Maybe in Amonkhet?
Previews for Modern Masters 2017 have begun, and I couldn’t care… okay, to be honest, I am mildly curious – but that’s about it. It’s just a reprint set, after all! It will be very expensive to draft (maybe except for the very first days, before prices for its singles normalize), and it is unlikely to make any card I want for my Limited Card Pool – which is essentially my brand of casual play – significantly cheaper. Actually, I believe that people are under a misconception: The point of these sets is not to make entry into Modern cheaper, but keeping its cost somehow stable, while hopefully growing its player base.
So, what is really on my mind right now is Amonkhet! There are some things I’d like to see in this set, and I’ll share my wish list with those few readers I still have. (A reminder: Fewer viewers, and fewer comments even more make me less likely to blog.)
Also, -1/-1 counter matter cards which specifically care about those counters (so no proliferate or the like), but I’m happy with wither and cards with -1/-1 counters in general. There’s a plethora of cards that work with a +1/+1 counter theme, but a dearth of the opposite.
I might possible even get this wish, since info on the two planeswalkers from Amonkhet‘s planeswalker decks has been leaked, and the new Liliana seems to have an ability that gives -1/-1 counters. Additionally, wither fits the flavor of a pseudo-Egyptian world ruled by a dark overlord really well.
While Theros wasn’t that long ago, they essentially blew it in regard to its supposed enchantment theme, and especially Black, Red and Blue still need a lot of help to contribute enough for such a theme in a Next Level Cube.
I’m not quite as optimistic here, but I believe there is a chance. With WotC churning out two blocks per year now, it might already be time for another stab at this theme, and enchantments wouldn’t be a bad fit in that world. But then again, they’re not exactly a shoo-in either.
Yup, like the ones from Planeshift. They would be a fine addition to the triple lands cycle from Shards of Alara / Khans of Tarkir, if this cycle were complete.
This is most likely wishful thinking, though. While I believe that lairs of powerful beings would fit Amonkhet well, and while MaRo has been talking a lot lately about completing land cycles, those lands are probably not near the top of the list, and even though a minor wedge theme in Amonkhet does not seem outright impossible, it would still come a little early after Khans of Tarkir.
Okay, those are my wishes, but what will we likely get?
Yes, I actually believe wither will be in this set! It’s high time for a -1/-1 counter block, it fits the world’s theme, and I think the spoiled ability that uses those counters is real.
I mean, DUH. Don’t like that sort of card much, though. However, how can you have mummies without curses?
I almost forgot those, but they fit just as perfectly as curses, they were popular in Zendikar, and they were really missed by players when the latter world became an eldrazi battleground instead of an adventure world. I am, again, almost convinced we will get those. My only doubts stem from space considerations – if wither, curses and traps come back, how much room is their left for new mechanics? Oh, and I generally don’t like those, but one or two great single designs might be able to win me over.
This prediction was almost as DUH as that for curses even before they spoiled artwork that really, really looks like it depicts gods. They might even be enchantment creatures again, judging by their look. I think it’s too early, though, to bring back such a specific mechanic as devotion, but if they believe the set overall feels different enough from Theros, this is still a possibility, although probably only for the gods then. But it seems more likely to me that Amonkhet‘s gods will feature a slightly different take. I’ll still hate them anyways.
Almost another DUH, but then again, this card has minor gameplay issues… it’s still very likely in, though. And I don’t really care either way.
Mummies are definitely in in a big way, and mummies are zombies in Magic. Also, tribal is a popular theme. I wouldn’t mind a couple extra well-designed zombie tribal cards, but I’m not in a dire need for them either.
I know, I’m such a prophet, right? You just need to make sure that people cannot play competitively without a bunch of mythic rares. And we know practically for sure that Nicol Bolas will be in this set, so there’s that.
Four more drafts in, I managed my second 3-0 in Kaladesh block. This was my deck:
The good old mixture of strong creatures and a lot of removal, with quite a bit of incidental lifegain (which proved very helpful), and on a rather high power level overall. Both the curve and distribution of mana were just a tad bit clunky, but I got lucky enough to have no unkeepable draws and had my less promising draws develop nicely. A good variety of decent sideboard options rounded out a strong, but still far from perfect deck.
Since there isn’t much else to say here, let me take the opportunity to talk about something vaguely related: Between the releases of Kaladesh and Aether Revolt, I drafted very little. That was due to a number of reasons, most of which had nothing to do with Magic, but one of those reasons was that I disliked (and still dislike) draft leagues. I of course see the obvious advantages of largely eliminating waiting periods and the ability to budget your playing times, but I just miss real drafting. To recap the essential differences:
This also means that hatedrafting becomes essentially irrelevant. While beginning players tend to vastly overvalue hating cards, intermediate players often give up a non-negligible amount of win percentage points by refusing to do it. (Once you need no longer to care about signalling, there is absolutely no advantage in taking a card in your colors which you will not play over a stronger card which you cannot play.) Eliminating the point of hatedrafting not only takes some skill away, it also reduces the number of picks which matter.
Memorizing which cards you passed – and to whom – can inform your decisions when you play an opponent from your table. In cross-pod drafting, this is yet another bit of skill that is lost.
Because of all this, cross-pod drafting is poor practice for real-life drafting.
Certainly, the majority of players doesn’t really care, but some, like me, do, and yet we do not get a split of draft tournaments and leagues offered. Instead WotC convert any and all draft formats where the critical mass of players makes this possible into leagues, and even though they claim to care for different players’ needs, they just don’t give a fuck about fans of real drafting, for one simple reason: Eliminating waiting times means that people can (and will) enter more drafts, which means they pay more entry fees, which makes WotC more money.
That’s all there is to it. It is also why they insist on keeping a single elimination draft league around, although that format is clearly unpopular; and it is why they are toying around with the abomination which the single-game league is. It’s all about giving you as little playing time per entry fee as possible. Everything else is just smokes and mirrors.
To be honest, I really don’t feel much like blogging about Magic right now. Helplessly watching the world taking a turn to the worst pretty much quenches my drive to write about a card game (which still has a large number of annoying issues itself), and it’s not exactly helping to realize that the cancer of fascist thinking has crept deep into what little is left of the German Magic community as well. Also, I finally found the energy to continue writing my epic storytelling novel that I had put on hold due to personal reasons for years, and I do not wish to divide my strength between this and Zeromagic.
However, I am also not willing to let this blog die (…again?) completely, so I will make some token effort to keep it alive until my motivation to voice thoughts about my favorite game increases again. With Aether Revolt just having been released on Magic Online, at least I have something obvious to talk about, and I will start by showing you a screen shot of the draft deck which gave me my first tournament victory in over half a year (that sounds worse than it is before I mention that this time span only covers a total of nine events):
My general impression of the format is that, overall, not a lot has changed, even if some details are different. It is still mainly about curving out and either making sure to not fall behind on board or pushing through before the opponent’s lategame is online, depending on the role – beatdown or control – that your deck occupies in a matchup. Creatures are on average a bit smaller now, tokens are a bit scarcer, artifacts have become a bit more important, and revolt incentivizes attacking and disincentivizes blocking a bit more than before; but the big picture hasn’t changed that much in my opinion. When in doubt, picking bombs over removal over efficient creatures will still get you reasonably far on your way to a strong deck, and identifying those picks where you should prioritize a synergy card will cover most of the rest of it. Just remember that breaking up your curve for a play that does not do anything immediately is likely to get punished, and you should be able to separate actually great utility (like Renegade Map) from the “sweet”, but clunky stuff (like Consulate Turret).
(I used those two cards as fairly obvious examples, because I watched Numot the Nummy pick Turret over Map without much consideration. Of course, his 4-turret deck sucked balls, and crashed and burned afterwards just like it deserved… I just don’t get it. It was the very first day of Aether Revolt Drafts being available on Magic Online, and that streamer was already clowning around with silly stipulations! Is this really what the public wants? This world is definitely doomed…)
About my deck: I started that draft with a bunch of red removal spells (I think my first pick was Shock over Gifted Aetherborn and Merchant’s Dockhand), which just kept flowing and cemented me in Red. However, the packs turned out to be short on efficient creatures overall, so I took that pair of Frontline Rebel with the concession that I had to build my deck around making them work. (Obviously, removal is a good start here!) I decided on Green as my second color without really seeing more of it than from other colors, because I knew I needed to fill out my curve with creatures, and Green gave me the best shot to do so. (My impression is that Green might have been underdrafted in general on the first day of that format, because it lacks the firstpick quality removal spells which White, Black and Red have.)
In the end, my deck turned out more or less exactly as I had hoped after the first booster round, although it could have used another 2-power 2-drop that would have allowed me to also put in Mobile Garrison in exchange for Quicksmith Genius and Embraal Gear-Smasher, which were fine, but a bit lackluster.
Deckbuilding essentially only offered two questions – how many and which combat tricks to run, and if I should maindeck that Appetite of the Unnatural. I decided on Implement of Ferocity plus Highspire Infusion, and no. The Implement is actually a decent card, and I was especially interested in making my two Frontline Rebel 4/4, since that is almost always big enough to make sure that they are a real threat and not an embarassment. In hindsight, the Infusion should have been Built to Smash instead for the obvious reason that it is one mana cheaper. I was probably a bit too concerned that I would need to use a pump spell on defense or in response to a removal spell, but it turned out that I almost always used my tricks on attacking creatures anyway (the only exception being when I cast Ornamental Courage on Aethertorch Renegade to kill a creature with toughness 2).
About Appetite: While I usually like it as a one-of main, I could not afford a possibly dead card in this deck, since my goal was to steadily apply pressure from the beginning. Having access to a lot of creature removal is great, but it also means that if you still need to keep your creature count high because your game plan is aggression, there is not much room for other types of cards – in this case, exactly 2 slots for combat tricks. Also, if you can already kill a lot of creatures, there aren’t quite as many things left which Appetite needs to destroy. However, against the deck with Multiform Wonder, two Self-Assembler and double Caught in the Brights, it certainly went in! Ironically, I still had to race (!) Multiform Wonder the hard way two times, because the only time I drew Appetite I used it to free a 4/4 Rebel from Brights…
In my other two matches my opponents seemed to rely a lot more on blocking than on removing my creatures, though, so I sideboarded out my least efficient creatures and put two extra tricks in the deck. This worked out fine, and in the end I won two games by giving an unblocked attacker 3 extra power.
I liked Greenbelt Rampager a lot, but I’m not sure you can count on being able to attack with it on turn three every time you draw it, as I did (two or three times total, I don’t remember exactly). Oh, and I cast Skyship Stalker twice, but both times it got killed before it could do anything. (Yes, that was against the incredibly strong looking BW deck.) Maulfist Revolutionary was a great, efficient attacker, although in this deck, his triggered abilities didn’t to too much. But, on a final note: In one game, I actually got to use my Aethertorch Renegade to deal 6 damage to my opponent (which turned out to be decisive a few turns later), thanks to Highspire Infusion and that Revolutionary!