Saturday, 21 January 2012

Stoneforge Mystic and Dark Ascension


I finally got the 'hover link' thing to work, hopefully it enhances your reading experience :) Props to John Carberry for his help.

So, Zoo is one of the best decks. It's most powerful card is Stoneforge Mystic and therefore the first card to be considered for pointing. People often ask "Why not just add more points to the equipment?", the answer is: By pointing Stoneforge instead of Jitte/Skullclamp/Sword of Fire and Ice, you're not hurting other aggro decks which are currently much worse than Zoo. We want diversity amongst the aggro decks (which we currently do not have). It's a similar reasoning to why Wizards' banned Wild Nacatl in modern recently; Wild Nacatl made all other aggro decks inferior thus reducing the diversity of the metagame. Less diversity = less fun etc.

Jitte dominates creature mirrors. White has access to Stoneforge Mystic and Steelshaper's Gift giving it a massive advantage in the creature mirror. This advantage is so huge that non-white creature decks are inferior to white creature decks. Elves, mono-red and mono-black aggro all aren't good enough on the back of them losing to Jitte.

Some Zoo pilots still refuse to play Steelshaper's Gift, this decision baffles me.

So, Dark Ascension Pre-release next weekend! booyah!
I and many other Melbourne Highlander regulars will be road tripping to Canberra for Can Con. So I won't be around for the Highlander weekly this Thursday. Gonna win a Black Lotus at Can Con instead :P. I'm a little torn at the moment (the very last moment). I feel my two good decks, Hermit Druid and White Weenie aren't as good as Ub timevault or Zoo, but there's familiarity to consider. I know Hermit and WW really well, sideboarding, important cards in certain matchups etc. I think I need to stick with my old faithfuls this Friday and then after the points changes I'll look into switching decks.
I know I said I'd be playing Hermit Druid in my previous posts but it's getting beaten often so I dunno. I kind of want to run it in the face of all the hate, just for the potential of looking boss.

Anyway, what was I saying?....Dark Ascension. Whenever a new set comes out I always comb through the spoiler for cards for my Highlander decks. I'll discuss the playables that have been spoiled so far (I wrote this 1am Sunday 22nd):

Increasing Devotion: There's a GW token deck that no one's playing at the moment and this card probably goes in it. Gaea's Cradle is underplayed for it's power and it's at its best in this deck.

Lingering Souls: So many dudes! This also goes in the token deck, a light splash for B is no problem with Highlander mana *cough* unpoint Price of Progress *cough*.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben: Lots of Hype surrounding Thalia. 2/1 first strike is a decent body in Highlander and her ability gets her over the line. As long as your opponent pays 1 more mana extra than you, Thalia has done her job. It's unfortunate that she gets Karakas'd but she's probably playable regardless, testing will tell. So many legends are bad just because of Karakas (eg Doran). Karakas gets played in about 70% of decks and is somewhat tutorable so it cannot be ignored.

Gravecrawler: Yet another 2 power 1-drop for black. Before Zendikar black had no good aggro cards except Dark Confidant and Carnophage so it's fast becoming a strong aggro option.

Geralf's Messenger: Another exclusive for Mono-black. I'm definitely going to try Mono-black on a Thursday soon, just need to work out a way for the deck to beat Jitte.

Increasing Ambition: A good tutor for the Channel deck. Channel still requires a few more cards to be consistent enough for me to consider playing it though.

Strangleroot Geist: This guy's the beats! Only thing stopping him from being amazing is his mana cost. Double colour 2 drops are hard to do without a major commitment to one colour. You can't really keep a hand of Plains, Fetch, this guy.

Falkenrath Aristocrat: I think people will underrate this card at first. I know I'm going to be getting a playset asap. Outside of Highlander (irrelevant as that may be) she's a sac outlet for Melira combo in Modern. She might be too expensive for her purpose in that deck but she's a real card when you draw her, unlike Viscera Seer which is a piece'o'shit.

Huntmaster of the Fells: Solid value creature. He's green so he will be accompanied by elves to get him out fast enough. Will really shine in creature mirrors.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad: Obviously a great card. Another addition to the GWb token deck that's growing in my subconscious.

Grafdigger's Cage: lol what can I say? Another hoser for Hermit Druid. Not as good as Path, Swords or Leyline of the Void mind you.

Ok, pretty knackered at this stage, better crash into bed. But before that, here's another underplayed Highlander Card:

Trench Gorger, this guy is a castable Blightsteel Colossus in Highlander.



Sunday, 15 January 2012

5¢ Infect & a little pointing talk

Hey Dudes!

No real coherent theme this time, it is a blog after all.

You know how you'll be lying in bed trying to get to sleep then you think of a good card to add to your deck; so you immediately get out of bed, turn the light on (usually stark naked) and start working it into the deck?...right?...just me? ok....

So here's something Brett Hughes (pronounced "Brett Who-gezz") and I have been working on for a while. I've only linked the cards I don't expect everyone to know cause I'm lazy.

5¢ infect!

Glistener Elf
Green Sun’s Zenith
Blight Mamba
Blighted Agent
Ichorclaw Myr
Lost Leonin
Plague Myr
Plague Stinger
Phyrexian Crusader
Razor Swine
Rot Wolf
Viridian Corrupter
Whispering Specter
Phyrexian Vatmother
Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon
Phyrexian Hydra

Mental Misstep
Inquisition of Kozilek
Noble Hierarch
Gaea’s Might
Might of Alara
Vines of Vastwood
Colossal Might
Predator’s Strike
Sylvan Might
Elspeth, Knight Errant
Angelic Destiny

10 Fetchlands
Tropical Island
Overgrown Tomb
Underground Sea
Inkmoth Nexus
Mox Emerald [3 Points]
Mox Jet [3 Points]
Kessig Wolf Run

Qasali Pridemage
Might of Old Krosa
Assault Strobe
Mother of Runes
Fiery Justice
Swords to Plowshares
Seal of Strength
Blight Widow
Stoneforge Mystic
Umezawa's Jitte [1 Point]

It's a cool deck. You get to play a bunch of cards that no one else does and you have a lot of raw power. I played a similar list at a weekly a couple weeks ago and went 2-2. While testing the deck I found I couldn't yam every infect creature into the deck, Contagious Nim trading with a Trinket Mage was bad. Also, sorcery speed pump which provides no evasion sucks vs creature decks, they just chump and race you.
With power comes a price: the mana's not the best, there aren't many decent infect creatures and sometimes you'll draw too much pump. The times that you do 'get' people though, make it totally worth it, gotta love cheesy wins!

Random thoughts:

I used to advocate Chrome Mox in aggro decks, I played it in Mono Red and White Weenie for ages. I've realised that against U-control their counterspells are still cheap enough to hit your key spells despite the acceleration from the mox. And against decks with lots of spot removal/burn, Chrome Mox doesn't give you any tempo advantage because their removal is so cheap.

I thought of a simple way to explain the premise of my last blog entry; U-control crushes Midrange, Midrange crushes Zoo but Zoo doesn't crush U-control, the matchup's quite even. The metagame has settled so much that people have realise that midrange is bad because it can't beat U, so there's no midrange to keep Zoo in check, and U's so good that it matches Zoo, it's natural enemy.
I'm not saying nerf U, I'm saying weaken it just enough so that midrange has a chance to be viable so that the format is more diverse and therefore even more fun.
Combo? There is so much hate available that every archetype has answers to Combo, it's just a matter of the Combo player picking the right metagame where people aren't hating.

I've been playing Hermit lately, I went 2-2 in the last weekly and 2-1 last Saturday in the Monthly (Yes the Thursday night weekly had more players than the Monthly). Whilst I'm playing the deck I feel that at any time they could draw their answer and I'll lose. While the deck's really powerful, it's a glass cannon. Swords to Plowshares and Path to Exile, two of the most popular highlander cards, totally wreck Hermit Druid.
I can still see the deck getting 1 or 2 points based on how unfair it feels to lose to it. I'm just saying that the deck still pales in comparison to highly tuned aggro and control decks. We need some Combo in the meta.

New blog feature that I'll do at the end of all my entries, random powerful underplayed card:

Pattern of Rebirth



Monday, 9 January 2012

Animal Blue Pants Out Of Control

Hey Dudes! had a good time blogging last night so I'm gonna ramble more!

So with points changes looming, I feel like I need to get out all my 'format improvement' thoughts while they can still be heard.

At the moment I do feel the format has settled and the consensus amongst most people I talk to is that zoo and U control are the 2 best decks, so much so that they oppress other strategies. The format is falsely diverse because people keep playing their brews because they're awesome and that's what highlander's about, but really zoo and U are the strongest decks.

I was thinking about it, and there are plenty of cards that wreck zoo but most of them are bad to maindeck because they're so bad vs U control. U control decks play practically no creatures and can spend 0 to 2 mana to counter a 4 cost sorcery/fatty, putting it's caster way behind.

Now are there many cards that wreck U? No. Their counterspells provide a soft blanket that covers most of the skin, keeping it nice and warm. The versions that splash B also have DITS (Duress, Inquisition, ThoughtSeize) to thicken the blanket. The only cards that consistently sneak under the blanket are zoo's 2 power 1 drops.

So what I'm trying to say is, by weakening U control, zoo will also be weakened because cards like Damnation, Flametongue Kavu, Reveilark and friends will become more playable.

Now, how to weaken U? U has a critical mass of good cards that no other single colour has. Most of the individual cards don't deserve a point by themselves but as a whole they do. So how do we go about this? Here are some possible methods:

Method #1- Add points to Tinker/Timevault.
An answer to U control decks in the past has been grindy and hard to deal with threats like Thrun, Bloodghast, Cursed Scroll, Masked Admirers and Manlands. BUT as it stands, U control has access to cards that trump these types of cards and those answers are: Tinker for Sphinx of the Steelwind or Timevault + Key kill you.  But! U isn't going to give up these critical answers if they get pointed higher, U players will just cut their other pointed cards. The pointed cards they'd cut however, are the cards that protect Tinker/Timevault, thus making Tinker/Timevault easier to answer. Force of Will directly protects by countering the answer spell whereas Manadrain provides enough mana the following turn to cast Tinker/Timevault and hold up another counterspell.

Method #2- Depoint cards that U doesn't play, raising the power of other decks to relatively weaken U. Pointed cards that Zoo and U can't use, that I feel could harmlessly drop a point are: Necropotence, Gorger, Crucible of Worlds. I'm not saying these cards aren't powerful, they ARE really powerful but the decks that they go in aren't.

Method #3- Point other cards that U uses. Are there unpointed U cards that are worth points? I think the closest card to this has gotta be Jace. If the board's at all stable, Jace becomes a 1 card combo and takes the game. A staple in every format ever. If you're a U player ask yourself what you'd cut from your deck first, Drain, Force or Jace. Food for Thought.

Anyway, Sean Walsh just pointed out to me that I always hate on U and never play it myself.....I think I don't play U because I want to be creative and build decks that other people haven't. However, I also want to win, so I do my best to make all my decks as best as they can be. I feel this eternal search has given me a good understanding of the format and I'm (Dark) confident that my analysis is correct.

If I didn't hate on U would you hate on U? Maybe a U ewe would hate on you. When the whole world is U, nothing will be U....or it'll be the ocean making the whole world U cause the polar caps have melted.

Cheers!, Luke

Yay! highlander blog!

Hey dudes (presumably)

So James Mackay and Dean V have been hassling me into making a highlander blog.....and I want to! So here it is!

So basically I'm just gonna talk about any highlander ideas I have. I'll post consistently so if anyone starts tuning in they won't be left with nothing.

I'm getting drunk with my cat Mario on a Monday night, what better opportunity to talk about Highlander! So Can Con coming up on Australia Day Weekend (Fri 27th Jan till Sun 29th). Few cars going up from Melbourne. Hopefully I'll be trippin with Andy Horne and Dean V Unlimited Lotus 1st prize! How can I resist?! Normally I'd be quite about what deck I'll be playing but I'm drunk so.....I'M PLAYING HERMIT DRUID!!!!

There's been talk of the deck copping some points so this will be the most powerful the deck will ever be. Having created the deck I feel obliged to play it while it's at it's best. But yeah I'm good friends with Isaac and Dan who're (lol Dan whore) both on the points commitee and looks like Hermit has to eat points. At first I was defensive but once I cooled down I imagined playing against the deck and losing on turn 3 and not wanting to play Highlander anymore and I understood.

With the printing of the commander card "The Mimeoplasm", a deck abusing Hermit Druid doesn't need to play and 'bricks' to support the combo. In case you're unfamiliar a brick is a card that you draw which is close to useless, so you can pretty much chuck Hermit Druid in any creature based deck and randomly get turn 3 kills with a turn 2 hermit. This is a good reason for Hermit Druid to have points on it.

In case you're unfamiliar with the combo here's a link to an article I wrote about it, the deck's probably changed slightly since I wrote this article but it's essentially the same

The changes I've made since then are:
- I've substituted Bridge from Below with Dregscape Zombie.
- I'm maining Murderous Redcap over Trike
- I've substituted Terravore in the board for Laboratory maniac. He functions as a plan B, you can put him on top of your library with Memory's Journey in response to Tormod's Crypt, Ravenous Trap and Relic of Progenitus.

So yeah, plenty of points changes after Can Con. There's talk of Crucible, Gorger and Price of Progress all being up for contention for a point drop. All of which I think are overdue but we'll have to wait and see what the committee decide.
Cards that will probably be up for discussion with regards to gaining points are: Stoneforge Mystic and Timevault. Naya zoo and Ub Timevault are the most played decks and they DO oppress other potential strategies."Why play mono or 2 colour aggro when you can play naya for negligible drawback?"...."Why play any other control deck when timevault-key is the best kill?". These questions are my simplified reasoning for proposing stoneforge and timevault getting points and cards not in these decks losing points.

There's also talk of "Voldemort" coming back to legality....that is, Flash-Hulk.
I always felt that the deck never deserved banning. I think it should've just had 7 points slammed on it to keep the lamenters happy. I recognise new players could feel cheated losing to it if they hadn't known about the deck but if you lose to it once you should never lose to it again. It's inconsistent, easy to hate and it never actually won a tournament.

Anyway, I also wanted to talk a bit about Price of Progess. Cards like Price of Progress promote diversity. At the moment the only decent non basic hate is back to basics, 1 card. So basically there's no incentive other than the cost of dual lands to play more colours. If there was more decent non-basic hate available (PoP) then mono colour decks would be more viable and thus the format more diverse.
To rebut other non-basic hate:
- Blood Moons and Magus of the Moon don't have a big enough impact on other deck's ability to function.
- Ruination is too taxing to play profitably. In the games you don't draw it you lose all incentive of building around it.
Another important point; much of the PoP's pointing discussion was done before the enemy Zendikar Fetches were printed. In my opinion the Zend Fetches have been the biggest influence on highlander since I started playing the format. With the addition of Zend fetches, 5c mana-bases became possible. Hermit Druid, Channel, 4c zoo all enjoy seemless mana with no drawback.
Also, due to the power and popularity of U based control decks and PoP's ineffectiveness against their high basic count, PoP is a sideboard card anyway.

So yeah some food for thought for all you highlander enthusiasts..and me. I intend to blog here every few days. Today was a particularly large entry cause it was my first entry and I had a lot of thoughts backed up.

Cheers, luke