Fri, 21 July 2017
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh is already exceeding expectations
So how are we going to play Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh? There are so So SO many ways!
Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh in a Planeswalker Control Deck
Michael Hamilton opened up the new season with a win. Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh made a one-of appearance in his [otherwise] Jeskai Control deck.
A dedicated Planeswalker control deck with lots of cards that can interact with the opponent's threats is a great home for Nicol Bolas. It's a redundancy on your other permanents, can borrow against the architecture of the rest of your deck, and ultimately just presents an even more powerful threat than the rest of your deck.
You can play an Energy Aggro deck, complete with Longtusk Cub and Bristling Hydra... And just finish with Bolas.
This use of the card just requires you to deal thirteen damage in the first seven turns. Pretty trivial, right? You can just play the big Planeswalker for seven, to deal seven. Not only is Nicol Bolas the best "Demonfire" we've had in years (especially given the seven-for-seven mana cost)... If for some reason something went wrong, you would still have a Planeswalker to help over the next few turns.
An Energy deck is actually particularly great for this... Because Energy is somewhat spotty to come by, you might find yourself stranded with Nicol Bolas in hand, but not the mana to cast it. The Aether Hubs of the Energy strategy go a long way in ensuring the solo black (or whatever is needed) is available, versus being stranded as a colorless.
With Bolas at both extremes of the metagame, there remains a wide number of decks, from Mono-Red StOmPy to U/R Prowess Burn. This podcast covers them all most:
Fri, 26 May 2017
With the rise of U/R Control in Standard, Pull from Tomorrow reaches center stage...
or does it?
U/R Control (generally with Pull from Tomorrow) really took off last weekend!
U/R Control made Top 8 of both Grand Prix Montreal and Grand Prix Santiago. This was a big pickup, post-Pro Tour, for an archetype that did not crack Top 8 at PT Amonkhet.
In Montreal, Maxime Aubin played only a single Pull from Tomorrow.
But in Santiago, Niels Noorlander made numerous departures in his Top 8 deck...
Hieroglyphic Illumination versus Pull from Tomorrow
Pull from Tomorrow is the more powerful card, sure; comparable (and maybe even better than) Sphinx's Revelation. The problem? It's basically always expensive. So expensive, that in a pressure filled format this ace has been reduced to as few as one copy main deck.
Can you realistically slot in Hieroglyphic Illumination?
Hieroglyphic Illumination is almost always going to be worse that Glimmer of Genius... Provided you plan on casting it. (Scry being as valuable as it is)
On the other hand, Hieroglyphic Illumination has another mode!
U/R Control in Context
Tons of removal, one-for ones, and card advantage make for a great lineup against Zombies.
Permission, consistent ability to hit land drops, and card drawing make U/R a contender against Aetherworks Marvel.
Put it all together? You might have a real option against the most popular decks from Pro Tour Amonkhet.
Check out "How Many Copies of Pull from Tomorrow?" for more discussion on these cards, plus G/R Energy, Bant Marvel, and more!
Fri, 19 May 2017
Liliana's Mastery was center stage for the Top 8 of Pro Tour Amonkhet
How many copies of Liliana's Mastery are you supposed to play?
This is an interesting question to be sure!
Pro Tour Amonkhet winner Gerry Thompson (shout out to @g3rryt) played three copies in his mono-black Zombies deck.
You can certainly defend the Mastery as a three-of ("If Gerry did it, it was right." -Patrick), but there are some pros and cons to this decision. The Zombies archetype would certainly play fewer than twenty-four lands if it didn't have a five drop at the top of the curve... Does it make sense, ultimately, to cut a copy?
How about two?
First-time Top 8 competitor (and onetime Top 8 Magic Mockvitational winner) Christian Calcano (shout out to @CCalcano) cut another! Christian's deck was very similar to Gerry's, just trading one Liliana's Mastery for an additional fast removal spell.
On the other hand, the black-white version played all four copies (at the cost of a couple of two drops).
So what is the right number?
If you think Zombies is the ascendent archetype (it did just win the PT) you may want to play all four copies. To be fair, even two-of Calcano ran the other two Liliana's Masteries in his sideboard.
Liliana's Mastery is an Asymmetrical Crusade
It's not just a Crusade, it's a Grizzly Fate. It's a giant, spread across multiple bodies.
For five mana, you get two 2/2 Zombies... But they are automatically 3/3 by default due to the enchantment itself. It's cool, especially in a mirror, to make all your Zombies bigger, but that's not all.
At the point that you are hitting five drops, you really just want to draw more and more of this thing. You get card advantage two-for-one and all your Zombies get bigger and bigger, snowballing the advantage.
Liliana's Mastery Killed Verdurous Gearhulk
Poor Verdurus Gearhulk.
Not long ago it was the huge five-drop of choice, kicking Ishkanah out of B/G top ends. It could be a big body itself, or it could spread value across multiple bodies. Especially with Winding Constrictor, Verdurous Gearhulk could create an immediate and compelling swing.
Liliana's Mastery just does the same thing, better.
Same cost, similar impact.
Except when it isn't.
The Gearhulk is 8/8 on the low end whereas the Mastery is "only" 6/6... But the Mastery is across two different bodies. It can also potentially spread even more damage, depending on how many Zombies you already have.
And if you are B/W?
It is great with both Binding Mummy and Wayward Servant, creating multiple triggers even as it buffs the two-drop.
Check out mad strategies for both Zombies and Marvel in "Mastering Liliana's Mastery"
Fri, 12 May 2017
Kefnet the Mindful rewards familiarity with common play patterns
Amonkhet Gods versus Theros Gods
WotC R&D did a great job of echoing the aesthetics of the Theros gods with cards like Kefnet the Mindful. For example, Kefnet shares a casting cost with Thassa, God of the Sea. Both creatures are indestructible. Both require special conditions before they can attack or block.
Unlike their Theros cousins, Amonkhet Gods start off as creatures. Even if Kefnet the Mindful can't attack or block, it can, say, crew a Heart of Kiran. While that is pretty good (Thassa is just an enchantment before you have sufficient devotion to blue), it also exposes Kefnet to interaction.
"Indestructible" isn't as Indestructible as it Used to be
Amonkhet provides all kinds of ways to interact with an indestructible creature like Kefnet the Mindful. Even the new cycling islands like Irrigated Farmland and Fetid Pools have reawakened the incentive to play Engulf the Shores. So while vanilla damage might not be able to kill Kefnet, your opponents may well have tools. For example:
Cast Out - Cast Out can handle any type of permanent. Being indestructible doesn't protect Kefnet from being exiled.
Commit // Memory - Bounce-type spells are great against Kefnet. Not that they are so much better against Kefnet than other creatures, but a card like Commit // Memory ignores one of the main features of the card that you are paying for.
Oath of Liliana - Perhaps most depressing, the opponent can just lay an Oath of Liliana, killing a Kefnet that is theoretically indestructible, even if it isn't primed to attack or block yet.
Kefnet the Mindful's Mental Shortcuts
The rules of engagement have changed dramatically with the introduction of Amonkhet to Standard. For example having one mana open means something very different than it did a few months back. You can cycle a Censor... or pay for a Censor. Or (especially in sideboard games) you can cast a Dispel.
Kefnet the Mindful by itself implies a surprising number of tactical play patterns. Check out these...
If you have only four cards in hand at the end of the opponent's turn, you can attack even if you are tapped out.
If the opponent has exactly seven cards in hand, cast your test spell before he attacks
You don't have to choose whether you want to pick up a land until after the card draw resolves
Sound interesting? This episode also features more Mardu Vehicles, Zombies, and all manner of control decks. Give "Getting Familiar with Kefnet the Mindful" a listen now!
Fri, 5 May 2017
Glory-Bound Initiate is a fast and flexible human warrior. Its exert opens the door to building with Always Watching. Its humanity: Thalia's Lieutenant. Go!
Fri, 24 March 2017
Pro Tour Champion Patrick Chapin and Michael J Flores discuss not just Dynavolt Tower but all the key moves and trends to keep you up to date on Standard.
Fri, 17 March 2017
PSulli joins Patrick Chapin & MichaelJ in a discussion of how to find one basic Mountain, and whether 21 or 26 lands is right for Torrential Gearhulk decks.
Fri, 10 March 2017
Take a [playable] Murder. Make it easier to cast (for a least some decks). Add a "cantrip Lava Spike" for zero additional mana. Unlicensed Disintegration
Fri, 10 February 2017
Should wotc ban Scrapheap Scrounger? This unassuming two-drop has more going on than its stats. Scrapheap Scrounger may be a key to solving the metagame.
Fri, 3 February 2017
Which deck will be the most popular at PT Dublin? Green-Black Delirium? Black-Green Energy? Find out what Nahiri is doing in Copy Cat and more!