Sweatin’ the Small Stuff, or, Beware Your Throwaway Jokes About Middle-Aged Women in Magic

Ladies and gentlemen, we give you this break from mediocre fanfic to talk about everybody’s favorite topic: sexism in Magic.

(OK, maybe just mine. I have weird hobbies. This surprises nobody.)

As previously, I’m not talking about big, scary sexism—the stuff that’s easy to point at and go “Wow, that’s fucked up.” I’m not going to talk about the stream of gross comments and behavior Jackie Lee, for example, was exposed to when she Top 8ed GP Baltimore in 2012. I’m not even going to talk about the humiliation and anger women feel when male opponents they’ve defeated say “I can’t believe I lost to a girl.” These acts of sexism are egregious enough that most reasonable people can nod their heads and follow along with the outrage and feel virtuous because they’re not Those Assholes.

UGH.

CRAZY ALTERNATE THEORY: Or she wore the outfit because it makes her feel good and she needs all the help she can get playing in an environment where very few people look like her and most everybody stares at her anyway while making passive-aggressive “jokes” about her appearance. Or CRAZIER STILL, she wore the outfit because she felt like it and didn’t even think about the alleged effect cleavage would have on someone’s Magic-playing ability because WHO CARES.

Continue reading Sweatin’ the Small Stuff, or, Beware Your Throwaway Jokes About Middle-Aged Women in Magic

Ceci n’est pas un journal de Venser


Survival Tip #4: Never trust a used ambulator salesman.

—Venser, Master Artificer

A flash, a thud, a faint scream cut off abruptly. This is how I know I’ve arrived.

The blood rushing to my head makes my skull feel tight and my teeth throb. I pull my helmet off, hoping to relieve the pressure, and my vision clears just in time to see a very angry mob of uncommonly short, uncommonly hairy people roaring their way towards me across the packed red clay of a village square.

I might’ve unsummoned their spiritual savior, or their queen, or their clan chief, or the last child of their dying race. I don’t know. I don’t wait to find out. I cram the helmet back on my head and furiously tap the glowing buttons set in the arms of the ambulator.

I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t know how I know the machine I’m sitting in is called an ambulator. I don’t care. I want out, and I really hope it works. My fingers seem to know. Maybe it’s the gloves. They’re glowing, too.

A flash, a sharp boom as air rushes in to fill the vacuum where I just was, and I’m out, safe from the reach of people whom I’ve wronged in ways I will never know. But where am I going now?

Who the hell am I?


Venser, The Æther-TossedAnother flash, another thud, which jars my seat bone painfully. No scream this time, which is a relief, but it’s unnaturally dark, which isn’t. Parts of the ambulator give off a ghostly blue glow, the only light in this place. The air smells wet and cold and stale, like the exhalations of a thousand merfolk long since gone. I feel the air in front of me stirring, almost caressing my face, followed by a soft, wet, sucking sound, and then a cackle.

This is bad. This is worse than incensed dwarves. I sense something forming off to my right, and before I even think about it, a surge of mana zips through me and I’ve banished it before it’s fully formed. But I can feel more presences congregating around me, and I can’t access enough mana to flick them all away like half-formed gnats.

I push more buttons, feel the ambulator lurch under me, and we’re off again.


The ambulator lands a-tilt on a patch of mud, and starts sinking slowly but perceptibly. I stare, dazed and disbelieving, as the muck rises first over the tips of my boots, then starts creeping up my ankle.

Quicksand. Of course. Wonderful.

I find myself praying to gods whose names I’ve forgotten as my fingers once again fly across the buttons.

The quicksand is halfway up my calves and the ambulator is threatening to to tip me over when I feel that sickening lurch once again. I welcome it.

As I fly off into oblivion, I picture, for just a moment, a handsome middle-aged man with a neatly-trimmed brown beard and a wide smile, blinding in its perfection.

I feel an inexplicable urge to throttle the smile off that face.


blink

I banish a mad tyrant’s plan to turn the entire countryside to ash before it is much more than intention—though I feel a heavy certainty that all I’ve done is delay him for a day at most, no more.

blink

A staggering amount of clean laundry disappears in one fell swoop. I barely manage to escape before the enraged laundress reaches me.

blink

This contraption seems hellbent on landing in the middle of busy thoroughfares for the next several trips. I somehow flicker away all the horses before they stampede on me.

blink

It was an otherwise pleasant daisy field, except for the startled and subsequently belligerent bull.

blink

I reveal a magician’s secret when I alight upon—and promptly fall through—the hidden trapdoor on his stage.

blink

I land right in the middle of a lover’s quarrel. When their astonishment wears off, they commence debating, with considerable heat, whether I fell from the sky or simply manifested in space. I don’t wait to find out their conclusion I

blink

mouthful of saltwater can’t breathe don’t breathe idiot ah shit at least the merfolk don’t look angry the weight of the seawater hurts come on come on MOVE DAMMIT GO CAN’T

blink


These are the events I remember. I have a nagging feeling there are more. Every time I leave, I can feel faint a tugging sensation in my head that is purely psychic. It isn’t pleasant. I wonder if the machine is somehow consuming my memories to power itself on these far-flung journeys?

It can’t be. Who would build a thing so awful and absurd?


What happens to the things and people I unsummon, I wonder? Is there a family somewhere now smothered under a pile of freshly-washed linens? Or running for their lives as a succession of terrified horses and cows run through their living rooms?


Vincent? Verens. Vorosh. Raven. Severin.

I’m so close to my name, I can almost feel it tripping off my tongue, the sound rippling through the air, making it real, making me real.

Vesuvius. Valen. Vernon. Niven.

Fuck.


I don’t know how long I sat in the ambulator, unconscious, in the wet heat of an Urborg afternoon, but given the size of the headache clamping my skull, it was long enough. I gradually become aware of a hearty voice booming through the dark haze I’ve curled myself into. I don’t understand what the sounds are, but as I force myself to concentrate, they slowly start to cohere and take on meaning.

“Buddy. Hey, hey buddy. You all right?”

I force my eyes open. The world is a meaningless smear of color. I blink, and things go completely black again, but not for long.

“—ddy. Hey. You all right there? I saw you open your eyes just now, you can’t be dead. Please don’t be dead.”

I force my eyes open and this time, a face floats into focus. Square, handsome. Grey eyes surrounded by crow’s feet crinkle at me, worried but optimistic at the same time. A neatly trimmed beard, dark brown. When his gaze catches mine, his face splits into a wide smile, blinding in its perfection. He hoots and slaps me on the shoulder.

Lightly-Used Ambulator“You had me real worried there for a hot minute!” he said. “You took off in that dang thing lickety-split, I mean your butt had barely hit the seat, and ain’t nobody had gotten it going before—begging your pardon, I know I told you different—and I didn’t know if I was even going to see it again, least not in one piece, and you were gone for hours and hours, gone all this morning and into the afternoon, but I told myself, Harman, it’s all right, this man here gave me his word and a hefty deposit, and sure enough, here you ar—”

A flash, and the sharp pop of air filling the space where he used to be. He didn’t even have time to yell properly. I don’t know what came over me; I’m not normally quick to anger.

I’m home again. And I remember.

Into the Maw

Hi, folks! This poor thing has been gathering dust and quietly withering away, but I reckon it’s high time to resurrect it. My first act of necromancy, then, is trying something completely new: fanfiction about my favorite legendary characters. To the pedants: start clutching your pearls now, because I’m not one to follow canon very closely, partly because I like exploring my own possibilities, and partly because I’m interested in exploring unreliable narrators, as well as viewpoints that haven’t been treated sympathetically in Magic canon.

Don’t expect anything above pulp fantasy levels of competency in my deathless prose.

And now, without further ado: the inaugural Magic: the Ficcing, featuring everybody’s favorite Orc Shaman.


Orc by Pierrick

Orc art by Pierrick

Sek’Kuar ran through a perfectly dark tunnel, the tough pads of his feet flinging up dirt and grit. Behind him, he could hear the snarling of the dogs and the shouts of humans, getting just a bit louder every second. He could smell the blood on his skin, still damp and tacky in patches. His grief sat in a tight ball in his stomach, but he could not afford to stop and weep.


His mother had stood with her back against the wall of their invaded keep and mowed soldiers down like spring grass with her battle-axe while he clung to her back in his sling. His father had lost an arm early in the fighting, but his battle-fury kept him going for a long time. He stood next to his mate, guarding her flank as best as he could, biting out throats and crushing skulls with the grip of his one remaining hand, still terrible in its strength.

But the soldiers kept pouring in, small and weak by themselves, most of them barely taller than his father’s waist, but there were many of them, and they steadily carved out pieces of Sek’Kuar’s father with sword and axe and glaive, until he roared one last time and collapsed. The soldiers surrounding him yelled in triumph and swarmed on top of him, bludgeoning and hacking at his limply twitching body.

Sek’Kuar’s older brothers and sisters were out there in the fight, too, and his aunts and uncles, his cousins, his entire clan, but he couldn’t see them, all he could see was a sea of screaming human faces, wave after wave that smashed against the bulwark that was his mother.

And then came a surge that made her shriek and falter.

Sek’Kuar’s stomach plummeted. Deep inside, despite his father’s fall, he had believed his mother was indestructible.

“Run,” said his mother, voice hoarse with pain as she shrugged him out of his sling. He landed on the floor, his eyes on the same level as her knees. They were a wine-colored pulp peppered with white splinters of bone, but somehow she still stood upright, swaying. As she shielded him with her arms and axe, she gave a great howling berserker-cry, a scream loud enough to crack rock, her last resort. The humans directly in front of her dropped dead, ears and eyes bleeding. Those for several feet around dropped their weapons, stumbled and clutched their heads like drunkards.

Sek’Kuar’s head rang, but the scream never affected orcs the way it affected other creatures. The lull in the battle gave him enough of an opening to scramble for the secret passage, ducking between human legs, scrabbling on all fours on the stone floor slick with gore.


Sek’Kuar ran until his legs burned and breathing felt like agony. He had played in these tunnels for as long as he had been able to walk, knew them as well as a seven-year-old orcling could know anything, but tonight, all he could see were his father’s blood-filled eyes and the dark ruin of his mother’s knees, and he flung himself into side-tunnel after side-tunnel at random.

He thought at first that he might be able to hide until the humans left, and the orcish ability to see even in complete dark would give him enough of an edge. Then he heard the dogs, and knew it would be only a matter of time.

He realized he was lost when the air began to smell different, and the ground changed from carved-out rock to something rougher, more damp. The catacombs beneath their keep were ancient, the remnants of an abandoned underground city carved into the Karplusan mountains, and the elders had warned him about straying.

catacomb

It wasn’t merely the danger of becoming hopelessly lost. “Old ones live in the tunnels,” his grandmother would say, though Sek’Kuar couldn’t imagine anything older than his wizened grandmother, her eyes milky from cataracts, the points of her ears limp and folded over. “Things sleep down there that should never be disturbed. The shamans have placed wards on many of of the tunnels, to keep the old ones out, or to keep them asleep. Make sure you always stay on the safe paths.”

He didn’t know how long he had strayed away from the warded passages, but he couldn’t stop now. His squat, powerful legs were built for digging and fighting, not for running. The humans were steadily eating up the advantage of his head start and his familiarity with the terrain. He caught a whiff of torch smoke, somehow found it in himself to add a burst of speed, and shot around a corner.

The smell hit him like a blow. Acrid, utterly alien. It did not smell like rot. Rot implied life: insects and mold and worms feasting on remains. This was the smell of something that had died so long ago that life was a sterile memory. Perhaps it had never lived to begin with. The stench swarmed into him, overwhelmed him: he collapsed on all fours, then rolled into a ball, retching, eyes watering, his lungs spasming.

As he lay there, gagging on the bitter air, a cold pressure invaded his head, unpleasant but not quite painful. Buzzing, wordless thoughts and sensations filled him: a dry, crackling satisfaction akin to pleasure, a species of excitement at finding living flesh to toy with, memories to plunder. It coiled around his mind, and he could feel it flexing, preparing to squeeze.

Sek’Kuar panicked, and he did what all orcs knew to do from the moment they took their first breath: he fought. He found himself clawing at his own head, even as something inside him gathered itself and struck out. He could feel the impact as it collided with the invader, a psychic sensation unlike anything he had ever experienced. He howled, and in his pain, a vision arose, unbidden, of a great dark flame that burned everything in its path. He unleashed it against the coils wrapped around his mind, putting all the power of his grief and panic into it. A flash of heat surged through him, and the thing felt it, too: it flinched, loosened its grip.

The reprieve was brief. He felt it gathering itself for a stronger, more focused strike, its surprise at resistance from such paltry prey turning into anger.

“Stop,” he croaked aloud. “Don’t kill me. I can lead you to more meat. Better meat.”

The thing paused. Sek’Kuar took that as a sign of interest.

“Humans are in this tunnel with me. They can’t be far behind. They have dogs, too. I’ll take you to them.”

A further easing of the pressure, then a brutal tightening, and Sek’Kuar realized it wasn’t enough. If the humans were close, it would be able find them itself.

“I can take you,” gritted out Sek’Kuar, as his vision churned and dimmed. “Past the wards. I’ll take you back to my keep. Hundreds of humans there. Thousands.”

Sweet relief as the thing released its grip. A nauseating hum of pleasure and excitement thrummed in his head.

Yes, it told him. I will ride you.

So Sek’Kuar crawled his way out of the foul air, a new heaviness pulsating inside his head. He could feel it looking out of his eyes, tasting the air with his nose and mouth. He stumbled back on his feet, and began moving towards the noise of the pursuing humans.

It didn’t take long for him—them—to find the humans. There were eight of them, and two dogs. The dogs took one look at him, howled, and bolted. The humans were much more foolish, and charged. None of them got very far.

infiniteethThe thing inside of him flexed, then leaped out. Humans and dogs screamed as one. Their bodies dropped to the ground, writhed, stiffened, then thrashed violently. Sek’Kuar could hear bones cracking and splintering from the convulsions. Black ichor leaked out of eyes and noses and burned slow tracks on faces, flaying open skin and muscle to reveal bones, teeth, tongue. One human clawed at her eyes, then rammed her face repeatedly against the ground, the wet crunch punctuated by a hoarse sound that might have been laughter, but the thing inside her wrenched her around and forced her to lie flat on her back, even as every muscle in her body quivered and shook to regain control. One by one, each human, each dog, was subdued into the same pose. They would have looked peaceful if not for the screaming, which did not relent but became more ragged, and a constant squirming—as of legions of fat worms—visible just under their skin.

The thing didn’t want the game to end too fast, Sek’Kuar realized. It wanted to savor every morsel, draw out every moment. It didn’t want to give the humans and the dogs the freedom of death. Not yet. It had waited too long in this empty blackness with nothing better than rats to play with.

Sek’Kuar sat with his back against a wall, and watched, and smiled.

Patterns I’ve noticed after several months of Commander Cubing:

1. If I’m in green, I snap up any and all land ramp spells.

Especially spells that toss lands onto my battlefield (and only my battlefield). Yes, even over the bombs.  How many ramp spells am I going to stumble over? Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, Hunting Wilds, Ranger’s Path, Skyshroud Claim, Explosive Vegetation, Oracle of Mul Daya, Wood Elves, Sakura-Tribe Elder. Maybe Rampant Growth. Maybe Farseek. The two that give me lands-to-hand that I compulsively draft are Shard Convergence (if I’m in three or more colors) and Yavimaya Elder. All told, there are just over over a dozen cards, out of a pool of hundreds. I’m going to see bombs and removal wheel, because the cube is stuffed with crazy bombs and good removal. Good ramp is much more rare.

2. If I’m not in green:

Two words: mana rocks.

3. Also high on my priority list: card draw and tutor effects.

I will first pick the shit out of Phyrexian Arena or Consecrated Sphinx over just about anything other than Sol Ring.

4. I don’t prioritize mana fixing enough.

I keep thinking “Aw hell, that Bayou will wheel.” And then it doesn’t. And I kick myself. Have I learned this lesson yet? Noooope. Because—

5. I’m too busy grabbing board wipes.

This girl loves her mass removal. Many people find Wrath effects annoying. Me, I like a good board reset—to the point that I’ve hurt myself in the past because I blew up the board when I didn’t need to. Hurr de durrr.

6. ETB is king.

Sam refers to cards that confer a delayed benefit, such as at an upkeep, vs. a card with enters-the-battlefield triggers, as “X and do nothing” spells. I don’t think they’re quite that awful (I’ve seen Mind Unbound go off in big and hilarious ways because people underestimate it), but man, it’s hard to argue with a good ETB trigger attached to a body. For example: I used to understimate the power of Acidic Slime, but over time, I’ve become a true believer. It not only gives me a whole host of options for shit-to-blow up, it has a deathtouch? Sa-weet. Gimme.

7. I like drafting under-the-radar Commanders.

Or running a Commander with an expected archetype and flipping that upside-down (or sideways). I recently drafted a Glint-Eye Nephilim Deck that was secretly a Maelstrom Wanderer deck. Why? Two reasons: because people can see Maelstrom Wanderer coming, and because I drafted Rune-Scarred Demon early–I mean, holy balls, Rune-Scarred is bonkers in Commander in general and Commander Cube in particular. I basically crammed in a bunch of tutors, a bunch of fatties with ETB triggers, some removal, and cards like Vicious Shadows to push through damage. And honestly, Glint-Eye is no slouch. I dropped him turn 4 consistently, before anybody else had blockers up, and he drew me cards like a boss until he ate spot removal, which was fine, because that meant less removal for Maelstrom Wanderer.

I gotta say, cascading into Rune-Scarred Demon? Deee-licious.

8. I like Clones. A lot.

If I spot a Clone early on, I grab it and pretty much commit to blue unless it becomes obvious that other colors are way more open. They’re so deliciously efficient. You have a dude with a ridiculous effect attached to it? I’d like it too, please, and at a steep discount. My appreciation for Clones became even more acute when I first started playing against Uril, the Miststalker several years ago. Four-mana sorcery speed kill spell for Uril? Perhaps not the most efficient, but fuck, I’ll take what I can get and stall for a couple more turns. Especially near and dear to my heart are guys that allow me to re-use their copying effects, like Shapesharer (in my experience, it’s a pretty great rattlesnake for a lot of Commanders), Vesuvan Doppelganger and Vesuvan Shapeshifter. A couple of under-appreciated clones: the ones that target dudes in graveyards, like Body Double and Dimir Doppelganger (graveyard hate AND a clone? Don’t mind if I do!). The best one to date, in my opinion? Sakashima the Impostor. You can bounce Sakashima back to hand to re-copy something, or you can have two completely broken legendary creatures at your disposal. I once saw Sam drop Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite on turn five, only to have our friend Squeek go “Oh yeah? I HAVE AN ELESH NORN TURN FIVE, TOO, MOTHERFUCKER!” and drop Sakashima. It. Was. Hilarious.

But my actual favorite? Evil Twin. It’s not the fastest, and it’s not the most powerful (Phyrexian Metamorph can copy swords and crazy shit like Darksteel Forge), but holy shit it it’s the funniest.


What are some of your patterns when Commander Cubing? What are your tricks to get ahead, and which cards do you go for compulsively, even when the Efficiency Angel on your shoulder hollers “Not good enough for a slot,” because the seductive whisperings of the Flavor Über Alles Demon on your other shoulder have won the day?

Cooking up something flavorful

Building a magic deck is kind of similar to opening a restaurant. Being both a foodie and a commander connoseiur, I thought it would be fun to build a theme deck around two of my favorite passions.

My first step was in finding the right executive chef to run my kitchen.  Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger seemed like an ok choice,  Kozilek, Butcher of Truth , was very flavorful but would be a bit restrictive, whereas Teneb, the Harvester gave me more options but wasn’t super perfect flavor-wise. After inquiring around a bit more I found the perfect fit:

Karador, Ghost Chieftan is the perfect balance of thematic flavor and gave me access to a whole slew of cards by being knowledgeable in cooking in 3 different colors of mana. I imagine Karador giving out the big orders as the head chef with Vorinclex being right behind him as his soux chef supplying him with tons of mana.

I definitely still wanted to include Kozilek, Butcher of Truth but station him in the protein section where he could Slice in Twain  all sorts of delcious things. Its a rather large job, so to help out Kozilek, I figured Buthcer of Malakir, Mindslicer, and even Butcher Ghoul would all be useful.

Its important to have a good relationship with your suppliers, and that is where Teneb, the Harvester is really going to shine. In conjunction with Soul of the Harvest and Harvestor of Souls, I expect to always have plenty of Fresh Meat and to Cultivate enough goodies to Feed the Packs of other planeswalkers sitting down at the table with me.

One of the biggest things that food service inspectors will nail you for is Contamination. I plan on running a very tight kitchen that is very careful to Wipe Clean my counters and be careful that our “spirits” don’t Oxidize and turn into Acidic Slimes.

The full list of the “staff and recipes” featured on this post can be found at: http://tappedout.net/mtg-decks/chef-edh/

Fighting ramp while still being fun

Lets face it, land ramping is one of the most dominant and easy strategies in Commander. It is very easy to do, and most of the cards themselves are pretty inexpensive (Kodama’s reach, Cultivate, Explosive Vegetation, Reap and Sow, etc.). The most expensive ramping card is big Primeval Titan aka Prime-time aka P-tits, and for any seasoned commander player, you have probably seen this card fought over like frat boys at an open keg.

I have played many ramp decks in all different formats, and the goal of a ramp deck is to amass more resources than your opponents first, and then capitlize on that advantage by using big haymaker effects that threaten the board state to an uncomfortable level (Blightsteel Collosus,  Woodfall Primus, Eldrazi, etc.) or refill their hand with more threatening effects (Soul’s Majesty, Consecrated Sphinx, Recurring Insight, etc.).  Ramp decks use their first few turns to jump them straight into the end game, and while everyone else who is playing fairly normal cards that cost 5, maybe 6 mana on turn 5, ramp decks are playing cards that cost 9 or 10 mana, on that same turn, and are basically way ahead than everyone else. Even with a table full of people attacking the ramp player and utilizing all their resources against him/her, it can be very difficult to really fight against the raw and stable resources that land ramp strategies produce.

Land Disruption, especially mass land disruption is the conventional answer to this, but it is so socially stigmatized, because the land disruption is either inefficient, or really good against ramp, and all other decks too.

Also, another issue with Commander is that it can be difficult for players who are new to Commander to enter Commander and play a fun game with somebody who has been playing Commander for awhile. Even if they have been playing magic for awhile, staples from legacy don’t always translate well into staples in Commander. I feel that the ownus does partially rely on older players to have decks that can interact with these newer players, and while it can be fun to build a silly thematic deck, even thematic decks run into power creep problems, and figuring out what cards are too-strong and too-powerful.

 

So to combat these issues, my two favorite cards that I run in every deck with green are the following:

           

 

Either one of these two cards can basically do the work of 3 to 5 regular ramp cards. In ramp decks that care so much about positive tempo against everyone else on the board, these two cards mitigate that tempo completely. The big ramp player still has more lands than the other players, but the difference between 5-9 lands is very different than 9-13.  Since everyone can play big haymaker spells, the ones that the ramp player is pooping out don’t feel nearly as scary when everyone is down resources.

These two cards are especially good at balancing a table of newer players to older players. I have had a collective voyage for 12 before, and had everyone but the “best” player find 12 basic lands, because the “best” player had too many duals and special utility lands that all he could find was 6 more basics.

I am also always happy to draw these cards no matter what point of the game I’m in, because I engineer my deck with these cards in mind. Lands are always a good thing to have early, mid, or late game. One of the worst feelings  in playing magic is that, “if I only had one more mana, I’d be fine feeling”, and these cards help curb that feeling away. You can also think of them as a more efficient Explosive Vegetation or Cultivate.

Also, I like playing games where everyone can cast spells, and hate boring one-sided games. These cards help make sure that nobody gets that “if I only had one more mana” feeling. Everyone can play their cool spells, and that makes the most enjoyable, fun and memorable games.

I’m always happy to have them in my deck whether it is against experienced players (its karma/political points), inexperienced players (it can make them happy to cast their spells), and mixed tables (balancing the power levels so everyone is having a good time).

Other players can’t be too mad at you for playing these cards too.  You are still letting the ramp player play his spells (you are actually encouraging him to play more fun spells), you are just taking away their unfun-advantage of dominating the board by themselves. Also, players with expensive mana bases could always just run more basic lands.

 

Keep Smiling-

LionRum

 

p.s.: On a side note, Oath of Lieges also does a similar effect, and is outside green. It isn’t as explosive, but still quite good for all the reasons mentioned.

Starting up a Commander Cube

I have the lucky privilege of playing with two very different playgroups. One I play with at home with all of my other co-bloggers, and the other is at college where I was one of the founders of its current Magic the Gathering Club. With how much fun playing Commander Cube at home is, I definitely wanted to share that with my college buddies, so here’s our start-up story on creating our Commander Cube, and tips for starting your own.

 

Issue 1:

Who’s cards are we going to use?

This was the first question that we came up with. We have two pretty experienced players in our club who have been playing Magic for a long time, myself and an one underclassman who both have pretty large collections of cards. Thankfully, both of us have enough “good/broken cards” that we have amassed through drafting and playing constructed formats over the years that were sitting in very large binders that each of us individually probably could have supported a cube by ourselves. However, since I was graduating this year, I thought that it would be sad to put a bunch of effort into a Cube, and just have it dissolve so it went to the other underclassman. We toyed around with the idea of doing a joint Cube and combining our card pools together, but that had the potential to get sticky with me leaving soon. It also left no ambiguity who would be holding the Commander Cube box-o-cards, which was nice for us as well.

For other people interested in starting up a Cube, if you don’t have one person who has been playing for forever I personally don’t think its a terrible idea to pool cards together. Considering you are probably all friends with the people you want to be Cube drafting with, you might even be sharing a card collection with someone already. However, if you are deciding to have multiple contributors I would make sure that you kept a very clear list  of who’s cards are who WITH THE CUBE, so no hurt feelings would happen.

 

Issue 2:

What do we want to spend money on?

Being Magic players, (and especially because we are college students) we like to save money wherever possible (ironic because Magic is expensive, and college is very expensive). However, it would not be good of us to all just trash these really expensive cards that are imperative to the cube. So we all pitched in and by each paying $7, we got sleeves for all the Cube including sleeves for basic lands. We would all be getting enjoyment out of playing the Cube, and by spreading the love we didn’t put the burden on any one person. We also didn’t make the person who was supplying the Cube chip in, because we were using his cards. Also, this initial investment payed for extra sleeves in case any sleeves got kinda gross from wear from playing the game (although I don’t forsee that as a problem, but better to be safe than sorry).

We didn’t spend any money on cards, and while our friend had a lot of the really broken expensive cards (Force of Will, Survival of the Fittest, Wasteland) he didn’t have every original dual land or a big daddy Jace, the Mindsculptor. The original dual lands are really nice to have because they help make 3 and 5 color decks work, so we just went to our computer lab and printed up some proxies and were/are very happy with them. I leant my Jace, and would take it home after we drafted, but there is a printed off proxy in there right now which is perfectly fine with everyone in our playgroup.

I highly encourage the use of proxies, at least for the original duals because they are super spendy, and help make the format easier. Also, if you don’t have enough generals for your cube, I think that is totally worth proxing up.

 

 

Issue 3:

How do we want to draft this?

Pack one was all of the Generals. We did this because it allows everyone to help decide what color options we want right from the start. I believe we talked about this earlier in the blog, but to reiterate, by having you pick the Commanders first, it can help give you some direction, and so nobody gets kinda screwed wanting to build something like a wedge deck, but not being able to because the wedge generals were snatched up out of hate in the regular packs, so they are forced to go awkwardly into Atogatog.

After the General’s pack, we then draft the rest of the cards with 6 packs of 15 card boosters (Just to clarify, we don’t include basic lands or tokens in those “boosters” like you would get in a regular booster pack ^^) I feel that 90 cards +your general’s booster pack picks (you can play for instance Hannah, Ship’s Navigator in Sharuum the Hegemon) is generally a really good number if you think you want around 65 playables. If you want to, you can do it with 5 packs of 15 card boosters, if your cube isn’t big enough, or you have a large number of people playing. Or you could in theory do 7 packs of 15 card boosters if you have enough cards to support your players. But I feel that 6 packs kinda nicely doubles what a normal draft is like, plus you have that extra general booster pack of cards.

Another option of drafting this that I heard from Samwise isn’t as time intensive is to just do a general pack and then just do 3 packs of 15 card boosters. This makes it more similar to regular drafting, which can save time and deckbuilding, and get into quicker more reliable games than you do with the standard 100 card highlander decks.

 

 

Issue 4:

How do I modify the cube?

I would be on the lookout for is how much love you are giving to niche-style decks.  As much as I love silly decks that go crazy off of Krak’s Thumb or Donate-ing Zedruu the Greathearted decks, generally speaking you are probably going to be better off just making those decks and playing normal commander with them, instead of sticking them in your cube. For instance, we had lots of the stuff that fits into most standard Zedruu decks, and while some of it got picked earlier (like Vedalken Plotter) a lot of it just tabled. I liked that there are enablers for things like a big recursion style deck with Merfolk Looter and Buried Alive, but some cards felt a bit too corner case and kinda forced into the cube because they were good with a certain general in regular commander. That isn’t to say don’t put in fun cards that are kinda group huggy, or require a coin flip, but rather put in cards that are usable in multiple different decks, and if they have a group hug or a coin flip to them all the better.  Some niche cards can be fun to see, but too many niche cards, and can feel off balance and too-hands-on.

That being said, you don’t want to be too-hands-off with your Cube either. One of my favorite things about Cube drafting, is that by making the Cube, you will have some control over what people are playing. Everybody doesn’t all play abusive answer-me decks (aka sit down and all massive land ramp/value decks that copy Primeval Titan and Consecrated Sphinx all day) that race to ramp and then win. Instead you see more variation, and you have people who play cards that are answers to the board state. Cube drafting forces people to interact more with each other because of the limited number of cards that are available.  This is a very roundabout way of saying that I think that while you should have value engines (like Mistmeadow Witch+Mulldrifter) and huge bombs (like Insurrection) that are fun for Commander, you should make sure that you have good balancing answers in your cube like Pithing Needle and Withered Wretch and that a good focus would be to have a good mix of threats to answers.

There isn’t a really good answer to best modifying the cube, and I think that feedback from your playgroup on things they liked and things that they didn’t like and balancing the group’s love of certain archetypes would be the best avenue to go down.

 

Keep Smiling-

Lionrum

Door to Nothingness Indeed

Hello internet! Sorry we have been away for so long, but with summer here and more time on our hands, lets get to some good old commander fun.

Today I’ll be discussing the card that was previewed today for the this summer’s core set M13: Door of Nothingness

You can read the sweet original article here: http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/rc/201

 

This card has been around for awhile, and was originally printed in Fifth Dawn, and once again in the original Planechase. With introductions out of the way, let me flat out say that I hate this card.

First off, you don’t really have the time or mana to play this in most real one-v-one casual games, so this card sits in the multiplayer realm, of which Commander is king. And even here it doesn’t have a place, because you can only play it in 5-color decks. From here you don’t have as many fun-flavorful choices outside of  Reaper King. For example if you are playing Horde of Notions you can be going elementals as a subtheme and don’t need this, Sliver Queen /Sliver Overlord can have a slight sliver theme, and if you are running just straight good-stuff with any of the aforementioned generals or running one of the goodstuff generals aka Cromat/Child of Alara/Progentius you are trying to stuff as much other goodstuff into your deck.  Reaper King gets mentioned because he at least could have the best potential to have an artifact subtheme, but even then its kinda shaky.  To conclude this long-winded point, this door doesn’t have a place in most decks.

Secondly this card undermines all of my favorite parts about Commander. Commander to me is enjoyable because it is the best way to use Magic as a medium to generate friendships and have fun together. While winning is fun and all, I am a big believer that as long as everyone had fun and it was an interactive game with big moves, back and forth play, and fun interactions, even I get comboed out with a Deadeye Navigator combo, or Overrun by an army of Elf Tokens, I’m happy if we all had a fun game. Its ending games with a kind of win-win mentality, where it was more about the story of the game, and the epic journey of getting there that was the fun part. I’m especially likening this to Dungeons and Dragons, and the joy I get out of that Wizards of the Coast game as well.

Back to this card I’m talking about for the post. I feel that this one isn’t a win-win, or even an I-win, it is a you-loose card. Boooooo. By playing this card you are intentionally kicking someone out of the game. I suppose that sometimes there will be an archenemy that rises up on a table of players and getting out this artifact could help knock that bully out of the game. However, in the few times that I have seen this played, there wasn’t anybody who was clearly in the lead and was controlling the board to an unfair state. I’ve only seen it activate once and it took out the player that had started to empty his hand on the battlefield first (and while he could have legitimately won, it would have taken much longer for him to really taken him a while to generate anything). The game went on for awhile and my poor friend just had to sit there and be unhappy while he waited for another game to finish. In summation, when this card activates, all it does is create bad feelings and people sitting out of the game.

Also, it takes a lot to get this to activate. The only time I saw this work (out of the 5-ish times I’ve seen this played) it took a lot of work to activate all on one turn. It is a bigger mana investment than Emrakul because of all of the colored mana. And you also have to have an untap effect in order to activate it. Furthermore, you only get to take out one person for all of that work. Rings of Brighthearth could net you another person, for additional mana plus having Rings out on the field, or you would need some Artifact recursion looping, like Sharum. And for all of that work you could be playing something that wouldn’t be dead in your hand all early game and didn’t need this stupid ridiculous combo that with all that mana and artifact untapping and recurring, you could be doing it with something else more fun. The slot that this fill in an EDH deck is a late game one, and I’d rather have my late game mana spells pretty much win the the game instantly (Tooth and Nail, Insurrection, Time Stretch, etc.) or ones that are good early as well as good late (Capsize, Sadistic Sacrament, Comet Storm).

I think the only thing that would make me happy about this door is Willbender or the not-really-playable-but-super-cool-and-techy Reroute. Tee-hee.

Keep Smiling-

LionRum

 

p.s.: We will have a much bigger set review for all of m13 coming up soon. So be on the lookout.

 

I’m awful at Blogging!

Hello loyal readers,

I’m clearly not the best at updating blogs and stuff in a timely fashion (I swear I’ll post more soon), for that reason, along with a few others, I finally got around to making a magic-related email address. You can now contact me at EDHcube@gmail.com for any Commander/EDH or other magic related questions or comments (sweet ideas for blog posts are always welcome!)

 

 

Go turn some cards sideways,

Sam

Commander Cube First Pick #6

Which card do you first pick and why?  Assume that your group has decided to draft your generals at the end instead of at the beginning.  How would that pick change if you had drafted a certain general beforehand, instead?

Battlegrace Angel
Trusted Advisor
Night’s Whisper
Rorix Bladewing
Arashi, the Sky Asunder
Hull Breach
Artisan of Kozilek
Mystic Gate
Revoke Existence
Future Sight
Carrion Feeder
Flametongue Kavu
Thrun, the Last Troll
Spitting Image
Tower of Fortunes