söndag 15 december 2013

Legendary cycles

A few months ago, we looked at the worst mana fixers in 93/94. This time we'll look at my personal top5 "worst cycles" from Legends. It is kind of amusing that there are enough weak cycles in the set to make a list like this btw :)

Legends is a very large set. For one, it is larger than Beta. It is also larger than the three other legal expansions in 93/94 combined (Arabian Nights, Antiquities, and The Dark). There is a handful of very powerful cards in the set; like Mana Drain, Mirror Universe and The Abyss, but there's also a vast amount of sub-par cards in there. Lets dive into some of the more infamous parts of Legends.

5. Mana Batteries

The Mana Batteries aren't as horrible as the other cards on the list here, it's just that their casting cost makes them utterly unplayable in every conceivable format. The cards would be actually good if they costed half as much to cast (two mana for these isn't an unreasonable wish either, they were printed between the moxen and Fellwar Stone). The development of Legends however had some issues, and to quote original playtester Skaff Elias:

"One huge factor that allowed the cardset to be completed on time was that, by-and-large, the Legends team didn't care about casting costs. If a card's effect was too powerful or out of flavor for the color, instead of trying to get an agreed upon alteration, or explaining concepts of color theme, we could just overcost the card by a mana or two -- a lot of this can be seen in Legends today."

The Mana Batteries ended up taking five uncommon slots in the set, and never being played in competitive decks.

4. BandsLands

Now we're getting somewhere! Five years ago, the BandsLands would have placed higher up on the list, but due to some more recent changes on the "Bands with other" rule, these lands are pretty close to having an actual effect these days. When printed, a card with e.g. bands with other Merfolk would, counter-intuitively, not band with other Merfolk. It would however band with e.g. a Zombie that had the ability Bands with other Merfolk. There were more strange subsections of this rule, but as even ordinary banding was kind of hard to understand a few years ago (and still is today), I wont go into to much details. Today, the cards actually makes your Legends able to form a band with other legendary creatures, and may at extremely rare and complex board states do something.

3. Glyphs

Glyph of Reincarnation is one of those cards that can make you appreciate the simple design of Raging River. Legends had a big Wall-theme, and I guess someone though that these would be excellent combat tricks. They are not. I can see you contemplating a situation where you donate a Wall of Dust to your opponent with Juxtapose, play a Creature Bond on it, attack with a random creature, play False Orders to make them block with the wall, and cast two Glyph of Destruction for the win. However, Glyph of Destruction can only target walls you control, so that deck isn't as good as you might think.

2. Landwalk hosers

This might be the actual worst cycle in Legends. Comparing this and the number one spot is a little like comparing them with Pikachu and Jack of Diamonds; you can't play either in Magic decks. I guess that Undertow is the one that have an even remote chance of having an effect, and that Great Wall is the worst offender here. No one ever even considered playing the "fixed" version of these cards, Staff of the Ages from Ice Age, and that is an artifact that stops all landwalk for 3 mana.

1. Quicklaces

Dwarven Song. Haha. So you hear it, and become red for a while? I don't get it. Is it supposed to combo with Gauntlet of Might or Blue Elemental Blast? Were the laces from Alpha to powerful, and needed fixed versions? Mana Drain might be uncommon in Legends, but so is Sea King's Blessing :)

One more week until Christmas vacation btw. Looking forward to get back to Gothenburg for a while and play some old school magic over some sweet beer :)

måndag 9 december 2013

Thunder TaxEdge

Christmas coming up! This week we'll take a quick look at a sweet deck in the seasons colors.

There are two main approaches to Tax Edge we've seen a the top tables thus far. One is pretty much just an extension of traditional White Weenie, with some Plateaus and a mountain added to support Land's Edge and Lightning Bolt. The other approach is creatureless, and uses cards like Ivory Tower and full sets of Howling Mine.

The Thunder Tax Edge is somewhat in between those two. It only supports 6 creatures (4 Thunder Spirit and 2 Serra Angel), but is still much more aggressive than the creatureless version, and have a better late game than the version supporting White Knights and Savannah Lions. This "midrange version" of Tax Edge have not been represented in the last few tournaments, but I think that it has a pretty good matchup against most of the decks that we've seen in the last top8s. It may need some tweaks, but it's nonetheless really fun to play :)

4 Thunder Spirit
2 Serra Angel

4 Land Tax
2 Land's Edge
2 Blood Moon

4 Chain Lightning
3 Winds of Change
2 Dust to Dust
1 Stone Rain
1 Wheel of Fortune
1 Balance
1 Detonate

4 Lightning Bolt
2 Disenchant
2 Howling Mine
1 Black Vise
1 City in a Bottle
1 Sol Ring
1 Mox Pearl
1 Mox Ruby

LANDS (20)
13 Plains
3 Mountain
3 Plateau
1 Strip Mine

3 Red Elemental Blast
1 Land's Edge
1 Stone Rain
4 White Knight
1 Disenchant
1 Dust to Dust
1 City in a Bottle
2 Ivory Tower
1 Maze of Ith

måndag 2 december 2013

The arguments on Fallen Empires

Two topics about legality have been discussed vividly since the format started 2007. One was regarding Chaos Orb, and how we could legalize it while both maintaining the flavor of the card and avoiding messy play areas with spread out cards. The other one is regarding the legality of Fallen Empires. The issue with Chaos Orb was solved about two years ago, and we haven't looked back. The topic with Fallen Empires is still being discussed, and was brought up again during last BSK.

Ah, the days of scanable boosters :)
At its most basic, the arguments against Fallen Empires are the facts that it was easy to obtain as sealed product after 1994, and that it's inherent attainability makes the deck building process much less involved. You can still buy a sealed box with 60 FE boosters for about $150-200, and that very fact makes it less appealing as "true old school". Complex card searching and suboptimal deck building is an important part of the format, and legalizing an overprinted expansion is not really in the spirit of this.

At its most basic, the argument for Fallen Empires is that it would create a great influx of playable decks, that it was released in 1994, and that it is the last of the old school "stand-alone expansions" (it came before the block structure we've had since Ice Age/Homelands/Alliances). As a set, Fallen Empires is still pretty old school, without the new-fanged tap symbol and with it's see-through booster packs. The main argument is however the addition of playable cards. With one core set and four expansions, maybe the meta in 93/94 can't evolve forever. Still, many great games don't need expansions to be fun to play (Civilization, Settlers, Dominion, etc).

A removal-proof and huge trampler, which also fills your graveyard with threats. Reanimate-ho!
The budget concerns are actually not a huge argument against Fallen Empires, as other budget alternatives are already allowed in the format (Unlimited by us, and Revised by e.g. the Nova Scotia players). Also, if you want to build an "optimized" Goblin deck you'd still need other expensive cards. Three years ago, Stalin (this blog's founder) commented on the Fallen Empires discussion:

"I think we should decide where we want to go with the format. If we want Pimp, we should ban Unlimited. If we want 93/94, we should legalize Fallen Empires. If we want Old School, we may want to go as far as Alliances."

It might be worth noting that Stalin is in the (pretty small) "ban Unlimited" camp himself though.

The new Hypnotic runs straight through Maze of Ith.
At BSK, a lot of the players I talked to were open to eventually legalize the Empires. The main reasons is that Fallen Empires could make tribal strategies possible (like Merfolk and Goblins; and possibly Thrulls and Fungi), and improve strategies that might diversify the meta. I've stated before that I consider Fallen Empires to be a superior set to The Dark (and possibly Antiquities) powerwise. I think that most of the sets bad publicity is due to the fact that it was overprinted, and that the best cards were common (Hymn to Tourach, Goblin Grenade, and pump knights).

Both sides of the discussion have valid arguments. At this point it seems possible that Fallen Empires could be legalized sometime in the future of the format. Feel free to give feedback on it's inclusion or exclusion :)