Saturday, September 28, 2013

[JT] CGC: Spotlight/Highlight #2: Rotation MVP

I should have had two more of these up by now, but there hasn't been anything that has really grabbed my attention from Theros and the pre-release.  Sure, there were some standouts...

Sunday's Sealed pool.
Medomai, the Ageless is a freaking house, and the Bident can be huge if you have an unchecked flier you've been getting in with, but nothing really gripped me.  So I decided to forgo this for a while.  However last night Theros officially released, and that means that the standard format has officially rotated.  So, I would not be doing my duty if I did not do a HL/SL on the one card that has stood out to me for the past standard format...

Redirect!   Yes.  Redirect.  How many of you thought I was going to use my old buddy Deadeye Navigator?  While I did build my deck around him for two years, I have to give the MVP to the best counterspell ever (ok, not really).

At the end of it's legality, the count of Bonfire of the Damned's that I have redirect totals 3 (should be 4, but I misplayed at last week's standard), and I have even countered the uncounterable Counterflux with it.  I whole-heartedly believe that there is no feeling more satisfying in Magic that your opponent miracling a Bonfire and you blow them out with a Redirect; or when your opponent goes to Counterflux your finisher, you tap two blue, they say "It can't be countered", and you respond with "I know. Redirect Counterflux to Redirect"; or when the same scenario plays out with an Abrupt Decay pointed at your Detention Sphere.

Here's another cool thing... Redirect get's around Hexproof since the only thing it is targeting is the spell.  That means you could have Redirect-ed your opponents kill spell back at their own Geist of Saint Traft.  This spell has done some serious work for me, and I am just as sad to see it go as I am to see Deadeye go.

With that, I leave you to ponder "what could have been..."; How would Redirect have changed your life for the better?  Or are you super lucky that it did not see more play in your area?  *Sigh*  I hate to see you go, old friend, but perhaps we will see you again.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

[JT] CGC: Highlight Spotlight #1: Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Jas gave me the idea a little bit ago of how I can stick to "CGC once a week" like I had originally intended it to be, and I loved the idea.  Basically, each week (or as close to it as I can) I will pick one or two cards and talk about it fairly briefly.  Because we are in the middle of MTG Theros spoilers, That's where these first few are going to come from (small side note:  when we are in spoiler season, I am just going to stick with cards that I can confirm have been officially spoiled by Wizards of the Coast or anyone they have given a spoiler too.  This is something that The Mana Pool does, and I really like this policy).  This week, we are talking about the newest planeswalker to join our ranks: Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver

Let's take a second and look at the glorious (and creepy) art a little closer...

Look at that, it's even posed like it wants to be in the spotlight.

It might just be because of my recent love of Esper, or it might be my burning desire to make a mill deck (it was the first type of deck I built before I fell in love with the moonfolk), but I was downright giddy for this card.  It comes down on turn 3 with basically 5 loyalty since there's no reason why you would activate it's middle ability.  This means that there are only a few scenarios where it will not survive to get at least a small creature with her middle ability to protect itself (most of these scenarios involve your opponent playing aggro/burn).

Ashiok makes me want to build a fun little deck I like to call "Esper Cast-All-Of-Your-Opponent's-Spells-So-They-Don't-Have-To", where you are also turning your opponent's cards into your own resources while you are depleting their library.  For example, Ashiok pairs really well with Nightveil Specter from Gatecrash.  I also want to add that Specter plays very well with the new Devotion mechanic... just saying.

There is another new card from Theros coming out that has the same feel as these two, but puts a new twist on these effects:  Daxos of Meletis.  The twist that he brings is that he allows you to cast the spells you exile them by paying their mana cost.  Up until this point, most of the effects like this have said "without paying its mana cost".  It's always great getting a free spell, however the "problem" (used loosely) came when the spell was an X spell.  Since you were not paying anything, X always equaled zero.  That's not so with Daxos and the newly spoiled Psychic Intrustion; he allows you actually cast the spells by paying the mana cost.  You do not get the benefit of a free spell, but you do get the benefit of, say, casting your opponent's Sphinx's Revelation.

 I'm going to give you a little bonus and give you a brief little thought about the new Scry lands (by the way, Scry might be my favorite mechanic in the game).  I am not going to tell you whether or not I think they are good or will see play, because the simple fact is I'm not sure (except super fast aggro decks...  they do NOT want these lands) and you've probably already heard a million other opinions.  I will however mention something I overheard at FNM this week that I believe is a really good way to view them: "They will make you more likely to keep a two-land opening hand."

There you go; my first entry in what I hope will be many more HL/SLs.  Let me know what you think of the new card(s) and what card that's been spoiled so far that makes YOU the most excited.  I'll see you again with the newest Theros card from the coming week that leaps out at me.

Until then, I'm shutting down this spotlight...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

[JT] CGC: Can you solve The Sphinx's Riddle?

I love sphinxes, almost as much as I love the moonfolk; and since I already have an EDH deck built for them (a bit out of date, but still...), a while ago I decided it was time for me to give my other loves some... well...  love.  As you all know from both my moonfolk deck and my Legend of Zelda deck (actually, going through a massive overhaul currently), I love flavor as well.  I love it so much so that I've come to realize I cannot maintain a non-flavor based EDH deck for more than a few games because they lack the fun that flavor deck bring to the table.

When it came to my Sphinx deck, I had to find some theme I could latch on to.  I knew what creature was going to be my general already since there is only one legendary sphinx that allows me to play all the others: Sharuum, the Hegemon (I want to side track here for a second and say that I REALLY hope the Esper commander deck that is coming out will have a new legendary sphinx as the commander since I am tired of showing my commander to people and having to follow it with the line "It's not that kind of Sharuum deck...").

At first I tried making it an Arcane based deck (you remember Arcane; the subtype from Kamigawa that allows you to Splice other spells onto it?  Yeah, that's the one), but it did not have that flavor punch that makes me drool over a deck.  I was still at a loss.  I needed something that was inherent to the mythos of sphinxes, and it dawned on me one day that the answer was in Sharuum's flavor text the whole time...

"To gain audience with the hegemon, one must bring a riddle she has not heard."

RIDDLES!  Sphinxes are all about riddles, and I knew that if I could translate that somehow into a theme for my deck, I'd have Vorthosian gold!  The answer to this riddle (heh heh... get it?) laid in the other Esper color card from Shards block that I was going to make absolute certain had a place in this deck: Brilliant Ultimatum.

What better way to pose a riddle to your opponents than making them choose between things?  Let's see how well this idea translated into an actual deck...

Creatures (32):
Probably my favorite sphinx
Sharuum, the Hegemon (Commander)
Sphinx of the Steel Wind
Enigma Sphinx
Sphinx Sovereign
Magister Sphinx (As much as I want to play with all of the sphinxes, I would completely understand if this ended up banned)
Sharding Sphinx
Sphinx Summoner
Cerulean Sphinx
Serra Sphinx
Sphinx of Uthuun
Jelenn Sphinx
Consecrated Sphinx
Isperia the Inscrutable
Isperia, Supreme Judge
Vexing Sphinx
Sphinx of Jwar Isle
Chancellor of the Spires
Sphinx of the Chimes (... yes...  It's in here... I kind of had to)
My very first sphinx *whimsical sigh*
Sphinx of Lost Truths
Argent Sphinx
Sphinx Ambassador
Windreader Sphinx
Goliath Sphinx
Conundrum Sphinx
Belltower Sphinx
Grand Architect
Solemn Simulacrum
Adaptive Automaton
Steel Hellkite
Gold Myr
Silver Myr
Leaden Myr

Riddles, Non-creature spells (21):
Brilliant Ultimatum
Choice of Damnations
Do or Die
Far // Away
Distant Memories
Killing Wave
Painful Quandary
Jace, Architect of Thought
Soul Ransom
Rhystic Study
Covenant of Minds
Dispense Justice
Devour Flesh
Dash Hopes
Truth or Tale
Murmurs from Beyond
Tribute to Hunger
Flooded Woodlands
Vexing Arcanix

Non-riddle, Non-creature spells (10):
Sphinx's Revelation
Mask of Riddles
Sphinx-Bone Wand
Venser, the Sojourner
Coat of Arms
Crystal Ball
Unwinding Clock
Azorius Signet
Orzhov Signet
Dimir Signet

Lands (37):
Island x5
Swamp x3
Plains x2
Seat of Synod
Ancient Den
Vault of Whispers
Vivid Creek
Vivid Meadow
Command Tower
Arcane Sanctum
Azorius Guildgate
Azorius Chancery
Orzhov Guildgate
Dimir Guildgate
Glacial Fortress
Drowned Catacomb
Seachrome Coast
Darkslick Shores
Watery Grave
Godless Shrine
Mystic Gate
Sunken Ruins
Nimbus Maze
Tainted Isle
Esper Panorama
Terramorphic Expanse
Evolving Wilds
Mystifying Maze
Buried Ruins
Reliquary Tower

Cards I am still trying to get my hands on for this deck:
Petra Sphinx
Curse of Wizardry
Esper Charm
Fatal Lore
Temporal Extortion
Imperial Edict
Library of Lat-Nam
Fact or Fiction
Thought Prison
Thran Tome
Liar's Pendulum

Maze of Ith
Isolated Chapel
Dimir Aqueduct
Orzhov Basilica
Vivid Marsh
Fetid Heath
Hallowed Fountain
Patriarch's Bidding
Propaganda (and similar effects)

So how does it play?  FREAKING AMAZINGLY!  This might be the deck I have had the most fun playing.  There's a decent bit of inherent strength in the creatures, and Grand Architect (an inclusion that I have to admit I am not completely fond of since I feel it detracts from the flavor or the deck, but sometimes you have to go function over form) allows you to pump out the larger sphinxes a lot quicker than normal.  However, there is nothing more satisfying than playing a Choice of Damnations at any point in the game to either drain them for a large chunk of life or just leave them with absolutely nothing while everyone else has everything.

One thing I want to make a note of is that this deck works a little better in a one-on-one duel than it does in multiplayer.  Being able to focus all of your riddles on one player makes them all the more potent (Can you imagine an opponent's face when you give them a Choice of Damnations and they focus on keeping a board state so they keep their creatures, and then you follow up with a Do or Die?  It might be down right cruel; certainly more so than if each of those spells targets a different player.  That is not to say that the deck cannot hold its own in multiplayer matches, but for those I find myself relying more on things like Sphinx of the Steel Wind than the riddles she would ask.

As I have said, this is probably the one deck that I have had the most fun playing.  It is the antithesis of the decks that allow little to no interactivity; it requires it. 

And on that note, I am will see you all again soon.  I don't intend to take a long hiatus again (though I also didn't intend to take these last few either).  In the mean time though, I wonder how many of your opponents can answer The Sphinx's Riddle?