Monday, July 30, 2012

It's the Magic: Sundown for Strategema

So, when October fifth rolls around, Return to Ravnica will come out. When it does, Karn, Venser, and the rest of Scars of Mirrodin block (and M12) will rotate out of the standard format. This means that I'll have to replace my Strategema deck (an event which Terry describes as "Karning Karn").

Actually, in order to best use the resources at my disposal, I'm trying to take the two dozen standard decks I have and narrow them down to fifteen decks with an even distribution of colors and color combinations (White, White/Blue, White/Black, White/Red, etc.)

However, I'm rubbish at Red and Red/Green decks, so I thought I'd publicly work on the decks so that readers, friends, and random passers-by could offer input on the deck creation process. My rules for the decks are as follows:

1) I'm primarily using cards from Innistrad and M13. I'm not against using cards from the soon-to-be rotated Scars of Mirrodin and M12, but I'd like to have some roughly equivalent replacements marked for when October comes.

2) Splashing colors is fine. Green has a renewed interest in handling non-Green mana, so I won't rule that out.

3) In order to decide which decks get which cards, I'm using five tiers to prioritize which decks get cards of a particular color when they both need it. For example, my White/Blue, Black/Red, and Mono-Green decks get first pull at the colors of their type. The Mono-Red and Red/Green decks are way down at the bottom of their colors and get last pull at their colors. These decks won't be competitive, but... No. They just won't be competitive.

4) I only use cards I've pulled. I have a sufficient collection of Innistrad and M13 and buying specific cards isn't economically feasible right now, so the decks will largely be based on the cards I currently have at my disposal.

In fact, choosing which of the cards at my disposal should be used as the foundations of these decks is the first step of this process. Listed below are my selected cards and reasons for choosing them. If you have another card that might make a basis for a good deck, go ahead and let me know.

Archwing Dragon (3 copies): My Close Air Support decks uses Glitterfangs, Viashino Sandscouts, and Viashino Sandstalkers, so it's no secret that I love this ability. However, paying 4 mana a turn to deal 4 damage to an opponent until they play a 4/5 flyer isn't the best deal. Though it can avoid things like Oblivion Ring and most mass removal. It would need a buff, or maybe I'd just have to be able to toss it with things like Faithless Looting and Wild Guess. More likely, I'd need cards that could buff it, reduce its cost, clear out blockers, or sacrifice it for something better.

Harvest Pyre (4 copies): Works with Green self-mill. Not good early game though. Good versus mill (not that there's a lot of that running around standard). I could try to use it with Splinter Fright/Boneyard Wurm, but there is some conflict there.

Blasphemous Act (3 copies): Running pro-Red with a series of sweepers in a "punish success" strategy (I do own a single Tibalt) would be pretty good (until something indestructible comes out. Indestructible stuff ruins all of Red's good parties.). It would be better if I could slip some Black discard or a way-out-of-Standard Burning Inquiry in there, but...c'est la vie.

Aggravate (3 copies): It's a good way to soften up an enemy force and send them hurtling headlong into your own. It would work well with some life gain and hard hitting defenders. A field of weak, creatures could be decimated by this. A field of slightly larger creatures could be forced into a tragic attack on prepared defenders and first strikers, or you could just swing back harder after shrugging off a hit.

Stonewright (4 copies): A pair of firebreathing (or shade) creatures is what I refer to as a "two card monte." Assuming you've got one or more creatures than an opponent, you can kamikazie or hit an opponent with damage equal to your mana. They're weak against first strike and require superior board advantage to swing through though. It also has abysmal toughness and no protection.

Scourge of Geier Reach (3 copies): Much like Blaphemous Act, it requires that you fall a bit behind. Having X creatures with 1 power is usually better than having 1 creature with X power. Trample via Ring of Kalonia could work with it, and there's no bet that I couldn't have just as many creatures. It doesn't have many abilities though. I'd love to give it deathtouch, but then I'd love to give most creatures deathtouch.

Wild Defiance (2 copies): Just like the Stonewright, Wild Defiance works as a two card monte. It's also good defense versus Black "shrinking" and it swing additional power on the attack. It also requires you have spells that target creatures and that you keep those cards coming. It's rather narrow and it doesn't work with a lot of Green and Red stuff.

Wolfir Avenger (3 copies): Provided you keep the two mana back, Wolfir Avenger can stop a lot of assaults, trade with a bunch o' dudes, and resist serious removal. That said, it's a 3/3. It's like having a superpower that says you can't die, provided that superpower says you can die, if the situation is weird enough, you just used your power and you're about to die again, or if you're whisked away to a magical nether-realm. I still think there's potential there.

Increasing Savagery (2 copies): Being able to beef up good creatures gives you a lot of flexibility. The flashback gives it some resilience against removal. Would work with hexproof, but half of the hexproof creatures are cycling out in October.

Garruk, Primal Hunter & Jar of Eyeballs (1 each): Garruck poops creatures and draws cards. Jar of Eyeballs draws cards when creatures (pooped-out or otherwise) die. They can make a notable card drawing engine, especially if you're flooding the field with cheap green creatures and cheap red removal (or creatures who are red removal).

Chronomaton (2 copies): Another slow burn, Chronomaton takes up resources just to make a big creatures. Would work fine with proliferate (alas...). It would be better in a blue deck, where open mana could either fuel a counterspell or pump this blocking artifact creature.

Otherworld Atlas and Grimoire of the Dead (1 copy of each): The combo of these two fill up your (and everyone else's) hands, then discard those cards to satisfy hand size or feed the Grimoire. Of course, the Grimoire is slow to come on line and a sure-fire target, giving an opponent plenty of time to knock it out, especially if they're the Otherworld Atlas is humming. Of course, if Green can provide the mana and red can provide the burn, maybe the Books of E-Ville and Güd could break even.

I'll have a reminder up next week, but the week after that I'll return to this to talk about the results, explore different ways to use the cards we've selected, and bring up a pool of both supporting cards and answers that we'll need.

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