Inexorable taxes in Standard

I’ve been enjoying this deck a lot lately in best-of-one Standard on Arena:

It’s basically Orzhov Death-and-Taxes in Standard (meaning a WB deck packed with aggression and disruption). The deck has a fair amount of obnoxious recursion, too, and Kaya herself is a total house and can act as a one-woman offense/defense team in supporting your little dudes as they kill the opponent.

I sprang for this alt-art Kaya on Arena because it rocks:

Mostly Kaya does her work with the first two abilities, but hitting the ultimate is hilarious since you can then (inexorably) cast Kaya over and over again from everywhere.

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.

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!).

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.

Emblem – you die slowly

In case you missed it, Jules Robins had a fun column recently showing off the best results from his “You Make the Planeswalker” contest. It’s a fun read, with a lot of creativity in terms of planeswalker abilities. My favorite was this planeswalkerized take on Glissa:

The first ability certainly makes sense – Glissa brings more infect bugs.

The second ability obviously synergizes quite well with an infect deck. It’s also cute, inasmuch as it’s effectively another +1 ability.

It’s the third ability that really caught my attention, as it puts your opponent on a strict clock in a way that almost no other planeswalker ultimate has done to date. A poison-generating emblem just hadn’t occurred to me, and it’s a cool idea.

It’s also pretty slow, of course, since you need to make infect bugs unmolested for four turns before you can activate the emblem – and then you need to hope they don’t kill you while the emblem counts up. In fact, if you’re curious about just how slow Glissa’s ultimate would be, you can check out this article I wrote about how quickly planeswalkers deploy.

Anyway, the planeswalker design article is a fun one, so check it out.

In Development liner notes – CawBlade, Faeries, and the area under their curves

After a work-related hiatus, In Development is back up and running.

In case you missed it, here’s this week’s In Development, in which I discuss cumulative mana curves and the idea of cards being useful at certain points in a game.

The article itself uses the current Standard for examples, so if you read it you’ll see cumulative curves for Delver, Wolf Run, Solar Flare, and others.

My original motivation for examining this issue was Paulo’s love affair with aggro-control, so I found myself asking…what about his other examples? How did CawBlade and Faeries match up?

So here you go. Drawn from two Pro Tours, we have CawBlade, Faeries, and some of their opponents.

Pro Tour Paris 2011

This Pro Tour featured several CawBblade lists in the top 8, along with some fast aggro and one example of a control deck. Two things stood out to me here. First, Grixis is all utility cards and trumps, with nothing in between. Second, CawBlade is pretty trump-tastic compared with Delver. Of course, four of those trumps are Jace, who saw a banning relatively soon after.

Pro Tour Hollywood 2008

PT Hollywood had a lot of Faeries decks, but they didn’t really make it through to the top eight (except for Paulo, who did pretty well but get rolled by one of the nastiest “empty my hand” openings I’ve seen from an aggro deck in the quarterfinals). It also saw the debut of early Vivid Control in the form of Manuel Bucher’s Quick’n Toast, which had a solid day one performance before falling off into day two.

Notably, Elves hits its power cards very quickly. You can see how it could overwhelm Faeries, and how it sure would overwhelm Quick’n Toast.

An awesome wager

So, in checking out the complete Avacyn Restored Card Image Gallery yesterday, I noticed this little gem that I hadn’t seen in previous spoilers:

Although the dedicated burn deck is not really my deal, nor is low-and-fast aggro in the manner of Boros and friends, this seems like an amazing card if you are going to play the fast aggro game.

“Discard your hand to draw two” is no good for your typical control deck where you want to progressively build your hand (obviously). Dangerous Wager is brilliant, however, as an end-of-your-opponent’s-turn play for a fast aggro deck. After all, if you still had burn, you’d be burning them with it. If you still had creatures that were relevant, you’d be casting them. If you have an extra land or two in hand, why not replace them with cards that can actually shift the game?

And naturally, most of the time you’ll just be casting Dangerous Wager on an empty hand, making it a pure two cards for two mana.

As a “discard then draw” spell it naturally also feels like a Dredge-adjacent card. I think at two mana with no flashback or other benefits it’s too slow for Legacy Dredge. It might, however, make Modern DredgeVine decks more consistent and effective.

For now, though, I’m just impressed by how good it seems it should be in fast aggro.

Jund with Emrakul

Since I’ve been duly informed that I’m not allowed to mention things like this without providing a list, here’s Mattia Rizzi’s “Jund with Emrakul,” which took him to a top eight at a PTQ in Verona last month:

60 Main deck:
Inquisition of Kozilek
Lightning Bolt
Eternal Witness
Jund Charm
Kitchen Finks
Maelstrom Pulse
Huntmaster of the Fells
Through the Breach
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn
Treetop Village
Raging Ravine
Blackcleave Cliffs
Stomping Ground
Overgrown Tomb
Blood Crypt
Marsh Flats
Verdant Catacombs
Fire-Lit Thicket
15 Sideboard:
Seal of Primordium
Ancient Grudge
Huntmaster of the Fells
Kitchen Finks
Magma Spray
Grafdigger’s Cage
Thrun, the Last Troll
Wurmcoil Engine