IntoTheAether Invites You

Posted in Feature on September 7, 2004

By Jay Moldenhauer-Salazar

Today marks the final day of my Mirrodin Block Sealed League journey. As you'll recall from the previous two weeks, I opened a fairly abusive set of initial cards, followed by an absolutely ridiculous pack of Mirrodin. The booster pack of Darksteel brought me back to a sense of reality, and I ended the third week in eighth place out of two-hundred-fifty-six.

Also as a reminder, here was my eventual decklist from last week:

doctorjay's Other Week 3 Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist

Some folks have written to tell me that, based on my cardpool, red/blue is a better idea than red/white. That may be so, but I tried it out for two games and didn't like it. Color me stubborn, I guess.

In any case, it's comforting to know that as long as I play my five matches for the week I'm pretty much guaranteed a prize from this League experience. The prize structure for Sealed Leagues ranges from nine booster packs of each set (Mirrodin, Darksteel, Fifth Dawn) for first, all the way down to one Fifth Dawn booster for places sixty-five through one-hundred-twenty-eight. If you've got Magic Online installed, go here to see the full prize breakdown. The fact that prizes dive so deep into the standings is one of the things I like about League play. Even if I've had a pretty mediocre win-loss percentage, it's nice to get a pat on the back for a month of dedicated games.

In the final week of the League, as you've probably guessed from my first two articles, everyone opens a Fifth Dawn booster to add to their now-impressive cardpool. Once again, I'm hanging my hopes on good red, white, equipment, and artifact creature cards. At the very least, I'm hoping for a pack more like the second week than the third. Dang you, Darksteel!

Here is what I open:

 

Bringer of the Blue Dawn
Battered Golem
Sylvok Explorer
Fleshgrafter
Cranial Plating
Loxodon Anchorite
Krark-Clan Ogre
Thermal Navigator
Early Frost
Baton of Courage
Abuna's Chant
Fill with Fright
Vanquish
Grinding Station
Qumulox
Bringer of the Blue Dawn

Two early reactions: First, I sure manage to pull a lot of cool rares (my booster packs for the past three weeks have been a foil Oblivion Stone, Darksteel Colossus, and now Bringer of the Blue Dawn). Second, it's getting harder and harder to justify my red/white configuration over red/blue. It's almost as if the blue cards are a sign from the Aether Gods, since the Bringers are my favorite cards from Fifth Dawn and I recently played a deck centered around Qumulox. Then again, it's a sign I'm going to ignore. Aether Gods: “Phhh.”

My final cardpool is as follows (new cards italicized):

White:
Echoing Calm, Stand Firm, Leonin Den-Guard, Loxodon Mender, Skyhunter Cub, Slith Ascendent, Raise the Alarm, Hallow, Pteron Ghost, Abuna's Chant, Loxodon Anchorite, Vanquish.

Blue:
Condescend, Disarm, Early Frost, Echoing Truth, Lumengrid Sentinel, Lumengrid Warden, Neurok Spy, Somber Hoverguard, Hoverguard Observer, Vedalken Engineer, Early Frost, Bringer of the Blue Dawn, Qumulox.

Black:
Shattered Dreams, Burden of Greed, Blind Creeper, Disciple of the Vault, Dross Crocodile, Grimclaw Bats, Nim Lasher, Wall of Blood, Wrench Mind, Echoing Decay, Burden of Greed, Fill with Fright, Fleshgrafter.

Red:
Echoing Ruin, Molten Rain, Screaming Fury (foil), Shatter, Shrapnel Blast, Krark-Clan Grunt, Megatog, Ogre Leadfoot, Electrostatic Bolt, Spikeshot Goblin, Incite War, Slith Firewalker, Krark-Clan Ogre.

Green:
Deconstruct, Journey of Discovery, Stand Together, Fangren Hunter, Tangle Asp, Tel-Jilad Wolf, Viridian Acolyte, Viridian Joiner, Groffskithur, Reap and Sow, Echoing Courage, Sylvok Explorer.

Artifacts:
Krark's Thumb, Arcane Spyglass, Bonesplitter, Chimeric Egg, Grafted Wargear, Heartwood Shard, Leonin Scimitar, Lightning Coils, Necrogen Spellbomb, Neurok Stealthsuit, Opaline Bracers, Slagwurm Armor, Sparring Collar, Sunbeam Spellbomb, Sword of Fire and Ice, Talisman of Impulse, Talisman of Indulgence, Talisman of Unity, Tanglebloom, Tooth of Chiss-Goria, Vulshok Battlegear, Vulshok Guantlets, AEther Spellbomb, Loxodon Warhammer, Golem-Skin Gauntlets, Oblivion Stone, Genesis Chamber, Talon of Pain, Baton of Courage, Cranial Plating, Grinding Station.

Artifact Creatures:
Arcbound Bruiser, Arcbound Crusher, Drill Skimmer, Dross Golem, Frogmite, Gold Myr, Iron Myr, Leaden Myr, Myr Quadropod, Ornithopter, Solarion, Spinal Parasite, Alpha Myr, Silver Myr, Hematite Golem, Pewter Golem, Steel Wall, Arcbound Hybrid, Arcbound Worker, Myr Moonvessel, Spire Golem, Battered Golem, Thermal Navigator.

Land:
Ancent Den, Seat of the Synod, 7 Mountain, 6 Swamp, 6 Plains, 6 Island, 5 Forest.

The good news for my deck as it stands now is that Cranial Plating and Loxodon Anchorite can easily slip into the deck. After that I'm a bit more mixed in my reaction, though you could make good arguments for Battered Golem, Vanquish, and Baton of Courage. What I decide after some rumination is to include the Plating, Anchorite, Vanquish, and Golem by dropping Raise the Alarm, Krark-Clan Grunt, Arcbound Hybrid, and Bonesplitter. The right call? Let a Limited expert tell you. I'm mostly basing my decision on what has really helped me in previous League games. The Loxodon Anchorite runs a little counter to the aggressive nature of my deck, but it's been so annoying when my opponents use him that I want a try too.

Here's the deck, at least initially:

doctorjay's Early Week 4 Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist

So how goes my final week's matches? I win the first two easily, both 2-0, with an aggressive rush. Then I run into one of the other top decks in the League and get smashed 0-2. In both games I had a slow start and he had Arc Slogger to wreck my slow start. It was brutal and not very pretty either. I then vindicate myself slightly by beating another of the top decks 2-0, each time getting out to a blazing start with Arcbound Worker and equipment. I make a tiny modification to the deck before my final match, dropping Vanquish for Arcbound Hybrid. More artifacts are good, more creatures are good, and I've loved the modular mechanic in my deck so far.

My last match is dramatic, in that we each win one of the first two games and head for a third. We're at a bit of stalemate when my son, who has been home sick, wakes up prematurely from his nap. I play the remaining rounds with a cranky, snuffling kid in my lap and win the match 2-1. Actually, my son Jonah was a trooper during that final game, and I let him press the buttons every now and again to keep him entertained. Too much information? Probably. Anyway, that puts me at 4-1 for the week, 37 points and 41 tie-breaker points.

But lo! Now I have a big, fun pool of cards with which to tinker. I try this deck, since it seems the most obvious other configuration:

doctorjay's Week 4 Purple Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist

Then this deck, because I want to try and get all three of my big fatties into play:

doctorjay's Week 4 Fattie Sealed Deck

Download Arena Decklist

Then this deck, because poor black is getting ignored:

doctorjay's Week 4 Evil Deck

Download Arena Decklist

And finally this deck, to signal the end of the Olympics or something:

doctorjay's Week 4 U.S.A. Deck

Download Arena Decklist

All of these decks meet with varying levels of success, though I'm not sure I like any of them better than the red/white deck I played during my “official” matches. As you can tell, though, I love tie-breaker games!

If you want, check out League #409462 tomorrow to see where I end up placing. By the time I'm submitting this article, Argivian has a shot at going an impressive 20-0 in his matches, while others like DougTice and the governor are already assured of finishing at the top of the standings. Congrats to all who played in the League and had fun. I'll be seeing you all again for Kamigawa Sealed League, I'm sure.

Back to a world of Constructed...

Get Ready for Prismatic

In last week's poll, I asked you to pick a Fifth Dawn rare to include in my Prismatic deck. Here are the results:

Pick a Fifth Dawn rare. Jay will build his deck with four copies of the rare. Promise.
Door to Nothingness 1009 9.4%
Cosmic Larva 483 4.5%
Vedalken Orrery 445 4.1%
Possessed Portal 440 4.1%
Raksha Golden Cub 407 3.8%
Eon Hub 375 3.5%
Blinkmoth Infusion 348 3.2%
Desecration Elemental 321 3.0%
Crucible of Worlds 296 2.7%
Razormane Masticore 283 2.6%
Helm of Kaldra 274 2.5%
Vedalken Shackles 270 2.5%
Spectral Shift 264 2.4%
Beacon of Tomorrows 263 2.4%
All Suns Dawn 257 2.4%
Ion Storm 251 2.3%
Doubling Cube 249 2.3%
Solarion 242 2.2%
Tornado Elemental 242 2.2%
Mephidross Vampire 219 2.0%
Staff of Domination 211 2.0%
Summoner's Egg 198 1.8%
Reversal of Fortune 191 1.8%
Mycosynth Golem 191 1.8%
Fist of Suns 188 1.7%
Suncrusher 177 1.6%
Endless Whispers 177 1.6%
Silent Arbiter 163 1.5%
Beacon of Immortality 147 1.4%
Beacon of Creation 136 1.3%
Auriok Champion 126 1.2%
Rude Awakening 123 1.1%
Bringer of the Black Dawn 119 1.1%
Acquire 118 1.1%
Beacon of Unrest 115 1.1%
Plunge into Darkness 114 1.1%
Clearwater Goblet 109 1.0%
Artificer's Intuition 103 1.0%
Bringer of the Red Dawn 102 0.9%
Rite of Passage 93 0.9%
Joiner Adept 92 0.9%
Bringer of the White Dawn 83 0.8%
Bringer of the Green Dawn 73 0.7%
Engineered Explosives 70 0.6%
Summoning Station 68 0.6%
Magma Giant 64 0.6%
Retaliate 62 0.6%
Salvaging Station 62 0.6%
Beacon of Destruction 60 0.6%
Roar of Reclamation 58 0.5%
Hoverguard Sweepers 53 0.5%
Granulate 53 0.5%
Moriok Rigger 51 0.5%
Bringer of the Blue Dawn 50 0.5%
Auriok Windwalker 49 0.5%
Total 10787 100.0%

It looks like Door to Nothingness gets the clear nod in my deck. I will be making a 250-card, five-color Door to Nothingness deck.

 

Door to Nothingness
Part of me, I must admit, is slightly disappointed. I mean, Door to Nothingness is cool, but it's just so obvious in a deck forced to dip into all five colors. You picked it, though, and that means the idea of winning with Door to Nothingness makes you smile. As a result, next week expect me to really push the Door idea, and to do so without a Fabricate or Diabolic Tutor in sight. You have been warned.

In the meantime there are two things you can do to prepare yourself for next week. First, read any and all of Doug Beyer's articles on Prismatic. They're good and good for you. Second, brainstorm how you would make a Prismatic Door to Nothingness deck for this format and post your ideas on the Message Boards.

For example, here's an early question to tackle: If I really want to win with the Door, how many creatures do I use? None, cutting myself off from Prismatic powerhouses like Bringer of the Black Dawn, Eternal Witness, and Krosan Tusker, but ensuring that I won't “accidentally” win via creature damage? A hand-selected few of the obviously good creatures, exposing those creatures to whatever creature elimination my opponents use? A pack of Walls, which can't attack but can help me survive to Door-induced victory? A pack of defensive-minded Clerics? Chime in, because in my early thinking the creature-count is a place where many potential deck ideas diverge. My mind is already flooded with ideas.

Hey Bucko! What Happened to Emperor?

Last week I said I was going to write a two-part series on Online Emperor, the first part focused on “flanker” decks and the second focused on “emperor” decks. However, two things conspired to delay my discussion of Online Emperor and eventually change it altogether.

First, I had a lot less computer time than usual last week. I traveled cross-country to a friend's wedding for part of the week and, as I mentioned earlier, my son stayed home from preschool sick for the other part. Like a moron, I also spilled water on my laptop. Right now my laptop is fixed, my son better, and I have no more travel until the holidays, but last week was a brutal, chaotic morass for Magic-playing in general and article-writing in particular.

Second, a lot of people seem to truly dislike Online Emperor as it is currently played. There's a bunch of folks who like it--and these people like it a lot--but the majority of posts on the Message Boards and e-mail I received expressed strong negative feelings for an Emperor format in which all spells have a one-player range (called 1-1-1 online... more on this later) with its current “unspoken” banned list. What particularly caught my eye was the high number of new players who wrote to say that Online Emperor was a format they would definitely never try. Contrast this with Sealed Leagues, where new players expressed a lot of excitement to jump right in and get started once I had described my own experience.

The gripes about Online Extended, at least with the 1-1-1 format that dominates the Multiplayer room, seem to be (in no particular order):

  • It's stagnant, since a small pool of cards are used by almost all players while a large pool of cards are actively kept out of the format by its participants. Moreover, there seems to not only be a “preferred” way to build decks, but a fairly “required” way.
  • It's expensive, since this small pool of cards is predominantly rare, and rare-heavy decks are the only ones that thrive.
  • It's unfriendly to newcomers, since the subculture of players actively boots out people who don't play by their rules.
  • It's random, since games are most often decided by which emperor can “go off” combo-style to enable a single flanker to win in one fatal attack. Extremists go so far as to say that whichever team casts New Frontiers first wins.

Proponents of the 1-1-1 Online Emperor format say that it speaks to the power gamer in us. What happens in each game is crazy, but in a good kind of way. It's a skill-intensive format that requires an enormous amount of teamwork to play correctly. It's comforting, they say, to have clearly prescribed rules and predictability in what you'll face. They argue that deck diversity does exist and that you can make a “budget” flanker deck using, for example, Elves or Beasts.

What's clear is that the people who currently play Online Emperor are nuts about it and that the people who don't play Online Emperor seem to, on the whole, think Emperor players are nuts. It's also clear to me that the “boo hiss” population is a lot bigger than the “woo hoo” population when it comes to the format.

Although I think the criticism has merit, I actually don't mind 1-1-1 Emperor. I can see the power-gamer appeal and think it will be fun for me every now and again to jump in with the big dogs and try to keep up. I've gotten some awfully nice e-mail from 1-1-1 enthusiasts giving me tips for play, and those tips will undoubtedly make it into an article at some point. During the game I documented last week, I was actually impressed and amazed with what the opposing emperor was able to pull off when killing me. Which is all to say that as an Emperor variant, 1-1-1 is interesting to me if for no other reason because it is so different than the Magic I know.

The only thing that really bothers me is the fact that 1-1-1 is the only game in town.

Online Emperor actually allows you a ridiculous number of options when starting a game. The “1-1-1” that people talk about stands for a) the range that players can use to target spells or abilities on the stack, b) maximum spell range, and c) the range of global effects. All of these are variables. Magic Online begs you to mess around with different configurations and try them out. People can play 1/1/1, 1/1/3, 3/1/3, 2/2/3, 3/2/3, 2/2/2, and 3/3/3, each of which offers its own unique challenges. You can also play with a Block or Standard cardpool if you want. Sometime long ago, it seems, 1-1-1 Extended became not only the preferred way of playing Emperor but also the only tolerated way.

Well that's no fun.

Come One. Come All. Play Emperor.

The reason it's so easy to keep Online Emperor locked into 1-1-1 using an Extended cardpool is because you need six people to agree to try something different. For most people that's a serious hurdle to overcome, but I have the luxury of this little weekly column thingy. I get access to all of you fine readers who have Magic Online accounts and who, hopefully, share some of my enthusiasm for experimentation. So let's experiment!

I want you to pretend for a moment that you just received this e-mail in your inbox:

Emperor ImperativesBands With Lieutenants

Don't like the 2-2-3 or Standard cardpool? No problem! Show up and advertise your own variant of Emperor for others to join. I may even try out your variant if I'm having a hard time populating my own. Whatever the case, the hope is for me to find enough non-1-1-1 games to write about next week. Come and join me. Let's stuff the Multiplayer room with Emperor wackiness, if only for a few days.

For those people who've written to ask if I'll be running Deck Challenges as I did during my House of Cards days, consider this Challenge #1. Design a bizarre emperor, flanker, or just basic multiplayer deck and have at it. Let's see what you all can do to impress me with your depraved minds. This time, though, don't e-mail me your decklist; Show up and play!

Here's hoping for a fun week,

-j

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