Thursday, September 1, 2016

Pauper on Paper

So if you're like most magic players you have boxes of unused cards. Piles that are full of fun cards which don't quite make the cut in your Commander deck. Cards that aren't good enough for your modern deck and just rotated out of your standard deck. You've given up on whatever aspect of magic maybe due to the cost of things and you sold your most powerful cards. Well I have the perfect solution...


Pauper is a casual format where only commons are allowed. This restricts the power level as well as the buy in on a very sweet format. The rules are very similar to most other constructed events. Sixty cards with a fifteen card sideboard. One very important thing to note however is that Pauper is only officially sanctioned on Magic Online. What this means is that only cards printed at common online are available to add into your deck. This does however usher some other cards in as well as it kicks out. For example Hymn to Tourach and Sinkhole are not commons online and because of that they are not legal. However Battle screech was printed in Vintage Masters an online only set, as a common and because of that it is also legal. So with the basics down let's jump right in.

Established Decks:

Mono Blue Aggro

2 Gush
4 Force Spike
4 Counterspell
4 Preordain
4 Ponder

1 Bonesplitter
4 Vapor Snag

4 Spire Golem
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Ninja of the Deep Hours
4 Faerie Miscreant
4 Delver of Secrets

17 Island

This deck operates on a tempo style of game play with cheap efficient creatures. There's great synergies with Spellstutter Sprite and Ninja of the Deep Hours and efficient disruption with Force Spikes and Vapor Snags. 

Mono Green Aggro

4 Nest Invader
4 Nettle Sentinel
4 Quirion Ranger
2 River Boa
1 Shinen of Life's Roar
2 Silhana Ledgewalker
3 Skarrgan Pit-Skulk
3 Vault Skirge
4 Young Wolf

4 Groundswell
3 Hunger of the Howlpack
2 Mutagenic Growth
4 Vines of Vastwood
4 Rancor

16 Forest

This deck does what green does best. Which is just smash in with dudes. The pump spells can catch your opponents off guard and many times they can easily kill them. Vault Skirge itself can creature huge life total swings with a single pump spell and Skarrgan Pit-Skulk can make blocking impossible for the opponent. 

Boros Metalcraft

4 Glint Hawk
4 Kor Skyfisher
4 Thraben Inspector

1 Angelic Purge
2 Firebolt
4 Kuldotha Rebirth
4 Galvanic Blast
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Raise the Alarm
2 Rally the Peasants

4 Ichor Wellspring
4 Prophetic Prism

4 Ancient Den
4 Great Furnace
2 Forgotten Cave
1 Kabira Crossroads
1 Mortuary Mire
1 Mountain
1 Plains

2 Secluded Steppe
4 Wind-Scarred Crag

Here we see some very sweet synergies as well as powerful cards to help carry the deck. Ichor Wellsprings being used in contention with Kuldotha Rebirth to throw up Goblin tokens and Rally the Peasants to help finish them off. As you can see here the dual lands used in pauper are going to be most commonly be the gain life lands like Wind-Scarred Crag. Mana bases are tough to build with commons sometimes and three color decks are possibly the least successful due to the mana constraints. 

UB Control

1 Curse of the Bloody Tome
2 Pristine Talisman
1 Tragic Slip
2 Think Twice
3 Mystical Teachings
2 Exclude
1 Essence Scatter
1 Echoing Decay
2 Doom Blade
1 Disfigure
2 Diabolic Edict
2 Deprive
1 Crypt Incursion
4 Counterspell
1 Capsize
4 Accumulated Knowledge

1 Preordain
2 Evincar's Justice
4 Chainer's Edict

3 Swamp
4 Radiant Fountain
7 Island
4 Dismal Backwater
4 Dimir Aqueduct
1 Bojuka Bog

Now I know some of you like winning the game with no creature in play so here is the deck for you. The deck relies on the win condition of Curse of the Bloody Tome and Evincar's Justice. You may or may not have noticed by now but flashback spells and buyback spells are among the strongest in the format. Expect to see them played and putting them in your deck. 

There's much more but I've listed these just to show some of the variety in the top decks of the format. 

This Saturday night at Fanatix! 

Building a Deck

Now with a few examples of pauper decks shown I wanted to go ahead and walk you through the process of building a deck. The first thing I do a lot of times is find a card that seems particularly fun to play with. 

Cinn's Enlistment

So this card stands out for me because it's a 2 for 1 with a repeatable effect. Both of those things being very important in the deck construction. Without good card quality your deck will fall to the wayside while your opponent buries you in card advantage. So now we try to tackle how to build with this card. 

1. The card is four mana so it wont be holding up a very aggressive deck. So i'll need to buy my time until I can get these going.
2. The card can be replayed by discarding lands and it gets cast out of the graveyard.

So with that and not too much thought I think about a small creature in the same set as this card. 

Tilling Treefolk

Okay so now the gears are turning. Maybe some self mill would be good. I can get Cinn's Enlistment return the lands and start recasting it. What else mills? A quick Gatherer search reveals Satyr Wayfinder, Grapple with the Past, Mulch, Commune With the Gods. Okay okay cool. So what about my graveyard? I need other things to recast as well to keep things going.

Search (Flashback)
Search (Retrace)
Search (From Graveyard)

So this leads me to a few new discoveries. Battle Screech, Marshaling Cry, and Travel Preparations. Now I found several other cards but I felt like these came closest to achieving what I wanted my deck to do. So with those in mind I have Battle Screech to think about. The flash back requires some more white creatures. Now usually what I do is find several sweet synergies and then look for strong support cards to help fill out the deck. So one of the best cards in pauper in white is Squadron Hawk. This is a good an early play that helps me flash back Battle screech I like it. Now other thoughts run through my head. What about Tilling Treefolk? Is there any good way for me to get value from him? Now looking back through the other lists helps here as well and I see Secluded Steppe. Aha! A good way to get lands in the graveyard and get value from my Ent. So after a bit of tinkering, browsing through decks, and searching Gatherer I come to this list. 

4 Thraben Inspector
4 Satyr Wayfinder
4 Squadron Hawk
3 Tilling Treefolk

4 Grapple with the Past
3 Raise the Alarm
2 Commune With the Gods
3 Travel Preperations
4 Journey To Nowhere
4 Battle Screech
2 Cinn's Enlistment
1 Marshalling Cry

4 Blossoming Sands
2 Selesnya Sanctuary
4 Secluded Steppe
4 Tranquil Thicket
3 Forest
5 Plains

So there's a lot of things going on here and several decisions made due to other decks in the format. Commune with the gods can get value out of Journey to Nowhere. Thraben Inspector ups the creature count and makes Grapple with the Past and Battle Screech better and Raise the Alarm helps me live to the end game. I won't be building a sideboard just yet but just keep in mind your sideboard should be built to better your deck against primarily the decks you can't beat and those you will see the most often in your playgroup. So there you have it! I haven't (Change that to HAVE This is the playlist the videos will be uploaded to as record more. Thanks!) got a chance to play any games with this just yet but I have brewed a prior deck as well as posted a Deck Tech online. I would invite you to check those videos out and let me know what you think. Hopefully I will be posting some videos of the deck we made today soon and we will see how it runs.

 I'm usually at Fanatix on Fridays and look forward to playing some pauper with you guys soon. Until next time be sure to check out for information on upcoming pauper events!


-Clio Canfield

List of all the Pauper differences online:

My Decktech

My Playlist with that deck.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Go Tiny or Go Home


     Do you sense that fluster on the horizon? There's a sudden chill in the air and a crackle in the distance. I sense we're about to be swept up in the middle of a perfect storm. What the heck am I talking about? Tiny Leaders™, of course! Welcome back to another installment of Casual Corner, brought to you by the fine folks at Fanatix. Today, as we examine the latest craze in the Magic community, I use the term "casual" in the sense that we're discussing a non-sanctioned format, but make no mistake, Tiny Leaders™ can be very high-octane and lends itself very well to Spikey players, particularly those that like to brew. If you're not yet familiar with Tiny Leaders™, let's take a quick look at the ins and outs of the format, examine some of the interesting deck building implications, and, of course, look at a few decks.

                First of all, Tiny Leaders™ is a EDH/Commander variant, which means that many of the core tenants of EDH are still present. Namely, you still construct singleton decks that fit within your commander's color identity. What's different? The most impactful rule is that all of your cards, including your commander, must have a converted mana cost of less than 4. Whoa. Did your mind lurch as you envision exactly what that does to your card choices? This rules especially places a considerable constraint on the players, but I've found the process of mining the card pool for format gems to be extremely interesting. Additionally, the deck size is set at 50 (forty-nine plus your commander) and the life totals begin at 25. As you may have guessed based on these criteria, the format is meant to be played in a duel (1v1) setting. The format also has a banned list in place to address cards that are considered format warping or lead to degenerate deck construction. The format's creator, Bram Tackaberry, along with other invested colleagues of his, maintain the official rules and banned list at the Tiny Leaders™ home page. I'd recommend giving it a visit to check out the FAQ, the Banned List, and just to stay on top of the latest news.

                Alright, maybe you're skeptical. I mean EDH is great. Really great. EDH allows you to do obscene things to lots of opponents. I'd never advocate ditching EDH. I would, however, recommend a little shake up every now and again and I've found the compact and efficient Tiny Leaders™ scuffles to be the perfect partner to complement the mighty EDH haymaker brawls. Here, I'd like to take a second to explain why I think Tiny Leaders™ is so sweet.


                Despite the ceiling on the mana cost, the cards swimming around in the Tiny Leaders™ card pool are packed with a lot of power. As you might expect, many of the best cards in the format are Legacy staples. Legacy is known for its highly-efficient cards, with entire decks composed of one and two mana spells. However, when you mix in the singleton nature of the format, you're forced to diversify your cards and go hunting for other options that allow you to maintain your core strategy. While this facet does increase the variance quite a bit, I think it serves as a benefit rather than a hindrance, as many of the decks are reminiscent of decks you might assemble during a Cube draft. Cube is an entirely different topic on its own, but it's an amazing format that allows you to explore the best of Magic's history. So, when you take some of the best ingredients from both Legacy and Cube and stir them together in a cauldron, throw in a pinch of ingenuity, you cook up the spicy dish that is Tiny Leaders™.


                Just as I said above, Tiny Leaders™ sometimes offers a Cube-esque experience, which is great. If you enjoy the intricacies of Limited Magic, I think you'll immediately latch on to Tiny Leaders™. The efficiency of the creatures spurs the games into motion quickly with tactical and strategic decisions having to be made very early. Aggressive, creature-based strategies are common, but they don't dominate completely. There are some very potent ones available though, to be sure. Even if you look no further than tribal decks there are some powerful options just among some of the classic tribes like Goblins, Merfolk, and Elves. Looking past the tribal options all manner of powerful aggressive strategies open up when commanders like Lyzolda, the Blood Witch, Isamaru, Hound of Konda, and Radha, Heir to Keld. Whichever color(s) you prefer to battle with, there's assuredly a compelling aggressive deck waiting to be built.

                Control decks appear to be quite viable too, but the brewers have to get creative if they are looking for mass creature removal. Rather than packing some of the tried and true "wrath" effects so common in EDH, control players in Tiny Leaders™ lean more heavily on damage-inflicting or -N/-N effects like those from Anger of the Gods or Drown in Sorrow. Luckily, those effects scale well with the average toughness of the available creatures, so the tensions among archetypes still strike a nice balance. To assist the control mage in their exploits, the spot removal in the format is unparalleled. With access to all of Magic's most efficient targeted removal, the options are varied and potent. Some of these reactionary spells are instilled with some extra effectiveness simply by virtue of the format's guiding criteria. Cards like Smother, Abrupt Decay, and Spell Snare were already plenty good, but in the arsenal of a Tiny Leader, they can spell one-for-one doom with unprecedented potency. If control strategies appeal to you, you'll find several commanders waiting readily for you. Toshiro Umezawa, Vendilion Clique, Sygg, River Cutthroat, and Geist of Saint Traft are all waiting for you to brew them up a home.

                I'm still pondering what exactly a mid-range deck looks like in Tiny Leaders™. I imagine it's one that relies more on early blocking and card advantage to stabilize and get ahead in the game, but whereas classic mid-range strategies have a powerful closer at the top of their curve (something akin to Broodmate Dragon or Elspeth, Sun's Champion), a mid-range deck in this format will have to be inventive in spotting just the right card(s) to reliably serve as a finisher. My hunch is that the format provides plenty of space to explore more "grindy" strategies. When I consider some of these possibilities, my mind immediately considers graveyard recursion. Traditionally, generating card advantage from the graveyard has been one of the hallmarks of mid-range decks and I suspect that will hold true in Tiny Leaders™ as well. With that strategic bent, I can see commanders like Varolz, the Scar-Striped, Hua Tuo, Honored Physician, or Feldon of the Third Path being a solid place to start.
                Combo decks don't get left out either. The Tiny Leaders™ Banned List does eliminate some of the most egregious enablers of combos like Demonic Tutor, Vampiric Tutor, and Hermit Druid, but there is no doubt room in the format for highly powerful synergies. Thanks to the variance presented by the singleton nature of the format, combinations deemed too strong for Modern like Sword of the Meek/Thopter Foundry, Vampire Hexmage/Dark Depths, and Punishing Fire/Grove of the Burnwillows are all fair game in Tiny Leader. These are just the tip of the iceberg, I'm sure. There are still some insanely powerful enablers and tutors available that I'm sure will be sure to assemble all manner of infinite shenanigans. Ezuri, Renegade Leader, along with some other Elf pieces, is among the combo commander options that can provide extremely resilient and redundant options for "comboing off." As the community begins collectively crunching down the permutations available in Tiny Leaders™, I really look forward to seeing what comes out of this camp of decks.

                One other interesting note about strategies: this format may serve as one of the most conducive for a mill deck to thrive. With a little extra padding on the life total and a slightly smaller library size, the ratios are ripe to rattle the format with this very popular alternate win condition. With cards like Glimpse the Unthinkable, Mind Grind, Windfall, and Prosperity legal, there may be a niche in the format for the strategy to catch some opponent's decks off guard.

Deck Design

                Perhaps my favorite function of Tiny Leaders™ is the way it unlocks cards that didn't previously have a place to shine. Much like EDH gives seven and eight mana spells an arena to dominate, Tiny Leaders™ provides the perfect setting for really cool and powerful cards that get edged out of other four-of Constructed formats and that aren't splashy enough to contend in EDH. It's been remarkably easy to construct decks for the format, too. A quick stroll through your binder and you're bound to find some cards that you've always thought would be awesome to play with, but just didn't quite serve the right role. Now they do. Grin wide as you sleeve up that Kor Outfitter, Ambassador Laquatus, Master of the Feast, Ghitu Slinger , and Scute Mob. They're the first among many of your cards that will now have a new home. On top of that, you also get to view cards in a new light. Certain classes of cards get an extra boost in the format, particularly X spells or cards with mechanics that let you grow the spell's effect to be larger than a three-mana spell would be. Cards that make use of kicker, or kicker variants like entwine, overload, and strive, get some extra mileage in Tiny Leaders™ because they allow you to cheat big effects under the CMC restriction. Sure, you can't pay 2BB for Damnation, but you can pay 3BBB to have Forced March do the same job. Finding new tools like this is among what makes exploring the card pool and the history of Magic so interesting. Speaking of the history of the game, I'd like to return back to my storm analogy from the introduction. It really did take a perfect storm for this format to exist. It required that Magic thrive for over 20 years, churning out interesting cards and reaching a critical mass of legendary creatures with CMC less than four. I don't know of other games with this kind of depth and longevity. I'm not sure there is another. It took a long time to get to the point where a format like Tiny Leaders™ can exist, let alone thrive, so I intend to enjoy it.

                Of course, it wouldn't be a Magic post without a few deck lists. I rounded up a few lists from some of the locals that have already embraced the format. Hopefully, these will give you a sense of the format's depth and diversity.

Grenzo, Dungeon Warden
by Jeremy Norsworthy
1 Akoum Refuge
1 Adaptive Automaton
1 AEther Vial
SB:  1 Aggravated Assault
1 Auntie's Hovel
1 Frenzied Goblin
1 Dragon Fodder
SB:  1 Blood Moon
1 Blood Crypt
1 Frogtosser Banneret
1 Dralnu's Crusade
SB:  1 Cover of Darkness
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Goblin Bushwhacker
1 Goblin Bombardment
SB:  1 Dreadbore
1 Dragonskull Summit
1 Goblin Chieftain
1 Krenko's Command
SB:  1 Engineered Plague
1 Graven Cairns
1 Goblin Deathraiders
1 Living End
SB:  1 Knucklebone Witch
6 Mountain
1 Goblin Guide
1 Quest for the Goblin Lord
SB:  1 Perish
1 Mutavault
1 Goblin King
1 Warren Weirding
SB:  1 Rain of Gore
3 Swamp
1 Goblin Matron
SB:  1 Shattering Spree
1 Tresserhorn Sinks
1 Goblin Rabblemaster
SB:  1 Spikeshot Elder
1 Urborg Volcano
1 Goblin Ruinblaster
1 Goblin Sharpshooter
1 Goblin Warchief
1 Legion Loyalist
1 Mad Auntie
1 Sensation Gorger
1 Skirk Drill Sergeant
1 Skirk Prospector
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Stingscourger
1 Tuktuk the Explorer
1 Warren Instigator
1 Weirding Shaman

I love how deep Jeremy goes on this deck, really exploring some of the lesser-known black Goblins that Lorwyn block had to offer and finding some awesomely obscure cards like Dralnu's Crusade. Plus, Grenzo is just ridiculous as a Tiny Leader, scaling beyond the CMC cap and providing a rather absurd source of card advantage with his "dungeon raid" ability. 

Skullbriar, the Walking Grave
by David Sirkis

3 Snow Covered Swamp
1 Deathrite Shaman
1 Duress
SB: 1 Autumn's Veil
3 Snow Covered Forest
1 Birds of Paradise
1 Inquisition of Kozilek
SB: 1 Carpet of Flowers
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Elves of Deep Shadow
1 Thoughtsieze
SB: 1 Deglamer
1 Polluted Delta
1 Diregraf Ghoul
1 Rancor
SB: 1 Chainer's Edict
1 Verdant Catacomb
1 Carnophage
1 Sylvan Library
SB: 1 Krosan Grip
1 Treetop Village
1 Gravecrawler
1 Smallpox
SB: 1 Sudden Death
1 Mutavault
1 Dark Confidant
1 Smother
SB: 1 Engineered Plague
1 Bayou
1 Lotleth Troll
1 Abrupt Decay
SB: 1 Triumph of Ferosity
1 Overgrown Tomb
1 Bloodghast
1 Victim of Night
SB: 1 Toxic Deluge
1 Cavern of Souls
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Hymn to Tourach
SB: 1 Pernicious Deed
1 Command Tower
1 Putrid Leech
1 Dark Tutelage
1 Bojuka Bog
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Phyrexian Arena
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
1 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
1 Maelstrom Pulse
1 Wasteland
1 Terravore
1 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Eternal Witness
1 Putrefy
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Lilianna of the Veil

David's take on Skullbriar very likely qualifies as mid-range in this format. His list reads like the Hall of Fame of Black and/or Green cards with so many cards looking to generate tremendous value either through raw power or recursion. This deck looks extremely resilient to me and I'm guessing it has pretty good game in most matchups. 

Brimaz, King of Oreskos
by Garret Darley

1 Windbrisk Heights
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Brave the Elements
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Kor Sanctifiers
1 Mobilization
1 Eiganjo Castle
1 Elite Vanguard
1 Spear of Heliod
1 Kjeldoran Outpost
1 Precinct Captain
1 Path to Exile
1 Secluded Steppe
1 War Priest of Thune
1 Mana Tithe
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
1 Banisher Priest
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
13 Plains
1 Soldier of the Pantheon
1 Glorious Anthem
1 Boros Elite
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Containment Priest
1 Midnight Haunting
1 Knight of the White Orchid
1 Crusade
1 Flickerwisp
1 Sunlance
1 Spirit of the Labyrinth
1 Honor of the Pure
1 Mikaeus, the Lunarch
1 Champion of the Parish
1 Kor Skyfisher
1 Samurai of the Pale Curtain
1 Silverblade Paladin
1 Imposing Sovereign

Garrett is jamming a really powerful looking White Weenie build. These decks are sure to shine, as White for decades has dominated Constructed Magic with efficient and/or disruptive threats. I like his commitment to the "anthem plan" here, too. By packing all four of the best white anthem effects (granting +1/+1 to your creatures), this deck is assuring that the tokens produced by Brimaz are a legitimate threat. This deck came to tussle. 

Feldon of the Third Path
by Eric Peel

1 Darksteel Citadel
1 Etched Champion
1 Ichor Wellspring
1 Great Furnace
1 Epochrasite
1 Mycosynth Wellspring
1 Forgotten Cave
1 Arcbound Worker
1 Galvanic Blast
1 Smoldering Crater
1 Arcbound Ravager
1 Shrapnel Blast
10 Mountain
1 Arcbound Slith
1 Mox Opal
1 Phyrexia's Core
1 Arcbound Stinger
1 Hammer of Purphoros
1 Blinkmoth Nexus
1 Burnished Hart
1 Whipflare
1 Inkmoth Nexus
1 Signal Pest
1 Chaos Warp
1 Stingscourger
1 Starstorm
1 Ghitu Slinger
1 Mind Stone
1 Steel Overseer
1 Swiftfoot Boots
1 Ornithopter
1 Lightning Bolt
1 Vexing Devil
1 Kuldotha Rebirth
1 Goblin Welder
1 Chimeric Mass
1 Myr Retriever
1 Burst Lightning
1 Perilous Myr
1 Harness by Force

This is a fun list that I've been experimenting with. It utilizes many of the popular elements from many Affinity (aka Robots) lists that have made their way in and out of Modern and Legacy. In a stalemate, the backup plan for the deck is to use Feldon in conjunction with creatures like Vexing Devil, Ghitu Slinger, Stingscourger, and Burnished Hart to generate some edges on the opponent and eventually "out value" them.

                It's about time to wrap up these ramblings. In short, try Tiny Leaders™'s really sweet. My hunch is that it will prove to be a long-lasting format with lots of room for exploration and will provide a stage for all of the psychographics to play on.

Thanks for reading. I'll see you on the battlefield!

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Casual Corner - Titania's Dominion

               Greetings fellow spell slingers! It's been a while since I've posted anything here on the Fanatix blog and I've been itching to talk about some of the latest happenings in the Magic world. As we all know, the holidays is a turbulent time, one in which we scatter, scuffle, and scramble about ferociously in an effort to eventually (hopefully) take it a little slower with our friends and families. When things do slow down, I'm always on the lookout to find an opportunity to jam some extra games when possible, and while that didn't happen too terribly often this year, the hustle and bustle of the season couldn't stop me from thinking about Magic. What's been on my mind? Straight up? Casual formats!

                Look, I find Standard, Modern, and Legacy plenty interesting, but I've been completely enthralled with all things Casual lately. So, I'd like to discuss a couple of Casual formats today: one old, one new, and I'm always on the lookout to play something blue. So, if you're interested in the ramblings of a single-minded, Singleton-format-loving madman, read on dear reader, read on.

                First up, I've got to talk about a bit about the release of Commander 2014. I've got to say that I think Wizards of the Coast, under lead designer Ethan Fleischer, did a tremendous job with these. I know, I know. These decks have been out for a while. They're so 2014, but it's refreshing when you see the caretakers of our game go to such lengths to try and satisfy as many players as possible. Personally, I thought they did a great job of giving most of the niche audiences a little something to appreciate. For those that like to see design space explored aggressively, we have a cycle of Planeswalkers that can start in the Command zone. This is a pretty natural progression, I know, but with only five slots to play with, I feel like Wizards threw a pretty juicy bone to those that love more radical designs as well as those that enjoy seeing some of the story elements get fleshed out. I was a little skeptical at first, afraid that this tactic was going to be too gimmicky, but I think ultimately the Planeswalker Commanders were well-executed and well-received. Plus, even with all the haymakers crashing about, they found a few slots for the efficiency-loving Legacy players, too. Containment Priest is hateful, hateful hate bear and Malicious Affliction has been a blowout every time I've seen it cast. All in all, this release was a great addition to the Commander product line and I'd highly recommend them as a way to begin your journey into the format.

                Aside from the above-mentioned praises of the C14 decks, I really enjoyed that they made the choice to make them mono-colored. Even prior to the C14 release, I had always had an affinity for single-colored Commanders. I find the deck-building constraints to be a bit refreshing, actually. It really forces you to "go deep" in a color to explore all the color has to offer. Sure, you often find yourself turning to artifacts for must-have effects that don't exist in your mono-colored ecosystem, but even so, I feel like the constraint really pushes you scrutinize all the nooks and crannies of the color. I'm always tickled when I get to peer into Magic's past and find a gem that would in no way conform to modern development practices or stumble across a more modern card that bends (or breaks in half) the color pie (Hello Time Spiral block!), but is the perfect fit for my theme or strategy. How about a few examples? Something old: Desert Twister. Yes, the very first Vindicate was a costly mono-green card. Something new: Utopia Vow. A trippy card from Planar Chaos that allows green to do a pretty solid Pacifism impression. Something Blue: Psychic Venom. Because, you know, sometimes you have to have snakes on a Plains.

                With all that said, I'd like to move into the main topic: reengineering one of the C14 decks. As much fun as they were to play out of the box, the C14 decks really compelled me to put on my brewer's hat (drag out my brewer's cauldron??) and seek to build around one of the new cards. The spark-wielding Commanders were interesting and Feldon of the Third Path seemed nuts, but the legendary creature that kept catching my eye was Titania, Protector of Argoth. She's got such an interesting set of abilities. This seemed like the perfect build-around card. Plus, I knew it would push me to finally acquire a card that I've always admired from afar, but never had a chance to play with: Doubling Season!

Dorks vs. Rocks
                Before we power slide down the rabbit hole, I'd like to take a quick aside and pose a question. Well, first I want to set up the question. I've been pondering one of the interesting deck building decisions that you need to make when crafting a mono-green EDH deck: dorks vs. rocks. For the uninitiated, "dorks" is short for "mana dorks" and most often refers to cheap creatures, usually one or two mana (but not always) that produce mana. On their own they have a few tradeoffs. If drawn early, they can be one of the more powerful things you can do in EDH. The one-mana versions like Birds of Paradise and Llanowar Elves are about as close to Moxes as Wizards R&D is comfortable allowing. Ramping your mana in EDH is nearly always a plus. (I say "nearly always" to avoid getting side-tracked on the topic of politics in EDH and remaining threat-neutral during some portions of the game.) However, there are some obvious drawbacks. Drawn late in the game, your friendly forest critters provide little more than a warm body on the battlefield. Sometimes that's valuable. There's often things to do with stray creatures, but on turn 14 you're not going to impress anyone by using your Birthing Pod to chain your Elves of Deep Shadow into a Sakura-Tribe Elder.  Perhaps the more likely scenario: it becomes a small appetizer for an opposing Sheoldred or is a casual bystander when Sir Sweepsalot (every group has one) decides to wreck the board...again. This brings me to the major tradeoff to consider when considering the inclusion of mana dorks: they're vulnerable. So, what's the alternative? Rocks. "Rocks" is short for "mana rocks" and refer to artifacts that produce mana. There are some doozies out there (I'm looking at you Mana Vault, Mana Crypt, and Grim Monolith), but perhaps the most commonly played one is the obscenely powerful Sol Ring. But here again, we have a tradeoff. While more resilient to mass creature removal, these rocks only produce colorless mana. Often, this is a minimal drawback, but if colored mana is a concern, there are plenty more options such the Signets, Darksteel Ingot, and Coalition Relic. Here's the thing though. Mana rocks have become so prevalent in EDH that most players are packing some form of hate for them, ratcheting their liability factor up a couple of notches. So, what's a Green mage to do? I usually hedge my bets and run a split of some sort, but keep a keen eye on your play group's tendencies and balance your dork-rock ratio accordingly. If you've got any thoughts on how to conquer this portion of mono-green deck building, be sure to leave a comment and share your approach.

                Alright, we've clearly got a build-around-me style Commander here with Titania, so let's break down the card's abilities and start assembling the pieces that will most readily play nicely with her. Step one, let's take full advantage of her enters the battlefield trigger by playing a healthy portion of lands that sacrifice themselves as well as spells that allow you to sacrifice lands. Wait, should all that apply to her second ability? Yes! Her self-synergy is amazing. As far the land base goes, here again, playing a mono-colored commander lets us go a little deeper into the card pool; We'll have an easier time establishing green mana when we need it, so we have extra slots that can be devoted to lands that generate value with Titania's first ability. Step two, we really want to leverage Titania's token generating ability. This part of her rules text is what makes her such an insane build-around card. Of course, Titania will not stay on the board all the time , so we're going to be scouring Gatherer for cards that bolster our token-producing options and are generally good with token strategies. All the while, we'll keep an eye out for cards that will be insane during the times when Titania gets to stick around for a couple of turns. Lastly, we'll explore a strategy that Titania brings to the table, but isn't printed in her rules text. Because we're "devoted" to green, we can also dabble in a few a "Forest-matters" or "Green-matters" cards that should be maximized in a deck like this. Below I'm going to break down some of my choices into three groups: Land-centric, Token-centric, and Forest/Green-centric. Many of the choices will be obvious inclusions for their general power or utility, but others are making the cut because we're pushing the strategies that Titania presents to us as far as we can. On to the cards!

                This group will either actually be lands or will allow us to abuse lands, usually by allowing us to play additional ones per turn or by having effects when they enter play. Alright, let's get the nastiness out of the way: Strip Mine. Yes, recurring this seems nasty, but in multiplayer it is much less punishing and Titania on her own won't recur it that many times. Even with Crucible of Worlds in the 99, recurring Strip Mine won't break any games wide open and EDH games have a nice self-correcting power balance. If you get too aggressive with land destruction, you'll feel the heat immediately. Okay, now the obvious fetch lands. I try to play these in EDH anyway, but they're extra good here and you should include them in you can. What about these OTHER fetch lands? I'm referring to the Panoramas from Shards of Alara. Admittedly, I haven't played with these much, so I don't know exactly how good they are, but in a mono-colored deck they do provide many of the same benefits as your "real" fetch lands. Some other interesting lands that I'm excited to play are Lotus Vale and Scorched Ruins. These seem to be tailor-made to play well with Titania. Even she's not out to make Elementals, having lands in your graveyard will be a common occurrence with this deck and should almost always be a value-generating benefit.

                There are some other neat lands that sacrifice themselves, but what about nonland cards? How about the obvious: Life from the Loam. This is a one-card engine and is a ton of fun to play. In this deck we'll be recurring all manner of utility lands and some sweet, sweet cycling lands. Other nonlands in our land-centric group include ways to power out a mana advantage. Exploration, Burgeoning, Summer Bloom, and Oracle of Mul Daya are among the cards that really let us leverage our land theme. In some games, these cards will be virtual Time Walks as you will be operating several turns ahead of your opponents where mana production is concerned. Here again we have something old: Gaea's Touch, something new: a card I can't wait to try, Wave of Vitriol and something that acts very Blue: Font of Mythos. Hopefully, the font will let us exploit our multi-land-per-turn advantage. And of course, we want to press that advantage by doing some sweet stuff when the lands enter, so let's touch in a Lotus Cobra and Rampaging Baloths for good measure. What's that? Rampaging Baloths also plays well with our token-centric strategy? Let's take a look at some of those cards, too.

                Most players I know really enjoy token strategies and I'm no exception. You get to play with even more cardboard (or dice, or coins, or paper clips)! The cards chosen here are doing lots of cool things to leverage this strategy. In particular, I was looking for cards that accomplished one of the following: makes more tokens, makes our tokens better in some way, or generates value from the tokens entering play. Here again, we'll start with the obvious one I mentioned earlier: Doubling Season. This, along with its more token-focused little brother, Parallel Lives, have been the backbone of many token strategies for a long time. Some other goodies that I'm looking forward to playing are Ant Queen, Hermit Druid, and the EDH all star, Avenger of Zendikar. Wait, what is this little gem from Prophecy? Squirrel Wrangler? Not a powerhouse per se, but he's doing basically everything this deck wants to do. He's in! So now that we're filling the Multiverse with irrelevant 1/1 Insects, Squirrels, and lowly 0/1 Plant tokens, what are we going to do to actually win? Here, we'll lean an old favorite, Coat of Arms, a new favorite, Craterhoof Behemoth, and a very blue (sad) Garruk Wildspeaker that has to wait a turn before he can throttle people with trampling tokens.

                In the final group, I wanted to include a few cards that made good use of the fact that we're all green and should have a relatively high number of Forests in play. These cards weren't quite as plentiful as I thought they might be, but there are several that I think will be potent in this build. My nomination for something old is Fortitude. This is a decent way to protect Titania from some of the board sweepers and removal we expect to see floating around. It plays well with our commander and just might buy her way out of a jam here and there. Our new (ish) inclusion in this category is Baru, Fist of Krosa. His grandeur ability will never be a thing, but I like his pseudo landfall ability enough that I thought he warranted inclusion. The mass trample is what sold me. Perhaps the card in this group I'm looking forward to casting the most is Beacon of Creation. I imagine this card tag-teaming with Ant Queen and Coat of Arms to assemble an insect-led invasion. Who doesn't want to beat down with thoraxes and mandibles?!

                Lastly, I rounded out the build with some general utility calling on the battle-tested prowess of cards like Reclamation Sage, Scavenging Ooze, and everyone's favorite uncle, Yavimaya Elder. Green isn't the best at producing raw card advantage, but I aimed to squeeze in a few options by including Praetor's Council, Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury, and Garruk's Packleader. I've yet to actually cast Creeping Renaissance, but I'm hoping it normally reads "draw a ton of cards from your graveyard." I'm really looking forward to jamming some games with this deck as I think it will prove to create very fun and interactive games. I've got my complete list below. As always, be sure to share what cards you think I completely missed. What sleepers do you think would be right at home here?

1 Titania, Protector of Argoth
1 Bant Panorama
1 Armillary Sphere
1 Ant Queen
1 Crystal Vein
1 Awakening Zone
1 Avenger of Zendikar
1 Dust Bowl
1 Beacon of Creation
1 Azusa, Lost but Seeking
1 Encroaching Wastes
1 Beast Within
1 Baru, Fist of Krosa
1 Evolving Wilds
1 Burgeoning
1 Cartographer
18 Forest
1 Coat of Arms
1 Courser of Kruphix
1 Gaea's Cradle
1 Concordant Crossroads
1 Craterhoof Behemoth
1 Ghost Quarter
1 Constant Mists
1 Deranged Hermit
1 Havenwood Battleground
1 Creeping Renaissance
1 Eternal Witness
1 Jund Panorama
1 Crop Rotation
1 Garruk's Packleader
1 Lotus Vale
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Lotus Cobra
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Doubling Season
1 Oracle of Mul Daya
1 Myriad Landscape
1 Expedition Map
1 Paleoloth
1 Naya Panorama
1 Exploration
1 Rampaging Baloths
1 Petrified Field
1 Explore
1 Reclamation Sage
1 Reliquary Tower
1 Font of Mythos
1 Scavenging Ooze
1 Scorched Ruins
1 Fortitude
1 Squirrel Wrangler
1 Slippery Karst
1 Fresh Meat
1 Sylvan Safekeeper
1 Strip Mine
1 Gaea's Touch
1 Yavimaya Elder
1 Tectonic Edge
1 Harrow
1 Terramorphic Expanse
1 Kavu Lair
1 Thawing Glaciers
1 Life from the Loam
1 Freyalise, Llanowar's Fury
1 Tower of the Magistrate
1 Manabond
1 Garruk Wildspeaker
1 Tranquil Thicket
1 Parallel Lives
1 Nissa, Worldwaker
1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Praetor's Counsel
1 Windswept Heath
1 Realms Uncharted
1 Wooded Foothills
1 Restore
1 Scapeshift
1 Summer Bloom
1 Sylvan Scrying
1 Wave of Vitriol
1 Worldly Tutor
1 Zuran Orb

                 Ah yes, I did say in the opening that I wanted to discuss a new format, didn't I? I really wanted to talk about the very cool Tiny Leaders format, but the more I thought about, the more I thought it deserved its own article. Plus, the format seems to have caught on like wildfire AND it's being shaken up by upcoming cards from Fate Reforged, so I think I'd prefer to wait and dedicate a post to it. With all that said, that's going to do it for this installment.

Thanks for reading. I'll see you on the battlefield!

Eric Peel has been playing Magic: The Gathering since he discovered the game in college, around the time of Invasion block. Most of the time Eric's simply a devoted family guy, but occasionally he finds time to sling spells or become temporarily devoted to a Therosian deity. He enjoys multiple formats, finding fun and competition in Limited, Constructed, and Multiplayer Magic.

His current favorite card is Bloodghast.