Posted tagged ‘card pool’

Limited Card Pool Update: Under the Influence of M13

September 2, 2012

I am still constantly looking to improve my limited card pool. Having drafted a lot M13 (at least for my standards), I found that I now appreciate a few things I didn’t think I’d like as much when I first saw the cards – a normal process. That will lead to a number of changes (as soon as I get my hands on those cards):

1. exalted

Most of the black exalted cards still do not convince me, but I decided I do not need to flesh out that theme fully in that color. To the contrary, I will remove the Bant affiliation from that mechanic and instead only use multiple exalted cards in White, but additionally keep single cards in other colors. That means:


Servant of Nefarox – the only black exalted creature that feels completely right to me. As the only other non-white exalted creature, Rhox Charger is still in. If a convincing red exalted creature is printed, I will complete the cycle with Frontline Sage again, but I do not want it so badly on its own.


Frontline Sage – if a card is the only example of exalted in its color, I prefer it to be one which you want to attack with.

Outrider of Jhess – just not interesting enough, and horribly inferior to Rhox Charger.

Court Archers – never really convinced me, was only there to support exalted’s Bant affiliation.

Ethercaste Knight – boring, weak, and an artifact for no good reason outside the set it originates from.  A filler just like Court Archers.

Qasali Pridemage – this one, on the other hand, was always a little stronger than I was comfortable with. Since the 2-slot in Selesnya is already loaded, I’m happy to be able to trim this card.

2. Rings

I do not want the rings from M13 as a cycle – partly, because I don’t like some of their designs, but partly because they take up so much space with similar effects. I realized, however, that I do not need the complete cycle, but can instead cherry-pick the ones I really like. I hate the blue and black one, because they feature activated abilities costing mana, making them even more clumsy, and because those abilities remove options to interact with the creatures they equip. I’m also not impressed with the green one, because trample is a somehow lackluster ability. On the other hand, I appreciate cards which reward you for focussing strongly on one color.


Ring of Valkas – giving haste cheaply is almost already worth it. In practice, this ring will often help you make an additional attack each round, while in the meanwhile distributing +1/+1 counters among your team. That plays really well.

Ring of Thune – astonishingly, plays completely different from the red ring, because here you will tend to put it on one creature and keep it there as long as possible, getting double use from the equipped creature’s growing strength by attacking and blocking with it.

3. RW aggro

Playing this archetype has led me to re-evaluate a few cards.


Roar of the Kha – I found I missed a cheap (less than three mana) mass-pump spell which goes well with token armies and very fast aggro (like Glorious Charge in M13) – I thought I could do with Fortify and Guardian’s Pledge, but the smaller, cheaper bonus plays significantly different, and I like it. So I will re-establish the good ol’ Roar.

Relentless Brute – to be clear: I still don’t like that this creature bereaves you of a decision. But just like with Bloodcrazed Neonate, I found that that disadvantage isn’t quite as severe as it looks at first glance, and that it is possible, skill-testing and rewarding to draft and build a deck which maximizes the card’s effectiveness and minimizes its weakness. A few such cards can do an environment good.

Hulking Ogre – Bloodrock Cyclops had to go, because it was a little too similar to Relentless Brute, and because the Brute plays more notiecable different from a normal creature. This opneed up a slot for the return of the Ogre, lining it up with Goblin Raider.

Bladetusk Boar – for a while I was enamored with Heirs of Stromkirk, but the Boar actually plays better (and it’s fine that it’s splashable) and better complements Skirk Shaman. Thus it returns.

Rummaging Goblin – I still hate that the Goblin ist just twice worse than Merfolk Looter, but I have to live with a color gaining inferior versions of other colors’ cards (see, as an example, Sentinel Spider in Green vs Serra Angel in White), even if it is a little overdone (really wouldn’t have hurt to give the Goblin at least Reckless Scholar stats), and the Goblin just plays well and significantly differently from Mad Prophet.

Attended Knight – My experiences with Ambassador Oak defined my expectations towards this card: I thought it would feel just like a 1/1 token tacked onto a mediocre creature. The lower mana cost makes a heck of a difference, though, as does the smaller gap between the creature and the token – this feels a lot more like growing your army, and gives you a lot more value relative to its cost.


Shield Wall – I know this card is more useful than most players think, but it still just never ends up in consideration for my cubes. With Roar of the Kha, Safe Passage and Wrap in Vigor, I have enough similar options.

Bloodrock Cyclops – I once explained why I initially decided for the Cyclops and against the Ogre (links to a German entry), but as I already said, Relentless Brute just does it better, and Hulking Ogre is less annoying while still clearly encouraging you to be aggressive. (Also, over the years 3/3 for three mana has just become less impressive – when you were happy about each Hill Giant you could lay your hands upon, you were willing to play cheap 3/3s with significant disadvantages, but nowadays, when Hill Giants often not even make your deck, a mana off isn’t reason enough to take such risks.)

Heirs of Stromkirk – just don’t play as well as I thought, needing to connect three times just to get on par with the easier-to-cast Bladetusk Boar.

4. The instant/sorcery theme

I still don’t want Archaeomancer, but I realize I also do not want its narrower, clumsier predecessors anymore. Since I want that theme to be in Izzet anyway, Izzet Chronarch does what I want it to do (and there’s also Mystic Retrieval), and Return to Ravnica will bring new interesting creatures supporting that theme.


Scrivener – why so narrow and expensive?

Anarchist – why so narrow and expensive?

5. strong flyers


Faerie Invaders – well, the 5-slot in Blue certainly knows no lack of 3/3 flyers, but this one has convinced me with its unique gameplay. It is also an interesting card to splash – environments should have a few of these to present players with options. This could also have been Spire Monitor, but chances are better that Faerie Rogue becomes relevant in my limited pool again than that Drake ever will.


Vampire Nighthawk – I love that card, but it is just too good, especially in Black. Chapel Geist is already strong – why does Black get TWO very significant improvements over it? Giant Scorpion is a completely fine card – why does exchanging a generic mana for a black one give you +1/+0 (doubly relevant with Deathtouch), flying, AND lifelink? With one of those abilities less; with a point less power, or even with a point less toughness (so that most flyers can trade 1:1 with it), it would be acceptable, but as it stands, it is just too strong by itself and too strong when compared to other three-drops. Heck, it would still be a clear firstpick if it cost one mana more!

That’s it so far.


Limited Card Pool Update: Yeva’s Forcemage & Giant Scorpion, (no) Hunting Cheetah & Daggerback Basilisk

July 29, 2012

Just when my limited card pool is finally complete, I already see the need to further improve it. This came about after drafting Magic 2013: I realized that Yeva’s Forcemage actually played better than I had expected – I had experienced that both Kinsbaile Skirmisher and Venerable Monk, which I had compared the Forcemage to, were just boring and their abilities inconsequential. However, it turns out that +2/+2 is a bonus which is completely different in tactical terms from +1/+1, allowing additional attacks and creating additional pressure in a way which the Skirmisher, even though he seems more mana-efficient at first glance, never was able to do. I decided the Forcemage is a nice, generic creature on a low power level strongly encouraging you to put it into an aggressive deck and looked through my card pool to see if there was space for it.

It turned out that there was; and I also stumbled over Hunting Cheetah, which I believed I had already sorted out, since it doesn’t play too well. (Extra forests, while useful, are just not as important as the extra draws which Scroll Thief provides, and as a 2/3, it will often rack up considerable damage if it actually gets through repeatedly before the extra lands matter or after they don’t anymore, so its ability feels tacked on – it is certainly not a bad card to have in a cube, but I realized it would just never make the cut.) Then I remembered that I had kept the Cheetah when I took Elite Cat Warrior out (which I had done, in turn, when Sombald Dryad became available) because of the lack of a simple 2/3 creature costing 2G – there are several options, of course, but none I really liked (Pincer Spider has a clumsy kicker, Elder of Laurels is too powerful, Lurker to quaint…), and the Cheetah still looked the most interesting. Also, I remembered that it hadn’t been too easy to acquire this card at all, which was an additional incentive to keep it.

But in the end, if I do not use it (and I don’t and won’t), it has to go. So, Green does not have that 2/3 creature for 2G with a simple additional ability, but it has Nessian Courser, which somehow also fits that slot, and the Forcemage is a wonderful generic, aggressive option on a slightly lower power level.

When playing with Magic 2013, I also was reminded of the existence of Giant Scorpion – a card I really didn’t like too much back in Zendikar draft (since I really wanted to attack with all my creatures every turn, and the Scorpion was just an inefficient attacker), but somehow still assumed I had put into my pool. I just found out that I didn’t: I guess it has something to do with the return of Moonglove Changeling when I reorganized the changelings – I may have decided those two were too similar. But of course they aren’t; the Scorpion is much better on defense and much worse on offense than a Daggerback Basilisk (what the Changeling becomes when activated) and plays completely differently. Since I had taken out Wall of Bone (because I felt regeneration on a low-power wall was somehow redundant – I would always use a small regenerating black creature instead), Black totally lacked a clearly defensive creature on 3 mana, and of the Scorpion is the best choice here!

Funnily, I even missed it when I constructed Greenhouse Effect, although I DID notice that I had a common black creature with shadow too many, but wanted another deathtouch effect in Black! I will remedy this mistake by taking out Trespasser il-Vec and replacing it with the Scorpion (only in that cube, the Trespasser stays in my limited pool).

I also realized that, even though deathtouch was an explicit theme in that cube for GB, Daggerback Basilisk hadn’t made the cut. This was partly for very cube-specific reasons (Wren’s Run Vanquisher intersected with the tribal elf theme, and the 3-mana slot for green common creatures was already full with important creatures supporting other themes), but partly because I preferred Deadly Recluse and especially Ambush Viper in that funcion. I realized this when I decided to bring Giant Scorpion back (I really think it has been in my pool before), and I accepted that the more generic feeling deathtouch creatures resided in Black, and that the Basilisk, while certainly the most generic implementation of that mechanic (okay, after Typhoid Rats), just didn’t play as well as the Viper did – it is more powerful, but a staple green creature should possess that power level. (The correct mana cost for a green 2/2 with deathtouch is probably 1G, by the way.)

Hunting Cheetah and Daggerback Basilisk are most certainly examples of cards you CAN use in a cube, actually in almost any cube – but there will always be more interesting or better fitting other options, while I am certain that Yeva’s Forcemage and Giant Scorpion will actually get used by me. This is what limited pool trimming is about: Reducing the number of cards you work with to those you actually NEED. If your pool contains over 2000 cards like mine does, you really should do this – it is easier than maintaining a larger pool and not being able to find the cards you really want for a cube in it!

My Limited Card Pool, updated and in xls format

July 18, 2012

It seems that it is preferrable if I provide downloadable lists in xls-format (ods isn’t possible, alas) instead of pdf. Thus, here is the link to my up-to-date (as of 18.07.2012) limited card pool for Next Level Cubes:

Limited Card Pool

Limited Card Pool Update: (no) Snapcaster Mage

July 15, 2012

Just prior to actually acquiring a Snapcaster Mage for my limited card pool I asked myself again if I really needed that card. I admit, it was only the outrageous price which made me second-guess my earlier decision. The thing is, RL concerns DO weigh in on my decisions (that’s, for example, why there is no Juzam Djinn in my card pool, which would otherwise be just perfect – but a single nice card just isn’t worth half a month’s rent). Of course, the Mage is much more affordable than the Djinn, and I keep a few comparably expensive cards like Sinkhole and Mutavault, but the price tag is high enough to ask if this card is worth it – and I think, the answer is no. Certainly, if this was a common, I’d take it, because I believe it plays very well in limited and is a good way to strengthen an “instant & sorcery” theme. I want this theme to be in Izzet, not just Blue, however, and I already have a very nice selection of cards for it at my disposal, especially counting in Magic 2013 – and these new cards are blue themselves. So I don’t really need the Mage, and he would also make this theme just a little more lopsided in Blue. Also, this theme just begs to be combined with flashback, and Snapcaster is a little redundant here thematically. Finally, even in limited, Snapcaster Mage’s power level is pretty high for a blue 2-drop, and the color just got Void Stalker. After I took all that into consideration and thought about other uses for nearly 20 euros, I decided I will pass on the Mage without much regret. If it were as essentially as Sinkhole or Mutavault are for my pool, I’d buy it, but it really isn’t.