Saturday, October 10, 2020

Jace, the Mind Sculptor as a Yugioh card

 Having played a lot with JTMS in Legacy on MTGO, this card is missing a lot of how the card would translate into Yugioh,

IMHO. Jace is not a beat stick planeswalker, instead good at controlling the game. ATK 0 DEF 1000 is enough (think Relinquished with a def buff). If you can remove JTMS when he lands, he is easy enough to remove. In that sense, he is a lot more like Yata Garasu + Relinquished. The effects are the ones that matter. Jace controlling the top of your opponent's deck is super strong. In Magic, you make your opponent keep drawing lands and it's usually game over. I would translate that to something like 'If your opponent has at least one effect monster on the field, look at the top of your opponent's deck and choose from placing that card back on the top of the deck or at the bottom of opponent's deck.' The second effect is Brainstorm, and I would translate that to 'If you control no monsters on the field, look at the top three cards of your deck and place two of those cards back on the top of your deck in any order.' I would translate the Unsummon effect to 'If your opponent controls at least two monsters, send one of those monsters back to the hand.'

And then, of course, the JTMS ultimate is just sick in Magic. But in Yugioh, unlike Magic, there are many ways to interact with the exile/banish zone. There is one, just one lonely creature in Magic that can be played from exile (Misthollow Griffin from Avacyn Restored), and nothing else interacts with the exile zone, period. This one is very difficult to translate. Because in Yugioh your opponent could use the newly exiled graveyard a lot more, I would change the hand draw clause. I think a JTMS ultimate in Yugioh could read something like: 'If you have less than 2000 life points than your opponent, banish your opponent's graveyard and hand, then your opponent draws five cards from their banish zone.'

And for the final flavor fix, I would have JTMS as a ritual monster since he is blue in Magic.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Fetchland Reprints Program (FRP) might as well be money printing.

 Wizards has done such a great job milking the fetchlands. First, some background:

The best dual lands in Magic come in untapped and have basic land types. For example, Tropical Island is both a Forest and an Island, and it enters untapped.

The next best dual lands in Magic are the fetchlands. The fetchlands come in, are sacrificed for 1 life, and fetch basic lands. Enter the Reserved List, and Wizards does not reprint the original duals. Therefore, the fetchlands are the best dual lands that Wizards can print for as long as the company abides by the Reserved List. 

The first cycle of fetchlands, in allied colors, were printed in Onslaught, and reprinted in Khans of Tarkir. The second cycle of fetchlands, in enemy colors, were printed in Zendikar. These have been the three instances when fetchlands have been in Standard. The supply of allied fetchlands is larger than the supply of enemy fetchlands, at least judging by how often they have been printed in Standard, and that the Khans of Tarkir printing was for the much larger, post Return to Ravnica player population. 

After the Khans of Tarkir allied fetchland printing, the ten fetchlands have become the greatest source of reprint equity for Wizards. These ten lands are the targets for reprinting in specialty products. The ten fetchlands have been reprinted as expeditions for Battle for Zendikar (or Zendikar II) and Zendikar Rising (or Zendikar III). The enemy fetchlands have been additionally reprinted in Modern Masters 2017.

Enter the formats: 

1. Vintage and Legacy, pretty much dead formats. These 'boutique' formats are played with proxies, or played with original dual lands by players who either bought these cards before they became uber-expensive, or spent ungodly amounts of money on cardboard.

2. Modern, which does not have access to the original dual lands. In Modern, the fetchlands rule the format, and are the main barrier to entry. I don't think it's debatable that Modern has endured a decline as the fetchlands have increased in price.

3. Pioneer, which begins with Return to Ravnica, and in which the five allied fetchlands from Khans of Tarkir are banned. Pioneer does not care about fetchlands.

4. Historic (Arena-only format Ixalan forward), and Standard also do not care about fetchlands.

Therefore, when we talk about fetchlands, we are talking about Modern price gate-keeping. Wizards has announced that the ten fetchlands will be in the Modern Horizons 2 set as regular booster cards. The questions that need to be answered are:

1. Will the reprinting of fetchlands as Zendikar III expeditions lower the price of the fetchlands, and to what level?

2. Will the reprinting of fetchlands in Modern Horizons 2, next year, lower the price of the fetchlands, and to what level?

I believe that Wizards has decided to keep the floor for the most sought-after fetchlands at $40, and that this floor will not go below $40. Because of how long it has taken the company to reprint the fetchlands (since either Khans of Tarkir or Modern Masters 2017), many players who wanted to play Modern at near-competitive or competitive levels have not been able to afford to do so.

The only way for this floor to go lower is for the Modern player population to go down despite the availability of fetchlands, and I don't think that will happen. I think there is a large number of potential players wanting to enter the Modern format, and that is why I believe that:

1. Wizards might as well be printing money every time they reprint fetchlands.

2. The $40 floor for the most sought-after fetchlands will remain.

Even if in a post-COVID scenario we can all go on vacation and spend less money on Magic, that will mean that less of Modern Horizons 2 will be printed, and even in that scenario, the $40 floor for the most sought-after fetchlands will remain. 

The answer to both questions above, unless the player population decreases, is that the $40 floor for the most sought-after fetchlands will remain.

P.S. Commander has slowly displaced Standard as the most popular format, or so we believe. But Commander players only need one of each fetchland. They will be willing to pay exorbitant amounts of money for these cards regardless of how many get reprinted. 

Monday, August 31, 2020

Trostani 8-set Standard

This deck has some fun interactions.

Constellation triggers tokens from casting enchantments.

Beast Whisperer draws me cards every time I cast a creature.

Arboreal Grazer is great to drop two lands early game and also to trigger Beast Whisperer middle to late game.

What's better than Beast Whisperer? Multiple Beast Whisperers. It's a 4-drop, though.

This will rarely happen, but it's what makes this deck fun.

Trostani drops two tokens.

Making one of the creatures hexproof is really useful. I have used this trick in so many decks!

And when combined with Hydra's Growth, it's a key feature of the deck.

Victory's Envoy only needs to be on the board one turn to make all creatures bigger.

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Inflating the Magic Bubble

 I have been watching the Magic bubble inflate for a while. I have also seen many call the impending burst of the bubble, and it has not happened. I believe that none of us know when the bubble will burst. First, I would like to go through the logic of why we are in a bubble.

A bubble in any collectible is defined by an increasing demand followed by large increases in prices that is not organic. In Magic, organic means that the cards see a lot of play. We have two sub-bubbles within the larger Magic bubble that are unsustainable:

Sub-bubble 1. The Reserved List bubble, which I have been documenting, in my very small, peasant way, for a few years on this blog. I will add another chapter here. There is no play reason for most of the reserved list cards to continue to go up in value. The supply is small and fixed, and the demand is ever-increasing and purely speculative. Demand is based on the premise of an ever-expanding collector and speculator base.

Sub-bubble 2. The variants bubble, which has just gotten started this year, and coincides with the COVID pandemic, a time in which many of us are stuck at home. Those who have disposable money, some from government relief checks, are spending some of this extra money on Magic. In many cases, that money would have been spent on vacations. I plan for the first chapter of my variants bubble watch in some other post, maybe after Zendikar Rising comes out. Fancy variants can only be less playable than the base card since most players will want their base cards to sustain play wear, but will keep their beautiful variants pristine. Even though most of the variants are playable, they will remain a collectible to look at and not to play, Once again, demand is based on the premise of an ever-expanding collector and speculator base.

Collectors and speculators are fueling the bubble. Players stuck at home are also feeding the bubble because they are spending vacation money (and any other non-Magic money, such as checks from the government) on Magic.

Back to the Reserved List bubble. There are many cards on the reserved list that are playable, such as Tolarian Academy.

Tolarian Academy has seen three large increases in value:

1. Summer 2016, from $20 to $35 (all values approximate).
2. Summer 2017, all the way up to $80 and then down to $50.
3. Summer 2020 (COVID), to $100, and still fluctuating.

Tolarian Academy is not a good example of the Reserved List bubble. It could be that more people want to own this one very playable card (I know I do). The best examples of inorganic growth in value are cards that under no circumstances will ever see any play. These cards are subject to attempted buyouts (I will just call them buyouts). The perfect targets for these buyouts are rares from the earliest sets. The cards saw low printings, but not low enough to demand the current valuations (I am making this statement assuming common sense, and not based on any empirical evidence). Here are two examples, picked randomly, and there are many more. 

Exhibit A: City in a Bottle.

City in a Bottle has experienced what I would call buyouts, beginning in 2015.

In the original buyout, in late 2015, the card went from $15 to $60, a four-fold increase.

The card experienced a second buyout in late 2017, and went to $200. You get the picture... it happened again in late 2018 and this COVID summer. A completely unplayable yet reasonably scarce card is $400, the price of four booster boxes of a recent Standard set.

I had another card to discuss, but it doesn't matter. Any one rare from the Reserved List has gone through at least one buyout in recent years. Most of these cards will never see play. 

So, how does a collectible bubble burst? A collectible bubble bursts when we run out of buyers willing to pay ever-increasing prices, and, specifically for Magic, when the game undergoes a significant exit of players. We are not seeing either of these signs. For as long as many of us are stuck at home, we will be spending what would have been vacation money on Magic.

Bubble deflation scenarios:

Scenario 1. The economy tanks and the government stops issuing free money checks, even though the virus is not yet held in check. Such a downturn (which, of course, I very much pray and hope does not happen), would hurt collectors, speculators, and players.

Scenario 2. The economy remains flaky, but the government continues to pump out "free" money, and the virus is not yet held in check. This is a 'things continue as they are' scenario.

Scenario 3. The economy booms once the virus is held at bay enough for everyone to be able to go on vacation again. There will be less substitution of vacation money going to Magic, yet there will also be enough people with money to maintain their Magic hobby. (I want this scenario. I want us all to be happy, even if we have to put up with this silly collectibles bubble).

A prolonged scenario 1 would definitely burst the bubble. It would take much longer for scenario 2 to burst the bubble. In scenario 3, the bubble may not be expanded much, but it would remain inflated. I can't think of any other scenario. In any scenario in which the the virus is held at bay enough for everyone to be able to go on vacation again, the economy will be in good, even great shape. There is plenty of pent-up economic activity that would inevitably happen once the virus is held at bay.

The bubble we now have remains sustainable. We could even say that these valuations make sense (they don't to me, but who am I to know better?). After all, someone is willing to pay these prices. When will it end? I don't know, and I am betting neither do you. The cliff-hanger is the variants bubble, but that one has not yet matured. It may burst before it matures. Only time will tell.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Five Color Gates Standard Deck Part 2

 I made a few changes by adding some flyers.

Here is another early Gate Colossus.

Here is a pair of Gate Colussus early game.

Guild Summit must be a playset in this deck. It's a great card draw engine almost every turn after it drops.

And especially when a second one drops mid to late game and you can draw cards off your untapped Gates.

Nice full hand for the late game!

The deck can brick hard, and that's where Gates Ablaze comes in.

You will only need flyers for late game top-decking.

Here is the Arena version. I am missing several of the key cards, yet it plays well because I have some powerful end-game flyers.

Five Color Gates Standard Deck Part 1

 This deck is a lot of fun. I will describe it in two posts, one before high end flyers are added, and one after. All screenshots are MTGO solitaire. Here is the deck:

We will need at least one Arboreal Grazer in our opening hand.

District Guide will help us get the colors we need, but we have to be careful about which 3-drops we add, otherwise the deck is mostly 3-drops. I only have a couple of this card in this deck.

The deck plays out well most of the time except for the obvious lack of flyers, which I fix in the second post in this blog.

Gatebreaker Ram does not fly, but is always big in this deck.

Here is another good first hand.

Here Gate Colossus is only costing me 3 mana to cast.

Gateway Sneak becomes indestructible on any turn in which I play a Gate.

Gates Ablaze is my board wipe. I only have a couple in the deck because I also use Banishing Light, which works for all non-land permanents. 

Sometimes I can drop four gates with two Arboreal Grazers. It's a rare occurrence, but it feels great.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

I love Ikoria

 I love Ikoria, and I think long-term, the set opened up new design space for Magic that is wide open for exploration. The first time is always hard because there is no precedent. I am betting that Return to Ikoria is already on the schedule. And if it isn't, that's a major mistake. Wizards will be a fool not to explore Mutate and Companion a lot more.

The mistake with Coompanion's costing, and perhaps how some of the Companion cards work, is understandable. Companions are deck-building heaven, warts and all. Wizards deserves respect for daring new designs instead of just re-hatching old designs. I also don't mind when Wizards blatantly steals from other games (Mutate is a more open form of Pokemon evolution). Like Picasso used to say: 'good artists borrow, great artists steal.'

The Mutate cost-benefit was well thought out. Eldraine adventures are two cards in one whereas Mutate plays are one card from multiple cards, and that is a vulnerability; yet many of the Mutate cards hold their own in a format that has Eldrain adventures; although, parenthetically, I do find [[Unsummon]] effects to be the Achiles heel of Mutate. 

Monday, August 10, 2020

Monoblue Ominous Seas in Standard (MTG Arena)

 Here are links to two matchups I played against and then seven iterations of my monoblue version of an Ominous Seas deck. The decklist:

1. Encountered (I played against) 

Azorius Manabase

Izzet Manabase

1. My Deck 

Version 1 vs Green Stompy

Version 2 vs Yorion Dimir

Version 3 vs Monoblue Teferi's Tutelage Milling

Version 4 vs Monoblue Teferi's Tutelage Milling

Version 5 vs Gruul

Version 6 vs Izzet

Version 7 (final as of today) vs Green Stompy

Sunday, August 9, 2020

2019-2020 8-set Standard MTG Arena Match-ups

 In this post, I plan to annotate the match-ups I have been uploading to my YouTube channel as I work my way through a cube I am building for the very first 8-set Standard with all large sets in Magic's now long and beautiful history. There are multiple posts, given that for some decks I have recorded many games I played with the deck or many games in which I played against the deck (looking at you Ominous Seas and RDW).

1. Rakdos 

2. WU Flyers 

Game 1

Game 2

3. Selesnya 

4. Gruul 

5. Orzhov Vampires 

6. Red Deck Wins 

7. Lurrus 

8. Abzan Stompy 

9. BUG Flash 

10. Mono-black WAR Ugin (A loooooooong game) 

11. Post-ban Simic Ramp 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The best is yet to come for Magic

Every now and then someone will post on reddit worrying about the eventual demise of this great game. This is what I reply:

There are things Wizards does that annoy me (I don't care for any pack that costs more than $4, period), and I think sometimes that Wizards would be better off by itself, but that is just wishful thinking. It's easy to forget the good an umbrella company like Hasbro does for a company like Wizards. For a textbook case, look at the Force of Will TCG. FOW TCG made one dumb decision after another and there were no adults in the room. All things considered, I think Hasbro IS good for Wizards.

My perspective is a little different because I have been collecting stamps since the late 1970s (I am an old dude). The biggest threat to Magic is that my 11 year old son will not pick it up, and this is what happened to stamp collecting. I was unable to get my son into stamp collecting because none of his friends are interested. Magic, on the other hand, and Dungeons and Dragons, ARE getting picked up. Just last night my son and I did a brief round of D&D, and he has several friends his age who play the game.

I think Arena is a home run, and even MTGO can stick around for a while longer, but paper Magic will go on for a very long time. These are not ORs, these are ANDs: Arena AND MTGO AND Paper.
Wizards has a deep pool of design talent, and a really devoted player base. It ain't going nowhere. Even if the execs committed professional hara kiri, there would be a dozen well managed companies willing to take on the IP, and no, none of those companies would be stupid enough to get rid of the reserved list, as much as I would want them to.

This game has decades of success ahead of it. The company is willing to turn around on a dime when they go in the wrong direction. They brought back the core set. A poorly run company would have stuck to those dreadful two-set blocks just because of false pride. And they will reprint the fetchlands and make them cheaper, or kill Modern for Pioneer, but they will do something that, however annoying to some, will keep the game strong.

I collect Pokemon and Yugioh when Magic is going through what I think is not the best of times (did a lot of both when the core set was taken out). These days, I am 100 percent Magic. The 'all sets are large' era is so awesome. We are getting Zendikar III, possibly New Phyrexia II, possibly a Norse set... man, oh, man. I think the best for Magic is yet to come.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Deckbuilding with Companions

This is an aggregated post for builds with the ten companions from Ikoria. The builds can be constructed Standard, constructed Modern, and also Commander.

Commander Builds:

Eutropia with Keruga Companion Casual Commander Build

Lazav Mastermind with Gyruda Companion Casual Commander Build

Lazav Mastermind with Gyruda Companion Casual Commander Build

This build is somewhat more restrictive because the commander has to have an even casting cost. This is not a good deck to model on MTGO because I can't tell which one of the creatures Gyruda sends to the graveyard is associated with each Lazav trigger.

As with other ETB's, you want to be able to pop it back to your hand to give it another whirl. It's otherwise a 6 CMC 6/6 critter. The ETB is what matters for this card.

Sphinx of Foresight was in my starting hand for this modeled game.

Anticipate is very useful in this deck.

Tyrant's Scorn lets me pop Gyruda for another whirl.

I can sacrifice rats from Piper of the Swarm. Here, just as an example, I sacrificed Orzhov Enforcer to draw cards off Erebos.

Lazav becoming Atemsis is good. I can tap it and draw and discard.

Bloodsoaked Altar is also really good in this. I can sacrifice/discard for a 5/5/ Demon token. 

Forever Young lets me make use of all of the other cards that land on the graveyard via Gyruda.

I can also have Spark Double become a copy of Piper of the Swarm.

Last, but not least, Unexplained Disappearance allows me to recast Gyruda.