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By: Paul Leicht, Paul Emerson Leicht
Mar 09 2012 12:19pm
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 Art by Paul Emerson Leicht

Legendary Delays
My apologies to those readers expecting a Legendary Personalities article. My next interviewee (FD_Sunie)  is a college student and is neck deep in exams lately (and works, and has a life) so has asked me to wait a while for her to respond to the slew of questions I sent her. Hopefully maybe next month or later this month I will be able to publish it. If not then maybe the month after.

In the meantime I am also open to suggestions for another candidate to be interviewed after her. So far each interviewee has been someone I personally know and respect but if there is a jewel in our midst I am unaware of, or under-appreciative of please let me know. I may not take all your suggestions but I will definitely consider them.

In related news...
I don't know exactly when this years CCC nominations will start but I'd like to formally present two candidates I think should go: gamemaster32 (Keya Saleh), our peerless host of Freed from the Real along side Runeliger and AJ_Impy. (who received an invite last year but couldn't go due to reasons beyond his control and should get a reinvite if possible imho). Keya's involvement in magic seems tireless, he finds time to go to Grand Prix, and does Dailies, PEs and also works full time and still manages to get the FFTR show done each week with good insights and entertaining talk of the game and the client. He'd represent us well being a competitive player and a very nice guy on an even keel.

The other nominee should come as no surprise as I just wrote an article about him this year: Lord Erman. He's a family man with a heavy work schedule so I don't know if he will be available but as I wrote in that article, I think he is a legend that WoTC should recognize. Lord Erman does a lot of small things to help the community mainly from his writing gig here. Being a source of m:tg wisdom, and a superlative builder should be enough to put him into consideration. He also appeals to sections of the community others might ignore.

Enough said. These two get my vote and they should get yours too, whenever that comes around. I think like previous years you just send in an email to customer service via their online form.


Careful Consideration

And then there is the troll (re: disrespect) topic...
I have recently noticed an upswing in trolling on the mothership boards in the Magic Online section, along with a lot of complaints about WoTC in general. There is certainly much to complain about.  I may be wrong (which happens shockingly quite often...) but I feel publicly badmouthing someone even if it is to their face is an unproductive waste of time and also contributes to the "wasteland" factor.

How many of you actually ever go to the forums that Wizards provides? Not many I can assure you. Some of that is because of the abysmal quality of the forums themselves. Some might be because of the perceived over-moderation. But some of that I think is because some people who are regular contributors there feel it is their purview to put down new posters and to generally be ass-hats to anyone they disagree with. There are varying levels of asshattery going on so I won't say all of it is deliberate but it seems unsubtle to say the least to keep calling out specific WoTC employees because you are dissatisfied.

Customer satisfaction should be a primary consideration for WoTC but even if it isn't, taking an extremely negative tact is not likely to win your case for you. In fact I think though some WoTC employees do post occasionally, they don't find it a friendly place to chat so they don't really get into it like they used to. There was a topic aside about respect brought up by our own wilmheath who owns this site and MTGOTraders.com. I agreed vocally with what he said and lets just say that "conversation" snowballed. I might have hurt some feelings.

If so, my apologies. It may also be that there is such an atmosphere of acrimony and vindictiveness that people don't actually read what is being said, instead 'hearing' a prerecorded message in their head that matches their expectations. If so then that is too bad. It would be nice if we all had a little more respect for each other without needing to demand it. How can we expect to engage in adult conversations if we can't control our behavior on a simple forum? I include myself in this because while I think I am generally well intentioned sometimes I speak first and then analyze later. Which is a little backward for preventing poor responses.

After all there IS plenty to talk about. Leagues are once again mentioned the Quarterly report. Does this mean we will finally see something before the end of the year? Or is it just more smoke? There are also plenty of things that need fixing and the only way to prompt Wizards to do that is to tell them so. But again, keeping the tone respectful and not full of venom goes a long way towards being heard.

Infinite what??
Dark Ascension has brought a few new interesting ideas to the forefront for me. One isn't actually new at all but was given renewed life for me when I discovered its interaction with a DKA Card: Sudden Disappearance. The card I am talking about is Sundial of the Infinite. Sundial is a card that has been hiding in obscurity since Lord Erman's excellent article on this overlooked gem.

I expected after that article people would be encouraged to build decks with it and run rampant over various formats until his prediction of its eminent banning was brought to fruition. This happened to not be the case.

Instead it has languished in the bargain bins at .05 on MTGO Traders and no one has brought it out to play even though there are some perfectly reasonable additions to the mix like Glimmerpoint Stag which exiles a permanent ... well permanently when Sundial's activation ends the turn with the Stag's return trigger on the stack. Sudden Disappearance does that on a grander scale leaving only their lands behind. I guess Research & Development realized how broken removing their lands would be and so nixed that. Doesn't matter, still an amazing feat.

In this day and age of token madness Disappearance is almost reasonable by itself as a sweeper. I say almost because 6 converted mana cost (cmc) is just too much to pay unless your opponent has a slow hand. Which is why adding Realm Razer to the mix would not improve your odds much though it would make for a complete hose if you got both off.

Even so, in a deck dedicated to removing permanents, Disappearance fits right in as the long game plan. Here is a list I came up with for Standard:

 

You will notice some one and two offs here. The reason for each is because more didn't suit the list. In the case of Mimic Vat, for instance, while it combos very nicely with Sundial it is not a card you want to draw two or three of in your opening hand. One is more than enough to start with because first you need something to use it with. Timely Reinforcements is a great card if you are rushed and have a need to create blockers/gain life but that is not a primary concern in this deck. Mainly it is in here so I have an out vs rush decks but it is not important enough to demand more spots. Remember the Fallen was an failed experiment. Turns out it was never relevant and future versions of the list swapped them out for better cards.

Fiend Hunter is a great staller if you need a few turns without facing down some menace. Unfortunately with the amount of removal in the game the human is just not resilient enough to justify a full set. I added two Oblivion Ring to take their place. And while I am not a huge fan of Ring since it is also a temporary solution unless you can sundial the return trigger on your turn. (Guaranteed never to happen if your opponent actually knows what Sundial does.)

The singleton Sun Titan is an all purpose late game recouper, helping to bring back important parts of the deck that have been countered, discarded, or destroyed. The two Buried Ruins also fit this bill nicely, helping to get back the essential sundials. Even just having one in play gives some players pause before they destroy your artifact. Especially if you happen to be a little flooded as was often the case with this deck.

Flash Flood Floodgate Flood Plain

The splash was my concession to the need to fully utilize Wall of Tanglecord as a rush stopper. Particularly vs Delver. On the play it is reasonable to expect to get a wall out before a delver even hits the table. And often it just stops the flying tokens created with the myriad spirit token generators too. I would say this happened often enough for me to be glad to splash green just for that purpose. Gavony Township seemed like a no-brainer since it makes those walls Titan-proof (tm pending) ... and provides a hard to beat win condition if you get to keep any creatures out after removing the threats provided by the enemy. Red struggles harder to kill your suddenly higher toughness creatures and even Dismember might not be enough eventually.  I am a fan of inevitability when I am not facing it.

Archon of Justice combines nicely with Day of Judgment taking out pesky non creature permanents including sometimes crucial land drops. Not that I recommend using it that way typically. It is intended more for the plethora of not so fun to face, (yet not good enough for prime time) enchantments and artifacts and planeswalkers that inhabit Just For Fun.

Over all the deck is a lot of fun to play but does not dominate. It has poorer match ups vs decks that are also heavily centered on removal but does not have any weakness in particular. However it seemed to be lacking something and I was determined to experiment further before putting the idea to rest.

Fliebana suggested adding Venser, the Sojourner which is a perfectly reasonable card except for one thing...It adds to the mix. Which requires different lands to be played. So I started the deck list from scratch. Here is the result: 

 

Things got decidedly weirder as I had to tweak numbers to fit all the ideas into one deck. Added in 4 Sphere of the Suns to help with both acceleration and color fixing. Also added in an extra Oblivion Ring to combine with Venser since you can trigger Venser's first ability targeting the ring and put the return trigger on the stack and then end the turn. This makes removing things permanently a little easier. Of course doing this with a Stag is also good. Also added in a couple ISD duals and some Evolving Wilds to stabilize the colors. Additionally since drawing Sun Titan is not a certainty I added a Moorland Haunt to the mix. Another way to reuse dead creatures is important.

However this deck stunk worse than the monowhite splashing green deck. Not that it didn't have its moments but it also had some serious fails with drawing excessive lands without a use for them. I decided another tweak was in order. Harking back again to some of Lord Erman's technology I added in some wellsprings from SOM Block. Also added to the mix Mentor of the Meek as a card drawing engine. Here is that deck list:


The key difference here is the four wellsprings. added in in place of 4 lands and Mentor of the Meek which turned the deck from being disappointing occasionally with floods or one shot attempts to control the game that then fizzled vs other control variants or good removal. With Mentors in the mix drawing cards became a given and made the deck much more resilient. Taking out lands for wellsprings allowed for a smoother start without needing to keep flooded hands for fear of being mana short. All in all this deck has had some great results in Just for Fun. It is not a tourney ready deck but I did have a few people ask me if it was, with at least one comment of "It should be!" I wouldn't count out the archetype but with all sorts of new archetypes becoming very popular I wouldn't expect much in the way of spectacular finishes.

I found the idea so much fun I started to consider ways to turn this into a tribal variation. Wizards seemed to just fit the bill though I did design something with Elks as well. (A little bit like Vantar6697's Elk's in _Kumagoro_'s article here.) Playing with Elks just wasn't satisfying. Perhaps because there are no blue moose. (Meese? Mooses?). Here is the deck list I went with:


Back to 24 lands I go here. The reason is, this is a different deck than the above three. It does have the Stags in it still but mainly it is about the exiler humans. Mistmeadow Witch needs extra mana every turn and adding the 4cmc Galepowder Mage makes the deck a little more mana intensive.  Magus of the Jar is meant to be used when you have few cards in your hand and your opponent has lots. Use it similarly to Wheel of Fortune here. Memory Jar would be great too but there was no room. The other humans are useful for enters the battlefield repetition. The formula: "Elixir of Immortality + Trinket Mage = Repeatable life gain and reuse" makes Mill strategies pretty null and otherwise may keep aggro decks at bay. Stalling until you can remove the board is a very big theme in these decks. Even more so with Wizards. Teferi is mainly in to stop degenerate combos like cascading into Living End, Restore Balance, etc. This deck could use some testing and I'd be delighted if someone took this as a basic shell and found a way to break the Apocalypse with it.

Nameless One Nameless Inversion

What is in a name?
Back in 2005-2006 I was moderating a text based RPG browser game (long defunct since then) which was designed much like an MMO (with very basic yet lovely graphics done by the masterful Oishii (of Adventure Quest fame) and other talented artists.) I chose "Winter Wolf" as my nick because it seemed both on theme (my character was a werewolf) and personally relatable (my hair started turning grey very early on and gave me a kind of grizzled wolfish look when I let my beard grow in) as well as a powerful reminder of the responsibility of my position.)

A friend who knew I still loved M:TG and that I had by then forgotten my beta MTGO account name (and password duh) bought me a new account and as a joke typed the account name as Winter.Wolf. Since we had discovered gmail let us use periods in our emails a few years before, this was a private joke between us. So I have often had an interest in the wolf creature type as a result. I know, strange to associate with a particular card type just because of a happenstance name, but that is the story of my life. 

Howl of the Night Pack Wolfbriar Elemental

And then there were wolves...
So far I haven't discussed much DKA here aside from the dramatic if marginal Sudden Disappearance. No Pro Tour/Grand Prix appearances are expected for THAT card. Huntmaster of the Fells on the other hand might see quite a few more than it has already. His protegé Young Wolf certainly caught my attention and Immerwolf dissatisfied and turned to Gamemaster32  for advice. He had some useful insights.

His first comment was...try to obtain four huntmasters. I agree. For now two is what I have. His next comment was much more relevant to me: Add in Birthing Pod. Suddenly those undying guys Young Wolf and Strangleroot Geist) make a lot more sense to include. Undying means that I play my guy...pod it into another guy, and I don't have to pod THAT guy to ramp up. Instead I can pod the returned guy and get another 2 or 3 cmc creature. Here is the first list I came up with:


Usually pod decks run 4x Pod or 3x and one Phyrexian Metamorph. I wanted to preserve the wolves idea here so I went with a lot more 2-3 ofs than I might have otherwise. Strangleroot Geist is so strong, I felt it was imperative to add 4. Brimstone Volley was initially Prey Upon and that card was fine as removal but I felt it was really not good enough after I had to double prey upon with a geist just to kill a potentially lethal Bloodline Keeper. Volley is often for 5 in this deck as Morbid is very easy to trigger so I went with four of and it has not disappointed yet.

The main deck anti artifact creatures (Manac Vandal), and (Viridian Corrupters) deal with opposing swords which are a factor even in Just For Fun. Maybe even more so than we would think, since it seems more serious standard decks have mostly relegated those to the sideboard. This version of pod seems to play much more aggressively tending to win quickly before midrange decks and control can build up steam. I found this to be true even against the many zombies and curses decks out there. Haven't seen Burning Vengeance or Delver much since I started playing this so those archetypes might be on decline, or they might just be temporarily off sides while other strategies come to the fore. Despite Grafdigger's Cage in DKA there has been no presence of that card so far which makes me think people don't want to play with it since it is primarily hate for specific decks and many players are having fun with reanimation and self-mill.

I also tried a version without pod using some very jank cards like Feed the Pack and Moonmist in conjunction with (Mayor of Avebruck). That deck didn't perform nearly as well but it did inspire me to put a wolves tribal wars deck together. Here is that list:

Wolves!
A Tribal Wars format deck By Winter.Wolf
Creatures
4 Watchwolf
4 Immerwolf
4 Briarpack Alpha
4 Young Wolf
4 Pyreheart Wolf
20 cards

Other Spells
3 Ajani Vengeant
4 Moonmist
1 Garruk Relentless
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Lightning Helix
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
18 cards
Lands
2 Kessig Wolf Run
1 Stomping Ground
4 Forest
1 Temple Garden
4 Sacred Foundry
1 Gavony Township
1 Taiga
1 Plains
2 Mountain
2 Plateau
3 Arid Mesa
22 cards
 
Immerwolf

 

This deck isn't blazing fast but it is considerably faster than I expected. Turn 1 Young Wolf, Turn 2 Watchwolf, Turn 3 Immerwolf is a lot of damage fairly quickly. Turn 4 playing a planeswalker with a curve like that was enough for several concessions. I don't think this is quite good enough for the Apocalypse (yet) but it is getting there. Moonmist is a funny card. I never actually needed to use it but just having it as a threat was good enough to push through damage when otherwise my opponent might have strategically blocked.

Kessig Wolf Run does yeoman's work in the late game, but since it produces colorless mana I cut it to 2 so I could still have one Township in the mix.  (Funny story: I used Kessig to kill an enemy Phantasmal Image one game. The funny part was my opponent just seemed to ignore ithe land when he played the image for no advantage.)

Kessig Wolf RunPhantasmal Image

I prefer  Swords to Plowshares over Path to Exile in this case as a minor bit of life gain is less costly to this deck than ramping them into stabilizing mana. Though if you can pull off the Path to Exile at the end of their turn right before you one-sized Armageddon with Ajani that is quite the pinnacle of fun. Lightning Helix over Lightning Bolt is also something that could be tweaked. I like having LH against high octane burn decks. Gaining another 3 or 6 life while removing a key attacker can be enough to change the game in my favor.

The list lacks my usual suite of sweepers because its role is "the beatdown" typically not "the control".  I have mentioned this in the past about the roles a deck plays. (This article by Mike Flores tells the tale better.) With only eight removal (though excellent cards they are) this deck likes to swing fast and hard. However, it does run 3x Ajani Vengeant and that can lead to some very controlling games, depending on whether you use his first or second ability. Using ability #1 to lock down a land, or creature is a very controlling strategy and leads usually to an ultimate of blowing up their lands which is controlling too in a sense.

Stopping them from casting their killer cards means they don't win. Using #2 to clear the way is an aggro strategy and it can also be used to deal the final 3 needed for the win which still puts Ajani more in the Control camp but allows it to be a beatdown usable tool. Garruk Relentless is another goes both ways card as it can be used to kill a small to medium creature, and then to search for another creature (though in this deck that is almost never the plan.) Or it can be used to make the thematically on target Wolves tokens.

I expect Wolves to become more popular as people find ways to abuse them even further. Currently I have seen a ton of werewolf decks but few wolf decks because I think people disregard the furry little guys. But make no mistake a wolf bite is both vicious and deadly.

The Devil you say!
On the topic of Tribal Wars decks I also got excited for devils when the DKA spoiler first came out. AJ_Impy who often has playtested decks with me in the past built a few variants of the Devil tribe and actually went 4-0 in Apocalypse #42 as chronicled by the indefatigable _Kumagoro_. We had a match where I felt my deck was just terrible and AJ liked it and wanted to show me so we swapped decks and while I was able to pilot his Devils deck to victory he demonstrated that my deck had potential. His list as I played it:

 

The Devil You Say?
A Tribal Wars format deck by AJ_Impy
Creatures
4 Taurean Mauler
4 Pitchburn Devils
4 Charmbreaker Devils
4 Scourge Devil
4 Squealing Devil
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Starstorm
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Slice and Dice
4 Terminate
16 cards
Lands
4 Badlands
3 Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle
13 Mountain
4 Dragonskull Summit
24 cards
 
Terminate

 

So what was more natural than me trying to build a variation of this with the new devils? Of course with a new set of creatures came a new set of ideas and this was my first attempt:

The Devil's Bidding
A Tribal Wars format deck by Winter.Wolf
Creatures
4 Scourge Devil
4 Squealing Devil
4 Pitchburn Devils
4 Hellrider
4 Flayer of the Hatebound
20 cards

Other Spells
4 Patriarch's Bidding
4 Corpse Dance
3 Spawning Pit
4 Buried Alive
15 cards
Lands
1 Diamond Valley
14 Mountain
4 Badlands
Swamp
2 Bloodstained Mire
1 Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
25 cards
 
Patriarch's Bidding


My thinking was, here are cards that want to die and come back and deal damage. Living Death, and Living End won't accomplish this goal since they don't bring creatures back directly from the graveyard. But Patriarch's Bidding does. That does mean that Grafdigger's Cage does stifle it but you can't live in fear. This deck unlike many of my decks is an all-in strategy. Either it goes off and wins or it doesn't and loses miserably. There is no middle ground.

A note about Diamond Valley: Since it doesn't (usually) tap for mana,  I count it as a spell hence the 25 land count. The Hellriders are less expensive now than they were when I first made this list a few weeks ago but they are still somewhat expensive so you might want to swap them out for the incredibly cheap one shot pingers Forge Devils or artifact hating Torch Fiends. Both are reasonable if not amazing like Hellrider seems to be. It isn't a Rage Forger for devils but it does make attacking more lethal than ever, even if your opponent does have blockers.

A flavorful alternative to Corpse Dance is Devil's Play which is nasty x2 though the second time is usually a bit harder to pull off.  Corpse Dance works nicely with Buried Alive and the sacrifice outlets, which is why I included it instead, reinforcing the reanimator theme.  I chose to not include Valakut in the mana base as the deck is mana hungry and an enters the battlefield tapped land won't be as effective in getting the deck off the ground. As it is Devils will try to win on turn 5 or later which means you have your work cut out for you without complicating your land draws.

Knowledge PoolCurse of Exhaustion

I LOCK YOU!
A fellow in chat (Jared08) mentioned a new combo he was subjected to and felt was too cool not to share.  It becomes possible when you add Curse of Exhaustion to your Knowledge Pool decks. Instalock ftw! :D. I was going to produce a deck list with that in mind but I think I'd rather inspire you johnnies to go to town on this one and see what your imaginations can produce. It is a funny thing to lock someone and wait for them to realize they can't play anything but land. Not a guaranteed win by the way since they could beat you with man lands or deck you still, but good enough for most to cause instant concessions.

So after all this you might be wondering what is so infinite about wolves and I say

XenograftTurntimber Ranger,

Which is a combo I found out about shortly before the CCC last year and used to test standard decks with against the team. Also won a few two headed giant games with the combo deck

Conclusions:
It seems to me, for all their faults, Wizards of the Coast is working very hard to produce a highly enjoyable game product for us here at MTGO.  Humans, Wolves, Devils and Vampires and Werewolves,  Zombies and Spirits are all  tribal in nature and this cyclical so I expect less of that in the next couple sets but it is nice to see some Vorthosian love thrown our way. 

In regards to giving and getting respect and engaging in arguments online, I humbly submit that no one is right all of the time and some of us (myself included) are wrong far more often than we'd like to admit. But this is a game we all love. If we speak in that spirit of love perhaps we won't sound so hateful, angry or just cranky. If you have an opinion about any of these subjects I urge you to share it.

Until next time hope you have a blast playing in  whatever format strikes your fancy.


Magickally,
Paul Emerson Leicht aka Winter.Wolf on MTGO.

6 Comments

Great article! I'm actually by Kumagoro42 at Fri, 03/09/2012 - 13:25
Kumagoro42's picture
5

Great article! I'm actually halfway through so far, it's packed with good stuff. And now I want to play wolves myself!

Nice to see you do this kind of articles too, besides the interviews.

I agree by one million words at Fri, 03/09/2012 - 13:27
one million words's picture
5

I want to echo your coments about the negativity in the forums. My predecessor at State of the Program was a staple in the forums. He often reported on interesting threads and discussions. I wanted to continue that, but the forums are such an acidic and unpleasant place I just don't visit very often, and have no interest in contributing.

The people still hanging out in the forum regularly talk about how the forums are dying, and how to save them. They should implement one simple rule - any caustic, negative comments in reaction to a post or message should be banged out in an email, and sent only to fellow trolls. Fellow trolls are the only one who will appreciate them, anyway. Any comments actually posted in the forums should be at least civil, if helpful is too much to ask.

Old saying: if you can't say something nice, STFU. If people want to save the forums, that's how it can be done.

Excellent article, BTW,

Thanks for the support Paul. by gamemaster32 at Fri, 03/09/2012 - 22:04
gamemaster32's picture
5

Thanks for the support Paul. Still not sure that I contribute enough, but it is nice to be appreciated.

I love that you take your time and invest so much in your articles. Keep up the good work man!

Thanks for the comments guys. by Paul Leicht at Fri, 03/09/2012 - 22:43
Paul Leicht's picture

Thanks for the comments guys.

@Keya no doubt in my mind you do.
@Pete I think Erik helped keep things real a lot and kept tempers from flaring too much. Bubba is a great VCL but it seems like he's doing it alone now and the Mods aren't always cooperative or involved to help steer things in a more positive direction. I agree with the golden rule idea. It is tough to stop one's self from responding to something that is disagreeable but I will make more of an effort to do so.
@Kuma I look forward to seeing your take on them.

Wolves by grapplingfarang at Sun, 03/11/2012 - 04:30
grapplingfarang's picture
5

That wolf deck looks very solid. When are you going to get it in Tribal Apoc?

It could happen. More playing by Paul Leicht at Sun, 03/11/2012 - 15:51
Paul Leicht's picture

It could happen. More playing is in order though before that happens and then I have to manage to get there on time. Unlike yesterday. :)