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.

Lovecraft, Magic, Must be Emrakul discussion 10/18

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If you ever have the change to get a hold of Emrakul Aeons Torn don’t hesitate. When this card first entered the game I saw a massive beast that could destroy and win game by itself alone, then I saw it’s CMC. When it comes to design by Wizards of the coast, look no further than Emrakul and the Edrazi titans.

When looking at this card there are a few things to take note of. And the first and most blaring is that it is colorless. Apart from the ore that the Eldrazi come from the Ǽather and have basically no alignment to any one color in Magic: the Gathering, it give players opportunity to add or use this card in almost any type of deck.

Then there is the first ability, “Emrakul, the Aeons Torn can’t be countered.” This along would not make this card broken, other cards such as Counterflux, Last Word, Obliterate, and Gaea’s Herald just to name a few all cannot be countered. In some cases Emrakul might not be as effective as the other cards. Gaea’s Herald give all creatures this ability and Obliterate destroys everything in its path. However the R&D at Wizards of the coast needed to make Emrakul as balanced as they could make him while still making him a threat.

One way to look at this was by the CMC and the second ability, “When you cast Emrakul, take an extra turn after this one.” Emrakul sits as the second highest CMC in all of Magic at 15, with Draco an artifact creature dragon at 16. Should a player spend actually get to 15 mana and use it to cast Emrakul (this is known as Hard-Casting when you cast a creature on the turn their CMC allows) it leave the player vulnerable and unable to do anything else. So by allowing the Player to take an extra trun in essence it give Emrakul Haste (this is assuming that the player does not already have a way to give Emrakul haste thinking like Anger in the graveyard).

With its next three abilities, “Flying, protection from colored spells, annihilator 6” it basically leaves Emrakul unlockable when attacking, unless your opponent has another Eldrazi titan or an artifact monster. With flying it no longer has to be worried about being blocked by ground creatures and annihilator 6 just changes the game state leaving the opponent crippled and almost defeated.

Because Emrakul is 15 to play it balances out all the other abilities. And begs the question, “wait I want to get this card out sooner, so how?” This is the question I should have asked myself years ago, because now there are deck that use Emrakul and get him out turn two or three. Cards like Through the Breach or Sneak Attack or Show and Tell make Emraul more of a viable card and boots it to absolute threat level when playing off against these decks. But it is because of these cards and their interaction that these cards are just as pricy as Emrakul itself.

Those it can be argued the Emrakul can still be played even if a player does not run the above mentioned cards. Should a player choose to run green and Ramp (play additional lands per turn or have mana acceleration through artifacts and other lands) and get this card out earlier.

Be careful when building a deck with Emrakul, unless a player is able to stall out until turn 15 (Emrakul is banned in Commander and EDH) then it is just a mythical beast tearing through the multiverse and an awe inspiring card for players to conceive new and innovative decks making the Lovecraftian Horror all the more horrifying.

Never see that Happening…Hello Goblin Rabblemaster

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When M15 first hit the shelves and players had a chance to test the cards, it seems like Nissa and Garruk were the hot cards to have. Garruk was even ranked the top card according to the FatPack Booklet. No one saw Goblin Rabblemaster as an important card. It began its life as a $1 dollar or so card. Now it’s near $20 dollars and is sought after by almost all players. I did not see this happening to be honest. And to be honest I am happy that it did happen. When M15 first came out the talk about the hot cards was Nissa Worldwaker, and Urborg tomb of Yawgmoth. M15 could have just been another Core Set that players used as a buffer between the Lore Sets like Theros and Khans of Tarkir. The fact that Goblin Rabblemaster flew under the radar until the ProTours and just blew away the competition shows that good design on the part of the players can drastically affect the price in cards.

This is what I’m seeing in another card released in Khans of Tarkir, Dig Through Time. The way Blue has utilized it as an end-of-your-opponents-turn search and basically get your win condition is very nice. Not to mention that the graveyard in this case does not matter. With no Flashback to be exiled by Delve puts the cards in a good place with blue.

It’s cards like these I love seeing. It shows how the ingenuity of players and the ambition from deck building can alter the lay of the cards and affect prices just from one or two tournaments. IT is one of the reasons I write about Magic: the Gathering. The players make the game and the players help solidify the cards in the history books.

I look Forward to the next out-of-nowhere card.

Force of Will Discussion

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Spells, Creatures, Enchantments, almost everything is susceptible to a counter spell of, “counter target [insert parameters here] spell.” And in the realm of counterspells none can respond to the likes of Force Of Will. I don’t know if Wizards of the Coast knew what would become of this card, and if they did the design of it is flawless.

Taking a moment just to look at the card itself the first thing you might notice is its Converted Mana Cost (CMC). Three colorless mana and two blue (3UU). Making the CMC five. So it can be used late game and think nothing of it. If that were the case the card would not be worth near $90 dollars today.

It’s the way the card work s around itself to give the player near infinite possibilities and option. Force of will reads, “You may pay 1 life and exile a blue card from your hand rather than pay Force of Will’s mana cost. Counter target spell.” In essence it is a free cast. Counter any spell practically anytime.

Like other counter spells, Mana Leak, Cancel, Mental Misstep, Force of Will allows the player to dictate the outcome of certain events in the game. The design team also made sure that it was not overpowered. It is not unpreventable, and can be dealt with. And looking at countering Force of Will an opponent needs to be careful, because if there are enough Lands open Force of Will can be protected by another counterspell just to be safe.

And because Force of will can be played apart from its CMC casting a player can almost ignore the resources they are using or are at hand. That’s not to say that a player with one life left will use Force of Will.

It shows why the Blue idea of Counter and control magic has been a top contender in past years when at Tournaments. Counter magic allows players more “control” over the game than if they were using other colors.

And here’s one things I took note of. Force of Will is not on the Magic: the Gathering’s Reserved List. Even though it was originally from Alliance set, it was reprinted in Master’s Edition it is not on the Reserved list. So it could be reprinted. Not saying it will be. According to the Magic: the Gathering Salvation Rumor-Mill it may or may not ever be reprinted. One reason that it is so hard to get a hold of, and so sought after is because of Legacy. One aspect that was mentioned is that Legacy has a lot of turn one Win-Con’s and Force of Will is the best answer to anything turn one if you are not playing first.

But what would happen if Force of Will was reprinted? Would that mean more people get into legacy? That is a topic for another time. I’ll end with this, it was one way to change how players interacted with the cards. It shows how good design can give an edge to different cards, and makes Magic: the Gathering that much more interesting.

Entomb and Reanimate Discussion 10/16

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There has been a question that I use to ask about, in my opinion, the most famous and well known combo I Magic: the Gathering: Why was Entomb more expensive than Reanimate? Was it not Reanimate that gave you the creature? Was it not Reanimate that altered the game right off the bat? Reanimate was the card, right?

It was not until I built the deck did I see the actual truth.

Looking at Reanimate it looks powerful it give you any creature from any graveyard onto your side of the battlefield. Actual rule, “Put target creature card from a graveyard onto the battlefield under your control. You lose life equal to its converted mana cost.” All of this for just one black mana (B). So it can be handled with by counter and if the spell resolves destroy creatures spells.

As for Entomb (B), “Search your library for a card and put that card into your graveyard. Then shuffle your library.” It all revolve around how you decide to act. It allows you to manipulate your deck to give you the optimal advantage in future turns.

And to take it a step further let’s look at the Combo: Dark Ritual, into Entomb, into Reanimate. It is because of Entomb that Reanimate is so powerful. Pick any powerful card in Magic: the Gaterhing, now take turn one and put it in the graveyard, then right after put it on the battlefield. All this on turn one.

And because Reanimate deal damage to you equal to the Converted mana coast of the creature put on the battlefield, it make the player focus on what cards they can put onto the battlefield. Also if a player wants to Reanimate an Eldrazi Titan they need to know the stack. As the Eldrazi Titan hits the graveyard Cast Reanimate before the trigger resolves. Also that might not be the best idea. Why would you practically cut your life in half like that unless you know you have the win?

Reanimate give the player options not just on their side of the field but to any opponent’s graveyard. If an opponent have their win-con in the graveyard Reanimate is one way to ensure that you get it before they do.

But because the combo really runs off Entomb, because without Entomb turn one Reanimate hits nothing, unless you have discard, and Entomb is how you decide how you want to win.

Apart from all of this, these three cards are one way the Wizards of the Coast and Magic: the Gathering help players learn combos. Just like the Festering newt, Bubbling Cauldron, and Bogbrew Witch combo from M14 it is the small things that help players learn to adapt to harder opponents.

Hawk of the Night, Discussion o the Vampire Nighthawk

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The Vampire Nighthawk is, in my opinion, the closes card to Batman there is so far. This card can accomplish so much for a player and for what it is worth one colorless mana and two black mana (1BB). Apart from its nice casting cost, it is what the card does that makes it such a fiend on the field. It has three static (non-Enter the battlefield and no pay mana to activate) abilities: Flying, Deathtouch, and Lifelink. That alone can turn the tide of a game if done properly.

According to MTGTop8, the Nighthawk seem mainly in Golgari Control (Deck by DarkestMage), and in a version of The Rock Deck (Deck by Noll3n). As I see it in those two decks (and this is my observation based on the cards listed) the Nighthawk is used as the blocker for anything, be it ground or air, and used as the threat to gain life when it is called for.

The Vampire Nighthawk is a balanced card give the player’s options but does not overpower the field. First, the Nighthawk is limited by its Power and Toughness (P&T) 2 power and 3 toughness (2/3). However, due to the fact that it has flying it can go around the early game ground creatures that might have higher P&T to send it to the graveyard. Combined with Deathtouch it can go up against bigger and more threatening cards like Grisslebrand, Apes of Rath, Arc Runner, Avatar of Discord, and Bogardon Hellkite just to name a few. The Nighthawk allows the player to block these big creatures and remove them without worrying about the P&T ration.

Think of it as would I rather take seven damage from a horrible flying demon, or would I chose to let the Nighthawk take it down to save me that damage.

So it fly’s, it remove threats—that can be removed, Indestructible creatures still survive—and it give you a small bonus when it attacks or blocks. Lifelink. No the R&D of Wizards of the coast could have just given it one of those two, but combining the two made for interesting gameplay and synergy. These three abilities together give the player more options as to how they want to handle the gameplay when Nighthawk is on the battlefield.

One option is they want to attack. It’s not dealing that much damage to the opponent, and as far as the life-gain is concerned it’s not too drastic. But over time, and if it is not blocked for a few turns, it can become annoying; and if not dealt with give you the edge. Also when an opponent decides to block, and with only a flyer they have to decide on what they can lose. Therefore unless that have some indestructible flyer they might not want to block the Nighthawk.

Another option is that Nighthawk is a very good blocker. As stated above it take out almost any creature it wants to when it blocks. The opponent now must decide on how to beat attack without losing a creature that might be needed later. This gives the player with Nighthawk the edge.

Compared to Glissa the Traitor, Due to Glissa’s First Strike ability it can survive against any threat that is on the ground. And her third ability, “Whenever a creature an opponent controls dies, you may return target artifact card from your graveyard to your hand,” becomes situational and must be built for or around when thinking about how to best use her. I’m not saying it has to be but it is there. Nighthawk’s abilities are better-rounded for gameplay.

It was cards like Vampire Nighthawk that made me love the game of Magic: the Gathering and why combining abilities like Flying, Deathtough, and Lifelink and change the tide of battle.

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