Job Opening – Grand Cenobite – Must be willing to travel

Crossing the flavor and backstory of Magic with the tournament scene sometimes generates curious images and ideas.

Spare a moment of consideration for Elesh Norn, who surely must be the busiest Phyrexian in the multiverse.

In a game of Magic, when we cast a typical creature, we’re grabbing one example of that kind of creature out of the multiverse, yanking them to the battlefield where two dimension-hopping mages are fighting, and then dropping them back off afterward, if they survive. So I kidnap some random elf from the Llanowar Forest, he faces some undying eldritch terror while using his nature magic to accelerate out some weird ghost he’s never seen before, and then dies horribly.

Fair enough (well, except for the elf).

But when I cast Elesh Norn, that’s not a Grand Cenobite, that’s the Grand Cenobite, the one and only Elesh Norn.

Over and over again, in GPs, Open Series events, and PTQs.

I have to imagine some poor, bewildered Phyrexian church functionary standing in Norn’s inner sanctum, trying to check in on the news of the day.

“So first…”


“I’ll wait.”


“Okay, you’re back. So first…”


“I’ll wait.”

Being Legendary and a popular tournament card seems like the closest thing to a distributed denial of service attack that the Magic multiverse can offer.

Imaginary block constructed

The influence of an upcoming Block Constructed Pro Tour has my mind once again filled with visions of running Block events from before there were Block events…or even from before there were proper blocks.

Not counting core sets, there are six sets before we hit our first proper(ish) block in Ice Age. If we arbitrarily split them into two blocks in chronological order, here’s what we get…

Arabian Nights – Antiquities – Legends

It feels like this block would end up dominated by weird, frustrating control decks. Legends in particular is inimical to creatures. I recall when Legends was newly on the scene and you’d run into The Abyss and find yourself completely locked out of the game until your opponent killed you with Mirror Universe.

In case you’re confused, the Mirror Universe kill no longer works.

The only saving grace for creature-based strategies here is Arabian Nights. Although they’re pretty tame by contemporary standards, the Djinn and Efreet from Arabian Nights were utterly badass creatures that were, for quite a while afterward, considered pretty overpowered.

The Dark – Fallen Empires – Homelands

This is an even more curious “block” than the last one. It’s clearly down-powered, since its made of one set that lost power due to being more coherently flavored and two that were intentionally limited.

I actually don’t have much to add to that, except that despite the sets being low power in general, you do still get access to goodies like Hymn to Tourach and Goblin Grenade.

So what do you think? Would you play in either of these ad hoc blocks?

Dark Ascension – so what do I want to play?

So I’ve been reading (and re-reading) the Dark Ascension cards.

I have a couple things in mind when I’m doing this. I want to know:

  1. If any of them are going to impact Modern
  2. If any of them are going to impact Standard
  3. If I actually want to play any of them

There are some obvious “yes” answers to point two. There will be a very robust tokens deck. In fact, there’s an embarrassment of riches for those of you who are into that kind of thing. You actually have to decide which token options you want to use at each point in your mana curve.

For point three, I’ve found myself less enthusiastic about this set than I was about Innistrad. I wanted to immediately jump on Forbidden Alchemy, for example…and ended up playing a fair amount of Solar Flare in the subsequent Standard environment.

…but there are still some cards that draw my interest. Let’s take them in order by color:

I’m not sure if we’ll have a need for Ray of Revelation in Standard or, really, even in Modern. But I do find something incredibly satisfying about the “destroy something, destroy something again” aspect of Ray of Revelation. Like Luis said in his set review, Ray of Revelation is exactly as good as Ancient Grudge, just with a less frequent target pool.

Of course, I already have my play set of Rays, that look like this:

That’s the original Ray from Judgment, a card that already frequently appears in Dredge sideboards in Legacy.

If there’s reanimation in Standard, maybe this will be a worthy card. I’m excited by it as a more versatile Mental Note, but my enthusiasm is bounded by the fact that we don’t have a card like Psychatog that thrives on Mental Note’s immediate impact of “cards in the graveyard plus a cantrip.” For Psychatog, that’s pure fuel. For archetypes in Standard and Modern…not so much.

Tragic Slip is another card that’s been extensively discussed in other reviews. It’s good, and honestly, kind of funny when it comes to flavor considerations. It’s an “Oops, I slipped and died” moment…which is sort of plausible for that dude in the picture, but becomes kind of hilarious when you consider Kozilek misplacing a tentacle (on the world’s biggest roller skate left out by an Eldrazi Spawn, perhaps) and then…”Oops, IT slipped and died.”


I’m a big fan of card selection (cf running Ponder in Solar Flare), and Faithless Looting is, well, more of that. Also might go into some kind of reanimator build I suppose…but my main interest here is in seeing more of my cards.

The Lich is an interesting card, in that it’s one I suspect I will end up playing, but it’s not necessarily a card I’m looking forward to playing. A 4/4 for five mana that reanimates on the cheap seems ridiculous…although the more I look at it, the more I wonder if I really want my reanimation to be killable itself. Maybe it’s just better to use Rites if you’re looking for stock reanimation and not, say, powering some kind of super combo.

Just on its own, Huntmaster is a fun little card. Four mana for two 2/2s and 2 life seems decent, right? The fact that you can rack up that life gain and damage if your dude keeps flipping back and forth…

…adds to the potential fun. Of course, every time I’ve tested Werewolves, the lack of control over the flipping process makes them untenable…but Huntmaster may actually be fine as long as you’re not relying on it being a 4/4, but instead are okay with that pair of 2/2s that come with occasional value.

I was missing fetches. It’s not as sexy as the Zendikar fetches, perhaps, but Evolving Wilds will facilitate less junky mana bases on Standard while not making it too easy to power out every spell under the sun (Vivid Lands, I’m casting my suspicious gaze your way).

Although I’ve already written about how Grafdigger’s Cage isn’t just “doom, doom, doom” for graveyard strategies, it is nice to have another Trinket-able “solution card” available in a Standard that will include Trinket Mage for another few sets. In fact, it makes me want to run Trinket-powered Solar Flare again so that I can drop a Cage against Wolf Run decks, then focus the rest of my effort on killing token swarms.

Overall, Dark Ascension has some cards I’m interested in, but no cards that have me really feeling compelled to give them a try. I think if I liked tokens-style decks, the story would be different there. As is, though, I’m happy to see the return of Evolving Wilds, and the other cards I’m interested in playing are just that…interesting, but not engaging.

Stoneforge wields Stormbringer

So, here’s one interaction I want to see in Legacy once Dark Ascension is legal:

I strongly suspect this isn’t the most efficient use of your Mystics – you should probably be packing Batterskulls and Jittes instead. But the idea of getting to tutor up this handy little blade, send in your Mystic, and then generate a 13/13 flying trampler is just too much fun.

For reference, the actual card (both faces):

Is this an exciting Worlds? Is it a worldly Worlds?

Amidst the various discussions surrounding the recently announced changes to organized play, Jon Loucks asked a fun question:

“What would last year’s Worlds have looked like under the new system?”

I started to work on this one, then realized that this requires tallying lots of PWP totals across all the pro events for the year. That’s just too much work. However, the 2010 Pro Point totals remain a reasonable proxy for what 2010 PWP totals would have been. It’s only an approximate proxy, since the two systems differ in their relative weighting of GPs and PTs.

However, here’s how it might have broken out:

Note that in answering a question below, I realized I did this wrong the first time. The 2010 Pro Point totals I used included Worlds 2010…which we wouldn’t have if we were picking players for 2010 Worlds. Oops. Mea culpa. I’ll keep the incorrect stuff below the cut, but I’m going to replace it with a more accurate take now.

Event-based invites

Andre Coimbra (2009 World Champion)
Carlos Romao (2010 MTGO World Champion)
Simon Gortzen (PT San Diego winner)
Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa (PT San Juan winner)
Paul Rietzl (PT Amsterdam winner)

Regional invites

Brad Nelson (North America)
Martin Juza (Europe)
Shuuhei Nakamura (Japan)
Tzu Ching Kuo (Asia Pacific)
Mario Flores (Latin America)

Notably, I really had to dig down in the Pro Point list to hit the next player from that region after PV.

Ranking invites

Luis Scott-Vargas
Yuuya Watanabe
Brian Kibler
Kyle Boggemes
Marijn Lybaert
Josh Utter-Leyton

So that would be your prospective World Championship 16. That’s not a bad set of players, although one does feel for the presumably somewhat outclassed Mario Flores.

Some other notes on this putative World Championship talent pool:

6 Americans
4 Europeans
2 Japanese
3 Latin American

What do you think? Watchable? Fun? A true “world” championship?

Continue reading

This week’s In Development – how are those PWPs treating you?

In Development is back, a bit delayed due to sickness (last week) and grant writing (this week).

This time around, the topic is Planeswalker Points (PWPs). We’re two months into the current four-month competitive season, so it’s time to check on how the numbers are bearing out. Has the new system motivated players to stay in the game, pushing PWPs totals up from prior seasons? Can you qualify for the Pro Tour on PWP total this season? How many points do you need for 1, 2, or 3 GP byes?

Click here to read this week’s In Development.

Dates for PWP and FNM seasons

There will be no In Development this week as I have been spending time being really sick, and my remaining spare time goes to nursing my sick gal back to health and finishing up some work-related things. To tide you over, and because they can be hard to find, here are the Planeswalker Points (PWP) and Friday Night Magic (FNM) Championship season dates:

2011 Competitive Season #3

August 29, 2011 through December 25, 2011

Qualifies you for the first Pro Tour of 2012 (Honolulu)
Sets your byes for GPs held from December 26, 2011 through April 1, 2012

2012 Competitive Season #1

December 26, 2011 through April 1, 2012

Qualifies you for the second Pro Tour of 2012
Qualifies you for invitation to your 2012 National Championships
Sets your byes for GPs held from April 2, 2012 through September 2, 2012

2012 Competitive Season #2

April 2, 2012 through September 2, 2012

Qualifies you for the third Pro Tour of 2012
Sets your byes for GPs held from September 3, 2012 through December 30, 2012

2012 Friday Night Magic Championship Season

September 5, 2011 through July 1, 2012

Only PWPs earned at FNM events count toward your Championship qualification.

BYOV (build your own Verhey)

So, if you’ve read the most recent In Development, you’ve likely seen my visual rendition of the Verhey Rule. It looks something like this:

As several of you helpfully pointed out, this is pretty much ready-made for memeage (meme-able? something like that). It’s easy enough to grab the image and swap in your own words, of course. But just to make life as easy as possible for your future needs, I’ve gone ahead and swapped out the words. Here you go:

Enjoy. 🙂

Mana base tools and the Verhey Rule

In Development is back yet again, and this week the topic is lands.

Well, the topic is really putting together a mana base, and I’m unveiling a whole new revised set of tools for the new Scars-M12-Innistrad Standard.

You can click here to read the article. Right now, the article has both Excel versions of the revised spreadsheet attached, but the Numbers version has been left out. I assume it’ll go up presently, but in the meantime, you can click here to download the Numbers version.