The wisdom of Liliana Vess


“The finest minions know what I need without me ever saying a thing.” – Liliana’s Specter

“For every living person there are generations of dead. Which realm would you rather rule?” – Rise of the Dark Realms

“I’ve seen corpses prettier than you, beastmage.” – Triumph of Cruelty

“As with any malevolent being, the trick is knowing how long you can afford to keep it in your service.” – Baleful Force

“When you find yourself teetering on the edge of oblivion, mine will be the hands taking pleasure in giving you the final push.” – Brink of Disaster

“Stop complaining. You can rest when you’re dead. Oh—sorry.” – Disentomb

“Don’t worry. I’m not going to deprive you of all your secrets. Just your most precious one.” – Duress

“Better to starve to death than be bored to death.” – Famine

“Innistrad’s ghoulcallers are talented enough, but let me show you what someone with real power can create.” – Gravecrawler

“I love what they’ve done with the place.” – Grim Backwoods

“I come looking for demons and I find a plane full of angels. I hate angels.” – Killing Wave

“What a pity. You should have written it down.” – Mind Rot

“It’s only torture if you’re strong enough to survive. Otherwise, it’s a simple, gruesome death. I’m happy with either outcome.” – Mutilate

“For my enemies, one death. For my allies, many.” – Rise from the Grave

“Is it true the evil that people do follows them into death? Let’s find out.” – Undying Evil

“The bigger they are, the faster they rot.” – Snuff Out

“This might hurt less if you don’t fight so hard. But I doubt it.” – Liliana’s Caress

Mana base worksheets for Modern and Theros

Obviously, I haven’t been writing much Magic content lately.

Chalk that up to the world of science taking up my time, especially with the founding of our new little research company and working to finish up some publications from my prior research.

I’ve had some requests for both a new Standard mana worksheet and, well, any of my other relevant ones. As it happens, I did knock together a worksheet for the new Standard, and haven’t had the time to write an article about it.

Click here for the Theros Standard mana worksheet

In case you’re having trouble finding it, here’s the Modern mana worksheet:

Click here for the Modern mana worksheet

If you need a general primer on how to use this type of worksheet, read Making Modern Mana over at ChannelFireball.

As always, I’m happy to hear your thoughts and comments.

Really, quite devoted to tempo

Just because I was curious, here are all the 24+ point decks from the Standard portion, broken down by archetype:

Blue Devotion – 6 decks
Gruul (Red) Devotion – 2 decks
Azorius Control – 1 deck
Black Devotion – 1 deck
Esper Control – 1 deck
Naya Aggro – 1 deck
Orzhov Midrange – 1 deck
Red Devotion – 1 deck

Broken down by category:

Tempo – 6
Aggro – 4
Control – 2
Midrange – 2

San Diego – some places to eat


For those of you attending GP San Diego this weekend, here’s my short list of places you might want to go for food (or just to hang out) when you’re not Moderning your way to victory.

Near-ish to the venue:

The Field – A genuine Irish pub, with genuine Irish food (and you can watch quidditch matches – aka hurling – on television there early some morning). The Field serves Irish breakfast from 9am to 1pm on weekends, which is too late if you’re in the main event, but can otherwise carry you through the day. Guinness and coffee at breakfast will do that for you.

Taka Sushi – Very good sushi place in the Gaslamp area.

If you can get slightly farther away:

Point Loma Seafoods – The best fresh seafood. Like, anywhere. My favorite is the crab sandwich, which will spoil you for all future crab sandwiches.

‘bertos of all kinds – If you haven’t had cheap Mexican food in San Diego, find the nearest little place whose name is some modification of ‘berto: Albertos, Albertitos, Robertos, Roybertos (a personal favorite) and so forth. Alternately, you can eat where I did in high school and hit up Cotija Taco Shop in Point Loma (which earns 4 stars on Yelp!).

Bonus mana base worksheets


This week’s In Development was about manabases, and included a manabase worksheet for the current Standard. You can go to the article to get that worksheet in Excel format.

I’ve received a lot of requests for a similar worksheet for Modern.

As it happens, I made one of those for the last Modern PTQ season, and wrote about it in The Very Model of a Major Modern Manabase. The worksheet is in Numbers format, and will break if you try to import it into Excel, unless things have changed since I last checked. You can download it from the linked article, which also includes a handy video tutorial on how to use the worksheet.

I’ve written about prior Standard manabases (with associated worksheets) in All Your Victories Begin Here, which had worksheets for Scars – Innistrad Standard. If you want to go back even farther, you can read Building a Deep Mana Base.

I’m thinking of making an updated Modern manabase worksheet using Excel this time. That has dual advantages (as I mentioned in the most recent In Development) – it’s usable by more readers and I don’t have to hand code the hypergeometric distribution.

If any of you have specific questions you’d like to see answered by a worksheet, let me know and I’ll see if I can tackle them.

Confidant Affinity

After this week’s In Development there was a request for a decklist featuring Dark Confidant and no Ravager. Here you go:

Confidant Affinity

Mox Opal
Signal Pest
Springleaf Drum
Cranial Plating
Dark Confidant
Steel Overseer
Vault Skirge
Etched Champion
Master of Etherium
Blinkmoth Nexus
Darksteel Citadel
Inkmoth Nexus
Tormod’s Crypt
Ancient Grudge
Ethersworn Canonist
Ray of Revelation
Torpor Orb
Unified Will

Bonus content for In Development #129 – performance by deck type

This week’s In Development looks at the deck choices of top-performing PT players in terms of whether they picked (and how they did) with more or less popular decks. Luis noticed something else that’s baked into the data:

It’s true – all of Luis’s 24+ performances have come at the helm of full-on aggro decks.

That prompted this bit of bonus content looking at the deck types that top performers have piloted to victory. In no particular order, here are our nine players with their deck choices and success levels by category. The visualization is the same as in the article, with green (24+ points), yellow (15-23 points), and red (<15 points) and the intensity of each color reflecting the number of performances in that category.

Just as Gau plays mostly outliers, he also plays mostly aggro.

That red square of badness in combo for Estratti is almost entirely Valakut decks.

Crushing victories seem to be weighted toward Aggro and Combo, which isn’t necessarily surprising. Having a proactive, aggressive plans does mean that if your opponent stumbles, you often just win.

Finding true names

When I’m not applying science to Magic, I’m applying science to, well, science.

If you’d like to see one of the projects I’m working on in the land of science, check out the new Orphan Enzymes Project site.

The “fuel” that really makes modern DNA-based science work is the fact that we have a giant library of genes with their functions. That’s how we are able to sequence a new gene and make a pretty solid guess at what it does based on what other genes it looks like.

Some of the time.

The problem is that we don’t always find a similar gene in our library of known genes. As it happens, there’s still a whole lot of older research out there waiting to be put into that library. That’s what the Orphan Enzymes Project is all about.

So if that sounds interesting, check the site out for a basic outline of the project, with more to come later.

RTR Standard – Golgari Zombies

Brains…or failing that, plant food

As I mentioned in my post about a Jund list, I did try to build an update on Black/Red Zombies. However, the addition of Golgari to Standard puts an understandable pressure (or incentive) on playing green in any Zombies deck. The build below came together after some tinkering and it’s surprisingly effective and resilient.

The Scavenge ability on Slitherhead is quite powerful, as is the ability to profitably pitch a Gravecrawler or Slitherhead to Lotleth Troll.

Dreg Mangler’s haste is also pretty important, as it makes it risky to leave yourself naked against what might otherwise be a slower aggro deck without apparent reach.

Golgari Zombies

Abrupt Decay
Blood Artist
Lotleth Troll
Dreg Mangler
Geralf’s Messenger
Underworld Connections
Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord
Golgari Guildgate
Grim Backwoods
Overgrown Tomb
Woodland Cemetery
Cavern of Souls
15 Sideboard:
Crypt Creeper
Golgari Charm
Sundering Growth
Liliana of the Veil
Vraska the Unseen

RTR Standard – Dread Jund

With Farseek, all things are possible

My happiness at the return of the shocklands is only matched by my happiness at already owning a set of shocklands.

One of the extra-fun features of the new Standard is that Farseek is cleverly written to be able to search up nonbasics as long as they’re typed. This means that, as we saw back when Ravnica itself was in Standard, many decks will want to touch green to give them access to superlative mana fixing.

The Jund build below actually began life as inspiration in the middle of a frustrated effort to build an updated Black/Red Zombies list. It’s quite a bit of fun and gets good mileage out of both Dreadbore and Abrupt Decay.

Dread Jund

Abrupt Decay
Gatecreeper Vine
Borderland Ranger
Liliana of the Veil
Falkenrath Aristocrat
Garruk Relentless
Huntmaster of the Fells
Rakdos’s Return
Bonfire of the Damned
Blood Crypt
Evolving Wilds
Golgari Guildgate
Kessig Wolf Run
Overgrown Tomb
Rakdos Guildgate
Rootbound Crag
15 Sideboard:
Pithing Needle
Golgari Charm
Rakdos Charm
Curse of Death’s Hold
Blasphemous Act