EDH Collection – New Stuff!

It’s been a while since my last post on the site as I’ve mostly been playing MMOs which are hard to write on – unless you find a very specific niche to talk about, it’s probably been done to death with very precise maths to boot. However, I have still been playing a fair bit of Magic. I remain true to my EDH fanaticism and have been building up my collection.

I’ve recently gotten quite a few bits and pieces to fill out my collection – I like to build up most everything for any deck I think I’d like to play but I’ve been trying to round out my landbase and some of the newer cards that I’d managed to miss out on.

A couple of weeks back I picked up two sweet cards as part of FNM prize support. A 3-0 with the trusty blue/white fliers archetype in M14 draft netted me a DOTP promo Scavenging Ooze and an Experiment One. Ooze fits nicely into most any G/X build, providing effective graveyard manipulation and can become a threat on its own very quickly. Experiment One is something I can see myself running in R/G aggro lists such as Ulasht, the Hate Seed, which I’d love to try out soon.

Experiment ONe

Scavenging Ooze

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picking up these two really made me want to make a concerted effort at collecting again. When a local player posted on our Facebook group saying that he wanted to offload his collection at a (generously) reduced price, I immediately messaged him to set up a meeting. As a relatively new player (if I recall correctly he started actively competing again around the release of Return to Ravnica) he had a lot of what I needed – Standard cards that made the cut for EDH!

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Enter the Shocklands! In listing the cards he had up for grabs, he just so happened to have not one, not two, but twenty-two Shocks for trade. While I already had my own set of ten in the bag, Shocks are great for trading – they’re the best duals in Standard and Modern and I find it hard to see how WotC can print something that gives the original Duals a better run for their money than them. At the moment they are all worth roughly seven to ten euro – prior to their reprinting some of them reached the dizzy heights of eighteen to twenty apiece. Present and potential future value considered, it seemed like a pretty good idea to take my trading partner up on his request of five euro for each Shock. Here’s the list of lands I grabbed in this part of the deal:

I’ve already traded some of these – two Sacred Foundries are off to a new home in exchange for a foil Overgrown Tomb! I love foiling out and Junk colours are awesome – Karador and Doran let me play sweet 187 creatures, some of my favourite things in Magic. I also traded a Breeding Pool and a Theros rare for a copy of the new Garruk; the singleton Watery Grave netted me a Woodland Cemetery, a Tymaret, the Murder King, and a Fiendslayer Paladin. Other awesome pickups in today’s trades were

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Back to the actual buying part of today’s Magic action, I did pick up quite a few cards that I intended on using for myself and not trading off! I picked up thirty-eight commons, uncommons, and bulk rares at ten cent each – most of them are things I really wanted but never remembered to order! Take for example foil Syncopate, Boros Charm, and Dimir Charm. Onto the most interesting stuff of all though, here’s a list of the more expensive stuff I picked up – I got it all at 50-75% of the lowest MCM price.

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Domri pairs really well alongside the new Garruk I picked up today in Ulasht. Abolisher and Medic are excellent at cutting down profitable opposing decisions when it comes to removal and blocks in decks like Gaddock Teeg. Prophet is an interesting blend of Seedborn Muse and Teferi which I’d love to play in Momir and Zegana. Sphinx’s will slot very nicely into my new Merieke Ri Berit list as a late game restock option.

Obzedat needs to find a place but I think he makes an interesting BW control Commander. He provides reach, sustain, and a threat that an opponent can’t use sorcery-speed removal on – I think a deck like Obzedat would be a viable choice if my meta became a lot more aggro-heavy. Abrupt Decay and Deathrite transcend staple status in a B/G/X midrange list like Doran or Karador where versatility is essential. Lotleth is something I can see myself playing in anything requiring a discard outlet – reanimation/graveyard heavy decks such as Varolz and Mimeoplasm want this guy.

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That about wraps up the cards I picked up today – there’s about thirty other cards from the bulk uncommon/common lot that I’ll spare listing but I’m sure they’ll crop up in a deck tech whenever they get used! Thanks for reading my collection update – please like, share, and comment if you enjoyed the post.

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From the Vault: 20 – A Set Review for Duel Commander

Hello all. In the next couple of days I will be discussing the upcoming premium Magic: The Gathering product, From the Vault: 20. Since I’m solely a 1v1 Commander player nowadays, I figured it would be helpful to share my point of view on the mini-set in the context of my pet format.

Swords-to-Plowshares-FtV-20-Spoiler-216x300

Swords to Plowshares is easily the best removal spell White offers any Commander list. It costs a mere one mana and even exiles the target. This is important in the format because most colours have some form of recursion. If a threat is big enough for you to spend what is most likely your premier removal spell on it, you most certainly don’t want it getting Eternal Witness’d or Sun Titan’d. In terms of aesthetics, this art is my personal favourite StP art – Terese Nielsen is well-known for her epic stained-glass type art and this is no different. This foil printing is in my opinion much more appealing than the Judge Reward print.

Decks that want this

- Most decks that play white, I’m not sure who wouldn’t want StP in their 99!

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Where Swords to Plowshares is the quintessential one-mana removal spell, Fyndhorn Elves is the classic mana dork. A 1/1 for G that makes a mana is a fantastic inclusion in any green deck. Whether you need to get to a high mana count or not is secondary to the fact that it also lets you cast your three mana spells on turn two – a fast Mirran Crusader, Loxodon Smiter, or simply being able to cast multiple aggressive creatures on a single turn is huge because you’re attacking on the turn you may otherwise be casting them and as a result you’re getting them to zero a turn sooner. The fact that he is a creature-based ramp spell also means he can 1) hold equipment 2) be pumped by Anthems, Townships, fat creatures, and be tutored by many spells. While spells like Cultivate, Kodama’s Reach, and Growth Spasm are great for ramping to the far end of the curve, mana dorks are notably different in that they come down earlier, ramping you to the centre of your curve. Many decks prefer creature-based ramp because they apply early pressure, have a relevant creature type, and/or are more tutorable – here’s some decks where this really shows:

Decks that want this

Gaddock Teeg or other G/W/X aggro, Elves, Momir Vig-type creature-centric ramp or toolbox decks, Rafiq and G/X/Y voltron decks as he can always be relevant in holding an equipment, Karador as he ramps you into your other spells and can be recast later if needed/helps reduce Karador’s casting cost

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Hymn is among the reasons I love playing decks with a black base. Hand disruption is absolutely huge in Duel Commander. Not only can cards such as Thoughtseize strip a threat from an opponent’s hand, they also show you what else you will have coming your way. This allows you to pre-empt your opponent’s plays and optimise how you answer each threat. Hymn doesn’t actually show you your opponent’s hand but it does have the potential to completely gut it – it’s an immediate +1 in card advantage terms and this is huge in decks like monoblack – while you are in a position to consistently make favourable one-for-ones with cards like Go for the Throat and Thoughtseize, you rarely get a tidy +1 outside of Sign in Bloods and Damnations. A turn two Hymn is brutal because the odds are that if you hit their spells they will not have anything to do on their turns, whereas if you strip their lands, they can’t cast any spells.

Decks that want this

Every single monoblack deck, I can’t think of any exceptions! Most black/x decks that have a single midrange or controlling bone in their body – unless your deck is dependent on a higher creature count, Hymn is a solid inclusion most times. Specifically, decks like Griselbrand, Iname, and Xiahou Dun definitely want this.

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Edicts are a very powerful set of removal spells in the Duel Commander format. They get around hexproof and protection – this is vitally important in a format where many people auto-include at least some Swords and some form of Greaves. Factor in the fact that a number of Commanders have innate protection (Geist of Saint Traft, Thrun the Last Troll) and Chainer’s Edict really starts to look good. The flashback cost may seem high but the card would be playable even without it – consider the fact that many four- and five-mana Commanders would likely be re-cast with their two mana tax if it weren’t for the Edict in your graveyard to play around. Sadly, the nature of Edicts offering your opponent a choice in some cases can cause it to fall flat. Edicts are most effective when you’re consistently clearing your opponent’s threats one-by-one. Otherwise, expect your two-mana investment to kill a Llanowar Elves or a Saproling instead of your intended target!

Decks that want this

Monoblack control lists such as Xiahou, Iname, and Griselbrand. As mentioned, you want to be dedicated to dealing with threats turn after turn to ensure your Edicts successfully take out the otherwise untargetable threat you want them to. If you encounter an unusual amount of token or mana-dork heavy decks, perhaps Chainer’s effort is best left at home.

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I was pretty surprised to see this card in FTV:20. It’s on cards like this and the next one I’m going to discuss that you begin to get drawn back to reality – WotC are not about to reprint everything we’ve ever wanted on the cheap. Bitterness aside (where-the-hell-is-my-Rishadan-Port), Kessig Wolf Run is a fantastic inclusion in any deck that sees itself needing to inch in that last chunk of damage complete with trample. Naya and Jund rampy decks such as the Kresh devour lists and Mayael decks will love this as it turns any one of their guys into a threat later on thanks to their mana dork and Cultivate-fuelled resource stores.

Decks that want this

R/G/X decks that expect to have a creature and any mana that would otherwise go unused later on in the game – seriously, I’m not sure why you wouldn’t play this just to have a mana sink that forces your opponent to rethink blocks. It may tap for colourless but it’s a shoddy mana-base that can’t run a handful of colourless lands.

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While I was surprised (not entirely pleasantly, not entirely negatively) by Kessig Wolf Run’s appearance, I’m fairly positive I felt physically ill when I saw this little number. I’m really not sure why it’s in here. I don’t think anyone is crying out for a foil Plant Wall, regardless of what it does. If someone was happy to see Wall of Blossoms in here, they probably have some attachment to it and own one (or fifty) already. Duel Commander applications are fairly slim – much like Kessig Wolf-Run, the fact that it isn’t practically any other card from the year it saw play makes me want to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Decks that want this

I guess you could play it in some form of GW flicker-heavy deck to draw a card once a year. In all seriousness, I’m genuinely not sure who wants this – if you want a 2 mana cantripping creature, play Elvish Visionary and bounce it in your elf deck. I have no idea why this is here.

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Mana rocks are a valuable commodity in Commander and 1v1 is no different. Whether your list wants to consistently make more and more mana or reach a critical amount, rocks such as the Dynamo are a great solution. The fact that it only costs you one mana the turn it comes in – a common issue with mana ramp is that you cast it and you are thus tapped out for that turn. Rocks such as this one let you follow up, provided the colourless mana is not an issue. Artifact-heavy lists, mono-coloured lists that have the lands or other coloured sources in play to foot the coloured costs of their spells, and decks that have some means of filtering colourless mana benefit most from cards such as this one.

Decks that want this

Decks that want a critical mass of mana to go off, such as Azami most likely want to play this. Its playability is dependent on your need for something that jumps you to seven or eight mana and your capability to make effective use of that mana alongside coloured sources. Artifact-heavy decks like Memnarch and Bosh are safe to run this to reach their higher costing cards such as Darksteel Forge and Mycosynth Lattice – not to mention to cast their own Commanders early and consistently.

Back to the Vault

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That’s it for today – I’ll be back tomorrow with my two cents on the remainder of thebox-set. Seriously though, where’s my Rishadan Port? What about Force of Will? There’s no reason they couldn’t have included them aside from some sort of bizarre moral compass that cares more about people who sell the existing prints of those cards at an obscene profit than the people who want to actually play the cards. The boxset will see such a minimal print run that the overall number of cards added to circulation is unlikely to break a trader’s prices in half. We can only hope that WotC start caring more about players in the near future.

Five Tribes

In returning to blogging and Magic in general, I want to set out on a long-term project. In recent times, I’ve gotten a bit tired of Kaalia and tested out both Uril the Miststalker and Gaddock Teeg. Unfortunately, neither of those decks has really drawn me in. In search of a solution to my deckbuilding slump, I’ve decided that this project will be to build a tribal deck of each of the five colours of Magic.

Teeg Uril

I came to this decision having really given where I’m at with Commander some consideration. I don’t care much for multiplayer Commander anymore, favouring 1v1 EDH using the Duel Commander ruleset and banlist. I want to play more Commander and I want to play it in multiple different ways. For a long time I’ve been struggling to choose a deck (or decks) to play in EDH – all I know for sure when it comes to EDH is that I

- Prefer creature Magic; as much as I like to give it a go now and then, sitting back with a grip full of blue instants is not my style

- Need flavour in my decks; I need to feel attached to whichever Commander I’m playing and I need to be able to see exactly what’s happening in the game as it progresses in a Vorthos sort of way

- Tend to want to chop, change, and/or totally switch the deck I’m playing; this can be from month to month all the way down to match to match

Building multiple (five!) decks, therefore, seems like a pretty logical conclusion. It follows that those five decks should be thematically strong, feature a hell of a lot of creatures, and feel significantly different enough that switching between them makes how a game plays out change proportionally.

I’ve built up a sizeable collection of solid EDH cards that make building at least the bulk of most decks I’d want to play possible. However, as is the case with many Commander lists, the vast majority of cards are quite niche. For example, I might have to order anywhere from twenty to thirty different archetypical cards for a new Commander but they might all be in the bulk rare/twenty-five cent common price bracket. Another reason I want to set out on a Tribal deckbuilding project is to actually make use of my entire collection – it feels more than a little wasteful to leave on average two to three colours of Magic in storage.

Without further ado, here’s five mini-profiles on the Commanders I’ll be working on in the coming months. I’ll be updating with posts here on the site with any progress, observations, or tournament placings (when the time comes) I might have to report!

The Black Tribe: Zombies

Mikaeus

Mikaeus is the clear choice for a monoblack tribal Commander in my opinion. He’s an evasive 5/5 if it comes down to a grindy lategame and he gives you resilience to removal such as Wrath of God or trade-intensive combat steps in aggro mirrors. There’s also a bit of combo potential to abuse Undying and sacrifice outlets for resources such as cards, life, and mana. Zombies are after all the tribe I have the most history with, along with Elves. To clarify, when I bought my first Magic cards back in the early 2000s, this is the kit I broke into the game with!

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The Green Tribe: Elves

Ezuri

Compared with the other Elf Commander options, Ezuri is strictly more versatile. He’s reasonably costed, protects your guys from destruction while you set up your board and then ends the game when you get it set up via his repeatable Overrun ability. His ability to make a beatdown plan not die in combat while making a make-a-ton-of-mana-combo gameplan always have an invaluable trampling mana sink too. I really look forward to playing this deck for its ability to adapt to matchups – sometimes comboing will net the win but other times just beating down will be the safer bet.

The White Tribe: Soldiers

Darien Crovax

My chosen White tribe, Soldiers, is the only tribe whose leader I haven’t quite elected yet. The calculating, efficiency-oriented Spike side of me leans towards Crovax for his ability to resolve and immediately impact the board, sniping mana dorks and utility creatures with the added benefit of buffing my army. My inner Vorthos and the more optimistic Spike in me suggests Darien is more on-theme and probably generates more net power than Crovax if he sticks around. Regardless of leader, the deck will operate primarily using tokens and anthems. The nature of token generators means that the deck is inherently more resilient to Wraths as you can apply pressure by getting in with, for example, a Hero of Bladehold and then keeping a Cloudgoat Ranger in hand should you want to have a recovery plan if the game goes awry. Some of the cards I’ll be playing in this list I just love – Captain of the Watch and Martial Coup are just awesome in every way.

The Red Tribe: Goblins

Krenko

Krenko epitomises what Goblins are about – getting out of control very quickly. Left unchecked, Krenko’s ability to double your creature presence turn after turn gets exponentially more powerful. Red features a lot of land and artifact destruction, which is particularly powerful in my metagame since there are a lot of non-basic-heavy, tri-colour manabases and Voltron decks that are reliant on equipment. The deck itself makes use of Krenko through not only buffing the tokens he generates but also providing means of using them to generate mana, gain some reach through direct burn damage, and buff the remainder of your team to get in for lethal damage. I’m really excited to play this deck because Haste is such a powerful keyword that I haven’t played with enough outside of Lightning Greaves and Swiftfoot Boots – the sheer momentum of the deck should be a nice option for when I just want to camp out in the redzone. M14 gave me a sign in the form of Ogre Battledriver, too – I imagine tapping Krenko with the Driver in play is just awesome in every situation.

The Blue Tribe: Wizards

Azami

Where Zombies, Elves, Goblins, and Soldiers win primarily through attacking (even when doing their version of comboing off), Wizards are different. While they love to turn sideways, they tend to upright themselves right after doing so then turn sideways again as many times as they need to. This deck will feature a ton of control Magic such as bounce spells, permission, and card-draw. To get the engine running, it will also feature a heap of mana rocks and efficient Wizards that disrupt, ramp, and draw cards. While this style of play is probably furthest from my automatic preference, I can’t overstate just how split my Magic-playing personality is – having the option to just sit back and never attack and still win is an option even for an aggro player.

That concludes my run-down on my Magic-related plans for the future, if you have any suggestions be sure to contact me on Twitter at @shameless_geek and throw me a Like and Follow on the site’s social media pages!

 

A Quick Update!

It’s been over a month since the last post on the site! Not to worry though, the reason for my absence is part of the reason the site is going to end up better than ever! I’ve been super busy with a number of projects – here’s a quick update on what I’ve been up to.

I started a Digital Web Design course three weeks ago. I’ve been learning to use Photoshop, Illustrator, and will soon be learning to code in HTML and CSS. I’ve been completely absorbed by the course – I am beyond excited to apply all I’ll be learning to revamping the site. This will range from a new layout and logo to sweet HTML that make in-text links to cards, in-game items much smoother. I’m out pretty much all day between the course itself and the related commute, so for the foreseeable future posts will be whenever I have time.

I’ve been playing way more Magic at weekends. This means I’ve played Memnarch and Azusa since my last post, and I’ll be playing five-colour Allies with Karona at the helm as my next project! I’ve also acquired the cards for Uril the Miststalker, who looks positively awesome. I’ve been wanting to find some sweet Commanders for fun multiplayer games that have strong duel potential too, so Karona and Uril seem to fit the mould nicely on paper. Being able to switch in and out certain cards to facilitate 1v1 play is a nice bonus. Having played with Kaalia for the longest time, a Commander that comes hexproof by default should be a welcome change.

As for League, I’ve mostly been playing normal games and ranked 5v5 with a team of friends. I’m primarily playing AD carry for the team – my main picks are MF and Twitch since we tend to work well together as a group, so their ults can be high impact every fight. In normals I’m mostly playing rogue picks such as AP Nautilus mid. I’ve been playing Firefall but the newest rendition of the crafting system has put me off for a little while. I’m still working my way through Mass Effect 2, which I should really hurry up with since I managed to pick up Mass Effect 3 for €7 from http://www.gamefly.com/ (props to them, I think it was down as low as €3 the day before).

That pretty much sums up the bulk of what I’ve been focusing on in the last month, thanks for reading and stay tuned for updates to the site as they come!

Commander Update

This weekend I attended a 1v1 Commander tournament which was held at Itzacon. Itzacon is NUI Galway’s annual gaming convention and is organised by the university’s Fantasy and Science Fiction society. The tournament was a modest €5 to enter and there were ten players with no duplicate Commanders, which made the event interesting both as a competition and as a showcase of the format’s variety. The event used the Duel Commander rules. I played my pet Kaalia of the Vast list, tinkered and tuned for 1v1. As I discussed in a previous post, I had intended to alter the list into a dedicated duel-format list as I don’t find the deck overly fun in multiplayer. The tournament was planned to be best-of-one due to predicted time constraints – while the first round was completed in roughly fifteen minutes, we opted to stick to the original plan of best-of-one. I went 2-2; I lost to Molimo, Maro-Sorcerer and Isamaru, Hound of Konda and beat Rosheen, Meanderer and Borborygmos Enraged. I thoroughly enjoyed the event, though playing best-of-three or even -five if time permitted would definitely make for the most enjoyable event going forward; the nature of a ninety-nine card deck on each side of the table means multiple games remain varied and also helps counteract variance. I bricked on one land versus Molimo and had all three signets within my first three turns against Isamaru’s rushdown.

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The cards I was most eager to include in a 1v1 list paid off. ThoughtseizeInquisition of Kozilek and Duress were great – they gave me perfect information to avoid throwing away resources or running Kaalia into removal. On the day I played neither Gerrard’s Verdict nor Hymn to Tourach but I would most definitely play them in future – Kaalia is not as fast nor as explosive as some other Commanders but you get a real sense of inevitability once you pick off their hand and stick her. Getting free plus-ones is a great way to do this. I would also play more single-target removal – I played Path, Swords, Chaos Warp and Sever the Bloodline. I would undoubtedly add some combination of Doom Blade, Go For the Throat or Slaughter Pact in future. I also intend to up the land count – while it’s impossible to discern whether having a higher land count would have helped or not, going from thirty-six to forty seems like a good idea. One card I added last-minute and would play again was Magmaquake, which I would probably supplement with Rolling Temblor or another ground-targeted nuke. Tokens and weenie-voltron commanders are worth noting in the format – at worst these cards let you not die while you get your plan set up. I also added Necromancy to my reanimation package which previously consisted of Animate Dead, Reanimate and Loyal Retainers. Having a solid means of grinding it out against one-for-one removal in this deck is a good idea.

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While I enjoyed playing Kaalia and can’t wait to do so again soon, my return to Magic after six weeks away from it has reignited my interest in deckbuilding. To wrap up (and perhaps foreshadow what I might be writing about in future), here are some Commanders I am seriously considering building for single- or multiplayer Commander.

Azusa

Azusa is a Commander I’ve been interested in for a long time now. She ticks a lot of boxes for the types of Commander I want to try playing – she comes down early, has a very unique effect and she has a big impact on the type of cards that you include in the rest of the list. Land-based strategies are not something I’m familiar with but I imagine the deck functions very well as a straight-up monogreen ramp-and-stomp too. Cards that I’d love to play with in a land-heavy Azusa build include Burgeoning, Horn of Greed, Rowen and Abundance.

Iname

Iname’s black incarnation appeals to the mono-black player I once was when I first got into Commander. I have a soft spot for reanimation and Iname gives you a full graveyard for you to reanimate the entirety of using any number of mass-reanimation spells. You can also use his ability as mana ramp for a lethal X-spell such as Exsanguinate thanks to Crypt of Agadeem. Cards I’d get to play in this list include Living Death, Living End, Twilight’s Call, Balthor, Tombstone Stairwell, Midnight Ritual, and Patriarch’s Bidding. I’d also get to play a ton of weird and unusual Spirits that no-one’s ever heard of, which is pretty badass!

Memnarch

Memnarch would promote me doing three things I really want to have a go at in Commander: play lots of mana rocks, cast lots of draw spells and incorporate an artifact tinkering and recursion theme into a list. Memnarch would make a lot of use out of some cards I’ve always liked the idea of – Trinket and Treasure Mage, Skill Borrower, Thirst for Knowledge, Pulse of the Grid, Reshape, Argivian Restoration and artifact recursion like Junk Diver and Arcbound Reclaimer. I’d also get to jam with Brainstorm, Preordain, and Ponder which are really fun in terms of opening up decision-making paths and fixing your draws.

Toshiro

Toshiro seems really strong in 1v1 – spot removal is much better than in multiplayer for a number of reasons. It’s much higher impact because you’re only having to deal with one opponent’s creatures. In addition, people tend to fall back on their Commanders to play a critical role more because voltron and aggro Commanders are much more viable when you only expect a one-player measure of removal. Toshiro can afford to max out on spot removal and other instant-speed tricks and start chaining together big blowouts. The main considerations I need to make is how I intend on getting maximum impact out of his ability and how best to incorporate a voltron package – each of these ensure I can focus on clearing their board and beating down from the get-go. Maxing out on self-mill, spot removal, draw power and ways to make Toshi big are critical to making this deck work, at least on first impression. Cards I’d get to play with include the standard mass of single-target removal spells like Doom Blade, Go for the Throat and so on. I think this deck would take the most research and refinement to make work, but would be a really unique choice to take to a tournament.

Zedruu

I list Zedruu primarily because I already have a Zedruu deck. However, I’ve neglected it greatly since initially building it. It has two key problems that need to be addressed – I don’t have enough permission to stop combo players, and I don’t have enough early ramp and rocks to start really taking part. Combo players are a big issue when playing Zedruu, because seemingly universal effects that for example give everyone a card is advancing the combo player to their win much moreso than it is by giving the aggro player another 2/2. For this reason, I need to incorporate more permission such as Force of Will and Counterspell and research better early ramp such as Talisman of Progress, Coalition Relic and Pristine Talisman. I also want to add more cards that help players that are behind, and potentially replace some of the globally benefitting cards to ensure that everyone is kept in the game. Cards like Loxodon Peacekeeper and the Hunted are a good direction for me to go in if I want to keep playing grouphug.

Today’s stream highlights

I’ve been playing a lot of ranked games to try and reach my short-term goal of Gold V. I’ve mostly been playing as a jungler and doing my best to help every lane and gimp the enemy jungler. While I’ve mostly played Jarvan IV for his ridiculously versatile skillset, these three videos feature Xin Zhao and Malphite too and are the first three games I played today.

For Xin Zhao and Jarvan I use these masteries. I use armour penetration reds, armour yellows, magic resist per level blues and movement speed quintessences for Jarvan IV and the same page for Xin except I use attack speed reds.

For Malphite I use armour reds, yellows, and quintessences with magic resist per level blues. I use these masteries for Malphite.

Locket is probably the best tanky jungler item right now. Its parts are cheap which means you can consistently add to your stats on each back and eventually grant a massively valuable AoE shield for teamfights, ganks, and objective clears.

It’s always important to try and predict enemy movements with your Q->E combo as J4. This can sometimes make it whiff but ultimately you are better to try and pre-emptively dash – this way, you’re at worst in front of them and ready to W them instead of behind of them. Also use Q->E to dodge wards in river/dragon/tribush by going into the purple side’s bot river bush.

Xin Zhao doesn’t have the wall-jumping abilities of J4 but makes up for it with increased sustained damage and the ability to split entire teams. Try to emphasise getting five connections with your ult to get the maximum defensive stat bonus instead of using it for awkward and risky knockback plays if you’re not confident with him.

Malphite is pretty insane – while he has no hard cc pre-six, his slow/speed-up can make for a great movement speed differential that lets you walk-aut0-walk and get in extra damage while your teammates finish the job. Whiffing your ult as I do at one point is never fun, so communicate with your allies to time flashes.

The Kobalt Kiwi

Card alteration in Magic: The Gathering has become increasingly popular in recent years. In this blogger’s view, some amount of  this rise in custom art on cards can be attributed to an increasingly visible global Magic community thanks to both livestreamed events and increased GP attendance. The market for personalised accessories such as playmats, sleeves, and most recently tokens points towards a trend whereby players want to express their own take on the game, regardless of deck or format. Artists such as Eric Klug have turned their card altering work into a full-time profession, producing phenomenal works that transcend alteration and enter the realms of original pieces.

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Kiwi has become popular amongst UK and Irish gamers

American artists typically get a lot of exposure due to appearances at Starcity Games events and Grand Prixs –  today I’ll be talking about a UK artist who is growing in popularity via the highly active Facebook Magic community. The Kobalt Kiwi started playing Magic just last year, undertaking his first alteration in exchange for a single booster. “I didn’t want to charge much since it was my third alter – I’d spent most of my life to that point painting, except on canvas”, says Kiwi. He’s a twenty-year-old third-level student, studying Game Art Design at De Montfort University. “I had just finished studies at the Arts University College of Bournemouth – I was spending my time on other art such as painting and jewellery-making. I was playing Magic four or five days a week at the time, so Magic cards became the next logical medium for my art”. Kiwi now exchanges   experiences, advice and criticisms via an alterer community that has emerged on Facebook. Prior to that, Kiwi was going it alone on the basis of trial, error and experience with traditional artwork. “I mostly drew on various alters I saw online, though Marta Molina’s work impressed me greatly and I hope to someday rival her skill”.

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Kiwi’s first alter was for a friend, and his main difficulty surrounded proper priming and paint thickness

Kiwi mentions his initial stumbling blocks surrounded adequate preparation – “initial paint thickness, priming, and line smoothness is difficult to get right but important to become comfortable with. My advice to fledging artists would be to stay away from Sharpies and give it a try!”. Kiwi’s first alter was a Somberwald Sage and since then he has worked on a number of projects, ranging from borderless alters to more drastic alterations to the main art. Despite this, Kiwi still expresses a clear preference when it comes to commissions that can be easily attributed to his great admiration for Magic‘s artists over the years. “Magic has, in my opinion, the best art out of any card game out there. Every card is a stunning painting that professional illustrators have laboured over and put a great deal of experience into perfecting”, says Kiwi.

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Kiwi emphasises the need to put in the effort from start to finish on an alteration

In our conversation about Magic‘s art, he also touched on the dual issues of anime stylings and misogynistic depictions of women in fantasy art. “I don’t even consider anime or manga something that should be involved with Magic card art. The art we’re already given is something to be respected and added to, not invalidated by art that belongs in Vanguard or Pokémon”. “Women in impractical and hyper-sexualised armour and clothing is rife in a lot of gaming media as it is in many other places – it’s not something I think should be promoted in Magic’s art.” Personally I couldn’t agree with Kiwi’s remarks more – sexist card art and anime influences are not something I like to see in any game I play, especially Magic. In my view, these themes and portrayals serve only to alienate and exclude both male and female players by fuelling the anti-social and male-dominated stereotype of gamers as a whole. Many card alterers, whose sites I won’t even deign to backlink to, generate a huge amount of interest by imposing images of scantily clad adolescent girls completely irrelevant to the original art or game onto cards.

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EDH Commanders are a popular choice for alteration amongst Kiwi’s customers

While Kiwi has not as of yet been able to jam his Magic alterations into any coursework, he’s been steadily gaining popularity and a backlog of commissions is emerging – prior to this increase in demand, he was even able to alter some of his own cards. “Commander was my favourite format when I got started – it was relaxed and fun but also highly interactive and a lot of crazy stuff could happen at any time. Modern is easily the most fun format for me right now though. I play Merfolk and Infect there and I really enjoy the competitive nature of the format as well as its eternal cardpool.”

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Kiwi is a fellow EDH fanatic

On the subject of Kiwi’s wider interests, he mentions one of the artists that encouraged him into pursuing art as a career – Nathan Ford. “He is an artist that I adore and probably the reason I can paint at all”. Kiwi has approximately forty cards incoming for alteration – commissions are closed right now but his Facebook page is alive with posts of his own private work for university as well as the latest progress shots from his alters. If you’d like to follow his progress or queue up to attain a KK alter, check him out here. Thanks for reading! Like or Follow us for updates on social media when our next piece goes live.

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“Paul”, by Nathan Ford