Explorations #48 - The Casual Debate, World Queller, and More
Today's article is going to have three different sections. I'm going to start off with my views on the 'what is casual' debate (sparked by discussions in the comments of my last article), then give some of my updated impressions on Zendikar, and then finish up with some info on a deck that I built around World Queller.
So What Is Casual?
Last week I made a deck based on Magosi, the Waterveil, a cool new rare from Zendikar. This deck used Magosi alongside cards like Rings of Brighthearth and Deserted Temple in order to create infinite turns. Here's a decklist for reference:
Some people seemed to like this deck a lot, and others did not like it at all. The main problem seemed to revolve around whether or not this deck is "casual". This casual debate has raged on Magic Online since the beginning: what's casual, what isn't casual? Which decks should be played in the casual room, and which decks should be restricted to the tournament practice room? I'm going to give my thoughts on this briefly.
Some people think that certain strategies should not be played in the casual room. Land destruction? Get out! Counterspells? Please! Combo decks? No way! Infinite turns? What fun is that?! Discard? I want my cards! Tribal? Go back to Lorwyn! Planeswalkers? We play by 2006 rules!
Others think that expensive cards should not be played in the casual room. Underground Sea? We roll with Underground River and Salt Marsh! Baneslayer Angel? What's wrong with Serra Angel?! Fetchlands? Go reallocate your 401k instead! Force of Will? Disconnect!
If you ask me, here's what I think people should play in the casual room:
WHATEVER THEY WANT
Personally I think it's crazy to put any sort of restriction at all on what people are allowed to play in the casual room. Magic is a game that needs to cater to a whole ton of different types of players, and not just broad demographics like Timmy/Johnny/Spike. If someone loves playing wacky combo decks, then who I am to say that they shouldn't? If they want to run Tropical Island instead of Yavimaya Coast, then why shouldn't they run their sweet dual land? It seems totally fundamentally flawed to me that people would be scared or nervous to play cards from their collection just because they might not fit within their opponent's definition of casual.
Here's the thing at the center of it all: players are never going to agree on the definition of casual. It's just not going to happen, and it's not worth arguing about. The solution to this problem is definitely NOT in trying to get everyone on the same page when it comes to the word casual. Alright, so if solving this problem through the definition of casual is out - then what is the solution?
The solution to this problem is more aggressive use of the game description as you create a table in the casual room. If you don't like the expensive cards, then make a note that players shouldn't join if they're packing Lotus Cobra. Let people know what kind of game you're looking for before getting started. If you're playing a janky deck and don't want to run up against anything tough, then ask people to bring their B decks. Messing around with a deck and it seems to be pretty strong? Ask people to bring something on the powerful side. Does your definition of casual not include the words 'counter' or 'discard'? Make a quick note.
One bittersweet aspect of the casual room is that losses have no real effect on anything, so players can concede at any time with no real negative impact. On the positive side, if you clearly advertise for a specific 'flavor' of game and your opponent shows up with something else - then you can just concede and move on with your life.
The major downside of the 'no-penalty concession' aspect of the casual room is that players can concede abuse this. I've seen players who concede whenever things aren't going their way, concede if someone plays a card they don't like, mulligan super-aggressively and concede if they don't get the perfect hand, and concede if their opponent isn't playing by their definition of casual. A more heavy use of game descriptions will definitely not solve this problem completely , but it will definitely help. It certainly can't hurt.
99.9% of the games I see in the casual rooms have no custom description attached whatsoever. Let's say you're a player who has a strong definition of what casual means to you. How the HELL do you expect to find an opponent that fits your definition of casual by just creating a game with no information or description? I'm firmly convinced that increased utilization of game description is the key to solving this casual issue once and for all.
There are two major bummers here. The first issue is that players do not currently use the game descriptions, and this solution only works if players use it. The second issue is that Wizards does not exactly streamline or encourage use of game descriptions. In the default view, you get a tiny little spreadsheet cell to use. Unless this becomes a true first-class feature of the casual room, chances are that players will not use it.
As for me, when I'm in the casual room waiting for a game... I say bring any deck you want to battle. I love playing against strong decks, weak decks, fast decks, slow decks, combo decks, aggro deck, whatever. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose - but if you have the correct mindset then you should always be able to have fun, and always be able to learn something.
There's one major misconception that I want to cover - the idea that strong decks should move from the casual room to the tournament practice room. I use to take strong-ish casual decks into the tournament practice room, and it did not go well. The main problem is that people are in the tournament practice room to prepare for tournaments, to go up against decks that are in or of the current competitive metagame. They do NOT want to play against some four card Magosi combo deck just because I happened to win a few games in the casual room. In addition to this, I'm not preparing for a tournament. I don't even have a sideboard! I'm not saying that there's no potential for a strong casual list to make the jump to tournament-worthy rogue deck - but these are the super-rare exception instead of the rule, and require a ridiculous amount of tuning and work.
So that's pretty much everything I have to say on this subject, my views on the casual room are pretty simple: stop worrying about the definition of casual, play whatever cards you want, and use game descriptions to advertise if you're not ok with other people playing whatever card they want. My whole goal of the Explorations series is to write about decks and ideas that will hopefully be interesting to my readers. I don't think it's particularly valuable to worry a whole lot about whether or not certain decks or ideas are casual. If a deck, idea, or topic is interesting - then who really cares if fits a specific definition of casual or not?
Before I move on I want to take a second to highlight a comment that Windcoarse left on my article last week. Honestly I was pretty much blown away by this one. It's very rare to read something on the internet that's so well written, especially in a forum-style post. I think he probably did a much better job of expressive my opinion on the subject of casual than I just did.
I'd encourage everyone to check out his piece, you can read it here:
And finally, I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks about this debate. Feel free to leave your comments in below!
So Zendikar. What do you guys think of this set now that it's been out for a while?
This week I wanted to make a Standard deck based on a card from Zendikar, since the combo deck that I made last week could only run in Extended or Classic. So I fired up Gatherer and started browsing through everything in Zendikar. This was a little uninspiring to be honest, less jumped out to me in a crazy way than I thought would. This was a little disturbing to me, since Zendikar is the "land matters" set - and lands are my absolute favorite Magic cards!
I was thinking about how this could be the case when I found a forum post on the mothership that summed up my thoughts perfectly. I guess this is the week when forum posts sum up my ideas:
"... Also, I really feel like the end product DOESN'T make me care all that much about lands. The lands themselves are not as impressive or interesting as Ravnica's lands were. Rather than being the land set, it is the "lands come into play" set, which is, beyond being narrow, a bit lame..."
I think this little conversation snippet really sums up my issues with Zendikar. There just aren't many cool lands, instead it's all about landfall. Let's take a look at the complete list of lands we got in Zendikar.
We got awesome full-art basic lands. These are fantastic, although when it comes down to it we're not talking about any interesting functionality - just badass art and style.
This cycle is great, I give it an A+. From my point of view, these five cards are the highlight of Zendikar. This cycle really captures what I would personally want Zendikar to be all about - awesome lands! Four of these even push mono-color design a bit, which is something we haven't really had in Standard for a while.
ANOTHER cycle of lands that come into play tapped and produce two different colors of mana. I guess these are ok, but we've gone through so many different versions of these through the history of Magic.
The enemy fetchland cycle completes the full set of the best mana-fixers of all time. These cards are awesome for sure, but feel very "been there, done that". Of course it feel like this because we HAVE been there and done that. I'm glad we finally have the enemy fetchlands available, but it really feels like we should have just had these all along (in Scourge maybe? Or Legions, if they didn't have that 'all creature' thing).
This cycle is completely underwhelming to me. I love the idea of 'spell lands' - but these effects are just so generic. It's almost as if Magic R&D was having a contest to see who could come up with the lamest effect to use for each card of this cycle. Seriously. Flying? +2/+0? +1/+1? Lose a life? Gain a life? Could they possibly have some up with anything less inspired?
So that's it for lands in Zendikar. For a set that's supposed to be all about lands, where are the manlands? Where are the Mazes of Ith, Dark Depths, or Safe Haven style lands? Why isn't Dryad Arbor in Zendikar? Wouldn't this have been an awesome time for some really powerful land enchantments/auras? Shouldn't there be more creatures that 'power up' or get bonuses depending on the lands in play? Couldn't ANYONE at Wizards come up with a more interesting drawback than "come into play tapped"?
There's one more set where "land matters" coming in Zendikar block, so I guess we'll have to see what the future brings. It just seems like for a big first set of the 'land matters' block, land doesn't really matter very much. Kind of a bummer, especially for a land junkie like me.
Enter World Queller
Even though the lands of Zendikar are a bit uninspired, I still wanted to find something to build a Standard deck around. One card that does seem like an awful lot of fun in Zendikar is this guy:
World Queller is my kind of card. It has a unique effect, provides a 4/4 body, and currently sells for $0.15! It reminds me very much of an old favorite of mine:
In the olden days, I used to love to play a mono-white Legacy prison deck based around Smokestack, Crucible of Worlds, Armageddon, and Ancient Tomb/City of Traitors. Here's what an updated version would look like:
The basic idea is to control the mana, use Smokestack to control the board, and then finish off over the long games with Elspeth tokens. Exalted Angel and Magus of the Tabernacle are other potential win conditions. Smokestack doesn't currently exist on Magic Online, so this deck can't really be played in Classic. Braids, Cabal Minion and now World Queller are potential alternatives for the unique effect that Smokestack provides.
What makes Smokestack so powerful? Stacking the upkeep effects of Smokestack correctly allows you to stay one permanent ahead of your opponent. Stack it so that you sacrifice BEFORE adding the soot counter and you'll clean our your opponent's quickly. Exploiting Smokestack in this way allows you some serious control over the board state. This exact play isn't possible with World Queller, but there is another way to break the symmetry. Since you get to choose which type of card will be sacrificed, go ahead and pick something that your opponent has and you don't have. This play puts you one card ahead on the board. Not bad, huh?
The other differentiating aspect of World Queller is that it also brings a 4/4 body for your five mana. While this isn't fantastic, it's not terrible either - and opens up the use of World Queller to decks that range all the way from aggressive to control. Today I want to try out World Queller in an aggressive or midrange strategy for Standard.
Boros Bushwacker Overview
Let's take a quick look at one of the surprisingly powerful decks in new Standard. Boros Bushwacker may a terrible name, but it's a brutal RW landfall aggro strategy. Here's a sample list:
This may remind you of some Zoo decks of old, combining cheap and powerful creatures with burn as reach to finish off your opponent.
Boros Bushwacker relies heavily on playsets of Steppe Lynx and Plated Geopede, which are powered up by twelve total fetchlands. Ranger of Eos searches up more threats, Path to Exile clears the way, and Lightning Bolt/Burst Lightning finish off your opponent. This deck is lean and mean, bringing the aggression fast. If the opponent stumbles at all in their development, then Boros Bushwalker will take them out.
So... World Queller?
So what does this list have to do with World Queller? If you'll notice in the decklist above, there aren't any permanents other than lands and creatures. If our opponent plays out any sort of planeswalker, enchantment or artifact, then we can take it out without sacrificing any permanents ourselves. My basic plan is to bring the 'only creatures and instants/sorceries' theory to a ramp/midrange Naya deck built around World Queller. I'm going to run some mana acceleration, some strong creatures, and World Queller for a bit of board control.
Here's the theory. In a deck like this, World Queller is able to take out anything other than a creature without forcing me to sacrifice my cards. If I pair this ability with high quality creatures, then I should be able to win on that front as well. Let's see if we can make that happen.
I also want to make a deck that's pretty light on the budget this week, and adapting the Boros Bushwacker strategy is hard on a budget. It runs twelve fetchlands, which are key to the double-landfall attack, and you can only get so far on a playset of Terramorphic Expanse and some Panoramas.
Here's what I'm going to try out for my first list:
This list runs eight mana accelerators (4 Harrow and 4 Rampant Growth) alongside 20 powerful creatures. This list was chosen as a balance of strength and budget, and as a result the deck packs a wide variety of threats. Meglonoth is a personal favorite, a roadblock that's nearly impossible to break though. Ant Queen creates a swarm of monsters, Woolly Thoctar beats early and hard, and Mycoid Shepherd triggers lifegain from every creature in the deck. Naya Charm gives the deck a bit of versatility. Fireball can take down creatures early or go straight to the face in the late game. World Queller does everything that we discussed earlier.
Here's the basic gameplan to utilize with this deck:
- Use Harrow and Rampant Growth to hit 5 or 6 mana.
- Start deploying threats, one big dude per turn.
- Use World Queller to take out any problematic cards along the way.
Seems like a lot of fun, huh? Before we hit up some test games, let's go through the cost of this deck quickly.
4 World Queller = $0.60
4 Woolly Thoctar = $1.00
4 Meglonoth = $0.48
4 Ant Queen = $0.40
2 Feral Hydra = $0.20
2 Fireball = $0.16
2 Mycoid Shepherd = $2.00
4 Naya Charm = $0.80
2 (Souls' Majesty) = $0.20
4 Rampant Growth = $0.08
4 Harrow = $0.80
4 Jungle Shrine = $1.40
3 Rupture Spire = $0.24
This deck runs a lot of rares, but they're all cheap. The full budget of this list comes out to just a little over $8, which seems pretty low to me for a budget deck. If you want to cut it down another $2, then the Mycoid Shepherds are easily replaceable with whatever big creature you'd prefer. I wanted to leave the Shepherd in, since I've been looking for a deck to play that guy in for a long time.
Let's test this out!
Game 1 vs Ranger of Eos/Hedron Crab Mill
My opponent plays out Seaside Citadel and then Hedron Crab. I play out Rampant Growth and then Harrow, my opponent starts using the Crab and Terramorphic Expanse to mill away my library. He plays out Memory Erosion, which turns up the clock on his millstone strategy considerably. I use Naya Charm to take out the Crab.
Thanks to all of my Rampant Growth and Harrows, I have enough mana for World Queller. World Queller gets the job done and takes out the Memory Erosion. My opponent reloads with Ranger of Eos into double Hedron Crab plus Terramorphic Expanse for a sweet twelve card mill. I cast Meglonoth and start the beatdown alongside World Queller. My opponent saves himself from six damage with Path to Exile, but this gives me plenty of lands to Fireball away both Hedron Crabs in one shot.
My opponent plays down Jace Beleren and I take the planeswalker down with World Queller. Khalni Heart Expedition comes into play and World Queller takes care of that too. I cast Ant Queen and get through for lethal damage with eleven cards left in my library.
Analysis: Game one and World Queller has already proven his worth. In this one alone he took down Memory Erosion, Jace Beleren, Khalni Heart Expedition AND did sixteen damage. Not bad for 3WW huh? The ramp aspect of this deck also worked out pretty much perfectly in this one - I always had plenty of lands and access to all three colors. Solid game one.
I really liked my opponent's deck in this one, Ranger of Eos for double Hedron Crab... talk about an exciting play!
Game 2 vs Jund Dragons
My opponent plays out Savage Lands, I get Rupture Spire into Harrow into Mycoid Shepherd. Crucible of Fire comes into play for my opponent, and then he uses both Jund Charm and Lightning Bolt to take down my Shepherd. I cast another Harrow, followed up by Woolly Thoctar and Meglonoth. I attack for the win.
Analysis: My opponent commented how he didn't draw anything small. Crucible of Fire seems like a lot of fun though. I'm assuming he has Broodmate Dragon. I wonder which others he's running? Shivan Dragon? Flameblast Dragon? I wonder what he was waiting for that was 'small'?
Game 3 vs Vampires
My opponent starts off with Vampire Lacerator, I start off with Rampant Growth into Mycoid Shepherd. He plays Doom Blade to get rid of my 5/4, but I'm able to come back with Ant Queen. He responds with double Child of Night and starts chump blocking. I cast Soul's Might for five cards and then play out Rupture Spire, Harrow, and Woolly Thoctar on my next turn. Talk about some serious velocity. He gets double Vampire Hexmage, but I am bringing serious creatures into battle.
Analysis: I wasn't exactly sure about the inclusion of Soul's Might in this deck, but in this game the power level it displayed was pretty insane. Being able to draw five cards after you've deployed a threat basically guarantees that you'll be able to pound the red zone with giant monsters.
Game 4 vs UB Underworld Dreams/Planeswalkers
Here's the hand I decide to keep: triple Rampant Growth, Harrow, Plains, Forest, World Queller. I start off with Rampant Growth and my opponent plays Howling Mine and then Khalni Gem. I use Harrow followed by a second Rampant Growth, ramping my mana significantly. My opponent plays out a second Howling Mine and I respond with World Queller.
Doom Blade takes down my Queller, but thanks to the double Howling Mine I'm able to play another one. My opponent plays Underworld Dreams, but World Queller takes it out. I cast a third World Queller and my opponent Doom Blades one of them. Jace Beleren comes into play and goes down to World Queller, so does Sorin Markov. I attack with World Queller and then Ant Queen for the win.
Analysis: So in this game World Queller took down Underworld Dreams, Jace Beleren, and Sorin Markov as well as doing a whole ton of damage. Nothing wrong with that!
Game 5 vs White Weenie
My opponent starts off with Kor Aeronaut and then Kor Skyfisher. I cast Rampant Growth and then Woolly Thoctar, but my opponent takes the 5/4 out with Pacifism. I cast World Queller and my opponent has another Pacifism. Thankfully though, World Queller has no problem busting up enchantment and I start to get rid of my opponent's, which lets me get some damage through.
My opponent plays out another Kor Skyfisher and we trade damage. He casts Conqueror's Pledge for a ton of tokens, but I've been ready for that. I'm holding double Naya Charm, so I tap down his whole team and attack for the win.
Analysis: Once again World Queller was awesome in this game. These big guys took down double Pacifism, and got through for a whole ton of damage. My deck did a decent job of holding off in the face of a quick and evasive attack, racing damage with plenty of time to spare. Another solid showing for this deck.
Was That Casual Enough For You? =)
So that's all the time I have this week for test games, so I'm going to wrap things up. I had a lot of fun with this deck, and I'm happy that I was able to put together something this much fun to play on such a tight little budget. If you're into attacking with giant monsters in a reasonably competitive Naya ramp strategy with a cool Zendikar junk-rare twist, then I'd definitely recommend that you put together this deck. You can have it all for the cost of just TWO booster packs!
I'm also really happy that the World Queller experiment ended up a success. Queller is a pretty unique effect, and it's always hard to know how cards like that are actually going to work out in practice without spending some time in test games. During these test games, there wasn't a single time that I had World Queller in my hand that I didn't want to cast him. Whenever I didn't have World Queller, I wished I had World Queller. These are signs of a solid card. That's one junk rare that turned out to be ridiculously useful.
There's one World Queller strategy that I didn't have the heart to use, but that I really want to mention here. Using World Queller to blow up lands can be a really devastating strategy. Thanks to all of the Rampant Growths and Harrows, you'll typically have WAY more land than your opponent. Let's say you manage to accelerate into a turn four World Queller. If your opponent is stumbling on land at all, then you could easily make sure that his land problems continue while bringing the beats. If you decide to use this strategy then be sure to watch out for those 'land destruction is evil, even if it's attached to a five mana Zendikar junk rare that does tons of other stuff' people.
Adding Money to This Deck
So usually my decks go in the other direction: I make a deck and then show how to budgetize it. This time I made a budget deck and I want to talk a bit about how to spruce it up if you have some extra cash to throw at the problem.
One awesome aspect of this Naya Ramp Queller deck is that the creature suite is completely customizable. I chose the creatures in this version with an eye towards a balance of power and budget, but you can feel free to customize the creature suite with whatever you happen to have lying around. I'm just going to throw out a few options here, but I'd definitely encourage you to go crazy and play with whatever creatures seem like fun to you.
Baneslayer Angel is, of course, a completely ridiculous creature (and current costs $50!).
Apocalypse Hydra and Protean Hydra are WAY more exciting than Feral Hydra.
Scute Mob is basically guaranteed to hit the +4/+4 each turn.
I didn't realize that Path to Exile was a $2 card, but this deck almost definitely wants a few copies.
Bloodbraid Elf can bring the beats and cascade into mana acceleration. Nothing wrong with that. I also had this one in my original list before realizing it's a $2 uncommon.
Earthquake is another card I want to mention. The creatures in this deck, other than Ant Queen tokens, pack some serious toughness. Earthquake allows you to take down aggro creatures (Vampires, for example) and also provides reach to finish off your opponent.
Banefire is a lot better than Fireball and gives you some outs if you run into a control deck that's giving you Hell whenever you try to cast a spell.
The last thing I want to mention is that you shouldn't be afraid to add a couple of creatures with sky-high casting costs into this deck. In the test games above, I often found myself with eight or ten mana available. You could try out Godsire or Iona, Shield of Emeria in this role, or whatever other giant monster you prefer.
Until Next Time
So that wraps it up for this today. Hopefully between the casual debate, the talk of Zendikar, and this World Queller deck you got something out of this article. Feel free to chime with a comment below if you agree or disagree on any of these subjects.
Join me next week when I take another look at budget deckbuilding, but in a much different way than I did today. The week after that is article number 50 and I was planning on putting together some sort of retrospective on the articles I have done so far. I've always enjoyed reading when other writers do stuff like that.
Thanks for reading!
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