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

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
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
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.

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.


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

Magic: the Gathering's Khans of Tarkir Prerelease

posted on 09/18/14

Players must choose one of the five warrior clans and join in battle to claim dominance over Tarkir.


Event Schedule:

Saturday, September 20th

Midnight - $25 Sealed • 4 rounds Payout based on record (4-0 = 9 packs • 3-1 = 4 packs • 2-2 = 1 packs)

11am - $25 Sealed • 4 rounds Skins Payout (1 pack per round win)

4pm - $25 Sealed • cut to top 8 Draft Payout (top 8 positions draft for remaining prizes)

11pm - $25 Sealed • 4 rounds Skins Payout (1 pack per round win)

Sunday, September 21st

11am - $20 Sealed • 2 rounds Skins Payout (I pack per round win)

2pm - $16 2-Headed Giant Sealed • Payout based on record (at least 2 packs added to the prize pool per entry)


Not sure how you feel about Khans yet? Here's a great article that gives some insights on what to expect. Note that the author is recounting an exclusive online event and not a tabletop Prerelease event.

Pokemon League Challenges - Back-to-Back

posted on 08/19/14

We'll be holding Pokemon League Challenges the next two Sundays (8/24 & 8/31).Registration will begin at noon and the tournaments will begin at 1pm. The League Challenge is open to all Pokemon TCG players with a legal deck. Entry is free and promos will go to top players.

Deck lists are required so come early to register. This is a great entry-level premiere event for newer players. Please call us or send an email to if you have any questions.

Pokemon XY - Furious Fists Release

posted on 08/12/14

Furious Fists arrives tomorrow! To celebrate this new Pokemon set, we'll be holding our traditional sealed tournament Sunday, 8/17 at 1pm.

For the sealed tournament, players receive 6 packs of Furious Fists to build their decks with. All players will receive 2 additional packs at the end of the tournament for participating.

Entry: $25

Format: Sealed

Prize Payout: 2 packs to all participant.

Magic 2015 Prerelease

posted on 07/07/14

All events are Sealed. Players receive a box containing 5 M15 booster packs + 1 seeded promotional pack of the color they choose. They open the packs and have 1 hour to build a 40 card deck. They then compete using that deck in a swiss style tournament to earn fun prizes.

midnight $25 - 4 rounds - payout based on record
11 am $25 - 4 rounds - skins payout
4pm $25 - Full Rounds + Top 8 Draft - Payout to top 8
11pm $25 - 4 rounds - skins payout
11am Sunday $25 - 2 rounds - 1 pack + skins payout
2pm Sunday $16 - 2HG - payout based on record

skins: 1 pack for every round won
2HG: 2 headed giant- a team format where players share life total and turn sequence. Players each have 3 packs of M15 + the seeded pack. They can combine their pool of cards and build their decks using cards from any of the 8 packs between them.

register online @

Journey into Nyx PreRelease

posted on 04/17/14


Midnight $25 Sealed - 4 rounds -prizes by record
11am $25 Sealed - 4 rounds- prizes = 1 pack per round win
4pm $25 Sealed - Cut to top 8 Draft - Prizes to top 8 based on participation
11pm $25 Sealed - 4 rounds - prizes = 1 pack per round win


11 am $25 Sealed - 2 rounds - 1 participation pack for all players and an additional pack per round win.
2 pm $16 2-Headed Giant Sealed - Full rounds Payout based on record

Experience the newest Magic: The Gathering set a week before it goes on sale!

The Journey into Nyx Prerelease presents players with a special opportunity to open a Prerelease Pack and continue their journey down the Hero's Path. There are five Prerelease Packs to choose from; each color has a Heroic Path: White — Forged in Glory, Blue — Forged in Intellect, Black — Forged in Tyranny, Red — Forged in War, and Green — Forged in Pursuit.

The Journey into Nyx Prelease will also be players' next opportunity to forge a Hero Card, which they can use to Defeat a God at Journey Into Nyx Game Day. To learn more about the Hero's Path, go to

International TableTop Day - Full Schedule

posted on 04/01/14

The full schedule of currently planned games is available for download here. Check it out and start planning for the games you want to get in on!