Sunday, 18 December 2011

UK Modern PTQ Schedule 2012

By Wagz

Hi all! Sorry for the lack of regular content recently, my Camtasia subscription ran out and I haven't had much focus on any particular Magic formats. I've been looking a little at Modern, but with potential bannings/unbannings coming up on Tuesday I haven't been committing to any particular decks. I've been committing to buying Tarmogoyfs though, that card is going to be great in a bunch of decks (get your Spell Snares now). For those who are interested, Modern is the format of the next PTQ season, the schedule for which can be found below:

21st Jan - Manchester - Fan Boy 3
18th Feb - Dublin - Gamers World
3rd March - Glasgow - Spellbound Games
10th March - Cambridge - Inner Sanctum Collectibles
17th March - Leeds - Patriot Games
24th March - London - Dark Sphere
31st March - Cardiff - Firestorm Games

As you can see, this is a pretty good spread around the country with a couple in the North, a couple in the South and one in each of the three non-England countries. This obviously isn't a perfect spread but it's much fairer than we've had previously. The big news in particular is a LEEDS PTQ :D. I'm sure this is exciting for many people and we really want a big showing at the event (which I highly doubt will be in the Patriot Games store itself) to show the PTQ organisers we mean business.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Team Leeds Drafting #3 - Cube with Wagz and Catton

By Wagz

Hi all! We have an unusual format for you today. I've not talked about my Cube on the blog before apparently but it's just over 400 of the best Commons and Uncommons since original Mirrodin (Peasant Modern to some) in one box, ready to draft with. Why would you bother, I hear you say? Well, everyone has their fun casual formats (e.g. EDH) but some like theirs to be a competitive one. Also, a great way to keep up the competitive skill levels is to play a variety of formats. This will help develop your "fundamentals".

"Fundamentals" are important in Magic because it helps in a variety of aspects of the game, from generic Card Evaluation, to Format Evaluation and Deck Selection, and simply in regular Draft Formats also. Being able to get a general feeling for why one deck style beats another one and which cards make a difference to the general rule helps to make a good player a highly competitive one. We've gone to the effort of trying to record one such draft, using the Fact-or-Fiction style.

We have 92 cards from the Cube (6 boosters of 15 cards, with an additional 2 for reasons soon described) shuffled and piled up. 4 cards are removed from the top and laid face up. Just as with the card "Fact or Fiction", one player splits the cards into two piles and the other chooses which pile they take (with the splitter getting the other pile). By repeatedly alternating this process both players end up with a bunch of cards to make their deck from.

The Draft:

I was reasonably happy with my deck but it lacked in certain areas, which become apparent in the games. My decklist for reference -
1: Sunlance, Ponder, Dismember
2: Merfolk Looter, Vedalken Mastermind, Flashfreeze, Mana Leak, Remove Soul
3: Fathom Seer, Willbender, Wall of Frost, Flickerwisp, Blinding Souleater, Wall of Denial, Necrotic Sliver, Crystal Ball, Oblivion Ring
4: Guardian of the Guildpact, Ninja of the Deep Hours, Faith's Fetters
6: Nucklavee, Kiss of the Amesha, Mindculling
Lands: Vivid Creek, Jwar Isle Refuge, Dread Statuary, 7 Plains, 7 Islands

Games 1 & 2:

Game 3 + Conclusions:

Fundamentals to be learned are mentioned in the videos, but I'll reiterate them here for clarity. Decks with many colours often have to play lands which enter the battlefield tapped in order to reliably cast their spells. A great way to beat those decks is to take advantage of them effectively using their mana to make land drops and use all your mana to be very aggressive in killing them. If your deck is unable to kill them quickly, then you'll need to beat them on card quality or present some kind of trump card. My deck wasn't really able to do either of these so my best bet was to try to beat him on card quantity - as I managed in the one game you saw me win (the off-camera game we played I had a draw which attacked him before he fixed his mana).

The other lesson is that when you're not in much trouble it is better in general to develop your board rather than try to cut back theirs. On the other hand, when you are in trouble then it can be better to try to cut down your opponent's board than try to develop your own. This basically boils down to the advantaged player having or not having lots of options and being able to press their advantage accordingly. I should ask people to pay heed, however, to a common misconception of general rules - they should be seldom broken or else they're no longer General Rules! If you commonly deviate and use the excuse that it's okay to do so sometimes, then you haven't understood what "sometimes" means. Anyway, that's all for now so I hope you enjoyed the videos and took away something about competitive Magic being found in uncompetitive formats :).

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Team Leeds Drafting #2 - Inn with Wagz

By Wagz

The second in our series of draft videos recorded on MODO - this time Wagz drafting 3x Innistrad. With the PTQ in Manchester coming up this is a relevant format for anyone intending on top 8-ing. Please leave any feedback in the comments below - where would you have done things differently?

The Draft (note that if the video quality is not high enough for you then try maximising the screen, or buying Team Leeds a massive computer):

Round 1:

Round 2:

Round 3:

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Controlling Red inn Standard - One Game

By Wagz

Hi all, the new Standard is shaping up and I believe the format is fairly under-explored. When a ramp deck with Primeval Titan can take the format by surprise it's indicative that people aren't really thinking about it, since that style of deck was extremely constraining for the entirety of the last season. Although I'm happy to just play whatever the best deck is (or at least the best deck I have available to me, as with my Zoo forays in Legacy), regardless of deck archetype, I am often at my happiest playing Control. Mostly Aggro-Control, but pure Control is good too.

When building a control deck in an uncontrolled format, you have to account for all the possible avenues of attack. One of the fore-runners in aggressive decks is the Red Deck. An emergent deck in any format, since some people are just that way inclined, this plays aggressively-costed damage-dealing permanents and cheap, efficient burn spells. There is still some discussion on the optimal builds of current Red decks, but the important cards appear to be Stromkirk Noble, Stormblood Berserker, Shrine of Burning Rage, Brimstone Volley, and Koth of the Hammer. After that people are filling out their curves with an array of cards from Furnace Scamp to Volt Charge. Personally I think they're all fairly interchangeable so long as you have a good aggressive curve and match your own personal play style.

I have been playing on Cockatrice with Manaleak store owner Tu Nguyen a lot, mostly in control mirrors, but I occasionally throw other decks at him for the lols. This time around I played the role of the Red deck versus his Grixis control list. So here begins our one game:

My opening hand had no one drop, but it had two copies of the dreaded Shrine. Also, I was on the play so I could sneak one under a Mana Leak and then see what happened later on to resolve the second one. While this hand may not look really powerful, it has a plan and Tu doesn't know if my plan is Stromkirk Noble into Stormblood Berserker, or Goblin Arsonist into Shrine. This sort of dilemma is exactly why it's hard to build a control deck right now - if you want to be a deck with the right answers then you have to defend against creatures of all sizes and speeds, Artifacts, Planeswalkers, really all sorts.

I made my Shrine on turn 2 and had drawn a Koth and then a Grim Lavamancer. Although slightly fearful of a counter, I manned up and cast my second Shrine, which resolved alongside my Lavamancer to charge up the Shrines. At this point my plan was to merely cast my spells and get damage in where I could, but at some point I would be able to simply deal enough damage with the Shrines.

On my previous turn I had attacked for one, then got an Arc Trail Dissipated and landed a Spikeshot Elder. This turn I had drawn a third Shrine, but I didn't really need this one. I held up the mana to shoot Tu for one damage with my Elder because my Shrines were getting me to the point that a single damage really was giving Tu one less turn to draw out of things.

My Spikeshot got killed at the end of Tu's turn, but without drawing another Mountain I was content to attack with Lavamancer and pass the turn to keep mana open for my Shrines. This game really was all about them, and as we see:

Tu luckily draws the Geistflame in the last possible turn to kill both my Shrines and I'm forced to concede. I mentioned earlier the great draw of turn 1 Noble into turn 2 Berserker, and if we look at the cards Tu's drawn then he would have handily handled that curve (though I still have all these in my hand). Control decks really need to be able to answer a lot of different things right now if they want to stay reactive, which is why a lot of the decks that appear controlling (e.g. Solar Flare) are really quite proactive in what they're trying to achieve. It remains to be seen how people choose to make a true control deck in this format (if it is achievable and/or good) but my thoughts are heavily in favour of a draw-go style deck with a lot of Flashback going on since Snapcaster Mage really is the best creature in Standard (all the best creatures ever cost 2 it seems).

Monday, 3 October 2011

Dwarven Trader – Investing In Innistrad

By Dan Hiscutt

Greetings, and welcome to my first article on Magic finance. It’s geared mainly towards newer players, but hopefully everyone will find one or two of these tips useful.
I will be concentrating on buying cards for cash, rather than trading, as this is my forte. As long as you carry a smartphone or a printout of Starcity Games latest buy/sell list, trading should be simple and relatively hassle free.


The Magic year

Let’s kick things off with the yearly cycle of set releases :-

The “Big” Autumn set – this set – currently Innistrad, is drafted roughly a million times more than the others, Innistrad sealed is also the format for the coming PTQ season. There will be a lot of this set around for trade and purchase, keeping the prices reasonably low. Look at the price of Scars of Mirrodin cards now to see the kind of values Innistrad cards will eventually level out too.
Although there is not so much of a rush to pick up Innistrad cards compared to other sets in the block, there is still an opportunity to get yourself a pre-order bargain. Simply because people are slow to evaluate all the new mechanics and interactions at the start of a block, and often mis-price cards.

The middle set – “Dark Ascension”. This set will strengthen and add nuances to the themes in Innistrad, cards will generally be evaluated quickly, they will fall straight into existing decks and will be priced correctly much sooner. You will have to be quick to grab a bargain.

The last set – currently unknown name. Drafted the least, I highly recommend picking up any cards you need from this set as soon as you can, as the prices will only go up.

The core set – Wizards seem to use this set to experiment and plug gaps, as they (in theory) can pull a card from the next year’s core set if it becomes a problem. In practice they seem to keep popular (and/or financially expensive) cards in for two years, so they don’t anger players. See Baneslayer Angel and the Titan cycle. It will have a few key cards for standard, but plenty of junk rares and reprints too.

Trading tips

So then, in no particular order, here are some tips.
  • The day before the pre-release is the best time to pre-order cards (before anyone has a chance to actually play with them and re-evaluate). Buying as early as possible gives the most reward, but also the most risk! As a rule of thumb, ignore the 6-8 most expensive rares in the set, and also the 20-30 or so cheapest. Crap rares are evaluated quickly, and chase rares can be subject to irrational cardlust. I’d recommend picking up anything from the middle section that appeals to your tastes, if it also displays card advantage, appears undercosted, or has powerful synergy with the rest of the set.
  • Planeswalkers are risky, they usually drop in price after release, sometimes massively. Liliana 2.0 is proving me wrong so far though, she was $20 at one point!
  • About a month before a new set is released, just as the very first spoilers appear (typically the buy a box promo, pre release card or something to do with Duel of the Planeswalkers) take time to look back through previous sets in the block and the rest of standard. You would be surprised how many cards are forgotten about until an old block leaving standard re-invigorates them. Tips like this lead to £7 Elspeth Tirel’s and many other bargains.
  • Use Twitter. It will often give you a one day lead on the pack, and let you grab cards before some webstores adjust their prices. I bought my Splinter Twins for $1 each, a day later they were nearly $10. @mtgmedina, @thejrrr, @NextLevelSpec are worth following – but I recommend following all the pro players too, as they are more carefree with their tips (the speculators only go public after they have bought what they want). Last Thursday for example, I read a retweet from a webstore owner to Brian Kibler – mentioning that he saw Kiblers name on one of his invoices, buying up his entire stock of Daybreak Ranger. At this point the card was $0.79 on some stores. On Friday Kibler published his article on Starcity Games Premium regarding Daybreak Ranger, it’s now $3.99. Information and timing are important!
  • While eBay can be a bargain, think about how many transactions you make, ten different purchases from several different traders leads to an awful lot of postage charges. Sometimes it’s better to buy in bulk from a single webstore.
  • If you don’t draft much, consider buying a 4x common/uncommon playset rather than random boosters. This will set you back somewhere in the region of £24 plus postage on ebay, less for small and core sets. Almost every set has a “power uncommon” Kitchen Finks, Bloodbraid Elf, Path to Exile, Inquisition of Kozilek, Dismember and so on. The price of a 4x playset of these alone can often be in the region of £12-£15 at their peak of popularity.
  • Buy from America if you can. No, really. Prices are literally half of those over here.
  • It’s worth your time looking for a “mom & pop” Magic webstore who are slow to update their prices. When a junk rare becomes a pivotal piece of a new deck or strategy overnight (especially true of Modern and Legacy), you can grab them at the junk rare price if you are lucky. My current store for this is, although I’m sure they will tighten up their act eventually and I will have to find somewhere else - £6 Vesuva’s when everyone else raised them to £25+ , yes please!

Just to hammer home the point about buying from America, consider my Innistrad preorders:
CardTCG Warehouse 23/09/2011Magic Madhouse 23/09/2011Magic Madhouse 04/10/2011
Hinterland Harbor3.565.995.99
Isolated Chapel3.535.995.99
Sulfur Falls3.535.995.99
Woodland Cemetery3.535.995.49
Clifftop Retreat3.215.995.99
Heartless Summoning2.243.993.99
Mentor of the Meek2.244.993.99
Bloodline Keeper // Lord of Lineage1.993.994.99
Tree of Redemption1.764.993.99
Army of the Damned1.603.993.99
Champion of the Parish1.602.992.99
Stromkirk Noble1.602.494.99
Moorland Haunt1.442.992.99
Mayor of Avabruck // Howlpack Alpha1.253.493.99
Stony Silence0.961.491.49
Kessig Wolf Run0.891.991.99
Cackling Counterpart0.832.491.99
Kruin Outlaw // Terror of Kruin Pass0.801.992.99
Gavony Township0.641.991.99
Nephalia Drownyard0.641.991.49
Unbreathing Horde0.642.491.99
Curse of Stalked Prey0.571.491.49
Stensia Bloodhall0.480.990.99
Falkenrath Marauders0.320.990.99
(All prices are in £)

TCG Warehouse was the American webstore I used this time round, with the comparison function on I mostly use to be honest, but they were undercut by many other traders on Innistrad. Magic Madhouse prices are given to show typical UK prices in comparison.
Most of the above is baseless speculation and hedging before a metagame develops, but really, at these prices there is little that can go wrong. Trading them on for profit if they fail to deliver is pretty easy. I seem to have lucked out on Stormkirk Noble in particular  Edit: it’s now a $10 card on American websites, ker-ching!

And lastly, trading magic cards is a gamble. Don’t risk what you can’t afford and never go into debt. Because for every one of these;
Or these;
Or even these;
There is almost always one of these!

Friday, 30 September 2011

The Command Tower - Building Hanna

by Alex Gershaw


Before I get started with my EDH/Commander (hereby referred to as EDmander) deck tech, I want to outline what my goals are and why I am doing this. I was inspired by a fellow planeswalker of mine, Andy Pemberton, who originally began posting EDmander articles on the Team Leeds blog before he got drafted by MTG:UK (check out his articles - they are all good). His style is to post about his commanders, do some set overviews and post about his EDmander experiences, I will not be stealing his thunder. Instead I will be taking suggestions of commanders and doing a deck tech for them. I hope you enjoy.

Hanna Ship's Navigator

A friend of mine once asked me to look over his Hanna deck a while back and I didn't manage to do a great job, possibly because I would have preferred to gut the deck and start again, this is what I have done this time around.

Observations first, this commander doesn't have haste, I don't mean in the conventional red creatures and some green or black creatures "This creature is unaffected by summoning sickness" kind of way. I mean in the "This creature works immediately, I don't have to pass a turn to use it" way (read that article, if you haven't before). Hanna requires you to either give it haste or pass the turn in order to use her and one set of turns is a very long time in EDmander. This fact alone makes Hanna a slightly harder commander to work with.

On the upside of observations, her ability is definitely a "build around me" ability and it has given me plenty of options when building the deck. The deck list (with notes) is as follows:

Cheap Artifact suite:

Aether Spellbomb - Bounce effects are often useful for indestructible or hard to deal with creatures, this seems like a good cheap re-usable toy for Hanna to play with.
Dispeller's Capsule - Cheap, easy to use, just what every dispeller needs.
Elixir of Immortality - A favorite card of the friend who wanted me to build this deck there will be many of these. Crafting an EDmander deck is a personal experience and the deck needs to be fun for everyone but especially the pilot. There are many of these in the deck.
Expedition Map - I won't go into great detail on the lands until later but needless to say this can fetch a multitude of great effects (except I did have to say it).
Everflowing Chalice - Solid ramp in slow ramp colours especially when after casting Hanna from the command zone once to get her effect, she loses value every time. This should help offset that in the late game while also being a useful early game ramp spell.
Sensei's Divining Top - Any deck with enough shuffle effects should pack a top, it's like drawing another three cards every time you shuffle.
Pithing Needle - Need to shut down a commander with a tap effect... look no further than the handy-dandy Pithing Needle, shuts down important combo pieces, no questions asked. No refunds if Mindslaved into injecting your own commander with the needle.
Sol Ring - Obviously
Tormod's Crypt - Because graveyards won't remove themselves, actually sometimes they do.
Wayfarer's Bauble - It's like ramp but colourless.

Other Ramp Artifacts:

Green is the best colour for ramp effects sadly since Hanna can't run any of them she has to stumble around looking for baubles, signets and talismans to get the job done.
Azorius Signet, Talisman of Progress, Armillary Sphere, Darksteel Ingot, Coalition Relic, Solemn Simulacrum and Coldsteel Heart.

EDmander is about inconsistency and some people find the use of tutor effects in this format a problem, I do not think this, I think you can use tutors to make different choices than you did in the last game thus making the overall experience different:
Tezz 1.0 - The -x ability can be used on 1 to get any of the cheap artifact suite (or even 0 to get the Crypt or artifact lands). Which brings me on to... Trinket Mage the EDmander blue workhorse, if I had an artifact for every time I resolved Trinket Mage, I would have used him correctly.
Enlightened Tutor, Mystical Tutor, Idyllic Tutor and Fabricate as ways of getting useful singletons from your library to your Brain pan scroll room (read hand). The only one of real interest is the Mystical Tutor as it doesn't seem to be doing anything so far, but you shall see, you'll all see.

Draw spells:
Rhystic Study Asymmetrical effects are generally considered a good thing, this three mana enchantment either slows opponents down or gives you a card, make sure you ask politely.
Let me give you the Opportunity to see a great instant speed draw spell, reload at the end of an opponents turn and have a full grip for your turn.
Fact or Fiction - Has netted me somewhere between 2-4 cards at instant speed in the past, never be surprised about how wrong opponents can get your piles since they don't know what you know.
I also can't recall how many times I have stroked myself... but enough about my personal life.
Future sight and Magus of the Future - What if I told you every land you played and every spell you cast came with an additional "Draw a card" clause... What? Wait... Five manas?
Pulse of the Grid - I find this card a draw spell to find draw spells, when it's my only option I probably only have 3-4 cards in hand while my opponents have 6, so I can use it twice at the end of an opponents turn and dig four cards for something better. This is a bit of a personal choice but ever since a friend started using Pulse of the Tangle I knew I wanted to run is one in a couple of my decks.
Courier's Capsule - Re-usable instant speed draw when using Hanna. It might not be great and the first thing I would put on the chopping block.


So you happen to be playing Blue so you have all of these counterspells to choose from which do you pick:
Hinder and C-c-c-crumple are two counterspells that I personally dislike (not that I don't or haven't used them in the past) but they are very useful for getting rid of pesky commanders who just won't die. These were selected personally as cards wanted for this deck.
Some Mages won't take "no" for an answer, but now you can tell the repeatedly with Forbid.
Glen Elendra Archmage, Draining Whelk and Venser, Shaper Savant are all wonderful options for counterspells, Glenny with her re-use-ability, Whelk with "I'm also a beat stick" and Venser with his versatility, all personal favorites.
Time Stop - Exile the stack? End the turn? I use this and Riftsweeper in my Bant deck to hopefully one day stop two turns in a game as it exiles itself.
Decree of Silence - I have no idea why my playgroup doesn't run this apart from the "risk of hardcasting" it into a dull game. Cycle this for six mana and get a nigh on uncounterable counterspell and draw a card. (Note those are the only four effects in the game that I can think of that usefully stop triggered abilities aside from maybe Sundial but that card sucks anyway). Also for this deck in particular it is an enchantment so for three more mana Hanna can fetch it back.

All decks need some form or removal usually in the form of wraths although spot removal is necessary too.
Wrath of God and Rout for creature clearing.
Austere Command and Oblivion Stone for a general destroy everything (or some of everything) kind of wrath.
Path to Exile, Swords to Plowshares and Soul Snare backing up your sweeps with some spot exile.
Aura of Silence and Seal of Cleansing which backs up the Dispeller's Capsule for more point artifact and enchantments hate. (Be aware that some of the above removal spells are either artifacts or enchantments and thus reusable with Hanna, time and time again).
Finally in this section Stonecloaker - Evacuate your MVP, or pay three to exile a card and bounce it to use again. Stonecloaker is an almost auto include for any deck I build carrying White.


Usually this section would be for any combo enablers I would have. I have neglected to give this deck a combo finish, it is more of an attrition style build and as such likes to grind down its opponents and beat them with fatties (in a later section). So in this section I have included cards which give Hanna haste and one which gives the deck a bit of a boost.
Lightning Greaves, Swiftfoot Boots and Strider Harness to grant Hanna actual haste, although if I was going to cut back here, I'd let go of the Harness as it doesn't protect your commander.
Thousand-Year Elixir - If your commander has a tap ability and does not have haste or enough of your creatures, this is an auto include.
Rings of Brighthearth - Since the deck is built upon activate abilities, you might want to use them again, copy them for two mana... Bargain.

These are just eight big Blue/White/Artifact Creatures I could find, Since this deck wants to exhaust the opponents and then win, it didn't really matter what I put in these slots. You get the added bonus of their effects, some are draw, removal or recurrsion but mostly they are here to bring the pain.
Sun Titan, Yosei, the Morning Star, Consecrated Sphinx, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite, Deathless Angel, Wurmcoil Engine, Godhead of Awe and Rite of Replication (not technically a creature, but also technically five creatures).


Due to budget considerations, I'm not going to tell you how to build the mana base, technically 18 Island and 18 Plains should do it. I wanted to inform you of the best lands in these colours (and colourless).
For this deck specifically: Ancient Den and Seat of the Synod due to Tezzeret's -x ability.
Generally: Kor Haven, Reliquary Tower, Tolaria West, Winding Canyons, Prahv, Spires of Order, Terrain Generator.

If budget wasn't an option I'd cut the two cards I mentioned earlier (Courier's Capsule and Strider Harness) for Land Tax and Scroll Rack. I would also suggest a whole swath of lands you could use ranging from Tundra to Mystic Gate to Glacial Fortress.

If anyone has any suggestions for Commanders you want me to build around, tell me the general, how competitive your play group is (from casual to competitive on a 1-10 scale) and how involved you wish the deck to be (from easy and fun to challenging and involved on a 1-10 scale). Please do not suggest either Hakkon or Phage as all you will get is a Mono-Black Control deck with no care about the commander.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Team Leeds Drafting #1 - M12 with Rob Catton

By Rob Catton

In a new series for the Team Leeds Blog™, Rob Catton will be presenting some of his online drafts which he will record for our viewing pleasure. To get things going we have a triple M12 draft - a format quickly going out of style but a good format which can teach us much about tempo. Please leave any feedback in the comments below - where would you have done things differently?

The Draft (note that if the video quality is not high enough for you then try maximising the screen, or buying Team Leeds a massive computer):

Round 1:

Round 2:

Saturday, 24 September 2011

University Prerelease Report - Innistrad

By Wagz

Hello and welcome! One thing we've done here before is live coverage of our pre-releases. While not possible this time around I did manage to take some notes while I was there, so I can bring some posthumous coverage - here goes!

We managed to get a whopping 50 players at the event for Innistrad Sealed deck and managed an 8-man draft along the way. Some familiar faces came back, along with many new ones, and even some very old ones. We managed to begin our coverage with a feature match in round 2:

Round 2: Steve Parker vs Andy Pemberton

For game 1, both players decided to send back their opening hands and after a pair of lands apiece, Silverchase Fox on the draw began the board development by Steve. Crossway Vampire from Andy presented a potential blocker, but Steve fearlessly sends his pet, and backs it up with a Voiceless Spirit. Attempting to break the tempo of the attacks, Andy makes and equips a Blazing Torch, but once more Steve doesn't care for it and attacks to take Andy to 14.

A Galvanic Juggernaut for Steve presents Andy with quite a conundrum. Andy passes without a play once more, and Steve attacks before reinforcing his army with an Abbey Griffin. Andy attempts a comeback with a 3/3 flier for 5 mana, but a Fiend Hunter takes it out of the game and Steve is able to press even more damage through. Andy is unable to bring enough defences out to stay alive, and concedes the game - Steve 1, Andy 0.

Both players topped off at 5 lands of two types in game 1 - were their decks hiding any bombs? Steve's turn 1 Traveller's Amulet for a Forest in his previously- White/Red deck would indicate that something should come along soon. Andy makes the first creature with a Kessig Wolf, a 3/1 for 3 mana which can gain first strike - quite a difficult card to play against perhaps. Steve looks visibly annoyed at himself as he untaps, but makes a Voiceless Spirit to block. The Spirit is Exorcised, allowing for an attack for 3 damage, and after another attack into Steve's Abbey Griffin, Andy makes the Innistrad answer to Siege Mastodon.

Steve lays a Kessig Wolf Run, answering the question of what the green mana was for, and starts to clog up the ground with a Pitchborn Devils. The 5 mana creatures trade in combat, taking Steve to 11 life. Finally making the card he'd missed out on turn 2, Steve offs the 3/1 Wolf with a Geistflame, flashing it back to kill a Village Ironsmith. Both players make a few more creatures, but the Wolf Run means that Steve is able to push through lethal damage, taking the match.

Steve 2 - 0 Andy

During round 3 I was busy setting a side draft going, but I managed to note a few interesting sights around the pre-release:
  • Johannes Ihli curved out with turns 2-5 Werewolves in draft but due to casting spells each turn doesn't transform them for too long - not as aggressive as desired.
  • Craig Stevenson makes a turn 2 Mayor of Averbrook in both games of his match, that'll sting in the morning.
  • Kenny Hall made a Grimoire of the Dead, discarded 3 creatures to it and took 7 total back onto the battlefield at once.
  • Old-school pro Gordon Benson was seen bothering the top tables - does this herald a return to Magic?
Round 5's Feature Match was:

Round 5: Rob Catton vs Steve Tyson

On the play, Steve mulligans once and makes audible concerns about the hand he does keep. He has three different basic lands on turn 3, and makes the first play of the game with a Screeching Bat. Rob matches it with a Thraben Sentry, but it can only dream of attaining the 5/5 size of the Vampire on the flip-side. A Bonds of Faith deals with the Vampiric entity, and the game notably slows down as Rob summons a Skirsdag High Priest, promising to itself summon some 5/5 fliers.

Scourge of Geier Reach attempts to clog up the ground of the battlefield for Steve, and his Rolling Temblor as an attempted Plague Wind is thwarted by Rob's own small burn spell. An Angelic Overseer from Rob is rolled out to try to break the deadlock, but it is forced to Fight the Pacified Vampire. Another attempt to get things rolling is also nullified, and Steve is makin' Morbid Bacon to fill the gap. It finds itself Rebuked on its attack, and Rob is the first to draw more creatures - killing his own Pitchborn Devils with a Harvest Pyre to deal the last few points of damage.

On the draw for game 2, Rob makes the first play with a Rakish Heir. A Tribute to Hunger allows the vampire to get in Steve's hair, but a Bloodgift Demon threatens to single-handedly take over the game. Rob attacks and Steve blocks with his Demon, Rob using two different cards to save his own creature and kill his opponent's, losing out on cards but ensuring he wouldn't quickly lose the game. The Rakish Heir is dealt with, and the players resort to draw-go for a few turns, with a 5/4 trampler staring down a 1/1 deathtouch.

An Angelic Overseer is shot down by a Geistcatcher's Rig, and a first attempt to Geistflame the deathtoucher is thwarted by a Spidery Grasp. It is removed on the flashback, and Steve is forced to use 2 Rolling Temblor to not quickly lose any kind of race. A Gallows Warden is taken down via a Prey Upon, but a final Village Ironsmith is not met with an answer and Rob is able to attack in for lethal damage once and for all.

Rob 2 - 0 Steve

Round 6: Danny Whitaker vs Nathan Edwards

Two Leeds prerelease veterans face off in the finals, but neither one has ever won a feature match here - who will manage to end their streak today? A Deranged Hermit on turn 2 for Nathan on the play signals a ramped start. It only attacks for one on turn 3, but is soon stopped by a Chapel Geist. Milling an Unburial Rites while generating mana for an Angelic Overseer, Nathan threatens a very aggressive start to the game. Not to be outmatched, Danny summons the Angel's Evil Twin. Although Danny was yet to supplement his Angel with a Human, Nathan was unable to attack due to losing a racing position due to the Geist. Danny soon found a Human and a deadlock was reached - who would first be able to deal with their opponent's Humans and then Angel?

For many turns creatures were summoned and dealt with on both side of the battlefield, the action revolving around the two identical Angels in the centre. The mighty Grimgrin, Corpse-Born shows up to break the stalemate, but his Bloodline is Severed to keep the fight fair once more. Danny begins to gain an upper hand in terms of flying dominance, with some less-relevant 4/4 and 3/2 creatures which were building up to a lethal attack team. Nathan cannot find a second Island, presumably for some stockpiled spells, but also for the flashback on a milled Cackling Counterpart.

Danny finally draws enough removal spells for all the Humans, and aims a finishing blow at Nathan's Angel, but the Village Bell-Ringers ring in the town's defences to aid their champion. Taking the game another way, Danny is able to deal with Nathan's other flying creatures, and sends in his team for a large strike. A Murder of Crows finds its end, but 15 damage is inflicted to the defender. Another dies the next turn, and a brief flurry of spells seeks to save Nathan enough damage, to no avail. The players apologised for what looked like a boring match, but this writer saw nothing but a tense show-down the whole way through. Danny 1 - 0 Nathan.

The same, unfortunately, could not be said for the second game of the frame. Nathan's Deranged Assistant makes another turn 2 appearance, but Danny cuts off the Dead Weight. Nathan misses his third land for a ocuple of turns, and Grimgrin returns to take revenge for his quick death in the previous skirmish. Tearing through both armies alike, he inflicts cutting blows on Nathan, and a Stitched Drake called to Grimgrin's side is enough for Nathan who raises the white flag. We have our winner,

Danny 2 - 0 Nathan.

Thanks to all who attended the pre-release and making it yet another great day and tournament. I took notes on which archetypes were represented at the event and will be collating the data soon when I'm not so tired (I've judged 2 prereleases in the last 24 hours :s). See you at an events soon!

Friday, 23 September 2011

Team Leeds is Recruiting!

Hi all! Some of you may remember this Blog from before but most of you are unlikely to. Team Leeds is the competitive branch of Magic play in Leeds. We are aiming to play the best Magic we can, and win events.

Magic in Leeds has undergone a lot since I last posted here. I used to run a weekly event in the University, which is still going on Wednesdays, which was the only option for sanctioned Magic play at the time. Since then Travelling Man began running events, and a player at the Wednesday events (Mark Hammond, who now runs the Wednesday events) set up a branch of Patriot Games in Leeds.

It is really great to see so many players wanting to play Magic in Leeds, and having a place to play. However, what I really want to see is players looking to go that little bit further. I want to see players who wish to improve themselves, to try to win. This isn't in any way opposing having fun playing Magic, it's something additional.

If you feel like you want to stop slinging cardboard around a table and take an active part in just being better at the game we all enjoy, then come to the banner of Team Leeds. Anyone and everyone is welcome to add themselves to the Planeswalker Points table (link here, message me your name and DCI number), and anyone and everyone is welcome to write for this Blog. If you feel like you have anything to contribute then please ask - you will be printed! If you are scared that people will disagree with you, don't be. Discussion is how you improve as a player. Look through our archive for many instances of people lodging their opinions and being wrong (I've done it more than enough). We will try to stay up to date with all the local news and provide details of local and competitive events, but this blog is an open book for anyone wishing to improve. I hope to hear from you soon.


Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The Ten Command-Ments: Mirrodin Besieged and what it means to you

by Andrew Pemberton

Greetings and salutations, my fellow Planeswalkers. I realise it's been way too long since we had an update, so why not go with what everyone else is doing: For those who read Channel Fireball or Star City Games, both LSV and Pat Chapin are in the middle of doing set reviews. Now, I'm not one to step on other people's work, so instead of focusing on constructed and limited applications, I will be talking today about what cards you should be looking out for to take your deck to the next level.


Well, doesn't this kitty have claws! Relic-Warder is one of the cards that has been getting a lot of hype, particularly for the Eternal formats (Legacy and Vintage), in order to stop opposing AEther Vials and Counterbalances. However, we also get serious applications with this in Commander. Having an early answer for cards such as Luminarch Ascension can be a real boon, certainly in multiplayer, but also being able to remove more serious Enchantments and Artifacts later in the game means he never loses value. Of course, being a creature does hamper him slightly due to his inability to survive Wrath-style effects, but you do effectively shut down an effect for at least two turns, probably enough time to get around said threat another way. Of course, the major trick with this is one we can also use with Tidehollow Sculler: By stacking RW's Enters the Battlefield ability, then sacrificing him, say with a High Market, you get rid of the card PERMANENTLY. Definitely worth a look in for the predominantly white decks.

Now, I'm a sucker for a Wrath effect as much as the next guy, and believe me when I say this: There are better effects than this in the format. However, that's not to go against counting on this should you need to. This can certainly be a budget option should you need it, or just having the threat of having a creature when your opponents have nothing. Granted, it'd be pretty sick if you got a 6/6 or higher every time, and this does scale up quite nicely for multiplayer, but there will be times that you just need to get rid of a threat or two, and that's fine. Heck, you still get value out of your 2/2, I'm sure.

...and for those of you who liked the other side of Martial Coup, I present to you... the Itteh Bitteh Kitteh Committeh! For those of you using Raksha, Jareth or Kemba-based Cat Tribal, this is a fun option, but there's so many ways to abuse this card. At 4 or 5 mana, it functions as an instant speed fog effect, effectively nullifying your opponent's attacks for a turn if needed. At 6 Mana, you start getting value out of your spell in terms of Power:Mana Cost. At 7 or more, you start jumping the curve in terms of power. Token strategist such as Teysa, Orzhov Scion will love this card, as a means to activating abilities, or just swinging with a mass of furry feline fury! Oh yeah, one thing that's kinda crucial about this card? Yeah, it's an instant, meaning you can throw a furba- er, curve ball at your enemies by popping up with a ton of 2/2's at the end of your opponent's turn... and of course, letting you shuffle it back into your deck for even more value later on. All in all, a great card for White-loving Planeswalkers.


I really feel the need to make a Mass Effect reference, but I think I'll hold back on this occasion. Yes, this is Stroke of Genius 2.0, but with two major changes. Obviously, the more restrictive mana cost makes this a wee bit harder to cast in multicolour decks, but it shouldn't pose a great deal of issues, especially if you're running as much mana fixing as you should be. The other great detail is, like all the Zeniths, the shuffle ability. Paying XUUU instead of X2U does seem a little awkward, but again, the incremental gain is there. For example, wasting a Stroke for X=2 is usually a little poor, but with the shuffle, using it with Blue Sun's Zenith takes that poor play away: Giving you the option of potentially casting it later makes this Zenith a lot more versatile than it's Urza's Block cousin. Of course, the real value of this card probably starts at around the 7 mana mark, but hey, if you've ramped up and need a refill, then by all means do so!

Just... Hnng! This card screams 'Abuse me!'. Blue doesn't need another useless flying body, but that's not what we're interested in: Drawing two cards off of an opponent's draw step is pretty sweet, but this card just keeps on giving: Cycling, Skullclamp triggers, etc... every use gives you at least two cards back if you want them. Of course, the 'may' clause is ever-present in the text, so once you have attained the desired value, feel free to take your turn, use some cards, then let him refill your hand all over again. In a game at Sunday's pre-release, I managed to Bribery one out of a friend's deck, and managed to draw at least 10 cards before it was dealt with. Even the body can be relevant, blocking most flying threats

Now, I've not always been the biggest fan of Clone-style effects, but this one... I quite enjoy. You can't argue with Rite of Replication and Spitting Image in terms of power and utility, but this is a pretty cheap way of knocking out someones General. Even if not, copying something for value can be perfectly fine if your opponent has something worth copying. Heck, you can even copy your own creatures, so if you want double Blightsteel Colossus, here's another way to achieve it, I guess.

Thar she blows! Now this one is interesting. I see this as a blue Relic Crush, without the drawback of only targeting artifacts. Sure, it's only a bounce effect, but tagging two permanents at once gets you solid tempo gain in most cases, and it can even kill off your opponent's plans, for example, by bouncing a Mimic Vat in response to its own trigger. Heck, you can even just fog a little with it if you like. Nice applications, definitely one worth trying, whether budget-inclined or not.

Yep, that's a tutor all right. For those with Artifact-based strategies (I'm looking at you, Sharuum the Hegemon!), this card basically says 'Search your library for target bomb'. Whether its Mindslaver, Darksteel Forge, or Steel Hellkite, this ensures you get what you need, and unlike Trinket Mage in this format, it seems to get a lot more: Having that '1 or less' restriction lifted seems so much better for this format. It's all about the fatties, and this guy might just replace Trinket Mage in some cases, if not doing the inevitable of complimenting him.


Yep, that's another Zenith. This time, it's Black rocking the field with a reusable Wrath effect. This has already received widespread acclaim for its possibilities in Standard, but those possibilities also exist in Commander. Shrinking an army for cheap, or killing them for a little more, Black Sun's Zenith gives Black builds another Wrath to compliment Damnation and Mutilate. I'm glad to see that Wizards has posted a cycle with such broad applications, and it certainly speaks well for the future of Commander.

Wraths are usually better in Commander, but hey, this is one of the best pieces of spot removal I've seen in a while. Destroying everything that isn't an Artifact is pretty sick, especially if it's a threat you need rid of. Heck, if you're using a multicolour deck anyway, chances are you have separate Artifact removal anyway, unless you're in Blue. Two mana to sink a dude is good value, and with its widespread amount of targets, there will always be something to shoot.

Definitely another weenie killer, but one with benefits! Sure, the only things this thing will be likely shrinking are going to be Sakura-Tribe Elder, Eternal Witness and Solemn Simulacrum, but hey, if they want to pay 2 life to draw a card, or get a land, seems fine to me. Putting that extra cost on creatures makes it harder to make effective blocking decisions, as well as when to use those sacrificial effects. Not to mention, he fits Commander's remit of being big and beefy. A solid hit in my books, not only for the mini-wrath, but also for the life-taking effect.


More efficient spot removal. Not hitting creatures sucks a little, and Shatter might be a better option for your mana, but being able to destroy their Sol Ring or Mana Vault on turn 1 completely nullifies the tempo swing they would otherwise gain.

It looks more like some giant beetle thing than a Beast, but I guess Insect doesn't cut it for something that big either... Anyway, here we welcome one of my top Commander cards from the set. For those who are used to playing with Future Sight, this is kinda similar. In mono Red, you have limited options aside from burn, but in multicolour, you open the door to plenty of things... Ramp spells in Green, Draw in Blue, or removal in White. The day you get a Time Stretch off of this, however, is the day you'll forever be targeted in your Commander games, so be careful. Free stuff is always good stuff in EDH, and there's certainly worse things you can play for 5 mana.

Sure, Shatterstorm destroys every artifact for the same cost, but where's the fun in that? Exiling is such a powerful effect, and paying 4 to exile two of your opponent's artifacts is fair game, really. Having to have two targets is a little bit lame in single player, but multiplayer is where this guy really shines. You can screw one guy off of his combo, or be political and take one each from two guys. Either way, a good solid utility card to fill out your decks with.


Speaking of Shatterstorm, here's the Green variant we just got. Green could use a couple more wrath effects, even if they only serve the purpose of killing Artifacts and Enchantments. I'm a little iffy about this, as I'm not sure how good it is at the moment, but of course, it scales up the more artifacts your opponents have. I'd probably compliment this with All is Dust, just to be able to hit everything on the board over a couple of turns.

See that? Now THAT'S a Tutor! For one mana extra, you can find a creature in your library, and slap it right down onto the Battlefield. Sure, it has the same Primal Order-style drawback of needing to be a Green creature, but who cares? Slapping down Primeval Titans and Woodfall Primus' is so good. Not to mention, Gold cards with Green in their mana cost are fair game too, so if you want to pay out 6 Mana for your favourite WUBRG card, go ahead! Plus, like all the other Zeniths, that huffle ability comes in handly. Note that the power of the card only scales up if you have the creatures to make use of it, so make sure to build your decks properly!

For all those Phyrexians who wished Yawgmoth would whisper sweet nothings into your ear, now's your chance. This is certainly a Commander card, no buts about it. Steroid-infused Regrowth effects are always good - It's why they exile themselves after their use. Can you imagine a loop of Restock and this if they didn't Exile themselves? Crazy. Anyway, giving your spells another go around the table is nothing to scoff at, especially if you want another shot at casting your Time Stretch and Rite of Replication. The Reliquary Tower-style is an expected, but nonetheless crucial bonus, preventing you from losing the cards you just got back. Better yet, you can't lose your hand to a Strip Mine, unlike with Reliquary Tower. Solid, amazing, and every Green deck should pack one.

Sac Elder number two? I'm not sure if this is as useful as I think it is yet, but it's certainly worth a shot. Trading an extra point of power for not being able to sac it off manually is kinda iffy, but if you're packing Sacrificial effects such as High Market anyway, you can still claim the benefits from it, not to mention the ever-presence of Wraths in the set. Guys that replace themselves are always worth looking at, and the ramp can sometimes help. Definitely worth a look at, especially in decks such as Savra, Queen of the Golgari, where the sacrifices are used to your benefit.


A creature that kills any other creature in combat? Where do I sign! First Strike and Deathtouch are such good abilities, that when put together, give you pretty much the perfect package to deal with blocking creatures, sans the obvious Indestructible and Protection creatures. However, what is truly interesting is the second ability: getting back your used Artifacts is a sure-fire bet that you're gaining back value. Having Glissa out with an Executioner's Capsule basically means you can kill anything your opponent has, and just recur the Capsule straight away. A candidate for a Commander in her own right, or a solid addition to any BG strategy.


May as well start this section with the one card I expect to cause the most controversy. An old favourite turned compleat, Blightsteel Colossus has the capacity to kill any opponent in one shot. Now, we all know what happened to Emrakul, with the Ban-hammer floating over his head for the longest time before he eventually got taken away. I'm not so sure that this particular Colossus will stick around for too long. I mean, think about it: Rite of Replication means you WILL kill at least two or three players in one attack step, and even shenanigans like Tooth and Nail fetching this and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker can end games quickly. I'm glad both Red and White have ways to deal with this menace, and even Black can deal with it to an extent, but the fact that you need to do it in one turn is useless if you don't have the right cards at the right time.

Thinking of this guy from a community standpoint as well: Sure, he doesn't grant the extra turn that Emrakul provided, but he essentially will end the game in his next turn unless dealt with. You then have the problem of being political about who you swing at. There will always be a player that feels that he has been picked on, and I've seen groups almost lose players due to pressing home their advantage against one player in particular. Guys, I'm not sure the loss in players is worth the advantage you get out of this, so think carefully when deciding whether to pack this into your deck or not.

Players, pack your Path to Exile and other exile effects now, because you don't want to be caught with your pants down against this guy, especially if he's spreading an infection :p.

...and from one innuendo to another, here we have the Bonehoard! Now, I wasn't a huge fan of Living Weapon at the Pre-Release, but this guy seems pretty solid to me. He feels a little like an Empyrial Plate for your graveyard, giving you a boost based on how many Wraths your fellow players have used. I wouldn't be surprised at seeing this on a Voltron-style Commander in order to help deal 21 General damage, or even just augmenting an equipment strategy. Either way, you get a potentially monstrous creature for just 4 mana, and can make another creature into a monster for just 2 mana. A solid playable in any Equipment-based strategy.

...and speaking of Equipment-based strategies, check out this wicked set of armor. Probably a throwback to Shield of Kaldra way back in Darksteel, this offers the same abilities for 3 mana less overall. The ability to protect your General is pretty sweet, though you do lose out on being able to get that sweet Kaldra token :(. Joking aside, another very solid equipment that should see play in Commander.

Vedalken Orrery for Artifacts? Sounds sweet. Early game, you can drop surprise Artifacts on people, and late game, you can even drop the Myr at the end of turn, along with any busted Artifacts you want. It's a little bit cute, and of course a little more susceptible to removal, but come on, he's sparkly and does a mean job of scaring your opponent. Dropping a Master Transmuter at the end of your opponent's turn, only to transmute the Myr into a Colossus seems like GG's to me.

Two mana Artifact acceleration is usually pretty solid. From the Cameos, Signets and Talismans of old, we now get a card similar to Gemstone Mine in flavour, and pretty high in quality too. It can be used as another Signet in most decks, but decks that love abusing charge counters will love this. The ability to Proliferate this and Everflowing Chalice means you'll pretty much always have enough mana. Solid, definitely worth a slot in your Ramp set-up.

Ok, now I know 7 Mana for a Vindicate is a lot... heck, you can pay 11 Mana for Ulamog, and he gives you a 10/10 Indestructible body to boot! However, the applications I can see are with a sacrificial effect. Having, say, Goblin Welder swap this for something in your graveyard only for you to get it back is pretty nifty, albeit a little expensive, but we're used to expensive spells anyway. It might see play, it might not, but it deserves a shout, especially for those decks that want Artifacts that do crazy things.

As with all of the previous Swords, Feast and Famine is pretty solid. When evaluating cards like this, I tend to value the Bonuses and Protection abilities over the secondary, combat damage-based abilities. Now, +2/+2 is amazing for just 5 mana. A 2 mana equip costs means anything can carry the sword and use it effectively, and both Green and Black are popular colours in the format. The combat damage abilities do seem a little bit weak at first: making them discard a card can mean very little with such rampant card advantage floating around, but checking out the second ability... It gives you another Seedborn Muse, effectively. It gives you the chance to use your expensive spells for one more shot, or come up ahead on tempo by casting into multiple threats at once, effectively doubling your mana in the process. Sure, Sword of Fire and Ice is still the top slashing implement, but this guy is no slouch either.


...and thus ends my views on the new set for Commander! As always, don't just take my word for it - try the cards I haven't mentioned: you might find a busted combo with some older cards. The only way to find them is to play them and see!

As always, you can address any comments to the section below, Facebook, or hit me up on MSN at Until then, happy Commanding!

Andy P