Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Modern Era

I don't feel particularly ashamed about how terribly the deck in my last article wound up. The thought behind bringing Arcane Melee up yet again was that the Destroy All Monsters tactic might actually be possible with enough recursion.

"No, I don't really have lifegain. But as long as I kill EVERYTHING FOREVER, I won't even lose life in the first place!"


I don't think it can really be done. I wasn't convinced that it could when I wrote the article; I tried to make it pretty clear that it was more of an experiment and I didn't necessarily expect it to work out. But when it went as badly as it did I became pretty disenchanted with Standard. The kind of deck I like to play just isn't the kind of deck you can play. So I'm done with Standard for a while. In a moment, I'll talk to you about my new love. But first, story time!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Forcing Grixis: an (Ostensibly) Comprehensive look at the Standard Metagame and How to Make it Cry

I found myself once again Pondering the viability of Arcane Melee.

Now, usually when it's in my top three, I shuffle it away and hope to draw something else. But something changed in my thinking today.

We are playing in a very grind-y format. What I mean is that the games can and often do take 15 or more turns, and a good deck is prepared for that.

That's not to say that it's a slow format. Watching the aggro decks curve out right now is a scary thing. Turn four kills are all over the place. But that doesn't really mean anything unless your deck can also go toe-to-toe with a couple Thragtusks. You might be able to kill somebody turn four with a Selesnya-Charm'd Loxodon Smiter soulbonded with a Wolfir Silverheart being shot-putted by an Ajani, but your goal isn't just doing twenty damage anymore. Infect is out and life-gain is in. You have to be ready to be able to topdeck to victory.

So what does that mean for a control player?

Well, uh... it means Sphinx's Revelation.

Yes, but, besides that.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The In-Between Times: Judging a Book by its Cover

UR Delver was a fun, relatively strong deck that did alright at Friday Night Magic, but wasn't going to change the world any time soon and wasn't all that fun to play (except the look on my opponents' faces as horrible repressed memories bubbled to the surface whenever I flipped a Delver on turn two).

Electrocombo was incredibly fun, but also pretty bad. A much better list popped up in an MTGO Daily Event (here, third deck down). I'm sure the guy came up with his brew independent of my article, but a kid can dream, right?

In any case, I'm kind of stuck on what I want to work on right now. I'm restricted pretty heavily by budget, so I can't really commit to a deck right now to work on. The problem with brewing right now is that the format is so wide open, even the pros are playing insane decks!

Five Color Control is completely viable right now, and decks are going big playing Temporal Masteries and Increasing Ambitions and Door to Nothingness like it's nobody's business. Where does that leave me, the Uniquely Rebellious Teenage Girl Deckbuilder?

I don't know where we go when people are maindecking Omniscience at Star City Games Opens.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

UR Electrocombo: Standard's (Im)Perfect Storm

Before I get started here, I need to make sure we're all on the same page about something: this deck is what we in the business call For Funsies. It's not for winning tournaments, it's more of the Impress Your Friends Dazzle Your Enemies kind of thing. If you're bored, I strongly encourage taking this deck to FNM. You probably (almost definitely) won't win, but you'll have a blast and definitely turn some heads. There are very few moments in many years of playing Magic that top being able to say, as loudly as I could, I'LL CAST EPIC EXPERIMENT FOR 27. I won that match.

I lost all the others, but god dammit did I win that one.

Anyway, enjoy the show!

The Idea

UR Electroburn was the name of the first deck I played at Friday Night Magic this standard season. I liked it because it was a different take on Mono Red aggro and—more importantly—the name was sweetIt was a tough time when I realized Goblin Electromancer kinda sucked and that I had to rename the deck. So finding a new home for him was obviously top priority when I was looking for something crazy to play last week.

Before Return to Ravnica came out, there was a Burn at the Stake combo deck that floated around a bit online. It was pretty awful, but it was cool seeing people that could kill you with one spell if you durdled too much. The thing that made the deck particularly bad was its reliance on Kudoltha Rebirth; you had to run a bunch of do-nothing artifacts like Ichor Wellspring and Mycosynth Wellspring to even cast it, making the one red mana a lot less efficient than it looks.

Once you had some tokens on the board, though, you could use Infernal Plunge and Battle Hymn to produce mana, then cast Past in Flames to do it all again, using Reforge the Soul to refill your hand. By about turn 6 or 7, you could actually just draw your entire deck using that engine, then kill them with Burn at the Stake tapping the 50 tokens you just made.

Post-rotation, we have even fewer sources of creature tokens (Krenko's Command and Thatcher Revolt), and still only two spells that generate mana (Infernal Plunge and Battle Hymn. But Goblin Electromancer actually just takes the power level of the deck and kicks it straight in the balls.

Sticking an Electromancer for a couple turns is no small feat; but if (big IF) you can, you can win on turn 3.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Some Quick Thoughts on Desperate Ravings

I've been having quite a few ideas for posts recently. Maybe that means I'm just really good at blogging (I am blossome), or maybe I'm gonna burn myself out and get sick of Magic and never write again. Thank God nobody reads this thing or I'd be freaking right the fuck out right now.

I had a thought today (!) about Desperate Ravings while playing online. It's hard to evaluate what exactly the card does to your hand. Because, you know, Variance. A lot of people write about variance. So I'll spare you my thoughts. Just know that it doesn't just mean "randomness". It refers to how random something is; how far the results are spread out. When we talk about variance in Magic, we're usually referring to the amount of randomness in Magic itself, relative to... life? I guess? There is "some variance" in Magic, which governs our lives and makes us its bitch.

When you cast Desperate Ravings, the variance... varies. There's a variety of situations. Insert stream of V alliteration here.

For the moment, we're throwing out graveyard interaction and we're throwing out mill as a win condition. Pretend, for a moment, that any card that would be put into your graveyard gets put on the bottom of your library instead. And I guess pretend Cellar Door doesn't exist (weren't you already?). How does Desperate Ravings affect your hand?

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Obsolescence of Quintessential Disparate Grandiolquence

Before we get started, one thing:

I totally called Archwing Dragon being an awesome sideboard card.

I have evidence.

I feel awesome.

The last deck I wrote about pretty clearly foreshadowed my great desire to play U/R. Mono Red is (and, more or less, has always been) a cheap and easy way to play a relevant deck in Standard, so I play it a lot. I'm cheap and I like easy things. The thing that I found interesting, though, was the staunch digital-ness of Red Deck Wins. If you're playing Mono Red, you're playing Mountains. If you have any other color of mana in the deck, you're playing a completely different deck. Maybe you're playing Boros humans. But if so, you're very white. It's at least 50/50 or even less red than that.

Our mana is very good right now. It'll be better in Post-Gatecrash Standard, but the fact is, Shocks are the second best Dual Lands in the game. So it seemed natural that now would be the time to take mono-colored decks and de-mono them. But what do I know.

Anyway, I didn't really get the Steam Vents, Sulfur Falls and Snapcasters so much for that deck as I did because I like those cards. I mean, look at them.


Holding a playset of each of those cards just feels sweet. If a format has red and blue in it, I'm probably trying to play them. Niv-Mizzet is the Commander of my only EDH deck. If I ever build a Modern deck, it'll be U/R Electromancer/Pyro Storm. I build Izzet whenever I play RtR limited. When I play Legacy on Cockatrice, it's U/W/R Miracles. Granted, the red is just a splash in the sideboard, but there's Volcanic Islands and Snapcasters, dammit.

Anyway, two weeks ago at FNM I decided to finally build the deck that I had been toying with for a few weeks and built U/R Delver.

I have some frickin' opinions about the state of the Delver deck. I feel like there are a couple very obvious problems with the way people are trying to pull it off, and I'm pretty sure it's a Deck. Tell me if you guys think I'm crazy.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Red Decks and You: Snappy McCastertons Edition.

Alright, alright. That last list was bad. Let's move past it, shall we?

This time I'm running a deck into which I've actually put a lot of thought. Ever since I started playing in FNM's and got "competitive", I've had a soft spot for mono-red. It's cheap to play, it pisses people off, and when it does--as it claims to--win, it wins hard. I've been tuning this guy for about a week and half, and it feels pretty damn strong. I'm very sad that I had to cut the Goblin Electromancers (it sucks, apparently), because I had an awesome name for it that I may try to stick with anyway:

Goblin Electroburn:

Creatures (25):
4 Ash Zealot
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
3 Guttersnipe
2 Hellrider
4 Rakdos Cackler
3 Snapcaster Mage
1 Stonewright
4 Stromkirk Noble

Instant (8):
4 Brimstone Volley
4 Searing Spear

Sorcery (6)
2 Nightbird's Clutches
4 Pillar of Flame

Land (21):
2 Desolate Lighthouse
11 Mountain
4 Steam Vents
4 Sulfur Falls

2 Tormod's Crypt
1 Archwing Dragon
3 Forge Devil
2 Reckless Waif
4 Essence Scatter
3 Flames of the Firebrand

This looked a lot different last week (Goblin Electromancers, Nivmagus Elemental (!), Blistercoil Weird...); then THIS happened. The deck hit 10th place, which is very good for a mono-red list these days. Variance is a thing, so is player skill. It definitely could've top-8'd, and maybe even won. But I really just don't think there's any reason to be playing a mono-colored deck in this format. We have freakin' shock lands!

Anyway, you already know why cards like Rakdos Cackler, Ash Zealot, and Gore-House Chainwalker are in here. They're cheap and they do damage. Sold. But let's talk about some of the less-obvious choices.

Guttersnipe: Anders only played one-, two-, and four-drop creatures in his deck. So I've smoothed out the curve a bit by adding this house. He pushes a LOT of damage through when you can keep him out: to the point where he becomes a must-kill. This guy gets smacked down right-fast in the decks that can deal with him, which is fine by me. When I play a turn 3 Guttersnipe and it gets answered with an Ultimate Price, they better hope they have another one for my Hellrider on the next turn. If they don't kill the Guttersnipe, well... I hear Brimstone Volley for 7 is pretty good.

Snapcaster Mage: I often find myself dropping him EoT turn 2, or even flashing him in for a trade. Snapcaster is--and always has been--good not only for his effect, but his body. He has very positive synergy with Guttersnipe, and both provide valuable reach to eke out those last 5ish life points to end the game. I understand how counter-intuitive it is to play him in the same list as Ash Zealot. But I really just need you to take my word on this one and give it a shot. Snapcaster Mage is VERY good in this deck. And if you still have your turn 2 Ash Zealot by the time you're flashing back Searing Spear with Snapcaster, you're already winning the game. You can spare the 3 life.

Nightbird's Clutches: Now, this isn't my tech. So I can sort of let results speak for themselves and point to Anders on this one. But I wanted to say one thing about it: Holy bajeezers! I truly believe that aggressive strategies would absolutely dominate the format if it weren't for Thragtusk. The incidental life gain is very good, but it's the two blockers that really kill you. So the simple answer is 'Clutch away! We'll get to the less-simple one when we hit the sideboard.

Desolate Lighthouse: There's a term that I learned about in Economics called "opportunity cost". It's something Patrick Chapin talks about a lot, and for good reason. Every card has a mana cost. Maybe it has additional costs or a Kicker or Buyback. But the super-secret extra cost that doctors don't want you to know about is the card's opportunity cost: what could you have instead? Taking the day off to go Skiing costs the price of a lift ticket, gas, food, etc. But there's also an opportunity cost associated with such an endeavor: You could be working and making money. The amount of money you could've made that day is an opportunity cost that makes that half-off lift ticket look a lot less half-off. When you play a utility land, you pay the opportunity cost of making colored mana. The low opportunity cost of having a man-land come into play tapped wasn't too much for people to play the hell out of the Worldwake Manlands. So even though once in a while you won't be able to hit your turn two Ash Zealot, the power of the Loothouse later in the game is definitely worth it. Playing something like Faithless Looting isn't an option: the opportunity cost is an entire card that could be a dude or something to get our dudes through. But Desolate Lighthouse does a very good job of getting through a chunk of lands when you're running out of gas.

Onto the sideboard!

Essence Scatter: Spicy, no? We're very, very scared of Thragtusk. Centaur Healer too, sure, but he dies to Searing Spear. But if somebody resolves a Thragtusk, my life gets a whole lot worse. But who says it has to resolve? Essence Scatter is a good tempo card to stop big blockers like Thragtusk and Olivia. Dare we dream of the day we Essence Scatter a hard-casted Angel of Serenity? We probably durst. But that sure as hell would win you a game. This is still very much a theoretical choice. I haven't gotten to test against too many Selesnya decks, which is a shame because that's decidedly the Bad Matchup. But we'll see!

Archwing Dragon: Yeah, really! You know what this format doesn't have? Good instant-speed removal for big creatures! With all the Dreadbores, Sever the Bloodlineses, and Abrupt Decays  scampering about, life sure looks good for Archie. When you're late in the game against a tap-out control deck that's got you beat, nothing's better than burning them for four every turn.

Forge Devil: Arbor Elf!

I think this deck has a solid plan, and it has an extraordinarily good matchup against zombies. So let me know what you guys think!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Deadeye Lotus (OR: How I Convinced Reddit to Love Me Forever)

Guys, I have bad news. I just said the words "I think I'll BLOG ABOUT IT!" out loud. Oh god oh god ohgodohgodohgod

Right! So combo decks.

Sometimes they're really good. Like literally the best thing possible. Sometimes they aren't. What's up with that.

I've just started testing the initial draft of a deck that takes advantage of the combo that Reddit is oh-so in love with, Deadeye Navigator + Gilded Lotus + Zealous Conscripts. If you didn't know, you can target your own Gilded Lotus with your Conscripts' ETB effect. This not only gives it haste (which is important against the all-too-popular Karn, SIlver Golem counter to this deck heh), but untaps it, netting you one U in your mana pool for each recursion. The arbitrary amount of blue mana (and therefore any mana your lands can produce, with more Conscripts untapping) allows you to do a whole mess of things, not the least of which being stealing your opponents entire board (and doing so again at their upkeep if they're not dead yet).

I had played with the idea of making a deck like this to screw around even more than I usually do to finish out the season, but I lost interest and my LGS is like, 25 frickin' minutes away from my house. Seeing this on the MTG Salvation forums, however, renewed my interest. But then I was all "actually this deck sucks, mine's gonna RULE though!"

We start with Blue and Red as necessary colors for the deck. Two pieces cost five mana and the last one costs six, so Green is the next logical step for our Ramp needs. Unfortunately, RUG is not particularly well-positioned with the guilds we have right now; the only Shockland we can use is Steam Vents. This rules out 1-drop dorks, but Farseek can grab you a Steam Vents or a basic. Izzet Keyrune provides more ramp that takes us straight from Turn 3 to our 5 drops, and then provides utility if we run out of gas or get flooded. It certainly isn't ideal, and the list will look a lot better after Gatecrash, but it's certainly serviceable right now. And fuuuuuuun!

Now, the idea of this deck is not to sit on its ass durdling until it hits those three cards. That would make what we call a Bad Magic Player, and a single copy of Slaughter Games could take you out of the game. Instead I try to take advantage of all three (well, mostly two) combo pieces in several situations to make a solid midrange deck that doesn't rely on the combo to win. It's always nice when you do though, as the results are Hilarious.

So, first, a decklist:
3 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Zealous Conscripts
4 Deadeye Navigator
2 Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius

4 Thragtusk
2 Acidic Slime

4 Gilded Lotus
3 Izzet Keyrune

4 Farseek

4 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Tamiyo, the Moon Sage

4 Steam Vents
3 Sulfur Falls
3 Rootbound Crag
4 Hinterland Harbor
6 Forest
2 Island
2 Mountain

I'll start by talking about the combo pieces, for obvious reasons.

  • Gilded Lotus: This is a card that people seem to be just discovering as an amazing control piece and all around guhdcrd. On Starcity's Brad vs. Gerry, Gerry Thompson played a Grixis list running a few Gilded Lotus, and was raving it by the end of their playtesting sessions. As loyal readers of mine will know, I've been singing this card's praises for months, but I can't expect the Magic community to keep up with my genius (heh). The biggest weakness that I see with this deck right now is its lack of 3-drops to cast after the Lotus. However, the 5 slot is actually pretty bloated in this deck, so the plan is usually to cast this guy a bit later. Seven mana is a good number, so you can follow your Lotus up with a Thragtusk or Tamiyo, or, even better...
  • Zealous Conscripts: Why play him off of a Gilded Lotus? Well, it depends on what's on your board, and what's on their board. If they have a threat that you could really use to good effect, you can go ahead and steal that. But, the rules behind the "Gain Control" keyword key...phrase? don't require the permanent to be under an opponents control. That's kinda why the combo works at all. Speaking of which, I guess I haven't actually explained the combo yet. Hang on, I have to go edit that in... Okay, so yeah. You can actually cast your Conscripts for a net two mana by untapping the Lotus you used to cast it. If you have your Navigator on the board, you get to go off right then and there. This will save you a surprising number of times, and also blows peoples MINDS.
  • Deadeye Navigator: This guy has hung out for the last six months or so as what you might call a fringe constructed-playable card. But his ability is undeniably powerful with the right cards around it. This has led him to show up in countless casual brews, and some reasonable, if very low-tier, Standard decks (mostly Bant land-denial stuff with Venser and Acidic Slime). The thing that gives me much more faith in him for the upcoming season is that little number in the bottom-right corner: 5. Mizzium Mortars is a Card. Doom Blade is no more. It's going to be a lot easier to untap with a Deadeye Navigator in the coming months. And once he's there, he is (barring Terminus and Supreme Verdict) there to stay. He and his bond-buddy can blink out of the way of spot removal and burn, and that's a good spot to be in. Azorius Charm is very popular right now with all those damn zombies lurching about, but luckily we can get by just fine without attacking with him at all, if necessary. Deadeye Navigator is, most importantly awesome, and we have plenty of synergy to justify his existence in the deck besides Zealous Conscripts. Segues, baby, Segues!
Deadeye Navigator's Evil Flicker Council

  • Thragtusk: The list I linked to earlier which inspired this post didn't run Thragtusk. And that is an absolute goddamn crime! He's a format staple and is an immediate 4-of in so many decks that can't even abuse him, it's insane. Newcomers to the Power of Thragtusk should note that his second effect doesn't say "die", it says "leaves the battlefield. So every time we blink him with Deadeye Navigator, we get 5 life and a 3/3 Beast. I... don't really have much more to say here.
  • Huntmaster of the Fells: Thragtusk Junior. Fives and threes become twos, and he remains awesome. You can Farseek right into him turn 3, and he's no schmuck when you flip him over, either.
  • Acidic Slime: The double green is painful to us. The mass LD is painful to them. I only have two due to the restrictive mana cost, but he sure as hell does work.
The rest:
  • Izzet Keyrune: I touched on it earlier, but this card is awfully nice for us. Patrick Chapin has a very public love-affair with this cycle (especially with the Rakdos one), and I see where he's coming from. He compares them to the Zendikar man-lands which, like these, have very low opportunity costs (as compared to other forms of ramp/fixing) and significant upsides, especially in grind situations. Obviously, 5 is an important converted mana cost, so hitting it turn 4 is sweet.
  • Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius: Iunno, he's just good. Yes, he kills people when you get your combo off, but that's incredibly win-more. Much more importantly, he's just powerful. Untapping with Niv-Mizzet means full board-control and plenty of card advantage. We have Gilded Lotus, so you get plenty of mana to smack dudes with excuse me, with which to smack dudes.
  • Jace, Architect of Thought: Yes, four copies. Drawing multiples of Jace is actually great, as you can just -2 the first one to death, get a bunch of cards, then play a new one. His +1 is, as many people will tell you, deceptively powerful, and if there's any deck that wants him to use his ultimate ability, it's this one. That isn't something that's going to come up much, but it bears mentioning.
  • Tamiyo, the Moon Sage: Her usefulness in any midrange or control deck has already been proved. I like tapping, I like drawing. Her ult lacks synergy and won't win you the game, but it's still awfully good.
  • Farseek: What do you want me to say? It's Farseek, figure it out.
I hate ending these things. I don't have any "conclusions" or anything, I really threw this list together hours ago. But I really can't wait to play it more. In fact, I think I'll do that now.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Episode VI: Return to Ravnica: The Story so Far: The Grixis Cards: Abuse of the Colon

Ha ha, colon.

Alright, boys and girls, time to judge a bunch of cards I haven't seen played and make a fool of myself in about two months. Let's get to it! No nonsense! Right to the action!

Jace, Architect of Thought
Unfortunately, this name won out over Jace, Manipulator of Thinking, Jace, Brain Changer and Jace, the Okay He Does Mind Control Shit That's His Thing. A tiny twinge of irony/disappointment hits me when I look at his mana cost; I don't think I need to elaborate. His +1 is straightforward, underwhelming, and boring. If we compare Jace to Tamiyo (which seems fair, as they're competing mono-blue planeswalkers at very close mana slots and their first two abilities have some interesting parallelism), it's pretty obvious that Tamiyo deals with large single threats, and Jace handles weenies better.
And yet, Tamiyo's -2 is better against large numbers of creatures. I feel that this makes the choice between the two less situational, and basically leaves you with Tamiyo as the straight-up better card. Jace's -2 is... fine, but the reason Fact or Fiction is good is because you can end up with as many as four cards for the price of one. When there's only three cards and your opponent knows how to make the piles properly, you usually end up with one card off of a -2. Doesn't really stand up to good ol' Tammy.
Both planeswalkers sport ultimates that will more than likely win you the game if your deck contains the right cards. Tamiyo needs small things Thought Scour or Pillar of Flame to cast over and over again, and Jace needs something huge like Omniscience. How good the Bribery side of it is will obviously be very situational and dependent on your opponent's deck (this isn't EDH, you're not necessarily going to get anything worthwhile).
I find the fact that Tamiyo and Jace are basically polar opposites to be fascinating, flavor-wise. But when it comes down to it, it basically just makes Tamiyo... better. I'm not planning on playing Jace, Architect of Thought any time soon. hahahahaha I never said that. Don't know what you're talking about. He's great.

Skyline Predator
Man, a 3/4 Flash Flying creature. That sounds reallllly good. How much is it, like... four mana? Oh, SIX? Jesus, no thank you.

It has already become obvious from what we've seen spoiled that B/G zombies is going to be a motherfuckin' thing. So I'm gonna need as many Dissipate-likes as I can get. But how does Syncopate stand up as a card on its own?
Between Goblin Electromancer (oh man, more on him later...) and Arcane Melee, I'm planning on seeing Syncopate play as a Mana Leak with up-side quite often. The thing is, Scaling is always a good thing. I love Devil's Play because it starts off as a 2-mana Mana Dork machine gun, and ends up taking out Titans in the late-game. It's never terribly mana-efficient, but it gives you options. You know what else gives you options? Card Advantage. And CA is a good thing. So that means Syncopate is a good thing.

...Right? I think that's how that works.

What if I told you for the price of a Burning Vengeance, you could have... Well, a Burning Vengeance! But that's not all. You know that whole thing about "from the graveyard"? Screw it! Slap some numbers on the bottom-right corner and you have yourself a Guttersnipe. Unfortunately, this card is even more poorly-timed than Talrand when it comes to taking advantage of the "free" Phyrexian Mana spells, so we'll see how this guy pans out. So far, we've seen two and four be the relevant toughnesses, so two is a good place to be.

Mizzium Mortars
Flame Slash does not mind the "underloaded" half of this card, but Bonfiring your opponents board for four sure does sound saucy. The trip-red cost is awfully restrictive, but the mana-fixing we've seen in this set is superb. People will compare it to Bonfire, yeah. I have bad news, guys, it's not as good. BUT. I will certainly be picking up a few copies over Bonfire for one major reason and one excuse. Reason One: It's like fifty bucks, man!!! Reason two: Arcane Melee expects to draw 3-5 cards every turn by the mid-game. I haven't tested it out yet (fifty bucks!!!), but Bonfire doesn't seem like a card that's applicable to my deck. I'm perfectly happy with my Blasphemous Acts, thank you. But when Goblin Electromancer (can you tell I'm excited to talk about that card???) starts getting pissed about getting slapped in the face for 13 over and over again, Mizzium Mortars seems like a reasonable choice. There are a LOT of good cards that die to 4 damage, particularly.

Street Spasm
Now THIS is a bad bonfire. And yet, I think to myself, "Self: how often do you really flashback your Devil's Play? Don't you usually Mystic Retrieval it to get around exiling it anyway?" This card seems pretty good, too, I'm afraid. There's too many goddamn viable cards in this set!!!

Augur Spree
Seems really good when you get removal out of it OR a big power buff to X/5+'s. But I don't really like creatures, so...

Carnival Hellsteed
Hey, cut it out! This blog is about control.

Is awesome.
It kinda hurts that this card is a Sorcery, though. Luckily we don't need to worry about fuckin' Inkmoth Nexus anymore, but in its place (and for another month or so, right next to it) is Rancor. Hypersonic Dragon may end up being really bad, but if it doesn't (big if), Dreadbore gets that much better. In any case, this is the first instance of "destroy target planeswalker" we've seen (don't get me started on how much it annoys me flavor-wise), and that's pretty freakin' good. Grixis is getting a lot of stuff, which means Nicol Bolas becomes a bigger threat. And he's really, really big. Eight Loyalty is a lot. But Dreadbore doesn't give a shit about loyalty. It only cares about drinking the blood of its enemies like Sarge from Red vs. Blue.

Goblin Electromancer
Oh man oh man oh man! The only thing that isn't completely bonkers-awesome (bonksome) about this card is that it's very possible it replace the title card of my deck! We can only hope that it doesn't, though, because then you get Electromelee. Mmmm....
I've been ranting about how great Arcane Melee since it was first announced, and now we get a WAY BETTER ONE. That makes me happy. So happy, in fact, that I already own two. I plan on completing buying more to complete my playset and then BUYING MORE ANYWAY. Frickin' so frickin' excited about this card.

Havoc Festival
Would seem pretty sick in an all-in aggro deck like Goblins if it wasn't for the fact that it's way out of the mana-curve of anything that would want this effect.

Hypersonic Dragon
Making your sorceries fast is good. I don't think I need to prove that to anybody. Problem is, the mana you're paying isn't really for that effect. It's for the hasty 4/4 flyer. I mean, Leyline of Anticipation was four mana, and it had the "Leyline ability" as upside. So hopefully we see something more applicable to control that has the same effect.

Izzet Charm
Choose one - Better Spell Pierce; or Worse Shock; or Careful Study. For UR. That's friggin' sweeeeet!!! The past charm cards (and the Commands) have proven over and over again that putting options on cards allows them to transcend their lack of mana-efficiency (1UUU for a counterspell?? Preposterous!). It's pretty obvious that this is good. I mean, Negate, Pillar of Flame, and Faithless Looting are all in the deck already, be it maindeck or sideboard. Seems like this one should fit right in.

Nivix Guildmage
This guy didn't even whelm me--let alone overwhelm me--when I first saw him. But the thing is, he gets you through cards, and he extracts more value out of the ones you hold on to. And I like that a lot. A four mana copy is no Reverberate, but you could be so bold as to call it card advantage. And again, people like card advantage. I definitely like the idea of copying my Dreadbores. It's just a shame Sorin's Vengeance won't be standard with this guy.

Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius
My favorite thing about this guy is that he obviously came up with his name himself. He's just that kind of dude.
I run the original Niv in EDH, and it's only natural to compare him to such a striking resemblance. By the time you've hit 2UURR, you're really not concerned with X/1's and X/2's in most cases. I don't foresee the new Niv killing too many creatures, if we're being honest. He has a solid body and draws you some cards, but it's awkward sitting on a 5/5 and trying to get excited about mana-restricted card draw. Like Hypersonic Dragon, he does some good stuff for Control, but his aggressive body makes him overcosted for our purposes.

Rakdos' Return
Was soooooo awesome before they pre-nerfed it with Loxodon Smiter. Sad face.
To be honest, I don't know that it was all that awesome before. General discard effects (i.e. Mind Rot instead of Duress) aren't really good in every matchup. Maybe sticking a Fireball is good. I don't know. It really does depend on how much play Loxodon Smiter sees.

Slaughter Games
First of all, this card is just cool. This is uber-Meddling Mage for not all that much more mana. I mean, for the amount of text on this card, it sure is elegant. Hey, you know Bonfire? Not today, Death. Not today.

Chromatic Lantern
It fixes your mana problems! Got mana problems! This! It fixes them!

The Shock Lands
Hey, these do too!

The Gate Lands
Heyyy... Okay I'm bored.

Grixis! It's a deck! I'm excited :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Decklist update

No FNM tonight unfortunately; I have some stupid wedding to go to. SOMEBODY doesn't have their priorities straight. A wedding! On Friday night! Feh. Anyway, what I WOULD be running (and may be running tomorrow if enough people show up to Saturday Standard) is the current version of the almighty Arcane Melee. I guess you probably could've guessed that since I've never mentioned any other deck in this blog. I also play Goblins, if you wanted to know.

But I digress!

The only change to the mainboard is a pretty big one. Sorin's Vengeance has been added to the main. Now, this isn't some stupid deck that aims to set our opponent's life total to ten or double Sorin's Vengeance for the win. That would be stupid. I'm sure nobody would ever run something like that. This is, of course, because Sorin Markov and Chandra, the Firebrand are what we call Bad Cards. Sure, you could say the same about Arcane Melee. But I would much rather slam a Melee and cast 50 spells my next turn than play a Chandra and ping somebody for 1.

Without any crazy shenanigans to make Sorin's Vengeance a kill, it still does incredibly well for our deck. Tapping out for an Arcane Melee turn 5 (or turn 4 if we can manage that) is pretty dangerous. There are a lot of decks that can easily kill you by then. But assuming we've controlled the board well enough to keep even one life by turn 6, Sorin's Vengeance is a pretty nice thing to drop. 20 life is a pretty big split to create with one spell. Casting Sorin's Vengeance enables a reasonable expectation of a kill with one cast of Devil's Play, Burning Vengeance, or some combination of the two. I don't need to tell you that casting both copies of Sorin's Vengeance is good too. The nice thing about the spell is that there isn't a whole lot of thought that goes into when you cast it. It's tough to figure out when you're supposed to try to win with Devil's Play when you're looking at a spindown die showing a big fat expansion symbol on their side.

The core (7):
3x Arcane Melee
3x Mystic Retrieval
1x Runic Repetition

The ramp (3):
3x Vessel of Endless Rest

The control (11):
2x Whipflare
2x Blasphemous Act
2x Doom Blade
1x Go for the Throat
2x Devil's Play
2x Burning Vengeance

The dig (12):
3x Forbidden Alchemy
3x Faithless Lotting
2x Think Twice
4x Augur of Bolas

Win cons (3):
1x Nicol Bolas
2x Sorin's Vengeance

The untouched manabase (24):
4x Sulfur Falls
3x Dragonskull Summit
2x Drowned Catacomb
5x Mountain
6x Island
1x Swamp
2x Evolving Wilds
1x Shimmering Grotto

The sideboard:
3x Ancient Grudge
2x Nihil Spellbomb
2x Negate
2x Pillar of Flame
1x Sever the Bloodline
3x Mental Misstep
2x Talrand, the Sky Summoner

The sideboard hasn't been tested at all, to be honest. But here's my thought process:
  • Ancient Grudge: Vessel of Endless rest can produce green. Ancient Grudge is obviously very good against decks like Big Black that are artifact-focused, and also does just fine against Wurmcoil and Birthing Pod.
  • Nihil Spellbomb: Graveyard hate can be A Thing sometimes. Snapcaster Mage, Sun Tits, Gravecrawler. This is a list of things that I do not like. Nihil Spellbomb agrees.
  • Negate: Basically functions as a Dispel against countermagic in control matchups and infect (!). You can basically always have on in hand with Mystic Retrieval, which is hilarious and tilt-inducing. Try it some time.
  • Talrand, the Sky Summoner: sits on the bench until he sees Whipflare coming off the field, high-fives him as they pass each other on the sideline, then sacks the quarterback on the first play. Wait, what the fuck? What the hell is football doing in my Magic article!? Get that shit out of here!
  • Pillar of Flame: Does very, very good things against Pod decks, whether it's Strangleroot Geist and Solemn Simulacrum or Zombie Pod. Zombies are kind of our worst enemy, as a lot of their damage actually comes from OUR kill spells. Try casting a Whipflare against two Blood Artists, a Gravecrawler, and a Geralf's Messenger. Tell me how it goes.
  • Sever the Bloodline: Again, comes in against Zombie Pod. There a couple other matchups where the "same name" clause is relevant.
  • Mental Misstep: Guys, I have bad news. Rancor is a card. There's a pretty severe lack of instant-speed removal in this deck, which makes it very hard to get Rancor to go to the graveyard and stay there. Obviously Mental Misstep isn't solely for Rancor. Mana dorks are 1 drops, as are Delver and Ponder. And more importantly than anything else, the card is just hilarious. There's no better feeling than countering somebody's first spell before you've even taken your turn. Simply priceless.
So yeah.

It's tough finding real advice about this deck. A lot of people will tell me a lot of things, but there are a lot of people who are very bad at this game. Players who consider themselves competitive often either:
1) Are not.
2) Have no interest in this janky piece of crap.

Now, I've turned a few heads at FNMs. People are often impressed by how cohesive the deck is. But it's very rare that I feel the advice that I hear is right. You really have to play with the deck to understand how it functions. It's hard to explain to somebody why a card as insanely, unimaginably good as Bonfire of the Damned is actually quite bad here. It's hard to tell somebody why I should NOT, in fact, be playing Tamiyo over Arcane Melee. And it's certainly not easy to decide whether somebody's knowledge over the game in general trumps your knowledge of how the deck plays.

The thing is, the game of Magic rewards people who play by rules of thumb. If I'm drafting, it's very easy to flip to the three cards I consider after sifting out the "unplayables". By simply memorizing the cards that are just "good", I can build a deck that will wipe the floor with the average player who doesn't know the set. I really don't need to put any thought into the deck as a whole after I've decided what two colors I'm playing. That goes for low- to mid-level limited play. And I feel like Standard is often the same thing. What decks are big right now? Well, Delver of Secrets is a Good Card. So is Ponder. Oh hey, they work awfully well together, too. Mana Leak? Seems legit. We just created the skeleton of a deck. Add some more good cards, throw in some synergy, and you have a rough version of the top deck in the format.

"Hey is Primeval Titan a good card?" "He sure is! Let's cast of him!" "Okay, what about the other 56 cards?" "Hm... Let's cast him FASTER!"

Yes, yes, I'm oversimplifying, ignoring synergy, trivializing some very profound thought processes, reductio ad abusurdum, blah blah blah. But that's kind of my point. People oversimplify deck building. Snapcaster Mage is a good card. So is Bonfire of the Damned. That doesn't mean they belong in my deck. By the midgame, I'm going through 5-7 cards off the top of my deck every turn. I've often realized that I have one card in my library and barely pulled off killing people the upkeep before my Draw Step of Doom. I also tap out almost every turn before passing. Neither of those things suggest Bonfire will do anything for me. Tamiyo might. Maybe not. I should probably get a couple and try her out, but I don't know. Turns out Magic is hard!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Grixis Arcane Melee: A month of refinement (and losing)

The last (read: first) post I made on here was met with a surprising amount of success, believe it or not. I was pretty shocked with how many people cared about my stupid deck. So it seemed natural to just ignore it and not write here again for another month or so. You know, just to make sure I kept absolutely no momentum. Hey, this way nobody will expect anything of me. I could try to make promises about starting to follow a schedule and posting regularly and I could certainly try to convince you guys to subscribe, but I'm gonna go ahead and... uh, not. Do that. So, sporadic update number two, GOGO!

I suppose the thing to do here would be to start with a deck list. When last we spoke, I had started with Steve Guillerm's list and was looking forward at M13 cards to come. With the M13 Core Set now decidedly Out, and with the pros beginning to delve into the (surprisingly deep) implications of the cards that have seen serious play, I've made what I hope could be considered some progress with the mainboard. The sideboard is still a disgusting hulking monstrosity that we're gonna gracefully pass over without another word.

Anyway! Here you go:

The core (7):
3x Arcane Melee
3x Mystic Retrieval
1x Runic Repetition

The ramp (3):
3x Vessel of Endless Rest

The control (13):
2x Galvanic Blast
2x Whipflare
2x Blasphemous Act
2x Doom Blade
1x Go for the Throat
2x Devil's Play
2x Burning Vengeance

The dig (12):
3x Forbidden Alchemy
3x Faithless Lotting
2x Think Twice
4x Augur of Bolas

Nicol Bolas (1):
1x Nicol Bolas

The untouched manabase (24):
4x Sulfur Falls
2x Dragonskull Summit
2x Drowned Catacomb
6x Mountain
6x Island
1x Swamp
2x Evolving Wilds
1x Shimmering Grotto

Not done. It's really bad, you don't want to see mine. I promise.
That said, here's some cards that should maybe probably go in there:
1x Runic Repetition (against graveyard hate)
somex Pillar of Flame
a couplex Nihil Spellbomb
one or twox Ancient Grudge
Ax Negate or two

So yeah.

I've gone in quite a few directions to end up where I am now with the deck. Let's go through the stuff I've tried so far. Yay, bullet points! My favorite.
  • Stuffy Doll: Yes, I did dome somebody for 26 with Stuffy Doll. Yes, it was awesome. Yes, he was mana-screwed. This needs to not happen. Verdict: Dumb.
  • Rewind: To expensive. We really don't care that much about countermagic, and too much of our stuff is at sorcery-speed to care much about untapping lands on the opponent's turn. Verdict: Super-dumb.
  • Gilded Lotus: I'm really not sure. Conveniently, it's a 5-drop, meaning we can actually cast it on turn 4 after a turn 3 Vessel of Endless Rest. Having 9 mana on turn 5 is a very beautiful thing in this deck, because we really shouldn't ever run out of cards (unless after drawing 2 Augur of Bolas and a Faithless Looting and a Think Twice, you find yourself with all 4 exiled on turn 15 with 10 land, Burning Vengeance and Arcane Melee on the board, and absolutely no spells to cast. Man, fuck that game). *ahem.* Problem is, I can't fit this card anywhere. There's just too much stuff. Verdict: Potentially not totally dumb.
  • The black-focused stuff (Lilliana of the Dark Realms, Murder, Mutilate, etc.): Maybe we end up a little darker in RtR (which I'm fuckin' SO EXCITED FOR by the way!), but with only one swamp in the deck and no Shock Lands, it ain't happening. Verdict: Dumb. For now.
  • Griselbrand: What? No.
  • Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker: Is a really good card. Really, really good. He's awfully difficult to cast, though, so if we're in trouble early and see him in our hand he's more than likely going to be 'Looted away. The perfect singleton. Verdict: Pretty cool!
  • Karn Liberated: The difference between 7 and 8 mana is pretty big, and every once in a while you find yourself at 8 with only 1 black source. Two Nicol Bolas would be pretty bad, he's just too difficult to cast. Karn is a bit easier, and can be much better than Bolas situationally (not a word, don't care). I like doing 1 of each right now, I just don't what to cut to get him in. Verdict: Also pretty cool!
  • Talrand, the Sky Summoner: I messed around with him very briefly, and he didn't impress me here. I don't like the 4-mana slot. You'll notice that there are no creature threats in the deck. This leaves a lot of decks with quite a few dead cards that become very-much alive when he hits the board. Now, this creates an interesting opportunity for sideboard shenanigans when they side out all of their creature hate, so I haven't by any means written him off. Verdict: Needs more thought.
  • Augur of Bolas: Guys. I'm in love. I've been swept off my feet. I didn't even mention him last month. He just didn't catch my eye. Now that friggin' DELVER is running him, I jumped on the bandwagon and realized how incredibly happy this guy makes me when I cast him. Tapping those two lands I feel a little flutter in my heart. This is made even better when I cast Whipflare and they stick around to block the big stuff, and better still when they make my Blasphemous Acts cheaper and I completely blow out the scrubs who DARED face them. It's just perfect (and so cheap! 2 mana! Such a deal!).  Awesome Level: So Awesome.
I'm getting pretty sick of writing at this point (it's hard!), but I suppose I should do a quick FNM report before I sign off here.

Match 1:
U/W Delver. The real one. Now, I won't JUST attribute to the deck being awesome and having a kick-ass matchup here, as the guy I played against was pretty bad. But I definitely held my own. He nearly flipped the table in a 35(ish) minute game 1 where I shut down every threat he had. Two Augur of Bolas do a very nice job against an unequipped Geist of Saint Traft (as does the Legend Rule. More on that in a bit), and Whipflare certainly doesn't hurt. I had all the answers I needed, and eventually whittled him down to 0 with Devil's Play and Burning Vengeance (or just Burning V, as my girlfriend and I call it). We took it to extra turns in game 2, but he randomly whipped out a Sun Titan from his sideboard and I couldn't really deal with it at that point. So we drew. Fun stuff...

G/W Humans: The kids was pretty bad, I got paired down to 0-1. Everything went according to plan in game 1 and 3, and I won the match by hitting him twice with his own Hero of Bladehold. Game 2, however, I drew one land in my opening 7. I mulled to 6 and drew none. Five, none. Four, none. Three... three lands. Fuck you deck.

R/G Elf Ramp: Killed his dudes and won game one. Game two, however, was the one I mentioned earlier. By turn 15 I had all the land I could need, two Augur of Bolas in the graveyard from my own board wipes, and a Faithless Looting and Think Twice exiled after flashing them both back. Now I don't know what the odds are of me completely running out of gas and having exactly zero spells to cast after that, but I know they're low. He had no idea what a bad spot I was in and was still tilted from being crushed the first game and a half. But as I went into fucking top-deck mode, things worked out just fine for him. It was absolutely bizarre. I'd go so far as to call it an anomaly. Whatever that means.

Oh yeah and he won game three. I don't even know what happened there. I dropped after that and watched my friend 3-1 the first FNM he ever played in with his stupid-ass B/R vampire deck that I built with him. Fuckin' dick.

Anyway. Yeah. Arcane Melee. It's fun, or something. Go play it.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Grixis Arcane Melee Control, OR: A post-M13 look at being a unique individual.

My starting point for this deck is the second list you'll see in Steve Guillerm's Arcane Melee Adventures. I spent about 12 hours straight playing it on Cockatrice yesterday, and now I have to write about it. It simply must be done. It's a very cool (and rather silly) list, and I really believe it can be completely viable by the time I'm done with it. And seeing how that will certainly take more than a couple weeks, might as well start throwing M13 stuff into it now!

What you're about to read is a very unfocused... thingy about Grixis Arcane Melee Control. What I mean to do is start a discussion with other people who find it promising (or just fun) in order to improve it. So please, chime in on what you think. I'm probably wrong about a whole bunch of stuff. Maybe some stuff will be wrong just to bait people into talking about it. In any case, I want this deck to be awesome, and I need help!

A quick Primer:
The Arcane Melee deck is at it's core a combo deck. It's very unfortunate that the combo involves a 5-drop Enchantment, but when you get there you see how worth it that is. The other pieces are Mystic Retrieval and Runic Repetition. Playing this deck, you'll find many of your opponents actually have no idea what any of those 3 cards do. More still won't know that Arcane Melee is global (let's not talk about that).

Basically, in lieu of any kind of countermagic or Planeswalkers, we control the board with a never-ending stream of Burn. Galvanic Blast, Pillar of Flame, Devil's Play, Whipflare, Blasphemous Act, etc. (as well as some black removal). But when I say never-ending, I literally mean never. If you have Arcane Melee on the board (big if), you can play Mystic Retrieval for 1U and flash it back for R. We run three of those. With Runic Repetition, every spell we play gets a buyback of 1UUR after we run out of Retrievals (Flashback Mystic Ret for R to get the spell back, Runic Rep for U to get the Mystic Ret back, Mystic Rep for 1U to get the Runic Rep back). Of course, it's much more flexible than that, but I'm sure you get the idea.

So of course there are a few big challenges in playing the deck. In no particular order:
  • Resolving Arcane Melee. It's kinda hard. Sometimes it gets countered, sometimes you die before you even drop it.
  • Graveyard hate. Ew.
  • Uh... How do you win?

Resolving Arcane Melee: The matchups
Against aggro, we stall until they run out of steam. Sometimes by that time you're at 4 life, and at that point you probably lose. Maybe some kind of life gain can help, maybe you just need to board in every kill spell in Standard. It's gonna take some work--pod decks are especially horrific to play against.

Aggro control is a little bit easier, actually. Turns out whipflare basically takes Delver to the cleaners. Yeah, they'll Vapor Snag their dudes to oblivion and counter your spells and all that nonsense. But at the end of the day, they run out of creatures and you don't run out of removal. Restoration Angels are a drag if you can't find your Doom Blades, but Whipflare + Galvanic Blast does alright.

Control is, surprisingly, the least of our worries. Dissipate is your worst enemy, but you can sit until you have the extra 3 for Mana Leak, and then sit some more. If Melee it gets Dissipated, you can probably find another one. I'm considering putting a 1- or 2-of Gitaxian Probe in for the sole purpose of making sure that Melee resolves. And hey, even Mind Rot only costs B with Arcane Melee out. In any case, we have a VERY solid matchup against control, because of our unlimited supply of cards. Burning Vengeance works wonders here.

Graveyard hate
It's actually not as bad as you'd think. Unless you lose your Runic Repetition. Then it is as bad as you'd think. When you see a Nihil Spellbomb (or whatever) in game 1, or suspect your opponent is siding one in for game 2 or 3, you can usually do just fine by siding in a second Runic Rep. Ancient Grudges also help.

If you lose your graveyard, simply Runic Repetition your Mystic Retrieval, then you can pull whatever you need from your exile with those two cards. This will usually only happen against control, so you have time.

This is the part that will most likely be changing when M13 comes in. Steve relies on damage from Burning Vengeance and a final kill with Devil's Play. There are some obvious problems with this plan. When you tap out for Devil's Play, you basically lose an entire turn to Mana Leak. It's not exactly elegant to wait until you're at 11 mana to get somebody half-dead. There a couple things that work much better in M13 that I'll discuss later. It's fun stuff :)

Steve's deck works... fine. But there are some cards that we can certainly do without. We'll need room for the next section.
  • Amass the Components. Draw 3 is fun, but it's crazy-slow without Melee out. Forbidden Alchemy is strictly better, because of our graveyard interaction.
  • Burning Vengeance. It isn't affected by Arcane Melee, and it really slows us down. If it goes in the 'yard, it stays in the 'yard. Maybe I'm wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure we don't have room for it
  • Doom Blade. It's very scary maining this card, because it's possible for it to be 100% dead. Go for the Throat isn't much better because Blade Splicer. Murder, however, is awwwwfully intriguing.
  • Galvanic Blast. I disagree with Mr. Guillerm's assertion that Galv Blast's instant-speed is more important. Pillar of Flame not only gets rid of Undying creatures, it stops all death triggers. Solemn Simulacrum, Viridian Emmissary, Blood Artist (that's a big one). Bam.
  • Sever the Bloodline. You usually don't get more than one kill with it per cast, and it's dreadfully expensive. Pillar is better, if you ask me.
  • Sphere of the Suns. We're playing control. Control = long games (hopefully). Sphere doesn't interrupt your turn 3 Forbidden Alchemy, but then it dies a slow and painful death. I really think Vessel of Endless Rest is actually better. I don't think either are particularly good options, but it feels much better when you draw a vessel on turn 20 than a sphere, which is basically completely dead.

And in the sideboard:

  • Fettergeist. This is just weird, I don't understand it at all.
  • Sever the Bloodline. Again, why?

Current cards worth exploring:
I don't have many; I'd love some suggestions.

  • Arc Trail. Seems obvious to me. It 2-for-1's (especially against mana dorks).
  • Pillar of Flame. I mentioned it earlier, it's prettyyyyyy cool. Stops undying, stops death triggers (this deck hates itself some Blood Artist).
  • Planeswalker. They pull aggro from us, and can help control the board. This is good. The bad part is they're not efficient with mana like we want all of our cards to be. And they're expensive! Don't know about you guys, I'm poor. That said, Karn is the only card in Standard we can cast that kills O-Ring, the most likely removal you'll see for Arcane Melee. So he's a card worth exploring.
  • Nihil Spellbomb. Sideboard against stuff like Solar Flare.
  • Griselbrand (+ Unburial Rites). No, this is not a Reanimator deck. But Vessel gets us white mana, and we have Looting and Forbidden Alchemy. Hell, we have the mana to hard cast him sometimes. Fishing for important cards like Arcane Melee and win conditions with his abillity is awesome, and he gains us a huge amount of life if we can attack or block with him even once. The most likely scenario I see him figuring into is in a reanimator suite with 2 Rites and another target (maybe Inferno Titan?). Just an aside: Flashing back Unburial Rites costs us *two mana*. Not bad, eh?

M13 Contenders
Now THIS is the fun stuff.

  • Gilded Lotus. Unfortunately it's in the same slot as Arcane Melee. The reason it's still here, though, is that tapping out for Arcane Melee is usually a bad idea. It's like hard casting Reforge the Soul: I'm going to give us both a whole bunch of new options, then say go so you can kill me with yours first. This deck is (obviously) designed to take advantage of Melee in ways that the average deck can't, but that doesn't mean other decks can't use it as well. Against aggro, you're pretty safe dropping Melee turn 4 or 5. But Gilded Lotus will probably wind up in my Sideboard, at least.
  • Rewind. There isn't any countermagic in the main board right now. I'm not actually sure how I feel about that; it certainly warrants a discussion. But if we're going to move in that direction, Rewind is the counterspell to beat. Early on, we can hold the mana open  to counter important spells, or AND spend it EoT on Forbidden Alchemy or Think Twice (which would both be four-ofs in this case) . To make things even better, once Arcane Melee is on the field, you gain mana for countering spells. This gives us the ability to leave 1UU open for their turn and either spend it on a couple think twice flashbacks or counter something and then flash back Forbidden Alchemy! This card is absolutely awesome in this deck. It's exciting just thinking about it.
  • Flames of the Firebrand. It's more expensive than Arc Trail, but it's even more versatile. Post-rotation I'm fairly sure I'll be playing this card. I mean, it only costs R with Arcane Melee out.
  • Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker. Hey, I mean, he's in our colors, right? Who doesn't want to play Nicol Bolas? His +3 destroys O-Rings, he can steal Titans permanently, and I don't need to tell you that his Ultimate is good.
  • Rise from the Grave. It doesn't have flashback like Rites does, but paying R for Mystic Retrieval and then casting it for 2B is fine with me. Playing two of this card over Rites allows us to play a singleton Griselbrand and no other targets, because we can just target stuff we kill with...
  • Murder. Our Doom Blades and Go for the Throat's are not just for the big stuff like they are in control decks that get a single use out of them. We can cast our spot removal a whole bunch of times, so we want it to be efficient against everything. Murder strains our manabase, possibly enough that it won't be playable pre-rotation. But with RtR and the return of Shock Lands, I can see it happening just fine. How's that relevant? Well another M13 card that will much better with Shock lands is...
  • Liliana of the Dark Realms. Our land drops are very important. Running Blood Crypt and Watery Grave give us pretty sexy control of our mana. That's one point for good ol' Lilly right there. This would allow us to run a much more Black-intensive manabase, making 4-of Murder and other black removal (Mutilate!!!). If I'm being completely honest, I'm not sure how this will pan out, as I've never played with shock lands in Standard. Her second ability should be able to kill threats pretty well, depending on what our manabase ends up looking like. We don't get any use out of the +X/+X part, but... oh well. Getting off her ultimate basically guarantees a win with Devil's Play.
  • Sands of Delirium. It could replace Increasing Confusion as an alternate win condition against control. Maybe not. Iunno. But here's the big one...
  • Stuffy Doll. We're already running Blasphemous Act. Cool, huh?
There are a LOT of interesting options to explore here. M13 fills in some gaps marvelously, and we lose almost nothing with the rotation. The Liliana RtR version is even more exciting. I'll be posting this weekend about how I do this Friday Night, but until then I'd love to talk to you guys in the comments about what you think. And keep the error correction coming, apparently writing 2000 words about Magic doesn't make you any better at reading the 13 words on Omniscience ("from your hand" was where it lost me).