The Lost Art of Deck-Building

Check Out My Net-Deck. Isn’t It Sweet?!

It’s no secret that formats get stale eventually. Powerful decks take over the meta and that becomes all you see, wherever you turn. This has actually become a very common occurrence lately and I’m not too sure it has everything to do with the power level of the actual cards. Eldrazi Winter is the most recent happenstance of a meta stifling deck. The Eldrazi were EVERYWHERE and they spread almost instantaneously due to the speed of access the internet allows us. I genuinely think that given more time, a ‘hoser’ deck would have been built and Eldrazi would have slowly faded into one of the top Tier 1 decks. Instead, the banhammer came down swiftly. It’s even been whispered that this was the last nail in Modern’s Pro Tour coffin, doing away with the format entirely.

Impatience is another trait we are starting to see pop up more and more in the magic community. People are so quick to ask for bans instead of putting in the effort to see what works against some of these meta crushing decks.

I must confess that I started thinking about this while writing another piece centered around the December’s Grand Prix in Denver. My thoughts finally coalesced after the standard ban news. Which brings us to my questions: Is deck-building a lost art and/or is Net-decking killing creativity in magic?

The first answer is no; deck-building is not dead or a lost art. It just happens to be too time-consuming in the fast-paced, instant gratification society we live in. Building decks from the ground up is mainly seen as what the ‘filthy casuals’ and the top tier pro’s do. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve logged into Magic Online and gone to the Tournament Practice Lobby with a legitimate homebrew, then proceeded to get nothing but hate in the chat because of it. I understand that you are there looking to practice against the best decks in the meta, so am I; and if I have a deck that is going 60%+ against Four-Color Rally, you should probably figure out why that is, instead of berating me for being in the wrong lobby. This is where my opinion comes in.

The ‘Net-decking’ type of magic player is growing in popularity and I believe they’re becoming a bane to the Magic community as a whole. Especially in terms of stifling creativity. This can be seen most recently by the comments starting a few weeks ago about how Standard was dead and a call for card banning. Not even specific cards mind you- because a large percentage of these players don’t actually know how the decks operate- they just want a ban on cards to make things easier.

This prompted a whole slew of people basically whining that the format wasn’t diverse enough. It even got loud enough to prompt this article by a major content producer going over the History of Standard Bannings. While there have legitimately been cards that have needed a ban, Skullclamp is an easy one to look back on and determine that banning it was a correct decision, I don’t think we’ve seen that level of brokenness recently. Emrakul being the closest.

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Well, WotC listened to the outcry and we can say buh-bye to three powerful cards. Each of them had answers in the format and were getting more with the release of Aether Revolt.

Smuggler’s Copter was everywhere and could get super annoying. It gave serious card advantage overtime through filtering. Ban worthy? 5/10 on that. Emrakul is super powerful and crazily pushed. Showing up as the finisher in tons of decks. Ban worthy? 7/10. I haven’t noticed Reflector Mage being anywhere near as stifling as it was with CoCo. Ban worthy? 2/10.

Listen to the Pro Players

I hear quite frequently that the pro team’s test these decks and determine that they’re the best in the meta. This statement right here is repeated often, “Well, they’re pro’s…and I’m not- so why try something else?” Mainly because pros can be wrong too. They were recently wrong in Kaladesh Standard for over a month. It also took them almost until the release of Kaladesh to realize just how pushed Emrakul was.

Please don’t misunderstand me; going online and looking up decks that the pros have/are using is a very legitimate practice.  You would be selling yourself short if you didn’t know what was out there. Pro’s are typically on top of things and know what they’re doing. They are a valuable resource to get insights on how they view the meta.

Going online to discover new interactions of cards is also something everyone should be doing. The internet is a resource. BUT, simply doing a copy/paste into a shopping cart because a certain deck ‘happened’ to win the most recent big tournament is also selling yourself short. Perhaps even more so than not going online at all.

               

Coco Rally is a great example of the copy/paste technique.

Get to the Point Already

A little over a month ago people were calling for bans to make the G/B Delirium deck less oppressive, when what they should have been doing was building better decks. Because as GP Denver showed us, G/B Delirium CLEARLY was not the best deck in the format. It was simply the most copied. Marvel was bound to be more of the same.

I do think that Wizards of the Coast needs to print more hate cards. I do think that Emrakul, the Promised End was used as a top-end finisher in a disproportionate amount of decks. It’s also agreed upon that WotC needs to be very careful about how they design their flagship cards. Having said all that, it’s up to us as a community to be more resilient.

Is standard better because of the changes: Probably. Would it have survived without them: Maybe.

The fact remains that the creativity and tenacity of players is plummeting. That is plainly seen. This player base that copy/paste’s deck lists without understanding how to build it, has grown large enough and gotten a loud enough voice that Wizards has had no choice but to heed their call. We’ve allowed members of our community to dictate how the entire game should be played.

“Feels bad” and “Bad beats” plays are something that you should be learning from. While you should be upset that you lost, that’s natural, you shouldn’t just grab the pitchforks and rally the peasants because of it; because of that knee-jerk reaction, we’ve set a dangerous precedent. One that will have lasting effects.

-Chris Taveau

Follow my twitter @HepTypeC for more content.

Things We Won’t Miss From This Past Year

 

The Eldrich Moon Pro Tour looming on the horizon can only mean one thing, the end of Magic’s Professional season is upon us. While this past year has had its fair share of ups and downs, there are more than a few memories that really stand out. Some are fond. Some not so much. But everything on this list has made it an exciting time for Magic players.

There’s more than 10 here, so it’s not exactly a Top 10 list and they’re also not in a specific order…perhaps laced with a bit of sarcasm as well. Think I missed anything? Put your thoughts in the comments.

Abzan Midrange and the Siege Rhino

I played Abzan. You played Abzan. Everyone played Abzan. It was one of the most played decks in Standard, taking in overwhelming percentages of the meta every tournament. It got to the point where I felt dirty every time I dropped a Siege Rhino. I even started to catch myself saying “I’m sorry” whenever I cast the second or third. I still shudder every time I think about it. Let’s move on before I have to shower.

Jace, the College Tuition

Jace. Was. Everywhere. He was in everything. You know what would make your Mono-Red deck better? Jace. Four of them. People shoved him in more places than a teenage boy shoved his…well, you get the picture. That’s why he hit one-hundred plus dollars; while still being STANDARD LEGAL!

Eldrazi Winter

The ban-hammer couldn’t come quickly enough for this one. Thankfully, with Twin getting the ax we had the opportunity to experience the rise of the Eldrazi with an unprepared meta still in a state of flux. There was no sideboard hate strong enough to compete with the sheer speed and versatility of the Eldrazi. This, in of itself, made the ban a good decision; even though I can still hear the tears falling from all the Affinity players inadvertently caught in the crossfire. Those tears make me happy.

Rally the Ancestors/Collected Company, Lazy Names, and Four-Color Goodstuffs

Four-Color Rally? Mardu-Green? Jeskai-Black? Esper-Purple? Your deck names are ridiculous and you should feel ashamed you can’t come up with better ones. Just call them what they are, (this deck with everything that’s good; or that deck with everything that’s good) and don’t forget to add Jace, the Second Mortgage either, less you get called a noob. Whatever name you pick should always have a secondary meaning hidden in it. Like Canadian Highlander. That’s the one where you apologize every time you deal damage to an opponent.

Each deck was so strong that most of them were playing the same cards, just with different mana bases. The only saving grace was that Four-Color Rally wasn’t a thing until about a month before Rally the Ancestors rotated. We’re still living with the ramifications of Collected Company.

Which brings us to:

Fetch Lands straight into Battle Lands

What do Standard players want?! A more diverse meta! What did Standard players get? $1,300 modern decks that rotate out! The mana-base that Fetch Lands and Battle Lands gave us was insane. Mind-blowingly so. It was so good it was almost modern playable. The negative aspect was with so few cards to choose from (as opposed to modern itself), it ended up stifling diversity rather than opening the meta up. Was it at least fun though? About as fun as watching your opponent riffle shuffle a pile of hundreds for 50 minutes.

Reserve List Buy Outs

Lion’s Eye Diamond. That’s all you need to say. While this affected about 13 players total, EVERYONE had an opinion about what Wizards should do with the Reserve List, myself included. While we won’t get into that here, it’s still the biggest controversy since Wizards decided they were going to effectively stop paying Pro Tour Platinum members 3/4 of the way through the season. We’re not even gonna mention Shkreli.

Platinum Pay Changes

lol @ Wizards. lol.

Event Coverage

Wizards decides that they want Magic to be a powerhouse eSport and then they cut online coverage. Wait, wat? You’re gonna “Live tweet” events instead of providing streaming coverage? I don’t think eSports work like that. I don’t think anything works like that.

*I decided to keep this one in even though Wizards (very recently) decided  to make plans to update their coverage

Modern is out of the Pro Tour

Thank God. Maybe we can start making money off the Pro Tour and eventually afford to buy a web cam for the Live Twitter feed.

Two-Block Cycles

Positive or Negative? I don’t know yet, my own cycle is all screwed up. I’ve been hanging out in my Magic group too long and we’re waiting for them to all sync. In reality, Kaladesh brings with it the final rotation of a Three-Block cycle so it’s probably too soon to judge if it’s better or worse. Esp while we have a somewhat underwhelming Battle for Zendikar block still in.

The Secret Eldrazi

“You know, I bet it’s Emrakul screwing with everything on Innistrad.”

Wizards, “It’s not Emrakul.”

“It HAS to be Emrakul. Why else would you leave her out of Battle For Zendikar??”

Wizards, “It’s totes not Emrakul.”

….

Wizards, “Surprise! It’s Emrakul! Got you sooo good!”

*face palm*

But Did You Die?

Where are all the Zombie decks at? Nobody seems to think they can keep up with Humans or Bant Coco. I think the Zombies can hang. Are these the shells that can do it? There’s a strong possibility, but it’s going to take some more testing to be sure. Regardless, they’re incredibly fun to pilot.

This first list is going to appeal to the grindy player. You’re in for clogged board states and a few kill spells. You’ll find a few tempo spells mixed in, but the ultimate goal is to burn through all your opponents kill spells, making sure your horde of undead is bigger than the number of things your opponent has answers for.

24 Lands

x4 Sunken Hollow

x4 Choked Estuary

x3 Submerged Boneyard

x1 Geier Reach Sanitarium

x7 Swamp

x5 Island

26 Creatures

x4 Cryptbreaker

x4 Relentless Dead

x4 Diregraf Colossus

x4 Prized Amalgam

x3 Fleshbag Marauder

x2 Advanced Stitchwing

x2 Stitchwing Skaab

x2 Risen Executioner

x1 Gisa and Geralf

10 Spells

x3 Liliana, the Last Hope

x3 Grasp of Darkness

x2 Dark Salvation

x2 Ruinous Path

The second list is more of a combo deck.  Here, you’re trying to get your graveyard recursion cards into the yard so you can cheat them out alongside Prized Amalgam. Having six power across two or three bodies on turn three is no joke and this setup can definitely get there.

18 Creatures

x4 Cryptbreaker

x4 Prized Amalgam

x4 Haunted Dead

x3 Stitchwing Skaab

x2 Advanced Stitchwing

x1 Liliana, Heretical Healer

18 Spells

x4 Contingency Plan

x3 Collective Brutality

x2 Compelling Deterrence

x3 Grasp of Darkness

x2 Pore Over the Pages

x2 Ruinous Path

x1 From Under the Floorboards

x1 Dark Salvation

24 lands

x4 Choked Estuary

x4 Sunken Hollow

x1 Geier Reach Sanitarium

x8 Swamp

x7 Island

Keep in mind, I’m not a pro and my main game time comes from FNM, not competitive level play when it comes to constructed. These lists probably aren’t going to make the cut for a Pro Tour, but if you’re looking for something fun and competitive to do locally, I’d sleeve one of these up.

Imprisoned in the Moon

That’s no moon… It’s a battle… er… prison

By JollyRoger

A certain preview card revealed today makes good on one of the promises  Magic R&D has made for the set: The Moon will play a large part in either the salvation; or the destruction of Innistrad. As it turns out, it will be the plane’s salvation. Many people saw this coming since the Helvault was used to trap Griselbrand (and Avacyn and Nahiri), and that was just a sliver of the Moon.

To top it off the design team did a great job of incorporating a lot of flavor into the the card. Take a look for yourself:

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That’s no moon… It’s a battle… er prison!

Not only does it trap the creature/land/planeswalker but it makes it a land that taps for a single colorless (what other color would the moon tap for?). This paired with Sigarda’s Blessing, a card that was also spoiled today, makes for instant speed removal in a very controlling color pair.

sigardasblessing

Sigarda’s Blessing
W
Enchantment
You may cast Aura and Equipment spells as though they had flash.

Whenever an Equipment enters the battlefield under your control, you may attach it to target creature you control.

The only flavor fail I see is that if my opponent successfully cast an Emrakul, The Promised End. They will still take my turn and stick this on one of my creatures/lands/planeswalkers. This effectively means that I would need to top-deck Imprisoned in the Moon on my turn after Emrakul  (my opponent) controls me, or have a way to draw into it.

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Conclusion

While I don’t see this as being one of the best cards in the set – it is an interesting and quite powerful effect for blue that still feels distinctly “blue.” The color has always had effects that change the properties of another card that could be considered as a type of removal – while leaving behind a minor beneficial effect for the opponent.

There is now a new tool in the blue “removal” suite that takes your opponent’s biggest threat and makes it do…well, nothing.

Liliana, The Last Hope

The last hope? Of course she is.

By HepTypeC

 

Wow. Just wow. A three cost Liliana. THREE MANA! For a measly 1BB I can cast one of my favorite planeswalkers of all time…and she’s good. Is she as glitzy and glamorous as some of the fakes circulating the interwebs in the past few days? No. But that doesn’t mean the wait hasn’t been well worth it.

Knowing how Liliana is, and then viewing her as the “Last Hope”, would not normally be a welcomed sight. It wouldn’t even be one that was completely faithful to the lore. However, these aren’t normal circumstances, and against the Eldrazi (who we may or may not be getting a little tired of anyway), she is a force to be reckoned with. It’s almost a bit refreshing to see this side of her, gleefully playing in a sandbox of the dead. She is still trying to be completely manipulative and is also going about things the absolute hardest way possible, but we wouldn’t expect anything less from our newest Gatewatch member.

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