Friday, October 25, 2013

Grand Prix Louisville

Team Fanatix at:

JW Kingsley's debut article with Team Fanatix.

As some of you may or may not know, Hayden and I headed off to the Bluegrass State to participate in Grand Prix Louisville.  We met up with a couple of Floridians (Jonathan Marsh and Chris Fennell)    somewhere near the Alabama/Tennessee line we learned that Seth Manfield (2 time GP winner) and Steve Mann (PT Gatecrash Top 8 competitor) would be crashing with us at our hotel.  Fairly impressive array of company in 2 Gold level Pros and Seth who needed a top 32 finish to lock up Silver. 
Hayden had locked in on his deck earlier in the week and was going to play the Boros White Weenie deck that he had lost to at States.  I was fairly confident that I wound be playing Esper Control.  I had a list with no Azorius Charms and the Whip/Ozbedat Combo.  I also brought the Mono U build and all of the pieces of Mono Black just in case.

We arrive at the Kentucky International Convention Center, and notice that there are cubic metric ton of GR ‘Dinosaur’ Devotion decks and Mono Black Devotion decks.   Not much else was going on so we decided to leave downtown Louisville and skip out on eating as nobody was hungry.   After arriving to our room roughly 10 minutes away everyone decided that we should get some food.  This would prove to be a daunting task in the hills of Kentucky.  I am pretty sure that it wasn’t just my imagination that kept looping “Dueling Banjos” in the background.    After a bit we settled in to eat at a local Pizza Hut, it was right next to the Daycare/Car Show/Barber one stop store.  (Yes this one place was all three things in one) 
In Pizza Hut we discuss deck ideas and choices, its boiled down to Chris is playing GR Dinosaurs, I ask the group what does the mono Black devotion deck look like if you add 4 Godless Shrines and jam a couple of Blood Barons of Viskopa.  We discuss it a bit and head back to the room to jam some games.  Fennell and Seth favored playing Nightveil Specter over the stock Lifebane Zombie, I thought and argued that there was room to three-three split them.  They won out and we jammed some games vs the Green Devotion deck.  Black was getting hammered I do not think I won a game.  I suggested that we just make the Specters into Lifebane Zombies and run it back.  There was a stark change in the results and the matchup pulled back into a decent matchup.    Since it was getting late we sat down to try and put the final touches on everything and discuss sideboard options.
Seth ended up -1 Swamp +1 Devour Flesh,  +1 Erebos -1 Nightveil Specter, +1 Abhorrent Overlord over 1 Blood Baron in the main.  I decided to not play the Overlord and instead maindeck a Baron.  Overlord is an attempt to go bigger in the mirror, and is absolutely nutty with the whip.  I opted for the less flashy main deck hate card.  I know that Overlord did win Seth a match.  Ironic note Seth and I argued if the deck should run 25 or 26 lands, I pushed for 25 and Seth 26.  We both ended up taking the advice of the other.
This is the list that I sleeved up and played. 
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Desecration Demon
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
1 Blood Baron of Viskopa
3 Nightveil Specter
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Doom Blade
2 Ultimate Price
1 Devour Flesh
4 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize
3 Underworld Connection
2 Whip of Erebos
4 Godless Shrine
4 Temple of Silence
2 Nythkos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Mutavault
14 Swamp

2 Durress
2 Glare of Heresy
1 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
1 Lifebane Zombie
2 Sin Collector
2 Dark Betrayal
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
1 Pithing Needle
1 Wear//Tear
2 Pharika’s Cure

The Wear//Tear and Lifebane Zombie should have been Merciless Evictions.  The rest of the deck I was very much happy with.  With the list settled I went to sleep.  Bunking with Jonathan Marsh is supposed to be good luck, I guess I was going to put that superstition to the test.

We get up that next morning, pile six deep in a small little Honda and head out to the venue.  I always start getting a bit antsy during the players meetings at any tournaments I attend and they often carry over to that first game.  Luckily I have two byes at Grand Prix this season so after the player’s meeting I get a nice two hour break to go out and explore the area around the venue.  This lets me clear my head and work off some nervous energy.  It is always sweet to experience new cities.  Louisville has a pretty neat downtown area called 4th Steet Live, you should definitely check it out if you ever find yourself in the area.

RND 3 vs Talon Carrin (Junk) 2-0
Pretty uneventful match vs a really nice guy he had some color struggles game one and Thoughtseize made sure he did not cast anything other than a Voice of Resurgence.  Game two he had some pressure but had to scoop to Blood Baron, Grey Merchant and Whip.

RND 4 vs Stephen Horne (Dynacharge Red) 2-0
Turn one Thoughtseize showed me that I was in a battle vs the worst matchup.  Thankfully he had to mulligan to five.  Back to back Chandra’s Phoenix rips made game one close.  Game two was a battle as Lifebane Zombie showed my opponent had a Skullcrack in grip.  I forced him to have to blow the ‘Crack on his turn to blank my blocks with a Whip in play, allowing me to Merchant myself to safety on the previous turn. 

RND 5 vs  Matt Moscatel (GW Aggro) 2-1
A Merchant for 12 ended the first game on the spot.  Game two I stalled on lands while he had the dream draw and simply crushed me.  Game three Blood Baron came down and held the ground and finished out the game with a little help from a few Lifebane Zombies.

RND 6 vs Grant Christopher (BW Midrange) 2-0
Grant is a guy from the Atlanta area, we have seen each other around.  It’s always cool to play vs people you know from other areas.  Grant drew the wrong half of his deck game one trapped with several dead Doom Blades and Game two he mulled to five and had little chance to play the game.

RND 7 vs Gaudenis Vidugiris (Mono U Devotion) 1-2
Oh snap a former Pro Tour champ is my next opponent.  I took a moment on the walk to the table to calm myself and prepare for an opportunity to play vs one of the games better players.  I Thoughtseize Gau on turn three of game one to have a choice between Cyclonic Rift or Master of Waves.  I lacked a removal spell in hand to deal with the master that was going to come down with five water ponies, so I felt I had to take that than the rift that I really wanted to not have to play around.  On my next draw step I rip a Downfall.  Gua is on his third Master presenting lethal, I could Grey Merchant him for 10 while he is at eight life, he however still has that Cyclonic rift to return my Nightveil Specter to my hand and only take seven.  In the second game Gau ends up mulling to five and can’t answer Desecration Demon.  Game three I stall on four lands with an Underworld Connection in play.  I’ve battled to a position that if I could rip my 5th land drop in the next three cards I can start a chain of Grey Merchants and win the game.  Unable to rip a land I die to a Tidebinder and Frog Lizard Token in two turns.  Gau revealed the top eight cards of his library and they were all blanks and lands.  I got a little unfortunate, took the wrong side of a pretty close Thoughtseize call and still almost got there. 

RND8 vs Josh Dosher (RWB Control) 0-2
Not a whole lot to say here Game one I cast three spells they all got Chained to some Rocks and I die with lands a plenty.  Three spells to twelve lands makes for tough ways to try and win games.  Game two was more of the same except I was able to kill a creature then die quickly to double Desecration Demons.  I have to take a moment and gather myself as I really do not want to pull the 6-0 to 0-3 crash and burn from Day 2; especially not when Hayden is crushing things at 7-1.  Deck is good, I am good so let’s crush this last round and get there.

RND 9 do or die time vs Micheal Nyberg(GR Dinosaurs/Devotion) 2-0
And to finish the day off I have to beat the matchup I had hoped to dodge.  My turn one Thoughtseize reveals a hand of Voyaging Satyr, Burning Tree Emissary, Mountain, Forest, and a pair of Garruk, Caller of Beasts.  I quickly took the Burning Tree Emissary.  A couple of turns later I am in a show down vs Caller of Beasts, luckily for me his +1’s only net him one scary spell a turn (PolyK or an Arbor Colossus)  and I am able to dispatch them with removal or hand disruption while getting some damage in with Lifebane Zombies.  I am pretty sure my opponent threw game one away but not choosing to -2 his Garruk and put an Arbor Colossus in and monstrous it to kill the Desecration Demon I had in play.  Instead he cast it and I was able to draw the Doom Blade to kill it off.  Finished the game off with Demon/Lifebane .  Game two my opponent drew ultra poorly and never had any threats all dorks and lands.

Just like that I was on to Day 2 of GP Louisville.  Not a bad showing considering that I was building a deck at 1:30am the night before.  Hayden crushed day 1 losing only the WW Mirror to the undefeated WW player and finished 8-1.  4 out of 6 of our car made day two including Seth Manfield playing the same deck.

Thanks for reading.  I will finish out Day 2 and talk about where I think Standard is heading in a world full of Devotion in the second part of this report. 

 JW is a long time customer and supporter of Fanatix. He has written for Star City Games and topped numerous tournaments in recent years. He is one of the most traveled and seasoned players at Fanatix!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Commander Clio

Good evening readers! My name is Jonathan Canfield but the local card shop folk call me Clio as you’re more than welcome to as well. I love magic and everything about it and something that has always held a close place in my heart is Elder Dragon Highlander which was adopted by Wizards of the Coast made an official format and is now known as Commander! I will be writing articles on Commander Generals, deck building, and new product that shows promise in the commander format.

For those of you new to the idea of commander and don’t know how to play you should make a trip to Fanatix. Philip the shop owner I’m sure would be more than happy to help you in any way he can to learn what it’s all about and even rent out some decks for you to borrow if you want to try it out!
Also here is a link for those unable to make a trip to the shop yet and are eager to get into Commander.

Hope you’re as excited about the new commander product as I am! Last year the first round of commander decks exploded onto the scene in June of 2011 and brought in 51 cards never before seen 5 three color prebuilt decks all rocking a Sol Ring Commander Tower and stuffed with 98 other sweet cards and cool interactions. Those same decks sell on eBay anywhere from $55-$105! And their MSRP was only $29.99! Enough about the old decks though let’s focus on what’s coming on November 1st!

These are all the decks soon to come into your local game store!

And here is the Visual Spoiler for those of you interested in the cards I will be discussing!

If you’ll notice the article says that there is a particular card that is the general however, all 5 decks come with three generals to complement the deck so you are more than welcome to use whichever best suits your deck building needs and your play style!

Now for the first deck! 

Oloro, Ageless Ascetic**
This deck is a mash of Card draw, Artifacts and Lifegain! With a General to complement it all! Oloro has some awesome interactions in the deck already with Sanguine Bond and Vizkopa Guildmage to make sure you capitalize on his abilities!
Suggestions for making the most of your general!
Drogskull Reaver
This Guy is just as an additional effect for good Ol’Oloro! Not having to pay the mana is most definitely a plus and he by himself is a force to be reckoned with.
Psychosis Crawler
If you want to give the most out of Oloro’s abilities this guy will grow huge and will steadily tick your opponents down while you amass the components you need to finish them off!
Cool things that will get you killed!
Exquisite Blood 
This plus Sanguine or Vizkopa is game over! Remember though combos like this are fun but in group games it will draw a lot of hate on you!

Sharuum the Hegemon**
Sharuum is not new in the Commander scene for sure! Featured in From the Vault: Legends she’s got a unique ability and a lot of good ways to abuse it! The deck features cards like Thopter foundry to sacrifice artifacts to and Nevinyrral's Disk to keep the board clean!
Suggestions for making the most of your general!
This card will ensure the majority of your things will survive and sharuum backs up that plan nicely by making this a reoccurring option.
Venser, the Sojourner
This guy will ensure you get as many Sharuum activations as possible each game until you need to finish off your opponent whether it be though a massive swing or by exiling their things!
Cool things that will get you killed!
Sculpting Steel
 So with this copying Sharuum you can choose one of the Sharuums to go to the graveyard before the trigger from the Sharuum entering goes on the stack, and use the trigger to return that artifact. Remember they’re legendary so one has to die. It will create a loop and any card that triggers on creatures and/or artifacts entering will give you thousands of triggers! Cards to add Genesis Chamber, Soul Warden, or Soul’s Attendant.
Sydri, Galvanic Genius**
Sydri comes close to my heart as she has one of my favorite commander’s abilities. Karn, Silver Golem. Using her ability to turn non-creature artifacts into artifact creatures in no laughing matter. Whether you’re simply animating an Obelisk or you’ve gotten creative and gone on to animating a Darksteel Forge!
 Suggestions for making the most of your general!
Spin of Ish Sah
This card can do some work and turning it into a 7/7 with lifelink and trample sends things into overtime! Not to mention the fact that Spine is recursive means you can take advantage of it dying or just plain being sacrificed!
Blinkmoth Urn
This card it built to have a drawback by giving your opponents mana as well, however our handy general can fix that by animating it and swinging to make it tapped during our opponent’s turns! Enjoy swinging in the red zone with your 5/5 all the while untapping and making mana on your turns.
Cool things that will get you killed!
Mycosynth Lattice
So with Sydri’s ability and the Lattice you can actually animate your opponents lands thus turning them into 0/0 creatures who will then die. Yes you can wipe out opponents lands like this but it will make you enemies fast!

And now time to mention cards that are new to magic being printed for the first time in this deck!
Opal Palace –This being much like an Unknown Shores and Oran-Rief the Vastwood stapled together doesn’t seem half bad. It also has obvious synergies with Marath, Ghave from the old Commader sets as well as Animar! It’s also the only new card to be featured in all 5 decks!
Diviner spirit- This card has some political power and if you love group hug style Commander this is for you! However be weary where you swing this thing, some people won’t want you drawing cards even if they get to as well.

Hooded Horror- I like how this guy was made in the fact that he helps even the board when one player has a little too much power or life. Playing into the whole style of the Commander decks!
Serene Master- This guy is pretty cool I think. He will almost never die on defense and can kill a lot of creatures if players aren’t careful. Good way to keep the pressure off your side of the field for sure!
Tidal force- Similar to the previous Commander Set cycle with Celestial force. We once again have more huge creatures with upkeep abilities! Tapping and untapping could be useful with high impact cards such as Gaea’s Cradle among others but I imagine his cost will keep me from using the force of the tides in my decks.

Act of Authority- Love this card reminds me very much so of Aura of Silence, keeping Enchantments and artifacts in check while having a secondary ability if you must use it. It hurts that you must wait till upkeep to use the second chance but we cannot have everything! Also it permanently exiles which is a huge plus in commander as graveyards tend to spawn many evil things.

Curse of Inertia- This whole cycle I think is pretty cool! They’re aggressively costed and at least 4 out of 5 I’d play in a deck! This one in particular can make everything unblockable help keep lands uptapped and tons of other cool things! Think big like Arcanis the Omnipotent!

Curse of Shallow Graves- This hurts me that it requires your opponent to have creatures in play. There are lots of decks out there that don’t utilize creatures as their win conditions but that CAN BE FIXED! Cards like Hidden Horror and Exotic Orchard can ensure you get your Zombies no matter what your opponent wants!

Curse of the Forsaken- Probably my least favorite Curse but still cool! Good with cards like Ajani’s Pridemate and Orolo to draw cards!

Darksteel Mutation- Very reminiscent of cards like Turn to Frog and Humble. Good way to keep opponents creatures at bay as 0/1s! I imagine there might even end up situations where you target your own creature with this!  A word of warning however, if you play this on their creature and they have lots of equipment they can strap on all the equipment and it’ll get all equipment bonuses only previous abilities will be lost!
Order of Succession- This thing can shake up some games for sure! Lots of swapping and you get first dibs! However it looks like you could lose your new prize when it comes to the last person sitting next to you!
Tempt with Immortality- This whole Cycle is just a bunch of 1 UPs! This one in particular seems especially good with good entering the battlefield effects! Such as Shriekmaw or Sower of Temptation to ensure opponents don’t get too greedy!

Toxic Deluge- One of my favorite cards in the deck! Very aggressively costed, kills almost everything including creatures with indestructible, and can save you a lot of life loss later for a small life payment now!
And lastly for those with high appreciation of art a list of reprints getting new art in this deck!

  • Phyrexian Delver
  • Phyrexian Gargantua
  • Raven’s Familiar 
  • Crawlspace
  • Dromar’s Charm
  • Famine
  • Greed
  • Lim-dul’s Vault
  • Reckless Spite
  • This last one isn’t entirely new but previously art was exclusive to a promo version of it. 
  • Nyvinneral’s Disk

On to the Second deck!

Marath, Will of the Wild**
This deck combines 5 power creatures, Counters, and tokens to fill out the battlefield!  Now please take note that wizards did in fact errata marath to say the following:
Marath, Will of the Wild enters the battlefield with a number of +1/+1 counters on it equal to the amount of mana spent to cast it.
X, Remove X +1/+1 counters from Marath: Choose one — Put X +1/+1 counters on target creature; or Marath deals X damage to target creature or player; or put an X/X green Elemental creature token onto the battlefield. X can’t be 0. <-this being the key bit added on.
Suggestions for making the most of your general!
Doubling season!
This card is insane in so many ways and no doubt would love some Marath action! Yes I would love a 10/10 marath for 5 mana!
Blade of the Bloodchief
This card ensures Marath will live and kill many X/1s! Add on basilisk collar to this man and he’s ready to go!
Cool things that will get you killed!
Earthcraft + Cathar’s Crusade
So with these two and Marath you can simply remove a counter make a token which triggers for the counter to be put back on Marath. You then use the token to tap and untap a basic land using Earthcrafts ability to produce a mana and make tokens to your heart’s content!

Mayael the Anima**
Mayael loves big creatures with flashy effects! Cards like Avenger of Zendikar and Rampaging Baloths can cause lots of havoc real fast being flipped off of her and she has tons of cards that would be more than happy paired with her!

Suggestions for making the most of your general!
Scroll Rack
This card has always been a player in commander since this plus suffle effects lets you see lots of cards you wouldn’t normally see! With Mayael though you can ensure you never whiff on activations and even put expensive creatures from your hand on top to cast for cheaper!
Stalking Vengeance
With Ol’Creepy face here you can prevent anyone from wiping the board unless they want to die from all your 5/5’s! A good way to make the best about your creatures dying and can take away massive chuncks of life with a deck focused around large creatures!

Cool things that will get you killed!
Iona, Shield of Emeria
A card which is especially good off her activations. For some players this being cast is their only chance to deal with it through a counterspell or other means and once Mayael is activated this is coming directly into play which eliminates their chance to counter it!
Gahiji, the Honored One**
Gahiji is sweet because of his political ability! Notice he doesn’t just affect your creatures it also takes effect on your opponent’s creatures when they attack your enemies! He’s especially good when token swarming with cards like One Dozen Eyes and Avenger of Zendikar.
 Suggestions for making the most of your general!
Assemble the Legion
This card can get outta hand in no time and not to mention the tokens have haste! Cards like this along with Gahiji and anthem effects will knock down your opponent’s life totals pretty handily.
Beastmaster Ascension
Possibly one of the best anthem affects for the deck this! With lots of tokens they will happily be 7/5s in no time!
Cool things that will get you killed!
No Quarter
This isn’t too bad but still interesting. With this on the board hopefully you incite mass hysteria and people are bribed into attacking each other as it makes their creatures power greater with Gahiji on the board and any blocks will start the destruction.

And now time to mention cards that are new to magic being printed for the first time in this deck!
Opal Palace –See previous!
Naya Soulbeast- this thing is… A BEAST.  Now there will be unfortunate times when this thing ends up humorously small but I don’t imagine that should happen too often. Commander is all about some big splashy cool spells so hopefully this guy will do some damage.
Terra Ravager- Interesting cards unfortunately no trample or other abilities to speak of. He can still be a pretty big attacker but I’m not terribly impressed.
Curse of Chaos- This is neat and could play with some madness and flashback cards as well as just basic filtering. Not my favorite curse but still cool.
Curse of Predation- Now this IS my favorite curse. Very little effort is requires to anthem your creatures and after a few turns with maybe some Thrumming Bird action ;) you’re creatures are out of control.
Curse of the Forsaken- See previous!
Darksteel Mutation- See Previous!
From the Ashes- a fixed version of Ruination which Helps clear the way for a more fair game of EDH. I’m looking at you Gaea’s Cradle and Mishra’s Workshop! All the while giving your opponents lands back.
Mystic Barrier- Good when creating friends in a multiplayer game! Helps you stay alive longer unless you choose the wrong player!

Restore- I really, really, like this card. I think it’s sweet. The fact that it can target opponent’s graveyards is just awesome and there are plenty of good targets for it in Commander.
Spawning Grounds- This plus Earthcraft! Tons of tokens! A very very large version of squirrel nest with tons of ways to make the most of it, Prophet of kruphix, Seedborn Muse, among others!
Tempt with Discovery- Another really sweet card out of this tempting cycle. Putting Gaea’s Cradles, Cabal Coffers, Serra’s Sanctums and maybe even Dark Depths into play. Be sure to pack Petrified Field in your deck so when your opponent goes and gets their Strip Mine you’ll be ready!
Witch Hunt- and let the randomness begin!! Yet again another rare red enchantment with chaos abilities, not sure I’d play it but I definitely know some who will.

 And lastly for those with high appreciation of art a list of reprints getting new art in this deck!

  • Drifting Meadow
  • Fiery Justice
  • Savage Twister

These last ones aren’t entirely new but previously art was exclusive to a promo version of it.

  • Ravenous Baloth
  • Eternal Dragon

Hope you enjoyed the article! I'll be back next week with the 2nd part of this commander write up! 
See you then!

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-Clio Canfield