Category Archives: Magic: The Gathering

Liches Be Crazy

There are a lot of hipsters out there that are claiming that they knew Dungeon Geists was a good card before the card was even spoiled. Same with Huntmaster of the Fells. And they are most definitely correct; both are extremely powerful creatures for their own unique abilities. However, now that all of the Dark Ascension newness has worn off, I still think that there is an extremely strong sleeper amongst the pack that hasn’t been explored to its fullest potential yet: Havengul Lich. I would like to introduce to you my list featuring this powerful card dubbed UBR “Liches Be Crazy.”

This card is pure pimp.

3 Dragonskull Summit
3 Drowned Catacomb
4 Evolving Wilds
2 Blackcleave Cliffs
2 Island
2 Mountain
2 Sulfur Falls
6 Swamp

24 lands

4 Perilous Myr
3 Bloodline Keeper
4 Necrotic Ooze
2 Olivia Voldaren
3 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
3 Havengul Lich
2 Wurmcoil Engine
2 Rune-Scarred Demon

24 creatures

4 Faithless Looting
2 Go for the Throat
4 Heartless Summoning
2 Forbidden Alchemy

12 other spells

2 Massacre Wurm
2 Doom Blade
1 Steel Hellkite
2 Beguiler of Wills
2 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Black Sun’s Zenith
2 Arc Trail
3 Manic Vandal

15 sideboard cards

Lich is so bonkers. I can’t get over it. What I love about this list is that there are so many different angles to shoot from. You can combo out on an empty board with Necrotic Ooze (and Grimgrin, Corpse Born and Bloodline Keeper in your graveyard). You can combo off with Havengul LichHeartless Summoning and Perilous Myr. The Ooze also plays as Lich 4-7, allowing you to play creatures from your graveyard, giving you pseudo haste with their abilities (which it already had anyways, but it is redundancy, which is nice). And even then, you can still drop Heartless Summoning and play Rune-Scarred Demon as early as turn 4. Olivia Voldaren takes care of token decks pretty quickly too and is completely relevant with Ooze. Honestly, though, Faithless Looting is the glue that sticks this deck together. It’s every bit as good as everyone has been claiming especially in other formats. While it hasn’t really been explored too much in Standard, this is the type of deck that loves it.

And on top of all of this, Lich plays really nicely with Heartless Summoning, making your guys even cheaper from the graveyard. Forbidden Alchemy is possibly the only odd card out of the bunch, but this deck needs creatures in the yard and this card does this pretty efficiently. Ultimately the line of play with this deck is to run out a Heartless Summoning and/or Perilous Myr to either speed things up for you or slow it down for you opponent. Then ramp up via Solemn Simulacrum into your bombs or combo pieces. Faithless Looting should also be an early line of play, setting you up for the later turns when mana is of the utmost importance.

Now obviously looking at this list, you’ll see some weaknesses. Extremely aggro decks will give this deck troubles if you can’t find an early Perilous Myr and/or Go for the Throat. The SB helps in the form of Arc Trail, Doom Blades, and Black Sun’s Zenith. SB graveyard hate definitely hurts this deck some, but most people aren’t packing Nihil Spellbomb, which is probably hits the hardest out of all the graveyard hate. Beguiler of Wills, another underexplored card, comes in against token decks as an activated ability that really plays well into the Lich (but unfortunately doesn’t play well with Heartless Summoning, which is fine with the redundancy in the form of Necrotic Ooze and Havengul Lich). Massacre Wurm comes in again against specific archetypes (Tokens, Aggro, other sacrifice based decks) and Steel Hellkite is kind of a swiss-army knife that can hit troublesome permanents that these colors can’t otherwise deal with (while also having relevant abilities to copy). Manic Vandal and Nihil Spellbomb round out the SB as typical options.

I’m not sure how resilient this build will be, but hopefully there will be enough angles to shoot from that opponents will get thrown off their game trying to disrupt one part while getting crushed by another. I’m definitely going to be playing this during this upcoming FNM and hopefully breaking this card wide open, at least within that crowd. The card is as highly abusable and as good as you think it’d be; if I were you, I’d pick some up soon and try em out. If anything else, the card is extremely fun and combo-riffic, something that isn’t too easy to come by in a somewhat competitive creature card.

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Limited By Your Perspective

First off, I’m not claiming to be a great Limited player. I’m not even claiming to be all that good at limited. When it comes to Magic: the Gathering, I mostly play Constructed and Casual formats, like Standard, Legacy and Commander. I dabble in the Limited realm, usually showing up to a prerelease for some Sealed just to play with the new cards. I might even attend the occasional FNM draft, when I don’t have a bunch of friends playing Standard with me.

However, from an outsider’s perspective, I feel that the Limited community is mired by these typical P1, P1 synopses or narrow case draft videos. Sure these are fine and definitely have their place. But one thing that I find lacking within the Limited community is more discussion around non-MTG environments.

But why would I want to know about a non-MTG game when my passion is obviously ripping open packs for that bomb mythic. It’s all about your perspective and you might be losing out by limiting it to just MTG-related drafting environments.

Being a web designer in my ‘normal’ life (what does that even mean? Normal? I suppose it’s all ‘my life’ but you get what I mean), has really opened my horizons to learning new things. Hell, it’s opened up to just the concept of learning. In the information age, learning has never been an easier concept. God, I can’t even remember the last time I drove down to the library to open an encyclopedia just to learn about some ancient empire or how to fix a bike chain. We’re constantly immersed in a sea of information; drowning in it on a daily basis. Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, Klout, FourSquare… even our music needs to be shown to the world in the form of Rdio and Grooveshark. Inherently, we are narcissistic creatures. But it comes with the territory of being at the top of the food chain.

Those at the top of the food chain always view themselves as the best and look for ways to show others that they are the best. It’s self-affirming, really. It’s the pure definition of narcissism.

Normally narcissism has a purely negative connotation; where one can view narcissism, others can often view self-confidence.

In this information age, those at the top often need to reaffirm their position at the top by showing others how awesome they are. It’s the reason we post status updates about our latest kitchen creation that would make the Iron Chefs cry with jealousy. It’s a hidden reason why people post draft videos. It’s part of the reason why I write this article.

But getting back to web design and the information age; one of the huge benefits of this narcissistic information age is learning from sources you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to. So it’s not all bad; in fact, it can be quite the benefit to be tied to all these different outlets like Twitter, Facebook and the like.

One of the huge detriments though is that with great power comes great responsibility. Because of this constant flood of information, it’s up to the user to sift through it to find morsels of information in some desperate attempt to piecemeal it back to something that’s relevant to our lives. This frustrates a lot of individuals, like myself, causing me to try to always blur and focus my attention on a particular topic, like MTG Limited environments. I mean, it makes sense right? Why would I even pay attention to others talking about board games or video games, when I want to know more about a particular MTG format? Right?


It’s actually this limiting perspective that may be causing you to plateau in the PTQ scene or holding you back from winning that 8-4.

One of the key factors I learned from my 5 and a half year undergrad design degree (don’t judge me, I transferred after the 1st year) is that if you want to learn more about a particular design field, that you often need to take a step back and look at similar but different fields. If you’re stuck on some wireframes for a small website, go look at some paintings in a gallery. Having trouble coming up with some re-branding for a large company? Take an afternoon to look at some turn-of-the-century architecture. It allows you to refresh the brain and see things from a different perspective. A specific filigree on the outside of that building might give you a great idea on how to incorporate similar concepts into your typeface for your re-branding project.

The point is that if you find yourself in a rut or wanting to learn more about a particular field, you often need to immerse yourself in different fields to learn how to marry concepts from one into the other. What does this have to do with MTG Limited environments? It has everything to do with it and every other MTG format you play.

Sealed and Draft have traditionally been the bane of my Magic: The Gathering existence. I did horrible at every prerelease and FNM draft I did for the first 10 years of my MTG ‘career’. Seriously, no joke. You can look at my track record to see. I never quite understood why I was doing so terrible really; until I realized that drafting is different from Sealed which is different from Constructed. In the first 10 years, I always made my draft decks like my Constructed decks; focused on the best cards, some synergy, card advantage and a mana curve. I’m not saying you shouldn’t take these into consideration; you always should when constructing your deck. But what I never asked myself was: What does this deck want to be doing, as a whole? It never dawned on me that this was a key factor to deck building on the fly and it’s made me a better overall board and card game player.

Ascension was the first game that really taught me about this key deck building concept. Ascension is very similar to a cross between Winston draft and Rochester draft; allowing players to see the cards that everyone can purchase. Cards purchased go into your graveyard, ready to be shuffled back into your deck when you run out of cards. This cycle is what comprises your deck and even though the purchasing mechanic is quite different than a normal draft environment, the selection process is more similar than one might think. You have to make the same decisions like you normally would in limited: What ‘colors’ am I in? What type of deck am I trying to build? Am I going to be playing the beatdown and trying to end the game quickly? Or will I have to shift gears mid-game, based on the other strategies I see other people picking? All common questions that come up while drafting in an 8-4. These questions even come up while you’re playing the game too. In the past, I would’ve been stubborn and played my burn deck at the same level of aggression no matter what deck I was facing. But a game like Ascension taught me that you will always come up short with this mentality; being able to adapt and shift your game to the challenges that are in front of you is the key to drafting well, to sideboarding and to just winning at any game, really.

No question that all the draft analyses and set reviews are awesome. This article isn’t up to disprove these media. Podcasts like Limited Resources can help you immensely on all topics limited and will even go into other key game play factors like what I’m discussing in this article. But what they won’t tell you is to go out and play a game like Ascension or Dominion to boost your Limited game. And in this information age, you have to learn when to sift for a specific topic and when to break open your perspective on a topic and learn from something seemingly unrelated.

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The FNM Syndrome (And Why I’ve Learned to Love It)

I am just going to come out and say it. I LOVE FNM. Everything about it. Everything from the people, to the store I game at (Dreamer’s Games in St. Louis Park, MN), to what it stands for in the MTG community. I’ll even go as far as saying that I love what FNM has done to impact the whole Planeswalker Points system and vice versa.

It’s official; I’m suffering from FNM Syndrome. I don’t know how to cure it; and quite frankly, I don’t care. Because for me, it’s a purely symbiotic disease. It feeds my MTG addiction while allowing me to flex the often used but never abused analytic muscles deep within my brain.

How so? Well, it’s quite simple. I love the FNM syndrome because I love deckbuilding. Ever since this new Planeswalker Points system has been introduced, I have had no fear when it comes to deckbuilding. Normally I would attend FNM (when I did attend, which was often infrequent), I would be more concerned about doing well than about trying new things. It really got in the way of my true love affair: building decks with cool cards at the centerpiece.

Maybe part of it comes at the best timing, with Innistrad being release as a hugely top-down design focused sight. Maybe it’s a bit of both luck with the timing of the set and the timing of the PWPTS changes. Either way it’s a weird syndrome to be afflicted with, especially coming from someone who doesn’t aspire to be a grinder or PTQ regular. I just look to FNM to have a good time with friends in an environment that doesn’t pressure me to waste wads of cash on a frivolous night that I’d soon rather forget. So you’re thinking, then why would PWPTS affect my outlook on deckbuilding at all? Why wouldn’t I just never care about my rating in the first place, even with the old system?

I guess it was just liberating to know that the company who has produced this game for more than half my life is willing to let go of antiquated systems. Maybe it’s just the fact that the whole system encourages you to just go out and play the game. Hell, maybe it’s the time in my life, where my personality has shifted enough to not always take this game seriously. Maybe it’s just that I want to swing for 6 with one of the baddest mf’ers to walk the Multiverse (Geist of Saint Traft, of course). Who knows? I just know I’m loving the syndrome and I’m embracing it.

Geist of Saint Traft

Kneel before my badass-ery.

How so? Well since coming back to regular FNM play after a two year hiatus, I’ve literally played upwards of 8 different decks in a matter of 2 and a half months. Almost a new deck a week. My deckbuilding juices are overflowing like ectoplasmic goo in Dana Foster’s tub. I’ve just grabbed random cool cards to build with. Hell why not? Who cares if I go 1-3 at FNM? It allows me to learn about cool new interactions while have a crazy good time.

I’ve even built a deck based on Gutter Grime. YES, Gutter Grime. And I went 2-2 with it (not too bad when the centerpiece is an overcosted Green enchantment).

At any rate, I’ll cut to the chase. My latest creation is probably my best yet (until I make something else badass and sweet). Here it is in all it’s glory:

2 Forest
1 Gavony Township
2 Glacial Fortress
1 Hinterland Harbor
3 Island
1 Moorland Haunt
3 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
4 Seachrome Coast
2 Sunpetal Grove

23 lands

4 Birds of Paradise
3 Cloistered Youth
4 Snapcaster Mage
3 Geist of Saint Traft
4 Mirran Crusader
2 Hero of Bladehold
1 Thrun, the Last Troll

21 creatures

3 Ponder
3 Vapor Snag
3 Feeling of Dread
4 Mana Leak
3 Travel Preparations

16 other spells

1 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Doomed Traveler
3 Timely Reinforcements
2 Turn Aside
2 Spellskite
3 Leonin Relic-Warder

15 sideboard cards

I love tempo decks and this deck is chock full of tempo cards. Vapor Snag and Feeling of Dread will tear up other decks that aim to lay down a couple quick blockers to try to make the pain subside until they can Day of Judgment. Other quick decks will just get out classed by Mirran Crusader. Travel Preparations comes in to offer quick Overrun type effects to blow out your opponent when they’re in the danger zone. And Snapcaster can definitely beat some face too while allowing you to come back pretty easily in the mid game (if you do happen to be behind).

The main reason why I decided with a tempo deck is because I wanted to build a deck that features the badass-ery that Geist of Saint Traft truly is. Sure he’s good on his own, but he doesn’t do well when facing down another dude. Yeah you’ll get in 4 damage, which is fine for 3 mana. But really what you want to do is rely on him, purely because he’s hard as hell to kill if you can’t throw a guy in his way. Enter Feeling of Dread and Travel Preparations. And watch as your opponent prays to all that is Geist.

I’m looking to crush this week’s FNM. Hell if not, at least learn more ways to use the cards I love. You gotta ask yourself; what are you doing this week for FNM? Playing a 75-card copy of a Wolf Run list? Or thinking of a way to abuse the hell out of Undead Alchemist? I know which direction I’m taking. And it’s all thanks to the FNM Syndrome.

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