Plucky Number 13

Posted in Serious Fun on July 3, 2012

There are ways for writers to work around bad things they've written. Historically, one needed very specific information to find a very specific work. Paper has a way of being unmanageable when you start stacking up into the thousands of pages without an index.

Faith's Reward | Art by Raymond Swanland

Thanks to technology and the digitization of most content, finding things writers have written today is much easier. Entire digital empires have been built on the ability to search for words on the Internet. This doesn't mean it's always easy to find things. Case in point: one of the questions on Mark Rosewater's tumblr, Tales From The Pit:

omegaplatinum asked: I know it's been a few years, but how did the party from IM Legend turn out? :D

I wrote the follow-up article, but it's one of the few one-star Making Magic articles I've ever written, so I'm not very eager to link to it. I like to pretend that I never wrote it.

Avoiding the worst, and burying it without further mention, is a clever way to keep things that went wrong from being reread. I like that approach, and I employ similar methods of hiding my poor articles.

Not today.

A year ago I wrote something that can be best described as "ham-fisted" about Magic 2012. A few paragraphs in and you catch my drift from awkward to tragic, with a steep nosedive thereafter. What I'd like to do today is provide a "do-over" article. We're going to talk about some cards in Magic 2013. It's going to turn out better.

And I trust you'll tell me if we've succeeded.

    Take Command

Let's talk Commander. I do this regularly, which is polarizing to you. Love it or hate it, it's a big part of Magic today. It makes sense that it's a big part of Magic 2013, which comes overloaded with awesome options for hundred-card mayhem. These are what I'll be hunting for, in no specific order.

Faith's Reward is silly. No, really silly. I'll blush on some other silly cards today, but I'm positive that Faith's Reward is going to be a go-to card for me. You see, I have a thing for token- and sacrifice-themed decks in Commander. From Rhys the Redeemed to our joint venture in Ghave, Guru of Spores, exchanging stuff in play for something handy is a common plan for my decks. Faith's Reward won't return tokens (they cease to be immediately after they enter the graveyard), but it's still plenty flexible:

Martyr's CausePrevent damage, then recycle token makers. (And have tokens for further damage.)
Avenger of Zendikar, Captain of the Watch, Geist-Honored Monk, Hornet QueenInsects and Soldiers, Spirits and Plants. These are a few of my favorite things (that make tokens).
Day of Judgment, Planar CleansingClear away the battlefield; get back all your stuff.
Archaeomancer, Eternal Witness, Izzet Chronarch, ScrivenerWhen it returns to the battlefield you get Faith's Reward back too.
Krark-Clan IronworksMake a bunch of mana. Get to do it twice in one turn. (Check out Comet Storm for more information on why this is awesome.)

Is there a convoluted series of cards that lets one loop Faith's Reward as many times as desired? Most likely, but I'll leave that exercise to you. I'll just be happy to recycle things in the moment.

And in dealing with moments, I was going to touch on Omniscience, but since Zac Hill handled it far better I'll just clarify that Commander is definitely one format where ramping to ten mana isn't unusual. And, related, Brian David-Marshall's preview of the return of Gilded Lotus is a command feature of decks that ramp to ten.

Another returning option that isn't as flashy—since Moxes and Lotuses have a way of drawing extra attention—is Hamletback Goliath. This Lorwyn transplant is a hilariously large guy when given the chance. The odds are good that your opponents will coordinate removal efforts, but should they fail to kill it you'll have a very juicy monster. The Goliath doesn't come equipped with trample, but Kresh the Bloodbraided and Brion Stoutarm don't care that trample isn't around.

That said, if you really want trample, and perhaps other bonuses, you can always seek out another returning champion of Commander: Akroma's Memorial. I'm well into a double-digit player-kill count holding this in hand until the turn I produce all my guys. This was last seen in a blink-and-you-miss-it-next-to-Tarmogoyf moment of Future Sight. The future is now. (See also Door to Nothingness; Stuffy Doll; Reliquary Tower; and Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker for other "This is back and it's awesome!" options.)

As much as I love the venerable vanguard of Gilded Lotus, Akroma's Memorial, and Hamletback Goliath, there's one thing I love above all in Commander: putting lands onto the battlefield. When we adventured into building a Ghave, Guru of Spores deck I pointed out that building on basic lands was a fine way to go. While the vote disagreed with that choice, I still firmly believe in using basic lands in big decks. Boundless Realms is the new flagship to this idea.

Yes, Farseek is back and Ranger's Path is a near-functional reprint of Skyshroud Claim, but the idea of casting Boundless Realms makes me cackle with glee. Even if we just got to seven lands, jumping to fourteen is like switching from impulse speed to Warp 9. And I'm a Star Wars fan.

Tangent to that is a little tool Bolas is bringing to the show: Gem of Becoming. While many decks aren't packing lands of all three types, those that are will find this trinket serviceable for pulling out up to three lands of older dual types: whether it's of the Volcanic Island or Overgrown Tomb types, Gem of Becoming can do things Armillary Sphere only dreams of.

In terms of upgrades, Magic 2013 has a few more. An old card I'm fond of shoving into green decks is Urza's Blueprints. In a color that only today is getting loaded with options for drawing cards, Urza's Blueprints served a solid role in letting me draw two cards for the "bargain" price of before deciding if I wanted to pay the full to keep it around longer. While I'm happy I have a premium version of this card—a feat for how old it is!—I'm pretty sure I won't need it anymore. Staff of Nin is more than serviceable as a substitute, barring any untapping shenanigans for Blueprints, and provides a way for the mono-green mage to sling a little damage.

Then there's Trading Post. I'm still in love with the Magic 2012 king of funky happening Druidic Satchel, and Trading Post slides right into the same awesome slot reserved for artifacts that make you think differently. While the Satchel would often rip an extra land into play for me, I'm not sure what Trading Post will be doing down the road, but the chains are clear if you don't see them:

  • Discard an artifact card to gain 4 life.
  • Pay 1 life to make a Goat token.
  • Sacrifice the Goat token to return the artifact discarded to hand.
  • Either return to Step 1, or cast the artifact so it can be sacrificed to draw a card. Proceed to Step 2 to continue.

Mycosynth Wellspring, Ichor Wellspring, and Solemn Simulacrum are all solid options to feed into the trade system. I'm sure you can find a few more.

I can't wait to start adding these to new Commander decks, and I hope you have a few ideas to share with me too (via Twitter, where you can find me as @the_stybs)!

    A Common Occurrence

Crazy mana and colossal creatures aren't the only cares I have in the world. As I shared earlier this year, I'm rather fond of my pauper Cube—a Cube built exclusive from commons across Magic. Every new set seems to shake things up, and if you're curious for how Avacyn Restored fit into my Cube, I spelled everything out elsewhere.

One of the most common questions I get around cubing is "How do you get started?" While anyone can just load up a list of cards someone else uses and create the same Cube, there's something much more compelling about looking over the cards you like and choosing for yourself. The only hard and fast rule of Cubing is the same as that as Commander: Have fun and do what you want!

Here are some of the commons I want to have fun with.

Ajani's Sunstriker and Attended Knight each feel like half of the fabulous Knight of Meadowgrain. One half is two mana for 2 power with lifelink, the other is first strike with a bonus attached. Both are very strong cards in the world of common Cubes, and while it will take some game time to find which work best I'm excited to see both as available options.

Related, there are numerous Soldiers and Knights spread across white at common. War Falcon would feel right at home with anyone who wants to make those creature types matter. Veteran Swordsmith and Veteran Armorsmith agree.

Blue is particularly endearing at common for Magic 2013. Some cards are almost identical to cards we recently received: Encrust to Claustrophobia and Faerie Invaders to Spire Monitor. Neither of these "new" cards are overly different, but that can be a great thing. If you're like me, you enjoy ensuring every color has access to things it needs, and both of these updated versions add to blue's repertoire of locking things down and waiting until the last moment to react.

Not every new card is necessarily the cat's meow, despite what I might imply elsewhere. Take Murder for example. "Destroy target creature" is awesome. Three mana is fair. It's definitely a common. This should be a home run, right?

Eyeblight's Ending and Rend Flesh are older takes on the same idea, but outside the sets they came from they work much harder than you'd expect. My Cube doesn't have "an Elf deck" or "a Spirit deck," so both of these work just as well as Murder but are a little easier to cast. Black has been getting murderous on purpose for a long time already.

There are definitely other options to keep an eye on. Vile Rebirth is a strange common that can do some surprising things. As the games go on, creatures will die. Getting to sneak an extra one into play at the end of a turn, or in the middle of combat, will certainly wreck some of your opponent's best-laid plans. Servant of Nefarox brings the potential of 3 power for three mana to black, but adds in exalted for flavor. I really want to see how the Servant serves me soon.

Let's talk about Dragon Hatchling. He's cute and cuddly in a I-hope-you're-wearing-something-flame-retardant way. Red usually doesn't get very efficient flying creatures at common, but being able to fly in for a Firebreathing strike early is definitely interesting.

Rummaging Goblin is the red twist on the "looting" mechanic. I'm happy to have Merfolk Looter get rid of cards I don't want, and for a color filled with burn, getting to do the same will be terrifying. I mean, I already love Volcanic Hammer and Fire Ambush, and we'll have an instant-speed version in Searing Spear soon too.

While green has been the leader in awesome additions over the past few sets, I think I'm going to need to play with the cards to see what shakes out. Sentinel Spider seems like something that would be at home in my flying-heavy Cube, but perhaps there's plenty of options already in there.

Like I said, it isn't all splashy stuff that makes me want to try new cards. Being boring is the only way to get work done.

    Keeping Up With the Digital Jones

From the fanciest cards to the brick-and-mortal commons often overlooked, new sets are always something I look forward to. Whether this week was a helpful framing for why I get so excited about things or a distracting drag from the usual pace of fun, I hope you'll take the time to let me know.

I can't change what I do without hearing from you!

Before I ask you this week's poll, let's look at the results of last week's:

How far have you made it through Duels of the Planeswalkers 2013:
I've started the initial single-player campaign.68126.5%
I've beaten the single-player campaign and/or have started other campaigns as well, such as Planechase.92636.1%
I've beaten most or all of the campaign modes.73728.7%
I haven't yet unlocked the full campaigns.2238.7%

It looks like most of you are ahead of where I am. I'll keep working to catch up, so please don't spoil anything about the end of the campaign just yet!

This week I'd like to ask a totally subjective poll:

Which color is "the best" in Magic 2013:WhiteBlueBlackRedGreenNicol Bolas, PlaneswalkerColorless

Since Nicol Bolas is the only multicolored representative in the set he stands alone. I don't think he minds that.

Join us next week when I shuffle a few decks together. See you then!

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