Sunday, 27 November 2016

MTG Standard - Drawing 4 for 3 mana

A week or two ago, I ran across a player on Magic Online who cast a maindeck Lost Legacy. I scofed a bit to myself - the card does not seem very main-deckable, plus I didn't have many good targets even if they knew my decklist (and as you might guess, I was on a brew, and being early in the game, they didn't know what I was about almost at all).

They targeted themself.

And named.... Eternal Scourge

This combination is incredibly sweet. As long as the Scourges aren't in play or exile, you effectively "draw" four cards, since you get to cast the Scourges from Exile. Note that this isn't even messed up by drawing Scourges, since you get to "cycle" them in that case, putting them into exile (where you can still use them) and drawing a replacement card.

I am very intrigued by this combination, and set out to build a deck around it. Naturally you need the 4 Scourges, and if it's good, I think you want a pretty high number of Lost Legacy as well. The problem is that the remaining Lost Legacy in your deck are pretty bad. Of course, even if you draw two, you're still at a 3 mana draw three, which isn't the worst ever, but you do need to dock that Eternal Scourge isn't exactly the epitome of Constructed Power-level. Well, I could call it "Modern GP winning Eternal Scourge", maybe that would make me feel better. Point is, you want to be able to do something with excess copies, ideally. Fortunately, standard is full of discard themes, so it was just a matter of finding the right one(s).

Furthermore, the biggest weakness of Scourge is generally that it just trades in combat, and ok, that's fine, but it would be nice if we could do more. (Really the biggest weakness is that if there's a way to repeatably target it, you effectively can bounce it over and over - but fortunately there aren't too many of those in Standard). The card that really pops up as doing well in terms of interacting from the Graveyard  is of course Scrapheap Scrounger, which with Eternal Scourge, not only returns itself, but gets you access to the 3/3 again as well.

This let to a couple additional directions. First, I wanted to use Vehicles. Lost Legacy for Scourge is a bit slow, Scrounger doesn't block, so you need to survive, and Vehicles let Scrounger let you do that. Plus all this stuff has three  power, so it can be used for Crew 3 vehicles. Second, we go towards a Zombie shell. That lets us have discard outlets, which work well to get rid of excess Legacies, as well as playing pretty nicely with the Scroungers.

And that's the basic ideas of the deck. Let's look at the list:

I would have loved to have more Skysovereign, but it does cost 5, I think Pariah is generally a bit more important, and you can only have so many 5s in a deck with this kind of curve. Also note that if we can have more of these 23 lands be discard fodder, that's pretty desirable. Mindbenders are genearlly good, but also provide a nice way of getting stuff from play to the 'yard.

Amalgams are the only blue in the deck, but we are playing the full 8 duals. Maybe you can cut a few here, but they're not all that expensive to run (mana base is quite good), and if you think about what we have to get it in play, there's 8 discard outlets plus those 8 blue sources. Yeah, it looks like 12 discard outlets, but while Copter and Cryptbreaker work fine, Haunted Dead only gets you there if it's in the 'yard itself, which happens far more from having one of those other outlets in play at some point first, rather than naturally getting cast and then dying.

I'd like to make a few notes on the sideboard. First, Liliana as a one of here is kind of a joke - that card should almost certainly have a bigger role in the deck. Second, Shamble Back is probably even cheekier. When you have a scourge in the 'yard, it's a 1 mana 2/2 gain 2 draw a Trained Armodon - we're talking Legacy levels of efficiency there. When there's just some random creature, that rate is ok against aggro decks. Plus it's a bit of a mise on Graveyard hate.

In general, there are two ways you can lose - people go under and murder you too fast, or people go over the top. This is about the grindiest possible deck I can think of in the format, so I don't think going over the top in that sense is plausible, but it's possible of course to go taller, most notably with Emrakul. Marvel could be an issue. Fortunately enough, though, we have four main deck Lost Legacy that can help us with that issue. And we get access to a bit more help in the board.

Probably we should be a bit more concerned than we are with the aggro matchpus then - WRx is probably too fast for the way we're configured currently at least. I think we can hang with UW, but would be concerned that their cheap spells are simply more powerful than ours. Anyway, the deck is untested, but it's just the kind of mad scientist idea that I think really ought to be worth a test.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

More Standard Brews - with Panharmonicon

The first brew I'd like to look at today was inspired originally by one Benjamin Weitz on the latest episode of the 2/3 fantastic Podcast Allied Strategies ( The idea is, with a Panharmonicon out, Eldrazi Displacer plus Drowner of Hope (could be any card that makes multiple scions, but Drowner seems best) makes infinite Scions. Which also means infinite Mana, infinite taps, and, with Thought-Knot Seer, infinite milling. It was further devloped watching Kenji "Numot the Nummy" Egashira play a vaguely similar deck on his stream this week, though that one went into significantly more colors and was overall fancier I think, and a bit less focused on Eldrazi Displacer.

Given that I wanted to be Blue, White, and Colorless already, and with Eldrazi Displacer, I had to include my favorite Standard interaction, Eldrazi Displacer plus Spell Queller, which locks opponents out of casting cheap spells, once you have enough mana.

Speaking of mana, getting there is hard. Without painlands especially, fixing for this color combo is not great. Fortunately, Prophetic Prism helps us out. Plus Hedron Crawler is pretty nice in a deck that's looking to be pretty mana hungry anyway. I'm not sure that the current build is exactly where we need to be, but I think it's pretty close. We have a bit of an artifact theme built up, and so along with our ETB theme, Pilgrim's Eye made a lot of sense. with infinite mana, you can use the card to draw all the basics in your deck - along with Evolving Wilds, the Eye value makes you want to play a lot of basics, but I think it's worth it.

The deck is very raw and untuned. It likely doesn't have sufficient interaction right now, and the mix of creatures is probably not quite right. Crane Might also be not good enough to be a 4-of in the deck, though I think it's worth a try anyway.

The sideboard especially isn't very tuned. But it has some ideas, anyway.

The second deck I want to look at today is another Panharmonicon deck. This one is UR Colossus, which is reaosnably known. But my twist is to use Combustible Gearhulk for a bit more Oomph. It's another card with ETB triggers for Panharmonicon, a good emerge target for your EDF, your CMC are fairly high thanks to Colossus and EDF... this seems to be a pretty good deck for the card, and I'd like to see if we can make it work. Additionally, I'd like to note that the Sideboard plan goes in for big energy; some Whirler Virtuoso action, with the potential for infinite thopters - but even a lot of thopters is going to be nice. It's a nice way to diversify threats against control decks or Pick the Brain. There's a good chance you need more defense against the aggro decks, but I think this should be a fun starting point worth trying out.

MTG Standard: BR Control

The card that received perhaps the most hype when spoilers for Kaladesh were first being released was Chandra, Torch of Defiance. And yet, that card has seen not much play. Now largely it was overhyped, but I still think the card is good. This deck started out as a way to try to maximize the card. To that end, you want a deck that can play for enough time to accrue advantage from the 'walker, and you want to have enough cards that are fine to good to play at sorcery speed (which means probably not a counterspell deck).

This led me to looking for lots of removal. And there's lots of removal in red and black, so here we are. Obviously there's some more nuance than that, but things aren't rocket science here.

There's plenty of removal here to be able to handle most of the aggressive decks, and they are of high enough quality to still be quite useful against the midrange decks. Control decks can be somewhat problematic, but your six main-deck planeswalkers do significant work here. Still, the biggest problems I find are with decks going 'over the top', since this deck doesn't really have a great way of locking up that endgame. Thus, the two biggest cards I've had problems with are things like Fevered Visions and Metallurgic Summonings. There's no way of dealing with these cards once they hit, and the deck doesn't have enough of a proactive gameplan to be great there.

I've tried a number of sideboard configurations, and I haven't found one I really feel is particularly great yet. 6 Mana Chandra has been a nice find, but of course you can run into a problem of too many Chandras. Liliana is good in some of the grindier matchups (like delirium) as well as decks with lots of X/1s, but you aren't running super many creatures, and you have ot think about how many you have post-board in those matchups. Gideon is a tough card for the deck to deal with, and that's what the Skysovereign is about, but I am not really convinced by it, especially in this deck. Incendiary Flow vs Harnessed Lightning is interesting - I've mostly given the nod to Flow because it's better against go over the top decks, Scrapheap Scrounger, Prized Amalgam, and planeswalkers, and you have a lot of instant speed removal anyway. But it's a real cost against vehicles and creatures lands (plus the increased flexibility of multiple HL).

The worst matchup for the deck is probably Aetherworks Marvel. It's just incredibly hard to win any time they find Marvel, which they usually will. If that deck gets popular again, this one needs to shift dramatically.

Finally, I'd like to note that the manabase isn't entirely clear - 18 black sources and 16 red is okay, but you have a reasonable number of tap-lands, you get no creature lands, and you could use a little more in terms of sources, and maybe even slightly more in terms of total land count.

Overall, I think the deck is pretty good and pretty well positioned, but it needs some tuning - slightly better proactive plan probably, and better plan against 'walkers like Gideon. Maybe some of the Unlicensed Disintegration should turn into Ruinous path? At which point maybe you switch some Flow back to Harnessed Lightning.