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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Who do I attack? You’re (probably) doing it wrong

Disclaimer before I start: I’m no expert on this either, and there’s a better than even chance I’m doing it wrong as well!

Threat Assessment in EDH

Over the last few months there have been numerous threads on numerous forums about how Person X’s playgroup is always attacking the wrong person (usually because they attacked Person X), and Person X – let’s call them Steve – thinks that everyone else has some kind of personal vendetta, or something.

That sort of thing does happen (check out this post in DJ Catchem’s blog for an excellent example of it), but I personally subscribe to the theory “never assign to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity” (you’d be surprised how correct that statement is!). It’s entirely possible that Steve is being attacked because he is perceived to be the biggest threat, or he’s the nearest person, or has the least complicated board, or talked last (<— yes, really. “I always attack the first person to talk” is a strategy – and I use the word loosely – that has been used in our playgroup.)

What I hope to achieve in this article is to give you an idea of my thought processes, and more importantly, why I think that, when it comes to who I target in any given situation. I’m not saying this is the One True Way of threat assessment, but I like to think that I’ve got a pretty good system going on and one that has served me well, and results in the kind of EDH games that I want to play.

Note that these points apply to free-for-all games; for alternative formats (Star, Emperor, and so on) the theories are subtly different.

Attack the player in the strongest position, most of the time

So straight off the bat this one’s going to cause some disagreement. There is a school of thought that says “if everyone attacks the strongest player, all the time, all that happens is everyone is dragged back together, and games last forever”. In my opinion, this is the desired result. You get to play more, you get to see more of your deck, everyone is involved for longer… Quite frankly I don’t see the downside to playing more Magic.

I have a couple of reasons for playing this way:

  • If you don’t attack the strongest player, but attack someone else, you are effectively making the strongest player even stronger than they already are, by weakening one of their opponents.
  • If you do attack the strong player, you are sending a message to the rest of the table that perhaps they need to think a bit about who they should be attacking.

Who is the strongest player, anyway?

This is the $64,000 question. The method I use to determine the strongest player is something like this:

Very Early Game (Turns 1-3): No one, really. Concentrate on getting your own gameplan into action.

Early Game: Whoever is on the most life gets a few early beats, if it doesn’t leave me too exposed.

Mid Game: This part of the game lasts the longest and is also the hardest to figure out who the actual threat is. Is it the guy with 30 2/3 plant tokens? Usually, yes… but maybe you have a Lightmine Field or Ghostly Prison stopping him from attacking you. Is it the guy with 15 Mountains, a full grip of cards, and Kiki-Jiki in his Command Zone? In our group the answer is definitely yes, but it may not be in yours. I usually try and assess (sometimes without much success) to determine who the biggest threat is by using the following, in this order:

  • Capability of killing the whole table in the next turn or two (e.g. Warp World, Combo)
  • Capability of killing me in the next turn or two
  • Capability of wrathing the board, if I care about such things.  (Which I usually do… I tend to play creature decks)
  • The highest life total, if I can attack without being attacked back for lethal in return

If no one meets these criteria, then usually I don’t attack. As always there are exceptions though; if I have a Nether Traitor, I may as well attack someone with it, because it’s not going to do any good on defence.

Late Game:  In the late game, my priorities change a little. If someone can be taken out, I usually do it. The late game is where the true haymakers start flying, and someone on 2 life can just as easily kill everyone that’s left out of nowhere as someone on 30 life.

All of these things can change, depending on the game state. Sometimes (say in Mono-White Sliver Equipment) a particular permanent will be bad for you, and no one else cares about it (Aura Shards) and if you have no answers in your hand (or worse, deck) you have to take that player out.

The idea here is to be flexible. You want to make the plays that result in you having the best chance to win the game, but at the same time, you (in theory…) also want everyone else involved in the game and having fun – after all, EDH is a social/fun format, not a win-at-all-costs, always-make-the-tight-play competitive one. (Yes, this is merely my opinion. It is, however, also the opinion of the creators of the format, and more importantly, the vast majority of the players of the format as well.)

As an illustration of that difference; in competitive, sanctioned magic, it’s always the correct play to take a player out, if you are able to. One less competitor means one less thing to worry about, and you can concentrate on the next victim. In EDH, there are very few things more frustrating than getting taken out early and then watching for another hour while everyone else dances around each other, especially if you were taken out because you were the easy target. If you were the easy target, it’s usually because your deck is misfiring. If you’re sitting across the table from some guy who has 4 land, missed his last 3 land drops, and has done literally nothing the last 2 turns, chances are it’s not because he’s sandbagging a strong position – it’s because his deck is screwing him over. Leave the poor sap alone!

Likewise, I’ve seen that people overuse their removal, firing it off on the first available target, even if something bigger is just around the corner. If you have your Swords to Plowshares in your hand, don’t waste it on an opposing general (unless that general is about to do something stupid!), wait for the Indestructible Killing Machine of Death, or the Infinitely Recurring Card Advantage Engine. The same applies for wraths (and wrath variants) – sure, they’re usually sorcery speed, but wrathing simply because there are creatures on the board is short-sighted and a waste. Timing is everything in this game, and it’s important to get “value” (as much as I hate that use of that word) out of every spell you play.

Revenge

There is a time and a place for revenge in EDH. I consider that revenge is a dish best served red-hot, as brutally as possible, and then – and this is the important bit – moving on. To illustrate with an example that happened with me a few weeks ago; I’m playing Animar, and the person to my left is playing a very bad “prison” style Hanna (dubbed “the deck that doesn’t do anything… no, the deck that does nothing” by it’s creator). On turn 2 I suspend a Riftwing Cloudskate, then on turn 4 I cast Animar (the theory being that the Cloudskate comes in next turn, Animar gets a free counter and I get a hasty flier). Hanna Hinders Animar. Now, I have no particular hatred for “tuck” and I believe that any decent deck should either be able to function without its general, or have some way of getting it back (both of which are true in my Animar deck). However, at the time I considered that Hanna wasn’t my enemy and I said as much to the player multiple times. When he countered Animar however, he made himself my enemy. The next turn I bounced one of his lands with the Cloudskate, and then used Reap and Sow to destroy another one, setting him back two turns compared to the rest of the table. After that, however, I pretty much left him alone, focussing on what I did consider to be the real threats. The story DJ Catchem tells in the link at the top of this post however, is a completely different thing. To carry your revenge over from one game to the next game, to target a player simply because of what they did in that previous game – that is, in my opinion, uncalled for and unnecessary.

It’s a fact of the game that people will destroy your things, steal your things, or counter your things. By all means exact some revenge, but use your head and don’t do it for the rest of the game, or to the exclusion of the real threat at the table. If you were the real threat (see my Mayael game report from a couple of weeks ago), then you should not be surprised when the table comes after you!

Conclusion

In summary, I think it pays to think about who you attack/what you kill – you shouldn’t kill everything “because you can” as that will just invite hate from the rest of the group. Save your removal and counters for things that are truly important (i.e will take you out of the game), and attack those people who are the biggest threat to you, at whichever stage of the game you’re in. The most important thing to remember is this:

Everyone is there to have fun and everyone is there to play the game!

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in EDH/Commander

 

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Garza Zol: A journey of a thousand miles…

…begins with one step, apparently. Since I’ve hit a bit of a wall when it comes to ideas for Ms Zol, I’ve decided I’m just going to build the damn thing and then tweak it from there. I’m going to go with a Vampire/damage dealing/grow-a-creature type strategy, with a little “you work for me now” vampire charm (<– see what I did there?!) thrown in and see how strong (or otherwise) it turns out to be. So, to the cards!

Vampires

Cards in Italics I don’t own and will have to try and trade for. Further broken down by:

Vampires that grow themselves or other Vampires

Baron Sengir (this guy is expensive, I probably have no chance of getting one)
Blood Tyrant
Bloodcrazed Neonate
Bloodlord of Vaasgoth
Falkenrath Marauders
Mephidross Vampire
Mirri the Cursed
Nirkana Revenant
Rakish Heir
Repentant Vampire
Sengir Vampire
Stromkirk Noble
Vampire Nocturnus
Vampire Outcasts
Vampiric Dragon
Vein Drinker

Vampires that take control of other creatures

Krovikan Vampire
Kalitas, Bloodchief of Ghet (kinda)
Soul Collector

Vampires that do both

Captivating Vampire
Olivia Voldaren

Other Vampires

Anowon, the Ruin Sage
Ascendant Evincar
Blood Seeker
Bloodghast (I have one but it’s in a deck that actually cares about it coming back. It’ll probably stay there) 
Bloodline Keeper // Lord of Lineage (would you believe I had two of these and traded them both? I so smart…)
Butcher of Malakir
Chancellor of the Dross
Crossway Vampire (probably weak, but nice boobs art, and helps to get other guys through)
Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief
Falkenrath Noble (wrath punishment)
Gatekeeper of Malakir
Kalastria Highborn
Malakir Bloodwitch
Moroii
Skeletal Vampire
Screeching Bat // Stalking Vampire
Vampire Hexmage
Vampire Nighthawk

Doin’ Damage, direct-styles

As well as crashing into other people in the combat phase, there’ll be a few cards which help the Vamps “ping”. Unfortunately most of them are Auras, so are pretty bad, esp since you can’t move them from creature to creature very easily. The best of them (cheap, or more resistant to removal) are:

Arcane Teachings
Fire Whip
Flame Fusillade (I like this card 🙂 )
Furystoke Giant (like this one too)
Hermetic Study
Hypervolt Grasp (One of the few that I can get back)
Lavamancer’s Skill
Power of Fire
Psionic Gift
Thornbite Staff (expensive to activate)
Viridian Longbow

There are other things in this category too like:

Warstorm Surge
Electropotence

But generally speaking these effects are pretty bad…. I’ve done a couple of searches and turned up some others, but they all seem to only effect one creature, or are a one-shot (instant or sorcery). I do like the imagery of a flock of Vampires (what else are you going to call them?!) descending on a poor unsuspecting Primeval Titan and biting him to death…

Taking Control

A much-hated part of blue’s colour pie (especially by me!), taking control of other people’s creatures is a pretty strong strategy. I do try and avoid it in my decks, but in a Vampire deck it fits the theme as well as being good, so I’m going to chuck a few of them in – but only if the name and flavour of the card fits! No Bribery here, we Vampires are much too sophisticated to resort to mere coin! At the moment I’m looking at:

Charisma
Control Magic
Dominate
Enslave
Mind Control
Persuasion
Ray of Command
Scythe of the Wretched
Slave of Bolas
Traitorous Blood
Word of Seizing

 Other Stuff

Some of this interacts with the other themes; some of it is goodstuff inclusions, and some of it is just things I’ve wanted to put in a deck…. 😉

Avatar of Woe
Backlash/Traitor’s Roar
Basilisk Collar (I have one, but it’s in another deck. I could see moving it to here though)
Beacon of Unrest
Blade of the Bloodchief
Blight Sickle
Clone/Metamorph/Vesusvan Doppelganger etc etc etc
Damnation
Fang Skulkin (probably not…)
Fists of the Demigod
Gorgon Flail
Hinder/Spell Crumple
Pestilence
Phyrexian Arena
Quietus Spike
Rite of Replication
Vesuvan Shapeshifter

Well, that’s a… pile of cards…

I think I’ll throw this together with the cards I have, add some more draw and removal, and call it a deck. I’m still not too happy about how this ended up, but maybe it’ll be more fun to play than it looks. I’m definitely going to revisit this deck in the very near future – one thing I haven’t mentioned yet that keeps popping into my head is a Proliferate subtheme – I have some proliferate cards in Animar and they’ve been surprisingly useful.

Comments, as always, are welcome – but be gentle with me! This doesn’t look much like a deck to me, at least, not at the moment!

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Challenge of Doom, EDH/Commander

 

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Game Report: Isperia (and Mayael, and Jaya)

Thought I’d take my newly updated Isperia deck for a tryout; as you’re about to find out, it wasn’t much of a test.

5-player free-for-all; Sisay, Isperia, Intet, (my) Mayael, and (my) Jaya.

The game started off very well, with the newly added Sensei’s Divining Top in my opener, along with some lands and some spells. Hooray! However, that was pretty much the high point of the game. To cut a very long story short, I had to pull through a clump of 5 land in a row, then almost immediately after that, 9 (yes, 9!) land in a row. Needless to say I was never in this one 😦

Intet is basically a RUG goodstuff deck, and after it Tooth and Nail‘ed for Kiki-Jiki and Primeval Titan it got hated out pretty quickly. After that we focussed in on Mayael, as it had Spearbreaker Behemoth and 4 or 5 other big creatures, including Tornando Elemental (having an indestructible Tornado Elemental is pretty good, I guess…). He got taken out with a combination of flying beats from me, and forestwalk from Sisay’s Jedit Ojanen, but not before killing me with a million and two damages. Jaya and Sisay fought it out briefly, but Jaya didn’t find the board wipe it needed and Sisay took it out.

In terms of learning about my deck, this was an awful game. I learned that SDT helps me get through land clumps, until there’s more than 3 land in a row on top of my deck. Shock and Amaze! Ah well. Next time maybe.

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2011 in EDH/Commander, Game Report

 

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Bunch O’ Changes

This won’t mean a lot to a lot of people (especially since I’ve been extremely lax and haven’t actually posted links to my decklists!) but I made a bunch of changes to my decks last night. Briefly:

Omanth

– Forest
+ Patron of the Orochi

This lowers Omnath’s land count to 34 but if there’s one deck that can run on 3 lands, this is it. Patron Orochi is pretty obviously nuts in here and I’ve been trying to add one for a long time.

Kitsune Mystic

Mine Excavation, Lapse of Certainty
+ Retether, Skull of Orm

Mine Excavation was a “why not?” inclusion and although I’ve yet to draw it, the KMystic deck has very few creatures in it so the chance of conspiring it was close to zero. Retether is an obvious upgrade and again, I was just waiting to trade for one. Lapse of Certainty is one of those things no one is ever expecting, but it’s just so meh it’s not worth it. For some obscure reason I had an Italian The Dark version of Skull of Orm and never knew what it did until fairly recently, so having found it, it seems like it’s worth including in an enchantment based deck.

Jaya Ballard

Flametongue Kavu, Oni of Wild Places, Sword of Fire and Ice
+ Repercussion, Magebane Armor, Violent Eruption

People keep telling me how good Repercussion is with direct burn decks, so I got one to see. SoFI gets replaces with Magebane Armor as Jaya never attacks anyway, leaving my one and only SoFI to go into a better deck (one that uses the combat phase). Violent Eruption just because Jaya, Chandra, Wheel of Fate etc make me discard cards and I have most mono-R madness cards in here.

Mayael

Sensei’s Divining Top
+ Moldgraf Monstrosity

As good as SDT is (see next entry), when this deck draws cards it’s drawing 3 or 5 or 12 at a time and manipulating the top 3 is usually not that important. I want to try out the Monstrosity as an 8/8 trampler is nothing to be sneezed at and getting two fatties back (probably, since there’s very little other creatures in the deck) after a wrath will be good times.

Isperia

Peace and Quiet, Swans of Bryn Argoll, Reality Strobe
+ Spirit of the Hearth, Patron of the Moon, Sensei’s Divning Top

Basically took out a whole lot of cute stuff for actual good cards. I’ve drawn Peace and Quiet once and never cast it. Swans are really only good if I can damage it somehow, which this deck simply can’t do. I may put the Swans in Zedruu, as a donation target. Patron combos with Meloku and Emeria Angel, as well as accelerating me if I get a little too much land in my hand. Unlike Mayael, Isperia cares very much about the top three cards, so SDT fits much better in here.

Animar

Loaming Shaman, Fertilid, Aquastrand Spider
+ Ulamog’s Crusher, Hand of Emrakul, Great Whale

Less sure on these ones; Loaming Shaman and Fertilid definitely have their uses and I’ll be watching to see if they’re missed. The two Eldrazi are here as colourless, but not artifact, creatures which can combo with Animar and Cloudstone Curio for arbitrarily large Animar shenanigans. The Great Whale is a “fair” Palinchron (which is also in the deck).

I’ll be testing some of these out at EDH this week; I’ll try and remember to post here about how they did!

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2011 in Challenge of Doom, EDH/Commander

 

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Deckbuilding: Garza Zol – HELP!

I now have a pile of Vampires and Lands sitting in front of me…. The problem with that is I have no idea how or why or what blue cards the deck should be running. Here are the themes I’ve considered so far:

  • Vampire Tribal. This is what I’m basically defaulting to, and I’m not unhappy about it, but it’s not going to be enough for a full deck, let alone a Blue-Red-Black deck – 90% of the Vampires (slightly less now with Innistrad but bear with me) are mono black, which leads me to think if I wanted Vampire tribal I’d just make Anowon or Drana the general and be done with it.
  • “Combat Damage Matters”. Quite a few of the Vampires (including Garza) have combat damage triggers – most when they hit the opponent, usually involving either drawing cards or putting +1/+1 counters on creatures. This, at least, would give me an idea for what to include blue for, as with bounce and unblockability it allows your creatures to connect more often. Also looking at things like Cover of Darkness and Intimidation.
  • Killin’ All The Mans, All The Time. If there’s one thing that connects Blue Black and Red, it’s creature control. No doubt there will be some (coughalotcough) that makes it in here anyway but I already have one deck (Savra) which tries to keep the board clear, and that has already drawn some comments about how it operates (and truth be told, it’s not even that good at it, really)
  • Royalty. Just for gits and shiggles, I’ll be putting in Royal Assassin, Prince of Thralls, Sedris, Unscythe, (but obviously not King Suleiman – talk about your specific abilities!!) and Decree of Pain. I think that’s about as far as I can take that joke though – any other suggestions? Thrones? Sceptres? Crowns?
  • Plague. Looking at the plague cards again, there’s not a single one I’d actually want to play – with the possible exception of Necrotic Plague, but that would only really work if I had no creatures (so they can’t give it back to me). I might put Pestilence in here though, just because it fits the theme, and it actually good. Again though, that’s yet another black card in a deck that’s already swimming in them
  • Something Else. Help?

As you can see, I have plenty of ideas for a mono-Black Garza Zol deck. That’s not really the point of things though, is it? What red and (especially!) blue cards/strategies should I be looking at here?

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Challenge of Doom, EDH/Commander

 

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Game Reports: Mayael and Kitsune Mystic (and Animar by proxy)

Played a couple of games tonight..

Game 1 – Mayael the Anima

vs Numot, Rorix Bladewing, (my) Doran, and Kiku

This was a case of my deck firing a little too well. First few turns went:

1) Forest, Birds of Paradise
2) Kodama’s Reach
3) Rampant Growth, Cream of the Crop
4) Fatty (Plated Slagwurm)
5) Fatty (Oversoul of Dusk)
6) Mirari’s Wake
7) Fatty Fatty (I think Mycoid Shepherd and Spectral Force)
8 ) …. etc

Needless to say everyone else freaked a little and went all defensive… then Rorix found a Strata Scythe and double strike and took me out first, just after Kiku played a kicked Sadistic Sacrament on me. 😦 Ah well, you come out that fast and people start targeting you. Unfortunately none of the other decks really got going at the same rate and so I was the obvious target, even though I was careful to only have two creatures (plus Birds) out at once. Cream of the Crop is some good, but I need to find some kind of repeatable card draw (I’m thinking Fecundity?) to pull the card immediately into my hand. This deck really needs a Scroll Rack but I just can’t find one.

As an aside, Sam (hi Sam!) was playing my Doran deck, which is pretty much Treefolk tribal and he’s decided not to play it again… I don’t think it’s that bad (decklist up later) but it is awfully reliant on keeping dudes in play, which didn’t happen a lot.

Game 2 – Kitsune Mystic

vs Damia, Stonebrow, (my) Animar, Glissa the Traitor

This was almost the exact opposite of Game 1 – I had an early Kitsune Mystic with Black Ward on it, but it dies to Fleshbag Marauder (oh the irony!) After that I draw a whole lot of nothin’ – Pacifism, Prison Term, Arrest, Stasis Cocoon, Journey to Nowhere… all of which are negated by infinite Sylvok Replica‘s from Glissa, making me an extremely sad panda.

In fact the deck works so poorly that everyone takes pity on me and leaves me alone, while they deal with each other, and especially with my Animar deck (being piloted by Sam (hi Sam!), who wanted to play a good deck after his Doran experience 😉 ) In one turn Animar goes from 1/1 to 7/7, adding Fierce Empath, Simic Sky Swallower and a couple of friends to the board. That gets wrathed away and he sits for a while too.

Eventually I get a Sigil of the Empty Throne, a couple of Angels, and an Umbra Mystic with Serra’s Embrace and one of the Angels picks up Armored Ascension. I get in some beats, then somehow my Lost Auramancers die naturally and fetch up my True Conviction. I go from 22 to 50 in the next attack, taking out both Damia and Stonebrow. Glissa is gone by this stage, so it’s me vs Animar. Unfortunately, Animar has Tidespout Tyrant in play and Mystic Speculation in hand, so by the time he finishes bouncing all my nonland permanents, he kills me in short order. Still, my decks came 1st and 2nd in that game, even if it was through indifference 😉

A couple of decent games, from which the moral seems to be: Don’t get ahead, lest you lose your head!

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in EDH/Commander, Game Report

 

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Altered Generals

A while back I sent all of my 12 generals (minus Nin, I hadn’t built that deck at the time) away to get altered – they came back today and they are AWESOME. Check these out:

These turned out better than I thought they would by MILES. Thanks Catherine!

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2011 in Challenge of Doom

 

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