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By: Paul Leicht, Paul Emerson Leicht
Oct 30 2015 12:00pm
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Magical Slugs and Other Legends

By Paul Emerson Leicht, October 2015.

A Magical Slug:
Many moons ago, a little known creature entered upon the horizon of my attention during a Tribal Wars Apocalypse tournament. It was a time of flux. Flippers_Girafe and Shardfenix were struggling to find time to run the popular player run event and eventually had to bow out. Enter BlippyTheSlug. It has been years since Blippy started doing this. In fact after he became a well-known figure in the Player Run Event (PRE) circuit I wrote an interview with him (and commander legend Leviathan) here.

BlippyTheSlug


Meanwhile we have all gotten older and our circumstances have changed. Needless to say Blippy has done amazing work for our community, helping not only to run the ordinary PREs that keep us (or at least our most spiky selves) in prize tickets, but also writing articles to entertain us with twitter antics, and poetry and inform us about the state of the Modern meta on MTGO (and elsewhere). He pushed for and created an amazing annual tournament celebrating our long lost and lamented brother in cards: Erik "Hamtastic" Friborg. Ham on Wry has had great support from not only many of the wonderful traders and bot owners on MTGO but WoTC itself. Every year Wizards has thrown in prize support in the form of packs to each Ham on Wry event. This is a tribute to Blippy's popularity with the folks over in Renton and also his ability to get people together to have fun.

For many, these would be laurels enough and a mighty fine cushion they would be. But Blippy wanted to do more. On his birthday every year he has run a tourney called Slugapalooza and given away massive prizes to the participants. Certainly a reverse of the usual birthday event. Typically people expect gifts on their birthdays. I know I do despite all evidence to the contrary that I should. Blippy has arranged yet again for this to happen.

When? November 26th 2015.
Where? MTGO (Details to be announced in his own article.)
Prizes? Over a thousand tix in value.

But there is a hitch. Without expounding on all the details (and thus maybe spoiling a great/terrifying story for Blippy), let's just say Blippy is in Germany and is temporarily homeless and needs to pay for a wireless connection for the day and he has started a gofundme which you can find here: https://www.gofundme.com/py6mgn6w

He has of this writing, raised $50 of $250 needed so this is where you can come in. If you have something and feel at all beholden to Blippy over the many years that he has done for the community, give him a hand. 

The end of an era.
As of the time this article is posted the Wizards forums will likely be defunct. I wrote extensively about this last month and while I am still feeling quite salty (angry even) about the cavalier way the community has been treated lately at some point we have to move on. So we have. Many fine posters on the old forums have moved to the home given to us by No Goblins Allowed! I can't swear it will be anywhere near as active as the old forums were before their implosion but go check it out. If you have stuff to say or just want to see what your fellow magic online players are thinking about you should sign up today. Also of note mtgsalvation which has always been a bastion for mtg players is offering sanctuary to displaced mtgo players as well as mtg paper players.

A format for the vorthos among us.
One of the really positive fun things that has come out of the Community Cup Challenge (aside from the wonderful unhinged lands, thanks again WOTC!) is the continuation of last year's successful Ironroot Chef part of that event. It struck me recently after talking to various friends that what we could us on MTGO is a community building player run event. IRC seems like a great way to do that. While we don't have the Wizard (Nate) or Graham as judges I expect there are enough vorthos among us that finding people willing to judge would not be a problem.

The key idea here if you have not heard of this format is: You and your opponents all start with "cooking ingredients" selected from a small group created by the judges. With those ingredients you must then build a deck and play x matches against your opponents. Then you must face the judges who rate the flavor of the decks. My envisioning of how this would work as a PRE is it would take place over several weeks. On day 1 you get to select (via a draft/bid auction) your ingredients and then you have 1 week to build your deck. You can team up with someone if you find the task daunting but you both will split the prizes should you win any. The next week you play the decks in random pairing over a period of swiss rounds. Then the judges get your lists and rate them for flavor over the next week.

Now this might be difficult to coordinate because of several factors. 1) Recruiting reliable and happy judges. 2) Prize support. 3)Interest from vorthos players. This last might be the most difficult as many players don't really care all that much about flavor and those that do sublimate this with their spikiness of just wanting to win.

Another format of some interest...
Randy Buehler of WOTC and Pro Tour HOF fame has begun a gauntlet of Modern - No Banned List on MTGO, on season 4 of his Gauntlet of Greatness series which he shows on twitch.tv. While I do not love Modern as it has turned out, it certainly is different without a banned list. You get Pod back and you get Storm back and really a whole bunch of decks become viable. As I said to AJ who pointed this format out to me, being able to play casual modern pod again without facing force of will would be nice. 1-2 turn kills are not entirely unheard of without the banned list in Modern but Vintage is similarly explosive and still manages to be a vibrant and fun format. The difference might be that the cards that are broken in Vintage for the most part are restricted, not banned.

At any rate Randy's opponents are preselected and thus he is not going to struggle with the interface to set up Modern No Banned list matches. I really look forward to the time that we can create formats in the client that respect the rules set for them (3 player Tribal Wars Modern with Kaleidoscope for instance.) This would be an immense move forward for MTGO.

and instead...Breaking News from the October 27th wizards news updates:

#casualmagicisdead

And then the news came today (Oct. 27th 2015) that Wizards are killing casual magic on MTGO in the form of a number of "rarely used" formats. The link to the announcement is here

The excuse is wrong. Rarely used is wrong. And it isn't that people aren't fond of these formats. I assure you we/they are. There are Player Run Events every week for some of them. Standard Pauper and Tribal Wars Legacy for example. And even if they were less than popular why remove options that are going to make some players happy?

The question is...is this just a coincidence that the forums are closing this week and then in 2 weeks these perennial formats are being removed? I don't think so. I think WOTC does not want to hear about how much the casual crowd loves xyz because they have a plan that does not include casual players. The removal of the Commander decks from the store was a step. As was the decision not to sell Commander 2015. The removal a few years ago of the Multiplayer did not have the chilling effect they wished for so they are taking steps. And finally when we are in torpor due to all these beatings on our magic psyche they remove the formats practically from under our noses. (They slipped it in the middle of a whole bunch of lists to make it extra easy to skim over.)

This not accidental or some flunky making a bad decision without regard to the higher ups. And this is not "our hands are tied, the higher higher ups are making us do this." This is an institution-wide decision and it makes me really, really angry. I did not think WOTC could make me more angry. I am considering not only selling out of magic but also selling off my paper product and maybe burning my WOTC produced D&D products. I realize this response is not particularly mature or sane. But it is how I feel right now.

Dastards! Sneaky, conniving Dastards! How Dare you!! Such unmitigated villainy! Well of course I am not buying stuff straight from the store so my power is limited. I haven't done so since 2013 but to be honest I regret those purchases now more than ever. Because clearly I put my money/faith in a feckless organization. I've been on Twitter (ugh @ the twitterverse but you can find me there at WinterWolfMTGO) and Reddit as well as Facebook and the forums still available to me to express my displeasure.



This is extremely unacceptable. Make Wizards understand this by voicing your opinion on twitter, reddit and anywhere else they actually look.

Some important links: 
The announcement in full:
AJ's plea for WOTC to stop this madness. Yes we joined reddit finally in order to talk about this crucial topic.
My own thread on NGA. See what members are saying. Add your own 2 cents.
Here is the webmail link for Wizards. Let them know what you think.
magiconlinefeedback@wizards.com is the more direct email link.
Use the 'Ask me anything' link.
The initial promise by Forsythe.

I almost feel like deleting the next section because it seems to reinforce the idea that Wizards has that Standard is the format that matters and screw everything else. But I won't. Because casual standard has more in common with Tribal Wars and Two headed Giant and Standard Pauper than it does with the cutthroat Pro Tour/Grand Prix tournament scene. So here it is.

And of course Standard has rotated and the new cards are awesome...

To start with I want to talk about Unexpected Results. I mean Bring to Light. This card is probably no good in tourney despite some very interesting attempts to make it so. But in casual play? Wow. Bring to Light fetches anything from Planar Outburst to Siege Rhino to Utter End to any number of Commands. You could cast Fearsome Awakening on anything in your graveyard. Sadly it is an instant so casting it to fetch an instant isn't as good as you might like. And you must remember to add mana of different colors. If you fail to do so you will only be able to fetch lower cost spells to the minimum of 2 or less.

Another amazing card that seems pretty ordinary at first glance, is Catacomb Sifter. This card 2/3 Eldrazi costs 1 but it is colorless. So that in itself means it contributes to any number of other cards that care about color or colorless. Ugin, All is Dust, Dominator Drone, Ghost Blade, Tomb of the Spirit Dragon all care about this. It also creates a 1/1 colorless spawn token. The spawn token has a self-sacrificing ability which is really good too.  And then when you get a death trigger, you get to scry 1. Scrying as we discovered (yet again) during Theros is immensely powerful. Being able to do so while getting other benefits does not suck.

Which leads to my next favorite card Blood Artist...oh wait I mean Zulaport Cutthroat. Who while lacking the full ability of his Innistrad cousin is still darned good. Good enough that there are a bunch of Aristocrat copycat decks out there trying to exploit death triggers in every conceivable color combination that includes black. Yeah, yeah this is a deliberate thing WOTC did. But hey sometimes we have to get the fun stuff that is obvious. Here is a Rally the Ancestors Deck with some of these cards in it just to mix things up.

 

While this deck is a lot of fun it is a bit tough to play against some of the faster aggro decks in the format. Also it is greedy mana base wise depending perhaps a bit too much on the duals and trilands. I was inspired by this fact and by the amazing deck Christian Calcano brought to the Pro Tour, UB Aristocrats:


While Christian's deck is straight I added to take advantage of a few cards that I love like Villainous Wealth, Catacomb Sifter and Blisterpod. Deep down this deck is driven by two cards. Whirler Rogue and an old former Standard favorite Nantuko Husk. Whirler Husk makes evasive little artifact dudes but the real trick is that the three creatures created by this dude give Nantuko Husk unblockable and then provide it with fuel to make it a huge beatstick for a turn. But one of the alternative ways to win is the death of a thousand cuts that Blood Artist became well known for.

Exploiters all create death triggers and also provide either search or bounce effects in addition which means you get multiple triggers off every creature, which is why this deck works. Trigger advantage is not as far as I know a term in the magical lexicon but maybe it should be. Getting multiple effects off one guy is pretty neat but it can also just be overwhelming. Which creature does the removal holder hit with his Ruinous Path when you cast Whirler Rogue? (Husk obviously if you have one but assuming you don't?)  

As I was playing around with the above decks I ran into an article talking about the landfall decks. Yeah Landfall is back in BFZ. But unlike Zendikar, in my humble opinion it is actually fun to play with in this set. Sadly they didn't give us back Oracle of Mul daya but there are some great interactions. And we have fetches as well as Evolving Wilds and Blighted Woodland and one of the most heinous land grabbers: Oblivion Sower. 


Mentor is such an awesome card but it has almost no love in Standard. Here, however, it finds a home of sorts among these Enchantments and Lands. Yes there are two Dromokas in the Sideboard along with a dark Sidisi but the deck is centered around the idea of triggering both Mentor and the Retreats. Retreat to Hagra is one way to kill your opponents out of the blue and Retreat to Emeria slowly grinds out wins. Animist's Awakening is pretty great mid-late game and does OK when you have a few lands already. What it isn't is a Rampant Growth. Casting it for less than x=4 is a bad idea. Unless what you are really aiming for is clearing non lands off the top of your deck which is at best a desperation move. Don't keep a hand with 2 lands and Awakening without some other plan. Kiora is probably subpar in this deck but then again she is just not her former self. I loved Kiora from Theros but this one is harder to ultimate and does not defend itself well without creature help.

On the other hand it is good for getting double duty out of an attacker and at worst it can provide you with a hand refill. Planar Outburst provides you with some options late game if you are in trouble. And while Hedonist's Trove might be a win more it really ends the game pretty quickly once it comes down.

Tribal Wars is a thing every Saturday

Here are some of the Tribal decks I've been working on. First up of course the linear Allies as you might expect. is the base for good allies in BFZ so that is where I started with the tribal version. 


This deck is all about the repeating the triggers over and over as in death by a thousand cuts. This plays very aggressively of course but it is more of a midrange build. The wraths mean that you might hold off on playing out your dudes until after you clear the board or you might even attack with all, wrath and then Rally the Ancestors. March from The Tomb is another way to resurrect your army. Utter End hits more targets than Plow or Path so that was my choice for this deck but either or both of those are perfectly acceptable replacements.


The focus here moved to doing a more timmyesque kill in one shot style play via Genesis Wave with many allies triggers placed on the stack all at once. As such the mana base is changed to reflect this with Harabaz Druid and some Frontier Sieges to make a mid to late game Wave a possibility. Because of the Waves the sorceries I am using here might be better as permanents like more Enchantments and or artifacts or planeswalkers. This is just one build of many I made. In the next one I added blue...


I took out the Theros artifact enchantments to make room for Retreat to Emeria. Retreat to Hagra might also be interesting here as could Retreat to Corel Helm because untapping a mana producer with a search land would be a pretty powerful way to fuel a Genesis Wave. I am tempted to take out the wraths entirely and replace all the other (none G Wave)  non-creatures with retreats.  This last deck was inspired as were some of the Standard decks by Christian Calcano's aristocrats variant. 

 

Instead of Husk we have Vampire Aristocrat and Whirler Rogue once again serves the function of making the saccing Vampire unblockable. The numbers in the deck are merely for convenience sake. I encourage those who enjoy this kind of deck to use 4 ofs of the key creatures. Thada Adel being the exception. It is doubtful Thada as a 4 of would be effective. Knowledge Exploitation is another 1 of I would not add more of. It is good as a silverish bullet but it is pricy unless you can get the prowl discount. Morsel Theft on the other hand is pretty good as a stall mechanic or to keep you alive until you can get your kill online. Mirror Mockery is very good with the sac outlets as it provides an extra body when you put it on an attacker and as a blocker when you use it defensively. I would not be averse to removing the Bitterblossoms for them. On the other hand, Bitterblossom is of course a nice body producer for the Zulaport Cutthroat triggers and pumping the Vampires.

Conclusions:

Until they remove the format, please feel free to talk to me about playing Tribal Wars games on MTGO. If you feel strongly or at all about Casual play on MTGO please let WOTC know in any way you can. As always thanks for reading. Hope to see you at Blippy's Slugapalooza. In the best of worlds all the complaints we might have will be naught by then. If not, hopefully we will persevere.

Magically,
Paul Emerson Leicht, Winter.Wolf on MTGO (also Telir there), WinterWolfMTGO on Twitter and Reddit now.

9 Comments

It's a dark time indeed for by ricklongo at Fri, 10/30/2015 - 14:27
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It's a dark time indeed for MTGO. I hope people do start filling their inboxes and twitter feeds with angry pleas for them to reconsider this nonsense.

WOTC just make it easy to by Bartimäus at Fri, 10/30/2015 - 16:37
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WOTC just make it easy to leave the best game in the world - from this perspective an enourmous achievement if an extremely sad one.
Still strange that those ppl get paid for this and not find a nice Place in ...
The story with Blippy needs some support even when leaving mtgo- Tx for pointing out!

You know where I stand. I'm by AJ_Impy at Fri, 10/30/2015 - 18:50
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You know where I stand. I'm probably not leaving over this, but I will not stop campaigning for Tribal.

I doubt I will sell out and by Treamayne at Sat, 10/31/2015 - 20:44
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I doubt I will sell out and leave, but I certainly have almost no reason to play anymore. Hate draft, dislike tournaments, Standard and Modern. 5-6 player FFA was great (really miss Tribal FFA in the multi-player room).

Wrote a letter, hoping for the best, but expecting the worse; since its obvious they want to try ignoring us by closing off lines of communication. Good article though, thanks Telir.

PS: Why do all my comments seem to trigger spam filters?

Thanks for the comments guys. by Paul Leicht at Sat, 10/31/2015 - 21:44
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Thanks for the comments guys. I hope things work out for us. I really do. I am not holding my breath. I am also concerned about Blippy and Hope this article helps draw some attention to his plight.

@Trea its because you are a meat magnet? :p (I don't know.)

I think it may have been by Treamayne at Sun, 11/01/2015 - 21:07
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I think it may have been because I was putting a discrete subject in the box instead of having it truncate the first line of text. Maybe?

Nope by Paul Leicht at Sun, 11/01/2015 - 21:45
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Nah that's not it. It's something to do with your ip address or something like that. Because I have certainly done that myself and I don't get the captcha thing.

Blippy has given a lot of his by Joe Fiorini at Mon, 11/02/2015 - 07:36
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Blippy has given a lot of his time and effort to all of us. He has my support, whatever I can give I will.

I sometimes feel as if PureMTGO is the last bastion of the social aspect of Virtual Magic, a hub for a community that is increasingly fractured as time goes on.

Nice work on the article, I'm sharing it anywhere I can post links.

Awesome to hear, Joe! I hope by Paul Leicht at Mon, 11/02/2015 - 17:04
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Awesome to hear, Joe! I hope this garners Blippy what he needs.