Monday, April 29, 2013

"1 on 1 EDH tournament: Rude Awakening"

"This is going to hurt...a lot..."

"Rude Awakening"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

Today I am not going to talk about  a card but about the experience that I had the last time I played competitive 1 on 1 EDH. It was real a Rude Awakening.

Granted that when I first entered a 1 on 1 tournament it was not exactly a great turn of events but I actually attributed that to wrong choice of decks.I played a deck that was not even tested in the Casual Play group EDH stage so I was massacred.

My actual performace wasn't that bad this time around as I ended up with 2 wins , 2 losses and a draw. Compared to the awful 0-4 showing in my previous attempt.

The 2 decks that beat me had really great concepts that I have not met before. One was the Iname , Death Aspect deck that had Lake of the Dead for massive mana acceleration and Twilight's call to have all those massive spirits hit the battlefield while I was still fixing my own mana. The speed of it was insane.It might have also contained a Patriarchs bidding but I was not able to see it because I was swept in 2 games.

The Mana Acceleration was insane!

Another deck was one with Sygg , River Cutthroat as a commander which featured control and a whole slew of fying 3/1 creatures that assured that my opponent would be drawing a card at the end of his turn. 

Sometimes the tends to bite you when  you least expect it...

I was playing with a Sigarda deck that again felt lacked spot removal and mana acceleration to get it off the ground. with the amount of Moxes , Medallions , Force of Wills ,Fetch lands and Dual lands all over the place,my deck really seemed like a mere FUN deck by comparison. I was beaten by skill and speed. My opponents were the self-depreciating types , a true sign of their confidence and power and they have my respect. Hopefully I can fight them again in the future and hopefully this time around I would be the one doing all the self-depreciating. 

After showing how rusty I was in playing in a competitive atmosphere I had to turn and look at the pieces that I had and go back to the lab. Unfortunately there are things that are hindering me from tinkering at the moment. Payback will have to wait a couple more months but I'm sure it will be sweet. 

"Return to Ravnica Keyrunes...A Comparison"

"Here Kitty , Kitty, Kitty..."

"Return to Ravnica Keyrunes...A Comparison"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

As I was playing in the Dragon's Maze pre release I realized that I have not written about the original batch of Keyrunes from this set(Return to Ravnica).

This was brought about by their absence in my Golgari guild pack and Simic Secret ally pack. Not a single keyrune thank you very much. This was made even worse when I utterly got destroyed by a single flying Azorius keyrune in one game!!!

"Wings of Justice! Kakah!"

So for those reading about Keyrunes for the first time they are artifacts that cost 3 colorless mana to cast and in addition to being mana fixers to the guilds they represent have the added feature of turning into creatures that also represent their respective guilds.

Like my previous blog about the Gatecrash Keyrunes I will be looking and comparing the Return to Ravnica Keyrunes based on 3 different categories which are: Aggressiveness , Defense and X-factor:Ability.


Hands down the most aggresive of this batch is the Rakdos keyrune and in very close second is the Selesnya Keyrune. So in choosing between a Wolf and a Devil it is the former which has more staying power. The Rakdos takes the aggressiveness factor to another level because of First strike , in a match between the wolf and the devil ,the devil will win. Still with both dealing 3 damage at a time these 2 are the best when it comes to damage dealing.

At a close third is the Azorius keyrune that turns into a flying 2/2 Bird that can sometimes decide a the outcome of a game because of its evasion.


"A Single bite is proven deadly"

On the Defensive side the Golgari keyrune offers the best defense with a 2/2 Insect creature that destroys an attacking creature with its death touch. If you would consider the Scavenege Mechanic of the present Golgari and pile on several +1/+1 counters on this thing then you are looking at a big beast that has death touch.Even at its original 2/2 state it can take on creatures 4 or 5 times it size and take it to the grave!

At close 2nd and 3rd is the Rakdos and Selesnya Keyrunes , the First strike for the Rakdos assures its survival against most attackers (at least the smaller ones anyway) and the Selesnya keyrune with its stable 3/3 build can match point damage per point damage with most creatures.


The Izzet probably has the weakest looking Keyrune of all in this batch but if you consider the Izzet style of Sligh then you would appreciate how this creature was built. Blue has access to most bounce spells and Red has the best burn spells , so add those together and your opponent would probably have no creature left to block especially after an Overloaded Street Spasm or Mizzium Mortars. 

When this 2/1 creature damages it also allows you to filter your hand by drawing and then discarding a card from your hand. Pretty neat when it does deal damage.

So with all the 10 keyrunes now available at your disposal... Abuse them wisely.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

"Zhur-Taa Druid EDH : When Mana Sparks Something else"

"Go ahead and tell me you don't like my silky black hair...."

"Zhur-Taa Druid: When Mana Sparks Something else"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

After looking at the magnificent damage producer Ruric Thar I now turn my attention into one common favorite of mine. 

The Zhur-Taa Druid is a 1/1 Green Mana Producer which at the cost of the Gruul Colors is exactly someone you need to accelerate casting brutes like Borborygmos or Ruric Thar. The thing that I like about him is that he not only taps for 1 Green mana but he also damages all of your opponents when he does so!!! 

Magic has a long history of pingers so to speak but none of them has had this particular ability and I am picking this guy to be in a lot of decks because of his particular trait. 

Well I am actually thinking of a Jund(Black/Green/Red) EDH deck with a lot of Blood thirst creatures that would insanely benefit from all the damages that he would be giving. Creatures like Skarrgan Pit Skulk , Stormblood berserker , Scab-Clan Mauler , Blood Ogre , Bloodlord of Vaasgoth and Fury Born Hellkite. 

Another possible potential interaction that I would love to see is this Druid with Rakdos, Lord of Riots. You could float one Green mana and in an EDH setting damage at least 3 opponents before even attacking. Normally with  Rakdos in play you usually attack to maximize his second ability which allows you to cast creatures 1 generic mana less for each 1 life lost by all your opponents. 

"Wait till you see some of my other buddies..."

Assuming that you have enough mana in play and some way to have your creatures have haste like Urabrask or Fervor(which is always a given in red) , then you could cast your Furyborn Hellkite in play for just 3 Red mana and 1 Colorless mana and attack for 12! Attacking with Rakdos in play means that you have at least 16 colorless mana that would be subtracted to creatures that you want to cast.It is kind of ironic that a creature like Rakdos who is very color intensive (hard to cast with the BBRR cost) actually encourages you to cast a lot of Colorless fatties like Steel HellKite or even a Blightsteel Colossus or the Eldrazi brotherhood.

The Spells Exsanguinate , Sizzle , Blood tithe and Breath of Malphegor will also standout in this deck because of the amount of life being lost.And with the monsters that keep on landing on the battlefield it would not be long before opposing players succumb. 

"The Hills are alive with the sound of Music..."

Imagine the kind of the things that come from a tiny spark of mana production! Yes the color costs for the combination is great but with green in there mana fixing surely would not be a problem. 

Lucky are those who can brew , playtest and play. So keep on doing so! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

"Iron Man 3: Forgeting to Iron the kinks"

Wait for the words Clean Slate

"Iron Man 3: Forgeting to Iron the kinks"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

I always have a great measuring stick when it comes to watching great movies and it is something I call the Aven Scale. This measures the amount of whine my daughter develops once a movie goes south in plot and visuals. In the middle of a bad movie she becomes fidgety and I get the hint but in Great movies that are worth the money she just stays very still and eats all of my popcorn.Movies like The Avengers or Rio or Alice in Wonderland.

The latest movie that she was really fidgety about was Iron Man 3 and I could see why.

Plot: The threat of the Mandarin looms ever closer as Tony Stark begins to exhibit signs of Anxiety attacks after his run in with Aliens in New York during the Avengers movie.

Those who have not watched the movie yet. This is a spoiler alert.If you are the kind of person who would form an opinion later despite the facts then read on.

The Good:

- The interaction between Jarvis and Tony Stark.
- The added touch of remote to all of his armor, even fooling Pepper Potts with an empty armor masquerading as himself.
- Tony Stark and seeming fallible armor
- The Visuals and the fighting styles of  the Soldiers of Project Extremis
- The Entrance of Team Iron Man , probably thrilling everyone with all the armor Tony Stark has been working on.
- Tony Stark Fighting in semi armor or just thrusters was a delight to see.
- The destruction of the Stark Malibu Mansion
-Those funny moments when the Mach 42 was malfunctioning.
- The Death of Killian...
- Iron Man saving 13 people while they are plummeting from the sky...
- Tony Stark's generosity to the boy who helped him.
- The limited Edition Dora watch.

The Bad:

- Tony Stark being a pompous ass revealing his home address for the Mandarin to directly assault him.

- Tony Stark and his anxiety attacks. Yes it does make him more human and believable as a character but it does not push the plot in any way because he does not overcome it , the portrayal of it is inconsistent with someone who could assault a dozen giant  , armed men or save people from plummeting to their deaths as they fall from the sky.

There is a lesson here....

- The Mandarin is revealed to be nothing more than an actor.This is the biggest let down of the movie because The Mandarin with his ten rings is one of the coolest Villains of all time and with the ten rings that he has actually is the iconic archenemy of iron man. Ben Kingsley was great and funny but the character did deserve more than that and the script writers were really portraying one tough would be nemesis up to the point where he starts talking from the bathroom.

- The Iron Patriot...

The Ugly:

- The plot seems to be really rushed and Iron Man was never about Conspiracies but this movie was about one!

- Pepper Potts actually going She-Hulk and protecting Tony Stark. So out of character that she actually said so herself.

- Tony Stark coming in Commando style on the Mandarin compound with a bunch of things he invented from Walmart which is like Batman crosses McGyver. The direct assault without the armor is really out of character. You believe Bruce Wayne can do stuff like that but not Tony Stark. It gets even more annoying when it is revealed that he has more than enough armor stashed away somewhere but he didn't use it!

- The needless destruction of all the armor he has created. Even if Tony Stark is a gazillionaire the loss of all that armor is a well...wasteful and seems like a bad close for the 3rd movie even if it produces a lot of fireworks.

- Spoiler Alert: The most annoying part is that part of what defines Iron Man in the movies is the arc light reactor on his chest. By the end of the movie the writers are literally wiping all traces of the previous movies by having it removed. The scene where he throws it by the ruins of his old mansion is a symbolism of that. Again another dangerous and wasteful thing. The thing on his chest is like a mini nuclear reactor and you just throw it in the ocean? Expect mutants from that part of the world pretty soon.

All in all the movie was not worth watching in 3D.
The hurried plot and conspiracies was not even carried by the massive visuals that you would attach to a movie franchise of this caliber. It is obvious that Disney/Marvel is trying to move this to a different direction and we will just have to see where that rabbit hole goes. There were great moments but I did wish that there was more.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

"The Mist in the Garden"

"The Mist in the Garden"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

     It happened during a summer much like this one. I was in a Youth camp because there was nothing much to do in the province during that time. The fiestas were over but I still didnt want to go home to Manila so my summer was filled with one Summer camp after another in Romblon. I enjoyed those times because I was meeting a lot of new people. Of course there was something else that was willing to meet me as well.

     So it was the second day of the camp. We stayed in the Looc elementary school that had great open grounds for the activities but not enough shower facilities for around 200 people. So a friend and I decided that we would take a shower during the early hours of the morning in the front of the school where no one was around. Along the wall was a garden hose that we immediately used. It was going to be another hot day and I looked forward to being refreshed by the water. My friend found another garden hose further to the north of the wall so he started to take a bath with his back toward me. 

    That  summer has been one of the most paranormal in my life. So I think I wasn't so surprised when across the gardens a mist started to form. It was white and floating. I thought someone was already awake  and burning leaves to smoke the trees. I realized that it was just  4am and it was too dark to burn leaves or to even rake them in one place first. There was no possible source for it but that white mist was there and forming a vague shape. The place was too far off the coast and there was no fog in a hot place like this.  It was one of those classic apparitions that people talk about but I was not afraid. I just paused while the garden hose poured water on me because I wanted to know what it would do next. It  then crossed to the right , a floating mist that went  to the nearest building and disappeared.  I kept on showering. Oddly I did not feel afraid , The Mist merely wanted to have its presence felt. I never saw it the following morning.  It was not the first time I saw a ghost that summer and it was not the last.

"Bakit nga ba?"

"Bakit nga ba?"

"Bakit nga ba?"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

     When this book by Ramon Bautista first came out a couple of months ago , I must honestly say that I had one of my cousins in mind.I wanted to give it to him because of all the lady problems he was having or the lack of a lady to be exact. I was not able to purchase this book until a couple of weeks ago and things have changed for my cousin by this time. He was already with someone (That actually made all of us Happy) and though his status has changed his stories still epitomizes ( at least for me) that of the often Friend Zoned and if I wrote this book may have been the inspiration for the title "Bakit hindi ka Crush ng Crush mo?"

     So back to Mr. Bautista's book which is a compilation of his snappy and witty comments from his Formspring account. I did find that the book was entertaining for about an hour. (The amount of time that I finished it while waiting for my daughter to finish her aerobics class). 

     It is basically a Q and A of life and love and other things. Plus a couple of entertaining pictures of Ramon Bautista.The guy cracks me up because he seems serious enough not to be funny but thats how it works.

The Good:

The great advise , the witty humor and the great hour spent laughing at everything (except for the serious parts where Ramon actually scolds Students for not trying in school)

The Bad:

Well it seemed like a rip off at first but then not everyone has access to the internet and there are obviously some people who would benefit from this book who are not able to access a computer or when they do access it just spend all their time doing something else other than reading something important like this. 

The Ugly:

Well some readers and some of the followers are suggested to be ugly because A. They wanted to know kung bakit di sila Crush ng Crush nila and they bought this book to know and B. Yung iba aminado naman sa mga tanong nila...

     All in all the book is a good read and I recommend it to people who want to start reading again , people who want light reading , people who need reading material while waiting or while sitting on the white throne.

     Mr. Bautista does offer a lot of tough love and sound advise though so prepare to be moved or as you are sitting in the John prepare to be moved while moving your bowels. 

"My brother, Shadow"

"My brother, Shadow"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 


You are my shadow
and what can I do about you?
Absolutely nothing , you answered
This is always about you.


You said you are the things I can't accept
the things I pushed to the back of my head
You said that you are the darkness 
The dark voices that I am trying to bend


I'm an open book  , I started to argue
You are not and you will see
Im not like you , I started to shout
Oh but in the end its always just you and me.


In a flash I looked at the mirror
it was a room full of people
And in a flash I looked away
There was nothing more than blood on the hallways


My Shadow seemed to snigger
Why did I just tell?
And I looked at my bloodied hands...
It was just me and him in this hell...

"Drown in Filth: When swimming is hazardous for your health"

"I told you , that turn was a bad idea" , The horse said to the Rider.

"Drown in Filth: When swimming is hazardous for your health"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

     It seems like in the last expansion of Return to Ravnica all of the guilds have been given a spot removal that blends with that guilds mechanic quite smoothly.

     Since I am a Golgari I would like to talk about the Card Drown in Filth.With the Champions of each guild running the Implicit Maze you could only expect that all the guilds will be defending their gates. If you have watched the video trailer for Dragon's Maze you would have noticed a Knight drowning in a sea of rubbish and that is exactly the art on the card that I am writing about today.

     In Junk Reanimator Decks in Standard which uses Mulch and Grisly Salvage  , Drown in Filth could be a perfect fit since it offers spot removal while you also put cards from your library to your graveyard. You could mix 3 of each on a standard deck which make it 9 cards to mill your library , one gives you an option to land fetch , creature fetch and creature removal. 

"Ewwww...It really is dirty down here...."

     The tricky part is to have enough lands in the grave for it to be effective. Those -1/-1's will sure come in handy dealing with the indestructible Tajic or a Boros Reckoner whose ability would not trigger at all while you deal with it. Well with Mulch and Grisly Salvage the chances are that you would have enough land to remove creatures and have available creatures for the Scavenge mechanic to work.

     Drown in Filth is a gem in Golgari EDH decks because of its removal and self Mill properties. Jarad and a multitude of other creatures that depend on the grave as a stat pumper would have a happy day.The amount of land that falls in Dredge decks ensures that there will always be enough -1/-1 to kill most creatures that are bothering you. Well that is it for now. Keep on Tinkering! 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Playing in Pre-Releases: Sealed Fates"

To Mulligan or not to Mulligan?

"Playing in Pre-Releases: Sealed Fates"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

     Playing in a pre-release is one of my greatest joys. For weeks as a magic player you have been hounding the various spoiler web sites in hopes of getting a glimpse of that one particular card that would change the game , raise the prices of certain cards or immensely improve your current deck or (in my case) decks. This is like attending a Movie Premier only this is way better because it doesn't end in an hour and a half. It is also way more interactive. Plus you get the chance to hold or own that particular card that you have been drooling over for weeks.

    I also call these events the great equalizer. Every one comes in on equal footing.There are no Net decks that could save you here ,there are only concepts and possible interactions that you might have read or imagined doing yourself. Being in a pre-release all boils down to 2 things. Luck and Pure skill. 

     Case in point is Team Virulence's resident Sealed Monster , Neil Umali , the guy always comes up with some really weird decks in  Standard or Modern that ends up on the wrong side of the win column most of the time but he is a different sort of monster altogether in Sealed events. It does not matter if he has Bombs ( Rare or Mythic Game Changing cards like Legendary creatures and so forth ) when he opens a pack.He has ruled the roost when it comes to sealed. He either has tremendous luck or tremendous skill. We suspect he has both.

With that being said there are a couple of things that you need to consider when you are playing in this format:

I knew there was some removal here somewhere....

1) The availability of cards in your pool

This is the part people often attribute to luck and it is a given but this is where serious deck building skills come out. You are given a limited amount of time to include cards in your concept.

When you have opened all of your 6 packs and seperated them by color or mana cost or whatever system  that you have it is now time to look at what you will be working with.

The two predominant colors in your packs should give you a clue as to how you should proceed. The Bombs are less important  , you might have a Tamiyo or Garruk Primal Hunter but all the cards you have are most White or black so what is the point of playing a planeswalker who will not get any color support right?

2) Dominant Colors

Yup...I would really love to play some mountains now....

As a rule of thumb it is always better to play with the most color that you see in front of you.A sea of red cards or blue cards determines a lot if you could support a particular concept. 

2 colors with the potential of splashing  a third color is usually viable in this kind of environment , just be sure to have a good mix of mana or mana fixers (key runes or Clue stones) put in so you can maximize your concept.

Colorless artifacts especially from the previous  sets of Mirrodin and Scars of Mirrodin also provided a great bulk of cards that  could be added to any color. Playing in that Sealed format was great because you had an abundance of cards to splash in any color.

Artifacts that could be used in your concept should not be overlooked because these are things that are not hindered by mana cost.

3) Dominant color Mana Costs 

The Mana Curve is always important in all magic formats more so in this limited format because the faster you could put your threats on the board the better it will be for you. Putting down a creature with every passing land drop should be a great priority especially in Sets that do not feature any major mass removal spell.

4) Creatures Vs.Control

Some people lose control over creatures...

Magic normally has very aggressive creatures in all the mana costs but Red  , Green and White traditionally are the colors with the most aggressive build. 

The kind of cards that you also have will be an important factor. More creatures tend to point   to a more aggressive strategy while having enough  counters , Bounce or Removal tend to point to a more controlled strategy. From my observation the best kind of decks in Sealed  is a mixture of both. 

     The first time I played in a  Sealed tournament I greatly became aware that there are cards that would normally never see standard play but are big Heroes here and later on in EDH decks. There were cards that are tantamount to suicide in standard but mean a matter of life and death here. I also became quite aware of the card pools and there differences when they are in  a New set and a Core set.

    Unlike in Core Set Pre releases where the colors are more or less equally distributed with an abundance of old and new mechanics  , Set Releases like Innistrad or Return to Ravnica tend to push players into specific mechanics or colors ( like the guilds). The latter makes deck building much easier because you only need to support your mechanics or colors. Core Sets offer a lot more options and a lot more tinkering on the players part especially because it is a bigger pool than let us say the 2nd or 3rd expansion of a new set. 

   I might never return to standard or play on a consistent basis soon because of the things that I do at the moment but I am happy that at least I can experience a sealed tournament once every couple of months. See you in the games! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

"Selesnya: Some Token Goodness"

"Selesnya: Some Token Goodness"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

     Coming from a very Red back ground in Magic I normally don't play with tokens unless they were Goblin tokens from Goblin Assault , Dragon Fodder ,Goblin Offensive or Kuldotha Rebirth. It is all about the speed after all but as I grew in the game I realized that there are other colors out there that is also interesting to play with tokens. I first got into white soldier tokens because they were the closest aggressively to Goblins and then of course there were the green token creatures and the combination that is Selesnya. 

     If the original Selesnya took advantage of the fast mass production of tokens with the Convoke Mechanic to make even more,the present Selesnya just took it to another level with the Populate mechanic and this time its not just the 1/1 saprolings that you should be afraid of its the 3/3's, 4/4's ,5/5's and 8/8's tokens that can be easily made and doubled in no time at all. 

     In a new set I usually look at the common and uncommon cards that support a particular guilds mechanic ( because I support that Piso-Piso philosphy- Mura lang pero wasak ka Cards or In English Affordable but smash face cards) and there are 2 stand out cards that support Populate for the Green/White Cult.

     These 2 cards are Trostani's Summoner and Wake the Reflections. The Summoner Costs 5 Generic , 1 Green and 1 White Mana to cast and at the uncommon slot too. The Summoner does not have impressive stats with a frail 1/1 Body , its the 3 tokens that she brings with her that really stand out. A 2/2 Vigilance White Knight , a 3/3 Green Centaur and 4/4 Trampling Green Rhino. She could do all her fluffy dances but if she calls out these Fatties I would not really mind. They have a total of 10 damage spread across them and when they attack that means half of a players life in standard. Imagine if you could also blink this creature or hide it under your Fiend Hunter and then blink the Fiend Hunter.

     Blinking it just once means that there are at least 19 points of potential battle damage on the field that is waiting to be unleashed on your next turn. You could watch your opponent squirm as he or she would pray for a miracle on the upcoming turn. Try not to act too excited because it always spoils the moment when they do have a response to your threats.

The other Card is Wake the Reflections who at 1 White mana in the common slot has the ability to produce another token that you already have. An  8 / 8 Elemental from a Wayfraing temple or a 5/5 Wurm from Advent of the Wurm seems pretty nice when you have them in pairs. 

     In EDH you could have a copy of a 9/9 Golem or something that may have been imprinted on Soul Foundry or Mimic Vat. Yup these guys really stand out in delivering those token goodies.I wouldn't mind taking in some part of that action especially if the strategy really involves affordable cards such as these. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

"Legion's Initiative:The Boros 2-step"

"The Boros 2 step"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

Warning: When playing with this enchantment make sure that you do not have token makers in your deck. Tokens are exiled forever and would not return.

With that being said The Legion's Initiative is a very cost efficient stat pumper for Boros creatures.( If you are playing creatures that have both Boros Colors like The Reckoner or Tajic they will get the max benefit of +1/+1 each).  This blog was written because my brother Aj couldn't get over the thought that Tajic could be saved and will be attacking for  7 on the next turn along with his buddies.

And therein lies the real value of this card ,  its ability to exile all your creatures  for a measly 1 Red and 1 White mana cost. Creatures that would die to the conventional Day of Judgement (Not Tajic of course) or even if they are indestructible may die to blacks mass removal spells that does not involve destroying them like Merciless eviction (which exiles them) or Mutilate or Black Sun Zenith ( puts -1/-1 counters on them)  or  Whites Terminus ( puts them at the bottom of your library). Legion's Initiative when sacrificed makes them evade all these removals and puts them all back under your control on your next Combat phase. They also have haste so they can attack as soon as they return.

"Let's go and hurt someone guys...."

How about that? This ladies and gentlemen is the Boros 2 step. 1) Watch me fade out of existence and 2) watch me come back with my fist right in your face. Easy.

So if you have already set up with a Tajic in play and 2 other creatures then you have effectively bypassed your opponents mass removal and on your next Combat phase you get to send them on the Boros proverbial ambulance. A massive army on the next Combat phase or just the right person to do the trick. And this is just in standard play.

In EDH ,  when an opponent clears the board , and you activate the Legion's Initiative you could have a massive creature like a Sun Titan come in and give you an advantage in the form of a 3 Converted Mana cost permanent that returns to the battlefield. Of course this Titan is merely one of the many options , an Elesh Norn is  someone you really  want on your side of the board as well. 

Or Imagine the havoc this one  Enchantment can cause when added to a Kaalia deck that is already full of deadly creatures. Imagine all of those Angels ,Dragons and Demons escaping mass removal and attacking with haste on the next turn?

Or Imagine someone who has successfully cast a Mass Polymorph...losing all his or her tokens but Unleashing all of the monsters in his or her deck...saving them from removal with this Enchantment...Now imagine that they have come into play effects like the Primordials...The Titans...Either way it doesn't end well on the next Combat phase for their opponents.

Yup , this card would surely make a lot of players very happy and they don't necessarily need to be Boros to do the Boros 2 step.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

"Planeswalker Awakenings: Zaraki Kenpachi Awakens"

"Planeswalker Awakenings: Zaraki Kenpachi Awakens"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

In a different plane , a different time  ,a spark awakens and  a new planeswalker is born.....

In his grief he had awakened something within him. It had carried him to a place that he had never been before. One moment He was holding her , His first True Opponent. She was smiling at him as her life drained away , He could not understand the joy that she felt because in his heart there was only sorrow. There was only darkness where feelings of happiness should be. He never felt the pull of realities , his own energies resisted them so as he remained oblivious while he was being carried across the different planes of existence.Until the pull stopped at one place ,  One where his heart sought for appeasement. Standing on the sands of an unknown arena , surrounded by cheering crowds , he felt his pulse rising. The foreign language floating among the throng was something that came as a babble but he knew a battle when it was about to start. Mostly because in his life he started most of them himself.

Gates on several sides of the gigantic fighting pit were lifting. He could see gargantuan creatures emerging from the darkness beyond. His Zanpakutou was calling out to him , urging him on to take on the creatures of this unknown pit. His grief forgotten in the moment. He gave a shout that ignited the dormant energies within him. The crowd went into a frenzy.

Zaraki Kenpachi has recently been crowned the only worthy person of that title. He is Battle lust incarnate and he only lives to fight the strongest.Those whom he considers weak bore him and are easily dealt with. Having recently known his Zanpakutou he is now fully restored to full power , a power that he had repressed so that he could enjoy fighting more.

There is no doubt about the color of mana that Zaraki would espouse , it is the ready for battle and always craving for battle aspect of Red. He will be purely Red because he does not bother himself with small details like subterfuge or tactics or even technique. Just pure speed and power which are the staples of Red as well. The card Battle Lust should have Zaraki's face on it. There is power that can be harnessed from other things but Zaraki embodies pure power itself and can now outlast anyone else in a field of battle. Only the future can tell how powerful he can become because both his Shikai and Bankai forms have yet to be revealed.

Zaraki stepped over another pile of dead bodies as the Onslaught continued. Creatures continued to pour out of the lifted gates and with the swing of his Zanpakotou a fresh wave fell. He did not fear the Legions that would be sent out. He was a Scourge that they could not move. 

Those who were running the pits have taken notice of this monstrous entity reducing the monsters that they send to nothing.The crowds were happy but if this went on they would grow tired of the one-sided massacre. They decided that this travesty cannot continue. They called forth their champion to face the mighty challenger. His name was Kamahl , a force to be reckoned with in this plane. Zaraki faced this new opponent and he had to grin in anticipation. Kamahl was brimming with a Red Aura that he could see and from his assessment this opponent might give him more of a great time than these weak animals. Zaraki took the first step in a deadly dance of swords that would go on for a long time.


Writers Note:
Planeswalker Awakenings is like a "what if" series...where I try to put a character from a Book , TV series or Movie into the context of a planeswalker from Magic:The Gathering.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Fighting the Future"

"Fighting the Future"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

I am not running
I'm staying very still
Though I have seen its form in the darkness
I will stand back for the kill

If the past is behind me 
and my future is ahead
why do I feel like there is more to fear there
and the future is stalking me instead

I am not running 
because in the present I must stay
I must look forward to the battle
and the future I must slay

Fighting what must be
Living what must be
Insanity in dying
Insanity in dying

I brace myself now that it is near
I grip my blade
The past rushes forward
It comes to my aid...

As the dust settles
It is ironic that the beast I must slay
determines the outcome of things to come
I may find myself killing it over and over again

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

"The Blood Baron of Vizkopa: Blah blah blah blah"

"I don't talk like that , blah blah blah blah."

"The Blood Baron of Vizkopa: Blah blah blah blah"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

     One of the most abusive one drops in EDH is the Serra Ascendant.On turn one it becomes a mighty 6/6 Life linking flyer because your first turn assures that you have met its specific condition.( As long as you have 30 or more life.It gains flying and a +5/+5 stat).EDH lives start at 40 and with the Ascendant in play you get to attack and raise that life total starting on the 2nd turn. Its the reason it has been banned during one on one EDH. However the use of this card continues because of the one-sided advantages that it poses to deliver.

    The card I'm going to talk about today is pretty much an update of the Serra Ascendant and offers you more of the same in the Mid-game.Even More.

    Enter the Blood Baron of Vizkopa who at 3 Generic , 1 black and white mana promises to give your opponents time to pause and look at their hands for a possible answer. 

    A chunkier and better version of Serra Ascendant it promises a lot of beat down because of its +4/+4 body and with Life Link too. Not too mention that its Pro-White and Pro-black so it just passes through creatures with those colors. It also  cancels any spot removal from 2 colors that traditionally have the best removal.

    And like the Ascendant you will most likely meet his Condition as well because lets face it at the early stages of EDH nobody really attacks either because of the fear of politics or that people are just really setting up. The Blood Baron is sure to be an option because he could finish an opponent in one swing. Well , with the 10 life of Less condition for an opponent , the best addition would be another vampire...Sorin Markov. He assures that at least one opponent will have 10 life or less. Having a life total like that just really invites vultures to circle around your head.

   While The Blood Baron is not as easily cast as Serra's Ascendant Orzhov decks already running Sorin Markov / Sorin's Vengeance will find that this vampire already fits in well to the kind of strategy and offers another option when you are unable to get your Sorin's Vengeance.I have such a deck and the Blood Baron is on my want list now. Its going to be a busy week for people updating decks after the release of Dragons Maze.

Monday, April 15, 2013

"Tajic EDH: Calling the Ambulances"

"Tajic EDH: Calling the Ambulances"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

     Having the ability to cast cost efficient creatures that is the trademark of white combined with the aggression of Red has always been bad news for opposing players in standard. The Boros have been a very aggressive and controlling bunch since they came out in the original Ravnica block. Sadly it was a phase where I was taking a hiatus from magic so I never had the chance of playing with the Legion.

     Even now that they are dominant in Standard they are the least guild that I have had concepts about. Among my 18 EDH decks not one of them has the Boros color identity though I have been really considering building one just because I have a Razia and Jor Kadeen waiting in the wings as commanders but it really didn't get there.

Of course it was until this monster showed up!
Tajic, Blade of the Legion has many standard players panting like some doggies in a heatwave. I don't play standard and I was one of those panting like a doggie.

     At 2 Generic Mana , 1 Red and 1 White mana he offers an Indestructible 2/2 creature with the current Boros Mechanic which is Battalion - something Good happens whenever this creature attacks with at least 2 other creatures until end of turn. For Tajic he gets +5/+5!!! The push to take the full benefits of Tajic is to attack with him.The Potential +7/+7 creature smashing through is great and in standard offers another creature to win. 

     In EDH , where you could easily access white and red token producers its easy to imagine Tajic as your commander attacking with more than 2 other creatures. Not to mention that there are a lot of Enchantments that could easily make your creatures bigger like Crusade or Glorious Anthem.

     3 Hits from the guy could end one of your opponents life. Since he is indestructible he could just trade damage with other creatures on the battlefield all day long(unless it was an Infect or Wither creature). He doesn't fear most removal spells or even being Death touched but in the EDH setting there are a lot of ways to take care of him like Path to exile or even Condemn. 

With that being said I'd like you to consider these following dream scenarios with Tajic in Play:

Scenario #1: Tajic + Day of Judgement = He survives the DOJ and attacks for 2. End of your opponents turn you cast a Raise the Alarm or Masters call at Instant Speed. Go to town with Tajic on your turn for 7 Commander damage per turn unopposed by any creature. 

Scenario #2: Tajic + Obliterate = Tajic Laughs at all the destruction around him , attacks for 2 commander damage. Yup , it does destroy your mana base as well but you could always float mana after the Obliterate and create 2 creature tokens afterwards and well , Batallion your opponents one by one.

Scenario #3: Tajic + Martial Coup =  Martial Coup is really special with this guy because you not only destroy your opponents defenders but actually put soldiers on your side of the board. Tajic will just wait patiently for all the other creatures to get destroyed and If you have fervor in play then you could go and paint the town Red Boros style with him and the soldier tokens that just arrived on the scene.

I now understand why Boros has Ambulance colors. If Ravnica had Ambulances the Boros would be the reason for most people ending up in them especially with Tajic showing up in this latest expansion.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

"The Rock(s)"

"The Rock(s)"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

In an expansion full of multi-colored permanents , dual colored or even triple-colored decks mana-fixing options is always welcome. The first 2 expansions featured Key Runes that aided you in the long run or early turns by becoming creatures.Dragon's Maze promises more help with a different twist this time around.

     The problem that could easily be found in artifact mana fixers such as these is that they literally don't do anything for you in the latter turns of the game. The crucial turns where you have an abundance of mana and draw one of these when all you need is a creature or any form of removal to stop the stupid grinning on your opponents face who is so assured that his army of creatures on the board will finish you in the next attack. You have all this mana and no spell to use it on.For shame.

    Dragon's Maze offers another option when it comes to mana fixing. Enter the 10 Cycle Clue Stones that support each guild with their color combinations.Each cost 3 colorless mana to cast and for the color cost or identity of that Guild (ie. Gruul=RG) you could sacrifice your rock for a chance to draw an extra card!

     A card draw at the mana cost of 5 seems like a fair trade to losing a game.This maybe the card draw that could change the course of the game. Any Magic player will tell you that the turning of the tides always start with a single draw. You just have to keep your fingers crossed that it is the card you need or it will really be game over. Think Positive. The Clue Stones will save you.

   The ability to do this at instant speed as well gives you the ability to react as an opponent attacks. You would probably very happy to draw an Evacuation or Rout in an EDH game.In standard you could draw at the end of an opponents turn to get that Planar Cleansing or Merciless Eviction or whatever removal card you have in your deck. 

    With the Keyrunes from the previous sets and these Clue Stones and the abundance of Common Dual tap lands and Shock Lands it really is a great time for dormant players to return and new players to enter the Magic Fold.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

"The Room By The Stairs"

"The Room by the stairs"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

      I went to an old High School near Doroteo Jose. It was a place that has seen some history and had even schooled one of the countries Senators at the time. It fostered a great atmosphere for learning and promoted great Christian values  unfortunately it was also very haunted. 

     There were 2 incidents that occured in that place which increased my belief in the paranormal. This was about a square room where our 3rd year Section stayed for a year. It was the one that was found at the very end of the school , you would take a wide flight of stairs going up and upon reaching the top of the stairs you would turn right to find the door leading to this room. 

Story # 1 - "Luna X 2"

The first incident occured one early morning , it seemed like a typical day and I was a bit early for school  , my classmate Diosdado who lived just in front of the school was there as well. We waited for a while until the custodian opened the door for us  ,it was then that I noticed that one of our classmates (her name was Luna) , a morena girl with striking straight black beautiful hair suddenly burst in between Dado and me. On the left corner of the room was a Stand fan which we always turned on when we came in, this was the direction that Luna went to  , Dado and I paid her no mind because we  just thought that she was just going to turn on the fan. I settled at the back of the room  , near the door because I believed that I didn't finish an assignment and I didn't want to be in front when my teachers were asking to pass our notebooks.  All of our classmates started coming in and the classes eventually started. The day was half over and I believe that we were in Ms. Tan's English class when I saw somebody running up the stairs. It was unmistakeable. It was Luna. She just came to class.

 I was so surprised that I just had to ask her where she went. She said that she was just really late. I said that I saw you earlier with Dado , when the custodian opened the door. She was puzzled as well because there was no way that she could have made it to school that morning. When the class heard of this story they were all really scared. The rest of the class period was spent with Ms. Tan trying to pacify us.

Story # 2 - "The head in the corridor."

The 2nd incident happened during a class recollection. It was night time and we were assigned to sleep in this room by the stairs. Now this room had another feature to it that figured into this event. It had a long rectangular window that was made of clear glass which stretched along the full length of the room , this window was high enough that someone beyond 5 feet could see the corridor it faced. So the room was facing the corridor of rooms that was normally full of students and on the rooms left was the door leading to the stairs. During the recollection this room was specifically chosen because it provided a vantage point for seeing people going out of the rooms in the corridor or people who would go in. These rooms were occupied by our female classmates and some female facilitators.All males were here and I believe this was our 3rd Year of High school as well. I recalled that my classmate Jimmy , the Recollection Facilitator and I were chatting while sitting on one of the sturdy tables when we saw someone moving from the dark corridor going towards the room. It wasn't someone we knew. The facilitator didn't seem to know the guy either but we could clearly see him coming towards us from the dark and when he reached the window he turned to the right. It was by that time that all 3 of us noticed that this was merely a floating head. It did not seem to notice us at all and it continued to the right and disappeared from our view when the window ended. I was not sure about what the other 2 did but I found the corner farthest away from the window and decided to sleep even though my mind was so wide awake. 

I have not been back to my old school in quite awhile but surely its not going to be a place that I would want to visit in the dead of night all alone any time soon. 

Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Trolling with Varolz"

"Trolling with Varolz"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.
    I have always been a Golgari at heart and the  Scavenge mechanic though it does appear to be weak is actually in great flavor to the present standard Golgari , it is a guild that capitalizes in creatures who have already died and otherwise would not have served any other purpose in the graveyard except for reanimation or to power up cards like Jarad , Splinter fright or Bone yard wurm. With the Scavenge mechanic (exile a target creature from your graveyard and pay its mana cost:Put a number of +1/+1 Counters on  target creature. Scavenge only as a sorcery)in place you could expect all Golgari to love the new Legend.

    Varolz, The Scar-Striped is a legendary Troll Warrior who will be the champion of the Golgari in the Dragons Maze.He does embody all that is Golgari at the present or most possibly any of their future forms for that matter.

     I wrote a blog about him earlier that I failed to publish (I was out for awhile). This turned out for the better because I wrote about an overpowered Troll whose unfocused picture with his abilities turned out to be a hoax. Some things are just too good to be true. It still doesn't change the fact that I am excited about this guy.

     At  1 Generic Mana , 1 Black and 1 Green. He is an easier Golgari Commander to cast in EDH. He has a 2/2 Stat that proves quite unimpressive for a troll. Shouldn't he be bigger some of you might already be asking. I have asked the same question myself and found him a bit puny to be smashing things around until I read his ability. 

     All of your creatures in the graveyard have the scavenge mechanic. It seems that those mushrooms on his shoulder have an activation effect that could recycle dead creatures (And as an update has revealed that those mushrooms actually give Varolz some regenerative powers that allow him to heal his wounds instantly and giving him tough scar tissue).  It should have been green mushrooms!The kind of Mushrooms Super Mario used to eat to grow bigger. Italian plumber references aside from a puny 2/2 Troll Warrior its not hard to imagine that with enough mana and creatures in the graveyard Varolz could be huge. Very Huge. One lethal hit Commander damage huge.

     The Golgari have all the required cards to make this happen with Mulch , Grisly Salvage , Lotleth Troll and the new card Rot Farm Skeleton which lets you dredge more creatures into the graveyard to let him see more playing time on the battlefield. Not to mention Varolz himself who has the ability to have a creature sacrificed to regenerate himself. He is going to be a headache that refuses to go away. This action fills your graveyard even more.Literally thriving on more death and using up all the materials that are needed to be strong. The graveyard as about that?!

     One look at his ugly mug and I was reminded of Ryuku from Death Note and there is one similarity that he shares with the Death god. He also hands out death with his abilities.Both to his fellow creatures and opposing sides that have no way of properly dealing with him.

"Mirko Vosk: He only wants you for your mind"

"Mirko Vosk: He only wants you for your mind"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

     Sometimes when you play a deck concept like Mind milling without waiting for all the expansions to be released kind of feels like using an incomplete weapon.Like  swinging a Narsil before it was reforged. Short and somewhat futile when it comes to other weapons.Simply put all the pieces aren't there. 

     While standard / Modern / EDH  has seen what Dimir can do with Mind Milling I still believe that the best cards have been reserved for last ( and for good reason too...more on that in a bit) and the Legend I'd like to talk about today is something that can shake up a lot players.

Enter Mirko Vosk , Mind Drinker.
A 2/4 Flyer costing 3 Generic,1 Blue and black mana he seems like someone who has cool art but otherwise have unimpressive stats for the mana cost. And many players on the otherside of the battlefield may be too lazy reading the long line of text after the word Flying. It then hits them and they begin to realize that it is nothing more than a Mind Funeral on a stick!!!

    A hit from the guy at least guarantees 4 Land cards to fall to the grave and with no way of recouping them are beyond reach. Everything in between these 4 lands in that players library is gone as well ,Summons and Counters that are vital to victory are gone especially for combo players who rely on these pieces. Dimir does play  a lot of mind tricks and Mind Mill is as traumatic as they come. As I wrote before the new Dimir benefits from a full grave with creatures like Consuming Aberration and Wight of  Precint Six , Mirko Vosk greatly increases the odds that this concept is richly enhanced. In EDH the presence of Legends like Geth and Chainer also gives players pause to look at what actually falls in their graveyards. Whats in there now could smash their faces in a bit after all.

     This 2/4 Vampire might not look impressive in an aggressive deck but as an evasion creature he works quite well in the Dimir scheme of things. And I believe Magic has once again given flair to the game with the last expansion of the set by holding off some of the key cards to really make a concept elevate till the very end. It allows players to upgrade and retinker decks that might already be lethal or just give it a little twist as to be better. On the note the card Breaking / Entering gives another great option in standard to merely wipe an opponents mind clear.I like the way that guy is holding that Lobotomizing pick. It almost seems like he is about to use it through someones ears!!!

     Playing Mind mill is not easy but with Mirko Vosk it feels like another piece to this puzzle is finally in place.I believe he is really the kind of guy who wants you for your mind...or the lack of it afterwards. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

"Exava needs a bath , a bloodbath"

"Exava needs a bath , a bloodbath"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

     In magic speed is always something that gets the job done. The faster you are at what you do the better the outcome. It really depends on the concept that you are running , faster mana ramping or faster access to key cards in a combo deck increases your chances of victory. Speed is always the key. 

     There are 2 colors that are traditionally characterized for their speed in casting creatures that can get an opponent into the Red Zone in what seems like a blink of the eye. Those colors are black and red , now more popularized by the Thrill Seeking B/R guild called The Rakdos , literally named after the demon that founded it.

     This color combination really is aggressive and has fun dealing out the pain on a fast and consistent basis. They also happen to have the Unleash Mechanic that allows Rakdos creatures to have an additional +1/+1 counter on them as they enter the battlefield with the drawback that you won't be able to block with the said creature. With Red creatures you would always keep on pressing the attack so it does not matter if you could block at all. Rakdos Cackler and Gore house Chainwalker fit the bill perfectly for these Unleash types of creatures. Cast them early and go to town with them.

     With Exava , Rakdos Blood witch in play however the element of Haste is added to all creatures you control that have a +1/+1 counter on them. It is a one sided advantage , meaning that every creature you unleash after turn 4 will be able to paint the town red with your opponents own blood.  Aside from having First Strike  and Haste herself , Exava also has the unleash mechanic which makes her a perfect embodiment of the Rakdos thrill seeking spirit.

Expect her to combo with Rakdos . Lord of Riots to dish out more pain in the mid game. Rakdos is now even deadlier in the  Mid-game because of an up tempo swing that really goes in their favor. Combine this with a possible Sligh deck in standard and you are really looking at a winner her. Exava really knows what she wants and she wants nothing more than to bathe in your opponents blood.