Sunday, April 18, 2010

Magic: The Blogging Returns

Magic The Blogging has now officially moved to It's actively posting, and is now better than ever. It's also got the best posts from this site, so feel free to head over!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Doubling Planeswalkers!

Note: The Miniseries 2 will not be airing for a while, due to Worldwake about to consume every post in this blog for about a month. In the meantime, enjoy this random-ass Extended deck.

Have you ever felt like Planeswalkers would be more awesome if you could use their ultimate as soon as you played it? I have. And now, there is a way.

Before anyone asks, this does, in fact, work within the rules. Behold the comprehensive rules excerpt that proves it:

306.5b A planeswalker is treated as if its text box included, "This permanent enters the battlefield with a number of loyalty counters on it equal to its printed loyalty number." This ability creates a replacement effect (see rule 613.1c).

Thus, as it's a replacement effect that adds the counters, Doubling Season works as another replacement effect to instead put more counters on. I scoured the planeswalkers to find the ones that could end the game basically by themselves with an Ultimate activation and found these:

Chandra Nalaar
Sarkhan Vol
Ajani Goldmane
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker

Nicol Bolas was out, way too expensive, but the other three work well. Chandra Wraths the board and takes 10 life from them, Sarkhan makes 10 4/4 fliers and Ajani makes two gigantic dudes (remember, Doubling Season!) Together, they provide enough consistency that I am near certain to draw one.

Doubling Season doesn't have that, so I added it's good friend Idyllic Tutor.

Here's the decklist I ended up with:

Lands (22)

4 Arid Mesa
3 Forest
2 Ghost Quarter
2 Mountain
2 Plains
3 Sacred Foundry
3 Stomping Ground
3 Temple Garden

Creatures (8)

4 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch

Spells (30)

4 Ajani Goldmane
4 Chandra Nalaar
4 Chrome Mox
4 Idyllic Tutor
4 Naya Charm
2 Path to Exile
4 Sarkhan Vol

Sideboard (15)

4 Chalice of the Void
4 Engineered Explosives
2 Guttural Response
3 Krosan Grip
2 Path to Exile

Basically the idea is simple.

Step 1: Ramp into a Doubling Season.
Step 2: Drop a planeswalker.
Step 3: Win the game.

I don't think it's Tier 1, but it's a nice little strategy. If you already play Extended, you'll have all the expensive cards, and people will often think you're playing Zoo until it's too late.

I'll have some basic testing of the deck up tomorrow, as well as the rudiments of a sideboard plan. Enjoy!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Miniseries Series 2!

You may remember my first miniseries which was devoted to W/U Control. Now I've decided to do a new one. To reiterate the rules:

The miniseries will have three articles: a theory article, a deckbuilding article, and a deck testing article. The topic must be able to support all three articles. For example, a miniseries on tiebreakers wouldn't work, since deckbuilding and testing for that is basically ridiculous.

I will pick the one I like best from the ones given.

The topic will be chosen in 24 hours, or 48 if no satisfactory topics are received in 24.

Good luck, and pick a good idea! 

Thursday, December 10, 2009

What If: Cascade Was Never Invented?

Hi guys! Zendikar's been out for a while, so now we're going to do a metagame breakdown of Standard. Aggro is still powerful but Control certainly has a good presence as well. Let's see what we have...

Boros Bushwhacker


Elite Vanguard
Goblin Bushwhacker
Goblin Guide
Kor Skyfisher
Plated Geopede
Ranger Of Eos
Steppe Lynx

Burst Lightning
Lightning Bolt
Path To Exile

Elspeth, Knight-errant

Basic Lands

Arid Mesa
Marsh Flats
Scalding Tarn
Teetering Peaks

Baneslayer Angel
Oblivion Ring
Burst Lightning
Celestial Purge

Boros Bushwhacker is still one of the top decks in Standard. It kills most Control decks before they get online, but has a bad matchup against Eldrazi Green, which sweeped a few States tournaments.

 Eldrazi Green


Eldrazi Monument

Ant Queen
Elvish Archdruid
Elvish Visionary
Great Sable Stag
Llanowar Elves
Master Of The Wild Hunt
Nissa's Chosen
Noble Hierarch

Garruk Wildspeaker
Nissa Revane

Basic Lands

Oran-rief, The Vastwood

Eldrazi Monument
Pithing Needle
Great Sable Stag
Mold Shambler

Eldrazi Green plays out a lot of "must-deal-with" threats, and it's a pretty good deck. Against these decks are the control decks:

RWU Planeswalker Control

Courier's Capsule
Obelisk Of Alara

Sphinx Of Jwar Isle

Essence Scatter
Lightning Bolt
Path To Exile

Ajani Vengeant
Chandra Nalaar
Elspeth, Knight-errant

Day Of Judgment
Mind Spring

Basic Lands

Arid Mesa
Crumbling Necropolis
Glacial Fortress
Jungle Shrine
Scalding Tarn
Sejiri Refuge

Pithing Needle
Celestial Purge
Essence Scatter
Oblivion Ring

This is one of the 'decks to beat' at the moment, since there are few ways to gain card advantage in Standard at the moment, and planeswalkers are a big one.

That's all we have time for today! Tomorrow we'll talk about W/U Control, Red Deck Wins, and Emeria decks. See you tomorrow!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

White Weenie in Standard

As I mentioned in my last post, I've recently got into MODO. Because I didn't have much money to start, I decided the most competitive budget deck I could have was a mono-colored one. I didn't want Red, since I want some interaction, so I went with White Weenie (sans Baneslayers).

Here's the list I've been using:

Lands (24)

3 Emeria, the Sky Ruin
21 Plains

Creatures (20)

4 Elite Vanguard
4 Emeria Angel
4 Kazandu Blademaster
4 Veteran Armorsmith
4 Veteran Swordsmith

Spells (16)

4 Brave the Elements
4 Conqueror's Pledge
4 Honor of the Pure
4 Path to Exile

Sideboard (15)

4 Celestial Purge
3 Devout Lightcaster
2 Luminarch Ascension
4 Oblivion Ring
2 White Knight

The deck has turned out to be quite good, and so I decided to make a brief primer for this budget deck (the entire deck can be built for less than 50 tickets: quite good compared to Jund or Boros, which are much more expensive).

Vs Jund:


+4 Celestial Purge
+3 Devout Lightcaster
+2 White Knight

-4 Elite Vanguard

-4 Veteran Swordsmith
-1 Conqueror's Pledge

Pre-board, your best friend is Honor of the Pure. I mentioned a few months back that Pulsing Honor of the Pure was your best bet as Jund, yet people rarely do this. It allows for your Blademasters, Emeria Angels, and Armorsmiths to all be 3/3 resistant, and the latter two to be X/4's, and unable to be Bolted. Conqueror's Pledge is generally weak against them as they have Pulse, but if you play it, and they don't have it, they lose.

Post-board, they almost certainly have Jund Charm. To combat this, you have 5 Pro-black cards, and one less Pledge. You've also taken out some easily killed cards. Now your objective is to win with hard-to-kill cards and protect the ones you do with Brave the Elements. Often I can Lightcaster a Thrinax, drop Emeria Angel, and hold a Brave the Elements in hand with a winning position.

Vs Boros

+2 White Knight

-2 Veteran Swordsmith

Here, you are the defender. In both games, your aim is to play 2/3's and first strikers. Save your removal for his Skyfishers, which you can't block. You aim to make a nearly unassailable position with 2-3 creatures. Sandbag some, as Boros runs Earthquake now.

Vs Vampires

+4 Celestial Purge
+3 Devout Lightcaster
+2 White Knight

-4 Elite Vanguard
-4 Brave the Elements
-1 Veteran Swordsmith

This match is nearly an auto-win for you unless they draw multiple Bloodwitches. Game 1, save your removal for Nocturnus, try to get Honor of the Pure (they can't kill it) and play 3/3 first strikers and 3/4's to gum up the ground.

Games 2 and 3, you aim to kill all their relevant threats and win with pro-black guys. It's quite easy to win if you have 5 cards they can't stop in any way. Make sure you race their Bloodwitches.

That's all the major testing I've done so far.

Various tips:

Emeria Angel is a 5-drop. Drop her and then drop a land afterwards. She's also amazing with Honor of the Pure. a 4/4 and a 2/2 is hard to kill with one card.

Conqueror's Pledge is a last-ditch resort unless you have Honor, in which case it can swing the game if you KNOW the opponent doesn't have Wraths.

Armorsmiths are your best friend against red decks.

If you have a good board presence, always keep a mana open for Brave, even if you don't have it, unless you NEED all that mana.

That's all I've got for today! I'll do some more testing soon, and perhaps compete in a Standard event, and we'll see how I go!

(Also, draft is going great! I started with 3 packs. 3 drafts later, I still have 3 packs.)

See ya!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Adventures In Pauper

So I found myself on MTGO, which I've just recently got into, with 20 bucks to spare and a promise that I'd draft Nix Tix M10 tonight (I won 2 packs and got a Master of the Wild Hunt, so happy me). So I had about 8 bucks. What can you do on MODO for 8 bucks?

The answer is Pauper. Pauper is a format that only permits commons (or to be specific, cards that were printed as common at one point). There's a wide variety of Tier 1 and 2 strategies, as can be seen at this webpage.

I decided to go for Classic Pauper, and I decided to go for G/W Slivers. Unfortunately the Muscle Slivers would have taken up my 8 bucks right there, so my second choice was the old-school Orzhov Blink, which has fallen out of favor since M10.

The deck cost a grand total of 6 tix of clever bot-buying, and here's what I ran:

4 Blind Hunter
4 Chittering Rats
3 Phyrexian Rager
4 Ravenous Rats
3 Aven Riftwatcher
3 Mulldrifter
3 Shrieking Grotesque

4 Duress
4 Echoing Decay
4 Momentary Blink

9 Swamp
4 Orzhov Basilica
4 Plains
4 Terramorphic Expanse
3 Island

4 Circle of Protection: Black
4 Circle of Protection: Red
3 Oblivion Ring
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Aven Riftwatcher
1 Mulldrifter 

The only change I made from the list I started with was -1 Phyrexian Rager and +1 Shrieking Grotesque, and I'm fairly happy with the choice. Pauper can descend into creature stalls, and when 2/X's are the norm, races take a while. So a critical mass of fliers was pretty good.

I haven't got any matchups at the moment, but I have been enjoying it. One addition I'd like to make to the deck is Soul Stair Expedition, since it seems very powerful in this deck. They finally kill your blinkers, and you simply bring them back again. The ultimate recursion package.

Last Gasp and Okiba-Gang Shinobi were two cards I also purchased, since I figured they might be useful. I'm considering Duress in the side over Relic, and putting Last Gasp in main, since Kor Skyfisher shuts down a lot of my offence.

What I like about Pauper is that it's both very cheap, and it's competitive. It also seems to speak to the 'core' of Magic, since the commons are very in tune with the color pie.

Orzhov Blink is a deck of advantages. Gaining life, draining life, and gaining card advantage with Ravenous Rats and Mulldrifter, it's a strange kind of control deck, but a fun one to play. I think my next move will be to take out the Chittering Rats (which put a strain on the manabase) and the Duresses in order to add Last Gasp and Soul Stair Expedition, and see how it goes.

I think you'll be seeing a few more posts about Pauper in the upcoming weeks, since it's certainly piqued my interest. I'd also like to play a U/B Control list I saw floating around the tournament practice room, and if I want to, I can purchase it for the price of a lunch (as long as I don't add Daze to the deck).

So if you're on MTGO, give Pauper a try. It's great fun, and very cheap to get started. And you never know what fun you could have!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Playing To Win At Magic: The Gathering

A good part of this article is inspired by David Sirlin's excellent book Playing To Win, which can be viewed for free online at This article will have many of the same concepts, but also has my own ideas and examples specific to Magic: The Gathering. Reading Playing To Win is not required to understand this text.

Playing To Win At Magic: The Gathering

An article by Jay Bailey (mtgsalivanth)


Many of the concepts found in these texts will be ones that you do not agree with. If you wish to argue them, I'll make it easier on you by providing my e-mail address ( and my Twitter account. (mtgsalivanth). I routinely check both of these.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the meat of the article: Playing to win at this game. Some of you do not want to play to win. Some of you play casually, and don't want to progress past the level you are at right now. That's fine: these concepts do not apply to you. I speak to the ones who aim to improve their game.

Magic: The Gathering is a game, and the first thing you must accept is the following:

Magic: The Gathering must be treated like Magic: The Gathering.

This means that no tournament-legal card, deck, or strategy is cheap, wrong, or should not be used for reasons other than 'It will not help me win'. If you are playing casually, play casually, but in tournaments, PLAY TO WIN.

This means accepting truths about the game. A combo deck is not cheap because it does not interact with the opponent. It's not a deck that 'does not 'play' Magic'. It does not interact with the opponent because it's not designed to. If you think that's wrong, you're not playing Magic: The Gathering. You're playing a different version of the game, and you must play the version that the tournament is playing.

If a deck is going to cost several hundred dollars to build and you can't afford it, fine. But don't whinge about the fact that you can't afford it. If you cannot remain competitive with your budget, then you should set your sights to other places other than improving at the game and playing at higher levels.

Counterspells are a valid strategy. Discard is a valid strategy. Land destruction is a valid strategy. (Note that I'm not saying these are valid as in 'They are competitive' for they may not be at the time of your reading. However, it is valid as in if it is a competitive strategy, you should not refrain from using it because it's 'cheap' 'dishonorable' or 'no fun'.)

I believe David Sirlin himself said it best.

"The game knows no rules of "honor" or of "cheapness." The game only knows winning and losing". 

- David Sirlin, author of Playing To Win.

I could give many other examples. Netdecking, metagaming, rules lawyering...but the principle is the same. If you want to win, you must accept that every tournament-legal strategy is fair game if it increases your chance of winning.

You do not decide what is fair and what is not. Wizards of the Coast does. If they say it can be done (by not banning or restricting it) then it can (and if it is good, will) be done. End of story.

Sir Scrub

Let's introduce a player I call Sir Scrub. Sir Scrub has many names and many guises. He may appear at your table or your FNM. If you haven't met him, or have met him in a large tournament where you do not have to put up with him again, be grateful.

You can never outplay Sir Scrub. Ever. You can beat him, of course, but it's always due to luck. You drew better or he drew worse. He was mana screwed or mana flooded. You got a lucky cascade, he never did. Sir Scrub is cursed with terrible luck, but at least he plays with honor.

Sir Scrub is the guy who draws cards off the top when he loses and then says 'In 3 turns, I would have had you.' The fact that you made sure the game DIDN'T last longer than it had to doesn't seem to resonate with Sir Scrub. He still had all these in his deck, he just never drew them.

Do you recognise him? You probably do, and if not, it's a good thing, too.


The previous section seemed to make no sense. It offers no advice on winning, and just bashes people. I wrote that section to show you the opposite of what you should be.

You should not chalk matches up to luck. Sometimes you WERE mana-screwed or mana-flooded. But could you have prevented it? By saying that mana-screw cost you the game, you're saying that:

A) You fully randomised your deck.
B) You made the correct mulliganing decisions.
C) You played perfectly.
D) There was no way you could have psyched your opponent into thinking you had something to stop him doing what he did to win.

Only if all of these are true can you blame mana-screw or mana-flood, or any other luck-based occurence.

When you lose, be humble. How could you have performed better, played more tightly, anticipated your opponent's moves better? Was his lucky topdeck lucky or was he holding you off until he could draw it? Did you push him as hard as you could, or in control, did you defend and prioritise threats to the best of your ability?

You must trust your decisions and your deck. A classic example is mulliganing. Do you, after mulliganing, look at the top card to see if you would have drawn the card you need? Okay, so there WAS that third land off the top. Who cares? You still made the right decision. This is something I consciously stopped doing, since by doing so, I basically say 'I don't trust that I made the mathematically correct move.' You must trust your decisions after you make them.

You must do everything you can to win. If you need a certain card, did you aggressively mulligan to find it? Did you defend as best you could to attempt to draw the card? Did you overextend into your opponent's sweeper? These are things that could cost you the game, but can be hard to notice. A 5-land hand against your opponent's Black-Red deck in Zendikar draft can very well be suicide, even if it looks good against a slower deck. If you don't know what your opponent is playing, that's one thing, but Game 2 you should not make that mistake.

Did you do your research? You didn't know what to do in that situation. Perhaps you should have tested more.

Essentially, there are a thousand things that you probably could have done, but did not, that can contribute to your loss, a lot more than mere luck. If you're not trying your best in a situation, luck merely helped your opponent win, not sealed it for them.


A great deal of my blog and many other hands have written about how to improve your play skill at Magic, so I shall leave that to other articles and other hands. This is the mindset you MUST take into any serious tournament, and if you do not, you may as well not go. If you still disagree with me, as some of you probably will, my e-mail is once again My Twitter account is mtgsalivanth. Feel free to argue as much as you like, but in the end, as I have come to realise: this is the mindset that counts when you want to win.