Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Fast Mutations, Phyrexian Infection"

"Fast Mutations, Phyrexian Infection"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

I love Infect. In this sense I am Phyrexian and I want to share this love of Infect with this Simic Mutation experiment. While it is no surprise that in its Glorious days in Standard Infect was a feared Mechanic , no one seems to remember how butt hole clenching facing one of these rapid killing decks can be.

I would like to remind people of this fact. This is a Modern Pauper Deck because when I hoard stuff I just hoard stuff and they were all just lying around in my room. Most of these cards were glaring at me like I was some creator who ignored them for hundreds of years.

I succumbed to the glare and came up with these Fast Mutations:

4 X Simic Guildgate
8 X Forest
8 X Island

4 X Serum Visions
4 X Vapor Snag
4 X Mutagenic Growth
4 X Giant Growth
4 X Distortion Strike

4 X Blight Mamba
4 X Glistener Elf
4 X Ichorclaw Myr
4 X Blighted Agent
2 X Chained Throat Seeker

4 X Disperse
4 X Unsummon
4 X Mizzium Skin
2 X Ground swell

Move Forward, Move Fast

The aim of the deck is pretty straight forward , turn your opponent into a phyrexian in the least possible amount of time. 10 Poison counters is all it takes anyway and with the creatures in this deck are all easy to cast at 1 and 2 mana costs this could mean a lot of transformed enemies and a lot of oil slicked opposing creatures.

Now the 1 drop Glistener Elf is the real focus of the deck. Pushing in damage on turn two is key. The Dream Kill scenario for the deck is on the 2nd turn where you could attack with the Glistener Elf you summoned last turn with 2 open mana. Once your opponents confirms that he or she is not blocking since it is a measly 1/1 elf. You could now PUMP the little guy with 4 Mutagenic Growths paid with 8 life and then a Giant Growth for good measure. If you count the poison counters after enjoying the stunned look on your opponents face. It will tally up to 12. An overkill really since all you really need is 10.

Of course matches don't always end up this way and you could expect your opponent to be ready with a blocker once he or she sees any Infect creatures on the battlefield. They will block anything that move from your side. During this time you could utilize one of my favorite cards from the Zendikar block. The good old Distortion Stirke that makes a target creature unblockable and gives it a +1/0 boost too. You could pump this unblockable creature as well to end it all or if you don't have any growth spells at hand you could just wait for the Rebound of Distortion Strike to take effect so that you could again have a +1/0 on your unblockable creature.

Glistener who?

In case that you do not get the Distortion Strike or The early drop Glistener Elf. There is the Blighted Agent that by his lonesome is already unblockable you just have to give him the muscle from growth spells and he would Infect the way for you. With this guy around you could win early with your spells or be patient and just attack per turn. 10 turns and the win is yours. Unless he gets doombladed.Oh well , there is a reason why you have a set of this guy in your deck.

Making a case for the Seeker...

The 2 Chained ThroatSeekers in this deck may seem out of place because of the speed tactics that I normally employ but I just like my decks to have that extra monster that could end it all. At 5/5 and I assume some early infect Damage from your other creatures this beast is well...a beast. He could finish off the job and make sure that you are half way there. There is a reason why they keep this thing chained after all. 

Final Notes:

When playing with the deck always be wary of removal. The more creatures you have the more outlets for Infect and this is something that you want to do early on. In dealing with a deck that packs a lot of removal always remember to board in the Mizzium skin. Hexproof at instant speed. And since it is hexproof you could still pump it later on if you want. 

You could always Vapor snag or Unsummon things that are in your way.These two cards are the only answer to big creatures in this deck so use them sparingly. Opponents are always wary. They always have to decide if they would allow your creature to go through even if they have a blocker and risk being dead or they could block with their big creature and it ends up dead from Infect after you have pumped your creature to the approriate size. 

So there we have it. Fast Mutations. Phyrexian Infections. Let the Contagion begin. 

"A Little Black Parade"

"A Little Black Parade"
Virgilio F.De leon Jr. MD

It was a summer much like this when I went to a place called Malilico in Odiongan , Romblon. I was trying to impress a lady and since she said she enjoyed my company I walked her to her aunts house which was in that area.I found myself talking to her until midnight and we promised to see each later that day. I was staying over at a cousins place and they might be getting worried since I was out this late. It was about 5 or 6 blocks away from the Town Proper and that was a long walk. I didn't know then that I would be experiencing my own version of the Black Parade.

This long walk included passing by the Provincial Hospital , 3 Funeral places and the dark area of the Romblon State University(RSU). Piece of cake for someone like me. I was brave enough to bring that lady home and I can go home fine by myself. Since there might be a few drunk people passing this way and I was young I had a bottle of a 500 ounce Sprite at my weapon of choice. I was not going to need it that night though. Something was watching me.

When I got out of this girls house I noticed an animal , a black cat that was right across the road. It was staring at me. I stared back at it and walked on. The cat never walked to my side of the road but I did see it following my pace. It was walking over the few lamp posts. When I passed by a tree  , the cat was nowhere to be found. I thought it might have moved away.  

In it's place though was a dog. A normal sized dog. A black one. This one didn't look like it was going to attack me , it didn't have red blazing eyes or even snarling. It paced me too. After a while the dog disappeared as well. It was keeping its distance , looking at me from time to time while it seemed to sniff the air for something. I found that very odd but thought nothing of it. If it did come near me , I would just hit it on the head with the bottle in my hand.

I didn't know when but the dog was gone and I found myself alone until I came upon a little canal near the RSU and was surprised that there were about a dozen frogs there. All hopping after each other in the dark shallow water. The moonlight made their wet backs glisten.  All of them were black too. Someone must have poured a lot of oil on these poor things. Since I could not do anything for them , I just moved on.The toads just hopped on lazily in that canal.

I was near the town proper by now but before that was a tree on my left. Now it wasn't really odd to see a bird on a tree.Pretty common sight but this was already past midnight though and this one seemed like a black crow that was looking at me as a passed by.It made no sound. It merely turned its head toward me , flapped its black wings once and stood their on its legs. I gave the crow once last look and turned toward my grandmothers place in the town proper.

Nothing came near me that night. Nothing bit me or threatened me. I did not feel fear though maybe I should have. What were those black things? Was it a single Shapeshifter? Were they a whole family? Were they spirits of the night? If so they why did it seem like they were guarding me rather than invoking fear in me. The black parade never happened again. I would later learn that the family living near my lady friend were rumored to be Aswang. There was a myth that they do not attack anyone in their town , I may have benefited from that particularly rule. What bothers me is that all that time that they were looking at me in those different shapes I was not afraid. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Heroes' Bane: Planeswalker Crusher"

"Heroes' Bane: Planeswalker Crusher"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.
Hoooboy is all I could say when I saw this Hydra. I have a Simic EDH deck that is raring to add it. So much potential power packed into one green card. If I thought that Nemesis to Mortals was great now this is even better. Being green and having a lot of mana has never been so great.
Now on to the card , A 5 mana cost Hydra that is stirring the inner Timmy the world over. This is the kind of big creature that is never content with its initial 4/4 frame. In the standard setting it might not see much play because it is going to compete with the Awesome PolyK and Kalonian hydra and too many hydras do tend to spoil a deck. It is however welcome in my EDH simic deck where everyone gets more and more counters as each turn progresses with creatures like Renegade Krasis and Ivy lane denizen in the mix.
Turn 3 seems to be the Magic number to get this hydra out. A land drop  and casting a Sol Ring on turn one , turn 2 another land drop and a Somberwald sage. Turn 3 a land drop which gives you a total of 8 mana available to cast any creature. If Vorinclex is not already in your hands then this Hydra might be and he plays well with the other great Hydras. Kalonian Hydra in particular doubles its counters once it attacks and just because it attacks. Yup . free power ups for all of your monsters. No mana needed. Heroes' Bane is a different matter. It requires mana and can only make itself larger.

The thing that I like about Heroes' Bane is that you could pump it anytime for 4 mana  and it doubles in size in the blink of an eye. It is somewhat a watered down version of the Kalonian Hydra I would grant that but it offers a redundancy in a deck that needs it. Unlike the Kalonian Hydra though this one can be a very spectacular game finisher when you have enough mana. In basketball , this could be one of those one on one players that love to drive to the hoop. And yeah it will get to score.
So let us say you already have it protected with a Whispersilk cloak( and that is the plan here). It is a 4/4 killing machine that has Shroud and an unlimited access to your opponents throat because it is unblockable. You attack with it and then pour in , let us say 16 mana on it. The first time you pump it , it becomes 8/8 , the second trigger resolves to make it 16/16 , the third makes it 32/32 and the last one makes it 64/64.  Bravo! you have now finished off one of your opponents and your Hydra now looks on hungrily to the other 2.

"Abusing Hydras whenever possible..."
The other colors will also want this monstrosity. Red may want to Fling him when he is huge enough. I know of a certain Golgari guildmate of mine who would sacrifice it to Jarad to end everyone's existence in one fell swoop. I mean having each of your opponents lose 64 life seems like a really great idea to me. What do you think Kira? I love the idea of a single Distortion Strike allowing Heroes' Bane to reemerge past an enemies defenses and bashing away for the win. I would make that my goal in my Simic EDH deck.
Journey into Nyx is finally here. The final puzzle piece. I like it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"The Unknown Rider"

"The Unknown Rider"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

I ride the tricycle every day. I just live in a place where walking becomes too tiring after a day in the clinic. One time my wife and I  mutually had hunger pangs a few hours before dawn. Around 2 am on a Saturday night. So we  went to the local 7-11 , got ourselves some  noodles and rode a tricycle back.

Now it is quite normal for some of these tricycle drivers to get one last ride before retiring for the night and it is also normal for someone to back ride( literally stand at the back of the tricycle and ride).The ride seemed  
normal at first as we traveled up to our house until I saw 3 fingers holding on to the side of the tricycle opening. (the roof part which was on my right side). I felt weird for some reason. I didn't know why. I was looking at those fingers and they seemed normal , they were moving from time to time indicating that the human behind the tricycle was adjusting their grip. They looked human , nothing claw like or pale. I started talking to my wife and paid those fingers less attention. It was more or less a 5 minute ride anyway and maybe my weird feeling would pass. It didn't.

When I stepped out of the tricycle I was surprised to find that there was no one standing at the back. I asked the tricycle driver if he picked up a passenger who went down before us. The driver merely shrugged his shoulders. He never stopped. No one got on or off.  It was just the three of us on that 5 minute ride up.

Apparently something else enjoys riding the back of tricycles in our area. I count myself lucky  
that all I saw were fingers. I wouldn't really like it poking its head while we are riding in a not so well lit place. 

Monday, April 21, 2014

"Ajani, Mentor to Heroes: Anyone call Cat Support?"

"Ajani, Mentor to Heroes: Anyone call Cat Support?"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

Now here is a guy that is making a great come back. Lending a hand to his old friend Elspeth. Ajani , Mentor to Heroes. Once the spoilers came pouring in and I saw that arm and arm greeting between him and Elspeth (Solidarity of Heroes), you just have to know that he is going to make an appearance here and not a moment to soon because of all the things that are happening in the plane of Theros.

Now that Ajani has reincarnated into Selesnyan(W/G) colors we could expect a lot of support from him , especially in the token armies and White weenie army fronts.Costing just 5 mana he can easily be powered out as early as turn 3 in a deck that has Elvish Mystique in standard. With starting stats of 4 Loyalty counters Ajani is all upside the moment he hits the battlefield.

"And now I am 4/4! what?"
G-Growth Ajani Style

He can distribute 3 +1/+1 counters on one , two or three creatures you control. The mana producer that powered him out could easily become a Muscled Giant at 4/4 with his first ability. A plus one ability at that. Or you have the choice of making any of your existing creatures much bigger. It depends on the number that you have on the field. He basically gives you a bunch of 2/2's if you have 3 creatures , 3/3's if you have 2 and a 4/4 brute if you have one. He makes heroes out of the lowly 1/1's and that is great news for you. I envisioned him playing along side Elspeth and making her Soldier tokens way bigger than they have any right to be.Imagine being in an EDH game where Ajani fetches this fella...

"And Now for the win!"
Mentoring you

His second ability is a godsend as well. For a +1 Loyalty Counter you could "Commune" with your Library and look at the top 4 cards ,  Reveal an Aura , Creature or Planeswalker from it and put into into your hand , the rest is put under your library in any order. Now let us step back for a moment , in an environment like Theros where creatures are also enchantments , you could easily find the things that you need. You don't have a target for Ajani's first ability next turn? here you go. You need someone to Bestow your creatures here you go. You need Elspeth because she is not in your hand? here you go. Need a monster to finish off your opponent or just pressure him or her some more? here you go. Ajani , not only mentors the creatures on your battlefield. He mentors you. So you could be the best hero that you could be...if you like that kind of thing.

Lifegain: A little mixed

Now for Ajani's ultimate ability you have him giving you 100 life. I kind of have mixed feelings about this. In the standard setting that kind of life gain is insane. Insurmountable even. It is a different matter in the EDH and Modern setting however where 10 poison counters and 21 General Damage can end you.  Still 100 life does buy you a lot of time. It can even be a win condition. Felidar Sovereign seems to be happy with the new Ajani as it was with the other life gaining Ajanis. Serra Avatar's happy to see this guy too. One of the things I would be looking forward to is flopping down (at least) a 100/100 Serra Avatar. And winning with a Felidar Sovereign. Now on to get an Ajani in a Journey into Nyx pack and hoping not get hit by a Skullcrack when I use his Ultimate.

"You just know this can ruin someone's day"

"Athreos, God of Passage: Barring the way..."

"Athreos: Barring the way..."
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

Journey into Nyx has been coming up with so many goodies and have completed the gods cycle. For today I want to look at one God that would shake things up a bit even in Standard and EDH. Athreos, God of Passage.

Since it is in Orzhov colors and the last time I checked there have been a lot of weenies that could take advantage of the low mana cost. 3 mana yeah! And what does he give you? He gives your partial immortality. He will still try and bar the way to the Underworld but it would hinge on the needs of your opponent. Like any good ferry man who would carry souls he demands his toll. In this case 3 life from an opponent. If the opponent refuses to pays the 3 life for your creature that just died , that creature returns to your hand , if he or she pays, it gains passage straight into your graveyard. This decision making process is quite tricky because it depends on your opponents judgement of the situation on the battlefield or even future actions that they would like to undertake. Board sweepers beware. Athreos makes it a lot harder for your Board sweeps to matter( unless they exile or put in the library kind hehehe)

So for example you are playing an EDH game and someone casts a Day of Judgement. All the creatures in the battlefield get blown to bits and you have several creatures that could cause havoc when recast , like Sepulchral or Diluvian Primordial.If your opponent still has a high enough life total he or she might decide that losing 3 life is more important than letting you cast a potential headache.40 life can afford them that luxury.

On the other hand (and I do see this happening in a Standard setting) , if you have a lot of creatures that have been attacking early on ( as in Black/White weenies) and chipping away at an opposing players life total ( let us say you managed to lower it to 11 life) , Supreme Verdict gets cast because the creature advantage is way too much.There is a high probability that your opponent will just let you bounce back those weenies back to your hand rather than lose 3 life each. You could then cast them on your second main phase so that they pose a threat on your next turn. Particularly evil.Bypassed Removal , still a threat next turn.

Another potential interaction that I see here in EDH is that it plays well with Teysa , Scion of Orzhov or Any sacrifice outlet. I mean non token creatures sacrificed to Teysa merely go back to your hand (1 mana cost creature is hardly worth 3 life right?) anything non token that is sacrificed goes back to your hand , imagine something that dies in battle and can be recast for more action later on. Skull clamped creatures realize that they will be clamped and clamped again. Fleshbag Marauder can be sacrificed to itself , returned to your hand and cycled ,  killing one of their creatures each time it resolves until a) your opponents are fed up and just pay the three life or b) you run out of mana. Either way it is to your advantage.

"I live, I die..I die and live again...then die"
So the trick with playing Athreos is to cast a lot of creatures  , fast and early , preferably with comes into play abilities or even things with Kicker. Death might be something that you would fear in real life. In magic the fear of death is relative.Oh and did I mention that with a devotion of 7 to black and white you have a 5/4 Indestructible god that could attack with all your weenies? Yup.

There is something quite intriguing about how Athreos gives your opponents choices. I like it because it keeps play interesting since every board sweep requires you to check for life. Board sweeps will come and go. Life totals will dwindle. With Athreos on your side however there will be no shortage of creatures to bring forth death.The Church of Orzhova has a niche for you Athreos. Many candles will be lighted there.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"Dictate of the Twin Gods: Sudden Death"

"Dictate of the Twin Gods: Sudden Death"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

It is now the 5th turn...You have 5 open mana and 5 2/2 creatures on the battlefield thanks to Burning Tree Shaman and a full hand of creatures on turn 2. For some reason you do not attack your wary opponent and you have waited for this particular turn before going on the offensive. Puzzled your opponent lets the 5 creatures through. Before damage dealing is done you cast this card...

Yup and just like that your opponents has been reduced to zero life in a Flash. Your opponent is now wary every time you have a lot of creatures and 5 mana open. He or she will be ready next time.Or will they? All I can say is you could switch things around and kill people with direct damage instead of the creatures that they are expecting.

Of course there is an alternative to this if killing with creatures is not your thing. Instants or Sorceries can do the just for you as well.3 Damage from Bolt of Keranos or Lightning Strike is nothing to sneeze at. It turns creatures and players alike to cinders in no time at all especially with this card in play.Double the damage equals double the fun as they used to say(though Im sure it was a ton of goblins who said that before).

Red and White are the colors that have the most battle trick cards.Red has some very good cards for dealing double damage but this is the first time an enchantment suddenly pops out and declares it , an Instant Furnace of Rath. As I was writing this I saw Launch the Fleet and Twin Flame. Token producers in those very colors. More tokens in play means more damage. Launch the Fleet is deadly in a weenie effective way and much easier to cast than the latter but then again it never hurts to have redundancy. 

I would love to see how many people I could kill with this 5 to cast Red enchantment. However I could always play mind games and not attack and just cast a Fanatic of Mogis on the 2nd main phase with these many creatures. 4 Burning Tree Shamans and a Zhur-taa Druid and a Fanatic of Mogis on turn 5. That easily translates into 10 damage with or without attacking. Hmmmmm....

Well now to even more evil thoughts using the cards from Journey into Nyx...

"Bearer of the Heavens: Bringing the House Down"

"Bearer of the Heavens: Bringing the House Down"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

There are a lot of things in Magic that actually give you pause when they come into the battlefield. And as any good tactician does you think hard about things in the long run. 
Bearer of the Heavens is something that will give you a long pause in the sense that it means the end of all things on the playing field.

He bites the bullet and all permanents are reduced to nothingness.Unless they are indestructible. I see him getting some playing time in EDH decks that feature the awesome Mycosynth Lattice + Darksteel forge Combo or even one that features Avacyn. For a moment though let us check out what this giant can offer us.It is a good thing that he isn't a dragon , demon or Angel. My friend ST would be busting out some weird dance moves trying to fit him in his Kaalia of the Vast deck. 

"Sorry Kaalia...Not today..."

So what does Bearer of the Heavens offers us? A 10/10 creature , that is what it offers us. The Mana cost is 8 mana with a lone mountain that makes it something easier to splash in a Red/Green EDH Destruction deck. Aside from the threat of total destruction and crippling Mana loss he could be a great beating stick that opponents will be wary of removing right away. In a political scenario which features Bearer of the Heavens , players would rather let you attack and take damage if they don't have blockers rather than take him out with a spot removal like Beast Within or Terror. 

"A touch and boom the world ends..."
Even if they have deathtouch creatures like Glissa , The Traitor they would rather keep board position rather than risk killing your giant especially if you already have your Indestructibility Condition already in play. Other plays would even save your giant basically because it saves their own plans as well.Be wary of this because these are the ones who makes a grab for the giant and use him as a pummeling stick in you when you least expect it.

The mana cost is prohibitive but then again EDH has a lot of ways of sneaking this guy in and threatening early for 10 damage or Total Board Permanent Wipe Out.I guess this is one of those appropriate moments to Bring Down Heaven Upon Every ones Noggin. This should be fun. I can't wait till he brings down the house. 


Glissa , The Traitor from Frozen Core...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"Iroas , God of Victory: Bringing Peace to Your Enemies"

"Let us raise our hands in Victory"
"Iroas , God of Victory: Bringing Peace to Your Enemies"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

All I can say is that playing with Iroas , God of Victory is sick. So sick that I predict his value will skyrocket (with or without the Hype). If players who play blue got a lot of help from Thassa and even Keranos , those who have a more aggressive tilt would surely get a kick out of Iroas. Like me for example.

First off let me just say that white in Standard has a lot of token producers. Red also has a lot of mana efficient creatures that could be relied on to come in early and pull off a lot of damage. So the moment Iroas comes in at turn 4 , with its mana cost of 2 colorless mana  , 1 red and 1 white you may already be on the verge of victory. You cannot be unhappy with a god who promises you that now can you? I mean all of those creatures becomes seemingly unblockable or are blocked at great cost. Iroas assures you of that. 

"I prefer to aim..."
The dream scenario that has me writing this late in the clinic involves a turn 3 Boros Reckoner(probably a Phalanx Leader at turn 2) and a turn 4 Iroas. With all the colored mana Iroas is already a 7/4 Indestructible God , all on turn 4. When the Reckoner attacks it automatically has a built in Madcap Skills( without the stat pump)  , it becomes an over powering aggressor that needs 2 or more creatures to stop it cold in its tracks. Let us now say that the opponent has 2 creatures in play that could stop the Reckoner  and they actually block it. Iroas in all his grace now makes his second ability known , attacking creatures you control have damage dealt to them reduced to Zero. Nada. Zip.  The Reckoner bonks those two blockers in the head and survives to attack another turn. Unfair? Well that is correct , you are dealing with the God of Victory after all and he doesn't like it when opponents say no to damage.He wants to bring Peace to his enemies.You should let him.

I could just imagine the excitement when someone gets Iroas in a pack this upcoming PR. I could also picture the carnage that those creatures are poised to do. Well sometimes it is about control , but sometimes a little carnage is needed to get things done. With Iroas , there will be lots of it. Looking forward to cracking him in a pack soon.