Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"Aetherplasm:The exploding Wonder goo"

"Aetherplasm:The exploding Wonder goo"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

During the early days of Spiral Battlegrounds - Valenzuela I was able to meet new players who were medical students in OLFU. As was customary I was able to browse through one of their binders. Aside from getting some cool pieces for a zombie deck I was planning to do. I also found this wonderful card. A card which literally had a thousand shape shifting possibilities. The card was Aetherplasm.

A 4 to cast creature with a 1/1 body , it seemed like a harmless pile of goo right? Harmless is not really something that I would use to describe this ooze. My new found friends from Fatima showed me that when this blob blocks an attacking creature , you could return it to your hand and the defending player(you) could choose any creature from his or her hand to replace the Aetherplasm and use it to block on its behalf. The combo that was shown to me involved a Blazing Archon. A creature that prevented any further attacks. 

Right then and there my mind began to look at the ways I could abuse this card. I wanted something more diabolical in the mix since we are going to be dealing with a goo that could take on any creature shape.(or at least according to the creatures in your hand)

So there I was thinking , who would not want to block with creatures like Glissa, The Traitor , Blightsteel Colossus or Emrakul right? Well? Everyone wants to block with them right? Glissa kills almost anything with her Firststrike and Deathtouch while returning an artifact to your hand too! Blightsteel Colossus , there are only a hand of  creatures that can survive the -11/-11 counters it would inflict on it because of infect. And even if they do survive , the Blightsteel Colossus would live on and potentially threaten to end at least one players life on your next turn(if you are playing an EDH multiplayer game). And Emrakul , I have a foil PR one that has been glaring at me all this time. Asking me why he hasn't seen much play lately, So much power in one card. A Modern Deck or a Duel EDH deck would be glad to have this guy coming down from your hand and replacing our wonder goo to block. Other notables would be Avacyn who makes everything Indestructible and Iona who makes opponents concede due to the fact that they could not play certain colors in their deck. Sunblast Angel also takes advantage of the fact that you have just been attacked, When it comes into play all tapped creatures are destroyed.

So when it comes to the attack phase the Aetherplasm is surely something that could change the mind of your potential attackers. They see the goo , they see you gripping a full hand or even just one and all that they would be thinking about is what kind of monstrosity you would be putting down on the battlefield once they attack and you block. I mean a simple Aetherling could mess up all those life points that your enemies have. The Aetherplasm may not look much like a physical hindrance  but it offers more of a psychological barrier than a tangible deterrent. No one would dare attack you if there are other paths of least resistance. Like the player beside you who has no creatures on the battlefield at all!

Aetherplasm would really work well in a mono blue EDH deck where it can cheat into play a lot of Krakens and Leviathans but it would be a more scary fit in a Simic EDH deck where the controlling magic of blue would meet the might of green. Having access to green poses a lot of horrible big creatures that can be put into play. Like the now banned Sylvan Primordial , Woodfal Primus or my ever favorite Terastodon.

Yup , it is amazing how sets come and go and you still find gems like this one. This is one of the reasons why I love this game so much. Once you start to think that there is nothing new left to learn , one just rears is gooey head and swallows you whole. Blob style. 

"Meandering Towershell EDH:Turtle Power!"

"Meandering Towershell:Turtle Power!"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

What is huge , green and gets easily distracted in battle? You guessed it right. The Meandering Towershell. I was looking at my daughters own pet turtle the other day and was reminded of this 5 mana , 5/9 behemoth that seems to wander off and comes back to attack things on your next turn.

The Meandering Towershell has solid stats for a creature that costs a measly 5 mana , it could block and attack with ease and with a lot of Blue Mages in the game , the Islandwalk comes in really handy but it's triggered ability seems more like a liability  than an asset. I had the misfortune of getting one turtle during my KTK Pre-release and simply did not know what to do with it. I surely can't pair it up with the Kheru Lich Lord that I had as my PR card. It gets reanimated , attacks and poof , vanishes into thin air and never ever comes back. Making me a sad sad Sultai mage.

I was racking my brain for possible uses for this easily distracted turtle and came up with a few comes into play ideas that would be feasible in EDH decks(and believe me this turtle is destined for a lot of EDH decks). And I was able to find cards that would love to have a little turtle power on their side. As it turns out there was a lot of things that one could do with such a wonderful creature.

Garruks Pack leader and Soul of the Harvest. Meandering Towershell with these two guys nets you a total of 2 cards. One when it comes into play and another one when it returns attacking on your side of the board. 2 card advantage! I'd take it! It is also great with Kavu Lair who seems to have Ferocious written all over it.

Evolve Creatures. The Simic would love this Turtle because it also makes smaller creatures evolve a lot of times. A 5/9 creature means that this would be able to evolve creatures like Renegade Krasis(a 3/2 creature) for at least 7 turns since the Evolve mechanic looks at both creature power and toughness. Our distracted turtles big butt could evolve the Renegade Krasis a total of 7 times! In addition it means that other creatures that have a +1/+1 on it would grow bigger a total of 7 times as well.

Champion of Lambholt. The Champion and the Meandering Towershell make a mean triggering team. She gets a +1/+1 counter every time our turtle comes back! And with it the chances of your opponents not being able to block your creatures as well. So if your opponents only control 2/2 creatures and the Meandering Towershell comes in for the attack on your second turn. Those creatures could not block it since your Champion of Lambholt is by now a 3/3 creature and creatures with power less than her could not block creatures your control. 

Cream of the Crop. A two to cast enchantment that is just waiting for the turtle to drop into existence and what you get is an effective way to filter your library. It sees the turtles 5 power and you look at the 5 top cards of your library and decide which card to put on top of it. Looks like a winner.

Soultether Golem. Another "sick" creature that is limited with the vanishing counter that it has on it. It is worth 2 colorless mana with a 3/3 frame. Guess what , you could cast this guy on your 1st main phase , your Meandering Towershell comes into play increasing the Vanishing counter on him. You can have the 3/3 golem stay on your side for as long as you keep on piling the time counters on him. Sure you could cast other creatures but it never hurts to have one that just automatically comes into play and helps you out in this regard. 

Trostani, Selesnya's Voice.If you already have an existing Selesnya EDH deck the turtle could also make a fine addition. 9 life per appearance is nothing to sneeze at. You would have tons of life the moment this guy fades in.

Temur Ascendancy. I am not sure if there would be a standard deck with these two cards but since the Meandering Towershell is a 5/9 creature it does allow you to draw cards from the Ascendancy and not only that since it gains haste , you could draw a card when it comes in , attack with it and draw another card the moment it comes back. Yeah! 2 card net gain!

Ronin war club , Sai of the Shinobi. What if you really want to make Meandering Towershell a ninja turtle? well with these two artifacts from Kamigawa you surely could.They get equipped to a creature that just came into play. Our phasing Ninja turtle gets a +2/+1 from the Ronin Warclub and an additional +1/+1 from the Sai. Now give the guy an Red mask and it could make a mean 8/11 Raphael impersonation.

War Surge , Pandemonium and Electropotence as a win condition? Meandering Towershell  maybe on the unreliable side but these 3 enchantments may argue in its defense. So now we have a creature that automatically fades in and out of existence and deals damage to creatures or players when it comes into play. You get to pile on 5 damage every time our turtle pet appears for free with the exception of paying 3 mana for the damage from Electropotence which I am sure you could easily do.

Upon further analysis the "liability" ability of the Meandering Towershell actually makes it a great offensive threat and the reason is that you could attack with it on your attack phase and it phases out to nothingness.It is with this evasion that the turtle shines through. On your 2nd main phase you could cast a mass removal spell removing your all your opponents amassed armies. When our wayward turtle pet comes back it could move in for 5 damage. Assuming that there are no  other blockers or your opponents have at least a single island in play. 

I hope I have opened your eyes a bit and offered a different way to view a fast fading , fast attacking turtle. So go ahead and Ninja turtle someone. Cowabunga! 

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Losing my Phone"

"Losing my Phone"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

One fine day my dad was the victim of snatchers as he boarded an LRT.Realizing that his wallet was gone my dad was still able to go home because money tucked in somewhere other than his wallet. He went back to ride the LRT in hopes that he would find those people who snatched his wallet only to find out that the wallet he had brought with him was snatched as well.

I vowed to myself that I would be careful , that I would not let something like that happen to me. Yet on that hot summer morning , the hottest day of the summer months it did happen to me. My phone was gone. 

On that day I had the car with me and as I went down I moved it to a better parking spot near our place. I was almost tempted to bring the car with me there and then but I said to myself that I could save more money if I just take the LRT and take the care when I had my nightly duties in Eastwood , Libis. It would turn out to be a big mistake. In my need to save it ended up costing me much more.

The lines in the LRT was a lot better that day.I felt better with the cordoned ropes which I thought would prevent any snatchers from escaping. I was so wrong. Anybody stealing anything from you could just stay inside the train and go down in any station without you even noticing. 

What happened to me happened so fast. A train has stopped and the warning buzzer that the doors would be opening was going off. I had my bag stuffed in front of me. I had my hands stuffed inside my front pockets. My left hand covering my phone and my right hand covering the small wallet that I carried with me. I immediately noticed a man on my left who came out of nowhere. He was bumping into me so I knew that he was about to try something. I did not budge. I did not move my hands. The train door opened. 

I rushed to the right to get into the middle of the carriage. The man who was wearing a white barong and grey slacks(yes he looked like a normal office employee , the guy even had a clean hair cut) bumped me from behind , causing me to lose balance momentarily. I was carried by my momentum and I had to grab hold of the nearest pole. I would have hit my face if I didn't get my left hand out to stop me from falling.) After I had steadied myself I returned my left hand to cover my phone. It was gone.

I looked at the guy with the while polo barong , I swear that I saw him put my black Sony Experia in the back pocket of his pants. I had to push myself from the now crowded train to reach the guy. 

"Sir , wala tayong magiging problema kung isasauli mo na lang sa akin ang phone ko."

Instead of getting angry the guy stood there and spread his arms out. "Wala oh. Wala" was all he said. 
I reached out to his back pocket and true enough there was no phone there. I opened his bag and frisked him. He could be hiding it somewhere else I was rationalizing it in my mind. My phone was gone. In my state I did not care if I was offending a couple of people, I went to some other people with grey slacks and touched their back pockets too. Later on I would consider myself lucky that no one punched me or swore at me as I did this.Without my phone on him my main suspect merely walked to another part of the train. I was left there stunned. I could not think of anything else except how to reach my wife and daughter.

I was thinking of all the contacts that I have amassed over the years. All those previous texts of information and affection gone in an instant because I wanted to save a couple hundred of bucks on gas!

I felt so isolated.I have never been the victim of any crime before this and I hated the feeling that I have lost the first phone that I have bought with my own money.I didn't even notice that I was already in UN avenue. I got down and called my our house in Valenzuela to have my phone blocked. It was not the greatest feeling in the world to have but I had to go to work and I spend the day in a daze. When I got home my wife was concerned why my phone was turned off and when I told her what happened she and my daughter hugged me as I rested. They were just happy that I was not hurt.

I cannot say that this event will not happen again. Nothing is set in stone nowadays but I will sure as hell try to take measures that it does not happen again. 

"Pandesal Money and Scientific Steel:The things people steal now"

"Pandesal Money and Scientific Steel:The things people steal now"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. MD

In recent news you have probably read about the Grade 6 pupil who was selling Pandesal to help finance his education only to get robbed in broad daylight by a bunch of remorseless people.
You also must have read about Seismic monitoring equipment near the active Mt. Mayon getting stolen ,the metal of the installation sold for scrap and batteries taken to be sold as well. 

It would be so easy to get angry and I did get angry with these two things but on the other hand it spoke to me of the great poverty and apathy that has descended on us as a nation , us a people. It made me sad beyond words. Well sadder because every time you look at the news there is nothing worth celebrating about. You have killings left and right , you have vehicular accidents , you have politicians stealing peoples hard earned money.

I mean a defenseless child who has meager earnings from the bread that he sells.As a devils advocate I would say that he does provide an easy target but what kind of society are we living in where the amount is so small and yet the these people took it from him anyway. A Society of poverty. One that we are wallowing in right now. No amount is too small now. I mean if you think about it , the penalty for getting a couple of hundreds of pesos is a couple of years in prison. I don't think that it is worth your time to steal that small amount. Then again if you have no means to steal like a politician in government you would still probably take away money from a helpless child.

And how about the monitoring equipment? It measures earthquakes so that the people in the surrounding areas could be warned when Mt. Mayon explodes. Again an easy target since there are no security measures in place. There shouldn't be a need for one in the first place because the equipment is something that would benefit all the people in the area and therefore it is assumed that no one would tamper with it. And yet the perpetrators of this crime did it anyway. They were not thinking of the much broader effect that this would have  on others. They probably wanted to fill their stomachs and their wallets. Who cares if the other people in the area perish from a volcanic explosion right? At least busog naman daw sila. 

I do not know what happened to peoples sense of judgement.To be sure they have lost it because they have done these things.They might reason that if the child had a companion they might not have done it or if there was a security guard in the Monitoring equipment site then they probably never got anything from there. People have become more desperate and hopeless and these are the signs. Our own society and its great divide are getting wider and wider. Those who are at the very bottom find themselves resorting to stealing to survive and there is no way to sugar coat something like that. 

"Ang huling hiling ni Aling Juling"

"Ang Huling Hiling ni Aling Juling"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. MD

Ang huling hiling ni Aling Juling
Mga ari-arian ay mapasaakin
Mga Pera sa bangko , mamahaling bato
Mga naglalakihang estatwang gawa sa ginto

Ako'y nagtaka at di ko siya kilala
Juliana Nakpil De Taverna
Pinapapirma ng abogadong nakabarong
di sinasagot ang aking mga tanong

Sino si Aling Juling at ako'y nabiyayaan
Isang bulag , may kapansanan
Nang itanabi na ng abogado ang dokumento
Nagsimula sa kanyang kuwento

Si Aling Juling ay iniwanan ng mga anak
nagpunta sa ibang lupalop at di na sumulat
Isang araw tinamaan ng malubhang sakit
nilayasan pa ng mga kasambahay na may dalang gamit

At sa ulan hawak ang dibdib
di kinaya at natumba sa putik
At habang dumidilim ang paningin
nagsambit ng isang panalangin

At bago daw tuluyang nawalan ng malay
nakitang may umaabot na mga kamay
Isang bulag na sa kanya ay bumagon
Isang may kapansanan ang umakay

Ang huling hiling ni Aling Juling
Maibigay ang dapat na sukli

Sunday, October 19, 2014

"Planeswalker Awakenings: Uchiha Sasuke Awakens"

"Planeswalker Awakenings: Uchiha Sasuke Awakens"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

Sasuke was made aware by his surroundings more from his sense of smell than from his vision. The smell of decay was everywhere mingling with the freezing evening air. And the denizens of the night were swarming from everywhere.

His eyes focused on a roadside sign that said  Thraben. "Thraben?" he said to himself. Seemingly unconcerned about the undead things that was inching their way toward him.

An undead woman with a sword plunged through her chest lunged at him. Sasuke deftly moved away and gave the ghoul a swift kick to the head. It stopped moving.His face was impassive and with a unattached observation said, "So a quick blow to the head stops them."

Several others tried to attack him, a ghoul with massive arms and another who had three heads attached to it.

"Failed experiments" Sasuke thought. Much like those he had seen with Orochimaru. Without even breaking a sweat he had dispatched these two and five more who obviously were not capable of judging when an opponent was too strong.

Sasuke heard clapping from behind him.Someone stepped out of the shadows of a nearby tree.She looked amused. "I am not familiar with the fighting style but that was quick and efficient. Well it is just another night here in Innistrad since Avacyn disappeared."

"Innistrad? Avacyn?" Sasuke said. The Uniform that the stranger wore was unfamiliar to Sasuke. A lot different from the Shinobi garb that he had known all his life.

"Ah! That accent! You sound like Tamiyo yet you do not share the floppy ears that she has." The woman said while making floppy motions above her head.


"You always talk in one word and questions , stranger? what city are you from? The woman asked amused"

"My name is Uchiha Sasuke and I am not from here."

The Uchiha clan has always been the other strong family in the Naruto franchise. They would rival the very first Hokage in power. So strong in fact that they were ordered by the Hidden Village of the leaf to be annihilated because they were plotting a Coup de etat and now only Sasuke remains of the powerful line. Now that Naruto is ending I think it is about time for me to finish this Planeswalker Awakening.

If Sasuke  would awaken as a Planeswalker he would definetly be Blue/Black. There are elements of control in the Uchiha eye techniques and yet there is something really strong about their attacks as well. Ameterasu for example continually burns and consumes. A black flame that does not stop until there is nothing left.Check out what happened to the Raikages hand. There are numerous illusion techniques as well which scream of blue yet there are aspects of power grabbing of creature as well.And let us not forget the powerfully armored Susanoo that serves those of the clan who have achieved a high level of proficiency. Sasuke when summoned would have 4 starting loyalty counters.

His +1 would be "Until end of turn Uchiha Sasuke becomes an Unblockable 3/3 creature that has when this creature deals damage to a player that player may have a permanent of your choice." In the last stages of Naruto we also see that Sasuke has developed a teleportation technique that allows him to traverse dimension but he does this while switching with something in that dimension. In Kaguyas multiple dimensions Sasuke was unstoppable and he exchanged Sakura's vest for that speed. 

His -3 ability would be  , Put an Indestructible, Flying 4/4 Susanoo Blue/Black token creature that has"Fading 4. This creature could block any number of attackers." Susanoo is a pretty tough avatar and in the manga manages to block anything that was thrown at it regardless if it was Madara , Kakashi or Sasuke using it. Like anything else though the Susanoo would not stick around for long but Sasuke could always summon another once he has enough Loyalty counters for it.

Sasuke's ultimate would be a -7 ability that allows him to take control of all the creatures on the battlefield. In the final stages of Naruto we see that he could with just a glance control powerful tailed beasts.All of them in fact.  So it makes sense that this is his (-)ability. 

"So it is Uchiha Sasuke who has been killing my pets!"A shrill voice said from behind the shinobi.Sasuke turned around to see a pale skinned woman and a man who was in some sort of laboratory coat.

"Gisa , it seems that even my finest work has been cut down."

"Geralf , oh do shut up , those things were unstable to begin with , I would should this pale boy what a necromancer of my caliber could do now."

"Lose , that is what you caliber would show this boy.Only my experiments could take care of this." Geralf snickered.

"What was that you laboratory rat?"

Sasuke has all but lost his patience with the sibling squabbles. "I think it would be better if you just show me what you have instead fighting."

Gisa had a gleam in her eye. Geralf smiled a crinkled smile and began to laugh. Zombies began to arise from the ground. Lumbering Hulks with rotting heads towered behind the twins.

The Necromancer Gisa pointed at the Last of the Uchiha."Let us see if you survive another night here in Innistrad, boy."

"Anafenza , The Foremost:Keeping the Abzan Strong"

"Anafenza , The Foremost:Keeping the Abzan Strong"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

The Abzan are a tough bunch and the get tougher every time you ignore them on the battlefield. Their Khan Anafenza makes them even more tougher and stronger. 

At 3 mana of the Abzan color wedge she is by far the easier Khan to cast. Being a 4/4 creature she is a formidable presence on the battlefield. She is more balanced than Zurgo that maximizes power but less powerful than Surrak Dragonclaw who remains to be the toughest of all the Khans.

I was wondering why Anafenza only makes one tapped creature get a +1/+1 counter every time she attacks instead of giving each one of them . Then I realized that with the outlast mechanic things could get out of hand pretty quickly and with each succeeding attack it would not be much of a contest since the Abzan won't only be tough but powerful as well. Still I wish Anafenza was a Fangren Firstborn.

Now that I got that out of my system. Anafenza still adds a lot of value to the creatures she attacks with since the Abzan share abilities among creatures that have +1/+1 counters on them. So for example you have an Ainok-Bond kin and Mer-Ek Nightblade attacking with Anafenza. You could give a counter to anyone of them and make them a First Strike , Death Touch creature. A perfect Glissa The Traitor impersonation that could kill even the biggest creatures(assuming they don't have first strike too).

Another aspect I would like to focus on is that Anafenza could put a +1/+1 counter on any tapped creature. It need not be attacking with her. It could simply be tapped because you have activated its outlast mechanic. So again it would be very problematic if Anafaneza gave every creature a +1/+1 every time she attacks. I understand but it doesn't mean that I wish she could do it.

Anafenza also gives another global effect , she is a walking version of Leyline of the void. A little graveyard Hate once again hinting that there might be some reanimation shenanigans in the coming sets. So if a creature would be put in an opponents graveyard it is instead exiled. The most affected clan would be the Sultai that rely heavily on the graveyard for their Delve costs. There are no easy to cast Reanimation spells in Standard so far but there could be in the succeeding sets(keeping my fingers crossed) otherwise this graveyard hate will all be wasted. 

All in all Anafenza is a great offensive creature , easy to cast and supports the mechanics of the Abzan keeping them all interconnected. 

"Nissa,Worldwaker: Land Mass Risen"

"Nissa,Worldwaker: Land Mass Risen"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

It has been awhile since Nissa Worldwaker  first came out and yet she has not received the same kind of love that I would dedicate to the other planeswalkers that came out in M15.Maybe I was not in the mode to go Mono Green or I was too busy being Simic that I ignored her.Today I am here to rectify that with a look at the new Nissa and why she is such a better version than her elf tutoring former self.

Now on to the card , if Nissa , Worldwaker feels like a green Koth of the Hammer that is simply because she shares the similar abilities with the guy. You know , making mountains come alive and providing mana tons of mana. There is a slight difference but Mages who have played with Koth before would instantly recognize the common threads that went into developing this green planeswalker.

First there is the +1 ability that gives you a 4/4 Elemental creature. Just like Koth, only with a Forest. I think I saw Groot smashing that Mardu orc. Something like that.

The second ability which is another +1 allows you to untap up to 4 Forests.So that gives you 4 extra mana that you otherwise did not have.It might also allow you to cast more creatures after casting Nissa , Worldwaker herself.  Now why is there a need to not untap all of your forests? Who doesn't need 4 extra mana just lying around? The answer lies in Artifacts like Mesmeric Orb , a shiny ball that makes you mill cards every time a permanent you control becomes untapped.You could simply minimize the milling effect by choosing to untap less forests. By the way just because it says forest it doesnt mean that Nissa could not be used in Multicolored decks. Please bear in mind that Temple Garden , Overgrown Tomb , Breeding Pool and Stomping Ground are all Forests and could be untapped by Nissas second ability.

Now on to the ultimate ability which is a -7 , an ability that could be activated in 4 turns. It says search your library for any number of basic land cards and put them onto the battlefield , shuffle your library. Those lands become 4/4 creatures with trample.They're still lands. 

At this point in the game , assuming that you did not miss a land drop or did not accelerate Nissa,Worldwaker out by other mana acceleration , you would have 14 available lands(if you were playing a 22 basic land standard deck) or 32 available lands(if you are playing a 40 land card EDH deck and all of them are basic lands). The awesome part is that all these lands that have just arrived on your side of the board are also 4/4 creatures. Permanent creatures. So 14 lands mean 56 points of potential damage and 32 lands mean 128 points of EDH damage. Also you could attack all your opponents for Lethal Damage in EDH should you decide to attack them and they have no creatures to block you.Damage calculation math is probably the only form of math I love doing.

If you did not use the ultimate ability to attack(which is highly doubtful) then you might have used it for another purpose. Mana and lots of it. This would be a great time to use spells like Genesis Wave(Since the deck is also thinned out of lands chances are all the permanents that you have would be dumped into the battlefield as well), A Banefire could also finish off someone or if you are playing Sultai colors a very powerful Villainous Wealth, that allows you to use most of an opponents library and make them your own.

So I would like to apologize to Nissa for ignoring her for too long. You are awesome and I am sure to tell the world about it.

"An Open Letter to Newly Sparked Planeswalkers"

"An Open Letter to our Newly Sparked Planeswalkers"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

We were all Newly Sparked once. Someone taught us the game and it stuck through the years with us.I was happy to see a group of these newly sparked when I went to SM North last Sunday. I must commend all the mentors all over our Islands who continue to be patient and excited with the game and show that passion to others who have their own sparks ignited. If you are new to the game or maybe forgot how you were in the beginning. This one is for you.

Dear Newly Sparked Planeswalkers 2014,

By the time you read this you have probably been introduced to the speed and destruction of red , the powerful protection and efficiency of white , the mana acceleration and power of green , the power and disruption of black and the control that embodies blue.

You might be thinking about the decks that you currently have and how to make them stronger. You might be excited to try every thing new, you might be thinking of looking online , getting a deck that is currently making the rounds in the various competitions. I suggest that you don't until you are ready. 

You might be thinking that you are way ahead of your group in terms of learning curve and abilities but do not be in a hurry to be proven wrong. If you are proven wrong do not be discouraged because every player goes through their first rude awakening sooner or later. Always remember that while winning is part of the game , losing is part of it too and this is the true test that every magic player goes through.

Never be afraid to lose.What do you do after a defeat? Do you fold and curse your inexperience? Do you blame the weakness of the deck that you thought was stronger than most? Do you quit or do you regroup and fight another day? In your communities you see a lot of people playing in Standard. These are the tough ones. They are the ones who earlier in their magic life said , I am weak but I will not remain weak.These are the people who will teach you how it is to be strong in the current environment.

Never be afraid to ask.You might also see the people who play Modern , EDH and Standard Pauper , Modern Pauper, Classic Pauper or even Legacy. You might think that these maybe people who do not want to go into standard because of fear or lack of resources. A quick glance at their decks would show you that these people have a long history of knowledge of the game , so that they could pull off combos that have been around since the beginning and refine it so that they are still relevant until now. You might think that these are merely weekend warriors who might lack the passion you have for the game. These are people who keep coming back despite the things that life has strewn in their way. Family obligations or who they are in every day life and such do not deter their passion in any way. Each of them could link you to the past of the game so that you might come to understand the Magic that you are now beginning to love.Never be afraid to ask them.

Never be afraid to experiment. Magic currently has 11,000 or more individual pieces and there will be a lot of things that even you could discover and share. Magic as a community never has a shortage of mentors but there is however a shortage of time. Consider yourself lucky since you were introduced by someone who has passion for the game. 

Never be afraid to fall behind. Growth rates are different for everyone. People who have natural talent for the game get introduced to it and compete right away but this is always the exception rather than the rule. So do not feel bad if others streak through learning curves and you struggle through yours. Trudge on , Learn and be strong.

As a last note , always have fun , you might have negative experiences as you grow in the community and in this game but all these things will pass. There are hundreds of Magic players all over our very shores and you will meet friends who will last you your entire lifetime. You might also meet your nemesis among those hundreds,welcome that probability too because these are people who could push your game in directions that you might not have even imagined. Do not be afraid of the unknown. Things have a matter of setting things straight as you continue. Play. Play until the very last card has been drawn , play until the last turn has passed. Laugh and shake your opponents hands.

Welcome to the game of magic , keep on playing , keep on brewing.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

"The Jeskai Monk from the Bushes"

"The Jeskai Monk from the Bushes"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

She was a small child and in front of her were menacing hulks. From their distinctive markings I knew that they were Orcs from the Mardu clan. What business could they possibly have with a child in tattered clothes like this one?

The Child showed no emotion as the Orcs bellowed obscenities at her , such a distateful display , then again the Mardu was all quick temper and less about diplomacy. The little one was standing firm on the ground.Her feet sinking just a little in the sand where she stood. The massive arms of the orcs were raised in gestures of rage and malice. From where I am hiding I do not need to know the exact words to know that this group of Orcs were out for the childs blood.

I tried not to look at the massacre that would before her but I could not close my eyes. The leader of the War band separated himself from the group in a sudden attack , a swift blow with a massive Axe that could kill the child in an instant but before the sharp edge could reach her the little one turned ever slightly to her left and crouched. The approaching orc was met by an elbow rising from the ground being pushed by the little girls hand upward. I could see the brute flying back in the air, his comrades trying to catch him. It was a fearsome sight seeing this small wonder handily defeat such a brute. 

Then I saw something else , like a cape or a blanket made of what could be darkness and stars flowing from the little girls head , enveloping the area above the Orcs. A ray of pure blue light escaped from the darkness and swept her enemies.Where the blue light hit a puff of smoke would appear and armaments and weapons of steel would fall. When the blue light was gone , all that remained were croaking frogs , it was like some Polymorphists jest , these brutes were now blue frogs with nowhere to go.

The Blue frogs were now looking at the direction of the little girl , where a flood of red flames were now cascading toward them , the reality of the situation dawned on the orc/frogs and they tried desperately to hop away but the pyroclasm passed them anyway. And where the red flames passed only ashes remained.

The darkness disappeared and the little one collapsed. She too have been affected by the flames. I rushed to her and summoned a spell to douse her with water. She did not move so I had to come closer to check on her. She began to cough as I was about to touch her. Sitting down beside her I asked her name. 

She looked at me with a fierce determination that I have never seen from anyone."Narset. My name is Narset"

"Well little one , come with me, I have much to teach you."

"Narset, Enlightened Master: A True Evil Master"

"Narset, Enlightened Master: A True Evil Master"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

Casting spells for free has always been exciting in Magic. I remember an old Spellweaver Helix Land Destruction deck that I had which let me cast a Land destruction spell and churn out another spell for free(usually another land destruction spell destroying 2 lands per spell),  but this meant casting something and imprinting something first. Then there was Convoke where you could power out big effect spells like Chord of Calling while tapping creatures or Delve which let you use up your graveyard as a resource exiling cards to use up less mana. I love casting things for free or at least on the cheap.Now what if there was a card that could potentially let you cast 4 spells without you casting anything first , tapping creatures or exiling cards? Yup , Khans of Tarkir really gave us a great card. This card is Narset, Enlightened Master. The Khan of the Jeskai Clan.

Looking at this particular card made me salivate at the possibilities. I mean 4 spells for free! The catch is that you need to attack with her first and that these spells are not creatures. Oh and Lands don't count too.With those limitations out of the way I was free to think up all those evil things to do with Narset. I was looking at Narset and her 6 mana cost which seems prohibitive at first could easily be cast in the EDH setting. I was also thinking that she has a small frame for a Legendary creature at 3/2 but then again she has First Strike and Hexproof which makes killing her with direct burn spells or any spot removal out of the question. If she also happens to smash into a weaker creature she could easily dispatch anything with 3 toughness or less because of her First strike. Opponents who do not have big creatures are no threat to Narset but this is not the coolest aspect of her.

The coolest part is her triggered ability. She attacks. You exile the top 4 cards of your library. Until the end of your turn you are allowed to cast all of those cards exiled by Narset. Since the cards are exiled face up your opponents will see all the cards that you are about to unleash on them on your 2nd main phase. Sorceries. Artifacts. Enchantments. Planeswalkers. Oh Instants too but you could cast those any time you want anyway.Even if Narset does get killed the cards that you exiled from your library can still be played until the end of your turn. So you could just recast Narset on your next turn , attach a lightning greaves and attack again.

Think of the possibilities for a moment. Narset is Blue , Red and White. Chandra , Jace , Elspeth , Tezzeret , Sarkhan , Ajani! All plopping down , holding hands on your 2nd main phase and causing all sorts of head scratching and frustrated moans from the opposing side of the EDH table. 4 planeswalker abilities being used in one turn without using Mana! Evil! You could even have a Chain Veil there as well for double the activations!

Oh and then there are the sorceries, Sorceries that clear up the board like Supreme Verdict or Wrath of God(Best to have a Darksteel Plate on Narset just in case you choose to cast these spells). Spells that let you take extra turns(Time Warp) or extra attack phases(Relentless Assault). Imagine stocking all that up , attacking with Narset and seeing the next batch of goodies that you are allowed to cast on that 2nd attack phase or extra turn.

Imagine casting a Mindslaver for Free and activating it on your 2nd main phase , controlling the other players turn and then saying done. And then it is your turn again , attacking with Narset and coming up with even more nefarious schemes. Imagine destroying something with a Spine of Ish Sah for free! Imagine plopping down a Perilous Vault or Nev's disk for free!
All those rocks and mana accelerators come in for zilch and they all add to you ability to keep your mana open to counter any thing that could rain on your parade.

Imagine casting an Enchanted Evening and then casting a Paraselene.Everything in play are Enchantments and everything is destroyed by a Paraselene. Talk about resetting the game in a major way! Again just make sure that Narset has a Darksteel plate and all will be well on your side of the board. Yeah everything gets blown up to pieces and everyone in your play group would be plotting your demise by the end of the night but at least you win the game right?

I have no doubt in my mind that Narset is really enlightened but I would prefer to really call her for what she really is which is an Evil Master. Once she attacks there will always be a probability that those high cost spells that you packed in your EDH will be cast. Nothing good comes out of her attacks. Well at least for your opponents. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Bus rides: Not More Fun in the Philippines"

"Bus rides: Not More Fun in the Philippines"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. MD

One of my former officemates Rui posted on his status a couple of weeks ago:"Feeling ko nakabuntis ako sa bus kanina..."

Which I promptly responded to by saying:" We will know in a couple of months when someone starts looking for you in the office."

"Ganito ang feeling..."

Bus rides. Our only alternative when we do not want to feel like packed sardines in the MRT on our way to work. Only instead of feeling like packed sardines in a bigger space , a full bus feels like being packed sardines in a much smaller can.People who ride the bus everyday know that you normally could fill a bus aisle with two people facing each other or facing away from each other and still be able to stand comfortably. However this is never the case in rush hour morning traffic or rush hour evening traffic where the aisle seems to be one organism with hands and legs and bags and umbrellas sprouting from everywhere and hitting even those who are uncomfortably seated(or at least people sitting on the aisle side seats). I could only describe this as an uncontrollable ugly looking cancer that have nowhere else to go and so just becomes a big , fat mass that squats down horribly in the center of the bus.

Now imagine that in this full space , the conductor would routinely try to squeeze through to get the the end of the moving bus to collect fare from the passengers at the back most areas.I imagine the training that these bus conductors go through just so they could navigate this sea of humanity.The ladies get groped , the men get groped and some others who want to get groped , get groped albeit accidentally.I often see conductors smiling when they see a well endowed woman who will be standing in the aisle. I also see some other people smile because the bus is really crowded. Mga mandurokot ito. Just another part of the bus experience.Getting groped and your valuables stolen. 

Don't you just love it when you are barely able to stand and hold your place when you hear the bus conductor say,"Pasok po sa loob , maluwang pa po, pasok pa." And you look at the people who are literally breathing on your neck and face and you ask yourself the insane question, "Nasaan ang space na yan? Nasaan dito ang maluwang?" And yet more people are crammed into this limited space that is loosely defined as maluwang.It reminds me of the game Tetris , where pieces are piled on top each other , the blocks conforming to each other to form a solid mass , my brother Aj who takes the bus every day describes it as being like a Transformer. Every time he is pushed into one corner and some person is about to be piled on him he silently says , "Autobots , transform" and voila they seem to be like one block. 

Now as an additional nightmare , imagine yourself , a passenger who had the misfortune of sitting at the back end of the bus and need to get down at the next stop. There was an online meme saying this about the MRT: "Papasok kang Estudyante , Lalabas kang Mandirigma". In a bus this is multiplied 3 fold because of the following reasons.

1)There are more bodies per square inch in that narrow aisle that you need to pass through, 2) the amount of force that they will return to you when you try to pass is much stronger and so you need to push harder and 3) the space you need to traverse is much longer than what you would need to pass through on a normal MRT/LRT carriage. So sa bus pag labas mo 3x ka nang Mandirigma! At kung nakakabuntis ang pawis mo 3x ka na din nakasaboy ng punla!

Oh Bus rides , definitely not more fun in the Philippines.

"The EDH Friendslayer"

"The EDH Friendslayer"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

It is no secret that a game of EDH is political mess that could ruin friendships in an instant. People who play EDH know that there will always be politics involved and it is actually a great test of how people interact socially and deal with interpersonal conflicts. While playing in SM North Edsa there were a lot of terms coined for several EDH players and among them was the term Friendslayer. Adj. An EDH player that promises early gains and protection to other players in exchange for mutual benefits but in the end kills all other allies to win the game.

Betrayal is something that is always present in an EDH game and a Friendslayer always lurks in every table. 

"Pare , Akong Bahala sa iyo..." , one player would say to another. Friendslayers are the ones who always have a trick up their sleeve , they form easy alliances of convenience because certain players maybe their bane. Forming alliances to take out a unnaturally strong player in the group is a given. For months there was a Kill Sharuum movement because these decks would usually dominate entire matches. Alliances could easily form among friends or in my case before between my brother and cousin or fellow players from other areas. Friendslayers are not easy to spot at this point but they begin showing their true colors once the Pulis(controlling player) or Dominant Strong player is eliminated from the game. 

Like my friend ST once told me , Threat assessment is always key because you always need to have an answer once your alliances break up. Looking at existing armies for example , while it is common to save allied armies from Mass Removal from a dominant player you also need to be planning a way to destroy that same army because once the main threat is gone there is no stopping that army or killer combo from being directed right at you.

Keeping your friends close and your enemies closer. I say keep your friends closer because in the end you need to take care of them Mafia style. The one you know is the one who slays you. Do not be surprised when his next attack is aimed at you. As long as there are EDH games , the Friendslayer will always exist. So keep your eyes open. And your dagger close at hand one is always closer than you think. 

"Pauper Kings: Red Blitz 2014"

"Pauper Kings: Red Blitz 2014"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

Speed. This deck is all about speed. This deck would only go one way. Through your opponents. I tried to refrain from making Mono Red pauper decks because the best components in Standard Pauper all feel the same at the moment and there has been no one drop creature at common from Khans of Tarkir. If only Monastery Swiftspear was in common then there would have been a little movement when it comes to the character of this deck. Nonetheless I am still excited to have a mono red deck in Standard Pauper that could compete and this is the Red Blitz 2014.

18 x Mountains

4 x Akroan Crusader
4 x Foundry Street Denizen
4 x Satyr Hoplite
4 x Nyxborn Rollicker
4 x Deathbellow Raider
4 x Sigiled Skink
2 x Kragma Butcher
26 creatures

4 x Lightning Strike
4 x Titan's Strength
4 x Hammer Hand
4 x Dragons Mantle
16 spells

The deck has 16 One drop creatures in the form of Akroan Crusader ,  Foundry Street Denizen(reprinted in m15!) , Satyr Hoplite and Nyxborn Rollicker. These 16 creatures could form the early attacking core of your deck. Along with the Sigiled Skink. An awesome 2 drop card that allows you to scry for 1 whenever it attacks. Akroan Crusader still produces tokens that interact well with Foundry Street Denizen , giving it a +1/0 bonus every time a token is produced. Nyxborn Rollicker which has a low bestow cost of 2 mana doubles as a creature as well as an Aura to trigger Heroic  when you need it. 

Deathbellow Raider and Kragma Butcher both costing 2 and 3 mana respectively make the deck because of their respectable attacking power and toughness. Both are basically 2/3 creatures that are not afraid to attack. The latter also has the added bonus of getting +2/0 until end of turn when it untaps thanks to the Inspired mechanic. So the Kragma Butcher becomes a 4/3 creature after its initial attack. A potential finisher if I ever did see one.

Titan's Strength  and Dragons Mantle are familiar pump spells in red which give scry and card draw respectively. Hammerhand from M15 joins the deck to make any of your Heroic creatures bigger while inhibiting one creature to block your attack. It also gives a +1/+1 stat boost to your Heroic creatures. A Satyr Hoplite for examples becomes a 3/3 creature and gains haste too. All for the price of one red mana.Lightning Strike gives you instant 3 damage that could be used for offensive or defensive purposes. 

The plan of this deck is to attack as fast as possible before opponents have the time to recover.It is not unusual for a turn 4 kill in this deck. 

Turn 1:Play land , Satyr Hoplite
Turn 2: Play land , Attack with Satyr Hoplite , pump with 2 Titan's Strength,Satyr Hoplite becomes a 9/11 creature! Unopposed it deals 9 damage! 
Turn 3:Play Land , Attack with Satyr Hoplite , pump with 2 more Titan's Strength,Satyr Hoplite becomes an 11/13 creature!Unopposed it deals 11 damage and ends the game then and there.

Yes it seems like a God draw but it just goes to show that with the right kind of conditions it could really end games at turn three. So why don't you try the Red Blitz 2014 and Gore someone. 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

"Surrak Dragonclaw:The Teachings of Surrak"

"Surrak Dragonclaw:The Teachings of Surrak"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

Since the beginning of Magic one of the most annoying things that could ever happen is when you try so hard to cast a high mana casting creature that you feel would shift the balance of the game in your favor , only to be countered by a measly 1 or 2 mana costing Counter.

Your hopes go into the graveyard and your Control Opponent smiles that smug smile as you try and recover from your disappointment.Of course creatures back then were always being countered but Magic has adjusted since then by printing cards that go against this. Mostly in the color of green we begin to see creatures that cannot be countered. I wrote about Mistform Hydra and how it is a menace for control players everywhere but long before it saw action in standard there was Thrun , The Last Troll who cannot be countered as well.There were cards like Gaea's Herald that allowed creatures to pass through uncountered. All creatures.

This is all well and good for these creatures but since they lack hexproof they could easily be dealt with and though may cause concern they still relatively die but what if there was a way to make all your creatures Uncounterable? All of them! This comes in the form of the awesome Temur Khan , Surrak.Unlike the Herald , Surrak makes sure that you are the only one reaping the benefits of this uncounterability. With more targets your opponents would have to choose which of your creatures they want to kill. The choices may become really hard especially if you have a Desolation Twin already on the board. Take one of the Twins out and you still have another 10/10 monster to deal with.

Now back to Surrak Dragonclaw, not only does he have Flash , He himself is uncounterable. So you could cast him at any point where you could cast an instant( like when your opponent thinks that cost is clear and he thinks that his 5/5 creature will be able to deal damage to you) and there is basically no way your opponent could have an answer for him while you are casting him. When he lands on the battlefield he is a 6/6 giant and he extends this uncounterability to all your creatures. Oh and as an after thought he gives all other creatures you have trample too. He just assumes that you will have big creatures on your side like a simple Eldrazi Devastator.

I honestly find the Temur as a weird mix of Colors because you have access Burn/Counter/Massive creatures in play but I have found Surrak Dragonclaw  to be one of the best cards in Khans.
So what happens when Surrak Dragonclaw resolves? Creatures with comes into play abilities ,Resolve. Creatures that you otherwise would not have on the field because of all the policing players in EDH , Resolve! Watch as control players scratch their heads when you simply plop Surrak down on the battlefield. Don't get to cocky though since Blue mages could still bounce him back to your hand.

So what does Surrak Dragonclaw teach you? He teaches your creatures to evade Counter magic. He All of them. So you may be able to land armies on the battlefield with impunity , you may have  a bigger army than everyone else and this maybe a key to your victory. However once they land they are still vulnerable to removal spells. Decks that have the Temur colors are no push overs in counter spells  department as well though and this means that you could control those opponent counter spells as well.

Keep in mind that if Surrak was trapped in the Matrix he would be so strong that he would break the Matrix's hold on him by simply swinging his weapon. Like that Athlete who broke free of the Matrix by being fast. Surrak would break free by being strong. He might even be able to challege Chuck Norris in the toughness department. Not the Atarka follower one though. That guy needs more redemption when we next visit Tarkir.

Surrak reminds me of another person with the a similar name.Surak. The Vulcan ambassador from Star Trek.Spocks father was also a very stern and efficient man. Surrak Dragonclaw is also stern and efficient.If Surak chose to he could easily kill bears with his bare hands but with that Vulcan logic he restrains himself. Surrak Dragonclaw doesn't have that restraint , he already smashed a lot of bear faces and he has the Bear Fashion to show for it too. Hands down I like this violent Surrak more. I think I will follow his teachings more. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

"Pauper Kings:Gruul Beasts of Tarkir 2014"

"Pauper Kings:Gruul Beasts of Tarkir 2014"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr.

I am really enjoying the Standard Pauper environment now that Khans of Tarkir has already joined up with Theros and M15. Magic players now have access to ridiculous amounts of mana in a format that usually does not have it. So what do you do with ridiculous amounts of mana in Standard Pauper? Why you power out big monsters of course and and with all these mana producing creatures you would be having a line of horrifyingly big creatures in no time! So it is not time to look at this deck that I call Gruul Beasts of Tarkir.

4 x Rugged Highlands
9 x Forest
9 x Mountains
22 Lands

4 x Elvish Mystic
4 x Woolly Loxodon
4 x Generator Servant 
2 x Golden Hind
4 x Vulpine Giant
4 x Charging Rhino 
4 x Satyr Hedonist
26 creatures

4 x Lightning Strike
4 x Savage Fist
4 x Tormenting Voice
12 spells

To start ,  I would love to say that this particular deck  took in all of the mana producers in Standard Pauper and crammed them all here. Elvish Mystic , Golden Hind ,Generator Servant and Satyr Hedonist all make this decks mana battery possible. All of them generate vast amounts of mana when taken all in together. And like I said all of that mana would go into summoning all the beasts that you could possibly want here.

So what are the Gruul beasts that we want to unleash on Tarkir? Well we have Wolly Loxodon , who could even be morphed in the early turns if you do not have the 7 mana to cast him right away. This guy is fast becoming my favorite common creature in green I mean just look at the guy. He is massive! The other giants coming out of the woodwork will be even worse than this 6/7 creature.

Aside from being Massive what other traits would we want in our huge creature? Well something that gives you an edge and a chance to have your opponents experiencing that edge. So enter the Charging Rhino which is a 4/4 creature and the great thing about it is that it cannot be blocked by more than one creature. Meaning it could never be Mass Blocked and could get rid of pesky creatures for you each time it attacks. It gets harder and harder to block the Charging Rhino as the game progresses.

Vulpine Giant is the other creature that gives you a distinct advantage here because it has built in Trample. So if the Vulpine Giant gets blocked by let us say a 1/1 token. 5 points of damage still goes through. This is another Beast that gets harder and harder to block since your opponents might not even have creatures powerful enough to block it. Savage Fist and Vulpine Giant make a strong team right? Now picture those massive fox claws swiping someone in the face. Pretty picture right?

Lightning Strike. We all know why this is here.Burn and more burn.Tormenting Voice is something that allows you to draw 2 cards and get rid of a card in your hand. All the better to get your monsters with.Red has been getting a lot of card draws lately and I am happy about that as well. Tormenting voice fills your hand with monsters to cast on the battlefield.

So there we have it the Gruul Beasts of Tarkir! Time to power them out and Trample someone.

"Pauper Kings:Temur , From the Snow 2014"

"Pauper Kings:Temur , From the Snow 2014"
Virgilio F. De leon Jr. 

When I first set eyes on the Temur clan all I could think about was that.Man , that place where there are is awfully cold. Snow constantly around them , hiding them and allowing them to make surprising attacks of unmatched savagery. This Coming from the Snow Pauper deck plays on the theme that morph and the hidden creatures in the snow of the Temur just feels right here.Temur,From the Snow. 

4 x Evolving Wilds
6 x Islands
6 x Forests
6 x Mountains
22 Lands

4 x Elvish Mystic
4 x Embodiment of Spring
4 x Glacial Stalker
4 x Woolly Loxodon
3 x Snowhorn Rider
3 x Frost Lynx
20 creatures

4 x Lightning Strike
4 x Void snare
4 x Force Away
4 x Savage Punch
16 spells

Elvish Mystic and Embodiment of Spring are going to be standard mana acceleration cards for standard pauper for a long time to come and it is no surprise why they are both here. I mean look at Embodiment of Spring , that guy is just standing around in snow!

The magic number here is actually three mana because there is a whole slew of big Morph creatures. The snow hides their true forms but they are all huge when turned face up. Glacial Stalker at 4/5 , Woolly Loxodon at 6/7 and the Snowhorn Rider at 5/5. Frost Lynx further adds to the freezing cold them and acts as control , making sure that one of your opponents creatures do not untap during the next untap step.

Since the creatures are so huge and could easily be turned face up because of the abundance of mana here it is not surprising that this deck accomplishes a lot of face smacking but just in case the massive creatures are not enough Void snare and Force Away act as removal. The former being a cheap one at one mana and the former even acts as a card draw when Ferocious is activated on it. Savage Punch is also great here since creatures this huge fighting other creatures will be sure to kill them. Lightning Strike acts as a removal as well while also allowing you to kill someone when your creatures could not.

I do enjoy control while having savage beasts beating on your opponents. An aspect that I have learned to love from the Simic. Temur with its great mix of big creatures and control cards seem like a very exciting mix to play.So go ahead. Reach out from the Snow and Claw someone.