Lillian of the Veil #MTG

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My Mistress of Black Mana, My Mentor when I began to really delve into Magic: the Gathering competitively, the beautiful horror which that can make men shudder and fall to her knees in blind obedience. None other than Liliana, Liliana of the Veil.

AS far as Planeswalkers and design are concerned Ms. Liliana of the Veil is unique. Looking at her when she arrived during Innistrad she fit in the set as perfect as zombies on the prowl. Perfect. She had the Victorian Gothic flare that tied all of the first block of Innistrad together nicely. And she was perfect for any Black Deck that needed a good threat.

At three CMC (1BB) Three Loyalty (3) “+1 Each player discards. -2 Target Player Sacrifices a Creature. -6Separate all permanents target player controls into two piles. That player sacrifices all permanents in the pile of his or her choice” she was what the essence of Black, in my mind, was supposed to be. She allowed the player to keep their opponents on edge with her +1. At the time there was Flashback cards so this ability was able to add more effect to the mechanics of the set if the player wished to splash another color that has a good Flashback foundation.

With her second ability of forcing a player to sacrifice a creature placed her in a very strong position. For a time one of the biggest threat before Ms. Liliana entered the foray was the Mirran Crusader. The sac-outlet the she provided alongside cards like Geth’s Verdict made her that much more threatening.

AS far as design is concerned she is powerful all-round. Because her CMC is only three player with Dark Ritual are able to cast her turn one. No other Planeswalker has that luxury (as far as I have seen).  It is in part, in my opinion, because of her CMC that she has flourished as a card in Magic: the Gathering.

But she is not overpowered. Her first ability must be taken into consideration and used carefully, less a player discard the card they need accidentally. The first ability keeps with the spirit of the original card Liliana Vess.

The final ability acts as a nice touch when the opponent must choose what they might loose and how they will lose it. But again Liliana is not overpowered and it is not like she gets to use the -6 frequently (unless you are up against a player who has never faced a Planewalker in battle before).

Also with the design aspect Liliana’s card is not overly provocative. Thanks in part to Steve Argyle who has managed to make many tasteful card art for Magic: the Gathering and has done so for many different sets. Art work itself has such a feel of fantasy that she is almost as believable as she is beautiful.

I consider Liliana one of my mentors in Magic: the Gathering because through her design, she has taught me how I want my decks to run when I play the, against an opponent. Since she has entered the game Liliana has risen from a $40 dollar card to an $80 dollar card and even in certain circles surpassed Jace in price and playability. And just another reason that I will always love the game of Magic: the Gathering.

#MTG land destruction, Worm of the Earth

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One of the few deck archetypes that I rarely see is that of Land Destruction. I wanted to look at a good land destruction card or a card that dealt with altering the play of lands on the battlefield. Therefore the card this time is Worm of the Earth.

Land Destruction Archetypes are interesting because in essence it acts as a third way to do damage to an opponent. Removing their means of playing spells. And one reason that these might not be as frequent because it may be seen as unfair or unbalanced in my opinion.

With Worm of the Earth it does not only affect just your opponent but you as well. Worm of the Earth, (2BBB), “Players can’t play land. Lands can’t enter the battlefield. At the beginning of each upkeep, any player may sacrifice two lands or have Worms of the Earth deal 5 damage to him or her. If a player does either, destroy Worms of the Earth,” puts the battlefield on a lockdown of sorts.

Due to the first two effects that prevent any land from entering the battlefield it makes the players use what is given to them. Not only that for the player casting Worm of the Earth they must first ask themselves, can they win with the land base they have?

Design wise this is an interesting card. With a CMC of 5 it can be considered a late game threat if the player has whittled the opponent into a corner and taking five damage is not optimum. But also because it uses three black mana it can be seen that on turn three a player could use Dark Ritual to get this on the battlefield much sooner.

Compared to other land destruction cards, Earth Rift, Rancid Earth, Molten Rain Worm of the Earth might not be the best choice for a land destruction deck. Rancid Earth and Molten Rain both cost three, and wit Molten Rain it has more benefits to crippling your opponent just by the type alone.

But Worm of the Earth is a permanent, and does force the opponent to make some tough decisions. By this time in the game or even if the opponent has missed a land drop or two this card can be effective. The opponent is forced to choose if they value their life total where ever it may lay at the tie Worm of the earth is cast, or do they accept the fact that they can live without two lands. Not to mention that the fact that the text says two lands is significant. Many of the Land destruction cards, save for the threshold in Rancid Earth, are a onetime use and must be recast to target the second land. Two lands can be the make-or-break factor of any game depending on the play style of a player.

Worm of the Earth is a card, ignoring set, which puts all players on notice, it is designed to where it can be both helpful and hurtful at the same time, or it can be useful or wasteful as well.

A look at Siege Rhino and the Abzan Midrage

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Looking at Top8 Abzan has 107 in the meta making roughly 27% beating out the RDW decks right now. Looking at the decks Siege Rhino is the one and that, to me, stands out as the defector card. Looking at the design and combination of other cards it does leave an impression.

Baleful Stare #MTG 10/26

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There are times in Magic: the Gathering where certain decks can become more of a threat than others. For decks like Mono Red Agro there have to be cards that for the player facing these decks can use to their advantage. In the case of Baleful Stare the entire hand the opponent has can be used against them.

Baleful Stare (2U), “Target opponent reveals his or her hand. You draw a card for each Mountain and red card in it,” looks at how certain cards can be used when you know what kind of deck your opponent has.

When looking at the design of Baleful Stare it has a CMC of 3 (2U) so it can be effective (this is taking into consideration that the player can stall until this turn) and combines two qualities seen in other blue cards. The first is that it allows the player to look that the opponent’s hand. With that trait it allows the player to better calculate how they want the game to progress. By opening the opponents hand to the player it now puts the opponents back a step. They now must assume that the player knows what the will play and are now forced to work around this knowledge.

Through the design of adding a condition to the card, “draw a card for each Mountain and red card in it,” adds a bit more kick. If an opponent is running a red deck the player facing them now has an additional card advantage.

If the player starts the game, the on turn three that player has a good change of drawing more than one card (this is on the assumption that the opponents as not emptied their hand).

This design that Wizards of the Coat and Magic: the Gathering incorporated to this card show the balance that the game revolves around.

And although Baleful Stare may be better suited for the Sideboard, it still utilizes the essence of what Blue players look for when trying to outwit their opponents.

Ana Sanctuary A look at tri colors in #MTG

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A card that has the player run three colors to have an effect trigger. This is not uncommon in Magic: the Gathering. With the emergence of Kahn’s of Tarkir the latest three color set, Magic players have more options when it comes to how colors interact with one another. Ana Sanctuary is just one example of how one card relies on different interactions or in this case different cards.

Ana Sanctuary (2G), “At the beginning of your upkeep, if you control a blue or black permanent, target creature gets +1/+1 until end of turn. If you control a blue permanent and a black permanent, that creature gets +5/+5 until end of turn instead,” is an interesting card. The card must be played with at least one of the colors mentioned in the text. And this give players a variety of ways to build with this card.  Regardless if the creature is blue or black they will get a small bonus for just being there. And the player has a nice opportunity to decide on how they want to use this ability if they have more than one creature on the battlefield. If a player has an Invisible Stalker out, they can do a bit more damage than with just the stalker. If they have a Vampire Nighthawk it give them a bit more to swing or block with and not worry about looking the creature when planning their move.

And if a player wishes to run all three colors, let’s say they run Mindleech Mass, that right there becomes threatening. What started off as a 6/6 creature with Trample and a damage trigger Ana Sanctuary makes it an 11/11 that is almost guaranteed a hit.

The design of Ana Sanctuary does not restrict the player to wait turn after turn until they can play it. A turn three Enchantment that interacts right at the next if you have a creature it can take effect. And it is in green so you have more options when adding this in a deck. You can ramp past it and play it plus another creature. It makes you play black or blue giving you protection with counterspells, and removal black spells.

Adding this card to a BUG (Black Blue Green Deck) build can have be just as flavorful as powerful. While it forces the player to work within the parameters of the card it give the player more of a boost if they play all three colors, even if they have to just slightly add one to get the desired outcome.

Sword to Plowshares discussion 10/24

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A lot of cards that deal with removal of creatures can either be plain or have a slight drawback to make them more balanced. In the case of Sword to Plowshares it is an interesting tradeoff for one of the more popular and powerful cards for white.

Like other cards I discussed, this card is a one drop (W) and has the text of, “exile target creature. Its controller gains life equal to its power.” This has always intrigued me when I first started playing Magic: the Gathering. Allowing an opponent to gain life for your opportunity to exile one of their threats.

And looking at it I thought that this card would not be as sought after as it is. This was until I understood the design of the card itself. First Sword to Plowshares does not limit you to exile just your opponent’s creatures. One option available is you can choose one of your own creatures. This may be seen I you need some last minute life and have enough creatures to support you exiling one of your own. Or if you have a creature that has, “when this creature is put into exile,” ability. The design on not limiting you to just your opponent allows the player to make more calculated options around how they want to handle the second trigger on Sword to Plowshares.

The only other card that come close to equaling the power and flavor of Sword to Plowshares is Path to Exile. Again with Path to Exile (W), “Exile target creature. Its controller may search his or her library for a basic land card, put that card onto the battlefield tapped, then shuffle his or her library.” Again it can be seen that this give your opponents something in return for this effect.

The reason Sword to Plowshares is used, from what I’ve been told from players at Collector’s Cache, is in part because of the mentality of some players. When the option to remove an opponent’s Win Condition from the game is presented it is like looking a gift horse in the mouth, they just feel better to Exile that creature than let it stay on the battlefield. The other mentality I’ve head is that when it comes to Sword to Plowshares life really is more preferable that land from Path to Exile. A player can, in theory and practice, find that bringing an opponent down from where they are after Sword to Plowshares is better than giving the opponent an advantage on their land base.

And comparing it to other cards like Ashes to Ashes, which give you two exile triggers but ends up dealing five damage to you the player in return and while it cost three five damage may be too steep in some cases. And with cards like Icy Prison, it may remove a creature from play but only until it is removed by either an opponent’s spell or you not paying the three mana to keep it on the field. Then there are cards similar to Yamabushi’s Flame, ignoring the set it’s from, cards like these that deal damage then remove if the creature goes to the graveyard end up becoming dependent on if the damage is sufficient enough. While combat trick are nice and help, Sword to Plowshares has less restrictions to it. Then there are cards similar to Catapult Master, where it is more costly just to achieve the exile and if the creature dies then you’ve lost that outlets.

These designs like that of Sword to Plowshares give the cards not only value but also variety in formats. And one of the many reasons that Sword to Plowshares has been reprinted in different settings and formats. It shoes that you can never underestimate what a good removal spell can do.

Phyrexian Obliterator Perfection and Horror 10/21

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It is called “blessed perfection,” by one of the top Phyrexian lords. And when this card hits the field it does make a statement. The card I look at this time is the Phyrexian Obliterator.

In Magic: the Gathering creatures that can do a lot of damage and in more than one ways usually find a home quickly. In this case the Obliterator deals with two problems faced in the battlefield. The first, players looking to deal damage through attacking need not worry, with the Obliterator’s Trample ability it can go through any creature under five power and toughness (5/5) and still deal some damage to the opponent.

And here is where the design of the Phyrexian Obliterator comes in handy. Normally if enough creatures block a creature with Trample with more toughness the damage will not go through. With the Obliterator anything that touches it will only add to the pain after blockers are declared. With its second ability, “Whenever a source deals damage to Phyrexian Obliterator, that source’s controller sacrifices that many permanents,” makes the opponent second guess how they want to have their creatures block.

So if more than five power (5/?) blocks or is blocked by the Obliterator, then the opponent will be forced (unless they have a spell that says otherwise) to sacrifice five permanents. This design allowed the Obliterator to attack not only as a good offensive attacker, but also used as very good defensive weapon.

This is also a good opportunity to use Enchantments like Lure, to turn the Obliterator into a very useful battering ram that, if your opponent have enough big creatures or a lot of small creatures, to just wipe the field with.

Thoth the Obliterator cannot be put into just any deck. This is the genius of the R&D team at Wizards of the Coast. Due to the Phyrexian Obliterator’s casting cost of four black mana (BBBB) the player looking to use this card must devote more of their deck around this mana curve. If on turn four they only have three black producing lands and one miscellaneous producing land it might seem pointless. This is where having a good mana curve or a way to fix your mana come into play when looking to use cards that have a high casting cost in just one color.

However, because the CMC is only four (BBBB) and the P&T is five (5/5) it still is more than useful when running just mono black or if a player wants to splash in Dark Ritual for a nice ramp up.

This is one of the reasons it is a mythic rare, turn four have something that can on your opponents turn remove a good chunk of the field if they are not careful. But because of the wording use in the second ability, “if a source…” give the Obliterator a bit more power and answers the problem of red removal.

This means that even if the opponent wants to use two Lightning Bolts to just get rid of the Obliterator, they still end up losing six permeants because of the ability. However, the obliterator can be dealt with by white and blue, which balances out the card nicely. Any counterspell or good white Exile card will deal with the Obliterator on the Spot.

Out of all the cards I have had the pleasure of handling and using in Friday Night Magic tournaments, the Phyrexian Obliterator is by far my favorite. Apart from the art work that has that horror essence, it puts a lot of opponents on their toes back when this was the card that could be seen as a threat. And just another great example of why Magic: the Gathering has fascinated me.

Ixidor Reality Sculptor Discussion 10/20

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IT’s Morphing Time! Is one thing I think when looking at one of the Legendary cards from Onslaught. Ixidor Reality Sculptor is a unique card in that he is extremely situational. However, this is one of the few card where the R&D team at Wizards of the Coast took more time to create a lore around Ixidor and other cards in this set.

I want to look at this card in two ways: first the card design then the lore behind the card.

In its design Ixidor Reality Sculptor (3UU), “Face-down creatures get +1/+1. (2U): Turn target face-down creature face up,” is meant to handle morph cards and give the player an advantage when using morph cards. When a morph creature enters the field it is base power and toughness 2/2. With Ixidor these morph creatures stand a better chance wen in combat. The only downside is the casting cost of Ixidor. Standing at five mana he is a late game threat. And threat was what he was when he first arrive on the scene.

Morph creatures have an un-morph cost to turn them face up again. With Ixidor, that cost become 2U. One card that interact well with Ixidor is, Akroma Angel of Fury. Turn three or four have Akroma on the field morphed as a 2/2 then when Ixidor enters the battlefield next turn un-morph Akroma and have a nice ready threat on the battlefield.

The interation between Ixidor and Akroma cards feels right in my opinion, and one reason is because in lore they were meant to interact with each other. When reading Ixidor’s lore on Magic Salvation Wiki, he was an illusionist who created Akroma and tried to find happiness through his illusions.

Ixidor might be a situational card, but it give players a challenge to see what they can do with different outlets for a new and unique mechanic. With the emergence of Khans of Tarkir giving us more morph creatures Ixidor has more combinations when building deck in formats like EDH. Ixidor might not be the best card or even a useful card, but his mechanics and interaction for the time made sense for that format and card set. In a sense he can help speed up morph creatures getting onto the battlefield, and it adds a flavor to the history of Magic: the Gathering.

Back then before Planeswalkers defined lore and position as poser children for Magic (and I have no problem with that just stating a fact) the Lore behind sets was what drew me to learn more about Magic: the Gathering. It was a reason I love learning about each set and why they have certain cards in them. And it is a reason I have the honor to use my journalism background to explore the lands Wizards of the Coast give to the players.

Tangled in a Fog 10/19

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In the heat of battle what is needed is a good fog to cover the land. In Magic: the Gathering Fog does just that is dissipates the war of combat and give the player a reprieve until next turn. Like Lighting Bolt, Fog can provide a number of advantages to players.

At its core, Fog (G), “Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn” acts as a relief to players who might be in a tight spot and allow them to prepare for their next turn. When played in TurboFog type decks it is used frequently putting the opponent at a disadvantage when attacking. Allowing the player to Fog then next turn all-out attack. It allows the player to dictate the outcome combat.

It is the design as an instant rather than a sorcery that helps make Fog so potent. Knowing that an opponent can have an army of creatures only to be stopped dead in their tracks by one spell.

But there are other cards like Fog that are arguably better. Tangle is one such card. Tangle (1G), “Prevent all combat damage that would be dealt this turn. Each attacking creature doesn’t untap during its controller’s next untap step,” has an added ability that give it a little more kick. Though Offset by its casting Cost (1G) compared to Fog (G) it puts the player at a bit more of a disadvantage. When looking at the opponents field, if they outnumber the player Tangle literally tangles the creatures for a turn and give the player almost free game to swing out next turn.

Now these Prevent Damage cards are great for when there is an army at your door step, but because of their design they still leave room for indirect combat damage. It is because of cards like Fog Tangle and even Heavy Fog that allow players to match wits with fast aggressive decks.

When building decks it does not hurt to think about the state of the battlefield. Understanding how the field might look can help a player determine their plays and how they want the match to flow when utilizing cards like these.

Change of Planes, Murphy’s Law and One unexpected PTQ

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SO today had an unexpected turn of events. I had planned to livestream the PTQ at the convention center; however when my partner was unable to make it I felt like the day was going to be a waste. That is not how it ended. Thanks to Steve Feral Emcee of the Events and Owner of Feral Events he convinced me to take part in my first Sealed PTQ. And I had a nervous blast. All-be-it I did not win but none the less it was a great opportunity to put what others have taught me to the test.

It was different from what I am use to but gave me a sense of what I need to work on. I know now that I am completely bias towards Grixix Colors emphasizing more towards Dimir and Rakdos combinations. Where at this event I chose to run a Sulti brew using quick two drop creatures and end with the Raksha Viser and Dig Through Time as a good combo.

The prerelease was enlightening as to how decks were constructed. Many of the competitors at the Overland Park Convention Center that I faced or saw battle use flawless combo decks that took advantage of Jeskia white and red or use Gren beast to overwhelm their opponents.

And if there is one thing that should always be planed for is how to take out a Planeswalker, with no creatures and no answers on my side Sarkon and Sorin can become a problem really quick like.

Again a huge thanks to Steve Feral and Win More Games for Hosting the PTQ and I hope that the Winner who gets to go to Washington does really well. And I hope to go to more Tournaments like this in the future.

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