All posts by battlegroundsrva

RNA Standard – State of the Union Address

By: Myles Miller

Good news, friends: you don’t have to be into politics to care about this particular address. It’s been 3 weeks since the release of Ravnica Allegiance and I’m here to give you an update on the State of the Union. By which I mean we’re going to take a look at the current shape of the Standard format! There have been quite a few major events over the last few weekends, and my goal here is to break down some of the decks that are currently performing well at the top tables throughout the Magic world. We’ve got some existing decks with sweet new upgrades, and a few entirely new decks.

 

What’s Old is New Again

If it ain’t broke, why fix it? When a new set is added to Standard, sometimes all you need to do to stay competitive is make slight changes to the deck you were already playing. Cut a few cards here, throw in some new spice there, and you’re good to go. Let’s take a look at a few decks that were doing very well in Guilds of Ravnica Standard, and see how they’ve adapted to the new format.

Sultai Midrange, by Anthony Devarti. SCG Open, Indianapolis, 1st place

2x Carnage Tyrant

3x Hydroid Krasis

4x Jadelight Ranger

4x Llanowar Elves

4x Merfolk Branchwalker

2x Midnight Reaper

2x Ravenous Chupacabra

1x Seeker’s Squire

4x Wildgrowth Walker

3x Vivien Reid

2x Cast Down

3x Find//Finality

2x Vraska’s Contempt

4x Breeding Pool

1x Drowned Catacomb

4x Forest

1x Island

2x Memorial to Folly

4x Overgrown Tomb

2x Swamp

2x Watery Grave

4x Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard

1x Crushing Canopy

3x Cry of the Carnarium

1x Disdainful Stroke

4x Duress

2x Negate

1x Tendershoot Dryad

2x The Eldest Reborn

1x Vraska’s Contempt

Golgari Midrange was arguably the best deck in Guilds of Ravnica Standard. With an efficient curve, the ability to buy back creatures from the graveyard, and a whole lot of Exploring to keep draws consistent, this deck was hard to beat. But even the best can get better. This archetype has added a third color for one huge benefit: Hydroid Krasis. As it turns out, cutting Vraska, Relic Seeker from the top of the curve in order to play Hydroid Krasis has been a very effective change. Even if your Krasis gets countered, you still get to draw cards and gain life. The ability to reuse this effect by getting the Hydroid Krasis back with Memorial to Folly or the first half of Find//Finality can really swing a game in your favor. Having access to blue mana has the added benefit of enabling the use of counterspells in the sideboard just to make certain matchups, like control, more flexible.

Izzet Drakes, by Brad Carpenter. SCG Open, Indianapolis. 8th place.

4x Crackling Drake

4x Enigma Drake

4x Pteramander

1x Beacon Bolt

4x Chart a Course

4x Discovery//Dispersal

3x Dive Down

4x Lava Coil

4x Opt

4x Shock

3x Spell Pierce

1x Blood Crypt

8x Island

4x Mountain

4x Steam Vents

4x Sulfur Falls

Sideboard

2x Disdainful Stroke

2x Entrancing Melody

2x Fiery Cannonade

2x Niv-Mizzet, Parun

2x Ral, Izzet Viceroy

2x Shivan Fire

1x Star of Extinction

2x Treasure Map

The Little 1/1 That Could: Pteramander has been added to the existing Izzet Drakes shell to increase the number of threats from 8 drakes to 12 total hard-hitting fliers. He doesn’t pack quite as much power as the drakes can, but a 5/5 with flying is certainly a beating. Cutting Goblin Electromancer from this deck means it loses some of the flashy, powerful turns this deck was capable of producing by casting a bunch of spells in one turn, but instead trades that potential for consistency and a greater number of serious threats.

Azorius Aggro, by Max Magnuson. SCG Open, Indianapolis. 4th place.

4x Benalish Marshal

4x Dauntless Bodyguard

4x Deputy of Detention

1x Healer’s Hawk

4x Hunted Witness

4x Snubhorn Sentry

4x Tithe Taker

4x Venerated Loxodon

1x Conclave Tribunal

4x History of Benalia

4x Legion’s Landing

1x Unbreakable Formation

4x Glacial Fortress

4x Hallowed Fountain

13x Plains

Sideboard

3x Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants

3x Baffling End

1x Island

3x Negate

2x Spell Pierce

3x Tocatli Honor Guard

Monowhite Aggro was another popular deck before the release of Ravnica Allegiance. Over time, this deck added red mana in order to play cards like Experimental Frenzy or even Heroic Reinforcements to close out games. But now, we’ve seen this archetype take a slightly different direction by splashing blue instead of red. Having blue as the second color allows for the deck to include a powerful new tool: Deputy of Detention isn’t the most aggressive creature in the deck, but it’ll remove any pesky permanent that’s in the way of the aggressive strategy of an otherwise monowhite deck.

 

New Kids on the Block

Ravnica Allegiance adds 5 new guilds, including the completion of the shockland cycle that was started in Guilds of Ravnica. With all these new cards entering the format, it’s unsurprising that we should see some entirely new decks become competitive. Let’s take a look at some of Standard’s newest spice.

Esper Control, by Jonathan Hobbs. SCG Open, Dallas. 2nd place.

4x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

4x Absorb

1x Cast Down

2x Chemister’s Insight

2x Cry of the Carnarium

3x Kaya’s Wrath

2x Moment of Craving

3x Mortify

2x Negate

2x Precognitive Perception

2x Search for Azcanta

3x Thought Erasure

3x Vraska’s Contempt

1x Warrant//Warden

4x Drowned Catacomb

4x Glacial Fortress

4x Godless Shrine

4x Hallowed Fountain

4x Isolated Chapel

1x Plains

1x Swamp

4x Watery Grave

Sideboard

4x Basilica Bell-Haunt

3x Duress

2x Hostage Taker

1x Kaya’s Wrath

1x The Eldest Reborn

4x Thief of Sanity

I can’t adequately express how much I’d been waiting for this day. Esper Control is my favorite flavor of control, and now with the addition of Godless Shrine and Hallowed Fountain, it’s time for this deck to really shine. Jeskai is old news. Deafening Clarion is out. Niv-Mizzet, who’s that? Armed with new cards like Kaya’s Wrath and Absorb, and format-defining powerhouses like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Search for Azcanta, and Vraska’s Contempt, it’s no real surprise that control players have chosen to go with Black as a third color instead of Red.

Esper Midrange, by Wyatt Darby. SCG Open, Indianapolis. 7th place.

4x Basilica Bell-Haunt

4x Deputy of Detention

4x Hero of Precinct One

2x Hostage Taker

2x Lyra Dawnbringer

3x Seraph of the Scales

3x Thief of Sanity

2x Dovin, Grand Arbiter

4x Discovery//Dispersal

4x Mortify

4x Thought Erasure

4x Drowned Catacomb

4x Glacial Fortress

4x Godless Shrine

3x Hallowed Fountain

4x Isolated Chapel

1x Swamp

4x Watery Grave

Sideboard

1x Cast Down

2x Consecrate//Consume

1x Disdainful Stroke

2x Duress

2x Karn, Scion of Urza

1x Moment of Craving

3x Negate

1x The Eldest Reborn

2x Vraska’s Contempt

We just talked about Esper Control, but here’s a different take on that 3-color combination. Wyatt Darby created this powerful brew that takes advantage of Hero of Precinct One’s ability while playing powerful standalone cards like Thief of Sanity and Seraph of the Scales to overwhelm opponents with card advantage. With 23 dual lands in the deck, it’s relatively easy to play so many multicolored spells and really take advantage of everything the white/blue/black color combination has to offer.

Nexus of Gates. By Drake Sasser. SCG Open Dallas. 12th place.

4x Hydroid Krasis

4x Circuitous Route

4x Expansion//Explosion

4x Gates Ablaze

4x Growth Spiral

4x Guild Summit

4x Nexus of Fate

2x Spell Pierce

4x Wilderness Reclamation

1x Forest

1x Island

3x Azorius Guildgate

1x Boros Guildgate

1x Breeding Pool

4x Gruul Guildgate

4x Izzet Guildgate

4x Plaza of Harmony

3x Selesnya Guildgate

4x Simic Guildgate

Sideboard

3x Archway Angel

4x Gatebreaker Ram

2x Lava Coil

4x Negate

2x Niv-Mizzet, Parun

If you told me a month ago that a Guildgate deck would be viable in Standard, I wouldn’t have believed you. This deck essentially functions as a ramp-style strategy that hurls big spells at opponents one after the other. Guild Summit is a very powerful card-draw engine that lets the deck keep its foot on the gas all game long. Speaking from personal experience, there are few things more backbreaking in a long, grindy game of magic than your opponent playing Guild Summit very late in the game, and tapping 5+ additional guildgates to refill their hand. Combine this with an efficient board wipe in Gates Ablaze with win conditions like Expansion//Explosion and Hydroid Krasis, and you’ve got a unique and potentially very powerful deck.

 

End Step

These are only a few of the decks putting up winning results at tournaments. At this point in the format, almost any deck can be competitive. Have you made changes of your own to an existing Standard deck with new RNA cards? Or perhaps put together your own brew from scratch? Let us know in the comments, or bring it out to this week’s Friday Night Magic at Battlegrounds! See you there!

Pass Turn.

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Beginner’s Do’s and Don’ts of Sideboarding

By: Drew Kobus

Hey guys! Drew again, and I’m so excited to be back with you all talking about quite possibly the most important topic in competitive (and even casual) Magic: The Gathering play, sideboarding! This topic comes up a lot, and whether you’re a seasoned pro, an FNM warrior, or just dipping your toe in the water with a little ladder grinding on Arena, there’s a lot to consider when building your sideboard. The thing that makes sideboarding an important point of discussion currently is the recent introduction of the “Traditional Ranked” ladder on Arena. While in preseason, Arena’s ranked que was only single game matches with no sideboarding, but most events are structured for “Best of Three” matches with sideboarding after each game. Sideboarding is something that I know can be a bit daunting for newer players used to only jamming single games with their friends or on Arena, so I’m going to try and give you a few tips and tricks for effective sideboard building. Now, sideboarding can get very in depth with a lot of exceptions to different rules, so I won’t be able to cover all the minutia of this concept, but I’m going to do my best to present you with a beginner’s introduction to get you started. So, without further ado, let’s get started!

Alright, so you’re planning for FNM, you’ve been really enjoying smashing into people online with some UB Pirates (first off, props to you, the deck is great, a personal favorite of mine) and your main deck looks like this:

4 Curious Obsession

1 Dimir Guildgate

4 Dire Fleet Poisoner

2 Dive Down

4 Drowned Catacomb

3 Fathom Fleet Captain

2 Hostage Taker

8 Island

4 Kitesail Freebooter

4 Lookout’s Dispersal

2 Opt

4 Siren Stormtamer

6 Swamp

4 Thief of Sanity

4 Thought Erasure

4 Watery Grave

You know your deck’s game plan and you know how it plays, but you’ve noticed you’re having a little trouble against the more aggressive decks like Mono Red and White, so what do you do? This is where sideboarding gets a little tricky. The first thing I’ve seen many people do when building their sideboard is say something like “Oh, I probably need something like eight sideboard slots to beat the red matchup, it’s really bad” this is the wrong way to approach sideboarding, one of the big “don’ts” I mentioned earlier. So what’s a better way to figure out how many spots to dedicate to beating the red decks post-board? The first step is usually to look through your main deck after playing the matchup a couple times and decide which cards aren’t great and that you would rather not have in your deck against them. In this case, the cards that you likely want to remove from your deck entirely are four Thought Erasure and three Fathom Fleet Captain. The Erasures are a little slow and don’t impact the board and the captains get picked off by Fanatical Firebrand and Goblin ChainWhirler too easily. The two copies of Opt are also easy cuts because they act as filler cards anyway and are always the first cards boarded out of this deck. This gives us nine potential slots to dedicate to the mono red matchup, but that only leaves six slots for the rest of the field which is not ideal, so what do we do? A good thing to consider is finding versatile cards that can be answers to multiple archetypes as opposed to just one. You can dedicate your nine slots to being four Moment of Craving, four Sovereign’s Bite and a Fountain of Renewal, and you’ll likely beat Mono Red more often than not, but those cards are extremely narrow. These are the cards I would play in my sideboard and bring in against the Mono Red deck:

 

3 Cast Down

3 Fungal Infection

2 Hostage Taker

1 Spell Pierce

 

Now, why are these the cards I chose for these slots? The three copies of Cast Down are cheap interactive spells that let me deal with most of their threats while still being a card that can be useful in other matchups like Sultai Midrange and the Hadana’s Climb decks. Fungal Infection is the only card that is somewhat narrow here, but three narrow cards is much better than nine. This card gives us a cheap and efficient way of dealing with some of their early threats while also deploying our own which can be a big advantage, and this card is also reasonable against decks like Mono White and Mono Blue, so it makes the cut. Hostage Taker is a card that is not in the board specifically with this matchup in mind, but it is still passable here and better than other cards we could have in our deck. The one Spell Pierce is in the sideboard to fight efficiently against control decks, but is better than a Thought Erasure in this matchup as it can counter burn spells of copies of Light Up The Stage, to slow down our opponent, so it makes the cut.

The next point I want to make is that you should have a plan for every matchup. Your main deck will never be perfectly suited for any given matchup, not even your good ones. A good example is this deck’s matchup vs control. This matchup is typically very good, you have disruptive creatures, card advantage and counterspells and other disruption to protect your threats from their interaction. This does not mean you shouldn’t have a plan for this matchup. There are several cards in your deck that you really don’t want to see against the control deck, namely Hostage Taker, and Dire Fleet Poisoner leaves a bit to be desired, so it’s generally a good idea to remove them from your deck.  My sideboard choices for this matchup are as follows:

Out-

3 Dire Fleet Poisoner

2 Opt

2 Hostage Taker

In-

2 Negate

2 Deadeye Tracker

1 Disdainful Stroke

1 Spell Pierce

1 PlageCrafter

Why these cards? That’s easy, Negate, Disdainful Stroke, and Spell Pierce are all reasonably good cards that are good vs control decks like Jeskai and Esper and combo decks like Bant Nexus, while also being viable in other places like Spell Pierce coming in against Mono Red. The two Deadeye Trackers are a concession to another point I want to make, sideboarding should never dilute your primary game plan or synergies too much. Tracker is a cheap creature with the creature type Pirate and a relevant activated ability that allows for incidental graveyard hate and mitigating flood in the mid to late game. Tracker also allows us to keep our creature and Pirate density high to enable our synergies and make sure we don’t run out of creatures to attack with. The Plaguecrafter is mostly just for this matchup, being able to take down resolved planeswalkers as well as Niv-Mizzets and Chromiums is very powerful and warrants a single narrow card in the board.

Those are the two big points I wanted to touch on, sideboarding is a scary process if you don’t know how to approach it properly, but hopefully I have provided you with a couple of good tools to help you build the best sideboard you can whether you’re prepping for a SCG Open or FNM, the right sideboard can make all the difference between a 0-3 drop and winning the event. Of course, as I mentioned above, sideboarding can get much more in depth as you learn more and improve, but I hope these basic tools are enough to at least get you started. Remember to always evaluate the cards you have access too and chose the ones with the most versatility and impact for the matchups where you need help, and do your best to shy away from overboarding, just because a card seems ok for a matchup, doesn’t mean it has to come in, remember that sideboarding is a 1-for-1 process and anything you bring in needs something to come out in its place. Until next time! I hope you found this information helpful, and I can’t wait to see you all battling with your perfectly crafted sideboards! Keeps slinging your favorite spells and having fun, and hit me up on social media if you have any questions! Twitter @TheMagikalDrew, Facebook Drew J Kobus, and in person at Battlegrounds!

Starting Your Legacy

By: Daniel D’Amato

Legacy is one of the most interactive and diverse formats in the game of Magic. It combines some of the most powerful cards and strategies together to create a unique play experience for each person. One of the main issues with this format though is barrier of entry and lack of players. I hope to elaborate more on these issues in this article and help any player start playing the format I love.

Duals.

The original Alpha, Beta, Unlimited, and Revised sets brought us the original dual lands of the game. For the newer players, a dual land is a nonbasic land that has two types associated with it which makes it easier to cast different colored spells in the decks they are played in. Currently, an example of dual lands we have are in standard represented by the shock lands. What makes the dual lands of legacy so powerful though is the fact that they don’t have a drawback upon entry to the battlefield. No life must be paid, and they enter untapped allowing the user no consequence of playing it immediately. This reason, along with the dual lands being on the reserved list, a much different conversation not for this article, has caused these lands to be very expensive and the ultimate format barrier.

Image.jpgImage (1).jpg

 

With the rise in prices of dual lands the format has become unattainable to some due to decks costing thousands of dollars. There are some budget decks and budget versions of decks, but they will never be able to perform the same as the real thing. This price barrier has made most tournaments in your local area, most likely, a proxied tournament. What’s nice about proxy tournaments is that paper is the only barrier of entry you need to be able to play any deck in the format Also, prizes that are won in that tournament could be saved up so that you can purchase the deck you have found to enjoy. These tournaments are great ways to meet people that actively play legacy and gain connections so that if a competitive rel tournament came up, they may let you borrow some cards so that you can play the completed deck. In my experience, legacy players are always the first to help other players out, especially when it is trying to get someone new in the format. Which leads me into how the lack of players is an uphill battle in this format.

Rallying off the last topic of barrier of entry, it is a contributor to lack of players in the legacy format when modern and standard are much more accessible. In my experiences though, especially in the Richmond, VA Magic scene, the proxy legacy tournaments are getting larger turnouts compared to the other formats because anyone can play. With the same point being made about how proxy tournaments are allowing players to save up and get cards for their legacy decks, the community is growing more rapidly. Just the other week a local store in the are had 20 plus players for the legacy FNM which is incredible. Growing the community is always an important aspect to consider making any format viable, and I am hoping that through these proxy tournaments, more people can gain access to the format and the format can gain more support in professional play. So, you have a legacy deck, now what? Learning the format is important to having success and I hope to talk about some key interactions for new legacy players. The first one being, how to properly cast Brainstorm.

Brainstorm is a fixed version of one of the pieces of Power 9, Ancestral Recall. The drawback of Brainstorm is that you must put two cards back on top of your library, only netting one card while Ancestral Recall is just a hard draw three.

image28229image28329

Even though Brainstorm doesn’t just draw three, it can be treated as an Ancestral Recall when used properly. The most common application of Brainstorm is the interaction with itself and fetchlands. Fetchlands allow you to put the cards that you put back with Brainstorm to be shuffled away so that, hopefully, they will not be drawn again. My legacy deck, ANT utilizes Brainstorm greatly for this aspect since it can turn excess lands in my hand into spells. It is important to think ahead about how to use Brainstorm because if you do not have a way to shuffle your library and aren’t satisfied with the cards you left on top, the next two turns your draws will be unwanted.

15602_200wdownload.jpg

Becoming Brainstorm locked can cause numerous losses in games and can cost matches. I have lost numerous times to putting bad cards back on top of my library in the hopes that I drew a fetchland or Ponder to shuffle away what I didn’t want. Preordain also works because it allows you to scry cards to the bottom essentially acting a shuffle effect so that you may see new cards. Whatever deck you may end up playing, it is important to remember interactions and how certain cards work when paired with other cards, this alone can put you in a different league of players in the format of legacy. Another important aspect that happens in Legacy more often compared to other formats is retaining priority.

Retaining priority can be a huge factor in how a deck operates and it comes in legacy all the time. I hope to go over two well know interactions where retaining priority is key with the first being the card Phantasmagorian in the Manaless Dredge deck.

Image (4).jpg

This card has an activated ability that allows you to discard three cards and return it to your hand from your graveyard. Dredge likes this card because it gets all their dredge creatures in the bin but with how this card is templated, it will return to your hand once the ability is activated. But if there if the player has enough cards to activate the ability again, that is where retaining priority can be relevant. Retaining priority means responding to your action with another action and the opponent can’t interact with that action until priority is passed. By discarding three cards to return this creature to your hand, you can activate and discard the three cards, then retain priority and do it again so that it would essentially return to your hand twice, but it isn’t in the yard for a second time. Let us look at another well-known interaction where priority is relevant. Infernal Tutor and Lion’s Eye Diamond.

Image (5).jpg5129_200w.jpg

Infernal tutor has the keyword Hellbent which refers to no cards being in a player’s hand. Infernal tutor acts as a Demonic Tutor when the user doesn’t have any cards in hand but otherwise requires the user to reveal a card from their hand and retrieve that card from their deck. Lion’s Eye Diamond on the other hand requires the user to discard their hand but adds three mana of any color to their hand essentially acting as a fixed Black Lotus. When these two cards come together, Infernal Tutor can be cast retaining priority and sacrificing LED to receive three mana and discard your hand, thus allowing you to search for any card from your deck because you no longer have cards in hand to reveal. This is extremely relevant because how storm typically wins is with this two-card combo because they can retain priority and search for either Past in Flames or Tendrils of Agony to win the game, otherwise it can be used as a resource to help go off on a following turn, or just be a dead card.

Legacy is an incredible format with an incredible player base and I hope to help grow the player base as much as I can. If there is a topic you would love to hear about or discuss, please reach out to me on any social media platform! Until then, thanks for joining me and I hope you start your legacy soon, storm count 4.

Establishing Fort Kickass

By: Joseph Davis

Hello, my name is Joseph, and I usually write articles about Math and Magic. This week we’re taking things in a slightly different direction and talking about establishing ‘Fort Kickass’. The major theme of this week will be one we’ve discussed before, which is building a game plan for our deck and making sure that all of our game actions are moving us towards that goal.

dk1h0R2.png

What is ‘Fort Kickass’, you ask? Have you ever been playing a game of Magic, and you reach a certain point where you realize that while you have not yet lost the game, and you still might have a chance to win, you have no more hope left in your heart? You have a feeling that you cannot make any significant improvements in your chance to win, and you start making desperate plays in an attempt to break free from what you see as an unwinnable spot? Establishing a game state in which your opponent is in such a disheartened and desperate state is what I like to call Fort Kickass. You reach a spot where you are favored to win, you know it, your opponent knows it, and it feels hopeless for them so they start playing sloppy or making risky mistakes. Let’s take a look at some examples of Fort Kickass in various meta decks.

The first example of Fort Kickass is from this standard Esper Control list:

capture

Teferi, Hero of Dominaria plus Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, name a more iconic duo. Teferi uses his plus one ability, draws a card, and untaps two lands at the end of turn. Azcanta searches the top 4 cards of your library for whatever noncreature spell is required to answer any particular threat, and can be untapped by Teferi to be used twice per turn. Between these two, it’s very easy for it to feel impossible for your opponent to escape the combination of counterspells, removal, and sweepers. These answers ensure that Teferi can make it the 4 turns he needs to ultimate which will lock up the game quickly. Your game play should be built around these two cards. You should protect Search for Azcanta and put any cards which do not immediately impact the board in the graveyard, and you should deploy Teferi only when you can safely protect him, preferably with something like a Quench or Negate which is castable off of the lands he untaps at the end of turn. Any play you make which does not move you towards transforming Search for Azcanta or developing a protected Teferi should only be to keep yourself alive or avoid your opponent trading positively for resources.

Another example of Fort Kickass:

Capture1.PNG

In this deck Niv-Mizzet, Parun fills in as the partner for Teferi in place of Search for Azcanta. Niv makes it so all of your wonderful control spells are cantrips, and all of your cantrips are removal spells. Not only can Niv kill your opponent quickly, he draws a bunch of extra cards off of your interaction, and instead of the incredible selection provided by Search for Azcanta, he gives you raw card draw and turns Teferi’s already very good plus ability into an extra damage as well. Niv-Mizzet has more pitfalls than developing Teferi or Search for Azcanta, and it is very important to be aware of cards like Ravenous Chupacabra which will kill Niv-Mizzet without triggering his draw ability, and which are likely to be stuck in an opponent’s hand as you play few other creatures. Developing Niv-Mizzet without Dive Down or counterspell backup is dangerous, and goes against the principle of building Fort Kickass.

You might be wondering to yourself, is Fort Kickass something only control decks have access to? Am I required to counter my opponent’s spells to live in the Fortress of Kickassitude? Fear not, gentle citizen, for all are welcome in the Palace of Punchbutt.

Consider this list:

Capture2.PNG

For a midrange list like this, Fort Kickass is less a specific combination of cards, but instead a certain threat density. When you have out a Wildgrowth Walker with two counters, a 4/3 Jadelight Ranger, and a Midnight Reaper you have a board which will beat most opponents to death. Vivien Reid and a creature to protect her from attackers will carry you thoroughly into the end of the game as she controls the board and refills your hand with threats. A Carnage Tyrant with another creature to protect it from The Eldest Reborn will kill many players outright. The goal for this deck is establishing a board presence which will win the game on its own (as any of the ones I’ve listed above should), and then just conserving resources until your opponent forces you to respond and adjust this plan. If you have out 2 sizeable threats and Midnight Reaper, there is no good reason to play more things on the board into a sweeper from control. If you have a Carnage Tyrant out there’s no need to play another one until your first game winning threat is dead. If you have Vivien Reid in play, you should expend resources keeping her alive and well, so she can guide you to victory by drawing you threats and destroying opposing flyers.

Consider this Aggro Deck:

Capture3.PNG

For this sort of deck, the game has to end quickly but there are not very many ways to recover if you run out of steam. The most important card in this deck is Curious Obsession, and once you have put that on a flying or unblockable creature, as long as you have ways to protect that creature it feels impossible for your opponent to win. Because of this every resource expended should be built around establishing a threat with Curious Obsession and protecting it. Any protection spell should be deployed only for protecting your Curious threat and Curious Obsession should only be deployed when you have a trick up your sleeve. After that point, just keep attacking with a reasonable threat and drawing multiple cards a turn to continue burying your opponent in card advantage. A Siren Stormtamer will protect your threats from cards like Settle the Wreckage and Ravenous Chupacabra, while Spell Pierce and Dive Down will keep your threats safe from single targeted removal just as nicely. Most of the spells in this deck are not particularly strong on their own, and are purpose built for protecting your evasive creatures wearing the all important Curious Obsession, so do not spend resources outside of building your Fort Kickass, a Curious creature.

In conclusion, Fort Kickass is a state of being, a position from which winning is not only likely, but also feels inevitable for your opponent, and their hope is draining from their body. As you continue to push your advantage farther they will turn to desperate plays and risky behavior which should enable you to further your plan and ultimately win the game on the back of Fort Kickass.

Thanks for joining me this week for something a little different, and I’ll be back soon with another article.

Pirates and Merfolk and Dinos and Vampires, Oh My!

By: Drew Kobus

Hey there again everyone! Drew here! I’m back and super excited to bring you my second article on the Battlegrounds site. This article is very exciting for me because I get to do one of my favorite things ever and that’s brew, baby! I love building decks, and when I saw that all the fun little tribes from the Ixalan block were getting their mana all fixed up with Ravnica Allegiance, well I knew exactly what I had to do. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in to my take on the 4 tribes that just got their toys “unlocked” with the printing of their respective shocklands.

So first, I have to bring you my favorite of the tribes from Ixalan, and perhaps my new favorite tribe in all of magic, pirates! Now, I know what you’re thinking, they already got their shockland with GRN, and yes, Watery Grave did allow for my favorite archetype in the current standard format in Dimir Pirates, but pirates aren’t just Dimir. Today, the pirates are much meaner and ready to break some necks, so let’s dive right in to my list for Rakdos Pirates:

4 Daring Buccaneer

4 Dire Fleet Captain

3 Dire Fleet Neckbreaker

2 Dire Fleet Poisoner

4 Fanatical Firebrand

4 Fathom Fleet Captain

4 Kitesail Freebooter

4 Rigging Runner

4 Ruin Raider

4 Lightning Strike

4 Blood Crypt

7 Mountain

4 Dragonskull Summit

8 Swamp

 

Sideboard:

2 Duress

3 Fiery Cannonade

4 Lava Coil

2 Banefire

3 Bedevil

1 Angrath, the Flame-Chained

These pirates have been itching to get in and crack some skulls, and now that this aggro deck gets to play Blood Crypt, boy is it scary. I’m not going to go into detail on every card because if I did this article would never end, so I’m just going to hit a couple key cards. The first of these cards being my pick for the best card in this deck:155680_200w

As I said above, these guys are ready to break some necks, and Dire Fleet Neckbreaker lets them do exactly that. Having a lord is always good in a tribal deck, but this guy is even better than your everyday lord. Pairing this +2/+0 with cheap aggressive creatures as well as creatures with evasion like Kitesail Freebooter and Fathom Fleet Captain can really break a game wide open. This brings me to the other big card I want to talk about, the Neckbreaker’s best friend:

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I love this card, like a lot, I’ll admit maybe a little too much, and I somehow love it even more now. Fathom Fleet Captain is a card that allows you to generate card advantage and play around sweepers by essentially drawing a 2/2 with menace every turn until your opponent has to deal with the board, pair this with Neckbreaker to make them 4/2s with menace? Your opponent won’t be able to keep up very long without a sweeper, and even then, you get to keep a little gas in the tank by letting him go to town and not overextending. The two other big boons to this deck I want to mention before moving on to our fishy friends are these:

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Dark Confidant in Standard with a relevant tribe? Sign me up! Ruin Raider is a card that slots perfectly into an aggressive archetype, letting you keep the gas flowing so no matter what you have something to kill your opponent with. As for Fiery Cannonade, well all that really needs to be said there is that when this card gets to be a three mana plague wind, things turn out pretty well for the ol’ plunderers.

 

Alright, maybe pirates aren’t your thing, you make me sad, but I understand. Maybe you like something a little more aquatic in nature? If so, then I have just the thing for you. I present, Simic Merfolk!

 

3 Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca

4 Jadelight Ranger

4 Merfolk Branchwalker

4 Silvergill Adept

4 Merfolk Mistbinder

4 Deeproot Elite

2 Zegana, Utopian Speaker

4 Benthic Biomancer

4 Mist-Cloaked Herald

3 Kumena’s Speaker

2 Dive Down

2 Spell Pierce

4 Breeding Pool

4 Hinterland Harbor

4 Unclaimed Territory

5 Island

3 Forest

 

Sideboard:

4 Wildgrowth Walker

2 Forest

2 Vivien Reid

2 Hadana’s Climb

2 Sleep

1 Spell Pierce

2 Kopala, Warden of Waves

 

Alright, sheesh, where to begin? I won’t deny, this was the deck I was most excited to toy around with with the release of RNA, and is quite possibly the strongest of the four tribes. The thing that makes this deck scary is how many of its creatures get to replace themselves and/or help you churn through your deck. If you need a visual, here’s all of them:

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Get the picture? Each of these creatures either draws a card or has the potential to do so. Having this many creatures that replace themself or generate card selection is insane for an aggressive deck. The creatures you get to play in this deck allow for a very aggressive game plan, but the amount of card selection and card advantage gained by these creatures also allows for a lot of late game grind potential. Kumena is the best card for late game staying power against midrange and control decks, while also being able to help pump your creatures up through a board stall. Zegana allows for all of the +1/+1 counter synergies generated from your Kumena, explore creatures, and Deeproot Elite to gain an extra boost in power as well which can really help punch through some larger board states. The last thing I want to touch on for our fishy friends is the interaction of these two cards:

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Biomancer is a card that would be playable on its own as a solid one drop, but when you get to pair it with Deeproot Elite, you can essentially loot every time you play a creature, which gives you an insane amount of selection to either draw mor lands if you’re screwed, or draw past lands if you’re flooded. These cards all coming together produces one heck of an aggro deck with a lot of staying power that seems quite scary going into the new format, and has put this deck on my short list of archetypes to play for SCG Baltimore at the beginning of February.

 

Alright, onto a fan favorite, who doesn’t love some big dumb dinos?! This deck was an interesting one, at first my thought was just that some of the better dinosaurs would be useful as a curve topper for a Gruul aggressive shell, but as I delved a little deeper, I realized that you can actually lean into the tribe a little more than I thought. Here, check out my list then I’ll hit the key cards I want to touch on:

 

4 Llanowar Elves

4 Gruul Spellbreaker

4 Carnage Tyrant

4 Regisaur Alpha

4 Ripjaw Raptor

3 Drover of the Mighty

1 Territorial Allosaurus

2 Thrashing Brontodon

2 Savage Stomp

4 Thunderherd Migration

4 Stomping Ground

4 Rootbound Crag

3 Vivien Reid

10 Forest

7 Mountain

 

Sideboard:

3 Rhythm of the Wild

2 Cindervines

3 Banefire

1 Savage Stomp

4 Raptor Hatchling

2 Lava Coil

 

Now, the power of Carnage Tyrant has already been proven time and time again since its printing and I see no reason why that would change, unless it were to increase, as scary as that sounds. If the thought of the Implacable Death Lizard’s power increasing is scary to you, you may just want to skip on down to the vampires list because it’s happening. What’s better than a 7/6 with hexproof and trample that can’t be countered? How about we give it haste? Let’s take a look at what I think is the entire reason to play this deck:

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Yea, just let that one sink in a little bit, are you scared yet? This curve is probably one of the most terrifying things you can see coming at you from across the table, and when you play Alpha on turn three and Tyrant on turn four with the help of Llanowar Elves and Thunderherd Migration, it isn’t easily bested. So, we touched on the big reason to play this deck, but to make this an actual deck, we need other good cards to pair with our disgusting curve. Luckily for us, these colors have plenty of those for us to work with so let’s check out a few:

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Vivien’s power needs no explanation, she’s the best green planeswalker we’ve had in a while and I don’t think that title is particularly close, so she’s an easy addition to this deck. Ripjaw Raptor is one of my favorite cards from Ixalan, the body is pretty beefy for the cost and it makes combat a nightmare for your opponent. He also very relevantly does not die to Lava Coil so you can rely on him sticking around in a lot of matchups, or at the very least drawing you a card for your trouble. The last one is really exciting. Gruul Spellbreaker is a card that generated a lot of buzz when it was revealed because of how good it is with its first two lines of text, then on top of that giving it some protection as well as protecting you from the oh so scary Settle the Wreckage, this card was a must include in this deck. When the best way the control decks have to disrupt your hasty Carnage Tyrant dreams is Settle The Wreckage, having an aggressive body to protect you from that seems too good to be true. This deck seems to have a great deal of potential and the power level of its cards is indisputable. If smashing your opponent with big dumb dinos sounds like a good time, I recommend trying it out for yourself.

 

Alright, so you stuck around till the end, and you have been rewarded, because here come the bloodsuckers themselves, let’s dive right on in to vampires.

4 Sanctum Seeker

4 Adanto Vanguard

3 Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle

4 Legion’s Landing

4 Skymarcher Aspirant

4 Vicious Conquistador

4 Queen’s Commission

4 Legion Lieutenant

4 Godless Shrine

4 Isolated Chapel

4 Dusk Legion Zealot

2 Pride of Conquerors

6 Plains

8 Swamp

1 Memorial to Folly

Sideboard:

2 Final Payment

2 Mortify

2 Vona, Butcher of Magan

3 Tocatli Honor Guard

2 Revival // Revenge

2 Inspiring Cleric

2 Vona’s Hunger

Alright, so as far as the Orzhov aggressive deck in this format is concerned, there’s a little bit of competition. Knights seems to be the consensus best way to go for this color combination, but I implore you, don’t count the vampires out, there are three major cards this deck gets to play that Knights doesn’t, and they’re nothing to scoff at. Let’s just go ahead and take a look at the big reasons to play this deck over other choices:

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Adanto Vanguard, much like Vivien above, is a card whose power level has been proven time and again since its printing. The resilience this card has against control decks can sometimes win games completely on its own, let alone being backed up by tribal synergies. Speaking of tribal synergies, Sanctum Seeker and Mavren Fein are quite the tribal payoffs. Sanctum Seeker is the curve topper every tribal deck wishes it had, it allows you to go wide and break through large board stalls, and helps race with life gain, it really is the total package. Of course we can’t talk about Sanctum Seeker without bringing up her best friend Mavren Fein.  Mavren Fein helps this deck go wide with little vampire tokens that can get their buffs from Legion Lieutenant and then you can slam Sanctum Seeker on the table and potentially kill your opponent even if they can block all your creatures. This core backed up by aggressive one drops can lead to some pretty crazy turns, and the inclusion of Legion Landing and Adanto Vanguard gives this deck some really nice staying power against some of the more interactive decks. If you love you some vampires, I think this deck is very viable in the new standard format, and it looks like an absolute blast to play, so go ahead and give it a whirl!

Alright, whew, there was a lot to cover there, but I hope you enjoyed this trip through tribal lane, and maybe even found your next standard obsession. All four of these decks are doing things that are objectively powerful and I think they all have great potential for standard play. With how successful standard has been with the most recent set release, I’m very excited to see what this next set brings us once things settle down. In the meantime, which of these decks is your favorite? What cards do you think might fit in one of these lists that I may have missed? What are you excited for in the new set? I’d love to discuss all of these things and more, so find me on social media, Twitter @TheMagikalDrew, and Facebook @ Drew J Kobus, or in person sometime at Battlegrounds! Keep on battling and casting spells that make you happy, and I’ll see ya next time!

Mind Over Matter

By: Daniel D’Amato

Magic the Gathering can be very mentally straining. Having to recognize and execute hundreds of plays in each match over the course of numerous rounds can be very exhausting. Mental health is very important for maintaining tight play and personal gain. Mental health is vital outside Magic and, just how it influences everyday life, it can influence your game. So, what can be done to stay mentally healthy and at your best? I hope to cover some tips in this article to help you be the best you can be.

The best tip for staying fresh in the game is, ironically, not playing the game. Now this doesn’t mean just quitting, but instead realizing that you may be burned out and need to take a break. Grinding as much as I do between online and paper play, I try to take anywhere from one to two weeks off every couple of months to stay fresh and mentally prepared for tournaments. The hardest aspect of this ideology is realizing when it is time to step away and reset. I typically can tell when I need to take some time off if I am on a long losing streak or find myself consistently making the wrong play in my matches, but gameplay isn’t always the signal that we need to realize. If you find yourself not enjoying the game we love or just not being happy while playing, it may be time to put the game down for a little while and enjoy other hobbies and aspects of life. That way the return to the game feels fresh, enjoyable, and reminds you why you play. There is nothing wrong with taking time off from the game. This game can create stress, anxiety, and can ultimately contribute to attitude and behavior problems depending on how seriously it’s taken. At the end of the day it is important to take care of ourselves and stepping away can help maintain a positive mental attitude. While the primary goal regarding mental health can be gameplay, another aspect is how testing too much can negatively affect your mindset.

Testing is an important aspect to succeeding at professional magic but can have less than desirable effects on the mind. Testing through simulations of multiple tournaments worth of games and matches can be draining. Straining yourself trying to prepare for a tournament can lead to negative results not only in the tournament but in quality of life depending how aggressively you pursue testing. Staying up abnormally late trying to get another league in online can become the reason why the quality isn’t there when it is time to perform. I tend to test leading up to an event until about two days before, where I’ll take a break and relax. I am a believer in the idea that all the preparation will show when it is time to perform, like preparing for a race and resting the day before. Over testing is a real concern and if your head isn’t in the game or match once you’re in the event, your chances of winning drop significantly. This idea also is relevant during a tournament. Everyone comes in with the same goal and when you’re using your mind to help solve other peoples’ dilemmas you may lose the edge you need to realize that goal. I am always a fan of healthy discussion when it comes to making the right play during matches but at the end of the day it’s your tournament that you need to worry about and there is nothing wrong with throwing the headphones in and getting prepared for your next match. I always discourage playing matches between rounds because there is no reason to burn yourself out over a game that doesn’t matter with the hope that it may help you. The potential downside significantly outweighs the potential upside. Staying mentally focused always helps produce solid tournament results and we want to maximize our ability to focus.

You should always take care of yourself first and foremost when it comes to any activity in your life and Magic is no different. If you find that the game is causing stress more than reducing it or having a negative influence on your daily life, it may be a good time to consider taking a break. I know I personally try to use Magic as an outlet to relax and clear my mind. However, there have been times where playing was the last thing I wanted to do, so I would just leave tournaments, even if I was undefeated. It’s very difficult to tell yourself to step away because Magic can have that rush that keeps its players always coming back and the urge is very real to continue through it. When I step away, I tend to distance myself from anything involving the game and shift my focus elsewhere, sometimes even another game like Hearthstone. When I return, I find Magic a lot more exciting and refreshing. Part of me misses playing every day, but a part of me is also satisfied because I feel like my mind has been reset and is ready to focus again. There is absolutely nothing wrong with putting yourself first and Magic second. I see tons of grinders get burned out and it shows because their play will get sloppier as the tournament continues. Tunnel vision affects me especially since I traditionally lean towards combo decks, and without proper rest it can be hard to find lines to win the game. Ultimately this game should be a game you love and not one that pulls you down.

I think it’s vital to consider how the game affects each of us and analyze the toll that it takes. Often, admitting you could use some time away is in your best interest. Preparing for a tournament can be a lot of serious work and relaxing a couple days out can seriously improve your results. Taking care of yourself during a tournament and keeping your mind clear of other issues can also be beneficial. At the end of the day, slinging cards and seeing our friends is great, but being miserable while doing so because of burn out is, well, miserable. As always, feel free to reach out to me with questions or suggestions, I would love to write about a topic someone is passionate about, until then, storm count 3.

The Mechanics of Ravnica Allegiance

By: Myles Miller

Happy New Year, readers!! I hope you had an excellent holiday season with friends and family, and I’m sure I saw a good number of you at the Battlegrounds New Year Lock-In. Special thanks to the Battlegrounds staff for hosting such an awesome event and organizing so many great events.

Speaking of new things, it’s time to start talking about some new cards. Today’s topic is a preliminary look at the upcoming mechanics in Ravnica Allegiance (here’s your first spoiler, they’re all brand new mechanics!). I’ll also discuss other cards that are currently in standard that might play well in a Standard deck that features each new guild, just to get your deck-brewing started. Consider this your final warning: Here There Be Spoilers.

Cult of Rakdos: Spectacle

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The Cult of Rakdos is all about dealing damage, and this new mechanic fits the bill: cards with Spectacle have an alternate casting cost that you may use if an opponent has lost life this turn. The red/black color combination usually excels at dealing damage to opponents, so Spectacle should be relatively easy to turn on. I’d expect the current iterations of Monored that are running cards like Goblin Chainwhirler and Experimental Frenzy to sprinkle in some black mana to take advantage of these powerful effects. What cards in Standard might complement this new mechanic? Why, cards that deal direct damage, of course!

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I’d expect to see cards like these featured in a future Rakdos deck. Fanatical Firebrand is a cheap, aggressive creature that can use its ability to turn on Spectacle without having to spend any mana. They say the best things in life are free. Angrath the Flame-Chained is a strong planeswalker that hasn’t gotten a chance to really shine in Standard yet. With Blood Crypt being added to standard, and the fact that Angrath’s +1 ability turns on Spectacle for free, I won’t be surprised if we start seeing this angry pirate more often.

 

Orzhov Syndicate: Afterlife

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Once you’re in debt with the Orzhov, you’re in debt for life. And sometimes longer than that. Get your Settle the Wreckages and Lava Coils ready, because exile effects are going to be at a premium. Creatures with Afterlife X will create X 1/1 spirit tokens with flying when they die, so you’ll want to have some exile removal ready or be prepared to deal with fliers.

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If these creatures leave behind a spirit when they die, you might as well get some value out of killing them yourself. It’s not hard to imagine a black/white or a black/white/green deck that gains value by sacrificing its own creatures to Vraska, Golgari Queen or Demon of Catastrophes. It has been a while since Standard had a good “Aristocrats”-style deck, and Afterlife might just be the tool needed to bring it back.

 

Gruul Clans: Riot

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It seems like the Gruul are ready to take advantage of the chaos on Ravnica and cause a bit of property damage. Creatures with Riot will present you with a simple choice: you can have that creature enter with a +1/+1 counter, or you can have it enter with haste. Hit hard or hit fast, you decide! Either way, the battlefield is bound to end up looking like, well, a riot.

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It’s tough to relate Riot to the rest of the format, since it’s a very “isolated” mechanic. It doesn’t affect cards besides the one it’s on, it simply affects how the creature plays on the battlefield. Regisaur Alpha comes with an extra creature that can attack right away, putting a total of 7 power on the board for the low cost of 5 mana. Pelt Collector is a very powerful card that doesn’t really have a deck to call home in the format right now. If a creature with Riot isn’t big enough to trigger Pelt Collector, consider choosing the +1/+1 counter option to get that Pelt Collector trigger. Both of these creatures are the sort that might complement creatures with Riot and really bring the pain.

 

Simic Combine: Adapt

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The Simic have always enjoyed playing around with +1/+1 counters, and this new set is no different. If you played during the Theros block, you’ll recognize that Adapt is similar to the old Monstrosity mechanic: you may activate the Adapt X ability to put X counters on this creature, but only if it doesn’t already have a +1/+1 counter on it. Monstrosity could only be used once though, whereas Adapt can be used multiple times if the creature has lost its counters. Rumor has it there will be cards that let players use these counters as a resource by removing them or donating them to other creatures, so keep an eye out as spoiler season continues.

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Remember Hadana’s Climb? This enchantment saw a small amount of play when it was first released, but has fallen into obscurity. It might be poised for a comeback with a guild full of +1/+1 counter manipulation. Shapers of Nature may not see much play in Standard, but the potential for using those counters as a means to draw cards is always promising.

 

Azorius Senate: Addendum

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The laws of Ravnica are written and magically enforced by the Azorius, but sometimes the law needs to be altered to allow a little flexibility. The new Addendum keyword grants an additional effect to a spell, but only if it’s being cast during your main phase. Following the rules of sorcery-speed casting has its benefits.

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Much like Riot, Addendum is a very isolated mechanic. Any Azorius deck will likely value flexibility in its spells: even if you’re not always playing a card on your opponent’s turn, having that option available to you can be a powerful tool. Cards like Merfolk Trickster and Seal Away that can be played at any time to create problems for your opponent are exactly the kind of cards that would pair well with the Addendum mechanic.

 

End Step

Spoiler season has just begun, so there are plenty of cards left to see in the next two weeks. Be sure to keep an eye out for new cards being announced and familiarize yourself with each new guild before the Battlegrounds prerelease events on January 19th and 20th. Which mechanic are you most excited to play with? What cards currently in Standard do you think will make an appearance in the format once this new set releases? Let us know what you think!

Pass turn.