BuyList April 03, 2015

Buylist
Apr, 03 15
Buylist Prices are subject to change without notice.  We are only looking for a specific amount of each card, once we reach that amount or the price of the card changes we may no longer buy at this price.  I will try to update the buylist prices daily so there is no confusion.  All discretion for buying will be to the person working the counter at time of purchase. (All Prices are for most common version, unless otherwise stated)
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FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – THE TOP SOLDIERS OF – IZZET

Greetings, readers! This week marks the return to my Top Soldiers Of series, where I highlight the most powerful legends and non-legends alike in each color combination. This week highlights the spell-heavy flavor of the combination of blue and red that is Izzet.

Izzet has always lent itself to a spell-heavy theme, focusing either on what the spells do themselves or permanents that function well when you cast spells or augment when or how you cast them.

Arguably, this list contains some of the least powerful cards overall. Whether it’s the fact that the cards had more impact in Standard, or the fact that Izzet’s suite of spells has been run through balance testing, I found that the quality of cards overall is lower than most of the other color combinations, which is disappointing, because it’s my favorite color combination overall.

Regardless of that, the combination has some subtly powerful cards at its disposal that have either a high amount of utility or raw power, because there’s always going to be cards that eke by due to their innate power level. Let’s get right into it with…

#10 – Ral Zarek

Ral Zarek

We open on Izzet’s flagship Planeswalker, and some might wonder why he only managed to get to #10. He defends himself, does interesting effects, and he has a great ultimate. Well, for those who are just cluing in, Planeswalkers are inherently less powerful and impactful in EDH because of the fact that you have three opponents that can attack them, they draw insane amounts of attention irregardless of what the ‘Walker does, and Ral Zarek‘s synergy with cards in his color combination is iffy at best. Time Walking two and a half times on average is pretty cool, but really, when you consider the fact that he neither draws cards or interacts with instants or sorceries, the glitz and glamour stops. He’s great if you’re running Gilded Lotus, and in other colors, where you’re able to protect him better or just run Doubling Season, he’s great at being a Time Walk engine, but aside from that, he’s a goodstuff card that does a few things great, but none exceptionally well.

#9 – Call the Skybreaker

Call the Skybreaker

What many people underestimate about a simply-designed card like this is how quickly things accumulate. On paper, a 5/5 flying token for 7 mana is not impressive. Having two of them on turn 8 (or faster), however, is a different story. And, with the propensity of cards Izzet inevitably draws, this thing may just wind up finding a bunch of fuel to snack on.

I’m definitely the type of control player who looks to a card like this as your finisher; for one, it’s a creature no one can Bribery or will Clone. For two, it filters your “dead draws” and turns them into beaters that can start putting some serious pressure on your opponents after a while. Third, the threat of it is ever-present, even if your opponents sweep the board, making it a resilient, powerful choice. Sure, it’s not exciting or flashy, but it’s solid, and sometimes, you just need solid cards in your deck.

#8 – Steam Augury

Steam Augury

It’s no secret to anyone; any player who’s ever put an Island in their deck loves to draw cards. Steam Augury, like its predecessor Fact or Fiction, can be one of your top choices to do this if you cast it at the end of turn 4. Drawing 3 cards can be an absolute blowout, because believe it or not, Concentration is already a solid draw spell in and of itself in EDH.

That being said, its drawback, while subtle, makes it far worse than its original. Your opponent being able to pick which pile you get is risky, and that’s putting it lightly. Sure, there are political ramifications of choosing the right opponent (For example, the opponent who’s the target of wayward aggro chooses a pile that contains a lot of good cards but has the sweeper in it just so they survive the next round.), but overall, the card is volatile in its best-case/worst-case, and difficult to utilize properly.

#7 – Izzet Guildmage

Izzet Guildmage

Izzet Guildmage has a lot of draws to it; for one, it’s really ascetically-pleasing overall; the frame of blue and red in hybrid, like Vexing Shusher before it, is just really pretty to look at. While I don’t usually have bias towards pretty cards, in the few cases where I think a card looks pretty and is powerful, I’ll definitely mention it. (Okay, I’ll admit I was really tempted to put Crackelburr on this list simply because of my bias.)

Ascetics aside, Guildmage is the real deal. He might be narrow, but in the wake of Epic Experiment, as well as various other new spells introduced at a low converted mana cost (Izzet Charm, as well) he’s gained a lot of power. Of course, he’ll always be known for combos with cards like Reset, but as a goodstuff buffer to your cheap cantrips, the Guildmage does work.

#6 – Nivix Guildmage

Nivix Guildmage

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Izzet’s newest guildmage, the Nivix Guildmage, who gains flexibility in the spells you can copy at an additional cost. Granted, the ability is not only more expensive overall, but more mana-intensive to activate, but having a permanent Fork machine is literally ridiculous when casting certain things.

That’s not to say his ability to loot isn’t valuable, because sometimes, there are moments when you just need to dig for the right card, and he’ll do that just fine in a pinch. In fact, there are very few ways to effectively activate such an ability more than once at a time (Compulsion is the only one that comes to mind), so if you need a good looter with a bonus, Nivix is a great card to work with.

#5 – Izzet Chronarch

Izzet Chronarch

Izzet Chronarch has always been one of the flagship creatures of this effect, recycling your best spell since his original printing back in Guildpact. Regardless, nowadays we have both Mnemonic Wall and Archaeomancer, but the difference now is that neither of those creatures attack particularly well (the latter also requires double blue, which can be annoying to work around sometimes), whereas a bear-sized body can actually break through sometimes, no matter how lame the concept of 1 power may sound.

Overall, though, he’s the poster boy for the effect, and has had hilarious combos, mostly with newcomer powerhouse Deadeye Navigator. Just in general, the Chronarch is an extremely efficient recycle creature depending on how well your deck can enable it. Insurrection, Blatant Thievery and Bribery are great grabs.

#4 – Etherium-Horn Sorcerer

Etherium-Horn Sorcerer

Let me just start by saying what most people who know me already know – the fact that this isn’t legendary is incredibly disappointing. I must have spent a good hour and 45 minutes brewing up a list when it was first spoiled, only to re-read the card and curse at myself for my own stupidity. You can’t argue that he’d make an absolutely fantastic general.

Overall, though, what the Esper-aligned minotaur brings to the table is unique and yet powerful all the same. If you can find yourself with the mana to consistently cast him, he’s an absolutely fantastic card at generating resources, but what’s really unfortunate that I’ve learned over my year and a half of casting him is that he almost requires Forests in your deck to be effective. The ramp helps you to constantly cast him, and the number of green’s 5-drop creatures that are good with this are just dumb. (Acidic Slime, Prophet of Kruphix, Deus of Calamity, etc.)

#3 – Mercurial Chemister

Mercurial Chemister

Mercurial Chemister is an awkwardly weak body attached to an absolutely absurd value creature. Paired with an untap enabler like Seedborn Muse or especially Prophet of Kruphix, this guy is just dumb. Being able to draw 2 cards every go-around is great if you think about the standalone value of it, but if you’re paying one more mana, you get Consecrated Sphinx, which just does what the Chemister does best, better.

That being said, it’s unwise to discount the second ability. For the longest time, I’ve rotated it in and out of my Maelstrom Wanderer deck, a deck filled to the brim with cards that have a converted mana cost of 6 or higher. Whereas it doesn’t particularly outperform Consecrated Sphinx at card draw, it’s certainly very good at sniping one.

#2 – Dominus of Fealty

Dominus of Fealty

Dominus of Fealty is, on the surface, not a card that’s absurdly powerful on its own. It Threatens every turn. Hooray?

What really makes Dominus useful is the synergy it has with a multitude of powerful effects, especially outside of its own colors. Altar of Dementia, Greater Good and Attrition are but a few of the powerful sac outlets you can utilize to great effect with a Threaten effect.

Overall, while it’s not a very powerful creature in most stereotypical Izzet-based strategies, the Dominus really shines in aggressive lists, most of which are outside of its colors. Taking the best creature on board and beating face with it every turn is just too strong to ignore.

#1 – Epic Experiment

Epic Experiment

This shouldn’t really surprise anyone; entire decks are built around this thing, and for good reason; it’s Izzet’s Genesis Wave. It takes all your silly win condition spells, such as Insurrection, Enter the Infinite, Bribery and other such shenanigans and just does the work for you by shoving them all in your opponent’s face.

Now, I haven’t had all that much experience with the spell, myself, but if my limited knowledge of advanced rulings is correct, this thing can just be played alongside Fork effects far and wide, so that if you hit something like Time Stretch along with multiple Fork effects, you’re able to copy the Time Stretch multiple times. This is something that really highlights just how powerful of a card Epic Experiment is, because while Genesis Wave got you a bunch of dumb, crazy monsters, if you weren’t in blue, you didn’t have access to Clone effects, so you didn’t capitalize on hitting a giant bomb that won you the game.

Irregardless, this card is absolutely insane in its own colors when you can just copy some insanely busted spell 2-3 times, and when you branch off into other colors, it just gets that much more powerful. (Storm Herd, Rise of the Dark Realms and Boundless Realms, for references.)

Now that we’ve gone over the non-legendary picks, let’s go over the top three legendary creatures in Izzet. You’ve probably guessed the top three already, because it’s very clear which are more powerful than others, but let’s get right into it:

#3 – Melek, Izzet Paragon

Melek, Izzet Paragon

Melek is very much the flagship spellslinger general for Izzet. (Don’t get me wrong, Tibor and Lumia also have a unique niche for the archetype, but they’re subtle about it, whereas with Melek, it’s very clear-cut.) Believe it or not, none of the other five Izzet generals interact with instants or sorceries, which is a bit of a shocking realization this far into Magic’s history. That being said, despite being the first, it does a damn good job of filling the niche it fills.

For those who aren’t aware, Future Sight is absolutely incredible card advantage. Restrictive versions can arguably be very awkward to play around, but trust me when I say, underestimate the power of just being able to play the top card of your library at your peril. To top it off, Melek copies the spells you cast off the top, meaning that you can get insane value off cards like Bribery or Blatant Thievery.

That being said, Melek is not without weaknesses. First off, a CMC of 6 is actually quite steep, and paying any more than 8 mana for Melek is a daunting prospect for how poor his stats in combat are for a 6-CMC creature. Secondly, the drawback to restrictive Future Sight variants is how opponents can see your plays coming. Wayward discard and aggro might be coming your way if you pack too many shenanigans in your deck, so be careful about such things as Ruination or Obliterate. That aside, Melek is an incredible creature, and the only one I’ve seen so far that can make Ignite Memories work in EDH.

#2 – Jhoira of the Ghitu

Jhoira of the Ghitu

Jhoira has a long-standing reputation of being one of EDH’s biggest nuisances. Whether it’s Decree of Annihilation, Obliterate or Jokulhaups, followed by Blightsteel Colossus or Tidespout Tyrant, Jhoira is equal parts predictable and annoying. While I don’t like playing against her, I very much see the necessity of cards like her for the format.

She functions a lot like Zur the Enchanter, where just being in the general zone keeps players on their toes. Cards like Azorius Guildmage and Aether Flash might end up being picked up in your meta simply because of how annoying Jhoira is. She poses a huge threat the minute she’s cast, and she’s played both with and against with extreme caution, just because of what might happen. A card like that, no matter how much I personally dislike it, is extremely powerful, and I have to give Jhoira the respect she commands.

#1 – Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that Niv-Mizzet tops this list. While I find his new incarnation, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius, far more interesting as a general, the fact that his original incarnation lends itself to so many on-the-spot wins is just too strong to not give him the number 1 spot. Plus, it’s Niv-Mizzet; would he have it any other way?

So, for those who don’t know, any effect that lets you draw a card when a creature deals damage works with Niv-Mizzet to loop triggers of drawing cards and dealing damage for as long as you like. The three cards to do this with are Curiosity, Ophidian’s Eye and Tandem Lookout. Most opponents will concede to the combo should it resolve, but if your opponents are smart, they’ll make you go through the process of killing them individually before you deck yourself. Usually, you just draw your entire deck and then cast Laboratory Maniac and Gitaxian Probe in tandem, backed up by every free-to-cast counterspell in the game, but sometimes your opponents will just have you win on the spot.

Now, before I continue, let me just chip in and mention that combos, while I respect their innate power and necessity, are not very fun to play against. While I think they’re great to win with, there is literally no fun whatsoever in having the power to end other people’s fun at a moment’s notice. I say this having cast a turn 3 Village Bell-Ringer into a turn 4 Splinter Twin in EDH; every time you infinite combo, God kills a kitten. For God’s sake, think of the kittens!

Irregardless of my distaste for them, combos are quite powerful, and Niv-Mizzet’s combo is classic, notorious, and by no means an exception to the rule.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Well, that’s my list of the top Izzet cards in EDH! Next week, I’ll be moving to Golgari!

Until then,
~L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2539

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Guidance:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2548

Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586

M14 –  http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508

Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2264

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617
Part 12 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2691

Let’s Talk M14:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2228

Let’s Talk Theros:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2362
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2378

Painting a Target:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2631

Planeswalking and You:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2184 

Resource Management:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2200

Stacking Up Commander 2013:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2561

The Slippery Slope:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2440

The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Orzhov - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2681
Rakdos - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2663
Selesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677

Trial & Error:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2089

FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – THE TOP SOLDIERS OF – ORZHOV

Happy New Year, readers! Apologies about the lack of a Christmas article; the holiday season decided to up and make itself ridiculously busy, between plans for family visits for Christmas, a League of Legends tournament I had to run over the weekend, and now being in the possession of both a Nintendo 3DS and Pokemon Y, I’ve been quite the busy fellow over the last week and a half.

That, however, doesn’t mean I’m not going to give you the sixth installment of the Top Soldiers Of series. This series covers my picks for what I feel are the most powerful legendary creatures and non-legendary spells in each multicolor combination.

This week, we begin our cycle of enemy-colored dual combinations with the death and taxes flavor of the combination of white and black known as Orzhov.

Orzhov’s general theme is being able to siphon life from your opponents and sacrifice creatures to achieve great things. As long as you’re able to pay the costs, you can get whatever effect your heart so desires.

White and black are colors that also lend themselves to great removal spells, so you’ll see a lot of stellar removal in the color combination. Another effect both white and black excel at is recursion, so you’ll see a few effects dedicated to that theme in the color combination as well.

There are a few other effects white and black are great at, but rather than explain at length about them, I’ll get right into the cards that I’ve picked as the most powerful in the combination:

#10 – Treasury Thrull

I admit, I was extremely psyched when Thrull was released. For one, I’m a huge fan of Sun Titan; it’s probably my favorite white card ever printed. I’m also, however, a huge fan of Extort as well, and while I’ve tried to jam the Thrull in every deck I could fit it in, I have to admit, the Thrull is a little too slow for my tastes. It doesn’t impact the board immediately when you cast it, which really isn’t great for a 6-drop, and it’s a combat effect on a creature with relatively subpar combat stats. By the time you get to 6, the green player will almost assuredly have cast their Sylvan Primordial, and this is a joke in comparison. However, the effect is strong enough to warrant inclusion, because if you get any more than one attack through with this thing, you’re golden, and it itself plays well with effects that can recur it or other creatures, such as Karmic Guide, Sheoldred, Whispering One and Animate Dead.

#9 – Necrotic Sliver

Necrotic Sliver is, on the surface, a ghetto Vindicate. It’s a Sliver, meaning it’s at home in a Sliver deck, but looking past its applications in a Sliver Overlord shell, Necrotic Sliver is one of two Slivers that can strike out and stand on its own without having to rely on its pals to get any significant work in.

By itself, it can kill anything for 6 mana, which is why it’s here. What gives it one small niche over Vindicate is that it’s a creature, and not only is it a creature, but it’s got a converted mana cost of 3, making it a Sun Titan target, but it’s got 2 power, making it a Reveillark target as well. It shines in recursion shells as a repeatable removal creature, and is one of two (the other being the aforementioned Harmonic Sliver from the last article) Slivers that has the ability to fit in a non-Sliver deck.

#8 – Mortify

Generally, 1-for-1′s are rather poor in EDH, a format where every resource counts and the resource game is swingy at best because board wipes are so common. Regardless, sometimes, you require the disruption that instant-speed removal provides, and when you want 1-for-1′s, you want the best of the best. Mortify definitely fills that niche, as it allows you to destroy enchantments as well as creatures, a much-needed ability in some board states.

#7 – Sorin, Lord of Innistrad

We go from a card featuring Sorin’s name in its flavor text to the man himself, the Orzhov Markov. Usually, Planeswalkers get a bad rep because of how easy they are to destroy, but Sorin here is an exception based on the principle of raw power. You’re getting tokens that are strictly better than Elspeth, Knight-Errant‘s, which by itself tells you how powerful Sorin is. Mind you, whereas Sorin is very much not at Elspeth’s power level, being able to create the emblems your opponent can’t remove can be just what the doctor ordered, and Sorin is strangely enough rather easy to protect and get to that ultimate, making him a very strong rattlesnake, preventing your opponents from making creatures happen when he hits that threshold, and just creating tokens and emblems until then.

#6 – Vindicate

(I had to use the promo art. It’s just better.)

Well, you knew this was coming. Vindicate is the poster boy for flexible spot removal in EDH, and while you and I both know how strong this card is, there really isn’t much to cover. It’s a catch-all, like Beast Within or Chaos Warp, held back only due to its price tag (and sorcery speed). If you can afford it, and you’re playing the colors, you should run it, but really, it’s extremely vanilla in nature, not exciting or thrilling to cast. You destroy anything. Woo hoo.

#5 – Divinity of Pride

Having cast both this and Serra Ascendant on the regular, I’m not going to lie and say I like the Ascendant more. The best-case for Ascendant is extremely easy to make happen, but unlike Ascendant, Divinity of Pride doesn’t really have a worst-case. At worst, it’s a 4/4 flying lifelink creature for 5. Wow, what an amateur. Most of the time you cast this, it’s going to be the largest creature on board, and it’s going to eat all your opponents’ dinky flying blockers while gaining you a ridiculous amount of life.

The biggest issue I find with Divinity of Pride is that it suffers from “pls destroy me” syndrome, and basically makes your opponents want to board wipe or spot remove it. That being said, the more of those types of cards you have, the better off your deck is, and Divinity of Pride is definitely one of the better ones you can cast.

#4 – Ashen Rider

I’m not going to cover both it and Angel of Despair at the same time, but there are a few points I want to make here, the first being how this beat Vindicate. Let’s just say, being a creature is a rather lavish luxury these days. There are few ways in black and white to consistently recur Vindicate, whereas a creature version is getting increasingly easier to make ridiculous in this day and age.

Reanimator decks all over will look to a card like this for not only its ability to completely dominate a board state, but for its ability to end games on its own. Sure, on the surface, 5 power in the air can seem weak in the land of Sylvan Primordials and 40 life, but don’t ever underestimate this thing’s ability to bury you. It’s by far one of the best rattlesnakes around, because nobody will ever want to kill this thing; its trigger will almost always take the best permanent of the player who killed it. There’s also the fact that you can just control a recursion outlet like Sheoldred, Whispering One and a sac outlet, and that’s when things get truly nasty.

Back to Angel of Despair; I feel Ashen Rider is the better card overall, but I understand a lot of people really like to lean on Kaalia of the Vast, and in there, you’ll definitely want the Angel, but in almost every other deck, you’d rather have Ashen Rider.

#3 – Merciless Eviction

I’m a huge fan of Final Judgment, if only because it says, “Hi, Sigarda, Host of Herons. I see you have a Shield of the Oversoul. That’s very nice. Please die now.” Eviction is the lovechild of Final Judgment and Austere Command. (though that raises the question of why Eviction is black…awkward.)

Exiling all creatures has a number of powerful applications; it’s nearly impossible to save yourself from (Ghostway or mass bounce saves you, but both lose you tempo, especially if you control Equipment, Auras or tokens), it gets around a number of extremely annoying abilities like hexproof and indestructible, and it derfs graveyard-based strategies if your opponents have a decent board state.

That’s not to take away from exiling all artifacts or all enchantments, however. Whereas Darksteel Forge and Greater Auramancy strategies are rare, they do still exist, and Eviction is their catch-all answer. Overall, the flexibility of Merciless Eviction makes it an extremely powerful sweeper, limited only by its colors.

#2 – Identity Crisis

Yes, Crisis has “douchebag” written all over it. Yes, Crisis is a biased pick for me. Yes, I’ve hit someone for over 40 cards with this once.

In a format where resource wars are won mainly through sweepers, making recursion and indestructibility extremely strong, Crisis steps in and does all the work for you by stripping your opponent down to their board, meaning that if you have a better board state than them, they just can’t answer you. Crisis can easily be an incredible blowout, getting key roleplayers exiled or just in general removing almost all of your opponent’s ability to fight back.

That being said, I will warn you – use this with caution. It’s a disgustingly unfun card to play against, and it can wind up attracting hate from more than your target (especially if you branch into any other color to gain access to spell recursion). Just be prepared to deal with the political fallout of casting it.

That being said, it’s absurdly powerful, and can sometimes just steal you games out of nowhere.

#1 – Debtors’ Knell

I know I mentioned in the Ashen Rider bit that being a creature is a luxury these days, but there’s one reason this card beats out Sheoldred, Whispering One (not that I’m saying you shouldn’t run both), and that’s because people want Sheolrded dead as soon as it hits the board, and the same goes for Debtors’ Knell. Being able to reanimate a creature every turn is just a stupidly powerful ability, and draws the attention of everyone at a table whether you want it to or not. Being an enchantment, in most cases, is better than being a creature when it comes to an effect you need to untap with to get the most out of, just because it’s statistically more difficult to remove.

What makes Debtors’ Knell unique is that it also can steal creatures from other graveyards, meaning that you have more flexibility if you’re the wayward target of a Tormod’s Crypt trigger or something of the like. Being able to steal Sylvan Primordial on its own makes the effect just gravy; most any ETB is just a juicy steal for you.

Unlike the ally color combinations, the enemy colors have much fewer options for legendary creatures, making the top 3 of each very clear-cut. Return to Ravnica definitely helped this dilemma, but still, the options remain few and far between, especially in Orzhov.

#3 – Triad of Fates

Yes, I’m a little biased on this one. I had to put Triad of Fates here over Obzedat because, while I understand 1v1 is a thing and Obzedat is very strong in that format, Triad of Fates is a breath of fresh air when the players had a mass outcry for “an Orzhov legend that didn’t involve you sacrificing creatures”.

I understand Triad of Fates is an extremely slow creature, but I still very much enjoy what it does. Being able to blink ETBs is generally not going to be as useful as removing whatever threat ails the board, but overall, there’s flexibility in not only flickering Ashen Rider, but exiling tokens to have Triad act as a pseudo-Skullclamp.

#2 – Teysa, Orzhov Scion

The top two are very obvious, but I believe Teysa is inferior to the #1 slot just because I feel Teysa’s much easier to shut down. She lends herself to a strategy where you overcommit tokens to the board, only to get swept and having to start back from square one.

That being said, Teysa’s got a very interesting theme about her, and very much lends herself to a black/white tokens strategy. She can Skullclamp every black little recursion superstar from Reassembling Skeleton to Nether Traitor to Bloodghast, make Spirit tokens, and then start sniping whatever problem creature pops up. Her issue is how much attention she attracts by not only creating several (flying, at that) blockers and Skullclamp food, but how easy it is for her to setup a soft lock on the board if she isn’t dealt with. For that reason, I believe smart players will just remove her on sight, and because of how much the deck relies on her, I feel she has games where if the opponents draw well enough, she falls flat.

#1 – Ghost Council of Orzhova

Ghost Council of Orzhova has been a mainstay in EDH since its printing. It’s very easy to pressure life totals, produce food and actually be a huge threat to the board at the same time while playing Ghost Council, and it does what most people enjoy in a deck – plays low-cost, high-impact goodstuff spells that can bury entire tables.

Ghost Council’s biggest draw is how easy he is to enable, meaning that when you build a list for him, you don’t need to dedicate too much spell slots to the theme of what your general does. This goes a long way in making Ghost Council the #1 pick, as unlike Teysa, who requires the ability to consistently generate and sacrifice both black and white creatures, you simply need to have another creature on board you don’t mind dying, unrestricted by color, meaning you can opt for a token strategy or a reanimator strategy (GCoO pairs very well with Ashen Rider, for example)

Another factor that lends to Ghost Council’s power is how ridiculously difficult it is to shut him down. If played properly and not completely shut out of the game, Ghost Council will never cost more than 4 mana to cast, as you’ll always have a token lying around to sacrifice to it. Also, a lot of non-budget powerhouses in both colors, such as Academy Rector and Bitterblossom, play extremely well with him, making him a great draw for competitive and casual players alike.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There you have it, everyone; my picks for the top Orzhov cards. Next week, I’ll probably do a Let’s Build, since I missed the Christmas article from last week, and I might just ask the public what they want me to build. If you have a suggestion, please feel free to message me over Facebook or Tumblr to see your deck built here.

Until then!
~L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2539

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Guidance:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2548

Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586

M14 –  http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508

Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2264

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617

Let’s Talk M14:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2228

Let’s Talk Theros:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2362
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2378

Painting a Target:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2631

Planeswalking and You:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2184 

Resource Management:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2200

Stacking Up Commander 2013:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2561

The Slippery Slope:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2440

The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Gruul - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2669
Rakdos - 
elesnya - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2677

Trial & Error:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2089

FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – THE TOP SOLDIERS OF – GRUUL

Greetings, readers, and welcome to the fourth installment of my Top Soldiers Of article series! In this series, I review what I believe to be the top 10 non-legends and the top 3 legends in each color combination. Remember that these are simply my opinions, and this article series is simply here to give you, the reader, some ideas of hidden gems you might have yet to discover for your EDH decks. This week’s article focuses on the combination of red and green commonly referred to as Gruul.

Gruul is very much about its creatures; it aims to overwhelm the opponent with large, aggressive, must-answer creatures turn after turn after turn. That being said, it also has a wealth of powerful spells and effects aimed at mass haste, mass pump, or the destruction of practically any permanent on board. Without further ado, let’s jump straight into the top 10 list. We begin with;

#10 – Wilderness Elemental

We start off this list with a rather unassuming creature; it costs 3, has 3 toughness, trample, an arbitrarily large amount of power, and is a really strong aggressive creature.

What makes Wilderness Elemental stand out is the pressure it creates. Being dropped on turns 2-3 can easily give it 4 or more power to start out with, already making it above the curve in most matchups. If your opponents don’t have a blocker for this, they’ll die very quickly to it.

Lategame, this thing can very easily skyrocket to upwards of 25 power for 3 mana, and if you have a haste enabler, you can really catch an entire table off-guard by dropping this little critter.

It’s true that 3 toughness is rather easy to punch through, but in a world where first strike is scarce and spot removal is even moreso, a multiplayer-inclined, a card like Wilderness Elemental thrives.

#9 – Clan Defiance

I have a huge soft spot for Clan Defiance. For one, any spot removal spell that’s a 2-for-1 or better automatically piques my interest. Secondly, if it has decent value at any stage of the game, that’s even better. But what makes it shine in my eyes is how good it is lategame at killing people. It’s the win condition spot removal spell!

There are often times when multiple permanents become threats to the table. For those instances, cards like Ashes to Ashes are very strong. I feel like Clan Defiance is a good comparison to a card like Ashes to Ashes. There are vast differences between the two cards, but they functionally do the same thing; kill things.

Clan Defiance is not without drawbacks. The biggest drawback it has is of course, Wild Ricochet just eats this thing alive. Protection also runs rampant in EDH, so being the colors of both Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Feast and Famine is a bit of a letdown. Regardless, the potential this has to end games and threats to the board alike is not to be ignored, and it still has insane value for just one card.

#8 – Domri Rade

Domri Rade, like his good friend Garruk, Caller of Beasts, is a planeswalker who merits inclusion in any deck for lending itself to a creature-centric strategy, all the while being easy to protect due to how many creatures a Domri Rade deck will tend to have.

Domri is also a very strong outlet for spot removal, and while Ulvenwald Tracker does the same thing, the Tracker doesn’t draw you cards, nor does it threaten an incredibly daunting board presence with an outright absurd emblem.

Having anything more than 2 power be dropped while that emblem’s in effect means your opponents are in for a world of hurt, and are virtually helpless to stop it. It’s not that easy to make work, but if you get a fast enough start, and can protect Domri long enough, the dream can easily be lived.

#7 – Sarkhan Vol

It may seem odd to have back-to-back Planeswalkers on this top 10, but Sarkhan Vol lends itself to a similar yet altogether different strategy from Domri Rade. It acts as both an off-and-on Glorious Anthem, while at the same time being a haste outlet akin to Thousand-Year Elixir, making it very potent in lists that contain things such as Priest of Titania. (I may or may not have put this card this high on the list because of a certain Elfball player)

My favorite part about Sarkhan Vol, however, has always been the Threaten effect. Control this and a Greater Good, and watch your opponent cry as you reap the rewards of their most powerful creature, generating your own resources while destroying your opponent’s most useful ones.

The ultimate is not to be ignored, though. Obviously, this was geared heavily towards running multiples, as paying 6 loyalty to make dragons and then dropping a second copy to give them haste very obviously ends games in 20-life formats, but the effect is very powerful alongside Doubling Season, and great in creature-count-matters lists such as Thromok the Insatiable.

#6 – Vexing Shusher

There’s only so much I can do to exemplify how biased I am towards this card, but I have to respect the more powerful options the color combination allows and keep myself humble by not making a rather hit-or-miss creature like the Shusher #1. Instead, it takes sixth place.

It does what it does, incredibly well – it keeps blue decks honest. There are board states that must be dislodged, and the Shusher does just that when you need it to. It makes sure that what you intend to happen happens. Such a creature is very easily for a player like me to get attached to.

It’s great offensively or defensively, whether you’re crushing the board with an iron fist and want to resolve your game-winning Primal Surge, or you just want to make sure your Blasphemous Act destroys their Consecrated Sphinx.

Also, I’m that much more partial to the card because I own a promo copy of it, and the watermark and foiling are just beautiful, not to mention how pretty hybrid cards’ coloring already is, especially red and green hybrids.

#5 – Deus of Calamity

The Deus is one of ten hybrid Avatar creatures from Shadowmoor and Eventide. It’s definitely one of the best ones of this cycle, as 6 power and trample for 5 mana is already a very strong deal.

What makes the Deus absurdly powerful, however, is its ability to snipe utility lands from people. This effect is very much telegraphed, but it creates a soft rattlesnake effect on the board; “Don’t let this guy do 6 damage to you if you want to keep your Reliquary Tower.” Aside from that, if you have any sort of pump or protection available to you, this thing can threaten the table with or without blockers. Good luck blocking this thing when it’s got a Sword of You attached to it.

#4 – Dragon Broodmother

I’m told by a lot of people that in a multiplayer format, Force of Nature is really good. While I think it has potential, and I’ve seen the card generate stupid amounts of tokens, I much prefer when those tokens fly and don’t cost 8 mana to generate. While more color-intensive, I feel Dragon Broodmother is the superior option to FoN.

The tokens it creates not only fly, but act as a sac outlet for all the other useless creatures you have, allowing you to create a rather large token that your opponent has to deal with. Not only that, but while they might have dealt with the token, they won’t always have also dealt with the Broodmother, who’s ready to give birth to more hungry hungry hellraisers to end you with. Overall, I’m a huge fan of what I feel is the superior multicolor Force of Nature as both a token monster and a win condition all its own.

#3 – Gruul Ragebeast

Gruul Ragebeast may seem like a card you’ll want to pass up at first glance, being a 7-mana dork without trample, but there are a lot of things to consider that make this card incredibly powerful.

First of all, it impacts the board immediately if it resolves. Being a 6/6 is a bit of a letdown, meaning it doesn’t survive fights with most behemoths of the format (but it does notably clip Consecrated Sphinx!), but it can still at the very least remove a valuable midrange creature or even just an annoying utility dork.

Second of all, every concurrent creature you bring out, including tokens, impact the board immediately when they enter. This can be a good or bad thing, because fighting a creature is not optional, but it does hilarious things with creatures like Sprouting Phytohydra (provided you can give it power somehow), Maelstrom Wanderer and Ogre Battledriver. Regardless, decks that run this can typically either stream nonstop fatties or just run this headlong into opponents and not care whether it lives or dies.

Third of all, effects like Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Akroma’s Memorial are downright hilarious with this thing.

Overall, Ragebeast has a lot of value, and it’s really easy to make work on top of that. It’s a bit of a biased pick, but I’m convinced people just haven’t caught on to how useful it is. It’s repeatable removal, being a 2-for-1 most times on its own and can be so much more than that if you have the right board state for it.

#2 – Dragonlair Spider

Don’t get me wrong – while I think Dragon Broodmother is more powerful outright, decks that want either will want both, and Dragonlair Spider just does more for those decks than the Broodmother does. Getting a token off every spellcast is more often than not going to equate to getting at least one token on each opponent’s turn, if not way more than that, and whether you’re dropping Goblin Bombardment or Triumph of the Hordes, you want quantity over quality.

What I also like about the Spider is that it has much better combat stats than the Broodmother, despite being on the ground, and it can also wall Consecrated Sphinx forever. There are little nuances that make the Spider better in decks that want either that or the Broodmother, but if you’re not working with creature numbers matter effects, the Broodmother is the more outright powerful card.

#1 – Decimate

I don’t think Decimate being at the top spot comes as a surprise to anyone. It’s perhaps the most powerful spot removal spell in the format, but with a rather innocuous restriction – you have to have the targets. Whereas at the time of print, the enchantment part was a little more difficult to make work, nowadays, between Gods and 7-mana kill-you enchantments, there’s a hearth of targets to destroy with this, and it’s not like Wizards is printing less bonkers enchantments these days.

Really, though, you can’t ask for more in a spot removal spell. It destroys everything. There are plenty of bomby targets for each mode, ranging from Caged Sun, Akroma’s Memorial and Memnarch to Sheoldred, Whispering One, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite and Consecrated Sphinx to Vicious Shadows, Omniscience and True Conviction to Maze of Ith, Gaea’s Cradle and Cabal Coffers.

Overall, the card will almost never be bad, and what’s more is that if you’re able to cast it more than once (through things like Eternal Witness, Anarchist or Charmbreaker Devils), you can start locking the board out of casting whatever mode has the fewest targets.

I have to admit, while the Gruul legends are flexible, most of them are frail at best, relying on their general to be effective. The three I’ve chosen are either independent of other cards to be effective, or powerful enough on their own to completely dominate the board. Without further ado, let’s begin with:

#3 – Radha, Heir to Keld

Radha graces the list for a number of reasons. The first is that she’s a 2-mana 2/2, hitting the board very quickly and threatening general damage very fast. (Trust me, I’ve tried; and while it failed miserably, being able to turn 2 kill someone with the god draw was just too tempting an offer to pass up)

The second is her creature type – Elf Warrior. While the latter is not nearly as notable, being a red and green Elf that adds mana is just too good to pass up for most players looking to add red to their Elf lists.

The third are her mana abilities. Like I said, I admit I’ve tried (just a little too hard, perhaps) to make the RR on attack translate to 21 general damage on turn 2-4 (and every time they print a new pump spell that gives 3 power for a single red mana, I just want to go back and try it again), but it hardly ever ends up doing anything but making Ezuri, Renegade Leader‘s Overrun effect cheaper. Being a dork herself also allows you to have some silly plays where you ramp yourself stupid into a turn 3 Sylvan Primordial.

Overall, I really like what Radha does, and while I’m guilty of trying the cheesiest all-in strategy with her possible, just writing this makes me want to try it again, because when it worked, it worked hilariously well.

#2 – Ruric Thar, the Unbowed

Ruric Thar is an extremely powerful creature that lends itself to the purpose of smacking control decks silly. They want to cast Wrath of God, they’re gonna pay. They want to cast Omniscience, they’re gonna pay. Basically, almost every solution to Ruric Thar involves pain for your opponents, and, if you’ve built around Ruric Thar well enough, pleasure for you.

Obviously, being forced into attacking every turn is the tradeoff, but being a 6/6 on turn 6 is very powerful, and in green, it’s very easy to get this out earlier than that, pressuring your opponents extremely quickly.

Also, having both vigilance and reach is great game as well, as it attacks with recklessness and blocks with impunity, being a valuable creature in combat. Suck it, Consecrated Sphinx!

#1 – Thromok the Insatiable

Well, I’ve mentioned him already in this article, and many of the cards in this article are very powerful in a Thromok deck, so if you’re surprised, I don’t know what to tell you. Thromok is extremely deadly and can very easily catch people off-guard, threatening lethal damage extremely fast, and with haste or trample (devour Anger and Brawn, For Value (TM)!), it can come out of nowhere to just end people.

Tokens are very easy to spawn in green, and in red and green, you have gems like Tempt with Vengeance, Artifact Mutation and Kessig Wolf Run to generate enough tokens to make Thromok lethal very easily. 5 creatures is all you need, but the more you have when you have trample, the harder it will be for your opponents to block it.

Of course, Thromok is not without its weaknesses. For one, you’re pouring your board into it, incentivizing removing it from the equation to exhaust your resources. Secondly, it’s a creature without hexproof that wants to attack, meaning Condemn and Maze of Ith will end its reign of terror.

Still, Swiftfoot Boots exists, and there are way too many enablers for Thromok to count. It’s a fun general to play, can take the route of either Warp World or Primal Surge, and can very easily be made competitive if you have the right money cards (Gaea’s Cradle prime among them). I’m just sad I don’t see more of the Hungry Hungry Hellion when I play EDH, because I have a soft spot for him, myself.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

There you have it; my top picks for Gruul. If you disagree with my choices, or if there’s a card you thought should have been on this list, please let me know. I very much appreciate feedback as always.

Next week, this series will continue on with the final allied dual-color combination, Selesnya.

Until then!
~L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2539

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Guidance:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2548

Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586

M14 –  http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508

Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2264

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617

Let’s Talk M14:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2228

Let’s Talk Theros:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2362
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2378

Painting a Target:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2631

Planeswalking and You:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2184 

Resource Management:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2200

Stacking Up Commander 2013:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2561

The Slippery Slope:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2440

The Top Soldiers Of:
Azorius - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2640
Dimir - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2653
Rakdos - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2663

Trial & Error:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2089

FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – THE TOP SOLDIERS OF – AZORIUS

Greetings, readers! Today I thought I’d introduce a series of lists of my picks for the best 10 non-legends and best 3 legends in EDH for each color combination. This will be a series I’ll finish in time, as I’ll still be doing my monthly Let’s Build segment, and I’ll take breaks to cover new content being released, but for now, I’m starting this series off with the first color combination according to the color wheel – Azorius.

Azorius is all about controlling the board through well-placed tempo spells, sweepers, life gain and card draw. The ten cards are what I feel are the most powerful cards in the color combination, so without further ado, let’s jump right into it:

#10 – Meddling Mage

Meddling Mage may be a bit outclassed by its enchantment cousin Nevermore these days, but there’s no denying the power of Chris Pikula’s invitational creation. Being able to outright ban a card from being played is extremely powerful, and in certain matchups, downright backbreaking. There are certain linear strategies that rely on key power players to win them the game, and denying them access to a specific one can really ruin your opponents’ attempts to subdue you.

Having a 2/2 body makes the card cost-efficient, and it lends itself to the colors of flicker and blink effects, allowing you to reset a specific card you Cyclonic Rifted away, allowing you to more accurately prevent shenanigans from your opponents.

#9 – Augury Adept

As restrictive as a card like Augury Adept is, I’m not going to lie and say I’m not a fan of what it does. Being an Ophidian that gains you life is huge game, and it lends itself to both Rogue’s Passage and Sensei’s Divining Top strategies.

There are certain strategies that will take advantage of the life you can gain from it and literally throw top-heavy players like Tidespout Tyrant or Enter the Infinite to try and cheese some insane lifegain triggers, but for the most part, just being able to gain 2-4 life every time it hits is pretty absurd value on its own. It’s obviously restricted by lacking evasion, but once you get past that, the card is pretty damn efficient. It’s also quite easy to enable.

#8 – Drogskol Reaver

Drogskol Reaver’s power is extremely obvious, and the card would be significantly more powerful if more power were thrown into it. Obviously, Standard would have been all over it in that case, but I feel like a 3/5 for 7, despite having double strike and evasion, at the end of the day just gets beaten in combat. Many fliers at this spot in the curve have enough power to strike the Reaver down and enough toughness to survive it as well. The notable exception is Consecrated Sphinx…which this card stacks extremely poorly against, anyway.

The power of the card is undeniable, however. Soul Warden and this just make music together, Sun Droplet means opponents will just never attack you again, and in an Oloro, Ageless Ascetic list, it serves as a fine finisher that generates you huge card advantage without having to do anything, really.

#7 – Detention Sphere

An Oblivion Ring is still an Oblivion Ring at the end of the day, and while vulnerable to spot removal and rewarding your opponents for casting sweepers. What Sphere does that one-ups its cousin is its ability to completely derf token strategies. This is by far one of the premium counters to Avenger of Zendikar out there, and seriously puts a hurtin’ on any Rhys the Redeemed list.

What I love most about the Sphere, like its cousin Oblivion Ring, is how great it is with a flicker effect. Being able to consistently zap armies of tokens at a time is pretty big game, and at worst, its flexibility to nab any problem permanent on the board is unignorable. If opponents stack Rhystic Study(ies) against you, feel free to punish them hard by offering your turn 3 rebuttal!

#6 – Render Silent

Render Silent does something I really enjoy in a counterspell – it does something other than simply countering a spell. While color-intensive, lategame, it’s one of the better counterspells in the game, as it stops combo in its tracks, Time Walks certain matchups, and prevents opponents from firing all salvos from a freshly-drawn hand due to something like Windfall, Rhystic Study or Wheel of Fortune.

In spite of its awkward casting cost, I’ve run it to decent success. It’s the counterspell that either stops a bonkers turn, therefore countering their entire turn, or in a counter war, it’s a must-answer counterspell. You can actually bait a decent amount of responses with this, which is something I really enjoy – making your opponents think.

#5 – Mistmeadow Witch

Mistmeadow Witch is by far one of my favorite creatures ever printed, and while it’s not the most outright powerful, it’s one of the better engines in a blink deck if only because of how inconspicuous it is. Opponents will never want to remove this out of it being threatening or overly powerful, but despite its low-key presence in any given board state, the things it enables make spot removing it perfectly fine.

I love that it’s also great fodder for both Sun Titan and Reveillark, the prominent engines of recursion for EDH, while at the same time enabling both of them.

#4 – Sphinx’s Revelation

Sphinx’s Revelation is a card equal parts extremely simple and extremely powerful. Obviously, Standard has taught us what an innocuous card this is, but honestly, it’s even more at home in EDH, when you have access to ridiculous levels of mana, and the lifegain is all the more relevant.

Obviously, the card is at home in control, but many control shells enjoy a draw X spell at instant speed, and Sphinx’s Revelation feels just better overall than Blue Sun’s Zenith. The lifegain is without a doubt more worth the reuse, and most decks that run Rev will also run either Mnemonic Wall or an effect akin to Elixir of Immortality.

#3 – Venser, the Sojourner

There is a bit of bias for me putting this above Sphinx’s Revelation. I’ve been on board with Venser since the moment he was spoiled at PAX the summer before Scars of Mirrodin was released. Obviously, those were the days of my flagrant abuse of Primeval Titan, and since moving on from then, I haven’t really utilized Venser, but that’s more about me hating UW than anything else.

Venser is incredible. For one, he blinks any permanent you own, meaning he’s great against Control Magic effects, and great the previously-mentioned Detention Sphere, among other ETB noncreatures (Halimar Depths is a great one). Making your army unblockable is great when you want to alpha-strike someone, and my favorite part about Venser’s emblem is that you can have more than one at once. It’s a scary, nigh-unbeatable effect to fight through, and if you have the right protection for him, not impossible to setup. With the advent of Dreadbore and Hero’s Downfall, it’s admittedly a little more difficult, but it’s by no means impossible to accomplish.

#2 – Azorius Guildmage

You might be a bit puzzled as to why a creature that’s not even remotely flashy or outright absurdly powerful ends up on this list as the second-best Azorius card ever printed. What most people don’t realize is just how absurdly unfair Stifle is to play against. Azorius Guildmage is Stifle on a stick. It’s mana-intensive, yes, but lategame, this card is an absolute monster. Good luck fetching. Good luck using that planeswalker ultimate. Good luck relying on your utility creatures.

That’s not to say tapping down opponents’ creatures doesn’t deserve merit. It deters aggro extremely well on its own, making sure key attackers can’t get through. Seriously, though, the Stifle on a stick thing is just absolutely ridiculous, and while it may seem weak in theory, in practice, the effect is just insane. Seriously, getting this thing online in the lategame makes it incredibly hard for your opponent to win. It can even fight through hexproof since activated abilities of permanents with hexproof don’t also have hexproof.

#1 – Supreme Verdict

Was there really any other option?

Supreme Verdict is literally the bee’s knees. Sure, it’s a little oversold because of its impact on Standard, being the only really relevant sweeper there, but in EDH, making your sweeper uncounterable is just stupid. Your opponent has no opportunity to protect their creatures. They’re just…dead.

Maybe it’s bias on my part. I know when the control player casts that Bribery, I sure as hell want to be destroying whatever they get. This is just so great at wrecking control’s marquis plan, when they just stuff their hands full of counters and sit on mana and a big dork to win the game with. Being able to dismantle their plans is just oh so satisfying, and while it may be a metagame thing, I feel the card’s the most powerful tool Azorius has at its disposal.

Now that we’ve gotten through the cards, I want to go over my picks for the top three legends in each color combination. Azorius is by far not my favorite combination, but I can’t just outright ignore how powerful some of its legends are.

#3 – Hanna, Ship’s Navigator

(I’m using this art because, let’s be real, a reprint with this Terese Nielsen beauty needs to be a thing yesterday.)

Hanna is in an awkward spot, in my opinion; while being an incredibly powerful creature, I feel that Hanna’s best use is in the 99, rather than being the general. That being said, using things like Wayfarer’s Bauble, Courier’s Capsule and Teferi’s Care to great effect is not to be ignored.

Lending herself to enchantress strategies is a given, I feel, but it really helps deter your opponents’ ability to dislodge your mass enchantment setup. Run alongside things like Luminarch Ascension, Sphere of Safety and Mystic Barrier, it’s possible to make a very powerful and very annoying Hanna deck.

#2 – Geist of Saint Traft

He’s one of the Hexproof Five. That alone might as well solidify his place as one of the game’s most powerful legends.

What I enjoy about Geist, however, are his applications in 1v1. He has done some pretty insane work being an efficient beater that can win the game completely on his own. Even at 7 mana, the Geist is worth it, and it’s insanely hard to kill if enabled by either a Sword or Rogue’s Passage.

One card I’ve always found hilarious to pair with the Geist, however, is Sundial of the Infinite. Make the Angel, and when it’s about to go away on your end step, turn the clock and keep your token!

#1 – Grand Arbiter Augustin IV

As much as I talk about the Hexproof Five being insanely powerful, reputable and feared, when talk of a powerful UW general comes up, there’s none more revered, more ubiquitous, more annoying than GA4.

There’s a lot of power in cheapening your spells. There’s that much more power in taxing your opponent’s spells. There’s an unignorable amount of value in tacking both of those abilities onto a 4-mana 3-toughness creature. The card will be worth its weight well into the late stages of the game, and is impossible to ignore.

I’ve been kicking around the idea of a GAIV list for myself, but there are some rather absurd Stax lists running around that disgust me. There’s playing GAIV as an insanely busted value general, and then there’s playing GAIV to lock your opponents out of the game. Never, ever cast a Trinisphere, or so help me, I will target you every single game I play against you out of sheer unwillingness to put up with those sorts of shenanigans.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

That’s my first Top Soldiers list! I hope I’ve generated some excitement for future installments, and perhaps given you ideas on filler spots for your multicolor decks!

Next I’ll be doing Dimir, the next combination on the color wheel, which will come next week provided a huge Magic announcement is made that I simply have to talk about. Until then!
~L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2539

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Guidance:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2548

Hits & Misses of:
Dragon’s Maze -http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870
Innistrad - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2586

M14 –  http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2295
Theros - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2508

Legen-Wait for It-Dary:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2264

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1606
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595
Part 3 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2214
Part 4 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2278
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2303
Part 6 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2310
Part 7 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2323
Part 8 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2336
Part 9 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2341
Part 10 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2525
Part 11 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2617

Let’s Talk M14:

http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2228

Let’s Talk Theros:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2362
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2378

Painting a Target:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2631

Planeswalking and You:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2184 

Resource Management:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2200

Stacking Up Commander 2013:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2561

The Slippery Slope:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2440

Trial & Error:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=2089

FABLES FROM KITCHEN TABLES – TOP TEN MOST HATED GENERALS

Greetings, readers, and welcome to another one of my opinion-based articles. Today I’ll be taking you through what I perceive to be the top ten most hated generals in our beloved format of EDH.

Whenever you sit down at a table to play, the first thing you’ll notice is the decks you’re up against. Usually, someone will have a tribal or token theme, amassing an army of creatures to pick you apart; a control deck, aimed at keeping the board honest until their card advantage gives them free reign to take hold of the table; a “color enabler” deck, playing some dumb infinite combo under the guise that the deck is based on the general at the helm, meanwhile the general is by far one of the worst generals of that color; and finally, the ramp deck, aimed at getting a bunch of mana to play big, flashy spells to take over games with.

But every now and again you’ll sit down with that guy. He won’t say much, he’s inconspicuous and unassuming, but you’re not fooled – you see what his plan is, and you know you and the rest of the table have to work together to stop it.

It’s because of the general he runs – it’s either competitive, degenerate, or in general unfun to play against. Nobody likes what it’s capable of, and in a matter of weeks, he’s dissuaded from ever trying the strategy again. He’s shunned for bringing such lunacy into a casual format, and he knows that if he tries it, he’ll be teamed up on and swiftly removed from the table just in the interest of actually getting to play Magic.

So what generals elicit this feeling best? Well, let’s start bottoms-up with:

#10 – Rafiq of the Many

Rafiq really isn’t that bad by himself, which is part of the problem – a lot of the generals that threaten large amounts of damage in a single combat step tend to be cured by tuck effects, but Rafiq has two very big bonuses in his favor – for one, he’s blue, so you get to play countermagic in order to halt any attempts an opponent will inevitably make to stop you. Secondly Rafiq himself doesn’t have to attack in order to trigger his ability.

Rafiq’s best friend is a Sword, and often times people will refer to Rafiq as the “tryhard aggro deck”. Being able to double-up on Sword triggers is absolutely nuts, and the ability to just destroy people one at a time with impunity is just disgusting. The protections Swords give make it difficult to interact with Rafiq, which makes the deck a massive pain to play against, and why it earns the #10 spot.

#9 – Kaalia of the Vast

It was admittedly difficult to choose between Kaalia and Edric, Spymaster of Trest as the “incredibly overdone aggro strategy”, but I think I have to give it up to Kaalia here. While I like attacking for 1 and drawing cards as much as the next guy, I don’t think any Spike, Johnny, or especially Timmy can resist the allure of sneaking in a turn 4 Iona, Shield of Emeria and follow up with Gisela, Blade of Goldnight next. The disgusting shenanigans this thing is capable of is both the best and worst part of its design.

The mere fact that certain cards like the aforementioned Iona, as well as Rakdos, Lord of Riots, Reya Dawnbringer and Master of Cruelties exist are perhaps the worst scenarios you will ever face when it comes to Kaalia – the uninteractive, the disgusting, degenerate starts that you can’t hope to recover from. When your opponents do that, you learn never to trust Kaalia. Ever.

#8 – Animar, Soul of Elements

Where do I even begin with this thing? I’ve personally tried to design a deck for the longest time as just a cute little value deck where I could play a bunch of silly bombs on the cheap. Then I imagined Wurmcoil Engine and before you know it the deck had everything from Soul of the Harvest to Myr Enforcer to Mycosynth Golem to every one-drop artifact in existence paired with Laboratory Maniac. To top it all off, I added Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, because hey, why not?

Oh, also, Peregrine Drake, Cloud of Faeries and Palinchron exist.

To put it bluntly, this card is impossible to fairly design a deck around. Every deck I’ve seen try ends up failing or just being unassuming enough to slam Craterhoof Behemoth for a million.

#7 – Azusa, Lost But Seeking

To be honest, I don’t really have enough experience with an attuned Azusa list. Many exist, but few people have ever cracked the code. (I chalk it up to it being one color, which scares a lot of deckbuilders. God forbid we don’t have the answer to everything when this is the deck that needs everything answered)

Why is Azusa this high on the list? Have you ever seen Mana Crypt into turn 1 Azusa, Ancient Tomb, Eye of Ugin, turn 2 Temple of the False God, Forest, Forest, and entwining Tooth and Nail to get Sylvan Primordial and It that Betrays? I realize it’s a bit of a stretch, but honestly, it’s far from impossible, and it’s incredibly difficult to answer a freaking turn 2 Eldrazi. It’s stupid what this deck is capable of with the right draws when it catches opponents with their pants down.

#6 – Grimgrin, Corpse-Born

Oh, good ol’ Grimgrin. Once Rooftop Storm lands, every Zombie under the sun gets disgusting with Grimgrin, particularly Gravecrawler:

-Gravecrawler sacrificed to Grimgrin makes Grimgrin infinitely large, and has infinite lifedrain with Blood Artist.
-Paradise Mantle means that you’ll generate infinite mana. Add Lich Lord of Unx for a double-up on infinite life loss and milling.
-Cloudstone Curio gives you infinite free ETB’s.
-Sedraxis Alchemist can be substituted in place of Cloudstone Curio for infinite spellcasts for Tendrils of Agony or Brain Freeze.

So, as you can see, Grimgrin earns his spot not only for being a deck infamous for having an infinite combo, but because of the sheer density of combos at its disposal.

#5 – Oona, Queen of the Fae

Oona, like Grimgrin, also tends to pack its fair share of boring infinite combos, but unlike Grimgrin, Oona doesn’t rely on one card to be useful. Just being able to make a critical mass of Faerie tokens by targeting the player playing the least amount of colors and exiling his deck is a rather toxic line of play.

In general, mill is a very frowned upon strategy, and at the helm of such a strategy is the queen of the fae herself. She bypasses almost every defense mechanism against mill just because she exiles the cards instead of putting them in your graveyard. Oona is a particularly unfun and dull general to play against, moreso because she has everyone’s least-favorite mechanic tacked onto her.

#4 – Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind

Niv-Mizzet is quickly becoming an iconic figure in Magic; easily the most memorable figure in Ravnica (#twoterms), and infamous for being one of the most telltale, yet still dangerous infinite combos in Magic.

Curiosity is perhaps the least powerful of the cards Niv-Mizzet can go infinite with. What bothers me about this strategy is that they keep printing cards that explicitly support it. Tandem Lookout clearly was designed with Niv-Mizzet in mind, and why Ophidian Eye was ever given Flash, I’ll never know. Just know that every EDH player who doesn’t play infinite combos doesn’t like infinite combos, and you’re a jerk for playing them, especially one as dull and dreary as this.

#3 – Sharuum, the Hegemon

Honestly, Sharuum is one of those decks that has the propensity to run a million infinite combos just because it’s in the three best colors to do so. Slamming Sculpting Steel with Blood Artist or Disciple of the Vault is just too easy.

My real difficulty with this deck is how resilient it is. Sharuum can just recover its combo with impunity by replaying Sharuum and using Venser, the Sojourner or Deadeye Navigator to blink her, eventually returning every artifact in their yard to play and comboing off regardless of the fact that you cast that sick Shattering Spree that got their whole board two turns earlier. The resilience of this deck disgusts me, which is why Sharuum earns her place here.

#2 – Jhoira of the Ghitu

Honestly, I could write novels about just how much I utterly despise this card. This would probably be at the top of my hit list of “Cards I Wish WotC Never Printed“, and I had to hear about Caw-Blade in Standard. Seriously, Jhoira is just that annoying. By my seething hatred of the card alone, it’s #1 in my eyes, but I think overall it’s not as annoying as my #1 pick.

It’s a combination of a lot of things about Jhoira that bother me:

1) It costs 3. It’s a cheap, must-answer card whose effect will be worth it even after multiple casts.

2) It’s very easy to just stack Obliterate with an Eldrazi. Just the predictability of it alone is enough to make me want to gauge my own eyes out, much less the lack of interaction involved.

3) In addition to suspending sweeper + super bomb, some shells go super douche and add Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir combos or Hive Mind combos and either lock opponents out or straight up force them out of the game. Such lines of play are just ridiculously unfun to play against.

Just a word of advice: Don’t play Jhoira against me. I will kill you first. Swiftly. Unmercifully.

#1 – Grand Arbiter Augustin IV

Towering above all else is the absolute pinnacle of tryhard decks, in the most tryhard colors, with the most tryhard effect ever.

It’s great value, I can’t lie.

What I can’t accept about GAIV is the fact that it just makes games against it fun for the player who controls GAIV and the player who controls GAIV only.

Decks can abuse the effect GAIV applies by creating ridiculous Stax strategies like Trinisphere or Smokestack to really just shut entire games down.

I mean, honestly, GAIV could have been printed without its last line of rules text and it would have been absolutely fine. With the clause of taxing your opponent’s spells, however, it transforms from an efficient value creature to an absolute headache that turns all of the focus of a game on killing GAIV and making sure it never hits the board again. I don’t know why such creatures are allowed to exist, but I digress.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

So there you have it, that’s my view of the top 10 most annoying generals!

Until next week!

-L

Check out my previous articles here:

Adapting to EDH Metagames:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1177
Part 2 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1252
Part 3 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1317
Part 4 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1370
Part 5 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1454

Building on a Budget:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1522

Choose Your Champion:
Part 1 - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1594
Part 2 – http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1868

Dragon’s Maze Prerelease Weekend:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1810

Hits & Misses of Dragon’s Maze:
http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1870 

Let’s Build:
Part 1 – Melek, Izzet Paragon - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?
p=1606
Part 2 – Sunforger - http://thecgrealm.com/wordpress/?p=1595

Turning Bad Cards Good

One of the ways that EDH most differs from other formats is the variance in decks.  Two decks with the same commander, and even playing the same strategy, can have very different cardlists.  Because of the singleton nature of EDH, deckbuilding has a lot of levers, pulleys, and knobs for you to fiddle with.  You can ask anyone experienced with the format – a deck is never “done”, so even the same deck can have a very different cardlist, given enough time.
Though you will always have your “staples”, or even your own personal “pet cards”, these cards don’t truly give each deck its’ own unique identity.  The staples are ubiquitous to the format (for a reason – they’re great), and you can find those in many peoples’ decks.  Your own “pet cards” are what you’ll put into a lot of the decks you build. and although they will give you a personal deckbuilding style, it doesn’t give an individual deck it’s own personal flavour – these cards are in a lot of the decks you build (I, for example, fit Ashes to Ashes, Liquimetal Coating, and Asceticism in pretty much every deck that they make sense in).  What really makes EDH such a unique deckbuilding experience is that sometimes, you can make a “bad” card “good”.  Every now and then, you will find the perfect place to put that “jank rare”, or better yet, forgotten common or uncommon, and make it not only a useful cog, but an integral part of your decks’ strategy.  Sometimes, even, you’ll be able to “break” the card.  To me, as a deckbuilder, being able to do this is a very rewarding experience.  It keeps me searching for the next “bad” card to break. Though you can fit these cards in any deck – to varying degrees of success – you’ll most often find “bad cards” in decks led by more obscure generals.  Some of the most common generals have fairly set cardlists, even when not “net-decking” – some cards just make common sense to include with a particular strategy.  It “just makes sense”, for example, to use Skullclamp in a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck, for example.  You often have to search deeper, though, to find cards that work well with some generals, and when you’re able to find a card that you never see anyone else play, you get a little “rush” – that is, if you’re a “Johnny” player like me (a “Johhny” player is a player who enjoys combo-ing cards en route to victory).  Also, you will often find “bad” cards in decks headed by “Johnny”-style generals, like Experiment Kraj or Nin, the Pain Artist.  Generals like this are catalysts for combos, and with 15,000+ unique cards, there are just so many ways to get there.

What is a “bad card”?

When I say “bad card”, I don’t mean cards that are usually considered “limited fodder”, such as Angel’s Mercy.  “Bad Cards” don’t even have to be particularly “bad”.  A “bad card”, to define it for the purposes of this article, is a card that you will see almost no one ever run in their decks.  In most cases, they don’t have the raw power, size, or versatility to be considered for normal inclusion in a deck.  These cards are the polar opposite of “staples” – that is, cards you’ll see so often you just have to see the art or hear the name to know exactly what it does (Sensei’s Divining Top comes to mind).
No, a “bad card” is a card that you’ll have to show around the table a few times when you play it, and you’ll often see the confused faces of your opponents as they wonder why anyone in their right mind would include it in a deck.

Why Run a ‘bad card”?

So why would you ever run a card that no one uses?  I mean, there are thousands of EDH players (maybe more) – shouldn’t conventional wisdom tell you that if you never see someone use a card, it is for a good reason? Maybe.  But perhaps there’s a method to your madness.

The first reason to run a “bad card’ is because it fits just perfectly with your strategy.  Somehow, through a series of flukes, you’ve stumbled upon a forgotten card from a long-gone set that fits your strategy perfectly.  In fact, you can’t imagine playing your deck without running this hidden gem of a card.  This is my personal favourite use for a “bad card”, because through your own discovery, you’ve found the perfect way to make a bad card good.

You’re the card whisperer.

Next, there’s is the argument for having more variety in the format.  Since EDH was re-branded as Commander and officially supported by Wizards of the Coast, it has exploded in popularity.  This format has resonated with casual players, bringing people back to the time when they played “kitchen table” magic.   A time when they weren’t concerned with mana curves or optimization.  Most of the time people didn’t even have a “playset” of their favourite or most powerful cards – this, too, became a selling point for Commander; EDH made “having a playset” irrelevant.  Still, as always happens in the Internet Age, discussions raged online about the “right” cards to play, or which creature to play over another, to the point where net-decking, once abhorred and vilified by the EDH community, has become a reality.

Net-decking in a singleton format isn’t evil, in a vacuum.  It takes some time to accumulate the card knowledge necessary to effectively build decks, and getting a helping hand by seeing how other people have built their decks is an incredibly useful resource.  Still, it seriously reduces the variety of cards used in gameplay, and variety to gameplay is one of EDH’s biggest draws.  Using “bad cards” can help increase the variety once again.  There will always be “staples”, but trying to include both the obvious and the obscure is an interesting deckbuilding exercise, not to mention that it allows you to provide an artistic touch.

Another consideration towards the use of “bad cards” is the cost.  Simply put, bad cards are cheaper.  It’s supply and demand – if nobody else but you wants the card (except in unique circumstances) you can usually pick it up very, very cheaply.  If it’s a rare (or mythic rare), you can likely find it for less than a dollar, or in the “bulk rare” bin.  If it’s a common or uncommon, you can likely pick it up for less than what you’d find in your couch cushions.  In fact, at this point, the biggest problem you might have is finding anyone with one to trade or sell, because no one in their right mind would ever need this card that you’re looking for.

Finally, flavour is an important aspect to a lot of deckbuilders, even if it’s only strategic flavour (your strategy, or theme, that you build your deck to convey).  Some people like certain artists, and will gravitate towards cards done by them.  I know a Richard Kane-Ferguson fan who insists on running Arcane Denial over any other counterspell (though she insists it’s for political purposes, there seems to be a lot of RKF art in her decks.  I’m suspicious).  Maybe in a tribal deck, you’d rather run something more in tribe vs. something objectively better that is out-of-tribe, like Treefolk Harbinger over Worldly Tutor (Treefolk tribal, as this case may be).  Yes, you may get some power-level boosts by the inevitable Lords in your deck, but by choosing the Harbinger is objectively a worse decision – the tutor can grab any creature at instant speed, while the Treefolk can only get you a Treefolk at sorcery speed (though it can also get you a Forest – next draw – green rarely has trouble ramping, so a next-turn Forest isn’t nearly your best option).  Still, power level aside, I’d choose the Harbinger over the Tutor in a Treefolk Tribal deck any day – it’s got style, and you’ll feel so cool.

How Should I Choose Which Bad Cards to Use?

Choosing which “bad cards” to use is entirely subjective.  Personally, I tend to use cards that fit within my strategy, so any of the suggestions that I’m about to give will be slanted towards that consideration.  Still, what I do is look through old collections of peoples’ cards.  Look through old sets as well, and I don’t ignore commons and uncommons that could possibly have a use.  I keep an eye out for something that “speaks to me” as a deckbuilder, and my mind is always evaluating how I could use – and abuse – a card.  With this mindset, finding your next “hidden gem” will be easy.  I try to incorporate something akin to a ‘bad card” in every deck build (I try for many, actually, but you get the idea).  It isn’t always possible; some of the cards I find a use for, while not commonly seen, still aren’t “unheard of”.  Still, here’s some examples of cards I use, to give you an idea of what to look for and how to use them.

Deck: Experiment Kraj

Experiment Kraj is one of those generals where no two decks will be identical.  You could play it entirely as a combo deck, you could play it as merely a deck that synergizes very well, or you could play it as a general-damage deck.  Generals that can be played in a variety of ways are the decks where “bad cards” can Thrive.
See what I did there?  Clever, no?
Thrive is a card that isn’t great, but coupled with Kraj, it can take your general from 0-60 in one turn.  A deck built around [cardExperiment Kraj[/card] will likely have a lot of creatures with activated abilities, and Thrive allows you to get all of those abilities (and the abilities of your opponents’ creatures) all onto Kraj in one turn.
For a Kraj deck that wants to do more general damage, Trespassing Souleater is an incredible card.  Though you see a lot of unblockable creatures in EDH, especially in a deck like Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Trespassing Souleater is in a position to be indispensable to Kraj with his unblockability (it’s a word!)[ediors note: NOPE, but i'll let ya have it] being an activated ability, made doubly useful by the fact that if you’re short on mana, you can still activate it.  Coupled with some of the other cards you might use in a general damage Kraj deck (Gilder Bairn, Anthroplasm), and it could lead to some lethal general damage very quickly.
In a more combo or synergistic-based Kraj deck, I’ve found that nothing “sets it off” like giving Kraj the ability (preferably activated) to untap.  Cards like Morphling and Seedborn Muse are pretty standard fare in this category, but Soliton is a decent budget alternative.  Better yet, Devoted Druid will help “break” your deck.  Devoted Druid is pretty unassuming by itself – it’s really just an interesting “mana dork”.  The fact that you can untap it by placing a -1/-1 counter on it will be incredible in a Kraj deck.  First, it’s a mana accelerator, something that is always useful in EDH.  If you place a +1/+1 counter on it, suddenly Kraj is a mana dork as well.  Now, in an Experiment Kraj deck, +1/+1 counters are generated quite frequently.  Since -1/-1 counters and +1/+1 counter annihilate each other, you will start getting into ‘shenanigans’ territory quickly.  You could either start adding a large amount of Green mana to your mana pool (for a large X spell, or sneaking out a big creature quickly), or you can start using the activated abilities of other creatures with counters on them and untapping Kraj for only the cost of a -1/-1 counter – that is, if you don’t already have +1/+1 counter on him.
As you can see, I’ve named 3 cards, each common or uncommon and under a quarter, that can win you the game in (and likely only in) an Experiment Kraj deck.  You might think that it points more towards Kraj being a good, easily synergistic general than towards proving my point that you should include “bad cards” in your deck.  If you think that, then you have a bad attitude, but I’ll try to further explain.

Deck: Darien, King of Kjeldor

Darien, King of Kjeldor is a deck that begs to use bad cards.  What can be worse than a card that hurts you?  Who would use such terrible cards?
For the glory of the King!  Play him as soldier tribal, token tribal, flat out tokens, pure politics, or anything in between.
Though you’ll often find cards like City of Brass in a lot of decks, running it in a mono-coloured deck seems pretty bad, right?  Not when each time it taps for mana, it also gives you a 1/1 Soldier too (for those of you who don’t know the “tech” of a Darien deck, the typical play is to run Soul Warden-like creatures.  To spell it out, tap City of Brass, add W to your mana pool and deal 1 damage to you, a soldier comes into play due to the damage, and you immediately gain that lost life back with the Soul Warden.  Works for anything but lethal damage).  Further add to your self-inflicted damaging mana base by adding in the often seen Ancient Tomb and Mana Crypt (not bad cards by any means), and the objectively bad (except maybe in a 5-colour deck needing mana-fixing) Grand Coliseum, and you have a good start to your army.
Okay, so what else can help you damage yourself?  The problem with Darien is that once he’s out, your opponents stop attacking you until they can answer him.  Why not force an attack?  Cards like Bullwhip, Arcum’s Whistle, and Angel’s Trumpet do just that.  Bullwhip and the Whistle, if used strategically, can coax a creature important to your opponent to attack you (you will ensure they survive by allowing the damage through vs. your mutual opponents, who will likely lethally block that creature), and Angel’s Trumpet forces everyone to attack always, and if they don’t, it damages each player (a bonus for you, no matter how you look at it).
Also, another piece of tech that is great in a Darien deck and almost no other is Jade Monolith.  With this card, you can take on all damage done to any creature onto yourself.  This allows you free attacks with your creatures (if they’re blocked, you can prevent the damage on both side, only growing your army), but in general, it tends to slow down the game, stalling attacks.  This is also good for mono-White, who can use this time to set up the chessboard while waiting for the right time to strike.

Deck: Sygg, River Cutthroat

Similar, but quite different than Edric, Spymaster of Trest, Sygg, River Cutthroat can play in very different ways: aggro, control, or both at the same time (these are the standard ways – don’t let that limit you).  If you want to build a Sygg “Grouphug” deck, I’d like to play against it).  In any case, some cards are fully primed to take full advantage of Sygg’s triggered ability, and they can find their way into any deck he heads.  Though useful in other decks (more so than some of the cards mentioned so far), they really shine in a Sygg deck, and point to the deckbuilding theory of “building to a strategy” (as opposed to “building to a theme”).
Undermine is a perfect card for a Sygg deck.  Getting the ‘magical’ 3 life needed to draw a card is fairly easy on your turn (using evasive or unblockable creatures like Latch Seeker or Creeping Tar Pit), but triggering that effect on other players’ turns can sometimes prove problematic.  Undermine is one of the best ways, and is a great inclusion in the deck.  You don’t see it in many decks because, lets face it, there are so many better counterspells out there.  This one serves double duty in giving you control while also triggering your draw clause.  For the same reason, Clutch of the Undercity is a card that will only find it’s true home in a Sygg deck.
With Sygg, a lot of the ways you will deal damage will either be incrementally or as a punisher effect.  Towards this end, cards like Blood ReckoningEssence Vortex, and Vile Consumption (also great in a Vela the Night-Clad, as pointed out by a good friend of mine) will all get you to the 3 life barrier.

And finally for today:

Deck:  Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer

Slobad, Goblin Tinkerer is the king of making bad cards good.  There are a lot of artifacts that, though they have a big effect on the game, don’t get played because they’re too easy to destroy.  In a Slobad deck, though, those artifacts can easily become indestructible, greatly increasing their value and allowing you to run cards you otherwise wouldn’t. Eternity Vessel is a card such as this.  I remember when it first came out, you’d see a lot of people play it.  That is, until it always got blown up by your opponents.  Making it indestructible at whim, though, makes it incredibly difficult for your opponents to kill you.  The same goes for Platinum Angel.  Ichor Wellspring, Mycosynth Wellspring, and Spine of Ish Sah especially are all powerhouses in this deck.  Your general is a sacrifice outlet for artifacts besides just being an artifact protector.  Besides giving you an enter the battlefield advantage, each of these provides fuel to make your other important artifacts indestructible, and gives you an advantage when they go to the graveyard as well.  Being able to effectively reuse Spine of Ish Sah is incredibly satisfying, I can tell you from experience.
People skip over Prototype Portal because of the inherent card disadvantage that comes with it.  If you can make it indestructible, it seems like a pretty great card, actually.  Imprint a Solemn Simulacrum on it, and get continual mana ramp, card draw, and indestructible artifacts,  Imprint an Ichor Wellspring, and you have one of the most efficient continual card-drawing engines in the game, not to mention, again, more indestructible artifacts.  The list goes on – Wurmcoil Engine, Myr Battlesphere, even Myr Sire – all are great to imprint on an indestructible Portal.
Finally, a “pet card” of mine.  Aladdin comes from a time when Magic used real-world mythologies for their settings.  Though not a bad card by any means, a single kill spell or boardwipe can reverse a few turns of invested mana, and so you don’t see Aladdin run much.  In Slobad, though, he’s perfect.  Since your general is a sacrifice outlet for artifacts, your opponents know that they won’t be getting their artifacts back when Aladdin dies.  Instead of merely a nuisance, Aladdin becomes a real threat, comparable to Aura Shards in a way, especially when you also likely have Liquimetal Coating and Mycosynth Lattice in your deck as well.

Bad Cards in Good Places

As you can see, every card in your deck doesn’t have to be a $10 Mythic Rare to be effective.  Though you will definitely have your money/power cards, from a deckbuilding standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to try and include some cards that don’t normally see play.  Even if it’s just because you like the small effect a card provides, or its’ versatility, or even just the art, it provides a personal touch to your deckbuilding experience that can’t be duplicated.  Don’t be afraid to explore older sets and experiment – it’s entirely possible that you will find that “janky” card that you will be able to break wide open.  Even if you don’t, enjoying the hunt is half of the fun.

Until next time, keep turning cards sideways.

Tyler
If you have any questions, comments, or have any suggestions for any Commander-related articles you’d like to see, feel free to contact me at tyhartle@hotmail.com

The Top Ten Planeswalkers in EDH

Since their inception to the game in Lorwyn, Planeswalkers have made an impact in every format.  Though initially thought to be a “once in a while” thing by Wizards’ R+D, they’ve proved to be so popular, both as characters and as cards, that each block sees at least 5 new Walkers.  A Planeswalker coming into play can take total control of the game, often having an immediate impact as soon as they’re cast.  Some have reached incredible prices (Remember when Jace, the Mind Sculptor was around $100?  What?  He’s back there again now?), and some have been fantastic failures (poor Tibalt, the Fiend-Blooded…).  Even now, before the release of a set, you’ll often see Planeswalker cards have the highest pre-order values online.  Yes, it may be hype, but there’s something to be said for a card type that can get players so excited for a new set.
In EDH, Planeswalkers have a place in almost every deck.  You just have to remember that in a multiplayer format, they must be protected much better than in a 1 vs. 1 game.  Chances are, you’re probably not going to get to use their Ultimate abilities (Doubling Season shenanigans aside), so you have to choose which Planeswalker fits into your deck on the merits of all it’s abilities.  The following list was compiled grading each Planeswalker on their abilities, their casting costs, how many decks they fit into, how they affect the politics of the game, their survivability, and by many more metrics (you should have seen my spreadsheet – it was all sciency-looking).
Without further adieu, we will now rank the Top Ten Planeswalkers in EDH (as of Gatecrash).

 

Number 10

Love him or hate him, Sorin Markov won’t be leaving the format any time soon, so you might as well get used to it.  Though his 3BBB casting cost restricts the number of decks he can go into (mercifully, according to some), even some three-colour decks that include Black will put him in a card slot for the immediate impact he has on the the game.  He won’t often live to see any of his abilities activated a second time, his -3 ability has been the cause of a lot of pain and discussion about the card’s use in the format.  I won’t speak to that (abilities like that are incredibly divisive, and I’ll save that for another column), but I will say that it sometimes serves a useful purpose – if a player is playing a lifegain deck, things can get out of hand, and Sorin Markov  helps keep them honest.
Sorin’s +2 ability is usually relevant enough, taking out some useful utility creature or small general, and it is hard to counter.  Combined with the outside chance of using his Mindslaver Ultimate (though very rarely, as most will use his -3 ability on another player, given the chance), and you can see why Sorin easily earns a place into the top 10.

Number 9

The only reason Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker isn’t higher on the list is because of his casting cost.  Not only does he have the highest casting cost of any Planeswalker ever printed, with a converted cast cost of 8, his colours limit him to either Grixis (which doesn’t have many choices, general-wise) or 5-colour decks (also suffering from a lack of Legendary creatures).
Each of Bolas’ abilities will have an immediate impact on the board – he is the definition of a bomb, even in EDH.  If the game being dominated by a Legacy Weapon or Debtors’ Knell?  Use Bolas’ +3 ability and ruin someone’s plans.  Having trouble with a indestructable Darksteel Colossus or are you about to die to that 50/50 trampling Omnath, Locus of Mana?  Use his -2 ability and turn the tide of battle.  And if he survives long enough, his ultimate severely cripples a player.  Yes, his casting cost is restrictive, but his survivability, immediate usefulness, and the level of control he provides more than make up for it.  If you can run Nicol Bolas in your deck, you probably should.

Number 8

Since he got printed a few years ago, I have never seen anyone go ultimate with Tezzeret the Seeker – and yet he is still included in a lot of decklists.  That shows you the utility of his first two abilities.  Tezzeret is most often used for his “-X” ability.  Right after you cast him, you can tutor any artifact with converted casting cost four or less directly into play – let’s not discount how useful that can be, as most tutors go to your hand.  This allows you to search for that combo piece or necessary piece of protective equipment in a way that’s hard to counter.  Need mana?  He fetches you Sol Ring and survives, not to mention the artifact lands are “free” for him to tutor into play (Seat of the Synod).  Need card draw?  He gets  Skullclamp and survives.  Don’t need anything in particular?  You can always get Sensei’s Divining Top.
His +1 ability is also very useful.  After he’s already tutored something into play, he’s generally pretty low on loyalty counters, and is also low on your opponents’ priority list – the damage is done, and he won’t again be a threat for a couple of turns, yet.  This allows you get some extra mana out of those mana artifacts you just tutored into play, or gives pseudo-Vigilance to two of your artifact creatures to protect himself.
His all-around usefulness and in-game survivability makes him an unsung all-star amoungst the Planeswalkers.  If your deck has artifacts, and let’s face it, your
deck has artifacts, then Tezzeret is the Planeswalker for you.

Number 7

Speaking of utility Planeswalkers, here we have one of the Lorwyn first five.  Out of all the Planeswalkers I’ve seen hit play, Garruk Wildspeaker is one that seems to stick around.  If he is killed by your opponents, it’s almost an afterthought.  This is a mistake on their part.
Garruk is a very versatile Planeswalker.  He’s slow – that is, his counters don’t move up or down very quickly, and this gives your opponents a false sense of security.  His real use is his mana-acceleration capabilities.  Untapping two lands a turn doesn’t seem like much, but mixed with other mana acceleration, it can get you far ahead pretty quickly.  Later on, untapping those two lands becomes a bigger deal when you have Mana Reflection in play, or one of the Ravnica Karoo lands (Selesnya Sanctuary).
Though his -1 ability doesn’t see much use, it allows you to protect Garruk for free post-boardwipe, which already puts you ahead of your opponents.  His Ultimate, is deceptively powerful.  Since Garruk often survives longer than most Planeswalkers, the chances of you seeing his Ultimate are actually pretty good.  In certain strategies, like Voltron or Tokens, it can be a game ender, and it is hard to counter.  Though it’s on the battlefield, he’s a win condition that hides in plain sight.
Garruk isn’t flashy or exciting, but his versatility and his ability to be played in almost any deck earns him a spot on the list.

Number 6

I remember drooling when I first saw this card spoiled – that Ultimate was just juicy.  Her pre-order price tag of $40 told me other people thought the same.  Yet, as Return to Ravnica was released, her price plummeted.  Standard decks just couldn’t play her (much), and Modern and Legacy wouldn’t even give her the time of day.
EDH loves you, Vraska the Unseen.  You can hang out with us.
Vraska protects herself more fully that any other Planeswalker has before.  Using her +1 ability almost makes her invulnerable, except for the person who decides to throw some sacrificial lambs at her.  Where she really shines, though, is her -3 ability.  Destroying any non-land permanent is incredibly useful, but it also creates a mini-game – when you use this ability.   That is to say, this is when your opponents can safely damage her, so you have to choose your moments wisely if you want her to stick around.  On top of that, you can immediately use this ability when she comes into play, and she survives quite nicely afterwords.  Finally, her Ultimate, though fragile, is still relevant.  There’s lots of ways to give your creatures Trample (pumping them first), or make them unblockable.  Vraska can be seen as a win condition by herself, something most Planeswalkers can’t claim.
She’s in a popular colour-combination (especially after Return to Ravnica), Vraska can survive even with no creatures to protect her, and she’s immediately useful.  She makes the cut.

Number 5

The very first (retroactive) Emblem-maker, Elspeth, Knight-Errant has everything you’d like a Planeswalker to have.  She protects herself with her +1 ability, putting a chump blocker into play.  She allows you to go on the offensive with her other +1 ability, making a creature larger and evasive for an attack which is very useful for Voltron decks.  If you can pull off her Ultimate, you can reasonably expect to win the game.
For a Planeswalker that takes 5 turns to be able to use her Ultimate, I’ve seen someone get that Emblem more often than you’d think.  It could be because she has no minus abilities besides her Ultimate, so you have no choice but to only go up with her loyalty counters.  It could be that she protects herself while doing so.  It could also be the kinds of decks people tend to run her in are good at protecting her.  Or it could just be my meta.  In any case, Elspeth makes a spot for herself on the list for her survivability en route to a game-changing ultimate.  Once she hits the board, your opponents know that they’re on a clock, one they can’t always run out.

Number 4

Was there any doubt that big Jace, the Mind Sculptor would be on the list?  Probably the most versatile Planeswalker printed (and really, it’s hard not to be versatile when you have so many abilities available right away), some may even wonder why he’s not higher on the list [editor's note: I am wondering].  Each of his abilities that you can reasonably expect to use are useful in EDH, but none are game-changing (unless you’re able to use them over and over again) – it’s the fact that you have so many options that he even ranks as high as number four.
Have no illusions – you will never go Ultimate with big Jace, in EDH.  Not even with Doubling Season (disclaimer: it could conceivably happen, but it’s very, very unlikely, so you should never count on it).  As soon as he hits the board, you have one, maybe upwards of three turns before he’s targeted.  The fact is, though, that you can do some damage with him in the meantime.
His +2 Fateseal ability isn’t great, unless you get stuck in a mana clump/shortage, or need to dig for answers.  The only time it has a real effect on the game is when someone is leaning heavily on their Sensei’s Divining Top, or they tutor to the top of their library at sorcery speed (which they likely won’t do with the Mind Sculptor in play).
His +0 ability is where he really shines.  Brainstorm is an incredible effect (made more-so with the printing of the Miracle mechanic), but there’s nearly no repeatable effects like it in Magic (not to mention Ponder-like effects.  This is why  Sensei’s Divining Top is so ubiquitous).  Jace changes that, and really helps you play a tempo game in a format where it’s difficult to do just that.
His -1 Unsummon is often his most under-rated ability.  Is an opponents’ Forgotten Ancient is getting too large?  Bounce.  Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger ruining everyone’s day?  Bounce.  Also, if you’re able to keep Jace relatively low on loyalty counters  (at a level where his Ultimate isn’t even a hint of a threat), then maybe, just maybe, you just might be able to keep him a little longer.
His Ultimate is a whopper, almost instantly taking an opponent out of the game, but in a multiplayer format, the use of this is only for the cool story it creates (for you, not them) and bragging rights (for both of you, I suppose).
For his sheer utility, Jace II makes the list.  Just don’t be angry if he’s a 4 mana Brainstorm, and nothing else.

 

Number 3

I’ve been playing Magic since I was in grade school.  At the time, Fallen Empires had just come out (I had no where to go but up, as it turns out).  I didn’t know how to play, but the art of the cards and the vague impression that all of the numbers and words on the cards somehow came together to form a game had me transfixed.  Over time, I got a little older (like you do) and got a little better at the game.  By the time the Tempest block came out, I was playing in tournaments (with my much-beloved Sligh deck).  Shortly after, though, about midway through Urza‘s block, I left the game for a long, long time.  I’d still play a few times a year, here and there, but I never bought any new cards, and I even regrettably sold off all my old ones.  Even after that, I drifted even further away from the game, until there came a point where I hadn’t played in over 5 years.  Then, after moving away from my hometown of Sarnia, I went back to visit, and some of my old friends threw together a deck for me to play.  A few drinks and a couple of hours later, I was hooked again.  My friends had made me a Noxious Ghoul-based Zombie deck, my one friend was playing a Modular deck (Arcbound Ravager being the most famous Modular creature), another was playing a massive-lifegain deck, and a fourth was playing a Vampire-tribal.
After that night, I had to start buying more cards.
I went to Sarnia’s LGS (Future Pastimes – you should check it out if you’re ever in town) and bought myself a box of the latest release – Lorwyn.  The concept of Tribal was pretty new to me (I had missed Onslaught), so I loved the Changeling and Tribal aspects of Lorwyn (it’s kind of odd how I always seem to get into the game during low-ranking sets, right?).  There was a card-type I had never seen before  – Planeswalker (nor had any of my friends – we were playing “kitchen table” Magic with older cards).  I was pretty confused as to how they worked, and since I was the only one who had any, we decided not to play with them until I traded some around (my one friend was notoriously difficult to trade with, so this took a while).  Staying with the Zombie deck, I naturally had Liliana Vess as my first Planeswalker.
Liliana the first has become as close to a staple as a Planeswalker can be.  In a recent scanning of over 500 decklists on www.mtgsalvation.com, one poster noticed that she is the most played Planeswalker.  Her +1 ability isn’t too powerful, but it can be built around pretty easily to make it so you are the “target player” that discards a card.  She is the closest we currently have to a reanimator Planeswalker, so naturally she goes in that kind of deck.  Otherwise, her +1 ability is mostly used after her -2 ability has nearly
exhausted her Loyalty counters.
Liliana’s real power comes from her -2 ability.  To be able to tutor unconditionally, even to the top of your deck, in a way that’s very tough to counter merits her inclusion in any deck that runs Black.  And since she comes into play with 5 Loyalty counters, you can easily get two of these activations off before you have to start adding counters.
Because most of her usefulness is in her -2 ability, you rarely see anyone race to her Ultimate.  This is a shame, because it is a doozy.  “Return all creatures from all graveyards to play under your control” can be a game-ender, especially in the colour that can tutor you and your opponents creatures to your respective graveyards  (Buried Alive and Life’s Finale).  Black also has a number of boardwipes.  At -8, it takes 4 turns to get there – not as fast as some Planeswalkers, but because she comes into play with 5, Liliana has a greater survivability than a lot of Walkers.  She also isn’t seen as an immediate threat, so she’s low on your opponents’ list of priorities.
Liliana has such broad appeal that she fits in almost any deck, and helps almost any strategy.  Because of this and the fact that she tends to stick around longer than most Planeswalkers, she easily makes it into the Top Three.

 

Number 2

I’ll admit, I have a soft spot for Venser, the Sojourner.  Most of my current EDH decks are singleton versions of old 4-of casual decks of mine, and Venser was an important part of one of my last casual decks before I made the switch to EDH.  It was a Blue/White Blink/Charge Counter monstrosity, but it was a lot of fun to play.  Now, I have a Rubinia Soulsinger Bant Blink deck, which has become one of my most consistent decks, with Venser as an important piece.
Though he’s known as the “Blink” Planeswalker, you don’t need to have a dedicated Blink deck for him to prove his usefulness.  His +2 ability can blink anything with an enter the battlefield ability, and there are lots in the format in every colour – any of the Titans, Eternal Witness, Vesuva, Zealous Conscripts, Pithing Needle – these are all cards you see, without having to modify your deck to make Venser more useful.  On top of that, he can reset permanents with counters you’ve used up, like a Vivid land (Vivid Creek), or even another Planeswalker with a good minus ability (like the previously mentioned Liliana Vess or Tezzeret the SeekerSorin, Lord of Innistrad is fun, too).  Failing a “profitable” use for this ability, you can always use it to give one of your creatures pseudo-Vigilance in order to protect Venser.
When I play Venser, I generally play him for his first ability, and use the other situationally, but that’s only because of how I generally build decks.  For others, his -1 ability is where he shines.  Making all of your creatures unblockable for only one Loyalty counter means that you can do it again and again, especially because using his +2 ability means two more activations.  This ability is useful for quick Voltron decks.  Most of the time, those Voltron decks can get a few early swings in, but stall out once their opponents’ stabilize.  Venser, being a 5-drop, comes down at just the right time to combat this, giving the Voltron creature another free swing or two.
Finally, Venser’s Ultimate is one of the more attainable game-altering Ultimates out of all the Planeswalkers.  He comes down with 3 loyalty counters, but often immediately shoots up to 5.  He goes Ultimate at -8, so after his first use, he just has to survive for two more turns (and unlike a lot of Planeswalkers, his Ultimate doesn’t remove all counters from him at the first chance to activate it (he’ll have 9 counters, it takes 8 to go Ultimate), so he’ll
survive after you get your Emblem).  Most of the time, people don’t worry about Venser too much until the turn before he’s about to go Ultimate.  Being in Blue/White, the control colours, this is a mistake, because you can always throw out an unexpected trick to keep him alive.  I personally have gone Ultimate with Venser at least a half dozen times, which is just gravy, since I include him almost exclusively for his +2 ability.
And lets all take a moment to appreciate the power of his Emblem, shall we?
Whenever you cast a spell, exile target permanent.
Once you have that level of control to the game, even if your opponents decide to start playing Archenemy on you, you have a better than average chance to pull through.  At least half the time I’ve gotten the Emblem, my opponents have wanted to scoop, and for good reason.  At that point, you’ve pretty much already won.
Every ability is useful, he often stays alive for a while, he fits in most decks, and given the right conditions, you can reasonably expect to use his Ultimate.  Venser is arguably one of the best Planeswalkers for EDH, and finds his place at number two on this list.

 

Number 1

I remember when the New Phyrexia spoilers got leaked.  At the time, we were all wondering what side of the war Karn would end up on, and when the title of New Phyrexia was announced (as opposed to Mirrodin Pure), it seemed that Karn was destined to be the next Yawgmoth.  Not so, it seemed.
By the time New Phyrexia rolled around, Planeswalkers were old hat.  We all knew the drill – 3-5 casting cost, usually.  Sometimes two colours.  One really useful ability (plus or minus, usually minus), and an Ultimate.  Only one Planeswalker had surprised me when it was spoiled, and he surprised a lot of other people, too – Jace, the Mind Sculptor, though it didn’t become as apparent until later that his usefulness would come from his +0 ability.
When Jace was first spoiled, it set people to talking – that Ultimate was insane!  That Ultimate, that Ultimate, Jace’s Ultimate – that’s all you heard.  Then, after Jace, for a long time, nothing.  Each Planeswalker was looked at, deemed worthy or not, but not much discussion was made of them.  Karn Liberated was the first card, not just Planeswalker, since Jace that I had to read over and over again, just to make sure I read it correctly.  The effect of Karn’s Ultimate hadn’t been printed on a card for over a decade (Shahrazad), since near the beginning of Magic itself.  That couldn’t be right!  Though his Ultimate saw some Standard play in a fringe-ish deck, exiling Eldrazi Titans from your own hand en route to restarting the game with them in play, Karn’s power doesn’t come from his Ultimate.  In fact, in EDH, though he’s run in many decks, and his survivability could easily see him go Ultimate, I’ve never seen anyone choose to do this (and for good reason – EDH games go long to begin with.  A single game can take an hour or two, depending on the players and decks involved).
Let’s take a look at Karn’s +4 ability.  First, +4?  It could read “+4 – if you haven’t done so, put four loyalty counters on Karn Liberated” and I’d still run this card.  Adding 4 loyalty counters makes it so someone has to get big damage through to Karn before he even feels it.  Exiling a card from someone’s hand isn’t the most useful ability, but it isn’t entirely without merit.  Unlike Liliana Vess, unless you actually intend to go Ultimate with Karn, you’d never choose to do this to yourself.  Even if you never intend to go Ultimate, the person you choose to target with this will still likely get rid of a non-permanent (that being a destruction spell or a counterspell, most likely).

Oh, and did I mention it’s +4?

Karn’s -3 ability is what justifies his place at Number 1 on this list.  The ability to repeatedly exile a single permanent with no restrictions is beyond powerful.  Dropping Karn allows his controller to possibly take control of the game that turn, or at the very least, hope to get back into it.  Most importantly, he allows colours that lack removal of certain permanent types access to that kind of removal (artifacts and enchantments for Black, enchantments for red, etc.).  He is a must-run in even competitive decks, simply because he is the best form of colourless targeted removal in the game, and in casual, he allows colours that  normally lack answers the answers they need.  I can’t stress enough how Karn should be in every single mono-red, mono-black, or mono-blue deck, and every combination thereof.
This also leads to the fact that Karn can go into every deck.  Literally, every single deck.  No other Planeswalker can do that.  Mid-game, even if you’re playing White or Green, the colours that don’t have problems dealing with permanents, Karn is never a dead draw.  There is always that one permanent among all your opponents’ that you wish wasn’t there.  Being colourless, Karn’s colour identity doesn’t interfere with anyone’s plans – except your opponents’, that is.
Let’s recap.  Karn is able to go in all decks, is immediately immensely useful, and has a high degree of survivability, plus, if you like, it’s entirely possible to go Ultimate with him.  All these factors considered, Karn Liberated is the best Planeswalker to play, from an EDH perspective.

Until next time, keep turning cards sideways.

Tyler
If you have any questions, comments, or have any suggestions for any Commander-related articles you’d like to see, feel free to contact me at tyhartle@hotmail.com

Keeping the Temtempo

Unfortunately, this is not an article on the Djinn monsters. This is actually an article aimed to help improve player mindset.  Too often do I see players resorting to a top deck situation and losing to an opponent’s topped power card. They blame their entire loss on the opponent’s one draw instead of evaluating the entire game and how they ended up running out of resources in the first place. The main cause of this is an improperly formed field and a lack of game tempo. To have tempo means that the game is in your favor, and any play performed by your opponent is expected by you, and can be dealt with. Having an optimal board commitment in conjunction with keeping your hand strong is the key to forming the proper tempo.

If you don’t do this properly, it is going to be a double-edged sword. Don’t put too many cards on the field that you can’t protect, and don’t put so few cards on the field that your opponent can freely take permanent control of the game. In this article, I will discuss the most ideal field setups, cards to be wary of, and the board commitment paradoxes in the game. Though I’m only covering the top decks of the format in this article, the information here can apply to every deck you play.

Floaters, Floaters Everywhere

Card Trooper and Wind-Up Rabbit: what do these cards have in common? By placing them on the board, especially in the early game while your lifepoints are many, you’ll face little to no risk against cards such as Torrential Tribute and Dark Hole. They’re essentially free pressure against an opponent’s monsterless board. As the turns and number of floaters on the field stack up, your opponent will be forced to react and commit to the field, allowing you to get the most of your power cards. At worst, the Card Trooper will run into a Dimensional Prison or your opponent will play two removal cards to get around Wind-Up Rabbit’s field blink and rid it from the board forever. Both of these situations are favorable to you, as floaters are expendable early game cards, so your opponent is wasting valuable cards that would have shined in the late game filled with big, dangerous beaters. Of course that doesn’t mean I’m telling you to throw Wind-Up Rabbits and Card Troopers in all your decks. You’ll need to find cards that have synergy with your end game goal. For example, both the cards I mentioned aim at helping the late game of the two decks they are played in. Card Trooper can also load the graveyard with chaos monster and those similar, while Wind-Up Rabbit keeps a monster on board for easy XYZ plays and is best used with Wind-Up Factory to search the decks biggest combos.

Baiting Their Board & The Grind Game

Funny enough, this card isn’t a one for one trade and should be called Two For One

What is grinding? Grinding is a state in which neither player has the clear advantage, plays are typically based off of simple exchanges, and trades. The best utilization of resources is the key to winning. For example, you summon a Deep Sea Diva, and your opponent responds with Solemn Warning. When he passes the game to your turn, you play Thunder King Rai-Oh, and he responds with Bottomless Trap Hole. Both players are in the grind in this example.  The grind game typically happens early on, when traps are the most abundant or late game as in the top decking situations mentioned at the start of the article. We generally want to avoid the latter grind game, but it is sometimes inevitable. When grinding, you’ll need to be doing a lot of baiting in order to get yourself past the grind game quicker than your opponent and into your win condition.  There will often be situations where you’ll be facing multiple backrows from your opponent. In order to gain the most out of these situations, you’ll need to be able to bait backrow.

Here is an example: your opponent has two face downs and four cards in hand. You went second. You are playing Wind-Up and your hand is Thunder King Rai-Oh, Wind-Up Magician, Wind-Up Shark, Mystical Space Typhoon, Wind-Up Rat and Torrential Tribute. Do you play the Typhoon and then follow up with the Magician and Shark with the idea of a Wind-Up Rat followup if they have removal for your combo?

 Almost certainly not. Players do not bluff face downs often, especially with Heavy Storm in the format to punish you for doing so.  By attempting to play your deck’s best combo so early with many risks, you’ll be losing two cards to their one trap. It’s better to bait out your opponent’s face downs until you only have your best cards left and your opponent can’t answer them. This is why it is the stronger play to summon the Rai-Oh, a card that needs to be taken out through removal to bait one of their traps. If they have no answers to Rai-Oh outside of their traps and fall for it, next turn you are free to typhoon the remaining face down and go off on your opponent; otherwise, if they set another card, you continue to play the grind game. As long as your lifepoints are high enough and your opponent doesn’t have everything they need to win in their opening hand, there is no risk in grinding down your opponent’s traps with bait cards or, if you have no bait and a larger play to follow, just holding your cards until you draw your answers to the grind game.

Heavy Storm & Dark Hole & Torrential Tribute

 These are the cards you’ll be playing around the entire game. They are the most important cards to consider when pressuring your opponent. Too often, I see players throw a large chunk of their monsters on the field early in the game, and a single field tempo changing card will completely cost them the game, with no chance for come back. Less often, players set four cards with no protection and scoop up their cards the moment the heavy is played.

Neither tactic is smart planning. There is a fifteen percent chance your opponent opens with Dark Hole, the same applies to Heavy Storm. There is also a twenty eight percent chance that your opponent has one or the other in their opening hand. It’s not ideal to risk the game on such odds when you have plenty of other options to play out your hand. Instead, you might just play a one monster beatdown until you have the cards you need to win.  You can also amass floaters to force that Torrential into a minus one for your opponent, simply pass your turn, or play your traps in waves rather than all at once.

When committing cards to the board, you should always be asking yourself a rather ridiculous question: if my opponent plays both Dark Hole and Heavy Storm and drops a threatening monster on their side of the board, do I have any plays left on my turn? If the answer is no, you should probably place fewer of your power cards on the board that turn. As turns in the game go on and your pressure continues, the chances that your opponent had  Heavy Storm or Dark Hole in their opening hand diminishes, but that doesn’t mean you should stop playing around it all together as your opponent has an increasing chance of drawing the two power cards from the top of their deck every passing turn as the cards in it thin. Another threat to keep in mind is that your opponent could be holding Heavy Storm until they have a game winning play,  instead of using it early for a simple plus one and easy Rai-Oh summon. You must consider the possibility that your opponent is one of these players.

The Turn Clock

If you don’t apply pressure to your opponent, they will have no reason to put cards on the board until they can game you in one turn. Of course, the same could be said for you as you slowly assemble the absolute game-ending pieces, but if your hand isn’t the greatest thing ever, do you really want to risk your opponent drawing it before you do? This is where one-card pressure or floaters strategies come into play.  They force your opponent to play their cards, or else eventually run out of lifepoints.

I’ve already discussed floaters, but one-card pressure is a threat (or if you’re running them, a valuable tool) you need to keep in mind. Venus is a card Agents are famous for, and they will one-card pressure you with every game it resolves. A simple successful Venus drop is capable of bringing out at least two shineballs and summoning Daigusto Phoenix. With Phoenix’s self-targeting double attack and Venus combined, the Agent player will deal 4600 damage to you and, if you continue to do nothing, win in two turns. The best part? That 4600 damage only cost them one card out of their starting six, and they will likely have traps or back-up monsters to deal with anything you throw back at them.

Another common situation is for them to summon Gachi Gachi Gantetsu with the Shineballs and beat you down with over 2000 attack floaters.  Being given only a few turns to react to your opponent’s board is never a good situation for anyone. Continuing the example, to play around the situation, you can run cards that easily apply your own pressure such as Rai-Oh, a card that basically reads in this meta “While this card is on the field, your opponent can’t win the duel,” or you can run responsive traps such as Bottomless Trap Hole, a card which not only deals with the Venus but stops it from being used for an easy Hyperion drop. If running a deck with more than five traps, I suggest Bottomless, as it has the benefit of being good in every match-up in the current format. Putting your opponent on a short turn clock is valuable when you are unable to win in one turn and want to bait more of their removal, but there are risks you must be wary of when pressuring with these cards.

The Risks of Turn Clocking

Gorz The Emissary of Darkness: like it or not it’s a part of this game. Though in this format it is a ghost of its former self in main deck dominance, against decks that do play it you should always be wary of cards like Gorz and Tragoedia when pressuring your opponent. Gorz will put 2700 plus whatever attack your monster was on the board instantly, setting up an effortless counter pressure and an eventual win for your opponent if you don’t have answers.

For example: if your hand is fairly weak, and you summon Rai-Oh to their open field and poke. It’s no secret that Rai-Oh cannot negate summons that occur due to a card’s effect, so they’ll drop the Gorz or Tragoedia, Rai-Oh will be run over next turn and you’ll be left with no answers. Not very smart. How do you counter it? If you know Gorz or Tragoedia (more so Gorz) may be in your opponent’s deck and you have no answers to it, simply don’t attack until you do. As an example, if you had Solemn Warning in your hand, you could set it that turn and begin attacking the turn after, as Warning will be able to destroy Gorz and prevent it from hitting the field and turning the game in your opponent’s favor.

The Big Guys

The majority of decks have big beefy monsters or combos with powerful effects that define their main win condition.  Agents have Hyperion, Wind-Ups have Zenmaity, Mermails have Megalo+Atlanteans and Moulinglacia. Before you place any boss monster on the field, you should be asking yourself these questions, in order:

 1)  Can I safely win this turn without losing to backrow?

 a.  If so, do they run Gorz and can I play around it?

 2)  If I can’t win this turn, is this card necessary to switch the tempo, will I lose next turn, or can I hold it and make more use of it later?

 3)  If they have answers to this card, do I have no power plays left in my hand?

 a.  If so, can I play this card safely later by grinding down my opponents resources?

 4)  Is playing this card my last resort?

That’s a lot of questions to ask yourself but they’re all necessary. When you’re dropping the biggest and most important cards in your deck, it’s important you save them until you can get the optimal advantage: when you can deplete the greatest possible amount of your opponent’s resources so that their ability to switch the field tempo back is slim/costly, or when you can straight out win the duel that turn.  An exclusion to many of these questions are Evolzar Laggia and Legendary Six Samurai Shi En, which are boss monsters you want to place on the board as early as the first turn. The only thing you fear when dropping these cards is your opponent’s disrupting traps and whether or not you can protect them from bigger bodies.

The Mystical Space Typhoon Vs. Storm Paradox

The fact that these two cards are standard together in nearly every deck creates funny situations, ones I always hear my friends complaining about. Put one trap on the field and lose it to Typhoon and your opponent has free reign to commit to the board with little fear. Put two or more traps, and you could potentially lose additional cards to Heavy Storm and be down in advantage for the remainder of the duel. Losing your one set to the Typhoon is more common, as many duelists run two to three copies, but if you lose two or more cards to Storm, your opponent will gain a huge advantage. How you respond to this paradox is very dependent on the comeback potential of your hand and what deck your opponent is playing, so there is no single situation answer to it. Much of deciding between playing around Storm or just risking the minus one from it will come from your own personal experience against different decks.  Here are a few general questions to ask yourself in this situation:

 1.  Do I have Effect Veiler or Maxx C and does it stop all their plays? If yes, just set one card as the “hand traps” will play back up if they Typhoon.

 2.  Do I know what they’re playing and is it the first turn of the duel? Against an unknown deck, you’ll be in danger by risking the Typhoon without a hand trap. It’s best to commit the two traps to the board.

 3.  If you do know their deck, can it easily explode and turn the game into a nightmare for you? If yes, place two traps. An example of this is Rescue Rabbit, which if you let resolve will force you to play around a Laggia, and likely at least two backrow. That’s not a favorable situation.  However, if against a slow tempo deck that doesn’t gain a huge level of advantage in one turn, such as Geargia and Propechy, committing double traps to the board isn’t always necessary.

Committing to Risk

For this entire article, I’ve been talking about how keeping your hand healthy and your field scarce but scary is generally the best way to consistently win your matches. That’s not entirely true. Though it is the optimal way to play the game and you’ll want to shoot for it every time, sometimes you’ll be on the other side dealing with your opponent’s heavy pressure and will need to make major risks. This means taking the risk of completely losing to Dark Hole or a Torrential Tribute. There is no choice. If you don’t, you lose. In situations like this, you will have to blindly throw your Mystical Space Typhoon into three backrow or summon your biggest boss into a potential Bottomless Trap Hole. Bait as much as you can before you play your strongest play in this risk. You’ll need to decide when you’re in this situation, and carefully look at all your possible plays to see if you can avoid it this turn. If not, good luck.

That concludes my article on the stages of the game and how you can apply your tempo changing cards in each of them. Hopefully, you learned something from this and can find use for it in many of your future games. If you have any suggestions on what you would like to see or how I can improve my writing or game theory, please let me know

-          Ali Nakhaie

Jumping From the Kitchen Table to the Tournament Battlefield

Magic: the Gathering is the type of game that attracts lots of different types of people and players.  Some enjoy the more casual side, playing at home with their friends.  Others like the competitive side, going to tournaments and trying to bring home prizes or just the thrill of winning against other competitive players.  Most players start out playing casually at the Kitchen table learning the rules and getting to know the game.  For some this level is enough and they never go beyond this, which is fine.  Others however will want a little more from the game and will attempt to make the leap from casual play to competitive play which is no easy task because they are two completely different worlds.  This piece was written for the players thinking of making the jump or those who are currently trying to do so.  The point of this article is to help you guys recognize and get over some of the road blocks that can face a player as they try and shake off the casual deck building and playing mentality and some of the traits allowing them to switch over to a more competitive mind set.  Hopefully after reading this you can avoid some of the mistakes that I made or complete your own transition a little more smoothly.

I was first introduced to Magic back when booster packs of Iceage and Fallen Empires sat on the shelf next to the core set which at the time was 4th edition.  I traded two very old comics valued at around $50 each to the store owner for my first packs which were mainly Fallen Empires.  Looking back on it, I got taken for a ride since the value of the comics have continued to rise and if you know anything about older magic cards all  I have to say is “Fallen Empires”.   This did however introduce me to magic and start me on a long road that I still walk down today and was worth more than the money lost on the comics.  This game took me over and dominated my thoughts like no other had. Learning the rules, building decks, and looking for card interactions became all consuming as my friends and I spent hours at my kitchen table playing cards well into the night.  We would go to the smaller local tournaments that we would hear about but for the most part our battles were fought in the same location that was occupied by lasagna only moments before.

Growing up and getting responsibilities thrust upon me meant Magic took a back seat for years, eventually I even sold off my collection.  This was until I moved into a new apartment that had a business opening up underneath it…. It was Jeremy Richards, and he was opening a card store.  I quickly took out one of a few decks that I had kept and went to play some games.  Wow had the game had changed.  My Shivan Dragons and Jesters Caps that had been so coveted back in the day were akin to brining a twig (not even a knife) to a gun fight.  What? My 7/6 Scaled Wurm for 8 mana was a game changer before and now he stays buried at  the bottom of old collection?  The game had changed, gotten more interesting, faster and way more powerful.  I’d play the occasional draft or prerelease but stayed far away from any sort of constructed format.  Eventually I tried my hand at standard and took a severe beating.  This caused me to regress back to the more casual side of magic playing with friends at home and even taking another break from the game right after the original Mirrodin block.  Again Magic took a back seat in my life but the spark never left, it was just buried under other things that at the same time I thought to be of more importance.  My collection that had been built for a second time sat alone and cold in my basement for years until it was decided that the Tupperware bin that held box after box of cards was taking up too much room and they needed to go, mistake number 2.  Fast forward a number of years.

Things never stay the same and once again I had time in my life to pursue the things that make me happy and the timing couldn’t have been any better.  Scars of Mirrodin had just been released and I was back in with both feet. Coming back was really easy because the new cards felt very familiar and even with a few major rule changes I got my comfort level right back.  I played in all kinds of drafts, sealed events, prereleases and release events. I even gave standard another shot with no success.  My collection was getting big again which meant it was time to build decks with all the new powerful cards.  This was the year that I first went to Gencon with the guys from CG and I had the time of my life.  All of my interests in one place, great stuff to buy, all the tournaments I could handle and lots of crazy memories.  This was the turning point for me, when I realized that playing at the table would no longer cut it and I needed more from the game.  Enter a serious effort to understand constructed tournament play.

Going from the casual kitchen table games to the competitive matches you will find is no easy task, and many things needed to be accomplished.   Learning what cards and decks were dominant was first on the bill.  Going into a fight blind was a huge advantage for my opponents.  They could set up combos that I couldn’t see coming or just play around me due to my lack of knowledge of the cards. I even traded away 2 copies of Blade Splicer just to go and buy three more the very next week because I needed them.  Ok got it, I’m up to date on the current cards.  These decks are good, these aren’t, and my opponent is going to do this to try and get the win.  So now that I knew what I was up against yet I was still losing, a lot.  Why? I know how to play and I’ve got good cards in my deck so what’s going on?

This brings us to the next task…. Realizing that good cards need other good cards or at least the right cards to make them work.  For years I would get cards in boosters that were good and I would try to build a deck around them.  There were two problems with this. The first was I had lots of cards in my deck but only one copy of them.  I would try and build a deck around a certain card or need to hit that card to make the deck work, but having only one copy of it would severely lower my chances of getting it. Now I’m not saying every card in the deck needs to have four copies.  Sometimes having four copies of a card is over kill and you will be sitting with doubles of a card that you can only use one of effectively.  If getting a certain card is the difference of your deck working or not, then multiple copies are needed to make sure you hit at least one of them.      No card = No win that easy.  The amount of lands I would run in each deck was also an issue.  I would want to run deck with 40 non land and 20 land cards.  Not wanting to cut into my 40 non land cards caused me to miss my land drops and really slowed things down or even stalled my deck.  You need to run 22-26 land depending on what type of deck you are trying to build.  Faster low casting cost decks needing the lower end and high casting cost slower decks needing the higher end.

The second issue that I had was that I would fill out the decks with the best MY collection had to offer, not the best card available to make the deck run at peak performance.  I know we are not all made of money, I certainly am not.  Sometimes however we need to open up the wallet and spend a few dollars to get the pieces that can turn a good deck into a reliable powerhouse that performs the same game after game.  I would put in bad cards just to save a few bucks but in the end all the wasted tournament entry fees added up to far more then the few dollars I had saved by not grabbing a few rares from behind the counter.

Something still wasn’t right however.  I was still stuck in the causal mentality of not using a sideboard and trying to build a deck that could solve all the worlds’ problems.  What I mean by this is that I would play cards main board that would only be good for certain situations, like artifact removal for example.  If I’m losing to a deck because of a certain artifact they have in play great I have an answer, but if not I now have a wasted card in my hand.  Imagine you’re in a match where all you need is a creature and you win and you top deck artifact removal.  They have no artifacts in play and you lose the match because you top decked a useless card.  Now had that card been in your sideboard you might have drawn up that creature you needed for the win.  It took a long time and lots of frustrated advice from more experienced players for me to break this habit and keep situational cards where they belong 99% of the time, in the sideboard.

The last thing I needed to get my head around was deck Identity.  My old way of thinking had me jamming any and all good cards into a deck.  I’d look it over and be satisfied that with all the best cards I was guaranteed to win.  Nope.  The problem was that my deck was not only fighting my opponent, it was also fighting itself.  There are three main types of decks and each has a few sub types or crossovers but they are all still based on the three main types; Aggro, Control, and Combo.  Here’s a very brief description of the types.  A more in depth description of each can be found on Wizards website and lots of other places online.

Aggro decks want to be aggressive, brush aside opponent’s defenses and bring your opponent from 20 to 0 as fast as possible.  This is done with fast creatures and lots of lower casting costs cards.  Removal spells that can also be used to damage a player are also common in these decks.

Control decks want to play a slower game that counters what your opponent plays, locks them down, gain card advantage and finally hits a win condition to take the game.  This type of deck can support the higher casting cost more powerful cards.

Combo decks rely on multiple cards that when played or activated together will get you a win or a huge advantage compared to playing them alone.  These decks will try and stall games while they search their deck for the pieces of their combo.  These decks play cards that will keep them alive and cards to search their deck to find the cards they need.

So what I was doing was gathering up a bunch of good cards and putting them together with no regard for deck Identity.  What I got was a deck that would have spectacular wins once in a while but more often than not would draw up useless cards at the worst time.  Or the deck would get started great but not get the proper draws to close out the game because I was getting control cards after starting the game with an aggro approach.  Either way my decks were just as confused as I was and neither was happy.  Finally, breaking this habit allowed me to build more stable and competitive decks that only had to fight one opponent, the one across the table.

This was my journey from the first pack I opened, to an on again off again relationship with magic that finally landed me at tournament play.  It was tough to make the jump, I was intimidated more than once, and it was a lot of work to get better as well as learn everything but in the end it was well worth it.  One thing that really helped me get a lot better was the group of awesome players that I am a part of.  They are skilled players that bring the top decks week after week.  Getting better was the only way to get any wins.  I’m glad I didn’t move on to a store with a lower level of player and deck because I wouldn’t have grown as a player by smashing on people who are just learning magic.  Now by no means do I feel that I have mastered deck building, tournament play or any other area of this game.  I have however made leaps and bounds on my grasp of deck building, in game card value (which usually is tied to cash value), rules and timing and the enjoyment I get from Magic.  This article was written to help any other players on the verge of making the jump or for newer guys.  You seasoned tournament players may get a laugh or two from this, maybe bring back a few memories  but I’m sure most of this you already know…… because It was you guys that helped me understand it.

Thanks Andrew DiPaolo