Tuesday, 31 March 2015

MTG: 11 Intriguing Casual Cards from Dragons of Tarkir

Due to some real life events, and the fact that Fate Reforged came out not *that* long ago, I haven't really gotten into Dragons of Tarkir as much as I would normally do for any new set.

One rant before I begin: Where are all the frickin' baby dragons?

WOTC's official answer was that the Dragon Tempest only gives 'birth' to fully-grown dragons, and baby dragons don't exist on Tarkir. Pbbbbbttt!

What a load of junk! Seriously, Dragon decks have been craving lower-drops for years, and this was the perfect set to do it.

What do we get? A bunch of durdly 6-drops :(

*ahem*

Now, after playing in a release tournament, and getting to look through the player's guide (aka Bathroom Reading), I've finally started to get excited about some of the new goodies.

What's inspiring this casual player? In a totally random order...

1. Rakshasa Gravecaller


My allegiance has now shifted to the Silumgar brood, as they reward cunning and resourcefulness. I favour decks that win on grinding resource advantage, as my opponents slowly find the game slipping out of their hands.

Now, the Gravecaller is one of the most powerful cards in the set, especially in a Draft or Sealed environment. How many cards, especially UNCOMMONS, offer 7 power and 10 toughness for the price of one (well, plus another) card? This card could have been rare, and that would have been fair.

This card was a definite MVP for my winning Silumgar deck at the release tournament. I don't often win, so I might as well brag a little ;)

2. Assault Formation


Harkoning back to Doran, the Siege Tower, Assault Formation is a great 'build around me' card that turns your 0/5 walls into brutal attackers. Most high toughness creatures are fairly cheap to cast, as is this card.

Thankfully, I already have a deck pre-made for this beauty. My Arachnophobia deck is full of spiders with big asses and not much power. (Sir Mixalot would approve!) This enchantment will turn any 2/4 into a literal 4/4, and give the whole team a big papa pump.

3. Palace Familiar


Yes, a 1/1 owl for two mana hardly seems exciting, but if you need fodder for your exploitations, this feathery friend will ensure that you don't face card disadvantage.

This dude also makes an amazing chump blocker, since it replaces itself. Don't need to block? Just peck your opponent in the eyes or poop on their head until you need it as a sacrificial fowl. 

4. Deathmist Raptor


It seems the Predator is done with earthlings and decided to visit Tarkir.

Besides being a powerful creature in its' own right (it's already seeing Standard play), the fact that you can get it back over and over again in a deck with Morphs is one reason why this card was turned into a mythic rare.

5. Youthful Scholar


When this card came out, I joked that it was the perfect Magic representation of myself: I'm not dumb, and, while I am smart, I am not a high achiever.

Best to keep expectations low and pleasantly surprise people :)

On it's own, it's almost Mulldrifter-level in terms of power. If you need an Exploit target, this is the very best.

6. Dragon Whisperer



On the other hand, this card is a great Magical representation of my wife: She really is the Dragon Whisperer, and this is one of the few low drops that will actually make it into a Dragon deck.

7. Sarkhan Unbroken


Sarkhan has finally shed the madness that has consumed him, and has found happiness in a plane ruled by dragons.

As for this card, how can you not love a card that poops out dragons? At the very worst, he 'gains' you 5 life and draws you a card.

As for the Limit Break? Well, I have a dream where my wife ultimates Sarkhan Unbroken, only for me to Wrath the board the very next turn.


8. Sidisi, Undead Vizier



We hardly ever get any Demonic Tutor type cards these days, and now we have one that is built into a 4/6 deathtouch monster! It pays to serve Silumgar.

Yeah, I'll gladly turn my dorky 1/1 into the most powerful card in my deck.

Deathtouch creatures tend to be purely defensive in nature, but 4 power? Talk about an offensive powerhouse. Your opponents are going to have to put something beefy in front of her to actually kill her, or will be afraid to block her at all.

9. Silumgar's Command

Of all of the commands, this is the most likely to produce 2-for-1s.

Now, five mana makes it a very expensive spell, especially since the other commands are all cheaper. You don't want to be stuck with 3-4 of these in your hand.

On the other hand, any card that can outright kill annoying Planeswalkers is going to get top marks from me. It's a pain in the arse to have to devote so many creature attacks to kill an opposing planeswalker, after all.

The first three modes will see the most play, for sure, but all of them provide a load of value and tempo.

10. Dragonlord Silumgar



The big daddy himself! Yeah, he's gotten a bit lazy in his old age, but he will still *steal* the show.

If you are desperate for exploit fodder, and/or want to get rid of your opponents most annoying creature, just borrow it and exploit it for profit.

(I feel so much like a Wall Street banker *giggle*)

11. Silumgar Sorcerer


If you had a spell that read "Choose one - Counter target creature spell or put a 2/1 flying wizard into play", you would most certainly put that card into any blue deck.

Silumgar Sorcerer is great in that it offers so much flexibility, and you don't need to decide between a Remove Soul or a flashy flyer for the last spot in your deck.

Granted, this card can't counter more annoying removal spells and planeswalkers, but it's still a deceptively powerful creature that can go into even non-Exploit decks.

12. Sunscorch Regent


Remember this bullish creature?


Taurean Mauler is one of the more annoying cards to face off against in multiplayer, since it just keeps growing...and growing...

Well, Sunscorch Regent is the dragonic version of Mrs. Mauler, destined to make all of your opponents groan in resignation.

Now, the Regent isn't quite as good as the Mauler in two respects: a. The Mauler comes down much earlier, and is will get much larger much earlier, and b. the Mauler has any and all creature types... yes, even a dragon :)

Still, the Regent has a nice bit of evasion, and will also gain you some life for all of the work your opponents are doing.


13. Swift Warkite


Welcome to Valuetown, population: Swift Warkite.

Of all of the uncommon gold dragons in the set, this is, by far, my favourite.

Besides having decent stats, the reanimating clause can bring back a bevy of valuable creatures onto the battlefield for another go.

Don't want to lose the creature you just reanimated? Don't attack! At the end of turn, it will bounce safely back into your welcome bosoms.

I think the Warkite combos very nicely with something like Bone Shredder. Then, it reads as a 4/4 dragon with Terror attached.





So, while Dragons of Tarkir might not have any cards that make me nerdgasm (Villainous Wealth), or any real big combo enablers, the set will inspire me to make a new deck based around the Exploit mechanic.

What cards are you looking forward to getting?

Friday, 23 January 2015

MTG: 11 Intriguing Casual Cards from Fate Reforged

Fate Reforged is due out tomorrow, and, as always, there are a bunch of cards that are intriguing for this casual player.

This set had to be built differently, as it is bridging two different draft formats. Fate Reforged will be drafted with Khans of Tarkir, and then also exclusively with the next set (Dragons of Tarkir)

To those who don't follow the story closely, Fate Reforged actually takes place 1,000+ years in the past from the last set, and Dragons of Tarkir will take us forward to the 'present', albeit with things changed significantly. We see how the clans were not yet as strong, as they were forced to defend for themselves against nasty dragons. Three of the five mechanics from the previous set also return.

Overall, I don't feel nearly as excited for this set as I did the last one, although that is common with the second set of a three-set block. There are some cards that I definitely want to play with, but nothing that left my jaw dropping like Villainous Wealth :)

So, onto the list.


11. MANIFEST

Technically, this is not a card, but this is the one thing I really want to build a deck around.

How can you take advantage of manifests? How about one of these babies?


By paying their actual mana cost to flip them over, you avoid the awful 'comes into play' triggers. They are already in play! You can also avoid the blowouts that can happen when your Torpor Orb gets bounced, or you don't ever even find one.

There are even morph creatures that can be abused with the manifest ability.

For example...





Why pay five-mana to flip Hooded Hydra when you can simply pay GG? For creatures that have a higher morph cost than their casting cost, manifest allows you to exploit some tax loopholes.You, too, can feel like Mitt Romney, if only for a fleeting moment.


10. SOULFIRE GRAND MASTER



I'm not sure I have an existing deck to put the Master into, but I'd love to pull off this goofy combo and gain 130+ life.

9. ELITE SCALEGUARD



This doesn't look all that exciting, from first glance, but it is a deceptively powerful scalpel.

I saw my wife play this at the pre-release, and it helped her win some games. I will fit at least one into my current Abzan deck.

Giving your creatures the ability to clear away an annoying blocker is helpful in breaking through board stalls, especially when they thought they were safe behind their big walls. Even if it just pumps itself, a 4/5 for five mana is OK.

8. MONASTERY SIEGE



The cheapest of all of the sieges, this one can allow controls decks a frightening amount of card advantage and filtering. Throw away those extra lands? Dump a fatty to reanimate? Fuel delve? This one has it all. I can see Standard control decks wanting this as a 1 or 2-of.

The second ability is nothing to sneeze at either, as it can make it harder for your opponents to deal with your army. If you build around creatures, this forces your opponent to ether have a board wipe, or spend a lot more time trying to pick off your dudes.

7. CLOUDFORM



Of the Manifest enablers, this is the one I will always want to draw first.

I don't want my Eaters of Days to get Lightning Bolted before I get a chance to flip them, and this provides the SHIELDS UP that is needed to stop the Klingons from ruining my fun!

Oh, the flying is also a nice bonus. If you end up manifesting a land, a 2/2 flyer for three mana is acceptable.

6. SOULFLAYER




Soulflayer is one of those projects that requires a bit of work to complete, but can be worth millions once you finish the renovations and put it on the open market.

Yeah, you can just get a cheap 4/4 for two mana, but the real combo comes with Chromanticore.



 A two-mana 4/4 flyer with all them keywords?



5. HUMBLE DEFECTOR



Humble Defector is a cute, new design space that gives Red decks the potential of card advantage. Combine it with spells or abilities that untap a creature and you can easily draw four or six cards at once! If you have a sacrifice outlet, just eat him up before he makes it to the enemy camp.

For those that love politics, this is the perfect card for you. Pass around the hot potato!

4. CRUX OF FATE


 
Just take a moment to appreciate the awesomeness of this card, and witness the ultimate battle between Nicol Bolas and Ugin. The flavour oozes from this like a grilled cheese sandwich.

Not since Damnation has black had a pure mass removal spell at less than six mana. Mutilate is close, but depends on your mana base to be effective.

In most multi-player games, this will simply be a pure board wipe. If you have a dragon or two on the board, it's quite one-sided.

3. UGIN, THE SPIRIT DRAGON



Ever since the strange 'red' card Ghostfire was printed in 2007, there have been players asking "Who is this Ugin?"

After all of this waiting, and all of the teasing, we finally get the man dragon, itself!

The art is worthy of a creature this legendary, and Control decks of any colour now have another splashy finisher that ought to cement the fates in your favour.

Even if you just use it's Ghostfire ability, you now have a 9-loyalty 'walker that must be answered. Otherwise, just wipe the board of any coloured permanent.

(Is Ugin racist? Hmm....)

2. SUPPLANT FORM



I love to clone creatures. I love to bounce creatures.


One downside of clone effects is that when you clone an opponent's creature, they still have the same damn creature! Discounting enter-the-battlefield abilities, this leave you only at parity with your enemy.

Supplant Form allows you a huge tempo boost by cloning that very creature, but getting rid of their original...if only for a turn. This spell at the opponent's end-of-turn is fine form, indeed.

1. BRUTAL HORDECHIEF




For those that remember Hellrider, we get another creature that turns any little 1/1 dude into am actual threat.

Aggressive decks, or token weenie decks, can sometimes run out of steam and get outclassed easily by bigger creatures. It's a brutal feeling when your opponent stabilizes and you can't force through that last 5-6 points of damage.

Brutal Hordechief is perfect for breaking through the stalemate and dealing those last points of damage to the dome. I have a black-red tokens deck that will love this card as a win condition. The hordechief doesn't even ever have to attack for him to have his effect.

"Why, yes, I'd love to get a 10-point life swing in one attack."

That last ability is also a game-winner, as you can easily force terrible blocks and ensure most of your forces get through, even after pinging them.


These 11 cards will give me some Scooby snacks to munch on until Dragons of Tarkir. At the very least, I'll have one cool new deck out of the manifest ability.

What cards are you looking forward to?

Friday, 2 January 2015

A Positive Post about Brands and Products

I've often ranted about terrible advertisements, the evils of unchecked capitalism, and overrated products.

For once, I should write something positive. Not everything in this world annoys me.

So, why not write about the brands, products, and stores that I actually like and would recommend?

Yes, I am somewhat loyal to certain big bame brands, even if I do try to support local businesses and smaller labels, rather than large multinationals



DAIRY QUEEN

I eat a lot less fast food than I did before the turn of the century. When I do want something quick and easy, Dairy Queen is my favourite large chain, by far.

Even if DQ served only Skor Blizzards (for you Americans, your HEATH bar is a close comparison), I would still rank it #1. Skor Blizzards and ice cream cakes are manna from heaven, and the most delicious thing the human tongue has ever had the pleasure of tasting.

I love the Skor ice cream cakes so much we had one at our wedding!


The chicken strip basket is also a big winner, and the burgers, which are actually grilled, are acceptable.

Most big chain's burgers are rather 'meh', but I never get that sinking feeling of shame eating a DQ burger that I do from McRonalds or Burger Tsar.

DQ seems to be able to walk the fine line of being not-too-unhealthy and greasy, yet still serve you a meal in about 2 minutes.


TACO TIME


This is more local to Western Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the US, but it has become my go-to place for something 'Mexican'.

First, realize that Vancouver has very few actual Mexican restaurants, and Taco Bell, thankfully, has no presence here. There are very few choices when you want meat, lettuce, rice, and salsa.

Taco Time is so much better than Taco Bell for the simple fact that Taco Time food does not give you instant, explosive diarrhea. Taco Time food is quite a bit healthier, fresher, and does not contain more grease than edible matter.

Taco Time also has something called Mexi-Fries, which is one of my bigger fast-food cravings. Yes, you can buy Tater-Tots at the grocery store freezer, but they never work out nearly as well.


HONDA

When it comes to automobiles, I have a pretty small list of things I need looked after.

1. Reliability
2. Fuel Efficiency
3. Customer Care

Let's face it, the cars, themselves, are fairly interchangeable between most brands, and I don't need to compensate for a lack of manliness or hair with an Lamborghini or Hummer.

When it comes to my experiences with Honda, they win all three categories. My wife's last Civic lasted 15(!) years, and rarely had to go through major repairs, or a string of constant small ones.

For customer care: A big shout-out to Westwood Honda in Port Moody for their excellent service. The repair shop tells you exactly what needs to be done, doesn't try to upsell you needless stuff, and is honest about when you actually need to do things.

Toyota? Only if you want your vehicle recalled.

American brands? Forget about it. Between planned obsolescence of the parts to their attention to gas guzzlers, there is no reason to ever consider buying one.


ARM & HAMMER


No, I'm not a Communist :)

A&H makes my list for one very simple reason: THEY MAKE STUFF THAT DOESN'T BLOODY STINK!

It seems product manufacturers think people want their cleaning products to reek of artificial flowers. Walking down the laundry deterigant aisle at the grocery store always makes me feel nauseous. Yes, I've ranted about this way too many times.

A&H is one of the few that produces unscented products, and they generally do it right. Some other brands' 'unscented' products will still have a very strong chemical smell or they'll just mask it with some other noxious miasma.

I use A&H for anti-perspirant, toothpaste, laundry soap, and, of course, baking powder.


There, four brands I can get behind and have earned my loyalty (for now....)

What brands are you partial to?

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Random Rantings - Brown Eggnog Dynasty

It's been far too long since I wrote something in this space.
Like exercise, it's always hard to get started again when you've had a long layoff.

So, here's some random brain dumpings.



Do you need to give somebody a Christmas gift that says, "I want you out of my life!"

Well, check out the Chia Duck Dynasty head.


I won't dump on Chia products, but how low can you go? It's bad enough that you can get Duck Dynasty anything, but a frickin Chia head?

Even the most inbred of Hillbilly trailer trash must think this atrocity is beneath them. 

"Yeah, I'll screw my cousins and the cattle, but this? What kinda freak ya think I am?"



Speaking of things that are affront to the spirit of Christmas, how about Almond "Eggnog".


My wife loves Almond Milk, for some reason, so she bought this pretend crap as a light-calorie alternative to real Christmas Magic.

I am open-minded about most food products, so I did give it a chance. I understand that some lactose-intolerant people are craving the fine taste of 'nog.

Suffice it to say, this is one of the most revolting drinks I have had the displeasure of running through my mouth.

  1.  The product doesn't actually taste like Eggnog. There is some hint of nutmeg  buried in there, but it's hard to taste over the 'dirty water' flavour.
  2. Eggnog is a creamy drink. Noel Nog is runny, watery, and a bit slimy. I'm not one who cares too much about food textures, but this drink feels 'wrong'.
  3. Even my wife think it's gross. If she doesn't like an Almond 'Milk' product, who in the hell does?

Worried about calories? Spike some light eggnog with ice-cubes or milk, add a bit of nutmeg, and sip some real stuff.

Can't have lactose? Well, stop being such a milk racist!



My pal Eric asks, "Why do teams who wear the color brown tend to play that way?"

Is that true?

Looking at the four major North American sports, very few teams have brown uniforms, to begin with.

Teams want primary, basic colours (red, white, black), or something that pops (blue, orange). Brown is that unhappy medium that is neither strong or bright.

That, and it looks like poop.

NHL


Philadelphia Flyers - This is a bit of a stretch, since the Flyers are technically 'Orange'.

Still, this orange of theirs is very dirty. Growing up, I actually thought the Flyers uniforms were brown.

The Flyers? Yup, they suck.

I guess we'll call it karma since many Philly fans, and the Flyers players, are a bunch of boorish thugs and jerks.



MLB

None, currently.


The San Diego Padres used to have brown uniforms, but later switched to more basic white-and-grey.

The Padres did suck, for the most part, when they had brown uniforms. They haven't been much better with the colour switch, either. The franchise lifetime record is 3398 wins and 3928 losses.

We're 2-for-2

NFL


The obvious choice, since the Cleveland Browns have the colour right in the name.

During the early years of their existence, the Browns were actually a really good team. The team actually has a 451-429-10 record in the NFL.

Still, I will call them a CRAP team and make it a 3-for-3.

Despite sporting a 7-4 record in 2014, the Browns have had a winning record in only three of their past sixteen seasons (since the franchise reboot), and have been one of the worst teams in the NFL for quite some time.

NBA

None that I know of.

I guess the theory holds, although there isn't much of a sample size.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

MTG: 12 Intriguing Cards from Khans of Tarkir

(Let's get this out of the way now...)

Khans of Tarkir, the newest expansion for Magic: The Gathering, will be out Friday. After attending last weekend's prerelease (and somehow winning it!), and looking over all of the spoilers, there are a handful of cards, like in any set, that I am most intrigued by.


As you can see, this list have quite an Abzan bent (the White, Green, and Black clan). The Abzan clan fits my grindy Orzhov style, and playing this style of deck requires an amazing amount of decision making.

Why didn't I Play JESkai? Despite the awesome name, the White-Blue-Red style of deck has never suited me all that well. Jeskai decks can tend to be a bit more fragile, and require a good amount of trickery. I prefer decks that have some good amount of defense and protection, while allowing me to slowly grind away for long-term advantage.


12. Jeskai Ascendancy


The Old Combo Jes would be all over this card. Here is an easy two-card combo that generates infinite tokens.



This card is amazingly and deceptively powerful, even without the combo potential. The problem is that, again, I rarely play the American colour scheme.

11. Utter End



Sure it's just a one-for-one removal spell, but the Orzhov mage in me will want about 30 of these for my various Black/White decks. Instant speed exiling is always potent, especially if you can hit those pesky planeswalkers.

I'd also like somebody to alter one and put a cow on it. Moo!

10. Bear's Companion



Any creature that comes with other creatures is worth considering, especially when it's a 4/4 bear! My Riku EDH deck will definitely want this pair. It's not easy to play, being 3 colours, but it is a very powerful uncommon.

9. Altar of the Brood



This artifact is deceptively powerful, turning any land drop into a Mill-1 for all opponents. Combine this with fetchlands and token makers, and you can very easily mill your opponent a bunch of times with little effort.

I don't plan to play this in my mill deck, so much as I'd put it in a Mimeoplasm deck where I want my opponents to have NomNoms for my pets. 

8. The Abzan Lords




OK, this is technically three cards, but they all fill the same type of role in the casual Abzan deck I'll be building. After playing them at the pre-release, I can appreciate how well they work together.

This trio basically function as 'lords', as they grant your team certain abilities, providing you meet the requirements. They also grow themselves, giving you a good way to use extra mana. Think of them as harder-to-use slivers :)

7. Bloodsoaked Champion




How can a guy with a shield in each hand not bloody be able to block? o.O

This was another card I had in my pre-release pool, and it is one of the better 1-drop creatures ever printed.

Besides the fact it's an efficient, aggressive, creature, it will just keep coming back again and again and... again.

Read the ability carefully, and you realize you can bring back the Champion the same turn he attacks and dies a traumatic death.

6. Sultai Flayer



Not such Roose Bolton have we seen such a dreadful flayer!

This was played against me at the pre-release, and it gave my opponent about 12+ life each game. Besides the four life you will gain when it dies, your other fatties turn into life-nourishing snacks when they hit the bin.

5. Sultai Charm


For casual play, I think this is the best charm of them all. The flexibility to handle most troublesome permanent is all that you can ask for in a card, and you will likely always have a target for this. Any BUG/Sultai deck ought to easily have a spot for this, and I can see it replacing other removal spells that I have in those decks.

4. Abzan Ascendancy


It's hard not to like this enchantment, as it can grow your existing team. For Abzan, turning on the lords (not in *that* way, pervs!) is key to victory, and this allows you to do it without tapping them to use the Outlast ability.

This card also provides some removal and wrath protection, giving you a nice ghost once the original creatures bite the dust. If you overextend, or get wrathed out, it is nice to not be left empty-handed.

3. Duneblast


He who controls the spice controls the board!

This was my pre-release MVP, despite the heavy mana cost. Yeah, I don't normally play 7-mana wraths, but this one is damn well worth it! This limited format was quite slow and allowed for big spells to be played.

Being able to clear the board of pesky rodents, and then swing in with your best creature? That is such a good feeling. It can often suck to wipe the board when you have a creature you don't really want to have die, so why not have your cake and eat it to?

In multi-player, there is an added political aspect to this card, as it may be somebody else's creature that you let live. Yes, I'd like you to attack Jace, the Wallet Sculptor, for me next turn!

2. Siege Rhino



Another bloody Abzan card, I know :)

Still, how could you not like the value on this Rhino? A 4/5 trampler that also does three damage to each opponent? Oh, I also get three life? Niiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

I don't understand the flavour of this card, but that won't stop me from using and abusing it (Don't call PETA on me, thanks) in my Junk Reanimator build. Blinking and reanimating this creature just feels so dirty.

1. Villainous Wealth


I'll finish with the card that made me squee like a little girl at a One Direction concert when it was first spoiled.

Remember Genesis Wave?



Introducing ... NEMESIS WAVE!


My playgroup buddies know how much I love to 'borrow' their stuff! There are so many cool cards that I never get to play, so this is my chance to do so.

While the mana investment will be quite high, being able to borrow a big pile of your opponents deck gets Greedy Jes all shuttering with excitement. A Genesis Wave on your opponents deck is boom or bust, but it will likely always be fun ... for me, at least ;)

---

So, while I'm mostly looking at the Abzan cards in this set, there are many other cool cards that could find their way into existing decks. The Abzan is the one clan I'll be building around, while most of the other cool cards will just find their way into my existing decks.

What cards from this set excite you?