 Temple of Epiphany
2 Temple of Triumph
3 Shivan Reef
3 Battlefield Forge
3 Flooded Strand
3 Plains
3 Mountain
1 Island
Sideboard
3 Deflecting Palm
3 Disdainful Stroke
2 Magma Spray
2 Negate
Arc Lightning
2 Ashcloud Phoenix
1 Gods Willing

 

I wasn’t sure on Titans Strength and God’s Willing, so I ended up splitting the two up.  I put in Ashcloud Phoenix in the sideboard to deal with the control matchup a little better than Stormbreath, along with possibly boarding it in against Green Devotion to go over the top.

Eric Rath, Wyatt Darby, and I took the trip up Saturday morning.  I expected Green Devotion, the Jeskai mirror, and a bunch of midrange-y decks to show up.  I didn’t see a single Green Devotion deck (from the games I was watching) so that was a bit unfortunate, as Deflecting Palm, and Disdainful Stroke get to be all-stars in the matchup.

Matches
R1:  Jeskai Tempo  W
R2:  Mardu Midrange W
R3:  Jeskai Tempo  L
R4:  4 Color Control  W
R5:  Mardu Midrange  L
R6:  Mono Black Aggro  W
 

Interesting to note, I lost to the eventual champion in round five, which ended up being a win-and-in round to get into the top 8.  In the end, I finished with a 9th place finish, missing the top 8 on a win-and-in round; I guess I’m cursed to never get there.  Wyatt had to play the last round, so he ended up losing a win-and-in during round 6.

The meta from what I could see and remember was mostly:  Mardu Midrange, Jeskai Tempo, Mono Black Aggro, and Junk.

 Look for Part 2 Tomorrow...


Warhammer 40K Battle-Report

posted on 10/16/14

Have you ever wanted to know what it might be like to be locked in battle with giant space aliens? Well, here's a glimpse from the perspective of one, Mr. Mike Gannon, controller of the Dark Eldar.

 

On the other side of the station, far from the main battle, two horrific predators—each one a different breed—come out of the darkness. Unknown to the Dark Eldar fighting for control of the station is a lone tyranid-birthing organism spawning an entire army within the bowels of the mining shafts.  The tyranid-breeder was drawn by the sounds of gunfire on the super surface and its terrible hunger.  With true predatory instinct the tyranid prepares to spawn swarms of gaunts to gather vulnerable Eldar guardsmen it has discovered. The guardsmen have unknowingly exposed their backs to the beast as they focus their attention to the firfight happening at the station’s core.

Suddenly the shadows at the other end of the lower mine entrance move.  Dark Eldar Venoms race from ambush positions toward the massive tyranid. The venom is the Eldar’s fastest aircraft  and serves as a deadly front wave. Unnerved by the hulking 40-ft tyranid, the venom riders assault the alien with their virulent toxic shards and cripple the bug’s mobility to a pitiful crawl. However, the toxins are unable to fully overcome the tyranid’s enhanced metabolism.  With the initiative seized from the venom riders reinforcements arrive on a nearby landing pad, an Eldar farseer and a squad of fire dragons.  Fire Dragons are Eldar warriors who emulate the destructive dragons of mythology and their close-combat fighting style embodies the dragon-like brutality. The far seer assesses the situation and orders the crippled creature killed to prevent the start of a tyranid hive fleet invasion. However, a spiked gauntlet rests on his shoulder and stays his hand.  An archon of the dark elder commands  with a calloused throat, "Burn off the beasts legs but do not kill it.  I wish it alive to suffer." The farseer recoils at his touch, as powerful and respected as he may be with his pysker powers, even he disobeying an archon.  Searing beams of fusion guns pierce the beast’s carapace but carefully avoid mortally wounding it.

 
Piercing clicks echo from the tortured tyranid and two lumbering exocrines crawl out from the earth. Without any plan they instinctively fire at the largest targets they see and the nimble venoms burst apart while the unfortunate riders burn.  With a curse the archon sends in the second wave of his ambush.  Dark eldar  reaver jet bikes hurttle towards the first beast while the towering bulk of a wraithknight steps out of a portal to take aim at the other.  The massive wraithcannons fire but only manage to transport a fraction of the exocrine's bulk to the warp.  With a sigh of a disappointment the archon takes aim with his custom blaster rifle and envelopes the creatures head in a beam of pure dark light.  "Must I do everything for my stunted brothers?" The creature shrivels to a lifeless mound and archon lets slip a smirk of satisfaction. A wave of pride pulsed through the reavers now and they dove directly at the gun beast while dodging its fire with their remarkable speed.  The reavers lacerated the bug’s body with splinter fire and the blades on their bikes. One bold rider even ran directly at the face of the creature and delivered its plasma discharge smack in its face. Not to be outdone, the reaver leader lept from his bike and slit the creature's throat as he jetted by and for good show, gave a bow. The exocrine slumped to the ground as the toxins and blood loss took its toll, remarkable it was still alive. 


The archon laughed and clapped his hands at the invigorating spectacle.  "Well that about wraps that up.  Your worrying was for nothing cousin.  I'll take my prize and leave you to cast your bones.".

"You cannot leave us! This is far from over." the far seer said with an open jaw. Without having time to consider his words the seer felt a club of a backhand that knocked him off his feet.

"Never think that you can tell me what to do little witch. I am not here for you but for my own pleasure.  Attempt that again and I'll—“. But his words were cut short as a hideous roar was heard from the depths of the mine.  A hive tyrant burst from the tunnel’s mouth on massive wings.  It rose into the sky and looked down on the elder gathered around its kin.  The archon looked up into the creature's eyes and saw pure hate.  "I must have it"

 
Before a single gun was drawn the beast snatched a hidden zoanthrope that was surveying the battle. The hive mind had taken measures of its own and it withdrew with food in mouth to the lower mines.

The archon sighed as he realized all his craft were destroyed and he could not pursue.  "Everyone back into the web way! We're coming back with the whole kabal and the coven.  That beast is mine."


Orion Empire Kickstarter

posted on 10/03/14

If you've ever come into the store on a Wednesday eveningand seen a table full of a bunch of High School boys and a grey-haired bicycle-riding engineer, then you've met the Orion Empire group. They met by chance on a RAGBRAI ride several years ago and started talking about making their own card game. The got to work amking all the rules and recruiting new friends to help. Over the years they have re-worked and re-thought their product and now they have a video pitch out on kickstarter.

Take a look and considder helping make these Iowa guys' dream come to fruition.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1225761696/orion-empire-the-game-of-galactic-supremacy

 


Drafting Khans with Josh McClain

posted on 09/27/14

 

                As I’m sure you know by now, Khans of Tarkir was officially released Friday.  Whether you’re planning on playing in grand prixs, drafting at your local shop, or even just drafting with friends at home, hopefully reading this could help you out.  I’ve been drafting the set as often as I’m able to in preparation for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, and so far the format has been a lot of fun.  Multicolor formats often take a while to learn and adjust to, so I expect to continue developing my opinions on Triple Khans of Tarkir draft for a while, but here are a few things I’ve learned so far:

 

How highly do I take the lands?

                This is the big question everyone always asks at the beginning of a multicolored format, and I’m sure you’ve been wondering the same thing about Khans.  So far I’ve experimented with valuing the lands on both ends of the spectrum, either very highly, or very low.  I had problems with both strategies that I could identify after the draft was over.  The issue I had with taking lands highly wasn’t that I ended up not having enough playables, but rather, I had too many lands that entered the battlefield tapped.  While the format is slow, tempo is still very important and sometimes you can’t afford to lose a turn to your lands.  Also, when I drafted lands early I sometimes ended up with a few left in my sideboard simply because I couldn’t justify having twelve lands that entered the battlefield tapped.  While my deck still ended up ok, the opportunity cost I paid by passing some good cards over my first few lands definitely hurt me.

                On the flipside of this, you don’t want to necessarily undervalue the lands either.   My favorite part about having good mana is that it allows you to splash the cycle of three-color common morphs.  It’s interesting to note that my draft turned out much better when I undervalued lands than when I overvalued them.  I just had to be mindful of the fact that I didn’t have much mana-fixing while I was drafting.  I ended up in a UG deck that had two red cards in it—one of them being a snowhorn rider which I could always morph if I didn’t have access to red mana.

                In the end I think you need to find a balance and adjust based on how the draft is going.  In pack one, for instance, I think it is incorrect to take a land over premium removal or great morph cards.  In packs two and three, you will generally have more information about your deck which will allow you to value lands accordingly.  For example, if you are a two color deck with a light splash you can take good filler cards over a fourth dual land.  The opposite is also true. You may need to take a land over a great creature like mardu roughrider if your deck is fairly spread out over all three colors.  In general, I think the approach of having a solid two color deck, with a light third, or even fourth for a morph card, splash is the way to go.

 

Being mana efficient, tempo, and curve considerations.

                Due to the morph mechanic, as well as the banner cycle, most decks in this format end up having a lot of three drops.  On top of that, until you hit five mana, all of the morph cards will just trade with any other 2/2.  This means that if you cast a 2/1 for two mana your opponent will either have to not attack, block with their morphs until they hit five mana or be forced to make an unfavorable trade your two drop creature.  Because of this, I really like my decks to have a few things to do on turn two in games where I don’t have all tap-lands.

                Another thing I’ve noticed is that you don’t want to go overboard with morphs.  While most of them are great due to their flexibility, if all of your creatures are morph creatures, the overall mana you have to spend to get full value out of your creatures will be much more than your opponent.  If they play a creature on turn three, four, and five; and you morph a creature on three, morph another creature on four, then flip one of your morphs on five, you likely have a similar quality of creatures, yet they have three to your two.  I still think morphs are great; the ability to jam your deck full of powerful late-game creatures that can be played early as face-down creatures is very flexible. However, I wouldn’t go overboard.  Make sure you have a few actual good creatures to play for five mana.

 

Having good morphs increases the value of bad ones, and vice versa.

                One last thing I wanted to talk about for now is the value of having a few of the lesser quality morphs in your deck.  If your deck only has great morph cards in it, your opponent will almost never have to be afraid of you trading your morph for one of their two toughness creatures.  If you have some morphs in your deck that serve the purpose of filler then your opponent may decide to just play another creature and pass the turn rather than attack you.  The opposite of that is true as well.  If they’ve only seen good morphs out of you in previous games, they may attack their Abzhan Guide into your Monastery Flock on turn four.  It also disguises the value of your morph cards in relation to removal.  Most people are very willing to burn a removal spell on a morph creature before you hit five mana.  While getting your creatures killed is never fun, I’d much rather they use their removal on my Sage-eye Harrier than on my Mardu Roughrider.

 

                These are a just a few of my initial thoughts on triple KTK draft, and I can’t wait to explore the format even further.

-Josh Mcclain
Good_Game_ on twitter