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Pete Trbovich

Penguin Pete has been blogging about all matters pertaining to geek culture since the day after blogging was invented. That's computing, gaming, music, movies, hobbies, and more. He's been lost on the Internet so long he forgot which way he came in. If you want this maniac working for you, you can browse his other work at Penguin Pete's and find the link there to hire him if you're so inclined.

Dec 062016
 December 6, 2016  Posted by at 10:03 pm Digital Collectible Card Games, Hearthstone Tagged with: , ,  No Responses »

Wait, before we start, here’s our obligatory Murloc Yule Log video, because we couldn’t possibly expect anyone to read this without the ambient caroling of the bubbly ones in the background.

The latest expansion of Hearthstone, Mean Streets of Gadgetzan, is finally here, and what a fun set to contemplate over the holidays! Gadgetzan has the set flavor of 1940s’ era gangster noir mixed with Warcraft’s cartoony universe. You half expect to see Roger Rabbit and Eddie Valiant running around. Now grab your trenchcoat and fedora and let’s hit the bricks…


Cards to Watch Out For…

Pull ‘em or craft ‘em! Here, in no particular order, are the cards from this expansion which I see making the most impact:

Mistress of Mixtures – I’ve seen these already in Reno decks. It’s a cheaper Refreshment Vendor, and having it be a deathrattle effect puts an interesting tactical spin on it. Your opponent will think twice about killing it if they’re also trying to do damage this turn.

Small-Time Buccaneer – Boy, have Pirate Warrior and Rogue ever made use of this card! It’s already a mainstay in anything that runs weapons.

Patches the Pirate – Another Pirate Warrior and Rogue mainstay. He knows how to make an entrance. While he’s not that special by himself, being nothing more than a Stonetusk Boar, the fact that he tutors himself out and casts himself from an easy trigger is what’s making him so handy.

Alleycat – Hunter finally has another playable aggro 1-drop next to Fiery Bat and On the Hunt. It’s beginning to look a lot like face season again.

Smuggler's Crate – All the ‘buff something in your hand’ spells are winners this set. This one’s a little better than average.

Rat Pack – OK, maybe this hasn’t found its niche yet, but just wait and see. There’s plenty of buffs available to Hunter and plenty of people wanting to run this just for the flavor alone.

Volcanic Potion – Mage has needed a middle range board wipe for a while now. This gets better with spell damage, while still not being a threat to your own Azure Drake.

Smuggler's Run – Just a crazy good turn one in any Paladin aggro.

Grimestreet Outfitter – And an even crazier good turn two. I’ve already seen this guy played plenty. Buffing minions in your hand is so much better than buffing on the board because your opponent can do nothing about it but wait to see what you cast.

Drakonid Operative – Priest continues to be the underdog of this game! This is the only priest card that ever shows promise, and it’s dicey. Seriously, Blizzard, what have you got against Priests? Are there some childhood issues we need to discuss?

Jade Swarmer – Rogue Golems has already become a deck overnight. While Rogue gets several good Jade Golem cards, this one’s the pick of the litter. It’s a stealth minion that summons a replacement – at common, yet.

Counterfeit Coin – This is the real showpiece of the set. Miracle Rogue is making a comeback, bet your bottom dollar.

Devolve – I’ve already fallen in love with this card, and if it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right. It solves problems. It’s won me games already, turning a hopeless board state into easy victory. Has your opponent played a finisher like Ragnaros the Firelord or Tirion Fordring? Play Devolve and wipe that confident smirk right off their face!

Felfire Potion – Warlock also didn’t get many cards to write home about this expansion. If there’s hope for Warlock Zoo, this is it, being a nice companion to Hellfire and a decent finisher when your opponent is wiping out all your stuff anyway.

Grimestreet Informant – It’s just about a strictly better Jeweled Scarab. Already seeing heavy play.

Aya Blackpaw – Jade Golem strategies have this as a solid finisher. While she’s slow, she’s just about impossible to deal with when she does come out.

Kazakus – Of all the tri-class cards, this one is getting the most righteous buzz and it’s well-earned! Putting together a five-mana spell seems to be the most popular choice. Every time I’ve seen this played, it turned the game around. Should become a staple in Reno Mage or Warlock.

Decks On the Horizon:

Pirate Warrior – The pirate synergy is great with Warrior’s already strong weapons cards. Warrior hasn’t seen top ranks in awhile, so it’s a refreshing break.

Jade Golem Rogue – While there is some talk of Druid or Shaman making better use of this archetype, the Rogue cards really seem to come out on top. This gives Rogue a second viable archetype beyond the tired Miracle formula, at least.

Miracle Druid – Don’t laugh, I’ve lost to it! Gadgetzan Auctioneer works just as well in Druid as in Rogue, and next to Rogue, Druid has comparable cards to break it.

Murloc Paladin – Don’t look now, but Paladin has gotten Grimscale Chum this set, along with those cards that buff the minions in hand. I’ve adopted this as my pet deck. It doesn’t always win, but when it does, it’s hysterical. I’ve climbed to the mid-ladder range on this deck alone, just catching people by surprise.


Nov 242016



A is for Asphyxiate, to choke them for air.


B is for Bile Blight, just kill ’em all, I don’t care.


C is for Cannibalize, eat it on a spit.


D is for Doom Blade, it is said things die to it.


E is for Enfeeblement, a slow death to you.


F is for Feast of Blood, gives the vampires their due.


G is for Geth’s Verdict, you will kill it yourself.


H is for Hex, a curse from the witch’s bookshelf.


I is for Imperial Edict, off with your head.


J is for Jund Charm, we had to splash green and red.


K is for Kiku’s Shadow, you do yourself in.


L is for Last Kiss, death by original sin.


M is for Murder, well, it gets right to the point.


N is for Necrotic Plague, a pain in your joint.


O is for Oubliette, rot away in the cell.


P is for Poison Arrow, a shot that’s aimed well.


Q is for Quag Sickness, count the swamps and despair.


R is for Rancid Earth, land destruction unfair.


S is for Swat, now we just get rid of that pest.


T is for Terror, because it’s fear that works best.


U is for Ulcerate, five more dead and we’ll win.


V is for Vendetta, with a Guy Fawkes mask grin.


W is for Waste Away, pray for your life.


X is for Xathrid Slyblade, she waits with her knife.


Y is for Yoke of the Damned, condemned have no voice.


Z is for Zombie Assassin, undead rejoice!

Happy Holidays from TCGUnity!


Nov 162016

So, have you ever gone to a Magic pre-release or to draft a new set for the first time, anticipating the fun new mechanics and keywords of the set, only to be let down by the cards in actual play? That’s a familiar experience. Wizards of the Coast’s design team is constantly searching for ways to keep the game fresh and interesting for new and returning players. Some of those new design ideas are a hit, and others are a dud. This is a list of some duds who were unfairly shot down in their introduction and need a new chance.

Note, this is not a list of dud mechanics and keywords that are just crummy to start with. You’ll find no support here from us for megamorph or banding. Those were just terrible ideas that never should have happened. This list is the ideas that had a chance at being interesting or fun, but failed for the execution.

#1. Scavenge
Why it failed: Too expensive for the benefit

You can hardly look at a creature with the scavenge ability and not wonder “what were they thinking?” SIX mana to put 2 +1/+1 counters on a creature? Consider the hoops: You need (a) this, (b) another creature, (c) this in the yard, (d) have six mana open, and (e) not get the other creature removed in response to your scavenge. The only scavenge creature that was fairly costed was Slitherhead, and even that saw zero constructed play. To fix it: It has to have a CMC ceiling of at least (X/2) where X is the scavenge creature’s power, and be allowed to activate at instant speed.

#2. Tribute
Why it failed: Dumbest execution ever

Just when we were beginning to win the war over the trolls who endlessly bleat “giving the opponent choices is always bad,” along came Born of the Gods set and its wretched tribute cards. The problem with all the tribute creatures was glaringly obvious: The two options were so unbalanced that there was never a question which option the opponent would take. Siren of the Fanged Coast here is always going to become a 5-CMC flying Vanilla 4/4, not even as good as a Serra Angel, except when the opponent doesn’t even have anything to steal in which case it’s a 5-CMC Flying Men. Probably the closest tribute came to constructed playable was Oracle of Bones, and even that was barely seen in a couple Standard decks. To fix it: It needs both options to be balanced against each other, and both options at least have to give you a fair result for the mana.

#3. Inspired
Why it failed: Too much trouble to be worth it

Almost every inspired creature that came out during Theros block had a good effect on paper. Disciple of Deceit here is one of the inspired creatures I occasionally attempt – and fail – to make work in various decks. A free looting tutor is great. Now all I have to do is cast her, wait a turn, swing her without her getting killed, wait another turn, and finally untap her and reap the benefit. Most of the rest of the inspired creatures were dismal to worthless, with the exception of Pain Seer. To fix it: Have the inspired creature enter tapped, at least. This lets you get the first activation for free without having to muss your hair in combat.

#4. Phasing
Why it failed: Not enough interesting effects explored

Even though phasing was unpopular, it has potential. Creatures like Aetherling and Mistmeadow Witch show how powerful a blinking permanent can be. Creatures like Taniwha showed us how dorky phasing can be, to the point where building a Commander deck around it is a popular jank challenge. To fix it: Add a mana-activated ability to control phasing at will, and make phasing able to trigger ETB / LTB effects.

#5. Cipher
Why it failed: Depending on combat damage

We’ve seen this over and over again: Creatures with triggers when they attack are hugely popular. But just about anything that relies on combat damage to a player sucks. The cipher spells from Return to Ravnica block were all crappy cards around the board, with just Hidden Strings finding its way into attempts at constructed combos. Outside of that, anything with cipher that sees play is typically only used while ignoring the cipher effect altogether, treating it like a straight spell. To fix it: Have the copy ability depend on any trigger except combat damage; upkeep, attack, on tap, on untap, anything. And cost them fairly so they aren’t feelbads when you don’t get another trigger.

#6. Splice
Why it failed: Limited to arcane spells

On the surface, this Kamigawa block mechanic had fantastic potential. Who doesn’t like getting extra gas out of a card in hand without having to spend it? As it stands, splicing went out with the end of Kamigawa block, since Wizards of the Coast has apparently sworn off arcane spells forever. Yeah, and good luck waiting for more of those devoid cards to come out! Of the splice spells, only Desperate Ritual has seen constructed play, and even then only as another mana-ramp in storm decks that ignore the splice effect. To fix it: They should work with any other spell (or at least any instant), and still be sanely costed on both straight cast and splice trigger.

#7. Forecast
Why it failed: Just clumsy overall execution

Forecast is another fun mechanic with a lot of potential. Again, like splice, you get a card that does a little something extra while staying in your hand. But this briefly seen mechanic from the Dissension set just feels like it was tossed in and never had a chance to shine. A couple of cards like Pride of the Clouds and Sky Hussar hit a jackpot of being at least playable in Commander; the rest are hit-and-miss. To fix it: We’d really just like to see this revisited. Some of the better examples are fine as they are, but it’s such a rare mechanic that there’s a lot more space to play with it.

#8. Ninjutsu
Why it failed: It needs more Ninjutsu!

What, did you think you were being attacked by a mere Suntail Hawk? Haha, fooled you! Of all the fun mechanics to introduce and then ditch after one set, ninjutsu was the tragically underplayed mechanic of Kamigawa block. Only one card with this ability makes it into constructed decks in Pauper and occasionally Modern, and that’s Ninja of the Deep Hours. Only eight of these even showed up in Betrayers of Kamigawa, with two more rares being dropped in for a curtain call in Planechase. To fix it: More! Take ‘morph’ quietly behind the woodshed and shoot it; paying insane mana to play a card face-down and then flip it over is not fun. Replace with ninjutsu, or a more general purpose keyword with the same effect if you can’t justify cramming ninjas into other planes. How about ‘unmask’?

#9. Scry
Why it failed: X needs to be bigger

I’ve written before about how scry is an overrated ability. That was true in Theros days, but now that the hype has settled down and people just accept incidental scry as an evergreen keyword… May we please see scry for values greater than 2? Trust me, you can put ‘scry 5’ on a decently costed card and not have it break the game. We could even get really dangerous and scry – gasp! – for 7! Even planeswalkers have ‘scry 1’ as their first ability, like it was almost too much to put on a mythic rare card. Scry is a very good compromise between giving card selection to colors that don’t normally get it and not being too unfair to play with. As it is, 90% of the cards with ‘scry’ on them in Theros block were grossly overcosted nightmares like Vanquish the Foul where it felt like scrying one whole precious card cost a four mana tax. To fix it: Deeper scry on sanely costed cards, please!

#10. Meld
Why it failed: Not enough examples to tell

This is just the case of the missing keyword. A whole six cards, forming three pairs, appeared in Eldritch Moon block. There, they felt shoved in at the last minute, like they were supposed to be introduced in their own block. We see the beginnings of an interesting strategy here; we already play multi-card combos in Magic, so having two cards that specifically fit together into a transformed better card makes some sense. We’d just like to see the rest of meld someday. To fix it: Devote more of some future block to meld, being sure that both halves of each meld card are playable on their own and that the payoff is worth the trouble of assembling them.

Well, what other forgotten keywords need a shot at redemption? Feel free to spit it out, because those comments don’t write themselves.


Nov 032016

Are you “that guy” (or “that gal”) in your MTG EDH playgroup? You’d better check this list just to be sure.

Unlike other Magic: the Gathering formats, Commander is the ideal social format. Ironically enough, it’s the format that points out just how many anti-social ways there are to play. Keep this list for a handy clip ‘n’ save, to keep your eye out for these players at your local card shop. Because you’re so sure none of these are you, right?

The Bully
Catch phrase: “Hey, you guys have room for a fifth?”
Patron card: leovoldemissaryoftrest

The Bully shows up at your casual playgroup with the most oppressive Stax deck they can possibly build. If you ever looked at a card and asked “What kind of an asshole would run this?”, bet it’s in the Bully’s deck. Not that the Bully is looking for a challenge, oh no! The Bully prowls around the game room looking for the newest, least-threatening players. He squeezes into a game where the other three players have the boxes from their precon decks still at their elbow. Did you think this was going to be a friendly, casual game? Well, destroy all your land, destroy all your other permanents, exile every card you draw, and in case you do find a way to worm out of that, here’s a bunch of counter-measures. What win-con? Why should he run a win-con? That would just end the game, and then you’d be able to escape, find another play group, and actually play Magic, which is exactly what the Bully is here to prevent your doing.

The Rules Lawyer
Catch phrase: “Wait, did you miss a trigger?”
Patron card: sundialoftheinfinite

You can always tell the Rules Lawyer because they are always talking, no matter whose turn it is. As soon as you even mention a card, he is “reminding” you of every single condition on that card. It’s not like you know what the card does already, since you do own it and did put it in your deck. “Hey, did you discard down to hand size?” “Are you paying one for that?” “Doesn’t that enter tapped?” “Did you pass priority after you declared attackers?” After awhile, playing against a Rules Lawyer feels like a combination of a tax audit and an inquisition by Torquemada. Flustered and aggravated beyond all tilt, you will eventually forget how to play Magic in mid-game – which is exactly what the Rules lawyer’s “strategy” is.

The Rich Snob
Catch phrase: “Huh, why not just run Imperial Seal?”
Patron card: xiahouduntheoneeyed

No matter what you’re running, the Rich Snob looks down his nose at you in contempt. It’s not like he even runs good cards himself, nor does he appear to have any idea how to play his cards. To the Rich Snob, “more expensive” = “better,” full stop. You’d better believe he has the signed copies of the Power Nine, and even if they aren’t allowed in Commander, he’ll find a way to loudly mention that he owns them anyway. In the mean time, here’s a deck composed entirely of foil copies of the reserved list. The Rich Snob, naturally, is not as interested in playing the game as he is in belittling you for playing cheap cards, and anything he doesn’t own is automatically cheap. Take solace in the fact that this man has no family, and never will.

The Slacker
Catch phrase: “Oh, is it my turn?”
Patron card: meanderingtowershell

The Slacker is an OK sort, not going out of his way to be offensive. But then, the Slacker doesn’t go very far out of his way for anything. He plays with a phone in his hand at all times, trying to multitask Pokemon Go, texts to his buddies, and a card game all at the same time. He has to be nudged to his turn every round, takes forever to tutor because he doesn’t remember what’s in his own deck, and will suddenly remember he forgot to drop a land by the time the turn has rotated across the table from him. Five minutes into the game, he’ll find a friend elsewhere in the shop he earnestly wants to talk to, and thereafter will spend every spare moment going through trade binders. It’s best to take the old dating advice: Don’t make somebody a priority when you’re just an option to them. Just tell the Slacker that his game ended and you’re starting a new one, if he even notices.

The Whiner
Catch phrase: “Targeting ME? What did I do?”
Patron card: mirkovoskminddrinker

The Whiner has an interesting idea of politics. Just play goldfish by yourself, and complain loudly whenever anybody else does anything in the game that affects him at all. The Whiner typically runs some elaborate combo deck that takes several turns of durdling and setup before it actually does anything. If your deck is designed to win some time before the next Ice Age, that’s too fast for him. “Hitting me for 3? What about that guy over there? He’s a bigger threat!” In between complaints about being targeted, the Whiner keeps the fun level high by sniveling about how he’s mana-screwed, can’t draw the right cards, the last Wrath took out his board just when he was getting set up, and if only you hadn’t had that Counterspell in hand he would have won by now. The Whiner hasn’t noticed yet that nobody lets you win a game of Commander out of pity.

The Toolboxer
Catch phrase: “On your end of turn…”
Patron card: evolutionaryleap

The Toolboxer is the least offensive on this list, since he is playing a very viable strategy and some toolboxing is inevitable in Commander format anyway. The Toolboxer is just annoying and obnoxious in that seemingly everything he does is designed to bring the game’s flow to a screeching halt while he does a hundred and two things on everybody else’s turn. If it isn’t his Sensei’s Divining Top, it’s his Force of Will, his land fetch, his Alchemist’s Refuge, his Brainstorm, his Seaside Haven… all on one turn. Every turn, he has enough triggers, untaps, and mana to do more things with his hand than you can do with your entire deck. You know you have a Toolboxer on your hands when one player after another sighs with the resigned weariness of a mummified pharaoh. Eventually everybody just concedes the game not because they can’t beat the Toolboxer, but because they’re just sick and tired of playing.

Got any other EDH players you can’t stand? You might as well whinge about them here in the comments.


Oct 212016

“Bob,” aka Dark Confidant, has been the poster child for overpriced cards in the Modern format almost since the day Modern format became a thing. I’ve taken Bob to task before for being too overrated. But the fact remains, a 2-drop dude that draws you cards is still a necessary evil in some decks. Outside of Modern – and you’re not going to believe this – there’s even some people deranged enough to run Bob in Commander!

So here, I thought I’d post an exhaustive list of the top eight budget versions of Dark Confidant. Not all of these mimic Bob; in fact, we’re going to explore cards that are possibly better than Bob in some circumstances. This is for budget players of every stripe, or those who want a nearly Bob-like effect, even as copies five through eight of Bob in the same deck.

For our criterion, our budget Bobs MUST BE creatures costing two mana or less.

#1: Cryptbreaker

Cryptbreaker is a recent print from Eldritch Moon that caused some minor buzz when it came out. Nobody is recommending it for Modern, but it’s found a home or two in Commander zombie tribal decks. However, with Gravecrawler, Geralf’s Messenger, and Prized Amalgam already seeing play in Modern, Cryptbreaker could be a sleeper card just waiting for its day to shine. In the meantime, it’s at least a zombie’s answer to Azami, Lady of Scrolls in EDH.

#2: Dakra Mystic

Dakra Mystic is actually a card which baffles me as to why it hasn’t seen Modern play already. Lantern Control is already a deck in Modern. Dakra Mystic not only lets you start drawing cards a turn earlier than Bob, it also lets you control your opponent’s topdeck as well, which is the whole basis for Lantern Control. You activate her to have each player reveal the top card, then you decide whether you both draw or mill. Obviously you can exploit this to make the decision to draw when you’re getting gas and your opponent isn’t, or to discard opponent bombs you can’t deal with. Even if you’re both drawing cards every turn, she’s a Howling Mine on a body which you can turn off whenever you’d like. What does a one-drop merfolk have to do to get some attention around here?

#3: Asylum Visitor

This is one of the straightforward budget Bob replacements, and in fact I think it could blow Bob away if you build it in the right deck. In the first place, it rewards going hellbent, and that’s what an aggro deck is doing anyway. It draws cards when it counts, in the late game. It activates on each player’s upkeep, so if you’re both hellbent you draw two additional cards per turn. It only taxes you one life per card drawn. And for heaven’s sake, it’s even a 3/1 when Bob’s a 2/1! Oh wait; it also has a madness feature! The more you read this card, the more handy stuff you never noticed. What if your opponent deliberately sandbags cards to avoid letting you draw? That’s card advantage too; if you’re encouraging your opponent not to use cards in hand, that lets you control the pace.

#4: Blood Scrivener

Blood Scrivener is exactly half an Asylum Visitor for half the reasons. While it only triggers once on your turn and only if you’re hellbent, that’s still the best time to draw cards faster. Otherwise, this is just completely obsolete because of Asylum Visitor now. But it’s a budget Bob, so here it goes.

#5: Disciple of Deceit

For heaven’s sake, am I hallucinating this card? Why is it nobody but me has ever seemed to be aware it exists? From the lackluster Journey into Nyx set, this 2-drop scowling Dimir rogue gives every card in your deck transmute. All you have to do is untap her – a mechanic far more breakable now than in the Theros days. It’s a free tutor in Modern. On a 2-mana 1/3. The ceiling for playable cards in Modern maxes out at about 3.5 CMC, so there’s no downside to limiting by CMC. Is tutoring on a body better than draw on a body?

#6: Kami of the Crescent Moon

This is the great egalitarian Bob. The obvious downside is that you’re allowing card draw on both sides, so this isn’t any kind of Bob at all. Unless you build your deck around this effect, which basically means playing Turbo-Fog.

#7: Pain Seer

Pain Seer is the other straightforward budget Bob. She does almost exactly what Bob does, but just a turn slower and she has to attack – or at least untap – in order to do it. Keep in mind that paying a convoke cost or tapping to crew a vehicle also activates inspired abilities. In addition, it’s a 2/2 instead of a 2/1. That hardly counts against a Lightning Bolt (which Bob dies to anyway) but it can make the difference in combat.

#8: Sygg, River Cutthroat

Hey, what does your deck do? How does it win? It deals damage to the opponent, you say? Well, can you do 3 damage in one turn once in awhile? You know, with a Bolt or a Bump in the Night? Since Modern is absolutely lousy with fast aggro and burn decks that try to kill you in three turns, where is Sygg’s credit? He triggers on each turn, so if you attacked with 3 power on your turn then Bolt at the opponent’s end-step, that’s two extra cards per turn. If your deck is dealing damage fast, then you want more gas, right?


More than anything, I aim this list to point out the tunnel-vision of Modern’s meta. Nobody out there is even trying to brew decks. Several of these cards enable whole new strategies all on their own, and none of them have gotten a second glance since they were printed. Yet since they were printed, we’ve gotten whole new mechanics and sets coming out that could finally wake up one of these sleepers to their real potential.

Brewing in Modern is a complete myth; everybody will tell you that it’s all been tested and tried and failed, yet nobody does anything but watch the tournament results and netdeck. The speed at which new cards come out has doubled in recent years, and yet we get one Saffron Olive per generation and even he’s treated like a joke in the community. All somebody has to do is open their minds to the whole purpose of a collectible trading card game and actually try to make their own deck that plays how they want to play.

Dear reader, why can’t that someone be you?


Oct 202016

When The Gitrog Monster was spoiled back in Shadows Over Innistrad set, the hype was relentless. Even if it wasn’t a very expensive card, I had to fight tooth and nail to get my hands on one. Once everybody had enough Gitrogs, they all scampered off to their deckbuilding workbench to build the Golgari combo Commander from hell.

Uh… yeah… somehow.

Turns out Mr. Toad is a bit too much of a wild ride for most deckbuilders to handle. You can’t just run him as Golgari goodstuff, either; his very presence on the board demands you build around him because he’s going to eat your land if you don’t. Sure, there’s obvious combos out there, but what, exactly, to do with our Hypnotoad?

We’ve seen gilded decklists like this one at 5ColorCombo. Now, that’s all well and good, but if you’ve got Bazaar of Baghdad (current price tag $745) lying around, you have better things to do with it than run it in a commander deck. The whole decklist at 5ColorCombo comes to $3214, and if you have that kind of money to sink into a Commander deck, in fact you are far too rich to play EDH with anybody but Warren Buffet and Bill Gates.

So I’ve gone on with my own Gitrog research, and have arrived at a much cozier price tag for a deck that, meh, sorta works for friendly multiplayer EDH with your chums. It typically goes off by about turn 7 to 9. If it gets wrecked, it still has a backup plan. It has multiple payloads. It’s happy to spend $20 for Demonic Tutor instead of $850 for Imperial Seal. It uses Birthing Pod – the 5ColorCombo list doesn’t because such a commoner’s card is far too gauche for the elitist highhats. Got your attention?

And that’s what I’ll present here and even open up for discussion: research. We’re going to not so much set out a definitive decklist as bat around some ideas.

Part 1: Combos

Our payloads are going to be how we finish the game:

That’s it, we have to find a way to either make infinite mana to pump into Exsanguinate, or infinitely sacrifice and recur creatures while dishing out damage from one of the other three payloads. And here’s the engine parts we will use to do that:

Ideally, we get Altar, Deathmantle, and Avenger of Zendikar out with any payload in hand and we can win easily. We have several other sacrifice / discard / and recursion engines going on in the deck, some of which can be used as ad-hoc engines on the fly. We could substitute any creature that brings an army of tokens with it, but Avenger of Zendikar does the most efficient job hands down, since our deck revolves around land drops anyway.

Part 2: Using Gitrog

Gitrog makes a marvelous draw engine; all we have to do is pitch land to him. So discard engines are our primary draw engines, as long as we’re pitching land…

  • * Trading Post
  • * Demonic Collusion
  • * Zombie Infestation
  • * Call the Bloodline
  • * Undertaker
  • * Pack Rat

See what we did there? While many decklists use something like Putrid Imp, I’m actually looking for discard engines that give something on the side. Here we’re making tokens, gaining life, or tutoring.

Dredge engines are also handy with Gitrog…

Dakmor Salvage is our most important land. Cherish it, we’re almost helpless without it.

One more theme that works well with Gitrog is lands that put themselves in the graveyard. I scoured around and it’s surprising how much I found beyond the obvious fetchlands…

Part 3: General engines

Like any Golgari deck, our chief strength is sending things to the graveyard for value, and getting them back for even more value…

Sacrifice outlets:

Some of this is silly redundant you say? Yes, but it’s a necessary evil. You don’t want to be hurting for one piece and have the only copy in the graveyard and inaccessible when milled away with Dakmor Salvage. Even Junk Diver is useful for recurring Solemn Simulacrum or Burnished Hart.

Which reminds us: We’re going to need to do so much tutoring. Yep, all the engines in here exist solely to get us to the nearest tutor. I find Gitrog runs best with the following compliment:

Yeah, that’s a lot of tutoring! While we do have several plan Bs, we’re mainly building a combo deck. Notice that we’re almost done already, because the rest of the deck just has to be land! Notice that we also listed the same card in multiple lists several times, since some cards are multi-functional. The idea is not to provide a definitive decklist, but a kit of cards you can pick and choose from to add enough for each functionality.

And we barley have room for insuring answers to opponent threats, either! Most players will at least want a token copy or two of Beast Within, Song of the Dryads, or board wipes just for games getting out of hand. But chances are, this deck does terrible at trying to control the game. It just needs to goldfish its way to victory as a stunt deck, the one you bring out to wrap up game three in your playgroup’s session.


Gitrog is quite the testy toad, I’ve found. He doesn’t work like just any Golgari deck. You could conceivably just build BG goodstuff with some extra land recursion and let Gitrog sacrifice himself whenever he threatens to leave you landless, but then why run Gitrog at all? Jarad is more than happy to take the helm in BG goodstuff. When you run the toad, it’s all-in down the road!


Oct 102016

We’ve gotten some requests and interest in deck-building tutorials, so we’re going to start a new semi-regular feature where we take one deck and build it from the bottom up, following along with our reasoning. So today’s spotlight is Brago, King Eternal.

Brago is a very easy build, so it’s good for beginners. Right away you notice his ability: He flickers your field every time he connects. Therefore, it follows that if you pack the deck with ETB value beef and some mana rocks + the occasional interesting interaction, you’ve got yourself a deck. Brago is devastating in French 1vs1, and has a fighting chance in multiplayer.

Also keep in mind, these are cards currently owned by your humble author. I will strive to keep the decklist budget friendly, because I reckon budgets to be a great friend to I as well, and will also reflect that my choices may not necessarily be the perfect ones for you. The point is to teach you how to think about deck building, using Brago as an example. If you have Sword of Ren and Stimpy around to replace one of the 20-cent equipments, happy for you.


Maxim #1: Make sure your general can do its thing.

In Brago’s case, he has one glaring condition: He must deal combat damage to a player or he doesn’t work. He does have flying, which helps. He’s also in great colors for board control, which helps more. So our first mission is to enable his ability as much as possible…

With this collection of equipment and enchantments, we have a mini-Voltron kit for Brago. Our primary wincon isn’t really to win with Commander damage – although you could build it that way – so our set-up is largely defensive. We have four ways to make Brago hexproof, three ways to make him unblockable, a couple ways to give him haste, and even a little pump and some lifelink to sweeten the deal. Normally I stop at Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots, and Whispersilk Cloak and call it a day. But Brago gets really, really awesome when he connects.


Maxim #2: Make sure your deck can still function without your general.

Of course, no matter how many precautions you take, somebody will spoil your fun. Brago might get killed off until he’s taxed out of sight, might get hit with various whammies to disable him, or whatever. So it helps to include some other ways to enable blink as well…

There’s no sense being too redundant, but as you’ll see, some of these parts work well with combos in the deck.

Maxim #3: Include at least one combo.

Many players dislike having combos at all. Some playgroups ban them. I consider at least one simple infinite combo to be mandatory in every single deck. Here’s why: It gives you a definitive way to end games. EDH is a format infested with endless control decks that sit there blowing up everything every turn without having a way to finish the game, so it drags on for centuries. For those of us with day jobs, we prefer games to end within a few calendar pages of when they started.

Our combo engine parts:

These are somewhat interchangeable. The best is Drake with Navigator: Tap five lands, spend two mana to have Navigator bounce Drake, Drake untaps five lands, and we’re back where we started but we’ve produced three additional mana. Or Witch can bounce Drake for a one-shot per turn. This can also work with Cloud of Faeries, because we’ll be running a couple karoo lands (Azorius Chancery and Coral Atoll) so Faeries can untap four mana but be bounced with two from Navigator. Finally, we can use Ghostly Flicker to flicker Archaeomancer and Peregrine Drake, Archy returning the Flicker to our hand each time and Drake untapping five mana for every three we spend to repeat the loop.

Maxim #3a: Your combo parts should be good on their own without the combo.

This is so easy to do in Brago. Brago flickering Archaeomancer to get back a Brainstorm is good value all by itself.

So we can make infinite mana and infinite blink. Now what do we do with it?



Wait, we’re not done! We want ways to find these combos!


Maxim #4: About one fourth of the nonland cards in an EDH deck should be utility.

Utility = land fetching, mana fixing, card draw, and tutors. This is necessary, because EDH being a 99-card singleton format, every deck runs them. So if your deck doesn’t, it will fail. Our standard mana rocks kit includes…

Brago can untap any mana rock (besides Worn Powerstone) after he connects, so we get extra value out of these and in the case of Monolith, we’re not shy about having them tapped.

Our recursion package…

Our tutor package…

  • * Heliod’s Pilgrim – Fetches auras for Brago and another utility we’ll cover later.
  • * Taj-Nar Swordsmith – Fetches equipment. This is our budget answer to Stoneforge Mystic. Costs more mana, but otherwise does the same job.
  • * Trinket Mage – Fetches Altar of the Brood, Sol Ring, and a couple of other odd jobs. We’re including two artifact lands, Ancient Den and Seat of the Synod, to make sure he earns his keep.
  • * Fabricate – Artifacts are pretty important to our overall strategy.

And finally, our straight card advantage package…

Ponder, Preordain, Brainstorm, and Impulse are the holy quaternity of blue cantrips, the first ones you should reach for in any blue deck. We’re going a little overboard here because UW decks need to fly – we’re already short of things like tutoring and mana ramping in our colors, so we need to at least be sure to maximize our advantages.


Maxim #5: Once your deck’s plan is in place, fill the rest with interaction.

This is where Brago shines, and where lots of players moan how they hate facing Brago. Wait until you see our dirty tricks package…

  • * Angel of Serenity – We’ve met already.
  • * Fiend Hunter – Zap a creature.
  • * Lavinia of the Tenth – A devastating blowout, shuts down most decks. Note that it hits opponent mana rocks and everything. If we can blink her every turn, we’ve won.
  • * Luminate Primordial – Zap a creature more permanently.
  • * Lyev Skyknight – Note that it detains any nonland permanent, so you can use this to pin down a planeswalker or troublesome enchantment as well.
  • * Nevermaker – Nasty! Blinking him two or more times per turn means game over for most opponents. He’s also a deterrent against anybody attacking you with anything bigger than a peanut.
  • * Reflector Mage – Just a must-have. Good against troublesome opponent generals.
  • * Stonehorn Dignitary – Can’t believe he’s a common! Blinking this guy can mean shutting another player out of combat permanently.

Add a tiny little package of control spells…

We like to keep our control spells as general purpose as possible. We already have so much control coming from Brago’s blinking bastards that opponents will be pulling their hair out with all their stuff exiled, detained, or bounced.

As for Cyclonic Rift, I am ready to call that the most powerful spell in the entire EDH format. Cast it for overload and it’s a full blowout for everybody else, every time. If you can recur it with a bouncing Archy every turn, nobody should be able to wiggle out of the lockdown. There are some who are calling for a ban, and I’d almost agree, but until it is, run it in every blue deck.


Maxim #6: Now include some good stuff.

“Good stuff” can be spare win conditions, extra combo pieces, flashy tricks, and tech. Since our deck already has some formidable threats to present, including some flying bricks, we don’t pay too much attention here.

  • * Rite of Replication – Is there ever a time when five copies of the best creature on the table is a bad thing?
  • * Palisade Giant and Shielded by Faith – One more tutor target for Heliod’s Pilgrim. Our side quest is to get the Giant Shielded, and then we can’t take any damage at all! Yes, read the cards, it even protects our permanents. Until our opponents figure out how to undo that knot (don’t worry, they will), we get some breathing room to assemble our wincons in peace.
  • * Strionic Resonator – Because one good turn deserves another.  I should mention that it’s a bundle of combos with the rest of the deck too, but I regard it as mostly good utility even without combos.
  • * Spine of Ish Sah – An unusual bit of tech, but Brago can bounce this. Yes, Spine says “permanent,” lands too!
  • * Tormod’s Crypt – Some people consider graveyard tech to be unfair. But EDH is played far too much from the graveyard. Look at the Sidisi deck we showcased a couple weeks back; don’t you want graveyard tech against that?
  • * Karmic Justice – Just too good not to include in white. Stops those wraths. You’ve noticed we don’t play wraths? That’s because Brago benefits from a loaded field, and we have so much evasion and control parts that we don’t care if our opponent keeps a few goblin tokens out there.
  • * Crystal Ball – Our budget answer to Sensei’s Divining Top. The scry is just good selection in UW, and Brago can of course get a second shot out of it.

Maxim #7: Uh, land?

Fine, you knew that. My build runs 37 land, of which some notable tech includes…

You can guess we fill in the rest with duals, fetches, and basics. Voila, we’re done!

Other Brago builds and resources…

There’s many more cards that others play in Brago; these are just a quick example I pulled together. For other resources…

We welcome your comments and suggestions on Brago and UW strategies in general in this thread.


Sep 222016

Oh, I heard it through the graveyard! I have brought up my Sidisi, Brood Tyrant Commander deck on here a few times and promised to show it off some day, so that day (or rather night) is here!

Sidisi has consistently been one of my favorite Commander generals for the two years since Khans of Tarkir set was spoiled. Sultai is a color combination that is incredibly versatile in EDH. You have green, black, and blue; Golgari and its graveyard shenanigans, Dimir and its underhanded skulduggery, and Simic and its explosive ramp and card advantage.

Sidisi mills into your graveyard and makes zombie tokens off that, provided you have enough bodies in your deck. This does limit your build in two ways: You want a creature-heavy build, and you want a graveyard toolbox with lots of reanimation. Outside of that, you can build control, aggro, midrange, combo, or any combination of those. But you learn to love the graveyard part, because in Sultai the graveyard is just a big extra hand to you. You hardly need tutors because Sidisi just shovels it all into the yard and you can stir the chum and dig out your opponent’s next nightmare from there.

There’s two ways I tend to build Sidisi: Table Police or Midrange Stompy. This is my Midrange build:

Creature (40)

  • 1x Acidic Slime
  • 1x Archaeomancer
  • 1x Avenger of Zendikar
  • 1x Baloth Null
  • 1x Bloodghast
  • 1x Butcher of Malakir
  • 1x Caustic Caterpillar
  • 1x Corpse Connoisseur
  • 1x Embodiment of Spring
  • 1x Eternal Witness
  • 1x Fleshbag Marauder
  • 1x Gray Merchant of Asphodel
  • 1x Grim Haruspex
  • 1x Grimgrin, Corpse-Born
  • 1x Groundskeeper
  • 1x Harvester Druid
  • 1x Havengul Lich
  • 1x Jalira, Master Polymorphist
  • 1x Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
  • 1x Kiora’s Follower
  • 1x Krosan Restorer
  • 1x Mulldrifter
  • 1x Mystic Snake
  • 1x Nighthowler
  • 1x Notion Thief
  • 1x Nyx Weaver
  • 1x Primal Druid
  • 1x Reassembling Skeleton
  • 1x Rune-Scarred Demon
  • 1x Sakura-Tribe Elder
  • 1x Satyr Wayfinder
  • 1x Shadowborn Demon
  • 1x Sidisi, Undead Vizier
  • 1x Splinterfright
  • 1x Stinkweed Imp
  • 1x The Gitrog Monster
  • 1x Tilling Treefolk
  • 1x Trygon Predator
  • 1x Urborg Elf
  • 1x Viscera Seer
  • 1x Wood Elves

Artifact (1)

  • 1x Birthing Pod

Enchantment (3)

  • 1x Crawling Sensation
  • 1x Oversold Cemetery
  • 1x Phyrexian Arena

Sorcery (14)

  • 1x Curse of the Swine
  • 1x Deep Analysis
  • 1x Deep Reconnaissance
  • 1x Dread Return
  • 1x Far Wanderings
  • 1x Gaze of Granite
  • 1x Jarad’s Orders
  • 1x Living Death
  • 1x Morgue Theft
  • 1x Rite of Replication
  • 1x Stitch Together
  • 1x Victimize
  • 1x Villainous Wealth

Instant (3)

  • 1x Beast Within
  • 1x Forbidden Alchemy
  • 1x Silence the Believers

Land (38)

  • 1x Bojuka Bog
  • 1x Dismal Backwater
  • 1x Evolving Wilds
  • 5x Forest
  • 1x Foul Orchard
  • 1x Ghost Quarter
  • 1x Grim Backwoods
  • 1x Halimar Depths
  • 4x Island
  • 1x Jungle Hollow
  • 1x Llanowar Wastes
  • 1x Mortuary Mire
  • 1x Opulent Palace
  • 1x Petrified Field
  • 1x Rogue’s Passage
  • 1x Simic Guildgate
  • 1x Submerged Boneyard
  • 1x Svogthos, the Restless Tomb
  • 5x Swamp
  • 1x Tainted Wood
  • 1x Temple of Deceit
  • 1x Terramorphic Expanse
  • 1x Thornwood Falls
  • 1x Warped Landscape
  • 1x Watery Grave
  • 1x Woodland Stream
  • 1x Yavimaya Coast

Some deck tech:

Mana management:

Land tutor: Embodiment of Spring, Primal Druid, Sakura-Tribe Elder, Satyr Wayfinder, Wood Elves, Deep Reconnaissance, Far Wanderings.

Mana dorks: Urborg Elf, Harvester Druid, Kiora’s Follower, Krosan Restorer.

Land recursion: Groundskeeper, Tilling Treefolk.

One thing you quickly learn about graveyard toolboxes is that they’re always hungry for mana. Since you end up with half your deck face up and ready to use, you just keep taking longer turns doing more things. We prefer creatures that die to tutor land, or cards with flashback or threshold, since these both work best in Sidisi. Tilling Treefolk is both my favorite budget answer to Life From the Loam and an excellent workhorse in Sidisi, since we prefer our utilities on a body wherever possible. As for Kiora’s Follower, he can also be handy for getting a double charge out of Birthing Pod, Jalira, or other talented tappers.


Recursion: Archaeomancer, Baloth Null, Bloodghast, Eternal Witness, Havengul Lich, Nyx Weaver, Dread Return, Morgue Theft, Reassembling Skeleton, Stitch Together, Victimize, Oversold Cemetery.

Tutors: Corpse Connoisseur, Rune-Scarred Demon, Sidisi, Undead Vizier, Viscera Seer, Birthing Pod, Jarad’s Orders.

Draw: Grim Haruspex, Jalira, Master Polymorphist, Mulldrifter, Notion Thief, The Gitrog Monster, Deep Analysis, Forbidden Alchemy, Phyrexian Arena.

Self-mill: Stinkweed Imp, Crawling Sensation.

As you can see, the bulk of the deck revolves around getting things into and out of the graveyard. The deck moves in recursive loops, bringing tools back again and again. We prefer bodies that do something on their own, so only Bloodghast and Reassembling Skeleton are the self-recurring flunkies, and Stinky and the Crawling enchantment are dredge support pieces. Viscera Seer also functions as exile protection. Jalira is just there to turn zombie tokens into something more useful, and the Gitrog Monster is basically there to look cool, because he’s not all that useful except to re-drop utility lands. Oversold Cemetery is practically Bob in this deck once the graveyard is well-stocked.

There’s really no point in putting too much dredge for the sake of dredge in here, since Sidisi will cheerfully do that job for you. Note that some of our other creatures self-mill as well.


Killing stuff: Acidic Slime, Butcher of Malakir, Caustic Caterpillar, Fleshbag Marauder, Mystic Snake, Shadowborn Demon, Trygon Predator, Curse of the Swine, Gaze of Granite, Beast Within, Silence the Believers.

This deck is not the table police, but every Commander deck should have at least a few answers to problems that come up. So here we try to wring extra mileage out of every precious card. You see some Commander staples that need no introduction here, but let me point out Shadowborn Demon: I like him better than the usual choice of Nekrataal or Shriekmaw, just because he hits a wider range of targets and has the bonus feature of serving as a sacrifice outlet if need be. If you get five creatures in the yard with both the Demon and Oversold Cemetery out, you can keep sacrificing and re-casting the same creature every turn.


Avenger of Zendikar: The token rush approach. We do a lot of land durdling here so the tokens should grow with no problem. Far Wanderings alone will put three counters on them, and of course Avenger can be sacrificed and recalled for a curtain call and more tokens.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel: Opponents scream in terror at the sight of this guy. We usually don’t have enough black devotion to make an impact when he drops under normal circumstances, but it’s our best drop when resolving a big Living Death. It’s also a game-ending target for a kicked Rite of Replication.

Grimgrin, Corpse-Born: He does work! He’s a sac outlet, an assassin, and a constantly growing threat all on his own.

Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord: He gets huge off the yard, brings himself back, and sacrifices your other minions to throw at opponents for more damage. He’s a great reason to keep mana open at end of turn, since if an opponent tries to remove somebody you can always just turn it into pain instead.

Nighthowler: Worth getting out to bestow on Sidisi, and it makes your general a growing, self-feeding threat who can kill through Commander damage. The fact that he drops as a body on the field after a board wipe is a nice bonus.

Splinterfright: Another fatty that grows off the graveyard, also here because his mill helps Sidisi a little bit.

Living Death: Devastating, no question about it. The ideal scenario is to sacrifice your field to Viscera Seer, have either Archaeomancer or Eternal Witness in the graveyard, then bounce it all back to the field and do it again if you have the mana open. If you have Gary, resolve him last after everything else black hits the ground for a K.O.

Rite of Replication: Typically as broken here as anywhere. There’s several juicy targets in our ranks for this, but of course it’s always nice to have five of the most broken creature currently on the table.

Villainous Wealth: Not at all related to our core strategy, but just too good to pass up in Sultai colors. Resolving one for seven or more typically turns the game around.

Utility lands: Bojuka Bog, Ghost Quarter, Grim Backwoods, Halimar Depths, Mortuary Mire, Petrified Field, Rogue’s Passage, Svogthos, the Restless Tomb

Note that we do run some land recursion as well, so don’t be afraid to sacrifice Bojuka Bog to Gitrog and recur it for another hit. Svogthos is there just because; I think I’ve never activated it, but just in case I get my field wiped and need a body, it’s an insurance policy.


Note that Sidisi’s zombie token trigger fires on any event of a creature being binned from your deck. So with Sidisi out, if Corpse Connoisseur, Nyx Weaver, Satyr Wayfinder, Splinterfright, Stinkweed Imp, Jarad’s Orders, Forbidden Alchemy, or Crawling Sensation dumps a body in the bin, that’s another zombie token for you!

I typically get Sidisi out as soon as possible and swing with him a few times. If he gets killed, he dies, but his attack trigger still happened and all we really ask is a graveyard starter, at least until we have threshold. We’re not a Voltron deck, so attacking with Sidisi isn’t how we usually win the game. It’s a means to the end of keeping the pond stocked. Once he’s killed off a couple times, I retire him for awhile and let the rest of the deck take over. Sidisi is cheap enough to bring back several times anyway, with our high mana focus already.

The deck is very well set for the long game! The bigger our graveyard, the bigger our threats. The one fear is of course getting our graveyard exiled, but then that’s a threat to just about every Commander deck out there. We recur almost as much as we dredge, so if your yard got hacked while it was full of useful cards, that’s your own fault.

Note, however, that we’re not the table police with this build. I do answer an opponent’s threat when it’s urgent, but mostly I’m more interested in keeping them busy answering my threats.

Alternative Cards in Sidisi:

Additional self-mill: I see Mesmeric Orb in Sidisi builds a lot. To me this is silly. Sidisi swinging or even ETB as few as four, five times is enough to chum the yard and get things rolling, and then it builds naturally from there. There’s no sense just having a mill rock there that does nothing else.

Zombie tribal: Yes, I’ll grant, zombies R fun! They’re just not my bag. I find most tribal strategies suck in Commander and most zombie lords are puny on their own. But if you want a tribe, zombies are more resilient.

Splendid Reclamation: I don’t own this card yet, been meaning to pick it up. It is insanely good, especially with ol’ Gitrog and Avenger, so if you have it, use it.

More dredge: Golgari Grave-Troll and company point the way to even more dredge fun if that’s your bag. I do run a little dredge, but again, there’s only so many card slots you want to devote to just graveyard stocking.

Kessig Cagebreakers: Another excellent card I simply haven’t picked up yet. I do love guys like Avenger of Zendikar that bring a whole army in a can with them.

Tasigur, the Golden Fang: Don’t be tricked into running him here! Tasigur is better off running his own show; as Sidisi’s flunky, your opponents will be constantly handing you back a useless card every turn.  You want Tasigur when you can force a narrow choice, not when you have 25 cards in the yard and they can fish out a swamp.

More mana dorks: Birds of Paradise and company are of course staples in any green-based deck, but I tend to slim down the choices here to a few select mana dorks and lots of land tutoring. They can kill either your creatures or your land, but seldom both. I prefer to kill things and resurrect them, not have something stand around.

Delve spells: Treasure Cruise and Murderous Cut are a trap in Sidisi. Don’t exile cards from your graveyard, they’re all in the deck for a reason and you’ll need them more than you need a spell that can as easily be replicated by Ancient Craving or Hero’s Downfall.


Thanks for joining me on this tour of My Pet Deck, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant. Feel free to share your owns builds and ideas for Sidisi in the comments. And if there’s another kind of decklist or deck tutorial you’d like to see, feel free to ask. We promise not to bite (hard).


Sep 162016

Is it hard to keep up with MTG releases lately or what? Sets are coming out at such a milling pace, there’s barely time to play with a set before the next one’s getting spoiled.

So we’ll do a condensed overview of Conspiracy 2, the much-anticipated draft set that’s the sequel to the outrageously popular Conspiracy. But alongside the way, we’ll talk about card prices and the reprint situation.

Wizards of the Coast has always been in a precarious situation when it comes to reprints. On the one hand, Magic is a card GAME, so they have to keep it cheap enough that a reasonable percent of the population can afford the hobby. On the other hand, Magic is a card COLLECTIBLE, so they don’t dare just print a storm of the most expensive cards or they’ll crash the market. Add to that the factor of having to be conservative about what’s in Standard – they can’t flood Standard with Modern-strength cards because the meta would be strangled. So sets like Conspiracy, which will never enter Standard, are one place with leeway.

The professor at Tolarian Community College is all atwitter about Conspiracy 2 when it comes to reprints…

Yes, good point. Conspiracy 2 is the better Modern Masters than Modern Masters. Why on Earth they thought to do it this way is, in hindsight, baffling. In a limited-print set with an inflated price tag, they made only the most token nod to the target format at all, and the rest of the set’s cards seemed to be picked by trolls. They gave little reason for anyone to buy the set, hence no reason to limit its availability at all.

Eternal Masters fared better. As of this writing, at least the top 50 cards in Eternal Masters price-wise are still over $2.00, even after the set has been out for some time, which means these cards were sorely needed. I’ve been at least satisfied with every pack of Eternal Masters I’ve opened, and when I pulled a Force of Will, I was ecstatic. (Yeah, I’ll brag this time. It’s damn seldom I get to do it!)

Anyway, on to Conspiracy 2: If you’re still going out to draft this set, here’s the cards to watch out for in what formats, be they reprints or cards that happen to be good in formats like Legacy, Vintage, and Commander (the only sets they’ll be legal in).

New cards with potential:

Recruiter of the Guard – Hysterical in Commander, and seems tailor-made for Alesha, Who Smiles at Death.

Sanctum Prelate – AKA Chalice of the Void on a stick. Well, not quite, but dangerously close to it. My guess is it may be worth a try in Commander, but will probably eat removal anyway.

Grenzo, Havoc Raiser – What were they thinking? Any Commander player can immediately see that this is broken to the point of needing a ban. Goblin tribal will have a field day with it. Getting to steal a card per attack is nuts, and making every creature you have into a copy of Daxos of Meletis without the downsides is just psychotic. Even if you don’t cast the cards, big token swarms can mill your opponent to death.

Grenzo’s Ruffians – Dangerous in Commander with Voltron equipment running around.

Splitting Slime – Normally I don’t give the time of day to cards with ‘monstrosity’ on them, as the mana never seemed to be justified. Polukranos, World Eater was the only one that even saw major play in Theros Standard. But this bugger is a payload for infinite mana combos, which is a rare treat in green, so it gets a pass here.

Leovold, Emissary of Trest – Already so busted in Commander that it’s threatening to be banned. This doesn’t seem so bad until you Windfall the table and leave everybody hellbent while you’re in colors that are good at ramping mana and drawing lots of cards.

$$$ Cash Reprints:

Ghostly Prison – Cross-format staple in Legacy, Modern, and Commander. Reached an all-time high of $17.45 just last February, so this was a dire need.

Hail of Arrows – Not at all a needed reprint, but for Commander it’s just worth pointing out this obscure card that not many people seem to know about. With all the instant-speed damage red gets to do, it’s rare enough you can dump mana into a surprise one-sided board wipe for your opponent, let alone in white. Try this card as a late-game upset, you’ll swear it’s unfair.

Hallowed Burial – Was creeping up to $7.00 and higher for the original Eventide print, so this was pretty good timing. Commander staple, and a tiny bit of Modern play in UWR Control sideboards.

Serum Visions – Good golly miss Holly Wolly, can you people ever shut up about this card? Ponder, Preordain, and Brainstorm spit on it. Anyway, the Fifth Dawn printing spiked to $15 when it wasn’t included in Modern Masters, so now it’s less than $3.00 and you can dive into a big Scrooge McDuck swimming pool full of Serum Visions. There, you’re all happy now, right? You, now, happy? Staple in Vintage, Legacy, Modern, Pauper, Commander, Blackjack, Texas Hold ‘Em, and Caribbean Stud.

By the way, I like this art…


I mean, it’s serum visions. It’s a vision of serum. So that’s serum all around her face and she’s looking through it into the beyond. Half of you are sitting across from little kids at FNM with naked hentai anime sluts all over your playmats and sleeves, so you have no place criticizing this card for whatever suggestion you think it makes. It’s only dirty in your squalid little hobgoblin mind.

Show and Tell – Staple in every deck desperate enough to use Serum Visions to dig for it so it can play Emrakul. This stunning reprint previously saw a peak of $80 for the Urza’s Saga version, so it’s knocked down to a reasonable price below $30.

Inquisition of Kozilek – A shocking reprint that’s a staple of at least Modern and Legacy, and has seen play in French Commander and even a rare Vintage deck. Even after the Modern event deck printing this was $28.00+, so snap these up before they spike again. Right now, after two reprints, they’re still at $9.00.

Phyrexian Arena – Staple in Commander, some moderate Modern play. This card has been printed six different times now and is still hovering around $3, so it can only go back up.

Burning Wish – The original Judgment print saw price tags as high as $22.00, so this is a justified run. Legacy and Vintage staple. By the way, how come nobody has an issue with Burning Wish’s art? That genie’s hand is hovering in some very intimate territory there.

Beast Within – A staple in at least Modern and Legacy, mainly because green doesn’t get to just haul off and kill something very often. Also a surprisingly versatile card – play against green and you’ll always be caught off guard when they pull stunts like Beasting their own land so they can block and kill your Goblin Guide. Climbed as high as $14.85 for the Planechase print alone, so the new price tag of a bean and a half is pretty worth it.

Berserk – For those of you wondering, this is a staple in Legacy Infect, and handy to have in Commander besides. Note that it can also be played on your opponent’s creature, so if you have a Fog in hand this is a cool one-mana spot removal. Prices have climbed as high as $312 since this was an Alpha card, so even now at ~$24 this card won’t stay that low for long. No relation to the video game. (Got the humanoid! Got. The. Intruder!)

Birds of Paradise – One of the most reprinted cards in all of Magic history, and yet the price for it rarely goes below $7. This reprint makes it dip to $4.57 as of this writing, and bet your fur it’s going back up again. Cross-format mega-staple. Who doesn’t want to make any color mana for one mana, on a flying blocker to boot?

Burgeoning – Commander staple, was as high as $29.96 for the original Stronghold print – and can’t you just see some poor sap opening packs of that janky set praying for a Burgeoning? Now dipped to $5, catch your breath.

Horn of Greed – Commander staple, albeit with niche decks, whose price climbed to a ridiculous $8.52 when some nut speculated on it. Now down to a reasonable $1.50. Pssst, the secret combo is Retreat to Coralhelm, Walking Atlas, and this.

In Conclusion…

Overall, this is one blowout set. The problem is that it’s also half-full of cards only good in Conspiracy – I know, there’s lots of people clamoring for making ‘monarch’ a thing in Commander, but forget it, it’s not going to catch on. So you might as well draft Conspiracy 2 while you’re at it. It’s a fun time for all and you’ll still walk away with a pocket full of reprint value anyway.

But that’s all the love this set gets, because we’re about to don our goggles, scarf, and racing gloves for a little tool through Kaladesh. Since I’m a freak for both Izzet and artifacts, this set is basically Christmas for me.


Aug 242016

In Magic: the Gathering, Modern format is like a trailer park built in tornado alley. Sooner or later, something will blast it all to hell, it’s just a matter of when. Nearly every set lately has introduced some broken new deck that dominates the format until a card is banned out of it.

But this time, the foo is on the other shoot: It’s not a new card, but a card which was once banned and has now been unbanned…
Outside of Golgari Grave-Troll, one new card has been an enabler, which is Prized Amalgam. I was looking to get one for my Commander zombie deck (I’ll blog it one day), but noticed the price has spiked from being a dollar rare long about Shadows Over Innistrad to being $4.50 and heading for $5. Insolent Neonate has also been a minor enabler, but without it, the deck would probably be running something like Thought Scour – a card I just told you was overrated.

The rest of the deck is basically the old Vengevine deck (Modern knew it as Dredgevine) with some updated slots. Gravecrawler, Bloodghast, Stinkweed Imp, and Narcomoeba. It’s quite a stunner, because dredge strategies have been both a favorite of casual scrubs and firmly relegated to tier three on their best day. But now top-rank players are taking down PTQs with it. Dredge has become the validated nerd who was bullied in high school but now runs a Fortune 500 company that evicts his former tormentors. What in blazes is going on?

What’s so fun about dredge?

If you’ve never tried dredge, you’re missing out! Dredge decks fly. The graveyard becomes an extension of your hand. Dredge is a self-supporting card advantage strategy; the more you dredge, the more you can dredge. The deck just snowballs every turn. But more remarkably, dredge creatures thumb their nose at most Modern removal. Lightning Bolt doesn’t faze Bloodghast in the slightest, he’ll bounce right back.

A typical Modern Dredge decklist:




That’s it, it’s very linear. It’s also a little budget friendly for a change – when’s the last time you saw a #1 deck at a PTQ that only cost ~$500? AFTER it got popular? The sideboard is based on stopping decks faster than you – lots of Affinity and Burn hate, but not much else.

There’s room to make it even more budget-friendly if you want to try a starter deck for FNM and then upgrade. For instance:

Life From the Loam: Currently ~$13. Tilling Treefolk gives you a body and two lands back from the graveyard for $0.25 – that’s any two lands, not just basics. For a closer card in purpose, Satyr Wayfinder gets cards into the graveyard and usually nets you land, for the same mana cost and yet also providing boots on the ground.

Golgari Grave-Troll: I said that Captain Pepto Bismol was going to break Modern when it was unbanned, now it’s ~$13. Gurmag Angler is a $0.25 common and a close enough substitute, since we’re shoveling into the yard enough with our other effects.

Bloodghast: It’s always been flipping ridiculous, but now it’s headed for $30. The closest to even rival Bloodghast’s effect is Bloodsoaked Champion, and even that’s a stretch.

All of these, of course, are shabby substitutes for the real deal, so run them if you’re bleeding for them until you can replace them, one slot at a time, with their more expensive cousins. And Modern is also full of many more dredge cards and graveyard reanimator strategies to check out.

By the way, nearly every card in this deck was around a buck only six months ago and most of them have been out for years, so if you’re panicking to buy into dredge now, it’s your own fault for not nurturing your inner scrub and buying into your graveyard shenanigans back when it was all about kitchen table jollies.

If you refuse to join them, how do you beat them?

The answer is the big, obvious one – graveyard hate. Bojuka Bog, Relic of Progenitus, Scrabbling Claws, Rest in Peace, and Scavenging Ooze are all wonderfully effective answers to Dredge. That’s no news to anybody, and yet it’s always baffled me why graveyard hate isn’t more commonly run in Modern. Myself, I’m always careful to include some in the sideboard, and it catches opponents by surprise.

Not only is grave hate good against Dredge, it also stops Living End, dampens Kitchen Finks combos, robs Snapcaster Mage of a spell flashback, and makes Lingering Souls a 3-mana dud. I’ve been swearing by it ever since Treasure Cruise was the scourge of Modern – I would Thoughtseize, see the Treasure Cruises, and then drop Bojuka Bog turn two and leave two Treasure Cruise stranded in my opponent’s hand. I drink thy salty tears like autumn wine.

Speaking of graveyard hate, this is something black does very well – and Dredge is yet another deck I’m itching to try BW Tokens against. Dredge, all shenanigans aside, is an aggro strategy that doesn’t run much defense. Golgari Grave Troll doesn’t have trample, chump blocks answer most creatures in the deck, and Path to Exile prevents those pesky zombies and vampires from making a repeat offense. Might be good, might be a bust, but worth a try.