Vampires!

Hey everybody!
So this weekend, I had one of the Commander 2017 decks delivered, Vampiric Bloodlust, and have spent a couple of days thinking about mixing it up a little with some of my favourite Vampire cards from recent memory!

Commander 2017 is the tribal-themed set, and while previous years have seen five preconstructed decks released around November time, this year we’ve got just four decks, and they’re out three months early! Colour isn’t a thing, so we have two-colour Cats, three-colour Vampires, three-colour Wizards, and five-colour Dragons! I kinda wanted them all, of course, but settled just on the Vampires right now.

Vampires is probably the tribe I feel most at home with out of all of them, having made a couple of decks that I’ve featured on this very blog with the bloodsucking brutes (you can see those decks here and here!)

Vampiric Bloodlust

There are five Legendary Creatures in the deck, two of whom aren’t actually Mardu-coloured so don’t really lend themselves to the deck as it stands. I wanted to use the front-man of the deck, Edgar Markov, as my Commander. The vampire theme is really strong with him, after all, and as I knew I wanted to go really into that here, I think he’s the best man for the job. His abilities, anyway, are rather marvellous:

Eminence – Whenever you cast another Vampire spell, if Edgar Markov is in the command zone or on the battlefield, create a 1/1 black Vampire creature token.

First strike, haste

Whenever Edgar Markov attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on each Vampire you control.

So not only do you get to create tokens, you also get to buff your entire team! Wonderful stuff. I say “entire team”, of course, because pretty much the whole damn deck is made up of Vampires! I’ve got a couple of cards in there from Tarkir block that will help to keep the theme going. So let’s take a look at the cards I’ve been fiddling about with!

Vampiric Bloodlust

First of all, I wanted to go with my old favourite of lifegain-and-drain, along with some of my favourite Vampiric buffs around right now. Stoneforge Masterwork is a particular favourite from Oath of the Gatewatch, which gives the equipped creature +1/+1 for each Creature type you control that shares a Creature type with it.

Drana, Kalastria Bloodchief is included in the deck, though for this particular deck really bounces with her latest incarnation from Battle for Zendikar, Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Suited up with Stoneforge Masterwork at the head of an army of Vampires, she could be doing some pretty decent damage! At least, I hope so!

Vampiric Bloodlust

Battle for Zendikar block, and Shadows over Innistrad block have both got some really terrific cards to use in a Vampire deck, of course, so I’ve been plumbing some of those depths! I mentioned it in a previous Vampires deck blog of course, but Stensia Masquerade is a really great card for this. The deck also comes with Rakish Heir, another favourite of mine for this kind of deck. Putting the counters on these cards is good and all, but then what, right? Well, that’s where Mer-Ek Nightblade comes in, making the counters count. Heh.

Edgar Markov is, of course, Sorin’s grandfather, so it’s pretty flavourful to get one of the Sorin Planeswalkers in there. I quite like Sorin, Lord of Innistrad, though Sorin, Grim Nemesis could be useful, and his -X should work well with the included Sanguine Bond. It’s quite annoying that we have Sanguine Bond but not Exquisite Blood, which would perhaps have been the more appropriate card to include. Not to mention, that card needs a reprint!

So anyway, I’m going to be taking a bit more time to go through the deck and sort it out so that it plays a bit more how I’d like. Stay tuned folks, it should be glorious!

Breya 2.0

Hey everybody!
It’s time for another game day blog here at spalanz.com, and I’m sticking with Magic for the moment, as I’m riding the wave of where my interest lies for the time being. Today, I wanted to talk about my attempts to change up the Breya Commander deck that I picked up a short while ago!

Breya, Etherium Shaper

Breya is an artifact creature who makes thopter tokens on her entry into the battlefield, but her abilities are a bit of a blend of the colours she represents, which does leave her feeling like a bit of a hodge-podge of stuff. That said, having an artifact creature commander does lend itself to artifact tribal, so I’ve tried to go more in that side of things. Because she makes thopters on entry into the battlefield, I thought it might be nice to flicker her in and out, though of course in Commander now you can always have your general available in the Command Zone if need be, so it’s not a huge thing to have to flicker her. I’ve got a number of other creatures who also do things when they enter the battlefield, though, so that the flicker cards shouldn’t be wasted. Something that I do enjoy is the amount of cool Kaladesh cards that are relevant to this deck, namely the Master Trinketeer that gives thopters +1/+1, which should help, and also Padeem, who will give all my artifacts Hexproof. They’ll still die to boardwipes of course, so I probably need to look into making them Indestructible as well, but that’ll be for another day…

Something that has kinda happened to this deck as I evolved it was the addition of quite a number of expensive cards – expensive for me, that is! I’m definitely a budget-focused guy, and if I’m paying more than £5 for one card, it really needs to be a specific card that I’ve wanted. However, I started on the slippery slope by getting a copy of Ashnod’s Altar, which I mentioned back in the original blog post when I picked this deck up, and have kinda gone on from there, really! I’ve never played with Sensei’s Divining Top, but a lot of folks (particularly the Command Zone podcast, which is what got me started on this whole thing!) talk about it being a crucial card, so I eventually bit that bullet and picked up a copy for around £12. I’ve also been adding in a few cards that I’ve luckily had hanging about from various booster pulls and the like, including Ghostly Prison, Serum Visions, Phyrexian Arena… Something that I’d noted about the deck was how exciting it was to have these “classic” cards like Skullclamp, so it’s again keeping in with the theme of the deck there.

However, I’ve decided to make these additions to the deck based on a couple of strong limitations: all the cards must be printed in the “new”, post-M15 Modern card frame; and if anything produces or references colourless mana, it must show the actual colourless mana symbol. Aesthetics are very important to me, and for a format like Commander, which emphasizes self-expression, I think it’s important to let these sorts of things come through. Of course, it’s a limitation in some respects, but there are still a hell of a lot of cards available for the deck to use – for the card frame stipulation, in addition to four blocks (nine individual sets) and two core sets, there have been three Masters sets, three Commander sets, five Duel Decks, and the Duel Decks and Planechase Anthologies. Amonkhet is also now a thing, and I’m evaluating a couple of things (those Monuments, for sure!) to add in, as well. Of course, the colourless mana symbol is more of a sticking-point, as there are a couple of things I’d like to include but have stopped myself doing so, but overall I feel spoilt for choice here anyway, so I’m sure it’s all good!!

As a side note, I’ve also swapped out all of the lands, for land art that I actually prefer. Again, it’s all about the aesthetics. I’ve currently got all of the Ravnica bounce lands in the deck, which originally caused me problems as I didn’t have enough good lands to bounce; I’ve since put in the recent common dual lands to try and get more variety there. However, between these and the tri-lands, the deck can potentially be very slow, as there are lands coming into play tapped, some of which are then bounced back to my hand. I’ve been thinking about swapping out the dual lands for the Khans duals, as I’d at least gain life when they enter the battlefield, but so far haven’t gone in for all that.

There are still plenty of cards that I’m thinking of including, and I’m sure I’ll be adjusting the deck for a long time time come yet, but for now, here’s how my beautiful cyborg commander is looking – enjoy!

Breya, Etherium Shaper

Creatures
Silas Renn, Seeker Adept
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator
Sydri, Galvanic Genius
Padeem, Consul of Innovation
Sharuum the Hegemon
Baleful Strix
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Chief Engineer
Chief of the Foundry
Combustible Gearhulk
Contraband Kingpin
Enigma Sphinx
Etherium Sculptor
Filigree Angel
Foundry Inspector
Magus of the Wheel
Master of Etherium
Master Trinketeer
Noxious Gearhulk
Psychosis Crawler
Reclusive Artificer
Restoration Gearsmith
Sanctum Gargoyle
Shimmer Myr
Solemn Simulacrum
Soul of New Phyrexia
Sphinx Summoner
Thopter Engineer
Vedalken Engineer
War Priest of Thune
Workshop Assistant

Planeswalker
Kaya, Ghost Assassin
Tezzeret the Seeker

Artifacts
Armillary Sphere
Ashnod’s Altar
Blade of Selves
Commander’s Sphere
Conqueror’s Flail
Cranial Plating
Hero’s Blade
Inventor’s Goggles
Lightning Greaves
Orbs of Warding
Sensei’s Divining Top
Skullclamp
Sol Ring
Swiftfoot Boots
Whispersilk Cloak
Worn Powerstone

Instants & Sorceries
Artificer’s Epiphany
Ghostly Flicker
Trash for Treasure
Whipflare
Serum Visions

Enchantments
Ensoul Artifact
Phyrexian Arena
Ghostly Prison
Pia’s Revolution
Thopter Spy Network
Propaganda
Efficient Construction

Land
3x Plains
3x Mountains
3x Swamps
3x Islands
Arcane Sanctum
Ash Barrens
Azorius Chancery
Boros Garrison
Buried Ruin
Cinder Barrens
Command Tower
Crumbing Necropolis
Dimir Aqueduct
Evolving Wilds
Grand Coliseum
Highland Lake
Holdout Settlement
Inventors’ Fair
Izzet Boilerworks
Meandering River
Mishra’s Factory
Mystic Monastery
Nomad Outpost
Orzhov Basilica
Rakdos Carnarium
Shimmering Grotto
Stone Quarry
Submerged Boneyard
Temple of the False God
Terramorphic Expanse

So that’s how it stands right now! Will Hour of Devastation see any changes? How about the upcoming Archenemy decks? I guess we’ll have to see!!

Getting into the zone!

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and I’m once again taking a look at Magic the Gathering, after almost a week of listening to a variety of podcasts, predominantly The Command Zone, the MtG Commander podcast hosted by Jimmy Wong and Josh Lee Kwai! I think I may have been sort of tangentially aware of this for a long time now, though at the weekend thought I’d just give it a go after seeing an episode featuring TheMagicManSam, whose youtube channel I really enjoy (and you should totally subscribe to him, as he has some truly amazing content!) Over the weekend, I really fell down the rabbit hole, and having some time off work later last week I continued on, listening to a lot of those shows.

And, you know what? I got really excited for Commander!

I’ve talked about my first game of Duel Commander here, but the enthusiasm of these guys for the format, and especially the gameplay videos they’ve put out fairly recently, have made me really excited to play in the format, and build some more decks! In fact…

I’m not exactly great at building to 100-cards, predominantly because of my lack of experience I suppose, so in the meantime, I’ve bought some of the preconstructed decks from the last couple of editions, and thought I’d ramble a bit about these now!

Magic the Gathering Commander

I have to say right here, four-colour Commanders seem weird to me. There’s an article on wizards.com that details the design process they went through to get to these folks, and it sounds like it took a lot of work to get there. So, don’t expect any more four-colour Commanders any time soon! In fact, I’d be surprised if they went down the route of four-coloured creatures ever again!! The design process is really interesting to read about, though, and another article on the website from lead designer of C16, Ethan Fleischer, talks about how the four-colour factions developed an identity that echoed the Ravnican guilds or the Tarkir clans. Definitely worth checking it out!

Invent Superiority Magic the Gathering

Breya, Etherium Shaper is currently really expensive, so I was lucky to get a hold of this, I suppose. Looking through the deck, though, it’s not hard to see why – the four foil Legendary creatures above are almost half the value of the entire deck, alone! The deck, Invent Superiority, is one of the 2016 Commander decks, which feature the new Partner mechanic that basically allows you to have two Commanders on the board – Breya is the cover Commander for the deck, but the other three guys in there each have Partner, which means they can be used in combination with each other, or with any of the other secondary Commanders from the 2016 set, each of whom also have Partner to provide a total of, what, 105 combinations of Partners?! Blimey.

Partner Commanders were designed as a second way to get four-colour Commanders, effectively cheating the system, and were inspired by the Return to Ravnica split cards. These cards featured effectively two different cards that you could cast individually or, if you had the mana, you could fuse them together and cast them as one card. Interestingly, these Partner Commanders are all drawn from across Magic’s long history, with many of them having names evocative of both the Ravnican guilds, and also the Tarkir clans. I really hope we see more Partner Commanders, though I do feel it might fall by the wayside like Lieutenant. Really great stuff, though, all round!

Invent Superiority Magic the Gathering

Those four aren’t the only Commanders in the deck, however, as we have a total of seven more possible Commanders here, reprints all – six Legendary Creatures, and a Planeswalker! I’ve already got a couple of these cards, but reprints like this are always very nice. Especially when Daretti himself has been climbing in price. He still isn’t as expensive as his new card from Conspiracy 2, but he’s surprisingly costly, all the same.

I don’t really want to turn this blog into some kind of comment on the value of these things, as I measure the value in terms of how much enjoyment it can be to play, rather than how much I have to fork out to get it, but I think it’s interesting to note just how much it would cost to make these preconstructed decks for yourself. All of the possible Commanders from this deck add up to almost the total cost that I paid for it, £23.99, and I just think that’s nuts!

Invent Superiority Magic the Gathering

Finally, I just wanted to mention the fact that this deck includes copies of some extremely interesting cards that I’ve heard so much about from Magic’s history, but never thought I’d get to play – Skullclamp, Cranial Plating, and Baleful Strix. Magus of the Will is a new card that follows a tradition that has been seen throughout Magic expansions since I think Time Spiral, where older, more powerful cards are reprinted as ‘Magus’ creatures – here, Yawgmoth’s Will. These four cards bring the total value of the deck discussed so far up to around £30 as of the time I’m writing this, which is actual MSRP – and that’s just fifteen cards! There are 85 more cards in this deck! Sure, eighteen of them are basic lands, but still! It’s pretty crazy, even if there isn’t the on-colour Nephilim in the deck to enjoy! But I suppose that doesn’t really fit into the theme of this deck, which is naturally artifact-heavy (though no signets, oddly), so maybe Wizards will be looking at re-imagining the four-colour combinations further down the road? (That said, Entropic Uprising does have the white-less Nephilim involved).

Invent Superiority Magic the Gathering

I feel like we should also talk Affinity here. I’ve already said how the deck is artifact-heavy, so I suppose it’s unsurprising that the Affinity mechanic would be in here somewhere, and it’s always something that makes me feel a little twitchy. Affinity is a keyword that allows you to reduce the generic mana cost of a card with Affinity for each type of card you control that is quoted in the text, which was most infamously “Affinity for Artifacts”. I’ve played a lot of Magic on the app, which has a really godawful Affinity deck on there to play against, though I can only imagine how awful it must have been to play against these decks back in the days of Mirrodin block. The Affinity deck that appeared back then made use of the fact Mirrodin block had Artifact Lands, and led to some really dark times. The keyword has since been “fixed” in Aether Revolt by the new keyword, Improvise. Master of Etherium up there is actually a mainstay in the current Modern Affinity deck, which further adds to the value in this deck; his price brings the total deck up to £36 right now, which seems to be the current price of the deck online.

I’ve not managed to play the deck yet, as I’m still trying to find more people who play Commander with a casual approach near me. However, while I do want to try to get a game in with the deck as it stands, I’ve actually been thinking about making some changes already, mainly around going further down the artifacts route (despite what I said about Affinity!) Ashnod’s Altar and some of the Fabricate cards from Kaladesh are quite high on my list, to start!

I’ve got some other Commander decks that I’ve not really looked into yet, and I’m trying to put together a Boros-themed deck of my own that is currently based around Tajic, Blade of the Legion (or possibly Anax and Cymede) – though he’s in very early development at the minute, so I need to do some more building there. The basic idea I want is to flood the board with soldiers and pump them all up, so there are a lot of Heroic Creatures, a few Battalion Creatures, and so forth. Stay tuned for that deck coming soon, anyway!

As I said at the beginning, though, this current Commander kick has been brought on by listening to the guys over at The Command Zone, so here’s their take on the Breya deck, including some ideas for tuning-up the deck!

Playing Magic: Commander

Hey everybody!
It’s game day here at spalanz.com, and today I want to talk about the multiplayer format for Magic: the Gathering – it’s time to talk about Commander! I had a game last week, after having built a deck up over the summer, and I have to say, it was pretty good! Let’s get into this…

Magic the Gathering Commander

Commander is a multiplayer format of Magic, where decks have 99 cards that work around a central Commander, which is any Legendary Creature from the long history of the game. Additionally, your Commander deck cannot have more than one copy of any card aside from basic land cards. The deck can only contain cards that are in your commander’s colour identity – that is to say, any colour that is referenced on your commander’s card, both in casting cost and the text box.

Magic the Gathering Commander

The commander starts the game in the Command Zone, and can be cast from that zone whenever you have the mana available. Whenever if would go into the graveyard, back into your hand/library or into exile, you can instead have it return to the Command Zone, whereupon you must pay 2 additional colourless mana to cast it again, and an additional 2 colourless mana each additional time you do so.

Finally, players start at 40 life, and in addition to the usual rules for decking out or being reduced to 0 life, you will be eliminated if your commander takes 21 total damage over the course of the game from any other single commander.

I actually managed to play a Commander variant called Duel Commander, which was 1v1 rather than the usual multiplayer buffet. For my game, I had constructed a black/white deck using Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim as my commander. She’s a cheap choice, and the deck doesn’t rely too much on her to function well. It’s very much a drain-and-gain deck that uses effects like Extort to work, rather than anything that I really wanted to have going on, such as the bigger spells for reducing my opponents’ life. But it worked well enough!

Magic the Gathering Commander

The deck has plenty of stuff to really bring the pain, such as Sanguine Bond or Defiant Bloodlord combined with things like Sunspring Expedition and Meditation Puzzle. Anything to really cause some serious lifeloss while also putting me ahead!

Ayli did make an appearance, but didn’t really set the world on fire. I did manage to sacrifice my Wall of Essence after a while, which did gain me some life so that I could later use her exile effect, but yeah, the deck mainly came together through Extort. Which is a shame, because that’s exactly what my Orzhov deck does! Should probably do a blog on my Orzhov deck at some point, that is one deck that I really enjoy playing…

Magic the Gathering Commander

So yeah, Commander was a fun game to try as something different, but I suppose it would have been more interesting if it was a full multi-player experience.

Anyway, here’s my Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim deck – enjoy!

Commander
Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim (OGW)

Creatures
Suture Priest (NPH)
Defiant Bloodlord (BFZ)
Zulaport Cutthroat (BFZ)
Augur il-Vec (FUT)
Undercity Informer (GTC)
Zulaport Chainmage (OGW)
Scholar of Athreos (THS)
Treasury Thrull (GTC)
Wall of Essence (M15)
War Priest of Thune (M13)
Drana’s Emissary (BFZ)
Kingpin’s Pet (GTC)
Cliffhaven Vampire (OGW)
Pontiff of Blight (DGM)
Vampire Envoy (OGW)
Drana’s Chosen (OGW)
Alabaster Mage (M12)
Wakedancer (CNS)
Knight of Obligation (GTC)
Blood Host (M15)
Kalastria Healer (BFZ)
Paragon of New Dawns (M15)
Tithe Drinker (DGM)
Malakir Familiar (BFZ)
Shadow Alley Denizen (GTC)
Onyx Mage (M12)
Underworld Coinsmith (JOU)

Instants
Profit / Loss (DGM)
Executioner’s Swing (GTC)
Grisly Spectacle (GTC)
Rain of Blades (M13)
Congregate (M15)
Meditation Puzzle (M15)
Zealous Persecution (ARB)
Midnight Charm (PLC)
Sun’s Bounty (CSP)

Sorcery
Sign in Blood (M13)
Essence Drain (M13)
Shadow Slice (GTC)

Enchantments
Blind Obedience (GTC)
Feast on the Fallen (M15)
Eternal Thirst (M15)
Curse of Wizardry (ROE)
Lightmine Field (ROE)
Blood Reckoning (M13)
Divine Favor (M15)
Sunspring Expedition (ZEN)
Sanguine Bond (M14)
Campaign of Vengeance (EMN)

Artifacts
Phyrexian Totem (TSP)
Prism Ring (ORI)
Staff of the Death Magus (M15)
Dolmen Gate (LRW)
Thunder Totem (TSP)
Staff of the Sun Magus (M15)
Orzhov Cluestone (DGM)
Orzhov Keyrune (GTC)
Pristine Talisman (NPH)
Tainted Sigil (ARB)
Commander’s Sphere (C14)

Lands
Orzhov Guildgate (GTC)
Scoured Barrens (KTK)
Orzhov Basilica (GBT)
Temple of Silence (THS)
Forsaken Sanctuary (SOI)
Isolated Chapel (INN)
Caves of Koilos (M15)
Tainted Field (C15)
Piranha Marsh (ZEN)
Kabira Crossroads (ZEN)
Secluded Steppe (CMD)
Stalking Stones (MRD)
Shimmering Grotto (INN)
Unknown Shores (OGW)
Buried Ruin (M12)
Unstable Frontier (CON)
11 Plains
12 Swamps

I haven’t been playing a lot of Magic lately, so have been feeling kinda rusty with the whole thing. I also haven’t really been paying attention to a lot of the new cards released from Kaladesh onwards, if I’m honest! It might need a bit of a tune-up in light of some of the more recently-released cards, but I guess time will tell on that score. I’d also like to get down to some more Magic games and try this thing out in a full multi-player environment. So stay tuned for that in the new year!